Jaymay - Autumn Fallin'

It's tough to know where to start a review of a record that I already promised would be good before I heard it. But fact of the matter is that although I've already written copious amounts of praise about Jaymay, I still don't feel as though I've done justice to my fondness for what it is that she does.

Autumn Fallin' is, for longtime fans of the bi-continental songstress, exactly what we've been waiting for: something to wave about in the air* as proof for any hold-out nonbelievers that we were right along.
I'm with another boy; he's asleep, I'm wide awake
And he tried to win my heart, but it's takin'...time
Whenever I try to introduce someone new to Jaymay, it's that line, from "Gray Or Blue," that I fixate upon. There's a paragraph of text in that pause. I'm not sure I've come across another song in my life that says so much in a breath. It kills me every time.

...He tried to win my heart but it's taken. No! It's taking time. You're losing me, slowly. You could have me if you came for me now. Later, you won't be able to. You're the one I really want, but I won't hang around forever...

Shit, she's good.

And she doesn't disappoint at all on this record. "Sycamore Down," "Ill Willed Person," and the title track are fresh evidence that the depth of the Sea Green, See Blue EP (where the Autumn Fallin' versions of "Gray Or Blue" and its own title track first appeared) was no fluke. Long-prognosticated studio versions of live favorites "Blue Skies" and "You Are The Only One I Love" -- like new haircuts on old friends -- take some getting used to, but in the end are just as lovable as their minimalist counterparts. These five songs are must-haves. You must have them.

Even still, Jaymay's lyrics, and the playful, lilting cadence with which she delivers them, aren't all that make her worthy of your undivided attention. There are also, for example, her playful arrangements that have only gotten more boisterous as recording capabilities have increased (she really wears her Dylan influence on her sleeve in the 10 mins of just-because-I-can oom-pah that make up "You'd Rather Run**") . Then there's the quirky scat/human-trumpet break that follows directly after in "Hard To Say". What's not to love?

Hell, you'll probably find ten things on the record that resonate with you that I've passed over. If I've convinced you to give it a listen at all, then I've done my job. And I hope when you do, you'll let me know. I reserve this level of evangelism for a precious few artists (cough), to whose music I feel a very personal affinity. Telling me you agree would be like handing me the last ice cream sandwich.

BTW, Jaymay's playing the Mercury Lounge on 12/12, right after (swear to God) some guy from Vertical Horizon. She can't be found in New York too often these days...you'd be a fool to miss her.

* Figuratively, of course, since you can't exactly wave .mp3s around in the air and who buys CDs anymore?
** I'm a big fan of Amazon's download service, that's why I keep linking there. No DRM, high quality mp3, etc. If it's not on eMusic, Amazon's the way to go for sure. But seriously, guys, $1.94 for a song? Sure, it's 9:51 long, but honestly...this is why variable pricing is bullshit.


Endless Mike and the Beagle Club, Drew & the Medicinal Pen - Brooklyn Tea Party, 11/25/07

The Brooklyn Tea Party is located at 175 Stockholm St. in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the Tea Factory Building. We are four people and one cat. All of the people make music. The cat is a cat. We do shows for our friends in the city and from out of town, fun get-togethers for people we love and respect. We can't make you famous, but we can share our warmth with you. All shows at our house cost $3-5 for touring bands and general upkeep. Here are some ground rules we'd like you to follow at shows:
1. Pay the Bands
2. Respect Chuck Noblitt
3. Don't drink what you didn't buy (w/o asking)
4. Smoke on the roof, drink in the house
5. Don't fuck up our stuff (materialist as it may seem, we like our house and we like having shows, and would hate to not have either).
I wish I had more self control in metering out lavish praise. I wish I had the foresight to hold back and just say something is good, not always great. That way, I'd have a better arsenal of words with which to call your attention to something really special, when something special comes around. What I'm saying, I guess, is that I wish I had a bunker-buster to cut through the 30 feet of concrete bullshit you've already come across on the Internet today, and tell you (again and again) that if Endless Mike and the Beagle Club aren't on your radar, you need to turn in your Rad Club card immediately. I wish that you could have been where I was Sunday night. I wish you could have seen what I saw.

The Brooklyn Tea Party (as you've probably surmised) is a loft. People live in it. There are beds and a kitchen, and it smells sweat, beer, and hot soup. As is the nature of a loft, it has high ceilings. But the bedrooms have low ceilings, a few feet lower than the real ceiling, so guests can climb ladders to sit on the roofs of the bedrooms for better views of the permanently installed stage. It's super cool and you absolutely must check it out.

