Introducing Sam & Ruby

June 30, 2008

Sam & Ruby EPI had ME TV (an Austin cable station devoted to music) on during South by Southwest this year, just playing in the background as I was surfing the Internet or something in the living room. Halfway through some song, I realized that I was listening to something very good. I finished the song, then rewound it and dragged housemate Mike into the room and made him watch it, too.

What caught my ear was “What Do I Do Now,” by Sam & Ruby. Had this been written in the 1940s, it might have become a jazz standard. Ruby pours on a sultry vocal on the first verse that grabs the listener immediately. They both sing on the chorus, and their voices are beautiful together.

Sam is from Green Bay and Ruby was born in Ghana. They currently reside in Nashville. Ruby put out a couple of records overseas. That’s about all I know about them.

I bought their EP and gave it several listens. They’re still a little rough around the edges–“Won’t Let You Go” is slight, and “More” has a lovely melody crippled by appallingly bad lyrics–but the good stuff is really good.

Last week they announced that their first album will be coming out this fall. I’m both excited and nervous. If they’ve found the right producer to guide their best instincts and curtail their bad ones, they could be huge. I’ll be buying it as soon as it’s released, and I’ll be crushed if it isn’t very good. Judging by the new material they’ve put up on their MySpace page, though, I think that’s unlikely.

Below I’ve pasted “Heaven’s My Home,” as it’s the only video I could find. It’s a good song, but not what I’d pick to show them off. You’d be better off going to their MySpace page, which, at this moment, will start playing “What Do I Do Now” immediately. Then listen to “The Suitcase Song” and “The Here and the Now.”

Sam & Ruby EP:

Bonus for my fellow cheeseheads: Sam Brooker singing our National Anthem before last year’s Packers-Seahawks playoff game (awesome comeback). And for my Louisiana people, the two of them doing the same number at a Saints game (although some guy named Dan Dyer has lead vocal).


New Releases of Note: 7/1/08

June 30, 2008

Willie Nelson - StardustVia AMG.

Willie Nelson–Stardust [30th Anniversary Legacy Edition]

Alkaline Trio–Agony & Irony

Los Lonely Boys–Forgiven

Full list here.


For Beeker

June 30, 2008

Squint - Beeker

We lost a beloved family member last night. He lived a long and happy life, surrounded by people who loved him. He may be the only dog to have an album named after him, which is the tenuous connection to music that I’m using as an excuse to post this here. He will be missed.

I don’t think I know any good songs about dogs, although I know some bad ones. If any of you do know any good ones, please let me know. In the meantime, here’s Rudyard Kipling instead.

The Power Of The Dog
by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie —
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find — it’s your own affair —
But … you’ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone — wherever it goes — for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ‘em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long —
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Rest in peace, old friend.


Rhapsody Finally Selling Normal MP3s

June 30, 2008

Rhapsody has finally moved to a business model that makes sense, and are selling regular old MP3s instead of whatever complicated system they had before. They are giving away 100,000 albums to incite people to register. I tried to get one but had my usual technical difficulties. Maybe you’ll have better luck.  In any case, this is a good move.


White Denim Release Workout Holiday LP in UK

June 30, 2008

Austin buzz band White Denim, long touted by the excellent music blog Gorilla vs. Bear, have released Workout Holiday, their first full length record in the UK, which is actually just a compilation of their two US-released EPs, Let’s Talk About It and Workout Holiday.  This precedes their first proper full length LP in the US, Exposion, due out later this summer and previously available at shows as a CD-R titled 11 Songs.  Sorry for all the backstory there.  Confused yet?

Anyway, if you are not familiar with this band yet, it’s time to get on the train.  On first listen, your first instinct will likely be to dismiss them as yet another 60’s garage rock revival band like The Black Keys or The White Stripes.  However, if you stick with them, you will start to hear something new, different, and really exciting.  This is deconstructionist rock ‘n’ roll in a very literal sense.  It’s as if the band has taken bits from iconic bands such as The Stooges, The MC5, and Velvet Underground, cut them up with those little kid scissors we all used in kindergarten, then mashed them back together imprecisely with messy slathers of Elmer’s Glue.  Guitar tracks drop out of songs unexpectedly, drum loops are replaced by thundering fills, and deep bass lines rise up from nowhere to fill out the cacophony.  The masterful studio production makes it feel as though you are following the songs around in your head, watching as they strip off pieces of themselves like the fun drunk chick at a pool party.  It’s all a hell of a lot of fun, and although you can’t get this particular record in the US, I would recommend downloading their Let’s Talk About It EP.

And yes, I did say download.  White Denim are also leading the charge to completely discard the CD medium, opting instead to release their EPs and full lengths only on vinyl and through digital download.  It’s available on iTunes and through Amazon’s download service, as well as others, I’m sure. 


New Okkervil River, plus non-ACL Austin show

June 29, 2008

Okkervil River - The Stand-InsThis is old news (last month) but it’s new to me so I’m posting it anyway.

