Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #18 White Stripes "Elephant"

The White Stripes Elephant, 2003

I featured this album for a month a couple of months ago on my podcast, so I feel sort of like I'm ALWAYS talking about this album. Fortunately, it's a fantastic album that I don't mind talking about.

In the months leading up to my purchase of this album, "Seven Nation Army" was all over the radio and MTVU (which was the station that one of the dining halls always had on. I kind of think I count this as "the radio" in my mind sometimes). So one day I went into Circuit City and, on the recommendation of a number of friends, listened to the samples of a couple of songs from the album. (Background: CC (along with many other stores) had these devices in their CD sections where you could scan the CD and read info about the band and the album and listen to samples of the tracks on the album.)

The reason I purchased the album was because of the sample I heard of the song "Black Math". They picked the part of the song where the guitars go from sluggish and trippy back into the fast and driving speed that the song is at most of the time. I love tempo changes in songs and so that, plus knowing how amazing "Seven Nation Army" is, led to me purchasing the album.

It's been more than a decade since I bought the album and it has transformed into almost a Classic Rock album for me. There are songs that hearken back to the 60's and 70's ("There's No Home For You Here""It's True That We Love One Another"), and then there are those weird, out of time White Stripes songs ("Ball and Biscuit" "The Hardest Button to Button" "Little Acorns"). And it's the combination of these two sounds that made them the amazing band they were. It's a hell of an album. It's all over the place and once you learn the twists and turns.

The White Stripes - Black Math
The White Stripes - The Hardest Button to Button

You can buy Elephant at Amazon, Amazon MP3, and iTunes

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Justin Timberlake "Not a Bad Thing"

This is a great song. One of the highlights of both discs of the album. The Official Music Video doesn't really feature the song that much, so I'm going to post this first:

See? Great song. I'm so glad that this made the Top Ten. And now here's the Official Video. It's a very interesting and lovely video, but like I said, the song is more of a background deal than actually something that you pay attention to in the video.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

New Countdown: K is for Kwaito

The Black Keys
It's a fun countdown that was pretty easy to put together and I am really glad that that's the case. I don't know why I'm so tired, but it's not even midnight yet and I feel like it's 3 AM (I must be lonely).

Enjoy this one and let me know what you think of the current batch of songs on the countdown!

Countdown #195

Arctic Monkeys
The Black Keys
Cage the Elephant
Fitz & the Tantrums

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #19 P.O.S "Never Better"

P.O.S Never Better, 2009

This album was the gateway into Doomtree and Dessa and all of that, so it is very important to me. The really funny thing is that I stumbled on it basically by accident. The year was 2009 and I was taking my sister to her first Warped Tour. I had made a list of all of the performers scheduled for our date and was going through and listening to the top song listed for them on Just to get an idea of what we might want to check out.

So the top song for P.O.S was "Drumroll (We're All Thirsty)" so I checked out the video. And was blown away. I was completely enthralled and confused and excited. What was this? It was like rap made by punk rockers.

Well, that turns out to have been a biographically accurate statement. Stef was in a punk band before he was a rapper. That background shows on all of his album, but I think it's most evident on this one. There are punk rock samples, punk rock ideas, and punk rock guest vocalists.

It's still way up there on the list of "Hip-hop albums that don't sound like anything else out there" along with Madvillainy and Enter the 36 Chambers.

I decided not to feature my all-time favorite song from the album "Low Light Low Life" and I think the reason is that I feel like it would be giving away gold. It's TOO good a song! You can check it out on YouTube or Spotify or whatever, but I really want everyone I know to own a copy of this album.

So let's get on that, shall we?

OH! I also didn't feature the song that samples from the movie Knocked Up. It's a pretty amazing sample. 

P.O.S - Savion Glover
P.O.S - Terrorish

You can buy Never Better at Amazon, Amazon MP3, iTunes, the Doomtree webstore, and the Doomtree Bandcamp page

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday: 1975

10. The Blackbyrds - Walking In Rhythm
9. Barry White - What Am I Gonna Do With You
8. Hot Chocolate - Emma
7. Freddy Fender - Before the Next Teardrop Falls
6. Sammy Johns - Chevy Van
5. Ben E. King - Supernatural Thing - Part 1
4. Minnie Riperton - Lovin You

What an amazing voice. Also, she's Maya Rudolph's mom! So, we're taking it nice and mellow this week. It's a great song and I don't think anyone would argue with that. She hits those crazy notes with almost no visible effort!

3. Tony Orlando & Dawn - He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)
2. Elton John - Philadelphia Freedom
1. B.J. Thomas - (Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #20 Presidents of the United States of America "Presidents of the United States of America"

The Presidents of the United States of America The Presidents of the United States of America, 1995

If you'll recall from my post on In Utero, I bought this album on tape in the same shopping trip as I bought that album on tape. But, while I realized that I was not ready for that album, THIS album was exactly what I was looking for.

I remember listening to it with my Dad and being slightly embarrassed that the first song, "Kitty", had such blatant and gratuitous profanity in it, but it wasn't an issue and the rest of the album, if I'm remembering correctly, is completely devoid of any obscene language at all. Which I'm just realizing is an interesting choice to make. Usually albums aren't so lopsided like that.

This album, and it bleeds into the other album I own by them so maybe it should read "this band", is what you'd get if you took a jazz band, gave them the synopses of 5 or 6 children's books, and then told them to make a garage rock album. This album sounds like what that would sound like if it worked. It's an album full of bugs and spiders and frogs just sort of wandering through life. Maybe the genre is "Slacker Animalcore".

Amid all of this are glimpses into the similarly slackerish lives of humans. Having an intense and admittedly awkward encounter with a stripper as an adolescent in "Stranger" or highlighting our base drives towards exhibitionism and notoriety in "Naked and Famous". In fact, the "anthem" of the album is a fantastic song called "We Are Not Going to Make It" which is especially fun for me because it was played by Misc. Debris, a band that a lot of my friends were in solely for a talent show, that did not, in fact, make it. They were disqualified for getting watermelon juice on one of the curtains. Or for smashing watermelons when they said they wouldn't. Or something. It was awesome. [EDIT: I have now been shown a video of the Misc. Debris performance and the song was not played at that time. I will continue to update on this miniscule part of the post as events are clarified by other people on Facebook.]

The Presidents of the United States of America are such a fun band and this album is not only fun, but also REALLY good. If you have only heard "Lump" and "Peaches", then you have a good idea of how fun it might be, but this album will blow those expectations out of the water.

Presidents of the United States of America - Kitty
Presidents of the United States of America - We Are Not Going to Make It

You can buy The Presidents of the United States of America at Amazon, Amazon MP3 (lots of bonus tracks!), and iTunes (same bonus tracks as on Amazon MP3!)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (UK Edition): Kiesza "Hideaway"

Clearly, the most impressive thing about this video is that it's all one take. And it has some complicated stuff going on! I would be very interested to know how long this took to film.

Ok, I have looked on Wikipedia and apparently, she was working on a recently broken rib, so that is even MORE impressive.

Oh, also, that's Brooklyn, not London as I had thought (I should have been able to tell it was America from the street sign at the beginning). And she's Canadian not British as I had thought

The song isn't from an album. At least not yet. It debuts at #1 in the UK.

Monday, April 21, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: The Story So Far (The Bottom 80)

As we head into the top 20, here's a handy collection of links for the 80 albums I've done so far!

