Like the Spankers, TRTW features a large lineup, which accounts for its ambient sound and immense creativity.
If you read yesterday's post, you know I went into Soundgarden looking to judge some albums by their covers, and, while I was mildly worried that this could be another Berklee cookie cutter band based on the dark brick-and-wood-grain cover, the only disappointing thing about the disc is that it's short – like under a half hour short.
But The Real Tuesday Weld and I are going to have nights together, I'm sure.
My re-entry into music as a passion hit a new level in mid-February as the piano that had been tantalizingly out of my grasp for five-plus years finally reached me and got tuned. I've played either it or one of the guitars almost every day since, and I'm listening to so much more music than I have since leaving Massachusetts in August of 2003.
And now, new music. Or new to me, anyway. Phish's reunion shows at the Ball earlier this month are available free from LivePhish.com, and so I downloaded them and have steadily been making my way through them.
And then on Sunday, I wandered into Soundgarden with some rules for myself.
I would pick out four CDs from the used bins at 2/$10. They would come in cardboard cases. I would never have heard of the bands. I would judge them solely by their covers.
On further inspection, I really should have heard of some of these artists. Two of them are on major labels. A third is on what you might call a major minor label. The fourth is on a smaller label that I am very familiar with and that has given me much music that I love.
I managed to grab four winners, with one disc that will go into heavy rotation, and I'll probably get more. Here's a look at the four:
Hem, rabbit songs One of the first voices I ever fell head over heals in love with was that of Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies – who, by the way, have brought some guests back to Trinity to re-record the songs from The Trinity Sessions. Sigh. Hem frontwoman Sally Ellyson has that same rich, get-lost-in-it-for-days voice.
This was going to be the tossup for me, as the cover is fairly non-descript, the songs have titles like "sailor" and "waltz" and "betting on trains" and others that don't really speak to any genre in particular.
But it's plain old gorgeous. It recalls not only the Junkies but some old local (to Western Mass.) rising stars who fizzled out – the Scud Mountain Boys.
AbsentStar, (sea trials) Far from amazing but still a good, solid pop record, AbsentStar's 2008 offering won't necessarily remind you of anybody, but it will definitely provide a good backdrop to assembling that bookshelf or whatever you've got going on that you need a little drive for.
The Wildbirds, Golden Daze First off, I'm not linking to a Web site here, because the only operable site I could find is on MyS***e. Also, I find it very amusing just how worried Universal Records was about piracy of this disc – even in 2007, when pirates were gonna do whatever they were gonna do. The FBI no-duplication warning on the back of the package is as large as the song titles, and in a clearer, bolder font face. It's also the most obvious text on the disc itself.
This disc has pop elements for everyone. The ballads are like some of the old Rolling Stones ballads (like "Wild Horses"-type stuff), and the more driven songs are reminiscent of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the "American Girl" days. Frontman Nicholas Stuart sounds a lot like E from Eels, and they use his voice the same way.
I almost want to upload a song or two, just for ha-has, but I'd highly recommend this one.
The new musical addiction Ha ha, fooled you. You're going to have to wait until tomorrow to find out what I was talking about when I said on Sunday:
my head's spinning a bit over a new-to-me band i found today.
Seth Horan and I go back to our early-to-mid-20s, when Seth was trying to break the strings that held him tied down in Buffalo. He had long, curly hair and was peddling CD-Rs with two-piece ink-jet-printed inserts that never fit quite right if you were trying to get them back in the case.
The short version of the intervening nine to 10 years is that Seth moved to Los Angeles, then went on the road for over three years, paying rent nowhere. First, he booked without a map, then, tiring of 12-hour drives between gigs, started booking with a map. Then he got married and moved to Reno, and I haven't seen him since he and Gina came east to do their re-wedding for those of us who couldn't go to Lake Tahoe for the original nuptials.
And there I was, Thursday night, sitting at Woody's during the first of SIX FREAKIN' OVERTIMES, when I got a message from Seth, "hey, coming through Syracuse tomorrow."
Which, of course, I knew, because he was playing a gig at Keuka College Thursday afternoon and then one in Utica Friday evening. I had already taken Friday off and made plans to go to Utica.
So, we met at Freedom of Espresso, where Seth had plopped down to do some work, and then we had lunch at the Blue Tusk and caught up a bit, and then I left Seth to finish catching up on his personal stuff; we would catch up at the Tramontane later.
Here's where we backtrack.
Seth and I met at a little cafe in Northampton, Mass., that's no longer there. We're both singer-songwriters, but at that point, I was more of a music reporter and occasional concert booker/promoter. He was working his way up and out of Western New York.
The other difference is that I was just like everyone else in town, lugging around an acoustic guitar or two, while Seth was lugging around an electric bass. As in /base/, not a fish.
Not too many people doing the solo bassist singer-songwriter thing then. There still aren't.
Seth, meanwhile, has had some ups and downs, signing briefly with an independent record label, then quitting the touring thing for a while in favor of showcasing for Warwick basses.
The split, by the way, was due to the fact that Seth and the band were in disagreement over some of the writing politics, and he wasn't willing to be stuck in a contract with them (those who know me will understand why we became friends over the years).
But now he's back to touring (albeit not 320 days a year with his stuff in storage and his muffler duct-taped onto the bottom of a van that barely had four doors), playing this weirdo five-stringer with glowing blue fret markers (I took some film, with no flash – we'll see if that shows up).
Some of the older songs have aged nicely. I really like where "Anonymity" is right now, and some of the rough, punky edges are off "Tarot" and "Something Pretty" – and those high notes are no longer a strain.
And there's some exciting news. Seth is heading into the studio toward the end of this week, in a church-turned-studio just south of Syracuse. I'm hoping to get in there and shoot some photos of the session. He and engineer David Peters work wonders together, and I have no doubt there are great things in store.
Inasmuch as it's possible these days, I live under a rock when it comes to pop culture. I don't own a TV, I have two radios, each set to a different NPR station, and if I'm listening to music, it's probably on my laptop when it's not connected to the Internet. I make it to the movies about twice a year.
But even I had heard the singer Rihanna was allegedly beaten by fellow-performer boyfriend Chris Brown, accounting for the pair's sudden and unannounced absence at a Grammy Awards pre-party (and the awards show itself).
To say the least (and perhaps the obvious), this is awful. And while the domestic violence itself is certainly the worst part of it, there's more going on here.
Police departments generally have a firm policy on not releasing the names of alleged domestic violence victims. News outlets generally have a loose policy on not disclosing the names of alleged domestic violence victims when they find out.
So why did the entire world know who both the accused and the alleged victim were? Well, arrest records are public information. But Rihanna's name? That should have been kept under wraps.
And tight ones.
The fact that she's a celebrity does not make her public property. Some things the public simply does not need to know.
But wait, there's more.
In these days of information, information, information, everybody just had to know, right?
So sometime Thursday, a well-known celebrity Web site (which I will neither name nor link to here) published a photo of a bruised and bloody Rihanna that the Los Angeles Police Department says appears to be a leaked evidence photo.
Of course, other sites just had to hop on it as well, re-posting it.
I haven't seen it, I'm not interested. And I'm not going to link to the other sites I've learned second-hand have re-posted it, either.
It's disgusting, really, and goes to the basest part of human nature. It's the part of us that (a) hands over the fork and says, "try this, it's awful" along with the part that (b) thinks we own people who have become famous.
And it's getting worse. We can surely blame the Internet as a disseminating technology – which isn't to condemn the medium, just those who use it for ill. But more than that, we need to smarten up about what we're willing to see, what we're willing to distribute, and what level of respect we expect of ourselves.
It's positively awful that someone at the LAPD sent this photo out. It's even worse that some Web sites had the bad taste to post it.
Some quick reactions from my favorite feminist bloggers:
I suppose there's a hint of silver lining: It's possible that the photo will spark a national conversation about domestic violence. But shouldn't Rihanna get to decide whether she becomes the literal poster child for the cause?
I know a poet named Rob. He's likely in his 40s, wears Chuck Taylors, baggie pants and a wallet chain. He reads from tiny composition notebooks full of tiny print, cover to cover, about drugs, prostitutes and homelessness.
