Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Whelp, here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore, ringing in the yuletide and gettin' our dradle on, Kwanzaa stizz. Longtime readers of THE DRIFTWOOD SINGERS PRESENT know what that means: the return of the best compilation of vinyl rips this side of the Euphrates, SNAP, CRACKLE & POP. Believe it or not, we're up to VOLUME SIX, and this one's a doozy, chock full of moldy old pop gems of yesteryear, each lovingly transmogrified to zeros and ones from the original diamond-tipped stylus entering an inscribed modulated spiral groove on a specially-lathed disc of polyvinyl chloride (sounds dirty, doesn't it?). All said, you can't go wrong at the price of free.

To download the official CD cover, specially designed by professional designer Dewey Dell, you can can click

>> HERE <<

THEN! You can download all 24 songs in a ZIP file by clicking

>> HERE <<

Your humble (and generally humiliated) editors Mr. Poncho & Lefty spent months and years coming up with this stuff in consultation with Dewey Dell, JP Mystery, Frankie Lee and a secret star chamber of trogs chained to a radiator in a sub-basement in Minnesota. I, Lefty, was the final arbiter, mainly because nobody else would do it and Mr. Poncho is too deeply ensconced in the R&D lab, developing the next generation of DRIFTWOOD SINGERS and lovingly naming each one after a late 60s rock icon (welcome to the club, Keith!). Soon there will be more of us than there is vinyl to collect, listen to and ponder ponderously. Until then, here is what you'll find inside the latest edition of SNAP, CRACKLE & POP:

Good Times - The Persuasions (Street Corner Symphony, 1972)
Get Out of Denver - Bob Seger (Seven, 1974)
Don't Think Twice It's All Right - John Anderson (I Just Came Home to Count the Memories, 1982)
Fool Me - Joe South (Joe South, 1971)
Why Keep Breaking My Heart - Nina Simone (Wild Is the Wind, 1966)
Geno - Dexys Midnight Runners (Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, 1980)
Out of the Question - Gilbert O'Sullivan (Back to Front, 1972)
In Terms of Two - Chicago (Chicago VI, 1973)
The Good Love - Percy Sledge (I'll Be Your Everything, 1974)
When I Write the Book - Rockpile (Seconds of Pleasure, 1980)
Satin Sheets – Jeanne Pruett (Satin Sheets, 1973)
Rapid Fire - The Commodores (Motown Instrumentals, 1978)
Let's Go Get Stoned - Ray Charles (Crying Time, 1966)
Come Again? Toucan – Grace Slick (Manhole, 1974)
I Need You So - Freddy Fender (Rock'n'Country, 1976)
Back in My Arms - Robert Palmer (Pressure Drop, 1975)
Joe - Dusty Springfield (A Brand New Me, 1970)
This Flight Tonight - Nazareth (Loud'n'Proud, 1974)
Come On Over - Bee Gees (Main Course, 1975)
Running Back - Thin Lizzy (Jailbreak, 1976)
Robot - The Mighty Sparrow (Pussy Cat Party, 1979)
White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes (Fleet Foxes, 2008)
Mole in the Ground - Pete Seeger (Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Bigger Fishes, 1955)
American Trilogy - Elvis Presley (Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite, 1973)


Monday, December 22, 2008

Lefty's TOP TEN ALBUMS in the Year of Our Lord 2008

1. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

2. Ponytail, Ice Cream Spiritual!

3. Benji Hughes, A Love Extreme

4. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals

5. Karl Blau, AM

6. Jamie Lidell, Jim

7. Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit, The Very Best

8. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War

9. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive

10. Pinataland, Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol. 2

Given the annoying constraint of choosing only music made or released this calendar year -- an increasingly irrelevant category, the whole "present day" thing -- here they are, all ten. I'd like to have thrown in Bobby Charles, BORIS, Panda Bear, early Bob Seger, the 2007 Blitzen Trapper album and Robert Palmer's 1976 album Pressure Drop. But alas ...

