We Talk to Mysterious Viral Dreampop Band Idle Hands from Mexico City

Love it or hate it, social media is the vehicle for finding out about “new stuff.” Sometimes we find out about really great stuff– like this week when David McClymont formerly of Scottish post-punk pop band Orange Juice shared out a video of an obscure Mexico City band Idle Hands practicing a song from an upcoming debut EP with the comment, “No, this isn’t a Glasgow bedroom circa 1980, it’s a Mexico City bedroom now.”

The song, titled “Carolina St.” is a glorious bright and chiming guitar instrumental reminiscent of, well, Orange Juice. This song has gained thousands of views in a couple of days– over 6,000 at the time I’m writing this! So, who are these guys? I reached out to them to see what’s going on.

From their bio: “Idle Hands is a south of Mexico City-based musical project formed by Fernando Torres and Diego Figueroa with the objective of creating sincere, smart and dreamy pop music.”

They also have a mission statement:

“We started to write music in the fall of 2015, responding to the need of obtaining an emotional and artistic expression away from the established scenes in our country. We take inspiration from the experiences, people, music and situations we love and hate. We try to tie together the good with the bad aspects of life while being aware of who we are and where we are heading, with the aim of avoiding stagnation, apathy, resentment and desensitization. These things are making Mexico a dangerous place for the people who live here and a terrible environment for art to bloom.
With our work we’d like to bring back ideas from the music we find profound and constructive, to inspire and share with our contemporaries.

Idle Hands music is written, played, recorded, produced and mixed by us.”

It’s Time to Play B-Sides: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. “Carolina St.” is a great track– I can’t wait to hear more! Will you be singing on some of the tracks, or will this be an instrumental effort?

Idle Hands: Yes, almost all of our songs have lyrics ūüôā

Will “Carolina St.” have lyrics or will stay an instrumental?

Yes, it’ll have singing. It’s a love song, haha.

I read in your comments that you are looking for distribution for your EP. Will you release it digitally first or wait until someone signs you?

We will make a digital release first, but we are looking for a label to release a nice physical release.

Are you close to finished recording it?

Yes, sort of… we are quite perfectionists haha. We are finishing the recording process. The art and mixing are still on planning.

It’s amazing¬†to see all of the shares on that video. When I saw it yesterday there was only a few hundred!

Yes, we are very impressed and grateful with everyone. We didn’t think that a rehearsal video would be so warmly received ūüėģ

David McClymont from Orange Juice wrote a fantastic quote about us…

Actually, that is how I found out about you. One of my friends on FB shared the video with McClymont’s quote.

It’s incredible to see how the Young Sound of Scotland is alive and kicking. And the best thing: crossing seas and breaking walls!

Will the EP lyrics be in Spanish or English?

No, the lyrics are in English. It’s quite a political thing… haha. We feel quite rebellious against the musical scene of Latin America.

I’m not too familiar with the Latin music scene other than some of the bigger exports.

We don’t feel identified with much of the local stuff. Almost always the people who succeed in music in Mexico are from wealthy families and they don’t have struggles to get a record deal, gear or education.

I see. Speaking of gear, I’m impressed with the sound of that Starcaster [a budget Fender guitar line below the Squier brand]– sounds better than I thought it might.

We are condemned to play with the cheapest we can get haha. But we have the habit of improving our instruments.

I was wondering about that. Must be different pickups in there?

No way! Pickups are expensive as our guitars in México.
The secret is in the strings.

We use D’Addario Flatwounds to achieve a cleaner and smoother tone

Interesting. You use flatwounds on the Jag, too?

Yes, we have all of our guitars and basses with flatwounds

Wow. I have to say I’m pretty surprised! I would never have guessed that. The clean tone coming from those single coils sounds really nice¬†in that video.

Yes, Squier guitars are the most trusty axes we had throughout the years.

Any effects pedals?

No, we used to had a few, but we had to sell them. And now with the “peso” devaluation we are struggling harder to get gear.
But we made our minds up. We’re trying to make the most of the cheapest things.

Well, maybe this video going viral will help sell a lot of your EP!

Haha thanks, idleness made us… We would rather make a crowdfunding for a vinyl release than selling digital music.

Well, as a vinyl junkie I would love to see that!!

Thanks a lot!

When first I saw your video I thought it sounded like Manchester scene– The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. Though,¬†the Orange Juice and Aztec Camera sound people are mentioning isn’t far from that.

Yes could be. Haha, we have a lot of influence of UK and Scottish bands. From the 60’s to the 80’s.
We also love soul, disco and Afrobeat.

That should make for some interesting future releases!

Yes, actually we have a lot of unreleased demos of experiments with other genres… You’ll listen to them eventually haha.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today– it’s been a lot of fun!

Thanks to you Michael, it’s been a pleasure.¬†Love from M√©xico – Fernando & Diego ‚̧

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The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2016

2016 was the 10th birthday of It’s Time to Play B-Sides, as unreal as that seems. This blog started as an offshoot of the regular conversations about music I was having at work with my friends and co-workers. At the time there wasn’t the proliferation of music sites that there are¬†today, and¬†informed or researched information about music was tough to find. With encouragement from my friends, I started this as a way to capture some of the tangents we’d get into at work. It also ended up being a return of sorts to doing a music website after shuttering the somewhat popular website I was running about DJ Shadow. ¬†The name of the blog came from the signoff post I made to the DJ Shadow boards and was also a line from “Burning For You” by Blue Oyster Cult which always represented the desire to dig a little deeper into music– to flip the record over and listen to the songs on the B-Side.

