Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Band New Build Releases Four Songs

Over the holidays I heard about a concert March 13 with New Band, a collaboration of sorts with members of two fave bands Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem.  With a household full of family members battling a nasty stomach flu, I did nothing about it until weeks later and the tiny Mercury Lounge was sold out. (A second night March 14 was added but also sold out due to demand.)  Having a birthday in January has taught me to happily acquire things one did not receive for Christmas, so on to StubHub I went to pay through the nose for tickets... perhaps off set by the freebies that come my way? At least I can rationalize it that way.

New Build was created as a "drop in centre for friends" as the London-based group told MixMag last fall.  Al Doyle (of Hot Chip and formerly LCD Soundsystem) and Felix Martin (Hot Chip) joined forces with studio producer Tom Hopkins, along with Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem occasionally joining in.  This morning the band announced four songs from the upcoming album, Yesterday Was Lived And Lost (due March 5), were up on soundcloud.com for consumption.  The tracks are filled with the buoyant dance music expected from these solid synthpop/indietronica types. Before kicking into movement-oriented grooves, the session begins with the ethereal intro of "Do You Not Feel Loved?" Multi-layered world music rhythms of "Mercy" features synth solos in between melodic verses. "Finding Reasons" brings in the steel drum of many Hot Chip songs, capping off a slower tune of vocal harmonies and fuzzy guitar.  "Misery Loves Company" presents a confident stride and crooning similar to Bryan Ferry's Roxy Music, calling us all to ruin.

Steady as I start to loose control
It's not good for the body, but it's good for the soul

Tom Hopkins
Al Doyle (left) & Alexis Taylor

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chairlift Live Sessions on The Alternate Side & NPR

Chairlift's sophomore album, Something, came out last week and now there's two opportunities to hear the band live via NPR's "World Cafe" and WFUV's "TAS In Session.  The band is now a duo -- since their 2009 debut, Does You Inspire You, founding member Aaron Pfennning left to go solo.  That left Caroline Polacheck and Patrick Wimberly to continue the band's momentum, with a strong showing with the first album, iPod commercial and record deal with a major label (Columbia).  The songs were supposedly written when the two were in love, though not with each other.  There is definitely a buoyancy to the music, confidently layered with electronic elements that made me wonder how their songs would be translated live.  They have added touring members Olga Bell, guitarist Jason McMahon and drummer Jamie Ingalls to round things out. (Wimberly plays bass while Polacheck sings.)  "TAS In Session" includes footage for a few songs as well as an interview -- good background for my upcoming interview opp for PopMatters!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Listen to Of Montreal's latest via SPIN Magazine

SPIN Magazine's "First Listen" program is featuring the upcoming release from Of Montreal, Paralytic Stalks, due out February 7th.  This is Kevin Barnes' eleventh collection of musical visions since 1997 and he is still clearly at full command of his band.  SPIN provides notes from the frontman for each song, making it not only a welcome listening session but a complete artistic immersion with this intimate, behind the scenes read as well.

The album kicks off with the percussive blast of "Gelid Ascent" that is both alarming and intriguing, much like Barnes himself.  It opens up to a classic rock feel with echoing vocals saying, Speak to me.  Music at once experimental and catchy for the next tune,"Spiteful Intervention," is classic Of Montreal.  The soulful singing and funky beat of "Dour Percentage" and "We Will Commit Wolf Murder" expands to the sound explored in more recent albums. A softer approach is found in "Malefic Dowery," a "troubled love song" explains Barnes.  Buzzy blips and electronic dance grooves return for "Ye, Renew the Plaintiff," with experimental forays to keep the eight minute song interesting. (Indeed, this is one of Barnes' favorite on the entire record).  The next track, "Wintered Debts" begins with an acoustic guitar yet quickly expands into "a country shuffle," according to Barnes.  The experimental focus returns through the final song, "Authentic Pyrrhic Remission," thirteen minutes of euphoric psych pop with Barnes singing, I love how we're learning from each other. 

