Josh Ritter is cool

The Responsibility Project
Josh Ritter has been publishing a blog for a little while now about the process of becoming a successful touring musician, which I've found to be a great read.  He's honest about the work, talent, and luck required, which is important when your audience is likely comprised of many who simply won't make it, but more importantly he's charming and reading it has really elevated him in my mind from singer-I-like status to man-I-admire status.  This video is short and a little hokey, but it gave me the same sense anyway.

While I'm at it and since I probably won't get around to doing a full end-of-year post since there just wasn't that much I fell in love with this year, I'm going to call So Runs the World Away my favorite record of 2010.  There, I said it..


The Decemberists are so good

Surely you've read by now somewhere more relevant that The Decemberists have a new record coming out January 18th and that they'll be touring to support it of course thank God. Tickets are on sale here, and they've even added a second show at the Beacon Theater in NYC in case you're a slowpoke and didn't get tickets to the first one in time. Go go go go go.

Purchase "Down by the Water", the first single from The King is Dead:


It's definitely not cool to do this anymore but...

Last Leaf

OK Go | Myspace Music Videos

OK Go continues to make videos that are hard to watch without wanting to share. And the song, this time, I think is pretty nice too.


Hellogoodbye return

Hellogoodbye have a new record coming out November 9th, and if the lead single "When We First Met" is any indication, fans can expect the shift from quirky dancepop to dancy quirkpop to just plain warm'n'fuzzy quirkpop to continue as it has from their debut EP to Z!A!V!D!.  I'll set the over-under for must-include-on-a-teenage-mixtape songs on this record at 3.


Bad Books - You Wouldn't Have To Ask (mp3)

This makes two posts in a row on my neglected blog about Bad Books, but when I posted the first time there weren't any (legit) downloads available, and now there are. Click the link below for a download of "You Wouldn't Have To Ask," and then head over to facebook.com/badbooksmusic to stream another (even cooler, IMHO) song: "Please Move."

Download Bad Books - You Wouldn't Have To Ask (mp3)


Kevin Devine + Manchester Orchestra = Bad Books

Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra's Kevin Hull started writing songs together basically to kill time, but as these things often do when they're good, their on-a-whim collaboration has evolved into something you can buy, and, if you're like me, enjoy. They're calling the band (and the record) Bad Books, and you can buy the record in October.

More importantly in the immediate future, tickets for a very short run of shows are going on sale Wednesday 8/18 at noon. That's tomorrow, if you're reading this when I'm writing it. I don't expect they'll last long, so you might want to find a way to make yourself available to grab tickets online right when they go on sale.

More info:


Kevin Devine's evolution is...complete.

Kevin Devine, Mary Poppins, and I agree. A teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down. Bad news delivered by a dancing bearded skinny guy in sequined tights? I'll take two!


Josh Ritter - Rattling Locks video

Josh Ritter's So Runs The World Away is the best record so far to come out in 2010, and if you're in NYC this weekend (I, unfortunately, am not) you can go to just about the coolest place on earth (Governor's Island) and see just about the best concert you'll see this summer (Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band, duh) for FREE.  Just make sure you get your act together early, so you're not waiting in line for the ferry while he's on stage.  In fact, go there first thing in the morning and spend the day wandering around.  You can thank me later.

Details here.


Emmett and Mary - S/T

I find myself writing on here fairly often about Johnstown, PA, considering that I've never been there.  It's the My Idea of Fun collective that calls that Johnstown home.  They're always up to something interesting there.  Over a year ago I wrote a bit about Emmett and Mary's S/T, which will finally see the light of day in September.  I wrote about the project's ambition: it's a folk-rock opera based on a series of stories by Christopher S. Bell, performed by an enormous cast, and recorded in a bedroom with "several corrupted PC's, Cool Edit Pro Cracked and Licensed to Peter Quistgard, and one single Sound Professional Binaural Microphone."  That last bit will seem more impressive once you hear it.  It sounds oh so very big.  And yet, it was done so small-ly.

