Friday, March 30, 2007

An excuse to post one of my favorite songs of last year

The indie juggernaut that is TV on the Radio rolls into town this weekend for a show at the Belly Up that sold out with the speed usually reserved for bands like Radiohead or the Arcade Fire.

(They look about as natural and relaxed in this photo as a cheetah in a zoo, don't'cha think?)

The band's "Return to Cookie Mountain" topped tons of best-of lists last year. I tried three separate times to get into the album with no luck (that's just me). But, like just about everyone else, I fell in love with the track "Wolf Like Me."

If you missed this song the first time around, check it out. You probably won't find it on many other blogs, because posting about TV on the Radio is SOOOOOOO 2006.

TV on the Radio — Wolf Like Me (STILL highly rec.) (MP3)

MIMS Watch 2007

Modest Mouse may be bringing the heat at No. 1 on the album charts, but MIMS' "This is Why I'm Hot" continues to follow me around like a circus clown that may have more sinister ideas than just turning balloons into poodles.

Over the weekend, there was a parody on "The Soup" on the E channel. It was so out of left field it was kind of funny, though.

But back to Mr. MIMS himself. In hip-hop, a great way to stay hot is a superstar collaboration (although "This is why I'm hot/ I'm hot 'cause I collaborate" doesn't flow so well). So who is MIMS working with now? Kanye? Nope, hotter. Timbaland? No, HOTTER, dammit! Behold:

Oh hells yes! Zune! It's cross-promotion that fits like a glove: Music Is His Salvation, and the Zune is the salvation for music fans.

For those of you who don't have your ear to the street, Zune is the Microsoft MP3 player that has been vilified worse than the idea of a Snow/Tag Team double-bill.

So this is why MIMS is hot this week: He's on the side of a Zune bus.

The MIMS album drops Tuesday. Will it hit No. 1? Did you ever you think I would write this much about MIMS? Nah, me neither.

To bring this post full circle, The Seattle Times contacted Modest Mouse frontman Issac Brock about the band's album hitting No. 1. He (gasp!) was kinda cranky about the whole thing. Click here to read the story.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bloc Party tonight on Letterman

It's so coooolllllllld in this ... house.

Tix for S.D. show at Viejas still available. They're $35 a pop, but, hey, Ticketmaster fees are less than $10 a ticket. So ... rejoice?

Hello newbies

Hello new readers who found out about my blog from CityBeat. Let me show you around.

Over on the right is an "about" link that tells you what this site is (and isn't) all about. One of the main goals is to fill the gap between mainstream music coverage and the unfiltered avalanche of new music coming out from blogs each day. One of the main ways to avoid just posting new MP3s myself are the Baby Heisman sections and recurring features. There's links to all of those on the right, too.

There's also a link to the Baby Heisman myspace page. There isn't much there, but I will send out myspace bulletins when there are new original stories and features beyond the daily posts (and there are already a couple planned for next month), so send a friend request to get set up for those
Other than that, I just hope you enjoy. The MP3s are up for only a short time and are for sampling only so you can decide whether to BUY an album. And post comments. Post, post, post! What's the fun of music if we don't talk about it.

If you have any questions or comments, notice misspellings (and you will, although I try to catch or fix them all) or you are a band with MP3s you'd like me to check out, e-mail me at

The Baby Heisman
The Ronettes — Be My Baby (MP3)

The case for Lily Allen

Last month, some non-music-junkie (not that there's anything wrong with that) friends were visiting. The sun had broke through after a week of cloudy drizzle, and it seemed like a perfect situation to be soundtracked by Lily Allen.

Later, as we sat around the living room having a pre-dinner snack, one of my friends asked to hear "Whatever you were playing when we showed up. The British girl. Really pop-sounding."

The next week, he told me he had bought Allen's album. A couple of weeks later, one of the other friends, who mostly listens to top 40, said she had bought it.

I'm always playing stuff my friends haven't heard of, but I've rarely seen them so immediately smitten. But why not? With her playful vocals, Brit-crooner accent and ska- and reggae-influenced pop beats, she's certainly accessible.

But here's the key: Her music also has brains. The lyrics actually say something, which is something you can't say about the Timberlakes, Stefanis and Fergies of the world. "I'm bringing sexy back" may have more actual words than "getting jiggy with it," but they are equally meaningless.

Allen's music captures pop's virtues (light, breezy, easygoing) without its pitfalls (frivolous, throwaway). "Smile" is one of the best pop songs of the 2000s, or whatever you call them, for that exact reason.

Lily Allen — Smile (MP3)

Last summer, when a mountain of music promotion tried to convince us that Paris Hilton was a pop star, the indie world fell in love with Allen, whose album was only out in the U.K. at the time. As her popularity has grown (her show Friday at the House of Blues is sold out), there's been the usual, expected indie backlash, which is sillier than ever. If my mom starts singing "but you were f*cking that girl next door..." then I'll worry about overexposure.

Allen doesn't just show people that there's more to pop than Top 40, she proves that pop isn't always a four-letter word.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Catching up on the news

I didn't read any music news over my long weekend up north, so I'm still catching up (apologies for no new post since Friday). Between music news, real news, blogs, etc., I'm still playing catch-up.

So here's the stories I'm reading that I missed, in case you missed them, too.

The New York Times had a story Sunday about the further demise of the album, profiling a band that just signed a two-SONG deal. Read it here.

The Wall Street Journal had a story Saturday about the military looking for lesser-known bands (including at SXSW) to play at bases in Iraq to entertain the troops. Read it here.

The L.A. Times had a story Friday about Republicans trying to woo musicians and entertainers. Read it here.

Speaking of the GOP, the New York Times had a cover story Sunday about the extensive spying by the NYPD before the GOP convention. There's some band/music tie-ins, but it's mostly worth reading because it's infuriating and nothing will change unless more people start speaking up. Read it here.

And on a much lighter note, New Pornographers frontman Carl Newman discusses the band's upcoming album with Billboard. Read it here.

New, real, actual posts are coming back soon. Promise.

Friday, March 23, 2007

This is how rumors get started

This seemed like a fitting story to report from PDX...

Just last week, the White Stripes (busy working on a new album)announced a tour, starting at San Diego's Street Scene summer festival. So said Billboard and the DJs on 91X, among many others. Two days later, everyone realized that the dates were from 2005. Whoops.

But with the news seemingly everywhere at once, how do these rumors get started? This week, we got a glimpse. Word is Corin Tucker, of now-defunct Sleater-Kinney, is working on a solo album. So the rumor goes. And here's how it started:

A Sleater-Kinney fan on Livejournal, a blogging Web site, posted an instant message conversation she had with a person she didn't know. This person (who knows who he is) says Corin is working on a solo album. He says he ran into her at an instrument shop in Old Town.

That post then shows up on one of the top S-K fan sites, described as a rumor but tantalizing nonetheless.

A link to the fan site then shows up on Largehearted Boy, one of the more popular music blogs. (feel like high school yet?) With it's Drudge-style list of music stories from newspapers/magazines/blogs each day, the site is far from a meager blog, getting thousands of hits a day.

So is it true? SubPop, S-K's old label, says it has no knowledge, but Corin did play four new songs (plus a cover of "Son of a Preacher Man") at an art show last weekend.

And that's how it begins. Let the rumors go wild! The fact that so many of us want it to happen so badly will only fuel it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A great weekend for music (and I'm going to miss it!)

Two of my favorite San Diego bands (a lot of San Diegans' favorite bands, actually) are playing this weekend. Sadly, I'm going to be back home in Portland and will miss both. But if you're around, they're absolutely worth checking out.

On Friday night. Grand Ole Party return from their SXSW trip for a hometown show at the Casbah. If there can be such a thing as hype or buzz in the San Diego music scene, GoP certainly has it. But their music — sounding vaguely like something you'd hear coming out of CBGB circa 1978 but not like a rip-off — is tight enough to warrant the attention.

(I do say lose the mustache and get a permanent drummer so Kristen can command the stage as a frontwoman, but that's just me.)

Grand Ole Party on MySpace

On Sunday, one of San Diego's great indie pop bands, Swim Party, plays an opening set at the Casbah. I've actually only seen Swim Party once. Every time they play, something seems to happen or come up to keep me from going. Good to see the streak will continue. Seriously guys, I'll get out to your next show. I'd promise, but, well, you know. In the meantime, go and fill in for me.

Swim Party on MySpace

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Best of the Season: Winter Season 2007

Winter was an extremely strong season, with some of the biggest indie bands releasing new albums. As I said yesterday, some of these picks will seem passé to frequent blog readers and uber-indie fans. Some of the albums have been floating around for download way back into 2006. But there are so many people who still haven't heard them, people who are looking for music beyond what's on the radio or the upper echelon of indie like the Shins and Death Cab. I made this blog to be a place for them.

I'll list my picks, with links to some past posts, followed by the playlist of my Top 10 Plays of the Winter 2007 Season.

