2006: Most Ambitious Record

Over the month of December I'll be posting some of my picks for superlative records/songs/artists of the year. Just like everyone else in the blog-o-world. Of course, none of these are worth any more than the electronic 1's and 0's they're comprised of, but nobody else lets that stop them and damned if I'm going to miss the party.

An easy one to start...

Most Ambitious Record:
the early novemberThe Early November's The Mother, The Mechanic, and The Path is a cohesive, focused collection of 3 CDs: The Mechanic is the rocker, The Mother is quieter, more pensive. And then there's The Path, which is...well it's really something. It's a narrative, it's a dialogue, it's a soundtrack, it even has a surprise ending(!).

In a scene increasingly plagued by uninspired soundalikes and over-applied guyliner, it was so refreshing to see The Early November try something completely insane. Is it a masterpiece? Nah, I don't think it could be called that. But it sure has its moments (some listed below). Highlights, lowlights and all, The Mother, The Mechanic, and The Path easily one of the most memorable releases in 2006.

Noteworthy highlights:
"No Good at Saying Sorry (One More Chance)"
"A Little More Time" (mp3, right click to download.)
"1000 Times a Day"
"The Car In 20"
"Is It My Fault"
"Money In His Hand"

Watch out for TEN on the "Friends or Enemies Tour" beginning January '07 alongside Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, and Permanent Me, and if you're around Jersey (where they're from) make sure you get yourself to the House of Blues in Atlantic City on December 27 for a special holiday show with Dave Mellilo and All Time Low.

The Early November @ myspace.
The Mother, the Mechanic, and the Path


The Husky Tenor streaming, available for preorder

Endless Mike & The Beagle Club - The Husky Tenor

Go directly to purevolume and listen to The Husky Tenor by Endless Mike and The Beagle Club. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

And it won't ship until December 5th, but you can finally pre-order the record here.

Take a minute to clear your head.


Now listen very carefully. If you haven't already, scroll back up a tad and start listening to this record. You need to hear this record. This record is too good not to be heard. This record will change the way you think about rock and roll. You'll stop forgiving bands for making shitty albums. Because you won't have time to waste listening to sub-par material. You'll spend that time listening to The Husky Tenor instead, thank you very much.

Really. Really really. You need it. Go.


I was right! I was wrong.

Some time ago I made a completely baseless conjecture that "Sowing Season (Yeah)" by Brand New was inspired by a short story. Well, I was right in assuming there was some literary inspiration. I was just wrong about everything else.

The 2nd verse of Sowing Season is adapted from "If" by Rudyard Kipling. You read it here first. I read it in the liner notes. It used to hang on Jesse Lacey's father's wall.

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is out today, btw.


Nobody likes anything

Here are some less-than-stellar reviews of the big techy product launches from this weekend. Personally, I'm not surprised about any of it. Pat yourself on the back that you didn't spend 72 hours outside of a Best Buy or slam your face into a pole or anything.

NY Times on the PS3.

"If there is one thing one would expect Sony to get perfect, though, it would be music. Wrong. Sure, you can plug in your digital music player and the PS3 will play the tunes. But as soon as you go into a game, the music stops. By contrast, one of the things I’ve always enjoyed most on the Xbox 360 is being able to listen to my own music while playing Pebble Beach or driving my virtual Ferrari. Doesn’t seem too complicated, but the PS3 can’t do it."

Washington Post on the Zune.

"This is a breathtaking display of corporate faithlessness, cluelessness or both."

CNET on the Wii.

"The bottom line: It lacks the graphical prowess and rich media features of the Xbox 360 and the PS3, but the Nintendo Wii's combination of unique motion-sensitive controllers and emphasis on fun gameplay make the ultra-affordable console hard to resist."

The Wii seems to come out smelling like roses in all of this, but not because it bowled anybody over. Just because it didn't let anyone down too badly. Red Steel, the game that had me ALMOST buying a Wii, got completely shat on. The lesson to be gleaned from all this is not to believe the hype about anything anymore. Most of it is dreck.


