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Tuesday, Aug 18, 2009

Richard Thompson - Walking on a Wire: Richard Thompson (1968-2009)
The best box set of the past few months has nothing to do with Woodstock. Walking on a Wire covers the length of Thompson’s rich and varied career, beginning with his days in the influential folk-rock group Fairport Convention and continuing through his work with his wife Linda and into the solo career that continues unabated to this day. Equally revered as a songwriter and guitarist, Thompson is one of the true legends of the 1960s.


Joe Henry - Blood from Stars
Eclectic singer-songwriter Joe Henry offers up a compelling blend of decidedly adult music on his 11th solo release. As always, his music won’t be confined by genre definitions, but suffice it to say, his work has a blues hue and a jazz sensibility. The album also marks the debut of Henry’s son Levon on saxophone. Levon has snagged two soloist awards already from the Monterey Jazz Festival’s honors given to young musicians.


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Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009

Recently dubbed the new “princess of Pop”, Rolling Stone has said that Lady Gaga is on the verge of being the “defining Pop Star of the year”, and earlier offered her the cover of the coveted annual Hot List Edition. The honour is arguably a well-deserved one, considering that the singer’s ‘80s flavoured dance songs have been smash hits across both sides of the pond—helping secure the former cocaine-addict a devoted fan base.


Personally, it isn’t Gaga’s music that I find most intriguing. Rather, it is her dramatic rise, and her unabashed obsession with fame and her penchant for discussing it. Surely, the title of her first album, The Fame professes this explicitly, while Brian Hiatt’s report in RS reveals that the young starlet is a workaholic, who is devoted to the continued rise of her stardom. These musings were interspersed with quips by Gaga who regaled readers with stories about “kissing girls” and how she “doesn’t look like the other perfect pop singers”, i.e. she aims to surprise with her lack of convention.


Pop music aficionados will note that there is nothing particularly fresh about Gaga’s approach. We all know how Madonna exploited the minds of the MTV generation, and that her sole intent at the time was (arguably) to usurp convention, through reinvention.


Tagged as: lady gaga, madonna, mtv
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Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009

Where last week was a major drought, save for some stellar Americana from Ha Ha Tonka, this week is an embarrassment of riches. Even records that wind up being a disappointment like Mars Volta’s latest are still worth a listen or two. The week is packed with the sort of stuff that makes indie fans salivate (Sunset Rubdown, Dinosaur Jr., Tortoise), while still offering solid choices for middle of the road rock fans with new platters from Pete Yorn, the Gossip (digital only until October), the Lemonheads and Cheap Trick.


Dinosaur Jr. - Farm: J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph resurrected the original band line-up in 2007 for the critically acclaimed Beyond and they have stuck with it. Leaving the majors behind for a respected indie label, Jagjaguwar, the group continues their anthemic sound, underpinned by J Mascis’ guitar hero riffs.


The Mars Volta - Octahedron: The former members of At the Drive-In continue their prog rock explorations, albeit at a lower volume and slower pace. Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have both labeled the album their “acoustic” effort that, while not entirely accurate, does hint at the intent here.


Tagged as: new cds
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Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009

Blame it on a Bonnarroo hangover perhaps or the weak economy, but this week is one of the lightest new music release weeks in recent memory, rivaling the deserted graveyard that is the post holiday season. While next week promises an embarassment of indie riches, July 16th biggest highlights are a new platter from a barely known outside the indie set Americana band and a collaboration of production heavyweights Switch and Diplo. At the other end of the spectrum, the suits are pegging the week’s sales figures on a new one from the Jonas Brothers. Yeah, it’s a sad week for iTune afficiandos and big box store shoppers. That said, there are a couple of worthy re-issues on offer, with power pop legend, Big Star’s #1 Record/Radio City being at the head of the class.


Major Lazer - Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do
Star remixer Diplo and M.I.A. producer Switch have teamed up for a heavily buzzed about collaboration in Major Lazer. The two creative forces merge reggae and dancehall with electronic beats and textures in a successful cross-genre experimentation. The end result is something like “digital dancehall”.


Tagged as: new cds, new releases
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Monday, Jun 15, 2009

In the past couple of years musicians who have decided to free themselves from the corporate structure of the music industry have come up with creative ways to finance their albums. One way they’ve done this is by offering their fans special deals in exchange for some help with funding. This has included exclusive meet-and-greets, autographed items, special concert seating, and even personalized house or backyard concerts for top donors.


Well, Erin McKeown has taken her house concert idea to someplace totally new: her house. Erin is offering up a series of concerts at her own house in Western Mass., and is inviting fans to join her over the Internet. In what she is calling Cabin Fever, Erin will play four shows from various places in her yard, all with different themes, and is asking people to pay $10 per show to stream it live on her site. A cost of $30 will get you all four shows. This is all to benefit the recording and release of her new album “Hundreds of Lions.”


She writes: “In the grand tradition of barn-raisings and house-rent parties, Erin McKeown is inviting you into her living room, onto her porch, into her river, into her yard and asking you to lend a hand… just as farmers needed their neighbors to help raise the roof and musicians have sung for their supper.”


Tagged as: erin mckeown
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