Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tonight in NYC: Diane Birch, Rachael Yamagata, Tift Merritt, Marshall Crenshaw, Nicole Atkins, & More in Japan Benefit

Last week I wrote about a series of benefit concerts to aid the Japan relief effort, and recently found out that City Winery is hosting one at 8 p.m. tonight called Bridge to Japan with a lot of great talent on it. I know it's short notice, but if you'll be in the City tonight you'll see an impressive roster of talent (many of whom aren't as famous as they should be):

Rachael Yamagata, Tift Merritt, Diane Birch, Marshall Crenshaw, Dar Williams, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Nicole Atkins, Ben Sollee, classic pianist Taka Kigawa, the New York based big band Morning Musuko, Syd Straw, "12-year-old phenom Cecilia Gault," and more, including Jesse Smith (daughter of Patti, with Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan of the Patti Smith band).

As of 4 p.m. today, tickets for Bridge to Japan are still available at several price levels, starting at $25 for standing room (limited number available). Check the website or call 212-608-0555 ext 714 for information. All proceeds will go to Japan relief, the website says.

This is quite a lineup of talent, and I'd guess it's one of those chances to see different combinations of musicians playing together, probably playing tunes you wouldn't normally hear. It should be a great show.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Live in NYC Wednesday: WNYC to Webcast Mountain Goats and Suzanne Vega

The Mountain Goats and Suzanne Vega will be performing live Wednesday afternoon at WNYC's new downtown performing space, and if you can't make it there you can watch the live webcast.

The performance, part of the station's show "Soundcheck," starts at 2 p.m. The show will be webcast live and will also be broadcast on WNYC's FM station at 93.9.

The Mountain Goats are a band led by John Darnielle. Their latest album, “All Eternals Deck,” came out on March 29th. In a write-up about the album NPR Music said of Darnielle, "Once a wild man whose shouted white-knuckle screeds could barely be contained by the crummy boom boxes on which he recorded them, Darnielle has aged into a singing poet whose words still hit like punches." (More on Mountain Goats from NPR Music.)

Suzanne Vega has long been one of my favorite musicians ever since her first album (which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year). I've seen her play in venues ranging from large festivals to small clubs; she's definitely a performer I'd recommend seeing. Her latest project is the original off-Broadway play “Carson McCullers Talks About Love,” about the famous Southern author who is a hero of Vega's. Vega wrote the script for the work and plays McCullers, and also collaborated on the score with pop musician Duncan Sheik, who's now had success a huge success on Broadway with "Spring Awakening."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Neil Young, Arcade Fire Win Multiple Juno Awards

Neil Young won three Juno Awards Sunday night in Toronto. Photo: Andrea Barsant via Flickr
Neil Young is on a roll: the crusty old rocker won three Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) Sunday night, just weeks after winning his first-ever music Grammy. In a night otherwise dominated (on the rock side, anyway) by indie darlings Arcade Fire, the 65-year-old rocker took home Artist of the Year honors and Adult Alternative Album of the Year for "Le Noise," as well as the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. The latter is said to be given to a prominent artist with a long history of humanitarian work, and the article says that it was given to Young primarily for his work in co-founding Farm Aid, the annual concert that benefits farmers.

Montreal's Arcade Fire took home some of the night's biggest awards, including Album of the Year (for "The Suburbs"), Group of the year, and Songwriter of the Year. Some other major Juno winners in rock and pop:
  • New Artist of the Year: Meaghan Smith
  • New Group of the Year: Said the Whale
  • Rock Album of the Year: Matthew Good, "Vancouver"
  • Producer of the Year: Daniel Lanois for "Hitchhiker" (from "Le Noise" by Neil Young) and "I Believe in You" (from Black Dub's self-titled album)
See the full list of 2011 Juno Awards winners here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Names Playing Concerts to Aid Japan Disaster Relief

In addition to the concerts below, this limited-edition screen print is being sold to benefit Japan relief. 
It's no surprise that someone decided to hold a benefit concert to aid the relief efforts after the Japan earthquake/tsunami/nuke incident. But New York will be host to not one but five benefit concerts over the next few weeks, featuring some big-name performers playing in modest-sized venues.

According to Oh My Rockness, the shows are:
As often happens, these benefit concerts offer a unique chance to see a range of performers who may not normally play together on a single bill—and in small venues, to boot.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Free Album Streaming: New CDs from The Strokes, J Mascis, Peter Bjorn & John, Keren Ann, & More

Captivating singer-songwriter Keren Ann is back with a new album, "101," that's now offered for free streaming.
The return of J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) and The Strokes are two of the most notable new albums available for free streaming this week. Also, the new one from the captivating Paris/New York singer-songwriter-composer Keren Ann, who has been acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. Here are some of the other interesting albums offering free album previews right now:

KCRW Album Preview: 
"Several Shades of Why" by J Mascis (streaming until April 8; released March 15) — the indie-rock guitarist and leader of Dinosaur Jr. is back with a new solo album
"101" by Keren Ann (streaming until April 13; release date: March 22) — the Israeli-born, New York- and Paris-based singer-songwriter returns with a new album (see a recent New York Times Magazine story on her)
"Gimme Some" by Peter Bjorn and John (streaming until April 19; release date: March 29) — the Swedish trio that burst on the scene with the song "Young Folks" releases its first album in two years, with its familiar hook-laden songs but a "guitar-heavy attack," says KCRW
"The Most Incredible Thing" Original Score by the Pet Shop Boys — yes, the '80s pop-dance duo is back, and with a score to a ballet based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen's Listening Party:
"Angles" by The Strokes — the New York band is back with its first album since 2006
"Sucker Punch" Soundtrack by various artists — the soundtrack for this new action movie features Alison Mosshart, Emily Browning, Emiliana Torrini, and Bjork
"Salt on Sea Glass" by If By Yes — the first album by the band featuring Petra Haden (formerly of That Dog) and Yuka Honda (formerly of Cibo Matto), this CD features special guests David Byrne and guitarist Nels Cline.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Live SXSW Audio on NPR Starting Sat. afternoon: Bright Eyes, Felice Bros., Kurt Vile, & More

There's more live audio from South by Southwest (SXSW) coming at you right now from NPR Music. Head to their SXSW website for webcasts starting at 4:30 p.m.:
  • Kurt Vile - 3:30 Central Time/4:30 Eastern
  • Man Man - 4:35 CT/5:35 ET
  • Middle Brother - 5:30 CT/6:30 ET
  • The Felice Brothers - 6:15 CT/7:15 ET
  • Bright Eyes - 7:30 CT/8:30 ET
Their previous webcasts are available online for streaming or, in most cases, podcast download (through iTunes and other podcast programs). You can watch SXSW sets from:
  • The Head and the Heart
  • The Antlers
  • Raphael Saadiq
  • Smith Westerns
  • The Joy Formidable
  • Wild Flag
  • Khaira Arby
  • Colin Stetson
  • James Blake
  • Yuck
  • tUnE-yArDs
… and Jack White's impromptu set played in a parking lot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SXSW Music: Concert Podcasts, More Coverage

Brooklyn's The Antlers (shown here at NYC's RiverRocks festival last summer) will be webcast live on March 17th.
SXSW is in full swing, and you can get a lot of content online. NPR Music hosted its first live webcasts from SXSW 2011 today, and a couple are already archived for download (by the Smith Westerns and the oddly named, yet catchy, band known as Yuck). Others you can stream online, including Raphael Saadiq and electronic musician James Blake.

Thursday the 17th NPR Music will start webcasting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, but I'll be checking in later on to listen to three acts I'm interested in: the new band Wild Flag at 3:30 (featuring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony from Helium), the Welsh group The Joy Formidable at 4:15, and The Antlers at 5:00.

For people like me who enjoy alternative Latin music, NPR Music's Alt.Latino blog takes a look at some of the new Latin musicians who are playing SXSW.

There are plenty of Canadian bands at South by Southwest, and CBC Radio 3 is doing some live audio webcasts. You can find those and the network's other SXSW coverage here. And check out their SXSW preview podcast, which spotlights some of the Canadians performing in Austin this week, with tunes by Jenn Grant, Said the Whale, and Oh Susanna.

For more international coverage of the goings-on in Austin, check the British newspaper The Guardian's SXSW section.

Monday, March 14, 2011

South by Southwest 2011 (SXSW): Free Music for Download and Streaming

The music part of the South by Southwest festival gets underway in Austin, Texas tomorrow, but you can enjoy a lot of the music in the comfort of your home with free podcasts and online streaming. Here are some of the choices available. The SXSW Music festival runs from March 15th through the 20th.

* The official 2011 SXSW Music website has links to free iTunes downloads and the SXSW Shoutcast radio stations. You can also subscribe to the SXW Music Blog feed and get updates by connecting to SXSW on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.

* As usual, there's a huge collection of songs by SXSW artists to download via torrent (this year's is over 6.5 GB). (From what I've been told this download is legal, though I can't find any statement explicitly stating that.)

* NPR Music will once again be offering extensive SXSW coverage, including live concert webcasts (mostly audio, but there may be some video) that are usually archived for streaming or podcast download later. See their SXSW Music site for the Austin 100 Mix, a streaming collection of new songs by artists playing the festival, and see their SXSW preview (streaming or podcast) for the artists the NPR Music staff is most looking forward to.

* L.A. radio station KCRW will have a big presence in Austin as well, and you can find their schedule, a free SXSW sampler, and more at their SXSW site. "Morning Becomes Eclectic" host Jason Bentley will be broadcasting the show live from Austin, too.

* has a selection of free SXSW music samplers, including Bloodshot Records and Saddle Creek Records.

* Pitchfork has a link to a compilation Bandcamp has done of  "467 SXSW artists that host their music on the site, complete with a huge grid of images assigned to said bands, a streaming player, and a counter telling you the amount of music you still have yet to listen to." I haven't checked that out yet, but it sounds very promising.

* Due to its location, it's not usual that SXSW has a decent selection of Latin music. As a fan of Latin rock and pop music, I was glad to see that the Remezlca Music website has a free 10-song SXSW Latin music sampler that you can stream or download. Artists include Mexican Institute of Sound and David Garza.

* Paste has an article covering "20 SXSW Bands You Might Not Know (But Should)," with links to free MP3 downloads for each one.

* Also check out's SXSW free song sampler and AOL Music's SXSW website.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy SXSW with free podcasts, webcasts, and downloads—no need to catch a plane and deal with lines, crowds, heat, or spilled beer!

Friday, March 11, 2011

NJ Natives Done Good Playing Tonight: Pete Yorn, Nicole Atkins, Anthony D'Amato

Jersey Shore native Nicole Atkins plays Maxwell's in Hoboken tonight. She's seen here playing South by Southwest last year. Photo: Flickr user Kirk Stauffer.
Some musicians from the Garden State who've made a big splash are playing shows in the New York/New Jersey area tonight. Montville native Pete Yorn returns for a long-awaited concert at NYC's Terminal 5, his first gig in the area since one at Bowery Ballroom a few months ago that sold out in minutes.

Opening for Yorn is Ben Kweller and Anthony D'Amato, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter who got help writing lyrics from poet Paul Muldoon while attending Princeton University. I first heard of D'Amato when the New York Times did an article about him and his work with Muldoon a couple of months ago.

Nicole Atkins has made a big splash since coming out of Neptune, NJ a few years back, and returns to the state for a show tonight at Maxwell's in Hoboken (which sold out a day or so ago; you may be able to find someone selling extra tickets outside the club). She and her newly named band The Black Sea are supporting their new album "Mondo Amore." (Note: Atkins is playing an early show scheduled to start at 7:30; The Blasters play a late show at the club scheduled for 10 p.m.)