The focus of It’s Time to Play B-Sides has morphed a bit over the years, some of it due to the amount of time I have to dedicate to writing on it, some of it is because I have focused a lot of my music writing since 2009 as a contributor to Little Village Magazine. This also explains why this list includes a lot of Iowa artists since that’s what we review. That said, there are some really amazing bands in Iowa and even after I review the albums, they stay in regular rotation for me and earn spots¬†on my list.

As many will note, 2016 was a really strange year for music– sadly, mostly notable for the striking number of losses: Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, and Paul Kantner. The one that really hit me hard was the loss of Prince. Prince represented for me the first artist that I discovered on my own. Most of my formative music taste came from my father and that music is still a big part of the foundation of what I think is good in music. Prince came onto the larger music scene for me with Purple Rain, and from there I followed his career, and bands he worked with closely. I don’t think that we’ll see another artist quite as influential or as boundless in talent and genius again. I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like part of his ability to branch out was due to the fact that he hit it big during a time when the music industry was creating ¬†huge stars and he could afford to make some albums that were more daring and experimental.

The list below is in no particular order, but represent the albums that I listened to the most in 2016.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million – Justin Vernon got back on the horse. It really seemed like he wasn’t going to do another record as Bon Iver– he was burnt out of the attention and visibility he got from his Grammy-winning second album. He debuted a couple of the songs at the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival in 2015 with a glorious live show. It took the prodding of his friend Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Polica, etc.) to make him finish (or even keep working on) it. The resulting album seems related to the last album, but the textures and production are unexpected and frankly jolting in comparison, which was exactly his intention, I think. Lots of samples, and heavily affected recording techniques. I expect that this album will influence a lot of artists going forward. At the root of the album is still the perspective of Vernon. His losses and heartbreaks, the stories

Kalispell – Printer’s SonKalispell is the name of Shane Leonard’s solo music when he’s not working with other bands like Field Report and JE Sunde. Printer’s Son is a beautiful record, period.¬†From my review on playbsides: “Printer‚Äôs Son is one of those rare records that is so completely imagined and executed that when you first listen to it, it seems to drop unexpectedly out of the ether. It‚Äôs a record that defies any convenient genre classification. Elements of ambience and folk and jazz come together to help deliver a grippingly emotional and personal album.”

Lissie – My Wild West – Rock Island-native Elisabeth “Lissie” Maurus becomes homesick and moves back to Iowa and self-releases an album based on the experience. Full of hooks, driving and anthemic, it’s a great start to a career back home. Here’s my review from Little Village.

King of the Tramps – Cumplir con el Diablo – A later addition to the list. King of Tramps from Auburn, IA packs a lot of classic guitar-driven rock remniscent of Black Crowes into their latest effort (which comes in a super-cool transparent vinyl version). Here’s my review from Little Village Magazine.

Durand Jones and the Indications – Durand Jones and the Indications – New release on the fantastic Soul and R&B label out of Ohio, Colemine Records. In 2016, Colemine Records started a kind of subscription series where they email you upcoming releases to allow you to opt-in to the special first-pressing variations. This is a much better approach to this idea than the forced-in versions that are the trend today. They let you listen to the releases and you can decide to be part of the drop or not. One of the releases was the debut release of Durand Jones and the Indications on transparent blue vinyl. Fantastic classic R&B in the tradition of Stax/Volt and Otis Redding. Check out the video for “Make A Change.”

Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like A Levee – MC Taylor’s second full-length on Merge started as a project to create musical accompaniment to an exhibition of photographs taken by William Gedney in 1972 of an Eastern Kentucky coal-mining camp. Initially the songs were going to be based on the photographs, but eventually took their own direction. The album is distinctively HGM with Taylor expressing the developing perspective of a man coming to terms¬†with balancing¬†a family life and a music career. I’ve been a fan from before the first release as HGM and eagerly await the next releases.

Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines – I found out about Steve Gunn through his connection to Hiss Golden Messenger– a one-off collaboration called Golden Gunn. His 2016 release is his debut on Matador Records. To me, his music is influenced by the great UK guitarists like Richard Thompson and Michael Chapman (whose upcoming release 50, he produced and played on).

William Tyler – Modern Country – Nashville guitar wizard William Tyler, who works with a lot folks including Hiss Golden Messenger and Lambchop, released another album of his particular atmospheric guitar acrobatics. For me, his albums add a wide cinematic soundtrack to whatever I’m doing.

Scott Hirsch – Blue Rider Songs – Scott Hirsch is the silent partner in Hiss Golden Messenger, but for his debut solo album (which has been a long time coming, frankly) he delivers a breezy laid-back album that sounds like JJ Cale’s best work.

