Friday, August 21, 2009

Read about a cool compilation recently: Favorite Recorded Scream.

Out on vinyl, the project combines a listing/map of Manhattan independent record shops and the, yes, favourite recorded screams in (mostly) popular music as put forth by some of the owners/staff of said record stores. Seems the initial limited edition run is hard to find...bring on the less limited second edition.

A good overview/review of the project by Ben Sisario for the New York Times can be found here.

Here's a link to the project itself. Unfortunately the look/feel and "readability" of the site isn't good, but I recommend clicking on the red cover image and going through the completed questionnaires.

There are, unsurprisingly, repeat mentions of The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again', lots of Beatles and solo Lennon, and of course Iggy Pop (particularly 'TV Eye'). Also included, maybe the most frightening scream of all, the "Jaws" of music if you will, Pink Floyd's 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene'. But like any great list, this compilation of music screams also opens a dialogue. Herein I respectfully add a couple more tunes that have memorable screams that weren't mentioned by any of the the record store proprietors.

John Lennon- "Well, Well, Well" (off Plastic Ono Band). It all starts off like "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" but blissfully degenerates into a primal scream workout, full of increasing rage and release. The third "well" in the song's refrain gradually stretching out in a howl, with the desperate quality of an abandoned child, over repeats of "well well well, oh well").

Replacements- Opening scream/howl of "Bastards of Young" off of Tim. Kicks in at the 4 second mark. A raspy, plaintive and a little bit exhausted-sounding Paul Westerberg doing what he does best. I remember parties, many years ago, and seeing all the people leaping in the air as the howl started, knowing there would be some great pogo thrashing as soon as their feet hit the ground. I was one of those people, with a stiff neck and strained ankles.

Any of your favourites you'd like to share?


Friday, April 03, 2009

New Neil....with Peggy in the All Stream

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Music/Locale Pairings

Like food & wine, certain music just resonates more, and enhances the mood of a given location. Of course great music sounds great pretty much anywhere but even as a confirmed Deadhead I knew when I first heard "Sugaree" while staring out of a train on the Yamanote line in Tokyo that the Grateful Dead and Tokyo just didn't work. Now the Dead and Aomori, that's a different story.

Anyway, I encourage others to comment with their favourites. Herein I kick start some of mine:

Neko Case and Kelowna (the Okanagan)- Listening to this godess' new disc, Middle Cyclone, while driving from Vernon to Kelowna was a great way to get to know her latest work. Pastoral and heavenly- words to describe both Neko and the Okanagan.

Radiohead and Tokyo- A couple of years ago, while wandering around Hiroo, my iPod shuffle delivered a couple back-to-back tunes from Thom Yorke and crew. Don't recall the exact tracks but definitely Amnesiac or later. The metallic sheen and melodic dissonance (alright, I'm just saying that to impress...not even sure what it means) really made me smile as I took a deep breath and concentrated on the urban landscape a little more closely.

I know it has been said before but it's amazing sometimes how when you have your iPod on shuffle, or it IS a shuffle, it delivers just the right track at the right time. And then follows it up with another, beautifully segued from the former. Wham! Bam! Thank you man!

Beast- self-titled and the gym- I first listened to this record while working at my desk with the computer speakers on '1'. WRONG. As soon as I cranked it while doing weights...needing some crunch to my crunches, I started to love this record. A friend tells me it's phenomenol on his old JBL 220's cranked up real good.

Fucked Up- Chemistry of Life and the gym- Another gem of a workout record. Melodic punk of the first order with lotsa screaming. Reminds me of Husker Du circa Zen Arcade.

More to come...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The 2008 Grammy’s – Radiohead steals the show

I’m not a big fan of the Grammy’s, for the most part believing it to be a big back slap to the people who produce music that generate a lot of cash. However, now that I own a PVR and it’s easy to zip through the annoying bits I decided to sit down this year and give it a watch. There were some cool moments- MIA performing ‘Paper Planes’ preggers on the day her baby was due, a tribute to the 4 Tops featuring the last living member and Al Green sounding as good as ever. Katy Perry was just embarrassing running awkwardly around the stage, which was pretty fun to watch as well.