Endless Mike and the Beagle Club played 3 new songs that night, 2 of which I can remember the name of, all 3 of which were excellent. This is the part I was talking about above with the whole bunker-buster thing. There were lyrical moments in both "Oxygen Tank" and "56" that floored me. I wish that in describing them, I could pay that flooring forward. But I can't. So I'll just ask you to please remember that I told you so when you get your chance to hear this stuff next year. The other new song was much louder and the PA couldn't hang tough enough with the guitar amps, so I couldn't hear the words. It definitely rocked though.

God, this band is so good. They're so good that I can't even write intelligently about them. This is all blah, blah, blah. Oh, here's something! Johnstown, PA's My Idea Of Fun artist collective has a great recording of the endless Mike Miller playing all of The Husky Tenor solo with an acoustic guitar. It's a cool take on a great record, and you can download it for free here. It's called Endless Mike vs. The Beagle Club.


As has become the custom when The Beagle Club plays Brooklyn, Drew & the Medicinal Pen was on hand as well. With the exception of "Hole in my Sail," his set was entirely new to me. And not just because of the new songs, but because this show was only the 2nd show he played with his new band. Dream, Dream, Fail, Repeat hasn't left heavy rotation around here since I got my hands on it, but having now sampled some of what might comprise Drew & the Medicinal Pen's future recorded output, I'm already chomping at the bit for a follow-up.

Addendum: there's a girl named Kathleen who calls herself boy, who started playing right after I showed up at the loft. She made everyone stand up, pack around her real close in the center of the room, and proceeded to coax people into singing along to songs they'd (or at least I'd) never heard before. There's a video of her performing somewhere else for many less people embedded below, but it loses something in the not-being-there. Check out some more produced stuff on her myspace to get a better idea of what she's capable of. And check out the guest vocal on "Feathers."

Another Addendum: Brook Pridemore played as well that night, but because it was getting late and the crowd was staying noisy, he played on the roof. I opted out of the open air finale, mostly because I think I have pneumonia. I like his stuff too, though.


Touring Rock Band

rock band tour schedule
Clear your calendar and reschedule your girlfriend's birthday dinner, boy, because you've got somewhere else to be.

The video game business is good these days. Really good. The moneymen in the marketing department don't even need to read the proposals they sign off on too carefully anymore apparently. That's why Halo 3 got a soft drink, and that's why, in what can only be described as an unspired (see what I did there) game marketing maneuver, Rock Band is attempting a "tour" to promote its new rhythm game. Oh I know, me too.
Rock Band outfitted tour rigs will spread across the country on a 24 city tour – from California to Cleveland, Atlanta to Arizona and everywhere in between – to give music fans the chance to play on a full concert style stage with all of the lights and monster sound systems they’re used to seeing at a classic arena rock concert. Whether consumers are instrument experts or gear rookies, everyone will get a chance to rock with Rock Band.
Although I don't understand why anyone would prefer picking up a fake guitar to a real one, I try to accept it. But if people actually show up to be spectators at this kind of thing -- to see shut-ins with fluorescent tans "rock out" on stage with guitar-shaped controllers -- I'm going into seclusion.


This Sunday night.

Click the poster to enlarge, but here's the pertinent info:
Sunday, 11/25.
175 Stockholm Street, Brooklyn.
Endless Mike and the Beagle Club
Drew and the Medicinal Pen
Naughty Naughty Nurses
Brook Pridemore

Not even Halo 3 will be able to keep me away from this party. You should think hard about coming along as well.


The Hold Steady live webcast tonight

A bit last-minute, but if you're going to be around your computer tonight around 8:30 EST, why not stream The Hold Steady's performance in Washington, D.C.? Seriously, give me one good reason why not. Art Brut opens the show.

And if that's not enough Hold Steady on Art Brut action for you, check out this Pitchfork transcript of Craig Finn and Eddie Argos talking about...stuff.


Prince - PFunk

prince played basketball
I absolutely did not bother writing about it when Prince (or someone representing him) tried to stop the Internet from using his likeness, name, or symbol-as-name. Mostly because I like the guy, and I couldn't tell if the whole to-do was even real. Idolator did like Idolator does, so if you're totally in the dark re: the backstory, you should just read about it there.

The denoument, if you will, is Prince giving away^ this 7 minute ripper of a track. As mea culpa? Regardless, it rules.

Prince - PFunk

* Okay, so I can't actually find confirmation on 3121.com (Prince's site) that this song is free to download, but it's HOSTED there, so I'm gonna go ahead and assume it's cool.


Movies about music

Saw two music biopics this weekend at the IFC Center, and left both with a sense of bemused surprise. Surprise that I liked (nay, loved) one more than I expected to, and surprise that the other left me fairly cold.

