Friday, January 30, 2009

Lily Allen and some Straight To Hell history

I admit I'm not even the first of several hundred bloggers to post on The Clash's 1982 song, "Straight To Hell." Recently the blogger Gods that be, at Stereogum, broke the story that sassy Brit Lily Allen was taking her shot at covering it...and it sounds damn great by the way. Most in the music world, especially after the success of Slumdog Millionaire, know about M.I.A. and her beat-injected take on it. But to those of us in the younger-years realm that are learning a bit more about The Clash, this song and its resurgence on our speakers, I'll dive deeper into "Straight To Hell."

"Straight To Hell" was released in September of 1982 from The Clash's album, Combat Rock. The song probably would have seen more airplay if it wasn't overshadowed by the two iconic staple tracks that preceded it in the lineup: "Rock The Casbah" and "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" Hidden behind the heavy beats that M.I.A. added on her cover as well as the whimsical sprinkling from Lily Allen's take, "Straight To Hell" tackles rather heavy topics directly related to American and English history. Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, the two Clash writers of this song, touch upon racism and joblessness in England and unsettling leftovers from the Vietnam War. Specifically, the song mentions "Amerasian blues," the abandonment of mass Vietnamese children fathered by American soldiers. And again, thanks to Wikipedia, many more symbolic lines in the 7-minute track (though it was cut to 4 minutes for radio) put "Straight To Hell" in a much more serious political, religious, and social light than I initially accredited to it. The song and album could be considered the high point of the Clash timeline for a few reasons. First off, this was the last album produced before members, Mick Jones and Topper Headon left the band. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, the album had a few huge hits and spent 23 weeks on the UK charts and 61 weeks on the U.S. charts. Combat Rock ended up selling over 2,000,000 copies alone in the U.S. Lastly, because of the serious topics and themes of "Straight To Hell" and the lengthy track, it stands apart from all other Clash songs as one of the most down-tempo ballads.

So, thanks to some troubled times and the writing of Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, we now have a few versions to keep our ears happy.

The Clash - Straight To Hell

M.I.A. - Paper Planes

And how hard is it for Brit-popstress Lily Allen to get permission to cover the song while securing an appearance from a Clash member? It makes it easier when your god-father is Joe Strummer. Allen's take will be available in February from the War Child's "Heroes" album.

Lily Allen - Straight To Hell

Thursday, January 29, 2009


They're back! Well, not that they really left. But the duo of Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel that make up the light indie rock group KaiserCartel are back in my neck of the woods. I missed their last go-round at the Monolith Festival this fall, but thankfully their on tour again and will be visiting Denver this Saturday night for a show at the Hi-Dive.

KaiserCartel made my list of favorites in 2008 with "Oh No" form their very successful March Forth album from bluhammock Records. Still riding the wave that can't get enough of the indie rock couple that fulfills any needing ear with a minimal assortment of instruments, Courtney and Benjamin also released the enhanced limited EP titled Okay...and other things we feel. Full of a few extra songs from their tightly gorgeous sound, the Ep is a nice addition to bulk up the songs you must own from them. As I said, they're on tour now, so make sure you don't miss the opportunity to what the buzz is all about.

Kaiser Cartel - Okay

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shugo Tokumaru
...did I spell it right?

This is Shugo Tokumaru. I'm guessing that some may call him "Shug" but I hope that doesn't garner comparisons, street gang affiliations, or rivalry with the infamous Suge (pron. Shug) Knight. Let's hope a Japanese multi-instrumentalist -slash- singer-songwriter can keep distinguished enough from a rap monger. When most think of "multi-instrumentalist, you'd maybe think of Andrew Bird or your hippies may mutter, "oooh, I know, I know...Keller Williams!" Really hippie? Good work. According to Paste, Shugo features over 50 instruments on his new album.

Shugo Tokumaru, a 29 year-old from Tokyo, Japan is set to release another album, that is finally available in the U.S.

Full of intricate arrangements from various instruments and demented carnivalesque melodies, it seems appropriate to shelf his music between Sigur Ros and Boy Least Likely To. Exit, Tokumaru's newest release, comes courtesy of Columbia Records though he does have two smaller labels backing him, pending your worldly location. Why is he relevant for The Mountain Tempo? Not only does his music make me smile and hit the "repeat" button, but Shugo has got some tread on the scene as of late. Not only did he just finish a tour with The Magnetic Fields, but he's also played with some Mountain Tempo favorites including M.Ward, Animal Collective, DeerHoof, and Iron & Wine. And yes, those of you that do have Paste in your mailbox, you'll see a tiny featurette on him in the february issue. I'd keep your eyes peeled for a chance to see him and your ears alert for some television licensing that I'm sure is headed our way.

