Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Mix: Numbers Are Against Us

I'm not sure what inspired me to go about making a mix with numbers, except that I've wanted to do it for about 15 years now and never got to it. So here's a bunch of great songs with numbers in the title. Hopefully there are a few new things in here for you to enjoy.

Aimee Mann - "One": A cover from the Magnolia soundtrack, she takes the Harry Nilsson classic and somehow makes it her own without betraying the original. It fits in extremely well with the tone of the film and soundtrack, too. A favorite cover of mine.

The Two Man Gentlemen Band - "The Square Root of Two": While I'll always think of The Two Man Gentlemen Band as a band that does songs about history, they also have quite a few math songs in their repertoire. While this doesn't achieve the heights of their great "Prime Numbers," this is still a cute math-based love song.

Kathleen Edwards - "Six O'Clock News": The only artist to get two slots on this playlist, "Six O'Clock News" largely put Edwards on the map. Her first single from her awesome Failer from (wow) twelve years ago, it remains a personal classic.

Sunny Day Real Estate - "8": Sunny Day Real Estate was quite pioneering in their time, but I honestly found them hit or miss. When it didn't work for me, it really didn't work, but when I like a song of theirs, I'm all in. Of all the songs I do like, "8" is by far my favorite. I love the drums in this song in particular, I love the build in the beginning, and the verses always grab me. Awesome song.

Kathleen Edwards - "12 Bellevue": While the first few songs of Failer got me on board with Kathleen Edwards, it was "12 Bellevue" that probably propelled her into a favorite of mine. I love the horns, the whole package.

Har Mar Superstar - "12:12": Har Mar Superstar doesn't get enough credit for his white boy R&B, and, although he really needs to put his shirt on, his album from last year had a number of memorable cuts including "12:12."

The Phenomenal Handclap Band (featuring Lady Tigra) - "15 to 20": This is a song I loved from when I had satellite radio. I can't say I loved a lot of what this group did on a whole, but this song is a really solid standout. It may have been in a camera commercial at some point?

The Dandy Warhols - "16 Tons": A fairly interesting version of the folk song popularized by Tennessee Ernie Ford in the 1950s, it doesn't sound like anything else The Dandys did, but in terms of fascinating covers, this isn't bad...

The Apples in Stereo - "20 Cases Suggestive Of...": Back before Hilarie Sidney left The Apples in Stereo, she would usually get a shot singing lead on one of the songs on each album, and they were almost always among my favorites. This specific song is one of my favorite Apples songs period, and was one of the first songs to get me truly excited about indie rock in general.

Gorillaz - "68 State": A Gorillaz b-side that I always liked, it's a much more straightforward dance track than most of what they do, but still pretty solid.

R.E.M. - "Star 69": R.E.M.'s fifth single off of used CD bin stalwart Monster, a weird song about stalking that references that old thing you could do on your phone to dial back who called you. The song still holds up even if the technology didn't.

Turin Brakes - "Emergency 72": Turin Brakes have been a favorite of mine for a while, and this song from their first album was one that I didn't love to start, but it did end up growing on me and became a favorite.

Reel Big Fish - "241": Because sometimes you just need to have a ska song on a mix.

Boards of Canada - "1969": If we're going to call a Boards of Canada song accessible, this might be the closest we can get. It's a fairly straightforward electronic song, especially for them.

Shout Out Louds - "1999": I had many, many friends who were into Shout Out Louds, and this is the song that got me on board with them. I don't consider myself a huge fan, but this song still grabs me every time I hear it.

Varsity Drag - "1999": A song I can thank Ken for, Varsity Drag is a great 1990s alt-rock throwback, and this song is pretty representative on a whole.

Silverchair - "Anthem for the Year 2000": Yes, I like this song, shut up. This was their first comeback song of sorts, and yeah. No excuses, no regrets.

Nina Gordon - "2003": Nina Gordon, previously/currently of Veruca Salt, went off to do some solo work in the early 2000s. Her first album, Tonight and the Rest of My Life, was extremely poppy, but I couldn't get enough of it, and "2003" was one of my favorites. I can't say the album truly holds up long-term, but I still enjoy bits and pieces of it.

Childish Gambino - "3005": The lead single from Donald Glover's second proper rap album, Because the Internet, it's pretty representative even if it's a little strange from a fairly challenging album.

Elf Power - "100,000 Telescopes": A somewhat drony indie rock song to finish things off, Elf Power always held a weird spot in the Elephant 6/psych rock landscape, and this song in particular really demonstrates what they could do when they weren't making ridiculously catchy tunes. I always liked this song, even if it was far from their best.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for June 24

A very thin week this week, but an unexpected favorite has emerged from the list, so let's dive in.

Phox - Phox: This wasn't even on my radar until Ken sent it over to me, and I immediately fell in love. It's sort of reminiscent of the best of Freelance Whales in many regards, although I find the band incredibly difficult to put into any specific category. It's a really accessible album with a lot going for it, some pretty memorable songs (I'm quite partial to "Raspberry Seed" on first listen), and a lot of interesting things to make repeat listens something to look forward to. Easily my favorite new release of the week, and the best of recent times I think. Highly recommended.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Sea When Absent: I consider A Sunny Day in Glasgow to be a little more challenging than most of what I listen to, and this album seems to continue along those lines. I enjoyed Autumn, Again, and this one is one I definitely need more time with, but is also one I want more time with. A pretty solid shoegaze record.

Bassnectar - Noise vs. Beauty: I like a few of Bassnectar's remixes, but I'll be honest - listening to this album was a very stark reminder as to why I really don't do dubstep. Fans of the genre may like this, but it didn't work for me.

