Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Honeymoon Is Over

>> Featured Artist: Tony Xenos

Athens, Ohio, may not have the bustling music scene of its Georgian counterpart. Still, Ohio University's backyard produces more talent than most other towns of like population. Tony Xenos, formerly - and sometimes still - of the late-90s hometown heroes The Cactus Pears, started his solo career as the frontman of Rubberband Racecar Go, a gadget-acoustic-rock outfit that provided outlet for his Beasties-influenced inner Tony.

Xenos followed up the 2001 "Try Autopilot" with 2004's "Birthday," the product of a much more mature songwriter; in fact, Xenos had long been out of undergrad and had moved on to teaching high school math. On songs like "Super Hero" Xenos' love for Michael Stipe's voicing (and his music - Xenos is unabashed about his R.E.M. influence, having written a song about one of the other-Athens band's posters) is unavoidable. Still, the lyrics are top shelf, equal if not sometimes surpassing, Stipe's.

But the too-easy comparison may be the one thing that confines Xenos to the local-scene stardom he enjoys. That said, Mister Toaster has never been one to pass up raw talent.

Oh, except for that time in grad school.

>> Album Lookout: Sam's Town

The Killers - Released: October 2, 2006 Island

We are not Killers haters. Yet.

One might recall when The Toaster Talks was happy to award the Las Vegas pop act with the No. 1 song of 2004, "All These Things That I've Done."

That said, Brandon Flowers needs to shut his I'm-gonna-be-a-rock-star-forever mouth and undersell for once. The single for the upcoming album,
"When You Were Young" has been "leaked" and the world's axis has been displaced. We are hurtling toward the sun.

And then we popped it in the tape deck. The arrangement sounds just about right - a throwback to the late '80s with those verbed-out drums (Who are these guys? Mike and the Mechanics?) - and the synths made us want to Dance. Yes, capitalized.

The lyrics floated by...until "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus." Oh, that caught our attention. Who doesn't look like Jesus? Oh, "but he talks like a gentleman." (And later, "but more than you'll ever know"). Oh, OK. And then..."They say the devil's water, it ain't so sweet."

Now wait a minute. I think we all heard Bono's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame monologue about how the best songwriters are either running toward god or running away from god. But just dropping these otherwise meaningless references into a song doesn't make it spiritual.

It's just another boy-girl-oh-the-confusion song. And it bores us.

>> Reverting to: 1972

The Cuyahoga River has been described a number of ways in its history. Time said it was a river that "oozes rather than flows." Fair enough. It did catch fire - or at least the "sediment" floating on it did, anyway - on a few occasions way back when.

Randy Newman deals with it lovingly on
"Burn On." The track from his 1972 album "Sail Away" represents to us the misery that was Cleveland, Ohio, in the '80s. More precisely, the misery it was being an Indians fan. It opened the classic film "Major League" with a whimper - just as the situation called for.

Well, friend, those days have returned. The Tribe is playing near .400 baseball. We just play this song and cry.

"The lord can make you tumble / the lord can make you turn / the lord can make you overflow / but the lord can't make you burn"

Monday, July 17, 2006

Music to Be Covered in Sweat By

>> Featured Artist: Petra Haden

Thank god for National Public Radio. Mister Toaster was just a-drivin' down the street one Sunday morning last fall mindlessly scanning the radio when he was drawn to whatever it was that "All Songs Considered" was playing. Later, historians would discover that the song was "Satellite," an Elliott Smith cover performed by Haden and Bill Frisell.

But the story that day wasn't on sad, pretty Elliott Smith covers. It was about selling out. The Who's selling out, that is. And Petra Haden's dedicated, faithful covering of the entire album. Front to back, guitar solo to drum solo, screech to whine - it's all there. And, what's more, it was all created by Haden's voice. "Wait," you're saying to the screen, "you're telling me that that girl from That Dog is making all of that sound?"

Yes. We are.

Now Ms. Haden seems to be everywhere. From recording and touring with the Toaster-beloved and Capitol-signed Decemberists to releasing to free MP3s on her official site, she's become a hero of ours. It gives folks like us, who walk down the hall humming the bass lines from our favorite songs, reason to dream.

Listen to her recreation of MJ's "Thriller." It's all there, even that creepy laughing at the end, which is still - after all these years - so very hokey.

>> Album Lookout: Get Lonely, pt. 1

The Mountain Goats - Due Out: August 22, 2006 4ad

John Darnielle, many have said, is the indie scene's greatest songwriter. We'll one-up those pundits: John Darnielle is the only songwriter out there today whom we would follow to the ends of the earth.

His lyrics are always sharp; his melodies stick. His live shows are not just top-notch, they're never top-dollar.

And he delivers. So it with eager pride that we present to you, Woke Up New, the first leaked Mp3 from the Goats' upcoming LP.

We can't promise not to keep posting about this one...

>> Reverting to: 1971

No one has ever asked us what we'd say to Cat Stevens/Yusef Islam if we had the chance. Still, as the music zealots we are, we have been pondering...Oh, we know: Hey. Cat. Drop the Yusef bullshit and let's go on a goddamn reunion tour already. Journey is doing it. "

Mister Toaster bashfully admits he watched the brilliant "Harold and Maude" for the first time this weekend, and so we're here to post some Cat. These two tracks - "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" from the non-existent soundtrack were written for the film and not publicly released until they found their way onto a greatest hits album.

Of course, they're wonderful. Even "Sing Out," which we had pegged as hippie crap for years has come to take on a new life. But "Don't Be Shy," which greets the audience in the film's opening sequence, as Harold fakes his own suicide for fun. Needless to say, instant classic!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Toaster Schmoaster

>> Featured Artist: The Weakerthans

Somewhere someone is speaking mangled French, taught by penguines. Far from there, a cat rants against its self-pitying owner. Still on another side of the world an indie rock band is writing a ditty mocking/honoring its hometown.

Tonight it's all happening at the 9:30 Club when the Weakerthans come to town. Mister Toaster has been known to go to shows BY HIMSELF at a foreign (to him) college student union bar/coffeehouse to see these guys. And by all accounts the 2004 tour pleased.

They're back, but sadly this time without a new album to promote. Apparently, Winnipeg is very busy. And important.

Here's the aforementioned cat rant, "Plea From a Cat Named Virtue," for your listening pleasure.

You look like Shackelton.

>> Album Lookout: News and Tributes

The Futureheads - Released: June 13, 2006 Vagrant

We were all very pleased by the raucous "Decent Days and Nights" of 2004 and, with all those indie kids eating up News and Tributes like it was a custard cone (it starts with slow, joyous licks and tiny bites of before it turns into a frantic, sticky mess), we weren't about to let the Futureheads latest effort pass us by.

We were taken aback, however, when we saw smack dab in the middle of the tracklist and dig at yours truly.

Let us remind the audience that the Toaster Talks does not react kindly to accusations of "Burnt" anything. Nor does Mister Toaster like to be reminded of his two episodes of severe second-degree sunburn. Still, after the brief moments of self-aggrandizement subsided, the little Toaster iPod never wanted to play it. It would whimper a bit and move on to the next track, probably something by Deep Blue Something.

Now it's July. Things are getting burnt all over the place. The Toaster is braced and lathered generously with supposedly scentless (we can smell it!) sunscreen. And what's that? Is that an acoustic guitar intro? Are those keen three-part harmonies on catchy chourses?

What were we worried about? Probably this.

>> Reverting to: 1968

Harry Nilsson was, by all accounts, drunk a lot in the '70s; many times he was seen hitting the nightlife with ex-Beatle John (on the latter's "Lost Weekend"), getting kicked out of bars for heckling the Smothers Brothers and trading chord chnages and stock tips. The Toaster appreciates any man who issues an album title that belittles his own name and much more an artist who releases almost exclusively titles that belittle it.

Any road, the lovely "Everybody's Talkin'" is not his (it's a Fred Neil cover), but his version featured in Midnight Cowboy sure hit the big time.

Love the "rah-ow" and falsetto breakdown at the end. Yum.
Toast all around.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Less Talk, More America

Dear Reader,

Now that we're finally free from the Brits, The Toaster is taking a mini-rest for the national holiday today.

We leave you with Jimi (via Some Velvet Blog), just because it's OK to take it easy on days when it's 97 degrees outside. Fahrenheit.

The Toaster will return next week with a preview of what we're looking forward to in the back pages of Oh-Six.