I spent a lovely weekend in Turku. The organization was horrible, transportation was bad, and the weather was too hot. But then people were wonderful, bands were good, and the whiskey worked. One of the stages was wonderfully located on the beach: you could go swimming and listen to bands at the same time.
I think Phoenix would have been better if they had played while the sun was still up. But they were still good on Friday night. The new songs sounded good and when they started “If I Ever Feel Better” the crowd really got going. “Too Young” as the encore was the cherry on the cake for me.
I didn’t expect much, but this gig was really good. The lead singer cracked jokes, and they even played some short and punchy rock songs in between.
Disco Ensemble is a up-and-coming Finnish punk-rock band. They’ve recently released their second album and toured Europe and the US in the spring. I got to see them almost accidentally while I was looking for my friends, but I was really surprised at their skill and enthusiasm.
The front row was crowded with hysterical teenage girls and boys jumping and shouting from the very first sound the band made. At which time the band announced that they had some technical problems. To top it off, the singer seemed to forgot the lyrics. But the fans gave him such a cheer that it didn’t matter. Mew’s shows are always as much visual experience as a traditional rock shows. They have a video screen that shows animated films from their songs and these short films are really beautiful and fit the mood of the music perfectly. I almost started crying when the singer sat over the keyboards and started “Saliva.”
Mozzer started the gig by telling everyone that Italy is going to win the World Cup (he appeared on Sunday and that was the day of the final). Then someone in the audience shouted: “Wanker!” Mozzer grinned. And then “Panic” kicked off. He could have played more old hits and “Life Is a Pigsty” sounded awful in such heat, but you can’t say a bad thing about Morrissey. Seeing that man live is enough. It doesn’t matter which of his classics he chooses to play. Gig of the year for me so far.
Really good and energetic Swedish rock band. They had a bad slot, because Tool was playing at the same time on another stage and The World Cup final was going on screens all over the festival. I went to see them, because their singer is really beautiful. The gig was good, too.
It’s easy to feel obscenely out-of-touch when my only frame of reference for the U.K./Amer-Indie scene is the 12″ screen on my laptop. Even so, it took barely six months of living abroad before I started looking across the internet aghast at what my former colleagues and contemporaries were up to back West. Since then, I’ve severed the cultural umbilical cord enough that I’m no longer shocked by the bad decisions - artistic, critical, and other - being made by the people I used to play/chat/drink with. However, being shocked and being pleased are often mutually exclusive, and I’ll bite my tongue right off if I don’t voice some dissent from the following conventional wisdom…
The New Futureheads Album Is Flabby and Overcooked
There isn’t a single ‘Heads fan that isn’t a bigger XTC fan. At least there ought not to be. For those exempt from this rule, allow me to play armchair psychologist: if the first PiL album doesn’t get one off way harder than anything Paul Epworth has produced, then one is actually a closet emo kid with an aversion to afros,eyeliner, and head-to-toe black. But seriously, folks, the contrapuntal guitar play and anthemic singalongs that first earned the Futureheads our love are all still there; dig respectively on “Cope” and “Back To the Sea” for the hard copy. A simple down-shift in average tempo does not a sophomore slump make. I dare you to find one person who would argue that Drums & Wires is musically superior to English Settlement. It’s evolution, baby.
Be Your Own Pet Is Worth Caring About
Finally, the world has a band to play the Monkees to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Beatles. (Before I continue, take a minute to chew on the comparative legacies of the YYYs and the Beatles.) None of the oft-cited talking points really do BYOP any good, either. They’re from Nashville - which is exactly the cultural axis of MY perfect world. They’re being back by Thurston Moore - because Hair Police, Last Days, and appearances on Gilmore Girls are also all totally rad. They’re teenagers - because a curmudgeon like me, with a beard as salty as Wayne Coyne’s, can learn so much from eighteen-year-olds. Finally, their firebrand singer is a sexually predatory female - because, again, a nineteen-year-old singing about “stealing your virginity” is the height, the very APEX of depravity. How utterly fresh.
Spank Rock Is a Mysogynist
So everyone’s kind of upset about how ass-centric Naeem Juan’s rhymes are, even though it’s unanimous that Purple Haze was, like, totally classic, eh? Again I venture into the murky waters of overanalysis, but I’m going to say this is an awkward example of how the largely white, collegiate indieground still fetishizes black culture from afar. Let’s face it, the daily existence of the likes of 50 Cent and Mobb Deep are so utterly remote from anyone who went to Barnard or RISD that their cartoonish nouveau-noir narratives can only be taken at face value. But Spank Rock and XXXchange - these are cats who hung around the Talking Head, where our roommates’ bands play and all the art-school girlfriends are first encountered. These guys’ orbit is concentric to our own, so we can’t have them giving all of us a bad name with their repeated references to “pussy” and “bitch,” can we? Heavens no!
You’d think that being the “hottest” (get it?) city in the United States would make my hometown of Miami a rather attractive city for indie bands to come and play. Well it turns out that it isn’t. So, with a few exceptions (thank you Bloc Party, Interpol and Kings of Leon), I’m usually reduced to perusing YouTube to see live performances of my favorite bands. Thankfully for me, YouTube is the greatest invention of the decade and I can therefore usually find some pretty good footage of said bands. So here are my ten favorite YouTube clips of live performances by bands that I’ve never seen live, listed alphabetically.
Note: I stretch the rules here a little by including a few performances from television shows and/or ones that I wouldn’t have been alive to see.
The Beach Boys - “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” - TV Show 1971 -
This was recorded in 1971 at the height of Beach Boys turmoil and it’s as funny as it is awesome. And it is very awesome. The playing is as tight as could be expected; the melodies come across beautifully (I mean it is the Beach Boys). And oh yeah they fuck up the lyrics. Enjoy.
This one has been an Internet legend for a while now and, prewritten or not, this easily the greatest thing that Cam has ever done (honorable mention to Killa Season the movie). I usually can’t listen to Cam because Dipset beat/production is just atrocious and this version is a hundred times better then the recorded version (“It’s Nothin’). “Owe 28/Old school/I topped mine/Cop mine/The block’s fine/Yahtzee/Yacht time”. Yahtzee is right.
