Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Love Language

One of my favorite records from 2009 is The Love Language. Last year there was a huge surplus of lo-fi bands that came to rise. For me, The Love Language stood out above them all. Not only did they sound like they recorded in a closet, but they also had brilliantly crafted songs. A year later they're back now under a bigger label. Libraries is out in July and from what it sounds like, their new label has upped their production quality. 

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Devo

I am still buzzing from Devo's performance from Coachella a few weeks ago. It is so heartwarming to hear an older band make a comeback and not seem lethargic. These guys have proven that they are in fact not past their prime, and are still capable of making music that their fans will enjoy with as much energy as they had when they started. Recently Devo has released a few songs off of their upcoming album (their first in 20 years!) and they do not dissappoint. Check out one of their new tracks called "Fresh," which is completely worthy of Devo's cannon. 

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

M.I.A. Born Free


M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

There is no one working in the music industry who comes even close to being as up-front and political as M.I.A. Her previous album Kala was not only the best dance album that year, but it was also one of the most controversial albums too. Last week she released "Born Free" the first single off of her upcoming album and it has a completely different to it. "Born Free" is a gear grinding gritty punk song, which is a departure from her last effort. However, it was not until the music video was released where we got to see good ol' M.I.A. back in action. This has to be one of the best music videos I have seen in awhile. The video in accompany with the song serve as a statement, a statement against racism against police brutality and against torture. It is in no way meant to be enjoyable, but to spark controversy and debate. Judging by the fact that many of the major news channels are already talking about it, it seems she has already accomplished her goal. It's very shocking, but with the current political climate, it could not have come at a better time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kings Go Forth

Continuing my interest in the new soul movement that has been rising up the past few years I have stumbled upon another impressive 2010 release. This one comes from the Milwaukee group Kings Go Forth.If Mayer Hawthorne is like Al Green these guys are like The Four Tops. This is a very impressive for a first release from a new up and coming band. Check out the tune "High on Your Love."

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mayer Hawthorne & The County

One of the many artists that I was impressed with at Coachella 2010 is Mayer Hawthorne & The County. This guy is like the white Al Green. I've got to say that I am really digging this whole new traditional soul movement that's going on. I've actually been listening to soul music more than rock recently. So it really excites me that certain artists are honoring this Motown-esque style while still adding their own unique touch to it. Don't be surprised if you see more posts like this one.

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Maybe So, Maybe No

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coachella: The Best and Worst of Humanity

With any sort of large social gathering, you get the best and worst of everything, music festivals are no exception. Coachella is unique because it is located in a desert oasis between Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas. It is undoubtedly the largest music festival in the western United States. This lends itself to becoming filled with some of the nicest people you could have ever wished for, people who genuinely enjoy the band they're watching and love having conversations about music. There also was a ton of really impressive art instillations and exhibits to enjoy. On the flip side, there was also an uncomfortable amount of douche bag fratboys who are there for the party and could care less about the music, young teenagers who feel like they are entitled to everything, and people who are just flat out rude to their fellow man. 

 Coachella means something different for every person, for me it has been a unattainable goal that I could never reach. For years I have been wanting to go, but for the past four or five years something has always come up that prevents me from attending. Luckily, the stars were in line this year. 

I had been to a few festivals before, so I thought I knew what I was getting into. Boy was I wrong. This was the first year they didn't do single day passes which pretty much forced everyone to camp or find a hotel. That on top of terrible traffic control resulted in my car having to sitting in a five and a half hour line to get to my cramped camping spot all the while I'm sitting there wondering, "Is this really worth it?"

After we unloaded and got two hours of sleep at 7am, we were ready to head into the festival. It was hot, but there was enough of a breeze to make it bearable. I purchased a giant straw hat to wear, call me a dork but I was the one laughing at the end of the day when I was the only person not sunburned. The food there was really expensive, and the potions were small. The beer was what really brought me down they only sold Heineken for $7, luckily I was able to smuggle my own spirits in. 

Coachella made me realize that music festivals should be seen as giant sample platters for music. The bands play shorter sets and during the day which isn't ideal for concerts, but if you like what you see you'll probably check them out next time in town. 

Having been my first time I had a mental image in my mind as to what it was going to be like. I had this idea that harkened back to the Woodstock days where it was free love and it was loosely run and there weren't any rules. While there were certainly decadent aspects to it, I was shocked by how corporate the festival seemed. Every single tent was sponsored by some company, certain business (like Heineken) had a monopoly over everything else which allowed prices to go sky high.

Now onto the music!

I saw a ton of bands, I'm not going to review every single band I saw but I will mention highlights and low-lights as well as surprises.  

