Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ok Go - This Too Shall Pass

For the mid-week palate cleanser you're going to have the opportunity to view the greatest music video ever made. That's a big statement..."the greatest music video of all time"...but seriously, when I saw this video for the first time I needed a doctor to physically remove my jaw from the floor. Ok Go has been known for their clever videos, but this one trumps all of their previous videos, and every other video ever made. It was performed in one camera trickery...and the video doesn't even have a cameo by T-Pain! The video is based on a massive "Rube Goldberg" machine...a device, or apparatus that is a deliberately over-engineered machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction. It's like watching those falling dominos that make cool patterns...but it uses an entire garage worth of stuff to do it. From what I've read, Ok Go brought in a bunch of their fans who were engineering students to build it. The high nerdery level, coupled with the band's sense of humor, make this one awesome piece of performance art. I challenge you to show me a video that is better...that is more artistic...more entertaining...and more fun. You cannot do it, for it is impossible! Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Top 7 Driving Songs

For the record, I'm a huge...wait...massive Nascar fan. I was fortunate enough to witness the pure awesomeness of Nascar this last weekend in Fontana, Ca. 150 laps, 43 cars, 170+ was a blast...and it was easily the loudest event I've ever been to. Spare yourself from thinking of some clever way to mock me in comment-form...I've heard all the jokes from my friends who usually pose questions like "when did Josh become a hick?", or "what life altering event caused Josh to start enjoying a bunch of cars going in circles?". Oh well...their loss. Nascar is no amount of chiding could ever break my fanatic interest in the greatest sport on Earth. Since I was basking in the roar of V8's this weekend, I thought I would do a list featuring my top 7 driving songs of all time. There have always been certain songs that seem to lend themselves to being played at high volumes on the open road...and since I have spent a lot of time traveling those roads I thought I would compile the best for you, the avid Maniccompression reader. Enjoy...

- U2 - "Where The Streets Have No Name": This song transports me to some mysterious place every time I hear's the perfect mix of lyrical imagery, and tempo that make it my not only my favorite U2 song of all time, but the best driving song of all time.

- Wilco - "ELT": The pedal-steel guitar line in this song floats above the that reminds me of driving through the depths of the U.S. on some lonely road somewhere. It's "americana" at it's finest...and it is my instant transport so someplace quiet. I could listen to this song over and over while watching the mile markers click by.

- The Emergency - "Slowpoke": When I wasn't touring I would make a daily commute down the 405 freeway in Orange County to work a temp job at a mortgage company. A 5 mile drive usually took 45 minutes...and this song got me through that horrible experience. It's full-blown, unapologetic rock, with more swagger than you will probably be able to handle.

- Social Distortion - "Highway 101": Social D did an excellent job with this song because every time I hear it I have a vision of me driving up the California coast in a '63 Corvette convertible...without a care in the world. The perfect driving song for a summer afternoon.

- Hot Water Music - "Remedy": This song was easily played 5000 times on a tour we did in 2002. I remember driving through Montana, blasting this perfect slice of punk rock. Everything about this song makes me want to

- The Exit - "Trapped": I was driving from Jersey to Penn after a show to visit some friends, and the only cd in the car I borrowed (thanks Chris) was The Exit. This song ended up on repeat for much of my trip. It was 2am...the snow was falling...and this was my soundtrack. It made an endless sea of toll plaza's a little more bearable.

- Cave In - "Big Riff": This song reminds me of driving back from shows in my little '86 Honda. I only had working speakers in the back, and this song would come close to blowing them every time. When it would end I would hit rewind on my tape player and play it again. A massive song that was heavy...spacey...and was perfect for an audience of one: me.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: Honorable mention goes to Starflyer 59 for "I Drive A Lot"...I was going to list it yesterday but got busy doing other things. It was brought to my attention that my list was sorely lacking without it...and that, coupled with the fact that I do love the song, means it gets a message now.
Check out this great video here if you have a chance.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/25/11

