Friday, July 30, 2010

15 Indie Rockers and Their American Historiophysical Twins

History repeats itself, we know. So much so, that it appears these weird sets of doppelgangers have occurred, in a weird fluke of time travel, probably. I mean, there's no way that stately Hamiltonian smirk-- the one that made the 10 dollar bill famous-- can exist in two separate individuals (and they're both from New York?). Plus, William Fitzsimmons' "I Don't Feel It Anymore" is equally desolate as, say, a damp, drizzly November in the soul. And have you ever seen Andrew Bird and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the same place at the same time? What about Noah Webster and Jeff Tweedy? Hmm? ...Didn't think so.

-- Caroline Klibanoff

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Did The Intern Show Up? Vol. 5: The Bands

Bands, bands, bands. Before working here, what I knew about bands was roughly this – that they wrote and played music, that they put out albums, that they toured, that they ended up on my iPod if I liked them well enough. All of that is still true, of course, but I’ve come to realize a couple of other things as well. Namely, that bands are made up of people, and people…people are interesting. I don’t have to tell you that, though. You’ve read this column before (RIGHT?). You’ve heard the stories.
As for the bands…there are a lot of different kinds of bands. There are bands that show up early to load in and soundcheck. There are bands that don’t show up until ten minutes before their set is due to start and have to use someone else’s line-checked equipment. There are bands who wander around the downstairs area of the bar alone or only amongst themselves. There are bands who hang out in the green room upstairs. There are bands who want you to hang out upstairs with them. There are bands who could care less that you exist as long as you settle with them at the end of the night. There are bands who know what they’re doing on tour and who are grateful that we know what we’re doing on our end to help them out. There are bands who have never been on tour before and either look terrified or act like idiots, sometimes both. There are bands who will pack the bar unexpectedly. There are bands who think they’ll pack the bar and end up playing to ten people, five of whom were on the guest list. There are bands who don’t understand how a door deal works. There are bands who complain about getting a door deal until they see how much they’re actually making. There are local bands who are always, always late. There are touring bands who forget equipment or bring too much of it.
Basically, there are bands. I could keep going with this list for another couple of paragraphs, but you would get bored reading it and I’d get bored with repeating the same sentence structure over and over again, so I’m going to spare the both of us. Chances are I won’t (and don’t) remember all of the members of all of the bands that come through KFN. That would be pretty impossible, actually. I’ll remember the Italian frontman of the Rolling Stones tribute band named Crazyfish, though. I’ll remember the soft-spoken singer of Woven Bones who so genuinely cared if people enjoyed the show. I’ll remember the guys from Animal Tropical, with whom I’ve honestly had the most fun in the green room ever.
Because like I said, bands are made up of people. And people have the power to surprise you, or infuriate you, or make you laugh, or help you remember how much you love doing what you do. That’s what this job has been about for me. Getting to know people, remembering how to genuinely care about people, learning how to look past the often-tattooed exterior and connect because you’re both in the same place at the same time – so why the hell not? It’s a pretty cool concept.
This week’s post is short, I know. But I feel like I’ve said my piece for now. When you spend so much time talking about why you love something it’s easy to run out of the right words.

-- Emily Simpson

Re: Stacks - An Introduction

Welcome to 'Re: Stacks,' an audio column by incoming Music Director Catherine Degennaro that explores not the story that an album tells, but the story that an album creates by its relationship with the listener. Take a listen to this introduction to the column and get excited for some great features to follow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Artist of the Week: Tennis

Maybe it's because I totally missed the wave along the Best Coast, or perhaps its because I was too afraid of falling even further in love with Zooey to dedicate myself to She & Him, but something about Tennis, the newest hype-hungry-too-cute-for-real-life duo out of Denver finally settles well with me. They have something that the other two lack: a story. It's not always fair to give a band extra points for a great personal narrative, but the urge to romanticize the process of music creation is hard to resist, and Tennis deliver on this front. The married couple saved up in order to buy a sail boat and set sail along the East Coast. They had no intention of creating an album along the way, but the endless amounts of free time that come with a sailor's life gave room for creativity, and the inspiration of 'Baby It's You,' by the Shirelles sparked a vicious bout of music making that manifests itself in these tracks. The songs aren't really about places, but about experiences. But since the experiences were so closely linked to their location at any given moment (sailing is an exercise in geography, after all) they wrote songs with titles like 'Baltimore,' and 'South Carolina.' It's infectious, cute, and intelligent. And if their forerunners are any indication, its gonna be big. Click Through to Listen to 'Marathon' !

Oh, and they got matching tattoos instead of wedding rings.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Concert Review: The New Pornographers, The Dodos, Imaad Wasif @ The Fox Theater

The New Pornographers w/ The Dodos and Imaad Wasif
The Fox Theater (Oakland, CA)
July 18, 2010

Everything was going perfectly according to plan— until they started singing.  From the moment Dodos frontman Meric Long first spoke into the microphone, people in the audience perplexedly tilted their head à la a Jack Russell terrier, looked at the speakers overhead, and then back to Long.  The vocals were muffled and distant, making even music-free banter between songs almost inaudible.  His words were nearly completely indiscernible.  The audience clearly was missing most everything that was said or sung, so why wasn’t the Fox Theater sound crew even attempting to fix this obvious problem?

After a 43-year period of inactivity, the Fox Theater reopened in early 2009, and by all appearances is one of the premiere venues in the Bay Area.  Yet for all its interior beauty, the theater has continued to have problems with perfecting their sound quality, which is a real shame when two class acts like The New Pornographers and The Dodos are playing on the same night.  But as percussive elements rule The Dodos’ live performances, and as this was also a primarily New Pornographers crowd, no one in the audience raised a public fuss during the local band’s set.  The Dodos stuck mostly to songs from their touchstone album Visiter, a smart move that capitalized on their natural energy and instrumental rawness.  Acoustic guitar, drums and vibraphone, played at full force, were all they needed to at the very least sustain the interest of an older, geekier crowd than they normally see.  The band soldiered on, with songs like “Fools” and “Jodi” surging into cathartic releases and serving as reminders of how percussion can wonderfully dominate when laid out loud and bare. 

Take Cover: No Alarms and No Surprises

Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukelele

I was mega skeptical of this at first-- how many people can cover Radiohead well? and how many ukelele covers crash and burn in the attempt, leaning too heavily on the uniqueness of the instrument and failing to add a new dimension outside of that? -- but, intrigued by the news that former Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer sold over 4,000 copies of this album on her Bandcamp site and made over $15,000 in music and merch sales in THREE MINUTES on Tuesday, I decided to give it another shot.

Here is why her covers, especially "No Surprises" and "Idioteque," succeed in the fullest: Palmer handles the words and the melody with a deep carefulness that is so evident, so palpable, that it makes up for the lack of Yorke's distinctive voice. She aches and pleads like he does, but with a decidedly feminine dimension. And the ukelele, far from being the main gimmick, remains in the background. It's by no means better than the original, but it is one of the best attempts out there (along with that choir in The Social Network trailer).

Stream all seven traxx below:

-- Caroline Klibanoff

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: The Roots, How I Got Over

The Roots How I Got Over
8 afro picks out of 10

Evidently, while discussing the overall feel of his band’s most recent album, Black Thought opined that it had a more positive message than 2008’s Rising Down. Still, if you were expecting some sort of lighthearted album with a couple of nice summer jams, then you have come to the wrong place. The Roots may be “late night now like Here’s Johnny,” but they are still The Roots, and they will dumb it down for no man. Though a touch dark at the beginning, How I Got Over will make it such that no one forgets any time soon that The Legendary Roots Crew are still the best musicians in the game. Of course, Black Thought is no slouch on the mic, and with several excellent guest appearances, How I Got Over becomes yet another solid release from The Roots.

The Roots became the house band on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show in March 2009, which left fans of their live performances with precious few chances to catch them out at a venue, and, sadly, their performance at Earth Day was frequently marred by sound system malfunctions. Their LNJF Sandwiches (check it out if you want to spice up your iPhone ringtone Roots-style) were some of the only material available. Personally, I am impressed that the band found the time to record a full album while pulling double duty late at night, though I guess we shouldn’t expect anything less from such a dynamic group.

Until the title track ‘How I Got Over,’ the album dwells in rather dark territory reminiscent of Rising Down. “The road to perdition/guess I’m gonna get my plea on,” Black raps on ‘Walk Alone’ after verses from Roots regulars Truck North and P.O.R.N. “Trying to keep a singing man sane for the paying fans,” continues ‘Dear God 2.0,’ which laments the “Acid rain, earthquakes, hurricane, tsunamis” that leave Black “breakin’ it down/without an answer.”

Despite the dark message, I was super excited (and surprised) to hear the unmistakable voice of up and coming rapper Blu opening ‘Radio Daze.’ Apologies for the diversion here, but y’all, Blu is THE SHIT. He made it on a lot of “young rapper to watch” lists last year, but got low marks because he didn’t put out any material. Still, his ‘Soul Amazing’ mixtape from 2008 is still solidly entrenched in my playlist. Dude even raps over bluegrass and Spanish guitar beats (among many others) and kills it. If you need a good summer rap mixtape, look”>no further. It is worth mentioning that The Roots collaborated with Joanna Newsome (Right On), the Monsters of Folk (Dear God 2.0), and even Haley Dekle of the Dirty Projectors (Peace of Light) on this album. Clearly, they are not shying away from their more experimental… uh … roots. Even songs like ‘Peace of Light’ and ‘Tunnel Vision’, both sans lyrics, are well done.

How I Got Over is an album that starts dark buts get brighter. In fact, it seems that The Roots had a message in mind when they recorded it and placed the track order. The chorus of the title track seems to sum it up—“that type of thinking can get you nowhere, someone has to care.” As the album winds down we see a more hopeful message. “Whole new blueprint/Brand new layout” raps Phonte on ‘The Day,’ and Black wants to “move like a wise warrior and not a coward” on ‘The Fire.’ The albums final track, ‘Hustla,’ was the only one that I could genuinely not handle. The auto-tune baby cries make for quite a weird song, the album’s only miss. With plenty of interesting musicianship (if Kanye can be K-West, can’t we also have Q-Uest, am I wrong???) and still ample space for Black Thought to do what he does best, How I Got Over impresses. Lastly, if you haven’t had a chance to see The Roots live in concert, you really ought to do so. Not because I think they are going to stop touring or something, but because it will be worth the price of admission wherever they happen to be playing.

-- Mark Waterman

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Around the World and Back, Songs to Sleep To

Around the World and Back
Songs to Sleep to
7/10 echoing ethereal voices

As far as album titles go, Around the World and Back’s album, Songs to Sleep to, is aptly titled. The music is full of hazy dream-like tunes. Between the repeated guitar riffs that echo through the music, to the jangling tambourine that is the only form of percussion, if any, on most of the tracks, the music carries you along the echoing voice of the lead singer and the melodies of the guitar. The only song that has any form of percussion is “@&%^” and the quiet drumbeat is definitely not going to get you up and moving.

The band, based in Albany, New York, describes themselves as what people nowadays might label as an "indie-rock" band. Instead of fighting against being pigeon-holed as another wanna-be artsy alternative rock band, they embrace it. They run with it. They leave the comfort of their own home to bring their version of it to your homes.”

This is clear in their music, which neither tries to be overly pretentious about their sound, nor push too far away from the style they’ve been pegged as. In doing this, they do bring a new flavor to the sound of indie. They sound like a mix between Death Cab for Cutie and the Cinematic Orchestra. Everything sounds like it belongs in a dream sequence of a movie, or an emotional scene as a character drives down an empty highway. Songs to Sleep to will certainly not get you pumped for a night out, but provides the perfect relaxing background music to times of homework or contemplation. Each and every song blends together so that you’re not sure when the song even changes. It’s enough to lull you to sleep…in the best possible way.

Recommended tracks: “Why Won’t You Stay?” “

Bonus: You can download the entire 6-track album off their Myspace for FREE!

-- Kaitlin Carano

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Best Coast, Crazy for You

Best Coast
Crazy For You

The unrequited crush: We’ve all been there. Pining away like Samantha Baker for Jake Ryan, wishing that a) Jake would notice us and sit on our kitchen counter with us, blowing out all 16 of our birthday candles, and that b) we had the perfect maudlin yet hopeful set of tunes to get us through the torment of it all. If any of that sounds familiar to you, then go ahead and turn off the Thompson Twins and switch on Best Coast to mend your breaking heart.

On July 27, California’s Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno, aka Best Coast—who have been tempering teenage heartache for months with perfectly angst-ridden, lo-fi single after single—will finally release their first full-length album, Crazy for You. With a similar sound to the band’s earlier releases, such “Sun Was High (So Was I),” the new album is replete with romantic, hazy, California-sandy tunes, perfect for when you’re, as Cosentino puts it, “sitting all alone at home/ and waiting waiting waiting waiting waiting by the phone.” And, like each single and EP released up to this point (including the questionably trendy Kid Cudi and Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend mash up), Crazy for You does not disappoint.

Crazy isn’t simply a collection of mindless, boy-crazed sap songs—Cosentino’s creativity and musical knowledge lend a stellar quality to what has the potential to be superficial and repetitive fluff. As demonstrated by the Best Coast blog, Cosentino’s musical influences are ample and varied—the depth of which is reflected by her ability to turn the trite (you can only say “I wish I had a boyfriend” so many ways) into heartrending, universally appealing music. Her wide-ranging inspiration creates subtle, yet hugely different, transitions—evoking everything from 90s Nirvana-esque angst to poppy 60s girl band riffs—that save the music from becoming monotonous and reveal the depth of the band’s well-crafted personality.

With simple but poignant lyrics that could easily have been torn from Molly Ringwald’s diary (“Last night I went out with this guy/he was nice/he was nice and cute/but he wasn’t you”), Cosentino’s perfectly drawling voice gives an uncomplicated and much needed reprieve from whatever ails you. Whether it’s boys or your boring summer job, each three-minute jangle strikes all the right notes. A combination of the Go-Gos, The Beach Boys, and The Primitives, Best Coast supplies 29 minutes of genuine summer-lovin’ bliss that lives up to the expectations created by months of singles, EPs, and cat images (an homage to Cosentino’s feline companion, “Snacks”).

Recommendations: “Boyfriend,” “I Want To,” and “When I’m With You,” but seriously all of them, ideally in a row while biking past his house repeatedly.

-- Emma Forster

Review: Francis and the Lights, It'll Be Better - AND full album stream!

Francis and the Lights

It’ll Be Better


The 80s are back. Well, kind of, and minus the embarrassing outfits. Since the calendar says it is technically 2010 you might find it a little difficult to understand how we have traveled back to the decade when dressing like this was socially acceptable. I am listening to It’ll Be Better, Francis and the Lights’ newly released, fourth studio album and Back to the Future seems a little more appropriate right now. Often described as a mix between Prince and Phil Collins, Francis and the Lights incorporates everything that was great about 80s pop music while still remaining musically in touch with modern day culture.

Musically, It’ll Be Better is a solid album. None of the lyrics on the album are profound but lead vocalist Francis Farewell Starlite sings with such a relaxed voice that I cannot help but to sing along. My favorite track off the album, “In a Limousine” is one of the more upbeat tracks ones and has the catchiest hook (“it doesn’t matter, save it for a rainy doesn’t matter just put it in your pocket” --> such optimism!). The first released single off the album, “For Days,” makes me imagine myself in a room with low lights, a disco ball and a pair of bright pink hot pants.

I wouldn’t call this the best album of the summer but there are definitely a few songs off the album that I plan on using for late night, summer dance party playlists.

-- Dominique Barron

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Tokyo Police Club, Champ

Tokyo Police Club
7 stoplight dance sessions out of 10 stoplight dance sessions

Tokyo Police Club has long been a go-to band for my mix CD addiction, which reached its peak during the years of high school that I had my own car and was forced to listen to the insufferable local radio if I wasn’t proactive about it. Historically, their music has made me want to dance. And yeah, maybe sing a long a little bit too. Loudly. So what I’m saying here is that I used to look like an insane person freaking out to this band in my car.

That part of me is a little bummed that their latest release, Champ, has a more toned down sound. The other part – the part that appreciates when bands evolve for the better – is actually pretty excited. Where the percussion usually drove their tracks before, the band now relies more on guitar and vocals. You can actually hear and understand singer/bassist Dave Monks on this album. And did you know there’s a keyboardist in this band? Yeah, I didn’t either. But you can now hear him as well, especially on tracks like “Bambi.” Check out the synth, too. It’s crazy.

Lyrically, Champ is an incredibly introspective album – likely the result of the two years it took Tokyo Police Club to write and produce it. Where once their songs focused almost exclusively on dating and “kid stuff” (come on, they were young!), they have now expanded to cover topics like growing old, leaving home, dealing with changing relationships, and the fear of missing out on life. Take the track “End of a Spark,” for example – when he put you to bed, / your great-grandfather always said / “Wasting is an art.” / Well, it’s a good thing I was young then. Guys, you're still young - but I appreciate your point anyway.

This isn’t the rag-tag group of guys in their early 20s that made a splash on the blog scene almost five years ago. Meet the older, more thoughtful Tokyo Police Club. I might not be able to thrash around in my car while singing along with Champ, but I’ll definitely keep listening.

-- Emily Simpson

District Dialect: The Dubliner

The District Dialect: The Dubliner by igorgerman

Nico Dodd goes behind the scenes of The Dubliner, DC's best known Irish Pub, and explores the culture of live music that exists there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Admiral Radley, I Heart California

I Heart California

Admiral Radley

I Heart California


Admiral Radley is a union of four long-time friends and indie musicians - Jason Lytle and Aaron Burtch of Granddaddy with Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray of Earlimart. They initially tried to express this collaborative effort in the band's name, wavering between Grandimart and Earlidaddy, but realized that these were not very good names for a rock band. Inspiration struck when the band mates had a chance encounter with a mysterious seaman, who called himself Admiral Radley and suggested they name their band after him and “go forth and play shows and spread [their] loose and enjoyable message.” They took his advice. This proved to be a much more fitting name for the Golden State musicians, who make music intimately tied to their coastal roots with an understated coolness.

This project is similar in style to what these bands have produced over the years, and is stamped with Jason Lytle's lighthearted pop sound, while Earlimart contributes a folksier element, with ethereal electronic noises and breathy vocals common throughout. The album opens with its title track, on the surface a catchy synth-pop ode to the band’s home state, although a satirical derision of California life lurks in the verses, as Lytle pokes fun at drugs in diaper bags and “fake tits.” The track strikes a balance between its hook-driven, upbeat pop aspect and the reflective, yet witty lyrics, something that these musicians have made a career of, and aptly bring to this album.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Earlimart compositions are what really stand out on the album, with “Ending of Me” and “Chingas in the West” proving to be two of the album’s best tracks. Espinoza’s other contributions, “Ghosts of Syllables” and “Lonesome Co.,” are also both stirring and pleasant tracks, carried by layered acoustic and electric guitars complemented by piano and synth riffs. Not to be outdone, Murray supplies a wonderful love song in “The Thread,” affectionately singing poetic lyrics like “Will we live to 98? Watch our hair go gray / Will we go out with a bang? Will we fade away? / In other words I hope that we'll still hold hands / and laugh about the way things end.”

Admiral Radley are heartfelt at times, catchy at others, but they never take themselves too seriously; they mock the Governator in “I Heart California,” and even made a karaoke video to complement the single; during a section of “Sunburn Kids” they mention various countries and play instruments characteristic of each place; they sing songs about Star Trek (“GNDN”) and skateboarding (“Red Curbs”). However, underneath the pop hooks and humorous references are well-crafted and compelling songs. As Espinoza put it, it’s "a fun record with serious moments.” For example, in “GNDN,” one of Lytle’s best contributions to the album, he tenderly sings about “Spock” and the Enterprise, and the catchy hook “It goes nowhere / and it does nothing” is a reference to Star Trek, but the song may also be a metaphor for the musicians themselves, as when he sings "The critics would say the sounds you would make were so second-rate / and your instruments were fake / well of course they were fake.”

Unfortunately, their casual attitude causes them to miss the mark on occasion. “I’m All Fucked on Beer” is a frantic party anthem that seemed to be a lot of fun to make, as all the band members drunkenly yell the chorus with their tongues comfortably planted in their cheeks and can be heard laughing in the studio as the recording ends. This time though, their ode to good times just ends up being obnoxious, with its heavy distortion, incessant backbeat, and yelled vocals. All in all though, these seasoned indie artists do not disappoint, delivering fun and sincere pop songs that ooze with west coast influences and summer living, providing plenty of reasons to heart Admiral Radley.

-- Jared Iversen

Take Cover: She's a Good Girl...

Kings of Convenience, "Free Fallin'" (Tom Petty)

After months upon months of writing this column, I think I've nailed down what makes a truly great cover, and the answer is twofold: surprise and delight. It has to sound good, at the most basic level. It has to do justice to the song's original intent and circumstance. And it has to add something new and shiny, something original and unique that catches the listener off-guard in the best way possible.

Kings of Convenience, the soft-spoken Norwegian lords of gorgeous harmonies and intricate guitars, have managed this deftly with their popular live cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'." They surprise and delight across the board; in big ways, like changing the tone of the song from a rock ballad to a quiet hymn, and in small ways (I won't say what happens at the end-- you can listen for yourself, but it is lovely).

Of course, the choice of song helps too. Now 20 years strong, "Free Fallin'" is an underrated classic, whether it's the three-chord backbeat for a hip-hop song or standing on its own in the lone American night between the bad boys in the shadows and the good girls at home with broken hearts.

