“My Last Mistake” (Dan Auerbach Cover)

For Dan Auerbach chords/lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another installment of “Chris Moore Monday.”  It is my priviledge and responsibility to start off each week right, usually with a selection that is in “new music” news.  I figure this is appropriate, since tomorrow is “New Music Tuesday” – what better role is there than to turn you on to great new music?

Okay, so tonight’s song is technically a week old…

Dan Auerbach is better known as one half of the blues rock music group the Black Keys.  The band formed in Ohio in 2001, and in less than a decade, they have accumulated an impressive resume — including opening for Beck and Radiohead, playing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Late Show with David Letterman, and receiving accolades from Rolling Stone such as one of the “10 best acts of 2003.”  Although the band has not broken up, this year has found Dan Auerbach making a name for himself by releasing his very first solo album titled Keep It Hid.  I almost transcribed and played this, the title track, but I couldn’t resist “My Last Mistake,” the subsequent track.  Auerbach might agree with this choice of songs to record and play, as he performed “My Last Mistake” on the Friday, February 13th episode of Conan O’Brien.

So, you may be wondering how I heard of this release.  Well, aside from receiving a coupon for the first-week purchase in my favorite email each week — the Newbury Comics e-newsletter!! — I was tipped off to the release by someone who has his finger on the pulse of all things modern and alternative rock.  (So, thank you again, Geoff!)  He’s the same person who strongly suggested I check out the 2008 albums of Beck and Cold War Kids, both of which I would never have purchased on my own.

And I would have missed out!

Now, they’re not my favorite records of the year, by any means, but there are some killer songs that would have passed me by entirely.  So, hopefully I’ll continue to receive new rock music insight from Newbury Comics, Geoff, and who knows who else!

Speaking of new music, I constructed a fairly impressive “Albums of 2008” iTunes playlist.  It contains 341 songs, ranging from the Barenaked Ladies children’s album to Ben Folds’ album (which was certainly NOT kid-friendly!).  I hadn’t really listened to the playlist since the New Year, but I just turned it on yesterday and fell in love with it again.  I’m listening to it now, and even now, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” just faded into Brian Wilson’s “Oxygen to the Brain.”  Where else can you find that sort of variety?!  I cling to my playlists and albums these days, as the popular media has only embraced an extremely small and profoundly unrepresentative sample of what modern rock music has to offer.  Take the aforementioned Coldplay, an overrated and — until recently, in this writer’s opinion — mediocre band.  Chris Martin and his band have received more Grammys than all of my favorite bands combined.  No kidding!  Meanwhile, Brian Wilson got a Rolling Stone article for his amazing 2008 album That Lucky Old Sun, and that was all.  I understand that he is older and there perhaps isn’t a market for his music, but I find it sad that more people couldn’t have been exposed to the bright, brilliant, and uplifting rock tunes that pour forth from that album.

Enough ranting for one day’s post…

As a final note, I finally picked up and watched the Sam Jones documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.  I had planned on watching it with Dana last night, but he hadn’t returned home, so I got ready to watch it alone.  Then, Mike texted and sounded interested.  So, before I knew it, Mike had arrived with apple juice and saltines (food for sick people — my personal choice is G2 and wheat toast!) and we cranked up the volume on the big screen.  What a great documentary — not only is the filmography reminiscent of Don’t Look Back, but Jeff Tweedy is looking very Dylan-esque.  Scruffy, bearing harmonica rack, singing poetic lyrics — what more could I ask for?  Also, he seems like he would be a difficult guy to live and/or work with.  But that being said, I like Jeff Tweedy a great deal, and it was really interesting to see him candidly in the studio.  And thanks to Dana and Mike for making last night an event in and of itself — when Jim returns from vacation, I just may have to join them for their late night sessions that I miss so much since I’ve become an “old man” with a wakeup time of 5 or 5:30am…

And now to tie this ALL together…

Wilco switched to Nonesuch records after the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot fiasco (the situation filmed and described in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart), and Dan Auerbach is also on the Nonesuch label.  So, as you see, it all comes full circle…

Don’t miss an all-new Jim Fusco Tuesday tomorrow.  Until then…

See you next session!

“Heavy Metal Drummer” (Wilco Cover)

For Wilco chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another week of all-new material here at the Laptop Sessions blog, your source for excellent acoustic cover song music videos!

Well, it’s that and then some this week, as the next seven days are jam-packed with posts.

Let’s just say we’re partying like it’s 2008!

Here’s the low-down:  After my Chris Moore Monday post tonight, I’ll be back tomorrow with a full-length article.  Then, you can look forward to three videos in a row: an Original Wednesday post, Thursday’s regularly scheduled programming, and Friday’s Guest Session.  And the weekend isn’t a time of rest, as you can look forward to the second installment in the Saturday “Playlists on Parade” series and Sunday’s “Weekend Review.”

For my video tonight, I’ve gone back to one of my favorites: Wilco.  I heard this Yankee Hotel Foxtrot deep track on a colleague’s iPod over the weekend before band practice, and I took a moment to figure it out.  It’s a straightforward progression, which makes it a lot of fun to play and sing along to.  So, it was a no-brainer when I thought about my session for the week.  I’ve made it my business to cover a wide range of Wilco material.  Thus far, I’ve translated songs from their 1995 debut A.M., the following year’s Being There, Summerteeth (albeit a members-only video), Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and last year’s Wilco (the album).  I’ve also pulled from both collaborations with Billy Bragg, 1998’s Mermaid Avenue and 2000’s Mermaid Avenue Vol. II.  This leaves A Ghost is Born and Sky Blue Sky.

However, instead of filling in the gaps, I had to go with a fun track from one of my favorite albums of all time.  “Heavy Metal Drummer” starts with a beat machine, and builds up to an all-out rock song.  What I like about it is how well it evokes a sense of fond memories for one’s past, particularly with reference to music.  Now, my nostalgia is not for heavy metal bands and Kiss cover songs, but I will never forget the enjoyable outings my friends and I made to concerts, starting with my first Bob Dylan concert back in high school and on from there — Brian Wilson, Barenaked Ladies, and so many more…

…including an amazing two and a half hour performance by Wilco last summer!

So, it is with great pleasure that I bring you “Heavy Metal Drummer,” hoping to stir some of your own fond memories of the past.  It is, after all, inevitable that the years pass and our lives change.  Still, there will always be songs and experiences that we harken back to for years and years to come.  Which are yours?

See you next session!

“Jeff Francoeur Done It Again” – Chris’ 200th Laptop Session!

By Chris Moore:

This is completely off the cuff, and I’m loving it!

All you Mets fans out there will be well aware that Jeff Francoeur — the topic of not a few trade rumors since the return of Carlos Beltran and the outstanding performance of Angel Pagan this season — got a spot on the starting rotation last night due to Jason Bay being out with a concussion.  Well, he made the most of it…

…with a three run homer off the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, arguably one of the best pitchers in the game right now!

Granted, it’s only one hit in the midst of a mighty slump, but it reminded me of this great song called “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again” off Wilco and Billy Bragg’s second album of Woody Guthrie-penned (lyrics, at least) songs, Mermaid Avenue Vol. II.  I slipped a “Jeff” here and a “Frenchy” there, and voila!

This is my 200th Laptop Session, and I could think of no better way to celebrate it than to make it a fun one. (And, yes, at the beginning of the music video, that IS me doing my best Jeff Francoeur impression…)  I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Oh, and go Mets!!!

Music Review: Wilco’s “Wilco (the album)”

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore

For an album that is thematically based in the mysteries of human nature and love, the opening track is remarkably straightforward.  “Are you under the impression / This isn’t your life? / Do you dabble in depression?” Jeff Tweedy inquires in “Wilco (the song)” before declaring that “Wilco will love you baby.”

But don’t let the unabashed directness — even Tweedy admits it may appear cheesy at first  — of this opening track deter you from taking the album seriously.

Immediately after “Wilco (the song)” fades out, the heartbeat of “Deeper Down” steadily fades in with the crash of a cymbal.  This song is more subtle and serves as a reminder that the band has not lost its flair for more experimental fare, even after its flirtation with the more straightforward songwriting and jam band mentalities present on 2007’s Sky Blue Sky.  Aside from the standard acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and drums, this track also incorporates lap steel (which is becoming a standard Wilco instrument, particularly since the arrival of Nels Cline), loops, harpsichord, Mellotron cello and vibraphone, bowed piano (go ahead: look up “bowed piano” — it’s wild…), synthesizer, and cimbalom.  Based on the list of instrumental credits alone, it is apparent Wilco is not through with the sonic experiments that have earned them fame throughout their career, ever since the opening moments of “Misunderstood” on 1996’s Being There.

“Deeper Down” also begins to tackle the core subjects covered by the album, namely the uncertainties in both our relationships and personal lives.  As Tweedy sings, “Out beyond the telescope’s pry / Up above the tallest Dutch dope high / He realized / This mystery is his.”  The unknown elements that the singer is concerned with here are not the ones that can be analyzed by using scientific equipment or engaging in a study.  Rather, personal demons and mysteries are on display for examination throughout the song and the album.

As the next verse begins to employ the metaphor of the ocean floor for the depths of the human mind, a creaking sound invokes the image of a deep sea vehicle moving farther and farther down into the watery depths.

