Friday, February 27, 2009

Pylon Guitarist Randy Bewley Dies at Age 53

Just when the influential 1980s band Pylon was staging a series of reunion concerts, guitarist Randy Bewley has died at age 53. He reportedly suffered a heart attack on Monday and died on Wednesday. Pylon emerged from the same Athens, Georgia scene that gave rise to R.E.M. and the B-52s, a year before R.E.M. Bill Berry, the former R.E.M. drummer, once called Pylon "the best band in the world," even though Pylon had already broken up at that point.

I wrote about Pylon in December when they played their return engagement in New York. Unfortunately I didn't make it to that show, and it seems pretty clear that Bewley's death means the end for Pylon. Losing one member is obviously a blow for any trio, and for Pylon Bewley's guitar playing was responsible for much of the group's distinctive sound. Online Athens notes that many guitarists have cited Bewley's influence on their own playing.

Besides playing the reunion shows, Pylon last year released a collection of many of their recordings on one CD called Gyrate +.

It's sad that Pylon was exciting old fans and winning new one with its reunion gigs, which were showing people why the band has been such an influence on later groups.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars 2009 - Nominees, Oscars Ballot, How and Where to Watch, Videos, Red Carpet, and More!

After all the talk and hype, the 2009 Oscars are almost here, and the official Oscars Web site has all the information you need to follow the awards. You'll find the official list of nominees, coverage of the red carpet arrivals, details on TV coverage, and more. You'll also find videos from the nominated films, and exclusive video clips from Oscars telecast of years past. And you can play along at home live and pick the winners as the telecast unfolds.

The 2009 Oscars will be televised in the U.S. on ABC starting at 8 p.m. Eastern time / 5 p.m. Pacific, Sunday, Feb. 22nd. As fast as I know there will be NO Webcast of the show, so anyone telling you that you can "watch the Oscars online" is just scamming you.

You can get the official Oscars ballot here, in a handy PDF document. You can print the Oscars ballot, download it to your hard drive, or email it to friends and have a friendly competition to see who can get the most categories right.

For one of the interesting side stories to "Slumdog Millionaire," expected to be the big winner tonight, read about Loveleen Tandan, the Indian co-director of the film.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Neko Case Back With a New Album; Here It Streaming Free

Neko Case is probably best known as a member of the indie rock band The New Pornographers, but in her time away from that group she's been making albums that lean more toward country and alt-country. She's set to come out with her sixth solo album, "Middle Cyclone," on March 3rd. You can hear Neko Case's new album streamed free online starting on Monday, Feb. 23rd.

Neko Case is doing a few shows in Europe in mid to late February, then playing the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas before embarking on a nationwide U.S. tour. Check the Neko Case tour dates here. Case's Web site mentions that there is a new music podcast called Sleepers coming from the artist, but it doesn't say when.

Neko Case's haunting voice is a throwback from another era, reminiscent of classic crooners Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. If you like female country singers of the past, with a modern twist, check out any of Neko Case's previous albums.

Shop for Neko Case albums and downloads at

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Podcasts for Valentine's Day

OK, I'm late in posting music for Valentine's Day, but these two podcasts are great for any time. First you can stream or download CBC Radio 3's second-annual Make-Out Podcast, featuring songs about love, longing, and lust from Canadian indie artists like Basia Bulat, Broken Social Scene, and more. And host Grant Lawrence adds his own acerbic twist to the proceedings, along with an assortment of odd photos you can see if you're using an iPod or computer that allows you to view photos.

For some Latin love music, check out the Valentine's Day edition of the Rimo Latino podcast. It's got love songs in all kinds of Latin genres, from orchestral to rock en Espanol, fro artists including the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Selena, Mosquitos, and Julieta Venegas.

Happy Valentine's Day, enjoy the music, and don't eat too many chocolates.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fox's Dollhouse: Joss Whedon (and Eliza Dushku) Back on TV

With "Dollhouse" Joss Whedon, the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly," returns to network TV, and he's brought along as his star one of the most popular "Buffy" alums, the very lovely Eliza Dushku.

In the show she plays a woman named Echo who is one of a number of people recruited to work for the shadowy company of the title, which exists to supply high-priced talent for high-worth clients who have a wide range of needs, from a sexy companion for a wild birthday weekend to a rock-solid negotiator to handle a kidnapping and ransom transaction. The recruits are trained for the diverse missions by having their memories and experiences wiped clean, and new memories and experiences implanted.

Meanwhile, a Federal agent is on the trail of the Dollhouse, though he has trouble convincing his superiors that the enterprise even exists.

Entertainment Weekly says that Eliza Dushku is good, but the show "needs more life." You can read EW's review of "Dollhouse" here.

If you weren't able to catch the first episode, "Ghost," on TV tonight, you can catch watch "Dollhouse" online for free at Fox's episode viewer. [Note: no longer available for streaming.]

"Dollhouse" fans get to ask, and answer, their questions about the show at Fox's official "Dollhouse" wiki.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Musical Merger: Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore are Engaged

Roots rocker Ryan Adams and actress/singer Mandy Moore are engaged. It seemed like an odd pairing when they started dating a few years ago--the edgy alt-country musician and the sugary sweet actress--but after breaking up and spending time apart, they are back together and looking to make it permanent.

Moore's representative confirmed the engagement; Adams's people declined to comment on it.

Ryan Adams, former member of the alt-country band Whiskeytown, has released about half dozen names as a solo artist, performing most recently with his band The Cardinals. He's best know for "New York, New York," his love song to the city. He has dated high-profile women including the actresses Parker Posey and Winona Ryder and British singer Beth Orton.

Mandy Moore previously dated DJ AM, as well as the actors Wilmer Valderrama and Zach Braff, and tennis star Andy Roddick. She started out as a teen queen, doing teen-oriented movies and bubblegum pop, but her music has become more mature. Her well-reviewed album of cover songs, called "Coverage," featured new interpretations of songs from respected artists that aren't exactly household names, including XTC and Joan Armatrading.

Mandy Moore's films include The Princess Bride, A Walk to Remember, How to Deal, Chasing Liberty, American Dreamz, and License to Wed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 Black Maria Film Festival is Underway

The quirky, independent touring film festival, the Black Maria, kicked off its 28th edition the other day at its home base, Jersey City State University. I caught its show last night at a screening sponsored by the Hoboken Historical Museum, and as usual it offered an extremely diverse range of short films. There was a one-and-a-half-minute film of a filmmaker dressed as a monk in a crucifixion pose beside a highway; an amazing film noir story that combined live action and cut-out images; and a look at a matzo-ball-eating contest in New York, to name just a few.

I've written before about the history and origins of the Black Maria Film Festival, which pays homage to the Thomas Edison's film studio of the same name, which was the first movie studio in the world. The Festival tours the Northeast extensively and also ventures out to other areas of the country, altering the lineup of films to mesh with local interests and filmmakers. Check the Web site above for dates, times, and locations. The screening I attended was only $5, and some are even free (such as one I went to last year at a branch of the New York Public Library).

If the Black Maria is coming near you, skip whatever's playing at the local multiplex and check out this Festival's innovative short films instead.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Get Five Grammys for "Raising Sand"

It seemed an odd pairing a couple of years back when Robert Plant teamed up with Alison Krauss to make the record, "Raising Sand." The grizzled Led Zeppelin singer teamed with the bluegrass singer and fiddle player?

But the collaboration has gone better, and longer, than anyone could have predicted, and "Raising Sand" tonight received the ultimate accolade, album of the year, and four other awards at tonight's 2009 Grammy Awards.

Not only has the album garnered a lot of critical acclaim, it has sold well, and Plant and Krauss's original tour to support "Raising Sand" was extended due to popular demand. (This is to the disappointment of many Led Zeppelin fans: Plant was to reunite with his old mates for a tour after playing dates with Krauss, but then more gigs were added to his tour with her, and then Plant seemed to lose interest in a Led Zep reunion.)

