Monday, February 28, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 18

Rachid Taha - A quick story on my introduction to Rachid Taha. I was attending a concert featuring Prem Joshua. The opening act was a belly dancing troupe. Two of the songs they performed to were from Rachid Taha. "Baadini" and "Comme un Chien" from the Ole Ole release put me on path to exploring this form of music. It was through Taha that I discovered Putumayo, Natacha Atlas, Cheb Mami and many others. Taha recently released Tekitoi, his fifth album on Wrasse Records. Tad Hendrickson of wrote, "Taha has long mixed North African rai and chaabi with alternative rock, electronic sounds (Brian Eno co-writes one song), techno rhythms and a smattering of other styles. But instead of turning these diverse sounds into a cacophonic bowl of mush, Taha and longtime collaborator Steve Hillage balance muscular rhythms, a panoramic feeling of space, and Taha's own rock star leanings." Don't wait for belly dancers to discover the talent one magazine called "Algeria's answer to Johnny Cash."

Tinariwen - Imagine carrying an instrument in one hand and a weapon in the other. In the world of Tinariwen, this is no joke. The band formed in 1982 after being forced from the nomadic lifestyle they led by the government of Mali. Their bio picks up from there: "Radicalized by war and drought, Tinariwen invented a new style of music known as Tishoumaren, or music of the ishumar. Ishumar, which means unemployed, refers to a generation of young, enraged Tamashek exiles: people who left their stomping grounds for work after much repression and drought in Mali. Tinariwen wanted to carry on traditional music, but in exile they could rarely find the 30 or more musicians necessary to play the style. They have combined traditional musical forms with a modern rebellious and radical rock sensibility -- traditional instruments such as the teherdent lute and shepherd flute were discarded in favor of the electric guitar, electric bass and drums." The latest release is entitled Amassakoul. Such a rebellious piece of music, it was banned in Mali and Algeria. In fact, anyone caught carrying the cassette risked bodily harm. A warning: the link above is in French.

Prem Joshua - As I mentioned earlier, my introduction to Rachid Taha came during a Prem Joshua concert. It was at this concert that I experienced one of the most refreshing sounds that had ever crossed my ears. Prem Joshua fused forms of eastern and western sounds to create music so innovative, original, and inspiring that I became an instant fan. He has not returned to the U.S. since 2003, but word comes that Prem Joshua will be returning in late 2005 for a series of concerts. His latest release, Yatri (meaning traveler), is winning critical and listener acclaim from all over the world. wrote, "The album’s easygoing, exotic, jazzy vibe reveals a natural openness to the wisdom gained from the simple pleasure of travel, and the friends and experiences gained along the way. Inspired by bus rides through Bali, a guru’s teachings, Indian fables or a dancer’s subtle expression, these songs swing effortlessly between East and West. Featuring artists whose backgrounds are as diverse as their musical input, Yatri is a fine example of true international cooperation." Check out the Prem Joshua website for details on his upcoming U.S. tour. The album is available on White Swan Records.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 17

John Butler Trio - Now, at times we may include bands that are on major labels, are distinguishing themselves, are considered an up and coming band, yet are poised on the outskirts of the great beyond and prepared to enter "The Inner Circle." The John Butler Trio (JBT) is one of those bands. They are insanely popular in their native Australia and are hoping to duplicate that status in the states. To that end, you can catch them on the The Late Show with David Letterman on Tuesday, March 29, 2005. Of course, it is essential to have a new release if you're going to promote, and, to that end, Lava Records will release Sunrise Over Sea this month. Butler, who was born in California, but later moved to Australia (which he now calls home), has a unique style of playing. He grows his fingernails, strengthens them, cuts them to a point, and plays his guitar. The only way to know what this does to his sound is to listen. Check him out on Letterman.

Shivaree - Here's another of those bands preparing to enter the inner circle. On January 10, 2005, the New York Times wrote, “It’s the kind of cool, ominous, archly retro music that appeals to Quentin Tarantino…Shivaree is simply at home in its sparse, slow-motion ballads and twilt lounge tunes.” Some may remember a single entitled "Bossa Nova." It's vengeful lyrics were backed a do-woppish, sing-along melody. That was my introduction to Shivaree. Now comes Who's Got Trouble? on Rounder Records, and the band is still (with all due respect to Stuart Scott of ESPN) "cool as the other side of the pillow." Who's Got Trouble?, whose title was inspired by the Humphrey Bogart movie, Casablanca, is the band's third release, and Ambrosia Parsley has never sounded better. Look for west coast tour dates in April.