Circulatory System - Mosaics Within Mosaics: Circulatory System is an Elephant 6-related band that always seemed to be on the periphery of the periphery of the overall collective. The new album, the first in five years, continues along the same complicated psych soundscapes that you might come to expect, and, for me, it's a nice reminder of what I loved about the more experimental arms of the groups. Worth a listen, but it's not going to be for everyone.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Download a Free Live Album Sampler from Kingsley Flood!

Boston's own Kingsley Flood have one of the traits of my favorite bands: While their albums are good, their live show is amazing. They basically blend the popular neo-folk movement of the day with the fun and edge of pop punk. (And by pop punk I mean the kind found on Lookout Records back in the 90s). 

That being said, imagine my joy when Kingsley Flood surprised us all earlier this week by announcing a new live album (Live at the Armory) would be out next week! And that right now you can download a sampler of the album for free through Noisetrade! By now, you all know how much we love free music at If It's Too Loud..., so this is a complete no-brainer for us. The two songs of theirs I saw last year at the Newport Folk Fest were a highlight of that day, so this is almost a consolation prize for missing their full set.

To download Live at the Armory Sampler, head on over to Noisetrade. For more info on Kingsley Flood, please check out their website and catch them live at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH on July 16!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Mix: Monday Remixes

I love a good remix, so today I'm offering up 20 of my favorites. For best results, throw it on shuffle, crank up the volume, and get something done while you're grooving. With many of these, there may be some language you'd want to avoid, so there's your warning.

Beastie Boys - "Body Movin'" (Fatboy Slim remix): I feel like this might have ended up being the actual single for this song way back whenever, but, like so many Fatboy Slim remixes, I feel like this far exceeds the original. Once you've listened to enough remixes, you recognize the Fatboy Slim fingerprint almost immediately, so if this sort of big beat thing isn't for you, well...

Ellie Goulding - "Lights" (Bassnectar remix): One of the few appearances of modern dubstep on this list, I do feel as if this version of "Lights" is also superior to the original, leaving the basic melody and structure intact while adding an element of urgency that the original lacks. This largely put Goulding on the map, so there's certainly nothing wrong with this.

Yelle - "Comme Un Enfant" (Freaks Radio mix): I confess to only knowing Yelle because of a series of really bizarre internet videos, but I've truly come to love what she does. I don't understand a word she's saying, either, but that doesn't matter. This is one of my favorites of her remixed versions.

Florrie - "Call 911" (Fred Falke remix): I found this song through Spotify radio ages ago, and the remix turns it into a pretty basic club anthem, and it just works for me. I love this song.

Gorillaz - "19-2000" (Soulchild remix): While I was unsure as to whether the Beastie Boys remix ever became a single, I know that this version of "19-2000" was the one that hit the radio. It really should have been the album version, as the version on their debut was really kind of plodding and slow. This makes it feel like a fun club song.

Groove Armada - "I See You Baby" (Fatboy Slim remix): Again with the Fatboy Slim, this (I believe) was in a car commercial at some point. Regardless, this version is much more danceable and fun than the original, and I think it's just better across the board.

Janelle Monae - "Tightrope" (Wondamix featuring B.o.B. and Lupe Fiasco): What can I say about this remix? For one, it has Lupe Fiasco in it, which is great. For another, Janelle Monae drops a fairly fun rap verse. For a third, the funk/soul aspects of the original are put aside in favor of a stuttering beat that, while perhaps not superior to the original, is different enough to offer a whole different take on Monae's breakthrough track. I love this.

Morgan Page featuring Lissie - "The Longest Road" (Deadmau5 vocal remix): This remix of the Morgan Page/Lissie track from a few years ago gets a bit more of a beat and some interesting happenings along the way. I love this song anyway, and I find this remix to be an interesting one.

Shirley Bassey - "Goldfinger" (Propellerheads remix): Shirley Bassey is a national treasure, and she experienced a sort of resurgence when Propellerheads used her on "History Repeating" back in the 1990s. They also remixed a handful of her Bond themes, and this one is a personal favorite of mine.

Jenny Owen Youngs - "Fuck Was I" (Morgan Page remix): Jenny Owen Youngs has had a few cool remixes, but Morgan Page's take on the otherwise ballad-like "Fuck Was I" turns it into a much more airy, pleasant tune. I love the background instrumentation on this remix more than anything else about it.

Yelle - "Que Veux Tu" (Madeon remix): Another Yelle song I don't quite understand, but still love. Also comes with a weird internet video.

R.E.M. - "King of Comedy" (808 State remix): I understand that I'm cheating a bit by including this yet again after putting it on a mix a few weeks ago, but it fits. Yes, it's still dated. Yes, it's still good.

Cornershop - "Brimful of Asha" (Norman Cook remix): If I had to choose my favorite remixes, this would absolutely be at the top. There's an extended version out there that's even better, but for this purpose, it'll do. The original song is still in there, but it's barely recognizable in a sense, which might be what makes it great.

Florence + the Machine - "Dog Days are Over" (Yeasayer remix): This is admittedly a weird one, but I still like it. It makes for a very strange tonal version of the hit song, and that it's Yeasayer doing the remix is a little weird as well.

30h!3 featuring Katy Perry - "Starstrukk": I'm cheating a little bit in calling a radio remix featuring a pop star as a remix, but, compared to the original, there's no contest. This is more polished, more fun, and I still hate that 3oh!3 has kind of lost their touch a bit.

Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce - "Telephone" (Passion Pit remix): The idea of Passion Pit remixing Lady Gaga and getting it commercially released is kind of shocking. You hear the Passion Pit influence almost immediately, and it's a pretty interesting remix on a whole.

Fatboy Slim - "Star 69" (Rogue Element remix): If you've listened to the other Fatboy Slim songs on here by now, you know what you're getting. I've always been drawn to this one as well, it's just a fun party track.

Jenny Owen Youngs - "Woodcut" (Age of Rockets remix): This is probably one of the few non-dance tracks on this mix, as it takes a sad-sounding folky song and turns it into a really interesting audio soundscape. One of my favorite remixes.

Garbage - "Queer" (Rabbit in the Moon remix): The classic Garbage song gets a more trancey, dancey look. Rabbit in the Moon does a lot of really good remixes, this one is quite good.

Au Revoir Simone - "Dark Halls" (Best Fwiends remix): Au Revoir Simone does a lot of keyboard-specific stuff already, so to have a bit of a glitch beat thrown behind one of my favorite songs of theirs is hardly a bad thing. They have a few remix albums out now, all of which are worth the time.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Freebie: Hallelujah the Hills - Have You Ever Done Something Evil?

You may recall us highlighting the new album from Hallelujah the Hills on First Listen a month ago. This week, the band opted to place the new album, Have You Ever Done Something Evil, as a name your price release at their Bandcamp.

This album is worth a few dollars of your music budget anyway, but they are offering it up for free. So if you want a decent punkish album by some Boston upstarts, check out their Bandcamp page and get to downloadin'.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for June 17

Another slow week as we enter the summer, but there are a few new highlights out there.

The Two Man Gentlemen Band - Enthusiastic Attempts at Hot Swing & String Band Favorites: Blog favorite The Two Man Gentlemen Band is back with a new album of "Hot Swing and String Band Favorites," which is something they've done live for a while now. It's the typical high quality from The Gentlemen we've expected, and it's also nice to know that scoring Disney cartoons hasn't really impacted the band on a whole. Definitely another solid release from one of my favorite groups.

Yuko Yuko - Babes: I only heard about Yuko Yuko from some other music blogs. It's lo-fi Casio-style electronic music, and almost feels ironic to a fault. I don't hate this, mind you, but I can see it being pretty grating to some listeners. With that said, if you can accept the premise, there are some solid songs on here worth hearing.

Say Hi - Endless Wonder: Say Hi is a band I never really listened to, even though they've been around for a while now. Really just a solo project, I admit that Endless Wonder hooked me in with the first song on the album, "Hurt in the Morning," and really works from start to finish. From what I've read, this album is a bit of a departure for them, so if you're a fan you might be thrown off, but I'm personally glad I gave this one a shot. Solid album.

The Antlers - Familiars: Another band I've generally avoided, Familiars reminds me of a lot of contemplative, deliberate indie rock bands while also not really reminding me of anything at all. It's a good album, but it's one I need more time with to really formulate a solid thought on.

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence: I really disliked Lana Del Rey's first album. I didn't get the hype, didn't find her to be that interesting, "Video Games" bored me, and so on. The last thing I expected was to actually enjoy Ultraviolence, but I do. The album seems to have a point, and it may, perhaps, meander here and there more than it has to, but in terms of someone I had written off, this is a pretty solid listen. I recommend people give it a shot, at the very least.

Willie Nelson - Band of Brothers: The AV Club says this is Nelson's 48th album, and that this one is noteworthy as he wrote 9 of the songs on the album. Willie Nelson is really a national treasure at this point, and you pretty much know what you're getting from Willie, and this album's no different. Plenty to like, and he's still going strong.

Also out this week:

* Boris - Noise

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Got a Girl - "Did We Live Too Fast"

Got a Girl is the collaboration between Dan the Automator (Handsome Boy Modelling School, Deltron 3030) and actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Smashed). I know, I know. For those of us who remember "Party All the Time," we know to cringe whenever we see an actor try to become a singer. Lately, there have been exceptions, with Zooey Deschanel and Donald Glover become bona fide recording artists.

Luckily, Got a Girl is legitimately good. They duo just released their first video, "Did We Live Too Fast." The song plays with both 60s French torch songs and Dan the Automator's trademark laid back hip hop. It's much closer to Lovage... Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By than the Automator's more known work. The video features Winstead as a wife dealing with discovering her husband (the Automator) has a fetish for ladies with a third eye. It's definitely worth a watch.

Got a Girl's debut album, I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now is due out on July 22. Watch the video below, and follow them on Twitter: @Got_a_Girl.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Mix: Down With the Sickness

So I spent the majority of this past week sick as a dog. My 11+ year vomitless streak remains intact, but I have been coughing up a storm, had a few low-appetite days, low-energy days, and so on. It inspired me to seek out some songs over the weekend that either centered around being sick, or had illnesses/sickness in the title, or had some sort of relationship to being sick in the song. Some of these are stretches, sure, but I'm sick. Let me be.

I try to keep these clean, but a lot of these songs have some language in them, so be aware.

Kid Koala - "Flu Season": Kid Koala opens this up with a quick song that takes coughs and sneezes to create a beat for this short interlude. Felt appropriate.

Richard Cheese - "Down With the Sickness": There was no way I was going to sully this blog with some mid-1990s nu metal garbage, so I may as well class it up with the Richard Cheese version of the Disturbed "classic." This is kind of Richard Cheese's meal ticket, so you'll find a lot to like if this does it for you.

Fountains of Wayne - "Sick Day": Not one of Fountains of Wayne's best known songs, but it really fits right in with what's expected from them. Not really specifically about a sick day, but I know I should have taken one this past week and didn't.

