Monday, October 20, 2014

Carbon Leaf - Radio Radio Indianapolis - 10/19/2014

 Clearly, this is a promo shot, I didn't take it.  I do have one picture from last night of me and Barry, but I look awful in it and you'll never see it.  :-)

Artist: Carbon Leaf
Venue: Radio Radio Indianapolis
Date: Sunday, October 19, 2014

Set List (again, dismally out of order, and potentially not complete, but as usual, I forgot to make notes so this is the best I could remember the next day):

What About Everything?
Life Less Ordinary
Love Rain Down
Februaery Detailles
The Boxer
The Donnybrook Affair
Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle
When I'm Alone
Raise the Roof
One Prairie Outpost
She's Gone (...For Good This Time)
Two Aging Truckers
Ragtime Carnival
Tombstone vs. Ashes
Let Your Troubles Roll By

Last night we broke from tradition and, instead of going south to Nashville, we headed north to Indianapolis for our second Carbon Leaf show.  The first time we saw them live (in Nashville) was so stinking good, we were super excited to see them again.  For this tour, they're on the road in support of their latest release, Indian Summer Revisited.  Because a record company the band is no longer associated with owns the master recordings of their beloved 2004 release Indian Summer, they decided to re-record the album so the ownership of the songs and the recordings is now with the band, where it belongs.

This was the only show I've been to (that I can think of) that didn't have an opener and I was really okay with that.  I mean yes, I've found some of my favorite artists via them opening for other people, but sometimes it's nice to skip the formality and just get down to business.  It seemed like there was a quite a wait between when the doors opened and when Barry, Terry, Carter, Jon and Jason took the stage, but good company (and perhaps a bit of vodka) made the wait totally enjoyable.  This was our first time at Radio Radio which is a neat little venue in downtown Indianapolis.  With a 250 person capacity, a beautiful glass-topped bar and plentiful seating, it's a cozy place perfect for an intimate show.

When it was time for Carbon Leaf to take the stage, they did so with seemingly boundless energy and crowd support, just like the last time we saw them. The set list was heavy with songs off Indian Summer, which is cool because they're all crowd favorites.  However, this time it seemed that they were playing them with such renewed vigor, they felt like brand new songs.  It seemed as though, in working with them so extensively, the band had breathed new life into these songs and the audience reciprocated that.  Personally, I was excited to hear them perform "Paloma" and "When I'm Alone", a couple of my favorites.  They are both such beautiful songs and it was amazing to ride along on the ebb and flow of them.

While they stayed primarily in the newer albums, they did dip back in the catalog and pulled out "Comfort" from Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat and crowd favorite "The Boxer" from Echo, Echo.  Both songs were apparently well known by the crowd and we all sang along enthusiastically.  The sing-along aspect of the evening reached its peak during "One Prairie Outpost" during which Barry was able to stop singing completely and just let us handle that for him.  I love when that happens, but I have to say that my favorite part of a Carbon Leaf show is when they all gather around one microphone.  Sometimes the songs they play in this format get a bit lost in the chatter of the rude people in the back of the room, but I still love them if only because the band seems the happiest playing around a single mic like that and it's fun to be a part of it.

Just as the last time we saw them, they closed with the absolutely perfect "Let Your Troubles Roll By".  I'm not sure I've ever heard a better song to close with.  After the show, I visited the merch table and picked up one of the few Carbon Leaf albums I didn't already have.  Because the guys always mingle in the crowd after shows, I was able (with a lot of encouragement from my friends who are much cooler characters than I am) to speak to all five of the band members and get their autographs.  They're all incredibly friendly and, even after all these years performing, they seem truly grateful that people come out and listen and enjoy their shows.  I had a lot of things I wanted to say about how wonderful the show was and how amazing Indiana Summer Revisited is, but I'm mostly just happy (and eternally grateful to my friends) that I even manged to talk to them and not say anything too embarrassing.  This was the last show for us for the foreseeable future, and I can't think of a better way to wrap up the year.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Black Keys - KFC Yum! Center - 09/10/2014


Artist: The Black Keys
Venue: The KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, KY

Last night we broke out of our normal mold and actually attended a show at an arena.  Normally, we stick to smaller, more intimate venues because that's the atmosphere I prefer, but my husband is a huge Black Keys fan, so we bit the bullet.  When I bought the tickets, I discovered that they had opened up the floor to standing room, general admission so I snapped up a couple of those and hoped for the best.  Well, the best turned out to be right down front, on the rail, nothing but a couple very large security guards and a whole lot of sound waves between us and stage.  Perfect.

As usual, let me start with the opener.  Cage the Elephant, a band originally from Bowling Green, KY opened.  I have one of their CDs and really like a couple of their songs, but I would be lying if I said this was one of my favorite live performances.  Or even that I especially enjoyed it.  There was a lot of media at this show (or at least more than I'm used to seeing) and the lead singer played to them so much it was kind of ridiculous.  It was nice when they finally left and he could start paying attention to the crowd.  Also, he mimics Mick Jagger's moves so much it was actually kind of comical.  I thought the guys in the band played well and their songs are fast and fun, they just need to tone it down a bit.

After that, The Black Keys took the stage.  It was Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney and two additional musicians on bass and keys.  I don't have the usual guesstimate of the set list because I don't know the song names well enough to keep track and also because it didn't matter.  As long as Patrick was playing the drums and Dan was playing guitar, he could have been singing the phone book for all I cared.  There is not a lot of chatting in a Black Keys concert, it's not really Dan's thing, but that's fine with me, I kind of think that stopping to talk would have only broken the spell.  And it was quite a spell they weaved.  Patrick Carney is far and away the best drummer I have ever seen.  He creates absolute magic. When he started playing, the drum got in my chest immediately and it felt like my entire body was vibrated apart until I just hung there, mixed with the music in the air.  Then Dan swoops in with that guitar work and glues the pieces back together.  It was everything that is wonderful and mystical about live music.

I know they played all the songs we expected to hear, "Lonely Boy", "Gold on the Ceiling" and "Money Maker", plus an old cover from 2002's The Big Come Up and pretty much everything in between.  I had two favorite moments of the night.  The first was when they played a cover of Edwyn Collins' "Girl Like You", which used to be the ringtone my Husband used for me, so that was pretty awesome.  The second was the absolutely perfect "Little Black Submarines".  It started out with Dan playing the quiet, acoustic, complex guitar part.  Then the haunting vocals came in and the crowd knew every single word.  The song builds slightly in the middle, with a bit of drums being added in.  Then, for the last 1/3 of the song, it absolutely explodes in a cloud of raw, powerful rock.  It was amazing.

It was a great show.  Both Dan and Patrick are amazing musicians and it was totally worth the wait to get down front where we could really watch them at their craft.  Even the crowd was relatively well-behaved (only 2 people got thrown out that we saw).  I still don't prefer arena shows, but if I'm going to go to one, I want it to be exactly like this.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Play List Perfection

Do you ever have one of those days when the songs that normally cheer you up, just piss you off instead?  Yeah, well, I've been having one of those days for a while now. So I finally got around to making a playlist of only safe songs. The kind that are right here where I am. They don't want me to feel any other way, they're totally accepting.

I've been listing to this list all day, and I have to say, it's pretty fucking perfect. So, as kind of a little PSA, I present to you Me, Right Now, in Song Form:

All We Are - Matt Nathanson
Always Midnight - Pat Monahan
Anna Begins - Counting Crows
Away From the Sun - 3 Doors Down
Block of Wood - Carbon Leaf
Box Cutters - Amanda Shires
Car Crash - Matt Nathanson
Colorblind - Counting Crows
Cover Me Up - Jason Isbell
Cover Me - Candlebox
Daughter - Pearl Jam
Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins
Drive - Blind Melon
Far Behind - Candlebox
Farther Down - Neon Trees
Fire & Rain - James Taylor
Five to One - The Doors
Gone - Matt Nathanson
Hang - Matchbox 20
Hate Me - Blue October
Heavy - Train
Heavy Heart - Madi Diaz
Let Me Go - 3 Doors Down
Long December - Counting Crows
No Excuses - Alice in Chains
Patience - Guns N' Roses
Perfect Blue Buildings - Counting Crows
Raining in Baltimore - Counting Crows
Round Here - Counting Crows
She Talks to Angels - The Black Crows
Too Weak to Ramble - Dr. Dog
The Turning Tide - Aaron Tap
Under the Wire - Carbon Leaf
Wilderness on Time - Aaron Tap
Wreck of the Day - Anna Nalick
3AM - Matchbox 20

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Song: Headphones
Artist: Matt Nathanson

As you probably already know, Matt Nathanson has released a new single as a little teaser of his upcoming album.  Lucky for us, he has also been playing the new song while out on his summer tour.  I have to say, was a little thrown the first time I listened to "Headphones".  Initially, I thought it was a huge departure from what I expected to hear, but now that I've listened to it a few (hundred) more times, I've kind of reneged on that.

