music

Jonathan Coulton is for everyone.

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MaxFunPal Jonathan Coulton is often presented to the world as a nerd troubadour, but the truth is that he's much more.

Jonathan Coulton is for Dads.
My wife just received an excited note from her father, a 50-year-old hardware store manager, musician and outdoor activity enthusiast, regarding the Jonathan Coulton greatest hits collection, JoCo Looks Back, which we gifted him for Christmas. He is absolutely nuts about it.

Jonathan Coulton is for little brothers.
Equally enthusiastic about the disc is my 15-year-old brother-in-law, a young man who is exceptionally handsome, socially capable, guitar-playing and broad-shouldered (due to his spot on the rowing team). His interest in nerd stuff begins and ends with Playstation 3, but he loves JoCo Looks Back enough to text my wife about it some weeks after Christmas.

Above all, though, Jonathan Coulton is for the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus.
See above, featuring "human zendrum" solo.

Ben Folds On His New Album Way to Normal, Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Bullseye

Ben Folds has spent more than 15 years in the music business. He was kicked out of music school after breaking his hand in a fight, and spent time in lounge bands and as a contract songwriter in Nashville before The Ben Folds Five broke big in the mid-1990s. We talk about the melodies in his mind, what it's like to be unfashionable, and his new album, "Way to Normal."

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Raphael Saadiq, Soul Singer, Songwriter and Producer Interviewed on The Sound of Young America

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Raphael Saadiq is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer whose new album, "The Way I See It," was recently released by Columbia. Saadiq was a founding member of the groups Tony! Toni! Tone! and Lucy Pearl, and has produced for artists like D'Angelo, Snoop Dogg and Mary J. Blige. His new record borrows the soul sounds of the 1960s, with a bit of the '70s thrown in for good measure. He talks with Jesse about growing up in Oakland, touring with Prince and Sheila E, his days with the Tonys, and more.

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Interview: Henry Owings, Editor and Publisher of Chunklet Magazine.

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Henry Owings is the editor and publisher of the music magazine, Chunklet. He recently released the book, "The Rock Bible: Unholy Scripture For Fans and Bands," which outlines the do and don'ts of being in a rock band. Casey O'Brien talked to Henry about his new book and the sins that rock n' roll has committed.


What spiritual awakening led you to be a prophet of future and current generations of rock musicians? In other words, what called you to write The Rock Bible?

Well, Casey, it happened like this: While editing an issue of Chunklet one beautiful Friday night, I was pulled from my work by the door bell. Because I live in the crime-ridden, redneck-ravaged South, I slipped my unregistered "throw-down" piece - a Smith and Wesson .38 long-barrel revolver with a filed-down serial number - in the back of my belt, pumped a shell into my Winchester 12 Gauge "Snake Popper" (sawed-off for...uh....easy storage), and answered the door. It was our veterinarian, making a house-call to deliver heart worm pills for my two standard poodles. Now, this was odd, as our vet would usually make this stops in the morning. That is, if we even had a vet. He was a middle-aged man in a vet/doctor's coat, which was unbuttoned to reveal a medallion resting at eye-level, as I was still confined to a wheelchair due to violently flipping my Baja Bug just seven days prior to this visit. When I tried to sign the invoice for the pills, the medallion blinded me with a beam of light. That's the last thing I remember before waking up, in front of my computer, my head loaded with the divine assignment of writing The Rock Bible. My, shall we say, "editor", if you will, did not phone this one in...I was missing five hours from the evening. And, it should be noted, this is just the first volume of three books I've been instructed to call "The Final Collection of Rock and Roll Writing." After a glass of water and a sandwich, the book simply poured out of me over the course of a week. Then, as I was listening to the Groundhogs "Solid" album, a voice coming from my computer's speakers instructed me to enlist the talents of Patton Oswalt, Brian Teasley, Andrew Earles, Dag Luther Gooch, and the other individuals in the "contributor's" section. That took a little bit of time.

In verse 71 of The Gospel According to the Band, it states "Never take anything you do seriously." This manifesto fits right in with your magazine, Chunklet. Why is not taking yourself seriously so important in rock music?

Because when rock musicians take themselves too seriously, certain tragedies occur. Not only does The Rock Bible teach the helpless how to avoid taking themselves too seriously, it teaches them how to do so correctly. When musicians attempt but fail at not taking themselves too seriously, you have an entirely different set of tragedies. There's a huge difference between not taking yourself seriously and actually being funny/inspired/clever.

When you say that "certain tragedies occur" when bands take themselves too seriously or don't take themselves seriously incorrectly, what is it that makes it so tragic?

It's very simple, Casey, both of these situations breed one thing: Mediocrity, and mediocrity is a virus that infects rock music to a degree that, if not monitored, could prove terminal. When, for instance, a band ham-fistedly avoids seriousness by adopting an 80's theme (video games, video game music, Hyper Color wear, out of date
technology), they create mediocrity. It is not inspired or clever and must be stopped.

Tenacious D, School of Rock, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band have become popular by parodying classic rock while simultaneously praising it. How does your book fit in with those other entities and what is your opinion of this trend?

