The King is 75

January 8, 2010

Today would be the 75th birthday of Elvis Aaron Presley.  There have been plenty of things said about “the King of Rock and Roll”, but his stage presence and showmanship are pretty undeniable.  When I was a kid, my Dad kept a steady rotation of Kenny Rogers, the Beach Boys, and of course Elvis pumping through the 8-track player in his ’77 Cadillac (no lie).  As I’m writing this, I’m visiting my family at their home in Louisiana.  As I walked in the front door, I was greeted by Elvis performing this southern anthem during his 1970 Vegas performance in the documentary “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is”.  The song, Polk Salad Annie, written by Tony Joe White, was set less than 30 miles from where I am right now.  My Dad, a die-hard Elvis fan, had never seen Elvis perform this song until now.

If you read this tonight, head over to TCM as they’re having an Elvis marathon.


Album Review: the Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

September 24, 2009

I’ve always told people that I wanted to start a band that mixed Bluegrass and Punk Rock.  Most people looked at me like I was crazy, but now one band has made sense out of the idea.

For those that haven’t heard the Avett Brothers, they combine bluegrass and country instrumentation with a punk-ethos to form their own style of music.  They have a simple live setup, consisting of four band members rotating through acoustic guitar, banjo, piano, a hodgepodge of drums, violin, and cello.  Overall, the music lands somewhere in between the Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, and early Ryan Adams.

Now, I’m not usually the type of person to buy in to hype.  I’ve even been known to drop a band once they “make it big”.  With the Avett Brothers, it’s a little bit different for me.  I only recently discovered them after an article in Paste magazine caught my attention.

The band’s story of small town roots, insanely devoted work ethic (and subsequently insanely devoted fans), and an indifference to major label success really hit home with me.  But then again, isn’t that every good band’s story?

So after a month or so, I stumbled across the single “I and Love and You and was immediately hooked.  I went out and got their 2007 release, Emotionalism and I’ve honestly not been able to keep the Avett’s out of my rotation since.  The songs are extremely well crafted, in terms of melody, lyrics, and musicianship… which is a deadly combination.  Mainly dealing with relationships, heartbreak, and “the road”, nearly every song on Emotionalism has the kind of lyrics you immediately relate to and a hook that you wake up singing.

But that was Emotionalism, and now comes their major label debut, I and Love and You.

Working with producer Rick Rubin, the Avett Brothers latched onto the emotional side of their hybrid bluegrass/ punk style and added a TON of instrumentation.  Relying heavily on the piano, songs like “Kick Drum Heart” are more indie-pop than country or bluegrass.  Still, other songs like “Ten Thousand Words” are hook-laden back road anthems.  The best track on the record (in my opinion), is the ballad “Laundry Room”, reminiscent of Wiskeytown’s Pneumonia, but somehow morphs into a hoedown.  Another part of the music that Rubin was able to bring out is the use of harmonies between brothers Seth and Scott Avett, as evident on the title track and first single.

So, long story short, I and Love and You is extremely addicting record, and probably won’t leave my playlist for a while.  I also broke down and bought an $85 single day pass to the Austin City Limits Festival next Friday just to see their set.

The album comes out next Tuesday, but you can stream it now at NPR:

Rocking the Fantasy Football World

September 9, 2009

Over there years, there has been a strange  bond between the NFL and music that seems to be growing .  Of course, there is always the Super Bowl halftime show… some being more controversial than others.  It makes sense when you consider that both are forms of entertainment, but the spread of Fantasy Football is a whole different ball game, so to speak.

Apparently, ESPN is mixing the world of Rock Music and Fantasy Football by putting together a league consisting several music legends, as well as a few sports writers. Here’s a list of participating “Rock Stars” and their team names:

Aroma of Tacoma – Jerry Cantrel (Alice in Chains)
M.I Evil? Yes I Am – Mike Inez (also of Alice in Chains)
McKagan D – Duff McKagan (Guns ‘N Roses, Velvet Revolver)
Mean Machine – Scott Ian (Anthrax)
The Brickwall – Vinnie Paul (Pantera)
Team 9 – Kenny Arnoff (Elton John, Smashing Pumpkins, the Rolling Stones)
KWS Domination – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Doom Crew Inc. – Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society)

Of course, it’s all “for charity”, although it sounds like they’re has been a fair amount of smack talking so far.  Each participant is donating an item to a charity that the winner of the league will chose.  If you’re a Fantasy Football dork like me, and think this is hilarious, you can go check out the league page and keep up with their season:

A Few Words on Les Paul

August 25, 2009

If it’s true that the most important thing a man leaves behind is his name, then Les Paul left behind a legacy that will be around for a very long time.

