Monthly Archives: August 2013

Song of the Week: “I’m Goin’ Down” – Bruce Springsteen

 

Traditions are an odd thing to pin down. They exist to bring people together whether it is formal or informal. Sometimes they can be extremely meaningful. Other times they’re downright bizarre, but you hold onto them because they’re yours.

In the world of sports, traditions can be downright bizarre. Those types of traditions make grown men and women act like complete lunatics for a few hours. And not only it is accepted, but it’s also encouraged. To be a fan of the team, you almost have to express yourself fandom through these acts.

I didn’t graduate from the University of Notre Dame, but over the past 10 years I’ve become a fan of the football team through two of my best friends who went there. Very early on, I was told I had to uphold certain traditions if I wanted to call myself a fan. Since I didn’t go to a school with a football team (or any nationally ranked team for that matter) the whole thing was completely foreign to me.

Since becoming a fan of the Irish, I’ve witnessed many of these during the numerous games I’ve attended over the years: the band playing “The 1812 Overture” at the end of each 3rd quarter, students lifting other their friends into the air mimicking push-ups after the Irish score (I’ve always wanted to do it but never have) and the elongated yelling of “Goooooooooooo Irish” at the beginning of each game just to name a few.

Those of course, school traditions – the ones that almost everyone knows. Many fans have their own traditions that take part in during game weekends. Among my Domer friends, this consisted of going to a dive-bar in South Bend on game weekends. During the week it’s a bar for locals, but on weekends it is turned into an over-crowded spot known for its mass quantities of Long Island Iced Teas. The music that blared mostly relied on tried and true favorites of the football crowd. A good chunk of the songs didn’t date past 1990.

One of the biggest reactions comes from Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down” from Born in the U.S.A. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t come to most people’s mind when they think of dancing (though his music is perfect for tailgating and you hear it from many cars) but for whatever reason, “I’m Goin’ Down” as always elicited an excitement from the crowd.

The Boss by himself is an odd choice for sure, but “I’m Goin’ Down” is even stranger. It’s not one of his most well known songs. It’s tucked away on Born in the U.S.A. behind the numerous other hits from that album. It’s like a lot of the other songs on Born in the U.S.A.: a guitar oriented pop song that sounds like fun on the surface, but is actually pretty bitter. All the elements of classic E-Street from that era are in place: strong melody, booming drums from Max Weinberg and a classic Clarence Clemons saxophone solo.

But still, the first time you hear you think it’s a throwaway, considering Springsteen’s standards. Everything seems to be in place, but it’s lacking something that keeps it from becoming an absolute classic.  Springsteen himself seems to have forgotten about the song. He played it on the Born in the U.S.A. Tour sporadically, and it went dormant for almost 25 years. It was finally revived in 2009 and continues to pop up occasionally on The Wrecking Ball Tour.

The fact that “I’m Goin’ Down” seems to have been largely forgotten by Springsteen himself and rarely mentioned in critical circles, makes it all the more special during game weekends. Springsteen is known for being inclusive in his songs – that’s a big reason why he has such a devoted following.  But on fall weekends, “I’m Goin’ Down” belongs to fans of the Irish.

Exclusive Interview with Sarah Tracey On Her Web Series “The Black Diamond”

 

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A few days back, I posted the first episode of Sarah Tracey’s web-series The Black Diamond. The 5 part series is a classic noir and stars Tracey. I recently caught up with Tracey and discussed the project.  Check it out below.

You’ve already explored noir with Tell No One – your music seems to fit into that era.  What made you want take that idea even further into a web-series?

My album Tell No One was written to evoke vintage spy-movie soundtracks like the “007” scores and “Mission Impossible”all that great swingin’ music from the 1950s and early 60s that blended bachelor-pad lounge with surf and some exotic Latin rhythms. It’s got a bit of sultry noir feel to it but also some fun “Ocean’s Eleven”/Tarantino-ish vibes. Since I was so inspired by film music, we thought— why not make a movie? It was a natural fit.

Did you write the episodes yourself or did you have a collaborator?

The project was a collaboration between myself and Andrew Wyzan. Andrew came up with the initial concept and then I fleshed it out with the narration dialogue and incorporated some of the imagery from my lyrics as well. I LOVE noir fiction but this was my first time writing it and I had a blast.

A lot of up and coming artists are using videos in interesting ways to promote their music. Yours might be the most interesting and cool idea I’ve seen. Do you see The Black Diamond as its own entity or an extension of your art and music?

Definitely both. It can absolutely stand alone and you could come to it without knowing anything about me or my music and really enjoy it.  It’s a great introduction to what I do. And for fans already familiar with my album and live shows, it’s a visual treat that expands the musical world I’ve created and builds upon that.

