New Monnone Alone: Feel It Disappearing

Video: Monnone Alone – “Feel It Disappearing”

Monnone Alone – Feel It Disappearing

Directed by Simon Fazio. From Stay Foggy, out July 16 on Lost And Lonesome. Single out now.

I’m sure the Lucksmiths cast a long shadow over the former members of the beloved group. Luckies bassist Mark Monnone has ventured out on his own, as Monnone Alone, as well as with briefly hooking up with a couple former bandmates in 2017’s Last Leaves project.

Do you feel that feeling when it’s starting to rain?
Feel the pressure building inside your brain?
Feeling that feeling that’s so hard to contain?
Don’t know when it’ll end or begin again?

Monnone is clearly not opposed to feeling his feelings. Is this “anxiety-peppered bubblegum pop singalong for the Zoom-generation” a belated sequel to “T-Shirt Weather”, which he wrote for the Lucksmiths 20+ years ago? “I’m starting to feel a lot better” is a similar sentiment to feeling your sadness disappearing after all.

Who knows? Monnone wrote, played, sang, and recorded Stay Foggy on his cassette 8-track all by himself during Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown. He says the album “touches on themes of dread, loneliness and the losing of one’s marbles.” But the sound of the lead single is as chipper as ever. So wake up, wake up…

Monnone Alone: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Monnone Alone: Feel It Disappearing

New Tristen: Athena

Video: Tristen – “Athena”

Tristen - "Athena" (Official Music Video)

Video by Tristen. From Aquatic Flowers, out June 4 on Mama Bird.

Tristen is my current obsession. Not in a made-for-tv stalker way, but in a new-found musical crush way. I was floored by her last single, “Complex,” and had it on repeat for days after Jake first posted it. She’s clever and has a really interesting sense of melody. She also looks just like the grown up version of Eleven from Stranger Things, but that’s a conversation for another fan forum.

Eleven from Stranger Things
Eleven? Tristen? Athena? Who knows?

So I was excited when she dropped her new single, “Athena.” It’s a spooky, neo-psych number that retains her voice, but filters it through Anton Newcombe’s poncho. Which, of course means…I love it.

Listen to Tristen explain the back story to the song after the jump.

Continue reading New Tristen: Athena

New John Grant: Boy from Michigan

Video: John Grant – “Boy from Michigan”

John Grant - Boy from Michigan

Directed by Casey & Ewan. From Boy From Michigan, due June 25 on Bella Union and Partisan.

As a boy from Michigan myself, John Grant’s latest single rings true. Coincidentally, I have recently started watching “Freaks and Geeks” for the first time, which is set in a Michigan high school in 1980. I went to high school in the 1980s and the show is spot on. My only issue so far is with Kim Kelly’s parents. Is it ever explained where they are supposed to be from? Because they do not talk like they’re from Michigan. The mom says calls it “soda” for one thing. And what’s up with that accent? Is that the “generic poor people” Hollywood accent? Real poor people in Michigan sound more like they’re from Arkansas than south Boston or the Bronx or whatever that is. One more thing: “Up in Benton Harbor”?!? If this takes place outside of Detroit, what suburb would that be: Indiana? Come on.

But if you’ve seen “Freaks and Geeks,” that’s the setting for John Grant’s “Boy from Michigan.”

We walk through the cemetery looking at all the graves
To Thompsons’s Market for candy and pop
We did it almost every day
We used to look to see if we could find a patch of green
As the winter came to a close
And spring was blossoming
The ground was coming alive and it smelled so clean.

The ground smells like that outside right now.

Grant says, “The song sprang from a moment I experienced when I was about 11 and we were about to move to Colorado from Michigan; my best buddy took me aside and warned me about ‘the world out there’ – so the song is about the transition from childhood to adulthood, the simplicity and innocence of childhood and the oftentimes rude awakening that occurs when one crosses over into adulthood. It’s also about romanticizing the past, which can be dangerous.”

It can be dangerous. That’s true. It can also be annoying and obnoxious. But this song isn’t any of those things. It’s good.

New Sincere Engineer: Out Of Reach

Video: Sincere Engineer – “Out Of Reach”

Sincere Engineer - Out Of Reach (Official Music Video)

Directed by Brandon Hoeg. Single out now on Hopeless Records.

Another new song but still no album announcement. Come on! What’s the hold up?

Deanna Belos told Under the Radar she “wrote this song when Chicago was in the middle of a ~polar vortex~. It was particularly influenced by the time I got up at 4 AM, went to grab a drive-thru coffee, only to realize my window wouldn’t roll back up because the mechanism was frozen. It was -60 degrees and I drove 45 miles to work with a blanket closed in my car door.”

The video, Belos says, displays “the struggle between cold isolation and FOMO, while being constantly bombarded by screens and relentless media.”