After tonight's Maxwell's gig, Atkins will play a number of set at South by Southwest in Austin next week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Skylar Grey Performs on "American Idol" Tonight; will do "Coming Home" with Diddy

I don't usually watch "American Idol," but may tune in tonight to see the appearance by the young singer/songer/producer Skylar Grey, who I wrote about (and first heard of) at the Grammys last month. She co-wrote Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" and "I Need a Doctor" those songs with Eminem and Dr. Dre on the Grammy telecast. She turned a lot of heads with her Grammy appearance, and sent many viewers off to Google to find out more about her.

Skylar Grey's profile will get another huge boost tonight when she's scheduled to be a guest on "American Idol" tonight, along with Diddy-Dirty Money and past "Idol" winner Adam Lambert. She is set to perform another song she co-wrote, "Coming Home," with Diddy (UPDATE: you can see the video above). Skylar Grey has been getting more attention in the press lately, too, including a profile in Billboard and a story in USA Today.

Speaking of "American Idol," apparently alt-country singer-songwriter Ryan Adams got some exposure on the show last night when contestant Paul McDonald sang his "Come Pick Me Up." And yes, "Ryan Adams" became a trending topic on Google last night. One person who needs to learn more about Adams is "Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez, who said on the show that she didn't know the song and hadn't heard of the singer.

You can see McDonald performing the abbreviated version of "Come Pick Me Up" from the show below.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Music Notes: Foo Fighters Video, Free "Social Network" Songs, Epitonic Free Downloads are Back, Mike Starr Dead, & More

* The Foo Fighters will spend Record Store Day (April 12th 16th) making appearances at various record stores across the U.S. in a white limo to promote the release of "White Limo," the song and video from their new album "Wasting Light." The album comes out the same week as Record Store Day. What's more, the group will be releasing "a very special vinyl album of their favorite cover tunes, called "Medium Rare," EXCLUSIVELY for Record Store Day participating stores."

* Get a free five-song sampler from the Oscar-winning soundtrack to "The Social Network" by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Just go to the website and enter your e-mail address, and you'll get a confirmation message. If you like the music, you can buy the entire album for $5 (MP3 download) on the website (or $8 for CD; vinyl also available).

* The free, legal music download site Epitonic, which went out of business in 2004, is back. Pitchfork says the revivded Epitonic has new tracks from The Wrens and Marissa Nadler as well as previously released songs by groups including LCD Soundsystem, Fleet Foxes, and cut copy. I remember downloading some great tracks from Epitonic long ago—I think it was back when I still had a dial-up account. Welcome back, Epitonic!

* Alice in Chains co-founder and former bass player Mike Starr was found dead today in a house in Salt Lake Cty; he was 44. He had had drug problems (he even appeared on the TV show "Celebrity Rehab") and was been arrested last month for felony drug possession. He left Alice in Chains in 1993.

* New Jersey native Pete Yorn is doing six West Coast shows in April to mark the 10th anniversary of his debut album, "musicforthemorningafter." A 10th-anniversary edition of the album will be coming out later this month. Yorn will perform the album in its entirety at each show. He is now on tour and is playing in Philadelphia on March 10th and in New York (at Terminal 5) on March 11th.

* Music publishers have settled their lawsuit against LimeWire. Even though a judge found last year that LimeWire may be liable for multimillion dollar damages, and the case was set to go to trial in a couple of months, all claims have apparently been dismissed, with no reason given. (via

Sunday, March 06, 2011

YouTube Guitarist Performs Throwing Muses' "Freeloader"

Here's a fun video I came across the other day: a version of the Throwing Muses song "Freeloader" performed by a British guitarist who goes by the name of Daniel Earwicker. He is shown playing a number of different guitars during in the video and is apparently singing all the layered vocals as well (you can also hear an unseen drummer in the song, presumably also Earwicker).

