Song of the Day

TEN SECOND EPIC
Better Off


DOWNLOAD: Better Off

OK…so yesterday a lotta you pointed out to me that the recent stream of sad-as-Hell folky songs that have taken up residency here on The List might be just the thing to convince some of the more manic/depressive types who hang out here to open a vein…God only knows I can’t be burdened with that responsibility…and then this morning Andrew Usenik, my much younger rockstar cousin from the Great White North, emails to remind me that his band Ten Second Epic will be playing Webster Hall this week! That gives me the perfect opportunity to kick out the title song from their latest album, Better Off. No sad-bastard vibe here, just three and a half minutes of guitar-driven, rhythmic rock-n-roll that should get you off the ledge and back in business. So if you’re in the mood from some old-skool R&R, hit The Studio at Webster Hall Thursday night tell Andrew I told you to show up. Oh yeah…check out the video for ‘Young Classics’…also off of Better Off… for an even harder & rockier look at these guys…

Song of the Day

KATE TUCKER
Get You Over


DOWNLOAD: Get You Over

January is almost over and we’ve been so damned busy here at Damn Ugly (we’re havin’ a record-setting month, thanks for asking!) that we have yet to put out a single new Song of the Day this year! I’m gonna rectify that by offering up a song off of Kate Tucker’s beautiful new EP and also send you guys a link to where for a limited time you can download the entire EP for free. Ghost of Something New includes songs she recorded with her former Sons of Sweden bandmates and other collaborators in Seattle, Brooklyn, and Nashville. The deluxe version will be released March 13 with some exclusive songs, but like I said, for the time being she’s giving it away (don’t be a cheap-ass…you can still tip her a few bucks!) over on www.noisetrade.com and you can follow Ms. Tucker over on her facebook page.

Behind the Scenes of the 2012 Barron’s Roundtable Cover Shoot

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I first photographed the annual Barron’s Roundtable cover story back in January of 2007, which makes this the sixth year I’ve had the privilege, and each year the team of Art Director Pamela Budz, Photo Editor Adrian Delucca and myself have stepped up our game to reinvent creative ways to show the gang of financial prognosticators. This year the three of us came up with the idea that centered around the entire group posing in front of a blackboard. I did a quick mockup using shots of the Roundtable members I had taken previously…

So we packed up our usual thousand pounds of lighting gear along with a blackboard and various other set pieces and headed uptown to The Harvard Club to make it work…

Our main prop…a 4’x6′ blackboard…

Now for those of you who haven’t read about some of the previous Roundtable shoot days, I’ll break down the schedule for you. We have roughly two hours to shoot everybody before the meeting begins at 10:00AM. In that two hours we have to come away with two cover shots (one for main January issue and one for the mid-year follow-up in June), three additional situations that will be used for openers in three January issues, an opener for the June issue and individual portraits of all ten Roundtable members that will get dropped into the copy of the June issue.

Ten People. Two Hours.

Oh yeah…we shoot everybody separately as they arrive at the Harvard Club and assemble those shots into the group photos for the cover and inside openers.

Simple.

Here’s what it looked like…

Adrian reminding me we have very little time…

And this is just from the Blackboard set. You can see the second white seamless setup behind me in one of the above photos, but I can’t show you any of that until it publishes in June.

Once we had finished with the people, we now had to shoot the blackboard, out of the rigging we used to suspend it for the portraits and back on its stand…

…and various elements on the blackboard that I could insert into the final compositions. Since Pam can freehand fonts way better than any of us, she got to draw the cover headline on the board…

Adrian was elected to do the ‘Charts & Graphs’…

And with all of the elements photographed, now it was up to me to push everything together in Photoshop and manufacture that group shot for the cover. The individual photos looked like this…

…so first I had to silhouette the images and paste them into a new Photoshop document…

…and then fill in the group with everybody else…

…do a rough mockup with the blackboard inserted behind the group…

…and after Pam and Adrian had approved the final composition, do a whole lotta fine-tuning…like erasing the rough edges around the silhouette, feathering the hair to blend naturally against the blackboard, add shadows in front and behind everybody and finally cook in my own special sauce of color and contrast adjustments…

With the cover outta the way, next up was the week one opener. I started by seriously stretching out that blackboard so that it would run over a two-page spread, then I added both the people and their names that I had them write on the board…

Using the same fine-tuning I did on the cover, this was the final image…

And here’s how it appeared in print…

And using the same basic technique, just on a smaller scale, here is the image that ran as the opener in this weeks issue…

Just like I said…simple!

