Category Archives: Shorties

New ME REX video: Heart of Garbage

Video: ME REX – “Heart of Garbage”

ME REX - Heart of Garbage (Radio Edit)

From the Triceratops/Stegosaurus EP, out now on Big Scary Monsters.

This is what we used to call “college rock” and it’s great. The lead guitar tone reminds me of my beloved Sinatras and the clever lyrics are delivered by Myles McCabe in a delightful South London accent.

And if you feel like I do maybe I can help you through this
Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed of what you need to keep you sane
Tell your head I said I hate the weight it gives to the mistakes we made.

How can you not love that? Come on.

Via fortherabbits.

New Kings Of Convenience: Rocky Trail

Video: Kings Of Convenience – “Rocky Trail”

Kings Of Convenience - Rocky Trail (Official Video)

From Peace Or Love, out June 18 on EMI.

Back in the Great Sellout Wars of the early 2000s, the Kings of Convenience were one of the bands I would bring up to demonstrate that a television commercial could indeed turn someone on to good music. Their song “Toxic Girl” was used in an ad for something or other where a young person was on a bus, longing for someone. That’s all I remember now. I just spent about five minutes trying to find the spot online but failed.

The way it worked back then was we would hear a cool song, search the internet for who it was, and then download a 128mbps MP3 via Napster or Audiogalaxy. Later, when we stumbled across the cd in the used bin, we’d buy it for six bucks, and if we really liked the whole thing, we’d be sure to pick up their next album on release day. If the band ever toured we’d go see them, and if they had cool merch we might even get a shirt.

It seems naïve now, but at the time we believed that filesharing would ultimately lead to more revenue for musicians. And maybe it did for a while there when people (like us) still bought physical media. Streaming obliterated this system. But that’s another story.

Back when Kings Of Convenience released their last album, 2009’s Declaration of Dependence, there was no streaming. “Album downloads” were still a big thing that was on the rise. It’s a different world now, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to their new single. It’s got that same breezy grooviness that first caught my ear when I saw the ad with the kid on the bus. It’s not really bossa nova but you can imagine a Getz/Gilberto cover of any of their songs, including this new one.

The video features a single, continuous shot of the duo and some friends hanging out in an extremely Scandinavian apartment. Totally on brand and wonderful. Made me realize how much I’ve missed these guys. Let’s say we give them one more time, one last chance to speak again…

Kings Of Convenience: web, insta, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Liz Phair: Spanish Doors

Video: Liz Phair – “Spanish Doors”

Liz Phair - Spanish Doors (Official Music Video)

From Soberish, due June 4 on Chrysalis.

It’s great that Liz Phair has reconnected with Brad Wood, who produced Exile, Whip-Smart, and a most of the best songs on whitechocolatespaceegg. In the liner notes for Girly Sound to Guyville, Phair talks about how unlike previous producers she had tried to work with, Wood “wanted to make a record the way I wanted to make a record. [Wood and engineer Casey Rice] didn’t want to tell me what to do.” Which is why the music they recorded together is so distinctive; the guys didn’t try to tell “the girl” that what she wanted to do was wrong.

I remember hearing that the reason her early songs sound so weird is that she didn’t know how to play guitar when she wrote them and was just making up chords on her own by putting her fingers wherever they sounded cool. If that’s true, it’s awesome.

The quirkiness of youthful experimentation doesn’t last forever, especially when you have major label honchos breathing down your neck, but that’s why after finally being “released” from Capitol Records, 2010’s Funstyle was such a welcome change of pace (even if half the songs were ridiculous).

But now she’s teamed back up with Brad Wood and the three songs we’ve heard so far from their collaboration are giving us a picture of what this new phase is like. It’s mature but not boring. There’s still a playfulness in the production. There are familiar “classic Liz Phair” guitar tones, but nobody’s trying to recreate Wicker Park in the 90s.

The best song on Exile, “Divorce Song” was written at least five years before Phair got married and this new song, dealing with a similar subject, is coming out twenty years after she got divorced.

