Monday, October 31, 2011

Fanzine - Roman Holiday

What a way to start a Monday. Fuzzy, jangly, and what a hook. It should come as no surprise that Fanzine has been touring with bands like Yuck and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Two of the current bands with the ability to look back to the nineties without getting too cliche or being unoriginal. Fanzine is in the same pocket of awesomeness--a little guitar soloing, a little excess reverb, a lot of heart. This single is coming out November 22nd on Fat Possum.

Roman Holiday by Fanzine

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wavves - Life Sux EP

The guys in Wavves are like your immature younger brothers, fooling around with a drum set and some guitars in the basement, annoying everyone in the house. But then one day, you actually go downstairs, and realize that the noise they’ve been making for all these years is quite tuneful, and you’re going to be humming these songs for the rest of the month.

The Life Sux EP takes the raucous energy found on certain tracks on King of the Beach, and instead of interspersing them with chilled-out lo-fi nuggets, retains a hefty punch for six consecutive tracks. The band is scoring the soundtrack for the new MTV series, “I Just Want My Pants Back” with songs like Life Sux’s “I Wanna Be Dave Grohl,” a growling gut-punch with a hooky chorus that’s going to plant the Foo Fighters’ frontman in the brains of kids across the country.

But the band is best here when mixing the murky roar of grunge music with the melodies of Oasis on “Poor Lenore,” a song that, like “Post Acid” on predecessor King of the Beach, is going to take hundreds of listens before getting old. Frontman Nathan Williams gets help from his girlfriend Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast on the beachy “Nodding Off,” and members of Fucked Up contribute their signature metal howls on “Destroy,” a fast-paced garage rock rumble. Perfect for the basement, the sleazy dive bar, and now, even the television.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ben Folds - The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective

In the first anthology of Ben Folds' career, the man behind the piano peels back some of the mysteries behind his brilliant songwriting, and listeners will have a hell of a time exploring the journey. The Best Imitation of Myself is available as an 18-song album or a 3-album set, including one with Folds’ greatest hits, another that stitches together his best live performances, and a B-sides and rarities disc. Best, though, are the extensive liner notes detailing the story behind each song, from “artfully ripping off” Elton John (“Zak and Sara”) to making lyrics out of his ex-wife’s bitter letters to him (“Smoke”). It’s a joy to get a sense of the person behind such heartfelt, often hilarious musical narratives, all while enjoying a well-tailored collection of songs spanning from his early years in Ben Folds Five to three brand new recordings made for this retrospective. “Tell Me What I Did” fits right in with the playful synth blasts on Rockin’ the Suburbs, “Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues” is a slow, sweet serenade, and “House” is painful nostalgia, on par with Folds’ best melodies. The joyous playfulness of Folds’ live improvisation, reflected in this set in full measure, is a true testament to what makes him an unstoppable force and ever-evolving artist.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Deer Tick - Divine Providence

For a rock band that prides itself on lighting dollar bills on fire inside their mouths in the middle of live shows, you would expect Deer Tick to strike forth with an album full of barnburners. Their purported badassery falls short, especially on “Now It’s Your Turn,” where John McCauley sounds more like a whiny Keane than Jagger as he pours his heart out to the girl who broke his. They make up for it with beer-soaked tirades (“Let’s All Go to the Bar,” “The Bump”) and growling licks atop loose-cannon percussion (“Main Street”). Best of all is “Make Believe,” a mid-tempo rocker with guitar solos that croak to perfection and imagery so believable that listeners actually might imagine themselves inside the “you cheated on me” narrative.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fleet Foxes Live Review - Louisville Palace

Fleet Foxes at The Louisville Palace, Louisville, KY, October 5th, 2011

The Louisville Palace is covered with ornate sculpture, and when you look up at the ceiling, you are immersed in a replica of the night sky, glowing stars shining down on the crowd. Yet when Fleet Foxes took the stage, their three- and four-part harmonies danced through their performance like rays of sunshine. Each note was incredibly tailored to perfection, yet effortlessly blended. There were moments that night where nothing—nothing—could pull you down.

