Friday, May 30, 2008
The disc is only a 6 song EP, but it is a large sounding record. There are a couple of reference point bands I heard from my first couple of listens to the record, most being indie-electronic groups that have been setting the quality standard for releases in this genre recently. The first, and to me most obvious, is Burial. The record sounds like a slightly less apocalyptic take on Untrue. From the other end of the electro spectrum, No Way Down can at times come in like a more restrained version M83’s shiny pop gem Saturdays=Youth and Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colors. All 6 songs are highlights and I can only hope that this is a precursor to a great full length. This album comes out this week on the hipster Swedish label Sincerely Yours. Check it out.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
We Are Scientist MySpace
Don’t forget that the Hold Steady are bringing their live juggernaut back to the Twin Cities on July 22 at First Avenue. The scuzzy confines of First Ave should provide a much more intimate and enjoyable experience for the band than their previous stops at local theatres. Tickets are now on sale.
Stream: Sequestered in Memphis @ Hold Steady Myspace
Monday, May 19, 2008
Like Radiohead, My Morning Jacket have become stylistically fearless and feverishly independent. The new album, Evil Urges, is brimming with ideas that would have seemed crazy only two albums ago. The opening song, Evil Urges, started with a Strokes-esqe new wave bass line that quickly morphs into classic MMJ. The guitars are soaring and James lets his bright falsetto really fly. The song then naturally takes a left turn into a country stomp hoedown, cause I mean, why not, right? A couple songs in is the first real shocker. The song is called Highly Suspicious and it is insane. I don't even know how to describe it. The guitar is crunching and the drums are straight out of some eighties pop metal song. Then comes in the growling choir screaming "Highly suspicious, I'm highly suspicious of you!" with James shrieking in the background letting his white boy soul voice go on full throttle. The next two songs (I'm Amazed & Thank you too) afterwards are both beautiful ballad types that really show off the musical chops of the band and the great vocal abilities/songwriting of Jim James. The songs sound both new and timeless. The album goes on and on like this. Some songs (Sec Walkin & Two Halves) sound like they should be on those collections they sell at two in the morning packaging the best of the 70's AM gold. Other songs sound like good old vintage My Morning Jacket, but they all sound great and the whole album is a stirring success and well worth the listen.
I would recommend this album to you if:
You like country, rock, alt-country, new wave, classic rock....I could go on. My Morning Jacket have always walked the line mixing the classic sentiments of Neil Young with the weirdo pop of the Flaming Lips. While every song may not connect with you, I would bet most people could find something they like on this record. If you like My Morning Jacket followers like Band of Horses or Fleet Foxes, check this out and see what may be in those bands future (or not). They could also be recommend to fans of Radiohead (for shear ambition) and Wilco (for their avant garde take on alt-country.) This is a great record that offers so many different angles that it is well worth many spins to find your way inside the grand ideas that My Morning Jacket are producing at this point in their career.
The songs on April are slow and melodic, without much of a driving force behind them. Kozelek takes his time wrapping his stories around his slow and churning alt-country waves. Many of the songs are over five minutes, but none lack for substance. His rich voice is a masterful tool that he uses to make the songs seem richly atmospheric. His vocals are not hidden, but they are also not front and center. There is a hazy, druggy quality to the production that adds a deep and mysterious value to the droning/slowcore production. It is a great album to put on and let yourself become engulfed in its rich textures and soft melodies.
I would recommend this album to you if:
You are patient with your music and enjoy texture. If you want a hook or a catchy chorus, take your business elsewhere. If you are a fan of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Iron and Wine, Neil Young, Nick Drake or American Music Club and have not checked out any of Kozelek's work, you really cannot go wrong with any of his catalog (except the Modest Mouse cover album, but no one is perfect, right?)
Sun Kil Moon Myspace
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Cut Copy- In Ghost Colors
Cut Copy sound like LCD Soundsystem mixed with sunny pop music. Where James Murphy sounds like he is dancing to The Fall when writing his songs, Dan Whitford sounds like he was listening to some Scissor Sisters or any other campy pop music. Another difference is his strong embrace of synths and heavy dance rhythms in general. The record is unstoppably bright and will make you want to dance, even if you pretend you are just making fun of raver kids who dance. The CD gets a little long, and does suffer the fact that it is not a strong enough to listen to when you are not in the mood for upbeat, dance music (the reason why Sound of Silver was so great). If you are a fan of this indie dance music, this CD is a wonderful disc and Whitford succeeds in making a constantly stirring record.
