Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'm Back?

Well it’s only been like 27 months since I last wrote a review, so I figured I’d better keep up and keep writing at this furious pace otherwise I’ll lose readership.  I think I will be trying a new concept where I will review albums that have been released, a week ago or months ago, it doesn’t matter.  I will also try to make the reviews short…an incentive for me to write more often since I hate being alone and that’s pretty much what writing reviews entails.

So here goes…

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Live Review: Beach House

The following is a complete list of everything I know about Baltimore: TV’s greatest show HBO’s The Wire takes place there, they have a terrible baseball team, the Tim Robbin’s psychological thriller Arlington Road takes place in Arlington which is, like, not that far from Baltimore, and the musical duo Beach House is from there.  Ok, so my knowledge of Baltimore isn’t very extensive and I try not to use Wikipedia to write these reviews.  And while I would love to write about how awesome it is that Wallace from The Wire is now on NBC’s Parenthood I don’t have much more to say about that.  Whereas I have plenty to say about how awesome Beach House’s performance was at The Music Box and I have seriously high expectations.  My alarm plays them every morning.  They are literally the band that gets me excited enough to get up to get through each depressing day.  So let’s do this!

There were beautiful people everywhere.  Only beautiful people.  Which is always disconcerting because beautiful people (a subset of people I know well because I am, of course, a part of them) tend to go to “hip” shows to be seen, not for the actual music.  People weren’t exactly tuned in to the openers, Papercuts, who sounded like they were one female singer away from being a Mazzy Star cover band. However, I was incorrect in my assessment because the moment the Beach House stepped on stage the crowd was focused.

Unfortunately for me, I was behind the only two people who didn’t get the memo that this was a Beach House show.   Throughout the show they danced like they were watching Ace of Base, then other times they would make rock and roll fingers and headbang and still other times they would get all sexy up on each other.  If you have heard anything from Beach House you would know that absolutely none of these options make sense.  That is, unless you’re these two dancing hippies who somehow missed out on hitting the road with Phish.   Their one saving grace was that they smell like hippies.

Beach House sound as good live as they do on their albums.   They are considered “dream pop”, but they are definitely more dream than pop so I was skeptical that they would be able to pull off their dynamic yet polished style in a live performance. Lead singer Victoria Legrand has an eerie, haunting and beautiful voice and the music is indie, very synth-heavy, and borrows from multiple decades of music but especially from the best of the shoegazing era (Ok, I used Wikipedia once for this review).   

The smell of marijuana wafted immediately after the first note, although I’m not sure mood-altering drugs are needed to appreciate the not-so-fine line Beach House walks between distinct melodies and less accessible ambiance.   I wouldn’t dare say Victoria has the intimidating factor that Stevie Nicks has, but she was captivating throughout the show.  This despite the fact that her face was obscured with her Mormon-wife-length hippie hair.  With a raspy smokers voice, she is one part “19-year-old cool”, one part “36-year-old veteran musician”, and one part “13-year-old crowd interaction ability.”

They played their best song, Norway, very early in the set, but it actually helped set the tone for the rest of the concert because the crowd perked up to a new level like the zombies from The Walking Dead having just recognized something living: energetic, but still stiff and awkward.  Except for the stupid couple in front of me.   Beach House doesn’t come to LA often so you may have to be patient to see them in the future, just like my editor had to be patient for me to take a week to finish this review.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Live Tweeting: Foo Fighters at Spaceland/Satellite (in 2011, not 1995)

left to right: Dave, Taylor, Nate, Pat
So I somehow managed to get into the Foo Fighters secret show.  You can be awesome like Dave Grohl is awesome by reading my live tweeting here (note: Dave Grohl probably did not read my tweets) or you can be like Spaceland's air conditioning and not be cool.  Yep, I just made that pun.  This won't be their last secret show, so make sure you follow their twitter to see Foo Fighters at other various shows around LA.  Dave mentioned during the show that they had "not played The Troubadour and The Echoplex...yet." 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Album Review: The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

If you know me (which you probably don’t), you know that I am a fickle mistress when it comes to music choice.  That being said, I am generally pretty consistent when it comes to arrangements that don’t have much of a rhythm section: I don’t like them.   So when somebody pitches a band that consists of one dude and a guitar, or one girl and a guitar or any combination thereof, there’s approximately a 97% chance I will say, meh, that sucks.  Even if it is good.  Because, frankly, there’s no excuse to not have full arrangements with all the talent out there, especially if the artist is based in Nashville.  It tells me they are one of 4 things: lazy, bad with people, greedy or boring.  Since all of those types of people annoy me, I have no choice but to decide that they are not worth my time.  No choice!

