Monthly Archives: December 2010

And how was your lunar eclipse? (Bringing the “rock” to “indie rock”)

Mine was pretty sweet, but I digress. Music time! Stereophonics are a Welsh band that fits squarely under the brit pop-alternative-indie rock umbrella, and they are pretty fantastic. As seems to be the case pretty often, they have achieved a high degree of success in the UK whilst remaining relatively unknowing in the US, and it’s just as well. Though the myth of the rock star was established here in the States, it lives on in England. There, rock stars still make controversial statements in the media, with whom they have terse relationships, and drink themselves to death (as Stereophonics’ former drummer recently did), and fight each other with words, or sometimes fists and weapons.

The lead singer of Stereophonics, Kelly Jones, does everything you want your British rocker to do. No joke. Upon finding out that the band photographer was dating his ex-fiance four weeks after the dissolution of the twelve year relationship, he got smashed, and then proceeded to smash the guy’s window and two cars. The photographer did not press charges, and when asked about the event later, Kelly Jones said “What I did was completely out of character – but what he did was wrong.” And then he wrote a song about it. Oh yeah, rock and roll. And he has the whiskey-and-gravel voice to match. (But not the stature…Kelly Jones is like 5’6, which kind of makes the fact that he was drunk/angry enough to smash up shit belonging to some dude who is presumably, you know, taller than I am by more than a quarter of an inch all the more impressive/stupid.) Those Welsh musicians, man…Speaking of crazy Welsh musicians, Stereophonics totally opened for Manic Street Preachers back in the day, post-Richey James, but still! Oh, you have no idea who that is? This is a story for another day…

Their 2005 album, Language. Sex. Violence. Other? is sexy, sweaty, dirty gritty rock and roll, with a good dose of indie rock-introspective and observant, brought by a guy who, in his pre-band days, would take jobs based solely on the fact that they’d allow him to people watch. It’s pretty sweet, and I was going to have a really, really rough time picking a song off of it. Until I discovered that one of the tracks has a banned music video.

You probably did not know me during my industrial phase. That was a very, very long time ago. However, the love that I sustained for banned music videos during this time is with me still. The choice was so very, very made. The aforementioned music video is a few parts sexy and a few parts fucked up, like most banned music videos. Be sure to watch it while you listen to the song, which is a level of sexy and gritty that is quite representative of the album as a whole. The lyrics are purposeful and well-chosen. Jones’s delivery, on both the slick verses and the big chorus, is so perfect. And of course, the whole thing comes with a really, really great piano part. Yes, you can have a dirtysexy rock song where the main riff manifests itself mostly in piano. This is proof. So, before we move on to the actual music part of the evening, you really, really have to watch this video. Like I said, sexy and fucked up. Kind of like Stereophonics? Eh? See what I kinda sorta maybe didn’t really do there…So–here’s “Devil” by Stereophonics.


Have I seen you somewhere baby?
Oh no, I need another line

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Drowning your sorrows is okay, really…

Listening to The Replacements when you are upset about something is a terrible, terrible idea. Or an awesome one, depending on how you feel about alcoholism. Because no matter what the problem, if you decide to listen to The Replacements to cheer up, you will come away with one solution: drink until it goes away. Breakup? Whiskey. Friend troubles? Wine. (Red wine). Not ready for that final you have coming up? Vodka. Feel free to mix and match.

But hey, they’ll cheer you up.

Besides being the perfect soundtrack to any downward spiral (they have a song about the goddamn DTs…), The Replacements are also ultra-influential and absolutely fantastic 80s post-punk. Their music is pure, boozy, energetic awesome, with the earlier albums being more punk-focused and latter albums bringing in a larger variety of influences. This is one of those bands that I’ll bet your favorite band listens to. They are important. Probably you have heard their song “Can’t Hardly Wait,” which is fairly iconic and has a really big deal of a high-school movie named after it. It’s pretty awesome. But since you have heard it, it is definitely not what the blog post is about.

It is, however, off the same album. Pleased To Meet Me is involved in a tie for my favorite Replacements album. It is the only album The Replacements ever recorded as a three-piece, since Bob Stinson had either left the band over creative differences or been kicked out due to substance abuse problems–which, was this the case, would have been the pot kicking the kettle out of the band for being cookware. Picking just one song to rave about off this album was hard. Really hard. I love it to bits and pieces. However, after extensive debate with myself, I made a decision.

The song I finally picked starts off with a fantastic, upbeat riff and lyrics that are…absolutely not upbeat even a little. Though The Replacements are post-punk badasses, this is undoubtedly a pop song–not the modern idea of pop, at all–but it has short, punchy verses, and is focused on the well-crafted chorus, which varies with each repetition. I am like obsessed with this song’s lyrics. They are fantastic. In my opinion, this is an awesome introduction to The Replacements, who you should listen to lotsandlotsandlots of music by. Here’s “Valentine” by The Replacements.


If you were a pill
I’d take a handful at my will
And I’d knock you back with something sweet and strong


Pretty pretty pretty

When showing people the awesome that is Tunng, I usually go with a different song–the very catchiest one off their previous album. And it is fucking fantastic, and will prolly be gotten to at some point in this blog, because who wouldn’t want to listen to lots and lots of Tunng? However, the song that has been stuck in my head all day today is a sweet, soft, and rather sad one off their newest album …And Then We Saw Land.

Tunng are British, and have been labeled a folktronica band, which is a pretty silly name but a pretty accurate description. Folktronica is exactly what it implies–the blending of folk with electronic elements to make AWESOME. Well, okay, the awesome part is just my take on it, but folk + electronica? There is nothing in that combination that is not great. Also, it’s quirky. Par exemple, this song, which is absolutely gorgeous and quite sad and about alcoholism, quotes A-Ha. Yes. The one you are thinking of.

And they pull that shit off, too. The song is not actually less ridiculously pretty for the A-Ha shout-out. How could I not use this one? Have I mentioned yet that this song is absolutely gorgeous? There is a lovely finger-picked guitar part, with electronic chimes in the background, and oh-so-pretty male-female vocals–not the cute kind of male-female vocals.  The form of the song is a bit weird, too…I’ve been trying to figure out if it still counts as strophic or if it’s something else, but I just do not know enough about theory for that one. Oh! And awesome, sparse lyrics. Basically, this whole post can be boiled down to: PRETTY PRETTY PRETTY LISTEN TO IT.

“With Whiskey” by Tunng (you know a song is good when it has an alliteration in the title):

he’s sweeping up the dust now baby,
drink your whiskey neat.

 

 


Yaaaaaay show! (Not-So-Silent Night Recap)

So, I always procrastinate about writing up concert reports. It’s as if they were homework, or something. That being said, Kendal and I went to an awesome show on Friday. Not-So-Silent Night is a show our local alternative station, Live 105, puts on every year, sometime in the winter. This year’s had what I’m pretty sure was the biggest lineup of any NSSN to date, and…it was pretty fucking awesome.

Kendal and I bussed up from SC, gave our stuff to my grandpa, and then met up with a couple of my friends and got food at Good Karma, which is a fantastic vegan place in downtown San Jose. Seriously, if you are ever in the area, go there. They have (usually, they were out when we went) vegan pork buns which are made by Buddhist monks and sold by the restaurant at cost. Also, the rest of the food they have is delicious, too.

So, after that interlude, we proceeded to the HP Pavilion, home of the San Jose Sharks and also ginormous shows such as the one we attended. Our timing was pretty sweet, since we didn’t have to wait long for the openers, who had won a contest for the privilege, went up. Okies! Band-by-band recap time!

The Finish Ticket:

They were an adorable local band from…somewhere in the Bay Area. I swear, some of them looked like they had to be jailbait, but I digress. They had a kind of Kings Of Leon-y sound, and were really polished for a band that looked SO DAMN YOUNG. They were all decked out in some kind of war-paint, and played a set that was really nice, if also really short. You can check them out at their myspace, over here: http://www.myspace.com/finishticket .

Broken Bells

This was arguably the band I was most excited about seeing, and holy shit, they did not disappoint. I was kind of angry at Broken Bells for a little while after their existence was announced, because they mean it will be forever before The Shins put out anything new, because James Mercer, but I forgave them very quickly after I heard a few songs and purchased the album. When you think about it, James Mercer and Danger Mouse is a pretty fuckin’ weird combination, but it is so, so damn awesome in practice. They make beautiful, perfectly-produced, electronica-tinged indie rock, and that is exactly what they performed on stage.

An important point: I had never seen that many keyboards on stage before, ever. I think the total Kendal and I arrived at was five,  two of which were like…the two-tiered kind. It was pretty ridiculous, but they used all of them during various points of the show. The band kept trading instruments throughout, with Danger Mouse hopping from drums to keyboard, one of the keyboardists hopping from keyboard to trumpet, to both at the same fucking time, and so on and so forth. Their music sounded pretty much exactly how it does on the album, but with awesome extended jammy bits. Keyboard jams! So awesome. Also, they were mixed perfectly. Like, the sound-guys did their job on that one. Also, James Mercer’s voice is beautiful. Also, I want to see them live every night for the rest of forever.

Here’s a video of them playing “The High Road” live at what I am assuming is SXSW. I couldn’t find a video of them doing improvy things, but this is still ridiculously awesome.

The Black Keys

This was the portion of the evening I did not really enjoy. I have not listened to The Black Keys much, but have been told nice things about them by sources that may or may not be Dylan, but none of this came across in their show. First off, their was the difficulty of following Broken Bells, which would have felled mightier men. And then there was the issue of the sound-guy clearly falling asleep or something. Their guitars were absurdly, drowning-out-the-drums too loud. I’m not sure if I have ever witnessed that happen before. The vocals not being loud enough is a pretty common problems, but I’m pretty sure you’re always supposed to hear the drums. Like, that’s kind of hard to fuck up.

I’m not sure if it was just the sound problem, but they did not please me, not at all.

Phoenix

Oh my gosh, Phoenix. I’m pretty sure I love them like eight thousand times more after seeing them live. Generally speaking, I kind of dislike arenas, but Phoenix in an arena was so spectacular. Their light show was fantastic; they had their drummer on a really awesome platform, and they were so energetic. They opened with “Lisztomania,” which was such a perfect choice and got everyone so excited for their set. They seemed so genuinely excited about playing for such a large crowd, and were so ridiculously gracious, and so ridiculously adorable; I now want Phoenix to take over the world. I accept Thomas Mars as our new overlord.

In all seriousness, if watching Phoenix live does not make you happy, you probably lack a soul. I want them to have all the success so that everybody ever can see them live. Thomas Mars ended the show by smashing the mic and tossing it into the audience, which is a pretty rock and roll thing to do, but when accompanied by charmingly-French-accented professions of gratitude, it was kind of adorable. Also, they sounded really good.

Here is a video of “Lisztomania.” For some reason, the high-quality ones are not the ones where Thomas Mars dances (…probably because they’re all like…in radio stations and shit). Some quality had to be sacrificed so that you could understand why he and Sofia Coppola should repopulate the earth. Also, this video gives you some idea of how fucking awesome their drummer looks with their light show. Aaaaaaah. Actual song starts around 1:35.

My Chemical Romance

These dudes are arena pros and well-known for their stage presence, so of course they put on a good show. Kendal and I hold Gerard Way and his new, bright-red hair responsible for the disappearance of all the Special Effect Nuclear Red hair dye in the world. (Seriously, come back in stock, please dye.) The first time I saw MyChem live, I was fourteen years old, and this set made me nostalgic as fuck. I saw them another time…at…some festival. Maybe Download? It was when they were playing the same festival as MSI and wound up being a couple of days before Gerard Way and Lyn-Z did their whole getting married backstage thing. They are a band whose story kind of stuns me–their fucking lead singer went from living in his parents’ basement and being miserable to being a fucking rock star, with a hot rocker wife. Dreams do come true, I guess.

At any rate, it was really fun, and made me feel old as fuck. All the musicians I listened to in my early teens are reproducing and shit, now! Also, Mikey Way now looks like a gay club kid. His hair was doing some bleached and partially shaved thing, and he had on some sort of green animal print tank-top…and a fucking glittery bass. If you had told fourteen-year-old me that Gerard would someday be the straighter-looking Way brother, she would have laughed in your face. But I digress, they played old things and new things. Seems like the new stuff is kind of glam-inspired? High-energy and fun times. I realized that I am now too old to feel guilty for enjoying any kind of music. This is a good thing.

