Thursday, September 30, 2010

WNYC's "Gig Alert": Free Daily Downloads from Selected Musicians in Town

WNYC has been expanding its coverage of popular music, and part of that is its "Gig Alert" feature that spotlights a live show in the NYC area and gives you a free MP3 download of a song from the act. Gig Alert is featured every weekday, and has a link to buy tickets to the show if you want to see the group's live show.

It's an eclectic mix of music genres and styles. Recent Gig Alerts have featured indie rockers such as Deerhunter, Pavement, The Posies, and Oberhofer; singer-songwriters including Basia Bulat; the "Tango electronica" of Gotan Project; longtime bluesman Charlie Musselwhite; and jazz acts such as The Jazz Passengers.

You can download the tunes, stream them one at a time, or do what I do: click the "Add" button to each song I want to hear, which puts them on a playlist so I can listen to one interrupted music stream.

Check the Gig Alert page for descriptions and downloads of recent songs and artists featured. If you're interested in getting music news and features as well as the Gig Alerts, visit the WNYC music page, part of the station's (relatively) new arts and culture website,

Richard Barone, Care Bears on Fire, Losers Lounge to Play Hoboken Arts & Music Festival

Above: Richard Barone (right) and James Mastro playing at the reunion show of The Bongos at the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival in October 2007. 

The two annual editions of the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival usually attract good musical talent, and this year's Fall festival (Sunday, Oct. 3rd) is no exception. Richard Barone, best known as the leader of the much-loved 1980s Hoboken band The Bongos, will be playing the event, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a former Bongo or two getting on stage to join him. (Bongos guitarist James Mastro, who was later in The Health and Happiness Show, owns the Hoboken music shop Guitar Bar, and the the Guitar Bar All-Stars will be playing the festival.)

The Bongos reunited at the Festival three years ago and sounded as good as ever.

The Hoboken Arts & Music Festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday on Washington Street, from near City Hall up to 7th Street.

Also at the Fall edition of the festival: the Losers Lounge Disco Tribute (the headliners, playing at 4:30 p.m.), all-female teen pop/punk outfit Care Bears on Fire, the Guitar Bar All-Stars, and Hoboken band The Fave. There are also a variety of local acts and family entertainers. Find out the entertainment schedule at the Hoboken festival's web page.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pete Yorn Rocks Out on Frank Black Produced New Album

Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn is back with a new album, and fans of his more rocking side (like me) will be quite pleased. The new self-titled album from the Montville, New Jersey native, which came out Sept. 28th, marks a return to the electric, more raw sound often heard on his first few albums. (His last effort, 2009's "Back and Fourth," had a more mellow, acoustic sound.)

It's no accident that "Pete Yorn" is more of a rocker: this new recording was produced by none other than Frank Black (a.k.a. Black Francis) of The Pixies. Black introduced a more edgy feel that is less produced and polished than what Yorn had been doing recently. (Read a brief interview with Pete Yorn, and download or listen to his new single "Precious Stone," at a Magnet Magazine article, in which he talks about working with Frank Black.) You can also download "Precious Stone" free here, and download another song, "Velcro Shoes," free as well. is streaming the entire "Pete Yorn" album here.

Yorn has been quite busy lately: beside this new album and last year's "Back and Fourth," he also recorded an album of duets last year with actress/singer Scarlett Johansson, called "Break Up."

Pete Yorn is slowly adding dates to his tour to promote the new album. A New York City show sold out in less than 15 minutes, strangely enough, so here's hoping he'll add another one. (How did that sell out so fast? Did Scarlett Johansson fans discover him from "Break Up" and snap up all the tickets?)

You can check out Pete Yorn tour dates here, and keep up with him via his website, MySpace page, and Twitter account.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great Albums Cheap: $5 MP3 Downloads from Amazon; $7.99 CDs from J&R

Left: The National's "The Boxer" is one of J&R's $7.99 CDs.

Getting great music at a good price is welcome anytime, but even moreseo at the end of the month when money is tight. Here's a last-call on the $5 MP3 album salefor September (which you could have bought anytime during the month, of course) as well as a new $7.99 CD sale that J&R is offering on hundreds of indie titles from the Warner Music Group labels.

The $5 MP3 album sale, as always, includes mostly rock and pop but also other genres, and includes new, recent, older, and ancient titles. Some popular titles: "Battle Studies" by John Mayer, "Little Voice" by Sara Bareilles, "I and Love and You" by the Avett Brothers, "In the Wee Small Hours" by Frank Sinatra, the self-titled album by the Court Yard Hounds, The Garden State movie soundtrack, and "Parachutes" by Coldplay.

The J&R $7.99 indie CD sale features albums old and new by groups like the New Pornographers, Mudhoney, Guided by Voices, Neko Case, The Shins, The National, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Yo La Tengo, Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, Pixies, Constantines, Vampire Weekend, and many more.

In many cases J&R has several albums available from these artists, so if you still buy CDs this can be a good chance to build up your library.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Free Concert Downloads & Streaming: Superchunk, Of Montreal, Robert Plant, Lost in the Trees

Above: Download or stream an hour-and-a-half concert by Superchunk (seen here playing in Brooklyn last year) free from NPR Music. Photo: duluoz cats

There are some good recent concerts you can now download or stream free at NPR Music. (Note: some shows that have been available for both may now be streaming-only.) Here are some of the more interesting ones available now:

Superchunk live: The veteran rockers are back with a new album and tour after nearly a decade off. Runs about an hour and a half.

* The spectacle that is Of Montreal in concert: Too bad there's no video; their shows feature all kinds of bizarre costumes and sets. Runs about an hour and a half.

* Robert Plant and Band of Joy live: The former Led Zeppelin singer continues his Americana work with a band that includes, among others, the great singer-songwriters Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. Runs 53 minutes.

* An abbreviated Lost in the Trees live set: The new North Carolina band brings its French horns, cello, tuba, and other instruments to play a 16-minute set in NPR's offices.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sunday in NYC: Women Rocking for Women Rockers

I'm a big fan of female rockers and singers, and I'll be seeing plenty of them tomorrow, Sept. 26th (and there are more I won't be able to see).

The main event is the inaugural Tinderbox Festival of established and up-and-coming female artists, which I heard about from Eliot of the Now I've Heard Everything blog. Starting at 3:30 and running til around midnight at Southpaw in Brooklyn, Tinderbox doesn't just showcase female musicians, it supports them by benefiting causes to help young women (including the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls).

You can find the Tinderbox Festival lineup here; tickets are only $20 at the door. Jenny Owen Youngs is the only performer there that I'm familiar with, so I'll be seeing a lot of new artists, which is always fun.

I won't be able to stay too late at the Tinderbox Festival because I'm seeing Sheryl Crow and Brandi Carlile at Radio City (tickets available here). Crow is one of those performers I see every time they come to town not only because I love their music, but because they always put on a good show. I've liked the various Carlile songs I've heard over the years, so am looking forward to catching her live.

The Canadian band Stars (featuring singer Amy Millan) is one I've enjoyed seeing live before, and after playing Terminal 5 the other night word came that they are playing a last-minute show at Littlefield in Brooklyn, which holds about 400 people max from what I've read.

Doors for Stars at Littlefield are 8 p.m., with showtime listed as 10 p.m. I probably won't be able to catch that show after Radio City, but if you're looking for a good pop-rock show to finish your weekend (and for only $10), catch Stars at Littlefield (check link to see if tickets are still available).

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Boxer Rebellion: Now Playing On Screen, & On Tour (including Brooklyn Tomorrow)

Above: The Boxer Rebellion play tunes they wrote for the new movie "Going the Distance" last month in Bryant Park.

British band The Boxer Rebellion just embarked on a U.S. tour, but you've been able to hear them on the big screen for a few weeks now. They wrote music for and appear in the new movie "Going the Distance," starring Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, which opened Sept. 3rd. The British rockers play an unsigned band that the lead characters go to see on a date.

I'd heard of The Boxer Rebellionin the past and liked the few songs of theirs I'd caught, but I unexpected got a free live preview of the songs they wrote for "Going the Distance" when I happened upon a show they were performing in Bryant Park one night last month (the show was preceded by a screening of the movie for a select audience).

It was one of those incredibly humid, sweaty nights we've had so many of this summer in New York, but that didn't slow down The Boxer Rebellionfrom banging out a set of catchy tunes. The band played Bowery Ballroom last night and have a show in Brooklyn at The Bell House.

You can see all the Boxer Rebellion tour dates here. And you can find out more about the band on MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube. Besides their songs for "Going the Distance" the band has two albums of its own out, Unionand Exits.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Notable Music Podcasts: Polaris Prize Show, Fall Music Preview, Jimi Hendrix Covers

Above: Montreal's The Besnard Lakes are one of the performers in the Polaris Music Prize podcast from CBC Radio 3. Photo: Nick Davis

Here are some of the more interesting or timely music podcasts that have come out in the last week:

* Canada's Polaris Music Prize was awarded Monday night, and Karkwa took home the top prize. All 10 short list nominees performed at the gala awards ceremony, and CBC Radio 3's latest podcast has live songs from all of them. This two-hour podcast has introductions to each of the performers, but other than that the focus is on the music, as it should be.

If you prefer, you can also stream the Polaris Prize performances and see photo highlights on the CBC's website.

* NPR Music is out its annual Fall Music Preview show. It looks at and samples of new tunes form upcoming albums from artists including Deerhunter, Sufjan Stevens, Brian Eno, Tricky, Sharon Van Etten, Belle and Sebastian, and Mark Ronson and the Business.

* The Coverville podcast presents a show of covers of songs written or performed by Jimi Hendrix in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the death of the 1960s Seattle guitar hero.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free Album Streaming: New CDs from Neil Young, Deerhunter, John Legend & the Roots, Chromeo, More

Above: Deerhunter playing at New York's RiverRocks festival last month. Their new CD "Halcyon Digest" is streaming free on NPR Music. 

It's been too long since I've written about new albums that are available for free streaming, but with today's post I'm hoping to make it a regular weekly feature again. There are some great new CDs out or almost out that you can preview for free now, which motivated me to resume this feature.

As always, the Spinner and AOL sites don't indicate how long the free streaming is offered, while NPR Music and KCRW do tell when the streaming ends.'s Listening Party currently features more than 15 albums including:
* "Mobile Chateau" by Matt Costa
* "Buzzard" Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
* "The Sound of Sunshine" by Michael Franti and Spearhead
* "The Place We Ran From" by Tired Pony (haven't heard of them, but the description says "The music project is collaboration by members of R.E.M. and Belle & Sebastian with guest spots from She & Him, Editors, Snow Patrol, and more."
* "Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride" by The Black Ryders
* "Out at Sea" by Magnetic Island (haven't heard of these guys, either -- Brooklyn band less than a year old)
* "Imaginational Anthem v 4" by New Possibilities (compilation of acoustic guitarists)

AOL Music about 15 free album previews, which have some overlap with Spinner: 
* "You Get What You Give" by the Zac Brown Band
* "Guitar Heaven" by Santana
* "Audition" by the Cast of Glee (five-song EP from the first episode of Season 2)
* "Imperfect Harmonies" by Serj Tankian (former System of a Down singer)
* "Available Light" by James McCartney (debut EP from the son of that-guy-from-The-Beatles, & co-produced by the Dad)
* "Taken" by Rhonda Vincent
* "Killing. Mourning. Love" by Victory in Numbers
* "Bring It On" by Kaci Battaglia

* "Le Noise" by Neil Young (streaming until Oct. 5)
* "Wake Up!" by John Legend & the Roots (until Sept. 28)
* "Halcyon Digest" by Deerhunter (until Sept. 28)
* "Business Casual" by Canadian hip-hop duo Chromeo (until Oct. 4)
* "Epic" by singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten (until Sept. 28)
* "Good Things" by soul singer Aloe Blacc (until Sept. 28)

KCRW Album Preview: 
* "Station to Station" by David Bowie (special edition reissue of his 1976 album) (until Oct. 3)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kristin Hersh Holds Online Chat About her Memoir "Rat Girl" Tonight

Kristin Hersh, co-founder of the highly influential band Throwing Muses, has never been one to take the conventional path in her musical career. She came out with a memoir a few weeks ago and, not surprisingly, it's not your conventional rock-and-roll autobiography.

