Sunday, December 27, 2015

Favorite Concerts of 2015

1. Dry the River at The Music Hall of Williamsburg
I've written about this show extensively, and yes, I'm still pretty heartbroken but I'm glad I have the memories of this show. And that's all there is to say about that.

2. We Were Promised Jetpacks at Pier 83/The Mercury Lounge/Warsaw 
Yes, I ended up seeing We Were Promised Jetpacks three times this year. And my goodness, has my opinion of their live shows changed! In fact, I've now seen them five times in total and they have gotten better each time. WWPJ are a solid band, and I am really excited for their future because they're still young and they're getting stronger.

3. Frank Turner at Irving Plaza
I've been to a lot of shows, and I've seen a lot of different artists but I don't think I have as much at anyone else's show than I do at a Frank Turner one. He seems to always be giving 100% from the very start, and nobody has more fun at a Frank Turner show than Frank Turner. I've talked about how off-putting it is to watch someone on stage who just does not want to be there but with Frank that's never a problem. He is loads of fun, especially when you're the type of person who likes to shouts along to songs like I do. I've seen him three times now and he never disappoints. The best thing about this show was that I brought someone who had never seen/heard him before and LOVED him.

4. Andrew Bird at Le Poisson Rouge
I'm pretty much ride or die for the Birdman at this point but this show was still a treat. Getting to hear "Anonanimal" for the first time since 2009 should've been good enough but getting to hear "Tenuousness" and "Armchairs" for the first time EVER (I know, you didn't think there could possibly be an Andrew Bird song I haven't heard live) was so exciting. And then he played new songs! That sounded like Armchair Apocrypha stuff! I'm just so happy that it seems like he's gotten out of his old-timey, one microphone phase and will start making great pop songs again. And guess what? I get to see him again in April!

5. Beirut at Dansforth Music Hall
Yes, I flew all the way to Toronto to see Beirut. And it was completely worth it. The only other time I had seen Zach Condon live was in 2011 at Central Park Summerstage. And I wasn't close at all. He was great but I felt very disconnected. Well, Dansforth is small, and we were right at the stage. And Zach and company were FANTASTIC. I wasn't a fan of the new record at all but the new stuff came off so good live. It was worth getting up at 6 after going to bed at 2 (after the EL VY show the night before) to fly to another country. Zach Condon is one of the most talented musicians making music today.

Honorable Mention: My Morning Jacket at The Beacon Theater
I don't even think I was enjoying myself at this show while it was happening but once I left I was like, "ALL THE MY MORNING JACKET! ALL OF IT!" Jim James is so fucking great, you guys. The whole band is so fantastic. This was a bit of a religious experience. Even though I've seen MMJ already, and I've been listening to them for years. But with religious experiences, you don't know they're happening until they're over and you're like, "WHOA! What just happened?" Well, that's what happened at the Beacon.

Most Disappointing: Glen Hansard at The Beacon Theater
Ah, jeez, I hate to be negative on this post but I haven't been this disappointed after a concert in a long, long time. And I know what you're thinking: Glen!? Really? Really. And don't get me wrong, he was giving it his all but his setlist and the crowd were a major disappointment. He primarily did his solo stuff, which I guess I should've expected but I could really take or leave his solo stuff. I don't mind it but it's nothing I want to listen to regularly. And holy crap, the crowd. I've never felt so young and out of place, and I've been to a MTC matinee! The crowd sat the whole time and didn't say a word. I've hear more noise during a Broadway play! I think what was even more disappointing is the fact that I know he can put on a fantastic show. Some of my fondest concert-going memories are courtesy of Glen Hansard. But now I have to reconsider shelling out big money to see him again.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

if it ever goes wrong, I'll write you into all of my song

I was trying to wait until this weekend to write about Majical Cloudz's new record Are You Alone? but I can't wait that long. It's too good. It's the only thing I want to listen to anymore, and when I'm not listening to it, I just keeping thinking, "okay, when can I listen to Majical Cloudz again?" I haven't felt this strongly about a new release since Nobody Wants to Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave. Oh, yes, it's that good.

My history with Majical Cloudz is a strange one. Upon hearing their name come up a few times, I streamed Impersonator maybe a day or two before it was released, decided it was amazing, and bought it on vinyl. I even listed it on my Favorite Albums of 2013 midyear list but after a few months, I stopped listening to it. I never, ever revisited it either. But when their second album was announced, I got excited. I listened to it halfway through, shrugged my shoulders, and figured, "Well, I like the opening track. That's a great song." And it took about a week or two for me to revisit it.

I'm glad I did.

Majical Cloudz's music really needs some time to unravel for you. Upon first listen you're like, "Yeah, this guy's voice is great but uh, where's the music? Why is he so depressed? This is making me sad. I'm bored." And yeah, it does sound like a whole lot of the same thing when you first listen to one of their records (much like The Twilight Sad or Beach House) but then it will hit you, hard, and it will be one of the most rewarding listening experiences. Are You Alone? takes a few listens but it will hit you like a tidal wave, and it will all overcome you, and you will be in love. The record is beautiful. It's perfect. And it might just be the best record to come out in 2015.

I know what you're thinking. What about Viet Cong? What about Beach House? And Beach House? And Frank? Joanna Newsom? Sufjan!? Well, other than Viet Cong, I expected the others to be great. And they are. They're quintessential Frank Turner and Beach House and Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom. And that's a great thing, truly, considering how much I enjoyed those albums. But it's always the ones you least expect that truly wow you. This record is infectious, and it's simplicity is exactly what makes it so beautiful. There isn't a weak track on it.  And lyrically, it might be the best written record of the year. Devon Walsh (whose vocals are also so on point) doesn't write lyrics that are necessarily elaborate. He's not trying to write these complicated metaphors. It all fits the stark sparseness of the music. But they still say so much. Something like "you gotta learn to love me," or "remember when we used to say, "I don't know" and it was okay? I am going back to knowing nothing now," or "will you let me change?," or of course, my personal favorite, "if it ever goes wrong, I'll write you into all of my songs." I could go on forever and ever about how fantastic of a song "Downtown" is. "Downtown" and "Are You Alone?" and "If You're Lonely" and "Heavy" and and and...

And of course, there's the whole tone of the record. It's melancholy, sure but hopeful. It almost plays out like a concept album. The narrator of these songs is unsure of himself but sick of being lonely and ready to change and fall in love. And it all culminates with "Downtown," which is probably the best love song to come out in a long time. These feelings are real. They're relateable. They feel real. And genuine. I can often tell when artists, especially pop singers, are just pandering to their audiences (looking at you, Adele.) But Devon Walsh just feels so genuine.

And why?

Because he wrote this lyric:

in 1988 we were born, we survived
at the moment I sing, we're alive

We were born in 1988. And we're alive. And what's more genuine than that?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Song of the Week

This was a tough one this week. Between Thank Your Lucky Stars, which is unsurprisingly fantastic, and Divers, which, my goodness, and a few other great songs sprinkled about, it was hard to pick one song to write about. But Divers, wow. I always expect to love whatever Joanna Newsom releases (hey, much like Beach House!) so I shouldn't be shocked but she really expanded her sound and made it accessible (not that I cared if it was accessible, I mean, Ys is my favorite record of hers) and for the first time ever, I want Joanna's songs to be LONGER. But between "Divers" and "Leaving the City" and "Time, a Symptom" and "Sapokanikan," the record is just spectacular. Definitely one of the best releases of 2015. She is truly one of the most consistent artists releasing music right now.

