Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Connecticut 'Law & Order'

As I sit here about to leave to have a refreshing beverage, I'm watching a new episode of "Law & Order." I'm not sure, but I think this episode, "Tango," is based on a sort-of Connecticut case.

I can't remember the names of the people and don't have access to our old stories while I'm here at home, but I think this episode is based on that woman from Orange who was an addict and working as a prostitute and possibly helped someone kill a woman in New York or New Jersey. Again, the points of the story may be messed up, but I think this is the one. I'll update tomorrow when I figure out if I'm right.

Please Help

So I'm starting a fund-raising effort. Who wants to send me money so I can buy Neverland? You see, it seems Michael Jackson is probably going to have sell the heavenly place he uses to lure children, so why shouldn't I buy it? For a mere $50 million or so, someone can purchase the California property. If you guys send me enough money, everyone can come and play on the rides for free!

Sounds fair, right? We can all go on the bumper cars or something and then have a jolly fun sleepover, just like the King of Pop would want.

Anyway, I love this Black Crowes vs. Maxim story that won't go away. As a music critic, I understand that you should never, ever review a CD without hearing it in its entirety not just once, but at least twice. Clearly, Maxim doesn't get that. It's really a credibility ruining transgression. But I do think you can review a Black Crowes disc in your mind without even hearing it: You just know it's going to be a mediocre attempt to copy The Faces and The Rolling Stones.

I remember a few years back — and that could mean like a decade ago — someone published a coffee-table book of celebrity mugshots. I love those things. Here's another one. It seems the skinniest of all "The O.C." stars has gotten herself into legal problems. All she did was drink and drive and have a bunch of weed on her. Stupid people.

I mean, I liked "Juno." I liked it a lot. I didn't think it was a great film or anything, but I liked it. I'm just really sick of all the attention Diablo Cody is getting. It seems like she is, too, a bit. I just think this whole stripper-turned-Oscar-winner story is overblown. Who cares? And what really bothers me is how cliche she is. I mean, the whole "I'm a punk so look at my earring with a skull-and-crossbones on it" is kind of pathetic, don't you think? If we saw someone like her on a regular day, we'd just say she was someone desperate for attention.

Say you went to see Wilco Sunday night and just loved it. You probably can't get enough of the band. Well, NPR is webcasting Wilco's Washington DC show tonight. Make sure to tune in. And if you can't, NPR always archives the show the next day. If you're looking for something to listen to, the Okkervil River show from a while back is a good place to start.

People, including me, are still laughing about Jimmy Kimmel's song about Ben Affleck that aired after the Oscars.

I may have mentioned this before, but I really can't get enough of Daytrotter. Seriously, any indie music fan should make sure to get themselves to the site. It's a treasure chest of fun. I suggest checking this one out.

And with that, I'm out. Have a great rest of the day, OK?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Put On Those Headlights

If you're looking for something to do tonight, might I suggest heading over to The Space and checking out the very good Headlights (that's them grilling)? The band's recent release, "Some Racing, Some Stopping," which hit stores Feb. 19, is a pop celebration. It's the perfect summer disc, filled with buoyant tunes laced with bright organs, syrupy choruses and stellar acoustic guitars. It's a California album for an Illinois band.

There's no Open Mic at the venue tonight, just Headlights. The show is co-sponsored by the mighty good guys over at Manic Productions. Check it out.

So what else is going on? Well, this new show "quarterlife" premieres tonight. It started as an Internet phenomenon, so that's kind of cool. It also stars a woman from Glastonbury. I won't watch it, but this at least makes it interesting, right?

The guitar god that is Stephen Malkmus is streaming his very good and very proggy upcoming disc, "Real Emotional Trash," over at Check it out. The record hits stores March 4.

Brad Renfro was left out of the Oscar's death montage, my old college roommate Ryan Dixon's favorite thing in the world. It was an interesting decision by producers, one I noticed right away. My Oscar observations will be in the paper Friday. Keep an eye out.