In fact, "Rat Girl"looks at just one year in Hersh's life, but it was a critical one: she was 18 years and and Throwing Muses was starting to get noticed, but Hersh was suffering with systems of bipolar disorder -- and had gotten pregnant. Her psychological condition led her to create lots of amazing, creative music, but also took a huge toll on her day-to-day life.

I've been a big fan of Hersh ever since I first heard of Throwing Muses in the mid-1980s, and have always enjoyed the twists many her music has taken over the years, whether with the Muses, her solo albums, or her most recent band, 50 Foot Wave.

I haven't read "Rat Girl"yet, but hope to soon. In the meantime, I hope to check out an online chat she's doing today at the website of Penguin, her publisher. The Kristin Hersh online chat will be at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Hersh continues to put out music in various forms. She still records songs with 50 Foot Wave, regularly releases new songs and demos on her website, and last week said on her Twitter feed that she had been recording new Throwing Muses material.

If you're not familiar with Kristin Hersh or Throwing Muses, I'd definitely recommend checking out their music.

I was out of town when Hersh did a reading and appearance for "Rat Girl"at Barnes & Noble in New York the day the book was released (Aug. 31st), but hope to catch her when she returns to New York for a book tour event on Oct. 28th. (See Kristen Hersh "Rat Girl" tour dates at the Penguin website.)

Read the Introduction and first three chapters of "Rat Girl"
Listen to a Kristen Hersh interview about "Rat Girl" on NPR (also includes an excerpt from the book).

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 Polaris Prize to be Announced Tonight

The winner of the 2010 Polaris Prize, recognizing the best album of the year by a Canadian musician, will be announced at the gala ceremony in Toronto tonight. The nominees and winners are "selected solely on artistic merit without regard to genre, sales history or label affiliation."

The awards ceremony will be shown live online at Much Music at 8 p.m. Eastern time, and televised on the network on Saturday, Sept. 25th at 9 p.m. Eastern. You can also listen to the proceedings on the CBC Radio website, and on Sirius satellite radio channel 86.

Here are the nominees on the final "short list" (you can find profiles of the Polaris finalists at Much Music). The short list was winnowed down from a "long list" of 40 albums.
  • The Besnard Lakes, "The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night"

  • Broken Social Scene, "Forgiveness Rock Record"

  • Caribou, "Swim"

  • Karkwa, "Les Chemins De Verre"

  • Dan Mangan, "Nice, Nice, Very Nice"

  • Owen Pallett, "Heartland"

  • Radio Radio, "Belmundo Regal"

  • The Sadies, "Darker Circles"

  • Shad, "TSOL"

  • Tegan And Sara, "Sainthood"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Broken Social Scene Rocks Central Park

The sprawling Toronto music collective Broken Social Scene took over Central Park's Rumsey Playfield last night for a sold-out show that featured many new tunes (and a few new members) but maintained the band's characteristic sound, with a horn section, flute, and plenty of electric guitars.

Kevin Drew announced at the outset that the band was going to just play for two hours, and he was true to his words. Aside from occasional pauses to introduce songs or various band members (and to send several of them crowd-surfing into the audience), the group went through one song after another.

As expected, there was an emphasis on its latest album, "Forgiveness Rock Record" (which came out in Spring), with the band performing songs including "Texico Bitches," "Forced to Love," "Art House Director," and "Water in Hell." But BSS played many of its older favorites as well, including "7/4 (Shoreline)," "Fire Eyed Boy," "Superconnected," "Looks Just Like the Sun," and "Lover's Spit."

Above: Andrew Whiteman (left), who also performs as The Apostle of Hustle, performs lead vocal on a song.