It turns out that, yes, it is a different sound than Matt's earlier work, kind of a trip a little further down that road he started on with Last of the Great Pretenders.  He continues to branch out away from the acoustic sound of his past and more toward a rich, full band sound.  Personally, I'm a big fan of the direction Matt is taking with his music.  This is the kind of song that reminds me why I love the kickass sound system in my car so much.  The kind of song that I can hear and feel, right in my chest where the bass hits.  However, as different as it is, it still contains all of the elements that make Matt's music so wonderful, it's all just wrapped up in a shiny new package.

First of all, there is that voice. That voice is a warm, safe place to hide while the storms blow over.  The voice that so many people have been drawn to and captivated by.  With "Headphones", as with a lot of the last album, he further proves that his voice can hold its own against a lot more than just the soft melodies of an acoustic guitar.  Then there are the lyrics.  Matt has been known to be vocal about his struggles with writing lyrics, but it never shows in the end result.  His lyrics are always witty and perfectly natural, like they just rolled off his tongue, and this song is no different.  My favorite line in this one is: "Good things whisper, bad things shout.  I don't hear 'em now!"  After all, only really great music can truly drown them out.

"Headphones" is such a great song, it makes me super excited to hear what the new album will have in store of us, whenever it's ready to be released into the world.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Matt Nathanson @ Mercury Ballroom 07/26/2014

Artist: Matt Nathanson
Venue: Mercury Ballroom, Louisville, KY
Date: 07/26/2014

Finally, a current picture!  This was from last night's M&G (btw, I was much happier than I look in that picture. That must be my "crapping my pants and trying not to say anything too dumb" face.)
Set List: (I know this is dismally out of order, but I think I remembered most of them.  Please feel free to correct me)

Kill the Lights
Car Crash
Mission Bells
Kinks Shirt
Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave) (!!)
Last Days of Summer in San Francisco
Romeo & Juliet {Dire Straits}
Detroit Waves
Room @ the End of the World
American Girl {Tom Petty}
I Saw
Come on Get Higher

As you've probably gathered already, we got to start this concert season with Matt Nathanson, Aaron Tap & Co. again this year.  Every time we see them, they find some new and different way to blow my mind, and this time did not disappoint.  But hang on, I'll get to that.

The evening had two openers, the first was Matt Mackelcan. He did a short but sweet set that I felt was very well received by the audience.  He's an unassuming performer and seemed very appreciative of people being there and listening, which is always nice to see.  During his set, he brought Aaron Tap out on stage for a couple songs (which I'm sure didn't hurt his credibility with this crowd).  Aaron produced his previous release Slow Down and is working with him on his upcoming From Where I Stand as well.  If you're not familiar with him, you should totally get that way.

Next up was Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.  You probably know Andrew from Jack's Mannequin and/or Something Corporate.  I know I will ostracize myself by admitting that I'm only marginally familiar with his previous bands, but it's a fact.  What I do know is that he's a very impressive performer.  He's like an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm, which is awesome.  He did everything from singing standing on his piano to jumping on the keys to play it with his feet.  Nuts.  I thoroughly enjoyed his set and he was very popular with the audience.  One of the girls I was with got to meet him after the show and she was fan girling like crazy, which is always fun.  I love it when people are excited to meet the artists they adore and aren't afraid to express that excitement. Also, I have to mention that after his set, we witnessed an amazing feat of packing abilities.  The road guys literally turned his entire piano up on its side and put it in a box.  And our movers couldn't even manage a treadmill without damaging the drywall.  What the hell?

Anyway, moving on.  It was finally time for our headliner to take the stage.  Just as it was last time we saw them, the line up was Matt Nathanson (well, obviously), Aaron Tap, Shiben Bhattacharya,and Chris Lovejoy (you know, the drummer from Lexington, KY...Detroit...Lansing...the dude gets around).  This particular combination of artists seems to be the perfect mix.  They opened with the carnal delight Kill the Lights off Last of the Great Pretenders and we knew right away that we were in for rock show tonight.  There was not going to be any pussyfooting around, they got right down to business.  It was after that song that I noticed that Matt brought backdrops this time, with pictures and whatnot projected on them as he played.  I thought, "Holy shit, they have really brought us a full-on rock show, with all the bells and whistles, right into this small, intimate venue.  The best of both worlds!"  I had no idea at the time how accurate that thought would turn out to be.

The show turned out to be by far the most rock and roll show I've seen Matt and the guys play.  They played a bunch of fast, ass-shaking music like Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave) [my personal favorite...which is why they played it, right??], Detroit Waves, Kinks Shirt and his newest song Headphones.  The latter was absolutely amazing live.  Even better than I'd hoped!  And of course there was the ever popular clap-along-song Faster.  I always feel a little creepy during that song because I have to stare at Aaron Tap so intently to accurately follow along with the clapping.  Heh - I have abysmal rhythm, but I managed to do okay last night.  Amongst all of these songs, we did get to see Aaron play the ever loving shit out of his guitar, which was (of course) my favorite thing.  To the delight of everyone, they also covered Tom Petty's American Girl.  As we all know, Tom Petty is untouchable, but they rocked that fucking song.  Andrew McMahon joined them on stage for it and those few minutes of music absolutely melted our faces.  Amazing.  

Earlier in the evening, Andrew came back out on stage to give some piano support for the not frequently played Last Days of Summer in San Francisco.  Matt wasn't quite as chatty as the last time we saw him, but we did get some back story on several songs and this particular one was heartbreaking.  While most all of his songs are real and honest, it's not that often that we get a glimpse of the current internal state of the artists we're watching.  We got that last night and as they played that song, it was all over their faces and it was a touching and beautiful gift they gave us.  He also played his cover of Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet, which we all know from At the Point.  It's such a great song and Matt totally does it justice.  He dipped back in the catalogue and played us some acoustic classics from past records such as Still, Angel and Suspended.  Even amongst all the powerful rock they were playing last night, these songs are still able to instantly create an entirely different atmosphere.  The room becomes quiet, transcendent and wonderful.  He closed with what he calls "the hit", Come on Get Higher.  Sure, it's a crowd favorite and it's a beautiful song, to be sure, but I think All We Are casts a more magical spell.  It's cool though, both are incredible songs that leave a calm, peaceful feeling in your soul as he sends you back out into the world.

Once again, for nearly two hours, everything outside that room ceased to exist.  It becomes just you, the artists on stage and the feel of the drum in your chest.  Everything else drops away and becomes completely insignificant.  All in all, the night was a great illustration of Matt's ever-expanding range as a performer.  I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that I finally got to meet Matt for the first time last night (as evidenced by the above picture).  How cool is it that he still did a meet and greet even though they then had to drive 12 hours to Virginia to play again tonight?  He was every bit as friendly and gracious as everyone had told me he is, in spite of the fact that I was all shaky and nervous and weird(er than usual).  So that was kind of beyond awesome. 

Next up for us are Amanda Shires Isbell, The Black Keys and Carbon Leaf.  I'm hoping for a Dr. Dog show in the near future, but that's not in the cards just yet.  Matt mentioned a potential fall album release too, so I'm super excited at the prospect of another show in the fall!!  :)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy Birthday, White Horse!

Today, one of my favorite albums of all time turns two years old.  Ryan Schmidt's White Horse EP was released the day before my birthday and with it's intelligent lyrics, stunning vocals, finger picked guitar, and Paula Kelley string arrangements, it is definitely my favorite accidental birthday present ever.  Even though it's only been around for two years, this album (and one song in particular) has been very important to me.

When White Horse EP came out, I was in a pretty bad situation career-wise and change was looming on the horizon.  I knew that change was imminent and that always freaks me out.  I listened to this album every single day on the way to work for months.  It was just such a calm, serene place to spend my mornings, it made it possible for me to face the days.  Then on the way home, I would listen to it again to clear my mind and shake loose the day.  It was quite literally this and two Betty Goo albums that got me through those last few miserable months at that job. 

