Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Summer Is End.

>> Featured Artist: Sparklehorse

A few of us really got into the It's a Wonderful Life album back in the summer of 2001. And Mister Toaster was famously unimpressed with the live show when the band opened for R.E.M. on its 2003 tour. And then there were three years of silence.

We can't tell you why, but we root for this band.

So, it is with this introduction that we tentatively wade into the new material (Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain), released today on Astralwerks. And we do so with the Toaster's first-listen favorite, "Don't Take My Sunshine Away." It's quickly becoming an anthem, seeping into our guts the way "Piano Fire" did way back when - albeit with less gusto.

>> Album Lookout: Boys and Girls in America
The Hold Steady - Due Out: October 3, 2006 Vagrant

We've already expressed our feelings about October 3. [It's sad that ...Trail of Dead will not be joining in the fun, as it was announced today that the album won't be released until November 14.]

The Hold Steady make us want to be drug addicts. And have friends who are too.

Most of all, and this is reflected in nearly everything about this band, the Hold Steady is alive. The Hold Steady has a tone all its own and Craig Finn et al. pretty much bleed originality (launching a YouTube-like site as a promotional tool for the new album), celebration and excitement. This band is one of three or four bands making music today that give us faith in the whole process.

Here's the much celebrated first single "Chips Ahoy" for us all to savor until that fateful day arrives.

>> Reverting to: 1970

George Harrison may have ripped off the Chiffons when he had the first solo Beatles' No. 1 single, and he may have been a little too, um, God-focused - and repetitively so.

It doesn't matter. We love our George.

"My Sweet Lord" was one of the jewels in his solo masterpiece All Things Must Pass. Just months before he died in 2001, he commented on the album:

"To be able to do all my own songs on one record was a novelty at that point, you know. Only the fact that people have written about the reissue have I realized that it spent seven weeks at No. 1."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

To Nashville He Goes

>> Featured Artist: Alexi Murdoch

Before "The O.C." got a hold of this guy, Zach Braff did. The young'n Scottish sensation got "Orange Sky" onto Garden State. Alas, it was not on the soundtrack we all got in our stockings that year, and so he was forgotten, cast aside like Scotland itself.*

Alexi put out Time Without Consequence in June without the help of the major labels that awaited him. It seems Alexi is one of those artiste types who doesn't compromise his music.

"All My Days" is the opening track, a Drake-esque number right down to the finger picking pattern. And, though the Toaster does not encourage Nick Drake emulation, we must appreciate when a songwriter can actually produce something worthy of the comparison. "All My Days" has our attention, and - we're sure - Volkswagen's too.

* with the exception of aforementioned "O.C." stardom.

>> Album Lookout: The Information
Beck - Due Out: October 3, 2006 Interscope

October 3 will be a new beginning for 2006. Or maybe it will be a signal that, indeed, the year has been uneventful for indie music. Alongside this new album by the ever-trying Beck, new works from The Hold Steady, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and The Decemberists have forced us to put a clothespin on our junk.

The Information certainly sounds like a vast improvement over the mostly underwhelming 2005 release, Guero. His work with Nigel Godrich, who had just come from a lot of Macca publicity, has sounded fresh.

And the Toaster must recognize with much appreciation the trusting mass leaks that Beck's folks have overseen of this new album, ushering video upon video onto YouTube for the kids to gnaw in anticipation. Pitchfork can hardly breathe.

"Strange Apparition" is graced with a sweet Band-esque piano and acoustic guitar rhythm track and the obligatory harmonies to boot.

We await the day with our checkbooks out.

>> Reverting to: 1959

Mister Toaster recently read that Wanda Jackson is Neko Case's grandmother! Where in the shit did that come from and how did the Toaster editorial staff miss it?

It turns out we missed it because it's not true.

Wethinks a reporter accidentally missed an "and" in Neko's wiki entry. Still, it gives us reason to highlight one of the coolest vocalists in rock's history, and so we will propagate that lie with great fervor.

Here's "Kansas City," and it's not the version the Beatles covered.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

You Say You Want an Anti-Genocide Rally. Well, you know...

