…If you haven’t picked up the “best of” compilation by Outrageous Cherry, you really ought to. Terrific career overview, and it solves (for me) the biggest problem I’ve always had with the band: I tend to love two songs from each album they’ve released, and then I get rather indifferent to the rest of the disc. Essential listening, this best of. It’s called Wide Awake In The Spirit World, and is available from the usual suspects.
…after three listens, I’m coming up “bleah” on the new Broken West album. Too many times it just sounds kind of bland, almost like stuff that Nada Surf rejected from their latest. I am digging the tune “Ambuscade” a little, though, and I’ll keep at it.
…after a dozen listens, my feelings toward the new Novillero disc have gone from “eh, I guess it’s alright” disappointment to “y’know, this is a pretty great disc.” It isn’t more of Aim Right For The Holes at all; they’re doing something very slightly, subtly different here, and it mostly works.
…after a dozens and dozens of listens, the Prisonshake album is finally starting to really, really work for me. In fact, the damn thing is shooting up a prospective best of 2008 list with a bullet.
Finally, I cannot wait until Saturday. I somehow have to get the heck out of work by 9:00 so I can rocket into the city to see Paul Weller at the 9:30, and I think I can make it pretty easily. I mean I’m gonna see this:
…in a little club in DC. Just crazy that Weller can’t play bigger venues–still–in the States. Ah well.
One more September release I’m suddenly very excited about is from an Australian band called Skipping Girl Vinegar (the name is taken from an iconic brand of vinegar sold Down Under, as well as the tres cool old neon sign that was once used to advertise it in SGV’s hometown of Melbourne). Why these folks?
Well, Friday was a crappy night at work. I got stuck there late because my books wouldn’t balance (found the mistake the next day) and I got home at 3:30 am Saturday exhausted and sporting a migraine. Still too amped up on coffee to sleep, I decided to do a little music surfing around the nets and for whatever reason stumbled across the video/teaser for Skipping Girl Vinegar’s upcoming release Sift The Noise. Here’s the title track (the song starts about 45 seconds in, but the video is swell enough to watch the whole thing…):
Somewhere in-between the time the cat says “What took you punks so long” and the squirrel with the trumpet, I found myself with an ear-to-ear grin plastered on my face. What a great, amazing song, and there’s evidence that the whole disc is this good at their myspace site. By the way, if you watched the credits roll on that video above, you saw that this was mixed by Brad Jones–the pop maestro who also produced Cotton Mather’s Kon-Tiki, among other landmarks–at his Nashville studio. This is due out in mid-to-late September. I’ll keep you posted.
I seem to be posting a lot about very, very poppish stuff, so if this is overkill I can only beg forgiveness for now…
…but if you happen to love absolutely gloriously executed pop-rock craftsmanship and brilliant songwriting, let me tell you about an Ozzie named Adrian Whitehead. Far too many singers who can do a fey vocal quaver and saccharine harmony get a free pass from critics and fans who buy into it and wonder why the marginally talented slobs they’re championing never get any recognition. I’m guessing they also wonder why albums by such non-talents become forgettable so fast.
It’s all about the songs. A lot of people can sing like Brendan Benson, maybe…but very few can write a hook like “Cold Hands Warm Heart” or “I’m Easy”.
Which brings me back to Adrian Whitehead. No idea who the bloke is. No idea where he cobbled together a recording budget to put his debut album “One Small Stepping Man” together with either, but the production here is stellar (strings, a variety of keys, and even a sax). No idea where he learned to write and arrange and sing songs like these either…but what a stunning record he’s made.
My favorite tracks are the first two, “Caitlin’s ’60′s Pop Song” and “Saving Caroline”. The former song he says he wrote to entertain his 8-year old niece to make her smile after a funeral for their great-grandfather. How sweet is that? The latter song starts off sounding like vintage Styx(!), but again finds a groove that belongs solely to Adrian Whitehead. I also dig “You Are The Sun” and “Ways Of Man” a lot. “Elle” is five minutes of exquisitely gorgeous piano (best one-note piano song in a while) and strings, and “Better Man” has the most gobsmacking hook on the whole disc. What you’ll notice about all the songs is that they never go just where you think they’re going; Whitehead knows exactly what he’s doing, and half the joy of this disc is listening along to hear just exactly what unexpected turn he’s going to take his melody line, and where he’s going to extract a hook from playing the “wrong” chord or notes.
This has been in my heavy rotation now for over a week. Give it a shot, lemme know what you think.
