Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
If this doesn't melt your heart into a big bleeding mess, you don't have one to begin with. They're so in love! And adorable. And talented.
And who knew BPB aka Will Oldham's close-to-gospel song could be turned into the loveliest love song? It's a far jump from his pathologically loaded (though stunning) funeral dirges. (He's been covered pretty notably before, too.) Check out the original "I'll Be Glad" here, the organ is super nice.
-- Caroline Klibanoff
Monday, August 30, 2010
And let’s just say if your city must be taken over by a musical act, Wilco are benevolent overlords. Amenities included bike valets, free parking (with enough security to ensure no Ryan Adams fans—or actual Ryan Adams—took bats to your windshield), shuttles to and from the lots and free refills on water. No overpriced, reheated festival food here; instead Berkshire-based vendors offered chicken tikka masala, varieties of samosas, handmade ice cream and locally brewed beer. Families brought younger children for free; parents enjoyed morning yoga while their kids took in puppet shows. The band handpicked the lineup of artists and comedians and assembled their own exhibits. Make no mistake, this weekend was about Wilco—but if you were down with worshiping at the temple of Tweedy, the inaugural Solid Sound Festival was a breath of fresh air after a summer full of sweaty mobs navigating venues as crowded as the schedules.
Arriving early, we decided to check out the exhibits. After wandering the maze of MASS MoCA’s 14-acre refurbished industrial complex with no help from our map (seriously: aesthetically pleasing, but graphic designers are not cartographers, Jeff Tweedy), we stumbled into Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawing Retrospective. Inside the vertigo-inducing walls hung Glenn Kotche’s Interactive Drum Heads exhibit. Passersby tinkered with the unique additions to the drums, unleashing echoes of haphazard percussion—which the Solid Sound volunteer manning the room must have appreciated. Although, no one had it worse than the staff assigned to the cavernous space housing Nels Cline’s Stompbox exhibit. Groups huddled around stacks of lunchbox amps connected to a smorgasbord of effect pedals, flicking switches and shifting EQ sliders, trying to detect changes in the deafening drone. Happier staffers kept watch over Pat Sansone’s room of Polaroids and the hallway of silk-screen concert posters from Wilco’s past.
In addition to contributing exhibits, the individual members got time to showcase their side projects. It began with Pronto. Keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen led his group in pleasant piano-driven pop, ranging from easy-going to edgy, recalling moments like “Hummingbird” or “You Never Know.” Bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone indulged the audience with the hazy, 70s soft rock harmonies (Sky Blue Sky, anyone?) of The Autumn Defense. Drummer Glenn Kotche and Darin Gray of On Fillmore traded duck calls before launching into eerie and experimental percussion and bass numbers that culminated in Kotche nearly decapitating a woman with a thunder tube. To watch Glenn go all out is to realize how vital his more subtle, unconventional beat-keeping is to Wilco’s sound. Finally came the Nels Cline Singers, which unfortunately is not an acapella group for tall men in short pants but an avant-garde jazz ensemble—yeah, I don’t even know. But what I do know, being familiar with the noise-outro of “Less Than You Think” and the guitar freak outs on “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” is that as I watched Nels wail with furious technical precision on his guitar and masterfully fiddle with electronics, it was not hard to imagine exactly where Jeff Tweedy saw Cline fitting in when he joined Wilco post-A Ghost Is Born.
All of these sounds converged on Saturday night as Wilco took the stage, managing to pack a lively performance of 30 songs into 2 and ½ hours. Mixed in with charged performances of live staples were some rarities including Yankee Hotel Foxtrot demo throwbacks like “Not For The Season,” “A Magazine Called Sunset” and “Cars Can’t Escape.” The audience came through on the “Jesus, Etc.” sing-along, which an impressed Tweedy ranked in “maybe the Top 2.” The band ended the main set on a strange note, playing the bittersweet “On and On and On” with Tweedy sans guitar, but soon returned with an upbeat four-song encore ending in a rousing rendition of “Hoodoo Voodoo.”
