All posts by Jake Brown

New Fiona Apple video: Shameika

Video: Fiona Apple – “Shameika”

Fiona Apple - Shameika (Official Music Video)

Directed by Matthias Brown. From Fetch the Bolt Cutters, out now on Epic.

Great song, cool video, but the “making of” video is even cooler.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters was released on April 17 when we were all in full-on freakout mode about the coronavirus. Here in Michigan we were three and a half weeks into our stay-at-home order, and the album came out on the same day that our orange fuhrer tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in response to Governor Whitmer’s executive orders.

To keep myself sane I was immersing myself in yardwork. Specifically, I was cutting up fallen trees and branches in the woods behind my house with a chainsaw. I would put on my 3M Worktunes bluetooth headphones, play an album from my phone, and go pretend I was a lumberjack until I was exhausted.

A surprise release from Fiona Apple seemed like it would be exactly what the doctor ordered, but for me it was a little more intense than what I needed. It’s rawness and dissonance and rhythmic weirdness was exhausting. When you’re wielding a tool that is capable of chopping off your leg if you’re not paying attention (or massacring your neighborhood if you really lose control), it’s best to have a more calming soundtrack.

In the months since then, as we’ve learned to live with the pandemic, I’ve started to hear things in Fetch the Bolt Cutters that I didn’t hear when it was competing for my attention with the muffled screaming of a chainsaw engine and the unmufflable screaming of existential doom. There are hooks and melodies in there that are as beautiful and engaging as anything Apple has released.

“Shameika” is a story song about being bullied in school and having a cool kid stick up for you. “Shameika said I had potential.” Sometimes that’s all you need to hear to help you make it through to the other side. It gets better, right?

Back then I didn’t know what potential meant and
Shameika wasn’t gentle and she wasn’t my friend
But she got through to me and I’ll never see her again.

Well, as it turns out, that prediction proved to be incorrect. It’s a great story but the short version is that Fiona and Shameika’s third grade teacher heard about the song via a New Yorker profile and reached out. Ultimately, the two former classmates collaborated on a sequel of sorts.

And in the meantime the United States denied a second term to the worst president in its history and approved at least two vaccines to immunize its population from Covid-19!

It’s a feel good story with a happy ending! Who doesn’t love that? What a country!

God bless America, and have a healthy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Fiona Apple: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Fiona Apple video: Shameika

New White Stripes video: Apple Blossom

Video: The White Stripes – “Apple Blossom”

The White Stripes - Apple Blossom (Official Video)

From The White Stripes Greatest Hits, out December 4 on Third Man.

Hey look it’s a new animated video for “Apple Blossom” to promote the upcoming White Stripes Greatest Hits collection. And why not?

Originally released twenty years ago on De Stijl, “Apple Blossom” is a fan favorite that was performed on all the White Stripes tours following its release. When the band made its television debut on Detroit’s “Backstage Pass” in 2000, they played “Apple Blossom” and not the album’s single, “Hello Operator.” Jack has even dusted it off for some of his solo shows.

I’m not the intended audience for a White Stripes hits comp, but I’m all for them reissuing stuff to appeal to a new generation of fans. I remember being 18 and getting some silly new Velvet Underground collection that totally opened the doors for my impending fanaticism.

So I’m never going to criticize a kid for starting with a “best of” or slam a label for issuing one.

And The White Stripes Greatest Hits track list looks pretty cool. At least it contains a somewhat rare b-side (“Jolene”)… Although in the streaming era can something that is already available for streaming be consider rare? Probably not. So while this collection could just as easily be built as a playlist, I’m sure a bunch of folks will pick it up on vinyl and have a great listening experience with it. Plus, I’m sure Third Man will include some trappings in the physical release that will make it fun to own. And if that drives some people to dig deeper into the catalog? Better for everybody.

The White Stripes: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New White Stripes video: Apple Blossom

New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy video: Deacon Blues

Video: Bill Callahan & Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “Deacon Blues (ft. Bill MacKay)

Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy "Deacon Blues (feat. Bill MacKay)" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Michael Tully. Single out now on Drag City.

It’s easy to hate Steely Dan when you’re an angry young person. The music is slick and perfect and the lyrics are mean and condescending. It sounds so adult. None of that reckless teenage abandon that makes rock and roll fun and exciting.

But you know what eventually changes your perspective? The Cuervo Gold and the fine Colombian…

These days I can’t even imagine not loving the Dan. Walter Becker and Donald Fagan are hilarious, and that’s something I didn’t pick up on when I was a kid. I even respect Michael McDonald now, which is something I never would’ve believed I’d admit. And it’s not some silly ironic enjoyment of “yacht rock.” They sound great. What’s not to love?

Clearly Bill Callahan and Bonnie “Prince” Billy feel the same way. Here, they take on Becker and Fagan’s tale of a suburban loser who wishes he was a hip jazz cat with a cool nickname, and it’s beautiful.

They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

Callahan’s broken baritone embodies the character of the narrator perfectly. In the original version Fagan makes you smirk at the guy’s chutzpa, but Callahan makes you feel genuinely sorry for him. What more could you ask for?

Bill Callahan: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy video: Deacon Blues

New Amanda Shires video: The Problem ft. Jason Isbell

Video: Amanda Shires – “The Problem” (ft. Jason Isbell)

Amanda Shires - The Problem (feat. Jason Isbell) – Official Video

Directed by Becky Fluke. Single out now on Silver Knife.

These two! Come on. Tackling a difficult subject with all the empathy you’d expect from two of the most caring and sensitive songwriters in the business, Shires and Isbell put you right there in the room with a young couple figuring out how to deal with an unexpected situation.

Shires told CMT, “The video’s focus on the conversation never drifts and you can really feel the emotion. We recorded the vocals for this while we shot the video.” Wow.

So yeah, pretty raw.

Shires wrote an op-ed on abortion rights for Rolling Stone when “The Problem” was released, and it’s worth reading. Proceeds from the song will go to the Yellowhammer Fund, reproductive justice organization providing services in the Deep South.

Fun fact: That’s Sheryl Crow on bass.

Amanda Shires: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Amanda Shires video: The Problem ft. Jason Isbell

A Gift of Neil

Neil Young’s 75th birthday was yesterday. Happy birthday, Neil. Sorry I’m late.

It’s weird to think I’ve been loving Neil for almost 30 years now. Like a lot of dudes who went to college in the early 90s I was heavily into the whole sixties counterculture scene. Jann Wenner’s influence over the rock and roll canon was still unquestioned. It felt important for serious music connoisseurs to know all that stuff.

I remember joining the Columbia House cd club one last time during my freshman year and one of my 12 picks was CSN(Y)’s So Far. I liked the Nash songs best. Clearly, I still had a lot to learn.

By my senior year I had graduated to Neil’s Decade, which became the soundtrack to many smoky evenings huddled around my pal George’s Mac putting together our underground newspaper or playing Maelstrom. George was my Neil Young spirit guide, providing guidance on the path to enlightenment.

After college my friends dispersed across the country but we kept in touch via brand new technology called an email listserv as well as sending handwritten letters through the good old U.S. mail. It was still the nineteen-hundreds after all. I was living at home with my mom, working a shitty factory job (English major), when I received a package from George in Toledo. It contained a cassette he compiled, titled The Killer, as something like a companion to Decade, the next step in my Neil education.

It blew my mind and made me realize the depth and intensity of Neil’s body of work.

Over the next several years as my obsession grew I scoured used record bins to fill in the rest of the blanks, eventually acquiring Neil’s complete discography on vinyl. It was so exciting to find an album I hadn’t heard before. New songs! The two holy grails were Time Fades Away and Journey Through the Past. At the same time, Neil was releasing new music (Harvest Moon, Sleeps with Angels, Mirrorball, Broken Arrow) and touring constantly. It was a great time to be a Neil fan.

And I owe it all to George and that mixtape.

Continue reading A Gift of Neil

The Lovely Ladz video premiere: Nasty Blister

Video: The Lovely Ladz – “Nasty Blister”

Single out now on Mordorlorff Music.

Years before the Darkness, Steel Panther, Dethklok, even before Tenacious D, a group of teenagers in suburban Detroit decided they needed to live out their rock and roll fantasies and start a band. And not just a band. But an experience!

The Lovely Ladz unashamedly turned it up to eleven.

These kids were ready to take on the world: Dash Rip Rock (vocals), Mickey Trixxx (guitar, vocals), Jerry Rokker (six-string fretless bass), Stylez (drums), The Baby Velvet (guitar), and Don Wa (“freak outs”).

They had bad wigs, dumb props, lots of beer, and enough chops to pull it off. Pretty much.

I am fortunate to have experienced the Ladz once in a basement at Michigan State University around the time this previously unreleased single was recorded. They were ridiculous but impossible to ignore (it was a small basement). They were goofing on “hair metal” but their songs were as good as anything by Poison or Skid Row if not better. They were definitely funnier.

They never released anything back in the day. In fact, “Nasty Blister” is the only song the Lovely Ladz ever recorded. Captured in 1993 in Saginaw, Michigan, with engineer Dan Palmer who had been in a band called Bungee Deth Fest with Ladz drummer Stylez (secret identity: Matt Favazza), they recently found the original master tapes. Mickey Trixxx (a/k/a Dan “The Fox” Edwards) finally mixed and mastered them for this release, revealing their tender side: “Nasty blister on my private part / Nasty blister on my blackened heart…”

Continue reading The Lovely Ladz video premiere: Nasty Blister

New Flaming Lips video: Assassins of Youth

Video: The Flaming Lips – “Assassins of Youth”

The Flaming Lips - Assassins of Youth [Live Video]

Directed by Wayne Coyne and Blake Studdard. From American Head, out now.

2020 is so weird. One day, maybe in a couple decades or so, people are going to look back at videos like this and wonder wtf was going on. Sort of like how we feel when we see photos of tuberculosis sanitariums from around the turn of the previous century.

But good for the Lips. Leave it to Wayne Coyne and his compatriots to figure out a way to host a real live rock concert in the middle of an infectious pandemic. Put everybody in their own individual space bubble. And why not? It looks fun. Might get a little stanky in there after a while, but it’s probably worth it. How bad do you miss live music?

