Friday, March 30, 2007

New Old Album Reviews

Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage: Animation Music Vol. 1

Grade: 90.5%
Official Rating: 93.4%

What the Others Think

Pitchfork Score: 9.1
Tiny Mix Tapes Score: N/A
Coke Machine Glow Score: N/A

Ever wonder what might have happened if the Beatles kept making psychedelic rock records like Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour instead of the often sloppy yet lovable self titled release, the straight up rock record that was Abbey Road, or the over-Spectorized mess that was Let It Be? If you haven't, its understandable, as many people thought and still consider Sgt. Peppers as the end-all-be-all of psychedelic pop in terms of song writing, production, and the recording technique, and with good reason. Considering the time in which Sgt. Peppers was released, it was nothing short of a revelation. It may not have changed the way bands wrote their songs, but it certainly made many of them think twice before they put them to tape.

Thankfully, the Olivia Tremor Control - whose alliance in the Athens, GA based Elephant Six Collective alone should be enough reason to suspect that this record would sound like any combination of Beatles, Barrett, or (Beach) Boys (or, as I often jokingly claim, the holy trinity of psych-pop) - were never satisfied with the precedents set before them. On their second album, Black Foliage: Music From an Unrealized Film Script, they not only match toe to toe with the best of psych-pop genre but, dare I say it, perfect it in their own right.

The original concept of the album, as described in the liner notes, was to "take a section of the guitar line from (the song) black foliage...and make a set of animated departures stemming from that bass guitar melody." Instead of actually making animations though (or at least ever releasing them) the band instead went to work on writing new material based on the original song, and the songs that stemmed from that song (sort of like the animations they had planned on). If I haven't lost you yet, basically the band wrote one song that influenced another, which influenced another, and so on. Not satisfied with just that, though, the band also takes elements and samples of songs and incorporate them into other songs. Hearing the same sample of noise, guitar, harpsichord, or voices of fans who had sent the tapes of them describing some random dream, in more than one song on the album is a normal occurrence, and the albums centerpiece, "The Bark and Below It", is essentially every sample, loop, or sound you might find place in various spots throughout the album.

The end result is nothing short of maniacal magic. To some it might be a little over the top, after all it is very rare on this album where a song, the actual song and not the samples and loops on top of it, stands alone. But for those who appreciate interesting production and a some creativity and a dose of ingenuity with their pop music, this album is essential. Songs like "Hideaway" and "California Demise" are pure pop bliss, while songs like "Sleepy Company" and "Black Foliage (Itself)" are a trip, the natural kind (though I could see how the other kind might be enhanced by these songs if they just so happened to be playing at the same time). My personal favorite song, "I Have Been Floated" is a wonderful, progressive-psych-pop masterpiece, on its own, but when complete with the masterful production it sounds rich and majestic. The song also features just about everyone in the Elephant 6 family, and fans of the collective will no doubt smile when they hear the singing saw or Jeff Mangum's very audible vocal cameo.

For fans of psych-pop, this album has everything. Dreamy lyrics, head spinning production, catchy choruses, fuzzy bass lines, and theramins (lots of them). For those who aren't so much a fan of the genre, this album stillhas everything. Make your collection complete with this modern masterpiece, or at least name drop it the next time a record store clerk tells you how essential Sgt. Peppers is.

The Rapture - Echoes

Grade: 83.6%
Official Rating: 85.1%

What The Others Think

Pitchfork Rating: 9.0
Tiny Mix Tapes: N/A
Coke Machine Glow Score: 89%/67%

In October of 2003, the skies parted, and finally, FINALLY, the Goddamn Rapture CD was released. After a year of being shelved, postponed, teased ("House of Jealous Lovers" was in the hands of savvy DJs across the country, nay, the world, for at least a year before its official release). And its a good thing it came too, because the album is pretty damn good.

The first track, "Olio", may have confused faithful fans, as it originally saw the light waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1999 on the band's first album, Mirror. But where this song, and the rest of Mirror for that matter, seemed a bit amateurish, this version is completely fleshed out and is a swift reminder of how and why they ended up working with the DFA guys in the first place (nevermind the fact that by the end of it the Rapture were trying to de-emphasize the role the DFA played on the album, that's another story altogether). Its lyrics are a bit, well, to be blunt, lame, but that's the story of most dance music in the first place. You don't need a creative writing degree to appreciate Echoes (and no, this is no slam at you my dear friend Nicole, whom I affectionately listed as Nicolio in my phone several years ago in reference to this song), you just need to like to dance.

Which brings me to "Open Up Your Heart", the album's third track. On another album by a different band, or as a b-side maybe, this song is just fine. On here, however, it interrupts the flow and frenzy that the first two songs work so hard to create. However, placed anywhere else on the album, this song would be even more distracting, and potentially ruin the album's pacing, so getting it out of the way here was not such a bad idea.

The next track, "I Need Your Love," is something out of (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 I'm floating in a constant...) discopunk heaven, and starts one of the best series of songs I've ever heard on any album. What I love about the Rapture is not so much that they are a great dance band, but that they are capable, in their own rudimentary way, of making you shake your ass to different styles of dance music. "I Need Your Love" owes as much to 70's disco as it does to Gang of Four, while "The Coming of Spring" is as hard as anything in the Gang of Four catalog, and combines it with a dash of Talking Heads, most noticeably in the rhythm section (courtesy of bassist Mattie Safer and drummer/human high hat Vito Roccoforte).

Next, of course, is "House of Jealous Lovers", which is probably why many of you came to hear about this album in the first place. There's not much I can say about this song that has not already been said, but I will say this. Luke Jenner could be singing gibberish - he practically does as it is - and the song would still be fucking brilliant. Put this song on in the club, the car, the shower, I don't fucking care. You will dance, period.

From here the album slides a little, but only a little. The title track "Echoes" does its part to keep the body parts flailing, and "Sister Savior" is another discopunk standout, but "Killing" and is a bore, and "Love Is All", as cute and fun as it is (with lyrics like "love is all my crippled soul will ever need" and "I dig love and just having you around"), would still require some work if it were to compete with Echoes' awesome midsection.

The main exception is the album's final track, "Infatuation." The song is slow and not at all dancable, yet it is truly a hidden gem buried beneath the hype and sweat the previous tracks have produced. The song sounds like a forgotten Bowie b-side, a good thing if you ask me, and is arguably the strongest track on the album. It is the perfect comedown track after a fun, flirtatious, night out with the Rapture.

If you like your music poignant and poetic, stay away from this band (unless you consider counting to 8 poetry worthy of Dante or Shakespeare). However, if you like music that makes your feet and your hips move, your music collection would not be complete without this album. Ignore the hype and dance all night.

Built to Spill - Ancient Melodies of the Future

Grade: 77.5%
Official Score: 78.0%

What Others Think

Pitchfork Score: 8.6
Tiny Mix Tapes Score: 3 out of 5
Coke Machine Glow Score: N/A

After Built to Spill boldly titled their third proper release Perfect From Now On, you sort of got the impression that they weren't just fucking around. Perfect was almost that, and the follow up, Keep It Like A Secret, only strengthened their claim. But after writing and recording not one but two pinnacle albums, a feat that most bands would sacrifice their lives to achieve, Built to Spill have come up short this time around and are perfect no more.

That is not to say that Ancient Melodies of the Future is a bad album, that would be an inaccurate overstatement. It is first and foremost a Built to Spill album, which can't be all bad just by name alone. Fans of the band should like this album just fine, and anyone who has seen them in concert can attest to the power that many of these songs have in a live setting, especially the stomping "In Your Mind."

My biggest complaint, the only complaint really, is that the band tried to find a balance between the lengthy, sprawling, Doug Marsch is a guitar God songs found on Perfect From Now On and the more concise, song oriented, and often times hummable nature of Keep It Like A Secret.

Many fans will argue that Secret was already a compromise from Perfect, in that the jammy, lengthy songs coexist perfectly with the more polished, concise songs. Honestly, I would be inclined to agree, but regardless of that fact I can see how there might still be room for more of a compromise, and I say that because the songs that stand out of Ancient Melodies of the Future find that balance fairly well. Those songs would be "Alarmed", the album's standout track. At over 5 minutes in length, it is the longest song on the album, and even though it feels like it ends too soon, all is forgiven because it hits on all of the bands high points. The dissonant keyboards, courtesy of Quasi's Sam Coomes, are also quite nice as they play perfectly well over Doug's masterful guitar work. Another song would be "Trimmed and Burning", which starts with a simple chord progression and minimal lead guitar, but about 1 1/2 minutes into the song it transforms into the Built to Spill we know and love, which is the Built to Spill that somehow found the balance between grunge and jam bands.

That is not to say that those are the only two good songs. On the contrary, "You Are" is a headphone rock masterpiece that would sound right at home on Perfect if it were only 2 minutes longer. "In Your Mind", while not as good on record as it is live, is still a force to be reckoned with thanks to a pounding rhythm that starts with Doug's acoustic guitar strumming, but is quickly overshadowed by Brett Nelson's bass and Scott Plouf's impeccable drumming. The album's closer, a song very dear to my heart (it was the first BTS song I ever heard...oh memories), is also one of the album's best because it is so remarkably different from the crunchy sound the band has perfected since, well, Perfect.

Perhaps I'm too demanding, or missing the point of this album. Perhaps I should give them more credit for not making a predictable follow up to the two that preceded it. Perhaps they restrained purposely so that fans would enjoy them more in the live setting when they inevitably get expanded by minutes (and minutes, almost twice the length in some cases), which seems like a reasonable thing for this band to do. If that is the case, I can completely respect that, it just comes at the price of me not thinking this album is perfect. But that is okay, because regardless of whether or not this album is perfect, I love this album (I really do), and there's nothing wrong with loving this album.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Live Review: The Besnard Lakes

March 27th, 2007

Jackpot Music Hall

Lawrence, KS

I am one lucky man. I have a flexible, decent paying job. An amazing girlfriend that loves me. A family that supports me. Great friends that to this day still think I'm cool, or interesting, or find some redeeming quality in me that keeps the friendship going.

In addition to those very, very important things, I'm also lucky that I have enough intelligence and intuition to know when I need to get my ass to the venue in time to see the band(s) I want to see.

For example, the previous night's Man Man concert started 10 minutes or less within my (re)arrival at the venue, and for this night's Besnard Lakes, I walked in about 30 seconds into the first song of the night, "Ride the Rails", and its a good thing too, because if I had missed this show, or too much more of it, I would have been seriously bummed. Not necessarily because the the Besnard Lakes are life alteringly good live, they are not quite up to that par (yet), but more because their latest album Are the Dark Horse is one of my current favorites. This album has not left my CD player for very many extended periods, and slowly but surely it is gaining new converts amongst my friends as well.

"Ride the Rails" fit the bill as an appropriate opener. In concert, without the added string players, it came off sounding more shoegaze than on the record, which is certainly not an insult. Right away I was pleased to know that, despite the stripped down sound many of the songs would have, the band was more than capable of pulling them off. I was also refreshed to hear the vocals a little more clearly than on the album, where they're often buried in the mix and caked in reverb.

The band wasted no time in pulling out "Devastation", the album's centerpiece. I was worried that they might be "blowing their load" (an expression some friends of mine and I have when a band plays their best song of the set much too early), a fear that went unfounded. Of all the songs that point to tinges of Pink Floyd and other classic rock bands, "Devastation" seems like the most obvious offender of the bunch. Again, not an insult. I was still a little surprised how much they played up to that image on this song by employing - no, I'm not kidding - a smoke machine! The band restrained themselves from going too over the top, there were no lasers or flying pigs, but still, I haven't seen this trick since Local H. Okay, that may have been an insult. Regardless of how cheesy the smoke machine was, the song actually came off less cheesy in person, and I'm actually a little disappointed that I was the only one singing along with the repeated chorus of "Devastation/(air guitar)/Devastation".

"For Agent 13" came next, and it is at this point I have to mention that Jace, towering frame, slightly ogre-ish mug and all, looks nothing like I imagined the person with this beautiful voice would look like. I know that sounds harsh. I know that not everyone can be hipster chic like Jonsi from Sigur Ros or Cedric from the Mars Volta, and that, most importantly, looks do not matter whatsoever. I know. But still, it was strange. Anyway, the song was fucking fantastic. The vocal harmony at the end was perfect at the end, and the song, like all of their moodier numbers, came off heavier live.

Next came "On Bedford and Grand", which the band dedicated to the night's headliners, whom Jace called "the Dirty On Purposes." Someone then asked if Jace was drunk, to which he jokingly replied that he somehow got smashed in the last minutes while trying to tell the story of why it was dedicated to the band.

After "Bedford", the band proceeded to play all of my favorite songs from the album. "Because Tonight" came first, the emotional weight of the song not lost despite the lack of strings. In addition to making slower songs rock more, they also use an E-Bow in place of strings on a couple of songs, most noticeably this one. And again, the vocals were pitch perfect. "Disaster" came next, and rocked harder and longer than I ever expected. I know, that sounds dirty (on purpose?) During this song I felt like I was at a Built to Spill show, where running length of songs and volume are not necessarily a big deal, which might sound like an insult, but its not.

Lastly, the band played "And You Lied To Me", the best song to go out on in my opinion. The song moves along at a nice pace for about 5 minutes, and sounds good enough in the process, before the devil-horns-in-the-air guitar solo hits you like a acid flashback. The band rocked this song out a few extra minutes, before going completely Sonic Youth on the crowd and hunching over amps and pedals to get a monstrously pulsating wall of feedback, which was a nice treat for a Sonic Youth obsessee like myself. When it was over, the band thanked the audience for coming out, and I left the venue with my ears ringing, my head spinning, and feeling a little loopier than I had when I entered.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Live Review: Man Man (Now With Photographic Evidence!)

March 26th, 2007

The Record Bar

Kansas City, MO

Last night, one of the concerts I was most anticipating finally had its night. I've been lucky enough to see the Philadelphia quintet twice before, so I knew of the semi-organized chaos that they bring to their live shows, and believe me I was more than ready to be a part of it. Seeing Man Man live is like listening to Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage album, but if they had been on coke and psychedelics instead of pot and psychedelics, and maybe took some influence from the Mae Shi.

The band rarely stops playing, and as a result the show is more like one big giant medley. The band is also very percussive, and at times all five of them will be playing some sort of snare, tom, cymbal, or anything they can reach with a stick or a mallet. Man Man's records are so subdued by comparison that I honestly never listen to them. Why bother? Whether you're a longtime fan or have no clue who I'm writing about, seeing Man Man live is the best way to go.

But as a reader of my blog, you're probably going to conclude that not knowing much about the band is a bad thing. Who wants to read a live review that mentions no specific song titles, people's names, lyrics, or anything remotely having to do with, you know, a concert. I know this may propose a problem for some, and for that, I apologize.

However, if you are okay with generic statements (Man Man rocks), and fuzzy recollections of this drunken audience member's night at the Record Bar, then by all means, read on.

Regardless of my being a horrible "journalist", I still stand by my belief that Man Man is not a band you have to appreciate on record to appreciate live. Hell, my first time seeing then was also my first time hearing them. I went to the Jackpot in Lawrence two years ago to check them out because I had read a little blurb in the upcoming concerts section of The Pitch that compared the band to the Arcade Fire. The show was poorly attended, the band went on late, and they sounded nothing like the Arcade Fire. Of course, I had a blast, and not once did it bother me that I was completely foreign to their music. Man Man are so entertaining live - just go ahead and try to keep a straight face while watching five grown men in matching white outfits meow along to a song - that just showing up wanting to have a good time is probalby more important than anything else.

As I mentioned before, Man Man's live shows can be chaotic, but the band is so tight that they can pull it off. After seeing them live 3 times now, I doubt there's much improvisation, but there is a lot of skill and practice involved to nail down their sound.

Often times you can see lead Man Honus Honus (see, I know one name!) making fierce eye contact with his band mates, anticipating the jump from a slow, swampy, Captain Beefheart style song to a full on rock song (well, as full on rock as Man Man gets).

Further proof of Man Man's live chops came midway into the set when Honus Honus' keyboard became inaudible. Something with one of the connections went haywire, and he had to play a few songs without it. These songs, incidentally or otherwise, were some of the most percussion heavy songs in the set, and no one seemed to either notice or miss what has become the signature instrument in the band's sound. In fact, with Honus Honus free to roam the stage a little more, the crowd went absolutely batshit crazy. The show may have been under attended, but the audience more than made up for it in participation, and for once Girlfriend and I were not the only ones dancing. Most of the audience was throwing their hands in the air like they were possessed by God or the devil, or whatever spirit that lies within the sounds created by four people playing drums and a manic frontman with war paint on his face.

I may have lost all credibility with this post, but take my word for this kids: Man Man may not be the best live band, but they are one of the most entertaining live bands. For a cheap thrill (the show was a meager $8), a Man Man concert should not be missed.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Album Review: Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Grade: 63.5%
Official Rating: 67.8%

What the Others Think

Pitchfork Score: 7.8
Tiny Mix Tapes Score: 4 1/2 (out of 5)
Coke Machine Glow: N/A

First off, before I get on to the review properly, I need to retrace my steps a bit. This may put off some who were hoping to dive right in to a quick and breezy review of this album, but these things have to be said (or written as it were).

As you may have noticed, this album received a score, the first album I've given a score to. Well, I'll soon have another post explaining the score system. Those of you confused as to why I have two scores will soon receive an answer, and those of you wondering how I came to the scores will also know. I should have typed that post first, but I started this one already and I'm not the type of writer who can stop dead in my tracks once I get going.

The other thing I feel like I need to explain is where I stand as a Modest Mouse fan. This might not seem important, especially if you are a fairly new fan of the band, but I think it is important. With other publications, online or printed, you have the luxury of being able to search through years of reviews and articles, order back issues, read the 2 year old issues of Filter that are lying beside your toilet, whatever. The point is, if you don't know the tone the publication usually takes with a certain band, you can easily find out. But with this blog, since this is a fairly new blog and I'm the only one posting on it, if I don't take the time to properly explain myself then you, the reader, will have no idea what my stance is on a band like Modest Mouse. Ultimately, you might stumble across this review and think to yourself, "this guy probably hated Good News For People Who Love Bad News, of course he'll score this one low too." Or, "he's such a fucking snob, he probably only listens to This is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing to Think About, and despises the poseurs who do not give the album the courtesy it deserves when they shorten it to Long Drive. Both statements would be completely inaccurate, which is exactly why I feel like I have to give a little background information before I go on.

The first thing you should know is that I like all of the Modest Mouse albums. I was a fan before Good Newswas released in April of '04, not that it really matters in the long run. I honestly think that Modest Mouse is one of the best bands of the past decade or so. However, it should be worth noting that I do not feel that any of their albums are classics. All of them have their own separate flaws, and most of them suffer from the same flaw that has dogged the band as much as the Built to Spill comparisons have, in that all of their albums contain fair amounts of filler and/or often drag along several songs too long. The only real exception to that rule is Good News, but it comes awfully close. The interlude track "Milo" is pointless, and "Black Cadillacs" isn't terribly impressive. Fortunately that album has solid tracks like "Blame it on the Tetons" and the best closing track on any of their albums, "The Good Times are Killing Me", for which Isaac Brock should be thanking the Flaming Lips and David Bowie, the former for their help in giving the song some extra punch, and latter for being such a good sport about the whole ripping off "Starman" thing.

But to be flawed is to be human, and like a good friend or family member, you overlook the flaws and flaws and learn to love the good inside of them. Fortunately, Modest Mouse do have more than enough to like about them. Songs like "Trailer Trash", "Bukowski", and "Stars Are Projectors" are not simply highlights on spotty albums, they are some of the best songs ever written. A bold statement, I know, but one that I stand by.

So what about the new album? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The new album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, for better or worse, picks up where Good News left off. I really wanted to write a review without comparing the two albums, but it is almost impossible to do so. We Were Dead sounds like the natural progression sonically, lyrically, and hell, even the album titles make a complete sentence if you put them together (Good news for people who love bad news, we were dead before the ship even sank. It almost sounds like a headline in the Onion). If you were to take Good News, tone down the Tom Waits, and increase the Talking Heads, that would be a good start as to how to describe this album. That is not to say that this is a dance album, though at times it strives for that direction. Other times it sounds like Modest Mouse: quirky, dark, kinda rockin'. The album flows fairly well, but definitely seems unfocused. Of the albums four best songs, two are danceably derivative of Talking Heads ("Fly Trapped in a Jar", "Education"), an Apocalyptic ho-down ("Parting of the Sensory), and the 8 1/2 minute "Spitting Venom", which sounds like several different era's of Modest Mouse rolled into one.

It is hard not to commend a band for its versatility, especially when it yields good results, but for every great song on We Were Dead there is one that treads water, and a couple that fall flat altogether. "Little Motel" and "Missed the Boat" sound a little too much like Bright Eyes, and while I think that Modest Mouse's sensitive, slower side can easily go toe-to-toe with the best of Bright Eyes' work (and easily triumph over Conner Oberst's worst) these two songs just don't cut it. The former is not a terrible song, its just not a terribly memorable one either. "Missed the Boat" certainly lives up to its name, and not even a cameo by the Shins' James Mercer can save it. In fact, Mr. Mercer must be a curse, as "Florida", another song he appears on, doesn't get any good until after he's gone, and Isaac growls and fights to save the song from drowning.

To be completely honest, and I'm probably alone in this sentiment, but I feel like the dance-rock direction many of the songs take worked pretty well. As I mentioned earlier, two of the best songs, while undeniably Talking Heads influenced, really fucking rock. "Dashboard" still sounds a little too glossy, but so did "Float On" at first. The only thing really holding "Dashboard" back now are the lyrics. The first few seconds of "Steam Engenius" makes you think the song is going to be incredibly cheesy, but only momentarily as it quickly finds a funky groove and rides it until the end.

