Friday, December 19, 2008

Chuck Berry: Is Rock N' Roll

On December 13th, I had the distinct pleasure of attending one of Chuck Berry's all-ages show at The Pageant. Playing for little over an hour, in addition to his regular band, Chuck was joined on stage by his son and grandson on guitar, as well as his daughter on harmonica and vocals. Rather then having a set list, Chuck took requests from the audience. This produced some great moments, a perfect example of which is when he sang happy birthday to a member of the crowd, adding the line "How old are you? How old are you? I'm 82."

Overall, the night was one of the most entertaining concerts I have attended. The fact that he is still putting on shows, and good ones at that, goes to show just what Chuck Berry has done for music. Hopefully he is still playing when I can attend one of his monthly shows at Blueberry Hill.

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Year in Review: Album of the Year


The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Of all of my year end choices, Album of the Year was the hardest. 2008 was a year of phenomenal songs and decent albums. Looking back, I found many albums I enjoyed, but few that I consistently liked sitting down and listening to all the way through. Then I put on the Hold Steady’s Stay Positive. While not my favorite Hold Steady record, Stay Positive was the most cohesive and complete record of 2008. From the blaring guitar riff that kicks off “Constructive Summer” to the chorus of “whoas” in “Slapped Actress,” Stay Positive is an album that keeps you listening in a way no other record did in 2008. Craig Finn is lyrically at the top of his game, telling stories of murder (“Song for the Cutters”), downtrodden drunks (“Lord I’m Discouraged”) and fights (“Slapped Actress”). The band was also the most successful at transitioning their sound from one album to the next. While Coldplay and My Morning Jacket made giant leaps in their sound that make their records very distinct from their previous ones, Stay Positive sounds like the step up from 2006’s Boys and Girls in America. Like I said, it isn’t my favorite Hold Steady album, but the fact it’s not and is still my album of the year shows that this is a truly great band that’s always worth listening to.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2008 Year in Review: Top 10 Songs of 2008

Here's my big list. The only thing left is my picks for album of the year which will be up in the next few days. If you want to hear some of these songs, I'll be playing them on my Best of 2008 show this Tuesday, during my normal 5:30-7:30. Tune in at www.wdub.org! Now, without further adieu, here are my Top 10 Songs of 2008:

1. Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes

A low-profile choice, I know, but the Canadian trio put out one of the best indie-pop songs this year in the title track for their latest LP. Elizabeth Powell lets her voice soar over her guitar as the band keeps time behind her gently, falling apart just before the chorus and hitting us again, only to fall apart one more time during the bridge. Sonically, the song is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. At one point, it’s a very straight forward love song, and suddenly, it’s a darker, more unconventional song that goes right back to where it started. If nothing else, it is an impossibly beautiful and catchy song that will stay in your long after you’ve listened to it.

2. Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue

Perhaps the most stunning song of the year was the title track of Jenny Lewis’ fantastic album. Just Lewis, a guitar, and backing vocals from Chris Robinson and Jonathan Rice, the song is a gorgeous call for redemption that is both a sorrowful and uplifting at the same time. Lewis’ voice isn’t as soulful as Cat Power’s Chan Marshall or as silky as Feist, but it is sweet and just as powerful as both of her peers. The backing vocals add to the very soulful sound of the track, filling you with a warmth that few songs can provide. Definitely the best song she’s ever written.

3. My Morning Jacket – Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 1

Building off of the experimentation they started on their album Z, My Morning Jacket put out this track that combines beautifully their new sonic direction with their long established goal of playing to the rafters. The song seems to reach into space with Jim James’ voice switching octaves and reaching just as far as the echoing guitars and keyboards. Backed by a steady drumbeat and funky bass rhythm, the song will enter the MMJ tour rotation as a favorite of fans everywhere.

4. Okkervil River – On Tour With Zykos

Starting off with just singer Will Sheff and piano, this track builds to a gorgeously arranged string finale that is the perfect example of the band’s style and sound. The piano punctuates the points where Sheff isn’t singing his story of being songwriter that is better than his peers but stuck feeling like there is more for him out there. Normally, Sheff’s singing stands out from the music, but here it compliments it, and the band offers responses to his ponderings of loneliness and the meaning of what he’s doing. The song’s instrumental end is like Sheff’s unspoken verse, as the music captures a feeling words can’t quite convey.

5. The Hold Steady – Constructive Summer

The lead off track on their album Stay Positive, “Constructive Summer” grabs you with a driving guitar that doesn’t let up as the song rumbles forward. The song is a loud and quick ode to the summer for underachievers stuck in a dead end town. Craig Finn proclaims, “We’re gonna build something this summer,” and by golly, you believe him. This isn’t the most complex song on this album by any means, but it is a summation of the sound and attitude of the Hold Steady that for me exemplifies the album. The song also has a lot of personal meaning to me as well, which is a big factor in ranking it this high. When I think back to my summer of 2008, this is the song that will pop into my head.

6. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride

Ever since the Mountain Goats went hi-fi, John Darnielle’s song writing has become more and more complex. This song represents the culmination of 17 years of songwriting that went from him in a bedroom with a tape recorder to having a full band in the studio. At the song’s base is a typical Mountain Goats song, with Darnielle strumming a familiar steady rhythm, but the band helps build the song so that when it hits the chorus, the song bursts out with Darnielle’s exclamation “I feel so proud when the reckoning arrives.” Matching his uncanny ability to take dark themes and disguise them in beautiful music, Darnielle remains at the top of his game, with no sign of him coming down.

7. Eef Barzelay – True Freedom

Completely stripped down with just the former Clem Snide front man singing over an acoustic guitar, the song is in many ways reminiscent of a pre-electric Dylan. A pseudo-love song that starts off conventionally lyrically and devolves into seemingly drug-induced rambling (for the song’s characters, not Barzelay himself) before returning to it’s starting voice. The Dylan comparison comes not only from the stripped down sound, but from Barzelay’s yelping voice that adds power to an already powerful song. A fantastic track to listen to the later it gets in the evening.

8. Los Campesinos! – You! Me! Dancing!

Starting off quietly and building into chaos, this track suddenly comes alive and grabs you, never letting go. A frantic song that bounces around before slowing and becoming stable before taking off again, “You! Me! Dancing!” is all about give and take, much like dancing. What’s great about it is that it works both as a song to dance to and to listen to while wandering around with an iPod. The band already released their next record, which isn’t quite as chaotic sounding as this, but “You! Me! Dancing!” will remain one of my favorite, cherry dance songs.

9. She & Him – Black Hole

So much has been made of She & Him as we reach the end of the year that it sometimes is hard to remember they crafted a beautifully classic album in 2008. At the heart of it is this country bop that perfectly melds the sound of M. Ward’s production and instrumentation with Zoey Deschenel’s songwriting and incredible voice. The song goes along steadily until it comes out of the bridge with pretty harmonies and the steady ticking of cymbals. Listening to it, it’s sometimes impossible to tell if it was released in 2008 or 1963. A timeless song that will never go out of style.

10. TV on the Radio – Love Dog

This is the best song this band has ever written (yeah, I said it). Dark and complex, the song doesn’t start out in noise as some of their more popular tunes, instead building as it reaches an end reminiscent of some of Radiohead’s best work. Sorrowful lyrics are accentuated only with the occasional harmony and little more. The track is for the most part minimal until it hits an ending in which the band puts on more and more layers until it suddenly comes to a crashing halt. For those still unsure about Dear Science, hopefully this track can change your mind.

Honorable Mentions:
R.E.M. – Living Well’s the Best Revenge
Vampire Weekend – Campus
Coldplay – Viva la Vida
Death Cab for Cutie – Cath…
Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart
Dr. Dog – Army of Ancients
Bon Iver – Skinny Love
The Walkmen – In The New Year
MGMT – Electric Feel
Of Montreal – Id Engager
Portishead – The Rip

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2008 Year in Review: Artist of the Year

Another in a series of short posts recapping the year in music.

Artist of the Year: Los Campesinos!
In a year when bands were breaking with their sound (see: My Morning Jacket, Coldplay, etc.), Cardiff’s Los Campesinos! burst on to the scene with their frantic bouncy pop on their debut LP Hold On Now, Youngster, an unabashedly original and friendly record. The record was an irresistibly catchy, raucous good time that pulled you off your feet and got you dancing. As if that wasn’t enough, the band closed the year by putting out We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, a collection of 10 tracks that the band is calling an “EEP.” On Beautiful, the band maintains their energy while reeling in their sound just enough to make it not sound like leftover tracks or a bunch of songs put out for publicity, but an entirely different phase in a band’s career. This incredible rate of songwriting doesn’t seem to have a stopping point, with the band already demoing another album for 2009. Hopefully, it will continue this awesome trend of songwriting.

Friday, December 12, 2008

2008 Year in Review: Most Underrated Album of the Year

Another in a series of short posts recapping the year in music.


