Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Savoir Adore @ SXSW (part two)

That's it!! With these last two videos, the second half of Savoir Adore's set, the posting from SXSW is complete. You can check out all the videos from the show here in bigger and better frames:


And now here are "Mr. P, Professor of Thought" and "Honestly." Thanks again to all the bands that played. I had a blast. No more festivals until Northside in June, ATP in September, and CMJ in October. Hopefully I can get some rest in between.

Savoir Adore @ SXSW (part one)

Savoir Adore were there whole day at the show, Paul engineering, Deidre handling the tunes in between sets, and the rest of the guys just hanging out. Here's the first half of their set: "Hollywood" and "Early Bird." If you are in New York City, don't miss their MACHINES EP release on May 16th at The Delancey.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tim Easton @ SXSW (part two)

Here's the second half of Tim's set. "Burgundy Red" is the first single from PORCUPINE, and "The Weight Of Changing Everything" is a new song which I believe has not been released on any previous album. Enjoy.

Tim Easton @ SXSW (part one)

Tim Easton's performance was awesome. I don't know what else to say. He plays an incredibly lively guitar, and at one point I think he whistled into the harp, creating an eerie harmony. I think "Next To You" is a particularly beautiful performance.

During the festival, Tim had an exhibition of hand-painted record jackets for his new album PORCUPINE at the Yard Dog Gallery. If you missed it, you can read about it online. Apparently there are like 500 of them. This is the first half of his set: "Broke My Heart" is from PORCUPINE, which will be released on April 28th on New West Records; "Next To You" is from his last release, AMMUNITION.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Joe Pug @ SXSW (part two)

Here's the second half of Joe's set. These two are "Nation of Heat" and "Hymn 101". Joe Pug is playing a few shows in New York in the near future: May 9th @ The Bell House, and May 12 @ Joe's Pub. That's Joe Pug @ Joe's Pub. Shouldn't be hard to remember.

Opsvik & Jennings

It was a rainy, nasty Monday night show at Nublu, with only a dozen or so people in the crowd and a five piece band set up amongst the rectangular jags and outcroppings of amps, boxes, milk crates, etc. in the middle of the floor. The sounds started up almost unnoticed. The conversations likewise ended without ceremony, with a slight overlap. And then everyone was turned, listening from both sides of the club, webbing the band in a two-point perspective. Song after song started, built. Some of the songs had hailed endings and sometimes to clap seemed wretchedly inappropriate.

I am in love with what I heard though: five instruments that seem to capture five eras, and songs that seem to blend five genres. It's progressive, it's instrumental, it's one of the most interesting and well arranged performances I've seen lately. Flawless almost. I guess an electric guitar, upright bass, keys, drums, and horns are all you need in life.

"Thread" by Opsvik & Jennings Download mp3 (with permission)

Opsvik & Jennings will be playing again at Nublu on Monday, April 27th at 9:30pm. I would recommend this show very highly, were I to be asked.

Joe Pug @ SXSW (part one)

Joe Pug was kind enough to play two shows with us at SXSW. I read somewhere that his style resembles that of someone who delivers each line as though it were the last one. I have only seem Joe perform twice, but I couldn't agree more. He sings about conflicts and concerns as universal as folk songs, but with a very modern emotion behind it that makes it unique. And as irrelevant as it is, he's a lovely bloke as well. These two are from the first half of his set. My favorite "How Good You Are" and one from his latest EP (NATION OF HEAT), called simply "Hymn #35."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Boy Bathing @ SXSW

The Boy Bathing, who have appeared here several times, played 8 shows at SXSW, one of which was this house show. David Hurwitz played solo acoustic versions of new songs, possible album fodder for the band's second disc. The record is being recorded now, and will be the follow up to "A Fire To Make Preparations," which was released in July 2008. Two of the tracks had really hot vocals, and as a result, they didn't translate to YouTube. I will try and sort them out for the High Res video posting. These two are "Holy Blood" and "The Richest Man In New York."

Inner @ SXSW (part two)

This is the second half of Inner's set. Unfortunately, we lost "Motel Life," but there is a great alternative video of it live from The Living Room somewhere in the archives. This is "dogonthestairs."

