December 20, 2014

Brand new Dustin Kensrue song performed last night in San Diego

(Begins about the 2:15 mark)

Found a much higher quality video and the first public performance of the song:

December 18, 2014

New Christmas Song from Poor Old Lu!

Out of nowhere comes this terrific song penned by Scott Hunter, with Poor Old Lu collaborating with Jesse Sprinkle's new band Vekora:

From the Bandcamp page:

Merry Christmas from Vekora and Poor Old Lu

released 18 December 2014 
Music and Lyrics by Scott Hunter 
Kurt Schmidt: Electric Guitar 
Scott Hunter: Vocals 
Alexandra Wendt: Vocals 
Aaron Sprinkle: Electric Guitar 
Jesse Sprinkle: Drums, Acoustic Guitar, and Percussion 
Brian Moore: Bass and Rhodes

December 16, 2014

Top 5 EPs of 2014

Top 5 EPs of 2014:

1. Sunny Day Real Estate- Lipton Witch (split with Circa Survive)
Not sure this really counts as an EP as it is only a split 7" with 2 songs. But it includes one of the most important songs of the year, Sunny Day Real Estate's only recording since 2000. From Under the Gun: "Record Store Day was yesterday, and there were plenty of releases for fans of all genres to look forward to. One of those releases was a split between Circa Survive and Sunny Day Real Estate. This split is particularly exciting because SDRE haven’t released new music together in fourteen years. While I do love Circa Survive, SDRE’s “Lipton Witch” is definitely the biggest reason to grab the split."

2. Frontier(s)- White Lights
It has to be hard for Frontier(s) to escape the shadow of Elliott, especially considering up until this point everything from Chris Higdon's new band was far inferior to his former. But finally Frontier(s) is creating its own identity. From Half/Cloth: "[Frontier(s)]treat guitars like line-drawings, endlessly choosy over individual notes and looming waves. A title like “white lights” could describe the band’s crafted approach to negative space, the ways in which the EP is as much about proportion and dynamics as it is about narrative or melody. Frontier(s) are endlessly selective and crafty regarding what they decide to illuminate. As with similarly angular bands like Jawbox and Rival Schools, there’s a tart relief in each chorus, if only because it feels like a breath of air in a cloistered room. Guitars and drums don’t clutter the aural field of White Lights — they constrict it."

3. How to Throw a Christmas Party- IV: Intergalactic Welcome
This is the fourth Christmas album from this group of Dutch musicians (who hail from numerous bands most notably Brown Feather Sparrow and This Beautiful Mess). A little shorter than the previous three releases, but once again with a terrific set of completely original new Christmas songs. From Henk-Jan van der Klis (translated from Dutch): "For the fourth part of Christmas as Lydia Maurik-Weaver and her musical friends How to Throw a Christmas Party , Intergalactic Welcome  6 new songs written in the quirky folk-pop style. Opener  Angels came from outerspace is an adaptation of Angels We Have Heard on High . Arjen van Wijk ( People Get Ready , VanDryver ) wrote a new text and Bas van Nienes ( People Children , Anderson ) behind the microphone a singalong was created. Admiral Oosterbroek and Pim Works ( Eins, Zwei Orchestra , Silence Is Sexy , Jesus & The Christians , etc.) written Tiny Little Baby Halo talks with singing, pointed keyboard performance, strings and the Christmas choir. By Bas van Nienes and Jeroen van der Werken (People Children, Anderson Writers for Justice ) composed Fleecy Flocks move Shamgar Lemuel Jacobs (singer and drummer of  Mister and Mississippi ) and Kirsten Gerritsen in the winter sun."

4. Sucré- Loner
Stacy Dupree King's solo project has given her a unique voice separate from the rest of her family (Eisley). This EP is a huge step forward from the first Sucré LP, most notably featuring resounding percussion from her husband Darren King. From The Cliff Waltz: "Following track one, is the EP’s single, Young and Free. This song features gritty sounding synths and a driving, dynamic, drum part. Of course the song still incorporates all the parts that make Sucre, Sucre. Haunting vocals, soft piano in parts, and a beautiful composition of strings. Lyrically and vocally, the song is very simple and straight forward, balancing the intricateness of the instruments."

5. Sleeping at Last- Atlas: Land
Ryan O'Neal is the EP king (Wikipedia lists almost two dozen!), and is one of the most prolific song-writers of this decade. From Sputnik Music: "Sleeping at Last’s Ryan O’Neal has released his fair share of music. Sleeping at Last’s discography is quite large, despite them being relatively unknown, and yet O’Neal’s scope broadens with each release. O’Neal’s previous project, Yearbook, a series of EPs inspired by each of the months of the year, was an ambitious undertaking-it was O’Neal, working alone, attempting to create a thematic sound and vision for each EP. He was relatively successful in his ambitions, creating a series of EPs that were quite diverse- and often haunting in their melodies and heartfelt lyrics. 

