Category Archives: Music

Song of the Day #183 – Mary Gauthier

Today’s song captures an extraordinarily difficult moment in the life of Louisiana singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier. Like many people who are adopted in early childhood, Gauthier spent a great deal of time wondering about her parents. The song March 11, 1962, performed live in the video below, captures the painful conversation she had when she finally reconnected with her birth mother. It comes from Mary’s poignant 2010 release The Foundling, which tells the story of her life. It’s a sad, touching and, ultimately, inspirational tale about the power of music to heal the most broken of hearts.

Song of the Day #181 – You Had Me At Shlomo

I can safely say that today’s artist is different from any I’ve ever featured before in this series. How can you not love a white, Jewish beatboxer from England, of Israeli, Iraqi and German descent, named Shlomo? In this video of his television debut on Later with Jools Holland, Shlomo accomplishes the seemingly impossible – he proves that Jewish people can be hip. (Please don’t flame me: a) I’m kidding and b) I’m Jewish).

Song of the Day #179 – Dave Matthews Band

You know you’ve made it big when you can hold your own music festival, which is exactly what Dave Matthews is doing this Summer. It’s called the Dave Matthews Band Caravan and it features an awesome lineup playing four dates in four different locations. DMB is the top-grossing live act of the past decade for some pretty good reasons: superbly original songs, musical virtuosity and a demonstrated commitment to fans. The video below is one of my favorite Dave Matthews songs: #41, performed live by Dave and Tim Reynolds. If you like this song, also check out Song of the Day #68.

Song of the Day #176 – Wilco

Today we have another fine “Take Away Show” from the French site, La Blogotheque. These guys really know how to make amazing live performance videos. Not that I’m the least bit qualified, but this kind of filmmaking would pretty much be my dream job. The video features Wilco performing one of my favorites from their catalog, Country Disappeared. If you like this music, check out Song of the Day #3 and this commentary piece, featuring Jeff Tweedy.

Song of the Day #175 – Bon Iver

Yesterday, I featured a song shot in a park in New York and I wrote about how much I enjoyed the “anything goes” style of the production. I’m continuing that theme today, with a video brought to you by another group specializing in spontaneous live music performances. Today’s video is from the French music website and podcast, La Blogotheque. The song is For Emma by Bon Iver, which sounds like a French band but is actually an American indie folk band from Wisconsin.

Three interesting things about this video: 1) it’s done completely a capella and the vocals sound great, 2) it’s very spontaneous (filmed in a foyer in Paris, at one point a dog runs over to the band for some mid-song petting) and 3) there’s a very cool surprise moment, which I won’t spoil, around 2:00 into the video.

Song of the Day #174 – Luluc

I love Shoot The Player because they break all the rules of music video production. They capture musicians in live, one-take, unscripted films, which are by design spontaneous and wonderfully imperfect. Children’s voices, curious passers-by, the rush of the wind, and many other guests, invited and uninvited, play supporting roles in their productions, all to wonderful effect. Shoot the Player understands something that others have missed: great performances don’t always need to be engineered. Reality is beautiful, if you allow it to be captured on its own terms. Please enjoy this lovely song called One Day Soon by Luluc.

Song of the Day #173

The lead singer in this video is the daughter of two famous parents. Watch the video and see if you can guess her lineage. The answer is revealed below. Today’s video is another fine Black Cab Session featuring British band I Blame Coco performing Self Machine. I’ve got this song on auto-play at the moment – it feels just right for a Friday.

Coco, a.k.a., Eliot Paulina Sumner, is the daughter of Sting and Trudie Syler.

Song of the Day #170 – The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem is an indie folk band from Providence, Rhode Island. They blend innovative use of horns, clarinet and various old-time instruments with some of the sweetest harmonies you’ll hear anywhere. Check out this beautiful live version of Cage The Songbird. The Low Anthem just released an excellent new record called Smart Flesh and are currently touring (I’m looking forward to seeing them at the Triple Door in Seattle on May 16).

Ten Places to Discover Great New Music

People sometimes ask where I find the music featured in my Song of the Day series. Back in the days when we listened to music by dragging a tiny stylus across a rotating piece of plastic, there were only two reliable ways to find new music: 1) listen to the radio and 2) check out your friends’ record collections. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, finding new music couldn’t be easier. Here are my ten favorite web resources for discovering new and exciting music:

  1. Youtube – Youtube isn’t just a great site for videos – it’s the best jukebox ever invented. Search on any song title or band name and you’ll probably find more videos than you have time to watch. You have to do some digging to find the real gems, but if you look beyond the slick, record company produced videos, the pirated uploads set to boring still images and the shaky cell phone videos, you’ll find some truly amazing live music performances.
  2. Twitter – Twitter is a great source of tips on new music. The trick is to find and follow people whose taste interests you the most. Follow your favorite artists and see who they tweet about. I’ve received some great music tips recently by following @fleetfoxes (Robin Pecknold), @Gibbstart (Ben Gibbard) and @Slowcoustic (Canadian acoustic music blogger).
  3. Radio Paradise – This is a radio station streaming live on the internet. What sets it apart from thousands of other indie internet radio stations is the eclectic and diverse playlist, reflecting the impeccable taste of founders Bill & Rebecca Goldsmith. I never fail to hear something new and interesting whenever I listen to Radio Paradise.
  4. Daytrotter – This site invites touring musicians to a barn in western Illinois for an impromptu live recording session. The results are posted in free, downloadable MP3 form and videos are often available as well.
  5. Hearya – Another great site for live recordings of indie bands. Hearya is based in the Chicago area. Like daytrotter, all music is original and freely downloadable and features some video material. In addition to the live recordings, hearya is an excellent indie music blog.
  6. NPR Tiny Desk Concerts – This is an excellent source of great live music featuring video performances behind a desk somewhere inside the NPR Music offices. Despite the cramped venue, something about this show brings out the best in visiting artists. The production values on these videos are consistently excellent.
  7. Live From Daryl’s House – The concept is simple – every month a new artist comes to visit Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oates fame) at his home in upstate New York, whereupon a mix of songs from the artist’s and Daryl’s catalog are performed live. There are at least three good reasons you should check out this site: 1) it’s interesting to watch the creative process when diverse artists collaborate, 2) the range of guest artist/collaborators is rich and eclectic, and 3) Daryl Hall and his band have an uncanny knack for making everyone sound better.
  8. KEXP – From their amazing playlist, to their fantastic live in-studio performances, to their huge archive of live performances (all downloadable from kexp.org, videos available on the kexp youtube channel), Seattle’s KEXP is simply the best indie radio station in America.
  9. “Gonzo” Live Music sites – There are a number of sites featuring low budget impromptu live videos of lesser known artists. These sites are decidedly indie and very spontaneous in spirit. My favorites in this category are: Shoot The Player, Take Away Shows, Bandstand Busking, and Black Cab Sessions. The latter features artists performing live while jammed into the (moving) back seat of one of London’s famed black taxicabs.
  10. Local Sites – A great way to keep abreast of local artists, live shows, record store appearances, etc. is to find the best local music blogs in your neck of the woods. My favorite sites for the local music scene in Seattle are: Three Imaginary Girls (who have the best Seattle music events calendar I’ve found anywhere on the web), Sound on the Sound and 103.7 The Mountain.

Song of the Day #169 – David Bazan

Today’s song features another great local artist, Seattle singer/songwriter David Bazan. It’s a candid, live recording of Hard To Be at a house concert in Beverly, MA. David was raised Pentecostal and was a rising star in Christian music circles until 2004 when he began questioning his faith. His recent release, Curse Your Branches, is an eloquent meditation on his falling out with Christianity. Check out the poignant and powerful lyrics below. I like David’s music and I admire the way he searches, relentlessly, for the truth, regardless of the consequences.

Hard To Be by David Bazan

You’ve heard the story
You know how it goes
Once upon a garden
We were lovers with no clothes

Fresh from the soil
We were beautiful and true
In control of our emotions
‘Til we ate the poison fruit

And now it’s hard to be
Hard to be
Hard to be a decent human being

Wait just a minute
You expect me to believe
That all this misbehaving
Grew from one enchanted tree?

And helpless to fight it
We should all be satisfied
With this magical explanation
For why the living die

And why it’s hard to be
Hard to be
Hard to be a decent human being

Childbirth is painful
We toil to grow our food
Ignorance made us hungry
Information made us no good
Every burden misunderstood

So I swung my tassel
To the left side of my cap
Knowing after graduation
There would be no going back

And no congratulations
From my faithful family
Some of whom are already fasting
To intercede for me

Because it’s hard to be
Hard to be
Hard to be a decent human being

Song of the Day #168 – Frazey Ford

If I had to sum up today’s artist in four words, it might be “funny name, serious voice”. Frazey Ford is a former member and co-founder of the Vancouver-based Be Good Tanyas (see Song of the Day #24). Fans of that band will recognize Frazey’s lovely and unique rootsy vocals. In this video, another great live performance from KEXP in Seattle, Frazey performs September Field.

One is not enough. Here’s Frazey performing Gospel Song from the same session. You can watch all four songs from this set, as well as a ton of other great live music videos at KEXP’s youtube channel. If you like Frazey Ford, also check out her episode of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.

Song of the Day #167 – Bobby Long

Last week Bobby Long released directly to his fans (via Youtube) this wonderful video of a new song called Darling I Remember The Drink, which he managed to squeeze in during his current whirlwind tour of the US. Everything about this video is extremely raw – he’s a bit shy in the intro, he appears to be sitting in his tour bus, there’s a fair bit of background noise, and he refers to hand-scrawled notes throughout the performance (pausing to turn the page at one point). And that’s precisely what I love about it – in an era of over-produced, pampered and packaged rock stars, it’s refreshing to see a talented young artist who shares his music so directly and so honestly. When he says in the intro, “I just finished this song today‚Ķand you can have it”, it feels like a genuine gift. If you like Bobby Long, see also Song of the Day #152.

Song of the Day #166 – Yo La Tengo

Hoboken, NJ is the birthplace of one of the most popular singers in American history: Frank Sinatra. Tonight I’m off to see a live show by another, not quite as famous, musical product of Hoboken – cult indie favorites Yo La Tengo. Today’s video is a “Take Away Show” from the excellent French music site of the same name. It features a live outdoor performance of two songs: A Girl Like You and the lovely On Our Way to Fall in Love. I love how this video was shot in a playground – you can hear the sound of kids laughing and playing throughout the performance, and it all blends together naturally and beautifully, almost like the kids are part of the song. If you like YLT, also check out Song of the Day #85.