Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pitchfork Music Festival

My stay in Bloomington last Friday was a very short one, I left early the next morning to head to Chicago for the Pitchfork Music Festival.

I've been to Pitchfork three separate times prior to this year, though not since 2008. Having been to Bonnaroo, it doesn't even come close to the epicness, but is still a great music festival nonetheless.

I caught the 9:00 South Shore (a train line that runs between South Bend and Chicago) out of Dune Park and arrived in Chicago before noon. Having nearly two hours before the festival started, I decided to walk around downtown (i.e., shop) before heading down to Union Park.

After my mini-excursion, I met up with some friends who would also be attending the festival, got some lunch and started our trek to the park. We arrived just in time for me to see Woods again! Even better than the night before. I guess they benefited from actually being able to move around on stage.

That guy and his modified headphone/microphone...thingy...

After a short water and bathroom break, we returned to the same stage to watch No Age, a noise pop/punk two-piece. They're somewhat rare for bands, in that the primary singer is also the drummer; something that never ceases to amaze me especially when playing in near 100 degree weather. For the last song of the set, he stepped from behind the drumset, took his shirt off to show his epic pastiness and mingled with a crowd a little bit.

So that's why you took your shirt off...

After another break, during which we simultaneously listened to Gang Gang Dance and Wild Nothing as well as bought some posters and spotted Kurt Vile leaving a port-a-potty, we returned to that stage (the Red stage, by the way) for Destroyer, known for his work with The New Pornographers (he was not a part of their concert back in April, however). Maybe it was being a bit further from the stage, or the nature of their music, but it didn't sound great as far as vocals go. The saxophone, though, sounded great!

We then turned around to face the Green stage (which is directly across from the Red stage) for The Dismemberment Plan who reunited for some shows only earlier this year after a long hiatus. In the course of just over an hour, they became one of my favorite bands. I have a couple of their records and have enjoyed them, but there's an amazing energy that the band, especially Travis Morrison, have live. I've been listening to Emergency & I a lot in the past week!


We took another break, this time for food and exploring the tents. While at the tents, I struck up a conversation with the representative from Bloomington-based Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar/Dead Oceans labels. During that time, the boys of No Age sat down in that area just to chill. I was a little starstruck.

We then returned to the Green stage for the night's headliners, Fleet Foxes! I had the chance to see them at Pitchfork three years ago when they were just getting started, At the time, I didn't really know what to make of their music and it wasn't until last summer that I got much into them. With a more rounded sound on their second album and perhaps more confidence three years after their debut, the set was much better this time around. Maybe not as exciting as a lot of other bands, but they provided a good live version of their music. A great end to the day.

Needless to say, my point and shoot does not do well at night

We made the trek back to our hotel and had one more musician sighting, Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan. Unfortunately, he was nose deep on his phone texting, so we didn't really get to say hi. He's really short in person.

I completed the weekend with a visit with one of my best friends from high school and her grandparents and a quick stroll around the Indiana Dunes before heading back to Cincinnati.

Another great weekend filled with music!

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 07/26/2011

The Horrors - Skying
Faris Badwan is turning into one of those impossibly prolific musicians. In April, he released an album with Rachel Zeffira under the name Cat's Eyes and now he's back with his band for their third album. The Horrors' sounds has been a constantly evolving one; beginning with gothic punk on Strange House, moved towards experimental on Primary Colours and have a decidedly psychedelic sound here. The bands have always been British indie darlings, but for me it's nice to see them being less of a costumey throwback to the '80s.
"Still Life"

Philip Selway - Running Blind EP
Running Blind
Radiohead's drummer's solo work isn't necessarily for die-hard Radiohead fans. After 25 years with the band, Selway released his first solo album, Familial only last year. This EP comprises four songs from the same session. His music is sparse and emotional and stands up well against that of the band.
"Running Blind"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back to Bloomington

I went back to the town of my Alma Mater, Bloomington, Indiana, for the first time in about three months last weekend. The reason for my return? A show by two of my new favorite artists in the town. Kurt Vile and Woods co-headlined a show at Russian Recording.

My first duty upon getting into town, however, was to pay a visit to some of the friends still living there. I first met up with the wife of one of my best friends from high school (he would have been there, too, but he stepped out and wasn't back before I had to leave). I then spent some time with a more recent friend, with whom I enjoyed a rousing game of Scattergories (which I was winning!)

The perfect pre-cursor to a night of great music.

It was then time to head to the venue. Although I spent five and half years in this town, I had never heard of Russian Recording. I was worried I would walk right past it, but found the little house on South Walnut where the studio is located easily enough. The location was obviously set up as a recording studio initially. The studio and home feel to the place made the show very intimate.

First up was Woods, a band whose album, At Echo Lake, I became mildly obsessed with earlier this year and released a great follow-up, Sun & Shade, only last month. Their performance was very true to their recordings, but they did jam out a bit more on stage. One of the members, G. Lucas Crane, used headphones as a modified microphone to create some of the interesting ethereal sub-sounds present in their records. Some things you just wouldn't guess until you saw them!

"Pushing Onlys"

Kurt Vile was the next act, also putting on a great performance. I did take issue a bit with the balance of his set. Although his music is heavy on guitar and it was a small venue, his vocals seemed to get lost. He does have an amazing backing band, though. They all kind of look like him, with long hair hanging over their eyes. The drummer performed with one stick and his hands, which I thought as pretty awesome. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay his entire set. The more people came into the venue, the stuffier it got. It reached the point where I could barely continue to stand. Sadly, I stopped enjoying the show and needed to leave. I'm sure the rest of the set was amazing, though.

"Jesus Fever"

It was the start of a great weekend, which I will talk about more later. It's always fun to discover something new in a familiar place!

RIP Amy Winehouse

I discovered that Amy Winehouse passed away yesterday evening; my mother texted me while I was on a weekend exucrsion to Nashville, TN. While no autopsy will be performed until after Monday, it seems clear from her short life that it was likely drugs. The autopsy will only point to which ultimately caused her death.

I shouldn't be, but I can't help but be a bit surprised at her passing. While her struggles with drugs and alcohol were well-publicized and seemed to be far-reaching; it had seemed that she was trying to get her life back on track. Rehab (multiple stints) and recent recording sessions proved someone who still had something to say and wanted to be able to say it. Plus, it seems like there have been a slew of musicians with major drug problems that lived long past what was expected...Keith Richards is still alive.

Would not be so for Winehouse. In passing, she joins the fabled 27 club; a group of prominent musicians who all passed away at the age of 27 mostly due to severe emotional or drug problems. Keith Richards' bandmate Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison all died at that age in the late '60s and early '70s. It wasn't until 1994 that the next major musician, Kurt Cobain, would also go at that age. Many less prominent musicians also have lost their lives at that age.

One has to wonder what combination of factors may have led to Winehouse's death, and those of other musicians taken far too young. Only last week, I included Winehouse on a list of musicians I'd like to see more music from. With her, I had the caveat of her getting to a place where she could record again. Unfortunately, it seems to have come too little too late.

Amy Winehouse
RIP Amy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Walk on Water

submarine movie-poster

I mentioned Alex Turner's excellent soundtrack for the independent film, Submarine a few months ago. Last week, I decided to see the movie at a local theater that specialized in independent and foreign films.

The movie is excellent! It's a "coming of age" film about a young man, Oliver, whose has dual goals of losing his virginity and keeping his mother from sleeping with the creepy new neighbor. He succeeds at one and only half succeeds at the other; I'll let you guess which (or see the movie, which you should).

The movie stars Noah Taylor, the dad from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, looking surprisingly haggard, Paddy Considine as the creepy neighbor and amazing early starts from Craig Roberts as Oliver and Yasmin Paige as the object of his affections.

Definitely a must see! And get the soundtrack, too!

"Stuck on a Puzzle"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Likey

Please enjoy this video of male models singing and dancing to Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation." And make sure you have a towel, you may drool.

New Music Tuesday - 07/19/2011

Amy LaVere - Stranger Me
Stranger Me
When I started listening to Amy Lavere about four years ago, it set me off on an Americana kick that was never fully satisfied. She is, by far, my favorite in the genre and I'm happy that she's back. A lot of her past work has been very singular-sounding, like she was the only one performing on the record. This new album, has a fuller sound with more instrumentation. Thankfully, the lyrics still have that haunting quality and her vocals are as delicate as ever.
"Damn Love Song"