Franz Ferdinand - Outsiders (Live Jools Holland) -
As far as a Franz performance goes, this one has it all: Paul Thompson playing the drums with one stick and one tambourine, a man frantically dashing from the keyboards to play with Thompson on his drums, and then another guy playing with those two on Thompson’s drums. And then four more drummers. Yes, seven drummers. This would make even the Boredoms orgasm.
When Hendrix really gets into it, it looks like he does some really, really intense yawning, which leads me to believe that Dave Chapelle could’ve done a number on this. Oh, and the solo is not from this planet.
I happen to think that any rap show with a live band beats any rap show with a DJ and six hypemen and Weezy proves my point here. Wayne could’ve just done phoned this one in like 80% of performers of his caliber probably would on a show with Kimmel’s status, but the passion in this performance is tangible. When the guitars gently weep it’s seems as if Wayne might too. If you aren’t a believer you will be after this.
THE STROKES- TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT (SUMMER SONIC FESTIVAL, TOKYO)
If you don’t share my affinity for listening to way too much “post-punk” (quotations used to mock) then you may not know that super producer/remixer extraordinaire Paul Epworth (aka Phones) has produced some of the finest work of the “genre” and is therefore responsible for 60% of every NMEwet dream of the past 3 years. It may not be a good sign that the bands with his two most critically acclaimed albums (Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm and the Futureheads self-titled debut) have chosen to work with two different producers on their post-Epworth releases, but here are the best Epworth produced albums ordered worst to best.
Note: I actually love all of these albums (save the first one mentioned).
WHITE ROSE MOVEMENT KICK
I never got the fuss over “Love is a Number” in the first place and the rest of this is just trash. I happen to actually like the Bravery and even I think that this is a little much.
THE FUTUREHEADS THE FUTUREHEADS
This was an album that took me about six months to actually like. Despite the fact it has one of my favorite all-time riffs (“Decent Days and Nights”) and songs (“Hounds of Love” duh) this album isn’t as consistent as it could be. Much like Cam’ron, I like the Futureheads’ writing much better when I read it on paper then when I actually listen to it, but it is stellar nonetheless. Their decision to go for a more, ahem, “ambitious” sound on their second album turned out for the worst and usually after I listen to News & Tributes I’ll just turn on “Meantime” in hopes that they’ll one day again churn out such brilliance.
THE RAKES CAPTURE/RELEASE
A whole lot of people write these guys off as Franz Ferdinand Jr. but I think that the Rakes actually beat Franz at their own game. “Strasbourg” may be the “genre’s” finest moment as the Rakes were actually doing the whole “music for the working lad” way before Alex Turner though you looked good on the dance floor. I think this album got written off by critic types as “yet another post-punk release” when in actuality it carves its own niche in an admittedly crowded field. At least Rob Sheffield likes it.
MAXIMO PARK A CERTAIN TRIGGER
Much to my surprise (and dismay) this album got hatedon by damn near everyone butPitchfork because really, this is one of my favorite releases of the past two or three years. Paul Smith writes both deliciously great and somber love songs and has one of the best vocal deliveries in rock music. There are too many really, really great moments on this album to mention so I won’t get into how many times I’ve sung “The Coast is Always Changing” at the top of my lungs, but if you wrote these guys off too or didn’t really listen to what was being said on this album you’re an idiot.
BLOC PARTY SILENT ALARM
Being that I just gushed over the album above this one, you can imagine how much I actually love these guys. Not only was Silent Alarmmy favorite album of last year, it’s one of my favorite albums ever. Like a lot of people I first fell in love with this band when heard “Banquet” on their self-titled EP, but to only mention how great that song is would really be a disservice to all other amazing tracks on this album. There is the 90 mph paranoia of “Like Eating Glass” and the heart-breakingly beautiful “This Modern Love” and so on and so forth. 10 years from now, I think this is the album out of this whole set (including Franz, Kaisers, Monkeys etc.) that actually stands the test of time.
P.S. Feel free to debate and curse each other out in the comment section like people do at other blogs.
“Dazz” is short for “disco-jazz,” which in practice sounds a lot like funk. Good funk, albeit with an unfortunate sax solo that sounds right out of G.E. Smith and the SNL Band (is that the jazz part?). I can forgive that small transgression for a song that so effortlessly oozes groove that it’s made a compilation or soundtrack appearance practically every year since it’s initial release.
I used to think that Sweden produces only horrible pop groups like Roxette or Ace of Base. But I have to admit: I was wrong. In the 90’s Sweden had a couple of good indie bands (The Cardigans, Atomic Swing, Soundtrack of Our Lives, Broder Daniel, etc.). After the breakthrough of the Hives, there have been even more good indie bands and artists coming from Sweden.
Dungen, The Sounds, Concretes, Hellacopters, The Knife, Love is All, Moneybrother, and Shout Out Louds are all making fresh and exciting new music. And, of course, where would we be without Jens Lekman? Allmusic credited him as “one of the true pop geniuses of the early 2000s”.
My personal swedish favourite is a band with a lovely name: Peter Bjorn and John. I heard their song “Teen Love” on the radio and I immediately fell in love. Somehow “Teen Love” catches perfectly the feeling when you’re young, alone and the hope that there’s someone out there. They have just released a new single “Young Folks” in Scandinavia, it’s from their upcoming third album. You can hear the song and watch the video on MySpace.
The bane of my vernal existence is my northern Canadian upbringing. Sure, we had sunny, blue-sky-and-ice-cream summer days, but that’s all relative when you can’t see the ground through the snow for six months out of the year. (Don’t worry, I’m sure global warming has since rendered winter obsolete.) Besides, I never knew what to do with warm weather. You can’t very well make men, forts, or manual projectiles from dirt, can you? Yet for 13 of the past 16 years, I’ve lived in places that peak past 40 degrees Celsius (that’s ~100 degrees for you skeptics) during the summer. This is often accompanied by choking humidity, making the outdoors feel like an open-air sauna. It’s like swimming on dry land, and might as well be, given how soaked in sweat you get during a simple jaunt up to the corner store.
