Bart Davenport – “Chimes”
The new crown prince of soft rock, Bart Davenport got his start in a more hard rockin’ capacity as the front man for East Bay Mod RnB heros the Loved Ones. This track from his 2002 solo debut on the marvelous Antenna Farm Records, is a meandering daydream of sweet romance. Much as I hope to hear the man hit the Jagger/Colin Blunstone style that he did years ago, I gotta love that he’s true to his own vision, and he does this stuff so very well. The dry acoustic drums and nicely recorded real instruments he favors are a stark and welcome contrast to the hyper-digital compressed poo that is the norm these days. And his singing is simply beautiful. From 2002, recently re-released digitally, here’s some “Chimes” of love from a cat who means it.
from “Bart Davenport”
(Antenna Farm Records)
Sometime in the late 90’s I spoke to a friend of mine who owns a local club and explained that she must, absolutely must book The Negro Problem. She was aghast, told me should couldn’t book a band by that name, then she asked me if they were black. Well yes, Stew, the lead singer is, I replied, and he’s one of the more brilliant singer-songwriter dudes I’ve seen in ages, and his band is killer. I guess my friend changed her mind because they eventually played her club. The band’s reputation has since grown far and wide among discerning music lovers, even while the hulking indifferent music industry has ignored them with dull reliability. Of the many memorable songs that echoed in my head for years after seeing the NP perform live, the one that haunted me most was a piece called “Peter Jennings.” As I scour the Intergoogle today, I’m not finding any promotional mp3s of this fine band, but they do have some songs (including “Peter Jennings”) available on Mog All Access, which is worth joining, and you can also buy their mp3s from iTunes. Another standout from their superb “Joys and Concerns” album is “If You Would Have Traveled On The 93 North Today.” Heck it’s all good, “Mahnsanto” is stunning, “Bleed” is another – all heartbreaking, funny, intelligent, beautiful work. More recently Stew and his longtime collaborator Heidi Rodewald composed a musical theater production called Passing Strange, which Spike Lee made a movie of, which you can see on PBS. All highly recommended. That is all.
Parkas – “The Gangs All Gone”
Here’s an anthemic rocker from the out of control and marvelous Parkas. These guys rocked live, made some great music and called it quits. Their posthumous record, You Should have Killed Us When You Had The Chance is great. I love the lyrics to this song and the hooks would be at home on a Replacements, Clash or Springsteen record. I generally dislike like the over-flogged term “brutally honest,” but this is some brutally honest work. Bad ass rock with real guts and heart.
“The Gang’s All Gone” (mp3)
from “You Should Have Killed Us When You Had the Chance”
(Saved by Radio)
The Gazillions – “Hobbit Love” mp3
This rare pop gem from Berkeley-based garage band the Gazillions defies description, but the title speaks for itself. Fronted by the inimitable David Hollogram, this remarkable group only played together long enough to do a few legendary gigs and release an amazing album called “The Gazillions Have Landed.” This song is now also featured on the MP3 Jackpot Winners compilation CD. As Hollogram himself once revealed, “Hobbit Love was inspired by dating in Humboldt County. There were all these beautiful people, but they were all such hobbits in their minds. I finished this song on the cab stand as I worked my late night shift in Eureka, CA.”
We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Ships With Holes Will Sink” mp3
Young Scottish quartet We Were Promised Jetpacks uses a traditional two guitars, bass and drums formula, to create something far from ordinary. Like their brilliant Fat Cat labelmates Frightened Rabbit, the Jetpacks mine the depths of bleakness to bring up artifacts of surprising beauty. “Ships With Holes Will Sink” lurches bodily at its subject matter and wrestles it to the ground, in a sort of epic battle between vitality and futility. The lyrics, depending on your mood, could be hilarious, or truly frightening. Regardless, this is original work, rich in passion, intelligence, and a certain courage, that I find myself returning to as it reveals a little more each time. Now, about those Jetpacks..
We Were Promised Jetpacks
“Ships With Holes Will Sink” (mp3)
from “These Four Walls”
(Fat Cat Records)
I hella love this band. Take your notions of “old school” and graduate ’em, or flunk ’em, whatever, these cats are OLD SKOOL! And fresh. And badass. And a lot of fun. Plus my cat likes ’em. I can tell because he bumps his head against me and purrs when I play “Miss Louise.” That’s his way of sayin’ something is cool. So here ya go. Buster approved, the California Honeydrops. Enjoy.
Devin Davis – “Turtle and the Flightless Bird”
My friend Rebecca AKA Breakup Babe sent me a linky to Devin Davis‘ site a coupla years ago and I picked up his CD. Listening to it again lately, somehow it goes well with winter. A very creative singer-songwriter in the more intellectual pop rock realm of things, Davis’ clever lyrics are matched by some lovely harmony and call and answer vocal arrangements. At the heart though, I think the reason his songs work so well is their very human conscience, and a yearning that ends up sounding universal. Check out “Turtle and the Flightless Bird” and “Iron Woman” on Devin’s mp3 page. Raw, unvarnished production adds to the delicious desperation of these works. And hey, if you like the songs, buy his CD won’t you, so maybe he’ll make good on his promise to make another one! Becky and I would both be so pleased. Thank you.
I’m diggin’ this track from these French roots reggae lovers. Plus, I just hafta love that they call themselves No More Babylon =) “Youthman” mp3 has a lot of old school reggae and dub trademarks but also a distinctly modern edge. The sounds are superb, the performances tight and effortless. A very nice production all around.
No More Babylon
“Youthman” (download mp3)
from “ECHO 001”
No More Babylon – “Youthman” (mp3)
The May Fire out of San Francisco (via Chile, Colombia, Connecticut, and LA!) is a hard rockin’ foursome with great hair and better songs. Lead singer Catty Tasso is one of the best girl rock vocalists you’ve (maybe) never heard yet, and she’s a gr8 front woman. You can listen to some May Fire songs and buy their records at rcrdlbl.com, and do go see their show if you get the chance, you won’t be disappointed.
The May Fire – “Plastic Army” mp3
Dave Smallen – “America”
Dave Smallen‘s songwriting has always been ambitious, since his days fronting Oakland’s all ages show heroes, Street To Nowhere. What’s ambitious? Well, take this for example. If you want to write a song called “America” – that’s ambitious. I pressed play with a certain trepidation – there are so many ways this can go wrong. But the song succeeds, careening against the walls of possible clichés and landing feet first like a defiant and graceful cat. It is a highly personal statement, yet compelling and ultimately accessible. As Dave is American, why not use America and its complex, troubled state, as a metaphor for his own individual saga? Why not indeed. Ambitious yes, but this is a subtle triumph.
from “Everything Changes and Nothing Changes”
(Street to Nowhere)