But the night belonged to Radiohead with a genius rendition of ’15 Step’ off ‘In Rainbows’. Now that the NFL has abandoned the marching bands from the half-time Superbowl show in favour of Bruce, Prince, The Stones and of course Justin and Janet, the aforementioned marching bands needed a new gig. And Radiohead became their meal ticket. Out comes a suitably ruffled Thom Yorke and what’s that behind him, as the first notes kick in, but the USC Marching Band! The kids looked ecstatic to be playing the tune and what a version it is. Pummeling rhythm.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Download Fitz's Best of 2008:
(available until Feb. 17, 2009 in MP3 format)

Hmmm, what to say of the year in music, 2008, just past? The challenge for the list maker and the incessant music fanatic is that one can start to take on the role of the protagonist from Nick Hornby’s 'High Fidelity', Rob Fleming; forever changing his lists of thematic top 5’s, looking for the perfect playlist that meets any “life soundtrack” challenge, such as, “Top songs to listen to after being broken up with” (grammatical error known and included). As we “went to press” I have been playing Beast’s self-titled first record and can’t get over the punched sound. The club pounding beats and mostly spoken female lyrics aren’t things I normally gravitate to so this has been a recent discovery not included but should be checked out and given some patient listens, loud!

My first reaction to 2008 was that it was weaker than most. Then I started compiling my unabridged playlist (order based on playing sequence), above, and thought it was a pretty good collection. And pretty diverse to boot.

Looking for themes, there are some beautifully melodic releases, most with many layers of background vocals- among them, Fleet Foxes’ record (this track, ‘Mykonos’ is actually from an ep from 08), along with Horse Feathers, Yeasayer, and Bon Iver. Elbow’s ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ is the most sophisticated and orchestral of this bunch, and has been a steady “grower” for me. Horse Feathers and Bon Iver are accurately described, for these releases, as autumnal folk (All Music Guide). Their covers, not that different from each other, reflect the music within- stark and metaphorically rural.

I’d have to say that the Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ was my favourite of the year. A somber mood is established at the outset and is maintained throughout. The frequent complaint these days is that in the age of the track download, there are fewer albums that hold up as a singular piece. This is a great one. And 2009 has started strongly for Bon Iver with the 4 song ep, 'Blood Bank'. The title track is outstanding. Sounds a lot like Low.

Lots of excellent straight ahead rockers including tracks from the Drive-By Truckers, Billy Bragg, The Hold Steady, The Whigs and The Night Marchers.

The Ryan Adams award for prolific (excessive?) output goes to The Raveonettes with an album (‘Lust Lust Lust’) and 2, 4-song EP’s (‘Sometimes they Drop By’ & ‘Beauty Dies’). What I enjoyed was getting a dose of new material from The Raveonettes every few months last year. I wish more bands did this and thought to package music up in more creative groupings (sometimes more or less than a standard cd), delivering fresh new music periodically instead of once every couple of years. Maybe it’s time to reinvent the artist “fan club” and release music throughout the year.

A few more comments:

Another record that I've been listening to a lot since I drafted this list, is The Gaslight Anthem's 'The '59 Sound'. My "contrivance" radar is picking up some signals and yet there is something exciting and sincere about them. Reminds me of early Dexy's Midnight Runners ('Searching For The Young Soul Rebels') in approach more than music; passionate and direct.

I've also been listening to the newest Oasis, 'Dig Out Your Soul' and like what I have heard.

When I saw Beyonce do 'If I Were A Boy’ on SNL with her all-girl band, I couldn’t get the song (and performance) out of my head. Oh and I tried.

The Night Marchers’ record, ‘See You In Magic’ is solid from start to finish. Pretty good show at Pat’s Pub last year as well.

