Sunday, May 17, 2009

Help save Paste!

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know of my undying devotion to Paste Magazine. They have impeccable musical taste and they love to share new music with their readership - every single issue of Paste comes with a 20-song sampler of new music. I've discovered some of my favorite new bands thanks to those editorial ears.

But right now, Paste needs our help! It would only take $1 from every single person on their email list to keep the magazine alive through the current economic crisis, and as an incentive to make a donation, Paste has posted more than 70 exclusive music tracks that all become yours - FREE! - when you make a donation to help keep Paste alive.

It is a star-studded roster of indie music, all yours for FREE when you donate as little as $1. Pretty amazing, right? Artists include Ben Folds, Bettye LaVette, Brandi Carlile, Cowboy Junkies, G. Love and Special Sauce, Gomez, Greg Laswell, Jamie Lidell, Josh Ritter, Katie Herzig, Loney Dear, Marc Broussard, Matt Nathanson, Meiko, Matthew Sweet, Neko Case, Of Montreal, Over the Rhine, Rosie Thomas, Robert Pollard, She & Him, the Decemberists and SO many more.

All this for as little as $1, and it's for a great cause. So come on, everyone, let's SAVE PASTE!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Somebody's heart is broken and it becomes your favorite song

I've been nostalgic for high school lately, which led me back to Dave Matthews Band and their first two major-label albums, Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash. It's hard to explain to people now, but at the time, in the atonal, minor-chord angry-pop world of post-grunge, Dave Matthews really did sound revolutionary. His return to complex major key melodies and polyphonic harmonies was such a welcome respite to the simplistic emotive punk of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Live (et. al.) It's easy to dismiss that contribution now, but it had a major impact on pop music that still resonates 15 years later.

In revisiting this welcome return to musicality, I discovered that Dave Matthews Band has a new album coming out on June 2 called Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, and you can listen to an exclusive track right now on Pandora. The album is a memorial to fallen band member Leroi Moore, and it feels like a return to DMB's earliest material, which was a true collaboration among musical equals.

While there, check out a couple of videos of the band in the studio, where they talk about the difficulty of losing Leroi and how his death brought them all back together in the studio. (Loved the shot of Dave talking about how much "the hippies will love this!")

Only at Pandora. Check it out.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Flying high on life

From his earliest albums, Ben Folds has always exuded a certain college-rock vibe. (Whatever and Ever Amen provided the soundtrack to an entire month of my freshman year, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.) Capitalizing on that quality, Folds has recruited the help of college students on his latest album, University A Cappella, which is actually a collection of covers of his songs performed by college a cappella groups from around the country.

Groups "auditioned" for the gig by posting video to YouTube - Folds himself picked the winners, who represent UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Chapel Hill, Ohio University, the University of Georgia, Washington University, Sacramento State, the University of Chicago, the University of Colorado, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania at West Chester, the University of Rochester and UW-Eau Claire, as well as one lucky high school in Newton, Mass. Then Folds added two new songs written specifically for the album (he sings all of the parts.)

The result is quirky, it's creative, and it's infectiously likeable, just like the rest of Folds' work. Highlights include "Not the Same," as interpreted by the UNC-Greensboro Spartones, "Landed" as interpreted by the University of Chicago Buffoons and "Fair" as interpreted by the UW-Eau Claire Fifth Element.

If you occasionally find yourself nostalgic (as I do) for the strange tradition that is college a cappella, for that mix of raw vocal power and prankster ridiculousness, then here is the answer.

To hear two songs from the album, visit his MySpace page.

To get an idea of how he recorded the groups and watch a behind-the-scenes look at the college a cappella world, check out this 15-minute "making of" documentary:

Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! The Documentary