Joe Pernice -Cribs/Pernice Brothers - "Baby In Two"

One of the better bands going right now are Boston's Pernice Brothers who, for what it's worth, aren't actually brothers but are led by Joe Pernice. It has been a little while since their last release, 2006's Live A Little, so I decided to check their website today to see if there was any new news. I'm sorry to report that there was no mention of a new album or upcoming tour. However, the following was posted there:
I need to get some of this stuff out of the house! I have lowered the prices of all Ashmont-owned stuff we have. You’ll find $5 CDs and some t-shirts for under $10. US store only for now, until I figure out how to update the int’l store. Please help me make space for all the stuff I am going to buy when Ashmont is deemed too big to fail and we get our bailout.

Nearly all of the Pernice Brothers' albums are currently available in the $5 to $8 range! If you don't own all of their albums, which you should, this is a great chance to fill in the gaps for a more than fair price.

While on the site, I also found the above video (from 2006) of Joe Pernice doing his take on what it would be like if MTV2 made an indie-rock version of their old hit show Cribs. This is a pretty hilarious send-up of a show that basically did little else than give regular Americans a chance to see what unnecessary material possessions obscenely wealthy celebrities wasted their money on. Pernice's version, while obviously intended to be funny, also reminds us that most bands are comprised of regular guys and gals who are working hard to pay the bills just like all of the rest of us.

Just in case you aren't familiar with this band I've also tacked on the video for their track "Baby In Two" below. There are dozens more great tracks where this one came from. So, if you like this, make sure to head to their store and buy something.



Sigur Ros - "Takk.../Glosoli"

Hands down, the best concert I have ever seen before (and I'd estimate I've seen, at a minimum, 500) was when Iceland's Sigur Ros performed here in Columbus a couple of years ago. I've never seen a band command the attention of everybody in a crowd before with the ease that they accomplished it with. Though there was nothing easy about these intricate songs or the expertly executed, never-a-dull-moment stage show. Sigur Ros presented us with a multi-sensory performance art experience, rather than a standard, run-of-the-mill concert. From fans who've been backing these guys since their earliest releases, such as myself, to those in the crowd that had never even heard Sigur Ros before that night, like my brother's friend who joined us at the show, the whole house was floored.

Their set, much like their albums, bounced back and forth between soaring, uptempo, ethereal postrock epics and more subdued, almost orchestral, movie-score type tunes. The sound was perfection, seemingly washing over and surrounding all in the audience. Visually, it was also stunning. For much of the show the band was separated from the audience by a semi-transparent screen. The screen was used in two different ways. At times films were projected onto it that perfectly accompanied the music in both tone and timing. At other stages the light man became an extra member of the band as he also used perfect timing and coordinated lights to project massive shadows of the players onto the screen. This effect was incredible, giving the feel of a larger than life band towering over the crowd, which also complimented this larger than life music nicely. Walking out the door after the show, I was absolutely dumbfounded, spent, and nearly speechless. Yet, at the same time, I wanted to call every person that I knew and tell them what they'd just missed.

The highlight of the show, one that consisted of almost nothing but highlights, was "Takk.../Glosoli". Above, I have posted a video of them doing this song couplet live in Reykjavik during that same tour. It embodies everything that is great about this band and their show. While I wish that the sound was louder on this video, the visual is better (read: not bootleg) than any others that I could track down. I dare you to skip the next Sigur Ros show that lands in your town.



Bob Dylan - "Masters of War"

I don't know if you guys have heard or not ;) but, as of yesterday, we have a new administration in charge here in the States! Whether they are any better than the last remains to be seen. I for one, despite my general mistrust of politicians, feel pretty optimistic about what Barack Obama and his people are going to try to do for this country and this world. So, Mr. Obama, do those of us that supported you proud.

This video set to the song "Masters of War" by my all-time favorite artist, Bob Dylan, is pretty self-explanatory. It is my dedication to George W. Bush and the outgoing administration. Best wishes in what is hopefully your disappearance into complete irrelevance and obscurity.


Club 8 - "Jesus, Walk With Me"

This very quiet acoustic-based song is a bit of an aural departure for a group that usually produces a more dreamy, slightly electro-tinged, indie-pop sound. It is also a departure lyrically, in that one wouldn't characterize them as a christian group. I'm not a religious person. Songs with a religious slant are typically a bit of a turn-off for me. Not for that reason alone, but because they are so often dragged down by the overuse of proselytizing, preachy, moral platitudes.

This, however, does nothing to dampen my love for this gorgeous song "Jesus, Walk With Me" by Club 8, a Swedish group comprised of members of Poprace and the better known Acid House Kings. As I sat and listened to this one over and over I was mainly trying to figure out what it was in this quiet little tune that grabbed me with such force. It was these four lines:
Fool me into believing/
I don’t care if your deceiving me/
Before I go I need to be/
Something more than the skin and bones you see.
What "Jesus, Walk With Me" is saying to me has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with the way that those words hit me and what they meant upon impact. The way I take them, they could be sung to a friend, a lover, a family member, or a complete stranger. They speak to every person's need to feel wanted, needed, appreciated, understood, cared for, loved, and so on.

