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.