Most Improved Player: Of Montreal
On "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer," Of Montreal put together all the best pieces from their past albums to create a record that's equal parts poppy and creepy. They push their melodies into the experimental but never cross into the inaccessible. The lyrics compliment perfectly. This is an album that rewards multiple listens.
Past Baby Heisman post on Of Montreal

Best Foreign Player: Peter, Bjorn & John For indie fans, Peter Bjorn & John are old news, but their album "Writer's Block" didn't see U.S. release until this year. The tight, bass-driven songs show that the album's title is either false or a thing of the past. It would be a shame if people only hear of this band's growing indie backlash and not give the album itself a try.
Past Baby Heisman post on Peter, Bjorn & John

Best Veteran Player: Modest Mouse I did a mini-review of "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" when it leaked earlier this year, one of the few immediate reviews you'll see on the blog. I still feel the same as I did then. With the crossover success of their last record after so many years together and adding a rock icon in ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, the band released an album that fits perfectly in their catalog. It doesn't feel forced or fake. It's not a huge departure but still sounds fresh.
Past Baby Heisman post on Modest Mouse

Draft Bust: Bloc Party I give Bloc Party credit for trying something new on their sophomore album, "A Weekend in the City." It's softer and more nuanced than the crashing sounds of their star-making debut, "Silent Alarm." But after about half the album, I found it to be a bit of a bore. However, Bloc Party is too talented and too serious about what they do to give up on them over this dud, and I'm hoping to catch them live to get a better sense of what they saw in these songs.

Sleeper Player: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah I wrote a lengthy post previously about the absolute silence that followed the release of Clap Your Hands' second album, "Some Loud Thunder." I don't want to repeat myself, but I'm still not sure what everyone was expecting. I wasn't gaa-gaa (that probably isn't in the music journalist's thesaurus) over their debut like many people were, and I think the new album was a solid improvement.
Past Baby Heisman post on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Most Valuable Player: Arcade Fire Despite all that I talked about them, despite my countdown to it's release, this pick was not a gimmie. On "Neon Bible," Arcade Fire lived up to all (reasonable) expectations by turning their roller coaster upside down. Unlike the songs on "Funeral," which build to bigger and bigger crescendos, the "Neon Bible" tracks plummet just when you think they're about to soar.

I took in this album slowly — I still am, actually — only putting it on when I have time to listen from start to finish, and it's been a thrill. Early on, Arcade Fire got a lot of Talking Heads comparisons (so many indie bands do). I think it's most fitting in the sense that this is a driven, talented band with a vision that will always keep things interesting if you come along for the ride.

Think about what it will be like when they release their "Remain in Light."

The Top 10 Plays of the Winter 2007 Season

In no particular order:

So what did I miss? What music that came out this season in the U.S. have you been playing the most? Leave a comment and voice your opinion, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Coming tomorrow: Best of the Season

So, depending on what calendar you ask, today or tomorrow is the first day of spring. But my calendar says tomorrow is the equinox, so I'm picking that day to roll out the first installment of a new segment on Baby Heisman: The Best of the Season.

I'll pick the best albums from the winter season (in keeping with the football theme). I'll have a most valuable player, most improved player, draft bust and many more, plus a playlist with my Top 10 plays of the season.

For the Internet seekers and blog junkies, there won't be many surprises. But Baby Heisman was created in part for music fans looking to bridge the gap between the mainstream and the underground. I hope this feature, which presents what I think is the strongest music of the past three months, will be a way to bridge that gap.

See you tomorrow.

Style tips from the Baby Heisman

CityBeat fashion issue's got nothing on me.

If you're like me, you've spent the past decade thinking to yourself: I love the elegant, understated sophistication of the Jerry Garcia tie collection. I don't know if I would have gotten that promotion without it.

But if only it were more versatile. If only it could hold stuff like, say, my iPod.

Behold ... the future!

Tie Tunes ... get it at Macy's. Thanks to Nick for the tip.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bloc Party coming to San Diego

Kudos to Rosey over at S.D. Dialed In for posting this:

Bloc Party is playing Viejas Concerts in the Park (the outdoor venue at Viejas' Alpine casino, not the no-rock outdoor venue on the S.D. Bay) on July 16, a Saturday night.

The $35 (before fees, of course) tix go on pre-sale Thursday and general sale this Friday.

About time Bloc Party came around and played a headlining set of their own instead of smaller sets like their San Diego debut at a 94.9 jam (with Interpol and the Bravery) that came after they had toured just about everywhere else twice.

Bloc Party on MySpace

Modest Mouse coming to San Diego

A photo from rougher days, for nostalgia's sake.

Modest Mouse has been real solid when it comes to playing San Diego, and they're keeping it up with a stop toward the end of their spring tour.

They'll be at Cox Arena on May 14, a Monday, which is happy news at Heisman HQ (OK, my apartment's spare bedroom, but Heisman HQ sounds cool). The last time I saw Modest Mouse was right before "Good News..." came out and they went from indie-level veterans to the face of indie. It was a sold out (seemingly oversold) show at the all-ages hell hole that is SOMA.