100  Cursive - Domestica
99    Tool - Lateralus
98    Everclear - Sparkle and Fade
97    System of a Down - Toxicity
96    Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales
95    Midtown - Living Well is the Best Revenge
94    Bad Religion - Against the Grain
93    Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
92    Rilo Kiley - Take Offs and Landings
91    Desaparecidos - Read Music/Speak Spanish
90    Carbon Leaf - Indian Summer
89    No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom
88    Incubus - S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
87    All-American Rejects - All- American Rejects
86    311 - From Chaos
85    Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind
84    Less Than Jake - Anthem
83    Tenacious D - Tenacious D
82    Jay-Z - The Blueprint
81    Decemberists - The Crane Wife
80    Mest - Destination Unknown
79    Catch 22 - Dinosaur Sounds
78    The Hippos - Heads are Gonna Roll
77    Alkaline Trio - Goddamnit!
76    Anti-Flag - The Terror State
75    Foo Fighters - The Colour and the Shape
74    Brand New - Deja Entendu
73    The Starting Line - Say It Like You Mean It
72    My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge
71    Taking Back Sunday - Tell All Your Friends
70    Pixies - Doolittle
69    No Use For a Name - Leche con Carne
68    Linkin Park - Meteora
67    Jimmy Eat World - Futures
66    Postal Service - Give Up
65    Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
64    Ben Folds - Rockin' the Suburbs
63    Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magick
62    Sublime - 40 oz to Freedom
61    Coheed and Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
60    Lit - A Place in the Sun
59    Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site
58    Allister - Last Stop Suburbia
57    Rancid - …And Out Come the Wolves
56    Suicide Machines - A Match and Some Gasoline
55    NOFX - The War on Errorism
54    Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
53    Blood, Sweat and Tears - Blood, Sweat and Tears
52    Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Let's Face It
51    Sum 41 - All Killer No Filler
50    The Living End - The Living End
49    Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not
48    Ben Kweller - Sha Sha
47    Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine
46    The Offspring - Smash
45    Thursday - War All the Time
44    Carole King - Tapestry
43    Michael Jackson - Thriller
42    Led Zeppelin - I
41    Black Sabbath - Paranoid
40    Kanye West - The College Dropout
39    Counting Crows - August and Everything After
38    Lagwagon - Let's Talk About Feelings
37    Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Blow in the Wind
36    Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
35    Blink-182 - Dude Ranch
34    Green Day - Nimrod
33    RX Bandits - Resignation
32    Semisonic - Feeling Strangely Fine
31    Dessa - Badly Broken Code
30    Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
29    Nirvana - In Utero
28    Pearl Jam - Vs.
27    Death Cab For Cutie - Plans
26    Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen
25    Mad Caddies - Just One More
24    The Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About
23    Cartel - Chroma
22    Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue
21    Sufjan Stevens - Come On Feel the Illinoise!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Countdown: I'll Take Things Rising Again for 1000, Alex

Fitz & the Tantrums
I feel like the countdown these days is super eclectic and I love it so much. We have a great batch of songs as usual this week and I had a fun time, also as usual, making this podcast! I hope you enjoy it!

Countdown #194

Arctic Monkeys
Ben Folds Five
The Black Keys
Cage the Elephant
Fitz & the Tantrums
Young the Giant

Friday, April 18, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #21 Sufjan Stevens "Come On Feel the Illinoise!"

Sufjan Stevens Come On Feel the Illinoise, 2005

I tried to tell a friend about this album the other day and was basically unable to describe it accurately while also making it seem like something he should check out. I think that's because this albums SHOULDN'T work as well as it does. It should be a complete pretentious mess! But it's not. It's a beautiful work of art that everyone should hear and enjoy.

I first heard about this album from my wife. One morning, she was checking her email before going off to grad school. I was still in bed, because I had a second-shift job (nowhere to be until 3pm). She started reading me this article (possibly from the Yahoo homepage?! Could it have been??) about this album with super ridiculously long titles and, (I was about to say "for whatever reason", but that's disingenuous. I know the reason) because Sufjan Stevens knows how to title an album in a catchy and memorable way, the album title stuck with me until right before Christmas a number of months later, when I decided to purchase the album for myself (this might not be true. it MIGHT be that I got the songs from my friend Riley and felt really bad about it. but I own the it could have been that and then guilt made me buy the CD later? Whatever. Not important.) and boy was I surprised at what dulcet tones graced my ears when I listened to the album for the first time. It was unlike anything I'd heard before, and remains unlike anything I've heard since, even from Sufjan himself!

It's half avant-garde indie concept album and half 1950's musical soundtrack. The songs have a way of sneaking under your skin, up your bloodstream and into your heart. Listen to "Casimir Pulaski Day" at your own risk. It's weapons-grade songwriting.

I should say that this album DOES have ridiculously long titles. The longest, and my favorite, is the title for a 2:15 long instrumental track:

"The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!'"  

Which is certainly one of the songs that that article mentions. 

