Friday, November 10, 2006

Paint the Skyline Scarlet

I know it's been a while since the last post, but who would've ever thought that Rutgers football would be the catalyst to influence my decision to resume posting. As for my absence, I will briefly explain that this upcoming week. Right now, all I want to do is talk about "the game." First of all, that was one of the best college football games I've seen in a while. Probably the best since last year's Rose Bowl game between USC and Texas. Nobody, including myself, gave Rutgers much of a chance. I said all day that the game would be over by halftime. In the first quarter, Louisville made that prediction seem more than likely. After that, it was all Rutgers. I watched them play once or twice this season, but I did not think they were THAT good. Their defense was tenacious last night and really managed to get into Brian Brohm's head, especially after the first quarter.
Am I jumping on the Rutgers bandwagon with half the state? You bet your ass! All I know is that it feels good to have a team that isn't the laughing stock of college football. Speaking of jokes, I must say that I did not appreciate those clips ESPN showed coming out of commercial. You know, the ones where they went around NYC and asked people about Rutgers football and the people knew nothing about Rutgers? Newsflash to ESPN, the people of Jersey do not need to be accepted and acknowledged by the people of NYC. Do you know why they don't know anything about Rutgers? Because they aren't in the same state and aren't even that close to each other! Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am.
Anyway, in honor of Rutgers biggest football win ever, I decided to search for some appropriate songs...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I Knew There Was Something I Liked About...

It appears that yet another online site is ready to strap on the gloves and take on iTunes. I know what you're thinking, "MySpace?" Yep, MySpace vs. iTunes...and honestly, I think MySpace has a chance. Have I lost my mind? Perhaps, but that has nothing to do with my last comment. Unlike many of the other online music sites, such as Napster and Rhapsody, MySpace has the right idea.
MySpace, who has partnered with Snocap in its latest venture, will allow independent artists to sell songs directly from their profiles for 79 cents a song. The way I understand it, by independent artists, they mean artists who are not on a label. This is the only area that could create some trouble for MySpace, seeing as how computers have allowed bands to record and release albums on their own indie labels. We'll have to wait and see how they handle that situation.
Back to me thinking MySpace has a chance to compete. For starters, according to Alexa, MySpace is the 3rd most popular website in the English language. Think about that. 3rd most popular out of all the millions upon millions of websites out there. The only 2 that are more popular...Yahoo! and Google. Insane. Based on its traffic alone, it would stand a chance. Add that to the fact that they plan on charging less per song than iTunes. I know people still steal music, but a lot of the artists who will have their songs available for purchase on MySpace won't turn up on even the most popular file-sharing services, not to mention on iTunes. In my opinion, allowing users to download songs on a per song basis is much more attractive than a subscription service. The only thing that could put a damper on things is how they handle iPods and the digital rights management (DRM) of the songs they sell. If the songs won't play on iPods, forget about it. They will get crushed. If they do, Apple better be careful.

You can read the full article from CMJ here.

Music to come later...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Film School Dropout

No, Nyles Lannon (pictured above) is not really a film school dropout, but rather the guitarist for the band Film School (cut me some slack, just trying to be creative over here). He is still in the band, but he also releases solo albums under the names n. Lannon and n.Ln. I don't even remember how I first heard of him, although I will take a guess and say I was simply listening to random things in iTunes and happened upon him. Lucky me.
His first solo album, Chemical Friends released under the name n. Lannon, came out in 2004. I don't know if you are like me, but I am usually very wary when a guitarist from an already established band releases a solo record. It is definitely natural to wonder, "If this guy can sing and write songs, why isn't he the front man for his band?" Trust me, this album does not disappoint, much in the same way that John Frusciante's solo records managed to pleasantly surprise me. Nyles is more than competent in both his song writing and his singing.
I was reading something about him earlier today and saw his music described as "folktronic," which is the most accurate way to describe the style on Chemical Friends. The album is full of acoustic guitars, gently strummed or fingerpicked, with computerized drum beats and synth sounds hovering ever so lightly in the background. Essentially, Nyles combines elements of traditional folk music with that of electronic music. The combination of such differing musical styles has the potential for disaster, which Nyles manages to avoid by allowing the folk style to take the forefront while using the computerized beats and other sound effects to add fullness and texture to the songs. This "folktronic" style is one that seems to becoming ever more popular within the indie folk revival that has been taking place over the past few years.
I have put up a couple of tracks from his album Chemical Friends, one of the better albums I've heard in the past couple of years. If you like what you hear, please go out and purchase the album and check out his other projects, Film School and n.Ln.

