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MP3: New Foals "Orient," G.e.R.M. remix
MP3: New Kaiser Cartel "Ready to Go"
Beyond Earth Day: Great Wines for Sustainability
Bannos Rolling Back Prices to Celebrate Heaven on Seven's 30th
LOLLA 2010: Gaga, Strokes, Arcade Fire, Devo, Mavis Staples, Erykah Badu, Phoenix, MGMT, XX, Hot Chip, Jimmy Cliff...
Longman & Eagle Brunch Debuting New Cocktails
Can You Taste the Blood in Your Mouth?
Fun with Words ... Really?
Remember When Music Was Exciting?
Details Names Paul Kahan's Salsa Best in U.S.

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MAY 30, 2006
More AP interviews: Widespread Panic, Chris Carrabba & Robert Randolph

A few more interviews went out on the AP wire just now.

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The Palm Peeler

Last year, I discovered and wrote about Chef'n's WiseCracker, which went on to be named one of I.D. magazine's best new products of 2005.

This time, I found two more great things from the Seattle company.

First, the Palm Peeler is a little tool that makes peeling potatoes too easy. Simply slip the peeler onto your middle finger, blade facing out from your palm and you're good to go. It's an ergonomic wonder and I'm surprised no one has thought to make this before.

I found that the Palm Peeler is great for peeling just about any fruit or veggies, but especially messy mangoes, which I peeled over the weekend for my guacamango salsa.

The second is the Grapefruiter, a handheld grapefruit sectioner that, honestly, takes the pain out of sectioning your grapefruit and leaves you plenty of great pulpy fruit to eat instead of much of it ending up shredded.

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Just Can't Get Enough Depeche Mode

A nice surprise showed up at my door today: three early, yet definitive Depeche Mode albums, remasterd and ready for release on June 6.

In the package, I received Music for the Masses, Violator and Speak & Spell, which for me marked a turning point in my music education. It was the summer before my freshman year in high school and a friend played that cassette for me (yes, it was a cassette back then) and I immediately fell in love with Depeche Mode. Who would've thought that so many years later that not only would I get a remastered copy but that the band is still relevant and putting out good music?

These three albums contain some of the band's best music: "Strangelove," "Behind the Wheel," "Just Can't Get Enough," "New Life" and "Enjoy the Silence," among others.

Much of Depeche Mode's music is already on iTunes, but if you want to get the remastered versions, which each comes with a DVD and bonus tracks, head to Amazon -- this link, will get you to the Speak & Spell page.

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MAY 26, 2006
Associated Press Summer Tour Previews

Last month, I conducted almost 20 interviews for the Associated Press summer tour preview package. I chatted with some bands I love (Editors, Wolfmother) and others I really don't care that much about (Slayer, the New Cars). In any case, most of the articles went live today across the wire and are starting to get picked up by newspapers across North America, Australia, Asia and Europe.

I've posted some of the interviews in their entirety on the site, but if you want to read the published pieces, they're below. I'm going to continue posting the full articles with audio on the site during the coming weeks.

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MAY 21, 2006
INTERVIEW: My Morning Jacket

An interesting thing is happening to My Morning Jacket. With the release of last year's Z, the band proved they have more in them than a bunch of Southern-fried noodling. The album is full of experimentation, disparate sounds and bombast.

This cross-over has earned them praise by both indie-rock and jam-band fans alike as well as critics across the board. And they even attracted the attention of the Boston Pops, who invited MMJ to join them for two nights this June.

I chatted with drummer Patrick Hallahan just before MMJ hit the road with Pearl Jam -- and immediately after being interviewed by a reporter in the Falkland Islands -- who knew MMJ had fans off the coast of South America?

We discussed the band's changing landscape, rotating players and MMJ being called America's Radiohead.

Read the Q&A below or stream the interview.

Q&A with MMJ's Patrick Hallahan

SG: You straddle two musical worlds – that of jam band and indie rock. How do you compete in the two places?
MMJ: I think, I like to think we don't think about it. We've never tried to be indie or a jam band. I don't think we're either. I think it's incredible that any crowd takes us on as something they enjoy. Those two audiences – which are the two most separate or intense factions of music fans, I have no idea. It's a huge blessing.

SG: Are you ever shocked at the mix in the audience?
MMJ: It never ceases to amaze us. It's probably one of the most beneficial things as being a touring band. We look out there and it's ageless and there are no division lines between the people – it's such a hodge-podge of everybody. It's always been what we've wanted to do – appeal to so many people all over the place. You don't get far that way. We never wanted to make one sound.

More MMJ after the jump...

Continue reading "INTERVIEW: My Morning Jacket" »

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Healthy Dog = Happy Dog

I'm always on the lookout for great products for my dog, Emma. This 5-year-old Shepherd/Lab/Sharpei mix is, to put it in easy terms, spoiled as hell -- but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Last year, we started giving her a "salad" of three types of high-end, all-natural food that my pals at the Barking Lot in Chicago recommended. Since then, she's lost about 11 pounds, has added energy and her coat looks fantastic.

