Sunday, December 06, 2009

Feliz Ano Novo!
I had had quite a struggle figuring out what should be the first song of the day of the year. So knowing that I wrestled mightily with the choice, and thought deeply and longly about what you would enjoy the most, it will then come as no surprise (or not) that we should lead off the year with the catchy gospel/pop sing-alongs of fresh-faced, shiny, and Christian Brazilian combo Freakz Louvor Jovem. Though with eight singers, a sing along is not such a challenge... This song has something to do with one of the Corinthians. Plus also, the crowds and the band bounces.

Amigo de Deus

Loucos Por Ti (Live)

Their website

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The 10 Day Challenge
We have 10 days to find an apartment in Lucca, sign a lease, show the lease so that we can register T at school, and get a codice fiscale.

We are staying at our home away from home Fattoria Colleverde in Matraia.  K's best friend in Lucca, Massimo, runs the enotecta/wine and olive oil store there.  Piero & Massimo have given us the most encouragement about moving, or "the project," as Piero calls it.  And we have spent two years since that fateful dinner with Piero, Massimo and Sandra when they said why wait until T is in college to come here if you want to so badly? If you come sooner, she can learn the language and the culture and it will be much easier for her...  Little did you know we would walk away from the table, stroll through the vineyards, look into each others' eyes and say "let's do it!"  Move, that is.  So we spent two years collecting documents and boring our friends back home and our families, none of whom really believed us.

The first thing we are doing is teaming up with four different real estate agents.  We must have seen at least forty apartments in the four days, and in the end we are going with Punto Affitto and Franca, although it was down to the apartment she showed us and a beautiful other choice shown by Susanna at Reale Immobiliare.

The runner up has the most amazing frescoes and looks like a Mary Poppins at the carousel come to life moment.  But the rooms are rectangular and there isn't much privacy and the bathrooms are up a set of steps to nowhere and F at six foot three can't stand up in there.

The apartment we chose won T's heart because she would have an upstairs all to herself with a mansard roof and a lounge and everything.  F loves the huge eat-in kitchen, and K has dreams of the chandelier and canopy bed she's always dreamed of in the bedroom. Plus a huge Buddha mural in the living room

I loved both landlords, as well.  But Sig. Paoletti has such a sweet face and we like his son.  He seems like he takes pride in all of the work he put into the place and is even willing to let us keep the wood furniture he made with his own hands.  K was moved by the sight of a baby pigeon in the nest in the kitchen window box and told Sig. Paoletti that it was a good omen. Then Massimo and haggled with everybody and got the rent for this huge duplex taken down to 750 euros a month, so much less than what we pay for a one bedroom in Brooklyn.

We took the lease to the school and even though the preside/principal wasn't there, the head administrator in the office told us she would take our paper work and that we didn't even have to come back in January because she would file everything for us during registration time. Score! To T's embarrassment I added a bunch of newspaper articles about her and a DVD of her black belt test in tae kwon do.

Then we went to the commune office in Guamo, took a number, waited and waited, and, with help from the nice lady at the front desk whose daughter will also be starting at T's new school Carducci in the Fall, got a nice gentleman to grant us our codice fiscale which we need to sign the lease officially.

Every Italian we know here, plus some new friends who are an American-French couple with two girls and a boy are shocked that we got it all done.  The jet lag pills Jim Sparandeo gave K made all the difference.  More on him later, but he is K's go to person.

The point is we got it all done and are heading back to NY to wait for March 31 when we can finally ask the Consulate for our visas!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mixing it Up
Brash and exuberantly, epically pop, VV Brown is from Northampton, England. A successful songwriter under the pseudonym "Geeki," VV is now stepping forward with a fantastic new album "Traveling Like Light" which was released here last Friday. Channelling a big '60s-ish funk soul sound, she is the current remixers delight.

Shark in the Water -- Zombie Disco Squad remix

Shark in the Water (Acoustic Live)

Her Website

Buy VV Brown at Amazon

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Timber Timbre is from somewhere quite near the North Pole. Which somehow makes it seem redundant that they were nominated for the Polaris Music Prize (some Canadian thing--I had never heard of it either). Simple and quiet, somewhat haunting, the songs have that poised on the edge of havoc feel that Cris Whitley used to capture so well.

They play at Joe's Pub on the 20th.