Go and find your own damn live MCR vid on youtube. There’s approximately infinity of them and I am too lazy to sort through them.

The Smashing Pumpkins

Did not really succeed at following MCR, IMO. I am fond of Smashing Pumpkins and had seen them before, in a tiny venue in Santa Cruz, on their first reunion tour. That time, they played for like…three hours. There were three encores. They played songs off every album. This time…did not measure up. I just did not like them in an arena. They changed up some old songs in displeasing ways (they ended with “Tonight, Tonight,” which I swear, almost made me cry the first time I saw them, but this time it was all rock and rolled up and laaaame), and their light show involved these bizarre, sparkly, flower-windmill giant things.

They weren’t bad, but just…not high-energy or high-awesomeness enough to support such a large venue. And this post is now approximately eight million words long. So I will leave it at this. Show was awesome, and then Kendal and I watched How I Met Your Mother into the night. Man, I could have summed the whole night up in like a sentence.


Quarter over!

Actually, my long, stressful, and fantastic quarter ended on Monday, at night, but I’ve been entirely too lazy to update since then. I have been…relaxing. :O I may have forgotten what that was like over the course of my twenty-credit adventure. That being said, I’m totally taking twenty credits again in the future. This quarter was the experiment, and it seems to have been a success!

In the past week or so, I have bought ten new CDs, so uh…new material, I guess? As if I’m ever going to run low.

On Tuesday, after Kendal finished her final, we got end-of-quarter piercings together at Way Body Art. She now has a septum piercing. I got my cartilage done–helix, to be exact! I…really, really like it.

It is so weird that this quarter is actually over. This is the first quarter I’m going to miss–Creative Writing and French were both fantastic, and I can’t do either next quarter, since intermediate would not fit into my schedule, and they’re not offering French 6 until Spring. (Grrrr.)

That was basically a really long intro to explain the fact that I’m using a French song today, because French music is badass. Mylène Farmer is a French pop star, whose twenty plus year career involves more ridiculous stage getups, controversial lyrics, and opulent music videos than any of us American types can comprehend. I listen to her whenever I need to get into French mode.

The aforementioned lyrics are very pretty, as is her voice. This video, and this song, are both absolutely gorgeous. The song is one of her slower, lovelier ones. It is a duet with Jean-Louis Murat, who I know nothing about, and the dual vocals are absolutely ethereal. The video is sepia and soaked in pretty. The whole production together has an overall theme of lovers being parted by death. Watch and listen to “Regrets” by Mylène Farmer!

N’aie pas des regret
Fais la promesse, tu sais que
L’hiver et l’automne n’ont pu s’aimer


I love it here

Tonight, we had some people over, and went out to the beach after playing a game that involved cards and beer. It was a fantastic break from studying, and the beach and pier at night is just…the most beautiful thing. I try my hardest never to forget how fantastically lucky I am to go to school in this place, and to live in the Bay Area–this gorgeous area of this gorgeous state.

So, in honor of how fucking lucky I am, a Bay Area band! The Heavenly States are from Oakland, and they are pretty damn cool. Oakland is the chosen home for a lot of them–I’m pretty sure something like half the band are Minnesota transplants. Their music has this awesome alternative-indie type sound, with a nice tinge of post-punk/post-hardcore (a la Fugazi, not a la whatever on earth is post the modern wave of hardcore).

This song is my absolute favorite off their 2008 album Delayer. I don’t think I could love the main riff any more if I tried. The way the guitar and piano parts of this song combine kind of makes my life. I adore the vocals, which are definitely the post-hardcoreyest part. Definitely remind me of a cleaned-up Fugazi or Rites of Spring, or perhaps even Replacements. There’s a vague melancholy to the whole thing that I really like–kind of like the aural equivalent of a Fall day. At any rate, listen to it, because it is fantastic, and because Bay Area pride.  Here is…”The Race” by The Heavenly States.

boy was alone on the day that he had
his own kid
it was his turn and he turned like a
car in a skid
will it get to him?
he says “I’ll be just like him.”