Saturday, March 28, 2009

Beach Break

I had the loftiest of goals to use some of my time on vacation to write more often. However, the sun (and numerous cervezas) seem to have tapped my energy. That isn't to say I'm not listening and ponderin musics. In fact, I will have reviews of some new acts you should be aware of as well as some soundtrack moments from my quick Mexican jaunt. So, don't worry there will be some fresh writing soon and to prime the audience I offer you a few beach worthy ditties:

Harlem Shakes - Sunlight

Rootbeer - Pink Limousine

The Ark
- This Piece of Poetry Is Meant To Do Harm

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Not knowing

As things have begun to warm up here in Philly the signs of Spring are v. noticeable; water ice has reappeared, as have short sleeves and skirts not to mention the option for outdoor dining and once again relying on mah bike Finn to get me everywhere. And while no one is more excited to put away the coat, break out the picnic blanket and usher in the inevitably balls hot sweaty summer heat than this girl I feel as though there needs to be a momentary pause to reflect on the chaos and change that this winter represented for so many. More than any other time in my life has change been so pervasive in everyone's lives. It has taken all forms good, bad, tragic, surprising, hopeful and revelatory but that's the way we evolve right? Pushing through each with our own degree of grace, self awareness and humor. Spring sets the perfect stage for paying our lessons forward, licking wounds, exploring new potential and saying fuck it to the obvious path and "yes please" to new adventures.

The soundtrack for this you ask? Well that's kinda up to you since you're all captains of your own ships (as my dad would say) but I'll get you started...

Dan Auerbach -When The Night Comes
Pausingly beautiful. Auerbach is the lead singer for the Black Keys, an excellent group in their own right so it should come as no surprise that his solo is as complex and carefully crafted as his recent release I Keep It Hid. This song speaks to my heads tendency to run amok at night and the need to put effort into calming my thoughts down or knowing who I can rely on to help with the effort.

Guillemots - Trains To Brazil (acoustic)
I adore the Guillemots. Their music is honest and varies enough to touch on a number of soundtrack moments (which is why they've been TV soundtrack friendly for a while now). The album version of this song is grand but I really like this pared down version. Mostly because it plays up their ability to craft a good lyric.

The Weepies - Can't Go Back Now
Another group you've heard on any number of TV shows. I was v. pleased when they started to get much deserved attention. This song is unabashedly on the feel good song but there's nothing wrong with that is there?

Innercity Pirates- Companimals
I just discovered this indie punk/pop gang from the UK. They are cheeky and irreverent and all in all a good time for the ears. They are charging through the blogosphere right now and I'm happy to join the pack. This song seemed particularly appropriate for this post. We are all a spot improved by a little companimal action, especially with sprinkles.

Ben Gibbard feat Jenny Lewis - Nothing Better
The original is fantastic but the addition of Ms. Lewis' fine vocals gives it a much appreciated softness. The crowd noise is a lil distracting but if you just listen to the lyrics and embrace the spirit of the moment it'll do its thing.

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.
- Gildna Radner

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tax Break

I'm about to dive into my taxes which will undoubtedly be a depressing process but dems da breaks for consultants. The few things that are going to get me through: knowing that next year I'll hopefully get breaks as a small business owner (thanks Obama), the supply of bevies in the fridge, the fact that tomorrow the weekend unofficially begins with Metropolis at the Barbary followed with Pink Skull Friday at Transit and finally the playlist of new to me tunes I'll be listening to as I shuffle through all these papers, ugh. I thought I'd share a little of the action with those of you who may be taxing or simply in need of a mid week new music mix.

Bell X1 Saw them perform last fall and was a little disappointed but with the recent release of Blue Lights On The Runway I'd give them a second chance. Blow Ins is just one tracks off the album I'm enjoying.

Plushgun I have a soft spot for Plushgun. Not really sure why. Perhaps its their new wave danciness er their lyrics but I'm not in a questioning mood so just go with it... Dancing In A Minefield

The Weakerthans very similar to Death Cab with beautiful songwriting and simply rhythms. They never disappoint especially when I'm needing a spot of thinking music. Left & Leaving
is a superb song for reflecting.

