Sunday, August 31, 2014

Arcade Fire @ the Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal August 30

Arcade Fire's world tour in support of the new album Reflektor came to a close before an adoring hometown crowd in Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau August 30 -- the carnival-like atmosphere permeated the balmy breezy summer night with most of the fans in some sort of fancy dress or costume.  The local C-Pop band Franka opened the concert connecting Arcade Fire's latest Haitian influences as one dollar of every ticket sold (estimated at 30,000) going towards the KANPE Foundation providing assistance in the country (set up by band member Régine Chassagne who is of Haitian descent). After being pranked at the very first warehouse show in Brooklyn last October, I was more than willing to give this beloved band a second chance.

Veteran indie band Spoon hit the stage to bring the music back into the alt-rock realm, rolling out hits such as "Got Nuffin'," "I Turn My Camera On," and "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb." These sturdy rock tunes were interspersed with songs from the latest album, They Want My Soul, such as the instant classic “Rent I Pay,” the soulful “Inside Out” and an extra spacey “Knock, Knock, Knock.”  It was great to see singer Britt Daniel’s swagger back as frontman after his side project as Divine Fits that required him to share the stage. He thanked Arcade Fire for inviting them along on the tour and cheekily remarked that this was “quite a crowd” in attendance. The band definitely acquired some additional followers that night with this solid set of old and new.

Dance party man Dan Deacon kept things going while the road crew readied the stage for the main act. He even had to ask for a sand bag or something to keep his D.J. gear from bouncing mightily while grooving to his own music. As he likes to do, Deacon created a dance off between sides of the audience mimicking appointed leaders, a Simon Says game that had the throngs connecting in movement.

A giant mirrored robot announced Arcade Fire in a booming voice across the venue, and with the title track from the new album, “Reflektor,” everything was kicked into high gear.  Songwriter Win Butler finally spoke a few songs in using a Franglais sprinkled with expletives, saying how happy they were to be back home after traveling the world.  So many favorite Arcade Fire songs were on the set list (see below), all even more fabled and anthemic in the live setting.  The new songs were also given an extra dimension, for example Win Butler asked everyone to pretend they were in a crowded club and dance to “We Exist.”

While the current touring band includes over a dozen musicians, so much of the coverage has focused on husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. (For example, the print edition of The New York Times had photos only of them with a recent review.) Will Butler arrived center stage to sing in older songs and jam on guitar with brother Win, and even the horn section had choreographed moves. But during the song, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” the couple really did steal the show by recreating the longing of mythological separated lovers, with expressive singing in a dramatic duet as Chassagne was off on a platform off stage surrounded by dancers in skeleton costumes.

As the band has done throughout the tour, a cover tune was selected for the location. In Montreal, Wolf Parade’s “I’ll Believe in Anything” was offered, cranking up the guitar crunch in respect.  The group then returned to their own party music for “Here Comes the Nighttime,” with the extra costumed dancers joining in. Always anticipated but never out of place, Arcade Fire’s epic “Wake Up” closed the night, a sing along complete with confetti and fireworks. All is forgiven now, see set list curtesy of @ArcadeFireTube and videos below plus more videos on our YouTube page.

Waiting for Spoon
Camera guy Paul in the crowd

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

YouTube Playlist of Late Summer 2014 New Music Playlist Songs

The videos found on YouTube for my Late Summer 2014 New Music Playlist are a mix of the straight forward audio, filmed footage and showing the band playing the song, which is my favorite type. I plugged in live performances from my favorite online music stations and new tunes sources, KCRW (Vacationer's "Paradise") and KEXP (Eels' "Where I'm From"), as it's always a treat to experience live sessions.  The Orwells and Interpol videos present the groups in action, while Strand of Oaks is stripped down to just Timothy Showalter and his acoustic guitar. Britt Daniel of Spoon is seen driving along in an eery, apocalyptic world with a twist, Avigdor Zahner-Isenber of Avi Buffalo washes up on a beach only to be forced into office drudgery and Ex Hex chooses to rock along to some wacky food obsessions (deviled eggs!)

I did have to insert another song by Christopher Owens, "Nothing More Than Everything To Me." It's a more upbeat tune than "It Comes Back To You," but I do love the video. Owens revisits his youth and the sweet discovery of love. Enjoy it all here or on YouTube.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Late Summer 2014 New Music Playlist

Here’s another collection of music culled from recent releases to help keep the summer vibe going. Check out new songs from indie veterans Spoon, Interpol, The New Pornographers and The Shins along with new bands such as Jungle and The Orwells. Vacationer, Parquet Courts and Ex Hex bring the party atmosphere while Christopher Owens, Stand of Oaks and Tweedy (Jeff Tweedy of Wilco) craft a mellow musical vein. Click to listen here.


1. “Can’t Do Without You” – Caribou
Canadian composer/producer Dan Snaith is ready with a sixth studio album since 2005 as Caribou, Our Love. His ready mix of dance beats, weighty bass lines and electronic wizardry is uncontested in this lead single and opening track for the album.

2. “Do You” – Spoon
Spoon returns with its eighth studio album, They Want My Soul, since the indie rock band was formed in Austin in 1993.  The five-piece includes a new member Alex Fischel (keys, guitar) but the gritty vocals of lead singer Brit Daniels still gives the music its edge, as witnessed in "Do You."

3. “Gold Silver Diamond” – Generationals
Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer make up the New Orleans-based indie rock duo Generationals, layering rhythms with stylized pop vocals for a distinctive sound.  "Gold Silver Diamond" is the first single off the fourth studio album since 2009, Alix.  

4. “Paradise Waiting” – Vacationer
Vacationer recently released a sophomore album, Relief, inspired by playing gigs for fans and being together on the road. The band is a collaboration of singer Kenny Vasoli, who imbibes every note with sunny warmth, plus Body Language's Matthew Young and Grand Wheeler. 

5. “Sunbathing Animal” ­– Parquet Courts
The fast-paced punk energy continues with NYC-based band Parquet Courts, back with a third album called Sunbathing Animal.  This searing rock tune is the title track of the new collection.

6. “From Now On” – Delta Spirit
San Diego's five piece indie rock group Delta Spirit delivers a true band aesthetic by writing together and recording everything live for its fourth album, Into the Wide. "From Now On" is the teaser single for the upcoming album. 

7. “Who Needs You” – The Orwells
The Orwells are a young five-piece rock band from the Chicago suburbs, writing about "anywhere USA" with wild exuberance.  "Who Needs You" is a single off the sophomore album called Disgraceland.

8. “The Heat” – Jungle
Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland comprise the London-based duo Jungle, a modern soul musical collective with a self-titled debut album. They expand to a seven-piece live band to bring the groove of songs like "The Heat" to the stage.

9.  “Hot and Cold” – Ex Hex
Power trio Ex Hex hails from Washington, D.C. This female group presents the basics, an "unapologetic Rock and Roll," as found in the single "Hot and Cold" from the upcoming debut album Rips.

10. “Brill Bruisers” – The New Pornographers
"Brill Bruisers" is the title track of eight-piece Canadian indie rock band The New Pornographer's sixth album since 1999. The signature, full-on vocals of the group create an instant celebration of the human spirit with soaring melodies and layered harmonies. 

11. “So What” – Avi Buffalo
Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg took four years to create his second album as Avi Buffalo, At Best Cuckold. The dreamy '60s pop influence saturates the songs again, as evidenced in "So What." 

12. “So Now What” – The Shins
The Shins' feature role in a Zach Braff film (Wish I Was Here) is reprised in "So Now What," gently reminding listeners why the Albuquerque band's indie cred remains intact. The song exists easily on its own merits, and yes, might just change your life.

13. “All the Rage Back Home” – Interpol
"All the Rage Back Home" is the solid opening track for NYC-based Interpol's fifth studio album since 1997, El Pintor. Singer Paul Banks takes over bass from the departing member Carlos Danger, and the group tightly rocks on.

14. “Where I’m From” – Eels
Prolific singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Californian Mark Oliver Everett (a.k.a. E) has released his eleventh full length album for Eels since 1996, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. The introspective song "Where I'm From" draws the listener in while softly singing private thoughts. 

15. “Summer Noon” – Tweedy
Jeff Tweedy of Chicago band Wilco began a solo musical project with son Spencer on drums adding creative input to form Tweedy. This song "Summer Moon" finds that familiar world-weary voice over strumming guitar, from the new ablum called Sukierae.

16. “It Comes Back To You” – Christopher Owens
L.A. based musician Christopher Owens (former frontman of indie rock band Girls) has released his second solo album, A New Testament.  "It Comes Back To You" highlights Owens' warm voice and other-worldly artistic vision. 