Lisa Loeb - "Sick, Sick, Sick": Not about being sick, just stealing the song title as an excuse to highlight Lisa Loeb's underappreciated/underrated album from last year.

The Dead Weather - "Cut Like a Buffalo": The chorus of the song involves a choking vocalist. My cough was producing many similar sounds and feelings throughout the last week, to the point where I was singing this song in my head. Sounds like a reason to include it to me.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - "Germs": I'm not sure if this is a straightforward parody of "Closer," but it's definitely "Weird Al" doing Nine Inch Nails. Germs cause disease, so here we are.

eels - "Novocaine for the Soul": Before I sputter out.

Fugazi - "Give Me the Cure": Interestingly, this is not what I'd expect to hear from Fugazi at all. Lyrically, well, put it in place for having the flu instead of the general theme, and...

Young the Giant - "Cough Syrup": I didn't take any cough syrup over the week. Maybe that's part of my problem. When building this playlist, there's apparently a Glee version of it, which will be awesome when we eventually make a "Songs to Make You Sick" playlist.

Beck - "Nausea": If I had to pick the last song that Beck has made that I liked at all, it might be "Nausea" off of The Information. For the title more than the theme, it's a decent track.

OK Go - "Here We Go Again": One of my 15 month old's favorite songs, and a song that's on a toy of his, I picked this because the chorus really describes how I've felt since Wednesday. I'm absolutely cheating here, but until you've woken up on the fourth night in a row thinking you have it fixed and figured out, well...

The White Stripes - "Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine": And neither do I.

Andrew WK - "Party Til You Puke": Do I really need to explain this one?

Metric - "Sick Muse": One more sort of cheaty one, but any excuse to use Metric. And hey, if Muses can get sick too, it puts me in good company.

Mudhoney - "Touch Me I'm Sick": The classic Mudhoney song, I totally felt like I was rotting from the inside this week. Absolutely.

Sparks - "Achoo": My friend and non-musical collaborator on projects TBD exposed me to Sparks some time ago, and I don't listen to them nearly as much as I should. "Achoo" is a fun song, and the chorus does what it says on the tin.

The Divine Comedy - "The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count": Before this went full-blown, I assumed that I was just having another spring/summer allergy problem. Now that I have things mostly under control, my nose and throat are hating me due to the high pollen count. I'm almost positive you forgot this band and song, so here's a nice reminder.

Fujiya & Miyagi - "Collarbone": On Thursday, I woke myself up coughing so hard I thought I cracked a rib. On Saturday, I must have pulled 3 different abdominal muscles. This is the best I could do for those sensations.

Tom Lehrer - "S-N (Snore, Sniff, and Sneeze)": Because Tom Lehrer.

Butthole Surfers - "Clean It Up": I'll be honest - I have no expectation of anyone listening to this mix to get through more than two minutes of this song, but it makes for a really glorious closer for a group of songs about sickness and illness.

Have a good week, and stay in good health!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Green River Festival Preview

In it's 28th year, the Green River Festival is one of the best kept secrets in the New England concert scene. It doesn't have the name recognition of Lollapalooza or the Newport Folk Festival, but that fits Green River just fine. Western MA has long had a mysteriously great live music scene, combining national touring bands with a small town feel. The Green River Festival has long been the centerpiece of the scene.

This year will be no exception, and might just be the best line up Green River has seen yet. Saturday features Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Lucius, Puss n Boots (featuring Norah Jones), The Lone Bellow, Poor Old Shine, Grant-Lee Phillips, and more. Sunday is just ridiculous, with Josh Ritter & Royal City Band, Trampled By Turtles, Hurray for the Riff Raff, multi-national rapper Ana Tijoux, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (and you all know how I feel about her), The Deadly Gentlemen, and more. 

Plus, there's the added extra of hot air balloons. You can ride, or watch, hot air balloons while listening to amazing music. It's also unbelievably family friendly, with music and circus acts just for kids. Also, kids under 10 are free, which is pretty much unheard of nowadays.

The Green River Festival takes place July 12 and 13 on the campus of Greenfield Community College. For more information, check out their website, and you can buy tickets and parking passes here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for June 10

A few highly anticipated releases, a few surprises, so let's dive in. We've been doing this for a year already?

The Fresh & Onlys - House of Spirits: I confess to having never heard of this band before this week, and the type of music they do is appealing, a sort of darker indie rock/pop sound. This album doesn't have any immediate highlights on first listen, but it's still a pretty good album for this week, and deserves to not get lost in the shuffle.

Half-Handed Cloud - Flying Scroll Flight Control: Back when I first got into indie rock, a lot of the Elephant 6 stuff I was into was the sort of psych-folk experimental stuff that, frankly, I can't listen to anymore today. That's effectively what Half-Handed Cloud is, and I really don't have anything to say since it isn't really for me at all.

Craft Spells - Nausea: Craft Spells is another band I didn't know until this week, and I really liked this album. It's the best parts of a good indie pop album all at once, catchy hooks, seemingly meaningful lyrics, the whole thing. I'll be exploring their back-catalog quite quickly.

This Wild Life - Clouded: I'll put it out there, first - emo really isn't my thing. I saw Dashboard Confessional a few times during their rise to the top, and This Wild Life is really the 2014 version of Dashboard Confessional, just with more strings. If that sounds like what you'd want to hear, you'll love this. As for me, I liked the album for what it was, it's just not something I'd necessarily opt into otherwise. Such is the First Listen ethos, I suppose. Honestly, if you want to branch out a bit, this is not a bad album to do so with.

