Tag Archives: Nada Surf

T.G.I.F. – Ten Free Digital Samplers

They say you can’t get something for nothing. Wrong

Having grown up on 45 singles and gatefold albums, I’m still a tactile music lover. I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital distribution world, even though I realize that it’s more convenient and less expensive. Can’t help it. Old habits die hard.

So since I’m not constantly surfing iTunes and Rhapsody and other music services, I sometimes miss out on titles that come out exclusively for the digital market, be they music or comedy. Hell, it’s hard enough to keep track of everything and I’m proactively looking…I can imagine how hard it is to find everything passively. And record companies – small and big – realize this also.

There’s nothing new about samplers, but pressing and distributing vinyl and CD platters cost money and couldn’t be offered for free in large quantities. Warner Brothers used to sell them for two dollars through the mail, which probably was a break-even point for them, although it wasn’t that much cheaper than a normal retail priced album at the time. When CDs became deceptively cheap, the market was flooded with indie samplers, although most would up in dollar racks. It would have been nice to try to discover new bands, but with the plethora of CDs in the store, who had the time and the money to experiment?

So here’s one thing digital got right – free albums, a click away from wherever you happen to be. The purpose is the same – hear some new bands, hopefully find someone you like, become a fan and buy their product. It’s the try-before-you-buy policy that is the new paradigm for a fractured industry. I’ve stumbled across several by pure happenstance; I’m sure you’ll find tons of others. Many bands are happy to give their albums away hoping you will come out to the show and support them on tour.

So here are Ten Free Digital Samplers that I found worthwhile; no-risk free records for the taking. Imagine – a money back guarantee!

01) Ike Reilly digital sampler – one of the best songwriters around and a dynamic performer, a cutting edge Dylan-influenced poet. I’ve got his whole catalogue and if you don’t know him, trust me, you will love this guy.

02) Americana Music Awards Sampler – featuring cuts from John Hiatt, Buddy and Julie Miller, Steve Earle and James McMurtry to draw you in, you’ll come away as fans of Jason Isbell and The Avett Brothers.

03) Wicked Cool Coming Attractions – A great sampler from Little Steven’s label (and Underground Garage playlist) including The Chesterfield Kings, The Breakers, The Cocktail Slippers and contenders for 2010’s best album, The Len Price 3.

04) Merge Records 2010 Sampler – Indie wonderland, featuring Destroyer, She and Him, Clean, The Clientele and The Shout Out Louds.

05) Alive Records 2009 Sampler – Not dated in any way, this runs the gamut from re-released gems from The Nerves to great cuts from The Buffalo Killers, Left Lane Cruiser and Outrageous Cherry.

06) ROIR: So Indie It Hurts Jackpot! New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Suicide, The Mekons, The Fleshtones, James Chance and the Contortions…NYC punk bonanza!

07) Ryko: Flash of Light – Worth it for the acoustic Gary Louris tune alone, but this is filled with great singer-songwriters like Will Hoge and Justin Currie (from Del Amitri).

08) Barsuk Records 2009 Sampler – OK, so I wish that Nada Surf was on here, but otherwise this is a killer collection featuring Death Cab For Cutie, Menomena and Ra Ra Riot.

09) CMJ 2009 Sampler – I imagine there will be a 2010 version floating around soon, but this is stuffed with lesser known bands so what difference does a year make? I already liked  The Black Hollies and The High Strung and came away discovering The Generationals and The Bloodsugars.

10) Best of Yep Roc Singles – This is an absolute steal. When you’re one of the best labels of the past twenty years, of course your roster boasts Nick Lowe, Todd Snider, Dave Alvin, The Apples In Stereo and Reverend Horton Heat.

And what the hell – it’s free one from Sub Pop containing Blitzen Trapper, Wolf Parade, Beach House…even a clip from comedian David Cross!

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Blast From The Past: Iggy Tribute

And I do mean blast – play this one loud!

Happened to pull this album off the shelves the other day, and sure enough, way back in 1998 I scribbled some words about it for TransAction Magazine. Funny how things change; although I liked their cut here I swatted Nada Surf with a backhanded compliment. Over the next decade they blossomed into a great band whose albums made my year-end lists more than once.

I still love tribute albums when they’re made from the heart; bands and project coordinator fully on track with the artist being feted. Even a small label trying to promote their artists can sometimes expose a great unknown band. It’s the major label projects that often leave me cold. (Jennifer Lopez fans aren’t going to want to hear her sing Bruce Springsteen, and I’m pretty sure fans of The Boss don’t want to have to scrape their ears clean with a fork, either.)

But enough about that – heeeeere’s Iggy!

Royalty Records has assembled a twenty-track, seventy-three minute tour through Iggy Pop’s career, the third such collection I’ve seen but easily the most high-profile. Reading the artists and track listing on the back cover would be enough inspiration for even a fringe fan to grab the disc, but the contents may surprise you. While some big names turn in respectable takes, a couple of the brightest moments come from the most unlikely artists.

