Talk Talk

When you take a listen to today’s music you probably think to yourself “hm, seems like most of the great ones aren’t around anymore”, and you’d be right. There’s a lot of great music out there produced by bands who disapperated long before their time (while those fuckers in Third Eye Blind soldier on). On the one hand, it is sad to have missed the opportunity to see them in the flesh. You blew it! For a lot of 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s acts (depending on how old you are) you could have seen them if you’d have just known about them when. But take heart–this is a great time to look more closely at any pop act of the period as whatever audio and video they produced is easy to find and watch.

I’ve been on a real Talk Talk binge lately. I liked them ever since Allie got me Natural History in the early 90’s, when I was just becoming musically aware. It’s a great compilation, and you don’t have to take my word for it because you can stream it for free on YouTube.

The band had commercially ceased to exist by that point and I didn’t get any more of their stuff for a long time, but over the last few years I’ve gotten most of their albums, and seeing the band develop over time is something else. They started out pretty synth-y and drum machine-y, and if you squint they look a little like fringe members of the New Romantic set. But by the mid-80’s they’d become something else entirely. Songs got longer, more musically varied, more organic. For me, the peak was probably 1986’s The Colour of Spring and, wouldn’t you know it, it is also free to stream on YouTube.

After this the band got more adventuresome and less conventional. There’s beautiful stuff there but it is generally less accessible to me, and it drove the record companies crazy because they couldn’t figure out how to get a single out of it. I like them best right in the middle, at the peak of their career, like a slugging corner outfielder with a standard aging curve. I got Asides Besides, the B-sides and rare tracks double CD (what’s a CD?) set, a few weeks ago, and it has some more music from that period that I’d never previously heard. I think Disc 2 of the set would be my second favorite Talk Talk album if it were an actual album. The piano version of Call In the Night Boy is a lot better than the original, and if you look in the YouTube comments apparently the guy who played the piano on this track has showed up and made a few comments.

For What It’s Worth is like a really good Roxy Music Avalon-period song. You can’t have too much really good Roxy Music if you ask me. Singer Mark Hollis has a distinctive voice that might be expected to produce strong reactions; I really like it, and like Thom Yorke’s, the fact that I generally can’t tell what the lyrics of most Talk Talk songs are is probably a positive.

The whole back half of the set is really stunning. And you can stream that too.

I give all of these albums five Pochaccos and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

NIN, Ghosts I

You might have heard that Trent Reznor pulled a Radiohead and released his new album, Ghosts I, for free. (Actually, it’s even free-er, since you don’t have to pay credit card charges.)

You also might not have heard this… I hadn’t until I read this article about Reznor making $750k through ultra-premium sales of his latest work, which he produced unaffiliated with any record company.

I’m not a huge NIN fan, but I like some of Reznor’s stuff quite a bit, and I looked around and liked a lot of what he seemed to be doing (wrapping his last release in one of those cool alternate reality games, releasing stuff under CC licenses, offering lots of different formats and price points, etc) so I downloaded Ghosts I.

I’m a believer in this giving-away-stuff-for-free model to some degree–heck, I paid five pounds for In Rainbows. But I wouldn’t pay five cents for Ghosts I. It’s mediocre video game music at best.

(out of 5 Pochaccos)

Secret Machines, Ten Silver Drops

secretmachines_tensilverdrops.jpg
Critically Acclaimed.

“These are beautiful songs, as delicate as they are rocking and heavy.” — The Guardian

“The result is a spiritual sibling to such previous great, emotionally raw ruminations on shattered personal lives as Phil Collins’ Face Value and Beck’s Sea Change.” — Entertainment Weekly

“An ass-kicking sophomore effort.” — Urb

“I already have a Bright Eyes album.” — JesusH

Gorillaz: Demon Days

Welcome to jesush.com, where it’s all Dave, all the time.

I’ll often listen to an album based on the strength of the single and find the rest of the album isn’t really close to the single in quality. That’s what I initially thought was happening with Demon Days, with the strong single “Feel Good Inc” not being all that much like anything else on the album.

I still like “Feel Good Inc” a lot, but after having given the entire album a few listens I like the rest of it a lot more too. The presence of Dennis Hopper (who, incidentally, is engagingly insane) in “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Mouth” is pleasantly nonlinear. “Dirty Harry” gets the funk out. “White Lights” sounds like something Falco might have done, were he still alive. “Dare” has a beat and can probably be danced to.

