Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall 2010 New Music Playlist

With the release of Interpol's new self-titled CD and the explosion of The Black Keys' Brothers on the scene, there's plenty of substance to provide the backbone of another playlist. Plus I can't resist including any new projects by David Byrne (Maximum Balloon) or Dani Harrison (Fistful of Mercy), so here you go! 

1. AM/FM -- !!!
That's right, the song is called AM/FM and the band is !!! (pronounced chick-chick-chick). They're a conglomerate of people and styles from Brooklyn with this infectious dance tune that caught my ear at first listen.

2. Young Blood -- The Naked and Famous
This might sound like a Passion Pit redo but that's not much to complain about in my book. The band hails from New Zealand where this song debuted on the country's music chart as number one (which was the first time in three years a New Zealand band has done so!)

3. Island Walking -- Tame Impala
4. Desire Be Desire Go -- Tame Impala
Another band from down under -- this Australian group has gained notice for its blend of psychedelic rock full of reverb and dreamy vocals. There's lots of buzz swirling with their debut CD Innerspeaker where these two tracks are found.

5. Everlasting Light --The Black Keys
6. Tighten Up -- The Black Keys
7. Howlin' For You -- The Black Keys
Ohio natives Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney released these tracks on their best selling CD yet -- appropriately named Brothers -- after each dabbling in side projects. "Everlasting Light" starts strong with a fuzzy funky groove while "Tighten Up" lightens up with whistling and cascading guitar riffs. "Howlin' For You" continues the laid-back vibe with spoken lyrics that break out into a sing-a-long chorus that's simply irresistible.

8. All To All -- Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene is another Canadian collective of talent with a ever-changing line up which provides an expansive base for inspiration. This track is off their fourth CD, Forgiveness Rock Record, and it stands out with swirling synths and cooing female vocals.

9. Apartment Wrestling -- Maximum Balloon
Maximum Balloon is a side project David Andrew Sitek, member of TV on the Radio and producer for bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He pulls rank with a great line-up of cameos for the new self-titled CD -- this song features David Byrne's yelping vocals chugging along above a multi-layered percussive track with a horn section thrown in for added fun.

10. Summer Well -- Interpol
11. Lights -- Interpol
12. Barricade -- Interpol
13. Always (The Man I am) -- Interpol
Interpol has regrouped and released a self-titled CD even though this is the fourth offering from the band. Co-founders Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler have a new line-up that inclues Brandon Curtis of Secret Machines on keyboard plus bassist David Pajo of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to fill in for the departed Carlos Dengler. The sound is strong as ever -- it was hard even to narrow down the picks to the four tracks here.

14. Love Comes Down -- Ozomatli
This band is a fixture in the L.A. scene and the many versions of this one song attest to its popularity with an infectious melody and message. Ozomatli comprises a fluid group of musicians that met through the Peace and Justice Center in the city who embrace disparate genres of music to promote cooperation between cultures.

15. Fistful of Mercy -- Fistful of Mercy
Fistful of Mercy is being called a 'rock supergroup' with its powerful pairing of Joseph Arthur, Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison, who has compared the project to his father's time in The Traveling Wilburys. It even sounds similar, with the folksy guitars and harmonies used in a true collaborative spirit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gorillaz Dress Rehearsal for Tour on 'Live on Letterman'

The Gorillaz have been a fave band ever since 2001, when I first heard "Clint Eastwood" on Baltimore/Washington's new music radio station WHFS during a summer vacation (now defunct much to my dismay!) I had to do catch up with Blur catalogue soon thereafter since Oasis clearly won the popularity contest stateside during their 90s heyday. Frontman Damon Albarn's distinctive dreamy vocals were now layered with hip hop grooves and rappers infiltrated the pop vibe, making for very interesting listening at the time. The group toured as a cartoon band to NYC in 2006 and I toyed with the idea of going to hear them but didn't go for the movie style performance with all the muscians behind a screen. This time around the band is in the front while cartoons play on the screen, making for a more satisfying concert experience. I wrote up their live session on kcrw's Morning Becomes Eclectic after a tempid The Colbert Report which seemed like a rehearsal but this Live at Letterman performance is a full blown dress rehearsal for their tour. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Interview with Keith of The 88 -- New Namesake CD Out for Consumption

The 88 has been churning out the alt pop songs since 2008, with a sunny CA vibe from their LA roots that seems infused in everything they do. Named after a song by the French Kicks and the fact a piano has 88 keys, the band’s hits such as “Coming Home” and “Go Go Go” are infectious tunes featured in commercials, TV shows and films that instantly get stuck in your head. Now reformed as a four piece, they just wrote and recorded the opening theme song for NBC’s “Community” and went on tour with the iconic Ray Davies. Their strong presence on screen just seems to fit in with their proximity to Hollywood -- Keith Slettedahl recently called in from there to talk with PopMatters about their new album.

The new album is self-titled – why choose to call it The 88 now?
It’s so different now -- I think the only alternative is to change the name of the band. Everything feels the most complete it’s ever been and the most fun it’s ever been, so it seemed like a new beginning too. To just give it name and lump it in with the other ones wouldn’t feel so right. Todd (O’Keefe, the bass player for the band) came into the studio when we were recording it and said he had a name for the record, but he wanted us to guess. We were like, how are we going to guess? But he said, “no think about it” and we all knew that it was the right thing to do.

Your band wears the alternative mantle well, yet you’re masters of catchy tunes. But underneath the surface are complexities that require serious musicianship, are there classical or jazz training in the band’s background?
No, the guys are just really, really good. The music that we like is older music, when the musicianship was probably a little bit better. But I still like all kinds of music as well – it’s all relative. When The Beatles came out, people thought they were terrible musicians, but by today’s standards they are incredible! But I think it’s from the bands that we really love and we’re influenced by.
You and keyboardist Adam Merrin went to high school together – a classic band story – are those days filled with happy memories or were they more trying times?
Well they were fine, but actually we weren’t really close friends in high school. We knew each other and we were friends but we really didn’t start hanging out together until the last day of high school --that was when we did the first song together. He was a little ahead of me as far as his rebelliousness and I was still a really good boy. Adam was more of a wild card; he was already ditching school and doing other stuff. I wasn’t ready for that yet! But we always had the same taste in music and we would have little competitions here and there about certain bands, although we never really hung out that much till the end.

Another classic band tale is how you got noticed – a demo found its way into the hands of a music supervisor for “The O.C.” so I was wondering where were you passing things out?
It was at Spaceland in Silverlake and Supergrass was playing – it must have been a secret show or something. I didn’t get to see the show …I wish, I would have liked to! So we passed one out to this guy, Danny Benair of Natural Energy Lab (an independent licensing agent) who started all that TV stuff for us. He’s a great guy and we’ve worked with him for a long time now.
In the past you’ve said that all the musical styles for the band have not been a conscious decision to go one direction or another. Is this still true?
Yeah, I think so. Especially with this record more than ever, there was never any discussion about what kind of record or even types of songs or what we wanted to do. It’s all very natural and that’s the way the band has to function for all four of us or we just won’t do it anymore. We’ve been doing this for a long time and a lot of the stuff that we thought we had to do before or worried about or thought about doing, something like “what will this person think of it” or “what will happen after we do this” doesn’t happen anymore. I may think that stuff from time to time but as far as the band and the group consciousness, there’s just none of that.
We just got together and started making songs, with no intention of even making a record. We didn’t know what we were doing, we just wanted to get together and play music again. For a couple of years, we really weren’t doing that – so that’s how this record came about. But to say that we didn’t talk about styles of songs would be an understatement, because we weren’t even talking about making a record. So we were just getting together to have fun, and then all of a sudden songs started to accumulate. It was really done in the right way, really naturally. And that’s another reason to go back to the self-titled record, because this whole process was different than anything we had ever done before.
About a year ago, you recorded the song “Love Is The Thing” entirely on an iphone application and now it’s on Youtube with almost half a million views. How did that come about?
It was filmed at Anthony’s (Zimmitti, the drummer) house and the idea came partly from us and partly through a friend. I had seen the app and we were curious about it... we were talking about it and wondering about it. We were traveling when we saw it, so we tried it out as something to do when we’re on the road. Right after that a friend of ours contacted us about it – he works for Apple and he had mentioned this 4-track app and asked if we would like to do a song on it as a band. And we were like, “Yeah” it sounded fun, especially because I really like the thought of recording simply – it reminds me of how I used to do stuff at home. We had just done some other recordings that were the total opposite of that, so it was a lot of fun. We didn’t even realize how the whole thing was going to work. We were experimenting with it as we went along. For example, if we wanted to record drums we have to set the tone using a pillow because you can’t control the volume of what goes into the mike.
More recently, you not only opened up for Ray Davies on tour but to be his backing band must have been amazing and he even sang on one of tracks on the new album (the lead single “They Ought To See You Now”). How did that all come about?
We were contacted by a booking agent that we used to work with that Ray was looking for a band to do a month in the states and would we be open to being put up for it. And we said of course, but what are the odds of that actually happening? Then as the weeks went by, we were contacted again and they would keep asking for stuff (website, pictures) and then he wanted to hear us do a few Kinks songs live so we did that, sent it to him and he chose us to do it. It was great – kind of amazing as it was out of nowhere. We were in the middle of making the new record when we got the call to do it, so it was really exciting.
Ray’s a great guy and really fun to work with, especially getting to record with him -- we just asked him while we were on tour. We said, “Hey Ray, would you want to sing on a song?” Just the fact that he took the time to do that is really kind of him. He’s really humble in that way. He’d ask our opinions while we were recording and definitely wasn’t domineering in any way. He’s just a really, really nice guy. And obviously he’s one of my all time heroes. His music was a big reason I wanted to play music and write songs in particular. For me, it’s a super personal connection – ask anyone who knows me what kind of music I like and they’ll say The Kinks. Back when I first met my wife I gave her two CDs by The Kinks. They’re huge to me, beyond famous. The other day I was listening to a Kink’s record and I thought to myself how I can’t believe I know that guy!
Did all the touring influence any creative decisions when you went back to finish the new album or was it business as usual?
Well, we were almost done and we were really prepared when we went into the studio, probably more than ever because we really wanted it to be a live record as much as possible. We had rehearsed a lot so we were pretty sure of what to do and everything was easy. By the time we got back we had written all the songs plus most of the parts were done. So it went quickly and smoothly.
Your band seems to embody a sunny California vibe – after all this traveling can you imagine living anywhere else?
I don’t know… I feel pretty set in my ways at this point. Because I grew up in Southern California, I’m obviously accustomed to the weather. That’s what I keep coming back to, the weather! The thing is I’ve never really lived anywhere else. I’ve lived in Northern California for a while, my wife’s from Georgia and there are things I really love about that but home is home. When I was younger I could see myself living somewhere else but now I have a daughter so we’re kind of settled, but I’m open minded about it.
Looking ahead, what’s next for the band?
Well we’re trying to continue to have fun, that’s for sure. And we’re getting together, rehearsing and making up new stuff again since that’s real important for us, because that’s where the real satisfaction comes. You got to feel like you’re being creative and enjoying each other -- not trying to get satisfaction over something you did over a year ago. Playing shows is one thing, that’s awesome but it’s about being vital and excited. We’re much more in the moment than we’ve ever been, so as far as plans I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll do a little bit of touring but beyond that I don’t know. We made the record the right way, which was the important thing, so whatever happens beyond that we’re really open minded to but hopefully not stressed out about the future. We’re not trying to manipulate things to get somewhere; we’re already there. There’s nothing worse doing something the wrong way or making something the wrong way and being stuck with what you did. We took care of what we could take care of and now we’ll see what happens.
It’s important for us to be true to ourselves and be real about where we are… the whole idea about plans is we just don’t make them much anymore. It’s not a negative thing; it’s a really great thing. We just feel really good about right now. Usually, when I get asked that question I’ll list twelve things but right now I just don’t know. We’re doing some local shows for the record release and I’m sure we’ll be doing some traveling, plus continuing to get together and make up some more songs. I’d love to do some more TV stuff too. Touring was a lot of fun but I love being home too, especially with a 2 1/2 year old. Our lives are different than when they were when we made the first record and certain things are more important now.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Show & Tell with Avi Buffalo – Live Session on KCRW

An opportunity to watch/listen live to this band proves these wiz kids are for real...
Avi Buffalo is a young buzz band making waves from Long Beach, California, which has caught the attention of many as I wrote about them earlier for PopMatters here. They played to critical acclaim at SXSW, opened for Modest Mouse this summer and are now heading out on their own headline tour across North America. They visited the studios of KCRW in Santa Monica September 21st clearly thrilled to be among the bands performing for live sessions there as they quickly admitted to listening and watching to many of the sessions themselves. They started with a laid back version their hit “What’s It In For?” This was the fist song I heard from the group when it was back in heavy rotation on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” early this year. Things ended in a funky jam, which flowed right into the next song with a seasoned approach of a band clearly aware of its abilities. The interview brought out more of the teenage awkwardness under the spotlight. Avi has been playing guitar for seven years and was doodling with it the whole time. He’s the one who writes the music and lyrics before the band jams to “hash things out.” During the session, played by three out of four members of the band, the lyrics stand out a bit more than the layered recording which was certainly nice to experience. They also ran out of time for my favorite song, " Remember Last Time" but it’s here in its entirety for eternity.