Music Review

More Intoxicatingly Superb Piano Albums from Jenny Lin

Long-time readers may have noted my admiration for Lin's immaculate pianism and eclectic programming. She's been a prolific recording artist as well, with 21 albums to her credit (plus inclusion on a multi-pianist set), and her repertoire is highly eclectic even by modern standards.

She's back with two more brilliant albums, and even on the single-composer disc manages to throw some repertoire curveballs. Guido Agosti's rarely heard arrangements of the last three movements from the Firebird Suite is a dazzling tour-de-force; it works well and Lin's performance sparkles vividly (the outer movements sound like real knuckle-busters). Read more »

Song of the Week: The Mother Hips - "Desert Song"

I've been a fan of this rootsy alt-pop quasi-jam band for years. (Well, at least for two decades.) This is one of the tops tracks from an album of previously unreleased nuggets mined by SF-based The Mother Hips lads -- Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiaconog -- recorded, for the most part, around '96-97. Perfect hot weather action, crank it up! Chronicle Man album drops next Tuesday, July 15th.

ANNIVERSARIES: Ottorino Respighi Born 135 Year Ago in Bologna

Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (July 9, 1879-April 18, 1936) was a master of colorful orchestration whose evocative symphonic tone poems and suites arranging Baroque material in modern garb have been audience-pleasers since they were first heard.

The son of a piano teacher who gave him lessons on both piano and violin, Respighi excelled on the latter. It was while first violinist in the Russian Imperial Orchestra at St. Peterburg that Respighi was able to study with master orchestrator Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He may have studied later with composer Max Bruch in Berlin (this is disputed), then returned to Italy, mostly working as first violin in the Mugellini Quintet. He moved to Rome in 1913 to teach and lived there for the rest of his life, which was ended by heart failure at the age of 56. Read more »

Half-Time Music Report - Best Music of the Past 6 Months

Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans! Been a terrific six months for new music. Below are some of my favorite album releases that deserve early kudos at the half-way mark. 

The War on Drugs: Lost in the  Dream (Secretly Canadian) Read more »

Song of the Day: Robert Plant - "Rainbow"

And speaking of the Led Zeppelin reissues... Former front man Robert Plant (and the Sensational Space Shifters) just released his brand new single "Rainbow" from his forthcoming album lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar. Tchad Blake's production adds an intoxicating percussive element to this simmering rocker. His new album will drop on September 9th on Nonesuch/Warner.

Album of the Weekend: David Starfire - Awakening

I'm not much of a DJ music freak, but when I do feel the urge I turn to my friend David Starfire. One of the smartest cats I've ever heard, his collisions of hypnotic worldbeat soundtracks and clever samples are second to none. (You Burners know what I'm talking about!) For a limited time he's offering his latest Psydub album -- Awakening -- for free. and it features collaborators Ganga Giri, Jamie Janover, Rik Shiva, Casey Forest Riley, and a remix by Kaya Project. Just put 0 when prompted on the download instructions. That's insane, but I know he'll make it back tenfold on his next live DJing gig. 'Til then, let this kick off your Saturday night party. Boo ya!

Song of the Weekend: The High Learys - "Two To Match"

They're back! My favorite new retro pop-rockers The High Learys have just released the official video for "Two To Match"-- a wonderful cartoon homage to the Fab Four's 60's TV show. It's from their debut album Here Come The High Learys; available on iTunes via Soundflat Records!

Album of the Week: Morrissey - "Earth is the Loneliest Planet of All"

Moz is back and everyone's favorite Hollywood pinup and fellow vegan Pamela Anderson is along for the ride. And why not? When living in Rome, Steven Patrick... Standing on the top of the Capitol Tower in West Hollywood, the video is just him reciting the lyrics sans backing music. Never short of clever titles, we'll just have to sample this tidbit until the full video is released from his forthcoming album World Peace Is None Of Your Business (July 14th release date). And with the sultry Ms. Anderson sporting a new short 'do, one can only hope she'll raise the "heat" index and its viewership stakes in the slow-dying music biz. His current U.S. TOUR has been CANCELED!

