Friday, May 27, 2011

Fitz & The Tantrums Update

What a year it’s been for Fitz and The Tantrums. Since my PopMatters interview last Memorial Day weekend in the basement of a small venue in New York City, the band has toured non-stop with a full schedule ahead -- now they’re on the bill at Sasquatch. Their music has found placements on television and they were called upon to remake “Arthur’s Theme Song” (maybe the movie didn’t do so well, but still!) VH-1 also honored the band as an “Artist on the Rise” in the “You Oughta Know” series in April, and as of this week’s countdown, “Money Grabber” is at number fourteen. Whether this song was on your playlist last summer or not, it’s a fun rock-out tune to kick off the season.
Fitz & The Tantrums "Money Grabber" on YouTube here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Late Spring 2011 New Music Playlist

Here’s a playlist of tunes to keep the idea that hope springs eternal into the transition of summer. Every week in May seemed to bring another solid release into the music stream and new tunes were ripe for the picking. Link here, enjoy!

1. Toro y Moi -- Still Sound
Chazwick Bundick is the mastermind of Toro y Moi (which loosely translates to “Bull and Me”), creating electronic pop that became an integral part of the chillwave movement. (He is a good buddy of like-minded artist Ernest Greene of Washed Out from days at The University of South Carolina). This bouncy tune “Still Sound,” is off his second release, Underneath the Pine.

2. Bibio -- Anything New
Bibio is a.k.a. Stephen Wilkinson, a British music producer who studied 'sonic arts' in London. “Anything New” is off his sixth release, Mind Bokeh, as this prolific composer delves into electronic pop and beyond.

3. Telekinesis -- Gotta Get It Right Now
Michael Benjamin Lerner’s band Telekinesis plays indie rock with a classic pop song structure, catchy hooks and all. This song is off of the Seattle native’s second full release, 12 Desperate Straight Lines.

4. The Boxer Rebellion -- Step Out of the Car
The Boxer Rebellion is an international indie band with American/Tennessee native Nathan Nicolson handling vocals (as well as guitar and keyboards) along with an Australian and two Englishmen in the band. This romp of a song, “Step Out of the Car,” is off their third release The Cold Still.

5. The Submarines -- The Sun Shines at Night
6. The Submarines -- Tigers
Married couple John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard’s band The Submarines has chronicled their relationship through three releases – these carefully crafted compositions are off of the latest, Love Notes/Letter Bombs.

7. Peter Bjorn & John -- May Seem Macabre
8. Peter Bjorn & John -- Second Chance
9. Peter Bjorn & John -- I Know You Don’t Love Me
Peter, Bjorn & John are a Swedish indie rock trio which formed in Stockholm in 1999 using their first names for the band name (affectionately abbreviated as PB&J). These three songs show the strength of the latest release, Gimme Some. They wanted to take the high energy of their live shows into the studio and it shows!

10. Bright Eyes -- Shell Games
Bright Eyes is just one of Conor Oberst’s outlet for his busy career (“Shell Games” is off release number ten, The People’s Key). He has said that these new songs move away from folk into a more rock-oriented update, but his signature voice still delivers the same sincerity of performance.

11.Sharon Van Etten -- Peace Signs
Sharon Van Etten is an indie rock folk singer raised in New Jersey who is now based in Brooklyn. “Peace Signs” is off her second release, Epic. She writes deeply personal songs that shine through the strength of her warm, lovely vocals.

12. The Airborne Toxic Event -- Changing
This L.A. band hit it big with “Sometime Around Midnight” off their first release in 2008. The follow-up, All at Once, displays the same mix of orchestral rock with plenty of attitude.

13. Voxhaul Broadcast -- Leaving on the 5th
14. Voxhaul Broadcast -- Blackout
15. Voxhaul Broadcast -- Drysand
Voxhaul Broadcast is another band from L.A. but they’re just having their break through moment with the release of their long awaited first full release, (appropriately titled) Timing Is Everything. This veteran touring band brings a live sound to their recordings, which are all tightly wound with energy.

16. Vetiver -- Can’t You Tell
Named for a fragrant grass from India, this American folk band was founded by Andy Cabic after moving to San Francisco from the East Coast. This sunny tune is a single off the upcoming release, The Errant Charm.

17. Death Cab for Cutie -- You Are a Tourist
Death Cab for Cutie seems to be the personification of the Northwest sound, still on scene since forming in 1997. “You Are a Tourist” is the single off the seventh release, Codes and Keys.

18. Memphis -- Five Loops
Long-time friends Torquil Campbell and Chris Dumont are the duo behind this lush soundscape in “Five Loops.” The song is part of the band’s third full-length release, Here Comes a City.

19. Agnes Obel -- Close Watch
This Danish singer/songwriter just getting noticed in the U.S. comes from a musical family, where she mastered piano at a very young age. Her haunting song “Close Watch” is from her first release from last year, Philharmonics.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Moby @ The Brooklyn Museum, May 12th

In an interesting way to get a new audience in their doors, The Brooklyn Museum is hosting a series called "In Conversation." This program presents evenings of interviews and more, as witnessed by Moby's visit May 12th with John Schaefer of WNYC. He seemed a little out of sorts up on stage, not as at ease as when I interviewed him out in L.A. last February. Maybe returning home to the East Coast was a bit unnerving, I'm not sure.

