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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Existential Hero Releases Three New Albums

Since I'm moving to New Zealand and won't be sure what my musical output will be, as a gift to all of you I will be releasing a covers album, a covers EP and a collection of b-sides for all of you. You can order them all for 3 bucks each if you like the hard copies or you will be able to download them for free in a few days at

But without further ado here they are (with an mp3 to give you a taste!):

This is the real meat here, or seitan or tofu. Part self-indulgent and part love song to the lo-fi community I'm obsessed with, Barely
Covered is my ode to the songs and artists that inspire me.

"Dear Apollo (Tinyfolk cover)"

I was basically learning way too many Bob Dylan covers, but this EP is an homage to early
early Bob Dylan when he was an upstart folkie just barely coming to into his own.

"Corrina, Corrina (Bob Dylan cover)"

All songs recorded between May of 2006 and December 2007. Most are outtakes from the
first two albums, an uncompleted EP, former secret tracks, alternate versions and a
recent demo. Most of it's good and there is one or two you'll love because it's so bad
it's good. =D

"If I Was President (Classical Version)"

Existential Hero myspace to order hard copies

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bob Dylan Worth Mentioning That You Might Not Know

Taken During the Rolling Thuder Revue Tour in 1975

The “youth” like myself go through a pretty typical evolution while discovering Bob Dylan. We all start with the early folk years that by now are blended with the “going electric” years (kind of funny if you think about it). Usually The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan or Blonde On Blonde are the stock favorites. Then most people go from there into either John Wesley Harding (if you are a hardcore folkie) or Blood On The Tracks (if you’re of the introspective persuasion). Where do the “youth” go after that? Well unless you got into the recent release Modern Times, most casual fans stop there. Now I am very aware of the pitchfork factor going on here (am I pretentious for making pitchfork a stand-in for pretentiousness?), but regardless the point of this post is to make people aware of other parts of Bob Dylan’s catalogue you won’t find on your nearest hipster’s iPod.

Oh Mercy:
Released in 1989 and the first album produced for Dylan by Daniel Lanois, Oh Mercy is one of Dylan’s greatest albums. The songs shimmer with a kind of energy not seen since Slow Train Coming. It kicks off quite insidiously with “Political World” a fun, romping protest update that is anything but positive. “Ring Them Bells” is a great spiritual song where the words themselves weave together poetically. “Most Of The Time” is a beautifully written song about crumbling self-denial. The whole album is sonically delicious and is layered quite intricately; definitely check it out.

“When The Ship Comes In”:
Released on 1963’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, this song was written in frustration of a refused entry into a hotel, yet it is became so much more. This is one of the great Dylan anthems and deserves so much more attention than it is given. It’s moving and empowering and refuses to quit.

“Corrina, Corrina,” and “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance”:
Both based on “traditional” songs, Dylan took the originals really made them all his own. Both taken off of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, this one-two punch couplet is very complimentary to each other. Both are songs of longing, “Corrina, Corrina” is quiet and sad while “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” is an energetic stomp of hopeful desperation. Two underrated gems on one of Dylan’s most famous albums, really take a second listen to these two.

The Bootleg Series Volume 1:
Were most of these songs really rejects from Dylan’s first three albums and if so damn, anyone would beg to have b-sides this fucking good. “Hard Times In New York Town,” “Let Me Die In My Footsteps,” “Rambling Gambling Willie,” “Quit Your Low Down Ways,” “Walkin’ Down The Line,” “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” and of course “Who Killed Davey Moore?” are all amazing songs that could easily be an album unto itself. These are b-sides? Really?

“If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got To Stay All Night) (Live 1964 Version)”:
The electric version was released as a b-side in Europe during the release of Highway 61 Revisited, but it’s the version played at the famous Halloween show in 1964 (released as The Bootleg Series Vol. 6, Live 1964) that I really dig. Sort of a relief between “Gates of Eden” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” this is a hilarious and clever song about hooking up; it ain’t just a modern phenomenon.

“Cocaine (Live At The Gaslight CafĂ©)”:
I talked about this before as an Mp3 of the Week and I still think it’s a beautifully fragile rendition of a crazy state to be in.

