Category Archives: Shorties

Dinosaur Jr: I Ran Away ft. Kurt Vile

Video: Dinosaur Jr. – “I Ran Away”

Dinosaur Jr. - I Ran Away (Animation by Mortis Studio)

Animation by Mortis Studio. From Sweep It Into Space, out April 23 on Jagjaguwar.

It was meant to be. Of course it was. Why wouldn’t Kurt Vile co-produce the upcoming Dinosaur Jr album? It just makes sense.

Hear for yourself on the leadoff single, which features Vile on 12-string.

J Mascis says, “Kurt played little lead things, like 12 string one at the beginning of ‘I Ran Away.’ Then I ended up just mimicking a few things he’d done. I was listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy, so I was trying to get some of that dueling twin lead sound. But the recording session was pretty well finished by the time things really hit the fan. So I just ended up doing more things by myself. Like the mini digital mellotron on ‘Take It Back.’ Originally I’d thought I’d have Ken Mauri (who has done keyboard work for Dino in the past) come in and play piano. But when the Lock Down happened in March, that meant I was on my own. But it was cool.”

It’s going to take more than a global pandemic to keep Dinosaur Jr down!

New Iggy Pop video: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Video: Iggy Pop – “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Iggy Pop - Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (Official Video)

Directed by Simon Taylor. From Free, out now on Loma Vista.

I wonder if Iggy Pop was inspired by a recent episode of “Jeopardy” in which all three of the contestants tried and failed to remember the exact wording of the first line of this Dylan Thomas villanelle. Probably not, but who knows? This reading comes from Ig’s 2019 album, Free.

It’s a classic poem about getting old and kicking the bucket, and the older you get the more powerfully it speaks to you.

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I think I first heard it via an inappropriately jaunty version by fellow Welshman John Cale that my homie PLP was prone to including on mixtapes for a while there in the beginning of the 90s. Maybe I read it in school before that but I doubt it. We didn’t cover a lot of poetry in my suburban Michigan high school. The Cale version is goofy yet still pretentious enough to ruin the vibe of any mixtape.

Iggy’s version is appropriately morbid and defiant. It’s also helped by its brevity, under two minutes long.

Dylan Thomas died in 1953 at 39. He drank himself to death. So he never even got to see the old age he wrote so eloquently about.

Continue reading New Iggy Pop video: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

New Paul Weller: Cosmic Fringes

Video: Paul Weller – “Cosmic Fringes”

Paul Weller - Cosmic Fringes

From Fat Pop (Volume 1), due May 14 on Polydor.

Paul Weller has made his bones as a man looking forward and back. The Jam was a “youth explosion” built on riffs and themes of a Britain ten years in the past. Style Council was neo-soul, with not a lot of emphasis on the neo. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when the Mod Father dabbles a bit in some vintage sounds. But this? Erm…

Layered synths and throbbing bass float this song along with punches of distorted guitar. Should Gary Numan make a cameo, I’m not sure anyone would notice. I get that the kids are all gaga for the 80s, but I’m not sure if this is the modern world I was hoping for.

Listen to the Sound of Income

While it has been quite some time since I have been in a movie theater, the remembrance of sitting in a seat waiting for the show to begin is something that sticks with me for the simple reason that (1) when going to a theater with general admission I would generally get there sufficiently early such that I would be able to get a seat that didn’t put me in a spot where the sightlines were less-than ideal (e.g., off to the side or in a row near to the screen that would require an uncomfortable neck torque for a not-inconsiderable amount of time) and (2) theaters, which make more money off of concessions (i.e., pre-pandemic, theater chains made about 50% on the price of a ticket and 80% on the concessions, so if you want to know why that bucket of popcorn takes a bucket of cash to buy, there it is), decided that given the captive audience, selling ads to play before the trailers was a lucrative move.

You might imagine that because you are paying to see something specific (i.e., the movie) you would not be subjected to watching something that the proprietor is making money on. To be sure, for years pre-movie there would be the cartoon of the hotdog, beverage and popcorn box strutting across the screen encouraging you to go get a snack, but it got to the point that you were encouraged to do everything from joining the Army to buying car insurance. And while those ads tended to be well produced, there are even those sold locally to plastic surgeons and car dealers that appear to have been shot and produced by someone’s Uncle Gus.

