December 31, 2009
December 28, 2009
December 23, 2009
Candles and wreathes weren't just placed every window, we had garlands up the banister and on every chandelier, two massive trees decorated to the point where every single branch bent downward from the weight of an ornament, each table surface was covered with candles and holiday themed knickknacks, and the centerpiece to it all was a pint sized ceramic snow covered village that lit up as if an entire glowing thriving town was miniaturized in the name of St. Nick.
Our house was Christmas. It looked liked it, it smelled like it, it sounded like it and spirits were high, especially once Christmas Eve was upon us.
My father prepared a ridiculously decadent Christmas Eve meal and before bed we prepared cookies for Santa served alongside a glass of milk, hung stockings, and my favorite part of the day was the final event.
I call it an event because my mother reading out loud was a miraculous event. She read aloud magnificently, as if everything... be it a box of cereal or a street sign was a masterpiece penned by Shakespeare himself. She was a gifted, musical speaker and each Christmas Eve ended with her reading two books aloud. The first was The Night Before Christmas and the second was Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. My mother felt it went beyond the very notion of a holiday classic and according to her, it was the most perfect literary piece about Christmas known to mankind. Even well into my teens this tradition continued and ever since, no Christmas feels complete until I hear or read this classic Thomas piece.
That being said the holidays now are especially difficult for me, mostly because my family as masters of the season, raised the bar for celebrating Christmas to an obscenely high unattainable level. My parents passed away this decade and with it all of their magical traditions and decorations evaporated. The only other family member who experienced an entire childhood based around these things was my brother Chris and he passed away 9 years ago. The inventors and my holiday partner are all gone now and while there are so many reasons to grieve for the lost of loved ones this time of year, it is this simple memory of a Child's Christmas in Wales being read by Mother while my Brother and Father sat near by that makes my heart ache the most.
Luckily rather by accident I came across an LP of Dylan Thomas reading his story in a used bin of a record store a few years back. Having in my possession the author reading his own work by no means outshines the memory of my Mom's rendition but if there was a version to stand in for her, well this is the next best thing. I was hoping someone would have posted the Dylan Thomas version on Youtube but it isn't there however there I did find a version. The glorious song-like quality my Mother brought to the piece is missing but the wonderful words are still there.
Enjoy and happy holidays.
December 22, 2009
December 17, 2009
The Cocteau Twins were a band that captured my imagination from a very young age. I discovered them in grade school during my first trip to NYC while at a record store that over the years would become a favorite of mine for all of my teenage and early adult years.
Rebel Rebel was a small store in the Village that specialized in imports, something I had no idea existed. Previously I had exposure to one music store and it was mostly an electronics store that just happened to stock a few records and they certainly were not fancy imports. Rebel had HUGE sections for bands I had never heard of before and the Cocteau Twins section was filled with some 20 records at the time. Pre-Internet and with no concept of what the music scene in the UK and Europe was about, I browsed their LP selection with awe. There was so much exotic music to pick from but the Cocteau Twins records stood out as being the most mysterious and intriguing of all. Years later I grew to understand the mastery behind the artwork of 4AD but as a tween the CT records looked feminine yet not too girly...perfect for the 8th grade me.
The record clerk (who I should add became a great friend and was Gary from Ladybug Transistor) noticed my long pauses at the Cocteau Twins section and asked if I needed some help. I explained that I had never heard the band before but I was curious and the store was kind enough to play them for me. I think it took a mere 30 seconds for me to be hooked. I bought my first album by CT that day and pretty much bought one more every time I visited the store from that point on.
Growing up on top 40 radio and the music of my parents I had never heard anything close to the Cocteau Twins. It was soft yet heavy, there was something that sounded like an acoustic guitar but it had so many effects on it that it sounded like a totally new instrument to me; something haunting that sat somewhere between a nightmare and a wonderful dream. And then the voice of Elizabeth Fraser came soaring in and it was captivating. Emotional, tragic....it was in a language I couldn't understand but yet it spoke to me. With each listen in my bedroom the meanings of the songs were up to my imagination which I think is exactly what makes this band such a personal cult favorite with so many people. Their songs use a nonsensical language, at least on all the early records, and I think the combination of an ethereal angel like voice mixed with message you had complete freedom to make up your own meaning to, allows this band to owned by whoever hears them. They are your band after a few listens. The Cocteau Twins had been tagged by the UK press as the "voice of God" and even without a religious bone in my body, I can understand that comment. I never had a chance to see this band live, heck I don't even recall an opportunity arising ever, so this band has remained shrouded in mystery for pretty much my whole life.