So as the number Summer Song posts here has risen faster than my monthly electricity bill, it’s hardly eased my suffering. Sweat shorts out my circuitry like pouring a pitcher of sangria into a television. Good thing I’ve got my CD collection to help me forget how bloody hot it is.
The Dismemberment Plan, “The Jitters”
The obvious cold-weather choice from these late, beloved post-harcore kids would have been “Spider In the Snow.” Skip one track later, though, and the chill in Travis Morrison’s voice freezes your spine (and youthful optimism) like an icicle. Close your eyes and the distant swells of slide-guitar sound like snow drifting across an open field. (Welcome to Unlocking Your Inner Inuit…)
Massive Attack, “Future Proof”
Could there be a subgenre more emotionally frigid than trip-hop? The opening track from the mostly-ignored 100th Window, this song boasts the kind of bass that cocoons and warms like the womb. Yes, I said “warms,” because Robert Del Naja’s reedy croak has all the icy sibilance of falling snow. It’s like listening to Old Man Winter whisper a lullabye. (Not that you’d want him anywhere near your kids…)
Meredith Monk, “Long Shadows II”
During a period of residence in a remote hotel in the Canadian Rockies, avant-garde vocalist Meredith Monk noticed her character mutating to mirror her frozen, rustic confines. She composed an album devoted to capturing her new vocal persona, Facing North, of which the closing track “Long Shadows II” is the riveting standout. Breathily cooed vocals have never ached with such tension. (Imagine if Björk and Eno had a baby.)
Nino Rota, “O Venezia Venaga Venusia”
From Rota’s crowning accomplishment, the flawlessly futurist score to Fellini’s Il Casanova, this haunting piece floats on the chinook whispers of a glass harmonica. As haunted, barren, and foreboding as Baffin Island. (No offense to the good people of Baffin Island, that is.)
During a cross-Canada roadtrip made in the latest weeks of winter, Drums and Wires was a fixture of our diurnal listening routine. Perhaps it’s just by association, then, but there was some synchronicity in the cool minimalism of the song and the surrounding fields of pure white void. (Spotted the pattern? High-shelf reverb, boys and girls.)
I’m fairly sure these guys could incite riots at will. But not those violent, punk-infused brawls of our past; the sheer joyfulness of Apes and Androids’ massive danceable madness would likely result in something different. Maybe a cross between Saturday Night Fever and a Sex Pistols gig. This thought didn’t occur to me until their last song Saturday night at Sin-č, “Creepy Girls.” The bandmates that had a free fist thrust it upwards during some particularly visceral a capella stabs. Many in the audience immediately joined in; most everyone else whooped and hollered enthusiastically at the impressive vocal feats. The atmosphere was a welcome change to the hands-at-the-sides protocol of many recent shows I’ve been to, and I’m confident that had Apes and Androids continued another 30 minutes, I would have had the dance riot I dreamed of.
The band has this great combination of deadly serious musicianship and whimsical style that doesn’t fail to entertain. The balloons, confetti, and bubbles that kicked off the gig made sure that no one took the night too seriously, while the tight arranging and commitment to furthering the art of rocking your ass were clear signs of the earnestness of their motives. Plus, the sheer numbers of instruments onstage were enough to instill a sense of respect. Each of the guitarists had a keyboard or synth in front of them as well, while the keyboardist had three, stacked like a rock tower of Babel. Add to that their collective voices (and extensive ear-training each possesses), and the simple amount of sound created was sufficient to boil the blood. But Apes and Androids aren’t noise rockers; the Queen comparisons they’ve drawn in the past are accurate. The glam get-up and hair certainly do nothing to discourage that, and neither does their propensity to make you severely and sincerely enjoy yourself.
And if they seem very polished for their age, it’s because they’ve been around longer than you realize. Most of their lineup has been carried over from Call Florence Pow, their original project that released a debut album in 2000. That song you were just raising your fist to, “Creepy Girls”? That’s technically a cover from Call Florence Pow’s 2002 EP, The Strange Situation. Make no mistake, they’re not noobs, and they definitely deserve the praise they’ve got coming. So go on, see them live! And you might want to wear some sweats; you’ll be participating.
The biggest hit this summer in Finland is a song called “Mikä kesä” by Valvomo. It’s a dull reggae song with stupid lyrics. In fact, the only good thing about it is the title, which can be translated two ways: “What a Summer” or “What Summer?” The lyrics don’t do the title justice, though. Instead it inspired me to create a min-mix of songs that actually do describe the feelings of summertime. Summer is a strange mix of sea, sex, sun, barbeque, beer, loud rock music, and childhood memories all wrapped up in long lazy afternoons and warm nights.
Ash: Oh Yeah
“Oh yeah she was taking me over / Oh yeah it was the star of the summer / It felt just like it was the start of forever / Oh yeah it was start of the summer.” I’ve never had a summer fling like in this song. But I can imagine myself a one. Summer is time for dreaming about love. What a wonderful adolescent song.
Edoardo Bennato: Viva La Mamma
This is a silly Italian pop song. It’s sunny, quite catchy, and relatively easy to dance to. It also reminds me of my trip to Rome in May. Music to dance and recall to. Perfect for summer.
The Thrills: Big Sur
For me, this one is about the sunny days in August. You just have to force yourself out of the house: this could be the last beautiful day of the summer. They should know: the band spent a month in San Diego and then went back to rainy Ireland to record an album about their time there.
Oasis: Champagne Supernova
A great song for rainy days. I really liked the episode “Rainy Day Women” of The OC. Is that the only episode in the OC where it rains? It (obviously) reminds me of the moment when Summer comes to Cohen’s house and Seth falls from the roof wearing a Spider-Man mask and “Champagne Supernova” plays in the background.
Stone Roses: I Am the Resurrection
I didn’t like the instrumental part in “I Am the Resurrection” before a barbeque party with my friends went wild in the summer of 2004. We drank too much and it started to feel like it was time to dance. The only records we had were a Phil Collins CD and The Very Best of the Stone Roses. Thank god the Stone Roses collection ended with “I Am the Resurrection.” When you’re dancing, the instrumental part makes sense. You just don’t want the song to end.
So about three weeks ago I lamented the fact that no real indie act had crossed-over to really be a big player in the mainstream in a while. (I forgot to mention the like triple platinum Killers. My bad.) I then stupidly mentioned Arctic Monkeys, who I really thought had a great chance of breaking through over here. Of course, I was dead wrong, but the radio has indeed been bum rushed by a young, indie band: Wolfmother. Their single “Woman” is damn near inescapable. Just the other day I heard it in rotation at Best Buy, on the Miami alt-rock radio station that still plays 93% Green Day/Nirvana/Disturbed, and sandwiched between Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rick Ross on MTV. Turns out that “Woman” has charted as high as number seven on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and as high as ten on the Billboard Modern Rock chart and their self-titled debut has reached as high as number twenty-two on the Billboard 200. Now whether Wolfmother is actually indie (check that Interscope distribution deal) or any good (does anyone know anyone that actually owns this thing?) is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: If you saw this coming, you know a whole hell of a lot more about pop music than I do.
Last week I said that I couldn’t sit through 28 straight tracks of one straight artist, so I was more then a little leery of this 23+ track Lil’ Wayne and DJ Drama Dedication 2 mixtape, but if the internet ever goes crazy for a mixtape this year like it did last year, this one will most definitely be it. Let’s not it get it twisted: this is no We Got it 4 Hipsters, but much like the best moments of that mixtape the best songs here are when Weezy (Please Say the) Motherfucking Baby raps over other artist’s beats. And he picks great ones (“What You Know,” “I Think They Like Me,” “Poppin’ My Collar”), sometimes one-upping the guys who made the song famous. Dedication 2also fits Wayne’s magnetic personality much better then an album does, with little thirty second spots where he just talks about stuff like Katrina or why he calls himself the Best Rapper Alive. Plus, he calls out Raven Symone, professes his love for PTI and uses a copious amount of Pat Summerall samples. What’s not to love?
Dear Neko Case,
I didn’t want to give you a chance. I told myself I wasn’t into country or solo female albums. I told myself no matter how many times my best friend told me to listen to Fox Confessor Brings the Floodthat I just wouldn’t do it. Well, I finally did and I haven’t been the same since. Sure, the bands at the top of my Last.fm charts are getting jealous, but none of that matters whenever I listen to “Star Witness” or “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.” It’s now 4:38 AM and I’ve been listening to you almost exclusively since midnight. Your voice is stunning and your lyrics are haunting, but I especially love how your guitar loses its shit on “Hold On, Hold On.” I think I’m in love.
The front row was all sixteen-year-old girls in bright skirts. And before the show a sulky kid snatched a Jonathan Safran Foer book out of his Dickies bag; he held it proudly near the New Trier girls. I laughed, but who was I kidding? The oldest member of Nashville garagepunks Be Your Own Pet can’t be older than eighteen; the drummer even made a crack about the bassist turning sixteen that night, though that joke’s a bit suspect.
“I am a wildcat, and you are a worm, and we are chasing each other and taking turns,” Jemina Pearl yelped in “Wildcat!” It’s an apt lyric for the act: BYOP are alternately fierce and insecure, but that shouldn’t surprise you with a pack of snotty teens. Pearl vamps with the best, sure, but she ran straight into the arms of her boyfriend at set’s end. And after tearing through four-song, barely ten-minute long bursts, they asked the audience for the next song, half-joke complaining that retuning killed the momentum.
Like any kid with ambition to spare, though, I’m sure they’d be offended if I called their irresolute stage presence endearing. So the music—it’s loud, quick, and hooky, which, by necessity, makes their live set perfectly exciting. Hardly poised, some tact in their bedroom-sized arena riffs (album opener “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle” in particular), and off-the-wall drumming—not quite album material or the stuff of contact-free performances. My friends caught them on Conan and thought BYOP sucked; hard to disagree when their mistakes aren’t in a 300-person venue but on national TV, and volume’s as loud as the knob permits. But back in the Beat Kitchen, Pearl looked great up front—watch her yell “I’m an independent motherfucker, and I’m here to steal your virginity!”—and the band played on, all smiles.
My big birthday surprise this year was being serenaded by a Mariachi band in a Japanese Mexican restaurant. A little taken aback by the uncanny cross-culturalism, the most eloquent reaction I could muster was “arigracias.” When I got home and did my pre-sleep infotainment scan, I was informed of an even clumsier public pronouncement than my Jaspanish: the Go! Team’s peculiar and ludicrous cover of Sonic Youth’s “Bull In the Heather.”
No longer simple sing-alongs to bridge the stage and the standing room, covers are more a Rorschach test for how an act wishes to be publicly portrayed. When any of Mike Patton’s various avant-metal acts bust out a Burt Bacharach number, it’s a deliberate display of technically-proficient piss-taking. Avril Lavigne’s live Clash covers, on the other hand, are begging on bended knee for artistic credibility. My guess is that the Go! Teamsters are trying to mine that demographic of particularly icy indie kids they’ve left unimpressed, if only because their music triggers flashbacks of being picked last for 6th grade dodgeball. But why waste time on an ill-advised version of a B+ song when the web is awash with innumerable interesting covers? Free-hosting sites like MySpace a fast becoming little more than depositories for whimsical musical tributes of every stripe.
Q And Not U
The last of the purebred post-harDCore bands left a stirring (if somewhat histrionic) version of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” available for download.
One-man metalectro maestro Mose Giganticus (a.k.a. Matt Garfield) serves up a fierce, hoarse-throated rendition of that classic from the golden age of analog synths, “Mr. Roboto.”
For those too cheap or unwilling to accept that Big Black wasn’tSteve Albini’s best band, bite into their ZZ Top cover a see if you don’t break a few teeth.
A goldmine of odd & slightly inappropriate covers, the rowdy bovine trio from Baltimore has packed their MySpace page with four deconstRAWKtions of your favourite ‘90s guilt pleasure pop hits. Don’t miss the Sheryl Crow cover fronted by Bonnie “Prince” Billy.
I never bothered asking Kate what she thought of my deep girl group appreciation (and particularly of the Shangri-Las), but I’m guessing that, as my resident astrologist, she’d defer to the Scorpio framework. “Their feelings are so intense that even when their love is of the highest, and most idealistic kind, they are nevertheless frequently protagonists in tragic, even violent romances.” “Out In the Streets” is textbook tragedy: girl loves guy for who he is, but love changes him; he feels torn between who he is (who the girl loves) and who he’s become. He doesn’t leave, she forces him out. This performance, from the short-lived Shindig! show on ABC, doesn’t have the best audio quality, but it perfectly represents the balance of affectation and true, deep pain at the heart of the Shangri-Las. Shadows, then lights; ghost faces in the darkness… their monolithic sadness is so… sensual… I’m actually… wow… am I crying?… I have this thing for ultra-melancholy, romantic, batshit women…
Winter’s so long and dark here in Finland that we Finns have a duty to enjoy summer. Before heading out to big summer festivals I opened my festival season here in my hometown Orimattila (population 15,000). There was a band night where local bands played. I had a good time, the weather was fine, and the bands were trying hard and giving everything to a small audience. My homeboys impressed me so much that I thought it would be cool to promote them here.
I would really have wanted to see these guys, but I thought that the best band plays last, so I missed their set. The band sounds a little bit like Nine Inch Nails but without the electronica influences and they have a good singer. They’re actually releasing their debut album Blood, Bullets & Reloads soon. I’m really hoping that they will make it big. In spring Figure actually won a demo contest in YleX, which is like Finland’s Radio One. Website MySpace
This band plays blues-rock covers. On Friday they played Jimi Hendrix and Cream. They are all good musicians, but I think they take lack the personality of a good group. They appear on stage like a prog rock band taking themselves way too seriously. Unfortunately their drummer and bass player are doing their compulsory military service (every young male in Finland has to do that) so the band is on a hiatus right now.
In Finland every festival has an obligatory death metal band. This band filled the slot. They were really filled with enthusiasm. And actually quite fun to watch when they started bangin’ their heads. Website
Subzero are real stars in Orimattila, or at least they act like ones. They dress up like little brothers of Ramones who have learned few tricks from Marc Bolan. Their lead singer Lester Brisco is banned from all the local bars. And they’re stage show makes me smile. On Friday there was a small crowd, but they gave everything they had. Their lead singer Lester Brisco (he has a real Finnish name too) jumped around and tried to make a good show. These kids still believe in the power of three chords. Website
Via the ever valuable Last Plane to Jakarta, we have this little gem of old school BBC music programming: Pink Floyd back in the Syd days play a song and then get quizzed by an obviously hostile German string quartet enthusiast. Priceless in all sorts of ways, it reminds me of how much I love the BBC, as whether or not it’s just hindsight talking they’ve always seemed a little more willing to embrace the strange than North American TV (to say nothing of, say, PBS).
For years, Geoff Emerick remained of the few remaining people who actually has a perfectly good reason to write about John, Paul, George and Ringo, but never did until just this year. Here, There and Everywhere chronicles in satisfying detail the years Emerick spent as the Beatles’ recording engineer at EMI’s legendary Abbey Road studios. That’s right, Beatlemaniacs: finally, we can get the nitty gritty on what really matters–Mic placements! Speaker cabinets! Mixing consoles! Compression! All the sonic wizardry that makes Beatles records sound amazing all these years later. Fortunately, Emerick is a fairly decent writer, and doesn’t let technical detail get in the way of telling a good story. His book keeps its narrative firmly planted in the confines of the studio, meaning that the reader doesn’t have to slog through the usual Beatles stories that have been repeated ad nauseam elsewhere. And it’s by no means a rose-tinted nostalgia trip for Emerick; the sessions for “The White Album” are depicted as extremely tedious and tortuous. And George Harrison in particular comes across as a rather unpleasant dude. A dick, really.
The bulk of Here, There and Everywhere is obviously devoted to Beatles recording sessions, but one of the most entertaining chapters covers the disastrous making of Wings‘ Band on the Run, which bizarrely took place in Lagos, Africa. During a break from recording, Paul, Linda and Emerick took in a concert by Afro-Beat king Fela Kuti. McCartney, blown away by the performance, went backstage to meet Kuti. But instead of greeting the former Beatle with open arms, Kuti immediately denounced him, claiming that McCartney was trying to “steal the black man’s music.” One can assume that if and when Kuti heard Band on the Run, he realized that his suspicions had been completely unfounded. I mean, that’s like the whitest record ever made, right?
During those countless hours lost wandering around Amazon.com (don’t deny it; if my nonagenarian grandmother does it, so do you), you’ve doubtlessly noticed that Japanese album releases always sport an extra track or two. This is because, at Ą3000 a pop (a.k.a. $30USD, Ł15, or 4 sheep NZ), CDs aren’t entertainment in Japan—they’re an investment.
Besides, we’ve something better to sate our aural appetites in the Far East, an amenity unique to Nippon that would make the RIAA apopleptic… CD rental stores. I’m not talking about the crusty collection of useless paraphernalia found at the local library, either. With unparalleled completist fervor and obsessive-compulsive attention to subgenre distinctions, these stores can’t help but expand your musical education exponentially. I’ve lost whole days perusing shelves that evolved gracefully from avant-toy-pop to psychedelic folk, post-rock to IDM, bossa nova to Memphis soul. And any one of these blessed albums can be mine for a full week at a mere Ą200 apiece.
This all does little good for everyone outside of Japan. Fear not, for I enjoy free entertainment as much as the next guy sporting a studio tan. So in the spirit of camaraderie with my fellow summer shut-ins, here are some of the better internet radio sites I’ve come across.
Don’t be put off by the clunky pothead handle. This roughly-diurnal webcast boasts a stunning array of psychedelic, noise, garage, and experimental artists. If you ever wanted to hear the Brian Jonestown Massacre, 13th Floor Elevators, Spacemen 3, Can, the Afghan Whigs, Scratch Acid, and the Flaming Lips in a single hour, this is the rabbit-hole to fall into.
Negativland.com’s Radio’s Worst Nightmare
Less a coherent broadcast than an FM-band freakshow, this site is perfect for pillaging samples. Between the vintage collection of commercials and disastrous DJ audition tapes, it also guarantees a good laugh.
Zoe’s Radio Show
She’s fifteen years old and has better taste than you. Get over it.
For those who like their tunes willfully obtuse with a hint of humour, this seven-year veteran webcast sees fit to force Martin Denny, Throbbing Gristle, the Fugs, Amon Düul, and the Shaggs under the same umbrella. (WARNING: RealPlayer only)
I’m currently suffering from a horrible case of writer’s block cured not by a handful of blogs, long periods of brainstorming, FIFA 2006, or the Facebook. Since I am unable to formulate any type of paragraph with substance I instead give you random thoughts, links etc.:
Zach Braff savior of indie rock? The people behind The Last Kiss sure seem to think so.
If anyone is cooler than Andrew Bird I don’t know about them. (And yes, that picture is currently the background on my computer).
The attention that Envelopes haven’t received is criminal.
The Bloggers love Tapes ‘n Tapes, but does anyone else?
Right at this moment my mother is blasting James Taylor at an ear-splitting level across my house and damn does he rock.
If you’ve never watched Fight Klub on MTV2, you haven’t lived.
I don’t think many people have listened to that Hard-Fi album (bad timing, market saturation, etc.) but those dudes have dance riffs like no one’s business.
For anyone else who has the leaked version of TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain, are “Wolf Like Me” and “Playhouses” the same song?
The Monks are a myth-before-music experience, but so’s “Johnny B. Goode” and so’s pletnty of rock & roll, I guess. The Monks were four American G.I.s stationed in Germany who decided to stick around after they were discharged and somehow — really, this is a huge mystery to me — scam their way onto German television to perform like this: yelp, hit a guitar, make room for comparatively endless keyboard solos, have four tambourines too many, and shave the tops of their heads. Go figure. While their one real album, 1966’s Black Monk Time, became something of a cult classic, I don’t think the band ever made a real impression on me until I saw this footage. Inspiring. Seriously.
Perhaps Larry Grogan would agree that three-minute soul singles (OK, two and a half minutes) from the 60s are melodic summer records that have 30-something hipsters swinging their New Era caps backwards and a senior in Maryland reminiscing over their first sexual misadventure to The Supremes, but I don’t collect Air Miles and a flight to Grogan’s New Jersey home is beyond my bank situation.
It’s summer. Venereal misfortunes are skyrocketing to Drippsett rock-rap anthems and public awareness of summer music is being purchased by the Warner Music Group. Damn, it’s depressing, but somethingbeautiful for your ears can be found on the Internet, during T.I.’s pop chart reign.
Eddie Holland, Brian Holland, and Lamount Dozier were Motown’s sure-shot songwriters, and producers that tailored the Supremes, Four Tops, and Marvelettes with catchy singles the teenagers of yester decades bopped to. Martha and The Vendellas’ “In My Lonely Room” hit #44 on the pop charts and number six on the R&B charts in April 1964. Sure, “In My Lonely Room” is no “Dancing in the Streets,” but for a B-side single “In My Lonely Room” has more depth than a scuba diver. The time-stamped formula of heartbreak meets pop single was the 60s-Hitsville U.S.A. hustle.
Kim Weston’s “Helpless” (1966) is a northern soul classic put together by Holland, Dozier, and Holland single. Desperation for relationship closure is what “Helpless” projects with Weston’s powerful vocals that guide a staggering horn, which can still blow life into summer 2006. Now, Betty Everett’s “It’s Getting Mighty Crowded” is an official “soon-to-be single woman stands tall” song that came out in 1964. “There ain’t room enough for two and sharing your heart with someone new will never do,” are Everett’s lyrics that Van McCoy had written back when men “knew nothing about women.” Cats in mod and northern soul scenes love “It’s Getting Mighty Crowded” and with Everett’s blaring vocals over a Chicago soul production (Cal Carter) only pale scenesters with low blood pressure cannot move to the soul in Everett’s damn-the-ex banger.
These three songs are what summer sounds like in my automobile.
People never made me mixtapes or lent me albums in high school because they thought that I “already knew everything”; I was a notoriously voracious listener and prolific tape-maker (ex-girlfriends have shopping bags, I’ve seen them). So it was a pretty big thrill when, in college, people stopped being presumptuous, self-deprecating jerks and finally started lending me stuff. One day, John Gulino, who was a co-worker of mine for a little while, brought me Duck Stab/Buster & Glen by The Residents. I knew jack shit about what The Residents actually sounded like, so you could imagine how it blew my soft, Pere Ubu & early Eno-lovin’ 19-year-old mind to hear arty, abrasive pop music that wasn’t overtly rock & roll-oriented. I still sorta feel like Duck Stab/Buster & Glen hasn’t really gotten its fair share of praise in a post-punk context, maybe in part because it doesn’t seem at all concerned with “ideals” in the way that post-punk did. But I’m not going to bore you with hogwash analysis. This is TV IV. Eyeball heads etc. Thanks to John for dropping a bomb on my desk one sunny day in central Virginia.
The overwhelming smell memory of this wonderful festival on the east coast of Spain is that of sewage cooking in the gutters and the sweet scent of “rolled cigarettes.” With so many bands split over five stages there were bound to be some unfortunate timetable clashes, as well as fuzzy festival amnesia and the headline acts not going onstage till 3 AM. Here’s what caught my ears and eyes over the three-day campaign…
Animal Collective It’s three in the morning and I’ve lost my friends and am standing in front of the Animal Collective and they’re playing “Grass.” I feel less alone seeing such joy onstage. I can’t remember the last time I heard a crowd cheer upon hearing a chord change, but when the cascading guitars slip into higher gear on “Banshee Beat” the assembled audience shifts to a higher state of consciousness. The Animal’s interpolation of “I just called to say I love you” into the bridge of “The Purple Bottle” is the icing on the collective cake.
Boredoms Again it’s the middle of the night and the spirit of the Animal Collective is still in the air from the night before. Then: the Boredoms do the exact opposite of their name. With the aid of four drum kits the band welcome the dawn, enveloping us with tribal hypnotica.
Deerhoof Although recently slimmed down to a three piece, Deerhoof still bring the noise, with Satomi commanding the stage with a mixture of childlike glee while sonic mayhem erupts around her.
