Show review: Swervedriver at Brighton Music Hall – 3/29

March 31, 2012 in Show Reviews

An extended weekend of great Boston shows began Thursday night at Brighton with self-described “loud British band” Swervedriver. Remarkably hard-to-Google shoegazers Heaven opened.

Heaven is the New York-based project of Matt Sumrow, Ryan Lee Dunlap, and occasional Swervedriver drummer Mikey Jones. Bathed in a constant red glow throughout their half-hour set, the trio performed their dreamy and atmospherically spacey rock with coolness and reserve. The songs were driven by swirling waves of guitar backed by percussion and lingering swells of keyboards. Pretentious ocean vocabulary aside, Heaven did tend toward the lovelier dream-pop end of the shoegaze spectrum. It was enjoyable performance, and a perfect compliment to the noisier and more commanding Swervedriver set to come.

Swervedriver are among the more under-appreciated bands of the first-wave shoegaze movement of the early 1990s. Although they were the label-mates of legendary bands like My Bloody Valentine and Ride, they never received the same level of recognition. Based on the strengths of records like 1991′s Raise and 1993′s Mezcal Head, that lack of recognition is an unfortunate oversight in the alternative music canon. The band’s setlist on Thursday leaned heavily on those two records (as well as some era-appropriate b-sides and a bit of new material), and the performance proved pretty definitively that these songs have aged very well.

Accuse Swervedriver of being a nostalgia act if you must, but they certainly didn’t sound like they were going through the motions. Lead guitarist and vocalist Adam Franklin mostly played it cool, offering only the occasional “Thank you” or single-sentence song introduction to the audience, but some impassioned moments of soloing or general noise production cracked the veneer. He was definitely enjoying himself. I also have to take this opportunity to applaud him for making it through the entire second half of the show with a pretty obviously split open finger on his strumming hand. Admittedly, his blood-stained Jazzmaster did look pretty badass by the end of the set.

One of the band’s greatest virtues on record is the interplay between Franklin and second guitarist Jimmy Hartridge, which comes shining through in their live show as well. Franklin’s playing tends toward the hazy and slightly abstract, with heavy reliance on his Jazzmaster’s tremolo arm. Hartridge’s Gibson supplies the more muscular, driving riffs. Between the two of them and bassist Steve George, the ratio of effects pedals on the stage to people using them was roughly eight to one. They put their elaborate rigs to good use though. Backed by Jones on drums, the band sounded fantastic and, yes, very loud.

The band played six out of Raise‘s nine songs, as well as a few from Ejector Seat Reservation and most of the tracks from Mezcal Head which people were constantly shouting as requests. It was a crowd-pleasing setlist for sure, and the band inspired an unexpected and striking reverence from the audience. The brief periods of quiet between songs were filled not only with song requests, but also constant shouts of thanks and general admiration. Claims of the band’s ‘cult classic’ status have not been overstated. I get the feeling that a large portion of the audience would have been satisfied by the mere fact that a reunited Swervedriver had even made the effort to trek all the way from the UK to play this small run of US dates. The fact that their classic songs still sounded so good in a live setting was the icing on the cake.

Heaven:

Swervedriver:

Show review: Cloud Nothings at Brighton Music Hall – 3/25

March 26, 2012 in Show Reviews

Following their stellar new album and a run of exceedingly well reviewed shows at South By South West, Cloud Nothings had a lot of hype to live up to last night. I’m glad to say that they did not disappoint. Opening for them were The Dirty Dishes and A Classic Education.

Boston locals The Dirty Dishes were on first with a fantastically unique and engrossing set. Their songs exist in a realm somewhere between My Bloody Valentine-esque shoegaze, slowcore in the vein of The For Carnation or Codeine, and the rhythmic weirdness of nineties math-rock. These are all bands and genres which I greatly adore, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to favorably compare this fantastic half-hour set to any of them. The Dishes have a knack for effectively building tension with quietly beautiful instrumental passages and the ethereal voice of singer/guitarist Jenny Tuite. That tension is released through bursts of delayed and fuzzed-out guitar backed by an air-tight rhythm section. That’s not to say the band uses the ‘loud-quiet-loud’ dynamic as a crutch, though. The songs still felt varied, and the volume was applied where it was most advantageous. This set is up there with Carnivores at the Atlas Sound show a few weeks ago for the best opening band I’ve seen so far this year. The band currently has two releases available through Bandcamp, which I suspect will be well worth your time.

A Classic Education had some big shoes to fill as a follow-up, and didn’t quite measure up to the unique punch of The Dirty Dishes. Still, the Bologna, Italy-based fivesome delivered a set of solid, enjoyably garage-y rock tunes. The songs felt well-crafted instrumentally, with some nice interplay between the two guitarists, and the keyboardist when she was audible. The house mixing was unfortunately godawful during this part of the night, so vocals from frontman Jonathan Clancy were also mostly unintelligible. The band made due with the limitations though, and the set picked up toward the end with a couple of interesting, longer songs with a heavier instrumental focus.

It would be forty-five minutes after A Classic Education’s final song when Cloud Nothings finally took the stage. The delay was seemingly the result of a start time prescribed by, uh, MTV. Strangely enough, this show was scheduled to be broadcast on MTV’s Hive website, as indicated to us by numerous posters, notices informing us that we would be filmed and photographed, roving cameramen, and a large MTV logo projected on the wall. I’m glad that a band as good as Cloud Nothings warrants this kind of attention, and I think it’s great that people who couldn’t make it to this sold-out show for whatever reason were still able to watch and listen in, but the whole night did have a weirdly corporate vibe. ‘Corporate’ is generally not the atmosphere that anyone is aiming for at a garage punk show with an audience of under four hundred people. The waving middle fingers and chants of “FUCK MTV” from the crowd pretty evidently confirmed this.

Any minor annoyance that the MTV presence created was forgotten once Dylan Baldi and crew took the stage, however. Baldi’s only bit of stage banter for the entire night would be a brief “Hi, we’re a band called Cloud Nothings from Cleveland, Ohio,” before immediately kicking into ‘Stay Useless.’ I remember reading a tweet during the week of SXSW describing a Cloud Nothings set as “an absolute fireball,” and that phrase began kicking around again in my head immediately as the band started playing. Baldi didn’t need to say much because there wasn’t much to say. The urgency and intensity of these songs spoke for themselves. By ‘these songs’ I refer to all eight tracks from this year’s phenomenal Steve Albini-produced Attack on Memory, which unsurprisingly comprised the whole of the main set (in addition to “part of a new song”).

Albini would claim to not have an identifiable ‘sound’ when producing records, but there’s something about his method that always makes the drums and bass stand out to me. Attack on Memory is no different, and in a live setting the rhythm section shaped and propelled these songs as much the heavy electric guitars and Baldi’s raw, powerful vocals. Cloud Nothings felt like a cohesive unit last night, a far cry from the band’s origins as Baldi’s solo lo-fi noise pop project. MembersĀ TJ Duke, Jayson Gerycz, and Joe Boyer were all as energetically tuned into the performance as Baldi was.

The record’s confessional lyrics and overall heavier sound have drawn the band comparisons to classic nineties post-hardcore bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Unwound. Seeing the band live confirms the validity of these comparisons. The heaviness of the album was amplified, quite literally, in a live setting. Everything was unreasonably loud and no one cared. The more pop-leaning tracks like ‘Stay Useless’ and album closer ‘Cut You’ remained fairly faithful to the album versions, but hit just a little bit harder and faster. Album centerpiece ‘Wasted Days’ stretched beyond its already lengthy nine minute runtime as Baldi manipulated the massive whirling chaos of the song’s midsection with two delay pedals on the floor. Screaming along to the song’s final chorus of “I THOUGHT/I WOULD/BE MORE/THAN THIS” with everyone else in the room was a definite show highlight.

Following the set closing ‘No Future/No Past’ and a brief encore of older tunes, the show ended just shy of an hour after it started. Normally such a short headlining set might be cause for concern, but extending this show further might have lessened its punch. Succinctness is not always a bad thing when it comes to live shows, especially when a band conjures up a set as intensely impactful as this one in under an hour.

Thoughts on Pitchfork Festival 2012 lineup additions

March 26, 2012 in News

And the plot thickens. After a somewhat disappointing initial lineup, the Pitchfork Music Festival added twelve more acts to the mix today: Dirty Projectors, Sleigh Bells, Flying Lotus, Danny Brown, The Olivia Tremor Control, Clams Casino, Iceage, Purity Ring, The Men, Schoolboy Q and The Atlas Moth. Several of these bands do lessen the blow of Vampire Weekend still being a probable headliner.

Dirty Projectors blew me away when I saw them perform in a Cape Cod movie theater two years ago. Reputable bands usually don’t perform at movie theaters, or on Cape Cod at all for that matter, so it was an odd show on a few different levels. The band claimed to be playing some low-key dates to warm up for their Coachella appearance, which they seemed more than prepared for already. Oddness aside, they pulled off the impossibly complex-sounding material from Bitte Orca brilliantly. This set will likely see them revisiting those songs as well as playing material from their new record apparently in the works. This is definitely one to be excited for.

The tour behind Sleigh Bells’ solid new record Reign of Terror fails to make a stop in Boston, so here’s my one opportunity to see them this summer. The band headlined Pitchfork Fest’s smallest stage two years ago, so they’ll likely be moved to one of the larger stages during daylight this year. I feel like part of the fun of seeing this band would be the chaos they will surely set off at smaller club shows, but I suspect they’ll have a strong enough presence to be pretty entertaining in this setting as well.

I saw The Olivia Tremor Control this past September at Brighton Music Hall, when I was familiar with precisely one of their songs. Even so, I was impressed by the band’s lengthy set of psychedelically-tinged indie pop songs and occasional forays into experimental ambient territory. They played the hits, so to speak, but were also brave enough to recreate all ten ‘Green Typewriters,’ a spectacle which involved ex-Neutral Milk Hotel member Julian Koster using a large Christmas lawn ornament as a percussion instrument. I’m eager to see the group again now that I’ve properly familiarized myself with their lengthy-but-brilliant two records.

Experimental electronic musician Flying Lotus and noise-rockers Iceage and The Men will also be on my radar to check out. So, still no Pulp or Refused (and hope for either fading rapidly), but still a solid update on the lineup. It’s shaping up to be a pretty eclectic list this year.

Also, three day passes to the festival are now sold out. Individual days only from here on out.

Show review: The Wedding Present at Brighton Music Hall – 3/23

March 25, 2012 in Show Reviews

Another trek out to Allston last night to catch jangly British post-punk band The Wedding Present on their post-SXSW US tour. Toquiwa and The Jet Age opened.

Hailing all the way from Tokyo, all-female guitar pop band Toquiwa offered up an impressive amount of energy and stage presence for what was, at this point in the evening, a largely empty venue. ‘Cute’ seems to be the primary word used to describe this band, and five minutes into their set it becomes pretty clear why. Their music is upbeat and catchy, and vocalist Asuja runs back and forth across the stage with a constant smile, imploring various audience members to dance, clap and sing along. Their set would no doubt have been more enjoyable with a larger crowd, but their dedication to engaging myself and the other twenty to thirty early arrivals was admirable. Toquiwa initially felt like an odd fit as an opener, but they won me over soon enough. Their energy was infectious and the group was simply too endearing to dislike, regardless of the context.

Washington, D.C. indie rockers The Jet Age were on next. They may have lacked Toquiwa’s stage presence, but made up for it with a set of impressive guitar-driven songs. The no-nonsense guitar/bass/drums lineup sounded tight and focused throughout their forty minute set. Frontman Eric Tischler sang lead vocals which were largely buried in the mix (a recurring issue at Brighton Music Hall), but seemed content to let his guitar do most of the talking anyway. His fiery, J Mascis-esque solos were both technically impressive and skillfully employed. Instrumental workouts can get boring when the rest of the song feels like an excuse to move as quickly as possible from one to the other, but this band has strong enough tunes to back them up.