August 13th, 2009 marked the end of one of the most inspiring lives in the history of American music.  Les Paul, father of the modern electric guitar and inventor of much of the equipment and methods of modern recording, passed away at the age of 94.  He died of complications from pneumonia, but up until his final weeks, still mantained a weekly gig near his home in White Plains, NY.

Born Lester William Polsfuss, on June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Les was already a semi-professional guitar player at the age of 13.  He played and toured with music legends like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby.  In the early 1940’s, Les built his first prototype solid-body electric guitar, which he called “the log”.  Gibson Guitars first declined his design, but came back to Paul after some refinement and after the competition, Leo Fender, released the first mass produced solid-body electric guitar, the Fender Broadcaster.

In 1948, Paul began experimenting with recording techniques.  Using two disc machines, he created the first multi-tracked recording, paving the way for modern studios.   The same year, however, Les Paul nearly lost one of his most important assests.  After suffering a near-fatal car crash, Paul nearly lots his right arm.  Accoring to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Paul “shattered his right arm and elbow, and he also broke his back, ribs, nose and collarbone.”  Rumor has it that the doctor wanted to amputate his arm, but Les told him to do his best to set in a position that he could still play guitar and leave it.  After a year and a half of recovery, he was able to play again.

In 1952, in the midst of his comeback, he  created the first 8-track tape recorder, the Gibson Les Paul Standard, and the Gibson Les Paul gold-top.  Pretty good year, I would have to say.  Of all his inventions, Paul had this to say in a New York Times interview: ““Honestly, I never strove to be an Edison.   The only reason I invented these things was because I didn’t have them and neither did anyone else. I had no choice, really.”

In 1978, Les Paul was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 1988, the Rock  and Roll Hall of Fame.  Toward the end of his life, Paul suffered arthritis and several other health complications, including a quintuple-bypass heart operation.  Through all of this, Les Paul continued creating music and new inventions.

Weezer + Snuggie = Wuggie…

June 3, 2009

Rivers in a Snuggie

If you’re like me, it’s been a gradual downward spiral for Weezer since Pinkerton.  Not to say they’re horrible, but the music has just been consistently a little worse, one record at a time.

The thought that something has been a little “off” in Weezer land was confirmed for me minutes ago when I read a headline stating: “Weezer to Release own Snuggie Blanket”. Calling it “the Wuggie“, frontman Rivers Cuomo explains it as “exactly like a Snuggie, except it says Weezer on it.”  Next steps for Rivers and the gang??  I’d say:
a.) release a concept album with members of the Polyphonic Spree
b.) jump straight to starting their own “religion” in a compound in central Texas.

Dont drink the Koolaid

For Cheap or For Free [music downloads]

March 20, 2009

I’m completely addicted to deal sites right now, like Dealnews and Dealhack, so I figured I would give you guys a heads up on some cheap (or free) mp3’s that you might enjoy.

The first is a 10 song SXSW sampler from NPR, featuring the likes of Blitzen Trapper, The Decemberists and the Heartless Bastards amongst others.

Second, is a’s $5 Friday, where you can get M Ward’s latest album, Hold Time as an mp3 download for just 5 bucks.  Amazon also has free mp3’s for download.  Here are some of the highlights:
Beirut – My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille
Black Lips – Short Fuse 
Neko Case – People Got a Lotta Nerve

And finally, record label 4ad has a sampler of their own that features artists such as Deerhunter, Tv on the Radio, the Breeders and St. Vincent.


Normalnorman’s Best of 2008

December 31, 2008

Ok, here it is, my top 10 of ’08.  I have to confess, I think music this year has been more geared toward individual singles than full length albums.  There’s been a handfull of absolutely amazing singles that were put out in ’08, some of which are included in my top 10 albums (TV On the Radio – DLZ, MGMT – Kids, Santogold – Lights Out for example).  