As always, the band included its founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, along with longtime BSS  core members Andrew Whiteman and Charles Spearin. Lisa Lobsinger is now the lone woman, singing the female vocals that were performed in the past by Leslie Feist, Amy Millan (of Stars), or Emily Haines (of Metric).

Drew remarked that the band had been together for 10 years, and several times thanked the audience for being fans and for coming out to see them over the years. He also thanked the crowd for coming out to the night's show, saying that they knew that there were many concert options in New York City.

Above: Several members of Broken Social Scene crowd-surfed into the New York night.

Broken Social Scene's tour continues through mid-December with dates in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Mexico. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Watson Twins & Laura Veirs at NYC's Bowery Ballroom, Sept. 14th (PHOTOS)

Above: Leigh (left) and Chandra Watson at Bowery Ballroom.

Here are some belated photos from Tuesday's Bowery Ballroom show featuring The Watson Twins and Laura Veirs. Although Veirs was the headliner and the better-known act, I was at the show to see the Watsons, who I've been fans of since I heard of them in 2006. That was the year that Leigh and Chandra, identical twins from Louisville, Kentucky, made the "Rabbit Fur Coat" album with Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, which was one of my favorite albums of that year (an opinion shared by many music critics).

That same year the Watsons, who now reside in Los Angeles, came out with their debut recording, the excellent EP "Southern Manners." The sisters have since come out with two full-length albums, most recently the soul-inflected "Talking to You, Talking to Me," which came out earlier this year.

The Watsons are currently on tour with Veirs as a three-piece outfit (the sisters plus a keyboardist). Their voices are lovely, and as you can imagine their harmonies are gorgeous, reflecting a lifetime of singing together. (Check out the video below.)

Below, the Watson Twins and band perform "The Devil in You" (from their latest album) live in the studios of KCRW Radio.

I've heard various tunes from Laura Veirs (below) over the last few years, but only at Tuesday's show did the range of her music become apparent to me. Her songs can be simple, stripped-down acoustic Americana with Veirs on banjo, or folk-influenced indie pop.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spoon, Robert Randolph, The Zombies, Suzanne Vega, & More Rock the Union County Music Fest (PHOTOS)

The Union County Music Fest in Clark, NJ has got to be one of the best-kept secrets in the NYC area as far as free music festivals go. As I wrote the other day, the 2010 UC Music Fest this past weekend had a great lineup, and I caught Sunday's show with Spoon, Robert Randolph, The Zombies, Nils Lofgren, Suzanne Vega, and more.

One surprisingly good act was the first one I saw Sunday, the Nils Lofgren "acoustic duo." I've long been a fan of Lofgren (above), but wondered if a two-man acoustic lineup could convey the power of his more rocking tunes.

Not to worry: Lofgren's guitar playing and voice did the songs justice, and his sideman (whose name I didn't catch) did a fine job not only on keyboard but on percussion: tap dancing on a wooden platform. Nils also took a couple turns hoofing it on the boards (who knew Lofgren could tap dance?)

I've seen Suzanne Vega (above) in concert more than almost any other performer, and part of the reason is because she never disappoints. Her UC Music Fest set with longtime collaborators Mike Visceglia (bass) and Gerry Leonard (guitar) was no exception.

It showed her range from moving stories in spare acoustic arrangements in several songs from her first album, "Suzanne Vega" (which came out 25 years ago), to the bossa nova of "Caramel," the industrial sounds of "Blood Makes Noise," and her collaboration with Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse, "The Man Who Played God."

The Zombies (above), that influential rock band from the 1960s, are still around? I had no idea until I saw them on the Music Fest's lineup. They're celebrating their 50th anniversary and are even working on a new album (due in 2011). They put on a good set of original Zombies songs and tunes the band recorded, as well as songs by keyboardist Rod Argent's group, Argent (including the hits "Hold Your Head Up" and "God Gave Rock and Roll to You.")

New Jersey's own Robert Randolph (above) and the Family Band got the crowd moving and shaking off the chill of the cool, wet afternoon. Randolph said it was good to be back home, and to know that the Giants won that afternoon. Yes indeed.

