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Kurt Vile & Phoenix Review

Philly-based songwriter and guitar wizard Kurt Vile performs live in the studio. Later, Jim and Greg review Bankrupt!, the new album from Sound Opinions alums Phoenix.

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Certainly record companies have made many attempts over the years to launch their artists to #1. But, as far as we know, that's never been attempted by a political social media campaign, until now. The Facebook page "Make Ding Dong! the Witch is Dead Number One the Week Thatcher Dies" went live shortly after the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And it almost succeeded, but was narrowly inched out by Duke Dumont's "Need U (100%)." Even at #2, this has caused some controversy. The BBC decided not to play the Wizard of Oz tune during its chart countdown, instead opting to play a clip as part of a newscast.

The Iron Lady has always had an impact on music, particularly when it came to hear naysayers. Jim and Greg discuss some of the 1980's best anti-Thatcher tunes including The English Beat with "Stand Down Margaret," Elvis Costello with "Tramp the Dirt Down," Crass with "How Does It Feel?" and perhaps the darkest of them all, "Margaret on the Guillotine" by Moz.

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Kurt Vile

First there was the myth of blues legend Robert Johnson meeting the devil. Now we have the myth of a fork lift driver turned guitar virtuoso and poet. But as Kurt Vile explains, his rise to success has actually been quite slow and methodical. After leaving the band The War on Drugs, he has released five albums and earned the respect of music peers (not to mention a reputation for being an A+ rock student). His latest is called Wakin on a Pretty Daze.

reviewBankrupt! (Deluxe Edition)Bankrupt! available on iTunes

Phoenix Bankrupt!

It's been four years since the French electropop band Phoenix dropped by Sound Opinions to play those infectious breakout singles "Lisztomania" and "1901." For most American music fans, those tracks and the band's 2009 breakthrough album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, came out of nowhere (savvy French fans would‘ve known the band’s previous collaborations with Air and Daft Punk). Phoenix's latest album, Bankrupt!, isn‘t nearly so under the radar. But does it measure up to the hype? Greg doesn’t hear a single as strong as“Lisztomania”or“1901,”but insists the album may fare better overall. Frontman Thomas Mars was inspired by his wife Sofia Coppola's 2010 film Somewhere, giving the album a theme. And, more ambient and R&B-inspired tracks show the band is evolving musically. Greg says Buy It. But Jim can't get over the lack of a hits. This is fine bubbly dance pop for summer, he says, but Bankrupt! is only a Burn It.

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“Strawberry Letter 23”Shuggie Otis

A tour and a raft of new reissues have got Greg thinking about Shuggie Otis again. A guitar prodigy, Shuggie got his start in father Johnny Otis's band at the tender age of fifteen. Just a few years later, he dropped the band gig to explore more avant-garde and atmospheric territory, making some of the most genre-defying guitar music of the seventies. Greats like Al Cooper and Frank Zappa clamored to work with him, but by the mid ‘70s, Shuggie had largely dropped off the musical map. Luckily, songs like Greg’s DIJ pick, "Strawberry Letter 23" haven‘t grown stale with age. Thanks to renewed interest, Shuggie’s back on tour. Listen to Strawberry Letter's psychedelic glockenspiel and guitar solos, and you might just be inspired to check him out live.

Featured Songs

  1. The Munchkins, Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead, The Wizard of Oz: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Rhino, 1995
  2. Billy Bragg, Thatcherites, William Bloke, Cooking Vinyl, 1996
  3. Simply Red, She'll Have to Go, A New Flame, WEA Records, 1989
  4. Morrissey, Margaret on the Guillotine, Viva Hate, HMV, 1988
  5. Kurt Vile, KV Crimes, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013
  6. Kurt Vile, Waking on a Pretty Day, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013 Live on SO
  7. Kurt Vile, Pure Pain, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013
  8. Kurt Vile, Too Hard, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013
  9. Fleetwood Mac, Tusk, Tusk, Warner Bros, 1979
  10. Kurt Vile, Never Run Away, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013 Live on SO
  11. Kurt Vile, Shame Chamber, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013
  12. Kurt Vile, Baby's Arms, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013 Live on SO
  13. Kurt Vile, Puppet to the Man, Smoke Ring For My Halo, Matador, 2011
  14. Phoenix, Entertainment, Bankrupt!, V2, 2013
  15. Phoenix, Bourgeois, Bankrupt!, V2, 2013
  16. Shuggie Otis, Strawberry Letter 23, Freedom Flight, Epic, 1971
  17. R.E.M., The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, Automatic for the People, Warner Bros., 1992
  18. The Replacements, Talent Show, Don't Tell a Soul, Sire, 1989
  19. Joni Mitchell, Help Me, Court and Spark, Asylum, 1974
  20. Van Morrison, Saint Dominic's Preview, Saint Dominic's Preview, Warner Bros., 1972

Footnotes

time.com Margaret Thatcher theguardian.com BBC controversy

kurtvile.com Kurt Vile matadorrecords.com Wakin on a Pretty Daze wearephoenix.com Phoenix soundopinions.org Phoenix on Sound Opinions allmusic.com Bankrupt! focusfeatures.com Somewhere Movie shuggieotismusic.com Shuggie Otis