Bo Ramsey – Wildwood Calling – Bo Ramsey returns with his first album since 2008’s Fragile. This album, recorded in his kitchen is instrumentals showcasing his distinctive country blues style he is reknowned for. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Pines – Above the Prairie – It’s safe to say that any time The Pines release a new album, it will be on my favorite albums for that year. Their signature atmospheric take on folk and blues has developed slowly over the releases to the point where it is nearly its own genre. I can’t think of any other bands that sound quite like The Pines. Read Matt Steele’s review in Little Village Magazine.

Chrash – Things My Friends Say –¬†Chris Bernat of 90’s alt rock band Tripmaster Monkey released their first album of angular pop rock on Quad Cities indie label Cartouche. From my review in Little Village Magazine: “Things My Friends Say is an album that distinguishes itself in the landscape of new releases by the determinedly outsider approach to songs which, in the end, are damn catchy.”

Freakwater –¬†Scheherazade – This reboot of Freakwater was a long time in the works, but turned out one of the best albums in their catalog. Scheherazade is a more rich and expansive version of their sound thanks to the band, which includes Jim Elkington of seemingly every band related to Chicago. Read my interview with Janet and Catherine in Little Village Magazine (Part 1, Part 2).

Halfloves – (self titled) – The Iowa band The Olympics reboot with the guiding hand of Brendan Darner to create a dark pop record of singular vision and execution. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

SIRES – Soul For Sale – Another rebrand/reboot of an Iowa band– this time the former Dylan Sires and Neighbors become SIRES and also work with Brendan Darner to create a moody masterpiece (I think I see a trend here). Fantastic record, though– from my review in Little Village Magazine, ” They‚Äôve crafted an album packed with smart, bright classic hooks as well as dark, lusty bombastic rhythms: an impressive juxtaposition in contrast.”

Max Jury – Max Jury – After a run of amazing singles and an EP, Des Moines native Max Jury releases his debut album, and the anticipation built by the singles was justified. Max Jury is a jaw-droppingly solid album. From my review in Little Village Magazine, “a balanced delivery of Spector-esque wall-of-sound and an updated take on early ‚Äô70s R&B and soul.” It’s too bad that it’s going to take Jury moving to the UK and blowing up over there before his native country takes notice.

TWINS – Square America – More Sires, please. This seeming dynasty of anyone with the last name Sires cranking out amazing pop rock continues with Cedar Falls band TWINS, whose second album on Maximum Ames takes their guitar rock guns and point them at 70’s big hitters like Cheap Trick and KISS. These guys continue to slug it out on bar stages, but could easily fill an arena with their big sound if given the chance. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

Devin Frank – The Vanishing Blues – Devin Frank of Poison Control Center releases an album influenced by 60’s psych. “With The Vanishing Blues, Frank has made a refreshing stylistic statement by using a sonic palate derived from psychedelic rock‚Äôs dawning era ‚ÄĒ using bits of Syd Barrett, Donovan and the Zombies. This makes the album a delightfully unique and compelling standout in the landscape of releases this year.” – from my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Multiple Cat – Intricate Maps – This was an album I feel like I waited a long time for. I first heard these songs when Pat Stolley brought the band to Mission Creek Festival in 2015 opening for The Sea and Cake at The Mill. Really fantastic album that is tough to summarize. Lots of vintage tones in the guitar sounds, but not really a retro record, “It‚Äôs tempting to suggest that Stolley‚Äôs use of these elements makes Intricate Maps somehow retro. However, this stitched fabric of sound is more than the sum of its parts. It is a polished work that both honors the tradition of alternative rock and puts a current spin on it with Stolley‚Äôs signature production work.” from my review in Little Village Magazine.

Christopher The Conquered – I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll – Dramatically bold anthemic rock that can barely be contained in a record. Christopher the Conquered is a one-man tour-de-force of pop, funny poignent and self-aware. Here’s my review for Little Village Magazine.

(Upcoming Release) A Reissue of John Cale’s Revelatory “Fragments of a Rainy Season” Album Out 12/9/16

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For me, the early Nineties sent Leonard Cohen crashing into my consciousness thanks to a couple of covers and a couple of soundtrack appearances. The Cohen song “Everybody Knows” was featured prominently in the 1990 Christian Slater film “Pump Up The Volume” both as the original Cohen version as well as the Concrete Blonde cover version. In 1991 we were treated to another in that very 1990’s tradition of tribute albums– this time the I’m Your Fan album, which I bought as a completist of the R.E.M. catalog due to their cover of “First We Take Manhattan.” Other notable covers on that soundtrack were “I Can’t Forget” by The Pixies and Lloyd Cole’s cover of “Chelsea Hotel.” But, the cover on here that would launch a million others was the album closer “Hallelujah” done by John Cale as a stripped down midtempo piano and vocal. According to an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, Cale heard Cohen do the song live and was moved to cover it himself. When Cale asked Cohen for the lyrics, he was faxed fifteen pages of lyrics. Cale edits the song into the version that is best known. From the podcast, “Cale says, that for his version, he took the ‚Äúcheeky‚ÄĚ parts. He ends up using the first two verses of the original combined with three verses from the live performance. And Cale changes some words ‚Äď most importantly, he changes the theme and brings back the biblical references that Cohen had in the album version.”

This is the version that Jeff Buckley heard and was moved to cover for his debut album Grace, which is pretty much the gold standard as far as “Hallelujah” versions go.

Getting back to Cale’s version, it would also make an appearance on his 1992 live album Fragments of a Rainy Season, described by Trouser Press as an “auto-retrospective” of Cale’s career made up of solo performances from his 1992 tour. I happened to hear it being played in a record store in Dubuque and bought it on the spot. I was a fan of the Eno/Cale record from 1990 Wrong Way Up, (from which the version of “Cordoba” on this album comes), so I saw this release as complimentary to that. It’s an album I played a lot and still dig out on occasion. It’s a good distilling of Cale’s solo career in that he experimented a lot with sound over the years, so a compilation of his studio work to me would be uneven at best, and in the minimal solo acoustic setting, the vocals and lyrics really shine. Admittedly, Cale’s piano playing is rudamentary, and his use of repeating pedal notes can be a bit grating, but the energy and emotion Cale brought to those performances draws the attention away from that and still ranks as one of my desert-island discs.

So, it’s with a certain sad coincidence that Fragments of a Rainy Season is getting the much-deserved reissue in light of the passing of Leonard Cohen last week. Domino Records is handling the expanded-reissue on CD, download and either a 2 LP or 3 LP reissue. The 3-LP version adds alternate versions of some of the songs with strings and a Velvet Underground song “Waiting for the Man.” The 2-LP version has the same songs as the original 1992 album, but re-sequenced.

The 1992 CD version of Fragments of a Rainy Season kicks off with five performances that, for me really set up the energy of the album: “A Child’s Christmas In Wales,” “Dying On The Vine,” “Cordoba,” “Darling I Need You” and “Paris 1919.” For the upcoming expanded reissue of Fragments on Domino Records¬†the track sequence of the album is dramatically changed up for an unknown reason, and as someone who listens to the album a lot, it’s jarring. But, not so much that it detracts, and in initial listens for me seems to also set the performances up. The album proper (not including the bonus tracks) still ends with “Hallelujah” appropriately.

I’m looking forward to having Fragments of a Rainy Season available in vinyl so I can play it in my living room along with other essential records in my collection. The version of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” on Fragments kind of makes it a Christmas-y album a little. The¬†song is a musical interpretation of the Dylan Thomas poem that was originally on his 1989 album of Thomas works Words for the Dying which was produced by Brian Eno.

Limited to one pressing, Fragments of A Rainy Season will be released on triple gatefold 12‚ÄĚ vinyl featuring an LP of 8 previously unreleased tracks.On Heavyweight Vinyl With Download Card

DISC 01
Side A
01. A Wedding Anniversary (Live)
02. Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed (Live)
03. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (Live)
04. Cordoba (Live)
05. Buffalo Ballet (Live)
Side B
06. Child’s Christmas In Wales (Live)
07. Darling I Need You (Live)
08. Guts (Live)
09. Ship Of Fools (Live)
10. Leaving It Up To You (Live)
DISC 02
Side C
11. The Ballad Of Cable Hogue (Live)
12. Chinese Envoy (Live)
13. Dying On The Vine (Live)
14. Fear (Is A Man’s Best Friend) (Live)
15. Heartbreak Hotel (Live)
Side D
16. Style It Takes (Live)
17. Paris 1919 (Live)
18. (I Keep A) Close Watch (Live)
19. Thoughtless Kind (Live)
20. Hallelujah (Live)
DISC 03
Side E
21. Fear (Previously Unreleased)
22. Amsterdam (Previously Unreleased)
23. Broken Hearts (Previously Unreleased)
24. Waiting For The Man (Previously Unreleased)
DISC 04
Side F
25. Heartbreak (Previously Unreleased)
26. Fear (Previously Unreleased)
27. Paris 1919 (Previously Unreleased)
28. Antarctica (Previously Unreleased)

Pre-order Fragments of a Rainy Season:
Limited edition triple gatefold 12‚ÄĚ vinyl from Domino Mart — http://smarturl.it/FragmentsReissue
Standard double 12‚ÄĚ vinyl from Domino Mart — http://smarturl.it/Fragments2LP
Double CD http://smarturl.it/FragmentsReissue
Digitally http://smarturl.it/FragmentsDownload

Prince Greatest Hits Collection “Prince 4Ever” With Vault Track Out 11/22/16 – Comparison to 1993 “Hits”

prince-4ever

Warner Brothers Records in conjunction with NPG Records announced today that they’re releasing a new 40-track greatest hits collection titled Prince 4Ever. Due out strangely on Tuesday 11/22 (the release day in the US was moved generally to Fridays), this marks the first posthumous new release for Prince since his untimely death in April.

This release marks the first of the legendary “Vault” of unreleased recordings seeing the light of day since his estate has been taken over. Prince had released some things in the past– notably on the Crystal Ball box set as well as the Warner Brother contract-obligation release The¬†Vault: Old Friends for Sale.

This release reminds me of the 1993 releases The Hits 1, The Hits 2 and the 3-CD collection The Hits/The B-Sides. ¬†The way I remember those releases was that The Hits 1 was considered a “clean” release, and The Hits 2 was more of a “dirty” release, so people could choose to avoid the racy songs. I can’t find any reference to that being the case, but if you look at the tracklists, certainly 2 has the racy singles on it. Sadly, the epic anthem “Purple Rain” is on the 2nd disc, so it would be disappointing to just buy one of the CD’s. The 3-CD version has both 1 & 2 and adds a third disc of B-Sides. As a collector of Prince 7″ and 12″ singles, I was delighted to get CD versions of those songs, which were often as good or better than the album songs.