Several months after White Horse EP came out, the aforementioned change came into my life and I had to make some decisions.  When I decided to do what I felt was going to make me happiest in my everyday life and not necessarily what was the most popular decision or the one everybody around me understood, I needed support.  I found that support in a little song called "Go Where You Belong".  This is far and away my favorite song on White Horse EP and probably my favorite Ryan Schmidt song, period.  When I started my new job, I made it a point to listen to "Go Where You Belong" last thing every morning before I got out of the car.  It's kind of my own 'lucky song'.  Whenever I need a little boost, a little encouragement, I listen to this song, sometimes several times in a row.  As a matter of fact, I fully intend to have a bit of the lyrics tattooed on me next time I get inked.

So, Happy Birthday, White Horse!!  And Congratulations, Ryan, on the 2 year anniversary of having made the world a more beautiful sounding place. 

For everyone else, here's a link of where you can buy White Horse EP (I tried to embed it, but for some reason that wouldn't work for me), but trust me, one little click is not too much effort.  You can also go there and listen to the entire album and many of Ryan's other releases as well, including his newest stuff, which I would highly recommend doing.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why 2013 Kicked Ass

This is not a "best of" list by any means.  You're tired of those.  I'm tired of those.  Trust me, writing them is just as boring as reading them.  No, my friends, this is simply a recap of why 2013 totally kicked ass.  And believe me, it did.  

I started out 2013 by seeing Matchbox Twenty at the Palace Theater in Louisville.  While this wasn't exactly a mind blowing show for me like the ones that would follow later in the year, it was very cool to finally see the MB20 guys live.  I've been a fan since they released their first album, Yourself or Someone Like You, in 1996 and it's always cool when you're finally in a room with people you've been a fan of for that long.

Then came a couple new releases from one of my all-time faves, Ryan Schmidt.  So far we just have two singles from his up coming album, but I'm super excited about the new direction he's taking.  In looking back, I've just realized that I've only told you about "Another Friend" but there is also "Next Mistake" (I'll have to rave about that one later...I can't believe I haven't already!)  As much as I completely adore my birthday present that was White Horse (and believe me, I do), I know that the work Ryan is doing now is going to make him a megastar one day and that's so exciting.  I just can't wait to see what happens for him next. 

Later in August, Matt Nathanson released Last of the Great Pretenders which is an absolute stroke of genius. Of course he toured to support this record (and because I'm pretty sure he'd shrivel up and blow away if he didn't do at least a little touring every year) and, of course, we went to see him.  This time we got to see him right here in Louisville at Headliner's Music Hall and it was fucking amazing because, well, it was a Matt show and I got to watch Aaron Tap play guitar for 2 hours - what's not to love?  Then, by some weird twist of fate, Matt actually read that blog post, which lead to my all time favorite moment of the year, which was this tweet: 
This was amazing because he actually read it, he got was I was saying, and it meant enough that he actually took a minute to say something about it.  It's been like 2 1/2 months ago and I still get a big stupid grin every time I read that tweet.  :-D

After that amazingness, we went to see Carbon Leaf for the first time ever at The High Watt in Nashville, TN while they were out supporting Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle and Constellation Prize (both really great records that have added to the fantastic soundtrack of 2013).  It was a great show and we even got to meet Barry and Terry after the show and got our copy of Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle signed.  The Carbon Leaf show was truly wonderful and we'll go see them again as soon and as often as possible.  While we were in Nashville we made time to stop at Grimey's, possibly the best record store east of the Mississippi, and I picked up a copy of Nevermind on vinyl while we were there.

We also got to see Dr. Dog again this year, this time at Headliner's in Louisville.  This tour was in support of their amazing newest release B-Room.  As usual, they completely blew my mind.  Any year that contains a Dr. Dog concert is a good year.  If you're not familiar with them, you really need to get that way, then you need to go see them live because they are the absolute epitome of what live music is supposed to be.

The last record that has made this year awesome for me was Jason Isbell's Southeastern. I'm still playing the shit out this thing, I just can't get enough of it.  His voice is perfect, the lyrics are perfect, the guitar parts are to die for.  The whole this is a complete work of art.  I've been directed to some other examples of his work and I plan to check them out as soon as I can tear myself away from this one.  And finally, the last thing that has made this year rock has been the community of Matt Nathanson fans on twitter.  I've found some awesome new people over the years through music, but have just recently met several cool folks just because of him and that's been fun.

Apparently a few amazing shows, a handful of mind blowing records and a small group of cool people are all it takes to make for a great year.  So, now that we know the formula, making 2014 even better should be a snap!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Love Him? You Don't Know Him!!

**Excessive Ranting and Raving Alert**

I realize that every one of my posts is basically just me rambling about whatever happens to be on my mind at any given time.  Generally (in this blog at least) I try to keep these rambles contained to music related topics and I like to keep them positive, mostly because I don't listen to music I don't like and also because I generally try not to waste a lot of time or effort on negative things.  I have found that plenty of negativity will come into our lives without us making an effort at it.  That being said, I'm not all zen all the time and crap gets on my nerves quite frequently.  Most of the time I let it go, but this one thing has been kind of irking me for like a week now, so I figured I'd spew about it here a bit, then let it go.  Pass it along, like an earworm, as it were.

So, a few days ago (a week, maybe more?  I'm not sure) a male musician of the not unattractive variety posted on twitter that a bear had actually broken into the cabin he was staying in and had basically eaten the kitchen.  He then took a screen shot of said tweet and posted it on Instagram and Tumblr, as you do.  My first thought was, "Huh, I didn't know bears were gluten free." but some other people of the female persuasion felt it was appropriate to post "I love you" or the even more over-the-top "I'm in love with you" as a response to this.

Nothing more than that, just "I'm in love with you".  Now, I'm not blind and I don't live under a rock, I see these kinds of comments all over the place in response to all manner of celebrity posts, but this time it was just so completely out of place and so totally unrelated to the original post that it just bugged the shit out of me.  I mean, what was the point?  Why do these girls feel inclined to constantly post that kind of thing?  What outcome are they hoping for?  And are they even thinking about what they're saying and how ridiculous it sounds?  I guess my biggest problem with this is that it isn't always very young girls that don't realize what they're saying, sometimes it's grown ass women that really should know better.  Do people not realize that to say that you're in love with someone and to say that you love someone's music are two entirely different things?

Let's be realistic for just a second (yes, I know, I don't like it either), we all love the music of many different artists.  We love the lyrics, the sounds, we're incredibly grateful for what some of these songs have done for us.  And, in turn, what the artists themselves have done to enrich our lives with this incredible gift they've given us.  I suppose the same is true with any kind of art or celebrity, but I think especially with music for fans, it is extremely personal, so sometimes it's tough to remember that while we might have these intense, deeply personal relationships with songs and albums, that relationship doesn't translate through to the artist.  Yes, he wrote that song that speaks to your very soul, that makes you cry or that heals wounds you didn't even realize you had and you think that for him to have put those lyrics together with that music and to have created that magic, you surely must be kindred spirits.  Believe me, I get that, but the reality of the situation is that we don't actually know these artists.  Not really.  Not on a day-to-day human basis.

Something tells me that the kind of girls that post these type of comments couldn't exist on a bare ration of attention.  I'm thinking that the reality of being the significant other of a touring musician might not be all it's cracked up to be for someone who needs that kind of ego stroking.  Playing second fiddle to the muse and being left at home for months on end is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.  So please, just stop for a second and think about what you're saying.  If you want to compliment someone, compliment his or her work, say something meaningful.  Because just like you, these artists are actual people and if you have a genuine compliment, if their work has had a real impact on you, they want to hear it.  Who wouldn't want to hear that? 

Okay, thanks for reading, I feel much better now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Favorite Song? Be serious.

A friend asked me earlier today (or she may have asked last night, either way, I got the message this morning) what my favorite Matt Nathanson song is.  For another person (besides me), or another artist, this might be a simple question.  For example, my favorite Matchbox Twenty song is "Long Day" from Yourself or Someone Like You.  That's right, a song from their debut album grabbed me, latched on and, sadly, they've never topped it for me.  Not so with Matt.  Why, you ask?  Don't his songs latch on?  Of course they do!  They get a good hard grip on you and these suckers do not let go, they embed themselves and become part of your permanent soundtrack, part of your fabric.  It's because he keeps getting better.  Every single album he releases one-ups the last one.  I don't know how he does it.

Even so, I came up with an answer right away, then I changed my mind 8 times, then I circled back around to my original impulse.  Let me preface this by saying, that I really do like all of Matt's songs and I can honestly say that I love the vast majority of them.  But I was asked to pick a favorite, so here goes my thought process.

The first song that popped in my head was "Annie's Always Waiting  (For the Next One to Leave)" and I almost replied to her immediately with that, but something stopped me.  What was it?  Well, Matt's entire catalogue weighed on my mind and songs that I had loved fiercely long before "Annie" was ever written.

There are so many amazing songs here to choose from, it's almost impossible to pick just one.  I mean, I can put my entire Nathanson collection on shuffle and I know I will not go wrong at any turn.  I'm naturally inclined toward the powerful songs that make me feel the feels, such as "Little Victories", "Weight of It All", and "Bulletproof Weeks".  They're all so beautiful and I can listen to them at absolutely any time.  I can always just how "favorite" a song really is by how often I skip it and I really never skip these, ever.

Then there is "Pretty the World", which has one of my favorite arrangements of any of Matt's songs.  When that song drops into the chorus, it just does something to me that I can't explain.  It's impossible not to physically react to this song.  He played this song the first time I saw him headline and I'm telling you, this song actually makes the world a better place.  Stunning.

So after all that rambling, I think I've come down to my top 5 favorite Matt Nathanson songs: 
5. Car Crash
4. Heart Starts
3. Kiss Quick (this one is still hands down, bar none my absolute favorite song to hear him perform live - it is a religious experience)
2. Mercy
1. Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave)

So you see, I ended up with my first impulse.  After all this pondering and deliberating, I think it's okay to call this song off the newest record my favorite, right?  I mean, love the shit out of this song for a multitude of reasons.  First off, you have Aaron Tap counting off to start it, then the thing just explodes out of the speakers like a physical being.  There are drums all over the damn place and an infectious, insistent guitar that demands affection.  This song is more along the line of the type of music I grew up listening to, it sounds like home to me.  Then, there's the lyrics.  You know that line in "Bitter Sweet Symphony": "I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me"?  That's what this song does.  Somehow, I feel like this song knows me, it exposes deep wounds, and yet it still somehow makes me feel better about everything all at the same time.  Every time I listen to it, the music, the lyrics, the whole thing...I feel like it was written just for me, and that, my friends, is the magic of a truly great song. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Southeastern - Jason Isbell

Album: Southeastern
Artist: Jason Isbell

At some point, a couple of months ago I guess, someone (it was most likely Matt Nathanson, but I can't swear to that) mentioned on twitter about how "Elephant" from Jason Isbell's recent release, Southeastern, is such an amazing song.  Seems like I bought the song that same day, or at least very soon after, and I was blown away.  I was not familiar with Jason Isbell prior to hearing "Elephant", so I had no idea what to expect.  The song is heart wrenching and beautiful and I was a complete mess by the time it was over.  So, naturally, I listened to it about five times in a row.

A few weeks later we went to my new favorite local record store and there was Southeastern on vinyl up on the wall.  After the effect that first song had on me and all the good things I had heard about the album in the meantime, I snatched it right up.  I have read a few reviews and articles about it since I got it and I've seen the record called his "sobriety record" and his "honeymoon record".  Apparently the writing/recording of the album chronologically coincides with Jason's quitting drinking and getting married.  So of course everyone and their brother has to label it the "sobriety record".  Well, forget that shit.  Don't get wrong, I don't mean to marginalize sobriety, I understand what a struggle it can be and I do not intend to undermine the huge accomplishment that it is, but still, I don't think it's fair to pigeonhole this album and label it that way.  This record is so much more than that.

Simply put, Southeastern is a beautiful record about life.  It's a wonderful collection of songs that chronicle life, love, loss and hope.  Somehow, even though it is clear that the lyrics are telling personal stories, they're crafted in such a way that anyone could relate to them no matter what their story.  Take me for instance, alcohol plays no part in my life - the last time I clearly remember having a drink was in New Orleans in November, 2012.  I may have had something since then, maybe not, I really don't know, so clearly sobriety isn't an issue for me, but when I listen to this record, I hear every line, every note, and it all gets in and works it's magic.   It's because the themes he deals with here are universal in the grand scheme of things.  We all deal with the passage of time, the necessity to grow up and move on, the need for love in our lives.  It's all here and it is all dealt with so perfectly.

I would be remiss if I focused only on the lyrics and neglected to mention the beautiful arrangements on the album.  I was first struck by "Cover Me Up" - the guitar in that song is just devastating.  Then there is the absolutely beautiful fiddle playing on "Traveling Alone" by Amanda Shires (er...Amanda Isbell...remember someone called it a "honeymoon record"? Yep, this is where that comes in).  A lot of the album is pretty quiet, but the amps are definitely given a run for their money on "Super 8", just in case we forgot they were there. Even what might be run of the mill acoustic guitar strumming on another record is taken to another level on Southeastern.  The music is intricate and haunting and layers perfectly with the lyrics.  Every time I listen to it (which has been many, many times at this point), I hear something new and wonderful. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dr. Dog @ Headliners Music Hall 11/02/2013

Artist: Dr. Dog (with guest Benny Yurco and the Revealers)
Venue: Headliners Music Hall, Louisville, KY
Date 11/02/2013

Once again, I didn't take this pic (I'm sticking to my no phone at concerts policy), we were a bit closer than this, but this was basically our view

Set List: (I know that this is dismally out of order, I always think at the time that I'll be able to remember the order, but that's a pipe dream, (furthermore, I'm not even 100% certain if The Beach was in the encore or the regular set list, I just know they played it), but I feel like it's pretty complete regardless)
1. The Truth*
2. Heavy Light*
3. Broken Heart
4. That Old Black Hole
5. Say Something
6. The Breeze
7. Hang On
8. Oh No
9. These Days
10. Stranger
11. How Long Must I Wait
12. Races
13. Too Weak to Ramble
14. Cuckoo
15. Love
16. The Beach
17. Wake Up
18. Heart It Races
19. Jackie Wants a Black Eye*
20. Lonesome*
21. The Way The Lazy Do*
22. The Beach
23. Rock & Roll
24. Die, Die, Die
25. The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer*

*These I know are in the right place.