Video of Lights and Music (from Pitchforkmedia.com)
No Age- Nouns
No Age is an artsy guitar and drum based duo that create lo-fi punk/electronic/hardcore music. They are currently riding high on the wave of hipster Internet buzz, and it is easy to see why. Like many popular “indie” bands (and bands on this post), they are taking what is in essence pop music and making it scratchy enough around the edges to help satisfy their desire to make something outside of the “mainstream”. They are traveling down the same path as bands like Pavement, Husker Du and countless other bands that are somehow classified in fringe genres, but are really just taking pop music and mixing it so that it is not presented front and center. Their songs are rough and loud, but are strong and show a great potential.
Grade: A-MP3: No Age- Eraser (from Spinner.com)
High Places are a low-fi electronic duo. They sound like a female fronted version of Animal Collective or any of Bradford Cox’s bands. The strong portion of this CD is the appealing pop melodies that they have creatively wrapped around different sonic landscapes. They definitely don’t go to the level that many bands in their genre do to create lush and heavy sounds, but the minimalism adds to the novelty of Mary Pearsons sugary sweet voice. It will be interesting to see if they can further their ideas and continue their successful progress on their proper full length.
Hercules and the Love Affair- Hercules and the Love Affair
Hercules and the Love Affair is a collaborative effort between indie dance producer Andrew Butler and eccentric singer Antony. The record is on the Death From Above record label, which almost instantly cements it at a chance in the spotlight. Luckily for these two, the record does not need their trendy and influential friends to lean on. The songs are light and brimming with indie-dance, electro and house beats. If you have never heard Antony sing, you will be in for a surprise. He is the Boy George loving lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons, a cabaret pop group that was the vehicle for his poignant chamber pop songs. Antony’s bright and vulnerable falsetto brings a unique perspective to some of the more standard disco beat influenced songs. A very different and original take on the dance rock genre that is so popular right now.
F+++ Buttons- Street Horrrsing
A beautifully abrasive record. This duo takes a genre (noise rock) that is generally content with simply attacking their listeners with harsh and volatile noise collages at the expense of melodies and cohesion in the songs, and flip the formula. Street Horrrsing sounds like Panda Bear being produced by Black Dice. There are moments when they let the bright, pretty melodies slip through the cracks, but only for a second before the crashing and cold electronic crunches take back over. Like their name, they are obviously challenging their listeners, and the end result is well worth the work the listener puts into them.
Now, my hypothetical family member did not turn out to have a weird porn fetish or be a dungeon and dragons level nerd, but let’s say that they are a Dave Matthews Band fan. It is not a something to completely cut ties over, but you realize that the joyful façade you created in your mind was simply a figment of your imagination. Again, I am not saying I do not like Tapes N Tapes anymore or that I will not listen to their records, it just has been a cold realization. I think when The Loon came out, I was so excited to see a Minneapolis band on Pitchfork, I convinced myself they were the greatest thing since the Replacements. Both The Loon and the new record Walk it Off are very good appropriations of many different influences from indie rock (Pixies, Pavement, etc). I thought Walk it Off would give me the same excitement that The Loon had originally, but after spinning the record a couple times and finding nothing that really grabbed me, I realized that a huge proponents of The Loon for me was the sheer excitement of knowing that these guys were from MINNEAPOLIS! The Loon was very good, but with a level playing field, I found that Walk it Off sounded uninspiring and significantly less urgent. What I am left to wonder is whether it is really my lack of enthusiasm, or did Tapes N Tapes run out of steam and mail this one in?
Although my passion for The Loon had waned, I had a moment of hope when I heard the Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev producer extraordinaire Dave Fridmann would be twisting the knobs for TNT's new disc. I mean, look what he did for a couple of idiots like MGMT, I figured he could make TNT sound like the Beatles. What happened was his production style took away the best things (urgency, sloppiness, jagged edges) that were the highlights and cornerstones of The Loon. The polished over nature of the record screams “We are going for the fans who made “Float On” a hit.” Although there are some moments (like the first single “Hang them All”) where the driving, repetitive nature of Josh Grier’s songwriter stand out, there are simply too many moments of sheer indecisiveness and bland rehashes.
I must say that it was hard hearing this record and constantly going for the next button. I thought so much of Tapes N Tapes just a couple years ago (maybe it was youthful indiscretion), and I really wanted to like this Walk It Off, but to no avail.
I would recommend this to you if:
You really like Tapes N Tapes, but if that is the case, you probably already own this record and think I am a heathen and are in the process of convincing yourself I am the worlds biggest idiot. If you are not a huge fan, I would say check them out live, they usually are very good and it should not be a letdown like this album.
Shearwater was up first and brought their mellow/moody folk rock led by lead singer Jonathan Meiburg. Meiburg, who was dressed in a charcoal colored suit, led his band through a very serious and straightforward set of tunes, with many songs coming from their great new album, Rook. The band has a classic feel, not only in their dress, but with trumpets, woodwinds and upright Bass. The band was really good and I would recommend checking out any of their releases.
I don’t know if my sentiment about Shearwater was shared with some of the kids at the show waiting for Clinic. While Shearwater was a draw for the quieter and more laid back (older) crowd, you could tell the kids were there for Clinic. They had a little bit more edge to them (especially the one in front of me with his own surgical mask). The soft/mellow music with melodramatic surges was not what they were here for. They wanted the pulsing Krautrock that was coming from British eccentrics Clinic. The band came out wearing Hawaiian floral shirts and their trademark surgical masks. Their music, a mix of Velvet Underground type driving rhythms with slicing keyboards with familiar British vocals, sounded great live. Their first set was spent playing their new record, Do it, while the second set, or what they called the “encore”, was them playing songs from their other four albums. The band, which has played with everyone from Scott Walker to Radiohead, showed some great versatility and a wide range of musical styles over their hour plus set. If you are looking for something a little bit out there and different, give Clinic a shot, they may be for you.
Overall, I thought it was a very cool show. I am always against homogenized bills that seem to easy. Often I find that promoters coddle weak minded music fans and give them 2 (or 3 or 4) of the same band. (This does not happen as much with local shows as it does national touring shows) Why would you want to hear two bands playing the exact same music? Don’t people want variety? Maybe not, but for me, I really liked the paring and hope I can see more eclectic bills like this in the future.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
The Dodos are a guitar and drums two piece comprised of Meric Long on the instruments and Logan Kroeber on the percussion. Unlike other guitar/drums combos (Black Keys, White Stripes), they do not attempt to make up for their lack in numbers with superfluous noise (although there are overblown moments on the record that add to the ebb and flow). The band is lead by Long’s interesting acoustic styling (think a more unplugged and more pop version of Animal Collective) and filled out with Kroeber’s world beat influenced hectic drumming. Their music is similar to many of the new artists who take pleasure in appropriating lesser known world influences (The Ruby Suns, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer). Many of the songs also venture down the alternative folk route genre represented by such artists as Vetiver and Iron and Wine. The whole record is a very earthy and freewheeling take on some genres that often times are not handled with such ease and grace.
The whole album is very strong, but there are some personal highlights for me. The slack stringed folk stomper “Walker” is a beautiful and haunting opener that sets the tone for the wide variety of styles and moods the album will present. The first single, “Fools”, is what I imagine what the guys in Animal Collective would write if they had taken their Campfire Songs styling and tried their hardest to write a normal pop song. Of course it would not have been normal, but if their goal was being their natural and original quirky selves while trying to write something within the box, they would have sounded like The Dodos do on “Fools.” “Winter” sounds like a dead ringer for an outtake from The Magnetic Fields seminal album 69 Love Songs, which coming from me is a compliment in the highest form. The lyrics are the gloomy love lost type that fills Stephin Merritt’s songs and the vocals even sound like Merritt’s smokey baritone. The song is both funny and crushing, with some great low key instrumentation to supplement the great singing. The last big highlight from the record is the song “Jodi.” The song is a great illustration to what makes the Dodos so great. The song is a simple song about love lost played by a guy singing his heart out and playing his acoustic guitar. Sounds crappy, right? It is not. The frantic playing and howling singing are propelled by the wild drums and the interesting time changes that make the song fascinating throughout its entire 6 minutes. Below are an MP3 of Jodi and a live video of Winter.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Shearwater started out many years ago as a side project for two men (Sheff and Meiberg) who had similar ideas of a new and interesting project. Although Sheff is no longer a member of the group, Meiberg has soldiered on with his his great 2006 release Palo Santo, and now with the beautiful Rook. The songs range from smart folk songs to sprawling sound collages. The record is less dynamic than Okkervil Rivers last disc, The Stage Names, but takes the same approach and uses Meiberg's Jeff Buckley esqe vocals to propel the songs forward.
