Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Most Serene Republic @ North Star Bar

Friday night I left New York under ominous conditions and a ceiling of crazy cool clouds, to make the drive back to Philly to see The Most Serene Republic at North Star Bar. The normally 75 min drive took a full two hours with intense lighting and torrential rains holding nothing back over the New Jersey Turnpike. The delay caused me to miss Wheat at Kung Fu Necktie which I feel really horrible about cause I like their stuff and was really looking forward to the show. I was pleased to find we had only missed the first of two openers for TMSR.

The other opener Buried Beds did a good job prepping the audience for TMSR to take the stage. While not entirely remarkable Buried Beds attempted to include pretty much every indie/pop/alt country trend device; chamberish harmonies, regular use of strings (in this case violin) and crowding the stage with a small village of band members. All of this without managing to really establish a clear sense of what impression they wanted to leave behind. Although there were a few songs towards the end of their set that begin to suggest the potential of good things to come for the group.

The Most Serene Republic came to my attention via Ryan Hansen of Ryspace about two months ago and I have been looking forward to this show ever since. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the hard to define but easily listenable troupe but hardly could have hoped for the musical mastery I witnessed.

The group is about to drop a new album so there were a lot of new unheard songs on display but they still included some of the older stuff. The new material tends toward the pop end of the progressive indie music spectrum. But it is most def. a thinking man's pop. Songs like Heavens To Purgatory use a little banjo and thumping bass loop to bounce along chasing some of the best guy/girl vocals in the biz. Despite using the word Gadzooks the Canadian outfit manages to avoid Twee territory by grounding it with juicy instrumentals. Other new pieces were more reminiscent of their older more typical progressive rock sound which appealed to the die hard fans in attendance.

Watching them perform really adds another layer of appreciation for their distinct sound. The songs are far more epic live then on record, an effect achieved by the well placed horn lines and the occasional string contribution. Like other bands I really love both live and recorded (Frightened Rabbit for example) it was evident these guys all knew their music inside and out; their own lines and times as well as their band mates. The comfortable way they interact both musically and personally on stage contributes to a very inclusive concert experience. Plus the presence of hand clapping and the dose of humor brought by lead vocalist Adrian also keeps it from getting too cerebral.

The gave new shine to some of their earlier works to balance out the new stuff. The version of Compliance started with lulling and scenic instrumentals that dropped you off at the door of strong in you face vocals. I was not expecting but fully adored this departure from the album version. Phages was a bit more like the album arrangement but simply in the live setting it too carried a new appeal.

By the time they ended their set I felt as though I had witnessed the most complete live set I'd seen in a while. There was something for everyone, including the band who all seemed to take a certain pleasure in the particular tracks they had chosen for the evening. We grabbed the new album (which comes out in July) and I had it on repeat most of the weekend. Go grab the first single and find out if they're in your area cause both the live and recorded versions of TMSR are worth your complete love and adoration.

Heavens To Purgatory

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remix Rehash: Das Racist + CJ Mili + Sammy Bananas +JhnRdn + IAMXL

This is a doozy of a remix post kids. I guess the beginning of summer, or at least what the calendar says is the start of the summer, has put people in a mixy mood cause there has been a mad influx of good noise in my inbox. Put 'em on your shuffle, power up the office soundtrack or add them to your dance mix do whatever you need to fully enjoy them.

D.A.N.C.E. Happens - IAMXL

A full on mix this is. Lengthy and satiating. Should keep you humming well beyond its hour playtime. Bulletproof talent once again on display from Vancouver's DJ darling.

Don Diablo vs The Roots - The Seed 3.0
This classic Roots bit is brought back around with Don Diablo's revival touch. Enough of a new shine without overwhelming the solid and recognizable funk bass lines of the original.

Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell - Das Racist
This remix is just ridiculously catchy. Not particularly cerebral but sometimes that's the determining factor.

