Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'music' category

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Brain Dump, post-Memorial Day Edition I wonder what effect — if any — Billy Graham’s Crusades and ministry had on the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council. Ecumenicism is a major part of Vatican II and was one of Graham’s hallmarks.

Mixing equal parts Mike’s Hard Lemonade™ and regular lemonade should yield Mike’s Somewhat Firm Yet Pliable Lemonade™. Likewise, equal parts Mike’s Hard™ and, say, grain alcohol, should yield Mike’s Extremely Difficult™.

Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cloudy” may not be Paul Simon’s best song, but the arrangement is top-notch. If there is ever a Baroque-pop revival, “Cloudy” should serve as the blueprint.

Jens Meiert is delving deeper into the increasing pedantry that is long-term HTML/CSS maintenance.

Politician A from Political Party X just did [something]! If instead, Politician B from Political Party Y had just done [something], then media and public reaction would be totally different. Double standard! (wash, rinse, and repeat)

(\s\?[^>]|[^< ]\?\w|\?\s(?-i:[a-z])|“|”|’|?|?|?|—| \s|\s |(?-i:the) FAA(?!\s(?-i:[A-Z<]))|(?<!<cf.*)&(\s|(?!(\w{2,5}|#\d{2,5});)))

I’ve decided that I thoroughly enjoy swimming at the beach. Not just wading up to my knees like a little girl but actually swimming.

Friday, 24 April 2009


One of the benefits of having a sprawling collection of CDs and records is that I’ve found myself rediscovering albums and songs that had long been lost in the milieu. If I were to spend, for instance, one hour a day listening to my collection, I could go over three and a half years and never play the same disc or record twice. So naturally, albums get lost in the shuffle. A few have never gotten even as much as a cursory spin.

Medium Image Certain events tend to spark rediscoveries: magazine articles, books, random radio commentary and NPR music “filler” inserts, conversation, even music itself. At the Travis concert last night, the opening band, The Republic Tigers, did a cover version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”. Needless to say, they absolutely nailed it. For a fleeting moment, Kenn Jankowski’s garish falsetto, Marc Pepperman’s bass (with its disco chord progressions) and Adam McGill’s punchy New Wave guitar elevated Blondie to genius level. As a result, this weekend, I will probably dig out my old Blondie LPs (starting with Parallel Lines) — albums I most likely haven’t played in over a decade.

Another recent example involves English dream-pop group The Sundays and, to a lesser extent, Irish band The Cranberries. Somehow, through the course of events, I found myself the owner of two Sundays albums, despite not having a particular reason to purchase them. I had a vague impression that their sound was similar to the Cranberries, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I had held onto those albums for years, without really playing them. They just sort of sat there. Recently, though, I happened to play them and enjoyed them immensely. It was as if, when I originally purchased the albums, I wasn’t yet “ready.” Now, after having listened to them again recently, the albums hold much more value to me.

It’s the same feeling one gets upon learning that a long-held stock is suddenly now paying a handsome dividend. The investments that I made ten years ago are just now paying off. And I can’t wait to find out what other treasures are hiding in my living room.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Scottish one-two-three punch

Ahead of Travis’ appearance at the 9:30 Club later this evening, I thought I’d highlight a few particularly impressive Scottish bands that get less attention than they deserve.

The Trash Can Sinatras

Medium Image Initially, the name may be a little off-putting, as it’s probably more fitting for a New York-based No-Wave band than a Scottish indie pop outfit. TCS is the sonic equivalent of an accurately distilled vodka: the distractions have been left behind, but you’re still getting the real deal. The band was first brought to my attention when I heard “Freetime” on the college-rock station KEXP. Released in 2004, “Freetime” is from the album Weightlifting — the album represented a Renaissance of sorts for the band, as it was their first major release in over eight years.

Lately, they’ve been having trouble securing concert venues in the US. Adding insult to injury, their latest release, In the Music, apparently doesn’t even have a US distributor. Rumor has it that Universal Music will soon be reissuing their entire catalog, but I’ll have to see it to believe it. Best of luck to the Trash Can Sinatras.

Belle and Sebastian

For reasons unknown, I’m not a huge fan of Belle and Sebastian, and own none of their albums. On paper, I should be enthusiastically embracing the band. They have the perfect mix of non-abrasive indie pop/twee pop, Baroque sensibilities, retro arrangements, intricate and hooky chord changes, and quirky lyrics. As an added bonus, lead singer Stuart Murdoch happens to be a Christian and is a long-time friend of Fran Healy, leader of our next band, Travis:


Medium Image I first saw Travis in 2000 when they opened for Oasis. At the time, they were an up-and-coming band in the US and expectations were high. While my ex and I attended the concert because of her desire to hear Oasis, I read up on Travis beforehand; one particular reviewer said, in effect, that Travis, despite not being the headline band, were technically better. Oasis may or may not have been upstaged that night by the “lowly” Travis, but their performance did indeed leave quite the impression. During the past decade, it’s been a pleasure to slowly discover more and more about the band; in fact, I feel that I’ve even gotten a bit into Fran Healy’s psyche. Or at least I like to think I have.

Honorable mention: Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura are often likened to a female version of Belle and Sebastian — I don’t think that’s an unfair comparison. They are thoroughly retro in their application of twee pop and sound mesmerizing.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Streaming audio for the masses

While the sad state of radio held a mostly bleak outlook on traditional radio formats, this post provides some examples of where to turn for quality streaming audio.

As many may know, I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer monitor. By choice. When I’m not shuffling through my ever-burgeoning song file collection (currently at 11,400+) or listing to talk shows, I’m usually tuned in to one of the following stations:

  • KEXPKEXP — a non-commercial station from Seattle. KEXP has had more influence over my musical tastes and buying habits over the past decade than any other source. While their orientation is college rock/indie pop/indie rock, they’ve been know to throw a few curve balls. I’ve been contributing financially on a regular basis — at first with pledges, and more recently through their Amazon referral link. Aside: purchasing items at Amazon through an organization’s referral link is a passive and easy way to donate to a favorite cause. Highly recommended.
  • Luxuria Music — self-described as Exotica, Lounge, Space Age Bachelor Pad, Bossa, Soft-Psych, Go-Go, Latin Jazz, Sophisticated Rock and Surf. Often, I will find myself chuckling as I hear an impossibly cheesy MOR cover-version of a well-known oldie — or perhaps some kitschy French or eastern European pop music. Luxuria always leaves me in a good mood. The station almost folded a couple of years ago, so I’m thankful that they’re still around. Another station to which I’ve contributed financially.
  • Radio Paradise — to someone with atypical tastes in music, Radio Paradise may at first come across as somewhat bland but still satisfying. To others with more mainstream tastes, the station will introduce them to established artists that they may have heard of, but haven’t actually listened to. And their Listen page is simply awe-inspiring in its breadth. And you won’t hear a single commercial.
  • WFMU — a freeform non-commercial station from New Jersey. While certain DJs tend to talk a bit too much for my tastes, the musical payoff is more than worth it.
  • dublab — while the name may suggest reggae and turntablism, that genre is only a small part of what dublab plays. Like WFMU, dublab is known for obscure, avant garde, and unclassifiable “material”, but also for lost 1960s/1970s soul gems, hip hop, indie folk, or just about whatever the DJs feel like throwing at us. I never really know what’s going on at dublab. And there’s this one DJ who always sounds as if he’s just moments away from a full-fledged ether high.
  • WSM — the esteemed country station. Unfortunately, WSM recently redesigned their site; it’s now all but inaccessible. Every link off the home page opens a new window. It’s just … bad. It’s so bad that I’ve linked to their Wikipedia entry to spare you the horror. How to listen? Even though they have a live stream, I’d say your best bet is to get close enough to Brentwood, TN and then tune your radio to 650AM. Skip most of the pop country during the day, but listen to Eddie Stubbs in the evenings. Ok, I just realized that this bullet point could have been just for Eddie Stubbs.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009


I’m becoming more and more of a snob every day. (Well, at least according to Annie.) I’d rather call it “discriminating taste” — or in its simplest form, just a preference for one thing over another.

  • I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated oils (margarine), other “unnatural” fats, and needlessly processed food products with unpronounceable ingredients. Instead, I purchase “real”, “natural”, or “organic” whenever possible. I don’t mind paying a bit more for quality. For that, I am a food snob.
  • I won’t drink Merlot, Rosé (White Zinfandel), or wine that has been “embellished”. For that, I am a wine snob.
  • I am through with North American lagers. Instead, my gaze is fixed upon Ireland (Guinness) and Belgium (Chimay). For that, I am a beer snob.
  • I consume an enormous quantity of music, much of it esoteric. I typically get blank stares or polite nods when I try to describe my tastes to people. I value my vinyl records just as much as my CDs. I’m not the kind of music snob who categorizes his collection as classical, jazz, and “other”, but I am a snob nonetheless.
  • While my video collection is comparatively more mainstream than my music collection, certain “guidelines” still apply: Since the beginning of 2008, I have completely stopped purchasing DVDs and have moved on (without any hiccups) to Blu-ray. I’ve even been replacing my old DVDs with their Blu-ray versions. I will never stretch or crop the picture. I prefer to watch a film in its original, theatrical aspect ratio, whether that be 1.33:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, or any other variation. I cannot be happier that “Full-screen” DVDs are finally being phased out. I am frustrated with people who just don’t get it, especially those with capable widescreen televisions. For that, I am a film and video snob. In this regard, the label of snob may be warranted.
  • My requirements for church are becoming more and more specialized. While I’ve always been Catholic, my adherence to the “weekly requirement” hasn’t always been strict. And by that, I mean that, a few times a year, I would attend a non-Catholic church service and count that as my “weekly”. Never again. It’s even gotten to the point where I’m hesitant to attend a Novus Ordo Mass — especially if it’s in the vernacular; I need to hear the old Mass in Latin. For that, I am a church snob.
  • I’m a stickler for proper grammar usage — a great deal of my Wikipedia edits involve grammar corrections or diction in some form or another. I’ve corrected people in everyday conversation: I remember telling someone once that they had “split the infinitive.” Lately, I’ve been surprised at the frequency at which people use the word “less” when they really mean “fewer.” It boggles the mind. I have strong preferences toward the increased usage of both the serial comma and the subjunctive mood. For that, I am a grammar snob.