But it’s kind of an exercise in narcissism to throw a festival all for yourself, so the band brought some friends along, too. We were treated to the sweet harmonies of Burlington-based Mountain Man, the finger-picking goodness of Sir Richard Bishop, and the jam band groove of Vetiver. Crowds vibed to sample-happy hometown heroes, The Books, and indie newcomers like Brenda and Avi Buffalo alike. But the real crown jewel of the lineup was Gospel legend Mavis Staples. In addition to old standards, the 71-year-old icon belted CCR’s “Wrote A Song For Everyone” and The Band’s “The Weight.” Jeff Tweedy even joined her on stage for the title-track of her newest album, “You Are Not Alone.”
Mavis wasn’t the only act to share the stage with the Wilco frontman. On rainy Sunday evening, Jeff Tweedy was putting on a charming solo performance in which he engaged in his favorite activities: singing and goading audience members—offenses included laughing at a bum note in “Muzzle of Bees,” being unprepared to back-up whistle on Loose Fur’s “The Ruling Class,” and being too knowledgeable on the capo placement for Uncle Tupelo’s “New Madrid” (“That’s a desperate cry for help”). Although he refused requests to cover “Single Ladies” again, he broke out affecting covers of Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” and “So Much Wine” by The Handsome Family.
But my favorite cover of the evening (and one of my favorite moments of the whole festival) came as he welcomed the young Avi Buffalo to the stage for a cover of “Look Out For My Love.” I stood there thinking that I could only dream of achieving the same level of musical idolatry nirvana that the visibly nervous Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg must have been experiencing if, well, Jeff Tweedy brought me on stage to duet to a Neil Young song. Other guests included Nick Zammuto of The Books crooning “Ingrid Bergman,” Scott McCaughey of Minus 5 joining in for “The Family Gardener” off Down With Wilco, and Nels Cline on lap steel guitar for a rare and stunning “Dash 7.”
After promising more friends, Tweedy returned with The Autumn Defense and Nels Cline, relinquishing lead to John Stirratt on “It’s Just That Simple.” Adding Mikael Jorgensen to the mix, Wilco minus Glenn Kotche (who was expecting a baby “any minute—well, hopefully not any minute” and had understandably left) gleefully stumbled through the drunken “Passenger Side,” ending on a folky take of “Outta Mind (Outta Sight)” with Tweedy appropriately barking “Look out, here I come again / and I’m bringing my friends!” And with that, the festival was over. The band waved goodbye, and Tweedy shouted a promising “See you next year!” as he left the stage.
It was easy to forget that I shared this experience with a crowd of 2,000 to 5,000 others. Under the (mostly) sky blue skies of the Berkshires, everything seemed relaxed and intimate. It was the kind of atmosphere in which it wasn’t strange to run into John Stirratt taking in the sounds of the Deep Blue Organ Trio in front of the beer tent or to see Nels Cline towering above the crowd awaiting Pronto. It seemed perfectly normal to bump into Mikael Jorgensen mid-bite into your hot dog or for your friend to mistake Pat Sansone for a tour guide and block him in line for the sugar. And there was nothing out of the ordinary about having Glenn Kotche hold the door for you right after Wilco rocked the main stage or about spotting Jeff Tweedy perched atop a dunk tank in that ugly nudie suit he wore on the cover of SPIN. It was their festival, after all—and I think I'm not alone in hoping that they’ll return to North Adams again next summer to continue their reign.
-- Catherine DeGennaro
Friday, August 27, 2010
From Cee-Lo Green.
Normally I'd be offended, but after clicking through to the song included in the email, I found a diamond in the rough, if the rough is email spam and the diamond is this super sweet summer dancey jam groove by Green himself, who already won me over a few months ago with "Georgia."
This is even better. I was sold when I heard "Bein' in love with your ass ain't cheap, I pity the fool that falls in love with you." (And later: "Ooh, I really hate your ass right now.") Cee-Lo is on fire here, with old-school brass horns and a hooky chorus consisting of "Fuck you, fuck you," giving some snarky undeserving girl and her new boyfriend the BOOT.
Anyway, here's a much-needed roundup of some other summer jams, continuing from Part One earlier this summer. Check out the playlist below and let us know what your favorites are, and what we left off!
1. Robyn - Cry When You Get Older
Guess we missed this the first time around, because this song has been out for a while. Still it makes for an arching, beat-heavy, ass-kicking song. And she's got some lyrical prowess too: "Back in suburbia kids get high and make out on the train / and this incomprehensible boredom takes a hold again."
2. Nelly - Just a Dream
I realize not everyone is as mindblowingly excited for Nelly's upcoming release as I am (and this single is no Dilemma or Country Grammar, believe me). But that doesn't stop the inevitability of this song dominating Top 40 radio this fall. It's kind of sad, though, thematically! But whatever, as soon as the bass drops about 21 seconds in, you'll be too busy dancing to care. Definitely a capital-J Jam.
3. Andre 3000 - I Do (leaked)
Remember when Andre's verses were the strongest unreleased cuts off the Big Boi record? And how he drops these absolutely killer verses like they mean nothing to him, all the time? He's smart and it shows here: "And maybe 2030 our baby she'll be nerdy, make the whole club swoon."
4. Best Coast, Kid Cudi, Rostam Batmanglij - All Summer
This also came out a while ago, before Best Coast blew up, and it's a great lineup of voices: Cudi sounds super laid back and carries the track, while Best Coast's clean melody on the chorus makes this hook, line, and sinker a full-on lovable song perfect for summer.
5. Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Though we've given this album a lot of credit already here, this track is exuberant enough to separate from the rest of the concept-album and cross over to keep company among the four songs listed already - an impressive feat for an indie band, but not a surprising one for a band that sells out arena tours and performs on the Daily Show.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
-- Jared Iversen
Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard – August 24th
The Syracuse-based band (don’t hold it against them) will offer up more of their orchestral pop on the follow up to their critically acclaimed debut album. This isn’t really a fall release, but I missed it on the Summer Music Preview, and it’s supposed to be “so poppy you will want to throw up on yourself” (in a good way, I’m assuming). And seeing as it was produced and mixed by members of Death Cab for Cutie and Vampire Weekend, that is entirely possible. Listen to the single (and other tracks from the album) and decide for yourself.
Indie rock veterans The Walkmen will release their sixth studio album next month. The record’s title and Romantic spirit were inspired by the band’s trips to the Portuguese capital city, which spurred the writing of nearly 30 songs (11 of which found their place on this album). The lead single, Stranded, features regal horns and Hamilton Leithauser’s distinguished whine, and creates a perfect cocoon of sound, with just the right dose of melancholy and nostalgia, to get you through those early days of fall.
The always strange and interesting
The fourth album from Bradford Cox’s band is a concept album of sorts about “the way that we write and rewrite and edit our memories to be a digest version of what we want to remember, and how that's kind of sad.” The album was produced and mixed by Ben Allen, who also worked on Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, and, despite the more guitar based sound of the album’s pleasant single, this suggests there should be more brilliant ambient, psych-pop o
Girls – TBA - TBA
Last year, San Francisco beach rockers Girls released their debut album, quickly becoming to the indie world what Justin Bieber is to 12 year old girls. In a recent interview, front man Christopher Owens revealed that a new Girls album would be released “sometime in the fall.” There’s not too many deets at the moment, but for now check out this new song in which Owens shows a much softer side.
KiD CuDi is dropping the sequel to his debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, in October, saying it will bring “you into [his] reality, good and bad.” The rapper’s brand of electronic hip-hop will likely provide one or two songs that will become staples at Village A parties this fall. Until then, listen to the official single (featuring Kanyeezee) and a couple other tracks, and cop his latest mixtape.
