Sunday, January 31, 2010

we don't outsource our fun here

There are few things in life that I love as thoroughly and completely as a song or album that gets its feelers through the chinks in my wall.

However...there is food...

I got into a discussion with a visiting friend about whether or not Denver has any good bands. I vehemently stuck up for my 'hood, and when I got home that night I typed as ferociously as possible a list of Denver bands that I adore. But why stop just at bands? Denver, and the whole Front Range sprawl, sometimes gets a reputation for outsourcing its entertainment if it's not involved with skiing.

But wow, we have some great places. So this post is going to pair some great Denver bands with some equally as addictive Denver eateries. I suggest you start taking my city seriously. Or I'll whack you with a ski pole. A sharpened one.

I can't think of anything as satisfying as the infinity that local band Houses creates both on stage and in the studio. Their energy channels so completely into relentless sparkling, swaying anthems for a late summer evening or early morning drive. Thoughtful, disarming, and unhurried in how they build songs into harmonic, crashing stories, Houses makes Denver proud.

We'll See the Sun- Houses

So what about those late summer nights when you are listening to golden songs like the one above? When the sun starts dropping, and your skin feels like it's holding the rest of the heat of the day, there is nothing that is quite as refreshing to me as good flavorful heat found in authentic Mexican food.

Oddly enough, Denver has a street just littered with authentic taco carts and dives just bursting with carne asada, smothered burritos, and salsa so fresh the tomatoes ripen as you douse.

I'm no expert on Federal Boulevard taco joints since there are so many, but one that I have returned to several times during the summer is Tacos Y Salsas. A hole in the wall with the best salsa bar I've ever seen (it's like Christmas for people who want salsa options), there is no way you can break the bank here, but you're guaranteed to leave extremely full and happy. I recommend turning on some good music and exploring as many taquerias as you can possibly stomach.

Tacos y Salsas
910 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80219

At a Bon Iver show this summer, I was running out of oxygen in the crowded venue and crunching ice in a desperate attempt to lower my core temperature. All I really wanted was to get to the main event. But then Nathaniel Rateliff and Joseph Pope, known as The Wheel, took the stage and started sketching out their cooling, deeply affecting folk rock. There's a mysterious pulse to their music, with Rateliff's moody and dark voice releasing a potent spell on the audience. And just like The National, they didn't have to strum out bright chords to send someone's heart floating. I was caught up, and immobilized by the subtle, enchanting plucking and weaving The Wheel did.

I recommend it.

Hanging Surrender- The Wheel

With such soul satisfying music like that, you need a stick to your ribs meal. No better place than the Rocky Mountain Diner/ Castle Cafe. It's just like you would expect a Western diner to be like about 100 years ago. They have saddles instead of bar stools. Not to mention their extensive Bourbon collection and absolutely killer sandwiches. I haven't tried it (vegetarian), but I also have seen people go into genuine throes of ecstasy at trying their fried chicken.

Lastly (for now) I want to focus on the alt-country set up, The Hollyfelds. It's not just because they gave me a free CD when I correctly and audibly responded to an Arrested Development reference they made on stage at The Mercury Cafe.

It's because sometimes after a bunch of hipster toe tapping, it makes me feel good to hear some classic country inspired hooks (twang included), all tied together with actual intelligence and impassioned sincerity. Even for people not so comfortable with the country vibe, I haven't seen someone who sees The Hollyfelds live and doesn't break out smiling and get totally involved with their plucky, fun performance. No wonder they swept the Westword Alt-Country category to firmly plant themselves, spurs dug in firmly, in the Denver music scene as a genre busting force to be clapped and danced to.

Here's a video of theirs from Denver's huge, rad Underground Music Showcase.

Since I saw them at The Mercury Cafee first, I should write about this amazing little place. I started going here for their Lindy Hop nights in the upstairs dance area, but quickly began punctuating my evening dances with stops in their downstairs cafe (which does slam poetry every week, too). With extensive vegetarian and vegan options, some great beers, and extremely conscientious food service practices, I always feel satisfied in my belly and my brain after indulging in their treats.

Check out their website. Their comforting motto, "Local, organic food is your birth right" is backed up by their practices, especially since they openly list their suppliers for diners to see. Pretty refreshing to see a place back up their trendy "green" claims.

I personally recommend any of their shockingly delicious vegan desserts.

So go out and explore your city! There are always things to do, events to see, and delicious ways to fuel yourself on the journey. Colorado is my playground; where's yours?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

roman candle makes me want to run away

I know myself fairly well at this point. And I know that when I get this restless feeling in my heart, songs like One More Road from Roman Candle do nothing but make me want to throw all my money at gas and drive, drive, drive. This song got me on my walk home tonight, and put the scent of adventure in my nose.

