Archive for September, 2008

Chairlift, Lenka, Mike McCann, my aching hand….

Let’s start with the hand…raking up some mulch as a start to digging a hole to for a hydrangea, I inadvertently disturbed some wasps that, unbeknownst to me, were nested in a nearby juniper (didn’t know I’m so green-thumby, didja?). They were all over me before I realized it was more than one, but I suppose I was lucky to escape with only four or five stings (and that counts the one I got an hour later, when I took another crack at it, assuming they had settled down….. I was mistaken about that). Anyway, it’s only now becoming a problem, nearly 48 hours later.

Okay, back to work….Steve Jobs has done it again, yet another sweet, simple female vocal barely accompanied with sparse melody, a la Feist and Yael Naim. Now it’s Caroline Polachek of Chairlift with “Bruises” (“I could do handstands for you….”).

Formed in Colorado, now based in the coolest of the boroughs, Brooklyn, Chairlift is a trio including Aaron Pfenning and Patrick Wimberly. Check their website for the food orgy video of “Planet Health” and their MySpace page for “Earwig Town” and “Territory”, from their forthcoming CD “Does You Inspire You”, in stores today, September 30, 2008. But “Bruises” is the track you gotta have, and I found it as a free download HERE.

Here’s one I think I’ve beaten Steve Jobs to, though it seems her music has been featured on Ugly Betty, which I don’t watch. Say hello to Lenka:

I first read of her in the October Vanity Fair, which gave a little shoutout to her acoustic cover of Modest Mouse’s “Gravity Rides Everything”. Her website features the obligatory cutesy video for “The Show”, and her MySpace page serves up more of the same (I especially like “Don’t Let Me Fall”)….admittedly, this is aimed more at my 14 year old daughter’s crowd than mine (and yours), but so is a lot of the stuff I like by cute young females. Harmless in small doses, and tasty too. I did find “The Show” as a free download HERE.

That same Vanity Fair column (Hot Tracks by Lisa Robinson….worth reading every month, IMHO) also cites Marc Broussard, directing Justin T. to “take note” of “the real blue-eyed, blonde, Southern soul singer”. While Marc might certainly be worth a listen (check his MySpace for a taste), I like a less slick practitioner of the blue-eyed soul, that you can catch for free right here in Boston, while enjoying a delicious pizza and well poured Guinness, as he plays the Dogwood Cafe in JP on Fridays: Mike McCann.

Any musician playing the Dogwood has to keep it easy and accessible, virtually guaranteeing set after set of well-worn folk and rock chestnuts, and Mike certainly got that memo, but his covers tend to have that fresh twist that make them more enjoyable than a straight impersonation attempt. His “Wait In Vain” seems to cover Annie Lenox as much as Marley, and his “Get Up, Stand Up” shows more joy than defiance. Check his MySpace page for some samples, including the “Wait In Vain” and really good original titled “Almost Home”, but you’ll have to go to the Dogwood to hear his absolutely awesome version of Huey Lewis and The News’s “Power Of Love” (trust me on that one).

Now, to see if my doctor has yet phoned in that prescription for my hand…….


Taken By Trees…new single

Hey, here’s one I missed, though only by a couple of weeks. My cousin Wayne’s daughter (and therefore my cousin) Amber is a college freshman with a nice little catalogue of performances, mostly just her and her acoustic guitar and sweet voice, nicely YouTubed and collected at for your convenience.

Her cover versions are of the faithful variety, so I’ve been trying to bombard Wayne with examples of those covers that take songs in completely new directions (Mark Ronson’s Amy Winehouse take on The Zuton’s “Valerie” continues to be the best example), which led to a revisit to the MySpace page of Taken By Trees to bookmark “Sweet Child of Mine”. While there, I discovered that Victoria released a new “summer single” on August 22nd (does the summer run longer in Sweden?) called “Sweetness”. It’s there on the MySpace page, along with a really cool remix by label mates Air France, called, oddly enough, “The Sweetness of Air France”. Both cuts were also mentioned on Pitchfork, where they’re available for download, at least as of this writing. Nothing earth-shattering, but if you like Victoria Bergsman as I do, they’re must haves.

Different post… different Boss…

Generally I don’t race to artists who get the “Springsteen-like” tag.   So I was happy to have unwittingly stumbled upon the prolific Jason Anderson and the stream of one of his current albums, The Hopeful and the Unafraid.   The Boss-tag is accurate with this album of working class, on the road, American rockers.  And although originally from New Hampshire (not Jersey), he is building a loyal following for his energetic and frequent shows – evidenced by a request on his site “Please write with ideas and strategies. I will play anywhere!”  For some reason this doesn’t come across as desperation for a gig, just that he loves to play music.  Sound familiar?  It may, but that doesn’t mean it sounds old.

Far from welcoming, the band Jaguar Love aren’t going to win anyone over with music you can ease right into.  On first listen, the shrill vocals will turn most folks away.  It did for me.  Those of you who remember Larry Bangor from the Zulus can use him as a relatively calm reference point.  For some reason I gave them a second listen and now I hear the great songs beyond the vocals.  Highways of God is the single getting play, but it was Bonetrees and a Broken Heart on their MySpace that made me reconsider.  Listen to it once to understand what you’re in for, then try again and really decide what you think.

I don’t know how I feel about this acquired-taste approach.  Shouldn’t it be love at first hear?  But then again, I remember the first time I drank Scotch and that didn’t go down too easy!

For you Walkmen fans, or the uninitiated, here is a great live version of their latest single, In the New Year. The cramped intimacy of Juan’s Basement works perfectly – you get the urgency of live music without it getting lost in a large space and sound system.

posted by Buzz Biscuits