"I suppose we should conversate," John stated before the pair fell into a "remember when" trip down memory lane, when NYC was not ruled by hedge fund managers and artists could afford space downtown. When Moby was asked if he liked living in L.A. there was some booing in the crowd, as if a town could be proprietary about their celebrities! John then teased Moby about moving to a place where they really "keep it real -- Hollywood?" There was laughter all around.

Moby invited some members of his band to the stage and the easy banter between them attestified to the many years playing together. He is known for his love of covers and you have to wonder why not just play in a cover band if that is what would make you happy? Most fans would rather hear an artist play their own songs with maybe a cover thrown in to mix it up a bit but that's it. This audience was happy just to be in the same room with Moby as he used up every minute left to the evening to play music.

NMMatterscorp YouTube Video "We Are All Made of Stars"

NMMatterscorp YouTube Video "Natural Blues"

PopMatters Post here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Submarines Interview & Show @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg April 26th

NYC has some great venues these days busy booking acts thanks to The Bowery Presents group overseeing tradional (Webster Hall, Mercury Lounge) and nice additions to the scene (Terminal 5, The Bowery Ballroom and The Music Hall of Williamsburg). The Music Hall of Williamsburg has a funky bar area below the main room which is a fun hangout preshow -- it was here that is was decided I was to interview The Submarines before their show on April 26th.

The band basically consists of young married couple John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard with a bass and drum players for live gigs. This is my fifth musical couple interview (you could say I have the market covered: Mates of State, The Octopus Project, Tom Tom Club and Matt & Kim). I find the subjects extremely interesting, being married to a musician myself and thinking what what might it be like if we were BOTH musicians? Blake was more outgoing, chatting about the dress she planned to wear later, etc. John tended towards more sparse conversation in quiet tones. Their warm up band was doing a sound check so things were noisy as it was and then the bartender started setting up by dumping ice and clanging classes. I was worried about the recording device picking up everything plus I'm always nervous about being the one who has to push "play" if on my own. The interview went really well and they were so nice about a photo op afterwards -- until I noticed the "card full" display on the recorder! Was hoping most of the interview was caught but no such luck. Jotting down notes furiously soon afterwards I was able to piece together an article, plus the review of the night featuring fun live songs. It actually turned out quite well, phew.

My PopMatters post here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Peter Bjorn & John @ Bowery Ballroom May 2nd

The Swedish Indie Rock band Peter Bjorn & John (affectionately abbreviated as PB&J) began their three show New York visit with the drumbeat intro of “May Be Macabre” off the latest release, Gimme Some. It’s been explained in recent interviews that these new songs were created with the idea of bringing the high energy of their live shows into the studio, so to see them performed was an interesting twist. They left behind their synthesizers to lighten the load, reduce the burden of their carbon footprint, and showcase their power pop roots.

Peter Morén’s lead vocals floated over the venue with a hint of John Lennon and he even tousled his mop top hair around now and then. But he was instantly engaging the crowd, showing when to add handclaps to get things going and cupping his ear asking for applause, even jumping down twice with a mike to sing from the floor. Just a few songs in he was jumping like Pete Townsend and doing a take on the duck walk with his guitar – by the encore his head was bloodied by the thrashing. Bass player Björn Yttling also mouthed words to encourage audience participation and they both wandered the edge of the stage to rev up the audience with wide smiles of pop stars. Back at the drum kit John Eriksson threw sticks and hopped on his stool, all while rocking the rhythm of the various offerings. Jackets came off with all this activity on stage and you had to wonder how the group would even make it through the late show. Strings of colored bulbs changing color provided the light show and the cartoon fist giving a three-thumbs up from the latest album artwork provided the backdrop. Morén and Yttling have been playing together since high school but the trio with Eriksson has lasted since 1999 – all long history for any band. The familiarity of each other’s playing and personality clearly came across throughout the show.

Along with the catchy single “Second Chance,” other new songs introduced included “Eyes,” “Dig A Little Deeper” and the punky “Black Book.” An extended version of “Nothing to Worry About” off of 2009’s Living Thing, led nicely into the echoing vocals of “Call It Off” from 2007’s Writer’s Block. The set ended with the psychedelic vocals and wandering guitar melody of another new song, “I Know You Don’t Love Me.”

There were two encores, the first had Morén telling the crowd, “You guys are really swell you know,” then digging into the sweet song reminiscing about “Paris 2004.” The band tore through more new songs before bringing out the whistling for “Young Folks” in the second encore. This may be how most of the crowd learned about PB&J but there was instant love for their latest music as well. "Young Folks" introduced the band to the American indie scene but the infectious, cheery tune doesn’t define this group that rocks it hard with tightly wound compositions more reminiscent of The Jam or Elivis Costello. One additional song, the raucous “Lies,” packed a final punch. A gal pushed past me as I was scribbling some details and yelled in my ear, “You better write how they fuckin’ rocked!” Done.

NMMatterscorp YouTube Video "Young Folks"