Friday, May 29, 2009

Jay Bennett

I just found out yesterday that Jay Bennett, Wilco's former multi-instrumentalist, died on May 24th. He was only 45.

It's a shame, especially after he was kind of ridden out of the band back in 2001 after having contributed to what I would argue were a run of three albums as good as any band's ever turned out. "Being There", "Summerteeth" and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" were, in my opinion up there with famous runs like the Stones'"Beggars Banquet", "Let it Bleed" and "Sticky Fingers" or U2's run of "The Unforgettable Fire", "The Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby." Quite similar to the latter run, really. A band maturing right before your very ears. He took their sound from being merely alt-country to being something really quite unclassifiable. When they were called "the American Radiohead," he was why.

This is one of my favorite little clips of he and Jeff, back in better times.

I don't think he ever found his place in the musical world before or after Wilco. I think that's the biggest shame. He was a brilliant musician.

He'll be missed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

For Memorial Day

This is a spot that the folks at Droga5 did recently for an Aussie beer brand (VB, anyone?). I think it’s one of the stronger pieces I’ve ever seen in some time, if for nothing else than its selflessness.

Wish we saw more of this from American beer companies this time of year. Happy Memorial Day and thank you to all the men and women who've died for this country.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Horse shit

And Kris is a girl's name, just so you know.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Glambert for the win

That’s right, I watch the American Idol. And here’s a few reason why Adam Lambert is gonna win tonight:

He’s got a whale of a voice. This is a singing competition, after all.

He’s got star power. It’s hard to pin down but the temperature goes up a few notches when he hits the stage. Everyone knows it, even the other kids who were trying to win.

He’s like what Elvis must have been to the Ricky Nelson’s and Eddie Cochran’s of the 50’s. We had a bunch of those dudes already. What we didn’t have was an Elvis. And without Elvis we wouldn’t have had everything that came after him.

He’s versatile. Give him a style and he nails it, as witnessed by last night. Even that god-awful song they made ‘em sing about wings and ladders and mountain climbing. Goth, metal, Motown, classic rock, Johnny Cash—he doesn’t just do it, he does it differently. We’ve got enough sameness.

He’s different, he’s exciting, and he’s gay. Everything that the people you know in Arkansas or Idaho or Alabama aren’t. And if history is any guide, he probably scares their parents. All the better.

He's single. No matter what team he plays for he's not married to some girl who doesn't seem like she's too much a part of the picture anyway (I'm looking at you, Kris with a "k" which also happens to be how girls spell it.) This isn't "American Friend", it's "American Idol."

He’s got his shit together. For all the hoopla surrounding him, there’s surprisingly little drama or off-screen craziness. What’s that, you found some pictures of him making out with some dude? BFD. And he moves on. Like all of us should.

He’s humble. Despite the fact that this has pretty much been a coronation for about the last month or so, he’s stayed incredibly respectful of both his opponents and the judges. He could tell them all to suck it at this point and it wouldn't matter.

He’s a risk-taker. The kind of thing we need more of in music. I remember thinking that the version of “Ring of Fire” he did was kind of wrong but to his credit, I’d never heard anything like it before. Go ahead, name one of the other performances from that week.

He’s cool. Just plain cool. Like he ain’t got a care in the world. And isn’t that what rock and roll is about?

He thanks the band. After every performance. That’s just respect and good manners. Two things we could stand to see more of.

Rob Sheffield wrote a great little piece about him in the most recent Rolling Stone and had this to say:

“Where the hell did they find this guy? There’s a “boy who fell to Earth” quality about him, like David Bowie’s Lady Stardust come to life.

Having Adam around seems to cheer everybody up, including the other singers, who know the pressure’s off. Hell, even Simon looks happy. Yeah, it’s supposed to be a competition, but part of Glambert’s charm is that by removing all the bogus suspense from the show, he’s made it watchable again.”

Glambert for the win.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fire or frying pan? It’s your call

I’ve been saying recently that everyone I know is either unemployed or so busy their lives have ground to a screeching halt. Good or bad, I’m squarely in the latter group, getting my ass handed to me on both my account and on a new business pitch. Three weeks of only hours off at a time. What can you do?

On the upside, some good music’s been blooming left and right this spring. Let’s take a look if not a listen to some of the better gems.

Booker T “Potato Hole”
Whitney would kill me if I didn’t give her credit for this find, so I will say she first pointed it out to me. But I tell ya, ol’ Booker T teamed up with the Drive By Truckers and turned out some whip-crackin’ instrumental numbers full of whiskey-soaked southern guitars and swirling Hammond B3. They even do a raved-up version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” that kind of turns into its own thang.

Camera Obscura “My Maudlin Career”
I’ve always had a thing for the bookish, nerdy (or “twee” which I think just sounds crap) chamber-pop Scottish bands like Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura. They’re not tough and they certainly don’t bring the heat but they do play beautiful tunes. They’re music for going to art school to. Or drinking coffee and journaling. Or wearing a turtleneck or elbow patches to. Or just enjoying. But their new one, “My Maudlin Career” is pretty damn good. It sounds like parlor rooms and tea kettles in old drafty old houses that are full of the kind of troubles that really never go out of style. It’s the type of music make you forgive the could-be-really-cute Tracyanne for wearing her grandma’s clothes. This is the lead single: "French Navy"

Empire of the Sun “Empire of the Sun”
I’ve been waiting for this album to come out in the states for a while now. Sure, I could have bought it as an import but I figured it’d be here eventually. A couple of Aussies (one of the guys from the Sleepy Jackson and another guy) started this little side project last year. I keep saying this album sounds like it came out in 1986. It’s somewhere between like Spandau Ballet, Melissa Manschester and Jan Hammer’s Miami Vice theme. Just go with me on that. It sounds like a warm breeze. The lead single, “Walking on a dream”, even feels like it comes with a blender drink already built in. The video is pretty cool too: "Walking on a dream"

I'm working on adding a music player thing. Everyone seems to have them now. I should too. This is America, after all.