Sometimes the greatest feeling in the world is just knowing that there is someone out there that cares. I'm not going to get into a long-winded philosophical discussion here. But, in short, we don't really exist until somebody takes the time to show us that we matter. It is our interactions with others and the way those interactions affect both parties that make us "more than the skin and bones you see." Even if the sentiment is false or fleeting, during the time that you feel it, it is that sentiment that lets you know that you are alive. Some people get that feeling from religion. I get it from other people. And this song reminds me that as long as you're getting it from somewhere, you're doing alright.


The Chills - "Pink Frost"

With a good amount of standing snow on the ground here for the first time this year it seems wholly appropriate to listen to, and discuss, the best snow-related song that I can think of, "Pink Frost" by The Chills.

Have you ever done or said something on the spur of the moment, without giving any forethought to what you are about to do or what the consequences might be? Everybody has, and the story that "Pink Frost" tells is of the aftermath of one of these moments. However, in this case the stakes are somewhat raised, as the protagonist has just killed his girlfriend (I thought I was dreaming/ So I didn't hear her screaming). The pink frost of the title refers to the girl's blood mixing with the snow on the ground. Not exactly an "oops, my bad" moment.

We never learn how this all went down though. Instead, the song finds the protagonist, who is no Raskolnikov, coping with his immediate sorrow and remorse for the act he has just committed (I want to stop my crying/ But she's lying there dying/ How can I live when you see what I've done?). Sometimes an angle like this could be used to try and make you empathize with both the victim and the perpetrator. But, in this case, due to Martin Phillips' icy cold delivery you don't really sense that that is the point.

What you do feel though, probably as a result of the cold, distant, atmospheric qualities of the music, is this detached sensation like you're floating directly above the scene of the crime, like you are watching the aftermath unfold. In this way the music tells as much, if not more, of the story as the lyrics do. It is the music that gives the somewhat simple lyrics their weightiness. It is the music that connects the listener to the emotions of the protagonist. It is the music that leaves a lasting, and unforgettable, impression.


The Wrens - "Boys, You Won't" (Song of the Day)

The Wrens are one of those bands that for a few years now I, sadly and unintentionally, had exiled to some dark, long forgotten Siberia of my mind. Somehow, at some point, they got lost in the shuffle, victims of my own forgetfulness. But when I read the news today that they were releasing a new album in 2009, I was immediately able to call to mind most of the songs from their incredible 2003 release, Meadowlands. There was a six month period that year when I barely went a day without listening to at least part of that LP, one of the best to be released all year.

And, as much as I'm sorry to have temporarily lost touch with this album and this band, it made it all the better to dig it up and listen to it (about 3 times) tonight. I was reminded of what great power music can have. How it can immediately transport one's mind to another time and place. How all of my memories are wrapped up in songs. All of the songs that I've listened to laced with memories. I closed my eyes and I was in a different apartment. I still smelled of the greasy fried food from the restaurant that I was waiting tables at. I was coping with the worst heartbreak that I've ever experienced. I was trying to convince myself to go back to school and finish my degree. I was, most likely, drunk.

And then the album reached its end. I opened my eyes, sat up on my couch, and was back in the present; a small business owner, with an English degree and a fragile but mended heart, who only eats greasy fried food occasionally and never has to serve it to thankless restaurant-goers with shallow pockets. The fact that the music took me back to a different, more confusing, more uncertain time allowed me to more fully appreciate the here and now. And while this line of thinking, that music might serve as a bridge to one's past and inform one's present, is not exactly breaking news, it still feels like a revelation every time that one experiences that sensation. This is the stuff that makes music, and all art, so worthwhile.

Above, is the video for "Boys, You Won't", one of the best tracks from the album I was just discussing. To read more about The Wrens and their forthcoming album, the first since Meadowlands, click here.


The Zombies - "This Will Be Our Year" (Song of the Day)

I'm a huge fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets, our hometown NHL squad. They are one of the newer teams in the league, only having existed since 2000. They are also the only team in the entire league that has never made the playoffs. Being a Jackets fan is tough. On the one hand, it is always fun to root for the underdog, a distinction we almost always have. On the other hand, it is frustrating to back a team year after year and never see any results or signs of improvement.

However, at the midpoint of this season we look to have our best shot ever. Just one point out of playoff contention, with loads of momentum recently on our side, and with four of the best rookies in the league, the Jackets have the look of a team that is finally poised to take the next step.

I attended last night's 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild (that featured a hat trick from 18-year old Nikita Filatov in only his 6th NHL game). We were playing with seven regulars out of the line-up due to injury and a ragtag assemblage of youngsters and minor-league players filling in. But the heart and guts of the team, both last night and during the 6 game road trip that preceded it, was enough to finally make me a believer.

The song that I was thinking of as the final seconds ticked off of the clock was "This Will Be Our Year" by 60's pop/rock geniuses The Zombies. With lyrics that include lines like "Now we're there and we've only just begun/and this will be our year/took a long time to come" it isn't hard to see why this song popped into my head.

