This album made me sit up on my couch and literally say out loud “I need to write about this right now.” I’ve got a really tender spot for Noah & The Whale’s lead singer Charlie Fink’s voice. It’s has an incredibly comforting timbre with a rather distinct growl rolling just below the surface. On the group’s third album The Last Night On Earth Fink is as fantastic as ever but it is presented in a whole new light. All ten tracks resonate with a sense of optimism and musically prove that NATW have built their own sonic comfort zone. There are clear influences – “Wild Thing” smacks of Tom Petty’s influence – a matter of fact delivery countered by a lush back up vocals and there is no doubt that NATW have listened to their fair share of 80′s new wave pop but they have made a sound truly their own.
Philly was the second stop of The Dismemberment Plan’s much anticipated reunion tour last Thursday and no amount of snow, ice, stress or unfinished work could have kept me from going. I’m not cool enough to say that I have been a D Plan fan since their beginnings (or even during the ten years they were together) but sometime over the last few years they popped up on my radar and it was love at first listen. So, when they announced that they would do a brief tour to support the rerelease of their legendary album Emergency & I on vinyl tickets were immediately acquired. That was some four months ago and when Thursday night came I could hardly contain my excitement.
Last weekend brought two hot acts to the stage for Philly dance party institution Making Time. After missing Neon Indian’s set at the Barbary a few months ago there was no way I was going to miss them again. Alan Palomo brought his full crew with him and let loose their space pop synth navigated jams. Neon Indian’s album Psychic Chasm is the ideal fodder for your home dance party needs but when they bring it to the stage they push and pull at their tracks in just the right ways to create a unique experience that truly rowdies up the crowd. They kept it short, hitting all the popular points like Deadbeat Summer, but promised to come back again soon since they’re making the obligatory indie band move to Brooklyn. Judging from their presence on the Late Night TV circuit I’d venture a guess that the next time they come through town it’ll be at a larger venue. Glad I saw them when I did.
Memory Tapes quickly made their way to the stage after Neon Indian and soon held the attention of all in the room. I was expecting a simple replay of what you get from their recorded stuff – this wouldn’t have been bad at all since Making Time is, at its core, a dance party and Memory Tapes have mastered a real nice funky smooth dance vibe – but I was elated to find a far more dynamic set. New Jersey native Davey Hawk, while backed by a good bit of electronic instrumental support, also had a tight live drum accompanying his guitar lead. The nuance of Memory Tapes’ arrangements really popped in the live delivery. They satisfied the movers in the crowd by remaining incredibly danceable while those there to watch got plenty to enjoy. It was a very satiating performance and perfect for the Making Time standard.
CMJ was last week and since I was up in New York anyway I took in a little of what the famously chaotic week had to offer. There were so many incredible showcases it was difficult to choose and despite my best intentions there was no way I could catch everything on my list. I did get to hear a lot of fantastic music though and I’m excited to see these bands bring their show through Philly so I can give them due props.
I’m taking the visual approach to this review so enjoy the scroll…
I made the trek out the infamous Red Rocks for this year’s Monolith Music Festival. It had a stellar line up and I was badly in need of a little mountain time. So tickets were bought, flights booked, must see lists drafted and hoodies packed.
Things were looking good Saturday morning and true to the fickle nature of nature the weather toyed with us. The rain rolled in about a third of the way through the day and, due to minimal places to hide away from the elements and to the fire marshal lock down imposed on the inside stages I wasn’t able to make it to all my targeted shows. However, the ones I did catch were fantastic.
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
This fiercely awesome lady opened the day for me. Thao and her fellas rocked out a lot more than I was expecting. Listening to the recorded version of her stuff then seeing her live I have a much greater appreciation of talents.
This was the fifth time I’ve seen Frightened Rabbit and I never tire of their exceptionally sincere delivery. They have some of the best lyrics and energetic instrumentals to begin with but they take it to a much more alluring and intriguing place with their live show. The entire group plays/sings their heart out on stage; this, combined with their evident comfort and fun they have playing together makes them one of my favorite bands to see. They tossed out some of their new stuff and, upon that first listen, I’d say they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
**I would like to call attention to the shirt the drummer,Grant is wearing ^
Edward Sharp & The Magnificent Zeros
I was terribly curious about ESTMZ. I rather enjoyed their first single, Home and the whole group-of-feel-gooders-taking-to-the-road-to-spread-their-sound thing does nibble at one’s attention. I can now say with 100% certainty they are pure delight. I got the best energy from them and their music is even more enjoyable in person than it is recorded. They were a ray of light as the clouds got thicker. They’re coming to the Church on Nov 15th.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
As things really got chilly and damp Pains took the SoCo stage. Appropriate right? Theirs was a pretty standard POBPAH show. Shoe gazealicious and transfixing. The crowd was feeling them full on as they provided the perfect soundtrack for the drizzle.
