So my all-time favorite artist is Jenny Lewis, right? Not too far back, at least according to my last.fm stats, are Belle & Sebastian. So when Belle & Sebastian rolled into Los Angeles for their first US tour in I don’t know how long (it’s been four years since their previous album) and it was announced that Jenny and Johnny would be supporting them, ordering tickets at the earliest opportunity was a complete no-brainer. And it was a fantastic show all the way around – just Jenny and Johnny’s set would’ve been worth the ticket cost, and then Belle & Sebastian raised the bar that much more. But this moment right here…Belle & Sebastian did an older song called “Lazy Line Painter Jane” from a late ’90s EP that was originated by guest female vocalist Monica Queen, but since Jenny was right there, they brought her out to do the lead female vocal. I ALMOST DIED FROM AWESOME OVERLOAD. And then I was sad because I could never hear that version again, but I forgot about the magic of the interwebs, and sure enough, someone very close to the stage recorded the whole thing and put it on YouTube. Thank you to that person. I haz a happy now.
I was driving home one day last week, really tired after several days of late nights, and I needed a playlist of very calming, down-tempo, melancholy-type songs. And I liked what I came up with so much I decided to hammer it down into a mix. I’ve called it the Melancholia Mix because that most closely approximates the sound I was going for, but really, it’s not morose or depressing music – most of it honestly makes me smile. It’s the type of music that you’d listen to in the fall or winter when it’s raining softly outside and you have a fire in the fireplace and you’re curled up with a book or just staring into the flames with a cup of hot cocoa. It’s a very easy-going, very comforting mix. Which is pretty different for me, since I usually tend to pick upbeat songs for mixes. It’s cool, though, because I’ve gotten to choose a few songs from bands that normally do upbeat songs but this particular one happens to fit the theme – like Babyshambles and Mates of State.
Grab the whole mix in this zip file, or stream and download individual songs below (if you’re reading on Facebook, click through to my blog to stream the music). You can right-click > save on the artist/song title to download each song. Clicking on the album title will take you to Amazon.com [disclaimer: through my affiliate link] to buy the album (in MP3 format when available, on CD when not). If there’s no link on the album, it’s out of print or otherwise not available. If you like the music, please support the artists by buying their music and going to their concerts. If you are or represent one of these artists and would like the files removed, please contact me.
Jenny Lewis is coming out with videos for her Acid Tongue songs fast and furious lately, and “See Fernando” dropped today. This is one of the most fun songs on the whole album, and the video matches perfectly, with a lampoon of 1960s spy capers. She channels her ’60s spy chick here, making me wish she’d exercise her acting chops a bit more often!
And by Jenny Lewis, I mean Jenny Lewis + Elvis Costello, as well as members from both their bands. At first I was disappointed because someone not Barbara Gruska was playing drums (!), but then she showed up later and I was mollified. And there’s even a Zooey sighting, singing backup! This is a great low-key recording-studio style music video that makes me very happy. I think I’ll go watch it again.
This was going to be a Music Monday. But it kept getting bigger and finally turned into a full-fledged album-length mix full of LA-based bands. Consider this a love letter to LA and the fantastic music scene I’ve found here. It’s literally possible to go to a show nearly every day of the week and find bands you like. Even going much less often than that (two or three times a month), I’ve discovered many bands that keep me coming back for their shows, opening bands that I seek out everywhere they play, and seen what a great and supporting music culture exists here (if you look at the band line-ups below, you’ll find several people who are in multiple bands – nearly everyone is involved in multiple projects, creating really interesting cross-pollination). I’ve arranged them roughly from lesser known to better known (sort of an opening band – second opening band – headliner sort of thing), but that’s not completely accurate. Just a general rule of thumb.
You can stream the songs individually or as a playlist (starting the first one will play them all in order), or right-click-save any song to download it. Or you can grab the whole mix, including my hastily-thrown-together cover art based on a Silver Lake mural, with this zip file (a little under 100mb). If you like the bands, please support them.
You’re going to want to click through the jump – full mix details are under there, with info and photos for every band. And it took me all week to do. So please. Click through. :) Most photos are not mine. Promo-type photos obviously aren’t. Crappy iPhone-looking concert photos probably are.
I‘ve never made it to a musical festival before (largely because I didn’t really get into festival-type music until a few years ago), but when this year’s Coachella featured several of my favorite bands I decided to spring for it, since it’s the biggest festival close enough for me to drive to rather than fly. And even though everything’s overpriced, it’s hotter than Hades, and I ended up only seeing full sets from seven bands rather then the eleven or twelve I wanted to see, it was worth it. The downside is I think I’ve caught the festival bug – I’m drooling over the Lollapalooza lineup Andrew posted the other day, and though I won’t make it Lolla this year, I’m seriously trying to work out getting to Austin for Austin City Limits.
Anyway, here’s a recap of my subset of Coachella, which woefully underrepresents the available audio overload. Especially since I skipped Sunday altogether – fewer bands I wanted to see meant I didn’t care to spend the money for the extra day and night.
Please go to Row Three: More Pop to read the rest of this entry. It has pictures and .mp3 files, so I promise it’ll be worth it!