Cursive Their new album Mama I'm Swollen is getting a lot of attention and for good reason, its really good. The folks at Saddle Creek have a true ear for talent. The rolling instrumentals on From The Hips drive the pace of the lyrics from shoegaze to full horn section rock out. I'm itching to catch these guys live.

Dinosaur Feathers A Brooklyn band that I came upon whose interesting hollow harmonies and unique percussion have kept them on frequent repeat lately. The song behind the title Teenage Whore isn't what you'd expect. Take a listen to it (and the rest of their stuff) and you'll know what I mean. Can't wait to see what these kids have coming round the pike.

Harlem Shakes Currently these guys are tearing it up in Austin and I wish I could be there to see the line up they've managed to put together all in anticipation of the release of Technicolor Health. Strictly Game is a taste of what that album will have to offer and I for one can't wait to see them in April when they role through Philly.

Ok, enough with the procrastinating time to get down to business.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bishop Allen & Mt St Helen's Vietnam Band - First Unitarian Church

Spring is in the air and the number of quality shows passing through town are once again picking up. The concert calendar got a surge of energy on Thursday with Bishop Allen's show at the First Unitarian Church. I missed the first opener but arrived just in time to see Mt St. Helen's Vietnam Band take the stage. I had streamed their new album earlier in the week before realizing that they were opening the BA show. To be honest the album seemed a little disjointed as a whole but has some very strong singles (Albatross, Albatross, Albatross & El Fuego). Once I figured out that I would be seeing them I did a little research to figure out their story. Thanks to another excellent interview on Pop Tarts Suck Toasted I got their back story. I'll let you go there to read it yourself but the key take away is the fact that the drummer is a 14 year old kid whose adoptive parents are also in the band. Intriguing? Yes. A schtick? Perhaps. But let me tell you half way through the first song it was very clear Marshall is a wicked talent. The group has a very distinct sound. Heavily influenced by hard core punk but drawn over the slower paces often found in recent indie rock bands. What is most remarkable are the percussion's syncopation's. They stop, drop, twitch,trip you up and break your groove. But in a good way. You have to be on top of you game to keep rhythms like this moving and coordinated with the rest of the gang. They powered their way through a thoroughly awesome set again with Albatross, Albatross, Albatross & El Fuego as the stand outs. I would easily pay to see MSHVB play again and see how their sound develops as their central member pulls down a few more years.

Bishop Allen got their business set up with impressive speed and dove head first into Rooftop Brawl a romping track off of their new release Grrr... BA's two founding members Christian Rudder and Justin Rice each exude their own degree of enthusiasm on stage [Rudder displays a modest Ben Lee like joy while Rice tends towards children's performer pep] that together got even the too-cool-to-dance high schooler hipster crowd moving.

Bishop Allen's lyrics have always nibbled at my ear whether they be ballad-y (Rooftop Brawl or Flight 180) or precise collections of witty musings (Click,Click,Click or The Ancient Commonsense of Things). Seeing them perform live gave their lyrics a sheen not captured in their recordings. There is an sincere degree of performance Rudder and Rice infuse in the delivery of every song, not surprising since they both dabble in the actor thing, which draws you in to the swing or bop of their sound.

The songs off Grrr... definitely lean a little more towards the absurd than previous albums featuring a circus of animal references with a smattering of food allusions. And its hard to ignore the influence of Pet Sounds and the peppiest of 80's new wave in BA's collective work; but when being sung by Rudder with Rice cajoling him with his guitar or, at the most sublime moments a ukulele, it doesn't seem hoaky at all. Rather, it becomes clear this music is at its zenith when seen live because it is meant to be experienced.

The supporting cast of characters on this tour are Darbie Nowatka who did the beautiful Butterfly Nets and rocked dem wooden mallet percussion instruments as well as the mouth keyboard. Michael Tapper grounding all the playfulness on drums. And the fantastic Keith Poulson on bass. Here I will admit to having an affinity for bassists as I once was one but Poulson's contribution to the evening deserves a little call out. He laid out the bass lines with that hint of shyness I fully appreciate but with a much more noticeable glisten of joy from being on stage doing what he obviously loves. This incarnation of Bishop Allen absolutely nails the perfect combination of playful performance and excellent musical delivery. Even if you don't like the new record you should still make an effort to see Bishop Allen live to fully appreciate the sound the group as whole has crafted.

Thanks to the crew at Crawdaddy for filling in the missing Keith_____ piece.

Mt St Helen's Vietnam Band

Bishop Allen

Flight 180
Cue The Elephants
Butterfly Nets

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I'm a rabid supporter of small local businesses. I was raised in an independent bookstore and have always patronized at the stand alone shops when its an option. I was really jazzed to see the small record stores are banding together to draw attention to their cause. April 18 independent shops all over the country will be hosting in store performances, sales and other crowd pleasing events to celebrate the contribution record stores have made to music.

The Record Stores that hold a sweet spot in my heart...
Rockin Rudy's -Missoula MT • Electric Fetus - Minneapolis MN • AKA Records - Philadelphia Fifth Element - Minneapolis MN •

The site has gathered quotes from artists about what record stores mean to them...

"Immersing yourself in the environment of a real record store where music is celebrated and cherished adds real value to the experience of buying music. In some ways, that retail experience is as important as the music."- John Mellencamp

"I've always enjoyed the record shops...they gave me a reason to leave my house."- Pete Yorn

"well it's pretty simple.....record stores have people in them. actual people. people working. people shopping. people listening. people eating. people dancing. people smoking. people laughing. people drinking. sounds pretty cool to me."- Aaron Espinoza (Earlimart)

“Record stores have a magic about them that’s totally unique. They are a place where you can come across music and culture that you’re not open to in any other way, often by accident. I love that hands-on experience of browsing and buying music, and so I wish the Record Store Day every success “- James Morrison

Something In The Water

One of the reasons I chose to move to Philadelphia was the local music scene. Leaving Minneapolis' well of phenomenal acts (LifterPuller, Atmosphere, Tapes n' Tapes, Prince, etc. etc.) was rough but Philly's equally rich and underrated musical culture made it an leap I was eager to make. Never would I imagine its offerings would continually awe me. What makes is even more fantastic is the affordability of shows and quality small venues. I have had the pleasure of catching some of the better known native acts ( The Roots, Dr. Dog, These United States [I consider Md part of the package]) as well as some of their lesser knowns. Since I makes my livins promoting, building and supporting small local businesses I feel compelled to spread the love to the music world.

This weekend I capped off the weekend with a show at the M Room. My friend Max's group Deadly Technologies was performing with a strong set of openers. DT's show was a display of robot amazingness. They are playing Lit Lounge this Thursday and if you're in NYC you should go for a taste of their synthpop magic. One of the acts that opened for em was Chang Chang . A philly native who, with a bit of careful spelunking of the indie hip-hop scene, could turn his talent into a viable gig. His tracks are witty, boppable and intelligently honest, you can't help but smirk when listening. He's not the typical wrap package which is what initially grabbed me when kept me listening was his self-depreciating well thought out rhymes. The demo he gave me is further evidence there's more than meets the eye. If he can lock in some attention with what he's got now and continue to push himself and improve I could see him going places. Speaking of which, he and his mannequin are headed to SXSW so if you see Chang Chang on the line up stop in.

My friend Keith has been responsible for introducing me to some solid new acts lately. The first of which was Jotto, a gang of his friends who have actually turned their cliche' college band into a viable (and touring) act. I have listened to the breadth of their work and you can hear the refinement of their talent and sound. They're moving towards a well balanced rock sound. Their combined musical talent (and well crafted lyrics) is sturdy enough to propell their sound through a taste of synthy experimentation on their new EP Good Friend Electric. The new edge sounds good on them and pushes them into a sound that is more distinctly their own. I haven't seen them live yet but I'm looking forward to the opportunity since I've heard good things about their live show as well.

Perhaps the most well know of these three is Drink Up Buttercup. These guys rock a sound that reminds me a little of later Beach Boys, mixed with some of the Manchester UK acts out there right now and a pinch of Animal Collective. What continually strikes me about their music are the strong vocals. Not to say their instrumentals aren't tight but they obviously know the intricacies required to harmonize while building catchy riffs whithout letting either side step on the other. Even when they get a little fuzzy (in a good way) they maintain this balance which is what makes songs like Mr. Pie Eyes and Gods & Gentlemen irresistably singable. A characteristic that has made their live shows a lot of fun. They too are Austin bound for SXSW.

