6
Jun

Feasting On Lambchop at LA’s Bootleg Theater

Artwork by Tad Wagner*

Following their mesmerizing show on Saturday at the Bootleg Theater, Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner tweeted that the show was the “Best LA show ever thanks to all who made it happen out west.” Having never seen them live, we can’t gauge the historicity of Wagner’s tweet. But we can tell you that the show was one of our favorite shows of this or any other year. 

Like many in the capacity audience, we’ve revelated off of Lambchop’s potent albums for nearly 20 years, including recently with the colossal increase of last year’s astonishing FLOTUS. Given that discography and their rare visits to the western coast, the audience’s anticipation was alpine at the Bootleg.

Wagner and band ambled onto stage and opened with the life-examining Writer and thereafter focused almost exclusively on FLOTUS’ songs (minus the album’s title-song). Fortunate us. While many might have wanted to hear more older nuggets from the band’s rich discography, no one could fault Wagner for flashing foremost his late-career pivot into FLOTUS’ electronic/vocoder-based sounds and vocals. Who else this deep into their musical career has risked such a quantum leap and arguably dropped the best album of their career?

On this leg of their tour, Lambchop’s chopped and augmented crew featured Wagner, long-time members Tony Crow (on keyboards and quips) and Matt (“Big Hands”) Swanson (on nimble bass), and Wye Oak’s wunderkind drummer/effecter, Andy Stack. For his part, Wagner mostly stood at microphone with his left hand tapping his vocal processor that roosted atop a vintage suitcase, while shuffling well-used lyric sheets onto the suitcase (his “paperprompter”?). The juxtaposition of modern electronics and antiquarian props perfectly aped the FLOTUS gestalt. With his right leg forward, slightly-crouched and rocking back-to-front, Wagner alternated between auto-croon and seething intensity, all to great effect.

Highlights of the set included a redacted take on The Hustle with Wagner strapping on his hollow-body and hollowing out hearts with his poignant ode to long-lived love, as capped off by Crow’s piano coloratura.  In Care Of 8675309, possibly THE best song of 2016, was alone worth the price of admission. Pushed to mid-set, the sagacious song again featured Wagner scratching out rhythm guitar and schooling with his alternately sweet and fiercely-vivid processed vocals. Nothing better. More up-tempo numbers included the funkified JFK (its “talk too much” refrain reminding of this song from Mary Margaret O’Hara), Old Masters and Relatives No. 2.  Only a few older songs made the setlist, but 2002’s The New Cobweb Summer was jazz-inflected and highly-affecting. And Poor Bastard (“from the Posterchild days” said Wagner) and encore-closer My Blue Wave served as stunning reminders of the emotional wreckage that Wagner can wrangle from well-chosen words.

The Bootleg was the last show of their U.S. tour before they had back to their seemingly-preferred Europe for festivals and seasonals. We hope they will soon look west and return near-term to California. When they do, don’t you miss ’em.

*First in a series of concert review artwork by the supremely talented (other) Mr. Wagner.

2
Jun

It’s Blockbuster Friday: Check Out Video/Song Releases from Arcade Fire and Radiohead

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Seems like Fridays are the new blockbuster reveal-days in the music industry. Following a tumultuous Thursday, two of the biggest names in music, Radiohead and Arcade Fire, have today released official videos for new(ish) songs. Heard of ’em? Entire Amazon Clouds are bursting with bytes of bravos for both these beloved bands.

So we will desist, except to say that Arcade Fire’s new big-budget video and announced big-arena tour smack of big-business to us (and more power to ’em, but at least Radiohead had the grace to tour some smaller venues such as the Santa Barbara Bowl). That’s no comment on the new song, which as usual swings for the fences and touches all the bases of their anthem-ish tendencies. But time will tell if Everything Now and its other tracks are merely overwrought and under-thought Reflektor fodder or something resembling their masterful albums The Suburbs or Funeral. Leader Win Butler has said about the new release: “There’s sort of an everything-nowness to life, I feel like almost every event and everything that happens surrounds you on all sides. It’s trying to capture some of the experiences of being alive now in all its flaws and all its glory.” Fingers-crossed for deliverance Win, but for now we’re sticking with our Song of the Week from Broken Social Scene.

As for Radiohead, they have released a new video for I Promise, an unreleased OK Computer-era song from their upcoming OK Computer 20th Anniversary reissue OKNOTOK.  There’s much to love about this song (featuring Thom Yorke’s ever-stunning vocalese), which track had to have been left off of the original OK Computer release because it just wasn’t experimental/exploratory enough to mesh with the likes of Airbag, Paranoid Android, etc. It’s a beauty nonetheless.

31
May

Song of the Week–Listen to Broken Social Scene’s Incantatory Anthem “Skyline”

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Broken Social Scene has built its distinguished discography on incantatory anthems in which elliptical mantras are meshed with inspirational music and humanizing vocals that can simply take you into the sky (see Anthems for a 17 Year Old Girl, 7/4 (Shoreline), World Sick, etc.). And no matter how cryptic the cant, you nonetheless “get it” in these anthems. As the Jamaicans say: ‘dem who feels it, knows it.”

Today the band has gifted us yet another mantra-laden beauty in new song Skyline, which reruns these lyrics to the song’s powerful ending: “Skyline waits for the world/ skyline waits for the fall/ But you shouldn’t have come at all/ Because I know/ You’re never gonna be, no you’re never gonna be that word/You shouldn’t have come at all.” Propelling the words are drums, horns and pointed and pointillist guitar to go with Kevin Drew’s multi-tracked vocals (abetted by Feist). Check it out below.

Skyline is the third song revealed off of the band’s upcoming album Hug of Thunder (to be released on July 7th), adding to the album’s Feistian title track and another Song of the WeekHalfway Home.

If you’re not a Spotifyer, then go HERE to otherwise stream Skyline or pre-order Hug of Thunder.

Photo credit: Norman Wong.

25
May

Aldous Harding Is A Woman “Imagining My Man”

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Given the given name of Aldous, we were leaning towards Huxley or some other chap. Nope. Aldous Harding is a decidedly female New Zealander whose just-released album Party (on 4AD) was produced by the talented John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels, M. Ward, Perfume Genius,Tom Brosseau). Our first introduction to Harding comes via the recent official video for her beguiling, Lorde-blessed song Imagining My Man, which you can watch below. The song opens with Cat Power/The National piano tones before introducing Harding’s exquisite (Kate Bush-like) vocals, then backing vocals by Perfume Genius’ busy-boy Mike Hadreas, and some Wall-esque kid-group screams of “Hey!!” and “Yes!!” And oh the mournful sax in the coda. So very good.

Go to the pickup-Party HERE.

Harding is out on tour and you can see all the dates (including a visit to Cali in June) HERE.

24
May

The Day-After in Manchester: Watch Broken Social Scene (with Johnny Marr) Perform Elegiac “Anthems for a 17 Year-Old Girl”

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Words cannot express….but music can. Despite Monday night’s heartbreaking events in Manchester, the Broken Social Scene show had to go on in Manchester last night. For the sake of Manchester. And on the first night of their European tour the band even managed to add to its grand numbers Manchester’s own Johnny Marr on guitar. With all the effected teenagers at the Ariana Grande show, Broken Social Scene opened appropriately with an elegiac performance of Anthems for a 17 Year-Old Girl that added gravitas beyond our normal takeaway from the anthem. And rightly so.

Watch the affecting performance below. Our prayers and best wishes to all affected by this nightmare.

19
May

We Strongly Recommend (Ahem) Cigarettes After Sex

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We are constantly confused by band names that seem purposely designed to hurt a band’s marketing efforts and popularity. Over the past decade-plus we’ve endured all possible variations of band names featuring the F-bomb (F-ed Up, etc., ad nauseum–at least Jenny Lewis used an acronym for NAF). While we’re certainly not petulant prudences, we don’t understand why bands intentionally handicap their possible broader acceptance with such names. It’s not as if these names shock the general public. While Cigarettes After Sex is a comparatively tame name, it’s still TMI, is (if you will) a mouthful (six syllables–hello? The Beatles? The Clash? Rolling Stones? U2? Blur?), and we detest cigarettes. Despite the name games, this Brooklyn band’s music is so compelling we have no choice but to recommend them to you.

Though the band has been bubbling under for quite some time, CAS began to get more attention in 2015 via their YouTube offerings. Smartly, Partisan Records then signed them and will release their self-titled debut album on June 9th.

We hadn’t given them much ear until we heard what we thought was a new Lana Del Rey song. But no, instead it was the androgynous vocal of CAS’ leader Greg Gonzalez. Sounding like a mash-up of Interpol interpreting Smiths songs with Lana Del Sandoval on vocals, CAS’s highly-romantic songs wash over you and enthrall with stirring melodies and evocative lyrics:

“Kisses on the foreheads of the lovers wrapped in your arms
You’ve been hiding them in hollowed out pianos left in the dark…”

To get a feel for the upcoming album, check out below the just-released Each Time You Fall In Love followed by Apocalypse. Both have been on repeat ever since we first heard the latter.

You can pre-order CAS debut album HERE.

The band is heading to Europe to tour in a few weeks and will hit the West Coast in September.  Get the dates and tickets HERE.


18
May

Listen To Another “Automatic” Anthem From Mondo Cozmo

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Well that didn’t take long. After first discovering the addicting anthems of Mondo Cozmo in March, the band has been lighting up stages everywhere opening for Bastille and is now a must-add for most festivals this summer (Sasquatch, Governor’s Ball, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, to name a few–see dates at bottom and get tickets HERE). And their homecoming show at the El Rey in September is sold out!

