Aimee Mann: She isn’t the Ramones… but she is pretty damn cool! (A first concert story)

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Back in university there was only one major thing I was envious about regarding my roommate/friend – his first concert. The first band he ever saw live was the Ramones; only the ‘coolest’ band to have ever graced the planet earth. Oh, you can mention ‘better’ or ‘more popular’ bands like Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Smiths, the Cure, etc and so forth… but unless you can tell me you saw James Brown live at the Apollo, or the B 52’s in an Athens dive as your first show, he had you beat.

Of course, his first concert outshone mine easily. I’m embarrassed to say, but that first for me was in the freezing cold at Nathan Phillips Square featuring Platinum Blonde. Sure, there are many bands that could rank worse as a first show, and it wasn’t a bad night either, but “It Doesn’t Really Matter” isn’t exactly “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” A few years later, with one four year old at my feet, and another child on the way, I vowed to make sure that my kids would get a cool first concert; something ‘worthy’ of telling college roommates about in a childish game of ‘mine is better than yours.’

So it was that in 2008, a couple things had lined themselves up. Local record store Sonic Boom (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World filmed a couple scenes in there) had acoustic concerts every so often in the basement of their Bloor Street location. I attended a Nada Surf show with the ‘former roomy’ and when it finished I saw the bands singer/songwriter Matthew Caws hanging out with some kids. Not ‘kids’ as in a middle-aged definition of people of the teenaged variety… but honest to goodness children. Not being the most perceptive of individuals, it only dawned on me right then, that… well, um, a record store is a safe and… dare I add, perhaps even ‘cool’ place to see a concert.

!!!LIGHTBULB!!!!

Five months after watching Nada Surf, and barely 8 weeks after my second child was born a quick e-mail announced that Aimee Mann was going to be playing a set at Sonic Boom. Since the early 90’s I had become a pretty big fan of Mann’s music. She had put together a consistent string of outstanding records that caught a great balance between power-pop (Big Star), new-wave (Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe), and the alt-rock scene of the times. Bachelor #2 was a staple in my house as the new millennium began and 2005’s concept album The Forgotten Arm seemed to be just more proof that she should be a household name. In other words, Mann had become an essential part of my life’s soundtrack. Alas, critical praise doesn’t always result in record sales. Of course, and from a purely selfish perspective, it also meant that seeing a ‘bucket list’ artist in a strange different style venue was about to happen.

So it was that during the early evening May 9th, 08 my wife and I took the boys out to see Aimee Mann. Needless to say, the youngest was in a car seat hanging out with my wife just in case he expressed any discomfort with the noise level. However, my 4 year old and I were sitting cross-legged in front of the small riser where he began to ask me a thousand questions about the small soundboard and the instruments on stage. He had a poster clutched in his hands and was smiling from ear to ear. Since his birth he had seen me playing guitar and singing songs and was now completely enthralled by the prospect of seeing a real music artist. Mann didn’t disappoint. Playing a few selections from @#%&*! Smilers, which was due for release a couple weeks later, she had everyone in a great mood. By the end of the set my son was convinced that Mann was the world’s greatest songwriter, and that she was smiling at him between songs. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him she was looking at where she was placing the capo on her guitar… and that the neck of the instrument was pointed in his direction.)

After the set, we waited around for about 30 minutes to see if we could get the poster signed. I’m not usually one for signatures, but I figured a momentous occasion like a first concert would be a great opportunity for my kids to have a keepsake. So we looked at the vinyl and cassettes which shared the basement with the stage, and kept an eye on the door for her exit. Unfortunately, whoever was interviewing her after the show was getting a really good chat, because she just never came out of the backroom in time for my son to get it signed. The baby needed to get home, and so we jumped into the rusty old minivan with a poster, our memories and a great first concert story.

Eighteen months later, my first born would get his second concert poster signed by a confused looking J. Mascis and a very gracious Lou Barlow after a Dinosaur Jr. acoustic set at Sonic Boom. (I mean come on, how many times do alt-rock legends get five year-olds walking up for an autograph.) Since then we’ve been to a bunch of small sets or shows. Both my boys (now just about to turn 12 and 8) enjoy going to shows at Sugar Beach where they can play in the sand before a band breaks into song.

Over the years, I’ve seen Mann perform a couple times, each time more impressive than the last and yet she still remains on my bucket list for a couple reasons. One, I’d eventually like to get to one of her annual Christmas shows. But, even more importantly, I’d like to have the kids go to a full concert that they’ll actually remember without daddy reminding them of when playing music on the stereo. When she last came to Toronto with The Both we were away on holidays and missed the chance. All joking about bragging rights aside, taking my kids to a concert isn’t about bravado, it is about bonding. Doing those things that allow memories to grow and be sustained.

So my old roommate has the Ramones… and that is pretty cool. But, on some future day when they’re at college and a friend asks “what was your first show?” both my children will be able to give a sly grin and reply – “Aimee Mann… and I wasn’t even in kindergarten yet.” The older one can even add “and, it’s on youtube. You can see my dad and I on the floor waiting for the music to start.”

Thanks for the memory Aimee

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Ten Anti-Christmas Blasts (that will make you laugh, weep or see red…)

http://www.edge.ca/2015/12/23/ten-anti-christmas-songs/

Everyone has a holiday saturation point; that place where good cheer can turn to outright hostility.  Perhaps it is the crowds, or maybe someone stole that long awaited parking spot. It could be that you’ve heard “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” just a tad too much; whatever the case, it’s at that moment when something… anything… is needed to shake up the insanity of the season before you just scream and possibly punch someone in the nose. When things have come to that particular breaking point, I put on the anti-Christmas songs guaranteed to get you on the naughty list.

Holly Golighly – Christmas Tree On Fire

Released a couple of years ago, “Christmas Tree On Fire” tells the story of someone just too damn lazy to throw out that old, dried up holiday kindling. Essentially the tree is ablaze and the whole frickin’ house burns down around them. Golightly sings in a first person tale filled with humour, horror and little chance of a happy ending.

Clarence Carter – Back Door Santa

Nothing ends goodwill quite like having a back-stabbing, marriage-ending friend sneaking in to make your significant other happy while you’re out at work. It’s one thing to catch ‘mommy kissing Santa Claus’, but it’s a whole different issue to be caught up in this kind of soap opera.

Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)

Sure you want chestnuts roasting by the open fire, but chances are good that X-mas stress will bring out the worst in someone you know. So take some advice from the Ramones and just try your best to de-escalate the situation with a good mix of music and begging.

Aimee Mann – You’re A Mean One Mister Grinch

Take the animation away and this song is rather sinister. Taken from Aimee Mann’s One More Drifter in the Snow, the combination of Grant Lee Philips narration and Mann’s near croon has “You’re A Mean One Mister Grinch” sounding downright diabolical.

De La Soul – Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa

Christmas 1991 was gifted the hip hop horror story of “Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa.” Not for the faint of heart, it’s the fictional account of a girl facing down… well, I don’t want to give away the whole story if you haven’t heard it. Let’s just say it’s as far away from the holiday spirit as one can get.

Sufjan Stevens – That Was The Worst Christmas Ever

The magic of the holiday season loses a bit of luster when expectations are met with earth shattering reality. Stevens has the Christmas music matched with that depressing moment your dreams crash into the earth.

Pogues (featuring Kirsty MacColl) – Fairytale of New York

Nothing brings out the anti-Christmas spirit quite like a duet between a drunken couple throwing nasty barbs at one another on the streets of New York. You know what ‘they’ say about the very fine line between love and hate…

Neko Case – Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis

Some Christmas cards have more than sentiment; and when you’re dealing with the dreams of the down and out… well, they can be both beautiful and heartbreaking. Covering the classic Tom Waits “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis”, Neko Case will haunt your dreams.

Killers – Don’t Shoot Me Santa

Santa catches a serial killer who begs for his life. Only The Killers could come up with such a demented little saga of holiday destruction. Funny thing is, the song is so twisted, you’re kind of hoping neither Santa nor ‘the killer’ gets out alive.

 

Oscar The Grouch – I Hate Christmas

No Christmas list is complete without an appearance from a muppet… even an anti-Christmas list. With that in mind I give you Oscar the Grouch doing his best to destroy the holidays on Sesame Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nature of Withdrawal or April 26/15 Playlist

“Beneath The City Of Dreams” – Calexico

I missed out on their advance release when I wasn’t paying attention. Still, a great record I’ll probably talk about soon. Maybe even in the next few hours. They just create such great imagery.

“Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes

Reviewed this on Tuesday and it’s just so damn hard to listen to anything else. It is such an awesome piece of work I’m going to need copies for all my relevant locations.

“Bobby Jean” – Bruce Springsteen

Looked back at this earlier in the week, than I got word that a childhood friend had died; suddenly this song started making me cry. Just the idea that we never really say goodbye before people leave us, and we never have a clue what they meant until that door is forever closed.

“Just Like Anyone” – Aimee Mann

Another song about loss, except this one… well it speaks for itself.

“Don’t Look Back In Anger” – Oasis

Not sure what it is about this song, how it works as both depressing and up lifting at the same time. It pulled me out of a darker mood.

“The Rescue Blues (Live)” – Ryan Adams

Officially the most freakin’ expensive vinyl I own after shipping and duty charges. I wish someone would tell me how much duty I’d have to pay before I finish my order, as good as this record is I had to pay an extra frickin’ charge when UPS showed up at my door!

“I Don’t Want Control Of You” – The New Mendicants

Joe Pernice and Norman Blake were playing in town yesterday, unfortunately I wasn’t able to go, so I drowned my sorrows in their music.

“It Don’t Come Easy” – Ringo Starr

Back in university a friend and I wrote a movie script that featured this song in a very prominent position. It would have been hilarious…

“I Don’t Mind” – Sebadoh

Sebadoh just announced a show and the release of a new single… a cover of a famous Canadian single just because they love us. You can order here.

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“Real Wild Child” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

The first song off her RSD 15 offering Flashback… which rocks in case you were wondering.

“The Witch” – The Sonics

I’ll cover this song and album soon, but wow, I wish I had known about them when I was a teen.

“Ong Ong” – Blur

Off the new Blur album, I’ll have a review for ya by Tuesday.

“Blue Orchid” – The White Stripes

Posted about this album… holy cash grab, and I’m not talking about the record company or artist. Just look for Get Behind Me Satan on e-bay and you’ll understand.

“Limelight” – Rush

The original song before the Sebadoh cover arrives in May.

“Gold” – John Stewart

Sad storytelling at its AM radio best! Took me a while to find as all I had remembered was a couple lines and that Stevie Nicks was doing background vocals.

“Raspberry Beret” – Hindu Love Gods

You’ll understand why they’re included when I put the Blur review out. Besides, it’s a great cover of a great song.

“Spectacular” – Graham Coxon

Graham Coxon takes a most rockin’ riff and turns it into a sing along anthem.

“Black Nite Crash” – Ride

Think I’ll write about this album next week, so it gave me an excuse to add this song.

“Sophisticated Gentleman” – Gabby Glaser

My son used to ‘rock out’ in the backseat as we drove around and this song was playing. I actually sent a quick message to her about it and she wrote back thanking me. Seems odd getting thanks from the person who provided my son and I with the soundtrack to happy memories! Oh yeah Luscious Jackson got back together and have a kids record out, you should check it out here.

“Happy Kid” – Nada Surf

Just a damn good song by a damn good band! After the past week I needed something that would make me smile?

Inspired in Part by Record Store Day – Playlist April 12/15

“Amphetamine: – Steve Wynn and the Miracle Three

Such a great frickin’ driving song if you want to get yourself a speeding ticket… by the way, I don’t recommend the ticket…

“Hoover Dam” – Sugar

I had a review half written called “the Return of Peanut Girl,” but I never finished it. Anyway, Copper Blue sounds awesome on vinyl and you can find it at your better record stores.