Sitting out on the back porch.
We talked for hours, you don’t smoke no more.
And then I never felt closer to anyone before.
Now I know, I know, I know that was many years ago.
We were so young then; now we’re old.

It’s a typical old man thing to do to scoff at young people who claim to feel old. It’s easy to dismiss it as melodrama. But I remember that feeling clearly back when I was what I now consider young. It was as real then as it is now.

Sincere Engineer: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Three Useless Things to Know

As the weather turns, the vaccinations increase, and people’s interest turns to. . .outside seating at bars, perhaps a few trivial things may help you win some bar bets:

First musical instrument

Let’s face it: horns are not a big part of rock. There was certainly a period when there were brass-led bands that made some significant music—the prime example of this is the original Blood, Sweat & Tears, formed by Al Kooper, which should not be confused with the Blood, Sweat & Tears of “Spinning Wheel” (although it should be acknowledged that lineup of the band did perform at Woodstock). And for a resonant experience, just listen to the opening of Otis Redding’s cover of “Try a Little Tenderness” (Redding performed at Monterey Pop in 1967 and probably would have played two years later at Woodstock, had he not died in a light plane crash on the way to a gig in ’67).

Turns out that the first musical instrument—one from 17,000 year ago—may have been a horn. Back in 1931 a conch shell was discovered in a cave in France. The cave had various human remains, including drawings on the walls. The shell had a hole in one end. It was thought that the hole, at the end of the shell, had simply been broken off. After all, the thing is 17,000 years old.

Earlier this year a paper was published in Science Advances, “First record of the sound produced by the oldest Upper Paleolithic seashell horn.”

Continue reading Three Useless Things to Know

Everyone Into the Pool! (Except Songwriters)

According to the description of Cancun on TripAdvisor:

“The international capital of spring break

“‘Spring break forever’ could be Cancun’s motto. It’s all sun, sand, and good vibes. Here flip flops and board shorts count as “dressed,” and the club beats are thumping 24/7. Swim-up bars keep the cocktails coming to the twentysomething crowd. But families can find their own paradise at one of the many resorts with kids’ clubs and gigantic pools.”

So what do we have:

• Spring break. Which could include those ages 18 to 24, from high school seniors through undergraduates
• Twentysomething crowd that are partial to swim-up bars
• Families

Which makes me wonder about the potential crowd for “Playing in the Sand,” the three-day event that will feature Dead & Company.

Two points: (1) the name of the “destination concert experience” will be held in Cancun next January, a period when there isn’t a spring break; (2) the name of the event is a play on the title of a Grateful Dead tune that was released in 1971, making it 50 years old, which means that it was out 21 years before the oldest twentysomething was born.

Who’s coming?

The packages aren’t inexpensive. They start at $2,112.50 per person (yes, this includes a room at the Moon Palace Cancun Resort) and go up to $9,000. Starting prices.

Presumably, given that most people haven’t been vacationing much (except for thousands of springbreakers this year) due to COVID, by next January they’ll be ready for an event at a resort.

But one thing strikes me as a bit odd about this, and not that the Grateful Dead was a band that is more associated with grilled cheese sandwiches and drum circles than fine dining and a Jack Nicklaus golf course.

Continue reading Everyone Into the Pool! (Except Songwriters)

Listening to What Elliot Scheiner Thinks Is Worthwhile (circa 2008)

Several years ago I had the opportunity and honor to meet and spend some time talking with Elliot Scheiner, a producer and engineer who has been behind the board for an array of musicians, most of whom are acutely aware of the importance of the sounds that we hear when we listen to their recorded music. A recording engineer is the person to takes all of the tracks that have been recorded during a session (realize that there are as many as 96 channels on a sound board, and multiple recordings of each instrument and vocal) and orchestrates them—perhaps a slice here, a bit there—into something that we think is a done-in-one work. It is the ear of someone like Scheiner that creates a seamless tapestry.

I had in a box a third generation iPod nano circa 2008 that contains music that Scheiner had selected. I’d forgotten about it. Needless to say, when I excavated it, there was no power and it seems that the battery is no longer able to hold a charge.

But I pulled out a connector and plugged it in.

And listened. . . .

“Take Me to the River,” Al Green. No, not Talking Heads. It was written by Al Green and Mabon Lewis Hodges. Hear Al’s scream between verses and you’ll not listen to Byrne again. “The sixteen candles burning on my wall/Turning me into the biggest fool of them all.”

“Eight Days a Week,” The Beatles. Shocking to realize that it was released in 1965. Actually, it was ’64 in the UK, but the world wasn’t small then, so it was a few months later. Eight days, but the band’s seventh #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. The the phrase allegedly came from a chauffeur, describing how much he was working. Work. Not Love.

“Like a Star,” Corinne Bailey Rae. It isn’t a good thing when you do a Google search and the “People also ask” box has as its first question “What happened to Corinne Bailey Rae?” Good question. Probably more well known for her “Put Your Record On,” this song is subtle-yet-intricate. And leads you to wonder “What happened to Corinne Bailey Rae?”