Tap tap tap. “Is this on? Hello? Check check check. Do you just wanna do it like this?” Jenny Lewis moves to the edge of the stage, her chorus (aka her band members sans their instruments) ringed behind her. She puts a finger to her lips, lulling the excited crowd into silence. And she held them completely enthralled with just her voice and guitar throughout a fantastic unplugged rendition of “Acid Tongue,” the highlight of an already great concert.
Some have denigrated Lewis’s sophomore album (as well as Under the Blacklight, the 2006 release from her band Rilo Kiley) for being derivative rather than delving into her own psyche as effectively as she has done, as singer and lyricist, on earlier solo and band records, and I understand where they’re coming from. Acid Tongue as a whole is not as lyrically sophisticated as More Adventurous, The Execution of All Things, or Rabbit Fur Coat. (That’s too pat an analysis, but a concert rundown is not the place to go into the relative merits of Jenny’s songwriting oeuvre.) But trust me when I say that watching her live, you won’t be able to help falling under her spell anyway.
After opening her set with “Jack Killed Mom,” a rollicking rock number about abuse, bullying, and matricide, she settled into a few songs from Rabbit Fur Coat, including “Happy” – a song I never thought would work in concert. She slowed an already slow song drastically from the record version, but gave such an incredibly emotion-filled performance that I doubt anyone felt it went on too long. The only danger was that she and the microphone might have to go get a room.
Some performers treat a gig so much as a performance that it all seems by rote and others get so into the music that the audience might as well not be there. Jenny walks the line between the two – she’s clearly performing (her acting background is obvious) and has specific pieces of stage business choreographed in advance, but there’s an air of spontaneity to it, too, as when the band went acoustic for “Acid Tongue.” Which may have been planned as well, but it certainly didn’t feel as though it was (and photos from other stops on the tour have a microphone, as in the shot above). On the other hand, she can get so deep into the music that you feel privileged to witness it, but she never forgets the audience – rather, she brings you into her intimate moments.
Acid Tongue may not feel as personal as Rabbit Fur Coat, but for a concert, it’s truly awesome in its variety. Right after the small brokenness of “Acid Tongue” came the huge Southern rock-inflected anthem “The Next Messiah,” its eight+ minutes filled with style shifts, fills from guitarist/vocalist/boyfriend Jonathan Rice, and power belting from the little woman who had just finished testing how softly she could sing without disappearing entirely.
After having seen Jenny in the opening show of this tour in Los Angeles, I dragged a friend with me to see her at the final show in San Diego – having prepped her with Rilo Kiley and solo Jenny tracks first. And it was somewhere around half-way through the first song that she tapped my shoulder and said “I’m a total fan now.” Jenny is great on record, there’s no doubt. But she’s even better live. Her innate stage presence draws you in and won’t let go to the point that even after standing up for four hours in line, through opening bands, and her set, you still wish she’d continue singing all night. Let’s hope she continues performing for a long while to come. And if you get the chance to see her, do.
I’m much too tired out to write a whole post about the Jenny Lewis concert I just got home from. So highlights will have to do.
Got to the venue way early, since I didn’t have tickets and didn’t want to risk not getting in. Thus, I was tenth in line. Yay! And stood in line for an hour and a half. Meh.
Two opening acts ended up meaning that Jenny didn’t actually start until almost midnight.
All that MADE NO DIFFERENCE. She’s totally incredible and has this ability to make the whole audience fall in love with her at sight. By the end, she probably could’ve told us to go jump in Silver Lake, and we would’ve been like, okay!
But she’s cool, so she didn’t do that.
She did mostly stuff from her new album (since, you know, that’s what she’s promoting), which comes out on the 23rd, but threw in a few of the best tracks off Rabbit Fur Coat. Good mix.
Usually when bands do songs I don’t know, I get a little lost and my attention wanders. That even happened with Rilo Kiley the first time in Austin. Not here. She had me every second.
Possibly that’s because I was at the edge of the stage, five feet from her, and she’s very good at making eye contact with the audience. I swear she winked at me once.
The new songs sound great – several a lot harder than Rabbit Fur Coat (“Messiah,” “Jack Killed Mom”), but others are spare and vulnerable. I love Rabbit Fur Coat, but the new one has a lot more varied sound. In a good way.
The album’s not out until the 23rd, but the whole thing is streaming at Jenny’s MySpace page. Give it a listen.
Some people were born to do certain things. Jenny’s definitely found her thing. Not only is she a fantastic singer/musician and a brilliant songwriter, but she clearly loves it. She was enjoying the music, the other musicians, the audience, performing, everything about it.
Probably enjoying an extra lot because it was the first night of the tour with brand new songs in a hometown venue. The Rilo Kiley show I saw in LA was outstanding, but you could tell the band was getting a little tired – last stop on a tour promoting a two-year-old album. She was sparkling tonight.
So yeah, if you get the chance to see her on her upcoming tour (which is detailed on her MySpace), I recommend it highly.
Cinephile, music lover, internet junkie, gamer, and recovering academic (English Lit).
Currently I live in Los Angeles. I moved here for the low cost of living. Somehow that is not working out so well. Actually, I moved here to be in a big city with plenty of stuff to do. I needed lots of film stuff, lots of music stuff, and lots of warm, preferably dry, weather. LA met all the criteria, and so far I still completely love being here.