Monday, December 29, 2008

Bands of Boys blog

So I'm REALLY going to start working on my book.  But it's going to be a blog first.

Or click here.

It has been my idea for a while to write a book about "boy bands" of the last 60 years.  But instead of using the term "boy bands" which connotates a certain 90s/2000s group of bands (n'Sync, Backstreet Boys, The Jonas Brothers), I will use the term "bands of boys" to include those "boy bands" and others, like The Beatles, The Four Freshman, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, The Monkees, Take That, The Four Seasons and so-on-and-so-fourth (and I will take arguments for bands that I have not thought of).

So, if you, or anyone you know, is a fan of a certain band of boys, please turn them onto this site or let me know how to reach them. I am very interested in their stories. 


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best Channukah Music Ever: Erran Baron Cohen and Y-Love

In honor of the last night of Channukah (and not a moment too soon) I bring you the best Channukah music ever (even thought that's not saying much, most of it is pretty lame) Erran Baron Cohen's Hanukah Songs in the Key of Life. (And for those of you that don't know, there is no correct spelling for Channukah/Hanukah, it's whatever you prefer.)

Sorry this is coming at you with a whole year to go at this point, but it's worth it.

Erran Baron Cohen is the brother of Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, The Ali G Show, etc.) and composed for his brother's show and movie.  He was recently commissioned by the Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra to compose a piece for them after the release of his brother's movie Borat. Cohen studied Kazakhstani folk instruments so that he could incorporate them into his piece.

This is Cohen, Jules Brookes and ha sidic rapper Y-Love on the Conan O'Brien Show. Y-Love feel styles in Arabic, Hebrew, English, Yiddish, Aramaic, and more.

The rest of the album consists of covers of traditional Channukah songs and originals featuring vocalists Idan Raichel (an Israeli artist that I hold near and dear to my heart and will soon blog about),  Avivit Caspi, Dana Kerstein and Yasmin Levy.  The musical stylings range from Middle Eastern to klezmer and hip hop to rock.

Check out his interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" here

Buy the CD for next year here. check out his myspace page here

I've also added "Dreidel" to my playlist as well as the tune "O Kazakhstan" that Cohen composed for the movie Borat, just because it's hilarious.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Famous Christmas Songs written by Jewish Songwriters

It's 12:05 AM on December 26th, so I'm not really too late for this one...

I found this fun list of famous Christmas songs written by Jewish songwriters. This blog has fun facts and audio clips!

1) White Christmas - Irving Berlin

2) Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer - Johnny Marks (most likely not his real name/spelling)

3) Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! - Julius Kerwin Stein and Samuel Cohen

4) Silver Bells - Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

5) You're a Mean one Mr. Grinch - Albert Hague in 1966 (with words/lyrics by Dr. Seuss

So like other Jews on Christmas, I spend it with my lovely cousins, opening presents with Christmas celebrating relatives and at the movies. I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and I loved it. Omigawd, I think I'm becoming a Brad Pitt fan.

Happy Holidays everyone and have a good new year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Israeli Music - Part 1: Shotei Ha'Nevuah (Fools of Prophecy)

Happy Channukah!  I always feel especially Jewish this time of year, so I figured I'd take advantage by blogging about my favorite Israeli music; something I've been meaning to do for a while.  And there's a certain Texan that I know will be interested...

I'm going to start of this three part installation with a group that my Israeli cousin turned me onto almost two years ago (I can't believe it's been that long since I visited): Shotei Ha-Nevuah or the "Fools of Prophecy."  (their myspace page)

My favorite Shotei Ha'Nevuah song is called "Kol Galgal" meaning "The Sound of  Circle" or even "The voice of the wheel" (Hebrew speakers correct me here, my Hebrew skills have long since declined since my Bat Mitzvah, and I don't trust the internet). It's one of the most gorgeous songs I've ever heard. My aunt said that she's never heard Hebrew sound so beautiful.

The lyrics come straight of the Kaballah, the book of Jewish mysticism:


The sound of a circle rolls upwards from below,
obscure chariots going and revolving

The sound of melodies goes up and down
it goes and wanders in the world.

