Steal This Song: The Moor, “Warm Winter”

It’s nice to see that ’60s lounge cool has yet to go out of style. Heck, if anything, it’s making a big of a comeback in the indie community. Jon Fratelli put his “Chelsea Dagger” day job on hiatus in order to make a boy/girl ’60s pop record with his wife’s best friend (they’re called Codeine Velvet Club, and they’re super cool), and let us not forget the ultimate hipster, slightly retro boy/girl duo the Bird and the Bee, whom the blogosphere keeps trumpeting, even though their tribute album to Daryl Hall and John Oates left us cold. More than cold, really. Frozen.

Enter the Moor, boldly going where, well, no one has made money in decades. This is to our immense gain, of course, not to mention some up and coming filmmaker who wants to use a Nancy Sinatra song without paying for a Nancy Sinatra song. “Warm Winter,” the leadoff track to their self-titled album, actually brings to mind a couple of bands from across the pond, with an extra jump over a fjord – Club 8 and the Acid House Kings. Those bands, like the Moor, are boy/girl duos, and all three are suckers for the mellow ’60s vibe, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Click here to download The Moor – Warm Winter

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

Having children has had a profound impact on my musical tastes. Will it make them cry? Will it teach them naughty words? Will it bore them? Then it doesn’t get played around the house, which has resulted in my sharp turn towards the poppier side of modern. And really, once you’ve seen your three-year-old completely lose his shit when hearing a song with a chorus of “Na, na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na,” it’s hard to push anything on him that doesn’t come armed to the teeth with the pop hooks. Mind you, I think the Ramones are a pop band too, so I’m painting with a pretty broad brush here. But make no mistake – these bands are pop bands, of varying stripes and shapes. If you fancy yourself a hipster, you’d be best to move on and check out one of the other writers’ lists. I gave up being hip a couple years ago, and let me tell you: it’s extremely liberating.

Note: Some of the notes at the end of the write-ups will offer suggestions of which songs to check out. Others actually offer the songs. If you see “Click here for a free download…”, those songs are on our server, meaning you won’t be dragged off to some site that asks you to give up your email address for a song. These puppies all come with no strings attached, so please download away.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

1. Mark Ronson: Record Collection
Ahhhhhh. If I get to heaven, this is what the radio station will sound like. Tasteful drum beats paired with even tastier synth tracks, highlighted by brilliantly chosen guest contributors from Q-Tip and D’Angelo to Simon Le Bon and a devastating performance by Boy George. Definitely gonna ride this bike until we get home.
Download these: “The Bike Song,” “Somebody to Love Me,” “Record Collection”

2. Hey Champ: Star
I’m a sucker for any band that justifies my love for New Order and the Buggles, and this Chicago trio threw down synth pop/rock that, in an ideal world, would have Passion Pit opening for them, not the other way around.
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Neverest”
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Cold Dust Girl”

3. Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change the World with Music
Man, what a sweet surprise this was. Originally scheduled to be the follow-up album to 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback, the album was scrapped despite Prefab leader Paddy McAloon already finishing studio-quality demo versions of every song. Eighteen years later, the songs finally see the light of day, and the result is instant nostalgia. He supposedly has dozens more albums on his shelves from the same period. Please don’t make us wait 18 years for the next one, Paddy.
Download these: “Let There Be Music,” “Ride,” “God Watch Over You”

4. The Hours: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish
This one is knocked down a few rungs on a technicality, in that it’s a Franken-album consisting of the best songs from the band’s two UK-only releases. But hot damn, are those songs good. Shimmering, sky-high, piano-driven pop that addresses the darkness in people’s lives but strives for hope and change. No wonder Nike used one of these songs for their unforgettable “Human Chain” ad earlier this year. Favorite lyric: “I can understand how someone can go over to the dark side, ’cause the Devil, he’s got all the tunes.”
Download these: “See the Light,” “Big Black Hole,” “Come On”

The Hours – “See The Light” 2010 Edit from Adeline Records on Vimeo.

5. The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
I’m still pissed about this one. I got a sneak peek of the record months before its release because our publicist is tight with the band. We played the daylights out of it, and couldn’t wait to sing its praises when it came out in April…only April never happened. Then it was July, and when it came out, the damn thing was buried. Why, why, why? Not enough irony or cynicism? I see no reason why the Shins can sell millions while the Silver Seas still toil in obscurity. The phrase ‘criminally underrated’ was written about bands like this.
Click here for a free download of the Silver Seas’ “The Best Things in Life”


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Austin City Limits Music Festival – October 8-10, 2010, Austin, TX

The 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival continued to make the three-day event’s case as one of the best festivals on the planet. It went off with nary a hitch, and in fact, this year’s edition may have had the festival’s best weather yet. There was no dust, no rain to turn Zilker Park into a giant mud pit (like last year) and the high temperature never reached 90. The sunny afternoons were still plenty hot, but the evenings were downright balmy. Some local fans bitched about the overall lineup when it was first announced, but there truly was something for everyone in the festival’s ever-eclectic lineup. The festival once again sold out well in advance, and again proved to be one of the best weekends of the year for any serious music fan.

The tasty local cuisine available at ACL is topped only by New Orleans’ Jazzfest (although unfortunately neither fest seems willing to bring in local beer), and the football tent returned to enable sports fans to get a fix in between music sets. There were only a handful of occasions where the crowd scene proved overly massive and hard to navigate. Overall, it was three days of near-utopian rock ‘n’ roll bliss. If the word “groovy” is overused in this review, it’s only because there were indeed so many such moments. The biggest problem was choosing between competing bands in a series of mind-bending conflicts: Silversun Pickups vs Broken Bells, Monsters of Folk vs LCD Soundsystem, Phish vs The Strokes, The Flaming Lips vs Band of Horses, and the terrible three-way Friday night dilemma of Sonic Youth vs Robert Randolph & the Family Band vs Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses. Cloning technology can’t arrive soon enough.

Friday, October 8

Those Darlins, Austin Ventures Stage
This upbeat Tennessee quartet featured a relatively unique mix of country punk and garage rock to create a fun vibe. Singer/guitarist Jessi Darlin’s gritty voice recalled Courtney Love at times in its ragged splendor, but with more of a country flavor. “Red Light Love” saw the band at its best on a fuzzy, melodic rocker about the combination of good love and good music.

Blues Traveler, AMD Stage
It seemed like a flashback to the mid-’90s when Blues Traveler drew a huge crowd to the festival’s second largest stage to really get ACL going. It’s been great to see the band able to persevere through the tragic death of original bassist Bobby Sheehan and the health problems of singer/harmonica ace John Popper, who is now fit and sounding great as ever. Underrated guitarist Chan Kinchla always keeps things groovy on his PRS guitar and his brother Tad fits right in on bass. A cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was a surprise crowd pleaser, followed shortly thereafter with the band’s 1994 hit “Run-Around.” But the clear peak of the set – and one of the top highlights of the entire weekend – occurred when the band welcomed 15-year-old violinist Ruby Jane to sit in on “Mulling It Over.” Jane, who would play her own set on Sunday morning, proved to be a dynamic prodigy. She immediately accented the hard rocking tune in tasteful fashion, before teaming with Popper for a superb violin-harmonica duel that won the weekend’s first huge cheer.

The Black Keys, AMD Stage
The Akron, Ohio-based blues rock duo hit the stage at 4 pm in front of a massive crowd that made it tough for anyone arriving late to get close enough to enjoy. There were so many people camped out in their lawn chairs that the entire area became quite difficult to navigate. The Black Keys are clearly surging in popularity – they played to about 10,000 fans at the 2008 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, but this crowd was at least three times as large. I finally gave up and decided I’d rather check out the next band on the intimate BMI stage.

ACL Black Keys


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Phil Collins: Going Back


RIYL: Rod Stewart and other recent English artists who have put out cover albums

Those of us old enough to recall when Phil Collins was relevant can tell you that back in the ’80s he dominated the music industry with his musicality (he wrote, sang, produced and drummed the shit out of any record he played on), his cheeky humor, and his ability to transform even the slightest melody into a big hit. Before No Jacket Required, one of his most popular solo recordings was a cover of the Supremes, “You Can’t Hurry Love.”  It closes out Side 1 of Collins’ otherwise dark second album, Hello, I Must Be Going, and it’s a reminder, amongst those songs of bitterness and heartbreak, that Collins liked to have fun.