Kevin Barnes in concert
Listen and read about Paralytic Stalks at the link here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Portlandia The Tour @ Music Hall of Williamsburg Jan. 20

With Fred Armisen after the show
Portlandia The Tour stopped by a parallel universe at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on January 20 to present the live version of this cult hit on IFC.  Portlandia has just started its second season, continuing on with a wide variety of recurring characters and quirky tag phrases.  Starring the new comedy team of Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Brownstein, the show provided fans with an up close and personal evening of bonding over this left-wing brand of bohemian skewering, which somehow never manages to cross over into pure malice.  With the pair’s background in punk rock bands, there’s always music of all sorts. (Brownstein’s guitar shredding skills are featured in the 90s Riot Grrrl band Sleater-Kinney and currently in Wild Flag, while Armisen played drums in the Chicago band Trenchmouth and plays bass on this tour.) The duo enlisted drummer Michael Benjamin Lerner and Rebecca Cole on keyboard to perform their original tunes, plus sing alongs, guest appearances and videos of sketches from upcoming episodes.

It began with a filmed message from the Office of the Mayor of Portland, played by Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks, Sex and The City).  His fireside chat was met with cheers as he gamely told the crowd to enjoy themselves and to remember to clean up afterwards.  Armisen took to the stage first to thank everyone, saying with genuine affection “This is so, so nice.”  Brownstein joined him to spoof text communication, with each of them reading each other’s missives for the day off of their phones.  After some songs and clips, Beastie Boys’ Adam Horowitz appeared, only to be grilled about his favorite New York spots, which included where to get the best burger (Blarney Stone).   Later on, Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers appeared for a few songs, and Horowitz returned for the finale, “Hanging Around.”

Portlandia with Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers “Hanging Around” @ Music Hall of Williamsburg 1/20/2012

   Portlandia “Dream of the 90s” @ Music Hall of Williamsburg 1/20/2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s New Video for “Thought Ballune”

Portland's psych rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra recently released a video for “Thought Ballune,” co-directed by Jordan Blady and Ryan Knowles.  This laid-back dance track gets a creepy house party treatment, which brings an added element to the song amidst a dingy setting.  The song off a self-titled debut may have been created by New Zealand native Ruban Nielson’s home studio, but he told Rolling Stone that he didn’t want to go out on the road with a “totally substandard” live show.  “I wanted people to be surprised at how good we were, not how bad we were.”

Nielson begins a tour next month with local producer Jake Portrait on bass and drummer Julien Ehrich.  They will be headlining at a few venues in California before joining in support of Girls through the month of March.  Plans also include the requisite stop at SXSW for any buzz-worthy band.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Chairlift and Nada Surf Releases on KCRW's "Album Preview"

L.A. station KCRW's "Album Preview" program has two worthy offerings from two Brooklyn bands, Chairlift and Nada Surf.  Indeed both groups have tracks on the iTunes Brooklyn Essentials.

Chairlift's Something is the sophomore album from this synth pop duo, Caroline Polacheck (singer/keyboardist) and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly.  They worked with producer Dan Carey who has strengthened the pop vision Lilly Allen and La Roux. A  single, "Amanaemonesia," heralded the new release last summer with its catchy vibe and quirky vocals (see video below).  At first listen, the other songs do not disappoint -- from the lead off sonic blasts of "Sidewalk Safari" to the slow simmer of the closer, "Guilty As Charged."  It's a collection to revisit many times just to take in the many levels of contemporary music making.

In comparison, Nada Surf is the consummate veteran band. "The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy" ranks number seven in their two-decade old career.  The trio has remained easily accessible in the best possible way, with a sound of hope beyond hope.  Singer/guitarist Matthew Caws' velvety vocals drift over the group's laid back approach to music, with Daniel Lorca on bass/vocals and Ira Elliot on drums/vocals.  Their single, "When We Were Young," is featured on my Winter 2012 Playlist (available as a free download on the band's website), a wistful look at nostalgia.  The opener here is the title track, a romping song that asks "where did we go wrong?"  The band continues on a familiar road on solid ground which should delight their many fans.

Listen to each preview until January 24th, when the music will be available for purchase, from links on KCRW's website here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Neon Indian Live Session at KEXP

The live sessions at Seattle station KEXP give new meaning to the term 'intimate' with a tiny studio for recording visits by various bands.  Neon Indian stopped in recently, and among all their gear around there certainly wasn't room for much else.  But the quintet seems perfectly comfortable in this tight space -- with each other and creating the music at hand.  Frontman Alan Palomo provides easy banter to introduce the four-song selection from last year's Era Extraña and 2010’s Psychic Chasms, which put his band solidly on the indie electronic map. The cameras capture every knob turn, layered sound loop and drum beat for an up close and personal look at the group.  Fans can see how every blip and guitar chord is executed, along with who is singing what vocal when. As Palomo says, “Cool.”

KEXP Neon Indian session link here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter 2012 New Music Playlist

Here’s to the New Year and the new music to be investigated as always.  Many of the picks for this playlist were found by investigating annual lists of top songs from 2011, revisiting bands if needed.  The end of the year brought new releases from The Black Keys and Florence + the Machine to explore along with many other diverse groups on the scene. Link to listen here, enjoy! 

1. “Don’t Move” -- Phantogram
2. “16 Years” – Phantogram
Phantogram hail from upstate New York, a band consisting of two friends since middle school in Saratoga Springs.  Keyboardist Sarah Barthel’s vocals flow over electronic beats and guitar parts by Josh Carter. The band name, referring to psychedelic optical illusions, could also allude to the rich, multi-layered sound by this indie pop duo.  These songs are off their EP, Nightlife.

3. “Black Hills” – Gardens & Villa
Gardens and Villa are a quintet of college friends from Santa Barbara, California, who pledge to play all parts live to achieve the laid back jam sound.  Vintage synth keyboards, guitars and percussion of all sorts combine with an occasional bamboo flute on their self-titled debut release.

4. “Gold” – Delay Trees
This lush creation is by a quartet from Finland, shoegaze pop in its finest form.  The song continues along a slow build to maximum effect.  “Gold” is off the band’s self-titled debut release.

5. “Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys
6.  “Gold On the Ceiling” – The Black Keys
These two songs are from El Camino, the seventh studio release from The Black Keys.  Patrick Carney (drums) and Dan Auerbach (guitar) collaborated with Danger Mouse for this harvest of tightly wound compositions.

7. “Top Bunk” – Gauntlet Hair
Gauntlet Hair is led by two high school friends from Chicago, Andy Rauworth and Craig Nice. They supposedly used Rauworth’s grandmother’s house to record songs while she was away from vacation.  The self-titled debut is full of noise pop songs with a spacious grandeur of their new home near Denver, Colorado.

8. “Thankful” – Caveman
This New York quintet uses handmade guitars to mold the blurred sound of shoegaze reverb but pop vocal melodies keep things on track.  “Thankful” is off their debut release, CoCo Beware.

9. “Amazing and Wonderful” – Peaking Lights
Peaking Lights are a psychedelic noise pop duo from the Madison, Wisconsin area, having relocated from San Francisco.  This husband and wife team of Indra Dunis and Aaron Coynes concoct free-form home recordings to fill this sophomore release, 936.

10. “When I Was Young” – Nada Surf
This song is a free download off the New York trio’s website from the upcoming seventh release, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy.  The mellow storytelling is a hallmark of the alt rock band, now creating music for two decades.

11. “Shake It Out” – Florence + The Machine
London’s Florence + The Machine released their second studio album, Ceremonials, with a continuation of powerful indie pop led by Florence Welch’s standout vocals.  “Shake It Out” amps up the sound with confidence, as recorded at Abbey Road Studio with Paul Epworth (also producer for Adele).