Shugo Tokumaru - Parachute

Also...The Mountain Tempo is almost at 30,000 visits!!!! Thanks!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Josh Ritter, thin flame to wildfire

So one of my pet peeves is when people say "I have a lot of best friends." Yeah, can you really pluralize "best" or "favorites"? If you were to ask me who my favorite singer-songwriter was, I'd rack my brain analyzing the showmanship, songwriting, performance styles, lyrics, compositions, etc, between Ray Lamontagne, David Gray, Damien Rice, Gregory Alan Isakov, Bright Eyes and my boy, Josh Ritter. Stephen King hailed Ritter's "Girl In the War" from The Animal Years as one of the best examples of songwriting of the decade. Many industry notables have hailed him the receiver of the torch Springsteen and Dylan will pass. I will tell you this. I've listened to Ritter's "Thin Blue Flame" (my generation's version of Dylan's "A Hard Rains A Gonna Fall") well over 200 times. Easily. I'm still not through sifting the deep metaphors, the biblical and pop historical references and complete direction contained within that masterful ballad. I will also say that though my favorite Ritter concert is not my favorite concert of all time, I've undoubtedly never ever seen anyone happier and more appreciative to be what he is doing while on stage.

Paste Magazine just unveiled Josh Ritter's newest ruby, a live version of "Wildfires." I say ruby because let's be honest folks, Josh's artillery is strong and a ruby among a collection of diamonds is still pretty damn nice. From his Live At The 9:30 Club mini-release, comes a bonus song from the Irish Edition, out on Independent Records. Sorry, it's not available in the U.S. just yet, but my Pennsylvania pen pal always seems to jump boarders and round up some obscure Ritter releases for me. Happy Friday to you, especially when you have some Ritter in company.

Josh Ritter - Wildfires (live)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sarah Siskind? Thanks Bon Iver.

A big thanks goes out to Bon Iver for not only giving us another excuse to zone out to his honestly beautiful bellowing wails during a tiring day, but now for introducing us to his lovely little opener, Sarah Siskind. Though seemingly fairly new to most ears, Siskind's been the Great Oz behind country music gems for a bit now. Several of Siskind's compositions were released by Randy Travis, The Infamous Stringdusters and one even garnered a Grammy nomination through Alison Krauss. Never mind she's released six albums.Back to Bon Iver. Blame Bon Iver front man, Justin Vernon, for closing many of their 2008 shows with Siskind's "Lovin's For Fools." The fans warm reception of the song eventually led to her invitation to open up for Bon Iver's Euro tour. Sarah Siskind is now celebrating the new year with another release, titled Say It Louder. "Falling Stars," the single from her new album, is available now from may have to seek a bit more to find the album. Thanks again to Bon Iver for introducing us to an 'new' artist. Lord knows I'm glad she ditched the country scene for a more honest and revealing run in the singer-songwriter realm.

Sarah Siskind - Falling Stars

Siskind & Bon Iver with Lovin's For Fools

Sarah Siskind - Lovin's For Fools

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jizz In My Pants

You've probably seen the SNL Digital Short just before the Holidays. Although I had seen the risque video before, my baby cousins who I deemed as quintessential innocent Catholic school girls, surprisingly revealed the video and song to my extended family over Christmas Break. More shocking though was how naive I was at every one's ability to fully laugh as much as I do every time I see their "O" faces in the video.

Andy, Jorma and Akiva are childhood friends from Berkley, CA, and are the comedy thrusters behind Awesome Town, many of the SNL Digital Shorts, and Hot Rod. After spending time at different colleges, the boys came back together and continued filming comedy shorts under the name The Lonely Island. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaeffer now reside in New York and either write, produce or act in most Digital Shorts seen on Saturday Night Live. They're set to actually release their Digital Short viral, "Jizz In My Pants" as the group The Lonely Island. Yikes and hell yes!

The Lonely Island - Jizz In My Pants

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

M. Ward sets to release Hold Time

No, I'm not a hypocrite. I love M. Ward. I really do. Sure, his albums have been a bit flippy-floppy and my word is still as strong as oak in saying that his latest album with Zoey was an 'alright' album. It was not deserving of 2008's Album of The Year as Paste decided. So what's the hub-bub today about Portland's Matt Ward? His (solo) new album is starting to make a few ripples around the web and landing in some mailboxes. And worry not, if you DID fall head over heels for She & Him in 2008, Ward's new album features Ms. She (Zooey Deschanel), along with other quick cameos from Lucinda Williams and Rachel Blumberg (The Decemberists).

M. Ward will be releasing Hold Time from Merge Records, available on February 17th. I hate sitting on the fence about albums and how to describe them...(But)M. Ward's new release is nearly typical. Yes, nearly. Although Ward is known for his down-tempo, airy and eery dust-clogged voice, some songs buried in the album have instances of silver lining. The lead track on Hold Time, "For Beginners" has a steady quick strumming rhythm and country porch-esque guitar picking. You'd almost think it was upbeat if it weren't for Ward's voice reminding the song to cool down. Even the new single, "Never Had Nobobdy Like You" features some edgier backing with a beginning that's a damn replica of Steely Dan's "Reeling In the Years." It almost picks up until M. Ward overshadows it with the slyness we've grown to love and expect. What's the cause of this "new" sound? Not fully sure, but I'm not afraid to point my finger and congratulate Ward for hiring Mike Mogis to produce this album. FYI, Nebraskan Mike Mogis is the multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer behind the successes such as Bright Eyes, The Faint, Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis and Tilly and The Wall, and now M. Ward.

NPR allows you to hear the full album including my favorite, "For Beginners," here.

Hold Time Track Listing
1. For Beginners
2. Never Had Nobody Like You
3. Jailbird
4. Hold Time
5. Rave On
6. To Save Me
7. One Hundred Million Years
8. Stars Of Leo
9. Fisher Of Men
10. Oh Lonesome Me
11. Epistemology
12. Blake's View
13. Shangri-La
14. Outro

Monday, January 12, 2009

Springsteen snags 2nd Golden Globe

The Boss pinned another Golden Globe last night with his original song for the new film The Wrestler, featuring Marisa Tomei and fellow Golden Glober for best actor, Mickey Rourke. This is Springsteen's second Golden Globe; winning one over a decade ago for his slow ballad "Streets of Philadelphia" from 1994's Philadelphia.

Here is Rourke explaining how Springsteen came to write his original song, "The Wrestler"

"The Wrestler" comes as a bonus track from the deluxe version of Springsteen's new album, Working On A Dream, available on January 27th from Columbia Records.

To hear the full version of "The Wrestler", click here

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bon Iver Poster Giveaway

Another giveaway! I've posted on Bon Iver before as he's been one of my very favorites of 2008. Bon Iver is set to release a new CD/EP on January 20th from Jagjaguwar titled "Blood Bank."

Bon Iver - Blood Bank

As you'd expect after hearing his first release, it's typically gorgeous and full of Bon Iver's hollow and despondent sounds that have caught many a blogs mention...including this one.

In celebration of his new release, The Mountain Tempo is giving away a beautifully bold print from Bon Iver's show at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, Michigan from July '08. The artistically savvy music fans over at Capital A are responsible for this giveaway and the design behind many other sharp prints also available on their site. These aren't the posters you'd hang up with tacks in your bachelor pad. These handcrafted, finely designed prints are those worthy of a nice frame over your entertainment on the image above for a bigger look at the print. John Eikost and Steve Mockensturm designed this Bon Iver print (individually numbered || size 23" X 17.5"). Want it? Comment on this post or email me and you may be chosen!

Monday, January 5, 2009

#16 - Mates of State

If you've been up to date, I've posted my top 15 favorite tracks of the year. I won't lie like others when they make a Best-Of list. It wasn't difficult. It's not to say there wasn't a lot of fantastic music released in 2008, it's just that my favorite songs came to me very easily. However, ever since I made the list, I have been wondering why I followed conventional norms of making a Best Of list that either ends in a "0" or "5." I should have just made a Top 16 list. Reason being is that a song by Mates of State is one that has been on a few of my 2008 mixes and has been on my mind since their single was only one off from my Top 15. Maybe fate is on their side and since they didn't make the top 15 slots, they now get an individual post all to their own. I ramble on...

Mates of State - My Only Offer

Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel make up the indie rock duo from Lawrence, Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas? Yes, Lawrence,'s huge...even the 6th largest city in Kansas! Although each member started in different bands while dating different people, it only took Gardner and Hammel a few months to ditch their bands and temporary bed companions to come together in 1997 and form the organ and drum driven group Mates of State.

Opening for Death Cab For Cutie and Spoon during their emergence can't hurt. This year, their 2008 album Re-Arrange Us from Barsuk Records charted well under any one's radar at #140, but seemed to tickle many bloggers and radio stations alike by landing among the upper echelon on numerous 'Best Of 2008' lists. "Get Better" was the official single from the album, though (my favorite) "My Only Offer" seemed to gather a bit more steam for the Mates. You can decide.

Get Better

My Only Offer