This week finally brought us the new record by Richard Ashcroft...former front man of The Verve...all around awesome singer and songwriter. The Verve have been one of my favorite bands for over a decade, and the voice of Mr. Ashcroft is one of the main reasons I got into them. It's soulful...and I have heard more than one person say his vocal prowess is "sex" personified in voice. To each his/her own I guess...all I know is that his vocals are amazing...and this week he released his 4th solo album, "United Nations Of Sound". If you haven't heard his solo work I would recommend it...the song writing is more concise (in a "pop" sense) than his work with The Verve...but the instrumentation still sounds rich and multi-layered. What I am really saying is that his solo work is great...and you should be listening to it religiously. While Ashcroft was on rotation this week, I also broke out some records I hadn't listened to in a while. Shiner, Josh Rouse (a great songwriter), and Saves The Day (which brought me back to my younger days) all had repeated listens...and since I did a post on heavier music (riffs to be exact) I broke out "Oceanic" by Isis (massive, massive, and massive) and listened to the song "Firebreather" by Thrice around 100 times. It's a wide range of stuff this week but hopefully you, the listener, find it enjoyable. Good times...

Weekend Picks - 03/25/11

-Shiner - "The Egg"
-Josh Rouse - "Dressed Up Like Nebraska"
-Saves The Day - "Stay What You Are"
-Isis - "Oceanic"
-Richard Ashcroft - "United Nations Of Sound"
-Thrice - "The Alchemy Index (Volume 1)

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The link for Thrice is going to take you directly to them performing "Firebreather" live @ The House Of Blues. It's a great performance video...try not to rock out too hard in your cubicle.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top 7 Huge Riffs (+1)

Coalesce live
I've always been a fan of huge guitar riffs regardless of the genre...rock, hardcore, metal, post-hardcore. If there is a down-tuned guitar (we used to call it "drop-d goodness" back in the day) with any sort of groove...I'm usually into it. I remember when "grunge" broke, and major labels were signing every band that was somewhat heavy. This signing binge included great bands like Helmet (who had already released music on Amphetamine Reptile) and Quicksand (who had done an EP for Revelation Records)...bands that took the art of riff writing to a higher level. These were bands that sounded nothing like what was happening in Seattle, and they were more akin to the hardcore bands I'd been eating up in the early 90's. Helmet, Quicksand, Rage Against The Machine, Shift, Burn...these were all bands that I got into in the 90's...and these bands were able to write monstrous guitar riffs...riffs that were focused more on the groove, and less on guitar "shred". Since then I've been a sucker for a band that could write a good this is my amateurish attempt at putting down a list of what I consider to be the best hardcore/post-hardcore riffs.

Before I get to my list I have to make two clarifications: 1) Anything even remotely considered nü-metal is automatically excluded due to the overwhelming sense of "suck" that most bands in said genre exude (much to your dismay I'm sure). 2) I tried my best to steer away from what I consider "metal". That is a beast entirely unto itself...and my minimal amount of brain activity couldn't sort through which At The Gates song I would have to exclude (which is quite a chore seeing as though every song on "Slaughter Of The Soul" is awesome).

So here it short list of the best hardcore/post-hardcore riffs. Enjoy...

- Quicksand - "Lie And Wait" - lot's of dynamics. This song swells, and the riff is epic. Easily my favorite Quicksand song. Most of my friends will bust me for picking this song over "Land Mind Spring" or something else...but I think this song rocks the hardest.

- Handsome - "Lead Bellied" - One of the most ignored bands of all time...featuring members of Quicksand and The Cro-Mags. This song is's just a shame that only a handful of people bought this when it was released. I consider anyone who owns it my friend, and musical soul-mate.

- The Deftones - "Elite" - The only description I can give this song is "brutal." It's one of the most intense songs I've ever heard. I liken it to having your ears filed off with a power-sander...and enjoying every minute of it.

- Thrice - "Firebreather" - If you looked in the dictionary under "massive" it would have a footnote siting this song as personifying the word. Thrice has always perfectly balanced punk, and hardcore...but this song showcases their knack for dropping one huge riff.

- Helmet - "Smart" - Although I wasn't a huge fan of their "Size Matters" album, this track was everything great about Helmet. It's classic...and the guitar line tops everything else Paige Hamilton released...and that's a tall order considering his catalog of work.

- Coalesce - "What Happens On The Road Always Comes Home" - I've always considered Coalesce a hardcore band...and this song has what I consider their most swinging riff.