The voice of a shofar extends
through the depths of stairs,
and the circle spins around.
That's the sound,
the sound of a circle going up and down.

I also found another translation here.

Here is a video someone put together of rather nice beach shots in Tel Aviv.  They have a pretty gorgeous beach actually, one of the nicest ones I've been to that's still so urban. Maybe it helps that it's on the Mediterranean sea... I also found an awesome live version here (with a 100 person choir). 

"Kol Galgal" is nothing like the rest of Shotei Ha'Nevuah's music.  Usually it's more upbeat, and is a sort of "world fusion" (I hate that term) hip hop. I really don't know how else to explain it.

This a tune called "Ein Ani" (No, I):

This is a funny video I found of "Ha'yeladim Koftzim" (The Children Are Jumping ) that some kids made. I just like watching these silly teenagers dance around in funny hats. And WOW do they have amazing hair...

Anyway, stay tuned for a couple more bands and HAPPY CHANNUKAH or happy Christmahanukwanzikah.  

And more importantly, a happy new year.  

p.s. oh, I added  "follower" widget over on the right there.  Sign up if you feel like it.  It will make me feel loved.  :)

p.p.s. No one took me up on that CD mix that I'd say I would make for you if you wanted.  I was serious about that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The AccoLade and Souad Massi: Muslim Women and Music

Many of you may have heard about this already, but NPR and The New York Times have both run stories about The AccoLade, a all-female rock band from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (you can listen to the NPR radio spot here).

The three college students posted the tune "Pinocchio" on facebook and myspace and at first, only had a couple dozen fans, but now they have over two thousand.

They do not play live shows or share their full names, nor to they post images of themselves on the internet out of respect for their religion. The NPR story states that "cultivating a modest and somewhat anonymous identity online lets them thrive in this strict society." Instead they interact with their fans on facebook and myspace and share original drawing and paintings to represent themselves (see the above images).

Dina, Dareen, Amjad and Lamia, all college students between the ages of 19 and 21 have received a wave of international support as well as criticism for being female and playing in a rock band. The ladies state on their facebook page (with a few edits to bridge the language gap):
Anyone in this world can play, hear and create music no matter what their gender is or nationality, we are making music and we would appreciate it if the comments are only about our music, lyrics, paintings, where talk about our song, or how good/bad our song is…and omit anything that is irrelevant or inappropriate .

And by the way we are not facing any problems with anyone, and we are satisfied with what we are doing and the way we provide our song to you ... as we said before we are doing this for fun only and we respect our country, culture and traditions …we’ll continue our music without contradicting them…
Read an interview with them here (scroll all the way down).

I am so impressed with these women and their courage to live and make music within the system, even in a city like Jidda, by far the most cosmopolitan city in Saudi Arabia. It got me thinking about other female Muslim musicians and also how the internet is really revolutionizing and changing the world that we live in. It as has made things possible for women like The AccoLade to do what they love and share it with others.

Another woman who comes to mind is Souad Massi, an Algerian singer/songwriter who started playing as a teenager and was immensely influenced by American roots music, flamenco and rock bands like Led Zeppelin and U2. In the 1990s she joined an Algerian hard rock band called Atakor, but because of the political climate (civil war), political lyrics and growing popularity became a public target. Massi tried disguising herself by cutting her hair and dressing in male clothing. But despite these efforts, she began to receive death threats, so she left the band and moved to Paris in 1999.

Massi, finally found massive success in her solo career in Europe. This is a clip of a gorgeous performance in Brazil of the tune "Yemma," a song for her mother.

From the research I've done online, it looks like she never moved back to Algeria. I also can't tell how much her gender effected the reaction she got from her involvement in Atakor. But I do know that women and musical performance do not mix well in the Islamic world. I am doing further research on why and what women are and are no allowed to do. (For example, women are allowed to perform for other women, which is the case in the Bedouin community of the Sinai Desert between Israel in Egypt.)

If you have any information on this topic, I would love to hear it. I am very curious. (I found this too from Muslimah Media Watch, very interesting how the media is framing AccoLade in terms of it's political presence more than it's musical attributes.)