Inner @ SXSW (part one)

I am very grateful to Jen Turner of Inner for agreeing to play the show, as I am a giant fan of her work. She was at SXSW on tour with The Boy Bathing, but she switched gears beautifully for these 4 songs. I was sitting in the front left for her set, and after "Boys' Night Out," I saw that the woman next to me had tears in her eyes! I don't think anyone had any idea what they were in for. Jen was visibly nervous (what!!) and her voice wavered at moments, but it's the captivating performer through which these nuances of personality inject a new sense of feeling and dimension to a stage show. And it keeps the songs alive! Jen is thrilling at every show, because she can't help it! The gushing admiration from the crowd was well deserved, and murmurs about her set continued right until the end of the party.

The audio on the high res videos cuts out almost completely if I upload them to YouTube, so I uploaded these at lower resolution for now. These are "boysnightout" and "used2loveme2."

Rumspringa @ The Mercury Lounge

I am embattled today finishing the videos from SXSW, but I can't help wanting to write something about Rumspringa's show last night. And they have a FREE EP! All you have to do is go to their website and sign up for their semi-daily newsletter.

DEAL!! Even if that were true, I would still do it.

---back story---
Wandering around the LES, we realized that I have never actually been to the Annex. Perhaps I wandered in once at CMJ or something, but I have had no memorable experiences there at all. Fortunately, while queuing, we got an audio snapshot of what was going on inside, saving ourselves 12 dollars each. Next up, Arelene's Grocery, which I never seem to go to either. I think we were there for 15 minutes, and only because there is a bar minimum. The crowd was horrific-looking - frat boys and the women that accompany them. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Rumspringa were just starting when we got to Mercury. Immediately we felt at home. The crowd looked like they knew what was going on; the band looked like they were capable of something. And it only got better. Joey Stevens had on a bulging coon-skin cap; I think he keeps his wallet in there. The drums sounds were some of the best live drums I have ever heard. Kudos to Itaru de la Vega and the sound guy on that.

"Rumspringa," the noun refers to an Amish rite of passage; the practice of releasing teenagers to explore the outside world. Rumspringa the band is a two piece, and (in keeping with modern convention) a very active memory pedal called "little lupe." Stevens makes me wish Hendrix could of had one, but he also sort of shows you what it would be like as well. A seemingly endless amount of beautiful and interesting melodies/riffs/solos kept each song from stagnating for even a moment. I forgot how great it is to watch a person who really has command of an instrument play A LOT of notes. Music should be full of notes, after all. And despite how ridiculous it sounds to say, it was nice to be cheering for the electric guitar. It's been a while. And did I mention a FREE EP from Cantora Records?!

"Birds Of Paradise" by Rumspringa Download mp3 (from Rumspringa)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Adam Arcuragi @ SXSW (part two)

So it seems that YouTube does diminish the audio quality on videos quite noticeably, but not to worry! I will be posting the videos on a proper web page in full quality a little bit later on. This should be ready directly after I finish Savior Adore's post, or you can just check the former RSVP page periodically, which seems like the logical place for them.

Here is the second half of Adam's recording. One of my favorites, "1981 (Or Waving At You As We Part At Light Speed Will Look Like I'm Standing Still)" and a new one called "Go With Them".

And if you are trying to impress a girl by playing Adam's music to her, let me help you out. In the first verse of "1981" it's Rimbaud, not Rambo.

Adam Arcuragi @ SXSW (part one)

So the videos from the Canon Records / Sitcom Serf BRING DOWN THE HOUSE SHOW are finally starting to trickle out of the assembly line and onto the internet. I have been cropping and matching audio for a couple of days, and I will be posting them here, on youtube, and on a separate page in high resolution as the bands all approve what they want the world to see. First up is Adam Arcuragi, who played at 2pm, when the morning phlegm was still fresh on the tongue. You wouldn't know it though by the way it belts it out. Thanks also to Dave and Shaun for playing so beautifully in support. These are both new songs, called "We Steal People's Medicine" and "The Bottom of The River" (download mp3).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Monika H Band

Back in late March, I saw the Monika H Band at Rockwood. I was there for the band before, but during the crowd change-over, I was detained by an ill-timed pint. It was very cool, weird music, with GREAT players. I was tipped off early by the wah-wah pedal on the trombone that this was going to be a more progressive act. I am typically a 2-or-3-times-through sort of listener for that, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to make any value judgments right away. I could never have conceived how long I would have to listen. Monika herself is beautiful, and she sings with a very relaxed clarity. Something about it caught me quite quickly, so I put her record on when I got home and began to try and digest it.

I have listened to "Disguised As Umbrellas, We Slept" repeatedly in the interim, and I am still almost at a complete loss over what to say about it. There are songs that I love and some tracks that I can't listen to. I have never reviewed a record before where this is the case, which leads me to think that either I simply don't understand it or that something in it is disjointed. I read some existing reviews for a bit of guidance, to me not unlike cheating on one's homework. What I found was that the bulk of the reviews are idiotic and poorly written, mostly as a result of failing to admit my own same dilemma. I obviously like to be knowledgeable about my subjects (I know for instance that "Moonshine" is a Richard Murphy poem), but in the case of "reviewing" this record, I largely just have to wing it. Let's hope the journey, if only a little wayward is still worth taking.

"Fun To Be Had, If You Let It" is the most cohesive track I listened to, also my favorite. In my opinion, it's an example of the Monika H Band at their best. Somewhere in the maelstrom emerges a wicked musical hook from the guitar. The trip-hop vocal style hits just right, and the track builds around the emotion of the delivery, while the actual outpouring of the vocal remains relatively constant. Then at the conclusion, it is featured in a final call. There is something of a pleasure stroll one can take in this sonic landscape, while tracks like "Ride" build something more jagged - a spiky sonic cave one has to spelunk through. The first feels lovely, the second like a chore, though not without some reward at the conclusion. I find it very difficult to characterize.

Another example: "Outgoing King" is killer. The main theme, comprised mainly of Monika's voice backed by some jabbing horns, grabs me each time the song moves to it. But each time it is unexpected. It sounds revelatory, though I admit I am not sure the revelation. Call it esoteric, I suppose. Or perhaps I am justified in my suspicions that the record is a little bit unresolved? Who knows? I have spent a lot of time with the music and with this review. Both feel a bit incomplete to me, but my own anxiety reflects a desire for resolution. A desire wouldn't exist without an interested mind, which is itself a positive result. And ultimately, at least when dealing with serious matters, the thought of a resolution is often a childish, misguided dream. I am quite happy to focus on the music on hand, and I do, because I can't stop listening.

The band will be playing a show April 21 at Pianos at 8pm, which I will be at. (add it to your ical)

"Fun To Be Had, If You Let It" by The Monika H Band Download mp3 (with permission)

More L'Excuse Album Reviews

"Sun Gangs" by The Veils
"A lullaby to sleep by an angry stepfather wearing the plaid shirt your mother bought him."

"Enemy Mine" by Swan Lake
"Remember that time in high school when your teacher assigned a group project, so you got together all your friends in a group, even the dumb ones, and you kind of just bullshitted and half-assed the whole thing, but you got an A anyway?"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

GOASTT @ The Living Room

Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl are The Ghost Of A Saber Toothed Tiger, apparently named for one of the latter's childhood plays, the scribblings of which the former came upon during some girlfriend due diligence. Bemused and not above cool-band-name fever, the project was born, or so the myth goes. From there, the couple abducted a Japanese sign painter and started a record company, called Chimera Music. On the label are The GOASTT, Sean Lennon, Yoko Ono, but also Kemp and Eden and If By Yes, both of whom I know nothing about. Seems like a fun family hoedown to me.