But my song of the week is by Josh Ritter. Now, I love Josh Ritter, and I think he is one of the best lyricists but I don't listen to him as much as I used to. It's my fault really. Josh hasn't changed at all in quality or sound, it's just that I don't listen to as much folk-based music anymore. But his new releases and tour announcements still get all excited. In fact, I just saw him open for Damien Rice this past summer and he was, as always, fantastic. Much like Joanna Newsom, Josh Ritter is very very consistent. And he just released a new record, Sermon on the Rocks. I didn't quite like his last album, The Beast in Its Tracks but again, it was me, Josh, not you. It got lost in the Pedestrian Verse shuffle, and I never really gave it that great of a chance and never revisited. But I am enjoying Sermon so far. Especially "Getting Ready to Get Down." Every lyric is aces. Every line is better than the next one. My favorite? "Eve ate the apple because the apple was sweet/what kind of God would ever keep a girl from getting what she needs." But "to live the way you please doesn't sound like possession" is a very close second. THEY'RE ALL FANTASTIC. I don't want to say this is a return to form for Josh because he never left it but Sermon on the Rocks is my return to Josh Ritter's music.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Song of the Week

There were a lot of big releases this week (Beach House! Josh Ritter! Majical Cloudz!) but I haven't listened to them enough to really develop an opinion yet. But uh, surprise Beach House? What could be better?

No, no, this week's song is from Hamilton. You all know Hamilton. How could you not? Four out of five stories on every theater-related website is about that musical. Now, I don't really love it as much as everyone else does. Or really, I don't love it at all. I haven't seen it yet (has anyone? or is that just an urban myth? Are people actually in the room where it happens?) and I can't find it in me to listen to the whole score in one sitting. Part of it has to do with the fact that I don't like rap at all, and another part is the simple fact that I don't listen to many showtunes these days. Especially new stuff. But I think the opening of the musical is great, really, but the real standout for me (thus far) is "The Room Where It Happens." Talk about a perfect showtune. It has fantastic lyrics (sorry, it's so simple but I'm not over the line "well I arranged the meeting, I arranged the venue, the menu, the seating"), it advances the plot, and Leslie Odom Jr. is so great on it (so is Daveed Diggs.) I am totally in love with the way he sings "hold you nose and close your eyes." But the song is also a great exercise in developing character. Listen to it and you too will be like "GRRR ALEXANDER HAMILTON!" I totally can see why Burr wanted to shoot him.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Song of the Week

Sorry I didn't post last week. I didn't really have a song to write about. Last week was dominated by seeing the revival of Spring Awakening and reliving/weeping for my lost youth (and Moritz Steifel) and then having my faith (no pun intended) restored in the American play/theater/the written word by Lucas Hnath's The Christians at Playwrights Horizons. Seriously, go see that play. It's one of the better written plays I have seen in a long, long time,


This week belonged to Chvrches. Their new record, Every Eye Open is like an assault of electro-pop goodness. I'm still navigating the second half of the album but overall, I think it's terrific. It's kind of reductive to say it's more of the same from Chvrches but it is. They have quickly established their sound and mastered it. And lucky for them, it's a sound I really, really love (as evident from my love of Tegan and Sara, Ellie Goulding, Sia, etc.) I think it's more immediate than The Bones of What You Believe (and I ended up loving that record) and there's real sense of urgency and energy throughout. Do I want them to change up their sound? Did I expect them to? No and no. Keep on keeping on, Chvrches. And not to mention, Lauren Mayberry sounds really, really fantastic. I really just want to shout/sing along with her.

So this week's song is "Leave a Trace." Now this is a fantastic pop song. I dare you not to listen to it a thousand times in a row.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Song of the Week

Yes, yes, No No No was released this week but with these pesky new Friday release dates, it makes it difficult for a record to come out on a Friday, give it a good number of listens, and write about it a day or two later. I've listened to it once all the way through, and I am initially disappointed. First of, it's only nine songs,  twenty-nine minutes (and I thought Frank Turner's thirty-nine minute Positive Songs... was short!) Second, while "Gibralter" and "No No No" are such good songs, it seems like the rest of the record is just filler, sketches, ideas of songs. I don't mind the change in sound because I think Beirut is always changing but there aren't many complete ideas here. And that's disappointing when you've been waiting four years for a new record (and yeah, I understand what Zach Condon went through between The Riptide and this album, I totally get it.) I hope a) I grow to love it after a few more listens and b) it will lead to a new Beirut record sooner rather than later. I am not giving up on you quite yet, Condon!

Instead, this week's song is  "There's No One Crying Over Me Either" by American Wrestlers. I don't know much about American Wrestlers (I do know I enjoyed the tiny bit of their set I saw when they opened for Viet Cong) and I haven't given the rest of their record a proper listen but this song is terrific. It's hypnotic, and I just want to listen to it over and over again.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Song of the Week!

I have probably listened to Frank Turner's Positive Songs for Negative People in full every day this past week. I'm listening to it right now as I type. It is just an enjoyable, catchy, well-written record. In fact, I think I may actually like it more than Tape Deck Heart. Of course I did like a lot of that record but it felt very long and the end of it contained songs that I never, ever want to listen to. Positive Songs... is a much more cohesive record. That's probably why it's so great to listen to all the way through over and over again. I'm even warming up to "Mittens" (albeit I'm still not on board with "Silent Key.")

And I can't wait to see Frank live in three weeks!

But this week I am not going to talk about "Josephine" again. I love "Josephine." It's probably my favorite Frank Turner track since "I Am Disappeared" (of course that's my favorite of his songs.) But I wrote a bit about it last week. Instead, I'm going to focus on "Demons," simply because I really grew to like it this week.

But there's no audio available on YouTube for "Demons" so here's "Josephine" anyway. I mean it is a really, really, really good song. And the lyrics! The lyrics are quintessential Frank Turner. I just wish it were longer. Give me more song, Frank!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Song of the Week

This week was another tough one, simply because there were three songs I was really, really loving.

Destroyer's Poison Season was released on Friday, and while it's unfair to say that it's not Kaputt (Kaputt was truly a moment, a revelation, and I doubt Dan Bejar will ever make another Kaputt), I generally enjoy it. It is a little too lush, I think, and I'm not bowled over by the lyrics but I definitely like the record overall. It's going to take a bit more time and a few more listens to fall in love with but I do really, really love "Times Square," (also very fond of "Forces From Above" and "Sun in the Sky")  and it was a contender for Song of the Week but...

...the song I listened to the most this week was Frank Turner's "Josephine." I am really, really enjoying Positive Songs for Negative People. Like I mentioned in last week's post, the record just feels very lived in. Like I've been listening to it for months. Like it's an old favorite. Probably because Frank Turner is certainly one of my favorite musicians these days. "Josephine" is a fantastic song, I had it on repeat during a few nights this weeks, and I cannot wait to hear it live but...

...Depression Cherry was finally released this week! And I was still pretty obsessed with it all week, and it became the first new record of 2015 I purchased on vinyl! (I bought the Admiral Fallow record on mp3, if you're wondering.) And what a record it it! Velvet cover! Clear vinyl! Beautiful packaging for a beautiful collection of songs. Last week I wrote about "Space Song," and while I think every song on the record is fantastic, I really fell in love with "Bluebird" this week.

It's a beautiful song. I also realized that the eighth track on their records are always my favorite: "10 Mile Stereo" on Teen Dream, "Wishes" on Bloom, and now "Bluebird" (I also love that #8 on Devotion is a cover of "Some Things Last A Long Time," which was also covered by The Twilight Sad.) But like the best Beach House songs, "Bluebird" is an expression of longing. And I think that's what the band does best: express longing, and in turn, heartache. But they do it so beautifully.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Song of the Week

I know I'm technically a week early (I have no idea when albums come out anymore) but I need to talk about Depression Cherry.

Is it more of the same from Beach House? I'm not so sure. Beach House is never going to really expand their sound (do you want them to?) The closest we got to this is probably Bloom. But while yes, sonically Depression Cherry is similar to every other Beach House record (I think it's closest to Devotion), it has a completely different feel to the others. Just like Teen Dream feels different than Bloom and Devotion. But all the elements of what makes a Beach House record a Beach House record are there. Victoria Legrand still sounds incredible, and they're both writing songs that really suck you in and keep you there, like that really fantastic hug you need when you're upset. A Beach House record makes you feel like it's okay to be less than happy, because the songs are going to be their to cry with you, to be the shoulder to cry on, and to hug you in the end. But at the same time, I've never felt sad or depressed from listening to their songs. The fact of the matter is that they are great at developing a mood within their work. I haven't necessarily been sad while listening to Depression Cherry but it's just another example of the band doing what they do best. The bottom line is Beach House is one of the most consistent bands at the moment (up there with Frightened Rabbit and The Antlers and Titus Andronicus.)

Maybe it's because I'm a big fan of the band at this point but I feel like Depression Cherry is actually more immediate than Teen Dream or Bloom. I've read a lot of reviews saying all the songs sound the same and that's, quite honestly, a load of crap. You have to just press play and go along for the ride and become full emerged into the world the album created. Actually, I feel like this record already feels very "lived in" for me. (I also felt that way about the new Frank Turner album.) I didn't feel like I needed to warm up to it, or have it grow on me. It felt like a record I had been listening to for months already. I know I have to listen to it some more before I really discover everything about it but right now, "Space Song" is probably my favorite song after "Sparks." But you've all heard the latter already.


In other news, I'm still trying to digest of all Poison Season but I'm a little concerned about how ordinary I find the lyrics. What's going on, Bejar?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Song of the Week

Hmm, this is a tough one, simply because I haven't really discovered anything new this week. (Well, I've been listening to a bit of Other Lives' Tamer Animals, which I do like. It's in the same vein as Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes.)

Joanna Newsom also announced she has a new record coming out in November, and very little music news is ever going to top that. She also released a new music video but I can't quite pass judgment on it yet because I feel like with every Joanna song, you have to spend some time with it before you'll fall in love with it. I mean, whose music is denser than hers?

And again, James Vincent McMorrow's "How to Waste a Moment" is incredible, and it's probably the song I listened to the most this week.

But I'm going to pick an old song that I have simply just enjoyed listening to the most this week.

Dry the River's "No Rest."

(I also really like this live performance of it.)

I just can't imagine anyone not liking this song. In fact, I imagine everyone having the same exact reaction to this song as I did the first time I heard it. "Jesus Christ, that voice." And look, yeah, the vocals are the star of the show here but the lyrics! the strings! "No Rest" is a really perfect song.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Song of the Week

I wanted to write about the new Beach House single, "Sparks" but as fantastic that song is, I feel like in a couple of weeks I am going to be writing about that band anyway, so let's focus on a man who did release a record this week.

(Also, James Vincent McMorrow's "How to Ruin a Moment" is incredible but I haven't had too much time with it yet. But let's just say, JVM is getting better, if that's even possible. That. Voice.)

Anyway, my song of the week is "The Next Storm" by Frank Turner, off of his brand spankin' new record, Positive Songs for Negative People. I've been listening to it all weekend and much like most of his work, the whole is greater than it's parts. I've never liked every single song on Frank's records but when he's good, he's really good, and he has so many amazing songs that they really outweigh the bad. Positive Songs for Negative People has some quality songs on it, and I'm sure it's all gonna be terrific live (when is Frank not terrific live?) There are some songs I still need to fall for ("Mitten" is one of them), and quite honestly, the end of the record after "Josephine" (which is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album) really just falls apart. "Silent Key" is something I'll probably never want to listen to because it's too weird. And not in a good way, like "Lemonworld" or "Don't Take Off the Gloves" or "Med School" (I will fight anyone who says "Med School" is a bad song. That song is kind of brilliant.) But who knows, I used to cringe when those three songs came on my iPod, so maybe one day I'll love "Silent Key."

Okay, back to "The Next Storm." The song has actually been in my head all week, that's how catchy it is. It's a quality pop song with a fun video, and definitely my favorite track (as of now) on Positive Songs for Negative People. And I can't wait to hear it and Frank live in September.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Song of the Week

I saw We Were Promised Jetpacks twice in a week. I didn't plan it that way, it was just...they played a free show last week and blew me away, and the next day they were all like, "Surprise! We're coming back next week!" And I was on a great concert high so I was like, "YES! I don't care that it's a 10:30pm set on a work night! They're playing the Mercury Lounge, I'm going!"

And they were awesome yet again.

Now, you know I love me some Jetpacks, and I had seen them twice before this past week but I always thought there was something off about their live shows. I always said they didn't have it. There was nothing particularly special about their live performances. But they really, really brought their A game to Pier 84 last week. They were incredible. I don't know if it's because they figured out how to incorporate the songs from their third album into their set or if the crowds were better or maybe it was just me. This time around I knew their songs a lot better, and you know, they didn't have James Graham and company opening for them. Anyway, they were amazing. And then they were amazing at the Mercury Lounge. They were tighter, they kept momentum going, their set just worked, and Adam Thompson's voice was surprisingly great (I say surprisingly because I never rank him among my favorite voices but his voice is so strong. Dude can sing.)

Anyway, I've been listening to the Pack a lot this week (it's been a mix of them and Dry the River, so I don't know what my feelings have been doing) and it's given me a chance to discover their second record, and rediscover their third. (Their first, These Four Walls, is perfect from top to bottom.) Now, we all know I liked Unraveling a lot when it initially came out but it kind of got lost in the Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave shuffle. But it is a great album. It really shows how strong their songwriting has gotten since These Four Walls (it's a bit more nuanced, less repetitive.) I've especially fallen back in love with "Peaks and Troughs."

