Category Archives: Shorties

New Ben Kweller: Killer Bee

Video: Ben Kweller – “Killer Bee”

Directed by Walter Bristol. Single out now on Noise Company.

Before you get any further go read this Texas Monthly feature by Dina Gachman: Ben Kweller Is Playing Through the Pain. It’s worth your time. See you in a minute.

. . .

Alright, welcome back. Pretty great, right? So yeah, Kweller has been through something absolutely devastating and seems to be doing as well as humanly possible. As the dad of my own sixteen year old boy, when I first heard the heartbreaking news about Kweller’s son my initial reaction was self-centered: Oh my god, what if that happened to my kid? I can’t even imagine how I would deal. Kweller is transforming his grief into something else, and it’s remarkable.

“Killer Bee” is just BK and his acoustic guitar. Simple, sad and pretty. He says, “This is song for anyone who’s ever felt alone in the world. We’re all outsiders until we find our people.”

Keep on keeping on.

Ben Kweller: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

“And I won’t quit. . .”

During 2017 to 2021 Bruce Springsteen appeared at the Walter Kerr Theatre and St. James Theatre in New York, “Springsteen on Broadway.” As Weil/Mann/Leiber/Stoller had it:

“But they’re dead wrong, I know they are
‘Cause I can play this guitar
And I won’t quit til I’m a star on Broadway”

There was a hiatus until February 1, 2023, when Bruce got the whole band back together again and kicked off a tour in Tampa, Florida. By mid-April the band played from coast to coast and in between. Then it was off to Europe, with shows in Spain, Ireland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria. . .then back in August to play Wrigley Field and a continuation of the tour.

When he was singing, playing and storytelling in New York, Springsteen was on one of the two stages—just a few blocks away from one another (48th and 44th Streets)—about 260 times.

Looking at the itinerary of the current tour, it seems like he is working to top that while racking up more sky miles than most mileage whores could even dream of.

Continue reading “And I won’t quit. . .”

New Daystar: Epithet

Video: Daystar – “Epithet”

From The Early Years ep, due this fall.

Earlier this summer Daystar shared a video for the demo version of a song from 2019’s The Complete Recordings, but now they’ve released a brand new song, the first preview of an upcoming EP, irreverently titled The Early Years. “Epithet” is their first new song since 2022’a “Get Your Gun?” b/w “?Saints & Sinners” single and it’s got all the hooks and harmonies you’ve come to expect from these guys.

Could they pass this off as a long-lost Badfinger outtake? Possibly. Something found on a dusty old reel in the Ardent Studios basement? Why not! But don’t call it a throwback. This is the now sound from way back. It’s the in sound from way out! Are you sure that you’re up for it?

Disclosure: GLONO co-founder Derek Phillips is Daystar’s songwriter and front man. But if his stuff wasn’t good, we’d mock him mercilessly…or ignore it. Thankfully, Daystar is good.

New Lydia Loveless: Sex and Money

Video: Lydia Loveless – “Sex and Money”

Directed by Katie Harriman. From Nothing’s Gonna Stand In My Way Again, out September 22 on Bloodshot.

Sex and money. Cheeky move for the newly revived Bloodshot Records to release a single with that title, considering those are the two things that caused the original owners to shut the label down in 2021 after accusations of sexual predation and unpaid royalties. Bloodshot was purchased — including its catalog — by investment group Exceleration Music, who promised to pay the artists their outstanding royalties.

Lydia Loveless is a witty songwriter, but maybe that’s not what she had in mind after all. She says, “This one was written at an Airbnb in Austin on some late tour night where there’s a bottle and a guitar and everyone’s giggly. I’ve tried really hard to not write songs about ‘the lifestyle of a road dog,’ but this one’s a little more self-deprecation than anything. I’m a horrible hopeless romantic and I will literally just sit in the back of the van and daydream that my crush shows up with flowers and sweeps me off my feet at a random show. My poor long-suffering band, hahaha.”

So maybe it’s just a coincidence. Sex and money. Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe. Regardless, it’s good to see Bloodshot back in action…even if the office on Irving Park is now abandoned.

Lydia Loveless: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Time Marches On. Or Does It Dance?

The remaining Beatles and the Stones—which could also be described as “remaining,” although for some reason that doesn’t seem to apply to that band, when arguably it should—together making music.

That is what Variety reports could have happened, given that the Stones are finishing a new album, Hackney Diamonds, in Los Angeles and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr happened to participate in recording sessions with them within the past few weeks.

Once, this would have been the stuff of wide-eyed amazement. Those two bands essentially dominated the 1960s and defined music for years to come. It was a battle of the bands that the two were in, although this was in terms of the fan base, which picked one over the other.

Yes, there was the participation of Lennon and McCartney on the Stones’ “We Love You,” from 1967. There was Lennon performing with “Yer Blues” with Keef as part of 1968’s “Rock and Roll Circus.”

Those were but moments.

But now it is, I think, rather sad.

Continue reading Time Marches On. Or Does It Dance?

New Al Green: Perfect Day

Video: Al Green – “Perfect Day” (Lou Reed cover)

Single out now on Fat Possum.

This is a little weird, right? I mean, it sounds perfect. But…

Have you heard those A.I. monstrosities that have Frank Sinatra singing Elliott Smith, or Hank Williams singing NWA, or Paul McCartney singing Badfinger (no, not that one)? This is like that, but it’s the real Al Green covering Lou Reed’s classic ode to nodding out. And it sounds good. But it’s a little weird.

I’m guessing a lot of folks were first exposed to the song, like I was, when it was used in the overdose scene in Trainspotting. Reed always denied that it was about heroin. “This guy’s vision of a perfect day was the girl, sangria in the park, and then you go home; a perfect day, real simple. I meant just what I said.” Then again, he’s never been the most reliable narrator.

