Staff Trax: Kris Kristofferson, The National, David Garza, Fear and Phil Collins
Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends: The Publishing Demos 1968-1972 collects 16 tracks--flubs, false starts and all--recorded by Kris Kristofferson at the height of his powers, when he was arguably the finest lyricist working in Nashville. "The Lady's Not For Sale" and the title track come off quiet and devastating, like Leonard Cohen in cowboy boots, while "Border Lord" and a hilariously rough take of "Getting By, High and Strange" document the loose, rollicking side that made him "Nashville's own hippie," a nickname attributed to Merle Haggard in the copious liner notes. It's the original demo of "Me and Bobby McGee" that hits hardest, though, with ghostly background vocals that force one to ponder if Jim James has mastered the art of time travel. --Noah W. Bailey
Like many die-hard fans, I celebrated "National Day" last Tuesday by purchasing the band's High Violet on double-dyed vinyl and listening to it over and over. And it exceeded my expectations--which is rare for such an anticipated release. But, as with many instances of new lust over a freshly laid album, I started listening to other stuff in an effort to make myself "miss" the new songs and avoid burnout too soon. Only thing is, I'd get one track into another artist's album and then I'd just have to go back to the National. So, I went old-school. I've been rotating Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers pretty heavily and, while 2003 isn't ancient or anything, it could seem a lot more dated than it does. Sure, Matt Berninger's vocals aren't as finely honed as they are now, but the imperfections only add to the sometimes decimating lyrics. Truth or not, that guy delivers a line that sounds so personal, you go from casual listener to eavesdropper. The Dessner twins were already layering the shit out of thier guitars and sundry effects. And even better, the album balances haunting violin balladry with moments of Berninger just losing his shit on the microphone (which is absolutely amazing to witness live, by the way). --Merritt Martin
During my four years of working in Best Buy's media section, I was introduced to all kinds of music. Sure, there was inescapable crap like the Titantic soundtrack, but thanks to a radio and TV campaign called "Find 'Em First," I was introduced to Davíd Garza. He's hardly an unknown name for those who spent a lot of time in Deep Ellum or Austin's 6th Street in the '90s, but for someone like me, living in a suburban bubble in Houston, Best Buy's push brought me to his music. I didn't dislike his music, but I never really wanted to check out his music beyond "Kinder." Well, while visiting some friends last weekend and looking through their CD collections for albums to rip into my iTunes, it was suggested that I take a listen to This Euphoria, Kingdom Come and Go, and the A Strange Mess of Flowers box set. I keep thinking of Spoon when I hear his music, but that's not meant in a bad way. Rather, had I not slowly taken my time with getting into Spoon, I'd probably never really "get" Davíd Garza's music. --Eric Grubbs
My two favorite viral videos that I was forwarded last week coincidentally both involved Phil Collins' solo oeuvre, "In The Air Tonight." And, as you might have guessed, both center around that fierce drum fill that precedes the song's final verse--one of the all-time great moments in rock music history, really. While the first video, the "Worst Wedding DJ EVER," earns its title by playing a woman's bosoms like a pair of oversized bongos during a wedding reception, it's the second video that I kept coming back to. In this 2007 UK advertisment for Cadbury Schweppes, a camera slowly pans across the face of a CGI gorilla listening to the track. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, apparently very touched by the song's dark, emotional lyrics. The camera zooms out to reveal the gorilla sitting behind a drum kit just in time for him to thunderously pound out that famous fill in perfect time. Collins himself was quoted as saying about the ad, "The gorilla's not as good a drummer as me, but he's got more hair, I'll give him that."
The most surprising/impressive thing about this track, however, is the fact that during his episode of Classic Albums for Face Value, Collins claims that he improvised 99.9 percent of the song's lyrics on the spot, claiming he has no idea where they came from or what they meant. Still, they were macabre enough to spurn numerous urban legends. Perhaps not as surprisingly, "In The Air Tonight" re-entered and reached No. 1 on the New Zealand music charts in 2008--right around the time the Gorilla advertisement was in heavy rotation. Sadly, because of a dislocated vertebrae in his neck that has effectively ended Phil's playing career), watching the Gorilla video just might be the closest thing we ever see to Collins pounding the skins again. --Cory Graves