Most Underrated Album of the Year:
Headlights – Some Racing, Some Stopping

While everyone was swooning over She & Him for their throw back sound, it seemed that nearly everyone passed up this fantastic album by Headlights. The album takes the lush indie pop of their 2006 debut Kill Them With Kindness and melds it with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound to create a gloriously modern retro album. The record does a fantastic job of balancing highs and lows, opening with the building momentum of “Get Your Head Around It” and going through the ups of “April 2” and the downs of “Some Racing, Some Stopping.” The album is complete, which is something a lot of young bands are unable to accomplish. This is an album I truly can’t believe didn’t get jumped on in a year where retro is cool.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2008 Year in Review: Comeback of the Year

Another in a series of short posts recapping the year in music.

Comeback of the Year: R.E.M.

After their worst album of their career (2005’s Around the Sun) and a couple of lack luster albums before that, R.E.M. went back to basics and rediscovered the sound that abruptly stopped when drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997. The result is Accelerate, a return to form that shows them shifting away from adult contemporary radio and going for a rock song again. Peter Buck’s signature guitar sound is back and Michael Stipe rediscovered his ability to be a rock star. Mike Mills is solid as ever on bass too, though his backing vocals aren’t as pleantiful as they were in R.E.M.’s golden era. It’s good to see the pioneers of college rock back in form, ready to reclaim their title as one of the best bands in rock.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2008 Year in Review: Most Overrated Band of the Year

Another in a series of short posts recapping the year in music.

Most Overrated Band of the 2008: Fleet Foxes

This year, it seemed that everyone fell in love with Fleet Foxes, and for the life of me, I can’t quite figure out why. Their music isn’t bad, it’s just nothing spectacular. Stealing the voice of Jim James of My Morning Jacket and putting it over folk retreads doesn’t make you a fantastic band, it just makes you enjoyable to listen to while doing work. I found that people have been thinking of Fleet Foxes as this great band that fills you with warmth, but honestly, I just don’t see it. Congrats guys! Another honor to post on your website!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

2008 Year in Review: Best New Bands

It's end of the year list time, so I'm going to start my installments of some of my year end reviews. Over the next week, I'll have my lists finalized and they'll be posted. Other "awards" include Songs of the Year, Most Overrated Band of the Year, Comeback of the Year, Artist of the Year, and the coveted Album of the Year. What better way to kick things off than to name the best new bands out there. This year it was a three way tie:


Vampire Weekend
This might be a little obvious since they went from playing Columbia parties to being one of the biggest stories of the year, but Vampire Weekend is as good as the hype advertises. Those that argue that they simply took Graceland and did something different with the sound should remember that that’s pretty much all rock music is: the variation on a previously established sound to create a new one. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep up this success with the spotlight on them, but for now, they can relax knowing they made one of the more enjoyable albums of the year.


Bon Iver
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver broke onto the scene this year with a gorgeous album that echoes the loneliness of the isolated cabin that he recorded in. Vernon’s success may not have been as big as Vampire Weekend’s, but For Emma, Forever Ago is an album is an easy choice for top 10 lists everywhere. Now with the opening gigs for Wilco all finished, Vernon is putting out the Blood Bank EP in January, offering us a glimpse at what his sound is like, post success.


Vivian Girls
Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls released an album that fell under the radar but went right to the heart’s of those that did find it. Melding the vocals of 1960’s girl groups, sounds of classic Ramones, and the distortion of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Vivian Girls self titled debut is a short but bouncy album that keeps you hooked from start to finish. It might not be on any major lists, but the future looks bright for these three girls.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nas Mix

Hey folks, for those of you who listened to last week's Jew y Gentile, I'm posting the mix of Nas Thief's Theme/One Mic that we did on the show. You can download it here. Enjoy

Thursday, October 30, 2008

CMJ Review

For the WDUB website, I've started writing a regular column called "New Adventures in Hi-Fi." For the first column, I wrote about my experience at CMJ. Here it is:

CMJ 2008: The Full Experience

After toiling as an Assistant Music Director and watching my friends head off to the CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival for three years, it was great to finally get my own opportunity to go. I was pretty pumped to go, so the two-hour drive to the Akron/Canton Airport and the subsequent flight to New York took forever. Once we were there though, we hit the ground running, not stopping until we left on Sunday.

For the first night, we picked the Bowery Ballroom as our first venue. We got here right as opener Corey Chisel and the Wandering Souls were finishing up. It was, needless to say, a bland beginning. Chisel has a great voice, but he wastes it on the same generic singer/songwriter stuff you can hear on any adult contemporary station. Following him was Shugo Tokumaru, a Japanese guitarist who dazzled us with some of the fastest hands I’ve ever seen. His set combined traditional American folk with Japanese avant-garde sounds, leading to a pretty enjoyable set. Following him was Audrye Sessions, a large, booming rock band that took cues from Muse and “Bends” era Radiohead. When the band let go and rocked out, they were fantastic, but their songs seemed to follow a similar pattern, and I had a hard time getting in to it as the set went on.

After these three bands came Love as Laughter, my first new discovery of CMJ. Lead singer Sam Jayne is an energetic and inventive singer who channels the best of blues-rock into an indie-influenced sound. While I thoroughly enjoyed the set, a lot of the crowd seemed disinterested, a fact not lost Jayne, who responded with halfhearted banter in between fantastic rock songs. Love as Laughter was followed by Wild Sweet Orange, an energetic and fun band that didn’t really offer anything that got me too terribly excited, but still led to plenty of toe-tapping and head bobbing.

All of these bands were the lead up to the headliner of the night, Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. As a fellow Indianapolis native, I’ve followed these guys since their humble beginnings, so seeing them playing to a packed house in New York City was awesome. They delivered, playing a fantastic set that had the entire crowd transfixed and wanting more. I’m glad to see some Indy kids making it on the big stage in such a great way.

On Thursday, we attended panels during the day, but were treated to a lunchtime set by mullet-sporting Memphis Pencils, a seemingly stock indie group that wasn’t too inspiring. That night, we headed over to Webster Hall to check out a couple acts, first of which was my second great new find of CMJ, Lymbyc Systym. A two-piece instumental group that is reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, the guys rocked out and definitely impressed me enough to buy their album after the set. They were followed by the first really bad group we saw the whole trip, Who Made Who. They were dance rock that basically ripped off The Rapture and were obviously trying too hard to be the next weird, super energetic stage act. Though the rest of the crowd loved it, I was not a fan. After them were Fujiya and Miyagi, a terrific group. While their music isn’t the sort of thing you’d hear at a dance club, the steady beats put you in a trance and you can’t help but nod your head in beat with the music.

Friday was a major night for us. We wanted to go to the Land of Talk/Broken Social Scene show at the Massonic Lodge out in Brooklyn, but they were only letting 45 CMJ badges in, so we got there super early, and it paid off big time. We were right up front for both incredible sets. Land of Talk kicked off and were truly impressive. The band is very cohesive together and lead singer Elizabeth Powell strums her guitar and sings with such gusto that even people that had never heard of them were getting really into the music. They ripped through songs from their EP “Applause Cheer Boo Hiss” and their terrific new album “Some Are Lakes,” providing one of the more satisfying shows of the trip.

After them came Broken Social Scene, one of the best live acts out there. Having already seen BSS three previous times, I knew what to expect, but I was nonetheless blown away again. Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and Company ripped through tracks not only from their solo albums, but also a substantial amount of older songs and songs by some of the collective’s members’ bands, including Apostle of Hustle, Do Make Say Think, and Hawaii. Elizabeth Powell was on hand again to fill in the female vocals of tracks like “7/4 (Shoreline)” and “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl.” By the end of the night, everyone was dancing like crazy and begging for more. It sounds like BSS is going to take a bit of a break, but I can’t wait to see more.

On Saturday, we headed out to an AAM showcase at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Though we missed the band I was most excited to see, Annuals, we got to catch a few awesome groups. First up was Crystal Antlers, a heavy rock group that would have been a lot better had their lead singer not been screaming through every song. They were followed by the Ruby Suns, a New Zealand duo that use all sorts of pedals, loops, and live instrumentation to a create a very mellow, danceable sound. I had heard them before, but enjoyed their live show a lot more than I expected. All of these were followed by A Place to Bury Strangers, who put on the loudest show I’ve ever seen. At one point, the lead singer took his vocal mic and placed it next to his guitar amp, making it even louder. At another point, he was thrashing his guitar around, ripping off its strings after one of them broke. A fantastic set, but I’m not sure if my ears will ever recover.

This led us to our final showcase of the trip at the Bowery Ballroom on Saturday night. Kicking things off were All The Saints, a three-piece that sounded like if My Bloody Valentine had been Hendrix fans. After them was Marnie Stern, with one of the better sets of the trip. An incredible guitarist, Stern blasted through a series of songs, all with a huge smile on her face. Not only was the music good, but she seemed to be having so much fun that it wore off on the crowd. The last act we saw was Vivian Girls, my favorite discovery of my CMJ experience. Three girls from Brooklyn, Vivian Girls combine classic punk and 60’s girl group sounds, creating what a collaboration between The Ramones and They Crystals. Their first, self-titled album is only 20 minutes long, so the set was pretty quick, but the songs were all so unbelievable catchy and enjoyable it seemed like a lot longer.

