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

Monday, October 24, 2011

More CMJ 2011 Coverage

Givers Playing Terminal 5
CMJ 2011 is over and although I was technically "covering" the festival, I felt like I barely scratched the surface.  Going out night after night seeing multiple bands doesn't mean much when there are countless other venues doing the same thing!
Here are my other posts for PopMatters:

CMJ Day 3: Alberta Cross + Givers + Portugal. The Man.

CMJ Day 4: Pepper Rabbit + Active Child + Braids

CMJ: Viewing the Music Panels

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CMJ 2011 -- Notes from the Festival

Taking a breather at my computer here after two days and one night of CMJ which includes six panels, one showcase and one press mixer.  After day one's sun, yesterday's northeaster put a damper on the city.  I had planned to meet up with other PopMatters writers at the press mixer, but when they bagged out I slogged through the rain anyway.  It was held way uptown at the Hudson Hotel (well really more midtown at 58th street, but when everything else is basically below 8th street it felt that way!)  There was a fancy party space with the requisite fancy bathroom with faucets that were hard to figure out and music so loud that any conversation that began, ended promptly.  Just what music journalists need, more assault to their ears... I walked in to a Maroon 5 song (yes, the one that Darren Criss covered on GLEE) wondering why they could snag a college radio dj to mix it up?  I had my free beer -- it was that or spiced rum, no food -- and went back downtown to cover my first showcase at Pianos, happy to already know they have decent bar food there.

Write up for the showcase and two more nights of coverage to follow on PopMatters.  I'm also planning on writing up the panel experience but they do start to sound the same after a few of them.  The idea of bands as brands are nothing new but there are new tools to get the word out about the music.  Even well-intentioned panelists had to mention if they were once in a band "way back when" (even though it may have been barely five years ago).  Plus I stopped by the Ace Hotel to see a staff presentation by KEXP as listed in the comprehensive festival catalogue but it was non-existent. They were all busy broadcasting from the lobby and setting up for the first live act of the day.  I did use the opportunity to meet John Richards of "John in the Morning" as I'm a very loyal listener from CT, pic below with links of my coverage on PopMatters.

CMJ 2011: Music Panels Overview

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall 2011 New Music Playlist

A change of season merits a change in playlists, especially when a bountiful harvest of international songs appear on the scene.  Long awaited releases from Wilco, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Mates of State anchor the list while Beirut, Neon Indian and Girls weigh in with solid collections.  Singles off new albums are a nice holdover until music fans can dig into fresh picks from Real Estate and M83.  Of course, there’s a welcome addition of new bands such as I Break Horses and Sister Crayon to keep the ears happy.  Listen at link here, enjoy!

1. “Midnight City” – M83
French musician Anthony Gonzalez formed M83 a decade ago with an unabashed love of electronica to create pop songs with a dreamy feel.  This is the single off the band’s sixth release, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming.

2. “Ritual Union” – Little Dragon
This Swedish-Japanese band gets its moniker from singer Yukimi Nagano’s nickname.  The group of high school pals started playing together in 1996 and this eclectic synth pop tune is the title track of their third album. 

3. “I Might” – Wilco
With a changing line up but under the leadership of singer Jeff Tweedy, Wilco has been part of the Chicago alt-rock music scene since 1994.  This solid single is off their ninth album, The Whole Love.

4. “Souls of Gold” – Sister Crayon
Sister Crayon is a quartet from Sacramento, California (home of CAKE, another similarly idiosyncratic band).  This song is off the group’s first official release, Bellow.

5. “Santa Fe” – Beirut
6. “East Harlem” – Beirut
Singer/songwriter Zach Condon began Beirut as a solo project and yet this six-member band is on its third album, The Rip Tide.  The world music influence is from Condon travels around Europe after dropping out of school, adding distinctive vocals to make it his own entire universe.

7. “How Deep Is Your Love?” – The Rapture
Drummer Vito Roccoforte and guitarist/singer Luke Jenner formed this New York City dance punk band in 1998.  After five years, the group is back with a new release, In the Grace of Your Love.

8. “It’s Real” – Real Estate
Real Estate is a quintet based in Ridgewood, New Jersey since 2008.  Their take on psychedelic indie rock is revealed in this carefully crafted single off their upcoming second release, Days.

9. “Polish Girl” – Neon Indian
Neon Indian also began as solo project by Alan Palomo, who rode the indie pop chill wave movement when it came on the scene two years ago.  His vocals are no longer buried for this catchy single off the sophomore release, Era Extraña.

10. “Palomino” – Mates Of State
Married couple Kori Garner (keyboards) and Jason Hammel (drums) has created infectious indie pop under the name Mates of State since 1997.  They’ve expanded the sound for this swirling single off their seventh album, Mountaintops.

11. “Hearts” – I Break Horses
I Break Horses is a Swedish indie band recently formed by Mana Lindén and Fredrick Balck.  This shimmering song is off their debut album of the same name.

12. “Same Mistake” – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is a quintet that met at Connecticut College and they are now based in Brooklyn/Philly. Their debut album was self-released in 2005, gaining notice without record company input.  Singer Alec Ounsworth brings an individualistic approach to vocals as usual in this song off their third release, Hysterical.

13. “My Mistakes” – Eleanor Friedberger
Eleanor Friedberger is also half of the Brooklyn band Fiery Furnaces with brother Matthew.  Here she breaks out on her own with emotionally charged results.  This song is from her raw and candid solo album, Last Summer.

14. “Honey Bunny” – Girls
15. “My Ma” – Girls
Christopher Owens (singer/songwriter) and Chet ‘JR’ White (bass/producer) formed this indie rock band in San Francisco, enlisting other members as needed for touring.  These two varied but still rebellious songs are off their second album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

16. “Year of the Tiger” – St. Vincent
Annie Clark is the avant garde multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter behind St. Vincent.  She has also performed with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens. The majestic treatment for this song is indicative of the iconoclastic music on her third release, Strange Mercy.

17. “Dark Into Light” – Shawn Lee & AM
This collaboration formed through friendship let to the recent album, Celestial Eclectic.  The mesmerizing song features AM’s wistful falsetto over Shawn Lee’s percussion with lofty themes contemplating right and wrong.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mates of State @ Webster Hall October 12

The stage at Webster Hall was covered with garlands of greenery and two puffy white clouds hanging from the ceiling for the Mates of State show October 12th.  A full house of fans arrived to see indie pop’s married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, who have been creating music together for over a decade. After a deviation to a covers album last year, the duo is back on their game, offering up buoyant and carefully crafted songs about going through life as a twosome.  They took to their instruments to bang out an infectious mix of hits and new tunes off the latest release, Mountaintops.  There seemed to be lots of pairing off in the audience as well, yet everyone was ready to sing along and pump fists in support.  Gardner stood at command in front of her keyboards, wearing a graphic print top and her blond hair in a high ponytail, while Hammel sat at his drum kit in a dress shirt and vest ready to rock. Throughout the night, there were lots of knowing smiles and mouthing of words to communicate with each other -- when they weren’t busy singing of course.  Kenji Shinagawa supported them solidly on guitar and John Panos brought a magnetic stage presence, playing extra keys, trumpet and tambourine as needed to broaden the Mates’ signature sound.

Meeting up w/Kori after the show
The band began with “Get Better” off 2008’s Re-Arrange Us to get things rolling.  Then new songs were introduced: a rollicking beat in “Maracas” along with two compositions allowing a softer side, “Unless I’m Led” and “Desire.”  Although, the lyrics, You’ll learn to live without me, seemed an unlikely thought from this songwriting team.  The sentiment behind “At Least I Have You” sounded much more applicable, not that it really matters.  Crowd pleasers such as “The Re-Arranger,”  “Goods,” “Like U Crazy,” “Now,” and “My Only Offer” punctuated the night, along with more contributions from Mountaintops.  The soaring new single “Palomino” provided the finale with the band exiting to strobe lights, leaving behind a flashing energetic afterglow. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Matt and Kim Live Session on KCRW

The beloved indie duo Matt and Kim are legendary for their over-the-top energetic live shows as I reported for PopMatters on last summer (link here). So it was a different scene at the KCRW studio October 11th when the band played a set before noon on “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” Instead of playing side by side on a stage, they offered up their upbeat music with Matt at his keyboards across the room from Kim, who was encased in an isolation booth with her drums feeling quite removed from everything.  As Kim played with hair flying backwards from the kit in the confined space, Matt became sweetly concerned about her discomfort even while singing “lock me up” during their first hit, “Yea Yeah.”  He then decided their next song “I Wanna” should be changed to “I Wanna Get Kim Out of That Closet.”  The two are just off a tour opening up for Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance, which included a stop at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. During the interview with host Jason Bentley, they discussed the difference between this experience and playing in front of only their own fans.  They also revealed plans to go back in the studio this January to begin recording album number four.  Watch or listen to the session at the link below.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Portugal The Man. new leisure-filled video for “So American”

Fave band Portugal. The Man. recently released a video for their song “So American” off the new album, In the Mountain, In the Cloud.  Directed with a slight hand by Nik Zogratos, the footage follows the band through an idyllic day off.  It begins with frolicking at the beach, showcasing juggling skills with empty Coors bottles and by nightfall a backyard BBQ with friends turns into a low-key jam session while passing the Maker’s Mark.  These relaxing scenes belie singer/songwriter John Gourley’s pleading lyrics, “There’s a madness in us all.”  And for now, the band is busy on tour. I can't wait to see them Thursday, October 20th at Terminal 5 with Givers or check them out at other dates here.  

Portugal.The Man - So American [Official Music Video]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mates of State Unleash New Video for Palomino

When Jason Hammel spoke with me via PopMatters last year, he promised that a new “Mates” album would be ready soon.  With the release of Mountaintops September 13, it’s a promise fulfilled and the married duo are now on tour in support of the new release (next Wednesday, Oct. 12 as posted in "Next Up NYC" section to the right, other dates here).  Together with Kori Gardner, Mates of State have also produced an enchanting video for the opening track, “Palomino.” Long gone are the days of sparse production with Gardner playing keyboards and Hammel on drums.  “Palomino” begins with a lush cascade of sound, a solid introduction before those familiar synched vocals even begin. The band explained to npr that the song is a “reflection on childhood and life’s inevitable progression.”  Referencing an old zen saying to “Aim for Cold Mountain,” the idea suggests that “there is always going to be another peak in the distance.”

Director Jimi Patterson deftly uses rotoscope animation to tell the story, filming the live-action material first before digitally hand-painting all 3,240 frames.  The couple encounters a series of mountaintops, reflecting the theme of this album.  Along the way they even come upon little girls that look like the couple’s two tow-headed daughters, as featured on Gardner’s blog “Band on the (diaper) run.” This video follows their musical journey in a vast landscape of visual expression.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Milagres @ Mercury Lounge September 30th

Milagres is on tour supporting their second release, Glowing Mouth, a collection that finds an ethereal path away from their more earthbound, Cold Play inspired debut, Seven Summits.  Singer/songwriter Kyle Wilson wrote the songs while recovering from a serious climbing accident and their dreamy diversion provided a welcome addition to the band’s catalogue. They now deviate from standard rock format into a lush soundscape of layered percussion and vocals, making for a rewarding listen session whether live or otherwise.  The title track, “Glowing Mouth,” was picked as a KEXP Song of the Day recently and the entire album has been in WFUV’s “The Alternate Side” top twenty most played albums for weeks, so it was interesting to see this band take to the stage. 

On September 30, Milagres focused on this new release for a full crowd filing in early at The Mercury Lounge.  There was the requisite plaid and facial hair of any Brooklyn band, but Milagres has been around enough to know how to put on a solid show and all it entails, even quickly getting to the merch table to greet fans afterwards.  Beginning with the upbeat “Here to Stay” the group kicked into full gear, swirling music around Wilson playing guitar center stage: Steve Leventhal on drums, Fraser McCulloch on bass/vocals, Chris Brasee on keyboards and Eric Schwortz also on guitar/vocals.  Next up was the climbing chorus of “Gone,” building with intensity and volume to fill the space.  The poetic storytelling of “Gentle Beast” began with Wilson setting the scene.

Loved a girl when I was twelve.
From a book everything’s in
I tore wide ruled pages in pen
and I saved each note in an old box
so one day I could read them again.
But I’ll never feel the way that I felt.

Afterwards Wilson acknowledged the crowd saying, “You guys are awesome.  Thank you so much for being here.”  The band quickly continued, offering up “Lost in the Dark,” “Half way,” and “To Be Imagined” along with an older song, “Quiet Street.”  “Halfway” has also been receiving airplay, with its three-part harmonies repeating the longing in the chorus, I could be halfway from anyone.  With cheers of recognition during the introduction, the single “Glowing Mouth” brought the set to conclusion as Wilson’s falsetto reached new heights --calling out while still hovering above the band.  The measured studio version became a loosely shared journey, as the audience replied in encouragement. Milagres is continuing on tour through the end of October, dates here

Kyle Wilson works the merch table...
Paul chats with bass player Eric Schwortz
Taking time for a photo op!