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“Deathly” – Aimee Mann

Any excuse to put Aimee Mann on a playlist is a good excuse. Still haven’t heard back from her… I’m guessing she doesn’t read my blog.

“Coming Home” – Leon Bridges

Soul music has a new champion and his name is Leon Bridges. Keep your eyes open folks, this guy is for real!

“Sliver” – Nirvana

Still bummed about missing my shot… maybe another will show up in 10 years.

“You Really Got Me” – The Kinks

After the disappointment of the new Van Halen live, I couldn’t even bring myself to play one of their songs. So here is something way better.

“The Lovecats” – Tanya Donelly & Dylan In Motion

Donelly is awesome and the Cure are awesome, so getting two for the price of one. Now if Robert Smith could cover “Feed The Tree” we… just kidding.

“Someplace” – Nick Waterhouse

He hasn’t put Holly out on Spotify, so I went with “Someplace” from his first record. I will be talking about Holly in the upcoming weeks. Spoiler – it is AWESOME! Buy it here!

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“Ain’t Messin’ Round” – Gary Clark Jr

Just because I wanted to stay in that rockin’ soul vibe.

“My Mind Is Rambling” – The Black Keys

A seven inch split is coming out in Record Store Day of the Black Keys and Junior Kimbrough, so I thought why not throw a Black Keys cover of Junior just for the hell of it. Besides – it fits.

“Touch Me I’m Sick” – Mudhoney

Turns out fictional band Citizen Dick (see movie Singles) is releasing “Touch Me I’m Dick” for RSD 2015. Can’t wait to hear it! Anyway, here is the original song that led to that play on words.

“Everyone Knows” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Jett has a double album being released for RSD, so I put her in the mix… because she is a rock god and I need no other reason.

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“Machine Gun Blues” – Social Distortion

I am so looking forward to getting my hands on that first Social Distortion record next Saturday.

“Alex Chilton” – The Replacements

Another 7” being released this weekend is reason enough… I miss Chilton.

“Back In Your Head” – Tegan & Sara

Um are you picking up on a theme that surrounds a certain date that has rare vinyl being released.

“Runaway” – Del Shannon

I’ll be doing a review on this guy soon.

“I’d Run Away” – The Jayhawks

Read a rather depressing article on these guys recently. Awesome band that can never seem to catch a break…

“The Cuckoo” – Kristin Hersh

Leader of the Throwing Muses and incredible singer/songwriter in a varied solo career (check out Hips & Makers if you need proof) she also has a 7” of “The Cuckoo” coming out on RSD.

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“Brass Buttons” – The Lemonheads

Yep. A split 7” of the Lemonheads and the original Gram Parsons tune is arriving on Saturday.

“Jesus Christ” – Big Star

Only reason I put a Christmas song on a April playlist is because of RSD… irony is, the original release of this song was on a record that had nothing to do with the holiday season either.

GET IT NOW or forever hold…! The case of Aimee Mann & Mobile Fidelity

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One of my favourite artists on this planet is Aimee Mann. Album for album there just hasn’t been a record she has put out that made me doubt where she is going. Even her latest effort with Ted Leo, The Both (which I wrote about a while ago), was an incredibly satisfying union that I hope happens over again and again. (Get it here)

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However, Aimee has also provided me with perhaps the greatest example of ‘buy it’ or miss out that I can get.

Coming off an Academy Award nomination for the soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia, Mann released what is probably her most well known record Bachelor #2 or, The Last Remains of the Dodo. The album also included several songs from the Magnolia soundtrack and was incredibly well received by critics and fans alike.

A couple years later Mann released the phenomenal Lost In Space, which was really well received by British critics, and dumped on by North American ones. Regardless, she would appear in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) performing two songs from it. The art work for the project was done by award winning cartoonist Seth, which just added to the cool factor on this record. It still remains one of my favourite.

