Thursday, August 20, 2009

What I've been listening to this week

Choo Choo la Rouge - Black Clouds
Since my parents weren’t fans, my childhood introduction to Bob Dylan was through “We Are the World.” At the time, I thought this was pretty much the most amazing song ever recorded. I loved picking out my favorite singer’s voices – Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner... But the song ended with this weird, unfamiliar voice that didn’t make sense to me as a child. I always wondered, “Who is this guy and why are they letting him sing with musical greats like Kenny Loggins and Huey Lewis?!” To be fair, I was 8 at the time. But this suspicion has stayed with me, and to this day, if you compare something to Dylan, I’m skeptical. But I think I may be cured thanks to Choo Choo La Rouge. Black Clouds has Dylan’s influence all over it, and yet I am not repelled! In fact, it’s sweet and catchy and unselfconscious and a nice change of pace from the deluge of recent bands who either think they’re Animal Collective or Yaz or some combination of the two.
Click here to see their video for "Here Come the Guns" which, really, should totally score then a sponsorship from 3M™.

Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall
I first saw Jay Reatard when I came across his album Blood Visions in a record store. On the cover he’s wearing nothing but red briefs and he’s covered in blood. I figured it was one of the dudes from Dwarves since they already did the covered-in-blood thing for their Blood, Guts & Pussy album art. Seeing as I had no interest in that record, I didn’t give a second thought to this Reatard fellow either. Plus it appeared he was too retarded to even spell "retard" correctly. But I somehow ended up with a copy of Matador Singles ’08. One listen and I was hooked. Song after song sounds like some combination of Guided By Voices, Chris Knox/Tall Dwarfs, The Jam and the Buzzcocks.
He may look like the grumpy troll under the bridge, but that's just because he's from Tennessee and that's how they look there.

Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice
I really want Dan Mangan’s name to be a palindrome. But it isn’t. Backwards it would be Nag Nam Nad which I am pretty sure is a Vietmanese dish with rice vermicelli and shrimp. To make up for this, he should’ve considered A Man A Plan A Canal Panama as an album title, but I guess I’ll settle for a Kurt Vonnegut quote. The “dude with a guitar and some feelings” genre is one I’m particularly skeptical of, so when I hear something of that ilk that wins me over, that’s saying something. The songs of Nice, Nice, Very Nice have a tinge of nostalgia, a lot of intelligence and just enough banjo to keep my girlfriend happy. I’d throw in the term “Americana” for good measure, but Mangan is Canadian (Canadiacana?) so that doesn’t really work. He even manages to pull off a song about the state of the music industry (“Tina’s Glorious Comeback”) without making me want to punch him in the face. That’s victory right there.

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