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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Super Bowl XXXXII: 10 Reasons to Watch a Few Minutes

10. Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band: Don’t be refilling, snacking or outside the party when they wheel out Bruce mid-game in what’s sure to be the most awkward six minutes of his venerated career since “We Are the World.”

9. Jennifer Hudson’s National Anthem: Bound to impress, bearing in mind that no one will ever top the triumphant Whitney Houston headband-version of 1991.

8. Cardinals Quarterback Kurt Warner: Warner worked nights as a clerk at a grocery store in Iowa when his professional football career began in 1995. He’s earned approximately fifty-million dollars since. But like a polyethylene bag, his Everyman persona will never die. Selected to start earlier this season over Cardinals hot shot draft pick and renowned gentleman Matt Leinart, Warner’s "last chance at glory" tale is great stuff, whether he rides off into the sunset or laughably fails due to the onset of old age.

7. Arizona Head Coach Ken Wisenhunt vs. His Former Employer: Wisenhunt, a former Steelers assistant, was passed up for a promotion to their vacant Head Coach position resulting in his exodus to Arizona. Conditions are such that Ken may have many a disgruntled former employee in his corner.

6. Local Truce: The regional favorites New York Giants and New England Patriots aren't playing. Takes the pressure off. No high speed flipping of the bird back and forth to each other on I-89. No workplace awkwardness. No high spirited, near-violent discussions at the bar. Giants fans can quietly ponder why their players literally and figuratively shoot themselves. Smug Patriots fans can silently dream that their team may have been a major factor in this years tournament had they been allowed to participate and/or were it not for the eternally hapless Buffalo Bills.

5. Pittsburgh Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben has suffered a injuries to both knees, multiple back problems, an emergency appendectomy, a near fatal motorcycle crash without a helmet, two normal concussions and something called a 'spinal' concussion. Roethlisberger's list of injuries is so lengthy and complex that he may very well become the first player in league history to spontaneously combust mid-play.

4. Super Bowl Commercials '09: Art for cola's sake.

3. Spring on Television: Green grass - not turf. People are working on this lush Florida plot this very minute. Tampa's field has a tifway 419 Bermuda blend that’s sure to be decadent. The preparation of players and production staff are the oft-heralded sources of Super Bowl hype – but give a nod to the grounds crew. And green grass. It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen it.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers defense: To paraphrase Pittsburgh linebacker/convicted domestic assailant James Harrison: “No one likes to see anyone get injured. But hurting people is a different story.” Yikes.

1. Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald has a rare combination of speed, strength, humility and genuine personality rarely found in professional sports anymore. He is a truly a welcomed  relief.

Pick: Steelers 28, Cardinals 13. Post your picks below.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh. My. God.

Alex Crothers and Co. just made one local music critic very, VERY happy.

And this guy just made the same local music critic very, VERY sad.

Did Anyone Order the London Symphony Orchestra, Possibly While High?

Local hip-hip mover and/or shaker Burnt MD has gotta be just about the hardest working musician in VT, hip-hop or otherwise. He's also one of the more aggressive promoters I've come across in my time behind this desk — and I've come across quite a few. Hardly a week goes by that he doesn't drop a line — or six — updating me on his latest dealings. Usually it's interesting, if not exactly stop-the-presses type stuff. But this week, he offered a little nugget that could go a long way towards bringing VT hip-hop to a larger audience.Photo by Anaii Lee Ender

The estimable Microphone Doctor has been selected to compete in the Soul Assassin's MC Contest. For the uninitiated, Soul Assassins is a collective of musicians and graphic designers affiliated with Cypress Hill. For this contest, Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs created a beat for MCs from around the country to rhyme over. I'm not sure how many folks entered, but judging from the number of comments on the website, I'm guessing it was quite a few. For Burnt MD to be one of 11 finalists is an honor in itself.

But frankly, fuck that noise, yo.

On behalf of the 802, I want to see the hometown product make good and win this thing. But he's going to need our help. At the moment, he's about 130 votes behind the current leader. But with two weeks to go before the polls close, anything can happen, especially if we mobilize, grass-roots VT style.