- Snapcase - "Harrison Bergeron" - I have always loved Snapcase...and this is, hands down, my favorite song by them. The drums, bass, and guitars work perfectly together to create a gargantuan wall of sound. It was heavy, without the cliched "chugga" riffs that were coming out of the hardcore scene at the time.

- Rage Against The Machine - "Bombtrack" - The first RATM album was chock full of great riffs...and "Bombtrack" is one of the best. It's proof that one guitar, one bass, and drums can create something that has an incredible amount of groove.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is the mighty Coalesce...blowing away everyone in the audience, and obliterating the stage with their mid-west brand of hardcore insanity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ryan Adams - "How Do You Keep Love Alive" (Live)

Ryan Adams has been in constant rotation for the last few days...and he is also the mid-week palate cleanser. I've been a fan of his since I first heard Whiskeytown back when I was dj'ing in Calgary. I've always thought his music was a perfect marriage of "americana", country, and The Smiths...a mix of influences that probably doesn't do him (or his work) justice. It's thousands of times better than some pithy description I could come up with...all I know is that his music resonates with me, and today's video is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever listened to. The music, coupled with incredible lyrics, make this song one of my favorites by him. Enjoy...

Lord, I miss that girl
On the day we met the sun was shining down
Down on the valley
Riddled with horses running
Crushing them with flowers
I would have picked for her
On the day she was born
She runs through my veins like a long black river
And rattles my cage like a thunderstorm
Oh my soul

What does it mean?
What does it mean?
What does it mean to be so sad?
When someone you love
Someone you love is supposed to make you happy
What do you do
How do you keep love alive?
When it won't

What, what are the words
They use when they know it's over
"We need to talk," or
"I'm confused, maybe later you can come over"
I would've held your mother's hand
On the day you was born
She runs through my veins
Like a long black river and rattles my cage
Like a thunderstorm
Oh, my soul

What does it mean?
What does it mean?
What does it mean to be so sad?
When someone you love
Someone you love is supposed to make you happy
What do you do
How do you keep love alive?
When it won't
How do you keep love alive?

Buy his records...thank me later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

American Vitriol

I was recently reminded of why I have a never-ending flow of vitriol for the American Idol franchise. I was calmly enjoying my bowl of Cheerios when I read someone asking to name bands you like that have singers who don't sing well. The poster went on to say that there are a lot of cool bands who might not fair to well on America's #1 karaoke contest. I agree with the last fact, I could, off the top of my head, name thousands of bands who wouldn't get any recognition from American Idol (their judges, and their fans)...let alone be anywhere close to "winning" anything on the show. Maybe the mere fact that they wouldn't be honored by AI is a positive thing? I'd hate to see some of my favorite bands having to whore themselves out and be judged by 1 non-singer/kind-of-dancer (J-lo), 1 former lead singer of a once good rock band (Steven Tyler), and 1 incredible session bassist who clearly has lost his knack for discerning what constitutes "talent" (Randy). What if this was the scenario on AI: Thrice...after destroying the AI stage with pure awesomeness...having to stand in front of the judges...being told they the vocals were a "little pitchy" by J-lo (the same J-lo who probably hasn't sung something live in over a decade)...or Steven Tyler saying something like "it just didn't rock enough". Sorry, Thrice forgot their bandana's. I think I, along with thousands of other music fans, would be mortified...and I think it would prove my point: AI is style over is their mission to find an empty shell...a shell that can hopefully carry a tune (or not, depending on how current their Antares plug-in is). They aren't concerned with real musicians...because real musicians don't need AI.

Real bands/real musicians/real vocalists (notice the emphasis on real) have no need for AI with the current state of technology. Anyone with a computer can record their own music, and have it online (with videos) in a matter of minutes (Justin Beiber loves himself some youtube)...all ready for mass-consumption without the need to prostitute yourself on a karaoke tv show. I think the contestants on AI truly want to "make it" in the business...but I also think that they want fame without work...and I think the contestants are just as bad as the creators of AI. Maybe I'm making a gross generalization? I just don't see any other plausible reason for someone going on AI outside of wanting to have fame without putting in the work to attain such fame. U2 didn't have AI. Jimmy Eat World didn't win some contest to become a working band. Sade didn't need a glorified karaoke contest to record...tour...and have her work fawned over by millions of people. What we see on AI is something that happens every week day, in every airport hotel lounge, all over the world. Thousands of people singing along to their favorite songs...some incredibly talented...some to drunk to remember to read the cued words. It's been done billions of times...and despite it being somewhat fun to do occasionally, it doesn't come close to the real thing. I'll take watching (and supporting) a real band over karaoke any day of the week. So do yourself a favor...go see an actual band, or singer, or musician playing at a local bar, club, community center, basement, or church. Spare yourself from an over-hyped 2 hours of nonsense twice a week...with a group of empty-shelled voices trying to "make it".