The Songs of the Year 2011

The other day, a friend pointed out that this past year the usual high output of songs that got put up on The List was decidedly less than past years, to which I replied, yes…the necessity to work from time to time had certainly put a crimp in my ability to give away my usual amount of free music, but what did get tossed up was of such high quality as they more than made up for the diminished quantity. And with that in mind, here are the best of the best…the Songs of the Year…

#1. LOW ROAR
Give Up


DOWNLOAD: Give Up

Ryan Karazija didn’t just come up with the best song this past year, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t also have the best album, too. I could have put any one of the twelve tracks from the album on the annual list…they are all that good…and it’s only a coincidence that ‘Give Up’ is the first track on the album. I’ve already yelled at you guys enough to BUY THIS RECORD, but if you haven’t, do it now! And mark your calenders kids, cuz Ryan’s gonna be taking a flight from Iceland over to New York to play a gig at Piano’s January 19 and MilkBoy in Philly on January 22nd.

#2. CAMERAS
Polarise


DOWNLOAD: Polarise

If not for Low Roar, Cameras would have certainly been sitting on the top of the heap this year. I’ve played ‘Polarise’ so often, I’m pretty sure even Camille is getting sick of it! Nothing like a wall of hard-to-understand, harmonic, atmospheric, shoegazey melodies to win my heart.

#3. WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS
Act On Impulse


DOWNLOAD: Act On Impulse

We all should have a dose of sweaty, angst-ridden rock to wake us up from time to time. They’re almost unheard of over here, but these four Scottish lads are burning up the clubs in Great Britain. Powerful, lotsa fun and yes…very sweaty!

#4. BIRD CALL
The Ballad Of New York


DOWNLOAD: The Ballad Of New York
I swear Chiara Angelicola may have been plucked out of a Jazz Club from the 50’s and transported to the Here & Now to remind us what real music is like. She’s got a voice that can drop so low it will rattle your bones…and then outta nowhere she’ll crack a high note that will give you goosebumps. The Ballad Of New York is going to be on her next album, but in the meantime she’s got a lot more sitting over at iTunes just waiting for you to enjoy.

#5. CASS McCOMBS
The Same Thing


DOWNLOAD: The Same Thing

There’s just something so comfortably reassuring about the way Cass McCombs sings. From the very first time I heard ‘The Same Thing’ I was won over. The melody, the slightly syncopated vocal style, the sad/lazy way it made me feel…it all works.

#6. WYE OAK
Civilian


DOWNLOAD: Civilian

Another strong contender for my favorite album this year was Civilian by the Baltimore duo, Wye Oak. It’s a noisy mashup filled with masterful guitar work, shoegazey distortion, wonderful storytelling and Jenn Wasner’s languid voice holding it all together. It’s another record that you should seriously consider buying!

#7. GABRIELLE AIMEE
Have You Ever


DOWNLOAD: Have You Ever

We’ve been friends for quite a while and I even shot her album cover earlier this year, but when Gabrielle Aimée sent me ‘Have You Ever’ I was knocked out. I had never heard her slide into such a bluesy place and be so damned sexy on a song before, and the vibrato from the Farfisa-like organ transported me back in time.

#8. K+NIKKU
The Search


DOWNLOAD: The Search

Kate Tucker has been a staple on The List from the moment we first heard her with the Sons of Sweden and since then we’ve followed her from Seattle to Ohio to New York and now to Nashville, so when she recorded an EP with Nic Danielson as K+Nikku we were on board. I’ve been goofin’ on her…calling her Katemau5…because of the slightly electronic edge to the EP, but she knows I love her…

#9. THE PACK A.D.
Sirens


DOWNLOAD: Sirens

The Pack A.D. is Becky Black & Maya Miller and they’re a hard-hitting garage duo outta Vancouver B.C. that has released four albums of stripped-down, pissed-off, dirty punk rock…and they’re bloody great! ‘Sirens’ is off of their latest release, Unpersons.

#10. SHERLOCK’S DAUGHTER
Reprise


DOWNLOAD: Reprise

Going from the grungy goodness of The Pack A.D. to Sherlock’s Daughter shoegazing their way through ‘Reprise’ might be a bit jarring, but I’ve had their EP near the top of my iTunes folder all year and there was no chance it wasn’t making it on this list. Call it nonsensical aural wallpaper if you must, but Tanya Horo’s voice always has a calming effect on me…like a neural tranquilizer…I can feel any tension I’m feeling fall away as soon as she whispers in my ear…

#11. THE BOOZE
Hit Me Where It Hurts


DOWNLOAD: Hit Me Where It Hurts

We’ve come to the end, but I’ve turned it up to “11” and hearing Chaz Tolliver channel Mick Jagger one more time seems like a perfect way to close out this years Best Of List. The Booze play boogie-rock that can’t help but make you think of the early Stones and The Kinks, and Tolliver seems to have mastered the fine art of Jagger-esque posing…in a good way!