"Gone Gone Gone," an Everly Brothers cover, won a Grammy last year, only the second Grammy win for Plant. Krauss, on the other hand, has been a favorite of the Grammy voters since she was a teen fiddler and bluegrass singer: she already had 21 Grammy trophies coming into this year's awards. She now has 26 to become the third most-honored Grammy winner of all time.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Grammy Awards 2009 - Live Updates on Twitter!

Yes, the music industry has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and now the Grammy Awards are even giving us updates on Twitter tonight! If you want the latest news, facts, trivia, and gossip on everything about the Grammy Awards 2009, go to the official Grammys Twitter feed ( and you'll get all you want to know (and possibly more) about this year's awards and the telecast (tonight on CBS at 8 p.m.).

Recent tweets (as of Sunday morning) include news that Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters will be playing drums for Paul McCartney on the telecast ... who'll be playing what songs on the telecast ... who's receiving this year's Lifetime Achievement Awards ... red carpet updates ... and even what "Grammy" means (no, it wasn't named after someone's grandmother).

The Grammy Awards 2009 Twitter feed also has links to other Grammy info and trivia, including the Grammy nomination process.
If you're not into the breathless nature of Twitter, you can find info on nominees, past awards, and more in a less-breathless format at the official Grammys Web site,

The Grammy Awards will be telecast on CBS tonight at 8 p.m., but the Twitter feed says a live Webcast will be streaming awards in 100 different categories starting at 4 p.m. Eastern, if you are a completist.

Kudos to the Recording Academy for using Twitter... the Grammys have entered the social media age. Now, if they could only bring their strategy for selling music up to date and avoid going out of business...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lost Untangled: Snappy Summaries with Action Figure Re-Enactments

In its latest attempt to help viewers understand the many twists and turns of its hit show, Lost, ABC has launched a series of short videos called "Lost Untangled." (You can view them at ABC's Lost Web page,

There are many shows on TV that have multiple plot lines and that pretty much need to be seen every week to be really appreciated (or understood), but Lost adds a few more monkey wrenches with its recurring themes of time travel, smoke monsters, islands that disappear, and dead characters who won't stay that way.

"Lost Untangled" is meant to bring viewers up to speed in a humorous four-minute video clip. It's not your ordinary summary, though... it features action figures and cardboard cut-outs of Lost characters re-enacting scenes.

The first "Lost Untangled" summarizes the most recent episode, "The Little Prince," Season 5, Episode 4 (504), while also throwing in bits of background from the previous season. Since "Lost Untangled" crams a lot of plot development into a very short amount of time, it might get the uninitiated Lost viewer more tangled than untangled.

It seems "Lost Untangled" will feature new episodes each week with snappy summaries and action figure re-enactments.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Congress Votes to Delay Digital TV (DTV) Transition

Not ready for the switch to digital TV? Don't worry: the U.S. House of Representatives voted today to delay the switchover to digital TV by four months, until June 12th. The Senate already passed the bill delaying the transition, and President Obama has said he will sign it.

The transition to digital-only broadcasting will now take place on June 12th, 2009. On that date, broadcasters are to turn off their analog TV signals and broadcast only digital signals. The DTV switchover was to take place on February 17th, but a delay was sought to give consumers more time to prepare for the switchover.

The U.S. government has a program that gives each household up to two $40 coupons to subsidize the cost of a digital converter box, but it was announced several weeks ago that the coupon program had run out of money. (Some coupons may still be available since not all coupons previously issued have been have cashed in, and some have expired. You can find out more at

Newer TVs have digital tuners built in and will receive the digital signals, as will older TVs that are connected to a cable or satellite TV programming. Older, non-digital TVs that receive signals over an antenna need a digital converter in order to display the new digital signals.

Although the Congress has approved the delay to digital-only broadcasting, it remains to be seen if the government will make funds available to pay for additional DTV converter coupons.