A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Girl Talk and the rise of the mashup

Filed Under: Guest Post, Music for a Mood, Random Thought
Written by Eric
Friday December 31, 2010

[ed. note: I asked a few friends to help me get through the holiday season by writing a post for the blog. Here's Eric's contribution]

At the risk of telling you what you already know: a mashup is a song that is composed of two or more songs blended together.   In the last few years, mashups have risen to the level of a legitimate genre-spanning form of music.   The popular television series Glee dedicated an entire episode to mashups and the video game DJ Hero took mashups to XBoxes and PlayStations.

Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, has been putting out mashup albums since the turn of the century.  His mastery of the mashup can most easily be noted by the low-quality work of competitors.  Check out this gem: Papa Roach vs. Rihanna.  Rather than bastardizing original works, Girl Talk creates mashups that enhance and extend the original works.  His 2006 release, Night Ripper, introduced the mashup into mine and many others vocabulary, but his latest work, All Day, is the culmination of the years he’s spent honing his craft.  For lack of a more detailed review, it just works.  The album is a free download and I highly recommend you check it out.

As an accompaniment to the album, I recommend checking out Mashup Breakdown created by Benjamin Rahn.  The site gives a visual representation of the songs used in All Day as it plays.  It’s quite amazing.

Girl Talk plays the Metropolis in Montreal on March 1, 2011.  Buy your tickets now and thank me later.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

My favorite music of 2010

Filed Under: Music for a Mood
Written by Brendan
Tuesday December 28, 2010

Way back in the day (2004), my good friend Aaron (who you may know from his guest posts on this blog) shared with me a copy of his 2005 Favorite Music CD, introducing me to a whole new world of music.  It was that 80 minutes of musical joy that inspired me to start broadening my musical tastes, leading to a complete obsession with live music, an album purchasing habit that has become almost obscene, and eventually, this here blog.  In 2005, I decided to follow his lead and began compiling my own year-end CD to share with my friends, in the hopes that they’d also fall in love with some of the music, and share the experience with me.

It may be a little old fashioned to still make a CD (though I for one still use the CD player in my car), but 80 minutes does seem to be a good way for me to really pare down my favorite songs to the cream of the crop, as well as share it in a way that’s not too overwhelming for friends who may not be as obsessed as I am.  Below, I offer you a list of my favorite music of 2010.  The order doesn’t signify any sort of hierarchy — that would be way too difficult.  Instead, the songs are ordered as to present an enjoyable and cohesive listening experience.

If you like any of this music, please support the artists making it by buying their albums and going to their shows.  They continue to make my world a better place, and the only way they’ll keep doing so is if they are supported by their fans.

Angus & Julia Stone – And The Boys
From Down The Way ($5 right now on Amazon)

Midlake – Winter Dies
From The Courage Of Others ($5 right now on Amazon)

Dan Mangan – Robots
From Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Dr. Dog – Jackie Wants a Black Eye
From Shame Shame ($5 right now on Amazon)

Yeasayer – Ambling Alp
From ODD BLOOD ($5 right now on Amazon)

Wolf Parade – Pobody’s Nerfect
From Expo 86 ($5 right now on Amazon)

Wooden Shjips – Start to Dreaming
From Vol. 2

Drink Up Buttercup – Young Ladies
From Born And Thrown On A Hook

Frightened Rabbit – Nothing Like You
From The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Delays – In Brilliant Sunshine
From Star Tiger Star Ariel

Beach House – Lover of Mine
From Teen Dream ($5 right now on Amazon)

Decibully – Weakest Kind of Heart
From World Travels Fast

Gold Motel – Stealing The Moonlight
From Summer House

Good Old War – That’s Some Dream
From Good Old War ($5 right now on Amazon)

Efterklang – Alike
From Magic Chairs

Shout Out Louds – Walls
From Work

April Smith and the Great Picture Show – Terrible Things
From Songs For A Sinking Ship ($5 right now on Amazon)

Local Natives – Sun Hands
From Gorilla Manor ($5 right now on Amazon)

Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
From The Suburbs

Broken Social Scene – Meet Me In The Basement
From Forgiveness Rock Record

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Holiday Music That Doesn’t Suck

Filed Under: Guest Post, Music for a Mood
Written by Aaron
Wednesday December 22, 2010

[ed. note: I asked a few friends to help me get through the holiday season by writing a post for the blog. Here's Aaron's contribution]

I don’t do Christmas music. The stuff is terrible. But this time of year, some people could care less. Otherwise respectable friends love the stuff. Much like crack cocaine or stale marshmallows — they’ll consume holiday music regardless of its quality or efficacy. Bah humbug (whatever that even means).

When your pals ask you to plug in your iPhone and provide the soundtrack to their mistletoe-ridden gathering, don’t fret. Here are a few holiday songs that don’t suck. This short list includes some Christmas songs, some Chanukah songs, some winter songs. Jesus even gets a shout-out once or twice.



The John Spencer Blues Explosion – High Gear: JSBX snarls out a rocker about a dude long-haul-trucking a load of candy canes through snowy mountain scenery. With reindeer.


Dressy Bessy – All The Right Reasons: Synths, snowmen, and sleigh bells combine in a pleasant twee tune from these Denver indie scenesters. Best part: it ends with a Chanukah ditty.


The Go! Team – The Ice Storm: Winds and sleigh bells whip against organs for a holiday-ish wintery instrumental. No religious agenda whatsoever.


Dar Williams – The Christians And The Pagans: Well-told tale of a family gathering with different winter holiday traditions. A modern folky classic.


Ben Kweller – Rock of Ages: It’s a 13th century Chanukah song. About the Maccabbees, duh. Sung rather sweetly and sparingly.


Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery – Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Two greats of the jazz organ funk out a wordless winter heavy hitter on dueling Hammond B-3s.


Steve Earle – Christmas In Washington: Easily the greatest neo-folk roots-rock song about Congress’s December lame duck period. And about Woody Guthrie’s campaign to elect Jesus Christ. It’s a bit to the left of most Christmas songs.


Johnny Cash – It Was Jesus: Not about Christmas. But very much about Jesus. If you’re into that sort of thing, nobody sings it better.


The Fiery Furnaces – Tropical-Iceland: Somewhere in the fuzzed-out rock minds of the Furnaces lies a winter wonderland of stray ponies and ice castles. I want to go there.


Pas/Cal – I Wanna Take You Out In Your Holiday Sweater: A light, non-denominational holiday romp with bells, handclaps, and delightful doo-woop vocals.


Jill Sobule – Soldiers of Christ: A pleasantly sung tongue-in-cheek indictment of extreme American religiosity. Not a holiday song unless you’re fighting The War On Christmas.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Favorites of 2010 are on the way

Filed Under: Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Tuesday December 14, 2010

I’ve been spending my musical energy the past week or so on whittling down the (very long) list of my favorite songs from this year. I’m still working on it, so things might be a little slow on here until I’m done, but I just came across a video of one of my favorite artists from this year – Angus & Julia Stone – and I wanted to share it. It’s from a show this past summer at Café de la Danse in Paris.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Twitter-length review: Villanelles @ Muddy Waters 12/10/2010

Filed Under: Twitter-Length Review
Written by Brendan
Saturday December 11, 2010

missed harmonies, rocking walking basslines. better screamed than sung – maybe it was because they were trying to be quiet? I’ll try again.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Too good not to share… Stars – “Wasted Daylight”

Filed Under: Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Wednesday December 8, 2010

As to the aforementioned wonder of Amy Millan’s voice… here is a very good idea of what I’m talking about. From LiveBuzz.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Stars @ Metropolis 12/4/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Monday December 6, 2010

The last time I saw Stars was this past summer at Osheaga, and I was so disappointed by their performance that I was all but ready to give up on seeing them live again (this was my 4th Stars show). Thankfully, I was encouraged to give them another shot, as they definitely earned redemption on Saturday night.

The show was opened by Montreal’s Young Galaxy who put on a good performance, albeit a little bland. I think their energy would have translated better at a smaller venue. Interestingly, vocalist Catherine McCandless was the first of two pregnant women to perform (Amy Millan, Stars’ lead singer, is also pregnant). Not everyday you see that…

I got there early and scored an amazing spot – directly behind the sound board, elevated at least a foot above the rest of the crowd. Pretty much dead center, and with a clear view of the entire stage. It’s become a little cumbersome to carry an SLR camera to every show I go to, so I just took my Lumix LX-3, with which I managed some decent shots:

Stars played a good portion of both their most recent release The Five Ghosts and their 2005 album Set Yourself On Fire, as well as a few songs from 2007′s In Our Bedroom After the War and 2003′s Heart. They even delved a little deeper, including the title track from their 2001 EP The Comeback and one from the 2008 EP Sad Robots. Needless to say, it was a wide-ranging setlist, impressive in the range and particularly in the performance.

Vocalist Torquil Campbell was back to his usual self, full of emotional energy, and theatrical without being cheesy. Towards the end of the show, he got so carried away with a bear hug that he tackled Young Galaxy’s Stephen Ramsay (out to perform a song with Stars) into the wings off stage. He seemed to be riding a pretty fierce high for most of the show, returned and enhanced by the enthusiastic crowd.

I had forgotten how Amy Millan’s voice is able to sound sweet and whispered at one moment and crisp and penetrating the next. I wish she were the lead singer of more rock bands so I could hear her sing more often. While she has released a couple of much softer solo albums, it’s the range she displays in Stars that really shines. Even through the densest bass, most piercing keys and distorted guitar, Amy’s voice is always there. Kudos to the sound guys on that too…

I have to assume that along with being their last show of 2010, this also might be their last show for a bit longer than that. As I mentioned, Amy Millan is pregnant, due in the spring of next year, and bassist Evan Cranley is the father. I’m sure it’s been done, but I don’t see them touring again for quite a while, at least with the same lineup. So I’m thankful I can say I was there for this one, and hope it wasn’t the last.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Split Tongue Crow, Split Tongue Crow

Filed Under: Album Reviews, Local Bands
Written by Brendan
Friday December 3, 2010

Split Tongue Crow - Split Tongue CrowI often feel that there is some pejorative connotation to a qualification of a band as “local.”  It feels like by using “local” I am somehow putting a band in a lesser class.  I don’t know if that comes across to you or is just in my head, but it’s something that I don’t intend.

