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21 Oct 2010 16:17


Music: In remembrance: Elliott Smith. He died seven years ago today.

  • We can’t believe it’s already been seven years. On October 21, 2003, Elliott Smith’s life ended. It may have been suicide. It may have been murder. It’s never been clarified, but either way, he’ll be greatly missed. It was a very emotional moment in our own growing-up process, hearing the endless creativity that came from this guy, and we’re still learning stuff from songs like “Between the Bars” and “Twilight.” Want a good way to honor his music and memory? Donate a couple of bucks to the Elliott Smith Memorial Fund, which helps two charities, Outside In (which helps homeless youths in Portland, Oregon, Smith’s hometown) and Free Arts for Abused Children (which is self-explanatory, and has received tons of donations in Smith’s memory over the years). Smith’s death was sad; you can help something good come from his memory. source

06 Mar 2010 16:44


Music: Saturday Mixtape: The best “Best Song” Oscar nominees of all time

  • We aren’t experts of Oscar music outside of the rock era, but we have a few ideas as to what makes a good movie song – surprise, heft, and beauty. Unfortunately, most of those songs didn’t get nominated until the ’90s, which means that we’re in a golden era for Oscar-nominated music. Many of the best Oscar songs don’t win, but it’s an honor just to be nominated, really. Here are five we recommend:

  • 1. Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles career has been a mixed bag, but at least two absolutely killer tunes came out of it – “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die ,” a 1973 nominee which nailed the Bondness of Bond but didn’t lose the Wingness of Wings. The kitchen-sink feel of the song actually suits it pretty well.
  • 2. Bruce Springsteen did a pretty great job of washing away the cheesiness of the awful synth-heavy pop tunes (and showtunes) that got nominated for Oscars in the 80s, winning for “Streets of Philadelphia,” a song with genuine weight and grit that opened the door for creatively-risky songs. Seriously, the Academy has never nominated a punk song, ever. If Bruce didn’t win in 1993, Three 6 Mafia wouldn’t have won in 2005. You can quote us on that.
  • 3. “That Thing You Do,” as written by Adam Schlesinger, who later became famous with Fountains of Wayne, may have been the Academy’s biggest lark in 1996. Without the song (which was, and still is, an amazing pop gem), the movie would’ve completely sucked. For that reason alone, it’s understandable but a shame it lost – it literally was the best part of a decent movie, the rare song that holds up on its own but makes its source material that much better.
  • 4. Elliott Smith’s “Miss Misery” was a mixed blessing for the indie-rock icon, as it offered him tremendous success due to the “Good Will Hunting” tune’s nomination in 1997 (which he used to full advantage on “XO” and “Figure 8“), but ultimately put him in a position where drugs were in a prominent place in his life. At the time, though, it was a truly daring choice for the Academy, one that hasn’t been reflected since.
  • 5. As a story angle, The Swell Season’s “Falling Slowly” had a little of everything – real-life romance, song-making-the-movie strength, and ceremony drama, when Markéta Irglová, one half of the “Once” duo (The other half being The Frames‘ Glen Hansard), was famously snubbed out of her 2007 acceptance speech, only to be allowed back on-stage to give one. That’s something that NEVER happens.

Other nominees: “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes, “The Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog (seriously), “Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)” by Phil Collins, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” (also seriously)

13 Feb 2010 19:32


Music: Saturday Mixtape: Johnny Cash is the new 2Pac is the new Nick Drake

  • This weekend’s release of “We Are the World 25,” which features Michael Jackson taking on a few lines beyond the grave (both in the song and the video), got us to thinking about the artists with seemingly never-ending vaults, in part because we’re sure Jackson himself will be a victim of this kind of musical grave-robbing. Here’s a sampling of the state of posthumous releases:

  • 1. Johnny Cash died way back in 2003, but he has a new album coming out, and “Ain’t No Grave,” held together by a rhythm made of dragging chains, is actually pretty good. Surprising it didn’t get a release back then, honestly (he recorded a lot of tunes with Rick Rubin in the years before his death). It’s one of Cash’s better late-period tunes.
  • 2. Nick Drake’s “Family Tree” probably never would’ve seen the light of day had Drake lived to an old age, but the 2007 release of privately recorded demos stands above the fray of most of the grave-robbing reissues by the guitarist. On “Bird Flew By,” you can hear a lot of the blues influence in his guitar-playing.
  • 3. Jeff Buckley may perhaps have the legacy most damaged by posthumous releases – even moreso than 2Pac. He had one amazing album and one aborted attempt at a second album that was released as an incomplete work. And a lot of live recordings. “Live at Sin-é” may be the key example: A short EP initially, it was reworked as a monster 34-track compilation in 2003. It’s not necessarily the worst release of his, just the best example.
  • 4. 2Pac has tons of posthumous releases (including a live album for a show he wasn’t even headlining), but some of these at least have interesting approaches. In the case of 2004’s “Loyal to the Game,” Eminem produced the entire thing off of some tapes Tupac Shakur’s mom gave him, which means it has some interesting productions and top-of-their-game guests. But it still feels kinda grave-robby, even though it’s respectfully done.
  • 5. Michael Jackson will likely follow the same path as the other stars here, and “This Is It” is really only the beginning. We gave the song a good review when it first came out, and the reason it sounds solid is because it was recorded during his still-interesting “Dangerous” era. We’re sure he has some huge vaults. And there are significant financial reasons for digging into them. We’d like to see them go the Elliott Smith route here, with compilations respectful of his legacy. But a Jeff Buckley-style “everything must go” is more likely.

