Monday, October 27, 2008

Song of the Week 10/24/08

The Temptations - "Shakey Ground"

I've spent much of this month listening to New York's oldies station CBS-FM. Perhaps its just a function of another birthday rolling around and I feel like reveling in my past. Or maybe I didn't want to sit through another WFUV fund drive. Then again, maybe I just didn't want to listen to baseball on the radio done by people not named Howie Rose.

Whatever the reason, I woke up one night to hear "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and it struck me that I haven't owned a single Motown album (and only a couple of tracks scattered on some compilations) since I scored a major case of burnout on all their acts in the early 90s. "Papa" sounded so good that night I realized I needed to get that song again. And while I was at it, I decided to download all of The Tempts greatest hits.

As I was scrolling through the various song selections last Thursday, I stumbled upon "Shakey Ground." I didn't even realize that this funky gem from 1975 (which I remember hearing on WGY-AM growing up) was a Temptations song. Damn, what a killer track. I love re-discovering songs from my past.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Song of the Week 10/17/08

The Figgs - "The Loner"

Another Figgs show, another amazing take on Neil Young's "The Loner." So this gives me an excuse to post the video of the first time I saw them tackle it.

Quite simply, fucking awesome. And yes, the guitarist Mike Gent does dedicate it to me at the end.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Song of the Week 10/10/08

At the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival I got my first exposure to Okkervil River. In the 100 degree heat at Zilker Park my friend Stacy said, "We should stop and watch some of Okkervil River." Even though I was wilting, I agreed. The second song we saw them do was "The President's Dead." I was immediately hooked by this tale about how a simple and beautiful day in someone's life become memorable because of an assassination of a world leader. I found the song online once I got back to New York and it started me on my path to Okkervil River fandom.

Flash forward two years--I saw Okkervill River twice in the space of 9 days, the first at ACL and the second time time Tuesday night at Webster Hall here in New York. Frontman Will Sheff opened this show up with a song that used "The President's Dead" music, but with some decidedly darker lyrics: "The President's alive. I see his face on FOX 5. My friends I feel so terrified." However, "The President's Alive" isn't about our current ineffective leader. The lyrics go on to mention "The Vice standing by" with "just one tear in her eye." To open up a show with this song, on the night of second presidential debate, well, damn, it was pretty powerful. And got me hooked on Okkervill River all over again.

BONUS: This week's song title links will take you to some cool live recordings. "The President's Dead" links to a recording from the very first time I saw Okkervill River play in 2006, while "the President's Alive" links to the very first performance of "The President's Alive" in Richmond, Virginia on October 4th. Click here to get a free download of the studio version of "The President's Dead."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Song of the Week 10/3/08

Death Cab For Cutie - "The Sound of Settling"

Simple SOTW addition:

A random WFUV playlist on my trip back into Brooklyn Saturday night


The shuffle setting on the Union Hall iPod Saturday night


Seeing Death Cab for Cutie do a kicking version of it during a kicking show last night at Radio City



I wish all math was that easy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Co-Songs of the Week 9/26/08

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - "Kodachrome"

Talking Heads - "Houses in Motion"

Ah, Austin in September. The Austin City Limits Music Festival. (Known in these and other parts as ACL.) Three days of sun, fun and great music in beautiful Zilker Park. My third year of the attending the fest was just as great as the first two trips. I saw 19 artists perform during the festival, most of it really good. If I had to pick the Top 5 performances, I would go with Okkervill River, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, What Made Milwaukee Famous and one of this week's SOTW performers, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. I knew that the Bright Eyes frontman was keeping away from doing songs from that catalog on this solo tour, yet I didn't expect his hour-long set to be just focused on his self-titled album, one new song and one tremendous cover. When Oberst and company broke into the 1973 Paul Simon solo hit, I started chuckling. It seemed that most of the crowd at the AT&T stage had never even heard the song. There were a few pockets of people dancing--and I could tell those folks were probably my age or a bit older. No matter, Conor kicked some serious ass. I really hope that cover ends up being one of the track released when the ACL live recordings come to iTunes next month. Check it out for yourself:

Now David Byrne and his band did a great set at ACL as the sun was setting on the first day of the festival, but it paled in comparison to seeing him at the very tiny Paramount Theater the night before the festival opened. My Austin friend (and place-to-crash supplier these past three years) Stacy couldn't make the first day of ACL due to work, so we decided to take the plunge and get tix for this ACL aftershow...that was before ACL. Huh? In any case, it was a very wise decision. Byrne is touring behind his great new collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and his set consists only of songs he wrote with Eno. (Or, in the case of the Al Green cover "Take Me to the River," Eno produced.) I am a huge fan of the Jonathan Demme-directed Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which takes simple staging and brings it to another level. Byrne's current show feels like an extension of all of that. The entire band is dressed in white and are supplemented by three dancers. And these dancers are tremendous. The choreography during the songs (I'd say about 75% of the set features the dancers) adds an extra dimension to the old Heads classics and the strong new material. Go see this show when it comes to your town. I promised you won't be disappointed. Check out one of the dancers in action:

And here you can check out what I thought was the best song of both Byrne sets I saw, "Houses in Motion" from Remain in Light:

Another great time in Austin (and Lockhart for some great bbq). I already have my tickets set for next year.

BONUS: Okkervill River were just so much fun, and I was very pleased to see this video for "Lost Coastlines" when I returned to the old grind: