Nathan Sheppard

Band of the Day! Man, I haven’t done one of these in ages. Today the lucky winner is Nathan Sheppard. He has a page with songs available at Garageband.com. Most are Real Audio (ugh) but you can get the MP3 of “Travelling on”. I played his song “Travelling On” in the last EGC audio post, and I’ve been listening to it over and over. I find it is one of the few things cheering me up in this ugly time. As of this point, I’ve never bought anything from the iTunes Music Store. I’m considering buying a few of his tracks. If I had found out about him a few yars earlier, I’m sure I could have easily seen him in Atlanta when I lived there. Better Nate than lever, I guess.

Old Crow Medicine Show

Band of the Day! They’ve been playing the hell out of this band on World Cafe, a five piece from Nashville TN called Old Crow Medicine Show. The song they’ve been playing is their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel” – a song I had never heard before but love their version of. They have a few MP3s available on their download page and all of these tunes rock out. They are to bluegrass what the “cow punk” bands are to traditional country. What would you call that? “Fiddle punk?” Whatever it is, they put out high energy ass kicking bluegrass music that rocks. Check it out.

The Siderunners

I mentioned them in the previous post and I realized that I never made The Siderunners a band of the day, even though I’ve been listening the hell out of their CD. They have a page for their album at CD Baby that you can listen to the songs and even buy it straight from there. It reminds me a lot of Jason and the Scorchers, the first “alt country ” band I ever really got into. I recommend everyone give this a listen.

Grace Braun and DQE

This band would have been a BOTD years ago except for the lack of a website and downloadable audio. Well, all that is fixed now. There is now a website and it even includes downloadable MP3s. I’m not going to say that much more, because I’ve raved about both Grace and DQE multiple times in the history of this blog. Check out the site, listen to the MP3s and feel the honkytonking rockabilly soul love.

Thanks to John Armstrong, bassist of DQE for telling me about the site. You rock, in every possible way.

The Secret Machines

Last night watching Sound Opinions, they talked about a band called The Secret Machines. Their description was of psychedelic Pink Floyd or early Flaming Lips. Well, I checked out their website and that is what they sound like. They have a cool deal where you can buy the album as a download for $8.91 and they will send you a CD-R with the album label on it to burn yourself a copy, plus a CD sampler with an unreleased track from them plus 5 other bands. It’s not quite what I usually point to in these bands of the day because they don’t have any freely downloadable songs. You can, however, listen to the whole album via the Flash player at the website so what the hell. I really do like how they sound. I only wish they weren’t on an RIAA label.

Otis Fodder

Band of the Day! Today it is Otis Fodder. I first heard him on the awesome Two Zombies Later compilation album from Comfort Stand. Now he has a whole album of his material, also on Comfort Stand, called Music to Drive Cross-Country By which is available for download at Comfort Stand or the Internet Archive. You can also choose to stream it rather than download it.

It’s good trippy stuff, with some Negativeland style cutups, but also some good solid swinging space age, cocktail nation musicianship. I really dig this album and will be downloading all the stuff to print up covers and make it a “real album”. I recommend it, and will be checking out more from Otis. He’s from Seattle and has played in Portland while I was there, but I never knew about him. That’s my loss.

All One Surface

Band of the Day! Today the band is All One Surface, which MP3s helpfully available in a side rail right from the front page. I read about these guys first on Die Puny Humans and downloaded their MP3s and liked them. Today I got email from Andy Malt at their record company (also producer of their album) telling me the album was available. Apparently, I have enough Google juice on this weblog that just from the Now Playing list on the side, I was one of the top ten hits for “all one surface”. That’s an interesting experience having the producer of an album write you about it because you talked about in your weblog or in my case just played the MP3s. I like them, good solid power pop. The album is 11 pounds, postpaid. How many dollars is that? I just might buy it.

Joe Firstman

Band of the day! In one of my saved World Cafe episodes, the in-studio guest was this guy I had never heard of before, Joe Firstman. He’s got streamable (not downloadable) versions of his songs on his music page. I can’t buy his album, even though I’d like to, because it is on an RIAA label, but I can listen to these. His voice has that plaintive quality that reminds me a little of Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, but what really knocked me out was his lyrics. They cut deep, and are simultaneously funny and poignant. I really was impressed, and frankly expected someone older. From his picture on the webage he looks about 22, but he seemed like a craggy older guy on the radio. His songs reflect a more road-worn persona than his youth would lead you to believe.

Another good thing about him was the expressiveness of his delivery. One of the offshoots of the “diva-ization” of modern radio hits is that they are very unemotional. When the singer is doing that Whitney Houston/Beyonce/American Idol up-and-down-the-scale crap, that subtracts all emotion and indivduality from the song. I like singers like Greg Brown or Greg Trooper or Lyle Lovett or Susan Fitzpatrick of Gentle Readers, people who can fill the songs with emotions to either support or subvert the lyrics, who make every song a unique creation rather than yet one more framework for vocal pyrotechnics. I’d lump Firstman in with this group, I could feel every ache and smile as I listened to him. That’s what I want out of my music.

Hamburglers

Without a doubt, this is the weirdest Band of the Day yet. I stumbled across this by accident on Feedster, it is the Hamburglers. There is an album’s worth of material up there of a hypothetical disk called “Happy Meal”. The description is:

The Hamburglers are an anonymous collective who assembed tracks out of samples from a well known fast food restaurant chain’s motivational campaign from the 70s. The result: a full LP release of banging, outrageous plunderphonica.

Some of this sounds like your typical found sample electronica, and some of it sounds highly experimental like things you hear overnight on WREK. The only thing I didn’t like about it is that there was too little variety in the samples. By track 11, I was getting a little tired of the “You deserve a break today” jingle. Overall though, it is quite good. I suggest downloading it from Archive.org ASAP, before some large corporation known for clowns and mediocre food gets its collective legal panties in a wad.

Kevin Johansen

Band of the Day! I heard this guy earlier today on The World Cafe, with a tune that was striking enough that I backed up iTunes to catch the name of both the song and musician. It was “Down with my Baby” by Kevin Johansen and the Nada. It has these nearly spoken, monotone vocals kind of in the Leonard Cohen mode, and for most of the song this spare distorted guitar. I really dig this song, and once I got the name of the guy I googled to find out more.

Apparently, this guy and his band are really hot stuff in Argentina. His webpage is pretty good, and includes six, count them six, full songs available for download as MP3. They are 96K sample rate, but the full non-excerpted songs. Also, the ID tags are fully filled out! I like this tactic – give away the songs in mid-res – listenable but noticeably lower quality than the CD. That’s a much better tactic than these 30 second clips that give you no feel for the song. On the download page, they have little descriptions of each of the songs, and the one for “Down with My Baby” calls it “Barry White meets Nirvana.” Funny thing, that is really what it sounds like! I say give these guys a listen.

Alto 45

Via Warren Ellis I found out about Alto 45. I know nothing more about this band than their bio on the website and some downloadable MP3. I’ve listened to a number of them, and liked them all. I like them, I will download them all and keep an eye out for them.

Yet another band not filling out the ID3 tags! Guys, come on!

Continental Drifters

Band of the Day! This time it is a band we used to see frequently in Louisiana, the Continental Drifters. They don’t have any songs easily downloadable, but they do have every track off every album available to stream in reasonable sounding RealAudio so I’ll give them a pass on that. I’ve been listening to their album Vermilion which I bought on Saturday and absolutely love. The whole album is great, but the two standout songs on it for me are “I Want to Learn to Waltz With You”, an oddly touching song of just wanting to be close and and “Drifters”, another oddly touching song of being connected. The chorus really grabs me

We are all drifters
Singers and sisters
Brothers and lovers and mothers and confidantes
We were born alone
We’re alone when we’re gone
So while we’re here, we might as well just sing along

I’m not sure why but that really moves me. Vicki Peterson (of the now newly reunited Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (of the, um, Cowsills) sing most of the songs, with Peter Holsapple (dBs, REM). It’s all good stuff. I miss the days of being able to see them at the Grant Street Dance Hall in Lafayette every month or two.

Daily life

I didn’t get to see Game 4. For some reason I was sure it was later, and we were experiencing the joy of furniture shopping in Schaumburg while it was happening. I found out it was on by walking by TVs in Ikea. There’s something odd about standing in a knot of people in a crowded story watching a TV, knowing that you are rooting for the opposite of every one of them. We furniture shopped till we couldn’t take it any more, then went off to dinner at Red Robin. We loved Red Robin in Portland and ate there frequently. It’s nice to have them available to us, but neither one is what you’d call convenient. We thought hauling up to Deerfield was a drag until we drove from Evanston to Schaumburg. I can say that’s a trip we won’t be making every day. However, next door to Red Robin is a Todai sushi buffet! That’s another place I loved in Portland.

It might be possible that one day I go nuts, decide to take a stack of work with me and drive to Schaumburg and sit and work in the sushi buffet restaurant for a few hours. When I was in grad school, much of my studying happened in buffet style restaurants. I’d sit there with my books, doing my homework, chugging on the endless drink refills and eating whenever I got a little more peckish. I find that a good way to live life. Depending on whether or not I haul the laptop, I might have to wait for a day when I have mostly offline work to do, like reading and reviewing documents. Neither restuarant is something I can go to at the drop of a hat, but knowing that I have Red Robin and Todai available in the metro area makes me happy.