Overall, CMJ was pretty great. There weren’t any really terrible bands that we saw. A few that weren’t great, but nothing that really made my ears bleed. My CMJ recommendations:

- Love as Laugter
- Margot & the Nuclear So and Sos
- Lymbyc Systym
- Land of Talk
- Ruby Suns
- A Place to Bury Strangers
- Marnie Stern
- Vivian Girls

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CMJ

From Wednesday to Sunday, I'll be at the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC with WDUB. I'll have pictures and a review up when I get back, but I'm also doing a live Twitter blog from the festival which you can check out here. Be sure to check it out!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jeff Mangum Plays "Engine"!!!

Tonight, I went to see the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise tour in Columbus and got to see one of the greatest things I've ever gotten to see. Jeff Mangum, the leader of Neutral Milk Hotel, came out and played the NMH song "Engine" with band mate Julian Koster. Not only was he playing, he was playing in the middle of the crowd, five feet from me. I took a video which is being shared on WDUB TV, but can be viewed below.
UPDATE: There is an MP3 link below.

Jeff Mangum - "Engine" (MP3)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Concert Review: Mirah


Last night was one of the shortest, yet most pleasant concert-going experiences I've ever had when I saw Mirah with No Kids at Skully's in Columbus. The doors opened early, at 6:30, and by 7, No Kids were on and playing. They were an okay band that grew on me the longer they played, but they had no energy and their songs got a bit repetitive as they went on. Finally, at around 8, came Mirah. When she came out to get set up, she just grabbed the mic, not bothering to even have the mystery of coming on stage to start. Though she was playing without the use of her pinkie, which she'd cut a few days prior, Mirah very sweetly worked her way through several new and recent songs. Just her on stage with the guitar, and less than 100 people in the audience, it felt like she was playing for a group of friends and was easily the most intimate show I've ever been to. In between songs, her banter was cheerful and warm, and she communicated with the crowd like we were a single friend standing before her. The show was no longer than an hour, and was done by 9, but the songs warmed me up so much inside, I didn't care.
Grade: A

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Bloody Valentine Aragon Ballroom 9/27/2008


I'd like to write a few words about one of my most recent, and unique musical experiences. On September 27th , I took the Mega bus from St. Louis to Chicago to witness My Bloody Valentine live. If you don't know who they are, I don't think any description of their music really does it justice; so my best advice for you is to just go pick-up some of their music and give it a listen. For those who have heard them, you probably don't know what their shows are like live. This has something to do with the fact that their current tour is the first in the U.S. in 16 years. So I guess without say too much else here are my thoughts.

I had heard that My Bloody Valentine puts on a loud show (some contest it's the loudest, some fans spotting 132 dBs on the board). And I had heard they were handing out earplugs to everyone. But finally getting to venue, and seeing the sheer number of speakers and equipment on stage, I knew I was in for a loud night. My father and I got there about a half-hour early, which let us snag spots right in front of the soundboard.

After waiting through the opener (I can't find the name), who were good but not why I was there, My Bloody Valentine finally took the stage. Kevin Shields, Belinda Butcher, Debbie Googe and Colm O’Ciosoig are by no stretch of the imagination rock stars. This was obvious when at the start of I Only Said, the opener, bright white lights started to strobe around the stage, almost blinding you from seeing the band. Throughout the night Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher would step up to the mic and step back without much apparent emotion or enthusiasm. Debbie Googe and Colm O’Ciosoig on the other hand were moving and playing as you might expect from the music that was being played.

Actually in general, I didn't know what to expect. I knew what shoegazing was, but only in words. It turned out to be something more and less then what I expected. During the show, it was as if the whole crowd was transfixed on something else. No one was rowdy, and the only movements I really saw was a head nod here or a sway there. Everyone was even standing in rows. It was one of the calmest shows I've ever been too. It was something completely different.

The music itself was amazing. The music overwhelmed the vocals even more then they do on the album; but everything sounded great. On Nothing Much To Lose, Colm O’Ciosoig drum rolled his heart out; delaying the hook of the song. On When You Sleep (personal favorite song right now) we saw a green path leading to nowhere in particular. Much like the music itself, the graphics that backed every song were distorted just enough that you couldn't fully tell what was happening. Every song sounded familiar but different.

And then it happened. The moment I had heard and read about. Belinda and Kevin said their thanks and good-byes, and launched into You Made Me Realise. A song that on their groundbreaking Creation single is under four-minutes, here was a sprawling song, whose length I did not measure. While the song starts off as a regular song, it quickly turns into a single chord repeated over and over again. The distortion builds and builds until the whole room is one noise. At this point the lights are going full tilt as well. Strobe lights that blind you, and surely put at least one person into an epileptic fit were everywhere. I fell into a trance like state at one point, and was only brought out of it when I took my earplugs out to feel the whole of the experience. Suddenly all of my senses came back in an instant. I was awake, aware, and my whole body felt like I was in some kind of storm. I can't do the experience justice, so I won't try too much.

