Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys

The Black Keys are currently touring the country (and parts of Canada), opened by the Arctic Monkeys. I've had the chance to see them twice on this tour; once here in Cincinnati and the second time with my mom in Cleveland. Both bands put on an incredible show; which is impressive considering it's a bit of firsts for both of them. This is The Black Keys first headlining arena tour and the Arctic Monkeys first arena tour, at least in the US (they have done an arena tour in the UK).

Perhaps fresher is better. I had a great time at both shows and the pictures to prove it!

First, my up-close pictures from Cincinnati.

I spent most of the first set trying to figure out what "H.Y.F.R." stood for. It's apparently a reference to a Drake song.

He's got that rock star swagger!

I didn't realize I was getting a picture of this guy's butt; just wanted a shot of Patrick Carney's awesome drum set!

Oh, how I love this man...

Don't worry, Dan, I love you, too!


Next, my Cleveland pictures...a show enjoyed with my lovely mother.

Hi Mom!

His swagger is evident even from this far away!

I loved the videos playing behind the band!

My favorite shot of the night.

Another great shot...encore!

Until next time, Cleveland!

Mini setlist:

Arctic Monkeys - "R U Mine?"

Arctic Monkeys - "Still Take You Home"

The Black Keys - "Gold on the Ceiling"

The Black Keys - "Girl Is on My Mind"

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dum Dum Girls - "Coming Down"

Goodness people! I didn't like her ensemble either, but isn't that extreme? Actually, this new video from the Dum Dum Girls is an homage to a 1965 performance piece by Yoko Ono, "Cut Piece." Like here, Ono invited people to cut swatches off of a black dress until it was in shreds, though Dee Dee ends up far more clothed that Ono was at the end of hers!

The song is taken from the band's most recent album, Only in Dreams, released last year.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Last week's movie night movie was the buzz-generating Pariah, starring newcomer Adepero Oduye and more established, though mostly known for comedy, Kim Wayans.

The movie tells the story of Alike, a teenager struggling with her gay identity in a less-than-accepting family. She has to deal with a mother in denial of her sexuality who constantly tries to get her to dress girlier and buys her clothes. Her father is more understanding, but sees it as just a phase. The only person truly understanding is her best friend Laura, also gay, who exposes Alike to the underground gay and lesbian clubs in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Alike's mother, however, disapproves of the friendship and discourages her daughter from spending time with Laura. She forces Alike to spend time with a coworker's daughter, which throws Alike into a tailspin when she falls for the girl.

The movie was such an indication, to me at least, that so many actors and performers deserve more attention than Hollywood seems willing to give them. Something that I found similar to Precious was the unexpected use of actors. A relative newcomer (Gabourey Sidibe in Precious) in the main role and a performer better known for comedy (Mo'Nique in Precious) in a supporting role. In all cases, these actresses seem more willing to do what so many in Hollywood will not, be less than glamorous. I hope that Oduye is better able to make a move towards other great films than Sidibe, who doesn't seem to have done much to build on a promising start.

Mini soundtrack:

Daisha - "Top Blow"

Sparlha Swa - "Doin' My Thing"

Gossip - "Fire with Fire" (movie version was performed by Tamar-Kali)

New Music Tuesday - 03/27/2012

Belle & Sebastian - Late Night Tales 2

The latest installment in the Late Night Tales series, which includes songs curated by a selected artist, is the second from this band. They released their first collection for the project in 2006. These albums are always a good glimpse into the music that a particular band is influenced by or that they love. Looks like Belle & Sebastian are now digging Toro Y Moi, Broadcast and The Pop Group.
"Crash" (Primitives cover)

Electric Flower Group - EP II

The second EP from the side project of Imaad Wasif, solo artist and formerly of alaska!. In this project, he collaborates with Josh Garza of Secret Machines. This may easily be one of his most praised projects, earning an artist to watch at SXSW article from Rolling Stone and one of the 25 winter albums to hear from Spin!

