Friday, December 2, 2011

Daily Vault Editor's new novel Believe in Me

Seems like we've mentioned it everywhere but here: Daily Vault Editor Jason Warburg (that would be me) has a novel out, a story of rock and roll and personal redemption called Believe in Me (Wampus Multimedia).  It's an e-book available from Amazon (for the Kindle), iTunes (for the iPad and iPhone) and Barnes & Noble (for the Nook). For a whole lot more about the story and how it came to be, check out these links:

The Buzz blog post on Believe in Me

Hope you'll enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Music blogs we’re thankful for

In the interest of demonstrating thankfulness (and being meta) it seemed appropriate to make our next blog post be about blogs.  Specifically, two of the best music-focused blogs around, extremely well-written and engaging, albeit in very different ways.

I Am Fuel, You Are Friends (better known among regulars as Fuel/Friends) has been masterminded since 2005 by the phenomenally talented Heather Powell Browne.  It’s rare to see someone write about music with this much unrestrained passion and joy, and the experience is made all the more memorable by Heather’s tremendously evocative descriptions.  A master at conveying the emotional texture of the music listening experience, she is also a terrific photographer and raconteur on any number of topics related to music and creativity (e.g. her recent post on Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia).  Heather is the real deal, both a gifted artist herself and a true believer in the artists she cultivates and amplifies through her work. 

Riff Raf, a more recent acquaintance, shares the essential ethos and personality of the Vault itself – musically all-encompassing, intensely curious and frequently quirky.  In the last ten days alone, maestro Richard Fulco has published features on the new Rolling Stones reissue, the 112th birthday of the jukebox, an indie band called The War on Drugs, and Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem (complete with individual member profiles). The entertainment value of Riff Raf is so high that you might not notice there’s a lot to be learned here about music history as well.

Enjoy, and give thanks for these two talented writers sharing their unique voices with the world.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

R.E.M.: going out on top

It's never easy to say goodbye. It's nice, though -- in part because it's so rare -- when a band goes out on top of its game. R.E.M.'s 2011 release Collapse Into Now was among the finest albums of their 30-year career, and now they are closing things out with a trio of new recordings on their forthcoming career retrospective Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011.

Not content to go quietly, though, they've released a pair of videos for their final single "We All Go Back To Where We Belong" that amount to performance art as only R.E.M. could imagine it. The one below features 3:39 of a single camera shot trained on Kirsten Dunst as she listens to the song. Her momentary flashes of self-consciousness only make the whole experience more engaging; the steady close-up allows you to literally track the subtle changes of emotion as she listens, is affected by, and reacts to the music. It's one of the simplest music videos I've ever seen, and also one of the most profound and spectacular. Here is the entire purpose of music itself -- to elicit an emotional response in the listener -- distilled into its purest form.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Artist Spotlight on George Harrison

The quiet Beatle. The dark horse. Innovative guitarist and prolific songwriter.

Beginning on Halloween and continuing through the week, the Daily Vault's Artist Spotlight will shine on the solo work of Beatles guitarist George Harrison, adding reviews of five albums not currently covered in the Vault's 6,900-plus review archive. Staff Writer David Bowling will deliver reviews of Living In The Material World (1973), Extra Texture (1975), Thirty-Three & 1/3 (1976), Somewhere In England (1981) and Cloud Nine (1987).  Put on your shades and prepare to remember "All Those Years Ago."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Return of attack of indies

How many times do we have to tell you? How many times?? Yes, the explosion of d-i-y music has put the means of production in the hands of a slew of wannabes who should probably stick with their day jobs. But it has also enabled a number of truly, phenomenally, mind-blowingly talented indie acts to deliver music to you that deserves both your attention and that of a million more like you. All you have to do is LISTEN.