n. Lannon - The Catch

n. Lannon - Turn Time Around

n. Lannon - Hollow Heart

n. Lannon - Cruel

For more Nyles, check out his website and his MySpace page.. For all you musicians out there, he also does mixing and mastering (cheap...for now, he says).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands (and Everybody Loves The Beatles)

I must admit that I only became a fan of Elliott's work after his passing. It wasn't that I didn't care for his music, I just hadn't heard his music. What a shame. I would've loved to have had the privilege to see this man perform, even though some of his performances were shaky, at best. Although many find his music to be utterly heartbreaking (likely because they know he killed himself and thus assume his music must be reflecting all of that inner pain), I don't get that vibe from his music. There is something incredibly beautiful and moving about his music if you can move past the tone of many of his songs.
Elliott, obviously influenced by The Beatles, covered a number of their songs from time to time. As I was downloading another one of his shows over the weekend, it occurred to me that I might as well post his Beatles covers here. They are all live versions, so the quality varies, but they are all listenable in my opinion. What could be better? Elliott Smith singing Beatles songs. Sometimes everything in life seems so right.

1. Blackbird
2. I Me Mine
3. Jealous Guy
4. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
5. Isn't It a Pity
6. Long, Long, Long
7. For No One
8. Yer Blues
9. I'm So Tired

For more Elliott Smith, visit the following websites:
Sweet Adeline - The Official Elliott Smith site
SomeSongs - An Elliott Smith Live Music Resource
Trash Treasury - Elliott Smith Download Hub and Forum (another excellent live music site)
B-Sides and Other Songs - excellent resource for b-sides and demos (highly recommend the Basement II demos)

Blackbird is actually an AAC file and if you have no idea what that means, you lose. Kidding, it means it will only play in iTunes, so if you don't have iTunes then you really lose...or you could just download it here.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Men With Beards

Always been a big fan of the beard. Maybe it's the man's man quality that the beard possesses. Maybe it just looks badass. I myself grew a considerable beard this past winter, though I'm ashamed to admit that the constant ridicule did play a hand in the shaving of it. As of late, it seems that a lot of the musicians I've really been digging all sport beards. Weird coincidence or do bearded people just kick ass musically? You be the judge. I've included some songs and pictures of my beloved bearded maestros. For the record, my beard had nothing on these gents. Not even close.

Sam Beam (aka Iron & Wine) - See previous post. I don't think this guy has made a song that I haven't liked. Seriously. And look at that beard. By the beard of Beam!! This picture is actually a couple years old and having seen him recently, believe me, the beard is even longer. Maybe he has a little muse hidden in his beard that sings to him and inspires the gorgeous melodies he writes.

Beard Factor - 9 out of 10

1. Naked As We Came (demo) courtesy of Aarvid at Passing Afternoon
2. Dead Man's Will
3. Hickory

William Fitzsimmons - I'm really surprised that this guy has not gotten more attention than he has. I came across him while browsing the Stage Hymns blog (which I would highly recommend checking out). For starters, his music is amazing. Very similar to Iron & Wine, in terms of the melodies he crafts and his style of playing, but he also adds a drum machine to a number of his songs. If you are familiar with Iron & Wine, I'd say that William's album, Until When We Are Ghosts, is somewhere between The Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days. If you are a fan of Iron & Wine, I'd highly recommend him.

