Sunday, April 29, 2007

Etown radio archives

My friend Aleka recommended the nationally syndicated radio show E-town to me a few weeks ago, and I have to admit, at first I was intrigued mostly by the name (Cameron Crowe's movie "Elizabethtown" is my favorite movie of all time.)

Their mission statement is a little touchy-feely ("E-town's mission is to educate, entertain and inspire a diverse audience, through music and conversation, to create a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable world") but the concept is pretty cool - they bring in musicians from a wide variety of genres and give them a stage and a microphone. It's sort of like the unplugged version of Austin City Limits.

If you're in the same boat as I am and none of your local radio stations carry the show, you can listen to it as a podcast on the Web site. Even better, if you register with the site, you get access to past archives, where you can check out live performances from Martin Sexton, Rickie Lee Jones, Calexico, Susan Tedeschi/Amos Lee, Bright Eyes, Cowboy Junkies/Madeleine Peyroux, Buddy Guy... and that's all just this year!

You know I can't resist live, acoustic sets by my favorite musicians.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The British Influence

Ok, so I have an apology to make to the United Kingdom: When I was last there (in 2001), I thought their music scene was dead. All they had to offer was whiny, maudlin, self-indulgent, low-energy alternative pop. Think Coldplay, Travis, Aqualung. The genre was so saturated with second- and third-rate music-making that the term "Britpop" had taken on connotations that absolutely made me cringe.

But in the past five years, the British music scene has rebounded beautifully. I don't know exactly what started it, but suddenly there was Joss Stone's incomparable Soul Sessions, and then the undeniably funky debut album by Little Barrie. There was the truly unique and majestic beauty of Imogen Heap's Speak for Yourself. And now, just in 2007, we've had Mika, Jamie Lidell, the Guillemots, the Feeling, Lily Allen, Field Music... the list goes on and on. (For direct links to the MySpace pages of these bands, click here.)

The most recent British album to tickle my eardrums is James Morrison's Undiscovered. The soul popper is one of Starbucks's latest darlings, but don't be put off by the commercialism - the folks at Hear Music have incredibly adroit taste in music and this is the real deal. Check out a 3-minute intro to his CD (with lovely shots of London in the background) here.

Or check out a couple of live, acoustic performances Morrison did for AOL's Breakers series below. (If for no other reason, check it out for the pretty, pretty guitar.) For more live James Morrison, visit his MySpace page.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Prince and the lo-fi revolution

Just learned via Page-a-Day Calendars that Prince's 1988 smash hit "Kiss" was actually a demo!

"Warner Bros. didn’t want to release this at first because 'it sounded like a demo,' arranger David Z told writer Per Nilsen. It does — because it was a demo, laid down by Prince on cassette, fooled with by Z and the band Mazarati, and reclaimed by Prince the next day."

Although nobody would ever accuse Prince of being understated, I believe that does make him sort of a lo-fi pioneer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blogotheque's Take Away Shows

While researching my love of the Guillemot's "Annie, Let's Not Wait" I discovered the French blog Blogotheque and their UNBELIEVABLY cool Take Away Shows (or Concerts a Emporter, en Francais.)

The concept is simple and genius - armed with acoustic instruments and one video camera, hipster bands record live, on-the-street versions of their songs. Blogotheque describes it this way: "Sessions are always filmed as a unique shot, without any cut, recorded live. We usually haven’t much time to record them, so the groups have to be spontaneous, to improvise, play with what they have with them, and with their environment, whether there’s a public or not."

The results are amazing. In "Annie," the Guillemots use only a guitar, an upright bass, drumsticks on a variety of found objects, and a small choir of hand clappers (oh yeah, and an old typewriter.) The result is other-worldly.

"Made-Up Love Song," another Guillemots gem, begins with lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield singing alone, wandering aimlessly, bard-like, through the streets of Montmarte, until he stumbles across his band members on a back stairwell and the song really takes off. (Bonus here is the look on the pedestrian's face as he walks right through this impromptu concert.)

The Shins episode does a nice job of demonstrating the truly impromptu nature of the series. I've also included a link to the Cold War Kids take-away performance of St. John, just to remind you of the power of rhythm.

SO SO SO SO cool! Can't wait to see what's next in the Take Away show series!

YouTube link: Annie Let's Not Wait - The Guillemots

YouTube link: Made Up Love Song #43 - The Guillemots

YouTube link: Cold War Kids - St. John

YouTube link: The Shins - Turn a Square, The Past and Pending, Australia

Singular Obsession

Lately, I seem to get an earworm for a new single about once a month. (Last month, it was Belle and Sebastian's "Blues are Still Blue," before that it was Bettye Swann's 1967 gem "Make Me Yours.") So I've decided to implement a new feature called "Singular Obsession," to highlight the earworm of the moment.