For example, in just-for-the-heck-of-it reverse alpha order:

Last Charge of the Light Horse is the vehicle for the amazing songwriting (and singing and guitar playing) of Jean-Paul Vest.  Last Charge's two full-lengths, 2005's Getaway Car and 2008's Fractures, are musical gut-punches, song cycles that explore the emotional trapdoors and cul-de-sacs of suburban America with a fearless, unrelenting honesty. This is powerful poetry set to music, friends. And the aptly-named Curve EP, reviewed this week on the DV, is another exceptional notch in Mr. Vest's songwriting belt.

Chris Cubeta might be the most prodigiously talented singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist-arranger-producer-Yankee fan in the universe. When he's not busy producing a raft of other NYC-area artists at his Galuminum Foil Studios, he and partners in crime Danny Lanzetta, Jeff Berner and John Passineau make stunningly beautiful Springsteenesque Americana as Chris Cubeta and the Liars Club. Their 2006 disc Faithful and this year's self-titled follow-up are both brilliant pieces of work.

Big Big Train are simply the most talented progressive rock band working today, bar none. Their 2009 album The Underfall Yard and 2010 EP Far Skies Deep Time match up against anything Genesis, Pink Floyd or Yes produced in their prime. BBT are currently working on a double CD due out in 2012, English Electric, which promises to be truly epic. If you're a prog fan and are missing out on these guys, you are missing out indeed.

Arms Of Kismet make "lush, layered, ultra-literate and idiosyncratic postmodern pop," and they do it like no one else. Like Last Charge, AOK is the vehicle for one man's musical vision, and singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer Mark Doyon's capacity for invention feels limitless. Debut disc Eponymous (2004) and follow-up Cutting Room Rug (2005) form the foundation, while 2010's simply brilliant Play For Affection climbs the pinnacle of insightful, tuneful, thoroughly unconventional music to set your every neuron firing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

To tweet or not to tweet (we're voting yes)

Just a quick shout-out to let you know that the DV is all a-Twitter once again. (And if you think that pun was bad, you obviously haven't been hanging around here very long...). 

Anyhoo... if you care to, you can follow us at twitter.com/#!/TheDailyVault.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Coming soon on The Daily Vault: Wilco, Clapton, The Subways and more

Wilco is back and today we've got a look at new album The Whole Love courtesy of new contributing writer Richard Fulco.  Coming soon, look for reviews of Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton, The Subways, Phil Spector, Color Radio, Switchfoot, Spottiswoode & His Enemies, Last Charge Of The Light Horse and more, plus a concert review of Opeth and Katatonia.  Who said things slow down when fall comes??

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bryan Stow meets Queensryche

You’ve probably heard the Bryan Stow story.  If you haven’t, it goes like this.  Stow is a paramedic, father of two, and lifelong Giants fan who went to the opening night game at Dodger Stadium back in April to cheer for the Giants.  In the parking lot after the game, he was jumped by a couple of punks, knocked unconscious and kicked in the head while he was down on the pavement.  He sustained a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury.  He was in a coma for a couple of months, and remains hospitalized in serious condition, but he has gradually been becoming more responsive over the past several weeks.

Stow is also a music fan whose favorite band is Queensryche.  And while I’ve never personally been a fan of their music, as of today these guys have my complete respect.  Before their recent San Francisco show, the entire group came over to the hospital, gowned up, and hung out with Bryan in his hospital room for 45 minutes, talking with him, answering his questions, and promising to dedicate a song to him at their show that night.

Music heals… and Queensryche rocks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Internet radio you control: MOG makes a move

I've been a Pandora fan for years and have stations galore set up.  It's great to be introduced to new artists through their music genome technology, and the ads are a minor annoyance that's easily ignored.

Sometimes, though, you just want to hear songs by a particular artist -- or even a particular song.  Can't do that on Pandora -- but you can on another music service we're fans of: MOG.

Berkeley-based MOG, founded in 2005 by former Gracenote CEO David Hyman, is an on-demand listening service offering access to a library of over 12 million songs and a million albums through its mobile apps on iPhone and Android, as well as on the Web and streaming entertainment devices for TV.