This is the one track on the album that is not written solely by Tweedy.  A collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, “Deeper Down” is the perfect bookend to the album proper.

“One Wing” returns to the lighthearted lyricism of the opening song, the title metaphor of this third track comparing a full relationship to a bird (“We once belonged to a bird”) and the aftermath of a breakup to the separation of those all-important feathery appendages (“One wing will never ever fly, dear / Neither yours nor mine, I fear / We can only wave goodbye”).  Again, this type of songwriting may seem worthy of a dismissal at first, but it works in context here.

The fourth track is anything but lighthearted.  Told from the manic perspective of one who has just committed murder (online sources suggest the victim was the narrator’s girlfriend), “Bull Black Nova” is the sonic standout here, being easily the most experimental track on the album.  Spin‘s review of the album suggests that this song is out of place in what is largely a body of traditionally arranged songs, but this is not the case.  After all, what will drive a person to killing another — particularly a loved one — is perhaps the greatest human mystery of all.

Driven by a steady beat and arrangement of electric guitars, this track fittingly evokes the mental hysteria of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  Indeed, the mystery dealt with in this song is perhaps best described as how one might handle the aftermath of having committed such a heinous crime.

The first of two acoustic masterpieces, “You and I” prominently features the first duet to be included on a Wilco album.  Accompanied by Leslie Feist, Tweedy presents this moving track with a fittingly subdued instrumental performance by the other members of the band.  Moreover, this song advances the motif of the album.  As Tweedy and Feist sing, “Oh, I don’t need to know / Everything about you / Oh, I don’t want to know / And you don’t need to know / That much about me.”  This song considers the reality that two people may still be strangers, regardless of how close they become.  While that may sound negative, it is turned around in the song as a positive and natural element of any relationship.

Tweedy later goes it alone on “Solitaire,” the eighth track.  This is another acoustic gem highlighted by Tweedy’s understated but heartfelt double-tracked vocals.  Lyrically, this is the perfect example of a simple but powerfully written song.  (Click here to see the Laptop Session this song inspired.)

“You Never Know” is the first single; it comes halfway through the album, proving that Wilco was only warming up.  This song nicely features all of the elements that make this an excellent band: Tweedy’s vocals, Cline’s lead guitar, Sansone’s piano,  Jorgensen’s organ, and the typically strong bass and drums of Stirratt and Kotche, respectively.  What stands out about this track is that it is clearly Wilco in sound and style, yet, as several other reviews have noted, the stylistic touches are strongly reminiscent of one of the best songwriter/guitarists of all time: George Harrison.  It is nearly impossible to listen to “You Never Know” and not hear Harrison’s characteristic flourishes in the mix.  In a recent interview, Tweedy suggested that the similarities were not planned, but that he was pleased to offer an homage.

No other journalist has pointed out that the Hammond organ stylings on “You and I” sound like a reference to Bob Dylan’s “I Believe In You,” so I’ll just throw that one out there, too…

The second half of the album is equally as strong as the first.  “I’ll Fight” (a standout track) and “Sonny Feeling” (highlighted by Cline’s lap steel guitar licks) are a powerful combination, occupying the ninth and tenth slots on the album.  The former is a statement of purpose, evoking Biblical references to drive the point home.  The latter evades an entirely concrete interpretation, but it is clear that the song centers around a pivotal experience in a high school student’s life.  The middle is perhaps the strongest section of this song, as Tweedy sings, “You know it’s true / The other shoe / It waits for you / What can you do? / Remember to show gratitude / The darkest night is nothing new.”

In addition to the aforementioned “Solitaire,” the true highlights of the second half are certainly the two acoustic-based songs “Country Disappeared” and “Everlasting Everything.”  “Country Disappeared” is just about as political as you’ll hear Wilco (in song at least), but it is still best described as poetic and personal.  If “Deeper Down” is a fitting thematic bookend at the opening of the album, then “Everlasting Everything” is the ideal closer.  As Tweedy sings, “Oh I know this might sound sad / But everything goes, both the good and the bad / So it all adds up, and you should be glad / Everlasting love is all you had.”  This is apparently what is to be found after digging “deeper down,” namely the realization that a life driven by love is worthwhile.  With this, Wilco (the album) turns out to be perhaps the most positive release in the Wilco catalog.

As “Everlasting Everything” fades out and “Wilco (the song)” thunders in, listeners will find it difficult to pop the CD out of the player or change the selection on the iPod.  And this is just as a great album should be.  Is Wilco (the album) the perfect record, or even a masterpiece?  The answer is undoubtedly in the negative.  And yet there is something compelling, soothing, passionate, and masterful about it.

This is the story of a band putting out a strong seventh release, continuing to impress after an already impressive career.