Watch Chamber-Perfect Performance of Sensational “Mercury” by Planetarium

Just last week we attended one of Planetarium’s four worldwide concerts at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and witnessed the wake-the-dead sound-kaleidoscope that this sensational ensemble can produce live. We were somewhat surprised, then, when we stumbled upon the video below of a pared-down, chamber-orchestra take on the group’s sensational song Mercury. We loved the song the first time we heard it and at HFC, but the superb granular approach below, in which each instrument is discernible and puzzle-perfect, fits the mercurial beauty of the song oh so well  (lyrics at bottom).  [Is it just us, or does Stevens invoke Carrie & Lowell both melodically and lyrically at the pun-y “Carrier, friend, Where do you run?” juncture of the song?] As always, Sufjan Stevens’ stunning vocal sucks you in, then Nico Muhly’s decorative piano celestially seasons the tones, Bryce Dessner’s guitar-trills embroider the melody, and the violinist brings vibrato bravura, all helping to render the song perfectly. Beauty right there.

“All that I’ve known to be of life
And I am gentle
You ran off with it all
And I am faithful
All that I felt within my arms
And I am weightless
You ran off with it all
And I am speechless
All that I’ve said to get it right
And I am confident
You ran off with it all
And I am steadfast
All that I thought, to be precise
And I am consequence
You ran off with it all
And I am sorry

And I am sorry
All that I’ve known to be at peace
And I am desperate
You ran off with it all
And I am restless
All that I’ve known to be of love
And I am gentle
You ran off with it all
And I am desperate
All that I dream
Where do you run, where do you run to?
And I’m evidence
All that I dream
Where do you run, where do you run to?
And I am faithless
All that I dream
Where do you run, where do you run to?
Now I am messed up
All that I dream
Where do you run, where do you run to?
Carrier, friend
Where do you run?”


Check Out Grave New Iron & Wine Video for “Thomas County Law”

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Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam has been all over the map lyrically. But while Beam’s geographical subject matters have ranged beyond the South (among other sites, Hollywood and Los Angeles have shown up), a good majority of his songs have been set in his Southern homeland. Yesterday Beam added another fine South-set song entitled Thomas County Law (Georgia) via the release of its official video, which you can watch below. Beam obviously enjoys gallows humor since he chose yesterday, his birthday, to release this video in which he gives the eulogy at his own, unattended funeral. That’s funny!

Thomas County Law follows Iron & Wine’s announcement of impending new album Beast Epic on Sub Pop Records, and the release last month of the superb new song Call It Dreaming.

About the new song, Beam has written: “The song’s content has to do with both denying and accepting one’s origins.  So I think a film of me giving the eulogy at my own funeral is ecstatically appropriate.  [In the song’s video] the building really did all the heavy lifting for us as we started brainstorming the concept together.  I like the simplicity of it: a task begun and finished.”

As usual, Beam’s lyrics contain poetic gems such as:

“The church bell isn’t kidding when it cries for you.”

“There’s nowhere safe to bury all the time I’ve killed.”

And this stellar stanza:

“Thomas County Law’s got a crooked tooth
There ain’t a mother with a heart less than black and blue
When they hold ’em to the light, you can see right through
Every dreamer falls asleep in their dancing shoes
I may say I don’t belong here, but I know I do”

Epic Beast will be released on August 25th on Sub Pop Records and you can pre-order it HERE.


Review: Mondo Cozmo Takes Crowd Higher and Higher at “Sound In Focus”

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Where were you when you first heard Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit? Many music fans can tell you (Ed.: Bay Bridge on-ramp). It’s rare that a song and sound can come along and hit so hard. Though rare, lightning can strike more than once.

Fast forward to March 11th of this year when we were again driving and a song came over the radio-waves and seized us by the ears, demanding our full attention. The band was Mondo Cozmo, and the song was their enveloping ode Hold On To Me. We immediately flew off into the Mondo Cozmos and discovered a cache of catchy and evocative anthems, songs so good they demanded repetition. And so began our infatuation with this band fronted by Josh Ostrander (formerly of Eastern Conference Champions). For Ostrander and band, you just knew they would join those who, after working for 10-15 years, became overnight successes.

On Saturday we finally took in the live, soaring sounds of Mondo Cozmo at the Sound in Focus series put on by KCRW at the Annenberg Space for Photography. As the second-billed band (following Lo Moon and preceding Paul Oakenfold), Mondo Cozmo came out swinging on Chemical (with Ostrander sporting red-white-and-blue guitar), and then took the crowd higher on the himalayan Higher. They then mixed in a few new songs (including 11 Acre and the live debut of affecting ballad Angel), performed the great, languid rave-up Plastic Soul, and then covered Faces’ seminal old singalong Ooh-La-La. Ostrander told how, in his own mind, he had planned to have Faces’ Rod Stewart join Mondo Cozmo on-stage for Ooh-La-La, only to be brought back out of the cosmos to earth when Stewart’s manager let him know that the Hall of Famer was out on tour and unavailable. Ostrander “had to learn, and that’s the hardest way.”

