July, 2010 Archives

31
Jul

Visions of Joanna

by Lefort in Music

There is no middle-ground when it comes to Joanna Newsom.  You either love the music of this 28-year old singer from Nevada City, CA or you hate it.  And even if you love it, you wonder how her unique, challenging music will make it in this modern world of three-minute truffles and trifles.  Nonetheless you love and respect her teeming talents, and wish her well.  Seeing Newsom live not only confirmed her many talents, but made her recordings much more approachable.   So see her live if you can, and give her multiple listens and chances to win you over.  You will be handsomely rewarded.

Ms. Newsom came to the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara on Friday night, and played to a rapt crowd, including her family and ours from Nevada City.  From the moment Joanna and band took the stage, we were mesmerized by her well-versed vocals, heavenly harp and plucky piano playing.   And we also enjoyed the supporting ensemble, though with some reservations voiced below.

We have always heard strong Kate Bush and Rickie Lee Jones influences in Newsom’s vocals, but at the Lobero we heard more of the latter in her slurred effects and jazz-inflected timbres.  At other times, however, we heard Joni Mitchell and a bit of kabuki geisha (homage to Mrs. Lefort) to go with her semi-operatic intonations.  Regardless, the combination is unique and enthralling to these ears (though we acknowledge that, subjectivity and music tending to pal around, her voice in particular is not for everyone).  Mixed with her complex melodies and her literate lyrical tales, the net effect on us at the Lobero was absolute hypnosis.

The evening was primarily devoted to supporting her recent three-disc recording, “Have One on Me,” with a few older “hits” thrown in for good measure.  Newsom opened the set with her strongest suit by playing solo on harp her song ’81 (perhaps related to her year of gestation given her ’82 birth, but with multiple lyrical levels per her norm).  The combination of her hands-flying, intricate, rhapsodic harp playing and vocal gymnastics never fails to amaze, and left the audience big-eyed and mouth-agape.  In a word: stunning.  For some stellar lyrical stanzas from ’81 that we frequently sift, see way below at *.

The following rendering of ’81 on the Jools Holland Show gives a good flavor for her Lobero version:

Following ’81, the band joined Newsom in earnest, with Neal Morgan on drums, Andrew Strain on trombone, a pair of violinist/vocalist females, and guitar-banjo-tambura playing arranger, Ryan Francesconi.  With every part and nuance of every song seemingly scripted, it is clear that between Newsom and these musicians (with at least half of them reading from sheet music), the commitment to arrangement and structure is formidable.  If there has ever been true chamber folk, this is it.   The ensemble playing sounded at times like a small orchestra and at others, albeit briefly (when the reins and guard were let down), like a jazz ensemble.  And throw in some startling group handclapping that smacked of Brechtian theatre and some kabuki soundings, and you’ve got yourself a tautly-delivered theatrical performance of serious reckoning.

While we were hypnotized by Newsom and the group, we could have done without Francesconi’s joyless, bored guise (and his chiding of the crowd to be amazed by Newsom’s harp-tuning methods–really, Ryan?? Wow!!).  And we would have omitted some of Morgan’s effect-riddled and tightly-scored drumming (come on Neal, let fly occasionally–we know you’ve got the chops!).  Still Neal’s drumming, while mannered, was mostly the perfect fit with the chamber-folk-pop motif.  Throw in some violin shadings and some perfect and evocative muted-trombone flourishes from the amiable Strain, and you have a great, affecting ensemble sound.  There were even some humorous moments which, given her serious material, surprised us–especially when Joanna tossed off a humorous line about refusing to perform a song requested by  a Portugal audience member who kept yelling out a song request and even seemed to tear up in one of his requests:  “We won’t negotiate with Tear-orists!!”

Built into her generous, nearly two-hour set were some of our favorites, including Go Long, Good Intentions Paving Company, Peach, Plum, Pear and the encore, Baby Birch.

In Go Long, Newsom seems to draw parallels between the Bluebeard fable and her failed relationship with Bill Callahan and also relating to William “Bonnie Prince Billy” Oldham, though as usual, all are left to divine their own interpretation of her oft-oblique lyrics.   Check out a few lyric stanzas from Go Long below at #.

Joanna Newsom–Go Long

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2-05-Go-Long.mp3|titles=2-05 Go Long]

Another of our faves performed at the Lobero was her Good Intentions Paving Company, which is seemingly about life and loves on the road and the effect on relationships, and Joanna returning to California as a changed person.   Regardless, we commend some stanzas from Good Intentions Paving Company below at ^.