A floor that feels longer than it is wide, killing sight lines. A steady stream of 14-year-olds trying to push to the front when there wasn't a millimeter to give, as though they had a right to do it. Issac Brock fighting a losing battle with the lighting operator to turn down the spotlights so he could see the crowd -- then fighting a losing battle with the crowd in a rant about voting. It was a perfectly SOMA-rific night.

No disrespect to the underage music fans. I pulled out my hair over all the bands I couldn't see when I was in high school. I'm just saying, I don't see that many 30-year-olds trying to push to the front.

The new Modest Mouse album is out tomorrow, or you can go to the Whistlestop listening party in South Park tonight and buy it at M Theory behind the bad at midnight.

Modest Mouse -- Florida (MP3) (From the forthcoming "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank")

Clipse @ The Belly-Up, 3-17-07

There's a line on the first Kanye West album where he goes, "Always said that if I rapped I'd say somethin' significant / but now I'm rappin' 'bout money, hoes and rims again."

Clipse do both better than anybody right now. Amid all the cocaine references, there's plenty of talk about cash, women and worldly possessions. But unlike pop rappers, it's not idle bragging just to get attention. Like any skilled storyteller, they rap with wit and depth — and authentic passion. The fire in their guts comes through on their verses and makes their albums so exciting to hear over and over.

You aren't going to get a lesson on MLK, but you aren't going to get all the same tired old references either.

On stage, they keep the focus on the flow and lyrics. Clipse came packing a DJ who played their tracks as backing, but they didn't lean on him. A lot of rappers let the backing tracks do most the work while they run around the stage, pose and grab their stupid-ass pants. Clipse perched themselves on the edge of the stage, only moving occasionally to switch places, and quickly worked up a sweat.

Maybe it was because it was St. Patrick's Day. Maybe it was just because it was a hip-hop show. But everyone in the crowd, even right up front, was extremely polite. The slightest elbow bump got an immediate "Sorry man," and a "No man, it's cool," as though the crowd was too hyped to see their underground heroes to eff it up over a little accidental nudge.

Clipse got the house on its feet by opening with "Momma I'm So Sorry," then quickly kicked it up by going back to "What Happened to That Boy," with at least the first three rows singing along to every word of even the most complex rhymes.

After a few more "Hell Hath No Fury" tracks, Clipse brought out the other two members of the Re-Up Gang, the group they formed for their "We Got it for Cheap" mixtapes, to do a few tracks from Volume 2. The last third of the set was a mix of "Fury" tracks and classics off their first album, including "Virginia," "Cot Damn" and, of course, "Grindin'."

The show was relatively short, though, with them passing on some of "Fury's" best tracks like "Hello New World" and "Trill." Despite the quickness, it was still heart-stopping. In the same week that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were inducted into the rock Hall of Fame, Clipse reminded us of everything rap can still be.

Afterward, Malice came out to chat with fans, take photos and, with a little extra coaxing from my wing-girl Kate, strike the Heisman pose for the blog.
(The hand goes out, but we're letting that slide)

Clipse — Momma I'm So Sorry (MP3)
Clipse — Hello New World (MP3)

MIMS Watch 2007

Besides being the biggest song in the nation right now, "This Is Why I'm Hot" by MIMS continues to follow me everywhere I go. I'd be flipping channels and there would be the video on BET or MTV or MTV2. I'd pop out real quick without my iPod and it would be on the radio (Yeah, Z90 is preset on my car radio; what of it?).

I briefly mentioned its wretchedness before. It hits the peak and plants the flag when the beat starts sampling Dre and Kanye, then kicks in with those Casio-keyboard drums. The song is really up there with "Barbie Girl" and last year's "Laffy Taffy," but the dude takes himself so seriously, flexing the phony made-for-TV posturing that's absolutely killing hip-hop right now.

The song pounded its way into my life three times this weekend. I heard it in the car. One of the openers at the Clipse show busted into a few lines of it. Then it was used over clips of the weekend's college hoops highlights on Headline News.

When will it end? Not likely soon.

Which is worse? Decide if you dare, and leave your vote in the comments.
D4L's Myspace page with "Laffy Taffy"
MIMS' Myspace with "This is Why I'm Hot"

My City's NOT a Sucker: A nice moment on the radio

Popped out on a quick errand earlier tonight and left the iPod at home. On the way back, 94.9 played "North American Scum" off the new LCD Soundsystem album and "Rehab" by bourbon-throated British singer Amy Winehouse back to back.

I'm not even a fan of that LCD Soundsystem track, but it was so nice to hear two songs in a row that hardly get played on the radio, even if it was just part of their new-music programing.

LCD Soundsystem — North American Scum (MP3)
Amy Winehouse — Rehab (MP3)

We might be hearing Amy Winehouse's name a lot this year. She's already big in the U.K., was recently on Letterman and is down at SXSW, too.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Clipse concert preview

It's been a weird month for hip-hop.

