Monthly Archives: May 2009

Alexi Murdoch Talks Music with Sound Citizen

A little while back, Alexi Murdoch (one of Rolling Stone’s top 10 musicians to watch) played the Empty Bottle in Chicago. At that show, I saw something extremely rare in live music. As soon as the first chord was struck, the room snapped into utter silence.

murdochsoloThat’s because Murdoch is one of those musicians who pulls you into his music, coaxing you to explore your own thoughts and deepest feelings. But it’s not a dark place. It’s comforting. Murdoch’s message is powerful, but his voice and his music can be transcending.

The show was eye-opening. We had some great footage – unfortunately our equipment didn’t cooperate. However, Murdoch was gracious enough to sit down with us afterward, and share a few thoughts on Chicago, his music, his influences (or lack thereof) and more. Below the interview is some video from a previous show.

SC: Great show, Alexi, everyone really dug it.

Murdoch: That’s really cool. I know that the tour hasn’t been heavily promoted, so the fact that people were out was just a really pleasant surprise.

SC: Are you familiar with Chicago?

Murdoch: Not really. I’ve played here maybe three times. I bought an amazing drum today, at a great drum shop. I’ve got to give a shout out – Steve Maxwell, man. That guy has got the most amazing drums. And there’s an amazing guitar shop, Chicago Music Exchange, it’s always a thrill.

I don’t know that much else about Chicago, I’ve walked around, I like the city a lot. It hasn’t got that uppity feel. It seems the people are just into it, you know?

SC: The first time I heard you was a few years ago. And the first thing I heard was Nick Drake. Have you heard that before? Is that’s something you feel good about or are you trying to differentiate yourself in any way?

Murdoch: I don’t think I really need to. I think comparisons abound, you know, it’s sort of inevitable especially in this current marketplace where everything needs to be compared to something else, unfortunately. So, I understand it. Certainly, there are a lot worse people to be compared to. He was definitely a very talented man.

SC: Was he an influence of yours?

Murdoch: Not really, actually. Oddly enough I discovered the British folk movement late, only a few years ago. I was kind of embarrassed because somebody came to a gig and said, “You must be a huge John Martin and Nick Drake fan,” and I didn’t have any clue who they were.

Since then I’ve discovered all of that lot, and Richard Thompson. I had the honor and privilege to play with him one time. It’s kind of weird. I found them sort of by accident, and it was kind of uncanny to realize I was part of a tradition without knowing that tradition even existed. Which I guess speaks volumes about being shaped by your environment. I grew up in Scotland, and I guess maybe something about that landscape creates that sound. I’m sure that somewhere those people had the same influences musically as me. But I don’t know, I’m actually pretty ignorant when it comes to music history.

SC: Where do you draw from? You have some really passionate music that speaks to a lot of people.

Murdoch: I don’t know, man. That’s sort of a hard question. It’s so hard to answer that question without sounding like an ass – “Well, you know, I really sit down and strip away all my ego, and really try to get at the truth…” But I guess, that’s really what I try to do.

SC: I’ll narrow it down a little bit. When you’re writing your songs and thinking about your music, do you feel like you’re trying to tell people something about yourself, or are you trying to get people to explore themselves?

Murdoch: Yeah man, I think that’s a very astute observation. Hopefully, if I’m doing it right, it’s both. But you’re absolutely right. I’m glad you said it and I didn’t. Because I would have sounded like a guy sitting on a very high horse.

SC: What are your plans going forward?

I’m excited about a lot of new music. I’m touring with this new band. They get better every night, I think we’ve played nine gigs together now. I’m hoping to cultivate that conversation with them musically. And maybe before the end of the year sometime or early next year, get in and make a new record. Also I’ve done some stuff for a film that’s coming out in a couple of months.

SC: What film is that?

Murdoch: It’s a small, kind of independent film directed by Sam Mendes. It’s a really sweet film, so I’m happy to be a part of that.*

SC: You definitely have a style – for lack of a better term, it’s mellow. Do you feel that limits you in any way, as far as getting to a broader audience?

Murdoch: I think that any limitations that may exist – maybe I’m a little too confident in the music – but I feel like the limitations wouldn’t be on the part of the music, but on the part of the audience; it’s not really the audience, actually, that’s short on attention – I think it’s just that the environment we’re in right now has been so saturated with a sort of commercial product that its kind of tuned people’s ears different. So no, I don’t think the music is limiting at all.

For me, I play the kind of music I like. I’m always surprised by how many seem to connect to it. I got an e-mail from a guy telling me, “I’ve only ever liked hard rock, but I heard your show and now I’m super into it!” So it seems that if you can reach people who normally wouldn’t like this kind of music – I guess maybe I have a crazy kind of faith in that.

SC: Thanks, I appreciate it.

Murdoch: Thanks man, no worries. Thanks for coming by.

*The film turned out to be the smash indie hit, Away We Go. Murdoch is featured throughout the Away We Go soundtrack

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgsT-klFnXY[/youtube]

Dexateen’s Chicago Premiere – Come Back Real Soon, Ya Hear?

(Video included) The Dexateens breezed into Chicago on Wednesday night for the first time ever, on the heels of the release of a new record, Singlewide. They played second in a night that led of with Those Darlins (whom we’ve covered before) in what turned out to be a night of country-inspired, good old American rock. It all took place at Schuba’s, a fine place to see a show, and the Chicago launching pad of many successful artists.

dexlarge1This band, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, might not be familiar yet with Chicago or the midwest,  “But we’re long-time fans of WGN. We get WGN everywhere on Earth. I don’t know if you know that,” tongue-in-cheek, almost hamming up the southern boy naïveté to go along with a pronounced southern drawl.

Anyway – this is not your standard southern rock. And that was apparent from the moment the first chord rang out. Perhaps guitarist Lee Bains III’s AC/DC shirt and Gibson SG should have tipped me off. There are times when the Dexateens jam a hard rock sound, you can even hear some metal in there, but with a decidedly hillbilly heart – and I mean that in a great way. You can hear bluegrass in both the vocals and rhythms of every song and you get the feeling that it just comes out that way. It feels so deep-rooted in their sound that I don’t imagine they could play any other way even if they tried. At times I heard just hints of Neil Young, The Black Crowes and even some Kid Rock, believe it or not, but those are just my own music biases creeping in – the Dexateens have a sound all their own. And I dig it. They can slow it down too, like “Grandaddy’s Mouth.” (check out the partial video below.)

The Dexateens may have made their first Chicago stop this week, but it won’t be their last. I feel good about the staying power with this one. And so do the people at Austin City Limits, where they will be making an appearance.

Check out the videos below from the show, and head over to their MySpace to hear some more great stuff.

“Settle Down”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4mZnlFqp5g[/youtube]

“Grandaddy’s Mouth” (partial)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxjLLEjDpjM&feature=related[/youtube]

“Makers Mound” (partial)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCkrbpMlU1g&feature=related[/youtube]

May 21 2009 8:00P
The Parlour w/ the Features & Those Darlins Newport, Kentucky
May 22 2009 8:00P
The Dame w/ the Features & Those Darlins Lexington, Kentucky
May 23 2009 1:00P
Ear X-tacy in-store — 1:00 P.M. Louisville, Kentucky
May 23 2009 8:00P
Barley’s w/ the Features & Those Darlins Knoxville, Tennessee
May 24 2009 8:00P
The Basement Nashville, Tennessee
Jun 5 2009 8:00P
Old Town Tavern Quad Cities, Alabama
Jun 6 2009 8:00P
Riverbend Festival Chattanooga, Tennessee
Oct 2 2009 8:00P
Austin City Limits Festival Austin, Texas

Ben Harper and Relentless7 Concert Review, Chicago

harper(Video included) About 10 years ago, I saw Ben Harper play at the Vic Theater in Chicago. It was a powerful experience. He wailed on about 10 different guitars throughout the show, and used his electric voice to rip through a set that ranged from violence to despair. I walked out that evening a huge fan, and with a belief that I just witnessed a legend and a musical genius in the making.

This time around, Ben Harper’s tour came through Chicago with his latest band, Relentless7. And, for the most part, touring with a new sound. Harper came out on stage without a guitar – the first sign that things have changed, and what was to follow. That included something I never imagined I would hear from Ben Harper – “Under Pressure,” the famous tune by Queen and David Bowie.

Relentless7 features Jason Mozersky on lead guitar and he’s talented, to be sure. Harper cedes much of the guitar playing throughout the set to Mozersky. And while he’s quite capable, it’s just not the same.

To me, Ben Harper is one of those artists who should command full charge of the stage and the set. He’s the show. Playing with this new band seems to have put a leash on him. But Harper should be cut loose entirely. This tour sounds like a band feeling their way around a new sound rather than a world-class musician being supported by a talented band. For my money, I came to see Ben Harper and Relentless7, not Relentless7 featuring Ben Harper. There were moments where his unique sound and style took charge – just not enough of them. Ultimately, I didn’t hear the same unbridled passion that I have before.

Still, it was a good show. They are all clearly talented and they sounded good. And the crowd at the Vic gave their approval through cheers and the occasional standing ovation and clap-along. I try my hardest to see Harper whenever he comes around, and this show didn’t convince me otherwise.

The opening band, The Henry Clay People, put on a very solid show. And what really made it fun was the fact that this young band was on their first tour supporting a major talent. They told the story about how they just quit their jobs two weeks ago because they were told they had a chance to tour with Ben Harper. And now they were here. It’s a true rock and roll dream come true, and they acted like it. It was impossible to not notice their excitement – from the lead singer jumping down in the crowd and giving high-fives while singing, to jumping on his brother’s back near the end of their set. They’re pretty damn good too. It’s good rock and fun to watch. You can check them out at both Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits this year.

Below is some video from the show. The first one is “Under Pressure,” and the second is a brief clip of “Shimmer and Shine,” featuring a more typical Ben Harper sound from his laptop slide guitar.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc7eaGpfjMs[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rovIFO2inQ[/youtube]

Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown and 2009 Tour Dates

greenday(Video included) When Green Day released American Idiot in 2004, it was a call to arms. The album rallied America ‘s rock and roll youth to lash out against corruption in our government, most notably George Bush. We were fed up and wanted everyone to know about it. That album vaulted Green Day into the political rocker arena popularized by the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, the punk scene and carried on by bands like Rage Against the Machine. Now comes 21st Century Breakdown – a post-Bush, current Middle East, bona fide American crisis.

Green Day’s new album starts with a 57-second song, “Song of the Century.” It sets the tone for what’s to come with these lyrics (as best I can tell):

Sing us a song of the century,
It’s louder than bombs and eternity.
The air of static in contraband,
Leading us into the promised land.
Tell us a story that’s by candlelight,
Waging a war and losing the fight.
They’re playing our song of the century,
Panic and promise and prosperity.
Tell me a story into that good night,
Sing us a song for me.

It’s a simple, yet powerful anthem that tells of a generation searching for an identity by sifting through the ashes of war and broken promises; using the sound of an old record player and the backdrop of stories told by candlelight – a feeling unknown since The Lone Ranger was on radio and America had everything to gain.

21st Century Breakdown comes in three acts: “Heroes and Cons,” “Charlatans and Saints,” and “Horseshoes and Handgrenades,” while following a young couple, Christian and Gloria, through the schizophrenic start to this century. It is, by all means, an album intended to be heard from start to finish, and it will be played that way during the Green Day tour.

In the end, you have to admire Green Day for their ambition. It’s difficult for any band to create an album based on political views and attempt to capture the collective feeling of a generation accurately and honestly. In fact, it can be downright suicidal. And while critics will laud Green Day for producing such an album, and sales will be astronomical, it’s this sense of righteous gloom that could ultimately turn fans against the album and the band. Aren’t we getting a little tired of being depressed? Is it time to talk about hope and action rather than complain and cry about all the injustice in America? This much can be said – it’s pure Green Day. Just because they made a … shudder … rock opera doesn’t mean they’ve lost their identity.

Time will tell. In the meantime, you can listen to 21st Century Breakdown right now, in its entirety, before it’s officially released. Let us know what you think!

Below is a video from an Oakland show where they debuted the whole album, live. The song is Viva la Gloria Below that are Green Day’s 2009 tour dates – and it’s one hell of a tour. They will be on the road non-stop from June until mid November. Some great supporting acts too.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmHh5c0t0Lg[/youtube]