Heck, I like this album so much I’m considering legally acquiring it.

Muse: Origin of Symmetry

I first heard of Muse when 94.9FM started playing “Hysteria”, off Absolution, a year or two ago. It’s an outstanding song that reminded me a lot of Radiohead, who we can all agree is the best band in the world.

I saw Origin of Symmetry at Music Trader last week and picked it up. The album is similar but superior to Absolution. Muse’s recipe remains similar to Radiohead’s; most perceptibly, the singer does Thom Yorke-ish stuff with his voice, though I’d say he’s more operatic (or spastic, if you are negatively inclined). “Bliss” is my favorite track off the album right now; I enjoy how it starts off with 15 seconds of Enya-ish synth nonsense that I’d say Pop would voluntarily listen to before the guitarist starts rocking out and it turns into a song that I would voluntarily listen to. “Plug In Baby”, “New Born”, and “Screenager” are also excellent.

If you like Radiohead at all, I’d say the only way you wouldn’t like Muse is if you thought they were too similar, and that offended your sensibilities in some way.

(I’ve probably oversold the Radiohead similarities here. Once you get past the singers, the music isn’t all that similar. But that’s not what my initial perception was.)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Mars Volta

By now you’ve probably heard of The Mars Volta. They’ve been mentioned several times around here, if nothing else. The Widow was in fairly heavy rotation on alternative stations from late 2004 to this spring. The song apparently has a video that’s been played on MTV, though since these idiots left the channel I’ve probably watched about a half-hour of their programming, so I haven’t seen it. Frances the Mute, their last album, hit #4 on the Billboard sales chart in its debut week.

All that’s easy stuff to find. “As a Mars Volta neophyte”, you might be saying, “what do I need to know about the band that I can’t just google for?” As always, Uncle Dave is here to help.
Continue reading “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Mars Volta”

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have a Winner!

For my inaugural post I thought I’d make a big splash by hijacking the esteemed good name of JesusH to promote a cause neither officially endorsed by the rest of my colleagues here nor authorized by said colleagues. And, while I confess that I have not researched whether they have registered JesusH with the USPTO, I am confident that, if they have, they will certainly be too lazy to enforce the legitimate use of it.

the shiny, coveted JHMABNA
The shiny, coveted JHMABNA

So, without further ado, I am pleased to announce this year’s JesusH Music Award for Best New Artist: Thao Nguyen (not to be confused with the unfortunate but enterprising Thao Nguyen of 101 Ways to Humiliate Public Wankers fame)!

Thao Nguyen (the former, not the latter) released her debut album Like the Linen this summer to critical acclaim. And what a debut! Like the Linen includes the most satisfying synthesis of guitar work and melody I’ve heard in ages. An excellent guitarist herself, Nguyen chose accompanists who serve to lightly embroider her songs with just enough detail to highlight her playing and singing while exercising enough restraint to keep from overwhelming the hearts of the songs. At times poignant but never saccharine, Nguyen’s writing is wholly evocative without being unnecessarily explicit. I’d recommend particular tracks but there is nary a one to which I am indifferent. You’re just gonna have to listen to each and every one.

Included in my copy of the album was a note from Nguyen herself, which just goes to show that she’s a Grade-A Class Act too. Not that any of the runners-up for the JHMABNA lost points for failing to include personal correspondence–no, not at all. But ya gotta admit, it’s a nice touch.

friendly note
friendly note

One last observation (which is, perhaps, irrelevant to the quality of her music but I’m sure is of interest to the JesusH readership): she is totally, totally fine.

brilliant thao
Thao Nguyen: badass, classy
singer/songwriter/musician,
and easy on the eyes to boot!

So go check her out (mp3 downloads available), buy her album, and eagerly await the day when she tours the West Coast.

Music I’m Currently Enjoying

Part 1 of an ongoing series.

These are albums and artists that I think are underheard and underappreciated. They are 4 or 5 Pochacco albums and I wanted to share them with you. The four below are excellent debut albums. You can thank me by helping me get a free ipod nano. And now, without further ado…

Joanna Newsom
The Milk-Eyed Mender, 2004

That voice. It’s a voice that initially makes your ears bleed. A voice that resembles the last, tortured cries of a donkey being put out of its misery. But if you can keep the cd playing long enough for your ears to adjust, you’ll find an album full of beautiful arrangements accompanied by intelligent lyrics and poignant imagery. It’s the juxtaposition of the gentle, serene harp against Newsom’s undeniably jarring voice that wins me over. Open your mind, bend your ears, and challenge yourself with a listen.