Song of the Day: Fold - "Be Water My Friend"

From Leeds, England, the four piece Fold who play real instruments without the aid of click tracks! Go figure. Actually, no, that's a pretty grand thing IMHO. Snippets of Bruce Lee dialog and tons of downbeat hip hop action. Check them out and buy the track today!

Artist of the Week: Spottiswoode - "Dreamer Boy"

Some things take longer to reach critical mass. I've wondered why the UK-born, NYC-based artist Jonathan Spottiswoode has yet to reach the mass acceptance he so deserves. Perhaps his deliciously seductive and sophisticated pop-rock music is too smart for mainstream audiences. Hopefully his wonderfully-engaging new sixth album English Dream will continue to give rise to his career. Get on the bandwagon. Catch him and his band -- His Enemies -- in action. Share his music. You know you want to...

Video of the Week: Paul McCartney - "Appreciate"

Sir Paul McCartney's subtle, but infectious new pop-rock single "Appreciate" from his latest album NEW has one of the better animation components even though it's a tad I, Robot meets AI is still evocative. Meet Newman the Robot! Directed by Andre Chocron and filmed in London, Newman was designed by Mervyn Millar and Ed Dimbleby (Significant Object). Currently on tour in Japan.

Song of the Day: Cineplexx - "Te Quiero"

As many of you readers know, I've been a fan of Cineplexx for years. Their latest single -- "Te Quiero"-- is an infectious "afrofunk" tune lifted from their new album FlorianopolisCineplexx is actually the Argentina-born, London-based Sebastian Litmanovich. His smart indie pop-rock features collaborations with Jad Fair (Half Japanese), Duglas Stewart & BMX Bandits, Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Nigel Baillie (Camera Obscura), Cathy Claret, Lilies on Mars, Ally Kerr, Federico Aubele, Natalia Clavier, Daniel Melero, Wechsel Garland, Montag, Lupe Nuñez (Amor de Dias), Yushimi, to name but a few. Buy it today!

Song of the Day: The Black Keys - "Bullet in the Brain"

From my former hometown of Akron, Ohio, via Nashville, where they now live, The Black Keys shared another stellar song from their new album Turn Burn this past weekend on Saturday Night Live. For those keeping score at home the album title is one of the many popular catchphrases used by Ghoulardi -- a fictional character created and portrayed by disc jockey and voice announcer Ernie Anderson (father of film director Paul Thomas Anderson) -- on his Friday night Shock Theater which aired locally on Channel 8 (WJW-TV) in Cleveland from 1963-'66.

ANNIVERSARIES: Johannes Brahms Born 181 Years Ago on May 7, 1833

A classicist using Romantic harmonies, Johannes Brahms (1833-97) was hailed at age 20 by Robert Schumann in a famous article entitled "New Paths." Yet by the time Brahms wrote his mature works, his music was thought of as a conservative compared to the daring harmonies and revolutionary dramatic theories of Richard Wagner. But in the next century, Arnold Schoenberg's 1947 essay titled "Brahms the Progressive" praised Brahms's bold modulations (as daring as Wagner's most tonally ambiguous chords), asymmetrical forms, and mastery of imaginative variation and development of thematic material.

The son of a bassist in the Hamburg Philharmonic Society, Brahms was an excellent pianist who was supporting himself by his mid-teens. His first two published works were his Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2, and throughout his career he penned much fine music for that instrument, not only solo (including the later Piano Sonata No. 3) and duo but also his landmark Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, which first revealed the symphonic scope of his talents. Read more »

Song of the Day: The High Learys - "Clear My Mind"

What's not to love about this wonderfully upbeat psych-pop nugget from the Perth, Australia-based quartet The High Learys (as in Timothy I'm guessing). Think "Incense & Peppermint" meets The Zombies. Wicked Ray Manzarek organ break, too. Does the title pay homage to Scientology? Hmmm...

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