Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Peter Wolf Crier, Inter-Be

Peter Wolf Crier

a solid B

Whenever I listen to this album, I imagine Peter Wolf Crier playing in a giant, abandoned old barn, in the middle of nowhere, around sunset, when the light filters in through the cracks of the walls just right so you can see the dust and specks of hay kind of swirling around. That’s exactly what this album sounds like. Cool, right? Not really, according to this graphic:

Peter Wolf Crier haven’t had it easy. They weren’t surrounded by 1000 dive bars featuring 1000 new breakout indie bands every evening to delve inspiration from, they didn’t have a 100% chance of trendy—they were surrounded by, well, Minnesota: open expanses of land, tiny little farm towns, probably a lot of cows and sometimes some trees, too. (Yes, that means no dive bars.) That puts them at about 5% chance of trendy. I know their pain! These are my people—we have to learn to think differently with these kinds of odds. And Peter Wolf Crier did—to their great success; their debut album Inter-Be has been gathering buzz for most of the last several months.

It’s hard to get anyone’s attention when you’re a guitar-and-drum indie-folk duo. There are only a bazillion other versions of you out there, grappling to the death for just one single speck of recognition. Peter Wolf Crier gets around this with a sound that’s just different enough from everyone else to be perfect—listeners are intrigued, but not so put off PWC is forever condemned to obscurity. The vocals on Inter-Be are effectively what really set the band apart—I would say lyrics, I’m a sucker for lyrics, but I can’t for the life of me understand most of them (the only word that comes through on “Crutch & Cane,” the track that immediately made it on my list of favorite songs for late March/early April, is “Zanzibar.” Well, I’ve always wanted to go to Zanzibar?). The tracks effectively sound like they were recorded in a tinny echo chamber—which doesn’t even sound that attractive, but it’s perfect. The drums and persistently strummed guitar follow in the same echoing fashion throughout. This may be a stretch, but the tracks sound like they somehow have a LOT of space in them—these are, at the end of the day, just two guys trying to throw something, anything out into the vast openness of a Minnesota plain.

Stand Out Tracks
: “Crutch & Cane,” “Hard As Nails,” “Down Down Down” (I for some reason immediately think of Elliott Smith’s “Don’t Go Down”)

-- Fiona Hanly

Concert Pick of the Week: 3 Chord Comedy Night

3 Chord Comedy Night
Velvet Lounge,  Friday, June 4th
7:00 PM, $5

How long has it been since you've had a good couple of yucks? Don't  you just need to get a good yuck in there sometimes? Don't you just want to yuck all over the place, bumpin yuckies with everyone in town? This Friday get all the giggles out of your system with the help of Brian Parise, Mike Blejer, and Eli Sairs, three stand up comedians of the musical variety sure to have you laughing, singing, and probably some weird hybrid of the two.

Click Through for some videos of the stand-up to expect

Friday, May 28, 2010

Play What? Play This Playlist: Memorial Day Weekend

While your Music Directors-turned-Blog Directors may disagree on the worth of celebrating holidays indiscriminately (for the record, Caroline's in favor of personally celebrating all holidays from Cinco de Mayo to Mardi Gras to St. Patrick's Day, while Igor has some self-restraint), there's one type of "holiday" that's almost universally loved: the long weekend. Memorial Day is a perfect example, kicking off lazy summer days and putting an end to the awkward purgatory in between the end of the semester and the real start of summer. Weekends are great-- in the words of Dr. Dog, it's time to pick yourself up off the floor-- and nothing's like falling asleep Sunday night to the sweet realization that you have another entire day off. Below, some of this summer's recent quintessential jams, designed specifically to replace the mind-numbing chant of Gaga's inane "Alejandro," ever-present on the airwaves. (Not that I feel strongly about it).

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

1. Villagers: The summery, harmony-heavy chorus and Shins-like phrasing leave this song on repeat for me.
2. The Franks: Noisy power chords, garage band riffs and puppy love.
3. SSLYBY: A new one complete with handclaps from the kings of simple indie-pop feel-good music. Groovy, pleasant, and so so hooky. Why aren't they more famous yet?! Pretty girls don't just park where they want to, they gotta go round in circles like we all do.
4 .Taio Cruz & Luda: Oh come on. This is the best.
5. The Donkeys: A recommendation from our biz director Jared. Stones-esque, with a chorus that kills: I know I'm handsome, but I get lonely too.
6. Outkast: So glad this is making a resurgence. Real guys go for real down to Mars girls!
7. Miike Snow (DJ Medhi remix): Well damn, if this isn't the most pleasant yet captivating jam since The Girls Can Tell remixed the Beach Boys.
8. Dead Gaze: Nothing spells summer like some lo-fi surf pop, but this is even better, straight outta Mississippi (not exactly the surf pop capital of the world) with a children's chorus opening and sleigh bells (no, not those Sleigh Bells). And no, not that Simple Man.

Review: Mynabirds, What We Lose In the Fire We Gain in the Flood

The Mynabirds
What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood

The 1960s band The Mynah Birds was a Canadian R&B group who, although they never released an album, was known for featuring a surprisingly large number of big-hitters, including Neil Young, Nick St. Nicholas, and Rick James. Embracing the ‘60s group’s name as well as their adoptive attitude, singer/songwriter Laura Burhenn and producer Richard Swift began the contemporary musical project, The Mynabirds' What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood.

In the spring of 2009, Burhenn—formerly of Washington D.C.’s defunct indie duo, Georgie James—turned away from her personal losses and a worn-out style to create her own, individual feel. By compiling sounds from gospel hymns and old country harmonies, Burhenn cobbles the echoes of Carole King, Dusty Springfield, and Cat Power, imitating sounds from the past, yet through this amalgamation producing an updated musical perspective.

This all sounds complicated, but ironically what struck me most about What We Lose was the lack of superfluous sound. The best tracks on the album—Wash It Out, for example— are stripped to the bare musical bones and feel very folk-festival simple, an impressive feat given the carefully considered inspiration.

Unfortunately, despite the well-planned and researched approach to the music, The Mynabirds’ final product doesn’t quite live up to its own expectations. On first listen, some of the songs left me skipping around in hopes of a standout sound, which I never quite found. In truth, I would rather listen to the original music of most of Burhenn’s muses than to her take on them.

Like the 1960s Mynah Birds, Burhenn’s Mynabirds compile and present a huge amount of potential that is never fully realized. An intellectually intriguing, understated album, What We Lose in the Fire gives a new, but not necessarily exciting, take on a good sound and showcases what is, unquestionably, a decent amount of talent.

Recommendations: “Let The Record Show,” “Wash It Out,” “Numbers Don’t Lie”

-- Emma Forster

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In Studio with Ashley Brooke Toussant

Ashley Brooke Toussant came into the WGTB studios on Saturday, May 22nd and played some songs off her EP, All Songs in English, as well as some new material. Listen below to hear her perform and tell the moving story behind the song 'And Its Yours.' Also, she tells us about why sad songs are OK, and then plays us her only love song, the charming, 'World.'

Ashley Brooke Toussant In Studio by igorgerman

Review: Nada Surf, If I Had a Hi-Fi

Nada Surf

if i had a hi-fi


Don’t lie to me – I know you listened to Nada Surf in the 90’s. And you loved them. You played “Popular” so many times even your mother had to sit you down and tell you to seriously, knock it off. Or at least alternate it with the similar sounds of Weezer. Then when Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla produced their next semi-widely played album in 2002, you probably revisited them for kicks (until you realized that yeah, that album sounded like it was produced by someone who plays in a band with Ben Gibbard).

Well, two years after their last release – 2008’s Lucky, which got as much play as you think it did – the band has come out with their sixth studio album. Allow me to introduce Nada Surf’s latest album, a collection of covers ranging from Spoon to Kate Bush, by saying that its title incorporates two of my favorite things: a lack of capital letters, and a palindrome. Look! if i had a hi-fi. Isn’t it cool?

Yes, yes it is. The album itself is pretty cool as well. It is Nada Surf at their alternative rock pop-y best, upbeat and somehow cohesive despite the wide range in song choices. Each cover is very obviously homage to the people and melodies that impacted the members of Nada Surf, lovingly and thoughtfully crafted to reflect both the original and the band’s own particular sound. By doing so, it doesn’t seem so weird that Depeche Mode’s gloomy synthpop “Enjoy the Silence” and The Soft Pack’s garage rock “Bright Side” share the same track listing.

But why a cover album, and why now? That's a question that the band has apparently not decided to address, at least not yet. It's a risky move if done incorrectly - people will likely speculate that the band has run out of material, or decided to take the easy route to make a few bucks. Nada Surf doesn't seem to lean towards either of these motives, though, which is interesting in itself. This cover album feels more like the band is rediscovering its sound by examining the sounds of others that they find appealing. In my opinion, they have succeeded in doing exactly that. This sounds like Nada Surf to me, the Nada Surf that broke out in the nineties and refused to step off the stage in the years that followed. Want to know why I think I'm right? This is also the first record that the band has produced completely independently. No DCFC guitarists, no Ric Ocasek. Just three guys in their forties looking to make the music they love, and I think that's great.

if i had a hi-fi, with Matthew Caws’s smooth vocals and the familiar, not necessarily ground-breaking but still enjoyable, alternative nineties rock sound, will most likely be gracing my summer rotation more frequently than I ever expected a Nada Surf album to. Sitting by the kiddie pool in my tiny backyard, I will be able to listen to Kate Bush and Spoon re-imagined by a band from my youth without even getting up to mess with iTunes. Life – and this album – is good. Really, surprisingly good.

Tracks to look out for: "Bye Bye Beaute" (Coralie Clement) and "Love Goes On" (The Go-Betweens)

- Emily Simpson

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: Ratatat, LP4

A- if you’re the twenty-something at the party upstairs
F+ if you’re the parents of the newborn sleeping downstairs

“Was wird da draus?... Was wird daraus?”