Joanna Newsom–Good Intentions Paving Company

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/1-04-Good-Intentions-Paving-Company.mp3|titles=1-04 Good Intentions Paving Company]

And after an audience-captivating, set-ending performance of Peach, Plum, Pear and receiving a well-deserved standing ovation, Newsom and band came back for an encore (thankfully, the audience was worthy—see the parenthetical in the setlist at the end below) of the beautiful Baby Birch, which seems to be a tale of motherhood and missing/lost children. We love one of this song’s stanzas in particular:

“When it was dark,
I called and you came.
When it was dark, I saw shapes.
When I see stars, I feel, in your hand,
and I see stars,
and I reel, again.”

Joanna Newsom–Baby Birch

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/1-06-Baby-Birch-1.mp3|titles=1-06 Baby Birch 1]

And here is her beguiling chestnut, Peach, Plum, Pear, as performed on this tour:

Did we mention that Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes opened the show?  While we heard some vocal talent in Mr. Pecknold, we continue to believe that neither Pecknold nor the Fleet ones can write a worthwhile melody (save their B-track Mykonos). So we give him a big meh.   Maybe next time with the Foxes.

*Stanzas from ’81:

I found a little plot of land,
in the garden of Eden.
It was dirt, and dirt is all the same.
I tilled it with my two hands,
and I called it my very own;
there was no-one to dispute my claim.”

“The wandering eye that I have caught
is as hot as a wandering sun.
But I will want for nothing more,
in my garden:
start again,
in my hardening to every heart but one.”

“The unending amends you’ve made
are enough for one life.
Be done.
I believe in innocence, little darlin’.
Start again.
I believe in everyone.
I believe, regardless.
I believe in everyone.”

#Stanzas from Go Long:

“Last night, again,
you were in my dream.
Several expendable limbs were at stake
you were a prince, spinning rims,
all sentiments indian-given
and half-baked.”

“We both want the very same thing.
We are praying
I am the one to save you
But you don’t even own
your own violence
Run away from home-
your beard is still blue
with the loneliness of you mighty men,
with your jaws, and fists, and guitars
and pens, and your sugarlip,
but I’ve never been to the firepits with you mighty men

Who made you this way?
Who made you this way?
Who is going to bear your beautiful children?
Do you think you can just stop,
when you’re ready for a change?
Who will take care of you
when you’re old and dying?”

“I will give you a call, for one last hurrah.
If this tale is tall, forgive my scrambling.
But you keep palming along the wall,
moving at a blind crawl,
but always rambling.

Wolf-spider, crouch in your funnel nest.
If I knew you, once,
now I know you less.
In the sinking sand,
where we’ve come to rest,
have I had a hand in your loneliness?

When you leave me alone
in this old palace of yours,
it starts to get to me. I take to walking.
What a woman does is open doors.
And it is not a question of locking
or unlocking.”

And finally,

“With the loneliness
of you mighty men,
with your mighty kiss
that might never end,
while, so far away,
in the seat of the West,
burns the fount
of the heat
of that loneliness.

There’s a man
who only will speak in code,
backing slowly, slowly down the road.
May he master everything
that such men may know
about loving, and then letting go. ”

^Stanzas from Good Intentions Paving Company:

“And it’s my heart, not me, who cannot drive,
at which conclusion you arrived,
watching me sit here, bolt upright and cry
for no good reason at the Eastering sky.”

“And the tilt of this strange nation,
and the will to remain for the duration
(Waving the flag,
feeling it drag).”

“It had a nice a ring to it
When the ole opry house rang,

so, with a solemn auld lang
syne
, sealed, delivered, I sang.”

“And I do hate to fold,
right here at the top of my game,
when I’ve been trying with my whole heart and soul
To stay right here, in the right lane.

But it can make you feel over and old
(Lord, you know it’s a shame),
when I only want for you to pull over and hold me
‘Til I can’t remember my own name.”

And finally, below is the setlist from the Lobero Theater show June 30, 2010:

27
Jul

Broken Social Scenes and Their Constituents

by Lefort in Music

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Not to digress, but we mentioned previously that we love the band Broken Social Scene.  Both as a band and in their constituent parts, they have never hidden their musical hearts behind some paltry polemic or afterthought, though the lyrics would at times have you believe otherwise.  With bold melodies and inventive instrumentation, these scene-sters have always laid it out for all to see, broken and unvarnished.

We first heard from the Broken gang en masse at the millennium’s break, followed by the first to venture from the Scene, Feist and Metric (featuring Emily Haines, who recently appeared on, of all things, the Leno show–“Boredom’s Black Hole”–and unfortunately Haines chameleoned to match the insipid, smarmy host).  And then the key Scene-makers, Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, broke out anti-socially with stellar individual efforts.  And yet all of these efforts continued to be collaborative, with constituents contributing to the others’ collectives.

We assume you know and appreciate each and all of the above, but just in case, check out a few songs from Drew, Canning and BSS that we return to over and over.

First up is Kevin Drew and his great, great song, Gang Bang Suicide. Perhaps our favorite song of Drew’s (or anyone’s), it’s hard not to get lost in the beauty, building vocal rounds, and insinuating lyrics.  We especially like the mantras:

” they say size doesn’t count
but my heart is a house”

“well your mouth is a gun yeah your mouth is a gun…
you hate it all in you, you hate it all in you”

Kevin Drew–Gang Bang Suicide

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/07-Gang-Bang-Suicide.mp3|titles=07 Gang Bang Suicide]

Next up is Drew’s beauteous Bodhi Sappy Weekend. We can’t completely capture the lyrics, but hold on to luminous lines.

Kevin Drew–Bodhi Sappy Weekend

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/13-Bodhi-Sappy-Weekend.mp3|titles=13 Bodhi Sappy Weekend]

Following is Drew’s flying, Feist-esque Safety Bricks. We love this song’s locomotion and coming-of-age lament, but especially the ending encouragement:

“You can never really start from the start
The ending begins inside of your heart
Well the people, they love to remember your name
It’s a hospital bed but it’s all just the same

Why did you leave when you were returned
Your past is your future, your future will learn
The crows that fly, we’ll try not to find
You do things once, you know you’ll do it twice

Still I want kids with safety bricks
And a car that’s quick
So we can split….

The middle should live inside of your brain
I’ll stop for a moment and try to refrain
I’m hoping you love just like when you were a kid
Let’s hop a fence and do what we always did”

Kevin Drew–Safety Bricks

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/04-Safety-Bricks.mp3|titles=04 Safety Bricks]

Next on the band-member hit parade is Brendan Canning, and his lucent Churches Under the Stairs.

We love the “ghost notes” vocals that begin at 1:24 and the subsequent wall-of-voices approach.   The song’s exact meaning is your best guess, but it moves us nonetheless.

“Give us some of the ghost notes
Give us some of the chosen, oh!
Give us some of the closing slots
Give us some of the falsest hope”

Brendan Canning–Churches Under the Stairs

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/05-Churches-Under-The-Stairs.mp3|titles=05 Churches Under The Stairs]

We love the next song, Something for All of Us, and the vocals, which seem like how T-Rex’s Mark Bolan might have sounded had he survived his 70s traumas or been born twenty-five years later.

Brendan Canning–Something for All of Us

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/01-Something-For-All-Of-Us….mp3|titles=01 Something For All Of Us…]

And then Canning’s cunning Chameleon, which begins wordless and beautifully-horned and finishes with Feist and Canning’s great vocalisms.

Brendan Canning–Chameleon

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/02-Chameleon.mp3|titles=02 Chameleon]

And now we come back to the band in the aggregate.

First from Broken Social Scene is Fire-Eyed Boy, which features the band’s signature bass/guitar-twinned melody line (borrowed from New Order), intricate guitar work and the lyrical encouragement/warning:

“Fire eyed boy, give em all the slip”

BSS–Fire-Eyed Boy

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/06-Fire-Eyed-Boy.mp3|titles=06 Fire Eye’d Boy]

The next song, Stars and Sons, features another bass-anchored melody line, but also with killing clapping (especially live)!

BSS–Stars and Sons

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-Stars-And-Sons.mp3|titles=03 Stars And Sons]

And last but not least is the band’s great homage to Pavement, Ibi Dreams of Pavement, with its emphatic delivery and stellar stanzas:

“I got shot right in the back
and you were there
I said I was never coming back
and you were there, you were there”

Broken Social Scene–Ibi Dreams of Pavement

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/02-Ibi-Dreams-Of-Pavement-A-Better.mp3|titles=02 Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better]

Finally, check out Feist and the boys on their video for the all-time, 7/24 Shoreline:

25
Jul

The Spirit Delta

by Lefort in Music

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Saturdays are for the spirit and the spirited, and on Saturday the Delta Spirit boys came a ghostin’ at Velvet Jones.   Sold out and packed with a rabid young crowd, the Velvet and Club Mercy played perfect hosts to this crowd-pleasing band originally from San Diego and now residing in Long Beach.   The last show of a 40-night tour before heading off to Europe in September, the band threw in some new, some old, some covers and some rarities, and delivered on all fronts.  If you haven’t seen or heard them, they are a fervent, soulful group, and particularly live.  Leader Matt Vazquez (no not the professional baseball pitcher from Santa Barbara) is a talented vocalist who can impressively hit all the notes live.  He is backed by a great four to eight piece band that swells to at least eight (we lost count actually) onstage at times for added pounding, percussive drive.   Delta Spirit aren’t breaking any new musical barriers, but they cover the waterfront stylistically with flourish on their instruments and with stylish vocalistics.  On the crowd-pleasing anthems they sound like an indie-Springsteen (note: Club Mercy brings the similarly-veined-in-that-regard band, Hold Steady, to Velvet Jones on Aug. 27th).  At other times they play the blues belters (on a Louie Armstrong cover for example), and at others the plaintive Americana soulsters.  The band knows and represents well their influences, and frequently whips up the crowd into a clapping, singalong fervor.  And for good measure, they threw in a spirited cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (with the young crowd bizarrely bellowing along to every word–is there a Pink Floyd resurgence we don’t know about?). They left it on the stage and the crowd left satiated.  Check ’em out next time.

In case you missed them, get ready for their next visit by checking out the band below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE1LalEvgE4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7YmslGNYRQ&feature=related

Vivian is a particularly touching song by Vazquez about his grandparents, and his grandmother in particular.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, when interviewed recently in the Harrisburg American, Matt Vazquez had this to say about his oft-spiritual lyrics:

“Well, yeah. Spiritual is a good word for it. We all come from different places and we all have different views. I’ve been through the gambit of many different things and I’m comfortably loving my agnosticism. It doesn’t all have to go into nihilism. Writing about humanity is so behind what humanity actually is. Getting to sing about and write about humanity – I’m so happy to be part of that.”

24
Jul

I Woke Up to the Sound–Gott Sei Mit Euch

by Lefort in Music

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We heard the news last night, and it weighed us down.  Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives at the Love Parade techno music festival in Duisburg, Germany yesterday, along with their families and friends.

Words fail.  But music doesn’t.  Almost immediately we thought of the great Clem Snide, and Eef Barzelay’s stunningly and eerily relevant song.  Different contexts and messages, perhaps, but the devastation is nonetheless  similar.  Once again Eef has provided the perfect soundtrack to our lives.

Clem Snide–The Sound of German Hip Hop

I woke up to the sound of German hip hop in my head
A great unholy clatter quickly filling me with dread
I wondered then if silence had forever disappeared
What, with everybody yelling the end was finally here

I scrambled for the television, desperate for its light
Hoping that my favorite stars could stop this endless night
I waited for instructions, I waited for a sign
I listened very carefully when told just what to buy

Lovers became bitter, mathematicians counting crumbs
Some were filled with angry lust, the rest felt mostly numb
The sun became the enemy, they’d hunger after dark
And kill time swapping partners at a club called Noah’s Arc

Those who spoke of doom impending, suffering and such
Had found the place in people’s heart that beauty had once touched
They filled the auditorium, the tickets far from cheap
Those that couldn’t get in started fighting in the street

The day came so we gathered in a field behind the mall
A noted scientist predicted there we’d see it all
The city council members came, they told us not to fear
The king and queen of homecoming both shed a poignant tear

Just like that it happened, the starling blinked its eye
The molecules collided and became part of the sky
All my life I’ve never known a moment quite so still
Like space that’s being emptied at the same time that it’s filled

I woke up to the sound of German hip hop in the air
It sounded like a hum of insects nesting in my hair
I wasn’t so much tired but I felt that I should sleep
So I closed my eyed and mumbled something about a soul to keep

Clem Snide–The Sound of German Hip Hop

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/04-The-Sound-Of-German-Hip-Hop.mp3|titles=04 The Sound Of German Hip-Hop]

And then of course we thought of Flying Lotus’s mournful dirge, German Haircut, which seems so fitting this morning.  Peace to you.

Flying Lotus–German Haircut

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/12-German-Haircut.mp3|titles=12 German Haircut]

23
Jul

The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis

by Lefort in Books

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Having just finished Martin Amis’s most recent book, “The Pregnant Widow,” we will add this book to a small list that we recommend you read, but only if you have an unflappable, omni-euphoric disposition.  We are not so disposed and are reeling around the fountain after finishing this fable.   Amis is, however, one of our favorite wordsmiths still extant so it pains us to have to append this warning.  Which leads to the definitive Amis gambit:  if, despite our warning, you pick up this book, and if you appreciate stellar prose, you will find yourself sucked in, laughing hysterically, admiring the pregnant prose, and unable to stop even though the subject matter is, ultimately, oppressively disheartening.  Side note: other books falling into this stellar-but-painful category are Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Go Away” (this book is inexplicably being made into a movie featuring Keira Knightley to be released in December–just says “Christmas” doesn’t it?), Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” and Richard Yates’ “Revolutionary Road.”