Above, I posted a really cool video of this song that I found on YouTube. This unofficial fan video is an assemblage of clips that were taken on Super 8 by the creator's parents. It has nothing to do with hockey, of course, but it does embody the uplifting and hopeful sentiments of this song and the content of this post. Enjoy!


Patsy Cline - "Walkin' After Midnight" (Song of the Day)

I'm not a huge fan of country music, but some of the older stuff really does deserve the attention of any discerning music fan. I'm talking, to name just a few, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, (and even earlier than those artists) Hank Williams Sr., and especially Patsy Cline, whose voice I adore, despite lacking something in the departments of versatility and expressiveness.

Cline really came into her own in the 60's where she skirted the line between rock, country, and rockabilly with much success, both artistically and on the charts. But, I'll take her sole 50's hit, "Walkin' After Midnight" over any of the later stuff. The music, the voice, and the overall vibe that she puts out invokes an era that, at only 29 years, I have no direct connection to, yet still feel nostalgic for when I hear her music.

This is the song that I was humming to myself tonight when I found myself walking (after midnight) and freezing despite the wine that I had earlier consumed. It makes me romantic for a time and a place and a reality that is totally foreign to me, yet makes perfect sense when I hear this tune.


Azeda Booth - "Ran" (Song of the Day)


As each year comes to an end, we are bombarded with lists of all sorts. Since the main concern of this blog is music, I find myself skimming hundreds of music best-of lists. Not surprisingly, I mostly read about the same albums over and over again. What makes it all worth it though is when I come across a fantastic song or album that I've totally missed during the course of the year. So many great pieces of music are released during each 12 month cycle that its impossible to hear, or even know of, them all. And while the process of looking over all of these lists can sometimes feel very mundane and repetitive, as if everybody is just copying everybody else's list, I am reminded that there are other people out there that are always searching for something new, different, and entertaining with each new discovery that I make because of their legwork.

This year one of my favorite albums that I "found" on a best-of list, but had never heard of before, was In Flesh Tones by Azeda Booth. Their sound is wintry, yet warm. It is quiet and mellow and could easily serve as wonderful background music. But its depth and complexity will inevitably reveal itself to those that give it the attentive listens that it deserves.

Azeda Booth is a six man group (yes, man, though you would not be frowned upon by this writer for being fooled by the very female sounding vocals) that hails from Calgary and released their debut full-length in July on Absolutely Kosher. And, thanks to the folks over at Coke Machine Glow, I became aware of it in December via their year-end list. For that I am very thankful, as In Flesh Tones has accompanied me on more than a few cold winter walks, soundtracked my cooking, and occasionally laid me down to sleep at night over the past few weeks.

My favorite track is the album-opener "Ran":

Ran - Azeda Booth


R.I.P. Ron Asheton (July 17, 1948 – January 6, 2009)


As reported by Reuters today:
Ron Asheton, a guitarist and founding member of the influential rock band The Stooges, was found dead at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday, police said.

Asheton, 60, was found on his couch and appeared to have been dead for several days, Ann Arbor Police Sgt. Brad Hill said.

The Stooges, while not only being one of the most important rock bands of all time, also happen to be one of my personal favorites. With their classic song "I Wanna Be Your Dog" being my favorite rock song, the epitome of what every good rock song should be. One of my fondest memories is of seeing them play in Long Beach, CA. in 2003, just a few shows after they had reunited for the first time in decades. Standing in their presence and hearing a set filled with songs that meant so much to me, but that I never thought I'd hear live, was one of life's incomparable experiences, one of the hugest rushes I've ever had (seeing, then newly reunited, Mission of Burma that same weekend wasn't far behind though!).

While Iggy Pop has always been the face of the band, Asheton's vicious guitar (and bass at some points) has been its backbone. The guitar lines that he played on The Stooges' late-60's and early-70's albums set the tone and the precedent for all underground and subversive rock music to follow. Without Asheton there would be no punk-rock, no post-punk, no indie-rock, and so on. That is no overestimation of his and The Stooges' contribution to the landscape of all rock music that would come after them.

Below is a video of the reunited Stooges performing a rousing rendition of "I Wanna Be Your Dog". I'll still take the recorded version over any others that I've heard, with its pounding drums, thumping bass, buzzsaw guitar, single note piano line, and manic sleighbells. But this is the best live version that I found on YouTube. This one goes out to you Mr. Asheton.


I Apologize For My Absence

To any of you that might actually check this blog with any regularity, I apologize for my absence over the last couple of weeks. I first came down with about the worst cold that I've ever had. That left me pretty miserable and uninterested in doing anything but feeling gross and sorry for myself. The illness was directly followed by a holiday season that because of work, family, and other commitments left me with much less free time than I would hope for. And, as anybody who has ever gotten off of a regular schedule can attest to, once I got out of the habit of posting it was hard to get it back on track. Anyhow, my extended sojourn has reached its end and I plan on beginning to update this page on a regular basis again. Hopefully, you will be able to get back in the habit of checking me out when you have a free minute or two. Be well.