The second track of Ratatat’s latest full-length, LP4, starts out with a voiceover from what I guess must be some old German film. Let me translate…Professor Sonorous Gravely Man Voice is saying, “What will come of this?” It’s almost as if Ratatat was questioning where on earth this latest album was going, if anywhere at all. The eager listener isn’t really sure where they’re going either through these seconds of pondering, at least not until Ratatat launch into “Drugs” and fully wallop us over the head multiple times with a solid succession of tunes. Tunes, I might add, that you will be hearing at parties all summer long (“Oh my God, I LOVE Ratatat! Why aren’t we friends?”), will be remixed with the latest Miley and J-Biebz by fall, and will make it onto the next installations of Super Mash Bros and Hood Internet mixtapes several times. Take my word for it.

The general world of People Who Collectively Decide What Music Is Good And What Music Is Not (by that I mean the 500000000 music blogs currently in existence, brought to you by The Internet) decided fairly unilaterally that Ratatat’s 2008 full-length, LP3 was weak. To quote just one: "the album lacks the propulsive urgency of previous Ratatat efforts." LP3 was weak, WGTB readers. Thankfully, Ratatat learned from their mistakes, essentially they realized that everyone was still listening to “Seventeen Years” (off the self-titled album) on repeat. This album takes several paces back from the spacey, more instrumentally diverse LP3 and returns to the neat, raw, guitar-and-synth bundle of success, making LP4 sound much closer to earlier albums (Classics, Ratatat)—and thank God.

Was wird da draus? (transl: "What will come of this?") EIN TANZFEST wird daraus. (transl: "a gathering in which many people are vigorously dancing will come of this.") This album could not have been timed more perfectly: it is nothing if not a summer album. The pace never drops below effortless boogie, and will have you at full out rave at certain points. This guy knows what I’m talking about.

Stand Out tracks: "Party With Children," "Drugs," the end of "Bare Feast" when a woman’s voiceover says this: “Yeah, I used to wait for people…after school and beat ‘em up (laughs), if I didn’t like ‘em, if they were pretty, or if they smiled too much.” Me too!

-- Fiona Hanly

Take Cover: I've Been Out Walking...

Nico, "These Days" (Jackson Browne)

One of the greatest and most well-known covers, I remember vividly the first time I heard this one, in part because it was so ironic. Sitting in Bill Danoff's Songwriting Seminar first semester of my freshman year, fresh-faced and eager to learn just how to craft a song from start to finish (as if it was a process that could really be taught), Bill put on Nico's cover of Jackson Browne's "These Days" as an example of the specificity and depth of emotion we should aim for in our songwriting attempts. I was floored. I didn't know if it was a boy or a girl singing, I didn't know what they were talking about or what kind of accent they had, but from that first line, "I've been out walking..." I was sold. I had "been out walking," too-- haven't we all? Nico meant what she sang, enough that it was palpable for all who were listening.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, being so moved by this song at the ripe old age of 18, giving myself a pat on the back for having enrolled in this cool class as a mere freshman, thinking I must be way ahead of the game in this whole songwriting thing. That's when Bill dropped the bomb that I've never forgotten, one that left me with an even deeper appreciation for this song as well as a healthy dose of humility: "...and Jackson Browne was only 16 when he wrote this song, so you can keep that in mind." Um, what? 16? When I was 16 I was certainly not singing "Please don't confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them." It went more like, "Mom! Don't TELL me I'm doing it wrong, I already know!" A whole lot less eloquent, even if Nico herself somehow managed to make that into a song. Browne's profound verse, perhaps, lends itself to being covered and Nico has done that most legendarily with her chanteuse vocals, although as of late I've become a fan of both Elliott Smith, St. Vincent, and especially Gregg Allman's version (seen here with Graham Nash.)

-- Caroline Klibanoff

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Top 30 Albums of the Week

What up Sleigh Bells, Meet Me in the Basement. (see what I did there?) And Ninjasonik? We're on the Internet, bitch. Let us know what your top records of the week are in the comments.

1 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Forgiveness Rock Record Arts And Crafts
3 NATIONAL High Violet 4AD
5 BLACK KEYS Brothers Nonesuch
6 NEW PORNOGRAPHERS Together Matador
7 PHOSPHORESCENT Here's To Taking It Easy Dead Oceans
8 FIRST AID KIT The Big Black And Blue Rabid
9 TALLEST MAN ON EARTH The Wild Hunt Dead Oceans
11 CARIBOU Swim Merge
12 RADIO DEPT. Clinging To A Scheme Labrador
13 PETER WOLF CRIER Inter-Be Jagjaguwar
15 DR. DOG Shame, Shame Anti
16 HOLD STEADY Heaven Is Whenever Vagrant
17 DOUG BURR O Ye Devastator Spune
18 ONWARD, SOLDIERS Ghosts In This Town Winoca
19 JAMIE LIDELL Compass Warp
20 BROKEN BELLS Broken Bells Columbia
22 KATE NASH My Best Friend Is You Interscope
23 INLETS Inther Arbiter Twosyllable
24 TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB Tourist History Glassnote
25 BOOKA SHADE More! Get Physical
26 HAPPY BIRTHDAY Happy Birthday Sub Pop
27 PEARLY GATE MUSIC Pearly Gate Music Barsuk
28 NINJASONIK Art School Girls
29 MATT POND PA The Dark Leaves Altitude
30 DUM DUM GIRLS I Will Be Sub Pop

Review: Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme

The Radio Dept.
Clinging to a Scheme


To say one enjoys The Radio Dept.’s music pre-April 20th 2010 would have said more about one’s taste in movies than music. Let’s be real: the The Radio Dept. was discovered by Sofia Coppola and featured on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack back in 2006. The reality, however, is that The Radio Dept. has been producing synthesized beats, breathy vocals, and ethereal melodies since the band’s conception in 1995—a whopping eleven years before they received any significant recognition!