12. FFunny FFriends –Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is the home studio project by Ruban Nielson, a New Zealand native who moved to Portland, Oregon with his band Mint Chicks.  It allowed an indulgence in mixing psychedelic past with a pop sensibility for quirky fun, as found in this lead off track from the self-titled debut.

13. This is Not the End (featuring Luciana Villanova) – Gui Burrato
Brazilian electronic music producer Gui Burrato has now three releases of his own compositions, the newest one titled III.  This dreamy song closes out the mostly-instrumental collection, with Luciana Villanova’s wistful vocals calling, This is not the end.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Fanfarlo Video for "Shiny Things" Minus the Band

Photo courtesy of the band/Atlantic Records
The London band Fanfarlo appeared on the music scene with their solid debut release, Reservoir, back in 2009. The quintet’s rich textures of instrumentation included trumpet, mandolin, clarinet and musical saw, offering a quirky spin on their indie pop vibe.  There is a new video for a song off the upcoming sophomore release due out in February, Rooms Filled With Light.  Director Tim Nackashi came up with the idea for "Shiny Things" with the group, but they are nowhere to be seen.  Instead, three gymnasts are presenting a routine to three judges in a cold, stark room before one of them falls and is hauled away.  Singer Simon Balthazar told NPR that it’s a song about giving things up, and this young woman becomes a sacrifice in short order.  The band will tour throughout the U.S. and Canada beginning in March and without experiencing even a quick appearance in the video, it'll just make fans like me miss them more. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Official Coachella Line Up Gets Online Revision

Going around the internet today, see below! Hard to say which is my favorite... Band Who Moved to Brooklyn to Get Indie Cred or Emo Kids from the Burbs.  Brilliant.

The Shins Release New Track, "Simple Song"

In anticipation of the new release, Port of Morrow, The Shins have released a track "Simple Song" featuring an expanded sonic landscape and revamped line up.  Although when frontman James Mercer's vocals enter in, there's no mistaking the musical foundation that has been dormant since 2007's Wincing the Night Away.  Midway through, things drop out to provide a playful interlude complete with choral harmonies behind Mercer's crooning. He sings how it's a simple song to say what you've done.  The poetry continues with the lyrics, You feel like an ocean made warm by the sun.

Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats appear on the song, along with "two former bandmates" according to the KEXP blog. Port of Morrow was recorded over the past year in Los Angeles and Portland, with Mercer securely at the helm, providing songwriting, vocals and most instruments throughout.  A preorder is now available on iTunes, with an instant download of "Simple Song" and a B-side bonus track part of the package. As part of the newly announced Coachella line up, the band will also tour with additional dates in 2012.  The touring band includes Yuuki Matthews of Crystal Skulls (bass), Jessica Dobson (guitar), Richard Swift (keyboards) and Joe Plummer (drums).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jonsi Video "Gathering Stories" From Movie Soundtrack

The team behind movie We Bought A Zoo may be disappointed with their marketing decisions (another Dad in the dumps too close to The Descendants or maybe people just don’t want to see Matt Damon in that role?)  But they can’t blame Jónsi for not coming through with epic, heart-warming music for the soundtrack.  A video for one of the two original tracks created for the score, “Gathering Stories,” is now out via some inventive animation by Crush Creative.  It shows a fantastical world of colorful creatures in an Icelandic-like snowy landscape in similar hues to Jónsi’s homeland and stage design when we caught his show at Moogfest 2010. This song was actually written with director Cameron Crowe, perhaps a lyrical collaboration or decisions in the final production.  I just know I'd love to be in that room while it happened!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Moogfest 2011 Recap & My Brian Eno Airport Encounter

For all you people who keep asking, "What's Moogfest?"  Here's a recap of this awesome festival in Asheville, NC... It pays tribute to Bob Moog, inventor of the modern synthesizer and founder of Moog Music, now located in a renovated brick building right in town.  This year the Halloween weekend event expanded from four to six venues with approximately 25 acts to choose from a night and four afternoon panels/workshops during each day.  It was also attended by 28,000 people, catching a wide variety of acts such as The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, Dan Deacon, plus NBC's "Community" and Childish Gambino frontman Donald Glover.

