Friday, May 30, 2008

Radiohead v. Prince

The Purple One is at it again, and this time the absurd lengths to which the man continues to go to punish his own fans has sparked a dispute with none other than Radiohead. It seems that The Artist Formerly Known As Rational performed a Radiohead song ("Creep") at the recent Coachella Music Festival. Video of which performance someone promptly YouTubed (duh), which video was promptly taken down after Symbol-dude sicced his unholy army of attorneys on them. Ironically, this also blocked Radiohead themselves from seeing the clip, prompting frontman Thom Yorke to reply "Well, tell him to unblock it. It's our ... song."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The return of Journey

I still can't completely explain why I'm so jazzed about the return of a band I was never a huge fan of in the first place. But certainly the fact that they found their new singer on YouTube -- and he's both from the other side of the world and phenomenally good -- has something to do with it. Check out the footage from today's performance on the Ellen Degeneres Show below. At the end she says "Unbelievable!" and it's hard to argue.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The good, the bad, the independent

The music world is like the Wild West nowadays. The old rules about making it in the business -- write singles, get the big label's attention, sign and sell lots of albums -- is out the window. The new model is still taking shape, and the only thing we know for sure is it's wide open.

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

Jeff's Quick Picks -- Rooney

"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

Jeff's Quick Picks -- Paul Simon

"Pigs, Sheep and Wolves"
Paul Simon
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 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

Chris Cubeta and The Liars Club Prep for June Residency at Manhattan’s The Living Room

Daily Vault faves Chris Cubeta and The Liars Club, who too-modestly call themselves "an Americana rock band from Brooklyn," will begin a prestigious, month-long residency at New York City's The Living Room on June 2. The Liars Club will appear every Monday in June at 10 PM. All five Monday night shows are -- get this -- FREE with a one-drink minimum per set. That's an unbeatable bargain for an artist who's earned straight "A"s from the Vault and delivered this reviewer's favorite indie releases of both 2006 *and* 2007.

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]

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.

"Jeff's Quick Picks"

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”
Kenny Rogers
The Gambler

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.

The Daily Shuffle...

It can be quite a challenge picking music to listen to when your music library is as vast as mine. I’m not trying to gloat or show off, but it’s the truth. Tell me that you have not walked into a video rental store, or the grocery store, and been presented with so many options that you can’t even begin to pick where to start.

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

Now serving: free lunch

Apparently, Trent Reznor has never heard of the famous economics maxim which states "There is no such thing as a free lunch." Today, Reznor announced that the latest NIN album was available to the fans 100% free,

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

Oh Piggy, where art thou?

The iconical and infamous inflatable pig that was originally inflated to support Pink Floyd’s Animals tour back in 1977, was sent aloft this past weekend during the Coachella music festival out in the California desert. Waters has retained ownership of the pig and deployed it periodically for the past 30 years.

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 nearby Arizona, home of Senator John McCain.