Rockin’ My World

SPRING 2016

Oh wow, has Spring been a great time in HK for live music? Yes, it has! In March I went to not one but two shows, one week after the other: Death Cab for Cutie followed by Bon Iver. Both were excellent – I had never seen either band live and they did not disappoint. Death Cab were just solid and amazing, playing all the songs I’ve loved for years and had never heard live. Bon Iver was a total surprise package. I couldn’t image how a largely studio-guy would translate his sound to the stage. He brought along two drummers and three female back-up singers plus two other multi-purpose musicians while he played guitar and keyboards. As you can imagine, the sound was HUGE, like an entire ecosystem you could inhabit. Really loved him!

In new music, as per usual, I fixate on a song and play it continuously for a week or so, before moving on to the next obsession. Then I’ll make a Spotify playlist of said recent obsessions and play that all day long. The latest songs to make the grade are:

1. Frightened Rabbit, “Get Out”.

2. Andrew Bird, “Capsized”.

3. Bob Moses, “Tearing Me Up”.

I’m also still enjoying several of my favorites from 2015, namely Laura Marling, Father John Misty and Joon Moon. Check ’em out when you can!

SUMMER 2015

Summer travel in the U.S. means listening to the radio on car rides, which also means Hubs and I joking about how long until we hear ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (like burgers and fries, a classic rock staple). We also listen to pop (for the girls) but hopefully not for too long. There’s only so much Adam Levine I can take!

One wonderful thing I did stumble across while driving around the DC area was 89.7 WTMD – Baltimore’s college radio station. It originates at Towson University and offers a fantastic mix of old and new alternative tunes. After less than an hour of listening, I’d heard three different songs that made me go: who was that???

So, courtesy of WTMD, here are a trio of bands to check out:

  1. Mt. Royal – moody Baltimore-area band fronted by Katriona Ford. This track is a couple of years old – not sure what they’re up to these days but I hope we hear more!
  2. Bosley – another Charm City native, Bosley is one guy with a killer falsetto and a big ‘Beautiful’ band. He also makes some funky fun videos:
  3. James Maddock – NOT an East Coast-er but a Brit, Maddock just recently crossed my radar though he’s been around for a while. I’m catching up with his work and am loving this recent tune – a perfect summertime jam:

Enjoy the rest of your summer and – as Maddock sings – it really is the journey, not the destination 😉

FALL 2014

Here it is: Five Years of therockmom in Tune Form. These are the bands and songs that have rocked my world since 2009 (and a great excuse to make a playlist!). I thought you might be interested in listening to 30 fantastic, different artists who run the gamut from wildly popular (Lorde, Pearl Jam) to lesser known (Sea Stars, John Grant); from country (Miranda Lambert) to electronica (James Blake) to good ol’ rock (Bob Mould) to well, true musical genius (Neko Case).

It’s about two hours of music. So as they say here in Hong Kong – PLEASE TO ENJOY YOURSELF!

SPRING 2014

And all the hipsters say it was so much better, back in the day...

And all the hipsters say it was so much better, back in the day…

I can’t seem to coordinate my trips back to Texas to coincide with SXSW, so I just have to make-do with online listening (via kcrw.com and BDWPS podcasts) as well as tips from my best bud, Christie, who lives in Austin. Her husband’s band, San Saba County, played a showcase and she also got a chance to check out some other music. She recommends two bands – Solander from Sweden and the Shivery Shakes from Austin – that are completely different in terms of sound. Solander is moody and ethereal, but feels very personal. It’s a sound I’m hearing (and enjoying) a lot lately from the likes of James Blake, Lo-Fang, Sea Stars and others. To me this sound falls somewhere between electronica and singer-songwriter. It’s a combo you don’t think is going to work, but it does.

Shivery Shakes is a fun blast of guitar rock. With songs like ‘Stay Young’ and ‘Temporary Vacation’, they’re the kind of band you can drink a beer to. You might even start having some Replacements’ flashbacks while you’re listening.

The other SXSW find I’ve come across (via Jason Bentley’s live broadcasts from Austin) is a fantastic Irishman who goes by the name Hozier. Run, don’t walk to your nearest Spotify to check him out. He is great.

Last but not least – there’s a band that I keep hearing and thinking, “Wow, who is this?” and that’s London Grammar. Hannah Reid’s voice is really amazing, mature and soulful beyond her years. Google+ calls their music trip-hop – I didn’t know that was still a thing, did you? But now that I think about it, I can see/hear that. Have a listen and let me know what you think:

That’s all for now. Keep listening and have a Happy Easter!

FALL 2013

I got a Spotify subscription as a birthday present, so that’s been a fun, rather guilty pleasure, guilty because I’ve heard so much about how little bands get paid on these sites. But fun because Spotify is like an instant mood ring – you open it up, search whatever you’re feeling like on the day or what’s been recommended, maybe make a playlist, done. When James Gandolfini died suddenly, it seemed appropriate (not that I knew him or anything) to listen to Metallica ballads: Mama Said, The Unforgiven, One to name a few. That’s a great playlist.

And then there was the recent anniversary of the awesome ’90s TV show, The OC. So I had to make a huge OC playlist – South, Finley Quaye, Beth Orton, Modest Mouse, The Dandy Warhols, etc – 17 alternative tracks that I’ve been enjoying immensely, wondering what Seth and Summer are up to 🙂

In terms of cool, new music this autumn, it’s all about strong females: Neko Case, Lorde, Das Fluff, The Julie Ruin, Pistol Annies.

