Hugh Laurie – Let Them Talk

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”


Fitz and the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces

Man, I got this album a little after it came out last year, and totally forgot about it until a well-timed reminder from Mikey Shanley.

Fitz and the Tantrum’s debut album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces came out most likely when I was hardcore hooked on something else (Decemberists? Two Door Cinema Club?) and unfortunately, fell by the wayside. Lucky for them, the new releases right now are substantially lacking and I need some new tunes.

For this album, founder Michael Fitzpatrick enlisted friend James King and The Rebirth’s Noelle Scaggs (you might also know her from Dilated Peoples or the Black Eyed Peas) as well as Joseph Karnes, Jeremy Ruzumna, and John Wicks. Recorded in Fitzpatrick’s living room on a second (or third or fourth) hand organ, Pickin’ Up the Pieces is on the right side of the fine line that is neo-soul (see: Honeycut). They don’t sound like their trying too hard (see: Maroon Five) and it really works out for them. Don’t get me wrong, I kind of have a shameful love for Maroon Five, but there’s a good chance that’s because they’re soooo hokey. It’s fun, but I’d never be able to take them seriously.

Also awesome, is their selection of instrumentation. Mostly, the absolute absence of a guitar. Anywhere. There’s organ, saxophone, flute, Scagg’s voice  (which I’m going to include as an instrument, because it’s that utterly awesome) but not a single strum of a guitar. Despite that, there’s certainly no lack of full sound anywhere to be had on this album.  It comes off like actual 60’s B-sides, not cheap knock offs. Seriously, check out the video for “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” below. Crazy!

And what can I say? The likelyhood of this album putting you in a good mood on a dreary, Monday, Pittsburgh morning? Pretty good. A.

You can check out more of their stuff on their site, Myspace, Facebook, or Twitter.

“Money Grabber”

“Breakin’ the Chains of Love”

ArpLine – Travel Book

The pack of Brooklynites, ArpLine, comprised of Sam Tyndall (vocals, additional guitar, additional bass, programming and synthesizers), Adam De Rosa (guitars), Oliver Edsforth (keyboards and saxophone), Nathan Lithgow (bass, back-up vocals), and Michael Chap Resnick (percussion and programming) dropped their first album, Travel Book (clever!). From their press release:

“Indefinite and obtuse, their instrumentation is both complex and visceral, layering piercing guitars with heavy bass lines and resonant vocal textures that cascade into a washy gaze of percussion loops, synthesizers and programmed tones. ArpLine plays music that is both transfixing and poignant, lifting the veil of regularity so aptly found in many of their contemporaries.

…the band demonstrates a rich repertory of psychedelic industrial-pop sentiments that challenge the listener to look beyond the walls of sound and test the boundaries of all that is sonically possible.”

Whoever wrote that has been hitting the thesaurus. Hard. There is also a good possibly that a member of Vampire Weekend wrote it. Generally speaking, they’re pretty neat. Bordering on an early Joy Division-type sound, they’re bringing something back that I haven’t heard in ages…glam ROCK. Taking notes from early pioneers like the aforementioned Joy Division, New Order, David Bowie, and even elements of Depeche Mode, they’re bringing that somehow lazy sounding but tight musical arrangement back to the present. They make it sound so good, but manage to look and sound like they’re not even trying to.

The comparisons are being thrown around like rice at a wedding. Arcade Fire and Animal Collective seem to be the top picks and while I get it, ArpLine’s still got a sound completely their own.

Apparently “Fold Up Like A Piece of Paper” and “Make It Rain” are being acclaimed as the “hits” of the album, but it’s seriously ten quality tracks. The one that gets me every time is the seductive “Parts Unknown”. Slightly on the darker side, the Bauhaus sounding track brings back the days when goth was still pretty. “Amplify” is what MGMT would sound like…if they were better. (Not discounting the three tracks that everyone loves, but that’s exactly it. You have two albums and everyone loves THREE SONGS.) “Cap” is a hauntingly beautiful track, almost Tori Amos-like in the spectre-esque, foggy vocals.

While tracks vary, they’ve provided a fantastic, cohesive album that I’m sure is going to top some lists this year. This is certainly a valiant effort for a first release and I’m looking forward to what’s to come. Check ’em out for yourself on The Facebook, The Myspace, or The Twitter. In the meantime, this album get a good, solid, hearty A.

“Fold Up Like A Piece of Paper”


“Parts Unknown”

Straight Arrows – It’s Happening

So, I’m “back” from vacation. Physically back at least, though my brain is still apparently in Aruba. The hardest part of vacation is coming back to real life! Ugh!

