Category Archives: Uncategorized

The perils of new releases

When an album you’ve been waiting for a long time finally comes out, it’s scary. I’ve got quite a few years of music consumption neatly organized on the giant shelf in my room at my parents’ house now, so I’ve known the feeling of putting on the new album of a band you adore and coming to the horrifying conclusion that it sucks. It hasn’t happened too many times, but that kind of disappointment is a pretty vivid memory. It puts a note of stress in the excitement of a new release.

I picked up Port of Morrow by The Shins on Tuesday night (Yes, I bought it the day it was released. They took five years to put the thing out–I wasn’t waiting another day.), and as I lay curled up in bed, listening to it for what is perhaps the fourth or fifth time, I am pleased to report that for me, at least, it’s not a disappointment.

On Port of Morrow, elements of each of The Shins’ previous albums blend with a new kind of maturity. James Mercer’s voice is beautiful and clear as ever; his lyrics are still these lovely, unique strings of words. The production is rich and warm. I’m going to stop now before this starts sounding more like a review than the ramblings of an excited fan who is eager to spread her budding affection for this album.

One of my favorites so far is the album’s opener, “The Rifle’s Spiral”. It’s a gorgeous, catchy track with a bit of darkness mingled with The Shins’ characteristic warmth. The lyrics are fantastic; James Mercer’s voice makes me so happy…so does the instrumentation (there’s a bit of a bass solo!). A fantastic album opener–settled my nerves and made me comfortable in the knowledge that The Shins were still awesome after five years gone. Listen!

Primitive mural on the wall,
to fortify your grim resolve.
And made the glitz of a shopping mall
another grain of indigent salt to the sea.

Advertisements

Yeasayer? Why yes, I did see them on my birthday.

Because of course it’s late. In my defense, there was no way I could have made time for anything resembling a blog post at the end of last quarter. Just….no. These past two weeks of not writing? That one’s on me. My bad! I am not, however, passing up an opportunity to gush about Yeasayer. Gushing about Yeasayer has become a sacred duty for me. I must sing their praises to the skies or die in shame. In case that last paragraph didn’t give it away, I really, really enjoyed my birthday show. Kendal Fong is like the best roommate ever, or something, and I hope she enjoyed our adventure despite her erm, possessions mishap. Possessions mishaps are not fun.

After some time spent searching for the possessions that were mishapped, we acquired dolmas sandwiches at Falafel of Santa Cruz, which I am so, so addicted to (I had one today when I was moving out the remains of my stuff. You should be jealous. If you are not jealous, I am afraid for you), and set off for San Francisco. The traffic on the way up wasn’t too crazy, and we got super cheap parking, and only had to call my dad like four times and make him look up directions when we were walking from the parking to the Fillmore (which is such, such a good venue.) Only.

We were able to immediately secure really awesome spots, and since we’d taken so long to actually find the damn venue (Yeasayer’s bus was blocking it so you could not see it from across the street, okay!), we did not have to wait long at all for the first opener. The first opener was… …. …. Words, they fail me. An extremely skinny and  bearded hipster dancing like Ian Curtis one of the times he was actually having a seizure on stage and words that could make professional writers of erotica flinch to some beats on his ipod? Here is his website : http://www.hushhushhush.com/. There is a music video. I am afraid to watch it, but hopefully it can do a better job expressing him than I can. Let’s just say I’m pretty sure Yeasayer’s plan was to make sure the indie kids had no choice but to dance by putting a human being that had never even heard of the concept of self-consciousness on stage first. Awkwarding everyone into being incapable of coolness? A valid stratagem?

The second opener was Smith Westerns, and I thought they were pretty adorable at first, but their set felt samey after a while and I wanted Yeasayer, dammit. And then the glorious moment came. I was really hoping they would open with either of their album openers, because I think those are so well-selected. And lo and behold, they opened with the intro of “The Children” and then went into “Sunrise,” effectively opening with both their album openers, and blowing my brain out (though that might have also been their ridiculous, awesome lightshow.) Beyond that, they played pretty much every song I wanted to hear live, with the exception of “Love Me Girl,” and the rest of “The Children” (which, I cannot really blame them for not bringing a fan on stage. I don’t really know how that one would work, tbh.) The crowd was awesome, particularly during “O.N.E.” and “Ambling Alp,” and the band was super high-energy and drinking steadily from cups of some manner of amber-colored hard alcohol, and therefore adorably drunk.

They did “2080” as an encore, which was glorious and beautiful and magical. That song is the first Yeasayer song I ever heard/fell madly in love with, so…It has a place. A place lodged inside of my skull and somewhere under my breast-bone…They also played new songs (!!!), which I loved, especially “Henrietta,” which is super 80s vibey, and fantasastic. I went on an epic search of the youtubes for the best live recording of this one, because everyone should experience it. In the end, picking one was hard.

