Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back from Sasquatch

Well what a weekend. The weather proved to be a bit on the interesting side, but it didn't stop a great weekend of music. Saturday and Sunday were completely sold out, with tickets being scalped for upwards of $100. My apologies for the average photography. I elected not to bring an expensive camera, which proved to be a good move on my part. There are some clips up through MSN video, and reportedly there will be more by Thursday.

TV On The Radio were the only band I saw on Friday. It was interesting to see a bunch of goth kids go from being too-cool-for-school to nodding their heads to the music. The crowd seemed to enjoy the band, who are a hell of a lot of fun live, even if the samples and harmony-heavy music didn't translate as well as it could in such a large setting. But the band attempted to make up for any technical limitations through pure energy, and did a decent job of it.

It poured rain and got ridiculously cold that night - a precursor for Saturday.

Rogue Wave impressed me a lot. I gave their albums a few spins this winter, but hadn't really revisited them since. It's all pretty simple pop songwriting, but came across very well in a live setting. The band was enjoying themselves and did a good job of getting the crowd moving.

I only saw a bit of Architecture in Helsinki, but the band was decent. Though they had a tendency to get a bit too spastic for my tastes, whatever the band is going for is admirable. An odd mix of prog-rock, ska and 80's electro-pop.

Gomez was better than I had given them credit for. The band basically has three lead singers/songwriters, who all get a chance to take the lead and were all appealing. I definitely need to go back and listen to their albums.

I missed Stephen Malkmus, which I am a bit bummed about since I've been on a huge Pavement kick lately. Sufjan was Sufjan, and to tell you the truth I wasn't that impressed with his live show. I'm sure it would have came off better in a smaller venue, but it just seemed a bit lifeless. His entourage and their uber-American shtick was amusing, though. Makes me wish I had brought my American flag Converses. (Or any other pair of shoes for that matter.)

After a couple songs solo ("Naked As We Came" and "Sodom, South Georgia") Iron & Wine's backing band came out and made his music more of a Grateful Dead-ish stoner rock thing - a big change in arrangement, but it fit the mood of the day well and was much more interesting to watch than Mr. Beam by himself the entire time.

Then, all hell broke loose. Neko Case was probably my most-anticipated set of the weekend. Three songs in, however, mother nature gave us the middle finger. During the middle of "Star Witness" (still the most beautiful song written thus far this year, btw), the little sprinkling of rain that had begun turned into a massive hail storm like I've only heard about. At it's peak, I want to say the hail was a little less than dime-size in diameter. They have video of the whole ordeal under "Day 2 Highlights" on the MSN site. Neko and her band toughed it out and finished the song, though most people were too busy running for cover to care much. It was like DMB playing "Two Step" in rain, I tell you.

The music stopped for about an hour and a half, everyone dispersed to their campsites (many of which were turned into complete mud) in an attempt to dry off, which didn't work very well.

After The Gorge Management decided to readmit people (God bless their hearts), The Shins owned. I'd never seen the band, but they played their hearts out and the drenched and cold crowd loved it. The one new song sounded just like the old songs, which sounded awesome. Just judging by the crowd reaction, these guys have become a U2-like band for a huge segment of 20-somethings.

Due to the rain, Ben Harper and The Flaming Lips switched spots, with The Flaming Lips closing the night. According to my Ben Harper-loving friends, Ben was awesome. I think most of the adjectives need to be saved for the Flaming Lips, though. I've been reading old reviews of their live show, looking for help to put into words what I saw, but I just can't. Wayne Coyne walked across the crowd in a giant hamster ball to open the show. 25 people dressed in Santa Clause outfits danced their hearts out stage left. On the right, 25 people dressed as aliens did the same, stopping to shine spotlights and throw giant bouncy balls into the crowd. A huge screen behind the stage mixed the lyrics to the songs with bizarre images of a naked woman lathering herself with mustard and distorted images of Coyne and a boxing nun puppet talking into the camera mounted on his mic. Confetti flew everywhere. The band played their absolutely killer cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody." And 20,000 people simultaneously felt like they were on acid. Even if you think the band's music is kind of average (which it is, for the most part), you need to see this band. I didn't stay for the entire thing, but they reportedly played until 1:30-2 in the morning. I wonder how much festival organizers were charged for violating the curfew laws, but kudos to them for getting people their money's worth despite the weather.