After they finally finished You Made Me Realise, the crowd was stunned. White lights from the stage flooded the room, preventing you from seeing the stage. No one seemed to know what to do, and most people took a few minutes before they finally turned to talk to those around them. While we knew it wouldn't happen, we all hoped that they would come back on for just one more song.

After fighting the crowd out of the theater, it was a shock to not be constantly bombarded with noise. A slight ringing was in my ear, but it doesn't seem like it will be a problem. An experience unlike any other, I recommend that if you ever have a chance see them live. With the current tour, and rumors of a third LP, this might be easier then ever before.

Grade: A+

Set list:
I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
When You Wake
Cigarette in Your Bed
Come in Alone
Only Shallow
Thorn
Nothing Much to Lose
To Here Knows When
Slow
Soon
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise

Friday, October 10, 2008

Concert Review: Death Cab for Cutie


I've waited a couple of days to give this review of Wednesday night's Death Cab for Cutie show at Lifestyles Community Pavilion in Columbus because I needed some time to let it settle in. Death Cab is a band that I first had back in 2002 on their album "The Photo Album," and since then, their music has had tremendous personal meaning to me. "Transatlanticism" basically got me through high school and "We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes" has been in regular rotation since starting college. All that being said, I think I came into Wednesday night's show with high expectations.

Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed in my concert going experience. I'm just a few short months away from turning 22, but I felt particularly old and more concert savvy than everyone else at the show. I commented to my roommate whom I was with that I'd never been to a show where the audience didn't care that they were there. Throughout the entire show, people were talking loudly, ignoring every song that was on an album before "Plans" (with the exception of "Sound of Settling"). Cellphones have replaced lighters and you could tell when the crowd didn't like a song because they all pulled out their cameras with their bright LCD screens illuminating the night. As someone who attaches great personal meaning to music, I can't fault someone for finding "Plans" and "Narrow Stairs" their personal favorite albums, but it truly baffled me to see so many people who shelled out around $50 to see the show just ignore it whenever an old song came up. Usually, I go to a show because I like a band overall, not for an album or two.

As for the music itself, the band has been better. They aren't a dynamic live act like My Morning Jacket, but they usually deliver a solid and entertaining show. On Wednesday, they seemed to be holding back just a little bit. To me, the best moment of all of "Plans" is Chris Walla's solo on "Crooked Teeth" where the band seems just to just let go and fall into the echos of his solo. While the echo was there at the show, the grandiose swoop of it all wasn't. Similarly, the crash into the instrumentals of "We Looked Like Giants" wasn't really there, instead muted to sound plain and generic. They saved a lot of the epic rocking for new songs, including "Long Division" and "I Will Possess Your Heart."

The setlist of the show was pretty solid, covering a great deal of the band's catologue. IT was great to hear "We Have the Facts" tracks like "Employment Pages" and "Company Calls," and surprising to hear "Something About Airplanes'" "Champagne From a Paper Cup." They seemed to stay away from tracks from "Narrow Stairs," but the ones they played were done quite well.

This was not the best show I've been to, nor was it even close to the best Death Cab show I've been to (see: Bonnaroo 2006). I still can't decide if the crowd put me off so much I didn't enjoy the music or if it just truly wasn't that great. Regardless, it was overall all a fairly forgettable show.

Grade: C

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Concert Review: My Morning Jacket


Already one of my favorite live acts, I knew that My Morning Jacket would deliver on a great show. There was no opening act and doors opened at 7, so I had a feeling that this show was going to be epic, and indeed it was. From opener "Evil Urges" to closer "One Big Holiday," Jim James and crew relentlessly pounded on their instruments and bounced around the stage with seemingly endless energy. It has always impressed me about them that no matter if they're playing a midnight show at Bonnaroo or playing a medium size city in the middle of a long tour, they play like their life depends on it. James is perhaps the most fun musician to watch on stage as he thrashes around on his guitar, hides behind a cape as he sings, and most impressive, slides across the stage. The show showcased My Morning Jackets cohesiveness as a group. They seamlessly integrate extended jams and solos into their already epic songs, making improvisation look planned. The material from "Evil Urges" surprisingly fits in nicely with some of their older material, even though it doesn't necessarily sound similar at all. The highlights were predictable, as they always are at an MMJ show, but were still incredible. They included a romp through "Off the Record" and the dueling guitars of "Lay Low," but undoubtedly the best moment of the night was the last, "One Big Holiday." This might be a little biased because it's one of my all-time favorite songs, but I think the band closes with this song because it blows everything else out of the water. Even after almost six years of playing that song night after night, the band still rocks out the hardest of it and doesn't hold back a single bit. All and all, I'd say that this show will easily make my list of top 5 shows of the year. A solid effort from the boys from Louisville.
Grade: A+

Monday, October 6, 2008

Introducing WDUB TV


Since the start of the year, I've been working on a project for WDUB called WDUB TV. WDUB TV is an online channel of content produced by WDUB to compliment our on air programming. Our first episode went live just a few minutes ago and can be found below. You can also visit the channel's site on YouTube for more. In Part 2 of the first episode, I review Jenny Lewis' new album, "Acid Tongue."

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On Repeat: Dr. Dog


My first exposure to Dr. Dog came at Bonnaroo in 2006 when I the keyboardist for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah wore one of their t-shirts during their show. From then on, they were always a band that sort of intrigued me, but one that I had trouble finding a starting point for. I got that chance this summer by picking up their latest effort, "Fate." Unfortunately, I bought it at the same time as I bough the Walkmen's "You & Me" and Liam Finn's "I'll Be Lightning," both of which quickly became favorites of mine, and Dr. Dog sort of fell to the wayside. I've finally found it though and can't stop listening. The record is a sort of folk rock romp that will undoubtedly get your toes tappin'. The album's best bit is the sprint through tracks "Hold On," "The Old Days" and "Army of Ancients." All three songs seem to take the rag-tag sound of the Elephant 6 bands and combine it with an almost folksy, yet soulful sound.
Dr. Dog Myspace

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Shows Tonight

Both shows are on tonight, so be sure to tune in!

Also, just a little cross promotion, I have a TV blog that I'm working on with my roommates called Television Rules the Nation (yes, a Daft Punk reference). We're covering a lot of TV shows and even live blogging Sunday night's Emmys, so be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Both Show Premiere Tonight!

Tonight you can catch both Andrew and myself on the radio for our first shows of the year! I'll be kicking things off from 5:30-7:30 EST on WDUB and Andrew will follow up at 8-10 CT on KWUR. You'll find links for both stations on the right. Tune in!

UPDATE: Thanks to our awesome Computing Services people, WDUB is not yet streaming this year. Next week's show should definitely be up.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Acid Tongue MP3



If you enjoyed the new Jenny Lewis track "Acid Tongue" off her forthcoming album of the same name, then you can have it for your very own! Just click here to head over to snag it from Brooklyn Vegan. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mr. November

The National + Barack Obama = This short from the DNCC.

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Cold War Kids and Okkervil River

I can't believe I hadn't even heard about this, but the Cold War Kids have an album coming out on September 23 (same as Jenny Lewis). They have a single out called "Something is Not Right With Me." You can get it here.

Also, Okkervil River has released a song from their forthcoming release "The Stand Ins" which comes out next week. The song is called "Lost Coastlines." It can be found here.

Lastly, I now know I will have the same radio timeslot as last year, so you can tune into the Radio Cure every Tuesday from 5:30-7:30 PM EST starting 9/8 at www.wdub.org!

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis is easily one of my favorite musicians. She grabbed me on Rilo Kiley's album's The Execution of All Things and More Adventurous, and her solo effort with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat, was one of my favorite albums of 2005. I was a bit disappointed in Rilo Kiley's last record (except the first track, "Silver Lining"), but news of a new Jenny Lewis album cheered me up. NPR has a stream of the title track, "Acid Tongue." If the rest of the album is this good, it might top my year end list.
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue (Stream) [scroll down page]

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lollapalooza 2008

Hey everyone! Sorry to have been gone for so long. Don't worry though, we're back, and in a big way. This weekend is Lollapalooza in Chicago, and as always, we'll be there. Be sure to check in each night for a recap of the day's shows. Rock on!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Okkervil River on Pitchfork.tv

Okkervil River did a set for Pitchfork.tv's "Don't Look Down" recently. Check it out:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Flight of the Conchords and Last Radio Cure


Fans of the Flight of the Conchords' HBO show need no introduction to "New Zeland's fourth most popular folk parody group," but for those unfamiliar, it is the dynamic duo of Brett McKenzie and Jermain Clement. Having already showcased a dozen songs on their TV show, their live performances and stand up specials, and BBC radio show, it's about time these guys got a proper full length in the States. The album features some of my favorite Conchord tracks including "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room," in which Jermaine romances a woman at a party by crooning, "you're so beautiful, you could be a waitress." On "Hiphopipotimous vs. Rhymenocerous," the two blend hip hop conventions and rapping with acoustic guitars and keyboard beats to create a song that's not only hysterically funny, but pretty catchy. This ultimately shows that even though these songs are pretty goofy, they're also good songs. A must have for any fan of the guys and a good starter for those just getting started.
Here's a nice little clip from the show:


On a different note, tonight is the last Radio Cure of the semester, so be sure to tune in on WDUB from 5:30-7:30 PM EST!

