Tag Archives: recommendations

Saw The Thermals (Wampire, Guidance Counselor too) last night, am inspired by the Portland indie goodness!

Their new music video is rad, and it’s built up as (perhaps) the last ever film recorded and produced on Kodachrome (cue oohs and ahhs). It’s sure pretty to look at, that much I can say.

View it here.


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Fight with Love

Linking to this cool article about contemporary soul musicians because I enjoyed the read and the heads-up. Am currently listening to Kings Go Forth for the first time, so I don’t have anything else to report yet. Check it though.

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“The Cover,” Zeppelin, Portland, and Good Causes

Covering a musician that you hold dear is one of the most difficult personal tributes one can attempt to translate to an audience without getting only the proverbial squealing, distorted feedback in response.

For me, situation qualifies the experience. I find it much easier to be swept up in a moment of shared appreciation when I’m at a show and the performing band decides to break into a cover. The gesture recognizes that there’s something bigger than both the performer I’m currently watching and me, something we both love, and therefore, something that connects us even more than the current situation (hopefully) has.

A recorded cover is an entirely different matter. The lack of (seeming) spontaneity adds a serious intent to the rendition; choosing to listen to the recording without a crowd surrounding you sharpens your perception. A listener familiar with the original can’t help but compare: is the interpretation unoriginal, a carbon copy of the prototype—or is does it stray too far from the artist’s original intent, and is it therefore too weird for a curious fan to buy into (tangentially, does this latter judgement label the listener as close-minded and does it matter what the artist originally intended?). The notoriety and influence of the original performer multiplies this contentious situation, probably weighting the general perception of an attempted cover as just that—at worst, a failed attempt to channel brilliance, and at best a reincarnation of a beloved number so that the new performer rekindles public interest and respect for the original. It’s a “thank you” from the performer to the orignating genius and an incidental “hey, have you heard…” to the audience. Most of the time I find myself responding with “Yes, asshole. Now why did you choose to massacre this masterpiece the way you did?” And here we are again, left to wonder if I’m just a lame traditionalist.

I think my presentation of this dichotomy of “the cover” only proves how wary I am of potential reinterpretation of a classic. I don’t want my tender love for some piece of music to be dragged along through someone else’s foreign nostalgia. I do, however, really like to be pleasantly surprised and see something anew—again.

And that brings me to the point of why I’m here: to draw your attention toward a tribute compilation that has recently inspired me.

From the Land of the Ice and Snow: The Songs of Led Zeppelin (Jealous Butcher Records)

Released 10/12/10

Album artwork by John King and Carson Ellis


I can’t say I’ve listened to it enough to truly feel acquainted with all the material on it, so don’t consider this a review of its total musical quality (though so far, 3 listens in, I’m really enjoying it). Do consider it a stamp of approval though. The 2-disc (3 with the bonus digital download-only tracks), 50+ track compilation is the brainchild of Rob Jones of Portland’s Jealous Butcher Records , Matt Ward, and John King. The project started through a shared love of Led Zeppelin, a band which inspired each of these people to do what they do today. “And wouldn’t it be nice to put together a tribute release featuring friends both near and afar, not being a ‘who’s who’ sort of tribute, but rather a ‘community’ inspired collection of Zeppelin songs.” (Quoted here) Jones issued a call-to-arms to musicians that he knew and submissions started to pour in—not surprising, given Zep’s God-like presence, with influence over so many different genres.

That was six years ago. The project’s momentum dipped and rose, certainly moving to the back burner along the way, but with more submissions of varying quality arriving all along the way. The project needed some fresh energy in order to draw it to a satisfactory close. This rekindling arrived in the form of Ward’s idea to turn the project into a benefit. Thus a percentage of the sales for this record go to First Octave, a Portland non-profit organization which issues grants to local school music programs. And this is the part that really inspired me to go out on a limb and risk purchasing a compilation that I might only listen to once, dour cover-consumer that I am (though, due to my knowledge of who was involved on the project and my love of the subject, I guessed that probably wouldn’t be the case). Portland is a city where just over 50% of schools lack any sort of music program (stat courtesy of First Octave’s site). Music education is something that not only supplements but enriches education at any age, whether it’s a pleasant addition to one’s daily activities or the sole focus of study and activity. Engaging with music makes you a smarter, sharper, better person. It was the bright spot in my public school education here in Oregon, and I certainly attribute it with keeping me involved in the classroom and inspired to learn. Those brave public school teachers who introduced me to music were what inspired me to go to college and keep engaging my brain. Funny, I wound up choosing music as my major concentration. I think it’s awesome that a local record label coupled with over 50 local artists to produce an item that would generate funding for our local school-age population. Cyclic action is part of what makes music really beautiful. Some of the smartest musicians I know taught me that repetition regenerates and renews. So check this out and throw some dollas toward what’s good—for you now, for the current music scene, for rock and roll’s past, and for the future generation.

Image courtesy of oregonlive.com

More reviews of this tribute can be found here, here, here, and here. For Willamette Weekly‘s awesome Q&A with Rob Jones, click here.

Check out the album’s page on Facebook for more news and media.

And here‘s the write-up of the October 9th release party at the Doug Fir.

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“Do you remember that day you fell outta my window?”

“I sure do, you came jumpin’ out after me.”

Looks like I’ll mostly be posting Youtube videos ’til graduation. Hope that’s enough to make you stick around, ’cause I sure like it when people read this thing, tiny & inconsequential as it is.

Anyhow, here’s a song of which I can’t seem to get enough. As usual, I’m behind the times, so I won’t be surprised if it’s already one you know and love. If not, listen up.

“While you were sitting in the back smokin’ a cigarette that you thought was gonna be your last, I was fallin’ deep, deeply in love with you… and I never told you ’til just now!”

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And another…

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2010 & Women’s Rugby.

It may be a new factoid for my few-and-far-between readers that rugby is one of my passions. However, I’m here to profess my love of the game. If you are either already an avid lover of all things rugby, read on. If not, I hope you’ll let whatever curiosity you may have about this curious game express itself and that you, too, will read on.

To kick off 2010, the Canadian and USA’s women’s national teams will be going head to head for the Atlantic Cup–starting TOMORROW! The competition will feature two matches. The first is tomorrow, January 12, at 12pm PST; the second will take place on Saturday, January 16 at 11am PST. A U20 match is scheduled for Saturday at 10am PST. And, best news yet, all of the matches will be streamed live over the internet on the USA rugby Ustream channel. These games promise to be interesting, especially as potential indicators for performance in the 2010 Women’s World Cup. Twelve teams have qualified and will be competing August 20-September 5 at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford for pool games and Twickenham Stoop Stadium for the semi finals, third place play offs, and the final.

For a little bit more US and Canadian women’s rugby, their history of matches, the Atlantic Cup, and what’s in store this week, check out what one of my favorite rugby blogs has to say about it all.

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Solstice, yearning.

Winter break started about one week ago. I haven’t done much that isn’t slovenly and therefore lovely–late evenings, beer with friends, naps, and trolling some music blogs for new tunes. Don’t let anyone tell you that sloth never produces anything good, though. Due to this quiet time, I have two new album recommendations for you.

Alela Diane, To Be Still

The first is a little late given its February 2009 release. However, I just found out about Nevada-City-native-turned-Portlander Alela Diane, and just listened to To Be Still (Rough Trade Records) for the first time today. I’m quite taken with it and her pretty, infrequent blogging. This is her first recording since her debut, The Pirate’s Gospel (Holocene Music 2006). Her songwriting is impressive given her short musical history–she started writing songs just three years prior to The Pirate’s Gospel. Yet both of her parents are musicians, TPG was recorded in her father’s home studio, and he has collaborated with her on several of her songs. She was “discovered” by fellow Nevada City native Joanna Newsom, who arranged for her first public show. She has since toured throughout the US and Europe, extensively in France. She collaborated with Joey Waronker, Gus Seyffert, Leo Abrahams, and Woody Jackson under the name “Headless Heroes” to produce an album of covers, The Silence of Love (Nov. 2008), recorded by Eddie Bezalel and Hugo Nicholson. Her most recent release (Oct. 2009) is a collaboration with Alina Hardin, simply titled Alela & Alina (Family/Names Records). You can hear a sample of them here.

Other nice stuff: Pitchfork‘s review of To Be Still;  a Daytrotter session, which includes some nice recordings (May 2007); NPR’s World Cafe session with the lady and her father (!); and a Blogotheque “Take Away Show,” which is embedded below (Dec. 2007).

Laura Veirs, July Flame

Luckily, I’m right on time with a fanfare for this album. Laura is another Portland transplant who I was lucky enough to see perform at the Laurelthirst (one of her standard gigs) back in October. She had a valise full of CDs of July Flame, her newest recording, set for a Jan. 12, 2010 release date. The recording will be the debut full-length album for her own label, Raving Marching Band Records, and her seventh full-length album–sixth with co-producer Tucker Martine. A look at her website reveals a full July Flame tour schedule extending into March, with dates throughout both the US and Europe. In fact, if you’re in Portland, you can catch her at the Laurelthirst again on New Year’s Eve. You can download two tracks off the album right here; I certainly recommend the title track. Like Alela, the Colorado Springs native got a start in music with her family, with summers spent camping and singing around campfires. Her songwriting skills really emerged right after graduating from college and moving to China to serve as a translator. Writing lyrics became a way of coping for her, during a period of semi-isolation. Her biography on her website describes July Flame‘s genesis:

On a day in late July 2008, when the sun was hot enough to melt the skin, Veirs and a friend stumbled upon a booth at the Portland, Ore. farmer’s market selling July Flame peaches. Veirs so liked the name that she suggested she and her friend each write a song with that title. They bought a bunch of peaches and canned them in their bathing suits on the hottest day that summer. The peaches, spiked with cloves and drenched in syrup, turned out great, and the song is one of Veirs’ best ever. “I’d been in a songwriting slump at that time and writing that song pushed me over my plateau and into a new place where I was surprising myself again. I invented oddball tunings so I was really using my ear to search out new-sounding melodies and patterns,” says Veirs. “I wrote this album from a searching, soulful place. I hope it elicits a real gut feeling.”

Other nice things: The NPR World Cafe session is here; I’ve embedded a video she made of her barn, the space at her home where she writes her music and teaches lessons. It’s a pretty cool glimpse!

Thanks for reading, all; I hope you enjoy these two beautiful albums. Merry Christmas to all, and a fulfilling new year.

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