On Sunday the weather was beautiful with the exception of a few sprinkles. Chad VanGaalen was very likable and did a good job of recreating his bedroom indie-pop on stage. Nada Surf was boring and the Arctic Monkeys insufferably terrible, as predicted. There is a reason the lead singer accentuates his British accent to the point of absurdity - without the novelty of singing like Noel Gallagher, this band has nothing left.

The Decemberists put on an entertaining set, as they always do, though the setlist was without some of my favorites of theirs (come on, we all know the audience participation part of "The Mariners Revenge Song" would be awesome at the Gorge).

It is worth noting at this point another great part of big festivals like these: artists have an interest in watching each other, and thus are often out with the common folk, enjoying the music with everyone else. This, of course, leaves them open to fan-boys like me, who want their picture taken with their favorite musicians so they can brag to their friends that they saw that musician in the flesh. I had sightings of Chad VanGaalen and Damien Jurado, as well as Sam Beam:

For the record, I don't wear sweaters around my shoulders all douchy-like as a fashion statement, I was keeping the sun off of the sunburn on my neck that I got on Saturday sometime. And I don't look like anymore of an unshowered homeless man than Sam (yeah, we're on a first name basis) does. Get a load of that beard. I would sell my first-born to be able to grow a beard like that. Definitely a new myspace photo for me.

Rocky Votolato was decent (I'd just like the point out that my spell check wants me to change "Votolato" to "Violator," which would make his name Rocky Violator, which would be the best porn star name ever), as was David Bazan's Headphones. The guy writes some great songs and has a great delivery, I just wish he'd pick up a guitar and do it Pedro The Lion style. I'm not usually a synthesizer kind of guy.

Probably the highlight of the day, music-wise was, surprisingly, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The second stage was packed to capacity with an odd mix of frat boys and hipster kids, but regardless of social label, everyone was enjoying the hell out of it. These guys could give the Arctic Monkeys a few lessons on how to be derivative yet not annoyingly so. Sure, I spent most of the set wondering how awesome it would have been to see the Talking Heads back in the day (the lead singer sings, moves and even looks just like David Byrne), but the music still seemed fresh and fun. As predicted "Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" tore the house down and made the kids who were too cool to dance nod their heads rhythmically and the frat kids crowd surf. (You're not 14 seeing Green Day anymore, tool.)

Death Cab For Cutie was better than I was expecting, playing a good mix of old and new. The band seemed excited to be there, and the sunset was beautiful. "What Sara Said" isn't even that bad of a song, it turns out.

Mitigating circumstances made me miss Beck, but I'm sure he was groovy as always.

In conclusion, a great, great weekend of music, though the weather put a bit of a damper on the partying. Aw, well.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Hello dear readers,

I write you tonight on my trusty computer to regretfully inform you that there will be no updates of Tall Buildings Shake this weekend, for I am traveling to The Gorge Amphitheater (photo courtesy of Clint Sharp, love you, buddy) to see the Sasquatch Music Festival, which includes three (well, two-and-a-half) days of music, plus camping and the ingestion of alcohol with some of my best friends. Who cares if they're all only there to see Ben Harper? They're my friends, and I love them so. Please take care of yourselves during my brief absence. I shall do all I can to document this joyous event with my digital camera. In the meantime, here are some simply glorious pieces of music from a band that I haven't bothered to mention yet simply because their awesomeness goes with saying. Besides being the source of our blog's title, "Jesus, Etc." is the most perfect piece of pop music in the last ... 20-ish years. (What year did Boston write "More Than A Feeling"?) And "Misunderstood" is, well, pretty damned awesome too.

Wilco- Jesus, Etc. from the modern classic, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. (WMA file)

Wilco- Misunderstood from Being There (WMA file)

Remember, kids. WWJTD? What would Jeff Tweedy do?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Scroll up and down really fast on this post if you're using Internet Explorer

Pitchfork brings us much good news, including a song-by-song review of The Eraser, the upcoming solo album of Thom Yorkee, heroin vacuum. All kidding aside, I swear to God I'll stop posting about Radiohead one of these days. Until that time, Thom Yorke is a God and this album sounds like it will be full of paranoid, post-apocalyptic piano/sampling/ambient-sound goodness. I'm picturing nine different versions of "Pyramid Song" and getting really, really excited.