In the following year, O’Neal decided to increase his ambitions even further. His newest project, Atlas, is another series of EPs based once again off of various themes; each being a collection of musical projections of the inner workings of life. On O’Neal’s newest EP in the series, Land, we see O’Neal completely intimate and exposed. With the Land EP, O’Neal stated that he wanted to work quite simply- acoustic instruments alone. This decision was certainly a wise one, as the EP truly feels like a musical embodiment of the land itself, with a low-key atmosphere created by the simplicity behind the keys, the strings, and the acoustic guitar."

December 15, 2014

Vinyl Reissues in 2014

I keep a running vinyl wish list, as can be seen here. In 2014, the top 5 albums on that wish list I was finally  able to buy because they all got reissued. (My current #1 is now Over the Rhine's Ohio double LP. Last time I saw it on eBay it went for close to $200, and there is no way I am paying that.)

Most of these reissues' original versions were all around $100, well out of my budget. Thankfully they are now only around $20 each, and most have been remastered, have new and improved packaging and liner notes.

Top vinyl reissues of 2014:

Mineral Reissues as displayed with my turntable. Gatefold with new liner notes.

1. Mineral- The Power of Failing (1997) and EndSerenading (1998). I was fortunate to get an original pressing of The Power of Failing a few years ago, but I was never able to spend the money on EndSerenading until now. When they announced their reunion tours and these reissues, I ordered them immediately from the British label Xtra Mile. At this point the only vinyl I have ordered in Germany and have had sent to my apartment here. Going to see Mineral in Italy on Jan. 31, 2015!

2. Jimmy Eat World- Static Prevails (1996) The band also reissued other albums in their back catalog, but this is the only one I did not own the original version of.

3. Death Cab for Cutie- The Photo Album (2001) and We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes (2000).
Death Cab put out an amazing yet outrageously expensive box set a couple years ago with all of their albums. It was way out of my price range, and I already owned about half the records in it anyway. Thankfully Barsuk reissued these albums individually so that I could complete my Death Cab collection; previously it started with Transatlanticism and worked its' way forward.

4. Cursive- The Ugly Organ (2003). I haven't purchased it, because I own the original, but it looks awesome. I did by the digital version of the 8 bonus tracks that were not on the original release.

As this article in the Wall Street Journal attests, vinyl sales and production are on the rise, which makes it fun for a collector and music fan like me:
The Biggest Music Comeback of 2014: Vinyl Records

I bought lots of 7"s in the 1990's, but didn't avidly begin collecting 12" LPs until I returned to the States from Zambia in 2004.

December 3, 2014

November 29, 2014

4 more essential streaming songs and videos...

Only the second track released from it thus far, but is this already the best album of 2014?!

Smashing Pumpkins debuted a new lineup this week. Along with Billy Corgan, there was Jeff Schroeder (Lassie Foundation, Violet Burning) who has now played lead guitar for 7 years, and then for the first time Brad Wilk on the drums (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave), and Mark Stroermer on bass (The Killers). Here is "Stand Inside Your Love" with the new lineup:

Not necessarily music related (but with with a great accompanying song), this is an incredible video of Chernobyl shot by a drone. I visited Ukraine twice a few years ago, and visited the Chernobyl museum in Kiev, and have been fascinated by the nuclear disaster ever since. I have a burning desire to visit--but obviously never will--so this is as close as I will get:

Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl from Danny Cooke on Vimeo.

Finally, I have watched this a dozen times in the last 24 hours:

November 20, 2014

Gemma Hayes- "Jets" to "There's Only Love" to "Laughter"

Nov. 23 Update: This post has been edited to add a Facebook entry from Gemma Hayes the day after I wrote this. See bottom of post.

My first blog post about Gemma Hayes was in January of 2013, about her 2011 album, Let it Break, which I (stupidly) bought very late. My next post about her coincides with the release of her new album, Bones + Longing, which just came out last week. I was one of the first people to hear it, as one of 890 people who supported her through PledgeMusic to record it. I pledged the money over a year ago, and it was fun to track the progress of the album over the months, and thrilling to finally be able to download it this week. I have been listening to it non-stop since.