I don't know if he's as tall as his words. It doesn't matter to me.
One night he read about accidentally – and drunkenly – urinating on the man next to him in the men's room of a tavern. When he looked up, he discovered the man was Don McLean.
Don McLean, you may know, if you've spent more than 10 minutes in your life with someone who owns an acoustic guitar, has written two songs in his life: "American Pie" and the other 20-odd albums full of music he's penned.
"American Pie" is a mourning of the plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. There was so much young musical talent that ceased to be that day, it's been called The Day The Music Died.
You'll have the opportunity to read dozens, if not hundreds of tributes today. I won't bore you with a retrospective, since I wasn't there for the plane crash, the '60s, or the appearance of "American Pie," which I remember hearing on vinyl for the first time (in fact, it was a 45-rpm, and the song was split onto both sides). Instead, here's Mr. Mclean:
Remember Napster? It was a music sharing service that was hugely popular among college students, unemployed hackers and other people who thought disposable income and music were mutually exclusive.
The site was started by a college drop-out named Shawn Fanning, who got sued about 30 million times (OK, slight exaggeration) for letting people trade copyrighted music for free, and who is probably now quietly making some giant income because he's a genius who figured out how to leverage the Internet really well.
After the original Napster was shut down, it disappeared for a few years and then someone bought the name and logo (we call that a brand in marketing terms, kids), and turned it into a boring international conglomerate with Los Angeles headquarters and offices in New York, Tokyo, Luxembourg and Frankfurt.
They also have a "free" service that swallows your IP address and lets you listen to a song without paying three times before you then have to buy it.
Best Buy – you know Best Buy, don't you? They have those 50-foot yellow-and-blue tags glowing from the sides of box stores and malls everywhere – decided Friday it would buy Napster in an effort to (snicker) take on iTunes.
iTunes has 70 percent of the (legal) music download market. Best Buy wants to double its sales in the next five years.
Somehow this just feels like the cool kid turning square, then becoming a lifelong mid-level corporate tax attorney for the rest of his life.
So long, Napster. It was good watching you wither away to a soulless paper-pusher.
Music has always been part of my life. I come from a musical family, and those who aren't musicians, are fans of music.
There have always been pockets of music genres I don't particularly care for. Country music has been one, and much to Jonathan's chagrin, so is Irish music.
Lately, though, my ears and tastes seem to be evolving. I'm hearing where different forms of music that I previously didn't enjoy fit in with the kinds of music I do enjoy – even with those that I enjoy most.
Leonard Bernstein, the great classical conductor and composer, famously pushed music critics to understand that pop music was worth reviewing because it was also about form. He reportedly was a fan of Janis Ian.
I'm starting to hear a blurring of lines between styles, and am recognizing instead that form travels independently of instrumentation.
For those of you who didn't know me in my former life, I used to (a) review a lot of acoustic singer songwriters, (b) book acoustic singer songwriters, (c) play with acoustic singer songwriters, and (d) be an acoustic singer songwriter [OK, so I"m still a little (d)].
And Dawson was starting to get her first round of small-club-touring fame right about then; the fact that I could be interviewing and booking people like Pamela Means, hanging out at shows with folks like Ember Swift and Lyndell Montgomery, and playing with women who had me covering Ani Difranco (auto audio) and others and not know about Dawson's existence is just, well, appalling to me.
Dawson's solo stuff is very simple shy-woman-with-guitar stuff, and the recordings I've heard so far appear to be done on simple recording equipment (like, say, four-track cassette recorders). I spent some of this morning looking over her LiveJournal.
She had me wanting to play again, and not just the little bit I have been. So I've spent much of the past week re-doing my apartment.
I've cordoned off the bedroom, so it's no longer a walk-through (it's where the dining room was, if you've been there recently). I got rid of the dining room, moving the table and chairs into the kitchen, which is plenty big enough.
My office is now the carpeted room that was the bedroom, and what was my office now has two guitars, two microphones, one chair and the portable PA system and four-track I dug out of the closet. It's empty and sounds brilliant, and hopefully will serve me well musically and creatively.