Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whathaveyou



Welcome back to Whathaveyou.
  • Revisited the M. Ward's Hold Time yesterday after a few months. Never thought I'd say this about an M. Ward record, but color me disappointed. The title track is a sure winner, but the rest seems a bit formulaic--and not in the good way. Rather, it strikes me as vaguely uninspired.
  • Happened to be in D.C. for Earth Day and stumbled across a Flaming Lips concert on the mall. Stayed for six songs or so..."Yoshimi", "Fight Test", "Race for the Prize" all heard early on.
  • Tardy as usual, finally picked up Man Man's Rabbit Habits. Waitsian goodness abounds--consider it recommended!
  • Grizzly Bear's Vickatomest is en route, so says Amazon. Anticipation is burbling, expectations are high!
  • Tragedy befell my musical arsenal, as my on-display-mandolin dislodged from its shelf, and the ensuing crash was crashily terminal. Looking to paint it or, perhaps, lampify it.
  • Mark Kozelek on Pitchfork's "Guest List": Unsurprisingly Kozeleky. Mark's dislike of Sigur Ros is slightly surprising, considering he's no stranger to slow-burning downers. Koz also confesses he's never played a video game, although if did would his gamer tag be "PntYrHous_RedwBlud" or "MoonKillaSunstroke"?
  • Incidentally, Mark's new live release Lost Verses Live is pretty great. While I have trouble not thinking of Krusty when I hear "Send In the Clowns", he nonetheless delivers it as sorrowfully as only he can.
  • Rarely does metal do it for me, but my intrigue for Mastadon is growing with every Youtube I watch.
  • August will bring us The Avett Brothers' major label debut, the somewhat tritely titled I and Love and You. It's Rick Rubin produced, which is exciting, since his barebones production style is well-suited for the boys from NC.
  • A little self-praise: Two years ago THIS VERY DAY was the innaugural HearSoundsWrite entry. Good for us. /Birthday cake: [ii]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Checkem: Red Cortez

I don't profess to be a discoverer -- historically I'm a straggler, and when I finally do gain up to the hype, I hop on here and rehash all the praise that's already cooled into an ashy sediment in the backlog of the big boys. But lo, I bring you Red Cortez. They're getting some attention from the blogosphere, having opened for Morrissey and Jason Isbell already. But they don't have a Wikipedia page, so I consider them ripe for the toutin'.

A quartet of California hipsters, the band's Hands to the Wall EP is one of the best things I've heard this year. It offers a five-pack of piano backed rockers, 'Mats style brash with a bit of Killers theatrics, and an almost Spoonlike brand of cool. But there's also a trace amount rockabilly in a few of their tunes, which may justify or explain the Isbell opening slot. I caught them opening for the former Trucker a few weeks back. Frontman Harley Prechtel was ever the dynamo, assaulting his digital piano and delivering his ragged wails with an attractive energy that demanded a bit more attention than your average opener.

Here's the EP closer "All the Difference". It'll give you a decent idea of the band's sound:



Check their stuff on iTunes...worth your penny, I assure you.

On Jay Bennett

I was in a good place when I learned of Jay Bennett's demise. Thick, fleshy clouds gave way to a few strong shafts of sunlight on Memorial Day. It was morning; nine or ten and and my retinas struggled to adjust after 8 solid hours of sleep. Good sleep, brought on by a night of nine-ball, raucous singalongs and free flowing beer. The calm was welcome, and I sunk into a cushioned lawn chair on the screened patio and swirled my coffee. Sarah had been showering, and I heard the lightswitch flick before she stepped out to the patio with me, and broke the news she'd read online while I slept.

It can't be emphasized enough what a loss this is to the music community. Jay's contributions to Wilco were trackable, and invaluable. He fathered the lush indie pop sensibilities that disappeared after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in favor of a less ironic, statlier sound. Without the Bennett-era albums, Wilco would not be selling out auditoriums or playing mainstages. Not to mention that those albums will sculpt a new wave of bands who were influenced by Wilco. Would the Fleet Foxes have opened for Wilco if it wasn't for Summerteeth, arguably Bennett's pièce de résistance? Who knows.

Obviously a techie, he also seemed to have a keen sense of melody and the gift of sonice foresight, hearing the completed song from the onset. Jay was the perfect musical foil for Jeff Tweedy. Jay could take Jeff's ideas and fashion them into these movements, these grand expressions that Jeff likely wouldn't have arrived at on his own. I get the feeling that theirs was a similar dynamic as Wayne Coyne and Steve Drozd. The creator and the refiner.

I'd only followed Jay loosely as a solo artist, acquiring The Magnificent Defeat some few years ago and being largely underwhelmed. But he'd always been in the outer rings of my radar, and I would never have dreamt of writing him off as an artist. His stretch with Wilco yielded three of my all-time favorite albums, which were very much the soundtrack to my college years. I've gone on record (although perhaps not here) as saying that he was one of my favorite pure musicians. It's such a tragedy that he had to exist in relative obscurity while the band whose sound he defined saw its mythical status continue to crystallize.

Music blog www.glono.com was a huge fan of Jay's and has some fascinating material on him, including a blow-by-blow account of his contributions to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Friday, May 8, 2009

This makes me want a cigarette



Wilco's new album cover.