Local Spotlight: I <3 KZME

I love the fact that there is a listener-supported radio station in this area that features pretty much exclusively local and independent artists. It’s all music all the time, which neither OPB nor XRAY.fm can say for themselves. I love politics and news, and I like talk radio from time to time, but there’s something special about having a station in your presets that you know will always have music going that has originality and integrity and will be something you haven’t already heard 5 times this week (seriously, KINK, I’ve just about had it with One Republic, and KNRK, Kongos is done. Just done.)

Sometimes I like the idea of KZME more than the actual songs they play, but it’s always a different feel than the big signal stations and they do play enough songs I enjoy that it stays on my dial pretty regularly. If you listen long enough you’ll hear indie darlings like Elliot Smith, the Eels, and the Dandy Warhols.

Tonight I was impressed with this track by The Wipers as I came home. I thought it must be a new quirky Portland band, but in fact it’s a legendary punk group from the early 80s that recorded right here in humble ol’ Vancouver, Wash. Enjoy the grittiness, and the punk spin on Shakespeare.

Friday Jam: Livin’ Lovin’ Maid

Well, it happened this morning. Last night I had decided to go into work an hour early so I could catch a ride with my coworker. It wouldn’t be too hard to get up at the same time and just amend my routine a little to get out the door by 6. That’s all well and good unless you ignore your alarm and stay in bed until 5:57!

Luckily my ride was late, so I was able to scrounge some left over stir fry and throw some freezer bread in my bag to toast after I got to work. I was still pretty much regretting agreeing to do this whole one-hour-early thing. The appeal of leaving an hour earlier than usual really wasn’t winning the day.

But then I got in my friend’s truck and Livin’ Lovin’ Maid was on the radio. YES. ALRIGHT. This is going to be a killer Friday after all. Plant’s iconic voice blistered through the speakers as we zipped down the highway in the early morning light. Happy Friday everyone.

7 Things That Inspire Me Endlessly

Yes, this is a music blog. And it is MY music blog, thank you very much, and I will write whatever I want. It may or may not surprise you that while I do the commentary/journalism/criticism thing, I am a writer of other genres and styles as well. And a fair number of the people who do read the blog are in fact your run-of-the-mill zany, tortured, passionate writer types, so I thought opening up about my own inspirations might be of some interest.

I have been known to write poems about making marionberry jam, or essays about walking down a moonlit dirt road in Africa, or lyrics about love lost and living anyway. I love the poems of Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Seamus Heaney as much as I love the nuts-and-bolts journalism of Rolling Stone or NPR. Here are seven non-music related things that give me great inspiration. Any type of art, whether music or otherwise, that touches on any of these will get my interest and likely my adoration.

The Desert 

There’s just so much to say. It’s wild and dangerous, but also soothing and peaceful. It is the very antithesis of our modern, safe, planned cities. There aren’t people squished in everywhere. Nothing is efficient. Everything is calm, if suspensefully so. Continue reading

Kishi Bashi – Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!

Such an interesting tune! (How many more exclamation points can I use!!!!)

I’ve known the Kishi Bashi name for a while, but never looked into them specifically. Then I cued up Rdio for the first time in ages, and their new release was featured there. I also just heard that they were in the OPB studio recently and that got me thinking about them again.

In this song, listen for three things:

1) Super interesting electronic strings.

2) The most fascinating vocal track I’ve heard all year. How does he get so high!? (!!!!!)

3) The stomp-and-start stacatto rhythmic structure (yes I meant to write stomp) that pounds through in the very beginning of the first verse and when he sings the words of the title track. So motivating, so good.

Here’s a link to the OPB session as well.

Clear Plastic Masks Full Streaming

The crunchy, soulful garage rock stylings of Clear Plastic Masks new album Being There is now in full streaming at SPIN. Their sound is kind of like if the Big Bopper, the Kinks, Lou Reed and Springsteen all came together to do a gospel record (but not TOO gospel-y). Awesome, right? The guitars are especially overdriven and the vocals are gritty. There are big cymbal crashes and quiet waltz interludes. The Masks opened for Hurray for the Riff Raff when I wasn’t able to see them back on Easter weekend, and I think this will be one of the best indie rock releases of 2014. Jack White and Against Me! – you’re on notice.

http://www.spin.com/articles/clear-plastic-masks-being-there-album-stream/

Classic Rock and Memory Lane

 

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Foreigner performs at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie on Saturday, May 17, 2014. (Brad Loper/The Dallas Morning News)

This weekend my parents went to see Styx, Foreigner, and Don Felder at the Verizon Center in Dallas.

These three artists were a huge part of my childhood, and I never dislike hearing them. I am pretty sure that the reason I love The Darkness is because of the glam tendencies of Foreigner and Styx, and it stands to reason that my interest in folk music comes not just from my country roots (Mom’s side) but also listening to that tape (maybe it was a CD) of The Eagles Greatest Hits Vol 2 so, so many times as a kid.

I can remember quasi-sleeping in the back seat of our blue 1989 Dodge B250 Ram Van as we drove through Tennessee en route to… somewhere (sometimes it feels like we just drove all over the South) while “Juke Box Hero” rang out loudly and Dad sang along off key. He probably thought I was asleep (I pretended to be) and it was one of those moments you don’t realize is formative until many years later. That trip also included Cold as Ice and Hot Blooded especially loud for driving at midnight.

As for Styx, “Come Sail Away” makes me happy every time I hear it, as well as “Renegade” “Grand Illusion” and “Blue Collar Man.” “Grand Illusion” was especially formative for me in the heady college days because of this line:

America spells competition / join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motor car
Someday soon we’ll stop to ponder / what on Earth’s this spell we’re under
We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are.”

Kind of prescient for a band that doesn’t always get the credibility it deserves, no?

Just now, my friend just sent me a message: Division Bell is turning 20 years old today. In high school, I didn’t know Pink Floyd outside of “Money” and “Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2,” but when I would go to Hastings, the Pink Floyd CDs must have been organized close to some other bands I was looking at (P.O.D.? Pennywise?), because I remember seeing the Division Bell cover so many times and thinking “That is interesting, I wonder what that music sounds like.” But at the time it seemed like “old guy” music ala Sting or Peter Frampton or something, so I never pursued it. Plus, the CD was like $17.99 new and I was more into the used $4.99 bin.

Later, in college, when I had the fortune to meet a dude who had every Pink Floyd album, we ended up rooming together and my classic rock education really began. For my wedding, he transferred every music file of his to me – over 10,000 songs, including the full catalogs of Zeppelin, Floyd, the Who, Hendrix, and the Beatles. That was quite a gift. In that first year of marriage, I never fell in love with Division Bell like I did with Animals, Mettle, DSOTM, and Wish You Were Here, but 20 years on from such a big record is still a big deal. Back when I was shopping at Hastings as a 16 year old, that record was only 7 or 8 years old. It makes me wonder what major, iconic record from this year I’ll be writing about in 20 years. The first one that comes to mind is Jack White. Your thoughts?

Nickel Creek Tonight at the Crystal

This reunion tour has been much-hyped and our household is pretty darn excited. The kids are off to Grandma’s and we’re off to Burnside Street and the historic Crystal Ballroom for The Secret Sisters (produced by Jack White) and the seminal newgrass stylings of Nickel Creek. We’ve seen all three of the members independently, and are only slightly concerned that the entire universe may fold in on itself with the intensity and charisma of all these genius performers under one roof. Weekend, ho!