Phair says, “I drew inspiration from a friend who was going through a divorce, but the actions in the lyrics are my own. I relate to hiding out in the bathroom when everyone around you is having a good time but your life just fell apart. You look at yourself in the mirror and wonder who you are now, shadows of doubt creeping into your eyes. Just a few moments ago you were a whole, confident person and now you wonder how you’ll ever get the magic back.”

I don’t know if it’s ever really possible to fully get the magic back. But if you can manage to keep on keeping on, and every once in a while grasp a little bit of the magic you once possessed, maybe that’s good enough.

We’re all grownups now. It’s probably greedy and unrealistic to expect to be able to rekindle whatever it was that seemed to come so easily when we were young. But it can be fun to try.

Audio Adventures

Although the Amboy Dukes were originally organized in Chicago—which is a bit of an exaggeration because people in Chicago don’t consider Arlington Heights to be Chicago any more than they do Schaumberg—the band is better known as being from Detroit, one of the groups that had its heyday in the late 1960s along with a raft of others, including the MC5, SRC, Frost, Up, and the Bob Seger System (although purists would put “the Last Heard” in place of “System”). The first-named continues to resonate given that it had profound effects on bands that made it to a far greater extent than it ever did; the last-named has become known in relation to the Silver Bullet Band (good for him; bad for music; arguably “East Side Story,” “Heavy Music” and “2 + 2 = ?” are cuts that people should still go to school on; the later stuff: it works well in movie soundtracks).

(A digression: although it began in earnest in the early 1960s, Motown had a more lasting effect on Detroit—and music—than the aforementioned bands. It is incredible to think that out of a studio on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit (now a museum) music from the Supremes, Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles, and others was produced. One might argue that from 1961 to 1971 there was a true musical Renaissance in Detroit, the likes of which has never been bettered.)

The Amboy Dukes had one hit, “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” which was released in 1968 and was the Midwest version of a genre that came to be known as “Psychedelic Rock,” something that should have been left to the likes of Moby Grape.

The most notable sound on “Journey” was the lead guitar playing by Ted Nugent.

It would have probably been better for everyone (with the exception of the Nugent family members) had he decided to hang it up after that searing 3:11 single.

But he is still here.

Continue reading Audio Adventures

It’s All About the Ecosystem [Money]

Because once you get in, it is ever so hard to escape

Apple Music recently released a statement about how it pays artists for streams, which positions the company as being more, um, generous than, say Spotify.

There’s this: “While other services pay some independent labels a substantially lower rate than they pay major labels, we pay the same headline rate to all labels.” Let’s face it, there are plenty of artists whose music you’re interested in that aren’t on the majors (a statement I can make with some confidence given that you’re on this site), so why should they get any less attention because of the company that their music happens to be distributed by?

This one is the kicker: “While royalties from streaming services are calculated on a stream share basis, a play still has a value. This value varies by subscription plan and country but averaged $0.01 for Apple Music individual paid plans in 2020. This includes label and publisher royalties.” Admittedly, you have to have one ginormous number of streams in order to have enough money to order a beer at your local bar.

But when there are other companies that are paying money at rates that are so complicated to work out that you might as well spend your time calculating a variant proof for Fermat’s Theorem, a penny is something that can be readily understood.

This gets into the tricky category: “Apple Music paid out royalties for more than 5 million recording artists around the world in 2020, over 1 million more than in 2019. The number of recording artists whose catalogs generated recording and publishing royalties over $1 million per year increased over 120% since 2017, while the number of recording artists whose catalogs generated over $50,000 per year has more than doubled.”

If we break it down it says there were four million artists on Apple Music in 2019, and now there are 20% more. But the part that is a bit obfuscatorial is the fact that while there is a large percentage increase in the number of musicians who have earned over a million dollars since 2017, not knowing how many made a million in 2017 makes that increase a mystery. That is, if there were 100 in 2017, the 120% increase isn’t a whole lot, which is the same case for the doubling of the $50,000 earners.

Continue reading It’s All About the Ecosystem [Money]

New Lou Barlow video: Over You

Video: Lou Barlow – “Over You”

Lou Barlow - Over You (Official Video)

Video by Lou & Adelle. From Reason to Live, out May 28 on Joyful Noise.

Sure, there’s a new Dinosaur Jr album out today, and everything we’ve heard from it so far is awesome, but hey, Lou Barlow’s got a new solo album on the way as well, so check out the new song. (And they called us the slacker generation!)

Barlow says the leadoff single “came from the general longing of my teenage years” and it’s “based on one melody and lyric fragment I captured on cassette back in 1982 or so. In 2019, I decided to resurrect and expand this nugget for my ‘Artist Enabler Series’ for Joyful Noise. I used some of the original lyrics: ‘I knew everything about you. I knew nothing about you’ and built on that feeling, the phrase ‘over you’ became the chorus. I recorded the basic tracks for the new version onto cassette in an attempt to mimic the atmosphere of the original.”

It’s Lou’s specialty to pack a lifetime of emotion into a two-minute pop song. The longing, the regret, that feeling of being haunted by memories. People tell you to “get over it” but there are things it’s impossible to get over; some memories are just an intrinsic part of your being.

“When considering the video I talked to my wife, Adelle, about things in our lives that we’ve never been ‘over.’ We moved from California six years ago, a place that we both loved. We started compiling home videos from our times living there (17 years in my case) and scenes from some 80’s movies that were filmed in LA. When we combined the footage it seemed to work with the song.”

It works!

New Lucy Dacus: Hot and Heavy

Video: Lucy Dacus – “Hot & Heavy”

Lucy Dacus - "Hot & Heavy" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Lucy Dacus and Marin Leong. From Home Video, out June 25 on Matador.

A powerful new song by the great Lucy Dacus with a video featuring adorable old home movies. Home Video, not coincidentally, is the title of her upcoming album.

“I thought I was writing ‘Hot & Heavy’ about an old friend, but I realized along the way that it was just about me outgrowing past versions of myself,” explains Dacus. “So much of life is submitting to change and saying goodbye even if you don’t want to. Now whenever I go to places that used to be significant to me, it feels like trespassing the past. I know that the teen version of me wouldn’t approve of me now, and that’s embarrassing and a little bit heartbreaking, even if I know intellectually that I like my life and who I am.”

“I knew I wanted to include some of the home video footage that my dad took of me while I was growing up. I wanted to visualize the moment when you first reflect on your childhood, which I think can also be the moment that childhood is over. For me, I feel like there was a hard switch when I started releasing music, when my identity went from being a personal project to something publicly observed and reflected. I asked my family (shoutout to my grandma) and some of my closest friends to be extras because they’re the people that knew me before that switch. I may have dropped out of film school, but I still love making movies and had a really fun time directing this one.”

Continue reading New Lucy Dacus: Hot and Heavy

New Bill Callahan video: Cowboy

Video: Bill Callahan – “Cowboy”

Bill Callahan "Cowboy" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Anthony Gasparro and Mikey Kampmann. From Gold Record, out now on Drag City.

Callahan is one of those artists where I’ve liked every song I’ve heard by them but I don’t own any of their albums because their discography is so large and I don’t know where to start. You’d think that the ease of streaming would solve this conundrum but for dingdongs like me, having immediate access to everything only compounds the issue.

Back in the day, I would stumble across a CD in the used bin for $6 and just pick it up and start there. Allow synchronicity and kismet to set the path.

But it’s been a while since I’ve been to the record store, and besides, the knowledge that I could just go home and stream anything puts up a mental barrier that stops me from pulling the trigger. So instead I just end up buying another copy of one of those Rolling Stones ABKCO SACDs that I pick up whenever I see them. It’s a problem.

So here’s another great song from another Bill Callahan album I don’t own. Maybe I’ll start with this one and work backwards. That’s a good idea. That’s a plan!

