Video: Bill Callahan & Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “Deacon Blues (ft. Bill MacKay)
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?
Continue reading New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy video: Deacon Blues
Video: Juliana Hatfield – “Can’t Stand Losing You”
Directed by Rachel Lichtman. From Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police, out now on American Laundromat.
This is fun. The video is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original Police promo clip with Jules playing the parts of Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland. Kinda wish she would’ve donned some big round glasses and a bow tie, but that’s alright.
Like the video, Hatfield’s cover doesn’t veer too far from the Police classic, which didn’t chart here in the States despite being the follow-up single to the Top 40 smash, “Roxanne.” Being a kid in the 1980s, it was mandatory to like the Police whether you were a jock or a punk, a popular kid or a band geek. Everybody liked the Police. Every drummer wanted to be Stewart Copeland. There was a drummer in my high school who even looked like Stewart Copeland! He was definitely the coolest kid in marching band.
Looking back it’s weird to realize how short of a lifespan the band had: basically, from 1979 to 1983. And then poof, like it was all a dream…of a blue turtle (minus the abomination of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86”).
Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police is her second tribute album in two years, following 2018’s collection of Olivia Newton-John hits. In between, she released an album of originals, Weird. Busy busy!
Juliana Hatfield: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading New Juliana Hatfield video: Can’t Stand Losing You
Video: Courtney Barnett – “So Long, Marianne” (MTV Unplugged Live In Melbourne)
From MTV Unplugged (Live In Melbourne), out now on Milk! Records, Marathon Artists and Mom+Pop.
Courtney Barnett is great. Leonard Cohen is great. What’s not to love?
Like many of Cohen’s best songs, “So Long, Marianne” makes longing feel palpable. And Barnett gets to the heart of that.
Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now
Then why do I feel alone?
I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
Is fastening my ankle to a stone.
Marianne, of course, was a real person. Cohen met her on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960 after her husband had abandoned her and her infant son. She and Cohen stayed together throughout much of the decade and she inspired many of his songs.
On her deathbed in 2016 Cohen sent her a note that went viral after he died a few months later. “I’m just a little behind you, close enough to take your hand,” he wrote. “I’ve never forgotten your love and your beauty. But you know that.”
Courtney Barnett: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading New Courtney Barnett video: So Long, Marianne
Video: Eerie Wanda – “Cars and Parties” [Edith Frost cover]
Single out now on Joyful Noise.
Eerie Wanda is the project of Dutch/Croatian songwriter Marina Tadic. She has released two albums on Joyful Noise and now released a home recorded cover of this classic Edith Frost song of displacement from 2001’s Wonder Wonder.
Everyone I know reminds me
Of someone down in Texas
And every strip mall on the highway
Reminds me of my home
Tadic says, “I discovered her music earlier this year and fell in love with it. I made it together with Adam Harding and Kramer. We hope it brightens your days.”
It definitely does!
Any time someone brings up Edith Frost it brightens our day. It’s been almost 15 years since Frost released her last album, It’s a Game, on Chicago’s Drag City Records. Other than an annual holiday song she hasn’t released much music since then (except for a brief, ill-fated collaboration with noted douchebag David Obuchowski called Distant Correspondent).
Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer. Back in July, Frost suggested that she would be “going to Chicago to record in about 2 months,” but then in October she admitted, “My Chicago plans are delayed, or rather still haven’t gelled, got too many busy people involved.” So cross your fingers and wish her luck in pulling it all together.
It’s very exciting to imagine actually getting a new Edith Frost album!
Eerie Wanda: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading New Eerie Wanda video: Cars and Parties (Edith Frost cover)
Video: Emmylou Harris – “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” (live in 1970)
From Gliding Bird (Jubilee Records, 1969 or 70).
This Bob Dylan cover was Emmylou’s debut single, released years before she met Gram Parsons. The album, Gliding Bird, came out on Jubilee Records, which folded soon after. Emmylou subsequently “disowned” the album, but these days she links to a reissue on her website. And really, what’s not to like? Sure, it’s juvenilia, but it’s not without its charms. She’s more of a singer than an artist. But hey, she was just a kid.
Emmylou Harris: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading Old Emmylou Harris video: I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
Video: Automne – “Pendant Que Les Champs Brûlent”
Single out now on ATPD Records.
Niagara’s “Pendant Que Les Champs Brûlent” was a big single in France in 1990. The duo were offered an American deal, but they refused to record English-language versions of their songs so they never got signed over here. (Note: This is not the same Niagara who sang with Detroit’s Destroy All Monsters.)
Automne’s cover is more upbeat and seems to bring out a bit of playful sixties yé-yé that’s missing from the moodier synthpop original. Can’t you imagine girls in mini dresses frugging to this?
While the fields burn
I am waiting for my tears to come,
And when the field dances
May nothing ever reach me.
The video was shot on an island in the Marne River, southeast of Paris, where the band rehearses. Guitarist Perry Leopard tells me, “The island has no bridges, so we have to take a row boat any time we’re packing up gear to play out of town!”