Wandering over the festival ground at midnight with an overpriced cup of beer in my hand, I started running as soon as I heard the opening chords of “The Wagon” tearing through the air—it was Dinosaur! One minute later and I’m at the front of the stage, marvelling and slightly scared by the whirlwind of snow-white hair that’s whipping through the air between J Mascis’ guitar and his amp stacks. Murph’s between-song stadium drum fills indicate how pumped the reformed rockers seem to be, with Lou Barlow pounding seven shades of sludge outta his bass and screaming lyrics to songs they wrote together two decades ago. When they hit the sweet seam of “Forget the Swan,” “Little Fury Things,” “Just like Heaven,” and “Freak Scene” I feel like I’ve ascended to Valhalla, with Mascis’ endless soloing paving the way to the hall of fame.
The deceptively simple groove science of the Scroggins family band led to much dancing and smiling. An enthusiastic Mark Eitzel told me before their set that he was really looking forward to them and remembered buying their first record when he was 17!
Flaming Lips Believe it or not, I’d never seen the Flaming Lips live extravaganza before and so approached it with some trepidation. Surrounded on both sides by Martians and Santa Claus’s (extras from their “Xmas on Mars” movie, maybe?), the F’lips seem unafraid to ask big questions and make technicolour protest pop in the guise of entertainment (like when they dedicate their version of Sabbath’s “War Pigs” to George W.). The humanistic benevolence of Coyne and the band leave me refreshed and smiling in the Spanish night air.
Mogwai Arriving onstage in matching green tracksuit tops, the Glaswegian gremlins shed their outer skins and plough through a set consisting of mainly new material from Mr. Beast, but it’s the older trinity of “Summer,” “Fear Satan,” and the soul cleansing “Helicon 1” that spike the show, delivering the transcendental noise that makes Mogwai so beloved in the live arena.
P:ano I was completely charmed by this band whom I encountered by accident as momentary festival dyslexia led me to expect Japanese electronica! Instead this little trumpeted Vancouver combo should jump on the “Canada is the new Seattle” bandwagon as soon as possible. Their refreshing instrumental line-up of ukulele, bass sax, accordion and brushed drums creates cute songs with lovely colours. A killer cover version of Sly Stone’s “Runnin’ Away” made this one of the festival’s sweetest shows!
Stuart A. Staples The suit might be from his Tindersticks days (and late nights) but tonight Stuart Staples plays songs from his solo outings, their smoky ambience (only musically though, as Spain recently adopted an indoor smoking ban!) and deep baritone blues spellbinding the seated audience.
Vashti Bunyan When Vashti introduces a song by saying “here’s a song I wrote in 1966 when I was very young and very heart broken” then you know you’re about to witness something very special. The song was “Winter Is Blue” and I can’t believe it’s forty years old. Vashti Bunyan is performing songs both old and new, alternating new tunes with old and accompanied by a small string section and piano. The shy black-clad pastoral songstress seems shocked at the reception her words and mystical music are greeted with. Gorgeous, simple, heart rending, and hopeful, Vashti Bunyan was the emotional highlight of the festival.
Why Anticon’s most popular crossover kid kicked out a set of jams of Malkmus-esque indie rock with just a little hop, lyrically peppered with minute observations, subtle political criticism, and a fascination with hair.
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O’s attempts at fulfilling the role of iconic rock chick is slightly undermined by the fact that she smiles so much and can’t hide that she’s havin’ so much fun onstage. Guitarist Nick Zinner looks like he’s just walked out of a Jesus & Mary Chain photoshoot in 1986 and rather petulantly smashes a guitar mid-set, this doesn’t however signal any kind of creative impasse though. “Pin,” “Date with the Night,” “Maps,” and “Y control” accelerate this YYY’s gig from merely good to great.
Yo la Tengo
These guys played a lot of new songs but reward the crowd with renditions of classics like “Little Eyes,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” and “Tom Courtenay.” The quintessential indie rockers finish with an epic version of “I Heard You Looking,” one of those trademark YLT freakout songs that they could play forever and you’d never be bored.
Concert tickets too expensive? Look no further than these ever-reliable blogs to get your live music fix.
Rbally is a godsend. In the past week or so, Jennings has posted a vintage My Bloody Valentine show from 1992, a 2002 Sonic YouthMorning Becomes Eclectic session and is gradually putting up a recent, extremely intimate Jeff Tweedy solo set.
Bradley’s Almanac definitely makes us feel as though we still live in Boston. Brad tapes the cream of the cities’ indie rock shows and puts ‘em up within days for our listening pleasure. Recent shows include Cat Power, Radiohead and Film School.
Kwaya Na Kisser just posted a cool Morrissey show from 1992—and if you scroll down a bit you can find an excellent recent in-studio live session from Dan Bejar’s Destroyer.
I love music. But I don’t know a thing about it. I can’t read notes, I can’t sing and I have no sense of rhythm. I think that adds the mystique of liking some songs. For me there’s always been some strange appeal in an Oasis B-side “Rockin Chair.” It’s a simple song, with stupid lyrics, like “It’s hard enough sitting there / Rockin’ in your rockin’ chair.” So quite basic Oasis stuff. But whenever I hear the song it makes me shiver. I don’t know if it’s the melody, the chord arrangement, Liam Gallagher’s voice, or some other thing. I always wondered what it was in the song. And then one day while listening a Stone Roses album I realized that “(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister” has a similar thing in there. I listened the song on repeat for the next two hours.
Couple of weeks ago I read an article on Pitchfork about online music recommendation tools. I already had tried programs like Pandora and Last.fm, but the article mentioned a new tool called MusicIP. MusicIP analyses the waveforms of every track on your hard drive. Or something like that. The program doesn’t have to know the songs because it takes information on waveforms. And then you can make playlists from individual songs. The program offers you similar songs to the one that you start from. For example if you want to make a party mix, you just create a playlist from a Jackson 5 song and the program offers you more fun party music. (My “Blame It on the Boogie” mix had Madonna, Human League, Duran Duran, and Rolling Stones.)