You know what band just rules? Novillero. Novillero absolutely kicks all ass. They write brilliantly melodic songs that don’t scrimp on soulfulness, and they belt them out with a barely-controlled fury that still erupts into Yardbirdian raveups (“The Art Of Carrying On” in particularly threatens to knock over household furniture if you crank it loud enough). I love Novillero so much that I put them at #1 on my year-end best-of list for 2006. Crazy thing is, I’ve been listening to that 2006 album Aim Right For the Holes In Their Lives in heavy rotation since 2006. I’d wager a week hasn’t gone by in the last two years that I haven’t cranked up “Habit Over Heart” or “Hypothesist” or “Morally Deficient Business” and just rocked out like crazy.
Last month brought the big news that Novillero was finally releasing a followup to Aim, their third album overall to be called A Little Tradition. Awesome, right?
So why am I whining? Well, let’s just say that I do *not* get marketing as it exists (or doesn’t) for so many bands outside the mainstream of late. I come at this from an old-school marketing perspective. In the olden days of Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, us marketing flunkies did it the hard way: the record company printed up a bunch of “flats” (album cover-sized thin cardboard full-color promo shots that usually looked like the CD cover blown up), posters, stand-ups, fliers, and other crap that had to be toted around to record stores where you’d have to make the display yourself with a lot of tape and staples. It was a time-consuming and not inexpensive process, in other words. A lot of times you’d get promo CD’s to flog to radio stations and record store employees, too, and that meant having to go into “sell” mode on a one-on-one basis, knowing full well that the odds were long that they’d ever even break the shrinkwrap on the CD you were giving away for free.
So let me get back to current (lack) of marketing and promotion here after that mini “You kids get off my lawn” rant. Things are different nowadays. There’s this internet thing with the tubes and whatnot. It makes the barest modicum of marketing and promotion E-A-S-Y. You put up a Myspace page and a handful of your songs. People basically “subscribe” to your page by the friending process. From there, any time you add or change songs on your page, any time you blog about something to flog a tour or just one-off show, it goes out to a network of people who already are predisposed to liking you. CD release coming up? Post a bulletin and it goes to everyone on your list as well.
And so I’m moaning a little bit about the lack of promotion or marketing on this new Novillero disc. Right now (Wednesday night, September 3rd) if you go to the band’s myspace site, you won’t see a single new song from a new CD that will be released in five days. They’ve managed to get a few announcements up and a track list and tourdates, so at least there’s that…but man, you look at other myspace sites for bands who have either released or are about to release a new record and there’s a lot more good old fashioned hype than you’ll see with Novillero, and that’s a shame. I won’t knock the band themselves around for this; hey, I get that very few bands out there can actively make a living just on their music, so getting a record out there and then being able to do a mini-tour to support it probably means having to work real-world jobs extra hard for a few weeks to get ducks in a row so you can leave and do a tour for a bit. But…shouldn’t there be someone who stands to maybe make a little money if a new album sells decently doing the hyping for them?
It gets worse, though. Novillero records for a Canadian indie label called Mint. Mint may not have the deepest pockets in the world, but then again I’m not sure they’re paupers either. They have or had Canadian rights to folks like Neko Case, The New Pornographers, Mr T. Experience, The Sadies, and cub, all of which are artists that move a few units. You go to the Mint records site and you expect to see them pumping info for the first release in 30 months for a band who got almost across-the-board stellar reviews for a 2006 disc….and there’s almost nothing. The newest info there was posted on July 31st. The only evidence of a new Novillero album to be found there is a single track, the title track from the forthcoming album available as an mp3 (we’ll get to that once I get done bellyaching). You have to click on the artist page to actually get the information that, Boy Howdy, there’s a new album coming out soon. (Compare the Mint site to what Merge records does with their site, and realize that it’s not just their roster that contributes to Mac selling a lot of records).
I dunno. I guess it just bums me out because any time I’m playing a Novillero song at a party or something, invariably people want to know who the heck it is they’re listening to, and where they can get more of it. I really do think they’re one of the best 2 or 3 bands on the planet right now; in fact, if I were to imagine the perfect band that I’d want to be in, in my mind’s ear that band would sound an awful lot like Novillero, and I just wish they’d get a little bigger push of promotion, especially from folks who stand to either recoup or make money on their investment in them.
So. If the band’s label won’t promote ‘em, I will. Based on the evidence of the single track we’ve been given so far, this disc sounds like a great continuation of everything they’ve done before. Here’s the song, “A Little Tradition”, obviously the title track from the new disc. Along with The High Dials and Cobra Verde, this is one of the albums I’m most looking forward to in the coming weeks.