Amoeblog

Joanna Newsom covers Sandy Denny's "North Star Grassman and the Ravens" for Wren

Posted by Kells, March 15, 2013 04:42pm | Post a Comment

We've caught neither peep nor lead regarding a follow up to Joanna Newsom's 2010 Have One On Me triple LP the future Mrs. Andy Samberg has been making news recently, case in point. Last year a couple of new songs, "Look and Despair" and "The Diver's Wife", were caught during two live different live performances in San Francisco and subsequently released into the wild, as happens more often that not in this increasingly borderless world of oversharing we live in (no complaints here). After dangling the carrot that was the announcement of a video shoot to showcase the jaunty, up-beat "Good Intentions Paving Company" music video in June of 2011 and later, in March 2012, the shaved vignette of a preview for the clip (as one comment sardonically pointed out, "this? video is practically the indie Chinese Democracy") it feels good to finally see something new from Lady Jo, even if the newness is a "fashion video" for the Fall/Winter 2013 collection of Los Angeles based clothing line Wren, and the song is not new material but rather a Sandy Denny cover (again, no complaints whatsoever).

Watching Joanna perform (i.e. mostly model to) her take on one of Denny's most lovley Nautical Folk compositions set within a honeyed palette embracing the crisp, bruised hues of a California country sunset -- complete with lilting hillside foliage, a swimming pool lanai framed in cacti, and an owl co-star -- is just enough of a tease to potentially light a fire while at the same time slaking a thirst for avid fans awaiting something, anything fresh from Newsom's dulcet font. In the meantime, check out the video below.


Save
Save

Son of Rogue's Gallery: Strange but Seaworthy Reworkings of Traditional Maritime Folk

Posted by Kells, March 4, 2013 01:17pm | Post a Comment
















Okay, we get it. There is no need for further evidence that Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski have developed an immortalizing affinity for all things piratical. Not that there's anything wrong with pirate fever, mind you, (I might be the only one on staff here at Amoeba Music SF that'll openly admit to being stoked about the prospect of future chapters in Pirates of the Caribbean film series) it's just that their enthusiasm for more legendary exploits of swashbuckling buccaneers, pillaging priveteers, salty sea dogs, and scurvy scallywags of yore sure has manifested itself in stranger ways than Walt Disney's theme park attraction turned multi-billion dollar motion picture franchise success story (sorry, Haunted Mansion). Of course I'm talking about their published tributes to the sea chantey arts.

Back in 2006 Depp and Verbinski had a hand in producing Hal Willner's Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys -- an unruly and somewhat drunken compilation featuring an intriguing, genre-spanning line-up of mostly high profile pop/rock artists revisiting a bounty of maritime folk and seafaring work songs, songs that were once passed down quite literally over vast oceans of time thus contributing to modern music styles in more way than one might immediately suspect. These reinvigorated renditions of antiquated rhymes that comprise Rogues Gallery serve as pleasant testaments to the durability of oral tradition, though oddball tracks buoy here and there throughout the cut, rendering some beloved chantey-man reels near unrecognizable, freakish even, challenging imbibers to sink or swim along with each tune and demanding listeners to temper their grog with a certain amount of equanimity.

Now, Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys, the latest second two-disc installment in the Depp/Verbinski/Willner pirate hymns and devotionals, released February 19th on Anti Records, is as boozy and weathered as its predecessor, exploring new crests and troughs of the diverse spectrum of second-wave maritime melodies that advance and perpetuate the popularity of salt-sea songs and drunken sing-a-longs. It should come as no surprise that the likes of Tom Waits lashed up with Keith Richards and the slow-rolling runnels of layered vocal-rumblings over a watery melange of acoustic strums and pluckings in their rendition of the early 19th century folk song "Shenandoah" is a highlight of the record that almost making up for neither of them appearing in the original Rogues Gallery crew. In fact, curious pairings are more of a theme this go 'round what with even Michael Stipe and Courtney Love getting together (!) for "Rio Grande" -- one of the more traditional-sounding contributions that outweigh, say, more "raw" cuts like Iggy Pop and Hawk and a Hacksaw's grisly take on "Asshole Rules the Navy".

Todd Rundgren, however, should be marooned for his take on one of the most wildly popular whaling chanteys, "Rolling Down to Old Maui" (made famous by the late great master of modern Canadian Maritime Folk, singer-songwriter Stan Rogers). His high-impact club-thumper of a pop dance pump-a-thon is the most heinous and unnecessary so-called interpretation of an enduring classic on the whole record. In fact, it's so abominable that I almost want it to work despite the sum of it's being jacked-up beyond all recognition because his is precisely the kind of yarn that makes this funky weave worth unraveling. Instead it seems that Todd is having a laugh, baiting the hook for nautical nerds everywhere only to violently yank our jowls out of our faces before we can fully gag on his electronic mutiny. [Dearest Todd, I love you and I know you've sort of "gone bamboo" of late what with your new tiki bar opening soon, but come on! Rather than pillage a classic when you should've pumped your bilge with a something a little more kitschy like the Sex Pistols did with "Friggin' in the Riggin'"] I'm just not into it.

Of all the artists that appear here there are some very lovely surprises like actress Anjelica Houston singing "Missus McGraw," Marianne Faithfull together with the McGarrigle Sisters on “Flandyke Shore,” some long lost Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Inventiondoing an instrumental version of one my favorite old sea songs "The Handsome Cabin Boy" (check out Ewan MacColl & A. L. Lloyd's traditional recording on their albums The Black Ball Line (1957) and A Hundred Years Ago (1963) as well as the excellent Topic Sampler No 7 collection Sea Songs and Shanties) and even the rock n' roll pirate himself, the Depp, lends a loving hand on "The Mermaid" with Patti Smith and "Leaving of Liverpool" with Shane McGowan and first mate Gore Verbinski.

All in all, the savvy outweighs the sloppy with tracks like Dr John's rum-soaked "In Lure of the Tropics" drinking Macy Gray's reggae-toned "Off to Sea Once More" way, way under the ship's table in this NSFS (Not Safe For Starbucks) compilation. Other seaworthy notables include songs from Beth Orton, Robyn Hitchcock, Nick Cave (who previously stacked two tracks on the first Rogue's Gallery voyage), Sean Lennon paired with Jack Shit (also appearing again) as well as Akron/Family who this time around teamed up with New Orleans' gender-bending rap duo Sissy Bounce (Katey Red and Big Freedia) -- a triple threat balancing tamer teams of three like actor Tim Robbins with Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs singing "Marianne." In short, if you fancy lengthy compilations loaded with the promise of adventurous curiosities, maladjusted charm, sloppy oddities, and deviant beauty then avast ye matey -- this here's the swill for you.

7" Fix: Grass Widow / Shannon and the Clams Split for Hollywood Nailz

Posted by Kells, February 17, 2013 11:13pm | Post a Comment


I can't think of the last time a seven-inch split lead me to a TV show, let alone a scrummy back-bridge of DIY television programming like Hollywood Nailz. All I thought I was getting into when I slid the 45rpm slice of block-rockin' Bay Area vibrations onto the ol' hi-fi was some good time 90's cover tunes redressed and turned-out by Grass Widow (who tackled EMF's "Unbelievable") and Shannon and the Clams (who snagged "The Power" by Snap!). And, for a fact, much enjoyment ensued. But, as luck would have it, I wanted more.
Gripping the record sleeve, flipping it over, and eyeing the artwork during that first listen, my mind swam with questions as to what the impetus was behind this particular joint funfest (as if a reason for such is needed). Questions like: what is this, Hollywood Nailz™: the Record? Why is everyone so wigged-out and googly-eyed? A wee visit to the web, et voilà, I found myself tucking into a near twenty-five minute acid rainbow of a variety show that could very well double as testimonial to thrift stores, dumpster diving, and other such pursuits that, coupled with not a small amount of ingenuity, have the power to fulfill even the most ludicrous of 1-900 intergalactic phone sex wishes and Neon Desert battle-of-the-band dreams. Speaking of the battle-of -the-bands, who knew Grass Widow could breakdance?

Hollywood Nailz is a paragon of thrown-together trash TV pleasure fashioned to feel guilt-free. For the brainchildren behind Hollywood Nailz, multi-coiffed Seth Bogart (Hunx and His Punx) and fierce-faced Brande Bytheway and their rag-tag cast of fabulous faces (including, much to my viewing enjoyment, King Khan and his tarot deck), I only hope this affair is the beginning of something terrifically de rigueur.