Nothing 2 Step 2 - Sammy Bananas
It seems Sammy has no planes on slowing down any time soon. He keeps pumping out the killer remixes and appearing at the freshest of parties (FAM[thursdays at Bowery] and The Players Club most recently). And does frequency affect quality? Never!

H.A.L. naw - CJ Mili
The lovely Sheenabeaston brought this track to my attention. A little dirty south always reminds me of hot sticky summer days. CJ Mili does some highly enjoyable pop dancey remixes so if you like this one be sure to check out the rest.

Peak Hour Live MIXX - JhnRdn
And finally in honor of two excellent dance party events going down this weekend in Philly [Making Time Pool Party Saturday afternoon then progress to Live Forever Saturday night at the Barbary] a mix offered up by one of my local favs JhnRdn.

The Day The King of Pop Died

A little wind has been taken out of my music sails. He impacted so much of what we know of music from funk to pop. MJ's influence will never be forgotten.

My fondest MJ memory has got to be the summer one family on our block rented a big screen television and got the pay-per-view Black or White Concert for all the kids to come over and watch. We couldn't have rocked any harder if we were front row at the actual concert. We danced and sang along until all of us collapsed on the floor. There are few people, let alone musicians who could reach through a television into a living room in suburban Minnesota and thoroughly blow the minds of a bunch of Midwestern kids. He will be missed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bag Of Songs & TWIAPC Present: Dinosaur Feathers @ The M Room

July 19th Bag Of Songs and The World In A Paper Cup present Brooklyn band Dinosaur Feathers at the M Room stage for their Philly debut. This is one of those opportunities to see a band that will be gathering much more buzz as the year goes on so be sure to mark your calendar.

Here's a little street work they did for L Magazine's Northside Festival

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Return To The Carleton College Days: A Musical Tribute

I'm in Northfield MN this weekend for my five year college reunion so I figured it would only be appropriate to post a mix in honor of this fantastic occasion. The following songs will make a lot of sense (and hopefully loosen a smirk) for anyone who was on that crazy four year trip with me. The rest of you enjoy a nice little collection of covers...
Gin & Juice - The Gourds
Like A Virgin - Ryan Adams
There She Goes - The Wombats
Crazy -The KooksAss N' Titties- The Matt Smith
1234 - Bikini
Can I Kick It - Lykke Li
Like I Love You - Maximo ParkRight Back To Where We Started From - Army Navy
Hyperballad - The Accidentals

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Northside Festival "Best Of"

The first Annual Northside Festival spread itself over all things Brooklyn this past weekend. As I have been staying in Greenpoint during this phase of my Wandering Summer of '09 it was almost too easy to dip in and out of the numerous shows being hosted as part of this event's pilot year. L Magazine pulled together a slew of venues and they, in turn, pulled in the acts. For a first year it went relatively smoothly. Since I am not a NY blogger, and wouldn't imagine competing with the fine review work to be found Here > Here > Here > Here (amongst others) I am simply giving you a taste of the best acts I saw.Savoir Adore - This duo+ came to my attention due to some good buzz after SXSW. Its all true folks. They're great. So much so I saw them twice. A little glam rock vibe with solid bass lines and a lot of fabulous guy girl harmonies.
(Download their EP too)
photo courtesy of Hannah Bergqvist
Xylos - These guys could easily provide the soundtrack to a summer at the beach. Their lyrics are good from the start and the whole package gets better the more I listen to them. They're currently recording their full length so keep an eye out for that this fall as well as a little more tour action to support the effort. I have a feeling we'll see a bit of them in Philly and of course I'll keep you posted.
This House We Built
(EP action here)Anamanaguchi - What do you get when you take a old school nintendo + electronic music and put it in the hands of knowledgeable tech heads? You get Anamanaguchi. This group had one of the most visually appealing sets we caught. They play the video games behind them as they provide a the live music (all out of a high jacked nintendo game system.) My picture doesn't do its awesomeness full due it looks like they'll by in the Philly-dom this summer so you'll be able to experience it yourself.
Dawn Metropolis

Pink Skull - This Philly act has appeared on TWIAPC before so its not entirely a new introduction to their brilliance but their show at Death By Audio was such an exciting suggestion of whats to come on their fall release that I can't help but start to build your anticipation for this dance friendly group. they'll be at Schmidt's piazza this Saturday as part of the 2nd St Festival go and be ready to groove.
Get Inside (My Tiny Pyramids)

photo courtesy of Steve Harmon
Laura Gibson - The final show we saw was Laura Gibson at Studio B. I've seen her before but she too displayed incredible growth of some already wonderous talent. Hers is a sweet vice with a little twist of, well, a life actually lived and felt...genuinely. Her backing band was also a sight to behold. Passing a variety of instrument tween the two of them and also contributing a grand addition to Ms Gibson's beautiful lead.

Very Honorable Mentions:
Screaming Females


Sunday, June 14, 2009

SHOWS!!! Jenny Lewis at The Troc

I remember seeing Jenny Lewis in Troop Beverly Hills when I was a kid and being totally jazzed by seeing a red head get screen time. I guess you could say I had a little bit of a crush on her. Then all these years later she goes and gets even awesomer by proving her chops as a fantastic singer. First with Rilo Kiley then on her lonesome (two albums deep now for those of you just peaking out from under your rock). I've missed the opportunity to see her live show twice now so when I she came within proximity for a third time I cleared the schedule.

After what I witnessed on that stage at the Trocadero I am now fully enamored with Miss Lewis. Not only did her vocals continually impress for the entirety of her hour plus set but she worked that stage in a way that, regardless of your age, sex or persuasion you couldn't help but fall in love with her. She opened with Fernando which was an excellent way to charge out of the gates and show off the excellent band she has backing her on this tour. The percussion was a group effort and, in what is becoming a much appreciated live show trend, threw a full body display into playing it and Fernando never sounded better.

Jenny strutted through old, new and Riley pieces. She gave some of the songs a new twist and for the most part they were improvements upon the recorded versions. The male vocals on Carpetbagger were far greater than those contributed by Elvis Costello on Acid Tongue [yep I think his voice on that one song are distractingly nasally and almost ruin that great song]. Also, her solo version of Rilo Kiley's Silver Lining is slowed down sweeter take on a already fabulous track. Both are legitimate and I liked the variety.

The band started strong and only got stronger. Whether Jenny was holding her own on the guitar or the full ensemble was rocking out there was nary an off beat or sour note. The only weak point that my ears caught were slightly off back up vocals on Rise Up With Fists. The new piece she sang, Just Like Zeus (a nice ditty about hero worship) made me excited to hear the third album hopefully chasing Acid Tongue to the shelves.

Whether you came out of childhood affinity for Hannah Nefler, Rilo Kiley loyalty, or addiction to all things Ms Lewis I'm pretty sure you left as satisfied as I did. Don't let her pass you by.

SHOWS!!! White Rabbits at Johnny Brenda's

Despite chaos being the general theme in my life for the last few weeks I have still managed to maintain a pretty healthy show schedule. The upside of this is that music keeps me sane and grounded the downside is I have so much to write about but not enough time to write it. That being said, I am still going to give you reviews they're just going to be a little on the brief side.

White Rabbits
@ Johnny Brendas
After having seen the White Rabbits play the Bowery I knew going in to this show it was going to be interesting considering they are six very active musicians and Johnny Brenda's stage is the size of a postage stamp. Watching them set up was a demonstration in physics as they unfolded their piano (a rather crafty little set up that goes from box to full key board in seconds), assembled gear and literally piled instruments on top of each other. You could tell they were a little curious themselves to see how they would roc the stage. However, any signs of hesitance were completely absent as they launched immediately into their set.

To be honest, much of what I wrote in my first review of their live show held true for this set. They are amazingly full of energy and talent and their live show is the absolute best way to experience all of what they have to offer. They played pretty much the same set list, which is to be expected of a band touring to support their first big album, and did so without a hint of routine or automation. What was truly awesome to watch was the way they maneuvered through the confines of the space. They all still exchanged instruments, danced with each other and played in their distinct full body style. The crowd was right there with them, dancing and singing along. When the much hyped Percussion Gun came on there was a riot of cheers and grooving. I have a feeling this will be the last time these guys play a small Philly venue. My prediction: next time it'll be the Troc or the Electric Factory.

They're out there wandering the country right now so find out if they're playing near you and go hunt down some Rabbits.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Remix Rehash: Z-Trip + IAMXL + Hotsnax + Flufftronix + Blood Shakes

I Want You Back (Z-Trip Remix)- Jackson Five
This reappeared courtesy of my iTunes shuffle last week and I remembered how much I like its retro tilt. Me thinks you will as well.

Tears Of A Clown (Hotsnax Remix)- Smokey Robinson
Another retro-ish remix that parallels Z Trips piece.

Mangled Heart (IAMXL mashupGossip vs The Emotions
He does it again. IAMXL is a rabid talent. Buy more of his remixy treasures here Crack4DJs

Cross The Floor
Fluff is a Philly fav and this track was brought to my attention by the fine MatthewmixveighBlood Shakes
The Fire and The Reason - Fuckbailefunk Remix
Blood Shakes, the Brazilian duo of Zero and Laka) will be releasing their first album Dirty Ghetto Lovers via MySpace Nightlife. This is a nice bit of funky action to get that ball rolling.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Yarn @ The Tin Angel

The bluegrass stylings of Brooklyn’s Yarn have been kicking around my iTunes for about a year now. Other than a B&B show they did nearish Philly last fall they haven’t done much playin in these here parts. That is until last week. The six fellas (three guitars, one stand up bass, a drummer and a mandolin player) crowded the stage at The Tin Angel. Being somewhat familiar with their recorded material I was expecting a night of country leaning music. What I got was far closer to a two hour classic rock jam session. That’s right two whole hours of music to fully appreciate what Yarn has to offer.

This live version of Yarn was all electric vs the acoustic version captured on their albums. Which took the entire show to an unanticipated level of rock out. Ignited by the electricity their mandolin player,Andrew Hendryx, offered up some of the fiercest riffs I have heard from any instrument in recent memory. On the faster pieces the group was prone to passing the "riff torch" around generously usually ending up with a mandolin solo. For good reason too, as his contribution made an excellent anchor for these free flow breaks.

Though Blake Christiana usually carries the leads comfortably-- and provides very easy stage banter-- Yarn's most recent album Empty Pockets featured female vocals (Edie Brickell & Caitlin Cary) and on this evening they were replaced flawlessly by Trevor Macarthur. The dexterity of each player was evident during their numerous solos. Through out the two hours each was given the opportunity to strut their stuff and managed to keep is interesting while not getting too showy or losing the core rhythm of the song. They also managed to criss cross a wide swath of their collected works, but in the electrified format it was basically all new. When the drummer,Jay Frederick, took his solo towards the end of the show (apologies for not knowing the song title) there was a distinct departure from anything remotely bluegrass. His percussion was pure southern rock and when put within the context of his bandmate's solos the entire group seemed to shift towards a new era. It was not surprising to hear Blake mention the next album will be fully plugged in.