The Radio Dept.’s third album, Clinging to a Scheme, takes the shoegaze-y band from one that relies on the popularity from various singles: “Pulling Our Weight,” “Keen on Boys,” and “I Don’t Like it Like This,” to a band that can be independent form its past success. Clinging to a Scheme is a musical success from start to finish. The record begins with a strong opening, “Domestic Scene,” which creates an atmosphere of catchy rhythms that sets the tone for the rest of the record and leads seamlessly into the second and strongest track. “Heaven’s On Fire” begins with a monologue sample from the 1992 documentary, 1991: The Year Punk Broke which expresses the group’s frustration with trying to break free from corporations’ chase on all that is creative and new among the youth culture. This frustration resonates throughout the rest of the album’s lyrics. While this clichéd hipster cry for help is as overplayed as a Miley Cyrus song, the band manages to bring sincerity and depth to this overarching, anti-mainstream phenomenon. “Heaven’s On Fire” is a breath of fresh air among its neighboring tracks as it is the most fast-paced and complex in terms of the dynamic differences between instruments.

If there is any room for improvement on The Radio Dept.’s best album yet, it is their potential for a more bold and daring edge to their finely tuned soft and synthesized signature. Now that they have mastered their catchy-yet-whimsical ambiance, I dare the Swedish trio to venture into a dance-y tune. It is evident that the band understands its style with three albums and several EP’s as practice, but a little challenge to progress is always welcome in music. All in all, Sofia Coppola will not be needed for listeners to realize they are “Keen on” these “Boys.”

--Charlotte Japp

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Kate Nash, My Best Friend is You

[Ed. note: Two A+ records in one week? It's true. These are two of my favorite releases yet this year. 2010 has been great for music!]

Kate Nash
My Best Friend is You

I believe Kate Nash has had her heart broken, or very nearly so. At the very least she has come to the sentient realization that her love rests in the hands of someone else, a very dangerous emotional position—she’s been showing all her cards. Luckily for us, some of the best art has been created about this very situation, and Nash’s latest release is no exception. Instead of desperately trying to regain face, to play it cool in order to come out on top, she has opted, in typical Nash fashion, for total disclosure: even the title of My Best Friend is You admits some conscious vulnerability, as if she’s fully aware she’s putting all her eggs in this one basket.

This is a stellar work. Vulnerability suits Nash better than the snarky, whether she’s wailing “Later on I’ll cry my stupid eyes out!” on “Later On” or quietly, endearingly revealing the simple requirements of love on “I Hate Seagulls.” There’s quite a bit of variety here; she uses Regina Spektor-esque keys and verbal riffs on “Pickpocket,” while she screams like Karen O on “I Just Love You More.”
There are infinite Yeah Yeah Yeahs influences on My Best Friend is You, as well as 80’s synth, almost Bowie-style, most notably on “Later On.” She has mastered the art of constructing a song in its entirety, leaving no stone unturned, nor any part of the song too empty. The music, even without the powerful lyrics, is simply great: the orchestrated, upbeat opener “Paris” thrills with cymbal crashes and violin shrieks, while equally upbeat and delightful is “Early Christmas Present,” which merges a story of cheating and secrets with handclaps, plunky keys and ringing windchimes.

Concert Pick of the Week: Jazz in the Garden

Jazz in the Garden ft. Leslie Summey
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Friday, May 28th
5pm-8:30pm, $Free.99
(and byob!)

With the monotony of summer starting to replace the initial euphoria, you'll probably start to seek ways to stimulate those lazy neurons in your brain, and re-broadcasts of Jersey Shore just ain't cutting it. Check out the National Gallery of Art's program, 'Jazz in the Garden' where you can go see some intellectually tickling jazz for free while enjoying a breezy glass of Sauvignon. The program highlights a different Jazz musician or band every Friday evening, and this week they kick off the season with the stylings of jazz vocalist Leslie Summey. Start your weekend off classy, so you can later justify the debauchery.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Review: The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St. (Reissue)

The Rolling Stones
Exile on Main St. (Deluxe Edition)
One of the Best Albums of All Time.

            Why am I writing a review for an album that was released 38 ago? The simple reason is that Universal Music Enterprises has just released a re-mastered version of The Rolling Stones’ sprawling masterpiece Exile on Main St. that includes 10 previously unreleased tracks, in what is hopefully becoming a growing trend (see Jimi Hendrix’s Valleys of Neptune). But the real reason is that this album has had such a profound impact on music, including sparking my own interest in rock n’ roll, that a review of it nearly four decades later is still relevant.
            By 1971, The Stones already boasted a couple of #1 albums, including that year’s Let It Bleed, but their commercial success was marred by a growing ‘bad boy’ image, due largely to drug problems, the fiasco at Altamont Speedway in 1969, and being forced out of England due to a large tax debt. It was in this environment, as literal exiles, that the Stones found themselves in the summer of ‘71, traveling to the south of France to record their next album. Once arriving, they continued to encounter problems and, unable to find a satisfactory studio, descended into the basement of Keith Richards’ villa to record Exile, a fitting setting for the devilish outlaws of rock. Despite Richards’ worsening heroin addiction and Jagger’s preoccupation with his newborn baby, the band was able to lay down enough material for what would become a double album, comprised of 18 tracks that would revive rock n’ roll.
Jagger and Richards in the basement of Richards’ villa, Nellcote
“It wasn't a great environment for, like, breathing”
The album initially received lukewarm reviews at best, and was criticized for being too long and dense. However, it has since been recognized as a masterpiece, sitting at number 7 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and serving as inspiration to musicians and fans alike. (continued after the jump!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Concert Review: Dr. Dog

Since when did Dr. Dog become so popular? I knew that the show was sold out, but it wasn't until I walked into the main stage at the 9:30 club that I really grasped the status that Dr. Dog has acheived of late.

And what is that status? Well, its sort of a confusing one. I never really thought of Dr. Dog as 'stoner rock,' or even a 'jam band,' but maybe their self proclaimed sixties rock sound has attracted the hordes of hemp-wearing fans who draw the clumsy parallel.

Jam bands make music that is easy to listen to. Its cohesive, recognizable, and soothing to the ears. Dr. Dog's set was anything but that. They are, no matter how much playing on a big stage may mask it, a lo-fi band. But, this lo-fi quality mixed with fancy venue speakers translated into volume. Lots and lots of volume.

Dr. Dog has always been a no bullshit kind of band. Very little stage banter, short breaks in between songs (if any break at all), and zero mistakes. On a small stage, its impressive. On a big stage, its still impressive, but Dr. Dog's mechanical efficiency combined with the size of the stage, the crowd, and the polish of the production made it all a little impersonal.

To their credit, it seemed like they sent out a big 'Fuck You' to any tertiary fans who came to hear just the catchy hits from records past. Almost all of their older songs, particularly off of We All Belong bore only a passing resemblance to the originals. They're probably so sick of playing, "The Girl" that they twisted and rearranged into something new. I'm happy to see a band evolving, and think a live show should always offer something new, so I was pleased with it. But I have a feeling a lot of people left with ringing ears, some unsatisfaction, and scratching their heads.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Concert Pick of the Week: DC Record Fair

DC Record Fair
Sunday, May 23rd
The Black Cat, $2


This Sunday The Black Cat is hosting the annual DC Record fair for all the vinyl lovers in the district. Come indulge in the rows and rows of alphabetized crates as you search for that one find that brightens up your Sunday.

Also, there's going to be a a full service bar and food, so if you get caught with one too many Whitney Houston vinyls, blame it on the booze. And if that's not enough (I know how greedy you get) there's going to be a stellar lineup of DJ's scri-ribbit-ratching all afternoon so you can boogie as you buy.

It must be summer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our Top 30 Albums of the Week

1 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Forgiveness Rock Record Arts And Crafts
3 NATIONAL High Violet 4AD
5 NEW PORNOGRAPHERS Together Matador
6 PHOSPHORESCENT Here's To Taking It Easy Dead Oceans
8 FIRST AID KIT The Big Black And Blue Rabid
9 TALLEST MAN ON EARTH The Wild Hunt Dead Oceans
10 CARIBOU Swim Merge
11 RADIO DEPT. Clinging To A Scheme Labrador
12 PETER WOLF CRIER Inter-Be Jagjaguwar
14 DR. DOG Shame, Shame Anti
15 ONWARD, SOLDIERS Ghosts In This Town Winoca
16 HOLD STEADY Heaven Is Whenever Vagrant
17 JAMIE LIDELL Compass Warp
18 RERUNNER On Three...
19 BROKEN BELLS Broken Bells Columbia
20 KATE NASH My Best Friend Is You Interscope
21 COMMUNIST DAUGHTER Soundtrack To The End Grain Belt
22 INLETS Inther Arbiter Twosyllable
23 TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB Tourist History Glassnote
24 BOOKA SHADE More! Get Physical
25 HAPPY BIRTHDAY Happy Birthday Sub Pop
26 PEARLY GATE MUSIC Pearly Gate Music Barsuk
27 MATT POND PA The Dark Leaves Altitude
28 DAVID BYRNE AND FATBOY SLIM Here Lies Love Nonesuch
29 DUM DUM GIRLS I Will Be Sub Pop
30 GORILLAZ Plastic Beach Virgin

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: The National, High Violet

The National
High Violet
In elementary school, we read The Important Book, which drew gradual, but obvious conclusions about common objects: "The important thing about rain is that it is wet. It falls out of the sky and it sounds like rain, and makes things shiny, and it does not taste like anything, and is the color of air. But the important thing about rain is that it is wet."
The important thing about The National is Matt Berninger’s oaken voice. The music they make has a keen ability to heal what ails you, loaded with profound lyrics and a somber gravity that somehow isn’t depressing. Their latest release, High Violet, goes even further to highlight the band’s great sense of timing and sound-layering, making a thoroughly enjoyable album that cuts as deeply emotionally as it pleases sonically. And Bryan Devendorf’s drums are almost intuitive, playing a key role in building such an effective sound, more on High Violet than on ever before. But the important thing about The National is Matt Berninger’s voice.(cont'd after the jump)


JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco cover)

Ok. I am still reeling from my first listening of this cover a few days ago, and subsequent listenings have not helped to sort out any of my emotions surrounding it. I know this column is supposed to highlight the best covers, and this might be one, but it also might be just awful, or something in between. Mostly, it confused me in a sort of did-I-just-wander-into-an-alternate-universe kind of way.

