Monday, September 30, 2013

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2013 - Must See Bands

I'm finally going to Austin -- the line up for this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival was too tempting!  They've expanded it to two weekends just like Coachella, which may not be the best way to create a unique sense of excitement around an event. But at least it's not in the desert (or on a sprawling farm like Bonnaroo), but in a contained city park as depicted in the video at the end of this post. The festival website has the official schedule up with a handy "My ACL" customization to share your picks and get updates.  I've also shared my to-do list below with my thoughts behind each choice (most have appeared on my new music playlists), however I'm going to have some tough decisions come Sunday's line up.

I've reconnected with a friend from my hometown who lives within "biking distance" from the park and I'm also armed with a nice list of recommendations from a local (that would be Josh Lambert of The Octopus Project and to use his favorite word during concerts, a very enthusiastic thanks!) I even have a tab opened to the Weather.com's 10-day forecast for the city, to see if I'll need to sport that lovely poncho look. It all looks great weather wise but what to pack? After checking out last year's fashions online, it looks like starting with messy hair is a must. At least that should be easy to keep going hours from gig to gig!

MUST SEE:
Friday: 
Smith Westerns (Playlist Pick a few times, never seen them)
Saturday: 
Dan Croll (Playlist Pick with a favorite song, never seen them)
Sunday: 
Franz Ferdinand, (Playlist Pick & HUGE FAN through all four albums)
Toro Y Moi (Playlist Pick & solid fan since day one, have a link on the band's Wikipedia page)
Atoms for Peace (Playlist Pick & big fan of Thom Yorke/Radiohead)

CATCH SOME:
Friday: 
Wild Nothing (Playlist Pick, never seen but getting into town around then)
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (Playlist Pick, never seen)
Local Natives (Playlist Pick, never seen)
Okkervil River (Interesting new concept album about growing up, The Silver Gymnasium)
Fun. (Huge pop band with singer that looks like my brother, why not see what the fuss is about)
Vampire Weekend (Playlist Pick, seen but it's been a while)
Wild Belle (Playlist Pick, never seen)
Purity Ring (Playlist Pick, never seen)
Depeche Mode (band you could not escape from back in the 80s, will check out a few songs)
Muse (Another huge band, interested to see why people seem to think they really rock live)
Saturday:
Parquet Courts (Playlist Pick, just saw them and have a conflict but wanted to put them on list anyway)
Junip (Playlist Pick, never seen)
Portugal.The Man. (Seen as CMJ 2011 headliner, been awhile)
Wild Cub (Not a huge fan of their music but a favorite of KEXP so thought I should check them out)
The Joy Formidable (Favorites of the hipster scene, might bypass this one)
Passion Pit (Playlist Pick & solid fan, have a link on this band's Wikipedia page too)
Wilco (Playlist Pick though not a huge fan of everything they've done)
The Cure (Another 80s band you could not escape from at the time, actually saw them back then)
Sunday: 
Bear Mountain (Playlist Pick, never seen)
Foxygen (Playlist Pick, never seen although I hear they are falling apart at the seams)
Ms Mr (Playlist Pick, never seen)
Divine Fits (Playlist Pick & seen lots but local guy Britt Daniels is such a rock star)
White Denim (Good solid band from Austin, never seen)
The National (Playlist Pick, seen but it's been a while)
Tame Impala (Playlist Pick, was supposed to see the band but then Hurricane Sandy hit so still need to)
Phosphorescent (Playlist Pick, seen a few months ago but love love love Matthew Houck's voice)
Phoenix (Playlist Pick and would love to see Sophia Coppola's adorable hubby Thomas Mars)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Travis @ Webster Hall September 23

Another bass player connection -- Paul w/Dougie Payne & band
Travis is one of those bands that I remember exactly when I fell in love with their sound.  It was back at the turn of the century when MTV holding on to the role of tastemaker, producing compilation CDs called "Picks." I still remember the stylized hand drawing on the cover, as I poured over the offerings and fell in love with "Sing" by Travis.  With this song, the Scottish band finally enjoyed a hit single across the pond in the U.S. music scene.

Their story has not been an easy one, with line up shake ups and drummer Neil Primrose's brush with death after diving into a shallow pool.  Through it all, the sweetly comforting vocals of Fran Healy continued the band's mantra of pushing through life together. The five year absence since their last album (2008's Ode to J. Smith) is actually a happy one -- full of the adult responsibilities of fatherhood -- which of course adds plenty of emotional power to the new songs on Where You Stand.  I wrote about the single, "Moving" back in July and was eager to see the band live for the first time.

My perch upstairs before joining in below for the encore
As we walked up to Webster Hall, the band was actually milling outside as Healy was easy to spot in his signature felt hat. Turns out they were working on a video, with bass player Dougie Payne clutching a prop baby to his chest.  He would bring this out again for the last song, the iconic "Rain On Me." We were told that they would have to shoot the ending of the concert a few times, from the piano break on.  Healy asked we go wild every time, saying "New York had a reputation"for that anyway.  He also joked that we'd all get $1000 afterwards.  The packed venue of fans was more than happy to oblige, after singing along during a long full set full of their favorites plus a nice sprinkling of new songs.

Check out the set list and photos from a band singalong in the front of the stage - a Travis tradition. I've also added a video for good measure. Official PopMatters review at link here.





Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Song by Goldspot "The Border Line" (New Album Out)

Goldspot (photo from band's Facebook page)
During the "John In the Morning" show on KEXP.org last Friday, Goldspot's song "Friday" was appropriately rolled out to end the week.  It promptly inspired one of my kitchen dance solo, more interpretive in nature than usual in order to match the epic swells of this favorite tune. (Goldspot has an adorable video for "Friday" featuring frontman Siddhartha Khosla back in grade school, check it out here if you haven't seen it!)

After tweeting about this activity and my love of the song, I received a thank you response from the band plus a link to a new song/video for "The Border Line." off the latest album released last month, Aerogramme (via Mt. Hoboken/ Nice Music Group).  "The Border Line" video is a pastiche of found footage featuring all types of dancers.  As the song chugs along, a melody hovers above a strong percussive foundation and choruses ring out like a clarion with the familiar vocal prowess of Khosla. Although I miss spotting the band in the video, the collection of dancers is still entertaining to watch.  I especially like the fancy ballroom moves around gleaming appliances, but also how the movement of untrained individuals are deemed just as worthy in the mix -- this is clearly a danceable tune in any culture.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Song by The Naked and Famous "Hearts Like Ours" (New Album Out & NYC Tour Dates Oct 10 & 11)

The Naked and Famous (press photo from band's website)
New Zealand alt rock band The Naked and Famous just released its sophomore album this week, called In Rolling Waves (Fiction Music).  I took a quick listen, looking for another full on power pop experience similar to their song "Young Blood" off their 2010 debut, Passive Me, Aggressive You, which was a pick for my Fall 2010 Playlist. It didn't take long, as the second track did the trick.  The song, "Hearts Like Ours," speaks of how "we're alone but side by side" with passionate melodies conveyed by singer Alisa Xayalith.  She and Thom Powers started dating before they even started a band, so romantic notions of a life shared are an easy subject for their songs.  The group moved to L.A. to write this follow up and recorded it in the iconic music enclave of Laurel Canyon.

Check out the song in the official video below with obscure imagery of people floating in water, space and daydreams.  Also, The Naked and Famous is setting off on an extensive tour later this month, with two dates in NYC at Terminal 5 October 10 and 11.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Song by Superchunk "FOH" (New Album & Tour)

Superchunk (Photo via Merge Records)
From the first blast of guitar in "FOH" by Superchunk, I knew it would be the perfect lead off song for my next new music playlist for Fall 2013.  It's an irresistable party song about the trials and tribulations of being a band member playing in the front of the house, when "amps are down" and with lights on stage plus a raucous crowd, they "can't see out." (Well how can a crowd not be going crazy with this kicker of a tune?) Mac McCaughan's raw vocals continue to lead the charge, as the group shows no signs of slowing down.

"FOH" is from the indie rock band's tenth studio album with the winking title, I Hate Music. With an American-made attitude since the 1990s, Superchunk practically created the DIY method that included establishing their own record label for them and their friends around the Chapel Hill, NC area -- the very solid Merge Records, now based in nearby Durham.  The band is currently on tour to support their new album, but unfortunately bassist Laura Ballance cannot be along for the ride.  As she explains on the band website by the list of tour dates, Ballance is experiencing problems with her hearing.  It's such an unfortunate consequence of having a successful long term career in rock, totally not fair.

Take a listen below and be sure to check out the entire album.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Video for Arcade Fire's "Reflektor" (Album Due October 29)

Arcade Fire (iTunes Photo)
Arcade Fire has released the single "Reflektor" from its upcoming double album by the same name (due October 29 via Mercury Records) with a cinematic black and white video by Dutch photographer and director Anton Corbijn, who has also worked with U2 and Depeche Mode.  The serious treatment matches the epic, over seven minute track, based around a bizarre road trip by married couple (and new parents) Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. In a bizarre imagining, band members don large doll heads and baby dolls spill out of a casket, while lyrics talk about meeting "on the other side."  David Bowie makes a  cameo towards the end of this pulsing tune and the appearance of a sparkling mirrored disco ball could easily represent the LCD Soundsystem mastermind behind the new album, producer James Murphy. 

Earlier today, Arcade Fire posted on Facebook a free download offer with a preorder of the album, but better yet it yields early access to tickets for their upcoming world tour (hoping to finally check this band off my concert bucket list!)  The music is also available on iTunes here.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Videos for Moby's "The Perfect Life" (Album Due September 30)

Yesterday Moby released another new song called "The Perfect Life" from his upcoming album, The Innocents, (due September 30 via Mute Records). This collaboration with wacky Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips is being called an "epic electronic soul track" by the label. 