Billy Bragg had a strong comeback album, appropriately titled ‘Mr. Love & Justice’. The cool thing about this release was that they included 2 discs of the same songs, one just Billy (guitar and/or piano) and one with his band.

The TV series, Flight of The Conchords is comedy gold about a couple of under-performing Kiwis in a 2 man novelty band, their one fan (a stalker) and their lame manager. See the show, for crissakes.

Dylan’s ‘Tell Tale Signs’, number 8 in his ‘Bootleg Series’, is outstanding. The liner notes themselves are fascinating with details of the sessions that primarily included ‘Oh Mercy’, ‘Time Out of Mind’ and ‘Love & Theft’. Dylan has an almost pathological need to do songs differently, to not repeat the tempo, key and often lyrics when recording. Those of us who have seen him live know this about Dylan. What’s interesting about this collection is that you can see him building the finished product and yet each version stands alone.

REM’s record, ‘Accelerate’, was much touted as a “return to form” and it was a very good release. Also note that REM’s first record, ‘Murmur’, has received the “Deluxe Edition” treatment. It holds up really well and I’m playing it over and over again like it’s a new record. The second disc includes a 1983 show at Toronto’s defunct Larry’s Hideaway (same year that ‘Murmur’ was released) and includes songs from the then forthcoming second record, ‘Reckoning’. Excellent recording and lots of jangly guitar from Peter Buck.

My approach to music discovery hasn’t changed much the past few years. Any article I read about a band that sounds interesting (Exclaim, Uncut/Q/Mojo, newspapers, various blogs), I jot down and store by my computer. I then look for these artists first on eMusic, then iTunes or blogs and read their bios on All Music.

So much music, so little time…

Sunday, February 19, 2006


We've been having beautiful crisp cool sunny days the last few days here in Vancouver.
The kind of days that remind me of my time growing up in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa or Kingston.
The warmth in the sun and low light feels as much like Fall as it does of impending Spring.
And the perfect soundtrack comes in the form of music I would describe as quintessential "Canadiana".
There is a "Canadian" sound and it traverses generations and even genres.

I had just recently put together a playlist of music that matched the day's ambience. Without a programmer's spectre of CanCon regulations, I realized after the fact that I had created a bureaucrats' dream of Canadian nuggets new & old.

What triggered the playlist?

I had my iPod on random while cleaning up the backyard and Kathleen Edwards' The Lone Wolf came on (from her first album, Failer). There is a loping, jangling quality that evokes some Gordon Lightfoot, The Band and The Skydiggers all at once. She has this way of stretching out each line that makes everything grand and cinematic while still feeling very personal. God, what a voice, all smoky and direct.

Some other cuts that found there way on the playlist included two tracks from the new Cash Brothers with The Skydiggers. Of course, those that know the back pages, these two bands are closely intertwined. Andy Maize of the 'Diggers has played in Andrew Cash's band and Peter Cash, he of the deep, resonant voice, used to be a 'Digger. So this new record, simply titled "Skydiggers Cash Brothers" is like a trip home. The opening track, 'I Know You Lie Awake' is part of that Canadian continuum, most definitely. Played with quiet, majestic tension (and jangly guitar picking) it's all about the voices. Peter anchors down the low end of the register while brother Andrew goes up a notch or two. Then, about two-thirds of the way through, Andy Maize comes on board introducing a new melody, much like the Diggers' classic 'I Will Give You Everything' where he introduced a new off-setting vocal melody, also about two thirds of the way through the song. The other track I chose from the "Skydiggers Cash Brother" record was the remake of Andrew Cash's 'Smile Me Down'. Originally on his 1988 'Time & Place' record. A very folky rendition, like the rest of this record, which works well to highlight the great vocalizing at work.

What better way to follow up the Diggers than Gordon Lightfoot's 'Sundown'. The production and performance still crackles. This record could have been first released this year and made sense. The song really does encapsulate the "Canadian" sound, one that combines folk, country, pop. Damn it makes me proud.

