Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Short List gets shorter

Awhile back I mentioned the Short List of Music and the sixty nominees who were up for this year's prize. Well, last week the list was shortened to an actual "short list" of ten finalists. Those who are being considered for this award, which will be given out in May are:

Band of Horses
Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham)
Cat Power
Girl Talk
Hot Chip
Joanna Newsom
Regina Spektor
Spank Rock
Tom Waits

An interesting and eclectic list and if I were a betting man I would put my money either on Regina Spektor, or the veteran Tom Waits. Band of Horses and Hot Chip are also nice picks, as is folkie Joanna Newsom.

I have to admit I'm kind of disappointed in the elimination of Mute Math, Midlake, Jeremy Enigk, and yes, even Danielson.

Give all the finalists a listen and let me know who you like the most and who you think will win. I'll let you know when the winner is announced.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Dutch, The Rebels, and some Danish...

Here are two bands that recently found me on MySpace and requested me as a friend, presumably based on my musical interests. Both of them are European and have connections to bands that are among my favorites.

First up is Munich, a Danish band featuring a laid back and dreamy indie-pop sound. The latest records is produced by Johannes of Lampshade.

And second is Dutch band, Canadian Sunset, for fans of This Beautiful Mess and The Spirit That Guides Us.

Also, just a reminder that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has a new album, Baby 81, coming out on May 1st, and it is one of their best CDs in years. The band's last disc, Howl, was a bit of a stylistic departure that led to mixed reviews from critics and fans alike, but this time around the boys are headed back closer to the sound of their earliest work, and the results are pleasing. Head on over to MySpace where the new disc is streaming in its entirety. This is a CD that will get a lot of play on my MP3 player.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Music in the meantime

I've been rather busy these past few days, up to my ears in paint, so I haven't had the time to really put together a blog of any substance. So I thought I would just list a few bands I'm enjoying right now...

First up is The Hourly Radio from Dallas, TX. Interesting indie rock sound featuring the rather high vocals of Aaron Closson, somewhat reminiscent of Lovedrug's Michael Shepard. Check out The Houly Radio's video "Deaf Ears," which is a rather interesting homage to one of my all-time favorite films, Harold and Maude.

Another band to check out is LA's The Bird and the Bee, showcasing the talents of Greg Kurstin and Inara George. The duo create a lush yet vibrant pop sound that reminds me of those late 60s/early 70s films featuring Americans travelling throughout Europe. (I can't even name one of these films, but I remember them from my childhood, particularly the musical scores...). Fans of Dean & Britta, Belle & Sebastian, and Charlotte Gainsbourgh should take note.

And finally, give a listen to Umbrellas. The band is basically an outlet or Oklahoma native Scott Windsor. Beautiful vocals and sweeping musical soundscapes. Enough said.

So check out these bands and enjoy. You can thank me later. Hopefully I'll have a time for a meatier blog post in the next few days.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Eric Volz update and a call to action

Here are some updates on the Eric Volz situation that my friend Lori passed on to me.

Dateline NBC will air their story about Eric Volz story on tonight, April 22. The show airs 8pm - 9pm (in all time zones), but please watch NBC for more information, double-check your local schedule or go to for current listings.

CNN Anderson Cooper 360 is scheduled to air their Eric Volz story on THIS MONDAY night, April 23.The show airs at 10pm ET / 9pm CT / 8pm MT / 7pm PT, but please watch for more information, double-check your local schedule or go to for current listings.

And finally:

Contact the Nicaraguan Embassy. We urge you to send this form letter to Fernando Coronel, the Press Director at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington:

To the Honorable Fernando Coronel:In the spirit of goodwill that exists between many Nicaraguans and Americans, I respectfully write to ask that you to pay considerable attention to the case of Eric Volz. He is an American citizen currently incarcerated in the La Modelo prison, convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Eric's case is currently in the appeal process. As a result, we want to turn your attention to the fact that the justice system is in breach of articles 7 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which state, "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law" and "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him."

Please help see to it that Eric's case be reviewed fairly and that justice be done. If interested, below is a link to the Declaration of Human Rights:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Eat, Sleep, Repeat...and more

Thursday night I had the chance to take my oldest son to see one of our favorite bands, Copeland, at the Chameleon in Lancaster. A very good show as the band from Florida tunes up to head oversees for a tour. A nice tight set featuring mostly music from their latest album, Eat Sleep Repeat, along with some selections from older albums. They sounded really good throughout and played some favorites like "When Paula Sparks," "You Have My Attention," and their current single, "Control Freak."

Got a chance to meet with a few of the members afterwards and they were extremely nice and pleasant. I love to see that, especially when it is a band on a major label (Columbia Records).

Special thanks to my friend Lori at Biscuit PR for getting us in, as well as band manager Kyle Griner.

Also...a few days ago I blogged about a song from Hundred Year Storm called "Pilot's Last Broadcast." Well, Brandon from the band contacted me and informed me that the samples used on the song are indeed actual recordings from real pilots, taken from blackbox recordings of planes that crashed. He also says that at the end, before the explosions, there are samples of kamikaze pilots from Pear Harbor. In the words of Brandon, "the song is about death. And how we're not promised tomorrow."

Makes the song that much more meaningful. Thanks, Brandon.

And, I recently blogged about the Free Eric Volz campaign, so I wanted to let you know that NBC's Dateline will be doing a story about Eric and his situation this Sunday night. Check your local listings for time.

As for new music, there are some new tunes online from The Mint and Project 86 at their MySpace pages. Check them out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pleasures for your way of Texas and Canada

The other morning while taking our dog for his daily 2-mile walk, a song came up on my MP3 player that I certainly had heard before, but never really listened to. The song was "Pilot's Last Broadcast" from Hundred Year Storm and their latest album, Hello From the Children of Planet Earth. The quietness and peacefulness of the early hour (6:00 a.m. and still not quite light out) allowed the song to make a dramatic impression on me. This group of guys from Austin, TX doesn’t just create music. They create aural experiences. Many of their songs are layered with samples of speaking, film clips, and assorted pieces of spoken word recordings that serve to enhance the theme and emotion of each song. No, not just songs; they are artistic soundscapes. The song I heard that morning was primarily a moving and emotional instrumental piece interspersed with recordings of a conversation between a pilot and a control tower, and it was evident that the pilot was headed for a wreck. I don’t know whether these were recordings of actual pilot conversations or whether they were created for the purpose of this piece, but the effect was rather remarkable. The interplay between the music and the recordings was amazing and I found myself very moved by the piece. You can hear the song on their MySpace.

I think I’m particularly attracted to this type of art because of my years of experience working with radio, particularly my work as the Radio Curator at the Museum of Television & Radio for 13 years. During that time I was given the chance to hear some amazing works of radio art. But as I listened to this song, I’m not sure why, but one particular radio piece came to mind. Near the end of my tenure at MT&R I was involved in putting together an exhibition celebrating the work of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As I listened to a variety of pieces from the entire history of the CBC, there was one audio piece that just grabbed me. It was a piece that mixed music with the spoken word, and over the years I had completely forgotten all about it. It bears no resemblance to the Hundred Year Storm song, but I suddenly remembered it and came back home, got on the Internet, and without remembering much about it, set about to find it online. And it didn’t take long.

The piece I remembered was called “More About Henry” and was the work of a young Canadian musician by the name of Adam Goddard. Adam had apparently sat down and recorded his grandfather, Henry Haws, talking about life in the “good old days.” I may not have my story completely straight here, but as Adam interviewed his grandfather about farming and other issues, he recognized the musical quality of his grandfather’s voice, and then wrote some music and lyrics and laid down samples of his grandfather speaking over the music. The first time I heard the piece I fell in love with it and played it for others, all of who greatly appreciated the work of art they were hearing. I know very little about Mr. Goddard or about anything else that he has done, but I do know good radio when I hear it. I hope you feel the same way. And again, remember, there is no real relationship between these two musical compositions other than the fact that one jarred my memory in some strange way and made me think of the other.

This has gotten me in the mood to revisit my days at the Museum and listen to some more great radio. I’ll let you know what some of my other favorites are over the next few days. In the meantime, enjoy Hundred Year Storm and the work of Adam Goddard.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

MySpace Music Find of the Day

Life is rather busy right now, so I don't have a lot of time to I was thinking that on the days when I can't spend a sufficient amount of time writing, I would pass on information about some of the bands I've been discovering through MySpace and friends.

So today's MySpace find of the day is: Seabird.

