Saturday, December 18, 2010

What I Listened To November 26 - December 2, 2010

1. George Glass - George Glass (self release)

2. The Books - The Way Out (Temporary Residence)

3. Birds and Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music)

4. Lord Huron - Mighty EP (self release)

5. Pepper Rabbit - Beauregard (Kanine Records)

6. Tommy Santee Klaws - Rakes (self release)

7. Obi Best - Sentimental Education EP (self release)

8. Lord Huron - Into the Sun EP (self release)

9. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

10. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

George Glass EP assumed it's rightful position as number one, as this has got to be one of the major local releases this year. George Glass have simply fulfilled what everyone who has seen them over the last few months had already known. Maybe the best new band around.

Seeing The Books live was a revelatory experience that left me numb for days. Such performance artistry coupled with a multi-media presentation that was almost overwhelming left one's brain splattered all over the walls of the Henry Fonda Theatre. Thereafter the CD was enjoyed to re-live the visceral expreience of the concert.

Birds and Batteries performance at Origami on Nov. 26, and they were every bit as good as I expected based on this recording. A hugely personable band and with an easy stage manner that sing really solid music in the Southwestern American indie rock style. Think Calexico or Telegraph Canyon.

And the CD's that just don't let go are Lord Huron, who really intrigue me, Pepper Rabbit that just gets better over time, Tommy Santee Klaws' Rakes may be their breakthrough disc, and Three Mile Pilot and Everest are permanent. Obi Best played at one of our Radio Free Silver Lake show and her CD is a refreshing, lilting and serious piece of work, reminding me a little of St. Vincent.

I'll catch up and publish the rest of the year this week while I have time off from work. And the Ten Best lists are coming.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Low - The Christmas Tour, The Satellite - December 15, 2010

It's been a while since the last Low album and concert tour, so I was glad to have a ticket to this show. Though my enthusiasm level was fairly 'low', I figured this would be an unusual and unique opportunity to see them in as small a venue as The Satellite. But I seriously underestimated the power of Low and my own appreciation of them.

I spoke a brief 'hello' to Alan Sparhawk on my way in, as I got to interview him the last time The Retribution Gospel Choir were in town, he remembered me and shouted back a greeting. I noticed right away the show was sold out and went inside to meet some friends and try to find a space near the front.

Opener Charlie Parr was performing his set of amiable mid-western hippie folk music and he is clearly a good writer and solo performer as he seemed to have most of the attention of the audience. It only increased when Alan joined him onstage for his final song to offer some beautiful vocal harmonies, ending the set with a very positive feeling.

During the break I was surprised how easy it was to get up front and secure a great position a couple of feet from the stage. I'd never had the chance to see Low from such a close vantage point. Twenty-four hours later (with another concert in between) I'm still flying from this show. They are such amazing, consummate performers that even the set list was brilliantly conceived,

It was oddly, personally compelling that they began with "Monkey", since that was the first song I ever heard by them and it had made me an instant fan. Following that with "Silver Rider", also from The Great Destroyer CD, the audience was completely seduced and they were free to do whatever they wanted. "Silver Rider" was so perfectly performed it struck the audience silent and brought tears to my eyes. The uncanny vocal harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker sound more powerful and sublime when heard live, and I was constantly amazed at what I was hearing.

With the audience seduced into submission, they were able to perform their entire new album, due for release early next year, in order, without the slightest ping of discomfort from a crowd that was clearly in the palm of their hands, although not familiar with the material. And, as they were joined by two additional musicians for the remainder of the set, I was thrilled to see Low grow to a band of five. If this set was any indication, this new album is going to be amazing, and, maybe, one of their best. Very mature, thoughtful and revealing songwriting

The sound was massive and the vocals, for the first time with a third singer, absolutely overwhelming. After finishing up the new album they launched into a set of five or six Christmas songs, including "Blue Christmas" which Mimi sang with astonishing clarity and her stunning vocal pitch. "Little Drummer Boy" never sounded like this before, and a song called
"Santa Is Coming Over", done in the Low style, sounded more like Godzilla was coming over.

I was stunned by this concert and now think Low is one of the greatest live acts on earth.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Rob Crow and Kenseth Thibideau at The Satellite - December 7, 2010

As I am avowed never to miss a show by Rob Crow or Zach Smith of Pinback, I had to actually miss the first residency night for Marvelous Toy at Radio Free Silver Lake's Free Tuesday show at LaBrie's this week, which was a tough choice to make. But somehow, with all the competition that night, I knew this would not be the most crowded show in town. Since the show was at The Satellite (formerly: Spaceland) I also figured I'd get a chance to track down Rob to chat a little.

Right, on both counts. There were only a few people there, but they were certainly enthusiastic. I wanted to hear the set by Kenseth Thibideau, since he has played with both Three Mile Pilot and with the Pinback touring band, so I assumed I would probably like his music as well.

Accompanied by three other musicians, the band performed a set that instantly appealed to me. The music was just what I expected and pleased me for just that reason. The throbbing bass, the thumping guitars, the methodical, steady drumming, all added up to a Pinback-hybrid that was neither a copy nor derivative, but very much it's own creation. I bought his EP and it is a good recreation of their live sound so I'm very fond of it.

I'd had a chance to chat with Rob Crow, when he was sitting alone selling his merch. I consider myself lucky that he even knows who I am, as his music has become so vital to my existence. Telling him how much I enjoyed the Rob and Zach Show at Detroit Bar in July, he thanked me and asked if I had heard what happened on that tour. He told me how Zach had been called back to San Diego when his wife gave birth prematurely to their first child, and Rob finished the tour alone. I felt doubly lucky to have seen the show when I did.

I asked what he would be performing, and he sheepishly said he was going to try to play 30 songs as fast as he could. I wasn't sure if he was serious until he did just that. I'd never seen him play solo acoustic before and it was thrilling, and he did play 30 songs ranging from songs off his Living Well CD to songs I couldn't recognize.

His voice was sharp and showed it's remarkable flexibility and his guitar playing dazzled me with a variety of techniques. He plowed through one song after another, only breaking when he needed to catch breath or something unexpected threw him, but his stamina and perseverance were something to behold. It's no wonder Rob Crow is one of my favorites.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

What I Listened To from November 5 - 25, 2010 (three weeks)

week of November 5 - 11, 2010:

1. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

2. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

3. Iron And Wine - Norfolk live 6/20/05 (Sub Pop)

4. The Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

5. Birds and Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music

6. Blitzen Trapper - Furr (Sub Pop)

7. Andrew Bird - Useless Creatures (Fat Possum)

8. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

9. The Californian - Sea of Love EP (self release)

10. Okkervil River - The Stage Names (Jagjaguwar Records)

Three Mile Pilot holds onto the number one position as I dig out old favorites like Iron and Wine's live concert recording, Norfolk 6/20/05, as tickets went on sale for his January gig at The Wiltern, Blitzen Trapper's Furr, and Okkervil River's The Stage Names.

week of November 12 - 18, 2010:

1. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

2. Pepper Rabbit - Beauregard (Kanine Records)

3. George Glass - George Glass (self release)

4. Iron and Wine - Norfolk live 6/20/05 (Sub Pop)

5. Birds And Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music)

6. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

7. Honey Loving Cells - Honey Loving Cells EP (self release)

8. Blitzen Trapper - Furr (Sub Pop)

9. Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop)

10. The Books - The Way Out (Temporary Residence)

Three Mile Pilot stay at number one for one more week. I pulled the Pepper Rabbit CD out to get ready for their show on Nov. 18 at The Echo and discovered a record I hadn't really given it's due. What a beautiful album, full of poignant and moving music, and it's already getting notice as I see the band is set to play at the Hollywood Palladium opening for Passion Pit on Dec. 7. That's big!

I picked up the new George Glass EP on Tuesday at our Radio Free Silver Lake Tuesday show on Nov. 16 at LaBrie's and I am so overwhelmed by it that it jumped to third place even though I only had it for two days before this list. I play it at least twice every time I listen to it. To have heard the songs come to life over the months of seeing their live performances, it was almost shocking how polished and well produced they sound here. Amazing record.

I was also listening to the EP by the band that jumped in to replace The Californian the night John Graney was unable to perform at our previous week's Free Tuesday at LaBrie's, and his friends and band mates came to the rescue. That would be Honey Loving Cells and the EP is a nice showcase for the band that performed a musically sound and invigorating set that night

Most others are repeats from the week before, with the exception of The Books new album, The Way Out, which is most definitely an exception. In preparation for their Fonda show on November 29, I got this adventurous and jaw-droppingly original piece of art. It's difficult enough to defy easy listening so it's something you take in portions, but the rewards are great as it expands your mind.

week of November 19 - 25, 2010

1. Lord Huron - Mighty EP (self release)

2. George Glass - George Glass EP (self release)

3. Lord Huron - Into the Sun EP (self release)

4. Pepper Rabbit - Beauregard (Kanine Records)

5. Tommy Santee Klaws - Rakes (self release)

6. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

7. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

8. The Books - The Way Out (Temporary Residence)

9. The Californian - Sea of Love EP (self release)

10. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

Things got totally shaken up this week with new material as I learned about Lord Huron from two shows in a week and grew to love the foggy/hazy vocals blended with a reggae/samba beat. Very solid musicianship, both live and on record. Recently transplanted from Michigan, I intend to support them as much as possible. I picked up a double package of their two EP's, Mighty and Into the Sun, at the Echoplex show and played them non stop.

The George Glass EP is one of the strongest first recordings I've heard from a band and the quality of the songwriting skill is what really comes across on the disc. Nick Ceglio's vocals have always been inriguing and a bit hypnotic, both with Death To Anders and here, but on record there's a power and a modulation to his singing that's often buried live. The sound is so full and rich it's hard to believe they are only a three piece band.

I attended the Tommy Santeee Klaws record release show to support my friends and to get the new CD, Rakes. I have enjoyed every Tommy Santeee Klaws record and CD that I own, but they never sounded like this before. A gorgeous recording. There a fullness and richness to the sound that served to highlight and show off both the vocal and instrumental skills that this band possesses in spades. Now I wish they'd re-record everything they ever did.

Pepper Rabbit's Beauregard is not letting go and becoming quite addictive. Their show at The Echo only reinforced my opinion of them and there's even something vaguely 'holiday season' to the music. Maybe it's the sleigh bells. Anyway it sounds appropriate with Christmas coming. The Books are coming and their aquired-taste compositions are somehow insinuating themselves into my brain. Everything else I've been harping on for weeks.


Friday, December 3, 2010

A November Compilation

Let me write about a recent musical odyssey that was particularly stimulating for a variety of reasons. First was a six day run beginning with the Pepper Rabbit (at right) show at The Echo on Thursday, November 18, who I have been wanting to see ever since their show there last April. Their swirly, hazy psychedelia with a European flavor is beautifully realized on their CD, Beauregard, and live, they perform faithful reproductions via looping and playback that adds layers of richness to the complex compositions. There's a poignant, rueful sadness to the songs that adds a depth and emotion to the writing, reminding me of Beirut. They had the full audience in the palm of their hands. Truly gorgeous and inspiring music. And now this
extraordinary, young band have a date at Hollywood Palladium opening for Passion Pit on December 7. They're exploding fast, and deservedly so.

I saw a band called Avi Buffalo (Avi at right) on Friday night at Echoplex, and it's no secret that they have been going though some major changes ever since they signed to Sub Pop, but they seemed like a different animal altogether at this, their last concert of the year and their final one before going on an extended hiatus. The past year of touring and the releasing of an album that is destined to be deemed one of the best of the year has taken a toll on the band, and, performing with a number of new members, the set was just not what one expected.

The evening began most promisingly with a band I was really looking forward to, based on the advance buzz, and Lord Huron did not disappoint. Recently transplanted from Michigan to L.A., I was intrigued by the samples I'd heard that were very calypso/reggae in their beat and hazy/fuzzy in the vocals making for a very intoxicating mix. Like sipping a Pina Colada on a hot beach.

In person the vocals were much more up front and the effect was even better since the whole band can really sing. Ben Schneider is the mastermind behind Lord Huron and I don't know any of the band members names, but they were all amazing and even though they told me this was only their eleventh performance as a band they seemed like a total, cohesive unit. I picked up the double package of the two EP's Into The Sun and Mighty. I haven't stopped playing then since.

The less said about the rest of the evening, the better. I've been following Avi Buffalo pretty much since the beginning and seeing only Avi and Sheridan from the original band there, was emotionally wrenching and the performance that night that made me wonder where the band is going. And this would have been a sad conclusion, were it not for what I saw the very next night at HM 157. It's like I saw a band self destruct one night and rise from the ashes triumphant the next.

I didn't intend to miss Tommy Santee Klaws' record release show (at right) at Historical Monument 157 on Saturday night, not only because I'd never been there before, but Avi Buffalo was performing a solo acoustic set under the name, El Dorado, and I needed to see him under completely different circumstances. He appeared in the middle of the evening and only did a couple of songs, but it was enough to convince me he will be fine. The songs were totally unknown to me, were both thoughtful and sad, and especially moving, under the circumstances, and I was transfixed. His voice sounded strong and assured and his guitar playing was, well, astonishing, so I ended up feeling encouraged.