And I'm not sure why, exactly. Sure, this poses one of Wilco's finest and most endearing songs in an entirely different genre and feel, but on the list of Things That Are True About Cover Songs, #1 is officially, "The best covers re-interpret songs," so that should only add more points to the "awesome" column for old JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound. Further, he does a lovely little jaunt in the middle from "Theologians," which is clever and subtle.

So maybe it's the video, which undeniably resembles one of those GAP ads from the earlier part of this decade (how happy can a striped sweater make you?), and the way he cheesily slides his arms around those two girls when he sings "I wanna hold you in the Bible-black pre-dawn," which makes me cringe. And I wish he would stop acting out all of the actions he's singing about. This isn't my fourth-grade living-room-choreographed dance to "Baby One More Time." (Thank God). And wait, I'm sorry, did he FACE SWIPE THOSE GIRLS? What?! Let's take a closer look:

Yikes, JC. You may have lost me as a fan forever. Let me know if you guys had the same experience in the comments!

Friday, May 14, 2010

School's Out for Summer! ...And Some Blog Information for Our Loyal Readers

Dear Readers,

Well, you've been following the development of this blog and of WGTB itself over the past few months, and we are pretty grateful for that. Now that summer has more or less arrived, we'd like to celebrate by thanking you, giving you some updates, and also introducing ourselves.
If you're not a DJ at WGTB you may not even know whose voices were behind some of these posts, and we'd like to get to know you better, so to begin with here we are:

Your Spring 2010 Music Directors: Caroline, Igor, and Christian

Ok, but that photo was taken in January, so that was our winter selves. You might not even recognize us in our summer gear! This is what we look like now:

Your Spring 2010 Music Directors: Christian, Caroline, Igor. Summer-style.

Next semester Tiare and Catherine will be serving as MDs with Igor. But as many of us prepare to depart for the summer months, you may be wondering what will happen to your favorite collection of music-arts-college-radio literature once we are no longer bound by the indelible ties of daily campus life. Not to worry: we'll be keeping up the WGTB blog throughout the summer months, albeit with slightly less frequent content. By next fall this blog will be hosted at our official website,, which will look a lot better than it does now, so you'll be able to click that enticing "Listen Live" button to tune into programming before perusing the blog. (You can do that now, it will just be easier).

So if you're a reader, keep checking daily for new posts about the best concert picks in DC, the backstage stories of local venues, band profiles and interviews, feature columns like WWYC and Take Cover, elaborate graphs, and more (and leave your comments).

If you're a promoter, keep updated with the blog to see how your artists are doing in our charts and reviews, and feel free to submit them for consideration as Artist of the Week. If you're in a band yourself, we hope you find your album or concert or in-studio here. If you're a WGTB DJ and you're in town checking out local shows, or back home and willing to be involved remotely, feel free to talk to us about the possibilities.

We have a new email address for blog-related STUFF, so please send your complaints and love letters (on the back of a $20 bill, please) to:

Did you think we'd leave you without music, on this very first day of the summer solstice?
Below, some essential tunes. Don't it make you wanna rock and roll all night long?

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Album Review: Sleigh Bells, Treats

Sleigh Bells
8.3 Broken Ipod Headphones out of 10 Broken Ipod Headphones

I was sitting in my apartment in Edinburgh last October when I first saw Sleigh Bells as Stereogum’s artist to watch. Upon hearing ‘Crown on the Ground,’ I thought two things:

1)      What is this song that just disfigured my feeble HP speakers beyond the point of recognition?
2)      Thank you.

It seems like ever since then, Sleigh Bells had just been buzzing and buzzing (or ringing, I suppose). Perhaps even more so at Georgetown as we gave our best shot at bringing them to Bulldog Alley in the spring, only to find they were just out of our reach. What was especially weird about all this buzz though, was that we had all only heard four songs on their Myspace. There was no EP, there was just this rumor of a soon-to-be album. So, when it dropped nearly seven months later, we were all expecting a debut of Snoop Dogg proportions

WWYC of the Week

You know what? This one probably toes the line between sad and funny pretty closely. But I don't care, because I'm sad. And I want you to be sad too. I've watched too many suns cross the sky from the inside of Healy 105. I've made too many footnotes, created too many citation pages, and watched too many friends crumble in the face of final exams. The party don't start till you walk in? Is that so, TheSingingMuppet? Are you sure? Chat rooms don't count as parties.

Next up for TheSingingMuppet: wakes up in the morning feeling like herself. And goes back to bed.

