Faith No More Reunites

This news may not excite that many people but I know of a few that will appreciate this. Faith No More are reuniting after a decade long hiatus. I've expressed my adoration for Mike Patton on this blog before, and that appreciation started as a ten year old kid digging on 'Epic' and 'Falling to Pieces'. My love for this band was solidified a few years later when they released the brilliant album Angel Dust.

You can read about the reunion from the band themselves HERE. As of right now, the only reunion show plans are for Europe but I'm hoping they take it stateside as well. Of course, if they do I'll make sure and let you know.

In honor of this announcement here are a few Faith No More highlights....you'll all most certainly recognize the first one.

Faith No More - Epic

Faith No More - Midlife Crisis

Faith No More - Easy (Lionel Ritchie Cover)



Labeled to Death

Having finally tackled my issue of loading up 40 albums of the past year into my iTunes, I am now able to take a listen to what many people view as some of the best of 2008. Many of these acts are on independent labels, self-promote their shows, and often ignored by major music publications. By definition, they are "indie" bands. Labeling a style of music is always tricky, because it is an attempt to define, categorize an art form that can take any shape it wants. Bands are labeled for the purpose of marketing and organization, and to give the customer and general idea of what they may be getting into ("rhythm and blues" is the only genre label I can think of that was more social political in its origins, since people may not have listened to "blues" music played by those colored folk).

Even though labeling such a liquid art as music is a little silly, it used to give you a good idea of the music you would hear, with the idea there would be a bit of wiggle room. Rock and roll was Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard (who coined the term, as well as invented Velcro and Restless Leg Syndrome), etc. Jazz, punk, folk swing, gospel, blues, l all were pretty consistent in the music that fell within them. However, as time has gone on, as technology evolves and art grows, we are getting hammered with so many labels it veers into micro-management: alt-core, dance-rock, funk-rock, post new-wave, chamber-rock, rap-rock, garage -rock (that's been around for awhile), and all of the varirations of electronic music (jungle, house, big beat, trance, blah blah). Hearing a band describe their sound begins to appear like a dinner recipe:

"Well, we're post-industrial, with a few cups of reggae funk and a pinch of R&B."

It seems that the majority of these micro-labels do exist in traditional (here's another label) rock realm. You don't see this in other genres. Rap is rap, even with your wide variety of styles that fall within-from The Roots to Warren G. Jazz is jazz (yes you have free form and what not, but it all falls in as being jazz. A jazz musician is a jazz musician. I don't hear them go off on how they area little retro jazz with a dash of post-Miles funk).

Why is this? I think part of it is the desire for bands to be unique, yet since everything can now be defined, they might as well just make it difficult to define them by taking up half a page to describe "their" sound.

It would be nice to ditch all of this, but now that we can shop online by genres and listen to online radio BY 9,000 subgenres, it's not going to happen. All of this means very little in terms of the music itself- you either like it or not, but all of these labels can affect whether or not you look into a particular band's music. I have seen several descriptions of Vampire Weekend being "afro-reggae dance rock".

Huh? When I first heard them, I was expecting island music, and instead I heard rock. Great album! But if I was to go by their labeling by people, I would never have picked up, because my initial thought was "I don't like reggae". Labels can ultimately take people away or scare them off before they ever hear it. If I'm on lastfm.com, and I have 9,000 labels to choose from, I'm going to gravitate to the ones that I'm most comfortable.

What if there was just a rock label? Think of the true mix and variety you could get with that little search running? By throwing up all of these labels, we're throwing walls around music and preventing it from running wild in the world.

Finally, as a little irksome detail, no band should be ashamed of being labeled "pop". Pop used to mean popular, but what it really means is catchy, and I always thought that was a good thing. In honor of this label, hear's a weekend video for you all! I challenge you to get it out of your head.


New Music: Swan Lake

I don't hide my fondness for all things Canadian Indie rock, especially when Spencer Krug is involved. His second side project to his primary income, Wolf Parade, is a "supergroup" with Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Frog Eyes' Carey Mercer. Below you can stream the first single, 'A Hand At Dusk'. The band's second album is called Enemy Mine and it's out on March 23rd. I still can't decide if the album cover is really awesome or really horrible yet, but I'm leaning towards horrible. The first single isn't as good as the pre-released track from the first record ('All Fires') but I also think that's the best song that Spencer Krug has ever sang on. 'A Hand At Dusk' is a pretty mellow song, but it's nice hearing all three of them contributing vocals for the same song.



New Music Tuesday: Many, Many Releases

This is definitely the first New Music Tuesday of 2009 that is loaded with stuff worth checking out. There are almost a dozen albums out today that I want to procure at some point in time, many of them I've already heard and enjoy quite a bit. However, these are the albums out today that I will be legally acquiring.

M. Ward - Hold Time

Although Matt Ward's older stuff is really pretty and enjoyable, I found a lot of it to be quite boring after a while. I'm probably one of the few but I was just a casual fan until his last record, Post-War. Turns out when he's got a full band to fill up the sound, he can keep my attention much longer. The new one sounds good on the first spin which is promising since M. Ward albums usually reward frequent listens.

Beirut - March Of The Zapotec & Realpeople: Holland

This is the first release on this post that I haven't listened to yet. Zach Condon hasn't disappointed me thus far so I'm expecting to enjoy it. That could be a trap though because I've been known to be especially critical of material by some of my favorite bands if it's anything less than stellar. We'll see what happens with this album length double EP.

Morrissey - Years Of Refusal

Well, by this point in his career you're either already a Morrissey fan or you're not. If you are a fan, you'll find plenty to enjoy on this album. He's not re-inventing the wheel by doing anything new or challenging but he's also not fading into irrelevance but has, in fact, released one of the strongest solo albums of his career.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Self-Titled

The last post I did before this one was actually a post about this record. Feel free to re-read it if you like, but I felt it necessary to mention this one is out officially today.

The Appleseed Cast - Sararmatha

I've only listened to this one once but it does sound promising. I feel bad because I haven't given the last two record Lawrence's own The Appleseed Cast put out. In my quest to listen to more local music, I felt the need to mention their latest is out today as well. If you aren't familiar with The Appleseed Cast, let me strongly recommend their brilliant double album from 2001, Low Level Owl Volume 1 & 2. They were actually sold separately but are best enjoyed together.

Various Artists - Dark Was The Night

If you haven't heard about this album, it's another charity compilation and this one was curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National. They got an all-star line-up to contribute to this one and like I said, it's for charity, so acquire this one by paying for it. If you aren't convinced try and tell me this track list doesn't warrant your hard-earned dollars:

Disc 1:

01 Dirty Projectors and David Byrne: "Knotty Pine"
02 The Books [ft. Jose Gonzalez]: "Cello Song" (Nick Drake cover)
03 Feist and Ben Gibbard: "Train Song" (Vashti Bunyan cover)
04 Bon Iver: "Brackett, WI"
05 Grizzly Bear: "Deep Blue Sea"
06 The National: "So Far Around the Bend" (arrangement by Nico Muhly)
07 Yeasayer: "Tightrope"
08 My Brightest Diamond: "Feeling Good" (Nina Simone cover)
09 Kronos Quartet: "Dark Was the Night" (Blind Willie Johnson cover)
10 Antony and Bryce Dessner: "I Was Young When I Left Home" (Bob Dylan cover)
11 Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner: "Big Red Machine"
12 The Decemberists: "Sleepless"
13 Iron and Wine: "Stolen Houses (Die)"
14 Grizzly Bear and Feist: "Service Bell"
15 Sufjan Stevens: "You Are the Blood"

Disc 2:

01 Spoon: "Well-Alright"
02 Arcade Fire: "Lenin"
03 Beirut: "Mimizan"
04 My Morning Jacket: "El Caporal"
05 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: "Inspiration Information" (Shuggie Otis cover)
06 Dave Sitek: "With a Girl Like You" (The Troggs cover)
07 Buck 65 [ft. Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti]: "Blood Pt 2" (based on "You are the Blood" by Castanets)
08 The New Pornographers: "Hey, Snow White" (Destroyer cover)
09 Yo La Tengo: "Gentle Hour" (Snapper cover)
10 Stuart Murdoch: "Another Saturday" (traditional)
11 Riceboy Sleeps: "Happiness"
12 Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues: "Amazing Grace" (traditional)
13 Andrew Bird: "The Giant of Illinois" (Handsome Family cover)
14 Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch: "Lua"
15 Blonde Redhead and Devestations: "When the Road Runs Out"
16 Kevin Drew: "Love vs. Porn"



New Music: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

It's still hard to talk about Jason Isbell without mentioning the Drive-By Truckers. I'm especially guilty because I've been a huge DBT fan for years (I still say that Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day and The Dirty South could stand up against any other 3 consecutive albums by any rock band in history) and he was one main reason why. If I had to name you the ten best DBT songs, at least four of them are Isbell tunes and he was only in the band for three of their seven albums.

When his first solo album, Sirens Of The Ditch came out I was a bit underwhelmed. Isbell started to sound bored with the Truckers back on the last album he appeared on and it seemed to carry over to his solo album. With the exception of a couple of tunes, most of it was pretty uninspired and not necessarily interesting. I had began to hear positive things about his new self-titled album (out this Tuesday, Feb 17th.) so I got a little excited that it may be a return to form. I'm beginning to think after a half-dozen listens that I won't be disappointed. There isn't anything as good as 'Outfit', 'Danko-Manuel' or 'Goddamn Lonely Love' but there isn't a single weak song on it.