But in the end, this is an album for fans of Good News, and those hoping for the lo-fi, poor man's cross between Built to Spill and the Pixies sound of old will not find much solace here. Even still, being a fan of Good News might not mean much if you cannot get past the few snoozers and unfocused nature of this album. It is entirely possible that this album will end up in used bins all across the country because there aren't enough dance tracks to appease the fans of "Dashboard", and not enough quirky, slow burners likely to appease fans of "Fire It Up". But as I mentioned earlier, looking past the flaws is a must for Modest Mouse fans. You may have to swim a bit deeper to find this ship's treasures, but I assure you that they are there.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gone YouTubin'

Yo, I might not be posting for a few days on account of me not having a computer handy to post from, so here's a few YouTube gems to keep you occupied while I'm away. Oh, and go Hawks!

Grizzly Bear - "The Knife"

This video was apparently filmed while they were walking the streets of France. I'm not sure if it was planned or not, but since there are no instruments handy they do a really cool a capella version. They look a little embarrassed at times to be seen doing so on a public street. It makes me wonder how it would sound if they were in a space more comfortable to them. I'm sure it would be fantastic.

TV on the Radio - "Dreams"

This looks to have been shot by someone affiliated with the band, as its angle is directly from the side of the stage. TV on the Radio has this vid on their MySpace page, so if its old news to you then I apologize. This was filmed while on tour with Nine Inch Nails and Bauhaus. Say what you will about either of those two bands, but getting the opportunity to open for them had to have been a great experience, even if the audiences were either sparse or not interested. I must say, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Reznor don't sound too bad on this song.

Akron/Family - "Awake"

This video was shot in Minneapolis at a little record store called Treehouse Records. I've been there, its tiny. It would be like playing at Kief's in Lawrence. This performance gave me goosebumps when I first heard it.

Califone - "Three Legged Animals"

A live video, and a fairly good one. Where the video is lacking in picture, it more than makes up for it in sound quality.

Neutral Milk Hotel - "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" & "Two Headed Boy"

Not one, but two Neutral Milk Hotel songs to get you all nice and depressed. Both of these videos are have fantastic sound quality. The first is from Jeff Mangum's solo show at Jittery Joe's that was later made into an album/video, and the second is apparently from New Year's Eve 1998, though I'm not sure how accurate that is. Both are just beautiful.

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Live Review: TV on the Radio - March 17th

Thanks to the lovely Jill McKeever for the photos

If you were not aware just by reading the date, the TV on the Radio show was on St. Patrick's Day. And if you are not a native of Kansas City, or have not traveled to the city to revel in the yearly debauchery, you are probably unaware that Kansas Cityians treat St. Patrick's Day like others treat Mardis Gras. Oh, and it was a Saturday too.

At first I was pretty convinced that this would have little affect on the actual concert. TV on the Radio surely wouldn't attract a throng of drunken frat boys, sorority girls, and older men and women who are partying like they're back in the frat or sorority from whence they came, right? Right...?

Suddenly, it occurred to me that if I was doing my best O'Bonacker impression and getting a little too drunk on this cool, green March afternoon, then why wouldn't other TV on the Radio fans be doing the same thing? That comforted me at first, until I met Bree. Well, I didn't just meet Bree, I've met her several times before. She's a nice woman and all, but she is exactly the type of obnoxious drunk girl I would not want to have standing next to me at a concert. When I told her my plans for the night, she exclaimed her jealousy of how she was not going. When I asked why, she told me she knew that she would be too drunk to even make it. This comment worried me a bit. If Bree couldn't make it, that's fine, but what if other obnoxious drunk girls or guys decided that a TV on the Radio concert would be a fun way mix up the night, and could make it to the show? Oh jeez, I thought, this night could turn out to be a total disaster. The last thing I wanted was an audience full of people blowing their Official St. Patrick's day whistles during every song, throwing their official St. Patrick's day beads toward the stage (but never quite making it), or spending so much time at the bar that it became hard to hear the band over the sound of glass bottles hitting a trash can. My fears only increased when I got a call from a friend saying that she was unable to get a ticket because the show was sold out. However, I will admit that I was able to ease my worries somewhat by drinking.

My party and I came back home to wind down before leaving for the venue. I don't know if it was the beer, the pot, or the fact that we were listening to Return to Cookie Mountain as a primer for the show, but suddenly my roommate was at his computer looking at Ticketmaster's website just to make sure the show had sold out. Tickemaster online confirmed the theory at first, but I suggested that maybe we call the venue just to make sure. When we finally got a hold of a real live person, we learned that there were in fact 30 or so tickets left at the box office. To make things better, my friend who could not get tickets earlier was on her way over to our apartment to hang out for an hour, and when she arrived we told her the good news, and plans were made: we're going to TV on the Radio...ALL OF US!

I know, you're probably thinking if I wanted to about read some drunk guy's weekend I'd pick up some Kerouac or Hemingway, and you would have a valid argument. Well, you're in luck, because unless you care to hear about the drive to the venue or my hour at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, I'll skip to the good stuff.

We got there in time to catch a little bit of the opening act, Subtle. I had heard a little bit about them from a co-worker who is real big into indie hip-hop and knows as much about the Anticon label as Stephen Hawking does about black holes. I expected to like the band. What I did not expect was to really like them. Honestly, they did not appear very hip-hop at all, and it was then that I realized that, hey!, I really like 13 & God, and these guys were in 13 & God, especially lead vocalist Doseone. My ears perked up and I tried to take more notice, but we ran into another group of friends and distraction won the day. This was only the beginning of me running into friends, during the rest of Subtle's set and the break between the bands I found several pockets of friends I have known throughout my life. It was a strange, surreal reunion of sorts, one that could only be made better with, you guessed it, more beer. And finding a closer spot to the stage.

TV on the Radio came out shortly after 9:15. They must want you to gamble a little bit after seeing a show at the voodoo lounge. I'm used to getting to the venue at about 9:15. But I digress. They made some noise with their instruments and then started into a song. I did not recognize it at first, there was no split second saxophone intro to cue me, but when Tunde started singing "Woke up in a magic nigger movie" I knew exactly what was going on. The song, now with drums(!) was propelled into the stratosphere as it progressed. The guitars sounded crisper and clearer than ever before. Surely all the rave live reviews I had read about them back in '04 were completely founded. (Someone told me once, after seeing them open for the Liars, that it was like a religious experience, with bodies shaking, hands thrown in the air, and a few hallelujahs). If any song was going to match the energy of "Wrong Way", I had no idea what it would be. The band wasted no time in starting into "Dreams", with Tunde creating a whistle sample that could be heard in syncopation during some of the more quiet parts. Somehow the song was able to lift the audience even higher. Perhaps it the whirlwind of guitars, but really I think it was Kyp Malone, you know, the hairy guy, singing his heart out like he was the lead of the band. One thing I was really excited to finally witness was the vocal interplay within the band, and sometimes it was difficult to tell who was doing what.

The band then proceeded to play just about everything off of their latest album, Return to Cookie Mountain. "Province" came first, and sounded great despite not having David Bowie around to lend a vocal chord. "I Was a Lover" and "Wolf Like Me" came next, which sent the crowd into a frenzy. "Wolf" was especially frantic, and the audience, the old school hipster fans and new ones alike, were pumping their fists in excitement. Tunde responded by thanking the crowd repeatedly throughout the show, and seemed genuinely happy to be playing for us. And why not? Maybe it was the beer and the holiday cheer, but the crowd was top notch (except for during "Tonight", where the bar crowd felt it was appropriate to talk during a slow song).

The band wisely decided to move onto slower numbers after "Wolf", and gradually descended into "Tonight", which, from what I could actually hear, was quite beautiful, with the members of Subtle joining the band on percussion instruments.

The band then took their encore break, and soon returned, once again with Subtle, and led into an all-star jam of "Let the Devil In". At the beginning of the song, Tunde asked the audience to sing along, even if they did not know the lyrics, and led the audience in yelling the vocal "ah-oh's" that pepper the song. The audience clapped and sang along like sheep, but honestly it was fucking cool. The band fed off the energy, and even pulled a mulleted hipster out of the front row to play percussion with the band. Tunde grabbed a megaphone, and doing his best Gibby Haynes impression, sang most of the song through the machine, distorting his voice in the process. The song, maybe the best they played the entire night, went off without a hitch. After Tunde was finished singing and the band started to wind the song down to its close, the crowd chimed in again, "singing" along until after the song was finished. Tunde looked bewildered, but in a please don't pinch me, I'm not ready to wake from this dream kind of way.

To finish the set, they finally dug out another Desperate Youth song, "Staring at the Sun", and like the first two songs of the night, it sounded incredible. Also, like the first two songs, they use of an actual human drummer aided the song infinitely. Whereas the album version never really lifts off, this version not only catapulted, but by had the entire place dancing. Its quite hard to articulate how this transition happened exactly, I too was one of those party people in some kind of strange post-drunken yet euphoric trance, not too out of my head to stand still but still a little high to recap the minutes in full detail. Some would say I experienced a "musical orgasm". I would be inclined to agree. I've seen some great shows in my day, but I haven't seen one this good in several months at least.

If TV on the Radio needed some time to get used to playing the new songs live, as several other live reviews I've read in the year since Cookie Mountain first leaked, then I feel bad for those fans that missed out on the beast the band has become since then, because obviously this past year of constant touring has been time well spent. Not only do they look and sound confident playing the new material, the old songs still sparkle like I'm hearing them for the first time all over again. For a band that has nothing to prove - making a big enough impression to jump to a major label after one album, both full lenghths impressing fans and critics alike, and tours that only only get bigger - they still play every show like they are the underdog looking for triumph on their way back to Cookie Mountain, reminding recent converts and old fans alike why they're worth betting on, because in the end you feel confident that they are going to win

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Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Warped"

My dreams were incredibly vivid this morning in terms of what music I heard in my head. While I cannot exactly remember the plots involved, I do know that "The Union Forever" by the White Stripes, a song I have not heard in probably 3 years, maybe more, was playing like I was actually listening to it right then and there. The craziest part about it, though, was when the song then morphed into a medley of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' One Hot Minute songs "Coffee Shop" and
"Warped", which are both songs I haven't heard in almost a decade! Dreams are weird.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Recommended Album of the Week: The Ponys - Turn The Lights Out

Review forthcoming. Sorry, I'm a busy man you know.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Woo Hoo!

Its Friday! March Madness is under way, Spring break is here, I have the weekend off, KU plays tonight, TV on the Radio is tomorrow, I just learned that Sonic Youth is playing Daydream Nation in its entirety at the Pitchfork Music Festival. So far, the weekend is off to a great start.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Oh My Goodness...

While no release date is officially set, Sonic Youth are planning on continuing their series of re-releases with none other than their magnum opus, Daydream Nation.

I'll admit, Daydream is not my favorite Sonic Youth album anymore (it takes a close, close, second to Sister), but there's no denying the importance the album had on the independent music scene and, to be quite frank, my life.

Hopefully I don't sound too much like a coming of age Zach Braff film, but Daydream Nation changed my life. I noticed it immediately too, which is the strange thing. I'm not sure if any of you have ever had a moment like that, where after listening to an album you feel like you've grown as a person, but that's how I felt listening to this album over 10 years ago. My teenage mind was blown.

This album was my introduction to the world of indie music. And even though it didn't prevent me from listening to a lot of shit that came out (I had some pretty questionable taste in music in my high school years, as I think we all did), it certainly opened my mind. Instead of being put off by low-quality sounding music, I instead learned to listen to the song as it was written, not how it was recorded. This helped me get into My Bloody Valentine as well. Without Daydream Nation, I would have certainly dismissed Loveless after the first listen (lets face it, the recording of Loveless does not hold up as well as the songs do). Without Daydream Nation, I would have slept through Blonde Redhead's opening slot at the Red Hot Chili Peppers/Foo Fighters concert. Without Daydream there would be no Slanted and Enchanted, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, You Forgot It In People, or 13 Songs in my music collection. In fact, you can thank Sonic Youth in some way for just about everything I own or listen to.

The news of this re-release is good news indeed. I cannot stress enough how strongly I recommend purchasing it when its released.

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Something You Should Know

File under: News you may have already heard.

Neon Bible, the sophomore album from the Arcade Fire, debuted at number 2, NUMBER FUCKING TWO, on the Billboard top 200. Wow. I mean, yeah, the Shins already did that and bought the shirt, but its still impressive just because that makes it twice already this year that one of our precious indie bands debuted so high, and its only March.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When We Were Young

I've noticed that lately my blogs have touched on the theme of nostalgia, and this post will be no different. Before I jump right in, I'd like to list several reasons as to why:

1). The devil made me do it.
2). I'm short.
3). Andre made me do it.
4). I busted my magic mirror trying to hit the falsetto "Grondlandic Edit", and therefore can no longer see into the future.
5. Tom, from MySpace, made me do it.

Okay, enough bullshit. The truth is, I always get like this in the Springtime. Also, I am busy right now with work and school and don't have enough time to devote to listen to a new album and give it a proper review (though there are several candidates for when I do), and I'm broke right now and missed a bunch of shows I could have reviewed.


But if you don't mind just a little more reminiscing, then read on and join me on a trip to the not so distant past, the year 2003!!!!!

Last night I was at a local bar with two fine ladies hanging out after a long day of reading for school, desperately needing a distraction. The bar we went to, Buzzard Beach, is a cheap dive bar, the kind of place you go to smoke cigarettes and drink Pabst. You know, the kind of place I'd never leave if it they didn't close. The biggest downfall to the place, however, is the inconsistent music selections.

Sometimes, the choices are fucking fantastic. For example, on a fairly recent trip I heard a mix CD that must have been a best-of-2006 mix, as it included The Knife, Built to Spill, and others that I'm forgetting now. After that mix, they played the new Deerhoof, Friend Opportunity. That was cool. On most nights though, you're just as likely to get something really cool, like Danse Macabre by the Faint, as you are Tom Petty or Bob Weir.

At any rate, last night at the Buzzard they were playing a mix CD that had obviously been made in 2003, which probably sounds pretty unimpressive to you, but to me it rocked. Why? Whoever compiled the CD included a shit-ton of bands I was listening to at the time, so many that its not even funny. Its almost as if I have a clone somewhere in this city making mix CDs and giving them to bars for me to hear four years later. Need proof? Read on. The songs I can remember hearing are as follows:

"Bandages" - Hot Hot Heat
"Honestly" - Zwan
"Keep Fishin'" - Weezer
"Seven Nation Army" - White Stripes
"Infra Riot" - Soundtrack of Our Lives
"Jerk it Out" - The Caesars
"Attack of the Ghost Riders" - the Raveonettes
"Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll" - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
"Believing Is Art" - Spoon

Out of those bands, the only one I still really listen to and enjoy is Spoon, but all of those songs I enjoyed back in the day, especially the BRMC song. You should have seen me try to play Galaga and rock out to that song at the same time. (Actually, I know for a fact that at least one of you reading this did...) The mix was fantastic in that "hey, I'm 19 all over again" kind of way. If you don't understand what I mean now, trust me, you will when you're 24 going on 25, and much like I have been lately you'll relish those moments too.