In addition, Annie says that I’m a snob in the following categories: cars, clothes, computers, paper shredders, razors, lamps, light bulbs, and books. That’s right. I’m officially a paper-shredder snob.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The sad state of radio

Medium Image It’s unfortunate that artists — such as Van Morrison or Otis Redding — have been reduced to three-minute “career-defining” songs. I’m thinking about “Brown Eyed Girl” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”, respectively. You’d think that Morrison and Redding recorded only one song a piece, if radio play is any indication. Even obvious alternate tracks, such as “Domino” or, say, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” are rarely heard. In fact, I’ve never heard “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” on the radio. Ever.

I can certainly provide similar examples for other artists that have been given short shrift. Even mainstream artists with substantial back catalogs — such as Eagles, The Doors, or even U2 or The Rolling Stones — are reduced to an EP’s worth of sound, and played over and over.

Stations such as the Jack FM brand tried to buck that trend, with playlists that in many cases doubled the number of songs that a traditional radio station would have. Their strategy was to recapture an audience that they were losing to the iPod Shuffle crowd. The eclecticism of their mix is an indication that eclecticism itself is the rule, rather than the exception. Jack FM’s intentions are noble, but their “expanded” playlist is still paltry compared to what many people have on their portable music players or computers. 1,000 songs? Ha!

The whole idea of listening to the radio (other than talk shows and news) is becoming foreign to me. Radio was appealing when my personal music collection was small; it influenced my tastes and guided many purchases. Today, not so such. Quality free-form terrestrial radio stations are few and far between; in fact, I can think of only two examples in the United States. KEXP and WFMU, I’m looking at you.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Peering into the flask

Medium Image I recently discovered that former schoolmate Josh Tillman now has a Wikipedia entry — it was created shortly after he performed at the Sasquatch Music Festival and joined Fleet Foxes as their drummer. It got me thinking about the various levels of interconnectedness that many esteemed Pacific Northwest indie bands and artists share.

Let’s start with Pedro the Lion, a band that utilized many musicians, both on stage and in the studio. Nearly two-dozen musicians are known to have performed in some capacity with the band. Many of these musicians, in turn, belong to other bands or have side projects of their own. While the list is not conclusive, the homogeneity of it all is still astounding. For instance, three members are now with Fleet Foxes. Four members have been associated with the band Headphones. Incredibly, five members have been associated with Crystal Skulls. Four have seen tenure in the band Seldom. Two a piece with Damien Jurado, Denison Witmer, and The Soft Drugs. I could go on.

It’s as if the indie rock culture in the Pacific Northwest is just that: an “active culture” with molecules constantly splitting apart, multiplying, and fusing together.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

This could be you

The music world is now almost a decade removed from the pop-punk, “alternative”, and mainstream grunge of the ’90s. With that in mind, Virginia outfit No Compromise adds a healthy dose of nostalgia to both their live shows and their latest release, This Could Be You.

No Compromise is a classic rock band, in the loosest sense of the phrase. This Could Be You builds on that reputation, compressing the best of ’90s rock into seven tracks, while still managing to sound fresh. Standout track “Whatever It Takes” is full-on 1994/95-era Foo Fighters with scalpel-sharp guitar work from Jack Kwait-Blank and enough energy to tide them over for the rest of the album. Lead single “Love, Myself” is catchy and works in part because of a two-part harmony that pops up in a couple of places. Additionally, listen for it in the chorus of last year’s “Seams So Seamless”. It sounds appealing, but is vastly underutilized.

No Compromise at the State Theatre on July 11, 2008 Their overall sound is pleasing. Think of a downtuned, grungier Jimmy Eat World without Auto-Tune, circa 2000. Altogether radio-friendly, the band takes another step forward, production-wise, with keyboards on “Rain Over Washington” and “The Only One Left” and subtle vocal effects (and perhaps double-tracking?) on the plodding “Cybernoia”. In the right hands, the track “Restless” could have hypothetically devolved into an all-out hardcore grungefest the likes of which Korn has never heard. If NoCo gets picked up by a label, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Restless” gets a makeover.

