Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: Looking Back pt III

So far in my look back I've covered 10 of my favorite moments and discoveries. Now we get to the real choice picks from 2009. These are the memories that will always be associated with 2009. 

Drink Up Buttercup

This Philly act first appeared on my radar early this year and after hearing a few of their tracks I caught a show of theirs at The Fire. I was immediately sucked into their riotous set and in the subsequent shows I've seen their presentation has just gotten tighter. Busting through their songs with a degree of measured chaos that serves up a whole new level of awesome from what you hear in their recorded material. Playing an assortment of unique "instruments"- garbage cans and toy dump trucks- they often bring the fun straight out into the audience to create a truly memorable experience. James, Farzad, Mike and Ben take great pleasure in getting crazy and drawing their audience right in to the mix. This shared dedication to their stage antics is what makes DUB an act that stands out amongst the masses.

When you're done being mesmerized by their live show and you go back to really listen to them in the privacy of your own home your ear relishes greatly in the grand psych rock elements; jangly percussion, abstract lyrics and echoey vocals. Their Gods & Gentlemen and Lovers Play Dead have been on pretty much every mix tape I've made for people this year. Now that they have their album Born And Thrown On A Hook we head into 2010 knowing there will be much more to love - not to mention lots o' touring- from the guys of Drink Up Buttercup. I'm terribly excited to watch them smash and crash their way through the next year.
The duo behind the Bad Veins moniker are Ben and Sebastien, a pair of Cincinnatians with such a ginormous amount of talent spilling out of their persons it really isn't fair to other musicians trying to "make it." In addition to recognizing their talent they also hold a spot in TWIAPC's memory books because they were my first interview. I went in a little nervous but that lasted for all of two seconds as the guys quickly ordered me a whiskey and the chat commenced. While it wasn't my finest bit of information gathering I walked away with a sense of the smarts and great intention they put into every song. After the talking came the playing and, oh, what a show it was.

Their set was nothing short of epic. Seb is probably one of the tautest drummers out there and paired with Ben's grand musical vision the rush of energy that escapes them on stage is palpable, and noisy. The two are capable of producing a shocking amount of musical noise. And by that I mean they don't forgo musicality in the name of getting loud. They manage to do both...impeccably. I was fortunate to see them at Monolith as well and they were no less amazing. To really tie up their package they have put out a totally addictive album. Gold and Warm needs to be snatched up for a movie soundtrack or simply added to your own.They're going to be on the road in February with The Subjects. Don't miss them.

Dinosaur Feathers 

My relationship with Dinosaur Feathers is completely categorizable and best summed up with a simple tip of the hat to kismet. I first heard them last spring and wrote them to ask for more info about their addictive indie pop ways. After a few emails lead singer Greg Sullo politely pointed out that we had actually gone to college together. I blushed and a fantastic friendship was (re?)created.

Their music makes it conveniently easy to be a supportive friend as it is delicious and always evolving. Over this year I've had a front row seat to watch them push, pull, poke and prod their skills and potential to create a rich and distinct sound. How close you ask? Well, a great deal of their forthcoming album Fantasy Memorial was recorded in my apartment after their original location fell through. It was an awesome opportunity to see the amount of work and time that goes into recording an album. I have a much improved sense of the process that a song goes through from creation to the completed album that reaches my in box. Not to mention, a whole lot more respect for those albums that are done well.

The finished copy of Fantasy Memorial that made its way into my hands is nothing short of magical; and, yes, there is a degree of admitted bias that may nullify my opinion in your mind but I ask you to give it a listen- once it is released that is- and try hard not to find yourself hitting repeat.

Ida Maria

There isn't an album that has served up more personal anthems for me than Ida Maria's Fortress Round My Heart. From I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked to We're All Going To Hell there is something I can relate to in everyone of the tracks on that record. Oh My God was blasted through my stereo, with my stellar accompanying vocals- of course, to an embarrassingly frequent degree through '09. Whether I needed to pick myself up or let myself go Ida had something to offer.

Ida was touring through the US at a rabid pace and I was able to catch her in NY at the Bell House. She didn't fail to meet my expectations of a balls out, crazy awesome show. She's got herself a mean set of pipes and a superb backing band to play off of. As I stood there watching her I realized she is exactly the kind of rock star I would want to be. Brash, honest and talented.

Ida ended up cutting her touring short after once the frantic schedule caught up with her. But I have no doubt she'll be back with something delectable to offer in 2010.

Frightened Rabbit @ Johnny Brenda's January

Frightened Rabbit's show last January was perfection. The night was unbelievably chilly, the crowd small and the band was at their finest. I'm not shy about my adoration of Frightened Rabbit; their lyrics are sincere and witty, their musical ability is pure and their stage presence is uncomplicated and humble. I had seen them before and I've seen them since and I can say that there was a degree of straight enjoyment on the stage that night that I have rarely seen.

The set covered material from Sings The Greys as well as Midnight Organ Fight. They got raucous at times, Grant wailing away on his drums and Scott revving up the room just as much. The absolute pinnacle of the show was the encore when Scott came out and did a stunningly beautiful acoustic version of Poke. Simple and clean his voice rolled smoothly through this spare rendition. It took my breath away.

Frightened Rabbit has never failed to please in their live show but this was truly one of their best outings. They will, no doubt, be making rounds to support their new album (due at the front of 2010) so be sure to get out and see them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009: Looking Back pt II

Yarn @ Tin Angel
Yarn is one of those bands that fires on all cylinders at every turn. Their recorded material is stellar but their live show, man, their live show is something to behold. I first heard them when they were slinking about the east coast playing teeny tiny back road venues; so, it was fitting that I saw them at the Tin Angel. (an excellent Philly venue at the smaller end of the spectrum). The entire crew filled the stage and proceeded to rock out. The bluegrass roots of their recorded material was recognizable but in the live format they carried a decidedly more southern rock edge. What really made this concert stand out however was its length and degree of sincere audience engagement. They played for two hours straight, taking requests and riffing off of feedback. Never once during the show was I bored or not blown away by the talent the gentlemen of Yarn possess. I am really looking forward to my next opportunity to see Brooklyn’s finest bluegrass band again.
Lies I've Told

Phoenix @ Monolith
Monolith Music Festival was hit by some unfortunate rains this year diluting the potential for greatness from a stellar line up of acts –including: Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs Rahzel, The Grates, Frightened Rabbit, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros etc.- in the beautiful Red Rocks ampitheater. The first full day of the festival was chilly and very very damp. Leaving indoor stages incredibly crowded, outdoor stages unbearably cold and putting folks in maj curmudgeon mode. Not surprisingly though there were some spectacular performances that kept it from being a total wash.

Thunderheist, The Twilight Sad, The Answering Machine, Love Language all put on great shows. But by far the greatest one of the entire weekend was Phoenix’s unanticipated main stage set. They were supposed to play a smaller stage but when MSTRKRFT canceled at the last minute Phoenix rose to the challenge. Without all the right equipment (they didn’t bother to bring everything to CO because the stage was supposed to be small) they went on and played a fantastic mix of new and old tunes. There wasn’t a person in that crowd that wasn’t dancing and a fair bit of folks were singing too. The prevalent vibe when they were done was widespread satisfaction.
1901 (Kolt13 remix)

When it comes to lyrics there are few bands that are capable of wrapping words around emotions that in their moment of origin are ethereal and difficult to describe, yet no less visceral. The Weakerthans are masters of doing just that; and, they do so in a way that avoids saccharine cliché. When I heard they were going to be playing NY this fall I immediately bought tickets. Hands down one of the best uses of my dollah bills this year.