Roman Candle is a band that made my end of the year compilation of splendor, and I guess I can safely recommend any track off their 2009 Oh Tall Tree in the Ear...but this one is my jam today.

What a perfect road song. It has just the right balance of reckless abandon and the sincere use of the big world outside of us to help us on the search of the infinite world inside of us.

One More Road- Roman Candle

Baby let's take a ride tonight,
just you and me and the dancehall light.
We'll ride out to Albuquerque and see
what's waiting there for you and me.

All of our friends have left this town
and there ain't no reason to stay around
unless you want to smoke weed and sit on the ground.
Honey it ain't for me.

Sometimes a whistling train will make me want to go.
Sometimes it's music playing on my radio.
Sometimes we gambled and the money never showed.
But everyplace we end up seems to lead to one more road

Let's ride on out to where the sand is white
and the moon is high on the windowlight
We'll watch while the nighttime sea is pearled
and walk outside and sleep on the world.

When the sun comes up on our car so brown
you'll look me up and I'll eye you down
and we'll be grateful to the bones we're not waking up
in the same old bed with the same old luck

Sometimes a whistling train is warning in advance
Sometimes it's music from another room by chance
Sometimes in spite of everything that we've endeared
The longer that we hang around the longer it gets weird.

Baby let's take a ride tonight
while the highway's got nobody in sight.
We'll pull off to the side if we get tired,
and we'll try to get fed or we'll try to get hired.

I've got no desire to run on forever
with a romanced hobo heart that tarries
but i'm going to take this slot machine by the lever
and hope that we pull down three big cherries.

I've walked the spanish steps across the streets of Rome.
We sat and listened while the old brown river flowed.
All trying to find connection looking for a home,
but every place we end up seems to lead to one more road.

Sometimes a whistling train will make me want to go,
Sometimes it's music playing on my radio.
Oh baby doll in spite of all that we've endeared,
the longer that we hang around the longer it gets weird.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

i came about 2000 miles to play you this song

So my vivacious friend Heather over at Fuel/Friends wrote about her recent renewed appreciation of the folk genius of Josh Ritter. I had a brief Twilight Zone moment because the songs she wrote about were the ones that I just can not stop listening to recently. Hello Starling has absolutely recaptured me these days, and I have been comfortably resting in its embrace.

But on a walk today through cold air that made my wrists go numb, I realized I had forgotten one Josh Ritter tune that has been ghosting around my mind. It's from Animal Years and it's the very first track, Girl in the War.

For all who have heard this soul splitting, yet gentle tune, you know how it grabs. It's how I imagine an embrace from a long gone lover or best friend would feel; strong, familiar, and also very fragile in its rarity and depth.

Josh Ritter is undoubtedly a folk legend in the making. He caresses songs to mean more than the sum of their parts, and totally invites his audience all the way in. His lyrics are laced with meaning that is fathoms deep and dizzy with unpretentious intelligence and sincerity.

In a discussion with a friend about whether or not really, truly talented artists could be anything but tortured, I thought about seeing Josh Ritter live. The man exudes electricity, bouncing on the balls of his feet, tilting his head back to relish the sound of his band and the sound of his fans colliding. He smiles so genuinely that I smile until my cheeks hurt right back.

Which is why to share Girl in the War, I thought I'd share a performance he did for Center for American Progress in 2006. His introduction to the song puts it in a context that is just as relevant now as it was then.

When he belts it out around the four minute mark, I wish I could transport myself right in front of that stage.

Also, the album version is worth listening to. Over and over. This song (and album) (and artist) heals me even as it's knocking me flat.

Girl in the War- Josh Ritter

Peter said to Paul you know all those words we wrote
Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go
But now talking to God is Laurel begging Hardy for a gun
I got a girl in the war man I wonder what it is we done

Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire
But I got a girl in the war Paul the only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through

Because the keys to the Kingdom got lost inside the Kingdom
And the angels fly around in there but we can't see them
I got a girl in the war Paul I know that they can here me yell
If they can't find a way to help her they can go to Hell
If they can't find a way to help her they can go to Hell

Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire
But I got a girl in the war Paul her eyes are like champagne
They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain
They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain
They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

the soft pack and coachella line up (i called it!)

San Diego's The Soft Pack did not always have such a damn cuddly name. In fact, somehow, the most press this stunning band has gotten was about their name change from The Muslims to The Soft Pack. From being called racist, to being called sell-outs, they managed to not only retain their musical capabilities, but their sense of humor. In their official statement about the change, the band remarked:

"I guess there was some confusion as to whether we are 'fucking gay, corporate sell outs. Don't fret! We are still broke as ever and paying for the band out of our own pockets. Just like back in the day!"

But what I really want to bring to your attention is the great music these newly named broke renegades are putting out under their fresh moniker.

Their sun streaked, post punk sound produces a tight debut album on Kemado Records, to be released on February 2, that snarls and drives through barely thirty minutes of tunes. I never listened to The Muslims, but maybe my unbiased ears are better for it. Right now The Soft Pack is whirling around the country supporting their new album, even stopping on David Letterman to promote it. Woahhh success!!

If you live in the Los Angeles area, the band is offering to play at someone's house. So if you have a venue attached to your kitchenette, let these guys know! And then invite me. And pay for my plane ticket.

C'Mon- The Soft Pack

Oh...Coachella line up totally announced. WHO CALLED PAVEMENT? Excuse me while I turn on the song above and do a victory head bang.

The line up looks fantastic. Check it.
This is one festival that is going to save the world just based on the fall out from radioactive awesome.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

and you know it's gonna be a good start

I am a fan of small bands getting the ears they deserve through the infectious hyping that happens on this grand, floating interweb. So when I stumbled across a burgeoning band from Oxford, Mississippi through the delightful blog, i guess i'm floating, I just had to spread their talent so they can eventually come reciprocate with a live show up here.

Young Buffalo
carries themselves with a reverberating, Fleet Foxes-like aesthetic. What caught me off guard was their expressiveness. There's a certain desperation in the vocals; a crazed freedom that is barely held together at the seams. Fast traveling Americana composition rounds it out to create a searing and all together wonderful thing.

Did I mention they've only been playing together since June?

Their MySpace page outlines their goals:

"Goal 1: Make good music Goal 2: Not be doosh-like."

New Beat- Young Buffalo

Catapilah- Young Buffalo

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

true love will find you in the end

Daniel Johnston is an artist whose vulnerability and rawness is so palpable through the speakers that it feels like I'm in the room with a friend who needs me as much as I need him.

So to have someone like Jeff Tweedy, whose voice also crumbles all my walls, cover one of Johnston's most well-known and iconic songs was almost too much gorgeous honesty for this girl.

Somehow I dealt with it.

True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston)- Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett

True love will find you in the end
You’ll find out just who was your friend
Don’t be sad, I know you will,
But don’t give up until
True love finds you in the end.

This is a promise with a catch
Only if you’re looking will it find you
‘Cause true love is searching too
But how can it recognize you
Unless you step out into the light?
But don’t give up until
True love finds you in the end.

If you want more Daniel Johnston covers by some rad musicians who have probably also wept oh so gently at the man's art, check out the stellar cover album, Discovered Covered.

Monday, January 11, 2010

honey i'm a prize and you're a catch/ and we're a perfect match (pavement's back!)

Pavement has a powerful grip on my musical attention. And also my heart. In fact, they were my "rabbit hole" band. The band that I loved so instantly and so intensely that I knew my relationship with music just had to keep going deeper. So I followed the rabbit hole. What started with tweaked Jan and Dean guitar licks and infectious, bursting golden melodies, has led me here.

Now, I've enjoyed Stephen Malkmus' solo projects and his forays with the Jicks, but I can't stop being absolutely devoted to Pavement. I remember when I first bought Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain when I was visiting friends in Sacramento. We drove through the breezy California night while I lay in a state of newfound bliss in the back seat, ignoring my friends' complaints that this music was weird.

So you can imagine the breathtaking excitement that accompanied the fall announcement of a Pavement reunion tour to support the release of their definitive Greatest Hits collection, which is officially named Quarantine the Past:The Best of Pavement and will be released March 9. There's even a contest to see who can guess the 23 track listing. Gold Soundz has already been re-released as the first track, so that narrows it several attempts at guessing since the contest began are no more confident the more time I spend on them. Maybe you will have better luck!

I know I've made this claim before, so please don't stop taking me seriously. But based on the tour schedule, some US summer festivals are bound to be included in the totally blank summer space. So once more...I will be selling all my belongings and following along. What? Am I the girl who cried vagabond? I will. You'll see.

