Tuesday, December 30, 2008

digital shades vol. 1 by m83

Review by guest hipster and Plastic Snow contributor: PWC

The 80s synthesizer-driven soundtrack is an oft-visited reference point for M83’s singular sound. Anthony Gonzalez, the man behind M83, has referenced the soundtracks and films (especially those of the John Hughes variety) of that era as inspirations with a refreshing lack of ironic detachment. And M83’s recently-issued-on-CD Digital Shades Volume 1, sounds not just 80s-soundtrack-inspired, but like it actually could be an 80s soundtrack. Vangelis, Giorgio Moroder and Tangerine Dream all have done their share of soundtracks in that era, and M83 sounds here like this could very well be a collection of cues, atmospheric swells and mood pieces from some swooning, dystopian teen sci-fi odyssey.

This album is expressly ambient, and none of the characteristic assault of huge drums and massive guitar lines are present here. Instead, this is a softer, and I think more haunting, album than Before the Dawn Heals Us and Saturdays = Youth. The detuning warp and warble of these songs is reminiscent of Boards of Canada, more so than is obvious in M83’s other work. The album feels cut from the same cloth as Brian Eno’s Music for Films, and indeed, Gonzalez has repeatedly mentioned Music for Airports as one of his favorite albums, one that he carries around with him when traveling.

In all honesty, when this album initially came out (in download-only form), I was not particularly excited, as I had mostly not enjoyed the "pure" ambient pieces on M83’s albums half as much as the bombastically gorgeous towers of shoegaze his drum-driven songs offered. Actually listening to this album however, has been a delightful experience – this is a wonderfully lush ambient record, full of a tone and emotional richness too often lacking in many ambient albums. Gonzalez is being intimate, vulnerable even, in the songs here, a point driven home by the feeling of secrecy lent by the whispered vocals that are sprinkled through the album. It feels like a special album, one to go to sleep to, one to turn on as you crawl into bed after an emotionally draining day. And I think Gonzalez would be very pleased if you did just that.

mp3: "A Guitar and a Heart " by M83 (from the album Before the Dawn Heals Us)
mp3: "We Own The Sky (Maps Remix)" by M83

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

merry christmas!

If you're a regular reader, by now you've probably noticed we have a holiday/winter album for sale. If you're friends with us on Myspace, chance are you've learned that if there's one thing a geek is good at, it's flogging a dead horse.

Yeah. We've had some holiday fun. /End shameless self-promotion.

Time to unplug from the matrix, time to spend quality time with friends, family, and your own particular collection of loved ones. Personally, I intend on spending the next few days eating my weight in peppermint bark. Ohh, healthy!

Merry Christmas and/or happy holidays!

mp3: "The Child With the Star on His Head" by Sufjan Stevens
mp3: "Home For Christmas" by Half-Handed Cloud (from the Sounds Familyre label comp)
mp3: "Oh What A Christmas" by El Perro Del Mar
mp3: "Christmas Aint a Nursery Rhyme" by We Know, Plato!
mp3: "Icicles (Plastic Snow Session)" by Let's Go Sailing (from our Christmas album Plastic Snow...sorry, maybe a bit more shameless promotion.)
mp3: "Winter Wonderland" by Radiohead
mp3: "Run Away With Me" by Jens Lekman
mp3: "A Carol For The Lonely" by Sofia Talvik
mp3: "Santaland Diaries" by David Sedaris

Saturday, December 20, 2008

end of year list #1

“It was such a great year for music! And not just Swedish tunes!” I said.
My fellow Would-Be Hipsters agreed with satisfied smiles. “Indeed," they replied
“So…” I continued. “Can’t we make it a top twelve list? Sixteen? Heck, don’t you think forty-two has a nice ring to it?” My request was met with silence and stony stares.
“But it just seems wrong not to—" I desperately tried to continue.
“Tradition!” they sang loudly, throwing their already poised jazz hands skyward. “Tradition!”
“But I started the blog!” I yelped,
“Tradition!” they sang again before morphing their wild hand gestures into a surprisingly sophisticated snapping pattern.
The moral of the story? My fellow Would-Be Hipsters are a bunch of meanie heads, with surprisingly good rhythm.

ten favorite albums

10 · The Last Tycoon by Peter Morén
Not a hint of of whistling. Just amazing guitar work and straight forward (young)folk-tastic narratives delivered nasally. If you think that's a critique, you haven't known me long enough
9 · A Thousand Shark's Teeth by My Brightest Diamond
Shara Worden simply doesn't get the credit she deserves. Big voice, mysterious French-influenced orchestration - this is no sophomore slump. Beautiful in a way that has me reaching for my thesaurus (admirable, alluring, angelic, appealing, beauteous(?), bewitching...) even a casual listen creates an environment far removed from ordinary. Of course, for My Brightest Diamond, what's new?
8 · The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow
The day after I was handed this album, Elbow won the Mercury Prize. Clearly the UK is way ahead of the learning curve. A tightly written album full of air and light, with lyrics which often border on the very, very devious, this is the soundtrack for just about any kind of dream scheme.
7 · The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties by Emily Wells
Don't you love when an artist you like puts out an album you just can't get enough of? Who knew rapping and the Suzuki method made for such a happy marriage? Even after it lived in my car stereo for the better part of three months, I was ready to slap the hand of anyone who suggested changing the CD. My apologies if I left any permanent bruises.
6 · In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy
I was the only kid in my third grade class who could sing the entire Cure and Depeche Mode catalogues. I was either ridiculously advanced or a freakish outcast far before my time. Joke's on them; synth lovers are clearly getting the last laugh in 2008.
5 · The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
I am in no way shape or form a badass. But if the highlight reel of my life were played over any of these movie trailer ready songs, I'm sure I'd come across as slightly cooler. Everything sounds better with an accent and dramatically swelling chorus.
4 · Saturdays=Youth by M83
The first four tracks qualify Saturdays=Youth for a place on my list. The fact that this isn't just a 80s retro-dream EP but an 80s retro-dream full-length I've listened to more than 20 times? Brilliant.
3 · Volume One by She & Him
Some may argue it's insubstantial. But who can argue with such perfectly spun cotton candy pop? Incidentally, it's also my mother's pick for album of the year. (Don't hate me because my parents are cooler than yours. -3 hipster points for mentioning the existence of parents.)
2 · Who Killed Amanda Palmer? by Amanda Palmer
I have to admit being somewhat skeptical when I first heard Amanda Palmer was putting out a non-Dresden Doll album. But in one fell swoop she's earned her stripes as a solo act. Both weirdly uneven and emotionally cohesive, Who Killed Amanda Palmer simply slays.
1 · Does You Inspire You by Chairlift
I didn't see this one coming. And judging by its absence on every other list, neither did anyone else. Yes, Does You Inspire You plays like a mix tape, but what an inspired mix tape! Even the last few tracks which veer into indie-rock abstraction ring with sentimentality that already has me salivating for their sophomore effort.

ten favorite songs

10 · "Mugiboogie" by Mugison from Mugiboogie
An old fashioned down and dirty dance hall quivering with sexual tension and the world's most whacked out bandleader. Catchy!
9 · "You Cheated Me" by Martha Wainwright from I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too
Hands down the poppiest song she's ever written. When she warns, You run your skinny little ass down the block, I never fail to chortle like a ten-year-old boy.
8 · "2 Atoms in a Molecule" by Noah and the Whale from Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
Sometimes a single only scratches the surface of what an album has to offer. And while Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down is a "fun fun fun" album, it's really the understated opener that perfectly catches the joy and pathos of true love. If love is just a game how come it's no fun? If love is just a game how come I've never won?
7 · "I'm Good, I'm Gone" by Lykke Li from Youth Novels
I know you know this song. It's the "Young Folks" of 2008. It, quite simply, rocks. I'll totally go against what I said about Noah and the Whale...sometimes the single really is the best track on the album.
6 · "Evident Utensil" by Chairlift from Does You Inspire You
I almost put "Bruises" in this slot. A cute song yes, but nothing quite beats Caroline Polachek's wail when she asks How hard must I try for you? And to answer the question: the most evident utensil is, a pencil! The more you know...
5 · "Figured Me Out" by Jamie Lidell from Jim
The funkiest soul song of the year was made by a pasty, beat-boxing Brit based out of Berlin.
4 · "Bixby Canyon Bridge" by Death Cab For Cutie from Narrow Stairs
I'll admit that upon multiple listenings, Narrow Stairs didn't hold up enough to land on my top ten. But you've gotta admit, when it comes to opening tracks, Mr. Gibbard knows how to write 'em. (See:"Marching Bands Of Manhattan", "The New Year", "Title Track," etc....)
3 · "The Modern Leper" by Frightened Rabbit from The Midnight Organ Fight
In the trailer of my life, the romantic/action montage occurs somewhere around the two minute mark. Take note.
2 · "Ampersand" by Amanda Palmer from Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
Honesty can hurt. Sometimes music goes for the gut. "Ampersand" does both beautifully.
1 · "Kim & Jessie" by M83 from Saturdays=Youth
In five years we'll be shocked at how well this song has held up. In twenty years we'll develop time travel, go back to the eighties and awe at how relevant it sounds. In the next year we'll learn Antony Gonzales is a nostalgic song writing robot who can do no wrong.

five favorite shows

5 · Peter Morén @ the Troubador
Last day of the tour mental breakdown featuring: covers ranging from expected (Buddy Holly) to "quoi?" (Vampire Weekend, Ah Ha), stage climbing, and the dancing Coreys.
4 · Broken Social Scene @ Sunset Junction

Seventeen people on stage preforming Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl. Even technical problems can't kill that kind of magic.
3 · Jens Lekman @ Henry Fonda
Rest assured any year I see Jens he's ending up in the top five shows.
2 · Radiohead @ The Hollywood Bowl
Seeing a quarter inch tall Thom York in concert is a rite of passage.
1 · Beck and Jenny Lewis @ Club Nokia

Celebrity treatment aside (it's clearly gone to my head) you can't beat getting two talented performers together on the same stage.

the five people I'd invite to a dinner party:
Admittedly, I'm terrible at throwing dinner parties. The wine is always too cheep, food too garlicky, attendees picked with little regard for how they'll function as a group. Is it any wonder I rarely have repeat guests?

1. Ira Glass
2. Eddie Izzard
3. Sarah Vowell
4. Jens Lekman
5. Amelie Poulain

my residual regrets of 2007:

For the sake of space, I'll limit this to a music regret.
Why didn't anyone tell me Bat For Lashes was far better than her single? You're all fired.

in 2009 I might:

Get it together. Stop making fun of myself and start making fun of other people. Put the final parts of my plan for world domination into effect. Take questions like this seriously when sincerely posed in social situations. Like most things, it's a crap shoot, really.

mp3: "Grounds For Divorce" by Elbow
mp3: "Symphony 6: Fair Thee Well & The Requiem Mix (live at KCRW)" by Emily Wells
mp3: "Old Old Fashioned (live at Wall)" by Frightened Rabbit
mp3: "You Figured Me Out (live on Jimmy Kimmel)" by Jamie Lidell
mp3: "Kim and Jesse (Montag mix)" by M83

Friday, December 19, 2008

amanda palmer and the builders and the butchers @ henry fonda

To be fair, I still don't know who killed Amanda Palmer. Although I do think about it -- we all do. Maybe it was the press who placed such a burden upon her head, building her up to such dizzying heights. Or the bloggers with their zealous rants about her budding genius. Perhaps Amanda had begun to fear she could never reach the success heaped upon her from the live performances or recordings of her band the Dresden Dolls. Or maybe, just maybe after creating her greatest masterpiece to date, the arresting Who Killed Amanda Palmer, it was simply her turn to go gentle into that great night. Whatever the cause of her untimely demise, the legacy and memory she left behind will last. And an enduring legacy it is. Over the years my friends and I still get together and go over the evidence: the trading cards, the wild conspiracy theories, the rumors. Always the rumors. Despite our detective work, we always reluctantly agree that only Amanda holds all the answers, that we're just as in the dark as everyone else. Mostly though, we like to talk and remember about all the good times she's given us. How it feels like just yesterday when we saw her in concert -- full of joy and life. Yes, just like yesterday. Or rather, just like Tuesday night at the Henry Fonda.

The fun thing about Amanda Palmer in concert is that despite the random bits and bobs, the show is always tied together in a cohesive, thematic package. The heavy lifting started early as Portland-based openers The Builders and Butchers took the stage, immediately jumping into their percussive-heavy songs about, what else, death and dancing. Now, don't get me wrong, their CD is a solid dose of goth-punk-blues. However, you can't bottle lightening (lest you end up as one of their future song topics no doubt). Live, there's a delicious take-no-prisoners element and more instruments than you can shake a washboard at. By the end of the blistering half hour set their need for percussion was so great, many audience members were enlisted as back up, one lucky person armed with the band's kick drum.

Needless to say the second opener, Zoe Keating, had a tough act to follow. Her performance was of special interest to me as I used to believe I was a cellist. "Used to believe," as in I practiced three hours a day, took lessons, and in seven years managed to muster up enough technical skill to play last chair in the community orchestra. Direct comparison: When Zoe plays, her face goes loose, her eyes glaze over -- she is in her happy, transcendent place.When I played, the look on my face was not unlike an pilot trying to land a 747. With one wheel. I'm 85% certain that while Zoe was building up her mesmerizing soundscapes, I was actually making said face. She could have played all night. I would have happily listened.

Of course, out of respect to the dead, Zoe gracefully relinquished the stage, allowing the "mourning" portion of the evening to began. Amanda was ceremoniously carried in by her dancers and backing band The Danger Ensemble. Zoe returned, and the group ripped into the first number and Who Killed Amanda Palmer opener "Astronaut." For a dead girl, Amanda sure can rock.

From there, it was every man for himself. Amanda alone is a fairly intense exercise in emotive music making. With a backing cellist, violinist and interpretive dance team, it becomes an all out spectacle, dancing across the spectrum from the painful, tear-inducing (yeah I cried) tribute to the victims of Columbine, to the beautifully introspective "Ampersand," to the out-and-out goofy "Coin-Operated Boy." (Would you kiss for kash?) Occasionally it was a bit too much; I almost pulled a muscle in my neck trying to figure out what the dancers were up to in the middle of the crowd during "Have to Drive," but it was never boring. Even absurdist moments like the lip-synched tributes to Rihanna and Katy Perry, which for all practical purposes should have veered into self-indulgent territory, didn't. A tribute to the strength of the musicians and Amanda's relationship with her audience. You can't call a performer self-indulgent when the people off stage are having just as much fun as those on.

Who killed Amanda Palmer? Beats me. But, thanks to memories of nights like this, her legacy is guaranteed to live on.

(photo Amanda Palmer: Beth Hommel)
(photo Builders and the Butchers: Mel Brown)
(photo Zoe Keating: Lane Hartwell)

mp3: "On The Radio (Regina Spektor cover)" by Amanda Palmer
mp3: "When It Rains" by Builders and the Butchers
mp3: "Expo (live)" by Zoe Keating

Thursday, December 18, 2008

plastic snow fire sale

Does plastic snow melt in a fire?

Anyhow, Christmas is now a week away. At the rate I'm going all presents will be delivered somewhere around...July.

In honor of the madness and joy of the holiday season, Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster is now selling our beloved album Plastic Snow for a mere nine dollars. That's right nine bucks gets you sixteen tasty holiday and winter tracks by our favorite local artists. It's our way of saying, "thanks for reading another year of our self-indulgent rants."

As always, all proceeds go to Midnight Mission.

Add to Cart
Shopping Cart by E-Junkie
Price: $10.00 $9.00 (16 high-quality DMR-free Mp3s)


1. breaking up for christmas - the breakups
2. Holiday – I Make This Sound
3. Icicles (Plastic Snow Session) – Let’s Go Sailing
4. Christmas Drill – Dreaming Ferns
5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Earlimart
6. Shortest Day of the Year – Letting Up Despite Great Faults
7. The Last December – The Hectors
8. This King – Great Northern
9. As The Day Breaks – Carmen Rizzo
10. Christmas, California – The Sweet Hurt
11. Winter, That’s All – Fol Chen
12. Hot Sleigh – The Monolators
13. Christmas Break – The Dandelion Council
14. Where’s My Christmas Morning – Princeton
15. What Brings You Back (Plastic Snow Session) – Pierre de Reeder
16. Silent Night – Sara Lov & Dustin O'Halloran

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

midnight mission/toys for tots @ the echoplex

I was going to write a review. A glowing review of our own party. But you'd probably figure out that I was more than a little bias. So I'm not going to.

I mean, I was going to mention that The Voyeurs might be LA's answer to Mates of States. And that Tandemoro's cover of "Heart It Races" made me smile. I was also going to throw in a positive note about Davey Ingeroll and Pierre de Reeder's cool singer songwriter spirit. I was going to make some less than veiled self-deprecating remark about how all the Would-Be Hipsters wish we were cute enough to throw on a pink dress and join the Damselles. I was going to wrap it up with a mention that Aaron Espinoza rocked the brave souls who stayed long enough to hear his "holidays in the ghetto" version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas." (Then I was going to throw in an extra comment about how it's available on our album.)

Heck, I was even going to mention that if you need music for a house party you'd be well off asking Letting Up Despite Great Faults or the Dandelion Council to spin for you.

But I'm not going to do that. You'd never believe me anyway.
The Damselles

Pierre de Reeder with Jeff Litz


Aaron Espinoza (of Earlimart)

(as always, photos courtesy of our favorite photographer: David Studarus)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

curtain speech by dm stith

Asthmatic Kitty is having a great year. Welcome Wagon, My Brightest Diamond, Grampall Jukebox, and now youthful upstart and Shara Worden protege, DM Stith. Clearly, it's good to be a chamber pop genius these days. (Insert obligatory comment about how we need Sufjan Steven's next offering now.)

At seventeen minutes and five songs, there's (admittedly) only so much that can be said, or in the name of linguistic conservation, so much that should be said about the oh-so-pretty Curtain Speech. Then again, when have we ever cared about that around here? (Linguistic conservation that is; there's always room in the heart of a would-be hipster for "oh-so-pretty.")

Yes, Curtain Speech is just an EP. Yes, it's only a forerunner to his upcoming full length. (Give me time. In addition to asking Santa for a new CD in Sufjan's States project, I might also be putting in requests for a bit of Stith.) But, popping it into your CD player has a magical effect: Stith's ridiculously varied vocals and gentle orchestration makes time stand still and responsibilities temporarily fade. Yesterday morning I listened twice before realizing that yes, that was a mere 34 minutes of my life I sat rapt, and no, I'm still not late for work. Work...what's that again?

Keep your eye out on his website. Good things are afoot.

mp3: "Just Once" by DM Stith

Monday, December 8, 2008

welcome to the welcome wagon by welcome wagon

Sincere is the new ironic. We already knew that; we're Would-Be Hipsters. We trade in sincerity (otherwise we'd take the "Would-Be" out of our name). So trust me when I say that Welcome Wagon's Welcome to the Welcome Wagon (out tomorrow) is pretty neat. Swell, actually.

Nestled neatly between label mates Half-Handed Cloud's frantic Sunday School kitch and the Flannery O'Connor spirituality of Come on Feel the Illinoise, the result is appealing mix of Sufjan, Sunday night church services, and...the Smiths? (Double checks song credits on "Half a Person". Yup.) It sounds pretty and it means something! No, really!

Of course, let's face it: gospel pop, infused with Carter/Cash musicality and White Stripes rawness and produced by sincere Bible believers is going to be a tough sell with the hipster crowd -- even with producer Sufjan Stevens' trademark banjos and oboe trills. Which is a shame, really. Artifice-free art should always have a place. These are talented musicians singing about what they believe and live. In a world where at the end of a day extolling the values of a strong street persona, even Kanye goes home to his mansion, The Welcome Wagon's sweet refusal to conform seems downright revolutionary.

mp3: "Sold! To the Nice Rich Man" by Welcome Wagon

Thursday, December 4, 2008

school of seven bells & m83 @ the henry fonda

This past Saturday night the Henry Fonda was the place to be. If you drove by, you would have seen hundreds of shivering hipsters – your brave author included – braving both an epic, round-the block line and the freezing California winter to be witness to a unique and extraordinary event. "What?" you ask. What was so terribly awesome that it would draw hipsters far from their abyssal, watery dwelling deep at the bottom of Silver Lake reservoir? A painted-on-tight jean fire-sale? Free cigarettes? The annual Pabst Blue Ribbon vegan BBQ and beer-bread cook-off? Don't be silly – that's in June. We were all waiting for something much better than all those things combined: namely, M83 on their Saturdays = Youth tour. Awesome enough, right? Nope. School of Seven Bells was opening for them!

That's right. School of Seven Bells...with M83...together. Two bands. Two sounds. One epic night of awesome. What's that? You've never heard of School of Seven Bells? Well then get thee to their Myspace, toad! Their debut album, Alpinisms, was just released at the end of October. Expect gently building synths married to subtle dance beats, kissed by what sounds like afro, dare-I-say-tribal and middle-eastern influences – all topped by the beautiful, soaring voice of lead singer Alejandra Deheza. Their tracks melt together to create some of the most enjoyable electro dream-pop sounds out there. Check them out. It's so sweet, you'll need a glass of milk to wash it down. Kind of like when I eat carrot cake...mmm...carrot cake....

Of course, let us not forget M83. Riding high on their so-awesomely named Saturdays = Youth tour, they were in full force. Weaving their electro-pop, shoe-gazey-awesome, they put on a great show. They even had these neat-o poles covered in color-changing LED's that were synced to the music – obviously of alien origin. Ooh! I know what I want for Christmas this year! What's that? Christmas? Give us music, you say? Bah! Humbug!

mp3: "Connjur" by School of Seven Bells
mp3: "A Guitar and a Heart" by M83

Monday, December 1, 2008

christmas in non-sequitur land

Normally in Would-Be Hipster land, a single track really doesn't warrant an entire review. But today...today, my friends, I am feeling the spirit of Christmas. Surely it's not the weather. Surely it's not due to the one year birthday party America seems to be throwing for the economic crisis (although, upon further reflection, it could be the $1.89/gallon gas sparking my jovial state). Surely it's not the residual traffic from the Hollywood Christmas parade street closures. All I know is, this morning, regardless of all extenuating circumstances, I woke wanting to bake cookies and do off key-renditions of "Oh Holy Night" until I'm blue in the face. But, as I'm both an abysmal cook and musician, a bag of Pepperidge Farms cookies and a mumbled Sufjan Stevens sing along had to suffice.

This is, of course, all to say that by the time I got around to checking my e-mail, my spirits were high and my resistance was low. Sofia Talvik is feeling the spirit too. Hopping on the good-music-for-a-good-cause-train, her new single "A Carol for the Lonely" is free. All she asks is that you pass along the good fortune and donate the money you would have spent to your favorite cause. Sofia suggests Sweden-based Standsmission. Naturally, I'd like to throw in a vote for Midnight Mission. Why not split the geographical difference and drop a dollar in a hat near you?

mp3: "A Carol for the Lonely" by Sofia Talvik

Varation-on-a-geographical-theme-bonus: Swedesplease has released their annual Swedish Christmas mix.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

i'll stay 'til after christmas by various artists

Contrary to the popular rumor that's going around (okay, the rumor that we've been working so hard to sustain), the Would-Be Hipsters did not invent the holiday charity album. This holiday season there's a plethora of tasty albums and good causes to check out/support. Get involved. (This imperative goes for any cause.) I fail to see the downside of giving money to a worthy cause and getting a little something back1.

I'll Stay 'Til After Christmas (out December 2nd on iTunes) is a particularly cool charitable offering. First of all, and most importantly, all proceeds go to Amnesty International which, let's face it, you can't argue with. Campaigning for human rights since 1961, they now boast over 2.2 billion members in 150 countries.

As if supporting human rights isn't good enough, let's talk music. Secondary reason for caring maybe, but I'll Stay 'Til After Christmas is crammed with Would-Be Hipster favorites. Read: You will be getting something back. A lot of somethings. My Brightest Diamond does a haunting David Bowie cover (no, not this one). Sally Shapiro continues to make cute as a button electronica. Figurine (New album? Please?) goes for holiday heartbreak. Au (the hardest band to Google) takes standard "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and renders it unstandard, daydreamy, and haunting. Of course, what would any holiday be without Snoopy? Au Revior Simone channels everyone's favorite Christmas cartoon and get their Charlie Brown on.

The overall vibe is a bit wistful and melancholic, that moment when you're left staring at the lit tree, maybe reflecting a bit too deeply. Your heart is warm, your belly is full – reality, for the moment, is held safely at arm's length. Truth is, if you're reading this, chances are you're richer and more blessed than 95% of the world. This holiday season, take time to pass it along.

1. Kept me a KCRW subscriber for going on three years now.

mp3: "Shenandoah" by Le Loup

Friday, November 28, 2008

shamless plug #2

Shameless plug #2 -- It's the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping and music is now socially acceptable. What are you waiting for?

1. breaking up for christmas - the breakups
2. Holiday – I Make This Sound
3. Icicles (Plastic Snow Session) – Let’s Go Sailing
4. Christmas Drill – Dreaming Ferns
5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Earlimart
6. Shortest Day of the Year – Letting Up Despite Great Faults
7. The Last December – The Hectors
8. This King – Great Northern
9. As The Day Breaks – Carmen Rizzo
10. Christmas, California – The Sweet Hurt
11. Winter, That’s All – Fol Chen
12. Hot Sleigh – The Monolators
13. Christmas Break – The Dandelion Council
14. Where’s My Christmas Morning – Princeton
15. What Brings You Back (Plastic Snow Session) – Pierre de Reeder
16. Silent Night – Sara Lov & Dustin O'Halloran
Add to Cart
Shopping Cart by E-Junkie
Price: $10.00 (16 high-quality DMR-free Mp3s)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

summer/winter nights by the argument

It's no secret I'm a fan of the Swedish music scene. Swedesplease and It's A Trap! are daily reading. I send my friends in the region long ranty e-mails about international releases (and America's general inability to import Swedish tea, candy, and cider). So when The Argument send us a flattering e-mail asking if we might say a few words about their new release...well boys, you had me at "Hej."

So our two bits of the local currency (In Sweden called the Öre ...the more you know). The Argument, and their debut album Summer/Winter Nights, is a lot of fun. Deceptively simple, this is deconstructed pop for the masses. It's low-fi but promising, the sort of sound you can imagine made by the perfect house party band, or shined up to be embraced as the next Shout Out Louds. Either way they're out to guarantee a good time had by all.

It feels a bit foolish to post an mp3 since thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can get the whole album right here for free. If you like our taste test, I suggest you do so immediately.

Mp3: "Forget About The Politics" by The Argument

Sunday, November 23, 2008

attack of the mini-reivews

As of late, I've been otherwised engaged, leaving a lot of releases over the last few months gathering dust on my desk (along with a tea cup, several post-it notes, and a half package of Clariton). Here are a few albums that have transcended my housecleaning skills and wormed their way to the top of the listening pile.

elephants...teeth sinking into heart by rachael yamagata

I got this album back in September, tossed it into my iTunes, labeled Rachel Yamagata a Fiona Apple come lately, and promptly forgot about it. But a funny thing happens on shuffle (and when listening to KCRW obsessively trying to win tickets) - things start coming full circle. Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart requires repeat exposure to uncover the gems: first time around, you’re struck with the sweet instrumentation; the next, Yamagata’s husky jazz lounge voice; and then sooner or later, you realize, hey, the girl can write! A two EP album showcasing two sides of the breakup coin, Teeth Sinking Into Heart highlights Yamagata’s budding ability to lay down an "angry girl" riff while (the infinitely superior) Elephants finds her playing the spurned lover, ruminating over heartbreak riddled with animal kingdom imagery. While seemingly unassuming, the collective album's emotional impact is tiger's-teeth sharp.

mp3: "Elephants Instrumental" by Rachael Yamagata

perfect symmetry by keane

In 2004, three rose-cheeked lads from Great Britain released a sweet, unassuming album of piano-based rock. Then came rehab, rumors, and...well, is there an "r" word that sums up the sudden desire to make music fit for grocery stores and banks? Perfect Symmetry is not Hopes and Fears; in fact, one might even argue that Keane is not the same band that captured my heart four years ago. Now normally I don't spend my time writing reviews for albums lacking in redeemable quality - the Would-Be Hipster pay just isn't high enough to warrant spending precious time finding synonyms for "crap." Regardless, Hopes and Fears was one of those rare "life track" albums, and despite their increasingly depressing downward musical spiral (see what I did there?) Keane will always have a small place in my heart. Advice? If you don't own it already, pick up Hopes and Fears and leave Keane's latest stab at electro-indie dribble to the strip malls.

mp3: "Spiralling" by Keane

broken limbs, hymns and skin by o'death

I am not a tough chick, I just play one at the gym. This is what I'm listening to when I pull those "oh-just-running-because-I-can" hardcore faces1. They call themselves "goth country" but O'Death's third official full-lenghth has more in common with fellow genre benders DeVotchKa - although push come to shove I'm sure whiskey would be an appropriate beverage of choice for both. Sounding both skilled and a little scary, O'Death carry on the modern gypsy tradition, and I carry on trying not to trip over my own feet.
1. And thinking how embarrassing it would be if I passed out.

mp3: "Low Tide" by O'Death
mp3: "Daytrotter: various tracks" by O'Death

shark remixes vol 1 - alfred brown by my brightest diamond

When it comes to remix albums, I’ve become a harder and harder act to entertain. I’m about to become even more of an impossible and pretentious critic, because My Brightest Diamond and her ilk (this time remixer Alfred Brown) have raised the bar impossibly high. Released earlier this year, A Thousand Shark's Teeth is a French-pop, operatic, daydream-filled album. Shark Remixes Volume 1, is a similar sort of animal: the alpha member of the pack. Vocals all but scraped away, this is the soundtrack to the Jean Pierre-Jeunet film yet to be made – you know, the one where the girl falls in love with a shark hell-bent on experiencing life free from the stress of enforcing the oceanic food chain before global warming eradicates life as we know it and all of humanity goes out in a big, apocalyptic chorus line number at the very end. (Call me...the treatment is written and waiting.)

mp3: "The Lonliest Man In History"by My Brightest Diamond

Thursday, November 20, 2008

the rantings of a Get Up Kids fangirl

There are three things that should be known about me:
1. I like a lot of unexpected music, and usually I like it quite fervently.
2. I do not read as many music blogs as I should, apparently.
3. I jump up and down when I get excited, usually in unfortunate situations.

So Thursday morning, when a fellow Would-be Hipster emailed me at work to tell me that she had just read that the Get Up Kids played a show in Kansas City and that they're planning to tour in 2009, I got up from my chair and jumped up and down in the middle of our open-space office. My art director laughed at me. The programmers were confused by me. My project managers were in another part of the building scorning me, but none of it mattered, as I have been promised the Get Up Kids. (I then found an email from a more sinister Would-be Hipster, demanding to know why I didn't know before Stereogum. What can I say, I have to work for a living. And at work, it's less conspicuous if I read Photoshop Disasters.)

Yes, I know, the Get Up Kids count as emo. But they're the good emo! They're the emo before Fall Out Boy and after the hardcore kids who got dumped by their girlfriends. They've got unfortunate sweaters and the best rhythm section around and Matt Pryor screaming1 and, most importantly, they've got Something to Write Home About, which is being re-released by Vagrant for its tenth anniversary, complete with DVD and photo booklet. The Kansas City show was promoting the re-release, and they did the whole album live, with shows next year to follow. There's video footage of just about every song, and while the quality isn't brilliant, it's still pretty good.

And yes, I'll admit that it's a bit silly for a band to have "broken up" three years ago to be doing what may or may not count as a reunion tour. But hey, it works for the Who2.

1. They also, apparently, have James Dewees sporting my father's haircut from 1978, which is unfortunate, and Rob Pope in glasses and a cardigan which is, well, let's just say it's somewhat more fortunate.
2. When I was in college, I talked my father into giving me his beloved Who shirt, which he purchased at "the Who's first farewell tour, before Moon even died". Maybe one day I'll have a nephew asking me for my Get Up Kids shirt, purchased at their "first farewell tour" in 2005.

mp3: "I'll Catch You (accoustic)" by the Get Up Kids
mp3: "Red Letter Day (live)" by the Get Up Kids

Monday, November 17, 2008

ben folds @ the wiltern

Oh Mr. Folds...I just don't get it. How can you produce dreck like The Way to Normal, and still preform said dreck live in such a way that it makes me forget that I'm victoriously nodding my head along to what amounts as a laundry list of complaints against your ex-wife? Mr. Piano Man...I'm weak-willed, I really am.

Thus ends my lyrics-slut gripe against his new material. If we've learned anything from his current misstep it is this: Live Ben will always trump Studio Ben. That, and if you're going to leak a fake version of your album, its lyrics shouldn't be more effortlessly goofy than the open diary, forced levity of the "official" version1. (All I'm sayin' is if you're going to include the line But if you had to say it all with a pop song / Couldn't you at least have made me a good one? well...take your own advice.)

Before I come off as hopelessly dower, it's important to note that this review is, in fact, written by a Ben Folds fan. Few people have mastered the art of combining true musical mastery with pop sensibilities (or if you prefer, punk for sissies) than Ben. Live, preforming on a grand piano (out, out, wretched synthesizers), fingers flying, stool rarely, if ever, seeing his backside, it becomes abundantly clear: Ben Folds is a Musician. And, even more of a rare breed, a likable one at that. In between making the hard stuff look easy, Ben took time out to chat with the the audience, making being on stage with two-thousand people studying your every move look downright effortless. And educational. We learned that all you really need to get a job in film composing is a working knowledge of the "C" scale, and that a tin of Mentos, when placed face down on the strings of the piano, make an excellent source of percussive beats (for when scoring either nature documentaries or endorsement deals).

Theatrics aside, the real performance began during the second full set when, fake and official versions of the new material exhausted, the hits began. It's hard not to feel connected to Fold's cast of characters -- even when actively poking fun at himself as in "Rockin' the Suburbs," there's still an extreme element of (repetition drives home a point) likability. His cast of everymen and -women -- hey, that could be you. And, as anyone who proudly sang along in three-part harmony during the night's closer "Not the Same" can tell you, for a good concert, that's more than enough.

1. Although flashing the phrase "rhyming dictionary" during the first number, the fake "Road to Normal" was a nice touch, as was the frown-faced keytar players during the "Frown Song." Dang it...I'm falling for it again, aren't I?

mp3: "You Don't Know Me (live)" by Ben Folds
mp3: "Such Great Heights (Postal Service)" by Ben Folds
mp3: "The Way to Normal (fake album)" by Ben Folds

Friday, November 14, 2008

plastic snow -- a shamless plug

Remember the Lusitania, er...Plastic Snow! We're getting closer to the season when listening to Christmas music is social acceptable. It's Friday, pay day. Why not start the party a bit early?

You've heard our hype. You've seen the photos. Maybe you're waiting for the reviews. After all, you're a hard worker, and ten dollars is ten dollars, even if it is going to a great cause. Maybe you're asking yourself, "What are the critics saying?"


Speaking of bad ass...-- La-Underground

So why not start the holidays a little early and help out a really good cause at the same time? -- The Scenestar

Just look at the lineup on the album! It reads like a "Best of Los Angeles" comp. -- Classical Geek Theater

Dropping a measly ten dollars has never felt so good! -- LAist

Add to Cart
Shopping Cart by E-Junkie
Price: $10.00 (16 high-quality DMR-free Mp3s)


1. breaking up for christmas - the breakups
2. Holiday – I Make This Sound
3. Icicles (Plastic Snow Session) – Let’s Go Sailing
4. Christmas Drill – Dreaming Ferns
5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Earlimart
6. Shortest Day of the Year – Letting Up Despite Great Faults
7. The Last December – The Hectors
8. This King – Great Northern
9. As The Day Breaks – Carmen Rizzo
10. Christmas, California – The Sweet Hurt
11. Winter, That’s All – Fol Chen
12. Hot Sleigh – The Monolators
13. Christmas Break – The Dandelion Council
14. Where’s My Christmas Morning – Princeton
15. What Brings You Back (Plastic Snow Session) – Pierre de Reeder
16. Silent Night – Sara Lov & Dustin O'Halloran

Great Northern appears courtesy of Eenie Meenie Records. Carmen Rizzo appears courtesy of Electrofone Music. Fol Chen appears courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records. Guest vocalist on track 1: Wendy Wang. Choir on 1: Lindsay Barnett, Corinne Dinner, Lexy Feuerborn, Jonathan Price, Jim Saunders, Greg Weigel. Guitar on track 15: Jeff Litz

Thursday, November 13, 2008

dungen @ the echo

I went into the Echo last night knowing a couple things about Dungen --

First: They are awesome. Their sweet sweet psychedelic rock has been haunting my apartment since I first got my grubby mitts on their latest album, “4” -- the review of which can be read here.

Second: they are Swedish. They have come to America as emissaries of awesome and chose Los Angeles to wrap up their North American tour. Any band that comes half-ways around the world to play for me gets bonus points – especially when they can lay down such an solid, mature sound.

What I didn't know going in but very quickly realized upon entering was they draw a huge crowd; there were people listening from the bathroom – and it's no wonder. Your fearless author managed to snag a spot just in front of the stage through much excusing and gentle shoving, and the work was well worth it. Their albums give you an idea of the incredibly varied, at times lilting at times wailing rock these guys are capable of -- but it just doesn't do them justice; Dungen is the kind of band you need to experience like I did last night – really loud and in a crowded venue whose air smells faintly of weed, greasy hair and beer... needless to say, it was really cool. Almost as soon as they started, a wave of acid-soaked awesome rushed over me; Awash in red lights, these long-haired and alarmingly thin men played a show that transported me to a seedy venue somewhere in the mid-seventies; an experience that almost made me forget I was being slowly suffocated and crushed by a crowd that would have driven even the most stalwart fire-Marshall to panic.

Said crowd needed no warming up – bobbing heads quickly became hoots and hollers – but it was when the tambourine came out I knew we were all in for a great time. Sporting enough energy to power a small town, front man Gustav Ejstes did a great job of getting the crowd riled up as he danced and jerked around the stage -- truly a wonderful performance of the infamous “hippie dance.”

At this, the final stop of their tour, Dungen decided to go out with a bang. I don't know how else to describe it – it was just... loud, awesome, crazy, fun... a really a great rock show. They played a long and varied set – between Gustav's flute solos and their whipping the crowd into a frenzy, the band did a great job of not being pinned down to one feel or tempo. Hard, tambourine shaking, head-banging psychedelic rock gave way into slower, contemplative and almost folk-inspired sounds – all accomplished by drummer Fredrik Björling and the sweet tunes and voices of Guitarist Reine Fiske and bassist Mattias Gustavvson.

The sweet wailing of “Ingenting Ar Sig Likt” had the crowd rocking along to its gentle sounds, but everyone went nuts when Gustav picked up his flute and played the opening notes of “Mina Damer Och Fasaner,” a Dungen anthem. Who cares if you don't know what they're saying? It just sounds so... so cool. And when “Fredag” came up? Or “Det Tar Tid”? Forget about it, kid. Like I said, the Echo show unfortunately wrapped up Dungen's North American tour -- their next show is in Oslo, too far-afield for this mild-mannered would-be-hipster. No matter! Get thee to their website or myspace and check them out!

mp3: "Fredag" by Dungen
mp3: "Det Tar Tid" by Dungen

beck @ club nokia

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a VIP. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that, thanks to KCRW, my tickets to see Beck preform on the first night of the newly opened Club Nokia, weren't at will-call. No, they were waiting for me at the VIP entrance situated at the mouth of a very loud, very hip club. Life is weird. However, I am resonantly pro any weird that comes with free sushi and drinks.

Kicking off the night with the honor of playing the first song on the new stage, was Rilo Kiley front-woman Jenny Lewis. Despite Rilo Kiley playing heavily into my running play list ("The Moneymaker" has been personally responsible for many exercise related near-death experiences this year), I've spent more time contemplating the color of Jenny Lewis' hair than the quality of her solo projects.

I am an idiot. This is, of course, is not a particularly new revelation. To set the record straight: Jenny Lewis is a captivating, intriguing performer. Being a Bob Dylan fan, I do not say this lightly, but there is a touch of Highway 61 excitement to her performance style. Chalk it up to her reserved stage persona (so much, in fact, that boyfriend Jonathan Rice provided most of the on-stage banter) coupled with seemingly intimate lyrics starring a cast of wanderers and ruffians. Say what will (keep in mind I'm not making any grandiose statements about our generation's "poet laureate") but take a close listen to "The Next Messiah" vs. "Like A Rolling Stone." Girl's got a familiar spark.

Sometimes, much to my fifteen-year-old self's chagrin, I forget just how much I adore Beck. Five albums and three concerts since my days of scribbling Odelay inspired poetry in fourth period AP English, his material still sounds fresh and exciting -- a shared opinion as evidenced by the crowds' sing-and-dance along to anthemic, even after all these years, single, "Loser." Truthfully, any review of his show falls under the same category as dancing about architecture. I hate to say you would have had to to have been there, but seriously -- where were you? The hair has gotten a bit longer, and now he's occasionally joined by his son on stage (ears swaddled in the largest pair of headphones possible), but musically? Time has altered very little for the sultan of slackers. The more he changes, it seems, the more he stays the same.

Over the years, Beck has kept most critics at bay by changing styles every few albums. While this makes it difficult to recommend the body of his catalogue with any accuracy (no really, I swear, you'll like this white boy rapper/disco soul man/folkie/rocker!) the dichotomy between albums makes for some of the most energetic shows around. After a rocking set of white boy rapping, including a selection from the unfairly maligned Guero played on what appeared to be video game consoles, the winds shifted and serious Beck came to play, ripping though several downtrodden songs from Modern Guilt (exponentially better in concert than on CD) and the bummer-any-way-you-slice it Sea Change. Most surprising was was a finger-picking cut "Hollow Log" from the early, folky, One Foot In the Grave. Hooray for obscurity!

The night ended cyclically, as Beck, accompanied by his now infamous dancer (cheers to you my arrhythmic brother-in-dance!) lead the crowd through another dance-along. As the final na-na-na strains Guero opener "E-Pro" echoed away there was very little left to say other than, of course, it better not be another five years before Beck and I meet again.

mp3: "Vampire Voltage No. 6" by Beck
mp3: "Acid Tongue" by Jenny Lewis

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

behind the scenes of plastic snow

In celebration of Plastic Snow ('cause as far as we're concerned it's already Christmas at WBH headquarters), we've decided to post some exclusive (ooh!) behind-the-scenes photos of our recording session.

What? Don't have your copy yet? Slip into your favorite holiday sweater and download it here.

All photos courtesy of our favorite photographer David Studarus.

Fearless Producer, Darius Fong

Let's Go Sailing

Pierre de Reeder
(with Jeff Litz)

Great Northern

Sunday, November 9, 2008

plastic snow on the radio

Tomorrow, November 10th, Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster will be guesting on KUCI show Scene and Heard (2pm-4pm PST).  Plastic Snow artist Pierre de Reeder will be preforming a live set sometime in the second hour. Catch his lovely music and our stuttering here

Thursday, November 6, 2008

frightened rabbit and spinto band @ the echoplex

I went into Monday's show at the Echoplex knowing that the Spinto Band was a cute band that played kazoo on "Brown Boxes" which came out a few years ago, and that Frightened Rabbit has owned the last several months of my life, and Midnight Organ Fight left my car's CD player only because the stereo began to overheat in the Santa Ana Winds of Death that plague Los Angeles every autumn. I left Monday's show very much blown away.

Delaware's Spinto Band was billed as the headliner, but it was fairly obvious that the six very young-looking, slightly shaggy boys that piled onstage after the evening's opening band1 were not the slightly tortured and slightly brash Scots we were expecting to fill the second slot. Not that we were complaining. I haven't seen so many smiling, head-bobbing "oooh" backing vocals since the Beatles, and their bouncing instruments and quirky melodies won me over pretty quickly. I even want to say that their vocals were more on-pitch live than on their slightly off-key records, but the bass was vibrating most of the atoms in my body, and in such situations I tend to view the world through very rose-colored glasses, so that may be an exaggeration. Regardless, they were a pleasant surprise, as was the kazoo holder2.

The Would-be Hipsters, however, were there for Frightened Rabbit and their self-deprecation and their awesome drumming and, yeah I'll admit it, their accents. Lead singer/guitarist Scott Hutchinson's playful stories about marrying keyboardist/guitarist Andy – a response to California's Prop 83 – and jokingly berating a girl in the crowd who called out "let's pretend you're attractive!" (a reference to a line from "The Twist") probably made most of the girls in the room swoon because it was all delivered in a Scottish accent and yes, American girls are that predictable and shallow. Sorry.

The music was flawless, the performance impeccable, and the vocals heartrending. There are few men in the world who can sing about how stupid he is and how stupid the girl is and how terrible their relationship was and still send shivers up your spine. There are also few men in the world who can sing you're the shit and I'm knee deep in it and not sound silly. And are very few men in the world who could have stood at the edge of the stage plucking a simple tune on his guitar and sing into the crowd without a microphone and have everyone in the room hold their breath the way Hutchinson did during "Poke". And while the entire show was just about that emotive, much of it was more of the rabble-rousing sort:

I should probably have some witty, concise way to sum up the evening, but there's no way to do that. In fact, I wanted to do a single-word review, but L.M.S. wouldn't let me. So I'll leave you with the only word I can use to truly describe the show: Duuude.

1. Miniature Tigers – not bad as far as openers go; they were overshadowed by the psychedelic light show, until they started singing about cannibals and Hare Krishnas.
2. Y'know those things folk singers have that hold their harmonicas so that they can play guitar and harmonica at the same time? Yeah. Spinto Band's bassist has one of those. For his kazoo. Made out of what appears to be a wire hanger. Awesome.
3. Editorial from m.a.b. whose opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the other Would-be Hipsters: Dude, really California? You passed Prop 8? You fail. I'm done now.

(photo Frightened Rabbit: Christopher Heaney)

mp3: "Don't" by Frightened Rabbit

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

better late than never

Here are four shows I attended this year that did not get reviewed due to the fact that I am a slacker. Hooray!

wolf parade @ the henry fonda (july 19)

I learned a very valuable lesson at this show. And that lesson is that clinging to the rail in the front row of the pit is not only advantageous to the purpose of close-range admiration of musicianship -- it can, in fact, save your life should the crowd around you collectively lose its mind and try to swallow you whole. Oh yes. But here's the good news: Wolf Parade is awesome, and during the moments when I wasn't trying to deflect death with only my elbows, I got to watch/listen to them play all nine songs on At Mount Zoomer, one of my favorite albums this year, and most of the really important songs from 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary. All in all, worth it. I think.

mp3: "I’ll Believe in Anything" by Wolf Parade

sunset junction festival (august 23)

A two-day event, the would-be hipsters had only resolve enough to brave the parking situation once, on Saturday. After spending some time wandering around and taking in the sights and inevitable smells, we wandered back to the main stage in time to see a few bands, but mostly I was there to see Menomena effectively open for Broken Social Scene. There was nothing at all disappointing about this spectacle. I'd seen Menomena live once before and already knew I loved them, but it wasn’t until this night that I think I fully appreciated why Broken Social Scene command such widespread awe.

mp3: "Evil Bee" by Menomena
mp3: "7/4 (Shoreline)" by Broken Social Scene

sunset rubdown @ the black cat (washington d.c. – september 19)

There are so many reasons why this is the best show in the history of ever that I don't even know where to start. For one thing, I was on the other side of the country with the only two other people on the planet who love this band as much as I do. For another, they played seven new songs, and every single one of them blew my mind. And here is where this review dissolves from humorously subjective to completely undignified: No band who makes albums like they do should be allowed to be so amazing live. It shouldn't work. But it absolutely does. Spencer Krug is god.

mp3: "Black Swan (Live)" by Sunset Rubdown

the mountain goats @ the troubadour (october 25)

I like, but do not love, the Mountain Goats. This is probably because I am not a lyrics person. And yet, a couple Saturdays ago, there I was, seeing them for the second time this year. What can I say? They have charisma. The band takes the stage literally dancing, John Darnielle never stops grinning, the rhythm section is made of win, and those lyrics do make for some gloriously absurd sing-alongs. I can think of far worse ways for a geek to spend a Saturday night.

mp3: "Autoclave" by the Mountain Goats

Sunday, November 2, 2008

don't dance by the monolators

A Monolators review: innocent fan-girl ravings, or method of drawing subtle attention to a other projects? Trick question -- it's both. I don't invite people I don't like to my "parties," and the Monolators' new offering Don't Dance provides plenty of reasons to refill the chip bowl and turn the stereo up to eleven.

Due to the influx of Halloween leftovers (Does anyone actually trick-or-treat anymore? Do I really need three dozen Reese's Peanut Butter Cups? Do I need medical attention to make my heart stop racing?), I am still in a perpetual state of over-sugaredness, thus making my love of power-punk-pop album Don't Dance even more acute -- even if the title clearly forbids my signature "Elaine Benes" style of bogeying down. "Don't dance" is, of course, an unreasonable demand: do you really expect me not to bust a move or two when faced with your inebriated Buddy Holly stichk? I'm only one woman. STOP THE MADNESS!

Let's take a look at the argument for dancing to The Monolators, or at the very least arrhythmicly bouncing along, shall we?

1. The total album running time is a shade under thirty-five minutes, during which the average dancing Would-Be Hipster will burn 205 calories; interestingly enough, this is the cooking time for an oven-baked dessert, thus allowing one to have her cake and eat it too.

2. Don't Dance is better than the Footloose soundtrack. (It terrifies me that in this argument, I've actually positioned myself as Kevin Bacon.)

3. The album is uptempo from start to finish. Slightly past the album's midway point, the song "I Heard Her Calling From Another Room" provides slightly slower pace, preventing heat attacks. (You ate that entire cake didn't you?)

4. Dancing is known to increase mood-elevating endorphins. With songs reminiscing about drinking airplane wine to forget a lover, and longing to see your lover's face and wipe away her tears (presumably the one you're drinking to forget on the way home?) chances are you're going to need ample mental diversion to forget your own past romantic issues. Melancholy set to uptempo, melodic punk -- don't try to tell us this isn't an open invitation to "dance it out."

5. Lead singer Eli Monolator has been quoted as saying "...there are eighty skillion bands here [Los Angeles] and all of them, without exception, can play better than we can." While I can't argue the validity of this statement (really...I'll send you some of my demos and then we'll talk), one can't deny the powers of distraction created by a sea of hipsters awkwardly swaying and weaving like bobble-head Wes Anderson characters.

The bottom line: The Monolators are a couple of jokesters. Go dance.

(photo monolators: Angela Maria Ortiz)

mp3: "I Must Be Dreaming" by The Monolators

Saturday, November 1, 2008

confessions of a would-be hipster presents: plastic snow

Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster is proud to present Plastic Snow, a Los Angeles-based holiday and winter compilation. Featuring sixteen of our favorite local artists, it's an eclectic mix (much like us) of the best the local LA scene has to offer...at least we think so.

What's better than home-grown music? Using what we love to make the world a better place. 100% of the profits from Plastic Snow go to benefit Los Angeles' longest running homeless shelter, Midnight Mission. Their stats for what they've accomplished in the last year (available on their website) are simply staggering, and we are honored to assist in fundraising for 2009. If you're LA-based, consider taking a tour - it's an incredibly humbling experience.

It goes without saying that none of these artists received any compensation for their work on this album. So for heaven's sake, if any of these songs catch your fancy, be sure to show the musicians some love. Buy albums, buy concert tickets, buy 'em pie...

Add to Cart
Shopping Cart by E-Junkie
Price: $10.00 $9.00 (16 high-quality DMR-free Mp3s)


1. breaking up for christmas - the breakups
2. Holiday – I Make This Sound
3. Icicles (Plastic Snow Session) – Let’s Go Sailing
4. Christmas Drill – Dreaming Ferns
5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Earlimart
6. Shortest Day of the Year – Letting Up Despite Great Faults
7. The Last December – The Hectors
8. This King – Great Northern
9. As The Day Breaks – Carmen Rizzo
10. Christmas, California – The Sweet Hurt
11. Winter, That’s All – Fol Chen
12. Hot Sleigh – The Monolators
13. Christmas Break – The Dandelion Council
14. Where’s My Christmas Morning – Princeton
15. What Brings You Back (Plastic Snow Session) – Pierre de Reeder
16. Silent Night – Sara Lov & Dustin O'Halloran

Great Northern appears courtesy of Eenie Meenie Records. Carmen Rizzo appears courtesy of Electrofone Music. Fol Chen appears courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records. Guest vocalist on track 1: Wendy Wang. Choir on 1: Lindsay Barnett, Corinne Dinner, Lexy Feuerborn, Jonathan Price, Jim Saunders, Greg Weigel. Guitar on track 15: Jeff Litz

Compiled by The Would-Be Hipsters
Produced by Darius Fong
Photo: David Studarus
Model: Natalie
Wardrobe Styling: Gena Tuso
Hair & Makeup: Angel Wen
Design: Hubert and Miss Patty

Special Thank You to:
Greg McKinney
Kathy Ward
Sue DeSimone

Thursday, October 30, 2008

plastic snow -- available november 1st


November 1st -- because Christmas can't come early enough.
only at wouldbehipster.com

for life by hearts of palm uk

They said it could never work... She was a sentimental girl band, singing about a love that came so close to working; warm, sincere and influenced by folk. He was a cool and subdued synthesizer, driving beats and modulating sine-waves were his specialty; dreaming of bands like I Am Robot & Proud and Freescha, he would never go lyrical... Until he met her... until now. Hearts of Palm UK's new album, “For Life,” has wed the the sad, longing bride to the synth-drum kit groom and created a beautiful baby of soft-spoken, heartfelt and wonderfully awesome synth-pop; and it sounds really, really cool.

Songs like “I Flow” and “So Long” showcase the real strength of Hearts of Palm UK's style – the heart-felt and sincere “girl-with-guitar” lyrics interwoven with subdued and cool electronic sounds that seem to somehow emphasize through contrast the warm voice and emotionally charged lyrics. To top it off, lead singer Erica Electra has a voice perfectly suited to her music – a sincere tone that manages to remain vulnerable yet strong and completely believable throughout her tales of love found and subsequently lost. Synth leads fill in the background, subdued drums keep time and sweeping pads soar over the whole thing – even the vocoder gets in on the action.

A wonderfully executed and sincere take on the terrible joy of relationships -- and the complexity of feelings they bring up and leave behind, all scored to the beeps and boops any electro junkie would love. Not to mention is just sounds so cool. If it sounds awesome, that's because it is.... and by awesome I mean check them out .

mp3: "I Flow" by Hearts of Palm UK
mp3: "People & Logistics" by Hearts of Palm UK

Monday, October 27, 2008

who killed amanda palmer? by amanda palmer

For a twenty-three year old girl who subsists on microwavable cuisine and still has no idea what she wants to be when she grows up, listening to Amanda Palmer's (of the famed Dresden Dolls) solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer on an overcast day after drinking the very last Twinings single in the cabinet was, in retrospect, not the healthiest thing I could have done for my own - at times dubious - state of mental health.

Then again, someone who subsists on microwavable cuisine obviously thinks other things are far more important. And so.

This write-up should have been posted weeks ago, honestly. Unfortunately, when I'm called to write about something that basically wrenched my throat out with candid feelings and the stabbing recognition of self-deprecation in a world that really needs no encouragement, I get a little pressed for words. Even now, I don't think I can do it justice. It's been a while since an album has hit me this hard. Who Killed Amanda Palmer is so many emotions, so many genres, and so many faces of humanity huddled beneath a single umbrella made of ivory. Madness and innocence link arms within the raw frankness of each phrase; her lyrics are desperate confessions and wry, cynical observations, each one of them delivered as if they're the last words she'll ever say.

The opening track, "Astronaut," is a perfect gateway from everything I love about the Dresden Dolls to a more intimate exploration of the woman behind the lyrics. Precise, pounding piano and crashing drums take reeling pauses to allow Amanda a step forward - a chance to finally tell her side of the story. From there, it segues startlingly into "Runs in the Family," which is a furious, rhapsodic rejection of responsibility. All day I’ve been wondering what is inside of me / who can I blame for it? It's Amanda at her most insane - and for me, it's one of WKAP's many highlights.

One of the reasons I think that this album has taken such a strong hold on my aural receptors is that I've always had a fondness/weakness for musical theatre. With Amanda's background, it's no surprise that the ensuing piano-rich ballads comprising the majority of the album's content sound like they belong beneath a single spotlight on a blacked-out stage, existing as solos for the different personas portrayed by a single woman caught out at stage front before her cues.

"Ampersand" is glorious in its subtle complexity, an abdication that borders on bitterness but never quite crosses the line. "Leeds United" paints a confusingly ironic landscape of priority (including what I consider to be the most ridiculous yet simultaneously wonderful and hard-hitting lyrics of 2008: But who needs love when there’s Law & Order / And who needs love when there’s Southern Comfort / And who needs love / When the sandwiches are wicked and they know you at the Mac store?).

Later, she breaks out "Have to Drive" - my favourite track of all. Who knew that refrains about the misfortune of roadkill could be so heart-wrenching? The choral verses at about 3:52 almost did me in. (And no, that wasn't a sick pun. I'm not nearly that clever.) "What's the Use of Wond'rin'," a track borrowed from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, conveys - through soft vocals and an equally innocent, twinkling accompaniment - the lamentable acceptance of domestic abuse.

The only song that stood out to me as being a little oddly placed was "Oasis"; while being one of the jauntiest and catchiest songs about rape, abortion, and teenage flightiness (is that even a word?) that I've ever heard in my life, it felt a little awkward in between the R&H track and the proceeding "The Point of it All," another lovely biographical ballad rife with biting metaphors and sorrow. Not that I don't love a tongue-in-cheek pop song, but the placement was a bit jarring.

Minor whiplash aside, Who Killed Amanda Palmer finishes beautifully with "Another Year." I couldn't imagine a better closer; her voice cracks, and her words reveal a woman at her barest, procrastinating on what? life? love? Whatever it is, it can wait.

I'm sitting in my office after hours, and I'm still out of tea. I've finished editing this for the last time, and for once I'm actually somewhat pleased with the wording. I guess it fits, in a way. Because when I finally closed iTunes after the last track, it started to rain.

And now I can go home.

mp3: "Ampersand (live)" by Amanda Palmer