Needless to say I took the task of working on a Cause & Effect on this band rather seriously. Like 12 hours plus seriously. If I was finally going to demystify this band once and for all, I was going to do it right. I couldn't begin to imagine what their sound was based upon so it was truly fascinating to unravel their layers and hear their influences in Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, Crime and the City Solution, and the Ronettes.
Tonight from 7PM to 9PM on WRIR (97.3 FM locally or www.wrir.org) not only will you hear their earliest influences but the bands they were sharing the scene with, many of side side projects and off-shoot bands .(including some very rare stuff) And it wouldn't be a proper show without rounding out the set with the newer bands who owe their sound to the Cocteau Twins like M83, Sigur Ros, and Mahogany.
I've never spent so much time on one show and hopefully you will be able to hear the care that went into this one. Not that we don't approach every show with care but for me, putting a band under a microscope that had rested on a pedestal for decades in my world was a challenge I wanted to embrace to the best of my ability.
December 16, 2009
December 13, 2009
And possibly the cutest theremin of all time.
"Matryomin is the unique, original erectronic musical instrument invented by Masami Takeuchi in 1999. It is a type of theremin - oldest electro-musical instrument invented in Russia - shaped Russian traditional wooden doll, Matrioshka."
Thanks to Graham for showing me this today!
December 11, 2009
December 8, 2009
Too Much Joy Dot Com
Thanks for the read Kenny!
December 3, 2009
Tonight will showcase two hours of music that sit at the top of my best of list for the past decade of incredible music. Rather than reshash the list you will see time and time again with Animal Collective, Radiohead The Strokes and Arcade Fire….these are the bands that never really found themselves in the spotlight for long or to be honest, ever. Tonight’s show also serves a great reminder of just how much great music the press and hype machines miss year in and year out.
With the task of summing up a decade comes quite a bit of music that carries the weight of heavy personal attachment but what I tried to do is pick the artists the didn’t just serve up a keen single; these are artists who make records I respect from start to finish. Luckily I have been blogging about music for nearly all of this decade so my years of posts really helped me create one big list of bands and songs. Then from giant list came the enormous task of weeding out bands that I thought people would probably know well and even harder, picking the best of the best.
This is still an immensely personal 120 minutes of music but hopefully the songs will be impressive enough to stand on their own without memories of the decade attached to them.
I don't normally place my set list here but I wanted to share it with those who won't be able to catch the show tonight as well as to have it somewhere in a permanent place for myself. Its been a fucking brutal 10 years for me and these songs represent the truly positive, often life saving aspects of what I would like to remember about it.
Wanna know what I will be playing tonight from 7PM to 9PM on WRIR (www.wrir.org or 97.3 FM), well this is it in all its glory.
With You With Me 2:07 Welcome - Sirs - FatCat
LAX 2:02 Hot Snakes - Suicide Invoice - swami
Year Nine, Yeah! 2:20 Die! Die! Die! - Die! Die! Die! - Ok!Relax
War Machine 3:22 part chimp - I am come - Rock Action Records
My Last Hostage 3:53 The Life And Times - Suburban Hymns - Desoto
Win Instantly 4:17 Channels - Open - Desoto
Almost The Same 3:57 Clearlake - Cedars - Domino
The Long Distance Four – 2:22 – Constantines – S/T – Three Gut
Nice Chaps, Buddy 2:16 The Ladies - They Mean Us - Temporary Residence
Hideaway Tokyo 1:58 Pretty & Nice - Get Young - Hardly Art
All Night (Album Version) 2:23 Figurines - Skeleton - Control Group
Repossession 3:13 Bottomless Pit- Hammer of the Gods - Comedy Minus One
Neo-Plastic Boogie-Woogie 4:32 Mahogany - Connectivity - Darla
Fortune Map 3:06 Je Suis Animal - Self-Taught Magic From a Book - Perfect Pop
Entertainment 3:40 The Projects 7" - Track & Field
Punks 3:36 I Heart Hiroshima - Tuff Teef - Valve
Juno 5:08 Life Without Buildings - Any Other City - Tugboat
Make Out Fall Out Make Up 2:59 - Love Is All - Nine Times That Same Song - Whats Your Rupture
Tell Me 3:38 Taken By Trees - Open Field - Rough Trade