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a 2-hour montage of interview clips, personal accounts, and distracting animations that, in the end, accomplishes little more than namedropping some of Joe's more impressive friends. It's nice to see John Cusack, Flea, and Bono around a campfire waxing rhapsodic about Joe's finer qualities, but the film fails to truly capture the essence of what Strummer and The Clash meant to rock and roll, or to penetrate the more interesting subtleties of Joe's character. Almost without fail, interesting bits (like the then-unknown Sex Pistols opening for Strummer's pre-Clash band The 101'ers) are glossed over, and what little narrative continuity the movie does have is constantly interrupted with barely relevant Big-Brother-is-watching-you clips and borderline unintelligible off-the-cuff testimonials.

It's not all bad: there are a few neat insights into some of Strummer's more opaque lyrics (wtf is "Rock the Casbah" about?), and some of the old clips of The Clash on stage are worth the price of admission alone. But when it was all over, I walked out of the theater lamenting the film's unevenness and wondering why Steve Buscemi got so much screen time.

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (trailer above) was another story altogether. It might very well have been the best film I've seen yet this year, and is absolutely the first during which I have ever shed a tear (just one, but still). I don't expect this will ever see wide release, but if you can't get to a theater that's showing it, you owe it to yourself to save it on Netflix now so that you can put it in your queue when it becomes available.

Although there are occasionally awkward reminders of the unavoidable fluffiness of the film resulting from Seeger's own participation in its production, the film succeeds in telling the extraordinary story of a man so certain of the power of music to move people that for him, it actually does. With some really great testimonials sprinkled liberally in (Springsteen cautions that the blacklisting of an artist like Seeger is never too far off when the administration in power is given to personal attacks on its detractors) The Power of Song is all-at-once nostalgic, poignant, inspiring, and inspired. I'm not a film critic, but for what it's worth, I'm calling this an absolute must-see. For what else it's worth, the critics agree.

green-shifting Stars

green Stars
Stars is the latest in a growing list of bands teaming up with the Maine-based organization Reverb to make their fall tour as green as possible. Reverb (started by Gusterrhoid Adam Gardner and his environmentalist wife Lauren Sullivan) helps bands to mount big, bad tours with as little environmental impact as possible, offering services that range from recycling guitar strings to supplying biodiesel for buses and vans.

With the help of the sale of offset-buying stickers ($5 suggested donation) Stars' fall tour aims to be carbon neutral when all is said and done.

The music touring business isn't going anywhere soon, and it's encouraging to see big bands and small bands taking a hard look at the way their business impacts the environment. If only all businesses were so conscientious...

For more about Reverb, check out this NYT article or this profile on TreeHugger.

UNKLE - Hold My Hand video

For fear of giving UNKLE too much attention lately I was all set not to post this video. Until I watched it. Some bands just never miss with videos. UNKLE is one of them.

War Stories is out now. Download a megamix of the album for free (until the link expires) here.


Jaymay - Sycamore Down

Jaymay's long awaited record Autumn Fallin' comes out in just under 2 weeks (at least in the UK), and I'm only now having my first listen to "Sycamore Down" (hear it at myspace.com/jaymay). It's times like this that I wish I wasn't so prone to hyperbole, because artists like Jaymay deserve praise unencumbered by all my past cries of "wolf." Please go listen to "Sycamore Down" for yourself.

In the age of In Rainbows and Niggy Tardust, I'm considering shelling out the $33 to import it, rather than wait any longer than I have to to own this record. That's how good I know it's going to be.

*UPDATE: I guess I can wait an extra week or so and just get it in the US. Autumn Fallin' comes out stateside on 11/27. Here's Amazon's mp3 download page. Or you know, just waltz into a record store on the 27th and buy it that way. No skin off my back.

Josh Pyke gets his ARIA

I'm very late on the news, so let's be clear about what's happening here: I'm only bothering to post this in order to gloat. Josh Pyke took home an ARIA Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album. I understand that's the Australian equivalent of winning a Grammy, so it's simultaneously a pretty big deal and completely meaningless. But I'd imagine that once one gets to the point in one's career that nominations for these things* start coming along, it's nice to win one. So congratulations, Josh.

The gloating: Back in may of 2005, before Josh's first EP Feeding the Wolves came out, and only just after he began playing under his own name and not his original moniker Night Hour, I was lucky enough to have Josh Pyke play in my studio at PulverRadio on his first visit to New York. 4 songs, interspersed with what seems to me now to be a fairly pedestrian interview on my end. But he was GREAT then, and he's only gotten better. It's no surprise he's finding the success he's found Down Under.

So the point is, I can pick 'em. It only took two and a half years for Josh to go from playing in my studio to playing on the red carpet outside an awards show that I understand Nicole Kidman attended. And then winning an award inside. So when I tell you to keep your eyes on Endless Mike and the Beagle Club or Jaymay, you should do it. It's only a matter of time.

* This wasn't Josh's first nomination, but last time he lost.