Happy Hour (!) “To Haiti With Love” – Benefit Compilation

Check out this post on Buzz Bands LA (!) “To Haiti With Love” is a  killer compilation, the proceeds from which go to help rebuild an orphanage and shelter that were destroyed in Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake.

Thanks go to all the LA bands who contributed to this, as well as to Buzz Bands LA  and Plays Well With Others for  presenting the release show on January 15 at the Bootleg Theater.

Buy Tickets!

Buy the CD for a minimum donation of $5 – stream for free (but come on, just buy it)!


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Best of 20(!)0

Well I know you’re not going to believe this, because sPikeR(!) and pRocrastinatioN(!) are best buds, but I’m putting out my ‘Best of 2010’ list later than many because I wanted to wait until the year was actually over. No, really.  You never know who’s going to squeak through at the last minute. Cases in point: I found Junip’s Fields in early December (rel. Sept 14), and Duran Duran released their latest on December 21.  One of these two examples made me glad I waited, the other made me laugh when I saw their publicity shots.

You’re probably not going to believe this either, but so as not to influence my decisions, I have yet to read any ‘Best of 2010’ lists (except for Kevin Bronson’s over at BuzzBands L.A., because his is strictly set to L.A. bands). Thus, unlike almost everything else in my life, this compilation is as pure as my late Uncle Kenneth’s triple-distilled moonshine.

Did you believe any of that?  sUckeR(!)

But seriously, my 2010 was one bastard of a year: I lost a brother to heroine, a friend to suicide, and fell into unrequited love.  Not surprisingly, music acted as my evil chaperon through these events, providing an outlet while cruelly accentuating the melancholy. Let me tell you, scoring my brother’s death was a precarious dance.  Chosen, were bold lullabies which emancipated and characterized the pain that could not otherwise be fathomed.  They couldn’t have a ‘hook’ -god help me if I got one stuck in my head and became a slave to it all day, and they had to be songs that I was willing to put away, probably forever.  Essentially, they were doomed to become blood-stained towels…not to be re-used. Alas neither the sacrificial songs, nor the records to which they belong will make my ‘Best of’ list, as they’ve been fitted with cement shoes and thrown into deep, cold water.

On a lighter note, let’s look back at some of the great music that happened in 2010.  I’ll start with my favorite live shows of the year, because when it’s said and done, the band that can knock me dead in a live setting is the one that steals my heart forever. Following that, you will find my favorite records, my least favorite records, and a flagship piece from an old, dusty corner of my music world that shall never again be left in the dark. From the old comes the new……”and so it goes.” -Kurt Vonnegut

Best Live Shows of 2010 (no particular order):

Menomena (Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon)

Harper Blynn (Troubadour, L.A.)

The Felice Brothers (The Echo, L.A.)

A.A. Bondy (Mississippi Studios, Portland Oregon)

Jim Campilongo (Some bar in New York City)

The Ugly Suit (SXSW, Austin, Texas) (I was recently informed that this incredible band “imploded”. They couldn’t cut the lifestyle.)

Local Natives (SXSW, Austin, Texas; Bootleg Theater, L.A.)

Midlake (SXSW, Austin, Texas)

Roger Waters performing The Wall (Staples Center, L.A.)

The Tallest Man on Earth (Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, Oregon)

Best Records of 2010 (After #1, there is no particular order.):

#1 Record of 2010(!):  Menomena, Mines. Most epic; Most curious; Most genius; Best live show; Best all-around-fucking-band-ever.

The Walkmen, Lisbon. Best of the “big” Indie bands. Runners up: Band of Horses, Infinite ArmsBest road trip music; Arcade Fire, Suburbs -Best driving home from work music; The National, High VioletBest just home from work, first drink of the evening music.

Tame Impala, Innerspeaker. Best background/vacuuming music.

Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt. Best singer-songwriter.

Local Natives, Gorilla Manor. Bestbreak-out band.

Junip, Fields. Most surprising and exotically beautiful.

Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. Best re-master.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Before Today. Best roller-rink music.

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Medicine County. Best roots music. Runner up: Justin Townes Earl, Harlem River Blues. Great, but I think he can do even better…waiting.

Dead Weather, Sea of Cowards. Most depressing. I still haven’t been able to listen to this record in its entirety in one sitting.  In fact, most of the time I can’t listen to more than about three songs at once, because it nearly kills me.  That said, my criteria in a “Best of” is an artist/band who goes for broke.  Dead Weather did that with this highly open, infected, oozing piece of agony and beauty.