>> Featured Artist: Suzanne Vega

It's been a busy week for Mister Toaster, trying to keep up with music business as _ + _ business keeps him in the office 12 to 14 hours a day. He travels to the Big NYC this weekend for the Save Darfur Now rally in Central Park (Sun., 2 p.m.).*

Suzanne Vega is the latest performer confirmed for the rally, and she came highly welcomed by the thirty-somethings on staff. Still, it's important to note she became the "first established musician to perform live in an online 3D world," according to the love of our life.

"Luka" and "Tom's Diner" showed us all that Vega could write a damn-fine pop song, however atypical the subject matter. And we really wanted to post "Tired of Sleeping" for obvious reasons. But in the end "Gypsy" was begging to be posted. Good enough to end a genocide? We'll let you know next week.

>> Album Lookout: Putting the Days to Bed
The Long Winters - Released: J, 2006 Barsuk

Yeah, The Toaster featured The Long Winters on the lovely Bro disc. And at the time, we promised to give a "lookout" to the band's 2006 release - which, for the record, is a keeper. For a band that has existed primarily on the peripheral of our attention spans, Putting the Days to Bed solidifies them in, at the very least, a role of indie-rock consistency that is rare enough to be noteworthy.

While "Ultimatum" is both on the album and an Oct. 2005 EP, it serves as the glorious climax before an absent come-down and thus requires posting. And, you know, the title sends a message too.

>> Reverting to: 1964

Yeah, Sam. We sure hope so.

* Thanks to Joe for putting the Toaster up for a weekend. (Hug)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This Illness Is Taking Hold

>> Featured Artist: Tegan and Sara

It's rainy outside. And Mister Toaster is coming down with something. So, we revert to some canned love. And nothing says canned love more than Canada. Enter stage left: Tegan and Sara, the twins who have been "bound to explode" on the pop scene for way too long now. Hell, we first got a taste of them in France in 2003, where FNAC had a pretty respectable display up and we were sold.

The White Stripes even covered the duo's 2004 hit "Walking With a Ghost." Now "Grey's Anatomy" is getting in on the action. Here's hoping there's some new T&S coming down the pike.

But, first, a Prince cover ("When You Were Mine") straight from their cute Canadienne amps.

>> Album Lookout: Post-War
M. Ward - Released: August 22, 2006 Merge

Pitchfork loves it. Allmusic loves it. Oh, the pressure.

As you all know, the Toaster doesn't react well to this sort of stress. Or all those Bright Eyes comparisons, for that matter. Yeah, he usually spews out a "ehh...take their word for it," lame-ass post and leaves it for you to decide.

This time, Mister Toaster is faced with the decision on whether to stay overnight in Nashville later this month to catch the M. Ward show. So, upon his request, the editorial staff here did some digging. And, you know what? We like what we found.

If you can get past M. Ward's sound -- the verbed-out and soft vox, the mostly slow tempo, the dramatic strings -- you'll uncover quite the material, even if you can't quite make out the lyrics.

"Poison Cup" starts Post-War out elegantly. The chord changes and melody intersect really prettily and the song picks up into an up-tempo Phil Spector pop song. It's hard to sound stripped down and wall-of-sound at the same time, but M. Ward pulls it off with grace, and even the cha-cha-cha beat that caps the song doesn't come off as too contrived.

We guess we're staying in Nashville for the night. Know any good hotels?

>> Reverting to: 1998

The Samples are, allegedly, one of the most popular touring bands of the early nineties. Excuse Mr. Toaster; he was only ten-ish.

The band, according to its online home, has been around for 20 years. And they pride themselves on their evolving music style, adapting to the pop of the day. Well, we discovered them on their pop-bliss record, Here and Somewhere Else, which was themed loosely by a theme of aging and a longing for youth, all approached with a Brian Wilson-esque outlook on the world -- not to mention with that indie rock Brian Wilson voice of Sean Kelly.

"Sea of Broken Hearts" sounds like a Brian Wilson song -- the harmonies, the crushing lyrics and backing arrangement and, of course, all that freaking water talk. That, or it could be a Waterboys song. Yeah, we could see this on the "Waking Ned Devine" soundtrack.

"Throw me nets...throw me anything to hold."