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Your Country's Right Here: Madi Diaz Shows off 'Plastic Moon'

Madi Diaz sure doesn’t act like a musical prodigy when you chat with her about her music. Aren’t those who attend the famed School of Rock in Philadelphia and Boston’s Berklee College of Music supposed to be a bit, uh, pretentious? That sure doesn’t fit the personality of this polished and pleasant twenty-something woman with an infectious laugh whose self-depracating humor reflects some of the bubbly, uptempo songs on her brand-new album release Plastic Moon.

The only problem with the songs on the album”full of all kinds of bang-on-the-dashboard beats and thoughtful lyrics”is that they are so compelling that stalwarts of every format wants to claim it as their own. No matter. Let the pop and rock and alt-country folks battle it out”Diaz is really all about getting the music to the listeners no matter how they find her.

“It’s pop I think, and indie I think. And then [a business associate] mentioned CMT and I said ‘Sure that’s great. We’ll take it!'”said Diaz with a laugh. “It’s like the first time I’m sure people heard Led Zeppelin or Frank Zappa”and of course I’m not comparing myself to them”–but I am sure people didn’t know where they fit [in terms of musical format] either!”

And it’s clear that she cut her musical teeth on an array of songs that she just loved, no matter the format.

When I was a teenager, Madi Diaz recalled, my dad and I would hang out in the living room and learn songs by bands like the Eagles and Alice in Chains. We’d pick parts to harmonize and sing our way through them, over and over. My dad would get so excited when he figured out something by Yes or the Mamas and the Papas, then he’d let me pick my favorite Silverchair song or whatever I was obsessing over at the moment and we’d learn it together, too. It was the best.

She was well schooled to embrace it, too. At what one might call her father’s insistence, Diaz began to study piano at age five. Although she grew up amidst the Amish of Lancaster, PA, her parents kept feeding her a steady diet of music that ranged from Metallica to Sheryl Crow and The Beatles. It was that background, combined with her formal studies, that guided her toward her musical passion (songwriting) and her musical partner Kyle Ryan, a fellow Berklee student from Lincoln, NE.

“When I started writing for myself, I realized  that I was gravitating toward painfully yearning David Rawlings, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris [music],” she said. “I really thought Americana was where I wanted to be. It still is in some ways. It resonates with a rawness that I love.”

But for now, Diaz’s musical journey is tied up in the indie rock pop sounds of Paper Moon, and that’s just where she wants to be at least for now.

“It’s funny, especially the way things are right now. You never know where or what it is going to take you, where it catches,” said Diaz. “Sometimes you stumble to find the pace. The entire process has literally been that. Moving to Nashville, writing with a million people and then [Kyle and I] writing by ourselves, and then all the rushing, stumbling and then really finding your gait.”

Don’t miss Diaz’s new album and be sure to check out her upcoming video, especially filmed for Valentine’s Day (and featuring her brother’s metal band! Really!). Find out all about it and more on her Web site.

Watch Diaz’s video for “Let’s Go” below:

The EditoriaList: Top Ten Post-Breakup Beatles Releases

Well, this was tougher than I anticipated. This is my THE list of the top ten official post-breakup Beatles releases. I laid myself some ground rules:

1. No bootlegs. We’d be here all year.

2. No box sets. Would have loved to get into the recent stellar releases in both mono and stereo, but you can’t say something is better or worse when it includes everything. There was also a great collection of EPs that came out in the ’90s. I recommend searching that out.

3. No Anthology. These three releases are each too sprawling, comprehensive, disjointed and frankly not that much fun to listen to as an album.

Without further delay…

Top Ten Post-Breakup Beatles Releases:

10. The Beatles Christmas Album (Released December 18, 1970):

The Beatles were a pretty funny group of dudes, which is one of the reasons George Martin decided to work with them in the beginning, having been rather un-wowed by their musical abilities. Their love of goofy and absurdist humor is on display throughout this compilation of their yearly Fan Club-only Christmas messages”a mix of conversation, song and sketch, which gets increasingly absurd, stark, bizarre and sad as the years go on and the divisions within the group grow. Each Beatle recorded their final messages separately. This is another hard-to-find item, but worth a listen for any true fan. And check out what this clever bastard did:

 

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Anglo Ascension

The Sketches

When it comes to vocal capabilities, to a certain extent you’re either born with them or you’re not. Charlie Bernardo was blessed with an incredible voice”one that sounds like the product of English DNA. As lead singer of DC-based band The Sketches, Bernardo brings huge Brit-pop chops to the table. Strangers”not to get overly hyperbolic”is perfection. Bernardo’s intoxicating croon, a Lennon-like piano line and frayed guitar lashes combine for a lush, swooning melody. Somewhere the members of Keane are gnashing their teeth in envy. She Came & Went, with its cello moans and shaken percussion is superlative Brit folk. Secret Alphabets packs the theatrical punch of Queen on its airborne chorus, but begins with a rolling bass that leans more towards Beatles’ Come Together. The Sketches may wear their influences on their sleeve, but don’t worry too much about it. The visceral chills their music brings are entirely of their own design.

Fantastic Voyage

Ex Norwegian

Ex Norwegian is one of those wily bands that makes categorization impossible. In the one instant you’ve decided their ethereal melodies sound like The Beatles, they leap into frenzied post-punk that has Pixies written all over it. But that protean approach to songwriting is the root of the Ex Norwegian’s appeal. The Miami-based band unfurls a magic carpet ride for each song. Turn Left begins in a joyful jangle that sounds like Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away meets Kenny Loggins’ Footloose. Bluesy rock is traded for whirls of keys in Sky Diving, arguably the band’s sweetest and most British melody. Then there’s the outcrop of distorted, jutting guitars in Fujeira In My Dreams that sounds like Black Francis fronting the Shins. Not confused enough? Put on the willfully inane Dance Trance Pants for wah-wah guitars and a cello. The mind melt is unavoidable, and totally fun. Roll with it, baby.

Righteous Brother

Richard Parsons

Richard Parsons’ bio is short and sweet: Likes dry reds and Jack Daniels, sweet harmonies, righteous chords and vinyl. With these clues, you might be able to extrapolate an idea of what his music sounds like”a little rustic, a little brooding, a little vintage. The Decatur, Georgia-based singer-songwriter comes across like a mix of John Lennon, Jeff Tweedy and Chris Cornell. Listen to You Curse and you’ll get a whiff of the Beatles’ airborne choruses flanked by dusty acoustic guitars and tambourine shimmers. Parsons’ music ambles along at an unhurried pace, taking its time to unfold. Fall Back is darker and sleepier than You Curse, but just as mellifluous. But the singer-songwriter knows how to get his rocks off as well, particularly with the awesome, alt-country psychedelia of Light A Fire. Parson’s love of righteous chords is apparent. If you love ˜em too, you’ll dig this.

GRAMMY Nom Says The Beatles are History/iTunes Brings Them Up To Date

Fab, groovy, prophetic; the list of adjectives applied to the Beatles and their music could fill a thesaurus. But there’s one designation that you might not have seen coming; historic. Sure, everybody knows that even the most recent of Beatles songs is an oldie and that the late John Lennon would have turned seventy-years-old in 2010. Still it’s a little shocking to realize that last year’s all-encompassing, sixteen-disc The Beatles Stereo Box Set release from Apple/EMI is nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the ‘Best Historic Recording’ category. In a way, that puts lovely Rita, meter maid, on a par with Florence Nightingale. It makes a ride in a yellow submarine, perhaps to an octopus’s garden, the fantastic equal of tagging along with Hannibal as he crosses the Alps with his elephants. It seems that Lucy and her sky with diamonds are of similar import as Neil Armstrong and his bag of moon rocks. The GRAMMY folks have it right, of course. How else but historic could you describe this entity that’s been the biggest influence on music, if not pop culture as a whole, for the last half-century? The GRAMMY nomination comes in the same breath as the announcement that the Beatles catalog is finally available digitally through iTunes after a long hold-out; considering that this year is also the thirtieth anniversary of Lennon’s death there are a lot of historic moments converging right now, a situation that will no doubt bring overflowing bags of cash to a patient iTunes. The potential award-winning box set, by the way, contains remastered versions of all thirteen Beatles albums, the Past Masters collection and a DVD loaded with mini-documentaries for each album that feature rare footage, archival photos and candid studio chatter. As the set’s title indicates all the music here is in stereo, including for the first time on CD the Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles for Sale albums, previously only available in pre-historic mono (an almost identical all-mono box set is also available for purists.) Paul McCartney penned some new notes about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the box and all the individual CDs come, rightfully so, in packages that replicate their original English releases”does iTunes have that? Owners of The Beatles Stereo Box Set will not only have a good chunk of the most-revered music ever made at hand and something to hand down to the kids; they’ll also have an unquestionable excuse for eccentric behavior. Get caught screaming along at the top of your lungs to Revolution or playing manic air guitar to Helter Skelter? No problem. You’re not acting crazy; you’re just brushing up on history.

