Here's a short list of artists I've been listening to over the last week or so. Click for additional stats on what else I like lately.

On the upstairs porch, at the Mansion on Judges Hill, Austin, TX, 11/9/07. Lonestar beer is the local swill, and is comparable to a Pabst, Stroh's, etc.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Okkervil River - "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe"

Once Stage Names, the new Okkervil album coming August hits I'll have a few hundred more plays piled on to the old tracker (which, by the way, you should get).

Here's the opening cut from the album, and it's predictably mega. Even better it shows that Okkervil River continue to explore some new directions while refining everything that made their last album Black Sheep Boy the best release of 2005 (IMHO of course). Will Sheff comes even closer to blowing out his voice on this track -- and in fact may have.

Okkervil River - "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe"

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That

One of the more underrated albums of 2006 in my opinion. Perhaps it was the album cover?

The first three cuts are like an unstoppable force of sugary pop-rock goodness. Then the record kind of taper's off. Those first three cuts though... wow. The rest of the album is still pretty good, but again, can't stress the quality of the first three songs enough.

Don't miss a chance to see these guys live if they come through. Very animated, energitic, sweaty show.

Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That

Los Lobos - Just Another Band From East L.A.

Recorded in 1978, this album is a glorified demo tape used by Los Lobos to nab restaurant and weddings gigs around L.A. at the time. The album features some very well-known cuts (the versions of both "Guantanamera" and "Sabor a Mi" are highlights) and a huge vareity of folk song genres, ranging from Ranchera ro Bolero to Son.

Even if you don't speak a lick of Spanish, you'll appreciate the energy, enthusiasm, and vituosity behind these recordings.

Los Lobos - Del Este de Los Angeles (Just Another Band from East L.A.)

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

New Beastie Boys Videos

This new all-instrumental B-Boys album is going to be excellent. I'm totally stoked they decided to return to this approach, but who would have thought we'd get an entire album?

"Off the Grid"

"The Rat Cage"

Fingers crossed that they filmed videos for every song and will release as DVD-audio.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

New Wilco: "Dad Rock"

Ouch. Pitchfork's Rob Mitchum takes a stab at the new Wilco album, and he's right on.
"Despite the experimental pedigree of their new lineup, Wilco's sixth album finds them receding into the comfort zone. The result is an album that exposes the dad-rock gene the band has always carried but attempted to disguise-- the stylistic equivalent of a wardrobe change into sweatpants and a tank top."
Their new album is a real snoozer. Somebody tell Tweedy to re-hire Jay Bennett, fast.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Naturally

If you love the late-'60s, horn-driven Stax sound, then say hello to your new favorite soul record, err... collection of files.

Check out the male-female interply on "Stranded in Your Love," and the hot HOT take on Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," where the horns continue to add one saucy layer after another.

This album probably should have been recorded in 1968, but it's nice to know that someone was still making this kind of R+B in 2005.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Naturally

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder

My favorite album so far in 2007. People say it sounds like E.L.O. They're right about that.

New Magnetic Wonder
(removed by request)

Same Old Drag
Sunndal Song
Play Tough
7 Stars
Open Eyes

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jay Z - Unplugged

Mark my words: favorite MTV Unplugged ever. Yes, more than Nirvana. More than Clapton (which, yes, I like). This came towards the end of the long-running series, and in many ways got lost on time.

Jay gets backing from the Roots and Mary J. Blige and they are ON. Hov blasts through all the hits to that point, and the band makes them sound completely fresh. Listen to the way the string quartet lifts "Girls, Girls, Girls." Even more impressive is the ?uest Love handles some of the more complex beats (his work on "Jigga What, Jigga Who" is f*cking ridiculous).

I can't say enough good things about this set. Even if you're not huge on Jay, this release is not to be missed.

Jay Z - Unplugged

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Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country

Often thought of as Belle & Sebastian with a female vocalist, Camera Obscura put out this twee-pop monster in 2006 and (in my opinion) out-Belle'd the Belles at their own game.

This record just drips with beautiful melodies and full, lush arrangements. It also sounds like half these songs were tracked in 1965 -- very cool retro-production feel.

Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country

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Savath & Savales - Rolls & Waves

Here's an fantastic EP from Scott Herren (a.k.a. Prefuse 73) moniker / side-project, Savath & Savales. Most S&S material might be described as "Ambient Spanish electro-folk," but this particular release leans more heavily on glitching and sound gadgetry that's normally associated with the Prefuse releases. Don't expect instrumental hip hop though, these cuts show off Herron's calmer side. That said, you can still expect beats.

Savath & Savales - Rolls & Waves EP

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Feist Reviews

Jon Parales at The New York Times calls The Reminder a "... modestly scaled but quietly profound pop gem." Pitchfork jumps on the praise train with a grade of 8.8 citing "a voice that could make even Dick Cheney weep."

Stylus gives props to these things as well, but ultimately delivers a C+ grade on the premise that the album is (literally) just a song and dance routine.

Sure, the songwriting and arrangements aren't "revolutionary" (as the reviewer seems to require), but how often are they really, and should we truly expect this, even from a highly anticipated release from a rising talent? This is blatant, "Everyone is should write a record as far-out as OK Computer" -criticism. It's just not fair, becase The Reminder is a great collection of songs.
This blog hosts original music and recordings by Mike Hicks.
Click here to access all of the the songs that have been posted thus far. Please feel free to comment, or email me.

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