It’s 2010 now, the music industry has changed and Collins’ effectiveness as an artist has waned. Although he won an Academy Award in 1999 for a song in Disney’s animated “Tarzan,” the charm and musicality of the artist who was so influential in the ’80s is long gone. What’s an aging artist to do when they want to regain the public’s attention after so much time has passed? Why, record an album of covers, of course. Better yet, why not go back to the same Motown sound that gave him his first Top Ten hit?

On his new album, Collins painstakingly reproduced the sound of ’60s-era Detroit, even flying in some of the Funk Brothers over to England for sessions. Collins succeeds on this level, as the music on Going Back has the same tight arrangements and the appropriate amount of reverb to make you think these tunes were recorded over 40 years ago. Yes, the music is splendid, but how could it not be? It’s Motown. The problem with this album occurs the moment Collins opens his mouth to sing.

Through the years, Collins’ voice has become more whiny and bitter; he just doesn’t sing with the same joy or soulfulness to pull off an album of some of the greatest songs ever written. Because of this, no matter how great the music or production value, the tracks on Going Back are not fun to listen to at all. What should have been a loose, lively party record has had all of the soul squeezed out of it. Motown without soul is elevator music, and I’d dread being stuck in any elevator playing this album in the background.

Motown was the sound of young America; the music jumped off of turntables and into hearts. Collins’ renditions strain to get through the stereo speakers, like dried Play-Doh being squeezed through a colander. If you really want to hear a contemporary artist performing music that has the soul and sound of ’60s Motown, go out and buy the latest by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. You’ll hear soul music done right, and it’ll cleanse your palate of this dreck. (2010, Atlantic)

Click to buy Going Back from Amazon

  

Mark Ronson: Record Collection


RIYL: Taking ’60s pop and hip hop and throwing them into a blender

As the DKNY poster boy and the It producer for nearly everything out of the UK since 2006 (Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Kaiser Chiefs, and Duran Duran’s upcoming album), Mark Ronson has reached Timbaland levels of productivity of late without suffering from Timbaland levels of overexposure. Granted, much of that is due to his work’s general lack of commercial crossover in the States – of all the pop artists he’s worked with, only his work with Winehouse has cracked the US Top 40 – but chart success or not, it stands to reason that someone with seven producer credits since the beginning of 2009 alone would need a break. Instead, Ronson has decided to release another solo album.

Mark_Ronson_03

Record Collection, Ronson’s third solo album and first since 2007’s all-covers project Version, sounds exactly like his other work; tasteful drum programs (the most organic drum machines you’ll ever hear), ’60s-style pop songwriting, a dash of early ’80s synth pop, some two-step, and lots and lots of guest performers, prodiminantly from the world of hip hop. Most of the time, Ronson matches song to singer (and/or rapper) quite well, particularly the hoppin’ leadoff track (and first single) “Bang Bang Bang” and “Somebody to Love Me,” which sports a haunting vocal from Boy George. Ronson splits vocal duties with Simon Le Bon on the dark wave title track, an amusing stab at the here-today-gone-today nature of the music business and the best song Le Bon’s sung in half a decade (“I made a mint in 1987, now I’m living in my parking space”).

There are times, though, when Record Collection could have benefited from a little less busyness. Did the Nuggets-riffing “The Bike Song” really need a rap break from Spank Rock? It’s great that Ronson loves ’60s pop and hip hop, but the two really have no business hooking up, and “The Bike Song” and “Lost It (In the End”) would have been better off if they hadn’t employed the kitchen sink approach. As it is, Record Collection, is one of the more diverse and hook-laden pop records you’ll hear this year. One wonders, though, if it could have reached instant classic status had Ronson reined things in a bit. (RCA 2010)

Mark Ronson MySpace
Click to buy Record Collection from Amazon

  

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