Ben Harper & Relentless 7 – White Lies for Dark Times.

•August 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Let me start by telling you what I like about Ben Harper & Relentless 7’s White Lies for Dark Times; the whole album

Ben Harper & Relentless 7

 rocks! Seems the new backing band brings out the rock that’s been buried behind some of Ben’s more jammey tendencies. On some previous releases I found my self wishing that his exceptional guitar playing was front and center on more songs. This album is certainly Ben’s rock album.

 Though I truly love this album, what worries me most about it is that it rocks so much. That may seem a contradiction of my earlier statement but let me break it down. I discovered Ben Harper soon after the release of Live from Mars. I was on a day trip to UMass and stopped at the local record store in the center of town. I don’t know what prompted me to buy it. I was only vaguely aware of him by name and don’t remember ever having heard him before. The rock gods were smiling on me that day and I fell immediately in love, quickly buying the entire back catalog to catch up.

 What made me fall in love with those early records was the diverseness of the music they contained. Ben had this unbelievable ability to move effortlessly through reggae, hip-hop, ballads and full-on rock. There was a variety to the disparate musical styles that flowed together so naturally. The style was uniquely Ben Harper.

 Now when Ben Harper rocks out full-on for an entire album I find myself feeling a little empty. When Ben strips out everything else and leaves just the rock he runs the risk of becoming Lenny Kravitz. And becoming Lenny Kravitz would be a terrible thing. Ben deserves better than to become relegated to one-great-song-per-album status. His talents have so much more to offer.

 Now that you’ve heard my disappointments about this record let me tell you all the things I really enjoy about it, and there are many. I am a sucker for Ben’s style of guitar playing. He brings such a contemporary take to what would otherwise sound like an old lap steel or slide guitar. And Ben’s guitar is all over this album. The couple of ballads on this record are likewise great. I’ve found myself skipping over them on recent records, but here on White Lies for Dark Times he seems to have returned to his early ballad style. That tender falsetto is front and center and brings a sentimentality back to the songs that has been missing for a long time. For me the standout track is what amounts to the title track, Shimmer and Shine. Here’s where that ability to bounce around the spectrum peeks through. This is a guitar rocker all the way with fuzzed out guitars and plenty of solos, but the vocals move effortlessly from aggressive to tender and back again. The lyrics themselves make the same journey; smashing peace and violence together against the rocks. An utterly beautiful song from an album that is a respectable addition to the Ben Harper catalog.

the Mighty Mighty Bosstones – 2009.08.15 – Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach, NH.

•August 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

Getting old sucks. All the old-person ailments, aches and pains suck. Having to get up to go to the bathroom in thethe Mighty Mighty Bosstones middle of the night sucks. The only redeeming thing I’ve been able to put my finger on is that I’ve now been around long enough that lots of my favorite bands from my youth have run out of money and decided to reunite. I now get the opportunity to see some bands that I either never had the chance to see, or haven’t seen in many many years. Cases in point; the Descendents, the Angry Samoans, the Freeze, Gang Green, the Pixies, Mission of Burma, the Police, Black Sabbath (with Ozzy), and Kiss (in make-up). Some with better results than others. I make it a point to get out to these types of shows whenever possible using the “this may be my only chance to see these guys ever” excuse.

I used this same theory when I read that the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were playing at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom this August. Couple the fact that the Casino Ballroom is one of my favorite places to see a show, and I jumped on 4 tickets. Now I’m quickly learning that I may be the only one in my circle of friends that has this strange fascination with seeing grown men and women play the music of my youth. I sent my standard notice out to all the people on my cool-show-alert mailing list (it’s not been so formally named, but yes, I do send cool-show-alerts). Guess how many responded? None. Not one. 

When I was in college, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were Boston’s hometown band. The J. Geils Band was gone, Aerosmith was off making bloated arena rock, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones filled this city’s need for a mascot. That torch was later passed to the Dropkick Murphy’s who have been keeping the hometown fire burning for years. I never had the opportunity to see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones way back when. To my recollection, they didn’t play a lot of hometown shows during their later career. Instead, spending most of the year on the road and returning to Boston for their annual Hometown Throwdown during the week following Christmas. December has never been a good time for me to get to a show. I usually can’t make time to brush my teeth every morning, let alone stay out all night at a show. Therefore, I never got the chance. 

I was a little skeptical of this show. I was a huge fan of the first album, Devil’s Night Out. It was a perfect dichotomy of punk and ska. It was sections of punk running headlong into ska, then back to punk. I loved the no-holds-barred way the 2 smashed together. Each successive album melded to 2 sides together more and more until their music became radio-friendly, college-jock, mush. So I head to this show on the shoulders of one short album, released in 1989 (Holy crap! I can’t believe it was really 20 years ago). 

I’ve got another worry as I get ready to head off to the show, my wife and I are going with another couple; our “grown-up” friends. Now I use the term “grown-up” friends simply to differentiate them from those friends that we’ve known all our lives. These friends have known us only as adults. They have no frame of reference for my early days of mosh pits and stage dives. How exactly to you go to a punk-rock show with grown-up friends? I’m young enough to still think I can mix it up with the best of them in a pit, but old enough to know most 40-ish adults see a mosh pit and run for safety. Shannon’s known me for the better part of my live and has managed to want to stay married to me for the better part of 15 years, right? No worries there. But these friends have no obligation whatsoever. Shannon would be pissed if we took them to a show and scared them off forever. I decided to play the whole thing be ear, relax and enjoy the night. 

The Bosstones hit the stage, opening with Devil’s Night Out. I was shocked! 3 hours earlier I had been carefully explaining to Shannon (and I suppose preparing myself for letdown) that they probably wouldn’t play anything from their first album; all their “hits” came from their later records. And here they go, opening the show with my favorite track. All internal debates about mosh pits and grown-up friends are out the window. I disappear into the thrall for 4 songs. They plow through the first part of the set and I exit after they finish a cover of Simmer Down, heading back towards my wife and friends; brand-new sandals crushed, sweating like a WWE wrestler. 

The rest of the show was great. They played all the hits, some surprising gems, and they peppered the set with some great covers; the Clash’s, Rudie Can’t Fail and (!!!) the Angry Samoans, Lights Out to name a couple. What impressed me most was how tight they were. I always thought of the Bosstones as having been a little sloppy, particularly on the punk side of the music. The ska was always razor sharp but the hardcore always felt a little like a bulldozer to me. Tonight though, they were on. Perfect timing throughout. 

Unfortunately, the perfect timinng leads to my only real criticism; there wasn’t anything that felt like spontaneity about this show. Like so many of the reunion shows that I’ve seen, this was a march through greatest-hits-land. Even the covers, though brilliantly chosen, were staged for perfection. The nuggets that I expected they wouldn’t play seemed chosen specifically for that reason. I know that probably sounds unfair, as though there were nothing they could have done to satisfy this music fan, but I did leave feeling a little like I’d watched a serviceable cover-band playing the hits of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Even that criticism didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the show. All in all I had a great time and welcomed the opportunity to see a classic band from the early years of my discovery of punk. I had a great night out with my wife and friends. I will still look forward to the next (insert-your-favorite-broken-up-band’s-name-here) retirement fund building reunion show. Will I quit my job, buy a VW bus and tour the country with the Bosstones? Probably not.

Nebula, Heavy Psych.

•August 15, 2009 • 1 Comment

I have been having an enormous Jones recently for some good old fashion heavy metal music.Nebula, Heavy Psych

 The first time I went looking for a contemporary band playing ye olde fashioned metal I failed miserably. I have read and heard what must be a hundred reviews of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, each one of them gushing praise. These reviewers should have their licenses revoked. What a piece of crap this album is. I hated every moment of it from beginning to end. It sounded like a pretentious rip-off of every pretentious Yngwie Malmsteen album that I hated when I was 15. And at $16.99 I felt the pain of being screwed for weeks. You’ll understand why I was skeptical when I relied on a 30 second podcast review of Nebula’s Heavy Psych as my recommendation.

 As an aside, I have to mention that the Sound Opinions podcast from Chicago Public Radio is an amazing resource.  I’ve been turned on to a ton of new music and rediscovered some old chestnuts while listening over the past few months.

 So I took a chance. I bought Heavy Psych on a trip to Newbury Comics yesterday. At $13.99 I felt a slight cramp as I signed the debit card slip. It didn’t take long to realize that I’d found a pick that was worth every penny! You can practically taste the blood and sweat of Seventies metal coming from Heavy Psych starting with the vintage NASA lunar module cover photo, the faux Houses of the Holy font, and the ala-Black Sabbath Vol. 4 grainy photo on the back. Almost before the fist note chimed I was under the spell of Nebula.