You know how with a lot of things in life, the anticipation of it turns out to be better than the actual event?  Yeah, well, a Dr. Dog concert is most definitely not one of those things.  We hit Headliners Music Hall in Louisville last night for the second time in two weeks to see Dr. Dog and they absolutely blew the roof off the place, as expected.  It had been a little (15 days) less  than a year since we saw them last and, if I have any say in it, it won't be that long before we see them again.  They are so good live that's it's absolutely astounding.
Their openers, Benny Yurco and the Revealers were a fun, eclectic five piece band.  Their playing was a little loose and jangly, but they had the attention of the audience and they put on a good show.  We had decided to go up to the balcony for this show, so we had a cool looking-down-on-them kind of view of this show.  The Revealers had a very intricate percussion section that was fun to watch from above.  I wasn't familiar with their music before the show, but you didn't need to be in order to dance along to it and enjoy it, and that's the hallmark of a good opening band. They did one cover, You Just Keep Me Hangin' On by The Supremes (or Vanilla Fudge, or Kim Wilde) and the crowd really got into it.  They seemed a tad bit stifled by the tiny space they had available on what is already a small stage, but they made it work and I thought they did a good set.  After that, we got to watch the guys disassemble The Revealers' equipment and set up for Dr. Dog.  It was a pretty involved process that took over 30 minutes, but it was cool, the anticipation was just building the whole time.
Finally, it was time for the main event and they came out and opened with The Truth off their new album B-Room.  It went over pretty well and proved that lots of people in the crowd already own and know the new record, which was cool.  But things didn't get really cranked up until they laid into Heavy Light from Be the Void.  This is when the crowd really got drawn in and began that bobbing in unison thing that happens at every Dr. Dog show.  I knew once it started that it wouldn't stop until the lights came up, and I was right.  They turned Heavy Light into an amazing acid-rock inspired jam session that was quite heavy indeed.  It's a great song made even better last night by their embellishments.  The set list included several favorites off Be the Void which I was pretty excited about because I love the shit out of that record.  Once again they played That Old Black Hole (still my favorite), These Days and How Long Must I Wait?  All the songs from that album are huge crowd favorites and always get a great response. 
They also dipped back in their bag of tricks last night and pulled out Say Something and Oh No, both from 2005's Easy Beat and Heart it Races from the 2007 Architecture in Helsinki Heart it Races EP. All three songs proved that, young though they may be, this crowd was a bunch of long time Dr. Dog fans (or at least the kind of fans that have gone back and collected the older CDs).  It certainly wasn't only the new songs that were being appreciated last night.   However, my favorite moment of the night was when they played Too Weak to Ramble.  I had hoped for a slightly simpler arrangement on this one, I would have been happy with an acoustic guitar, Toby's voice and Scott's delicate harmonies, but we got a little more band involvement than that.  As it was, the crowd was a lost a little bit on this one and they got kind of chatty during this song.  That disappointed me because it was beautiful and powerful and I wish audiences these days could just be still (and shut up) for a second and appreciate a moment like that when it's given to them.  But, regardless of what everyone else was doing, I was right there with him.
One thing that I've come to realize is that there isn't a lot of chatting with the audience at a Dr. Dog concert.  They've come to play their songs and they let the music do all the talking for them.  Which is not to say they don't have any personality, because they do.  They're friendly and seem like nice guys, but they just get up there and play their guts out and go home, that's what we came to hear, that's what they came to do, end of story.  And it's a good thing I guess, because with a set list that size, if they were talkers, we'd still be there right now (although honestly, I'd be cool with that).  Problem is, they keep adding amazing records to their repertoire, but you can't neglect Fate or Shame, Shame just because B-Room wants some air time, right?  And they certainly didn't.  Last night, there was a little something for everybody and there was no reason anyone should have gone home unsatisfied.
They closed the show with Jackie Wants a Black Eye from Shame, Shame and Lonesome from Be the Void.  Both perfect closers and when one is followed by the other, we were really wondering what kind of encore they could possibly come out with after that.  I mean, both songs are huge and permeate the crowd and have them swaying together and screaming along to the refrains of "We're all in it together now, as we all fall apart!" and "What does it take to be lonesome? Nothing at all!!"  How can you possibly follow that?  Well, if you're Dr. Dog, you follow it with a five song encore of some of their old favorites plus the one song off the new album that you know is going to over the best live, that's how.  After the audience screamed to the point that my left ear still hurts, they finally came back out and started the encore with The Way the Lazy Do from their 2007 release We All Belong.  I love that song!  How did they know?  Then there was The Beach which was really amazing live (I really think this was during the encore, but maybe I'm nuts, my brain was all scrambled on Dr. Dog awesomeness by this point), and the Dr. Dog live show classic Die, Die, Die from Takers and Leavers EP.  As always, we were thrilled to hear that one again.  Then Toby did an astoundingly energetic version of Rock & Roll from B-Room.  How he had that much energy left after such a long show, I'll never know, but it was incredible and the song was just as great live and I had hoped it would be when I heard it on vinyl the first time.  They closed the show with one of my all time favorites, Fate's The Rabbit, the Bat & the Reindeer.
Once again, it was just as mind blowing as I had hoped it would be.  Nothing existing while you're inside that venue except the music and the lights and the awesomeness taking place on stage.  When the show is over, you just want more, it's never enough, but when watching them perform, you know you've already gotten everything.  They leave it all on stage every night, I don't know how they do it.  And they are such talented musicians, just watching them play the intricate guitar parts on their songs for two hours is a treat for me.  Then add in the way they can trade instruments back and forth like it's nothing and you realize just how talented these guys really are.  The most fun was watching Scott and Toby interact on stage (or, I should say, effortlessly not interact).  They're both bouncing around all over the place and yet, somehow know where each other are all the time.  And even when they do make contact, it's not the collision you'd expect.  I mean, seriously, they literally stepped on each other's feet at one point and there was no stumbling or awkwardness.  I'm sure it comes from so many years of playing together and just being so comfortable on stage together, and it a joy to behold.  In fact, that pretty much sums up a Dr. Dog show, even the heavy parts, it is two solid hours of joy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Carbon Leaf - The High Watt - 10/29/2013

Artist: Carbon Leaf (with guest Andrew Duhon)
Venue: The High Watt, Nashville, TN
Date 10/29/2013

View from our hotel balcony - that brick building in the upper center is Cannery Row where The High Watt is located.
Set List: (I know this one is accurate because, since my friend wasn't there to take a picture of the set list for me, I bought a live recording of the decision ever!!)
1. A Song for the Sea
2. What About Everything
3. Comfort
4. One Prairie Outpost
5. Alcatraz
6. Life Less Ordinary
7. Love Rains Down
8. Desperation Song
9. She's Gone
10. Midwestern Girl
11. Two Aging Truckers
12. Another Man's Woman
13. Block of Wood
14. Ragtime Carnival
15. The Fox & The Hare (!!)
16. Februaery Detailles
17. The Boxer
18. A gospel song (I'm not sure the name)
19. Let Your Troubles Roll By

 My take from the Carbon Leaf merch table (friendliest merch people ever, btw!!).
Yesterday my Husband and I made (what is fast becoming) our annual pilgrimage to Nashville, TN for a concert.  This time we hit the music city to see Carbon Leaf and Andrew Duhon at The High Watt, a small, intimate room that is part of Cannery Row.  I was not familiar with Andrew Duhon before I heard he was opening for them, but I had a chance to check out some of his music before the show and we were both excited to hear him play.  Let me tell you, I honestly can't remember when I saw an opening act that captivated a room the way he did.  With his bluesy voice, harmonica and heartfelt lyrics, we were all drawn in immediately.  Not to mention, his finger-picking is a thing of beauty.  The audience paid attention to him as if they were all there to see him specifically, which is always a nice thing to see.  Like I said, I'm not really familiar with his songs, so I can't speak too much to which ones he played specifically, but I thoroughly enjoyed them all and I look forward to getting to know his music.  For his last song, I do know that he broke out the slide and played us a real blues number from his new album, The Moorings, called Sidestep Your Grave.  This song really showcased where his voice and his playing belong.  The crowd went nuts, I went nuts - it was awesome.
After he finished, it was time for Barry Privett, Terry Clark, Carter Gravatt, Jon Markel, and Jason Neal, the men of Carbon Leaf, to take the stage.  Before last night, I had never been to a Carbon Leaf show before, so I had no idea what to expect.  I'm kind of a recent fan (although my collection of their albums is almost complete after shopping in Nashville) but I know enough to know that they cannot be defined by genre.  They are largely Celtic influenced, but they have entire records that don't really reflect that too much.  Also, I'm only familiar with about half of their catalogue, so I rather expected them to play a lot of songs that I don't know.  Suffice to say I was really excited to see what would unfold.  If you're familiar with them (and if you're not, you should be) you can see from the set list that they ended up playing a perfect combination of older and new songs.  They played all the favorites from Indian Summer and still properly supported the two new albums Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle and Constellation Prize. Somehow they managed to play everything I wanted to hear and then went back and picked out some songs that I didn't know, but they knew I'd love.  These guys are really good at making a set list!
They opened with A Song for the Sea from Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle, it's a beautiful song, especially to hear them perform it live, but the crowd really got involved when they next broke into the classic What About Everything off Indian Summer.  Everybody in the place got caught up in this song and they held us in their grip from that point on.  The audience participation reached it's peak during One Prairie Outpost. This might be my most favorite Carbon Leaf song because it's pretty much perfect and apparently I'm not alone on that point.  Somewhere in the first verse, Barry stopped singing altogether and the audience (that couldn't possibly have been more than 250 people because that's all The High Watt holds) sang it to/for him loud enough that we can be heard over the band on the live recording.  He smiled pretty big about that and seemed pleased by it, it was certainly one of my favorite moments of the night.  In fact, Barry, Terry and Carter seem to have a lot of fun on stage in general.  They are very connected with the audience and that always makes for a fun show, it makes it feel like we're all in it together, which is how a live show should feel.  I don't mean to leave Jason and Jon out, but I couldn't see Jason from where I was during most of the show and Jon is wicked good on the bass (or anything else he picks up to play it seems), but during shows he kind of stays in the back and plays, which is cool, I'm just glad he's playing.
As I had hoped, the night included a number of loud, fast songs that simply demand you clap your hands and sing along such as She's Gone, Another Man's Woman, The Boxer, and Life Less Ordinary.  My absolute favorite moment of the night was when the multi-talented Carter busted out his hurdy gurdy and they played The Fox and the Hare (which we have claimed as "our song").  I mean seriously, how often do you see a hurdy gurdy played live??  It was so much fun to sing along with these songs in that hot, sticky room full of strangers, led by such great showmen on stage.  The best part of a Carbon Leaf show is that they are so talented that they can weave exactly the opposite spell with equal skill.  At one point it was only Barry and Carter, two stools and microphones and they played Midwestern Girl, a quiet, acoustic, beautiful song, for a completely captivated audience. 
For their encore, they sang an a cappella gospel song.  I'm not sure the name, but it was absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking.  They said it was for Lou Reed, but I couldn't stop thinking about mothers who are no longer with us, my own and others, and I was very nearly in tears by the time they finished.  It was such a powerful moment.  They invited Andrew Duhon and his harmonica back on stage to finish out the night with an absolutely epic rendition of Let Your Troubles Roll By, during which Carter's fingers did some amazing stuff.  Overall, it was exactly why we buy tickets to live shows, with hopes of experiencing that kind of magic.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

All the Things We Are EP - Isaac Johnson

Album: All the Things We Are EP
Artist: Isaac Johnson
Release Date: September 24, 2013

Track List:
1. Virginia
2. My Coma
3. Sweet It Seems
4. Home
If you read this blog at all ever, then I'm sure you're all too aware that I'm an official card carrying member of the Aaron Tap fan club.  As such, when an album is released that he's had a hand in, I'm naturally inclined to check it out.  Sometimes I end up with things that stay in my collection mostly because they're Aaron Tap productions.  Other times, this is how I discover new favorites.  Lucky for me, the new Isaac Johnson EP, All the Things We Are, is the latter.
This little four song collection has pretty much everything I look for in an album.  On my first listen, there was Isaac's voice itself.  It's one of my favorite kinds.  A little breathy, warm and easy to listen to, no hard edges anywhere.  There is never a time when you wouldn't be in the mood to listen to this man sing.  It's good stuff.  Then there are the lyrics, whether sweet or biting, they're all well crafted and not the least bit awkward (which believe me, is an accomplishment).  Occasionally, "and when I look in your eyes, I feel like myself," from My Coma for example, they even border on love song genius.
Regardless of how good he is with a love song, my favorite song in the collection is the anti-love song, "Sweet it Seems".  First because I love a song with a twist, and second because I just adore the sound of it.  The guitar part caught my attention immediately, then there's hand claps and all sorts of things going on here - the whole production of this song is absolute perfection. 
In fact, the entire EP is richly layered with instruments and non-instruments alike.  It's largely an acoustic number, but not like anything you've heard before.  I've seen Mr. Johnson described a singer-songwriter, but please don't let that define him for you.  These song far exceed that description.  I highly recommend you check out this EP, it's an all around great listen.  If you'd like to read the artists themselves speak more intelligently about the record than I ever could, go here and here

Friday, October 25, 2013

B-Room - Dr. Dog

Album: B-Room
Artist: Dr. Dog
Release: October 2, 2013

It seems to take me a long time to properly process a Dr. Dog album, probably because they really transcend explanation.  However, we're going to see them live next weekend and I wanted to tell you about their latest release, B-Room, before I hear any of the songs performed live and they get all distorted.  I'm a firm believer that a song is just never the same once you've heard it live.

What I love most about this band is that there is no such thing as a "typical Dr. Dog album".  We all know artists that kind of have a formula or a go-to sound that you can expect to hear on every album.  Well, you won't find that here.  I never know what to expect when I go to spin one of their albums for the first time.  Hell, sometimes I don't even know what to expect from the beginning to the end of a single song and I absolutely adore that about them.  When I listen to Dr. Dog, I know that they're creating the music they want to play, the music they want to hear.  They're being true to themselves every minute of every song and that is an incredible thing to listen to, probably because it is such a rare quality to find.

Another thing I love about them is the way they juxtapose heavy, insightful lyrics with bouncy, jangly music.  It makes for some crafty little songs that make you think about the broad picture of life and your place in it, but that somehow keep from being downers.  B-Room is packed full of just this kind of song.  Take for instance "Broken Heart", a song about a life devoid of actual true love or even a belief in it.  Depressing song fodder for sure, but somehow it's still catchy as can be and not sad at all. 

I read somewhere once that Dr. Dog were never known for being good lyricists.  Personally, I think that's bullshit.  I think they write amazing lyrics, you just have to pay attention, which is probably why some people don't appreciate them.  Maybe it's because they don't often write quick little lines that you can quote on twitter and have them make any sense.  Their songs often read like short stories and taken from beginning to end are well-crafted and endlessly clever.  I also enjoy that you never really know what they're up to, it makes it fun to listen to songs like "Cuckoo" that very well could actually be about a tiny wooden bird trapped inside a clock and nothing else.

Like other albums in their collection, B-Room refuses to be slipped quietly into a particular genre.  I would never call this pop music and even rock doesn't sound right, exactly.  For some reason I'm sick to death of hearing people refer to their music as having a 60's feel to it, although I guess in some cases it's true.  I did notice earlier (I've listened to B-Room about 5 times today) that "Love" has a kind of acidy 70's thing happening in the background that I'm  digging.  Dr. Dog almost demands the creation of a new genre, one that should be called something like 'Richly Layered Creative Rock'. 

My two favorite songs on the record just so happen to be polar opposites.  Mixed in with all the retro sounds and thinly veiled love songs is the aptly named "Rock & Roll".  It's an upbeat, coming of age jam about the discovery of rock music, love and all sorts of fun things.  It's a lot of fun to listen to and to sing along with.  Then there is the quiet moment on B-Room and it is amazing.  The song, "Too Weak to Ramble" is an acoustic number sung by Toby Leaman with Scott McMicken singing harmonies.  It is stripped down, full of angst, and tailor-made for Leaman's delivery.  It's remarkable how such a simple arrangement can be so powerful.  All in all, I think B-Room is a great addition to the Dr. Dog catalogue and I'm thrilled to have in my collection.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Matt Nathanson @ Headliners Music Hall 10/23/2013

Artist: Matt Nathanson
Venue: Headliners Music Hall, Louisville, KY
Date: 10/23/2013

This pic is not from last night, or even from Headliners.  In fact, it's 2 years old, but it's the only one I have handy.

Set list (I remembered them all, and actually had them remarkably in order, but I have to credit @seriousbeagle's picture of the set list for the 100% accuracy):
  1. Mission Bells
  2. Modern Love
  3. Run
  4. Heart Starts
  5. Car Crash
  6. Kill the Lights
  7. Sunday New York Times
  8. Room @ the End of the World
  9. Wedding Dress
  10. Bulletproof Weeks
  11. Suspended
  12. Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave)
  13. Kinks Shirt
  14. Under Pressure
  15. Farewell, December
  16. Birthday Girl
  17. Faster
  18. Come On Get Higher
So, we started our fall concert lineup last night at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville with the illustrious Matt Nathanson and man, what a way to start.  Everybody else we see this next couple weeks is going to have to bring their A-game to live up to the show Matt, Aaron and Co, put on last night.  But, I digress, let me start at the beginning.

Joshua Radin opened for them and his set turned out to be a perfect storm...a perfect shit storm.  If you've been to many shows, I'm sure you've seen this sort of thing go down before.  Let me lay it out for you.  It goes like this: an opener comes out that not many people in the audience seem to be familiar with, and it's the kind of audience that's not in the mood to humor an opener that they're not especially interested in.  By that I mean that the ice clinkers are in full force, clinking their ice, having their conversations, paying no mind to the guy on stage trying to do his job.  Add to that, the guy on stage, while a decent performer and all, isn't one of those larger-than-life showmen (like our headliner last night, for instance) who takes over a room and captivates an audience, so he's kind of lost in their (I assume) mostly liquor-fueled conversations.  So the whole thing just kind of went to hell in a hand basket.  I can see both sides of this issue.  From his side, it's totally disrespectful and rude for the audience to carry on talking and not paying attention when he's up there trying to share his heart and soul with them.  On the other hand, they paid their money and if they want to stand around and drink and gab, I suppose that's their prerogative.  Although, personally I didn't appreciate it because I didn't pay to listen to people talk quite that loud through the show, but that's just me.  And I have seen a couple openers that have actually sucked quite a lot and have gotten drowned out by the audience a lot worse than he did and they kept their cool and went on with their set as if everything was fine whereas Mr. Radin kind of lost his cool and showed his ass last night.  But, I guess he was just wasn't in the mood to take any shit and we all have days like that.  Anywho, moving on.