Viva Voce - Being Italian myself, any band that takes their name from the Italian language is cool in my book. Fortunately, that's not the only good thing about the Portland, OR, duo of Kevin and Anita Robinson. (Yes, they are married.) Benjamin Friedland of Rolling Stone wrote, " seems that Viva Voce achieve something greater than simple space jams: sharp, smart stoner rock." CMJ wrote, "Just get people to listen, and they've got new fans." Their latest album is entitled The Heat Can Melt Your Brain (Minty Fresh). The label has also reissued Lovers, Lead The Way! The band is currently on a long tour through the month's of March and April. They'll be in my neck of the woods (Albuquerque, NM) in late-April, so look for an interview at that time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 16

The Juliet Dagger - They hail from Buffalo, NY - home of the Goo Goo Dolls and Lance Diamond (check out the Dolls first album released on Mercenary Records and you'll understand). In fact, guitarist/vocalist Erin Roberts, bassist Leisha Gray, and drummer Josh Heatley, are signed to Robby Takac's record label. On their association, Erin Roberts explained, "Hmmm...well, our association is only with Robby & not the Goo Goo Dolls - He is the head of our label, Good Charamel Records, and he also produced our CD, Turn Up The Death" The band took home several WBNY awards including Best Female Vocalist and Best Full-Length Album. As for the immediately future, "We are headed out for tour right now," says Roberts. "We plan on doing the northeast this month, and then the west coast in May/June, then a short break (maybe some recording), and then back out on tour in the Fall." Well worth finding.

Magnapop - These days, Atlanta, GA is better known for crunk than any other musical genre. Breaking through the dust comes a new sound from an old name: Magnapop. Here's band that can lay claim to having played some of the biggest festivals on the planet, recorded an album with Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar), and now are signed to Amy Ray's Daemon Records (Yes, the same Amy Ray of Indigo Girls). Ruthie Morris sent an email in which she discusses her association with Ray. "My initial thoughts about being on Daemon were filled with confidence that, at last, we were working with people with ethics and integrity. I have an enormous amount of respect for the Indigos. The only pressure we felt were that we wanted to have a really cool record that we liked alot." Along with Linda Hopper, Magnapop features Scott Rowe and Chad Williams. "Scott Rowe plays bass. He is a melodic musician and it's how he thinks. It works so well with what we sound like. He sings like an angel, too. He can harmonize with anything. Chad Williams plays drums. I love playing with Chad so much because he hits them so hard. He is a thinking drummer. I love that." Finally, I asked Morris what benefits and harm could come from a long lay-off. "The advantages of our lay-off are really all about time distance and space. Lots of clear perspective. The disadvantages are that people talk about you like you broke up."
Mark my word, Magnapop has NOT broken up, but are stronger than ever.

My American Heart - Based in San Diego, California, this four piece has endured some challenges and continues to come out smelling divinely. The most difficult obstacle was the name of the band. Originally, they were known as "No Way Out." But as bassist Jesse Barrera explained on Euphonia Online, changes needed to be made. "Everyone didn't really agree on it at first....because our fans and friends were all used to "No Way Out." But, I mean, we finally got over it and saw that it would do much more for us. Now we don't have to worry about a lot of legal issues that we had to deal with while having the name "No Way Out." I believe there's a signed band in Europe called "No Way Out," and it's a Puff Daddy album. It's also one of those (wrestling) pay-per-views. The hardest task was finding a name that would best suit us, and best replace "No Way Out." And Larry finally came up with the idea "My American Heart."

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 15

Skygreen Leopards - Pop Matters Magazine writes, "On their Jagjaguwar debut Donovan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson -- the duo that is The Skygreen Leopards and that also heads up San Francisco's Jewelled Antler collective -- create a simple yet mysterious ramshackle beauty that transcends the free-folk genre (or whatever it's called this week) that stands on its own as a minor pop masterpiece." Their music has been called campfire-esque. There are defintely some intricate and, dare I say, weird harmonies happening in the vocals, but there is no denying the strength in the songwriting. Several pieces available on their website.

Thermal and a Quarter - WOW! I've listened to this music, heard the interview from NPR, and the only interjection I can come up with is: WOW! Here are three musicians from Bangalore, India. They are fluent in several Indian dialects as well as English, which is the chosen language for their music, and, above and beyond all else, they KICK ASS!! Someone on their website commented that the band has a Phish vibe to it. I'm inclined to agree, but it goes beyond - into "The Great Beyond" sotospeak. It is safe to say that Phish could only dream of sounding this good. Thermal and a Quarter's most recent release is entitled Plan B, but they make it a point to say that their fourth album is already in the can. The band also make no bones about wanting to deliver their music to the people. To that end, there are various tracks available on their website for free. Downloaders are "encouraged" to share these tracks with friends. If your perception of music was India was narrow, Thermal and a Quarter will expand your mind.

Character - After locating Thermal and a Quarter, I decided to further explore NPR and located Character. Unique, fun, and downright unable to pigeonhole is how I describe this Nashville, Tennessee, band of rotating musicians. Their bio on Fictitious Records reads: "an all-encompassing sound that draws from a wide range of influences including rock, hip-hop, jazz and experimental music. The sound is ambient, droney and by turns pastoral and brainy, while still expounding on and changing the form of instrumental songwriting." Definitely worth a listen.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 14

Neon - Is it me or has the land down under been quiet recently? That may be about to change. Neon has signed a worldwide recording deal with V2. Their debut album is due to be released overseas sometime this year. In the meantime, fans in the states will get a taste of Neon when their EP, entitled Hit Me Again, is released. Paul Moody of NME wrote, "Imagine Cheap Trick and The Replacements jamming in the middle of the desert with Lou Barlow on 'vibes' and you might get some idea of the searing, sinuous noise contained on 'Neon'." Way to go, mate!!