1. Devo - Holy god were they good! This reformed 80's new wave group were not only my favorite set of the weekend they were also the biggest surprise for me. First off I commend them for playing "Whip It" towards the beginning of their set. This allowed the casual listener to leave and let the fans have more room to dance. Devo may be gray and over the hill, but they have the energy of teenagers. They pulled out all of the stops, the paper yellow suits, the red cone hats. If they roll into town again I will be first in line to see them.

2. LCD Soundsystem - LCD probably had the biggest weekend of anyone. This was the first time where they were presented as a top tier headlining act, and they rose to the occasion. Performing a blistering set to a packed mainstage audience. Their new material worked nicely with their older stuff. However the biggest surprise was the fact that they played the 8 minute rambling "Losing My Edge." I have been an LCD fan for years and I can tell you that they rarely ever play that song. It was an absolute treat. 

3. Jay-Z - I knew he was going to be entertaining but I did not think he would be that electrifying. He had the coolest backdrop of any artist that weekend, a LED display that was shaped like sky-scrapers. This guy could take over the world if he wanted to, he has the confidence of Alexander the Great. At the end of the set he brought out Beyonce (who was the most beautiful woman at the festival) to sing "Forever Young." 

4. Atoms For Peace - I felt bad for Pavement, they were supposed to be a big draw for people, but they had to compete against Thom Yorke's solo project Atom's for Peace, and in the world of indie rock Radiohead is God and Thom Yorke is Christ. So naturally, Yorke won the crowd, and for good reason. He put on a very lush set feulled by his newest bassist Flea. I'm sure they would have been my #1 if I wasn't a mile away, but they were still tremendous and still upstaged Gorillaz.

5. Yo La Tengo - I have been wanting to see them for a long time, I knew I was going to enjoy their set, but I didn't think was going to that much. They played every song I love of theirs. It's a shame that they didn't get a bigger crowd, most of the people left after De La Soul performed. Check out their dance routine that apparently was requested by Sly Stone 

6. Hot Chip - A perfect example of a group that needed to play a longer set, but were screwed due to time constraints. Their tight musicianship still left a great impression on me. 

7. Old Crow Medicine Show - Bluegrass isn't usually welcome at hipster paradise. But Old Crow were man enough to take on the mainstage. After some audio problems they settled into an absolutely supercharged hour of music. I am sure they gained about a thousand new fans that day, so yeah it was a great day for bluegrass. 
8. Them Crooked Vultures - I saw them a few months back at their record release show at The Wiltern and wasn't really that impressed. They were very repetitive. I guess all that time on the road did them wonders because the band I saw that friday was a completely different Them Crooked Vultures. They seemed focused yet loose enough to improvise some impressive Zeppelin-esque jams. It doesn't hurt to have an actual member of Zepp in your band too. Like Muse, they were built for large outdoor settings like this. 

9. Gil-Scott Heron - I only caught about twenty minutes of his set due to my wanting to get front row for LCD Soundsystem, but what I saw I was completely impressed. It was only his scratchy voice, a piano, a bongo player and a saxophone. Sure it was laid back, and not danceable, but Heron is a poet. The magic is in the meaning of the songs, not how they sound. During the short time that I was there he touched on love, loss, peace and pain. He's a withered tortured soul who has probably experienced more than anyone else at that festival. It was a treat to be able to say I saw him. 

And now onto the disappointments:

1. Beach House - Maybe it was the weather, the sound issues, and the fact that they were playing on way too large of a stage but something about Beach House really bored me to death. I enjoy their new album but their Coachella set taught me that setting is everything. Some great bands are not built for the hot sun and summer festivals and Beach House is a perfect example. They need to stick to smaller indoor venues at night and maybe I'll check them out again. 

2. The xx - What the hell makes this band likable? I seriously cannot wrap my head around why they are successful. Every one of their songs sounded the same. If I learned three chords on guitar and whispered into a mic I guess I could have an evening slot at Coachella as well. I was drug into their set and had to miss Dirty Projectors which I was bummed about. 

3. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes - I enjoy their album, it has a very positive vibe to it, and as all the hippies in attendance showed me is great to skip around in a circle to. But Ed Sharpe himself was all over the place that night. He was obviously fucked up on something, he stumbled around the stage, sang off-track from the music, and forced some of his band-mates to cover from him. 

4. Gorillaz - Yep. There I said it, the most talked about group of the weekend was also one of the biggest let downs for me. I bought into the hype that they were going to be a visual spectacular like no other. I absolutely loved the mystery of the band, the whole cartoon aspect was very unique. Previously, they used to perform behind a silhouette to keep the band members identities hidden. Instead they removed the curtain and reveal their identities that night. Gorillaz had no mystery left, turns out they are human just like the rest of us. It was a big letdown for me. Props to Daft Punk for keeping mystery in music in tact. Gorillaz proved that watching a bunch of british people playing instruments is far less entertaining than a shrouded cartoon rock group. 