This band from Kentucky is recording for Credential Recordings and their music features some beautiful piano and keyboards, as well as vocals that are reminiscent of Lovedrug.

Give them a listen and let me know what you think.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Another New Music Monday

Another new music Monday.

The new release I’m most looking forward to this week is The Well from Waking Ashland on Immortal Records. This piano-driven indie rock band from San Diego has been making waves over the past few years. The new album was recorded at Bomb Shelter Studios in L.A. (owned and operated by former Stone Temple Pilots drummer Eric Kretz). The new disc will be available Tuesday (4/17) in pretty much any chain record store and any decent indie shop. Their last album, Composure, was met with critical praise and did well on college radio, particularly with the moving song “All Hands on Deck,” and I expect this new CD could really put the band on the map.

Other discs to look for this week include:

Joseph Arthur and the Lonely AstronautsLet’s Just Be
Joshua EnglishTrouble None
HalophilePanic Bird

As for live radio on the Internet this week, check out the sparse and beautiful performance of Eleni Mandell on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic with Nic Harcourt on Wednesday (4/18) at 2:15 p.m. (ET).

Then on Thursday (4/19) listen to the unique rock sounds of The Broken West, also on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic at 2:15 p.m. (ET).

Happy listening!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

MySpace Music Find o' the Week

The beauty of MySpace and the Internet is the ability to find bands I might never have heard of...

Today, a few bands that have common roots: all of them came out of the pop-punk band The Halo Friendlies. If you like female singers, these are bands you should check out.

First, check out Scouts of St. Sebastian, fronted by former Halo Friendly Judita, along with her husband, Matt Wignall (Havalina Rail Co., Jackson Rubio Records, etc.) and some members of The Seamonsters. Nice alt-pop with an 80s flavor.

Next up is Ginger Sling, former bass player for the Friendlies. Amazing voice that will lull you into submission. Meanwhile, the latest rumors are that Ginger will be joining Billy Corgan and others as the new bass player in The Smashing Pumpkins.

And then there is the darker, more driving sound of Bloodcat Love. Not female vocals, but featuring former Halo Claudia Rossi on drums.

Check 'em out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Free Eric Volz

Eric Volz needs your help.

Eric is a 27-year old American citizen who has been living in Nicaragua for a few years. Eric is also the publisher of EP Magazine (a bilingual magazine that focuses on sustainable development and eco-tourism).

But here is why Eric needs your help. You see, Eric is now "living" in a maximum security prison in Nicaragua after being convicted of a murder he didn't, and couldn't, commit. In fact, unless his conviction is overturned, it will be his home for the next 30 years.

You can get the full facts of the case here, but in short, a young woman by the name of Doris Jiminez (a former girlfriend of Eric's) was killed on November 21, 2006, sometime between 11:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Despite the fact that Eric Volz has quite a few witnesses and evidence that he was more than 2 hours away that day, he was eventually arrested for the murder. And despite the fact that there was NO physical evidence at the scene to tie him to the crime, he was convicted. A conviction that came mostly as the result of testimony from some rather unsavory and unreliable sources. It was also a conviction that Over the past few months there has been a real groundswell of support growing for Eric, mostly as the result of publicity generated through a grassroots Internet effort.

I first discovered the campaign to free Eric Volz about a month ago as a result of the involvement of some friends and bands that had linked to the Free Eric Volz page on MySpace, and I've been telling others about it since then. Here is how you can help.

First, brush up on the facts. Visit sites like Free Eric Volz and Friends of Eric Volz . You can also check out a film about the case on YouTube.

Second, take action. You can contact your congressional representatives to have them put pressure on Nicaraguan authorities to investigate and revisit the case.

Third, if you are able, you can make a financial contribution so that Eric's parents and friends can continue their efforts to have him released.

And finally, you can help by making others aware. Spread the word. Link to this blog. Link to the previously mentioned sites. If you have a MySpace, put the Free Eric Volz MySpace site on your front page. In this day and age it is very easy to spread the word, so let's do our part.

Monday, April 09, 2007

New Music Monday

There are some great live performances on the radio this week, as well as a few interesting new CD releases.

On the new CD front, Conor Oberst's project Bright Eyes has a new CD called Cassadaga. Bright Eyes, incidentally, will be playing live tomorrow on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic at 2:15 pm (ET). As always you can listen online.

Also new this week is From Autumn to Ashes' Holding a Wolf by the Ears. I really like the comments from drummer Francis Mark as posted at

"Most of the record is just about living. At this point I don't think that music inspires me to make more music. Going out and living inspires me to make music. It seems like most people don't believe in themselves enough to take risks," he says. "So many people are unhappy - they let their happiness take a backseat to their obligations, and our society really reinforces that. Also, it seems like the middle ground between having total faith and not having any is vanishing and that middle ground was what functioned best. A lot of lyrics are inspired by the idea that extremes are dangerous."
And if you are looking for some nice live radio performances this addition to the aforementioned Bright Eyes performance, make sure you check out the following:
Tuesday, April 10:
Richard Buckner on KEXP at 6:00 p.m. (ET)
Wednesday, April 11:
Dean & Britta on KEXP at 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Happy listening. And I've been finding some new and interesting bands on MySpace that I'll be telling you about in the near future.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Not AN emergency...but THE Emergency

Don't have much time for a post but thought I'd give you some hard to find music to listen to over the weekend. A few years back there was a band that came together, recorded some amazing music, apparently signed with Atlantic Records...and then disappeared for a variety of reasons. Fortunately someone has put some of the music up on a MySpace site and you can hear a few songs from The Emergency, a band that I think could have really done something big.

The band consisted of Travis Zimmerman (Jupiter James/Cush), Jason Martin (Starflyer 59), Frank Lenz (Starflyer 59, Pedro the Lion, Fold Zandura), Dirk Lemmenes (Stavesacre), and Ryan Denne (Stavesacre).

Some pretty good music, but the album never saw the light of day. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Blog Updates...or...Spring Cleaning While it Snows in April

Blogger added some new features so I took the opportunity to do a little "spring cleaning" on my blog. Hope you like the new look, however I'm sure there will be some little tweaks hear and there.

Also, I discovered that my Bloglet blog subscription tool didn't work because apparently Bloglet went out of business! Which explains why I lost all of my previous subscribers. So...I've added a new blog subscription tool from FeedBlitz that I really like. If you are new to this blog, please subscribe...and if you are a returning reader, you'll need to re-subscribe.

Also, if you know of any other features, bells, whistles, etc. that I should be adding to this blog, let me know.

And just so this post isn't merely a matter of "housekeeping," I mentioned in a previous post that my friend Andy Whitman took part in the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Music recently. Well, he's back home and has put down a few thoughts on the experience in his blog that you should check out.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's My Web and I'll Post if I Want To!

Much of my reading, research, and writing in recent years has been in the areas of social networking and the whole Web 2.0 concept. I find myself intrigued by the Internet in ways that I have been intrigued by the medium of radio in the past (yes...I'm a radio geek.). The incredibly fast pace of technology makes it difficult to keep up with what is going on with advances in Internet applications, but I find myself riveted. I am less interested in the actualy technological side of things (HTML, RSS, Java, yadda yadda yadda) and more interested in how these applications all function together on the Internet in a way that impacts our culture. I'm interested in the synergy between content creators, content providers (there is a difference!) and content users...and how those three kind of get muddied together.

As a result of this fascination, I've been reading a lot of books, articles, etc. by Henry Jenkins, the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, and perhaps the leading thinker in the area of digital media technology. His book Convergence Culture is probably one of the most important books on media technology in decades, and some have referred to him as the 21st Century's Marshall McLuhan. While Jenkins' name may not become a household cultural reference in the manner of McLuhan (Jenkins doesn't seem to seek out the limelight), I think it is an apt description. For anyone interested in the future of media technology, particularly in relation to understanding the interplay between technology and culture, Jenkins and his blog are must reads. Other important books by Jenkins include The Wow Climax and Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers.