Free Fallin' (Tom Petty Cover) by WGTB Blog

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Fol Chen, Part II: The New December

Fol Chen
Part II: The New December
6.8 out of 10

Fol Chen really wants to be weird. In 2009, the Los Angeles based indie sextet shrouded the release of their first album in secrecy, concealing the group members’ names and identities and issuing a press release in which they described themselves as sounding like "that mysterious black object that the creepy family is staring at on the cover of Led Zeppelin's Presence album.” I mean, come on. Even after listening to their sophomore album, Part II: The New December—which admittedly does sound like that mysterious object (think enigmatic, wonky, a little bizarre)—I think that giving yourself description is a little on the pretentious side.

And so is Part II: The New December. Fol Chen's official website provides little more than an intentionally vague and elusive video public service announcement featuring actor Brian Cox as insight into their new release (if you can call him reciting the lyrics from “In Ruins” insight: “Walking down the street tonight/Everything’s in ruins/You look good by siren light/Baby whatcha doin?” WTFol Chen?). To validate creating this kind of hype, whatever product you’re pushing had better be freaking rad.

The New December opens with three fairly strong tracks “The Holograms,” “In Ruins,” and “Curtain Call.” “Holograms,” full of odd digital blips and dark drum machine beats, sounds like it should be accompanied by a Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands factory line scene (I bet you love that description, don’t you, Fol Chen?). The rhythmic essence introduced here reappears throughout the eclectic rest of the album. “In Ruins,” one of the most cohesive songs on the album, includes both the original core strong tempo as well as some interesting piano and sugary vocals from singer Melissa Thorne. The beat from “Curtain Call” is catchy and reminiscent of the Dirty Projectors or Of Montreal, but with a unique, quirky spin.

The album proceeds to branch out stylistically, including everything form frenetic dance-pop beats to eerie whispering, all the while retaining the same whimsy underpinnings from earlier tracks. Although the sporadic, superficially disjointed nature of the album may come across as off-putting to more conservative listeners, it is hard not to garner an appreciation for the group’s creativity.

Fol Chen wants to be weird, which they accomplished, but it took me a while to care about that. It was hard to get past all the hype and listen to Fol Chen for what they are…but isn’t that the point? They have built up a labyrinthine mythology around their music, which can at times do more to distract than intrigue—but from what I can tell, they are interested in creating a distraction. Though it doesn’t quite live up to the mystique incited by Brian Cox’s dramatic monologue, Fol Chen’s unusual, almost discordant music stands on its own as, at least, a noteworthy experiment and a decent second album.

Recommendations: “In Ruins”, “Your Curtain Call”

-- Emma Forster

Concert Pick of the Week: City Folk

City Folk
Wednesday, July 21st 2010
U Street Music Hall, $10

Georgetown Alum (and some current students) and former WGTB members City Folk are playing Wednesday night as part of the Get Your Pants On event. They'll be joined by DC bands Exactly, Noon:30, and a slew of DJ's sure to make hump-day bumpin. City Folk has been playing in and around DC for a couple of years and their live act has really blossomed into an event of controlled chaos. They held their own when opening for Family Portrait and Real Estate for the WGTB Spring Concert Series, and they're sure to deliver Wednesday night as well.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Stars, The Five Ghosts

The Five Ghosts

For anyone who has listened to Stars’ previous records, their latest album The Five Ghosts, is a comfort. Easygoing melodies lain over catchy keyboards and guitars are welcome touches to the Canadian duo’s indie pop repertoire.

Despite attempts to update their sound with electro eighties’ style beats and punchy drums, Stars cannot evade their signature smooth effervescence. Normally a continuation of such a successful style would be happily received; however, with all members belonging to another popular band, Broken Social Scene, is it unfair to consider this consistency a bit…redundant?

Strangely enough, I must also add that the Stars format of duet is not as successful in The Five Ghosts as it has been in previous albums. In their earlier work, the combination of male and female voices felt natural and sincere. The dialogue gave depth to themes that are often overused in recorded music. However, in the recent songs, the male vocals of Torquil Campbell feel cliché, insincere, and trite. His vocals resonate with too much effort and at first listen, make the likable album sound like the a combination of Michael Bublé mixed over the soundtrack to West Side Story—the musical! And with all the death imagery, this comparison feels even more appropriate.

Speaking of all the death imagery: why is this a summer album release? Not to be picky, but this is an album to enjoy in the depths of a sad winter’s day, not during the glorious summer 2010 heat wave. Maybe up north, Canadians don’t understand the seasonal aspect of seasonal depression.

If you like Stars : you would like Asobi Seksu

Highlight Tracks : 2, 4, 10

--Charlotte Japp, Roanoke

Review: Ty Segall, Melted

Ty Segall

Melted, the third album from Norcal-based rocker Ty Segall, is a solid effort at summery fuzzy punk, well-done in some instances ("My Sunshine") and somewhat off-beat in others (the muggy "Mike D's Coke.") Even the album's title offers a glimpse at how it feels, listening -- it's hot, humid and hazy music for days of the same kind.
Segall blends classic-rock and alt-country chord progressions with enough overdrive to make Wavves envious, giving the whole album a sort of lethargic, edgy Weezer-esque vibe, where the pop tendencies are weighed down by heavy beats and Segall's minor-tone punky whine.

"Bees" recalls 60's fuzz-rock with a sunny, simple chorus "Fall in love, fall in love, be happy, be happy." "Caesar" is perhaps his best-known song, offering a wild whooping bridge and some bluesy high-pitched keys that keep the song moving at a nice clip.

There's no doubt this album offers much of the same track-to-track, and you'd grow weary of it, as I did, after a short time. But when you wake up on a July morning and want to blast something loud and summer-ready and you're sick of Crocodiles or Japandroids but you know its the same sound that you want, Ty is your guy.