And, while I'm at it, let me say that perhaps the most innovative contribution Hollywood Nailz has thus far gifted to the civilized world is their saucy solution for personal condiment application, The Dipping Station™. It is, hands-down (or should I say, hands-free) my favorite revolutionary life-hack of 2013. Check out the first episode of Hollywood Nailz, in full, below.

SaveSave

Concerning Hobbit Rock: Exploring A Beloved Micro-Genre

Posted by Kells, January 25, 2013 06:41pm | Post a Comment
Given all the hubbub this past holiday season surrounding the opening of Peter Jackson's newest venture into J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I think it's time to shift the spotlight onto a little known sub-subgenre tucked away, much like a hobbit hole snugly abutting a hillside, within Amoeba Music's extensive Rock Various Artists section: Hobbit Rock.



Now, I have to admit the first time I clocked the Hobbit Rock bin card I was taken aback, gagging on the  question: what the heck is this? Browsing though the titles it began to make sense. Much like unfolding a map of Middle Earth to explore a visual representation of the diverse cultures and histories that Tolkien invented to people his fictional universe, browsing Hobbit Rock is to peruse a collection of music that either inspires sincere impressions of Middle Earth or is unequivocally informed by Tolkein's fantasy writings.

In other words, if an artist makes blatant Tolkien-esque references in lyric  (apparently Led Zeppelin couldn't resist slipping more than a little Middle Earthliness into practically every album) or otherwise artistic content (see my list below) then that, friends, is pure, gem mint ten Hobbit Rock.

For something of less Middle Earth-obvious influences to qualify inclusion into this very specific category a decidedly progressive folk (or folkish prog) sort of rock ensemble most definitely seems to characterize the sonic gateway to Hobbit Rock admission. But that's something of a foggy notion, unless one considers the significant formative influence that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings had on the emergent hippie generation, taken together with the dewy-eyed archaisms of British folk of the same era (like Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day or just about anything by Bert Jansch), the Prog-Folk wave that followed (think Lindisfarne or Renaissance) and in the more freakish, otherworldly strains of British psychedelia (like Incredible String Band and maybe a little Hawkwind before they went 200% galactic) that would, in time, saturate into the 1970's as Progressive Rock. Peering through the Hobbit Rock lens listeners could, fathoming the above passage, stumble upon some mainstream American Folk-Rock (think Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair/Canticle") and ultimately stub their big hairy toes on a little something called Acid Folk (like Forest or Jan Dukes de Grey).

Having seen the most recent motion picture adaptation of The Hobbit (or at least the first third of it so it would seem) I feel as though Hobbit Rock selections must and shall promote a hearty harp contingent, erring on the Celtic side of things. Alan Stivell comes immediately to mind as well as a little ditty called "Street Song" on Drag City's recent reissue of Carol Kleyn's Love Has Made Me Stronger, circa 1976. And lets not forget that little slice of Old Forest HoRo chicness Joanna Newsom served up on Portlandia last February, sitting in a little wilderness (with a bunch of crunchy kids) chanting "Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadil" in tune with the plucking of her harp, all awash in golden sunlight. I'd bet Tolkien himself would mistake her for Goldberry, the "River-maid" -- Bombadil's ladylove. In any case harps and their ethereal tones featured prominently in scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when Bilbo & Co. inevitably arrive at Rivendell for a spell. The only element I'd have liked to see incorporated into to the Elvish party scene: copious amounts of boxed Rosé. And maybe also a crystal soaking tub.

Then there is the whole Metal, particularly Death/Black Metal, element which could, or probably should fall into the spectrum of Hobbit Rock in that a Metric Fucktonne of the stuff claims inspiration from the deepest, darkest depths of Mordor, and pretty much Mordor alone. From band names (Amon Amarth, Burzum, Crebain, Cirith Ungol, Gorgorth, and Nazgûl just to name a few) to album titles (like Nightfall in Middle Earth by Blind Guardian, natch), lyrics (Summoning not only base all their albums on Lord of the Rings but also feature Orcish language lyrics), and artwork (like Summoning's second album, Minas Morgul, pictured right), headbangers worship the dark side of Tolkein's universe with as much fervent devotion as they do Lucifer and his brimstone domain. Plainly put, Mordor is Mecca for Metalheads.