That is my disjointed...vitriolic rant...and also my encouragement for the week. Don't watch American Idol...and go support a band or two this week.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/18/11

I have over 8000 songs milling about in my Itunes player. That is 55 days straight of music...starting with A.F.I. and ending with Zwan. It's a cornucopia of musical goodness (in my humble opinion) that seems to give me a never ending supply of things to write about. This week I was reminded of how much I love Starflyer59...and how their "Americana" record was sorely underrated. I was also brought back to my touring days hearing Moneen...Canada's finest group of rockers, and probably the nicest group of people I ever had the privilege of sharing the stage with. This weekend you have the fine opportunity to get yourself into 2 indie bands that deserve your attention (Summer Darling, and Little Hurricane)...and 4 other groups that you should already be listening to on a regular basis. I admit, I am mildly delusional thinking that anyone who reads this will actually go and listen to these records...but my hope is that you, lover of good music, will follow my lead (you didn't realize that I was the torch-bearer of awesome did you?) and dive head-first into these fine weekend music selections! Enjoy...

Weekend Picks - 03/18/11

-Summer Darling: "Summer Darling"
-Little Hurricane: "Homewrecker"
-Moneen: "Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now?"
-The Jealous Sound: "Kill Them With Kindness"
-The Deftones: "Diamond Eyes"
-Starflyer 59: "Americana"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: First, I need to thank Rosie from SDdialedin for turning me on to Little Hurricane. They are awesome...and since I am somewhat of a hermit I probably would have gone my whole life without hearing about them. Good thing for me that I frequent her blog. Second, the picture above is Starflyer 59 circa 1993...rocking the bowl-cuts and the Moto-guzzi bikes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SXSW + Buzzgrinder + Free Beer = Good Times

If you happen to be at this year's SXSW festival...there is only one show you should be going to today...and that is the Buzzgrinder 10th Birthday showcase!! This is going to be one of the best showcases at the've got The Seedy Seeds, J Roddy Walston & The Business, and The Colour Revolt to name a few. Also, there will be free beer ALL DAY! Not only will your musical taste buds be thoroughly satisfied, your liver will be as well.

For the record, Buzzgrinder has been my music-website drug of choice for 10 years now...and despite their occasional lapse in musical judgment, they have been, by far, the most consistent site in turning me on to incredible music. They've managed to do this without all the music-snobbery of other "big" websites...and they're nice people to! Do yourself a favor...go down to Valhalla in Austin...crack open 10 or 12 "tallboys"...and allow yourself to be serenaded by some of the best bands at this years SXSW!

Go to this show...your beer-soaked carcass can thank me later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Deftones - "Minerva"

Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from The Deftones. I was sitting in my office yesterday and I was able to watch the sun creep over the mountains...and this song was playing. It was "a moment", The Deftones are a great band. Darren Doane (director) was able to get some amazing shots of the southeastern corner of California...about 5 miles from the Arizona border. It's beautiful scenery...and in my opinion this song is a perfect soundtrack to it. I always admired how The Deftones could mix heavy, pummeling music with soaring melodies...and I think this song showcases their knack at doing both very well. Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Derek Hess

