Tunesday: Pavement

ticketstubFor my second installment of Tunesday, I thought I’d do a little reminiscing and highlight my single most favorite band of the ’90s, Pavement. Certainly it’s always difficult to say “favorite band”, or “favorite song”. Heck, its often difficult for me to say “top ten…”, but I can honestly say that Pavement is my favorite band from that time, and is still a band that gets heavy rotation.

I discovered Pavement in the fall of ‘92. Discovered probably isn’t the best characterization, as I didn’t know who they were when I saw their name as the opening act for the incredible lineup of Mudhoney, Sonic Youth and Primus (it’s amazing what you can find with a Google search. The ticket stub, complete with the relatively cheap price of $17.60 is from that show). The show was at the legendary open air amphitheater Red Rocks. I had moved to Denver that spring, and this was my first visit to the venue. I was only familiar with Red Rocks from the classic U2 concert video, Under a Blood Red Sky, but all of my friends in Denver spoke of it with reverence. I was a huge fan of both Mudhoney and Sonic Youth (still am), and though not a zealot in regards to Primus like some, I had seen them earlier that year in a small club in Tampa and knew they’d be a nice way to end the evening and was really looking forward to the show.

Anyway, Pavement were setting up to open the show, and they really looked like a bunch of roadies who were a pick up band to just warm up the crowd. A bunch of young guys, with this considerably older drummer who came out, stood on his stool, and in one fell swoop, dropped to a seated position and kicked off the first song. It was love at first note.

Pavement is now considered one of the trailblazers of the lo-fi sound, along with bands like Sebadoh and the lesser known outfit Slint. Often coming across as dissonant and harmonic at the same time, with intelligent, sometimes cryptic lyrics, their dynamic sound is infectious. (And that’s where I stop trying to sound like a music writer. )

Pavement broke up somewhere around the fall of ‘99, but not before putting out 5 albums, and a slew of EPs, including my favorite of all their recordings, Watery, Domestic. As far as must haves, their first two full length albums, Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain should be in every fan of ’90s, American indie rock library. Of the last 3, it’s decidedly split amongst fans which were better, with me being in the Brighten the Corners camp.

Steve Malkmus continues to record and perform with his band the Jicks, and fellow guitarist Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg has recorded a couple of albums with the band Preston School of Industry. I quite enjoy Monsoon, particularly the track Caught in the Rain.

I stumbled onto an interview recently with Malkmus in which he was asked about the possibility of a Pavement reunion, and he seemed to imply the door was open. I’m not sure they’d be able to recapture the magic, or if it would just be a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but either way, I’d be one of the first in line to see it.

Pavement recorded all of their albums with the label Matador Records, and are all available, along with expanded re-releases of several of their albums at emusic.com. If you’d like an invite to emusic for a trial membership and 50 free downloads (you’ll have to give a CC#, but they don’t charge until after the first month), leave a comment with the email address you’d like it sent to, and I”ll send one your way. Shameless confession – you can do a trial membership without the invite from me, but if you were to sign up with emusic after the trial via invite, I’d get a 50 song credit.

Tunesday: The Gourds

Today I bring the first installment of an idea I had, Tunesday. Get it, Tuesday + tunes = Tunesday? OK, not the most ingenious idea I’ve ever had, but since getting my iPhone, I’ve been listening to a lot more music since it’s always with me. And subsequently, I thought it’d be nice to feature some of my favorite bands, as a nice little break for anyone who wanders through, or follows me on Twitter.

First up in the installment is The Gourds. One of my all time favorite bands, especially live, I thought it would be appropriate to feature them as they’ve got a new album out, Haymaker!.

The Gourds hail from Austin, TX, and for the casual listener, might characterize them as country, however their sound is definitely more than that, despite the types of instruments they play. (Ironically enough, I’ve chosen an in store performance of a new track, Country Love to feature from YouTube).

I would simply characterize their sound as “feel good”, albeit with a definite Alt-Country/Americana bend.

I was first turned onto the Gourds about 10 years ago by my friend Sandy. Soon there after, I found a copy of their second album, Stadium Blitzer in a thrift store of all places, but it wasn’t until she started working at Munich Records and gave me a copy of Bolsa de Agua that I really saw the light. I must have played that album straight through 5 times that first night. Hallelujah Shine is still one of my all time favorite songs.

Since then, through the beauty of Emusic and Munich Records, I’ve been able to collect all of their albums, and each has been a treat to listen to. That said, their aforementioned release, Haymaker! is their best since Bolsa de Agua in my opinion.

If you’d like a invite to emusic for a trial membership and 50 free downloads (you’ll have to give a CC#, but they don’t charge until after the first month), leave a comment with the email address you’d like it sent to, and I”ll send one your way. Shameless confession – you can do a trial membership without the invite from me, but if you were to sign up with emusic after the trial via invite, I’d get a 50 song credit.

Favorite Album of 2008: The Gaslight Anthem’s The ’59 Sound

The '59 SoundFirst, let me reiterate, it’s my favorite album of 2008, not a declaration that’s the best album of the year. From the opening crackles of the old skool sound of a needle on vinyl on Great Expectations to the melancholy anthem-esque The Backseat, The ‘59 Sound is just a great listen all the way through.

The album is ripe with all the things I turn to in the music I listen to regularly—whiskey and cigarette tinged vocals, driving bass lines, and jangly guitar riffs. The subject of the lyrics tend to revolve around mortality, regret, and lost loves, without ever sounding like there’s no chance for redemption.

But every slow mans song
Is a night I’d like to spend with you
Just twisting the night away

From Cassanova, Baby!

Critics of the Jersey based band have sighted the obvious Springsteen influences (think Nebraska era Springsteen, not Born in the U.S.A), which to me isn’t a bad thing. However, they also have a punk tinged sensibility ala another band that’s still in heavy rotation in my music players, Lucero. I lament having missed The Gaslight Anthem this fall when they passed through town, however, they are playing the Langerado Festival this year, which has a line up that reads like my 5 star ratings in iTunes. Ryan Adams, Lucero, The Gaslight Anthem, The Pogues, Bad Brains, the list goes on. I certainly hope to catch them in a club on their way to or from the festival, as that’s really the environment I think they’d be best. Packed, sweaty, and bourbon fueled.

Several other albums were on my list of faves for ‘08. Second place most certainly would go to The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive if for nothing other than the last track, Slapped Actress. However, the whole album simply rocks. Also on the short list would be the Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration Listen Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

Other highlights for 2008 were Cat Power’s Jukebox, Drive by Trucker’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, Okkervil River’s Stand In, Vampire Weekend’s Vampire Weekend, and Deerhunter’s Microcastle, though that last one was only recently released, and I’ve not listened to it a lot yet, but my initial thoughts are it’s a nice change of pace from my regular listening styles.

Any indie albums at the top of your list for 2008 I should check out? I’m always looking to discover new music (especially indie bands I can get from emusic).

Pimping Emusic Again

I just can’t say enough about this site, and have been that way for the 5 on and off years I’ve been using it. I’ve downloaded everything from Charlie Parker to the Cows. Some of the recent stuff I’ve downloaded includes Tres Chicas, Minus the Bear, and some old stuff including fIREHOSE’s if’n.
So if you are interested in a free trial -50 downloads (will require credit card, but won’t be charged unless you don’t cancel after month), and want to help me get some free downloads (if you like the service and keep it after the month trial, I get 50 downloads myself), leave a comment or use my Contact Page. I’ll send you the special link that will help me get the hook up too.