“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” and “One Two Many Mornings” (Live 1966):
In the historic “Albert Hall” concert of 1966 (Released as The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4) Bob Dylan only played three pre-electric songs and these two songs are reworked quite beautifully, one more dramatically than the other. “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” is certifiably blues and rocks fast and furious. “One Two Many Mornings” was one of the only none political songs off of The Times They Are A-Changin’ and here is transformed into a booming, slow burner with an equally cool reworked chorus. Both demonstrated Dylan’s dedication to pissing off the old guard, but how could you argue with such majesty?

“I Threw It All Away”:
Released off of the magnificent country album Nashville Skyline, this is one sad country song. I play it at my shows often and it’s because anyone can so terribly relate to this message of love we often let go of foolishly. The croon used on this entire album is used most effectively here and will have you welling up guaranteed.

Dylan Playing The Piano:
Nowadays he often plays piano more than guitar, but earlier in his career he used the piano in quite interesting and bizarre ways. Never played live ever, “Black Crow Blues (off of Another Side of Bob Dylan" is light and springy and sounds like it could be played in a saloon. “Day of The Locusts” off of New Morning takes on a gospel, organ-laden lilt about being at a university. “If Dogs Run Free” and “Father of Night” off of New Morning are funny, strange jazz numbers that really entangle the dynamic between vocals and piano. “When He Returns” is the closer to Slow Train Coming, Dylan’s first Christian album in 1979 (And a fantastic one at that). This song focuses solely on a lone piano and Dylan’s more affected vocals. The passion is immense and makes for a very moving experience. Messy and only a shadow of what it was to become, “Like A Rolling Stone” was first written on the piano. This demo (On The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3) carries a waltz-like quality and is fascinating for no reason other than the fact that it’s played so whimsically at first. Even he had no idea what it would turn into. Dylan rarely released himself playing piano during the majority of his career (until New Morning), but even at the beginning he could see its endless possibilities.

“Shelter From The Storm”:
One of my favorite Dylan songs out of his entire catalogue, this number from 1975’s classic Blood On The Tracks is certainly one of my favorites. I feel safe and at home when I listen to this, nothing that real life could guarantee. This song will never let me down.

So again to reiterate, this selection was mostly meant for me to tell you all some of my favorite Dylan moments, songs and albums that aren’t necessarily being played in every college dorm room. Some might contest me on this, but really, just take a listen and you’ll discover something cool and maybe new from the greatest songwriter of the last century.


There Will Be Blood Will Swallow You Whole (2007)

Simply put, Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece. Not in a personal favorite sense or a critically acclaimed sense (even though it is), There Will Be Blood transcends all immediate accolades and is a film that will still be known when filmmaking is as old as painting.

Based loosely on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! the film follows the path of Daniel Plainview (in a beyond perfect performance by Daniel Day-Lewis) on his quest for total domination of life itself. He has a son H.W. (played by Dillon Fraiser) who is merely a tool for Daniel to gain people’s good graces. Daniel constantly clashes with a young self-proclaimed prophet Eli Sunday (in a jaw-dropping performance by Paul Dano). These are the most important characters, but don’t get me wrong, every small part is pivotal in shaping the three main characters’ goals, feelings and movements.

There has never been a film as brutally absorbing as this one. I feel equally spent and revitalized while watching and Johnny Greenwood’s score follows the very terrible essence of our hearts.

I find it frightening that I want to be just like Daniel Plainview. He has so much power over all those around them and why shouldn’t he? “These people,” he proclaims, are just fools, ripe for the picking. If these people get some water and shelter what does it matter if he gets something out of it too? And that’s where There Will Be Blood’s truth reveals itself.

In this interesting character study and somewhat allegorical tirade on organized religion and capitalism we see so many terrible qualities that aren’t brought about by larger unseen forces, but the very tools we all operate on. It’s like Apocalypse Now on acid, a surreal and terrifying look at what makes us human. It’s an extreme vision we might not like, but we all secretly want.

There Will Be Blood on IMDB

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rambling Nicholas Heron: Here In Dreamland (2007)

I was really excited for this release. Mailed quick by the lovely folks at Valiant Death Records, Rambling Nicholas Heron’s new record Here In Dreamland arrived in my mailbox just before Christmas. And what a lovely gift this album is. Rambling Nicholas Heron and his band hail from Sweden and make confident, smart and tender music. I feel like he could be an old friend of mine and whenever I listen I get flashes of my time spent in mainland Europe. Not the museums or the big cities, but the rolling green hills with snow-capped mountains in the back with embedded castles are what I imagine while listening to this amazing folk-pop album.

“Pillow Book” immediately struck me and is somewhat unlike my previous signifiers. Driven by a samba-esque rhythm this song takes an attitude like “Like A Rolling Stone,” only appears more subversive. Lines like, “Since that morning I’ve been yearning to live/In that moment forever/Julie and sleepy/In truth that’s the way that I am/Only you wouldn’t know/And never have guessed it,” fall back and forth deceptively from biting to beautiful.

“As If I Didn’t Know It” is a song that is right on the edge of falling apart. The vocals are almost above their range, a pan flute sounds half broken and the beat is almost just a bit off, but it fits the theme of the song very well. Rambling Nicholas recalls very relatable experiences of when we choose ignorance because we just do. “I turned to writing on my walls/Pretending I was a master poet/William Blake I wasn’t/But I acted as if I didn’t know it/As if I didn’t know it,” are probably my favorite lines on the record and really capture one aspect of Rambling Nicholas Heron very well. So does the song fall apart in the end? Yes, but in a bed of laughter and a bit of call and response that’ll make you smile.

This album is chock full of great instrumentals, but the two intermezzos “Passing Time” and “Precious Things” are sublime bits of old-timey European comfort.

Being in the midst of my Carpenters obsession, hearing “Only Yesterday” on Here In Dreamland was a wonderful surprise. I spoke with him on the difficulties of singing their songs (Karen’s voice is something to behold) and Rambling Nicholas manages to pull it off well...Much better than I can that’s for sure.

“Born to Sleep in the Sun” is the sound of pure ukulele bliss and that’s all there is to it.

Here In Dreamland ebbs and flows quite wonderfully and when I listen to it I became more serene during those fifteen tracks. It might be because of Rambling Nicholas Heron’s soothing vocals or the abundance of instrumentals or the confidence in the lyrics; either way Here In Dreamland is a pleasant, warm and rewarding experience many many times over.

Rambling Nicholas Heron-“As If I Didn’t Know It”

Rambling Nicholas Heron on myspace
Order the album from Valiant Death Records

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tinyfolk: Little Mice And Other Things That Go Skitter Skitter (2007)

Released in early 2007, Tinyfolk’s Little Mice And Other Things That Go Skitter Skitter is an album caught in transition. Containing qualities of his earlier twee pop glee with the grander production and themes of his more recent releases, Little Mice And Other Things That Go Skitter Skitter has a striking intimacy brought to fore so beautifully due to it’s presentation.

Let me just tell you now, the first four songs are flawless. Starting off things familiar and joyful, “Love Is A Thing,” lulls you in with its adorable chorus and delicate verses (When its played live they are usually improvised!).

A cover of The Field Mice’s “Emma’s House” really shatters me and if you had only heard early-Tinyfolk up to this point, this song will change everything. Its melancholy (the accordion extenuates this mood well) and when I listen to it I remember everything I’ve ever lost in my life.

“To Answer Your Question, Yes,” is probably Russ’s most personal song ever written (or at least self-aware/self-referential). I think everyone at 001Collective can relate to this song if not every artist out there.

“Trees” is brilliant in every way conceivable. About a man named Harold, “Who’s lonely and he doesn’t know why,” This song is the precursor for many Tinyfolk songs about melancholy characters trying to escape from their socially constructed surroundings. And In some ways I feel like this song is the prequel to Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al (Which Tinyfolk covered funnily enough).” The song is broken up into several parts including a haunting whistle-sounding breakdown and then a slow shower of piano keys with the baritone ukulele remaining as a constant. Its more than just sad, but we so desperately want things to get better for Harold that we would do anything for him (in some ways we all are Harold).

Little Mice And Other Things That Go Skitter Skitter is a rewarding album in many ways and although the second half lacks some cohesion, not many artists could pull of the “transition stage album” as gracefully as Tinyfolk does.


Tinyfolk on myspace
Pop Monster Collective
Little Mice And Other Things That Go Skitter Skitter on 001Collective
My Pizza Under The Sea EP review
My Bill review