One or Two Things I Know

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET
  • Bill Hillsman Founder, Independent Voters of America, Chief Creative Officer, North Woods Advertising

1. The only thing I know more about than marketing, advertising, politics and baseball is music.

2. I'll write some important drivel about politics next time. In the meantime, here's what you should be listening to:

-- The Hold Steady. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I like The White Stripes and The Strokes as much as the next guy. But the best band in the land today is The Hold Steady. Lots of people said last year's Almost Killed Me was the Best Album You Didn't Hear in 2004. I won't disagree with that, but their new Separation Sunday is even better-- a monster powerhouse. I saw Craig Finn & Co. rock First Avenue in Minneapolis a week ago Monday night. This guy can write. Think Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, the Pogues, the Waterboys, a wee dollop of Van Morrison, and yes, even a little early Springsteen; all blended together with some Rolling Stones licks and Queens of the Stone Age rawk. Better yet-- don't think, just listen.

-- Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Naturally. Those of us who grew up on soul music in Chicago or Philly or Detroit know the real thing when we hear it, and we don't hear it very often anymore. Sharon Jones is the real thing.

-- Hem, Eveningland. Some of the most beautiful music and smartest songcrafting you'll ever hear, featuring the voice of a cowgirl angel from Brooklyn, Sally Ellyson. Their slow-burn cover of "Jackson" alone is definitely worth the price of admission. I saw them at the Paradise Lounge in Boston a month ago, and the evening was so transcendent that when the guy sitting next to me at the bar said he drove over 300 miles from New Jersey just to see that night's show, it made perfect sense.

-- Halloween, Alaska. Their eponymous debut is a hidden gem that's definitely worth finding. Those of you who unearthed another hidden gem, the British band Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen (produced by Thomas Dolby and released stateside as Two Wheels Good in 1985) are going to feel equally rewarded with "Hal Al." If Dave King isn't the most imaginative drummer in music today, I'll eat this here cymbal (drizzled with a light vinaigrette). He's also the busiest, switching kits from jazz ensemble The Bad Plus to his own French-produced trio Happy Apple ("Hap App"?) to being the subtly provocative driving force behind Halloween Alaska. I saw them in a sweaty steamroom called the Cedar Cultural Club the other night, and they're threatening to release a new disc in September. Get this one, now, in a hurry.

-- RIP, Mitch Hedberg. In times like these, we need a laugh more than ever. So there's no justice in losing a young and still finely warping mind a couple of months ago to a sudden stroke. Fortunately, Mitch's unusual observations will live forever digitally, on Strategic Grill Locations and Mitch All Together (which those of you who know him knew never happened).