The Answering Machines
This British trio won my heart. I hadn’t heard anything from them before last weekend but was immediately hooked. They play the catchiest of pop songs that you can’t help but repeat over and over and over again. The added bonus is that they are the most adorable of kids at the very beginning of a head long tumble into the hearts of the masses. Watch this clip from WOXY’s coverage of Monolith.
Thunderheist I had heard good things about Thunderheist but went into their set virtually ignorant of their true awesomeness. They are a unique duo; the incredible MC Isis doing vocals with the spot on Graham Zilla on the table. It was a clean set with a fresh delivery. Great surprise and I look forward to catching them again.
There were two groups whose shows I had to simply listen to from the atrium of the visitors center. Because so many people were digging The Antlers and These United States I wasn’t able to get into the WOXY stage. What I heard was awesome and I couldn’t be happier both bands were packing it in.
If you’re looking for more coverage from Monolith stop by My Old Kentucky Blog’s LaundroMatinee or WOXY and if you want to see ALL the pictures from the whole weekend stop by TWIAPC’s new FLICKR page.
Ever since I caught River City Extensions’ lead singer Joe do a solo set earlier this summer I have been anxious to see the whole six member crew perform live. Finally I had the chance to see them last week and it was far more incredible than I was expecting.
Like the Avett Brothers, their record (while entirely enjoyable) falls a little ahead of the pack while their live show is amongst the best I’ve seen this year. The music also has a vastly different vibe from the alt country sound of their recorded material. Instead, it is southern rock with heavy punk influence. RCE consists of the usual bass, guitar, drums as well as a cello, floor tom, assorted horns and percussive implements; and, this septet do their thing with a degree of energy and enthusiasm that could almost be considered another instrument.
The openers were ok but did very little to amp up the audience for the kind of intensity RCE had to offer. 3/4′s of the way into their first song though they managed to draw people in from the bar and get everyone on the floor moving. Each member, regardless of the instrument’s traditional roll in a band, plays in such a way that makes you really pay attention to who is carrying the rhythm, who is laying out the melody and who is providing the chaotic pulse that typically drives their songs. The cello, played by the v. talented Jenn, provides a soaring thread to tracks like Elephant while also managing to rock out on others.
Watching them play I realized that RCE is one of the few bands whose bassist takes more than a supporting role. In a few instances James carries the melody so deftly it pushed the floor tom to really pull out more of those juicy bass tones. The percussionists both took turns picking out lines in each song to emphasize or challenge to really build the depth of RCE’s overall sound.
Oh, and I can’t forget the horns. Switching between a baritone horn and a trumpet I really enjoyed the character and punkishness he brought to the floor. Often he served to reign in the massive storm of percussion but not without adding his own flair. Joe,the circus leader and head vocalist, was playing through a bloody finger but didn’t let that effect his delivery. Just as sincere and balls out as he was when I saw him play solo there was a raw emotional element on display when he was on stage interacting with the full crew. Tearing through Clever & Quickness I was in awe watching them all push it a little harder. On the songs, like (I Had Thought About This In) Marc where everyone sings you really feel their charge at full force.
Watching them during their last song, as they played acoustic in the middle of the audience, I got that feeling in my stomach that these guys are headed for much bigger venues. I can only hope their next album harnesses the power of their live show. If you’re in the NJ/NY/PA area try to get yourself to one of their shows. They are playing Philly again on the 25th at the North Star Bar.
(If I Had Thought About This In) March
Bad Veins are two guys from Cincinnati and a reel-to-reel deck named Irene. They don’t pay much attention to the common curiosity about the origins of their band name, how their lady friend came to be known as Irene nor are they much bothered with buying into what is expected of an indie band trying to make it either (you won’t see them moving to Brooklyn any time soon). And that is perhaps why they may be some of the coolest fellas touring their asses off right now.
What started as the solo tinkerings of Ben has now grown to involve the classy presence of Irene and the frenetic talents of Sebastien. Ultimately creating a trio so obvious and wickedly tight they melt away and leave their music to do their talking. Considering they do trend towards the leaner side when compared to the bands consisting of small armies that seem to be so popular right now but their sound, man, their sound is powerful.