Because the fact is that while cities like Los Angeles and Brooklyn are well-known incubators of quality musicians, there are a number of Vermont-based bands who are putting out extremely high-quality music, but simply lack exposure.

The better for me of course, because I get to see these bands perform for a few bucks a pop, but I do feel like many of them deserve more recognition.

One such band is newly-named Split Tongue Crow (formerly Rogue Eyebrow), an alt-country outfit out of Rutland.  They’ve just released their self-titled debut LP, an easygoing, tender slice of Green Mountain Americana.

While much of the album has a fairly laid back feel, echoing roots in traditional American country music, there is definitely some guitar-laden country rock bubbling just beneath the surface.  “Avalon” which opens the album with Spanish-style string work, “Horizons,” and “No Reservations,” a slightly drawling tune that leans a little too far country for my tastes, show the potential to be fleshed out into heavier hitters at a live performance.

The songs featuring vocalist Cara White beside one of the male singers, like “Easy Come,” “Mother’s Okay” and “Midlife Missile Crisis” stand out as favorites of mine.  I dig the songwriting of the latter(“I’m hiding out in my own reverie, oh clever me/ no, never me, I’ll never grow old”), which to me is the highlight of the album.  The sorrowful tenderness, drowsy guitars and male-female harmonies are really touching.  Oddly I find myself craving Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” every time I hear the song.

“Manuel” picks up the pace a little bit, offering a bass-laden, danceable groove that keeps my feet tapping and my head nodding, while not feeling out of place on such a mellow album.

“The Day You Left This Earth (Dragonfly)” has a particularly personal connection to me, as the story of the dragonfly was related to me by my mother as a young kid, to help me come to grips with the death of a close family friend.  It may be an easy metaphor, but it worked for me then, and I can feel it working for White in this song.

One of these days, I’m going to catch Split Tongue Crow at a Burlington-area venue, and I can only hope that their live show captures the same character, emotion and honesty as this album.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Langhorne Slim @ Higher Ground 12/1/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday December 2, 2010

It’s not often that I have such high expectations as I did last night for Langhorne Slim, who I’ve wanted to see for at least 5 years. It’s also not often that those expectations are exceeded, but Langhorne Slim did it last night. The band put on a performance that easily ranks in my favorite 5 of the year, and has had me listening to Langhorne albums all morning. Here are some photos from the show, with more wrapup beneath them:

The only slightly negative aspect of the night was the slim attendance (couldn’t resist the pun). I wish I knew what it took to drive people to shows, as I can almost guarantee that everyone there last night had an amazing time. That was easily the best $10 show I’ve been to, and if you missed it, you blew it.

Anyhow, the band consists of Langhorne Slim (born Sean Scolnick) on guitar & lead vocals, Malachi DeLorenzo on drums, Jeff Ratner on upright bass and David Moore on keyboard & banjo. The upright bass adds such a presence onstage, and such a richness to the music. And Ratner knows how to work it.

Moore was animated on the keys, and a downright animal on the banjo. In one particular maelstrom of strumming, he managed to both break a string and rip the accompanying tuning key right out of the banjo head. The volume on the banjo could have been turned up a bit for the whole show, but it was played with such zeal that even with minimal amplification, it was still a presence.

DeLorenzo also attacked his instrument with a particular fervor, all four of his limbs moving so quickly they were almost hard to see. It seemed like he was working to contain himself from jumping out of his seat for most of the show.

And Langhorne Slim himself left it all on stage, ending the night covered in sweat and stripped down to a tank top t-shirt. His songwriting is so forthright and easy to relate to that it doesn’t take much for him to have an immediate connection with the audience. And his stage presence only amplifies that feeling. They played a fairly long setlist, featuring material from the most recent release, Be Set Free, as well as songs from several of their previous albums. My personal favorite was “She’s Gone,” but then that’s also my favorite song of their whole catalog…

If you don’t own any Langhorne Slim, it’s time you gave it a listen. And if these guys play anywhere close to you, go see them. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Along with Midlake, Langhorne Slim now tops my list of bands I need to see again, and as soon as humanly possible.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Advertisers love indie rock

Filed Under: Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Wednesday December 1, 2010

Earlier this year, I posted on the growing trend of car companies using indie rock songs in their TV ads.

As a tool to expose good music to more people, I think the use of this music is great. I just wonder if it pays off for the bands (beyond the obvious financial payoff for the rights to the song). Do people really follow up and figure out who that awesome band was on the TV? I hope so, but just in case you are someone who doesn’t, here’s just a sampling of the wonderful bands you likely listen to every day without knowing it:

Langhorne Slim
Worries
From Langhorne Slim

The Black Keys
Tighten Up
From Brothers

The Morning Benders
Excuses
From Big Echo

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.