Demon Host

Live at the Stone House Festival

Their Website
and MySpace

Buy the mp3s at Amazon

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Breaking Out
The polyglot, omnivorous talents of Florence + the Machine are perhaps frighteningly amazing. You might hear a few gazillion echos: Siouxie, Lydia Lunch, Deborah Iyall, Chrissie Hynde, Polly Jean (oops going to give up my age with that list I think). Alluringly epic, with outsize irony (though in a charming way utterly sincere), Florence Welch spans genres effortlessly. She has already broken huge in England, and was just on Letterman. So anyway, I like her quite a bit--hope I've been clear on that.

Ghosts (Demo)

The Drumming Song (Live)

Her Website
and MySpace

Buy Florence + the Machine at Amazon

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm not sure if he is the French Tom Waits, or the French Tom Jones, but Bénabar has some ineffable larger than life resonance, or a history of Galoises. Plus also, he had a cool name that sounds like Babar... If I were to explain the intricacies of guinche and chansons, I would be making it up. (Oh okay! I looked it up. A guinche is a seedy hang out. The tradition that Bénabar comes out of, the bals-musette, is dance hall music that developed in the 1880s and does, like Tom Waits, often have an accordion and an exaggerated sense of lyrical play).

Quatre Murs et un Mot


Buy Bénebar at Amazon

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Assumptions are made to be broken I guess (or are they made to be dashed? I forget). I had thought that "megaplatinum" and "country" were disqualifying words, but then I saw Taylor Swift on Oprah and she was so genuinely genuine and generously charming with the 11 year old who interviewed her. Plus also, really striking songwriting actually and a voice of startling clarity and poise.

Just Forever

Megan and Liz sing Taylor Swift's White Horse

Buy Taylor Swift at Amazon

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I admit to having thought that Okkervil River was a death metal band, then I thought that Conor Oberst was the guy from the Decemberists, then I heard them and thought that Gus Black was having a really bad day, and then I fell asleep. While I was sleeping, I had this horrible dream of being in Des Moines, trying to choose between an Okkervil River show at the State Fair and Sufjan Stevens taping a show for NPR at the local high school with everyone dressed up in angel wings. To try to say something nice, am I the only one who hears something from Blondie in the middle of this song?


A Stone (Live in Milwaukee)

Their MySpace

Buy Okkervill River at Amazon

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Crossed Paths
So what to say about Manu Chao? And more importantly, what language to say it in? An anarcho-syndicalist (or perhaps former), Chao is Basque and sings in French, Spanish, English, Arabic, and occasionally Wolof. If you just remember him from the Clash-inspired '80s Rockabilly group Hot Pants, you are excused a little disorientation. He also produced the stunning "Sénégal Fast Food" by the blind Malian duo Amadou and Miriam.

Le Vent Nous Portera

Live in Brooklyn

His MySpace

Buy Manu Chao at Amazon

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quirky and yelping, Pree crafts little gems of catchy magic. Lead singer May Tabol is formerly of the DC band Le Loup where she got a bit overwhelmed by the ghost of Ladytron. Here however, she does the overwhelming and thwacks you pretty severely with evocative phrasing and mysterious images.

In the Parlor

Heaven Is A Drag

Their MySpace

Buy Pree at Amazon

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More from Mali
Not to be confused with Mohammad Doumbia, Nahawa Doumbia is from South Mali. Singing Didadi songs which are a kind of musical contest practiced at parties and festivals in the Wassoulou region near the border with Cote d'Ivoire, her voice soars over a mix of traditional instruments though she has experimented by working with techno rhythms and DJs from the African diaspora in France.


Le Rhythme de la Parole - Kunto Ko

Buy Nahawa Doumbia at Amazon

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Boiled Frogs
Somewhere in that whole discussion of boiling frogs, which somehow related to the Health Care Bill (or perhaps it was to the GM bailout), someone mentioned that in the part of Holland closest to England they speak Dutch that sounds like someone speaking English with a frog in their mouth. I suspect that is where Princeton is from, though they claim to be from Eagle Rock, California where I used to go bowling as a kid. Theoretically they are singing about "the detritus of love," but it is quite easy to think that they're complaining about the frogs. They play at Union Hall on September 9th.

