Life in the Dark, The Felice Brothers


Here are some thoughts on some of the songs Life in the Dark, the latest record from the Felice Brothers. I’d say they got their Americana mojo back, but I don’t think they ever really lost it – more took a stroll down a different path for a while, and have now rejoined the original trail. Aerosol Ball: A Cajun-inflected delight that is dark commentary on consumerism in a bubbly, danceable disguise. I will never look at the St. Paulie Girl the same way again. Jack at the Asylum: I heard the first couple of bars and thought Oh, they did ‘Jack of Diamonds’ again?, which – yes, but also no. It’s Jack of Diamonds, done American Gods-style. The embodied voice of the frontier, slipping through time, hopscotching states; an American everyman, a rambler, a gambler, a long way from home, counting his cards and making his luck, long after his luck has run out, writing us all a note from the “looney bin” that is both warning and entreaty. Triumph ’73: Echoes of Vietnam, though “rich man’s war” could just as easily apply to activities in the Middle East. I like to listen to this one when driving through … Continue reading

Video: Ludlow Expectations, Butch Walker

Photo of Butch Walker by Noah Abrams

Esquire called Butch Walker‘s Ludlow Expectations a “love letter to New York” which I doubted at first – a love letter? for the title and one line? – but . . . having listened to it somewhat obsessively and also read about its creation, I get it now. Walker wrote this song walking around the Lower East Side in the middle of the night. That is one New York. Here is what this song is to me, which is my New York: coming up from the subway in Times Square after a heavy fall rain, giggling with someone I loved. It’s the burst of joyful adrenaline, of we made it! we made it! on the way to a late movie, the bright lights burning overhead in welcome and vindication. It’s diner food at 3 AM after a long night out. It’s the finest dance party in the city, which is held on the Coney Island boardwalk on New Years Day. It’s backflipping yourself into the slipstream and calling it as you come down, knowing the City will always take you back. This is the lyric video, which contains an image of the Great Orange Noise, so you may want to … Continue reading

Covers of Note: The Curly Wolf, Thirteen


Hey, kids. I know it’s been kind of quiet around here. Promise I’m not dead. Nor is the blog. Only sleeping, babies, only sleeping. Today I have a video for you, from The Curly Wolf; it’s their rendition of Danzig’s Thirteen. Not going to lie, before I read the whole email I thought they had covered Big Star’s Thirteen instead, which, well, that would be a whole different adventure – one which I’d be willing to go on, for the record – but I’m also always in favor of flipping metal songs inside out and goosing the tempo. In this particular instance the result is probably best classified as “dark folk punk” or perhaps “but what if Willie Nelson and Lemmy had both taken a wrong turn at Bakersfield and started a band??” Anyway. It’s good. You should listen to it.

Video: The Dirty Nil, Wrestle Yü To Hüsker Dü


So before I started this post I skimmed back through all of my previous posts about The Dirty Nil (scrappy little band of my heart, Frozen North division) just to make sure I wasn’t about to tell the same story for the third time, and here’s what I realized: I maybe haven’t told enough stories. A side effect of following a band’s career for a while is you get to watch them evolve and grow. The first time I saw The Dirty Nil was their first New York show, at Glasslands in 2013. It was December (and freezing) and also, like, a Wednesday, so their crowd amounted to me and four other people (all dudes) over 35 stomp-swaying (mostly swaying) appreciatively. Still, they did their best to blow the roof off. My gut reaction was Oh yeah, this is the good stuff and Where is their pit? They need a pit. (Answer: At home in Toronto, where from what I can tell from the internet, their shows are glorious chaos, as they should be.) I’ve since seen them at a tiny filthy punk club and Warped Tour, with larger crowds for each excursion, and not only is everyone still stomp-swaying … Continue reading

Video: Orchid Collective, Lay Like A Stone

Orchid Collective press possible

Orchid Collective (love that name) are from Dublin, Ireland. I have watched three different videos for this song – Lay Like A Stone, their second single – and while I love all of them, I picked this one so you could actually see them playing. That it’s filmed in black and white adds some nice atmosphere and texture to an already melancholy song. The other two are: this one, which is the official video, and perfectly captures the loneliness of struggling in a big city (and is thus SUPER sad) and this one, which is actually my favorite – just the band and their back-up singers, standing in a circle in a largely deserted and possibly rain-damp public square, nailing those beautiful harmonies.

Video Grab Bag: David Bowie


Several years ago, at the end of a long conversation about Elvis Presley, and specifically the world’s response to his death, a friend of mine asked me: “Who’s our Elvis? Whose death will stop the world like his?” We mulled and debated and left the question open. At 1:30 this morning I rolled over and checked the Internet and got the answer. I texted the friend this afternoon, to say: This is it. Our Elvis has died. David Bowie has left us, and I have to tell y’all, I don’t even know where to start. At the beginning, I guess, or what was the beginning for me: Dance Magic Dance from Labyrinth: I don’t remember when I first heard Let’s Dance, title track of the 1983 record, but it has always been one of my favorites. Here he is singing it, as well as one other song that comes first, with Tina Turner: Jumping backwards a little bit, this is Beauty and the Beast, from Heroes (1977), which I stumbled over probably ten years ago, and half a story fell fully formed into my head. I still haven’t written it down, but it’s there. Space Oddity, from David Bowie (1969) … Continue reading

August Burns Red, Carol of the Bells / O Holy Night


August Burns Red are well known for their punishingly heavy jams. They bring a similar spirit to Sleddin’ Hill, their Christmas record, released in 2012. I probably write about it every year, because I just love it that much. My primary favorite song from the record is their rendition of Carol of the Bells, which keeps the shape of the original intact but ramps up the intensity and pours on the drums: And as I was poking around the video possibilities I discovered that 1) one of their labels had put the whole thing up and 2) their version of Oh Holy Night is just majestic. Oh Holy Night is the kind of thing that’s supposed to ebb and flow on its way to a massive crescendo; when the choir hits fall on your knees you should feel the voices pulling you down. There’s no singing, here, but the drums will certainly knock you over:

Video: Bob Dylan, Adeste Fidelis and Little Drummer Boy


Bob Dylan released Christmas in the Heart in 2009, and the world’s reaction was somewhere between ” . . .” and “WHAT?” I have a confession, y’all: I usually can take or leave Bob Dylan, but I unironically love this record. There really is nothing more subtly glorious than him and his froggy croak of a voice powering through Adeste Fidelis: Though his rendition of Little Drummer Boy is also pretty great: