Sunday, December 28, 2008

12 Songs that Made Me Happy in 2008

In no particular order. 12 songs that made me happy in 2008!

(In cases where an official video isn't available, I linked the artist's name to their MySpace page - most of the songs can be heard there.)

1. "I Want to Have Your Babies," Natasha Bedingfield

2. "Say It Again," Marie Digby

3. "Imaginary Girl," The Silver Seas

4. "Say," John Mayer

5. "Ordinary Day," Emilie Mover

6. "Doin' It All For My Baby," Huey Lewis and the News

7. "Got It Good," Jem

8. "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time," Mariah Carey

9. "To Be Surprised," Sondre Lerche

10. "Nothing At All," Madi Diaz

11. "Be OK," Ingrid Michaelson

12. "Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year," Rosie Thomas

Confessionally sing in the new year

Boston singer-songwriter Madi Diaz has a new EP coming out soon called Ten-Gun Salute. It's streaming for free over at Spinner. I have an ear crush on the song "Nothing At All," but they're all good. She has a strong, reedy voice that soars above the simple arrangements beautifully. (You can also check out some of the songs on her MySpace page.)

To get an idea, listen to the EP or watch this acoustic performance from Acoustic Long Island:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The first day of Christmas

Another album streaming over at AOL Music is Straight No Chaser's "Holiday Spirits." I can't help it - I get nostalgic for college a cappella at this time of year!

And Straight No Chaser is a Christmas feel-good story if ever there was one - formed over 10 years ago at Indiana University, the group of 10 guys did what all college a cappella groups do: they sang, they graduated and they moved on with their lives. But in preparing for a reunion last year, one of the members made a video of their college highlights and posted clips on YouTube and their "12 Days of Christmas" quickly became a viral sensation so enormous that even the president of Atlantic Records noticed. He reassembled the 10 original members of the group and gave them a record contract - "Holiday Spirits" is the result.

What sets them apart from the thousands of other a cappella groups around the country? Well first, their talent is enormous. Every single one of them is an outstanding singer and their voices fit together exceptionally well. But I think the real genius is in the arrangements, which show a real creative spark (the aforementioned "12 Days of Christmas" incorporates melodies of several other Christmas carols as well as Toto's "Africa.") They pick likeable songs, arrange them in unique and creative ways, and sing them flawlessly. That, evidently, is the recipe for success.

But to give you an idea, watch the original YouTube sensation:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tidings of comfort and joy

AOL Music is streaming tons of Christmas albums free right now - I'm particularly digging the Hotel Cafe compilation Winter Songs, featuring all female singer-songwriters.

The first track is a duet between two of my faves - Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles. Sara's honey-soul alto on the bottom and Ingrid's sweet soprano on top is nothing short of perfect. Never mind that the song is a little depressing (as are lots of the songs on this cd - apparently female singer-songwriters find the holidays rough.) It's truly gorgeous.

Other standouts include KT Tunstall's unique interpretation of "Sleigh Ride," the laid-back warmth of Colbie Caillat's "Mistletoe," and the truly stunning a cappella rendition of "Silent Night" by Priscilla Ahn (this song was featured in the ER teasers last week.)

And you can listen to it all right now - for free! Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A very famous address

I just Netflixed the Live from Abbey Road 2-disc DVD series and found quite a few little live performance gems. The series, which airs on the BBC, invites musicians both new and classic to come to the fabled studios and lay down live in-studio versions of their songs. Each song is preceded by an interview that is often quite revealing and the musical results are often illuminating.

I discovered to my surprise, for instance, that I love this unabashed pop tune from Natasha Bedingfield:

Not earth-shattering but so happy and likeable!

Sometimes the performances are fairly straightforward (as with Bedingfield,) but every once in a while, a version seems to slip out that surprises even the band itself. The Zutons, for example, seem like a band that has some tensions between them, but they turn out a version of "Valerie" that is nothing short of astonishing.

Other artists appearing on the Best of Season 1 compilation include John Mayer, Amos Lee, Nerina Pallot, Corinne Bailey Rae, Dr. John, Craig David, Dave Matthews, Jamiroquai, Norah Jones and Gnarls Barkley, among others.

I also discovered a passion for a British band called the Kooks:

Check it out.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Everyone loves a potato monkey!

From the opening notes (in incredible five-part vocal harmony) of Tally Hall's Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, I am completely smitten. Maybe it's nostalgia for my college days, but right now I just can't get enough of the unique blend of a capella music, nerd rock and complex quirky pop (a la XTC) that Tally Hall creates.

Hailing from Ann Arbor, Mich., I suspect the college circuit has greatly informed their music, so I suppose it should be no surprise that they carry the mantle of bands I loved as a co-ed - bands like Ben Folds Five, Barenaked Ladies, and They Might Be Giants. The lyrics are mostly silly ("Two Wuv" is an ode to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, for example,) but the music is exuberant and infectious and full of hooks. And their vocal harmonies are amazingly complex and tight.

Check out their MySpace page for a few tracks from the album, as well as a charmingly ridiculous version of Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." You can also watch episodes of Tally Hall's Internet Show and meet all five members of the band through their random musings and general silliness.