Anyway, there were definitely some great records, and others that almost made my list but I had to leave out… I mean, I only get 10 here.  So enjoy.

  1. TV on the Radio – Dear Science, – Hands down my favorite of the year, this record has not left the top spot in my music rotation.  I was an instant fan of TVOTR after first hearing their first big single, Wolf Like Me from their 2006 album Return From Cookie Mountain, and was further drawn when I went back and listened to the songs Staring at the Sun and New Health Rock.  What sucked me in was the contrast of melody + hooks on top of artsy/dance beats and white noise… the only problem, in my opinion, was not enough hooks to fill the white noise.  On Dear Science, TVOTR replaced the overused with fantastic instrumentation and hooks for days.  Every song can stand on it’s own as a single, yet the album definitely has a flow and cohesiveness between songs.  The second-to-last track, DLZ might be my pick for single of the year.  Brilliant fucking record… and a kickass live show as well.
  2. Minus the Bear – They Make Beer Commercials Like This – Ok, this one might not count… it’s an EP… and it’s also a re-issue of an EP with an extra song, bringing to total to 7 tracks.  I just had to put it here because, in my opinion, it’s THAT good.  It’s great to see a band use an EP the right way and not overdo it.  These songs are simple as far as structure goes, but there are some great hooks and the musicianship (especially David Knudson’s guitar playing) is damn good.  With song titles like I’m Not Totally Down With Rob’s Alien and Houston, We Have Uh-Oh, Minus the Bear keep the tone light, but fluctuate the mood drastically throughout.  I have to say, this is the only EP I’ve ever listened to 3 times in a row before noticing it was on repeat. (NOTE: The video below is audio from the original album, so the audio is REALLY rough)
  3. Radiohead – In Rainbows – What can I say?  Great record and an amazing new concept for distributing music.  I’m not a big Radiohead fan by any means, but ReckonerAll I Need, and Jigsaw Falling Into Place are great songs.
  4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago – Really fucking good song writing, AMAZING hooks, and a very original voice that is extremely expressive and emotional, but not over the top.  The first time I heard Skinny Love, I was pretty shocked how good of a song it was, and had it stuck in my head for two days straight.  After hearing the entire album, I am shocked at how good it is as a whole… minus a couple of iffy tracks, every song is a single.
  5. Colour Revolt – Plunder, Beg and Curse – I absolutely loved their self titled EP from 2006.  The songs Mattresses Under Water and A New Family are pretty haunting songs.  So I expected their first full length to be an extension of the self titled.  It wasn’t even close, but in a VERY VERY good way.  Not a single song from the EP made it on Plunder, Beg, and Curse.  Instead, it’s a very raw record that has a Southern-Rock backbone mixed with THICK layered guitars, big bass lines, and uniquely dynamic vocals with LOTS of harmonies that support the complicated themes on the record. 

  6. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular – Undeniably catchy songs, almost all singles on this album.  Kids and Time to Pretend are about as anthemic as it gets.

  7. Santogold – Santogold – A lot like the MGMT record… nothing but singles.  I think I’ve heard at least half of these songs on commercials already.

  8. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes – I think just about everyone agrees that the debut from Fleet Foxes should be somewhere in the top 10. It is an undeniably great record, but I put it down at number 8 for one reason: it gets a little repetitive.  I kind of have to be in a certain mood to listen to it, which isn’t a horrible thing. 

  9. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges – The exact opposite problem of the Fleet Foxes album, Evil Urges might be a little too dynamic.  It’s a great record, no doubt, with songs ranging from traditional MMJ rock-jam style, to Beegee’s style dance tunes , to the Prince style vocals on the title track… but it lacks a little bit of cohesiveness between songs.  Still an amazing record. 

  10. White Denim – Exposion – I just recently started listening to this album about a month ago and haven’t been able to put it down.  Really raw sound at times, very subtle instrumentation on some tracks as well.  It’s crazy to think the record is this good and it’s their first full length.  The only reason I put it at 10 is that I just started listening to it.