Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Free Choir song

As you may have seen by now, the Choir's marvelous album Burning Like the Midnight Sun currently stands at number three on my top 10 list. I think it's pretty great, but if you'd like to hear for yourself, the band is offering the first song on the album, "Midnight Sun," for free at their website. I'm not sure how long this offer will last, so check it out. And if you like it, buy the record. You won't be disappointed.

New Column: Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Ice is back with a brand new invention... No, false alarm, he isn't. But this week at, I discuss three collaborations, so it seemed like a fun title for the column.

I call them ampersand projects, because they bring together artists that normally wouldn't share a byline. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but the three in question this week are all varying shades of successful. On tap: Ben Folds & Nick Hornby, who wrote music and words, respectively, on Lonely Avenue; John Legend & the Roots, who slammed through a set of old soul covers on Wake Up; and Jenny & Johnny, who are Lewis and Rice, respectively, and who clearly had a blast making their album I'm Having Fun Now.

All that, plus the Third Quarter Report. As always, click on over to read the column, and head back here to leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Listen: Tired Pony, The Place We Ran From

Tired Pony is a supergroup. There's no getting around it, no matter how subtle or supple the music on this disc is. The band includes Gary Lightbody, guiding light of Snow Patrol; Peter Buck, guitarist for R.E.M.; Richard Colburn, drummer for Belle and Sebastian; and indie-pop stalwarts Scott McCaughey, Jacknife Lee and Iain Archer. They even enlisted M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, also known as She and Him, to provide guitar and vocals. No fighting it. This is a supergroup.

But the album. The Place We Ran From, is anything but a bloated supergroup project. It's a medium-length album of medium-paced tunes with wonderful lyrics, and it's clear from the first listen that Lightbody is the dominant musical force here. The songs are very simple, set to repetitive guitar strums, and the whole thing plays like a quieter Snow Patrol effort. But you can hear the contributions of Lightbody's bandmates loud and clear here too, particularly Buck, whose guitar accents are unmistakable.

I like this album about as much as I like the average Snow Patrol record. It's nothing special, and the songs don't stick with me - they all kind of blend together into a quarter-note-strummed dirge - but while it's playing, I enjoy it. The final track, "Pieces," is my favorite, at least partially for its noisy, ambient ending, and "Dead American Writers" has a terrific guitar part. But on the whole, Tired Pony didn't set my world on fire. It's almost an anti-supergroup record, so unassuming that it fades into nothing while you're listening to it.

First Listen: Brandon Flowers, Flamingo

Four albums in, I still don't know quite what I think about the Killers. Sometimes they grab me ("Spaceman" is their best song, I think), but sometimes their Springsteen-esque faux-grandeur makes me twitch. So I was interested to see which way frontman Flowers would go on his solo debut.

He went for the Springsteen. Flamingo is a decent-enough collection of "street-level" anthems and hard-luck stories, set to sweeping, simple, major-chord music. Flowers' voice handles this material very well, and a couple of these songs rise above the simplistic din, but for the most part, I don't see how this is any different from a modern Bon Jovi album. More synths and fewer guitar heroics, but really, that's the only difference. Flamingo will probably do well, but there's little here that holds my interest beyond one listen.

First Listen: Bad Religion, The Dissent of Man

At this point, more than 30 years into their career, it's pretty safe to say that Bad Religion will never change. Their one foray into diversity, 1983's Into the Unknown, was quickly followed by a retrenching EP called Back to the Known. Even when founding member Brett Gurewitz left for a few years in the mid-'90s, the essential sound wasn't altered - they still wrote powerhouse pop-punk tunes with simple chords, memorable hooks and ooh-aah harmonies. Every album contains a dozen or more of these songs, and they all kind of sound the same. They're the AC/DC of punk rock bands.

That said, there's no particular reason you should own The Dissent of Man, the band's 15th full-length, unless you really love this sound. I do. Bad Religion has always pushed my buttons, and this album's 15 songs do exactly the same things that this band has always done. Yes, I'd like to hear them branch out a little more. No, I don't consider them anywhere near the upper echelon of bands (or even punk bands) out there right now. But I like them, and if they never flip their own script again, I'll keep buying these same-sounding records as long as they keep putting them out.

Tuesdays with Kevin VI

It's Tuesday, which means it's Kevin Trudo time. This week, Aurora's favorite son kicked off what will eventually be a massive multi-song suite, which may or may not come out in sequence on successive Tuesdays. The first tune, which is in every sense a prelude, is fittingly titled "Part 1." As a standalone piece, I'm not sure what I think of it, but as the first act of a longer work, it's interesting. Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trying something new

So here's the deal. On Friday, I will be getting Ben Folds' new album, Lonely Avenue. (That's the one with novelist Nick Hornby on lyrics.) As part of my ongoing attempt to expand my media empire, I'll be taking to Twitter at 7 p.m. that night, and posting my immediate first impressions as the album plays.

I did this once before, with Weezer's new album, and it was fun for me. I'm not sure how much fun it'll be for anyone else, but I'd like to find out. If you want to join in the conversation, head over to on Friday night, and let me know if this is cool or idiotic.

To recap: First thoughts on Ben Folds' new album as I hear it for the first time. At my Twitter page, on Friday the 24th at 7 p.m. Comments are always welcome. And thanks!

New Column: Life is Full of Surprises

I like to be surprised.

I know many people who prefer the familiar, who like falling backwards into the comfortable and well-known. Nothing wrong with that, but it just doesn't do it for me. I need music to drop the floor out from under me, to keep my head spinning. This week at, I celebrate that feeling with three new releases.

The one that will probably bring in the most confused letters is Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns, which I can't stop listening to. I also reviewed Serj Tankian's impressive new solo album, and the Vaselines' first record in 20 years. It's been a fun week.

As always, click on over to read the column, then come back here to leave me a comment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesdays with Kevin V

It's Tuesday, so it must be Kevin Trudo time. This week's freebie is a new song called "Mathematics." It's dark - very, very dark - but there's something magical about it, something I can't quite put my finger on. See if you can - you can download the song right here:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Column: Business as Usual

It's back to the ol' grind this week at, with reviews of three new records. The rundown:

Weezer's Hurley is a rawer and more emotional album than Raditude, with a guest list that will make your jaw drop. Interpol's self-titled album is a slow and boring collection that hearkens back to their debut, which I think is their worst. And Robert Plant has once again surrounded himself with collaborators that treat his voice as the historical treasure it is - Band of Joy was produced by Nashville legend Buddy Miller, and contains covers of some very interesting songs.

Also, I lay out some quick thoughts on Sufjan Stevens' new tracks. It's all new music all the time this week, so click on over to read the column, then head back here to leave me a comment.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reclusive Texas enigma... dot com?

It kind of feels like the end of an era. I know I wasn't around or aware for most of Jandek's mammoth run as the most reclusive musician on the planet - I only started collecting and listening to his stuff after he stepped out on stage for the first time in 2004. I wasn't there for the 40-some albums he released over the 26 years before that, during which time he never played live, gave only one interview, and only advertised in one tiny magazine. How anyone heard of Jandek before the Internet is beyond me.

Since 2004, he's become a lot more outgoing, playing numerous shows each year with a wide variety of sidemen. He still sounds like he never quite learned how to play any of the instruments he tackles, and his music is still wildly improvisational, but the variety of the live shows has been remarkable. Jandek has almost become a social creature.

And now the capper: he has what appears to be an official website: It's very Jandekian, just a list of his albums, prices, and a mailing address. No links to anything, no way to buy online. The site does seem to announce a new album, Toronto Sunday, which I'm about to order, though. And if that's its purpose, to get news of new releases out there from an official source, then that's excellent.

But it's weird to think of Jandek updating a website. Before you know it, he'll have an email address, and I'll be able to stop sending him letters each time I want one of his records. In a lot of ways, that will be a shame. There's still something old-fashioned and mysterious about the way he does things, and I appreciate that. I hope it never gets to the point where I buy Jandek albums with PayPal. That would be too weird.

Tuesdays with Kevin IV

Kevin Trudo's Tuesday song this week is an old one. It's an ironically warm number called "Cold," on which he does his best Glen Phillips impression. You can check it out here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A change of seasons?

So it seems Mike Portnoy has left Dream Theater. For anyone who's followed this band for the last 20 years or so, this seems incomprehensible. It's like Dave Mustaine deciding to leave Megadeth, and the other guys continuing on without him. No offense to John Petrucci or the other members of the band, but Mike Portnoy is Dream Theater.

I'll be real interested to see how this band works without him. I'll also be stunned if they find a drummer one-third as good as he is. I hope this is like the Blaze Bayley era of Iron Maiden - it happens, it sucks, but it leads to a triumphant reunion, and everyone ends up happy. Portnoy's the soul and vision of that band, and for me, without him, it just isn't Dream Theater. So we'll see...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Column: We Must Go On Now

I decided to do something a little bit different this week at, something that will probably get my indie hipster card taken away. This week's missive is all about Mr. Mister.