Prince 4Ever’s track list, as you might imagine is very close to that 1993 collection. The 1993 collection was based on the single versions of the songs instead of the album versions. I don’t have track times to compare it to verify, however. I think that Prince 4Ever does a much better job of featuring a wider selection of the Warner Brothers catalog. The 1993 collection seemed to stay away from the deeper tracks on All Around The World In A Day and Parade and we get a few more here.

Also interesting about this collection is that it stops at the same year the 1993 collection does– with tracks from the 1992¬†Love Symbol Album. It does not include the four contentious Warner Brothers albums that followed: Come, The Black Album, The Gold Experience, Chaos and Disorder, or The Vault: Old Friends For Sale. Admittedly, those albums didn’t have many big singles on them, so stopping at 1992 marks the last of the big singles period for Prince. Below is the tracklist of Prince 4Ever and I’ve indicated what tracks were not on the original compilation.

1. 1999
2. Little Red Corvette
3. When Doves Cry
4. Let’s Go Crazy
5. Raspberry Beret
6. I Wanna Be Your Lover
7. Soft and Wet
8. Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad
9. Uptown
10. When You Were Mine
11. Head
12. Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) ** on The B-Sides, non-album single from 1981, but was B-Side to “Let’s Work”
13. Controversy
14. Let’s Work¬†** not on Hits
15. Delirious
16. I Would Die 4 U
17. Take Me With U ** not on Hits
18. Paisley Park ** not on Hits
19. Pop Life
20. Purple Rain
21. Kiss
22. Sign ‘O’ The Times
23. Alphabet Street
24. Batdance ** not on Hits
25. Thieves In The Temple
26. Cream
27. Mountains ** not on Hits
28. Girls & Boys ** not on Hits
29. If I Was Your Girlfriend
30. U Got The Look
31. I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man
32. Glam Slam ** not on Hits
33. Moonbeam Levels ** not on Hits Рthe lone song from the Vault on here.
34. Diamonds and Pearls
35. Gett Off
36. Sexy MF
37. My Name Is Prince ** not on Hits
38. 7
39. Peach **debuted on Hits as a non-album single
40. Nothing Compares 2 U

This compilation is in many regards a better compilation than Hits was. I like the songs that they added to this, and some of the songs that Hits included are not missed: “Adore,” “Pink Cashmere (debuted on Hits 1),” “Pope” (A tribute to comedian Bernie Mac. Not a bad song, but certainly not really a great single from Prince.). The loss of the essential “Dirty Mind” is unfortunate, and I think that “Do Me Baby” is essential in the catalog. “I Feel For You” is probably better known as a Chaka Khan track than a Prince one.

The lone Vault track on here is “Moonbeam Levels” a song originally recorded in July of 1982 for 1999 and re-recorded for the aborted Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic (not to be confused with Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic which was released in 1999, or Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic released in 2001). Incidentally, “Pink Cashmere,” from Hits 1 was also a track considered for the aborted album.

According to Wikipedia, The Hits/The B-Sides sold 40,000 copies following Prince’s death, allowing it to re-enter the Billboard 200 at #6. With the Warner Brother reissue campaign in full swing, it makes sense to capitalize on Prince’s catalog with a new compilation of his best-known songs. Just in time for the holiday rush, and before Black Friday, it’s sure to end up in stockings and under trees. The only pre-sale information I’ve seen lists this as a 2 CD. I have to believe they’ll do vinyl, but It would have to be 3 or 4 LP’s.

Neil Young Archives Official Release Series Discs 8.5 ‚Äď 12 Announced for Black Friday Release Day ‚Äď New Thoughts on Next Box Sets

neil_young_official_release_series_discs_8point5_through_12_1024x1024

Well, I’ll give Neil Young and Reprise Records credit– they’re pushing the Official Release Series along. Today, out of the blue, I got an email from PopMarket about the pre-order of the 3rd box set of vinyl reissues from his extensive catalog. If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been reporting on this series since the first box set from 2009¬†and including often incorrect predictions about what would be in the next releases. The second box which brought us up to his 8th album set came out in 2014 for Back to Black Friday that year.

The box sets seem to stick with the 4 LP limit and that is further perpetrated with the “joke” in the title of the third box which says it has 8.5 through 12. I speculated back in 2014 that the next box set would take us through Live Rust, and this one does! My only question was whether Young was going to include the essential The Stills-Young Band album Long May You Run. Since the album was half Stephen Stills songs and given the strained relationship the two have had over the years I thought this release might not make a box. So, this box has 5 albums in it, with Live Rust as a 2 LP. This box has an MSRP of $149.99 so that’s pretty close to what the last box was. With 5 LPs and one a double, that’s a good deal. If you pre-order from PopMarket you can get it for $124.99. Less than $25 per title. Here’s what it incudes:

LP 1: Long May You Run (The Stills-Young Band)

1. Long May You Run
2. Make Love To You
3. Midnight on the Bay
4. Black Coral
5. Ocean Girl
6. Let It Shine
7. 12/8 Blues (All the Same)
8. Fontainebleau
9. Guardian Angel

