Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rock Candy has moved - Please update your bookmarks!


When I started this blog in 2009, it was out of necessity that I hosted it away from Omaha.com. At the time, blogging hadn't been embraced and I was one of the first in the newsroom to start a blog or do this new-fangled thing called Twitter.

Now there are blogs all over our website and Rock Candy has finally joined the ranks there. It doesn't mean anything different for the blog. I'm still going to write about the same stuff and post what you've come to expect: news, interviews, expanded pieces, live reviews, criticism and everything else.

The only thing that changes, really, is the URL. And if you're a regular reader here, please update your bookmark to http://rockcandy.omaha.com since I won't be updating on this Blogger site any more.

At the new site, you'll find all of the old posts and your old comments. I'll see you all there.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rock Candy Interview: Tim Kasher of Cursive

Cursive on the cover of GO. Photo by Daniel Muller.

I've interviewed Tim Kasher many times and I'm always grateful because he's open for anything. As raw and honest as his lyrics are, he doesn't shy away from talking about the subjects contained therein (emotions, divorce, relationships, etc.).

Anyway, I was glad to talk to him again before Cursive came to Omaha once again to perform at Slowdown. They take the stage on Saturday with new record "I Am Gemini," released last week on Saddle Creek Records, in tow.

I called Kasher while the band was in San Francisco to talk.

Q. The Omaha show is coming up. Does performing here with friends and family potentially in the crowd make it better or worse?

A. There is a different vibe for me. I'd classify it with a few of the cities where my self esteem is lowered slightly more. I'm maybe concerned about judgement or how we're doing. I suppose it all stems from respect of peers.

Q. On "I Am Gemini," you wrote the album from start to finish. Did you start with the lyrics or the music?

A. It started with the (music) first. I didn't know what I wanted to write about just yet, but I had that hunch that I wanted to be schizophrenic or deal with mulitple voices.

The songs took that direction with the intent that I would have those lyrics. I weant ahead and outlined the whole story. I outlined them with the songs in mind as a chapter or occurence to propel the story forward. That was the abridged version of how we did it. Then we sequenced the album before I wrote the lyrics.

Q. Could Cassius and Pollack in "I Am Gemini" be the voices battling it out in someone's head? It sounds like that often.

A. Yeah. That's kind of the idea in the largest scope of it. But the story itself got so fictionalized. It went in certain directions so it kind of became its own story, too. I guess that's where I wanted it to land. It can be seen in two diffeernt ways: It's a story quite literally on the surface or you can take it all for allegory.

Q. A lot of the music sounds like stuff from a rock musical.

A. I didn't have the story in mind yet, but I had the hunch that if it could pull it off, I wanted to do something like that - something that felt more like a musical.

I wanted to write music that could lend itself to these different voices, so some of it is intentionally dramatized to fulfill that. I've been doing different versions of that for years, but this time I worked up the courage to take it a few steps further.

Q. Did you ever think of making this into a full-on play production?

A. The playbill that we wrote out, that's the more edited, more refined version of the story that I outlined before. I had a lot of daydreams of it being a bigger production. I always have daydreams like that. But I set all of that aside. I didn't really want to get ahead of myself and wanted to make sure the album is functioning. I wanted the album to tell some sort of story.

Again, with my daydreaming i certialnly do see that. When I do envision it, I see a thousand different ways for it to be done poorly. (laughs) It would be real prickly for it to get done in a way that I thought that it was good. Maybe, there's no way.

Q. I really liked reading the playbill as I listened to the album. It gave it a depth and direction I wouldn't have thought of, but I also wondered about people who downloaded the album illegally wouldn't have this thing.

A. It's certainly been brought up. In this technological age that it's kind of for the label and for marketers. They'll say, "Let's make it interesting. Let's bring it back to the packaging."

But I don't think on those levels. I enjoy the naivetĂ© of putting out an album and thinking everyone's going to the store and picking it up.

We are aware with the packaging that we do for albums, we're trying to make them as special as possible. For us, we want to do something a little more complete. Also, it's just making that available for anyone who likes that kind of thing. It comes fromt aht midwestern conservativism: "If you're going to be spending the money on it, we're going ot make sure it's chock full."

Q. "I Am Gemini" is another concept album. Is it a format you like or is it something you feel comfortable with?

A. I could maybe elaborate on what I was just saying. It's about making the album more complete. It's not necessary to write the songs in such a way, but in my head, I've always likeend an album to a book of short stories or, this time around, to just a book or just one story.

And my preference on a book of short stories is when they're threaded together on some common theme.

But it's taste. It's not necessary at all.

Q. On tour, are you guys playing the whole album from start-to-finish? With this album, I could see that but it would eat up the whole set.

A. We're not. We're kind of playing our catalog as we always have and just sprinkling them throughout.

Q. Do you have a favorite from these new ones?

A. It seems like it might be too early to tell, but i'd maybe say "Wowowow" is in the top five.

Q. You're not doing SXSW this year, are you?

A. No. We're playing Austin at a different date. It's a pretty fun thing to do, but there is a lot of stress involved, too. It is fun to get together and see a lot of people while you're down there.

Q. Are you feeling a little refreshed after having done a solo album? I hear that a lot from people who do solo records as a break from their regular band.

A. Yeah. And moreso than having another Good Life album because that kind of became an isnstituion in and off itself. So, absolutely.

It really reconfirmed for me that this is what I do and I'm comfortable with it in the sense that by doing that sort of record. Instead of going under the monikers that I've been working at - going under my own name - it was starting over. It was a really fun experience. The shows were a lot smaller. It was like doing another audience.

I also had the benefit of fans of Cursive or The Good Life checking it out. It is developing its own niche under the greater umbrella of what I do.

I also think that getting older, as I work on other forms of writing, I kind of just want to tie everything under one moniker, which is my name.

Q. So do you think you'll do another one?

A. Yeah, I'm working on one right now. Whenever the Cursive cycle kind of does it's thing, I'll have it ready.

Q. Are you still working on other types of writing?

A. Yeah, I have a lot of time for it. I try to treat what I do as a job as much as possible so I really put in hours. I try to do it daily of working on something that I can put out in the future.

But yeah, I kind of keep plugging away.

Q. Will we see any of that any time soon?

A. I always hope so. I officially call all of my other writing that's not songs "hobbies." I've only made very little amounts of money on them - as much as a hobbyist might.

But I'm working hard on them for a reason and I want to keep releasing any forms of writing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Digital Leather does "Enzymes" for Love Drunk

Digital Leather

Digital Leather has a new album, "Modern Problems." On it is a song called "Enzymes."

The intrepid fellows at Love Drunk filmed them performing the song in O'Leaver's basement. If you know Digital Leather, then you know it doesn't sound the same as on the album. Live and recorded are two very different expressions for Digital Leather's Shawn Foree.

I recommend you go see the band when they perform somewhere soon (they just did a tour and reportedly will be playing in town sometime soon).

Until then, enjoy the band playing for Love Drunk below.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Listen to Mike Mogis play on the new M. Ward single

When M. Ward decided it was time to record a new album, he called on old friend and fellow folk monster Mike Mogis for some help.

A portion of Ward's upcoming album, "A Wasteland Companion," was recorded in Omaha at ARC and Mogis appears on several tracks.

Though the album doesn't come out until April 10, Ward released the first single today. Much like other Ward productions, "Primitive Girl" has a Buddy Holly rock sound paired with driving piano power pop. Mogis, who's also a member of Bright Eyes, plays organ on the track.

Listen to it below. What do you think?

New Mynabirds album 'Generals' and new single download

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds
We knew Laura Burhenn was in the studio with Richard Swift, the Oregon-based producer who has worked with Damien Jurado and plays with The Shins.

Now we know the name of the project: "Generals." The sophomore album from The Mynabirds will be out June 5 on Saddle Creek Records.

After recording her debut with Swift, "What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood," Swift toured heavily with the band and then with Bright Eyes.

According to a press release, "Generals" is a protest album and a concept album based on Burhenn's political frustrations. Burhenn said she wanted to pay tribute to women in history who got their hands dirty while making a difference.

"It was important for me that this record made sense of my own anger and turned it into positive energy," Burhenn says. "I needed it to be transformative – of both the individual and the body politic. It's as much a meditation on Walt Whitman's hope for America as Gandhi's directive to 'be the change you want to see in the world.'"

You can download the title track below by giving Saddle Creek Records your e-mail address.

The band is also going on tour starting with a Lincoln date on March 6. They'll hit up SXSW along the way and end the tour with a date in Omaha on March 23.





TOUR DATES

03/06/12 Lincoln, NE – Zoo Bar

03/07/12 Denver, CO – Walnut Room

03/08/12 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court

03/10/12 Los Angeles, CA – Hotel CafĂ© w/ Big Harp

03/11/12 Santa Barbara, CA – SOHO w/ Big Harp

03/13/12 Tucson, AZ – Solar Culture w/ Big Harp

03/16/12 Austin, TX – Lamberts (SXSW) w/ Big Harp

03/19/12 Lawrence, KS – Jackpot Music Hall w/ Big Harp

03/20/12 Columbia, MO – Mojo's w/ Big Harp

03/21/12 Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews w/ Big Harp

03/22/12 Minneapolis, MN – 7th St. Entry w/ Big Harp

03/23/12 Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room w/ Big Harp

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rock Candy Interview: Joanna Bolme of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Credit: Leah Nash


Fresh off nearly a year of touring with reunited seminal indie band Pavement, Stephen Malkmus jumped into the studio with his main focus: the Jicks.

The result, produced by Beck, was Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks' "Mirror Traffic." As I'm not a fan of Pavement, I have usually shied away from Malkmus' music, but this album has brought me back. "Tigers" is melodic, thumping and singalong-able (it's a word, trust me) track. And "Stick Figures In Love" was another one that just rumbles along.

I also enjoy that many of the songs don't sound so wonderfully perfect. There are little human mistakes, which makes it more endearing.

Anyway, the band comes into town tonight to play Slowdown. Last week, I called Jicks bassist Joanna Bolme at her home in Portland to talk about the new album, the tour and the band.

Q. The last time I saw your band in Omaha was on election night in '08. Do you remember that?

A. Sort of. That was not a typical show night for sure. Obama's a hard act to follow.

Q. So with "Mirror Traffic," what it cool to have Beck as a producer?

A. Yeah. Beck was great. He's a musician first and foremost, so he's got a musician's mentality. He's coming from more of the same place that we are when working on a record. He's kind of listening more for the energy and the feel of a song than getting everything perfect. He was real conscious of what we were feeling, so he kinda just got it.

We blasted through everything real fast. We didn't go stop playing and go into the control room and listen back to see if it was good. We'd play through something a couple times and he'd say, "Great, let's move on."

We didn't have to make any of those calls. We just played. That was liberating.

Q. You and Stephen had done a lot of the producing-type stuff before, so I imagine it was nice to step back and let someone else handle it.

A. Oh yeah, much. We recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. There's Beck and then an engineer and an assistant and interns at the studio, so there's lots of people to move microphones and amps. We didn't have to do any of that stuff. It can be kinda stressful.

Q. Did you use a different bass on the album? It sounds a bit different.

A. The bass I ended up using mostly - or on half of the songs - was this Musicmaster Mustang bass of Beck's that had flat wound strings on it. It sounded great. It's very Wrecking Crew, Carol Kaye-style, muddy-type bass, which is not what I usually do when i play live. It's more live and loud-sounding.

Now I actually have a Musicmaster bass that I've been taking on the road. I play it on a couple songs. I've incorporated that into the act.

Q. How many do you usually take?

A. Usually, I just take one. If there's room maybe I'll bring a backup. Mine is real sturdy. This is the first time we've really consciously decided to take two basses and use two basses. The nice thing is you don't even have to change the strings on them. It's not really that crucial unless you really like the sound to be bright.

Q. What do you normally play?

A. I have a Fender. It says "Precision" on head headstock, but it's a jazz bass that's sort of been Frankensteined together. It's kinda ugly, but it sounds great. It weighs a ton. I really like it but it's also kind of annoyingly heavy and not really cute. But it sounds pretty cute.

My husband bought me a brand new Precision bass that also sounds good. I use it in another band with Rebecca Gates. It's a lot different sound.

Q. Your husband is also a musician. Is it tough to be on the road at different times?

A. Yeah. He's mastering his record right now so he's out of town. We're both on the road fairly often, which can be a drag not being on the road at the same time. You don't see each other as much as if you didn't do what we do.

