Thursday, May 28, 2009

A6, F4 and D9 on the SLIFR JUKEBOX


All this talk of music around the campfire this week got me in the mood to highlight a few choice nuggets currently in heavy rotation on the SLIFR iPod.

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The debut album from Tinted Windows consciously recalls power pop of the late ‘70s-early ‘80s (Cheap Trick, The Cars, The Knack) filtered through a sardonic sensibility more closely associated with brilliant flashes-in-the-pan like The Pursuit of Happiness or, more appropriately, the sustained brilliance of Fountains of Wayne. No surprise then that TW was co-founded by Adam Schlesinger, FOW bassist and songwriter, who settles into a crunchy groove quite nicely with the help of former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, vocalist Taylor Hanson (of, yes, Hanson) and legendarily unflappable drummer Bun E. Carlos, providing the one degree of separation from Cheap Trick itself. The new album is instantly catchy and worthy wearing out over a summer’s worth of road trips and lazy days at the beach.

Tinted Windows "Kind of a Girl"


Messing With My Head


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Speaking of Fountains of Wayne, easily my favorite band now currently performing, a friend and I saw them do a spectacular acoustic set at the Largo Coronet here in Los Angeles back in January, and opening for them was a man by the name of Mike Viola. Viola, former front man for the Candy Butchers and composer-performer of the title track from Tom Hanks’ movie That Thing You Do, knocked the audience out with his brand of smart, emotional pop, which was an excellent lead-in for the kind of acidic character portraits that are FOW’s stock-in-trade. Well, now Viola has produced and written several songs for Mandy Moore’s new album, Amanda Leigh, proving once again, by her taste in material and instincts for associating with the kind of pop geniuses that can only inspire her to push herself creatively, that Moore is no candy-coated pushover like the many teen idols from which she ended up separating herself. Building on the audacity of her Coverage album and the inspired aural and vocal dioramas that were part and parcel of her previous Wild Hope LP, Amanda Leigh is a catchy, driven and soulful collection powered by Moore’s increasingly strong singing and Viola’s clever tunes and keen production.

You can see the video for Moore and Viola’s recent appearance on The Tonight Show here, but the video below, shot at a hundred-seat club in Boston last November, more perfectly catches the vibe of Viola’s live personage and Moore’s warmth and confidence as an onstage performer.



Mandy Moore and Mike Viola, “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week”

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Finally, Steve Earle’s new acoustic tribute to the legacy of songwriter Townes Van Zandt, and to Earle’s harrowing, heartfelt friendship with the man, entitled Townes, is moment to moment raw, beautiful, tender and moving. Earle has fast become one of my favorites, due as much to his humbling, majestic work with the Del McCoury Band (The Mountain) as his own rough-edged, incendiary and emotionally complex albums. But here, like his best previous work, the singer is laid bare and is able to connect to the most frightening and resonant elements of Van Zandt’s tunes. The result is, at its best, haunting and overwhelming, like the best work of Townes Van Zandt himself.



Steve Earle performing “Ft. Worth Blues,” a tribute to Townes Van Zandt

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9 comments:

The Driveindude said...

I believe Schlesinger and Viola were both credited with writing the title track to "That Thing You Do!" in which they also received an Academy Award nomination. The Fountains of Wayne (kicks ass)hit "Stacy's Mom" hadn't even come out (not till 2003)which meant these two guys were still "struggling" singers/songwriters. Their music is heavily inspired by Cheap Trick, The Cars and those other so-called 'Power Pop" bands, which I love by the way. Can wait to hear the rest of Mandy Moore's new "album" and what might be my new favorite group "Tinted Windows." Bun E. Carlos ROCKS!!

Thanks Dennis for turning this old "all the good music has already been written" stick in the mud guy onto what looks and sounds like good NEW music. Benjamin Orr forever!
BTW... just as a tribute you should post that "Midnight Special" JUST WHAT I NEEDED performance by The Cars.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I'm kinda that stick-in-the-mud guy too, DID. But what I like about FOW and Mike Viola and Tinted Windows is how they remain connected to their influences and yet don't sound musty or stiff. (And Fountains of Wayne are, for me, the power-pop incarnation of Steely Dan-- they're that good.)

And thanks for the info on the songwriting credit for "That Thing You Do!" It would have been easy enough to look up, but in my crusty-eyed state last night I did not. I appreciate you keeping me honest!

I listened to that Mandy Moore album all the way through again last night. Except for a long track of her talking about each of the album's songs-- a segment that can be easily discounted-- and a tune in which she gets a little too in touch with her inner Court and Spark ("Song About Home" is way too close to Joni's "Just Like This Train" for comfort), the album is charming and eclectic and features the singer at her strongest.

CZR said...

Robbie Fulks has a song called "Fountains of Wayne Hotline" that you would probably like if you haven't checked it out already. It's a very funny, spot-on, and affectionate goosing of the winning FoW formula.

I'm glad to read that someone else is enjoying Earle's Townes record. I think it's one of his best.

Ryan Kelly said...

I was listening to the Mets/Marlins game on the radio today, and the Infield Fly Rule was put into effect. The commentators explained what it was, for "all the young listeners" (I didn't know young people knew what a radio was); and this, of course, brought the image of Eastwood with a catcher's mitt to my mind, which never fails to make me smile.

Just felt like sharing... as you were.

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