So here's the link to the contest. Check it out and take a listen to B's work. Then vote. It's just that simple.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes We Did.

Happy Obama Day, Solid State!

As I'm sure many of you do, I know several people who were at the festivities in DC today, including a few who are attending Inaugural Balls this evening. While I normally avoid large crowds like the plague, I have to admit, I'm a little jealous. Given the electricity just in the tiny conference room in which I watched the speech with a handful of 7D staff — via an intermittent web feed, no less — I can only imagine the feeling of being there in person. Even the most ardent naysayers would have to admit that this was a pretty remarkable day.

Anyway, a few quick, random thoughts on the Inauguration:

Aretha: Still the best pipes in soul. And what a hat!

Any combo featuring Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman is guaranteed to impress. But am I the only one who would have preferred Danny Elfman to John Williams? That's change we can believe in.

Ironic that the most eloquent President since Kennedy would fumble the swearing in.
(Note: Upon further review, totally not Obama's fault. The Chief Justice dropped that ball.)

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."
If I'm President, er, ex-President Bush I'm squirming like a whore in church at that line. If only a camera had cut to his reaction.

Do you even remember the last time the man in control of the nation's nukes could actually pronounce the word "nuclear?"

". . . know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."
Proof that the most profound sentiments are almost always the simplest.

And finally, goodbye, Dubya. Can you believe we put up with eight years of this guy?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why Don't I Watch Saturday Night Live More Often?

This, quite simply, made my day. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Few of my Favorite Things (2008 Edition)

So another year has come and gone (and then some . . . sorry). And it was a pretty wild one at that: Obama thrashing McCain; The Not-So-Great Depression; discovering that Tom Brady is mortal after all. A wild, wild year, indeed.

It was also an impressive year for music, in general. Although, when has anyone ever looked back at the previous 365 days (or in this case, 378 . . . ahem) and said, "Wow. That was a really shitty year of music?" Still, we were introduced to remarkable array of tunes in 2008, including some that will likely, or perhaps already have become classics, at least for me.

So here, after at least a modicum of serious consideration and in no particular order, are my favorite (non-local) albums of 2008. In some cases, these are albums I found, or that found me, in 2008 and were not necessarily released last year. And just so we're clear, they aren't presented in a "professional" context. Rather, just as one music fan to another, personal biases intact. I'd love to hear about your favorites too.

(Note: If you missed my "official" top-10 list of local albums of the year, click here.)

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago

In a recent e-mail exchange with another critic, I mentioned that I was searching for a tactful way to express my unbridled love for all things Bon Iver in this post. It turns out that I can't. Simply put, For Emma was love at first listen. And my appreciation for the album has only deepened over time, both for the remarkable material found within and for the unexpected personal significance it would eventually carry — you can read about the latter here. I've only recently begun being able to listen to "Flume" again.

I feel the same way about this disc that I did the first time I heard Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker or Wilco's Summerteeth or Built to Spill's Perfect From Now On or Spoon's Gimme Fiction or any number of personal classics. For me, these are not albums. They're revelations; works of art so powerful and complete that they either inspire you to new depths of creativity, or to give up altogether because you know you'll never be that good. Everyone has some equivalent — and if you don't, you're not listening hard enough. Personally, Bon Iver is on that level. So much so that I almost don't want them to make another album. How could it possibly live up? Chances are that it can't — although the few leaked tracks from their forthcoming EP are pretty solid. But even if it doesn't, this album is enough. And so is this Outfield cover . . .

The Low Anthem, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

A completely unexpected delight. Those with their ears more finely tuned to larger media outlets such as Paste magazine or NPR might be familiar with the album as it has garnered some solid press in recent months. But I actually beat those cats to the punch with a review of the disc in early September. Though in all honesty, that was more a product of fortuitous timing. The band had a Monkey House show that week and sent me the disc in advance for review. It's not like I actually sought this one out. (Incidentally, I think that review is my favorite piece from 2008.)

Much like Justin Vernon retreated to the Wisconsin woods for a winter to create For Emma, this Providence-based outfit holed up on Block Island, a small resort island in between Rhode Island and the northeastern tip of Long Island for a winter to record Oh My God. And the results are similarly potent. Seriously, I gotta try the recluse thing some winter.

Starfucker, S********r

Ahh, Portland, Oregon! Hipster Eden. Is it bad that most of my current favorite bands hail from, or have some connection to, the Strip Club Capitol of the US? I swear it's a coincidence. Really.

In any event, Portland's Starfucker get a nod not only for having my unquestioned favorite band name of 2008, but because their self-titled debut — honestly, they should just name all of their albums eponymously — is pure, electro indie-pop fun. Thanks to Mr. Steve Hadeka for pointing me in the direction of a post on Hipster Runoff featuring the band.

Lost Gospel: STARFUCKER POOL PARTY Rawnald Gregory Erickson II from Lost Gospel on Vimeo.

Pretty & Nice, Get Young!
I mentioned this album in my VT-made CD roundup last month. But I didn't feel comfortable including it in the top-10 because Pretty & Nice aren't really a VT band, even though they've got B-Town roots. Regardless, this album knocked me out. In particular, "Piranha" might be my favorite song of the year. Elvis Costello fans, take note.

Delta Spirit, Ode To Sunshine

Higher Ground's Alex Crothers highly recommended this band to me over the summer. And I'm glad he did. The retro indie-rock thing has been all the rage of late — and is perhaps a little played out. But these guys put a gritty spin on the genre and really crank it up live. "People C'mon" has earned a regular slot in my iPod Bowling Mix rotation.

Some other albums of note that struck my fancy in 2008:

MGMT, Oracular Spectacular: To borrow a phrase, both kinds of music. Indie and rock.

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes: Answers the question: What would happen if My Morning Jacket played psychedelic chamber-folk?

Grand Archives, Grand Archives: From the same stable as Band of Horses and Horse Feathers.

The Boat People, Chandeliers: Indie-pop from Down Under, mate. Lucksmiths fans, take note.

Vetiver, Thing of the Past:  The songs that made a songwriter. Simply gorgeous.

Horse Feathers, House With No Home: Not as strong as their debut, Words are Dead. Still, more gripping chamber-folk from one the Pacific Northwest's most under-appreciated bands.

Women, Women: Thank you, Tick Tick! Is there anything you can't do?

The Powder Kegs, You and Your Right Now: Stickin' it to disgruntled newgrass fans since 2008. A remarkable evolution. And pseudo-local, no less!

The Everybodyfields, Nothing Is Okay: Actually released in 2007. From Ramseur Records, home of punk-grass darlings The Avett Brothers. If you dug Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell's Begonias, give this disc a shot.

And finally, some albums for which I wish I'd kept the receipt:

Cold War Kids, Loyalty To Loyalty: Sophomore slump, perhaps? Here's hoping.

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend: I. Don't. Get. It. How are these guys good, exactly? Milquetoast meets vanilla. 

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges: Don't get me wrong. I love this band and have for years. But this album? Well, let's just say "I'm amazed." And not like I had hoped to be.

The Ravonettes, Lust Lust Lust: Zzzzzzzzz . . .

And that, dear friends, is that. I'm sure I left out some albums — from both lists, actually. Though you'd think since I've been promising this thing for the last week-and-a-half, I could have been a little more thorough. (And you'd be wrong.) In any event, I know it's a little late in the game, but feel free to share some of your favorites below.

Here's to a rockin' 2009.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


This just in from the Department of Inevitability:


January 8, 2009


Online Ticket Request Period Is Underway;
Tickets Go On Sale To General Public Weekend Of January 30th & 31st

The Clifford Ball, A Seven-DVD Box Set, Scheduled For March 3rd Release

Phish will launch its first summer tour in five years with a two-night stand at the Nikon Theatre at Jones Beach in Wantagh, NY on June 4th and 5th. Yesterday the band resumed rehearsals, which began in November, in preparation for the upcoming shows.

An online ticket request period is currently underway at Tickets will go on sale to the general public the weekend of January 30th and 31st. For information on where to purchase tickets, visit

Phish's summer tour will be preceded by a trio of concerts (March 6th, 7th and 8th) at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. The shows at the 13,800-capacity venue sold out just seconds after tickets went on sale last fall. They will mark the group's first concerts since its August 2004 performance at the Coventry festival in Vermont.