The Wedding Present took the stage at 10:30, launching into a song from their new LP Valentina immediately following a tongue-in-cheek countdown which played over the house speakers. Interestingly, the band is not currently out to tour songs from their latest album. The big draw last night was a front-to-back performance of the 1991, Steve Albini-produced Seamonsters. Pitchfork made a quip this week in their review of Valentina about this tour indicating the band’s ‘lack of confidence’ in the new songs, but judging by last night’s performance, there was certainly no reason to feel that way. The new songs felt right at home when juxtaposed with Seamonsters and other older material.

Bands are often maligned as ‘nostalgia acts’ for performing whole albums in concert, but it would be wholly unfair to reduce this show to that. Seamonsters sounded fresh and urgent as ever last night. Guitarist/singer/songwriter David Gedge conveyed the emotion of these songs as if he wrote them yesterday rather than upwards of twenty years ago. Gedge is the band’s only constant member, and the current lineup of Graeme Ramsay (guitar), Pepe le Moko (bass) and Charles Layton (drums) has only existed for a few years. The constantly evolving cast of musicians is something like a Fall situation, but I can’t imagine Gedge being half as difficult to work with as the infamously cantankerous Mark E. Smith. Regardless, if I’d gone into this show not knowing any of that, I would’ve easily believed that these four had been performing together for much longer than they have. The band was on-point with both old and new songs, nailing perfectly the dynamics shifts which are especially key on several Seamonsters tracks. They also held things together nicely during the several instances where Gedge’s rapid-fire strumming snapped strings and necessitated switching guitars mid-song.

At the close of ‘Octopussy,’ the record’s last song, Gedge thanked us for being so receptive to Seamonsters. “It’s intense,” he laughed. He’s right about that, but the record’s intensity certainly doesn’t make it inaccessible. The crowd was happy to revel in the noisy catharsis of these songs, and seeing Gedge so engaged in performing them made me appreciate them all the more. It’s the mark of a great songwriter when, twenty one years on, both he and the audience can still connect with the songs in the way we all did last night.

The Record Store Day 2012 list arrives

March 24, 2012 in News

The record geek’s official holiday falls on April 21st this year, and the finalized list of releases is now officially available. As usual, these mostly limited edition releases are exclusive to participating independent record stores. Early rumors weren’t indicating that this would be a particularly good year for exclusives, but the final list is actually pretty solid. Lots of exciting releases/reasons to be concerned about your financial situation.

As Record Store Day has become a bigger and bigger event over the past few years, I read more and more disparaging coverage of it across the internet. Hardcore vinyl enthusiasts take issue with the ‘fetishizing’ of the format via what they perceive as gimmicky cash-grabs. Between the myriad picture discs, colored 7″s, lithographic jackets and “collector’s tins” (yes, seriously), it can seem like the collectability of RSD releases becomes more important than the music itself. Others simply feel ripped off by the inflated prices, deceptive re-packaging of old releases and exaggerated claims of exclusivity (‘limited edition’ purchases don’t feel quite as special when they get repressed for less money two months later). These are valid claims, but I don’t think they collectively outweigh the positives of Record Store Day. Let’s remember that the point of the whole thing, at least in theory, is to get people excited about shopping at music stores which are largely hurting for business. Any event that helps to keep more record stores open gets a pass in my book. The labels, especially those of the non-indie variety, do come up with plenty of gimmicky garbage to sell you, but that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to buy any of it. And for every re-packaged Red Hot Chilli Peppers album and Disturbed box set (again, yes, seriously), there’s a cool release from an independent artist that’s well worth your time. The master list just takes a bit of sorting through. Most stores also hold sales, giveaways and other special events on RSD, so there are worthwhile aspects even if you want to avoid the mad rush to grab the exclusives anyway.

As I’ve done for the previous several years, I’ve put together my own list of notable exclusives to be on the lookout for. Your tastes may vary, of course, but here’s what I’m hoping to pick up:

-Animal Collective – Transverse Temporal Gyrus – A 12″ featuring some of the music from the band’s performance art installation at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City last year. I’ll be expecting something in the band’s more experimental vein rather than Merriweather Post Pavillion part 2, but this should be pretty interesting regardless.

-Beach House – Lazuli b/w Equal Mind – A white 7″ featuring a cut from the new Beach House record due out in May (which is, spoiler alert, very good) plus a non-album b-side.

-David Bowie – ‘Starman’ – A 7″ picture disc (I know, I know) with the original ‘Starman’ and a live rendition. This one’s not at the top of my priorities list, but I am somewhat of a Bowie obsessive and will be quite tempted to grab this if I see it.

-Deerhoof/Of Montreal – ‘Stygian X’ / ‘Vivisection’ – Split 7″ from Polyvinyl with two exclusive tracks. I’ve never really gotten into Deerhoof, but new Of Montreal (presumably from the Paralytic Stalks sessions) sounds good.

-Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies – Reissue of Dan Bejar’s finest hour on a set of ruby red LPs. I may not bother with this, since I already own the original pressing, but it’s worth pointing out anyway. Originals are tough to come by and this is absolutely a record worth owning in physical form.

-Leonard Cohen – Live In Fredericton EP – A live recording from Cohen’s 2008 tour. I’m becoming more of a Leonard Cohen fan by the day, and I’m definitely curious to hear how material from his early LPs is interpreted live nowadays.

-Luna – Rendevouz and Romantica – 180 gram issues of two albums from Dean Wareham’s post-Galaxie 500 band, previously unavailable on vinyl and limited to 1,000 copies each. I adore Galaxie 500, but I’ve never delved too far into the Luna catalog. This seems like a perfectly valid opportunity to do so.

-M83 – ‘Mirror’ – A one-sided, etched 7″ featuring a previously unreleased song. How Anthony Gonzales has more music to release after last year’s double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and the massive, ongoing tour to support it is beyond me, but I’m happy for it nonetheless.

-Mastodon/Feist – ‘A Commotion’ / ‘Black Tongue’ – A 7″ on which indie pop singer/songwriter Feist and sludge metal band Mastodon cover one another. Hopefully there’s no need for me to explain why this will be worth hearing.

-Mastodon/The Flaming Lips – ‘A Spoonful Weighs A Ton’ – A pink 7″ featuring the classic Flaming Lips track and a cover by Mastodon. Unfortunately The Flaming Lips do not offer up a Mastodon cover for this one, but it’s cool anyway.

-Mclusky – Mclusky Do Dallas – Reissue of the Welsh noise-rock band’s best LP on 150 gram white vinyl. It’s an insane, energetic, vulgar and darkly hilarious Steve Albini-produced record that’s very difficult to track down on vinyl at the moment. Many reasons to be excited.

-Misfits – Walk Among Us – A possibly pointless reissue of the horror-punk band’s classic album on vinyl of several different, randomly distributed colors. I’ll probably grab this one simply because I don’t own any of the previous reissues already, and because Danzig-era Misfits will never not be awesome.

-Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come – Another reissue of the Swedish post-hardcore band’s game changing final album, this time on red vinyl. Again, kind of unnecessary, but I don’t own any of the previous reissues yet. And the album is brilliant.

-Sigur Ros – Hvarf-Heim – Companion compilation releases by the Icelandic post-rock heroes, on vinyl for the first time. Colored vinyl, no less. This is a Sigur Ros release I’ve never really familiarized myself with, so again, this seems like the proper opportunity.

-St. Vincent – ‘Krokodil’ – 7″ featuring two new, supposedly guitar-heavy tracks. Annie Clark is awesome, and she can shred, so this is an obvious must-have.

-The Electronic Anthology Project of Dinosaur Jr. – Frontman J Mascis and Built to Spill member Brett Nelson reinterpret classic Dinosaur Jr tracks via synthpop. Also, the vinyl is purple. Try and tell me that doesn’t sound at least a little bit fascinating.

-The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips with Heady Fwends – Last but certainly not least is arguably the most headline-grabbing of any RSD release this year. This double LP on psychedelically multi-colored vinyl will feature the Lips collaborating with Ke$ha, Biz Markie, Bon Iver, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Prefuse 73, Tame Impala, Jim James, Nick Cave (!), Lightning Bolt, Yoko Ono, Neon Indian, Erykah Badu, New Fumes and Chris Martin. There are no doubt some odd choices in there, but knowing the Lips this should turn out to be pretty awesome regardless. Besides, the presence of Nick Cave immediately cancels out the potential trainwreck that is the inclusion of Ke$ha.

Show review: Odd Future at House of Blues – 3/21

March 22, 2012 in Show Reviews

I hadn’t exactly planned on seeing Odd Future last night, but when a friend called and asked if we should try to get in at the last minute, the answer was an immediate yes. We arrived at the House of Blues at least a half hour after the group was supposed to take the stage, but of course it would be another hour before the performance actually started. This was a hip hop show, after all.

Even from my less-than-ideal spot on the second balcony, it was immediately evident that this show would be just as chaotic as the massive Odd Future hype-machine had indicated. As the wait dragged on longer and longer past the supposed 8pm start time, the crowd chants shifted from the typical “WOLF/GANG” to a slightly more frustrated “THIS IS/BULLSHIT.” Hodgy eventually appeared to perform a makeshift DJ set, which immediately set off the crowd surfing that various HoB security guards would try in vain to stop for the remainder of the night. A few minutes later, Left Brain materialized to inform the crowd that Tyler was holding everything up, as he had yet to return from Target.

Eventually the rest of the crew (Tyler included) showed up and began running through a setlist spanning from their earliest web releases to the new OF Tape Volume 2. It was as manic and chaotic a performance as we’ve come to expect from the group. Various members were constantly running/jumping/diving across the stage and atop the monitor speakers while the general admission masses moshed, pogoed, crowd surfed and got harassed by security. I spent a good deal of the show wondering whether I was jealous of everyone in the pit or happy to be avoiding the threat of head-kicking and shoe/glasses/shirt loss.

Musically, the show was actually quite impressive. The group’s homemade, lo-fi beats sounded great blasting from the bass-y sound system at the House of Blues, and the rapping was surprisingly on-point. Even more expendable members like Domo Genesis and Mike G delivered solid, competent verses. As on the new record, it seems like the group is avoiding putting the spotlight on Tyler or any other particular member. The performance was a group effort, even on solo songs like ‘Yonkers.’ The on-stage camaraderie gave the whole night a surprisingly positive vibe.

That positive vibe was unfortunately cut short when the show was forcibly ended midway through probable set-closer ‘Radicals.’ Club owners killed the music and Tyler’s microphone as Boston cops gathered at the side of the stage. The mic was turned back on briefly to allow Tyler to explain the situation, which evidently involved non-musical crew member Lionel being arrested outside (or inside, depending on who you ask). I managed to record most of what Tyler had to say, and yes, that is the video featured on Pitchfork (!) and Rolling Stone (!!) this morning. Tyler and the rest of the crew seemed to handle the situation pretty graciously, but it was still an unexpected, weird end to the show. At least I’ve got a story to tell about this one.

A few other scattered observations, because there was plenty of weird and hilarious stuff happening at this show which warrants documentation:

-Even Jasper, arguably the group’s least important or talented member, managed to entertain with his drunken antics. At one point, he made his way up to the second story balcony and attempted to dive into the pit. The crowd and a few crew members managed to prevent him from breaking his neck.

-Number of times an OF member jumped into the crowd: 6

-Number of times that member was Jasper: 4

-Hodgy, to the crowd: “Where all the white people at?”

-Japser, to the crowd: “If you don’t buy a t-shirt, you a bitch.”

-Jasper, again: “I don’t rap. I’m lazy. I don’t do shit. But I got racks.”