Radiohead- Pyramid Song from Amnesiac

In more optimistic news, Page France's excellent Hello, Dear Wind is being re-released this fall on Suicide Squeeze records. (I fancy that they're doing it just so they can be eligible for a TBS Recommendation, which they may very well get.) Really excellent Christian-influenced (just like Sufjan!) anthemic indie pop. Reverent but not preachy, familiar but not derivative, poppy yet not glossy - the exact opposite of most Christian music.

Page France- Chariot from Hello, Dear Wind

Page France- Grass from Hello, Dear Wind

Weather report for Sasquatch doesn't look good. In the twenty-ish times I've been to The Gorge, I've never had weather colder than 80, even early in the concert season. God must hate hipsters.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This is too awesome to put in words...

MST3K spoofing a Radiohead interview on MTV back when MTV wasn't all that is wrong with society.

TBS Recommended: The Walkmen- A Hundred Miles Off

This isn't The Walkmen's career-defining record, but it is an excellent reminder that they are one of the better bands to come out of that whole early decade New York post-punk revival (The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). The album plays to the strengths that made the band's first two albums, 2002's Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone and 2004's superb Bows + Arrows, so compelling. Several tracks (the album opener, "Louisiana," and closer, "Another One Goes By," in particular) introduce a more subdued, "classic" aesthetic that was absent from the band's earlier work. For the fans of the bands more atmospheric "No Christmas While I'm Talking"-ish sound, tracks like "All Hands And The Cook" crest and swell around memorable melodies. For fans of the rock song, there are plenty of rock songs to be found. "Lost In Boston" could break this band to a mainstream crowd if it were marketed right (pray it isn't, one O.C. appearance and car commercial is enough) and lead singer Hamilton Leithauser's always-impressive vocal delivery hasn't sounded much better than on the chorus to "Don't Get Me Down (Come On Over Here)." Many (myself included) were expecting this album to be some sort of giant musical statement for the band, putting them in the upper echelon of the modern music scene. Expectations can be a bitch. This is nothing more than a great rock record from a great rock band. They're The Walkmen, not Radiohead. Only time will tell if the band can live up to their tremendous amount of potential. In the meantime, A Hundred Miles Off is a solid step forward and one of the better records to come out thus far this year.

The Walkmen- All Hands and the Cook

The Walkmen- Lost In Boston

Sunday, May 21, 2006

There's A Kid In There...

So it's already been blogged about to death, but it definitely worth mentioning that the side project of Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade), Sunset Rubdown, is pretty solid. There probably isn't anything on this full length, Shut Up I Am Dreaming as good as "I'll Believe In Anything" off of Apologies To Queen Mary, but Krug is proving himself to be stepping into Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse) and Doug Martsch (Built To Spill) territory as an indie rock front man.

Sunset Rubdown- Stadiums And Shrines II from Shut Up I Am Dreaming

Sunset Rubdown- The Empty Threats of Little Lord from Shut Up I Am Dreaming

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sasquatch Scheduling for the Indecisive: Sunday

Stumble out of your tent, underside of your car, or wherever you spent the night, down some water, man up and go out for your final day of rocking. You have one more day/night before you have to go back to reality and dead week/finals week. Make the best of it.

11:45 A.M.: Though many speak highly of Jamie Liddell's live show, nothing kills a hangover like hip hop. Go for Seattle's own Blue Scholars to start off your day.

1:00: At 12:45 on the mainstage, Pretty Girls Make Graves make interesting vaguely punk music, and Big Japan (the guy from the O.C.'s band OMGLOLROFL) don't even sound that bad based on their myspace. But both should be just for killing time for Chad VanGaalen, who I just recently heard but should have listened to long ago. Really awesome Canadian bedroom singer/songwriter-ish indie rock. Definitely check this guy out.

Chad VanGaalen- Clinically Dead from Infiniheart

2:30: Don't be a hype whore. The Arctic Monkeys are derivative, uninspired tripe. While nothing else on the schedule grabs the attention, the only viable reason for attending the Arctic Monkeys' set is to throw bottles. Any other reason only encourages the British music press to export more flavor-of-the-week Oasis/Blur ripoff bands. Heavenly States and The Village Green are both decent alternatives. But my pick? Go back to your campsite for some hot dogs and a couple beers.

4:00: Laura Veirs is very pleasant, but you really shouldn't miss out on The Decemberists' live show. Go buy The Tain EP if you need more proof. Definitely the one set of the day you shouldn't miss.