After all that drama, Matt Nathanson, Aaron Tap, Shiben Bhattacharya, and their drummer I didn't get his name (I hope somebody comments with it so I can add it) (Edit: Chris Lovejoy is the drummer - thank you to the commenters who know more than I do, and my apologies to Chris for not knowing his name), finally took the stage.  And just to be superficial for a second, Matt's hair is all grown out and totally epic, I was quite glad he hadn't had it cut.  Anyway, they opened with Mission Bells which, just for me personally, isn't the opener that Mercy is (but you gotta remember that Mercy is the first song I ever saw him play live so I have a soft spot for that one), but you can't open every show with the same song and I thought it went over really well live and it got the night off to a great start.  After that was Modern Love which is always a fun, energetic song that gets the crowd into the show.  We got a little back story before Heart Starts, which is one of my favorites from Last of the Great Pretenders, and I love Matt's stories, so I was glad that he was more talkative this time than the last time he played Louisville.  In fact, he got more and more chatty as the night went on which was nice to see because I take it as a sign that he's relaxed and having a good time himself.  As he got into Heart Starts, we found that his breathy high notes didn't make it to the show with him, (they must have been chillin' in the bus listening to some of that vinyl he's been amassing while on tour), but it was cool, I felt like the audience was understanding and we tried to do our best to fill in for him (I mean, our best sucks compared to his best, but we did what we could).  I mean, good lord, the man sings pretty much every night, these things are bound to happen to from time to time.

After that he dipped back in the catalogue and broke out Car Crash and here is where his live show completely disassembles you if you let it.  In fact, last night was filled with the songs that get in and break down the little pieces.  The kind of songs that I can just close my eyes and ride along on the swell of the music.  They wipe out all the bullshit and there's nothing there but the music and the image of fingers on guitars and the feel the drum in my chest.  I can literally let go and know that I'll be alright, if you will.  There was Car Crash, Wedding Dress, Suspended, Room @ the End of the World, Sunday New York Times, Farewell, December...just live music perfection.  I get into the fast stuff too, don't get me wrong, but I really dig these slower, floaty tunes.  I can't help it.  The most stripped down moment of the night came when he played Bulletproof Weeks for us.  Apparently Matt didn't used to play this song because of the ouch factor, but he's decided to start adding it to set lists and I think it's a great addition.  It's a quiet, powerful man-and-his-guitar moment.  I noticed that the chatty ice clinkers got cranked up a bit again while he was playing this one which irked me, and I hope he doesn't think the gravity of the song was lost on everyone.

Nor was the show all a quiet, acoustic, singer-songwriter affair.  A lot of the songs on the new record are very rock and roll, Kill the Lights for example.  It's a sexy little tune on vinyl and he revels in the sexiness of it when he plays it live.  It was an absolute celebration of carnality and it was wonderful.  Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave) is my favorite song on Last of the Great Pretenders and I was tickled pink that he played it last night.   It's so fun to see Matt really getting into the rock star vibe.  Playing the shit out of his guitar, jumping around up there, owning that stage.  I know that he had a shoulder injury from going ass over tin cups off his bike a few days ago and that sort of thing doesn't heal quickly (he even had a visible injury on his elbow), but there was no sign of it in his performance.  He was as energetic and into his playing as I've seen him.  It was a joy to watch. Me being me, I have to admit though, my favorite moment of the night was when they played the Queen/David Bowie classic Under Pressure.  Only because it was during this song that Aaron Tap broke out his beautiful, soaring tenor and it absolutely made my night.  I mean, I've heard it happen on my iPod and my ear buds and my car speakers, but I've never actually heard him go full throttle live before.  I'm telling you, it really was something else.  Wow.

So there you have it, the first concert of the fall was a rousing success.  They're playing the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville, TN tonight which was the first place we saw Matt headline and I wish we were going.  Sadly, it's not happening.  Next up for us is Carbon Leaf at The High Watt in Nashville next Tuesday, then Dr. Dog back here in Louisville next Saturday.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"September Eyes" - Paula Kelley

Before the month of September escapes me entirely (as months have been known to do), I wanted to get Paula Kelley's "September Eyes" on your radar.  Like pretty much everything else she has done, this song is just pop perfection.  It's a bit jangly, with her angelic voice resting gently on a rich arrangement.  Seriously, it's pretty wonderful.  My favorite individual Paula Kelley songs actually come from Nothing/Everything, but oddly enough, The Trouble with Success or How You Fit Into the World is my favorite album to listen to from beginning to end.  I just love the sound of the whole thing all together.  So, naturally, I'm going to recommend you run out and buy it (or stay home and go clicky-clicky to buy it) and anything else you can find by her because her arrangements are simply mind blowing, so do now.  What are you waiting for??

Happy September!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Last of the Great Pretenders - Matt Nathanson

Album: Last of the Great Pretenders
Artist: Matt Nathanson
Release Date: July 16, 2013

Track List (original release):
1. Earthquake Weather
2. Mission Bells
3. Last Days of Summer in San Francisco
4. Kinks Shirt
5. Sky High Honey
6. Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave)
7. Kill the Lights
8. Heart Starts
9. Birthday Girl
10. Sunday New York Times
11. Farewell, December

So yes, I know it has taken me a month and a half to write about this album.  There are reasons for that, but it's all boring real life stuff that I won't snore you to death with. Just trust me, shit has been hectic; however, I've been spinning this thing silly since it was released.  My first comment though is this, when you have a genius lyric on your record like: "I'm the last of the worst pretenders", why on earth would you fly in the face of it when naming the album??  I don't follow.  I'm sure there are 500 perfectly viable reasons for that decision, none of which had to be passed by me for approval.  And honestly, "Last of the Worst Pretenders" isn't that great of an album title, but it still bugs me every time I hear that line.  But, I'm just weird that way.

Speaking of great lyrics, however, he has done it again on this album.  If you follow Matt Nathanson anywhere (twitter, facebook...where ever) you've surely seen him bemoaning the lyric writing process.  Seems so odd to me because I've always loved the shit out of his lyrics and these are no different.  I mean, "just because you learn to breathe, underwater doesn't mean, you ever shake the fear of being drown" ("Birthday Girl") are you kidding me?  The album is full of little gems like that, as we have all come to expect from Matt.  My personal favorite, and perhaps least favorite at the same time (and aren't those always the best kind??), is from "Annie's Always Waiting (for the Next One to Leave)": "My mother, she taught me how to doubt myself. Now, she lives in my head like it's a tree house.  I see her clearer in the mirror more and more each day." Ouch. 

Unlike Matt's last offering, Modern Love, I'll admit that I didn't immediately love this record all the way through the first time I heard it.  But I'm a Matt fan, so I kept listening and the whole thing really has grown on me.  Seems to me that this album is more Matt than past albums have been, or at least it is more present day Matt.  I'm sure they have all come from a genuine place, but this one, with it's San Francisco-centric nature and focus on existing, healthy relationships rather than those going up in flames, it seems like he's drawing more from his present life than from past devastation.  The music itself has also changed direction a bit from past albums, he has almost completely shed the singer/songwriter sound on Last of the Great Pretenders.  The music is more rock/pop sounding, more of a full band sound than a boy-and-his-guitar sound.  He has taken the sound he started to develop on Modern Love and run with it.  I love that, after 20 years of music making, he's still growing and developing and changing it up, I think it's awesome and I can't wait to hear what he does next.

My favorite song on the album is "Heart Starts".  I love this song all to pieces for a few reasons, not the least of which our first 4-letter word, on wax, from Mr. Nathanson.  And then there is the mention of his wife in the second line (or at least, I'm taking it that way - what other "b" could it be??) - I could not love that more if I tried.  This song, with it's "I want to feel it kick in, I want to feel it kick in, this time" refrain is straight up heartwarming. If you're looking for something warming a little further south, LOTGP's swoon-worthy song of choice is "Kill the Lights".  With lines like "you be stunning baby, I'll be stunned, keep glowing, I'll follow your explosions," it's an irresistible love song with a perfect dose of lust.

Overall, I'm really loving this record.  I've been listening to it all over the place and I'm still hearing new things and noticing new and different things about it and I always take that as a sign of a great album.  The album art is perfect too, this is a great album to wander around in and that image perfectly describes the way I felt the first time I plugged into this album, blocked everything else out and did nothing but listen to it.  I highly recommend you let this one in.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Another Friend" -Ryan Schmidt

You guys, I'm kind of freaking out over here.  Ryan Schmidt released a new single today and I'm finally getting to really listen to it for the first time right now.  I listened to it a couple times at work today, but it was just on my phone and only loud enough to know that it was good, you know what I mean?  Now I'm finally hearing it directly in my ears at a respectable volume and I am genuinely blown away. 