On March 3rd, Phish will release The Clifford Ball on JEMP Records/Rhino. This major archival release features the band's entire performance at the 1996 festival, which was the largest concert in North America that year and the first of many two-day festivals staged by the group. Over 70,000 fans turned out for the event, which was held at a decommissioned Air Force base in Plattsburgh, NY. The seven-DVD box set will contain more than nine hours of music, including a bonus disc with Phish's extended soundcheck, its late night flatbed truck jam and a 30-minute featurette with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. The original multi-track recordings have been remixed for stereo and 5.1 audio. Fans can pre-order The Clifford Ball at

Formed at the University of Vermont in 1983, Phish quickly became renowned for its live performances. "Phish offers something rare in pop: a long, complex, and completely different show every night," said the Village Voice. The GRAMMY®-nominated band became one of the top touring groups in the U.S. and, by 1998, Rolling Stone had proclaimed Phish the most important band of the decade. Phish - comprising guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell - has released 11 studio albums, five concert videos and a series of 44 complete live concert CDs, including 13 on its own JEMP Records. In addition, the band offers a selection of 88 full concert downloads at is Phish's digital download store and has been widely hailed as one of the first band sites to offer high-quality, unedited soundboard recordings of full concerts.


6/4    Wantagh, NY                Nikon Theatre at Jones Beach
6/5    Wantagh, NY                Nikon Theatre at Jones Beach
6/6    Mansfield, MA              Comcast Center
6/7    Camden, NJ                 Susquehanna Bank Center
6/9    Asheville, NC                Asheville Civic Center
6/16    St. Louis, MO              Fox Theatre
6/18    Burgettstown, PA         Post Gazette Pavilion
6/19    Noblesville, IN              Verizon Wireless Music Center
6/20    East Troy, WI                Alpine Valley
6/21    East Troy, WI                Alpine Valley

Warning: Pop Ahead

I know, I know. I promised that godforsaken Best of 2008 list two days ago. And it's still not done. Things have been nuttier than usual the last couple of days. But I swear I'll have it up before I write my Best of 2009 post, guaranteed. Actually, I'm hoping later today or tomorrow morning. We shall see.

In the meantime, here's a little nugget of poppy-as-fuck shenanigans from Plattsburgh's Hello Control called "Hear You Sing," sent to me by the Howlerman himself, Jeff Howlett. Kinda reminds me of Weezer's "Buddy Holly" video, if updated for the soundtrack of the next American Pie flick (AP7: Donkey Punch, I believe). Anyhoo, here it is, in all its unfettered, saccharine pop-punk glory. Enjoy.

Hello Control - Hear You Sing from Howlermano on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Andrew Bird Plays on Rooftop, er, NPR

Happy 2009, Solid State! I hope you all had a lovely holiday season. I certainly did, but I almost feel as though I was busier during my vacation than I am now that I'm back to work. Weird. Moving on . . .

As I begin the new year, I usually like to take a few moments to look back at the year just passed. So I've spent the last couple of days mulling over some of my favorite music from 2008. I know most folks do this before the year actually ends, so I'm maybe a little behind. But frankly, you never know what will transpire in the final weeks of a year. Maybe you discover a late entry that would have made your "Best Of" list but you already wrote it so it's too late. It could happen . . .

Or maybe you were just too busy to get around to it before the end of the year, as was my case. That, my friends, appears to be a trend that will continue into 2009 as I'm still working on compiling my list of favorite (non-local) music from last year. Tomorrow, I promise.

In the meantime, I thought I'd direct you towards an album that will more than likely be on my list at this time next year, Andrew Bird's Noble Beast, due out Tuesday, January 20 . . . January 20 . . . isn't something else happening that day?

(Side note: Doesn't it seem a little funny that a musician, from Chicago of all places, would choose one of the most important days in US history to release his new album? Maybe it was a label decision. But talk about being upstaged. Sheesh.)

Anyway, NPR is streaming the entire album here. Check it out. It's awesome. Groin-grabbingly awesome, in fact. It also contains my favorite line of the year so far: "This is gonna misspell disaster."

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