music mondays: spring sounds

IT’S FINALLY STARTING TO FEEL LIKE SPRING. I still had to scrape my windshield this morning, but it’s currently 62° and I WILL NOT be wearing a coat this evening. Take that, Mother Nature.

When spring finally starts to truly emerge, I always want something light and fun to listen to. Cue the folk pop tracks.

NPR has been streaming Nickel Creek‘s new album, so I’ve been getting my fill before it actually comes out. Really enjoying it, but I’ll save most of the Nickel Creek reviewing for after I see them in May (!!!). “Destination” is an early favorite, as well as their cover of “Hayloft”.

Mountain Man is this super folksy female trio. I’ve listened to them in the past and saw them a few years ago when they were touring with Feist as her backup singers. They wore these kinda crazy-looking long, drapey dresses and did weird hand dancing. But I liked them. So when I heard that one of the girls, Amelia, had teamed up with electronic producer, Nicholas Sanborn, I was pretty interested. Together they are Sylvan Esso and I’ve been playing these two songs on repeat lately:

The Columbus-based band Saintseneca seems perched to reach some significant indie attention levels. I’m happy to see them do well, having caught various stages of their growth. I wasn’t a big fan of Saintseneca when I first heard them four years ago. I really wanted to like them, but their sound wasn’t as dynamic then and their songs all seemed to merge together (in the bad way). NPR is also streaming their new album, Dark Arc, out tomorrow. Check out “Happy Alone”:

This last group isn’t a folk band, but they’re still providing a great soundtrack as spring tries to get sprung. A few weeks ago, I starred one of St. Paul and the Broken Bones‘s songs on a SXSW playlist, without really paying attention to who the group was. Then, as I was driving into work one morning, I heard an interview with the lead singer, Paul Janeway, and snippets of a few more tracks. I was hooked. These guys are from Alabama and make soul music that feeds my Motown-loving ears.

“Call Me” was the first song I heard.

“Broken Bones and Pocket Change” is a great example of what this band can do.

There aren’t any good videos of it, but “It’s Midnight” is a short, soulful track, and one of my favorites. St. Paul will be crooning away tomorrow night at Skully’s. I was really looking forward to seeing them at Rumba, knowing it would be an intimate show with a packed house (and cheaper beer). They quickly sold out tickets then moved the show to Skully’s to accommodate. Good for the band, a little sad for me.

Happy listening and happier spring!


so I asked Stephen Thompson a question.

Stephen Thompson (of NPR Music and the AV Club) runs this column on NPR called The Good Listener. In the column, he answers questions that people send in, ranging from How do I name my band? to How do I learn to love country music?

So I recently sent in a question about set lengths for live shows. And Stephen answered! My email was a little long, so they shortened it on the blog site (and made some edits, what’s the deal guys?). Here’s what I originally asked:

I’ve got a two-parter question for Stephen Thompson’s The Good Listener column. 1. How long do you think a set should be for a headlining band on tour? 2. Should a band always play their “hits” at a live show?
I go to a decent amount of shows, and lately have been surprised by the shortness of sets. This week I saw Franz Ferdinand, and they were awesome. Their set started around 9 and was over by 10:30. I know it takes a lot of energy to rock out, but it surprised me that they were done so early. They also didn’t play “Right Action”. I wasn’t too bugged by that because I like other tracks more (which they played), but did think it was strange for a band to skip their current single.
Recently I won tickets to see Ani DiFranco. She also put on a great show, but played an even shorter set, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. Since I got my tickets for free, I couldn’t be too upset about the length. But, I did think if I’d paid $30 plus Ticketmaster fees and was a long-standing fan, I might have been a little ticked she didn’t play longer. Especially since she has such a huge discography to work with.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how long a band should play, but is there a magic set length? Should you get a longer set if the show is more expensive? I’ll keep going to live shows, and will always pay to see a band I really like, but I hope shorter sets don’t become commonplace.

Stephen pretty much said, “It depends.” I knew I was asking a question that likely wouldn’t receive a definitive answer, but it’s nice to hear perspective from someone who’s been writing about music for awhile. And I was mostly just excited to get a response. Here’s the link to the post.

The thing about the two shows I listed in my email is, I actually won both those tickets. I’m really not complaining about the length of either because I’m not a crazy big-time fan of FF or Ani, but was more just surprised by what seemed to be a trend in shorter sets. I wrote about Ani’s show a few weeks ago.

So what do you guys think? Have you dropped a lot of money for a show and been disappointed with the length and/or song selection? Can a concert be too long or too short? (I say yes to both.) Do you have an ideal length?

mondays, NPR, and nostalgia.

Act I. I love Mondays. I used to love them because I worked Sundays and took off Mondays. I christened them “Domestic Mondays” because I typically bought groceries, ran errands, and baked some kind of treat. It was the best. I’d trade a weekday for my Sunday again. In my new job, I love Mondays for a different reason. Well, a few reasons: This American Life, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, and grilled cheese night at Bodega. Happy hour is so much happier when you’re leaving the suburbs and highways to return to the city.

Instead of having the baked treat I used to make on Mondays, I get a brain treat while listening to the previous weekend’s This American Life and Wait…Wait. (Wow, that was nerdy.) In my job, there isn’t a lot of human interaction. Not to mention most of my coworkers are twice my age, so it’s a little awkward to initiate conversation with, “So… how’s your kid doing?” (Sidebar: Today I got to hear about my coworkers having “the talk” with their kids. Yikes.) So on Monday mornings I can’t wait to put on my headphones and hear Ira Glass welcome me to today’s program. Then later when I move on to Peter and Carl on Wait…Wait, I usually end up doing that shoulders-shaking, looks-like-you’re-hyperventilating-in your-cube-but-really-you’re-just-trying-not-to-laugh-out-loud thing, because we all agree it would be weird if I laughed out loud in my cube.

Act II. As you can see, I also love NPR. I battle with being lumped in to the “Did you hear that thing on NPR today?” crowd, but, I am that crowd. And it’s more than staying current on the news or latest indie band. I love to sit on my bed Saturday mornings with my bowl of cereal, listening to Weekend Edition and then Car Talk. There’s something safe about it, these voices that have been familiar for so long. It reminds me of Saturday mornings as a kid, sitting in the kitchen while my mom made breakfast and NPR played in the background. Or driving to soccer matches with my dad, whining the whole way about listening to talk radio. And maybe that’s the way the rest of my generation feels, and why we love NPR.

Act III. I wouldn’t say I love nostalgia. But I would say I’m nostalgic. Introversion and a contemplative nature seem to breed nostalgia, so it only makes sense I guess. And with that, it’s only fitting that I’m going to prom this weekend. That’s right, prom.

More on nostalgia later.

In the meantime, please watch this short film from the live show of This American Life.

And read this book.

And listen to this song.