According to SiriusXM, “SiriusXM is unique because we stay true to the artists and their music by broadcasting 100% commercial-free music. So, unlike traditional radio, all of our original music channels have no commercials – ever!” However, elsewhere it acknowledges, “While all of our music channels are 100% commercial free, subscribers may hear commercials on some of the Sports, Talk and News channels.” That verb may, expressing possibility, is a bit of a dodge. What’s more, while the music channels are without commercials in the sense of things that are promoting the goods and services of a third party, there are more than a few interruptions on the music channels trying to get you to listen to the Billy Joel Channel or a special, limited-duration channel from some performer that you’d prefer Novocain-free dental work rather than listening to. What SiriusXM is doing is trying to keep you within its sphere so that it is going to make money from subscription renewals. Realize that they have built out an infrastructure (e.g., satellites, office buildings) that needs to be maintained, to say nothing of the contract with Howard Stern that is said to be worth as much as $100-million a year through 2025. You need a lot of subscribers to support that kind of outgo.

On February 22, Spotify conducted its “Stream On” event, which it describes as how it “is continuing to go all in on the limitless power of audio—the opportunity and the potential it represents for Spotify, creators, and fans everywhere around the world.

Continue reading Listen to the Sound of Income

New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy: The Wild Kindness (ft. Cassie Berman)

Video: Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy “The Wild Kindness” (ft. Cassie Berman)

Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy "The Wild Kindness (feat. Cassie Berman)" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Ben Berman. Single out now on Drag City.

It’s David Berman week, apparently. Yesterday, we featured the video for a song by a member of what was supposed to be Berman’s touring incarnation of Purple Mountains, and today we have a cover of a Silver Jews classic by his Drag City labelmates and his widow.

Bill Callahan and Will Oldham have been releasing covers of classic tunes throughout the pandemic. My favorite of these has been their version of Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” but this one’s pretty good too.

They recruited an army of singers for it. In addition to Cassie Berman, they’ve also got Elisa Ambrogio, Meg Baird, Ben Chasny, Bill MacKay, Haley Fohr, David Grubbs, Cory Hanson, Emmett Kelly, Matt Kinsey, Sean O’Hagan, David Pajo, Todd Rittmann, Alasdair Roberts, Matt Sweeney, Mick Turner, George Xylouris, Azita Youssefi. That’s like half the Drag City roster!

Callahan says, “The infrastructure of this song should set an example to politicians of all type—everybody sings of wild kindness.”

Not sure it can hold a candle to the original but it was probably cathartic to record and maybe even fun. The video is hilariously silly.

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

Continue reading New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy: The Wild Kindness (ft. Cassie Berman)

New Cassandra Jenkins video: Ambiguous Norway

Video: Cassandra Jenkins – “Ambiguous Norway”

From An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, out now on Ba Da Bing.

It’s been a while since an album hit me this hard this quickly. I hadn’t heard of Cassandra Jenkins before Friday, the day An Overview on Phenomenal Nature was released, but I’ve been listening nonstop since then.

The album’s short. Seven songs totaling under 32 minutes and the last song is a seven-minute instrumental. So every moment is important.

“Ambiguous Norway” is near the end at track five, but it was the first Cassandra Jenkins song I heard. It explicitly deals with the subject of grieving that the rest of the album builds up to.

A little backstory is enlightening: Jenkins was set to tour as a member of David Berman’s post-Silver Jews project Purple Mountains, but then Berman committed suicide shortly before the tour’s first date. In “New Bikini” Jenkins tells us, “After David passed away / My friends put me up for a few days / Off the coast of Norway.”

“Ambiguous Norway” reveals what happened on that trip and it’s raw and heartbreaking.

No matter where I go
You’re gone, you’re everywhere.

That’s as eloquent a description of the early phases of grief as anything I’ve ever heard. And while I’m not privy to any personal details, the way Jenkins writes about loss suggests a more intense relationship than just a hired bandmember.

In an interview with Our Culture, Jenkins shares the story of meeting a stranger who tells her, “You know, in Denmark, it’s a very flat landscape, but we have giant cloud formations, they’re giant cumulus clouds. And we call them ‘Denmark’s mountains’ because we don’t have mountains, so we need to find them in other ways.”

Who knows how geographically or meteorologically different Denmark is from its neighbor to the north, but that stranger’s story ended up informing the lyrics of “Ambiguous Norway.”

Farewell, Purple Mountains
I see a range of cumulus
the majesties transmutation
distant, ambiguous
The skies replace the land with air.

So even though, like a three legged dog, part of you may always be looking for what you’ve lost, there’s a chance you will find it in unexpected places. On the other hand, clouds are ethereal and ephemeral and don’t really do much for you. But I suppose if they provide a little comfort when you need it, sometimes that’s good enough.

Cassandra Jenkins: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Cassandra Jenkins video: Ambiguous Norway

“God Only Knows”

One of the more enjoyable TV series of the late ‘00s was “Leverage,” an Americanized version of a better British show, “Hustle.” Both are about grifters. The American cast is led by Timothy Hutton, who plays the “brains” of the operation. During each episode they would find someone who did some innocent wrong in some mean, devious financial way, and then the crew would go after that person in an unexpectedly imaginative way.