As Robin Pecknold reminded us of strawberries in summertime in the echoed chorus of “White Winter Hymnal,” the gentle melodic guitars and cymbal-heavy percussion set the scene for a night of simple joys. Songs like “Battery Kinzie” and “Lorelai” were heavy on the guitar, at times covering up Pecknold’s liquid-clear crooning. But the blend of each of the six members’ instruments was most often on point, displaying a seamless sense of solidarity amongst the band.

Songs from the their second full-length album, Helplessness Blues, gave Fleet Foxes a chance to show off more of their musical prowess. “Sim Sala Bim” climaxed with an incredibly vivacious guitar hootenanny. But the crowd still went wild for the breezy folk tunes off the band’s self-titled debut. “Ragged Wood” incited howling from members of the audience in an effort to join the band in harmony, while the anthemic “Your Protector” stood its ground against the newer, more complex songs like “The Shrine/An Argument.”

When Pecknold came onstage to begin the encore alone, he stressed that he was dedicating “I Let You,” a new song, to the passing that day of legendary folk musician Bert Jansch.

“If you haven’t heard of Bert Jansch, don’t worry,” Pecknold explained, “Go to iTunes. Buy everything he’s ever done.”

The rest of the band joined Pecknold for the final three songs of the encore, “Sun It Rises,” crowd favorite “Blue Ridge Mountains,” and “Helplessness Blues.” All three songs served as a good representation of what made that night’s performance so unforgettable. Each sounded uniquely beautiful, and exuded power. This power, an overwhelming force, was not achieved through volume or effects, but a carefully-arranged layering of sounds, a wholly creative web of interwoven guitar, keyboard, rhythm and harmony.

Van Dyke Parks opened the show in his third performance alongside Fleet Foxes. Like Jansch, Pecknold couldn’t stop fawning over the vast influence Parks has had on the band. If you didn’t know about the connection between the two very disparate musical acts, you may not have ever suspected that Parks played such a strong role in shaping Fleet Foxes’ sound. His twinkling piano and rambling lyrics took us back to a different era in music. When he wasn’t singing about his favorite president (FDR), his chorus-less showtunes dealt with treacherous weather in Los Angeles.

Parks’ work as a producer and arranger has spanned decades, from his time working with the Beach Boys to Joanna Newsom. His blunt performance was stark and bold next to that of the Fleet Foxes, who keep their stage banter to a minimum.

Walking out of the Palace, into another blue, starry sky, it was almost a disappointment to step out of the breezy, artificial musical paradise, and back into the real world. But the next morning, when the sun shined through the clouds, the airy melodies playing back in my head were still as crisp as the autumn day.

Set List:

1. Plains/Bitter Dancer
2. Mykonos
3. English House
4. Battery Kinzie
5. Bedouin Dress
6. Sim Sala Bim
7. Your Protector
8. White Winter Hymnal
9. Ragged Wood
10. Montezuma
11. He Doesn’t Know Why
12. Lorelai
13. The Shrine/An Argument
14. Blue Spotted Tail
15. Grown Ocean

16. I Let You
17. Sun It Rises
18. Blue Ridge Mountains
19. Helplessness Blues

Real Estate - Days

I'm bringing back the blog. It's been a while, guys.

Real Estate's new album has me in a trance. Let's just say I'm sitting here at my desk with wet hair, a towel on my head, and my legs won't allow me to stand up and walk away from this computer. Because who knew Real Estate could totally rip on early Rogue Wave's blissful floating guitar riffs, or make me feel like I'm trapped in a room full of cotton candy and gumdrops? This is the sweetest, most sticky pop music I have heard in months.

Just when I think the next song cannot be as good as the last, it gets better. Although, nothing is quite better than "It's Real," which is rightfully the first single (I think). I wish I could dance around with ribbons (remember ribbon dancing?) and roll down huge grassy hills with this music soundtracking my pure stupidity. Instead, I'm working on balancing my checkbook. But it gives my finances a syrupy feeling of goodness, even if the numbers don't agree.

Guys! You can even go listen to this for free at NPR. I'll be back soon with an actual review, once I've gotten over my puppy love, and can start to appreciate the finer details.