Of course both of these albums were put out before the recent vinyl revival, so they appeared only on the compact disc format…

UNTIL

2006

Mobile Fidelity, which loves to re-release critically heralded records got together with Mann. Now I also wrote about MoFi a while back, but to briefly recap, they do awesome things with wax, and they do it all on audiophile grade vinyl (180 gram or higher), from original source tapes and in limited numbers. When the album is done right – it is a collector’s dream come true.

Bachelor #2 and Lost in Space were released at the same time and likely would have put you back anywhere between 30 and 45 dollars back in 2006.

Well, nine years later.

A vinyl copy of Bachelor #2 sells for $203.84 off of discogs, and between $226.38 and $320.69 on e-bay.

A vinyl copy of Lost In Space sells for $274.42 on discogs and also $226.38 + on e-bay.

I don’t know about you, but that is out of my price range. I mean maybe if I won the lottery, but, well, like so many other cool things – it’s a nice thought but reality is where I live.

So all I can say is this…

Hey Aimee, if you’re out there, maybe you could re-release these records on vinyl again, and maybe some others too. I promise to buy at least two or three copies of each as my sister is also a fan and they make great birthday and holiday gifts.

P.S. If I could also get ya to sign this poster I have for my kids; it was their first concert ever, and you know, that would be just kinda awesome and stuff, and maybe you know… well maybe bring your Christmas show north to Toronto once… and… well, thanks for considering, and putting out great music, and…

 

Top Three New Vinyl Releases 2014 #1 – The Both by The Both

The Both

The Both

Superego

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http://aimeemann.shop.musictoday.com/Product.aspx?cp=379&pc=AILP04

Back in the day and over time I’ve picked bands that have gone on to massive success and then others I’ve scratched my head at and wondered why they haven’t found “rock star status”.  Sometimes I’m just at a loss. Why aren’t people hearing what I hear?

This has always seemed the case for Aimee Mann and Ted Leo who I have been fans of for a number of years now. Mann has put out a consistent string of records that are perhaps too smart to be considered pop, and to soft to be considered rock, but have always stood out as great pieces of perfection. If you go back to her Oscar nominated work on the Magnolia soundtrack, she inspires emotions through song that come off as these awesome award winning short stories. She can twist a phrase to play irony, despair, or revenge in quick order… in fact, she can do that often in one line. She is just that damn good.

Ted Leo for his part is a former punk purveyor who turned his politicized lyrics toward a more power-pop sound. As a bonus, he is just as comfortable singing politics as he is singing 80’s pop hits while blasting it all from a nicely distorted electric guitar. Even his melancholy stuff can be emphasized with waves of amplified sound.

There was literally a point in the early 2000’s that I was listening to both of them in heavy rotation on the carousel of my CD player. So imagine my surprise when the two played a show together a couple years back – then to my absolute delight when I heard they were recording together.

Later, of course, came the worry. How would they sound together? Would this be chocolate and peanut-butter or chocolate and potatoes… I mean, I like both, but that doesn’t sound like a good combo at all. (see Minor Alps for a combo that didn’t work last year.)

Would Aimee surpress a bit of that Jon Brion sound in favor of Leo’s guitar, or would Leo turn down the volume enough for Mann sense of tongue-in-cheek wit to shine?

Well damn folks, it was like Belgian chocolate covering June picked strawberries. The best of both artists brought together. The songs are instantly catchy, driven by melodies, harmonies and powerful guitar. Leo has shortened his solos to emphasize emotion rather than guitar prowess. Mann has stepped back to let Leo’s political ramblings filter in without drawing attention away from the overall sound of the record. What we have is the best elements from their solo careers shining in. Mann is edgier and Leo is more ‘poppy.’

The result is that this record is perfection.

Then you have the vinyl in blue and an inner sleeve with animated cardboard cut outs of both artists with instruments and a change of clothing (AND YES, a download card). The record is fun and best of all, my kids sing along with it as it plays in the car, at the cottage, at home, at friends, at families, at…etc.