I had brought my mother (the progenitor of my musical nerdiness) to the show and at the end she said had I not told her it was a bluegrass show she would have classified them as pure rock. This also sent her on a riff of her own comparing them to such classic bands as Poco and Dire Straights. There are also strong parallels with the likes of Whiskeytown and Ryan Adam's and The Cardinals but considering they all haunt the same Brooklyn environs a little influence is to be expected. After the two hours I witnessed I am no longer content with listening to just the acoustic so get on the recording guys. And the rest of you, go seek Yarn out. They are all over the east in the next few weeks and its well worth the price of admission.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

These United States + Jenny Owen Youngs + Jukebox The Ghost @ Johnny Brenda's

Last week I caught a nice trifecta of great local music at Johnny Brenda's. These United States, Jenny Owen Youngs &
Jukebox The Ghost came together to each offer forth their distinct sounds. These United States kicked things off in fine style -- I think it is important to, once again, note the Philadelphia needs to step up its game in supporting the opening acts-- despite the weak crowd showing these fellas gave one hell of a show. I have seen them before and while still rocking this evening they were spot on. They have tightened up their harmonies which really brings their southern rock lyrics an appreciable classic feel. One of the best parts of seeing them live is watching the steel guitar and bass lines being delivered. It is a study in melding the sass and boozy sarcasm inherent in both instruments to shape TUS's sound without crossing into cliche. Throughout the show I was reminded that these two factors were what drew me to them in the first places and I am happy to report they are only getting better. If they continue to work on their stage presence to compliment their vocals and impressive instrumentals they will have crossed a divide into serious fan acquiring territory.

Jenny Owen Youngs was next up and I'm going to keep my thoughts on her performance short and simple. She looks like the other indie darling Jenny Lewis and must know that cause it felt that her sound was very much rebellion of that association. While her backing band and vocals were fun to watch and sounded great she was undermic'd (or just wasn't projecting her voice) and slurred all of her lyrics into a distracting muddle. Only when the fellas from Jukebox came up to share the stage and she kept to guitars did I enjoy what she had to offer.

Jukebox The Ghost were the evening's headliners and by the time they were on stage the place had filled up with a nice showing of local support. The band has an ace understanding of what it means to perform. And I mean not only get up on stage and play the right notes and sing the right words at the right time. They had charming witty banter [at one point asking the audience to boo instead of clap in response to a new song just to buffer the potential for a poor reception] and put forth a style of full body playing that was thoroughly entertaining to witness. For those of you unfamiliar with Jukebox they sound a little like a mash up of Ben Folds Five and They Might Be Giants. Unconventional lyrics tied to tasty pop rhythms. They opened with a song about the end of the world and the quirk was maintained through the whole set.

What makes JTG's offerings that much more enjoyable is the fact that they are fiercely talented musicians. The lead key's are complicated and punchy but played so cleanly your ear doesn't have to do any work to enjoy them. On their new stuff their was evidence of a maturing sound that suggested a little Jackson Browne "Late For The Sky" influence. This will be truly interesting territory to watch them explore. They brought Youngs and her gang back on stage briefly but I would have rather seen a JTG and TUS pairing. Perhaps next time. I would strongly encourage you to see Jukebox The Ghost if they come through your town and certainly seek out both their new and old music for your at home listening pleasure. Get a jump on that with these...
These United States Honor Amongst Thieves
Jukebox The Ghost Hold It In

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Remix Rehash: Buffet Libre + Sammy Bananas + Skinny Friedman

Buffet Libre
Who Will (Buffet Libre Remix) - Patrick Wolf
Here is a delicious bite of remix action from the fellas of Buffet Libre. Its got a nice synth pop coating around group harmonies. Puts a nice spin on Wolf's original.

Sammy Bananas
The Reeling (Sammy Banana Big Choon Mix) - Passion Pit
Waiting out the manic drops of Passion Pit remixes Sammy comes through with a well thought out edit of The Reeling. Establishing a echo-y base to reanimate the stems. It almost has a montage quality build. One of the best PP's remix attempt in my opinion.

Skinny Friedman
Moth Wings (Skinny Friedman DJ Edit)- Passion Pit
Skinny's remapping of Moth's Wings is subtle but whip smart. Rustling the plumage of this track push it in the right spots and making a little more epic. The tiniest changes give it fresh layers and make you really listen hard to both this and the original. Contrast, compare & discuss!