Filed under "Music"
I went to my first concert in 1996. Alanis Morissette. South Park Meadows. Austin, Texas. It’s a shopping center now.
Anyways, it was kind of a revelation. After I regained my hearing 2 days later, it became something I’d continue to pursue to one extent or another. Since that summer in 1996, I’ve been to at least 37 proper shows. That shakes out to a modest 1.3 shows a year, but this year has seen me pick up the pace significantly.
Some of it has to do with what music is giving me right now, and a rediscovery of what live music—especially smaller shows—can do for my spirits. Some of it has to do with having such things taken away during the lockdown period of the pandemic, and internalizing the harsh truth that everything can change overnight. Some of it has to do with getting older, and wanting to hold dear what makes me happy as the finish line becomes less and less distant.
WELL THAT WAS FUN.
I didn’t go into this show with a lot of expectations, but one of the few was that it might sound a bit too thin; HANABIE. make highly-produced music, and it’s always a gamble to take that to a stage where a backing track might make everything sound more full, but kind of tank the authenticity of the show. Still, come what may, I was pretty excited to see them play.
I’m not sure what could have been left wanting from my first proper metal show. The crowd was hyped. The band came on stage waving a Texas flag, which—you guessed it—amped up the room even more. Yukina declared “you dance!” and parted the crowd with a gesture like a metal Moses to make space for a pit. “How can she make her voice sound like that?” asked my wife. No idea. It’s something else. Chika was an absolute animal on the drums; Hettsu’s hair achieved main character status (iykyk); Matsuri’s riffs chugged hard. They played a bunch of songs from the new album plus “We love sweets” and one from their first EP (“Envy”, maybe?). “お先に失礼します (Pardon Me, I Have To Go Now)” tore it up. Yukina crowd surfed. They could not be more entertaining.
I went to see Blushing play in Denton again last night. I really like Andy’s. This is the same venue where I saw them for the first time back in March. I don’t know if it’s the narrow, shotgun shape of the venue, the PA, the sound guy, or something else, but the sound was once again dialed in really good.
Blushing was great, as usual. This was the last stop on their tour, and they seemed to be in good spirits and having a lot of fun. Just like last time, attendance was pretty spare, with maybe 20-30 people throughout the night, including the bands. It didn’t matter, though; the small crowd meant it was all people who really wanted to be there.
The revelation of the night was Unwed Sailor. Holy crap. I listened to all of the bands’ recent material before going, and Unwed Sailor’s Mute the Charm was a really enjoyable listen; all instrumental tracks hopscotching a space between shoegaze, post-rock, and 80’s alternative. I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy the hell out of their set, but I was not prepared for how true that would be. They played about six songs with minimal stage banter, a projector painting the stage with abstract, trippy footage. Good artists know how to maximize the physicality of live music to their advantage, and this band killed it. The vibe was real. Band leader Johnathon Ford plays bass, and the songs grooved so hard. When they played “London Fog” about halfway through the set, the feeling was so sublime I thought I was going to cry. I mean… what? Took me by surprise. It was so beautiful.
I’ve been sharing my favorite shoegaze songs pretty consistently over on my Mastodon account under the
#ShoegazeSaturday tag, but this is exactly the kind of stuff I’d rather not isolate in a social media account. Bad habits are hard to break!
Who knows how long I’ll keep this up, but as long as I keep sharing over there, I’ll keep sharing over here.
she’s green – “Purple”
Minneapolis band she’s green makes songs inspired by the natural world. “Moss rock”, they jokingly call it. Their EP, Wisteria, is lovely. “Purple” is my favorite track full of all my favorite things: breathy vocals, thick rhythm section, textured guitar, and soaring keys.
I’m not one to celebrate my birthday, but something about the past year has made me feel differently. Do I want anyone to throw me a birthday bash? Lol no. But take me to a rock show? Absolutely.
I’d already seen Blushing play back in March, and was super impressed; so much so that I bought tickets to this show even though they were the opening act, and I wasn’t all that interested in sticking around to watch the headliner. I really enjoyed it, though this was my second time at Dada, and I’ve noticed it doesn’t have the greatest sound. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a hole-in-the-wall bar made of bricks and concrete, top to bottom?
Anyways, Blushing played as tight as ever but sometimes it was hard to hear the detail that had blown me away the first time I saw them. They kicked off the set with “Surround”, which may be my favorite song of theirs, starting out slow and gentle, a frenetic drum fill then uncorking the syrupy second half of the song. Closer “So Many” took on a new, more energetic life featuring the band’s signature bassist-and-guitarist-kneeling-on-the-ground power move.
Bittersweet. It’s a common word, but one that’s somehow escaped me as I’ve considered my emotional disposition. I like it, though; it acknowledges a complexity beyond the happy/sad binary we all seem to be conditioned to inhabit. Are you happy or sad right now? Can you be both? To me, feelings are more like overlapping layers, or crumpled paper, than a spectrum; all sorts of different surfaces end up touching each other. Maybe you can relate.
I stumbled into Susan Cain’s book, Bittersweet, by way of Brené Brown’s podcast while on a recent road trip. Almost immediately, I felt understood. In particular, I related to Susan’s story of being captivated and moved by the melancholic music of Leonard Cohen, and the enduring self-inspection that came from being low-key judged by her friends for enjoying “funeral tunes”. American culture, she goes on to explain, has an intractable sanguine (happy) and choleric (aggressive) culture, where nothing but positivity and grit are acceptable. That’s slowly changing, but it took a massively disruptive pandemic to make the smallest crack in our collective armor.
Cain describes bittersweetness as a “melancholic direction […], a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of the passing of time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world” and “the recognition that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired.” 1
This was my first time going to Sundown at Granada. It’s a small venue right next to the Granada Theater, which I’d been to a number of times over the years. Sundown is primarily a bar & restaurant connected to a fairly small room with a stage. It was well-attended but not uncomfortably crowded, which is just my speed.
Opening act Pound was something else, y’all. No vocals, just a drummer and a Duck Dynasty-lookin’ dude on guitar making shredded, polyrhythmic grindsludge. Not really my thing, but they were undeniably good, especially the drummer, who swiveled between two kits throughout their set. The guitarist was wireless, and he roamed the venue a couple times, getting up in people’s faces and even going out into the restaurant area to serenade the patrons, who I’m sure had no idea what the hell was happening. It was pretty hilarious.
There’s absolutely no question about it: COVID is the worst, and the world would have been so much better off without its death & disruption. If one were to look for some semblance of a silver lining, though, one candidate may be the effect it had on music. The state of the world during the pandemic years—and lockdowns in particular—gave birth to new projects, prompted exploration, and amplified the pursuit of emotional expression. It’s a bittersweet gift.
I came across PONY via Softcult. The bands are besties: in addition to playing shows together, PONY vocalist Sam Bielanski stars in Softcult’s music video for “Dress”. But despite their connection to my favorite band, PONY’s songs just didn’t really elicit a second listen. To me, they sounded kind of one-dimensional.
That’s changed with Velveteen. Even as quarantine powered a shift in the band’s songwriting, an extended bout of insomnia brought out more thoughtful, existential lyrical content. But it’s the nostalgic sound of the record that does it for me: PONY’s revamped flavor of alt rock is big and varied and bright, leaning into tones that any 90s aficionado’s brain will easily bundle with the likes of Letters to Cleo, Matthew Sweet, or the more pop side of Veruca Salt. Their track-by-track breakdown reveals a respectable set of diverse influences as well: The Cure, The Smiths, Third Eye Blind, Hole, The Beatles, and more.
East & Southeast Asian artists have been increasingly popping up on my radar this year. From everything I can tell, there’s a vibrant, burgeoning music scene in these areas that is going largely unnoticed by western listeners, and that’s a real shame because there are a lot of fresh perspectives to enjoy. It’s a real treat to be a music lover in a time when there’s so much opportunity for new discoveries from the other side of the world.
I discovered Motifs (typically styled as all-lowercase “motifs”) via a YouTube recommendation. They’re a shoegaze/dreampop band from Singapore, and their debut album remember a stranger came out in the fall of 2022. It’s an impressive debut. Though the music feels like it neatly slots into a languid, familiar style, the band brings a couple secret weapons to the recording.
I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, this would have been on it.
I really enjoy live shows. It’s something I used to actively seek out, but that’s slowly declined as the years have passed. Some of that is natural; at a certain age, the thought of driving a significant distance, finding parking, dealing with a crowd, and standing for hours became unattractive. A lull in my own excitement about music also probably had a lot to do with it. But the past couple of years have connected me with music again, and I’m happily going to more shows than ever.
In the days leading up to this night, I could imagine this show within the confines of what I knew—the songs, the faces of the band, and the large crowd I imagined would be there, singing along. But, like anything that hasn’t been experienced, imagination has its limits, and surprise is (delightfully) inevitable.
“Why do I like this?”
It’s a good question to ask yourself about anything, and the one I want to answer most when writing about any of my musical fascinations. I’m not interested in making music reviews, though that trap is all too easy to fall into. It’s more interesting to push to the center of that core question, because what’s there is inevitably personal, and—if I’m lucky—revelatory. The challenge is part of the fun; it’s often difficult to pin down or articulate the answer, or it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable. Introspection isn’t easy.
I wrote about Softcult soon after discovering them in 2021, and answered this question to the best of my ability at the time. Yes, the spirit of the 90’s is alive in the music, and for someone of my *cough* age, that’s naturally appealing; on a purely musical level, it’s incredible. Yes, I very much appreciate the focused, anthemic quality of the songs and the way that they seek to take a very specific thought, pull the thread, and weave something greater. And, yes, I really like the overall aesthetic, attitude, and sincerity of this band. It could end there, and that would be fine. Sometimes music doesn’t travel any deeper.
But what about this music? Is there more left unsaid? The passage of time and the band’s continued, steady output has given me repeated opportunities to think about the question, and—yeah—there’s definitely more to say.
I’m going to be thinking about this night for quite a while.
I suppose I have SXSW to thank for this show; the band was invited to play a number of showcases last week, and made the prospect of this one additional Texas show a reality as the tour heads back toward Canada for its finale.
“The Soft Tour”—as the two bands are calling it—was unsurprisingly amazing. I’ve been following Soft Blue Shimmer ever since they shared an opening act slot with Softcult on last year’s tour supporting Teenage Wrist. They played a really good set, including my favorite song of theirs, “Sunpools”. I absolutely love their sound. 💜
Softcult didn’t disappoint, either. I never get tired of hearing familiar tracks rip in a live setting, turning them into a different animal altogether. I was hoping to hear “Love Song”, but it didn’t materialize. That’s okay; the setlist was thankfully quite long, and perennial favorites “Gloomy Girl” and “House Of Mirrors”—my first brushes with the band—came in hot and left no desire unfulfilled. The outro to “Someone2Me” was a freakin’ flamethrower, and we got to hear “Uzumaki” with the poem intro.
I went to see Blushing play in Denton this weekend. I’d casually listened to their catalog for a little over a year, especially their latest album, Possessions. It’s a really nice collection of tunes that leans into the more angular flavor of shoegaze and sounds a lot like a Lush/Cocteau Twins supergroup. They even managed to get guest vocals from Lush’s Miki Berenyi on the song “Blame”, which is pretty damn cool for a relatively small Texas band.
The show was really great. Some bands have a hard time translating tightly-produced studio tracks to a live setting, but Blushing killed it. I thought they sounded better live, to be honest. I’m not sure what their songwriting process is like, but I imagine they must work the songs out in pretty good detail live before recording. If not, they do a great job of working out the live versions. Either way, they sounded amazing and I’m a big fan now. I would definitely see them play again.
You’ve done it again, Discover Weekly.
I get a lot of joy out of seeing kids pick up instruments and make a bunch of noise. The world can be pretty crappy, and it makes me feel a little bit better to see the youths getting on a stage, playing songs they wrote, and have fun doing it. Good, scrappy, DIY fun.
kurayamisaka is a relatively new five-piece alternative rock band out of Japan. kimi wo omotte iru (I’m thinking of you) is their first release, a 20-minute mini-concept album about two best friends reckoning with the separation brought on by going away to school.1 It seemed like there would always be time, that this moment was always far away, and yet here it is. It’s interesting to think about that, because the music is a noisy, distorted affair; with few exceptions, these songs are built with walls of guitar, making this parting of ways feel more tense than tender.
Opening track “theme” is only 58 seconds long, but what a way to start an album. The music is dramatic, heavy, and varied, planting its feet as firmly in 90s alternative rock as that classic, jangly J-rock sound. I’m partial to “cinema paradiso” and “curtain call”, both soaked in shoegaze pedals and walloping drums.
If ever there was a testament to giving an album a second chance, this is it.
I clearly remember finishing this record and thinking “Well, that was… meh,” but I can’t tell you why. My best guess is that I broke my own rule. Yeah, I have a rule, and it’s this: never listen to new music while deep in work. I made the rule for exactly this reason. If I don’t pay the requisite attention, it’s all too easy to glaze over greatness.
And there’s greatness on this, the band’s 5th and—by my estimation—best album. If you were going to listen to one, this is it. Huge Bummer Alert: right after releasing Hotel Insomnia, they announced that they’re disbanding. At least they’re going out on top. 😭
Like of lot of the best shoegaze acts, For Tracy Hyde mix it up with other influences, though on this album they sound as close to “classic” shoegaze than ever. It’s notable that Ride’s Mark Gardener mastered this record; that could account for the overall tone, for sure. It certainly sounds amazing—layered, full, and punchy. It could also just be an inevitability. Azusa Suga is the band’s primary songwriter, and The Internet credits him with writing songs for other very shoegazey acts like AprilBlue, dots, and RAY. If recent, that marinade could explain this more concentrated direction.
Recently, on a whim, I decided to listen to Yuragi’s 2018 EP Still Dreaming, Still Deafening while lying down with the lights off. It’s something I used to do quite a bit when I was younger, but haven’t done on the regular for a very long time. I discovered the band—and this EP—about a year ago and have come back to it many time since. It was always enjoyable, but nothing I heard would have prompted me to write about the band. Satisfying, but not amazing is how I would have described the music.
I was surprised at how dramatically the change in listening attitude altered my enjoyment of the music. Encouraged, I tried the same approach with For you, Adroit it but soft, the band’s oddly-named 2021 album. Again, I heard the music in a way that I hadn’t before.
Whew. That was a hell of a year.
The struggles that emerged at the tail end of my 2021 bled well into 2022, but things slowly improved over the year. Yay! And as my increased writing output might suggest, music has been my primary coping and—let’s be honest—escape mechanism, and spinning my little musical cocoon took my listening time & volume to ridiculous all-time highs that I don’t ever expect to surpass.
I also don’t expect to ever top the explosion of discovery I experienced at the tail end of 2021, but I continued seeking out new music and found quite a bit to get excited about. As the vibes will testify, I got super back into shoegaze—specifically the Japanese variety—but shoegaze also seems to be making somewhat of a comeback as a component of many bands’ sound. I’m here for it.
Music is good therapy; not a solution in and of itself, but a comfort all the same. To that end, I made it a point to be more mindful of personally fulfilling endeavors last year, and listening to music definitely qualifies. I became a more intentional listener, making it the activity rather than something that happens barely noticed behind other tasks. I realized that laying in the dark with nothing to do but listen was something that I hadn’t done regularly for many years, and it is satisfying.
I hope your musical year was fulfilling as well. If not, perhaps there’s something here that could kick off a new era of discovery. Shall we?
Fin del Mundo (End of the World) are a post-rock/shoegaze band hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, though some of the members grew up near Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost edge of the continent. That’s partially what the band’s name refers to; not an apocalyptic end of the world, but the end of a geographic as well as a familiar one (pre-rampant fascism, pre-rampant xenophobia, pre-pandemic, etc). It’s an important distinction, not only because the band’s music doesn’t sound apocalyptic at all, but also because it doesn’t fully dwell on the loss of the past.
As the band explains it:
“It’s kind of like now we’ve left behind the “old world” and now we have the new one. We talked about this the other day. That’s how it seems. And sometimes, I mean, it’s kind of scary. And a lot of people are wondering if things are going to go back to the way they were before. And a lot of people say that no. So I think that yeah, as Lu said, we’re at the end of a time.”1
Musically, Fin del Mundo sound like a perfect blend of post-rock, shoegaze, and dream pop with a slice of indie sharpness. It’s plucky, gorgeous, swirling, and delightfully thick. Most of the songs from their two-EP deep catalog lean toward the instrumental and feature long, sweeping intros and sparse lyrics. Like post-rock, there’s no reliable semblance of the standard verse/chorus songs structure. Instead, the lyrics simply occupy a progression in the arrangement.
These days, there isn’t a much more satisfying feeling than falling ass-backwards into music that immediately ticks so many boxes that it becomes an instant obsession, destined to enter the regular rotation. I’m not sure what rock I’ve been living under, but it’s now vacant and I will not be subletting it. Alvvays is one of those bands that I know I’d heard of, but hadn’t heard. Now that I’ve had some time to catch up, I can say with confidence that I’ve been missing out in a big way.
All three of Alvvays’ albums are great, but I’m kind of obsessed with the sound of this latest one. I’ve read in a couple interviews that producer Shawn Everett “had the band play the album twice through, live off the studio floor, and then spent the rest of the recording process meticulously fucking up the recordings.”1
He decided to run the tracks through a finicky tape machine that was technically broken, but produced a sound he liked. “Every time I’d print a mix it would sound slightly different—it was an excruciating process,” he says. “But I always try to have one chaotic aspect that is outside my control, so I’m not just working into my own thoughts.”2
I’m sorry, what? That’s a pretty unorthodox approach to a studio album—definitely an aesthetic that a lot of bands don’t go for these days—and it’s exciting. Blue Rev sounds like an analog photograph looks: beautifully grainy, broadly contrasting & dynamic, and purposefully hand-made.
Add to that a level of songwriting that you don’t hear much anymore, and Blue Rev is easily going to end up on scads of top ten lists for this year despite entering the game late in the season. Vocalist & guitarist Molly Rankin’s gorgeous melodies and bittersweet lyrics paired with guitarist Alec O’Hanley’s wide palette of tones is this fall’s most prolific earworm farm, harvesting hook after unforgettable hook. I was almost instantly reminded of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, only learning later that they toured together in the past. Of course they did. That shared vocabulary—churning shoegaze, twee toe-tappers, punk attitude, leveling-up key changes, and searing guitar solos—keep me coming back again and again. And again.
- Alex Hudson, Alvvays Are Unpredictable, Harsh and Better Than Ever on ‘Blue Rev’, Explain!
- Carly Lewis, Alvvays Enter Their Epiphany Era, Pitchfork
So I was watching the end credits of a recent episode of The Umbrella Academy and happened to catch the name of its creator. Gerard Way? How do I know that name? A quick Google search later, and I remember: It’s that guy from My Chemical Romance, a band I’d never listened to but somehow still knew its vocalist’s name. Brains are weird.
Some people are lucky to be open minded from an early age, but that’s a quality I’ve had to cultivate (thanks, mildly intolerant upbringing!). I definitely ignored My Chemical Romance back in their early-2000s heyday. The high-key theatrics, scene-kid hairdos, gothic marching band uniforms, and druggy-sounding band name were a very hard pass for me. But now? Why not give them a chance?
I picked The Black Parade because it’s widely regarded as the band’s best and most popular album. I’ve enjoyed watching The Umbrella Academy, so I’m not sure why I expected anything less, but The Black Parade is surprisingly good! I can see why many people point to this as one of the most epic and important albums of their lives. It’s huge, theatrical, and deeply emotional, and the music is a lot more diverse and creative than the whatever-that-means “emo” label would suggest. I also didn’t expect it to rock this hard. There are elements of punk, hard rock, alternative, and classic rock, and and the influence of Queen—specifically—is readily apparent in many songs.
I started listening to my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify last year. Some weeks feel like a hard slog, and it’s probably never going to give me back to back bangers, but I’ve discovered some real gems along the way.
FRITZ is one of those happy discoveries. It’s the “dreamy noise-pop” project of Newcastle, Australia’s Tilly Murphy. I love albums that make you feel like you’re inside this self-contained diorama, a small world that someone else has constructed to show you around their life. Pastel is a wonderfully noisy, shoegazey, soft-grunge bubble, filled with songs about growing up, friendships, hopes, dreams, and the trials of being a teenager. It’s sweet and sentimental and nostalgic and gorgeous, and bursting with the best 80s and 90s vibes.
“Jan 1” is the closing track and my favorite on Pastel. It sounds like a list of hopeful New Years’ resolutions dipped in teenage melancholy and splashed across layers of droning guitars. It’s like, “I have some lofty goals, but I know who I am and it probably won’t go that well, and that’s okay as long as it’s a bit better than last year.”
I feel you, FRITZ.
A week ago, I was ready to write off Pale Waves for good. Now I’m not so sure.
I fell in love hard with what I’ll call Pale Waves’ “pre-pandemic era”—an EP and album full of lush, shimmering, Cure-adjacent gloom-pop—so following the band’s self-described “pop punk” transformation has been a ride, y’all.
It’s fair for anyone who’s significantly invested in a band to be cautious when it goes in a new direction. Even though last year’s Who Am I? had its moments, and I could understand what was driving the genre shift, most of that music wasn’t doing much for me. So, I thought that was it. I was just going to be thankful for the older music and peace out.
At the same time, I think Pale Waves generally write good pop songs, so a sliver of curiosity remained about what they were doing next. As the singles dropped ahead of Unwanted’s release, I couldn’t resist just taking a casual peek at each one to hear what the new stuff was gonna sound like. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it, though.
It’s Halloween night, and the Paramount Theatre in Seattle is packed to the rafters with roughly 2,800 people. The show’s original headliner, Mudhoney, has been replaced by the opening act: a band named Nirvana. It’s only been a month since their album, Nevermind, was released, but it’s exploded across radio and MTV thanks to the runaway success of the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Ready or not, Nirvana is on an unstoppable trajectory to worldwide fame.
These days, Nirvana are pretty much universally recognized as A Very Big Deal. They’re one of the most influential bands of the last 50 years. Perhaps the most influential. Still, 1991 was a long time ago, and feelings fade. I have my own memory of watching “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time on MTV, and I still feel excited when I watch that video, but I also know that—more than 30 years in my rearview mirror—it’ll never feel quite the same again.
Watching this show is the closest I’ve come to recapturing that sense of jaw-dropping awe. Though the performance is perpetually invaded by the on-screen presence of a six-man camera crew, their work puts you right on stage, and you get a very clear view of why this band was causing such a ruckus. I struggle to think of a more visceral, physical rock performance. Sweet fancy Moses. Dave Grohl is mostly a blur of thrashing hair. Krist Novoselic hops around the stage, barefoot, muttering nonsense jokes into the mic between songs. And Kurt is, well, Kurt: singing & playing like his soul is trying to escape his body. It’s amazing to witness the wonderful noise that a modest drum kit, a bass, one guitar, and two pedals duct taped to the floor can make. What a gift.
If I had a time machine…
Regal Lily is a 3-piece indie pop-rock band out of Tokyo. They’ve been around since 2014 and have put out 3 EPs and 2 LPs. I’ve listened to all of them, but primarily keep coming back to their latest 2 LPs, 2020’s bedtime story and 2021’s Cとし生けるもの (Google Translate says this means “C and living things” 🤷).
I discovered them through their music video for “GOLD TRAIN” on YouTube, which is probably one of the most amazing shoegaze/noise pop songs I’ve ever heard. It’s at the top of my 50 favorite songs right now, and I don’t think it’s going to trend down the list anytime soon. Utterly brilliant. It’s one of those “this speaks to my soul” songs.
The band’s sound has evolved over the years, starting with very jangly indie pop on those early EPs and becoming progressively heavier. Their latest album is full of classically fuzzed-out guitar and bashing drums pushed up against Honoka Takahashi’s breathy, childlike vocals. She still has trouble hitting some of her high notes, which gives many songs a twist of raw youthfulness and puts a delightful contrast on the heavier moments. They’ve got a real gift for melody, and have just gotten better and better with time. Their music never ceases to put me in a better mood.
2015’s Somehow Hear Songs is the debut EP from Tokyo band Cattle. This whole thing is vibrating with the buzzsaw guitar, copious feedback, and swirling ambience that are immediately reminiscent of shoegaze legends like My Bloody Valentine and Ringo Deathstarr. And that’s okay—I don’t mind a good imitation band, especially if they really understand what makes their influences great.
All six songs are unskippable, crushing and soothing at every turn, but the two closing track are my favorites. “Blue Star” couches pretty vocals in impregnable wall-of-sound guitars; “Birth” soars with untold layers of twinkling and droning guitars. Shoegaze at its finest.
Last year, I stumbled across BAND-MAID, a Japanese rock band. It was another breath of fresh air into the sails of my unfurling musical renaissance, and I really enjoyed watching their live performance videos. I listened to some of their albums, but nothing really grabbed onto me as tightly as those few videos.
Intrigued, I’ve kept poking around YouTube for more Japanese bands, and found quite a few that I’ll probably write about. One of those is Regal Lily, whose song GOLD TRAIN totally blew me away. Their musical style matches up more with what I listen to on the regular, and my incessant playback of that music video tuned the algorithm to other artists that slot into my particular indie pop/rock, shoegaze, & post-rock tastes.
Consequently, I recently discovered slow down, and it’s a really great record. It’s the solo project of Sagane Hiromi, who is also the bass player for venerated math-rock band Tricot. Under the moniker Fennel, Hiromi makes catchy indie rock reminiscent of early 90s college rock bands like The Lemonheads, Blake Babies, and Letters to Cleo.
I was 16 when I discovered The Cure.
The church dances I felt obligated to attend as a teenager were torturous. Though I am still plenty introverted as an adult, I was positively reclusive as a teen. There were girls there, and I did like music, so maybe I was more enticed than obligated. At any rate, I wanted to enjoy going to these things, but really didn’t. All I felt was a mountain of anxiety, sitting at the back of the darkest half of the gymnasium. Alone, I listened.
The music was usually the same uninspired Top 40 fare every time. Not all bad, but spotty. This night, though, was different. The kids never got to control the equipment, but we could make requests. I’m not sure if it was the DJ’s choices or someone whispering in their ear, but they started playing music I’d never heard before. It sounded sophisticated and exciting and slightly weird, and it really spoke to me. One song in particular came on with the final words “just like heaven”, and it really made an impression on me. The sound of the guitar, the pretty tune, the unusual voice, the painterly lyrics—what poetry was this? Who was this? Above the music, I heard some kids nearby talk about “the cure”. I repeated it to myself so I wouldn’t forget.
Rolo Tomassi is a band that’s difficult to describe. Their sound has been ever-evolving—starting out as chaotic, experimental, genre-blending post-hardcore—but continually focusing into something uniquely their own.
For the past 7 years, the band has been exploring the tension between tenderness and brutality with a self-described “unintentional trilogy” of albums. The first—2015’s Greivances—mostly thrashes with aggression. 2018’s Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It brightened with the increased juxtaposition of harshness and softness, and now—on this year’s Where Myth Becomes Memory—the contrast is at its highest. Whereas songs from the previous two albums would mix brutal and clean sounds into the same song to great effect, Where Myth Becomes Memory reaches further, more deliberately pushing each end of the spectrum—especially the softness—to stand even more on their own, all while pulling threads of each across the middle ground.
I’ve recently started buying music again.
Even with all the personal audio and video tools available these days, it’s still strangely easy to equate slick production and visuals with runaway success. That cool new album I just streamed a hundred times, and can’t get enough of? It may have been recorded in a makeshift blanket fort in the keyboard player’s rented flat because that’s all they can afford, and that’s who lives far enough away from trains and traffic to record in peace. That amazing music video I’m watching on repeat? It may have been recorded on the drummer’s iPhone because he had the most available space to store the footage, and the reason it looks so good is because another band member’s day job is editing video.
Last year was uneven in so many ways. You would think that being on lockdown for much of the last two years would have resulted in more music consumption than usual, but it turns out I was on track to listen to less music during this pandemic than at any other time over the last 17 years (that’s how long I’ve been tracking my listening activity with Last.fm). I’d blame the unprecedented onslaught of Zoom meetings, but my listening time had already been in slow decline for years; lockdown just accelerated the trend. I also escaped into gaming a whole lot in 2020, and a bit into 2021. So, it was really only in the last three months of 2021 that the floodgates opened back up, and I started listening to music again with mucho gusto.
Hang on to your wigs and keys.
HANABIE. is a four-piece metal band out of Tokyo. They initially formed as a high school music club and have kept kicking around for about 6 years since then, as best as I can tell.
I’m not into many metal bands, though I do listen to some artists—like Rolo Tomassi—that mix metal with other styles to give it a more varied, melodic, (occasional) pop sound. I have a love/hate relationship with genres already, and in this case I’m fully out of my depth in describing the genres that this band draws from. So, borrowing from descriptions written by others: HANABIE. play a mix of metalcore, death metal, and nu-metal with kawaii, rap, and pop stylings. Hope that helps. 🤷
“We love sweets”—specifically, the song’s music video—was my introduction to this band, and it’s one of those things that is so delightfully surprising and different that I didn’t know quite what to think after watching it, except that I totally loved it. I’m not alone; I’ve watched dozens of others’ reaction videos to the song, and the consensus is the same: that was amazing, but what just happened? It’s an incredibly tight, roaring, teeth-rattling, kawaii death-metal shredder with a surfeit of machine-gun double-kick drums than must somehow violate The Geneva Convention. This song is unconventional, shifting structures and bucking expectations as it goes along—“Bohemian Rhapsody” style—yet it remains cohesive. It’s total brain candy, and keeps me coming back again and again—a legit headbanger that is also catchy as hell.
True to my penchant for surprise and juxtaposition, part of the appeal here is the contrast between the harshness of the music and the humorous, cutesy appearance of the band. You will not believe that a petite Japanese woman could make her voice sound like that. It’s bananas. But when the novelty wears off, this band still has the chops to transcend the spectacle. The whole Girl’s Reform Manifest album is really solid, front to back—30 minutes and 57 seconds of legit face-melters.
(Sorry for any neck injuries or dental surgery that may result from watching this video.)
I’ve been sitting on this article for a while now, thinking I wasn’t going to publish anything else about this band, especially after gushing like a teenager about their first album. But here we are.
Honestly, there was no chance that this album was going to stack up to the first (2018’s My Mind Makes Noises). Even so, I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of disappointment about the band’s total departure from the 80s-inspired sound of their EP and debut album. Shifting influences from the likes of The Cure and The Primitives to pop-punk and early 2000s singer/songwriters like Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch is radical, to say the least. This sounds nothing like My Mind Makes Noises, and that’s a huge bummer.
On the other hand, I generally like artists that refuse to put out the same album year after year. People change, and their music will reflect that. The days of placing an artist into one easily-definable box for their entire career is long over, and time inevitably changes us whether we like it or not. Pivots are unavoidable. The truth is, Who Am I? has some good songs, and even some that manage to escape the overt Avril homage.
This is a big change. But that’s what this album is all about.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve clicked a music video on YouTube, only to discover that it was fan-made, and usually poorly made, but with a deceptively good thumbnail image. It’ll usually be just a photo with music playing underneath, or clips from other music videos spliced together.
For some reason, I’ve only recently stumbled into the world of cinematic fan-made videos, each taking scenes from a single film (or serial episode) and putting them together in a way that compliments the music. It makes sense; songs that appear on a movie soundtrack have been doing this for a while. The best of these videos are a real labor of love, filling a void in the absence of the original artist’s vision. Finding the right visual match for the song takes sensitivity and broad exposure to varied source material.
This video is a great example of a well-executed fan-made cinematic music video. It takes scenes from the film Columbus to make an unofficial video for “Apocalypse” by Cigarettes After Sex. It’s a song partially about someone being stuck in a place they don’t really want to be, and that’s also a primary theme in Columbus. It’s a great song, a great film, and a truly inspired pairing.
(Columbus, incidentally, is a beautiful movie. After watching this music video, I had to see it, and it turned out to be a really touching and nuanced story. And—as you can see—it’s full of captivating cinematography. Highly recommended.)
A few more videos in this style that I’ve really enjoyed:
- Pale Waves – “Red” by John McAleese
- Bahamas – “All I’ve Ever Known” by i’m cyborg but that’s okay
- The Midnight – “Sunset” by Retrowave Cinema
Content warnings: Abuse, harassment, misogyny, mental health, some strong language.
Wow. What a sound.
Softcult is sisters Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn. They’ve been self-recording, producing, and releasing songs consistently throughout this past year, packaging up five of them into April’s Year Of The Rat EP and releasing three more since then, no doubt in anticipation of next year’s scheduled EP, Year Of The Snake.
I was instantly hooked by this band’s time-warping brew of 90s shoegaze, alt-rock, and grunge. Their current 8-song catalog is a highly satisfying callback if you’re old, like me, and a solid revival for the youths, borrowing from the likes of Veruca Salt, Lush, Nirvana, and Slowdive to create a beautifully fuzzed-out DIY aesthetic.
Interestingly enough, these stylistic choices are partially a result of the sisters’ vocal limitations. They regularly talk about Bikini Kill as a primary inspiration, and originally planned to pursue a sound in a similar vein, but found that their voices didn’t mesh with that hard-and-fast riot grrrl sound. Instead, they have found (mostly) softer ways to convey that riot grrrl ethos.
Years ago, I purchased Boom—an audio enhancement app—for my computers. I mostly listened to music with headphones while I worked, and turning on Boom was a revelation. It made me realize that listening to music straight from my Mac sounded like a hobo shouting through a tin can. The difference was night and day.
Recently, I remembered that I had an old Philips shelf unit sitting in a box in another room. It had always sounded really good to me, and I’d intended on connecting it to my Mac, just to see what it would sound like. I was just missing a simple cable, which I ordered on the spot.
It sounded pretty good, but the years had taken a toll on one of the speakers. Even with a bit of disassembly to fix a loose wire, the sound from one of the tweeters was still a bit muffled, throwing off the balance. After a bit of research and looking for a good deal, I landed on a pair of Klipsch R-51PMs to try out as upgrades.
YouTube continues to be my primary source of musical discovery, giving me the good stuff that Spotify and Last.fm can’t seem to match. Everything seems to be coming up Korean these days, with shows—like the breakout Squid Game—and movies all over Netflix, and K-pop groups like BTS and Blackpink getting a lot of attention in the United States. I’ve also recently run across an unexpectedly vibrant K-Indie music scene and I am here for it.
Back in September—before I got emotionally sucker punched by Pale Waves’ My Mind Makes Noises —I was regularly listening to CHVRCHES’ Screen Violence. This is the band’s 4th album, and though it’s still new and it’s only natural to be excited by that, I think I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s my favorite of the bunch.
It’s already been 8 years (!) since the bright synths, dark beats, and fantastic eye makeup of The Bones of What You Believe came out, and CHVRCHES have covered a lot of ground. Many of my favorite songs are on different albums, but I still think Screen Violence is their best body of work on the whole. Maybe it’s the singular spooky/horror theme running front to back, but this album is strong.
This video contains flashing lights that could trigger seizures for people with visual sensitivities.
Youtube is wild. I’ve been watching it a lot during this whole COVID ordeal, and discovered some really great stuff thanks to all the different ways it suggests other content. I like a good metal jam, so the Tube offered me this video. I’m sorry, what? Are those Japanese girls dressed in maid outfits? Is that why the band is named “BAND-MAID”? It it really that simple?
Content warnings: Mental health, death of a loved one, some strong language.
Music is an ever-changing experience. It can be euphoric, heartbreaking, relatable, abstract, and sometimes a bit embarrassing, depending on time and circumstance. At the time of writing, I’ve been experiencing all of these things while listening to Pale Waves’ debut album, 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises, almost exclusively for the past 4 weeks—quickly placing it in a very rare circle of binge-listened albums. As much as I’ve been obsessively listening, I’ve been thinking about why I am listening to it now after honestly trying to ignore it for nearly two years. We’ll get to that in a minute.
2018 was an unexpectedly exciting year for me, musically. The most interesting part is how impactful these discoveries were, and how serendipitously they came into my life.
The year was already pretty rough thanks to a certain Cheeto-colored man-child and his tornado of deplorables, but some personal stuff also went down during the spring & summer that was especially difficult. That’s undoubtedly the reason why Andrew W.K.‘s latest album You’re Not Alone resonated so deeply and so immediately.
For those not familiar with Andrew W.K., you may still faintly recall him as the white-clothed, dirty, sweaty, bloody, headbanging “Party Hard” guy. That’s certainly how I remembered him. I had listened to “Party Hard” many times over the years; it’s fun, it’s primal, it’s loud, it’s aggressive, it’s… really good. That’s undoubtedly why Spotify surfaced the new album to me.
You’re Not Alone still has plenty loud and fun stuff, but there is also an unexpected amount of life-affirming, persevering, and positive messaging — themes that were present in a way on Andrew’s first album I Get Wet, but now in a much less hedonistic fashion. This positivity comes through loud and clear in songs like “Keep On Going”, “Music Is Worth Living For”, and “Give Up On You”, but it’s even more amplified by the three spoken word interludes peppered into the album. Here’s a sample, from “The Feeling of Being Alive”:
If you ever feel like something is very, very wrong — wrong with life, wrong with yourself — I understand. I have that feeling too. But in actuality, that feeling isn’t wrong. That feeling is just being human. That intense feeling inside is the feeling of existing, of being alive, of being a person. It’s a mountain to climb, it’s a test to pass, it’s a challenge we are ultimately worthy of. And rather than dread or resent this challenge, we can embrace it, we can learn from it, and we can celebrate it. Life is very intense, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Understanding this is what partying is all about.
It’s corny as hell, but I still get goosebumps reading that. It’s been my emotional response all along, and the feeling that helped me get through that summer. But as good as it felt, my first logical impulse upon hearing these positive messages was that he couldn’t possibly be serious. This was some kind of act. It was cheesy and overblown and dramatic, and there had to be a catch.
And maybe there is some element of meme, or showmanship, or whatever. There are really dissonant combinations that make it easy to question the authenticity of the message: this intense, muscled, heavy metal man with the most sensitive of thoughts; this huge, loud music paired with encouraging, persevering lyrics. I think that’s what makes Andrew W.K. so interesting.
What definitely exists in these words & music is sincerity. I spent a fair amount of time on Youtube watching Andrew W.K. interviews, and it became clear to me that in contrast to his cartoonish, goofy, and sort of caveman stage persona, he is completely sincere about making music that lifts people up and brings them joy.
Rolo Tomassi came onto my radar late in the year thanks to a Last.fm recommendation. I almost didn’t bite. I mean, look at those young twee faces. I figured I was about to take the on-ramp to Polite Indie Rock Town and fall asleep at the wheel. I should have learned my lesson by now and stopped judging bands by appearances. However, I was sufficiently intrigued by the latest album’s title — Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It — and the album artwork to give it a go.
The album starts out with the tranquil instrumental “Towards Dawn”, with its loopy blips, mellow keyboard, and breathy chorals. OK, cool, I think. I like blippy music. Then the second track, “Aftermath”, kicks in — a nice mid-tempo indie rock song with shimmery guitars and pretty soprano vocals. I actually like this song, I think. I’m glad I took a chance on this. I settle in to enjoy some nice melodic background music while I work. As the second track nears its end it begins to get epic as the guitars and drums get louder and layered with some keyboard. I’m liking this part a lot. Another fine decision, Jared!
“Aftermath” ends and the fading guitars give way to a pecking, ominous, and disconcerting keyboard riff leading into to the next song, “Rituals”, that makes me stop working and perk up. Something is definitely happening here. Then, unexpectedly, the keyboard slams into a grinding wall of slow & heavy drums and guitar, which builds and then breaks into a frenzy.
The screamed vocals definitely caught me off guard. This was probably the most genre-defying trio of songs from the same artist that I’ve ever heard. If you’d played them for me in a mixtape, I would have thought they were 3 different bands. What a journey.
Welcome to mathcore, a genre I’d never heard of but that is characterized as such:
Mathcore is a style of music that combines the speed and aggression of hardcore punk and extreme metal with rhythmically complex dissonant riffs and abrupt tempo changes. Although its roots can be traced to post-hardcore and math rock bands of the early 1990s, mathcore was eventually established in the late 1990s and early 2000s by pivotal albums of Botch, Coalesce, Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan. It is often categorized as a subgenre of metalcore. Other names that have been used to refer to mathcore include noisecore and experimental metalcore, highlighting its connection to noise music and experimental music.
And screamed vocals. You’ll want to brace yourself for that part.
I haven’t branched out to many other mathcore bands yet, but Rolo Tomassi are apparently somewhat of a maverick in the genre, mixing in styles that don’t normally belong there (Exhibit A: those first two songs). Regardless, that definition of mathcore is pretty spot-on in describing this band. It is primarily very heavy music with aggressive vocals. The “rhythmically complex dissonant riffs and abrupt tempo changes” are brain candy; I can’t seem to get enough.
I’ve also been listening to Rolo Tomassi’s Grievances album, whose opening track is the antithesis of Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It — an immediate, blistering assault of drums, guitar, and dual screamed vocals.
I have a feeling that this kind of music is a visceral love/hate choice for most people, but I love it. It’ll get your blood pumping.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Metric and have written about their albums and shows at length. They’ve changed a lot over the years — as all artists should — and as a result there was a time when I just didn’t really connect with what they were putting out. Synthetica held a bit of my attention, but Pagans in Vegas lost me entirely.
So it was a pleasant surprise that I found out from a friend on Twitter that a new Metric album had come out, and — even more — that I liked it!
Watching Metric grow has been like watching more and more clay being added to the armature of a beautiful sculpture. In the beginning, the music was sparse and angular, but wholly enjoyable. Each album added a bit more substance, even as certain styles changed. Not all of those shifts agreed with me, but they are there, and they are important.
To me, Art of Doubt adds more shape to what I think was probably the most polished, pleasing Metric album: Fantasies. In terms of songwriting, arrangement, recording, and production it’s probably the best the band has ever sounded. I love many of the other albums for different reasons, but that’s why I love it most.
Or do I?
Art of Doubt achieves some of the most gorgeous melodies, catchiest hooks, and stellar production of any Metric album and tempts to supplant Fantasies. I mean, the chord changes on “Risk” are just the most devastatingly beautiful Metric-y thing ever, only possibly outdone by the chorus of “Underline the Black”, with which I am hopelessly obsessed.
All “the blogs” are saying that this is Metric’s return to classic form after some experimental back alleys, and I have to concur. It’s not a throwback or a comeback, but more of a return to a brighter timeline. After not being able to say this for quite some time, it’s nice to say that I’m excited to see them play in a few weeks.
I hope they play “Risk”.
Update: THEY DID. And “Black Sheep”, which was a super bonus.
Loving: Metric, Imogen Heap, Lovelikefire, The Big Pink and good grief man this is ridiculous you need to blog more often.
I haven’t blogged for a while. That’s because I’ve been field-testing the following jams for listenability. For you. Because I got your back like that. I’m like the USDA, but for music. Or something.
Metric – Fantasies
I’m not crazy about the album title (it makes me think of Mariah Carey for some reason, and friends: that’s not right), but holy woah do Metric bring the rock on this, their 4th album. These kids know how to write the hooks, you know? “Sick Muse” may be my favorite Metric song evar, and the video for said song is pretty great, too. It’s amazing to me that much of this album was written during a time when singer Emily Haines was wondering if she wanted to keep making music. Geez, she even sounds awesome when she feels like quitting.
Imogen Heap – Ellipse
Genius. No, really. This album is fantastic, but you might have to work for it.
I would describe Ellipse as more vulnerable and cinematic than Speak For Yourself, Imogen’s last album. That record seemed to have one foot in Frou Frou (Heap’s collaborative effort with Guy Sigsworth) and one foot in Imogen’s own eccentric, experimental compositions. Ellipse, by my ear, has now stepped almost completely away from the sweeter pop sensibilities of Frou Frou and planted both feet in a soundscape that I suspect is the closest we’ve come to hearing what goes on in her uninfluenced musical mind. This album is full of homemade samples, delicate melodies and sweeping strings, all tempered by Heap’s commanding precision. Totally delightful.
Lovelikefire – Tear Ourselves Away
Lovelikefire ain’t no slouches. I know this because of the 11 tracks on their debut album only one is a re-recorded version of a song released on one of their two (also excellent) EPs. That’s 10 new songs, kids. They could have phoned it in with, like, 3 to 5 re-recorded songs, and it still would have been an excellent album. But no. LLF aren’t like that. And there ain’t no filler here. These are great songs powered by fantastic vocals and a tight tight band. These are hard-working rockers, and super-nice human beings to boot. Check out the video for “Stand In Your Shoes”:
The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love
This album is a serious time-warp. Maybe it’s just the classic Vaughn Oliver design-fu, but this band makes me feel like I’m in the mid-90s again with their wall of sound guitars and knob-twiddling tendencies. So tasty. And I’m nuts about this “Dominos” song. I may need to join a support group.
This entry is long overdue, as it has been well over a year since I stumbled across this band. And what with them playing next week in Dallas at The Prophet Bar, they’re sorta on my mind. Not that I would write a blog post with the hopes that the band might read it and invite me backstage or anything. Psssh. (I’ll be the really tall guy with the cute redhead at his side, guys — just signal me when you want us to come backstage.)
I don’t know why this album isn’t getting more buzz across the ol’ internets, because it is pretty much the epitome of a joyous summer album. Blake & John are back with their second full-length record, full of retro 60’s sounds, delicious melodies and the world’s most unsung musical instrument: the tambourine. Viva la tambourine. Viva Honeysuckle Weeks.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, no self-respecting music fan of the indie persuasion could be found without at least one CD from UK record label 4AD. The label’s music catalog holds some fantastic, acclaimed music which profoundly shaped my musical leanings.
Graphic artist Vaughn Oliver gave the label’s releases a distinct style that is often imitated but never quite duplicated. His covers for Lush, The Pixies, Throwing Muses, The Breeders and more rank among my favorite album covers.
So imagine my delight upon stumbling across Fedge’s 4AD – The First 20 Years, a 20-year retrospective of 4AD albums. As far as I can tell, it is quite an accurate catalogue of Oliver’s work over that time period. This is a great collection of album art! A few of my favorites, from my musical stash:
The Breeders – Last Splash
Belly – King
The Pixies – Doolittle
Lush – Spooky
Check them all out here, and enjoy!
The last time I heard anything by The Duke Spirit, I recall thinking, “Hey, some of this scrappy garage rock is pretty good” before bookmarking their site and forgetting about them. In the last week, I haven’t been able to stop listening to the new material.
Neptune rides a watery, seafaring meme that is soaked in everything from watery 60’s grooves to churning guitar rock. I imagine that if you’re a disciple of 90’s alt rock like me, you’ll be all over this album like seaweed on a California Roll. The band was streaming the new album in its entirety for a few days, but now you’ll have to make do with a few select tracks. Though the album isn’t being “released” until April in the United States (read: lame) you can buy it on iTunes right now. I know. Go figure.
Enjoy those streaming tracks. And here’s a pretty neat video for “The Step and The Walk.” And sorry for all the water-related verbs and adjectives. Couldn’t resist.
I first wrote about Minipop over a year and a half ago after discovering their excellent EP, Precious. Now the band has officially released their first full-length album, A New Hope (Star Wars reference?). The album was actually self-released months ago, but has now found a new life via label Take Root. A few re-recorded Precious songs join a cache of new, buttery-smooth dream pop songs. “Like I Do” is pretty much pop perfection. There’s a real innocence and purity that comes out of this band. A total lack of pretense. Music for all ages. I’ve been spinning this CD for months, and it’s easily one of the best albums I own. Totally recommended.
I hope this doesn’t come off as overly schmaltzy, but I was reading Ian Roger’s excellent article about the state of music on the web and ran across this comment by a fellow named Glen:
[…] Music was not made to make money, real music was and is made to help people express themselves, in a context that others can relate to.
[…] they [record labels] need to rememer how to make good recordings and package them in a way that makes them interesting, fun, informative and make the listener feel like they’re a part of something special and not just being taken advantage of by the corporation or a greedy “artist” who only wants to get rich and famous or die trying.
A rebuttal was left by, of all people, Jeanene Van Zandt, widow of Townes Van Zandt:
That was a painful statement to read. I know a lot of artists and not one of them is “greedy”. In fact I was married to one for 15 years. He gave his life to his music. He trudged around this earth for 30 years sharing his music with the world, but it was “his” music. From him and him alone. And when he laid down and died, his music became our music. It was his life’s work. It was owned by him and now us. Any man has the right and obligation to leave his family something, and a songwriter is no different.
When my husband, the singer/songwriter died our children were 4 & 13. My husband wasn’t “greedy”. My children are not “greedy”. We are just a family trying to make ends meet while our income has been slashed in half by people stealing my husband’s music.
Music is not FREE, I’ve watch someone die for it.
That someone was Townes Van Zandt.
Now I don’t know the first thing about Townes Van Zandt, except his name and a vague awareness of his place in music history. Maybe his heirs are filthy rich. Maybe not. Regardless, Jeanene’s comment struck a chord with me in light of Michael Arrington’s bleak prediction that music recordings will/should be free.
As the son-in-law of a musician, and the husband of an aspiring musician, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that a future in which we do not pay for music will be a future full of mediocrity and disappointment. I can also tell you that not paying for music really does hurt real people.
So whatever the future brings, I hope music will never stoop to being free. It deserves so much more than that.
It’s no secret that I’m nuts about Tegan & Sara. The sisters’ 2004 release, So Jealous, was one of my favorite albums of the year. The record’s retro-tinged pop stylings were so sticky that I literally left the CD in my car stereo for months.
So it was not without a certain set of expectations that I patiently awaited the release of The Con. Much like Veruca Salt’s Louise Post and Nina Gordon, Tegan and Sara each penned their own songs and then came together to record them. On the boards this time around was Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie fame and though I am neither a dedicated DCFC fan or Walla neophyte, there is clearly a different coloring to The Con than previous Tegan & Sara recordings. Walla also plays on many of the songs, joining an impressive lineup of musical friends including Kaki King and Matt Sharp (The Rentals, Weezer).
The Con does not disappoint. Oh boy, does it ever not disappoint. There is a masterful mix of sugary pop and tense, left-of-center songs all the way through the tracklist. The poppy title track leads into the edgier, fractured “Knife Going In” and “Are You Ten Years Ago,” then bouncing back into the completely infectious “Back In Your Head” and “Hop a Plane.” “Nineteen” and the soothing album-closer “Call It Off” are personal faves of mine.
There is really only one thing wrong with this album. Okay, it’s not really about the music but it must still be mentioned — girls, I beg you: lose the weird mullets. ;)
First, big ups to the dudes at Virb for introducing me to the music of Maria Taylor. Formerly of the duo Azure Ray, Taylor has now struck out on her own, making music on her own and contributing to music by Bright Eyes and The Faint (among others). In fact, if you’ve seen Bright Eyes’ latest video for the song “Four Winds”, you’ve already met Maria (she’d be the one playing the drums).
While Lynn Teeter Flower is actually Maria’s new release, it was her debut solo album, 11:11, that hit my mailbox first and made the larger impression on me. 11:11 is a record full of lush melodies and warm vocals stitched with threads of string arrangements and electronic flourishes. The songs are warm and intimate wth just a hint of alt-country twang — perfect for a lazy weekend. It has a wonderful personality that keeps me spinning it over and over again. Hey, maybe you’ll like it too!
Blonde Redhead is one of those bands that has existed in my peripheral musical vision for a while. I even remember downloading & listening to several tracks at some point, but it must not have been love at first sight because those downloads are nowhere to be found.
All that may change with the band’s upcoming album, 23. If this title track is any indication, 23 combines what I love most about Asobi Seksu, My Bloody Valentine & Curve: dreamy vocals, symphonic guitars and zesty melodies. Man, I should be writing for Spin or something.
About five years ago, Jessica and I were just starting to date and looking for something fun to do one evening. We figured we’d look through the local paper to see if we could find any good live music, and randomly picked a band called Blue October. I’d heard of them before, and figured it would probably be an okay show.
You may have your own opinions, but Blue October turned out to be a dud. But the opening act, a relatively new band from Austin called Damesviolet, really made an impression on us. From then on, we made sure to try and get out to every show they played in San Antonio, even when it was held on the patio of a not-so-great seafood restaurant & bar.
Damesviolet’s core is brothers Beaux and Zak Loy and drummer Tommy Roalson. They play what I can only describe as honest, straightforward, earnest, heartfelt Texas rock ‘n’ roll. During my recent trip to Austin for SXSW (and, therefore, a trip to Waterloo Records), I discovered that the band had released a new record at the end of last year, and it’s really good. Upside Down builds upon the classic Damesviolet sound, adding slicker production and more complex arrangements to the mix.
With her European tour in full swing, I thought now would be a good time to offer up a live studio version of a great Imogen song. “Clear the Area” is one of the more impressive songs I’ve heard live, stripped down and sparingly acompanied by a wonderfully warm, plucky instrument called an umbira.
This band is actually nothing new to me (I came across them a few years ago), but I have been meaning to mention this band again since discovering that their entire two-album catalog is available for free download. You can’t beat that. You also can’t buy the albums anymore (unless they’re used).
The Cutters are (or were; it’s unclear whether or not the band is actually still “together”) a four-piece out of Arcata, California who mix smart pop/punk music with endearing lyrics. Think of bands like the Breeders, Elastica, Blondie and Metric, and you’ll get the picture. Vocalist Angela Brown has a simultaneously sweet and raspy voice (think Chrissie Hynde) and her band pump out both headbanging rockers (Cigarette City) and quirky new wave (touch tone melody of “Everyday”). Both Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! and In The Valley of Enchantment are really solid albums. Check them out.
I gotta shoot straight with ya: the first time I heard Silversun Pickups, I wasn’t really impressed. I liked “Kissing Families,” but overall the music of the Pickups’ EP, Pikul, just didn’t grab my attention.
All that has changed with Carnavas. The band has effectively created a humble yet sticky sound, full of classic-rock riffs, weird distortion and hummable melodies. I check out a lot of new music, and this CD is the first in a long while that has pleased me to any great extent. It’s not ostentacious by any means, but it’s got that special something that keeps me looping it over and over again.
I recently picked up the latest Some Girls album, Crushing Love. While I’m only about a week into listening to it, I’m not really impressed with it as a whole. The one song that did catch my ears the first time through was a tune penned and sung by Heidi Gluck.
That, paired with 3hive’s recent discovery of some of her solo work, brought me back to The Pieces, a band that Heidi joined back in 2001 with Vess Ruhtenberg and Devon Ashley. Unfortunately, The Pieces are no longer together. Their website has also expired, but you can read a bit about them and pick up the scent at MusicalFamilyTree.com. The Pieces played minimalist, soulful, rhythm-driven rock and had one of the most unique sounds I’ve heard.
Heidi played in a number of bands (Heidi Gluck and The Accessories, The Pieces, The Only Children, Some Girls, etc.) as well as on her own. I’ve always been pleased with her kind of mellow, Midwestern pop-country style. “On My Own Again” is just that kind of song; melodic, pensive with a light brush of banjo.
Heidi’s personal site has expired and is now a link farm. For information on Heidi’s musical life, visit her page on MusicalFamilyTree.com.
The path to this song went a little something like this:
- Read nostalgic post on Public Realm
- Watch time-warping Throwing Muses video on YouTube
- Watch another video on YouTube, this time some classic Lush
- And another video, now from Tanya Donelly’s solo work
- YouTube shows me related videos! Yay! It’s Belly playing a Hendrix cover!
- It’s like a time machine! How further back can I go?
- Tanya was a founding member of The Breeders. Ooooh, let’s check out that awesome Cannonball video!
- The video nostalgia-fest continues (I’m abbreviating the list now), and I eventually run across the completely infectious Siouxsie video.
Now I’m not really a Soiuxsie and the Banshees fan. Truthfully, they’re a bit weird for me. But when this song came out in 1991, I bought Superstition on cassette and played Track 1 to death. It’s just a great pop song that has managed to get stuck in my head again after all these years.
I’ve got Jax at Rock Insider to thank for this discovery. Scanners are a four-piece from London who have toured with the likes of The Organ, The Bravery and (shudder) Juliette Lewis and The Licks. There are only a few tracks floating around, plus the 30-secondish clips on their website, but they sound pretty good overall. This track “Raw” is killer, though. Very high energy synth punk. Hope you enjoy!
- Listen to Lowlife
I ran across The Hong Kong about a year and a half ago via the great Jasper Coolidge’s jenyk.com band photography/show review site. The band has a charmingly lo-fi retro sound that reminds me of bands like Blondie and The Cars. Sort of noisy, fuzzy, quirky and cute…
Asobi Seksu is a 4-piece band from New York that fits nicely into one of my favorite rock niches: shoegazey pop rock. I loves me some crunchy guitars, floating vocals and bashing drums — all of which Asobi delivers in spades.
This reblogged topic comes to you courtesy of gorillavsbear. Chris makes some really interesting finds, and Tree Wave is no exception. Hailing from my current home of Dallas, TX, Tree Wave are Paul Slocum and Lauren Grey. Using an “obsolete 70’s and 80’s computer and videogame gear, accompanied by female vocals,” Tree Wave make surprisingly good music…
The music blogosphere has been all abuzz with adulations over Lily’s music, so I feel a bit like I’m reporting that that water is wet. Duh. “LDN” is a catchy rhyme about a bike ride through London, bookended and puncuated by the most memorable Spanish horn riff I’ve heard in a long time. Lily’s lyrics are streetwise, optomistic, punchy and lightly coarse (there’s something about a pimp and a crackwhore). But the song is so peppy those references sound like happy things. I love this song and I think you’ll love it, too.
The Lakewood Theater was originally a movie theater built in 1938, and has now become a multipurpose entertainment space. It’s furnished in art deco style, and much of it is in its original condition. There was ample seating (which was a nice change from standing), and the theater’s retro, “from-another-time” feel seemed fitting for the artists about to perform that night…
Amy Millan is best known as the smoldering girl voice behind the boy/girl vocals of Stars. “Skinny Boy” is the sneak-peek track from her upcoming solo recording, set to be released in Canada on May 30th. If you ask me, “Skinny Boy” is a song that would sound quite at home on a Stars record, though Amy has expressed that these are mostly songs she wrote seven or more years ago — before she even joined Stars — and that they sound nothing like Stars. I haven’t heard but one other song from the album, and it does have a stripped-down folk/bluegrass feel to it. Anyhow, I am quite excited to hear the album in its entirely, but until then we’ll have to be satisfied with this one great track…
I’ve got Jon to thank for this gem, though it seems that he (and, subsequently, I) have other unknown or unremembered sources to thank as well. So thank-you’s all around, mmmkay?
First things first: welcome to the next generation of “Loving.” Thanks to some online storage space, an insane desire to share music, and the blessing of some of my favorite artists, “Loving…” will now include MP3s! I’m no expert, but I believe this next step qualifies it as a “podcast” of sorts. Files will remain online for about a month after publishing unless I get such an overwhelming response as to move me to purchase additional storage space. Sound good? Then let’s continue!
The High Violets hail from my birth state of Oregon, the lovely city of Portland. Many are drawing lines from the Violets to classic shoegazer bands like My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and Curve…
Let’s be honest: even with all the music-discovery assistance we have access to here on the ol’ interweb, it still feels like we end up trudging through a decent amount of fair, mediocre or downright awful music before we eventually find something that really resonates within us that creates a fan. Or maybe that’s just me being characteristically difficult and picky?
At any rate, it’s refreshing when a band reels you in at first listen, and Minipop is one of those bands. As of this writing, I am still waiting for their only recording, the Precious EP, to be come in the mail (it’s only been a couple days since I ordered it). It’s fun to be excited about what may be coming in the mail on any given day, and Precious is one of the few CDs I’ve bought in recent months that I’ve been genuinely excited about getting my hands on. Ever since I heard them on SomaFM (thanks once again, Elise!) I’ve been streaming the 3 songs off their website for hours each day. Yes, the same 3 songs (hope that hasn’t caused any bandwidth issues, guys!).
In their own words, “We are Minipop, 2 girls and 3 guys creating dream-pop music with an emotional vision.” On a more terrestrial level, Minipop strikes me as the unlikely offspring of shoegazer and girl-pop —- and I mean that in the most complementary of ways. Unlikely mashup? Not really. Minipop’s lead singer really does sound like one of the lost Dupree sisters, and the backing vocal style, while certainly not exclusively associated with Eisley, certainly will find commonality with Eisley fans. The band is known to have a much heavier, louder sound live which only sort of translates into their recorded material (though such is true for many bands). With drums, bass, two guitars and a keyboard, this quintet creates a layered, often etherial sound that could drawn sonic lineage to bands like Lush and My Bloody Valentine as easily as to Stars or Denali.
Sweet. Holy. Immaculate. Mother. Of. Rock. And. Roll. Hotness. Are you following me here, people? Do you see where this is going?
For the last two years I’ve been blown away by Metric. It’s been one of those bands that has stood the test of time…
Come Clean isn’t a new release, but beloved music need not be new, does it? Curve was the collaborative effort of British musicians Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia. Note the past tense in the last sentence; Curve “officially” disbanded in early 2005, though they have been known to have broken up in the past only to return again…
Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?
I have to admit that I purposefully sidestepped listening to The Like when they first hit my radar. That’s because I saw their picture, and they look like they might not even have drivers’ licenses. I could almost hear the sonic train wreck as I imagined yet another bunch of cringe-rockers like The Veronicas, Lillix, Fefe Dobson, and that girl who sung the “Billy Shakespeare” song.
My bad, because The Like could not be further from the aforementioned spazzy, insincere poseur-rock. Vocalist Z. Berg has a voice that rivals the rasp of Chrissy Hynde or the smoothness of Harriet Wheeler. Bandmates Tennessee and Charlotte are both equally talented and bring a more even-keeled sound to The Like than is generally popular right now. You’ll hear the band compared to The Sundays, The Pretenders, and a slew of other late-80’s/early 90’s bands, but this is much the same type of comparison that bands like The Killers or Franz Ferdinand get; there’s definitly an influence guiding the music, but the infuence has been trancended to make something new.
Most of the songs on Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? are mid-tempo rockers, and while that may have put off a lot of people looking for that snappy bubblegum-rock, I like it just fine. I find the music layered and interesting, and Z’s voice is just an unmistakable gem.
Since my car is currently in the shop getting a nip and a tuck, I have a rental car. And that rental car has a product of the modern world that I have nary encountered: Sirius satellite radio. Satellite radio has more “stations” that the entire AM/FM band combined, so it’s been fun exploring various stations on my travel time to and from work.
Over the years I have owned various amounts of music. I think I bought my first cassette tape sometime in 1985, and before that I had gathered a small home-brewed collection of stuff copied off my dad’s vinyl. And I’ve always been down with music organization. Even when I was 14 years old with only a dozen or so tapes to my name, I still invested in those little wooden crates which I carefully repainted to my liking.
As my cassette collection plateaued and my CD collection grew, I bought various crates, racks and shelves to stay the onslaught of thin plastic cases…
I can’t believe I fell asleep on this one. It’s bad enough that I didn’t mention this band in my Year in Hyperlinks, but completely missing a free internet-only release? Shame on me! Golden Ocean was one of 2005’s best rock records, and now 50 Foot Wave are following that album up with a free EP. Yes, free.
I was listening one evening, as I sometimes do, to Last.fm’s music player, exploring the feature that feeds your ears music based on bands you already know and love. My Similar Artist Radio entry for Metric was returning some familiar band names; Montreal faves Broken Social Scene, Feist, and Stars — to name a few.
It is becoming a well-known fact across the indie rock scene that Metric simply rock, and are not a band to be missed live. Last year’s show at The Parish was so unbelievably fierce, and made such an impression, that I knew this year’s tour stop was going to be a hard sell.
It seems that, lately, the topic of jettisoning one’s physical music collection in favor of a digital library has crossed my path in a more conspicuous manner. First, I read a post by someone I don’t know on a website I can’t remember (how’s that for shoddy documentation?). This individual was selling his entire collection and switching to a digital music format. Then Randy chimed into my blogspace, entertaining notions of doing the same. A little late to the party, I stumbled upon Todd Dominey’s determined effort to go almost 100% digital (and, apparently, Aaron Feaver has done the same).
Imogen Heap has a voice from another world and a musical soul to match. As half of the electro-pop duo Frou Frou, Imogen gained some exposure when the band’s song “Let Go” from the album Details was included on the Garden State soundtrack and featured in the movie’s closing credits.
Live It Out Metric Live It Out is the second proper release from multinational band Metric. 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? gathered a loyal fanbase with it’s punchy synth-rock, decidedly anti-war agenda and the band’s energetic performances.
Black Box Dynasty
Dynasty is a two-piece band out of New York. Seth Misterka and Jennifer Deveau blend a variety of musical genres into their own unfettered brand of art-rock. From retro electronic beats to wailing guitar, Dynasty embrace a variety of instruments and styles while somehow keeping it all stitched together.
Juliana Hatfield’s latest album makes a much-anticipated stop in Rock-n-roll-ville, delivering freight cars full of loud, visceral, punk, fragile, berating, guitar-punishing music. Lovely.
I just love live music. Factoring in both the responsibilities of maintaining a career and the narrowing scope of live bands I care to hear, it has been a while since I’ve gone to a show. There’s a certain pervasive excitement in the experience surrounding live music; the standing in line with other fans, the watching and waiting during soundchecks, and — yes — even the pushing and pulling of a sea of people.
So it was with some excitement that I happened upon a concert listing for Eisley, the talented little band from Tyler, Texas. Jessica was the first person to introduce me to the band, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The mix of pop, folk, rock, country, and sci-fi/fantasy lyrics have earned the musical family a well-deserved following.
This was the first time we’d been to Deep Ellum which, as far as I can tell, is the place for music in Dallas. The Gypsy Tea Room and Ballroom greeted us with an unexpectedly long, snaking line of patrons waiting for the doors to open.
We got in soon enough and found a spot near the stage and a wall so that my exceeding height would not become a nuisance to the unfortunate soul who might find themselves standing behind me. I know, I’m such a gentleman. The evening began with Pilotdrift, a band that sounded a lot like the meandering lovechild of Grandaddy and Radiohead playing pirate songs on a Led Zeppelin tribute album. Yeah, I know. Talk about variety. They were actually quite good; I pretty much always enjoy the creative use of synthesisers, Moogs, and wacky audio filters. It didn’t hurt that there was a prominently-displayed Powerbook onstage. I’m interested to hear what their album sounds like because their live set seemed to really shift gears at the drop of a hat. Sometimes it seemed like 2 or 3 songs were getting smooshed together.
Lovedrug took the stage next, and the first though I had was, “Man, how bad do these guys want to be Coldplay?” Too bad they didn’t have the chops. The vocalist had a positively nauseating voice and was clearly more interested in seeing how many long, drawn-out Thom York-ish whining sessions he could fit into each song instead of attempting to enunciate a single word. More nails got hammered into their musical coffin by the lead guitarist’s histrionics and posturing. Remember Spider from School of Rock? Pretty much the same guy, minus the chestless leather shirt.
After Lovedrug’s positively coma-inducing set of nondescript whine-alongs, we finally got the goods we all paid to hear. Eisley played a tight set and delivered those trademark harmonies at every turn. As it turns out, this was the last show of their tour so there was a good amount of stage banter. At one point, one of the girls mentioned that Hilary Duff had invited them to open for her upcoming tour. Ha. They declined. There was a fair amount of new material played as well as old favorites like Treetops and I Wasn’t Prepared. I’ve seen pictures and such, but I was still a bit surprised at how young the band really is. Their music just reflects more maturity than youth. Maybe they’re just old souls.
Rough non-sequential setlist as follows:
- Mr. Pine
- Telescope Eyes
- Golly Sandra
- Marvelous Things
- I Wasn’t Prepared
- Vintage People
- Just Like We Do
- Plenty of Paper
- Lost at Sea
- Blackened Crown
- Head Against the Sky
It was a great time, and reminded us of why we love concerts so much. With the lingering sounds of the music still ringing in our ears, we hit the highway for home, promising ourselves that we’d give ourselves more chances to forget our silly problems for just a few hours of musical bliss.
I have been vaguely aware of this whole ‘musical baton’ tomfoolery that has been going around and now that I have been passed the proverbial baton by both Jeff ‘Jam Master’ Croft and Shaun ‘.com/poser’ Inman, I am now much obliged to participate.
Total volume of music on my computer: circa 2GB. Is that not a lot? I guess I’m still fairly “old school,” preferring the spin of a CD to the bitrate of MP3s.
The last CD I bought was: Weezer, Make Believe
Song playing right now: None, but it would definitely be This Is Such A Pity by Weezer.
Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
- Anything by Juliana Hatfield.
- Hell Yes, Beck. It’s just funky fresh.
- Right Between the Eyes, Garbage. Squealing guitars, murderous drum pattern, pounding bass.
- Combat Baby, Metric
- Mr. Brightside, The Killers
Five People to Whom I am Passing the Baton:
Update: I’ve successfully sent my invitation to President Bush. I can feel the Secret Service watching me already. I mean no harm, fellas! Honest!
Rhino Records is currently streaming selections from the upcoming Cure release, Three Imaginary Boys.
While the original 1979 release of Three Imaginary Boys was a bit before my musically-conscious life (I was, um, 7 years old), the decade-later release Disintegration was undoubtedly my musical epiphany. Then a pitifully unwise 16 years old, I had been polluting my ears for years with the idiotic strains of Bon Jovi, Europe, Cinderella, and a smattering of similar crap-rock bands. I think my only redeeming cassette tape (yes, I said cassette tape) may have been Run DMC’s Raising Hell. Thankfully, my teenage years saw the popularity of new wave music hit its stride, and by the time I really discovered The Cure, I was no longer a slave to the aforementioned crap rock.
From the orchestral bombast of Plainsong to the quite repose of Untitled, this was the album that put me on the music-devouring path that I have pursued for the past 15 years. When sleepy, conservative San Antonio, Texas finally got a new-wave/progressive radio station — forget about it. The high points in my life became trips to the record store, reading liner notes, and long bus rides to school listening to my favorite songs.
Since then there have been many musicians that have given me the gift of music that I not only hear with my ears, but feel with my heart. But The Cure will always maintain that coveted marker on my own musical roadmap as the band that started it all.
Anyone who knows me is familiar with my longstanding appreciation for the music of Juliana Hatfield. I truly believe that she is one of my generation’s most talented musicians, living on the fringes of self-imposed obscurity.
Allow me to tell you a story, and then I’ll get to the point.
Juliana hasn’t always been an obscure rock figure. In 1993, Hatfield exploded into popularity with her sophomore album, Become What You Are. With a track on that album making its way onto the successful Reality Bites movie soundtrack, Juliana was quickly becoming an indie-rock sensation.
But commercial success was fleeting. Outspoken about her discomfort with all the attention she was receiving, Hatfield took her fame with a grain of salt. Her third album, Only Everything was touted by her record company as the record that would ultimately catapult her into mainstream fame & fortune. While the record was well-received by many, it was not the commercial success everyone had hoped for.
Following the Only Everything tour, Juliana retreated into the studio to record another album. Working alone, and playing many of the instruments herself, what emerged was a sound that was very different from the feedback and bombast of Only Everything. Atlantic Records was not pleased with the results and ultimately shelved the record, which has been hailed by many fans as her masterpiece.
So if the record was never released, how can fans call it her masterpiece? Answer: through the power of theft and the internet.
Someone with access to the songs released the unfinished album, called God’s Foot, onto the internet via P2P filesharing networks. Incomplete, out of sequence, and unedited, Juliana had mixed feelings about the release:
There were definitely songs that I wanted to throw out and not have people hear. So I find out that there is at least one version of the album that is being traded or sold on the Internet and it’s got songs on it that I didn’t want people to hear. …I feel personally offended that someone would slap a bunch of these songs on and call it God’s Foot and put it out there.
There are pros and cons though. I was glad that people were able to hear the songs that I was proud of. That’s the only way people are ever going to hear them. I was in a bind. I couldn’t release the songs and the label wasn’t going to release them so I’m glad people heard them. At the same time, I felt abused. People were taking my stuff and doing what they wanted to do with it. But I’m sure the intentions were good. I don’t know if it was being sold. If people are selling it, that’s a whole other thing. That’s just bad if people are making money off my work and I’m not getting a dime.
Since the God’s Foot debacle, Juliana has dumped major labels and made music on her own terms. Her relationship with the internet has been tenuous at best, with many of us believing that she doesn’t even own a computer and rarely goes online for any reason.
Now Juliana is surprising all her fans by doing something that I’ve never heard of before: posting unreleased songs on the internet, to be paid for using the honor system.
From her management at Fort Apache :
Juliana is making some here-to-fore unheard music available on her website. The first two of these recordings will be launched next week. The goal is to post two new songs, every two weeks, for a year. Payment will be on the honor system and from this experiment we’ll all learn whether or not an audience will support an artist or just enjoy the music with no sense of reciprocity. I might do some reporting in here about the number of downloads verses the number of payments.
It should be an interesting experiment indeed. Will fans pay for what they download? Will some of them post the songs to filesharing networks? Will the songs be collected by fans and then sold as compilations on Ebay? It’s an interesting experiment, this honor system.
Some artists, like Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave, release exclusive online tracks on a regular basis on their websites. But these systems differ from Juliana’s test distribution plan in that they require payment before download.
The songs haven’t begun to appear on the website yet. I can’t help but be fascinated by the trust Juliana must have in her fans, and the hurt and disappointment she might feel if her trust is betrayed.
Is the honor system going to work?
Some awesome entertainment-related items have come to my attention that you may be interested in learning about:
- The Terminal. A movie starring Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a Krakosian man who finds flys to New York City only to learn upon arrival that, during his flight, a bloody coup has erupted in his homeland. With his Visa and passport unrecognized by the United States, Viktor is restricted to the International Transit Lounge until his situation is sorted out. What Viktor does with his time at the terminal is nothing short of inspirational and wonderful. This is by far one of the best movies I have ever seen.
- The Cutters. The Cutters are a band out of Arcata, California who mix smart pop/punk music with endearing lyrics. With a sound that mixes the styles of bands like the Breeders, Elastica and Metric, The Cutters are definitely a band to keep your eye on.
- The Juliet Dagger. This is one awesome band. Anyone who can remind me of the good old days of Veruca Salt when Nina and Louise were belting out the most killer harmonies in rock is worthy of praise. Leisha and Erin not only harmonize nicely, they also write some of the most catchy pop-rock east of the Mississippi. Listen to The Juliet Dagger on Pure Volume. Sadly, the download option is (still) broken, but the music stream is definitely worth your time.
At long last, Jessica and I attended our very first Juliana Hatfield show last night.
Stubb’s BBQ in Austin is kind of a small venue, but I suppose I prefer it that way. There’s a kind of intimacy there that you don’t find just anywhere. The lack of a backstage area meant that we saw Juliana making her way through the crowd several times before the show.
There was a merch table set up out on the patio, and while I held on to our spot next to the stage, Jessica headed over to talk to Juliana and to get an autograph or two. A little over a year ago, just before I got married, I was laid off from my job. It was a pretty stressful time. Not all of my time could be spent job hunting; after a week, I had pretty much felt out every opportunity I could and was waiting for callbacks. So to keep my mind off of my troubles, I began to work on some ideas that I had been tossing around in my head for a while. What emerged were two concert poster designs, one for Juliana Hatfield and one for her band, Some Girls. There seemed to be a severe lack of cool concert posters for these two acts, and I wanted to fill the void — at least on my own walls. When Jessica and I flew to see Some Girls in Chicago last year, I foolishly forgot to take the posters for the Girls to see and sign. This time, I made no such mistake. In fact, to sweeten the project, I changed the information on the poster to reflect last night’s show instead of the fictional dates and location that had previously been on there.
I was a little nervous as to what Juliana might think of the artwork, but I guess it went over as well as it possibly could. Apparenty, she loved it and very much appreciated that we brought an extra copy for her to take with her. And I now have an autographed copy of my own artwork, which is mucho cool.
Soon after The Damnwells (who were quite good) cleared the stage, Juliana’s band came out and set up in record time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band set up so fast. Juliana came onstage last, plugged in, checked her tuner, and strummed the opening riff for “Jamie’s in Town.” Her guitar sounds unbelievably awesome in the dictionary definition of the word. I think I got to see and hear more of her true guitar virtuosity at the Some Girls show — because as a three-piece band, she was the only guitar player — but I was still truly impressed throughout the whole 90-minute set. I got the feeling that every night she took the opportunity to tear into new ideas and look for the happy surprises that come from just “winging it.” All of the songs sounded amazing, but Juliana’s older material definitely got the more cheers. Songs like “What A Life” and “Mabel” hadn’t been played regularly in her live sets for close to seven years, and it was clear that the crowd was glad to be hearing some of the vintage Juliana tunes. The band seemed to be in good spirits, with guitarist Joe Keefe inadvertently launching everyone into a silly rendition of a portion of “Wonderwall” which disintegrated as Juliana’s lyrics all became “la la la la la…” It was obviously not a rehearsed number, but it was an entertaining side note.
The setlist was as follows:
- Jamie’s in Town
- Feel It
- Robot City
- Somebody Is Waiting For Me
- Don’t let Me Down
- What A Life
- Get In Line
- Because We Love You
- The Prettiest Girl
- My Sister
- Your Eyes
- Universal Heartbeat
- My Enemy
- Tomorrow Never Comes
All in all, it was a tremendously rocking show. Not even the unbelievably drunk girl and her dipstick of a boyfriend in the front row could ruin the encore, “Tomorrow Never Comes.” As the last lines of the song were sung, Juliana continued on for a few bars, singing “That’s all I have to say… That’s all there is to say…” over and over. And then it was over.
Life is grand. You know, I just learned the other day that Creed broke up. Man, that’s awesome. The official press release on their website is replete with vagueness and offers no reason for the breakup. I think we can all surmise that The Drummer and The Guitarist got sick of The Stapp’s rockstar posturing and longstanding infection with Lead Singer’s Syndrome and had to kill the band before it got seriously weird.
The Summer of Music is underway! It began a few weeks ago with the Damesviolet show at Crabby Jack’s. What a lame place. It’s the complete and honest truth when I say that Jessica and I were the only people who were there to see the band. It was sad and awesome at the same time because we got a private show. Even though it was just us, they blew the roof off. Beaux came out to thank us at the end of the show for sticking around and being enthusiastic about the show even though no one was there.
We took our friend Sarah to see Damesviolet open for Flickerstick two weeks ago. The turnout was a much better, but I think most of the crowd came to see Flickerstick. Still, the band played to impress. Sarah is a new fan. Their set was shorter than I would have liked, but I know they didn’t have any control over that. We bought a few of the new CD’s and go them signed between sets. I’ve been playing that CD nonstop for days.
I was kind of excited to hear Flickerstick because I’d seen them on VH1’s “Band on the Run” series a few years ago. They sounded pretty good back then, but about 3 songs into their set, we decided that their live show was less that awesome and left. Beaux caught us on our way out and thanked us again for our support and made sure we were coming to their CD release party the next weekend. Cool guy, that Beaux.
Last Friday night was the CD release party in Austin at Stubb’s BBQ. Despite the small venue, Stubb’s was PACKED with fans. It was surreal, because we’ve only seen Damesviolet play to VERY small crowds in San Antonio. But Austin loves their Damesviolet, and it shows. The set was longer than usual and featured lots of great songs from both albums. They looked like they were having a lot more fun than we’d ever seen, which was a little sad because they deserved to have that much fun in San Antonio, too. It was a great show. There was an awesome drum and bass interlude by Tommy and Evan and a hysterical costume change for the encore. The guys all changed into Damesviolet tshirts, purple boas and cheesy purple sunglasses. The final song was an unbelieveably rocking cover of Billy Squier’s “Lonely Is The Night.”
Next week is the much-anticipated return of Juliana Hatfield to Austin. That show will be at Stubb’s as well. I can’t wait!
It’s been a while, folks. While I’d like to say that my absence from the Land Of Blog has been because of an increase in benevolent charity work, that is not the case. No, I’ve been very busy with work, Call of Duty, and the visual redesign of this website.
On the work front, we are busy. Tons of work, and new work coming in all the time. It’s a very good thing.
On the Call of Duty front, I am enjoying myself immensely. Of all the FPS games I’ve played, CoD is by far the best and most fun. And depending on what games I choose to join in on, I’m not half bad anymore. Clan servers are typically replete with players with godlike skills (or cheaters), but I still fare well on them. Good times.
On the redesign front, I am about… mmm… 40 percent there. I don’t have the time to redesign everything from the ground up, so I am doing the next best thing and redesigning the visual aspect of the site. It’s looking good and should launch forthwith.
FYI, indie rock has never been more awesome. Kristin Hersh recently disbanded Throwing Muses but almost immediately formed the new band 50 Foot Wave. The first CD came out last month and it’s a full-bore rock masterpiece. I should get my Forget Cassesttes CD today. They’re a two-piece band out of Nashville that do anything but rock a lazy country song. File under “better than the White Stripes, and not as pretentious.”
Jessica and I drove up to Austin Wednesday night to see Metric play at The Parish. Other than the rainy weather all the way there and back, it was an awesome night. We got to The Parish about an hour early, finding it with the help of a seemingly homeless girl asking for change out on the street. The venue is pretty cool; it seemed like it could fit a crowd of 200 people easily, though there were only about 100 that showed up for the show. The room had Chinese paper lanterns hanging from the rafters and there were padded benches along the sides of the room so we got to sit and wait instead of stand.
Metric opened with the same song that starts off their album, “IOU.” It’s a solid rocker with the band’s signature tinge of New Wave guitars and synths. I’m pretty sure the next song was “Succexxy”, but I honestly can’t remember. They played a good one-hour set, covering lots of material from the new album and a couple of songs that must have been new or from their EP. One of them may have been called “Don’t Let Them Down”, or something like that. It had some humorous lines about not screwing up and having to face the fans who want their money back for a cruddy show. That was definitely not going to happen that night. The band played a tight, fierce set complete with Emily’s signature dancing. It was an energetic sight to behold.
So naturally, having been so impressed with the entire night and now wearing my Metric tshirt like a 15-year-old fanboy, I am streaming 3 Metric songs in the Music Box. If you like what you hear, you will do yourself a great disservice if you do not pick up their CD and try to get to a show before their tour ends. You won’t want your money back, I guarantee it.
Meeting your heroes is a surreal experience.
Jessica and I traveled to Chicago this past weekend to see Some Girls at the historic Double Door. We arrived at noon, with plenty of time before the show to see the sights of the Windy City before heading down to the concert venue. Unfortunately, I had become sick with a lovely head cold just two days earlier and found that my strength was wavering. Still, I was determined to not let sickness spoil a weekend that I had been looking forward to for (literally) years. After checking into our hotel, we took the train down to the Double Door, just to assure ourselves that we knew where it was and that we wouldn’t be lost when the time came to attend the show. We were both tired from the flight, so we headed around the corner from the Double Door, got some lunch and took time to relax. Once we felt a bit renewed, we headed across the street to check out a vintage clothing shop. The architecture in Chicago is really cool. There is a very historic feeling to many areas that we visited. It reminded me a lot of Europe in the way that old and new structures merged together.
Back on the train, we headed downtown to find our way to Navy Pier. We didn’t know much about it except that it was a unique feature of Chicago and that we seemed to remember that Juliana Hatfield had played a show there once. When we got to the Pier, It became evident that we had entered a major tourist area. Nevertheless, we had spent enough time trying to get down there that we decided to take a look around anyway. We took our time as we made our way to the end of the pier, which was a lot farther away than we thought. It’s a huge pier. Along the way, we took a ride on the ferris wheel and took pictures of Lake Michigan — which looked more like an ocean.
From the pier, we headed back to the vicinity of the Double Door. We had planned on going to the Sears Tower, but a combination of fatigue and unco-operative public transit routes made us decide to skip that part of the plan and find a warm place to sit, eat and wait for the show. Across from the Double Door is a nice little restaurant named Penny’s, and that’s where we went to have a bowl of soup and rest our legs. Jessica and I most definitely did not want to be tired and groggy for the concert we had come so far to see.
About 45 minutes before the doors were to open for the show, we headed across the street to wait in line. We had nowhere else to go, really, and there wasn’t enough time to go see anything else of interest. At first, we wondered if we were in the right place because there was no one there. We could hear a band doing a soundcheck inside, but no one was waiting to get in. Then the door opened and Heidi Gluck walked out. Jessica and I just looked at each other with big dorky grins on our faces. It was pretty cool. With the door partially open, we could see that we were definitely behind the stage and that there was a sign telling patrons to go to the other entrance. So we walked around the corner and found ourselves, again, the only ones in line. We waited for about five minutes before another woman came to stand in line. She was really nice. Her friend came later, and they told us that if we’d come so far to see the show that we should wait a while after the show because Juliana almost always comes back out to talk to people.
When we got into the venue we quickly staked out a table close to the stage so that we could sit down for the opening acts and be close enough to get to the front row when Some Girls came on. The first band was a local Chicago group called Air This Side Of Caution. The lead singer was definitely channeling Jeff Buckley; a woman standing in line with us earlier had told us about this band and how much she loved them for that Buckley-esque vibe. They were actually an excellent band. Not entirely my style, but undeniably talented. The second band was the opening act advertised on the Double Door website: The Unbusted. If nothing else, they were entertaining. There was a seemingly endless flow of self-deprecating remarks, false song endings, and insane stage banter. At one point during the set, the nice woman we had talked to in line earlier turned to me, poked me and said, “Juliana is standing right behind you.” We turned around, and — sure enough — there she was, with a big smile on her face as she watched The Unbusted. Talk about cool. Man, that was cool.
As soon as The Unbusted left the stage, Jessica and I got our stuff together and moved up front, as did a lot of other people. The anticipation was killing us. I guess you just have to understand how important this music is to us. I have been a die-hard Juliana fan for over ten years, and have never had the opportunity to watch her perform. Jessie and I just fully admire her amazing range of skill and talent and had been planning this moment for over a year. Needless to say, Juliana Hatfield has been our hero.
Heidi was the first to come out and set up her gear. First a bass check, then a check of her harmonica harness, and then a look-see at the slide guitar. Freda came out a few minutes later to set up her drum kit. Jessica and I both commented later on how young the Girls look in person, as opposed to photos. Heidi and Freda set up pretty quickly, and then there was a lull in activity while the tech did the soundcheck. We noticed that none of Juliana’s guitars were onstage. Her mic and amp and pedals were there, but no guitars. So it was somewhat endearing to see Juliana part the rear curtain and hoist her guitars onto the stage — all by herself. She climbed up onto the stage and just kind of scooted her guitars around a bit on their stands until she felt like they were in the right places. She is so small and thin; photographs just don’t seem to capture how petite she really is. A kick or two to the plywood board with her pedals on it. A thorough check of her amp settings and mic positions. She dumped a handful of handwritten notes onstage, near her pedals, a safe distance away from anyone’s reach. I had heard from the band’s message board that these were “cheat sheets” for one or two news songs that she didn’t want to mess up. While she was still tinkering with various items, Freda and Heidi came onstage and were greeted by a warm applause. Everyone got their instruments ready and Juliana thanked everyone for coming to the show — making it a point clarify that this was a band and that they had recorded an album and would be playing mostly those songs along with a few new ones. This night would no doubt be like countless others, with someone who hadn’t paid attention calling out for her to play one of her own songs. It was nice that she at least tried to diffuse the false idea that this was a “Juliana show” with a backup band; no, this was a group. Emphasis.
After the intro, the Girls politely asked for setlists which had apparently not made it onstage yet. The tech dashed up and laid them down on the floor. I can tell you what the first song was. It was a cover of the Mysteries of Life’s “Native Tongue” — which, I believe, was written by Freda. It was just beautiful. For the life of me, I can’t tell you what order the other songs were played in, because I was pretty blissed out and wasn’t focusing on the details, but the band played all of the songs from the album as well as a cover of the Blake Babies’ “Nothing Ever Happens”, a song called “He’s On Drugs Again” (which rocked hardcore), a song called “When I Let My Guard Down” and another new song titled “That’s The Last Time I Fool Around With You.” The last song was the bluesy “Malted Milk” with Heidi playing a mean and lazy steel guitar. The encore was one song: an utterly goosebump-inducing rendition of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” with a stellar harmonica part played by Heidi and ending with Juliana singing “Only love can break your heart…” over and over again — acapella — in total silence. Man, it just gave me this tingly feeling.
After the show, Jessica and I waited around, as we had been advised, to see if we could meet the Girls. Heidi was the first person we got to talk to. She was genuinely nice and signed our CD cover and chatted a minute with us. We kept waiting, and I sort of figured that we’d never see Juliana but then there she was, tossing a tackle box onstage. She seemed a bit upset for some reason, so we were kind of hesitant to call out her name (we later learned that there were some very rude guys outside who had been making her angry). Besides, it’s just weird to be that close to someone you’ve admired over the years, but never actually seen. But Jessica was the brave one to call over to her. She came over to the edge of the stage, and Jessica told her about how we had come a long way to see the show and asked if we could have her sign our CD and take a quick picture with her. She asked if we could hang on because the crew was “on her ass” to get everything loaded onto the truck.
So we waited while she got her guitars stowed and her tackle box filled with her pedals. She disappeared backstage for a while, but then she made her way back over, just as she said she would, and apologized for making us wait. She said she felt sleep-deprived and tired, but sort of lit up a little when we told her we’d come from Texas to see the show. She said she didn’t think she was worthy, but Jessica assured her that she was. So she signed our CD and we got our picture (which I hope comes out good). But even without the picture, I still have my memories. It was just great. As we made our way to the door, we saw Freda at the merchandise table and got her autograph just as the bouncers were getting ready to use force to remove stragglers from the room.
I’m pretty sure that I speak for Jessica when I say that we’ve both been in a weird, semi-dream state since that night. It’s surreal to meet your heroes. Somehow it doesn’t seem poosible that we flew across the United States, saw our favorite musician perform and then got to talk to her. Now we’re home again — so quickly — and it all seems too impossible to be true. But it is. And we’re so glad we did it. We finally met the most influential person in our musical lives, and that’s worth more than anything.