Beard Factor - 8 out of 10

1. Find It In Me

Check out William Fitzsimmons' page on MySpace. If you'd like to download a copy of Until When We Are Ghosts, it can be found at

Ray LaMontagne - The first time I had heard Ray's song "Trouble," I was blown away. That god. He does not have the kind of voice you hear everyday, but it sticks with you. It's what I'd sound like first thing in the morning after smoking two packs of cigarettes the night before, which doesn't sound too appealing, but believe me, it sounds amazing. Ray's new album, Till The Sun Turns Black, was released this week. For those of you expecting, Trouble Part 2, you are going to be disappointed. He is definitely evolving. A number of songs on the new album feature strings, which is always a plus in my opinion (I'm a sucker for strings). A lot has changed, but the voice, THAT voice, remains. Although the new album seems to lack the 'pop' appeal that Trouble held, the songs do sink in with repeated listenings.

Beard Factor - 7 out of 10 (he's definitely getting there...that thing has some serious potential)

1. Gone Away From Me (from Till The Sun Turns it.)
2. Shelter (original version, taken from Lonesome Saddle)
3. Lead Me On (from the Green Demo)
Shelter and Lead Me On courtesy of the wonderful Heather over at I AM FUEL, YOU ARE's named after a line in a Pearl Jam song, can I say any more?

My Morning Jacket - Their most current release, Z, got great reviews, so I decided to pick it up. At first, I didn't really see what all the hype was about. I wasn't quite sure what to make of them. I revisited the album a couple weeks before seeing them open for Pearl Jam this past June and it started to grow on me. I was not prepared for what they had to offer live. Even though they were only opening, I was blown away. They fucking rocked. Made me a huge fan.
For people who have never heard MMJ, I'd say it's a cross between Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Radiohead, and The Band. The high voice and distorted guitars with loads of reverb.

Beard Factor - 6 out of 10 (not crazy about their beards, but they get extra points because two members of the band are sporting beards)

1. One Big Holiday
2. Golden
3. Lay Low
These songs were taken from MMJ's 2005 performance at the Bonnaroo Festival, which can be purchased here. It's an amazing set and I highly recommend it. Their 2006 set should be available soon.

Band of Horses - These guys are blowing up right now...and rightfully so. First of all, I basically have to like them since Ben Bridwell (left) played a large part in getting Sam Beam signed to SubPop. Secondly, it's hard not to like them considering their debut album is an excellent record. It's got some slow fingerpicked songs and it's got some rockers. What's not to like? In some ways, they sound a lot like My Morning Jacket. Both bands soak their songs in reverb and Jim James of MMJ and Ben Bridwell have similar voices. If you like one, you'd probably enjoy the other.

Beard Factor - 3 out of 10 (Matthew Brooke, on right, has left the band and he had the far superior beard. I don't think Bridwell's beard can carry this band alone)

1. The Funeral
2. Part One

Monday, August 21, 2006

Go Folk Yourself...

There was a long period where I wouldn't be caught dead listening to uber-mellow music. It had to be loud and agressive. Apparently, those days have come and gone.

I've been preaching about Iron & Wine, aka Sam Beam, for about two years now and must admit that I'm a little surprised he hasn't gotten bigger than he has. On one hand, I find it kind of upsetting that someone graced with this kind of talent slips through the cracks. Then again, earlier today a friend pointed out that Fergie's "London Bridge" or whatever was the most downloaded single on iTunes, so I suppose there is no accounting for taste. On the other hand, I kind of enjoy that he hasn't gotten bigger. Don't ask me why. Maybe it's just the music elitist asshole in me that wants to keep him to a small, truly appreciative group. Safe from the masses.

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing him perform live this past Thursday at McCarren Pool Park in Brooklyn, NY. A rather strange concert venue, but a magical evening nonetheless. He sounds as perfect live as he does on his studio recordings. If you aren't familiar with his music, I suppose it would be described as indie folk. A lot of people compare him to Nick Drake, but I don't see it. Yes, they both play acoustic guitar and craft very minimal songs, but that is where the similarities stop, in my opinion. Iron & Wine's songs are full of lush harmonies crafted over fingerpicked or gently strummed acoustic guitar. Sam Beam's voice is that of an angel. If Jimi Hendrix is God playing guitar, then Sam Beam is God singing.

