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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 in Review Pt. 3: Oh, Canada!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 5:28 PM

In today's installment of belated musings on some of my favorite finds of 2009, we'll be traveling north of the border to explore two Canadian artists that turned up continually my music rotation.

First up is California ex-pat Patrick Watson, whom I discovered thanks to a series of excellent videos he taped for La Blogotheque's Take Away Shows. Every time I watch them, or listen to the Montreal-based tunesmith's otherworldly 2009 album Wooden Arms, I curse Homeland Security for making it so damn difficult for musicians to cross borders to work. Dude literally lives an hour-and-a-half away. Yet as far as I know, he's never played here. I'm guessing if you take a gander at the video below, you might share my frustration.

#97 Patrick Watson / Part 3 - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Traveling west to Toronto we have Human Highway, a band I've mentioned a few times here in the last year or so, and one that became a cornerstone of my summer soundtrack. To refresh your memory, the duo is a side project of Islands front man Nick Diamonds (also from Montreal) and Jim Guthrie, who may or may not be Woody's grandson. Come to think of it, I really wish I had thought to ask Sarah Lee Guthrie about that when I spoke with her a couple of months ago. That's been bugging me for months. Dammit.

Anyway, their 2008 debut Moody Motorcycle — again, not all of this stuff was necessarily made this year — has possibly earned more spins than any other album I found in 2009. In particular, this song, "The Sound."

The Sound

Human Highway | MySpace Music Videos

Oh, and speaking of Islands, I would be remiss if I didn't pass along this vid of "No You Don't" from their killer 2009 album Vapours. And check back in tomorrow when we discuss how AutoTune finally broke me down and won me over in 2009.

No Paper? No Problem. Nibble On These SoundBites

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 1:12 PM

Perhaps you noticed there was no new issue of Seven Days this morning. Sorry 'bout that. But our last edition, which sneakily hit newsstands on 12/29 — a Tuesday!?! — was a double issue, covering last week and this one. Even crazier, that entire paper was written in mid-December, a good week-and-a-half before it was released.

As we do every year, we did our best to cram as much info as possible into that paper, in hopes of lessening the undoubtedly crippling statewide impact of a week with no new 7D. But despite our best efforts, certain things simply did not become aware to us until well after we had gone to press. For instance, there were a number of club listings that came in past deadline and were not printed. Though in fairness, it's awfully ambitious to hope every venue will have their schedules set in stone roughly a month in advance merely to suit our needs. Also, given that the 12/29 SoundBites column was devoted almost exclusively to New Year's Eve happenings, a smattering of shows occurring this weekend were left uncovered.

So with that in mind, here is a quick hit, BiteTorrent-styled version of the column that coulda, shoulda, woulda appeared today.


We begin our journey in the heart of Little Williamsburgh with a Friday night show at The Monkey House featuring two Burlington Rock City stalwarts, The Smittens and Swale, and the dynamic — and impossibly cute — DJing duo of Ted and Tay. I'll go out on a limb and guess that I don't need to tell most of you why you should check out The Smittens or Swale. And if you really don't know why … well, I hope you've awoken from your decade-long coma with second sight like Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone. Welcome back to the world!

Instead, I'd like to pose the question of whether we should be referring to Winooski as "Little Williamsburgh" or "New Williamsburgh," as I've heard the Shelbyvillian enclave referred to by both nickname permutations recently. And yes, we are entirely disregarding the notion that we just stick with "The Onion City." That's so 2009.

Given that more and more young(ish) and artsy(ish) folks continue fleeing to the 'Noosk as they are priced out of Burlington, and that the city boasts arguably the area's hippest local music night spot (that would be the Monkey) as well as a bevy of good, cheap(ish) eats (Tiny Thai, Sneakers, Pho Dang) and nifty dive bars (O'Brien's, McKee's, 138 Main), the comparison is relatively appropriate. What's more, if you've spent any time in Billyburgh lately and wandered along the riverfront, you may have noticed the startling number of largely vacant and uniformly hideous condos that sprang up and were then virtually abandoned mid-construction when the economy crashed. Place feels like a postmodern ghost town. I'm not sure why I mentioned that … ahem.