All of that novelty stuff falls by the wayside when you actually listen to the music. Sufjan purrs the lyrics which are sometimes silly and sometimes bone-chilling. He epitomizes the latter in the 4th track of the album, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.". The video is below. It's not the official video, but it's one that I think captures the heebie-jeebieness of the song.

If you don't take my word for it, and want a higher authority than me, then I should also point out that this album made #1 on Paste Magazine's "Best Albums of the 2000's" list. High praise, indeed.

Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Feel the Illinoise!: Part 1: The World's Columbian Exposition/Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream

Sufjan Stevens - The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!

You can buy Come On Feel the Illinoise at Amazon, Amazon MP3, and iTunes

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Neon Trees - Pop Psychology

I don't think Pop Psychology, the new Neon Trees album being released on Tuesday (4/22) is going to end up on many 2014 Year-End lists.

It's weird to start a review of an album that I really enjoyed like that, but it's the truth. Neon Trees remain one of those bands that are on a lot of people's radars but people don't tend to check them out. I felt like I was completely alone in my love of the Neon Trees' debut Habits, but then fell into the trap myself when I didn't buy the follow-up, Picture Show (the name of which I had to look up just now), even though I really enjoyed the big single from it, "Everybody Talks".

Pop Psychology sounds like an album that you might have found in your older brother's room after he left for college in 1987. And I mean that in a very good way. It has all of the pop conventions of that era, but contextualized in the middle of the modern world. Songs like "Love in the 21st Century" and "Text Me in the Morning" make this juxtaposition clear. And it's that very same juxtaposition that I loved on Habits.

I really hope that I'm proven wrong about the Year-End lists, though. It would be a shame for people to miss out on this fantastic synth-pop time machine. But I feel like people still haven't woken up to how talented this band is. If you really want a great example of this, perhaps something to play for your friends, check out that last track, "First Things First" (great closing track title) for a heartfelt song punctuated by one of the greatest musical creations of all time, the Bitchin' Guitar solo. It's a rare beast to find in pop music these days, but when it appears as majestically as it does on this song, you count yourself truly lucky to have witnessed it.

So pick this album up, go home to your bedroom, throw on some neon-frame sunglasses and dance til you drop. Then get up and do it again. See if you don't wake up in the morning with a new favorite album. (I realize that buying an album outside of your home is rare. If you're planning on a download from your bedroom, then at least leave the room and come back, to simulate the experience. It'll feel SO 80's!)

Here's the video for the first single from the album:

Throwback Thursday: 1976

Happy Bicentennial!!!

10. Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody

I was actually going to play the Peter Frampton song below, but watching the video for this song changed my mind. MAN is it a good song. Sorry Peter. Better luck next week.

9. Peter Frampton - Show Me the Way
8. Gary Wright - Dream Weaver
7. Commodores - Sweet Love
6. Dr. Hook - Only 16
5. The Sylvers - Boogie Fever
4. Captain & Tennille - Lonely Night (Angel Face)
3. Maxine Nightingale - Right Back Where We Started From
2. Bellamy Brothers - Let Your Love Flow
1. Johnnie Taylor - Disco Lady

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #22 Yellowcard "Ocean Avenue"

Yellowcard Ocean Avenue, 2003

A pop-punk band with a fiddler. Who does backflips off speaker stacks. Yellowcard must seem like such a novelty act and I'm sure everyone is as surprised and pleased as I was when I first saw them on the 2003 Warped Tour.

It was my first full summer after my family had moved to Virginia Beach and so this was pretty much the perfect album to commemorate that atmosphere at that time of my life (just after Sophomore Year (of College) (SYoC, for people who have been reading these posts from the beginning). I didn't really know a lot of people in the area, but the weather sure was...well, hot. But sometimes that's ok. The weather was hot and I did a lot of driving. And I was missing a girl in Northern Virginia.

All of that meant that this album really connected with me. There's something about the driving pace of the pop-punk with the smooth lilt of the fiddle. It's the vulnerability of the singer's voice, the heartfelt lyrics, the regret and heartbreak and hope and pride and love. This is a very important record to me.

In honor of the 10th anniversary, they released an all acoustic version of the album, but I don't believe I will be picking it up. I need the loud to make the quiet mean more. A fiddle in an acoustic song doesn't seem so out of place. In a song where it's drifting over the electric guitars, it entrances you like a siren song.