17. “Woke Up To the Light” – Strand of Oaks
Strand of Oaks is the folk rock outfit by Timothy Showalter based in Philadelphia. The songs for a fourth album, Heal, came together after a horrific car crash where Showalter was forced to reexamine everything --  now contained in every note. 

18. “Pets” – Deadmau5
Deadmau5 is the stage name of Canadian progressive-house music producer Joel Thomas Zimmerman, who just released his seventh album since 2005. The airy instrumental "Pets" is one of 25 tracks (minus the mixes) on this two-disc album, which contains a continuous mix for each disc. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blur's Live At the Budokan Reissue Out On iTunes (Listen to "Girls & Boys")

Official Blur calendar of 1996 with Albarn,
 James, Coxon & Rowntree (left to right) 
The Blur live double album, Live At the Budokan, is now remastered and available on iTunes via Parlophone Records Ltd. This Japanese-only release was recorded during a 1995 tour for The Great Escape, the band's fourth out of seven studio albums.  I came late to this band, as Brit pop kings Oasis won over listeners in the states during the 90s.  The group was originally called Seymour (!), formed in 1989 by vocalist/keyboardist Damon Albarn with guitarist Graham Coxon and bassist Alex James. Drummer Dave Rowntree joined soon afterwards, and they were signed to a subsidiary of EMI Records following only a few gigs and recording that all-important demo tape. Supposedly the label suggested a name change and presented a list, so the guys chose Blur.

Since I never saw them live (although I caught Albarn in a subsequent band, The Good, the Bad & the Queen), this redo is a wonderful guilty pleasure. Take a listen to "Girls & Boys," one of my very fave Blur songs with its bopping dance vibe and sing along chorus -- although I could do without the fans singled out in Karaoke!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Modest Mouse @ The Capitol Theatre, NY August 5

Isaac Brock
Sometimes you just don't really know a band (or its fans) until you experience things live in a concert setting. Such was the case with Modest Mouse, indie rock stalwarts from the Pacific Northwest since 1995 that burst onto the music scene in 2004 with the crossover hit "Float On."  I'd count myself among the fans not-so-patiently waiting for another studio album since 2009's No One's First and You're Next (containing only B-sides and unreleased tracks), as it's not a coincidence that frontman Isaac Brock's own record label is called Glacial Pace. Tour dates were cancelled last year among rumors about time needed to complete the album, which has yet to appear. So you'd think hitting the road this time around would be a good way to keep the connection going, but no reintroduction needed as a rabid and raucous crowd came out to their show at The Cap on a gorgeous summer's night.

Modest Mouse songs swing from the soothing to the frantic, all infused with a seething underbelly via Brock's lyrics and a vocal attack that breaches into speak-singing. His nomadic upbringing in Montana, Oregon and Washington included polar opposites of hippie communes and a Christian religious sect. Brock is still searching, clearly not sure if there are any answers. The opening number from 2004's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, "The Good Times Are Killing Me," sweetly mocks his own drug use. (Thankfully Brock was looking extremely fit in a dress shirt covered in a cactus pattern, with boyish bangs that became plastered with sweat as the set continued). The stage was covered with equipment, instruments and nine musicians, who allowed the music to become as unhinged as the audience that filled the venue. Brock switched from guitar to banjo  as needed and checked in with everyone with an occasional "How y'all doing?" He confessed to slamming a finger at 4 am, chocking it up to the fact that if you're up at 4 am, then "Shit happens."

The band brought out "Confessional" early in the set, kicking up the intensity of this instant party tune from 2007's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.  A new song slipped in afterwards, creating a honky tonk vibe with Brock barking "Be Brave," along with two more later on, flirting with old school Rockabilly in "Sugar Boats" and a wavering rocker "Pistol." And with so many shows utilizing busy backgrounds projected on scrims plus other stage props, the straight up light show of colorful streams was something to be appreciated. However I waited till the end for my moment to finally hear and sing along to "Float On," but that was not to be. There were plenty of sing along moments, from "Fire It Up," to "This Devil's Workday" and especially the repeating line, "Are you dead or are you sleeping?" in "Satin in a Coffin." But not witnessing the biggest hit and my introduction to the band left me wanting -- along with that next studio release. Check out some pics, videos and set list below.

Paul & college pal Mark telling tales to the next generation
Paul & Me

Next gen music fans