Being my first visit to this venue, I was kind of overwhelmed by the atmosphere and the amazing friendly vibe of the place. The trip out to Lincoln Heights was daunting enough, so walking into the artist-friendly/hippie comfort of this beautiful, slightly dilapidated old Victorian was like sinking into a warm embrace. Due to the inclement weather, the show had been moved inside, which was absolutely packed but maneuverable, and from one room looking into another I watched Amanda Jo Williams perform. The only disconcerting element was the view out the front windows of those twin representative symbols, the American flag and the McDonald's flag flying side by side, patriotism and life-killing food products.

Backed by a full band, she sang her quirky, deadpan folk with equal parts forcefulness and originality. Her reedy voice gains strength from her pungent and surprising lyrics. A fascinating set by one of the most unique artists around. The crowd size necessitated a move out to the front porch for Tommy Santee Klaws' set. It was pretty chilly outside, but the crowd huddled together and Tommy and company performed lots of new material along with familiar hits like "Dead Leaves and Bumblebees".

The move outside perhaps compromised the sound of the set, but nevertheless there was enough compensation in standing under the stars and near-full moon to hear the pearly vocal tones and solid musicianship that stands this band apart from most others. Even without a balanced sound mix, Tommy Santee Klaws still pulled it off.

After that memorable night, I was off to the first show I've been to at Origami Vinyl to see Lord Huron (above), to see if they were really as good as I thought on Friday night. No question, this is another band with all the elements in the right place. I'd had time to digest the two EP's I'd gotten at the Echoplex show and really like the songs, but I love the way the vocals are more forcefully delivered in concert and I think the band plays really well off each other. I enjoyed the unique way Origami has of presenting music with the band in the loft at the rear, way over your head. I had to look almost straight up to see the band, lit from one dramatic light source, with the beamed ceiling providing the background. The sound was great and the experience was unique and is just another great way to see free music in L.A.

Monday, November 22, I ran over to Silver Lake Lounge to catch a set by All Wrong And The Plans Change. Kassia Conway is their way charismatic lead singer and she has the assurance and style to take command of the stage. Her strong voice can be soft or sharp as they play songs that range from hard driving rock to jazz. She reminds one of everyone from The Raveonettes to Dusty Springfield, without seeming redundant.

On Tuesday, November 23 was the fourth Radio Free Silver Lake Free Tuesday at LaBrie's and I'm going to post about the last three of those November residencies over at Radio Free Silver Lake. Meanwhile, I took a couple of days off.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

What I Listened To October 29 - November 4, 2010

1. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

2. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

3. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

4. The Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

5. Birds and Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music)

6. Blitzen Trapper - Furr (Sub Pop)

7. Andrew Bird - Useless Creatures (Fat Possum)

8. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

9. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

10. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

The beauty of the Three Mile Pilot album is that it reveals new pleasures with almost every listening. It's such a departure from their previous work, over ten years ago, and shows such growth and maturity. It's a very special record and fans only had to wait 13 years for it.

Still loving the Film School album which is an easy choice every time I'm, like, in a 'what do I want to hear now' mood. I also had a sudden urge to hear everything by Blitzen Trapper for some reason and Furr came out on top.

The new Andrew Bird CD, Useless Creatures, was first released in the deluxe edition of Noble Beast, which may explain why it sounds like it's part of a separate tangent from Andrew's other albums. I even think it could be filed under classical music, as it's almost exclusively instrumental and the compositions are closer to Debussy and Ravel than to indie rock. That's one of the reasons I love it. It's genre-bending.


What I Listened To October 22 - 28, 2010

1. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

2. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

3. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

4. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

5. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

6. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

7. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)

8. Seven Saturdays - The Snowflakes That Hit Us Became Our Stars (self release)

9. The Black Heart Procession - 1 (Headhunter Records)

10. The Black Heart Procession - 2 (Touch and Go Records)

Three Mile Pilot resumed it's number one position as one of the most addictive records of the year. Did the Kelley Stoltz interview that Monday and enjoyed hearing the material live. Everything else is "same old/same old" with the exception of the re-emergence of Seven Saturdays and their relaxing, contemplative movie score-style music which I find both soothing and stimulating.

As Halloween approached, I gorged myself on the haunted, other-wordly strains of The Black Heart Procession and their first two albums. Also, they will be in town soon to open for The Books at The Fonda in December.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

What I'm Listening To October 15 - 21, 2010

1. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

2. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

3. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

4. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

5. The Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

6. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

7. Eastern Conference Champions - Santa Fe EP (self release)

8. Birds and Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music)

9. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

10. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

This was Broken Social Scene week, what with their show at The Wiltern that Tuesday the 19th. I think their new album is one of their best, and certainly easier than their last record, Broken Social Scene, five years ago. Lots of memorable songs that intrigue and entertain. The show was an electrifying two and one quarter hour set that covered all aspects of their career. And the new songs were among the best.

The Three Mile Pilot record is completely addictive. The songs go round and round in my head, even when I'm sleeping. It's definitely not the Three Mile Pilot of the past as this shows such subtantial growth and maturity in the songwriting, displaying what Pall Jenkins and Zach Smith have learned over the years in their respective bands, and there's not a bad song on the album.

Still memorizing the Kelley Stoltz album, To Dreamers, in anticipation of my interview with him on Oct 22. He seems to toil away in his own fashion, regardless of the latest trends and continually comes up with catchy and original stuff.

I want the memory of the Arcade Fire shows to live forever so I'm still indulging in The Suburbs as often as I can. And I'm also spending lots of time with The Eels (like a beautiful film score), Film School (Fission just doesn't let go!), Autolux and Radars To the Sky. Birds and Batteries are coming to Origami Vinyl on Nov. 26 so I'll get to see them for the first time and Eastern Conference Champions are a recent and current obsession of mine who are just great live.

I have to start listening to my favorite albums of the year to begin reassessing and collecting data for the inevitable onslaught of Ten Best Lists about to hit the internet.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I Listened To October 8 - 14, 2010

1. Three Mile Pilot - The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (Temporary Residence)

2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

3. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

4. The Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

5. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Merge Records)

6. Birds and Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music)

7. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)

8. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

9. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

10. Shadow Shadow Shade - Shadow Shadow Shade (Public Records)

I picked up the new album by Three Mile Pilot, popped it into my player and within one minute, knew I was listening to one of my favorite albums of the year. When I saw this band perform at Echoplex over a year ago and they played material which undoubtedly has surfaced on this record I figured the album would be released soon. Even thought this band is the band that, when they broke up in 1999, became part of two of my very favorite bands, Pinback and The Black Heart Procession, I didn't expect to be so enamoured of their music. The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten is a real beauty.

Preparing for their concert, I purchased Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene and find this ambitious record to be among their most accessible, with some really compelling songwriting, which The Broken Social Orchestra perform with all the instrumental and vocal variety at their disposal.

The Arcade Fire concert continued to resonate as I played The Suburbs constantly, and Neon Bible a few times, to relive the amazing concert axperience. The Eels played in town this week and I really wanted to be up on their newest material, though their superb concert covered all aspects of E's career. And I like hearing him sing upbeat songs.