Gemma Hayes
This post though is going to be about one song from the album, which I discovered has three names: "Jets", "There's Only Love", and now "Laughter." On first listen of Bones + Longing, I instantly noticed that the first track, "Laughter" sounded very familiar. I quickly realized it was a different version of the song "There's Only Love", which is track 2 on Let it Break. I began doing research on the song, which led to two album reviews. Both however make false assumptions about the song:

From The Arts Desk:
"Bones and Longing kicks off with “Laughter”, a reworking of 2011’s “There’s Only Love” with a more shoe-gazy feel. Its minimal production sets the tone for much of the record. There are whispering vocals, acres of reverb and scratchy guitars that evoke feelings of distant youth." 

From Drowned in Sound:
"Gemma Hayes fans will do a double take as Bones + Longing whirs into life, and may check the correct file/CD/slab of wax is playing. Opener ‘Laughter’ sounds uncannily familiar... then click - it’s literally ‘There’s Only Love’ from 2011’s Let It Break. Recycling’s always shaky musical ground, especially around this time of the year as the market floods with errant balladry designed to keep Cowell’s pet blue whale in krill. Still, disposable dreck is one thing; it’s a bit odd when a serious singer-songwriter opens a fifth record with a cover of themselves. Maybe the creative flame has puttered out?

Not so: Hayes is making amends. She deftly recasts the original's sub-Snow Patrol slog via thoughtful, considered layering - drifting shoegaze guitars, insistent ride cymbal, flecks of synth and a buried, suggestive vocal wheeling beautifully out of the gorse. Voila; the pedestrian becomes the tantalising, lyrics glimpsed through the autumnal furze. It’s a perfect, and somewhat surprising, opening gambit for a record of brave self-assessment.

‘Laughter’ remains a shade tentative, feet carefully placed among slick leaves, but reinvention’s an aim without an obvious path. It’s the collision that discrepancy provides that ultimately gives the record its impetus as Hayes takes stock. 'Sometimes the magic is deadened by trying to record a perfect version of a song,' she said of the process. 'My aim was to make sure each song had a spark.'"

Both are wrong assessments, but the second (from Drowned in Sound) is especially misinformed and false, and takes Gemma Hayes' interview quotes completely out of context. In fact, Drowned in Sound appears to be attacking the original version (?) of the song, by calling it "sub-Snow Patrol slog". What does that even mean? It is a humorous description that I disagree with considering "There's Only Love" is perhaps my all-time favorite Gemma Hayes song.

But the main point here is that "Laughter" is not a re-working or a new version of an old song. "Laughter" is the EXACT same song as "Jets", which was released on the Velvet Ears Two compilation in Sept. 2011. This was a bizarre discovery! You can listen to it here:

As the original, Irish version of of Let it Break was released in May of 2011 (The North American version, which I have, was released in 2012 with a different track order), the question now is which song came first, "Jets" or "There's Only Love"? In Gemma's Wikipedia entry, it describes "Jets" as a demo. I find that hard believe due to the excellent quality and production of the song.

Based on everything I have read up until this point, I am going to guess that both versions of this song were recording during sessions for "Let it Break". Then I assume she picked one version of the song, named "There's Only Love" to put on that album. Considering the other version is equally outstanding yet very different, she picked it to be released that same year as "Jets" on the Velvet Ears comp.

Fast forward to 2014, for some reason, she re-named and re-released "Jets" as the opening track on her new album. While it is now called "Laughter", is is the exact same recording as "Jets" from three years ago. I only heard this song last week, so it is crazy to me it has existed for at least three years.

I admit I am a relatively new Gemma Hayes fan with limited knowledge of her songs (discovered her in 2008, and it wasn't until 2013 that I had more than one album of hers) . Perhaps she records different versions of songs often? Her catalog is so immense, and I am missing one LP and all of the EPs and singles from my collection.

I will continue my research on this song, and attempt to reach out to Gemma herself. I would love her insight on the different versions of this song, and if you are reading this, and have any information, please comment! In summary: 1 song, 2 recordings, 3 titles.

Update, from Gemma Hayes Facebook page on Nov. 21:
I can see on social media that some of you are curious to know my reason for putting an alternative version of 'There’s Only Love' as the opener on the album. I’m talking about 'Laughter'. The album was always a ten track album, I decided to add a bonus track during the mastering phase. Laughter was that bonus track and was set to be placed at the very end of the album as a secret track. The song has a lot of energy and good life to it. The more I lived with it the more I loved the idea of opening the album with this bonus track! It connects both albums or where I have been but more so it clearly establishes a loud and bold change. It's the same person but changed. So a ten track album became an 11. It's been only four days since it's release and the support and good will towards Bones + Longing is staggering. Thank you x G

While she didn't respond directly to me, I assume she did see my tweets and follow-up responses. This is interesting insight on the song, but still doesn't answer my primary question: when was "Laughter" recorded, and did it precede or follow "There's Only Love"?