Andrew Bird - Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of: A surprise release of sorts for Bird, who only announced this within the last month, the album is a collection of Handsome Family covers. Truly, given the very distinct sound The Handsome Family offer, the songs sound like Andrew Bird's music, so you won't be losing much if you're in it for him. Bird and The Handsome Family have a long-standing kinship, so this is a very respectful collection of covers, and definitely worth the time. There are a lot of solid gems here.

First Aid Kit - Stay Gold: Album of the week, unsurprisingly, is the new album by First Aid Kit. Their first two albums were excellent, and the second album was an improvement on the first, and this an improvement on the second. It's a little more ambitious, a little more musically interesting, and it just works from start to finish. Plus, the group does some of the most beautiful harmonies going in music currently, so if you're into that sort of thing... Truly one of the better albums this year.

Jack White - Lazaretto: Probably the most anticipated album of the week, Jack White's solo album is... a Jack White solo album. I have a weird relationship with White's solo work, which never excites me the way his White Stripes or Dead Weather or Racounteurs stuff did for whatever reason. What I can say is that this is a more musically cohesive piece than his first solo album, so if Blunderbuss left you wanting, this isn't a reason to jump off. On the other hand, though, it may be that the idea of Jack White is better as a sum of parts than on its own. Or maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Download Bunny's A Swine's Digital Catalog For Free Today

Normally we do our "Friday Freebies," but this is a today only kind of thing. To celebrate their 6 year "bandiversary,"* one of our favorite Northampton, MA bands is giving away their entire digital catalog for free on their Bandcamp page. This includes last year's fabulous Calling Out and all the way back to 2009's Nothing Bad Will Happen. 

As always, if you're going to download a band's entire freakin' catalog for free, you should check out their website, follow them on Facebook, go see them at the Flywheel in Easthampton, MA on 7/25, and at Sonelab (also in Easthampton) on 9/13. Also, if you're on this site, we can pretty much guarantee you're going to like them. Especially for free.

*Hey, today is If It's Too Loud's 1 year blogiversary! Go us!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

David Wax Museum, WGBY Asparagus Festival, Hadley Town Common, Hadley, MA 6/1/14

For those of us that grew up on the more rural side of the suburbs, we know concerts on the town common all too well. It's always some marching band playing Sousa's finest, or maybe you'll hear the most horrific version of "The Sound of Music" you've ever heard. It's not where you'd expect to find nationally touring musicians.

WBGY put on this year's Asparagus Festival, complete with paper asparagus hats and local food and craft vendors on the Hadley town common. It's not usually the type of event I'd find myself at, but when my favorite band to see live is playing, I'll make an exception. Playing such a family friendly event is perfect for a band that brings a 6 month old on tour with them, and they even commented that it was the first time they had played before 10:00 pm in a long time. The true beauty of seeing David Wax Museum live is that they perfectly fit their surroundings, from large outdoor festivals in front of thousands to tiny basement clubs. At the Asparagus Festival, they had a crowd of maybe 100. With some existing fans, but mostly made of first timers just checking out a local event on a Sunday afternoon, David Wax Museum played a laid back while still uptempo set that let the audience come to them. Coming out as a stripped down four piece, familiar songs had a new sound. "Born With a Broken Heart" took on an almost pop punk feel, if there is such as thing as Mexican-American pop folk punk. Most of the crowd stayed seating, with the half circle formed around the front of the stage so as not to be rude. It turned into mostly a children's play/dance area, which fit the mood perfectly. Slowly, adults started filling the area to respond to the music. This was led mostly by one woman, who was trying to get them to play "Yes Maria Yes" for a second time. "Unfruitful" was a highlight, as always. Usually this song brings out every member of all opening bands, but today it stayed just the core four piece band of David Wax Museum. Somehow this made the day that much more perfect.

As always, I implore you to check out David Wax Museum when they come to your town. No matter the setting, it is sure to be a fantastic time. Head on over to their website for more information, including tour dates. I also wanted to make sure to mention one of the openers, Miss Tess and the Talkbacks. I didn't see enough of their set to give a true review, but if you like bluesy, jazzy Americana, you'll definitely dig them.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Mix: 20 Great Cover Songs

This week's mix celebrates the art of the cover song. I love a good remake, and the songs listed in this playlist are some of my favorites that may not be known so well. Enjoy!

Sarah Jarosz - "The Tourist": Sarah Jarosz is one of my favorite current bluegrass artists, and she makes it a point to have at least one cover song on all her albums. My favorite of her's, by far, is her version of Radiohead's "The Tourist," which keeps the atmosphere of the original while offering some really impressive musicianship.

Dum Dum Girls - "There is a Light That Never Goes Out": Dum Dum Girls are still running with the reverb-heavy indie rock, but they tackle this classic by The Smiths in a way that I almost enjoy more than the original. It's great how well their sound compliments the song, and the result ends up being more immediate than the original.

Ben Folds Five - "She Don't Use Jelly": Originally on a compilation called "Lounge-a-palooza," which took classic 1990s songs and remade them with lounge-style music, Ben Folds Five keeps their tongue firmly in cheek with this Flaming Lips song. If you can get your hands on the compilation, there's also a great version of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" by legendary lounge act Steve & Eydie.

Hem - "So. Central Rain": There's no way I could do a mix like this without an R.E.M. cover. Hem does lush, gorgeous folk music, and their version of R.E.M.'s "So. Central Rain" slows things down a bit and highlights the themes quite nicely.

Emm Gryner - "Song 2": I don't know much of anything about Emm Gryner, but I do know that her Tori Amos-sounding version of Blur's "Song 2" really transforms the song. Worth a listen.