There is something absolutely addicting about this song. It's catchy and infectious, just like "Quiet Little Voices" or "Ships With Holes Will Sink" but it's not as immediate. It slowly reveals itself; it doesn't seem like much of a song at first but it builds and eventually blows you away. "Peaks and Troughs" and "I Keep It Composed" are some back-to-back punch.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Song of the Week

I'm going to try a new series, simply to motivate myself to write more. Anywho, I'm going to write a bit each week about a song (and eventually, an album) I'm really into.

This week belongs to Titus Andronicus, their epic (and I hate using that word so you know I mean it) 98-minute brilliant opus The Most Lamentable Tragedy (more on that on a later date.) There's a lot to digest, and I'm sure a lot to hate but Titus has never been an easy band to love. They're never love at first listen, even for me, and I'm one of their biggest champions. I just think Patrick Stickles is one of the great geniuses of indie rock at the moment, and incredibly underrated. I mean, The Monitor is one of the best records to be released in the last ten years, and it still holds up five years later (believe me, I just listened to it the other day.) Stickles writes unapologetically ugly yet epic, theatrical rock and roll. And God knows, we don't have enough people doing that anymore. This R&B influence in the indie world is cool and fine and I love a lot of it but sometimes I want some guitars, know what I'm saying? Titus Andronicus is meat-and-potatoes rock and roll with some of the best lyrics you'll find in music today.

But you knew all of that because well, you all know how I feel about Titus Andronicus.

So, the song of the week is "Dimed Out." The first time I heard it, I thought, "Eh, noise." But listening to it within the context of the record (sandwiched between "Fired Up" and  "More Perfect Union," which are equally good) made me realize how fantastic it is. I especially love the contrast of the urgency of the guitars and the backing strings.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Favorite Albums of the Year (So Far)

1. Viet Cong-Viet Cong
I'm kind of surprised I even like this record, let alone love it. Usually I find these hyped up bands overrated but Viet Cong deserves heaps of praise. This record is a challenge, and is really hard to love initially. You have to give it time. And really, what's more rewarding than that? And admittedly, this record took me a few listens before I was blown away. But the truth is, these seven songs are perfect. This is one of the most cohesive albums I've heard in a long time (okay, since Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave), and I can't believe how well it lives up to the hype. It's also very ambitious for a debut record. Not to mention, "Continental Shelf" is definitely the best song of the year. I swear, when the tempo change happens, I get chills! Still! After listening to it dozens of times! It's brilliant. And do I even have to explain about "Death?" Talk about ambition. Because this record's only seven songs, I'm really, really left wanting more, and I hope they get their second record out quickly. It's just refreshing to have a band who is/was as hyped as Viet Cong to not be obnoxious or shoved down our throats.

Also, side note, I did see them live and they are quite good. I just needed more show.

Favorite Tracks: Continental Shelf, Death, Silhouettes

2. Sufjan Stevens-Carrie and Lowell
We all know this is fantastic, right? I don't need to go on and on about it? I want to say that this is a return to form for Sufjan but that's just because I hated The Age of Adz. Carrie and Lowell just reminds me of old-school Sufjy, circa Seven Swans, which is my favorite record of his after Illinois (I don't want to meet a person whose favorite Sufjan record isn't Illinois, quite frankly). Anyway, Carrie and Lowell is subtle yet powerful, and, like most of his work, gorgeous. Yes, it is a heavy record but art isn't easy, right? It's raw and beautiful and full of pain and demands repeat listens. I feel like he truly bared his soul on this one, to the point where it feels almost uncomfortable and invasive. And that's kind of what makes it so brilliant.

Favorite Tracks: Fourth of July, Eugene, Carrie and Lowell

3. Admiral Fallow-Tiny Rewards
What, did you think I'd let this list go without a band from Scotland? This record is relatively new, and I've just begun listening to it but it's good. It's very, very good. I've tried to get into Admiral Fallow in the past but other than Louis Abbott's voice, I wasn't very taken with them. But they put on their big boy (and girl) pants and made a really great, enjoyable record. It feels...darker than their previous work, which is most likely the reason I enjoy it so much. Their first records were a little too poppy for my tastes, and kind of inconsequential. (I should go back and revisit them.) However, the  beauty of this record is that the songs truly sneak up on you, and you feel like you have to keep starting them over and over again before you can actually finish them because you're like, "wait, what!? Amazing." It's kind of like the feeling of your body getting used to a really cold pool of water. You weren't sure at first, you wanted to get out, but you stuck around and now it's awesome. Plus Louis Abbott's voice, am I right? The last record I felt this way about was The Midnight Organ Fight.

Favorite Tracks: Holding the Strings, Some Kind of Life, Building as Foreign

4. Lower Dens-Escape From Evil
I'm gonna be honest with you here: I like this because it sounds like Beach House, and Beach House is a perfect band. And I haven't gotten a Beach House record in three years. (*whispers* Soon.) But regardless of Lower Dens' Beach House-like qualities, this is a great pop record. Jana Hunter's voice is terrific and in songs like, "I Am the Earth," it's downright haunting. I tried to get into their first record and it just didn't happen (running theme this year, I suppose) but this one really stuck with me.

Favorite Tracks: Your Heart Still Beating, I Am the Earth, Company

5. Belle and Sebastian-Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
I wrote extensively about this album earlier in the year so I won't get into it but bottom line: this is the most enjoyable record to come out all year.  

Favorite Tracks: Enter Sylvia Plath, Play for Today, The Party Line

I'm going to stop at five simply because I feel's been a good year for music already, certainly but I kind of lost four months of it listening to Dry the River. And quite frankly, if I had to say what my favorite record of the year has been so far, I'd say Shallow Bed. And I don't care that it's three years old. If you ask me which record has shaped the year for me, I'd say Shallow Bed. It is a terrific album, and I think it already ranks up there with all of my other favorite albums. Every damn song stands on its own, and there is no filler.

Anyway, I suspect this list will change and grow by December, considering there are records coming out by Destroyer and Beach House and Beirut and Titus Andronicus and Frank Turner and Glen Hansard (and maybe Frightened Rabbit?) and I'm bound to fall in love with at least one of them. I listened to the new Tame Impala record yesterday for the first time and that's quite good as well. So...exciting things to come, certainly!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A few precious hours in a space of our own...

So, this post is almost three months overdue but I feel like I need to commemorate attending my 100th concert. (Erm, I'm at 101 now but no bother, it's okay, we can still talk about the 100 that came before it.)

I was holding out for a big show from one of my top five (my musical Avengers, what have you) but the only one who seems to really be touring is Damien Rice. And I did have a ticket to see Damien Rice back in April, so I figured "alright, he's a good enough 100, that's fine." The ticket eventually fell through. I finally thought, "well, fuck it, I just want to go to a concert" and trekked through snow to Williamsburg to see Dry the River. It was a weird experience but kind of an amazing one, and well, I think by now we all know how I feel about DtR. It was kind of the perfect 100th concert. Why? Well, DtR falls in line with Andrew Bird, The Frames, Frightened Rabbit, The Felice Brothers, and The Twilight Sad (among others) as artists I saw in concert without really knowing much of their music. They're in very good company.

But this post isn't about that show. No. I've written about that already. It was special and I loved it and I love DtR and have basically given up on other music for the time being. No, this post is about the other 99 concerts I've attended (well, at this point, the other 100 but we'll leave Mika out of this for now. He was very, very good nonetheless.)

Anyway, we won't go into all 99. I have forgotten a good many of them (what? I've seen The Polyphonic Spree live?) Let's talk about the important ones.

The First: Blink182/Green Day/Saves the Day at Madison Square Garden
I loved Blink182 went I was in junior high (we all did, right?) I really believed they were the epitome of good music, and was quite proud of myself for liking something other than the boy bands my peers liked (rest assured, I had my time in the boy band fandom and liked both Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, depending on my mood). I was pretty psyched to see them live. I knew a handful of Green Day tunes, mostly because my brother liked them a lot. And well, Blink actually headlined the night and much to my dismay, Green Day wiped the floor with them. It was almost embarrassing. But it made me a Green Day fan (ah, see, it started way earlier than I thought) and I went home and sought out their entire catalog (stealing my brother's CDs along the way). Green Day are a lot of things nowadays but no one can deny that they put on a great show. Blink182 was pretty much a disaster. Tom DeLonge couldn't sing live, and their songs sounded like exact replicas of the album tracks. Only with worse vocals.

You can do a lot worse for your first concert. I however, had an amazing time and enjoyed every minute of it, regardless of Blink182's half-assery.

The First One That Mattered: Death Cab For Cutie/Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at The Theater at MSG
I spoke about this show in more detail in my Death Cab For Cutie post but this was the show that really started it all for me (consequently, DCFC is truly the band that started it all for me.) It was actually only my third concert ever (we will not talk about the second one; I was young and impressionable and I went with my friends and...that's enough) but it was the one that made me realize concerts weren't just some elite events that sold out in three seconds (I mean, I came from the world of teen pop where that was almost always the case). Real people could go to concerts too, you know? Well, DCFC were great (at this point, you'd be hard pressed to get me to say something negative about them) and I really enjoyed myself but it just opened up a huge can of worms that has yet to be closed nearly ten years later. In fact, I actually bought tickets to see Damien Rice the next morning. The impact was instant. I liked concerts a lot and wanted to go to as many as possible.

The First Fantastic One: The Frames/Michael Brunnock/Brendan O'Shea at Webster Hall
This was a lot of firsts: my first SRO (I was so turned off from the idea of standing all night. Imagine!) and my first show at Webster Hall. This was not, however, my first time seeing The Frames. It was actually my third time seeing Glen Hansard so I knew what the man was capable of. This show was two and a half hours, a non-stop barrage of great song after great song. For a long, long time this was my favorite concert ever, and to this day Glen Hansard is one of, if not the best performer I've ever seen on stage. What he does on stage, how he takes command of it, and how he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, is practically unparalleled (although I think Scott Hutchison and Frank Turner come close and make noble attempts.) 

The First Religious Experience: Andrew Bird/Calexico at Radio City Music Hall
This show had a lot of things going against it: primarily that fact that I didn't feel well and my seat was terrible. (I truly hate RCMH.)  In fact, I dealt with bouts of boredom throughout this show. I really didn't know what I was getting into with the venue and with Andrew. I think he's very accessible for someone who could be a little experimental and doesn't always adhere to the rules of mainstream indie pop but his shows aren't exactly straightforward. Anyway, I left the show feeling somewhere between "meh" and "OH MY GOD!" and kind of began an Andrew Bird listening binge that lasted, oh, I don't know...three, four years? I think you know the rest. But to me, it's pretty bizarre that a show I felt lukewarm about created that big of an obsession.

The Best One: LCD Soundsystem/Sleigh Bells at The Wellmont Theater
What can I say about LCD Soundsystem other than James Murphy is a god? This was the most fun I've ever had at a concert. The band was on fire, and it was just a huge, two hour dance party. Amazing, and unparalleled. And I've seen a lot of great acts.

Total Effing Surprises: 
1. Devendra Banhart/Little Joy at Music Hall of Williamsburg: this was the perfect concert, from opener through Devendra's main set. Absolutely incredible, and totally unexpected. Backing band was tight as hell, and Dev played over two hours. I will never say bad things about him simply because of this.

2. tUnE-yArDs at Central Park Summerstage: tUnE-yArDs actually opened for St. Vincent at this show and I wasn't expecting much from her set, even though I had really liked "Birdbrains." Well, Merrill Garbus embarrassed Annie Clark that afternoon, and made me a fan for life. She is one of the most talented people making music today, and truly one of the best live acts.

3. The Felice Brothers at The Bell House: I bought tickets to this show simply because I had always wanted to go to The Bell House. I didn't know much about The Felice Brothers' music, and yet, this ended up being my favorite show of 2011 (in a year where I saw Andrew Bird, The National, Cloud Cult, etc.) The Felice Brothers are a ton of fun live, which is probably why I've basically seen every one of their NYC shows since. They never disappoint. And the funny thing is, I don't even listen to them on a regular basis. I just like to go to their shows.

4. Japandroids at Webster Hall: (We won't even talk about DIIV. NOPE!) Was this much a surprise? I don't know, considering I was very, very high on Celebration Rock and it ended up being my favorite record of 2012. But for a band that sounds like Japandroids, a live show could be underwhelming. And it turned out to be one of my favorite concert-going experiences ever. Any show where I can scream a long to songs with 1500 people is going to be a very good time.

5. Animal Collective at Terminal 5: I was really expecting this to be a disaster but AnCo was incredible. They are much better live than you would ever suspect from watching YouTube videos.

6. Dry the River at Music Hall of Williamsburg: Shaker Hymns, etc., No Rest, etc., Peter Liddle has a great voice, etc., etc., etc.

Total Disappointments: 
Look, I didn't really want to bring negativity into this post, and I'm not saying all of these acts were terrible, or even bad, just...disappointing. And sometimes, it's not the band themselves. It's you. Sometimes you're just not in the mood to be at a concert, or the crowd is awful, or you can't really see very well, or they're not playing a set of songs Anyway, here are some disappointing acts:

1. Chad VanGaalen at MHOW: Um, no, this wasn't me. It was him. Which was so disappointing because Soft Airplane is one of my favorite records ever (I just listened to it the other night and it still holds up, my goodness) but he is...odd live. And off-putting. It didn't help that I didn't care for the record he was promoting. Oh well, you live and learn.

2. Patrick Watson: I've seen him three times (once as support, once for free, so technically I've only paid for him once) and he has never blown me away. I don't know what it is but there's something about his live show that leaves me cold. I'm beginning to wonder if it's just the fact that I don't like his music as much as I think I do.

3. M83/Sun Airway at The Hammerstein Ballroom: Yeesh. This had a lot of things going against it, the first being the AWFUL crowd. And look, I'm not trying to be a snob and be like, "hey, you kids, get off of my lawn and out of my concert venue" but once a band hits the mainstream, they attract...a certain type of person. And I was surrounded by them. Combine that with the fact that I once read a rumor that M83 doesn't play their instruments live, which was all I could think about during the show, and I just stood there wanting it to end. Which is a shame because a) I loved their last record and b) I waited a long time to see them live. Never again. (If you ask me, no, it didn't look like they were playing their instruments.)