By Kevin Wierzbicki

Kevin Wierzbicki is a music and travel writer based in Arizona. His articles about music, travel and music-related travel have been published in the likes of USA Today, The Arizona Republic, Desert Living Magazine, Campus Circle in Los Angeles and Antimusic.com.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Thom Yorke building massive human statue to fight climate change

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is looking to recruit 2,000 volunteers to build a massive human statue to fight climate change this weekend. The statue will fight climate change by punching the clouds with its 4,000 fists. OK, not really. It’s more of a symbolic fight. Yorke’s human statue is one of 16 planned around the world to be photographed by a satellite from space. The event will raise awareness around the United Nations’ meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss an international climate treaty.

Arcade Fire and Spike Jonze unite for The Suburbs video

Arcade Fire has released their video for The Suburbs, and it’s not a cheery tale of Bed, Bath & Beyond and Applebee’s. The video is directed by Spike Jonze, and, much like his work in Where The Wild Things Are, combines youth, nostalgia, and unexpected violence. Watch it below.

The Bad

Quincy Jones gives Kanye West the big diss

Don’t tell Quincy Jones that he has anything in common with Kanye West. Them’s fighting words. In an interview with Us Magazine, Jones responded to the observation that he and West are both hugely successful producers with total disdain. No way. Did he write for a symphony orchestra? Does he write for a jazz orchestra? Come on man, he’s just a rapper. West has yet to respond to this ego bruise publicly, but if Twitter suddenly explodes, you’ll know why.

The Ugly

Kings of Leon looking for ugly people

Calling all pockmarked, scarred and sundry busted people! Kings of Leon are looking for individuals with physical deformities for their next video shoot. Has anyone ever made a joke about your face breaking their camera? Do horses whinny when you pass by? Capitalize on your plainness”the band is paying $300 a day. Uh ¦ are they sure this isn’t the video for Use Somebody?

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Ke$ha reveals the origin of her moniker

The dollar sign in place of an s is lame”we all know that. But guys, it isn’t Ke$ha’s fault! She used to spell her name like any other normal person named Kesha. But then, this thing happened ¦ watch the Funny Or Die clip below to see where it all went wrong.

Beatles catalog is finally available on iTunes

The long and winding road that separated EMI Group, Ltd from Apple has come to an end, meaning Beatles fans can now download the entire canon on iTunes. So what’s the most downloaded track in the three days since the songs have been available? Depends on where you are in the world. If you’re here in the US, it’s Here Comes the Sun, Let It Be and In My Life. We are a sentimental lot, we are.

The Bad

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey are engaged!

True story: Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey are getting married! But before you dust off your DVD of Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica and crack open some champagne in celebration, you should know that they’re marrying other people this time. Nick announced his engagement to Vanessa Minnillo this week, and Jessica announced her betrothal to Eric Johnson a couple days later. AND THEN, Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton. Why can’t Prince William let Jessica have her moment?!?

The Ugly

Nick Cave curses out smoke machine operator at Grinderman’s in NYC

Specifically, he said, Could you stop pouring smoke out of that f—ing machine, please? Both the smoke machine and the smoke machine operator then shrunk away to go die quietly in a corner.

Billy Corgan disses Pavement

Billy Corgan vacillates between being a beacon of lightness and a total sourpuss. Today on Twitter he channeled the latter, releasing a series of tweets bemoaning the fact that Pavement would open for Smashing Pumpkins in Brazil. ¦They represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life part, he complained. Dude, you have a song called Drown”that’s hardly life-affirming.

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Funny or Die sends M.I.A. to the suburbs

Watch your back, Funny or Die. After a New York Times article hinted that pop artist/politico M.I.A. may enjoy the finer things in life more than she would like known, the singer fired back by publishing the interviewer’s cell phone number on her Twitter page. Nerve=hit. Now Funny or Die is rubbing a little salt in the wound with this video parody of M.I.A.’s Paper Planes, which depicts the singer living in the tony Brentwood neighborhood with an au pair and a predilection for Monet and fine wines. Can’t wait to see M.I.A.’s graceful response to this one . . .  keep an eye on her Twitter page.

The Bad

Justin Bieber tries to escape crazed groupies on a Segway

Run, Bieber, run! Or, stand on a machine that will run for you. That’s what the teen pop star did when frenzied fans caught sight of him in an Arizona parking lot. Apparently being seen on a Segway is less traumatizing than being attacked by rabid tweens. Check out the video below.

The Ugly

St. Louis birds poo-poo Kings of Leon concert

Kings of Leon had to cut their set short in what is now being referred to as Pigeongate. After opening acts the Postelles and the Stills endured a torrent of pigeon droppings during their sets at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis, Kings of Leon took the stage with a little trepidation. Three songs in, an unidentified feathered sharpshooter released a load that landed near bassist Jared Followill’s mouth, causing the band to halt the show. In the words of Stephanie Tanner, How rude!

LiveNation, the promoter of the event, promised fans a full refund.

Miscellany