Speaking of my old college roommates. My good friend Pat Cohen (from Guilford) is in Rolling Stone this week because of his Internet TV show that is a phenomenon. Check it out.

That's about all I got for today. Make sure to take advantage of the free coffee today. Have a good one and we'll talk tomorrow. See you at The Space?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Review of Wilco

Here's my review of last night's show. This will run in tomorrow's Register.

NEW HAVEN — When the first chords of the folky "Remember the Mountain Bed" came through the PA system at the Shubert Theater at 9:02 p.m. Sunday, it sounded great. But then Wilco’s frontman Jeff Tweedy began singing and the venue’s sound system crackled like it was on the verge of breaking. Without missing a beat, the Chicago-based six-piece soldiered on and came through with a vibrant and eclectic set with only a few missteps. And after three songs, the sound guys got the problem under control.

Since Wilco released "Sky Blue Sky" almost a year ago, the band felt free to deliver a career-spanning set Sunday, not concentrating too much on any one record. After "Mountain Bed," Tweedy and company performed "California Stars," another standout from the "Mermaid Avenue" records that feature lyrics written by Woody Guthrie set to music by Wilco and British folk singer Billy Bragg. From that moment on, the two-hour show became a celebration of Wilco’s transformation from a simple alt-country unit to a one of the most celebrated experimental pop bands of our era. And even though the group was performing in a theater, a little of the bar-band it used to be poked through.

Early in the concert, Wilco focused on songs from its latest three records, playing a raucous rendition of "A Ghost Is Born’s" "Company in My Back," which was buoyed by bassist John Stirratt’s brilliant melodic playing. A beefed-up "Pot Kettle Black" sounded great coming from a six-piece band, as opposed to the recorded version that only features five members.
Experimental guitar player Nels Cline added a lot to the songs from both "A Ghost is Born" and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," two records he does not appear on.

The tunes from "Sky Blue Sky," songs like "Side With Seeds" and "You Are My Face" came off not as focused, but as extended jams designed to show off the band’s chops. Besides the set-closing "On and On and On," these tracks dragged the performance down.

Wilco also tried too hard adapting earlier, simpler songs to this instrument-heavy lineup. A gem from the band’s first disc, "Pick Up The Change," is a condense and affecting tune on record, but with six musicians, the song loses the starkness that gives it charm. Without the swirling organs that are present throughout the band’s "Summerteeth" CD, the songs off that album felt lacking. Oh sure, the guitar-assault that was "Always in Love" charged up the audience, but live the song lacked the subtle nuances that give the tune character.

These are minor quibbles, though. For most of the 25-song set, Wilco hammered home that this lineup is only getting tighter on stage. A groovy take on "Jesus, etc." got the crowd dancing, and drummer Glenn Kotche enlivened the audience with a huge drum measure that signaled the beginning to one of the show’s best songs, "Misunderstood."

After closing with "On and On and On," Wilco returned to the stage for a six-song encore that saw the group returning to its bar-band days. After delivering an OK "Hate it Here" and then moving on to the crowd-pleaser "Heavy Metal Drummer," the band closed the evening with four straight songs from 1996’s "Being There."

After spending more than a decade making experimental pop and defying expectations, Wilco seemed to just want to have fun at the end of the night. A three-guitar wall of sound got the crowd jumping up and down and the band doing the same on such straightforward rock songs as "I Got You (At the End of the Century)," "Monday" and "Outtasite (Outta Mind)." When it was over, it would have been more appropriate if the lights turned on to reveal a beer-soaked club, not a beautiful theater.

Wilco Setlist

A review will run in tomorrow's paper, but, in the meantime, here's Wilco's setlist from Sunday night at the Shubert.

1. Remember the Mountain Bed
2. California Stars
3. Company In My Back
4. Pot Kettle Black
5. Shot In the Arm
6. Radio Cure
7. You Are My Face
8. Side With the Seeds
9. Pick Up the Change
10. Hotel Arizona
11. Always In Love
12. Impossible Germany
13. Jesus, etc.
14. Misunderstood
15. Airline to Heaven
16. Theologians
17. Walken
18. I'm the Man Who Loves You
19. On and On and On

1. Hate It Here
2. Heavy Metal Drummer
3. Red-Eyed and Blue
4. I Got You (At the End of the Century)
5. Monday
6. Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thank You

A big ol' thank you goes out to whoever left the comment about checking out "Saturday Night Live's" recent "Milkshakes" skit. It's hysterical. I watched it and cried from laughing so hard. Take a look:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Baby, It's Bad News, Bad News

I don't know why I decided to quote a Rilo Kiley song for the title of this blog entry, but whatever. With the news that the Showcase Cinema in Orange will close March 2, it's a sad day for us in the area.

Look, I totally understand why National Amusements would shutter the cinema, but that doesn't mean it's good news. When I was kid, a big, new 12-screen, stadium-seating cinema opened up in a town next an eight-screen, early '90s cinema. Of course, within months, the eight-screener was gone. I'm actually amazed that Orange lasted as long as it did. But with National Amusements putting most of the big movies in Milford, there wasn't much left for Orange.

What we did get in Orange was some cool indie flicks, and now that won't happen and we'll have to solely rely on Criterion and Madison. Here's what I always wonder, though: If National Amusements was going to spend a gazillion dollars opening the big, beautiful megaplex in Milford, why not change how Orange does business?

Why would people pay the same ticket prices to go to an obsolete theater? Why would they pay that same amount to see a movie they could have seen in Milford weeks or months ago? Why not take the Orange theater and show cult films or old movies? Tonight at Criterion "This is Spinal Tap" will be on the big screen. Couldn't Orange have played that for a week and charged $5 for tickets?

I don't know if that would have worked, or even if it was feasible, but, it seems to me, it would have had a better chance of working than the plan National Amusements chose.

In other news, last night at Toad's was pretty good. Phonograph was, as always, amazing. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were pretty good, although I didn't make it through their whole set. Here's my question for the band's bass player: Why do you need two four-string basses? I'm not sure.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Quick Note

Hello, everyone. Well, this has been a busy week, so I've been bad at updating. You may have read my story on rock shows at the Shubert in the paper Thursday. And I also wrote an Oscar preview that will run in Sunday's Arts section. Add all the Weekend stuff, and this here blog's been overlooked. Sorry.

Anyway, I just wanted to send out a quick reminder that tonight over at Toad's Place is Phonograph with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I really, really like Phonograph (above), and can't recommend them enough. One of my favorite New Haven shows ever was this band over at Cafe Nine sometime in late 2006.

Also, here's my dilemma: I love, love the Oscars. I love Wilco. They both happen Sunday. This means I'm going to Wilco and then have to run home and watch a taped version of the Oscars to write a diary about. I hope Wilco is great.

We'll talk again soon, but make sure to brave the not-so-bad snow and come out and see Phonograph.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dancing Steve

I've never actually watched an episode of "Dancing With the Stars," but that will change this season. Now, I really have no interest in watching people dance or anything, but I want to see what Steve Guttenberg looks like.

As someone who grew up in the '80s watching the "Police Academy" series, I have a soft spot in my heart for Steve, who just couldn't get many roles when the '80s became the '90s. Guttenberg is like hair metal and all the actors that took parts that could have been his are like grunge. That makes perfect sense, right?

Anyway, I guess the cast of next season's "Dancing with the Stars" was announced yesterday. It includes Adam Carolla, Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Seles and a bunch of other people who haven't been in the news in a long while. Go Steve Guttenberg.

In other news, a killer show is going down at Toad's Place tonight. Jason Isbell, Will Hoge and Dawn Landes will all perform. Be prepared to pay close attention to Landes (that's her above). Her upcoming record, "Fireproof," just refuses to leave my CD player. I try to take it out, and somehow, magically, it ends up back in there. Seriously, though, she's great. Don't miss her.