Their album was recorded largely in Ben’s home studio where he and Sebastien masterfully built layers of bass, rhythm, loops and even strings then passed them on to Irene. When you listen to their record it is impossible to miss the assortment of elements that are pulled together to achieve their greatness. Some parts are surprisingly simple, like the fuzzed out bass lines on Falling Tide others are unexpected, for example the strings on The Lie. While they aren’t members of the every album needs to read as a whole camp the entirety of their debut album shares a thread of epic potential that ties it together nicely. They reach for realms most small groups wouldn’t even begin to fathom and not only do they achieve a thoroughly developed sound but they stretch their skills over enough territory that you are left wanting more, much, much more.
Seeing them live is one way to scratch that “more” itch and I’m happy to say the same amount of musical smarts go into their live show. Both Sebastien and Ben recognize the importance of putting on an entertaining live show. To Sebastien this means giving the audience plenty to watch and move to for Ben it means blowing them away with compact and constantly engaging sets. They create quite the homey little set up on stage drum kit to the left, bunches of homemade noise makers to the right and Irene holding court in the middle. It looks like an arrangement devised by the Cohen brothers especially when the buys take the stage in their military button downs.
The amount of sound they blew through the speakers on Wednesday night was astonishing. It was probably a good thing they keep their sets on the shorter side because it was a lot to take in. Sebastien is a whir of energy which plays nicely with Ben’s emotional delivery. Both are clearly investing a great deal of themselves in their performances and it creates yet another layer to their sound. The vocals are moody and sincere and the presence of the live drummer are what keep the electronic components from becoming static. This is an act that doesn’t really need improvement yet I have a feeling will present itself in a number of different forms as the group continues to play and experiment.
For all of you who missed Wednesday’s show you’re lucky. Bad Veins will be returning to Philly’s North Star Bar on September 20th. For the rest of you non Philly readers. They are going to be all over these United States over the next few months so be sure to check out their tour schedule.
Be sure to get their album but here is a nibble for your needs
Gold & Warm
Friday night I left New York under ominous conditions and a ceiling of crazy cool clouds, to make the drive back to Philly to see The Most Serene Republic at North Star Bar. The normally 75 min drive took a full two hours with intense lighting and torrential rains holding nothing back over the New Jersey Turnpike. The delay caused me to miss Wheat at Kung Fu Necktie which I feel really horrible about cause I like their stuff and was really looking forward to the show. I was pleased to find we had only missed the first of two openers for TMSR.
The other opener Buried Beds did a good job prepping the audience for TMSR to take the stage. While not entirely remarkable Buried Beds attempted to include pretty much every indie/pop/alt country trend device; chamberish harmonies, regular use of strings (in this case violin) and crowding the stage with a small village of band members. All of this without managing to really establish a clear sense of what impression they wanted to leave behind. Although there were a few songs towards the end of their set that begin to suggest the potential of good things to come for the group.
The Most Serene Republic came to my attention via Ryan Hansen of Ryspace about two months ago and I have been looking forward to this show ever since. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the hard to define but easily listenable troupe but hardly could have hoped for the musical mastery I witnessed.
The group is about to drop a new album so there were a lot of new unheard songs on display but they still included some of the older stuff. The new material tends toward the pop end of the progressive indie music spectrum. But it is most def. a thinking man’s pop. Songs like Heavens To Purgatory use a little banjo and thumping bass loop to bounce along chasing some of the best guy/girl vocals in the biz. Despite using the word Gadzooks the Canadian outfit manages to avoid Twee territory by grounding it with juicy instrumentals. Other new pieces were more reminiscent of their older more typical progressive rock sound which appealed to the die hard fans in attendance.
Watching them perform really adds another layer of appreciation for their distinct sound. The songs are far more epic live then on record, an effect achieved by the well placed horn lines and the occasional string contribution. Like other bands I really love both live and recorded (Frightened Rabbit for example) it was evident these guys all knew their music inside and out; their own lines and times as well as their band mates. The comfortable way they interact both musically and personally on stage contributes to a very inclusive concert experience. Plus the presence of hand clapping and the dose of humor brought by lead vocalist Adrian also keeps it from getting too cerebral.
The gave new shine to some of their earlier works to balance out the new stuff. The version of Compliance started with lulling and scenic instrumentals that dropped you off at the door of strong in you face vocals. I was not expecting but fully adored this departure from the album version. Phages was a bit more like the album arrangement but simply in the live setting it too carried a new appeal.