07-03     Seattle, WA             Key Arena, with The Bravery
07-04     Vancouver, BC         GM Place, with The Bravery
07-06     Edmonton, AB         Rexall Place, with The Bravery
07-07     Saskatoon, SAS         Credit Union Centre, with The Bravery
07-09     Winnipeg, MAN         MTS Centre, with The Bravery
07-10     Fargo, ND            Fargo Dome, with The Bravery
07-11     Minneapolis, MN     Target Center, with The Bravery
07-13     Chicago, IL         United Center, with The Bravery
07-14     Detroit, MI             Palace Of Auburn Hills, with The Bravery
07-16     Hamilton, ONT         Copps Coliseum, with The Bravery
07-17     Ottawa, ONT         Scotiabank, with The Bravery
07-18     Montreal, QUE         Bell Centre, with The Bravery
07-20     Boston, MA         TD Bank, with The Bravery
07-21     Philadelphia, PA         Wachovia Spectrum, with The Bravery
07-22     Pittsburgh, PA         Mellon Arena
07-24     Hartford, CT         XL Center, with The Bravery
07-25     Albany, NY         Times Union Center, with The Bravery
07-27     New York, NY         Madison Square Garden, with Kaiser Chiefs
07-29     Washington, DC         Verizon Center, with Kaiser Chiefs
07-31     Nashville, TN         Somet Center, with Kaiser Chiefs
08-01     Atlanta, GA         Gwinnet, with Kaiser Chiefs
08-03     Tampa, FL         St. Pete Times Forum, with Kaiser Chiefs
08-04     Miami, FL             American Airlines Arena, with Kaiser Chiefs
08-05     Orlando, FL         Amway Arena, with Kaiser Chiefs
08-07     New Orleans, LA     New Orleans Arena, with Kaiser Chiefs
08-08     Houston, TX         Toyota Center, with Kaiser Chiefs
08-09     San Antonio, TX         AT & T Center, with Franz Ferdinand
08-11     St. Louis, MO         Scottrade Center, with Franz Ferdinand
08-12     Kansas City, MO     Sprint Center, with Franz Ferdinand
08-13     Omaha, NE         Quest Center, with Franz Ferdinand
08-15     Denver, CO         Pepsi Center, with Franz Ferdinand
08-16     Salt Lake City, UT     ESA (Energy Sol Arena), with Franz Ferdinand
08-18     San Jose, CA         HP Pavilion, with Franz Ferdinand
08-20     San Diego, CA         Cox Arena, with Franz Ferdinand
08-21     Las Vegas, NV         Mandalay Bay, with Franz Ferdinand
08-22     Phoenix, AZ         US Air Arena, with Franz Ferdinand
08-24     Sacramento, CA     Arco Arena, with Franz Ferdinand
08-25     Los Angeles, CA     Forum, with Franz Ferdinand

09-28     Lisbon, Portugal          Atlantico Pavilion
09-29     Madrid, Spain             Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad
10-01     Barcelona, Spain         Palau Sant Jordi
10-02     Toulouse, France         Zenith
10-04     Paris, France             Bercy
10-05     Cologne, Germany         Cologne Arena
10-07     Berlin, Germany        World Arena
10-08     Hamburg, Germany         Color Line Arena
10-09     Copenhagen, Denmark     Forum
10-11     Stockholm, Sweden         The Globe
10-12     Oslo, Norway             Spectrum
10-16     Rotterdam, Netherlands     Ahoy
10-17     Antwerp, Belgium         Sportpalais
10-19     Glasgow, Scotland         SECC
10-20     Belfast, Northern Ireland     Odyssey Arena
10-21     Dublin, Ireland             The 02
10-23     London, England         The 02
10-24     London, England         The 02
10-26     Sheffield, England         Sheffield Arena
10-27     Birmingham, England         LG Arena
10-28     Birmingham, England         LG Arena
10-30     Manchester, England         MEN Arena
10-31     Manchester, England         MEN Arena
11-01     London, England         Wembley Arena
11-03     Munich, Germany         Olympiahalle
11-06     Vienna, Austria             Stadthalle
11-08     Zurich, Switzerland         Hallenstadion
11-10     Milan, Italy             Datchforum
11-11     Bologna, Italy             Futur Show
11-12     Turin, Italy                Palaolimpico

Dexateens New Album, Free Music Download

The Dexateens formed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, somewhere around 1998. And with today’s release of Singlewide, they look to move “out of the garage and onto the porch.”

Listening to Singlewide makes you feel like kicking up your boots, sipping a cold brew and hanging with three or four of your closest friends on the front porch, while the sun etches lines in your face and you taste the dust in the wind. And like any good southern band, The Dexateens make you want to hit the road.

It’s an honest, southern sound with all the right chords and guitar stylings to match. The vocals are a perfect down-home twang and song lyrics that you’d swear sounds no different than if two Tuscaloosa pals were simply shooting the breeze. Kind of like “My Daddy’s name is Elton, My Momma’s name is Jean, my car’s a Chevy Nova and my woman’s 17, she moved into my place ’cause her parents intervened.”

The Dexateens have received support from fellow Alabama native and Drive-By Truckers member Patterson Hood.

Can You Whoop It (hit play, or right click to save the free download) features David Berman of Silver Jews fame, in one his last recordings before officially retiring from the music scene.