Calypso Gold

Live at SXSW 2009

Their MySpace

Buy Princeton at Amazon
Well as hard as I try to always maintain the highest standards of blogging accuracy, sometimes an inadvertent error may creep into a post. As the artist herself pointed out, Nica Brooke is not, in fact, Lithuanian. She is a native Californian and therefore did not learn English from an old cassette tape left over from the war. Other than that, I think the post was right on the money.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Her MySpace
and website

Buy Nica Brooke at Amazon

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Fluttering and captivation
Ellie Goulding has something almost classically antique in her voice. Others see something Bjork-y or Roisin-ish, and yes, that makes sense in a way, but I would say she soars freely like Sinéad Lohan or Kate Bush and the misty repetitive electronica is incidental. She also appears to be half of the duo Goldsmith and from South London. But really shockingly lovely. Startling. Really. Really.

Guns + Horses

Swimming Pool--Goldsmith

Her MySpace

Sunday, June 21, 2009

As uncomfortable as I am totally gushing over a song (far easier to be subtly (or unsubtly) mocking), I just have to do one of those Mary Murphy-ish screams over this one. Moussa Doumbia is a saxophonist from Mali who spent much of his career in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The influence of James Brown and other sources of deep funk is thrillingly apparent.


Buy Moussa Doumbia at Amazon

Monday, June 15, 2009

Breathing New
If you only know Swedish-Norwegian-British-New Yorker Leona Naess from her cranky, dyspeptic debut album Comatised, you may be caught off guard by her bouncy and fun new album Thirteen. Her voice has grown, with suddenly more of the vibrant urgency of Leslie Fiest without dissappearing under the same weight of hiccupping affectation and her songwriting has gotten looser and looks out as well as in. Plus also, it is now almost unconscionably catchy. She's playing July 1st at Le Poisson Rouge.

Leave Your Boyfriends Behind

Ballerina (Live)

Her MySpace
and website

Buy Leona Naess at Amazon

Friday, June 12, 2009

Two men with remarkably black hair
To be a little topical, I thought I would touch on current events--it is my friend Meg's birthday!!! And, although I am not sure she likes being reminded, I do associate her with a certain iconic New Jerseyan. So to circle the metaphorical square I am setting up (topical, New Jersey, Meg, and ummm.... something else), Mohammed Hassan is one of the most popular musicians in Libya (which is apparently rare because their pop scene tends to be dominated by their neighbor Egypt) and Elisa was discovered by one of Whitney Houston's producers after singing the Italian National Anthem at the Olympics. Here she sings a duet with Luciano Ligabue (which if you haven't made the connection already makes him essentially the equivalent of Bruce Springsteen).

Gawali Ainy

Gli Stacoli Del Cuore

Ysallem Alek (Live)

Elisa (Live at the Vatican)

Buy Elisa at Amazon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sparkly Happy Danes
Aren't they all? Well not so much actually unless biker gangs make you happy. There are clearly some though, like Efterklang. They bang on old tin toys like Psapp, yet also at times drift small and introspective (or as small and introspective as you can be when you make records with 28 instruments and 3 choirs). They grew up on a tiny island near Germany where they avoided all musical influences besides sea shanties and of course the Raveonettes.


EFTERKLANG - CHAPTER 6 (Live @ Knitting Factory)

Their MySpace
and website

Buy Efterklang at Amazon

Sunday, June 07, 2009

In honor of my friend Liz/Whose birthday it is/I have decided to rhyme. Just kidding...
But anyway I know she loves Melissa Ferrick. Or to be more precise, I think she's said she has a love/hate relationship with Melissa Ferrick--which may or may not be the same thing. For those of you who don't know, Melissa Ferrick is outrageously prolific, as well as busy, playing around 150 shows a year. She has one of those nicely linear -- she writes, she plays, she sings -- processes.

Everything I Need (Live in Dayton Ohio)

Melissa Ferrick and Ani DiFranco Live

Her MySpace

Buy Melissa Ferrick at Amazon

Friday, June 05, 2009

Named after the legendary Beverly Hills shake shop, Passion Pit make twinkly soft electropop. After winning the British equivalent of "American Idol" last year and having a song featured on the new TheWB online series " Rockville," the band just released their first record on May 19th--timed of course to coincide with the birthdays of Joey Ramone, Malcom X, Ho Chi Minh, and other revolutionary figures born on that propitious day.

Smile Upon Me

I've Got Your Number (Live)

Their MySpace
and website

Buy Passion Pit at Amazon

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

East of Eden
Nica Brooke is impossibly smooth. A Lithuanian DJ, she apparently learned to sing along to an old half broken cassette player left over from the war. She's been touring lately across Georgia and Eurasia. Sonically she brings to mind the Dutch Producer/DJ Solex as well as having the aching vocal edge of Alice Russell or Morcheeba.