Birds and Batteries CD is still surprising me by how many times I want to hear it. It's the same with Broken Bells. Kelley Stoltz and Film School were upcoming concerts that I wanted to be prepared for (since I was going to interview one and had already interviewed the other) and Shadow Shadow Shade is just a damned fine I played these too.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Won't You Try... attend the first Radio Free Silver Lake residency at LaBrie's on Tuesday night, November 2.

It's going to be a blast. The Californian have put together a remarkable string of line ups for the month, beginning with a band everyone is glad have become a performing entity once more, Death To Anders. Rob Danson takes center stage, and Andrew Spitzer performs with the same passion and dedication he brings to his own band, Radars To the Sky, making a powerful contribution to this tight unit. They have been playing some amazing sets around town over the last few months and this should be another one.

Mezzanine Owls were a local favorite until about a year and a half ago when they went on hiatus. Now Pauline Mu and Jonathan Zeitlin have reemerged as a two-piece under the name, Alpine Decline, and they will grace the stage at LaBrie's as well. Joe Fielder interviewed them at RFSL.

What can I say about The Californian except they are absolutely one of my favorite finds of the year and, appropriately, they were introduced to me by Joe Fielder at the Lost Episode of "Let's Independent!" show last April at El Cid. Their special brand of surfy/creepy music is totally enchanting and the strong songwriting, astonishing playing and spectacular stage presence of the whole band is a sight to behold. Do you understand, I love this band! What I always say to people is about The Californian is, "just wait till you see them".


What I'm Listening To October 1 - 7, 2010

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

2. Birds and Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music)

3. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)

4. Dead Meadow - Three Kings (Xemu Records)

5. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

6. Pavement - Quarantine the Past (Matador Records)

7. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

8. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

9. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

10. Darker My Love - Alive As You Are (Dangerbird Records)

The week of the Arcade Fire shows at The Shrine put The Suburbs back at number one and made it difficult to find time to listen to anything else. But I did. The Dead Meadow show at Echoplex on October 3 put Three Kings back as I can never listen to that album just once, and Broken Bells played The Wiltern this week prompting a few spins of their wonderful album.

Birds and Batteries write songs with a lot of variety and their album continues to have a hold on me. I'm looking forward to their in-store at Origami Vinyl on November 26. All the other albums are ones I've seen performed live recently and that's one of the things I like best about the availability of shows in this city. And that's really a major difference between my relationship with rock and roll in the '60's and '70's and my relationship now. Then, I was lucky to hear one or two of my favorite albums live each year. Now it's rare not to hear every CD I love in person, and often many times. It's added a whole new dimension to my music appreciation.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Radio Free Silver Lake To Start Up Live Shows Again

I'm happy to announce that Radio Free Silver Lake is back in the Show Business again, and beginning in November, will be presenting a monthly residency every Tuesday at LaBrie's in Glendale (formerly: The Scene).

Joe Fielder is the mastermind behind this, and with the help of Kathryn Pinto and myself, we've managed, somehow, to get the ball rolling. One of our very favorite bands, The Californian, stepped in to be our first 'Band of the Month', and put together this first seductive schedule and sexy poster.

We feature three bands per night, so let's not hear any "Oh, it's so far to go and too late for me to be out on a school/work night" bitching. You could be home by 12:30AM. So let's all go out and support 'my favorite blog' on November 2nd to see The Californian, Death To Anders and Alpine Decline.

Subsequent weeks offer great support by George Glass, The Sweet Hurt, Le Switch and many more. We have a lot of great bands in the pipeline to be future hosts and hope we can make this into a permanent Los Angeles fixture. I'll be there every Tuesday in November, so drop by and say 'hello'.


Monday, October 25, 2010

What I'm Listening To September 24 - 30, 2010

1. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

2. Birds And Batteries - Panorama (Velvet Blue Music)

3. Shadow Shadow Shade - Shadow Shadow Shade (Public Records)

4. Pavement - Quarantine the Past (Matador Records)

5. Autolux - Transit Transit ((TBD Records)

6. Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

7. The Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

8. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

9. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

10. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

I was pleased to get an advance copy of To Dreamers by Kelley Stoltz (which was released on October 12) and more pleased that it was such a solid record. I became a fan early on in my 'rebirth through music' phase of life, and saw him on my very first trip to The Echo in May, 2006, when he was promoting his just-released, Below the Branches, also on Sub Pop.

Birds and Batteries came to me through the mail from Velvet Blue Music and a very pleasant surprise it is. Reminding me a little of a Texas band I love, Telegraph Canyon, they cover similar territory of alt/country indie with a lot of chamber pop instrumentals creating a shimmering array of catchy tunes. I like this very much.

The grandly operatic and hard rocking album from Shadow Shadow Shade is superbly produced and shows off the wide variety of musicians involved. And the rest of the list is pretty similar to what I was playing the week before with a lot of Pavement added, on as this was the week of their Hollywood Bowl show. Also was priming myself for the upcoming Arcade Fire and Film School gigs coming the following weeks.


Pehrspace Blow Out On October 15, 2010

I just can't let this one go by unnoticed. I went out on Friday, 10/15/10, after a long week which included work and four shows in five days, in order to hang out with good friends and just enjoy some good times and good music. I got both in spades.

The opening band was The Shoenberg Knife Fight Ensemble, who in the interest of full disclosure, are actually friends of mine, so, note the prejudice. Steve Sigl, who has another band called The Happy Casualties, started this band up last year as a side project, but they write and perform with such skill they could easily jump to the front ranks of local bands. And after the wonderful set on this night I think they should play with Manhattan Murder Mystery again, and often.

Wonderfully energetic, a charismatic maniac as lead singer, and talented band members made for a rousing set that set the tone for the evening. Dance, jump, dance, jump. The audience ate it up.

Next came the new three-piece line up of Torches in Trees. I have to say, I was concerned what might happen to their sound after two members left and the skeletal remains of the band carried on. Put those fears to rest. They're still one of the hottest new bands in town and their set on this night sent chills up and down my spine. Still anchored by Azad Cheikosman's (somewhere in that blue photo) remarkable vocals and fuzzy, atmospheric guitar, Bridgette Moody's pounding bass and vocal harmonics, and the heart-stopping thunder of Eric Fabbro's drumming, these three produce an enormous sound with a palpable emotional pull. Mixing selections from their 2 EP's New Blood, New Sight and Carnivora, they even managed to throw in some new songs. Call me crazy, but they may sound even better in this configuration.

I was still conscious as Manhattan Murder Mystery took the stage after midnight and ravaged it. The place was packed, most of the room was slam dancing in slow motion, so that it more resembled waves in the ocean as opposed to a street riot. I climbed on a chair at the back so I could look out over the throbbing mass and see the band as they tried to stay upright, while the audience kept encroaching on the stage space.