The good part of that is that neither one of us gives each other a hard time for being gone. It's part of the deal. We both know that. That's nice. I feel like a lot of people get grief from their spouses. It's not normal, that's for sure, unless you're in the army or a salesman. (laughs)

Q. The album came out quite awhile ago, so I imagine you're pretty comfortable with the songs. Have you guys written more, or are you more of a "one album at a time"-kind of band?

A. We did a tour of the states in October or September. Then we did Europe in November. Yeah, we've been playing these songs for awhile. We've got a bunch of new songs, some weird covers. We play some oldies, too.

Q. What covers?

A. Let's see... Last tour, we played "Love Is Like Oxygen" by Sweet, "Brandy" by the Looking Glass, a song by a band called Stack.

Then the last show of the U.S. tour in San Diego, we played a whole encore of hardcore songs: Black Flag and Circle Jerks and Fear. That was fun. They were pretty excited. There's still a very serious hardcore contingent.

Sometimes we hear songs on the radio and Stephen says, "Yeah, let's play that tonight."

Q. Does he just write all the time?

A. Yeah. He's got a short attention span. Once the record's done, he's sort of like, "OK, whatever. Here's some more songs." He just keeps writing all the time. For as many songs as he writes, maybe half of them end up on a record. Half of them get shelved. Or they'll be turned into new things.

Q. Is that a good thing? Does it keep things fresh?

A. Yeah, kinda. It's great. That's the way I like things to work. I think everyone's sort of happy to have new stuff to work on.

Q. What do you, personally, have coming up?

A. Probably the next thing that I'll be doing when the Jicks have done this tour and are taking a break before summer is touring with my friend Rebecca Gates and the Consortium. You might know here from The Spinanes. I think we're gonna do a little touring in May.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: Karmin on Saturday Night Live

If people thought Lana Del Rey shouldn't have been on Saturday Night Live, I wonder what they think of Karmin.

If you don't know the duo, Karmin's famous for doing covers of pop songs on YouTube. But Saturday night, they played two original songs on SNL.

Also of note: Karmin lead singer Amy Heidemann graduated from Seward High School in Seward, Neb. She met Nick Noonan and Berklee College of Music where they formed Karmin.

The first of the band's two songs on SNL, "Brokenhearted," was really poppy and will appeal to fans of Katy Perry or Pink. It's mostly innocuous and the band did sound pretty good with a full band behind them.

What wasn't so great was the rapping verses. Heidemann kind of went into this Nicki Minaj-style tone and it came off totally goofy. She sounded OK, but when she bent at the knees and started dishing rhymes, she looked very out of place.



Heidemann kept her goofy poof hairdo during the second song, "I Told You So," where she did even more rapping. The song was much more of a rap jam, and I think they'd do better to stick with the pop hooks.



Honestly, the whole thing feels a little forced from the rapping to the overall look. It's like they're trying to take everything that's popular right now (Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, etc.) and jam them all together. Both Noonan and Heidemann are really talented (and their covers are clever), but their originals end up coming off as imitations of other artists that are neither as as interesting nor as well-made as those they're imitating.

The Grammys: The best show I've seen in years

Last night's Grammy Awards telecast was the best I've seen in years. Most of the performances were fruitful, they actually gave out awards every once in awhile and some of the performances were incredible.

Let's start with the awards. No surprise, Adele and Foo Fighters took home almost everything, but deservedly so. I predicted 20 of the main categories and I ended up getting 14 out of 20 correct. The song that screwed me up the most was "All of the Lights," which isn't all that good but one a bunch of hip-hop awards anyway.

I was happy to see Foo Fighters win so many awards. They definitely had one of the best rock albums of 2011. Bon Iver also took home two trophies and I liked hearing Justin Vernon both be grateful and make a comment on how many worthy artists would never even be nominated.

Unfortunately, Omaha recording legend Tom Ware didn't win. He was nominated for his work on Lady Gaga's album, "Born This Way." Adele couldn't be stopped last night and she took the trophy for album of the year ahead of Gaga (and Ware, who was among 17 people included in the nomination for "Born This Way").

As for the performances, let's break down the best and worst.

THE BEST

Paul McCartney's performance of his song "My Valentine" was a total yawn-fest, but his telecast-ending performance of the medley from "Abbey Road" was incredible. Best of the night, in my opinion, although if you were watching in Omaha, you saw KMTV unceremoniously interrupt it with the evening news. I haven't gotten comment from the station as to what happened, but I'll post as soon as I do.