It doesn't fit in. The Rock Bible is not a parody; it is a manual for daily living. The examples you've given are nothing more than pedestrian poppycock designed to amuse cigar-chomping dart-tossers that hang out in suburban establishments with names like "The Fox and Hound." The bottom line is this: Those entities despise the source material. The Rock Bible hemorrhages passion for the source material.

What lessons can your followers look forward to in the upcoming volumes of "The Final Collection of Rock and Roll Writing"?

The helpful truth. It will either encourage the break-up of the bands that need to break up, or the improvement of artists that use the teachings wisely. With the content's incendiary nature and book sales in mind, it should come as no surprise that I cannot go into great detail about the two upcoming volumes. Let's just say that fists will rise into the air and tears will fall to the floor.

You can get more Henry Owings at Chunklet magazine or by picking up a copy of The Rock Bible. You can also listen to his interview on The Sound of Young America.

Calexico's Joey Burns on The Sound of Young America

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Bullseye

Joey Burns is the lead singer of Calexico, a Tucson, Arizona based band that blends a Southwestern, USA sound with a traditional Mexican feel, all the while retaining their indie credibility. They have collaborated many times with Sam Beam of Iron and Wine and were featured on the soundtrack for the Bob Dylan bio-pic, "I'm Not There." Their newest release is "Carried to Dust."

Download Joey's live songs individually in high-quality format (direct MP3 links):
Man Made Lake
Red Blooms
Two Silver Trees (special unaired bonus)

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Jay-Z Documentary from the BBC

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Fascinating BBC documentary on Jay-Z's opus "Reasonable Doubt." Jay is so alarmingly eloquent off record, it's hard to imagine he could be so eloquent on record. And he does it without sounding like he's trying.

Jay has a lot going for him, but his greatest strength is the effortlessness of his flow. It comes so smoothly and easily that, as he points out himself, the secondary and tertiary meanings of his lyrics can fly past. What's special about Reasonable Doubt is that it's a cohesive statement of purpose -- the beats match the effortless expansiveness of Jay's flow. The lyrics do too, but they have an edge to them -- they betray the fear of the hustler's lifestyle.

There are MCs who can portray that dark side as convincingly as Jay. Scarface, for example, rhymes with such amazing weight that he can convey that darkness with just a twist of the pitch of his voice. There aren't any, though, who can convey that fear in such a way that you don't even notice it until you think back on a line, or a verse, and find yourself emotionally sucker-punched.

Sauce Money says something really great in the film, talking about his collaboration with Jay on Bring It On. He says he heard Jay's verse and "started looking for the nearest Subway. Because I'm not gonna top that."

Podcast: Seun Kuti, leader of Fela's Egypt 80

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Bullseye


Seun Kuti is the son of Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, and the leader of his band, Egypt 80. Their new CD, called Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80, is Seun's first collection of original songs. The albums seven tracks mirror his father's commitment to the liberation of African people in Nigeria and elsewhere.

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Podcast: TSOYA Classic: Wholphin

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Fred Armisen at the UCB Theater NY
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Bullseye

We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Classics.

Brent Hoff is the editor of the DVD magazine Wholphin. Hoff explains why it's worthwhile to maintain a magazine that operates in the red. Fred Armisen is a comedian who you have to know by now. He appears on a show called Saturday Night Live and many movies you have no doubt seen. Armisen talks about his humble beginnings as a musician and how he fell into comedy. Also on the show music from the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players and a sketch from Kasper Hauser.

Podcast: TSOYA Classic: Holiday Special

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We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Classics.

Everyone loves Christmas. Except Oscar the Grouch. But everyone else. Davey Rothbart from Found magazine tells us about a very special holiday budget. Patton Oswalt reveals a demonic holiday memory. John Waters explains the contents of his Christmas album, and author Chris Moore talks about his book The Stupidest Angel.

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Podcast: Live in New York with Michael Showalter, Dawn Landes and Pangea 3000

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Last month, The Sound of Young America taped our third live program in New York, as part of Sketchfest NYC. In a few days we'll post interviews with Ze Frank and Jay Smooth, but first I'd like to present the performance portions of the program. You can find the normal audio links below, but we've also got video of the show, so it seemed crazy not to share that here.

First up was Pangea 3000. This New York sketch group performed a sketch that I am not allowed by law to play on the radio, no matter how badly I want to.

Pangea 3000 - "Spelling Bee"

Next up was Michael Showalter. You may know Michael from The State, from Stella, or perhaps as Coop in Wet Hot American Summer. He's also a standup, and released his first standup CD, Cats & Sandwiches, last year. He told a story about trying to adopt a cat, shared some very silly poetry, and closed with some info about frogs. You can download the portion of his set that we didn't podcast from this direct link.

Michael Showalter

Our musical performance came from singer-songwriter Dawn Landes. Dawn was suggested to me by Brooklyn Vegan, and as soon as I heard her sing, I knew she was the perfect choice.

Dawn Landes

All our videos for this show were shot by Benjamin Ahr Harrison, a New-York based videographer. You can find him online at badcharacter.com. Thanks, Ben!

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