Monday, May 30, 2011

What I Listened To May 13 - 19, 2011

1. Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island (Sub Pop)

2. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop)

3. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

4. Torches In Trees - Torches EP (self release)

5. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

6. Lord Huron - Mighty (self release)

7. Pinback - Offcell EP (Absolutely Kosher)

8. Low - Trust (Krank Records)

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

10. The Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade (Reprise Records)

Chad VanGaalen first popped onto my radar back in 'o6, when I was in my infancy as a new rock and roll fan (part II). I saw a couple of his music videos, for "Clinically Dead" and "Red Hot Drops", back then and was very impressed with, not only his songwriting, but with his artwork as well. I saw him back in October '06 at Avalon opening for Band of Horses, and though the audience was pretty restless, I was able to focus on Chad and see how serious he was about his music. For some reason, I still didn't pick up any of his albums back then. Because he only ventures out infrequently from his home in Canada, he kind of moved to the back burner for me, until I saw he was coming to Spaceland in 2009.

At that time I picked up his last album, Soft Airplane, and I fell head over heels in love with it. The combination of amazing songwriting, his expressive and plaintive vocal style, and the simple orchestrations, with the sophistication of a lot of computer sounds, totally intrigued me and I played the album over and over. I was completely overwhelmed by his live show and reviewed his Spaceland concert back in 2009 here.

On that basis alone, I picked up his newest CD, Diaper Island, almost the day it came out and I think it's even better than the last one. If there's a more beautiful song this year than "Sara", I need to hear it.

The other new album is the debut of The Belle Brigade, who gave a fabulous account of themselves at Amoeba that week. Released by Reprise, it's about as professional a recording as I've ever heard and showcases all the bands strong points. It's upbeat, uptempo and filled with magnificent songwriting. Stay away if don't like a happy band, because these kids are exploding with joy, and who can blame them with the press they're getting.

Pinback's Offcell EP is back on the list because they played such a magnificent version of the complex and eight minute "Grey Machine" at their concert in the 10th. Lord Huron also blazed back owing to their super show at The Troubadour on the 14th. The rest you know.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I Listened To May 6 - 12, 2011

1. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

2. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant E (Sub Pop)

3. Torches In Trees - Torches EP (self release)

4. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop)

5. Kenseth Thibideau - Repetition (Temporary Residence)

6. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys (Polydor)

7. Eastern Conference Champions - Speak-Ahh (RockHampton Records)

8. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

9. Calexico - Garden Ruin (Quarterstick Records)

10. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

Guess what, this was the week leading up to the Fleet Foxes show at the Palladium and the aftermath as well. Sorry. It was an incredible show and they were fantastic and it sent me back through all their recordings (that I have). Torches In Trees played my anniversary show, and gave out these terrific EP's that night, featuring new recordings along with some previously recorded favorites. They so wowed the audience that I think they picked up some new, permanent fans.

Sorry if I look Like a Sub Pop publicist this week but I can't help it. Low's C'mon comes in next, followed by Kenseth Thibideau who totally won over the audience at the Pinback show at El Rey that week. His Repetition os a beautiful album. Elbow slides a little, but Eastern Conference Champions maintain a strong hold on my listening habits.

Calexico were still enchanting me after their Cinco de Mayo show, and another band that utilizes some of the same mariachi musicians, DeVotchKa, won't let me go either.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Tommy Santee Klaws (Twice)

I had the good fortune of seeing Tommy Santee Klaws twice during the past week, and since I haven't seen them since the release of their CD, Rakes, last November, I was taken aback, all over again, by the breathtaking quality of this band. On Thursday, May 19, I headed to The Echo to see this band that I've been following for a few years now, and to see a couple of new videos they were premiering this night.

After meeting up with Tommy and the band, spending some time catching up, Donna Jo took the stage and announced the first video, directed and animated by Walt Gorecki for the wonderful song, "In Formation". It was so stunning it brought tears to my eyes with it's wistful images of animal heads against a ruddy brown/red background, and the minute the lyrics, "they sing in form-a-tion" began, the screen was swarmed by fireflies buzzing this way and that. The projection was a little over the size of the screen, causing the fireflies to flood the ceiling and side walls creating a dream-like and environmental experience.

Tommy Santee Klaws took the stage (above) and overwhelmed with a beauty and power I was unprepared for. Without a full time drummer, the percussion was handled by Sam and Donna and I must say the homemade quality fit very well with the overall sound. Singing many of the songs from Rakes, they sounded somewhat more dynamic than usual. The contribution of Jason Boles on mandolin can not be discounted, for his lilting musical presence could be felt in every song. They have also added a violinist in Chrysanthe Tan, who adds not only a classical sound to the mix, but even an occasional vocal. Then balance was perfect and the vocals pristine, and the whole set was a slice of magic. The final video by Donna Jo featured Tommy as an unlikely gnome...but it worked. She cast a delightful spell.

Naturally, I had to attend their set at Silver Lake Junction the following weekend and was I ever glad I did. There I got to see an ever expanding crowd fall under the spell of this band. I saw a lot of bands at The Junction, but I don't think I saw as well a though out or so meticulously performed set all weekend. And the audience couldn't help but feel this was something special. I was so happy to see this many people so moved by this music. Watching a young band like this completely win over an audience is such a privilege to witness.

Adding Danny Banes to the vocals made the band as vocally powerful as I've ever seen them. That, and the miking made them seem like more of a vocal band than I've ever heard. They sped through their set of short songs in record time and had the audience in the palm of their hand. What a great show. They posed for the picture above after their set that afternoon. They are, without question, one of the finest bands around right now.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

What I Listened To April 29 - May 5, 2011

1. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop)

2. Eastern Conference Champions - Speak-Ahh (RockHampton Records)

3. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)

4. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys (Polydor)

5. Calexico - Garden Ruin (Quarterstick Records)

6. Paulie Pesh - Shining Stars EP (self release)

7. Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What (Concord Music Group)

8. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

9. The Lonely Wild - Dead End EP (self Release)

10. Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow (RCA)

C'mon by Low is still obsessing me and I still play if continuously, even after three weeks. I just can't get enough of it. Serious competition was provided by the terrific new CD from Eastern Conference Champions, Speak-Ahh, making it's second appearance on the list, which jumped up to almost knock off Low. Balancing their high-energy output with thoughtful, introspective songs has created an album of surprising variety.

Fleet Foxes released their long-awaited new album on May 3 and Helplessness Blues fulfilled all the early promise this band has shown. Strong songwriting continues to be a hallmark of Fleet Foxes, and it's matched by a superb production from the Sub Pop label. I only had this record for three days, and it still landed in third place as I try to burn it into my brain before their show at the Hollywood Palladium on the 7th. Elbow drops to fourth position, while Calexico's Garden Ruin album from 2006 warmed me up for their Cinco de Mayo show at Echoplex.

Paulie Pesh, Paul Simon, DeVotchKa and The Lonely Wild are all bands and musicians I've seen recently and each one has a good album to go with it. The Paul Simon album, So Beautiful Or So What, really is a remarkable achievement in that it's so startling and vibrant and alive. As Bronson said to me recently, there have been an amazing number of great albums released this year...and it's not even June.

Going backwards, I bought a new CD of Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane. Actually the 2003 pressing, but I never had it before. I'd been living with the Gold CD that RCA issued in the early '90s and finally it wouldn't play anymore. To complete the history, I should say this was my favorite rock and roll album of all time for a long time, fuck The Beatles, fuck Bob Dylan...this was IT for me. O.K., maybe I've mellowed a bit since then, but this is just brilliant music and has it even stood the test of time, in spite of it's primitive sound. I burned my way through three copies on vinyl during the sixties, seventies and eighties, so this is the fifth copy of this I've owned!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Calexico Celebrate Cinco de Mayo At Echoplex 5/5/11

I really enjoyed the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Echoplex on May 5, 2011, and although I got plenty of great Mariachi music, it was also a Calexico show (photos above and below by Kappi), and the chance to see this band in a venue like Echoplex was an experience to treasure. I've only seen them at the El Rey or The Fonda before and as great as those shows were, here I got to get up close and really watch the phenomenal camaraderie this band has with all of their guest musicians. At times there were as many as nine or ten performers on stage. And the sound was tremendous.

I arrived during the opening set by Mariachi Luz de Luna and, together with the balloons and streamers, they immersed you in the spirit of celebration right away. The audience was already bouncing like crazy and the festive atmosphere was intoxicating, as were the drinks.

When Calexico took their places, they filled the stage, not just with musicians and their instruments, but with energy and passion that makes them seem fresh and brand new. Playing a lot of material from their last album, Carried To Dust, they made the album sound a lot better to me. When I went back and listened to it, I think I had underrated it before. And as I've said before, Joey Burns is one of the finest singers I've ever seen.

Augmented by a three piece brass ensemble and a string ensemble and a harp player, the musicianship was simply overwhelming and there was no way to resist. I chatted with other audience members and we were all in agreement, that it was pretty special to see them in this more intimate environment. I just had to write about this show before it got away from me.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I Listened To April 22 - 28, 2011

1. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop)

2. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys (Polydor)

3. EELS with Strings - Live at Town Hall (Vagrant Records)

4. A Hawk and A Hacksaw - Cervantine (LM Dupli-cation)

5. Eastern Conference Champions - Speak AHH (Rockhampton Records)

6. Paulie Pesh - Shining Stars EP (self release)

7. Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What (Concord Music Group)

8. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

9. The Lonely Wild - Dead End EP (self release)

10. Low - Trust (Krank Records)

Low wraps themselves around my top ten for this week. The Low album, C'mon, is, I believe, a game changer for this band. It ought to catapult them into the major leagues...again. The earlier album from the band, Trust, wraps up the end of the list. The Elbow album, though not as smashing as their last two albums, still has some good things on it. The new Hawk and A Hacksaw CD, Cervantine, is interesting, intellectual and slightly dull, but I gave it a few spins.

On the other hand, the new CD by Eastern Conference Champions is a real winner. This band give electrifying live performances, but they translate to disc with all the energy and musical proficiency well displayed for all to hear. Paulie Pesh played my anniversary show, (how they fit seven musicians on that stage is amazing) and I'd been given their CD and find it a nice, tight recording with some fine singing. Still high from the Paul Simon concert, I'm still enjoying the record. And the DeVotchKa album and The Lonely Wild 45 are just plain wonderful.

O.K., that's all I got for now.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pinback and Kenseth Thibideau at El Rey (5/10/11)

I just love going to a concert and watching a band that nobody knows about absolutely take over an audience and win their hearts and minds in a few minutes. I saw this happen twice last week. First at the show held to commemorate Feed Your Head's third anniversary, I saw a lot of friends who had never seen Torches In Trees before, just hypnotized by the dreamy atmosphere and the solid musicianship of this band.

The next night, May 10, 2011, I was at El Rey. This was and the 13th time I've seen Pinback and I knew that, as they are between albums, it would be easy to get up close. It was a really nice crowd and sparse enough that you could move around. I made sure to get there early because Kenseth Thibideau was opening, and he opened for Rob Crow last December at The Satellite. Of course, anyone who is a fan of Pinback is going to be immediately taken with the deep, thumping sound that defines Kenseth Thibideau's music, but it would be for nothing were it not for the beautiful melodies he weaves into the deep fabric.

I was so taken by his set at The Satellite that I bought his CD, Repetition, from him and have been listening to it ever since. This was the chance to see him now that I know the songs. That's always something of a test for a band and he came through with flying colors. I think the entire audience became fans of his that night.

He has an amazing cinematic sense which makes the full compositions he writes extremely visual in nature. I looked around at one point and everyone was lost in a movie in their head, as the music was so evocative there was no way to avoid getting lost in it. This is good writing.

I was sure to tell Kenseth that, in that audience, he had really won a lot of people over. He was surprised and pleased to hear that and I realized that on stage, there's no accurate way to gage an audiences response. You need to let a band knbow when they blow you away.

Pinback were wonderful as usual. They have gotten so tight as a live band, they can play anything from their entire, huge catalog. Ending with a perfect rendition of "Grey Machine" capped off a perfect night. This is the last cut on their EP Offcell from 2003, which is also one of their most complex and shape-shifting songs ever, and to hear it performed so flawlessly, live, with every sound effect seemingly in place. I was overwhelmed. Another wonderful show.


Friday, May 13, 2011

What I Listened To April 15 - 21, 2011

1. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop Records)

2. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys ( Polydor)

3. Paul Simon - So Beautiful Or So What (Concord Music Group)

4. EELS with Strings - Live at Town Hall (Vagrant Records)

5. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

6. The Lonely Wild - Dead End 45 record (self release)

7. Low - Trust (Krank Records)

8. Duniven - I Need To Try For Her (self release)

9. Cody the Band - Cody the Band EP (self release)

10. Pepper Rabbit - Beauregard (Kanine Records)

The first three albums on this list took over and hogged the spotlight. Low has got to be among the albums of the year. I was lucky enough to be at Spaceland last December when they introduced this album, C'mon, in order and complete. I remember thinking at the time that this was going to be an incredible album...and I was right. I've loved past Low releases, like The Great Destroyer, but this is probably their most accessible record yet and maybe their most beautiful ever. I'll detail individual songs later, but let me just say "I'm Nothing But Heart" has the cumulative power of "Give Peace A Chance" by John Lennon or "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison and yet achieves a beauty all it's own. Maybe my favorite song of the year. And I play it endlessly.

Elbow are already one of my favorite bands, but the new album, Build A Rocket Boys, is challenging. The first song, "The Birds", is one of the most bombastic, perfect Elbow song I've ever heard and the rest of the album can't help but be a disappointment. It struggles and struggles but can't ever quite come up to the level of the first song. But an inferior Elbow album can match the best of many other bands, so I'll be content. It's just that their last two albums have been so brilliant.

The new Paul Simon record is surprisingly energetic and sprightly, and coupled with the opportunity to see him live, I went through something of a Paul Simon resurgence over the past few weeks. His new material slips easily into his prolific catalog of songs.

After that, there's the Low album Trust, which I hadn't owned until I picked it up on this week and although it sounds sparer that later albums, it's still a charmer. And to get ready for the show with Cody the Band, I spun their terrific early EP a few times. Very nice.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thank You, Thank You

What a great time I had at my anniversary show last night. It would never have occurred to me three years ago when I started this blog that within that time I would be well regarded enough to warrant a bunch of bands happily putting on a show for me. It's pretty humbling. A huge thank you to Eileen Leslie and the staff at Lot 1 Cafe for letting us take over, Another thank you to the wonderful bands that all played so well: Torches In Trees, Judson, Avi Zahner Isenberg and Pauie Pesh; and a big thanks to John Seasons, who got much of this talent to play.

Among the highlights:

Torches In Trees opened the show with a set that, although marred by sound issues during the first number, once the vocals were more clearly heard, they sounded just fine to me. In fact, so much so, that people hearing them for the first time were blown away. There's nothing like looking around at all your friends with their mouths hanging open, and when I catch their eye, they mouth to me, "This band is GREAT!" and all I can say is "I know, I know".

Not only does Azad Cheikosman (at right at Coachella) and the band write beautifully constructed songs that are varied and never repetitious, but the three band members are so perfectly attuned to one another that it's hard to remember that they started as a band of five. Eric Fabbro is an absolute maniac on the drums and Bridgette Moody (also in the photo) contributes the thundering bass lines while singing pitch-perfect harmony that blends into the mix like another instrument.

Judson sang with Sheridan Riley on drums and John Seasons on bass, a strong set, dedicating a song to Mary, and holding the audience in the palm of his hand. Avi Zahner Isenberg continued to explore the outer reaches of our collective sonic boundaries and left the audience limp, in awe, and simply dazed. Sheridan Riley showed a lot of diversity in the way she kept her drums right in the middle of the mix, especially impressive when compared to her knowing drumming during the performance with Judson. And Paulie Pesh crowded the stage with at least eight musicians producing an enormous sound and beautiful music that brought the evening to an exciting close.

I hope everyone had as good a time as I did, and another thank you to all who came out to help celebrate a terrific milestone for me.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Tonight! Tonight!

Tonight's the night. Won't you try?


Monday, May 2, 2011

3rd Anniversary Show - May 9, 2011

I'm proud to announce the 3rd anniversary show for this blog at Lot 1 Cafe on Monday, May 9. It's very hard to believe it's already been three years, while it's hard to believe it's only been three years.

When I started Feed Your Head I really had no idea where I was going to go with it. I didn't know if anyone would be interested, if I'd burn out real quick, or it would just get swamped in an ocean of music bloggers. Well, actually, it released a whole new creative outlet for me, and once I started writing, I didn't want to stop.

After less that one year at it, Joe Fielder asked me to join Radio Free Silver Lake and take over the Low Down column and now, over two years later, I'm still at it. Rediscovering music at this stage of my life has reaped rewards I could never even have imagined. As much as I love the music, thrill to the new CD's I get, bask in the glowing reverie of live music, it's the friendships that have most touched my soul. That's the gift i treasure most.

As for the show itself, Johnny Seasons and Lot 1 Cafe have put together a bill of superb local musicians. Torches in Trees is one of my favorite, under-hyped local bands who always reduce me to a babbling fan with their hypnotically beautiful music. Judson was one of my favorite finds last year and I am honored to have him on the bill, and he always puts together a solid group of musicians to play with. I have followed Avi Buffalo since they began coming up to Los Angeles from Long Beach to play, so to have Avi Zahner-Isenberg play a solo set is thrilling. Paulie Pesh handed me a CD at the last RFSL weekly show at LaBrie's and it's a really fine collection of songs that I will look forward to hearing live.

Please come out and join me for a wild and celebratory Monday night.


What I Listened To The Two Weeks of April 1 - 14, 2011

Week of April 1 - 7, 2011:

1. EELS with Strings - Live at Town Hall (Vagrant Records)

2. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

3. Duniven - I Need To Try For Her (self release)

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

5. EELS - Electro-Shock Blues (Dreamworks)

6. The Lonely Wild - Dead End 45 record (self release)

7. EELS - Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

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

9. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador)

10. Pinback - Summer In Abaddon (Touch and Go Records)

With the tickets for the upcoming August EELS show at El Rey going on sale, I went out and got the EELS with Strings album, Live at Town Hall, and just wallowed in it. What a beautiful record, and I'm ashamed I hadn't gotten it before. It contains a lot of wonderful versions of songs from both Electro-Shock Blues and Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, two of my favorite EELS albums, and with beautiful string arrangement.

Can't stop listening to DeVotchKa as well as their live show remains vivid in my mind. The Duniven album is intriguing enough to keep me coming back to it, and The Lonely Wild 45 record I picked up at their first Tuesday for RFSL at LaBrie's is a wonderful recording featuring five of their songs. Very impressive.

All the others are returning favorites that I've written enough about. Whenever I'm at a loss, I go back to Pinback because it centers my hearing. They're like my tuning fork. In anticipation of seeing them for the 13th time this month, I dragged out one of their very best albums.

week of April 8 - 14, 2011:>

1. EELS with Strings - Live at Town Hall (Vagrant Records)

2. DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (ANTI)

3. Duniven - I Need To Try For Her (self release)

4. The Lonely Wild - Dead End 45 record (self release)

5. Walking Sleep - Measures (self release)

6. Pepper Rabbit - Beauregard (Kanine Records)

7. The Break Ups - Eat Your Heart Out (self release)

8. Low - C'mon (Sub Pop Records)

9. Jenny O - Home EP (self release)

10. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador)

EELS still number one, Walking Sleep had a residency during this month that made me pull out their recent album, Measures, and The Break Ups, who played a set for our show at LaBrie's one week, have a very arresting CD in Eat Your Heart Out. Almost everything else is a returnee.

The exception being the new album from Low. I just picked it up the last day of this week, but became instantly addicted, so it ended up on the list. C'mon is an impossibly beautiful album and it will figure prominently at the end of the year.