Subversion

No, not the kind you are thinking of. It’s an upstart source control management system that is intended to address some of the shortcomings of the stolid, ubiquitous but aging CVS. These guys look like they have really thought it through from the ground up, deciding what are the important things for a SCM to do. One of the beautiful things about Subversion is that it versions directories. Moving or deleting files is no longer a big deal. If you check out a version where the file exists in that directory, you get it. If you check out a version after it has been deleted or moved, you don’t. In CVS, since the file history is attached to the file, you can’t do this. It is a huge hassle to move things around, which leads to people learning to live with bad directory organization since changing it is so much work.

I’ve been following this project from a distance for over a year. I tried a while back to install it on my Red Hat box from an RPM but it had library conflicts and wouldn’t go. Following this tip from my programming partner Darin I gave it another shot. It has matured a lot. I built it from the tarball source, and everything seems to be working fine. I have a test repository and did a few minor things to it and it all seemed to work right. I believe I’m going to start using it in earnest for my projects around the house. We’ll see how this goes, but I expect good things from it. I’d love if in a few years this becomes the defacto standard. They did a good job of keeping the interface as much like CVS as they could, so the learning curve of migrating to it is very shallow.

CJUG again

The CJUG meeting was pretty good. I was fretting some about getting there, but as it turned out taking the Metra was pretty plush, fairly fast, and took me across the street from where I wanted to be. Hard to beat that with a stick. The meeting itself was informative. The JUnit portion wasn’t of use to me, since I already know more than the introduction gave. The demo of the Spark Browser was more interesting and infromative to me, a SDK that allows for the conversion of web pages as HTML into arbitrary data that can be accessed via a Java API. I went ahead and paid my $40 to join for the year, figuring that I’ll be attending most or all of the events. What I didn’t realize is that they bring pizza, or I wouldn’t have had a big polish dog right before the meeting. Because my train got in about 45 minutes before the meeting, I wandered for a few blocks in every direction, scouting out what was around there. All in all, it was fun. I noticed on the ride home that the president of CJUG was on the same train as me, but he was heading even farther north than I. If you wanted to, you could stay on that train all the way to Wisconsin!

For My Next Trick, I’ll Need a Volunteer

Warren Zevon lyric of the day, from “For My Next Trick I’ll Need a Volunteer”:

I can saw a woman in two
But you won’t want to look in the box when I do
I can make love disappear
For my next trick I’ll need a volunteer

How to Give Away MP3s

Since my band of the day thing is all about bands from whom you can download officially sanctioned songs, I thought I’d give a suggestion to every musician/band/record label that is freely offering up MP3s. Fill out the freaking ID3 tags!!! Seriously, this is wildly important. Consider the use case. Someone like me has a folder full of MP3s they consider interesting enough to download. Some of them stick around forever, some get deleted. Over time, all of them get separated from their original context and become like the box I have of unlabeled cassettes. If the file has no info in the ID3 tags and is named “Song7526.mp3”, it is impossible to pursue it further. If I run back across this and decide “Damn, I love this. I want to buy this CD”, you the label and the musician are screwed. I have no way to do that. If I’ve forgotten where it came from and who it is then the game is over. It remains an unidentified mystery clip for the rest of eternity and you’ve lost business.

If you are using tools that don’t make it easy to edit or create ID3 tags, take the extra step and find some tools. There are little freeware programs that do nothing but edit the tags. WinAmp does this for free, so do others. Take the extra step. Fill out everything! Put in the band name, the album name, the year, the copyright information. Don’t abbreviate crazily, fill out the V1 and V2 tags. There is more stuff in the V2, and fill out every bit that you can. Put in the URL (pay the $8 to godaddy.com or some other registrar and get a permanent domain that you control too, don’t put in some “www.comcast.net/~jimbob/” URL that will change the next time you move.) There is one driving force behind all these suggestions, something that sadly many artistic minded folks forget: Make it easy for folks who like your stuff to give you money. I couldn’t count the number of musicians I know who bust their asses to write songs, get them recorded and then completely fall apart on the details of getting them into fan hands and taking their money. People like you, people want to support you, give them the information they need to do that.

Also, assume that at some point these files will be travelling down paths you didn’t intend. Someone is borrowing a friends computer, or they saved your files to their Kazaa shared directory or whatever. Someone is going to get your song on their computer entirely separate from you and any context. If this person likes you, you want them to find out more about you. For gods sake, make it easy to get new fans. Seriously. This shit is important. Fill out the tags, friends.

East River Pipe

Band of the day! I saw this one on Die Puny Humans, a one man electronica outfilt called East River Pipe. I’m not such a huge fan of electronica, but I liked all the MP3s I downloaded from the ERP link above.

They (he) is on Merge Records, who I have dealt with a little in matters about WREK. They’re the label of Superchunk! Right on. I predict a lot of future bands of the day will be coming from Merge, because it looks like they have some downloadable MP3s for every band in their roster. That’s the way to do it. I’ve been too busy/lazy to do much digging for my bands of the day lately, so it’s nice to have a good go-to source for 20 or so.