Here are some tasters for your listening pleasure but please PLEASE pay for the rest of their stuff. These guys are the ones who need what little cut they get from your .99!

Chang Chang-
Couples Shouldn't Break Up They Should Break Apart
Whatever Gets You F*%#

Bang Shoot Shoot Bang

Drink Up Buttercup-
Gods & Gentlemen
Mr Pie Eyes

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Only in my wildest dreams...

I have always wanted to have large scale dances break out at various points in my life. I'm talking stuff like the Thriller Dance in 13 Going on 30 or the David Bowie Dance Along in A Knights Tale I came very close at my senior prom when Follow The Leader was played and a bunch of us who had learned the dance broke out together. But it lacked a sincere level of group commitment. When my sister sent this to me my first thought was this sort of thing needs to happen MUCH more. And with so many people idle (cough, unemployed) out there I say the time is now! I personally would have exploded with glee were this to happen around me.

A few other videos to check out as apparently this week my mind is on dancing...
The Ark - Worrying Kind
The Ark - One Of Us Is Gonna Die Young

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tapes N' Tapes @ Johnny Brenda's

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Minneapolis band Tapes n' Tapes. Beyond simply sharing a hometown my connection to T n' T goes back to my college days when I watched lead singer Josh Grier rock out with Tape's original line up at the Cave, our on campus bar. While ironically the runner up two years in a row in Carleton's battle of the bands Josh has certainly shown them.

When The Loon dropped in 2005 I saw all of their local Minneapolis shows which were basically mini reunions and always a lot of fun. But I was really curious what a show would be like outside the hometown crowd and admittedly a wee surprised that they sold out JB's.

Openers were The Subjects - who were excellent (enough so to warrant a little additional TWIPC love in a eminent post)- and WildLight who weren't horrible but not notable (beyond mentioning their skin grafted jeans).

The band line up has settled into Josh, Jeremy (insanely good drummer) Matt (ambidextrous trumpeter & keyboardist) and Eric (beautiful bassist). It is this quartet that released last years Walk It Off, which thankfully suffered not from the dreaded sophomore slump and who graced the stage last night.

The set list was a mix of old, new and unreleased. It was really awesome to see how they have embraced their rock side with a little more confidence. I had noticed it when I heard Walk it Off and I guess I passed it off as exploring a harder sound but after seeing them perform I think it is simply the result of touring and finding their comfort zone. Older songs like Ten Gallon Ascot and Manitoba were given new life by funkier and more aggressive guitars. The pure rock out on new songs like Hang Them All and Say Back Something was totally felt by the many many plaid clad college boys busting a move in the crowd.

The fella's of Tapes n' Tapes were wickedly talented in their own right to begin with but I got a sense of complete togetherness last night that made their show much tighter and entertaining than I was expecting. Erik's delight was visible, seeing someone who clearly enjoys what they do contributes greatly to a live show and his head boppin grin inducing bass playing pushed the rhythm while adding some depth on the slow building jazzy Ten Gallon Ascot. Jeremy's drumming is the product of someone who obviously appreciates the little things. He breaks apart the typical percussive riff and infuses a little jazz pattern or simply his own little touch. Hearing his style develop floors me considering he is still quite young. Matt seemed to be adding a touch of playfulness to the trumpet and keyboard action. I can hardly walk and text so seeing someone so comfortable playing two totally different instruments flawlessly is something I can't help but respect. And Josh, what an artist and showman he has become. His voice has aged well (despite his claims that his throat was weak) allowing him to nail some pretty authentic rock vocals. Its cool to see someone develop like he has and I really look forward to seeing what is yet to come.

On the whole the crowd was feeling them. Towards the end of their set their sound got much richer and the slow walking jazz-flavor carried us right to the edge of their raunchier rock side. They capped it strong and left me looking forward to my next chance to catchem live, as you should too.

some sounds for your pleasure
Ten Gallon Ascot
Hang Them All