La Sera - Sees the Light

This is a pretty decent year for past and current members of the Vivian Girls. Former member Frankie Rose released an incredible sophomore album just a few weeks ago and now current member Katy Goodman, who performs under the name "La Sera." This is also her second album, the first, a self-titled release, was out last year. Katy doesn't stray far from the sound of her main act, but loses some of the noise edge that the group has in favor of a more pop-oriented sound.
"Real Boy"/"Drive On"

Miike Snow - Happy to You

Miike Snow is a electric pop trio made up of three men not named Mike or Snow. Despite the utterly confusing name, they do make good music. They first caught my ear with a collaboration with Lykke Li, "Black Tin Box," and have held it with even more great songs!
"The Wave"

Morissey - Viva Hate re-issue

I have never really been able to get as into Morrissey's solo work as I am into The Smiths, but his work always closely resembled his group work. Viva Hate was his first solo record, released in 1988 and making many references to the recently broken-up Smiths. The man is still an active recording artist, releasing his most recent solo record, Years of Refusal, about three years ago.
"Ordinary Boys"

Poor Moon - Illusion

This band is made up of members of the Fleet Foxes. One member, J. Tillman, had left the band in January, but the two members here, Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott are still performing with Robin Pecknold. They've taken on a much different sound than the Fleet Foxes' pastoral folk, with '60s-inspired guitars reminiscent of the Zombies!
"People in Her Mind"

Rocketjuice and the Moon - Rocketjuice and the Moon

This is Damon Albarn's second project release of the year (the first being a Gorillaz collaboration with Andre 3000 and James Murphy for Converse). He still has new material from Blur and a solo release slated for this year. This project is a collaboration (he likes to work with other people, I guess) with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Afrobeat drummer Fela Kuti. Such a busy man should be burnt out by now, but it looks like he is just gonna keep going.
"Hey Shooter" (featuring Erykah Badu)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spiritualized - "Hey Jane"

Very NSFW, but an incredible music video. This one follows a day in the life of a transgender waitress and prostitute. It's a fascinating video and the song is incredible! Where the coda of the song meets up with the video is maybe one of my favorite things ever.

Spiritualized is set to release a new album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light on April 17.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Music Tuesday - March 20, 2012

Ben Browning - Lover Motion

Browning is the bassist for Cut Copy, who released an incredible album, Zonoscope, last year. This EP represents his first outing as a solo artist. While there are obvious connections to the music that he makes with his band, primarily the electronic element, the songs I've heard from him seem a little more down to earth, less sprawling and epic. Bassists are usually the easiest to ignore, so it's good to see one step out and really make a name for himself.
Watch: "I Can't Stay"

Daniel Rossen - Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP

Another member of a band, this time Grizzly Bear, branching out on his own. Grizzly Bear's last album was released almost three years ago and I guess Rossen was getting a little antsy, so he released his own EP during the downtime. Also, his first EP, though not the first solo album for a member of his band (Chris Taylor released one last year as CANT). The music here is more personal, which is likely why the solo approach was taken, and takes a more stripped-down approach than his work with his group.
Watch: "Saint Nothing"

Ladyhawke - Anxiety

I really don't know how I heard of her, but I liked the light, irrelevant lyrics and deep-throated vocals. What I've heard so far seems to be more mature, but no less a good listen. The artist is a Kiwi (from New Zealand) and still doesn't seem to have hit her stride among US listeners (though she may not be trying); I hope that she finds an inroad into this market, because I think I would really like to see her live!
Watch: "Black and White and Blue"

Lee Ranaldo - Between the Times and the Tides

Another artist breaking out from the shadow of his band. Lee Ranaldo has been a member of Sonic Youth since the beginning, thirty years! Following the divorce of members Thurston Moore Kim Gordon, the band is in a state of indefinite hiatus, though. Fortunately, this has given Ranaldo the time to focus on his own solo material. It's not his first solo record, though he has mentioned the unique opportunity that the timing of the band's hiatus allows him, so perhaps we'll see much more in the short-term (depending on the future of the Sonic Youth, of course)!
Watch: "Off the Wall"

Margot and the Nuclear So and So's - Rot Gut, Domestic

Indy represent! That's right, this band hails from my beloved home state of Indiana. That's maybe 50% of why I love them, the other being their amazing music, of course! Dark and moody...the perfect music to represent the sometimes gloomy Hoosier state.
Watch: "Shannon"

The Shins - Port of Morrow

They're back!!! It's been five years since their previous album, Wincing the Night Away. I probably shouldn't really say "they," though; James Mercer, the frontman and primary songwriter, is the only remaining member of the old lineup. It's practically a completely new band, with a different sound to go along with it. Despite this, this has still been one of the most anticipated albums of the year and manages to live up to expectations. The sound's a bit different, but the music is still great!
Watch: "Simple Song"

Tanlines - Mixed Emotions

This band has been a "thing" for about four years and the members have already been heavily involved in the broader music scene for awhile. Despite all that, this is actually their first full-length release. Taking on an experimental, pop-influenced sound, they've made sure the debut is well worth the wait!
Watch: "All of Me"

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The War on Drugs - "Brothers"

This is easily one of the most interesting and well-produced videos I've seen this year. It follows a young woman in some sort of sadistic life-or-death game with an elderly psychopath with a rifle. She attempts to mount an escape while he sleeps, getting pretty far in removing her restraints. He wakes up, though, and it again becomes a fight for her life.