April's Singular Obsession: "Annie, Let's Not Wait" by the Guillemots.

I don't know what it is - maybe the incongruity of the peppiness of the song and the general sadness of the lyrics, but it hooks me in and does not let go. By the time they get to the brilliantly understated line, "I love you and that's all you need to know," my heart is a little broken every time and yet, I always want more. The sound is full and lush - in my opinion, it trumps anything the Arcade Fire is doing right now.

Their EP "From the Cliffs" is available here, but their full-length album "Through the Windowpane" is only available as an import, and as such, is rather pricey. Thank goodness I'm going to London next month - I'll have to pick it up there.

In the meantime, enjoy the singular obsession. I can't get it out of my head.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Still be wonderful

"No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful. If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music."

-Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Something new at LTF

Exciting news here at Lost Things Found - I finally figured out how to post my FineTune player to the blog, so now you can listen to the official LTF playlist. (It's to the right of this post; just click "Play.") Granted, the current playlist is called "The Ides of Indie Soul," because I made it in mid-March. But I still think you'll find it enjoyable.

As the title implies, it's got a soul theme running throughout, but I mixed in a handful of unexpected indie and new-soul as well. Everything on here is 100 percent LTF-approved, so enjoy and let me know what you think!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cat Power live

Hipster darling Cat Power has received a lot of ink in the past year or so, as much for her history of onstage meltdowns as for her unique brand of white-girl Delta Blues-meets-indie rock.

But when I watch these live acoustic performances on, I have to say, I think she deserves the hype. I love the soul in her voice, accentuated here by the spare accompaniment. On "Crying, Waiting, Hoping", I can almost see the specter of Robert Johnson hovering above her somewhere.

(Drawback: In true fashion, you have to watch a lot of ads before you can see the performances. But I think it's worth it.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Somebody to love

I have news for British pop sensation Mika: if you don't want to be compared to Freddie Mercury, well... don't compare yourself to Freddie Mercury. On his MySpace page, he says of his music, "Think Beck via Queen..." and on the first track on his new CD, he sings, "I tried to be Grace Kelly/ but her looks were too sad/ So I tried a little Freddie..."

That said, he does sound like Freddie Mercury - and in my book, that's awesome. In fact, the best parts of the album are the parts where he unabashedly borrows Queen's theatricality, tracks like "Grace Kelly," "Love Today," "Big Girl (You are Beautiful)", and "Happy Ending."

The album is a bit inconsistent, swinging from clever pop-tronica (all of the above-mentioned) to generic New Wave rehash ("Relax") to sappy political ballads replete with strings and a children's chorale("Any Other World").

But when Mika channels Freddie Mercury, the results are irresistible - and it makes you realize the true greatness of Queen.

(By the way: I consider Mika to be a member of the new school of what I have named "happy-pop" - after years of maudlin, whiny, emo-tinged radio pop, I think we are finally seeing the natural reaction against that. Think OKGO, Scissor Sisters, Fountains of Wayne, Apples in Stereo... It's all peppy, major-chord music. Happy-pop. And I am a big fan.)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

London Calling

I'm having sort of an uninspiring week musically, between trying to figure out my new Creative Zen V Plus - (which is very sleek and cool but a little confusing so far - why can't I import my playlists whole from Windows Media? Why?) - and watching the hilarious but musically dry Borat.

There's also been sort of an unofficial reggae theme running through my week - not my choice, I assure you. But I figured it's better not to fight it, so, anticipating my upcoming trip to London in a month, I dug out the Clash's London Calling. It's the perfect mix of British anarchy-pop and reggae. It's hard to believe it came out the year I was born - it still sounds remarkably edgy and and fresh, in a retro new-wave way (if that makes any sense at all.)

The AllMusic Guide says: "There's punk and reggae, but there's also rockabilly, ska, New Orleans R&B, pop, lounge jazz, and hard rock; and while the record isn't tied together by a specific theme, its eclecticism and anthemic punk function as a rallying call... The result is a stunning statement of purpose and one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever recorded."

It's also one of the 1,001 albums to hear before you die, so... get on it! (Bonus: It's currently $7.97 at Amazon - an excellent deal for 19 tracks on one of the greatest rocks albums of all time.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sky Blue Sky

Remember a few weeks ago when I was digging on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? Well, my timing couldn't have been better. They have a new album coming out May 15 called Sky Blue Sky, but thanks to the miracle technology of Apple Quicktime, you can now stream the entire album on Wilco's Web site. I've heard a few of the songs live already and so far, I'm loving what I'm hearing. But check it out for yourself.