-Items thrown onto the stage during the show: t-shirts, jerseys, hats, shoes, stickers, lighters, a bra

Also, here are the previously promised sub-par photos. Had no time to grab a real camera before I left last night.

Living in Boston has its advantages

March 22, 2012 in News

For instance, I can spontaneously decide to go to an Odd Future show at the House of Blues which turns into one my more ridiculous concert experiences. On the short list of memorable moments were the crew being pelted with a barrage of lighters, a drunken Jasper nearly jumping from a second story balcony into the pit, and the show ending early via police intervention. I’ll type up something resembling a real review with some sub-par photography (and video!) later. It’ll be worth the wait.

Ultimate first world problems…

March 21, 2012 in Miscellany

…I buy depressing records and then it’s far too nice outside for me to listen to them. Recently arrived from eBay are: Tom Waits – Rain Dogs, Neil Young – On the Beach, Leonard Cohen – Songs From a Room and Leonard Cohen – Death of a Ladies Man.

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These are all in somewhat sub-par condition, but then again they were also quite cheap. Rain Dogs is also admittedly not very depressing. Waits does sounds great on vinyl though, in spite of the abundance of surface noise on this particular copy.

On the Beach and early Leonard Cohen are an entirely different story on the ‘depressing music’ front. On the Beach is widely regarded as one of Young’s bleakest records, and rightly so. Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs From a Room and the like are the albums you put on when you’re feeling melancholy at 3am. I may or may not have had experience with this last weekend.

Death of a Ladies Man is actually not early Cohen though. It’s his 1977 Phil Spector-produced ‘baroque pop’ record. It’s also the only one of these albums I haven’t heard before. Needless to say, I’m curious.

I’m still gonna go with 3/4 albums as depressing though. Leonard Cohen has a tendency to spread melancholy wherever he goes, Phil Spector or no Phil Spector.

Patrick Stickles loves you

March 19, 2012 in News

No but seriously.

Announced just now via the official Titus Andronicus Twitter was the band’s first official mixtape, featuring their new single and a host of other awesome-sounding live/unreleased recordings. I never realized how badly I wanted to hear Titus cover both ‘El Scorcho’ and ‘Heroin’ until the opportunity to hear such events was presented to me.

More on this tomorrow, perhaps, when I actually listen to it and it’s no longer nearly two o’clock in the morning when I should clearly be sleeping. Also, more new stuff will be on the way this week, which will hopefully be plagued by fewer blackouts and signs of the apocalypse than last.

Show review: Atlas Sound at Paradise Rock Club – 3/8

March 13, 2012 in Show Reviews

The other night, I wrote that I seriously doubted I’d have anything to report from this show that was nearly as exciting as the ‘My Sharona’ incident in Minneapolis. I was actually pretty wrong. Bradford Cox surprised and enthralled in a number of different ways on Thursday night, and played one of the more memorable shows I’ve seen in quite a while.

Cox brought along Atlanta-based rockers Carnivores and one-man electronic act White Rainbow to open the evening. Carnivores played an upbeat and energetic set of psych-influenced garage rock tunes, with lead vocals alternating between keyboardist Caitlin Lang, bassist Philip Frobos and lead guitarist Nathaniel Higgins. The songs were seriously catchy, and the guitar solos got physically violent. It was one of those rare opening sets that’s engaging enough to make you forget that you had no idea who this band was twenty minutes ago. A great way to kick off the night, and a band that’s absolutely worth checking out.

I’ll take this opportunity to express my geeky admiration for this band’s gear as well. Higgins kept a Fender Blender on his pedal board (my personal choice for a fuzz box), and played a neat, vintage looking Stratocaster knockoff. Additional props for having a theremin on stage and actually making the thing sound pretty awesome.

Following Carnivores, I suppose I was expecting another garage-y indie rock band. Instead, there was White Rainbow. White Rainbow, aka multi-instrumentalist Adam Forkner of Portland, spent his set manipulating an enviable table of mixers, keyboards, pedals and other musical gadgets. The music started off in ambient territory, but quickly evolved into a beat-driven sound featuring improvised keyboard solos and Forkner’s sampling and looping of his own vocals. The songs segued effortlessly into one another, and only once did Forkner pause to address the audience, remarking on his choice to wear sunglasses in the dark and on the fact that most of us didn’t look like frequenters of the club scene. The crowd didn’t quite know what to make of White Rainbow at first, but he definitely had most of us dancing by the end.

Around 10:45, Bradford Cox finally took the stage and opened the Atlas Sound set with a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Tonight’s the Night.’ Forkner briefly joined him on bass, and Cox remarked, “We might revisit that one later.” From there, the setlist focused heavily on songs from Parallax, the latest Atlas Sound LP. Cox’s tendency toward extending and improvising on his own songs was readily evident, especially with this new material. Older cuts from Logos were gorgeous but concise, while many of the Parallax songs stretched to double or triple their original length. Each one was gradually constructed from a series of expertly sequenced loops. Cox would begin most songs with chords or a melody on acoustic guitar, then add and subtract multiple layers of percussion, bass and electric guitar to create massive soundscapes.

It was an incredibly impressive one-man show on a technical level, but transcended mere ‘loop-jamming’ to create beautiful and organic-feeling songs. Cox’s voice assisted greatly with that. On Parallax, the vocals can feel a bit distant in the heavy layers of reverb. In a live setting, they felt more front and center, and the songs benefited from it. Lyrically, this material feels the most personal of any Atlas Sound or Deerhunter record, and Cox’s ruminations on relationships, fame and disillusionment are words worth hearing.

In a general sense I think the Parallax songs were improved by a live treatment. I wasn’t totally sold on the LP when it was released last year, but I’ve found myself eager to return to it after this show. Songs like ‘Te Amo’ and ‘Terra Incognita’ benefited from the expansive scope of their live incarnations. Melodies and words felt grander and truer, and what lay at the heart of the songs felt easier to appreciate. Other highlights included a slower, more contemplative take on Logos’ Noah Lennox collaboration ‘Walkabout,’ as well as a drastically reworked ‘My Angel Is Broken,’ featuring a few Neil Young lines tossed in for good measure.

Neil was a recurring theme throughout the night. Bradford did indeed return to ‘Tonight’s the Night’ for his penultimate song, mirroring the track’s reprise on its eponymous record. Cox eschewed more Atlas Sound material entirely for his encore and launched into the song once again. This eventually evolved into a large-scale jam session featuring all members of Carnivores and White Rainbow (resuming his spot on bass) which lasted upwards of thirty joyous minutes. There were multiple breakdowns and buildups, and at one point Cox (now sticking exclusively to his electric) was playing one of the signature riffs from Television’s ‘Marquee Moon.’ The whole thing then briefly morphed into The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog,’ before veering back into Neil Young territory. All of this was entirely unexpected and an absolute blast to watch. Boston was the final stop on this tour, and Bradford and company were clearly eager to make the most of their last night on stage together. The evening eventually came to a close with Bradford imploring the audience to shout/chant “TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT” as loudly as possible, which we continued to do as everyone left the stage and Neil’s studio version faded in over the house speakers (props to the Paradise sound guy for syncing the chorus up with us).

It was nearly 1 am by the time I walked outside into a gorgeous Boston night. The trains had stopped running and I was left to walk back to my dorm for the night, which had luckily remained opened over spring break. None of this bothered me. I left the show buzzing with the atmosphere of a legitimately exciting, spontaneous and flat-out fun performance. As on the evening of the already-infamous ‘My Sharona’ episode, we got the full set of ‘sincere white people music,’ as well as an extra something special. There was a rare communal air about the whole thing. The guy next to me was as pumped about that ‘Marquee Moon’ fragment as I was, and the whole room was participating in the shout-along by the end. Such a phenomenally good night on so many levels.

And now, pictures. A slight improvement on the photography for Twilight Sad, yes? I’ll learn to operate a camera properly one of these days.