On Saturday night, GOASTT played what I think was only their second New York show, debuting some new material and making an uncharacteristic queue of middle-aged Living Room patrons wait and then stand to see them. The room was packed, but not over-crowded. The tables quickly transformed from sanctuaries into satellite outposts, swarmed, surrounded. The pair sang clearly, beautifully, revealing a wealth of material that I found to be extremely interesting and poetic. Beautiful lyrics like "Taxidermy dreams. Bury them under the leaves. Let the Willows weep." evoked a sweet sentiment in me, leaving me a bit enchanted. Being in love with Lennon's record from 2006, I am so glad to see that the songwriting just seems to be getting better, albeit collaboratively now with his lady.

The same night Paul McCartney was on at Radio City, which meant that a lot of Lennon's pals, including his mother, were not at his show. Unbelievable! In an eerie moment, Sean put on his Scouse accent to impersonate Paul giving his promise to send "24 people" to the show. Eerie, because he sounded more like Ringo. Other notable stage banter: finding 4 human skulls in Papa New Guinea, painting banners in Tokyo, flying back to Bora Bora for Sean's glasses, etc.

MY ONLY BEEF: 12 dollar cover @ The Living Room? Why on Earth did they decide to do that?!
"The World Was Made For Men" by The GOASTT Download mp3 (permission requested)

L'Excuse Album Reviews

"Veckatimest" by Grizzly Bear
Buzz kill, like trying to get drunk on complicated beer.

"Kingdom of Rust" by Doves
Like having sex with an unremarkable girl you haven't seen in a while: nice, but you're not in a hurry to see her again immediately, and you don't tell your friends.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gowanus Music Club featuring The Vote

It's 3 o'clock on Sunday. I am drinking a lager, watching a four-piece band of combined age 36 rock out at The Bell House. It seems that in Brooklyn the army of musicians, though sizable, is not enough for inter-borough domination. To speed up the donkey, organizations like "Gowanus Music Club" are now growing fledgling musicians in underground labs and training them in musical Skinner Boxes. I am not sure as to the size or severity of this operation, but the Sunday show at The Bell House was packed with talent, proving that to let these kids out of their cages once a month is the best way to set the bar high and make adult players in the Brooklyn Hipster Army feel shamed and inadequate.

Six tiny bands performed, with players aged from seven to sixteen years. I recorded the second band, The Vote. From The Vote, guitarist Owen Algrant is among the youngest, still a stage 1 fledgling at 7; his brother Angus on the skins is a veteran at 10. Lead singer Lucas Berger, also 10, is the spitting image of Marcus Congleton from Ambulance LTD - just in miniature. This makes me suspicious that the organization is actually using DNA from rock stars, probably collected without consent, to splice and dice these kids to spec. Bassist Shannon Crutchfield, 9, was holding it down exceedingly well on Bass with a cool, unorthodox over-hand style, probably a result of some new experimental bass-player splicing.

This version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" features Angus on the mini-Martin, which apparently excited him sufficiently to shatter one of his drumsticks on the first beat. This seemed to amuse him. I played the drums as a kid, and I didn't break a stick until I was 15. That's some freakin' angst! Once he was back in his groove, Owen and Lucus coolly traded solos, Shannon hammering along all the way.

And I have to point out Owen's OBAMA T-shirt.

Although The Vote was all kids, some of the instructors from GMC jammed with the bands on other numbers. It was one of the most amazing shows I have been to in a while. Congratulations to all of the kids and young adults from all of the bands. I can't wait to see what you do in the future. I know it will be great.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Anywhere But Here

I can remember walking into Tower Records in Austin as a giddy 14 year old kid... 2402 Guadalupe street, the biggest baddest music store on the drag. I'll never forget that feeling, moving through the racks, there was no way I was walking out the door without something new in my hands. If only I had enough money to buy it all. I bought my first Pixies record at that Tower Records - Surfer Rosa. I wanted so badly to be one of the kids behind the counter, tragically hip with an unending knowledge of everything from prog rock to early New Orleans jazz. There was something mystical and intimidating about the store, a feeling that if I stayed long enough and learned enough I could be a part of some secret society where everyone from Bob Dylan to Stephen Malkmus were all buddies that sat around and traded ideas and songs while passing a joint and drinking some local beer. I was in love. Literally. I was in love, I'm not sure if it was the actual music, or the romantic idea in my head of what music was and could do. Some universal language that could span time and conquer language barriers, inspire.