However, the new Civil Wars album, “Barton Hollow”, is different. Although it features mostly just John Paul White singing and playing acoustic guitar and Joy Williams singing and occasionally playing piano, the mood is established early on.  It is nothing like so much of the lonely, generic acoustic solo sound that plagues our musical landscape under the guise of “folk” (thanks, Starbucks).  It is distinctly southern, the harmonies are eerie, the arrangements are beautiful and simple but distinct, the style belongs to a different era (hold on, you’re never going to believe this, but it has a very 1800’s out on the battlefield/range/swamp feel – what’s that you say? The band is called The Civil Wars? No way!).  Let’s just say that if Ken Burns ever decides to come out with a Director’s Cut of the PBS Special on The Civil War that we were all forced to watched back in 1990, he should replace the sound track with more than a couple Civil Wars songs (and maybe use less of the slow-zooming-in on photos).

Their country-esque sound has elements of a stripped down (if that’s possible) version of the White Stripes.  Which is funny since John Paul White looks a little like Jack White.   But this folky duo have their own haunting, catchy style that makes you think, “I’ve heard this, right?”  Only, you haven’t.  Unless you’re still watching Grey’s Anatomy (The Civil Wars’ “Poison & Wine” was featured in its entirety on the show).  Highlights include “I’ve Got This Friend” and the two songs that actually have a little bit of percussion: title track “Barton Hollow” and the aforementioned “Poison & Wine”.  But it’s unfair to listen to the album as individual tracks.  This is not just a collection of sleepy songs thrown together (yeah, I’m still talking to you, Starbucks).  It flows, it has a story to tell, it is complete.  I’d be wasting money if I only bought individual tracks from iTunes.  I can listen to this album cleaning my house or driving late at night - two times that demand an awesome soundtrack, so you know these guys are special.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

(8 sentence) Album Review: Cold War Kids - Mine Is Yours

Everybody knows only high schoolers and “trustfunded journalist hipsters” can complain about a band selling out.  The rest of us know you need to grow the eff up and make a living. The reigning Indie kings, Cold War Kids, decided to do that with their newest album which has a polished, ever-so-slightly catchier sound.  If you want to hear music that is neither bland nor unpalatably pretentious, enjoy CWK’s newest release Mine Is Yours.  

“Oh no, that means my girlfriend can like it too?! Thanks for all the good times, Cold War Kids, I’m so over you.” – Some A-hole Nobody Likes. 

You’re not an a-hole, right?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Live Review: The Devious Means

Photo by: Pourio Lee
It has been a long time since I’ve been to Chain Reaction, in Anaheim California. Probably because I don’t want to spoil the memory of two of the greatest shows ever: The Get Up Kids’ “Something To Write Home About” tour and Pedro The Lion’s “Control” tour.  I doubt even those bands could recreate those two magical shows, so to see any other band there would be unfair.

But if Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 is involved in a record (which he is with The Devious Means’ soon-to-be-released first album) then I am definitely going to have to experience the band for myself.  When they stepped on stage there was a very positive vibe in the air.  Though not technically headlining, it was clear the crowd came to see The Devious Means.  And it was also clear that the band wanted to put on a fun show.  And that they did.

Pinning down their musical style does not come easily.  They have the positivity of Mates of State as well as their male vs. female back and forth lead vocals.  Musically there is a strong influence of late 90’s/ early 2000’s emo a la The Anniversary or for you real music snobs The Mercury Program.  But that is not to say they are a rehash of former styles.  You could say there is some Arcade Fire and Go! Team mixed in as well.  But really, they have their own distinct sound.  Their closing and most epic song “Porcelin Mouths” has The Walkmen type drumming, lots of a western guitar reverb, classic gospel sound with group vocals and the lead singer, Rachel, really belts it out with her distinct and beautiful voice.

Photo by: Megan Polendo
While they have only played a handful of shows and have only been a band since late 2009, it is clear they are veterans in both songwriting and performance.  They played with energy and had the crowd clapping and dancing.  And musically they are very talented.  Sometimes they would sound enjoyably casual like Surfer Blood’s indie garage style and other times they showed off their technical prowess. The lead singer, Christopher, has a voice in the vein of The Weakerthans and while it doesn't quite stand up to Rachel’s powerful singing, their harmonies mix together in a surprisingly pleasing way.  The band’s sound really can only be considered eclectic indie rock, which comes from 5 distinctly different members.  They vary in personal style but together as a band they form a new sound that is cohesive, unique and has strong moments of ingenuity.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(9 sentence) Album Review: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - III/IV

Those of you mourning the indefinite hiatus of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals can take solace in the newest double-album, III/IV.  While the ever-present and prolific Ryan Adams hasn’t gone anywhere, some feel that his best days are behind him (okay, maybe just me).  But here’s the kicker, the album is actually comprised of previously recorded tracks from the Easy Tiger sessions.  And while “previously recorded tracks” usually imply “crappier B-sides that didn’t make the album for a reason”, III/IV is actually a worthwhile listen.   The newest release doesn’t have the truly inspired highlights of Easy Tiger’s Halloweenhead or Goodnight Rose, but the album isn’t just outtakes.  It is a very real, cohesive and enjoyable double LP.  Oh and you can listen to the entire album for free on his Myspace page So stop reading this review and listen.  Then if you have any sense you’ll agree with me.