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.