Monthly Archives: September 2011

Nick Lowe

The Old Magic

What the Hell Just Happened?!? Week: Day 3 — Nick Lowe

Sometimes music feels like a enormous game of connect the dots — one you can play for your entire life and never finish. Nick Lowe’s solo-acoustic opening set before Sunday’s Wilco show at Merriweather Post Pavilion gave me the chance to connect a few dots that I didn’t even know were close to one another, and I’m incredibly glad I was there to see it. Before Wilco released their “I Might” single, the first from their new album The Whole Love, I didn’t know much about Nick Lowe. When I heard the single’s b-side, a cover of Lowe’s “I Love My Label,” I asked my father-in-law about its author and found out about Rockpile, the influential band Lowe fronted alongside Dave Edmunds. I enjoyed what I heard, and was excited when I found out Lowe would be opening for Wilco. But the connection that really blew my mind wasn’t made until halfway though Sunday’s outstanding opening set, when I realized he was playing Elvis Costello’s “Alison.” It was a great “Hey, I know this song!!!” moment. What I didn’t know was that Lowe produced the song, and that he’s credited with writing another tune made famous by Costello, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding,” which we also got to hear on Sunday. Lowe’s Wikipedia page is full of these crazy connections, like how he married (and divorced) Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter, but Lowe and Cash remained friends and recorded together and oh god Wikipedia steals so much of my time. But that’s one of my favorite things about music — the dots are just waiting to be connected, and there’s no right or wrong way to do so. Preview Lowe’s new offering, The Old Magic, below and grab the album from iTunes here.

Nick Lowe — The Old Magic

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Reptar

Oblangle Fizz Y'all

What the Hell Just Happened?!? Week: Day 2 — Reptar

I’ve written before about how an unfamiliar song can hit you just right, forming an instant connection. It’s a great feeling. Now take that feeling, multiply it by 1,500 people, add a healthy dose of personal space violation and what do you get? Reptar! The Athens, GA four-piece was the first of three bands to perform before a jam-packed, early-arriving, capacity crowd at the National in Richmond, VA on Friday night, but if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought they were headlining. Sure, the attendees were no doubt pumped up to see the night’s main attraction, Foster the People. Nonetheless, Reptar elicited a remarkably strong response for an opener with just one EP to its name. What’s even more remarkable is that, to my knowledge, their set included just one song — the wonderfully layered and bouncy “Phonetics” — of the five featured on their EP. (By the way… the name of this EP? Oblangle Fizz, Y’all. I love it. Doesn’t Oblangle Fizz, Y’all sound like it should be the title of an Outkast album? Can’t you hear someone in a record store saying, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was dope, but Oblangle Fizz, Y’all is my JAM!” And isn’t it a little weird that Reptar hails from Athens, just down the road from Outkast’s Atlanta? Hmmmmmmm…) Testing new material when you’re the first of two opening acts strikes me as ballsy, and that ballsiness was rewarded handsomely, as one new song after another was greeted with cheers, dancing and percussive clapping. In a word, they resonated. It seemed like so many of us were having that rare instant-connection moment, which made for a first impression I will not soon forget. You can preview the first four tracks of Oblangle Fizz, Y’all here, listen to “Phonetics” below, and click here to snag the EP from iTunes.

Reptar — “Phonetics

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Thank you!!!

When I realized I was approaching my 100th You Hear That post, it took me approximately .0382 milliseconds to decide what I wanted to say and what song could help me say it. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to all the amazing people who have supported this blog since I started writing it in March. Whether you have taken time out of your day to read a post, submit a comment, retweet a link, make a suggestion, read a draft (I’m looking at you, Mrs. YHT), write a guest post or include me in your blogroll, I want you to know that these gestures brighten my day tremendously and breathe life into a venture that brings me an immeasurable amount of joy. Talking about music is one of my favorite things in the entire universe, and, to paraphrase Sly Stone, you all let me be myself day after day by entertaining my reactions, recommendations and (often way-over-the-top) enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see what the next hundred posts will bring, and I sincerely hope you’ll continue reading and sharing your thoughts as we find out together. Before going any further, I have a confession to make about “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” My relationship with the song didn’t start with Sly and the Family Stone’s original version — it began when Dave Matthews and Friends (which featured Trey Anastasio and Tim Reynolds on dueling/feuding lead guitars) performed an 18-minute cover version to close their headlining set at Bonnaroo in 2004. Right now you may be saying to yourself, “Geez, 18 minutes? That seems excessive…” Well, you’d be right, and I’m pretty sure Dave Matthews would agree with you. Neither Anastasio nor Reynolds would let the other get the last guitar solo word, and from where I was standing (admittedly, about 100 yards away), it looked like Matthews started shouting at Reynolds to get him to stop playing his instrument. Good times! I hope you enjoy Sly’s (considerably shorter) version above, and thank you thank you thank you falettinme be mice elf. Agin.

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Kyle Andrews

Robot Learn Love

What the Hell Just Happened?!? Week: Day 1 — Kyle Andrews

Wow. What the hell just happened?!? Let’s see… Seven bands. Five days. Three venues. Two states. One blown mind. My head actually exploded, and it’s going to take a full week to put it back together, so I hope you’ll grab a glue stick and join me as I collect the pieces. I already shared my experience from Wednesday’s headlining Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr set, but I haven’t yet mentioned their dynamite opening act, Kyle Andrews. The past five days have been an embarrassment of opening act riches, and I know I’ve said it once, but I’ll keep saying it until the Statue of Liberty is buried in sand and the apes won’t let us use the interweb anymore — heading to concerts early is one of the best ways to discover new music. Fortunately, my wife and I were way early to Wednesday’s show, and we were ready when Mr. Andrews hit the stage with his artful marriage of efficient pop songcraft and upbeat synth. Andrews’ latest album, Robot Learn Love, sets out to explore the relationship people have with the machines that we use on a daily basis, and I enjoyed the results, both in the car on the way to the Southern and in person once we were there. We were even treated to a guest appearance by Dale Jr Jr on Andrews’ “Heart U 4 Ever” — fitting, given that the Detroit duo recently remixed the song. Check out the original and the remix below, buy Robot Learn Love here, and check back for another trip to the awesome opening act buffet!