I could care less that Pink and her husband are breaking up, but maybe you do? I mean, this stuff is kind of predictable and inevitable, right?

I've written about this before, but this story just makes me mad. Shouldn't this boy's mother step in? It's like this family wants the spotlight and will do anything to keep it. I propose a band on all things Crocodile Hunter related because they just make me mad. OK?

So Lindsay Lohan is getting naked for a magazine ... and it's not Playboy. Well, that'll come soon enough, I bet.

Look at this photo of Sharon Stone. Man, she's had a hell of a lot work done. That doesn't bother me, though.

This story talks about the tour bus driver for the Spice Girls. Now, the piece says they haven't named the driver yet. I saw "Spice World." I know it's Meat Loaf.

It's a sad day. One of my favorite magazines is folding. Yep, soon there will be no more No Depression, the mag that covers the alt-country, Americana scene.

I love Jim DeRogatis, and I thought "Juno" was a good movie. Jim didn't, and he's been writing about in his blog for a couple months. I really like his new entry, which I agree totally with, even though I liked the movie.

Well, that's it on this end. Have a good day, OK?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben

My best Ben Lee story revolves around 2004's Film Fest New Haven. At the festival, a movie starring Lee, "The Rage In Placid Lake," was playing, so the singer/songwriter was in town for a couple Q and As and two shows at The Space in Hamden. I was covering Film Fest, writing daily columns from the events, and one of the event's organizers knew I liked Lee's music, so she thought I'd like to meet him.

I didn't really care about re-meeting Lee, who I'd actually met at a previous CMJ festival, not like he would have remembered that or anything. But somehow we ended up in some back room at the late York Square Cinemas talking about music awkwardly. I didn't want to just leave and be rude, and he was waiting for someone to tell him what to do. About 15 minutes went by and Lee finally said, "Can we just go get a beer?" Of course, Lee knew his way around the city because he dated Claire Danes for many years, a lot of that time included Danes' stay at Yale, so he knew Yorkside Pizza served beer.

Anyway, Lee gets a bad rep for being kind of an ass, for lack of a better word, especially in these parts where you can always find someone willing to share a bad story about Lee and Danes. That's really not true. The two times I've met him, he's been a cool guy. And the second time, I spent about an hour with him just shooting the poo.

I mention all of this because in my experience, most of the time you meet musicians that you like, they disappoint you and it becomes more difficult to like their music. With Lee, I actually started to like his music more. And his recent record, "Ripe," is actually his best in years. But it came out in September, which is when I wrote a good review of the disc.

What I want to talk about today is the video for "American Television," a good pop song that comes alive in this video. Seriously, go here and watch it. If you grew up watching TV in the '80s, like Lee did, you'll really enjoy this.

In other news, Beyonce's dad and I have something in common: We both have used the word "ridiculous" to describe Aretha Franklin's response to the Grammys. Seriously, where does someone like Franklin get off saying stuff like this. Get a grip. You were a great singer; you didn't cure cancer. Other people can be called "queen." Whatever.

If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone notice?

It looks like Bai Ling has something in common with the wonderful Winona Ryder. I wonder if Bai is going to use pills as an excuse.

Last night featured another great episode of "Survivor." Frequent readers of this blog know that for some reason, this is the one and only reality show I can watch, and I love it unconditionally. Certain recent seasons have been labeled poor, yet I still love them.

It seems like there's a controversy brewing over at "American Idol." I've never seen the competition portion of the show, but here's my take on this contestant: Who cares? Seriously, if she got through the auditioning portion, why can't she be on the show?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Me And My Favorite Things

This week has been full of the chills and sinus fun for me, which is why I haven't been updating this here blog. But, I've feeling pretty good today, so here's an update.

I've got nothing much to say, so I thought I would give you guys a Valentine's Day present. What's that? Well, I thought I'd publish a photo of me doing my favorite thing: eating General Tso's chicken. So here's that.