Matthew Teardrop managed to get some floor time, flat on his back, as the crowd parted like Moses and that Red Sea routine. Amazingly the music survived and no matter how rough around the edges, the songs sounded solid and the new ones are stand outs. There were footprints on the ceiling by the time the crowd dispersed. Seeing Manhattan Murder Mystery again two days later at Silver Lake Lounge under wildly different circumstances (they went on at 9PM, sober, and still transfixed the audience; had to use a shot from this set) I am convinced their enormous talent can survive any storm.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

What I Listened To September 17 - 23, 2010

1. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

2. Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

3. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)

4. The Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

5. Jorma Kaukonen - Quah (Grunt Records/RCA)

6. Shadow Shadow Shade - Shadow Shadow Shade (Public Records)

7. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

8. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

9. Eastern Conference Champions - Santa Fe (self release)

10. Family of the Year - Songbook (Washashore Records)

This was the week of the Menomena and Autolux shows at El Rey, so I feasted on Mines and Transit Transit in anticipation of both concerts and I'm glad I did, for it so enhanced the shows for me.

I love the new Kelley Stoltz album, To Dreamers, which is a delightful pop album filled with hummable, danceable tunes, and enough hooks to keep me coming back for more. I was surprised how much I like it.

Shadow Shadow Shade are releasing their first full length CD and the advance copy I have is a wonderful recorded representation of their bombastic, operatic rock. Beautifully done.

The Eels new CD, Tomorrow Morning, requires repeated listenings and a bit of concentration, but once it gets to you, you're hooked. Everything else, you know, except the Family of the Year CD I picked up at their show. Nice alt/country rock.


Monday, October 11, 2010

A Love Letter To Arcade Fire

It's always something close to a religious experience for me to go to see Arcade Fire. At least, as close to a religious experience as someone who is religion-free can get. I feel transported, recharged, inspired, over-awed and re calibrated all over again. Photo by Timothy Norris of LA Weekly.

It's more than a band and they're not just musicians. It's performance art. The celebratory exuberance of the band is impossible to resist and, in spite of some failing equipment, they pulled off what felt to me like a perfect set when I saw them at The Shrine on Thursday, October 7, 2010.

Playing songs from all three full length albums it was so intoxicating that I think I suspended breathing for an hour and a half. And Win Butler hardly needed to exhort the crowd to stand, because the whole audience jumped to it's feet the moment they strode across the stage and couldn't sit down even if they had wanted to.

Because this was the band that returned me to rock and roll after a 20 year drought, and it was the song "Rebellion" that did it, my relationship with Arcade Fire is unlike any other. In 2005, I thought I was at a point in my life where things were supposed to begin to slow down. I had a job I loved, I had achieved a lot of my dreams, yet life had become complaisant. I felt somewhat disconnected from the real world.

It's August 1. 2005, and I'm busy being a potato on my couch, channel flipping on my TV, just after 11 PM, when I go by a public access station show called Refused TV, that showed videos no one else would, playing a music video by a rock and roll band. Now, remember I was not at all into rock and I paid little attention, but the song was "Rebellion" by Arcade Fire and I saw images of interesting looking people running down a street and playing various and assorted instruments and the song grabbed a hold of me. It reminded me of the songs of my youth, from the sixties, with it's free style and creative originality. By the time the song ended, though I didn't realize it at the time, my life was set off in a whole new direction that I could never have guessed even possible.

Talk about the transformative power of music. I am a living, breathing example of just that. I bought Funeral the next day and played it over and over and over. Within a week I was listening to ten bands, and within a month, a hundred. In November that year I went out to my first concert in 25 years (Super Furry Animals at The Avalon, 11/29/05) and it was so incredible that I started seeing as many shows as I could. I made a list of bands I got to hear and tried to see as many of them as I could when they came through town. My CD collection exploded and I rediscovered the passion for music that I'd had as a child, almost like awakening from a deep sleep.

At first I tried not to listen to anyone's advice and just let one band lead me to the next. I felt like I was canoeing up a river with multiple tributaries worth exploring. This trail I was following eventually led me to the local music scene. I started attending the clubs, meeting the bands, reading music blogs and happened upon this new life I'm leading. And this is all because of Arcade Fire.

It was two years before I got to see them, in May 2007, after the release of Neon Bible, when they came to The Greek Theatre for two nights. I went both nights because I intend to see them every single chance I get. Those shows confirmed for me that they are indeed every bit as great as their reputation. Maybe even better. And the Hollywood Bowl show later that year, in September, was even better.

Now, three years later, they came back, for two nights at The Shrine, touring on a new album, The Suburbs, that is just as good as their other two. Securing tickets for both nights, I took the Metro for the Thursday show and the sense of excitement in the air was palpable as soon as the bus became embroiled in the massive Arcade Fire traffic jam.

I had a superb seat in row 32 for that first night, which are the first raised seats near the back, affording me a completely unobstructed view of the band and the whole stage set up for the entire evening. This proved hugely advantageous as the visual presentation is no less riveting that the music itself.

From what I've read, that performance was fraught with technical difficulties, which I have to admit, I barely noticed. Win broke all his guitars within the first four songs or so, but he just resorted to the piano. No problem. They had to rearrange the set list, but they did so without a hitch. Performing songs from all three albums they naturally highlighted The Suburbs, and those songs were some of the powerful highlights, like "Ready To Start", "Rococo" and "The Suburbs". Watching the various band members trade places and instruments, each performing their own special show for the audience, makes the whole experience kaleidoscopic.

I especially love when Regine sang the brilliant "Haiti" from Funeral and then segued into "Sprawl II" distinguishing each with her astonishing interpretive dance moves. The whole thing was a blur of inspiration, excitement and ecstacy. It left me in a state of hightened excitement the whole next day as I anticipated the Friday show.

I went with friends the next night and we had to park blocks away, but I was sailing twelve feet off the ground anyway so I didn't notice the walk. I had a ticket in row 20 for this show so i was kind of buried in the audience. I couldn't see the whole stage like the night before, but I was closer so I could focus on individual performers.

A similar set list, in a different order, was the program for Friday, though Regine added "The Backseat" to add a touch of heartbreak to the set. Both nights the audience became a screaming, frenzied mass of group love, the likes of which I have rarely seen. My own thoughts on the two nights are a jumbled flurry of impressions and emotions, all of which I will never forget. Thank you Arcade Fire for all the inspiration and for the gift of a refocused existence.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I Listened To September 10- 16, 2010

1. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

2. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

3. Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

4. Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

5. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

6. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

7. Pavement - Quarantine the Past (Matador Records)

8. Eastern Conference Champions - Santa Fe EP (self release)

9. Jorma Kaukonen - Quah (Grunt Records/RCA)

10. The Californian - Sea of Love EP (self release)

Not a lot of difference with the week before, just some rearrangements. Film School still number one and upcoming shows by Autolux, Menomena, The Eels, Arcade Fire, Pavement and Radars To the Sky continue to fuel the rest of the list.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Dead Meadow at Echoplex - October 3, 2010

I just got back from the Dead Meadow show at Echoplex on Sunday night, and I have to say it was as incredible a rock show as I've seen all week, and that includes the Pavement/Sonic Youth show and the Eagle Rock Music Festival. I mean, this band is incredible, and there were only about seventy five people in the whole place.