If you have made it this far, I ask you nicely, if you have some extra time, to list 10 songs you would have put on a CD this time of year in 2003. It will be fun, I promise. And if you can't or don't want to, at least watch these videos. The past is dead, long live the past!

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll"

...Trail of Dead - "Relative Ways"

White Stripes - "Seven Nation Army"

Interpol - "PDA"

Longwave - "Tidal Wave"

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Ugly Kid Joe - "I Hate Everything About You"

Where do I begin with this song? I guess the memories first.

I chose this song in honor of Spring Break (which technically hasn't started yet for me, but who cares...), in honor of college basketball and March Madness. One of my first Spring Break memories is of watching basketball deep into the night, and pretty much all week. This was my introduction into the world of March Madness, and I loved it. I loved the upsets, the insanity and absurdity of it all. Once the games started winding down, I flipped the channel over to MTV to catch some of their spring break coverage (to have the channel away from MTV was, back then, nothing short of a minor miracle). Back then, when MTV actually showed videos, they'd put the VJ's in some exotic location with a bunch of scantily clad college students and let them loose. They'd also set up a stage and let some bands play too, and I remember seeing Ugly Kid Joe play on one of the shows. For some reason, I really liked them.

Listening to the song now, well, I'm a little embarrassed. More embarrassed to say I owned this tape than I am about anything else, even Snow. This song is terrible with a capital T (Terrible!). The lyrics are shit, the contradictions many ("I hate the beach and sunny weather". Dude, you're filming on location, AT THE BEACH!@!@), and the breakdown near the end may or may not have spawned rap metal. I'm not sure, either way, its really fucking bad.

But still, this song forever means Spring Break, for better or worse.

One more thing, I totally forgot this video included clips from Wayne's World. I guess it was on the soundtrack? I haven't seen that movie in ages, I think I'm long overdue to watch it again. Any takers?

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

On the Road Again...

As the weather starts heating up, so too does the concert season. Unfortunately, living in Kansas City is not a good place to be for the good concerts. I know it sounds weird, but you would be surprised how many bands decide to go straight through the heartland from Chicago to Denver without playing a date here. And when the bands do need to fill in a midwest date, the KC/Lawrence area now has to compete with a resurgent Omaha scene, a growing Oklahoma and Iowa scene, and of course the usual St. Louis/Columbia, usually for one date (though it is worth mentioning that on occasion Springfield will sneak in and steal a good band too). Sometimes bands will throw us a bone and play a few of the said cities/states (thanks Animal Collective, you're the best!), but typically if the don't you're forced to wait until the next leg of the tour, or worse, the next album. Or, you could just fill up the car with gas, pack a lunch and maybe a sleeping bag, and hit the road to see your favorite bands.

Here's a few shows and festivals that might be worth hitting the road for.

South By Southwest (SXSW)

March 14th - 18th
Austin, TX

Helping keep Austin weird since 1987, SXSW is now more or less just a media circus disguised as a music conference. Not that I would know, I've never been (and no, I'm not bitter at all...)

Actually, some good can come out of paying to play an afternoon spot if you are a dedicated enough band to want to try and take it to the level that comes after self releasing your material, but as a fan I hear its not worth the money spent, which probably explains why no actual fans pay to go. I guess being an intern at CMJ really does pay off after all. (Again, I'm not bitter...) Seriously though, I do hear that it does kinda suck down there. Most of the venues are small, which can be awesome in theory, but its not so cool when 10,000 people are all trying to cram into the same bar as you, if you were even lucky enough to get inside the club in the first place. Another complaint is that since there are so many bands playing, you will inevitably have to make a choice to pick one band you like over another, which can be painful if it means missing the National because you're afraid you might never get to see Architecture in Helsinki.

I won't even try to give a list of bands. You can go to the SXSW website and see for yourself. Just click on the SXSW bands link, then pick a day. I trust you'll be impressed.

Blonde Redhead
April 14th
Chicago, IL

April 15t
Minneapolis, MN

If you had asked me a few months ago if Blonde Redhead was worth an 8 hour drive to see live, I probably would have said no.

Then again, that was before I heard 23. Trust me, this album begs to be heard live.

Bright Eyes
April 22nd
Milwaukee, WI

Bright Eyes has a new album coming out and soon and is embarking on a major US tour to support it. From what I've come to understand, the new album is supposed to be similar in sound to I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, which makes me very happy. Maybe if I catch him on this tour I'll actually hear a song from that album (Bright Eyes' last KC stop was in support of Digital Ash, unfortunately, as they played not one note from Morning, and barely touched anything older).

There are several stops on this tour that are closer to the KC/Lawrence/Columbia/StL/ are than Milwaukee: Omaha (duh), Tulsa, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, and Minneapolis. However, the Milwaukee show is the first of the US tour, which is usually pretty exciting for both the band and audience alike. Its also at a venue called the Pabst Theater. Only in Milwaukee...

Dismemberment Plan
April 27th and 28th
Washington, DC

Yes, this is a reunion show, the first (2) that I know of also, so this is kind of a big deal if you're a fan of one of the best bands to come out of the DC area. Even when the Plan broke up almost 4 years ago, they said they would likely get together once in a while to play together for benefits and such. Well, their word proved to be gold when it was announced they were headlining not one but two shows to benefit Callum Robbins. Last I heard, these shows were uber sold out, and since this is a benefit show, I would not recommend buying from a scalper, unless you have enough money to buy from a scalper AND make a donation to help poor little Callum, which you can do by clicking on the link and following directions.

The Plan are playing shows again. Nice...

Arcade Fire
May 18th - 20th
Chicago, IL

If you're like me, you're probably dying to know how the new songs will translate live. Even if you're not like me, chances are you are at least curious. Better start saving for this one - all three shows are sold out.

June 14th - 17th
Manchester, TN

This year's edition of Bonnaroo, which is now owned or put together by MTV, is definitely less jammy than years past (though that that does not mean that it won't be jammy at all). The main acts this year are The Police, Tool, Widespread Panic, The White Stripes, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Wilco, and The Flaming Lips. Other notable acts are: Franz Ferdinand, Ween, The Decemberists, The Roots, Kings of Leon, Regina Spektor, The Black Keys, DJ Shadow, Spoon, The Hold Steady, Lily Allen, Feist, Hot Chip, Aesop Rock, Tortoise, Clutch, Cold War Kids, Dr. Dog, Girl Talk, Annuals, Mute Math, Apollo Sunshine, ,The National, and Black Angels.

Pitchfork Music Festival
July 13th - 15th
Chicago, IL

As of this writing, the lineup for the second installment of the Pitchfork Music Festival has not been completely revealed, yet it already looks to be very promising with Cat Power, Of Montreal, Iron and Wine, Grizzly Bear, Jamie Lidell, and Girl Talk on the bill, with more to be announced.

One other intriguing aspect of is the teaming of Pitchfork and All Tomorrow's Parties to bring the first American installment of Don't Look Back, where an artist, often seminal, plays an album, often their best, in its entirety. So far, Sonic Youth and Slint are slated to play their opuses Daydream Nation and Spiderland at European festivals. Is it possible the mighty Pitchfork can book one or both bands to play them at the festival? Stay tuned...