Much of Jenkins work centers around the participatory nature of digital communications, where the lines are blurred between content creation and content usage, as well as some rather interesting discussions on media convergence and cross-platform content. Jenkins does a good treatment of this in relation to the classic example of cross-platform media: The Matrix series. If you thought The Matrix was merely a series of movies, you are mistaken. From the beginning, The Matrix was branded as a cross-platform phenomenon involving graphic novels, cartoons, video games, and the Internet...all with the participation of a larg number of writers and content creators. People were encouraged to play around in the world of The Matrix. At the other end of the spectrum is the tight controls that were placed on the world of Harry Potter. While fans wanted to enter that world and create their own Potter stories, the publisher and author stepped in to protect their money-making entity. Smart corporations, marketers, web creators, and anyone creating anything for any form of consumption would be wise to read Jenkins and embrace the technology, rather than hold it at arm's length. Not that J.K. Rowling and the young Mr. Potter are suffering from poor cash flow, mind you. But the Potter experience could have been even better if they had taken a different approach to their fans and embraced the potential of participatory culture.

Finally, as someone interested in the intersection of faith and culture, Jenkins has written a number of items on the way people of faith, and particularly Evangelicals, have approached the issues of convergence and media technology. I don't know where Jenkins stands in his own personal faith journey, but he has some interesting insights into the collision of faith and technology. On that note, I'm very interested in listening in on a seminar being held at MIT tomorrow on Evangelicals and the Media. It will be available for listening and viewing following the event. Just wish I could be up in Boston to participate live, however I guess it is only fitting that I experience it in the digital realm.

And if you are wondering where I am going with all this, there is a point beyond that which I've already stated. As a fan of music I'm very interested in how this whole convergence, cross-platform, media technology and culture thing plays out for the music industry and the artists who are creating music. So...I'll be writing a little bit about that in some future blogs.

And, in the very near future I'll be giving this blog a face-lift and changing some things around. And don't worry, there will still be plenty of music talk.

Monday, April 02, 2007

New Music Recommendations

Another week, and more new music on the way

But first, let me digress a little. This afternoon at 3pm (ET), David Vandervelde will be performing live on KEXP in Seattle. Those who know me know that I’m a big fan of KEXP and love that I can listen to it online. Especially check out their morning show with John Richards, and if you go to their website you’ll find an amazing archive of live performances and podcasts…The station is a great resource for finding new music. But back to the point at hand. David Vandervelde is a musician I discovered (along with the marvelous Brie Stoner) because of his work on the Nooma video soundtracks. David’s latest album The Moonstation House Band was released earlier this year on Secretly Canadian, and he is currently touring with another of my favorites, Richard Swift. I’m hard pressed to describe Vandervelde’s music, but the following words come to mind: organic, nostalgic, dream-like, and psychedelic. But you have to listen to get the full effect. Vandervelde has worked with numerous artists, including Mark Eitzel and Wilco’s Jay Bennett. So tune in this afternoon at 3pm (ET)/12pm(PT) and hear some great music.

Now the rest of this week’s recommended live radio performances, and where you can hear them online:

Monday, April 2 – Beck on The World Café with David Dye (WXPN-FM) 2-4 p.m. (ET)

Wednesday, April 4 – Richard Buckner on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic with my friend Nic Harcourt, 2:15 p.m. (ET). I first discovered Buckner when he appeared on MBE to promote his album Since and have remained a fan.

Dean & Britta on The World Café with David Dye (WXPN-FM) 2-4 p.m. (ET). These two co-founders of the band Luna are back with yet another great album, Back Numbers, and a style of music that will bring out your inner-grooviness with shades of Bacharach. So put on your go-go boots and enjoy the duo’s unique and dreamy brand of pop.

Thursday April 5 – Brandi Carlile on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, 2:15 p.m. (ET)

Friday, April 6 – Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, 2:15 p.m. (ET).

In the meantime, here are some albums coming out tomorrow that you might be interested in:

First up, this is the 40th anniversary of Van Morrison branching out as a solo artist, and as a result his very first solo album, Blowin’ Your Mind is being re-released. This is the album that started it all, featuring songs such as “T.B. Sheets” and the classic “Brown Eyed Girl.” I have long been a fan of Morrison and have stated before that, in my humble opinion, Morrison is one of those rare artists who are incapable of putting out a bad record. Despite his varied styles and dabbling in diverse genres, I believe that every song and every album are solid efforts. He continues to put out incredible and relevant music, while staying true to himself.

Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
Poison the WellVersions
The Academy is… - Santi

That's just a taste of some of the music I'm looking forward to hearing this week. Be sure to drop me a line and let me know what you're listening to...and if you decide to give a listen to any of the artists I've mentioned, let me know what you think.

And, oh season is finally here. Go Phils!