Regardless, whether it was originally written as a love song to a woman or to narcotics doesn’t really matter. It’s a beautiful song. And songs outlive their author’s original intentions. And Al Green’s version is lovely.

But it’s a little weird.

Continue reading New Al Green: Perfect Day

New Old Heatmiser: Lowlife

Audio: Heatmiser – “Lowlife” (’92 cassette)

From The Music of Heatmiser, out October 6 on Third Man. Single out now.

It’s weird to think that Elliott Smith’s solo stuff started out as a home-recorded side project to his main gig, Heatmiser, who would sign to Virgin Records in 1995. Ultimately, the solo work would eclipse the band but you might not have predicted that at the time.

Smith and Neil Gust were college pals and after they graduated they moved back to Portland and formed Heatmiser with Smith’s high school buddy Tony Lash on drums and Brandt Peterson on bass. They demoed “dozens of songs” in 1992 and self-released six of them on a cassette titled “The Music of Heatmiser” that they sold at shows and local record shops. And now Third Man Records is reissuing The Music of Heatmiser “on vinyl and streaming for the first time, along with 23 demos, live tracks, rare versions and never before released songs.” With the announcement Third Man has dug up a live video of “Lowlife” from a 1993 show in Fort Collins, Colorado.

It’s fun to hear young Elliott Smith rocking out and hollering. It’s two minutes of grungy Pacific Northwest juvenilia but there’s still a poppy sense of melody underneath and the band kicks ass.

Heatmiser: bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Old Heatmiser: Lowlife

Living in a Virtual World

Although it might seem as though concerts are in full swing—after all, there is the galactic phenomenon of the Taylor Swift tour, to say nothing of Beyoncé and others (yes, The Who Hits Back! is still running in earnest because Townsend and Daltry just can’t get enough)—as Phaedrus told Socrates, “Things are not always what they seem.”

For one thing, concert-going has become an economic issue for most people, and we’re talking Federal Reserve Board-level for the regular person. Th average ticket price in 2022 was $111, up from $90 in 2018. While $21 might not seem like that big a deal, look at it another way: that’s a 19% increase. Add 19% to all of the related aspects of one’s concert-going experience and it is, as they say, real money.

According to Morning Consult, 37% of adults say they’ve attended fewer concerts this year. That’s not none. But when more than a third of those who would don’t, then there are more than moderate warning signs for those who may not be a first-tier draw.

When that 37% is broken down demographically, the warning signs are in LARGE LETTERS and with all manner of flashing lights and other attention-grabbing aspects.

40% of Gen X members say they’ve seen fewer shows. Only 10% of them say they’ve attended more.

And while there is often a gulf between Gen X and Boomers, that’s not the case when it comes to attending concerts: 41% say they’ve seen fewer shows and 9% say they’ve seen more. (It is also worth noting that the Elders have actually stayed moderately more consistent, as 36% say they’ve attended the same number of shows as they have previously. That’s 4% better than the 32% of Xers who have done the same.)

And while those two generational cohorts have good levels of income vis-à-vis those who are either up and coming or who have student loan debt that is about equal to that of a small country, the macro finding is that 82% of those attending fewer concerts say that it because. . .the tickets are too expensive. That’s the number-one reason.

Continue reading Living in a Virtual World

New Sufjan Stevens: So You Are Tired

Video: Sufjan Stevens – “So You Are Tired”

From Javelin, out October 6 on Asthmatic Kitty.

The label is promoting this as Stevens’ first solo album “in full singer-songwriter mode” since 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. And thank goodness. Dude is squandering his gift on goofy collaborations and bloopy esoteric electronica or whatever you’d call his non-singer-songwriter stuff. I mean, do what you like of course, but don’t you wish he had a manager who was like, “I’m locking you in this room with a banjo and a World Book Encyclopedia set from 1983 and I’m not letting you out until you’ve written 15 songs about people dying and breaking up and losing their shit.”

So here we have it. “So You Are Tired” is pretty and haunting and sad and feels like an appropriate follow-up to Carrie & Lowell. I’m here for it!

For those keeping score, there are no references to any physical locations or historical figures in the lyrics. So unlike Carrie & Lowell, which was unquestionably the “Oregon” album, it doesn’t look like Javelin will be the next installment of the Fifty States Project.

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

New Mustard Plug: Vampire

Video: Mustard Plug – “Vampire”

Directed by Chris Graue. From Where Did All My Friends Go?, out September 8 on Bad Time.

I wasn’t aware of the reference so I had to google it, but it turns out my homeboys in Mustard Plug were namechecked in the Renfield movie that came out earlier this year. There’s a group therapy scene in which Caitlyn, played by Bess Rous, is complaining about her boyfriend who’s “really into ska: Fishbone, Mustard Plug, Voodoo Glow Skulls.” It’s pretty funny.

I don’t know what ends up happening to Caitlyn in the movie (no spoilers please!) but now she has her own spin-off wherein her boyfriend’s ska record gets mailed to her place and she decides to queue it up. She ends up liking it of course and dancing around the room like the Mustard Man himself. And how could she not love it? “Vampire” finds Mustard Plug reaching back to second-wave ska for inspiration, leaving their more third-wave/punk tendencies checked for the moment. It’s a vibe. You might even say that “Vampire” is “99% horns” although that’s a huge oversimplification.

Weirdly, Bess Rous does not appear to understand how to hold a ukulele. Or maybe that says something about Caitlyn’s character. Either way, it’s a fun video and big ups to their new label for seizing the moment and making it happen. Hopefully they got a good deal on it so the band can eventually recoup!

Disclosure: I’ve been friends with the guys in Mustard Plug for almost 30 years.

Mustard Plug: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Mustard Plug: Vampire