This one shows off their killer live show (and Chris Keating’s well-dressed hotness) the best:

And this one has really nice sound-quality, but is shot from a distance:

I guess which one you prioritize is up to you!

At any rate, everyone ever who doesn’t already should listen to Yeasayer, and everyone should see them live. Way, way too absurdly awesome.


Something nice to perk up your late morning/early afternoon

What I have learned this week is that every time I sit down to write a blog post, people come over to our house. 😛 Which I do not mind in the slightest, because people..but it also means I’ve been trying to write about this song for an indeterminate number of days. All the things I’ve done have been pretty fantastic. The party on Saturday was fuuuuun. All the random hang-outy things we’ve done this week have been fuuuun. Life is pretty good, I’d say.

Since life is good, some fantastic, pop-y Dutch indie rock is definitely called for. Voicst are an absolutely precious band from Amsterdam. You can tell they’re awesome even before hearing their music because they are named after a stray cat that hung out at their very first practice space. That is pretty fuckin’ cute. Their music, however, definitely helps. It is fun, upbeat, and in my opinion, really well-mixed.

This song, off their 2008 album A Tale of Two Devils, is really, really good. It has a) an infinitely catchy and sing-alongable chorus b) verses with some really sweet backing harmonies c) a very cool bridge d) a really fun beat. It is also such a well-constructed song–from the intro with all the harmonies, to the way the bridge fades into the next verse, to just–the number of choruses (this is more important than you think). It is well-mixed and well put-together–if this song were a person, he or she would be well-adjusted as fuck. It is also upbeat and fun, with semi-simple-but-very-relatable-and-ever-so-slightly-bitter-sweet lyrics. Solid, solid pop-y gem of a song, with plenty of stuff for your good headphones.  I’ve made the decision to go with the music video for posting the song, because it showcases the band being adorable and really weird, even though they messed around with the song a bit for it. If you want to hear the album version, that is up on youtube and very easily found.

In case you don’t like this band enough yet, that song you hear a bit of at the start of the video is called “High As an Amsterdam Tourist”. Here is “A Year and a Bit” by Voicst. Love them.

Every day I am in this mess
I can’t help it and I think of you-ooooh-ooh
Just the top layer of the feeling
Enough to make me dig in all that I’m dooo-ing


More cuteness?

So, my last cute post took something of a long time. (If you have not seen it with the version that, you know, actually has music in it, you should do that. The music in it is good!) So, I figured that I should write about another one of the songs I think is the cutest song in the world, and actually do it in one fell swoop, as opposed to many lazy edits.

I did not always think Kevin Devine was awesome. This is probably because I was not into folksy singer-songwriters when I first heard him. It is pretty weird how much my tastes have expanded over the past few years, but, moving on…Kevin Devine is one of Jesse Lacey’s best friends in the world ever, and Jesse Lacey does BACKING VOCALS on a few of his songs. This is how I began listening to him.

Besides the absolute awesome that a person acquires by being best friends with Jesse Lacey, Kevin Devine is pretty cool in his own right. His songs articulate all theses insecurities and nervous moments and random thoughts that anyone can relate to, despite how specific they are. A ginger, Brooklyn-living Irish boy, he manages to write some of the most adorable music possible despite being a former junkie. You have to admire someone who cuteness has that kind of resilience. And he is seriously cute. As this song will demonstrate.

Structurally, it is pretty standard free-wheeling, folksy singer-songwriter type fare, just loosely in verse-chorus form, all that. The song intensifies as it goes on, which never fails to make me happy. Also, the guitar part is really fun, and kind of just makes me smile, as does the way that Kevin Devine delivers his vocals (it’s just so damn earnest!). There are some really well-executed harmonies on the chorus-y parts, and just…the lyrics. You guys, the lyrics. And the music with his voice and the lyrics. So good, so cute. That stuff about gingers not having souls might be a lie…Here is “People Are So Fickle,” off of Make the Clocks Move.

it’s just that people are so fickle
they fall in love at different angles
and really I could lose you
just as quickly as I’ve gotten you


A cute thing, in honor of the day

There are so, so many songs I could have used for this. Just ask Kendal Fong–any time I am listening to music, some song or another will come on, and I will declare it “THE CUTEST SONG EVER.” And I mean it every damn time.  After some thought, I decided I should go with someone not everyone’s heard, but who everyone in the world should definitely hear. Someone who I have been obsessed with since I first bought an album…

This post is like, a massive amount of self-serving, and not just because Josh Pyke is like…half of what I love in this world. I need more people in the US to listen to him so he’ll come here. He’s really, really well-known in Australia, where he is from, but his albums are literally not out in the US–only the UK and Australia. And those are the places he tours. The things I would do to see that man live…and yet, I can’t even buy merch, because shipping makes a canvas bag cost over $40.

