That Girl With A Blog











If there was ever an author to combine physics and country music into one book, it’s Patrick Wensink.

In Black Hole Blues, Wensink ditches the short story in favor of a proper novel. The estranged Caruthurs brothers (hah) have surely made complete messes of their lives. J. Claude is a washed up, broken down country singer on a quest to write a ditty for every woman’s name on earth, including his (also estranged) sister, Zygmut. Have you ever tried to rhyme something with Zygmut? Well, it’s lead to a lot of sleepless nights and turkey clubs for the self-proclaimed “Nashville’s Shakespeare”. Ohhhh, almost forgot about the nasty rivalry with that pansy ass, Kenny Rogers. Jerk. Meanwhile, brother Lloyd is busy trying to stop the black hole that he created from slowly (and I mean slowly) enveloping the earth.

Remember that whole, “…I have a feeling that Wensink’s only going to get better from here” situation? Well, what can I say? I was right. Hilariously written, you get the story through a kaleidoscope of characters. From J. Claude’s trusty guitar, Rusty, to a smoker (like, the meat kind, not the cigarette kind), to a vulgar proton, to a sandwich, to a bus, to the chef, to all of the main characters and more. It adds a depth to the story and a humor otherwise unmatched.

While certainly preposterous, the book itself is easy to follow, considering that county music and physics are certainly not two of my strong points. It’s not that it’s “dumbed-down” either, though. It’s simply an engaging story. Underneath it all, it all comes down to goals, love, identity, and what we would all do if we knew if the end of the world was coming. Universal themes hidden beneath a Wentastic layer of absurdity.

It’s also a serious page turner. Between the Jasper Fforde books I’ve been reading and this one, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go back and re-read the last few pages because I get way too excited about what’s going to happen and just want to get there already! Trust me, though, whatever you think is going to happen next in a Patrick Wensink book, you’re going to have to guess again.

Check it out for yourself. You can pick up a copy for less than $11 over on Amazon. It gets a resounding A here on That Girl With A Blog (two for two!).

Also, in honor of the 4th of July, watch this classic video of Cox & Combes’ George Washington. Have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

George Washington



*le sigh* I just don’t think I’m hip enough to like The Fleet Foxes. I got their EP, Sun Giant, and their first full length, self-titled album back in ’08 on the recommendation of a friend and didn’t really “get it” then, and I certainly don’t “get it” now with their sophomore album and newest release, Helplessness Blues.

From what I’m gathering, people are considering this album a masterpiece of sorts and I’m not sure why, really. Perhaps it’s the “cool” thing to do. Frankly, I don’t find wasting $60,000 dollars on studio time, then scrapping it because it wasn’t imperfect enough a reasonable thing to do.

From the Wikipedia:

“They got together to rehearse new songs in February 2009 in a rented house outside Seattle, but the sessions were mostly scrapped. As a result of those wasted sessions, the band lost $60,000 of their own money.”

Then, from a late 2009 interview with The Guardian:

”I want the recording to be really fast. I want to do all the vocal takes in one go, so even if there are fuck-ups, I want them to be on there. I want there to be guitar mistakes. I want there to be not totally flawless vocals. I want to record it and have that kind of cohesive sound. [Van Morrison’s] Astral Weeks, to me, is the best-sounding album because it sounds like there were only six hours in the universe for that album to be recorded in. So I want it to have that feeling.”

Doesn’t really make sense does it? Robin Pecknold lost SIXTY GRAND of his own money, his girlfriend (apparently when she heard the “brilliance” of the album, they reconciled), and apparently pissed off a lot of other people just to make this album, which I think is just a little bit ridiculous, especially the girlfriend part. Seriously, she leaves you while you’re completely invested in making this album, but now that she sees that you’ve hit the gravy train, she’s back on board? In the words of Dan Savage, “DTMFA”.

Anyway, as for the album, it’s pretty boring, actually. In comparison to their relatively sunny debut album, I guess this is supposed to be “deeper”, but it just comes across as melodramatic and self-indulgent.

I mean, check out the press release:

“Hey, my name’s Robin and I’m a singer in and songwriter for Fleet Foxes, here to write the promotional biography meant to accompany and explain Helplessness Blues. I’m just going to write down some thoughts I have about the album and give you some context. Let’s do this.

