Friday Playlist: New Music Roundup

This week's Friday Playlist is a roundup of tracks from some albums that have come out in the last month or so (with 1 exception that falls under "if it ain't new, it might be new to you"). Yes, there are some notable exceptions: in particular, the new Wilco, Regina Spektor, and Mos Def albums seem like they should be represented here, but frankly none of those albums has really grabbed me yet. "Wilco (the album)" is growing on me very slowly, but "Far" has too much sap for my taste and "The Ecstatic" has too much beginner's Spanish.

Instead, this playlist features some new tunes from old favorites, some new bands who are probably going to become favorites, and hopefully, a little something for everyone. Enjoy!

  1. It took me a while to come around to the new Eels album, but now that I have, I can recommend it whole-heartedly. Billed as a sequel to "Dog Faced Boy," this album is full of lust, passion, and pain. And Mark Everett told NPR the whole thing was inspired by his beard.

  2. As many have noted before me, White Rabbits have benefitted greatly from Britt Daniel's production of their new album. The only drawback is, of course, that it sounds like a Spoon album pretty much from start to finish. But it's a fun, rocking Spoon album, so I'm not complaining.

  3. The new Sunset Rubdown album is really, really great. Both of my regular readers may recall that I was a big fan of their last album, and this one is even better. They did a great (if a little too short) set at the Black Cat recently, though it was marred somewhat by horrible sound production which buried the vocals and all the intricacies of the compositions in a layer of unnecessary reverb. But still, great album.

  4. This album is a few years old, but I was just introduced to it courtesy of Pandora. Thanks, Pandora! I love the opening to this song - the piano part sounds like it's from some ELO or Journey song and just got dropped in here by mistake. Awesome.

  5. Yeah, yeah, everyone's talking about Passion Pit's new album. That doesn't mean it's not chock full of catchy electro-pop dance hits. Because it is. So there.

  6. If you haven't read anything about the new Sparklehorse/Danger Mouse/David Lynch collaboration, go read up - it's pretty interesting stuff, from the bizarre marketing campaign to the blank CD-Rs for sale. Also, the music's pretty good, especially this song featuring Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys.

  7. Despite having some of the worst fashion sense I've ever seen in a rock and roll band, the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album is simply awesome. Cool synth sounds, those signature hiccup-y vocals, and great driving rock beats. Good stuff.

  8. Everyone's also talking about the new Dirty Projectors album. I can't vouch for the whole thing, but I can promise that it's never boring. Every song is its own signature brand of weird, and this particular track is pretty un-representative of the rest of the album.

  9. I recently discovered Black Moth Super Rainbow, thanks to a review in The Week, of all places. Their new album "Eating Us" is a nice gentle psychedelic ride that never gets dull and has some surprisingly beautiful melodies hidden inside.

  10. CocoRosie is always reliable for making songs that sound like someone glued together pieces of other unrelated songs and then got Joanna Newsom drunk and asked her to sing over top of it. Their new album "Coconuts, Plenty of Junk Food" is no exception.

  11. I am a latecomer to Metric - I simply can't keep track of all the Broken Social Scene side projects. But I'm glad I finally got hip to this particular jive, because "Fantasies" is a great album - melodic, loud, accessible but with an edge.

  12. St. Vincent's new album "Actor" has been out for a little while now, but I recently gave it another listen and realized just how great it is. I liked her last album a lot, but this one really blows it away.
So what else is new? What new albums are you listening to these days? Let me know in the comments.


Hobnox: Make Your Own Mad Beats

Hobnox is a site that calls itself "a new world of online entertainment." I have to say that even after watching their "What is Hobnox?" video I still had no idea what they were really all about. However, they do have at least one very cool feature, which I heard about from my friend Jim (who can often be found DJing at the Wonderland Ballroom in DC's Mt. Pleasant neighborhood): Audiotool.