Kyle Andrews — “Heart U 4 Ever

Kyle Andrews — “Heart U 4 Ever (Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr remix)

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The Trillions

I have to begin this post by saying thank you to RVA Magazine, because the RVA Music Festival has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving. Not only did I have an incredible time on Sunday, September 11, walking between the two main stages, enjoying some of Richmond’s best home-grown music, I also walked away with a gluttonous haul of merch. If you’re a regular reader of You Hear That, you may already know about my raging merch addiction. True to form, I did my fair share of business at the merch tables at the RVA Music Fest, and even though I’m enjoying all of the spoils, I’m a bit concerned, because The Trillions are threatening to claim squatter’s rights to my car’s CD player. I’ve been listening to an advance copy of their new full-length album ever since I bought it at the festival. I can’t stop. The truth is that it’s not up to me any more, because some of the songs on the still-unnamed album are solidly stuck in my head, underpinning what might be the band’s greatest achievement: writing guitar lines, lyrics and melodies that your brain begs to hear again. From the sweeping chorus of “Win Some Lose Some” to the descending notes that open, and reappear in, “Calm Down” to the fact that saying the words “You Gotta Be Kidding Me” instantly makes the song start playing in my mind (I’m completely serious. It’s like saying “Beetlejuice” three times… Michael Keaton WILL show up), there are so many moments for which “catchy” is not a strong enough word. Add to these moments an abundance of driving rhythms, an almost supernatural aptitude for choosing guitar sounds that enhance the notes they’re expressing and an exceedingly beautiful song in “What, When, Where,” and you have a sophisticated and rewarding album that’s extremely hard to put down. Check out their performance of “Calm Down” from the RVA Music Fest below, and click here to grab your advance copy of their new album.

The Trillions — “Calm Down (live at the RVA Music Fest)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr

“Have you seen ’em live?” is a question that’s getting more and more difficult to answer. On one level, it’s a basic yes or no question about whether you’ve dragged your physical being out to a music venue to see a band perform. Why complicate something so simple? Well, because chances are, if you want to find out what a band’s live performance is like, you can do so right this very second by going to YouTube. Of course YouTube isn’t the same as being there yourself, with the lights a-flashin’, bass a-thumpin’ and that tall guy inevitably swooping in to stand in your line of sight, but the interweb does make it possible to see and hear how the potential energy of studio tracks are transformed into kinetic energy onstage. This transformation is particularly intriguing for bands that use samples in the studio, as Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr does. That’s why I was so excited when I saw this video of “Nothing But Our Love” from their recent set at the Austin City Limits festival. The song bursts out of its studio seams with a spectacular final sequence, adding aggressive dashes of spice to a dish that previously thrived on its sweetness. With this clip in the back of my mind, I gleefully dragged my physical being to the Southern in Charlottesville, VA last night to get the full, lights-bass-tall-guy, Jr Jr experience. It was an incredible show of talent, showmanship, jackets (my enjoyment of their costumes and marketing knows no bounds) and production savvy. It’s no surprise that these two are involved in the remix community — onstage and off they make one smart musical decision after another, carefully managing instrumentation, samples and harmonies to maximize the impact of each song. We were treated to a booming version of “We Almost Lost Detroit,” an extremely catchy new tune and, as I’d hoped, the evolutionary ending to “Nothing But Our Love.” Did already having seen this ending on YouTube spoil the moment? Not even a little. It was glorious. Check out the ACL performance above, the studio version below, and buy their album It’s A Corporate World here.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr — “Nothing But Our Love

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Fionn Regan

The End of History

Everyone loves a good mix CD. Just as their tape-based ancestors did, mix CDs let you discover new artists, revisit old favorites and revel in anticipation as you wait to find out what the next track will bring (my wife grew up in a household where you weren’t even allowed to glance at the hand-written track listing until you’d heard the CD all the way through once). Plus, there’s no better window into the soul than what the mix maker chooses to include [Rob Gordon nods in agreement]. So what if you had to make a mix CD to give to… wait for it… the Queen of England AND President Barack Obama? What would you put on that bad boy? Well, if you’re the Irish Association of Songwriters, Composers & Authors working in association with First Music Contact and Culture Ireland, you’d put a little Fionn Regan on there! I first learned about Regan when TwentyFourBit, one of my favorite music blogs in the whole world, posted a link to an outdoorsy solo performance of the title track of his new album, 100 Acres of Sycamore. I was struck right away by how he made difficult things — intricate finger-picking, lyrics rich in metaphor, sitting against a tree in what appear to be some pretty tight pants — seem so effortless. Moments afterward, Wikipedia told me about how the aforementioned Irish cultural organizations included Regan’s song “Put A Penny In The Slot” on a compilation album that was designed to give “the gift of Irish music” to Her Royal Highness and the Barackstar when they each visited Ireland earlier this year. A single listen was enough for me to hear why this song and its writer were placed in such a venerated position. His lyrics are remarkable not just for their insight but because they take small pictures with big meaning, zooming in on detail in a most beautiful and arresting way. Listen to “Put A Penny In The Slot” below to see what I mean, and buy his album The End of History here. And if you’d like to hear what else was rocking the Air Force One sound system on the way back from Ireland, you can check out the rest of the IASCA mix here.

Fionn Regan — “Put A Penny In The Slot

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