May
2009

Snap Crackle Pop

A little background on this yet-to-be-released Sia track, “The Codependent”: Sia played this song at shows throughout her 2008 tour and mentioned it was written for an “animated pop project” (the Gorillaz come to mind, but details are pretty scarce) on which she collaborated with the Bird and the Bee’s Greg Kurstin.

Sia – “The Codependent” [live] (mp3)

Sia discussed the project with The Advocate last year:

“After about 50 grand worth of therapy, I got really happy and made this awesome, fun pop album called H Crusader,” Sia explains. The only problem was that her label wouldn’t release her upbeat record about a superhero. “They were like, ‘You’re a down-tempo artist, you’re going to confuse the fans.’ And I was like, ‘What fans?’ ” she says, unleashing a cackle. Bolstered by the “schoolteacher’s salary” she collects each year thanks to her contributions to Zero 7 albums and other TV and movie royalties, she refused to budge — and was dropped by her label.

Luckily, the success of “Breathe Me” led to Sia being signed by Starbucks’ Hear Music label. Sia’s said in several interviews the more upbeat sound of this track, more along the lines of Some People Have Real Problem’s bonus track “Buttons,” is the direction she hopes to take on her next album. No word on whether or not this animated project will constitute that album or be released as a separate project. Speaking of “Buttons,” here’s a great performance from Later…with Jools Holland:

May
2009

Old Stone

Marcus Mumford accompanied Laura Marling during both of her performances I caught during SXSW, providing background vocals, percussion and accordion, sometimes simultaneously. One of the first things I did when I got home was to download everything I could find from his band, Mumford & Sons. Though they’ve yet to release a full-length album, but I’ve downloaded everything I’ve been able to find from the few EPs they’ve recorded. This song “Roll Away Your Stone” in particular has become a recent obsession. When I read that Laura Marling had covered it during her appearance on Morning Becomes Eclectic earlier this year, I went on the hunt to find the mp3. It doesn’t seem to be floating around anywhere so I went ahead and ripped it from NPR’s broadcast. The song suits her remarkably well:

Laura Marling – “Roll Away Your Stone” [Mumford & Sons cover] (mp3)

Also, here’s Laura Marling performing my favorite song from her own debut record, Alas I Cannot Swim, the lead track “Ghosts,” with Marcus Mumford on percussion:

May
2009

High Like Heaven

Since Fiona Apple’s releases are few and far between, it’s always nice to re-discover some of the rarities in her catalog. Here’s a live cover of the song “When I Get Low, I Get High” made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, which Fiona performed regularly on her tour with Nickel Creek. This performance is from a 2007 benefit show at Largo with Jon Brion, by far my favorite version I’ve heard of it, complete with foot-stomping, dueling pianos and a fiery vocal from Fiona.

Fiona Apple – “When I Get Low, I Get High” [live at Largo 2007] (mp3)

May
2009

Minus Forever

Though live recordings of both tracks have been floating around for quite some time, two previously unavailable demos from Courtney Love’s (perhaps forever) forthcoming album Nobody’s Daughter, have surfaced: “Samantha” and a full band version of “Sunset Marquis” (a piano only demo was posted on Love’s MySpace page last year). Eleven other demos from the project leaked back in 2007, mostly from Love’s recording sessions with producer Linda Perry where it’s likely these two demos originated. Since then, Love has reportedly been working with producer Michael Beinhorn, who also produced Hole’s Celebrity Skin. These two tracks are clearly unfinished demos, and as I mentioned back in March, Love recently wrote on her MySpace blog about this original demo version of “Samantha” and her work with Beinhorn since the original sessions with Perry:

“Samantha,” you wont even recognize it. It’s so brilliant now. Don’t go getting demo-itis, almost everything but one thing has changed in radical ways and I don’t want to hear “I liked the first version.” That’s called demo-itis. You’re used to that song that way so you get possessive of that bridge and that riff and that sonic decision.

Here are the original demos:

Courtney Love – “Samantha” [demo] (mp3)

Courtney Love – “Sunset Marquis” [demo] (mp3)

May
2009

Big Time Sensuality

The Bjork live set Voltaic I mentioned back in January now has a new official release date of June 23, 2009, pushed back from March. The set includes a disc of in-studio performances from 2007 (including reworked songs from Post, Homogenic, and Vespertine) and a DVD of live performances from her concerts in Paris and Reykjavík. The set also includes a DVD of all of the videos from Volta and a CD of remixes of songs from the album. As I originally mentioned, the tour included a 10-piece brass section, which resulted in some incredible reworkings of her songs.

Here are two from the live show in Paris, including a stunning rendition of Homogenic’s “Bachelorette” and Medulla highlight “Who Is It” (probably the most straightforward pop song Bjork’s released since Post):

Bjork – “Bachelorette” [Live in Paris, 6.25.2008] (mp3)

Bjork – “Who Is It” [Live in Paris, 6.25.2008] (mp3)

Head over to Bjork’s official site for more information about how to purchase the full set.

May
2009

Dog New Tricks

Though I somehow overlooked Iron & Wine’s 2007 album, The Shepherd’s Dog, at the time of its release, I recently rediscovered it via iTunes Genius playlists. I’ve been listening to it pretty heavily ever since, so I was happy to find out that earlier this year Iron & Wine posted 8 acoustic demos of tracks from The Shepherd’s Dog as a free download on the official website.

Head over there to grab the zip file. The album version of my personal favorite, “Boy With a Coin,” is also available as a free download (as well as several other Iron & Wine tracks) on the Sub Pop Records label website.

