Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Listen to A SUMMER SONG by Chad & Jeremy.
Well, I admit the title of this one doesn't seem to qualify it as an autumn song! However, the narrator is singing it to his girl at the end of summer. And of course: autumn leaves must fall.

This song will always hold a place in my heart because of its appearance on the soundtrack for the movie Rushmore. The songs in that movie really go above and beyond the call of duty. (Given the music I have selected twice now, it appears I truly am stuck back in 1999! Well, at least it was a good year....)

Photo: Easternmost point of the U.S., West Quoddy, ME


Monday, September 29, 2008


Listen to DIAMOND DAY by Vashti Bunyan.

Well, this is Laura again and I'm back for a whole week. To honor the first full week of fall and the first few days of October, I'd like to post some autumnal songs.

The first one is by British folk or psychedelic-folk or hippie-folk or whatever you want to call her singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan. Vashti has a very cool story. She released some singles and made an album back in 1970 but never found an audience and retired from the music industry soon after. She lived a quiet life in the UK raising her kids for 30 years. Apparently her kids had no idea that she had once been a singer.

However.....meanwhile, and without her realizing it, her album was branded a "lost classic" by folk fans and she has since experienced a renaissance.

Another cool fact is that she is supposedly a descendant of John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim's Progress.

So enjoy-- and I hope everyone has a diamond day today.

Photo: Harvest.


Friday, September 26, 2008


Listen to MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT by Johnny Smith with Stan Getz.

John back again. When the leaves are green, it’s summer to me. Whereas in Texas, that’s an easy mnemonic, in NYC cognitive dissonance sets in around October and I’m wondering why my one suit (badly pressed and worn) isn’t enough. The answer is that I’ve missed the change of the seasons once again. And so, even though the leaves are still green, I’m making a push to turn my mind to Autumn, and 1952’s “Moonlight In Vermont” is today’s effort. It simply sounds like Fall, with Johnny Smith’s calm, spare guitar and Stan Getz’s tiptoe saxophone blending in resonant harmony, like some lost cut from the Sun Sessions, minus an echoing Elvis. Swoony and romantic - just the thing for cool nights and cloudy days.

This being a blog post, I’d be remiss not to point out that some have called the Moonlight In Vermont album “the greatest forgotten jazz album of its time”. Or that Johnny Smith penned the Ventures’ hit “Walk Don’t Run” (the Ventures heard a Chet Atkins cover and sped it up) and used the money to leave NYC to open a music store in Colorado. Or that Smith got Getz a job alongside him with the NBC Orchestra, which Getz took to fund his heroin habit. Just fyi.

It’s Friday, it’s Fall, it’s jazz. Enjoy!

Photo: leaves.


Thursday, September 25, 2008


Listen to NIGHT LIFE by Willie Nelson.

On the "Night Life" album, Ray Price does one of those spoken word lead-ins to the first track, about how they recorded the album, how the fans have been great on tour, and how they're looking forward to getting to a town near you soon. He also mentions (though not by name) the writer of this great new single that people have really connected with. The song was Night Life, and the writer was Willie Nelson. Just as it was a big break for Price, it was a huge break for Nelson, who went on to write a ton of hits and have his own legendary recording career.

I picked up a super-cheap compilation in Toronto a few years ago that had this recording of Willie doing Night Life himself. I've never been able to pin down exactly when this version was done, or what it was for, but it's fantastic. The cheap transfer to CD really adds a AM-radio-at-two-in-the-morning feel to it.

Photo: Estes Park rodeo (4).


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Listen to ARE YOU SURE by Ray Price.

Back when I was looking for Ray Price's Just A Closer Walk With Thee, I came across this album "Night Life" in Hollywood and I made Amy listen to it about five times while we drove around L.A.

Whoever wrote the liner notes compared it to Sam Cooke's "Night Beat," and that's very fair. It's a stylistic triumph. I kinda always thought of Ray Price as a little too smooth and countrypolitan for my tastes, but this album is very, very tough. The title track, of course, was his first big hit, but the rest of the songs are equally well done, and all of them stay close to the same concept.

I wavered on which song to pick--Are You Sure isn't a song about drinking, per se--but it's too interesting not to share. The narrator, a barfly, has gotten involved with a young woman, who has been pulled into his orbit of lonely, alcoholic, broken down types. He paternalistically fears that he has brought her into a world where she doesn't belong. Alternatively, he worries that she belongs all too well. There is tenderness, and disgust underneath.

Photo: Estes Park rodeo (3).


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Listen to JUST ONE MORE by George Jones.

Probably country music's greatest singer (and what a title that is to have, even if it is contested), George Jones could sing the phonebook and I'd download it. With 84-zillion albums, he probably has at some point.

For whatever reason, Just One More is just about my favorite George Jones song.

On the page (screen?), a line like "One drink / just one more /and then another" doesn't sound particularly superlative, but to me George makes it sound like the cleverest and saddest thing I've ever heard.

Photo: Estes Park rodeo (2).


Monday, September 22, 2008


Listen to I HAD TO GET DRUNK LAST NIGHT by Gary Stewart.

How about another week of depressing songs? Yippee!

The country music drinking song is a time-honored tradition, and one that is usually approached with a certain ironic stance. Like yuppies attending a rodeo is more "fun" than fun, drinking songs aren't quite meant to be taken at face value. Take for example, these Gary Stewart song titles:

Drinkin' Thing
I Had To Get Drunk Last Night
Broken Hearted People (Take Me to a Barroom)
Drinking Again
She Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)

Pretty "depressing," right? Like, LOL. The song titles practically invite you to laugh along with the narrator while he hams up his buffoonish escapades.

The deeper irony here is that Gary Stewart really was a drunken wreck. Have a listen to I Had To Get Drunk Last Night. The intensity of his vocal performance might remind you of somebody like Will Farrell, who whatever you might say about him always gives total commitment to his characters, but is safe to laugh with because you know he's really kidding.

The fascination for me (and for many music fans) is that you don't necessarily know with Stewart, whether he was winking or whether he really did have to get drunk last night, and he's completely destroyed & disappointed by his life the next day. That makes a song like this so much more interesting or even disturbing.

Photo: Estes Park rodeo (1).


Friday, September 19, 2008


Listen to PLEASE TELL MY BROTHER by Golden Smog.

Ok, Laura here. I am honored to be invited to be a guest blogger! So, all of this Elliott Smith sure is depressing. Don't get me wrong, I like it. But it is really taking me back to 1999 and all of the similar music that was being played by me and around me every waking hour (literally!). It especially reminds me of Wilco's underrated, in my opinion, Summerteeth, one of the two albums I had in my car that fall when I was commuting 45 minutes to work. So Summerteeth reminds me of Jeff Tweedy's little side project Golden Smog - which I believe is what rock dorks call a "Supergroup". So, here is a very sweet little song by Tweedy circa 1999: pensive, but not as morbidly depressing as Elliott Smith. I think the lyrics are especially enjoyable.

Photo: Hill country.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thanks! Give money! Thanks!

Our sincere gratitude to those of you who have given to our Bike MS fundraising efforts. It's for a mighty good cause.

Still, we have two more riders (here) and (here) who need a few more bucks to reach their fundraising goal by tomorrow. If you're at all inclined to help out, now is the time to do so.

Thanks again!



Listen to FIGURE 8 by Elliott Smith.

The down-to-earth, anything but corporate Smith seems out of place on a label like Dreamworks. His musical talents dictate otherwise though. Recording a portion of Figure 8 at the famed Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles recorded), Smith tries to act the part of a critically acclaimed musician who believes his own hype. But, he quickly admits that he's just a guy who has seen his wildest dreams come true.

"I didn't really care that I was recording at Abbey Road Studios," Smith says with ease. "No... It was kind of a kick recording there. Just walking in the place was amazing. But when I was recording I was thinking of the songs and not that the Beatles were there. I never really thought about it all that much. There really wasn't any evidence that they were ever there."

He thinks about it for a few seconds and then casually offers, "I made up a song on the same piano [The Beatles] used on "Penny Lane". It was fun. It was a big deal to me, but I like to play it down."

Photo: All is forgiven (8).


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Listen to ABUSED (DEMO VERSION) by Elliott Smith.
Listen to ABUSED (INSTRUMENTAL) by Elliott Smith.

Interview one.

I've always thought your lyrics were, not necessarily cryptic, but enigmatic. You build your own pictures out of the fragments... There are more direct, more emotionally clear moments on [Figure 8] than on any of its predecessors... Are you aware of that? I'm thinking of songs like 'Everything Reminds Me Of You'.

Yeah, there's a few songs that are pretty direct. If the whole record was like that it would really get on my nerves, and if the whole record was really impressionistic, fragmentary, dream-like songs that wouldn't be so great either. I like to have as many different songs as possible, and as many different emotions in the same song as possible. I don't really try to do anything, but maybe that is my goal.

Interview two.

Figure 8 seems to pull away from the direct autobiographical approach Smith has taken in the past. Where Either/Or [his last indie release] was deeply personal, Figure 8 seems universal in subject matter and written specifically for a wider audience. Curious if this was a way to dodge the press' bullets, I ask Smith if he went into writing this album to finally shake the assumption that all his songs are autobiographical?

"I probably did," Smith says with disappointment, as if this was crossing his mind for the first time. "I could feel myself doing it and didn't want to. I don't want to do anything because of the media, but I couldn't help it. You have to change to keep from getting boring. I don't know, I probably did it."

Still struggling with this idea, he thinks about it and offers more. "I might have, I'm not really sure. I hope not. Some of it was bound to sound like that for me to make a change. And that is one way to go. But I hope it wasn't a reactionary record on how people perceived me. It probably was though to a certain extent."

He thinks about the question a bit more carefully and then gives another reason why the record came out the way it did. "Some of it is also the more I make up songs, the less I care if it has that much to do with me. I'm more interested in my imagination and what I can come up with regardless if it's autobiographical or not."

Photo: All is forgiven (7).


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Listen to COMING UP ROSES by Elliott Smith.

Y3: I have to ask you about your tattoo of Ferdinand.

ES: Oh yeah, a children's story.

Y3: I grew up on that story. The bull who was too gentle and content to attain fame in the bullfighting ring like his friends, and chose instead to while his days away in a field, smelling the flowers. It's a great dichotomy, this powerful beast who doesn't want to use his power.

ES: Yeah. I'd like to say I got the tattoo because of the story. I do like the story, and that's one reason. But my initial plan was just to get a tattoo of a bull, and I like Ferdinand better than I like the Schlitz Malt Liquor.

Y3: It's almost analogous of you and your life. I noticed it on your arm and went, "Oh my god, that's Ferdinand." That is just the most perfect tattoo. It's the first tattoo I ever saw in my lifetime that I would get.

ES: I haven't ever regretted it. It seems to make more sense with my life over time. Somebody came up to me two months ago at a restaurant and said she had something to show me. She pulled up her sleeve and she had the same tattoo. I don't think she got it because I had it, I think she just had it for a long time. I got mine in Portland, like eight years ago.

Y3: Do you have any other tattoos?

ES: I have a tattoo of Texas inside the KC And The Sunshine Band sun on my other arm. That one's older.

Photo: All is forgiven (6).


Monday, September 15, 2008


Listen to GO BY by Elliott Smith.

SM: Why is that?

E: I just wasn't in as bright of a mood when I was making it up. The first one was more about people, that was the angle of it. The second one wasn't hanging out with people as much. Sometimes people are like, "oh, the second one is all about drugs and stuff," and it's not about drugs. It's a different angle or topical way about talking about things. Like dependency and mixed feelings about your attraction or your attachment. It's good for you on the one hand, and on the other hand it's not really what you need. I just thought I'd answer that question in advance in case you asked.

SM: Actually, that wasn't on the list.

E: Well, I just get that a lot. 'All these songs are about drugs.' Well, not really. No.

SM: We didn't have it in our minds, so that's okay. Actually, the question was going to be is your life as bleak as your songs seem to suggest?

E: I don't think that they're that bleak really. I mean they have their moments. Those songs didn't come from nowhere so if it seems bleak, then I guess the answer is 'yes' but they're not bleak to me.

Photo: All is forgiven (5).


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Contribute to Bike MS!

Good morning! I've been doing a little site maintenance today. The first thing you might notice is I have added is a donation button on the right. Long time readers will know that Amy has been raising funds for the MS Society for many years now, but this is only the second year that she is participating in the Bike MS, taking place on Sunday, October 5, 2008.

This year, Amy has trickedrecruited eight other riders to go sixty miles, which is a pretty impressive feat in itself. Now all of us have to raise at least $100 by September 19. To help with that, I added the donation button, which will redirect you to one of the riders on the team. Any donations to the cause are much appreciated!


Friday, September 12, 2008


Listen to THEY REMINISCE OVER YOU (T.R.O.Y.) by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth.

John back again. It's been a wonderfully busy week for me, so nothing mind blowing to say, but just thought I'd share a tune that popped into my head this morning after reviewing Bill's Elliott Smith postings. Par for my course, this track isn't from this decade, but 1992 is getting warmer!

Photo: catbird.


Thursday, September 11, 2008


Listen to BALLAD OF BIG NOTHING (DEMO VERSION) by Elliott Smith.

"He often walked around subway tunnels when he first was here, which is not good," says Swanson. I remember a specific conversation where we both talked about New York, because we both really liked it in the middle of the night, that this place was really great in the middle of the night, all the energy was still here but the people were mostly gone, but there were still people around. I remember times if he was working on music or something like that, he would just leave for a couple of hours and just listen to what he'd been working on. I think it was part of--I think a lot of what he like about here is that he could walk around by himself in the middle of the night listening to his Walkman and be part of something and not be a freak. ... I think part of it was that here he never felt like a freak."

Photo: All is forgiven (4).


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday night sketches

So last night I stopped by and saw Ólöf Arnalds, recently seen/heard on this blog when Stu hosted (there's been a lot of press for Brian Wilson's latest project, but whenever I hear about it, I get Ólöf's really lovely version stuck in my head). Credit to her, she packed the house--quite an achievement for a relatively unknown artist on a Tuesday night. Credit also to Stu who pretty much single-handedly organized the show, and got a shout out to boot.

After I got home, Amy asked me with some genuine concern, "What's wrong? Are you depressed?" I said, "What in the world do you mean, I'm fine!" She said, "Why so much Elliott Smith on the blog this week then?" This is a strange thing about liking Elliott Smith's music, and I don't think Amy's concern was unusual at all. His tunes are so majestic, his technique is really masterful, yet he sounded pretty miserable on almost every song he did. I mean, if you can be accused of being depressed just for listening to him, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be him, where everyone just assumes you're a miserable bastard. I tried to pull interesting bits out of these interviews, but the tone of so many of them were oppressive: "Why are you so sad?" "When are you going to start writing happy songs?" "Does being depressed help you write?" "Is the new album going to be as lonely sounding as the last one?" Over and over.



Listen to BOTTLE UP & EXPLODE! (DEMO VERSION) by Elliott Smith.

"Before I knew who Elliott Smith was, I knew him as this very quiet guy that had discovered the bar (at Luna) and would stay there till closing or near closing most nights, writing constantly in a journal with some kind of dark whiskey drink on the rocks or straight-up in front of him; he always had some kind of bourbon or something like that in front of him. Week after week after week.

They said his name is Elliott, and I thought he was Elliott Sharp, an avant-garde jazz musician. Night-after-night he'd be in there and I didn't want to disturb him while he was writing, but he'd see me walk in or he'd look up across the bar and see me and nod or sometimes I was next to him or something, and I'd say something very small, but I never felt comfortable disturbing his sanctuary. So after about six months of this, he came up to me one night, and he said, "I'm playing at Fez. Would you like to come and see me?" And he was so shy about it and he was so sweet, I said, "Absolutely." And I thought I was going to listen to avant-garde jazz or something which is totally not my thing, but he seemed like such a nice guy.

And so I went to Fez to see him, and there was a line of like 800 people to trying to get into this place and it only held like 300, you know. And I said, "This guy's huge. I wonder what he's about." I had no idea who he was. I got in, and it was wall-to-wall people downstairs--I mean I couldn't move an inch in any direction. And he came out and he did only like 9 songs or 8 songs by himself. It's just hard to put into words, but he was stunning. It was like George Harrison. The beauty of George Harrison in say 1972, you know -- All Things Must Pass. And the grit of Kurt Cobain, who I never met, but I could always kind of feel that grit that he had. Elliott was like a blend of those two things. To be in such a small room and to know that I was a part of that album XO--that I put some walls together for him to write--because he wrote that album, XO at the bar at Luna."

Photo: All is forgiven (3).


Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Listen to NO LIFE by Elliott Smith.

Elliott Smith: "Oh, I was around 20 or 19 and a lot of straight guys were...you know, just having kinds of conversation that I couldn't really relate to. You know, just like very high school. You know, like not being able to relate to jocks in high school. Sort of like that."

Marcus Kagler: "That was me in High School. I couldn't relate to jocks at all."

Elliott Smith: "Yeah, I couldn't either. Even though I had to play sports in Junior High in Texas because everybody in Texas has to. I played football. I played defensive guard of all things. I was not any bigger and I was always very average. I was always a little on the small side in height and weight.

First I was a wide receiver which is great in junior high when nobody can throw the football. So every play you'd run out ten yards and then bump up against the guy. You hit kind of hard for about the first ten plays then the rest of the game you're just kind of running out there and bumping up against the guy. He doesn't want to hit you very hard either. You're both in kind of a bad situation because he's a corner back and you're a wide receiver in Junior High. Then nobody would pass to me. I was even on the starting team because I could catch with my hands instead of letting the ball bounce against my chest first. Or you can catch it by letting it bounce off your shoulder pads...or your face.