I'm not complaining because it made the whole experience inceredibly relaxed, with everybody grooving in their own personal space. The entrancing hypnosis of the music itself was complimented by the trippy animated light show behind them. They played material from their entire catalog and their perfect acid rock is so evocative it actually recreates the feeling of a sixties acid test.

Reunited with their original drummer, Stephen McCarty, for the first time in years brought out the songbook catalog of their early recordings, and even though I'm not familiar with that material it was a total pleasure to hear it.

I was determined that I was going to meet at least one of the band members tonight, after seeing them so many times, and sure enough I ran right into lead singer/guitarist, Jason Simon, in the corridor on my way out. Greeting him, I told him what an unabashed fan I am and how much I enjoyed their set and it that it meant a lot to meet him. He was gracious and kind and put up with a blithering fan.


Friday, September 17, 2010

What I'm Listening To September 3 - 9, 2010

1. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

2. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

3. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

4. Eastern Conference Champions - Sante Fe EP (self release)

5. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

6. Jorma Kaukonen - Quah (Grunt Records/RCA)

7. Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

8. Darker My Love - Alive As You Are (Dangerbird Records)

9. Seven Saturdays - The Snowflakes That Hit Us Became Our Stars (self release)

10. Pavement - Quarantine the Past (Matador Records)

Lots of changes this week as Film School took the number one slot. I just couldn't stop playing Fission and feel confident it's one of the best releases of the year. I got to review it over at Radio Free Silver Lake last week. The Radars To the Sky CD, Supra / Infra, has steadily worked its way into my brain. It really is a beautifully produced album and features great variety in the songwriting, and some of the politically charged lyrics are starting to come through to me. (Sometime it takes me a little while to catch on to all the nuances of an album... sometimes 40 years.)

The solid new album by Autolux, still has a grip on me, while I got myself a copy of the Eastern Conference Champions EP, Santa Fe, at their Spaceland residency, which nicely presents some of their fine points, but I think the band has matured a bit since recording that. They've honed their music into a forwardly propulsive shark-like creation.

Arcade Fire finally dropped down to fifth place, though I'm not done with it yet. Jorma Kaukonen's Quah is tough to put away, sounds brand new, and is extremely impressive for a 36 year old album. Love that Eels album, especially like the way he sounds like The Muppets' Animal on "Baby Loves Me".

The Darker My Love album, Alive As You Are is still remarkable and I'm glad they are on the line up of the upcoming Eagle Rock Festival in October. I saw Seven Saturdays play Bootleg with Helen Stellar a couple of weeks ago and their restful and gloriously cinematic compositions are faithfully reproduced on this fine EP, The Snowflakes That Hit Us Became Our Stars. Pavement are coming up and they seem like their own entire course in Rock Music Theory as they cover so much ground and their influence on today's bands is so enormous. The more I hear, the more I like.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What I'm Listening To August 27 - September 2, 2010

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records) fourth week at # 1

2. Film School - Fission (Hi-Speed Soul)

3. Jorma Kaukonen - Quah (Grunt Records/RCA)

4. Pavement - Quarantine the Past (Matador Records)

5. Eels - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

6. Radars To the Sky - Supra / Infra (self release)

7. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

8. Helen Stellar - If The Stars Could Speak, They Would Have Your Voice... (self release)

9. Darker My Love - Alive As You Are (Dangerbird Records)

10. Luna Is Honey - Copy Cats EP (self release)

The new CD by Film School, Fissions, surged onto the list, landing at number two. I bought it the day it came out (8/31) and after playing it once, I didn't know whether I thought it was as good as Hideout. It was during the second playing I realized I was wrong, and the songs had incredible hooks that got right under my skin. By the third and fourth listen, I was addicted.

This was the week my tickets to both nights of Arcade Fire at the Shrine Auditorium arrived in the mail. I did the same thing when they played two nights at the Greek Theatre three years ago and went both nights. You see, I hold this band solely responsible for my rock and roll resurrection in 2005, since it was their music video of "Rebellion" that first caught my attention. I knew then that the era of seeing them at places like Spaceland and The Troubadour were long gone, so I decided to make up for it by seeing them every single time they play L.A. and so far I've made good on that. Consequently, I'm still playing The Suburbs to death.

Jorma Kaukonen's Quah is an album I loved when it came out in 1974 when I was 24, and finding it on disk at Amoeba brought back a flood of memories. This was released right around the time the Jefferson Airplane were pretty much breaking up and morphing into Jefferson Starship (and spare me your put downs of Jefferson Starship, unless you've heard Blows Against the Empire, Sunfighter and Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun...AND their concerts were amazing too.) This is a sweet, sometimes sad and refective, collection of beautiful guitar-driven folk songs by the former Jefferson Airplane guitar player, about moving on after a great change. It's absolutely amazing how contemporary and relevant is sounds today, and how comfortably it fits in with all the other albums I'm listening to. Jorma Kaukonen remains a guitar genius and occasionally plays locally at McCabe's and still tours with Hot Tuna, the other Airplane offshoot.

Pavement's Quarantine the Past is still revealing new surprises with each listening. The Eels latest album, Tomorrow Morning, is just out and it reveals an E much more at peace with the world with a collection of word-driven compositions that are catharcic and uplifting. Filled with beautiful orchestral flourishes reminicent of Blinking Lights And Other Revelations.

Another new entry is the surprising and wonderful new CD by Radars To the Sky. Superbly produced it show off the many sides of this band, highlighted by Andrew Spitzer's witty and literate repartee lyrics. It's their first full length and is just the recording their many fans have been waiting for. Kind of like what Spells did for The Happy Hollows.

Autolux is a keeper and I'm just warming up for their show on the 18th at El Rey. Darker My Love's Alive As You Are is a slow grower, but just won't stop popping back into my head, Helen Stellar are never far from my thoughts, and I'm enjoying the little home-grown EP by Luna Is Honey called Copy Cats.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Seven Saturdays and Helen Stellar at Bootleg Theatre - Sept. 1, 2010

I thought I'd usher in September by going out to a show on Wednesday, the 1st. Helen Stellar were opening for a band I wanted to check out called Seven Saturdays at Bootleg and I just felt like going out. Arriving around 10, it was only a short wait till Helen Stellar were set up and ready to go. Photo at right by Laurie Scavo.