LP 2: American Stars ‘N Bars

1. The Old Country Waltz
2. Saddle Up the Palomino
3. Hey Babe
4. Hold Back the Tears
5. Bite The Bullet
6. Star of Bethlehem
7. Will to Love
8. Like a Hurricane
9. Homegrown

LP 3: Comes A Time

1. Goin’ Back
2. Comes a Time
3. Look Out for My Love
4. Lotta Love
5. Peace of Mind
6. Human Highway
7. Already One
8. Field of Opportunity
9. Motorcycle Mama
10. Four Strong Winds

LP 4: Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

1. My My, Hey Hey
2. Thrasher
3. Ride My Llama
4. Pocahontas
5. Sail Away
6. Powderfinger
7. Welfare Mothers
8. Sedan Delivery
9. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

LP 5: Live Rust (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

LP 1

1. Sugar Mountain (Live)
2. I Am a Child (Live)
3. Comes A Time (Live)
4. After the Gold Rush (Live)
5. My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) [Live]
6. When You Dance I Can Really Love (Live)
7. The Loner (Live)
8. The Needle and the Damage Done (Live)
9. Lotta Love (Live)
10. Sedan Delivery (Live)

LP 2

1. Powderfinger (Live)
2. Cortez the Killer (Live)
3. Cinammon Girl (Live)
4. Like a Hurricane (Live)
5. Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) [Live]
6. Tonight’s the Night (Live)

So, a mostly strong box set in my opinion. I’ve never been a big fan of American Stars ‘N Bars, but it has some classics, in particular “Star of Bethlehem” through “Homegrown” (which introduces some of the Homegrown unreleased songs). Rust Never Sleeps is the first Neil Young album I ever bought and it’s still one of my favorites. Live Rust is pretty fantastic, and the accompanying film got a reissue this year.

My Modified Speculation on the future Official Release Series Box Sets

My previous speculation on the fourth box set left some wiggle room on whether Live Rust would be in it based on how they were going to handle The Stills-Young Band release. But, I think the next couple of boxes will be a tough sell as we start getting into Neil’s more experimental period and a litigious label switch to Geffen. We also start running out of “classic” Neil Young catalog, making the general interest in these releases until 21-24 pretty small.

The challenge I see here besides just sales of them, is the groupings of the Reprise and Geffen catalogs. I’m showing these boxes grouped by four chronologically, but the argument could be made to create a “Geffen Years” box collecting¬†just Trans through Life making another 5 LP box (13-17). Then you end up with an improved 5 LP (17-20.5) Reprise box of this period containing Hawks & Doves, Re-ac-tor, This Note’s For You and Freedom with a bonus of the Eldorado EP.

The next box in that scenario would be a big-hitter with Ragged Glory, Arc/Weld, Harvest Moon and Unplugged,¬†taking us to 1993 and over 25 LP’s.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 13-16 could include the following albums: Hawks & Doves (1980), Re-ac-tor (1981), Trans (1982) and Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983) bringing the first of the Geffen releases to bear.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 17-20 could include the following albums: Old Ways (1985), Landing On Water (1986), Life (1987), This Note‚Äôs for You (1988). The last album marks the return of Neil Young to Reprise Records and the end of a rocky relationship with Geffen Records that ended with a lawsuit from the label accusing Neil of releasing works uncharacteristic of his career. The alternative release for this box would be one that completely encompassed the Geffen Years‚Äď especially if 13-16 didn‚Äôt include Trans and Everybody‚Äôs Rockin‚Äô.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 21-24 could include the following albums: Eldorado EP (1989), Freedom (1989), Ragged Glory (1990), Arc/Weld (1991) This box represents a kind of renaissance for Neil Young and an embracing of the louder sound that he trademarked with Crazy Horse. It should include the Eldorado EP since it was a formal release (even though it was only available in Japan and Australia). I would expect to see a tandem release of Times Square‚ÄĒ the lost album that ended up making Freedom, Eldorado and This Note‚Äôs For You. He could release that 20-minute version of ‚ÄúCrime in the City (Sixty to Zero)‚ÄĚ as part of that.

With his now 2-year gap between these we’d have these through 2022?

 

(Upcoming Show) 2010 American Idol Finalist Crystal Bowersox at CSPS Friday 8/12

Crystal-Bowersox-photo

Though some would debate this, it’s my opinion that American Idol’s Season 9 in 2010 was the last season worth watching. The winning chemistry of American Idol to me was always a combination of the judges and the talent, and 2010 was the year that Paula Abdul was no longer a judge and in 2011, show creator and longtime judge Simon Cowell was gone. My wife and I– longtime followers of Idol– didn’t tune in for Season 10.. Over the nine¬†years that we watched, there have been standouts in the talent, Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Season Five’s edge-of-the-seat powerhouse of Chris Daughtry/ Katherine McPhee/ Kellie Pickler/ Elliott Yasmin, Jordin Sparks, David Archuleta, David Cook and Chris Allen. One of my favorites for that nine-year run was Ohio native, by way of Chicago Crystal Bowersox. Though most of the highlights of American Idol have been squarely Top 40 types, Bowersox was an honest-to-goodness songwriter who could play and sing. She, with her slightly crunchy hippy personae topped with questionable dreadlocks, came off somehow as an underdog contender that I had hoped would take the top honors, but complications related to her Type-I diabetes (of which she is a spokesperson) cost her the top spot (Though, it could be argued that taking the top spot doesn’t always help your career– I’m looking at you Ruben Studdard¬†and David Cook).