So when I stumbled upon Robbie Dawg organic dog biscuits I had to try them. Crafted by Lisa Fortunato in her Brooklyn bakery, Robbie Dawg features eight different biscuits and three types of biscotti -- and they just started producing treats for your cat (I suppose they should be healthy, too, even if they do poo in your home).

Emma has sampled the Cheddar & Bacon, Four Cheese Oatmeal and Arroz con Pollo. Needless to say, she loved all of them -- then again, she is a dog and generally refuses to eat very little. I would much rather have her eating these treats with real cheese, free-range chicken and no added salt, sugar, preservatives or other fake stuff than find an old rotting piece of pizza or burrito in the park any day.

Robbie Dawg products are sold literally all over the country. Find a store nearby so you too can spoil your pooch -- like you aren't already.

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MAY 16, 2006
Next Up: Chicago's Office

Not to be confused with the comedy series The Office, up-and-coming Chicago band Office is quickly gaining attention in the music world.

After a solid performance at SXSW in March, the foursome -- Scott Masson, Erica Corniel, Tom Smith and Alissa Noonan -- returned to Chicago to rest up for their monthlong residency at Schuba's.

I caught the band's third show tonight and, after listening to their music for the past few months and getting to know them a little on a personal level, was refreshed to see how great they are live. Dressed in suits and cocktail dresses, the band has a quiet sophisticated force that when ignited really lights up.

Behind the scenes, lead singer and primary songwriter Masson is a sweet, gentle guy but when he takes the stage, he becomes a totally different person. Or as he said tonight after the set, "the freak comes out." He tosses his slick, bald head all about while coming dangerously close to whacking it on the mic stand. His eyes bug out, cross and then roll in the back of his head. He casually thrusts his body about on stage. And yet he continues to churn out tight music and sing with his beautiful voice.

I kept trying to figure out how to classify Office during their set, but found it nearly impossible. At times, they lean toward '60s sunshine pop; then turn the tables and turn into an early '80s new wave outfit. But that's one of the great things about Office is that you really can't pigeonhole them into a category or draw too many comparisons to other bands. Sure, if you look hard enough you'll find them, but I'd rather focus on their sound and just enjoy it (although I have to admit, Masson sounded a lot like Rufus Wainwright when he sat down at the keyboard for the sweetly sensitive love song "Until 6 pm.")

The band is currently shopping around for a record deal and it looks like they're getting pretty close (although I won't say with who at this point since nothing's inked yet). These guys have put out two albums, with Q&A their more recent, and more solid, release.

For MP3s, either check out their official site or their MySpace page for more, including a live radio performance.

Keep an ear out for Office. They're growing. And leading a big surge in the Chicago pop scene. Hell, keep an ear out for Chicago bands, like The Changes, The 1900s, Public 4 and many more. Seriously, Spin magazine -- here's your next big scene. Pay attention.

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Orbino Leather iPod Case

I found out about Orbino's leather iPod cases awhile back. This is truly the most gorgeous case to hold your beloved music mechanism -- with handcrafted leather, intricate stitching, precious metals adorning the spin wheel and a handful of colors from which to choose.

There's a reason Italian design always causes such a stir -- just look at the details on this sucker! And the price tag -- seriously, what would you pay? $150? $200? Try $65. No, honestly. This case, which fits iPod Video, Nano and Shuffle, retails for a ridiculously low $65.

Stop rubbing your eyes. You know you want to go buy one now.

Orbino also makes leather bags and laptop cases. I'm holding out for the textured caramel leather Linea Slimcase for my G4.

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Toothpick Man

I was first turned on to Danish home design company Menu by lifestyle site Charles & Marie after it posted about a great wine gift set with a wine thermometer.

I wanted to see what else Menu had to offer and came across this fun, little gadget: the Toothpick Man.

While I can't verify its functionality, I really dig its form. Apparently, when you lift the black box, a new, fresh toothpick appears in the little man's hands.

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MAY 12, 2006
Stephen Vincent 2004 Crimson

One of the things I love about wine is buying an interesting-sounding bottle that's fairly priced just for the sake of trying it. Sometimes, I drink half a glass, realize the wine is god-awful and either pour the rest down the sink or possibly use it for cooking (which is a rarity).

Last night, I struck gold with a bottle of Sonoma County Stephen Vincent 2004 Crimson, a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, for about $10. The winemaker, who I just talked to, told me that he was going for a Rhone-like characteristic. I was surprised to learn it was blended with Cab, because the ruby-colored wine, while rich in color, was lighter (not light, but not huge either) in taste. That definitely comes from the Syrah. I thought it was maybe blended with merlot, pinot noir or maybe petite verdot (one of my new favorite grapes), but defnitely not cab. It was a nice surprise.

The wine had some really nice ripe fruit accents (dark cherry, some blackberry) and interesting hints of spices. It went well with our four-cheese pizza and spinach salad, but would pair perfectly with a filet, lamb chops or a pasta in a fresh, simple tomato basil sauce.

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