Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For Your Listening Pleasure: The Wrens on KEXP

One of the bands that I saw for the first time at SXSW was The Wrens. I'd never heard of them but I had heard about them-one of my SX travel mates has raved about these guys for years now. They've had a bit of a storied past but let me put it to you this way: I see a lot of shows and the show I caught them at in Austin was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Hands down. And it was noon on a friggin Friday.

I'll be posting more about that show here shortly but in the meantime, I wanted to share a treat I was just given, a podcast of acoustic Wrens from roughly 2007 2003 on KEXP.

Great wordplay, killer hooks, and a bombastic surge of power with underlying melody. Fuck The Shins man, it's The Wrens who will change your life.

Oh, and here's video from the radio session one of their KEXP visits as well...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Songs, Sun, and Lone Star Beer: SXSW 2009, Day 1

From what I understand, there aren't many over-the-top parties/events that typically take place at SXSW on the first day (Wednesday). So it was decided that my travel mates and I would forgo that wretched early-morning trek to Baltimore's lovely airport and leave a little later, thus getting us in a little later. Of course the one year this happens is the year that all that changes and there's tons of great things happening on Wednesday during the day (Jarvis Cocker, I'm looking at you). This, I think, is a good thing and I'm looking forward to folks utilizing that day better in the coming years. I know we learned our lesson for sure.

The boys raced on ahead of me to catch M. Ward at Radio Room, and though I was only a few minutes behind them, the difference of a few minutes doubled the length of the Radio Room line-when I arrived, it was ginormous. But it was just as well, I don't do frazzled and bugged out calmly, which I was from the trip. So I said screw this and got my badge (anyone else notice a lighter than usual goodie bag this year? Oh shite economy, up yours), my photo pass, and my composure. Once arranged and back in order, I headed out to kick things off with a known quantity of awesomeness for the 8 pm hour, Calfornia's Rademacher.

*8-9 pm:
1) Rademacher
I was really looking forward to this band as I'd heard so many wonderful things about them from the Silver Lake, CA crew for so long, and their mp3 garnered high marks in my book. But upon my arrival at The Independent, located over the hill and far away, I found they'd canceled. Seriously bummed me out because a) I had to miss such a well regarded group from those whose opinions I trust, and b) The Independent is well, over the hill and far away. Grr...

Give a Listen: Believe-Rademacher

2) Pink Nasty
I had one backup for the 8 pm slot and it was a band whose mp3 I'd kinda liked last year but not been able to see. Ms. Pink (or Ms. Nasty?) and her band was....interesting, but basic indie girl pop.

Her quips to the audience were funny enough and the band was good but I wasn't feeling it. Maybe it was the venue (18th floor of a hotel with chairs and waiters running about) that made me feel like I was at a wedding reception. But more so, I was just bummed about about the Rademacher thing so the poor girl didn't stand a chance with moi.

(More photos from the show here)

Give a Listen: Mold the Gold-Pink Nasty

*9-10 pm:
After missing M Ward earlier, I thought I’d run up and catch his 9 PM show at the Central Presbyterian Church. Upon my arrival I found this:

(What you can't see is the winding crowd of four lanes up at the top of those stairs and down the other side)

This church has, apparently, fabulous acoustics (obviously, it’s a church), but is really really tiny. And given the popularity of M Ward this year with his release of the lovely Hold Time, I shouldn’t have assumed this would be an easy in. In fact, as I walked through the crowd, I heard someone remark that people had been lined up for this show as early as 7 pm. From the looks of the line, I’d say they weren't lying.

3) Come On Gang!
I'd ranked all of my choices this year with letter grades (always the school dork), and both of my other 9 pm choices had "B+" rankings. So I flipped a coin and started with Scotland's Come On Gang!

A three-piece with a female drummer/lead singer, I'd originally had them pgged as a more uptempo derivative of Camera Obscura. And there was some of that, but then they also went off on tangents of sudden shoegazy guitar fuzziness and a cowbell (interesting yet a bit jarring as these both came out of nowhere on their fourth song of the set). But this band had energy onstage (which, if you've ever seen Camera Obscura onstage you know is not the case) so major props for that. In fact, the bass and guitar players were jumping and bobbing around so much that the speaker sets were bouncing with them. Long story short, Come On Gang! is peppy Britpop with decent hooks (especially "Both Ends Early").

The only downside for this show, which is a common downside often at SX because of the propensity to use just about anyplace as a venue, is that the mix was oftentimes quirky, making sounds not really as crisp. I think this left me with just a "feel" for the band but not a great indication of their proper sound.

(More photos from the show here)

Give a Listen: Wheels-Come On Gang!

4) Rotary Downs
My other 9 pm band, Rotary Downs, was at this place called Ace’s Lounge where, I kid you not, the bar wraps around the base of the stage so a band plays above/in back of the bartenders and the bar. (Think the bar owners have stock in an earplug company or something?)

Rotary Downs was a good size band (five members) and I remember thinking their indie rock sound seemed to have undertones of David Bowie from the Thin White Duke soul era. Complete with horns and synth and a kickin backbeat, they paired this with a xylophone and slide guitar, which together, made for a different sound for a band these days. Later on, I found out that this was a band out of New Orleans so horns, size, soul...ahhhh, it all made sense.

In the end, the Downs won my 9 pm slot. It helped that they had a xylophone/tambourinist who was super animated, leaping and jumping around and generally rocking out. And the lead singer's voice reminded me of both David Bowie and J. Mascius depending on the song (see "Sing Like the Sun" and "Feast in Squalor" respectively), so instant points there. The Come On Gang! mp3 ranked higher before seeing the two bands live, but after doing so, I think I found Rotary Downs better. I mean I like Bowie, and love a good slide guitar, so their combo was a sure thing to my ears. Plus, that "Feast in Squalor" song is so catchy, I think I've played it about a billion times since my return home.

(More photos from the show here)

Give a Listen: A Feast in Squalor-Rotary Downs

*10-11 pm:
5) Cotton Jones
The 10:00 hour had me running behind already as I got caught up in a great conversation after Rotary Downs with the head of Reap and Sow, a really cool music distribution company out of San Francisco, so I hit the closest location on my list and caught Cotton Jones. Cotton Jones and company are from Cumberland, MD and based on their mp3, play this neat blend of folk and soul with a splash of gospel, backed by an alt-country band and a Hammond b3 organ.

This seemed to be the year of bands with multiple members (Cotton Jones's had six for instance, Rotary Downs had five)....and technical difficulties. Amps, chords, equipment overall seem to be problematic for roughly one out of every four bands I saw. And as this pushed back their start times, and I had multiple bands I wanted to catch in every time slot, I needed something really compelling to make me stick around. Cotton Jones was pretty accurate to my initial thoughts on them (alt-country straight-up with a soul back), and they were ok...but I think they're one of those bands that's good on record but not overly compelling live.

(More photos from the show here)

Give a Listen: Blood Red Sentimental Blues-Cotton Joe

6) Vetiver
Emo's Jr. isn't a small venue, but Vetiver had it packed. In fact, it was the first line I stood in all night. When comparing band choices with my travel mates earlier, they told me how big of a buzz there was about this group in indie circles (and here I just liked the mp3). Definitely seemed to be the case.

The first thing I noticed was how much the lead singer reminded me of Jakob Dylan looks-wise. And how his lip curls remind me of Sheryl Crow in that "All I Wanna Do" video. But in terms of music it was lovely...there's a calm quietness to it, much the way it is on a breezy summer twilight. It had decidedly folk-strains to it, ala the Jerry Garcia Band or Cat Stevens, but with an indie twinge. For me, at least, I think theirs is music for a certain mood, not something I could listen to all the time. Or maybe I could and I just got burnt out on anything of the Jerry Band genre from waaaay too many Grateful Dead shows in my youth, heh.

Oh, and if you're a fan, they announced that they're releasing a single titled "Wishing Well" next month.

(More photos from the show here)

Give a Listen: Everyday-Vetiver

*11-12 pm:
7) Avett Brothers
I first saw these guys at the Monolith Festival in September, as as I'd said then, this 3-4 piece (the cellist only seems to play sometimes) makes this one disarming amalgam of rock and bluegrass.

(The Avett Brothers crowd at Stubbs)

Another instance of a band with technical difficulties and starting late. And I've never been in such a tightly packed photo pit before; I think every person photographing at SX was in there. But these guys put on such an energized and amazing show, any frustrations anyone brought in with them soon melted away. They're such consummate musicians and make this music that's both gentle and delicate, but also perfect for "punk pogoing." As Bob Bollen of NPR said on the broadcast, "When was the last time you saw a banjo player pogo?" Indeed. It's a truly lovely and unique dichotomy.

Part of this is the type of songs they do, but it's also them as performers. They always engage the crowd in ways that make places as big as Stubbs or Red Rocks seem as small as a backyard, and it always feels genuine.

They ended with a beautiful song that I've discovered since is the (probable) title track for their record coming this summer, called "I and Love and You." It was one of those tracks they do that packs a wallop and yet, is as tender and vulnerable as a lullaby. This track, plus "Laundry Room" if it's included, will make for a record that will end up on everyone's best of lists for 2009, without a doubt.

(See the rest of the show photos here)

Give a Listen: NPR streamed this show live which you can listen to here

Give a Listen: Last Song to Jenny-Avett Brothers (Live)

*12-1 am:
The midnight hour brought three bands I was going to try to fit in: Red Cortez, Viva Voce, and Dash Rip Rock. I'd seen Red Cortez when they were The Weather Underground but not in this new incarnation, Viva Voce only from the positive ravings of others, and Dash a bunch of times already, so I wasn't sure where to start. I figured I'd definitely end with Dash though because they're always good for a rollicking good time, and I needed something fun and uplifting at this point, as I was starting to lag. So in the spirit of logical locationing, the plan was Voce->Cortez->Dash.

8) Viva Voce
Viva Voce was interesting, fuzzy shoegaze for the new millenium if you will, picking up where My Bloody Valentine left off. With both male and female lead vocalists, Voce has that great sound of ethereality paired with crunchy guitar sounds that blissfully chop on one's ear drums.

(See the rest of the photos from their show here)

Give a Listen: Drown Them Out-Viva Voce

With trying to pack three bands into 40 minutes, I wasn't going to stay for more than a few songs. But as one is wont to do at SX, I wound up running into a photographer friend (the great DDE whose work you might know if you read MOKB where he's the staff photog), the Delta Spirit guys just loading in for their 1 am set (seems their trailer had caught fire earlier in the day and they were running mighty behind), and Harley Pretchel-Cortez, lead singer/guitarist for Red Cortez. (Seems his venue was running over an hour behind so Red Cortez was not playing this midnight hour.) But that still left one more before the clock struck "12:40 am"....

9) Dash Rip Rock
I first caught Dash Rip Rock’s blend of punk and cajun music at the Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta years ago. They were a site for sore eyes then (in the very best way possible), and though lineup changes and other random hiccups, lead singer/guitarist Bill Davies can still bring “it” like it’s not been “brought-un.”

Davies and DRR will make you smile much like the Avett Brothers, but unlike the Avett’s, DRR is about the colliding spirits of Country Dick Montana, Aaron Neville, and Johnny Rotten, of Johnny Ramone and Jerry Lee Lewis with a side of Helen Reddy. DRR is music played by kick-ass musicians (you try playing slide guitar with a shot glass), and just plain fun-I mean, how could one hear a version of Helen Reddy's "Delta Dawn" all punked up and moving at the speed of sound, and not chuckle just a little?

(See the rest of the photos from their show here)

Give a Listen: Locked Inside a Liquor Store-Dash Rip Rock

*1-2 am:
10) Seabird
The 1 am goal was to hit the venue Wave for Seabird, a band out of Ohio, then wind up the night back at Radio Room, where I’d left Viva Voce, with Delta Spirit. Seabird was running behind (shocking for this evening it seemed) so I thought I’d dash down the street and maybe see things in reverse order. But Radio Room’s line was ridiculous (and they didn’t honor a previous hand stamp like every other damn venue in Austin grr), and a conversation with the doorman made it pretty clear no one was leaving so no one new was getting in. Ah, but this is why one keeps options for the SX schedule.

So I headed back to catch the end of Seabird, only....1:20 am, and they still hadn’t started. Sleep was rapidly knocking on my eyelids but I managed to hang in there. After all, the beauty of SX is seeing bands you might not get to catch otherwise. Plus I was really struck by the lead singers big but melodious voice on their mp3, “Let Me Go On." Sometimes being stubborn works I guess (heh).

Fronted by two brothers, a bass player that makes his own guitars, and a new kick-ass drummer, Seabird do a neat type of heart-torn indie rock that’s very piano-centric. And the lead singer's voice does hold up live, it is not Memorex.

One interesting note: The lead singer made mention of the state of the music business and getting a song on a tv show, which is great as long as it doesn’t get cancelled. What I found out later is that they speak from experience as they did the title track for that tv show “Pushing Daisies” that just got cancelled.

I can't say they're the most animated act live-well, sans the drummer-but they are a band you go to see to appreciate for the music, not for the stage act.

(See the rest of the photos here)

Whew, 10 bands in six hours... So it was off to kick off the shoes, hang with the boys, and compare our day schedules for Day 2 over a few beers and a few laughs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Songs, Sun, and Lone Star Beer: SXSW 2009

Ah SXSW. Otherwise known as "Spring break for indie rock fans." Just returned late last night, exhausted and slightly sunburned, but as before, ever so glad to have gone.

Why does one go though it's becoming increasingly expensive, deprives you of sleep and nourishment, and has you drunk on a Thursday at noon? Because, friends, you get to see bands you may never discover otherwise (The Takeover UK, The Tender Box), bands that never play out much (The Wrens), and well known bands in the venues the size of your living room (The NY Dolls). And I didn't even make it to Metallica's show at Stubbs (the size of your backyard), or Devo, or Echo and the Bunnymen. Yes, you do see more than a share of bands that don't quite live up to their submitted mp3, or that submitted song is their only good one. But wading through those is utterly worth it when you find THE band that blows you away as a music lover, or as a photographer, getting to be close enough for beauty shots like these of The Hold Steady...

Saw a kabillion bands and shot at least 2,000 photos (the latter is not an exaggeration) so stay tuned, it's all coming..."You'll be high as hell and born again" indeed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

News: Welcome to the Net, Mr. ‘OC’

Not my normal bit of news but keep reading...long story short, Los Angeles indie bands, get thee to Echoplex to begin world domination (or for getting licensing royalities at the very least).

JOSH SCHWARTZ has always wanted to make a television show about the music business. Even before he created “The OC,” Mr. Schwartz — who spent a good bit of his 20s hanging out at Los Angeles rock clubs — wrote a pilot called “Wall to Wall Records,” about the young employees of a record label.

So you’d think that when the writers’ strike of late 2007 and early 2008 halted production on Mr. Schwartz’s latest series, “Gossip Girl” and “Chuck,” he would have jumped at Warner Brothers Television’s offer to make “Wall to Wall Records” for the company’s Web venture, TheWB.com. But his enthusiasm for the project had wilted. “The music business has so fundamentally changed that doing something about a record label feels eight or nine years late,” he said.

Record companies have faltered in the face of the digital music revolution, their profits decimated and CD sales down by almost 50 percent from what they were at the turn of the century. “That whole universe has morphed into something new and more sad,” Mr. Schwartz said.

He couldn’t get the idea of a music show out of his head, though. He countered the Warner Brothers proposal with a happier premise, one that, at 32, he “was starting to feel a little disconnected from”: 20-somethings who hang out at a Los Angeles rock club.

“What if it’s about the kids who go to the clubs, the fans of the music, instead?” he said. “That world hasn’t changed at all.”

Music isn’t the only part of the entertainment business that has changed, and not for the better. The double whammy of the 100-day writers’ strike and online competition has left even hit shows on the broadcast networks well below their pre-strike ratings. With both networks and musical acts scrambling to connect with audiences, a music-oriented TV series available on iTunes and TheWB.com, with links to bands’ MySpace pages — and with Mr. Schwartz and his longtime music supervisor, Alex Patsavas (the tastemaker of her own label, Chop Shop Records), as executive producers — could be the kind of venture that heralds a new era in online TV.

Mr. Schwartz and Ms. Patsavas’s series, “Rockville, CA,” makes its debut on Tuesday with the first four of its five- to seven-minute episodes. Set in the fictitious Club Rockville in Los Angeles — the name is a homage to the 1984 R.E.M. song “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” — the 20-episode season follows Hunter (Andrew J. West), an archetype familiar to devotees of Mr. Schwartz’s series: he’s the dark-haired, hyperarticulate, self-deprecating, self-professed nerd, like Seth Cohen of “The OC,” Dan Humphrey of “Gossip Girl” and Chuck of, uh, “Chuck.”

In this case he’s a music blogger with a crush on Deb (Alexandra Chando from “As the World Turns”), an A&R rep for Wall to Wall Records. Deb, whose primary trait is her obsessive use of the word “major” (as in “that band is major”), comes to the club to see and sign her favorite acts.

Those acts — a diverse mix of established (the indie rock band Eagles of Death Metal), up-and-coming (the synth-pop singer-songwriter Lights), foreign (the Swedish singer Lykke Li) and local artists (the power-pop group the Broken West) — are as essential to “Rockville” as Hunter and Deb’s budding romance. Each episode was shot at the Echoplex, a real rock club in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and takes place in one night, with a single band playing in the background. The show’s home page on TheWB.com features interviews with those bands and exclusive live performances of two of each band’s songs.

“It’s how people find music now,” Ms. Patsavas explained. “They don’t go to their record store anymore.”

Record stores aren’t the only things becoming obsolete; the concept of “selling out” has gone by the wayside too, as bands now jump at any opportunity for exposure. Commercials, TV shows and ring tones are fair game and more than fairly profitable. Apple commercials have helped account for the rapid rise of both Feist, whose “1,2,3,4” appeared in an iPod Nano ad, and Yael Naim, whose “New Soul” became a hit after being featured in a campaign for the MacBook Air.

The lure of licensing is not lost even on the legends. Last year Bob Dylan lent a new tune to an iPod commercial; a 2006 episode of CBS’s “Cold Case” featured eight Bruce Springsteen songs.

“Five to eight years ago it definitely would have been frowned upon, but then there were more record sales,” said Ian Moreno, a guitarist for the Little Ones, a Los Angeles indie-pop outfit signed to Ms. Patsavas’s Chop Shop Records and performing in the seventh episode of “Rockville.” “Now it’s become the norm. It gives bands credibility.”

If “Rockville” has anything going for it, it’s credibility, which Mr. Schwartz and Ms. Patsavas earned by bringing underground bands to the mainstream. Death Cab for Cutie broke wide by performing on “The OC.”

In the past two years their collaboration on “Gossip Girl” has fueled the success of acts like Vampire Weekend and the Kills. And the Fray’s “How to Save a Life” and Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” attained Top 10 status when Ms. Patsavas licensed the songs to be played over climactic scenes on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“Bands trust her,” Mr. Schwartz said. And the industry respects her: Wired magazine named Ms. Patsavas “the hottest talent scout in the business.” (Most recently she was responsible for the chart-topping soundtrack to “Twilight,” last fall’s hit teenage-vampire film.)

Warner Brothers is hoping the duo can grab the attention of the coveted female 18-to-34 demographic in particular. The studio allowed them a creative freedom not typically given to producers at the network level.

“They said, ‘Here’s what your budget is, here’s how many episodes we’d like,’ ” Mr. Schwartz said. “I gave them a rough shape of what the show would be, and then we got to go discover it, cast who we wanted to cast and write the scripts without notes.”

The bite-size episodes presented Mr. Schwartz with a new challenge. “It’s not like you’re doing an hourlong soap where people are dying,” he said. “It’s smaller. Part of the excitement of doing it was figuring out how to tell stories in this format. It’s less incident-driven and more observational.”

Lisa Gregorian, executive vice president for worldwide marketing at the Warner Brothers Television Group, noted, “Short-form is original to the Web, and for today’s digital production we can’t justify producing original long-form at this time” financially.

There’s no expectation that the series will migrate to television. The real growth potential lies in the supplementary content and sponsor tie-ins, even though Warner Brothers says it gets no cut from the sales of the artists it is in essence promoting.

“There are all these opportunities online with marketing, and all that appeals to the entrepreneurial side of me,” Mr. Schwartz said. In the end, he added, “if you don’t love the show and you don’t love the characters, all that other stuff doesn’t matter.”

Still, all that other stuff matters because that’s what’s going to determine whether the venture makes money — through ads on TheWB.com or episode sales on iTunes. But the pesky details of a viable business model remain elusive. Episodic series are being produced all over the Web, but none have gained much long-term traction.

TheWB.com is seeking to be an alternative to Hulu, the joint online video venture of NBC and Fox. TheWB.com showcases shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Veronica Mars” as well as a slate of Web-exclusive series.

But the company’s larger strategy is to use the Web to enhance TV viewing, not just replace it. To that end the creator of almost every network series is experimenting online, producing “brand extensions” to shows: blogs, back stories, even mini-episodes.

“We’re learning every single day,” Ms. Gregorian said. “The metric for success evolves as you go along.”

Mr. Schwartz agrees. He has a vivid idea of what’s happening to the old business model of television — the 30-second commercial — thanks to a multitasking younger generation that fast-forwards right through the ads.

“It’s collapsing,” he said. “You literally feel like you’re walking across the bridge, and behind you the bridge is blowing up, and you’re just like, ‘I’ve got to get to the other side and see what’s there’ before you get taken out.”

Cue the hard-driving indie-rock soundtrack as Mr. Schwartz leaps to the other side. (Source)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Find: One Day International

In combing through the kabillion mp3s for SXSW this year, I was starting to get rather bummed. I was into the middle of the alphabet and there had been lots of "nice" tracks, but nothing that made me say, "Hell yes, this is a band I cannot miss." That all changed when I hit the O's and One Day International.

With songs that are lush and filled with intimacy and emotion, this group from Dublin creates music that is as powerful as it is gentle and delicate. Hearing Matt Lunson sing is like hearing a friend pour out his heart, or your own heart talking back to you. One Day International is poetry with a backing melody.

Their story:

This is the story of One Day International. Matt Lunson on vocals, Cormac Curran on piano, Danny Snow on bass, Ross Turner on drums and Eimear O’Grady on cello.

One Day International release their debut album Blackbird in Ireland on October 3rd, 2008 on Independent Records. Stealing precious early hours and extended late evenings from each of their numerous music and theatre day-lives, the five piece have crafted an album that gently reveals a wealth of beautiful, simple songs.

Produced by Brian Crosby (BellX1 and The Cake Sale), Blackbird is an album of impressions, colours and emotions expressed through a gorgeous layered sound. Each note, each word, is lovingly tended to and brought to life by five incredibly talented friends who perform together with equal measures of restraint and inhibition. Tales of lovers and strangers, confidence and vulnerability, Blackbird is simple in its story and complex in its arrangement.

The subtle temperance and glorious crescendos of One Day International come from a hybrid of musical births: Lunson, a Tasmanian escapee, began life literally tongue tied, traveled the world, settled on Dublin and hasn’t looked back; Curran discovered the piano at age four, turned his back on ten years of formal training to play guitar with ‘real men’ and returned to the ivories with brand new ears when still just eighteen years old; Snow played bass in a young rock band, dreamt unrequited dreams of stadium stardom, and despite being the nonplussed owner of one singular Jazz album, went on to complete a three year BA in Jazz Performance; Turner can’t remember a time when he wasn’t playing or studying music, a drummer of vast experience who moonlights with personal appearances on record sleeves and in music videos, and O’Grady, a multi talented, multi faceted woman who has performed all genres of music across the world and still manages to find the time to act on stage, when not being doused in fuel and set alight on film sets.

Having come together through mutual acquaintances, lovers tiffs and the barriered doors of some of Dublin’s less than salubrious gin joints, One Day International began performing and writing together in 2007. A deep and passionate respect for language resonates through each and every track. Words are not wasted, each turn of phrase demands attention. The collected musicianship of the group affords the listener a hoard of minds-eye treasures to call upon. One Day International are a lean, mean songwriting team. Having all been involved in music for many years, from live performances and recording processes through to the dirty business of releasing records, One Day International played a modest amount of live dates, then took a step back from the live circuit to spend time making Blackbird.

Brian Crosby took a delicate hold of recording and production duties and coaxed eleven lullabies from One Day International. Along the way, bowed cymbals and glockenspiels, an omnichord, a pounding double bass, synths and a host of talented musicians and vocalists managed to find their place in the mix.

The album opens with the band tuning up, lures the listener in, sweeps you away on an eleven-song long journey, before spitting you back out on the street, a little dazed, wondering how this fateful meeting ever happened and why it ended so quickly.

Listen: Miss Your Mouth-One Day International

Blackbird by One Day International: Purchase

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Airborne Toxic Event's Daren Taylor and Mikel Jollet Play DJ on Q Radio

(Photo Credit: Martin Godwin)

The Airborne Toxic Event are playing at the Black CAt here in DC tomorrow night (with Henry Clay People opening, who you should definitely not miss). This is a band whose musicial influences and preferences are pretty interesting and different (this is a band covering Goodbye Horses for pete's sake). Drummer Daren Taylor and lead singer/guitarist Mikel Jollet founded Airborne a couple years ago, and something I've always enjoyed the two of them is how truly fucking funny they are together.

This gives you a good indication of both these points; the music is good but the banter is priceless: Daren Taylor and Mikel Jollet dj on Q RAdio, 7/3/09.
:: The Airborne Toxic Event - Some Time Around Midnight
:: Neil Young - Revolution Blues
:: PJ Harvey - This is Love
:: White Stripes - Red Rain
:: XTC - Radios in Motion
:: Roxy Music - Editions of You
:: Stevie Wonder - Heaven Help Us All
:: Bob Dylan - Boots of Spanish Leather
:: David Bowie - Quicksand
:: The National - November
:: Modest Mouse - Bankrupt on Selling
:: The Clean - Tally Ho!
:: Brian Eno - Third Uncle
:: Pavement - Here
:: Leonard Cohen - If It Be Your Will
:: Pulp - Common People
:: Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
:: New Order - Age of Consent
:: Iggy & the Stooges - Gimme Danger
:: M83 - Kim and Jessie
:: Beach House - Gila
:: Lykke Li - Little Bit
:: The Cure - Close to Me
:: The Airborne Toxic Event - Gasoline

Silversun Pickups Announce Four UK Tour Dates

Silversun Pickups announced four UK dates in support of their upcoming release, Swoon, out April 14 (UK and US). They are totally amazing live, we highly recommend them!

friday, april 3, 2009
club nme @ koko
tickets available @ ticketweb.com

saturday, april 4, 2009
be @ proud
tickets available @ ticketweb.com

monday, april 6, 2009
tickets available @ ticketweb.com

tues, april 7, 2009
tickets available @ ticketweb.com

Monday, March 9, 2009

Earotica: Love at the End of the World-Sam Roberts Review

Sam Roberts is a committed songwriter, someone who understands that timelessness isn't something you strive for, it's something you achieve through forward thinking, championing human beings, and using art to do good. Roberts latest release, Love at the End of the World, is perhaps more memorable lyrically than musically, with songs that transcend the moment they were recorded in and in doing so, achieve a sort of timeless quality. And you get the feeling that Roberts is grappling with his exterior and interior worlds at the same time.

The tracks on LATEOTW feel like the product of an old soul with a decidedly modern production style. On tracks like "Sundance," "Detroit '67," and "Words and Fire," there is an urge, a longing to have been part of times when the struggles of the people became songs that meant something. Like Bob Dylan and John Lennon before him, Sam Roberts is a man who puts the politics of the soul and of the human condition into his music.

But LATEOTW also feels like the diary of a man alone. Try as he might to convince other people of love's healing power, he himself is more adrift. Gone are the third person declarations of hope and hippy sentimentality of his previous two records, this is Roberts alone and speaking straight from the heart. Dylan paraphrases like "Before I was your man/Now look at me I'm just young and old" on "Oh, Maria" lead to the general conclusion throughout LATEOTW that things could be better, but the answers to life's questions are maddeningly out of reach. "Life is for the taking" sings Roberts at barely a whisper, as if those words belong to long gone idealism of love and living that no one now seems willing to accept, the real world being too much in the way. You can see it with his denunciation of materialism on the record's title track and on "Stripmall Religion." Sad and hopeful all at once are most of the songs on LATEOTW, summed up in this phrase from "Them Kids": "The golden years are under attack/We're taking them back."

If I could level one criticism at this record, it would be that Roberts needs to let his band turn up to 11. His isn't a band with a history of being particularly loud, but 2006's Chemical City feels like Led Zeppelin II in comparison to this one. Thanks to the efforts of the Roberts' band, LATEOTW comes close to really rocking. On what is arguably the hardest song of the album, "Them Kids," Roberts becomes a prophet of rock's power to change: "We were apostles/They were the high priests/We lived the hustle/The keepers of the back beat." If that isn't rock's rallying cry, I don't know what is. He just needs to turn the guitars up a little louder, let his message reach more ears.

Granted, Roberts has his reasons for the subdued production. LATEOTW's message is more introverted and personal than raucous, almost as if to say "If you have something worth saying, you shouldn't need to dress it in distortion." But just the same, I would have liked a solo or two. By comparison, LATEOTW's quieter moments do work. Roberts' duet with Angela Desveaux is the sweetest moment on the album.

Overall, LATEOTW is practically ego-less, which helps its message work on the soul of every listener. The muted-rock feel slows down the album's second half, but it's worth sticking it out because it means hearing some of the record's most memorable lines ("I was too afraid to read the newspaper/Working in the basement of a skyscraper," from "The Pilgrim," as well as the album's apex, "Detroit '67" springs to mind.) If the rest of songs in Robert's catalog sound like a tribute to the music of the 60s and 70s, "Detroit" sounds like it fell out of a time capsule. With a driving dance piano, beat, and chord progression, it rings like the harbinger of positive change that kids must have felt in their garages in 1967, when real rock arrived to pick them up and give them some hope. "I'm just looking for some sounds/To ease the vice that squeezes us every day," sings Roberts. LATEOTW truly has a way with words and Roberts' music will change some lives for the better....the way music used to.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Seen Your Video: Henry Clay People's "Something in the Water"

Two of Silverlake's best bands, The Henry Clay People and The Airborne Toxic Event are playing here at the Black Cat next Thursday (3/12, purchase tickets). Now Airborne is a a band we've long loved and raved about here because, well, they're great. If you don't agree with this statement then you must have only heard them but not seen them live; trust me when I say if you see them live, you'll be blown away.

And it was through them that we got turned on to the fab Silverlake music scene that includes HCP. A slam-bang barrage of youthful energy and insightful lyrics (check out "You Can Be Timeless" and "Half-Asleep" for more on this), HCP live shows are legendary for their temerity and rollicking mayhem. If you are anti-fun, you should probably avoid this show at all costs.

The Black Cat had them scheduled for the Backstage but moved them to the main stage recently, which means they know this show will be a draw. Having sold out shows before the tour even started in the northeast and Canada, I'd buy your tickets sooner than later kids.

In the meantime, check out this damn catchy HCP song, "Something in the Water." Something about the great organ/piano with snare drum/cymbal riff that's all sorts of addicting...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Seen Your Video: The Avett Brothers Cover Springsteen's "Glory Days"

When I first saw The Avett Brothers at the Monolith Festival in September, I wasn't sure what the fuss was about initially. But as I said after seeing them, Seriously, don’t let the “bluegrass” tag avert you, these guys bring the rock. The bluegrass is filtered through in ways you don’t even notice until you realize you’ve stopped breathing because you’re so overwhelmed by the beauty of their melodies.

And their lyrics! You know when you hear a snippet of a line and are so knocked out by it, you look up the whole thing? They have this song "Laundry Room" which is this combination of sensuality and anticipation and stirrings of amazing emotion...

Last night I dreamt all night long,
woke with a head full of songs....

I spent the whole day,
i wrote 'em down,
but it's a shame
tonight i'll burn the lyrics,
cause every chorus was your name...

Break this tired old routine,
and this time don't make me leave...

