Thursday, July 24, 2008

Airdaddy: WFHB Morning Music Mix 7/23/08

Jakob Dylan, "Evil is Alive and Well," Seeing Things **
AA Bondy, "Vice Rag," American Hearts **
Chris Whitley, "Phone Call from Leavenworth," Weed **
Elvis Costello, "Brilliant Mistake," King of America **
Aimee Mann, "Freeway," @#%&*! Smilers **
The Whipsaws, "Seven Long Years," 60 Watt Avenue **
Tim Easton, "Not Today," Ammunition **
Bap Kennedy, "Long Time A-Comin," Domestic Blues **
Ben Solee, "A Change is Gonna Come," Learning to Bend **
The National, "Mansion on the Hill (live)," The Virginia EP **
Gilberto Gil, "Guiexa No Tatame," Banda Larga Cordel **
Beck, "Walls," Modern Guilt
Andrew Bird, "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head," . . . and the Mysterious Production of Eggs **
Jingo, "Fever," The Last King of Scotland **
Mates of State, "Re-Arrange Us," The Re-Arranger **
The Flaming Lips, "Fight Test," Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots **
The Shins, "Kissing the Lipless," Chutes Too Narrow **
Gomez, "Whippin' Picadilly," Bring it On **
Adrian Belew, "This is What I Believe In," Inner Revolution **
The Hold Steady, "Sequestered in Memphis," Stay Positive **
South San Gabriel, "I Am Six Pounds of Dynamite," The Carlton Chronicles **
Centro-Matic, "Triggers and Trash Heaps," Fort Recovery **
R.E.M., "Houston," Accelerate **
The White Stripes, "Rag and Bone," Icky Thump **
The Budos Band, "Chicago Falcon," Daptone Records Sampler
Mark Ronson, "Just," Exit Music: Songs with Radio Heads **
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, "A Moment So Close," Outbound **
Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban, "Mambo Sinuendo," Mambo Sinuendo

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Hold Steady: "Stay Positive" - Review

I knew The Hold Steady had finally won me over with Stay Positive on about my fifth listening. Though there were still layers of lyrics and stories to pick through, the record already felt like an old pair of Chuck Taylors, comfortable and very familiar, but designed to kick someone's ass.

My previous problem with The Hold Steady can be blamed on Critic's Shorthand-- you know, "this band sounds like __________, with a bit of ________." Record reviews for The Hold Steady, from earlier releases right through last year's Boys and Girls in America, placed Craig Finn and his band directly on E Street. I'm no prude, but the previous releases were a little too full of drugs, booze, and parties gone bad. It felt a little gimmicky after repeated listenings. As a thirty-year-plus fan of The Boss, I tried and I tried, but I never heard it. Sure, they both have sweeping piano lines over bridges of their songs, but that's where the similarities begin and end.

Look, this girl I dug in 6th grade actually had a little mustache, but she never made me think of Burt Reynolds.

So I put away the Hold Steady, suffering the scorn of many trusted sources, distancing myself from the Bruce references, and I forgot about the Hold Steady . . . until last week's release of Stay Positive, an absolutely blistering set of good old American Rock and Roll. Interestingly, for such a highly-anticipated (and presumably well-funded) record, Stay Positive suffers from some of the worst production/mastering I have heard. It may be the only rock release in recent memory that actually sounds worse on headphones than in the car, and I'm beginning to realize that may be by design. Sure, Stay Positive is art . . . it's gushing with great stories . . . but it's art made to be played at 11, mullet out, T-tops off the Camaro.

From the opening track, "Constructive Summer," Stay Positive serves up throw-up-the-horns rock and roll that demands singing along. In fact, "Constructive Summer," with its refrain, "We're gonna build something this summer," may just be this Summer's unofficial anthem.

Throughout Stay Positive, Finn and company drop 70's and 80's rock references, lyrical and musical, like bait for aging iPod owners. Whether conjuring up Iggy Pop in words ("Constructive Summer") or the Cars and Van Halen in sounds (the spiraling keyboards and guitar crunch of "Navy Sheets"), Finn has cred in this department-- he's just weeks from his 37th birthday.

Underneath the rock din, Finn is, at essence, a very literate storyteller. "Sequestered in Memphis," a less-than-clear story of a bargirl encounter gone bad, finds him re-telling a story that one suspects might be his own. In the hero's responses to a police grilling, Finn finds the biggest hooks of the entire record-- "In barlight, she looked all right, in daylight, she looked desperate. That's all right, I was desperate too, I'm getting pretty sick of this interview. (Subpoenaed in Texas, sequestered in Memphis)." We have no idea what happened to the poor girl, but we can't help but sing along.

Despite the hooks (and the title), the stories and songs on the record are often dark. In "One for the Cutters," a college girl (presumably in Bloomington, Indiana), bored of her college friends, ventures out to the quarries to party with the "townies." Avoiding the spoiler, let's just say that this song may single-handedly scare this Bloomingtonite father of two girls into keeping them in the house after dark well past their twenty-first birthdays.

The only misstep on Stay Positive is "Joke About Jamaica," a song (over-stuffed) with Zep references. Though every rock and roller over forty remembers the friends who couldn't pronounce "D'Yer Maker," because they didn't get it, the remaining references . . . Houses of the Holy, Trampled Under Foot, etc. are numerous, heavy-handed, and eventually render an otherwise good song just . . . Zo-So. (Ugh.)