Today's music buying culture is a completely different beast from what I knew growing up. Before the digital take-over, people had to really do some digging to find out more about the bands they liked...and that digging usually involved a handful of s.a.s.e.'s (for all of you kids who've never actually mailed a real letter that's "self addressed stamped envelope"), and months of waiting for catalogs and/or replies. Now I won't complain about the convenience that digital downloads give's nice to not have to leave the house to find a record you want...and with one click of the mouse it's in your Itunes player...ready for digestion. Although convenience can be nice, the biggest casualty (and this is debatable, I'm sure) in the digital music age has not been the local record store (although they have sadly suffered), but actual album art-work. People don't care about the artwork's all 1's and 0's streaming onto a computer...nothing to touch...or have in your hands. Album packaging, art, design, and how it ties in with the album it's representing...those were all things that added to the over-all music experience when buying albums. It's one of the reasons I mentioned Storm Thorgerson, and his design work with Catherine Wheel. I always loved putting on a record...then sitting down and pouring over the artwork, lyrics, and pictures...trying to not only wrap my tiny brain around the music, but around the entire concept. So many graphic designers/artists have done album work that has been iconic...that shaped a label, or band. Look at the work done for 4AD, and The Pixies, by Vaughn Oliver (v23)...or the album art done for Hot Water Music by SINC...or even the Oasis branding, and album covers, done by Brian Cannon (Microdot UK). These are just 3 examples of artists who did more than just lend a picture to some band...they created art that was an integral part of the entire music experience. Along with these artists, one of my favorite music artists has been Derek Hess. This Cleveland music fan, dog lover, and artist has been doing work for bands for decades...creating art for everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Snapcase. His work is incredible...and he has an uncanny knack for capturing motion in relation to the human body. He brings a fluid feeling to his figures (human, animal, or a mixture of both)...and uses classical techniques (Contrapposto, as one example, for all you art historians out there) as the basis for his other-worldy creations. Think Michaelangelo...if he lived right now...and no, I'm not exaggerating...Derek Hess is an amazing talent. When you see his work (and I'm sure many of you have seen it and not realized it was his) you know it's a Derek Hess's nothing less than iconic. His list of accomplishments would consume my little blog for months...and so could my fan-boy gushing. I'll spare you from having to endure my pithy ramblings and post some of my favorite works by him. Enjoy...

Buy his art...thank me later.

Note: The picture at the top of the post was done by Derek Hess for my old band, The Beautiful Mistake. It was our first release since a massive member change...and Derek thought the new songs sounded like a "rebirth" he drew what became our album cover. I consider working with Derek Hess as one of the high points of my music journey...he was one of the most genuine, friendly people I met while touring. A true supporter of the scene, regardless of how big (or small) your band happened to was a honor to have him design an album cover for us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top 7 Tooth & Nail Albums

In 1993 I was finally able to land myself my first real a local bookstore making $4.25 an hour. It was easy work, and most of the customers were older women who reminded me of my Grandmother. Since I was interested in music, and since I was the only one working there under the age of 40, I was allowed to help with the "music" section. Now before I go any further, this "bookstore" was also a "Christian" bookstore...a bookstore that sold "Christian" music exclusively. I won't get into arguing about how music, in my opinion, can't be one "faith" or another...that is an entire months worth of blog posts that very few people would enjoy. Needless to say, the music section was a plethora of really bad stuff. It was divided into two sections: "Gospel" and "Metal"...the latter having less to do with real "metal" and more to do with anything that wasn't "Gospel" music. It included a lot of great stuff at the time...The Crucified, The Violet Burning, The Prayer Chain, L.S.U., and Adam Again...but it was relegated to a tiny, dusty corner and was in no discernible order. Since I was already a fan of many of these bands, I took it upon myself to make the "metal" section (which I renamed "alternative" after a lengthy debate with my boss on what "alternative" meant) something worth stocking. A few weeks later we got a shipment of albums from a small indie label called Tooth & Nail Records from Irvine. I quickly purchased the first 3 releases from them...Wish For Eden, Focused, and Starflyer 59...and later that afternoon I was hooked. It was great music, and it was music that I wasn't embarrassed to show my friends. Sure, I bought it from a "Christian" bookstore, but the music was on par with all the other bands I was into at the time (Helmet, Earth Crisis, and My Bloody Valentine). Over the next few years I ended up going to more local shows (that featured T&N bands), and buying every release by T&N artists (I actually owned the first 50 releases from them at one point) I could get my hands on. Southern California was a pretty cool "scene" for music back in the early 90's, and much of the T&N roster was from the area which made it easier to see them perform...and easier to get into more bands that were similar. I always thought the "Christian" tag marginalized T&N...but then again that is only my opinion. I thought the music was great on it's own, and that it didn't need a disclaimer. Now that they've been in business for almost 20 years...and they've released hundreds of records...I thought I would take a stab at my top 7 Tooth & Nail records of all time. This list isn't definitive...and I'm sure that a label purist (read: some Christian kid in Iowa ready to take me to task) could argue whether or not any of these albums are "important" (or have the proper "gospel" message)...but it's my blog (and my opinion), and this is my snapshot of albums I've enjoyed over the years.