I am a breathing time machine,
I am a breathing time machine

So it's utterly appropriate that this band that weaves such beautiful lyrical imagery covers another of my favorites who does the same: Bruce Springsteen. I don't know if "Glory Days" would have been my first pick from the Springsteen cannon for them to cover ("The River" would be incredible...or "Beautiful Reward" maybe...or "Spare Parts" but slowed down, making it all the more ominous), but regardless, it's a place to start.

(Hat tip to Ryan for the link)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

SXSW: Jarvis Cocker and "Saying the Unsayable" Panel

Seriously, how cool is this?? Sadly though, it's two hours long which at SX is a VERY long time to be at one event.

Saying The Unsayable With Jarvis Cocker
Room 16B

Wednesday, March 18th

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

What is the function of lyrics in popular song? Jarvis Cocker addresses the issue with examples from other people's songs and his own. Subjects under consideration include; "Should Songs Rhyme?", "Are Songs Poetry?", "Is There Anything You Can't Write Songs About?", "Which Phrases Should be Avoided at All Costs?" & "Great First Lines." Songs by Leonard Cohen, Pete Doherty, Hot Chocolate, Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Dory Previn, Katerine, and Arctic Monkeys will be investigated.

New Decemberists Record, "The Hazards of Love," Out 3/24

The Decemberists got ambitious on their major-label debut, "The Crane Wife," released in 2006 by Capitol. Frontman Colin Meloy's cerebral, bookish spin on a tragic Japanese folk tale was augmented with grandiose arrangements, including two songs that ran more than 12 minutes.

The album was a big hit, selling 289,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, close to 100,000 more than the band's final Kill Rock Stars release, "Picaresque." So the follow-up could have gone one of two ways.

"The album was going to be either quiet and subdued or just way over the top and ostentatious," Meloy recalls. "And we went for the latter."

The result is "The Hazards of Love," which Capitol will release March 24. The 17-song concept album takes common folk motifs and weaves them into a longform narrative, while dabbling in everything from acoustic interludes to heavy guitar rock. The story concerns the trials and tribulations of Margaret; her lover, William; the queen of a spooky forest; and a rake who interferes in it all.

The term "rock opera" has already been tossed around to describe it, a description that Meloy doesn't protest. One reason is because he started working on "Hazards" as a theater piece, not as an album. "I like to think of it as a play through voices—something that you would sit and listen to," Meloy explains. "If you're going to attach 'opera' to it, then it's more of a 'folk opera'—from the folk idiom. But then you get in trouble with the deep musical theater traditionalists. It's sort of an experimental narrative, if anything."

Meloy cites the Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods" as a comparison, since the plot intertwines the characters of fairy tales. On first listen, "Hazards" is not easy to digest, but Melody maintains the narrative is rather simple, even by Decemberists standards.

"The Margarets and the Williams exist in too many folk songs to recount," he says. "And they're all kind of the same character: a young person, desperately in need for love. And regardless to what terrible things befall them, I thought, 'Why not make them exist through this narrative where they're all going through these events that happen in the folk songs, and see how they end up?' "

Fans got an early preview of the material in January when the band the offered a free download of "The Rake's Song," and "The Hazards of Love 1" is streaming on MySpace. Through a partnership with Rough Trade, to which the band is signed overseas, the Decemberists will hold a contest with film school students to create a video for an as-yet-undetermined track. And in the States, a "design the poster" contest is in progress around the band's performance in March at South by Southwest.

That show, to be held March 18 at Stubb's Bar-B-Q, will be broadcast on NPR stations around the country and streamed live on NPR's Web site. Most important, it will be the first time the public gets a taste of "Hazards" from start to finish. An exclusive 7-inch vinyl single is also slated to come out on Record Store Day in April.

The Decemberists will perform the album in its entirety throughout their spring tour, which begins May 19 in Los Angeles and wraps June 10 at New York's Radio City Music Hall. And now that all is said and done, Meloy is pleased "Hazards" turned into something fans will be able to experience as rock'n'roll, rather than musical theater.

"I like it existing just as a record. There is no literal playing out of the action—the action is all happening in your head, leaving it a little loose," he says. "The story, in places, is sort of nonsensical. I like it best with people just listening to it and making their own inferences." (Source)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Seen Your Video: "No Direction" by Longwave

Says they:
we're excited to tell you about the video we recently shot for "no direction". it was filmed by a nice guy named Phil DeRise in a brooklyn bunker that was filled with heavy metal bands. at any rate our friend david was there for moral support and he bought us beer so we didn't complain as much.

The band is heading out with OK Go and Bloc Party this month (tour dates here), so be sure you catch them...to quote a friend, they are "a wall of sound that maintains an underlying melody." Great stuff.

Silversun Pickups Talk About the Making of "Swoon"

Lots of strings on this one it seems...