So, naturally, I tried to find if there was more songs that could make me shiver like “Rockin Chair” or ‘Sugar Spun Sister.” First, I tried to create a playlist from “Rockin’ Chair.” The program gave me Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Nirvana’s “Rape Me,” one song by Death Cab, and a really silly finnish teen pop song. OK, all songs that I like in some level, but none of them with that similar shivery potential. From “Sugar Spun Sister” came a very weird playlist. There was “Losing My Religion” and “We Rule the School” by Belle & Sebastian, but the rest of the playlist consisted of Alice Cooper, Spinal Tap, and the Rolling Stones cover of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” I wasn’t really impressed.
I think it’s a little sad that our music collections on our hard drives have become so huge that we need computer programs to find our favourites. And yet these programs miss something that’s so important in listening and picking music. We just don’t respond to sounds like animals. There is much more important emotional side that is almost impossible to quantify. For example: my Pet Shop Boys station on Pandora always offered me 80’s dance pop like Paula Abdul, Rick Astley, or Tina Turner. But I don’t only like Pet Shop Boys because it’s good 80s pop. I love Pet Shop Boys because of the lyrics in “Left to My Own Devices” as well.
The aforementioned Pitchfork article also mentioned a new program called Echo Nest. The program gathers a massive amount of information from blogs and record reviews. One of the developers Brian Whitman says: “Our hope is to answer every possible question about music that ever existed. If we can pull that off, then I think we’re doing very well.”
Indeed, if all goes well, I can hear the voice of John Peel’s ghost in my mind: “Echo Nest goes online August 4th, 2010. Human decision is removed from radio playlists. Echo Nest starts to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 am. Eastern Time, August 29th. In a panic they try to pull the plug.”
About a month and a half ago, my friend Andy started sending me songs by Halcali. One per day. I don’t know very much about Halcali. I know that they are two young Japanese women. I know that they claimed to not have ever heard the term “hip-hop” before starting Halcali. I know that they had the guts/stupidity/sense of humor to call their first album Halcali Bacon. If you try to bring up a translated version of their profile, you see tons of question marks, appropriately. So anyway, you’ll just have to live in the Idiot Moment with me and enjoy “Baby Blue,” which reminds me of Aaliyah, cLOUDDEAD, the Boredoms, and SNES’ F-Zero all at once.
The news hit the Web late last week—Bob Dylan’s new album (his first in 5 years) Modern Times will hit stores on August 29th. Information is scarce, but it’s a fair bet that it is not, in fact, a concept album based on Charlie Chaplin’s classic 1936 film of the same name. That would be neat though, wouldn’t it?
Rolling Stone has heard it and they say it “mixes elements of 2001’s Love and Theft’s blues variations (think ‘Cry A While’) and whimsical ballads (think ‘Floater’) with the darker, swampier vibe of the Daniel Lanois-produced classics Time Out of Mind and Oh Mercy. Only Dylan’s current touring band plays on the new one: ringing in our ears was the bone-chilling vamp ‘Ain’t Talkin’, which may be Dylan’s most powerful album-closing epic ever.”
That last comment is strong praise, since Dylan’s ouevre includes such phenomenal closers as “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “Desolation Row,” and “Highlands.” But hey, Uncle Bob has been on a late-career roll with his last two albums and it’s likely he’s still got some surprises up his sleeve.
When I think of a typical summer song I picture stuff like Jagged Edge and Nelly’s “Where the Party At?” or Amerie’s “1 Thing.” Upbeat, energizing, immediately catchy, longstanding, and for lack of a better word, party songs. Maybe it’s because it’s been raining down here in Miami lately (putting a damper on that whole idea of “summer”) or because no matter how good things may appear to be it still always seems to be getting worse but if you ask me (and of course you do) TV on the Radio’s new single “I Was a Lover,” is this summer’s runaway song of the, um, summer.
“I Was a Lover” is not even close to being any of the things I mentioned above (besides longstanding). But it is what every great “protest” (gag me) song should be: biting, intelligent, indicting, and not too overtly political. Lyrically, it’s tough to make out more than half of the song without a lyric sheet, but Tunde Adebimpe is seething and searing- lofting not “Yeah, fuck Bush!”-esque insults at the administration, but the careful thoughts of someone who has actually digested these past three years. When he laments “But we’re sleepwalking through this time / And it’s really a crime, really a crime, really a crime” it burns like Napalm.
And on top of that, the band behind Adebimpe plays with a frightening amount of confidence. Sonically, the song is a beauty—all flourishing organs and lush piano intermingling with that traditional TVOTR fuzz. Throughout the track, flashes of the crescendo that happens around the four-minute mark are apparent, but the band never lets the song climax until that perfect moment. And when it happens, the static synth drowns out everything except the pulsating drums and Adebimpe’s soaring falsetto.
This song doesn’t have nearly the pop sensibilities (nor does it want it) of Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes “Staring at the Sun” but the line that “I Was a Lover” takes its name from is more than universal. That line is simply “I was a lover / Before this war.” I love it because we were all something before this war: hopeful, optimistic, employed. And now, like Adebimpe we (or at least I) are wary, hardened, disappointed, fragile, and scared.
So as the radio flounders in fluff like Chamillionaire and Rhianna and Daniel Powter, TV on the Radio have gone out and made the triumph of the summer. An anthem not about getting fucked up, but about how shit is fucked up. And that seems right to me.
We run at about half-speed at Stylus, but it’s been a big last couple weeks. This past Thursday, I finally figured out the difference between my bedpan and my messkit. On Friday I figured out what the purple button does in the Sabre Room (do not touch it, I’m serious). Today, we finally figured out how to post YouTube videos. Well, we figured it out at around 9 this morning, but the excitement made me pass out. So hey!
I’m going to try to post one per day. Here’s the first: Os Mutantes and Gilberto Gil performing “Domingo No Parque” at TV Records’ 2nd Annual Festival of Brazilian Popular Music in 1967. Mutantes had been around for barely a year, and this performance was their first exposure to most Brazilians. The use of electric guitar wasn’t exactly common at a “traditional” song contest and wasn’t received particularly warmly (as you can hear).
The Tropicalists actually had a fairly strong television presence, even earning their own show, Divine, Marvellous by 1968. Later that year the government passed the Institutional Act No. 5, which, among other things, severely limited public expression. On Christmas of that year, Caetano Veloso held a gun to his head on the show while singing a traditional song; the next morning, he was arrested.