I was most skeptical of pairing the reunited Beach Boys with Foster The People and Maroon 5 because I thought they'd do a weird mashup of "Pumped Up Kicks," "Moves Like Jagger" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice," which would have been a total travesty. But it was actually a medley of all Beach Boys songs performed by each group. It ended up being a great tribute and the Beach Boys looked pretty good even though Brian Wilson looked a little overwhelmed.


I was also really skeptical of the "dance music" segment that was going to include David Guetta, deadmau5, Foo Fighters, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. It ended up being like a live version of an electro mashup and it was pretty cool if not awkward at moments. I think most viewers probably wouldn't get it, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.


Jennifer Hudson's tribute to Whitney Houston was appropriate and moving.


I also liked that Foo Fighters got a big slot to play "Walk," but why were they stuck in the outside tent? It appeared that the edgy stuff wasn't allowed inside the actual ceremony, so they had to stick it outside. Weird. (Also, did anyone else think that it was weird to hear a guy who's voiced two animated panda films, Jack Black, talk about having indie cred?)


THE WORST
Nicki Minaj, what were you thinking? Ugh. Whomever told her this performance would be a good idea should be fired. Instead of doing something people knew, she went with newer track "Roman Holiday" and a Lady Gaga-imitating performance that will/did offend just about any Christian watching it.


Chris Brown needs to learn how to sing and dance at the same time or how to lip sync better. Either way, it was completely obvious that he was lip syncing the entire performances, which looked like a life-size version of the video game Q-Bert.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Grammy Awards live chat!


Hey! Yeah, you. The Grammy Awards telecast starts in a little while and we're going to talk about it.

Tune into CBS and join us starting around 6:30 p.m. to talk about the performers (Beach Boys, Foo Fighters), the host (LL Cool J... really?) and wonder what in the hell it is that Lady Gaga is wearing.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekend Candy: OEA Awards, Grammys, Ranch Bowl Orphans and a ton more

I'm not going to do OEA Award predictions because I already know who's won. No, I can't tell you. It's a secret. Go to the awards and find out yourself. They're Sunday night at the Hilton Omaha. You can get tickets here.

Speaking of the Grammy Awards, I have written a whole column of predictions, which you can check out in the paper and on Omaha.com on Sunday. I also talked to Omahan Tom Ware, who's nominated to win a best album Grammy for his work on Lady Gaga's "You and I." Others nominated with Nebraska ties are jazz singer Karrin Allyson and the Chiara String Quartet. It would be great for Ware to win, but I'm guessing Adele will take home just about every trophy she's nominated for.

On Sunday night just before the Grammy telecast (it starts at 7 p.m.), I'll be doing a live chat right here on the blog and on Omaha.com/music. Tune in with me and we can talk the awards and performances. We can also mock people. It's fun.

Now, on with the shows coming this weekend:

• Tonight at the Waiting Room is a hard rock show headlined by The Wreckage. Show's at 9. $7 at the door.

• Slowdown is closed tonight, but reopens tomorrow with Pert Near Sandstone and The Big Deep. Expect a lot of banjo and toe-tapping. 9 p.m. show. $8 tickets.

• I like the lineup at O'Leaver's on Saturday night. It's Dirty Fluorescents' one-year anniversary show with Techlepathy, Comme Reel and Melissa Dundis. As usual, show starts at 9:30 p.m. with a $5 cover.

• If I were to pick a show for the weekend, I'd go to the MS Society benefit Saturday at the Waiting Room. Not only will Rock N Roll Suicide play David Bowie's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" in its entirety, but a band called the Ranch Bowl Orphans will play a bunch of songs by bands that played the old bowling alley's stage a bunch of times. Bands such as Grasshopper Takeover, Clever, 5 Story Fall, The Fonzarellis and Blue Moon Ghetto are groups I saw there a lot.

• Singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs plays the Waiting Room on Sunday. 9 p.m. show. $10 tickets.

• On Sunday after the OEA Awards, Slowdown also hosts an after-party. Snake Island! and BASSthoven play starting at 9:30 p.m. It's free with an OEAA ticket or $5 at the door.