We finally have an answer to the question everyone has been asking (mainly just Caroline) – what happened to Nelly? The St. Louis rapper hasn’t had a hit song since 2005, when Facebook still required an invitation to join and Twitter wasn’t even invented (you know, the good old days), and seemingly dropped off the grid for the second half of the decade. The man who kicked off the new millennium with classics like “Country Grammar,” “Ride Wit Me,” and “Hot in Herre” appears to be making a comeback, with the release of his sixth studio album. Listen to the single and get ready to shake ya tailfeather.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - TBA- TBA
This ectro-folk-psych-pop duo is the best thing to be associated with NASCAR since, umm, ever (except for maybe this, and probably this, ok and definitely this). According to their MySpace, the debut album will be out in the fall, but in the meantime check out their painfully catchy Horse Power EP, which features a cover of The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (Do I smell/hear a feature on Take Cover?).
Speaking of comebacks, ladies and gentlemen, Kanye West is back. It seems the enigmatic rapper has abandoned the abhorrent auto tune that was featured prominently on his last album, the emo dud 808’s and Heartbreak, and has returned to form. He recently joined the web’s most popular narcissistic outlet, and has shown no signs of checking his ego when discussing the new album either, comparing it to the “masterwork” of “Michelangelo, Picasso, [and] the pyramids.” He says his goal is to reach “that Avatar level,” but let’s hope he doesn’t substitute substance for some glitzy gimmick. Then again, glitzy gimmicks are what ‘Ye does best. As if that’s not enough, it has been confirmed that he flew Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) out to his studio in Hawaii to lay down vocals for “at least 10 songs!” While I can confidently say this album won’t actually compare to this or this or this, Kanye appears to be as motivated and cocky as ever, and that is a very good thing. Check out the single and a leaked track.
Other releases to be on the lookout for:
Fleet Foxes are supposed to release their sophomore album around “stocking-stuffer” time
And of course there’s always the possibility of a new Radiohead album...
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
I stumbled upon Dawes, a four-piece band from Los, Angeles, at this year’s Newport Folk Festival, and I was instantly taken with their endearing folk rock. Hailing from the renowned Laurel Canyon region of California, they don’t shy away from their influences, infusing the warm harmonies of CSNY and the comforting melodies of The Band into their familiar sound. What really set these guys apart though are the lyrics, inspired and poetic, yet somehow instantly germane and deeply human. They’re debut album, North Hills, came out last summer, and it is a compelling collection of Americana songs that show a remarkable maturity for a few guys in their early twenties.
-- Jared Iversen
Listen to a few tracks below:
Friday, August 20, 2010
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
I’m going to cut straight to the chase: Big Boi’s debut solo album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, is dope! No questions asked. I must admit that over the last few years I have pretty much been a hater of most new music released under the ‘hip-hop’ genre. This is due in part to my love-hate relationships with both T-Pain (it’s hard for me to continuously hate his music after he joined forces with Andy Samberg for “I'm On a Boat”) and Lil Wayne, coupled with my complete and utter dislike of artists such as Gucci Mane and Bangs. Over the course of these past few summer months, I have tried to mentally accept that the music industry is changing; genre roles are changing and therefore, hip-hop must also change. And, although I do miss the innovative styles of such artists as Eric B. & Rakim and De La Soul, not all of the hip-hop artists today are complete crap. Actually, some of them are pretty damn amazing.
I first heard Big Boi rapping on Southerplayalisticadillacmuzik as part of the duo OutKast. This album dropped in 1994 and I distinctly remember little ol’ me sitting in the back seat of the car as my older cousin drove around Chicago with this album on full blast. By the time Stankonia dropped in 2000 I was finally old enough to seek out the album myself and sing along to the lyrics whenever I was clear of adults. At this time I knew very little about production quality or lyrical flow and judged music solely based on the beat. It’s now 2010, I’m older, wiser and I have become a hell of a lot better at distinguishing albums that I will blast for a season then quickly forget from those that I believe represent true artistry.