Callahan told Apple Music that “Cowboy” is “kind of nostalgic for the way TV used to be. There would be a later movie, and then later there was a late, late movie. If you were staying up to watch that, it would usually be after The Tonight Show. That meant something. It meant you’re up pretty late, for whatever reason. You might be being irresponsible, or you might just be indulging yourself. Now that TV is on demand, I don’t think anyone really watches late-night shows at night anymore—they just watch the highlights the next day. So on one level, it’s about that loss of sense of place that TV used to give you, because it was a much more fixed thing. And that kind of correlates to watching a Western, because that’s about a time that is also gone. I was just thinking about that, the time of your life when you can just watch a movie at two in the morning.”

Trying to fit it all in
Before the test pattern and the anthem
And off to bed you go, and off to sleep
And off to dream that trail you ride.

Ride along, little doggies. Ride along.

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

New St. Vincent: The Melting Of The Sun

Video: St. Vincent – “The Melting Of The Sun”

St. Vincent - The Melting Of The Sun (Official Video)

Animation by Chris McD. From Daddy’s Home, out May 14 on Loma Vista.

The latest St. Vincent videos aren’t doing the songs any favors. Do we need to be bashed over the head with the pastiche gimmick? No, we do not.

The songs are cool and they sound great. Those tones and instrument choices are timeless. The drum sound on this new single is huge and moving. The Wurlitzer electric piano will never go out of style. The electric sitar, on the other hand, is a little goofy, but it’s a lot worse when you hear it while you’re watching this corny video. We get it. Seventies. Fine. Got it. Whatever.

Seeing this song performed on Saturday Night Live was a revelation about how this material can be presented without the cheese. Yes, Annie Clark is still wearing that terrible wig and is dressed like a prostitute in an exploitation film, but this time she looks cool. Not silly. Cool. She proves she can still pull off an interesting visual theme without merely relying on hackneyed cliches about the 70s. She’s immersing herself in those accoutrements in order to mess with us, like when David Bowie dressed up like a clown forty years ago and scared the shit out of America.

So yeah. More art, hold the cheese, please.

Especially since “The Melting Of The Sun” is such a cool song. Clark described it to Rolling Stone as “a love letter to strong, brilliant female artists. Each of them survived in an environment that was in a lot of ways hostile to them.” The lyrics specifically namecheck Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, and Nina Simone. I just don’t get why you’d want to blunt the message with a dopey video that looks like a combination of Schoolhouse Rock and the Teletubbies.

Continue reading New St. Vincent: The Melting Of The Sun

Rich Rock Ride

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Ram 1500 TRX is an exaggerated pickup truck. It has a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine that produces 702 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque and allows the full-size pickup truck to have a top speed of 118 mph and go from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, 0-100 mph in 10.5 seconds and quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at 108 mph. It has a ground clearance of 11.8 inches and 35-inch tires (if you are rolling in a Honda CR-V know that the ground clearance is 7.8 inches and the tires are a maximum of 19 inches in diameter, more likely to be 17 inches). The interior is exquisite, with acres of suede and leather. And then there is the Harman Kardon 12-channel, 19-speaker, 900-watt audio system with a 10-inch subwoofer and active noise cancellation.

You could drive across a desert and climb a mountain in one of these things in absolute comfort. You could blow the doors off of competitors in muscle cars from a standing start at a stop light. You could drive around town and know that there are very few people anywhere who also have a TRX and feel the pride of exclusivity.

You would spend more than $70,000 on this vehicle (starting MSRP: $70,295).

(And you may be wondering: “Did I somehow get on the MotorTrend website?”)

If there is a vehicle that screams (thanks to the supercharger) and bellows (thanks to that V8) “heavy metal,” then it has to be the Ram 1500 TRX.

It is powerful, raucous and yet tuned and orchestrated to deliver raw power.

Which brings me back to the rich. And rock.

The Lamborghini Urus is an SUV. A sport utility vehicle. It starts at $218,000. It has a 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo that produces 650 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque.

Clearly, this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill vehicle that is likely to be in the queue pickup up the kids from the elementary outside of Santa Barbara.

I bring the Urus up because I was surprised to see Lamborghini boasting that one of its owners is “Tony Iommi, guitarist and king of riffs with legendary ‘monsters of rock’ Black Sabbath.”

Continue reading Rich Rock Ride