I would love to see this as a full-length film, it's an incredible story.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Protest Radiohead!

It's no secret that the members of the Westboro Baptist "Church" are a little wacko, if not outright disrespectful. They've protested countless military funerals in the name of protesting homosexuality, threatened protests of funerals for victims of terrorist attacks (they were told they would pretty much be arrested on spot if they showed up in Norway, however). They have also held real and threatened protests of the funerals of famous public figures for real and perceived moral failings.

Seems, however, that they've gotten sick of the funeral scene and have now taken to protesting concerts! Their first target? Radiohead! Apparently, their main attack on the band was for producing "mediocre" music...I guess they fell on the negative side of the divide over The King of Limbs.

It's pretty ridiculous. I almost wonder if they've finally realized how not seriously the world takes them and have decided to give up any semblance of seriousness in their mission.

"Creep" (I think it's a fitting song to describe these people)

New Music Tuesday - 03/13/2012

Delta Spirit - Delta Spirit

As the primary new release of personal interest today, this one is a bit of a downer, unfortunately. I loved this band's first album, Ode to Sunshine and their roots-inspired, upbeat sound. They lost it, in a big way, on their second release, History from Below. This new album was a streaming preview over at Rolling Stone. In my own listen of it, it didn't seem like they had really regained their sound. Maybe, it will grow on me over time, but I don't see it having the same impact as the debut.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

R.I.P., Whitney Houston

On February 11 of this year, the world lost a great voice in R&B and pop. Whitney Houston passed away at the age of 48.

While I didn't listen much to her music as an adult, I remember hearing many of her songs growing up and absolutely loving what she did. I loved to sing along riding in the car with my mom.

As what seems to be a sad constant in the deaths of younger singers and performers, she had been steadily trying to stage a comeback in the years leading up to her death. She had completed a film, Sparkle, that is slated for release later this year, and staged numerous performances over the past few years.

You always hope that the stories of those who struggle with addiction and abuse in their lives end positively, with a return to the top of their careers. Unfortunately, as we've seen before, that's not always the case.

Goodbye, Whitney, you will be greatly missed!

In Memoriam:

"How Will I Know" (vocals isolated)

"I Will Always Love You"

"It's Not Right but It's Okay"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Albert Nobbs

If you're ever in the mood for female-to-male, 19th-century, Irish cross-dressers, Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, may be the perfect film for you.

Glenn Close stars as the titular Albert Nobbs, a hotel waiter in 19th-century Ireland. Living as a man her entire life following a traumatic childhood experience, she hides her secret well, with no one except a part-time painter at the hotel, Hubert Page, (Janet McTeer), also passing as male, knowing. She found out after they have to share a room at the hotel. Nobbs has dreams beyond the hotel, having saved her money for several decades with opening a tobacco shop in mind. She realizes that she would like to have a wife by her side as she embarks on this new adventure upon learning that Page had also taken a wife, and has her eyes set on Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska), a maid at the same hotel. The movie follows Nobbs as she struggles with her gender identity, life goals and competition for her object of affection.

The film, story-wise, wasn't great, but it did garner well-deserved nominations for Janet McTeer and Glenn Close (leave it to the most established players in the room to save a middling film!). Neither won, but their performances were great nonetheless. The film, though, felt a little sappy at points for my taste. I think McTeer best saved it from being too saccharine. The movie did have some promising new faces in Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson. I'm still not sure how I feel about Wasikowska, though. She's charming enough, but her characters are always annoyingly juvenile, despite being adults. I really like Johnson in Kickass, I think the comedy suited him a bit better than this does. If you're going to see this one, definitely see it for Close or McTeer (or the incredible make-up), they make the film worth it!

Sinead O'Connor - "Lay Your Head Down"

New Music Tuesday - 03/06/2012

Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself

Multi-instrumentalists always amaze me a bit. The idea of, not only being able to play a myriad of instruments, but also be able to play them all well is just incredible to me. Andrew Bird is one of those amazing artists. This is his seventh album (tenth if you count the "Bowl of Fire" releases, eleventh for the Norman soundtrack), but nothing about his work feels tired or overdone, which he's accomplished without much reinventing of his wheel. If anything, this feels somewhat more upbeat than past work. Not a huge or detrimental change, but still a very welcome one!