Friday, November 28, 2008

50 for $5

Christmas came early here at Lost Things Found: is currently offering the 50 top-selling new-release albums of 2008 in mp3 download format for only $5 a piece. This includes Paste's "Best Album of the Year:" Volume One, by She and Him, as well as titles from Radiohead, REM, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, Fleet Foxes, Beck, Duffy, Vampire Weekend, Moby, Al Green, Mariah Carey, Mates of State, the Walkmen, Jamie Lidell and many, many others.

I don't know how long it will last, so get there fast!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

LTF Playlist: The OC Soundtrack

Over the past few months, I have spent many of my free moments visiting Orange County, Calif., via the magic of DVD boxed set. I realize I'm a couple of years late on the obsession with Seth, Summer, Ryan and Marissa, but that's okay, because the very best part of the show - the music - has held up extremely well.

From an indie lover's standpoint, the OC might be the best television soundtrack ever conceived, and I don't just mean the several volumes issued as "official" soundtracks on CD. I mean that every song chosen to run in the series was great and deserves its own spotlight. There are classics that have been woefully overlooked and mainstream music that was largely misunderstood. There are cutting-edge bands that ran on the series 2 years ago or 4 years ago that are just now beginning to get the airplay they deserve. There is Journey.

So in the interest of paying homage to this most seminal TV music lineup, I have compiled a new LTF Playlist: The OC Soundtrack.

It's such an extensive catalog that I'm still adding to the playlist, but I have enough to get you started, including songs by the Eels, Jem, Mazzy Star, Thicke, Fountains of Wayne, Guster, Iron and Wine, and Seth's absolute favorite band - Death Cab for Cutie, among many others.

Just click the player at right and give it a spin! (And check back as I continue to update the playlist!)

Oh, and...: For more music from the OC, visit and listen to 6 different mixes, including mix 6, which features indie bands covering the songs of other indie bands.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

LTF approved: Jem

I have to admit I wasn't one of the people who thought Welsh singer Jem's debut album, Finally Woken, was the greatest album of the year, come down from the mountain to redeem us all with its gentle shoegazing sound. (I'm looking at you, Nic Harcourt!) Yes, the song "Just a Ride" was pretty great, but it instantly got played out in soundtrack-ville and the rest of the album failed to charm me the way it charmed everyone else.

In spite of this, or possibly because of this, I like Jem's latest outing better than everyone else, or so it seems. Down to Earth has a certain bi-polar quality, yes, swinging wildly from mellow light indie to clubby trip-hop but there's a certain appeal in the general quality of the sound that keeps me coming back for more. It's may be the undercurrent of Baroque classical music that runs throughout the whole bi-polar affair that binds it all together for me. (For instance, on "Got It Good," you can actually hear the influence of Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. How many indie albums can you say that about?)

There's a little too much stereotypical "ethnic" sound going on in some of the songs - "Crazy" tries way too hard to be Latin-influenced, for instance - but when Jem just relaxes and lets her natural classical inclinations shine through, the result is excellent. (See songs "It's Amazing," "Got it Good," and "And So I Pray.")

Definitely worth a listen. To get you started, check out Jem's MySpace page and listen to "It's Amazing" (or for nostalgia's sake, "Just a Ride.") Then listen to "Got It Good" via the miracles of YouTube:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Everything leaves a mark

I've been holding off writing about Pictures and Sound, the latest project from former Blue Merle lead Luke Reynolds, because the sound sort of defies description or categorization. There's a big element of New Wave in the shiny, electro-laden arrangements, but the foundation is pure pop/singer-songwriter, reinforced by Reynolds' organic voice. There's a touch of punk ("The Last Ocean,") a little soul ("It's You,") some electro synth-pop ("100 Directions,") even a hint of Western country ("Every War.") The result is an album that has the cutting-edge sound that makes soundtrack editors swoon - deceptively addictive ear candy, packaged in layers of complexity.

Listen to a few tracks on Pictures and Sound's MySpace Page. This is music that gets under your skin after a few listens, so give it some time to sink in. And then just try to stop listening... it's nearly impossible.

Oh, and...: Thanks to the September Paste sampler for introducing me to this band!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Know that maybe I will be OK

Autumn is an excellent time to listen to Ingrid Michaelson, so her new CD Be OK coulndn't be more perfectly timed. This collection of new songs, covers and live performances benefits the national Stand Up to Cancer campaign. Unfortunately, this means that it's not available for DRM-free download anywhere. But it's well worth the trek to the store for a physical copy.

You can listen to two of the tracks at Michaelson's MySpace page, including the toe-tapping title track, which reveals the influence of Mika's "Love Today" in it, if I'm not mistaken. There's also the harmonic masterpiece "You and I" which sounds a little like something from the Dan in Real Life soundtrack (a high compliment from me, as you know.)

Other highlights from the album include a mournful cover of "Over the Rainbow" and "The Chain" live from Webster Hall. In general, this album has a sadder, more sober sound to it than her ebullient debut CD and somehow, that suits me just fine. Get the CD. You'll have some great music and you'll help a charity at the same time.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Feels good to be free

The problem with most break-up songs is that they're, well... pretty depressing. As a whole, musicians tend to focus on the soul-wrenching sense of loss engendered by a break-up rather than the possibilities and sense of freedom it opens up. But when Rilo Kiley sat down to make their most recent album together, Under the Blacklight, the not-so-distant break-up of leads Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett actually made for their best album to date.

