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.