Pictures On The Sidewalk 2:17 Cortney Tidwell - Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up - Ever
Mind Idea 2:38 Jeremy Enigk - OK Bear - Lewis Hallow
Black Path 3:54 Aereogramme - Sleep And Release - Matador
Seer Believer 3:52 The White Birch - Come Up For Air - Rune Grammofon
It Never Changes To Stop 4:01 The Books - Lost And Safe - Tomlab
Hunters Map 3:06 Fionn Regan - The End of History - Lost Highway
Crooked Legs 5:08 The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain - Paper Bag
Brother 3:43 Annuals - Be He Me - Ace Fu
Bright Ideas 2:44 Nurses - Apple's Acre - Dead Oceans
Some Other Life 2:38 Meneguar - The In Hour - Woodsist
Cough Coughing 3:22 Menomena -I am the fun blame - filmguerrero
Melody Day 4:11 Caribou - Andorra - Merge
New Language 3:29 The Sounds of Kaleidoscope - From Where you Were - Hackshop
Drive Me Home 3:19 Serena-Maneesh - Honey Milk
Susan's In The Sky 2:25 Bubblegum Lemonade Susan's In The Sky - Matinee
Nothing to be done 2:24 The Legends Up Against The Legends - Lakeshore
Sister In Love 2:43 Envelopes Sister in Love - Brille
My curiosity was peeked by this album. I had no idea what it was when I found the record in a used a bin but thought the combo of the cover art, the odd statement "There is no artiste on this album. The songs are the stars" was intriguing. There is a more in depth description of this concept album on the back where it goes on to explain that this record is filled with covers of classic songs "heard as they have never been heard before." There is no mention of who the group or who the man is behind these songs and so began the mystery.
The record itself, all be it tempting to call it a toss away kitsch item, really has some interesting tracks on it. "Satisfaction" (Stones) is delivered in a super mellow fashion, "Reflections" (Supremes) sounds like a string heavy Bee-Gees tune, and I swear to you that "Sweets for my Sweet" sounds like a Wolf Parade song. Needless to say what I was expecting to be a joke record isn't really a joke, I like it, I really do.
The Internet search began and I quickly learned that the man behind this album is Jonathan King. A man 10 times more complex and fascinating than I could have ever guessed. He is a British singer / songwriter / producer / label head ....that burst into the scene in the mid '60s and has managed to keep his name in the press (in the UK at least) ever since.
He has a long resume in the music world and here is just some of it:
- He has had songs chart in both the US and UK (and yet is not a familiar name to most)
- He founded Decca Records
- He signed Genesis when they were still a high school band
- Formed another label called UK Records where besides releasing artists like 10cc often recorded wildly popular singles under pseudonyms
- He was one of the original backers and producers for the Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Hosted UK TV shows
- Became a music journalist
- He accused the Pet Shop Boys of plagiarizing Cat Stevens (It's a Sin - V- Wild World) and to just because he felt so strongly about it, released a cover of Wild World using an identical string arrangement used by the Pet Shop Boys to prove his point. In an turn of irony not only did the single flop but the PSB took him to court for plagiarizing them and won.
- "In 1989 Castle Communications released The Butterfly That Stamped, a two-CD collection of King's most well-known and entertaining recordings from the previous 24 years, under all of his varying guises. This included many of his more satiric pieces, including his heavy metal version of "Sugar Sugar" credited to Sakkarin and his ska satire "Johnny Reggae," credited to the Piglets"
- Created a message board based around promoting and discussing unknown / unsigned bands
- Became a radio DJ
- A huge fan of Harry Potter, created a tribute CD to the books in 1999
- What would be a major talent without scandal? In 2001 he was accused and charged with sex crimes...molesting young boys (age 14 and 15) some 30 years ago. He was found guilty, given 7 years in prison and asked for appeal which while the trial was in motion, he was paroled from jail in 2005. To this day he claims innocence.
- In 2007 he released a record which features a single many considered defending a very well known UK serial killer Dr. Harold Shipman.
- In 2008 he released a comedy-documentary called "Vile Pervert - The Musical" which features 21 characters all played by the man, the myth, the legend Jonathan King.