Staff Trax: Oberhofer, The Henry Clay People, Chin Up Chin Up, Blockhead, Jamey Johnson, Beastie Boys and Crowded House
Oberhofer -- "Awy Frm U"
Here's the Henry Clay People, shot in Dallas last year. "Working Part Time" shows a lot of things, like their love for bands like Mott the Hoople, and how great rock 'n' roll can make you feel when you make it brash and fun at the same time--not to mention the grace of combining youth and a classic sound. If you like this live recording, you should hear it on their new CD that just dropped, Somewhere on the Golden Coast. --Alan Ayo
When I spoke to Chin Up Chin Up's lead singer, Jeremy Bolen, in 2004, he was one of the most pompous individuals I'd ever interviewed. This guy was fronting a little-known indie rock outfit from Chicago and he kept saying things like, "Well, I don't usually talk about that song, but I am in a good mood therefore, today, I will." I should have hung up on him right then and there, but I really dug his band's music. Chin Up's 2004 effort We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers was one of my favorite releases of that year, and the title track was a brilliant mix of the personal and the political. Sadly, after the death of original bassist Chris Saathoff, the band was never really the same and called it quits in 2009. But for a brief moment in the middle of the last decade, Chin Up Chin Up almost lived up to Bolen's arrogance. --Darryl Smyers
Sometimes the selections on my Pandora stations are shockingly brilliant. A few weeks ago Blockhead popped up on one of my stations and I instantly went to various places looking for a copy of "Four Walls." Since then, this brilliant piece of ambient, trip-hop has been on repeat at work, the car and at home. The auto-tuned voice grabs you by the short ones and doesn't let go. --Lance Lester
Contemporary country music has deteriorated into a benign, and frighteningly bland mix of poppy "rockers" and sappy sippy-cup tunes, perfectly molded for soccer moms and texting teens. A couple of years ago, Jamey Johnson quietly and independently released That Lonesome Song, an album that has since been picked up by a major label and made serious strides toward turning the minivan around and directing the masses attention towards the gutsy, grimey, drug-fueled country music that is as disconcerting as it can be accessible. Johnson's otherworldly baritone and penchant for telling stories in ways that few others even attempt these days powered this album to gold-selling status, a rarity given that the record's opening track discusses both cocaine and whores. Johnson has an ambitious double LP in the works, so contemporary country better, yet again, be ready for a bit of a time warp. --Kelly Dearmore
The truth of the matter is that I've never been a big fan of the Beastie Boys. Sure, they had some clever stuff from time to time but, generally, they just kind of struck me as a little too juvenile to take very seriously. Maybe I was just a bit too old to feel like I needed to fight for my right to party when all that was going down. But even I have to admit that the number of truly great songs they have released have reached a certain critical mass, and I've grown to appreciate them. It's nothing I would ever put on heavy rotation, but I'll turn it up if one of their gems shows up on my server or in the car. This is definitely one of my favorites. --Doug Davis
Knowing that Crowded House will be here in Dallas later this year, I couldn't help but pick this song for this week. I remember hearing this on KXT a few months back and being struck how powerful the chorus is. I speak for not just myself, but also for fellow Observer scribe Merritt Martin when I say that Crowded House (and Neil Finn's solo records) should be checked out beyond the singles. Sure, you know "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong," but songs like "When You Come," "Weather With You," and "Private Universe" are also worthy of your time. --Eric Grubbs