Neon Thrill - We head to New York City for our next entry. Neon Thrill continue to ride high on the success of their debut release, Sweet Cactus. While I'm not completely sure of the "maximum pop" moniker, there is no denying the band's pop, psychedelic sound. Sellout Magazine surmised, "All-in-all, a full power-pack of party-pop anthems," while Pop Matters proclaimed, "Simple, straight forward pop music, just like it used to be. Prepare yourself for a very pleasant surprise." Enjoy the ride.

Slightly Stoopid - April 19 will see their new album, Closer To The Sun, hit the stores. Got an email from drummer Ryan "RyMo" Moran who described the band's current state of mind: "The current emotional state of the band is, in one word, CHARGED. We just got home from a week long trip around California that went extremely well. It's exciting to tour and start performing songs that we've been recording for months. We are all eager to get this album out and start taking over the world with our music!" About the album, Moran wrote, "We have worked hard on this album, recording close to 50 tunes, and have selected our favorites. The new album feels like a live show with great production. It's not over produced, but tight. We worked with Miguel (Sublime, LBDA, Unwritten Law), Chris D (G-Love n Special Sauce), and The Scientist (Every Sick Reggae Artist). They helped shape our songs without going over the top. In other words, it is a real album, a bit more raw." That is so DOPE!!!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 13

The Double - Here what the Village Voice wrote about this Brooklyn foursome: "The varied swath of music categorized as noise tends to bank on its ties to the sublime: the ability to induce bewilderment, stupefaction, and awe that traverses fear. But for the Brooklyn-based foursome the Double, noise-metallic clacks and supersonic crackles, crumpling guitars and disappearing vocals-is an accessory that sweetly disorders melody, a union that entreats and welcomes rather than confuses and commandeers." -- Devon Powers, Village Voice

This must be why Matador Records recently signed The Double. They begin recording their major label debut this month.

Nicolai Dunger - A little John Lennon, a little Ryan Adams, and a pinch of Bob Dylan gives us a healthy dose of Nicolai Dunger. In 2004, Dunger released, Here's My Song, You Can Have It... I Don't Want It Anymore /Yours 4-ever Nicolai Dunger. The album received critical acclaim from press both in the U.S. and abroad. Now, during March and April, Dunger will perform brand new music in the multimedia theatre production, "Design & Terrorism," at Teater Bhopa in Gothenburg, Sweden.

North Elementary - Pete Gow of Americana UK wrote the following: "By definition, 'altamericanarootsfolkcountry' calls on traditional production values, instrumentation & song- writing as its focal points, so brand new ideas are increasingly hard to come by. The best we can hope for then is a band that put a bit of thought into it. Take the tools at their disposal as handed down by the 'tag' & transport us to new & interesting locations; Someone to show us the possibilities, not the constraints of the genre. One such band is North Elementary."

Need I say anything else? Check out the site and see what I mean.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 12

Johnny O. Band - From Boulder, Colorado, comes John Ohnmacht, a blues guitarist armed with a new album, extensive tour dates, and a passion for the blues. The Johnny O. Band's latest CD, entitled Time For The Turnaround, is a compelling mix of blues, funk, souls and rock. You can check out several tracks on the band's website. Full length .mp3s are available free.

Liquid Blue - If I told about a band that has performed at stadiums in Asia with up to 65,000 fans in attendance, had one of the concerts televised in China to an estimated audience of 700 million, and, to date, performed in over 60 countries on all 6 continents, you might guess that I was speaking of a million album selling band with Rolling Stone covers, MTV videos, etc. Instead, I am waxing poetic about San Diego, California's Liquid Blue. The talents of this band extend beyond the stage. Singer Layla Loxa is a world bodysurfing champion and one of the top female surfers in the U.S. To top things off, Liquid Blue recently became, according to their website, the first American band with an exclusive distribution deal in China. Pretty impressive. The band heads back to Southeast Asia in for extensive touring in September & October.

Mindside 19 - This punk outfit has been rocking for several years and have recently started earning much attention and respect from outside of their Baltimore, MD roots. Their new CD is scheduled to be released in March, 2005. If you are in the Baltimore area, you should make every effort to attend their release party. In the meantime, the band's website has several tracks to wet your palette.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Sincerest Apologies


My sincerest apologies to all readers of TGB. It's been several weeks since my last update. I make no excuses. Instead I look forward to the future. I am currently arranging several interviews and continuing my web research for new sounds. In the meantime, if you come across something worth looking into, please email me.

In the coming weeks, you can expect to read interviews with the Soul Rebels, Beans, Saul Williams, blues singer Candye Cane, and John Lee Hooker, Jr., and several others. Until then, please keep checking back.

Thank you for your support.