November 5, 2014

3 new streaming tracks you need to hear...

First of all, the Decemberists are set to release a new album in early 2015, and this is the first single:

Secondly, one of my top-5 all-time R.E.M. songs, "Walk Unafraid," is being covered on an upcoming movie soundtrack:

Then, thirdly, Steve Taylor has a new animated video as we count down the days to his first album in 20 years. I'm not able to embed it as it is debuting on Relevant's website.

October 27, 2014

First Luxury song in a decade...

...and it iss far better than I could have imagined. I contributed more to their Kickstarter than I ever have before, and I am glad to help make this album possible. Apparently it is a few weeks away from a full digital release.

September 14, 2014

20 best Death Cab for Cutie songs

Recently Chris Walla announced he would be leaving Death Cab for Cutie after their next tour, which coincides with the upcoming release of their 8th studio album (early 2015). Because of that, there has been Death Cab news all over the web in response.

I began writing this post over a month ago, as I recently moved to Germany from the US, I didn't have internet at home for the first month, so blogging has been the last thing on my mind. But, I am WAY overdue for a post, and Paste Magazine inspired me as they posted a top 10 list of Death Cab songs.

The Paste list, found here, is terrible. I seriously doubt a fan of the band wrote it. Without ripping it to shreds, I’ll just post my own list. I have been a fan of Death Cab since 1999, so almost the beginning. The first album I bought was We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes and I saw them on tour for The Photo Album. I am not trying to defend my credentials, but I have them.
About Chris Walla’s departure: he is essential. Obviously Ben Gibbard is the voice and writes all the lyrics, but Chris Walla’s production and instrumentation are awesome. Grantland, a sports news website, published this terrific article about his contributions. I’ll say in summary that it would be silly for the name “Death Cab for Cutie” to be used in the future without him. Ben Gibbard has released solo work, plays solo shows, and even if they (bass player and drummer) decide to continue to tour together, they should just call it Ben Gibbard shows. And future albums as well... maybe The Ben Gibbard band.

Now, my list. I am going to do 20 songs because it is hard to narrow it down. Transatlanticism and The Photo Album dominate it, because they are far and away the band’s best work. (And only three of Paste’s 10 made my 20.)

20. "Company Calls" and "Company Calls Epilogue" from We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes (Paste’s #1)

19. "Summer Skin" from Plans

18. "Home is a Fire" from Codes and Keys (If Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel were still together, "Monday Morning" would be here instead. But their divorce ruined that song for me.)

17. "Someday You Will be Loved" from Plans

16. "A Movie Script Ending" from The Photo Album (Paste’s #5)

15. "Scientist Studies" from We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes (The first Death Cab song I ever heard, on a mix tape; led me to buy this album.)

14. "The New Year" from Transatlanticism (Paste’s #3)

13. "Coney Island" from The Photo Album

12. "Your Heart is an Empty Room" from Plans

11. "Title and Registration" from Transatlanticism

10. "Different Names for the Best Thing" from Plans

9. "Why’d You Want to Live Here?" from the Photo Album

8. "Title Track" from We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes

7. "You are a Tourist" from Codes and Keys (Paste blasts this--Death Cab’s best single--while including Death Cab’s two most popular songs ever, including the incredibly blah "Soul Meets Body".)

6. "I Will Possess Your Heart" from Narrow Stairs (I hate Narrow Stairs. HATE it. But I love this song. I bought the 7” single before the LP came out, and it would have been fine if the full-length had never seen the light of the day. Every other song on the LP, with maybe the exception of "Bixby Canyon Bridge", is completely forgettable).

5. "Styrofoam Plates" from The Photo Album

4. "This Temporary Life" from the Future Soundtrack for America complication (I have no idea where this song came from, but it is epic. I just did a Google search to read more on the the background.)

3 & 2 & 1. Ridiculous and amazing that these three songs are back-to-back-to-back on the same album—Transatlanticism. If I was going to introduce Death Cab to someone this is where I would start: "Tiny Vessels", "Transatlanticism", and "Passenger Seat". The middle of these three songs was performed at my wedding in 2004.

Here are the first two of those three songs being performed live back-to-back in 2012:

Final note: It is obvious that my favorite Death Cab for Cutie album is Transatlanticism. After you have explored that album in depth, check out the recently released Transatlanticism Demos, which is the demo version of all 11 songs on the album (only $5 at

Edit: I didn't know it at the time, but I actually posted this blog the day that Death Cab played their final show with Chris Walla. You can watch the final song from this show here.