Concert Review: Caribou @ Rock & Roll Hotel

Caribou @ Rock and Roll Hotel
May 10, 2010
(above photo not from this show)

Caribou’s Dan Snaith has a Ph.D. in mathematics. A little nerdy sounding, maybe, but that didn’t stop him from rocking a sold out show at the Rock & Roll Hotel on Monday night.
Led off by Toro Y Moi (who proudly announced the show as their “seventh or eighth” gig), Caribou played a dozen songs, three quarters of which came from their April released album Swim. Strobe lights and a swirling video projection background set an appropriate atmosphere to accompany the electronic, pulsating, synthesized rhythms. The flannel-and-skinny-jeans-clad crowd swayed and bounced along to the hypnotic beats of “Sundialing” and “Bowls,” cheering for the familiar beats of favorites like “Odessa” and “Sun.” Repetitive (in a good way) lyrics from “Odessa” and “Found Out” melt into the enveloping drone of electric guitar and beats of the drum kit, the ethereal percussion of the words outweighing their poetic value (although if you listen, the lyrics are shouldn’t be dismissed: “Taking the kids, driving away / Turn around the life she let him siphon away”). The encore, “Barnowl,” from their 2005 release, The Milk of Human Kindness, added historical depth to the show and rounded out the mainly new set list. 

The music rarely, if ever, completely stopped, creating a flow of complexly composed songs that left me feeling euphoric and contemplative, lonely and enthralled. Looking around at the expressions on the other faces in the crowd, I could tell that I wasn’t alone in my awe and enjoyment. I don’t know how they did it exactly—it probably has something to do with Snaith’s Ph.D.—but with Caribou’s consistently well-crafted and mesmerizing music, it’s really no wonder the concert was sold out.

-- Emma Forster
"Regional Rotations," Wednesdays 2-4 on WGTB

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Our Top 30 Albums of the Week

...once again. This is what we love right now! BSS is rocking everyone's world, and that First Aid Kit album is definitely worth checking out if you're into folk even a little bit, and we've got Zooey & M. Ward clinging on to the last spot in #30.

1 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Forgiveness Rock Record Arts And Crafts
3 NEW PORNOGRAPHERS Together Matador
4 PHOSPHORESCENT Here's To Taking It Easy Dead Oceans
5 TALLEST MAN ON EARTH The Wild Hunt Dead Oceans
7 FIRST AID KIT The Big Black And Blue Rabid
8 CARIBOU Swim Merge
9 DR. DOG Shame, Shame Anti
10 RADIO DEPT. Clinging To A Scheme Labrador
12 HOLD STEADY Heaven Is Whenever Vagrant
13 RERUNNER On Three...
14 BROKEN BELLS Broken Bells Columbia
15 KATE NASH My Best Friend Is You Interscope
16 COMMUNIST DAUGHTER Soundtrack To The End Grain Belt
17 INLETS Inther Arbiter Twosyllable
18 BOOKA SHADE More! Get Physical
19 PETER WOLF CRIER Inter-Be Jagjaguwar
20 HAPPY BIRTHDAY Happy Birthday Sub Pop
21 TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB Tourist History Glassnote
22 MATT POND PA The Dark Leaves Altitude
23 ONWARD, SOLDIERS Ghosts In This Town Winoca
24 DAVID BYRNE AND FATBOY SLIM Here Lies Love Nonesuch
25 DUM DUM GIRLS I Will Be Sub Pop
26 GORILLAZ Plastic Beach Virgin
27 MAR Silence
28 THE FALL Your Future Our Clutter Domino
29 DELOREAN Subiza True Panther Sounds
30 SHE AND HIM Volume Two Merge

Review: Rachael Sage, Delancey Street

Rachael Sage
Delancey Street

I hate to take an artist down. Clearly Rachael Sage put a huge amount of effort and emotion and all that good stuff into her new album, Delancey Street. The songs express some nice sentiments about “The Choreography of Love” and “learning how to fly” and whatnot. I mean, we can all relate to the kinds of emotions she sings about; love, heartbreak, etc. My favorite part of the album is Sage’s cover of Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl,” which is just a great song in the first place. Sage provides us with an interesting female perspective on this song. I suppose. I mean…I think. Alright…I give up. I hate this album, and I can’t think of anything nice to say about it anymore. This is the most boring album I have ever listened to. Every song sounds exactly the same. It sounds like a corny Lifetime movie…the kind you watch with your mom while eating ice cream out of the carton… the kind you wonder why you started watching it in the first place. It’s full of super boring, lite-fm-station-type crap. If you dig this kind of stuff…as in, if you dig the kind of music my mom probably listens to while knitting, then pick up this album. And by that I mean, don’t bother.

-- Elena Solli
Host, "Fun Dip and Cherry Coke," Thursdays 10 pm - 12 AM on WGTB

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Artist of the Week: Onward Soldiers

It was Christian who first posed the inevitable question during our office hours last week: "So when are we going to stop doing this folksy stuff for Artist of the Week?"

It seems we may have painted ourselves into a corner in past weeks, with AoTW's like Chris Riffle, Avi Buffalo, and The Films, but even Christian, probably the least folk-inclined of your three loyal Music Directors here at WGTB, instantly liked Onward, Soldiers upon hearing it.