The band has finally figured out something that Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) figured out long ago when he recruited her for his Postal Service projects - Jenny Lewis's voice sounds best paired with a maximalist's penchant for electro-pop. (To me, her voice sounds twee and theatrical when paired with the organic folk and Americana influences she has favored on side projects and earlier Rilo Kiley albums.)

As a result, Under the Blacklight sounds bright, edgy and perfectly balanced - early-era Madonna meeting Liz Phair, but always with that hint of cabaret vibe.

Not incidentally, the album contains the happiest break-up song I have ever heard, "Breakin' Up"(how is there no video for this song?):

And on the same theme, check out "Silver Lining:"

The whole album's good. Listen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One Man Gift from Above

There is something completely reassuring about the sound of James Taylor's voice, as though here is a man who has been through it all and come out the other side to tell you, "Whatever it is, it's going to be okay." In the darkest of times, there is nothing more timeless and calming to me. But there has always been a bit of mystique about this prolific singer-songwriter - I always got the feeling he'd rather sing than talk.

So it was doubly entertaining to watch his latest concert DVD, One Man Band, and discover that once you get James Taylor talking, there is just no telling what's going to come out.

One Man Band was shot in a very small theater in his hometown in the Berkshires - Taylor and one other musician make up the entire ensemble (unless you count the enormous, early-20th-century-looking "drum machine.") The show is largely acoustic, though he does play his electric guitar on a few songs for variety. But preceding each song is an often lengthy and meandering introduction (often with photo slideshow!) that reveals Taylor's wry charm.

In these candid introductions, he reveals his love of the Beatles, discusses the intersection of Richard Nixon and Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and describes Joni Mitchell as "his bitch" (in the past tense, of course.) And that's just a small sampling.

For a taste, check out this fantastic montage of the DVD:

The accompanying CD is an excellent addition to the collection as well, because the concert features a lot of his newer (though still timeless) material.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This is a brand new day

I spent a rare few minutes tuning into the Real World: Hollywood and was instantly charmed by a song I heard playing in the background. After some internet sleuthing, I discovered the song was "Goodbye from California" by Lindsey Ray, who it turns out is the very same person that provides the vocals for this Target ad I have also enjoyed:

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Power of Love

Some things just don't change. Twenty years ago, I bought a copy of Fore! by Huey Lewis and the News on cassette tape (!) and listened to it so hard that the tape eventually broke. I didn't know it at 8 years old, but that mix of classic R&B, doo wop, and shimmering 80s pop was exactly the kind of sound that I would love for the rest of my life.

Well, fast forward a couple of decades to last Sunday night, when I got a chance to see Huey Lewis and the News live in concert at the Walworth County Fair (!) and I am happy to report that they sound as great as the day I bought Fore! - maybe even better. Apparently they've all been friends since elementary school, and it shows - the band is tight, talented and totally in sync with the brainy rock star that is Huey. The highlight, though, is how great they all still sound on the complex vocal harmonies - they performed "All Right" a capella and their voices blended together perfectly. To paraphrase Ellis Paul, their voices are all torn in just the right places and so they fit together perfectly.

They performed most of their big hits - and this is a band with a LOT of hits. To quote Huey after the show, "So many hits, so little time," but still they managed to fit most of them into their hour-and-a-half long set, including "Power of Love," "Heart of Rock and Roll," "Hip to Be Square," "Back in Time," and my personal favorite, "Doing it All for My Baby," which got the power ballad treatment and totally blew me away. They also performed their new song from the "Pineapple Express" soundtrack (and apparently it's already got some fans - one girl in the front was wearing a pineapple tiara and waving pineapple wands during that song.)

So all I can say is, if you get a chance to see Huey Lewis and the News live, don't miss it! They put on a great show and 8-year-old you deserves it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Such a silly game we play

For some reason, the song "Love" by Matt White keeps finding its way to my ears this week. Who am I to argue? It's unabashedly sweet and folky, with a subtle hint of surf music thrown in. I'm sold:

And it's more than just a throwaway hit - visit White's MySpace to hear more tracks from his album "Best Days," all of which feature the tropical, laid-back singer-songwriter vibe.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Becomes Eclectic

I've written about my love of KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic before - and today you can buy the latest Nic Harcourt-selected compilation CD of live performances from KCRW's studios. A screening copy of Sounds Eclectic: The Next One reveals Harcourt's impeccable taste in cutting-edge music and features performances by the Swell Season, Spoon, the Shins and the Ting Tings as well as lesser known greats such as Architecture in Helsinki, Seawolf and the Orange Lights. Get it while it's hot.

On a similar note, I recently picked up a copy of Music Lust, written by Harcourt. Much like the Book Lust series, this is a book of lists - this time of music for certain themes, artists or eras. Sample "chapters" include TV Actors Who've Taken the Plunge, Livin' Large: The Big Band Booom!, and Polyester Suits and Wraparound Dresses. The book reveals some of Harcourt's early influences (punk and Australian pop among them) and tells the story of how he came to be the country's foremost expert on eclecticism in music. Definitely worth checking out, if only to see if you agree with his choices.