Nada Surf always struck me as a one-hit MTV band, but their great version of “Sick Of You” is reminiscent of Love It To Death era Alice Cooper! Sugar Ray, another band-of-the-moment, torches “Cold Metal” so thoroughly that not even the insipid turntable scratching during the solo can take it down. Pansy Division shows that they have balls after all with a great rip on “Loose”.

The Lunachicks make “Passenger” an aural treat all over again, and Extra Fancy’s shuffle version of “Sell Your Love” is one of the two or three best cuts on the record. The Red Hot Chili Peppers do a credible version of “Search And Destroy”, but it’s licensed from seven years ago, not newly recorded. If they were going to rob the vaults, I would have much preferred the Dictators’ classic flame-thrower interpretation.

Not everyone shines, however. An almost-unrecognizable Superdrag drones their way through “1970” and Blondie (here reformed as a four piece under the pseudonym Adolph’s Dog) schmooze their way through “Ordinary Bummer” (what a waste of a Clem Burke sighting!). With tribute projects you take your chances, and the couple of clinkers aside the percentages are very good on this one.

Listen to clips from this album.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Top Titles From 2005

It’s Memorial Day Weekend – time for pints, people and pleasure!

But since I have to account for our society’s short-term memory and McNugget lifestyle, today I’m only dropping back five years! And this weekend I’ll stay on topic and plunge back into the past for a couple of items – one a forty-year old classic and the other a five-year-old failed (but interesting) experiment from two of the biggest pop artists of the 70s.

But for now, a visit to my ten top titles from 2005…and what the artists are up to in 2010. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

01  Marah –  If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry…The no-brainer #1 record of the year. Marah finally captures some of the onstage magic that makes them the best rock and roll band on the planet on most nights. Screw the preparation, plug in, ciggies in the tuning pegs and let’s rock and roll, dammit! (2010: Marah has a new album about to drop called Life Is A Problem and just started their tour)

02  Nada Surf –  The Weight is a Gift…There can’t still be people not listening them because of the first album, are there? Their debut is like child scribbles compared to the majestic artwork over their last three albums. (2010: Nada Surf’s album of covers called If I Had A Hi-Fi is out this month!)

03  Graham ParkerSongs Of No Consequence…Of course, Captain Irony is wrong – Geep always writes about matters of consequence. I’d hate to see The Figgs give up their career, but they fit Parker as good or better than the Rumour. He’s having fun! (2010: Graham’s newest album Imaginary Television is one of my favorites so far this year. Missed his Boston show w/ The Figgs by two hours!)

04  The 88Over And Over…Criminally unknown band – well, okay, they could have picked a better name. But they’ve taken all those Jellyfish, Kinks, T rex and XTC references and put them to good use. Two albums so far, both great. (2010: The band continues to place music in film and TV – that’s them doing the theme from “Community” – and more new music is on the way!)

05  RedwallsDe Nova…Chicago pop band makes good. Maybe a little Beatle-heavy at times, but hey, if you’re going to emulate someone, why not? You’ve probably heard their tracks on the WB, and…oh…right…wrong crowd. (2010: Hmmm…not much that I can find since the follow-up album.)

06  Rolling StonesA Bigger Bang…Really – who would have expected this! Easily their best record in twenty years, although that’s a backhanded compliment. Lively, rocking and credible…if there’s a perfect time to quit, it’s now. (2010: Far from quitting; they’ve released anniversary editions of Exile on Main Street and have a documentary DVD out about the making of the record. Tour? If they’re breathing, probably!)

07  Terry Anderson – Olympic Ass Kicking Team…Why the White Chuck Berry has to toil in semi-obscurity is beyond me, but since he has no problem calling up Roscoe, Dan Baird and fellow rockers and cranks these puppies out, I’ll keep touting him. (2010: Terry and crew landed on my best of list last year with National Champions! Always recording more, so stay tuned!)

08  StereophonicsSex Violence Other…Oasis without the fistfights and the Beatles fixation. No, there’s still something left. Good inventive Britpop with enough snarl, sass and sonics to keep me interested album after album. (2010: What is it about this year? Yes, a new album from these guys too called Keep Calm and Carry On.)

09  The 22-20s –  The 22-20s…Another band that picked a bad name for success (see #4 above), these guys mix early Stones and Small Faces to alternately rock and groove. Great vocals and energy – keep an eye on them. (2010: Pumped!! I was about to write that they’ve been defunct since 2006 but found that they got back together in 2008 and Shake Shiver Moan will come out in June!)

10  FoxymoronsHesitation Eyes…Knocked my socks off. Two writers mailing song fragments back and forth and completing each other’s thoughts. Only a couple of tracks didn’t make the record, so the success ratio was impressive. (2010: Sadly, just the sound of crickets…)

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