First, there was an Associated Press story on last year's plummet in rap album sales. It discussed how many in the hip-hop community are unhappy with the same old hoes-cars-and-bling rap on the radio. The story ran in a number of papers nationwide (The Union-Tribune ran a condensed version in its A section) and I linked to the full version in a previous post.

It highlighted one of rap's crucial problems: lack of lyrical creativity. But it also offered no nuance or examples that there's more to rap than what's on the radio. The popiest version of any type of music is going to be a watered-down bastardization. The difference between Merle Haggard and Kenny Chesney is the same difference between Public Enemy and the Black Eyed Peas.

Then cable news jumped in, which is NEVER the place to find nuance. CNN did a series called "Art or Poison" (because there can be no middle ground!), and Fox News blamed hip-hop for the weird case of a group of (black) teens getting a toddler to smoke pot and filming it.

CNN page with the AP story and links to the "Art of Poison" segments

Partial transcript of Fox News story about hip-hop
Video of the Fox News segment

It's all extremely frustrating because hip-hop really is at a commercial low point. One of the hottest rap songs right now is also one of the lamest. A rapper named MIMS offers a dissertation on why he is hot that's written like a Dr. Seuss book. "This is why I'm hot / I'm hot 'cause I'm fly / you ain't 'cause you're not" raps a guy whose name, ironically, is an acronym for Music Is My Salvation.

A hilarious "graphical dissertation" on the MIMS track by The Village Voice

So it should be fertile ground for Clipse, who play Saturday night at the Belly Up. The brothers Pusha T and Malice rap with a purpose. They put the focus back on lyrics, replacing absurd bragging with intricate, complex stories about the highs and lows of the coke game. They're creating their own world.

They even changed hip-hop. While stuck in label-merger limbo, they released a mixtape that proved mixtapes could be like real releases and not just hype machines.

Clipse has become a critic favorite, especially among the mostly white, mostly middle class indie/blogger set (like, ahem, me). Despite near-consensus acclaim, their long-awaited "Hell Hath No Fury," released late last year, has not been a sales blockbuster.

Clipse have something to say. And if you're a rap fan and aren't game to listen, then you're part of the problem.

Clipse — Momma I'm So Sorry (MP3)
Clipse — Hello New World (MP3)
Clipse (Feat. the Re Up Gang) — Mic Check (MP3)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Daft Punk is Playing At My Myspace

That reference is SOOOO 2005.

Anyway, the new LCD Soundsystem album is streaming on the band's myspace page now. "Sound of Silver," the sophomore full-length from dance-punk producer/crowned king of cool James Murphy and his band is out Tuesday. It's also one of the most-leaked albums of late 2006-2007. So if you're really into it, you've probably already gone after it.

But if you have not, you might be asking, "Well, what does it sound like?"

"Gay stuff. Disco. Bored People."

Says Murphy, not me.

I'd make a snarky comment about dance-punk, but that's SOOOOO 2005, too.

Here's the link:

Steam the new LCD Soundsystem on the band's Myspace page here

P.S. Modest Mouse is doing the same thing.

Stream "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank"

The South By Southwest slowdown

That giant sucking sound coming from blogland all this week is the annual South By Southwest extravaganza in Austin, Texas. It's an excuse to party masquerading as a showcase for music journalists. Music is knee-jerk enough with blog hype and follow-the-leader magazine and newspaper people. Now you have those writers, fueled by beer, barbecue and no sleep, running around to dozens of gigs and screaming "BEST SHOW EVER" about some all-Korg metal band with a lead singer named Gorf.

Thing is, SXSW can be a huge boost for bands. Tapes 'n' Tapes got a major bump from playing, seemingly, three times every day last year. Before they were playing arenas, Bloc Party played in an Urban Outfitters.

So I can understand why someone would be a little hyper-sensitive to the hype and try to kill it before it begins. But this is just silly: Someone has started a blog dedicated to stopping Swedish pop band Peter Bjorn and John, which is going the Tapes 'N' Tapes route, playing a bucketful of shows this week.

This is about as close to shooting yourself in the foot you can get without an actual gun. The whistle-happy single "Young Folks" got a little overplayed among the indie kids, but this is a band that about 2% of the world has even heard of.

The blog's main worry is that PB&J will be "hailed as the standard bearers for a whole genre of music." We have a LONG way to go before that happens. Want to make music better? Try to stop the popularity of the gunk that's ACTUALLY POPULAR. Upset about Death Cab or Modest Mouse being the current indie standard bearers? Well, remember what was on the radio before "Soul Meets Body" and "Float On"? Creed and Limp Bizkit.

It's insular, elitist muck, and I would say that about any kind of "Stop (enter indie band here)" effort.

Sorry if I sound really bitter about this. It's just that there's so much good/great/different music that nobody is hearing because of all the usual label/radio crap. This just seems so misguided.

For your consideration:
Stop Peter, Bjorn and John blog
Peter, Bjorn and John — Amsterdam (MP3)
Peter, Bjorn and John — Chills (MP3)

Happy birthday, Casbah

I was going to post this last night when I got home at 12:30, as it was past midnight and officially Thursday, but I was too tired and crashed (that's the kind of journalistic dedication you can expect from Baby Heisman)...

Happy 18th birthday to the Casbah — hands-down the best music venue I've ever seen. Anywhere.

My big frustration about being a music fan in San Diego is the number of bands that skip over our town. But the Casbah is a salvation. I've been up close in the 200+-person club for numerous bands that played venues twice as big in other West Coast cities. They're the kind of intimate shows that make us music fans to begin with.

To the out-of-towners, I can't stress enough how you DON'T have a club in your town just like the Casbah (unless you live in NYC, then you might have us beat). The cans of PBR, the planes flying just feet overhead on approach to the airport, the apartments above the venue, the Atari Lounge in the back (where I played my best game of Ms. Pac Man ever — photo evidence below) — there's nothing like it.

Good show tonight — Japanese Sunday, Swim Party and Roxy Jones (Autolux canceled) — but nothing too sexy going down. Owner Tim Mays says the club usually celebrates in January.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My city's a sucker: Fox Rox is dead

Sad news from Citybeat that Fox Rox, a local/indie music TV show co-hosted by music editor Troy Johnson, has gone off the air. No word as to why exactly in the story Troy wrote on Citybeat's Web site.

Fox Rox was one of the coolest things about the San Diego music scene, exposing local musicians and showing national acts that weren't being showed anywhere else.


Morrissey, apparently, is not hard rock

A couple of months back, I wrote about how "hard rock" concerts at San Diego's Bayside outdoor concert venue were banned after residents across the bay in tony Coronado complained about the noise.

With the new rules, I've been interested to see who will be booked this summer for the large, beautiful stage. Everyone from Radiohead to Death Cab to Spoon played there last summer, so what counts as rock?

Apparently, Morrissey doesn't — and in this case, thank God (which, I know for some of you IS Morrissey). He has announced tour dates, including June 3 at Bayside. A warm dusk night seems like a perfect backdrop. He's kicking off the tour in ... Stockton? ... which certainly will mark the coolest day Stockton has ever had.

Link to newspaper story about limits put on Bayside concerts.

If you don't know, now you know

We're No. 2 ... We're No. 2.

Notorious B.I.G.'s posthumous greatest hits album was too much for the Arcade Fire, with Biggie beating "Neon Bible" by about 7,000 copies. Still, 92,000 friendly units shifted is pretty bad-ass.

Personal Arcade Fire love aside, I really thought they would top the charts. I knew Biggie would be the toughest competition — those songs haven't aged one minute, lost one degree of fire — but Biggie only had two albums. Shell out a little extra cash and you have the whole collection. Are there really that many B.I.G. complete-ists who need the new tracks that Puffy Frankenstein'd together with unused Biggie verses?

Nonetheless ... I like this young man.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rushmore Solo Album Club

Dirk, take dictation...

Jason Schwartzman unveiled his solo project, Coconut Records, earlier this month, and he's posted three songs from the upcoming album on his myspace page. It's the same kind of sunny SoCal pop from his Phantom Planet days, but even tighter and catchier, especially "West Coast."

His myspace page has been blowing up (36,000 hits and counting) since a message about Coconut went out to the Weezer faithful. Dave, a =W= die-hard, tipped me off and said Coconut Records' friends doubled in a day. They include: The Strokes, The Shins, Ratatat, Of Montreal, Phantom Planet, Weezer, Rooney, Phoenix, Kings of Leon...

Actor. Coppola nephew. Co-writer on the next Wes Anderson movie. Ex-drummer for the band whose song got picked to be the theme for "The O.C." Now solo artist -- and one certainly worth checking out.

Coconut Records on myspace (including recommended track "West Coast")

Friday, March 9, 2007

Cashing in: Tapes 'n Tapes

My Oregon Ducks looked super pretty in their first game of the Pac-10 Tournament yesterday, which was thankfully shown on Fox Sports. During an early commercial break, right after the just-plain-sad Hooters ad with ESPN's Dick Vitale, came a spot for my alma mater itself that used "Crazy Eights," one of the instrumental tracks from the Tapes 'n Tapes album "The Loon. (For the non-sports fans, it's pretty common for schools to have commercials during playoff or nationally televised games.)

