Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The upside is that a lot of terrific artists who might have labored in obscurity making af few bucks a night playing bars are now laboring in semi-obscurity making a few more bucks a night by selling downloads and merch online in between playing bars.
The downside is, the market is flooded. Here at the Vault, we get a ton of independent discs in the mail every week, and while we love to discover new artists and feature independent music whenever we can, honestly, about 75% of what comes in is seriously flawed in one way or another. It's an act that doesn't have a voice or style of its own or anything original to say or an exciting or engaging way of saying it, or even a reasonably professional recording. It's self-indulgent, it's amateurish, and sometimes it's just plain bad.
That said, my last three published reviews have all been of terrific, lovingly crafted work by artists who are either self-releasing or on a small indie label. So please, ignore the glut of marginal material and enjoy these three indie gems:
- Fractures by Last Charge Of The Light Horse. Like a ten-years-after sequel to Springsteen's Tunnel Of Love; a superbly crafted song cycle about troubled relationships and the daily search for hope and redemption.
- Time Travel Made Easy by Spiraling. Fountains Of Wayne meet H.G. Wells in this brilliantly executed concept album full of clever riffs, retro synths and singalong choruses.
- Today by Mike Zito. Simply the best electric blues album I've heard in a long time, full of Stevie Ray Vaughan grit mixed with John Mayer melodicism and John Hiatt self-awareness.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
"I Should've Been After You"
Calling The World
Retro-rock has been one of the driving forces behind popular music for a few years now; I might argue it began with the garage rock revival of the early 00's, but that's just a personal opinion. Point is, a great deal of bands these days seek to emulate the sound/style of their elders. Some do this better than others.
I couldn't tell you much about Rooney as a band, apparently they have a decent reputation and I believe one of the members is the brother of a member of the band Phantom Planet. Their pop/rock sensibilities are impeccable however, and that shines through on "I Should've Been After You."
This track contains elements of Queen, Genesis, with a dash of Boston to boot. It is quite the summer song, oozing charisma and energy from every pore. This track really hearkens back to the days when bands used to actually release singles, and that in turn meant something to the consumer. This is a song meant to be spinning on a turntable somewhere during 1976. Perfect example of a song to download for a dollar; more than worth it.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
You're The One
This quirky number comes to the masses from Simon's 2000 disc You're The One. After a decade that saw no traditional release from Rhymin' Simon, he saw fit to return to his roots...in a matter of speaking.
One can definitely hear the influences of the South African/World music that Simon has utilized throughout his career; but it has lost some of it's charm and uniqueness. Still, the production/musicianship is ten times better than anything you would hear on Top 20 radio.
No, this song loses points on performance of Simon himself. Lyrically, the allegory between Pigs, Sheep, and Wolves and mankind has been made before (In fact I think there's been an album dedicated to it....). Simon's odd vocals don't help matters much; to be frank it sounds as if he decided to lazily toss these off at 9 at night when he was bored and tired. He does this now and then, the worst example being his vocals on "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" from the Simon & Garfunkel live record Old Friends.
Paul Simon has a decidedly hit or miss solo career; this particular song qualifies as a miss.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Liars Club has been making noise in and out of New York over the last year. Last summer, they embarked on a seven-city East Coast tour that included stops in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, Wilmington and Nashville. The band has opened for singer-songwriter Gary Jules (“Mad World,” Donnie Darko soundtrack) and Cubeta has performed solo on two occasions in support of former Pushstars lead singer Chris Trapper. In December, Cubeta released the spectacular Change EP to a packed crowd at The Living Room. The band has also drawn big crowds at some of the city’s most lively rooms including Rockwood Music Hall, Pianos, Crash Mansion, The Bitter End and Trash.
This is the first-ever residency for The Liars Club at The Living Room. Sets will include special guests and promotions. The Living Room is at 154 Ludlow between Stanton and Rivington in the heart of Manhattan’s Lower East Side (take the J or F to Delancey -- phone number is 212-533-7235). For more information, contact band manager Danny Lanzetta at 914-475-8070 or at dlanzetta[at]galuminumfoil.com.
Most of all -- if you can possibly help it, don't miss these shows. If I lived within a thousand miles of NYC, you can bet I wouldn't.
And the inaugural song to break in “Jeff’s Quick Picks” is……Kenny Rogers? What were the odds in Vegas on that one? Well, I promised to be indiscriminate, and indiscriminate I shall be!
The Gambler is one of Roger’s most famous albums, if not his most famous. It provided him with a platform to launch a few crossover tunes from the country charts to the pop charts, and “San Francisco Mabel Joy” is a good example. While the refrain and vocal twangs scream country, the orchestral overdubs and reggae-tinged guitar sound much more contemporary.
While there are other songs on The Gambler that have reached the status of classics and were much bigger hits, “San Francisco Mabel Joy” has the feeling of being that 3rd or 4th single to mop things up from one record to the next. Definitely a keeper from a great album.
When such a time arrives, I tend to crawl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb for a few hours. However, with my music collection, I have the option of one of the most glorious aspects of the CD/MP3 age: SHUFFLE!!
Instead of spending my time debating the merits of listening to Close To The Edge over Kill’em All, I can let my iPod choose for me. One click, and I’m reveling in the entire breadth and scope of my library. What song is my iPod going to deliver? I have no idea, and that’s the beauty of the whole process.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that when I shuffle things up, I am often introduced/reintroduced to songs I had no memory of owning, or even listening to. Therein lies the thrill of listening to music, in a method that was once the sole domination of radio, but now accessible to any consumer.
Our focus here at the Vault are albums, and rightfully so. However, God bless this blog of ours, for it allows a certain degree of latitude and freedom in covering content. We don’t often get the chance to highlight a new song that we heard on the radio, or saw in a commercial, or had a friend tell us about.
So, with an incredibly small amount of fanfare, I introduce “Jeff’s Quick Picks,” whereupon I’ll hit on a few tunes I come across while shuffling. Whether it’s an album cut from a record I know very well to a track that I will swear up and down to never having listened to, rest assured that not even I know what is coming up next.
Monday, May 5, 2008
This announcement comes two months after Reznor released Ghosts I-IV, a 36 track instrumental album in every format known to man. In the span of a week, Reznor sold roughly a million dollars' worth of digital downloads, lighting the internet on fire with his bold new delivery model.
As many have surmised, with the actions of NIN, Radiohead, and Coldplay, there is a paradigm shift occurring within the music industry. The old way of walking down to the local record store to pick up the latest released from Bread is going the way of the dinosaur. How much one laments the loss of such a process is growing more and more dependent on the age of individual.
Of course, it's going to be some time before this is preferred delivery model of music; the bands that are utilizing this system have huge, established fanbases. They have made it big, and can afford to take losses when announcing and delivering released of this nature. Your fledgling, indie band trying to make it big simply cannot afford to the same. At least, at the present time...
Thursday, May 1, 2008
For reasons unknown, the pig broke loose of its moorings and drifted off into the sky, to be found the next morning in tatters in suburban La Quinta about 10 miles away. Festival organizers offered a $10,000 reward for its return, which was gratefully split between the two families whose yards were festooned with the shredded remains.
The reasons for the pig's attempted escape are unclear. However, he had been plastered with pro-Obama slogans for the festival, and some speculate it was headed for