At least check out: “Bridges and Balloons”, “Sprout and Bean”, “The Book of Right On”

Ray LaMontagne
Trouble, 2004

If Tracy Chapman and Van Morrison hooked up and made a baby, Ray LaMontagne would be it. His debut album is nothing short of perfection and is sure to become a modern classic. It’s bluesy, it’s soulful, and LaMontagne’s gravelly, husky voice hits all the right notes. From the harmonicas to the acoustic instruments, this is just one superbly produced album. His talent is real and his music has the ability to get underneath your skin and make you wilt with emotion. Bravo.

There are no duds on here but especially check out: “Trouble”, “Shelter”, “Hold You In My Arms”, “How Come”, “Jolene”

Rachael Yamagata
Happenstance, 2004

Happenstance is heavy and filled with angst-ridden ruminations on love. Yamagata’s sultry voice combine with jazzy piano pop arrangements to yield songs of raw power albeit peppered with clichéd lyrics.

At least check out: “Be, Be Your Love”, “Letter Read”, “Worn Me Down”, “1963”, “Under My Skin”, “I Want You”

Tristan Prettyman
Twentythree, 2005

This San Diego native and former competitive surfer turned rocker is known as the female Jack Johnson. Twentythree has an abundance of breezy, catchy, simple music that you can’t help but sing along to.

At least check out: “Love, Love, Love”, “The Story”, “Electric”, “Shy That Way” (duet with beau, Jason Mraz), “Simple As It Should Be”

Jenny, You’re Completely Alive.

I spent most of my evening trying to figure out what to say to the guy in the glasses and sportcoat.

We were watching Rilo Kiley play the Wiltern, the last date of their American tour and I was enjoying myself. He looked a little out of place, arms folded across his chest, squinting through his spectacles. While most of the hall was rocking along with the quintet onstage, he was observing, watching carefully.

They were on fire– getting their singles out of the way quick into the show. I figured they’d save “Portions for Foxes” until the end, but they burned through it three songs into the night. And it only got better from there.

From the live recordings I’ve heard, Jenny Lewis has a hit-or-miss voice, sounding like an angel on good nights, a scratchy yowler on the off-ones. This was definitely a good one, as she paced back and forth, her white Stratocaster hanging low enough to cover the hem of her tiny little yellow dress. Better than I’d ever heard her, stronger even than on the albums, she powered her way through the aggressive set with confidence.

“Man, I thought that was just going to be a bunch of folk singers sitting around on stools,” Rebecca told me later. “I guess I was wrong.”

Blake Sennett, who looked rather similar to Alex P. Keaton in his sweater vest, ripped licks into the air out of his thinline Telecaster, switching from smooth little trills on “It’s a Hit” to the spine-tingling stabs that make “I Never” so memorable. While Jenny fronts more of the songs, it’s his guitar work that holds those tunes together and every time his fingers walked down the fretboard, my hair stood up on end.

About halfway through, the guy sitting next to me asked if I was a fan. Sure, I told him, I like ’em a lot and how about yourself?

“Yeah, they’re pretty good,” he said, hanging on the words a long time before speaking again. “The singer’s my goddaughter.”

Before he’d said that, I’d been trying to figure out how to write about the show, which started blowing me away about ten seconds after it began. I was leaning toward making a No Doubt analogy, since both bands have attractive, daringly dressed female singers who used to date another player in the group, edgy pop sensibilities and a fondness for horns and occasional slide guitar. That would seem like a flattering comparison, given No Doubt’s gargantuan success, but it’s an unfair prism.

Rilo Kiley is much better than No Doubt.

The quintet pushes more boundaries, explores more territory. Sunday’s show ranged from joyous acoustic numbers to dark electric jams. The intro to “The Execution of All Things” shook things deep inside my body and “Arms Outstretched” felt like a road trip with a wide open highway and floored accelerator. They managed to play almost every song that resonates on their three albums, closing the show by transforming “Does He Love You” from a kinda annoying chamber music piece into an emotional rocker.

All the while I wondered when the show would flame out and lose momentum. In a way, I was looking forward to it, because it would quiet down enough for me to talk to the guy and tell him what I thought of his goddaughter’s music. But it never did– they threw out their conventional way of playing songs and reinvented just about everything they played into something different and new.