The show at Bowery Ballroom was like a gathering of friends. Not enough people know about The Weakerthans but when you meet a fellow fan you just know they are “good people.” So, you can imagine, a concert is a whole mess of good people blissing out on the quirk and talent of one of Canada’s best musical acts. They don’t play very much these days so you could tell there was a higher than normal sense of fun on stage as they played a set that scratched pretty much every Weakerthans itch I went in with.

Weathervane Music 
Weathervane Music is the kind of project that gives me hope about the future of the music industry. It is a Philly based effort dedicated to building a community of music makers to support each other as well as the greater indie music scene. Each year there a few more established music heads curate a season. Each chooses a couple of acts who are then given time in the awesome Miner Street Studios. What goes on there is recorded both video and audio to share on line with other burgeoning acts wanting to see how a proper studio recording is done. This year saw the likes of BC Camplight & Danielson coming through the door and next year’s line up is equally exciting, Sharon Van Etten just spent some time in the studio recently.

The Weathervane fundraiser this fall was another night of truly likeminded music fans coming together to support a refreshing approach to fostering the future of the indie music recording. It is difficult to convey the quality of skill and passion behind this project and I am honored to be able to watch it  grow the its inevitable greatness.   

Free Energy Music Video
Last spring I got invited to a little get together by a college friend. A couple of the guys from Hockey Night (a great Minneapolis act that had begun at our school) were in a new band called Free Energy and a few other Carls were going to be recording them for their first music video. I went I saw a whole bunch of great and familiar faces and crammed myself into one of the hottest Northern Liberties basements for a fun set delivered amongst clouds of silver white balloons. It was a beautiful night all around that also included a fantastic bike ride and my friend’s rando kitten stalking.

In the weeks that followed Free Energy kept popping up on my radar and I fully enjoyed seeing the band start getting some much deserved rumblings. Then mid summer the video was dropped and it perfectly captured the essence of the band and that first superb night of summer. I'm expecting big things when their album is released next year.
Free Energy

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009: Looking Back pt I

I made the decision a little more than a year ago to go ahead and share my personal soundtrack with anyone who was interested. In this last year The World In A Paper Cup has really become so much more than blog to me. It has given me license to truly indulge my curiosity and love for all things music. It has brought people and opportunities into my life that I consider myself incredibly lucky have/still experience(d). It has taught me a whole lot about what it means to be "involved" in music - creating, editing, selling, promoting, sharing, etc. It has made me that much more excited to see what else is yet to come.

These aren't end of the year revelations, I'm pretty grateful every day (now, if someone wants to pay me for writing then I'd be on clound 9); but, I have done some year end reflecting and I have decided to take a more personal approach, something a little more unusual. Instead of amassing a list of the tracks, albums, artists etc. I thought were "best" -- there are fine ranks already out there btw-- I've collected my favorite musical moments, memories, discoveries and happenings from the past year. No need to write it up any more lets get this ball a rollin...


Learning Music Series

This project came to my attention via one of my most trustworthy west coast music advisers; and, I consider it one of the jewels amongst a lot of rough product being released into the music industry ether. It is a music and art project released once a month each with a different theme or story in mind. While the nature of each theme (story, tribute, etc) are various and unique the passion contributed to each compilation and its artwork is undeniable. It is rare to find such dedication to ones craft on such a consistent and enriching level. If you haven't already checked it own do

Mono at Wordless Music Series 
There is much I could say about the day I saw Mono that made it remarkable beyond the scope of a typical show which is saying a lot because this concert was breathtaking. It was part of the Wordless Music Series an organization dedicated to the similarities and parallels between the classical music tradition and contemporary indie music. They have worked with a wide variety of acts from the likes of Explosions In The Sky to Why? and I was lucky to catch Mono's show at the Society For Ethical Culture celebrating their 10th Anniversary.

While I wasn't familiar with the band going in you'd have to be numb to the world to not feel the intensity of emotion and fan awe in the air while they played backed by a full orchestra. It is truly spectacular to witness both a group of musicians at their finest, as well as, their fans realizing their ultimate audience experience. The chemistry it put into the air was palpable making it one of the most memorable shows I have ever seen.