4. Sigur Ros: I've seen them twice, once at MSG, and they just leave me so cold live. Everything is technically beautiful, but I'm not really into the "now you play, and I'll watch" concert-going experience. I like to feel like an active participant. But what can you do when Jonsi is singing in a language you don't understand? For me, Sigur Ros is a great listening experience, and they can make me feel things through my headphones but not live. Not live.

5. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala at Terminal 5: Full disclosure: Tame Impala were TERRIFIC. Really wiped the floor with The Flaming Lips. This was probably the most disappointing show I've been to, simply because I waited A LONG time to see The Flaming Lips, and I somehow managed to see them for the first time during their "Terror" tour. And Jesus Christ, a terror is right. That album is pretty fucking unlistenable if you ask me, and it doesn't not come off better live. All the confetti and stupid costumes and lights could not save this one. I couldn't wait for it to be over.

Anyway, I wish I could write about all the great shows I've been to, and there have been many, but I just don't have the time or the space. In a way, they're all special.

Here's to 100 more...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

you take the cards that you're dealt

I've already written a post about my love addiction obsession with Dry the River's two albums. But I have to be pretty honest here: I haven't listened to much of anything else in the past six weeks. I mean, I haven't even had much of a desire to listen to anything else since March 7.

Now, look, this isn't really major news. I've binged on a lot of bands in my time. I have an addictive personality. (It's the reason why I don't trust myself to have children; I've loved a lot of bands that I've quickly tired of.) But a lot has been said for binging on television shows, about sitting in your pajamas on your couch for an entire weekend and watching all six seasons of Lost but where are the articles about spending an entire Saturday listening to Shallow Bed? (If there's someone else other than my best friend and I doing that, point me in their direction because clearly we need to become friends.)

Anyway, this isn't about Dry the River, they're just my band of choice right now. (I swear, I cannot start my day without listening to "Weights and Measures" lately. I tried to yesterday but after a few songs, I needed to go back to it. It was almost like an addiction.) It's about the relationship with (other) music I've had over the past six weeks. Tons of great records have been released, and some of them I haven't even bothered to listen to. I've partially listened to a handful, turning them off after four or five songs because I'm bored, or to put on "Shaker Hymns" or "Vessel." I've listened to three new records all the way through (DCFC, Sufjan Stevens, and Lower Dens, and only the latter two have I listened to more than once.) I've basically lost interest in all new music. (I do recall, however, listening to Jeff Buckley a bit...)

When I'm binging on a band or an album, it's really, really difficult to listen to my old music. It's really difficult to not just press play on that one artist and ignore all the others. I mean, it's practically a chore to listen to songs I really do love. And I've forgotten about so many of them too. It's kind of like when you run into someone you know and you really don't want to talk to him or her but you end up chatting and it's awkward. But you forget that you really love "The Woodpile" or "Terrible Love" or "Tables and Chairs" (oh, don't get me started on Andrew Bird.) You kind of even forget these songs exist. I accidentally pressed play on "Acts of Man" when I scrolling for "Alarms in the Heart" and was like, "oh, yeah, this song, right, it's...been awhile, hasn't it?" I listened to it, sure, but it just didn't give me the excitement it used to. How sad is that? I mean, "Acts of Man." Y'all know how much I fucking love that song, and what it means (meant?) to me.

Eventually I'll burn out on DtR, or I'll find a new band to obsess over, and I'll go back to listening to "Old Old Fashioned" and "Cold Day From the Birdhouse" and the like, and I'll probably never want to hear "The Chambers and the Valves" ever again. It's what I do. Binge and purge music. Even if I stop listening to you completely, there's a good chance I will see you when you announce your NYC-area show. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw a band while I was in the midst of actually listening to them. My latest trend in concert-going is to know and like a few of your songs and decide, hey, why not, let's go see them. I guess going to see a band and then buying their music is not the correct way to do things?

And I know this is not the normal way people listen to music. Of course, I do know that people do tend to listen to songs over and over and over again and play them out and never think about them again. I also know that there are many people out there who don't listen to albums, and don't really have bands or artists they can refer to as their "favorites." And of course, there are even more people who just do not buy any music anymore. But when you listen to so much music, and especially now that so much is available to you at anytime on Spotify or YouTube, it is really so easy to forget about bands and songs. I swear, if I went to look through my vinyl collection, I'd probably be really surprised I own records by Caveman and The Morning Benders. I'd suspect that a lot of people stick to their favorite artists and don't exactly branch out to find new ones. I also suspect a lot of people don't binge on music. Am I wrong here? But I'm pretty certain that most people don't care enough about the songs they used to love to ever go back to them. I mean, for cryin' out loud, taking songs off of my iPod is a huge to-do because who knows when I'll want to listen to "Testament to Youth in Verse?" If I take it off, will I ever remember it existed in the first place? What does it matter? I'll just find a new song/band to listen to anyway.

And maybe that's how I should think about it. So what if I don't want to listen to We Were Promised Jetpacks anymore? Who cares? Does it really matter? Music, I guess, is fluid. You're not always going to want to listen to the same bands or songs. God knows I don't want to listen to Hanson anymore (what, I was like 10 years old!)

But imagine how boring life would be if we just listened to the same songs over and over again.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I may not see the future but I've seen it's lonely architect

My recent love of Dry the River deserves a post of its own.

I am not exaggerating, and I am not being hyperbolic, but I haven't felt this strongly about a band since Frightened Rabbit. (I mean, I fell really hard for The Twilight Sad at the end of last year, and don't get me wrong, I fucking love them but Dry the River are just so. damn. good.)

My love of Dry the River basically highlights why I am very pro-streaming, pro-Spotify. A few months back, I was actually listening to Frightened Rabbit radio on Spotify and a song called "No Rest" by a band called Dry the River came on and I was like, "huh, never heard of them but I'll let it play." And oh, my goodness. That voice. I mean, you know what I'm talking about if you've ever heard that song. That voice. I typically like deeper, huskier voices but Peter Liddle's voice is stunning and so full of emotion that you just can't not love it. It reminds me of a rougher version of Jeff Buckley's. (I normally roll my eyes when people make comparisons to him, especially when it involves Andrew Bird since I NEVER hear it but this one is dead-on.) But anyway, I fell in love with "No Rest" but didn't fall head-over-heels in love with the rest of their album (Alarms in the Heart hadn't been released yet).

And then I saw this:

This has become one of my favorite Youtube videos ever. It's stunning (that's going to be the running theme of this post). It made me fall in love with this song, and it's probably my favorite DtR track. This video made me really pay attention to them and really start listening to Shallow Bed (I think by that time, Alarms in the Heart was out). I liked Shallow Bed enough (I mean, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better sequence of songs on an album than "Demons" to "Weights and Measures") and while their second record was a bit different, I still liked it enough. I was even considering going to see them back in November but I was at concert #99 and already had tickets to see We Were Promised Jetpacks/The Twilight Sad, and didn't think they were a good enough #100 (funny, huh?)

And then DtR came back around and announced another NYC show and I was like, "um, do I want to see them? I guess I do. It's been five months since I've been to a show and this one is cheap and on a Saturday night and yeah, I don't know. They'd be #100 but whatever. I'll sleep on it." And the week of the show, I listened to their records again and decided, sure, I'll get tickets. What the hell.