I also think it's fascinating that a band, in this age of the world wide web, no matter who or where they are, can be successful and have fans, without ever leaving their homes; ESPECIALLY if they don't want or need to make money from their music. They don't need record labels, or CDs or managers. Just an audio recording and an internet connection.

If you are a Muslim female musician or are a fan of a Muslim female musician, Please check this out: there is an effort out there by the English organization called Ulfah Arts to connect these women and give them a supporting network.

Monday, December 15, 2008

NPR: Ozomatli and listener favorites of 2008

Ya Se Fue! Ya Se Fue!

I love NPR.  It's really the only radio station I listen to on a regular basis.  I used to listen to the radio a lot in high school, but now I usually just like to listen to my own music. But sometimes I really do find really terrific community radio that I like, but I have to actively go out and find it.  

NPR and it's regional affiliates, are the only stations I can stomach. It makes me feel smarter. Anyone else feel that way?  I know you do.

I also tend to think I have much in common with other folks that support National Public Radio. After working for KUT in Austin I have great respect for the folks that are in charge of the music programming.  I also know that their music tastes tend to be more under the radar than, say, oh, Top 40 radio.  But that's no surprise.

SO, first and foremost, I want to direct you to a KQED's (NPR Bay Area affiliate) interview with Ozomatli.  In the interview the men of Ozomatli share many of their political and social views, poke fun at each other and play some tunes live.  

Last Thursday I saw Ozo play a reunion show with rapper Chali 2na (also of Jurassic 5) at the Fillmore in San Francisco. They put on an absolutely awesome show. I've seen them now probably 5 times in the last 10 years all over the country and have enjoyed them every time. Los Angelian based Ozomatli plays music that is somewhere between hip-hop, Mexican dance music and funk.  All I know, is that it's a massive dance party every time they play.

I was a little concerned about the show since I haven't been too excited about some of their newer tracks ("Don't Mess with the Dragon" and "Saturday Night"), but they whipped out the old tunes with great energy and passion ("Cumbia de los Muertos,"  and "Super Bowl Sundae").  They ended the show, as they do every show, coming into the audience, playing in a drum circle, and leading folks out into the lobby as the show ends.  This last show was complete with breakdancing chickens and giant Ozomatli balloons.

Anyway, if you like Ozo, or are interesting in getting to know one of the best under-appreciated bands of the last 15 years, check out this hysterical interview.  These guys love what they do, and they love each other, which always adds to the enjoyment and chemistry of a live show.

Also, today NPR released a list of NPR listener picked best music of 2008.  NPR's website has clips from each of these tracks, so if you are interested in what you may or may not have missed this year, check out this list. I believe there is a podcast to download as well. I haven't heard all of these bands, but most of them are pretty darn good.  I've hilighted some of my personal favorites.

I will also add some tracks onto the playlist. If you feel like it, leave your favorite album of the year in the comments, either on this list or not.  I'd love to know what you've loved this year.

I would add Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple.

1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes  "White Winter Hymnal"

2. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend "A-Punk"

3. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago "Skinny Love"

4. TV on the Radio - Dear Science "Halfway Home"

5. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs "Cath..."

6. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular "Time to Pretend"

7. She & Him - Volume One "Change is Hard" 

8. Coldplay - Viva la Vida "Lover's in Japan/Reign of Love"

9. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges "Evil Urges"

10. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords "Business Time"

11. Sigur Rós - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust "Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur"

12. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins "Pop Lie"

13. Beck - Modern Guilt "Chemtrails"

14. Kimya Dawson and Antsy Pants -  Juno (the soundtrack) "Tree Hugger"

15. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely "Many Shades of Black"

16. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals "In Step"

17. The Black Keys - Attack & Release "Psychotic Girl"

18. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst "Lenders in the Temple"

19. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue "Acid Tongue"

20. Kings of Leon - Only by Night "Manhattan" 

21. Bob Dylan - Bootleg Series "Dreamin' of You"

22. Punch Brothers - Punch "Blind Leaving the Blind: 1st Movement"

23. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive "Constructive Summer"

24. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping "Id Engager"

Again, please leave your favorite music of the year as a comment.  I'd love to hear it whether it's Britney's new album (you know who I'm talking to) or Poison Apple Pie.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Straight No Chaser: A Triumph of College A Cappella

Just in time for the holidays: Indiana University's own male collegiate a cappella group Straight No Chaser has landed a record contract with Atlantic Records based on their performance of "The 12 Days of Christmas," a viral video that spread like wild fire last year.  