Once again they lifted me off the ground and kept me airborne for the duration of their set. Even without the trippy light show, they still manage to move your head to a different space by the sheer beauty of the music and the powerful, spot on vocals of Jim Evens, who manages this without any of the histrionic fuss and strain that usually accompanies power singers. Layering the two guitars, Jim and Eli Lhymn, adding the anchoring bass of Dustin Robles with the pace-setting drumming of Clif Clehouse and the whole towering and ethereal sound they achieve can be overwhelming. It was very nice getting to chat with them a bit after their set, and though this was the third time I've seen them, it was the first time I've met Jim Evens.

Based on the recommendation of Kevin Bronson, who was present, I had looked into the music of Seven Saturdays online and liked what I heard, so I was anticipating a set of elegant instrumentals of an almost cinematic beauty, and that's what I got. Backed by an hallucinatory black and white kaleidoscopic light show that blended so perfectly with the music that the sense of sight and sound got all mixed up, and one spilled over into the other. In a similar concept to Learning Music, music composer, Jonathan D. Haskell, plays with a rotating collection of musicians, and I imagine he adapts his Seven Saturdays musical program to whoever is playing with him at any particular time. It's a musical idea, and a genre, that I find both stimulating and exciting.

The sweeping and at times purely experimental music reminded me of Jerry Goldsmith's Logan's Run score, or Michel Legrand's piano in the McQueen/Dunaway The Thomas Crown Affair soundtrack, and of course, Vangelis' Blade Runner music. (Is there any area of popular culture that Blade Runner has not influenced?)

Beginning with a composition entitled "Early Morning Fog Bank", a deep, dark, lulling sound drifts in like a...well, fog, which swamps you and sends your brain into a private reverie. Inducing instant hypnosis, which was interrupted by a dialog sound sample of a woman's voice speaking in an offhand monotone. Like something pulled in from a different world, like you hear in The Books. As the dark and light forms pulsed and throbbed, shrinking and growing, splitting and congealing on the wall behind them the three musicians accompanied us on a journey to another world. I had a good time there.

The next song introduced a more conventional drum beat and I was suddenly struck by their resemblance to another band exploring this lush instrumental territory, The Album Leaf, but Seven Saturdays are even more ambient and obtuse, so there's room for both. Besides, no band could knock The Album Leaf off the pedestal I put them on.

Jonathan (above at right) even sang some vocals to one song which added a nice human element, just when needed. I was totally captivated from beginning to end and picked up their CD on the way out, which is a startlingly close approximation of their live show. I'm grateful to have learned about Seven Saturdays and meeting Jonathan afterward, I let him know I'll be back for more. There is an upcoming date scheduled for November 5 at Echo Curio.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

What I'm Listening To August 20 - 26, 2010

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

2. Darker My Love - Alive As You Are (Dangerbird Records)

3. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

4. Walking Sleep - Measures (self release)

5. Pavement - Quarantine The Past (Matador)

6. Red Cortez - In The Fall EP (self release)

7. Helen Stellar - If the Stars Could Speak, They Would Have Your Voice... (self release)

8. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

9. Lost In The Trees - All Alone In an Empty House (Anti)

10. School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms (Vagrant Records)

Again Arcade Fire dominated. I really love the song "Suburban War", it's a beauty. Getting to know the new Darker My Love album and I really admire their attempts to stretch in a new direction. Seeing it performed live was a real boon as it was so tightly performed it made the album even better. Also obsessing on the Autolux album, Transit Transit, which is moody and lugubrious in all the best ways.

Walking Sleep were guests on a radio show I was also on, Simon Cardoza's S'imon Quay!, and I listened to their recent full length CD, Measures, and it was fun to get back to it again. It's a beautifully produced album.

I know this is completely backwards, but I'm just discovering Pavement now, though I've seen them mentioned over and over as influences on so many of the current bands I love, most prominently, Pinback and Silver Jews and too many others to go into here. I'm going to their show at Hollywood Bowl and figured this was the time, so I bought their recent compilation, Quarantine the Past, which is 24 of their best songs, gorgeously remastered, and I love every one of them. This is a revelation. I was completely ignorant of their existence when they were recording and performing and I wonder if I would have liked their music then. If I'd heard it, would I have gotten back into rock and roll 15 years before I did? I'll never know.

Red Cortez and Helen Steller have been playing out recently and so their music is back on my mind, and I never tire of either album. Finally coming out of my Joanna Newsom Have One On Me fixation...until she comes around again. Still into Lost In The Trees orchestral rock and gave some spins to School of Seven Bells' Alpinisms to decide about their upcoming show.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Gliss at Silver Lake Lounge, August 30, 2010

It had been a while since I'd seen Gliss, and hearing they were on the bill of Twilight Sleep's final Silver Lake Lounge residency on Monday, August 30, 2010, and that they were playing at 10 PM, was too good to miss.

Ever since I first saw them on the day before the day before Christmas of 2006 in a holiday-decimated town at the old Knitting Factory on Hollywood Boulevard, before a crowd of about twenty people, I've been a devoted fan. Saw them play a bunch of dates all over town over the next year or so at places like The Viper Room and The Echo, and every time they just nailed it. But I was always surprised that there weren't more people from the local scene in their audience.

Now they're back and they played a lot of new material from a new album they're working on which sounded great, in addition to a few songs from their Love the Virgins CD from 2007 and Devotion Implosion from 2009. Martin , Victoria and David all did the instrument rotation thing and I particularly enjoy each one's abilities on the guitar, but watching the way they interact with each other reveals the great pleasure they appear to get from playing together.

That dreamy, fuzzy, trance rock is intact, highlighted by Martin Klingman's odd, half-sung/half breathed vocals that just comes out of him without any affectation. And the audience was eating it up. The venue was pretty packed that night with the likes of Silversun Pickups' Brian and Nikki and Happy Hollows' Sarah and Charlie. And when they dedicated the last number to a member of their backstage team who's leaving them and sang the Peter Paul and Mary classic, 500 Miles, it all became unbearably moving. It was great to see them again.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What I'm Listening To August 13 - 19, 2010

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

2. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

3. Darker My Love - Alive As You Are (Dangerbird Records)

4. Autolux - Transit Transit (TBD Records)

5. Lost In The Trees - All Alone In an Empty House (Anti)

6. Darker My Love - 2 (Dangerbird Records)

7. The Californian - Sea of Love (self release - Gold State Music)

8. Division Day - Visitation (Dangerbird Records)

9. Red Cortez - In The Fall EP (self release)

10. Division Day - Beartrap Island (Eenie Meenie Records)

A couple of newbies joined the list as the long awaited new Autolux album stormed my brain. Transit Transit is a beautiful album by a band that has been performing occasionally, but not recording. They say they wanted to wait till they were ready, and are they ever ready. After hearing this I immediately got a ticket for their upcoming show at El Rey on Sept 18.