The Decemberists- Mariner's Revenge Song from Picaresque

5:30: We Are Scientists should experiment in making good music (OH SNAP, Caleb: 1, We Are Scientists: 0) and Matisyahu really isn't all that good once you get over the novelty of the whole rapping Jewish rabbi thing. Go instead to the Yeti stage for Rocky Votolato, whose material is pretty decent acoustic indie folk stuff, with the exception of "Mix Tapes/Cell Mates," which is absolutely incredible acoustic indie folk stuff.

Rocky Votolato- Mix Tapes/Cell Mates from Suicide Medicine (M4A/iTunes file)

6:30: Stay at the same stage for David Bazan's Headphones, who aren't as good as David Bazan's Pedro The Lion, but are still worth your time.

Headphones- Gas And Matches from Headphones

8:00: Queens of the Stone Age provide a good time killer before Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, who will have to do until the Talking Heads reunite.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

9:00: You can skip the first couple songs of Death Cab For Cutie's set, because they'll probably be some of the mediocre new songs, but then get on over the main stage and pray for "A Movie Script Ending," "Coney Island," "A Lack of Color" or something else from the older records.

Death Cab For Cutie- 405 from We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes

10:30: Beck closes the night, and will probably play stuff off the new album and Odelay. His live shows are supposedly quite entertaining, though I'd rather see him just sit down with a guitar and play folk covers like these:

Beck- Pink Moon (Nick Drake cover)

Beck- True Love Will Find You In The End (Daniel Johnston cover) from Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sasquatch Scheduling for the Indecisive: Saturday

A quick note before we begin. I'm not familiar with all of the artists at Sasquatch, and in many cases am making judgments based on their myspace songs - probably not the most accurate way to judge a band. So if I end up being wrong about missing a band, don't hate the player, hate the game.

12:00: Gallon jug of water and sunscreen in hand, venture in for what will likely be the best day of music of the weekend. Skip Bedouin Soundclash (unless you're a fan of watered-down reggae) and Brett Dennen. Head strait for the main stage for Rouge Wave, who make pleasant indie pop reminiscent of good Death Cab For Cutie.

Rogue Wave- Bird On A Wire from Descended Like Vultures

1:00: On the main stage, Gomez has written some solid tunes in the past, but their new album, which will probably dominate the set, is toned-down, overly poppy and dull (i.e. Calexico). Based on his myspace, Elvis Perkins may be worth checking out. Subtle, yet interesting singer-songwriter type. But my recommendation is to be there for Architecture In Helsinki, simply to see if they use as many instruments live as they do on their records, which are like less frustrating versions of the Fiery Furnaces'.

Architecture In Helsinki - In Case We Die from In Case We Die

2:30: Here's where it starts to get tricky. Sufjan is Sufjan. The guy's albums may be half filler, but when he is on, he is on. I've heard the live show is spotty, but as long as he plays "Romulus" I'd be okay with spotty. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks were recently added to the schedule, and while you gotta respect Malkmus's enormous influence on the modern indie rock scene, his solo work has never really grabbed me like Pavement did. Though you may want to catch them just to tell your grandkids you saw Stephen Malkmus in the flesh one time. And after a myspace listen, David Ford appears to be a pretty average UK singer-songwriter. Though you could attend out of pity that he is scheduled against such heavyweights. My pick: Say Yes! To Sufjan.

Sufjan Stevens- Romulus from Greetings From Michigan, The Great Lake State

3:30: If you can feel the heat stroke beginning to set in and just need some down time, Iron & Wine is for you. Sam Beam's voice is even more gorgeous in person, though he's not much to watch unless you are a connoisseur of fine beards. If you feel like moving around a bit more, Slender Means is a solid Seattle-based pop band that is worth seeing. My pick: Water, tanning and Sam Beam on the hill. Here's one of my favorite Iron & Wine b-sides:

Iron & Wine- Communion Cups And Someone's Coat from the Passing Afternoon single

4:00-4:30: Don't ask me. Neko Case released what is probably the best album of the year thus far, Band of Horses are one of the better new bands out there and Korby Lenker is a great local artist and all-around swell guy. Seriously, flip a coin. You're getting good music no matter what happens.

Neko Case- Star Witness from Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Band of Horses- Monsters from Everything All Of The Time

Korby Lenker- South of Pender from The Ghost of Whiteboy

5:30: The Tragically Hip are Canadian classic rock. Skip it and go for a better Canadian band, The Constantines, who bring the rock like few others. If you're down with the hippity hop (or whatever the kids are calling it these days), Common Market is on the Yeti stage.