Daft Punk w/ the Rapture
July 31st
Denver, CO

As if seeing Daft Punk live isn't cool enough, our favorite pair of robots Daft Punk schedule a brief North American tour, including a stop at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. And they're bringing the Rapture.

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Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Skee-Lo - "I Wish"

Part three in a small series of music videos focusing on one-hit-wonders.

If you overlook the fact that I'm white and that I was not old enough to drive when this song was released, you can probably see why I related to this song growing up. I too, was picked last at basketball. I tried to make up for my lack of scoring ability by getting rebounds, but when you're shorter than everybody else, that proves to be very difficult. I think I was also de-pantsed in public once. Yes, only once.


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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Nada Surf - "Popular"

The second video in a small installment focusing on one-hit-wonders.

This band forced me to ask myself the question of what constitutes as a one-hit-wonder. Last year, Nada Surf released a new album and had one of their singles grace the airwaves of modern rock radio. But was it is popular as "Popular"? I don't think so. My theory is that if you played the two songs on the jukebox at a bar, the majority of people would recognize "Popular". A hit, to me, is when a song not only does well in the realm of its own genre, but is able to have some success outside of it as well. For example, "Last Nite" by the Strokes was a hit, but I would have to say that "Someday" was not, just because it didn't thrive outside of Alternative Radio. Instead, "Someday" is just one of their singles.

I remember when this video hit big. They took a lot of shit for ripping off Weezer, and rightfully so. The singer more than resembles Rivers Cuomo when he's in the teacher costume, and looks like he should be in the photo of the Blue Album when playing on the football field. The song owes a lot to "Undone (The Sweater Song)" too, with its talking verses that lead into the sing-along chorus. Still, I really kinda like this song. I remember being a geeky 14-year-old and wondering why they wrote a song guiding girls on how to date any boy they wanted to and not the other way aroud, because my nerdy freshman ass sure needed a teenage guide to popularity.

I also wonder why anyone would tell Johnny Footballhero they liked his article in the newspaper. Doesn't that just insinuate that Johnny can even write in the first place?

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Spring Hymns (Revised)

Officially, the Spring season has yet to arrive, but you wouldn't know it if you've stepped outside the past couple of days. I, for one, couldn't be happier. I love both of the transitional seasons, and after this short but brutal winter we had I'm ready for a little warmth, a little more color on the ground and in the trees, maybe even a little rain and lightning.

One thing about the changing seasons that I find intriguing is how it affects what I listen to. I've had discussions about this with people before, and while it seems that everyone is affected the same way to a certain extent, I have come to the conclusion that the seasons affect me more than most.

Already I have taken notice to how the weather is affecting me. Just today I was suddenly in the mood to listen to Doves first album, Lost Souls.

If I had to pick one album to listen to for the entire season, it would probably be that. It makes sense why, I first heard the single "Catch the Sun" in March during Spring Break of 2001, and I bought the album a few weeks later. I listened to it for the first time at a friend's place with the windows open and a beautiful nighttime breeze blowing in the apartment. I also have fond memories of driving to Lawrence in similar weather with the windows down and the album playing at full blast, not saying a word to friends as we rode.

Another band I listen to more during this season than any other is Modest Mouse, especially the album Good News For People Who Love Bad News. While I can play Moon and Antarctica just about any time of the year, I find myself having a hard time playing Good News when the weather is cold, and certainly more in April than even July. I can also barely stand to listen to Building Nothing Out of Something unless is Spring.

Again, there are reasons for this as well. Good News came out in Spring of '04, and immediately my friends and I were hooked, as was the entire city of Lawrence. For a good three months you couldn't go anywhere in town without hearing that album; coffee shops, bars, clothing stores, record stores, parties, you name it. Good News still has the distinction of being the only album I've heard played straight through in its entirety at the Replay Lounge on the inside jukebox. As for Building Nothing, I bought it not long after Good News, because I was in need of anything Modest Mouse at the time.

There are others, believe me, but I'll stop here for now (see below). If you took the time to read this, feel free to share any of your Springtime favorites by leaving a comment.

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Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Primitive Radio Gods - "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand"

This is part one in a small installment focusing on one-hit wonders.

I never really got into this band very much, the song was just a little to slow for my liking back then, and the guy's voice a little monotonous as well. You know how I liked my whiny emotive singers, especially back in the early to mid 90s. But still, I never hated this song, and really loved the use of the B.B. King sample in the song. The video itself isn't that spectacular, but does use some cool effects here and there. Apparently the Primitive Radio Gods still make music, I had no idea.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Green Day - "Basket Case"

I remember being pretty young when I got this album, on cassette . I was in 6th grade I believe, but maybe 5th. Young, either way. I remember not really understanding what the lyrics meant. Why would he go to a whore to complain, and what exactly is a whore anyhow? My mother was surely pleased with that inquiry. Actually, I never had to ask, she had already explained a few years earlier after she overheard the "nature is a whore" lyric while I was listening to my Nirvana cassette. I tried to tell her he was saying "horror", and she bought it, or at least pretended to buy it in hopes that allowing me to be my own censor when it came to purchasing music would prove to be more fruitful than if she prohibited certain albums for me.

Boy, was she wrong! Rock and roll warped my brain.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Recommended Album of the Week: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

Two Montreal bands in a row to inaugurate the recommended albums, who woulda thunk it. Actually, the Arcade Fire are sort of Montreal by way of, well, wherever. Isn't Win from Texas or something originally? Well, regardless of where the band is from, the album is good. Damn good. Which, of course, makes me look like a fool after writing about how the new songs weren't so hot.

I still stand by that previous post though. Neon Bible is not an album packed full of potential hit singles, and hearing "Black Mirror", "Intervention", and "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" out of the context of the entire album did nothing to excite me. Honestly, the full album leaking was probably the best thing that could have happened, because when it did the fans who were really unsure of what to make of the new songs, myself especially, were given the chance to hear them in context and understand that this album is truly an album, even more so than Funeral I think.

Let me be clear, however, that by saying that I in no way mean that Neon Bible is a better album than Funeral, that would be false. I just think that Funeral actually had several potential singles on it. Or, better yet, if you were to introduce Funeral to a friend that had never heard the album before but could only choose one song to represent it, you could probably pick just one. You and I might not pick the same one, but we could, that's all I'm saying. I don't think its that easy with Neon Bible. "The Well and the Lighthouse", maybe my favorite song on the album, does not fairly represent "Ocean of Noise" or "My Body is a Cage", and "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" in my opinion, does not represent anything on the album fairly.

If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering why I like the album so much. Honestly, its hard to say. Win's lyrics are more paranoid, his voice less like Smith, Byrne or Bowie and more like Springsteen, an artist I could never get into that much. Also, the lack of the hit single, or for a better term, anthem, really forces the listener to be patient, especially if the listener is expecting something more akin to Funeral.

Still, I like the paranoid lyrics. I like that Win is voicing his struggles with Christianity. I like that Win is attempting to hold the mirror up to society and expose us of some of our faults. I like that there are no real anthems on the album. I like that this is not Funeral part 2. I like that they took a chance on a darker sound. I like that Win has, more or less, become the "voice" of the band. Yes, Regine is the better vocalist, but she's still there chiming in, and believe me you take notice when she does (see "Antichrist Television Blues" for the best example).

Sure, you could knock the band for preaching to the choir with their lyrics, or that they aren't entirely original, and that the Arcade Fire are just another in a long line of bands/artists writing songs about their struggles with religion, society, the government, America, an unjust war, etc, and you would be 100% right, but they certainly won't be the last either, so why not let them have their say? Besides, its not as if songs about the lost lives of loved ones, growing up in and hating the suburbs, love, longing, and so forth, are exactly original either, yet we all went apeshit over Funeral and the first EP, didn't we?

To paraphrase something I read in an issue of Filter Magazine a few years back in reference to another band, if Neon Bible sounds like a disappointment, perhaps it is not because of any qualities that it is lacking, but because their debut album was so fantastic that the bar was set too high.

"Keep the Car Running" comes close to the full band singalong we're used to hearing from the Arcade Fire. "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" starts with Regine singing lead, the only song on the album to do so. Soon the song ends up sounding like the bands take on a Go-Go's tune (which might make for a strange mash up with "We Got the Beat"...) before it settles into a slower groove courtesy of a xylophone twinkle, and then BAM!, Armageddon's on its way, and Win's begging, pleading for her to "stop now before its too late.../there's a great black wave in the middle of the sea" over the gnarliest detuned guitar line I've heard in a while.

"Ocean of Noise" meanwhile, is possibly the most mature song the Arcade Fire have written. The song drifts along nicely and employs are more subtle progression from verse to verse than they probably would have previously. Still, they can only restrain themselves for so long, so be prepared for the grandiose ending that keeps rising, its crescendo lifted just a tad more by a horn section. "Antichrist Television Blues", the album's biggest offender of sounding like Springsteen, at least does the Boss justice in its apparent homage, and in my opinion Regine's freakout at the end might be worth the price of buying the album alone. "No Cars Go" sounds much better in this updated version, though I'll admit some of the charm is gone, and the lyrics are a little corny and don't appear to fit any of the album's themes. Finally, there's "My Body is a Cage". If the album were a movie then this song must be the end credit theme. When the church organs kick in, I envision a screen going to black. This song is an epic ending to a great album.

If I were reviewing this for Pitchfork, I would rate it an 8.7 out of 10, a full point below the rating for Funeral, and I think that's pretty fair. However, the more I listen to this album the more I like it. This album defines the term "grower", but that's a good thing because I continuously keep going back to it, which is something I can't say about too many albums any more. Turn it on, turn it up (loud), take it on a drive, whatever. Trust me, it will come

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Sunday, March 4, 2007

More Video Nostalgia!!!

Because I'm bored, here's three more videos from an era when MTV actually played music videos.

Video #1: Depeche Mode - "I Feel You"
This video actually does not get me as nostalgic as, say, "Enjoy the Silence", but to be fair I did see this video more than the former just because "Enjoy the Silence" was a little before my time. Watching this video now, I'm pretty confused as to why this video was given the green light. I'm sure the lingerie clad actress is part of the reason, but seriously, what the hell is Dave Gahan doing in this video? When he's not over emoting, he's over thrusting. I never want to do heroin.

Video #2: The Prodigy - "Firestarter"
Remember Amp, the late night electronic show MTV used to have? I can't remember which came first, this video or that show, but one definitely spawned the other (with maybe a little help from the Chemical Brothers), for better or worse. Actually, I don't mind older Prodigy as much. It wasn't until that joker started "singing" and started hogging all the screen time that things went seriously downhill. Also, there two things that bother me about this video. 1). Why is a British guy wearing a shirt that looks awfully similar to an American flag? 2). For a song called "Firestarter", the amount of actual fires in said video is poorly lacking.

Video #3: Orbit - "Medicine"
I had this party almost three years ago, and for the party I made 5 mix CDs (this was before iPods, or at least before everyone had one) to play for the party. In the middle, the party's centerpiece, was a mix of only 90s alternative rock songs. If you ask me, it was pretty fucking solid, and I put this song on it towards the end to get everyone rockin' out again. Only there was one problem, no one else remembered the song. Oh well. I can see why, after re-watching the video I honestly didn't remember much that happened, but the song still sticks out to me to this day. Then again, I am a softy for 90s alternative radio.

On a side note, I miss Matt Pinfield. That guy knew his shit, didn't he? In case you don't remember, he was the host of 120 Minutes in its later years (among other shows, but this was the one I remember the most). Around the same time TRL was in its early stages (and still called Total Request Live), and they would play a game with Matt called Stump the Matt or Take it to the Matt, something like that, where callers would call in with their questions and try to stump him. I saw him lose only once. The guy was a genius, he knew how to spell Bjork's last name without prompting (its Gudmundsdottir, and is probably missing some umlauts, in case you were wondering). Anyhow, I can't reminisce about old music videos without giving at least a thought to Matt Pinfield, and Kurt Loder, and Kennedy, and...

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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Yo La Tengo - Sugarcube

Yo La Tengo y Mr. Show es muy bueno!

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Recommended Album of the Week: The Besnard Lakes - Are the Dark Horse

As the title of the album might suggest, Montreal's The Besnard Lakes are out to prove themselves. Fellow Montreal-ites The Unicorns, Arcade Fire, and Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown have garnered some serious attention over the past few years, and while its possible the Besnard Lakes aren't looking for as much attention, it can safely be said that they at least don't want to be overlooked. Nor should they. Are the Dark Horse is 45 minutes of pure headphone candy. The album is similar enough to Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade in the way they incorporate multiple instruments into each song, but very dissimilar in what they create as a result. Where Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade reached for grandiosity on their debut albums, the Besnard Lakes took their ambitions a step beyond and attempted to make an album that is epic. That, and their love for 1970's smoke-'em-if-you-got-'em classic rock bands.

Opening track "Disaster" and the second song, "For Agent 13", are both excellent mood setters, and if you are enjoying a smoke, they're fantastic ways to get settled in before liftoff. There's lots of reverb over the vocals and guitars and, well, you name it. At times, there's also strings that occasionally dip into Sigur Ros territory. The songs are incredibly enjoyable, but a whole album of said songs could, and most likely would, get a little boring after a while. Luckily, the album's third song, "And You Lied to Me", hits like a ton of bricks. Granted, it isn't until about 5 minutes into the song when it does happen, but it happens, and you'll be thankful when it does, and by it I mean the freakout guitar solo that sounds straight out of an early 90's Smashing Pumpkins record (another fan of the Floyd) that not only provides a much needed jolt after drifting along for so long, but is also long enough without going too long and sounding like a jam-band or a even Built to Spill concert.

From there you get "Devastation", which pretty much solidifies and captures the band's love for the music of our parents. This would be an easy song to hate, the female backup singers singing the chorus of the song may be a little to corny, but its also catchy as hell, and I dare you to listen to this song a couple of times and not find yourself humming it later. It may not be as good as the songs before or after, but its certainly the most memorable after the early listens.

After the full on rock assault of "Devastation", Are the Dark Horse comes full circle with songs that are soaked in reverb and spotted with trippy strings. This includes my personal favorite song, "Because Tonight", which will probably still be one of my favorite songs of 2007 by years end.

In short, the Besnard Lakes may be the dark horse, and they might still be overlooked when its all said and done, especially with the highly anticipated Neon Bible being released on Tuesday. Still, its a bold and often striking album that will be appreciated by those who hear it, and if nothing else is a step up from being known as the band that opened for the Unicorns.

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: God Lives Underwater - "From Your Mouth

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Nostalgic Music Video of the Day: Elastica - "Connection"

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Is it just me or... some of the Besnard Lakes' guitar solos sound like something straight out of Pisces Iscariot?

I'm being totally serious here. I wouldn't go comparing them to the Pumpkins, but their guitar solos sound vaguely Corganesque.

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