Tuesday, July 29, 2008

i feel the earth move under my feet

As I'm sure most of our readership has heard, Southern California was rocked (and even a little rolled, at least in Burbank where I was) by a decent-sized earthquake today. The last time we had a quake anywhere near the size of today's, boys were still kind of icky, O.J. Simpson was just a football player, and I was beginning to figure out what the big deal was about music and why the Beatles were pretty cool. This time I'm a grownup with an iPod full of awesome music - although very little of it actually addresses earthquakes. Not sure why - we had a rockin' time cowering under our desks this morning.

mp3: "We Vibrate We Do" by So Many Dynamos
mp3: "Fault Lines" by the Mountain Goats
mp3: "Unshake It" by Logan Whitehurst
mp3: "Why You'd Want to Live Here (acoustic)" by Ben Gibbard
mp3: "Shakin' All Over (live)" by the Who

Sunday, July 27, 2008

peaceful, the world lays me down by noah and the whale

I, like many internet-dwelling indie-music kids, stumbled upon Noah and the Whale's video for "5 Years Time" ages ago and promptly fell in love with its Wes Anderson-inspired style and Brunettes-inspired dance moves and its ukulele-playing cute British boys. And then, like many United States-dwelling fans, checked every record store I went into for months, hoping to find the album and instead ended up cursing the cruelties of the world when I was forced to leave without Noah or any whale of any kind1. Luckily for everyone, Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down hits stores July 292.

Noah and the Whale are, as far as I can tell, the musical love child of I'm From Barcelona and the Shout Out Louds, only less Swedish and slightly more bent, in that "you've totally convinced me with your lyrics that yes, it would indeed be a good idea to abandon infants in the snow, because hey, the food chain's gotta start somewhere and besides, I can't argue with random handclaps and plucked violin strings like that" sort of way. Have I mentioned my love for chipper music with slightly morbid lyrics? Add to that a list of influences like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, Daniel Johnston, Neutral Milk Hotel and Jeffrey Lewis, along with a bassist named Urby and the aforementioned ukulele, and there's no way this album could go wrong.

Not all of the songs are as bouncy as "5 Years Time" - in fact, several of the songs, like "Death by Numbers," allow the instrumentation to reflect the themes of death and rebirth and broken hearts, but the glockenspiel and guitar and interestingly cymbal-free drums often (but not always) counteract the melancholy of the violin and Charlie Fink's charmingly rough voice. What results is one of the few albums in my collection that's just as good to listen to while walking to the grocery store on a beautiful sunny afternoon while admiring the ocean breeze and the strange abundance of beetles on the sidewalk as it is to listen to on a sweltering Saturday night stuck in traffic on the 10 freeway as you try to get someplace you don't even really want to be. It's sweet and tender, but with enough wit, morbidity and self-deprecation to help get you through Downtown LA. Hey you, dude in the 'Vette who cut through three lanes of traffic to get on the 101? If you give a little love / you can get a little love of your own / don't break his heart. Or any of my vital organs. Thanks.

1. Which reminds me – Hey, White Whale, what's up with that album you keep promising us?
2. Actually, we've been corrected - the album actually drops Sept. 16th, so you'll have to go a bit longer still. Cruel, but true.

(Photo Noah and the Whale:

mp3: "Five Years Time (live)" by Noah and the Whale

Friday, July 25, 2008


Here at CWBH we are not publicist playthings! This is of course, unless there's something this cool. Maybe it's the film geek in me, or maybe it's that I just sold my left kidney to pay for car repairs (thus making the word "free" stand out like a blinking neon sign). But when push comes to shove, how can you argue with full-length rock documentaries on the web? Oh yeah, did I mention free?

To top it off, this service caters to indie film makers...like the kids are saying these days, FTW! 'Cause as we all know, corporate dirt don't wash clean. Now if you pardon me, I'm going back to my (very early) Friday night of writing my screenplay and MacDonald's feasts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

covers: part three

Part three of the covers series! This time: Seriously?

I think my favorite type of covers are the ones that should never have been made. The song is too ludicrous, the musicians have no reason to even listen to it, let alone record it themselves. Nothing about it makes any sense. But it makes me happy. I think it goes to prove that the worse the song originally, the greater the ironic-cover becomes. I knew "Kokomo" was a stupid song when I was a six-year-old obsessed with Jem cartoons and Mousercise. But when Adam Green and Ben Kweller harmonize with their "tropical contact high," it's pure genius.

Although...I don't think Rivers is being ironic....

"Complicated" – originally by Avril Lavigne, covered by Ben Gibbard
"Careleess Whisper" – originally by George Michael, covered by Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright
"Power of Love" – originally by Celine Dion, covered by Final Fantasy
"Beat It" – originally by Michael Jackson, covered by Fall Out Boy
"Kokomo" – originally by the Beach Boys, covered by Ben Kweller and Adam Green
"Never Tear Us Apart" – originally by INXS, covered by Matt Pryor and James Dewees of the Get Up Kids
"Tomorrow" – from the soundtrack to Annie, covered by Rivers Cuomo

Monday, July 21, 2008

datarock, m83, and mates of state at the gibson

Nothing about the Download Festival made any sense. The overwhelming theme - if one was hard pressed enough to look for one - was, "hey guys, why don't we pick bands out of a hat launch a tour and rake in lots of cash!" Or maybe it's just that they realize with the prevalence of downloading, their target audience, twenty-something's, music collection is similar to a Vegas buffet. Quantity! Give us more! Bigger is better! This is by no means a self-righteous indictment. More like a self-righteous pot calling a kettle black. I'm a whiner. A whiner who rode the Flavorpill gravy train...thus leaving me without a leg to stand on. That's okay, I'm an old woman, and the seats at the Gibson, combined with the rotating stage, suited me just fine.

A funny thing happens at festivals. Ear fatigue. Thus, while there were many capable musicians1 (Duke Spiritand Kaki King being the best of the rest) there were only three major standouts. Am I the concert going equivalent of Cesar's Rome, looking for bigger "bloodier" musical acts? At least no one has died amidst striving for funnier on-stage banter.

Datarock was by far the biggest surprise of the afternoon. With only a twenty-five minute set, they managed to win me over at lightning speed. Entering perched on the drumset in their trademark red jumpsuits....oh who am I kidding, the theatrics had me won over from the get go. Their on-stage antics where as calculated as their performance attire. Goofy half-rapped songs about computer geeks and mean girls named Judy, it's impossible not to admire their desire to revive the moonwalk. This is Norway's answer the Beastie Boys, and while their English as a second language wordplay may not be an active threat to our favorite Brooklyn punks, I definitely wouldn't turn my back on their over the top stage antics. It's important and awesome to note that Datarock hails from Bergen, the same small town that brought us the dulcet tones of Sondre Lerche and Kings of Convenience. I freaking love Scandinavia!

I'll admit, M83 was the sole reason I spent the better part of the week trying to win tickets. Despite my near pathological fear of French men, Saturdays=Youth is currently sitting near the top of my "best of 2008" list. Apparently said fear can be tempered by cheesy 1980s synths. Although here I'll have to complain again...twenty-five minute sets? Seriously? The median song length on Saturdays=Youth is five minutes! The set opener, "Couleurs" was eight and a half. Maybe I'm just grouchy since he didn't play "Graveyard Girl." What Anthony Gonzales and crew did manage, sans single, was nothing short of awe inspiring. Again, imprecise, since it did inspire a good deal of awe in me. Granted, it was an awe that two-thirds of the audience didn't seem to share. Really, you couldn't have cut out a few bands and while you were at it, slanted the lineup in my favor2? M83 live is like being smacked in the face with a wall of synth-driven sound. The second time I've seen them and the second time I've managed to forget my earplugs. It's like I'm begging to go deaf.

I find it funny that while M83 left much of the audience cold, synth-driven, candy-coated Mates of State was a huge hit. On a tip from Smarties-loving ako, I was sure to stick around for their set, a sweet from start to finish concoction that made me long for another nutella crepe3. Of course they had two things going for them even before they began: the two band member dynamic (one hopes they operate as a married couple with as much skill as they do a musical duel), and a singing drummer. Yes, I realize the Eagles have made the singing drummer paradigm a bit cheesy, but I'm a soft touch. Of course the addition of a rock cellist halfway though the set didn't hurt in swaying my opinion towards the positive. Tell me I'm not the only one that finds it interesting how the eighties can influence two polar extremes like M83 and Mates of State. In the Vegas buffet of sound, they are clearly dessert...and a beautiful place to take an evening's satisfying, early leave.

1. The only exception to the rule being one of Albert Hammond Jr.'s opening bands...who I swear are stalking me with their faux 70s badness.
2. For today, I am a practicing narcissist.
3. In the interest of full disclosure: it doesn't take much for me to start caving a crepe...but really it was a sweet set.

mp3: "Fa-Fa-Fa" by Datarock
mp3: "Kim & Jesse (Montag Remix)" by M83
mp3: "We Own the Sky (Maps Remix)" by M83
mp3: "California" by Mates of State & Ira Glass
mp3: "The 80s" by Mates of State

Sunday, July 20, 2008

emily wells' the symphonies release party @ hotel cafe

There's a telling moment in "Symphony 3: The Story" when guest rapper Count Bass D finishes a long rap with the phrase "....absence of genre makes the art grow fonder." That simple phrase could easily sum up Emily Wells' body of work. Confrontational, weird, challenging, wacky...but darn if it's not one of the most innovative, meaningful, and ultimately beautiful things you've ever heard. Divisive to the core, you either buy into into Emily's world or dismiss her completely. This is not music for detached hipster irony. (Yea!) Judging by the enthusiastic response of Saturday night's CD release party crowd, Emily was clearly preaching to the choir.

The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties is a different beast that her previous, Joanna Newsom-reminiscent Beautiful Sleepyhead And The Laughing Yaks. Songs earn their "symphony" titles with lush orchestration complete with additional self-described "junk in the trunk" provided by her beloved backing bassist and drummer. Of course, there's peanut butter in my chocolate! There's chocolate in my peanut butter! There's awesome on my stage! The whole affair is kept from getting too stuffy or overtly classical with the addition of enthusiastic, limb-flailing, white-girl rapping. Imagine what Björk's flow might sound like. Good. Now forget I mentioned it. Let's go back to our thesis, shall we? You haven't heard anything quite like this. That's the problem...you haven't heard it yet.

On paper, this is a mess. Sometimes it takes a crappy youtube video to properly explain:

You with me yet? Add to this live sampling (made of awesome!), odd moments of random, live performance variation, (thumb piano solos? Yes please!) and a truly genuine persona, and you've got a performer who rises far above a simple art-house curiosity.

The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties is out now. Buy a copy and infuse your life with a bit of "gritty symphonic folktronica fantasy."

(photo Emily Wells: Joe Boston)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull soundtrack

Review by guest hipster: PWC

Way back in the abyssal trenches of my mind, the shrouded relics of my memory dwell like ancient Atlantean ruins, their decaying edifices bespeaking of a time when the world was younger – and when I was younger, too. I remember going to film school in Northridge, driving up White Oak Avenue in sweet Granada Hills, driving the very same street they filmed E.T. The Extra Terrestrial as Elliot and friends took flight, listening to the John Williams score to the same film. Late nights staring at the stars and the mountains listening to the Close Encounters score. Standing in an empty house at night listening to Always and reflecting upon feeling what Apollo 15 astronaut may have touched with his words on walking the moon: “We felt an unseen love. We are not alone.” Late nights in Junior High poring over the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack. And here we have the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. I don’t really know what to say, John Williams is classic, and I have found him to be most enjoyable when I listen to him not as a soundtrack composer, nor as a classical composer, but rather when I approach the soundtracks as a kind of artifact from a particular time, a particular place; I find I enjoy scores most when the varied emotions and fragments of memories embedded within my childhood experiences of particular films are recalled back up by the score – by the particular way a woodwind flurries, by the timbre of the reverb of a recording, by the opening notes of the endcredits, by the familiarity of the Indiana Jones trumpet. Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls may be a rather silly film (ancient Mayan civilizations being connected to alien beings seems out of the scope of an Indiana Jones film, not to consider being a rather tired concept), but the score still has built-in nostalgia and emotional triggers ready-made for mid 80s childhood reminiscing.

mp3: "Call of the Crystal" by John Williams

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

confessions of a would-be hipster loves...la underground

"Well, I was thinking of taking you on a cultural tour of L.A."
"That's the first fifteen minutes, then what?"

Let's face it...LA can occasionally feel like a bit of a wasteland. It's impossible to live here without, sooner or later, embracing the stereotypes - says me, the vegetarian who works in entertainment. On the bright side, being an Angeleno does make it easy to pull out random seemingly impressive star-related antidotes at dinner parties. Although sometimes, I will admit, I worry my "Rivers Cumo at Spaceland" story is getting a bit worn around the edges.

Thankfully, even amidst the smog choked, rush-hour driving, double decaf soy latted lizard-land dwellers, there's signs of life. And for that reason, Confessions of a Would Be Hipster loves Los Angeles based blog La-Underground. This year they celebrate their eleventh birthday. Yes. eleventh birthday. Do blogs age at the same rate as dogs? Don't worry guys, you don't look a byte over ten.

We kid, only because we love. And of course, we kid to cover up our raging jealousy. If we make it to eleven will we be as cool as you? Yeah. Probably not. Thanks for, amidst our collective obsessions with bands flung around the globe, reminding us that sometimes the best music is made right in your own zip code.

Rock on guys. Happy Birthday.

mp3: "New York" by Sara Lov
mp3: "I Hear You Drowning but I'm Tied" by Letting Up Despite Great Faults
mp3: "Animals Wearing Clothes (live at Spaceland)" by The Deadly Syndrome
mp3: "My Thin Sides" by Army Navy
mp3: "Sideways (remix)" by Let's Go Sailing

Monday, July 14, 2008

bastille day

Aujourd'hui en France est le jour de Bastille. Mon Français n'est pas "bon" (il y a un autre mot que mon décapant français de maison m'a enseigné que... mais je ne le dirai pas...) mais j'aime tout au sujet du la pays…out mais les escargots et la viande de cheval.

Aujourd’huit, mangez un eleclair, observez quelques films français, peut-être mes favorites « Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain » et « A Bout de Souffle, » et appréciez notre « play list » des artistes français qui chantent dans les artistes anglais et anglais qui chantent en français.

Et Volia! Un vidéo «bonus» de l'homme le plus français de tous, Monsieur Serge Gainsbourg

mp3: "Mer Du Japon (Teenagers Remix)" by Air
mp3: "We Own The Sky (Maps Remix)" by M83
mp3: "Complainte De La Butte (sur KCRW)" by Rufus Wainwright (avec Chris Stills)
mp3: "Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles" by The Dresden Dolls
mp3: "Dis, Quand Reviendras-Tu" by Martha Wainwright

Saturday, July 12, 2008

albert hammond jr. @ spaceland

Aah, Spaceland in July. There's no better way to spend a Friday night than in the small venue, packed with too many people1 and just the right amount of geeky enthusiasm and maybe not quite enough air conditioning, the whole crowd bouncing and quivering and sweating along in time to really loud, really fun music with the bass turned up high enough to vibrate every atom of your body enough that you can actually see the sound waves. Which pretty much sums up Albert Hammond, Jr.'s gig last night.

We arrived at the sold-out show, startled by the line that went literally around the building of people hoping to buy tickets. Clearly Hammond's audience is a devoted one. We sat through two mediocre openers as the crowd grew, and then grew some more, and finally grew to the point that I had to accept the fact that my prized bubble of personal space was no longer recognized by those around me. But all of my misanthropy flew out the window when Hammond and his bandmates took to the stage.

Regardless of cancelled flights, lost luggage and missing guitars, they were a very tight band of very impressive musicians. The set represented tracks from both of his albums (Yours to Keep and ¿Como Te Llama?, released Tuesday), and every song was fun and flawless and loud. Every song is so well-written and was so wonderfully performed that they felt like you've known them for years, even if the band themselves just learned them: people begged to hear "Scared" from the moment the band dook the stage. "It's impossible," Hammond apologized, looking slightly sheepish, "we haven't learned it yet."

We left the club to wait in line for the valet to find our car with only one regret: the show was far too short. We stood on the street, sweating, ears ringing, bodies slowly adjusting to the lack of crisp guitars and pounding drums and awe-inspiring bass that had taken over our bodies for the previous hour, and we contemplated where we'd seen the guitarist, Marc Philippe Eskenazi before2. And then suddenly the band was on the street with us, posing for photos and shaking hands with the masses. Which leaves us with only two conclusions to draw: a. Hipsters, while often awesome, can occasionally be really, really nice guys too. Or b. Secretly, Hammond and his crew are would-be hipsters dressed up like the real thing to appease the record execs. Either way, we couldn't be happier.

1. One of whom, apparently, was John Krasinski.
2. Eternal gratitude to anyone who can provide us with an answer to this conundrum.

(photo Albert Hammond, Jr.: Paste Magazine)

mp3: "In Transit" by Albert Hammond Jr. from Yours to Keep
mp3: "Gfc" by Albert Hammond Jr. from ¿Como Te Llama?

Monday, July 7, 2008

confidence man by matt pryor

Matt Pryor has graciously given us fourteen albums worth of decidedly good music since the formation of the Get Up Kids in 1995 (six LPs and two EPs with the Get Up Kids, six LPs with the New Amsterdams, and one LP with the Ams' side project the Terrible Twos, which is music for indie rockers' kids). With such an extensive catalog and such prolific song writing, it's surprising that Pryor is releasing his first solo album, Confidence Man, July 29th.

Pryor's songwriting could be graphed as a study in sine waves1 with its Midwestern emo-rock peaks moving into acoustic indie crooning valleys, then back up to the rock, the cycle growing more predictable over the past ten years, and after the New Ams' At the Foot of My Rival, billed as a return to rock, the Would-be Hipsters were looking forward to quiet solo guitar and mildly sardonic lyrics of Matt's new album. Confidence Man doesn't disappoint.

The Would-be Hipsters are terrible people. Readers should know this by now. We've always said that while technically we want musicians to be happy, happy people don't necessarily make good music. And, as it turns out, Mr. Pryor agrees: "I love my wife, I love my kids, everything's great, but that doesn't make for a very good or interesting record. You start to sound like you're gloating." As such, Pryor doesn't sing about how well his life is going and how much he loves his family. No, he writes songs about his friend's problems, offering a bit of advice and hope at the end of three minutes of "Dude? You're kinda dumb right now." Much like "Dear Lover," appearing in its third incarnation (as B-sides for both Killed or Cured and Story Like a Scar) which, depending on which source one listens to, is either about James Dewees' divorce a few years ago, or a much older song from the mid-nineties. Either way, it's brilliant in that its finger-pointing and excuse-making still manage to sound so sweet and sincere that it feels like a love song, not the "I cheated on you because you nagged me too much, go way already" accusation that it actually is.

The new album captures bits of all three of Pryor's other projects, even the whimsical organ-and-handclaps sound of the Terrible Twos (in opener "A Totally New Year" which starts out with tattooing failures onto arms – interesting given Matt's epic and beautiful sleeve of tattoos). There's songs about stealing cars, losing friendships, snobby girls named Jennifer, and the light side of extra-marital trysts. Most of the songs are just Matt in his garage with his acoustic guitar and his clear voice, sometimes with a melodica or banjo2 track, occasionally providing a bit of harmony for himself. While the instrumentation might be smaller and more intimate than we usually see from Pryor, he's still exploring themes of light, the stupid mistakes we all make and their consequences, and, oddly enough, the movement of the planet. When Pryor sings, I'll be there when the world stops turning, a girl like me could start hoping for cataclysmic shifts in the earth's axis – luckily for everyone, his solo tour starts in August, regardless of whether or not the world is turning.

1. Hey look, my Trig teacher was right, I did use that crap in my grownup life. Sorry, Mr. Rigsby.
2. The five-stringed banjo is the third most exciting instrument to the Would-be Hipsters, right after the hurdy-gurdy and
orange recorders. Because we are, in fact, nerds.

mp3: "Dear Lover" by the New Amsterdams, Killed or Cured B-side
mp3: "Never Treat Others" by the New Amsterdams, Matt Pryor solo live
mp3: "Holy Roman (acoustic demo)" by the Get Up Kids

Friday, July 4, 2008

happy fourth

Oh America...sigh.

These colors don't run! (Insert your own joke about color safe bleach. I'm off for the day.)

mp3: "Turning Red" by Dntel
mp3: "White Kross (live)" by Sonic Youth
mp3: "The Ghost of an Unfinished Kiss" by Trembling Blue Stars