Kung Fu Necktie Opens
Philly has a whole mess of quality venues; World Cafe Live, Johnny Brenda's, The Church (to name a few). But when Kung Fu Necktie opened it became clear this was just the spot Fishtown needed. With it's cozy booths, crazy bear lights, perpetually running obscure movies and ginormous Tupac painting it has become one of my favorite places to catch a show and a beer.

Tucked away beneath the train they have gen-u-wine A+ bartenders who are always good for a chat and have carved out a reputation for hosting some of the real fresh talent passing through our fair city. The Love Language and Animal Collective's post show spin session are both two acts that pop out of the many KFN shows I have caught this year. If you're in Philly, either living or visiting be sure to get yourself up to KFN. They already have some quality acts on the docket for 2010.
[Fantastic illustration by Michele Melcher]

Mark Mallman's Show at The M Room 
Seeing a Mark Mallman show is a true dose of home. I have many fond college memories of seeing him do his unique version of controlled on stage spazz out. When I saw he was coming through Philly there wasn't anything that was going to keep me from his set at The M Room. Apparently the live show brilliance of Mark Mallman hasn't reached the idle masses in Philly because the show's attendance was embarrassing. But, to be perfectly honest, I didn't mind a bit because I ended up getting the kind of show you couldn't produce if you tried.

Mallman put his all out there; mounting his keyboard like it was a mountain top, singing his heart out, sharing some witty stage monologues and playing the song I requested during our preshow chat. He is keyed into the level of theatricality and skill needed to make a live show more than just a dude on stage singing his music. Mallman does it for his audience (regardless of the size) and because he clearly loves putting on a show. I'm beyond excited to see what else he has on tap for 2010.

Knockout On 22nd St

J Tillman In The Chapel Of First Unitarian
I feel incredibly appreciative for the number of live shows I get to see. From the newer acts just buzzing with excitement to the old hats who know how to put on a show I am continually reminded what incredible music is out there for the having. However, every once in a while there is a show that stands as a reminder of potential a live show has to take that music to a whole new level. J Tillman's show a few weeks ago in the side chapel of First Unitarian Church was just such a show.

The intimate show in the surrounds of the gothic church's tiny side chapel was hauntingly beautiful. Tillman's "solo" album was given pausing depth with the presence of his backing band. The songs off of Year In The Kingdom acquired much more character when delivered straight from the man's lips. Filling the room kept otherwise silent by an audience held captive by what it was hearing. It was a great way to wind down my 2009 concerts.

Though I Have Wronged You

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Music Extravaganza

Its that time of year again, when musicians either try their hand at covering the winter classics or go even further and attempt to pen the next holiday standard. In the spirit of sharing a little cheer I thought I'd amass some of my new favs for you.

O' Holy Night - Pattern Is Movement
[update #1: PIM's cover comes from Hometapes' Eight Days of Home Tapes year end project. Check it out; it's lovely.]

& now a few choice compilations for you to check out....
Auld Lang Syne - Sam Billen
In The Bleak Midwinter - Andrew Oconner

A Day In The Life Of A Christmas Tree - Dinosaur Feathers
Blue Christmas - Sharon Van Etten

The Holiday's Are Here (We're Still At War) - Brett Dennen

And finally a beautiful new video from the ever charming William Fizsimmons 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chris Garneau in The Chapel of The Church

In the midst of a very busy Euro/Asia touring schedule Chris Garneau made a stop in Philly last Friday. Oh, what a stop it was. He came to the tiny chapel at First Unitarian Church with a modest ensemble, just a cellist and drummer, and proceeded to play a delightful set of new and old tunes. Garneau is himself a tiny fella so the intimacy of the surroundings only served the warmth of his performance. 

The brand of music captured on his 2009 album El Radio is piano plotted pop lushly accompanied by multiple vocalists, strings and dodah but when conveyed live there is much more palpable sense of immediacy. Neither album nor performance is superior; both are spectacular.

Live, his staccato vocals are crisply propelled by alternating high-lo chords on the key while the music was kept from floating away by the languid cello lines and taut pace of the drummer. Garneau has an astounding skill for enunciation which is the key to bringing his at times pithy and at others heartbreakingly succinct lyrics. On Over & Over for example he slowly drew us through the frustration and sadness of the song's story and the measure provided by the drummer was the foil to the simplicity of the vocals. His performance on Friday made it very clear he is uniquely attuned to potential weight of instrumentals and words combined.

Amongst the known fair were a few new tracks (one they even strayed from the set list to give its public debut). Preceded by the usual "the arrangement still being sorted out" these songs were still fine examples of Garneau's talent for musical creation. The highlight of these baby songs was the first of a collection he is building from memories of winter he has "stolen" from friends and family. Its a collection I am now anxious to hear completed.

I have been a fan of Garneau's lyrics for a while and hearing them live introduced a new element of theatricality. It would be wonderful to see him with fuller accompaniment but, without a doubt, the 50 or so folks who were lucky to bare witness to this concert (myself included) won't be forgetting it anytime soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vendela Vida Has Arrived: First Single Off Of Dinosaur Feathers 2010 Album

This album has been playing, in some form or another (live, in editing loops, mastered), on my stereo for nearly 5 months. I have patiently waited for the ok from Greg to write this very post. Finally FINALLY I can let you in on the first single to be plucked from Fantasy Memorial the absolutely superb debut album from Dinosaur Feathers due out March 2nd. If you want to be sure to get your copy pre-order it from Insound here.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will tell you a very large portion of the album was recorded and engineered in my home. Fortunately, the final product is so spectacular I don't feel the need to do a hard push convincing you of the albums quality. A simple listen to Vendela Vida will whet your appetite for the full serving of Fantasy Memorial in 2010.

Stay tuned in the weeks leading up to the release as there will be a few more Dinosaur Feather features right here on TWIAPC.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blog Goes Mag: Vinyl & Vodka Get It Done!

The folks over at Vinyl & Vodka have taken their blog and pushed it to 11 with yesterday's release of V&V. It is an impressive collection of music, fashion and culture coverage assembled by Vinyl & Vodka's Willis with a little help from his friends. Every edition will have a podcast to listen to while you peruse the pages and this first release also hold the chance to win a Fader prize pack. Oh yeah, check out pg 47 for a little TWIAPC sighting. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this project goes. You're done here now go there

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
- John Lennon

Today marks the 29th anniversary of John Lennon's death. It is a day that I have marked with some recognition for most of my life. Usually involving a lengthy conversation with my mother recalling where she was when she found out (in the car with my sister) and what he meant to her and her generation. As a child of an entirely different culture filled with  louder and relentless  opinions, promotions, and declarations I sometimes forget that before Lennon it was rare for an entertainer to use their fame and platform to take a large scale political stance. And it can safely be said that no one's influence rivaled that of the former Beatle.

Lennon used his skill for crafting memorable phrases to transpose messages for the larger social consciousness giving a poignant and unrelenting voice to a massive movement calling for peace. Political peace, social peace, inner peace. It is a timeless cause and his words remain just as relevant now as they did when they were first spoken. Simply reading his words and recalling his actions will remind you of his impact on music, politics and culture. In his wake there have been and will continue to be artists who choose to use their voice to further noble causes but John truly was a pioneer.

I'd like to think my own actions and words pay tribute to his dedication to a greater cultural awareness and in writing this, using my own little platform you may also carry on the spirit of peace and love that was the very heart of John Lennon's work.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.
Imagine - Eva Cassidy
Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - Polyphonic Spree

Monday, December 7, 2009

Music For Your Eyes from Edward Sharpe, Chris Garneau & Why?

There have been some rather interesting videos in my in-box lately that I feel compelled to share with you if for no other reason than to loosen a smile or giggle from your lips.

