Friday, December 22, 2006

Hey folks, I'm going on break until after the new year. Hope your holidays are great. Thanks for reading and see you in 2007.

Our final song of the year comes via my favourite animated chipmunks. Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas Don't be Late - The Chipmunks Feat. Dave

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Got Them Higher Calling Blues

Thursday marks a new installment in the blog that will become a regular weekly occurrence. Tune in every Thursday for "Give me Religion...Thursdays." I was going to wait until the new year to start this one but decided to get the jump on things.

The format will be pretty open. Every Thursday we'll post and talk about song(s) that concern themselves with God, religion, Jesus, redemption, etc. This will be open to interpretation obviously, but will definitely include everything from gospel and beyond; serious and not so.
These topics have been explored within their art by many a great (and not so great) songwriter. These songs carry a great weight, not just for the artist himself, but for the listener, who works out their own thoughts alongside the artist. They can be uplifting like many a gospel track, or intensely introspective, as often the search for meaning is.

So check back every Thursday as we walk through the valley. By no means are we an expert in this vein. Have a favourite song that falls somewhere in the category? By all means let me know and we'll try and get a hold of it.

The inaugural song is the old hymn Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling. Written by Will Thompson, a songwriter and businessman from Chicago in 1880. The song is surely a comforting message to those facing death with the refrain of "ye who are weary come home." It acts to dispel the fear that your sins on earth will bar you entrance into heaven. It portrays Jesus as a benevolent and ultimately forgiving God.

I've included a few versions for you. The first is from Johnny Cash. Recorded during the famed Million Dollar Quartet sessions, Elvis Aaron Presly chimes in to give this a loose, boozy vibe.
Softly and Tenderly - Johnny Cash w/Elvis Presley

The next two are pretty straightforward modern gospel takes on the song. One version by Amy Grant and the next by Randy Travis. Like many attempts to modernize some of these hymns, the end result is a bland and homogenized version that fails to break any new ground. That is arguably the case here. My dad really likes both artists so I thought I'd include them for his sake.
Amy Grant - Softly and Tenderly
Randy Travis - Softly and Tenderly

The last version is by Robert Sean Leonard. It is included on the Jeff Tweedy composed soundtrack to the 2001 Ethan Hawke directed film, Chelsea Walls. He also contributes a cover of Wilco's "The Lonely 1." The album is a great moody little thing. Mainly Tweedy instrumentals, it is easily worth it for this haunting and sparse performance by Leonard. It's good to know if that whole acting thing doesn't work out for him he's got a fallback.

Robert Sean Leonard - Softly and Tenderly (new mp3 sendspace link)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jenn Grant

Based on the recommendation of Frank over at chromewaves and looking for something to do I headed down to the Alex P. Keaton on Friday night to check out Jenn Grant. Jenn's been a busy girl, what with wrapping things up at art school and readying her full-length album Orchestra For The Moon for an early '07 release.

The Alex P. can be a hard venue to tackle. If not for the beer selection it would easily pass for a nice quaint cafe. Short on space, the bands are set up right near the main thruway. With the bar in the back corner and the place packed it's not unusual to be playing to a lot of turned backs. More than a few artists have been rattled by this. Thankfully, Ms. Grant perservered and treated a humble but appreciative audience to selections from her upcoming debut.

Bound to garner comparisons to fellow Canadian songwriter's Feist and Sarah Harmer, (probably lazy and more to do with the easy on the eyes appeal shared by all three, although kinda apt) Jenn is just as at home banging out rollicking pop tunes that recall your favourite Beach Boys record as she is letting you into her world with a slice of earnest quiet.

She's wrapped up her dates in Ontario and has headed back east. With the new album slated to come out sometime in the early spring I imagine she might be popping back to the province sooner rather than later. You can keep on top of that over at Endearing Records or at her myspace. She's streaming a couple selections from the upcoming album there so it's worth a visit, or better yet go here and purchase those same songs as a cd single for under three bucks.

If that gets you salivating and the prospect of having to wait till the spring before Jenn can bless those earbuds of yours then why not head over to maple music and pick up her 2005 Ep. You can hear a few cuts from that effort over at radio3 on the CBC. For under $15 you can own the collected commercial output of solo Jenn Grant. Thats much less than you are planning to spend on your irritating step-brother. While nameless step-brother will probably end up hocking your gift to buy drugs and fuel his continuing downward spiral, Jenn will probably use that money to continue making music for your listening pleasure.

I'll leave you with Dreamer. If I'm to be taken as a litmus test you will soon be sing songing this one all day in your head. You may also spontaneously burst into awkward and embarassing flighty dance moves. These are all good things.

Monday, December 18, 2006

So Friday was a relatively big day in the music universe. The newest Arcade Fire track was brought into our lives. Zane Lowe premiered it on his radio show on the BBC. Shortly thereafter it was on the tips of tongues and in the ears of many. The song is called Intervention and is presumably the first single off their new album Neon Bible, which is slated for a March release. The song is a reworked version of a tune they played sparingly live during their Funeral days. The new song sounds much bigger, thanks in part to the haunting church organs which float throughout the track. Also, lyrically the song has changed extensively. While it contains various lines from the original, as well as the chorus, it has been fleshed out and obviously reworked a fair bit.

The earlier version I'm referring to is from a performance the Arcade Fire did for Nic Harcourt's excellent Morning Become Eclectic show on KCRW in Los Angeles back in January of 2005. I've meant to post about Morning Becomes Eclectic before but never got around to it. Nic's show runs daily during the week from 9-12 noon. Bands traveling through the LA area stop in and do an in-studio session for Nic. They play a few songs and chat with Nic; devoting the last 30-40 minutes of his show to them. Many a great artist, established and otherwise have played for Nic. If you go to the site I've hyperlinked above you can check out all of the artists that have been by. Get into the archives and waste away your day. Audio and video for 95% of the shows. You can check out the whole Arcade Fire session referred to here. Intervention comes in around the 25 minute mark. A couple of our favourite sessions: The White Stripes circa Get Behind Me Satan, Beck during the Guero era, and Leslie Feist playing some songs off of Let It Die.

Arcade Fire - Intervention (from Morning Becomes Eclectic) Mp3

Arcade Fire - Intervention (off Neon Bible, radio rip good quality) Mp3

What are your thoughts. Does it live up to the hype? Do you even care? Disappointed, excited, wetting your pants? What other 2007 releases have been marked on your calendar. Here at Country Pinball we're pretty predictable: Modest Mouse with Johnny Marr no less, The Shins (whether or not it changes our life), new LCD Soundsystem... 'cause we're losing our edge and all that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I came across the music of Thao Nguyen this summer and as so often happens, fell in love. And as so often happens thereafter, the sheen wore off and our love was relegated to a folder somewhere in the depths of my PC. Lately I've been coming back to say hello often. I apologized for not calling, you know how hard it is to maintain the intensity of the beginning of the relationship. Now she and I enjoy a reasonable co-existence. I don't take her for granted and she fills my ears with cute pop songs, irresitible harmonies, and the feeling i've been taking one of those thinking walks in the park in the fall.

She released the full-length, Like The Linen, earlier this year. 10 songs about fucking up, finding love, and hoping love doesn't fuck you up. Originally from Virginia, Thao's been spending some time in Seattle with her backing band, The Get Down Stay Down. Hanging out, taking in WNBA games, and recording her followup for the kill rock stars label. She contributed the song "Feet Asleep" to the KRS compilation disc The Sound the Hare Heard which you can purchase here.

Fingers crossed, 2007, will bring us some more Thao. In the meantime, check out her myspace for some new(ish) tracks. She also did a session with Daytrotter which is worth stopping by to hear. As always, support if you dig. Stop on over to insound or Cd Baby to purchase Like The Linen.

Moped Mp3 from Like The Linen
Feet Asleep Mp3

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Brings The News
The Arcade Fire announce some shows in the new year. New record comes out Spring 2007. What's it gonna be: backlash or more adulation. Stay tuned flippant public.
In other news the flu is totally kicking my ass. That explains the lazy post. No music either.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Welcome to the Constantines Broadcasting Corporation.

I intended to post some Constantines b-sides/covers, etc. on Monday, however, I went home to visit my folks sans computer. I'm hoping to make this a quick one as I managed to pick up the flu while away.

First things first, the Cons show was great as usual. They previewed a few new tracks and if anything is to be gleamed from them expect the new record to be a return to their hardcore vibe while maintaining the poppier side that their last album contained. It sounds hard and it sounds good. Neile's life was there too and has a few photo's for you if that is your thing (scroll down just a little bit to see them).

Everyone loves a good cover. The Constantines are no exception. The covers they've tackled on record and live tend to stay pretty true to the original. Definitely not as adventurous as other bands who try to re-imagine the original, but then you won't find yourself thinking "what a fucking shitty cover" either.

The first song finds the Cons covering Elevator To Hell's (Elevator, Elevator Through) Why I Didn't Like August '93. Elevator to Hell was the solo project of Eric's Trip 's Rick White, post Eric breakup. Julie Doiron was in Eric's Trip with Rick. Now Julie plays in Shotgun & Jaybird. Shotgun & Jaybird opened for the Constantines last week. When The Cons encored with this song Julie joined them onstage. I though that was a nice touchl. Go here for a short little bio on Elevator to Hell (and in comic form no less).

Elevator to Hell - Why I Didn't Like August '93 (original)

The next is Raw Youth by Royal City. Royal City were on Three Gut Records, as were The Constantines. Although Royal City are no longer, RC's Jim Guthrie still does shows with the Cons every now and again. Jim contributed his own version of The Constantines' Nighttime/Anytime (it's alright) to Believer Magazine's covers record in their summer 2005 issue. This is also where the Cons Elevator to Hell cover was featured. Jim really takes the song to a new place.


One of my favourite songs in general is Thank You For Sending Me An Angel by the Talking Heads. The Cons covered it as the flipside to their Nighttime/Anytime single. Once again they don't stray too far from the original, but damn if it ain't beautiful nonetheless.

As mentioned in the previous post, the band went and did a split with The Unintended where each band covered four songs by their favourite artist. The Cons chose Neil Young. Here's their take on Fuckin' Up off of Neil's excellent Ragged Glory (1990).

The last track is a live cover of The Ramones' Teenage Lobotomy courtesy of "the Ramonestantines." The quality is not the greatest so I apologize ahead of time. Still passable though and worth a listen.

That's it for today. 12 tracks or so; I suppose I over compensated for taking the majority of the week off. It hasn't stopped snowing since yesterday. It is just about up to my hips in some parts. I'm gonna go take a walk in that great big winter wonderland. See you Monday.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Everyone has two favourite bands/artists. The first is their all-time favourite. It can be contemporary, such as arguably the world's biggest Coldplay, or else it tends to be some universally recognized band of extreme awesomeness, say, The Beatles or Bob Dylan. The second tends to be a (relatively) local band. They play one of your favourite haunts regularly enough that you get your dose often. You might pass them in the street on your way to work atleast once a week. They put out excellent records and kill live. Your connection with them is pretty deep due to their immediacy to you. You see them grow and develop and hopefully see them achieve the level of success that you feel their talent accords.

If I were asked band # 1 I'm sure I'd emphatically state Dylan. Band #2, equally emphatic, would be The Constantines. The Cons include Bry Webb(vocals), Steve Lambke(guitar), Dallas Wehrle(bass), Wil Kidman(keyboard), and Doug Macgregor(drums). They found each other in the hardcore scene of London/Kitchener-Waterloo/Guelph. Part of the Three Gut Records clan, they inevitably settled in Toronto. Under their belt are three albums of intensely high calibre, '01's self-titled, '03's Shine A Light, and '05's Tournament of Hearts. From the beginning to now, they've graduated from their Fugazi reminiscent beginnings to a more emblematic Neil Young.

They are still plagued with the "Springsteen meets Fugazi" comparisons. Their latest album drew the Neil comparisons which I think is apt(kinda). Both have lyrics that are incredibly poetic. Both are at home reaching deep within themslelves to come up with a song that hits at the heart. Both can also knock out vicious rockers that break in the front door of your mouth and leave you gasping. It is no surprise that the Cons started a Neil Young cover band a few years back called Horsey Craze. They even released a split record with the indie rock "supergroup" The Unintended (Travis and Dallas Good of the Sadies, Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, and Rick White of Eric's Trip and later, Elevator) . The Constantines/Horsey craze contributed four Neil Young covers with the Unintended doing four Gordon Lightfoot songs. Music critics (and bloggers) are lazy. The Neil Young (and Fugazi and Bruce Springsteen before this) references are easy ones. While they may share the same bolt of cloth, the Cons are very much their own band. At war with the heart, they are brilliantly sincere. "Dont talk to me about simple things," Webb sings, "there are no such things."

The Constantines play tonight at Call the Office. The rest of their dates are as follows:

December 1 - Lee's Palace, Toronto, ON w/ Shotgun and Jaybird & Lullabye Arkestra
December 2 - Lee's Palace, Toronto, ON Canada Care benefit w/ Jason Collett
December 2 - Underground, Hamilton, ON w/ Shotgun and Jaybird & Lullabye Arkestra
December 8 - Townehouse Tavern, Sudbury, ON w/ The Creeping Nobodies
December 9 - Ford Plant, Brantford, ON w/ The Creeping Nobodies
January 29 - Memorial Centre, Peterborough, ON support for the Tragically Hip
January 31 - General Motors, Oshawa, On support for the Tragically Hip
Febuary 2 - Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, ON support for the Tragically Hip

I love you all with a big heart...

From self-titled
Saint You
Young Offenders

From Shine A Light
Tank Commander (hung up in a warehouse town)

From Tournament of Hearts
Draw Us Lines
Good Nurse