 It was an ecstatic slow grind through tracks 1 and 2 which are steeped with so many Seventies references that it’s hard to sort them all out. There’s the throbbing bass & guitar riffage of Black Sabbath, the straight ahead, full-on drive of Deep Purple, the trippy wandering metal of early Rush, Scorpions and Judas Priest. Wah-Wah’s and phaser effects abound.

 It was track number 3, Aphrodite that sealed the deal for me though. The opening riff simply tore me to shreds. It’s a cheap trick I know, but a great riff is a great riff and I never ever get tired the best ones. As with the rest of Heavy Psych, Aphrodite simply drips with guitar solos. Not the pretentious ones that drove me to hate Mastodon, but the dirty, bluesy solos of Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore. To me these are the sound of someone that’s become one with the music. I can see them playing, eyes closed and improvising every note.

 After listening through 2 or 3 more times I started to pick out the things that save Nebula from being strictly a Seventies throwback. In subsequent listens I heard lots of more contemporary indie and punk references as well. In Aphrodite I heard Superfuzz-Bigmuff-era Mudhoney. In The Other Side I heard D.C. underground hardcore faves Ignition. Heavy Psych closes with an untitled quasi-instrumental track that reminds me of those old Greg Ginn/Black Flag instrumentals. Maybe it’s just me but the background screaming on the track even reminds me Henry Rollins.

 Everything about this album is great fun. I’ve been listening for nearly 24 hours straight and I see no end in site.

 Oh, one last stellar recommendation. While out on a trip to Lowe’s with my wife last night I said, “Can I play you a minute of ‘the-best-new-heavy-metal-album-that-I-know-you’ll-hate’?” I dropped the needle (figuratively) on Aphrodite and I watched her cringe (literally). Under 30 seconds in and she grabs for the dial. “Why would you do that to me? That was just mean.”

Rogue Wave, Asleep at Heaven’s Gate.

•August 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

asleep at heavens gateSometimes I wonder, why the hell are you spending time writing a review of an album that came out in 2007? Anyone who’s interested has already heard it. Anyone who’s not interested isn’t interested, right? Well… No. I mean that’s how I listen to music. That’s how I share music. I could care less when it was released. I just want to hear something that makes me feel good.

Something that moves me. I still dig back into the sixties and seventies to find bands I’ve never heard for that very reason. It’s all about finding the right piece of music at the right time. With that in mind, let’s talk about Rouge Wave’s 2007 release, Asleep at Heaven’s Gate.

I’ve all but given up on commercial radio and listen only when I absolutely have to. But I couldn’t resist falling for the song Lake Michigan when it began showing up on WFNX last year spring. Then later in the year Emerson College’s WERS began playing Chicago X12 and Lullaby and I knew this was an album that I had to check out in more detail. I didn’t spend much time with the album for a couple months and had all but forgotten what had grabbed me the first times I heard these songs.

While getting ready for a road trip, I stumbled across it again and decided to drop it on my iPod. This gave me the chance to do some drive-time listening. I’ve been spending a lot of time driving back and forth to summer-league baseball games. On the occasions that I win the argument with the kids and don’t have to listen to KISS 108, I get to listen to my choice. I decided on Rogue Wave.

The album starts so strongly. Five songs in and there hasn’t been a dull moment. So often these days I hear albums pumped chock full of filler. It’s a pleasure to listen to one that is filled end to end with great songs. For me the only lull comes with track six, Christians in Black. And this is actually a great song too. My criticism is with the sequencing of the songs not with the song itself. It’s a great ballad that just comes in the wrong spot.

The uptempo songs have a retro-80s sounding angular guitar sound. The ballads have a wispy vocal style that reminds me of Death Cab for Cutie in some spots, and a less earnest sounding Snow Patrol in others. In their more down-tempo moments I hear one of my other recent faves, the Great Lake Swimmers. The acoustic numbers hint at the Shins.

One of the things I love most about these guys is their ability to layer in some really interesting additional instrumentation. Things that aren’t truly necessary to the songs, but add a little extra character to the songs. The albums starts with a great glitchy electro beat. Later there’s a little hand-clap sequence. And finally, my favorite added effect; I remember a toy that they had when I was a kid. I can’t remember what it was called but it looked like a vacuum cleaner hose. You swung the hose around your head and it made this weird whistling moaning sound. I was never really impressed with the toy because you couldn’t really do anything else with it, but the sound was always kind of neat.. Track seven, Ghost begins with what sounds like one of those vacuum hose whistles and it fades in and out throughout the song. It adds a beautiful, haunted quality to the song.

I’m unbelievably impressed with this album. I can’t wait to hear what these guys do next. I can’t wait until they go out on tour. Fortunately I they have a back catalog of a couple of albums that should keep me busy until their next release.

Booker T – Potato Hole.

•July 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

One of the first records that I ever remember is the American Graffiti Soundtrack. That album lived in my housePotato Hole growing up and I can remember it from the earliest age. I pulled it out of my collection this morning just to confirm that I still have it. I was immediately transported back to my 70’s childhood. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better collection of 50’s-era rock-n-roll. Del Shannon, The Big Bopper, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and on and on. As a kid I would open up that double gatefold album with the roller skating waitress on the cover and play those 2 records over and over and over again; sometimes listening on the record player in the living room at home, other times on the one at the camp in New Hampshire. It seems as though American Graffiti was always there as I was growing up. Now American Graffiti was released in 1973. I was 2 years old. It’s not likely that I was dropping records on the turntable at 2, but this is certainly a record that goes back to my earliest ability to consciously listen to music.

Booker T. and the M.G.’s Green Onions has always been my favorite song on the entire soundtrack. That groove is just amazing. The choogling beat just rolls perfectly. I’ve always loved the way the organ sounds on that song. As I’ve grown up, I still love that song every time I hear it. When I saw recently that Booker T released a new album I was intrigued. Then I heard a review of Potato Hole and learned that the Drive-by Truckers were Booker T’s backing band and I had to hear it. When I started listening something occurred to me. I’ve been hearing Green Onions for basically my entire life. It’s one of the first songs I ever loved. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard another Booker T song. Weird, huh? How could that be? I pride myself on having every album known to man and I’ve only ever heard one song by Booker T. and the M.G.’s.

Therefore I really had no idea what to expect on first listen. I mean, I love the Drive-by Truckers but when I think of them it’s not so much as musicians but as storytellers. That’s their place in my consciousness; a bunch of guys that can tell an amazing story in a song. So what are they doing backing Booker T on an album of instrumentals? Well, however these guys came up with this combination, I’m glad they did. That organ is still font and center of every song but the Truckers weave their signature guitar sound throughout. As much as this is a Booker T album, it’s also a Drive-by Truckers album, but with the lyrics torn out. What I enjoy most is that neither Booker T nor the Truckers dominate. It’s a perfect interplay between the two. For me, with any instrumental album, it’s hard to pick out a favorite song; they all kind of wind together as one long piece of work. I will say that I lost my groove during a couple of the slower songs, but on the whole I’m pretty excited by this album. I think with the Truckers as the backing band Booker T manages a really contemporary sound. This doesn’t sound like a 50’s throwback at all. It sounds very much like a group of guys with huge respect for each other’s work doing their best to stay true to the other’s sound.

It was a pleasure to be able to relive those childhood memories of Booker T and American Graffiti. After being terribly disappointed in the last Drive-by Truckers album, it was a pleasure to hear some great new music from them. Check out Potato Hole yourself. You’re going to like it too.

The Joy of the Single: Lessons From My 9 Year-old.

•June 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’m an album guy. Always have been. Always will be. When I say album, I don’t mean vinyl. Though I’m a vinyl guy too. Since I got my first Kiss album at the age of 5 this is how I’ve listened to music. Just like a book. Cover-to-cover. Mix tapes never held much attraction for me. I need to understand the record as a whole. The rule has held fast as the media changed over the years. From album, to cassette, to CD, to mp3. I want to hear the whole thing. In fact, I typically want to hear the whole catalog, 10 albums if necessary. Even if that means sifting through hours of mediocre music to enjoy the nuggets buried within.

 Well, my 9 year-old son has introduced me to the joy of the single. Something that I’ve until now never understood. Though Colin still has flashes of his father’s brilliant musical tastes, the inevitable influence of his less refined third grade pals have started to take their toll. Suddenly Lady GaGa, the Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Pink and Rihanna have all made their way into my family’s collective consciousness. Oh God, to what depths will we fall? But let me put my rock snobbery aside for a minute to talk about what I see happening before my eyes.

 When Colin asked me to put Pink’s So What and Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girlon his iPod, I downloaded the albums for him. Instinctively getting the whole album, complete with bonus tracks and remixes. When I proudly handed his iPod back to him (he thinks I possess some magic that enables me to supply him with any music he asks for), he came back 10 minutes later with a frustrated look on his face. “Dad, I asked for So What and I Kissed a Girl. What’s all this other crap (my word, not his)?” I looked at him, perplexed. “What you mean, son?” I answered in my best Dad voice. “You asked for the new Katy Perry and Pink albums. There they are?” What I didn’t understand is that he didn’t care a bit about either artist. He wanted to hear the songs that he knew and that he was listening to with his buddies. All the pleading and badgering in the world would not convince him to listen to those albums all the way through.

 He recently asked for a couple of Kanye West songs; Stronger from Graduation, and Heartless from 808’s and Heartbreak. I pulled my usual routine. I downloaded the whole Kanye collection; The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation,  and 808s & Heartbreak. Knowing Colin a little better this time around, I put his 2 songs onto his iPod. I, on the other hand, loaded all 4 albums onto my iPhone, right next to the Pink album and Katy Perry albums.

 On a recent cross-country flight to Las Vegas I settled in for a marathon with Kanye to learn what all the fuss is about. I’ve heard Colin’s two Kayne picks and found myself enjoying them quite a lot. I was looking forward to digging in a little deeper. 2 hours in and I’m pulling my hair out (of which I already have none). This stuff is terrible. Total crap as far as I’m concerned. I suffer all the way through and learn that in 4 albums time this guy has managed a sum total of 2 good songs. I don’t get it; 2 flashes of brilliance in 4 albums? What’s with that? Who keeps letting this guy make albums?

 This got me thinking about Pink and Katy Perry. I made my way through them as I moved through hours 4 and 5 of the flight. As far as I’m concerned, So Whatwas the best punk rock song of 2008. An unadulterated pissed-off tirade against an ex-boyfriend. “I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight!” From the moment I heard it the first time, Pink gained an unlikely fan. I Kissed a Girlwas a quirky hit that caught my fancy as well. I know it’s cheap and panders to the lowest common denominator but I can’t help myself. I do get a little uncomfortable when my 5 year-old daughter starts singing along, but it’s a catchy tune nonetheless.

 What had me climbing the walls of the cabin is that these are the only songs on both albums that are remotely worth listening to. Everything else was a complete waste of an hour of my life. I feel a cheated. How can one great song be followed by 9 complete pieces of trash? Seems to me that out of 10 or so songs you’d have to get lucky and have at least one more that’s worth listening to. No such luck. I’ve now spent the better part of 6 hours listening to 6 full albums, of which I’ve enjoyed a total of 4 songs. What the hell? It seems unfair. I want my money back! I want my 6 hours back!

 This is when I come to the realization that Colin is smarter than me. It’s an age-old coming-of-age situation. At a certain point in his life the son becomes wiser than his father. Colin’s only 9 though. This isn’t supposed to happen until he’s at least 13. But Colin gets it. He’s a member of the iPod shuffle generation. A never-ending mix of singles. “I want to hear what I want to hear,” is the mantra. Why waste my time listening to something I don’t know, when it may mean I’m listening to something I don’t like? For the first time in my life, I think I agree. Bring on the singles!

Finding New Music.

•June 11, 2009 • 1 Comment

I bought a new car a couple of months ago and haven’t had time to replace the stereo. I’ve suddenly been zapped back to the nineties. I’m at the mercy of the radio and the single disc slot in my dash. It’s nearly unbearable; an untenable situation that I’ll need to resolve quickly. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains are still a staple of commercial radio? Driving home on Friday night I counted 4 stations at one time playing one of these 2 bands. I freaking hated them in the early nineties and those crappy songs don’t sound any better today. Who’s listening to these guys? At first I thought I must be picking up one of the New Hampshire rock stations. It’s not uncommon for them to be stuck on the worst 20 year-old music, but after a closer look I’ve found the same phenomenon applies in Boston as well. No wonder I’m nearing a nervous breakdown listening to the radio.

With the absence of the never-ending mix from my Archos MP3 player, I’ve resorted to finding new music in some interesting places. I thought I’d share a few. You’re going to notice a common theme below that I feel I have to talk about; that theme is NPR. 10 years ago, if you told me simply that I’d be getting music tips from NPR I would have laughed at you. If you’d told me that I’d be getting music tips from NPR stations in whacky places like Minnesota I’d have probably punched you square in the nose. I may be getting older, but I still have my dignity, right? I’m not willing to admit that I’m getting less hip, so I’m going to have to advance the theory that NPR is evolving and getting hipper.

Musicheads Podcast: This podcast is produced by one of Minnesota’s NPR music stations, 88.9 the Current. I particularly like the format; a roundtable discussion. I plan a lot of meetings and roundtables are always my favorites. I love to hear people share ideas and debate a given topic. When I’m kicking around with friends on a Saturday night what do we do? Talk about what we’ve been listening to lately and argue about what’s good and what’s not. So this show is perfect for me. In twenty minutes or so 3 or 4 DJs debate 4 new releases and whether the music is “working for them” (an annoying catch-phrase that gets repeated every 2 or 3 seconds of the show). What I particularly like about this show is that in and amongst the banter they leave time for extended samples of at least a couple of songs from each release. So you’re hearing more than just the latest single, but getting a glimpse deeper into the album. Beware that you will have to suffer through occasionally pretentious commentary, but by-and-large this has been a decent place to discover some great new music.

Slacker Radio – Street Punk: I’ve never been much for the gimicky iPhone Apps and streaming music services that purport to play your favorite genres and “recommend” bands that you might also like. In my experience they’ve mostly spewed a bunch of generic crap that I already knew and couldn’t care less about. Slacker Radio’s Street Punk station has been something else altogether. Mind you, it hasn’t introduced much by way of new music. It has been an amazing opportunity to walk randomly through my punk rock collection; Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Descendents, Adolescents, Dead Kennedys, interspersed with more modern punk-rock gems by the likes of; Bad Religion, Rise Against, and Refused. This has been the perfect Friday afternoon mix. Many an afternoon random colleagues will stop at my door and enjoy a tune or 3.

NPR’s Live Music Podcast: I forewarn that you’ll have to suffer through a bunch of generic and crappy live music from this podcast series, but in and amongst you’ll find some amazing nuggets. The Decemberists performing their entire new album was amazing. Liz Phair doing Exile in Guysville was a lot of fun. The annual SXSW coverage is second-to-none. It usually consists of a dozen or more podcasts of live music along with show reviews and DJ picks. Let me mention that host, Bob Boilen has the coolest job on the planet. He opens the podcast with a few words about the band and turns it over to the live performance. He then sits back and enjoys the (typically) hour-long show. Unbelievable! How come no one ever asked me if I wanted that job?

Wolfgang’s Vault: An amazing repository of classic and psychedelic concerts. I recently found their iPhone App through which I can stream all kinds of classic concerts. I can’t describe how cool it is to be able to a live Jefferson Airplane show from 1968, or the J. Geils Band from 1975. How about Santana from ’73 or the Clash from the early ‘80s? I can listen for hours, and hours, and hours…

NPR’s All Songs Considered Podcast: A really interesting weekly podcast that covers a surprisingly wide variety genres. Often the commentary does focus on standard NPR Music fare; Indie Pop and Alt-Country but at the same time I’ll get to hear new bands that I’ve been reading about or odd nuggets of jazz and hip-hop and field recordings. All Songs Considered takes the same documentary approach that they use for the All Things Considered new program which is refreshing when applied to music. I tire of the standard sound-bite interview followed by in-studio performance, so this is a nice change of pace

College Radio Tuner: I’ve always been a huge college radio fan. Being from Boston, I’ve always had a huge variety available; WMBR at M.I.T and WERS at Emerson being my favorites. The College Radio Tuner iPhone app has put college stations from across the country at my fingertips. The interface isn’t particularly sexy and the stations are a potluck of genres and quality but it’s thrilling to tap into what has traditionally been a very localized outlet for music. It’s great to hear what local bands and venues someone in Santa Monica is jazzed about. I may never get there or see the band, but getting local flavor has always been the best way to discover the up-and-comers.

KEXP Live Performances Podcast: Another NPR podcast that comes which comes with the same caveat as some of the other NPR podcasts. You’ll have to suffer through some very average music here. But I’ve also found some great sets by the likes of the Hold Steady, the Duke Spirit, Band of Horses and Yeasayer. These are mostly nice, short, in-studio performances. The interview banter doesn’t really add any value, but the 20 – 25 minute format is perfect for a short drive or walk.

WMBR M.I.T.: Speaking of college radio, you don’t get any better than ‘MBR. Since I mostly use ‘MBR to make it through the workday, I’ve never paid much attention to the names of the shows, but on any given day I can hear early eighties punk rock, lost 45s from the psychedelic era, classic soul, and random stuff from the thirties and forties. It’s an endless potpourri of the obscure music and genres that I love to listen to. I do warn that the early morning experimental music show and the every-week-or-so later afternoon free jazz show send me running for the hills. But by and large there’s something here for every music lover.