Rook is solid from start to finish and utilizes a wide variety of instruments (especially a string section) very nicely. The thing that holds all of these ideas together is the solid songwriting of Meiberg and his great band that he has assembled. I am sure the songs would be just as good with on Meiberg and his acoustic or his piano, but the end result is a very powerful record. The marching snare drums on "Lost Boys" elevates the already emotional song forward. The whole band sprawling and churning on "Home Life" is the very intense highlight of the record.
I would recommend this disc to you if:
You are looking for a new twist on haunted singer songwriter folk music. It is a late night disc that can swing from depressing to reassuring, depending on the listeners mood. It is a great disc to have on at the end of a long day in a dark and quiet room. Great for fans of Smog, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Elliot Smith, Great Lake Swimmers, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen or Jeff Buckely.
Shearwater play Tuesday night at the 7th Street Entry. Their new CD, Rook, comes out June 3rd.
Does it offend you, yeah?/Yo Majesty- 7th Street Entry
DIOY, Y are the newest band to try the indie-dance genre. Yo Majesty is a female fronted hip hop duo. Can’t say that either really do it for me, but I bet it will be upbeat and fun.
Clinic/Shearwater- 7th Street Entry 9pm
Two bands that have been plugging along in the underground since the start of the millennium. Clinic play driving/moody rock, while Shearwater play atmospheric/highly literate rock. Recommended.
M.I.A- The Myth
Like the Myth, I feel that M.I.A is an over appreciated generic piece of crap that is liked by people who do not know any better. They fit well together.
Flight of the Concords- The Orpheum SOLD OUT
Funny duo will perform their comedy jams to the lucky people who scooped us these tickets.
The Helio Sequence- 7th Street Entry
Dream pop group the Helio Sequence are a poppy electronic band that write solid middle of the road songs that should translate well live.
Doomtree/The Alarmists/Romantica/Gospel Gossip- First Ave FREE
A bash to celebrate City Pages best of issue, this free show combines a wealth of great local talent. Highly Recommended.
Subtle/Fog- 7th Street Entry
Two well known names of weirdo indie hip hop combine for this show at the Entry.
Dick Dale Tribute- Cabooze
Although the legend himself will not be coming to town for his yearly show because of cancer, some of the bands that have opened for him are getting together for a benefit show.
The Poison Control Center- The Uptown Bar
One of my favorite “local” (they’re from Iowa, but on Afternoon Records), play this late week gig.
El- P/Dizzie Rascal/Busdriver- Triple Rock Social Club
Some heavyweights from the indie rap community playing at the Minneapolis west bank Punk club….Very cool.
Romi Di Luna + Heiruspecs + Askeleton-331 Club
A great bill that shows the variety of talent in the Minneapolis scene.
Blind Shake + Romantica + Awesome Snakes + Chooglin- Grumpys NE
Another great local bill at a very cool local bar. Lots of great options for a Saturday night.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Going into the show, I had varying degrees of interest/knowledge of the three bands playing. Mobious Band was newest to my radar, Black Kids have been forced down my throat (not that I minded) and Cut Copy have kind of lingered precariously in my conscious for a while, never quite grabbing me completely.
Mobious Band were good, but not great. They played Postal Service type mellow electronic indie rock. The problem I had was that their rocking out on stage was not equivalent to the sound coming out of the speakers. Maybe from the monitors it sounded like Daft Punk to them, but to me, the visual was not matching the audio. I don’t want to create the impression that I want people to stand motionless on stage, but at the same time, when something feels forced and overblown it can tend to take away from the music that is being played.