More on this playlist soon.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Best of 2005

(in no particular order)

Laughing and Rocking in Equal Measure
Art Brut- Bang Bang Rock’n’Roll
Comparisons have been made to Jonathan Richman and it’s true from the perspective of a healthy mixture of both humour and sincerity. The band also knows how to rock out like the Modern Lovers did but with modern crisp crunchy production. The show at Dick’s in March should be a good one.

Literate and Rocking in Equal Measure
The Decemberists- Picaresque
Songs about sea mariners (and an epic tail of cross-generational revenge) and tunes with titles like “Eli, The Barrow Boy” and “16 Military Wives”, you can almost see the pouffy shirts of the performers. Drawn from the same reservoir as Okkervil River.

A Musical Match Made In Heaven
Iron & Wine/Calexico- In The Reins
Anyone familiar with these 2 bands pretty much knew this was going to be a beautiful pairing and it’s as good as you’d have hoped.

Never Can Get Too Much Iron & Wine in Your Musical Diet
Iron & Wine- Woman King EP

A good year for Iron & Wine, this EP sees I&W building their intensity of performance while still keeping it primarily acoustic.

Beauty Becomes You
Sufjan Stevens- Illinois
Antony & The Johnsons- I’m a Bird Now
Devendra Banhart- Cripple Crow
All 3 of these albums have an essence of beauty at their core. Sufjan is pretty much on everybody’s “Best Of” list and it’s well deserved. Antony came from nowhere and brought us his truly unique vocal stylings. Although he may sound a little like early Bryan Ferry, there is no one with a voice like his. He also really knows how to use the empty spaces in a song to create a captivating mood. Finally, Devendra Banhart came out with a rich and varied release that, upon repeated listenings, was probably my favourite album of the year, end-to-end, with it’s wonderful flow and varied arrangements/instrumentation. Anti-war ballads (Heard Somebody Say, When They Come), Spanish tunes, Buffalo Springfield derivations (Long Haired Child), you name it. The amazing part is how well it all fits together; I feel like I have committed a cardinal sin, music interruptus if you like, if I don’t listen to the whole record at a time. Don’t go cherry picking single downloads here- go for the full meal deal and you won’t be disappointed.

Time for Reinvention
My Morning Jacket- Z
Last year My Morning Jacket lost a guitarist and keyboardist, both founding members. Instead of packing it in they found excellent replacements and put out their most varied and interesting disc.

To Look Forward We Must Look Back
The Clientele- Strange Geometry
The High Dials- War of The Wakening Phantoms
Both of these bands elicit warm feelings of music from a bygone era. The Clientele have such a classic ‘60’s pop sound, complete with a light trippy filter. Montreal’s The High Dials also seem to have one foot in the ‘60’s sound but theirs is more of a power pop feel- like early Who- with thrilling harmonies and jangly guitar bits. If you want to first sample, check out “Our Time Is Coming Soon”, “Sick With The Old Fire” (Stone Roses’ish) and “Your Eyes Are A Door”.

Best Band Playing the Role of Crazy Horse
Magnolia Electric Co- Trials & Errors
Last year’s “What Comes After The Blues”, MEC’s first CD, showed a band with strong songwriting skills and an enjoyable if unspectacular solid folk/rock recording. This year’s live disc, “Trials & Errors”, reveals a blistering live act that borrows heavily on the ragged glory of Crazy Horse. There is no better compliment of a live recording than to say that after my first listen I knew I must see this band live.

Welcome Back My Friends- My You’re Sounding Marvelous
Echo & The Bunnymen- Siberia
Consistently strong songwriting, pop hooks and some edgy guitar work from Will Sergeant. Just how we like it.