I am sure that this is the first of many posts featuring the musical stylings of Iron & Wine. These songs are from one of Iron & Wine's early demos, simply know as Home Recordings 9.20.02. I believe this is one of the two demos he sent to SubPop, which landed him a record contract. I am pretty sure these were recorded on an analog 4-track recorder which explains the hiss that is present throughout. Honestly, it only adds to the songs. If you own any of his albums, which you definitely should, you will recognize some of these songs. Download. Turn the lights down low. Light a candle. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Enjoy...

Recording provided by the fine folks over at the Passing Afternoon website / message board (Aarvid [webmaster] for audio). THE Iron & Wine fansite.
Photographs taken by Ryan Pardue.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Foundation: Volume 2

As I said in the last post, the first two posts would be dedicated to the two events that had a profound and lasting affect on my love for music. The first, as discussed in the last post, was Pearl Jam. The second, which will be discussed in this post, was Led Zeppelin.

Now, as I mentioned already, my love for Led Zeppelin actually preceded my love for Pearl Jam. For some reason, unknown to me, a good number of my memories from my childhood involve music. A song playing in the background. An album that was being played a lot at the time. Some form of music playing as the soundtrack to these memories. There was a substantial amount of classic rock surrounding me when I was growing up. Everything from the Beatles, to the Who, to the Beach Boys. The one band I didn't get much exposure to was Led Zeppelin. I guess neither of my parents were all that into Led Zeppelin. Sure they enjoyed their music, but I don't ever remember any of their albums being played or anything like that.

I remember driving in my dad's car, a gray Jeep Cherokee to be exact, on the way to a basketball game. I must've been in 7th grade or so. We were listening to The Q, as usual, and this song came on that completely blew me away. It was one of those moments where you can feel a song penetrating into the deepest recesses of your brain. The experience is almost surreal and I am sure I'm not the only one who has had this experience. The song played for maybe a minute and I had to ask my dad who it was. It wasn't that I wanted to know...I NEEDED to know. He said he was pretty sure it was Led Zeppelin, but didn't know the name of the song or what album it was on. For days, that song was stuck in my head. It wouldn't leave. I couldn't remember the words. I could barely even remember the melody. It was haunting me and I knew I needed to hear it again. Again, this was before the internet, iTunes, and the like. To find a song, you basically had to sing it to someone and hope they knew what in God's name you were singing, but that was going to be quite a problem because I couldn't sing it. It was just floating around my brain, but not in any tangible form. It would only reveal itself upon being heard again.

I needed to get to the record store as soon as possible, but being 12 years old, I basically had to wait for the next time my mom was going to the mall. I hopped on board the first opportunity I got. I remember going to the record store and going to the Led Zeppelin section. In my naive brain, I hadn't realized how difficult this was going to be. I hadn't really given much thought to how many albums they had made. So there I was, facing ten albums or so, with no song title to go on. My thought process at the time was to randomly pick one and just hope it was on there. If it wasn't on the one I picked, buy a different one next time. I chose Led Zeppelin IV that day, basically because I knew Stairway and figured that if it wasn't on there, at least I knew one song. Needless to say, the song wasn't on there. To save this from being any longer than it already is, I will condense the rest of the story. Bought another album or two, to no avail. I think it was the fourth album I bought, Houses of the Holy, when I finally heard it again. I knew instantly, "This is it!!!" After all this, if you are even still reading, you must be just dying to know what song it was. Ok, probably not, but whatever. It was "Over the Hills and Far Away," still one of my favorite Zeppelin songs.

That was entirely longer that I expected. I am aware that the first couple posts were a tad verbose, but I promise that from here on out, they will not be as long. Alright, I can't promise, but I will try my best. Anyway, finally onto the songs. Here is a little Zeppelin for you to enjoy...