-- Caroline Klibanoff

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Did the Intern Show Up? Vol. 4: DJ Turn The Music Up

Dear KFN Resident DJs,

You used to scare the shit out of me, way back when I thought you were all the coolest dudes around. Rolling into the bar right around the time the headlining band would be wrapping up their set and preparing to clear off the stage with your cases of records and confident smiles, you had me convinced that your job more or less involved a) looking cool; b) giving lots of high fives; c) being excellent at partying; and d) the whole spinning records thing. So yeah, far be it from me, the lowly intern, to think I was rad enough to hang out with any of you.

Then, of course, I actually got to know you. Ha. Now I’m going to introduce you to everyone else, at least as well as I can given the limitations of the internet (and my vocabulary, because wow, all eloquence seemed to go out the window with the rest of my dignity on the El ride home last night). Just kidding about that last bit. Hi, Mom.

Anyway! The easiest way to organize this post is probably by day of the week, which means that Thursday’s Night Train duo, Ian St. Laurent and Dennis Wolf.fang, are up first. Night Train starts at 11:00 on the dot (give or take) every week, usually drawing a ridiculous amount of people to come party and dance to the fusion of soul/electro/rock music that these guys have become known for. But the thing that stands out most about Dennis and Ian is that they’re soulmates of some kind or another if I’ve ever seen any – nearly perfect complements to each other. Right now they’ve even got the dark-light bit going, Dennis sporting some kind of blond and Ian with his signature black. Watching them spin together, that connection is subtle but palpable, and it’s part of what makes Night Train work so well. They’re an absolute blast and really sweet, the kind of people who will meet you once back in April and still remember your name three months later.

Fridays we play host to Robotique, a dance party of the disco variety brought to you by two dudes named Billy W and Ryan T. First of all: sweetest guys ever. Huge music nerds, really passionate about what they do, always talking about the latest awesome vinyl find. Lately they’ve been hosting a lot of guest DJs, local and touring alike, to supplement their sets. Best news, even? THEY JUST HAD A BARBECUE, AND IT WAS AWESOME. With no show, we started two hours early and just ate outside on the patio. Probably one of the more chill events the bar has seen lately, all the product of Billy and Ryan being awesome and knowing good people. Robotique: spinning disco magic and grilling surprisingly edible food right here in Philadelphia. Check it.

Saturdays at KFN work on a rotation-type schedule. First Saturdays, the England Belongs To Twee DJs spin a bunch of stuff called “oi,” which is a mixture of old-school English punk and rock. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can tell you guys, as I haven’t had the opportunity to meet them personally. Second Saturdays Broadzilla rolls through with DJs KT, Thom & James behind the wheel(s). You can download their fantastic mix of Hipster Trainwreck Anthems here to get a rough idea of what they sound like live. Apparently, as they get progressively drunker throughout the evening, they break out the Gwen Stefani more and more frequently. The thought of three grown men (I may have giggled a little bit while typing that out) breaking it down to No Doubt should really be enough to make you want to check these DJzillas out in person. Third Saturdays we have Drumsong, hosted by the awesome-but-yet-to-be-encountered-in-person Sean Thomas. Sean has been an excellent Facebook friend thus far, however, providing me not only with information so I can properly promote his event, but with fun Steven-banter as well. A++++. And…that’s about it, actually. There couldn’t possibly be anything important that I’ve forgotten.

Oh hush, Shawn Ryan, you know I’m just kidding. I needed a paragraph break anyway. Months are rounded out by the 80s dance party known as Steppin Out, hosted by the aforementioned Shawn and the guy whose picture is next to the word “cool” in the dictionary – Dirty – on fourth Saturdays. There’s a rumor that this party numbers among the more successful ones at KFN, a rumor which I refuse to believe based solely on the fact that their most recent promotion technique was using Rick Astley. Every time I saw a poster, or handed out a flyer, or made the mistake of glancing at the Facebook event, it was like being Rickrolled. Granted, that song never actually assaulted the ears of anyone present, but having it stuck in my head for about a month was something akin to torture. This is the kind of stuff I have to put up with. Sympathy cards can be mailed to my Philadelphia address, thanks.

No but seriously, the DJs are a huge part of what makes Kung Fu Necktie the incredible place that it is. These guys and gals are all stupidly talented (or “stupid AND talented,” as my friend DEL so lovingly pointed out), all genuinely care about the Philadelphia art scene, all work hard to make sure that people have a good time and that the community benefits as well. I don’t really know what else to even add at this point. I feel like I always just end up gushing about people here – it’s embarrassing.

And on that note, I’m going to head out and go watch some of these guys spin. It seems crazy, but that never gets old.

Go figure,

The Intern

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Halsted, Life Underwater

Life Underwater
5 medium-size strong-hold binder clips out of 10

Please understand my situation here. In need of a job, any job, for this summer, I somehow found myself as an intern at a construction company. Not only an intern, basically an accounting intern. Accounting would probably rank somewhere near the bottom five of any list of my most desired professions. For most of the day, I do things like split up a $4 lunch purchase between three different cost codes and then file it in five different places. Sometimes they let me match the owner’s receipts for stretch limousines to the credit card bill! Anyway, before I offend our numbers-loving reader base, let me get to my point. Anything to pull me from the monotony, like a good record, is manna from heaven. Nonetheless, Life Underwater, the latest release from Halsted, failed to impress even my stimulus-starved senses.

The album opens with a somewhat eerie, wavering synth, which led me to believe that it would be somewhat more experimental. However, my main gripe with the album was that it did not try anything new. Halsted sound like just about any other middle of the road modern rock band whose name you might see in a record store and probably not recognize. Listening to this record actually kept reminding of Jack’s Mannequin, a not-so-special band that some kids you knew were probably into around sixth grade.

On ‘Life Underwater,’ the title track, lead singer Ryan Auffenberg croons over a softly plucked guitar. His voice—which may be better suited to this sort of style—does not fit as well with the more rockin’ sets. Auffenberg, who has garnered some local acclaim for his solo album around California, sounds sort of like a one-man version of Iron & Wine (though he does shout out Missouri on his album, so props). ‘Sellout’ begins with the exact keyboard riff that begins Wilco’s Hummingbird, and the lyrics seem to acknowledge the rip-off: “it’s been said before.” Still, some nicely placed horns carry the song though. ‘Knock on Wood’ is rather cheesy, though it did lead me to remember the classic Mighty Mighty Bosstones tune (in which he never has to knock on wood) and to discover this gem. ‘Toy Soldiers’ falls in the same vein—some sort of attempt at a lament about the past (“hanging on a star/because all your toy soldiers are gone)—and also comes off as starkly unoriginal. Life Underwater is not without its brighter moments. The final track, ‘All You Want,’ was decent, and the musicianship throughout is of good quality, with even a few Americana-style licks thrown in early on the disc. In the end, however, the lyrics and vocals left me hoping for better.

-- Mark Waterman

District Dialect: Moving the Tradition Forward

District Dialect: Moving the Tradition Forward by igorgerman

Igor explores the history and development of Bluegrass Music in DC, focusing on some of the challenges the genre is facing as the demographic of Bluegrass listeners begins to shift. He interviews some Bluegrass hosts from WAMU as well as local musician, Bob Perilla.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Take Cover: A Family of Trees Wanting To Be Haunted

The Ooks of Hazzard, "Kids" (MGMT)

Aside from the obvious great things about this cover-- like the fact that all these ukelele fiends found each other to begin with, and that they can all sing so well in harmony, and that they picked this song of all songs, and of course the sound itself, which is really nicely done and well orchestrated and better than MGMT's second album, actually-- aside from all these cool things, the best part about this cover is by far the realization I've just reached, that this band lineup looks exactly like a game of Guess Who. Is your person wearing a hat? Does your person have facial hair? What about sunglasses? Regular eyeglasses? Is your person a girl? Does your person have a lengthy solo? Do they have a beard? Does your person keep time with their feet? Are they wearing shoes? Are they wearing a plaid shirt? Can they play the ukelele? (Duh.)

PS: Ben Lee also has an adorably sweet version of this, and The Kooks do a nice job too. Also, if you haven't seen the awesome Court 13 music video for "Kids," it's well worth seeing - everybody feels like that baby from time to time.

-- Caroline Klibanoff

Review: Maps and Atlases, Perch Patchwork

Maps & Atlases

Perch Patchwork

4 out of 5 smilies

“I don’t think there is a sound that I hate more, than the sound of your voice.” Yikes. No, these are not the words of a recently burned high school boy, scribbling furiously on a scrap of crumpled college-ruled paper to his ex-gf of all of three weeks. Rather, this is the very first line melodically uttered by Maps & Atlases’ lead singer Dave Davison on the band’s debut LP, Perch Patchwork. But much like the songs that ensue, these lyrics prove to be more playful than contemptuous, setting the tone for the Chicago group’s entirely refreshing first full-length effort.

Maps & Atlases fit nicely under the banner of experimental pop, with an elusively familiar sound that refuses to confuse itself with stylistic orientation of any one group. Nimble guitar-work, quick percussive touches, and occasional orchestral flourishes mirror the bright inflection of froggy-voiced Davison, providing pleasant interplay between instrumentals and vocals. Neither the technically-sharp music nor Davison’s vocal contribution dominate the record, and both emit crispness in tandem that lends undeniable levity to the record, from start to all-too-soon finish.

As opposed to simply a collection of similar stand-alone songs,
Perch Patchwork is a decisively cohesive album. The breaks between songs are rarely recognizable, as one idea melds stealthily into the next. While the majority of tracks clock in just under the three-minute mark, the frequently seamless transitions give the impression of drawn-out, cascading arrangements. “Solid Ground” is the only song that feels anything like a distinguishable single, with instrumentals reminiscent of the inner tinkering of the Keebler elf workshop (definitely a good attribute). Surprisingly, even with the flowing continuations on the album, Maps & Atlases never truly achieve any sense of robustness or concreteness. Pop often gets slammed for its lack of substance, and if Perch Patchwork falls short anywhere, it’s in its failure to strongly defy this common conception. Nevertheless, while the songs can seem individually fleeting, the sum total remains a lovely work of sharply crafted music sprinkled with just enough musical treasures.
Worth a peek: “Living Decorations”; “Solid Ground”; “Pigeon”

--Scott Lensing

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Bell Gardens, Hangups Need Company

The Bell Gardens
Hangups Need Company EP

If you’re in the mood for something slow, sweet and hypnotic, you should definitely check out Bells Gardens’ new EP, Hangups Need Company. This EP includes some very pleasant and relaxing tunes, with lots of long, continuous melodies that seem to evoke that sort of beachy feeling of water or sunlight on your skin. It’s extremely easy to compare Bell Gardens to the Beach Boys; Hangups Need Company is like a 2000’s-era version of Pet Sounds with a bit more sadness thrown in. My only problem with the EP is the content of some of the more sad tracks. For example, “End of the World” is a little over the top – it involves a bit too much “boo hoo my girl doesn’t love me anymore” type whining. Otherwise, while this EP isn’t going to blow your mind, it would make a good soundtrack for a day of chilling out in the summer. Listening to it makes me want to lie on a nice, empty beach and relax. Check out the track “Can We Get” – that was my favorite.

-- Elena Solli

Review: Mates of State, Crushes

Crushes (The Covers Mixtape)
B (or One Solid-Gold Pink Elephant and One Grey Failed Attempt at Angst)

A quick background on Mates of State, for those WGTB readers who have been living in a hole beneath the scope of all popular music for the last ten years and have chosen this very moment to surface: Mates of State have, since 1997, otherwise been known as Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. They have also otherwise been known as husband and wife for that same amount of time. Does that not make you want to throw up? Oh, they've just been making music together for over thirteen years, and they're actually quite good at it, and they're still together. Barf. (Just look at the album cover!)

Mates of State's most recent release is an album called Crushes, a mixtape of sorts made up only of cover songs––a bold move, admittedly, for anyone in the music industry, but it's safe to say Gardner and Hammel have earned their keep and are more than capable of pulling it off. Interesting that they would call the album "Crushes"––I, too, have been head-over-heels for songs time after time, and feel like it is the only sentiment with which you can safely pull off a cover. The right balance of loving the original and boosting it with your own flavor in has to be in effect––and, even more importantly, there has to be a shred of empathy in your cover, a little note to the original, that says "this song was yours before, but now that I've done it, it's a little bit mine, too, because somehow, we speak the same language." These three influences make or break the covers––where did Mates of State succeed, and where didn't they? A handy guide for the eager yet lazy listener:

Friday, July 09, 2010

Our Top 30 Albums of the Week

Check out what we're spinning over at WGTB. In case you missed some of our reviews, they are linked below!

1 NATIONAL High Violet
2 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Forgiveness Rock Record
4 CRYSTAL CASTLES Crystal Castles II
5 BLACK KEYS Brothers
6 VILLAGERS Becoming A Jackal
11 TAME IMPALA Innerspeaker
12 DEER TICK Black Dirt Sessions
13 MAPS AND ATLASES Perch Patchwork
15 JANELLE MONAE The ArchAndroid
16 WOLF PARADE Expo 86
18 FOALS Total Life Forever
19 EMINEM Recovery
20 NINJASONIK Art School Girls
23 HOLY FUCK Latin
24 DAN SARTAIN Dan Sartain Lives
25 SHIMMIES To All Beloved Enemies
26 BROKEN BELLS Broken Bells
27 AVI BUFFALO Avi Buffalo
28 HOLD STEADY Heaven Is Whenever
29 PEGGY SUE Fossils And Other Phantoms

Review: William Fitzsimmons, Derivatives


William Fitzsimmons

Derivatives, albeit William Fitzsimmons’ fourth full-length release, really doesn’t deepen or develop Fitzsimmons’ work thus far as an indie-folk-Grey’s-Anatomy-tear-jerker-scene-staple-soundrack-twee musician. What Derivatives does do is offer up remixes and retooled versions of songs that had already been released on The Sparrow and The Crow in 2009. But several of these “new-and-improved” songs have the “before” shot present on the ten-track album as well, making Derivatives even less fresh—simply because half of the songs had already been previously released exactly as they appear on this album. Oh, and there’s a Katy Perry cover. That’s about it.

As for Derivatives’ new work, are these new tracks a success? Debatable. William Fitzsimmons himself sounds much like a poor man’s Iron and Wine, especially compared to Iron and Wine frontman’s The Creek Drank the Cradle album. The remixes present on Derivatives, on the other hand, sound much like a poor man’s Postal Service. Fitzsimmons manages to come close to nailing the simultaneously distant and hollow yet poppy and poignant feel of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello’s fated collaboration—like the entire Give Up album, Fitzsimmons’ remixed “I Don’t Feel It Anymore” gives the listener the sense of being far up in the clouds, away from all the banalities of human emotion, able to watch them play out without any strings being attached. (The main lyrics in Fitzsimmons’ track are: “oh take it all away / I don’t feel it anymore”—pretty rough, though the musician, also pursuing a career as a counselor, has likely seen the run of skewed human emotion well enough to portray it in such a light).The light, airy electronica underlaces Fitzsimmons’ previously boring croon and gives it the newer, sweeter edge it needed. But in the end, even that edge is not enough, the album still leaves the listener in want.

-- Fiona Hanly

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Review: Blitzen Trapper, Destroyer of the Void

Blitzen Trapper
Destroyer of the Void


On long family car rides, before the advent of portable MP3 players with headphones, we used to listen to classic rock and oldies stations on the radio. My dad would inevitably start a game to channel our frustration about being crammed in the backseat away from each other and towards something marginally constructive. Every time a song would come on, he’d call out “Who plays this?!” and badger us (“No, not Lenny Kravitz. What decade were you guys born in? This is classic!”) until we got it right. In the interest of keeping our sanity, we learned to match certain sounds, riffs and vocal styles to bands very quickly. Listening to Destroyer of the Void, the newest release from Oregon beard rockers Blitzen Trapper, it felt a bit like my dad should pop up every 30 seconds or so with his trademark question.
The album begins with the prog-rock title track that sounds a little like the musical love child of Bob Dylan and David Bowie married the musical love child of Led Zeppelin and Freddie Mercury and had a musical love child of its own, which was bottle fed Abbey Road (see family tree here). The opening multi-track harmonies are just the first step in this rock opera in miniature, which flows from harmonic piano ballads to Queen licks to spacey Bowie imitations to static noise to tearing Jimmy Page riffs and back. Throughout this chaotic musical landscape, frontman Eric Early’s ragged Dylan-esque whine sounds natural carrying a narrative complete with classic rock and folk motifs of “wayward sons” and “rolling stones.”