After bringing the house down with the regular show, I had no idea where they could take things to top it. A guy asked me once “how do you do better than a grand slam?” and I wondered the same thing. After blowing me away with “Pictures of Success” and a scat/trumpet jam-fueled “Ripchord” that culminated with Sennett dancing around, strumming his acoustic with energetic frenzy and screaming “look at me, ma!” I couldn’t figure out how they’d better the perfection they’d improved on.

I’ve seen a lot of good shows in my life, but this was something else. When they brought Debbie Gibson onstage to sing an earnest, rocked-up version of “Lost in Your Eyes,” I was strangely charmed. When she stuck around, joined by the opening acts, to blow the roof off the place for a completely reverential cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” turned into a ukelele jam, it hurt me because it was just so amazingly good.

By the time he got up to go, I’d figured out what to say to the gentleman. He took off his glasses, straightened his sportcoat and began to stand. I laid a hand on his arm and he turned to me.

“If you should happen to run into those guys later on,” I told him. “tell them this was the best show I’ve ever seen, by any band, any time, any place.”

He broke into this huge, beaming grin, shook my hand and left.

The Simple Genius of Jack Johnson


“It sure seems the same yet with a different name” – Never Know (Track 2)

The quote above adequately sums up my impression of Jack Johnson’s newest album, In Between Dreams. It’s more of his simple chords, sensitively poetic lyrics, and soothing voice. Which isn’t a bad thing if you enjoyed Brushfire Fairytales and On and On. After a couple of listens (the album only clocks in at 41 mins,) I find it surpasses On and On and parallels Brushfire Fairytales in catchy hooks, toe-tapping rhythms, and general awesomeness. It speaks volumes of Jack Johnson that his minimalistic (it’s just him and an acoustic guitar) albums can hold your attention and draw you into his world without the gimmicks of more poppish acoustic rock. From start to finish, the album makes me want to pick up the guitar, drive to a beach, and just chill.

Gah, picking a favorite song on this album is like having to pick your favorite child–you just can’t because you love ’em all. But I suppose if I had to choose one, it would have to be “Breakdown.” I would also suggest you listen to “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing,” “Good People,” “Better Together,” “Never Know,” “Staple Together,” and “Crying Shame.” He also sings in French (tres sexy) on the uber short ballad “Belle.” Just get the album already. It will change your world.

If you’re still skeptic and wary of purchasing an album without listening to it first, http://www.netscape.com/music is offering a “Full album listening party” for it, for a limited time. Also, here’s a link to the “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” video. Enjoy!

(out of a possible 5)

Aberfeldy

I am head over heels in love with a new band and I felt the urge to share. Aberfeldy is a five member boy-girl band from Scotland whose sound has been compared to the likes of Belle and Sebastian, who happen to be one of my favorite bands. While both bands hail from Scotland and their music tends to fall into the quirky, alt-folksy pop category, Aberfeldy distinguishes themselves as more than just a copycat band. Released in August of 2004, Young Forever is their debut CD and it’s awesome. It’s filled with happy, bouncy music and smooth melancholic melodies. It reminds me of songs that were written back in the 60s: simple lyrics, infectious hooks, pure sounding, and just harmoniously arranged. Although I’m constantly listening to the complete album (all 38 mins worth) straight through on repeat, I do have a few favorites. Check out “A Friend Like You,” “Love is an Arrow,” “Summer’s Gone,” “Vegetarian Restaurant,” and “Heliopolis by Night.” I can’t adequately put into words what listening to this album makes me feel. Wherever I am, whatever mood I’m in, whenever I hear one of their songs, my mood is instantly lifted and I suddenly discover that I’m bopping around the place like a fool.

Check out some audio samples on Amazon or on their website. Oh, and I forgot to mention that they use a glockenspiel in their songs, which is just crazier than a snake’s armpit, but it works and sounds absolutely sublime!

The Dan Band

Vivan and I had some out of town visitors on Friday, so we took them to see an LA attraction we’d been hearing about for a while now. The Dan Band, a Friday night staple at the Avalon in Hollywood whose covers have made it onto soundtracks for Old School and Starsky and Hutch, are the guys behind this work of musical genius. Their set list includes songs from such luminaries as Janis Ian and TLC.
Continue reading “The Dan Band”

Christ, Novoselic

Kris(t) Novoselic, former Nirvana bassist, is quitting the music business.