Anyway, if you need another reason to catch this show, allow me to offer this: The Smittens will be selling brand spanking new handbags! No, really. To borrow a phrase … Yow!

Moving on, there is nothing happening at Higher Ground this week. Like, really nothing.

Langdon Street Café has a solid weekend lined up with Americana up-and-comers Dixie Red Delights on Friday, Vorcza on Saturday and two nifty afternoon shows on Sunday: Philly songstress Suzie Brown, followed by North Countrypolitan duo Highway Bar Music.

Kids like the rock music. And the ska. And Saturday's throwdown at 242 Main features a couple of bands representing the best and brightest of Vermont's next generation in both genres: Vergennes-based rude boys (and girls) Busted Brix and Bristol's Gang of Thieves (who really impressed winning the recent Summit School Battle of the Bands), as well as two bands with whom I am as yet unfamiliar, Sixty Seconds and Number One Dad.


Kids also like the heavy metal. And this Thursday, Club Metronome is throwing a VT metal-core triple play with Brother Through Glass, The Human Heads and the appropriately named Victim of Metal.

The fine folks over at The Skinny Pancake (Burlington location) seem really excited about Thursday's show with Boston songwriter Abbie Barrett. I'm not terribly familiar, but you can check her out here.

And last, but not least, late Montpeculiar electro-reggae outfit Maddub is back. Sorta. They'll play the greatest bar in the world, Charlie O's, this Friday under a new name, Mad Attack.

Before we go, and entirely unrelated to music of any kind, I'd like to bid a fond farewell to Randy Johnson, who announced his retirement yesterday after 22 seasons in the major leagues. Regular readers know I'm something of a baseball nut — I'm a Sox fan, yes. But more than that, I just love the game. — And for the last two decades Johnson has been arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation. He'll undoubtedly be a first ballot hall of famer and may well go down as one of the five or ten most dominating hurlers of all time. But more than that, Randy Johnson stands alone in the pantheon of people whose given name is actually a funnier euphemism than his nickname, The Big Unit. Oh, and he threw the single craziest pitch ever:



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 in Review Pt. 2: When the Puggle's Loose

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Welcome back to my comically belated, week-long roundup of non-local music favorites from 2009! Though in fairness to myself, this is appearing a full week earlier than it did last year. Maybe next year (this year?) I can actually do one of these things before the end of the year. Baby steps.

Anyway, before we go on I should note that not all of the music we discuss this week was necessarily made in the past twelve months. Most of it was, of course. But some of it is merely music that I found, or that found me, last year. For example, Joe Pug.

I was introduced to Pug's 2008 debut EP Nation of Heat earlier this year and fell head over heels pretty much at first listen. But I admit I felt a bit late to the party as I read up on the Chicago tunesmith and encountered all manner of glowing music hack hyperbole, including numerous instances of that most unforgivable of rock scribe transgressions, Dylanpomorphism. And then there was this nugget from Paste magazine's Deputy Editor, Jason Killingsworth, who employed a fiendishly clever way of drawing the connection without ever explicitly doing so, writing, "Twenty years from now, lazy journalists will compare every halfway decent songwriter to Joe Pug." Well played, sir.

I won't waste your time overselling Pug with foolhardy comparisons to Dylan — he reminds me more of Bobby Bare Jr. anyway — or predicting that he's the next great American songwriter. I'll just tell you this. Joe Pug writes some of the grittiest and wittiest music I've heard in the last year. Aaaand, according to my sister, Ariel, who caught him live in Chicago recently, "He's so cute." So he's got that going for him, which is nice.

