The coolest thing I’ve seen Ben Gibbard do

I’m a huge fan of Tom Waits, particularly his oft-overlooked debut album, Closing Time. Waits has possibly never been more accessible, as his voice has a more natural quality to it and most of the songs feature a booming chorus. Anyway, I specifically remember trying to learn the album’s fourth track, “Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards),” on guitar, spending hours with the song instead of focusing on homework. It’s a country-flavored number with a sweet message, perfect for jamming with friends while having a drink or two.

Last week, Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar covered the song live. The pair are currently on a brief tour in support of One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur, their soundtrack to the film of the same name.

Per TwentFourBit:

The pair enlisted Nick Harmer, Mark Spencer, and Jon Wurster for a 6-night jaunt through a few major U.S. cities and they even branched out a bit from their album One Fast Move or I’m Gone. ”

The banjo and steel guitar make it work.

AC/DC: Backtracks


RIYL: Motorhead, Kiss, Van Halen

Backtracks is AC/DC’s second compilation, and the first to include anything from the post-Bon Scott era. There are a lot of rarities out there in the AC/DC catalog, thanks to an abundance of B-sides, cut tracks and “international” editions of their records, which in the past routinely featured different tracks than the Australian editions. And while Backtracks does a great job of collecting all those rarities, the quality of said rarities is a little lacking.

While some of the lost cuts are great, such as the rollicking “R.I.P. (Rock In Peace),” most were buried for a reason. “Love Song” is just that, a love-dovey ballad that is the thematic opposite of nearly every other song AC/DC ever recorded and other Oz-only tracks like “Fling Thing” and “Stick Around” aren’t as bad, but they’re entirely forgettable. Some later-era stuff is here as well, and it holds up a bit better. The Blow Up Your Video B-side “Borrowed Time” is actually better than most of the tracks that made that album, and then there’s “Big Gun,” the standout from the excellent “Last Action Hero” soundtrack and probably one of the last truly great songs the band released.

AC_DC_01

The live disc is good, but is nothing that the stellar AC/DC Live didn’t already do better, and the music video DVD should really appeal to completists, literally in fact, as it completes the “Family Jewels” DVD collection that first came out in 2005, picking up where that set left off with the video for “Big Gun” and ending with Black Ice clips “Rock N Roll Train” and “Anything Goes.” Watch and be amazed that an AC/DC video from 1991 and an AC/DC video from 2009 are nearly identical, the only things that have changed are softer focus and kinder lighting.

As AC/DC goes, this set is a little uneven, so if you only own Highway to Hell and Back in Black, then this box set isn’t for you. And if you’re still holding out for a greatest hits album or online release (the band remains one of the few iTunes holdouts), then this box set isn’t for you, either. However, do you own the Australian and American versions of all their albums, and have an AC/DC tattoo on your shoulder that you like to show off when you rock the sleeveless shirt at your local rib-off? Then, oddly, this box set isn’t for you either; instead, you’d want the deluxe edition. That comes with an additional CD and DVD of live material, a huge coffee table book, tons of memorabilia and a bonus LP that includes highlights from the rarities CD (which is expanded for the deluxe edition to include several more songs). The packaging for the deluxe edition is equally excessive, as it’s a working guitar amp. That’s the way to go. This regular edition is for pussies. (Columbia 2009)

AC/DC MySpace Page

Strokes returning to the stage after lengthy hiatus

Strokes

The Strokes haven’t played a live gig since 2006. That’s strange to think about considering how instantly popular they became after the release of their debut album, Is This It. Frontman Julian Casablancas has recently released a solo album, Phrazes for the Young, and kicked off a tour of America, Canada, Europe, and the UK. Most had considered The Strokes permanently defunct, but it should please their countless fans that the band is playing the Isle of Wight Festival next year. Jay-Z and Pink will also perform.

The three day festival, held at Seaclose Park, Newport, takes place 11-13 June 2010 and will also see performances from Pink, Orbital and Blondie.

Last year’s event was headlined by The Prodigy, Stereophonics and Neil Young.

Tickets for the festival go on sale on 4 December.

Maybe the band will play Coachella as well.