Get Back

Her MySpace
and website

Buy Nica Brooke at Amazon

Sunday, May 31, 2009

While I think not technically a "song," the declamatory tajwid (Qur'anic recitation) of Abdul Basit 'Abd us-Samad is startlingly musical. Born in Southern Egypt in 1927, he is said to have memorized the Qur'an by the time he was 10. Although based in Cairo, he traveled the world reciting and was particularly known for his rendering of the seven verses of the Sura al-fatiha. It's interesting to hear the differences from a recitation in Urdu, like the one below by Sadaqat Ali, having (to my ear at least) more similarities to the rhythm and tone of Qawwali singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Ahlul Bayt

Abdul Basit 'Abd us-Samad recites Surah Balad

Sadaqat Ali recites Surah Fatiha

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Jhoole Jhoole Lal
Weary voiced singer/songwriter Meg Hutchinson drags her words out lusciously and bumpily. Not that she's not happily melodic, but like Chris Pureka or Sarah Bettens there's a sharp intersection where the story of the song grabs you as well as the sound of the song (I hope that makes some small bit of sense. It is what I meant to say. If it's confusing, go listen to "Burning Bridges" (esp. the part about the glasses) or "Come Over Here" to see what I mean). She's playing tonight if you happen to be in Massachusetts.


Home (live)

Chris Pureka -- Burning Bridges (Live)

Sarah Bettens -- Come Over Here (Live)

Her MySpace
and website

Buy Meg Hutchinson at Amazon

Friday, May 29, 2009

Well this will wake you up...
I'm not quite sure, but the Fairline Parkway may be already defunct. The problem clearly was a lack of caffeine. And they seem to have a problem counting as well, claiming to be the duo of childhood friends Zachary Okun and Raj Gadhia (though yes there are clearly four people in that picture.) Making gentle meandering music that reminds me quite a bit of Neal Halstead, they were from Austin and played around in West Texas for a while before going their separate ways recently.

Robbed Blind

Live at the Black Cat Washington DC

Their MySpace

Buy Fairline Parkway at Amazon

Monday, May 25, 2009

The opening of many of her songs lead you to expect it to be bhangra, but Hasna is a Moroccan singer now based in Paris. She has an intriguing tone to her voice -- almost scolding at times -- while her lyrics actually are quite swirling and poetic with
lovely imagery. She also has done some beautiful collaborations with Flamenco musicians.

Shofo Shofo

Marsoul El Hob (Music Video)

Buy Hasna at Amazon

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Down to the River
Floating above twanging country guitars, Samantha Crain warbles and yelps away crankily. She (more than her band the Midnight Shivers) has an un-country edge though, pressing towards an early Jeffrey Lee Pierce southern gothic. I'm quite loving it, though maybe that's not at all what she meant to do.

Songs in the Night

Gun Club -- My Dreams 1984

The River (Live)

Her MySpace
And website

Buy Samantha Crain on Amazon

Sunday, April 05, 2009

As far as I can tell, Bjorn Kleinhenz grew up in the deep forests of Germany. His music certainly has some elven characteristics, as well as being quite catchy, tuneful, and walking that fine line of embarrassing. He reminds me a bit of Play Radio Play though substantially more folky.

Lust and Greed

Live in Hannover

His MySpace

Buy Bjorn Kleinhenz at Amazon

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

By And By
Odetta was called by Martin Luther King Jr. "The Queen of American Folk Music." She died in December, but performed to the end of her life with an extraordinaryness, a voice that was gentle but commanding, folksy and connected to the stories of everyday life in this country, and part of a spirit of a common struggle for justice that shouldn't go away.

Pastures of Plenty

Odetta on the Johnnie Cash Show 1969

Buy Odetta at Amazon

Monday, February 09, 2009

So after a bit of a hiatus...
After scouring the world for a bit in search of the most wondrous artists to expose to you, I turned up Aaron Nazrul. Partly astonishing, with just enough embarrassing mixed in to make it interesting, he's got a debut album with a number of really blow you away tracks (and then the occasional awkward attempt to rhyme "Cambodia" and "know ya.") He's got a rich and ragged voice, and an experimental braveness that is great to hear. One of my favoritest tracks--and one not terribly representative of the rest of the album is the sprawling "Butterfly Man," which is something the Rolling Stones might have made in 1976 if they lived in Vancouver.

Butterfly Man

Lay Low (Live)

Aaron Nazrul on MySpace

Buy Aaron Nazrul at Amazon