Fink - Perfect Darkness
Perfect Darkness
I also got into this artist about four years ago, also drawn in by a simple, understated sound. His music is sparse and emotional, but he has a very interesting way of expressing himself. I love his quote explaining the album's name, that the album is not "a collection of songs about being dumped or ships leaving meadows or whatever it is people think folk’s supposed to be nowadays, [it] is not that at all."
"Perfect Darkness"

Other Releases:
Twin Sister - "Bad Street"

Monday, July 11, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 07/12/2011

Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
Last Summer
She is one half of the brother-sister duo The Fiery Furnaces releasing nine albums and she has inspired songs (most notably: "Eleanor, Put Your Boots On" by Franz Ferdinand), but this is her first solo album. It's very similar, stylistically, to her work with her brother, so this is a good bet if you're already a fan!
"My Mistakes"

Grooms - Prom
I may have cut back on the fashion coverage on my blog in favor of music, but trust I still follow it closely. One of my favorite sites, Refinery 29, started a song-of-the-day feature that highlights some real gems. Last Thursday, they featured the song "Tiger Trees" by this band and I just about fell in love. Their music is a great homage to classic indie rock in a time when the genre has become little more than a catch-all for many diverse styles.

Washed Out - Within and Without
Within and Without
"Chillwave" seems to be a hot subgenre right now, with Pitchfork wet dreams Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian getting a lot of play this year. While I can already tell the genre will probably be over-represented on some year-end best-of lists, that doesn't mean there isn't some good coming from the movement. Washed Out is probably the best I've heard so far. He seems broader than the genre has been thus far, with a stated influence of hip hop likely creating some of the diversity of sound in his record. I often buy one vinyl record every Tuesday of something I already know I'm going to love, this is this week's purchase.

Other releases:
Big Talk (Robbie Vanucci of The Killers) - Big Talk
"The Next One Living"

James Blake - "Order"/"Pan"

Les Demoniaques (Dee Dee Penny of the Dum Dum Girls and Tamaryn) - "Teenage Lust" (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover)
"Teenage Lust"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Long Overdue

I watched the first half of "So You Think You Can Dance" (don't judge) last night. At the beginning of the show, the remaining male contestants did a group dance to the song "Prague" by Damien Rice. It had been a long time since I had listened to Damien Rice and it started me thinking, 9 was released way back in 2006 and nothing since...I'm ready for another Damien Rice album.

I started thinking of other artists who are long overdue for another album. I'm not talking artists who left the industry either, these are all artists who are still active, still performing and still collaborating, they just haven't released new material in a long time.

Damien Rice
I started listening to Damien Rice around the time the movie Closer came out, as his music was used throughout much of the movie. I was struck by how beautiful and delicate his first album, O, was. The next album, 9, released four years later was darker and angrier, but still very striking. In the time since that album, he's played many festivals and concerts and contributed to several charity compilation releases, but there hasn't even been an announcement of new material being recorded. Maybe I shouldn't be too antsy as there were four years between the first and second albums, but his music is so dang good, I want more!

To tide me over: Lisa Hannigan, who contributed to Rice's music both in playing and vocals, released a solo album, Sea Sew in 2008, exhibiting much of the same, delicate Irish-folkesque tunes sound present in Rice's work. Also, a friend of mine suggested Dan Mangan, who I intend on checking out very soon.

Amy Winehouse
I know she's not everyone's favorite, but I loved her unique voice and retro style. As immediate as her second album, Back to Black, was for me, it took me some time to appreciate her debut, Frank. I came to love it probably more than Back to Black, though. It's been five years since that album and, despite nearly constant announcements that she's back in the studio working with Mark Ronson, there's been nothing along the lines of an official album announcement. With this one, I feel I can wait a little bit, as live performances of her don't show someone who's capable of producing quality material at the moment. I do hope that she can get clean and get back to work!
"Moody's Mood for Love"

To tide me over: Releases within the past year from Adele and Duffy, though I don't either as much as I loved Amy Winehouse.

Who doesn't remember that video for "How Does It Feel"? That body...those abs. And the music wasn't so bad either. Actually it was really good. He helped to herald in an era for neo-soul, then took a very long break. In that time, he's mostly gotten arrested and gotten fat. Shame...an album, James River, has apparently been in the works for almost ten years now, but it might be another ten before any progress is made.
"How Does It Feel"

To tide me over: I don't follow R&B/Soul that much, so there aren't any newer artists to fill his void. I can always, of course, go old school and rock out to Marvin Gaye. On the other hand, I could choose some artists to stare at regardless of what I think of their music; I'll go with Robin Thicke and Drake.

I don't even know how or why, but I got obsessed with "Hey Pretty" and its accompanying album, Haunted, when I was in middle school. Around college, I got around to her earlier work, which was quintessential angry female alt-rock...and amazing! Haunted was darker and more melodic, it was also 11 years ago. Other angry female rockers from her time are still around; Liz Phair (who went pop), Alanis Morissette (who calmed down) and PJ Harvey (who's done just about everything) have all released albums within the past two years. She has performed, recorded for compilations and worked with other artists since 2000, but not even a little hint of new material potentially leading to an album.
"Trigger Happy Jack"

To tide me over: Like I said, her contemporaries have new music out. However, I never really was a fan of Liz Phair and I'm not crazy about Alanis Morissette's newer stuff...so PJ Harvey it is (not a bad choice at all)!

Lauryn Hill
This is by far the most disappointing. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is easily one of my favorite albums ever. I can't even tell you how long I wanted to be Lauryn Hill. This, however, was 14, 14!, years ago. She's done a ton since then, so I don't even believe any of the excuses. She released a live album that, while not great, could have been polished into some great studio tracks. She's written for and performed with John Legend. She's attempted a reunion with The Fugees (well, the other two members attempted). And she even performed at Coachella just this past April. Miss Hill, what is going on?
"Everything is Everything"

To tide me over: Nothing! Nothing! Nothing compares. I'm just gonna keep waiting her out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Music Tuesday - 07/05/2011

Brian Eno - Drum Between the Bells
Drums Between the Bells
It seems like only a few months ago that producer Brian Eno released his last album...oh wait, it was. A mere nine months since Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Brian Eno is back with another. This album is a collaboration between Eno and poet Rick Holland. Where his last album was instrumental (sort of...), this one includes spoken word, which makes for an interesting result.
"Bless This Space"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Scenes from the Suburbs (frustration)

After a teasing post from Pitchfork, which led to a site that was streaming the short, just not to anyone in the US, the short film based on Arcade Fire's Grammy-winning The Suburbs is available for all to watch online.

^That's the opener I was going to have for this post, before realizing the You-Tube video of the film had been removed. Thankfully, I've had the chance to watch it before it was removed, though I would like to watch it again.

The film will be released along with the deluxe edition of the album at the end of this month.

Here's the trailer:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ok, NOW I'm into The Antlers

The Antlers first gained a lot of attention in the indie rock sphere for their 2009 album Hospice. The album was highly conceptual, telling the story of an emotionally abusive relationship. I listened to the album a few times, but could never understand the full extent of the hype around it (though I suppose it could be summed up in one word...Pitchfork). I found it a bit boring.

Nearly two months ago, the band released a highly-anticipated follow-up, Burst Apart. I gave it a tentative listen, largely expecting more of what was present on Hospice. It was better, though...much better. It's not a concept album, but many of the same themes are present throughout the record. It's lush sounding and has some amazingly beautiful melodies. I've found myself listening to it almost everyday over the past couple of weeks and, something that rarely happens, listening to it more than once a day.

The stand out track may just be "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" (posted below)!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

With a name like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., you'd expect either a really goofy band or annoying NASCAR-loving country music. With this band, you get neither. While they have a quirky on-stage aesthetic, their music is more down-to-earth.

I had the chance to see them here in Cincinnati (technically in Covington, KY) and it was an amazing show for so many reasons.


I met some people that I hope to have the chance to hang out with again and a minor celebrity! The show also featured two amazing opening acts, local band The Seedy Seeds and Detroit band Phantasmagoria.

The Seedy Seeds presented an interesting mix of canned beats and banjo, which was entirely unexpected and surprisingly good.

"Verb Noun"

Phantasmagoria (amazing name, right?) had a synthy pop sound reminiscent of Crystal Castles, except with less screaming.

Video for "Bats!" (can't embed)

The main act then came out in a way befitting their name as well as the title of their debut album, It's a Corporate World. The came on stage all wearing NASCAR jackets and took them off to reveal business suits.

They had a great show that even featured audience participation. I got to get on stage, don a skeleton mask and sing along to one of their songs!

"Nothing But Our Love"

Great show and I'm 75% certain that one of the members is part of the new Free Credit Report band.

Free Credit Report
This guy.