Pete Molinari hails from the UK. This song was brought onto my Moheak Music Meeting show and got a unanimous thumbs-up. It’s a feel good track with an old school country vibe. Not what you will usually find in this space, but that’s the idea. Contributed by Bruce Rave
Upon arriving to the Bootleg Theater I stepped out immediately to make a phone call and missed the first several minutes of Ryan Traster’s set. According to my friends, he started playing as a four piece before his band retired due to technical difficulties. He continued solo. We preferred his material stripped down and acoustic, how he wasn’t out of step with the best of 90’s college rock. Ryan is a Minneapolis native currently stationed in Brooklyn and has a song which was featured on Keeping Up With The Kardashians (!) that was “hijacked by Starbucks without him knowing”. Seeing him live while never having heard of him before reminded me of that never-ending cycle of talented unknowns which take a ride on the LA carousel night after night. Fortunately for Mr. Traster, this isn’t his first rodeo – his songs are too well-developed for him to still be wet around the ears. He can croon like Elvis Costello and sing from the throat like Matt Sharp. I’m also reminded of some of Ian McCullough’s solo work (especially Candleland, sans dated synths producing wind noise). Like him on Facebook and you can stream several deep cuts. His new record, Good Hearts, was released yesterday and celebrated with an online concert which was streamed to all. #toogoodtogounnoticed
We next caught The Peach Kings. It’s surprising they haven’t received more buzz since their EP, Trip Wop, is fierce and available for free download via their website. I guess trip wop is a valid enough oxymoron. Per their website: “It’s a new breakthrough in The Peach Kings’ hypnotic science of sound that fuses the melodic and vocal elements of doo-wop with the droning thump and choked up percussion of a trip-hop beat.” Singer Paige Wood’s powerful voice hits a wide array of cadences, emotions and decibel levels. Because she doesn’t go big constantly, it’s even more effective when she does. Also interesting is that she doesn’t conform to typical gender roles i.e. she isn’t dressed like Kesha or even play the emotional leverage card like Feist. Her singing approaches this feeling of androgyny which is highly sexualized and genderless at the same time. The guitarist, Steven Trezevant, provides classic licks and a capable back-up / secondary vocal. The instrumentation is rambling and sloppy and that’s how they like it, but Wood’s vocal is so strong I think it could be maximized more. All they need is a little time, and maybe a bit more urgency. But they’ve already proven they can make a record.
Los Angeles-London based LEAGUE has just released their second EP How Do I Know. The EP offers a diverse array of rhythms and melodies. The title track “How Do I Know” draws a stark connection to the hums of classic British shoegazers, Ride and My Bloody Valentine. “Your World” is a poppy, feel good track with a nice organ hook. If you dig dream pop, or flanging in general, you’ll be into this one. The third track, “The Shore” offers a more psychedelic, surf-driven feel and is a nice closer to this EP. Contributed by Trevor Meyer
Cave Birds are a new 4 piece out of Leeds that we won’t be surprised to be hearing lots more from. Their catchy blend of indie pop has the perfect touch of ‘brit’, not to mention it makes way for the dance floor. Can’t wait to see these guys in a live setting. “Some Lightning Thrill” is their only released track so far and “Love From Afar” is a great demo that offers a glance at what’s to come.
It’s October! That time of the year again. Time to watch playoff baseball, battle that addiction to baseball-reference.com and lament Joe Buck’s poor imitation of Bob Costas. (DiMaggio had just 13 strikeouts in 1941!) Time to uncork those vintage Rieslings, pick apples, ride bikes and listen to “Monster Mash”, and only the version by Bobby “Boris” Pickett which made it to #1 in 1962. And finally, it’s time to listen to Neil Young, my favorite Canadian! So roast up those pumpkin seeds, pour a glass of hot cider and take a look at my selections for Neil’s top ten. And by “top ten” I explicitly mean not the best, completely arbitrary, but rather my ten favorite Neil songs which hopefully provide a sufficiently comprehensive introduction for the Neil neophyte.
10. “Silver & Gold” – Although released in the year 2000 on the album of the same name, “Silver & Gold” the song was originally written in 1981. Neil has been known to sit on songs for decades, as one can only conjecture as to how many albums of unreleased material reside in Mr. Young’s vaults. “Silver & Gold” is one of his sweetest love songs, concurrently saccharine, innocent, hopeful and eternal.
9. “Out On The Weekend” is the opening track on Harvest, his most popular album and one of the most popular of the year when released in 1972. “Think I’ll pack it in, buy a pickup, take it down to LA” is one of those famous Neil lyrics which epitomizes his infatuation with the American West. Although Harvest is far from Shakey’s most cohesive work, it does feature 5 of his best songs, with “Out On The Weekend” kicking things off in a big way. (see Elliot Smith and Lady Gaga covers).
8. “Mellow My Mind” is Neil’s most uplifting track from his most despondent album, Tonight’s The Night, originally released in 1975 after a two year delay, recorded in a tumultuous period following the death of Danny Whitten (of Crazy Horse and The Rockets). Album #3 in the Ditch trilogy (following Time Fades Away and On The Beach), Tonight’s The Night is a big favorite among hardcore Neil Young fans (see Thrasher’s Wheat).
7. On The Beach” – 1974’s On The Beach, Neil’s first studio release post-Harvest, was recorded under the influence of Honey Slides, a marijuana infused concoction that “felt like heroin”, according to Shakey, the Neil Young tome of a biography written by Jimmy McDonough. Much like Tonight’s the Night, the album was unappreciated upon release on account of its crude production and sense of foreboding which set a clean stylistic break from his first four studio albums. The title track’s combination of lyrical repetition and remorseful jamming add up to a perfect commentary on the failed social revolution of the late 60’s. On The Beach was finally released on CD in 2003, after a long petition spearheaded by Thrasher’s Wheat.
6. “I’m The Ocean” – The best track on 1996’s Mirror Ball, recorded with Pearl Jam as a most fitting backing band for the Godfather of Grunge. While somewhat inconsistent, Mirror Ball ranks among Neil’s hardest albums (along with Ragged Glory and side 2 of Rust Never Sleeps.) A 7 minute jam, “I’m The Ocean” is a lyrical tour de force. “I’m a Cadillac, I’m a Cutlass Supreme,” is a line so emphatically American it’s hard to believe it was written by someone from Winnipeg.
5. “Rockin’ in the Free World” – Opening song on 1989’s Freedom, the album which re-launched Shakey’s career (after a shakey Eighties), the live version of “Rockin’ In The Free World” was the emblematic song of the period surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall. Again, much like On The Beach, the effective repetition during the chorus is striking for a musician best known for his lyrical variety and depth. Along with “Ohio”, “Rockin’ In The Free World” is Neil’s most overtly political song. Listening to it two decades later makes you feel as though you’re taking part in a still-burgeoning political movement.
4. “Down By The River” – One of Neil’s most popular and oft covered tracks, “Down By The River” closes side one of 1970’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, his second studio album. The song’s ranking may be inflated because it’s my favorite of his longer, more expansive, jam/solo driven tracks ( including “Cowgirl in The Sand”, “Like A Hurricane” and “Cortez The Killer”, among others. The track further proves Neil’s obsession with water as a Mark Twain between safe and dangerous, sanity and desperation, happiness and despondency. No posturing, only music. Even the lyrics during the chorus seem to fade into the swirl established by the urgent jamming of Danny Whitten’s Crazy Horse.
3. “Journey Through The Past” – What a shame that the only version of “Journey Through The Past” available on CD is the Live At Massey Hall version (which fortunately captures Mr. Young at his commercial and creative peaks), as 1973’s Time Fades Away, a live album, has yet to receive a proper CD release. The past as halcyon days is a theme Neil returns to again and again, but never as effortlessly as on “Journey Through The Past.” Shakey’s voice has never sounded so haggard or beautiful. “I will stay with you if you stay with me, said the fiddler to the drum. And we’ll keep good time on a journey through the past.” Solid gold.
2. “After The Gold Rush” – Much like Journey Through The Past, the sparse instrumentation of piano and muted french horn on “After The Gold Rush”, the title track off his 1971 LP, his best minute-for-minute album. The imagery is inventive, simplistic, visceral and timeless, from knights in armor to spaceships in the sky. Recorded in the period after Déjà Vu, it’s the album which bears the most traits of kin with CSNY.
1. “Heart of Gold” – His best track on his most famous album, “Heart Of Gold” is the perfect three minute pop song. The slide guitar is divine. This is the Neil song most recognized by the general populace, but by no means was he selling out, as proven the subsequent “Ditch” trilogy. By casting a wide geographical net, it contains some of his most ambitious lyrics. The backing vocals at the end by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt are wonderful as well. The song represents a critical juncture in Neil’s career as the moment he officially entered the rock pantheon, right before he forsook his commercial fame.
Second Ten (no order): Don’t be Denied, Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Lotta Love, Like A Hurricane, Harvest Moon, Old Man, Don’t Cry No Tears, Thrasher, Burned
And just like with any of the great artists, the more that Mr. Neil Young reveals of himself, the more enigmatic he becomes.
Former Hot Water Music guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Chris Wollard has recently released his first solo record. The Gainesville native shows us a different side from his well known punk rock roots. Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves intertwines folk, acoustic, and alternative rock to create infectious melodies and ear-grabbing rhythms. “Same to You” is an upbeat and driven song, offering a melody that attracts your attention right away. I listened to this album several times while driving across the United States and there is something about Chris’s voice that offers a rare verisimilitude to its listener. Contributed by Trevor Meyer
Post Rockers Hammock team up with the ever talented Steve Kilbey of The Church on “No Agenda,” an ethereal piece that is both allaying and powerful. The 2011 album “Asleep in the Downlights” is officially being released today (October 25th). Order it, pick it up, do whatever you have to do to purchase this one because you will not be disappointed. Contributed by Trevor Meyer
I was Dolby’s A&R guy at Capitol when “She Blinded Me With Science” came out. The Golden Age of Wireless album was already released but when Thomas played “Science” for me, there was no way we could wait. I suggested a special release for “Science” which Thomas agreed to. The song went to #3. His first studio album in 20 years drops today. It’s really good but mostly pretty quiet. The dancy “Spice Train” contains lots of the fun we remember Thomas for. It’s so good to have him back and making fine music again. Sure I’m biased but if you’re a Dolby fan, I doubt you’ll fault me for this pick. Contributed by Bruce Rave
Intergalactic super collective of rock veterans Chris Holmes and Brian Liesegang team up with the one and only Alex Ebert for a stellar collaboration. Folky, anthemic, Ziggy Stardust and commercial are just few words to describe the record which talks the masses.