Duck (2020) and Cover

Words cannot express the mind-boggling madness of the last six months. Or can they?

Thankfully, we have talented artists like Ben Folds to provide perfectly apt expressions that capture this errant epoch and other artists like Meg Duffy (Hand Habits) and Angel Olsen to perfectly re-purpose a Petty song that limn’s well the current quarantine conundrums.

If you don’t know Hand Habits and Meg Duffy, their/her 2019 album Placeholder was one of our Top Ten Albums of 2019 and their live performances (including Meg’s hilarious and touching banter) are not to be missed.

Check out Ben Folds’ well-crafted song 2020 via its lyric video below. And then watch the beauty laid out by Meg and Angel in their cover of Tom Petty’s luminous song Walls.


Resuscitation–Empty Country Puts the Paddles To The Lefort Report

It’s been a long, long, long, lonely time. But revival is upon us. Long ago in 2016 we awarded (yet unpublished–the lameness never lets ya down) sadly unsung Philly band Cymbals Eats Guitars, with our awards for our favorite band, album (Pretty Years), song (Finally) and live performance (Swedish American Music Hall in SF) for the year. Apparently as a result, Cymbals Eats Guitars was forced to call it quits. Death knell and all, ya know. But the cognoscenti knew that CEG’s leader, Joseph D’Agostino, would not just ride off into that Philly-cheese sunset. D’Agostino has way too much talent and far too many stories to tell.

Enter D’Agostino’s new band Empty Country. More than a decade after forming CEG, D’Agostino will soon release the first, eponymously-titled album under the moniker Empty Country. Based on Empty Country’s press release we know that D’Agostino wrote, arranged, and produced the album himself (with co-production and engineering by Kyle Gilbride of Swearin’). And the album’s stellar first single Ultrasound featured the erstwhile Charles Bissell (of the cultish Lefort-faves The Wrens–honestly has there ever been a better album than The Meadowlands?) on backing vocals.

Since that beguiling intro, Empty Country has released the world-worthy Marian and most recently the stentorian Swim (evidently an acronym for “Someone Who Isn’t Me”). Both songs feature D’Agostino’s brilliant, literate lyrics (check both at bottom). And Swim’s melody immediately grabs you and suckles you with its treacly tones and instrumentation. It is simply a tour de force that’s bound to be high on our Best Songs of 2020 list.

According to D’Agostino, Swim is a character sketch, according to “a composite of several people I met or observed while living in Kensington, a neighborhood in Philadelphia gravely affected by the ongoing opioid emergency in the United States. One day my wife Rachel pointed out in passing that some of our neighbors had old faces. She didn’t mean “old” in the sense that they were aging prematurely (though some certainly were), but that they had the faces of Dustbowl-era farmers we had seen in books and films. I began imagining a young man suffering from temporal dysphoria (feeling that one was born into the wrong era and strongly identifying with a bygone time), drinking and otherwise numbing himself to tamp down overwhelming anemoia and sadness. Robbing condos freshly erected in adjoining neighborhoods. Doing harm.  Blacking out, driving drunk, hurting those he should love, but simply cannot. Dreaming of leaving forever the bricky mazes of row homes that open into wide empty avenues.”

Welcome to Swim below, followed by Marian. With these songs as an intro, we can be assured that with their new album, the Empty Country will be filling up our hearts and minds. Stay tuned for more good news from this band.


Got a tattoo on my ribcage
Of the second plane hitting
Had it done while I was doing time up in Ossining
Got my game down in the shore towns
With the boardwalk trash
22, I was a blue eyed sociopath
Black out
Not sure
Think I might have hurt someone
Same dream
Moonlight silvering the pine trees
Iʼm guilty
Maybe you could come and live it down with me
As weʼre crossing the Walt Whitman
Catch my startled reflection
Donʼt think Iʼll ever feel like myself again
Iʼm an Okie from the ‘30s
But itʼs 2020
The black blizzards on the blank prairie
Casing places
Packing the pistol that my dad left me
Tubs of street chalk
We draw messages for yuppies
Weʼre evil, baby
I guess some people have to be
Come and live it down with me


Drunk and invulnerable
Driving home in the snow
The pikeʼs a time tunnel, honey lamb
Wonʼt bother quitting
Already seen the way it ends for me
The mine collapses in spring of ʼ67
I was a bastard anyway
But feigning tenderness
I left you something dreadful
And you didnʼt know
She was a blue baby
Hole in her heart
From the start
Came two months early
Call her Marian for grandma
She grows up fast and moves to new Babylon
Watches the plague take her pretty friends
Flash to her middle age
The storm on Jupiterʼs abating
Sheʼs our blue baby
Hole for a heart
From the start
Her whale song wakes me
Reach for your warmth
You know that I am with time, honey
I ainʼt in time
And I see these arcing streams
Tracing something grander than you can imagine
If you want
I donʼt mind
Iʼll whisper the date and time
A phase change
Reason to be afraid
Now and then
The light bends
After my accident
‘Round a room
Where I hide
In a sea of Virginia pines
A burnt bus
Further in
McDowell County District
I climb up
Take my blade
Start carving the name of my blue baby


Watch Artist of the Year Bon Iver’s New Video For The Challenging “Naeem”

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Bon Iver’s just-released video for their great song Naeem (off of i,i , the Best Album of 2019) echoes the mien of many of that band’s finest songs. Though you may not fully (or even partially) comprehend the challenging clues and totems buried within, you nonetheless FEEL the weight and wonder within those songs/videos. As you watch Naeem below, you may not grasp any particular significance in the video’s suspended rock. But you may nonetheless be strongly stirred by the gravitas of its waving grass and the baptismal power of its life-giving water. And you may be deeply moved by the ineffable qualities. Though it may be a cold winter, it may nonetheless be good.

Naeem may be about the climate crisis, the failure to take action and a call to overcome that inaction. And it may be about the unwealthy and our collective responsibility for the planet and others. Regardless, it’s a powerful call-and-response in which we truly feel the singer as he cries “I can hear crying.” And the answer? “More love.”

Dem dat knows it feels it.


Watch David Byrne and “American Utopia” Cast’s Recent Uplifting Performances On The Talk Shows

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This week David Byrne showed up on The Tonight Show with his cast from his acclaimed Broadway show American Utopia. It’s well worth your time to watch their uplifting performance of Road to Nowhere (originally off the Talking Head’s 1985 album Little Creatures.

This performance follows on the heels of Byrne’s sublime performance of One Fine Day with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus on the Kimmel show last month.

Both are joyous marvels that rise above the current political miasma. Check ’em out!


Chuck Prophet Releases Prophetable New Song “As High As Johnny Thunders”

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We have been fans of Chuck Prophet in his various guises (Green On Red, solo, with The Mission Express, etc.) for at least two lives. Simply put, Prophet is one of America’s best songwriters and guitar-players, not to mention comedians. During those two lives, we haven’t stopped dragging ourselves around to see Prophet perform wherever and whenever possible. Prophet has written some of the great gems of the American songbook, including No Other Love, Summertime Thing, Would You Love Me?, You Did (Bomp Shooby Doobie Bomp), Willie Mays Is Up To Bat, Castro Halloween, Wish Me Luck, etc.

Now comes the great news that Prophet has released another song to add to that hallowed list: As High As Johnny Thunders, which you can listen to at the usual sources HERE (the song was co-written with klipschutz). For those unaware, Johnny Thunders was a notoriously raucous member of The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers who, among other things, gave the world another great song, You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory. before succumbing years later to overdose in 1991–hence Prophet’s song’s reference to “high as….”

As High As Johnny Thunders was recorded as part of Episode 3 of the show Sites & Sounds (sponsored by Southwest Airlines & Luck Reunion), which you can watch HERE . In the episode, Prophet takes on the role of San Francisco tour guide and takes musician Aaron Lee Tasjan to some of the best hidden spots in San Francisco, including The Make-Out Room concert venue where Prophet and cohorts perform the new song (at minute 25:00).

The song and episode are further evidence of Prophet’s estimable powers as a songwriter, musician and comedian (if you don’t believe us on the funny-front, do yourselves a favor and sign up for his great newsletter HERE).

Catch him if you can!


Matt Berninger Releases New Song “Walking On A String” Featuring Phoebe Bridgers

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Two of our favorite artists, Matt Berninger (The National, El Vy) and Phoebe Bridgers (Boygenius, Better Oblivion Community Center, Phoebe Bridgers) have collaborated on new song Walking On A String.

Today, Berninger has released a new video featuring the song, which was co-written for Between Two Ferns: The Movie by Berninger and his wife, Carin Besser, together with musician Mike Brewer. The song was recorded with the talented Walter Martin (guitar) and Matt Barrick (drums) of The Walkmen and produced by Bridgers, Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska. The music video was directed, shot and edited by Tom Berninger and Chris Sgroi.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie starring Zach Galifianakis was released on Netflix last month. The movie features multiple cameos, including Berninger dueting with Bridgers in a barroom scene. 

According to a press release: “Between Two Ferns: The Movie’s producer and writer/director Scott Aukerman had given Berninger carte blanche to create whatever he wanted – with whomever he wanted – provided the resulting song would sound right at home being performed in a bar scene set in the heartland of America. The song, performed as a duet between the two singers, was recorded in two versions –   presented in both soaring, lush pop glory and as hushed, chilled-out Americana. The band’s performance in the movie was filmed at Oh Grady’s bar in the San Fernando Valley, CA.”

“It’s a song about how our problems and anxieties can build up and feel like a tangled inescapable web,” Berninger told Rolling Stone. “Sometimes all it takes is a friend with some perspective and patience to help us see our way out of our own messes. It’s also just a love song between a spider and a moth.”

Walking on a String is available now via Dead Oceans.

Check out the big-production song (it runs on strings) and its video below.


Thom Yorke and Wynton Marsalis Dilute and Dent the “Daily Battles”

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Send us all of your sad songs. Simmer them in sepia sounds and plate with cris du coeur. We slowly savor each, our daily battles diluted and dented. Left for hope. Listen below: the singer and horn mine the field and bare the path. Enough about your broken heart.

Check out the intertwined tracks below from the soundtrack to Motherless Brooklyn, Edward Norton’s new film.

Daily Battles:

“The lines are drawn
For  daily battles
Trumpet  sound
For daily troubles

Lock your dreams away
You’re  waking up
Enough  about
Your broken heart

You’re  on parade
For daily battles
The other side
It has no face

Upon  its cause
We can’t remember
Enough about
Your broken heart

The lines are drawn
For daily battles
And I can mend
I cannot stop

Lock your dreams away
You’re waking up
Enough about
Your broken heart”


Spoon Releases Cool New Song “Bullets Not Spent” in Advance of Greatest Hits Album

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Spoon is one of our favorite bands of all time. We just can’t shut up about the band and its discography, having devoted entire weeks and countless lobbed-lauds to the band and their crunching, snarling magnificence.

Spoon has now announced a greatest hits compendium (retrospective?) from their entire discography entitled Everything Hits at Once (check the songlist at bottom). It’ll be released on July 26th via Matador Records and will feature 12 of their best tracks. The huge bonus is that the album will also feature the fantastic new song No Bullets Spent. The song is classic Spoon with its cadence and crunchy guitars, and fits perfectly on their music shelf. It’s also culled from recording sessions that will result (hopefully near-term?) in a stellar new Spoon album.

About No Bullets Spent leader Britt Daniel has said: “I solo in it. I do two guitar solos. But don’t worry, they’re 10 seconds or less. The song is sort of a story/parable thing about an oppressive minister and fantasizing about how to get rid of him in the best way.”

Check the fantastic new song out below via its lyric video.

Spoon is also headed out on tour and you can check the dates and get tickets HERE.

Everything Hits at Once Songlist:
01. I Turn My Camera On
02. Do You
03. Don’t You Evah
04. Inside Out
05. The Way We Get By
06. The Underdog
07. Hot Thoughts
08. I Summon You
09. Rent I Pay
10. You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
11. Got Nuffin
12. Everything Hits At Once
13. No Bullets Spent


What We Wouldn’t Give: Feist Singing “One to One” To Audience Member

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All the tea in China? A landing on the moon? A free-fall dive over Niagara Falls? All of that and much, much more, to be sung to one-on-one by one of our all-time favorite musical artists, Leslie Feist. Watch below as a lucky lad, who has been plucked from an audience, is blind-folded and led to a seat on stage where Feist sings and loops to him her evocative gem, Baby Be Simple (lyrics at bottom, off of her last album Pleasure). Beauty abounds all around.

The performance is another in a series from La Blogothèque entitled One to One. In these performances a person in the audience is “kidnapped,” then taken to a secret room where a musical artist is waiting to perform a sing in front of the kidnapped person. There have been others in this charming series, including a majestic Heavenly Father and 8 (circle) from Bon Iver and this charmer from Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats. (By the way, Fruit Bats perform this Friday night at Soho in Santa Barbara and you can still get tickets HERE.)

To see another fantastic intimate performance (from 2011) from Feist, go HERE.

Photo at top by Steve Armstrong.

In and out
That’s my way in
I saw an old sign
When my world was way down
Quiet on the streets
So I climbed the stairs
To the rarified air
I’ve been on fire
Made from my thoughts
I thought up my life by
Out then back in
That’s the way to begin
But I had to climb down
Into today
And give up the pain
I held myself up by

Baby, be simple
Baby, be simple
Be simple
Be simple with me

Out, thicker skin
That’s no way to begin
Come with your true arc
To fall all the way down
Like an empire
Into a kingdom of guts
To become a rooftop
I built me from the bedrock
Made me right up
Ignited little tunes
While the wind was still
Trying to find a way to tell you
If I’m not the true arc
Is even there
Or on a pillow of air
Rip me apart by the lore
To become that rooftop
Had to fall all the way down

Baby, be simple
Baby, please be simple
Be simple
Be simple with me


Cause for Celebration: Bon Iver Releases Two Superb New Songs, Announces North American Tour

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We awoke yesterday to the great news that Bon Iver had released two superb new songs and announced North American tour dates for this fall. We are led to believe the two new songs will be featured on Bon Iver’s next studio album (only their fourth) and feature contributions from Jenn Wassner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes), Bryce Dessner, Moses Sumney, Bruce Hornsby, Elsa Jensen, Psymun, Phil Cook, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and others.

The first song (listen below) is Hey, Ma, a comparatively straightforward (though “looks is deceiving man, don’t underrate no man“) song from Vernon that seems to look back on his youth, his relationship with his mother (and others), and cataclysmic growings-up. The lyric video below ads to the heft with what appear to be old home movies from Vernon. Though Vernon always sells his songs with lyrical crypto-currency, we will forever buy the weight and weft of their worth. ‘Cause the songs always allow light to leak in. “Tall time to call your Ma.” Dang. Do so if you can!

The second song is U (Man Like), which opens with Chance the Rapper undertones and Bruce Hornsby on piano. The song cryptically (natch) explores current social issues (lyrics at bottom), with allusions to the under-wealthed, the opioid crisis (the “domer” and “rot”), homelessness, the over-wealthed, and the potential resulting comeuppance thereto (“Let ’em eat cake!) as projected in Brecht/Weill’s seminal Pirate Jenny (and the Black Freighter). U (Man Like) was arranged by Bryce Dessner and features affecting backing vocals from Jenn Wasner, Moses Sumney and Elsa Jensen. While sounding the warning, the message is delivered in a sweet-sounding package. Keep cueing Justin, compassion’s bound to take at some point!

Bon Iver has also made reference to icommai.com, a nebulous website with hints about the band’s upcoming recording (fourth studio album?).

Check out both lyric videos below. Superb songs yet again from Bon Iver!

As for the fall tour, Wasner will also join Justin Vernon, Sean Carey, Matthew McCaughan, Michael Lewis, and Andrew Fitzpatrick on stage, together with supporting acts FeistIndigo GirlsSharon Van Etten, and Yo La Tengo. Tickets go on sale on Friday, June 7 at 10:00 AM local time HERE. The dates are listed below. Catch them if you can!

06/04 – Esch-Sur-Alzette, LU @ Rockhal
06/08 – Aarhus, DK @ Northside Festival
06/12 – Bergen, NO @ Bergenfest
06/14 – Malmo, SE @ Mölleplatsen
06/29 – Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest
07/07 – Montreux, CH @ Montreux Jazz Festival
07/11 – Madrid, ES @ Mad Cool Festival
07/13 – Oeiras, PT @ NOS Alive
07/16 – Lyon, FR @ Les Nuits De Fourvière
07/17 – Verona, IT @ Castello Scaligero, Villafranca di Verona
07/19 – Wiesbaden, DE @ Schlachthof
07/21 – Gräfenhainichen, DE @ Melt Festival
08/31 – Missoula, MT @ KettleHouse Amphitheater*
09/02 – Vail, CO @ Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater∞
09/03 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre∞
09/04 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Maverik Center∞
09/06 – George, WA @ The Gorge Amphitheatre∞
09/07 – Vancouver, BC @ Pacific Coliseum∞
09/10 – Portland, OR @ Theater of the Clouds∞
09/12 – San Francisco, CA @ Chase Center∞
09/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum∞
10/03 – St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center†
10/04 – Rosemont, IL @ Allstate Arena†
10/06 – Toronto, ON @ Scotiabank Arena†
10/08 – Columbus, OH @ Schottenstein Center†
10/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center†
10/11 – Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center‡
10/15 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden†
10/17 – Washington, DC @ The Anthem†
10/19 – Raleigh, NC @ PNC Arena†

*w/ Indigo Girls
∞ w/ Sharon Van Etten
† w/ Feist
‡ w/ Yo La Tengo

U (Man Like) lyrics:

“Mmm, mmm
I will see you off now
Down the back of the ridge
There’s just something that I got to show you
There is domer and there’s rot
And the common case
It ain’t nothing what you say is true

With your long arms, try
And just give some time
Presently, it does include my dues
Ain’t your standard premonitions
All this phallic repetition
Boy, you tell yourself a tale or two

Man like you
Man, improve

Well, I know that we set off for a common place
(And the lines have run too deep)
How much caring is there of some American love
When there’s lovers sleeping in your streets?

So Cerberus Ride!
Bring those dead alive
Like Pirate Jenny on the Black Freighter
It’ll be a long day of fixing
Make something else your mission
Boy, this shit’s so hard to cue

Man like you
How you do?