Audiotool is a super-cool flash-based app that lets you create and record your own songs using a variety of mixers, samples, synths, beats, and all sorts of dials and knobs the likes of which I have yet to figure out. They get you started with a library of beats which you can then customize pretty completely to create your own music. It's set up in such a way that even a beginner can make things sound good just by blindly turning dials and poking at buttons, which is basically what I did to create this little ambient number:

I haven't yet found a gallery of other people's recordings, but I'm sure it's on their site somewhere, obscured through bizarre IA and lots of German. But if you make your own recording, post it in the comments!


Friday Playlist: Summertime

'Boombox' by flickr user lorigoldberg. Used by permission.Recently my friends Greg and Christina enlisted my help putting together a summertime playlist that they could share with clients of their real estate business. The mission was simple: come up with a CD-length list of songs that "felt like summertime," would "make people happy," and would appeal to (or at least not frighten) a potentially broad audience (i.e. keep it clean).

I had to vary from my usual style of song choices here and err on the side of commercial, family-friendly tunes. I also erred on the side of upbeat as opposed to nostalgic. Of course these constraints led to several notable ommissions (Will Smith's "Summertime" was just too slow, for example) but I still think it's a satisfying mix, and it definitely feels like summertime to me. What do you think? What songs say "summer" to you? Let me know in the comments.

(By the way, the photo at the right is 'Boombox' by flickr user lorigoldberg who was kind enough to let me use it. I couldn't make captions work right in Blogger.)

  1. Mungo Jerry - In The Summertime
    I have always loved this song and I always will. They used to play it on the classic rock radio station I listened to all the time as a kid. Then I saw this picture, and I fell in love all over again.

  2. Sheryl Crow - All I Wanna Do
    I hate Sheryl Crow, but I like this song a lot. I especially like how she works in a little irony into what's otherwise a bubblegum summer song with lyrics like "They drive their shiny Datsuns and Buicks/Back to the phone company, the record store too/Well, they're nothing like Billy and me..." Nice work, Crow.

  3. Tom Cochrane - Life Is A Highway
    I heard this song in college, when one of my suite-mates (who had just discovered MP3s) played it incessantly. Never heard anything else by Tom Cochrane and have no idea who he is. No interest in learning, either. What if all his other songs were terrible? I'd be so disappointed.

  4. Bob Marley & The Wailers - Buffalo Soldier
    When we went to Costa Rica many summers ago, one perfect day culminated in drinks on the patio of Marlin Restaurant in Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast. They were playing Bob Marley when we arrived after a morning of hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park, and it was simply perfect. Ever since, Bob has been essential summer listening at our house.

  5. The Coasters -Yakety Yak
    The idea of not wanting to do chores seems very "summer" to me, since the amount of chores assigned to me always seemed to skyrocket over summer vacations when I was actually home all day to do chores. I wish the Coasters success in their continuing struggle against The Man Mom.

  6. Paul Simon - Kodachrome
    Hard choice here between "Kodachrome," "Late In The Evening," and "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard." They all seem very summery to me, but this one won out because he mentions "the greens of summers." This song manages to be rebellious, nostalgic, and optimistic all at the same time, which makes it a winner in my book. Plus it has some kick-ass honky-tonk piano.

  7. The Lovin' Spoonful - Summer In The City
    Having lived in DC for many years, I can attest that the back of my neck really does get dirty and gritty in the horrible, horrible summertime temperatures we get here.

  8. Donovan - Sunshine Superman
    Not really sure why this feels like summer to me, in part it's just the title - "Sunshine Superman" sounds like a superhero whose superpower is making the sun shine (and doesn't realize that this happens on its own).

  9. Tom Petty - Free Fallin'
    The lyrics really aren't as happy as the music would imply, but this is still a quintessential summertime song for me. I love Tom Petty. There, I said it. Judge me if you must.

  10. The Specials - A Message to You, Rudy
    Props to Eduardo for reminding me how good this song is, and how much it feels like a summer song. Thanks.

  11. The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice
    What says summertime more than waiting for sex?

  12. The Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
    What says summertime more than failing to have sex?

  13. The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name
    I thought this was a great summer song last summer, and I'm glad to see it's held up.