Yes, the '80s pop band. Yes, the people behind "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings." For reasons I explain in the column, they're important to me, and thanks to Facebook friend Brian Smith, I was able to hear their unreleased fourth album. And it's good stuff. (I also reviewed singer Richard Page's new solo album Peculiar Life, which isn't as good.)

If you're here for the latest and greatest in cutting-edge musical entertainment, I'm afraid you're going to have to come back next week. This week, I'm 13 years old again, and if you let me, I'll tell you all about it. Click on over to read the column, then head back here to leave me a comment.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesdays with Kevin III

Kevin Trudo is back with his third Tuesday Project song, and this one is my favorite so far. It's just Kevin and his guitar, unadorned, but the song... man, the song's a real beauty. It's called "Gemini." I don't even want to waste your time with more of my words. Go and listen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Listen: Philip Selway, Familial

Now this is a surprise. Phil Selway is the drummer for Radiohead, when Thom Yorke isn't moaning over computer beats. I was stunned to hear his contributions to Neil Finn's Seven Worlds Collide project last year - folksy, melodic songs, with no sense of importance or irony about them. I was intrigued.

So here's Familial, Selway's full-length debut, and it's practically a Nick Drake record. Hushed, acoustic, fragile, pretty, sometimes nearly inaudible. Selway has a lightweight, even voice that works reasonably well for this material, and he co-wrote these 10 songs with Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone (both of Wilco) and Lisa Germano, among others.

For starters, there are more genuine songs with actual melodies on here than on anything Radiohead has done since 1997. But that's an easy shot. Familial is a sweet little record on its own, even without Selway's pedigree - although without that, it probably wouldn't have been released - and deserves a listen free of prejudice. What you'll find is something small and endearing, and after a few spins, the likes of "A Simple Life" and "Don't Look Down" will haunt you. I hope Selway does more of these. Familial is a cool oasis in a vast rock wasteland.

First Listen: Jenny and Johnny, I'm Having Fun Now

Jenny is Jenny Lewis, of Rilo Kiley. Johnny is Jonathan Rice, her singer-songwriter boyfriend. I'm Having Fun Now is their first collaborative project, and as you might expect, it's adorable.

The whole record is made up of fizzy, breezy rock songs, played with verve and simplicity. Listen closer, of course, and you'll get lines like "I don't believe in sucking your way to the top, fingers crossed you're flipping me off." But on first blush, this record is cute and fun.

Sadly, it's just not much more than that. On her two solo records, Lewis has shown a depth and a sense of history that her time with Rilo Kiley barely hinted at. This is much more simple, full of reverbed guitars and catchy choruses that will leave your head as quickly as they entered it. If you're in the mood for a quick and dirty 35-minute good time, this record's for you. If you want something more substantial, look elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tuesdays with Kevin II

I know I'm a day late here, but Kevin Trudo's second Tuesday Project song is up now and available at This one's called "Accidentally Remembering an Ex-Girlfriend (While Watching Porn)." I'm gonna give you a minute to deal with that title.

Good? OK. It's much more of a production than last week's ditty, and in fact sounds to me like Shellac playing a jazz number. The lyric is just... wow. Definitely check it out. You can't beat the price, either - completely free.

New Column: The Curious Case of Cee-Lo Green

For the past 10 days or so, I've had a song stuck in my head.

The song's called "Fuck You," by Cee-Lo Green, the former Goodie Mob member who is best known as the singing half of Gnarls Barkley. I seriously consider this tune the greatest single of the year. It's also the first truly viral phenomenon the music world has seen in some time. With no marketing push from the label, the song has taken off - millions of people have listened to it on YouTube, passing it from one friend to another, and its wild word-of-mouth success seems to have caught even its author by surprise.

Not only is "Fuck You" a gleefully vulgar pure pop wonder of the highest order, it's also an interesting case study as we enter this new digital market. In this week's column, I take a look at that phenomenon, and discuss how that first week of release might have lost Cee-Lo more than a million bucks.

I also reviewed the debut album from Mumford and Sons, and waxed eloquent on some upcoming releases I'm excited about. As you'd expect from a column largely about a song called "Fuck You," this one's got some salty language. Just FYI. As always, click on over to read it, and come on back here to leave me a comment.