Depending on the circumstance of the con, Hutton’s character, after devising the plan, would say, “Let’s go steal a _________.” The object would always be something outrageous in scope, such as a museum or a mountain or a carnival or a town.

That phrase came to mind, albeit in a somewhat different form, when I read that Irving Azoff, long-time manager of The Eagles, started a company, Iconic Artists Group. . .and bought the Beach Boys.

“Let’s go buy a band.”

The purchase from Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and the estate of Carl Wilson, includes masters, part of the publishing (Universal owns the music from the 1960s), the brand, and Beach Boys memorabilia.

While we’ve seen musicians from Dylan to Young selling publishing rights of late, this is different.

The Beach Boys become a “thing” that will be brought to market via brand development and the ever-important brand monetization.

Continue reading “God Only Knows”

New Christian Lee Hutson: Betty

Video: Christian Lee Hutson – “Betty”

Christian Lee Hutson - "Betty"

From The Version Suicides, Vol. 1, out now on Anti-.

Christian Lee Hutson’s Beginners was one of my favorite albums of 2020. Taylor Swift’s folklore was another. In a bit of pop culture synchronicity Hutson has just released an e.p. of cover songs, including a version of Swift’s song sung from the point of view of the boy in the love triangle that is explored in a trio of folklore songs along with “Cardigan” and “August.” I can geek out all day on these three songs but I’ll spare you.

“Betty” is my favorite though. It’s the one that sounds most like a real teenager. The other two songs have references to “downtown bars” and bottles of wine, but the narrator of “Betty” talks about homeroom and his skateboard and dances in gyms and it just sounds like a dopey kid who messed up and really, really regrets it.

But if I just showed up at your party
Would you have me? Would you want me?
Would you tell me to go fuck myself
Or lead me to the garden?

In The Long Pond Studio Sessions documentary Swift says something about how she’s written so many songs wishing the boy would apologize and with “Betty” she finally gets her apology. I sincerely hope Betty gives him another chance. He’s only 17, after all. He’s doesn’t know anything.

Hutson plays it straight. He doesn’t amp up the drama but he can’t bury it. On The Version Suicides, Vol. 1 he also covers Abba and Vanessa Carlton. I’m a sucker for acoustic folkie covers of pop songs. Not sure that “Betty” required this re-imagining but it’s not bad. Just not particularly necessary. The original is perfect as it is.

Christian Lee Hutson: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Christian Lee Hutson: Betty

New Metz video: Sugar Pill

Video: METZ – “Sugar Pill”

METZ - Sugar Pill [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Directed by Shayne Ehman. From Atlas Vending, out now on Sub Pop.

How great are skateboarding videos? I could watch this stuff for hours.

Here, skaters Jojo Johnson and Sara Smith convert a snow-filled pool in Thunder Bay, Ontario into a perfect bowl while Canadian punk rockers METZ holler about the overwhelming stream of bad news that we are all constantly being bombarded with.

I turn it off, I drown it out, it’s never ending
The tension in the air hits every day
The prefab pull, the sugar pill, ugly and aging
It’s coming faster each and every day

Director Shayne Ehman says, “I hope the winter skateboarding footage carries with it some of the love we have for skateboarding. I hope it contains a spirit of perseverance and the will to make it happen. Come wind, ice, or stormy weather, we shovel snow, we torch frost, we skate.”

Bring on the blowtorches! There’s plenty of snow to go around.

Via punknews.

New Sufjan Stevens video: Tell Me You Love Me

Video: Sufjan Stevens – “Tell Me You Love Me”

Sufjan Stevens - Tell Me You Love Me [Official Music Video, dir. by Luca Guadagnino]

Directed by Luca Guadagnino. From The Ascension, out now on Asthmatic Kitty.

A bunch of skinny young people are squirming around in Soofy’s Valentines gift to us: a new video directed by the Italian filmmaker who made Call Me by Your Name. Meanwhile, a lonely fox looks on and dreams of eating all the tasty hipsters.

“Tell Me You Love Me” is an anthemic highlight of last year’s bloopy The Ascension.

My love, I feel myself unraveling
Tell me you love me anyway.

In addition to the video, Sufjan also issued a new t-shirt, so if you’re feeling a little needy, you can let everybody know without having to say a word.

Stevens likes to release his albums in five-year increments (Illinois in 2005; Age of Adz in 2010; Carrie & Lowell in 2015; Ascension in 2020), so I’ll be over here patiently hoping for another banjo record in 2025. Fingers crossed!

Sufjan Stevens: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Sufjan Stevens video: Tell Me You Love Me