So, for a bit of background: we’re from Seattle, and the members of the band are me, Skye Skjelset, Josh Tillman, Casey Wescott, Christian Wargo, and now our buddy Morgan Henderson, who helped out on the album and will join the band on tour. The band began as just me and Skye in Junior High, playing songs in his bedroom, until we moved to Seattle, settled on a name, and began meeting other musicians and playing with different people until we met all the guys currently on board. Casey joined in 2005, Christian in 2007, and Josh joined shortly before our first album was released, but after we’d recorded it. So, that’s some background information. Good luck working that into something intriguing.
We released our first album in 2008, had a lot of unexpected support from people and the press and we ended up on tour until October of 2009 (we’d expected to do one or two U.S. tours and hoped to start our next album in the Fall of 2008!)

Recording started with demos at a building in Seattle that’s been multiple recording studios since the ‘70s, from Triangle, to Jon & Stu’s, to Reciprocal Recording, to the Hall of Justice. A number of incredible albums have been made in that building over the years, including Bleach by Nirvana. So we were lucky enough to take over the lease when Death Cab for Cutie moved out in October 2009, and I started writing songs more seriously again. A couple months later, Joanna Newsom asked me if I would open some shows for her. As a huge fan of hers, I was completely honored and flattered that she’d want me to open her shows, and I felt like I needed some new songs that I could play alone. So, a number of the songs that ended up on this album came from the writing that preceded those tours. Having to play the songs alone meant I was really focusing on having a clear lyric and a strong melody, which ended up being a great change of focus for me as a writer because I’d spent a lot of 2009 messing around with non-songwriter type music and not always finding it satisfying.

After the first Newsom tour, we all went up to Woodstock, New York, to record at Dreamland Recording, where our friends in Beach House had had a good experience recording their last album Teen Dream. We were there for twelve days recording the drums and acoustic guitars. As an aside, I think Josh did an incredible job on the drums on this record, writing really inventive parts without a lot of instruction, and having such good tempo and “feel” that we were able to record all but one song on the album without a click track.

From there began a long stretch of recording in Seattle, from May of 2010 to November of 2010, where a ton of shit happened at numerous studios including Reciprocal, Bear Creek, and Avast. I could get into it, but basically it took a long time due to illness, scheduling, creative doubt, reassessment, rewriting, new songs being written, etc., etc ., etc. It was at times difficult to make this record. We ended up mixing at Avast in Seattle in December of 2010, with the record finally finished, even though we were recording vocals and guitar and rewriting lyrics up to the 11th hour. Not even the 11th, more like the 13th. So here we are, almost three years after the first album, finally done with the second one. Now I’ll talk about the actual music a little bit.

I think this music draws influence and inspiration from popular music and folk rock of the mid ‘60s to the early ’70s, folks like Peter Paul & Mary, John Jacob Niles, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Neil Young, CSN, Judee Sill, Ennio Morricone, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The Zombies, SMiLE-era Brian Wilson, Roy Harper, Van Morrison, John Fahey, Robbie Basho, The Trees Community, Duncan Browne, the Electric Prunes, Trees, Pete Seeger, and Sagittarius, among many others. I’d say it’s a synthesis of folk rock, traditional folk, & psychedelic pop, with an emphasis on group vocal harmonies. Astral Weeks was a big inspiration on this album, if not always in sound then in approach. The raw emotion in Van Morrison’s vocals and the trance-like nature of the arrangements were very inspiring for this album!

Musically it leans on country music a little bit more, in the slide guitar of songs like “Grown Ocean” and “Bedouin Dress” or “Helplessness Blues.” We used a number of new instruments including the 12-string guitar, the hammered dulcimer, zither, upright bass, wood flute, tympani, Moog synthesizer, the tamboura, the fiddle, the marxophone, clarinet, the music box, pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, Tibetan singing bowls, vibraphone, along with more traditional band instrumentation.

OK! I think that covers most of it. The last thing I’ll talk about is the title. It’s called Helplessness Blues for a number of reasons. One, it’s kind of a funny title. Secondly, one of the prevailing themes of the album is the struggle between who you are and who you want to be or who you want to end up, and how sometimes you are the only thing getting in the way of that. That idea shows up in a number of the songs.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the record!
Robin”

That’s not a press release, that’s a novel. Instrumentally, I guess it’s impressive. Lyrically, it’s okay, too. There’s just something about the way that they put it all together that makes me cringe a little bit when I listen to it. From what I hear, it’s a “grower”, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to listen to it anymore. On the plus side, the cover art is neat and the one track, “Sim Sala Bim” isn’t entirely terrible. For the most part, the album is just pretentious, and I just can’t deal with pretentious. It gets a big ol’ “meh” from me. D

You can make your own, informed decision and check it out for yourself. You can also check out more news at their site (where you can also listen to the album), Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter (Robin Pecknold deleted his personal account…guess Twitter’s too mainstream now).