By the time they ended their set I felt as though I had witnessed the most complete live set I’d seen in a while. There was something for everyone, including the band who all seemed to take a certain pleasure in the particular tracks they had chosen for the evening. We grabbed the new album (which comes out in July) and I had it on repeat most of the weekend. Go grab the first single and find out if they’re in your area cause both the live and recorded versions of TMSR are worth your complete love and adoration.
The first Annual Northside Festival spread itself over all things Brooklyn this past weekend. As I have been staying in Greenpoint during this phase of my Wandering Summer of ’09 it was almost too easy to dip in and out of the numerous shows being hosted as part of this event’s pilot year. L Magazine pulled together a slew of venues and they, in turn, pulled in the acts. For a first year it went relatively smoothly. Since I am not a NY blogger, and wouldn’t imagine competing with the fine review work to be found Here > Here > Here > Here (amongst others) I am simply giving you a taste of the best acts I saw.Savoir Adore - This duo+ came to my attention due to some good buzz after SXSW. Its all true folks. They’re great. So much so I saw them twice. A little glam rock vibe with solid bass lines and a lot of fabulous guy girl harmonies.
(Download their EP too)
photo courtesy of Hannah Bergqvist
Xylos – These guys could easily provide the soundtrack to a summer at the beach. Their lyrics are good from the start and the whole package gets better the more I listen to them. They’re currently recording their full length so keep an eye out for that this fall as well as a little more tour action to support the effort. I have a feeling we’ll see a bit of them in Philly and of course I’ll keep you posted.
This House We Built
(EP action here)Anamanaguchi - What do you get when you take a old school nintendo + electronic music and put it in the hands of knowledgeable tech heads? You get Anamanaguchi. This group had one of the most visually appealing sets we caught. They play the video games behind them as they provide a the live music (all out of a high jacked nintendo game system.) My picture doesn’t do its awesomeness full due it looks like they’ll by in the Philly-dom this summer so you’ll be able to experience it yourself.
Pink Skull – This Philly act has appeared on TWIAPC before so its not entirely a new introduction to their brilliance but their show at Death By Audio was such an exciting suggestion of whats to come on their fall release that I can’t help but start to build your anticipation for this dance friendly group. they’ll be at Schmidt’s piazza this Saturday as part of the 2nd St Festival go and be ready to groove.
Get Inside (My Tiny Pyramids)
photo courtesy of Steve Harmon
Laura Gibson - The final show we saw was Laura Gibson at Studio B. I’ve seen her before but she too displayed incredible growth of some already wonderous talent. Hers is a sweet vice with a little twist of, well, a life actually lived and felt…genuinely. Her backing band was also a sight to behold. Passing a variety of instrument tween the two of them and also contributing a grand addition to Ms Gibson’s beautiful lead.
I remember seeing Jenny Lewis in Troop Beverly Hills when I was a kid and being totally jazzed by seeing a red head get screen time. I guess you could say I had a little bit of a crush on her. Then all these years later she goes and gets even awesomer by proving her chops as a fantastic singer. First with Rilo Kiley then on her lonesome (two albums deep now for those of you just peaking out from under your rock). I’ve missed the opportunity to see her live show twice now so when I she came within proximity for a third time I cleared the schedule.
After what I witnessed on that stage at the Trocadero I am now fully enamored with Miss Lewis. Not only did her vocals continually impress for the entirety of her hour plus set but she worked that stage in a way that, regardless of your age, sex or persuasion you couldn’t help but fall in love with her. She opened with Fernando which was an excellent way to charge out of the gates and show off the excellent band she has backing her on this tour. The percussion was a group effort and, in what is becoming a much appreciated live show trend, threw a full body display into playing it and Fernando never sounded better.
Jenny strutted through old, new and Riley pieces. She gave some of the songs a new twist and for the most part they were improvements upon the recorded versions. The male vocals on Carpetbagger were far greater than those contributed by Elvis Costello on Acid Tongue [yep I think his voice on that one song are distractingly nasally and almost ruin that great song]. Also, her solo version of Rilo Kiley’s Silver Lining is slowed down sweeter take on a already fabulous track. Both are legitimate and I liked the variety.
The band started strong and only got stronger. Whether Jenny was holding her own on the guitar or the full ensemble was rocking out there was nary an off beat or sour note. The only weak point that my ears caught were slightly off back up vocals on Rise Up With Fists. The new piece she sang, Just Like Zeus (a nice ditty about hero worship) made me excited to hear the third album hopefully chasing Acid Tongue to the shelves.
Whether you came out of childhood affinity for Hannah Nefler, Rilo Kiley loyalty, or addiction to all things Ms Lewis I’m pretty sure you left as satisfied as I did. Don’t let her pass you by.