Monday, August 31, 2009

confessions of a would-be hipster enters the terrible twos

Here we are again, another year of geeking out, geeking in, rocking out, and rocking in. We've doubled our writing crew, put together a charity album that we adore, and eaten enough pie to sink a ship. Not bad for a couple o' geeks, huh?

In honor of our big 2, we asked a few friends, industry professionals, and family members what they thought of our blog. Needless we were flattered by their responses.

Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster: The testimonials.

What's a blog? - LMS' Grandfather

GET NAME BRAND PERSCRIPTION DRUGS 4 CHEEP - A Shady Netherlands-based Website

All of [WBH's] successes are no surprise, really. But you have to remember that even though in most cases it's great writing behind the great blogs - in this case (and I don't mean to sound egotistical, but it's true), it's largely due to my influence. Still. Way to go, bloggers; I'll definitely see you again soon. - Alcohol

Quit calling me! - Spencer Krug

Blog rating? 1. No, wait... 0.8. - Pitchfork.com

It has come to our attention that Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster is celebrating their second birthday. Of course, we have them to thank for such innovations as the wheel, fire, and sliced bread. So, here's to Would-Be Hipster: our bottles clink to you. - Some Hoboes

mp3: "Would Be Hipster" by Computerization (Our own theme song!)
mp3: "Are Birthdays Happy?" by Jens Lekman
mp3: "Happy Birthay" by Sufjan Stevens
mp3: "I Am So Important" by Logan Whitehurst ('Cause it's true!)
mp3: "Happy Birthday" by Röyksopp

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the phenomenal handclap band and friendly fires @ the el rey

I am an old woman--'cause despite my night ending at a respectable 11:30 PM (the going out bit that is...), I left the El Rey, beat. Clearly you need to train for this kind of high octane concert going.

The night opened with The Phenomenal Handclap Band, a.k.a. quite possibly one of the most difficult name in the world to live up to. While the jury is still out on "phenomenal," (right now I'd peg them more as energetic and charming...although that's harder to fit on a marquee) there was less hand clapping than the name might imply (three times, including an energetic burst during the last song). However, the sheer number of tambourines made up for it, as did Laura Marin and Lady Tigra's Blondie by way of Schoolhouse Rock vocals on "15 to 20." The 70s may have ended--but it's clear the party rages on.

A brief opening set, the crowd was primed for recent Mercury Prize nominees, Friendly Fires. Purveyors of slick dance rock, their eleven song set rocked rougher than I'd expected--raw vocals crashing against screaming guitar, mixed with enthusiastic clapping by both band and audience (clearly on loan from their opener). Songs were stretched out and reinvented under the strobing colored lights. Vocalist Ed MacFarlane displayed a strut that could put Mick Jagger to shame, singing, playing keyboard and guitar, and drums--air and real--to the delight of a gyrating crowd.

And then there was me--clutching my notebook and trying not to put anyone's eye out with my pen. Surely we could get Laura Marin and Lady Tigra to sing a rousing version of "one of these things is not like the other..."

Set List

1. Lovesick
2. Jump in the Pool
3. Strobe
4. Hospital
5. White Diamonds
6. Skeleton Boy
7. Kiss of Life
8. Photobooth
9. On Board
10. Paris

Encore
11. Ex-Lover

mp3: "15 to 20" by The Phenomenal Handclap Band
mp3: "Paris (Friendly Fires cover)" by Au Revoir Simone

Sunday, August 16, 2009

we all die by new found land

Memo to bands looking to catch bloggers' attention: compare yourself to another act we love. Granted we'll be terribly incredulous--as I was when New Found Land sent us a Myspace message comparing their work to WBH favorite Loney Dear--but chances are, you'll peak our interest. Lucky for New Found Land, their chutzpa isn't ill-founded. The do in fact share the same sweet but sorrowful world view as their fellow countryman Emil Svanängen. However, the Göteborg duo's sweet chemistry and polished pop makes their debut album We All Die (out now) a distinctly unique and beautiful musical outing. These are the sort of songs you listen to with a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.

Between the mournful voice singer Anna Roxenholt and and Karl Krook's gently strummed guitar, occasionally the Spartan melancholy tilts towards painfully beautiful--as with album highlight, "By Your Side"--which plays like a paean to the ghosts of relationships past, or like the perfect Once b-side.

Simple, but never boring New Found Land also shows the sort of musical variety that makes waiting and wondering about their sophomore album a interesting exercise. "By Your Side" may show the sort of direct sadness and delicate finger-picking that could make Jose Gonzales green with envy, but "Leave it All Behind" find them rocking like a two-person I'm From Barcelona. Meanwhile, album opener "It Would Mean the World to Me" finds Roxenholt tapping into her inner El Perro del Mar, coupled with an almost Concretes-like breezy musicality.

Of course, comparing them to fellow Swedish acts is only a start. With their natural charm, sweet chemistry, and musical grace, New Found Land can move in any direction--musical or geographical--they might choose...and probably capture a few hearts along the way.

(photo new found land: Fredrik Åkum)

mp3: "By Your Side" by New Found Land

Friday, August 7, 2009

the soft skin by brown recluse

I'm not the kind of girl who is scared of spiders. Yet, I have to admit that Brown Recluse's questionable name almost kept me from giving them a spin. What can I say...I also like books with pretty covers.

Getting past the creepy crawlies, Brown Recluse's debut EP The Soft Skin (out September 8th on Slumberland) is one of those debuts where you can almost feel the well-deserved accolades brewing. Less twee than Belle and Sebastian and more accessible than Jens Lekman--with a little Os Mutantes thrown in for good measure, this is the sort of all-around agreeable music we've been waiting for. Between the poppy keyboards and light dusting of horns, it's simple, it's direct, and darn it...it works! Who needs weird musical genre hybrids when you've got pop? Sweet sweet pop.

I'm going to buy a copy for my mother. I'm going to fob a copy off on my judgmental brother. I'm going bug the crap out of my friends by singing the catchy refrain to "Night Train" inappropriate moments.

Just try and stop me.

mp3: "Contour and Context" by Brown Recluse

Sunday, August 2, 2009

resevoir by fanfarlo

Little known fact: The girl to the right is Sigurrós, sister of...you guessed it, Sigur Rós lead singer, Jónsi Birgisson.

The more you know!

Fanfarlo is a British orchestral-pop outfit, featuring: strings, horns, handclaps, and a quirky Swedish singer. In a perfect world this is all I'd have to say. You'd jump up and down at the thought of a great new band, then we'd link arms and skip down to the pub--where the band would be buying rounds and leading sing-alongs.

Of course, that's not going to happen. The problem here is Fanfarlo defies being boiled down into a simple statement. I could say "next Arcade Fire." But then we'd just have an awkward moment of silence. I could also say that that lead singer Simon Balthazar sounds like a renegade Clap Your Hands Say Yeah member--but then the whole band would come under suspension and you'd start thinking "flash in the pan" rather than "layered orchestral dramatics with long term, multi-album potential." Do you see the quandary?

Balthazar recognizes the unexpected duality of his work. "I always try to write accessible lyrics that people will get and understand, but it always ends up as impenetrable. Then I attempt to write deep, serious and difficult music, and somehow it keeps coming out as pop."

Gosh...I hope he's not losing any sleep over it. With Zach Condon having final given in to his electronic urges, the world needs a new Beirut to bring a tear to their eye. With Clap Your Hands Say Yeah doing...well, whatever CYHSY is doing, we need another "...our generation's Talking Heads." The fact this contradictory package is all wrapped up in a single band also embodying a mix of light-hearted whimsy and emotional darkness rarely seen outside a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film? Even better.

mp3: "I'm a Pilot" by Fanfarlo
mp3: "Drownding Men (acoustic version)" by Fanfarlo