Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter 2011 New Music Playlist

What a winter we're having in the Northeast with three major snowstorms and another one this week. At least some new releases along with some holiday gifts (CDs!) are keeping all this indoor time interesting. Here's the link to my picks for a new music listening session whatever the weather may be...

1. Foster the People -- Pumped Up Kicks
This song was found on Sirius U in another one of those moments of discovery while driving. Checking out the read out while weaving in traffic on the interstate, I found this band from LA that just released a self-titled EP. The cheery groove with singalong lyrics, handclaps and whistling make it the perfect song to kick off the playlist. While their other songs don't seem to quite merit such a spotlight, this is definitely a young band to keep an ear out for going forward.

2. Grouplove -- Naked Kids
Here's another new band out of Los Angeles. Their myspace profile photo shows them all smiles running with a banner that reads "Never trust a happy song" so don't say I didn't warn you. This one even has sounds of the beach with the cooing chorus, shout outs for singing, and a jangly tambourine beat evokes the summer time fun of perfect waves and living out dreams. Another standout in a beginner's collection, with that toe in the water self-titled EP just released has me hoping for more happy songs ahead.

3. Matt & Kim -- Cameras
This Brooklyn couple's third release, Sidewalks, may have slicker production values but retains all of the playfulness of a house band in the basement. Matt Johnson belts out the vocals while working the synths and Kim Schifino keeps the beat perfectly basic.

4. Baths -- Hall
This creation is the brain child of Will Wiesenfeld, a 21 year old from the San Fernando Valley. He throws in everything from pure piano to samples of pen clicks or running water, just for starters. When his voice is added over the hip hop beats and dreamy synths, a warm falsetto brings a welcome human element to the track. The debut release Cerulean shows a wide range of musicianship and innovation, making Baths another new artist to follow.

5. Local Natives -- Wide Eyes
Local Natives are also from Southern California, and their more traditional band set up harks back to 70s with sunny harmonies plus a laid back vibe. Their forray into world beats bring to mind the Talking Heads -- the group even covers "Warning Sign" on Gorilla Manor, their debut release from last year. This song opens the collection and invites all to the chill party atmosphere.

6. CAKE -- Long Time
7. CAKE -- Sick of You
It's been over five years since the last release of new tunes from this veteran SoCal band that put the ALT in alternative music back in the mid 1990s. They haven't missed a trick -- the new songs are full of the same wry takes on modern life with killer beats over stand out bass lines, horns and the ubiquitous vibraslap. These two tracks are just a sampling of the Cake attitude available on their new release, Showroom of Compassion, and instant classics in my mind.

8. Avey Tare -- Lucky 1
Avey Tare is actually a side project of David Portner, a founding member of the New York based band Animal Collective. This is the single off of last fall's release Down There and while things may not deviate that much from his group efforts, it's still extremely worthwhile listening.

9. Autolux -- Audience No. 2
I'ts back to the west coast for this pick -- Autolux formed about a decade ago in LA and this song off their second release Transit Transit. Their sound is full of the popular fuzzed out arrangements now known chill wave but with an edgier vibe.

10. The Dears -- Omega Dog
This Montreal based band is back with their fourth release, Degeneration Street, full of heartfelt longing under the glow of Murray Lightburn's distinctive vocals. The single "Omega Dog" begins with a tight groove but ends in a psychedelic swirl -- quite a journey for just one song.

11. The Hundred in the Hand -- Young Aren't Young
"Young Aren't Young" sounds like it took a team of musicians but it's actually a Brooklyn duo creating the entire song, with just some help with background vocals. Eleanore Everdell sings into a lo-fi bullet microphone over lushed, layered electro dance beats with a wailing guitar provided by Jason Everdell. Their other songs from the self-titled release issued last fall Dressed in Dresden are similarly styled but this one stands out for its confident and tight musical structure.

12. The Decemberists -- Down By the Water
This Portland, Oregon indie rock band just issued its sixth full length release, The King Is Dead, with all of its story telling and folk influences still going full throttle. "Down By the Water" bursts forth with a driving beat and full sound before frontman/singer/songwriter Colin Meloy deftly spins another tale.