Oh. my. God.

They are fantastic live. Peter Liddle's voice is just beautiful in person, and their harmonies! My goodness! I brought a friend with me who didn't know any of their songs and went in completely cold and hasn't listened to anything else since that night. And well, neither have I. That's when you know you've been to a great concert. I promptly bought both of their records after the show, and my goodness, they're both so ridiculously good. The songwriting is incredibly strong, and Peter Liddle is probably the best lyricist I've discovered since Scott Hutchison (yep, I went there.) I mean, I was listening to a song the other day on my walk to the subway and actually said, "Goddamn it" aloud because the lyric was that great. The last time I did that, I was listening to "Scottish Winds."

Dry the River doesn't actually sound like Frightened Rabbit. (They remind me of a mix of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver with a little bit of Patrick Watson, and a much, much better Bear's Den/Mumford and Sons. I know, don't look at me like that. But c'mon, "Hope Diamond," for example, sounds like a better version of a Mumford and Sons song. I'll admit though, it's really reductive to compare them to Mumford and Sons but I cannot lie, I hear it.) I compare the two because FR is probably the most solid band around right now, and Scott Hutchison is probably the best songwriter around right now, and while I'm not ready to anoint DtR with the same accolades (I'll give them another album or two before I do so), DtR is so solid and talented already. There are quite a few bands who come right out the gate with great debut records who can't live up to them with their second records. But not DtR; Alarms of the Heart isn't as excellent as Shallow Bed (not too many records are; seriously, I must have listened to it a dozen time all the way through since I bought it on Tuesday) but it is still pretty great (hey, I did put it on my Honorable Mentions list last year, didn't I?) Their music is just beautiful, and I don't think I've listened to music this stunning since Andrew Bird. (I know, these are major comparisons I'm making, huh?)

I also haven't been this excited about a band since Frightened Rabbit (I know, The Twilight Sad, I KNOW but I cannot tell a lie), simply because of their level of talent. If they're this good now, can you imagine what their third record will be like? Can you imagine how fantastic their live shows will become, considering they're already great? A lot of times I feel like these younger, newer bands come around who are hyped up to the high heavens but either can't deliver live or cannot deliver good (not even good enough, just plain good) second albums. Because they don't have it (I love We Were Promised Jetpacks but I've even said this about them). Dry the River have it. They take something that sounds familiar (i.e. folk and Americana and indie-rock) and make it fresh. And that voice.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Things I Am Sick of Hearing/Being Asked

1. Where do you find these bands?
Most of the time, this question is asked rhetorically but in a world where you can find EVERYTHING on the internet, it should not baffle you that I can find small bands from all over the world. Especially with Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube. You don't have to rely on the radio (who listens to the radio anyway?) or television to find new music. Quite frankly, I don't think anyone just listens to mainstream stuff really cares about music/discovering new bands. I'm not being snobby about it; some people just don't care enough about music to worry about the new Matthew E. White album. I've had a ton of people tell me they don't go to concerts because they don't listen to someone enough to pay to see them live. Sure, I find this odd but it's fair.

So where do I find "these bands?" The internet! Also, music blogs, word of mouth, and through bands I already listen to. This may sound ridiculous but it's a lot of work, and takes a lot of time to find new music.

2. Oh, what do they sing?
Nothing you know, don't worry. Again, don't want to be a snob, but you will be able to knock me down with a feather if you said, "Oh! I know that one!" after I replied with "Cold Days From the Birdhouse" or "Tenuousness."

3. That's not a thing. You made that up.
This a common response to Frightened Rabbit. Look, don't write off band because they have stupid names. And some of these, I couldn't even make up if I tried.

4. If they're so good, why aren't they more well-known?
What kind of logic is this? Psy had a super popular song but nobody would argue he was a good musician, or that was a good song. Don't even get me started on Meghan Trainor or Ke$ha. Popular doesn't mean good. There are a handful of bands I love who I wish were bigger and more popular and making more money, simply because I think they're very talented and decent people and deserve to be bigger. I feel like it's simply the luck of the draw when it comes to which bands blow up. Look how long it took The National! I just think it's silly to assume a band isn't good because they're unknown when a lot of popular stuff is just fucking terrible.

5. Vinyl!? Who still buys vinyl!?
Sure, it's more expensive but it's pretty! And it's something tangible and physical that you will  presumably get to own for forever. Plus the act of putting a record on your turntable and sitting on your bed to listen to it is incredible. I guess if you don't care about music and aren't attached to the idea of owning an album (or the idea of an album in general), vinyl is a baffling concept.

6. You go to so many concerts!
Because it's what I truly like to do! Because I listen to a lot of small bands who play small venues and the tickets are usually $20 or less! If I was listening to bigger names who were charging $200+ for decent seats in huge arenas, no, I would not go as frequently as I do. I think a lot of people are under the impression concerts are exclusive, expensive events. I used to.

People are also baffled by my willingness to stand at shows. Sorry, I like to feel like an active participant at concerts.

7. This song is weird/this sucks/how can you listen to this/what the fuck is this/he sounds like Groundskeeper Willie, etc....
Yes, the last one is true, courtesy of my mother.

Taste is personal and music is very personal but it's incredibly rude to look someone in the eye and tell him or her that the song or band he or she likes is bad. Because you don't know how much a song means to someone. If Taylor Swift's music makes you feel good, lifts you from your bad mood, gets you through the day, all power to you and to her songs. Who am I to judge?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Favorite Tracks of 2014

1. James Vincent McMorrow-Repeating
We delay every horse in the kingdom
We divert every flow to a sinkhole
And I stare at the room in the send off
To repeat every word as it sings out

2. Future Islands-Back in the Tall Grass
One step takes me home
Two steps back on my own
Three skips to each stone
Four steps back and I'm gone

3. Spoon-Inside Out
Break out of character for me
Time keeps on going when
We got nothing else to give
We got nothing else to give

4. Owl John-Cold Creeps

5. Owl John-Stupid Boy
A rubber mind, a messy heart,
I'm breaking down on boulevards,
A dumb and dickless rocking horse,
Forever witless and never fully grown

(Yeah, I put two Owl John songs on the list back-to-back. They're both that good.)

6. James Vincent McMorrow-Red Dust
Sometimes my hands they don't feel like my own
I need someone to love
I need someone to hold

7. FKA Twigs-Two Weeks
Give me two weeks, you won’t recognize her

8. The Twilight Sad-There's a Girl In the Corner
You said you'd love me but you'll just forget 

(goddamn this song, goddamn it)

9. Sia-Chandelier
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, drink
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, drink
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, drink
Throw 'em back 'til I lose count

10. Sam Smith-Stay With Me
But you can lay with me so it doesn't hurt

11. Kevin Drew-Good Sex
I'm still dreaming with you, baby

12. The Felice Brothers-Saturday Night
I ain't the Boss but I'm his illegitimate son
'cause baby, I was born to run 

(I love that lyric. Come at me, Pitchfork.)

