Saturday, October 31, 2009

would-be hipsters in full force

Hey loyal readers. And, most likely, random passers-by.

As you may have noticed, LMS has moved on to her own project, Panel. (If you're loyal enough to follow us on twitter or facebook, there's no way you could have possibly missed this.) This is just a quick note to let you know that while LMS is gone, the rest of us are still here, geeking out over good music and pie. In fact, we've got a lot of changes in the works, including a new layout, new features, and even a new Would-be Hipster. That's why things are running sort of slowly around here. There's more to come, we promise, so please bear with us.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

goodbye, or?

Two years ago, we started this get free stuff and foist our opinions on others.

One Christmas compilation, twenty-six months, numerous trips to House of Pies, and a zillion Swedish indie rock references later, I can now say: Mission accomplished.

Starting today I’ll have a new Internet home. Together with Darius Fong (a.k.a. producer extraordinaire), we'll be running and the “We are Panel” iPhone application.

As far as websites and apps go, our goal is pretty simple—to bring you great music. Every week we’ll be hitting the streets, talking to the people who make music happen on every level: producers, purveyors, and provocateurs. Artist or business owner, famous or infamous, we guarantee one thing—our weekly “Panelist” will have a passion for music and a story to tell.

Not only are we dedicated to bringing you that story; we’ll be bringing you the music as well. Every week we’ll be streaming two complete Panelist-approved albums. That’s right—two album recommendations a week from some of the most knowledgeable fans in out there.

Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster has been a blast. Chances are I'll poke my head in from time to time and say hi. Until then, so long...and thanks for all the fish.


Laura (a.k.a. LMS)

A bevy of contact info:

Official site
Facebook fan page
Twitter (user group)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

make moon by make moon

Make Moon is a band of guys who know how to follow instructions--going so far as to tell us what they sound like, dropping a CD in the mail, and then following up with an e-mail. Bands everywhere take note: this is how you get a review.

Food for thought.

Thankfully, Make Moon also makes particularly enjoyable music. A solid rock band, their sound is accented with unexpected elements of jazz, psychedelia, new wave and good 'ol fashioned pop.

Their self-titled EP is a slippery thing--just when you think you've got them pegged, just when you begin to worry that they'd be easily pigeon-holed, the music takes an abrupt about-face. "Wine and Grapes" could easily slip into now-defunct The Golden Republic's catalog. "Lady V" interrupts the song for a brief jazz piano interlude that would give the members of Menomena pause. I'm not sure who I have to sweet talk to get these guys on a triple bill with local favorites I Make This Sound and New York New Wavers French Kicks--but dang it, this is the sort of music that makes me want to try.

mp3: "It Will (Don't Worry)" by Make Moon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

know better learn faster by thao with the get down stay down

I’m floating in a bit of a bubble this week with limited Internet access. Somehow, this feeling of disconnect—like I’ve somehow managed to fall off the grid, makes Thao’s (and her band, the Get Down Stay Down) new album Know Better Learn Faster just a bit more extraordinary. I can’t access the cheat sheet press release, and Thao defies easy summaries. It’s a fair trade.

Thao’s music simultaneously boasts an old-fashioned throw down musicality—not unlike a few great American songwriters you could easily Google (Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan immediately come to mind) and a certain Je n’sais quoi that’s tougher to pin-point . Case in point? “When We Swam.” Any girl who can sound demure while singing “open your hips to me” is the definition of “indefinable.”

A paean to the pitfalls of love, Know Better Learn Faster walks the listener though thirteen romantically downtrodden scenarios. From the lovers shortcomings in the titular track (accented with Andrew Bird’s violin and vibrato-heavy whistle) to the dismaying prospect of being little more than a body in a bed (“Body”) Thao leaves no relationship-ending stone unturned.

Still, even amidst the lyrical gloom and doom, there’s still an undeniable musical glee. Thao may talk a good game—voice often cracking like a woman scorned—but it’s difficult to get the pity party started when the prevailing theme of the record seems to be, “Dang, this girl can throw down a mean lick!” With a winning combination of whit and musicality, Know Better Learn Faster proves that there are few things more fun than dancing the blues away.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

72 musicians soundtrack

I love rock documentaries. Don't Look Back, Woodstock, The Kids Are Alright, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, DiG! - any excuse to watch great musicians play great music and talk about how messed up they are, I'm there. I think it stems from the fact that, as much as I want to be a rock star, I never will be. Watching rockumentaries reminds me that these people are human too, and generally, their lives are actually worse than mine. If they have to be talented, rich, and good-looking, at least they can suffer a little too1.

Which brings us to 72 Musicians, a new documentary featuring a slew of Kansas City / Lawrence, KS musicians, and several of my favorite small bands – White Whale, the Republic Tigers, the Get Up Kids. Oh. And Spoon2. With candid interviews with members of 20 independent bands about the hardships and unglamorous wonders of being a musician, and terrific advice to startup musicians (e.g. "For god's sake, don't fuck anyone else who's on the tour."), it's a familiar format, but a slightly different theme and a larger scale than most rock documentaries.

And then of course there's the live performances. No video yet on the website, but there is a fully downloadable soundtrack – for free! Live performances from the documentary, including a rough (and slightly oddly mixed) version of White Whale's "We're Just Temporary Ma'am," one of my favorite songs of all time. The bands range from folky (Namelessnumberheadman, In the Pines) to straightforward indie rock (The Appleseed Cast, The Stella Link) to slightly strange (Ad Astra Per Aspera, Sal Retta) to, um, Coalesce. It's a great, eclectic group of songs, and I'm excited to see the film, which should be available for download on the site eventually. We'll try to keep you posted.

mp3: "We're Just Temporary Ma'am" by White Whale

1. Yes, I am a terrible person.
2. That's three of Rob Pope's bands. He's in the trailer. Making funny faces. Yup.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

fever ray @ the henry fonda

Some people go to horror films. Me? I get jacked up on sugar at House of Pies (Pecan -- for the record), and see Fever Ray. I’d be lying if I didn't admit that by the time the curtain rose on the chillingly beautiful set, my heart wasn't pounding as hard as any virginal teen being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. (Which, come to think of it, might have been the inspiration for the abrasive house "music" between sets. Really, Henry Fonda?)

Interestingly enough, despite standing in the second row, I still have no idea what Karin DreijerAndersson looks like. Fever Ray may ultimately be the expression of a solo artist, but it's become so much more -- a fact driven home by elaborate stage design by Andreas Nilsson. Fringe-adorned lamps blinked ominously to the beat-heavy music. Clumps of incense burned at the front of the stage -- their sick sweetness washing over the audience. Man-made pathetic fallacy at its finest, fog freely billowed. By the end of the set the entire room would be nearly obscured.

The five-person band proceeded onto the stage to the dull chants of "If I Had a Heart" -- Andersson hidden under a mountain of furs lit from the inside. Even after she cast off her coat-of-one-color at the end of the third song (an attempt to foil photographers who were unceremoniously ushered out at that point?) she was still hidden under rolling smoke and heavy stage makeup that rendered her appearance more Ingmar Bergman's "Death" than human. Having made a career out of obscuring her identity with electro-Goth duo The Knife, this wasn't terribly surprising.

Andersson never said a word -- normally cause for complaint. But her stage persona -- part dark sorceress, part little-girl-lost -- spoke volumes. Even though she was sandwiched between equally costumed band members (I was particularly taken with her glasses-wearing, headdress-swinging laptop/guitarist who, despite layers of face paint, still managed to exude geek-chic) and competing with a smoke and a laser show, there was never a question as to where central focus was. Lasers were bounced around the stage and -- during "Triangle Walks" -- shot out into the audience, leaving the bottom half of the Fonda feeling like they were underwater -- but end the end it all came down to the first lady of Fever Ray. Moving only between keyboard and mic, emoting only with her hands -- which perpetually swayed in spell-casting circles -- Andersson clearly had the audience in her control.

During the penultimate song, we might -- just might -- have gotten a taste of the person behind the art. Andersson stepped to the front of the stage, and in a moment of near-vulnerability, sang a non-album song about the joy her children have brought her. (Then again, given the thematic darkness of the night, this could have been another clever metaphor.)1

However, moment over, Andersson donned her mountain of furs and stepped back into the shadows. The band threw themselves into the ghostly clatter of "Coconut" and slowly, one by one, reversed their procession, back into the smoke and receding lights, leaving the audience to stare in slack-jawed wonder at fog swirling around an empty stage.

1If anyone has any info on this track, I’m dying to get my hands on it.

mp3: "When I Grow Up (D Lissvik remix)" by Fever Ray

Monday, October 5, 2009

frightened rabbit @ the knitting factory

Last week three of the Would-be Hipsters headed off to the Knitting Factory in Hollywood for a night of Scottish indie-rock perfection. Well, almost.

First opener was We Were Promised Jetpacks, who were brilliant. Loud, just poppy enough, great bass lines, clever lyrics, totally adorable and Scottish. I don't know how I've not had them in my life for so long. They've become my new walking-to-lunch music, and last week it took every ounce of composure not to dance down Fairfax while singing the chorus of "Quiet Little Voices." 1

Second opener was The Twilight Sad, a fairly well known act that I'd managed to avoid. They were kinda boring, the drummer took most of the set to figure out how to drum, the guitarist was glued to his whammy bar, and the singer was keeping most of his personality in his cardigan. I think it's official that I don't like shoegaze, even if it's with a Scottish accent.2 See what you think.

But then there was Frightened Rabbit, who are incredible live. And as enchanting as singer Scott Hutchinson is, drumming brother Grant sort of steals the show. At the end of their set (I believe the song was "Heads Roll Off" but I could be completely wrong), all the other members of the band wandered off stage, leaving Grant to finish the set in an epic drum solo, where he basically turned into Animal of the Muppets. Which was fantastic because Grant was wearing a t-shirt with Animal's head printed on it. Oh yes.

Scott was, however, responsible for the greatest band-heckle I've ever witnessed. A young guy in the crowd yelled, "I take showers to you!" during a brief break between songs, and Hutchinson assured him that he showers to the kid as well, with photos taped to the tiles, and how he should probably get them laminated. He also insisted that we in the crowd not applaud or cheer after one song, because they perform every night and are sick of all that ridiculous clapping – they wanted bored noises instead. Yawning at Frightened Rabbit was probably the hardest thing I've done all summer, and I just finished moving to a third-floor apartment…

It's also worth noting that they played two new songs, as they've recorded a new album. If those tracks are anything to go by, the next album will be brilliant, and provide an excellent for them to tour again.

mp3: "Ships With Holes Will Sink" by We Were Promised Jetpacks
mp3: "Don't" by Frightened Rabbit

1. LMS was not moved by WWPJP. I don't know what's wrong with her.
2. LMS liked them. Our Southwestern component, cev, had seen the same show earlier in the tour, and agreed with ako and myself, thus proving that we are in fact right, and LMS is, sadly, wrong in every way.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

loney dear @ the troubadour

For the record: I'm not stalking Loney Dear
(a.k.a. Emil Svanängen). But if he's going to insist on playing Los Angeles three times in any given year--once as a supporting act for another great artist, and once at my favorite club--before returning a third time with a notable opener of his own...well, I fail to see the downside of going for the trifecta.

First off was the sock-of-nickels sonic assault of Asobi Seksu. Despite demonstrating just how poorly balanced the Troubadour sound system was, and hypnotizing the audience with strobe lights on nearly every song (as my friend--who shall henceforth be known as "The Option Behind the Curtain"--helpfully pointed out, "If you mark every e-mail as urgent, none of them are."), they also managed to embody a surprising amount of shoegaze charm. Lead woman Yuki Chikudate's pure pop voice transcended the din, its delicious displacement elevating Asobi Seksu above the majority of their dream-pop contemporaries.

After Asobi Seksu's wall of noise, even the loyal (read: me) begun to wonder if Svanängen could match the energy and intensity of his opener.

Let's take a moment for a self-evaluation: Umm...Duh.

For those who chose to stick around, Svanängen and his four piece band (who also backed the first opener of the evening Anna Ternheim) once again proved that sincerity is the new irony. From his addressing the audience as "my friends" when first taking the stage, to a sincere "thank you for the wonderful evening" (no--thank you!) , Svanängen proved to be the sort of indie-rock poster boy you only wish you could bring home to meet your parents. (Sufjan, please take note.)

Musically, the Loney Dear collective was--as per usual--spot on. As "The Opinion Behind the Curtain" aptly described their style: "you can't have a crystalline voice without a crescendo." Live, this is--without a doubt--the musical personification of joy.

By the time each song--guided by Svanängen's sweet voice--swelled to a dramatic climax, you could feel the band's glee permeate the venue. Or was that just me? Svanängen has noted several times that his latest album Dear John is a work predicated on sadness. Regardless, by the end of the set--largely comprised of Dear John material--you'd be hard-pressed to find someone without a smile.

Set List:

1. I Was Only Going Out
2. Everything Turns to You
3. Summers
4. Under a Silent Sea
5. The Meter Marks Okay
6. Carrying a Stone
7. Take it Back
8. I Fought the Battle of Trinidad & Tobago
9. Hard Day’s


10. Airport Surroundings
11. Shivering Green
12. Sinister in a State of Hope
13. Dear John

mp3: "Airport Surroundings" by Loney Dear
mp3: "I Am John (live)" by Loney Dear
mp3: "Ignorant Boy, Beautiful Girl" by Loney Dear
mp3: "Suzanne" by Asobi Seksu
mp3: "Transparence" by Asobi Seksu