Anyway, now that it's finally being released, I wanted to cycle back to it one more time, and encourage you to take a minute and listen to the finished product.  Two tracks, "The Summer's Pull" and "Surveying Relations", are available for download from the My Idea of Fun site.  I haven't read the books and damned if I can figure out what the hell's going on from the lyrics, but I don't think that's the point.  It's fun, and the realization of what must have seemed at the time and honestly still kinda seems like a crazy idea.  Check it out.


Adam Haworth Stephens - The Cities That You've Burned

Adam Haworth Stephens is one half of Two Gallants.  More relevant to this post, he's putting out a record all on his own, called We Live on Cliffs.  As you might guess, it sounds a lot like Two Gallants (or at least the lead single"The Cities That You've Burned" does.  That is, unequivocally, a good thing.

This here fancydoodle widget'll letcha yank yer own copy down from th' ether:


Anberlin - Impossible (video)

Anberlin - Impossible from Publicity on Vimeo.

One time I met a guy at a party who did music videos and ended up in a Rufio video the following weekend. It was just something that happened. But it was fun because the song was called "Out of Control" so the video didn't have to make any excuses for being completely batshit crazy. Those guys had also done an Anberlin video for "A Day Late" that I thought was super cool. But I digress.

I don't know who made this video for Anberlin's latest single, but whoever it was seems to have perfected the slow-motion ball bearing spiral. Maybe it was Magneto. Probably.

Anberlin's Impossible comes out July 27th.


Railbird continues to impress

I managed to duck into Railbird's set at the Living Room last night, and if there's any band I'm listening to right now that's perched (see what I did there) on the threshold of a great record, it's these guys.  There is so much talent on stage when they play that I spent most of their set last night slack-jawed and shaking my head.  Thing is, their recordings to date have yet to do their live show justice.  If the record they're working on now doesn't turn heads, it won't be the fault of the songwriting, or the playing.  I'm gonna pin it on Jeremy Gustin, their producer.  He's got all the clay a sculptor could ever want.

You've got 2 more Wednesdays this month to see them.



The Chap - We Work In Bars

The Chap split their time between London and Berlin. Or maybe some of them live in the former and the others the latter. Or maybe there's a city called London/Berlin somewhere. Probably not that one though.  They've been around for a while, and once in a while an mp3 of theirs crosses my desk. I could have sworn I'd written about them before and/or posted a song, but apparently not.

So...here's "We Work In Bars" from The Chap's upcoming Well Done Europe -- their fourth. It's about exactly what the title says it's about: working in bars. It's poppy, quirky, and fun, and if you're like me you'll end up playing it more than once.

The Chap - We Work In Bars (mp3)


How To Destroy Angels

Trent Reznor's newest project is, unsurprisingly to those who've followed his web activity for the past few years, available for free download in incredibly high quality (and, of course, DRM-free).

It's not NIN (that's a girl singing!), but Trent's new project with his wife Mariqueen Maandig still sounds very Reznor. And all it'll cost you is a valid email. Go go go go.



New Arcade Fire

A. The Suburbs
AA. Month of May

Josh Ritter - Town Hall, 5/18/10

Josh Ritter's latest, So Runs The World Away is mind-bogglingly good. It's his first record released on his own label, and it showcases a breadth that followers of his have always known was there in a way that it hasn't yet been revealed on recordings. His storytelling is unparalleled (see the video above for proof), and his nods to the folk music that came before him made my first time listen one of the most engaging experiences I've had with a record in a long time.

An example: there's a murderer in "Folk Bloodbath" named Stagger Lee (or Stack O'Lee, as Josh pronounces it). "Hey!" I though to myself, "Nick Cave has a song about him. Is Josh Ritter tipping his hat to Nick Cave?" Not really, as it turns out. Stagger Lee was an actual guy who actually killed someone and died in prison, but he's also been a fixture in folk music for a long time. I spent at least an hour reading all about him and the people who've sang about him. This educational journey brought to you by Josh Ritter (and Nick Cave).