Finally, inspired by some of my favorite songs from Morning Becomes Eclectic, I have created a new LTF playlist, entitled Soundtrack Becomes Eclectic. The sound is heavy on the retro soul - artists include Al Green, David Ford (who I saw open for Aimee Mann recently - he puts on a VERY impressive live show,) Katie Herzig, the Magic Numbers and the Slip. Cue up the player at right and enjoy!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Remembering Katrina

Three years ago today, we all watched with rapt horror as a flooded New Orleans disintegrated before our eyes on live television. With another hurricane approaching the beleaguered city as we speak, I thought we should focus on the one thing in New Orleans that can't be destroyed - the music.

Sheryl Crow's "Love is Free" video was inspired by the survivors in New Orleans:

Marc Cohn's "Dance Back from the Grave" sounds like Tom Waits eulogizing the New Orleans of pre-Katrina:

And finally, here is Dave Matthews Band with Robert Randolph performing "Louisiana Bayou" live from the Weekend on the Rocks DVD: (RIP LeRoi Moore.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I was stranded in the middle of the night

Are you ready to fall in love with a new band?

Yet again I owe a debt to television commercials - this time it was Kenmore Elite that introduced me to the Silver Seas, by using their lovely "Imaginary Girl" in one of their ads. I instantly had to have their first album, High Society.

At times evoking the 70s baroque classic rock-ism of Poco, the intricate surf harmonies of the Beach Boys, the lush-pop wail of Rufus Wainwright and the quirky complexities of Ben Folds Five, this album goes by too quickly and begs for multiple listens. (You know I can't resist a band that makes heavy use of a 12-string guitar.)

Highlights include the unstoppably happy "Country Life," the Wainwright-esque "Imaginary Girl" and the layered harmonies of the sonically perfect "Hard Luck Tom," which, coming in at just 1:51, may be the shortest piece of pop perfection ever recorded. Listen to two of the three on the band's MySpace page.

Or, if you prefer, you can watch the band (formerly known as The Bees) recording "Country Life" in the studio:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not just another ordinary day

First of all: welcome back, Beth. It's been a long summer without you.

Secondly, have you seen the new ad for Bounce dryer sheets? Well that song you hear is "Ordinary Day" by Canadian folkstress Emilie Mover and it's a bright and happy folk-pop gem. Listen to the song and other, slightly sadder songs on Mover's MySpace page. ("No Hill Too High" is also upbeat and lovely.)

Or you can download the "Ordinary Day" mp3 for free at the Bounce Website.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Something's bound to happen

With the recent obsession with girl-power neo-soul from across the pond (see Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Adele), I thought we should give some credit to the American born, neo-soul-influenced phenomenon that is MoZella.

Born Maureen McDonald in Detroit (what are they putting in the water in Detroit lately? - there are so many talented and beautiful people coming from Motor City!), Mozella started gigging around coffeehouses when she was just 15. Her debut album, I Will, came out in 2006, shortly after Mercedes-Benz used one of her songs in their ambitious "Framed Portraits" ad campaign. Her songs have since been used in TV shows and more recently she has toured on the Hotel Cafe tour.

She has the jazz-tinged vocal quality of Nikka Costa blended with Norah Jones and the white-girl soul of Duffy thrown in. The songs are catchy and contemplative at the same time, and the overall sound blends soulful singer-songwriter with just a touch of electro-pop for a sound that is very fresh. Sadly, it appears she was recently let go from her record contract at Maverick/Warner, but you can keep up with her new stuff via her MySpace page - hopefully another label will snatch her up soon!

In the meantime, check out this live performance of one of my favorite songs on the album, "Killing Time," performed at one of the ubiquitous Coffee Beans in LA in January 2007:

Bonus: Because you know I can't resist Beyonce, listen to MoZella cover "Irreplacable" and then check out the rest of her YouTube series entitled "Under the Covers" for covers of Weezer, the White Stripes, U2 and the Fray, among others.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

He will make of you another believer

Found a hidden Rufus Wainwright gem in the Disney animated feature Meet the Robinsons, entitled "Another Believer":

And there's another lovely Rufus song that plays over the credits as well, called "The Motion Waltz (Emotional Commotion.)" The man can write songs, no doubt about it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Viva... Coldplay?

Ok, I'm not happy to have to admit this, but I honestly cannot get enough of Coldplay's latest single, "Viva La Vida." When Chris Martin sings, "The old king is dead, long live the king," the syncopated rhythm sends me into eargasms every time. Though I have never been a fan of theirs before, this time I am powerless to resist! If you're in a similar situation, you might want to give them a chance this time. And I say that begrudgingly, as I still very much hate this video. (It's too pompous and it lacks any wit.) So just close your eyes and listen...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I like how the day sounds through these new songs

While visiting my favorite music store in the whole world this weekend, The Electric Fetus in Minneapolis, I discovered the album Three Flights to Alto Nido by Greg Laswell. It's perfect for right now. It's a solidly-crafted singer-songwriter sound but with a little more attention paid to production and uniqueness. (He's even got a song in 9/8 time!)

At times quirky and confessional like the best of Death Cab, at times expansive and uplifting like the best of Coldplay (those are words I never thought I'd say, but you've won me over, Chris Martin, with "Viva La Vida"), Greg Laswell's music is a really appealing mixture of very of-the-moment sounds with the general energy level of Counting Crows at their angst-iest. (You have to love any musician who proudly describes himself as "music to not run to.") I'm not surprised that, according to his MySpace page, his music has been featured on some of the more music-savvy TV shows and he is now touring with the Hotel Cafe tour in California.

