American Aquarium

Small Town Hymns

Are you ready to play a kickass game of connect the dots? Since today’s edition largely takes place in the south, we’ll call it, affectionately of course, co-redneck-t the dots. I really think you’re going to like what we find, so let’s get started with the fine gents of Raleigh, North Carolina-based American Aquarium, who, on Friday at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, country-rocked their way through an amazing set opening for Jason Isbell, who hails from northern Alabama, just like former Drive-By Truckers bandmate Patterson Hood, whose father, David Hood, was the bass player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as “the Swampers” — ya know, “They’ve been known to pick a song or two”), the legendary band that recorded with some of music’s most recognizable names, like Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, John Prine and many, many more, all of whom, in order to record with the Swampers, had to to make pilgrimages to one of two studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which is where American Aquarium just finished recording their new album, which was produced and recorded with the help of Jason Isbell, with additional contributions from the lovely Amanda Shires, Isbell’s girlfriend, who appeared on stage with both Isbell and American Aquarium last Friday night at the Jefferson Theater. Whew. Crazy, eh? And that run-on sentence doesn’t begin to cover how entertaining American Aquarium’s set was (a real-life love-at-first-listen experience) or the remarkable impact that Muscle Shoals has had on popular music. A few weeks back, I wrote about the idea of musical centers of energy, and Muscle Shoals most assuredly qualifies. Though the town’s population is just 13,000 or so, the area still has a tremendous amount of musical history. So many canonical musicians have been drawn to Muscle Shoals, and it’s wild to think about how the Swampers insisted on recording on their own turf. And Grammy wins for albums like the Black Keys’ Brothers go to show that the town maintains that gravitational pull to this day. Judging by the songs I heard at the Jefferson Theater, American Aquarium’s upcoming album is sure to be a hit as well, so to whet your appetite, I’m posting “Reidsville,” a song from their 2010 album Small Town Hymns that tells the story of a southern town with a very different legacy than that of Muscle Shoals. Listen below and snag  the album on iTunes here.

American Aquarium — “Reidsville

Black Keys

Us music fans are a fickle bunch, aren’t we? We love having gigs and gigs of tunes, but we’re not so fond of paying for them. Even though 10-buck-a-month streaming music services like Spotify are on the rise and are a step in the right direction, nothing fattens up a royalty check like consumers actually buying an album, be that a CD, record or download from an online store like iTunes. Well some bands aren’t taking the fight lying down. As record sales decline, we’re seeing some wildly creative promotions associated with album releases, and I salute the bands behind them. Take Wilco for example, who entered everyone who preordered their new album, The Whole Love, into a weekly giveaway contest, where one of the prizes was a Wilco-themed fixed-gear bicycle (insert your own “I’m a Wheel” joke here). Or take the Flaming Lips, who recently released music on a USB drive that was buried inside a 7-pound gummy skull (honestly, this is among the tamest of Wayne Coyne’s recent experiments with packaging). Or St. Vincent, who turned the release of the first single from her new album, Strange Mercy, into an interactive event, inviting fans to tweet the hashtag “#strangemercy” and posting the song to her website once enough people did. Well I have a new favorite in the world of viral marketing: The Black Keys. The purveyors of one of last year’s best albums in Brothers have just announced their new album, El Camino, and they’ve enlisted  the help of Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show with Bob and David and Breaking Bad fame in promoting it. In the video above, Odenkirk plays a used car salesman who is trying to sell a crappy van identical to the one that, despite its not actually being an El Camino, graces the upcoming album’s cover, but he can’t seem to get a decent take of the commercial he’s shooting. It’s a great clip, especially if you’re familiar with the actor’s body of work, or if you’re super depressed because Breaking Bad just ended and you need something, ANYTHING that’ll chase away the withdrawal symptoms for a spell. Ya know, whichever. Check it out above, listen to “Psychotic Girl” from their previous album below, buy Brothers here and start getting excited for December 6, when El Camino rolls into a record store near you.

The Black Keys — “Psychotic Girl