The edge MOG offers is its radio functionality, chiefly a slider control you can use to calibrate whether you want a single-artist station, just a few similar artists sprinkled in here and there on your artist-dominated station, or the same sort of variety that Pandora automatically locks you into.  You control the experience... and that makes the experience a lot more fun.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Deadheads alive and well (and apparently not feeling the recession)

Anyone looking for a recession-proof business should look no further than the logo at right.  Jerry Garcia may be Dead and gone 15 years hence, but his Grateful bandmates live on, and his absence certainly hasn't stopped the wheels of commerce -- nor, apparently, should it.  You see, Rhino recently cranked out a box set that not just borders on, but passes directly into the realm of absurdity -- Europe '72 The Complete Recordings is 72 CDs, 70 total hours of music comprising every single note played live on the Dead's 1972 European tour.  The kicker?  The set sold out all 7,200 copies, at $450 a pop retail, in no time at all, and word is they are now being auctioned on eBay for hundreds more over retail.  Now that's what I call a sustainable business...!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The State Of Yes 2011


The crazy thing about following a group for close to forty years is that you tend to get invested, maybe more so than is entirely rational.  As John Lodge of the Moody Blues reminded us, “I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band.”  But when you’ve grown up and begun to grow old as a fan of a particular band, it’s hard not to care, and harder still when circumstances trigger a sense of outrage.  The State Of Yes 2011: Their Morals Disappear is “a story about a lot of things—creativity, ambition, success and conflict—but in the end it really all comes down to one irreducible principal.  It’s a story about friendship, and what can happen when it’s tested.”  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The stars above just got a little brighter

Carpe diem.  Don’t miss a chance to see the ones that really matter to you.

That's the message I take from the sad news today that Clarence Clemons, sax player extraordinaire and the heart and soul of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band for forty years, has died.  Clemons, who has battled back, knee and hip problems in recent years, suffered a massive stroke last week.

Two memories to share:

In 2003 on The Rising tour I caught a show in Sacramento with my friend Dave, the guy who originally got me hooked on Springsteen, Clemons & Co.  It was a great, great show, but the absolute highlight was a spot-on performance of “Jungleland,” complete with the jazzy, lyrical, impossibly expressive sax solo that carries the ten-minute song to the summit of its epic narrative arc.  Seeing that song performed live as only Clemons, Springsteen and the E Street crew could deliver it remains one of the highlights of my three-decade-plus concert-going career.

Three years ago, I reviewed Brothers In Arms, the debut album from Temple Of Soul, a soul supergroup featuring Clemons.  As a courtesy, I sent a note to his publicist when the review was published.  A couple of days later, she replied with an e-mail that included a personal note from Clarence Clemons thanking me and praising the review. 

That note did what Clarence Clemons did his whole life: it put a smile on someone’s face.  It brought a little more sunshine into a world that sorely needs it.

Clarence Clemons got the nickname “Big Man” on account of standing 6’4” and 250 pounds.  But his personality, his warmth were always so much bigger than his physical frame could ever contain.  Wherever you may be tonight, Big Man, that corner of the universe is surely a brighter and better place for it.

R.I.P.

Monday, May 16, 2011

P.S. New Fountains Of Wayne Album Out Aug. 2

Not so long ago, I bemoaned in loud tones the fact that Fountains Of Wayne, reigning monarchs of thinking-man's power-pop, had completed a new record but were still between labels, having parted ways with Virgin after 2007's Traffic And Weather.  The welcome news came a few days back that FOW's new disc Sky Full Of Holes will be issued August 2 on Yep Roc, home these days to many notable acts of a certain age (think Nick Lowe, Madness, Loudon Wainwright).  Such musical brilliance cannot be contained for long...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Rod Stewart