Then they moved me into the defensive line because...I just became aggravated by people who were bigger than me and threatening me and saying some of the things that junior high kids say. You know, when you're down there like inches away from somebody's head and some guy is going, "I'm going to fuck you up!" So the play starts and I'd just sort of dart out and cut him off at the knees and that was that. They'd always put the big guys by me because I was the small guy on the defensive line but I got my guy every time because I was smaller and quicker and I guess angrier in general or something. Yeah, it's not too hard to trip somebody up. I just can't believe I played so much sports. I can tell you it doesn't build character by itself. Except maybe building the character to not play sports because you were forced to."

Photo: All is forgiven (2).


Monday, September 8, 2008


Listen to MISS MISERY (EARLY VERSION) by Elliott Smith.
Listen to MISS MISERY (PIANO VERSION) by Elliott Smith.

"The places I used to play were like punk clubs -- especially in Portland. But Gus Van Sant used to come and see me play. We just kind of became friends. I'm not so sure I knew much about him at the time. I knew he made movies and that they were considered sort of indie. Initially we hit it off because he also records. We would talk about microphones and sing the praises of 57s -- really underrated mics." Most of you probably know what happened next, but in case you don't: In 1997 Van Sant made his first studio blockbuster hit with the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-penned Good Will Hunting. Van Sant decided to use a few of Smith’s songs for the soundtrack to the film, and the whole thing blew up in front of Smith’s face, resulting in an Academy Award nomination for his original song "Miss Misery."

"I didn't intend to play it, but then they said that if I didn't play it, they would get someone else to play the song. So for all the songwriters who don’t want to perform their songs, they’d get someone like Richard Marx to do it. I think when they said that they had done their homework on me a little bit. Or maybe Richard Marx is a universal scare tactic." In the end, Smith did perform on the Oscar's, and it still remains one of the most surreal nights of his life. "It was kind of ridiculous," he says. "But at a certain point I threw myself into it because it seemed to make my friends happy. You know, all of my friends were like, 'One of us is on the moon!' When really I was on this ridiculous awards show playing this song. It was a little weird. I walked out and Jack Nicholson was sitting about six feet away, so I avoided that area and I looked up at the balcony in the back and sang the song. It was surreal enough that it didn’t seem like it happened to me."

Although the Academy Awards ceremony didn't sit too well with Smith, and he, as well as his bright white suit, was trashed on television, he says it did force him to change his mind about Celine Dion, who performed right after he did. "She was really sweet, which has made it impossible for me to dislike Celine Dion anymore. Even though I can't stand the music that she makes -- with all due respect I don't like it much at all -- but she herself was very, very nice. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, 'Yeah.' And she was like, 'That's good because you get your adrenaline going, and it'll make your song better. It's a beautiful song.' Then she gave me a big hug. It was too much. It was too human to be dismissed simply because I find her music trite."

Photo: All is forgiven (1).


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday night blogging

So, our man John can do it all. Emergency guest blogging Friday, getting himself a new kid on Saturday (well, early Sunday morning). Congratulations J & J! I guess we'll need a new guest blogger Friday...

There's not even any soccer this weekend, so I guess I'll just have to link to my favorite part of John McCain's speech last week. No, really, check it out.


Friday, September 5, 2008


Listen to ST. ELMO'S FIRE (RADIO) by Uilab.

John back again. Jason is Oz bound, so I'm filling in with a quick post.

Safe flight Jason and hope the movies are good.

Photo: eagle.


Thursday, September 4, 2008


Listen to I LUST U by Neon Neon (feat. Cate Le Bon).

Hi there from Blog Post #500 (!)

I Lust U one was one of the singles from the Neon Neon project, released in or around March. It even has a video. Check out how comfortably Gruff inhabits these sound textures, which are so different from the sound of the Super Furry Animals, except for, I suppose, the shared commitment to Pop.

Hope you enjoyed the tunes, the first short week of Fall, and say Hi to Jason tomorrow, who will be posting for the last time before his month-long trip home to Oz.

Photo: Downtown at dusk (sunset?) (2).


Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Listen to STEEL YOUR GIRL by Neon Neon.

Despite appearances, we're not against music created this decade--far from it--we're just against blogging about music you can get at a hundred better trafficked blogs. We protect our niche.

But we'll make an exception every so often. It's a short week anyway, so here's a couple of tunes we've been enjoying from Gruff Rhys's latest (or least latest we've heard, the man is quite prolific) project, Neon Neon, a collaboration with DJ Boom Bip and eight million kilowatts of Eighties style.

Photo: Downtown at dusk (1).


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

No blog today

But we'll have something for you tomorrow...