No Compromise played the State Theatre in Falls Church, VA last night and the relatively high quality of the venue’s PA system really “opened up” NoCo’s sound, as if a layer of dust had been squeegeed off. The trio fit in quite nicely alongside unsigned group Redshift and established local band The Blackjacks. Again, Jack Kwait-Blank’s versatile guitar work anchored the performance — at times channeling Billy Corgan, at other times even Dave Grohl or Al Pitrelli — sometimes all within the same song. William Bowen pounded the drums with a style that, for some reason, reminded me of Slowhand. The sticks appeared to be hitting the skins just in the nick of time. Thrilling to watch, to say the least. Bassist and lead singer Justin Fry was energetic and employed fuzz effects at times, essentially playing rhythm during Kwait-Blank’s solos. Or perhaps it was just my imagination.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Fleet Foxes at the Black Cat

Fleet Foxes at the Black Cat, July 7, 2008 The hype surrounding Seattle new-comers Fleet Foxes is altogether warranted. After receiving excellent reviews for their self-titled debut album (released June 3), they suddenly became the band to see.

Their performance last night at the Black Cat did not disappoint, although the band was not in full form. Lead vocalist and songwriter Robin Pecknold excused his singing with tales of a cold that has lasted for weeks; he even claimed that those in attendance were being “half-conned” out of their money. To the contrary, his vocals were more or less spot-on, save for a time or two when I could detect some cracking. I was hoping that it would hold up during the a capella numbers, and thankfully, it did. I recall thinking that, “presently, I’ve forgotten what all other voices sound like, and frankly, I don’t care.” They have that good of a blend — Robin’s voice in particular. Their harmonies are tight, high, and wispy, with no apparent bass sound. At times, it sounded as if Pecknold were singing two or three parts simultaneously.

The set started off quiet and subdued. The sold-out crowd became hushed, and no one dared flash their camera. For a while, the audience failed to clap between songs — I’m guessing that we were just awestruck. It’s as if we were about to applaud in church after a particularly eloquent Latin chorale piece. It not something that one does without serious contemplation. Eventually, the mood lightened a bit and the audience was as enthusiastic as ever.

Come down from the mountain; you have been gone too long
The spring is upon us; follow my only song
Settle down with me by the fire of my young love…

The only sour note was the exclusion of quite possibly their most accomplished piece, “Ragged Wood”, a song that evokes a “woodsy” sound — a style recently employed by My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, and Midlake, among others. I kept waiting for it, but it never came (contrary to what NPR claims). At the encore, I had one last glimmer of hope, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

As some may know, Josh Tillman is now Fleet Foxes’ drummer, having joined the group in early 2008. I knew Josh back when we were in our teens. We attended the same high school for a few years; he was a grade below me. I told him after the show that I had never set out to find him or his music — his music simply found me over the normal course of events. I started listening to his solo albums and EPs a few years ago; I have a feeling that I’d still be a fan even if we had never had that personal connection back in high school. Seeing him drum for Fleet Foxes was almost surreal, and he has a fine voice as well. I have a feeling that even better things are in store for him and his band.

NPR has a write-up and streaming audio of the show.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

My City Was Gone

Medium Image The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone“, known as the bumper music with the killer bass line on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, has typically been viewed as a protest song: focused on then-president Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. Between the lines, Pretenders’ singer Chrissie Hynde argues that Reagan’s policies (the “government”) contributed to the mall culture in middle America — whereby bedroom communities and open spaces are replaced with big box stores, fast food joints, off-ramps, and strip malls. While there is some validity in protesting against the homogenization of American culture, Hynde’s anger may have been misdirected. Let’s examine if Reagan could have contributed to the injustices that Hynde rails against:

The Budget process of the United States government states that the president shall submit a budget proposal to congress, who will then approve and/or modify the proposal. Reagan’s first budget request was for fiscal year 1982, which started on October 1, 1981.

Since “My City Was Gone” first appeared on wax in October 1982, Hynde only had a small window by which to pen the supposedly anti-Reagan lyrics. Reagan didn’t even take office until January 1981, and his budget wasn’t effective until October of that year. I seriously question the influence that Reagan (and the gridlocked 97th congress) had on new construction contracts in Akron, Ohio between October 1981 and the day that Hynde wrote “My City Was Gone”. For the sake of argument, let’s say spring 1982, although it could have been much earlier. Various sources indicate that the song was written before the death of The Pretenders’ guitarist James Honeyman-Scott which occurred in June of 1982.

In reality, Hynde is lamenting that her Ohio isn’t the Ohio she knew when she was younger. In a perfect world, there should have been a moratorium on all real estate development in Akron, Ohio in 1973 — the year Hynde left for London. It’s becoming apparent that Hynde is railing not only against development and change, but against capitalism and the market economy itself.