Sounding like a fusion of Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and Deer Tick, with undeniable comparisons to their North Carolina neighbors the Avett Brothers, Onward, Soldiers have a distinct breed of edgy Americana that is at once pleasant and intriguing. Plus, they're still playing mostly locally, so you can say "you knew them when."

Listen to "Let the Time Roll By" below, off their new record just released in March.

Review: First Aid Kit, The Big Black and the Blue

First Aid Kit
The Big Black and The Blue

There’s got to be something in the water in Sweden. Is it just me, or are half of the great new songs on the airwaves today by Swedish artists? I’m thinking maybe Sweden’s got a pretty incredible music program in elementary schools or something. Well, national generalizations aside, First Aid Kit is one of Sweden’s more recent musical exports and they’re ready to impress. Those who have heard of First Aid Kit probably discovered them, much as I did, through their memorable YouTube cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.” The Stockholm folk duo of sisters, Johanna and Klara Soderburg, shines equally bright on their beautifully harmonized first LP, The Big Black and the Blue.

The album has folk style but not the bluegrassy type, instead I would say the sisters Soderburg have that 60s female singer-songwriter sound – think Joan Baez. There are minimal frills to their songs, just pure clear vocals and some guitar strumming. That said, with those few tools First Aid Kit has put out a really beautiful folk album with some key standout tracks (see below). Mid-album, listeners might get a little bored as the blueprint for most their songs is very similar, and to me, it got a little tired.

Still, this duo has a lot to offer and have written some pretty wise and sophisticated lyrics for their young ages (16 and 19). I hope to see more albums like this in the near future from them. Their MySpace music page reads, “We aim for the hearts, not the charts!” but with effortlessly pitch perfect harmonies and pretty melodies, I’m guessing they’ll hit both targets before they know it.

Recommended Tracks: I Met Up with the King (track 10), Hard Believer (track 2), Heavy Storm (track 5).

Listen to "I Met Up With the King" here

--Britt Shaw
Under the Influence
, 10am-12pm Fridays on WGTB

Monday, May 10, 2010

Concert Review: Givers at the Black Cat, 5/7

Givers @ Black Cat
May 7, 2010

Louisiana band GIVERS returned to the Black Cat for the third time in their brief career Friday night, this time as the headliner on the main stage. The opening band, DC-based Stripmall Ballads, brought some Southern twang to the show, getting the crowd going with their solid Americana music. They played a tight set, but their country rock was only enough to drag some of the crowd away from the bar. As GIVERS took the stage, the crowd packed in and got ready for what was sure to be an exciting evening.

As usual, GIVERS came out with a whole lot of chocolate-induced energy (see interview for details), and got the crowd moving along with them right from the opening song, “Sneaky.” After the exciting opener, they played “Saw You First” and “Meantime," off of their debut EP, as much of the crowd danced and sang along. The rest of their set contained about seven more songs from their upcoming debut album, with standouts including “Noche Nada” and “Words,” and the remaining two songs from their EP. There was a clear Dirty Projectors influence in their sound, with guitar riffs that could have been straight from “Bitte Orca” and even some brief hocketing between singers Lamson and Guarisco. GIVERS also played a song that female lead singer Teddy Lamson had written just a couple weeks prior, which they had never rehearsed, but their improvisation came together quite well, a testament to their talent as musicians. They closed with an aberration from their typical style, turning the distortion up to 10 and rocking out with a head-banger called “Wanna Want It,” demonstrating their versatility. Finally, they answered the crowd’s plea for “one more song” with “Ceiling of Plankton.”

GIVERS love WGTB! Check out that sticker.

This was my second time seeing GIVERS, and they have proven to be one of the most fun live acts I have seen. They bring so much energy to every show that it’s impossible not to want to jump around with joy along with them. GIVERS use a whole arsenal of instruments, and everything from Dirty Projector-esque guitar riffs, psychedelic synth lines, tambourines, and ukuleles add an interesting layer to their songs. Yet, they don’t get lost in these complex sounds, mainly because of the strong rhythm section driven by Kirby Campbell’s drums, Josh LeBlanc’s bass, and Lamson’s percussion. The rhythm, with elements of afro-beat, keeps the songs moving forward in a danceable and compelling direction. With influences ranging from the Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective, to jazz, to afro-beat, the GIVERS’ sound is a unique and dynamic amalgam of these styles that is catchy upon first listen and layered enough to remain interesting after many.
Although the music itself is enough reason to love GIVERS, they are also great people with a whole lot of love and joy to, well, give. At one point in the show, an enthusiastic fan yelled out, “We worship you as gods,” and lead singer Taylor Guarisco replied, “We worship you guys as gods, too.” This kind of mutual adoration seems rare today, but GIVERS truly appreciate their fans and just people in general. And if you see GIVERS, you will undoubtedly appreciate them, and their music, and the unbridled joy they bring to everyone around. When you hear their music, it is not just a pleasing sound, it is a feeling; it brings energy, motivation, inspiration and an urge to celebrate the life we have.

Check out GIVERS' EP on Myspace for some great summer jamzz and get ready for their debut album due out late summer/early fall.
(opening band, DC-based Stripmall Ballads)

-- Jared Iversen, "Jive Talkin'"