Highlights include "It's Been a Year," "The One I Love," and "How the Day Sounds," two of which are available on his MySpace page.

Have a listen and see what you think!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

LTF approved: The Eels

Via Charlie Bartlett:

Do you know what it's like to care too much about someone you're never gonna get to touch?

Hey man, now you're really living.

Listen here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What am I gonna do when I run out of shirts to fold?

I'm still smarting over not getting to see Wilco in their residency shows last winter, but this live set from AOL's "Sessions" series is helping to ease the pain. Hear "What Light," "Side with the Seeds," "You are My Face," and my favorite Sky Blue Sky track, "Hate It Here."


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Do it like this and seal it with a kiss

AOL Music is currently streaming "The Stoop," the first full-length album by Brooklyn's Little Jackie (singer-songwriter Imani Coppola and programmer Adam Pallin,) and it's definitely worth checking out.

Mixing old-school hip hop beats and classic R&B with very clever, pop-culture-laden lyrics, this album is perfect summer fun. You'll hear a touch of Macy Gray, a bit of Kate Nash, a lot of Lauryn Hill. Vh1 loves it so much, they're using the second track ("The World Should Revolve Around Me") as the theme song to the third season of "I Love New York," which apparently premieres in August.

But you can get a head-start on the grooves. Have a listen!

(PS. The version of the album streaming on AOL right now is the "clean" version - the unclean version is even better, in my opinion.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

For the record

To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, no matter how bad things get, the music will still be wonderful.

Ok, full disclosure here: I am a HUGE fan of Mariah Carey, even bordering on superfan, in fact. Yes, I love her because she reminds me of my innocent, camp-filled adolescent summers, all Wet 'n Wild lipstick and Dreamsicles and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels. But as an adult, I've also grown to respect her as a songwriter, producer, and insanely talented singer. Ignore the train wreck that is her personal life. Focus on what really matters - the woman is gifted and she makes GREAT albums.

The superfan status, (at least as an adult,) began with her 2005 release, The Emancipation of Mimi, which brilliantly blended her melodic R&B with club and hip hop beats with truly inpsired effect. I consider that an essential album, and one you should definitely check out if you haven't already.

The total girl-crush adoration has only increased after hearing her newest release, E=MC2. A little less edgy than Mimi, perhaps, but again, amazingly solid pop/R&B songs fill out this album. You've probably already heard "Touch My Body" (check out the video for a Kenneth-from-30-Rock sighting!) and may also have heard "Bye Bye" on the radio, but inexplicably, the best song on this album isn't getting any airplay yet. There isn't even a video for my favorite song on the album, "I'll Be Lovin' You Long Time," so instead I will post YouTube audio here:

Grab a Dreamsicle and enjoy summer!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

LTF Playlist: Summer Punkish

So I think we can all agree that the "Midwinter Melancholy" playlist way overstayed its welcome. Time for something new, something fun, something... summery.

The "Summer Punkish" playlist (in the right sidebar) was created with California sunshine in mind. When the weather's warm, I love a soundtrack where kinetic punk meets shimmering pop. Somewhat reminiscent of the soundtrack of the OC or shows on the WB (may it rest in peace.)

Artists include Finger Eleven, Good Charlotte, Cake, Soul Coughing, Fall Out Boy, Green Day and the All-American Rejects - many bands I wouldn't necessarily choose to listen to on their own. But put them all together, and you've got the perfect soundtrack for soaking up some sun, driving with the top down, and just generally feeling like a teenager enjoying summer break again.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summerfest 2008

Why I love the idea of Summerfest: In the span of one hour on a random Thursday night during the biggest music festival in the world, you have to choose between Alejandro Escovedo, Ingrid Michaelson, and Marie Digby. Later that same night, you'll get to choose between Gomez, Gavin DeGraw, Lucinda Williams and the Plain White T's. All for a flat entry fee of $15.

Why I find Summerfest very trying in practice:
1. The crowds -(See pic)

2. The technical difficulties -

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Summerfest, Unplugged - Boom boom go the lights for almost three hours

3. But perhaps most importantly, the escalating beer prices! Grrr... -

WISN 12: Price of beer goes up for Summerfest 2008

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hit the beat and take it to the verse now...

I first encountered Welsh R&B chanteuse Duffy while streaming the BBC online last winter. Already a megastar in the UK, her hit "Mercy" is starting to pick up speed on this side of the pond (on a recent trip to Ohio, I heard it blasting in a Ruehl so loudly that I was genuinely concerned about the welfare of the teenage employees. And wow is Ruehl a strange shopping experience, by the way.)

Duffy's US debut, Rockferry, is a short album, but there isn't a weak track on it - just good solid retro R&B that often sounds like it was unearthed from the Motown vault circa 1967. Comparisons to Amy Winehouse are a little overstated - Duffy has a softer quality to both her voice and her subject matter and she embraces the classic Motown sound more fully than Winehouse (who in my opinion is at her best when she combines classic jazz and modern club sounds into her brand of R&B, but that's a subject for another day.)