This video is for the song that starts the album. You could say it starts with a bang.

Yellowcard - Empty Apartment
Yellowcard - View From Heaven

You can buy Ocean Avenue at Amazon, Amazon MP3, and iTunes

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (UK Edition): Sigma "Nobody to Love"

So, because there aren't any new songs on the Top Ten in America, I decided to go check out the UK charts. Well, it turns out, they have a new number one over there. And here it is!

Now, to some of you, this might sound a little familiar. Well, it turns out this song started life as a bootleg remix of the last (and in my opinion best) track on Kanye West's latest album, "Bound 2". Pretty cool. I wish they'd gotten the original vocalist from this part, Charlie Wilson, but it's still kind of cool to see something so underground DEBUT at #1. It really is a different world over there, strictly speaking of charts, of course. Here's the video for the original song.

And then a shot-for-shot tribute video from Seth Rogen and James Franco

And then just for the sake of completeness, here they are side-by-side:

Congratulations Sigma!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Countdown: Gonna be sleeping in the podcast doghouse for a bit here...

The Black Keys
Well, once again, I've forgotten the anniversary of the podcast. that I think of it, this is the first time that's happened. I was thinking of the anniversary of the blog itself, which i have missed, I believe, every single year. No, I usually remember the podcast's birthday. Hopefully, the 4th birthday isn't a big one.

It's a great show this week. A bunch of movement and surprises and bonus songs and stuff that I included without remembering that i could be playing bonus songs to celebrate, but rather just playing bonus songs because I like them! (Idea for t-shirt: "Live life like it's your podcast's birthday")

Countdown #193

Alan Wilkis
Arctic Monkeys
The Black Keys
Cage the Elephant
Fitz & the Tantrums
Foster the People
Young the Giant

Friday, April 11, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #23 Cartel "Chroma"

Cartel Chroma, 2006

Cartel's Chroma is the best pop-punk/power-pop album that I've never heard anyone else mention. I first encountered the band with their video for "Honestly" which is a great song. If that was all I ever heard from them, I'm sure I wouldn't have the pleasure of knowing this album. But then "The Minstrel's Prayer" was put on the Take Action Vol. 5 comp and the combination of the two sealed it for me.

One of the things I like about bands like Pink Floyd and Coheed & Cambria is they will often refer to one or more of their other songs. When this is done within the context of a single album, it gives the album a feeling of inevitability and organization that might not otherwise be evident.

The song "A" is an amazing song (flowing directly out of the song "Q", of course) because it ties at least 4 of the other songs on the album together into this nearly 10 minute opus to close out the album. It's a bold choice. For me, it makes every replay of the album better. Like, instead of hearing separate tracks, we're just hearing parts of a symphony that are tied together in the end. It's powerful stuff and I am simply appalled to feel like the only person who loves this album.

I love this album so much, in fact, that their follow-up was a crushing disappointment to me. And I hate crushing disappointments. But then I just put this one on again and all the pain just drifts away.

It's no surprise to anyone, I'm sure, that I love this album. It's like the band tapped into my brain and figured out all the elements of what I like about their particular brand of music and then crafted the album to suit those preferences.

Cartel - Say Anything (Else)
Cartel - Luckie St.

You can buy Chroma at Amazon, Amazon MP3, and iTunes

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: 1977

10. Atlanta Rhythm Section - So In To You
9. Barbra Streisand - Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star is Born)
8. Natalie Cole - I've Got Love on My Mind
7. Eagles - Hotel California

Promised a more rockin' song this week and I think I did pretty well. I love this song and I think maybe a lot of people do, too. I think a lot of people think the Eagles are the worst, as well, though. To each their own, though, right!

6. 10cc - The Things We Do For Love
5. Glen Campbell - Southern Nights
4. Daryl Hall & John Oates - Rich Girl
3. Thelma Houston - Don't Leave Me This Way
2. David Soul - Don't Give Up On Us
1. ABBA - Dancing Queen

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #24 The Get Up Kids "Something to Write Home About"

The Get Up Kids Something to Write Home About, 1999

When I first heard this album Freshman year of College, I was disappointed it wasn't more blatantly about girls and being sad about unrequited love. The album felt choppy and weird. And frankly, it didn't exactly blow me away.