I wasn't familiar with Daniel Earwicker, but his YouTube site has cover versions of a number of songs, including The Smiths, Blur, and the Talking Heads, as well as what seems to be his own one-man Internet band, The Primrose League.  I like his version of "Freeloader," and apparently so does the person who wrote the song: I discovered this version because Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh tweeted a link to it last week.

Below is Hersh doing a solo performance of the song, recorded live (with non-professional equipment and technique, unfortunately). "Freeloader" appeared on the 1996 Muses album "Limbo."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Free Album Streaming: New CDs from R.E.M., Mike Watt, Exene Cervenka, & More

Above: Video for "ƜBerlin" from R.E.M.'s "Collapse Into Now," which is streaming online until its release on March 8th.

There's a great selection of free album previews online this week, led by the first new R.E.M. album in years—and many are calling it their best in more than a decade and a half. Also: new albums by Exene Cervenka, Dropkick Murphys, and Minuteman co-founder Mike Watt.

Here's a sampling of what's streaming right now; as always, check out each site for the full selection of free album previews available.

NPR First Listen:
* "Collapse Into Now" by R.E.M. (streaming until March 8, its release date)—this is said to be their best release since "New Adventures in Hi-Fi," which was the last R.E.M. album that I enjoyed all the way through
* "All Eternals Deck" by The Mountain Goats (streaming until March 29)—I haven't liked everything this band has done, but am always willing to give them a try
* "Smoke Ring For My Halo" by Kurt Vile (streaming until March 8)—I've only heard a few songs from this singer-songwriter from Philly; this will be a good chance to listen to get a feel for his work

* "Different Gear, Still Speeding" by Beady Eye (streaming until March 24)—first album from the new group featuring Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and several other members of the band
* "The Excitement of Maybe" by Exene Cervenka (streaming until March 29)—the latest solo album from the co-founder of the legendary L.A. punk band X's Listening Party has albums including:
* "Volume 2 - High and Inside" by The Baseball Project—the second album by the baseball-themed band that includes indie rock all-stars Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), and Ira Kaplan (Yo la Tengo).
* "Going Out in Style" by Dropkick Murphys—the latest effort from the Celtic-meets-punk band
* "Long Player Late Bloomer" by Ron Sexsmith—he's a singer-songwriter, but not always a folkie, and this new album is produced by Bob Rock (known for his work with Metallica)
* "The Valley" by Eisley—glad to see a new disc by this brothers-and-sisters folk/pop band
* "hyphenated-man" by Mike Watt—the latest album by the bassist and co-founder of The Minutemen and fIREHOSE

AOL Music Listening Party has album previews including: 
* "Original Sin" by INXS—the '80s and '90s hitmakers do an album of their own tunes as a tribute to their late singer, Michael Hutchence. Features guest vocals by Rob Thomas, Ben Harper, John Mayer, and more

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Free Music Downloads: Live Sets by Local Natives, Low Anthem, & More; Coverville Tackles Smokey Robinson, Peter Gabriel, The Doors, & Others

L.A.'s Local Natives performed a live set at KCRW recently, and you can download or stream the set.
If you're looking for some tasty music podcasts to download to your digital music player, there are some good choices this week.

* KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic has a live set from the L.A. indie rock band Local Natives, whose 2010 album "Gorilla Manor" was a favorite of many critics and fans. You can download the set from iTunes or stream it here. (Other recent MBE shows available for streaming only include Gang of Four and Adele)

* NPR Music has an hour-and-a-half concert from indie folk outfit The Low Anthem. You can hear songs from their new album "Smart Flesh," released just last month.

* CBC Radio 2's Canada Live series recorded a live set with singer-songwriter Julie Fader. Besides having her own solo career, Fader has also recorded and toured with fellow Canadian artist Sarah Harmer.

* Coverville, the fun, prolific cover-song podcast, has quite a few new shows spotlighting veteran artists. Among them: Smokey Robinson, Peter Gabriel, The Doors, INXS, and The Temptations