Next up were uber hyped Florida based indie-pop group the Black Kids. The name is slightly a misnomer, as a majority of the kids are white, but whatever. They could have gone with Teenage Hipsters, as I think most would agree that would accurately describe their overall visage. As far as the music was concerned, I thought they were still underdeveloped, but much more commanding and enjoyable than I was expecting (they only have one, albeit very good, 4-song EP out, so I was not trying to get my hopes up too high). The lead singer has huge star potential (think a hipster version of Prince) and their Go Team! meets new wave pop songs were both funky and really fun. The only bad part for me was the seemingly quiet kid in front of me who mid set felt the urge to release his inner John Travolta and get his groove on. There were a couple things that sucked about this. One was that he was about 5 inches taller than me (not his fault…lots of people are), the other was that he was doing a nerdy version of the running man(most definitely his fault). This was a problem because my solar plexus was right at his elbow level, so in the grand scheme of the running man, every time he brought his elbow back for the arm pumping part of the routine, I nearly got the wind knocked out of me. In a crowded room of people dancing, there were not too many options for me to get away, so I just had to move and try my best to enjoy the show. Oh well. The 5 piece band had more than enough energy to keep my attention over the course of their 40 minute set. They will no doubt be getting much bigger, I just hope the spotlight is kind to them and they get a chance to keep doing what they are doing.
The headliners were Cut Copy and they were very good. Now you have to understand at this point I could have rung my shirt out and the sweat would have filled a pop bottle and I think I could have fallen asleep standing up I was so tired, but they still kept me interested. They are heavy electronic with hints of 60’s pop melodies. I likened them to LCD Soundsystem if you replace the post-punk with 60’s AM radio and you add a little harder edge. There were a couple points where it was straight up rave going on in the cellar behind First Ave.
Overall, I thought it was a very good show. I was jealous of the people who were inebriated and dancing like maniacs (except the running man guy, I was not jealous of him at all), but you can’t really plan your health around shows, right? All of these bands would come recommended from me if you are looking for upbeat music with some soul that you can dance along to(if that is your thing). Just try to remember the people behind you when you are flailing around, ok?
Monday, May 5, 2008
Ra Ra Riot/The Little Ones- 7th Street Entry 9PM
Best Friends forever- Acadia Café
More a promo of the venue than the band. I still have not been to the new Acadia Café, but the old spot was always a cool play to see live music.
Cut Copy/Black Kids/Mobious Band- 7th Street Entry 9PM
Two big buzz bands will mean this will be a crowded show, but will almost surely be worth it. Cut Copy play instrument based indie dance rock a la LCD Soundsystem/Hot Chip and the Black Kids are a quirky pop band with the big single “I’m not gonna teach him how to dance with you.”
Presidents of the United States of America- Fine Line Music Café
Film School- Uptown Bar
Devotchka- First Ave
The Swell Season- Orpehum Theatre SOLD OUT
Dr. Dog- 400 Bar
Neo-classic rockers Dr. Dog bring their swirling pop gems to what may be a perfect venue for them. I imagine their Beatles-esqe tracks will sound good in a crowded 400 Bar on a Friday night.
VHS or Beta/Maps of Norway- 7th Street Entry
God Damn Doo Wop Band- Hexagon Bar
Am I out of the loop? What the hell is Epic? I think Talib Kweli is great, But I couldn't tell you where this venue is if you had a gun to my head. So basically if you know where this place is, I would say you are more into this scene and you are already probably going to this show, so I will end this rant.
The Cool Kids- Carleton College
The Kills- Triple Rock
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Konk is generic British Indie rock to the extreme. At moments it sounds like the Arctic Monkeys, other times like watered down Libertines. The guitars are sharp and crisp and the vocal melodies are inconspicuous. The production is a little too good. If you are a fan of Brit-pop or newer, Bloc Party versions of New Wave, give them a shot. If you don't have a built in strong affinity to the previously genres, I can safely advises you to avoid these bands. But then again, who the hell am I to tell you what to do. Below is the video for the first single "Always where I need to Be", so judge for yourself.
The Kooks will be in town on May 31st at the Fine Line Music Cafe, and the show is sold out, so that shows you that at least 1,500 people disagree with me.
The Kooks- Always Where I need to Be