Nada Surf - "Enjoy the Silence": Nada Surf has really been killing it over the last decade, and they did a cover album a few years back that included this version of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence." Instead of a dark, brooding song, they turn it into an upbeat race and I think I like it a lot more than the original.

Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet - "Cinnamon Girl": Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet have been putting out albums of their favorite songs for the last few years, and they have yet, in my mind, to surpass the greatness that is their version of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." It's very straightforward, to be sure, but sometimes faithful is good.

Iron and Wine - "Such Great Heights": If you watched any movie trailers from 2004-2008, you probably remember hearing this in the background. It's a radically different take on the Postal Service song, truly one of the better cover versions period.

Chris Thile - "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground": Chris Thile of Nickel Creek and The Punch Brothers also did some solo albums, and his version of The White Stripes song is pretty much what you'd expect from Thile. Shows the quality of a song like this that it can be so transformed and yet still work so well.

Morgan Page - "Strange Condition": Morgan Page, DJ/electronic musician, along with Lissie, covered this Pete Yorn song for his 2010 album Believe. This sort of straightforward club song might not be for everyone, but as someone who loved the original when it first came out and is a huge Lissie fan, this hits all the right notes.

Glen Phillips - "I Want a New Drug": Man, Huey Lewis and the News don't hold up well, eh? Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket fame) covered this 80s classic for his Mr. Lemons album, and you might not even recognize it as the Huey Lewis song on first glance. Definitely unique and different.

Superchunk - "Say My Name": The Guilt By Association cover compilations are some of my favorites, and that there's an indie rock/punk-style cover of the Destiny's Child hit tickles my fancy. A glorious achievement, I promise.

Less Than Jake - "Greased Lightning": I can only imagine that Less Than Jake was very drunk in the studio one afternoon when they decided to race through the majority of the Grease soundtrack in about 20 minutes. There's not a bad song on the album, but the "Greased Lightning" version is among the highlights.

Glen Campbell - "Walls": Classic country crooner Glen Campbell put out a cover album in 2008 and it's pretty great. There are a number of great songs on the album, but his version of Tom Petty's "Walls" might be my favorite of the bunch. His clear, ringing voice really breaks through on this one, and it's a shame that he can't perform anymore.

Pet Shop Boys - "Go West": I have no excuse for including this here. The Pet Shop Boys doing The Village People? Sign me up.

Greg Laswell - "Your Ghost": Greg Laswell is a singer-songwriter who is probably better known for his "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" cover, but I'm honestly more partial to his version of Kristen Hersh's "Your Ghost," from her early-1990s album Hips and Makers. A weird song on its own, Laswell takes it to a very interesting and dark place.

Lissie - "Bad Romance": Yes, I'm a Lissie fanboy. Yes, I'm a Lady Gaga fanboy. Yes, a rocking version of "Bad Romance" is exactly what we all needed in our lives.

Hands Like Houses - "Torn": We can all agree that Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" was one of the great songs of the 1990s, right? I don't know who Hands Like Houses are, but I do know that a punk rock version of "Torn" works really well, and is the only highlight from a fairly poor volume of Punk Goes 90s earlier this year.

Jenny Owen Youngs - "Getchoo": Jenny Owen Youngs does a pretty faithful rendition of Weezer's "Getchoo" from Pinkerton. Hearing a female singer on this certainly provides a different, unique take on the song.

Miles Fisher - "This Must Be the Place": Miles Fisher closes out this mix with his electronic version of the Talking Heads classic. Fisher might better be known for his role in one of the Final Destination movies, but I wish he'd make more music if it would keep sounding like this.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Weezer Has Some New Song Snippets You Can Preview... If You Want, I Guess

Whenever Weezer releases new music, I can't help but get just a little bit hopeful. Weezer fandom is like that relationship that has gone on far too long, and you've been miserable for well over a decade, but those 3 years at the beginning were so amazing! Maybe we'll go back someday! Even though you know it will never happen.

Anyway, Weezer released some new song snippets that aren't totally horrible. "The Waste Land" is reminiscent of the slower, more plodding side of Black Sabbath, but in a totally weenie way. Personally, I'd love to see Rivers connect more with his metal roots because that would seem more honest and genuine than the vast majority of what they've released in the past 13 years. "Ain't Got Nobody" is much more uptempo, and has potential but could also just be mindless drivel. 

Sigh. Someday I'll just give up and stop listening. Until then. check out the snippets below.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for June 3

First Listen's new home is officially on Thursdays for the foreseeable future. Hope that works out for everyone.

Meanwhile, a lighter-than-normal week with a lot of interesting options.

The Orwells - Disgraceland: All hail power pop! Easily the best release of the week, The Orwells have a second album that is just a great power pop record from top to bottom. I didn't realize how much I was looking for something like this until midway through the second song on the album, and nearly everything feels like a winner so far. Really a solid listen for anyone reading this.

Centro-matic - Take Pride in Your Long Odds: I feel like Centro-matic has been around for ages, and they've always existed on the fringes of my musical existence. The new album is good, it's solid indie rock as you'd expect it to be, I think. A little off-center, still melodic and interesting. I keep waiting for some sort of leap that never seems to come, which might be the only downside, but overall, a perfectly solid album worth a listen.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Only Run: I haven't paid much attention to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah since 2007, so it looks like I missed some stuff along the way, but I must say that the band has come pretty far since the days of their blogtastic debut and "Satan Says Dance." The new album is a really interesting, cohesive effort, the collaborations here and there don't feel forced, and it really re-asserts the band as an indie band worth paying attention to. What that means for the future, I don't know, but for now we should be giving this the proper chance.

Fucked Up - Glass Boys: I was talking to a friend last week about these bands that use ridiculously unnecessary profanity in their band names, and now this album comes out. I'm no prude and I'm trying to keep my cursing on the courts of my competitive sporting endeavors, but musically, this album feels like a hardcore album I wouldn't expect to hear from Matador. For what it is, it's good, but it's also not my style.

Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal: Ken has been a major booster of Parquet Courts here in the past, and I can't say I've really liked them so far. I'm not sure what it is, but they never caught my ear until the new album, Sunbathing Animal. It's a perfect mix of indie rock with some nice punk sensibilities stirred in for good measure, and the album balances out pretty well from start to finish. If you've been on the fence or haven't felt like they've gotten to you yet, you need to give this album a listen. I'm pretty sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Die Antwoord - Donker Mag: I'm going to be up front here - I really only put this album into the weekly rotation to see how far I'd last. So much of their music is purposefully abrasive, even their singles, that I really assumed the new album would be a similar experience. I am thus very surprised to note that the album is very good. It's not terribly abrasive (outside of the sketch material) and the lead single, at least, is pretty great. I recognize that this won't be for everyone, and you might know for sure within the first few minutes, but if you've written this band off already, it may be worth a reconsideration.

Bob Mould - Beauty and Ruin: Back when I was first getting into indie rock, I had a few friends who were very partial to Bob Mould and Sugar, specifically File Under Easy Listening. I confess that I was never able to fully get into that album, but the warm feelings I get when I think of Sugar persist even now, thus my pulling out the new Bob Mould. I went in with no expectations whatsoever and came out with a firm appreciation for someone who is really at "legend" status in indie circles and can still put together a really strong song. There are a number of really great listens on this new album, and there's definitely something here for fans and newcomers alike.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Mix: The Best R.E.M. Rarities

Embracing the theme of "'re too old" a bit here at the blog, welcome to a new feature that I hope we can keep up with a bit. The rise of digital and streaming has really cramped the one thing I spent a ridiculous amount of time doing, and that's making mixtapes and mix CDs. Yes, now I have a rotating Spotify playlist for myself, but the days of trading mixes on CD and such are long, long behind us.

So Spotify makes it easy to share mixes and make mixes, so why not? It's goofy, but maybe you'll find something new and enjoyable. Either way, it's scratching my itch, so at the very least this is a harmless indulgence, right? On occasional-to-every Mondays, we'll share a 20 track mix of something, whether it be a collection of new tracks or some silly themed mix. Have a mix you've been working on? Let us know, and maybe we'll let you feature it here as well!

Today's inaugural mix concerns the recent digital dump of rarities R.E.M. released alongside the Unplugged release last week. While many of these were available in different formats (and, in the case of a few, on a rarities collection called Dead Letter Office in the mid-1980s), this is the first time it was easy to get most of the b-sides and soundtrack pieces from the band in their history. As a completest R.E.M. fan, I had bought countless soundtracks and import singles to basically collect everything they've put out up through Accelerate, so to have them all in one place is great even if some of it kind of isn't.

This mix is more a collection than a cohesive thought. Best heard on shuffle, best enjoyed with an open mind in some cases.

1) "Wall of Death": "Wall of Death" was first a song by Richard and Linda Thompson from their 1982 album Shoot Out the Lights. This version of "Wall of Death" R.E.M. recorded for the 1994 tribute album to Thompson, Beat the Retreat, and was later featured as a b-side to the R.E.M. New Adventures in Hi-Fi track "E-Bow the Letter." This is probably my favorite cover that R.E.M. has ever done, making a nice, folky, straightforward song that would have fit right in with pretty much anything the band was doing during the Out of Time/Automatic for the People era. This is in contrast to the Thompson version that goes for a more country-rock style flavor to the R.E.M. stylings, but listening to the original shows pretty quickly why R.E.M. gravitated toward this song for the tribute.

2) "King of Comedy" (808 State remix): Another New Adventures in Hi-Fi b-side, this is a remix of the Monster track that exchanges its fuzzed out, gravelly form for a more danceable alternative. Released sometime in 1996 on the single for "Electrolite," it's really reflective of the state of electronica at the time, and while I still have a lot of warm feelings toward this remix, I can't honestly say it holds up that well. Definitely more of a curiosity than anything else.

3) "The Great Beyond": In 1992, Automatic for the People had the hit single "Man on the Moon," an homage to Andy Kaufman. The song at least partially inspired the 1999 Jim Carrey biopic of Kaufman with the same name, and R.E.M. was enlisted to score the film. Along with the score came "The Great Beyond," truly one of R.E.M's better Warner Bros. singles and a sequel of sorts to "Man on the Moon." The song is classic R.E.M. from start to finish and might be completely forgotten by you if you weren't into Kaufman or R.E.M. at the time. For a fun Easter egg, listen closely to the last repeat of the chorus toward the end.

4) "Drive" (live version, 1994): "Drive" is another Automatic single, I think the third from the album. The album version is a deliberate, slow folkish song that is truly one of their great songs and sets the tone for Automatic for the People, but R.E.M. pulled out an interesting rock version for a concert in Georgia. I honestly wish a studio version existed for this, and maybe one does in the archives, but this little-heard version is incredibly different from the Automatic version.