The Constantines- Hotline Operator from Tournament of Hearts

6:30: Sam Roberts is a decent waste of your time, but a better choice would be Seattle-based Tim Seely, whose myspace tracks are quite intriguing. Kind of like a Rocky Votolato who takes more chances.

7:00: The Shins are reportedly a fun live band, and probably the quintessential indie band of our decade. It will be interesting to see what the new material sounds like.

The Shins- Gone For Good from Chutes Too Narrow

8:30:It's Flaming Lips time. Sure the new album is pretty mediocre, but these guys' live show is a thing of legend. Giant balloons, spotlights, fake blood, animal outfits, amazing visuals, etc. Who knows what will happen?

The Flaming Lips- Bohemian Rhapsody from some Queen tribute album

10:00: I'm not a big Ben Harper fan. Go back to camp early and get a head start on the heavy drinking.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sasquatch Scheduling for the Indecisive: Friday

Firstly, why, Sasquatch Festival organizers, do you charge just as much for Friday night as you do for Saturday and Sunday, even though there is about half as much music on Friday? Secondly, don't the goth people have their own festival somewhere? Someone's basement on Capitol Hill or something? Never fear, if you are attending Friday night of Sasquatch, there is some good music to be had in the sea of black eyeliner and body odor.

4:00: If you're a big Led Zeppelin fan, yet mourn the fact that you'll never be able to see the band live again, Australian band Wolfmother is a decent choice. It's hopelessly derivative, but sounds like it would be a hell of a lot of fun in a live setting. Otherwise, if the novelty of an all-girl synth-heavy band with lyrics like "What makes you think we can fuck, just because you put your tongue in my mouth and you twisted my titties baby?" means more to you than the ghost of Zeppelin, then The Trucks are for you. As much as I'd love to give the props to The Trucks, being a Bellingham-based band and all, I'd go with Wolfmother.

Wolfmother- Pyramid from Wolfmother

5:00: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead have never really done much for me, and make the kind of indie/hardcore music that all sounds the same. Skip it and go for Deadboy & The Elephantmen, a cool little bluesy, hook-based band that remind me of the White Stripes, for reasons besides the fact that the band only has two members.

Deadboy & The Elephantmen- Stop, I'm Already Dead from We Are Night Sky

6:00: If you do watch Deadboy & The Elephantmen, you're going to have to leave early, because TV On The Radio starts at 6. Their old stuff is good, and their new stuff is going to be even better. Return To Cookie Mountain comes out sometime this summer and contains some damn fine music. Word on the street is that the guys are bonkers live, too. Definitely the one band of the day not to miss.

TV On The Radio- Tonight from Return To Cookie Mountain.

7:00: Sasquatch's web site informs me that HIM is Finnish metal. Go stand in line to pay $6 for a Coors Light.

8:30: Bauhaus are often called the "founding fathers" of goth. My recommendation is to sit on the lawn, drink your beer and talk really loudly about how great a place the world is and how everyone just needs to cheer up. Then elbow the pale, skinny 15-year-old in black fishnets next to you and ask, "Am I right?"

10:00: Why sit through HIM and Bauhaus? Nine Inch Nails are definitely worth seeing, even if just for the chance of seeing them play "Hurt."

12:00: Go get some sleep. You're gonna need it, it's going to be a long weekend.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Take off your coat and your long-johns too

Phoenix are a French band (don't worry, they keep their cheese-eating-surrender-monkey language out of the music) that make the kind of pop music that could be all over the radio if the cards fell their way. Their new album, It's Never Been Like That, is availible in record stores today. Who knew something good could come from France?

Phoenix- Napolean Says from It's Never Been Like That

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Big news today. Thom Yorke is releasing a solo album, sure to give people like me ample fodder for determining who is more responsible for Radiohead being the best band on the planet - Thom, Jonny Greenwood or Nigel Goodrich. Though I don't see this being on par with a a new Radiohead album (which we sadly may not see until 2007), Thom is someone who could sing the phone book and make it sound killer, as shown by the following:

Thom Yorke- Follow Me Around

Thom Yorke- True Love Waits from Radiohead's 2001 release, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings

This doesn't atone for the fact that Radiohead isn't touring near me this summer.

