Daily Music
Vietnam Soul
While looking for war-themed songs for the Memorial Day edition of my radio show, I stumbled across two fantastic compilations on the British reissue label Kent. It released A Soldier's Sad Story: Vietnam Through the Eyes of Black America 1966-1973 in 2003 and follow-up Does Anybody Know I'm Here? Vietnam Through the Eyes of Black America 1962-1972 in 2005. From the gospel-tinged harmonies of Bill Moss & the Celestials’ “Welcome the Boys Back Home” to the freaky psych of Funkadelic’s “March to the Witch’s Castle,” the albums span the musical and political spectrum. Missing is Edwin Starr’s anthemic cover of the Temptations’ “War,” though his “Stop the War Now” – which replaces rhetorical questions with forthright demands – is remarkably similar. A more subtle approach to the anti-war song is Bill Withers’ "I Can't Write Left Handed," about a soldier who returns from Vietnam with no right arm. Withers, who himself served nine years in the Navy before launching his music career, leaves songs about the larger issues of war to others. He humbly professes to not know much about "governments and political things" in the intro but his song about a man unable to write a letter to his mother rings truer than Starr's more famous anti-war anthem.

12:49PM Tue. May 27, 2008, Thomas Fawcett Read More | Comment »

Boy Toys
UPDATE: Dangerous Toys bassist Mike Watson was admitted to the hospital on Monday, May 26, and the band has postponed their Saturday show. "We publicly apologize for any inconvenience for travelers coming from out of state to celebrate this show with us," offers Jason McMaster. "We will have to postpone this 20th year celebration of Dangerous Toys until Watson recovers." “It was wild,” Jason McMaster recalls of the halcyon days of Dangerous Toys. “The band was only Dangerous Toys for six months before we were signed. I was in Watchtower right up until we signed the contract. It was fast and fun. We barely had enough material to make a full record.” But what a record! Dangerous Toys was an unexpected Texas Southern metal attack on the reigning kings of MTV in 1989 and soon went gold. Singles such as “Scared” and especially the hit “Teas'n, Pleas'n" kept them in video rotation. 1991’s Hellacious Acres followed, then 1994’s less-celebrated Pissed and 1995's The R*tist 4*merly Known as Dangerous Toys. For Jason McMaster, the charismatic vocalist, it was a runaway rollercoaster ride that lost steam not because the music changed but the trends did. Picking up his Toys once more for the Austin reunion show at the Red Eyed Fly on Saturday, McMaster lined up guitarists Paul Lidel and Scott Dalhover, bassist Mike Watson, and drummer Mike Geary. He also pointed out the Toys’ most famous alumni, Kevin Fowler, toured with them heavily in their later days but never recorded with the band.

11:16AM Tue. May 27, 2008, Margaret Moser Read More | Comment »

Face to Face With the King of Trill
I'm handing the reins over to Chronicle City Beat editor Anne Harris today for a very special episode of Schadenfreude. Please enjoy. Let's take it back to the night of Wednesday, March 12, since we probably spent it together. We shook our heads and rattled our South by Southwest badges on the curb in front of Fuze, stunned at being shut out of the most significant Texas rap show this year – Bun B's memorial for Pimp C of UGK. It was live inside without us while a band no one has cared about in a decade swanned around outdoors at Stubb's where there was plenty of air for everybody. Standing out there next to the cameraman and boom guy from BET while their on-air fox batted her lashes in vain, I momentarily assessed my own charms, then left bitter. So, so bitter. Yeah, I'm a fan. It's personal. Fast forward to Music Mania, Wednesday, May 21, 6:54pm. That's the time-stamp on the photo at right. It matters because it was one of those moments that never happens: not one single bubble burst. Wearing no protective shades or masked expression, the King's presence and open charm were impressive given the long line of fans that waited for an autograph. And interesting. This is Mr. Woodgrain, the Sultan of Snow. But he's quiet. He conserves his words in a way more of us should edit ourselves. His eyes, the same ones staring back at us from the cover of Trill, net everything around him. His expression was warm as he introduced his wife, Queen, whose bearing lives up to her name. She outshines the other stuff on his arm and he's proud of her. (Edit thyself: I heard myself offering her a ride to Neiman's if she ever needs one.) I hugged him goodbye and told him I'd keep it 100. He laughed and said, "That's what it's about!"

11:21AM Fri. May 23, 2008, Anne Harris Read More | Comment »

'Night' Flight
This week, Brooklyn’s the National, whose Boxer was one of the best albums of 2007, released the DVD A Skin, A Night. The film was made by Vincent Moon, the Paris-based auteur responsible for La Blogotheque’s famous Take-Away Shows. The online performances that Moon captures for La Blogotheque put artists in unique settings, their songs often re-imagined within the acoustic framework and odd visual context. It’s a format that has become increasingly popular on the Web, with everything from the London-based Black Cab Sessions to Austin’s own Retread Sessions. What Moon brings to his videos, however, is a sense of the beautifully bizarre, evoked in the intentionally lo-fi footage, distracted camera work, and often grating lighting. Consider Ramesh Srivastava's version of “Trouble,” posted last year, which sets the Voxtrot singer in a street carnival. Moon’s work always feels less about the songs than having the music serve a foil for his own artistic vision. It’s an approach that he applies to A Skin, A Night as well, which ultimately undermines the intent of the typical rock-doc or concert film format.