What's so great about this is that this video is ten years old and the guys that are touring are the original members.  Read the about story here or watch a video here.   This is the video that Altantic Records CEO/Chairman Craig Kallman and 8 million other youtube viewers saw:

For those of you that don't get the joke (and don't feel bad, we can't all be huge college a cappella dorks), Toto's "Africa" is THE cliche college a cappella tune. Don't know why, it just is.

Straight No Chaser is on tour promoting their newly released Christmas CD "Holiday Spirits" and will be playing the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Monday December 15th. Anyone want to go with me? 

I miss this stuff. College a cappella is great music, and these guys are as good as it gets. I mean, 'N Sync wishes they could pull off a performance as good as these guys.

Check out how effortlessly Straight No Chaser slips from tune to tune and style to style in this version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" including bits of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Don't Worry be Happy."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A.R. Rahman: Slumdog Millionaire and Lagaan.

The first Bollywood movie I ever saw was Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. After seeing that movie I fell in love with Indian film and popular music.  But Lagaan's soundtrack, by A.R. Rahman is still my favorite.  Last week his new movie Slumdog Millionaire,  from the director who brought us Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, was released in the United States. The soundtrack also features M.I.A.'s Grammy 2009 nominated single "Paper Planes."

In 2004, TIME magazine declared Rahman the "Mozart of Madras" and has sold over 150 million records, placing him among the 25 highest selling music artist of all time.  He has composed over one hundred film scores in the last 25 years and is also involved in various charitable causes.

Watch this clip from the 2002 Oscar nominated film  Lagaan , staring the fabulous Aamir Khan. The film takes place in Victorian colonial India. During a drought, the English colonizers have placed a double tax (lagaan) on the local Indian farmers.  Feeling the injustice of the situation, Bhuvan, Khan's character, bets the English Captain that he and his farmer friends will beat the English in a game of cricket (a game that Bhuvan has never played before). If the farmers win, they will never have to pay lagaan again, if they lose, they must pay triple lagaan.  

In this clip, Bhuvan and his friend Gauri, must convince their friends and fellow villagers that while the task might seem impossible, the earth and the sky belong to them and are worth fighting for.  
Listen, O my friend,
What is this fear you have?

The earth is ours
And so is the sky.
The song is called "Mitwa." 

This is just one of the several fantastic songs and dance sequences from this movie. If you are interested at all in Bollywood (and good foreign flicks in general), I highly recommend Lagaan . It's long though, as are most Bollywood films, but I wouldn't be ashamed in you if you wanted to fast forward through much of, what seems like a 45 minute cricket game toward the end of the movie.

Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman's new release, is the story of the impoverished teen Jamal Malik who becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire."  The film jumps back and forth through time presenting the viewer with life tales that lead Jamal to possess the answer to every question.  

Read this in depth review of the soundtrack. Thank you to Manu at t-Shirt Junkie for turning me onto this movie.

Don't count on seeing much singing and dancing in traditional Bollywood style in this film, I hear that doesn't come until the credits.

I'm super excited to see this movie.  It's not often that I am able to see a Hindi film on the big screen.

I've also added some Bollywood tunes to my playlist.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir: What will YOU give?

This is awesome.  Time to get on my soapbox.

Among the billions of political email lists that I'm on is Brave New Films: the folks who brought us John McCain's Youtube just became a Nightmare and more. I saw this today: Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping and the soon to be released documentary "What would Jesus Buy".

It's pretty obvious were I'm going to go with this.

Mindless gift giving has always baffled me.  Other than trying to be loving and thankful for wonderful people in my life every day of the year, I often show my love by giving gifts at random times of the year because I find something that I think that person would really like.  Sometimes I can wait long enough and keep it for a birthday or the holidays.  I really don't understand giving things to people just to give them.  Especially if they're going to sit in the closet unused.  How wasteful.

How do we save ourselves from what Reverend Billy calls the "Shopocalypse"?

Black Friday and Holiday shopping seems to have reached a new peak of horridness when three people lost their lives this year.  And with the economy taking a turn for the worst, it seems like the perfect time to re-evaltuate how Americans show love and thanks for our friends and family. 

The Church of Stop Shopping.  The mission is pretty obvious.  Consumerism is running our lives and ruining our happiness. Put the heart and local soul back into our communities.  Have you seen the Story of Stuff? (It's great!) Our lives are driven by the stuff we own, and it's killing us, it's killing the planet and we're now savagely also killing each other.

Here's what Reverend Billy has to say:

This is what the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir had to say about holiday gift giving this year:

What will you give your friends and family this year? Please leave a comment and share with alwaysmoretohear what you will do.

I will, surprisingly (!) be giving the gift of music. And dear readers of alwaysmoretohear, I will make you a CD mix, if you want one. Give any special requests if you have them.  Just let me know.

I will also be giving out a bunch of hugs.  

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When Plots Thicken


1. Put your iTunes on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS! (I will skip over the stuff in other languages)
4. Tag 10 friends who might enjoy doing the memo as well as the person you got the memo from.
5. Add a pic that you think represents you at this moment in time.

Muddy Water- Bessie Smith

Legal / Illegal - Ewan MacColl Peggy (Right now ain't that the truth?)

Nine Lives - Midnight Juggernauts (okay...?)

Triple Trouble - The Beastie Boys (nice!)

You Are what you Love - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins (perrrrfect!)

Rooms - The Mamas & the Papas

Connie-O - Four Seasons (I do miss her..)

4th Time Around - Bob Dylan

London - The Smiths

Striptease - Hawksley Workman (haha! Nice)

Fish Upon the Hook - Rayna and Susie ( yikes! )

Dead Disco - Metric

Preachin' the Blues - Son House

Yes I Am - Radiohead

America - Public Nuisance (It certainly is a pastime of mine)

Hey Leanne - The Aliens

Sweethearts - Franke and the Knockouts (they are hot)

God Knows - The Coral (yes, he does!)

You Make Loving Fun - Fleetwood Mac (REGRET???? Shesh...)

Wire- U2

Hey Now Baby - Professor Longhair (My poor love life!)

I Love You Yes I Do - Clarence "Frogman" Thomas (Phew!)

Addicted - Kelly Clarkson (oy. And yes, I have Kelly Clarkson in my ipod)

Bad - U2 (hey...!!)

All Just to Get to You - Joe Ely (Who did I miss out on???)

(Sharp Cutting Wings (Song to A Poet) Lucinda Williams (ouch!)

When Plots Thicken - Junior Panterz (Dave will like this one)

I'm bored, whaddaya want?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Civil Rights Folk Singer Odetta Dies at 77

Odetta is an artist I've really never fully appreciated, simply because I haven't taken the time to check her out.  Unfortunately, she's never gotten the overwhelming popular support as Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, or even Nina Simone (although Simone is more popular in death than she ever was in life).  But after hearing some clips of her performances on NPR last night reporting on her death, it is her powerful voice and exquisite lyrical phrasing that has drawn me in to learn more about her.

I knew of Odetta through my time spent interning for Smithsonian Folkways, and I knew she was very influential in the folk world and I knew she must have been instrumental in the civil rights movement simply due to being a black female in the 50s and 60s. This is probably also what kept her from being as well known as she should be.  She had continued to perform up until last summer when she developed kidney trouble.

In 1963, Odetta sang at "I'm on My Way" at the historic March on Washington, D.C. where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.  She is known to have wanted to perform again in Washington in January at Barack Obama inauguration.  I think it is a blessing that she at least lived to see his election; a direct result of the Cause she had been fighting for for most of her life.

Unfortunately the video and audio clips available to link to here aren't as awesome as what I'd like, but hopefully you'll get an idea of the power of the voice of Odetta.  You might be able to hear what a great influence on folk singers ranging from Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary to more contemporary singers like Tracy Chapman.

Read about her life here.

Watch this performance of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" with Tennessee Ernie Ford.

And this neat Led Belly inspired (specifically the percussive "Pah!" vocal sound) performance of "Water Boy".

I've also added some songs to my playlist that I hope reflect her power and dignity as a performer and singer. Unfortunately there wasn't much to choose from on the playlist site that I use.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A second tribute to Prop 8: the Musical - it's just as good the second time around

Dedicated to my fabulously backwards state of California...

The internet is buzzing with clip featuring Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, John C. Reilly, Allison Janney, Kathy Najimy Jennifer Lewis, Neil Patrick Harris and more.

If you've already seen it, watch it again. It's faaaabulous.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Girls Rock Camp, Poison Apple Pie and Female Empowerment

                     Splash!  photo courtesy of bagrc on flickr

It's about time I blogged about one of my favorite things that I am proud to be part of in this lifetime: Girls Rock Camp, the promotion of women in music and in the arts and entertainment industry in general.

Girls Rock Camp started in Portland, Oregon in 2001 with the mission of building self-esteem of young women through music creation and performance. The concept has since exploded nationally and internationally with dozens of new camps popping up in new cities every summer (I believe there will be around 50 worldwide in the summer of 2009). As each camp develops, organizers and supporters get more ambitious; there are Lady Rock Camps (for us older girls), documentaries, after school programs, tours, showcases and even more exciting, bands that met through camp but gig on their own.

Just watch: music is going to be very different as these girls grow up. Has anyone else noticed how more and more women are popping up in indie bands? And not just as the singer or keyboardists!

Here's the trailer for the Girls Rock! documentary:

When I lived in Austin I helped out the Girls Rock Camp director in her endeavor in initiating the first camp in Austin. I helped the younger girls, all around 10 years old, write two songs: one about the ghost Bloody Mary, and another one about ice cream tummy aches. When I saw them perform, I bawled my eyes out in shear joy. I was so moved and inspired by them.

Girls Rock Camp Austin is now going into it's third year growing to include several sessions a summer, a South by Southwest annual showcase, and Lady Rock Camp. The Mayor has declared December 11, 2008 the Official Girls Rock Camp Day. The girls are taking over Austin!

Now that I live in the Bay Area, I'm lucky to also be riding in the wave of the first-ever Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. This past summer, I volunteered as a band coach for the band Splash! I helped the three twelve-year-olds and one 8-year-old write a song about: what else, writing a song!

At camp we made fanzines (out of my old Spin Magazines, go recycling!), silk screened Splash!'s bands logo onto t-shirts, learned about self-defense and self-image and more. It was awesome. We had the end-of-camp showcase, where every band performed the song they wrote during camp, at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.

I was so inspired by these girls and the community that rallied around them.

In the band Splash!, I met a 12 year old drummer named Torrey who also played guitar (and rather well I might add). She wanted to learn more. She's now my private student and she's awesome. Even though I'm certainly not the most accomplished musician (I'm going to be learning my guitar scales with her!) there's so much I can teach her. We've been singing, tuning guitars, replacing strings, learning more chords, fingerpicking patterns, music theory, some piano and yes, learning to read music.

Torrey had been wanting to learn "Blackbird" for a couple months and I kept telling her, "yeah, we'll do that, but you have to learn basic fingerpicking patterns first." I went away to Australia for two weeks and when I got back, whaddaya know, she's learned Blackbird! Just like that! Gawd it took me months to learn it! Amazing. This girl is a human sponge!

Anyway, Torrey and two of her friends (one of them also a former member of Splash!) are now in a group called Poison Apple Pie. So far, they've performed at a wedding and a Girls Rock Camp fundraiser.

Here's Poisen Apple Pie performing REM's "The One I Love" at Art Murmur on first Fridays in Downtown Oakland. Torrey is the drummer (you can't really see her, but you can definitely hear her). She's awesome, I'm so proud of her. It'll be a sad day when I have nothing left to teach her. But until then, we'll be playing.

If you would like to donate to Girls Rock Camp, click here to get to their website and navigate over to the "get involved" tab on the left. The rock stars of the future will appreciate it!

There will be a fundraiser at the El Rio in San Francisco on December 14th, as part of the 50 Shows in 50 States benefit that the Portland Girls Rock Camp has organized to raise money for the Girls Rock Camp Alliance.

If you want to find out more about a Girls Rock Camp near you, go here.

And also, if you're interested in girl empowerment in general, check out Saturday Night Live Amy Poehler's new project Smart Girls At the Party: an online website celebrating girls who are changing the world by being themselves.



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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kenge Kenge from Kenya: representative of Obama's support abroad

I know some Australians, Canadians and Brits that support Obama (you know who you are!), and I'm enjoying the international support he's getting all around.  

These days, it's no secret that the President of the United States has more impact on the international community than any other government official on the planet.  Even though other countries can't vote in our election, we should at least take a notice to what they have to say, or sing.

If you don't watch the whole video of "Obama for Change," let me just at least point out the last verse and the public figures and communities that Kenge Kenge single out as Obama supporters:
Hillary Clinton supports you
Al Gore supports you
Jimmy Carter supports you
Europe supports you
Africa supports you
It's always healthy to see things from a different perspective and specifically who these particular individuals see as important to them. Something to think about. 

In this song, Kenge Kenge play a traditional kind of Kenyan dance music called benga.  It evolved in the late 1940s and 1960s in Nairobi by the Luo people, a ethnic group of people from Kenya, eastern Uganda and northern Tanzania. Perhaps it is not a surprise that Barack Obama is of Lou descent. Benga features the nyatiti (eight-stringed lyre), asili (flute), the orutu (one-string fiddle) and oporo (horn). Benga is often played with electric guitars, but "Obama for Change" is strictly acoustic.

Here is a cool photo album I found of a Kenge Kenge concert at the BBC's Live at WOMAD taken by KayHanPep on flickr. 

"Obama for Change" is available for purchase on itunes and emusic and their album "Introducing Kenge Kenge" (shown above) can be purchased at

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's YOUR favorite Beatles song?: Let's get interactive

Hello reader!  I know you're out there, and there are quite a few of you! Thank you so much!  I'm having such a good time with this blog, and I'm so excited that so many of you enjoy reading.

Everyday I think of more and more things to write about, so I won't be going anywhere. As this blog is so aptly named, "there's always more to hear" and I don't see my interest in good music going anywhere.

SO, because I want to hear from you: Here's a question:

What is your favorite Beatles song and why?  Do share.  Please leave your answer as a comment. I know this question is VERY hard to answer, but give it your best go.  Just pick one.

If I had to chose (and this choice might change tomorrow depending on my mood), I would say my favorite is "Tomorrow Never Knows," the last track on Revolver.  Whenever I hear it, I sort of celebrate a little.

Why?  The lyrics are awesome.  They are so indicative of the late 60s and The Beatles' humanitarian pacifism:
Turn off your mind,
Relax and float down stream
That love is all 
And love is everyone
I love the sitar and the use of that seagull like sound which I believe to be a recording of Paul laughing played backwards at various speeds.  I also think Ringo plays one of the phattest drum beats he ever laid down.  I also remember reading somewhere that John told producer George Martin that he wanted to sound like the Dali Lama singing from a mountain top. And George's backwards guitar solo?  How cool!

What's your favorite Beatles song and why?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Cadillac Records": Chess Records Biopic

I know a lot of people are sick and tired of biopics, but I love them.  Especially the musical ones.  

Lucky for me, Yahoo! News just reported that Beyonce gained 15 lbs to play Etta James in "Cadillac Records," a movie about Chess Records. She still looks thin to me, but whatever, this article alerted me to it's holiday release and I can't wait.  

Check out this cast: Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess, Beyonce as Etta James, Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon and Mos Def to play Chuck Berry.

Chess Records has always held a special place in my heart.  To begin with, Chess was of course the home of some of the most talented and innovative pioneers of rock'n'roll, R&B, blues and early soul: Chuck Berry, Etta James, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Koko Taylor and Big Bill Broonzy just to name a few.  

Without Chess Records and Leonard and Phil Chess, I would argue that American music today would not be the same.  I'd imagine that many of these artists would have been signed by other labels, but the Chess brothers had insight into African American music that proved to be spot on.  They created an insular environment of competition and creativity among their Chicagoan cliental. (There are great stories about the friendly rivalry between Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and the Chess brothers milking it for every penny.)