5) "Revolution": During the tour for Monster, R.E.M. worked out and recorded a bunch of songs that would later be on New Adventures in Hi-Fi, to create a live album that really wasn't. This also meant that we got a number of songs that didn't end up on the final album, and "Revolution" was one of them. Played enough on the tour that it was featured on the live concert film for the tour, the song was eventually used on the Batman & Robin soundtrack, meaning that arguably the worst Batman of the era still had something good going for it.

6) "Star Me Kitten" (feat. William S. Burroughs): Beat poet William S. Burroughs offered his take on the vocal track for the Automatic for the People song "Star Me Kitten," and it takes an already creepy song and somehow makes it more unsettling. Eventually placed on the X-Files soundtrack compilation, this is one of those weird things that, generally, only a band of the stature of R.E.M. can pull off without it coming across as indulgent.

7) "Fretless": Much like "Revolution," "Fretless" is a track that was left off of Out of Time but still made it into a few R.E.M. playlists along the way, most notably on their 1991 Unplugged appearance. On the HDCD reissue of Out of Time, guitarist Peter Buck bemoaned the fact that the track didn't actually make it on Out of Time and at least implied that the band may try to put it on there on a future reissue. The song was eventually put on the soundtrack to Until the End of the World and offered as a b-side to "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite," so it's gotten its fair share of releases. Fun fact: the song's title comes from the fact that Mike Mills plays a fretless bass on the song.

8) "Funtime" (live 1992): "Funtime" is originally an Iggy Pop song from 1977's The Idiot, and R.E.M. has, for whatever reason, released multiple versions of this cover over the years. I'm still not convinced the song is a great fit for the band, but the 1992 live version does have its fun quirks along the way.

9) "King of the Road" (live in studio): Going back to the IRS years for a bit, "King of the Road" is a, well, classic cover of the Roger Miller country track from 1964. This song was placed on Dead Letter Office, and it's admittedly terrible. The liner notes suggest a drunken recording, it's hard to argue otherwise, but in terms of interesting rarities that show a band's growth, it's hard to ignore.

10) "Bandwagon": "Bandwagon" is another IRS-era track, also featured on Dead Letter Office, and is known for its rapid chord changes and its overall goofy (or, as said in the liner notes, "fruity") tone. Not for nothing, this might be one of the better R.E.M. songs never featured on a proper album, and certainly the best from the IRS years on a whole.

11) "Crazy": Decidedly not the classic country song, this is instead a version of the song by Athens, GA band Pylon. I still hold that Pylon got more publicity from R.E.M. than they ever did on their own, and, well, when R.E.M. arguably does your song better, it might say something (and I say that as someone who became a fan of Pylon). The original is mired in that early-1980s reverb that the R.E.M. version loses in favor of a more straightforward piece.

12) "Toys in the Attic" (Aerosmith cover): It's weird to think of R.E.M. covering an Aerosmith song given what Aerosmith has become since their late-1980s/early-1990s resurgence, but in terms of R.E.M. cover versions, this is at least interesting.

13) "(All I Have To Do Is) Dream" (Everly Brothers cover): It's probably impossible that you don't know the original Everly version, but the R.E.M. version is faithful in all the right ways, and is really one of my favorite covers of theirs. Fits in with their sound quite well.

14) "Romance": "Romance" might be the "Fretless" of the IRS era, a really solid song that would have fit easily on Murmur or Reckoning but instead got placed on the soundtrack to Made in Heaven. It was later put on the compilation Eponymous, which is why most people know it today, but it does have a lot of those great early R.E.M. qualities that are easy to forget with their later work.

15) "It's a Free World, Baby": "It's a Free World, Baby" is another track from the Out of Time sessions that failed to make the cut. In terms of fun songs, it's certainly better than "Fretless" and "Radio Song" from the same sessions, but I can at least understand, from a tonal point of view, why the band chose not to feature it on the album. It was later featured on the soundtrack to Friends (of all things), and definitely worked better on that album on a whole. If you don't know this song, you'll probably dig it.

16) "First We Take Manhattan": This is a cover of the Leonard Cohen song, offered up on the I'm Your Man tribute album as well as the single for Automatic song "Drive." I've long maintained that cover versions of Leonard Cohen songs are far superior to their original versions, and "First We Take Manhattan" is no different, offering a sense of urgency and complexity that isn't readily apparent in the original.

17) "The Lion Sleeps Tonight": A cover of the classic Tokens song, this was featured on the single to "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" for obvious reasons. Completely goofy from start to finish, but still really fun. Not much else to say.

18) "Be Mine" (Mike on Bus version)": "Be Mine" is one of the more underrated songs from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, being a weird stalkery love song in many regards. Eventually released on the single for "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us," the stripped down version at least implies that Mike Mills is the singer, but I'm honestly not 100% sure anymore. Regardless, it's an interesting version in comparison to the fuzzed out, complete version on Hi-Fi.

19) "Sponge" (Vic Chestnutt cover): Also from the "How the West Was Won" single (as well as the 1996 Sweet Relief benefit album for Chestnutt), the song is really a different take on the original, that relies on a lot of strings and more folky elements. Michael Stipe is doing his best Vic Chestnutt delivery throughout, which can often be a little questionable, but, on a whole, this is a very cool take on a little-heard song.

20) "Love is All Around" (Troggs cover): If someone told me that this was collectively R.E.M.'s favorite song, I wouldn't be shocked, as I can think of no fewer than three different versions of this song being released over the years. This version is a studio version, recorded for the I Shot Andy Warhol soundtrack and also a "How the West Was Won" b-side, and really reflects the fact that the band had been playing around with this song for at least five years and probably longer. Also, you usually can't go wrong with a Mike Mills-lead effort, so it's a fine way to close things out here.