My write up for PopMatters is here and see posts from the weekend: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 on the blog for a more complete review of Moogfest 2011.  Leaving town, I also happened upon a key turning point in my life. After running into Brian Eno in passing at our hotel, we were behind him in line at the airport to check in as he searched his bag for any identification.  Eno was actually relieved to see us as he explained to the airport personnel that we were "together at the festival" so we could vouch for him.  Explaining that passport had been stolen, we were honored to be in such a position but felt for the guy as he said it'd had even happened before. Paul would later joke that it'd be a hard Halloween costume to pull off but for that moment we were more concerned with just getting him on our plane.  Fortunately, it was a small airport and there were only a few obstacles.  As we were waved along, I took his elbow and told him how I had a very famous English name, Jane Seymour like the favorite wife of King Henry the Eighth, and to page me if needed.  

Photo in our hotel lobby - he liked Paul's hat!
Paul and I went ahead through security to the gate and sat listening to a U2 song playing through the sound system, how ironic. Not only did Eno write the influential electronic music composition called "Music for Airports" in 1978 but he produced that U2 album back in the day.  If the airport staff only knew!  I went back to see if Brian Eno had made it through the security line when I heard that charming man's accent call soft and low, in the dulcet tones of a soothing baritone. "Jane."  I can honestly now say I like my name -- it's my mother's name so I never felt like it was my own, growing up with various nicknames.  I quickly turned around to see him behind me in the shopping kiosk, happily browsing for reading material.  We had a quick chat about how lucky he was to make it through the boarding process.  Later, he even joined us sitting by the gate and as we all just heard the Talking Heads song, "Take Me to the River."  

"You know I was listening to that and thought, what a great song it was," Eno told us. "I totally forgot I had anything to do with it!" We all had a good laugh as the conversation turned as he asked us what business we were in and why we were at Moogfest. A fan came over and rambled on about how he loved Eno's music etc. (Probably just like we sounded as we rode the hotel elevator with him days earlier!) There was a pause before Eno stood up and shook his hand to send the fanboy on his way. We were able to continue our beyond-the-surface experience with the icon before boarding the flight.

So here's to Moogfest and all it offers.  Start making plans to travel to this unique, artsy town this October!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions In New Music

Happy New Year to all -- in the spirit of renewal here are some things I'm looking forward to in 2012. There's the arrival of the new release by the reworked band once known as The Shins, a concert by New Build (interesting project involving members of LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip, two of my fave bands ever) plus various other new music opportunities which will invariably happen along the way.  But also I'm hoping for a few other items as listed below.

1) Less whistling
From the beginning of "Moves Like Jagger" (in the video for this, I must add, I saw no moves remotely like Jagger by Maroon 5's Adam Levine) to Foster the People's mega-hit "Pumped Up Kicks," it seemed whistling was the thing to do in 2011.  Let's hope for more inspiration beyond a simple "pucker up and blow" next year.

2) Animal band names
Pepper Rabbit has announced their split so that's one less entity utilizing a name from the animal kingdom but groups could aspire away from such Google-able nomenclature in order to keep things less confusing.  Perhaps a move to the vegetable world would be a solid suggestion.

3) Keep live shows live
Bands shouldn't need to recreate songs exactly as heard on studio cuts -- too many backing tracks lean towards glorified karaoke.  If that's the case, we all might as well stay home.  With touring so important to many band's revenues, the concert setting allows an intimate view of the people creating the music.  Each show simply needs a beginning, middle and end with a succinct set list for building allegiances between fan and band.

On that note, here's to another fun year of being a new music fan!