“Fly Me to the Moon,” Diana Krall. It takes a lot of guts to do a cover of a song associated with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Yet Krall has vocally and musically more than the stuff to stand up to it. What’s interesting is that her voice isn’t sweet but strong. And it works.

“The Great Pagoda of Funn,” Donald Fagen. Steely Dan released Aja in the fall of ’77. Fagen released Morph the Cat, the album that includes this cut, in March 2006. I defy you to listen to this song and not hear Aja. With the current non-existence of Walter Becker, Fagen could tour doing this album and fully satisfy Dan fans. Or maybe he could call it “Steely Dann.”

Continue reading Listening to What Elliot Scheiner Thinks Is Worthwhile (circa 2008)

New Flaming Lips video: At The Movies On Quaaludes

Video: The Flaming Lips – “At The Movies On Quaaludes”

The Flaming Lips - At The Movies On Quaaludes [Official Video]

Directed by Clark Duke. From American Head, out now.

Ludes, man.

Although methaqualone hasn’t been legally manufactured in the United States since 1982, the lore of Quaaludes has only grown. Maybe illicit disco biscuits are still around somewhere, but I’ve never seen any. But if anybody can hook you up, I’m guessing it would be Wayne Coyne.

But really, this song is probably more of a flashback to being a teenager in the 70s, remembering being young and super high and dreaming of being rich and famous some day.

As we destroy our brains
‘Til we believe we’re dead,
It’s the American dream
In the American head.

Dream on, little Wayne. Dream on.

The Flaming Lips: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

The Disturbingly Small Numbers

The $15 minimum wage is a contentious issue. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It was established in 2009. 2009 was Windows 7.

Yes, you’d think it would be time for a change.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a minimum wage increase would impact the following:

• More than half (51%) of workers who would benefit are adults between the ages of 25 and 54; only one in 10 is a teenager.
• Nearly six in 10 (59%) are women.
• More than half (54%) work full time.
• More than four in 10 (43%) have some college experience.
• More than a quarter (28%) have children.

The issue here is one of people earning a living.

If we’ve seen anything in the past year it is that people who are working at grocery stores and doing food delivery services were putting themselves at considerable health risk. Odds are they didn’t want to. But it was their job and they had to do it. $7.25.

If someone works 40 hours per week, that is 2,080 hours per year. So at $7.25, the annual wage is $15,080.

And according to the EPI, were a raise to $15 per hour occur (it is worth noting that this wouldn’t necessarily be an instantaneous increase but that there would be a stepped approach, going to $9.50 in 2021 and reaching $15 in 2025) a full-time worker employed year-round would earn $31,200.

To put that into some perspective, know that the average price of a used car—remember, these people need to get to work in order to earn anything—is over $23,000. And that, of course, would mean the need for car insurance, on top of rent, utilities, food, clothing, etc., etc.

At this point—or far earlier—you may be wondering if you’ve accidentally stumbled onto a website dedicated to economics, not music.

Hang on. We’re getting there.

Continue reading The Disturbingly Small Numbers

Music for Parking Lots

If you’ve gotten into a new car recently, you’ve noticed that there is a change that has occurred over just the past few years. As there is a high likelihood that the vehicle is started by a keyfob rather than a key that is inserted into a cylinder on the steering column or on the instrument panel, the car “recognizes” that you have the fob. In fact, in the case of many vehicles, before you open the door, the car “wakes up” and will automatically unlock the door and if it is dark out, initiate a lighting routine so that your visibility is enhanced.

Upon getting behind the wheel, the car “greets” you. This is where the big change has happened. There is likely to be a message on a screen that welcomes you. And there is a series of sounds that acknowledge that you have arrived in the vehicle.

These sounds are an interesting thing. The beeps and buzzers that have long been characteristic of cars (e.g., seatbelt warning; you’ve left the lights on after you’ve shut off the vehicle; your door is ajar) have given way to more mellifluous sounds. These are not some random noises that have been selected for activation. There are sound signatures that identify the brand (were you to climb in another vehicle of the same vintage from the same brand—say a 2021 Kia Sorrento and a Kia K5—you would hear the same micro melody), as well as the various whooshes and whirs that are to make you think that you’re not just getting ready to go to the store to buy some milk but to be whisked away on some sort of magical adventure.

The company that has made an absolute art of the musical sounds within a vehicle is Lincoln. It didn’t hire some little-known creator of digital sounds that are encoded on a chip that is part of a vehicle’s body control module in order to create the audio ambience. Rather, Lincoln hired musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the automotive soundscape that is part of its vehicles’ signature. The company even has a position called “supervisor, vehicle harmony.”

Continue reading Music for Parking Lots

Rock and roll can change your life.