Tapes 'n Tapes were The with a capital T blog band of 2006. Self-released album. Sounds like either the Talking Heads, the Pixies or Pavement. A daisy chain of blog support. Eventual Pitchfork support. Eventual backlash. You know the drill. The main complaint is that they're "boring" live. I saw them last summer while visiting Seattle and I don't know if I just caught them on a good night, but they were far from a snoozer. (A "My City's a Sucker" side note: Tapes 'N Tapes' only San Diego show has been a Street Scene slot.)

Tapes 'n Tapes — Crazy Eights (MP3)
Tapes 'n Tapes — Insistor (MP3)

"Crazy Eights" fit the ad nicely, but it's hard to do worse than the debacle known as ... "Mandrake." Nike founder Phil Knight went to U of O, so we've been the testing ground for a number of Nike design ideas, most recently our football uniforms with their 180 color combinations, all of them silly. But nothing was as silly as when Nike designed a new mascot to accompany. It rode a chopper, thrusted its hips wildly and seemed to scare Donald. It was originally called Roboduck, though later changed to Mandrake, which only added to its already massive homoeroticism.

It was as unnecessary as New Coke and disappeared just as unceremoniously. But some photos still exist. Look at it! LOOK AT IT!!

Here's the really scary thing: Our new athletic director is a well-connected booster (from San Diego) with no A.D. experience, brought in solely to secure funding for a new basketball stadium and then leave after three years. So, to get that money, we could see more Mandrake ideas in the near future.

I miss the days when my school was just known for pot and Pre'.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

My City's a Sucker: Gene Simmons loves the troops; will the troops love Gene Simmons?

According to a Camp Pendleton press release:


According to the release, he will play a two-hour performance that will be recorded for his reality show, "The Osbournes," er, I mean, "Gene Simmons' Family Jewels." The release also says Simmons "will be performing a song he recently wrote as a sign of appreciation for service members of all branches of service."

No word on whether the song will involve rocking, partying or the Coast Guard.

Bob Hope was rolling in his grave and couldn't be reached for comment.

There's a million great jokes to be made from this. Leave your best one in the comments.

My City's NOT a Sucker: The National

We indie folk probably would be more into emo if we were younger. The sweeping, theatrical music with its do-or-die seriousness, the bloated song titles, the over-the-top videos ... they all speak to that high school urgency where everything is the most important thing ever.

Calling The National grown-up emo may give you the wrong impression if you haven't heard them before. But spend some time with the band's amazing last record, "Alligator," or its criminally overlooked "Cherry Tree" EP, and you'll see what I mean. The music is still deathly serious, but all the theatrics are stripped away, replaced by the wisdom that comes from struggling for success but finding failure more often and deciding to aim for the middle ground.

It makes for some of the most raw, authentic, crushingly beautiful music in the indie world right now.

The National have been good to San Diego, stopping back in October at the Casbah. They're coming back around this summer in support of their upcoming album, "The Boxer."
Album is out May 22.
The show is June 25.
The MP3s below are highly, highly recommended

The National — Abel (MP3)
The National — The Geese of Beverly Road (MP3)

Really viral video

I deplore blogs that just post links or YouTube clips and then say "click here!" But I also don't want to give too much away on this one.

So I'll just say: A puppet interviewer, dancing kids and Sleater-Kinney.

P.S.: Isn't it about time for that Sleater-Kinney reunion tour? Isn't six months enough time away? Wouldn't the first day of Sasquatch be a fabulous place to come back?

In other Sleater-Kinney non-news, still no word on a DVD. The band asked for fans' concert footage shortly after the late-summer break-up, and they had a number of cameras filming their farewell concerts in Portland. But mum remains the word.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The radio will be cool again from 3-3:30 a.m. Wednesday nights

For the stodgy folk who perk up when they read "FCC" and "$12.5 million settlement," yesterday's story about radio payola was perfectly enticing. Today, the INTERESTING part of the story is starting to be fleshed out: The borderline-monopoly radio companies, like Clear Channel and Entercom, have agreed to devote thousands to half-hour blocks to independent music.

San Diego's two main modern rock stations, 94.9 and 91X, aren't owned by the conglomerates, but will we hear Belle and Sebastian on pop station 93.3 or Buddy Guy on classic rock KGB?

The more important question: Will it matter? If my headline wasn't a hint, I'm a bit skeptical. For this to be more than a hollow gesture, it has to open doors for musicians. The other day I heard all 12 1/2 minutes of The Decemberists' "The Island" on 94.9. A listener was playing it as part of the station's DJ promotion. It was cool to hear, but I'm not sure that song will turn many new people onto the band.

To succeed, radio has to be part business savvy and part artistic creativity. This payola deal swings the balance from pure business to pure creativity.

Here's a link to the story about the indie music portion of the deal
And if you really want to cry, check out the wonderful breakdown by USC music industry professor Jerry Del Colliano on his trademarked (?) blog.

The other album out today

There's another album out today?