What was it like making the series and being part of this dark underworld that’s filled with seedy characters and detectives?

So much fun. Spoiler alert- I play all of the female characters in the series, so the style team went to town with all the wardrobe, wigs and disguises; we really let our imaginations run wild and I loved getting into the different characters.  It’s a dark world but of course sexy, alluring and glamorous.  We were inspired by vintage noir/detective films like “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep”, but also later explorations of the genre like “Chinatown” and the ‘One-Eyed Jack’s’ sequences from “Twin Peaks”.

Now that the series is done and almost done premiering, are you going to something else like this or take on another genre?

People have already asked me if we’ll do a sequel and I can tell you that the ending definitely leaves the door open for some more adventures of The Black Diamond!  I’d be open to doing more if the opportunity arose. But, in the meantime I’ll be focusing on bringing the live experience with my fantastic band, The JetSet Quartet- our shows are full-fantasy, decadent, sexy, soulful, fun nights out and we’re all over NYC regularly. Lots of cocktails and beautiful people living out their Bond, Nikita, and Draper fantasies and getting into the swing with us!  Check out sarahtracey.com for all our live dates, or follow me on Twitter: @sarah_tracey

Song of the Week: “Bittersweet Symphony” – The Verve

Is “Bittersweet Symphony” the best song The Verve ever wrote? (It’s the best song they ever recorded, no doubt.) Or is a really good cover of a Rolling Stones song with some additional lyrics fleshed in?  Or does society owe Andrew Loog Oldham it all for giving us one of the major anthems of the ’90s?

I’m going with Oldham on this one, since the Verve essentially ripped off the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra’s version of the Stones’ classic “The Last Time”.  If you’ve ever listened to it, it is essentially “Bittersweet Symphony” without the looping of the string section (the most memorable part) and without Richard Ashcroft singing. “Bittersweet Symphony” is still a great song it its own way, but if the song had been made by say someone like Kanye West, the naysayers would cried foul.  “Ooooh that guy can’t do anything but sample….blah blah blah…he’s terrible!”

All griping aside, this song has been on my mind for past couple weeks. As summer starts to wind down, schools are beginning to open again. Life is once again starting to go back to normal. In the fall of 2000, I started college. Like most would-be college students, I thought I knew what I was in for, but I really had no clue. On the outside, I tried to play it off like I knew what I was doing and that I had everything together, but I was scared shitless.

On the other-hand, I was excited to go away. The freedom of it all appealed to me. No one over my back telling me exactly what to do. I didn’t want to do something, I didn’t have to do it. So there was a lot of back and forth in my mind: should I be scared?  Should I be excited?  Should I play it cool?  What the fuck are my roommates going to be like?  Will they like me?  Even more importantly, will I like them?

As my parents drove me to school for moving day, I sat in the back of the car listening to my CD player. I had made a mix earlier that week, specifically for the drive.  The first song I included was “Bittersweet Symphony”.  At the time, I really had no knowledge of “The Last Time” (for shame I know, since the Stones are one of my all time favorite bands) or Andrew Loog Oldham.  Still, I was drawn to the song due to the string section. I couldn’t get it out of my head.   But the lyrics seemed to really capture where my mind was at the time: “no change, I can’t take change.”  Being thrown into something new and totally foreign I understood what Ashcroft meant what he said he felt like a million people from day to the next.

As my parents drove away that evening and I unpacked my stuff, I thought about what I was about to embark on. Was college for me? Was I making the right choice?  I certainly didn’t know.  Naturally, my first semester was a bit of adjustment period. At times I loved being able to do whatever I wanted, but other times I missed home. The first semester definitely seemed a little bittersweet.

Eventually, things did get better and I ended up having a blast in college. I’m not sure I would have traded those experiences for something else. But anytime I listen to “Bittersweet Symphony” those feelings of uncertainty come back. But this time, it’s just memories.

The 2000 version of me thinks that “Bittersweet Symphony” is one of the best songs ever written.  The 2013?

You guessed it.  The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra version of “The Last Time” is superior.

New Music: “The Black Diamond” (Web Series) – Sarah Tracey

 

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Earlier today I was reading in the New York Times about the VMAs and how artists are using videos in new ways to promote their music. (Of course this has been going on a while, but interesting nonetheless.)  New York musical artist Sarah Tracey is taking this idea to the max with her new web-series The Black Diamond. The 5 episode arc has been premiering on her site with a new episode each week.  Featuring music from Tracey’s 2011 album Tell No One, The Black Diamond is equal parts pulp fiction, classic noir and detective story. Tracey also stars in the series as well.

Check out the first episode “A Dead End” below:

For the rest of the episodes, head over to Sarah’s website. Episodes 1-4 are currently available with Episode 5 premiering August 28th, including a live finale at Joe’s Pub.

New Music: “Akira” (Video) – Empty Chairs

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Brooklyn’s Empty Chairs have recently released the video for their debut single “Akira”.  The song is full of sparse drum tracks, dreamy keyboards and distant distorted vocals. It’s the perfect type of chill song to listen to as summer breezes its way into fall.

“Akira” will be included on the group’s full-length Caveat Emptor due out November 5th.

Check out “Akira” below:

New Music: “New York Women” – Ryan Martin

 

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It might be easy to describe Ryan Martin as a folk-rocker. His image certainly fits into that category: dude’s got a big beard and looks like he arrived from the mid-70’s. If you were to classify Martin into a folk-category, he’d fit more into category with The Band than retro-folk acts like Mumford & Sons. Backed by female vocalists “New York Women” is just as soulful as it is rock. There’s also some tasteful lead guitar which is a perfect accompaniment to the reverb in Martin’s vocals.

To many new comers in the music industry, New York is the center of the universe. But like Dylan and The Band who left the city for the country, Martin is having none of that. He shrugs off the city’s appeal by brushing off its women singing, “but all you New York women don’t you want to change my mind…take me back to country, or I’m gonna lose my mind.”

Imagine if The Band had recorded “Let it Loose” or “Lovin’ Cup” from Exile on Main St. and you get the idea.  There are a lot of artists covering similar grounds these days, but Ryan Martin is one to watch out for.

“New York Women” appears on Martin’s debut album For All The Beautiful Losers out now.

Check out “New York Women” below:

New Music: “Water Voices” (Video) – Whale Belly

 

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Brooklyn’s Whale Belly put their own spin on folk-rock with their latest single, “Water Voices”. The songs boasts some lovely acoustic strumming and harmonies.  The group has made a name for themselves with their frantic live shows. “Water Voices” appears on the group’s newest album I Once Was a Bird which will be released on October 8th.

Check out the video below:

New Music: “Caesar” – The Outfit

 

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The Outfit’s “Caesar” makes it feel like 2003 all over again. Taking a page from the garage-rock revival, “Caesar” offers interlocking guitars, pulsing bass and distorted vocals. Like The Strokes at their best, the guitar on “Caesar” switch between crunching power chords and melodic leads.

Check out “Caesar” below:

Song of the Week: “Layla” – Derek and the Dominos

 

I’m going to on the record here and say that I can’t stand the acoustic version of this song found on Clapton’s MTV Unplugged. Usually, I’m all for reinterpretations of classics. (If I wasn’t I wouldn’t have gone to see Bob Dylan as many times as I have.) But the original is so great and such a classic, that it seems completely unnecessary. I also have similar feelings about Bruce Springsteen’s acoustic version of “No Surrender” found on the Live 1975-1985 Boxed Set. Who really wants to hear that?

But back to the original version of “Layla”. The intro has got to rank up there with “Satisfaction” as one of the all time great beginnings. You hear that fiery lead guitar work and you automatically know what song it is. It pulls you in right away. You hear Clapton’s passion in every single note. The interplay between Duane Allman and Clapton brings out Clapton’s lust, love, suffering and pleading.  He won’t even have to sing and you could pick up on those feelings.

“Layla” is a song that almost everyone has heard dozens, if not hundreds of times. It’s embedded in our brains and in our consciousness. Everyone knows the story and the inspiration behind the song, so there’s really no need to cover that territory. But because it’s been played so much, it’s easy to forget how bizarre of a song it really is.

With two of rock’s greatest guitar players at the helm, it would have been easy for Clapton and Allman to ride out the end of the “proper” song with epic soloing. Sure, it would have been awesome and a wet-dream for guitar fans. But that would have been expected. Instead, the song ends with the famous slow coda that is dominated by a piano and some tasteful and restrained guitar work.

But that ending is what makes the song absolutely brilliant as opposed to a really great song. And yes, there is a difference.

New Music: “Love” – Marco Argiro

 

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The title track from Marco Argiro’s new album, Love is an upbeat ode to well, love. But Argiro’s vision of love isn’t limited to devotion between two people. “Love is what you get when you’re there for your friends through thick and thin,” He sings over shuffling drums,  piano and guitar. For Argiro, the feeling is everywhere and suggests that “we can find it on the pavement”.

The song takes inspiration from The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” – Argiro even sings the line in the song. It would be easy to dismiss the song because he’s wearing his influences on his sleeve a bit with this, but that’s kind of the point. And every now and then we need a reminder – especially in this day and age – that love is all around. Even on the pavement.

Love is due out September 24th.  Check out the title track below: