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Current Topic: Music

Heavy Trash
Topic: Music 12:13 am EDT, May  5, 2005

Fans of Jon Spencer will be interested in his latest side project. It's no classic, but it's still a lot of fun. Recommended.

As a kid growing up in Canada, Matt Verta-Ray used to argue with his pals that Johnny Cash was cooler than KISS. When he moved to New York, he put his theory into extreme practice by thumping the bass with Madder Rose and then creating a stabbing electric guitar style with Speedball Baby.

The Rhapsody reviewer wrote: "This greasy celebration of the early sounds of rock 'n' roll dips its stained fingers into rockabilly and early '60s frat rock. Spencer and Verta-Ray take turns putting the mic in their mouths and then hollering and generally acting like feral beasts."

Heavy Trash

Aimee Mann | The Forgotten Arm
Topic: Music 12:06 am EDT, May  5, 2005

Aimee Mann's new album is in stores now. (The iTunes Music Store has an exclusive bonus track.) You can experience the multimedia version at her web site.

The Forgotten Arm is the new studio album from the Grammy and Oscar nominated singer/songwriter Aimee Mann. Aimee's songs have a literary quality to them — sharp, spare short stories set to music — so it was probably inevitable that she would one day make a concept album, the musical equivalent of a novella. The Forgotten Arm , her fifth solo release, is exactly that: a dozen songs that tell, rather loosely, the story of John and Caroline as they meet, fall in love and road trip across America.

If you'd like to read some reviews, check Google News. You'll find articles from MSNBC, Boston Globe, and many more.

Aimee Mann | The Forgotten Arm

The Ditty Bops
Topic: Music 10:49 pm EST, Mar  1, 2005

The Bops are Hot.

Listen to "Sister Kate." (Navigate to Songs and Lyrics; it's track 4 on the album.) Also try "There's A Girl", which is track 9.

From the All Music Guide: Purveying an utterly charming sound that borrows from folk, pop, Western swing, and early vocal jazz, Los Angeles' fancifully named Ditty Bops feature the tightly woven harmonies of Amanda Barrett (who also handles mandolin and dulcimer duties) and Abby DeWald (who also plays guitar).

From the Amazon editorial review: Los Angeles duo The Ditty Bops call upon a 20th century grab bag of musical trends for the dozen songs that make up their eccentric debut album. DeWald and Barrett employ their effortless harmonies as instruments as they sashay through an influential spectrum that spans Bix Beiderbecke’s swinging twenties, through the Hot Club Quintet of France by way of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, and into the contemporary experimentation of producer Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Suzanne Vega).

Give the record three spins. You’ll know every song.

Their web site has the debut album. You'll find two live shows at

The Ditty Bops

Ben Kweller
Topic: Music 11:41 pm EST, Feb 15, 2005

You should check out Ben Kweller.

From the mini-review on Rhapsody:

Ben Kweller mixes Beck, the Pixies and Jonathan Richman into an odd-but-endearing sound overflowing with attitude.

Kweller is a new school indie rock singer-songwriter who draws comparisons to Matthew Sweet, Beck, and Elliott Smith all in one breath. Kweller lives in an alternate universe where influences like Sonic Youth and Ben Folds can coexist peacefully.

At his best, Kweller sounds like a cross between Jonathan Richman and Brian Wilson, but having said that he also sounds a little like Paul Simon too, if you envision that. The good news is, Kweller manages his influences in such a way as to expand on them, rather than engaging in empty imitation. The result is inescapably enjoyable indie pop with great drum sounds every time out.

For his latest album, "On My Way", his adolescent-like delivery skims the lean, stripped-down surface of his music, creating space for his poignant lyrics. Start with "Hear Me Out," "Different But the Same," and "I Need You Back."

From the All Music Guide:

Enthusiasm is what Ben Kweller brings to his work; his Ramones-like perennial goofy-teenager attitude and lack of antipathy are his golden attributes; combine that with a keen songwriting sense and you've got a pop powerhouse.

Over the course of 11 songs on "Sha Sha", he plays acoustic, folk-rock, alternative, power pop, and straight-ahead rock; his lyrics are consistently heart-sung but they aren't lite.

Kweller isn't afraid to wear his top-drawer influences on his sleeve, either: "No Reason" soars on guitar like a Frank Black tune and he sings "noooooo reason to cry" with the same vehemence with which Johnny Rotten sang "nooooo future."

On the follow-on album, "On My Way", a somewhat more mature approach is contrasted and balanced by Kweller's voice, which still sounds charmingly, vulnerably adolescent as he ventures further into his twenties. Best of all are the power pop-influenced songs, which are urgent, plaintive, and funny at the same time.

Six of his songs are available for free download (in MP3 format).

"On My Way"

I want to kill this man but he turned around and ran.
I'll kill him with karate that I learned in Japan.
He wouldn't see my face. I wouldn't leave a trace.
I wouldn't use a bullet cause a bullet's a disgrace.

Aw, mom, I never thought that I was a murdering man
but tonight I'm on my way.

"My Apartment"

Sometimes I wish I had a farm
where the only pollution is your cigarettes,
where your mind is clear.
But I like it here in my small space.
New York's the place where the sidewalks know my face
as I walk to

my apartment, the home where I hide
away from all the darkness outside.
I'm there all the time.