The main events of “The Pregnant Widow” are set in the summer of 1970 at a castle above an Italian village in the Campania region.  Amis’s narrator looks back on that time in the castle from a 21st century vantage and ruminates on the characters’ lives and society’s evolution or devolution.   College students from England have come to stay in the castle: the protagonist/narrator, Keith; his girlfriend, Lily; a captivating blonde with the suggestive name, Scheherazade, as a collection of couples and acquaintances come and go, all runwaying throughout the pages and flaunting the appetites of their youth and the era.  Despite the vitality of this time and these characters, towards the end of the book we discover that Keith’s life has been largely a professional and personal disappointment, and that he pinpoints that summer in Italy as the time when the wheels started falling off.

To this end, the title of the book is borrowed from the Russian writer, Alexander Herzen, and refers to an old order about to be upstaged by a new one: “The departing world leaves behind it not an heir but a pregnant widow,” Herzen wrote, “a long night of chaos and desolation” in which the old is gone and the new has not yet been born.

Regardless, Amis is one of the most unique, intelligent writers to come along in the last 30+ years, with his cunning linguistics, hilarities, etymologies, italicisms, and unique metaphors, all of which are paraded in “The Pregnant Widow.”

Interestingly, Amis has said elsewhere that the novel is “blindingly autobiographical” and, you can’t help but believe him.  We can’t help thinking of Martin’s father’s (Kingsley Amis’s) taunting observation:  “Aren’t they nice, the young? They have stayed up for two years drinking instant coffee together, and now they are opinionated – they have opinions….” Correspondingly, Martin remarks on the young and their nostalgia: Nostalgia, from Gk nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain’ ‘the return-home-pain of twenty years old’.”  So take that, father.  We remember our nostalgia and feel it in our own.

We’ll leave it to you decide whether or not to read the book.  And with that we give you below some dips into Amis’s writing from the book.  You can then decide whether to dive deeper with the Widow or be satisfied with the sampling and instead sun in the shallow end.

“And the storms…were timed for his insomnias [a subject near to our hearts].  He was making friends with the hours he barely knew, the one called Three, the one called Four.  They racked him, these storms, but he was left with a cleaner morning.  Then the days began again to thicken, building to another war in heaven.”

“Keith lay in his bed, trying to understand [the Cold War].  What was the outcome of the dream war and all that silent combat?  Everything could vanish, at any moment. This disseminated an unconscious but pervasive mortal fear.  And mortal fear might make you want to have sexual intercourse; but it couldn’t make you want to love.  Why love anyone, when everything could vanish?  So maybe it was love that took the wound, in the Passchendaele of mad dreams.”

“And we [the Baby Boomer generation] will be hated too.  Governance, for at least a generation, Keith read, will be a matter of transferring wealth from the young to the old. And they won’t like that, the young.  They won’t like the silver tsunami, with the old hogging the social services and stinking up the clinics and the hospitals, like an inundation of monstrous immigrants.  There will be age wars, and chronological cleansing….”

And though we disagree, this musing on the dangers of smoking set against the sarcastically characterized pains of a life long-lived (that “cool bit”) caught our attention:

“He thought, Yeah.  Yeah, non-smokers live seven years longer.  Which seven will be subtracted by the god called Time?  It won’t be that convulsive, heart-bursting spell between twenty-eight and thirty-five. No. It’ll be that really cool bit between eighty-six and ninety-three.”

“He left her there beneath the slow, creaking loop of the overhead fan.  And we don’t quite trust the overhead fan, do we.  Because it always seems to be unscrewing itself.”

Martin Amis reading an excerpt from “The Pregnant Widow”:

21
Jul

Straight From the Horses

by Lefort in Music

We will admit that we have fallen short.  Again.  Life shifted into vitesse-mode in the last month, and we neglected a muzzle-load of new music that was shot out in May.

On one of our favorite days of the year (May 18th), Band of Horses released their third record, “Infinite Arms.”  Like their last record, “Cease to Begin,” the new one took a while to grip us.  But now we can’t escape its clutches or get it off the player.

We have been fans of this band from their beginning.  On the new release they have bolstered their sound and added even more harmonies, supplementing the normal guitar-driven, reverb-heavy lead vocals to great effect.  Though it’s getting to be a bit cliched, we cannot get enough of this new epoch of harmony-heavy vocals (with allusions to the Beach Boys and other harmonic convergences), and the Band of Horses have favorably joined the fray.

While we lament the Horses’ frequently tenebrous, homily-ridden lyrics, we admit that when combined with their oft-majestic music, the soulful effect is repeatedly breathtaking.

So check out Laredo and Older off the new one, and then a few of our favorites off of “Cease to Begin.”

In Laredo, Ben Bridwell stakes out heartbreak and hope while the sound pays homage to Nada Surf:

“Gonna take a trip to Laredo
Gonna take a dip in the lake
Oh, I’m at a crossroads with myself
I don’t got no one else”

Band of Horses–Laredo

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-Laredo.mp3|titles=03 Laredo]

In Older, the band repeats the chorus five times, and the twangy-lament easily catches hold of your ears and heart:

“And after all my plans
They melt into the sand
Yeah you will be there on my mind through all
Don’t want to understand why you never get older.”

Band of Horses–Older

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/09-Older.mp3|titles=09 Older]

From “Cease to Begin,” check out Ode to LRC and its nostalgic slap at small-town life:

“The town is so small
How could anybody not
Look you in the eyes
Or wave as you drive by”

Band of Horses–Ode to LRC

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/02-Ode-To-LRC1.mp3|titles=02 Ode To LRC]

On No One’s Gonna Love You we hear in the repeated chorus a comforting voice from on high.

Band of Horses–No One’s Gonna Love You

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-No-Ones-Gonna-Love-You1.mp3|titles=03 No One’s Gonna Love You]

And finally, on Detlef Schrempf, despite the red-herring title (former NBA basketball star from Germany), we like this proverb:

“So take it as a song or a lesson to learn
And sometime soon be better than you were
If you say you’re gonna go, then be careful
And watch how you treat every living soul”

Band of Horses–Detlef Schrempf

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/04-Detlef-Schrempf1.mp3|titles=04 Detlef Schrempf]

And here’s the band performing Laredo on Letterman:

18
Jul

Josh Ritter–Now and Then

by Lefort in Music

We have been fans of Josh Ritter since his first formal release, “The Golden Age of Radio,” back in 2001.  Though the spawn of two neuroscientists and raised in Idaho, Josh had a Midwestern air about him (with his references to Lawrence, Kansas and “dry land farming”).  And we Leforts are suckers for the Midwestern touch and so were immediately smitten with Ritter.  But beyond the geographical allusions and pull, we have come to know Ritter as a phenomenally talented and engaging songwriter, regardless of locale.  He has a flair for both bereaved ballads and upbeat ululations filled with mark-hitting melodies and well-turned phrases.

Ritter recently released his new record, “So Runs the World Away,” and it is filled with his usual song gems, with their stories, historical tales and parchment parables.  The songs feature cascading wordplay and atmospherics provided by maudlin horns, and come across as alternately funny, bittersweet, and strangely striking despite the eclectic and detailed subject matter (he has been inclined to history-based lyrics, ever since his 2001 Harrisburg song).   The record title and the music on this new record speak to mankind’s exploratory exploits, but also the dejection and realism found in the unobtainable.   Ritter suggests that our exploratory campaigns will continue unceasingly though much will be ventured and lost in the process.  Such is life, we murmur.  And we hum “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Check out a few of the gems off of each of his new one and his first one below.

Josh Ritter–Change of Time (from the new one)

“I had a dream last night
I dreamt that I was swimming
And the stars up above
Directionless and drifting
Somewhere in the dark
Were the sirens and the thunder
And around me as I swam
The drifters who’d gone under

Time, love
Time, love
Time, love
It’s only a change of time

I had a dream last night
And rusting far below me
Battered hulls and broken hardships
Leviathan and Lonely
I was thirsty so I drank
And though it was salt water
There was something ’bout the way
It tasted so familiar

The black clouds I’m hanging
This anchor I’m dragging
The sails of memory rip open in silence
We cut through the lowlands
All hands through the saltlands
The white caps of memory
Confusing and violent

I had a dream last night
And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine
Were shorelines in the moon light
New worlds for the weary
New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes I kept on swimming

(rough seas, they carry me wherever I go)”

Josh Ritter–Change of Time

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/02-Change-Of-Time.mp3|titles=02 Change Of Time]

Josh Ritter–See How Man Was Made (also off the new one)

Here’s a self-explanatory beauty.

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/10-See-How-Man-Was-Made.mp3|titles=10 See How Man Was Made]

From his first album, we liked Other Side, and the following lyrics:

“I’m still waiting for the whiskey to whisk me away
And I’m still waiting for the ashtray to lead me astray
I twist the cul-de-sacs into one way signs
I’m going round in circles on the other side”

Josh Ritter–Other Side

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/08-Other-Side.mp3|titles=08 Other Side]

And perhaps our favorite Ritter song, Lawrence, Kansas, from his first:

“Dirt roads and dryland farming might be the death of me
But I can’t leave this world behind
Debts are not like prison where there’s hope of getting free
And I can’t leave this world behind

I’ve been from here to Lawrence, Kansas
Trying to leave my state of mind
Trying to leave this awful sadness
But I can’t leave this world behind

South of Delia there’s a patch out back by the willow trees
And I can’t leave this world behind
It’s a fenced in piece of nothing where I hear voices on my knees
And I can’t leave this world behind

Some prophecies are self-fulfilling
But I’ve had to work for all of mine
Better times will come to me, God willing
Cause I can’t leave this world behind

This world must be frightening everybody’s on the run
And I can’t leave this world behind
And my house is a wooden one and its built on a wooden one
Seems I can’t leave this world behind

Preacher says when the Master calls us
He’s gonna give us wings to fly
But my wings are made of hay and corn husks
So I can’t leave this world behind”

Josh Ritter–Lawrence, Kansas

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/04-Lawrence-KS.mp3|titles=04 Lawrence, KS]

And check out Ritter’s simple, but affective cover of Modest Mouse’s Blame it on the Tetons here.

17
Jul

Pull Out the Lawn Chairs and Listen In

by Lefort in Music

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Years can go by and then you hear an older song anew, and you shudder and think of all that has escaped from the funnel of musical truth.

We experienced this the other day when we rediscovered the song below by Lullaby for the Working Class (on Saddle Creek Records and featuring Ted Stevens who would move on to be a part of the grand Mayday and Cursive) and later debated whether it was the locale, the group of talented artists or the meteoric, creative scion that ultimately gave Omaha its new meaning.  Talent and horizons for days, regardless.  Athens, Seattle, Omaha, Brooklyn, Portland–the circle remains unbroken.  Next?

Listen in.  Vincent Van Gogh comes to a lawn chair near you.

Lullaby for the Working Class–Spreading the Evening Sky with Crows.

“An old women she just told me
this is the loneliest life she has ever seen
every wrinkle is a monument
meant for dust and decay
the painter understood this
spreading the evening sky with crows
the sky all black placenta
it’s too big to ignore

pull out the lawn chairs,
and watch the angels rip out their wings
my sweet eternity,
you were more than i bargained for
i guess all good things come to an end

each breath is a monument
every blink of the eye
or is it like a photograph,
another day gone by

pull out the lawn chairs,
and watch the angels pull out their wings
my sweet eternity,
you were more than i bargoned for
all good things come to an end (x2):

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2-18-Spreading-The-Evening-With-Crow.mp3|titles=2-18 Spreading The Evening With Crow]
15
Jul

Built for the Long Spill

by Lefort in Music

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Wielding “hits,” hair and high-vocals, Built to Spill came to Soho on Tuesday and easily satisfied their ardent fans.

The Built ones caught our attention when we first heard their “Perfect from Now On” record in 1997.  From the beginning the band has had an uncanny ability to mesh a heavy, but intricate, choral-guitar sound with the high, oft-forlorn vocals of leader Doug Martsch, and to stitch it all together with oblique, but weighty and galvanizing lyrics.  They accent the sound with a dollop of prog, a mantle of metal and, most importantly, marauding melodies.  We have always been fans of male vocals at the high, nasally end of the register, and Martsch’s vocals fit perfectly in that genre’s continuum from Neil Young, to Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), to Ben Gibbard, to Yoni Wolf (Why?).

After “Perfect”, the band followed 1n 1999 with universally-acclaimed “Keep it Like a Secret,” which took the band to further exalted heights.  And it wasn’t long after the latter’s release that BTS came to the lamented Yucatan in Santa Barbara and regaled the crowd with its extended, innervating floor show.  Martsch’s inventive, Stratocaster-anchored guitar-playing has always been at the core of the band’s appeal, and at the Yucatan Martsch and the band were incendiary, burning down that hot-house that night.