You can cruise over to his Myspace page to check out the track 'Cigarettes and Wine' and don't forget he'll be at Knuckleheads in KC on April 12th with Justin Townes Earle.


Concert Announcement: The Decemberists, Franz Ferdinand and More

A few shows that have been announced in the last week or so, it appearing the area might have a pretty great concert line-up this spring. As always the full calendar is HERE.

-The Decemberists at The Uptown Theater in KC on May 27th
-Franz Ferdinand will be at The Beaumont Club in KC on April 27th
-Vivian Girls will be at The Jackpot in Lawrence on May 4th
-Junior Boys will be at The Record Bar on April 25th and they'll be joined by Max Tundra
-Richard Hell (formerly of Television and The Voidoids) will be at The Record Bar in KC
on May 4th.

A special note, if you aren't up to speed on your late 70's punk rock and haven't heard of Richard Hell's first band, Television, do yourself a favor and get a copy of their near-flawless album, Marquee Moon. You can thank me later.



You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

I learned my first lesson with blogs, in that if I have a lot of ideas to write about, I probably should not shoot the entire load in one sitting and publish every blog at once...

Moving on.

Last week I was attempting to load two DVD-Rs worth of music onto my computer. Out of the forty-plus albums on it, I did five, before I had to stop. It was a pain mainly because my computer is pretty old, and still requires me to feed it those binary cards for instructions. I am hoping to get them uploaded this weekend, so I can start to enjoy them.

This got me thinking, though. Forty artists! If I am lucky I could move through one a day (if I really want to sit and consciously listen to each tune). That means it will take me six weeks to go through them all. I wonder: Is there such thing as too much music?

Today's technology is fantastic in that there are so many roads that lead us to music and exposure to artists: youtube, file sharing, ripping, burning,stealing actual purchasing of a CD, mp3s, etc. We can get so much music from so many sources that it blows the mind, and therein lies the problem: It can be overwhelming.

(Here comes the "Years ago..." part)

Years ago, when I was in college and high school, I had time to really explore music. Plop myself in the bedroom or living room, crank up the stereo, open a beer, and let the vibes flow over me. I'd go to friends' places and share music, make an entire evening of it. Even when I was single, if I wanted to spend my weekend playing PS2 and listening to the new Strokes album, I could do that. As is part of age, that's not so easy now. From 8-4:30, I work on the weekdays. I can listen to my iPod at times, but you can't really listen when you are doing work. After work, I help make dinner, catch up with the wife, work out, and find time to read a little. Now with a baby, there is even less time available. Throw in the fact that I love movies, and watch a 2-3 a week, there's not a lot of time to dedicate to music absorption. Unless I sacrifice one of my other hobbies (reading, working out, attempting to create my own music), there's not much I can do.

You know you're old when you actually have to SCHEDULE a time to listen to an album.

This may not be much of an issue if you only get a new album once a in a while, even once a week. Now, because there are so many avenues to acquire new tunes, you can drown in a sea of unopened files and jewel cases of bands that you had been meaning to get to, but haven't had the chance. It was a lot easier to get to music when you only had one type of media and one type of player. It was one less thing to have to keep up on, one less thing to buy or update.

The primary location that I listen to music now is the car- usually I am by myself, and I can listen and drive at the same time, so it's perfect! But... although I have a large amount of music in iTunes, I don't have the adaptor for my car, so I have to either stick with my current CDs or burn them from iTunes, which defeats the purpose of iTunes in the first place.

In addition to my own music scavenging, my music-crazy dad is acquiring albums of his own and sharing with another music-crazy friend. The upside is I receive a lot these albums, the downside is it just adds to my list of unheard groups. It's not the worst problem in the world, or even on my street or in my living room, but it certainly is frustrating when you are trying to stay hip with what's going on in the music world. If I was a paid critic, I'd be screwed.

The end result of all of this is that by trying to catch up on all of these albums, I am flying through them without being able to really enjoy them like I used to. The quantity affects the quality- the ability to really absorb, since you are trying just to get though them. It reminds me of when I was teaching, and would put off grading papers until the last day and just gave everyone B+s without absorbing the content (this only happened twice). Bands that I feel I will really like, such as Cut Copy, are given a once-over. Bands I love who put out new material, like We Are Scientists, are ignored until I can get through the new groups that have been on the table for months.

So the question is: Do you feel that technology today can give you too much music? Has there been some music that you listened to that you still don't think you've been able to really LISTEN to yet?



Free Friday Concert: The New Pornographers

As it is such a gorgeous day, I thought I'd put my current draft on hold for another day and throw in a live concert. When I see a sun and feel warm sunshine, I don't have a desire to put in Bon Iver or Pantera, but something that reflects the weather and the mood. So here are the New Pornographers. Open some windows and have some fun, and for God's sake stop working...