But, for whatever reason, I kept coming back to it. And now, 13 years later, it's an indispensable piece of my music collection. Every song is fantastic and I am constantly coming back to it for the pop sensibilities and the heartbreak in the lyrics and the synths. I sing along to every word and dance around like an idiot if I happen to be standing while listening to it.

The thing that gives "emo" it's bad rep is that people think of it as whiny and shrill and just pain, pain, pain. Something like a mix between Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Chris Carraba (Dashboard Confessional), and Robert Smith (The Cure). But The Get Up Kids prove you can be wounded and smart and catchy in your music while also not making your eyeliner run down your face by the end of every show.

If you like this album and you also like live albums, you should definitely check out The Get Up Kids
Live at the Granada Theater. It's one of my favorite live records of all time, depicting what was, at the time, the band's final performance (they've gotten back together since then).

The Get Up Kids - My Apology
The Get Up Kids - Ten Minutes

You can buy Something to Write Home About at Amazon, Amazon MP3, and iTunes

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: DJ Snake & Lil Jon "Turn Down For What"

Now maybe it's because it's 1 in the morning and I've just finished watching the meta-horror masterpiece Cabin in the Woods for the first time, but I think this video is HILARIOUS. Yes. It's sophomoric and crude at times, but, I mean, isn't dancing sophomoric and crude at times? Also, the crudeness is so over the top in this that it moves past offensive and straight into cartoonish. If you were to describe this video to me, I would think that it sounded like the worst video of all time, and in the harsh light of day, I might still think that. But for now, this is just the Youth of America (capital Y capital A) letting loose and having fun in a hilarious video. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Countdown: It's April, Fools!

Well it's a new month, so that means it's time for a bunch of change, apparently. Some of the change was expected (new Alternative Album Grammy winner) and some of it wasn't (New Song?!). Enjoy, you guys!

Countdown #192

Arctic Monkeys
Cage the Elephant
Fitz & the Tantrums
Foster the People
Young the Giant

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dessa: The Appetite For Distraction Interview 4

 Somehow this is the 4th of these sets of questions that I have sent to Dessa and the 4th set that she has graciously answered for my rural little blog (you know, like if my blog was a city and visitors to the site were the population?). I've really tried to get some weird/interesting/insightful questions going so that it's not the same interview that you'd read everywhere else, and I think I've done an okay job at that this year.

Here are links to the previous Q&A's: 2011  2012 2013

1. One of my favorite songs from Parts of Speech is "Skeleton Key". Whenever I listen to it, I think of it in the context of the P.O.S-led No Kings track "Bolt Cutter". Both are about tools for gaining access to previously forbidden areas, but a skeleton key grants access and leaves no trace, while a bolt cutter is more destructive and forceful. Was "Bolt Cutter" lurking anywhere in your mind when you wrote "Skeleton Key"? Or am I just seeing patterns in the clouds?

I hadn't realized a connection before now, but, yes, I see the point you're making. The songs differ in tone, but I think the lyrics to both talk about bucking convention. 


2. I was so delighted and pleased to listen to your episode with Jason Ritter on Wits. I had never heard of the program before, but I was so interested to see the comedic acting side of you that we sometimes catch glimpses of in between songs at shows. What was it like to record?

Terrifying. I almost tried to squirm out of the gig. I'm a planner by nature which makes live, competitive, improve sound like a special, miniature hell. But in the end, the show was good, there was chocolate backstage, and we were triumphant.
3. You performed two cover songs on your Wits episode (Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right to Party (as part of an amazing sketch) and Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted Snake" (my all-time favorite PA song. No lie.). In addition to that, you have a GORGEOUS cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Going Down" on Parts of Speech. What is your process for picking covers to perform? What do you think makes a good cover? Is there any chance that "Cold Hearted Snake" will make it into your set for your next tour?(, he asked with fingers firmly crossed)

The Beasty [sic] Boys song was actually performed by Janey Winterbauer, she's a cast member on the show and is a super accomplished singer about town. (I am astounded to find this out. I guess I didn't even realize I was making an assumption!)  My dad is always encouraging to do more covers, but I've only tackled a few. A good cover is tough to pull off--they're cheesy, they're boring if they're too faithful to the original, and they're often overwrought if they're not faithful enough. I like covers that put the original song through a new filter, give it en emotional resonance that wasn't evident in the original recording. As of the Paula cover, no plans to make that one a regular part of our set, though I wouldn't be surprised if we played it again once or twice.