I can’t get enough of Sir Lucious Left Foot. Big Boi has definitely been able to hold his own both as part of Outkast and as a solo artist. Despite doubts as to his potential success releasing a full solo album not accompanied by Andre 3000 (Speakerboxx was released with Andre 3000’s The Love Below so it doesn’t count in this instance) Big Boi has proven to be a definite innovator in the music industry. Maintaining the oh-so-precise calculations of production Outkast was so well-known for, Big Boi serves listeners with back to back dope tracks. He spits ill rhymes that had me continuously saying to myself, “Oh snap, he said that”. My top four tracks off the fifteen-track album are “Follow Us ft. Vonnegut”, “Shutterbug ft. Cutty”, “Hustle Blood ft. Jamie Foxx,” and “Fo Yo Sorrows ft. George Clinton, Too Short and Sam Chris”. Some of the tracks are slow jams while others remind me of summer parties back home but all fit together so perfectly that I enjoy listening straight through the album. If you have not yet listened to Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty I highly, highly, highly, recommend you do so. And soon. I for one will definitely be rocking this album for seasons to come.
Disclaimer: I would have given the album 10/10 but I had to deduct points for Gucci Mane’s presence on the track “Shine Blockas” (Gucci’s voice is a drone but the track otherwise is pretty awesome).
-- Dominique Barron
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
If you don't know Sister Rosetta Tharpe and think that Jimi Hendrix or even Chuck Berry or even Little Richard originated rock 'n' roll guitar playing, you better get acquainted quick, because the lightyears-ahead-of-her-time Tharpe, a gospel singer in the 1940s, is the reigning queen of the instrument and entire generations of musicians owe her a debt.
A Philadelphia gospel singer raised in the Pentecostal church, Tharpe's self-taught guitar playing was at the forefront of her whole performance at a time when the electric guitar was considered controversial in the church. In addition to her powerful, throaty voice, Tharpe manipulated the instrument like it was an extension of her own body, playing blues solos and rhythm with an ease and confidence that a whole lot of modern artists can't hold a candle to. She invented the windmill arm swing (Pete Townshend, you're welcome) and played perfect bluesy solos with flying fingers, all while lifting that big, big voice to the Lord.
Oh, and the Tallest Man on Earth recently did a really lovely cover of her song "My Journey To The Sky" at the Pitchfork Music Festival, a gentle acoustic version that is quite moving in its sincerity and simplicity. His voice sounds better than ever here; I just wish the song was longer.
Watch two killer performances by Tharpe herself after the jump.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I have met people that have never listened to Elvis. This astonishes me, though perhaps it shouldn’t; his music can seem dated today, his story told and re-told so many times it’s now less like a legend of rock ‘n’ roll than a tired old movie plot rehashed again and again. It becomes one of those snoozefest tales your dad tells you while he’s driving somewhere and you’re literally subject to his will and his memory, trapped as you are in the front passenger seat by a seatbelt and the car’s velocity.
But more than that, I have met people that have listened to Elvis and still never really heard him, never truly given his music that concerted listening it deserves. They admit his story and his influence, but for them his music moves no bones, stirs no heart. I get it. I feel the same about, say, Frank Sinatra. And it’s not that it is somehow wrong to have a deep love for rock ‘n’ roll music, or even the blues, without giving Elvis records a second listen; it’s just something you might want to consider, is all. He has a remarkable talent for saying beautifully simple things in an incredibly truthful way. I didn’t get it until I saw footage of Elvis live, namely his seminal 1973 performance in Hawaii. See below:
It’s easy to write him off as a stage presence only, a white-suited caricature of a pop star swallowed alive by his own fame. But watch closely -- he is a presence, but that’s entirely part of why he was, and is, so captivating live. Swinging hips, the gospel choir, and his classic snarl are essential here, but it’s also clear how much he means every word he sings. Nobody has vocal pitch that perfect while fighting addiction and inner demons and a crushing fame and performing live in front of a mammoth audience, unless they mean every word they’re singing. This is real gospel.