At any rate, Josh Pyke is really my only possible choice for cute songs. I would have that man’s babies without asking too many questions, that’s how fucking perfect his music is. He’s got a great voice, an Australian accent, mad song-writing and arranging skills, and just…whether you’re happily in love, alone and longing, pining for someone, cautiously hopeful, bitter and heartbroken…if you are anything at all, he will have a song that voices that sentiment more gorgeously and more eloquently than anyone should ever have the ability to do…and can you tell I’m just stalling because I have absolutely no idea which of his songs to choose?

Sorry about that, anyone who saw that little glitch. 🙂 I was bound to try and write about a song that isn’t up on youtube eventually. I reeeaaally ought to check in advance. Fun facts: Australian quite possible exists juuust to make my life hard. So, I uh, had to use OTHER DEVIOUS METHODS to deliver you sweet Aussie goodness.  Hopefully they work.

So, uh, as someone who group up listening to a lot of what you would call emo, having a song written about you is…not the most desirable thing in the world. There are, however, some songs that remind me that it is not all bad. Like this one. Once upon a time, listening to this song, I found myself thinking “Yeah, having something like this written about me wouldn’t be so bad…” The perfect balance of sweet-but-not-sappy, this song means I might not whip out the cross and garlic if I get hit on by a musician-type again. Also, it has banjo. I don’t think I can over-state my love for banjo.

One of the less sweepingly orchestral songs on Josh Pyke’s first full-length, Memories & Dust, this song is simple and sweet. It’s got a perfect melody, some fantastic harmonies, what I think might be xylophone, and have I mentioned that banjo? That banjo is a damn good banjo. The chorus is a chorus you can run around the house singing (or is that just me?). Basically, this song had me at awesome banjo and awesome chorus and awesome harmonies. The sparkling-sweet lyrics are just a nice touch. 🙂 Cuddle up with someone nice to listen to this, if a someone-nice is available.

\”Monkey With a Drum\” by Josh Pyke

I’ve got some money put away
For a great escape
And I could run for a girl like you

(Please tell me the fucking link works.)


What sunshine sounds like

This next band, I have a ticket to see in April. And I actually doubt I could be too much more excited about it. (Mark! You should get one! Then you could be excited, too!) They are fantastic musicians who produce joy with their instruments and voices. There really isn’t that much more to it: The New Pornographers are happiness.

Something of a super-group, The New Pornographers were formed in Vancouver, in 1997. More than ten years and five albums later, they are still making sunny, musically-sophisticated bits of aural joy. (In case you haven’t noticed, this band makes me HAPPY.)

The bit of aural joy in question is off their 2003 album, Electric Version. Which, seriously, you should just kind of own that thing. It is filled with all good things. This song is one of the best good things. Tom Scharpling of The Best Show once said, via twitter,”My goal is to make something that makes others half as happy as The New Pornographers “From Blown Speakers” makes me!” This goal is a noble one, because from the opening riff, that song bleeds joy.

Seriously. I know I go on and on about choruses, but this song has the best VERSES ever. It also has just, the nicest guitar part, and one Mr. Carl Newman’s lovely voice, backed by some fantastic harmonies from the rest of the motley crew that is The New Pornographers. If they weren’t fantastic musicians, it would just be a lovely little gem of an upbeat, poppy song. But this is The New Pornographers! So it is a perfectly-crafted, perfectly harmonized, perfectly-wonderful gem of an upbeat, poppy song. It is beyond lovely; it is the loveliest.

Here is “From Blown Speakers” by The New Pornographers. Be as happy as it wants you to be. This youtube clip seems to have two minutes of quiet after the actual song, so you can stop it when the song ends. I promise, there is no more, even though ou’ll wish there was.

When the contact high
From the real life adventures wear off…


Andrew Bird last friday

SO, last Friday was a superb sort of day. The mission? Andrew Bird. The journey? Fantastic. Kendal, Riley, Mark, Cory, and I set out on a grand adventure that began with hookah in my living room, moved to Charlie Hong Kong for a delicious, cheap, organic, pan-Asian street-food dinner, and saw itself realized at The Rio theater. It was all-seating, which actually worked really well for Andrew Bird.

The opening act was this adorable, curly-haired singer-songwriter named Simone White. I did not enjoy her music. She had a pretty voice, played guitar prettily, but dear lord, her lyrics. They were inane. She forced rhymes constantly, including delivering things weirdly. I did not enjoy her.

Andrew Bird was a totally different story, though. Holy shit. Holy fucking shit. He is SO GOOD. Violin on looping pedals turns out to be the coolest thing ever. He played violin, guitar, glockenspiel, and sang at approximately the same time. And he whistled! I’ve never heard anyone whistle so prettily, I swear…That is a weird statement, isn’t it? BUT IT’S TRUE. SEE FOR YOURSELF. Here is a video of him playing at Bonnaroo one year. Imagine seeing that live.

Afterward, we headed back to our place and had some celebratory beers. Good fucking night. Seriously.