10 Oct 2009 17:59


Music: Sad saps unite: Our Saturday Mixtape is designed to bum you out

We've been pretty bummed out by "Hellhole Ratrace" by Girls lately. It's a beautiful song, but it's beautiful in that way where you have to hang your head while you're taking in the beauty. So with that in mind, here's a soundtrack for the bummed-out.
  • 1. This gut-punch of a tune by the Drive-By Truckers, “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife,” is based on the true story of the family of musician Bryan Harvey. They were killed randomly during a series of spree murders in Richmond, Va. in 2006. It’s one of the strongest in the Truckers’ catalog, but man, you wish they never had to write it.
    2. Begging to be coupled with the previous tune is this one by Antony and the Johnsons, “Another World,” which deals with the very issues the Truckers dealt with, but in a more direct fashion. We must hate you for giving you two gut-punches in a row.
    3. You can tell that Girls singer Christopher Owens, a former Children of God member, had to fight really hard for his optimism. On “Hellhole Ratrace,” he’s straddling the line between pain and optimism. Optimism wins.
    4. Even Elliott Smith’s rockier songs were doused in bitter. “Don’t Go Down” is very bitter, plus it was from the death-allusion-filled “From a Basement on the Hill,” Smith’s posthumous final album. Gut punch number 4. (Sorry.)
    5. We’ve all been here. End of a relationship, drunk, trying to reconcile, showing up unannounced. Being the very kind of drunk jerk you despise. OK, we all haven’t been there, but Casiotone for the Painfully Alone has, and he’s singing from experience on “Destroy the Evidence.” Fortunately, this gut punch has a little levity thanks to the Casio backing. source

22 Aug 2009 19:38


Music: Our Saturday Mixtape peers back into some of 2000’s best tunes

A word of warning: This is not a top songs of the year list for us. Rather, these are five good songs from 2000 that are worth your time. And yes, we plan on doing this with every year of the decade over the next few months. Agree with these choices? Disagree? Debate here.

  • 1. Elliott Smith’s later period is one highly debated by fans. He went big around the time of “XO” and went even bigger around the time of 2000’s “Figure 8.” For some fans, this made the album a bit of a wash, but the single, “Son of Sam,” still holds strong nearly a decade later.
    2. It’s easy to forget, but The Mars Volta started from the split of the At the Drive-In, a band which did more to justify Thursday’s existence than it did The Mars Volta. A precursor to screamo, “One-Armed Scissor” is far less embarrassing than that descripiton sounds.
    3. What a shame. Grandaddy’s “The Sophtware Slump” is a great album best known as the answer to a trivia question. The question: “What album was Jason Lee’s son, Pilot Inspektor, named for?” A damn shame for a great album. “Jed the Humanoid” is a definite highlight for sure.
    4. Yo La Tengo will likely never break out of its cult audience, but they make great musical arguments why they should. “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out” is one of the band’s peaks, and “You Can Have it All” is a quiet triumph.
    5. For us, hearing Radiohead’s “Nude” on 2007’s “In Rainbows” gave “Motion Picture Soundtrack” context. Many superfans were spoiled by a spare acoustic version of the song that made the “Kid A” version seem overly grand. But in the context of “Nude,” you see exactly what the band was going for. Worth revisiting for sure. source

11 Jul 2009 17:00


Music: Our Saturday Mixtape gives into our mopey strummer addiction

  • 1. Before Paul Simon got countermelodies and drum backing, he was a busker in England who happened to find himself in a recording studio, doing lo-fi versions of songs that everyone now knows by heart, such as this ragged version of “Kathy’s Song.”
    2. Jandek will never be as successful as Jeff Tweedy. He spent three decades hiding from the world, releasing rickety avant-strangeness and getting mentioned in the same sentences as Roky Erickson and The Shaggs, only to finally play in public in the last couple of years. Jeff Tweedy, whose band’s most recent album debuted in the Billboard 200’s top five, does us a favor and makes “Crack a Smile” pretty and palatable.
    3. After posting about Leonard Cohen yesterday, it got us to thinking – which song of his would never get covered on “American Idol”? “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” fits the bill: It’s pretty, but about sordid hotel room encounters with famous singers like Janis Joplin.
    4. You can’t have a list of mopey strummers without Elliott Smith. You just can’t. His early albums use their lo-fi setting to focus directly on the darkness in the words. “Condor Ave.,” off “Roman Candle,” set Smith’s template.
    5. The Tallest Man on Earth pretty much kills this song. The Swede wails at his guitar, putting everything he has into being the best Bob Dylan acolyte he can, and gets closer than most, especially on “This Wind.” source

26 Jun 2009 03:18


Music: For sale: One used 1999 Volkswagen Passat. (Owned by Elliott Smith.)

  • As music superfans, whoa. Do you live in Austin? Do you have $4,000 lining your pockets? Looking to gain instant indie cred and help a good cause at the same time? Buy this car. It’s a little dinged up, but it used to be owned by our biggest obsession, Elliott Smith. His sister is selling it. If you buy it, you too can imagine what he was thinking when he was driving around coming up with songs like “Son of Sam” and “Twilight.” Plus, even better, the proceeds – 100% of them – go to the SIMS foundation, which helps musicians with mental health and addiction problems. Admit it, you want it. source