But like any map of Middle Earth, there worlds within worlds and nooks crannied with nooks and crannies; Hobbit Rock may be one of the skinniest sections Amoeba stocks for the browsing, but the cap of its mushroom hovers dense, wide, and heavy.

Feeling adventurous? Here are some of my favorites harvested from the Hobbit Rock patch:


Gandalf the Grey - The Grey Wizard Am I

This is the first thing I ever pulled from Hobbit Rock and perhaps one of the most mega-obvious examples of what makes something Hobbit Rock-relevant. In 1972 Chris Wilson made his ultimate homage to Tolkien's literary opuses when he cut this acoustic folkadelica album chronicling his fantastical Greenich Village rambles under the name Gandalf the Grey. It's a treacly relic of bygone weirdness dripping with lyrics inspired by Tolkien's landscapes and shout outs to characters like Strider and Treebeard, particularly in "My Elven Home" and the title track. Definitely not a cup for everyone, but then again anything this chimerical is the kind of cherried obscurity that makes Hobbit Rock worthy of it's bin card.





Gryphon - Midnight Mushrumps

I'll never know what compelled someone to file this in Hobbit Rock but it is definitely one of the most charismatic progressive folk records I've ever heard (reason enough, really). The eighteen minute title track is a sonically impressive piece that incorporates medieval, baroque, and classical-era influences in its shifting structure with nary a dull moment to be met. It is the thing listen to whilst tucking into the beginning of The Hobbit or any other tome of chivalric fantasy fiction. It would also provide a choice soundtrack for anyone gearing up for a Ren Faire, LARP meet, or a costume banquet where the only dining utensils are daggers. Remember: charisma isn't learned. You must roll for it when you initially create your character and then add the appropriate bonuses.





Gandalf - Gandalf

Anyone encountering this record for the first time would likely take no issue with it's being cross-filed under Hobbit Rock until they popped it on the ol' hi-fi for a listen. Gandalf's self-titled debut is about as Gandalf-y as The Hobbits' Down to Middle Earth LP is Hobbit-y. That is to say these two records are prime examples of Tolkien's influence on the 1967 rock scene and it's reduction of his work to light-minded ephemera best pinned to a jean jacket collar. Gandalf's psych-rock covers of Tim Hardin and Eden Ahbez songs and The Hobbits' sickeningly sunshiney corn nut of a pop record with songs like "Treats" and "Daffodil Days (The Affection Song)" are possibly better indulged when mega-baked. Or perma-fried.  





Bo Hansson - Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings

This may come as a surprise but there's nothing that can beat out Swedish instrumentalist Bo Hansson's 1970 record for best adaptation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings in both the Album Title (duh!) and Album Artwork (double duh!) Hobbit Rock categories. In fact, I urge you to check out the alternate covers of this release as they are all bad-ass, especially the 1977 reissue with a mounted Ringwraith on the front. While this record boasts zero vocal tracks it is a pleasant concept album based on Lord of the Rings. Plus it comes with a siiick LP sized insert of Tolkien himself posed on a stump. I wish there were an album of a similar calibur dedicated to The Hobbit that isn't the Rankin/Bass soundtrack with Glen Yarbrough singing "The Greatest Adventure (The Ballad of the Hobbit)".




Comus - First Utterance

Sounding like a blend of everything one could imagine being beautiful and terrifying about  embarking upon an unexpected journey through Middle Earth, Comus' 1971 debut is a fascinating, otherworldly (thus timeless) danse macabre blend of acoustic folk, progressive rock, and pagan psychedelia. Heavy themes pulse like a doom tattoo beneath a skin of acoustic guitars, violin, flute and quasi-elven, almost Arcadian, lyrical female vocal harmonies that cloak tracks like "The Herald" -- a sprawling epic that clocks in at twelve-plus minutes. Though this isn't straight up obvi Hobbit Rock, it more than conveys the sort of Dark/Acid/Folk/Prog/Rock compositional sound/vibe clash that makes it nothing if not a requisite HoRo title.





Starcastle - Starcastle

I think this one was accidentally filed in Hobbit Rock as it is crystal cut, lost seventies progressive Camelot Rock, if anything. I like to think that this wasn't necessarily a mis-file as it was a wishful symbolic gesture cast by someone who longs for similarly sprawling, Yes-like proggy fantasies mirroring Starcastle's excellent lead off track "Lady of the Lake" but with a more Tolkien-inspired take. Or something. At any rate, any track from this record could do worse than to be book-ended with any song from side two of Wishbone Ash's Argus or perhaps the greater part of Rush's Caress of Steel when creating a mix of music to read Tolkien to. Taken all together, with everything else covered here, that Tolkien mix'll surely dominate.


Interested in yet another, totally different take on what Hobbit Rock could be, please see the What's In My Bag? interview video below featuring actor Elijah "Frodo" Wood of The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings fame walking us through some of his digs, treasures and choice selections found at Amoeba Music.


Personal Picks: Kelly's Best of 2012 Year-End Recap

Posted by Kells, December 31, 2012 02:30pm | Post a Comment


Well, here we are. We weren't thrust into a new dark age oblivion, the world didn't end and neither did my workaday quest for the best music for the day. This year was rife with records that just had to be snatched -- reissues, compilations, and a fair few newbies too.

Here follows my personal, "show and tell" style best-of list for 2012:  the year that didn't stop the big wheel a-turnin'. Rather than just dicing up a list of cold-cut favorites, I've included personal events and trends herein that shaped the music I sought and gravitated towards within the past year.


BEST NEW ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Jessica Pratt - JP. No contest. I have naught but the best of things to say about this disc of spun gold and I'm not alone. It seems every Barry, Rob, and Maurice in the blogosphere has been falling all over this record like autumn leaves in the rain. If you really want to know my take check out my real talk review of JP here, otherwise please do enjoy the album's opening track, "Night Faces" below.





 
BEST 2012 REISSUE: It's a tie between two (Numero related) comps: WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze and & Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974 - 1984. Both platters piled high with private press oddments and rarities one could hardly go more wrong than to miss out on these two exemplary feats of the compilation arts. The former being a point of revision for many in that it is essentially a mix of largely unheard "yacht rock"/AOR triumphs of seventies song-writing sensibilities (man, is it ever sensibly sensitive) that confronts one's moral definition of guilty (listening) pleasures. The latter comp, Personal Space - a seemingly dark horse among the usual reissue fare fleshing out the the soul comps shelf space, made the rounds among Amoeba staff regularly thus enjoyed a healthy amount of in-store play as well. Chock full of rhythm-box workouts a la Sly Stone, Timmy Thomas and Shuggie Otis, it's a far-out soul/funk excavation of the highest order. Both of these are solid front-to-back listens for the home vinyl library/curio corner.

An honorable mention smoothing out the angles in this Bermuda triangle of smooth sailing comps would have to be that Tim Findlay (of Groove Armada) mix for the Late Night Tales series, Music for Pleasure. Holy horse latitudes is this mix ever the very essence of a guilty, yacht-rocking pleasurecraft. I'd swear it's been a banner year for harnessing the soft, ever-lilting easy breezes of boxed-wine status AM Gold.
 

REIUSSUE RADNESS: Thin Lizzy, Takeshi Terauchi, Judas Priest, Stan Rogers, Can, My Bloody Valentine and so, so many other reissues really lit up the old hi-fi this year. Of the pack I'd say that the Light in the Attic reish of Thin Lizzy's self-titled album and Allen Toussaint's Southern Nights (out via 4 Men with Beards) have been fighting it out for turntable dominance most of this past year. I'm still digesting the Can - Lost Tapes box set and don't even get me started on the glory that is the live at the '83 US Fest DVD that comes packaged with the latest remastered reissue of Judas Priest's 30-year-old masterpiece Screaming for Vengeance. Other notable reissues include the waves of fuzzy shoegaze nostalgia imparted to the middle bit of 2012 thanks to the My Bloody Valentine reissue tsunami, the continuation of the very long overdue reissue of Canada's working man's maritime-folk troubadour Stan Rogers' back catalogue (what began last year) and the release of Nippon Guitars -- a killer comp ofering an overview of the life and work of Japan's godfather of surf guitar, Takeshi Terauchi. It's so good we can't even play it in the store on a busy without selling out by the end of track three.

speaking of compilations...

Continue reading...
BACK  <<  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  >>  NEXT