  14. Elton John - Crocodile Rock
    This one was an easy choice. It never fails to make me smile to hear Elton John sing about some imaginary rock'n'roll past with his imaginary girlfriend.

  15. Weezer - Buddy Holly
    This and "The Sweater Song" were pretty hard to escape from in the summer of 1995. I can't hear either one without thinking of summer in some way, in the back of my mind. I try not to let my hatred of summertime weather interfere with my love of these songs.

  16. K'naan - Wavin' Flag
    My new summertime anthem. Soon it will be yours, too!

  17. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
    You can feel the heat in this one. Bruce has a gift for writing incredibly evocative songs, and this of course is no exception. This song feels like a sweltering summer night to me.

  18. The Beach Boys - Kokomo
    For some reason, I listened to this song a lot in junior high (probably because that's when Cocktail came out), but it wasn't until recently that I remembered how much I love it. I think they captured the simple escapist fantasy of a perfect island getaway better than 100 Jimmy Buffet songs.


eMusic Adds Sony Catalog, Raises Prices, Lowers Downloads

I've been a subscriber to eMusic since 2005, back when they let you download unlimited files for a low, low monthly fee. They realized pretty quickly that this was an unsustainable business model, and over the years they've tweaked their pricing/number-of-downloads tiers and ended up somewhere pretty reasonable. For a long time now, eMusic has been a great alternative to iTunes, offering (relatively) cheap, DRM-free, well-tagged MP3s from a wide variety of independent record labels and artists. And that's the way we liked it, dagnabit.

Recently, eMusic announced that they will be adding nearly 200,000 tracks to their download library from Sony's catalog. Coupled with this news is the far less welcome news that they will be lowering the number of monthly downloads for all their plans and simultaneously raising their prices. Predictably, reaction from their subscriber base has been pretty negative. I for one have little interest in the Sony catalog - I love(d) eMusic because it was the place I could go to find independent music for a good price. Unlike many subscribers, I don't feel like they "sold out" in any way by working with a major label - the more music, the better. What I do take issue with is the lowered number of downloads, the higher pricing (in my case, the price will actually double for me, since I was on a grandfathered pricing plan based on how long I've been a subscriber), and the confusion I suffer whenever I try to understand all of their pricing plans.

I'm not sure yet what I'll do when my account comes up for renewal next year. It's cool that their new 180-day plan lets you download up to your limit at any time in the 180 days (much nicer than having a limited number of downloads every month), but the sticker shock may just be too much for me. It's too bad, I've loved eMusic for a long time and up until now I've been very happy with them.

What do you think? Are you a member of eMusic? Will you be keeping your subscription? If you're not a member, are you more likely to join now that they're offering more music? Tell me in the comments.


Friday Playlist: High School Musical

Inspired by seeing Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction last week, I've been thinking a lot about other music I used to listen to in high school. It was an odd mix of stuff, influenced by my friends, my brother (who in addition to recommending music directly, would often mail home CDs he received as promo items at the college radio station where he worked), and to some extent "alternative radio" which hadn't yet been completely extinguished by this point.

What follows is a big list of some of the songs and artists to which I listened most frequently during my high school years. I tried to pare it down, but I couldn't get below 22 tracks. Sorry, everybody. Time doesn't permit me to do a per-track explication (much as I'd like to) but just assume that I like all this stuff for various reasons. [Editor's note: vague enough?]

It's worth noting that for some of these bands, I listened to their best or most iconic albums in junior high, or didn't really come to know their back catalogs until college. It's also worth noting that despite the length of the playlist, this is actually a very small sampling of what I was listening to in those days - completely ignoring tons of great music like the Beatles, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, etc. and also glossing over tons of crap like Cypress Hill and Danzig (not to mention all the death metal). But i tried to keep this all to music was either released within my high school years or stuff I listened to mostly during my high school years. Heavy metal is a notable exception here: that might have to be another playlist altogether, but I was listening to a lot of it in between all the grunge.

Enjoy, and please tell me in the comments what you used to listen to way back when.


Nine Inch Nails & Jane's Addiction: My (16 Year Old) Dream Concert

Photo by flickr user 'General Disarray (ClintJCL)'If you had told me 16 years ago that I could see Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails together at one concert, I probably would have started gibbering incoherently and asked what horrible acts I had to perform in order to get a ticket to said magical dream show. Well, it turns out that the horrible acts included little more than handing over a huge fistful of cash and 16 years of patient waiting. Last night, my dream concert came true, and I couldn't be happier.

We got to Merriweather Post Pavilion in the middle of the Nine Inch Nails set, which was a bummer, but I still got to hear the second half of "The Becoming," as well as great renditions of "Burn," "Dead Souls," "Hurt," and "Head Like A Hole" which was a fantastic closer. NIN definitely seemed more focused than the times I'd seen them in the past, and a bit louder as well, but the rage seemed toned down. Maybe Trent's just in a happier place these days, but while there was plenty of yelling, he just didn't seem as pissed off - he's too obviously happy to be on stage performing songs he loves in front of huge crowds. I can't blame him.

But the real star of the show was of course the always entertaining Perry Farrell. At the ripe old age of 50, he pranced his skinny frame around the stage all night wearing little more than what I'm generously calling pants and sporting some sort of feathery tail. Swigging from his signature bottle of wine, dispensing bits of "wisdom," and dancing around like a gay peacock, he called to mind some bizarre mixture of David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Tony Curtis, and a Jewish grandmother. While his voice has never been his strong suit, Perry worked the knobs and dials of his "make-me-sound-good" machine to great effect, essentially making his voice another instrument in the mix on every song.

While Perry did his "rock star from another planet" routine, Dave Navarro rocked the "too cool for school guitar god" persona all night, replete with a cigarette sticking out from between the strings on the neck of his guitar. My friend Matt made a comment earlier in the evening that Jane's Addiction and Guns N' Roses are essentially 2 sides of the same coin, and watching Navarro, I could definitely see him as sort of a bizarro Slash who used his talents for good. Stephen Perkins looked happy as hell to be on stage, showing not a shred of ego despite being one of rock's best drummers. And Eric Avery did his best to look like his appearance on stage was his fulfillment of some court ordered community service. You could see him wince every time Perry got too close, which of course only made Perry all the more likely to stay close once he got there. I have no idea how these guys haven't all killed each other yet.

Personalities aside, the music was simply incredible. It's hard to be objective about a concert I've essentially waited half my life to see, but the fact that they lived up to my expectations has to mean something. They didn't really vary from the setlist they've been performing on this tour, but that's OK - those were the songs I wanted to hear. From the opener of "3 Days" to "1%," "Whores," "Ted, Just Admit It," "Ocean Size," and more, they brought to life songs that have been part of the fabric of my musical memory since I can remember being interested in music. They even made "Then She Did" (a tune I'd never really cared for) sound alive and interesting. The only low point was "Been Caught Stealing," which the band didn't really seem to care about, nor did the audience. I wonder why they played it?

Of course, I owe all this musical love (as usual) to my brother, who one day randomly walked into my bedroom and handed me a CD of "Nothing's Shocking" and said something along the lines of "I think you'll like this." Whether he meant to or not, he changed the way I would listen to music forever - i.e. I would henceforth hear all other bands through the aural lens of Jane's Addiction. And that's fine by me. I'll be there for their next reunion tour, and my inner 16-year-old will be delighted.


Follow Up: SanFranTech MusicTech Summit

Jason Feinberg has a good writeup of the SanFran MusicTech Summit over at the PBS blog MediaShift (managed by my friend and all-around new media guru Mark Glaser). If nothing else, this blog post convinced me that I would have had a good time at this conference, even though I am definitely not an "industry insider." I'm definitely an outsider looking in, but I do try to be an informed music consumer, and conferences like this one and SXSW seem like good ways to continue that education.

Anyway, check out Jason's post, he makes a good case for why you can skip most music conferences.