Led Zeppelin - Over the Hills and Far Away (live)

Led Zeppelin - Going to California (live)

Page & Plant - Kashmir (live)

If you are interested in obtaining the full shows and don't know how to go about doing so, feel free to leave me a comment or send me a message and I'd be happy to introduce you to the world of Dime-A-Dozen.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Foundation: Volume 1

I felt that it would be appropriate to begin at the beginning. I know what you are thinking, but let me explain. For my first two posts, I decided that it would make the most sense to start with the two events that really planted the seed that has blossomed into a full fledged love for music. Make sense now? I thought so.

The first, actually second chronologically speaking, event that really threw me head first into music happened when I was a sophomore in high school. I'd like to say what year that was, but it will just make me feel so old, so you'll just have to use your imagination. I really remember this as if it happened a couple days ago. I was in a friend's car getting onto the highway...287 north, to be exact. He put in a tape and said, "You guys gotta hear this. You'll love it." I asked what it was and he said, "Pearl Jam...but I bet you guys have never heard these songs." He was right. He played Footsteps and Crazy Mary. The former being, at the time, a hard to find B-Side and the latter was a cover of a Victoria Williams song recorded for the first Sweet Relief album. That was all it took. After that night, I went on a mission to find these songs. I found them, but it didn't stop there. Pearl Jam, at the time, had a lot of rare songs that took some searching to discover. I just kept buying new bootlegs and singles(mind you, this was before the internet really took off and mp3s weren't something we could even conceive of). I couldn't get enough of them. I had an insatiable appetite for all things Pearl Jam. Come to think of it, very little has changed. Pearl Jam has been my favorite band for quite some time now and over the years they've introduced me to many bands that I may never have explored, such as The Ramones, Ben Harper, Mother Love Bone, My Morning Jacket, The Finn Brothers, Idlewild, and even The Who to a certain extent.

Now, I've got a lot of Pearl Jam material to choose from, so why did I pick this particular show (that isn't even an excellent sounding recording)? Perhaps it's because I was just discussing it the other night. Or maybe it's because these songs are of the exact nature I talked about above...rarities. Most of these songs were only played this one night, some a couple nights earlier...never to be heard again. However, a couple of these songs did end up on the album Riot Act. They are also exceptions as far as Pearl Jam songs go...highly personal. Most Pearl Jam songs are either in the third person or slightly abstract which leaves the song to personal interpretation. Not these. These are probably the most personal songs you will hear Eddie Vedder sing. And maybe, just maybe I decided to post this particular performance because Eddie invents a new, albeit small, genre..."speed thrash ukelele." "A genre so small, I think this is the only song," he said, referring to "Can't Keep" (track 3). This performance was taken from the All Tomorrow's Parties concert held at Royce Hall, UCLA in Los Angeles on March 15, 2002. Like I said, the sounds quality is not soundboard, by any means, but it gets the job done. I wish I had the taper's name, but I do not. If you are listening to this and it's your recording, by all means take credit it for it. Without any further ado...

Allow Myself to Introduce My...

Welcome to the first post, of hopefully many, in my new blog.

Everyone who knows me is well aware that my passion for music eclipses almost all other aspects of my life. If you look to the top of the page, you will see a quote. "Without music, life would be an error." I was browsing through quotes about music and none of them rang as true as that one. For me, like wouldn't be life without music. If you are reading this, there is a good chance you feel the same way. Maybe that sounds pathetic, but it is what it is. That is why I have chosen to create this blog. Things may be a little slow at first, so please bear with me. It will take me a little while to get this to look exactly how I want it to look. It's all new to me...and maybe also for some of you visiting for the first time.

I just recently started browsing music blogs and was hooked immediately. After a week or so, I began to wonder why I couldn't do something like this. It didn't seem too difficult. Creating my own blog seemed like the perfect way to introduce people to artists that they are unfamiliar with and to share random songs and / or concerts with people. Again, those who know me well know that I love introducing people to songs / artists that they have never heard of. Some may call me an elitist asshole...maybe they're right.

In the end, maybe this will just be a way to document my long and torrid love affair with music. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I will. That said, please check back often, as I plan to make semi-regular updates. Also, if you ever have any suggestions / comments, don't hesitate to let me know. And now, onto the music...