And so, my apologies for what I may have said about The Hold Steady. I get it. I love it. But Bruce is the complement, not the analog. Bruce and Craig, they're in the same room, but they're not friends. Bruce is Breakfast Club wrestling champ Andy Clark-- successful, polished, and sexy, but also troubled and sometimes annoyingly self-aware. Craig Finn, of course, is John Bender-- dope-smoking, doughy and unloved, casting stones from the outside. But he knows exactly what he's doing, and we laugh at every one of his jokes, no matter how pointed or mean-spirited.

Stay Positive is anything but positive, but it is mature. Like Jeff Tweedy, maimed by rock and roll, music is also Craig Finn's savior. In opening the song (and the record), he proclaims "Our Psalms are sing-along songs." In the title track, he again shouts "the sing-along songs will be our scriptures." Any record that includes a song ("Constructive Summer") dropping both Joe Strummer (this blog's icon, a personal hero, and the patron saint of those of us who never gave up on the power of rock and roll) and a little buddhist wisdom is a must-have: "Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer, I think he might have been our only decent teacher. Getting older makes it harder to remember-- we are our only saviors."

Indeed, Mr. Finn. I hope you come around these parts soon, so I can apologize in person.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

WFHB Top 10 - 7/16/08

1. Watermelon Slim - No Paid Holidays **
2. Al Green - Lay it Down **
3. Tim Grimm - Holding Up the World **
4. Solomon Burke - Like a Fire **
5. John Mellencamp - Life Death Love and Freedom **
6. Varioius Artists - Verve Remixed 4 **
7. Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal **
8. The Stairwell Sisters - Get Off Your Money **
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!! **
10. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges **

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hopedaddy on the Air: WFHB Morning Music Mix 7/9/08

The Avett Brothers, "Shame," Emotionalism
Whiskeytown, "Don't Be Sad," Pneumonia - The Rough Mix
Bruce Cockburn, "Avalon, My Hometown," Avalon Blues: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt
Matthew Ryan, "Night Watchman," Concussion
Grant Lee Buffalo, "Honey Don't Think," Mighty Joe Moon
Beck, "Gamma Ray," Modern Guilt
Paul Westerberg, "Mannequin Shop," 14 Songs
M. Ward, "Helicopter," Transfiguration of Vincent
Ben Sollee, "How to See the Sun Rise," Learning to Bend
Buddy Holly, "That'll Be the Day," The "Chirping" Crickets
Richard Thompson, "I Can't Wake Up to Save My Life, Mirror Blue
Chuck Prophet, "Doubter Out of Jesus (All Over You)," Soap and Water
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, "Bhindi Bhagee," Global A Go-Go
Bell X1, "Flame," Flock
Bob Marley & The Wailers, "I'm Still Waiting," _____________
Daniel Lanois, "Under a Stormy Sky," Acadie
Pretenders & Emmylou Harris, "She," Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons
Band of Heathens, "Second Line," Band of Heathens
Ron Sexsmith, "Clown in Broad Daylight," Other Songs
Buddy & Julie Miller, "Keep Your Distance," Buddy & Julie Miller
Mason Jennings, "Fighter Girl," In The Ever,
Allison Moorer, "I Ain't Giving Up On You," The Duel
Steve Earle, "Telephone Road," El Corazon
Los Lobos, "Chuco's Cumbia," The Town and The City
The Black Keys, "Strange Times," Attack & Release
Band of Horses, "The Great Salt Lake," Everything All The Time
Jason Collett, "Out of Time," Here's to Being Here
My Morning Jacket, "I'm Amazed," Evil Urges

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hopedaddy on the Air: WFHB Morning Music Mix 7/2/08

This week's morning music mix included a set from guest DJ, Sleepy Penguin, accompanying Hopedaddy in her radio debut . . .

She was, by all accounts, a natural "on-air" talent. As the old saying DOESN'T go, this face is NOT made for radio!

A.A. Bondy, "World Without End," American Hearts
Tim O'Brien, "Where's Love Come From," Chameleon
Josh Ritter, "Open Doors," The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Tim Easton, "Lexington Jail," Break Your Mother's Heart
Vigilantes of Love, "Skin," Blister Soul
Fleet Foxes, "Ragged Wood," Fleet Foxes
My Morning Jacket, "The Way That He Sings," At Dawn
Neko Case, "Hold On, Hold On," Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Elbow, "Grounds for Divorce," The Seldom Seen Kid
(from The Sleepy Penguin)
Mike Doughty, "Move On," The Future Soundtrack for America
The Shins, "Australia," Wincing the Night Away
The Postal Service, "Sleeping In," Give In
Andrew Bird, "Imitosis," Armchair Aprocrypha
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, "Bridges, Squares," Hearts of Oak
Alejandro Escovedo, "Sister Lost Soul," Real Animal
Matthew Ryan, "American Dirt," Matthew Ryan Vs. the Silver State
Gomez, "Detroit Swing 66," In Our Gun
Aimee Mann, "Freeway," @#%&*! Smilers
Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down, "Bag of Hammers," We Brave Bee Stings & All
Pretenders, "Stop Your Sobbing," The Pretenders
The Pernice Brothers, "Talk of the Town," Nobody's Watching
Martin Sexton, "Marry Me," Seeds
Keith Richards, "You Don't Move Me," Talk is Cheap
Dan Bern, "Alaska Highway," New American Language
The American Analog Set, "The Only One," Know By Heart
Eddie Vedder, "Long Nights," Into the Wild (Soundtrack)
The Magic Numbers, "This is a Song," Those The Brokes