- StrongArm - "Advent Of A Miracle": This record was akin to being hit by a sledgehammer...and enjoying it. It was passionate, heavy, and wildly intricate. It (along with bands like Shai Hulud) opened my eyes to hardcore being more than just mindless "chugga" riffs. I consider this album to be one of the best hardcore releases of all time.

- Starflyer 59 - "Silver": It was a wall of distortion, feedback, vibrato and chorus pedals. The hushed vocals wove their way through huge riffs...the guitars (endlessly multi-tracked) were big, and the shoegazing was on "11". This album sounded like nothing else...and still sounds that way.

- Stavesacre - "Speakeasy": Although it wasn't their first record, "Speakeasy" contained their best "songs", and their best riffs. The music was heavy, driving, and the vocals (Mark Soloman) were tops. This record was so good it should have catapulted them into teen-aged stardom...they should have been huge.

- Roadside Monument - "8 Hours Away From Being A Man": This album covered every dynamic was loud, soft, and everything in between...with pure emotion dripping off every note and with every lyric sung. The term "emo" could apply...but then you'd probably be thinking Fall Out Boy when you should be thinking Rites Of Spring. "8 Hours..." is an incredible record.

- Pedro The Lion - "Whole" Ep: This was my first taste of David Bazans work...a great little EP of indie-rock goodness. The music was great...and the lyrics were even better. "Almost There" is still one of my favorite Pedro The Lion songs.

- Further Seems Forever - "The Moon Is Down": This band featured members of Strongarm...and to me it sounded a lot like a mellower version of them. The songs were intricate, the arrangements were full of different movements, and the vocals (Chris Carrabba) soared. This album did a great job capturing the spirit of what "emo" had become in the early 2000's...and it's still one of my favorite records from that time.

- Plankeye - "The Spark": Plankeye was one of the bands I used to drive all over Southern California to see. Their live show was always great, and this album did a good job capturing the energy of their live performances. It's a great piece of alt-rock/power-pop circa 1995.

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: There have been a lot of great releases by T&N that I didn't get to...and would once again call for another post to fit them in. I still listen to albums by As Cities Burn, Dogwood, Driver8, Morella's Forest, Za0, Underoath, Anberlin, and Mike Knott to name a few.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/11/11

live at Silverlake Lounge
Tuesday is usually the day that new music is released...and it just might blow your mind if you could see just how many albums are released weekly. Loads of nonsense shipped to fill up shelves in record stores...some of it new...some of it old (with great new artwork!). Wasn't it Morrissey who said "reissue, repackage, repackage..."? Despite a truck-load of bad records released this week, there happened to be 2 excellent albums quietly put out...and people in "the know" (like myself) quickly scooped them up (Rival Schools, and Rheanna Downey). Now if you missed out on purchasing these records, you can still change can still salvage your weekend so it's not a total loss! Here are my weekend picks...2 brand new records, 1 record that is yet to be released (but can be listened to here), and 3 albums you should have purchased a long time ago. Enjoy...

Weekend Picks - 03/11/11

-The Violet Burning: "The Story Of Our Lives" (still unreleased)
-Rival Schools: "Pedals"
-Rheanna Downey: "Pull The Moon"
-The Tallest Man On Earth: "The Wild Hunt"
-Gliss: "Devotion Implosion"
-Ryan Adams: "Love Is Hell"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is Gliss...rocking the stage at the Silverlake lounge. A huge thank-you to Stephanie for suggesting them. They remind me of The Jesus And Mary Chain, minus the Reid brothers fighting in between songs. They are incredible!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Catherine Wheel - Manic Compression Greatest Songs Album