Although the relationships between the Chess brothers and their artists were problematic in many ways, they knew their artists and their artists appreciated them.  In her inspiring autobiography "Rage to Survive"  Etta James speaks of how she owes the survival of her career and the mere fact that she is alive today to Leonard Chess and the support he provided her.  Chess stood by and supported her through years and years of substance abuse and wreckless living.  She was even able to keep her house in Los Angeles because part of it was in his name, a move otherwise thought to be against ones best interests.

Chess Records also embodies a small but important corner of American Music history that I have thought long and hard about- the Jewish American and African American musical partnership (a possible future dissertation topic if my life ever blows that way).  Sure, the Chess brothers were the business men and the artists were African American, and the relationships were problematic in many ways as many business partnerships are, but, they were for the most part successful relationships. The relationships between Jews and African Americans in the music industry were, and still are, very important. Gnarls Barkley, anyone?  

The book "The Record Men: The Chess Brothers and the Birth of Rock & Roll" by Rich Cohen tells the story of Chess Records in many of Leonard Chess' own words, and he was a crass, blunt, all-business SOB.  And I hope Adrien Brody plays him that way, because it's pretty hysterical. 

Like this Leonard Chess quote:
"Schmucko! Why do for others what you can do for yourself! If you spend a buck, make sure you back a buck and a half."
Personally I can't wait to see Mos Def rock out as Chuck Berry and watch Beyonce wail as Etta James.  When Beyonce wants to blow, people step back.

I've added a couple of my favorite Chess Record tracks to my playlist. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Sway Machinery: traditional psychedelic klezmer afrobeat show in San Francisco

Alright, I know that traditional psychedelic klezmer afrobeat doesn't exist as a genre or even as a logical combination of musical sounds or even adjectives in general, but honestly I have no idea how to explain what this band sounds like.  Just like I said in my last post about Dengue Fever, this band has taken the idea of '"world music fusion" to a whole new non-cheesy dimension.  And I'm diggin' it. (Thank god the 90's are over, eh?)

In fact, the song that I'm adding to my playlist over there on the right called "P'sach Lanu Sha'ar" is a little too African sounding (take a special notice to the guitars and some of the horn lines) and it's freaking me out a little, but in a good way.  But honestly, that should be no surprise considering the band consists of musicians that have played with Antibalas and the Arcade Fire to Middle Eastern percussion bands and Brazilian bands. 

I first heard about the Sway Machinery at the South by Southwest Festival in 2006 as part of the JDub records showcase.  But I really took notice when Jeremiah appeared as a featured artist in a documentary about the New York City Jewish Musical Renaissance.  There's one going on, and Matisyahu and Golem are part of it.  I read about this Ethnomusicologist at UCLA that's writing his dissertation on it and there's a class on it, who knew?   

As a vocalist, Jeremiah Lockwood is somewhere between Robert Johnson and my great-great grandmother's Belarusian rabbi. Honestly, I'm a little worried that his super stylized vocals might make me a little crazy, I mean I am a vocal snob, I totally admit it. (I'm a singer, I can't help it! I mean it took me a few years to enjoy Robert Plant and Thom Thorke for petesake!) But, he's just so different and the music is so interesting, I'm completely drawn to it.  He's also worked with Israeli and American collabortive band  Balkan Beat Box. Here's a really neat clip of Jeremiah playing some jewishy-blues in the New York Subway.

If you've been reading this blog for the short time it's been in existence, you've probably noticed my love of afrobeat, and the band Antibalas in particular.  Not every afrobeat band can cut it, but if the horn arrangements are there and the different layers lock in, there's nothing better for me. And with Stuart Bogie (Antibalas) on tenor sax, Colin Stetson on baritone sax (Arcade Fire), Jordan McLean (Antibalas) on trumpet, Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) on drums and , I'm sorry, but I'm just going to have to go.

My great-great-grandmother's rabbi would be proud.

Here's their myspace page and their website (download some tracks) check them out.  And see you at the show.

The Sway Machinery will be playing this Saturday, October 25 at the Elbo Room, local funk band Monophonics to open.  Show at 9:30pm.