Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rivers Cuomo & Rainn Wilson Collaborate...Sort of...

Rainn Wilson (Dwight from the Office) has great taste in music, as evidenced by many comments on his Twitter account and via interviews. He and Rivers Cuomo got together to cover Joan Osbourne's "One Of Us." I think it's funny that they're dubbing it a duet because all Rainn does is play the bongos. Some other guy (who is not credited, poor soul) does all the guitar work. Anyway, it's not a terrible cover. Thoughts?

One Of Us- Rivers Cuomo & Rainn Wilson

Also, I think it's worth noting that if Cuomo and Wilson got together for a band they could call themselves Rivers & Rainn. Suhweeeeet.

Neko Case Live MP3's

In case you don't feel like listening to the entire NPR podcast of Neko Case's Thursday night show at the 9:30 Club, here's a few MP3's. Which should then entice you to listen to the whole show.

Maybe Sparrow (Live)- Neko Case
People Got A Lotta Nerve (Live)- Neko Case
The Pharaohs (Live)- Neko Case
Middle Cyclone (Live)- Neko Case

I've spliced the entire podcast and turned them into MP3's so if anyone is interested in a CD copy of the show, just shoot me an email.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Neko Case Live at the 9:30 Club- 4/9/09

For those who don't know me well, allow me to get some things out in the open: I'm completely obsessed with Neko Case. I want to be her friend, I want to be a member of her band, I want to be HER.

Anyway. Neko performed two nights straight in support of her latest incredible album "Middle Cyclone." I saw her tonight (I am writing this immediately after the Thursday is late...) and she killed it.

But more on that in a minute. First, let's talk about Okkervil River's Will Sheff, who opened the night with seven or eight song set of Okkervil River favorites. Sheff performed most of the tunes with just an acoustic guitar, but an electric guitarist joined him for the last few (I believe the man's name was Phil because I recall a joke about naming their two-man band "Okkerphil River"). Performing with such little accompaniment, Sheff's great songwriting ability was on full display. Songs like "Plus Ones" and "Pop Lie" sounded slightly more intimate, despite Sheff strumming furiously and singing with his signature bleating vocals, while "Lost Coastlines" and set-closer "Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe" were surprisingly muscular despite the two-dude line-up. The rough edges of the songs live made the tracks seem more like unpolished garage-rock than the high-concept, well-orchestrated folk-pop from Okkervil River albums. "On Tour With Zykos" and "Just Give Me Time" were hushed and gorgeous on stage but the chatty crowd made it hard to appreciate them. One audience member mentioned loudly that Okkervil River makes him want to "shoot himself in the face." I respectfully disagree, sir. I thoroughly enjoyed Will Sheff's set and it made me excited to see him perform with the full band.

Then came Neko.

As she sings in one of my favorite tracks off of "Middle Cyclone," Neko Case is an animal, indeed. Dressed in all-black but sporting her signature mane of red hair in an untamed, tangled mess , Case looked like the tiger she sings about the haunting "The Tigers Have Spoken." Unlike that tiger, however, Neko is unchained and completely wild. Between her awkward but hilarious stage banter about making out with the Grim Reaper and breaking her nose, she sang with such a pure, mesmerizing clarity that I was captivated from the first note of "Maybe Sparrow" up through the last punch of "Knock Loud."

It's tough to say where Neko Case is most in her element. She is equally rousing in garage-band jams like "Red Tide" and "Fever" as she is stunning in slower ballads like "I Wish I Was The Moon" and "Middle Cyclone." It really just comes down to, as usual, the voice. Every time she opened her mouth to belt a note I could feel the anticipation in the room- everyone was waiting to hear that ribbon of voice that was strong and gentle and quiet and loud and war and peace all at once. Every note she sang was so emotive and gorgeous that the songs were completely transformed.

"Prison Girls," the spooky dirge from "Middle Cyclone," was so haunting live that I got goosebumps. Of the covers she played, Harry Nilsson cover "Don't Forget Me" became an intimate, loungey love song (as the song started and Case stood beneath the soft blue lights, she cheekily dedicated the song to "my darling Harry") and "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth" transformed into a rough, spirited folk song. "This Tornado Loves You" was especially invigorating live. It felt urgent and sincere despite being a love song written from the perspective of a natural disaster.

I could go on like this about everything Neko Case sang- it was all gorgeous and spell-binding. Hearing her sing made me think of how I watched American Idol for the first time in years on Tuesday night. All of the performers had such bland voices already, but compared to Case's, they sound like how oatmeal would if it could sing. Boring, mushy, and all the same. I'd never seen Neko live before but now I've fallen in love. She's incredibly dynamic and talented and all that and more comes across brilliantly on stage.

Of course I can't mention the show without giving props to her fantastic band (I don't know if they're still called her Boyfriends, so I'll just say they're her band). Each member ebbed and flowed perfectly with Case and they had the flawless synergy of a band who has been playing together for decades.

In case you didn't figure it out from the above love letter, GO SEE NEKO CASE LIVE NOW. She is a force of nature.

Also, if you missed the show, stream it on NPR!!! CLICK

**This review rambles a lot etc. but in my defense it is one in the morning and I am exhausted. Goodnight.

***If anyone's interested in the set list (for Will Sheff or Neko Case) email me- I got both.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

New Conor Oberst! And Not One Day Too Soon.

Conor Oberst's self-titled solo debut was one of my favorite albums last year. I loved his more energetic country leanings and his meat-and-potatoes arrangements. For me, "Conor Oberst" was one of those albums that I could listen to in pretty much any mood.

Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band are releasing another album, "Outer South," on May 5. Some bloggers are noting/whining that he has not waited very long between albums and that he's going to be the next Ryan Adams, but the way I see it, more music is always a good thing, especially if it's from an artist as talented as Oberst. Plus, I love Ryan Adams and can't complain about any of his albums.

Based on the first two songs released off the album, "Slowly (Oh So Slowly)" and "Nikorette," "Outer South" is going to be super-duper. Can't wait yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!!

Nikorette- Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band

However, if this alone does not satiate your Conor craving, get pumped for "One of My Kind," the hour-long documentary that looks at Obert & Co.'s touring adventures from the past year. BUT WAIT IT GETS BETTER! The documentary will be available as a FREEEEEE stream or download on all of these site:,,,, and


On the Rise: Now, Now Every Children

When they were teenagers in Blaine, Minnesota, Cacie Dalager and Brad Hale would assemble after marching band practice to write songs. It's not hard to picture the pair hunched over drums sets and crouched with guitars, recording demos in the cramped basements of their suburban homes. However, Dalager and Hale's band, Now, Now Every Children, has a sound that is anything but cramped. NNEC stack crunchy, fuzzed-out guitars on top of ethereal keyboards and, in what is the only hint of marching band influence, pounding snares to create expansive lo-fi gems that are more textured than what one expects from such a tiny line-up. After listening to tracks such as "Everyone You Know," it's impossible not to note the aching vocals, courtesy of Dalager. She sings with an unforced emotion that recalls Karen O. on "Maps," adding the essential "It" factor to separate NNEC from the pack.

Cars- Now, Now Every Children


No Shame- Snow Patrol

**Part of a new column where I talk about musical pleasures that I am not at all guilty about.**

I don't care if this makes you dislike me as a person/you stop reading my blog- I really like Snow Patrol. I have listened to "Eyes Open" and "Final Straw" many, many times, and enjoyed both many, many times. In fact, "Eyes Open" was probably my favorite (and most-listened) album in 9th grade.

Anyway, when I saw Snow Patrol in concert two years ago, I was blown away. My friends and I got to the venue (which was actually the basketball arena at a local university) hours before doors opened. After playing countless rounds of Egyptian Rat Screw and War and befriending the girls behind us in line, the line started moving and we ran to get a good spot in the arena. And, of course, we did. We were front and center for the whole show.

The first act was Silversun Pickups. They played the very loud, very distorted pop that made "Carnavas" such a masterpiece with incredible energy, giving the show a huge kick in the right direction.

Then came OK Go. I had never seen them live before, but my friends and I instantly fell in love (especially with frontman Damien Kulash, who later stage-dove right on top of us. Awesome.). We danced and sang-along throughout their entire set and by the time they were done playing the lively, dynamic power-pop the group is known for, we were pleastantly exhausted.

Then, of course, came Snow Patrol. WOW. I still remember their set perfectly even though it was a full two years ago. The whole thing, from first note to last "Goodnight DC!" was spell-binding. Each song packed such a powerful punch of emotion that it sounded simutaneously like we were listening to the music through headphones alone and in a massive stadium. I've only heard U2 live once (when they played two songs at the "We Are One" concert for Barack Obama in January) but that is the best comparison I can make. Everyone in the room was captivated by their music. If frontman Gary Lightbody held his hands up during a song, each member of the devoted crowd would do the same. At one point, Lightbody copped a move frmo OK Go and asked the audience to hold up their cellphones for "Chasing Cars." My friends and I turned around to see if people complied, and yes, they most definitely did. The effect was mesmerizing. Not only was the massive audience singing every word of the (call it sappy, whatever...) single, every fan was holding a glowing little light that transformed what could have been an average concert moment into a simply perfect four minutes. Seeing Snow Patrol live, especially at the height of my fandom, felt like a religious experience.

While my love for the band has waned (Don't even bother with their new album, "A Hundred Million Suns." Ugh.) this show still stands as one of the best I've ever seen. Now, listening to "Eyes Open" after hearing the album live is difficult to do. I'm always taken back to that arena and reminded that everything sounded a million times better in those few hours.

Free Faaaaaallin'!

I love Tom Petty, so, DUH, I love "Free Fallin'". Here are some great covers of that song for no particular reason. Enjoy!

If I Have to Listen to Any 5 Okkervil River Songs...

I just found out that Will Sheff, the talented frontman of Okkervil River, will be opening for Neko Case tonight. I have two OR albums, "The Stand Ins" and "The Stage Names." Unfortunately I've never really gotten into either.
What are the five Okkervil Rivers songs I must hear before seeing Will Sheff play tonight??

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bat for Lashes...???

I don't "get" Bat for Lashes. Since her 2006 debut studio album "Fur and Gold," there has been considerable buzz surrounding the British singer-songwriter (birth name: Natasha Khan) but I just have never understood it. I don't care for her music, which, to me, seems pretentious and nearly unlistenable. Khan's whole "art-school" vibe is so overwrought, and I feel like anyone could produce a similar sound with a tambourine and their Mac's GarageBand effects. As for her overall aesthetic, throw on an ironic gem sweater, paint your face, and there you go. Her new album, "Two Suns" is all over the blogs these days, but after a few via-YouTube listens of songs like "Daniel," all I have to say is...yawn. Everything sounds like everything else. The only thing I have to say in Kahn's defense is that the video for "What's A Girl to Do?" is pretty cool.

Anyone care to stick up for her/explain to me what I'm missing?