Austin's Spoon was back in the tri-state area to close the festival (above: Rob Pope and Britt Daniel). This was the band most people came to see (though Robert Randolph had a good-sized crowd, too). Spoon played a one-hour-plus set that included many of the same tunes as their recent sets at Madison Square Garden (opening for Arcade Fire), with an emphasis on their latest album "Transference" and its predecessor "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga."

The Music Fest featured a smaller stage for up-and-coming acts, and I liked the one band I saw: Brooklyn's A Million Years (three of four members above). (Unlike many Brooklyn bands, most of these actually grew up in the borough). They've been playing together for many years, it seems, and it showed. They had a solid, tight sound as they played tunes from their debut album "Mischief Maker," including the catchy title tune.

A Million Years will be playing a couple of gigs at next month's CMJ in New York and a show with Jesse Malin in the East Village.

The Union County Music Fest offered an amazing lineup for a free show, and getting in and out of the even was surprisingly hassle free. This is an event I'll definitely put on my calendar for next year.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yo La Tengo "Eight Nights Of Hanukkah" 2010 - Tickets on Sale Today at Noon

Yes, it's only September, but if you want to get tickets for one of Yo La Tengo's legendary Hanukkah shows at Maxwell's, you'll want to plan your dates now. Tickets for the band's annual eight-night stand go on sale at Noon today, September 15th.
You can buy Yo La Tengo "Eight Nights Of Hanukkah" tickets by going to the Maxwell's website and looking for the listing for the YLT shows at the lower right-hand corner of the page, which has links for buying tickets to each show. The shows always sell out quickly, so check your calendars and get your tickets while you can. (Besides the ticket links above, you can also buy tickets at the Tunes music store in Hoboken and at Other Music in NYC.

This year's Yo La Tengo "Eight Nights Of Hanukkah" series runs from December 1st through 8th, and tickets are $30 each night. I'm guessing that, as in previous years, there will be guest stars joining YLT each night. And the proceeds from each show benefit a local charity (a different one for each night). 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jerry Lee Lewis Joins the Actor Playing Him On Stage of "Million Dollar Quartet" (VIDEO)

Here's a cool example of life imitating art imitating life. The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, made an appearance on stage last night after the performance of the Broadway show “Million Dollar Quartet,” about a musical session involving Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley.

As reported in today's online edition of The New York Times, The real Lewis sat at the piano and sang "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" (see video below) as Levi Kreis, the Tony Award-winning actor who plays Lewis in the musical, sat nearby and watched.

Jerry Lee Lewis is the only surviving member of the "quartet."

Friday, September 10, 2010

FREE NJ Music Fest Has Spoon, OK Go, Train, Soul Asylum, & More

How did I miss this before? The Union County Music Fest in Northern New Jersey, which has a great lineup of free music, is going on this week, and has been taking place for several years. The event, which also includes amusement park rides, circus sideshows, plenty of food, and a 5K race, actually started on Wednesday, but the main musical event is this weekend, and features quite a roster of talent old and new.

Here's who'll be appearing this weekend:

Saturday, Sept. 11:
8:30 p.m. - Train
7:00 - OK Go
5:30 - The Bravery
4:00 - Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social
2:30 - Soul Asylum
1:00 - Mike Peters & Friends
12:00 - Willie Nile
11:00 a.m. - 61 North

Sunday, Sept. 12:
7:30 p.m. - Spoon
6:00 - Robert Randolph & the Family Band
4:30 - The Zombies
3:00 - Suzanne Vega
1:00 - Nils Lofgren acoustic duo
12:00 - Nicole Atkins & the Sea

You can learn more about the Union County Music Fest at its website or their Facebook page. Oak Ridge Park in the town of Clark. You can get there by mass transit by taking a NJ Transit train to the Rahway station and taking a shuttle bus to the Music Fest.

The weather sounds great for Saturday and maybe a bit rainy Sunday, but I'll try to make it both days. Looking forward to chomping down some funnel cakes and those mozzarella-and-corn cake things.