First off, Edward Sharpe and The Magnificent Zeros (whom I adore and recently sold out the church) have created a 12 part music video series called SALVO! There is a rather epic sounding story line and from the looks of the production in the first two bits the full offering will play like a short film. It even has a stellar cast for a side project. David Straitharn and Dermot Mulroney both star in the second segment seen below. To get the full effect you should really start at the beginning.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros "KISSES OVER BABYLON" from Edward Sharpe on Vimeo.

This next video is fom Chris Garneau for his lovely little ditty Fireflies. Its based on Legend Of Zelda. Need I say more? Yes, actually... He is going to be in Philly on Friday at the Church for his only US performance amidst his busy European/Asia tour extravaganza.

Next up WHY? has released a twofer, one video for the first two track from Eskimo Snow These Hands & January Twenty Something. The visuals for each songs is succinct and fit neatly together yet still definitely make your head wander.

WHY? - These Hands / January Twenty Something from anticon. on Vimeo.

Friday, December 4, 2009

New To Know: We Are The Willows + Motorbikes + Sunset

We Are The Willows
It takes a man dedicated to his art to cast aside social norms, embrace this childlike voice and see what it can do. Peter Miller is such a man. First begun as a side project (Miller is the front man of Red Fox Grey Fox it now holds its own very distinct place in the musical goings on. Miller captured sounds from all over the Twin Cities; the whoosh of the light rail, birds chirping, etc. Matched with his tender and reflective lyrics to create an album that is really a aural tour through his world. Miller's voice is unique (just listen to it and you'll know what I mean) and throughout A Collection Of Sounds And Something Like The Plague it makes pleas, confessions and wails that highlight its intricate potential. I really cannot wait to see We Are The Willows live now that I have had the album on reply pretty consistently for the last two weeks. I sense there are even greater depths to them live. 
A Funeral Dressed As A Birthday

This group is tight and delightful and fun and needs to start putting out more material stat. Fronted by a chap named Paul (who's from Arkansas btw) Motorbikes isn't working to push new sonic horizons rather to create delectably smart tunes. Each a nice little package that sits well in your ear but also offers space for your mind to wander. They have one album to get you started but I'd like to politely request another soon.

Two Tempos

I had the real pleasure to catch the fellas of Sunset a few weeks back at the Weather Vane Music fundraiser. While there was already an undeniable good vibe humming through Johnny Brenda's that night these guys brought their own up tempo good times. There are a whole mess of bands bringing back the classic 70's rock sound with varying degrees of success. When it comes to their chilled out instrumental riffs Sunset places themselves near the front of the retro pack. They carve out some distinction with well written and more modernly indie lyrics and vocal performance. Playing with echoey effects at times and dabbling in breathy ethereal delivery at others. I think we shall be hearing a lot more for this Austin band in the tens.
Green Truck

Get Slimed Tonight

Some of my absolute favorite Philly acts are gathering tonight at The Khyber for what promises to be a block rocking good time (not to mention a quick hop for First Friday activities in Olde City). Be there, get silly and GET SLIMED.

Chang Chang
Kinda like watching a kid masturbate with his own tears in front of his mom. Some rapping may ensue but more than likely ending in a pissy stage. Every wonder who buys those expired stacker2’s from the dollar shore. Sold out.

Grind with your goth girlfriend while contemplating how you will kill your parents in their sleep. Dance your shit off, blogs can't see you!

Man Like Machine
Never will you ever see more panties and bras be thrown on stage by girls who had no clue they just threw their panties and bras on stage. More rock band then you're rock band. Don't tell your parents you snuck out of being grounded.

Ever step inside of a bubble gum bubble then hot box it. Seeing them will be well worth your allowance. Cuter than puppies dressed as cats.

Deadly Technologies
These dudes do things behind robots that they can't show on tv. Dance, laugh, write your pen pal in japan. Pay attention....they will be your ruler soon!!!

*Note I didn't write these descriptions, that would be Jon Rehr, but hes pretty much spot on with every darn word.