Highlights of the album include "Warwick Avenue," "Delayed Devotion" and, of course, "Mercy." Here she is performing "Mercy" live on Later with Jools Holland last November:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Prepare to be surprised

I don't know why it took me so long to see Dan in Real Life, given my celebrity crushes on both Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche, but I finally Netflixed it this weekend was totally stunned by how much I loved it. Those of you who know me know that I'm a sucker for any movie with a good soundtrack (hello Bewitched?) and WOW - does this movie have a great soundtrack.

Almost all of the music was written by Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche specifically for the film, a la the Graduate or Harold and Maude (two movies cited by director Peter Hedges as major influences.) In the bonus features, Hedges talks about how important he felt it was to get the music right and how he absolutely fell in love with Lerche's acoustic sound. Both Hedges and Lerche worked hard to keep the sound intimate, raw and sweet (just like the film itself.) The result is one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a long time.

To give you an idea of Lerche's sound in the movie (which reminds me of a much happier version of a former Euro-band crush of mine, the Guillemots,) check out this video of him performing "Prepare to Be Surprised" on Letterman last October, and then check out the whole soundtrack. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I haven't been able to get this song out of my head for the past month. It's been playing in heavy rotation on our local Urban AC station, which I have really been digging lately. Pop/R&B is going through a nice melodic thing right now that is way more interesting than anything happening on top 40 right now. Check it out!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Album release countdown: The Weepies, Hideaway

Here at Lost Things Found, we've set the countdown clock for April 22 when the Weepies' new album, Hideaway, will be released. The title track appears on the April Paste Sampler and I love it already. It does not seem to exist on the Internets anywhere, but to tide yourself over until the big release, head over to the Live Music Archive and listen to a couple of full live sets from the Weepies circa 2004. Or check out this NPR studio interview from 2006.

Want more info on the Weepies?
Previously on LTF: All That I Want

Monday, March 17, 2008

Floating on 'Air'

Have you seen this Macbook Air ad?

The song is "New Soul" by Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Naim. Listen to the whole thing at her MySpace page. You know I'm a sucker for some happy la-la's in a television commercial. And I love the angelic oohs at the very end.

Also, is it just me or does her voice sound remarkably like Leona Naess's?

If you're interested in hearing more, check out her self-titled album, where you can hear her multi-lingual talents and the French jazz influence as well.

Oh, and: While you're at her MySpace page, check out her haunting cover of the Britney Spears hit "Toxic."

Double update: Stream the whole album for free here!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Looking and listening

A couple of really great music documentaries have passed before my eyes this week - if you're looking for something to watch that is both visually interesting and musically inspiring, check out either of these:

Jeff Tweedy, Sunken Treasure

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog to find the Wilco front man's solo acoustic DVD on this list, but even for those who are not rabid Wilco-philes, this DVD is well worth checking out for its gorgeous cinematography and the between-set interviews with Tweedy himself. The doc essentially takes you on the road with him as he plays a series of venues along the Pacific Coastline, splicing the live performances with sympathetic-yet-realistic images of America as seen from a tour bus. Meanwhile, Tweedy ruminates on the nature of being a professional musician and displays a depth you don't normally associate with rock bands. An example: "Everybody suffers. The world is built on how well you cope with your suffering, how well you transcend it and move past it, and what you learn from it." Check it out.


This beautifully crafted music documentary about Icelandic band Sigur Ros is as much a documentary about social and economic conditions in Iceland as it is about music. The documentary follows the band as they return to Iceland to perform a series of free, unadvertised concerts, many of which take place in unusual venues in small villages throughout rural Iceland. (One performance appears to take place on an abandoned fishing tanker.) The band's lush, expansive indie-pop sound (they are one of the few bands for whom I advocate use of the term "emo" and consider it high praise) creates the perfect soundtrack for the cinematic tour of Iceland. Again, interviews with the band are spliced throughout, but what really lingers after watching this doc are the faces of the Icelandic villagers of all ages who show up at town halls, empty fields and abandoned fishing tankers to hear the music. You come away with an appreciation for Iceland as an impossibly lovely and mournful place, and perhaps the only place in the world where Sigur Ros's classical-music-on-the-moon sound makes perfect sense.

The best part? You can watch the doc in its entirety on YouTube completely free. Don't miss this.

Happy watching!

Monday, March 03, 2008

More bacon than the pan can handle

I'm sure you'll be hearing more from me about Mike Doughty in the coming weeks (I have tickets to see him at the Pabst on March 21), but I wanted to take a moment to put the official LTF stamp of approval on his latest album, Golden Delicious. It's a totally likeable pastiche of the rhythmic power-pop he became famous for with Soul Coughing and the pop culture poetry that he has honed in his solo career, while displaying elements of the electronic music he's been dabbling in recently. The result is excellent.

All of the tracks are solidly enjoyable, but early standouts include "I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress...", "Like a Luminous Girl," and the first single off the album, "27 Jennifers."

To listen to two of those songs, visit his MySpace page.

Sidenote: Doughty's last album, Haughty Melodic, is one of my desert-island discs. There is nothing I don't like about it and I swear it actually gets better with every listen. If you haven't heard it yet, listen to "I Hear the Bells" on his MySpace page and then, get the album.

Oh, and: Listen to the album first, and then check out this live set and interview originally broadcast on WXPN, now archived on Hear stories about smoking pot with Ani Difranco, how he reveres Jose Gonzalez, and how he thinks the universe began with an E Major chord.