5. Sly Stone - The fucker didn't show up until later. He pulled a Sly. I didn't see his set, but apparently it was a glorious train wreck and Sly spent most of the time talking about his money troubles. 

Did I enjoy my time at Coachella? Yes, absolutely I think everyone should submit themselves to this kind of experience at least once in their lives. It will give you stories to tell for years. However, I would not be the kind of person who bops around to every single one of these sorts of things. Would I go back? Probably, if the setlist was good enough $269 is a lot of cash though. For now, I'm going to set my sights for festivals that are in a better climate.  

Thursday, April 15, 2010


It's going to be quiet again here the next few days. This time I actually have an excuse for not posting. I will be attending Coachella for the first time. I'm not bringing my computer but I will take a ton of notes, and sometime next week I will have a full review and videos of the festival. A taste of what I'm excited for is: LCD Soundsystem, Yo La Tengo, Sly & The Family Stone, Hot Chip, Devo, Meyer Hawthorne & The County, Old Crow Medicine Show just to name a few. See you in Indio!

The Black Keys

The Black Keys new effort Brothers is out in a few weeks. After listening to an advanced copy, I must say if you were looking for another Magic Potion, you're going to be disappointed. That by no means this record isn't any good, it just means that The Black Keys are moving on and departing from their original straight up blues-rock sound. This record is more in step with their previous Attack & Release, but I also feel a hint of influence from the recent rap-rock project Blakroc. My current favorite track from this album at the moment would have to be "Next Girl" It is a downright sleazy and sexy tune with a very good lyrical hook to it.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Josh Ritter

If I had to summarize Josh Ritter in one word, intricate is what I would have to use. Whether it is his musical arrangements that add a deep sense of texture, or if it is his varying styles of lyrics that often feature fictitious characters from historical events of the far reaches of the world. All of this he uses to his advantage to draw his audience in. I can't wait to see him with Carolina Chocolate Drops in June at The Henry Fonda Theater. Also his new album So Runs The World Away is in stores soon, be on the lookout. 

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Rattling Locks

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog is one of those very talented indie bands that for some reason I just haven't given that much attention to. I think the reason for that is because I hold them akin to Blitzen Trapper, which is one of my favorite bands. So given the choice, I tend to listen to the latter. However I am really enjoying the single for their new record Shame,Shame titled "Shadow People." It's a very breezy pop tune with a great piano section. I can tell summer is getting close, because music is starting to feel summery again.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings have done something I think no other band has come even close to accomplishing. She has been able to replicate a vintage soul sound so well that that not only does she sound like she comes from the time of Otis Redding and The Supremes, but she also sounds like something brand new. Sharon Jones makes vintage come full circle and sound completely new and exciting again. Her new album I Learned The Hard Way continues her dominion as the current Queen of Soul. 

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hall of Fame: The Flaming Lips - Clouds Taste Metallic

** Hall of Fame is where we discuss our favorite albums of all time, they may not be the most critically acclaimed, but they hold a special place in our hearts**

Ahh, The Flaming Lips, they are the chameleons of indie rock, the juggernauts of the new psychedelia, and one of the most impressive live shows around. However, before they became popular with well known albums like The Soft Bulletin or with anthems like "Do You Realize?" they were a grittier more guitar driven band.
1995's Clouds Taste Metallic was in fact the last album where The Lips presented themselves as a big guitar band. One theory as to why the group decided to deconstruct their sound and approach their music from a different angle lies in this album itself. Clouds Taste Metallic explores a whole lot of terrain while sticking to their roots, thus is is possible that Wayne Coyne and company felt that they had done all they could with that style of rock. Before this record, The Flaming Lips had gone through a phase of grittier albums, however they cleaned up the excessive feedback and honed in on musicianship on this release.
This album also starts some of the more fantastical positive tones behind The Flaming Lips music, themes of space exploration and aliens are littered throughout Clouds Taste Metallic, "Christmas at the Zoo" and "Brainville" are testament to that. However, my personal favorite track from this record is the driving force of "Kim's Watermelon Gun" it is a shame that the band has neglected this song in their live performances. It is one of their most straightforward rock songs to date, and is truly a great example of what an underrated song is. 

Clouds Taste Metallic is simply, one of the most solid albums that The Flaming Lips have ever released. Sadly it is quite often one of their most overlooked records as well. It is one of my many hopes that this album gets a reissue soon, and starts gaining more of the attention that it deserves. 

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Morning Freedom

I heard this song while I was catching up on my favorite show Breaking Bad, and was surprised to hear Blue Mink's "Good Morning Freedom" used. That show and Big Love utilize popular music exceptionally well.

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Good Morning Freedom