Norah Jones: The Fall


RIYL Cassandra Wilson, Grace Potter, Patty Larkin

Advance word to the contrary, Norah Jones’ fourth album shows a marked change in approach but little difference in attitude. Stirring up the ambiance with synths, effects, beats and a general trend towards more modern programming tools, Jones lays out a steady series of laments about traitorous lovers and ruined relationships with a distinct emphasis on disillusionment in general. Titles like “Stuck,” “I Wouldn’t Need You” and “You’ve Ruined Me” offer an early hint of her malfunctioning mindset, but lines like “If I touched myself the way you touched me…then I wouldn’t need you,” speak directly to her disappointment. Conversely, the carnival-like atmosphere of “Chasing Pirates,” the practically jaunty “Tell Yer Mama” and the propulsive duo of “Young Blood” and “It’s Gonna Be” prove a welcome respite from the deathly serious tact that Jones helped trademark on her three earlier albums.

Norah edit 2

And while there’s still ample evidence of that wounded, torch song set-up imbued in “Manhattan,” “Even Though,” “I Wouldn’t Need You” and “Waiting,” even her more sobering perspectives seem somewhat more illuminated, given fuller arrangements that detract attention from her solitary keyboard and instead steer the proceedings towards the emphatic strum of her electric guitar. Ending the album on a lighter note that finds her offering an ode to her dog – the winsome “Man of the Hour” – shows that for her all her trepidation and turmoil, Jones has the capability of picking herself up, no matter how serious the fall. Blue Note 2009

Norah Jones MySpace page

Paul McCartney: Good Evening New York City


RIYL: Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones

When Paul McCartney opined about the bliss of eventual retirement in “When I’m 64,” no one could have guessed at the time, that in actual fact he’d put that premise to the test and choose to ignore that option completely. Indeed, here he is at 67, showing no signs of slowing down while wailing away and glibly commanding the stage like a rocker half his age. McCartney’s sixth live set in the past 19 years – a remarkable feat in itself – finds the aging mop top dutifully spanning his entire career as always , but oozing out an emotional commitment that’s truly astonishing. Yes, the usual standards – “Let It Be,” “Yesterday,” Hey Jude,” “Live and Let Die” – make the cut for the umpteenth time, usurping slots that could have best been taken from the hundreds of other worthy contenders. (It’s worth noting that the entirety of McCartney and Flowers in the Dirt, unquestionably two of his best albums, have been booted entirely.) Still Paul, ever the crowd-pleaser, clearly doesn’t want to deny his fans the old stand-bys.

Recorded at the opening show of Paul’s three-night stand at Citi Field (a fitting choice, given its approximation to Shea Stadium), the two-CD/one-DVD Good Evening New York City spans nearly three dozen tracks, with the usual inclusion of newer material – the jocular “Dance Tonight,” the full tilt “Only Mama Knows,” the irresistible “Flaming Pie” – along with a handful of songs seldom revisited; an emotional ode to Lennon, “Here Today,” the ever-compelling duo “Paperback Writer” and “Day Tripper,” a jaunty “Mrs. Vanderbilt.” Tributes to former band mates via a ukulele-initiated “Something” and an unlikely medley of “A Day in the Life” (with Paul managing John’s part as well as his own) and “Give Peace a Chance” add a nice touch, but ultimately it only heightens the sense of nostalgia that can’t help but shadow every McCartney appearance. Ghosts of Shea haunt practically every facet of the proceedings, from the archival clips of that concert to animated images appropriated from the recent “Beatles: Rock Band” release to an effusive reprise of “I’m Down,” Shea’s rarely performed show-stopper. As much as Macca strives to remain freshly re-groomed, clearly he can never outrun the memories, causing even his best new efforts to eventually dim in comparison to his former band’s luster. After all, when it comes the Beatles, memories don’t easily cede the spotlight.

At times in fact, it seems like heresy hearing Paul’s backing band appropriating john, George and Ringo’s roles on the old Beatles chestnuts, or for that matter, finding Billy Joel offering up a cameo on “I Saw Her Standing There.” But then again, Paul’s four-piece backing band is as adept as it is streamlined, and given that the current set stretches nearly three hours as opposed to the 30 minutes granted to Shea’s screaming masses, there’s something to be said for updating the MO. Ultimately, it’s a good – make that, great – evening indeed. (Hear Music)

Paul McCartney website

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