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by Crispin Kott

25 Feb 2010


Way back in 1997, the Verve released a single that launched them into the commercial stratosphere. The band were already well known in their native Britain by this time, having released two dynamic albums that mixed their innate gift for sonic exploration with a knack for composing anthemic songs in the rock medium.

“Bitter Sweet Symphony” was the band’s first salvo since reuniting after a two-year hiatus, and it was a good one. But while it was good enough to earn the band a worldwide chart smash (including #2 in the UK, and #12 in the US), the song as released was built upon a sample of a tune by the Rolling Stones, both of which can be heard at the “Bitter Sweet Symphony” Wikipedia page.

Actually, while the song in question was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the sample itself was taken from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra version of “The Last Time”, recorded in 1966. The Verve licensed a sample of the song in advance, but had apparently bitten off more than they were allowed to chew. When “Bitter Sweet Symphony” became a hit, the Stones’ lawyers came calling.

by Michael Kabran

24 Feb 2010


My 2009 was largely devoted to music-making (and the drinking of copious amounts of lagers) with too little time spent checking out new music. As a result, one of the big resolutions I made for 2010 was to hear more new works—at least a handful each week. It was ambitious, but, through the first month and change of 2010, so far so good. Certainly it takes time to fully digest some music in order to form an educated opinion and make any weighty decisions. But, well, weighty decisions are overrated anyway! So, I present to you my personal favorite jazz of 2010: a highly uneducated—and frequently irritable—compendium. (Note to readers:  Keep an eye out for an upcoming piece on my least favorite jazz of 2010, which is much funnier.)

Favorite Piano Album:
Orrin Evans—Faith in Action (Posi-Tone)
I’ll be one of the first jazz fans to admit it:  the jazz piano trio format usually bores me to tears and makes me value my Nation of Ulysses albums as if they were the last drops of Alagash Curieux in the universe (though, I usually do anyway). While there are certainly some phenomenal piano trio albums in the history of jazz—Oscar Peterson, Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans, to name a few—most of the trio albums I’ve heard in recent years were self-indulgent exercises in musical masturbation. They essentially served as demo recordings, creating a relatively inexpensive means for the pianist to obtain gigs and earn coveted positions in the bands of larger fish. That being said, young jazz tuna (the term “lion” is so overused!) Orrin Evans’ latest effort, Faith in Action, is one of the best trio recordings I’ve heard in recent time. I’ll cut to the chase: it’s accessible, filled with bluesy solos, swinging rhythms, and playful harmonies. Most importantly, this music is overflowing with emotion, passion, soul, and humor—and all from a trio! Drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Luques Curtis kill.

by Evan Sawdey

23 Feb 2010


In a short amount of time, composer Ben Frost has gathered up a powerful arsenal of friends, ranging from (his mentor and The Reader score composer) Nico Muhly to Icelandic string quartet Amiina to Swedish metal band Crowpath to Bjork & Bonnie “Prince” Billy producer Valgeir Sigurðsson.  Then, he invited them all to play on his album. 

By the Throat is Frost’s third major full-length album, and it’s been bathing in ecstatic (and well-deserved) praise, mixing minimalist melodies with an eclectic mix of beats, vocal samples, and sheets of distortion, making for a powerful, cutting, and emotional disc that sounds like nothing like it on the avant-classical front today. 

Yet as film scores beckon and a long-awaited US tour is rumored to be in the works, the Australian-born Frost takes some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the paintings of Mark Rothko, the appreciation he holds for Looney Tunes, and why it’s best to carry a big stick with you when time traveling ...

by PC Muñoz

22 Feb 2010


“Have a Little Faith in Me” - Bill Frisell, Kermit Driscoll, and Joey Baron
Written by John Hiatt
From Live, Gramavision/Rykodisc, 1995

An earlier edit of this post first appeared on pcmunoz.com on February 14, 2006

Since its initial appearance in 1987 on writer John Hiatt‘s popular Bring the Family album, “Have a Little Faith in Me” has become something of a modern classic. The song has been covered numerous times, by wildly different artists, but my favorite version is this live instrumental arrangement by guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Kermit Driscoll, and drummer Joey Baron.

Though Frisell, Driscoll, and Baron are quite capable of radical song-reconstruction, madcap rhythmic shifts, and rollercoaster twists of form, here they wisely allow their arrangement of “Have a Little Faith in Me” to unfold gently, within a fairly accessible structure. The often-angular and surprising Baron even breaks into a straight-out pop backbeat for a few measures.

by Sean McCarthy

19 Feb 2010


A fellow music geek from another music review website gave a favorable review to Pearl Jam’s Backspacer and named it one of the best albums of last year. This isn’t particularly news—Backspacer may not have wooed critics, but it received mostly positive reviews. What was news, at least to me, was that this was the first Pearl Jam album this guy had listened to from start to finish. This may have been one reason why he gave Backspacer such a glowing review.

A lot of critics (myself included), judged Backspacer in the lexicon of Pearl Jam albums. The general consensus was the album had a solid bunch of rockers. Not much risk-taking, but no out-and-out failures. Pretty much what the band has been doing since its post-Yield output. A Pearl Jam album. While this may be true, like many other artists that opt to continue doing what they do best, this can prevent people from judging an album on its own merits and not as part of an artist’s legacy.

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