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?