Best of the Boring in 2010 (music that I’m all kinds of “Meh” about):

Spoon, Transference. Most contrived and disappointing. And yes, I did read about how they made Transference, which should have made the record very UNcontrived, but alas, fail.

Black Keys, Brothers. This just didn’t blow my mind. It sounds like a lot of other things that I’ve heard before, which would be cool if it were really hard or really amazing, but it’s just more of the same really unremarkable stuff. Really.

The National, High Violet. It’s not a mistake that they’re on both the ‘Most boring’ and the ‘Best of’ lists.  I couldn’t decide because I think they could have done better.  It’s The National for crying out  fucking loud!  Look, the first time I heard this record, I borderline loved it…and I still like it.  High Violet is beautiful, poignant, and it demonstrates the bands’ maturity but….I just don’t feel like they went ‘balls to the wall’ with it.  When someone is a brilliant ‘A’ student giving you a B- paper, you feel disappointed. They have the catalogue, the talent, and the fan base necessary to take a huge risk and possibly fail, but at least surprise us. Please. Surprise us(!)

Best Discovery in 2010 (Not by any stretch a “new release”, rather new to sPikeR(!) and very much becoming part of my fabric):

Lee Moses, Time & Place. This recommendation came from a gentleman at Amoeba Records in Hollywood after I walked to the back of the store and asked for something to go along with the blistering summer heat.  I told him I needed music that would make me feel like I was back in time -in the deep South -sitting barefoot on a porch stoop -sipping a julep -listening to revelers in the church next door and hoping they were praying for me.  This is what he gave me: Time & Place by Lee Moses. Rel 1970 on Maple records. And to this I say, “Holy shit”.

Farewell to 2010 (you son-of-a-bitch!) and a sincere thank you to all of the artists whose life work is to expose and express the imperfections that tie us to one another inextricably. Well done.

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Happy Hour (!) Band of Horses. Infinite Arms. $5.00

A mature, contemplative work from Band of Horses and quite possibly my favorite road-trip music of 2010, Infinite Arms begs for wide-open spaces that offer plenty of room to think…and think…and think.

In keeping with Band of Horses’ most recent works, Infinite Arms is not Earth-shattering, but rather predictably well-crafted and laced with pearls of life wisdom.  Since I’ve been imbibing with family for two days, the following analogy seems appropriate (and slightly cheesy):  Infinite Arms can be likened to a well-aged bottle of Mourvédre, a unique grape that is usually blended with more popular or powerful uva, but when aged and singled out it can be a supremely complete, yet flawed enough to make it nearly perfect (a theory thoroughly explored in Natalie Portman’s vehicle to Oscar-dome, Black Swan). Buy Infinite Arms here (or up there).

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Happy Hour (!) Junip. Fields. $5.00.

Seductive. Unique. Beautiful. Warm, but not cozy. Smells like freshly sanded walnut with a hint of one-hour-old Narcissus. I’m pretty much in love with the way Junip’s first full-length record makes me feel. Junip’s Fields on Amazon MP3.

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Happy Hour (!) The Walkmen. Lisbon. $1.99

Among my top 10 favorite records of 2010.  Get it now for $1.99 (!)

The Walkmen. Lisbon.

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KCRW & sPikeR Love Tame Impala (!)

Tame Impala.

See? I told you Tame Impala is amazing. Jason Bentley thinks so too…and blogs about them on KCRW.

Read the review in the October archives of sPikeR (!)

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Happy Hour (!) New Elvis Costello. National Ransom. $3.99

Elvis Costello. National Ransom. Hear Music, November 2, 2010.

I don’t often listen to Elvis Costello, but no doubt, his talent is substantial. With theatrical compositions that paint unfamiliar mind-scapes, I’ve always thought of Costello as the Tolkien of music. Enjoy this amazing new release!

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Harper Blynn. Genre: Awesome (!)

Harper Blynn

Members:  Pete Harper, J.Blynn, Sarab Singh, Whynot

Brooklyn, New York.

A sneak peek at the tracks from Harper Blynn’s latest self-titled EP tells me something I already knew: these guys are gonna be huge.  In fact, their debut full-length record, Loneliest Generation, produced by David Kahne (The Strokes, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor) made a splash with the music industry and gained them a myriad of fans ranging from age 10 to the Baby Boomer generation.  Why such a following?  This band knows the secret formula: everybody loves a melody.  That’s right…in the sometimes austere indie rock scene where sheer mopery  (prnc’d “mope .. er .. ee”) and self-flogging are essential ingredients, Harper Blynn bravely steps into the spotlight with fantastically crafted songs full of melodies and strong hooks that traverse the mind and brighten the outlook.  Pete and J. use a tough-love approach in their song-writing, inspiring listeners to take responsibility for their lives and relationships with lyrics like: “There’s no time to be fearful.  There is no time to be untrue, so look me in the eye and say an honest word or two…” from “Bound to Break; and from “Loneliest Generation”, the number one music video on MTVmusic.com this summer, “We are children laughing, peeking through the wall…knock it over now! Just let us stand alone and if we fall, it’s never over…”   In a world with plenty of self-pity and blame-shifting, Harper Blynn makes a clear point to remind the individual of their own power.  That’s not always the easiest concept to swallow, but it’s always the most rewarding.

Their new EP allows us to peek into the darker corners of Harper Blynn where we see a little more lyrical depth and a sharper sonic edge compared to their debut. With dramatic synth, guitar effects from fuzz to straight-up shredding, strong, sometimes playful bass lines, and some damn tight percussion (listen to the end of “Bound to Break”), their musical acuity and lyrical intelligence will attract even the most die-hard anti-popsters.  For their next LP, I’m hoping this band will illuminate even more of their dark corners to produce a poignant, eerily insightful record with an edgy grace that will become them nicely.  We shall wait.

Check out the “Loneliest Generation” music video which sailed past Justin Bieber’s hair and Katy Perry with her foam-shooting cans to the number one spot on MTVmusic.com this summer.

Harper Blynn. Loneliest Generation.


The foursome, Pete Harper, J.Blynn, Whynot and Sarab Singh, operating out of Brooklyn, have been tearing up the highways, touring with the likes of Cary Brothers and Greg Laswell, as well as opening shows for Corinne Bailey Rae among others.  After their busy week at CMJ 2010, they set sail again for a Fall tour.  Check out their schedule below and DO.NOT. miss this band if they are anywhere near you. Not only are they a jackpot of original music, but they also  pull off some of the best covers I’ve heard, ranging from Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’”, to Beyonce’s “Halo”.  Check out the YouTube video below and tell me J.Blynn doesn’t have one of the best voices in rock today. (btw – I capital HATE the sound quality on all YouTube vids, including this one, but I’m hoping this will at least entice you to see the live version.)

Download two tracks off their new, self-produced EP, Harper Blynn.

Buy Loneliest Generation on iTunes.

Harper Blynn Fall Tour (!)

Date City Venue Ticket Links
10/19 New York, NY Mercury Lounge (CMJ showcase – 9 pm) Buy tickets 
10/20 New York, NY CMJ – The Living Room (4:30 pm)
10/22 New York, NY CMJ – The Living Room (11:30 pm)
10/23 Brooklyn, NY Rock Shop – Gothamist CMJ Party (3 pm)
10/23 New York, NY CMJ – Rockwood Stage 1 (10 pm)
10/28 Cleveland, OH Cambridge Room (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
10/29 Columbus, OH The Basement (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
10/30 Toronto, Canada El Mocambo (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/1 Indianapolis, IN Radio Radio (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/3 Chicago, IL Lincoln Hall (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/4 St. Paul, MN Turf Club (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/5 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/5 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/6 Denver, CO Bluebird Theater (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/8 Sparks, NV The Alley (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/9 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/10 San Francisco, CA The Independent (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/12 Salt Lake City, UT Avalon Theater (w/ Greg Laswell)
11/16 Ann Arbor, MI Blind Pig (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/18 Boston, MA Cafe 939 (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets
11/20 New York, NY Highline Ballroom (w/ Greg Laswell) Buy tickets

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“Heavier Than Air” Covers CMJ Day 5 (The End.) (!)

Young the Giant. Photo credit: Unknown, taken from MySpace















The final day of the ultra-endurance event also known as CMJ has Heavier Than Air covering no less than nine bands and probably seeing several more.  After reading Ste’s coverage, I’m putting more effort into exploring Young the Giant from Newport Beach, California and Miracles of Modern Science out of Brooklyn, New York.   Read Heavier Than Air’s Day 5 coverage of CMJ here.

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“Heavier Than Air” Covers CMJ Day 4 (!)

Dark Dark Dark. Photo credit: Todd Seelie

The fourth day of CMJ is made for the die-hards, those whose stamina (hopefully natural) and planning allow them to keep up with the pace of this intense musical mashup.  After reading Heavier Than Air’s coverage, I’m definitely going to take a deeper dive into  Dark Dark Dark and possibly Jackpot, Tiger.

Tune in here: Heavier Than Air. CMJ Day 4.

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