The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

I'm sitting here listening to Brand New's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (out Tuesday). Honestly I don't even know where to begin. Or where to end. I'm just going to ramble for a while, I guess. If endless ebullient blubbering isn't your thing, the take-home message will be this: It's GOOD.

At 21 years old, a man in body but not yet in mind, I was an emotional wreck. Nobody's fault but my own. I know that now. But then, oh then. No record in the world could have fallen into my lap and done for me what Your Favorite Weapon did. God, I played the shit out of that. Over and over. I'm lucky my roommates didn't kill me. The vitriol.

Is that what you call tact?
You're as subtle as a brick in the small of my back.

And then the summer of 2003. Deja Entendu never left my cd player. It was darker. More grown up. There was responsibility in the lyrics. Turns out Jesse wasn't able to stay 18 forever, stay like that forever. Turns out it's more complicated. Turns out life on the road isn't all parties and fun. Turns out people expect a lot from you when you're their favorite band. They expect a whole lot from you, and you're just a kid.

And we won't let you in...

And the critics got on board. A major label deal. And then three years of silence. Cancelled shows. Was the pressure too much?

8 untitled, unfinished songs leak. More silence. And then a few shows. A small tour. A bigger tour. Videos of the new songs start to surface on youtube. The faithful work themselves into a frenzy. We knew it was going to be good. We knew they'd come through.

My bright is much too slight to hold back all my dark

Believe me when I tell you that it's better than you thought it would be. That it was worth the wait. I haven't even had time for all of it to sink in, yet. But believe me, believe me, believe me. Believe me. It's good.

Your Favorite Weapon Deja Entendu The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me


Clear Channel has a price


Looks like Clear Channel accepted an offer today to be bought out for $18.7 billion. EIGHTEEN POINT SEVEN BILLION DOLLARZ.

The important part of this story, though, is that they're selling 40% of their radio holdings. That's a pretty big shake-up, and I'll be interested to see where all the chips fall when it's over. Maybe some terrestrial radio stations that serve the public interest?

What'll they think of next?


Out yesterday...

Tenacious D The Pick of Destiny
Tenacious D's The Pick of Destiny is a soundtrack to accompany their movie, so don't expect it to hold together on its own quite as well as their debut did. But it's got a couple cameos (Dave Grohl, Meatloaf, more...) and should be good for a chuckle or two. Long ago I had a radio interview with Kyle Gass and he insisted that I let him wear my headphones. So I couldn't hear his microphone malfunctioning. That was a really awful interview.

Damien Rice's 9 is out now, too. The first track, "9 Crimes," is really cool, and "Rootless Tree" rocks way harder than I thought I could reasonably expect from Mr. Rice. Not as good as O, but fans will find plenty to like here. Everyone else might be able to get away with just picking up a couple tracks on iTunes.


Why I won't be buying a Zune

It's not the functionality. I'm not a gadget head and I haven't played with one, anyway. You can read up on it at Gizmodo, if you're interested. It actually looks (marginally) cool. I'm boycotting the Zune (and you should too) because of this:
Yesterday, Microsoft agreed to share revenue from Zune sales with record labels and artists. Forcing the issue was Universal Music Group, which at deadline is the only label named in the program. UMG refused to license its music to the Zune unless it could receive a percentage of each device sold, in addition to standard music licensing fees for downloads and subscriptions.

"These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it," UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris says. "So it's time to get paid for it." (billboard)
Bob Lefsetz basically took the words out of my mouth when he covered this last week. I figured I'd wait to echo him until this thing was actually on the market. This old-school bullying has no place in the portable player space, and Microsoft should have just told Doug Morris and his cronies to take a long walk off a short pier. It's worked for Steve Jobs.


Dave Melillo - Knights of the Island Counter video

You know how there are some movies where the good guy dies in the end and even though you've seen the film a million times you still kinda hope that this time the ending will magically change? This video is kinda like that for me.

Fall Out Boy - Carpal Tunnel of Love

They're streaming it over at absolutepunk.net, but you've gotta be registered to listen. Clever, huh?

Apparently, this won't be the first single from Fall Out Boy's upcoming release. It's just something they decided to throw up on the web without permission of their label. That is so punk rock. Next thing you know they're going to wear their shoes in the house and track mud all through the kitchen and when their mom yells at them they'll just be all like "Whatever."

Thankfully, there are no new pictures of Mr. Wentz in negligee to accompany this "leak."


Jaymay - The Living Room, 11/4/06

Every time I see Jaymay, it's different. She plays with a different band. She performs her songs a different way. She keeps it fresh.

The thing about her is that she's contagiously comfortable on stage. The first time I ever saw her was by accident. I was at The Living Room to see Josh Pyke perform, and she played beforehand. She was in the middle of a residency there, and I had to crane my neck to see behind the crowd that had packed in. That was the night she recorded the version of "You Are The Only One I Love" (mp3, right click to download) that's readily available on myspace. I mention it because at the end of the song she took a long sip of water from a bottle of Poland Spring as the bass and drums wound the song down, punctuated by a satisfied "ahh" that you can hear on the recording, and that you could hear even at the very back of the packed Living Room. You could have heard a pin drop. Not a tense, "now what?" silence. A comfortable, "wow" silence. Contagious comfort. She's good.

This time it wasn't a water sip. This time it was an improvised song (roughly to the tune of "Gray or Blue") calling Ferraby Lionheart*'s bass player (who was outside smoking a cigarrette) to the stage at the beginning of the set. Like she was the only one in the room. And then she played songs that I've listened to probably a hundred times and made them new. Changed some melodies, some rhythms, some instrumentations. Added some Dylan-esque talk-singing at the end of some lines (and it worked).

Honestly, I can't say this strongly enough: Jaymay is mesmerizing when she performs. And I don't know how better to describe it than by using silly anecdotes like the ones above.

A note about the photo: I'm just not cut out for concert photography. I refuse to be "that guy" taking flash photos. I considered just not using one or using a press photo of Jaymay or something. But then I used this one anyway. I like how it says "The Living Room" in it.

*Ferraby Lionheart played before Jaymay. He was good.


Endless Mike and The Beagle Club - Goodbye Blue Monday, 11/3/06

"Do you know what this is?"

Mike was holding a plastic dinosaur that he had found lying around somewhere inside Goodbye Blue Monday. The whole place is littered with old stuff. All of it is for sale, reportedly. None of it has price tags though. I smiled and shook his hand.

"It's a dinosaur," I said.

"Yeah, but what kind?"

Avoiding the question because I couldn't remember, I launched into a story about my childhood. "You know, when I was a kid I was convinced I wanted to be a paleontologist and when I told my first grade teacher that she had to ask me what it was."

"The exact same thing happened to me," he said. "At first I felt smart but then we did a dinosaur unit and the teacher kept singling me out, asking 'Is that right, Mike?' After everything she said. It made me feel like a freak so finally I just said 'I don't like dinosaurs anymore.' But do you want me to tell you what it is? Or will it drive you crazy that you couldn't remember?"

"It's on the tip of my tongue. But yeah, go ahead."

"Pachycephalosaurus." Not what was on the tip of my tongue. "When me and Matt were kids we were in the drug store with our grandma and we wanted to buy a book because we thought it was Godzilla but really it was about dinosaurs and that ended up being the book we used to learn to read. And I guess we just kinda kept going and going and soon enough it was paleontology text books from the library."

Mike is this easy to talk to. Like an old friend the minute he's a friend at all. And it's partly this willingness to reveal what's underneath in such detail (even when it's just dinosaur enthusiasm) that makes him the gifted songwriter that he is. I'm talking, of course, about Mike Miller, from Endless Mike and The Beagle Club (Matt, his brother, is also in the band).

We spent most of the time before the show started reading books we found on the shelf near our table (Male Sexuality, 101 Questions and Answers About Welding, etc.) and stacking cans of $2 PBR.

A guy named Drew opened the show with an acoustic guitar. He was pretty good, his myspace page doesn't really do him justice.

endless mike and the beagle club

And then, overflowing off the stage like they often do, The Beagle Club took over. I've tried before to put the energy this band has into words and I've always failed. Maybe energy isn't even the right word. It's more of a feeling. Some members never stop dancing. And some hardly ever leave their position, sitting on the corner of the stage and playing whatever handheld percussion the song calls for. But there's a unity in the group, such that every role, from biggest to smallest, is equally dedicated to creating this experience. Endless Mike and The Beagle Club delight in blurring the line between rock concert and performance art. Anyone who has ever sat around and dreamed of being in a band has dreamed of being in a band like this one. I can't think of any band I've ever seen that's more authentic.

