Spiral Stairs

Raccoons do drugs. It’s science…

An excerpt from Spiral Stairs’ biography:

Former frontman of Preston School Of Industry and founding member of Pavement, Scott Kannberg returns with his first solo album, The Real Feel, credited to his long-running nom-du-rock, Spiral Stairs.

“I guess that’s my name now,” he laughs. “It had been so long since the last Preston School Of Industry album, it made sense to call this a Spiral Stairs record. Everyone knows me as Spiral, it’s weird when someone calls me ‘Scott’. I’m not sure anyone knows who Scott Kannberg is.”

Despite the pseudonym, however, The Real Feel is Spiral’s most personal and honest recording yet, the songs’ loose, late-night vibe, soulful ache and charmingly vulnerable optimism shaped by his experiences in the years between the last Preston School Of Industry album, 2004’s Monsoon, and today.

It’s an album heavy with haunted blues and bruised soul, with a soused late-night ambience that perfectly fits both its scuffed and sad-eyed ballads, and its more strident rockers.

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Top 5 Drummers

My list of the best drummers of all time, organized by group (which is why there are six).

1) Levon Helm; The Band

2) Matt Cameron; Pearl Jam, Sound Garden & Temple of the Dog

3) Butch Trucks & Jaimo; Allman Brothers

4) Mitch Mitchell; Jimi Hendrix Experience & The Dirty Mac

5) Yuval Gabay; Soul Coughing

The Heavy

OK, so I found out about these guys from a KIA Sorento commercial; shoot me.

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Matt Haeck, Western States

I wish I had more info on this guy; all I can find is that he’s out of Nashville and he released an EP this year that doesn’t suck.

I really like Western States, though I find I can’t remember any of the melodies after I’m done listening to it. This is a phenomena I’ve noticed over the years and it may well be one of the great unanswered scientific questions; how can a song be very enjoyable yet, simultaneously, unmemorable?  Musicians constantly bemoan that catchy, bad songs are more commercially viable than more complex (and presumably better) pieces. This essential knowledge, that quality and “memorability” are not linked, is a point that informs many music critics’ deep distrust of any music with even a modicum of popularity or commercial success… which is unfair.

There has to be a better way, an elaborate formula to mathematically explain why some melodies, sounds, beats, etc. fasten to the mind more than others, and why I can’t get that fucking Duran Duran song out of my head. Simply step up to the console, plug in the particular emotion you wish to convey (the more mundane the better) and out pops an insanely catchy beat replete with DJ scratches and hand claps. You don’t even need to think; all you need to do is say “I’m sad” and out pops a Dashboard Confessional song.

I am being facetious, of course, but there are many people in positions of great power who take this idea very seriously.  It is they who are largely responsible for foisting the Swedish-produced Britney Spears tracks on the rest of us who were innocently minding our own business.  To paraphrase the late, great Frank Zappa, “that’s it! Turn in up!  Gimme’ a beat at 120 beats per minute.  Don’t gimme’ none of that 119 bullshit.  And turn up those fucking handclaps!”

The following is from Matt’s Myspace page.

Matt Haeck keeps an ear studiously and respectfully trained on those men and women, both living and long dead, who give us our rich heritage of American music. Matt has lived in every major region of America, but he and his music have made their way to Nashville. He comfortably assimilates northern soul, west coast harmonies, east coast pop and Midwest rock into his brand of southern Americana. The stories these places tell combine with influences from Wilco and Stephen Foster to Cormac McCarthy and the Old Testament to form the substance of Matt’s songs.

In January of this year Matt released a new EP, Western States. The seven songs on the album explore thoughts of running, loving, losing, and longing. “The EP’s lyrical content and musical fluidity make it timeless and make Matt Haeck one of the finest up-and-comers making music these days.” (thisismodern.net)

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Top Five Live Albums

1) Allman Brothers, Live at the Filmore East

2) Bob Dylan and the Band, Before the Flood

3) Band of Gypsies (Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox & Buddy Miles), Band of Gypsies

4) Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus

5) BB King, Live at the Regal


OK, the dolls are a little creepy, but these guys have a really good sound going here.

Romantica – The National Side from Ryan Newman on Vimeo.

Cool Jobs: Local Rock Star from 651media on Vimeo.

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Music Punctuation

Look, we all forget. I’m no exception; no doubt, if you poured through this blog long enough you’d find a couple examples of thoroughly un-Strunk&White examples of punctuation.

We should try, though. So, for the record, here is how you punctuate music titles:

An album, EP or similar collection of songs should be titled in italics. A song title should be written in quotations. When it comes to band and artists names, however, we must resign ourselves to whatever form that artist has chosen, bizarre though it may be.

Thus, in my August, 2009 post, I discussed the song “This Blackest Purse” from the album Eskimo Snow by Why?.

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Mumford & Sons

Judging by their record sales, I’m a bit late jumping on the Mumford and Sons bandwagon. But, I don’t care; this is the best new band since the North Mississippi Allstars released Shake Hands with Shorty and the people must know!

They’re basically a British version of the Avett Brothers, only less gimmicky and with much better writing. The difference between these two bands is striking because they arrived at a similar tone and instrumentation from very different angles. The Avett Brothers started as rock band and gradually shifted into a country outfit with a punk/rock affect. They started crashing bluegrass festivals, often playing in the lobbies of hotels, were they were greeted with horrified responses from purists and patent glee from the No Depression crowd who were enthralled by their daring and by the guitarist playing a kick-drum. Not surprisingly, their deliveries are intensely genre-conscious and sometimes come off as ironic or, worse-yet, disingenuous. They have gone on to a successful career largely due to their stunning good looks, their novel instrumentation and little else.

Mumford and Sons, on the other hand, came from a more strictly folk background and the authenticity-focus of that scene guided them towards emotionally honest music even as they strayed from its forms. They mix country, maritime, bluegrass and British folk music with remarkable fluidity while the swells and breaks in their songs evince keen ensemble instincts, reminiscent of early Allman Brothers and The Band.

I’m desperately trying to avoid hyperbole here, so understand when I tell you that this is a serious band making important music and backing it up with exceptionally well-made video content, some of which follows:


Wilco Concert Review

I should confess that I have some very ambivalent feelings about Jeff Tweedy.  I think he’s one of the best and most important song-writers of his generation, but I also find him obnoxiously pedantic and, at times, exceptionally self-indulgent.  His embrace of avant-garde noise sometimes makes for eloquent soundscapes and sometimes tips into a realm that sounds suspiciously like the alley cats in my neighborhood getting laid.

I could probably get over all this if his fans (and some music critics) didn’t talk about him as if he were the only guy making his kind of music or, worse yet, that his particular brand of avante-garde/pop/country/rock is the only valid expression of modern music.  Ryan Adam’s did a better job of expressing this frustration than I ever will, so I’ll let him take over for a second….

Take that, you snobs!!!

OK, so it’s not Jeff Tweedy’s fault that Jim DeRogatis wrote a bad review about Ryan Adams, but you see where I’m going with this… or maybe not, and that’s fine too.

At any rate, we arrived at the Bushnell to find an impatient throng donned in carefully pressed flannel and delicately frayed denim. We made our way to our seats and took stock of the stage. A mountain of drums, keyboards and amps were ringed by 1″ plumbing-pipe stands erected with long, incandescent, vacuum-tube-like bulbs perched atop them, such that one might expect Nikola Tesla to arrive at any moment for the seance.


You’ll understand my disbelief when I first saw this: