Tuesday, June 30, 2009

sunset rubdown @ the echoplex

Twenty-Third Law of Nerd:The geekiest thing you can possibly do when you're in love with a band is travelling thousands of miles to see them live on the release date of their latest album, telling them, and then blogging about it.

Corollary: I don't care.

The show that Sunset Rubdown bestowed upon LA last Tuesday (one of the brittlest California nights I've experienced) was far more than I ever anticipated. Amid all the hipster sweat and the pungent smell of weed, a charge began to build from the moment I clung to the wall at centre stage. Of course, I didn't know how familiar I was going to be with that wall by the end of the night (read: it proposed; I rejected it), but that's a different story entirely.

First, I'm wary of opening bands. My experiences haven't been of the best, each typically leading to a tiny, logarithmic growth in wariness with each show I attend. (Note: The opening bands for Xiu Xiu in 2008 created a spike on my wary-o-meter akin to how a modern Italian seismologist might have perceived Vesuvius' eruption in 79 AD.) However, openers have been exponentially redeemed in my eyes forever (or, at least, until my next show) by the talented Witchies and the otherworldly Elfin Saddle, both of which boasted a mischievous crackle of energy in their music and a prodigious penchant for multitasking. Of the aforementioned, the latter was my favourite; not only was the array of instrumentation they presented conducive to this orchestra geek's state of near-comatose glee, but the way Elfin Saddle utilised all of their neat toys was beyond impressive. It reminded me of an inside-out Polyphonic Spree: few players, sparse but soaring orchestration, and a kajillion instruments - all of which, amazingly, find purpose. Granted, about half of the songs were in Japanese, but we were assured that if we had questions about the meaning of the lyrics, we could ask after the show. Translation: Even though Emi Honda is absolutely adorable, I couldn't quite muster the courage to do so. I do, however, fully recommend buying their new album, Ringing for the Begin Again. It's pretty fantastic.

This next part will illustrate what I've been struggling with for the past few days. In my mind, there is still no adequate way to portray this show coherently. So, if you don't mind inadequate and incoherent (which you have no obvious issue with if you've read anything else I've written), I'll start from the point at which Sunset Rubdown claimed the stage.

I was pleasantly surprised by the trip back in time to Shut Up I Am Dreaming with "The Empty Threats of Little Lord," followed by a flash-mix of Dragonslayer and Random Spirit Lover. ("Mending of the Gown"? Yes please. Actually, more like "Mending of the Shirt," as the moshing - oh yes, there was moshing, and apparently I shouldn't be surprised by this - grew to an incomprehensible level, leaving me with bruises in the most inconvenient places.) The encore, which consisted of "Us Ones in Between" and the beautifully insane "Nightingale/December Song," sealed the deal: I am irreversibly in love with this band and we should get married.

Space Jungle (the sexy thirty-second "side project" of Sunset Rubdown's Michael Doerksen and Jordan Robson-Cramer) also made an interesting debut, though I refuse to promote them further until they inevitably take over the world.

Also, Spencer Krug seems to have developed his stage persona a bit more since the last time I saw this band live. Not that he has a theatrical alter ego (unless he has a moustache; then, we just call him Pedro), but he looks like he's getting more comfortable with himself on stage. Granted, it might be the addition of Krug's fan to Sunset Rubdown's minimalist prop list ("I want to be forever known as the boy with floofy hair," he jokes), or it could be strength gleaned from the teasing on-stage rivalry with Camilla Wynne Ingr ("He won't let the rest of us have fans on stage"), or it could be that more people are noticing that Mark Nicol plays bass upside down (thank you, m.a.b.). It's hard to tell.

It might simply be the emergence of an era in this band's growth wherein they've learned to deftly snatch up the concept of "just rock" and vow to never let go.

Alas, it was so close to being the perfect concert. It would have been ideal if they would have simply taken the WBH-approved path and played everything Krug has ever written. Twice.

"We'd be here for like, four hours," Krug admonishes the crowd, which elicits the temporal response: "So?" (Or, in more worldly fans: "Only four?")

But it wasn't to be. However, I did enjoy the time I had with them. Apparently, they felt the same way. "Shows are typically seventy- to eighty-percent fun," Krug says. "This show was about ninety percent fun."

WBH caught up with Sunset Rubdown after the show, mostly to gawk and find out whether they glowed in real life. They don't glow, per se, but they will be back in Los Angeles sometime in October (according to Jordan), where an extra dowsing in smog and "marine layer" will definitely aid the glowing process. The fact that they're a group of incredibly cool people can't hurt.

Further illustrating his amusing entrapment in numbers, Krug remarks, "I hear we're about an eight?"

Oh, Spencer. You guys'll always be a ten in my book.

mp3: "The Procession" by Elfin Saddle
mp3: "Silver Moons (live)" by Sunset Rubdown

reminder: tell us about summer music...win free crap!

Just a friendly reminder/repost:

I'll keep this one short and sweet.

We like summer. You like free crap. Hockey likes a rock song with a good hook.

Why not combine forces?

Contest: email us at Wouldbehipster@gmail.com with your favorite summer anthem and memory attached to it. We're not looking for the most obscure, indie-riffic song out there,1 just a good story, preferably one with a suitably high geek factor. Extra points for illustrations and/or pie references.

Two Winners (that's right -- two!) will win autographed Hockey vinyl.

Contest closes July 6th at midnight.

Good luck!

1.Would-Be Hipster guilty pleasures include (but are not limited to): The Monkeys, Ace of Bass, Boy George, Kenny Loggins and Crowded House...and no, I'm not naming names.

amanda palmer @ the troubadour

You know it's going to be a weird night when you see both the recently deceased King of Pop and king of pop parodies, Weird Al in the same place.

Par for course when Amanda Palmer is involved. The princess of punk cabaret, only one thing's for certain when catching her live -- you'll never see the same show twice. Well that and when the weird starts raining down, no one's going to so much as blink.

Material from last year's beautiful and occasionally heedy masterpiece Who Killed Amanda Palmer was kept to a minimum, keeping the show from becoming a repeat of her December show at the Henry Fonda. Without only “Ampersand,” “Runs in the Family,” “Astronaut,” and “Oasis” making the cut, it left a lot of time up in the air -- not that it was a problem!

Again -- Amanda may claim that she has trouble not repeating herself...but try telling that to the sold-out room who would have been happy with anything she cared to try...even blatant repetition. And goodness knows, if there's one thing Amanda cares to try, it's limit pushing. Covers were the order of the night. From the whisper-sung ukulele version of Bright Eye's "Lua," to the shout along Avril Lavigne "Complicated," to the hushed Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah" to the natural choice, "Billie Jean" by Micheal Jackson, a bevy genres were covered -- all with Amanda's trademark melancholic-joie-de-vie.

Of course, with Amanda Palmer, you're never going to get "just" music. She's a storyteller damnit! This time we were treated to two rounds of "Ask Amanda" where the audience, obsessed with her newly announced relationship with author Neil Gaiman, forced Amanda to answer several potentially embarrassing questions about their relationship, including “What is your favorite body part of Neil Gaiman?” The final answer—“His hair is an amazing, chaotic halo of life. But I think I like his smile best.”—elicited coos from the audience.

Of course, it only seems natural that the project that brought Gaiman and Amanda together was heavily advertised...not that anyone seemed to mind. A coffee table photo/story book, Who Killed Amanda Palmer couples pictures of "The Late Amanda Palmer" with stories about her grizzly deaths written by Gaiman. The show halted in favor of story time, a move that would have derailed a concert by a lesser artist. However, with Amanda as our narrator, you could have heard a pin drop. The final nail in the coffin, seeing Amanda Palmer live time and time again proves that, as a dead girl, she simply kills.

mp3: "Ampersand (live)" by Amanda Palmer
mp3: "On The Radio (Regina Spektor cover)" by Amanda Palmer
mp3: "Umbrella (Rihanna cover)" Amanda Palmer
mp3: "I Will Follow You Into The Dark (Death Cab For Cutie cover) " by Amanda Palmer

Thursday, June 25, 2009

michael jackson remembered

Oh, Michael Jackson. He's provided us with so many years of entertainment, in so many different forms - both intentionally and not so much. He'll be missed, he'll be lauded, he'll be scorned, and here at WBH headquarters, he'll be remembered in cover format.

mp3: "Beat It" covered by Supergrass
mp3: "Billie Jean" covered by Belle & Sebastian
mp3: "The Girl is Mine" covered by Umphrey's McGee
mp3: "Thriller" covered by Ben Gibbard

mp3: "Come Together" covered by Michael Jackson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

dragonslayer by sunset rubdown

miracle, n.: an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a work of God.

I'm through beating around the bush with this: Sunset Rubdown is my favorite band. Hands down. No exceptions. I've spent ages in a frustrating state of noncommittal, but it's time I just faced the facts. No other band has ever spoken to me, musically or lyrically, the same way that Spencer Krug's brilliantly left-of-center indie-pop outfit has. What the man can do is astounding in ways I find difficult to put into words. Adjust all expectations for this review accordingly.

Say what you will about 2007's Random Spirit Lover. Ripping on it seems to be the trendy thing to do these days, but I don't care. I still adhere firmly to my opinion that it was not only Album of the Year, but also one of the most exciting and unique releases of the entire decade. Dense, complex, and occasionally frustrating? Yes, but also infinitely rewarding. It was the sort of album that most acts spend entire careers trying to build to, and these guys managed to pull it off on just their second release as a fleshed-out band. Naturally, they had some pretty big shoes to fill. Expectations for a follow-up were immediately set almost unreasonably high.

But now June 23, 2009 has come and gone. The world has finally seen the release of Dragonslayer, that much-awaited third album. And while the tirelessly prolific Krug could have understandably used it as a victory lap, he instead once again cements his position as World's Greatest Songwriter by not disappointing in the slightest. If the bar isn't necessarily being set higher, it's at least being matched; given the great heights at which it was already placed, this is an achievement indeed. The hype surrounding the album is fairly accurate: this is a more accessible, less studio-oriented affair than its predecessor. Don't let this trick you into thinking you're getting something else, though. This is still fundamentally a Sunset Rubdown record. It demands multiple listens to sink in, but Krug is not so unkind as to fail to repay you for your time. New things get discovered with each spin, new lyrical turns of phrase leap out from the speakers, and pretty soon you realize you're in the midst of another startlingly accomplished set of songs.

Rare is the album where I cannot choose a favorite song. Rarer still is the fine breed where at least half the songs on the tracklist could vie for that honor. The haunting piano ballad "Silver Moons" is as gorgeous as anything Krug has ever written, the noisy and feedback-laden "Black Swan" rocks out in heretofore unexplored ways, and "Nightingale/December Song" -- a self-described clusterfuck -- once again pushes the envelope for what studio arrangements the band is capable of conjuring. Still, as blissful as all of these are, Dragonslayer's finest moment may well be the epically titled "Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!" Although steeped in metaphor, the nostalgia-soaked lyrics are among Krug's most lucid to date. By setting them to a lovely, melancholy melody, the result is one of the most unabashedly emotional accomplishments of Sunset Rubdown's career. Let's be honest, though. There isn't a bad song in sight. More to the point, there isn't a song that doesn't approach the sort of excellence we have come to expect from this band. Even the curiously chosen Swan Lake "cover" "Paper Lace" can hold its own without any problems.

For a time, the notion of the band even coming close to matching their past achievements seemed impossible to me. But here they've done it, and done it so effortlessly that it feels like the Sunset Rubdown machine is still only getting warmed up. It must be something of a miracle, something entirely in keeping with my long-standing assertion that Spencer Krug is, in fact, God. So I return to the above definition. Will I live, will I live in said physical world? Of course. And with albums like Dragonslayer to fill it, the living not only becomes easier, but an immense pleasure as well.

mp3: "Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!" by Sunset Rubdown
mp3: "The Mending of the Gown" by Sunset Rubdown

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

contest: win hockey vinyl

I'll keep this one short and sweet.

We like summer. You like free crap. Hockey likes a rock song with a good hook.

Why not combine forces?

Contest: email us at Wouldbehipster@gmail.com with your favorite summer anthem and memory attached to it. We're not looking for the most obscure, indie-riffic song out there,1 just a good story, preferably one with a suitably high geek factor. Extra points for illustrations and/or pie references.

Two Winners (that's right -- two!) will win autographed Hockey vinyl.

Contest closes July 6th at midnight.

Good luck!

1.Would-Be Hipster guilty pleasures include (but are not limited to): The Monkeys, Ace of Bass, Boy George, Kenny Loggins and Crowded House...and no, I'm not naming names.

Monday, June 22, 2009

chairlift @ the getty

A good synth is hard to find. That is, unless you were at the Getty Center Saturday night, rocking out to Chairlift.

Despite the somewhat awkward preforming conditions (How do you sell synth rock to an huge audience -- a portion of which are restless, albeit art-appreciating families accidentally caught in the glut of hipsterdom?), the band tossed off their trademark sultry and occasionally creepy music with the ease of an already seasoned ensemble. (Of course, with a touring schedule like this, that's not hard to achieve.)

Of course, for those of us that knew what we were in for, the night held a series of reminders: Your speakers are crap, and if you ever want to replicate the live experience you should probably look into replacing them. By the time you remember to do so, there'll probably be several new Chairlift songs to enjoy, all filled with the same sort of energy that made you fall in love in the first place...

I watched the brief set from a spot far past the bar, just behind the fountain, tree branches in my eyes. Somewhere in the distance, Caroline Polachek didn't just play her keyboard but appeared to float over the top of it, startling large voice ringing out a call to anyone who dare challenge her, whacking a cowbell with what could only be described as an untapped vengeance. I could have complained about the obscured view, about the people around me who were out for an evening's picnic rather than a show. But somehow, brushing leaves out of my hair, shivering slightly in the night air, the scene was perfect. "This is the music of hipster forest nymphs!" I whispered to my friends, all who shook their heads in agreement. We smiled, and together, watched as, for a moment, our lives were graced with a strange, synth-tinged perfection.

Video by:
Eszter Zimanyi

Edit: Now that Chairlift is playing in the big leagues, previous Mp3 freebies are considered "copyright infringement." Pity.

mp3: "Earwig Town" by Chairlift
mp3: "Evident Utensil" by Chairlift

Saturday, June 20, 2009

emily wells @ hotel cafe

What is there left to write about Emily Wells? No really. Check out previous, superlative-filled, geeky rants. She knows a catchy lick. She's got a rapper's style with interesting, introspective lyrics. And then live she reminds you -- oh yea, she can play the violin like no one's business.

You see, now it's just getting embarrassing.

Last night's show at Hotel Cafe served as a release party for Wells' new EP Dirty. In addition to ripping though several of the "Symphonies" from her previous full-length ("Symphony 1 In the Barrel of a Gun" sounded particularly inspiring live), and the EP (including "Juicy", an impressive showcase of Wells' rapping skills), the audience was treated to what Wells described as "why did you leave that off the album" song, "Passenger." A catchy blend of a symphony and pop song, I'll add my voice to the inquiry -- no really Emily, why did you leave that off the album? Can we have it as a single? Pretty please?1

Wells sent her audience off into the summer night a mere forty-five minutes later (darn Hotel Cafe booking!) with the breezy, seasonally appropriate, ukulele tune "Take it Easy San Francisco." We may not be San Francisco, but after a cool show like that and a weekend ahead of us, I'm sure LA was more than willing to heed the advice.

1. At this point, the woman next to me started freaking out, telling her friend, "She's got no bad notes! I can't handle it! I don't know what to do with myself!" And all this time I thought I was the queen of rants.

mp3: "Symphony 6: Fair Thee Well & The Requiem Mix (live at KCRW)" by Emily Wells

Thursday, June 18, 2009

bat for lashes @ el rey

I want to be Natasha Khan (a.k.a. Bat For Lashes) when I grow up. Possessing a magical ability to to synthesize words, sounds, and visuals into an otherworldly live experience, seeing her at El Rey theater was like...well, indescribable. (Dude.)

The night started big with Two Suns opener "Glass." And by big I mean big. The perfect glass shattering note in the chorus? I've been living in denial -- she can hit it live. Coupled with the second song of the night, conveniently the second song off Two Suns, "Sleep Alone," I begun to wonder if Khan realized she still had another hour and a half or so of stage time. That's just it though -- every song rang with power and confidence (as did I my ears -- I was two dumbfounded to remember earplugs) and, well...is it fair to say out right awesomeness? This folks, is the kind of show that leaves attendees slack-jawed and bloggers sounding sycophantic. Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Dude!)

The highlights of the night were seeing Khan preform reworkings of songs I've yet to emotionally connect with. "Peace of Mind" proved all Khan needs to captivate a large auditorium is an auto harp and her voice, "The Wizard" demonstrated the engrossing power of sleigh bells, and "Two Planets" was an percussive blanket of sound -- the kind of engrossing wave of energy that makes you want to invest in floor-to-ceiling speakers for your home. So that's what it's supposed to sound like! (Dude!!) We even had two chances to appreciate Two Sun's single "Daniel." After a harpsichord version (which slowed the song down to a haunting ballad that could have slipped into either Bat For Lashes album) we were given an extra encore dose of "Daniel" in its synth-heavy danceable form. Now normally repeating a song feels like a bit of a cop-out, but by the second encore I surely wasn't the only one wishing I cold be Khan when I grow up. It's Bat For Lashes' (surreal) world...we're just living in it.

I may sound even geekier than usual, but I urge you...go see Bat For Lashes live. Be sure to let me know what you think. Maybe your grownup words are stronger than mine.

mp3: "Glass (live via RCRDL)" by Bat For Lashes
mp3: "I'm On Fire (live)" by Bat For Lashes

Friday, June 12, 2009

metric @ the ogden theatre

Emily Haines is a babe. I knew this already. I also knew that Metric is one of the biggest bands on the indie scene at the moment, and almost certainly one of the most energetic. Yet somehow knowledge of these things wasn't enough to prepare me for what may possibly be the best rock show I have ever been to. I grant you that I'm still quite young and have not been to very many, but nonetheless these are words I don't throw around lightly. Rarely have I seen a band so in tune with what its audience wants, and even more infrequently have I seen one as able to deliver on that promise.

If anything, Haines understands that a concert isn't just showing up, playing your songs, putting in your 90 minutes, and moving on to the next town. A concert means performing. It means giving the crowd something they can't get just by sitting at home and spinning an album. It's this sort of conviction that can even make a band's decidedly less stunning tracks into defining moments when placed in a live setting. For instance, since March I've been of the opinion that "Stadium Love" is easily the weakest moment on their latest long-player Fantasies. You'd never know it if you just showed up to the concert. Such energy they packed into its performance, and such undiluted enthusiasm, that it just came across as one more awesome song in a set that felt jam-packed with these sorts of moments.

Predictably, the setlist was skewed heavily in favor of Fantasies ("Collect Call" and "Blindness" were the only two left out), with only a light spattering of earlier material, but seeing them perform the way they did made it impossible to argue with any of their choices. Alongside refreshingly adrenaline-laced renditions of fan favorites "Help I'm Alive" and "Gold Guns Girls," they also found room for a few legitimate surprises. Slow-burner "Twilight Galaxy" may seem at first an unorthodox way to kickstart the evening, but the band's singular take on it -- which included both a dissonant, theremin-driven intro and an ear-crushingly loud synth freakout ending (yes, this is still "Twilight Galaxy" I'm talking about) -- immediately assuaged any fears I may have had that Haines & co. didn't know exactly what they were doing. They did, and how. Still, despite the awesomeness inherent in their newer stuff, the absolute high point of the evening was Live It Out opener "Empty." Sure, Haines may sing lyrics like We couldn't see what was coming, but by now we're all aware of what happens in the song. Knowingly, the band took this and ran with it: the amped-up midsection alone got stretched out to something like seven or eight minutes, with Haines bouncing around the stage and riling up the crowd in a way that felt both effortless and genuine.

At the risk of making a "converting to Metric" joke, I'll just say this: I went to the show a fan, but not a diehard. If ever there was an opportunity for me to make the leap, I experienced it. In the end, I think the beautiful and charismatic frontwoman said it best in her intro to "Gimme Sympathy": "Who'd you rather be? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? It's a tough question. So we decided we wanted to be a Canadian cross between the two." They can do it, too. Give them time. Their show crackles with passion, excitement, and exuberance. In the rare moments I was able to take my eyes off the stage to look at the crowd, I became intimately aware that there was likely not a soul in the room who would've rather been anywhere else. That's how good these guys are. Emily Haines isn't just a babe. Emily Haines is a friggin' rock star.

I of course had nothing to do with its existence, but an inevitable, completely unauthorized opportunity to live vicariously exists here.

(Oh by the way, my name's Chris. Nice to meet you!)

mp3: "Empty" by Metric
mp3: "Gold Guns Girls" by Metric

dark night of the soul by david lynch, danger mouse, and sparklehorse

You can't legally obtain what might be the coolest album of the year. Which is a shame really, middle-of-the-night music this atmospherically weird and affecting should not sit on a shelf.

A meeting of minds between Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, Dark Night of The Soul was originally created as a soundtrack to a David Lynch photography collection. Of course, due to an unrevealed legal tangle the book and exhibition (through July 11th) are flying solo.

Again, a shame. Shouldn't every artist earn a little latte money for his work?

Taking Dark Night of the Soul for a spin is not unlike experiencing your favorite David Lynch film. With track guests ranging from sweet-voiced Nina Persson (The Cardigans), to every-man Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), to career weirdo Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), there's a marked sense that somewhere, buried under layers of electronic atmospherics and an overwhelming sense of foreboding, there's a narrative.

While it may take a few over-zealous film scholars to get to the bottom of narrative specifics, themes are evident -- even to the layman. While Iggy Pop questions the very nature of existence and man's relationship with God on "Pain," Jason Lytle experiences romantic pain via a dysfunctional relationship in "Everytime I'm With You." Vic Chesnutt goes into old memories in not one but two songs, sounding almost wistful for his painful memories and dreams, ...like a Norman Rockwell painting. This is, in short, a highly stylized meditation on all the painful dark emotions and ugly feelings -- you know, the pain that drives us to funnel our quasi-artistic rages into drinking, generalized exhortations of angst, or creating self-deprecating music blogs. Jealous? Wait...I bet there's a song for that too.

Stream Dark Night of the Soul here.

mp3: "Revenge (feat. Wayne Coyne)" by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
mp3: "Little Girl (feat. Julian Casablancas)" by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
Edit: like we said. You can't get it legally!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

csn demos by crosby, stills & nash

Here’s the thing. 60s folk rock isn’t hip. I know this. I don’t even think it’s would-be hip. I mean yeah, it’s hip to like the Beatles, ‘cause they’re, y’know, the Beatles. And the Stones are awesome, and Zeppelin is cool in a nerdy, Lord of the Rings sort of way. You might even get some ironic hip points for liking the Monkees1. But Crosby, Stills & Nash? Didn’t my parents listen to them2? Blech.

CSN’s new album of old demos from the late 60s and early 70s – released earlier this month and titled, surprisingly enough, CSN Demos – may not be the greatest starter album, as part of its appeal is the fact that it’s demos of well-loved songs, and so you’re able to see how the song changed through its lifespan, with different lyrics, different moods, different styles of each of the musicians before producers’ and collaborators’ influences could affect things. The classic Stills song “Love the One You’re With” (don’t try to tell me you haven’t sung along with the classic rock station) is represented here on an acoustic guitar, significantly rawer and sung in a more call-and-response style. Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair” is less defiant and more somber, giving the line “I’m going to let my freak flag fly” a slightly different meaning.

That being said, you don’t have to be a life-long fan like myself3 to enjoy this album. This is genuinely good music. There’s great songwriting, political dissent, beautiful harmonies, and amazing guitar playing. If you’re into stuff like Iron & Wine, Jose Gonzalez, M. Ward or the New Amsterdams, Crosby Stills & Nash are worth looking into. Because sometimes you parents aren’t wrong.

1. One of my favorite modern, very hip musicians once confided that the Monkees’ album Head
2. It occurs to me that, at 26, I’m an old woman, and the majority of readers probably have parents who actually listened to Fleetwood Mac or Prince or Twisted Sister or something. Sorry.
3. The first concert I ever went to was a CSN show in Thousand Oaks in 1999 when I was sixteen years old. I had to lie to my parents to be able to go. That’s how totally hardcore I was as a teen.
is one of his favorites.

mp3: "You Don't Have to Cry" by Stephen Stills

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

classic sinatra II by frank sinatra

Frank Sinatra is one of those rare artists that have an undisputed cross-cultural, multi-generational appeal. Hipsters love him because, well, let's face it -- most of them seem to still be trying to emulate his slick sense of cool. Fans of The Godfather dig his potential gangster connection. Hopeless romantics like me love his dreamy, slightly camp view of love. Even my grandmother loved him, probably because she had a few romantic nights sound-tracked by Ol' Blue Eyes. Heck, even now defunct Los Angeles radio station Indie 103.1 used to play the "Furious Frankie at Five." Because no one's more punk rock than Sinatra!

For those ready to move past the first round of essential Sinatra, Classic Sinatra II is a brilliant collection. This is of course, not a difficult review -- Sinatra never went electric, made a metal album, or indulged in Euro-reggae, thus leaving him with a cohesive body of work ripe for album repacking and Woody Allen soundtracks for years still to come. In addition to to tracks you probably haven't absorbed via pop-culture, there's "All of Me" (also covered by Billie Holiday), and familiar for anyone who's shamefully set though an episode of "Married With Children, " "Love and Marriage." (No matter how refined you think you are I dare you not to think of Al Bundy by the second note.)

Bottom line1: Buy this and you'll be a sexier, more well-rounded music fan.

See look! Instant sex-appeal:

1. I love me a good cooperate shill.

Stream: "Pennies From Heaven" by Frank Sinatra

Monday, June 8, 2009

the loud wars by so many dynamos

Tomorrow -- Tuesday, June 9, 2009 -- Vagrant Records is releasing So Many Dynamos' third full-length album, titled The Loud Wars. And, readers? I feel very strongly about this: You should go buy it. You should go buy it twice.

Okay. Maybe I'm a little overly invested because I've been reading their blog for two years. Maybe, just maybe, my objectivity is suspect due to the fact that their excellent 2006 album, Flashlights, dropped into my life under gloriously exceptional circumstances that I'll probably never recover from. But neither of these concessions really changes anything.

The Loud Wars is good. It's fun and danceable, it's appropriately loud, and, in the end, it reminds us that we're all going to die. Probably in an earthquake.1 Much of the apocalyptic imagery extends directly from Flashlights, except this time around the effect is somewhat less sobering and somewhat more like being trapped in a vintage video game where you get all the way to level 367, only to drown in lava. Like I said, fun.

Also fun? Going to live shows. Dynamos have already embarked on the requisite album-supporting tour, and you should definitely go see them. I'm rusty at this blogging thing; I have no witty closing line. Just go!

1Not that, as a resident of Los Angeles, this was really news to me.

mp3: "New Bones" by So Many Dynamos

Saturday, June 6, 2009

carina round @ hotel cafe + autographed cd contest

Carina Round is awesome. Wanna know exactly how awesome she is?

Contest: E-mail us with your mailing address and profound or absurd fact that we should know. The person who makes us giggle or ponder our on mortality the most wins an autographed copy of Carina Round's new EP Things You Should Know. Contest closes Monday night @ 8pm (PST).

Edit: Congrats to Ash Morse, who told us about this! RAD!

And now, the big question: How is she live? Well...I'd recommend making her show a priority. Round is pretty girl with an edge -- and she'll be damned if you walk away without realizing it. An explosive, big-voiced performer, Round doesn't just borrow a page from the PJ Harvey playbook -- she bleeds all over it, infusing the style with so much of her personal DNA there's no chance Polly Jean is ever getting it back .

Interestingly enough, it's Round's intimidating and candid performer's spirit that also made Wednesday night's gig such an intriguing, yet accessible show. In between songs, speaking voice punctuated with a series of girly giggles, Round flirted with the audience, mentioning that it only took a month to sell out her residence, encouraging people to buy her album and/or buy her a drink, and punctuating each joke with a playful, "just kidding." A gracious host at what was essentially her personal closed-bar cocktail party, it was clear that love between the audience and performer went both ways -- as evidenced by the crowded room's willingness to chime in on the chorus of "Backseat."

Her last show at Hotel Cafe before heading overseas to her native UK for a string of gigs, it was clear that neither that by set's end, no one was quite ready to call it a night. That's okay, no matter how far Round roams, it's clear she'll always be welcomed home to LA with open arms.

(photo Carina Round: David Studarus)

mp3: " Backseat (Flash In the Pan remix)" by Carina Round

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

tactical POP! for coffee cadets by socialist leisure party

Growing up in southern California, early morning fog, or June gloom, is always a cause for celebration -- summer is approaching! Even now, a gray day makes me long for some good 'ol fashioned pop, and a much needed vacation. Tactical POP! For Coffee Cadets by Socialist Leisure Party has been sitting in my "listen to" pile for the better party of three weeks, just waiting for a moment like this. Burr...

A post punk, utterly poppy affair clocking in at a tantalizingly brief twenty size minutes, the album is comprised of a six song EP and two song 7-inch. The band moves across the spectrum of glee, from the Spinto Band-like opener, to instrumental closer "Mondayland" which clearly takes a page out of The Go! Team playbook. It's the perfect thing to get a summer party started, provided you're all willing to dance like a modern-day like Annette Funicellos and Frankie Avalons on the beach.

Now if you pardon me, I'm going to go put on a sweater and start researching my "What I did on my summer vacation" essay.

mp3: "Head in the Hay" by The Socialist Leisure Party

Monday, June 1, 2009

king khan & the shrines @ the echo

I’m gonna try to make this one short and sweet. I went to a rock show at the Echo Friday night. And it rocked.

Wounded Lion open. Never have I been quite so blown away by an unknown opener. Lead singer is a 40-year-old with a cop ‘stache. Keyboardist is a pudgy, speccy Asian dude who probably worked with my engineer father on the stealth bomber. Musical instruments are shared by all and switched often. There’s a couple of young geeky kids in the back somewhere. They’re doing garage post-punk music about constellations and physics and Star Wars. They do Credence’s "Bad Moon Rising" as if Devo and the Ramones had formed a super group. Oh yes.

Second opener isMark Sultan, also known as BBQ. He plays guitar and drums at the same time, and does amazing garage doo-wop songs while the crowd bopps and flails and moshes. The irritating redhead who was slamming into people all night gets an empty Red Stripe bottle smashed over his head1. This does not, however, stop the rock.

King Khan and the Shrines take the stage. There’s about a dozen people performing, including horns, keyboards, guitars, bass, and Hagrid on drums. Let us not forget the cheerleader with black pom-poms, cute little fascinator, and a jar of glitter. And King Khan himself, dressed in white leopard print jacket and feathered headband. For the hour he’s onstage, he rules the world. There’s a five-minute monologue about being "reborn" in the most graphic sense possible, but other than that, it’s nothing but loud, stupid, wonderful rock ‘n’ roll music that sounds like it should have been dug up from the rafters of Motown headquarters where Spector stashed it in 1968 for being a little too psychedelic and raunchy. I don't really know how to describe the music, but it makes me dance. This is seriously powerful stuff, man.

mp3: "Outta My Mind" by BBQ, from Tie Your Noose
mp3: "No Regrets" by King Khan & the Shrines, from What Is?!

1. Let this be a lesson, kids: Just because you’re excited about the show, that doesn’t mean it’s your job to get everyone else excited too, because some of us are grownups and it hurts our bum hips to jump around that much. Not that I’m condoning the beating of college students, just please, stop rubbing up against me. Especially after a girl's poured a drink poured over your head for being an ass. Ick.

preliminaries by iggy pop

Iggy Pop had never interested me. Of course now that I've heard his newest album, the break from punk-form Preliminaries (out 6/2), I find myself so intoxicated with his voice and writing I can't help but wondering if French pop and New Orleans jazz might be a gateway drug to the world of punk.

Based on the French novel Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, and originally conceived as a film soundtrack, Preliminaries is worlds away from a style Pop himself described as "idiot thugs with guitars." Instead, we're treated to a twelve song jazz tribute to the wash of memories one collects with ages.

Of course, even with Iggy Pop 2.0, he is and will always be a punk. His raspy delivery rattles "Nice To Be Dead," his take no prisoners approach to self-evaluation reminding us on "I Want To Go To The Beach" that, You can convince the world you're some kind of superstar/When an asshole is what you are. He may be approaching the age that many begin plotting retirement, but he hasn't gone soft.

Pop's history as an actor comes in handy as he tosses off a pitch-perfect spoken word track, his world-weary baritone asking, What is a dog, but a machine for loving? Normally this is a convention that leaves me cold -- but within the context of a soundtrack for a film yet to be made, why wouldn't we need a monologue to drive home a point?

Iggy Pop has spent a large portion of his career wanting to be your dog. But now at 62, he's unequivocally proven that as "King of the Dogs." Songs sung in phonetic French? Why not? Breathy part punk, part Serge Gainsbourg duets like "She's A Business" ? He can be anything he wants.