Sad, Sad Song

Staying in the Portland-based theme, A new M. Ward album is due out this summer (tenatively titled Post-War and tenatively coming out on August 22, tenatively), which means even more of his unique blend of gentle, understated old-school folk. There aren't many other artists out there that do a better job of sounding like they're coming through an AM radio circa the 1920's. Ward's lonesome crooning is absolutely perfect for listening to on those lonesome late summer nights. Plus the guy has some great guitar chops. Here are some highlights from previous albums:

M. Ward- One Life Away from 2005's Transistor Radio

M. Ward- Undertaker from 2003's Transfiguration of Vincent

Thursday, May 11, 2006

In Case You Forgot: Menomena- I Am the Fun Blame Monster!

This is the first in a series of reminders of great albums of past years that may have sliped through the collective cracks. Menomena is based in Portland, and released their debut album, I Am the Fun Blame Monster! in 2004. Recorded using a homemade computer recording looping program thingy, I Am the Fun Blame Monster! is an incredibly well-structured rock album. The music has sort of a fractured quality - verses, choruses, vocals, guitar and piano riffs all start, stop and return without warning, keeping listeners on their toes, yet not ailienating them by throwing out a million different musical ideas without developing any of them long enough to give them emotional resonancy (see: Fiery Furnaces). Underneath the interesting production and instrumentation are great pop songs - much more organic sounding than their computer-based origins would seem to suggest. The band uses the samples and loops and effects to compliment the music, instead of letting it take over, as so many computer-based artists tend to. It is as engaging and interesting album as you're going to find from a little band out of Portland. Listen if you like: more experimental Blur, less experimental Neutral Milk Hotel.

Menomena- The Late Great Libido

Menomena- Twenty Cell Revolt

Oh, and the new Walkmen album makes my teeth sweat. More on that closer to the 5/23/06 release date.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Radiohead, the blues and mythical monsters

So Radiohead is out touring again, playing some new material. I always hate trying to judge the quality of bands' material based on early live versions, but a couple of these sound like they could be amazing. All over the map, stylistically, yet just how you'd expect new Radiohead material to sound - completely foreign-sounding, yet hypnotically beautiful. "Bodysnatchers" and "15 Steps" are my favorites.

Radiohead- "15 Steps"

Radiohead- "Open Pick"

Radiohead- "Nude"

Radiohead- "Bodysnatchers"

If Radiohead is coming near you, go see them at any cost - especially if you have the chance to see The Black Keys open. Good lord that will be a lot of rocking on one stage - these guys put on one of the best rock shows I've ever seen. Here's "Have Mercy On Me," from the new Chulahoma EP, which consists of all old Junior Kimbrough covers and is the bluesiest stuff the band has ever done.

The Black Keys- "Have Mercy On Me"

And in other news, if you're going to the Sasquatch Festival (which you probably should be), the band schedule is up. (PDF file) If you're bad at making decisions, I'll give you some suggestions in the next couple weeks as far as what bands to see. But don't ask me what to do when Iron & Wine, Neko Case, Band of Horses and Korby Lenker are all playing around the same time. Tough choices to make.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Don't Mind Me, It's Just That Vipers Define Me

That recent Pitchfork review of a Destroyer show was just ridiculously wrong. Great, great performance. Bejar has stage presence up the ying yang, though he rarely even spoke to the crowd between songs. Didn't matter. Songs sounded great and the Crocodile Cafe is an excellent venue, despite the hipsters being out in full force. David Bazan of Pedro The Lion was in the crowd and is just as nice and as genuine in real life as everyone says he is, though he doesn't wash his hands after using the urinal. But hey, after a few drinks, neither do I.

Portland's Norfolk & Western opened, and are actually really good. The band contains former members of the Decemberists, and sound a bit like them, though Colin Meloy isn't there to get all English-Grad-Student-y on you. Plus they did a downright decent cover of "Heart of Gold," which earns them 4 cool points in my book. Their album is called A Gilded Age, and the title track is full of banjo-y goodness. Keep your eye on these folks.

Norfolk & Western- The Guilded Age

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'll take "Canadian Supergroups Without Bryan Adams" for $800, Alex

So Pitchfork comes bearing great news that two of Frog Eyes' early albums are being re-released with additional bonus tracks. This is a great time to remind ourselves of several things:

1) Frog Eyes sounded a lot like Wolf Parade before Wolf Parade did.

2) Casey Mercer (Frog Eyes), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade) and Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers) are making an album under the name Swan Lake and will be releasing it by the end of the year.

I, for one, think there is enough talent involved here to make a better album than the New Pornographers ever did, but that's only because they didn't let Neko sing enough. Only time will tell.

Sigur Ros at Benaroya Hall was very similar to the last time I saw the band, last fall. Definitely an experience any fan of the band needs to have. The light show is quite incredible. Pink Floyd-ish, almost. The sound was awesome, with the exception of the light fixture that buzzed annoyingly right above my head whenever the bass hit, most likely the only one of its kind in the entire place. But it's not our Icelandic friends' fault I got the only bad seat in an otherwise incredible venue. The band performed well and even changed up their setlist a decent amount from the last time they were in town, playing excellent versions of "Heysatan" (with the cool effect of three small lights around the band members that ebbed in and out of the darkness along with the music) and "Olsen Olsen" (probably my favorite Sigur Ros track). They also closed their main set with what I believe was "Hafsol", a bombastic 10-minute-ish number off of the recent "Hoppipola" single. "Glosoli" opened and the last track off of () closed, just like last time.

I remember feeling irrationally let-down when I saw a picture of the band members of Sigur Ros and finding that they were actually human beings and not some ragtag team of pixies and goblins and fairies in a cave somewhere. I don't know how that relates to my reservations about the band's live show, but I think it somehow does. However great the concert was, I left the evening with the same feeling I left with last fall - that the music is beautiful, the band does in impeccable job of translating it to a live setting, but to a certain extent, a majority of the band's music is not meant for a huge concert hall. It is organic-sounding, yet oddly inhuman music. It is meant to be listened to alone, on headphones, in the dark, late at night, perhaps in nature somewhere, not in some large venue where people outside are trying to sell you beers for $6 a pop. This may only make sense in my head, but that's the beauty of music, isn't it?

My apologies for the lack of MP3s on my MP3 blog. I'll make it up to you later, I swear.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

TBS Recommended: Liars- Drum's Not Dead

I enjoy pop music as much as the next guy, but it has its limits. 24/7 of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus drives me insane. Every once in a while you need something to spice up your life. Dissonance, tension, ambiance and formlessness keep you on your toes. And most importantly, they make the consonance, release, melody and familiar form we've all grown up with sound so much more fresh and immediate.

This is where albums like Drum's Not Dead come into play. The band threw everything out the window in the making of this record. All sense of song structure is abandoned on this album, leaving only the basic, primal elements of music in its place. Drums are the center of this album, hence the title. But we're not talking Rock N' Roll drums, we're talking drums in the anthropological field recording sense of the word. The mostly-incomprehensible lyrics do nothing to change the feeling that this is a rare, unearthed recording of some ancient mystical civilization, packaged and sold for hipster consumption. The music is frantic like a soundtrack to a feverish nightmare.

So, given what we're gone over so far, this album should be terrible, right?

Like great experimental albums before it (Radiohead's Kid A and Animal Collective's Feels come to mind as recent examples), Drum's Not Dead takes time and effort to appreciate. I read someone on the Internets say that this is how music will sound in 30 years. I certainly hope not. I hope pop music lives on past our lives. I hope 400 years from now, people dig up old recordings of The Beatles and still find it mind blowing. Consonance only makes sense if you know what dissonance sounds like. And without consonance, dissonance loses its significance. (Maybe I should major in poetry too.) I think Liars grasp this better than any of us realize - that's why the ended their dissonant, wildly experimental album with a gorgeous, gentle, melodic piece, "The Other Side of Mount Heart Attack."

While it's certainly not for everyone, Drum's Not Dead is one of the more innovative and original albums to come out this year. Listen if you like: post-OK Computer Radiohead, Animal Collective, Akron/Family, etc.

Liars- Be Quiet, Mt. Heart Attack

Liars- The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack

Monday, May 01, 2006

!Forward, Russia!

!Forward Russia! is spastic British post-punky stuff that sounds like a better version of Bloc Party. These guys (and girl?) can be added to the long list of recent British bands that are better than the Arctic Monkeys. They really suck at song titles, though. Check out the chorus to "Thirteen."

!Forward, Russia!- Thirteen

!Forward, Russia!- Twelve

Sigur Ros on Wednesday, Destroyer on Friday. I'll try to take pictures.