13. Ima Robot -- Sail With Me
14. Ima Robot -- Ruthless
Ima Robot is LA singer Alex Ebert's band for the past decade -- before Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros exploded onto the scene. His warm hippy vibe presides over this band as well, leading a clapping sing-a-long at the end of "Sail With Me" and the call outs of "Ruthless." Both tracks are off of last fall's release, Another Man's Treasure.

15. Dr. Dog -- Shadow People
Dr. Dog is a group from Phili that derives its psychedic rock from hippie bands in the 1960s and early indie pop of the 1990s. This wandering, feel good song is off their 6th release of last year as their journey continues.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tom Tom Club Interview & Show @ Irving Plaza January 13

Son Jake with me, Tina Weymouth & Chris Frantz 
When sitting down with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth before their show at Irving Plaza, it was definitely a challenge not to appear too star struck. They were gracious and professional during the Q&A, obviously having gone through the process many many times. As they recounted their history, it was also mine as well.

I was a huge Talking Heads fan back in the 80s and count their show at Forest Hills as a personal top ten. During this tour, a song from the Tom Tom Club was performed, a side project of this married couple as the dance hits "Genius of Love" along with "Wordy Rappinghood" were heard everywhere in New York City -- Danceteria, Limelight, Palladium... I even went to the premiere party of Stop Making Sense at the Ritz on my own as my new husband was working late. It was such a fun time to be in the city, as mentioned in the discussion. The move to suburbs for raising a family happened for all of us and I ran into various members of the band over the years. Other connections continued, from a friend living around the corner from them to my son playing a gig at a teen center with their son. Turns out I had son Jake come work the sound for the interview and my daughter Sadie took photos for my PopMatters post -- quite the family outing!

Here's my write up of the interview and review of the concert for here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ra Ra Riot on Jimmy Kimmel Live, January 20

Ra Ra Riot (RRR) was formed during their college years at Syracuse University much like Vampire Weekend (VW) did at Columbia University. Fun fact is how RRR's lead singer Wes Miles is a childhood friend of VW's Rostam Batmanglij, but I digress. Now into their fifth year and a second album The Orchard, released last year, RRR is a band crazy with energy live -- thus their name. I was able to see it first hand though from the third tier at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last February and highly recommend catching a live gig if given the opportunity. I chose the song "Boy" for a recent playlist and here it's performed confidently on stage at the Jimmy Kimmel Live show January 20th, offering a glimpse on a headlining gig. For the song "Too Dramatic" the band gathers closely across the front of the stage for the chorus harmonies, following Miles's sweet lead vocals (just not sure about the new Harry Potter glasses for him however!)


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

DayTrotter Live Sessions for Indie Music Fans: MGMT

I learned about from a facebook post by Moogfest. They had a MGMT session recorded during the festival last fall which was a start comparison to the huge stadium gig the band performed during the weekend. Daytrotter prides itself in presenting minimal live sessions with bands -- usually at their studio in Rock Island, Illinois. Looking over all the other offerings on the website, I quickly signed up for email alerts so not to miss anymore gems! Highly recommend other music fans to do the same...

Here's my write up about the MGMT Daytrotter session for here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

10+ Concert Highlights of 2010

Happy New Year! Just one more list before moving on... I was so lucky to get to see some great concerts this year (thank you again Moogfest!) Many were with bands I've been a fan of for years, what a treat. I also enjoyed the choice of warm up bands just as much as the main act such as when Beach House presented a sweetly inspired set before Vampire Weekend and The Dodos hit the stage with their explosive sound before The New Pornographers. It was a fun trip down memory lane as I remembered each and every song -- ready for more in 2011!

1. Fitz & The Tantrums, Mercury Lounge, NYC (May 28th)
2. The Dodos/The New Pornographers, Terminal 5, NYC (June 19th)
3. Rufus Wainwright, The Ridgefield Playhouse, CT (August 6th)
4. Beach House/Vampire Weekend, Radio City Music Hall, NYC (September 17th)
5. MGMT, Moogest, Asheville, NC (October 29th)
6. Jonsi, Moogfest, Asheville, NC (October 30th)
7. Hot Chip, Moogfest, Asheville, NC (October 31st)
8. The Dears, The Kitchen, NYC (November 4th)
9. The Dandy Warhols, Webster Hall, NYC (November 6th)
10. Sufjan Stevens, The Beacon, NYC (November 15th)
11. Cake, Irving Plaza, NYC (December 8th)