Ben Kweller

Lizzie West
Topic: Music 11:33 pm EST, Feb 15, 2005

From the All Music Guide:

Singer/songwriter Lizzie West is a wandering spirit, matching the heartbreak of Neko Case and the crass humor of Lucinda Williams and Kristin Hersh.

Lizzie West has lived her life as a wanderer. Time spent traveling cross-country shaped her sunny character as a young 20-something and strongly impacting her work as a poet and as a songwriter. West's self-titled EP was merely a glimpse into her wild imagination, and "Holy Road: Freedom Songs" vividly reflects upon her spiritual quest, collecting some of her brightest adventures for a brilliant debut album.

Lizzie West

Sensitive, Smart-Ass, and Really Fucking On
Topic: Music 9:40 am EST, Feb 15, 2005

Rilo Kiley has quickly turned from a twee LA pop band to the assured, anthem writing rock and roll heroes of today.

At their best, they're giving us catchy anthems both sensitive and smart-ass, leading us in sing-alongs about love, depression, the environment, and death. Punctuated by Sennett's knotty guitar lines and soaring climaxes, Lewis wields her pen like Liz Phair when she was relevant.

All Music Guide had this to say:

For More Adventurous, their Warner-distributed hello to the big time, the Los Angeles band is more cohesive, more spotless, and tidier in its tangle of indie pop, torch song, and too-cool-for-school cynicism. "More Adventurous" is a near perfectly-appointed collection of the various sounds the band does best. They're well-dressed conversationalists from the underground, armed with glockenspiels and extremely comforting handshakes.

That Rilo Kiley jump around so much stylistically could slow down More Adventurous' heat-seeker status. But the old-schoolers will enjoy greater attention to detail, and the newbies have hooks to love aplenty.

Sensitive, Smart-Ass, and Really Fucking On

The Greatest Love Story of the 20th Century
Topic: Music 7:47 pm EST, Feb 13, 2005

This American Life, Episode 247, Act Three. A Love Story.

Sarah Vowell tells "The Greatest Love Story of the 20th Century," Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. (10 minutes)

All true Johnny Cash fans should know this story.

Act Three begins at 47:10. Sarah's voice is gloriously annoying, don't you think?

The Greatest Love Story of the 20th Century

The Be Good Tanyas
Topic: Music 3:53 pm EST, Nov 25, 2004

The Be Good Tanyas play an old-timey blend of folk, country, and blues bolstered by sweet harmonies and traditional fingerpicking. Their motto might be "If it's kind of different and sounds cool, let's see if it will work."

"Blue Horse" is a lovely debut, full of promise and great tunes.

On "Chinatown," the singing is raggedy and breathy, the instruments gently strummed or stroked; like whispered intimacies, these elements cast a conversational spell. Their performances beckon the listener even more into the material, as a fiery hearth might draw strangers together on a cold night.

(Excerpts from All Music Guide)

The Be Good Tanyas

Chemical Brothers - 'Galvanize' Single, 'Push The Button' Album
Topic: Music 12:04 am EST, Nov 25, 2004

11 years and 8 million albums since bursting out of the UK's underground club culture, The Chemical Brothers are back.

With their fifth studio album, Push the Button, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons once again demonstrate that, when it comes to beat-based innovation, inspired collaboration and sheer sonic excellence, they are matchless.

The first single "Galvanize" is a Middle Eastern-flavored juggernaut, featuring A Tribe Called Quest legend Q-Tip.

Defying expectations and reinvigorating music are what the brothers do best -- and this album proves it yet again. Push The Button will be released on January 25, 2005.

The single is available now on ITMS. It's also available for free (albeit only at 64 kbps) at The Chemical Brothers web site. (You have to enable pop-ups to use the site.)

Chemical Brothers - 'Galvanize' Single, 'Push The Button' Album

Massive Attack: Danny The Dog
Topic: Music 2:08 am EST, Nov 23, 2004

Virgin Records will release Massive Attack's original score to the Luc Besson film Danny The Dog on Monday 11th October, 2004.

The band were approached personally by Luc Besson and the film's director, Louis Leterrier, to record the soundtrack. Working over an 11-week period, the band set out to create an instrumental soundtrack which captures both the fast-paced action and reflective sadness of Danny The Dog. The soundtrack is made up of 21 pieces of music, which run in chronological order throughout the film, with each piece depicting a certain scene, from the intensity of tracks such as Atta' Boy, Simple Rules, Collar Stays On, You've Had A Dream to the haunting dub and ambience of Sam's Tunes, Right Way To Hold A Spoon and Everybody's Got A family, the soundtrack demonstrates perfectly the band's gift for capturing the intricate mood of film.

Danny The Dog is a martial arts thriller starring Jet Li, Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of Danny (Li), a slave who has lived his life without any sort of normal human education, with the mind and personality of a young child, with only one lesson learned: how to fight. Treated like a dog by his owner, Bart (Hoskins), which includes having to wear a collar, Danny fights in illegal gladiator-style fight clubs. After a car accident that lands Bart in a coma, however, Danny meets a kind elderly blind piano tuner (Freeman), who uses music to teach Danny some humanity.

Danny The Dog is a film about the power of love, the terrifying realities of man's capacity for violence, and the wonder of music.

Massive Attack: Danny The Dog

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