I attended the CD release show for the new Darker My Love album, Alive As You Are at Bootleg after picked up the album that afternoon. It's a big departure from the swirling psychedelics of their last album, 2 (also on the list), towards a simplified, more country influenced kind of Nashville sound. And they do it extremely well. As usual, their songwriting is crisp and economical.

Arcade Fire hold onto the number one position easily. Still playing it over and over and see no end in sight. On this week I was fixated on "Rococo" and "We Used To Wait". I'm really enjoying Win Butler's growing ability as a singer.

Other than that, Division Day's two full length CD's made the list as their show at Bootleg on August 11 was a real eye opener and just a reaffirmation of how great they are live. Lost In The Trees stayed on my player, and the other entries are the usual: Newsom, Californian and Cortez.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Great August Shows

Before August gets away from me I need to cover some more great shows I saw this month. After that crazy, music filled Monday night of August 9, all I wanted was more and more. So on Tuesday (Aug. 10) I went right from work to Amoeba to catch Lost In The Trees, who drew my attention by playing four shows in town around that time. Based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, they were here to celebrate the release of their CD, All Alone In An Empty House, that day with a free in-store.

As much a chamber music ensemble as an indie rock band, their roots obviously spread wide. Eight performers, including three violin/cello players and a one man brass section on tuba and maybe trumpet, and accordionist, bass and drums and a lead singer/songwriter, Ari J. Packer, on guitar provided a pretty thrilling set of music. Frequent forays into pure instrumental/classical passages enrich the sound measurably on the pastoral songs with evocative titles like "A Room Where Your Paintings Hang" and "Walk Around The Lake" Inventively orchestrated and beautifully played, it was almost hypnotic and reminiscent of film music crossed with pure folk music. I picked up the CD, and while it's very nice, they should be seen live to really be appreciated.

Ran home, grabbed a bite, and took off for El Cid to catch a set by The Californian, who I'm currently trying to see as many times as possible. They're that good. Ran into The Hectors and we sat together during their set as I attempted to describe The Californian's particular sound and the best I could come up with was "surfy/creepy".

Beset by continual sound and technical problems, including a suicidal microphone stand, this band impressed me more than ever before because of their professional aplomb and good humor and smart repartee as everything went wrong. And they still sounded so good that The Hectors became fans on the spot. I'm beginning to think they can do no wrong. It's hard to think of a tighter band, that can just get up on stage and pour passion and energy into a set making it look as easy as walking down the street.

The next day, August 11, Wednesday, I trundled off to the Bootleg to catch up with Division Day (at left), who were opening for The Joy Formidable. I had seen part of Division Day's set at the Silver Lake Jubilee earlier in the summer and wanted to see them in a setting where I could really concentrate on the music, apart from the circus atmosphere of a festival. Their last album, Visitation, was less accessible than Beartrap Island, but I wanted to hear a mix of material from both albums played live so I could more fully understand the relationship between the two CD's.

That was a good idea because now that they've been living with the new material for maybe a year the live renditions of them were the best I've heard them played yet. Division Day opened with "Malachite" with it's halting, yet propulsive rush, "Surrender" with Rohner Segnitz spitting out the lyrics, and the whole band playing powerfully, they sounded great. They ended with songs from Beartrap Island, delivering unforgettable and moving versions of "Colorguard", "Tap Tap Click Click" and "Little Blood". It was a tight, well coordinated and invigorating set by one of the very best bands in town, and it is good to have them back on stage. The headliner was The Joy Formidable from England and the audience loved them. It seemed a very commercial sound to me and I'm sure they could become hugely successful.

I was gifted with some pit tickets to see Avi Buffalo and My Morning Jacket at The Greek on Thursday, August 12, and though I'd been to five shows in three days, I wasn't going to let that go by. I had only heard about Rebecca Coleman leaving the band a couple of days before, so I was still somewhat in shock. But I've seen Avi in different configurations before, once at Echo Curio completely solo...and that was revelatory, so I know he can triumph over line up shake ups. Once they played the little room at the House of Blues and Sheridan couldn't attend because of finals, so Arin performed some very simple but very effective percussion. That was another unforgettable show.

It was an unusual performance, but not without its strong points, Avi played a searing guitar and dazzled with his virtuosity. I've heard complaints that his voice did not carry to the outer reaches of The Greek, but from where I was, I could hear just fine. Sheridan Riley and Arin Fazio seemed at ease and comfortable on the giant stage and added their prodigious talents to the mix and they were augmented by two additional back up musicians, who couldn't quite replace Rebecca. Sheridan added an occasional vocal harmony which worked well. And I must add, my heart soared a little when Avi saw me in the pit and said "'re here!" from the stage of The Greek. That's a weird feeling.

My Morning Jacket (at right) are a band I knew very little about and the CD a friend played for me didn't particularly impress me. So I was completely bowled over by their dazzling show. An incredibly beautiful light show swept the whole area as the band played a crowd-pleasing set of favorites. They have a very devoted following and they paid the band the respect they deserved by being completely attentive. It was all quite overwhelming in the pit. Great show.

Other shows that stood out include Red Cortez and Vanaprasta at Bloomfest downtown on August 14. Darker My Love sounded quite amazing at their CD release party at Bootleg for Alive As You Are on August 17, as they played the album in it's entirely and ended the set with a radical reworking of "Immediate Undertaking" from their previous album, 2, that was astonishing. They're one of the tightest live acts in town.

And then there was Sunset Junction, which, in spite of itself, I quite enjoyed this year. Reviewed at RFSL. Then the Radars To the Sky CD release blow out, also reviewed. I got a lot of shows in and a lot of writing done this month, along with my first radio exposure, so I got to feel a nice sense on accomplishment on my 60th birthday.


What I'm Listening To August 6 - 12, 2010

Man, have I ever been bad. I've got all these top tens lying around and I better get them up or lose my credibility. I'll post them a day at a time. I'm counting on these to help me tally up my end of the year lists, so I've got to cover every week. Here goes:

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge Records)

2. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

3. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

4. Lost In The Trees - All Alone In an Empty House (Anti)

5. Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop)

6. Everest - Ghost Notes (Vapor Records)

7. Menomena - Mines (Barsuk)

8. The Prids - Chronosynclastic (Velvet Blue Music)

9. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador)

10. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)

I reviewed this album at Radio Free Silver Lake, and I stand by that review. I keep finding new songs to love and I'm not going to get tired of Arcade Fire 's The Suburbs for a while. This was my first full week with the album and I sometimes listened to it twice a day. Still reeling from the Newsom show.

Saw Lost In The Trees at Amoeba and really dug their symphonic chamber rock, so I picked up the album which has some beautiful chamber pieces on it, scattered between more traditional folk rock. Both Everest albums made the list this week as I keep seeing them... four times over the past few months. And The Prids album is really good.

I'm going to keep this short so I can get it posted.