Fleet Foxes
is #1 simply because I kept putting it on the turntable and enjoying it immensely every time, especially "White Winter Hymnal," over and over again (easily the best song of the year).

Listen to it >> HERE << .

Ponytail, who I'm currently in love with, is the distilled essence of everything I love about rock and roll, Captain Beefheart as an exploding cigar that explodes into psychedelic confetti and punk estrogen and Walt Whitman run through a RAT distortion pedal with amps on 11.

LISTEN to "Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came from an Angel)".

Girl Talk
is the best thing you can hear in a moving vehicle, period end of story don't argue. Also, he makes me realize I can love dirty rap music if it has Rick Springfield on it.

LISTEN: "Here's the Thing".

Benji Hughes
is L-O-V-E and he's not afraid to let it show and also he's from Charlotte, NC, and he's not afraid to let that show either (maybe they're connected?).

LISTEN to "All You've Got to Do is Fall in Love with Me."

Karl Blau
makes music so organic and introverted and gauzy and wobbly that you feel stoned even when you're not stoned, which is very pleasurable to hear, especially when you're baked.

LISTEN to "Stream."

I know not everyone can sign on for white man soul stylings, but if you can listen to "Another Day" by Jamie Lidell and not get an instant mood lift, then I must ask: what's wrong with you, pops?

I'll admit, Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit is the cheap way out: everything that's cool in the indie blog coolplex, but remixed as African music, featuring European production team Radioclit and Malawian-born, London-based singer Esau Mwamwaya.

Download the entire album for FREE right >> HERE << .

Erykah Badu
channels the spirit of Rev. Jeremiah Wright with stoned-out-of-her-gourd, nutbag freak funk. Timely! The Roy Ayers sample on groove #1, "Amerykahn Promise," is just about as mack as you can get. You can hear the original 1977 sample, "American Promise," by Roy Ayers >> HERE <<.

LISTEN to "Amerykahn Promise."

This is the year I came around to the Hold Steady in a big way, even though everyone else decided Stay Positive wasn't as good as the last one and I was late to the party (still, you can't argue with these lyrics: "it was back in the day back when things were way different/when the Youth of Today and the early Seven Seconds/taught me some of life's most valuable lessons").

LISTEN AND WATCH this fan-made montage to "Stay Positive" right >> HERE << .

aren't just any band -- they're friends of mine! Ironically, that makes my judgment on them even clearer, not cloudier. Their 2008 album wasn't given nearly enough publicity or appreciation or, for that matter, exultation and hosannas, so I herewith rectify that error by telling you that they're marvelous. And sui generis. And just plain old generous. Also: melodic, brainy, old-timey and new-timey at the same timey.

You can LISTEN >> HERE << .

[Editor's note: Previously, TV on the Radio's Dear Science was posted as No. 10. I liked the album, but I didn't love it. Though it certainly has pioneering soundz and arrangements, the record lacked emotional resonance for me. They're Tin Men compared to Benji Hughes. Still, I'm giving them the bonus track, No. 11, as a consolation prize for being so popular.]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Honor System

Rock and roll likes to wear its debased status proudly. Fantasies of class imbalance play out in sartorial themes. The Stones are always singing about their torn and frayed coats, how tattered they are. Derelict characters flaunt their thread-bare scenarios. Stained overcoats, ripped jeans. The apotheosis of scuzz. I don’t have the feminist/Freudian firepower to totally excavate this idea, but there’s some kind of connection between thwarted worship of a pure feminine archetype and self-immolating male dissipation exemplified by shoddy duds. The pale white idol is put on a pedestal. The “drunken vagabond” croons after her. Chivalric wet dreams. I read that the Guardian stopped using honorifics last year in their official style guide. It’s something we miss out on here in the states – bogus titles, land-based systems of respect and unjustified privilege. Lords and ladies.(Pictured, "The Lady and the Monkey").