It's always a shame when later stumbles begin to obscure a talented artist's earlier triumphs. The beauty of being a site like the Daily Vault, though, is that we don't care if your best album came out yesterday or in 1971; we'll review either one with the same gusto and attention to detail. This week on the DV, faithful scribe Mark Millan returns to cover a series of classic albums from the heyday of British blues-rocker Rod Stewart, long before he cashed in his considerable musical cred to ask if you thought he was sexy. Beginning with today's review of Every Picture Tells A Story, Mark will deliver reviews of four Stewart classics from the early to mid 1970s, plus one of his less embarrassing albums from the mostly forgettable '80s. Enjoy the ride...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mick v. Keef, Round Two

I finished Keith Richards' autobiography a couple of weeks ago with a mixture of wonder and mild nausea. The man is a musical giant and also an icon of rock and roll debauchery, a kind of crown prince of chemical misadventure. It turns out his memories of his travels through addictions to tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, loose women and who knows what else are remarkably clear. What's equally clear is that this is a man who regrets nothing, least of all his own regrettable attitudes toward women ("bitches"), gays ("poofters"), parenting (he made his young son his on-tour houseboy as he traversed the depths of heroin addiction), and even his musical other half and longtime frenemy Mick Jagger. Jagger, to his credit, has not responded publicly to the many jibes Richards throws his way in Life -- so a veteran rock journalist by the serendipitous name of Bill Wyman has done it for him, penning an absolutely brilliant imagined response by Sir Mick. This should really be required reading for anyone who completes Keef's winding, entertaining-when-not-horrifying, largely amoral and deeply self-serving tome.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

WTF: Fountains of Wayne

Today's WTF Moment comes courtesy of Fountains of Wayne, one of the most musically and lyrically brilliant bands of the past decade, with more pure musical talent packed into a single unit than the last 1,000 American Idol contestants combined, who have a new album completed and in the can but don't really know when it will come out because, ahem, THEY DON'T HAVE A RECORD DEAL at the moment.

WTF?

Yes, after producing arguably the finest power-pop album of the century in 2003's masterful, brilliant Welcome Interstate Managers, and following it up with the nearly-its-equal Traffic & Weather (2007), the New Jersey quartet are without label backing.  Because, what, labels have too much incredibly smart, incredibly catchy, proven-market-appeal music on their hands already?  Yeah.  Right.

Someone out there please correct this travesty immediately.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Eric Clapton

This week we turn the Artist Spotlight on a fellow who's been called a lot of things over the years -- Yardbird, bluesman, E.C., genius, junkie, even, for a time, God. Eric Clapton has worn many musical guises, from the Yardbirds to Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & The Dominos and his long and intermittently successful solo career. This week, Staff Writer David Bowling takes on one of the more neglected corners of E.C.'s career, those pesky late '70s and 1980s albums where Clapton floundered a bit, searching for the right sound to satisfy both his muse and the times. The going won't always be smooth, but it will most assuredly be interesting, so tune in...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cake tastes yummy (and other observations)

The headline of the e-mail caught my eye right away: "Cake’s Showroom of Compassion debuts at #1 on the billboard top 200, achieves highest chart position of their career."

Heh.  You see, it was just a few days ago that I gave Showroom a distinctly lukewarm B-. But then, the point of both enjoying music and writing about it is not to be influenced by others' opinions of it. That may sound slightly self-contradictory coming from a music writer, but I don't think people should blindly agree with me any more than they should blindly agree with the lemmings in the crowd.

Cake is a very talented band that's made some great music in the past.  I don't happen to think Showroom lives up to the promises made by past outings, but music buyers clearly had other ideas. More power to them, and good for Cake.

There did seem to be consensus on one point. I said "Sick of You" was a terrific single, and the market seems to agree. To quote the e-mail again: "'Sick of You' reaches top 5 at both alternative & triple A radio." Nice.

Of course, there was a depressing footnote to all of this. Showroom of Compassion achieved the #1 position with sales of 44,000 units, making it the lowest-selling #1 album in SoundScan history