So, the show. It was amazing. Truly. I sat in the back row in the balcony, just about as far as one can be from the stage at Town Hall (which still isn't very far) and I don't think I stopped grinning throughout the entire set. The songs from the new record sounded amazing as played by Josh's bandmates for the tour, The Royal City Band, and he played all the old songs you'd hope he'd play (with one major exception) and a bunch of great stuff that I didn't expect.  Apparently he covered Springsteen's "The River" the next night in Boston, but it's probably best that he didn't do that in NYC, since my heart might just have stopped out of pure joy. We did get a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel #2" (went kinda like this), during which you the otherwise rowdy audience offered nary a cough.  There was a "Wicked Game" cover-as-breakdown, too.

I've put way too many links in this post.  Sorry about that.  Here are two more, both of which you should definitely click on:

Josh Ritter's big ol' tour (US and Ireland).
Josh Ritter's recent Daytrotter session (free music).


Railbird - Bowery Ballroom, 5/17/10

One of my favorite things in the world is watching the progress of a band as it finds its way. I had the chance to catch back up with Railbird the other night at a sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom, opening for their hometown friends Phantogram.  As it was an opening slot, timing was tight, but the shortened set was enough to showcase a band that continues to reinvent itself, hone its chops, and refine its sound.

I hate classifying shit, so I won't, but I will tell you that even if you checked Railbird out the first few times I wrote about them and decided it wasn't your thing, you should circle back. They rock even harder now; they're experimenting with the range of sounds you can make with more musicians on stage, and Sarah Pedinotti's writing continues to get better and better. There were multiple times in their short set that they hit grooves I just plain didn't want to end. 

Give a listen here, but this is a band you should see for yourself.  And guess what, you lucky dog, you.  They'll be at The Living Room every Wednesday in June.  I'll see you there.


Our Lady Peace doing the play-the-whole album thing

...but only in Canada.  For now, anyway.  They're doing 2-night stays at each venue they hit, playing Clumsy and Spiritual Machines in their entirety, then playing sets of new material immediately following.  My 16 year old self just squee'd a little.

ourladypeace.net for details, if you're Canadian.


"It's a great time to get off the Titanic"

OK Go's Damian Kulash wrote an Op-Ed in the NYT back in February lamenting EMI's draconian YouTube policies, and in doing so piqued the interest of NPR's Planet Money crew, who posted an interview with him last week.  It's about economics, which nobody does better than Planet Money, but it's also about the never-ending death spiral of the major label, which would be old news by now if Damian didn't explain it so deftly.

Planet Money is awesome and you should listen all the time anyway, but you should especially listen to this one.


The Confusions - I Won't Be Sober When This Is Over

I've been paying attention to The Confusions since they uploaded some tracks to my erstwhile meal ticket, pulverradio.com (may it rest in peace), circa 2004. Since then, they've been steadily but quietly (to the observer in New York, far from their native Sweden) putting out some really good songs, The best of which I've tried to post here when I've become aware of them.  I've never seen them live, or spoken with them, although I have done some emailing with lead singer Mikael Andersson-Knut. Anyway, this latest video, for "I Won't Be Sober When This Is Over," from the A Permanent Marker record, is pretty cool, in my expert opinion.


Shout Out Louds - Fall Harder (video)

Shout Out Louds - Fall Hard from Merge Records on Vimeo.

Shout Out Louds will be touring North America in May (dates below). They're also playing a one-off show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on March 1, but that shit is sold out, son.

As for the record, it's called Work, and it comes out in February. They're giving away another song, "Walls," on their website. And they're not even asking you to make up an email address to get it. Nice.

02 May - Washington, 9:30 Club
03 May - Philadelphia, First Unitarian Church
05 May - New York, Webster Hall
06 May - Boston, Paradise
07 May - Montreal, Cabaret Music Hall
08 May - Toronto, Mod Club
10 May - Chicago, Lincoln Hall
11 May - Minneapolis, Varsity Theater
14 May - Vancouver, Commodore Ballroom
15 May - Seattle, Neumos
16 May - Portland, Doug Fir
18 May - San Francisco, Great American Music Hall
20 May - San Diego, House of Blues
21 May - Los Angeles, El Rey