In fact I showed some commitment to actual music buying by pre-ordering the physical, special-edition CD of Neko Case’s latest, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. It took a while to get here via Amazon and I had this weird feeling that I may never do that again, but the album is wonderful. It’s full of her usual brilliance: raw, emotional, tender. She made the talk show rounds and it was great to watch those performances online. She’s probably one of the least likeliest people to ever tour in Hong Kong, so I’m just going to have to make-do with online worship.

Another strong female-driven band that has a great new release is The Julie Ruin, led by (I’m sure she’s tired of being called) the original Riot Grrl, Kathleen Hanna. The album, Run Fast, is hard, rude, fun. I’d love to play it for the girls because it’s so powerful and smart, but I probably shouldn’t encourage such bad language, not yet at least 🙂

Other recent releases that I’d recommend: Sea StarsThe Unknown, Lorde (of course) Pure Heroine, Das Fluff Meditation and Violence and ANYTHING by Miranda Lambert or The Pistol Annies.

Can’t Get Enough of This:

https://vimeo.com/66048540

From Lorde, a New Zealand singer who’s just a teen, and Joel Kefali, director & editor.

2013 SO FAR

Spring is always a great time for new music. You see a lot of new releases as bands prepare to hit the road for summer tours. We’ll be in the States for a good month or so this summer, and I’m hoping I can catch plenty of shows while I’m there. One band I’d looove to see is Shovels & Rope, whose album O’ Be Joyful is a great slice of Americana. I bet they kick some a** on stage. Another alt-country-ish duo on tour this spring and summer is Steve Martin & Edie Brickell. He plays banjo, she sings. I don’t know, there might be jokes too. But I highly recommend the brand new album, Love Has Come For You. Just great to hear Texas gal Edie again.

When I’m in a mellow mood, I’ve been enjoying the super soft sounds of A Fine Frenzy and Jose Gonzalez. Both are singer-songwriter types with gorgeous voices.

And last but not least, I went on iTunes the other day and bought a couple of Chic albums, Risque and C’est Chic. Inspired by the brilliant BBC documentary about Nile Rodgers, I had to delve in to some classic disco.

As David Bowie says in the doc, ‘There’s no such thing as too funky.’

2012 FAVORITES

A great year for the return of some old friends: Fiona Apple, Bob Mould and Kelly Willis (live). Jack White’s first solo album was excellent, and the music coming out of Austin made me proud to be a Texan. But a crappy year in Hong Kong for concerts. Let’s hope more folks come our way in 2013 .

1. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than… After a long break, Apple returns with an album fit for a jazz chanteuse: heavy on piano and percussion and just as heavy on the personal heartbreak. She’s older, wiser but still seriously messed up.

2. Bob Mould, Silver Age – when the first chords kick in on ‘Star Machine’, my shoulders contract, my head bobs, my hands immediately go in to air guitar mode and I’m transported in to Bob’s soft-loud-soft world. He’s so good it hurts.

3. Jack White, Blunderbuss – I don’t think anyone is operating at such a high level of originality as Jack White is these days. Taking the old and making it so new and cool. He’s like Prince was in the ’80s. You want to hear everything he does.

4. Kelly Willis at Antone’s – my absolute favorite voice in country music. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen her – she’s been around for years but still sounds so amazing. I caught her show in Austin last summer. She and her husband, Bruce Robison, set up residence at Antone’s for The Kelly & Bruce Show, but on the night I was there Bruce was sick so it was just Kelly. She sang all of my favorites, it was a good night.

5. Texas Music – strong as ever in 2012. If you like blues with a dash of rock, you gotta try Gary Clark, Jr or Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. For alt-country that veers in to indie pop territory, check out San Saba County. The song ‘Here’ is a pop gem.

6. Pop singles – the girls and I had loads of fun this past year with some huge hits that we never seemed to grow tired of: ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, ‘Call Me Maybe’, ‘Gangnam Style’, ‘Wide Awake’, ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ and of course anything by Taylor Swift. Now if EO and YO wouldn’t give me such a hard time about my dancing, I’d be set!

BEST OF 2011

Who doesn’t love those end-of-year Best Of lists? I read them voraciously, checking if I’ve overlooked something, or – in all honestly – comparing my picks to what the critics have to say. For me, 2011 was a great year for albums – plenty of releases that were strong from start to finish. Mind you, I’m only talking about a half-dozen records out of hundreds of releases, but each record in my list here is consistently great and enjoyable. Check ’em out!

1. The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow – my favorite album of the year comes from a folky, country-ish duo who don’t do anything new or spectacular. But what they do – honest heartbreak – they do incredibly well. The entire album is fantastic, but check out ‘Poison & Wine’ and ‘Birds of a Feather’ for a taste.

2. The Black Keys, El Camino – I’m late to the Key-party (Kevin, Sigourney?) but an ardent fan nonetheless. Man, this album is awesome. (send me a comment if you’ve caught the movie reference.)

3. Adele, 21 – when pop gets it exactly right. EO and I enjoy this together, though she can’t understand why I think ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ is the best song on the album.

4. Radiohead, The King of Limbs – still getting in to this (and still trying to think of ways to describe it), but am loving the minimalist seduction and the spaces.

5. My Morning Jacket, Circuital – a sneaky-good fully-realized album from these Southern rockers. Each track is unique, running the gamut from the trippy, slow ‘Victory Dance’ to the harder rock of ‘Holding On To Black Metal’. And yet every song makes me feel like I’m inside the mind of a battle-scarred soldier of the Civil War. I can’t explain it, but I found myself humming these tunes long after the record finished.

Let me know what you’re listening to these days – thanks for your support!

Happy New Year from therockmom!

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