The year was 1993...a time when I was wallowing through my junior year of high school. I was finally able to operate a motor vehicle without parental supervision, and thus was finally able to control all aspects of which radio station could be played in said motor vehicle (our Pontiac Sunbird didn't have the luxury of a cassette player). 91x was the station for all things "cool" in San Diego, and since my parents were a wee bit conservative I wasn't allowed to rock the only alternative station in the area when they were present. The minute I would start the car I'd turn on 91x...and usually be treated to an excellent mix of music ranging from Nirvana to The Violent Femmes. On one fateful day in 1993 (while driving to a friends house for a friday night of nintendo and pizza) I was exposed to a band that would become one of my top 5 of all time; Catherine Wheel. The song was "Black Metallic"...their "kind-of" hit stateside...and it blew me away. The song, which clocked in at nearly 8 minutes, was a slow building, reverb-drenched space assault that sounded like nothing I had heard before. It was sandwiched in between some forgettable song by Stone Temple Pilots (wait, aren't they all forgettable?) and Mazzy Star...and I clearly remember pulling over the car over and soaking it in. The next day I went out and purchased "Ferment"...then I purchased all their singles...then "Chrome"...and any other piece of their discography I could get my hands on. I was hooked...the glorious mix of vocal power, a wash of guitars, and a hint of British shoe-gaze instantly made them one of my favorite bands. My fervor for Catherine Wheel never waned over the years, buying all their records, once driving 974 kilometers to see them perform, and buying every piece of merchandise I could find before the interweb made things easier for fan-boys like myself. Sadly, they never "broke" here in the States despite an impressive discography. I always thought they were far more superior than other "alt-rock" bands...but that sentiment wasn't shared by much of the music-buying populace. So with that introduction I give you the Catherine Wheel Manic Compression greatest songs album.

1. "Heal 2" - Like Cats And Dogs
2. "Crank" - Chrome
3. "Judy Staring At The Sun" (w/ Tonya Donnelly) - Single Version
4. "Intravenous" - Nowhere Soundtrack
5. "What We Want To Believe In" - Wishville
6. "Harder Than I Am" - Like Cats And Dogs
7. "Shocking" - Happy Days
8. "Eat My Dust..." - Happy Days
9. "Mad Dog" - Wishville
10. "Bill And Ben" - Ferment
11. "Ma Solituda" - Adam And Eve
12. "Strange Fruit" - Chrome
13. "Broken Nose" - Adam And Eve"
14. "The Nude" - Chrome
15. "Here Comes The Fat Controller" - Adam And Eve
16. "Black Metallic" - Ferment

Buy their records...thank me later.

Note: Along with an awesome set of songs, Catherine Wheel also had some of the best album artwork ever released. The majority of the art was done by British designer Storm Thorgerson, who did album covers for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Cranberries to name a few. His work added a perfect visual element to their albums...sadly lost today in the world of digital downloads. The picture above was the cover of their "Chrome" album.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mew - "Am I Wry? No"

Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from amazing band that is far too under appreciated. One of my goals with this blog is to continue to showcase music I think is awesome...and Mew fits squarely into that category. I know, I know...with every new post you (and the rest of the world) are blessed with more awesome that is sure to improve your already sorry record collection. It's my attempt at doing the public a "service"...oh the humility. I wouldn't know where to begin in describing their brand of's like a weird cross between Sunny Day Real Estate, Coheed & Cambria, and U2...and even that mash-up isn't a fair representation of their brilliance. Sit back, relax, and get lost in 4 minutes of pure rock bliss. Enjoy...

Buy their records...thank me later.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rheanna Downey - "Pull The Moon"

There are very few artists that reside in the "singer/songwriter" genre that I get excited about. Much of it reminds me of junior high poetry, set to a soundtrack that brings me to that sad place where severe boredom sets in. It's almost mind-numbing...hearing some sad sap gently strumming on an acoustic guitar, trying their best to imitate James Taylor, or Joan Baez...both of which are well past whatever "prime" they happened to have back in 1974. I realize that most people aren't setting out to "reinvent the wheel" per se, but come on...why must so much music in a genre be soo horribly boring?! Well perk up because there is a fresh sounding voice from San Diego that will not only blow your mind musically, but thankfully erase the musical horror your folky ears have been subjected to over the years. Rheanna Downey, San Diego's own songwriting genius, has finally released her much anticipated full length record...and all I can say is that it's amazing.

Sitting comfortably in the musical arena of Patty Griffin, EmmyLou Harris, and Shawn Colvin (which is some pretty awesome company, musically speaking), Rheanna brings us 13 well-crafted songs, that have both lyrical depth and intricate orchestration. The record starts off with "Raise My Hands", a mid-tempo song that showcases Downey's knack for placing instruments, and vocals, in all the right places. The electric guitar weaves through the vocal melodies, with the piano and drums lending themselves more to atmosphere than to conquering the mix. The vocals are "up front", but they totally lack the usual thin "folk" singing that plagues most records in this genre. This is why I think this record is so special...the music sounds vibrant (and current), without being derivative. The record meanders through different styles seamlessly, melding jazz phrasing/chords ("Walls Of Snow") , with bluegrass ("It Will Find You"...for the record, the banjo hasn't sounded this good in decades), and spacey-sounding folk ("All I Want"...easily the best song on the record). Lyrically, the record deals with ideas of Faith, God, and one's "past" in a way that is neither preachy, or shallow. I think that tackling issues of faith can be the downfall of many artists, where their zeal (which isn't a bad thing) ends up trumping honesty and/or accessability. The listener is the "outsider"...and is left with a sort of "sermon" on what they're not doing "right." In the case of this record, Downey is able to balance the feelings of yearning, questioning, and worship in a way that draws the listener in, makes them feel comfortable, and never reaches a point where the listener can't relate. It's like sitting on the porch with someone and having a's comfortable, and it's pretty far removed from having some sweaty guy in a cheap suit throwing 'hellfire" at your face. This quality, coupled with the music, makes "Pull The Moon" a great portrait of how good the singer/songwriter genre can be. Easily one of the best records of the's a perfect mix of great vocals, beautifully crafted songs, and lyrics that display true honesty and emotion.

Buy this record...thank me later.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekend Picks - 03/04/11

I was born in a tiny little farming slice of Minnesota back in 1976. The town still only has one stop-light...a Lutheran church on every corner...and most of the names in the phone book are "Johnson", "Peterson", or some other Scandinavian concoction. If any of you have ever heard Garrison Keillor talking about "Lake Wobegon," my home town could very well be the town his act is based on. Although I technically grew up in California, I've always been partial to my Minnesota roots. As I grew up I not only became more obsessed with Twins baseball (For the record, I am the biggest Twins fan west of The Mississippi), I also got into the loads of bands that have called Minnesota their home. This week it was all Minnesota for me musically (since my musical nerddom actually means I have an Itunes playlist entitled "Minnesota"), and this weekend should be all Minnesota for you!

Weekend Picks - 03/04/11

-The Hold Steady: "Stay Positive"
-The Replacements: "Let It Be"
-Low: "Things We Lost In The Fire"
-Prince: "Purple Rain"
-Husker Dü: "Zen Arcade"
-The Dillinger Four: "Versus God"

Buy these records...thank me later.

Note: The picture above is me...Christmas 0f '87...the year The Twins won the World Series...the Christmas I ended up receiving every piece of WS memorabilia...and ended up trying to wear it all at the same time.

Note Part II: The Hold Steady, being part of the Twins faithful, wrote a "fight song" for the Twins last year...and it's awesome. Enjoy...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fugazi - "Song #1" (Live)

Here is a mid-week palate cleanser from Fugazi...easily one of the greatest punk bands of all time. Always known for their DIY ethic, they were instrumental in showing bands, and musicians, that you could do "music" on your own terms. They showed that you didn't need big-budget managers, you didn't need huge record labels, and that you didn't need to commercialize your art to be successful. Their records were always sold at a fair price, their live shows were usually $5 to get into, and their "punk" spirit inspired thousands of kids to start bands, and thousands of people to start their own record labels. I remember back in 2000 I mailed a letter to Ian MacKaye telling him how much Fugazi meant to me, and how they were an inspiration to me musically. I admit it was a fairly juvenile expression of fan-boy enthusiasm...but I sent it anyways. A few weeks later I got a letter back from him, thanking me for my support and encouraging me to keep doing music on my own terms. Probably one of the nicest notes I've ever received from someone I looked up to musically (and probably the only one). Watch the video...enjoy a few minutes of a real band rocking in a high school auditorium...playing with more emotion and passion in 2 minutes than most bands could muster in an entire career. Enjoy...

Buy their records, start a band...thank me later.