The band then shifted into overdrive to close out their impressive set with the titanic trifecta of Hold Onto Me, breakout hit and crowd-winning Shine, and the ridiculously catchy and powerful single Automatic. Ostrander was backed perfectly onstage by talented band members Drew Beck on guitar, James Gordon on keys/vocals, Chris Null on bass/vocals and Andrew Tolman absolutely roiling on drums. The band rounded out the stage with two talented horn players for a full “E-Street” (their words) sound.

Given this was a “free” show graciously put on by the Annenberg and KCRW, you never know what you’re going to get with a crowd. Despite this scenario and having started their set with only a small crowd up on their feet, by the time Mondo Cozmo closed their set they had the entire, enormous crowd on their feet clapping and jumping along with the band and its charismatic leader. Time will tell, but this band feels like the real thing. If they can keep crafting songs of similar high quality and verve, this talented band and the size of their audience are both going to go higher and higher. Catch ’em soon, before you can’t. Locals’ next chance is at the El Rey Theater on 9/26, and you can get tickets HERE.

Their outstanding debut album Plastic Soul will be released on August 4th via Republic Records, and you can pre-order it HERE.

Artwork by Tad Wagner of Tad Wagner Studio.

Photos by LA Music Scene and Lefort.


Watch Another Fantastic Radiohead Set–I-Days Festival Milan 6/16/17

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The altruistic Radiohead is being incredibly generous and intermittently posting high-quality videos of their concerts. In addition to their prior release of their Coachella show, the band has now released their phenomenal show (that setlist!!–check at bottom) at the I-Days Festival near Milan on June 16th.  Check it out below in all its glory. As hard as it is to imagine after attending their show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, this is a band that is still evolving and improving. Just check out Myxomatosis below to see what we’re talking about. Incredible! Added bonus: watch Thom Yorke speak Italian.


Desert Island Disk
Ful Stop
15 Step
The National Anthem
All I Need
Pyramid Song
Everything in Its Right Place
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
The Numbers
Exit Music (for a Film)
Paranoid Android

First Encore:

2 + 2 = 5
Fake Plastic Trees

Second Encore:

Lotus Flower
Karma Police


Review: Planetarium Brings New Life to Songs Among the Dead at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (7/20)

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Artwork by Tad Wagner*

Never has the phrase “the music really came alive live” been more apropos than among the dead at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery last night when Planetarium (Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister) imbued serious new life into their serious songs. If we’re being honest, the Planetarium album is not a light or uncomplicated affair (even for students/fans of classical music–Ed.: guilty), and its seriousness can, at times, gravely hold down the celestial affair. On this tour, however, Planetarium has smartly stripped out some of the instrumental segments and classical-arrangements, and added energetic tempos and playing, leaving a set that is more song-oriented and enthralling (but without losing any of the dynamism or complexities of the album).

Though Planetarium added two violinists and four horns (the “chamber players”) to their show, it was really the performances of the four main members that breathed new life into the songs. Stevens is always fantastic live, with his vocal gymnastics, instrumental/electronics/autotune acumen, storytelling and genuineness with his audience. Just as impressive was The National’s Bryce Dessner who stepped out of the album’s shadows and let his guitar playing shine, with complex runs, fierce strumming and impassioned stage-presence (Dessner also became only the third guitar player we’ve seen successfully employ a bow on his guitar–the other two being mere slouches Jimmy Page during the ’75 Zeppelin tour and Jonny Greenwood during Radiohead’s 2008 tour). In addition to his arrangements, Nico Muhly led well from his keyboard, adding compelling piano, organ and electronica flourishes. Finally, James McAlister added stentorian percussion ranging from his knock-ya-down kick-drum to subtly-complex tom and cymbal embellishments. Together, they seriously enlivened the proceedings and surroundings.

Highlights from the set were opener Neptune, Jupiter, a shining Sun, a powerfully-kinetic Saturn, the all-important Earth and the “hit,” Mercury. Planetarium would return for their encore to perform two poignant, celestial-themed sing-alongs to the dead. First was the seminal Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which was sung/autotuned superbly by Sufjan to Judy Garland (pictured behind the stage) who is now buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  And they closed the show with a chill-inducing, powerful performance of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.  ‘Twas a perfect ending to a great show.

Their show at the hallowed Hollywood Forever Cemetery was one of only four performances worldwide in support of their album. They close out their tour tonight in Oakland at the Fox Theater. Be there!

*Tad Wagner is a gifted artist, illustrator, letterer, musician and all-around great human who provides concert review artwork for the The Lefort Report.


Phoebe Bridgers Announces Upcoming Debut Album–Watch Moving “Motion Sickness” Lyric Video

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Incredibly promising artist Phoebe Bridgers’ Smoke Signals remains our Best Song of 2017 (So Far). High praise given the superb music released this year by the likes of Broken Social Scene, Feist, The National and a host of other stalwarts.  Bridgers has now announced that her debut album will be entitled Stranger In The Alps and will be released in September on Dead Oceans. Bridgers also released new song Motion Sickness, and it is another well-wrought winner about a losing proposition. Check out this beauty below (lyrics at bottom).  You can pre-order Stranger In The Alps HERE.

Motion Sickness:

“I hate you for what you did
and I miss you like a little kid
I faked it every time but that’s alright
I can hardly feel anything
I hardly feel anything at all

You gave me fifteen hundred
to see your hypnotherapist
I only went one time
you let it slide
fell on hard times a year ago
was hoping you would let it go and you did

I have emotional motion sickness
somebody roll the windows down
There are no words in the English language
I could scream to drown you out

I’m on the outside looking through
You’re throwing rocks around your room
and while you’re bleeding on your back in the glass
I’ll be glad that I made it out
and sorry that it all went down like it did

I have emotional motion sickness
somebody roll the windows down
There are no words in the English language
I could scream to drown you out

And why do you sing with an English accent
I guess it’s too late to change it now
You know I’m never gonna let you have it
but I will try to drown you out

You said when you met me you were bored
You said when you met me you were bored
And you you were in a band when I was born

I have emotional motion sickness
I try to stay clean and live without
and I want to know what would happen
If I surrender to the sound

Surrender to the sound”


Watch Planetarium Perform “Mercury” Last Night on Colbert’s Late Show

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As warned, supergroup Planetarium performed last night on Colbert’s Late Show. Watch below as Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister and winsomely supporting horn trio and dueling violins perform the magnificent Mercury off the group’s superb new album. Planetarium performs in Brooklyn tonight, LA on Thursday (Hollywood Forever Cemetery) and Oakland on Friday. That’s it! Tickets are still available for the Hollywood Forever Cemetery show and you can get them HERE. Don’t miss this opportunity to catch Planetarium live, which (given its members’ demanding schedules) may come along about as often as Hale-Bopp.

Planetarium is out on 4AD, and you can order the album HERE


Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister Perform on Colbert Tonight–Watch New Video for “Neptune”

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We’ve written repeatedly about Sufjan Stevens’ stellar (if you will) project Planetarium with Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister. Tonight you can see what all the hubbub’s about when the group performs on Colbert’s Late Show. In addition, the group today released a new lyric video for celestial song Neptune (lyrics at bottom). Check it out below.

The ensemble is performing a total of four Planetarium shows worldwide (see below), including this Thursday (July 20th) at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Tickets are still available so be there!

7-10 Paris, France – Philharmonie de Paris
7-18 Brooklyn, NY – Prospect Park
7-20 Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Forever Cemetery
7-21 Oakland, CA – Fox Theater

Planetarium is out on 4AD, and you can order it HERE


“What’s right and what’s wrong?
Don’t you hold me too lightly to words
As I’ve rounded them off to the nearest of ten
For I gathered your body in envious capture in envious thought

Oh forgive me, oh gods or forgive me in fortune
Forgive me in feeling it out for myself
As I ought to have feelings for something as great as thou art

Some great white rose of youth
Your pleasure gives of my own heart
Generous portions wisely
Breaks of my own heart
I felt the arm’s length while I’ve gone on my own way

Conserve me, strange waters
Come and obey me, strange waters
Have it your own way

So if you won’t hold me, I have no objections
So if you won’t please me
I make no commands
So if you don’t trust me, it’s best if I drown”


Watch Underappreciated Vocalist Damon Albarn and Mura Masa Perform “Blu” on La Blogothèque

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Mura Masa is Brit producer Alex Crossan, and for his just-released debut album he’s managed to corral a group of guests, including the ridiculously talented Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz, etc.). While his songwriting, instrumental, arrangement, and production talents are oft-praised, Albarn doesn’t get enough credit for his singular, nuanced vocals. To hear what we’re saying, watch Albarn’s understated but deeply-felt vocal on the Mura Masa song Blu, as captured live by La Blogothèque. After some gibberish, the song actually starts at 1:45. Proof positive that Albarn could even sing Rod McKuen and make him sound interesting.


Watch Feist’s “Century” Video

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Yesterday Feist achieved a fantastic hat-trick: her phenomenal Pleasure album was selected for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize Short List; her mega-hit album The Reminder observed its 10th anniversary; and she released the official video for her cataclysmic, yet-hopeful song-of-love Century.

The video depicts Feist and another femme each leading gangs grappling with each other beneath an overpass. Our favorite portion is at 3:13 when the actors break up the fight and instead turn to each other and pantomime the lyrics: “Someone who will lead you to someone, who will lead you to someone, who will lead you to the one, at the end of the century.” Sweetness. Afterwards Jarvis Cocker (Pulp) delivers his arithmetical monologue from the song.

Check it out below.