4. What is your Mom's favorite song on Parts of Speech?
That's a very sweet question. I don't know the answer for sure, but I think it might be "Annabelle" and I'm pretty sure it's not "Warsaw." 

5. You recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma as part of the #Lithop book club that you started. One of the sections of the book finds the author making a meal entirely out of local foods that he can grow, hunt, or scavenge. If you were to make a meal out of only things you could grow, hunt, or scavenge from your apartment, what would that meal consist of?

I'm going to presume that "scavenging" does not include hunting for lone peanut-butter M&Ms lost in the corners of my kitchen. I kept a plant for a while, hoping to grow red bell peppers, but the touring life doesn't suit the potted plant very well. I took him with me on a trip or two, but he died all the same. I think I'd be destined for a similar fate if I were to try and live on food I grew myself--not a hell of a lot survives in a one-bedroom apartment whose primary occupant is out-of-town for weeks at a time. I have, however, become a much better cook after reading Pollan's stuff. Most recently: mushroom farro. You cannot fuck with my mushroom farro.

6. What are the chances of Doomtree releasing a live album?

Zero. Our live show is an amazing thing to experience, but not very amazing to as isolated audio the next day.

7. If you were given 24 hours to explore (but not interact with) any part of the world, would you rather go 200 years into the past, or 200 years into the future? Where would you go?

Past. The future would freak me out too much, I think. Maybe Spain. 

8. Do you think Doomtree could have made as big an impact as it has if it had been started 20 years earlier, when the Internet and social media were vastly different, if they were available at all?

Tough to tell. If we were working 20 years ago, we wouldn't have the internet at our back. On the other hand, we'd be in an era where people still bought records. So we'd either be totally obscure and broke, or we'd be signed to a major and filthy rich.
9. There's a poem in your recent chapbook (A Pound of Steam) called "Kept Company" about a couple of imaginary friends. It's SO detailed and so mapped out. It feels like you wrote the rules that imaginary friends have to follow. Did you have any imaginary friends as a child?

I still have a lot of imagined conversations, some out loud, some in the privacy of my head. As a kid, I don't remember having a regular, imagined companion, but I think that I had a lot of one-sided conversations then too.

10. What's next for you in terms of touring. I know that you just came off, I think it was, 13 straight years of touring, but once you've rested, when's the next time you make Mountain earn his keep? Another solo tour? A Doomtree crew tour? A completely acceptable answer to this question is, "I don't know, man. Get off my case! Geeez"

The band and I are gearing up for some touring in April; we'll be hitting markets in the Midwest. Then (drumroll) I will be heading to Turkey in May to have my head expanded. After so much focus on my music and my career in 2013, I'm eager to spend some time learning about what other people in the rest of the world are doing--get out of my own shoes for a while. There is some very tentative talk of an autumn tour, but it's strung through with 'if's and 'maybe's. In the meantime, I'm doing a little bit of work in the classical field, I'm working on a new choral piece to be debuted in Minneapolis in October. 

Thanks, James. 

Thank YOU, Dessa, for your amazing answers. You are single-handedly making me feel like a real interviewer!

Until next year, I leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Dessa (from the Doomtree website):


One Year, 100 Albums: #25 Mad Caddies "Just One More"

Mad Caddies Just One More, 2003

This album should be a fair-to-middling skacore (which I define as ska + punk. If I'm wrong please let me know) album. Mad Caddies were among Fat Wreck Chord's B-string bands and I had really enjoyed their previous album, Rock the Plank, because of it's fun, fast songs and slight pirate theme. 

Then they put a song called "Shut the Door" on one of the Fat Music comps and I fell head over heels for this band. I'm not sure if "Shut the Door" was a Rock the Plank outtake, but that seems like it makes sense.