Magnetic Fields - Love at the Bottom of the Sea

Magnetic Fields probably have one of the most distinctive sounds in indie rock, one that would take about two second to recognize, even if your exposure to the band was minimal. The band and its members have been fairly prolific. They're last studio album was released in 2010 and lead singer Stephin Merritt released a solo record just last year. The most endearing thing about this band, for me, are the lyrics, kinda cheeky and descriptive, something they haven't managed to lose during their time together and certainly not here!
"Andrew in Drag"

Pond - Beard, Wives, Denim

Pond is the side project (though may have actually come before) of two of the four members of Tame Impala. They have a very similar sound, a psychedelic rock base. I generally dislike it when side projects don't veer much from the primary band's sound, but both acts are relatively new, so I welcome as much as that sound as they will create right now!

White Rabbits - Milk Famous

One of my absolute favorite bands; I fell in love with Fort Nightly and, although it took me longer, It's Frightening. I had the chance to see them live back in December. At the time, I wasn't sure how I felt about their new songs, a trepidation that continued into my first couple of listens to Milk Famous. I think I've decided that I love it, though. It's garnered some well-deserved comparisons to Spoon (for me, it recalls Transference the most), but they manage to pull in that influence without sounding like a copy-cat of the band. The vocals don't hold the same strength as they did on the last two albums, but lyrically, they just keep getting better. I like where they are going with their sound!
"Heavy Metal"

Xiu Xiu - Always

I'm not actually that familiar with Xiu Xiu's past work, I was going to see them during the MidPoint Music Festival, but the venue was full for them, so I missed out. I've never found the time to really check them out since, so this is my introduction (I say that a lot with some of the established bands I speak of here). Although I'm only a few songs in, I do like their sound. Their discography is daunting, though. Only ten years, and they've put out nine albums, one live album, one compilation and an EP...that's a lot to catch up on!
"Beauty Towne"

Yellow Ostrich - Strange Land

Another of my recent favorites, Yellow Ostrich released one of my 20 favorite albums last year and were definitely my favorite new discovery of the year. The album announcement seemed to come out of nowhere, especially coming on the heels of a re-release of the first album and all the buzz around that release. I had some concern approaching this released of how well Alex Schaapf would be able to retain his sound while expanding into a more fully-realized band, but the transition has been handled perfectly. It benefits from a larger band, but still has many of the elements that made his music so charming in the first place!
"Marathon Runner"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sharon van Etten at the Wexner Center for the Arts

In the absence of a Valentine's Day date, it is still very important to find something to do with the evening. For me, that was seeing an artist I absolutely love perform live in Columbus, OH. That artist was Sharon van Etten, who performed with opener Shearwater at the Wexner Center on OSU's campus.

Shearwater was on first and it was a great opportunity for me to get to know this band better. I had only recently started listening to their music, specifically The Golden Archipelago, due to their connection to Okkervil River, who created one of my favorite albums last year. They had released a new album, Animal Joy, just that day, so I hadn't had much of a chance to listen to that at the time.

Though knowing the band produces a high-quality level of music and having high expectations, they still managed to blow my mind away. The lead singer, Jonathan Meiburg, has a deep, powerful voice (actually similar, I think, to Will Sheff's voice....hmmmm) and the songs have this great theatrical quality to them.

Given their amazing show, they have come pretty close to being favored over Okkervil River, though it's still too early to tell. I was, however, compelled enough by what I heard to shake John's hand after the show and buy a copy of their new record!

Next on was Sharon van Etten. I had seen her live once before, at the MusicNow Festival in Cincinnati and already knew what a great (and nervous) presence that she had on stage. She first exhibited her personality as I was snapping pictures of her and her band setting up. She looked up and gave me a smile, which just further cemented the image in my mind of her as an artist truly appreciative of her fans.

Sharon released a new album, Tramp, earlier this year; one that's probably my early favorite (as in #1!) of the year and she mainly performed songs from that release. Despite a fairly sunny disposition, many of her songs drip with heartbreak, which was evident from the moment she opened her mouth on the first song of her set.

She was able to transition almost seamlessly between the pain in her music and a more jovial, lighthearted banter on stage, without it feeling awkward. Almost as amazing as her music is her personality and she's only gotten better at showing it onstage as time goes on (although I really only have two data points).

She's performing in a couple of months in my college town, Bloomington, IN. There's a good chance that I'll see her again there!

Mini setlist:

Shearwater - "Animal Life" (from Animal Joy)

Shearwater - "Castaways" (from The Golden Archipelago)

Sharon van Etten - "Serpents" (from Tramp)

Sharon van Etten - "Love More" (from Epic)