While I was gone, though, the Inbox filled up with all sorts of goodies, including the debut album from The Straight Arrows, It’s Happening. The Australian quartet finally has succumbed to the digital age, previously releasing all of their prior efforts on 7″ vinyl. I feel like this is the part where I should insert some terrible hipster joke, but really, they’re kinda fun.

From their press release:

“The Straight Arrows started out with Owen Penglis yelling about getting dumped and kicked out of bands into a four track cassette machine in his bedroom, soon to be joined by Alex Grigg, Angela Bermuda, and Adam Williams, all friends with coloured musical pasts.

Slowly the four honed their reverb-laden, catchy, fuzzed out punk garage into something barely listenable and less antisocial. Unable to actually get any shows, Straight Arrows started putting on their own at the notorious (and now abandoned) gay bar The Newtown Hotel, culminating in the release of their first 7 inch record ‘Something Happens/Can’t Count’ on their newly formed label Juvenile Records.

Figuring the only way to sell these (and make their money back on the release) was to force these records in photocopied sleeves into the hands of drunks and connoisseurs, The Straight Arrows started driving up and down the East coast of Australia, playing parties, warehouses, bars; wherever they could, rapidly selling out the release (itself later seeing a repress on the esteemed RIP Society).

Forward two years and no longer kids, now with two more international 7 inch releases sold out, tours and shows with, amongst others (friends, punk slime, and shitheads), Thee Oh Sees, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, The Black Lips, Jay Reatard (RIP), PLUS a whole cast of bands recorded by Owen in the same method as the early releases (to cassette, in a bedroom or loungeroom, just ask Royal Headache, Circle Pit, The Frowning Clouds, Dead Farmers, or a whole cast of others you haven’t heard YET), the Straight Arrows come forth with full length release “IT’S HAPPENING”.

Graduating into the realm of MEDIUM FIDELITY, the group moved into Tim Done’s home/studio/archaic equipment museum, HANGING TREE, for a few days and recorded direct into his STRICTLY 1950s equipment, resulting in a release where almost all of the instruments can be heard.”

Yeah, this album still sounds like Owen Penglis yelling about getting dumped and kicked out of bands into a four track cassette machine in his bedroom, with some other kids playing on vintage gear tracked down in someone’s parent’s basement/attic/some other equally dusty and mysterious place. I haven’t heard anything like this is ages and it’s pretty awesome.

There was a quote somewheres out there on these intertubes about singer-songwriter fans buying stock in Depends because the mere thought of a real band will make them shit their pants. While I am a fan of the singer-writer (and my pants are still clean), these guys are pretty rad. All in all, it’s got this roots-punk thing going on…like old Stones or Ramones or early Iggy Pop. It’s everything that a good, old-fashioned punk album is supposed to be. Lots of lo-fi yelling, not a track over three minutes, and a distinct vibe that makes me want to get drunk and smoke cigarettes and run into people on a poorly lit dance floor.

Ahhh, and here’s that quote:

“Super crude power pop punker that would leave most of you Posies, Big Star, jingly jangly “songwriters” shitting your pants. The aforementioned Jingly Jangly crowd should maybe check some adult Diapers, because a full-lengther just got put down on tape!!” – Tom (

Check ’em out for yourself. Here’s my personal fave, “Bad Temper”:

You can also keep tabs on the band on their Facebook or Myspace. B for you, Straight Arrows!

Israel Cannan – Walk

At the tender age of 18, Israel Cannan did what the rest of us wanted to do at that age…he got in a van with a friend and just…went. He spent a little under three months touring Australia, the US, and London, presenting his “music to the people in a new and organic way…in the streets”. 21,484Kms, 124 towns and cities, and 88 sunsets later, he was ready to start the process of creating his own, full-length album, Walk. And when I say creating, I really mean creating. He did all of the instrumentation, writing, production, and recording. From his press release:

Some might call it a rite of passage or coming of age. Whatever it was, it was a musician’s inspirational and personal journey that saw him cross a continent…

In 2010, singer/songwriter Israel Cannan left his home on the East Coast of New South Wales to travel around Australia, creating, inspiring and promoting as he went.

Completing his debut album “Walk” on which he wrote, engineered and played all the instruments, Israel strapped his guitar to his back and set off in an old van with a friend by his side to film the experience and share his journey with the world.

Driving through every state in Australia and visiting some of the most remote places on Earth, Cannan spent months playing for locals and handing out free singles from the album to people on street corners all over the country.

Israel said of his journey: “I have never wanted to wait around for some elusive big break that may or may not come. There is a whole world of people out there that will connect with what I do, I just have to find them…”

What ensued was an amazing journey, both physically and personally for Israel as his album “Walk” was given birth to in the hearts and minds of the people he met.

All in all, it’s a pretty good album. Laid back in that surf-y Jack Johnson way, but with better vocals. Imagine if Eddie Vedder didn’t suck…that’s kinda what this guy reminds me of. I wouldn’t go as far to compare him to a new-age Bob Dylan, but with a few more years and stories under his belt, I think he could be. He’s already working on it on “One Fine Day”. In an industry of record company manufactured musicians, there’s still quite a few kids out there making and promoting their own music, and that’s awesome. For once, somebody’s not waiting for that “big break”, but making it themselves.

I have to say that “Set Me Free” is my fave track of the album so far. Check it out…

“Set Me Free”

You can check out the latest news on Cannan on his site, Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter, and check out all the videos from the tour on his YouTube. B!

Sunday Lane – Bring Me Sunshine

If there’s anything in the world that I need during these Pittsburgh winters, it’s a little bit of sunshine. Apparently the girl to bring it on is Sunday Lane. From her press release:

Sunday Lane is not your typical singer/songwriter who left Middle America for the City of Angels. A classically trained pianist, she writes articulate lyrics about social injustices in our society, young love, and growing up. Her soulful approach to songwriting expresses the depth of her musicianship.

“I am most in my element when my hands are on the keys,” says the 20-year-old Tulsa native. After receiving tons of critical acclaim in her home state, Sunday Lane decided to pursue the only career path that made sense… music. She is currently attending the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Sunday has been playing some of the most sought after venues in Los Angeles and winning over new fans nationwide.

Her debut EP, Bring Me Sunshine, displays her ability to write relatable songs with idiosyncratic phrases. With a new music video for her song “Won’t Go Back Down” and her EP available on iTunes, sunshine is definitely in Sunday Lane’s future.

Apparently, her first big hit, “Won’t Go Back Down” is making some serious waves, and I can see why, but “Lack of Color” is the one that catches my ear every time. I’ve had the EP on repeat for a coupled of days now and I’ve gotta say that it’s my fave thus far. Also awesome is “Reckless One”, with an opening piano line that could easily be mistaken for early Tori Amos. She’s got that sweet, yet gravelly voice of perfection and she’s utter confidence on the keys. You might as well just start memorizing the lyrics now, because I’m sure the radio stations are going to be playing her to death soon enough. Check her out for yourself!

“Won’t Go Back Down”

You know what? I really, actually enjoy this album. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. She gets an A. An A for you Sunday Lane! Good job!

You can find out more about Sunday on her Myspace, Facebook, site, or Twitter.

San Cisco – “Golden Revolver”

This band is ADORABLE. San Cisco (formerly King George), a charming, new Aussie band is fresh off the presses and getting their name out there hardcore. The recent high-school graduates (god, I feel old!) have been playing, touring, releasing their first EP, Golden Revolver, and generally doing things that new bands do.

From their press release:

San Cisco are the latest indie act to emerge from Fremantle in sunny Western Australia. On the weekends they go skateboarding, play Nintendo 64 and make a bit of indie pop on the side. Scarlett bangs the drums, Nick plays bass and Jordi & Josh are the guys that play the guitars, write the songs and sing them.

San Cisco have spent the last year graduating high school, performing at some festivals and playing round town pretty much every weekend. But don’t let their youth fool you. They have also produced their first EP called Golden Revolver, which has just hit and already found a home on Triple J and community radio around Australia. Confident with stage presence & strong with vocals San Cisco continue to impress even the hardest indie critics with their brand of upbeat summer pop.

Produced by Matthew Chequer (Little Birdy) & Steven Schram (Little Red, Cat Empire, Little Birdy), the EP is an eclectic mix of indie pop with folk undertones, slashes of synth and influences ranging from Bright Eyes to Vampire Weekend.

San Cisco performed at last years One Movement Festival which lead to an invitation to appear at the 2011 Great Escape in the UK. They also received their first airplay on London’s influential taste making station, XFM.

In honor of summer being just around the corner, check out their single “Golden Revolver”, a peppy, upbeat, sunny tune that I simply adore. You can also check out more of their stuff over on their Myspace or Facebook. Enjoy!

“Golden Revolver”