Since Idol, Bowersox has released three albums, with her most recent full-length All That For This released in 2013 and produced by reknowned Los Lobos member and producer Steve Berlin and features guest Jakob Dylan. Notably, she also shed her dreadlocks in 2013. Her most recent release is a self-released 7-track EP titled Promises. It’s difficult to glean what her next steps will be in her career based on her website, but she’s touring quite a bit. I’m certainly interested to see her live. Check out this great performance of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah.”

Crystal Bowersox will be performing for the 2nd time at CSPS this Friday night with a small band. The show is at 8PM (the doors and box office generally open an hour before) at tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door (if there are any left). You can purchase tickets at the CSPS box office or online. Details at the Legion Arts website.

(Upcoming Show) California Guitar Trio at CSPS, Wednesday 8/3

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The last two times California Guitar Trio played CSPS they were heralding new eras for the venue. Their October 2008 show was the first show in CSPS since the Flood. They generously donated parts of the proceeds of the show to CSPS. Their 2012 show was after CSPS was re-opened following the substantial overhaul of the venue. So, it is certainly fitting that California Guitar Trio is back playing CSPS in 2016Рthe 125th year the venue has been in existence. Coincidentally, it is the 25th year of the Trio!

The band has been back in the studio working on a new album– their first since Masterworks, their 2011 album of classical music. The recording is complete, and mixing, mastering and the rest of the release process is left to do, so they’re going to do a Kickstarter to get that funded. Some of the perks from that Kickstarter include a DVD of rare video performances from the band’s archives!

The trio always sounds amazing in CSPS, so this is a show not-to-miss!

Wed Aug 3 2016 – 7:00 pm ‚ÄĘ CSPS Hall
$17 advance | $21 door

Details and to purchase tickets visit the Legion Arts website.

(Upcoming Release) Bo Ramsey Returns With Instrumental Solo Record Wildwood Calling Out 8/2

bo ramsey wildwood cover

On August 2nd, Bo Ramsey is going to release his first new album since 2008’s fantastic and understated Fragile. Titled Wildwood Calling, the album is 13 tracks of instrumental guitar backed by a band which includes in addition to Bo, JT Bates (The Pines, Marijuana Deathsquads) on drums and percussion, Marty Christensen from Bo’s original Backsliders band on bass and son Alex Ramsey of The Pines on piano and keyboards. The album– which is on Pieta Brown‘s new “underground” record label Lustre Records— was recorded over two days in April at The Kitchen in Iowa City, and was mixed and mastered by BJ Burton, who is house engineer for Justin Vernon’s April Base studio, and also worked the boards on Brown’s Paradise Outlaw and her EP of outtakes Drifters.

I’ll be writing a review of the album for Little Village in the coming weeks. I’ll link to it here when that goes up.

Tracklisting:

  1. Fly On (Part 2)
  2. Through The Trees
  3. Feather Trail
  4. Glide
  5. Sky Light
  6. Jump n Run
  7. Out Here
  8. Rise
  9. Come On Back
  10. Flip Top
  11. Across The Field
  12. Movin’ On
  13. Fly On (Part 1)


 

Expressions Trace A Template of Loss in Kalispell’s Printer’s Son

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Kalispell on the turntable, as The Multiple Cat looks on.

Kalispell is the side-project from Shane Leonard who, among other projects, is part of Field Report. He just released his second album under the Kalispell band name on Davenport, IA label Cartouche Records¬†— home of recent releases by The Multiple Cat, Land of Blood and Sunshine, Brooks Strause, J.E. Sunde,¬†and Daytrotter.com illustrator Johnnie Cluney’s band Bedroom Shrine. Fantastic releases all, and you should check them out, and be on the lookout from releases by Devin Frank (of Poison Control Center) and Chrash in July.

Printer’s Son is one of those rare records that is so completely imagined and executed that when you first listen to it, it seems to drop unexpectedly out of the ether. It’s a record that defies any convenient genre classification. Elements of ambience and folk and jazz come together to help deliver a grippingly emotional and personal album. The album reminds me another album that slips from the grasp of genre: David Sylvian’s 1987 landmark solo record Secrets of the Beehive. For his second release Sylvian took¬†another step away from the New Wave-ish synthpop of his band Japan. He enlisted some Jazz artists including Ryuki Sakamoto and Mark Isham which gave that album a delicate ambience. Printer’s Son carries a similar jazz folk vibe. Additionally, the dry production of¬†Leonard’s vocals suit the intimacy of the album.