THEN they put a song called "Leavin'" on a subsequent Fat Music comp and I knew this band was special. They somehow find a way to seem reckless AND completely in control.

So I wasn't surprised that Just One More was a good album. 10 years later I am surprised that it made the Top 25 of this list because it turns out it is a GREAT album. 

It begins with the easygoing "Drinking for 11" and then goes into a couple of harder-rocking numbers and it seems like it's business as usual, which is why when songs like "Spare Change?" and, holy hell, "Good Intentions" come along, the listener is thrown for a loop. They feel like songs that are destined to be classics. I'm not hyperbolizing when I say that "Good Intentions" is one of my all-time favorite songs.

So make sure you check out all of the featured songs because there's a wide range on this one. And if you like even 2 of the songs, then I'd say you would be remiss if you didn't pick it up. This is a sleeper classic if ever there was one, so get in on the ground floor before everyone else catches on!

Mad Caddies - Day By Day
Mad Caddies - Spare Change?
Mad Caddies - Good Intentions

You can buy Just One More at Amazon, Amazon MP3, and iTunes

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday: 1978

10. Kansas - Dust in the Wind
9. Jay Ferguson - Thunder Island
8. Andy Gibb - (Love is) Thicker Than Water
7. Paul Davis - I Go Crazy
6. Yvonne Elliman - If I Can't Have You
5. Samantha Sang - Emotion
4. Barry Manilow - Can't Smile Without You
3. Eric Clapton - Lay Down Sally
2. Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive

Well, with three songs from Saturday Night Fever and three songs featuring Gibbs, I would remiss if I didn't pick one that had both features. This is a classic. And wouldn't it have been sad if I went through all of the 70's without ANY disco? I sense some of you are saying "No" but to you I say, stay tuned. Maybe next week will have a real rocker! Actually, this one rocks pretty hard. Just think of them as singing falsetto like Judas Priest!

1. Bee Gees - Night Fever

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

One Year, 100 Albums: #26 Ben Folds Five "Whatever and Ever Amen"

Ben Folds Five Whatever and Ever Amen, 1997

Ben Folds has always been the master of mixing the sarcastic with the sincere. This was the first album I ever heard by his band Ben Folds Five and it taught me that you can be cynical, romantic, nerdy, AND rock the fuck out all in the same album space. Sometimes all in the same song.

The way I came to hear this album was that two girls were talking about the band in 9th grade World History class (shoutout to Ms. Rudasill. Super important teacher in my education as well as my development as a person) and I butted into their conversation (my, how little has changed since then) and told them that I had heard a couple of singles (probably "Brick" from this one and "Army" from the next one) was very interested in learning more about them. So my friend Amber said that she had both albums (I don't think any of us realized this was actually the band's sophomore release, but it's not like we could go on Wikipedia and track down the exact chronological discography of the band, so get off our backs, damn.) and was I interested in a more electric experience or a more acoustic experience? Actually, I feel like she HAD to have said "electronic" because I selected "acoustic" over what I now realize was music I imagined sounded much like Depeche Mode (though I couldn't have told you that then) and I won't swear that she used the word "experience", but you get the idea.

So I picked "acoustic" and the next day, she brought this album in for me. I took it home, put it into the big old stereo in the living room and, since the house was otherwise empty, cranked it and jumped around to the opening track: "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces".

Over the years, I grew into my fandom of the band and began to appreciate all the intricacies of this album. The rage of "Song For the Dumped", the humor of "Battle of Who Could Care Less", and the heartbreaking 1,2 punch combo of the closing tracks, "Missing the War" and "Evaporated".

I think my favorite thing about this album is that it has something for everyone. I would feel as comfortable listening to much of this album with my grandma as I would putting it on during a road trip with a college buddy. That's a rare thing these days. 

Ben Folds Five - Fair
Ben Folds Five - Battle of Who Could Care Less

You can buy Whatever and Ever Amen at Amazon, Amazon MP3, and iTunes

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Aloe Blacc "The Man"

I like this song, but I always want to sing Elton John's "Your Song" during the chorus and that kind of takes me out of it.

This is a cool looking video with lots of flashbacks to eras gone by!