The new Okkervil River album, The Stand-Ins, is coming out September 9th. And, via Sonic Itch (which I am finding increasingly useful and hence adding to our teeny-tiny blogroll–see update to Jason’s Frightened Rabbit post), those of us in Austin will be able to see them at Stubb’s during the ACL Festival. It will be their second show of the day, so I hope they aren’t too tired to deliver the goods.

They’re touring, so those of you elsewhere should go to their site and find out when you can see them. I can’t link directly to the tour dates due to stupid Flash stuff.

Below is a nice little murder ballad, “Westfall,” from Don’t Fall in Love With Everyone You See, which, quite unintentionally I’m certain, has a very similar chord progression to “Michigan” by squint–you can sing one over the other. “Michigan” is not available for online listening so you can’t compare unless you have it already (get on it, Norman!), but you can hear a sample here.

I’m certain I’ll be posting more Okkervil River song links as the album release and Austin show approach, unless Jason beats me to it.


Life is Good

June 29, 2008

Emmylou!

Andrew W.K. Tattoo

I’ll be celebrating our Nation’s independence with Andrew W.K.

I’ll be celebrating my birthday with Emmylou Harris.

This is why I toughed it out here in Austin when I was basically unemployed for over a year after the dot-com bust.

Sweet.

Now, if only the Big Record People would realize that an Emmylou Harris/Andrew W.K. duet would be awesome, the world would be perfect.


the MGMT got me high

June 29, 2008

MGMT – Time to Pretend.

All I can say is that it’s pretty mystical! To check out the super-stoner high (pun intended) def version this video at


Album Review: Grinderman – Grinderman

June 29, 2008

Grinderman - GrindermanGrinderman is Nick Cave’s side project, but should it count as a side project? It’s not really a different band than the Bad Seeds, just a subset of them–three, to be exact, not counting Cave. According to AMG, the idea was to write together rather than Cave writing songs on his own and then bringing them to the band.

How different is it from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds? A decent amount. You won’t mistake the vocalist and lyricist for anyone other than Nick Cave, but the songs do sound more improvised than the tight compositions generally issued under the other moniker. Often, it’s like a goth jam-band, with the not-very-complex melodies sung by Cave providing the basis for dark, industrial/blues guitar noise, with screeching violins and other instruments showing up along the way.

At the same time, some songs sound like they could have been outtakes from a recent Bad Seeds record, in particular “Depth Charge Ethel” and “(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free.” That’s not a knock, particularly in the case of “Depth Charge Ethel,” but, again, how much of a side project is it? The answer to that question probably doesn’t matter that much–hardcore Nick Cave fans are going to buy it anyway.

Is it any good? Yes, but a bit exhausting. That’s partly the result of the type of music they were creating, no doubt. But it also tends to wear on the ears a bit due to samey production, probably the result of the manner in which they created that music (that’s been a problem on recent Bad Seeds albums, too, so perhaps I’m being too generous). They seem to have structured it like an LP, with “Go Tell the Women” neatly ending side one. I like to take a break before launching into side two, beginning with “(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free.”

As I said, hardcore Nick Cave fans will buy this, and they should. Novices should start elsewhere.

No Pu**y Blues:


The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins/Rocket Man

June 28, 2008

Check out this groovy jam from Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. I’m pretty sure that he was smoking some of Bag End’s finest pipeweed with Gandalf the Grey before he penned this ditty.


No one does it like Shatner, and no one ever will.


You better be high as a kite by then.

Update (GW): Here’s “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” with better sound, Rankin-Bass animation, and picture-in-picture Nimoy!


Did You See the One Where They Landed on That Planet?

June 28, 2008

Alex [excitedly]: Did you see the one where they landed on that planet?!?

Girls: Ewwww!!!

Heading Out to Eden…yea, brother.

Space Hippie Fro Dude: I’m standing here wondering!

Hot Space Hippie Chick: What?!?

Spock: You guys rock! Can I sit in?

Hot Space Hippie Chick: I love you soooo much! I want to have your space hippie babies! Please, plant your space seed…in me!

(With apologies to everyone for publicly posting an inside joke.)


How to Rip MP3s

June 27, 2008

The stereo in my last car didn’t have an auxiliary jack, but it could play MP3s burned onto CD. I hate having my originals in the car–too much risk of damage–so I was very excited about this and quickly burned several disks of MP3s.

I ran into a problem though. Certain songs would have really annoying popping noises when I played them. I ripped using several methods, and the same songs would always have the same popping noises no matter what program I used to rip.

That’s when I discovered this method. The good news is, all of the component parts are free. The bad news is, it’s a little complicated to set up, although nothing that can’t be done if you carefully follow the instructions. It also takes longer to rip than RealPlayer or other commonly-used programs.

It eliminated the popping noises and all of my MP3s sounded noticeably better, whether they originally had popping noises or not. I deleted all of my ripped MP3s and re-ripped them using this method, which was time consuming but worth it.

Now I won’t use anything else, and I preach the gospel of this method any chance I get. Check it out.

Best MP3 Guide


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.