Actually, there's something out today for just about everyone.

* RJD2 and !!! for fans of electro/dance-punk or bands with names that aren't words
* Air for fans of ambient pop or just setting the mood for a "weekend in"
* For fans of rock curiosities, the first solo disc from Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. and a new album from The Stooges
* Even a Notorious B.I.G. greatest hits album, continuing the inexcusable strip mining of a dead legend's career.

But one of today's releases caught me by surprise: the new Son Volt record. For those who don't know, after 90s alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo crumbled, Jay Farrar formed Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy formed Wilco.

While Wilco took a crow bar and busted through the boundaries of alt-country, Farrar has pushed the boundaries to see how far they'll bend. "The Search," is compelling BECAUSE it's pure alt-country. In a world of surround sound home theaters and iPod stereos, "The Search" feels like it should be coming out of a single radio speaker, maybe down in the cellar while we wait out the storm.

Son Volt plays the Belly Up on April 4.

Stream tracks from "The Search" here

Judgment Day

So no sudden floods or plagues of locusts (yet), but the music site Idolator did notice one Neon Biblical tidbit: the music world has come to a halt.

They either caught a glitch or employed some trickery as, unsurprisingly, "music" brings up tons of results now.

Shout out to the lovely owners of M-Theory Music, who stayed open past 12:30, letting me get down there for the midnight sale. Co-owner Heather says the album really clicks on the third listen.

OK, let the judging begin. Here's a question to start with: If the album tops the charts, will it be the coolest No. 1 since Radiohead's "Kid A"?

Monday, March 5, 2007

One day to Judgment Day

Last day before Neon Bible. So read up:

New York Times Magazine feature on the band

New Yorker mag feature on the band

If you aren't going to any/all of Anti-Monday League at the Casbah, then M-Theory is doing its Whistlestop listening party/midnight sale thing for the album, along with the new discs from !!!, Air, Albert Hammond Jr. (of the Strokes) and the new Stooges, among others.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Have a good weekend

Go out and make some new, special friends.

Drew Barrymore, the real-life Penny Lane.

Midlake @ the Casbah, 3-1-07

Midlake hit the Casbah stage last night packing four keyboards, at least six guitars, mics for all five members, a makeshift screen for slides and video — and one papier mache panther head.

After the first sunny day in a week in San Diego, they used every inch of the stage to impressively re-create the rainy-day moodiness of their breakthrough sophomore album, "The Trials of Van Occupanther."

Often, when a band is touring on the strength of a single album, the show suffers from lulls in between the best-known songs. And with Midlake's sound, they could have easily lost the electricity of the album and been left with just a mellow bore. But they kept the show compelling by breaking it into three parts.

With the Occupanther watching over the crowd (see photo below), they opened with two of the album's standout tracks: the synth-heavy "We Gathered in Spring," and an energetic version of their indie hit, "Roscoe," with all five members singing the chorus.

After a couple more album favorites, including a lush take of "Bandits," the band members switched places and played two songs off their lesser-known first record and a new song that frontman Tim Smith said the band was working on when they got the chance, which wasn't very often. Nonetheless, it already sounded more like a "Panther" B-side than a rough, unfinished new track.

They then switched back and used "Panther" songs to build the tension to a finale of a riveting "Young Bride" and the closer, "Head Home."

Then they did exactly what they should have — they DIDN'T play an encore. Even if they went back up there and played "Roscoe" again, played it even better, it would have taken away from the main set.

Encores have become so cliched these days; bands obviously holds back songs, write out the encore on the set list and stand just off-stage while the crowd claps, everyone knowing that it's all a game. It was extremely refreshing to see a band put together a solid set that gave the crowd everything it wanted but still left them wanting more.

As Smith introduced "Head Home," he thanked the crowd and said it was the band's first time in San Diego. It's a pretty good bet that, next time they come through town, they'll be playing a bigger venue.

Midlake — Roscoe (MP3) (Highly Rec.)
Midlake — Van Occupanther (MP3)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Midlake tonight at the Casbah

Midlake's "Roscoe" ended up on just about everyone's Best Songs of 2006 list, and despite my superstition of albums where the first song is the first single, "The Trials of Van Occupanther" proved to hold the tension of "Roscoe" to the finish.

Midlake was definitely a "blog band" in 2006 but, thankfully, they never got into that indie-hype range. With a Fleetwood Mac/Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-influenced, 70s-A.M.-radio sound, they could have easily been pigeonholed. The mainstream "look what blogs can do" kind of stories almost write themselves. But "Van Occupanther" isn't an example or a harbinger of something bigger. It's a solid sophomore album that deserves to be heard by more people.

Tickets are still available for the show if you're looking for a good way to start your weekend early.

Midlake — Roscoe (MP3)
Midlake — Head Home (MP3)