I'll also tell you this: if you like what you hear in the video below, you can download his latest EP for free on his website. The new quickie, entitled In the Meantime, was released to sate fans until his first full length album, Messenger, hits shelves in February.

Nation of Heat

Joe Pug | MySpace Music Videos

Continue reading »

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 in Review Pt. 1: War and Roses

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 5:17 PM

One of my all-time favorite country songs is "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)," written by the late, great Rose Maddox and popularized by the likes of Patsy Cline and Waylon Jennings, among others. On the surface, it is a pretty standard tale of lost love and heartbreak. But something about the chorus has always resonated with me in a way most torch songs don't. There is helpless desperation in Maddox' words — especially the way Cline sings them — that stirs emotion deeper than mere romantic folly. Really, who hasn't wanted to yank the cosmic e-brake and grind the world to a screeching halt from time to time?

Of course, there are precious few chances to do so, especially as one gets older. Or at least to do so without serious repercussions. But every now and then — or in this case, literally once in a blue moon — just such an opportunity arises. And when it does, it is wise to grab hold. And if you hadn't guessed by now, yes, this is all leading up to an explanation of why my little corner of the Interwebs has gone dark these last three weeks. To paraphrase Rose, I stopped the world and let myself off.

Every year around the holidays, 7D stops production for two-ish weeks and we all go home. (In a related story, don't look for a new paper this week. There won't be one. Before I started working here I used to hate that.) This year I took the word "vacation" by its most literal definition and intentionally avoided anything having to do with work. And let me tell you, it was amazing.

So what did I do during my self-imposed exile? Not much. I took a few naps. I caught up on some light reading (Bill Simmons' fascinating and often hilarious new epic, The Book of Basketball) and some tube watchin' (Inglorious Basterds, Extract, Up!, season three of Friday Night Lights). I took some more naps. I indulged my inner loser with some XBox-fueled geekin' out (Assassin's Creed 2). Took still more naps. And I fired up the old smoker for some winter BBQing (beer can chicken, pork shoulder). I also finally got around to revisiting and really digging in to a mountain of non-VT-made music that had taken a backseat in the wake of the recent wave of new local releases flooding my desk. And that mountain, my friends, is what I'd like to spend this week sharing with you. So consider this week's batch of posts my predictably belated 2009 "best of" roundup. Here we go.

First up, we have Only Way To Be Alone by Philly-based trio Good Old War, yet another band I stumbled upon this year thanks to I Am Fuel, You Are Friends. If I haven't mentioned it before — and I know I have — I really love that blog. And finds like GOW are exactly why.

I picked up the album several months ago, really dug it on cursory listens and then promptly forgot about it a couple of weeks later — I think because I still had 30 or so eMusic downloads to blow before the end of that month and it got lost in the shuffle. Anyway, flash to last week during the break. Whilst chatting with my li'l sis, Ariel, she asked if I had heard Dan Schwartz' new band. I had to think for a minute.

Dan Schwartz … Dan Schwartz … Why is that name so familiar?
Then it struck me. Danger Dan! I used to work with Dan Schwartz at Magic Hat! That would have gnawed at me for hours were I not so heavily medicated by video games and pulled pork.

I said that I hadn't heard them, to which Ari replied, "Oh. They're really good. I think they're called … Good Old War." At precisely that moment my jaw hit the floor. Danger Dan is in Good Old War?

I guess I had heard them. And as she so often is, kid sis is correct. They are really good. Oh, and one more thing. Those of you who didn't work at Magic Hat circa 2002 might know Danger Dan as well. He was in a number of Burlington bands at the time, perhaps most notably The Dakota. Pretty cool, right? Small world.

Anyway, it seems Danger Dan Schwartz is doing pretty well for himself, as evidenced by this video of "Weak Man" from Only Way. Interesting side note: if you watch closely, you'll notice another person with B-town ties in the video, Allison Wadsworth, who also makes a stunning cameo on that album's closing track, "Stay By My Side."


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