Word is out that the artist’s debut album, Plastic Soul, will be released later this year on Republic Records. We can’t wait! To whet our/your appetites further, Mondo Cozmo today released yet another anthem entitled Automatic. It’s another thrilling ride, maybe in automatic but with the pedal pounded to the floor. It’s also a great complement to the prior anthemic gems Shine, Hold On to Me, Higher, and Chemical Dream.

To quote the song: “It’s the end of the world and we’re doing it right.” Indeed!

Listen to Automatic below and bring on Plastic Soul!

Mondo Cozmo 2017 Tour Dates:
05/20 – Gulf Shores, AL @ Hangout Music Festival
05/26 – George, WA @ Sasquatch! Music Festival
05/28 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling
05/30 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground Ballroom
06/02 – Syracuse, NY @ The Lost Horizon
06/04 – New York, NY @ Governors Ball
06/06 – Covington, KY @ Madison Live!
06/08 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo Music Festival
06/10 – Mountain View, CA @ Live 105 BFD
06/15 – Dover, DE @ Firefly Music Festival
06/20 – London, UK @ The Lexington
06/24 – Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage
07/14 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
07/29 – Detroit, MI @ Mo Pop Festival
08/04 – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
08/10-11 – San Francisco, CA @ Outside Lands
09/15 – Burlington, VT @ Waterfront Park Burlington
09/22-24 – Las Vegas, NV @ Life is Beautiful
09/26 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
10/17 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
10/20 – Columbia, SC @ Music Farm

17
May

Check Out Two Great New Songs from Grizzly Bear (Despite Teaser-Marketing Campaign)

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Thanks to the digital media revolution, we live in an age in which there is more high-quality entertainment content available than can possibly be consumed. You simply can’t keep up. Adding to this conundrum, more artists (including favorite music artists such as Radiohead and Feist) are engaging in “teaser” social media marketing campaigns that feature “teaser” blurbs and bits of songs (i.e. “Teaser Marketing”) in advance of the regular new-release marketing efforts. Due respect to the marketing “genius” that dreamed this up, but please: MAKE IT STOP. We’re reasonably certain there are analytics that marketers are palming off on artists to support these “teaser campaigns,” but from our vantage these campaigns are a waste of a band’s time and money, and an annoyance. We refuse to spend our time on (oft-times) unintelligible, context-less teaser clips and song-snippets when we can instead be sifting through new whole songs or albums by others. More importantly, why would we or any media outlet (we’re looking at you Pitchfk, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, Spin, etc.) act irresponsibly and waste their readers’ time with such half-baked dross? Ultimately, these teaser campaigns may comprise so much “crying wolf” that the artists’ subsequent, fully-formed content is glossed over.

Take, for example, the recent teaser campaign for Grizzly Bear’s impending new album Painted Ruins. Since April 4th Grizzly Bear (another of our favorite bands) has released one cryptic sound-teaser after another. And we have purposefully ignored them all. So when the band finally revealed an actual, whole song (Three Rings) on May 4th, we completely missed it. Only today, when the band revealed a second new song (Mourning Sound), did we realize that the band’s teaser-campaign was over and actual songs were being revealed. All of which is a shame since both songs live up to the high standards we associate with Grizzly Bear.  Check ’em out below. Three Rings features the band’s signature high harmonies and musical mien, whereas the punny Mourning Sound has a new-wave chug that shares some classic 80s synthesizer inflections.

Confirming that we’re not alone in our teaser disdain, Grizzly Bear posted a mea culpa of sorts via Instagram.

Painted Ruins will be released on August 18th on RCA Records. Pre-order the album at iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play.

The band will also head out on tour this fall, including December dates in Cali. Check ’em out at bottom.

Tour Dates:

10/05 – Dublin, IE @ Vicar Street
10/06 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall
10/08 – Glasgow, UK @ O2 ABC
10/09 – London, UK @ O2 Academy Brixton
10/12 – Berlin, DE @ Columbiahalle
10/13 – Utrecht, NL @ Tivoli
10/14 – Brussels, BE @ Ancienne Belgique
10/16 – Paris, FR @ L’Olympia
11/01 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues
11/02 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
11/03 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
11/07 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
11/09 – Knoxville, TN @ The Mill & Mine
11/12 – New Orleans, LA @ Civic Theatre
11/14 – Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
11/15 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
11/16 – Miami, FL @ The Fillmore
11/18 – Mexico City, MX @ Corona Capital
11/26 – Montreal, QC @ Metropolis
11/27 – Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall
11/28 – Park Township, MI @ Royal Oak Music Theatre
12/01 – St. Paul, MN @ Palace Theatre
12/03 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
12/07 – Vancouver, BC @ Orpheum Theatre
12/08 – Seattle, WA @ Moore Theatre
12/09 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre
12/11 – San Francisco, CA @ Warfield Theatre
12/13 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern

 

16
May

Broken Social Scene’s “Hug Of Thunder”–The Second Highly-Anticipated Album of 2017 Featuring Feist

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When the standard “Mostly Highly Anticipated Albums of the Year” lists came out early in the year, we were left scratching our heads. Was it really possible that the hinted-at new album from Feist, one the best artists of our generation, would not make any of these lists?! You’re kidding, right? Nope. No mention was made of Feist’s album on Rolling Stone’sPitchfork’sConsequence of Sound’sStereogum’s or A.V. Club’s lists, to name but a few of the more popular music blogs. We won’t quarrel with some of the questionable artists on those lists (really? Sam Hunt, Little Big Town or soul-sucking Marilyn Manson?), but it is unfathomable to us that any such rags would leave Feist off those lists. Maybe a little too much internalized kool-aid is being swilled out there.

Feist’s album (which ultimately became her outstanding album Pleasure) has been at the top of our most highly anticipated albums, as has been the foreshadowed album from great Canadian ensemble Broken Social Scene (not to beat some dead media sites, but it’s worth noting that out of the above-referenced lists only Consequence of Sound included BSS’ album).

Thankfully news recently broke that Broken Social Scene will release it’s new album Hug of Thunder on July 7 via City Slang/Arts & Crafts. To whet appetites the band first revealed fullsome track Halfway Home (our Song of The Week). And now the band has released the title track to the album, which (coincidentally) features Feist. Double the anticipation.

The new album will feature 17 players including (in addition to Feist) original members Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw of Metric, Amy Millan and Evan Cranley of Stars, Charles Spearin and Ohad Benchetrit of Do Make Say Think.

With its opening minimalism and Feist’s rhythmically-delivered ruminations, Hug Of Thunder (lyrics at bottom) initially sounds as if it would fit pleasurably on Feist’s own Pleasure (high praise for the song). But as the song progresses BSS does its thing and adds on multiple layers of vocals, psychedelic sonics and warming effects to give it grandeur. Bravo!

Bring on a Hug of Thunder! You can pre-order the album HERE.

Hug Of Thunder:

“Many years before I kept track of the years I felt I would look back
Otherwise why did I write down everything that entered my mind
Check out these lines like I’m staring and I’m soon ticking when it is closed
In twenty holes how could I say what point I will gain perspective later on

No, I had to survive it by the soundtrack made of our short lives
Making sense of hologram ecology
I’ll be up crying, nursing into grace and
Hiding in the pages adding up to me

Eternity

‘Til I leave

It’s like a topography that is made from cartography of me
All those feelings everyday the bus stop pulls to size up the entire world
And while I broke your tubes and carving at me all the times I had done you wrong
I hope I’m sorry
Certain times in our lives come to take up more space than others

And time’s gonna take it
Time that Kenny said I broke in over the summer
It was the evening when he climbed that tree
I was afraid what he was doing inside so I
Followed him to stop a robbery

All along we’re gonna feel some numbness
Oxymoron of our lives
Getting fed up by the hunger
Supersize we found inside
He will know what’s real or numbness
Catching up and climbing life
Speaking like a hug of thunder
Lit up by the lights of dusk outside

All along we’re gonna feel some numbness
Oxymoron of our lives
Getting fed up by the hunger
Supersize we found inside
They won’t know us by our numbers
Catching up and climbing life
Speaking like a hug of thunder
Lit up by the lights of dusk outside

It was a military base across the street
We watch them training while we read

It was a military base across the street
We watch them training while we meet
We watch them training while we meet”

15
May

Britain’s Loyle Carner Begins U.S. Tour Tomorrow Night at Rickshaw Stop In San Francisco

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The fantastically talented Brit soul-rapper Loyle Carner is playing Bardot tonight in Hollywood tomorrow night at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. If it wasn’t for a lone performance at SXSW in 2015, tomorrow night tonight would be his debut in the U.S.. So to be safe we’ll just say that the soul-deep Carner is making his West Coast debut tomorrow night tonight, the first of only six shows in the States in support of his enthralling album Yesterday’s Gone, before returning to the UK to close out his tour (see dates HERE). As we wrote a few months ago, Carner is a 21-year old British rap/soul artist doing his best to transcend rap music’s stereotypical drugs and guns, and instead lift up family, lament the load of responsibility, pay tribute to musical fore-bearers, and grapple with faith and father figures (or the lack thereof. That’s all. His song Ain’t Nothing Changed is one of our favorite discoveries of the year. If you are capable of getting to the Rickshaw Stop tomorrow night Bardot tonight, do so or regret it later.

Below check out Damselfly, one of our other favorite tracks off of the superb Yesterday’s Gone album.