Coyne says, “The job of the Flaming Lips is to get you in a room, get you excited, get you to forget about the world’s problems and entertain you for an hour. But if we do that without this pretty radical protection, then we’re going to kill you.”

Killing your fans is not a good business model for bands. But neither is patiently waiting for Congress to pass along some financial help to people who have been put out of work by this virus. Bands are getting creative, hosting livestreams and trying to stay connected with their audience online, upping their merch game, etc. But how much longer will they be able to pay their bills without touring? It’s a bad situation and it’s not getting better anytime soon.

I was young yesterday
But everything is changed after today
And I don’t know what to do
Oh my younger self, oh I miss you.

So maybe we should all buy ourselves a space bubble. It looks like you can buy them at Walmart for $159.99, which isn’t so bad. Product description is a little scary: “A sealed water ball has enough breathable air for an average sized person to stay inside for 15-20 minutes without refilling. YOU MUST CHANGE THE AIR AT LEAST EVERY 30 MINUTES FOR YOUR SAFETY.” So there are definitely some logistical issues to work out. We’d need to find a way to pump new covid-free air into the balls. Clubs might have to widen their doors a little so we can fit through. So I don’t know…

The more you learn about space bubbles, the more impressive it is that the Lips were able to pull this off with an audience of 100 fans!

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

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Louis Armstrong, Kenny Rogers

The sixth episode of the final season of the Johnny Cash Show aired 50 years ago today on October 28, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Tennessee Ernie Ford, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and the great Louis Armstrong along with the usual regulars: June Carter and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

Unfortunately, this is another episode that has not aired on GetTV. We can derive how the show went down based on the detailed notes from the Country Music Hall of Fame and some help from the friendly uploaders of YouTube.

The best part about this episode, of course, is Louis Armstrong. We wrote about this before, inspired by a great article in the Oxford American by Charles Wolfe in 2007. Armstrong and Cash cover Jimmie Rodgers’s “Blue Yodel #9,” which Rodgers first recorded forty years earlier, in 1930, with none other than Louis Armstrong on trumpet. You can see how excited Cash is to play it with him.

So here we are 90 years after the original recording, watching a fifty year old performance of a historical summit of American genres.

• Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”

Tennessee Ernie Ford, June Carter and Johnny Cash – “Nobody’s Business By My Own”

First Edition “Heed the Call”

Louis Armstrong – “Crystal Chandeliers” / “Ramblin’ Rose”

Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash – “Blue Yodel No. 9”

• Johnny Cash – Come Along and Ride This Train: Outlaws

Tennessee Ernie Ford – “Nine Pound Hammer”

• Johnny Cash – “Children Go Where I Send Thee”

Tennessee Ernie Ford and ensemble – “I’ll Have a New Life”

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Louis Armstrong, Kenny Rogers

New Jim White video: The Divided States of America

Video: Jim White – “The Divided States of America”

THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA by Jim White.

From Misfit’s Jubilee, out October 30 on Fluff and Gravy.

Way back in 2001 in the early days of this web site we used to host a streaming “radio station” where the handful of people who had enough bandwidth to do so could listen to a couple hours worth of handpicked songs by the GLONO posse. We used a precocious site called Live365 that might have been a little ahead of its time. We abandoned it once they started charging you to use it, but it was (sort of) fun for a while.

The reason I mention it is because one of the songs we featured, selected by Johnny Loftus, was “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” by Jim White, which blew us all away back then and still does.

Well, it’s almost 20 years later now and I wonder if Jim White still thinks “things is always better than they seem.”

Maybe not. White says, “I’m typically not the political type but these times we’re riding out here, they’re anything but typical. At this moment in our collective history it makes sense that voices normally content to remain silent should be lifted in outrage, howling, exhorting our minds and hearts to focus on a singular goal—higher ground for all, not just the rich folks.”

It’s hard to be hopeful in 2020. We’re all doing what we can, but the cards are clearly stacked against us. Can you even imagine a time when we’re not as divided as we are right now?

New Neil Young: Homefires

Video: Neil Young – “Homefires”

Homefires - Neil Young Archives

From Neil Young Archives Volume II, out November 20 on Reprise.

Oh man remember back in the oughts all the angst around the original Archives collection? After originally mentioning the project in the liner notes to Lucky 13 in 1993, he didn’t get serious about it until around 2006 when he started talking about it and trickling out some live shows (Fillmore and Massey). And then in 2007 he posted a fancy landing page and suggested it would be released that September. Then the set got pushed back to February 2008. Then he announced it wouldn’t be released on CD, then it would be. Then it got pushed to early 2009, January, then February, then June, which happened. Finally! Eight CDs and a 160-page book for $72. It was very exciting even if it wasn’t as comprehensive as people thought. There were a bunch of cool, unreleased songs on it.

He’s been giving us hints about Archives II since 2010. And now you can pre-order it. 10 CDs with a 252-page book for $249.98. Inflation!

If the 12 unreleased songs on it are as good as “Homefires” it might well be worth it. But I think I’m going to wait to see if the price comes down. I’m thrifty like that.