3:04PM Thu. May 22, 2008, Doug Freeman Read More | Comment »

Here Comes the Brand New Flava in Ya Ear
N.E.R.D. made headlines earlier this week when they announced plans for the band’s first feature film. Set to come out in December, it will depict the trio’s musical journey from recording to touring, described by Pharrell Williams as being something like A Hard Day's Night. Hip-hop and film hasn’t always been the perfect marriage (Cam’ron’s 2006 Killa Season comes to mind here), but Pharrell, Chad, and Shay made the right decision bringing in hip-hop video vet Hype Williams to handle directing. Williams truly made his name directing 1998’s Belly. Widely criticized for its iffy plot (Nas wrote the thing, and hasn’t written anything worth note since Illmatic), the film’s most heralded for its look. Each scene is shot like a music video, with contrasting colors, all vibrant and clear and captivating. N.E.R.D.’s third LP, Seeing Sounds, hits shelves June 10.

2:38PM Thu. May 22, 2008, Chase Hoffberger Read More | Comment »

Maximalize Yourself
This past Sunday's New York Times magazine featured an interesting story on the rise of the one-man band, spotlighting Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), Panda Bear, and Dallasite Annie Clark (St. Vincent). Writer John Wray hones in on the need to minimalize (or, as Clark put it, "Maximalize yourself") in the current indie rock culture, and Pallett had an especially unique take on it: “Drummers ruin bands,” he said simply, as if the fact were common knowledge. “There are probably about 10 people in indie rock who know how to play the drums. If you’re in a mediocre band, just fire the drummer, and chances are you’ll have the best band in the world.” He goes on to give the best line in the piece to Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, who he describes as the "drummer who fired himself." Speaking of which, a friend sent along this video of a new and, sadly, real Sharper Image product.

1:08PM Wed. May 21, 2008, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

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An Old Soul
The biggest surprise at last month’s Old Settler’s Music Festival was Emily Elbert. She won the Youth Talent Competition in 2007, which granted her a spot on the main stage this year, and though still a teen, the Coppell, Texas native possesses an old soul. Elbert's atypical for many reasons. While many her age are pining to become the next American Idol, she rejects the notion. “As many people come up and ask me if I’m 14 as tell me to try out for American Idol,” the 19-year-old explains. “They mean well. It’s nice that they would want to help me out, but that’s not exactly where I want to go.” Both parents are professional musicians who exposed her to a broad range of sounds. “It was instilled in me from when I was little, when I was listening to jazz,” she recalls. “I think it’s to my advantage to educate myself on different kinds of music and the expression that comes out of the world. Everything is wrapped up in music, from politics to religion to history to poetry. There’s so much more than is possible to understand. But it’s a great thing to try. I’m interested in as much music as I can wrap my arms around.”

11:49AM Wed. May 21, 2008, Jim Caligiuri Read More | Comment »

Lay It Down
The latest albums from Al Green, Erykah Badu, and the Roots have at least two things in common: They are good bets to make my 2008 best of lists and they are co-produced by Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson. The afro-rocking Roots drummer lays down furious fatback beats on their eighth, Rising Down (Def Jam), but the most eccentric member of the Philly ensemble is proving he's as great a force behind the boards as the drum kit. Not that it’s always been easy. In a Spin interview, ?uestlove says Al Green cussed him out during their recording session for Lay It Down (Blue Note), shouting, “Why are there motherfuckin’ computers everywhere? I’m gonna sing it the way I wanna sing it, goddamn it!” That Grandpa Simpson luddism is partly what makes Green’s vocals so divine. But ?uestlove, with help from the Dap-Kings Horns and guest spots from John Legend, Corrine Bailey Rae, and the criminally underrated Anthony Hamilton, adds just enough of a modern touch to keep things fresh. The LP, due May 27, is miles ahead of Green’s two previous Blue Note releases this decade and – dare I say it – comes awfully close to rivaling his classic 1970s Hi material.

3:30PM Tue. May 20, 2008, Thomas Fawcett Read More | Comment »

Snapshot: Be Your Own Pet/the Phenomenauts
Click through the gallery for shots from Thursday's Chaos in Tejas aftershow with Be Your Own Pet and the Phenomenauts' rockabilly lift-off Friday at Red 7.

5:22PM Mon. May 19, 2008, Shelley Hiam Read More | Comment »

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