Gang of Four- Return The Gift
G04 always complained about the muddy production applied to their early recordings, particularly their first record, the classic ‘Entertainment’! Given that it was/is a classic (5 stars on All Music), most of us dismissed this as a pointless perspective. Then I heard this record. Not just a remix of the early recordings (most are from Entertainment, but they draw from throughout their catalogue), these songs have been re-recorded and the energy in the performances, and outstanding production, makes it pretty much impossible to listen to the originals, even as they are swaddled in nostalgia. When I have my iPod on shuffle, and any of the tracks from this record are served up, I grind my teeth and I feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck (editors note- this is a good thing).

The Back-Handed Compliment (or “I’m reluctant to call this a great release of 2005 but I certainly play it a lot”)
New Order- Waiting For The Siren’s Call
New Order have such a history to them, and with that, baggage for the listener. From Joy Division to disco mavens (Blue Monday), I have fallen in and out of love with these guys more often than….well, let’s just leave that comparison alone, shall we. While this disc doesn’t compare to the power and excitement of 2001’s “Get Ready” this record has classic New Order pop tunes, including my faves “Hey Now What You Doing”, “Morning Night And Day”, “Turn” and the title track. Also winner of the “May Cause Cavities” award, I do warn you, up front, don’t listen to the lyrics, even as you sing them. They’re very lame. Just shake your ass.

Go-Betweens- Oceans Apart
Okkervil River- Black Sheep Boy
The Posies- Every Kind of Light
Marianne Faithfull- Before the Poison
And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead- Worlds Apart
Martha Wainwright- Martha Wainwright
Bettye Lavette- I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise
Ryan Adams & The Catholics- Cold Roses
Black Mountain- s/t
Josh Rouse- Nashville

A Little Editorial- Hurray for The Indies
The indies are where most of the decent music comes from- All but My Morning Jacket, Gang of Four and New Order from my essentials list above (and over half the honourable mentions) can be found on the indie-only eMusic site (more below). Not just interesting tunes that show promise but fully developed works of staggering brilliance. Witness Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists and the hysterical and thrilling rockers Art Brut. Even old favourites Echo & The Bunnymen, now on an indie label, have released their best record in ages.

This year, the great enabler for feeding my music appetite has come from downloading from eMusic- Strictly indies, and still well shy of a decent recommendation engine, they nonetheless allowed me to purchase lots of fresh new tunes and at a reasonable price. Their subscription model, with tracks in MP3 format without DRM, gives me, the listener, an opportunity to move my music wherever I want without interoperability issues between MP3 players or desktop applications. I can just focus on the music, not on the technology. What a concept.


Disc 1- Mostly Adrenaline
Art Brut- Formed A Band
The Wedding Present- Interstate 5 (Extended Version)
Josh Rouse- Winter In The Hamptons
Brendan Benson- Cold Hands (Warm Heart)
The High Dials- Our Time Is Coming Soon
The High Dials- Sick With The Old Fire
My Morning Jacket- Anytime
Magnolia Electric Co- Don't This Look Like The Dark
The Go-Betweens- Here Comes A City
Art Brut- Emily Kane
The Decemberists- We Both Go Down Together
Calla- It Dawned On Me
Sufjan Stevens- The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
The Posies- I Guess You're Right
Echo and the Bunnymen- Sideways Eight
New Order- Turn
Living Things- Bombs Below

Disc 2- Mostly Languid
Iron & Wine Woman King
Devendra Banhart Heard Somebody Say
Devendra Banhart When They Come
Martha Wainwright- Factory
Sufjan Stevens- John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
Antony and the Johnsons- My Lady Story
Iron And Wine / Calexico- He Lays In The Reins
Iron And Wine / Calexico- Burn That Broken Bed
Bettye Lavette- Down to Zero
The Clientele- My Own Face Inside The Trees
Black Mountain- Set Us Free
The High Dials- Your Eyes Are A Door
Sun Kil Moon- Neverending Math Equation
Marianne Faithfull- The Mystery Of Love
The Posies- Sweethearts Of Rodeo Drive
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals- Let It Ride