Pavement Reunion Tour

03/01 Auckland, New Zealand @ Town Hall
03/04 Sydney, Australia @ Enmore Theatre
03/05 Sydney, Australia @ Enmore Theatre
03/06 Meredith, Australia @ Supernatural Amphitheatre (Golden Plains Festival)
03/07 Adelaide, Australia @ Thebarton Theatre
03/08 Perth, Australia @ Metro City
03/10 Brisbane, Australia @ Tivoli
03/12 Melbourne, Australia @ Palace Theatre
03/14 Melbourne, Australia @ Palace Theatre
04/07 Tokyo, Japan @ Studio Coast
04/08 Tokyo, Japan @ Studio Coast
04/10 Osaka, Japan @ Zepp Osaka
04/12 Nagoya, Japan @ Zepp Nagoya
05/04 Dublin, Ireland @ Tripod
05/05 Glasgow, Scotland @ Barrowland
05/07 Paris, France @ Le Zénith
05/08 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
05/10 London, England @ Brixton Academy
05/11 London, England @ Brixton Academy
05/12 London, England @ Brixton Academy
05/13 London, England @ Brixton Academy
05/15 Minehead, England @ All Tomorrow's Parties
05/18 Brussels, Belgium @ Ancienne Belgique
05/19 Berlin, Germany @ Astra
05/20 Prague, Czech Republic @ Palac Akropolis
05/21 Vienna, Austria @ Arena
05/22 Munich, Germany @ Muffathalle
05/24 Rome, Italy @ Atlantico Live
05/25 Bologna, Italy @ Estragon
05/27 Barcelona, Spain @ Primavera Festival
05/29-31 Quincy, Washington @ Sasquatch! Festival
07/01-04 Roskilde, Denmark @ Roskilde Festival
09/21 New York, NY @ Central Park Summerstage
09/22 New York, NY @ Central Park Summerstage
09/23 New York, NY @ Central Park Summerstage
09/24 New York, NY @ Central Park Summerstage

To get myself hyped (along with the millions of other fans who collectively passed out with me when this was announced this fall), I thought including a live recording of one of the Pavement songs that fills me up the most would be appropriate. Recorded in 1999 at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis, these boys had a mighty good time. Can't wait to hear them do it again.

Spit on a Stranger (Live 10.14.99)- Pavement

Do so love the looping of that very distinctive opening.

However you feel,
whatever it takes,
whenever it's real,
whatever awaits,
whatever you need,
however so slight,
whenever it's real,
whenever it's right.

I've been thinking long and hard about the things you said to me,
like a bitter stranger,
and now I see the long, the short, the middle and what's in between,
I could spit on a stranger,
(pull me out)
you're a bitter stranger.
(pull me out)

Whatever you feel,
whatever it takes,
whenever it's real,
whatever awaits me,
whatever you need,
however so slight,
Wherever it leads,
whenever it's right

Honey I'm a prize and you're a catch
and we're a perfect match,
like two bitter strangers,
and now I see the long,
the short of it and I can make it last,
I could spit on a stranger,
(pull me out)
you're a bitter stranger,
(pull me out)
I could spit on a stranger,
(pull me out)
you're a bitter stranger.
(pull me out)
I could spit on a stranger,
(pull me out)
you're a bitter stranger.

I see the sunshine in your eyes,
I'll try the things you'll never try,
I'll be the one that leaves
you high...high...high

Friday, January 8, 2010

these united states petition MTV

As if their crackling, unstoppably fun show in Avon didn't convince me enough...These United States posted a video circa 1993. And it's awesome.

I'm particularly fond of the giant pixelated fonts.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

sheets are swaying on an old clothesline like a row of captured ghosts

Radical Face is a band name that caught my eye. I listened expecting maybe a Ween sort of ridiculousness to stream out of the speakers (because really...Radical Face...hilarious). Instead, I was transported.

Ben Cooper is all of Radical Face (I wonder if he was describing his own face), and also one half of the electronic indie pop band Electric President. Radical Face's 2007 debut album Ghost, recorded mainly in a tool shed behind his house, was inspired by the idea that houses preserve the stories that take place within them. Or, in Cooper's words:

"It was written with the idea of houses having memories, and people leaving ghosts behind whenever they move from one place to the next. An idea that whatever we do in our homes is collected in the walls and might come out and haunt whoever moves in next. So the songs are all short stories, tied together with a theme."

What a gorgeous idea. It's the kind of album that caused me to pull up the blinds on this unforgiving cold day, and think about what this house would sigh about if it could, and if it would do so with splendid whistles, and cleansing waves of harmonies.

The production of Ghost features some extensive and well done layering, with the central focus coming back to Cooper and his acoustic guitar or piano, establishing the folk roots put down here. Accordion, banjo, even organ, sweetly build on each other to create an album that effortlessly moves from being disarmingly sincere and comfortable at one moment, to exploding into euphoric revival like choruses.

The subtle, swelling joy of this album just destroys me. It knocks down the walls, and shows me what it's like to be inhabited and filled and left and emptied.

I think I'll let it stay a while.

Welcome Home- Radical Face

Do you not totally love that he used wind chimes to open this number? Like the song was carried on a breeze through an open porch screen door.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

you put a big bird in a small cage it'll sing you a song

Photo courtesy of a much more active hike earlier this year in the same area. Taken by the ever talented Philip Neumann!

What began as a quick jaunt around the corner to grab an early cup of coffee ended up as an hour long stroll through Chautauqua open space in the cold clear air. It was so unplanned that I braved the slick ice covered trails in moccasins. I’m sure the squirrels were laughing at my slow, careful steps. But that tentative pace made me breathe with the sleepy world, and bring the fresh day to a manageable tempo.

It’s intoxicating how everything smells different at the sunrise, and how songs you’ve heard dozens of times before can become as new and refreshing as the familiar landscapes bathed in morning light.

I feel less confined. I’m ready, Tuesday. Bring it on.

Big Bird in a Small Cage- Patrick Watson

Patrick Watson's ethereal 2009 release, Wooden Arms, didn't make it on to my end of the year list...but it captivates me with its quiet, glowing beauty. It definitely helped release me this morning.

There was a house halfway round the world,
and I was invited in for a small taste of gin.
There was a hall­way thou­sand birds long,
but the biggest one of all was in a-
cage too small.

I asked the care­taker cause he was the maker.
Looked at me and laughed,
took another sip from his glass and said:
“Open up your ears and heart.
“You put a big bird in a small cage it’ll sing you a song.”

That we all love to sing along,
to the sound of the bird that longs (mourns).

Well we rolled into town, into sweet New Orleans,
to the Apple Bell bar; it was a hole in the wall.
The ceil­ings weren’t tall, the floors were the ground,
but the sounds you were mak­ing just warm your hearts.

Well it was quar­ter to twelve when the boys walked in.
They put their black suits on and the songs would begin.
You open up your ears and hearts;
you put a big bird in a small cage it’ll sing you a song.

That we all love to sing along,
to the sound of the bird that longs (mourns).

Monday, January 4, 2010

i know the world is overcrowded/ but i want to make babies with you

Via Audio released their debut, Say Something, back in 2007. And it made me silly with excitement. At the time I was living in Montana, and my friends were in a band (one of the members is still making some wonderful music) that opened for Via Audio while they passed through the frozen Northern tundra (a rare treat for Montana).

This Brooklyn group displayed from the start a surprising grasp of how to turn what could be forgettable indie pop into clever and determined, yet subtle, anthems. Jessica Martin's easy vocals are reminiscent of Feist as she slides from smokey harmonies to clear, high oohs above the fuzzed out guitars. I was very happy to know that this atmospherically cool band would be officially releasing a new album on March 9, 2010, Animalore. And that musical good fairy, Jim Eno, was going to be producing it. I was a little worried that Animalore would come out sounding like a Spoon release, which would be a shame since Via Audio had really hit a strong stride with their debut. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Animalore and realized Eno hadn't stuck Spoon's fingerprints all over the tracks.

In fact, Animalore seems to deliberately avoid being pinned down. Unlike the seamless cohesion of Say Something, each track digs into its own separate patch of earth, discovering a new quality in Via Audio's effortlessly playful aesthetic. No matter the tune, however, Via Audio has come even further in their talent for positively oozing confidence with every sparse rhythmic guitar stroke, or delicate turn of phrase. Animalore doesn't strike a lot of balance at first listen, with themes ranging from science fiction to romance, but in that there is a greater sense that Via Audio is coming into their own. They put down an infectious groove from the beginning, and never drop it.

There's a funk running through this, and it makes me want to shake out all the stiffness in my heart and clap my hands above my head. The stark synth pairs with sweet as molasses slide guitar in some places (Wanted [probably the song that leaves me the most exposed by the end of the album]), some French foggy cabaret vocals elsewhere, and yes...even a Devo style electronic tongue lashing of the music industry with Digital. They do these sorts of transitions without falling apart even a little bit. This kind of sophisticated pop is hard to come by, and I'm glad it's coming to me again.

And as the first single Babies shows, they don't have to be all serious about how good they are all the time.

But wow...they are seriously good.

Babies- Via Audio