Printer’s Son owes some of its woody atmospherics to the fact that it was partially recorded at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studios¬†and was engineered and co-produced by Brian Joseph, who was on the boards for Bon Iver’s 2012 Grammy-winning album. Bon Iver is¬†another album that similarly made beautiful soundscapes out of impressionistic personal stories and accounts. Leonard takes recent painful events and uses them as the basis for Printer’s Son. He talks about this on The Current show Radio Heartland:

I had this¬†wildly unforseen year of just this radical change. I thought I had my path pretty set– music was going well and I was living in Chicago. All within this year, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and his passing forced me– ultimately I think in a really important and helpful way even though very difficult– to reconsider a lot of assumptions I had. And, right after he passed our¬†family dog died and then my dad’s father also passed. It was all at the same time and I was moving and also moving away from a relationship that I had been in a long time. So, it was like the world got turned over and then I just started thinking differently as a symptom of that.

Some albums have stories that we can identify with. ¬†On Printer’s Son, I feel¬†the sentiments, the memories, the connections. Leonard tells his stories and like a good book or film, they become part of the listener’s own fabric. I can picture that canyon climb with the banded walls in “Windfall.” I feel the ghost itch from the overgrowth scratching skin on the fading road in “Parting Ground.”

David Sylvian’s Secrets of the Beehive¬†has become part of my permanent soundtrack. I feel that¬†Kalispell’s timeless tapestry of folk and jazz in Printer’s Son is destined to be another album that I will hold onto.

Listen to Printer’s Son below and be sure to order yourself a copy from Cartouche.

(Upcoming Release) Seminal Athens, GA Band Pylon is BACK with Live Album Out July 25, 2016

Pylon - Live

By the time I first heard Pylon, they had already broken up. ¬†They were featured prominently in the documentary film Athens, GA: Inside Out and its associated sountrack on IRS Records. I bought the soundtrack first– I had heard that R.E.M. had a couple of songs on it, so the completist I was, I needed to own the soundtrack.. The R.E.M. songs were good, and the band I had at the time did a similar version of “Swan Swan H” though we couldn’t really tackle the harmonies of “(All I’ve Got To Do is) Dream.”

But, the real eye-opener was all of the other unknown bands on the album. I really loved Love Tractor, and to this day is still one of my favorites, and The Squalls, and Dreams So Real (who were swept up by a major and then lost forever). I wasn’t sure what to make of the dissonant and angular music of Pylon, whose live version of “Stop It” was kind of the centerpiece of the soundtrack. It wasn’t until I finally saw the film on VHS that I really understood that Pylon was one of the early bands in the scene and all of the other bands really looked up to them, including my heroes R.E.M., who covered “Crazy” which was included in the odds-n-sods compilation Dead Letter Office. I started college later in 1987, and found friends who were really into the Athens scene and I borrowed the two albums Chomp and Gyrate¬†and made a tape of them and was quickly a fan.

The band broke up because they were tired of the pressures that come with a band that was rising from obscurity. In 1990, seemingly out of nowhere the band was back. In an interview with Perfect Sound Forever, they said that they realized that interest in¬†the band wouldn’t die, and they were all still living in Athens, so they decided to reform. The put together a “greatest hits” of sorts called Hits, and then recorded a new album Chain in 1990. By that time, their unique sound wasn’t as leftfield as it was earlier. In fact, bands like The Sugarcubes probably owed a lot to the groundbreaking Pylon.¬†But, they wouldn’t stay together for long after that.

Some time in 2004, the band reunited again and enjoyed notoriety spurred on by the CD reissue campaign of Chomp and Gyrate by DFA Records (now out-of-print again, and going for insane prices).  The band played shows and, I for one was happy they were back. The band broke up officially again in 2009, following the unexpected death of Randall Bewley.

So, in 2016 we have some developments in the Pylon camp. ¬†In March it was announced that a 1980 performance at Danceteria by Pylon in the archives of¬†Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong as part of the Nightclubbing TV show from NYC that captured the early days of Punk and New Wave. There were select screenings of the show with Q&A from the band. Then, in April the band announced a 7″ of live tracks from their last show in Athens, GA in 1983 at the Mad Hatter. This show was captured to video and multitrack audio for a pilot for a failed PBS series called Athens Shows.

It turns out that the 7″ was a taste of what was to come. On July 25th– Randal Bewley’s birthday– Pylon is releasing a 2 LP and digital download version of the last show in Athens titled simply PYLON LIVE. Pylon was a force to be reckoned with live and this album captures them at the peak of their powers with a setlist that picks the great tracks from the 2 LPs and drops in a couple of rarities. “Party Zone” was only available on a rare DB Recs compilation and Pylonized cover of the Batman TV theme with new lyrics.

The vinyl package comes in three different colors– 200 on magenta vinyl (which compliments the cover well) and 200 on clear vinyl. The rest are on black vinyl. The LP’s are a reasonable $29.99 plus about $5 shipping. The digital download is $8.99. If you pre-order, you get immediate download of “Volume.” Here it is in their Bandcamp player:

PYLON LIVE is available for pre-order at chunklet.com, chunklet.bandcamp.com, iTunes, Amazon, and wherever digital music is sold.

Limited to 200 on magenta vinyl.
Limited to 200 on clear vinyl.
Unlimited on black vinyl.
Track List:

SIDE A
Working is No Problem
Driving School
No Clocks
Altitude
Gravity

SIDE B
Crazy
K
Cool
Italian Movie Theme
Buzz

SIDE C
Danger
Reptiles
Stop It
Feast On My Heart
Beep

SIDE D
M Train
Volume
Weather Radio
Party Zone
Batman

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