We confess, though, that while we appreciated their subsequent “Ancient Melodies of the Future,” after the Yucatan our interest in BTS somewhat waned.  First to contribute to the ebbing was a good, but comparatively disappointing, show at Slim’s in San Francisco.  And then their “Live” record, with its 20-minute (each) Cortez the Killer and Broken Chairs cuts, left us reaching for the skip button.  And then the band went on hiatus and released a couple of, for us, marginally interesting records.

But when we heard the Club Mercy call and a couple of musically-respectable friends chimed in, we decided to venture down to the sold out show in Santa Barbara.

So we were somewhat surprised that when the band took the stage, we were immediately mesmerized again.   They led off with Liar off of 2006’s “You in Reverse” (one of those “marginally interesting” records we mentioned).  With his bobbing head and swelling vocals, Martsch (each time looking more and more, for you historians, like 20th U.S. President, James Garfield) drew us in.  It’s a great, newly-appreciated song, and for us was the highlight of the evening.  Which is not to say that the rest of the show was not similarly captivating, as the band’s head-tossing, lyric-echoing, dancing fans will attest.  Soho held a great, devoted crowd who knew every lyric to every song, and let the band hear it.  The band delivered all their “hits” with admirable aplomb, and we enjoyed the hirsute, melodious attack throughout.   But we may have been spoiled by the lofty-heights of that early Yucatan show and the brilliant immediacy of “Keep it Like a Secret.”  Perhaps it’s a mellowing with their and our age.  Who knows?  While we love this band and seeing them live, these days the passion has understandably played out a bit.  And that was the missing link for us Tuesday night.

Regardless, the band delivered a completely satisfying show to its sold out throng at Soho.

If you haven’t heard or listened recently to Liar, check it out below.  And if, for whatever reason, you haven’t heard Built to Spill at all, listen in to a few of our long-time favorites below it.

Built to Spill–Liar

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-Liar.mp3|titles=03 Liar]

Built to Spill–Carry the Zero

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-Carry-The-Zero.mp3|titles=03 Carry The Zero]

Built to Spill–Time Trap

Check out this song’s slow-burn build until the core of this gem kicks in at 2:04.

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/06-Time-Trap.mp3|titles=06 Time Trap]

Built to Spill–The Plan

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/01-The-Plan1.mp3|titles=01 The Plan]



11
Jul

Broken Social Anthems

by Lefort in Music

According to Tom Waits, sometimes you fall out of a window with confetti in your hair.  At other times it’s a song that falls like confetti into your consciousness from beyond the constellations.

We were driving home this week when Broken Social Scenes’ Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl suddenly came on the car stereo, with Emily Haines (now Metric, or solo), Feist and friends nailing it.  Once again the favorable force of music met us head-on.  Ask those who know us, and they will attest to our (some would say annoying) willingness to take any two-to-three words you might suggest, and invoke the lyrics of a song from years past.  We can’t help it.

But at other times, we are caught out and have no words to match the visceral slam of a song.

When Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl came on we happened to have with us a girl who just turned seventeen years old.  It had been a long time since we had listened intently to this song, but suddenly the song floated ponderous and weighty into our ears.  When moments like this happen, if you’re not careful, these convergences of music and circumstance will leave you in a heap, murmuring, maundering and muttering.  We reckon a reckoning is coming next June, and we are dreading the emotional wreckage.

As set out below, the song seems to be about a girl’s loss of a girlfriend to change and transition.  You could, however, construe the lyrics in other obvious ways.  But for the first time, we heard the lyrics to be about our seventeen-year old passenger and her seemingly imminent departure to a life all her own.  And the effect was enough to stop the world and our car, in addition to our words.

Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl (emphasis added):

“Used to be the one of the rotten ones
And I liked you for that
Now you’re all gone, got your make-up on
And you’re not coming back

Bleachin’ your teeth, smiling flash
Talking trash, under your breath
Bleachin’ your teeth, smiling flash
Talking trash, under my window

Park that car, drop that phone,
Sleep on the floor, dream about me

Used to be the one of the rotten ones
And I liked you for that
Now you’re all gone, got your make-up on
And you’re not coming back.

As we have often found with the songs of Broken Social Scene, it’s the music that carries the day and the lyrics oft-times supply the missing element that conveys the life-and-death situation.  Anthems is certainly not the best song from the BSS discography (more about this soon), but when it came on during our drive it seemed near-perfect.

Broken Social Scene–Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/07-Anthems-For-A-Seventeen-Year-Old.mp3|titles=07 Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old]

And here’s a worthy live rendering to check out, with Emily and Feist firing towards the end.

Such was the moment Thursday when Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl came on our car stereo.

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/07-Anthems-For-A-Seventeen-Year-Old.mp3|titles=07 Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old]