Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Do what you must do, and do it well

Some bloggers are real suckers for cover versions; I'm not, necessarily (these posts notwithstanding), but treat your ears to Neko Case's version of Dylan's "Buckets of Rain." As with a lot of her non-country covers, this track lacks a certain something that the original has. But it more than makes up for it by adding a certain something else in spades. Something that only the redoubtable Ms. Case can do. Dig.

•Neko Case: Buckets of Rain (via RapidShare)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm shitfaced and my freckles are a mess

Capturing the coveted "Best Band–Worst Band Name" award (taking over from reigning champs Neutral Milk Hotel), Paris (France)'s Diving With Andy offer up a nice slab o' melancholy for the sad bastard in all of us.

Their self-titled debut album is tough to come by (I had to go to Japan for it, and the liner notes are all in Japanese, dammit!) but well worth checking out, especially for those of you who were fans of Portishead's first album; there's a similar groovy, draggy nighttime vibe to it. There are a couple of splashes of real genius on the record, too, particularly on the debut single "Andrew," which is a top-notch slice of black-clad drama. You can hear four songs on their Myspace page, and here's another:

•Diving With Andy: Andrew (via RapidShare)
•Diving With Andy: The Waltz (via RapidShare)

Diving With Andy home myspace

Sunday, February 18, 2007

You thought you'd heard it all.

Then there was Yat Kha, with their calypso/Tuvan-throat-singing version of Led Zeppelin's most churny album side. When I was 17, this would have been about my favourite thing ever. And it's still pretty cool, somehow avoiding being a novelty number. Guaranteed you've got nothing like it on your iPod.

•Yat-Kha: When the Levee Breaks (via RapidShare)

Yat-Kha home

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Let me take you down, for a half-price Strawberry Margarita...

Today (February 17th) marks the 40th anniversary of The Single That Changed Everything. The "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane" double A-side.

"Strawberry Fields" is pretty consistently my favourite Beatles track. Yeah, they wrote better songs, with better lyrics and better melodies, they had harder or dreamier or more perfect (or more perfectly sloppy) performances, and they even had more psychedelic production than this. But there's something extra-special about this cut, which came together through many takes, weeks of experimentation and fragile cobblings-together (bravo, George Martin!) of multiple performances and layers. While album tracks like "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "I'm Only Sleeping" had used multi-tracking, backwards tape, and other studio effects to augment their moods, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the first and biggest modern art-rock smash hit single. It's impossible to imagine a song so far outside the norm ever getting airplay on rock or pop radio nowadays, much less becoming a bona fide hit ("Penny Lane" was a bigger hit, actually, though both sides charted at the same time).

Remember, the #1 single just a couple weeks earlier had been "Kind of a Drag" by The Buckinghams.

And if you're in Liverpool today, Ha! Ha! Bar and Canteen are offering half-price Strawberry Margaritas.

•The Beatles: Strawberry Fields Forever (MP3)
•The Beatles: Penny Lane (via RapidShare)
•The Buckinghams: Kind of a Drag (via RapidShare)

Monday, February 12, 2007

"I decided that I would become like an encyclopedia."

Folkways Records was probably the most important record company of the 20th Century. Argue with me! You can't. When the entirety of human sonic endeavour is your ambit, the Beatles have nothing on you.

Moses Asch, founder of Folkways, donated a complete set of Folkways albums (more than 2100 altogether!) to the University of Alberta in Edmonton in 1985. Since then, the U of A has been working on FolkwaysAlive, an ongoing, open-ended project that continues the spirit of experimentation, documentation, and cultural broadening that characterized the original Folkways label.

A fantastic documentary series created by CKUA Radio (also, not coincidentally, based in Edmonton) is now available as a podcast. Dig:

•Download a snippet (MP3) from the first episode

•Go to the podcast: via iTunes or via Smithsonian

•Smithsonian Folkways home myspace
•CKUA home

Sunday, February 04, 2007

John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview

Available for free from the iTunes store: Jann Wenner's historic December 1970 interview with John Lennon. Three and a half hours in five episodes.

John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview

Friday, February 02, 2007

The dusty-foot philosopher

OK, I'm not a huge fan of hip-hop, but once in a long while something comes along that grabs me by the pants (Crabbuckit, anyone?) Dig this, kids: it's K'naan (pronounced KAY-non).

There's a little bit of Eminem's flava in his flow, but his lyrics are a million miles from the usual (c)rap, and his production's stellar; dig his use of the Baka Forest People's "Water Drums" in the first cut below. The record's awesome front to back, so go get it already.

•K'naan: Wash it Down (MP3)
•K'naan: My Old Home (MP3)
•K'naan: My God! (MP3)

•K'naan home myspace

All day long I'd badabadabum, if I were a wealthy man...

Here's a strange one: Accompanied only by mandolin, Stephin Merritt reinterprets the classic Fiddler on the Roof song. It's too long by half, but there's something charming and compelling about this basic, almost Leonard Cohen-ish track.

•The Magnetic Fields: If I Were a Rich Man (MP3)