The track begins as a sing along with an uplifting chorus, Flaming Lips style, yielding to a soaring melody by a songstress that acts as a typical Moby stamp of approval. The musicians share the verses, then continue on together in through the choruses. "The Perfect Life" video was shot in L.A. with these two dressed as Mariachis. Moby posted a casting call on his Facebook with some very specific requests: S&M gimp rhythmic gymnast, eight roller-skating ghosts, 12 goth choir members, a punk rock brass band, and a drunk king (guy with beard age 35-50).  I love the scenes of this funny pair just making their way through the streets of the city in full, yet somehow adorable, costume. According to my brother out on the West Coast the filming took place in downtown L.A. on Broadway between 6th and 8th where there are many old theaters -- The Palace gets a nice cameo. Check it out below, along with an impromptu teaser which finds Coyne in frontman mode egging people on to sing just like he does so well in concerts with The Flaming Lips.

Moby explains, "A few weeks ago Wayne and I spent the day making a video for 'The Perfect Life'.  Then at the end of the day we broke out an acoustic guitar and gathered all of the extras on a rooftop overlooking L.A and sang an unrehearsed, impromptu version of the song.  Please keep in mind we had no idea what we were doing." The pair met in 1995 when they were both openers for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' European tour.  Moby says, "I thought of Wayne for this song because The Flaming Lips have evolved in this very open, celebratory band when they play live,and that was the perfect vibe for what I was imagining for ‘The Perfect Life.’ I texted Wayne and said, ‘Hey, I have a song – want to sing on it?’ Thirty seconds later, he texted me back: ‘Yes, send it to me, it will be great.” Indeed!



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Music Sources -- Looking For Love At First Listen

Since I'm often asked how I find songs for my playlists, here's a post devoted to new music sources. As soon as one collection is ready with carefully crafted order, I'll start the next one. I like starting with a tune that's makes me want to get up and move to the beat.  From there a musical path meanders along until a spaced out ending, keeping to the old time frame of under 80 minutes which began so it'd fit onto a CD. Although I've been putting out playlists about every six weeks over the past five years, it all depends on the amount of releases in each season.  I'm thrilled by the hunt, always looking for that love at first listen feeling.

A good day will begin with listening to KEXP's "John in the Morning" show, where John Richards holds court with the "morning faithful." In a wonderfully old school way, he'll tell you about his weekend, talk about the weather and events in the area. The station even fields requests at dj@kexp.org. Around noon I'll switch over to KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," which clues me into the outside world with NPR updates on the hour.  Plus both KEXP and KCRW have apps for smartphones -- very handy for road trips or at the gym where I'm apt to throw in a few dance moves during my workout anyway. I'm also happy to work that radio dial driving back and forth from CT to MD where my parents lived for over 25 years, from college radio like WFMU, WVUD, WTMD and other local station like Philly's WXPN and Annapolis' WRNR.  My son recently moved to Denver and turned me onto the online music stream at Colorado's Public Radio "Open Air" at CPR, which focuses on the local scene.

If there's a particular record label with a few of your favorite bands, I suggest getting on their email lists or follow them on social media or Spotify.  For example, I pour over news from Mom + Pop Music (home of Andrew Bird, Neon Indian, and Smith Westerns), Polyvinyl Record Company (home of The Dodos, of Montreal and Deerhoof), among others. You can just visit their websites and follow them on Facebook or Twitter but I like reminders in my inbox about upcoming releases, tours and especially merch! Truly fave bands are followed directly, so I'm sure not to miss anything. And CMJ Music Festival puts together a monthly mixtape, which I always look forward to digging into.

Now that I'm on lots of press lists after writing about music, I'm sent emails about new bands and releases that I let accumulate until I have a dedicated time to go through them. I look for a quick link to a video or Soundcloud page, and will bookmark it if I think there might be a reason to revisit things.  Plus I keep an eye on various music pubs: SPIN, Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Stereogum and Rolling Stone (although I'm still upset by the editorial decision to put that dreamy photo of the Boston bomber on the cover!) Add in NPR Music and of course PopMatters, where I have a pile of posts as a contributor on the music staff.

If the music really resonates, I'll look for the song in iTunes and Spotify to put it in the next playlist draft.  Once I have about an hour of music, it's time to set the sequencing and call it cooked. The research is always interesting, finding out where the band is from plus other details about albums and years in the music biz.  Then it's a bit like writing a book report, relieved when it's all over and done.  

But when it comes down to it, this is really about the joy of sharing in discovery of bands and music. See links below and be sure to pony up during the pledge drives to keep public radio music alive and well...


Dive into past New Music Matters Playlists here and this list for online radio listening:

KEXP.org  Seattle "John In the Morning" show from 9 - 12 noon EST 

KCRW.com  LA "Morning Becomes Eclectic" from 12 noon - 3 pm EST