What next? As far as the music industry goes, I quit. I can’t deal. I can’t read the magazines, listen to the radio or watch music television without feeling like I’ve just come in from outer space. I just don’t get it and I probably never did. My lot in life is that every band I’ve ever been in just falls apart. That hurts but I’ve got a thick hide from years of conditioning.

It’ll be a shame to see Novoselic go, because now there’s one less guy in the music business who is worse than Jeff–or Brent, or even myself–at playing their instrument of choice.
Continue reading “Christ, Novoselic”

Jack Johnson: On And On

Phet got the new Jack Johnson album a couple of days ago, and I’ve been listening to it a lot. It was immediately obvious from the first couple of songs that this album is far more muted and mellow than Brushfire Fairytales was (we kept saying that the album name stems from the fact that the album sometimes seems to go on and on. Ha ha). There don’t seem to be a lot of radio friendly hits on this album, and nothing anywhere close to the poppyness of Flake or Bubble Toes. That said, I like it a lot.
Continue reading “Jack Johnson: On And On”

“Alt-To-Music” Pioneer Wesley Willis Dead

Wesley Willis, the self-described “obese schizophrenic” man who was a pioneer of the “alt-to-music” movement, was fatally beaten down by some jerk-ass kids in Hartford, Connecticut, yesterday.

Willis, whose gibberish lyrics and Casio electric keyboard stylings provided adventurous listeners an alternative to listening to music, was 39.


In an undated file photo, Willis mugs for the camera.

Spoon: Girls Can Tell

I bought my last unowned Spoon album (and the one I always wanted to get in the first place), Girls Can Tell, a couple of weeks ago. It’s the one with “Lines In The Suit” on it. It’s really, really good. It has about 7 songs on it that are just great.

Then I went back and started listening to Kill The Moonlight and A Series of Sneaks, and lo and behold, they are far better than I gave them credit for on first listen (I’ve always really liked about two songs on each of their albums and dismissed the rest).

So there you have it: I like Spoon now even more than I used to. They are officially one of the best bands ever, and if you don’t agree, then you are dumb.

Bic Runga: Beautiful Collision

I got Phet the new Bic Runga CD for Christmas and then proceeded to steal it and slobber over it, in a manner much resembling that of some sort of sicko. Which — seriously — I’m not.

By the way, check out Runga’s website — she’s kind of hot in an exotic wood nymph sort of way. She’s from New Zealand: rrrreeewwwrrr…
Continue reading “Bic Runga: Beautiful Collision”

Spoon

The Onion AV Club’s Best Albums of 2002 lists are out, and Spoon is all over it. Jeff’s been pimping Spoon for the last six months or so like he’s getting ten percent, but this is the first time I’ve heard of them anywhere else.

(As far as the AV Club’s tastes go, they like Hong Kong action flicks entirely too much, but the music that they like that I’ve heard I usually like too.)

So way to go, Pease Jay, or something. You’re on the cutting edge, and I’m sure Mr. Peanut is proud of you.

Dave Matthews Band: Busted Stuff

Before you immediately dismiss me as another drooling fanboy, let’s get one thing out of the way, straight up: Dave Matthews Band’s last two albums sucked. Before These Crowded Streets marked the final limp scraping from DMB’s barrel of let’s-happy-dance anthems for collegiate eco-nerds, and Everyday represents Dave Matthews’s brief descent into madness after the well ran dry.

That said, I was fully prepared for Busted Stuff to completely suck (and wasn’t at all reassured by the hideous, psychotic cover art). However, the final verdict is that the album may represent the first uneasy steps towards good ol’ Dave’s redemption.
Continue reading “Dave Matthews Band: Busted Stuff”

Eminem: The Eminem Show

Holy Christ, do I like Eminem. I’m not excited by 99.9% of new music now (I couldn’t even name a single song by Korn, Creed, Limp Bizikut, er… ‘N Sync, HUD-74, Days of The New, and uh, Jordan Knight…), but I’ll be damned if I don’t run out like a screaming schoolgirl when Eminem comes out with a new joint (that’s what the kids are calling LP’s now).
Continue reading “Eminem: The Eminem Show”

Spoon

I’ve been listening to this song (by some band called Spoon) pretty much constantly for the past two months. It is on a comp I ripped from KSDT, only there it is titled Lines in the Sult.

Its a lot like Fastball, only awesome.

These aren’t Nate MP3s – they’re on a public server.

The best song in the world:

Lines in the Suit

This song sounds pretty swell too:

Me and the Bean