Monday, April 14, 2008

R.E.M. - Accelerate: Review


When drummer Bill Berry left R.E.M. following 1997's New Adventures in Hi-Fi, the band seemed to have lost it's way. Though 1998's Up and 2001's Reveal had good songs, they were a far cry from the R.E.M. that wrote songs like "Losing My Religion" or even going back further, "Sitting Still." Their 2005 album Around the Sun was widely panned by fans and critics alike for it's dull, adult contemporary radio feel. On their tour in support of the album, the band stayed away from playing many of the album's tracks in favor of older material. Now, after two best of compilations and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, R.E.M.'s newest album, Accelerate marks a return to form for the college radio pioneers. From the bouncy opener, "Living Well's the Best Revenge," the band seems to have shaken off the dust and gone back to rockers. Most notably, the album features more of the guitar of Peter Buck and a larger role for bassist Mike Mills. Michael Stipe's lyrics aren't as mysterious as they once were, but they still carry a power unmatched in a lot of pop music today. The band has gone back to some of their older sounds, noticeably on "Until the Day is Done," which features an intro reminiscent of "Sweetness Follows." R.E.M. is no doubt one of the most important bands of the last 25 years, and after a few miscues, it's good to know they're back.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Where'd We Go?

Hey small contingent of still faithful readers. Sorry we've been a little dead lately, this is the point of the school year where everything gets really busy. I have a huge new music review post that I plan to have up either today or tomorrow, so stay tuned. We'll be returning even better than ever, I promise.
P.S. If you're trying to stream the Radio Cure tonight, our computer is down, so our stream isn't working. Hopefully we'll be back soon!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kanye + Daft Punk = Speechless

Kanye West finally got on stage with Daft Punk to do "Stronger" at the Grammys. If you haven't seen this video, watch it right now.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down


At the tender age of 23, Thao Nguyen has a clear shot to indie-rock stardom. With the loose pop sensibility of Feist and the voice of Cat Power and/or Beth Orton, not to mention the help of producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens), Nguyen and her band The Get Down Stay Down have crafted the first enjoyable pop album of 2008. Unlike her aforementioned counterparts, Nguyen still seems to have the youth to roll down a hill on a summer’s day, which shows in her music. Listening to “Bag of Hammers,” I kind of forgot it was grey and miserable and couldn’t wait for spring to come. The standout track on the album however is “Feet Asleep,” where the band builds from a steady beat to a “1234”-esque climax. Bright things are on the future for this band, so catching them now will only make you cooler later.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vampire Weekend


When I first saw the music video for Vampire Weekend's first single "Mansard Roof," I was paid little attention to the music and more to the preppy look of the band members, with their popped collars and boat shoes, sailing around on a yacht. On second viewing, I heard the catchy song from the group of recent Columbia grads. The songs on their self titled debut all follow the same trend: simple, hip, and catchy as hell. The group owes a lot to African rock music and Paul Simon's "Graceland" album, as it blends whispy guitar lines with the steady drumming characteristic of West African pop. Aside from the afore mentioned "Mansard Roof," there is the bouncy "A-Punk" which is guaranteed to make you bop along as you listen. The track "Oxford Comma"(not FCC clean) however is my favorite. Lead singer Ezra Koenig's lyrics about someone else's' perceived superiority fits perfectly with the band's preppy East Coast attitude, yet it's not something that you particulary mind when lost in the steady rhythm of the song. Vampire Weekend gained a quick and rabid following online after a CD-R demo of theirs hit the blogosphere. With this will come the inevitable backlash that hit other blog bands such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Cold War Kids, and Tapes n Tapes. But for now, Vampire Weekend can rest on the easy knowing they have a satisfying album on the books.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jukebox


Just a few years ago, Chan Marshall a.k.a. Cat Power was in a bad place. Instead of being treated to the haunted voice of the singer they heard on the albums, fans at Cat Power concerts got an already drunk, disheveled Marshall that could hardly stand up. In 2006, she returned with The Greatest, a soulful album that saw Marshall sober and at her peak. Jukebox, her latest effort finds Marshall not covering, but reinterperating the songs that matter most to her yet again (she did it first on 2000's The Covers Record) Listening to her covers of Sinatra's "New York" and Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man" (here "Ramblin' (Wo)Man), you'll forget that someone else made them famous. Marshall's recovery from addiction is best seen in her uplifting cover of Bob Dylan's "I Believe in You." Though Dylan wrote it about his new found faith in God, Marshall sings it as a song of redemption and recovery. After just my first listen, I knew this album was great, but after a second, I can without hesitation say Jukebox is the first great album of 2008.