I can't decide if we have a pop star or an R&B singer on our hands, but he's the next big thing either way.  Obviously, I've known this for some time, but I'm convinced that the rest of the world is going to catch on when they get a load of this song. 

Richly layered music with clever lyrics depicting the plight of the "friend zone", the song is super catchy...I can picture throngs of screaming girls dancing their asses off to it.  At the same time there are hints of the heart-sick guitar long-time Ryaneers (thanks for the term, Bre!) will recognize from Burning, Bitter Years, just to let know that he is still firmly grounded in his origins.  And of course there is Ryan's soothing, cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow voice driving the whole song and it just keeps getting better and better.

Following Ryan's musical journey and career is so much fun, there is no telling what he has in store for us next!  I'm so excited to see where this new direction takes him, wherever it is, I'm sure it will be an awesome adventure.  So check it out below so you can join me saying "I knew him when".  :)


Monday, July 29, 2013

Fandom Fest (and Yes, Record Shopping)

Because of the experience we had this weekend, I'm going to stray a bit from my normal topic here, but because I love you, I'll get back to it a bit before I go.  Louisville, KY hosted Fandom Fest this weekend, for those of you who aren't familiar, Fandom Fest is like ComicCon but with more stuff.  It includes a lot of horror movies things (it used to only be horror movies) and anime and steam punk and lots of cool stuff.  Anyway, this year it turned into a colossal clusterfuck and our little corner of the internet is swirling with negativity about the event.  In light of all that, I just wanted to share our Fandom Fest experience this weekend. 
It all started with them moving the Kevin Smith/Jason Mewes event to Wednesday night because of a scheduling conflict.  This was not the fault of the organizers and I don't blame them for it.  That evening, while much too late for a work night (again, not their fault or problem) was fun and I'm honestly glad it was moved because if it had stayed on Saturday I'm sure the organizers would have figured out some way to screw it up.  We picked up our prepaid tickets on Thursday after work and that went fine.  We spotted a couple guests in the lobby and it seemed like a good start to the convention.  Friday we arrived around 4pm because that was our best guest as to when the vendor hall should be opening.  One program said noon, one said 4pm, one said was hard to tell.  There was a HUGE line forming to enter the vendor hall.  A security guard told us that only VIPs were allowed in currently, which seemed odd since it was already 20 minutes after it was supposed to open to everyone, but still we went over to the Convention Center to check out that hall.  Again, another line.  This time the people there were bragging about being in line for 2+ hrs and the vendors there weren't even finished setting up so we went BACK over to the hotel and went down the escalator into the back of the vendor hall.  After browsing there, we went back across the pedway (AKA the pizza oven) and finally made our way upstairs to the main vendor hall.  Here we found all the comic book artists and authors and some celebrities and other artists and various vendors...basically the stuff we wanted to look at and spend our money on. 
Now you have to understand that we only found this stuff because we have been to other conventions (namely the ones put on by Wizard World in Columbus, OH and New Orleans) and we KNEW there had to be more than what were finding.  There were NO signs anywhere.  The volunteers has absolutely no idea where anything was or even which building things were happening in.  I've seen a lot of people saying that the staff and volunteers were rude and, in all honesty, we didn't have that experience.  Everyone we encountered was friendly enough (of course, some more than others) but they just weren't any help at all.  I don't blame them for this.  They can't tell me what they don't know.  I felt sorry for them that they were thrown into this huge group of people and given absolutely nothing to work with.  That's not fair to the convention goers or to the volunteers and the organizers should be ashamed of themselves for doing that to them. 
We came back on Saturday and brought my Husband's cousin to see Stan Lee.  We had purchased a photo op ticket for him but he had to work in the morning so we came and had our picture taken with Mr. Lee.  We arrived about 10am for the 11am photo op and when I tell you that we were greeted with mass chaos, it really is an understatement.  The VIPs were lined up in the hallway, that much had been accomplished, but everyone else was just in a group milling around.  An hour before the photo op they hadn't even BEGUN to line up the general admission photo op people yet.  Myra Daniels (one of the "organizers") began telling a crew person that they needed a bullhorn to announce where people needed to line up, etc.  Seriously??  At 10am on SATURDAY?  DURING the convention...THAT'S when you figure out that you're going to need a bullhorn to announce when/where to line up?  What about some ropes and signage to get/keep people in line?  Holy crap.  Anyway, finally a lady with a "crew" t-shirt and a healthy set of lungs began yelling out for Stan Lee photo-ops and gathering people in a line.  We lined up quickly (but honestly only got in that line because I heard Myra talking about getting people lined up and followed her around until the line got formed) and got our picture.  But I've seen reports of people who waited 4+ hours to have their picture taken with Stan Lee and it never happened.  I have no idea where those poor people where, but I can easily see how they got told to stand somewhere in some line by some clueless crew person and just left there.  So sad.  We spent all of our time in line trying to help people who couldn't even figure out where to buy tickets or find the vendor halls and couldn't find a crew person who could help them.
Later when we finally found the Stan Lee Q&A (after being told it was in 3 different rooms) it was also not lined up yet, but that was okay because it got pushed back...another changed in the schedule which was not announced at all to anyone.  So we formed a line for that too and waited.  It was so frustrating that we, the attendees, had to form the lines and tell each other where to stand and what we were waiting for and where things where happening and at what time and the crew/volunteers/security just stood there and looked at us because they had no idea if what we were saying was even correct information.   There were panels that were moved, rescheduled and flat out cancelled for no apparent reason.  In the lowest move the weekend, the organizers had the absolute balls the tell a room full of people that Colin Baker's panel was cancelled through some fault of Mr. Baker's when he was in his room waiting to be called down!!  That is just disgraceful.  I understand that we will never come back to Fandom Fest, but I hope he doesn't let the experience color his opinion of all of Louisville/Kentuckiana.  As has always been our experience at conventions, the celebrities and vendors at this convention were gracious and friendly and it was awesome to see them.  I can't imagine what it's like to do what they do for their fans at these events all weekend (of course, hugging strangers and kissing babies is really not my thing, so it would be unbelievably exhausting for me to do that sort of thing for 3 days solid) and for the organizers to treat them like crap is nothing less despicable.
Afterwards, we even stopped at the store in Louisville of one of the vendors and the owner expressed some concerns about the event.  Turns out the vendors were told some things that were misleading (or altogether untrue) and they weren't satisfied with their interaction with the organizers either.  Sounds like to me that we need to keep having a convention in Louisville, we just need to have someone else run the thing.  Luckily for us we've been to other conventions so we knew what a fiasco this was right from the very beginning.  Had this been our first experience, I'm not sure we would have ever gone to another one.  As it is, I'm not sure we'll ever go back to this one because frankly, I don't want to give the organizers another penny of our money, which sucks because it is so close to home.  Anyway, in the end, we managed to have a good time but only because we have a knack for having fun in a face of adversity.  :)  We bought some cool stuff, for instance this wire angel made by a local artist:
and this zombie gnome that (even those he's solid concrete) will decorate our hearth...

 and of course I couldn't pass up this catbat print, because for some reason every time we go to one of these things, I get something cat related...
After all that craziness, we went record shopping to sooth our souls (or, you know, my soul at least) and we finally got to stop at Better Days Records in the Highlands.  Seems like there is never a place to park there, or we always pass the place up and traffic is too crazy to try to turn around and go back, or some other force of nature has always stopped us from going there.  But today we were determined and where there's a will there's a way and what do you know, we got in there and on the back wall in the rack I found THIS!!

 Matt Nathanson's newest release "Last of the Great Pretenders" on vinyl!!  I was so excited to find an actual physical copy of a Matt Nathanson record on vinyl right here in Louisville that I took like 4 pictures of it.  Yep, the store owner now thinks I'm nuts.  And probably more so because I didn't buy it, but I've already bought it twice so...  If you don't have it yet, buy it, it is some kind of wonderful.  As soon as I wrap my head around the whole thing I'll write it up.
I was also pretty amazed to find a copy of The Mountain Goats' "All Hail West Texas".  Not sure why, just didn't seem like the kind of thing I'd run across so close to home and I was proud of them for stocking it and displaying it prominently.  
Before we left I did buy Jack White's "Blunderbuss" and a Carpenters album (now surely you didn't read all the way down here to start judging me now, did you??) and then grabbed a few out of the $1.00 bin to make an art piece for my treadmill room.  Of course, I grabbed some good stuff like Foghat and Fleetwood Mack and if they play I won't use them, but if they're all scratched to piss at least I'll still be able to put them to good use.