Can You Whoop It

Below is The Dexateens’ “Down Low” from Singlewild. And below that are their upcoming tour dates, including an appearance at Austin City Limits.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjE26jJFnUQ&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

May 11 2009 8:00P
The Milestone w/ the Features & Those Darlins Charlotte, North Carolina
May 12 2009 8:00P
Rock and Roll Hotel w/ the Features & Those Darlins Washington DC
May 13 2009 8:00P
IS Venue w/ the Features & Those Darlins Charlottesville, Virginia
May 14 2009 8:00P
Pianos w/ the Features New York, New York
May 15 2009 8:00P
TT The Bears w/ the Features Cambridge, Massachusetts
May 16 2009 8:00P
Khyber w/ the Features Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
May 17 2009 8:00P
Union Hall w/ the Features Brooklyn, New York
May 19 2009 8:00P
Grog Shop w/ the Features & Those Darlins Cleveland, Ohio
May 20 2009 8:00P
Schuba’s Tavern w/ the Features & Those Darlins Chicago, Illinois
May 21 2009 8:00P
The Parlour w/ the Features & Those Darlins Newport, Kentucky
May 22 2009 8:00P
The Dame w/ the Features & Those Darlins Lexington, Kentucky
May 23 2009 1:00P
Ear X-tacy in-store — 1:00 P.M. Louisville, Kentucky
May 23 2009 8:00P
Barley’s w/ the Features & Those Darlins Knoxville, Tennessee
May 24 2009 8:00P
The Basement Nashville, Tennessee
Jun 5 2009 8:00P
Old Town Tavern Quad Cities, Alabama
Jun 6 2009 8:00P
Riverbend Festival Chattanooga, Tennessee
Oct 2 2009 8:00P
Austin City Limits Festival Austin, Texas

Two Free Music Websites for Every Music Fan

The Web is freakishly fantastic place to listen to music. There are any number of sites from which to choose, but the two best shine in their simplicity. Whether you’re into jazz, metal, classical or rock & roll, the following websites will keep your feet tapping as long as you want them to. And the best part … they’re easy to use and 100% free. Hopefully it stays that way.

pandorascreen11. Pandora.com (requires e-mail signup)

There are tons of good music recommendation sites online, but none as simple as Pandora. It works like this: Type in a band you like or even a song and Pandora will start playing that music, followed by tunes with similar qualities. That’s it. Pandora will stream music – some you will already know, some will be new to you – with limited interruption. There’s a commercial every dozen songs or so, but other than that, you can just sit back and listen.

When you’re ready for a change, type in something new and Pandora will create a new “station.” You can further customize your stations by voting thumbs up or down – a thumbs up will repeat the track later on, while a thumbs down will never play that song again on that station.

Pandora also has some other cool features if you want to interact. There are band bios while a song plays, as well as album information, lyrics, suggested similar artists and more. You can bookmark artists and buy songs too.

I find Pandora particularly useful at work. Plug in your headphones and click a button and you have your day’s soundtrack. Same goes for parties, if you’re iPod is a little stale and you have a good sound system with your computer.

songzascreen12. Songza.com (no registration required)

Songza is basically the Google of music. Enter a song and you’ll see a list of choices. Through community voting, usually the best recording is at or near the top of the list. But you’ll also find live recordings and video will play, if there’s one available.

Songza can’t be beat for when you wake up with that killer tune in your head and just have to hear it. Once you find it, you have a few interactive options. You can rate the recording, to influence ranking results. You can also get a link to the song, post it to your Facebook profile it, send it as a Twitter update, or e-mail it to a friend. Like Pandora, you can also buy the song.

One nice feature for you bloggers out there, is that you can embed the song or video – like you’ll see below of “Diablo Rojo” (it’s about a roller coaster) by the amazing duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. If you haven’t seen it – watch it.

If you sign up with Songza, you can also create and save playlists. You can also listen to other users’ playlists.

Two quick tips: First, try typing in the name of an artist instead of a song. You’ll get a long list of that band’s songs. Hit “play” on the first one and they will all stream back-to-back. Second, if you have trouble finding a song (which is rare) type the song and the artist in the search box. If you absolutely can’t find the song you want, head to Grooveshark.com. They have a large library, but the site is slow and a bit cumbersome.

That’s it. Two sites that should be cemented in every music fan’s browser. Enjoy.

Have your own favorite music sites? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KBgg-hrtyo&feature=PlayList&p=D09C866D971EEE93&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=5[/youtube]