If you’re curious about that little push-button synth contraption, it’s a Pocket Piano built by Critter and Guitari but no longer available. This is the company that designed the Septavox synthesizer specifically for Third Man Records.
Automne: web, facebook, youtube, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading New Automne video: Pendant Que Les Champs Brulent
Video: Ohmme – “Give Me Back My Man”
Directed by Hannah Welever. Single out now on Joyful Noise.
For people who only know “Love Shack” or “Roam” it might be hard to imagine that the B-52s were ever anything other than a gimmick in a beehive. But they were always cooler than that, and Ohmme knows it.
John Lennon knew it too. He was inspired to start making music again after he heard “Rock Lobster.” “It sounds just like Ono’s music,” he told Rolling Stone, “so I said to meself, ‘It’s time to get out the old axe and wake the wife up!'” And they made Double Fantasy, which doesn’t sound anything like the B-52s, but hey. Inspiration is a mysterious thing.
Ohmme: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading New Ohmme video: Give Me Back My Man
Video: Goshen Electric Co. – “Ring The Bell”
Single out now on Secretly Canadian.
Here’s the b-side of the single that Strand of Oak’s Tim Showalter recorded with the members of Magnolia Electric Co (Mike Benner, Jason Evans Groth, Mikey Kapinus, Mark Rice, Peter Schreiner).
Help does not just walk up to you, I could have told you that
I’m not an idiot
Jason Molina’s lyrics have a way of just punching you in the gut. It was bad enough when he was alive, but since we know how the story ends they’re even more heartbreaking.
I am thankful I had the chance to see Magnolia in concert a couple of times back in the day. The first show I saw was at the Abbey Pub in 2006 and I clearly remember thinking that this guy was feeling things too deeply for his own good. Molina was good-natured and charming but as soon as he started singing you could feel his pain. His guitar playing was equally expressive.
Showalter’s tribute is a worthy celebration of Molina’s craft. It doesn’t make the loss hurt any less, but it helps us remember how lucky we were to have him in our world, however briefly.
Magnolia Electric Co.: amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading New Goshen Electric Co video: Ring The Bell
Video: Morrissey – “Back on the Chain Gang”
Single out November 23. Also on upcoming double-vinyl reissue of Low in High School.
I’m something of a Morrissey apologist but this is not a great cover. Moz’s clunky guitar player doesn’t nail the fluidity of the Pretenders’ original lead guitar line. That part was created by Rockpile’s Billy Bremner, who Chrissie Hynde and producer Chris Thomas brought into the studio a month after James Honeyman-Scott died of a drug overdose. I had always assumed it was Honeyman-Scott playing on this single, but nope.
It still boggles my mind that Morrissey is so faithful to his thoroughly mediocre backing musicians. He’s stuck by guitarists Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias since 1991 and 2005, respectfully. Those guys might not be able to play Bremner’s lead guitar part properly, but I can think of somebody who could…
So it goes.
Morrissey told Rolling Stone: “I think the original can safely be counted as a pop classic, and as always with the Pretenders, of the brain as well as the loins. Chrissie is always ready to do something before anyone expects it, and for me that’s a well-developed artist. Chrissie is one of my longest and enduring friendships. I don’t have many. Chrissie is the funniest person in the world, yet she has absolutely no sense of humor. We have been in many absurd situations – all her fault, of course. I know she’d marry me tomorrow, but she’s already had 11 husbands and she’s always being spotted digging in the garden at midnight.”
And that’s why I still love this guy. On his curious decision to pose with a guitar he explained, “I wanted people to see that I can play as well as Jeff Beck. I wanted them to, but they never will!”
Classic Moz. I still wish he, Noel Gallagher, and Russell Brand would be the judges for a singing competition. It would be the greatest television experience of all time.
Continue reading New Morrissey video: Back on the Chain Gang
Video: Goshen Electric Co. – “The Gray Tower”
Single b/w “Ring the Bell” due November 2 on Secretly Canadian.
Goshen Electric Co. is what happens when Strand of Oak’s Tim Showalter spends a half a day in the studio with the members of Magnolia Electric Co (Mike Benner, Jason Evans Groth, Mikey Kapinus, Mark Rice, Peter Schreiner).
The digital single will include an extended, nine-minute version of “Ring the Bell” from Songs: Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain (2002) and Magnolia Electric Co.’s Trials & Errors (2005).
It’s been more than five years since Jason Molina died and it hasn’t started hurting any less. Showalter feels the loss as deeply as anybody. “There was such an intimate relationship with his music -– it felt a lot deeper than just liking a song,” he’s said. “You live in these songs.”
Showalter and the band toured Europe, calling themselves “Songs: Molina – A Memorial Electric Co.” This seems like an appropriate tribute to a singer and songwriter who is terribly missed.
Magnolia Electric Co.: amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Continue reading New Goshen Electric Co video: The Gray Tower