Friday, February 22, 2008

LTF playlist: Mid-winter melancholy

Reason number 4 billion and 20 why I love the internet: when you're suffering from mid-winter ennui so severe you can barely blog, the internet will give you just the kick in the pants you need to get inspired about something again.

Case in point: a few months ago, I started a FineTune playlist of songs I had heard on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," but I only got about five songs into it before I got distracted by something else and moved on. The playlist sat there untouched. Well, this morning, FineTune finally got fed up with that state of affairs and decided to finish the playlist on its own (using its "I'm Lazy" autofill technology.) The result is the perfect soundtrack to the mid-winter blahs.

You'll hear A Fine Frenzy, Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, Earlimart, Iron and Wine and plenty more - emphasis on melodic and melancholy.

I've added it at right - click the player to listen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Strangely awesome bedfellows

My love of Daryl Hall is no secret anymore, but how cool is this? He's started a new webcast called "Live from Daryl's House" and in the first installment, he sings a couple of songs with Gym Class Heroes' Travis McCoy. First check out how un-freaking-believable Daryl Hall's voice still sounds on "Every Time You Go Away" and then check out how well it is updated by McCoy's rap mid-song. SO cool!

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Wilco

Andrew Bird provides the mournful violin line in "Jesus, Etc." from night 2 at Wilco's residency at The Riviera (still my absolute favorite Wilco song):

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wilco loves Chicago

In my opinion, Wilco is one of the best live bands currently touring, and I am still unspeakably sad that life and Ticketmaster conspired to prevent me from seeing any of their 5-night Winter Residency shows at Chicago's Riviera Theatre this weekend (tonight is night 3.)

But thanks to the miracles of YouTube and Chicago Tribune music blogger Greg Kot (another huge Wilco fan,) I feel a little bit closer to the action today.

What really impresses me about Wilco live is how they are able to both rock out and entertain so consistently and also reinterpret old songs just enough to make them sound revolutionarily different from their album counterparts. Case in point, "Pot Kettle Black" from Friday night:

I love how it starts out pretty straightforwardly, sticking close to the album version and then opens up in the middle to become eye-opening uptempo soul. This song, which frankly gets a little overshadowed on the album, suddenly comes into its own through the live performance. Amazing.

Can't wait to hear how nights 3, 4 and 5 go.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Quirky genius

Pretty much couldn't have been more excited to read in this recent interview that legendary quirk-folk trailblazer Robyn Hitchcock is working with XTC's Andy Partidge!

"Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Immediately, I’m getting a pizza from Pizza Express. They have Peter Blake’s artwork on the walls in there, it’s almost like eating Peter himself. With olives. Otherwise I’m editing a collection of old recordings made with the Egyptians in the 1980s, preparing a new record album with the Venus 3 for fall release, and working on something with Andy Partridge (legendary XTC main man) in his shed."

Robyn Hitchcock plus Andy Partridge making music in a shed? It's pretty much destined to be genius.

(The rest of the interview is equally entertaining, I highly recommend it.)

In a relatively unrelated segment, here is some rough video of Hitchcock performing one of his songs with the Decemberists:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A bandit and a heartbreaker

If you haven't discovered eMusic yet, head over and check out their impressive selection of indie music, available in blessedly DRM-free downloadable form. Right now they're also offering 50 free downloads if you sign up for a one-month subscription at $10. So that's 80 downloads you'll get for $10, a remarkably good deal by anyone's standards.

And it was thanks to this surplus of download credits that I discovered an excellent gem of 70s folk - Judee Sill. Her "Live in London - the BBC Sessions 1972-1973" is hauntingly lovely, particularly when you hear her story (she had kind of a tragic childhood and died young of a drug overdose.) Her music is both lyrical and quirky - one song is about "flying saucers coming when the world is over to take all the sensitive, deserving people away and then bring them back to start the new age." She combines a lot of traditional folk and gospel elements to create songs that are catchy, thought-provoking and somehow timeless. ("Down Where the Valleys are Low" is an excellent example of this.)

As a big fan of the folk revival movement, I can't believe I've gone this long without hearing her. Don't make the same mistake.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Holy Grail of soundtracks

Improbably enough, one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time has actually never been released in any format - Cat Stevens's amazing soundtrack to cult classic Harold and Maude. Until now.

Straight from

"Vinyl Films Records is honored to announce the release of the Holy Grail of unreleased soundtracks, Harold and Maude. Thirty-six years after its initial release, every one of Cat Stevens’ masterful songs from the film are compiled in one incredible package. In addition to such classics as “Miles From Nowhere”, “Where Do The Children Play?” and “Trouble”, the album includes the two songs written specifically for Harold and Maude, “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” and “Don’t Be Shy”, along with alternate versions of both Harold and Maude tracks.

"Over two years in the making, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Harold and Maude comes with an extensive 36-page full-color booklet filled with never-before-seen photographs and an oral history of the making of the film and the music, as told by the filmmakers and participants. Also included is a bonus 7” single with unreleased versions of “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”, two suitable-for-framing posters, and much more!"

As if I wasn't 100% totally obsessed with all things Cameron Crowe already, this might just push it over the edge.

They're only printing 2,500 copies on limited edition vinyl - sure to be collector's items. To purchase, head here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Borders Live at 01 series

When people lament the imminent demise of the brick-and-mortar bookstore, I cry a little inside. If not for bookstores, there are so many wonderful things I would never have discovered, like Chuck Klosterman, the QuirkyAlone movement or, perhaps most importantly, tons of great music.