I'll be back later or tomorrow with a full update. Have a great day and night, OK?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Stop It John McCain

As I sit here on my couch with a touch of a fever and the chills, I couldn't help but notice that John Mellencamp's publicist has sent a letter to John McCain. It seems Johnny Cougar wants Johnny McCain to stop using "Our Country" at campaign rallies and stops.

Now, I don't particularly care for Melllencamp or McCain, but can we all admit that if a candidate is using that awful, awful song as a theme song, we really shouldn't trust his judgement as president? Does McCain want to be a Chevy truck? I don't know.

All I know is that as president, McCain will have to make important decisions, much more important decisions than what his theme song is, and I now can't trust him to do that because he made such a poor decision in this case. That's it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What A Day For Music

It's not every day that so many great discs arrive in my mail. Today is seriously turning out to be like Christmas.

So, I listened to Stephen Malkmus' "Real Emotional Trash" first because, well, I just love Malkmus. I've actually grown to love his solo material than most of Pavement's output, which would have seemed impossible to me a few years ago.

Without writing a review here, let's just say that with each solo release, Malkmus becomes more and more of a guitar-wielding prog-rock ace. "Real Emotional Trash" has more guitar histrionics than some will be able to take, but, whatever. The disc is out March 18.

Next, I popped in "District Line" from indie rock legend Bob Mould. I heard a single from this record about a month or so again and have been so excited. Well, "District Line" delivers. I wouldn't call it Mould's best work since Husker Du, like the press release wants you to believe, but it's definitely his best record since Sugar's "File Under Easy Listening." A real return to form. The disc is out today.

Now, normally, I would have just listened to Malkmus again at this point. But I had already listened to Malkmus and Mould twice, so I went through my pile of CDs on my desk, and, for some odd reason, grabbed this record from Doctors & Dealers, a disc titled "Confessions of a Drunken Mind." Well, this is the best album I've heard in months.

Seriously, this Swedish one-woman band (that's her above) has created a gorgeous disc of bedroom pop. I'm typing this entry as I'm listening to the album for the fourth time in a row. I never do that. This is so good. It's a great combination of twee and, say, Regina Spektor. But, I'm a critic who never really "got" Spektor, so let's just say this is the record I wish she made because, then, I would have been at the forefront of the Spektor hype.

Now I plan to be the first critic to gush about D&D (look, I just gave the band a nickname!) Just be on the lookout for Doctors & Dealers, seriously. The disc is out April 22.

Monday, February 04, 2008

One More Sign ...

So do you want to know why I'm seriously fearing the apocalypse? Well, besides the seemingly unbeatable Patriots losing, something far more surprising just happened.

While getting ready to write some album reviews for Friday's Weekend, I popped in Sheryl Crow's upcoming "Detours" album and realized that I really like the first song, "God Bless This Mess." I mean, I really like it. This makes no sense to me. Oh, sure, Sheryl made some good songs in her career, but this tune is great. Something funny's going on ...

Bring On The Hate Mail

When my prediction column on the Super Bowl was published Friday, I did not receive one e-mail about it. Not a one. But now that I was wrong, the hate mail is flowing. The number is up 44. Here's my favorite one, from Robb from Fair Haven, who at least signed his name, unlike many others. But, you see, he'd have much more credibility if he didn't wait till after the game. I would have picked the game right too if I did it today.

"The Giants have no chance." That's what you said Friday! Not only do you not know anything about music, it's abundantly clear that you know don't know anything about football either!!! The New York Giants are Super Bowl Champions!!!
Robb, Fair Haven
Yep, nothing. At least it was a great game. That Eli Manning/David Tyree catch was, seriously, the greatest play I've ever seen. And I've seen the Pats win three Super Bowls in my adult life, while a lot of my Giants-fan friends hadn't seen one since they were a kid. I'm happy for them.
You can read my diary about the game here. And, yeah, I'm wearing the origami hat right now ...