Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman are two names you have probably never heard before if you’re just a regular consumer of music. But for us music-obsessed nerds, their story is the one we all dream of. Bruce and Jonathan, music geeks galore, connected in the early 1980s through the local music scene in Seattle and ended up starting Sub Pop Records, in an effort to simply better expose the great music they thought Seattle was producing. By 1988, they had an office. By 1991, they had $2.5 million in the bank, thanks to a little trio who called themselves Nirvana. Sub Pop is now celebrating their 20th anniversary and if you want a good, interesting read today, then I suggest you head on over to Pitchfork, where both Sub Pop founders are subject of an excellent interview about the innerworkings of a small record label. A lot of this stuff is exactly what we went through at Tar Hut (besides the, uh, large sums of money they ended up with), so it really resonates for me. But even if you’re not at all into the business of music or independent record labels, it’s just a pretty captivating read to see what they went through and how they reacted to their success and how they adjusted to the post-Nirvana world.
Sub Pop is still a terrific label – by no means a one-hit wonder. Band of Horses, Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, Mudhoney, The Shins and the GREAT Kelley Stoltz are all on the label and still producing inventive, relevant music. Good for them!
Well, I’ve cleared the cobwebs from the blog and I’m back. I officially took 12 days off of blogging, which might be my longest stretch other than my trip to Hawaii some time ago. This break is combined with my work break – we always get the week off between Christmas and New Years, so I try to minimize computer use during that time. Drying out, if you will.
Today I’m going to cover two topics.
1. During the break, I stunned myself by successfully installing an actual flush-mounted ceiling light similar to this one. This involved actually shutting off the electric in that area, disconnecting an old light and reconnecting a new one and assembling it. Many of you probably scoff at this and say to yourself how easy it is. But you don’t know me and house-fixing stuff. So when I did it, I was shocked. And proud. And stunned.
2. I can’t (or won’t) go into as much detail as I have in the past, but here are my top records of 2007. It was another damn good year. I have a feeling I didn’t catch as much as I usually do because of the twins arrival in June, but a LOT of good stuff came across my ears this year. Here’s the highlights:
The first one listed is my favorite, the rest are in no particular order.
Band of Horses, “Cease To Begin”: Ben Bridwell and crew have no idea whatsoever what the adage “sophomore slump” means. Their second album is chock full of epic, soaring and memorable tunes. Nowhere else can a song contain a trite lyric like “the worlds such a wonderful place” and sound so damn good. Here’s a terrific cut from the album, called “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands”
Kings of Leon, “Because of the Times”: Their show in October here in Boston was a bit of a coming-out party for me – it was the first show I’d seen post-twins and it was a hell of a way to jump back into the fray. Tight pants and a tighter band made me really revisit this record and I quickly realized that, yes, it’s possible to still like radio-friendly old-school rock and roll. Here’s “On Call”:
The New Pornographers, “Challengers”: god bless this band. If there’s any band out there making instantly memorable, hum along, have-it-memorized-in-five-minutes music, it’s this sweet band of Canadians. As usual, there’s too many good songs to choose from so I’m just literally going to close my eyes and stick a pencil on a song title. Enjoy “All The Old Showstoppers”
Youth Group, “Casino Twilight Dogs”: This one came out of nowhere. My friend Dave sent along the recommendation so I checked out a few songs and WHAM! It just hit me like a ton of bricks. They’re Australian and while some of their songs are Dylan-esque, others become their own due to the singer’s excellent voice. Check out this two-and-half-minute gem called “TJ” and know (and appreciate) that their sound varies from this. Very good stuff.
The Frames, “The Cost”: How exactly did I miss this band for so long??? I actually saw them a few years back in Boston and really liked it, but just never got around to picking anything up by them. What an ass-tard I was for that! The good news? Not only did I have their fabulous 2007 album to listen to, but I also got to go back and enjoy the many others they have! I love that. So, here’s the skinny: they’re Irish, their songs are just……grand and they have an intense and very talented songwriter and singer (see here for a much better write-up than I’ll ever put forth). Please enjoy “Falling Slowly” here, because I think it might be my favorite song of the year.