Like many other circumstances in my life I arrived and started working in the music industry just as things were beginning to change in drastic ways. iTunes was starting to swallow large parts of the market, the major label I was working for was starting the first of it's 2 years of layoffs, physical sales were on a serious decline and record stores that everyone once thought were invincible cultural mainstays were closing doors. I would listen to stories my superiors told me of the "glory days" partly in awe, but most of what I felt was a mix of jealousy, anger and frustration. What happened?! How could things have gone from the Sex Drugs and Rock & Roll I was told about to bloggers, layoffs and Jonas Brothers so fast? How did this happen? What did you do!? How the hell did you manage to turn a thriving industry full of talent, zeal and youth into such a disaster so fast? honestly?! I could go on at length about who I think is to blame for the state of things - but honestly, placing blame isn’t going to fix anything. Sure, we might all feel a little bit better finding a handful of those people and publicly humiliating them for the sad state of things, but in all honesty it’s not going to do anything to change it. Tower Records is gone, Virgin Records is soon to follow, along with a slew of amazing mom and pop indie record stores. Labels are shutting down, distribution companies are dwindling down to a few scant warehouses and no one wants to pay for music anymore.

So what do we do? The young kid inheriting the family business after it’s gone belly up and everyone has taken their piece and left or been kicked to the curb. Does anyone even really care about music anymore? Is it really up to us to fix the mess that a group of misguided closed-minded execs created for us? When does loving music become a detriment to a career? Surely there’s a way to take the “art” that is music and make it profitable for everyone involved. Theater is still making a profit, film is still making a profit, visual art is still making a profit, what makes music so different from these other mediums? Is there hope for musicians, labels, retailers and anyone else directly related to music? Not in the old model there’s not. So a question presents itself…. What is this new model? A melding of music with other arts to try and raise it’s validity and worth? A not-for-profit model? A purely digital model? Maybe some incarnation of all of the above? Whatever it is, it’s not operating yet – or at least not on a large enough scale to be noticed.

I’ll never forget the advice my very first employer in the music business gave me years ago – “You don’t want to work in this industry. Trust me, do anything else, go be a lawyer, go work in publishing, anything but this. You don’t want to work in music, there’s no future here.” Obviously he knew what was coming. This wasn’t meant to be a doomsday piece, and by no means do I think music is over, or dying. But the model is going to have to change if it wants to remain relevant, and it’s up to us to implement that change. The days of just throwing a record out into the market and expecting it to perform while you sit back at your desk and do blow off your gold records is over. So, if you’re part of this industry or are thinking about becoming a part of it, ask yourself a question… Is it worth it? Do you care? If you don’t love music, and I mean really love music purely for music’s sake, leave now. Run. Get out. There’s no point in suffering for something you don’t really love. Enjoy it from a safe distance. But… if you’re a true lover, and don’t possess the sanity to watch from atop the hill, pony up and put on your belt. There’s some heavy lifting to be done.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Missing Ships in Brooklyn

Missing Ships is relatively new band, as given away by Martin's noticeable enthusiasm at this recording. Not that he was excited or that the recording is good, he just acknowledged that its existence was indeed real and that yes, it is better for it to exist than not. My arm was tired from swinging hammer all day, and the lens seemed equally sleepy, constantly trying to focus on the back of whatever instrument was jutting from the lower left. The song itself is a solid rock ballad: quiet, loud, really loud, dizzy. The guys all had an impressive command of their instruments, and despite it being at head-crushing volume, the mix was very clear. Only the vocals were mildly muddy, but that might have as much to do with the hard rock delivery as my new tinnitus. I do think the band should to put up a an additional song or two on MySpace. They currently feature only one track, "Cranky." Perhaps it is autobiographical? There IS one lyric, "lost the "t" on my keyboard, can't post no songs."*

My inner-ear fluid in flux, ruminating on the tube ride back to 1st Avenue, I did feel I got my proper dose of rock; satisfaction accompanied by a dull ring. The verdict: I will definitely go and see these guys again.
"Cranky" by Missing Ships Download mp3 (stole it)

*Only joking