May
2009

Stories From the City

Even with only one album under her belt, Adele’s got the kind of power in her voice that would make anyone a little timid about attempting to cover her. Turns out Santigold’s got the swagger necessary to give it a shot though, taking on what is arguably Adele’s best track to date, “Hometown Glory,” stripping it down to a gritty, chugging drumbeat and a single synth line. Doesn’t touch the original, but definitely makes it her own, and with covers that’s half the fun.

Santigold – “Hometown Glory” [Adele cover] (mp3)

If you’re not familiar with the original, here’s a great live performance from Adele:

Apr
2009

Impressive Instant

I logged into Twitter earlier and noticed Madonna had written a message using her manager Guy Oseary’s account, as she has a few times recently. The two are currently in the studio recording a couple of bonus tracks for Madonna’s upcoming greatest hits collection and have posted a few times during the process. I figured I’d give it a shot and sent a quick message asking Madonna what she’s listening to these days. I did a complete double-take when I saw that she’d actually responded, especially since she only responded to two other people, one of which was Perez Hilton. Here’s what she wrote:

Apr
2009

REVIEW: Neko Case @ Berklee Performance Center, 4/11/09

I managed to track down two 10th row tickets (from a fellow fan on craigslist) for the Neko Case show in Boston at Berklee Performance Center at the last minute on Saturday.  This was my first time ever seeing her live and it was an incredible experience. The tornado theme from her new album, Middle Cyclone, could not be more appropriate; it’s truly a marvel to witness the sound of Case’s vocals when she tilts her head back and lets it rip. Her vocals were a little low in the mix for the first 2 or 3 songs, so she excused herself for a few seconds and walked off stage then came back and launched into a breathtaking performance of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood highlight “Hold On, Hold On” – from that point on her vocals were soaring. The show opened with “Maybe Sparrow” and was heavy on material from the two previously mentioned albums, as well as a few older songs like “I Wish I Was the Moon” and “Deep Red Bells.” My favorites were “Hold On, Hold On,” “Prison Girls,” “Magpie to the Morning” (an audience request during the encore), “Middle Cyclone,” and “Vengeance is Sleeping” (which was performed with just Neko, back-up signer Kelly Hogan and acoustic guitar),  and “This Tornado Loves You,” but aside from the minor sound issues in the first 2 or 3 songs, the whole show was pretty much flawless. Neko said a few times during the show that they’d be back his summer, so I’ll be sure to post when the next date is announced just in case you missed her this time around.

Mar
2009

Hot Hot Heat

Back home in Boston (wishing it was as warm here as it is in Austin right now) and ready for some serious relaxation and recovery time, but first I wanted to do a quick wrap-up of my third and final day at SXSW. I’ll do a big wrap-up of my whole SXSW experience with photos, observations and recommendations, but for now here’s my SXSW Friday recap. It was another packed day, to say the least. I was in heaven. Here are the highlights.

Cetan Clawson – When I ordered a bloody mary at Radio Room, the bartender insisted I’d thank him for sending me to the bar Lovejoy’s just around the corner instead. He was right, not just for the drink recommendation but for the chance to catch some of Cetan Clawson’s show, a rock trio from Detroit who got a standing ovation from the crowd for the thrashing, psychedelic jam that closed their set.

Cut Off Your Hands – I’d heard great things about this band so I was excited to see they were playing right before Ra Ra Riot at the Onion party at Radio Room. I now know what all the fuss is about, there’s so much passion in their live set it’d be impossible to ignore. I’ll definitely see these guys again next time they’re in Boston.

Ra Ra Riot – This band was at the top of my list of shows I wanted to catch in Austin and ended up delivering one of the strongest sets I saw all week. The live strings were a nice bonus too. If you don’t already have their album, The Rhumb Line, get on top of that.

Department of Eagles – I was determined to see these guys, which meant standing in a pretty long line outside of Emo’s in the blazing hot sun and then waiting about an hour before they came on, but it was worth the effort. Some cool sampling of live vocals on a few songs too.

Beach House – I was really impressed how well this band’s sound translated live, actually outshining their album work for me. The vocals reminded me a little of Patti Smith. They played to a huge crowd at the Blackberry party, so it was nice to see them getting the well-deserved attention.

The Low Anthem – Wow, I’m still surprised I hadn’t heard about this band before considering they’re from Rhode Island and worthy of some serious attention. The Central Presbyterian Church was a perfect venue for their folk-leaning, revival-style rock. The three band members each rotated through several instruments, alternating between softer folk songs and howling blues songs.

Lisa Hannigan – I’ve been meaning to check out Lisa Hannigan’s debut solo album for a while now. I remember taking note of her name when I saw her perform with Damien Rice a few years ago (she’s the female voice on his albums O and 9). None of her own more ethereal songs necessarily stuck with me, but her vocals sounded as amazing ever, especially on a gorgeous cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” I’ll definitely try to track down a recording of it.

Laura Marling – I stayed for her midnight performance following Lisa Hassigan’s despite having seen her the day before. I couldn’t resist the chance to hear her sing with the acoustics inside that church. Marcus Mumford accompanied her again (on top of playing his own show with Mumford & Sons an hour earlier across town) and made a joke about how the sound was so clear in there that he was afraid we’d hear every mistake. I certainly didn’t hear any. It was a longer set than I heard at Entertainment Weekly’s party so it was definitely worth staying to hear a few different songs than the day before. OK, enough out of me for now. I’ll be back later with some updates about the final day of SXSW.