“Sim Sala Bim”



Well, Ben Harper is back, again, this time with a return to his solo work (the first since 2006’s Both Sides of the Gun) and his tenth studio album, Give Till It’s Gone. It’s been a rough year for Harper…first the breakup with Virgin Records, then the breakup with his wife, actress Laura Dern. You’d think, under these less than desirable circumstances, that this would be a fantastic album, but while I wish that were the case, it simply isn’t so.

Can someone please tell me why an album like his last effort with The Relentless 7, White Lies For Dark Times was so poorly received, while this one is getting rave reviews? It’s just a little bit ridiculous. I rather enjoyed WLFDT, while most critics tore it apart. Now, Harper gives us a whining, droning, waste of bandwidth and everyone seems to go batshit crazy for it. It doesn’t even have a negative review on Metacritic, yet, and that’s almost unheard of. You’d think there’d at least be someone out there trolling on it. Well,  I guess this time, that someone happens to be me. It seems like this album just never actually gets off the ground, despite the assistance of heavyweights like Ringo Starr and Jackson Browne.

I get it. It’s supposed to be this post-break up confessional, especially with tracks like “Don’t Give Up On Me Now”, the first hit of the album, but it simply falls flat. He tries an attempt at genuine angst, but it just comes out from disorganized, noisy, and full on messy in tracks like “Clearly Severly” to merely clumsy with songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Free” to a misguided attempts at psychedelia with the Beatles’ inspired, “Spilling Faith”.

What a bummer, because I really do like Ben Harper. This album really wasn’t even worth the download time. Apparently a lot of other people are loving the shit out of it, though, so you never know, you might still dig it. For me, though, I can bring myself to give it anything over a C. Hopefully he gets through whatever the hell this phase is and goes back to making inspired, inventive, and classically Ben Harper-styled tunes.

You can check it out for yourself, streaming for free on his Myspace. You can check out more on his site, Facebook, and Twitter, as well. Well this was certainly a down note to start the weekend. Hopefully, the rest of my new albums are better!

“Don’t Give Up On Me Now”



So, you may not know her name yet, but chances are you know someone she’s related to. From the press release:

“Her musical heritage includes great uncle Peter Bocage, one of the great trumpeters of New Orleans history,  and piano giant Eddie Bo. TJ’s grandmother was an opening act for Ray Charles, and her mother spent years touring as a vocalist with George Clinton’s Brides of Funkenstein.

With the release of her latest singles on May 31, Evans continues in that long family tradition. Recording “Paradiso” with her uncle Cordell “Boogie” Mosson of Parliament Funkadelic, TJ showcases her unique, soulful sound. She also recruited legendary MC Grandmaster Jay to collaborate for “Shakey Ground.” These two tracks hint at great things to come from an artist coming into her own.”

The granddaughter of funk has sprinted out of the gate with a ferocity unparalleled. One of her first two singles, “On Shakey Ground” is already making waves, in addition to “Paradiso”.

Evans began playing at the tender age of 14, but took some time away to pursue music journalism and photography, snapping pictures of bands like George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Amuse, Remember Paris, and Every Avenue.

Influenced by everyone from Patty Labelle to Pantera, the girl’s got soul. While quietly reserved on a regular basis, her gritty vocals, raw guitar and deep grooves tell you everything that you need to know.

Check out the video below of Evans with with “Uncle Boogie” and George Clinton at BB King’s Blues Club in NYC and definitely keep an eye out for this one. She’s a firecracker! You can keep tabs on all the latest news on her Myspace, Facebook, or Twitter.



So, to be quite honest, when I first listened to this album, I wasn’t a fan. It’s out there. Like way out there. Maybe not on par with Gaga out there, but definitely on par with Modest Mouse out there. I listened to it once and I must have heard something in there, because I kept on trying it again and again. And another time after that.

The Australian garage-rock trio will be releasing their second, full-length album, In Loving Memory, on June 17, 2011. From their site:

“In the age of 3:30 digital singles, The Paper Scissors are cutting against the grain with their new album In Loving Memory. A creation for lovers of long-form albums, the record brings together a range of influences and topics to create a truly international rock soundscape.

The songs were written during the band’s travels; from home in Sydney to as far away as Queens, New York, in various studios and via email through numerous long sessions. Jai Pyne has written lyrics about a range of topics from family, love, drunkenness, alcoholism, death, sex, the ocean, weather, isolation and more, bringing a disparate collection of musings into one of the most coherent and focused collections of songs from an Australian band this year.

“We’ve shed any insecurities and have pieced together an album that embodies us as a band,” explains Jai. “The way our sound has evolved and the fact that it reflects our learning and growth explains why it’s taken so long to realise this album.”

Discovered by underground radio including FBI and Triple J, the band’s first single “We Don’t Walk” captured the playfulness and self-assured outlook of youth developing a loyal fan base which was cemented with national touring .

The first taste of the new album showed a remarkable growth in the band with the single “Lung Sum” released in late 2010. With a deeper outlook, but a solid basis in pop melody, the track took the listener on a journey, preparing for what was to come on “In Loving Memory”.

Mixed by UK producer Tom McFall (REM, Weezer, Snow Patrol), the album is a clear artistic statement. Part UK, part US and totally Australian, “In Loving Memory” is a reflection of urban Sydney and the influences, contradictions, loves and pressures inherent in a complex life.”

It certainly is. It’s certainly a unique album and unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of people will give it the second (and third and fourth) chances that it really deserves. There’s a depth to it that’s not readily available in today’s music meat market. I think someone chose the term “soundscape” quite correctly when writing that blurb there, because that’s exactly what this is, and until you immerse yourself into it, I don’t think that it can really be appreciated. The songs kind of just slide on past, until you take that moment to stop and actually listen to them.

This time around, they’ve lost a little of that playful attitude of yore (just a little, mind you) in favor of an emotive and laid-back sound. From chanting hits like the first single “Lung Sum” or airy, floaty numbers like “On Your Hand”, or the almost Gorillaz-esque “Wrong”, its really a pretty good album. It’s got a spacey, indie vibe, perfect for a chilly, autumn evening. They really are like Modest Mouse meets Gorillaz…in Australia.

From what I hear, they’re stellar live, and touring! So if you hear of The Paper Scissors in your neck of the woods, definitely check them out. In the meantime, though, you also check out all the latest other news on their site, Myspace, Facebook, or Twitter.

“Lung Sum”



Well, it’s the very first Metal Monday here on That Girl With A Blog and boy do we have a treat for you! Pittsburgh’s very own Dethlehem has released their second full length album, The Ghorusalem Codex, Volume 2: Of Magick & Tyranny, the long awaited sequel to their 2009 debut, The Ghorusalem Codex, Volume I: Enthroned Upon A Spire.

“But, what makes this a two-fer!?”, you ask. And the answer to that question is the fact that I saw them spouting this stuff live on Friday. Kickass.

As for Dethlehem, self-described as “epic, medieval, fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons metal”, they’re a riot. What sets them apart from other bands in this vein is their tongue-in-cheek approach. Imagine Gwar, but funny. To catch you up on the story so far, from the band’s Myspace:

Dethlehem formed in the greatest respect to the centuries old story of the Three-Wise-Demons. The story takes place long ago before the first cataclysm, in the well known village of Dethlehem, in the land of Ghorusalem. History says that a baby with great, evil powers was born to a virgin goblin whore. After the birth, the infant first brought plague to the village of Dethlehem. Not soon after, ancient flying serpents were awakened from their hibernation deep in the earth’s crust. They soon ruled the land, only to abide by the unholy one’s word. Soon, the Three-Wise-Demons: Galatan, Kullinia, and Brigalathis visited the baby boy and revealed to him just how much evil he could control. They named him, Yagolith.

Yagolith, king of all that is evil, harnessed his powers for the most evil purposes. With his ability to shape shift into a dragon, he became quite knowledgable, and his hunger for treasure grew and grew.

For hundreds of years, Yagolith went unchallenged. Until a Legion of Warriors traveled the lands to battle him under a cursed sky…

Long story short, and not to give too many spoilers (you can download this album for free here to get the full story), the formidable band of archaic men kick some goblin-dragon shapeshifter and demon ass. Hey, if they hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been a Volume 2, right? You could’ve figured that one out on your own.

And that leaves us where The Ghorusalem Codex, Volume 2: Of Magick & Tyranny begins. After vanquishing the malevolent Yagolith, the gang, comprised of Lord Bonecrush, Overlord Brom, Bovice, Davidcus the Black, and Hildor, return to find their beloved Dethlehem in ruins. They embark on a quest amidst sand, dirt, and sky to seek their revenge.

I must admit that it’s actually a pretty damn good story! I find myself getting what is probably far more into this album than I should be. All except for the pee-soaked goblin. I could do without the scent of urine. I guess it’s adds to the charm, though, eh? I do also find myself missing the epic guitar solos of Volume 1 (but they brought it back a little in their live show!), but it leaves more room for this yarn to be spun and more adventures to be had. Also, in comparison of their first effort, they’ve gone for a slightly more melodic approach versus their prior thrash metal status, which I particularly prefer. Oh, there’s still growling and such, but the new sound paints a much more vivid story. This is certainly a band of very talented men doing what they do best and having a little fun while they’re at it. That much fun is bound to be infectious, and it sure is.

Alright, now I do know how this ends, but you’re just going to have to listen to the album for yourself to find out. I can tell you that it involves a kick ass fight scene and some portals. Can’t go wrong with portals, right?

To be honest here, I always find it a little harder to do a review for a local band. The Pittsburgh music scene is alive and well and who am I to knock someone down a peg? Thankfully, Dethlehem has made this one very easy for me. I like this album, a lot, and want to know what’s fucked up?

It’s even better live.

Myself and The Husband went to go see them at their CD release show at The Smiling Moose Friday night. I should add that I haven’t been to The Moose since July of 2009, for what I think is a pretty good reason, but this was a pretty kickass way to break that streak. It actually wasn’t the first time that we’d seen them, but it was indeed the first time that we’d seen them in a proper venue. For starters, the place was beyond packed (sold-out, actually, if I’m thinking correctly) and you simply couldn’t beat the energy, despite the fact that it was “late as tits” (Lord Bonecrush).

There were pirates, wenches, medieval knights, and inflatable 20-sided die. I don’t think you can really beat that. They opened with the beginning of the new album, talk-y bits and all, went into a few old tracks and did their classic, rousing rendition of Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose”, which was shockingly good. Overlord Brom is a beast on the drums, managing to play them impeccably well, IN A HELMET. Seriously, just check these guys out already. This was definitely a well spent Friday night in Pittsburgh. These guys totally get an A for effort. When it comes to Dethlehem, you can be assured that nothing you ever hear will be half-assed. Check out more on their site, Facebook, or Twitter.

And Happy Metal Monday! Stay tuned for the next installment with another Pittsburgh band, River Runs Scarlet!

“Kiss From A Rose”



What’s crazier than Dr. Gregory House making an album? The fact that it’s not half bad. Actually, it’s really very good. Hugh Laurie is beginning to prove himself the exception to every rule. Celebrity/musician crossovers have a tendency to be…well…terrible to say the least. William Shatner, anyone? Also, an English guy doing the blues. There must be an embarrassingly short list of nominees in that category, because the only other two that come to mind are Eric Clapton and John Mayall.

We’ve caught a glimpse of his musical history in a handful of House episodes, but it’s taken him this long to actually release his first full-length album, Let Them Talk, released earlier this month. Granted, he does have a pretty impressive cast of characters including Tom Jones, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Kevin Breit, Vincent Henry, and Allen Toussaint, but Laurie is the man with the plan on piano and main vocals.

Laurie’s homage to New Orleans is a serious foray into music, despite the atypical environs. Most celebrities take their fame status to the bank, expecting their name to sell albums, but with Let Them Talk, it’s easy to forget that this is House we’re talking about. Knight status having, boat rowing, classic comedian House. His renditions of classic blues songs like “St. James Infirmary”, “After You’ve Gone” and “They’re Red Hot” never feel forced. It’s almost shameful how well a white, English guy sings the blues. In fact, Laurie himself muses in the liner notes, “I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman said anything to my mother when I was born and there’s no hellhound on my trail, as far as I can judge. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.” At least he admits it.

This is an better blues album than I could even hope to find in 2011, proving that recollective and universal themes in myth and music will never be out of style. I also love how this album seems to be purely for Laurie’s sake. I’m sure he’s not hurting in the financial department, reportedly making $400,000 PER EPISODE for the hit series on Fox. It’s simply Hugh Laurie doing what he likes to do and possibly bringing a few old names back into the spotlight.

As for the album itself…quite frankly, I love it. The piano is simply phenomenal and you really can’t beat Allen Toussaint for a string arrangement. Laurie’s voice ranges from a raspy, sombre timbre to him just plain old having fun (you can almost SEE the House-like smirk on his face in a few of them).

This is an earnest, genuine, honest-to-god blues album from an Englishman. And an actor. What could have been a laughable mishap ended up being what I’m finding the be my favorite album of the year so far. It even gets an A.

You can check out all the latest news of Laurie’s blues ventures on his site, the Twitter, the Facebook, or his Myspace. You can also check out this video (hooray for Jools Holland!). Happy hump day, everyone!

“You Don’t Know My Mind”



et cetera
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