Fionne Regan, “The End of History”: I don’t know. Typically I dislike the whole “boy and his guitar” thing, but once in a while you hear something that just picks at you. This is one of them. Regan’s a young, talented and apparently simple songsmith whose songs leave you saying something along the lines of “I can probably play that. And sing it just as well.” But you just know you can’t. It’s one of those deals where he just makes it sound so damn easy. I’m jealous. I would have gotten more girls in school if I did what he does. Listen to “Put a Penny In The Slot.”
There you have it. I also did like Wilco’s newest offering and I guess it should be included here, but I cooled off on it too quickly, despite really loving “You Are My Face.” And so many people said that “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” was Spoon’s best record yet. I couldn’t disagree more. There’s a couple of spots there, but I was so disappointed by that one. Drats. I also discovered two 2006 offerings that warrant mentioning here: Field Music’s “Write Your Own History” and Midlake’s “The Trials of Van Occupanther” both offer similarly rich and very listenable, inventive music. I’m sorry to have missed those in ’06, but you can’t get ’em all.
Happy New Year!
Now playing: Fairport Convention – Percy’s Song
It’s been a very eventful few days, with a heavy focus on Rhode Island. Witness:
1) We were supposed to spend Thursday, Friday and Saturday exploring Block Island, a small island 12 miles off the south coast of Rhode Island. It requires a ferry ride in which you drive your car on the boat if you want to be able to drive around the island, which is 7 miles long and 3 miles wide. A very small place and very very charming. Part of that charm was the fact that the island was basically deserted given the time of the year. So it was quiet, easy driving around and very peaceful.
But here’s the thing – traveling with two five month olds is hard. Damn hard. You have to pack like a thousand things. I mean, you’re going to an island that has 800 people living on it. In November. So pretty much nothing is open. The only gas station on the island (I think) is only open from 9am-noon. You get the idea. The kids were fine, we’re lucky to (so far) have two pretty charming little babies. But baby maintenance is what slows things down. You have to plan hour-by-hour based on feedings, etc. All fine and good, though, until we woke up on Friday and found out that the remnants of a hurricane were coming on Saturday. The idea of being on a ferry in the middle of such weather was not something that Steph and I were so much into. So we took our chances and went standby on a ferry Friday afternoon. Luckily, we made it on. So our “vacation” turned out to be, oh, 26 hours of time spent on the island (7 of which were sleeping and 2 of which were spent packing and unpacking……and 6 hours traveling via boat and car. But go to Block Island! It’s beautiful!
2) Saturday it was back to Rhode Island! It seems the terrific Band of Horses inexplicably skipped Boston on their current tour. Since there was no way I was going to miss this band live, it was off to see them at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence with good friend and web rock star Dan. The band did not disappoint, either. On a rather nasty night (see: remnants of hurricane), the band drew a good amount of people and delivered a crisp, damn near perfect sound. The singer’s voice is the straw that stirs the drink and it’s actually better live than it is on record, which is a rarity. Band of Horses is timeless, sprawling, epic rock. If you’re a fan of The Band, Neil Young, Built To Spill or just good music, this band is for you. Have a listen here to “Is There A Ghost,”, from a post I wrote a few weeks ago. It’s only a portion of what they’re all about. What a band. Their new album, “Cease to Begin,” buries any thoughts of a sophomore slump. It’s heading for favorite record of the year territory.
3) While on Block Island, I had a dream I was eating ham-flavored pasta. Dan asked me to clarify this at the show. It wasn’t ham pasta. It was ham flavored pasta. Not sure what that means.
4) Supposed to sign two purchase & sales Monday for the sale of our house and the purchase of another. Can’t wait for that to be over.