And the songs are just so good. God damn are they good.

The Husky Tenor, a record I've been waiting for with baited breath, is finally done and I got my hands on it Friday night. In lieu of liner notes, the package contains a six page hand-written letter from Mike. A sort of stream of consciousness about what the band means to him and about free will and decision making and it closes with an invitation to discuss it all further with Mike's email address and, if you're a fan of pen and paper, his mailing address.

I, for one, intend on writing him. And you, well you should find a way to see this band in concert. And you should order this record, which I believe will eventually be available here. And you should never ever tell me that rock and roll is dead because I will tell you exactly where it is alive and well.


The Decemberists - Apple Store SoHo, 11/3/06

Decemberists - Apple Store SoHo

photo credit.

I usually attribute my unwillingness to wait in line to being "too old for this shit" but the fact of the matter is that I refuse to wait in line for almost anything because I've found that with few exceptions, the best rock and roll experiences come queue-free. But to see The Decemberists play 6 songs in SoHo for free? Yeah, I'll stand in line for that.

Let's back it up a bit. The night before (Thursday night) I had tried foolishly to see a band that a friend recommended called La Rocca play at Pianos. I hadn't known ahead of time that Silversun Pickups were headlining the night, so needless to say I didn't show up nearly in time to get in. This is the worst thing about CMJ: it becomes impossible to see bands that you otherwise would be able to see with no problem. Since I wasn't able to get into the performance area for the show I stayed back in the bar area with my friends and got drunk and took a few pictures with my camera of stupid things. Then I fell asleep on the subway until it brought be back home in Brooklyn, and stumbled to my computer to drop those pics on there before bed. I left my camera connected to the computer and powered on all night, so the battery was dead when I woke up in the morning (design flaw much!?) and went to grab it for the Decemberists show. This long aside, you see, is basically meant to explain to you why I failed to get any pictures of this totally memorable and awesome event. It's because I'm an idiot. But I met a nice chap in line who also works in internet radio and he had a really expensive looking camera with him and I saw him snapping some shots so maybe some shots will appear online eventually and of course I'll link you to them then.

When a band strips down their sound for performances like these, it can be disastrous and it can be transcendent and it often oscillates between the two throughout the set. While I wouldn't say that any particular moment in this particular set was bad, there were certainly moments that were less good than others. But this is a softball blog and far be it from me to pick on a band for trying. The great moments were indeed, GREAT. The quite-reworked "Song for Myla Goldberg" was the unquestionable highlight; it came off like a song they've done acoustic many times before and had perfected in that setting. "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" was also great. Another aside: they have "Yankee" spelled wrong on their own official site!

I'm not sure how these things work...whether the show was recorded for possible iTunes release in the future or what. If it ever is, I'd say the whole show is worth the buy for a big fan, and "Myla Goldberg" is worth the buy for anyone save for the most adamant Decemberist haterist.

The setlist (maybe in the wrong order, but almost surely the right songs):
1. July, July!
2. We Both Go Down Together
3. The Perfect Crime 2
4. Song For Myla Goldberg
5. Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)
6. O, Valencia!

The Crane Wife Picaresque Her Majesty Castaways and Cutouts


Rooftop Suicide Club as an animated .gif

Rooftop Suicide Club is a band (not a real club) from Massachussetts. They put out a great record last year called Always Like This that I still play once in a while, and they've got some pretty promising demos up on their myspace page that would indicate their best work is still ahead of them. If you ever listen to this radio station you are familiar with "Captivated" and "Boston," both of which you can download from myspace.

Rooftop Suicide Club - Arizona (mp3, right click to download)
(One more free download available at their label's site.)


Close. But no cigar.

This year's ARIA Award for Best Pop Release went to the Veronicas, instead of our beloved and deserving Josh Pyke. To even be nominated though is a real accomplishment, and Josh will be too busy with his UK Tour with Ben Kweller (go to the shows section) and the upcoming 2007 release of Memories and Dust to dwell on it too long. Onwards and upwards.

Feeding the Wolves


Sowing Season

The first single from Brand New's forthcoming record The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (see the full tracklist) will be "Sowing Season (Yeah)." If you're one of the callous scofflaws that downloaded the leaked Brand New demos a while back, track 8 of that demo would eventually evolve into "Sowing Season (Yeah)."

A quick google search on a slow day yielded this short story by one Thomas O'Malley, titled "The Sowing Season." It's a quick read and I quite enjoyed it.

The best kind of blog posts are the ones that propagate unsubstantiated rumors, so here's something for you to chew on: Thomas O'Malley is a professor at the University of Missouri. Brand New recorded this record at Sweet Tea in Oxford, Mississippi. Both states start with "Miss." So Jesse Lacey almost definitely read this story and named the song after it. You read it here first.

If you preorder the record, you'll get a copy of the single for free, with an exclusive b-side called "Coca Cola." I did it.

***UPDATE*** you can now stream "Sowing Season" at myspace.


th dvl nd gd r rgng nsd m

According to the band's Wikipedia entry (although qualified with the speculation disclaimer) Brand New's latest record will be called The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Here's the (supposed) tracklisting:

1. Sowing Season (Yeah)
2. Millstone
3. Jesus Christ
4. Degausser
5. Limousine
6. You Won't Know
7. Welcome to Bangkok
8. Not the Sun
9. Luca
10. Untitled
11. Archers
12. Handcuffs

According to the band's own site, it'll be released November 21st.

All the blood just rushed out of my head.


Josh Pyke - Memories and Dust video

Boy are things going well lately for our friend Josh Pyke. He's nominated for a "Best Pop Release" ARIA Award for Feeding The Wolves. Think Grammy, only Australian. Also nominated in that category: Ben Lee, The Veronicas.

AND, he's got a new record on the way. The first single is the title track, "Memories and Dust." It's really quite beautiful, if I do say so myself (and I do). Here's the video:

Oh yeah, and he's also currently on tour in the UK with The Walkmen. No big deal.


Brand New - Webster Hall, 7/28/06

First, an admission of guilt. Almost always, I like to try to get to shows early enough to see every band that's playing. Sure, you sit through some stinkers that way, but I've also discovered some of my favorite bands by seeing them open shows. But at Webster Hall, doors open at 6:30 for shows because they have to end early enough for the venue to go Optimus-Prime and transform into a dance club until whatever ungodly hour those kids get tired. And I wasn't able to get there until around 8. Let's just say it involved some liverwurst sandwiches. I don't want to talk about it.

So I saw two bands. I don't even really know if there had been one on before I got there or they just made those poor emo kids wait a couple hours before the music started.

Colour Revolt, from Mississippi, was, put briefly, pretty rad. Loud, but melodic. 3 guitars. Screaming. And a kick-ass drummer. A++++++ EXCELLENT EBAYER WOULD DO BIZ WITH AGAIN!!!

And, during Colour Revolt's last song, they were joined on stage by the guys from Brand New. The last night of a tour is the best night to see a tour, for reasons like this. Garrett (bass) maintained his reputation for being the absolute weirdo in the band by wearing a silver mexican wrestling mask. One time that guy handed me my ASS in beer-pong. I don't want to talk about that either.

Ok, so Brand New. Since I'm a borderline lame-o fan-boy, I'm going to skip the "review" part to spare you the blubbering, and just list the highlights:

  • An acoustic verse from "Ziggy Stardust." Most of the audience looked confused.

  • Guitars thrown EVERYWHERE.

  • A trashed drumset before the end of the show (one of the flying guitars).

  • The announcement at the beginning of the 5 song encore: "We're called Brand New. The show begins now."

  • A solo, mellowed out, and seemingly unplanned version of "Jude Law and a Semester Abroad."

  • While the band seemed to trod perfunctorily through some of the older stuff, they really seemed to come to life with the new songs they played, and their energy transferred right over to a crowd that's been starving for a new record for years. It's not always the case that the new/unknown music is the best part of the show. This time it was.

  • This one really might be me being crazy: I know Jesse Lacey loves Springsteen, just like me. Before one song he stood up on stage and said "How you all doing tonight? [cheers] That's good. [more cheers] This is...uh..." in the exact same tone/cadence the Boss uses at the beginning of "The River" on the Live 75-85 set. It was too uncanny to have been an accident. And as I've often said, who better to imitate than Bruce? Nobody, that's who.

It wasn't a perfect show. There were some potty guys to my right who WOULD NOT STOP YELLING SONG NAMES, which is basically the douchiest thing you can do (and if you're the type of guy who does that, kindly punch yourself in the face). And it was hot as hell in there. But man, oh man, was it good.

Look for a new record from Brand New this fall. It's been a long time coming. And if this show was any indication, it should be worth the wait.

Your Favorite Weapon Deja Entendu


Josh Pyke is in the big leagues now, baby.

Big news from the Josh Pyke camp today: Josh's debut LP, Memories & Dust will be released not only on the venerable Ivy League Records in Australia, but will be released worldwide by Island/Universal (UK)! From the Josh Pyke Newsletter:

Ivy League Records has just inked a deal with Island/Universal (UK) for the worldwide release of Sydney songsmith Josh Pyke's debut album 'Memories & Dust'.

Josh was personally signed by newly appointed Managing Director of Island (UK), Dan Keeling, who made his mark signing global superstars Coldplay.

Josh is currently completing work on 'Memories & Dust' with in-demand producer Wayne Connolly, and it promises to be one very special record.

The landscape of music distribution has changed dramatically (to say the least) in the past few years with the Internet offering up new heroes day in and day out without the backing of the behemoth marketing budgets of the majors, but that doesn't mean it doesn't help a whole lot to break out of your own scene and onto the global one to have some deep pockets in your corner. For an act trying to go worldwide from Down Under, this is huge. Amazingly so.

And how about Dan Keeling and Wayne Connolly? Not bad names to have in your Rolodex. Dan's credentials are laid out before you with the Coldplay bit, and Wayne has produced records for The Vines and Australian favorites Youth Group (who you might've seen open recently for Death Cab for Cutie), among others.

So, heartfelt congratulations from your friends at PulverRadio, Josh. We always knew you had it. Don't forget us when you're dining on caviar with Jay Z.

(Check out Josh's interview/performance from our studios last year here. And expect to hear new stuff from him on PulverRadio by the end of the summer.)


Jaymay is doing well for herself

Here I was thinking Jaymay had a nice following in New York City and hoping that I could do my little part to spread the word beyond. And then I hear that she's got a banner in the Folk section of the iTunes Music Store, and that her record is in the top 10 there. So I guess she's bigger than I thought, though I'm not really surprised.

It's really gratifying to see people embracing good music. So much of the best stuff remains below the radar. And I have to assume that good old fashioned word of mouth (amplified by the newfangled internets) is responsible for her success thusfar, and to a guy like me, that's deeply encouraging.

If you haven't heard Jaymay on PulverRadio yet, you're probably not listening all that much. WTF, guy. So listen a lot more. And go right now to her myspace page and check out her stuff. She's quite good.

(Note: you can download "You Are The Only One I Love" there, which was recorded the first night I saw Jaymay, which was by accident, at The Living Room. She was on before Josh Pyke. New York rules like that. After Jaymay and Josh Pyke a little jazz trio got up and then Norah Jones got up on stage and sang a few songs with them in a hoodie in front of about 20 people.)


Josh Pyke - Live at PulverRadio 5/26/05

click here for mp3.
runtime: about 20 minutes

I'd been following Josh closely when he was going by the name Night Hour, and I was so excited when I heard he was coming to New York for a few weeks, and when I found out he'd have the time to stop by my studio, I just about lost it. It's not every day I get to have really cool people play in the studio, especially really cool people from the other side of the world. Josh played 4 songs (two very new ones) and he sounded truly fantastic. Setlist follows:

The Doldrums
Middle of the Hill
Kids Don't Sell Their Hopes So Fast
Fill You In

Feeding the Wolves