Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I'm Listening To July 16 - 22, 2010

1. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador)

2. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema (Matador)

3. The New Pornographers - Challengers (Matador)

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

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

6. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

7. Pinback presents The Rob and Zack Show - ascii E.P. (self release)

8. Seasons - Winter EP (self release)

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

10. The New Pornographers - Electric Version (Matador)

O.K., this is going to happen once in a while, I'm going to see a favorite band that happens to have 3 or 4 great albums, and I spend the preceeding days gourging myself on their music. This time it was The New Pornographers, and as I never tire of their sound, I just went crazy as shit over their fantastic catalog. Twin Cinemas and Challengers being my all time favorites, each of which has at least eight great songs on it. And the double concerts I saw by them confirmed that my passion is completely there! Take that you pornography haters.

Joanna Newsom reminds me of those beetles in the Brendan Frasier remake of The Mummy. The ones that bore their way under your skin and then travel sub-cutaneously, up to your brain where they feast (until you run straight into a wall). Well, Joanna Newsom is eating my brain. Have One On Me plugged into me a week ago and, though it goes on to excess, there's some amazing treasures here, not the least of which are the beautiful orchestrations. Looking forward to her concert on July 31.

What more can I say about Blitzen Trapper and Everest except that Destroyer of the Void and On Approach may be vying for my favorite album of the year in a few months. They just don't diminish with repeated listenings. The Pinback album primed me for their concert last Saturday night.

Seasons' Winter is like sitting by a warm fire, and when I was recently asked to name my ten favorite single songs of the year so far, I included "Of Our Discontent" because it's just such a pretty song. The Californian (Sea of Love) is another candidate for E.P of the year, with it's four wonderfully diverse songs.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pinback Digs Deep (7/24/10)

Last Saturday, July 24, 2010, I headed out to see Pinback again, at El Rey. I probably go on like a broken record about this band, but this was a landmark month for them, beginning with an 11-show run of a never-before-seen two-person incarnation of the band with just Rob Crow and Zach Smith performing fresh, simpler arrangements of their extraordinarily complex compositions. Billed as Pinback presents The Rob and Zach Show they played a series of small to mid-sized clubs with the closest one to L.A. being in Costa Mesa at the Detroit Bar on July 1st which I attended (reviewed at Radio Free Silver Lake).

When I found out they had booked three additional dates for the rest of the month, including this one in L.A., I bought a ticket not knowing what formation the band would have. I would have been happy to see the Costa Mesa show all over again, but when the curtains parted, the stage was filled with the full Pinback band outfit and when Rob said they were digging deep to play songs they'd not played in a long while, I was primed for what would be one of their best concerts ever.

I had a wonderful spot with a great view, up close, for most of the show and I swear I was cemented to the floor for over an hour, transfixed. The back up musicians are the same as I have been seeing with them for a couple of years now and they really sound great together. Lots of keyboard work, which is such a vital part of their records, and the wonderful sound of Zach and Rob's voices blending and weaving.

I really love the three-song E.P. that came with Autumn of the Seraphs, and always wondered why they never played any of those songs in concert, but got my wish when they played two of those songs right up front. "I'm a Pretty Lady" and "Kylie" are about as beautiful a couple of songs as they ever wrote and they sounded incredible live.

They grabbed obscure tracks from all their albums, "Crutch" and "Lyon" from This Is a Pinback CD, "Bbtone" and "Tres" from Blue Screen Life and "The Red Book" and "3x0" from Summer In Abaddon. Of course we got "Microtonic Wave" off the E.P. Offcell, but we also got "Trainer" and "Manchuria" from the Some Voices E.P. It was an amazing set list!

Familiar hits like "Fortress" and "Penelope" were present and a nice helping from the great Autumn of the Seraphs album including "How We Breathe" and "Devil You Know" left the highly enthusiastic audience in a state of rapturous contentment. They even played two new songs, one of which is quite exceptional called "Sherman", which I'd heard them do in Costa Mesa as well. It looked to me like the venue was practically sold out and with their popularity and their talent, I'll just paraphrase their lyric and say, "I wish that they could go on forever..."


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I'm Listening To July 9 - 15, 2010

(cover image not available)

1. Pinback presents The Rob and Zack Show - ascii E.P. (self release)

2. Deep Sleep Ops - C25 (Electric Fur Records)

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

4. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador

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

6. The Happy Hollows - Spells (Autumn Tone)

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

8. Fol Chen - Part II: The New December (Asthmatic Kitty)

9. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

10. Admiral Radley - I Heart California (The Ship)

Still soaking in the Pinback record and the fresh versions of old favorite songs, but a couple of newcomers are making a mark. The new E.P. C25 by Deep Sleep Ops is mighty impressive and tough to resist . Hypnotic and entrancing psychedelic shoegaze could be added to my review over at Radio Free Silver Lake.

I decided I'd better pick up the new Joanna Newsom album, Have One On Me, before I go to her concert at The Orpheum on July 31. I couldn't fathom it at first, but kept going back to individual songs and as one grew on me after another, I realized what an accomplishment this is. It's more accessible than Ys and features some amazing singing as she continues to grow as a vocalist. The three disc set is a challenge but gets better each time I listen to it.

The Blitzen Trapper album, Destroyer of the Void, just won't fade away, especially now that I've heard it live. I still get chills when certain songs begin, and The New Pornographers' Together burns into my brain as preparation for their two concerts.

Seeing The Happy Hollows absolutely slay a crowd at the Hammer Museum on July 8, brought Spells back onto the list to keep company with Admiral Radley's I Heart California, who also performed at the same "Also I Like To Rock".

Three more local bands, The Californians, Fol Chen and Everest round out the list.


Friday, July 23, 2010

July Shows and Twofers

This has been a really good month for concerts so far. I mean, any month that includes two shows each by Pinback, The New Pornographers, Admiral Radley and two separate shows by two members of Fleet Foxes, J. Tillman and Robin Pecknold, is bound to make me very happy.

Starting off with the Pinback presents The Rob and Zach Show at the Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa on July 1st (photo at left by Doug Kresse), it wasn't the number of shows, but the quality. This show was the performance that a true Pinback fan has longed for. Simply the two of them sitting there, with their instruments and some minimal pre-recorded accompaniment, delivering stunning stripped down versions of some of their best songs. Now I get to see them again on Saturday July 24 at El Rey, but it might be as a full band this time. I don't know. Doesn't matter to me, I'd go watch them tune their instruments if that's all they wanted to do.

There were two pretty fabulous shows at the Hammer Museum that I caught in the "Also I Like To Rock" series put on by the museum and KCRW and curated by Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands. I saw Admiral Radley (photo at right by Andrew Herrold) for the first time at the July 8th edition and again at their Amoeba in-store celebrating the release of I Heart California. As a long time fan of Earlimart, and an acquaintance of both Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray, I was fascinated to hear what this project sounded like.

Combined with Jason Lytle from Grandaddy, they make edgy, indie rock with their lovely melancholia and sharply sarcastic irony intact, that points out the dirt and despair that can lurk right below the sunny surface of the California dream. The Hammer show was opened by an intense and flawless set by local charmers, The Happy Hollows, and, though I've probably seen then over a dozen times, I won't ever be satisfied unless I see them once a month for the rest of my life. The audience went crazy over them, too.

The other show in that series I caught was the one with Fitz and the Tantrums and The Heavy, and that was pretty hot...and I mean HOT. It was during the mid-month heat wave we had and the big plaster bathtub that is the Hammer courtyard seemed like it wanted to melt. The place was packed with throbbing dancing fans and they were rewarded by exciting sets by the two high-energy bands.

In the middle of all this was an extraordinary set by Judson and Mary at the Spaceland show starring The Californian on Wednesday, July 14. It was the middle of the week, the weather was still hot outside, the club was nearly empty, and the air conditioning was on high so the atmosphere inside was sublime. And Judson and Mary simply got up on stage and easily delivered what will be one of the most memorable sets of the year. I don't know how they do it. The music is so simple and yet so profound that I found myself tearing up at times.

Overpowering beauty can do that sometimes. They began with an a capela verse that led into a stunningly gorgeous song with Judson on guitar and Mary on fiddle engaging in a give and take exchange that was so close to conversation it made me feel like I was eavesdropping. Following with the more familiar "William Jennigs Bryan" in a powerful arrangement that made me feel like I'd never heard it before. This band could go far, fast.

The Californian then delivered a strong set that perhaps had a bit too much reverb in John Graney's vocals, for his voice is so versatile as it is, it need no effects. Still it's always a pleasure to hear such tightly written indie pop songs that rival the best in the genre.

Standing in front of Neko Case as she sang for two nights in a row reduced me to an invertebrate. Squishing into a jellyfish as The New Pornographers tore through hit after hit in a display of such passion and professionalism and non stop enthusiasm that I melted on the spot and never once did the quality drop, not for a second.

Five microphones were set up in the front for the five lead singers, and two more in back made seven voices to raise the roof right off The Fonda for two nights, July 19 and 20. I haven't often heard such masterful precision that seems as effortless as if they were just chatting with each other. And Dan Bejar was there, wandering on and off stage when called on to lend his scraggly charm to his own songs, even including the wonderful "Myriad Harbor". Niko would call out, "Danny, can you come out here and sing a song?"

I've been gorging myself on The New Pornographers CD's for at least a week so every song was familiar and welcome. It was especially gratifying to hear the new material from Together slip seamlessly into the set list, jacking up my appreciation for that album quite a bit. I know it's hard to believe they manage to stay together, but when you see the pleasure on their faces and the obvious joy they get from playing with each other you think they could go on this way forever. Most of the time there were nine musicians on stage, each contributing something individual and unique to the whole wall of sound.

I read that they sing 22 songs, and it seemed that way, but on the second night, Tuesday, July 20, they mixed up the set list and sang five or six different songs, so I got to hear them do about thirty songs out of their enormous catalog of top notch material. A. C. Newman never stopped singing and his perfect power pop writing shined in songs like "All The Old Show Stoppers" and "Twin Cinemas". I was particularly blown away by "Challengers" on the second night. Jesus, what a beautiful song! And each set ended with (pre-encore) "The Bleeding Heart Show" with it's ringing African-chant chorus that makes your heart swell.

And tonight, Saturday, July 24, I go see Pinback again. Life is good.


Monday, July 19, 2010

What I Listened To July 2 - 8, 2010

(cover image not available)

1. Pinback presents The Rob and Zack Show - ascii E.P. (self release)

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

3. Fol Chen - Part II: The New December (Asthmatic Kitty)

4. Deep Sleep Ops - C25 (Electric Fur Records)

5. Seasons - Winter EP (self release)

6. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

7. Band of Horses - Intimate Arms (Columbia Records)

8. Blitzen Trapper - Furr (Sub Pop)

9. Judson and Mary - In The Hands Of The Sun (self release)

10. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador)

I've been delayed getting this list up, and I'm going to publish the next list in a day or two, so here's the week of July 2 - 8.
The Pinback presents the Rob and Zach Show ascii E.P. of simplified arrangements of some favorite songs, reflects the show I saw at Detroit Bar on July 1. It easily dominated my listening this week. Blitzen Trapper holds onto two positions, as their recent El Rey show continues to rattle around in my brain. I keep listening to the Fol Chen album to try to wrap my head around it.

Seasons, Everest and Judson and Mary are strong holdovers, as well as The New Pornographers Together , which builds me up for their two shows at The Fonda on July 19 and 20.

Deep Sleep Op sent me their new 6-song E.P., C25, and it's a powerful slice of psychedelic rock that I was immediately attracted to. Nice variety to the songs. And Band of Horses latest is enjoyable alt/country indie pop with some catchy melodies.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What I'm Listening To June 25 - July 1, 2010

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

2. Seasons - Winter EP (self release)

3. Everest - On Approach (Vapor Records)

4. Fol Chen - Part II: The New December (Asthmatic Kitty)

5. Blitzen Trapper - Furr (Sub Pop)

6. Judson and Mary - In The Hands Of The Sun (self release)

7. The Henry Clay People - Somewhere On the Golden Coast (TBD Records)

8. Broken Bells - Broken Bells (Columbia Records)

9. Blitzen Trapper - Black River Killer EP (Sub Pop)

10. Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch and Go Records)

This was Blitzen Trapper week, as I prepared for one of the most highly anticipated shows of my year, at El Rey on June 29. As a kid, you're always told not to anticipate anything too much, or you will be let down. The last five years of concert going have convinced me otherwise, that our parents were lying, again. I have seen so many shows that have exceeded these very high expectations that I don't ever try to put a damper on my enthusiasm. The album continues at number 1 for the third straight week. And their last two releases also place.

The same held true for the Pinback presents The Rob and Zach Show that I went to at Detroit Bar on July 1. I could not have had higher hopes for this show and I was not disappointed in the least. In fact it was better than I could have imagined. I was glad I had gorged myself on Autumn of the Seraphs, as they performed so much of that album in fresh new arrangements.

It's always nice to have a new recording from Seasons and Winter is one of their best efforts. Everest's On Approach is holding steady in my conscience and it's achevements remain impressive after repeated listenings.

Fol Chen has broken out a new album, Part II: The New December, on Asthmatic Kitty Records, and 'broken out' is the correct term as the album breaks out in all directions. I'm having fun trying to take it all in. I'm still charmed by the combination of innocence and world-weary wisdom Judson and Mary put into their CD, In The Hands Of The Sun.

The Henry Clay People's new one continues to grow on me and Broken Bells is so solid, I think I'll still be listening to it months down the road.