Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Matt Alber: Hide Nothing, my small tribute to "No on Prop 8"

This video of "End of the World" is one of the most beautiful videos and songs I've seen/heard in a long time. I appreciate Matt Alber's similar sound to the vocal stylings of Rufus Wainwright, Duncan Sheik and Duncan O'Rourke (did I compare Greg Laswell to them too? I gotta get some new material). And, baby, can he sing!

Alber's debut album Hide Nothing is absolutely gorgeous. The aptly named album (purposely, maybe?) makes it unavoidable to mention the fact that the Los Angeles based singer/songwriter is openly gay. I know that the creative world is full of openly gay artists, but in reality, how many of them are well-known as gay when they are at the top of their game? (Ricky Martin coming out of the closet years after his peak does not count.) We need more! The general public needs more! This is one of the reasons why I secretly hope that Linsday Lohan is a lesbian (and isn't just going through a phase) and just comes out and and says it. One day, and soon I think, gay couples will be able to marry in any state they want. I really do believe that.

Anyway, Alber's website has streaming audio of some of his other tracks as well. Check out his falsetto on "Beotia."

The blog recounts his experience at "No on Prop 8" protests in L.A.

Alber was a vocalist in the San Francisco based vocal group Chanticleer. Check out his classical vocal stylings in his performance as a "Messiah" alto/countertenor soloist.

These runs are not easy people!

Hopefully we'll hear more from Alber in the near future.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tagged! and Yeasayer

I was tagged by The Goods Design, a (mostly) furniture and household items blog, written by a childhood friend of mine, so I gotta spread the love!  And even though I have no eye for design, I enjoy looking at the cool stuff I see on The Goods Design.  Thanks for plugging alwaysmoretohear! 

This is the first time I've done something like this, since the blog is new and all, but the idea is to list 6 quirky but boring details about yourself.

1. I've lived in 7 cities (Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Sydney, Edinburgh, Washington, D.C., Austin & Oakland) and 3 countries (the U.S., the United Kingdom & Australia).

2. I don't like wearing jewelry, except for chunky earrings.

3. I just started enjoying beer and coffee.  (Thanks a lot Shiner and Peets...)

4. I have played/taken lessons on 7 instruments in my life, but only a few of them I play well (piano, guitar, trumpet, bass, the Chinese ruan, viola and random percussion instruments- but I'll count that as one).

5. I discovered the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel in junior high through the arrangements of the King's Singers, a 6-part a capella men's vocal group.

6. I buy concert tickets like other women buy shoes. I just can't help myself.  Tonight I went to see Yeasayer at Bimbo's (man, I love this place!) and they were fantastic.  I bought these tickets on a whim about a month or so ago, I hardly knew anything about them. 

Any band who successfully whips out the polyphonic three-part-harmony is A-OK in my book. I could have done without the crazy electronic sounds/noises, but that's cool, the boys like their toys, I get it. 

It seems that the smelly (oh yeah, smelly!) mustache wearin' hipsters know what's up this time.

I'll add a couple tunes to my playlist. And here's their myspace page.

Here's Yeasayer performing "2080" on the BBC show, Later... with Jools Holland .

Now I have to tag.

Sorry if this is annoying  : )

Here are the rules:
-Mention the rules on your blog.
-Tell 6 quirky yet boring, unspectacular details about yourself.
-Tag 6 other blogs
-Go to each blog and leave a comment that says they were tagged.

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Aid Kit: "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" Cover

Since I'm on a kick of showing you guys awesome covers, here's Sweden's First Aid Kit forrest version of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by the Fleet Foxes.  Thanks to Liz for showing this to me a few months ago.

I don't know what is up with the forests in Sweden, but those are some crazy acoustics they're getting!  I was thinking that maybe there is a large rock wall behind the camera that the sound is bouncing off of.

See the Fleet Foxx original here (psst, when I listen to their version, I just wanna listen to those two Swedish girls sing it again) But it really is a gorgeous song.

I really dig this 60s folk rock thing that is going on right now.

Here First Aid Kit's original music here.

I added a couple Fleet Foxes songs I dig on the playlist and First Aid Kit's "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" cover.  

Enjoy the gorgeousness.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Alternajazz Festival in LA this Thursday night!

The 11th Alternajazz Fest: created to showcase cutting edge jazz that bends the boundaries!

Thursday, November 20th at the Mint at 8pm, 6010 Pico Blvd.

Featuring Barbara Morrison, Raya Yarbrough, The Louis Taylor Quartet and the Brad Dutz Quartet.

Check out the website for more information here

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Single Ladies": Beyonce and Gwen Verdon choreography

I'm sorry but I just cannot help myself.

I took a gander at Beyonce's new video "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and, wow: the song is nothing special, but check out her dance moves. This woman is wildly talented, we knew that; but she just keeps upping herself.

(I know I've included three videos here, but if you're not going to watch all of them, at least watch some of each, you have to see the progression.)

And then I found this: someone on youtube referred to Gwen Verdon, a dancer and actress named who made herself known in the 1950s and 60s on Broadway. She starred in Bob Fosse's Damn Yankees and Sweet Charity.

After watching this video, hip thrusting and all, it is pretty obvious that Beyonce is putting Verdon's moves in a modern hip-hop (and way sexier) context and thrown some Tina Turner into the mix. This juxtaposition of Beyonce's audio track with Verdon's video is actually really fun to watch. Love, LOVE the outfits.

ADDENDUM : "They" deleted this video, very sad. It fit perfectly.

But what made me want, no NEED, to post about this this video of Verdon's choreography with the original music called "Mexican Breakfast" from the Ed Sullivan Show. Um, HILARIOUS!

ADDENDUM : "They" have deleted these videos! So sad, the music was fantastic.

And just to get a feeling for it: if you were able to watch all the way to the end, Sullivan refers to Verdon as the "greatest dancer that show business has ever produced."

Maybe watch this opening clip of the Austin Powers theme and you will be transported back in time. I'm sure Mike Myers based this theme song and opening dance sequence on this genre of dance.

Please comment. I want to know you're laughing with me : )

ADDENDUM : I've been seeing a lot of folks berating Beyonce for "stealing" Verdon's moves: THIS IS NOT THE SAME CHOREOGRAPHY people! Can you imagine if Beyonce did the exact same dance moves in a newly released music video, especially in that hot outfit? It would be absolutely ridiculous. We'd be laughing our go-go boots off!

Beyonce is an innovator. I mean, true originality is sort of a farce in art. Even true geniuses are lucky to do one thing completely original in their lifetimes. It's the innovators that take the established way, change it, and makes it new: Elvis did it with Big Mama Thorton, The Beatles did it with Chuck Berry, Led Zeppelin did it with Muddy Waters and even Michael Jackson did it with breakdancing.

And anyway, we only have so many limbs and they can only move in so many directions, so as someone who knows very little about dance, it makes sense that it's gotta be hard to come up with brand new dance moves.

Gwen Verdon Fosse Original 60

ALEX | MySpace Video

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Distubia" cover by Kina Grannis

I'm sort of obsessed with this today.  This is Kina Grannis, she's a singer/songwriter in LA. She's got three albums of original music out, all of which you can buy on itunes, imeem, myspace and every other music distribution method out there. (I should check out imeem)

She's cute as a button, a good guitarist and has a lovely voice. I'm sure she's a decent songwriter, but that's not what interests me about her.

Like many folks out there, Kina posts video blogs on youtube.  Every Monday she records covers on garageband and makes her own videos with her Mac (I assume).  Before and/or after she performs she talks about random stuff, it's very youtube celebrity (and gives shout outs to all of her fans that have birthdays that week).  She's got over 33 THOUSAND subscribers presumably from all over the world.  In the world of modern day technology you can be famous from your bedroom.  And then maybe you tour,  but you might not. It's amazing.

This is Kina's cover of Rihanna's "Disturbia," wonderful pop schlock, that gets into your brain and won't go away.   I really enjoy watching and listening to Kina's video.  I think I just like that it's good and homemade.  It's hard for me to knock the songwriting skills of professional songwriters.  They are very good at what they do.  And when you hear an INTERESTING version of the song, you'll know why.

This is the wonder of the internet and home technology. 

I love covers.  Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gnarls Barkley: "Going On": Best video of the year

This is the best video I've seen in a long time.  Not only do I dig Gnarls Barkley's addicting beat (I like to play this song a couple times over when it comes up) and wild psychedelic topic (a portal to another dimension?), I can't get enough of these dancers.  

Filmed in Jamaica and directed by Wendy Morgan, this video has a late 70s/early 80s feel in terms of the coloring and camera resolution. It also features, cool hats, eye shadow, suspenders, bling and checkered jackets.

Check out the nod to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as this gang of friends dance through the streets.  

I've added the song "Surprise" to my playlist, another one of my favorite songs from The Odd Couple, Gnarls Barkley's most recent album. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba dies at 76

R.I.P. Mama Makeba.  Peace to you and all you represented and sang for to help bring peace to South Africa during apartheid.  You are and will always be a true artist and hero. You will be missed.

This song is called "Amampondo" or as my afropop band called it, "the Breathing Song."

Also check out "Pata Pata" and "Malaika" in my playlist.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Yorkers trying to save historic Tin Pan Alley

Tin Pan Alley, the half-dozen or so 19th century brownstones in Manhattan's Chelsea District, is up for sale and marked for demolition.  And a group of concerned New Yorkers are trying to save them and get them recognized as a national landmark, which would keep the buildings from getting destroyed.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries a number of sheet music publishers, composers and lyricists setup shop on West 28th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.  Among the American songwriters to work in these buildings were Irving Berlin, Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Hoagy Carmichael, Ira and George Gershwin, James P. Johnson, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.  Many got their start here writing songs in a factory-like environment, not too different from how songs are written for Nashville or contemporary pop music.

Before the rise of radio and audio recordings, the music industry revolved around the sales of sheet music.  "Song pluggers" (often the songwriters themselves) would go to commercial locations and play these songs enticing consumers to buy them.  

If you think we have schlocky pop music now, you should hear some of this stuff... can you imagine Britney Spears singing something like Ernest Ball and J. Keirn Brennen's "Good-bye, Good Luck, God Bless You"?
It's hard to part when heart to heart 
We've lived and loved and dreamed.
It came to naught, although I've thought
That you were all you seemed.

Good bye, good luck
God Bless you, is all that I can say.
But when you leave, my heart will grieve
Forever and a day.
Although, "Womanizer" is *hardly* better.  

But, of course, there were some diamonds in the rough that we still know and love today (or not), like:

"God Bless American
"After the Ball"
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
"Give My Regards to Broadway"
"Alexander's Ragtime Band"
"A Hot Time in the Town Tonight"

I'm pretty confident that these buildings will be saved.  But we'll see how this situation shapes up.

See the AP article here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Early Joni Mitchell: "Favorite Color"

This is a 1965 clip of Joan Anderson (a.k.a. Joni Mitchell) singing "Favorite Color" on the Canadian Oscar Brandt TV show called "Let's Sing Out."

Even though Joni looks squeaky clean without a trace of the California hippie she would soon become, this song already features the finger-picking style, open-tuning, eerie chromaticism and gorgeous poetic lyrics melding child and nature imagery she would use so much in her career.  

Host Oscar Brandt points out the rise of the crazy new movement of singers writing their own songs. Writing their own songs...crazy!

Joni never recorded this song to my knowledge. She was 25.

And ainit she just cute as a button?  My second favorite Saskatoonian.

I've added "Night in the City" and "If I Had a King" to my playlist, a couple tunes off of her first album produced by David Crosby called Joni Mitchell (Song to a Seagull) in 1968.

Here's a modern interpretation of Austin, Texas' Will Taylor and String Attached.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shows: The Dodos and Greg Laswell

Got two shows coming up this week: The first is Greg Laswell at Cafe du Nord on Wednesday November 5th.  The second is the Dodos at Bimbo's 365 club on Thursday November 6th.

Since blogging last time about Greg Laswell, two of his tunes have been played on NBC's Grey's Anatomy, totaling three times now this season.  And as we have seen in the last decade or so, the importance of television exposure has overtaken radio, and Grey's Anatomy, love it, hate it or indifferent to it,  has been known to boost obscure bands into greater popularity. 

So congrats Greg and I'm looking forward to hearing you (and your full band this time) at Cafe du Nord Wednesday night, November 5th.  He'll also be on a small American tour, check out the locations on his myspace page.

On Thursday, I'm going to see the Dodos, a San Francisco band that has received international success.  I saw them at the Independent a couple months ago after being drawn to their strange child drawn album cover Visitor (by a special ed student who the Dodos played for in South Central, Los Angeles) and silly band name (formerly Dodobird).  I know, silly reasons to be drawn to a band, but something has to make me want to listen to them.

But what made me want to buy the album and to see them live again as soon as possible was their unique sound. While there are lots of bands these days that consist of the simple combo of guitar and percussion, it is the combo of the African inspired percussion of Meric Long and the country blues influenced acoustic guitar work of Logan Kroeber.  But I think it's really the percussion that I dig the most, their myspace bio states that the drumming plays a central role and helps bring out the syncopated rhythms of the acoustic guitar.  It is really special how these two instruments work together.

When I saw the Dodos last time, they had a third member playing auxiliary instruments such as the xylophone and a metal trash can.   It was awesome.  I want to play a trash can!

Check out this live performance of "The Season"

The Dodos are on an international tour! They'll be playing in the UK, the Europe (France and Denmark, wink wink), Australia and New Zealand in the next three months.  Check out their tour schedule on their myspace page or their website