“Lady Geneveve” – The Kinks

“Lady Eleanor” - Lindisfarne

“Lady Jane” – Rolling Stones

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Three Is the Luckiest Number That You've Ever Heard

1. My pal Hector and I were discussing how both our wives indoctrinated us in 1970s light rock, starting with Olivia Newton-John and ELO. As lifelong music snobs, we'd shunned this music for years, but our Achilles Heel, it turned out, was a childhood attachment to Grease, which secretly inculcated us in ONJ and served as the gateway drug to Xanadu and ELO. As we learned about l-o-v-e, of course, we gravitated to music made for adults, stuff with a certain romantic and progressive/feminine emotionality, i.e. willowy women and bearded men in satin and denim who sang about feelings, nothing more than feelings. I've covered some of this in previous posts, how certain childhood touchstones direct our personal tastes and how certain 70s artists (Bee Gees) erased sexual and racial barriers in ways that probably made Barack Obama inevitable. (Yeah, you read me right: I just said that the Bee Gees made Barack Obama possible.)

And so: Robert Palmer, a member in good standing of the late 70s soft rock industrial complex. After his two-dimensional 80s outings, he's probably nobody's idea of a visionary or even an interesting person. And yet his 70s blue-eyed R&B period is full of unexpected pleasures and subterranean connections, the godfather to modern blue-eyed belters Jamie Lidell and Robin Thicke. On his second LP, Pressure Drop from 1976, he's got members of Little Feat and The Meters laying down some of the tightest funk grooves ever put on tape, with Palmer as the suave band leader cum sex symbol. This is music that speaks more to the body than the mind, but that's not a fault, it's the point. The result, in this household, is presently napping in her crib.

You can download the entire A side of the LP HERE, wherein you'll hear:

Give Me an Inch
Work to Make It Work
Back In My Arms (<-- fantastic)
River Boat
Pressure Drop

[Duly noted: Robert Christgau, who detests Palmer, was compelled to improve his grade of Addictions, Vol. 1 because his wife really likes him -- kind of says it all, no?]

2. Until now, I never really liked The Bad Plus. For me, their jazz-nerd deconstruction of "Iron Man" is really interesting and clever, but a tad studious and inside-jokey, like two protractors and an abacus making fun of a moss-covered stone. "Ha!" What they've lacked, for me, is emotional resonance and a certain lyricism. But on their latest record, For All I Care, they've brought in a relatively unknown singer named Wendy Lewis and injected something lyrical and, importantly, feminine. It's still a very "cool" sounding album and there's plenty of pomo jazz-boy quantum mechanics going on, but the excellent cover choices (Bee Gees, Roger Miller) and the need to stifle it and let the singer sing have penned in the Bad Plus's more obtuse impulses. And Lewis's singing style never gets too mawkish, although she's not afraid to let a note croon when it needs to. For my money, this Yes cover is one of the best things to happen this year:

Long Distance Runaround - The Bad Plus

3. The crooked path between cabaret and rock is a treacherous one because the chances of falling into the adult contemporary ditch are very high. You may be surprised to hear this, but a master of threading the needle is k.d. lang, who I've only discovered in the last year. Her vocal presence is unbelievably warm and potent. Like The Bad Plus, she has a smart ear for good songs and, crucially, exquisite taste in arrangements and production quality. Her 1988 countripolitan album Shadowland is one of the best sounding albums produced in the last 20 years. And I discovered this cover, below, over the summer while trolling the CD collection of the hippie parents of a friend of mine. It's from 1997's Drag.

The Air That I Breathe - k.d. lang

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Sad-Eyed Lady of the Shoe Store

As a writer of magazine profiles, one thing you're constantly asking is: What is the motivation of the protagonist? We know what he or she did, but why did he or she do it? But the same question also applies when you're writing about yourself. As in:

But why am I writing about Boz Scaggs?

Story: During summers in my college years I worked in a shoe store in Maine and one time I ended up holding the foot of Dan Quayle's wife Marilyn in my hand while two secret service agents hovered nearby. This was while her husband was still VP under Bush Sr. and I was putting different sized pumps on her. "How's that feel?" I'd ask, squeezing her toe. I also put a shoe on Julius Irving once. Size 14 boat shoes or something. Anyway, the assistant manager of this shoe store was a middle-aged blond who smoked those skinny Silk cigarettes for women and appeared, with her tired eyes, bad skin and heavy makeup, to have spent her twenties partying too much with the boys and now found herself 40-something and single. I was this college dork who after reading Dostoevsky thought he'd just invented existentialism, so we were world's apart. But she had a certain sad soulfulness to her and she loved music, so we always smoked cigarettes by the dumpster out back and talked about what we heard on WBLM, 102.9. It was vaguely flirty. So one day, as I was gassing on about the Grateful Dead or some "acid rock" shit I was listening to (as a result of my then-fascination with "drugs"), she said her favorite music was Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs. And I'll never forget my response: "Ack! Kerplewy! Ugh! Boz SCAGGS? Ew. No way. Blech." (Raitt's "Something to Talk About" was a huge hit that summer, so that was just a non-starter.)

But here's the truth: I couldn't have picked a Boz Scaggs song out of a lineup. Not even the hit, "Lowdown." I was just being a blowhard and she was speaking her heart. In retrospect I feel really awful about it and wish I could take it back, tell her I'm sorry and I really hope she found love and happiness in her life. Because I really LIKE Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs now.

I tell this story to set up the premise for why I like Boz Scaggs: low expectations. Ever since I asserted my ill-informed opinion that summer (based on my absolute certainty that I could not like the same music as this sad-eyed lady of the shoe store), I basically wrote off Boz Scaggs and just knew that if and when I finally heard him I'd absolutely hate his guts. But around the same time that I was discovering Philly soul from the 70s, I tripped upon Silk Degrees in a junk shop near my house and decided to give it a spin. See, by the time you're my age, 37, you've been wrong about so many things you just figure, 'What the hell, maybe I was wrong about this, too.' And it turned out I was wrong. At least relative to this falsely established opinion, which I'd used as a wedge issue in some early music nerd throw-down with a shoe store assistant manager.

So now for the ex post facto justification of Boz Scaggs: For the same reason I love late '7os Bee Gees, the way they blew up their pop hooks with Harold Melvin/Teddy Pendergrast/Billy Paul-style R&B grooves, I kind of loved Boz Scaggs' smoove groove, the sleek and slinky polish. And his lyrics really are better than average, sort of worldly wise -- like he'd partied a lot in his twenties, messed around with the wrong women and was looking for the love that would finally end the lonely years. See, it was adult and romantic and sexy and truly existential in a way that only people who had lived a little could truly get. It's a feel you don't necessarily understand when you're 22 and frying your cerebellum on acid rock. With Scaggs, the romance is right there in the title of his 1976 album, Slow Dancer, which came out right before he broke big with Silk Degrees and the hit "Lowdown." There's some poetry on the back of the LP and when I read it, I just can't help thinking of the secret dreams of a middle-aged blond smoking Silks out by the dumpster behind the shoe store:

i committed today.
bought some shoes
what a luxury also to
comment on my work 3
years ago slow dancer
is an image i grew up
with johnny helped me
learn to sing this is an
attitude like walking
doing the old left right
a few secrets hear some
romance a nod to some
old idols some idle lovers
some idle lovers

november 1976

And then the other day I was reading that before the producers of Saturday Night Fever hired the Bee Gees to pen the soundtrack, they were using Boz Scaggs numbers as the fill-in music. Makes sense. Listen, I'm not saying these are the greatest songs ever made. They're not. But if you're feeling lonely tonight, if you've seen a few things, a little too much, they might just surprise you.

You Make It So Hard (To Say No)
- Boz Scaggs (from Slow Dancer)

There is Someone Else - Boz Scaggs (from Slow Dancer)

Georgia - Boz Scaggs (from Silk Degrees)

And why not, it's fucking great:

"Lowdown" - Boz Scaggs