Archive | September, 2012

Fall 2012 Music Preview

29 Sep


Fall is not only Oscar season. Some of the best albums are also released. This Fall is no different. There are several promising albums coming out. I often find it is difficult to keep track of all the albums that are being released. Often, an album is released, and you don’t find out about it until it is already old news. And, come on, I know everyone likes being a Hipster and knowing about things “before they are cool.” So, consider this your Hipster Fall 2012 primer. Here are some albums you should be looking forward to.

Just to be clear, Mumford and Sons released their second LP Babel earlier this week. Ben Folds Five released their comeback album the week before, and the Killers released Battle Born on 9/18 as well. These albums are not on the list because they have already been released. Here are some more that have been recently released for your consumption

– Green Day album Uno (bet you can guess what the follow-up is going to be called)

– Bob Dylan’s Temptest (soon enough, his albums will be composed of one 60-minute poetic narrative)

– The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter

– Pete Seeger: Peter Remembers Woody AND A More Perfect Union

The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth – October 2

What is it?: The Mountain Goats’ ambitious 14th album

Why should I be excited?: Because lead-goat Darnielle is a lyrical master and the Goats’ music has just become more diverse and creative. This supreme cult-band is among my favorite acts, and the album will most likely be crafty, original, and depressing (like all good Mountain Goats albums).

Muse – The 2nd Law – October 2

What is it?: Muse’s 6th studio album featuring “Survival” which was the official song of the London Olympics this year

Why should I be excited?: Muse has been working on this article since last September. This is their first release since 2009, and that album featured the incredibly popular “Uprising.” The band is comfortably in the zone of solid releases. The album combines their blend of symphonic rock with dubstep and synth pop. Will it overtake the popularity of their last release. I don’t know. Check it out to see.

John Cale – Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood – October 2

What is it?: John Cale, of Velvet Underground fame, is releasing his first studio album in seven years.

Why should I be excited?:  John Cale is a talented musician, and he is combining his alt/rock electronic talents with a staff of uber-talented musicians – Danger Mouse, Mike Jerome, Dustin Boyer. This is one of the more interesting releases on the list, and I am anticipating some handy work by these guys

Other Releases to be Excited About:


  • Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes
  • The Wallflowers: Glad All Over
  • Chris Rene: I’m Right Here


  • Freelance Whales: Diluvia


  • Jason Lytle: Dept. of Disappearance


  • Andrew Bird: Hands of Glory


  • One Republic: Native



From the Court to Foreigner – The Story of Ian McDonald

24 Sep

Ian McDonald is one of those tremendously talented musicians who has flown under the radar for far too long. Some musicians need the spotlight. Others create music solely for the music. It may seem like a foreign concept to some, but those who master it are true musical kings. McDonald is also…diverse. Yes, that is the correct word. He is a multi-instrumentalist, proficient with the sax, flute, vibraphone, keyboard, and guitar, with a penchant for classical composition. It is this range of musical interests that allowed him to share his talents with several acts, no matter how different they may have been. Thus, McDonald is the subject of today’s “Same Artist, Different Place.” In under a decade, McDonald created two completely different works with two completely different bands.

Let’s start with one of my favorite bands, King Crimson. Despite their short existence, the band created one of the most inventive progressive rock compositions of all time – In The Court of the Crimson King. McDonald served as the main composer for this album, and he also suggested the purchase of a Mellotron which made a triumphant appearance on the album.

Here’s “I Talk to the Wind,” the second track on In The Court of the Crimson King. McDonald’s flute work is most prevalent in this piece. It is a soothing lullaby that features pleasant harmonies and elegant percussion. Listen for McDonald’s classically inspired flute solo at around the 3:00 minute mark. It is a Moody Blues inspired piece, focusing much of its attention on composition and instrumentation – a staple for an expanded progressive rock movement that bands like King Crimson founded. Now, with that fresh in your mind, here is…

Why? Well, Ian McDonald was one of the founding members of the New York City rock band Foreigner. “Feels Like the First Time,” which appears on Foreigner’s eponymous debut album, was released in 1977, eight years after “I Talk to the Wind” appeared on King Crimson’s debut. McDonald played guitar, woodwinds and keyboards in Foreigner. He also provided work on the drums, horns, and vocals on the album. Face it, the man is a musical jack-of-all-trades.

Oh, one more thing, you know the saxophone in T.Rex’s “Get it On (Bang a Gong)?” Yup, Ian McDonald.

Panda Channels Big Mama Thornton

20 Sep

Watch that full video. Yes, the entire thing. Above is 42-year-old Panda Ross singing Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home” in her audition for The X Factor. She was still suffering from a touch of pneumonia as she performed and later had to be given oxygen. Fact is, all her bubbly personality and incredible stage presence aside, Panda can sing. Sing may even be putting it lightly.

I have watched a lot of auditions in my years of sitting through singing competitions, and this one may have been my favorite. When I heard her first note, I became overwhelmed with excitement. Panda Ross’ voice is not from 2012. Her guttural, gospel, croon is a relic, a call-back to a time in history when the foundation of rock n’ roll was still being founded and the inspiration of blues was in full force. Last night, she channeled the late Big Mama Thornton, who sang the original recording of “Hound Dog.” Just listen.

Strong matriarchal musicians like Mama Thornton became inspirations to ALL female vocalists, especially some of the best to ever open their pipes (Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin). So you understand why I was so excited to hear Panda Ross fully encapsulate some back-shelf blues last night. I only wish her the best in the competition, and I hope she goes a long way.

And, just in case you forgot how good of a voice Sam Cooke had, here is the original version of the song Panda Ross is singing above.

Stargroves Knows What the Snowman Learned About Love

18 Sep

Cover songs can go one of two ways. Stargroves’ cover of Stars’ “What the Snowman Learned About Love” goes the good way. This new collection of New York City musicians, led by singer/songwriter Teddy Watson, took on Stars’ folk/electronica song, and while keeping its innate structure, transformed the arrangement to include a large collection of instruments. This engaging amalgamation of sound makes Stargoves’ version a true tour de force, and, in my opinion, on par with the original – which I am including below this paragraph.

The cover also helps introduce the band, whose first Youtube video is this piece. The band was in the recording studio during the summer with producer Jeremy Sklarsky (Freelance Whales), and they plan on releasing some singles in the next few months. If this cover is any indication, this a band you are going to be hearing a lot more about. The music is skilled, passionate, and exciting. Here is the line-up that you see in the video:

Core Band:

Teddy Watson: banjo, guitar, vocals
Enrico De Trizio: keyboard, synth, accordion
Bryan Percivall: bass, backing vocals
Charlie Rauh: electric guitar, backing vocals
Oskar Häggdahl: drums

Extended Roster:

Jesse Stacken: toy piano
Concetta Abbate: violin, viola, mandolin
George Lykogiannis: harmonium
Sarah Goldstone: melodica

And the video:

First off, I respect any song that begins with an accordion, which is awesome. The song picks up with banjo, upright bass, viola, keys, drums, and an odd consortium of other instruments. The created sound is original and attractive. Watson’s voice is smooth, lullaby-esque, and pleasant to listen to. The talent just effuses from the video. A skillful cover, and a great indication of things to come for a band I am now quite excited to follow!

A Concert Preview with a Kiss and a Fist

14 Sep

Florence Welch

Florence and the Machine is best known for their sprawling, anthemic sound carried by the distinct power that is Florence Welch’s Brit-blues voice, but before they hit it big with their debut Lungs and last year’s Ceremonials, Florence and her partner-in-crime Isabella “The Machine” Summers wrote a song that many interpreted to be about domestic abuse. It isn’t, according to Florence. The song is more a violent analogy than anything. It is, though, a tremendous debut single, and, as I preview what I’m sure will be a great Jones Beach show tomorrow, I want to focus in on what got me into Florence and the Machine in the first place. It’s quite simple. It was this.

“Kiss with a Fist” contradicts the majority of the material released by the band. While most songs are feature Florence’s crescendoing voice over a slew of heavy wall-of-sound instrumentation, “Kiss with a Fist” is a punk ditty and Florence sings it with an energetic constancy. I first heard the song on a New York radio station and remembered thinking that there was something refreshing in its throwback to British punk. Florence’s femme fatale vocal in “Kiss with a Fist” is refreshingly cheeky, an audacious middle finger to that thing called love. The single-note, distorted guitar solo towards the end just reaffirms the song’s punk roots, and, like all good punk sons, the repetitive rhythm ends in fewer than three minutes.

The Jones Beach show will sure have more of new Florence, but, I do hope she plays this.

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