Bookstores that carry CDs are some of the best sources to find out about new and promising artists - next time you're in one, keep your ears open and see what they're playing.

Borders proves this point beautifully with its new online series, "Live at 01" - a series of live performances and interviews filmed in Borders Store #01 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Each episode features a single artist or band playing acoustic versions of about five songs and speaking thoughtfully on the art of crafting music. Some of the artists so far include Rickie Lee Jones, Patty Griffin, Gomez, Joss Stone, and Ingrid Michaelson. Right now, I'm rocking out to the Magic Numbers (if you don't have time to listen to the whole episode, make sure you hear "Take a Chance," my favorite Numbers song, and no - nothing to do with Abba.)

Even better, the episodes are free and downloadable, so you can take them with you everywhere you (or your iPod) choose to go.

Check back often for updates, it seems like they add eps pretty frequently.

(Btw: They also have interviews with authors and filmmakers as well!)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

LTF Guide to Mp3 players

Here at Lost Things Found, my commitment to Windows-based machinery and my belief that music purchased should be music OWNED (DRM-free) means that I am not one of the millions wooed by iTunes and iPods. But I have to give credit where credit is due - from what I've seen, the iPod is the best mp3 player out there. In an attempt to find something that even comes close, I've been through many non-Apple, Windows Media-friendly mp3 players, all of which had varying degrees of quality and usability.

So to help others who might be in a similar situation, I decided a brief guide might be in order. Keep in mind, this is just a list of the mp3 players I've used - it's not intended to be comprehensive in any way. But I thought it might be helpful for anyone considering any of these machines.

The first mp3 player I owned was the Rio Carbon. Although it had a nice big memory (5G) and looked pretty cool, it was plagued with problems from the start. It did not support graphics, it only worked with its own bulky and difficult-to-navigate software, and it was insanely buggy, requiring frequent resets. It also took hours to integrate new music into the library and did not support making playlists on the fly. (I'm pretty sure they don't even make this player anymore.)

Rio Carbon
Pros: Lots of memory, cool design.
Cons: No graphics, user-unfriendly software, buggy, no playlists on the fly.

Next up, I tried a Creative Zen V Plus. Size-wise, this unit was nice and tiny, but it felt cheaply made from the start, weighing next to nothing and seeming to be made entirely of very cheap plastic. It did support graphics and could be used with Windows Media, but it had some integration problems with Windows Media that made the use of Creative-provided software more desirable. (Though Creative's software was easier to navigate than the Carbon's software, and it did support playlists on the fly, though the navigation was pretty complicated.) I was relatively pleased with it until one day, about six months after I bought it, the screen went dead. I did a little online research and discovered this was a common problem with the Zen. Worse, once the (very short) manufacturer warranty ran out, it cost $25 just to have Creative look at the unit, at which point it was entirely possible that they would tell you that it would cost more to fix it than to buy a new one. I decided to cut my losses instead.

Creative Zen V Plus 4G
Pros: Very small, software easy to navigate, supported playlists on the fly.
Cons: Very cheaply made, broke after very little time and limited use, poor customer service/manufacturer's warranty.

From there, I was looking for a player I could give to my mom that played mp3s and had an FM tuner. I ended up going with the Sandisk Sansa e250 2G. It met the criteria she needed, featuring Plays4Sure Technology so that she could transfer music in almost any format, and an FM tuner. The unit felt substantial and well-made, though the navigation was hard to get the hang of, featuring a scrolling wheel not unlike the iPod, but not quite like the iPod either. This was by far the easiest unit to transfer music to, fully integrating with Windows Media. If she gets ambitious, she can watch videos and upload digital pictures as well. And it features a voice recorder and supports playlists on the fly. Overall, a very nice little unit. My only complaint is that the menu navigation is a little confusing and could be streamlined.

Sandisk Sansa e250 2G
Pros: Feels well-made, features Plays4Sure technology (supports all file types), FM tuner, voice recorder, easy music transfer through Windows Media, playlists on the fly.
Cons: Complicated navigation, awkward scroll-wheel design.

For myself, I finally decided to go with a Sony Walkman A810 2G. I've only had it a few weeks now, but so far, I love the sleek design (and the fact that it came in a pretty girly color!), its relatively large, clear screen, and the intuitive navigation system. It also integrates fully with Windows Media, and plays several file formats (though it does not feature Plays4Sure, like the Sansa.) The sound quality is outstanding, and it came with high-quality "muffin"-style earbuds (they fit inside the ear.) It also supports video playback and digital pictures, as well as displaying album art and featuring a "time machine shuffle" feature that plays all the songs from a particular year. (Unfortunately, my digital music collection is not that well organized, so I haven't been able to take full advantage of this feature yet.) My only complaint on this one is that there are STILL no playlists on the fly! What is with all the playlist hate? Overall, I'm very pleased with the quality and design of this unit, so much so that I also recently bought a Sony Ericsson Walkman phone as well.

Sony Walkman A810 2G
Pros: Sleek and pretty design, large and clear screen, excellent sound, intuitive navigation, fully integrated with Windows Media.
Cons: No playlists on the fly, no extras like FM tuner or voice recorder.