13. St. Vincent-Prince Johnny
I wanna mean more than I mean to you

14. Owl John-Don't Take Off the Gloves
So come at me when I'm weak, degraded, and undone
just don't take off the gloves

15. Sylvan Esso-Coffee
The sentiment's the same but the pair of feet change

16. tUnE-yArDs-Real Thing
Water if water is wet
don't have a penny, I look good in debt

17. The Antlers-Revisited
You can’t unbreak our broken leases
holding on to broken pieces, so return them
no guilt, no sorry speeches

18. The War on Drugs-Red Eyes

(I dare you not to dance)

19. We Were Promised Jetpacks-I Keep It Composed
I keep it composed, I keep it so poised
I keep it together by keeping the ship but sinking the treasure

20.  The Twilight Sad-Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep
Will you call me when you're there
run your fingers through your hair

(I just had to include this song on the list in some way, shape, or form. Why? For one, it was a favorite for me on this album right off the bat, and I think it's very different from other TTS songs. And, you know, James Graham's voice is absolutely incredible.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lust is my friend. She comes to me when I'm tired.

I feel like I'm constantly writing about how disappointed I am by artists I used to love (I'm beginning to just feel like music just belongs to a moment, not forever). I guess because the only bands I've truly loved over the last two years or so are Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, and really, how much do you want to hear about them? (But seriously, go listen to both of those bands. Now.)

Anyway, enough about those Scottish bands because it's a new year and new records are being released (and lemme just say, it's already been a great year, three weeks in). And this week saw the release of albums by two bands I listened to a lot of in college: Belle and Sebastian and The Decemberists. The latter, let me tell you, was one of my favorite bands about 10 years ago or so, and their first three albums are very important to me. I can still listen to "The Bagman's Gambit" and "We Both Go Down Together" and "The Island" and get excited and overwhelmed (tell me the tempo change in "The Bagman's Gambit" isn't incredible). The lyrics to "On the Bus Mall" are some of my favorite of all time, and you know how I feel about lyrics. Colin Meloy is a genius, and they are a terrific live band. I admired The Hazards of Love (my favorite thing about it was probably Shara Worden's vocals) but didn't care much for The King is Dead (sounded like a bunch of late-era R.E.M. b-sides) but once I heard they were releasing a new record this year I was like YES! NEW DECEMBERISTS! But basically that was out of habit. Everyone gets excited when they hear a band they really like/liked is gong to release a new record, especially now when you can stream everything so there's nothing to lose by listening to it. It was nice to have The Decemberists back, even if I didn't end up enjoying the record.

Well, now the record is out. Meh. But this isn't going to be a post about how disappointed I am about What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World because I had no expectations. And it's a nice album. It's been called "unambitious" in a lot of reviews, and I think that's probably the best way to describe it. All of the songs, to me, sound the same, and that is never the case with The Decemberists. I get it, they're getting older, I understand the path they're going, whatever. It doesn't seem as offensive to me as The Avett Brothers (because I don't feel like they have anything to gain from changing their sound). I accept it. They may never write a song as epic as "The Wanting Comes in Wave/Repaid" and may never use a harpsichord again. I guess that's...okay. My only issue is that those things, the harpsichord, the elaborate string sections, the songs about rakes and knaves and pirates and whales and chimbley sweeps, the whole epic nature of it all, that's what makes The Decemberists The Decemberists. All of the down tempo songs, the Americana on the new record are fine but not for The Decemberists. It's nice to have you all back, truly, but I'll be listening to Picaresque and  Her Majesty The Decemberists and Castaways and Cutouts (and some of The Crane Wife, actually) while being very glad of the fact that you're no longer on hiatus.

(I just want to say that yes, you're right, I did think ever song on Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave sounded the same upon first, second, and third listen but...the great reviews made me want to keep trying. I am going to keep trying with What a Terrible World... too but nobody is saying much about it other than, "'s nice.")

Speaking of Scotland...Belle and Sebastian also have a new record out. My love of that band lasted about...six months, and over the years, I've basically distanced myself from them. They are very twee, yes, and sometimes kind of lame but when I heard the new album was coming out, I thought, "Well, something to listen to." I mean, they're always a band I felt affinity towards (probably because "Dress Up In You" is one of my favorite songs ever), and I always want them to do well (this is the story with every Scottish band, isn't it?) So, I'm not in love Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance yet but it excites me. Every B&S record should sound like ABBA. (Every record ever should sound like ABBA.) I don't want you to think that I love (or even like) every track but Jesus Christ, when it's good, it's good. I thought "The Party Line" was good but holy shit, "Enter Sylvia Plath" and all its europop-goodness! We're less than a month into 2015 and I'd be hard pressed to find a) a better song this year and b) a lyric I'll like more than "be your sidecar if you want to race." And then you get to "Play For Today," which is such a sweet song, and Stuart Murdoch's vocals are so incredible, they almost make me emotional (and my goodness, Dee Dee Penny has some voice, doesn't she?).  Or maybe the rush of emotions is just from the fact that song is so good. Or...and I had this thought too but...maybe it has to do with the fact that Murdoch's voice just brings me back to being younger, and listening to "Lord Anthony" and "If You Find Yourself Caught in Love" or "If She Wants Me." It's a comfort. In the same way Colin Meloy's is. The only difference is that where Meloy is writing less-exciting songs that could have been written by anyone, Murdoch stepped up his game and embraced a new sound. I may never love the B&S record beyond these three songs (but I will say, "Nobody's Empire," "The Cat With the Cream," and "The Everlasting Muse" are very good) but I cannot not like it. These three songs are some of the best to come out in a long time, and dare I say better than anything that came out last year?

In other early 2015 releases, Panda Bear's "Mr Noah" is another fantastic song. My God. When the percussion comes in in the beginning! I'm still a bit cold towards the rest of the record but I plan on giving it some more time. Animal Collective-related work really needs some time before it reveals its greatness.

The Viet Cong record (also out this past week) is incredible. Incredible. I can't believe how exciting it! It's a no frills, guitar-heavy record, and it's beautiful (although I find the drums even more exciting than the guitars!) "Continental Shelf"is a fantastic song, and tell me you don't get chills during the tempo change at 1:30.

I'm overwhelmed by how many great tracks we've already gotten so early in the year. That was my big problem in 2014: there were a lot of songs I really loved but nothing spectacular. Nothing like "The House That Heaven Built" or "Dance Yourself Clean" or "Bay of Pigs," even "Acts of Man." But so far, so great. And I'm sure there are a ton of others to come. (Also, props to Dan Mangan for "XVI," even if I'm kind of so-so on the record. The A-side is strong but the B-side seems like a whole lot of filler. Like most of his records. But his voice!)

Know what I don't care for? Brace yourself: the new Sleater-Kinney. Seriously, I am really trying with it, waiting for it to get better. Maybe it's just not for me? It's not like I've always been a fan anyway. But all I keep hearing is how fantastic it is and I'm like, "whatever, nothing special." I'm beginning to think it's just a whole lot of people expressing their pleasure over them coming back from hiatus. Lately I feel like people just have knee-jerking responses to records and are all like IT'S FANTASTIC! and then their opinions come to change. We all know I have the opposite responses to records. But for me, it's the opposite, and it is an amazing feeling when a record finally clicks with you. For me, it's the stuff  I love right away that I end up listening to less.