Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top 20 Songs of 2011

Just one more list for 2011 -- in no particular order here are twenty songs that filled my year with the sheer joy of discovery in a new tune, something to happily play again and again.  With such a diverse group of songs, there's something here for everyone to enjoy.  So there's no more excuses to be listening to the same old stuff, even if it's only a year old! Link to playlist on Spotify here. 

1.   Foster the People, "Pumped Up Kicks"
2.   Peter Bjorn and John, "Second Chance"
3.   Radiohead, "Lotus Flower"
4.   Cake, "Sick of You"
5.   Wilco, "I Might"
6.   Smith Westerns, "Weekend"
7.   Givers, "Up Up Up"
8.   Cults, "Abducted"
9.   M83, "Midnight City"
10. Mates of State, "Palomino"
11.  Portugal. The Man., "So American"
12.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., "Simple Girl"
13.  Toro Y Moi, "Still Sound"
14.  YACHT, "Shangri-La"
15.  Moby, "The Day"
16.  AM & Shawn Lee, "Dark Into Light"
17.  Art Brut, "Lost Weekend"
18.  Girls, "Honey Bunny"
19.  Washed Out, "Eyes Be Closed"
20.  My Morning Jacket, "Holding on to Black Metal"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New LCD Soundsystem Video for "Live Alone"

Franz Ferdinand released an EP Covers in honor of last spring's Record Store Day, inviting others to revisit songs from their 2009 release, Tonight.  Both LCD Soundsystem and Blondie's Debbie Harry (together with FF's lead singer Alex Kapranos himself) took on the song, "Live Alone." Originally presented as a punchy dance tune, Harry gives it a traditional early rock girl group treatment but LCD Soundsystem takes the implied romance in the lyrics to a whole new level.  James Murphy's crooning vocals brings out the yearning in every note. 

Wherever you are
Whoever is there
You know that I'll be here
Wishing I could be there

With this new video directed by Lustix, it also becomes another love letter to New York City with sweeping panoromic shots of skyline and dizzying night lights.  In a futuristic twist, a robot is the protaganist of the story in a blur of heartache.  Now that LCD Soundsytem is no longer, the longing for lost love is even more poignant as New York City moves on without a favorite local band.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Ten Releases of 2011 With Video Highlights

This year, I made my list early so I could enjoy reading about other top picks.  While I may not always agree with other choices for a top ten, I still appreciate the passion for new music discoveries even in genres that are not my favorite (thinking about bro-rock, folky types or anything else I consider snooze-worthy!)  It's also a nice way to revisit releases I might not have explored thoroughly the first go around.  In fact, I've already started my Winter 2012 New Music Playlist and there are a few leftovers from this year that will make an appearance.  For now, enjoy this walk down memory lane for 2011 -- a truly great year for new tunes.

1. Peter Bjorn and John, Gimme Some
This Swedish trio hit one out of the park with Gimme Some, their sixth release since the band formed in 1999.  The single "Second Chance" was all over both TV and online radio with its punchy vibe and feel good refrain.  But the rest of the album is a worthy listen as well, a diverse offering the band presents with confidence.  Their concert last spring was also a top five for the year -- relive it here.

2. CAKE, Showroom of Compassion
As a long-time fan of the band CAKE, I was thrilled that a new album finally appeared after six long years without anything new.  It came as no surprise that the collection was filled with rockin' anthems and quirky sing alongs, such as "Sick of You."  My big Christmas present last year was an overpriced StubHub tickets to a WRXP radio (R.I.P.) holiday show featuring the band and it was well worth it!  They previewed the new songs and I was loving them at first listen -- write up of that show here.

3. Radiohead, King of Limbs
Radiohead released this album last spring and even though it has the shortest running time of any other of their albums, it was enough to easily earn a top ten slot.  The band continues to create innovative approaches to music after almost twenty years together (as well as some new dance moves by Thom Yorke as choreographed by noted UK choreographer Wayne McGregor in the video for "Lotus Flower" below).  After stopping by SNL and The Colbert Report, they played a few dates in the city, but I was not one of the lucky fans to see them.

4. Washed Out, Within and Without
Georgia native Ernest Greene put the term chill wave on the music scene map, with just a few songs composed in his childhood bedroom back in 2009. Hard to think that someone with a proper name like that would choose the sexiest cover artwork of the year... too bad his stage show I saw last summer didn't sizzle quite the same way, even with his new wife on the stage (review link here).

5. Portugal. The Man., In the Mountain. In the Cloud.
This band from the Pacific Northwest (two of the members even grew up in Alaska) have been together for five years, but I only just discovered them.  Their expansive sound reflects their surroundings and lays the foundation for the soulful vocals of singer/songwriter John Baldwin Gourley.  In the Mountain. In the Cloud. was a release I listened to over and over, capped off with a stellar concert appearance at Terminal 5 headlining the 2011 CMJ Music Marathon (review of the festival night here).

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., It's a Corporate World
When I heard this band's single "Simple Girl" I was hooked, but I didn't realize the band had some serious writing chops and depth of talent until I witnessed them live (review link here).  The music pulsed through the venue with layers of synths over a rock band format, encouraging me to revisit the entire release with many satisfying listens.

7. Moby, Destroyed
Moby released his latest CD with a book of photographs taken while out on tour, many of them in the middle of the night.  The reflective mood is found throughout the album, and his singing on the single "The Day" revealed one of his most soul-searing melodies ever.  One of my highlights of the year was definitely interviewing this guy who grew up in my hometown (link here) to hear first hand about the new tunes.  I was also able to catch him doing his big time arena show act at Moogfest 2011, although I was disappointed he only stuck to older hits.

8. M83, Midnight City
Anthony Gonzalez is a charming Frenchman who released two discs worth of world-shaking synth creations this year, then formed a band in order to figure out how to play everything live and tour extensively. I only saw them doing a festival slot at this year's Moogfest, but it was enough to make me a fan forever.

9. Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys
Elbow is another long standing band from the UK (recently chosen to create a theme for the London Olympics next summer).  Their fifth studio album is another stellar collection of tales of life across the pond, as sweetly sung by singer/songwriter Guy Garvey.

10. My Morning Jacket, Circuital
This rock band from Lexington, Kentucky, released their sixth studio album to much acclaim this summer and it's complexities made for an interesting listen.  From the full throttle group singing in "Holding on to Black Metal" to Jim James' solo in "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)," there was something for everyone to latch on to and enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Favorite Holiday Tunes Playlist I (2011)

Happy Holidays!  Here's a playlist of not-so new faves that I actually love hearing every year, beyond the usual standards playing everywhere you go.  Happy to revisit the many Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby songs plus the offering of each Beatle: Ringo's fun party of "White Christmas," Paul always the happy family man with "Wonderful Christmastime," John's emotionally-charged political statement of "Happy Christmas (War is Over)," and George's voice giving out though still such a gift of the soul in "Ding Dong, Ding Dong."  Plus I find the 1972 duet of "Little Drummer Boy" by Bing Crosby and David Bowie intriguing, moving and odd all at the same time.  And I can't help but sing along to Wham's 80s hit "Last Christmas." 

This curated listen is culled from my CD collection (!) when a compilation disc from MTV or various record labels was the greatest gift of all -- keeping me sane through many seasons of overindulgence. Back then you couldn't Google a band discovery and even to this day I have no idea who/where/what Local H is but I'm thankful for their track that starts things off.  It also made for many a fun jam in the basement with me on drums...

Link to listen here, enjoy!

1. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" -- Local H
2. "I Wish It Was Christmas Today" -- Julian Casablancas
3. "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" -- The Ramones
4. "Winter Wonderland" -- Phantom Planet
5. "Merry Christmas Baby" -- Hanson
6. "Christmas Wrapping" -- The Waitresses
7. "Little Drummer Boy" -- The Dandy Warhols
8. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" -- Weezer
9. "The Christmas Song" -- Weezer
10. "Snowball" -- Jimmy Fallon
11. "Father Christmas" -- The Kinks
12.  "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" -- The Polyphonic Spree
13. "Frosty the Snowman" -- The Jackson 5
14. "Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time!" -- Sufjan Stevens
15. "It's Christmas! Let's Be Glad!" -- Sufjan Stevens

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 5+ Concert Experiences in 2011

What a year for live music!  I just counted up attendance at 30 concerts this year and on top of that I would need to add in three nights covering the CMJ Music Marathon and multiple shows at this year's Moogfest.  No wonder my ears are feeling a big clogged these days... might have to succumb to wearing ear plugs in 2012.  For now it's a happy trip down memory lane to recap the top five concert experiences of the year -- from the blowout of a send off for LCD Soundsystem to newcomers Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. along with the opportunity to enjoy seeing a few favorite bands finally play live.  I'll post best of videos from our NMMatterscorp YouTube channel thanks to my camera guy Paul (and yes you can hear at least one of my "wooooos" on each clip!)  For more info, link to my blog post write up for the concerts as listed.  With fond memories of each one, enjoy.

1.  LCD Soundsystem @ Terminal 5 -- March 28, 2011
This was the first and last time I'll see this oh-so favorite band who cranked out beloved dance hits for me to boogie along with every release.  Terminal 5 is not my favorite venue (a big, mutli-layered space and sound can be messy) but the entire place turned into one big dance party during this three-set night.  Walking around you'd have to jump through circles of people grooving along and there was not one person there who wasn't moving something, my kind of night. This video shows how it all began.


2. Flaming Lips @ Moogfest -- October 29, 2011
I had heard tales of the emotional overhaul that takes place at Flaming Lips concerts (funfetti, colorful balloon balls, frontman Wayne Coyne's antics) but I finally experienced the euphoria first hand this fall at Moogfest.  Supposedly the band plays each show as if it's every audience member's only Flaming Lips show so they are sure to play the hits along with anything new.  This night they also played a fitting tribute to Bob Moog, "Lucky Man" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with keyboardist Steve Dzord using an ipad to recreate Keith Emerson's famous synth solo.  Discussing the concert afterwards, my son described his concert experience as a "bawler" for him and asked if I cried during the concert -- I had to admit, "yes twice!"


3. Matt & Kim @ Terminal 5 -- June 29, 2011
This popular hipster band took over Terminal 5 on glorious summer night -- both the band (real life couple Kim Schifino and Matt Johnson, who I interviewed here last spring) and their adoring young fans were obviously "totally stoked" to fill the large venue for their own private dance party.  This video shows the energy that began the show and it continued non-stop throughout the night.


4. Peter Bjorn & John-- May 2, 2011
Many bands claim to put on "high energy shows" but this trio from Sweden could be an illustration to the proper definition.  The night I saw them they had two shows on the bill and they certainly did not hold back anything during the early slot.  Guitarist John Erikkson even bloodied his forehead with some crazy shredding and I kept waiting for him to at least wipe his face with a towel they had been using for sweat outbreaks on stage.  As seasoned performers, they obviously love playing their music even after all these years together (PB&J was formed in 1999) and nothing is slowing them down.  Their popular single, "Second Chance" was heard all over the place in 2011. I wish them all thia well-deserved success and more.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. @ Bowery Ballroom -- September 24, 2011
I wasn't sure what to expect when we arrived at the Bowery Ballroom to see the band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. It's easy to venture right up to the stage there, so I introduced myself to Josh Epstein as he was plugging in equipment in order to snag another photo op with an interview subject (write up here).  We had a quick chat on the phone a few days earlier, asking him about the band's quick rise over the course of the year with their debut release, It's a Corporate World.  This duo complements each other so well, meshing vocal harmonies and pop hooks galore.  Then they add in some funky lighting, bubbles and stage outfits to make for a fun live show, including a killer cover for the encore (see below).

HONORABLE MENTION: Art Brut @ Music Hall of Williamsburg -- June 22, 2011
How can you not love this band?  After singing along to three albums worth of fun, tongue-in-cheek pop tunes, I finally saw Art Brut cranking them out live as if they were indeed on "Top of the Pops." I had a phoner with Eddie Argos a few weeks prior so was eager to see him in action (write up here). Argos could give lessons on how to be a charming frontman and he's having as much fun as anyone up at the concert being center stage.  When he jumped into the audience with a lengthy monologue during a favorite song, "Modern Art," I loved every minute. "Modern art makes me want to buy a t-shirt!" Argos was joking how this was their "Glass Ceiling Tour" and he should be thankful for that.  I say the music world is a way better place with Art Brut around and wishing for many more songs/tours ahead!

Monday, December 5, 2011

YACHT @ Santos Party House, NYC December 3rd

I remember hearing the single "Psychic City" on KCRW years ago and loving it immediately.  That voice, the funky beat, and those snarky lyrics about everyday appliances coming alive to party with an immediate sing along, Aye-eye-eye-eye!  It found a spot on one of my new music playlists and I've been a fan ever since.  Having missed them at Moogfest in October (a flight from Mexico City was cancelled), I went on their website and found an upcoming gig in NYC, one of the many perks of living in the area...

YACHT defines itself as a “band, belief system and business,” with a corporate logo known as a smilangle (a smiley face inside a triangle).  They are currently composing some of the most danceable music today, recently releasing a new album, Shangri-La, last June. Songs from the album filled most of the set list at Santos Party House, with room for 2008’s single “Summer Song,” 2009’s “Afterlife,” along with “Ring the Bell.”  Plus their dance hit “Psychic City” provided a suitable encore.  Jona Bechtolt, mastermind for the group since its inception, took the stage with the rest of the band all wearing black before singer Clare L. Evans followed dressed in a white dress.  With her cropped white hair and dramatic eye makeup, her stylized movements brought an additional element of theatre to the live concert.  Bechtoit bounced from keyboards to guitar and singing into a mike, while Evans commanded the audience to get their groove on. 

Everything sounded great and the band was clearly enjoying themselves playing their part, communicating through the pop hooks and layered beats of “Beam Me Up,” “One Step, and “Utopia.”  The group covered like-minded band, The B-52s, for a wound-up “Mesopotamia” and Bechtoit took over the drum kit for “Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire).  However, the show wasn’t just about creating a live soundtrack for their fans to let loose and boogie.  Early on, there was a PowerPoint presentation outlining three stages for audience participation during the evening: 1) preparation, 2) initiation and 3) enlightenment.  A slide show was also utilized to introduce band members (along with their nicknames and astrological signs) and included a map where the group was from (a Western American Utopian Triangle formed by linking Los Angeles, Marfa, Texas and Portland, Oregon).  During a Q & A session between songs, Evans was asked if she could be someone’s girlfriend.  She replied, “Yes, spiritually and metaphysically.”  Another question posed queried about her favorite food and orifice to which she responded, “avocado and sinus.”  For the last song, Evans invited some young, front row fans up on stage to dance with her and everyone was invited to say hello at the merch table afterwards. The overzealous security there had to get a bit physical to break up the line waiting there and Evans was clearly disturbed by it, saying sweetly,"they're being so mean."

YACHT takes its name from an alternative school that Bechtoit was enrolled in for a bit, an acronym for “Young Americans Challenging High Technology.”  He met Evans soon thereafter, but she didn’t join the band full time until 2008.  It’s a match made in electropop music heaven. She’s also a science nerd who pens a popular blog, “Universe,” about the intersection of art and science.  The universal messaging of “Afterlife” speaks to the sun, moon and the light that “makes most of life.”  Yet it quickly turns to a tongue-in-cheek statement about the band’s core beliefs in putting the party first.

If my friends were a crowd,
It might not be the biggest
But it’d be definitely loud
With Clare after the show

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sunbears! @ Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn, December 2nd

Sunbears! are described as a duo but the band plays out on stage weighted heavily towards Jonathan Berlin (singing while playing keyboards, guitars and synths), away from the solid drummer Jared Bowser.  These two are on the road in support of their first full-length release, You Will Live Forever, the title a reference to how the internet will never forget this generation with an eternal online imprint.  Its thirteen tracks are appealing, carefully crafted pop songs, not just compositions in a broad stroke of some musical genre.  However, when presented live at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, the thrust of presenting everything exactly as it sounds on the recording kept things from any sort of emotional lift off. With prerecorded tracks of vocal harmonies, additional instruments and ample sound effects, the performance seemed as organic as the bouquet of plastic flowers decorating the drum kit. 

The night even began as the album does, with the solo piano arpeggios of the instrumental lead off track, “You Will Live Forever.”  Then the band followed with the second song, “Give Love a Try,” their single with a simplistic message and basic though uplifting sing along chorus.  Many of the lyrics offered throughout the set were along the same vein, though the vocals buried throughout made a few words hard to discern.  For example in the song “Strung Out! On My Own!” Berlin sings with conviction, Love don’t go away never, so I’m fine with you leaving me. “Together Forever” begins with We know better than you, You know better than me/We’re in this together, forever and ever, can’t you see. His vocal delivery can sound a bit like Wayne Coyne, and with the musicians backlit with strobe lights and footage on a scrim in constant motion, the show was almost like a mini Flaming Lips concert.  It’s difficult to recreate songs produced after spending countless hours in a studio anyway, and the crowd would have enjoyed something different. 

                                           Sunbears!@ Cameo Gallery, NYC 12/1/2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Late Fall 2011 New Music Playlist

Here’s a new music playlist to indulge in before the onslaught of holiday music starts dancing in our heads.  Strong releases by Atlas Sound and The War on Drugs provide the backbone while newcomers Future Islands and The Drums serve as bookends.  See notes below -- listen at link here, enjoy!

1. “Stay Gold” – The Big Pink
English electro-pop duo The Big Pink has just released this single from their second album due in January, Future This.  The synth-heavy sound lends itself to the dance floor, while the straightforward lyrics create an instant sing along.

2. “Money” – The Drums
3. “Days” – The Drums
The Drums are an indie band from Brooklyn.  Singer Jonathon Pierce explained recently in a KCRW interview how they like to write short, sweet, simple pop songs and certainly shows in these two tunes off their second album, Portamento. Their somewhat derivative compositions are still hard to ignore, especially with such earnest intentions.

4. “Speaking in Tongues” (featuring David Byrne) – Arcade Fire
This is a bonus cut off the deluxe version of alt band Arcade Fire’s recent release, The Suburbs. It includes vocals by David Byrne, a natural nod to the Talking Heads who created an entire album with the same title.

5. “Come to the City” – The War On Drugs
6. “Come for It” – The War On Drugs
7. “City Reprise” – The War On Drugs
These three tracks are off the second full-length album, Slave Ambient, by this indie rock band from Philly.  Adam Granduciel’s vocals call out over a traditional rock structure with synths to bolster the texture of songs that quickly become anthems.

8. “Tell Me What You Want” – Pajama Club
This band was formed by empty nesters Sharon and Neil Finn (of Spit Enz and Crowded House fame) after their kids left home in New Zealand to pursue their own musical passions.  With fun, funky undertones, the song off their first self-titled release is a sexy tribute to life after child rearing.

9. “Your Eyes” – Bombay Bicycle Club
This song is from the third release by the U.K. indie rock band, titled A Different Kind of Fix.  As the group continues to polish and expand its sound, singer Jack Steadman’s earnest vocals keep things grounded.

10. “Te Amo” – Atlas Sound
11. “Mona Lisa” – Atlas Sound
Atlas Sound is the solo project of Deerhunter’s prolific musician Bradford Cox. These two songs are off the third release, Parallax, but Cox recently explained to SPIN that he writes every day to fill a avoid, referring it to thumb-sucking.  “Mona Lisa” features the vocals and piano playing of Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT.

12. “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything”– MGMT
This Bauhaus cover was included in a mix album, Late Night Tales: MGMT, recently released by the alt band.  It is a loving tribute in a compilation of “post-punk, cult indie and counter-culture figureheads” as hand picked by the group.

13. “Somebody That I Used to Know”  (featuring Kimbra) – Gotye
This newcomer to the U.S. scene is the stage name of Belgian-Australian Wouter “Wally” De Backer, a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter.   His international flair is making waves for this folksy tune with New Zealand singer Kimbra, a stinging musical attack on an ex-lover. The song is off Gotye’s latest release, Making Mirrors.

14. “Balance” – Future Islands
15. “Where I Found You” – Future Islands
This band from Baltimore took inspiration from the Outer Banks of North Carolina for their third full-length release, On the Water. From the sounds of waves to rolling melodies, these two songs tug at the heartstrings with singer Samuel T. Herring’s emotive vocals.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Elbow Song Is Musical Theme for London 2012 Olympics

A special piece of music created by British alt rock band elbow for the 2012 Olympics in London is now in the final stages of production.  The theme will be used in promotional coverage before the games next summer as well as during the event.  

“We are knocked out to be involved and it’s been quite a challenge,” says lead singer Guy Garvey.  His warm, distinctive baritone has been the signature of this band since it formed twenty years ago.  Their fifth album released last spring, Build a Rocket Boys!, is landing on many top ten lists for the year (for example, KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” Jason Bentley).   I heard about the band just a few years ago as a devoted listener to KCRW, loving the song "One Day Like This" from their last album The Seldom Seen Kid.  Here's a video of Elbow performing the song when they stopped by the station last spring.  The full live session can be viewed/listened to here.

                                Elbow performing "One Day Like This" on KCRW April 15, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Talking Heads Chronology DVD Screening & Release Party, November 21

The Fairfield Theatre Company’s Stage One was sold out last night for the new DVD Chronology to benefit local npr station WPKN.  The documentary simply splices together footage from the band’s early days to 1983 and then jumps to their performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2002, which drummer Chris Frantz said at the time gave them “a happy ending.”  (So a nice way to fade out the DVD as well.)  It opens with a microphone test in a New York City kitchen just after Frantz had moved there in the mid 70s with fellow RISD classmates singer/songwriter David Byrne and bassist Tina Weymouth, who was also his girlfriend at the time.  This tightly knit group lived together at 195 Chrystie Street, a tough neighborhood in the Lower East Side but right around the corner from the iconic club CBGBs.  They rehearsed nights after working day jobs; creating songs together that they would take soon take to the stage.  In early gigs, they huddle together on stage and in interviews they are fiercely protective of each other’s quirks, as Weymouth once described Byrne’s behavior as “organically shy.” 

In 1978 the band opened for the Ramones and the rest is rock history.  At the Q&A afterwards with Weymouth and Frantz, Weymouth thanked everyone for “patiently sitting through [their] home movies but these moments in time belonged to most of the audience as well.  Beyond the spirit of reminiscence, there was a real sense at that time that this artsy pop music was something that had never been tried before.  In the early scenes, people looked somewhat perplexed by the sound – not sure how to even move to it yet soon new wave became the most danceable genre ever. Frantz explained that since they were art students, there was always an “artistic target” with their music.  They loved pop music but also art so the thought was maybe “pop music can be the best art ever.”  His idea to cover Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” became the first hit for the Talking Heads.  Frantz said he knew they had made it big when Dick Clark told them on his show, “I like you guys!”

Weymouth found being in the band “very daunting” but “really loved these boys” so kept at it.  (The original plan was for her to step aside but even Lou Reed commented how it was a “good gimmick” to have a chick in the band.)  It was her mother that essentially told her “you can do this.”  The couple also revisited their side project, the Tom Tom Club, and how that band kept the Talking Heads going since their songs were better received internationally.  Plus their influx of world music opened up American fans to receive global influences.  With its digitalized fim and remastered soundtrack, Chronology provides a rewarding trip down memory lane or a musical adventure for anyone.

My interview with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth before a Tom Tom Club show last January here

Bruce of WPKN working the merch table for the event

Friday, November 18, 2011

Atlas Sound plays The Ace Hotel NYC, Video for "Te Amo"

KEXP has posted “Te Amo” from an Atlas Sound set at the Ace Hotel, during the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City last month.  It was the final performance sponsored by the Seattle radio station, and I luckily snagged a place on the tile floor as the crowd gathered around the musical equipment before the show. Bradford Cox was been creating music under the name Atlas Sound since he was ten when not busy with his band mates in Deerhunter.  (Living with the genetic disorder Marfan syndrome manifested a solitary existence growing up so music was a refuge, supposedly there are boxes of cassettes to support this.) He was there overseeing the set up, concerned about the levels and the subdued nature of the setting.  Cox likened it to playing at the New York University library with all the people busy on laptops. 

“Is there anybody listening to me talk right now?” He asked in a southern drawl referencing his hometown of Atlanta adding,  “It’s so quiet!” This comment elicited some cheers and clapping, to which he scolded the audience, saying how he hadn’t done anything but perhaps everyone just liked his outfit?  Cox stood ready to play in windowpane fabric pajamas festooned with geese and Topsiders with no socks.  His wispy honey colored hair framed an angular face and on top a very slight build. Yet he implored those in control until there was a distinctly louder feedback, explaining how “it’s not a folk project. “ There was also a nice shout out to the staff at the Ace Hotel, since he considers it a home away from home filled with friends – happy to be there since it was such an easy gig to get right downstairs to the lobby.  Cox has a favorite room to stay in and has even recorded two songs there recently, when booked time at the studio had run out.

The new lush, stream of consciousness release, Parallax, provided most of the set list.  He joked between songs and was clearly at ease in his surroundings. It was captivating to watch Cox command the foot pedals to create layers of sound from his Gibson acoustic guitar and prerecorded loops.  Cascading synth sounds build the introduction for “Te Amo” before Cox offered warm vocals to float above them.  After he ended with the dulcet tones of “Flagstaff,” Cox donned a light brown corduroy jacket to chat with the many friends and fans that waited in line patiently for their turn with the lone musician.  Always warm and engaging, he allowed photos and even a few girls to sit on his lap like a skinny Santa Claus.  As I left the building hours later, I spied Cox still getting his picture taken by official photographers outside. I told him he was quite a trooper to still be at it, especially as the temperatures were dropping with the sun. 

“Well, I sleep all day,” he told me.  “My life is not that hard.”


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Release Night Screening of Talking Heads Documentary Chronology November 21 in Fairfield, CT

Next Monday there will be a screening of a new Talking Heads DVD, Chronology, at the Fairfield Theatre Company (70 Sandford Street, Fairfield right by the train station).  Doors open at 7 pm with a cash bar, with the movie beginning at 8 pm.  At $20 a ticket, it’s a worthy fundraiser for WPKN, the Fairfield County npr station.
Chronology follows the band from it’s beginning days at CBGB to their final tour in 1983 supporting their Speaking in Tongues album (back in the days of vinyl!)  Their stop in Forest Hills is definitely on my top ten list for all time greatest live concerts.  The tour was also documented in Jonathan Demme’s feature film, Stop Making Sense.

A brief Q&A with band members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth will follow the event.  The couple live in Fairfield and are active in both the Fairfield Theatre Company and WPKN, where Frantz has a radio show on the last Friday of the month from 1 – 4 pm. For more information, visit

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

M83 Press Conference During Moogfest 2011

Photo by Paul Seymour
There were very few opportunities for interviews during Moogfest -- it was a busy time for all. However, on Sunday afternoon the Moog Factory stayed open for a few back-to-back press conferences.  Anthony Gonzalez, the mastermind behind M83, started them off with "Hi" to the press and public gathered.  When no one spoke up right away with the first question, he sheepishly said "Bye" and pretended to leave.  With smiles and some laughter, Gonzalez sat down again and gamely answered a very nonlinear group of questions.  It was clear that this musician truly "leeves" for music, as he said in his charming French accent. My write up on PopMatters here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Moogfest 2011 Overview on PopMatters

My write up of the entire Moogfest 2011 festival is up on PopMatters today! Reading it over had me glowing with memories, three days of non-stop music in such a uniquely American, art loving mountain town. Link below...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Brian Eno on "The Colbert Report" November 10th

Brian Eno in performance
Brian Eno was on "The Colbert Report" to talk about his "77 Million Paintings" exhibit down in Asheville, North Carolina which was a part of the whole Moogfest weekend October 28 - 30 (see earlier blog posts about our run ins with this rock legend!)  The best part is at the end of the show when he sings "Lean on Me" a cappella with Stephen Colbert and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. Charming as always during the interview, Eno talks about a casual singing group he hosts weekly back at home just because singing is "so good for you" and "makes you sexy" in his own words.  But he's the one selling the song and conducting the group with gestures, ever the producer!  Watch the clip here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Panda Bear Releases Tomboy on Vinyl, Proceeds Benefit American Cancer Society

Noah Lennox of Panda Bear has recently released a 4 LP version of Tomboy in a limited edition box set through Paw Tracks for $35. The expanded collection includes single mixes plus unreleased instrumentals, a cappella arrangements and a new song, “The Preakness.”  There is also a 16-page art booklet with lyrics, a welcome addition anytime. All profits from the sale of this set will go to the American Cancer Society and is limited to 5000 copies worldwide.  Listen to the enchanting a cappella treatment of “You Can Count on Me” at the link here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Portugal. The Man. Releases New Animated Video

For their new video, “All Your Light (Times Like These),” Portland’s Portugal. The Man. passed the reigns over to filmmakers Justin Kramer and Lee Hardcastle.  The pair created a clever Claymation treatment which depicts an epic struggle for survival in a dangerous world of colorful caves and plastic cups.  When singer/songwriter John Gourley begins the song with the lyrics, “I’m just a shadow of a bigger man,” the sculpted creatures represent far more than what is really just molded clay.   The song is off of this year’s release, In the Mountain. In the Cloud.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Moogfest 2011 -- Flaming Lips Cover EL&P's "Lucky Man"

In the middle of the euphoric madness that I now know first hand goes on at a Flaming Lips show, the band chose to cover the Emerson, Lake & Palmer song "Lucky Man" at Moogfest 2011 last Saturday night.  Wayne Coyne spoke of playing this song back in the day and smoking way too much pot at the time but it was offered in honor of Bob Moog and "all those that keep his spirit alive for us."  Coyne strummed his road-weary acoustic guitar with a dome over the front and back cut out while swaying to the undulating melody.  In another nod to the convergence of science and technology with music, Keith Emerson's iconic solo on an early Moog synthesizer was played on stage by Steven Drozd using an Animoog ipad app.  

This song has a deeply personal place in my life -- Brain Salad Surgery was a favorite album belonging to my oldest brother Ed.  I never needed to own many records in the 70s as I could hear them through the walls from his bedroom:  The Who, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  Ed was definitely a man of his times, a friendly free spirit that died of an accidental drug overdose by the end of the decade.  While I certainly miss having him in my life as the years continue, it is the music that he shared that pulls at my heartstrings the most.  This song played live so lovingly brought tears streaming down my face, a wonderful tribute to both Bob Moog and my brother.

For my full Moogfest 2011 coverage, visit Popmatters here

Monday, October 31, 2011

Moogfest 2011 Day #3

Day three was a beautiful blue sky Sunday -- went to the historic Grove Park Inn for brunch before resting up for the final night at Moogfest.  There was a press event at the Moog Factory which gave us a reason to head over there and listen to Anthony Gonzalez of M83 muse about his love of electronic music (PopMatters write up to follow soon!)  The night began at 6:30 pm for this band's stellar performance and continued through sets by Neon Indian, Special Disco Version featuring LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Pat Mahoney then Passion Pit over at the outdoor venue... another chilly night but well worth it. Home to what's left of the snow in the Northeast, trick-or-treaters and writing up the weekend in detail.  Here is my write up as it appeared later on PopMatters.
Robots at the Moog Factory
Wondered where he caught the last tour?
More costumes...
Peewee at the Asheville Civic Center
Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos
Passion Pit's Ian Hultquist

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Moogfest 2011 Day #2

The eventful morning began with a fire alarm blasting throughout the hotel about 9:30 am.  I threw something decent on in anticipation of perhaps running into a band member or two but there were only a smattering of people who took things seriously.  After a visit from the Asheville Fire Department, it was determined that  overly steamy shower had set off the alarm.  (Hard to imagine as the shower stalls are so huge that it's hard to warm things up before hopping in!)  It was good exercise to walk down the stairs six floors so we did the same back up to finish getting ready the day.  On the way down later, we stepped into an elevator with the one and only Brian Eno who was giving an "Illustrated Talk" about his art exhibit in town later that afternoon.  Paul was the one to confirm his identity and them became completely starstruck as I've never seen him.  I had to chime in about how we've been fans since the days of Roxy Music -- to which he replied something charming about how I didn't seem old enough... we asked for a photo in the lobby with Paul's hat that Mr. Eno liked (he was such a sweet guy, full of compliments!)

Later, while waiting to enter the building for the lecture I saw a white commercial van going by with a bunch of guys in the back eyeing the line to get in... with one of them looking like Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips!  I could help but smile, giving him a cheery wave and when he waved back I threw him a thumbs up.  What a moment to share but no one but myself, at the time anyway. The Flaming Lips are one of my fave bands and I had never seen them play live -- until later that night!  Definitely the highlight of the day, maybe even the entire festival.  Can now check them off my concert bucketlist, with their blow out showmanship with huge balloons, strobe lights, confetti blasts and of course fully realized songs.  It was cold in the parking lot venue, but the crowd closed in and Coyne had everyone up the noise to keep everyone warm. As a tribute to Bob Moog, they lovingly played a Flaming Lips version of Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Lucky Man"with its original synth solo, although this time played on an ipad app.  The final song, "Do You Realize" was a sing along I'll always remember.  See below for photos from the show, along with scenes on the streets of Asheville and clips from the other acts of the day (Cant, The Naked & Famous, Adrian Belew, Amon Tobin, and St. Vincent).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Moogfest 2011 Day #1

Paul's first local beer
Touched down in a rainy Asheville -- airport delays and cancellations put a crimp in some Moogfesters' travel plans yesterday.  Walked around to gather up wristband passes (color-coded with a new computer chip to track our movements, hmmmm)  and caught Moby speaking about the new ipad app called Animoog.  After an delicious dinner Southern fare at Tupelo Honey it was on to catch Atlas Sound at the Orange Peel then back up the hill to the adjoined Asheville Civic Center and Thomas Wolfe Auditorium for Tangerine Dream, Holy F**k, Moby, and TV on the Radio after midnight... video montage below!
Dessert at Dinner
Reconnecting with Moogfest Pals Terri & Will 

After being Cluster Fluxed!
Cluster Flux booth
Wristbands with microchips  to track all of our Moog movements