Friday, January 30, 2009

Whiskey Bottle vs. Jesus

Recent posts about charts and graphs from my buddy Trailer at Farce the Music, and the lovely Venn diagram at the incomparable Setting the Woods on Fire, has inspired me to dig this gem out of the My Aimz is True math department archives. I was trying to graphically depict alt country music, like this dude did with rap music, but this is all I could come up with.

Uncle Tupelo - Whiskey Bottle.mp3
Whiskey Bottle (live acoustic).mp3
Buy: No Depression (1990, reissued with bonus tracks 2003)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Most of the Time

I had a better Christmas than you did because I got the new Bob Dylan bootleg CD in my stocking! This CD is blowing my mind - how can someone maintain such a high quality of song writing for nearly five decades? One track that really stands out to me is "Most of the Time." I first heard this song on the High Fidelity soundtrack, and I immediately loved it. This "new" version is stripped down, without producer Daniel Lanois's "swamp murk." (quote taken from the liner notes written by Larry "Ratso" Sloman.) Compare....

Most of the Time (Original Version).mp3
Buy: Oh Mercy (1989, remastered 2004) or High Fidelity Soundtrack (2000)

Most of the Time (Alternate Version).mp3
Buy: Tell Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series Vol. 8 (2008)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Women Without Whiskey

This was the first Drive-By Truckers song that I ever heard, and I was blown away. It crept back into my subconscious a few days ago, and I have been humming it ever since.

Women Without Whiskey.mp3
Buy: Southern Rock Opera (2002)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fun With Last.FM

Last.FM is one of my favorite things on the internet. It is a social networking music service which tracks what you are listening to through your computer or iPod. It connects you with other people who like the same kinds of music that you like, and it recommends songs by artists that you like or by artists who have a similar styles to the artists that you like. You can also write about the music that you like, recommends songs or artists to other people, update information on your favorite artists Wikipedia-style, and look at the events calendar to see which artists are performing in your area. Everything except the Last.FM radio service is free.

Last.FM works by “scrobbling” the songs that you listen to. Scrobbling means that once you listen to a song, that song will be added to your music profile. Importantly, Last.FM tracks every artist, album, and track that you scrobble. I can go back through my music profile, or my friend’s profiles, and see my top tracks, artists, and albums from the last week, last month, last three months, last year, or overall. The geek in me really loves this feature.

You can add a “Scrobbler” plugin to most computer media players so that it can track your plays. I use Media Monkey which uses a Winamp plugin. The Scrobbler plugin also works great with Windows Media Player, iTunes, and even Pandora. It works on Macs, PCs, and Linux systems. Unfortunately it does not work (or work well anyway) with the Zune media player (see footnote 1). Last.FM can also track plays from your iPod, but at the moment cannot tracks music from other MP3 players.

The Last.FM main offices are based in London, England, with another office in New York. Last.FM is available in 12 different languages. According to The 2008 Social Network Analysis Report, roughly 55% of the users are male, and roughly 25% of the users are between the ages of 34-44 (my age demographic). The report does not break down the membership by country, but it does seem that Finland has a large portion of its population that uses Last.FM. My guess is that greater than 60% of users are from Europe.

A few weeks ago Last.FM released its Best of 2008 lists. The Probability and Statistics Department of My Aimz is True is proud to present its analysis of what Last.FM users have been listening to for the last year.

How to Read These Graphs: the first Y or vertical axis in blue on the left hand side measures the number of plays or “scrobbles” for each album or song. The second Y axis in red on the right measures the number unique listeners. For example, on the first graph, tracks from Katy Perry’s debut album One of the Boys were listened to approximately 4 million times (blue bar) in 2008, by about 600,000 different listeners (about 6 and a half tracks scrobbled per user). Likewise, the Fleet Foxes self-titled debut was listened to about 3.5 million times by about 650,000 unique listeners (about 5.4 tracks per user).

I have to admit that I am not down with the cool kids and I have not listened to anything by the top three new artists in 2008. MGMT is hipster-speak for “management,” and they are tagged as “electronic” by Last.FM users. Their debut album Oracular Spectacular has been lauded by many critics but it’s not really my style of music. According to Last.FM, my top new artist of 2008 was Justin Townes Earle and his debut album The Good Life, and I listened to tracks from this album 14 times (see footnote 2).

Justin Townes Earle – Hard Livin’.mp3
Buy: The Good Life (2008)

Not surprisingly, Coldplay comes in at number one with their mediocre release Viva La Vida. And I didn’t even know that Nine Inch Nails released an album this year. I guess it didn’t suck as 1.3 million different listeners played tracks from it 8 million times (about 6 plays per listener). Also not surprisingly, my top album of 2008 was Stay Positive by The Hold Steady (112 plays), followed by Drag the River’s You Can’t Live This Way (63 plays), and Two Cow Garage Speaking in Cursive (53 plays).

The Hold Steady – Slapped Actress.mp3
Buy: Stay Positive (2008)

Drag the River – Caleb’s Grave.mp3
Buy: You Can't Live This Way (2008)

Two Cow Garage – Swingset Assassin.mp3
Buy: Speaking in Cursive (2008)

Last.FM users listen to way too much Coldplay. Seriously people, get out a little more! Or at least mix up the tunes a bit. My Last.FM top songs of 2008:

1. Matthew Ryan – “Drunk and Disappointed” – 11 plays/scrobbles
1. The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer” – 11
1. The Hold Steady – “Navy Sheets” – 11
1. Drive-By Truckers – “A Ghost to Most” -11
5. Drive-By Truckers – “3 Dimes Down” – 10
5. The Hold Steady – “Magazines” – 10
5. The Hold Steady – “Sequestered in Memphis” – 10
8. Chris Mills – “Such a Beautiful Thing” – 9
8. The Hold Steady – “One for the Cutters” – 9
10. Drive-By Truckers – “Home Field Advantage” – 8
10. Kathleen Edwards – “Oil Man’s War” - 8
10. Matthew Ryan – “American Dirt” – 8
10. Chris Mills – “Calling All Comrades” – 8
10. The Hold Steady – “Stay Positive” – 8
10. Kathleen Edwards – “Alicia Ross” – 8
10. The Hold Steady – “Slapped Actress” – 8

Matthew Ryan – American Dirt.mp3
Buy: Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State (2008)

Footnote 1: Microsoft is trying to set up their own community for Zune users which they call “The Social.” Here is how “The Social” compares to Last.FM.
  1. Last.FM keeps a list of the order of the last 1500+ tracks that you listened to. The Social only tells you the last 24.
  2. Last FM shows you your top artists overall, for the last year, last 6 months, last three months, and last 7 days. The Social only gives you the top artists overall.
  3. Last FM shows me my top 400+ artists, The Social, only top 5.
  4. Last FM shows me my top 400+ tracks, The Social only 15.
  5. Last FM shows me my top 300+ albums. The Social doesn't have this feature at all.
  6. Last FM is very accurate. The Social, not so much. According to my profile, I have listened to the song "For Real" 50 times. According to my Zune software, I have listened to it 7 times. Sometimes The Social said I added 100 plays when I know I added none, other times it does the opposite.
  7. Last FM doesn't care if you listen to bootlegs, live albums, special releases, whatever. It categorizes everything the same way. The Social only categorizes items that are in the Zune market place. For example, on my Social profile, Okkervil River is my number 1 and number 2 artist. The second Okkervil River is the same band, but since these tracks are not in the Zune Marketplace, they are recognized as a different band entirely.
  8. Last FM is open to everyone, regardless of player type. It works with iTunes, Media Player, Media Monkey, Creative Labs, etc. The Social only works with Zune.
  9. You can tag the genre of the track on Last FM, you can't tag anything on The Social.

Footnote 2: Last.FM only tracks what I listen to on my computer when my computer is online. I listen to a lot more music on my Zune (see footnote 1) and on CD than on my laptop, so the Last.FM tracking is not completely representative of my listening trends. But it still is damn fun!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

People Got a Lotta Nerve

I just found out that Neko Case and our friends over at the Anti-Label Blog will donate $5 for every blog that posts Case's first single off of her new album, and $1 for every add on iLike, to the Best Friends Animal Society (through Feb. 3). Since, in general, I like animals a lot more than I like people, I am happy to help out! Best Friends also runs an animal sanctuary in Angel Canyon, Utah, that is staffed with trainers and veterinarians who rehabilitate and heal abused animals. The sanctuary recently received a lot of media attention for successfully rehabilitating several of the Pit Bull Terriers rescued from ex-NFL star Michael Vick's dog fighting ring. Over the holidays I saw a compelling documentary on the National Geographic Channel on how the dogs were rehabbed, and the December 29 issue of Sports Illustrated (above, right) features a cover story about the Pit Bull's new lives. I live in a small apartment in a high rise and I think it is mean to keep a dog locked up 18 stories in the sky with no place to roam around, so I will just brag about my "niece" -my brother's English Sheppard, Lucy (left). Here she is getting a bath after a wonderful day of running amok on a farm.

Ms. Case also states on her web site to stop buying puppies from puppy mills such as the ones that Petland uses. I agree. Thanks Neko!

Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve.mp3
Pre-order: Middle Cyclone (released on March 3, 2009)

Friday, January 23, 2009

January Feel Bad For You Comp

For the last few years the forum members at Alt Country Tab have put together a monthly compilation of various tunes. I have extra bandwidth this month so I thought I would share.

Feel Bad For You Jan 09
1. Old Men Sleeping On The Bowery.mp3
Willie Nile - Willie Nile (1980, out of print)

2. "Bridge of Sighs"
Robin Trower - Bridge Of Sighs (1974)

3. "The Wind"
Peasant - On the Ground (2009)

4. "Raise Today"
Peasant - On the Ground (2009)

5. "The Jump" (Live)
Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons - Mouthful of Copper (2003)

6. "Thistle" (Live)
Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons - Mouthful of Copper (2003)

7. Forest of Tears.mp3
$100 - Forest of Tears

8. "Adult Books"
X - Wild Gift (1981)

9. "Lookin' For A Love"
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Zuma (1975)

10. "Lookin' For A Love"
Jeff Tweedy/Wilco - ??? (from Captain Obvious music blog posted on Oct. 10, 2008)

11. "Breathe"
Alexi Murdoch - Live at KEXP Vol. 1 (2005)

12. "Still Crazy After All These Years (Paul Simon cover)"
Deer Tick - Black Dirt Sessions (2009)

13. "Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover)"
Phosphorescent - Weeds Soundtrack (2008)

14. "Dream Baby Dream"
Bruce Springsteen - Dream Baby Dream split single w/Suicide (2008)

15. "Bored"
Destroy All Monsters - Bored (1978)

16. "Take the Long Way Home"
Supertramp - Breakfast in America (1979)

17. "Good Mourning - Black Friday"
Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? (1986)

18. "(Love Me Like Music) I'll Be Your Song"
Heart - Dreamboat Annie (1976)

19. "Love Me A Little Bit Longer"
Delaney & Bonnie - Accept No Substitute (1969)

20. "Made Up My Mind"
Ken Will Morton - Devil in Me (2008)

21. "Release The White Doves"
Ken Will Morton - Devil In Me (2008)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Election Moment

On the morning of November 5, 2008, I flew from my adopted home in Toronto, Canada, to Kansas City, Missouri, for a conference. By the time I got to the Toronto airport, cleared customs, and got to my gate, Pearson International had sold out of newspapers. The excitement about the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States was palpable, even in Canada. It was all that everyone, in both Toronto and Kansas City, was talking about.

A few days later at my conference, I attended an event at the Gem Theater. The Gem Theater, or Star Theater as it was originally called, was once a meeting place for the African American community, and a place where jazz musicians, such as Charlie Parker, could practice their art without the prejudice that they encountered in some southern states and even in other parts of Missouri.

During the presentation at The Gem, Kansas City Star and Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski gave a short speech about the Negro League baseball great Buck O'Neil. Posnanski wrote a book about O'Neil that was published in 2007, and he told the audience quips about O'Neil's amazing life. Posnanski spent a year with O'Neil chronicling the more than 200 events O'Neil attended nationwide when O'Neil was at the spry age of 93. Unfortunately O'Neil passed away in October 2006 before the book was published. One story that Posnanski told really struck me. You can read the entire article on the Sports Illustrated website, but here is the part that got me:
He [O'Neil] could not get enough. He spoke in classrooms and chatted with people at ballgames and went up to complete strangers in restaurants and at airports, and he believed in this America. It isn't perfect, of course, nothing close to perfect, and there's always a lot to do. Buck said that plenty. But, more, much more, he said: "Look how far we've come. Look how much we've grown. Look how much closer we are."

"How old are you?" he asked me once along the road. I told him.

"Just think," he said. "You will live long enough to see a black president."
And I got a huge lump in my throat.

It wasn't until this moment that I truly understood the magnitude of this election. Only a decade before I was born in 1972, black American citizens were still fighting corrupt election officials for the right to vote in some southern states. When Barack Obama was a baby, students with his skin color were suing to be able to study at some universities. Obama was almost two years old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream Speech" in Washington DC. And today, the Unites States inaugurated him as its first African American president.

Later that evening after Posnanski's speech I toured the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. What a cool experience. If you are in Kansas City and you are a baseball fan, I highly recommend this museum. One thing that really struck me at the museum was a photo of the 1904 Ohio Wesleyan University baseball team. The photo that I am posting here from the Ohio Wesleyan archives doesn't do the original photo justice. When you look at this photo you see the faces of young men in the prime of their lives, not unlike any other college sports team photo that you would see in 2008.
On the far right of the photo is student manager Branch Rickey, and in the back row, center is catcher Charles "Tommy" Thomas. Rickey was tormented by the many racial slurs that Thomas endured in his two seasons playing for Rickey at OWU. During one game at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, 21-year-old Rickey threatened to forfeit the game unless the other team stopped shouting slurs at Thomas. A similar incident occurred at the University of West Virginia where Thomas was the first black player to use the school's baseball diamond.

In 1903 the team traveled to South Bend, Indiana, to play Notre Dame, but the hotel would not let Thomas stay with the rest of the team. Rickey convinced the hotel manager to let Thomas sleep on a cot in his room, but later found Thomas crying, lamenting the color of his skin. Branch Rickey would later become the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and in 1947, signed Jackie Robinson as the first African American major league baseball player. Charles Thomas went on to dental school and ran a very successful dental practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Last year singer-songwriters and baseball fanatics Steve Wynn (founder of Dream Syndicate) and Scott McCaughey (formerly of Young Fresh Fellows) put together The Baseball Project, a collection of songs about the national pastime. Here are two of their tunes, one about the Negro League and Major League pitcher Satchel Paige, and another about Jackie Robinson.

Satchel Paige.mp3
Jackie's Lament.mp3
Buy: Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (2008)

Also Buy: Joe Posnanski - The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America (2007)

Other source used for this post: Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman, by Lee Lowenfish (2007)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Wrestler

I caught the movie The Wrestler last night, and I can't say any more than what the real movie critics have already said. But I will say that this movie will have one kick-ass soundtrack! Most of the soundtrack is 1980s hard rock and hair metal. Bruce Springsteen wrote the theme song, "The Wrestler" which already won a Golden Globe award for Best Original Song From a Motion Picture. Mickey Rourke's character, washed-up wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, uses the Guns N' Roses epic song "Sweet Child O' Mine" as his entrance music. During one fantastic scene Randy laments how terrible 1990s music was, compared to 1980s hard rock, and then says "Kurt Cobain, what a pussy."

According to IMDB, both Bruce Springsteen and Mickey Rourke were not paid for their contributions to the film, and Alx Rose donated the use of the song "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Here are a few tracks from the movie which I already happen to have in my collection. Gawd I love 80s metal!

Quiet Riot - Metal Health (Bang Your Head).mp3
Cinderella - Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone).mp3
Ratt - Round & Round.mp3

Springsteen's beautiful song "The Wrestler" is currently available on iTunes, and will be a bonus track on his forthcoming album Working on a Dreamwhich is scheduled to be released on January 27. No word yet on when the soundtrack for The Wrestler will be released. For now, check out this YouTube clip of "The Wrestler," and try not to get choked up while listening to the fantastic lyrics.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tell Me It Ain't So

Holy mother of pearl, how did I miss Micah P. Hinson until now?

Micah P. Hinson - Tell Me It Ain't So.mp3
Buy: Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (2008)

Hinson is American, but his label is based in the UK (Full Time Hobby Records, same label that supports The Hold Steady in the UK). You can find this on as an import, but it is "temporarily out of stock" at You can purchase it directly from the label for £8.00 (plus £3.50 shipping to Canada ~$21 CAD, $17 USD). Some of his older material is available on eMusic (and, I am assuming, iTunes).

I was late to the Gaslight Anthem party. Just started getting into them this month. So far, so good!

The Gaslight Anthem - The 59' Sound.mp3
Buy: The '59 Sound (2008)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Governor

Another bad-ass song from James McMurtry's latest. This blues-based country funk tells a stark story about the haves vs. have-nots. Classic McMurtry.

James McMurtry - The Governor.mp3
Buy: Just Us Kids (2008)

I totally missed Alejandro Escovedo's latest album when it was released last year, but damn, everything that I have heard off of it so far is top notch.

Alejandro Escovedo - Chelsea Hotel '78.mp3
Buy: Real Animal (2008)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blame it on Gravity

Since I am on a huge Old 97's kick right now, here are two from their most recent album.

No Baby I.mp3
Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue.mp3
(Damn, this is such a good song. Someone in Nashville like Tim McGraw should pick this song up, pay Murry Hammond some royalties, and put it on the radio.)
Buy: Blame It On Gravity (2008)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who Am I To Say

Life has been kicking me in the shins lately and I haven't been able to properly blog, so for the next few days (or when/if I get my shit together), I will be posting some of my favorite tunes from 2008 that were not from albums in my top ten favorites.

Justin Townes Earle
- Who Am I To Say.mp3
Buy: The Good Life (2008)

Blitzen Trapper - Not Your Lover.mp3
Buy: Furr (2008)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Too Far To Care

Too Far To Care by the Old 97's is one of my top five desert island all time favorite albums. It is a fantastic mix of country-rock and Texas twang. Lead singer Rhett Miller tells stories of falling in love easily, and getting his heart stomped on. Other songs tell of loneliness and whiskey in the local bar, pining for lost love, and wasting away your youth touring at crappy clubs. Bassist Murray Hammond sings a track or two on every Old 97's album, and here sings a rock ballad about misery in his home state in "W. TX Teardrops," with some sweet banjo in the background. The songs on this album also contains some of my favorite lyrics. For example, "Will you sober up and let me down?" ("Melt Show"), "And I'm callin' time and temperature just for some company" ("Big Brow Eyes"), "I'm still a drunk, I'm still a loser, living in a lousy neighborhood" ("Four Leaf Clover"). This album differs from other alt country classics in that it isn't as folk driven as some tracks by Uncle Tupelo or Whiskeytown, and contains a lot more Texas rock influences. The only down side to this album is that it is truly the Old 97's opus. All of the subsequent albums are good, but not great (although some do contain some great songs). If you are an alt country fan and don't own this record, get off your ass and buy it pronto!

Melt Show.mp3
Streets of Where I'm From.mp3
Big Brown Eyes.mp3
Buy: Too Far to Care (1997)

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Music in advertising is an incredibly powerful medium. In 2000 Volkswagen ran a commercial featuring four young people driving around in a convertible Cabriolet staring at the full moon while Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" played in the background. Although the album Pink Moon was resealed in 1972, it was a commercial failure in the UK. Drake was severely mentally ill, and committed suicide in 1974. The Volkswagen commercial revived Drake's memory, and at one point in 2000 Pink Moon was in the top five albums on Amazon's best sellers list.

Nick Drake - Pink Moon.mp3
Buy: Pink Moon (1972, reissued 2003)

A few weeks ago I heard one of my favorite songs emanating from the television. I turned around to see a Nissan truck "raising" the sun, implying that the truck is so strong that it can pull up a celestial object. The song in the background is "Breathe" by Alexi Murdoch. Murdoch is originally from Scotland, but settled in Los Angeles in the last 90s. The young artist released his first full length album Time Without Consequence in 2006. Here's to hoping that Nissan can propel the career of this talented musician.

I can't find the Nissan commercial on YouTube, but watch any sporting event on TV and you will see it.

Alexi Murdoch - Breathe.mp3
From: Live at KEXP Vol. 1 (2005, out of print)

For the last four years KEXP has put out a wonderful CD of live performances from their studios in Seattle. They usually release it with their fall pledge drive. You can still purchase Volume 4 (2008) digitally, on CD, and on vinyl from Insound, an online music store based in New York. Look for Volume 5 in the fall of 2009.

"Breathe" is also available on Time Without Consequence (2006).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Musical New Years Resolution

My 2009 Musical New Years resolution is to really dive into the collective works of Will Johnson. In addition to releasing solo material, Johnson is the driving force behind the bands Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel. While Centro-Matic tends to be rock/alt country, South San Gabriel is mostly folk, country, or slow rock. Johnson put out a highly rated double album this year under both band names called Dual Hawks. I am embarrassed to admit that I never got around to listening to this album. Centro-Matic's 2006 release Fort Recovery was also very highly regarded, and it has sat in my MP3 player untouched. This year I resolve to spend some quality time with Will Johnson's music. You heard it here first.

Will Johnson - As Victims Would.mp3
Buy: Vultures Await (2004)

Centro-Matic - Remind Us Alive.mp3
South San Gabriel - Kept on the Sly.mp3
Buy: Dual Hawks (2008)

Also check out an interview with Johnson plus some live tunes from out friends over at Daytrotter.

Here's an embarrassing list of other 2008 releases that were highly rated and/or recommended to me that I never got around too.
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Chris Knight - Heart of Stone
The Gaslight Anthem - Th 59' Sound
NQ Arbuckle - Xok (this one is especially embarrassing since they are from the city that I live in)
Slim Cessna's Auto Club - Cipher
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology
Paul Westerberg - 49:00
Sun Kil Moon - April
The Steeldrivers - The Steeldrivers (heard two tracks off of this one and loved them, I am ordering the disc right after I post this...)

Friday, January 2, 2009

This Year

Happy New Year!

The Mountain Goats - This Year.mp3
Buy: The Sunset Tree (2005)

Fantastic album. Do yourself a new years favor and add it to your collection! Its also on eMusic and iTunes.