New music alert: Jake Bugg’s “Shangri La”



The man is 19 years old but somehow radiates the bitter, sardonic energy of Bringing it all Back Home Dylan and With the Beatles era Fabs.

Just check out the first single (and opening cut) from Shangri La “Slumville Sunrise” and hear how similar Bugg’s internal geography (see also: crumbling industrial cities of northern England) reflects the Beatles’ hot/cool currents of rage and hope:

Slumville Sunrise,nobody cares or looks twice
…Every bruise, every flower/illuminated by the morning.

And the sound: guitars, bass and drums. Often — but not always — in the electric 4-piece format, with Bugg’s adenoidal snarl rocketing above. Produced by Rick Rubin (an indication of the corporate support Bugg earned with his much lower-fi debut Jake Bugg, is just exactly right: Clear recordings of great performances with no/little audible monkeying about.

Still, the anti-Bugg vibe coming from England can’t be ignored. Bugg’s first album topped sales charts in the UK, elevating the artiste from the bruises-and-flowers streets to the flowers-and-more-flowers boulevards of modern stardom. Fancier clothes, hotter girlfriends, you know the drill, and Bugg wasn’t shy about diving in. So grr, and also what’s with the squadrons of mercenary songwriters sharing credit for Bugg’s tunes? Is the kid a corporate-driven alt-culture Monkee? Is he even close to being, you know, legit?

I think he is. If only because I can’t stop listening to Shangri-La. No telling if it’ll stick with me beyond this moment but for now it’s all righteous bruises and flowers in my ears.

Check out Shangri-La on NPR’s First Listen page:

And here’s the video for “Slumville Sunrise.” Yes, the narrative bookends are long, un-fun distractions, but once the music starts it’s a whole other story.

Just published: Largehearted Boy ‘Book Notes’ piece on my unofficial soundtrack to BRUCE


Check this out: A track-by-track list and analysis of the songs I put on my highly unofficial soundtrack CD for BRUCE. Unavailable anywhere except under very, very special circumstances.

Here’s a taste of the essay:

I listened to a ton of music while working on the book – not all of them by Bruce Springsteen, of course. The work of Brian Wilson (with and without the Beach Boys), Gaslight Anthem, Wilco and a score of alt-country bands touched on ideas and feelings that resonated with my sense of the work.

But when the book was finished I put together this quasi-soundtrack on my iTunes so I’d have something special to give to friends and family, and also to accompany books I donated to charity auctions and such. I thought it would be cool to build the list out of rare live recordings, outtakes and other rarities, so nothing here is available in wide release. Each of these songs connect to particular stories, eras and/or performances that figure in the narrative. They’re sort of chronological, but not entirely.

Go here for the rest.

Review of The Shondes’ “The Garden”


Rolling Stone just published my review The Garden, the new album by the sizzling Brooklyn grrrl-punk-pop band the Shondes. Snappish guitars; bold fiddle runs, bam-boom drums and better-stand-back vocals from Louisa Solomon, who has one of the biggest voices in pop music.

You may not have heard of them before but now you have. so hit the link and stream some hot new tunes.

Video: Raul Siexas’s original “Sociedad Alternativa”


Nothing but alternativa coming off of this guy. Check out his other work too, but start here. Rocks.

Big BRUCE News: Drive-By Bruce tribute show in Athens, Ga.

patterson_hoodWe’ve got a bunch of cool BRUCE events planned for the fall, but it’s going to be tough to top this one: A night of Bruce Springsteen songs performed by an all-star collection of Athens, Ga.-based musicians, with Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood at the helm.

I’ll be doing a couple of reading-set-to-music things, but the real attraction is Patterson and friends, who so far are: Patterson Hood; T. Hardy Morris; Thayer Serrano; Don Chambers; Moths; Old Smokey; Loney John Hutchins; Chad Evans and…all the  way from Portland, Ore., Casey Neill.

Tickets are $5, and all proceeds will go to Nuci’s Space, a musicians’ support and resource center in Athens.

I’ll update as more artists are added to the bill, but for now here are the specs:

Wed. Sept. 25, 7 pm

Greetings from Athens!

Hendershot’s Coffee Bar
237 Prince Ave.
Athens, GA
Ticket info: to come.