31 March 2006

Jared Woods & Andrew Norsworthy

Oh, Jesus. This is the kind of show that makes you glad you do live music. Jared and Andrew were a brilliant duo--both with strong voices they know when to use, and a lovely sense of dynamics both vocal and instrumental. "Ohio" and "Trinity Highway" were my favorites, I think; I was disappointed that these are both on new CDs not out yet. Their whole set was so good it made my day, and I wish they'd put out a CD together. Wish I could find some good streaming previews of the new CDs, but no go. (Also wish I had time to cover Rose Polenzani, but CNS beckons.)

29 March 2006

Earworm: Casey Dienel - Doctor Monroe

Some in the blogosphere are waxing lyrical about Casey Dienel, and now I see why. She reminds me a bit of--Fiona's latest? Poe? Goodness, anyhow. The track's streamable/downloadable here (thanks to Largehearted Boy for the pointer).

26 March 2006

The Elected / The Magic Numbers

The Elected may be the weirdest band I've seen live. Their fairly middle-of-the-road indie pop sound is obscured by their unreconstructed, unironic hippie look, and their lead singer is either rockin' the gay cowboy look, or a girl wearing a mustache. This'd all be fine on a band with some musical personality to back it up, but given a serious lack thereof, it's friggin distracting! But for an opener at the Paradise, they seemed to have a pretty strong following. What am I missing about this band?

They made for a contrast with The Magic Numbers, though, who except for Romeo's teddy bear suits have a very low-key, unstyled stage presence backed by a seriously exuberant sound. Vocally they seem to owe something to the school of British folk that was the original material of bluegrass or Appalachian folk, but I don't know enough about the technicals of either to pin down specific resemblances.

My favorite thing about The Magic Numbers live this time was the same as my favorite thing the first time I saw them: the bassist, Michele. Onstage she seems unselfconscious and focused, jamming to the patterns in her head and smiling when she notices the audience is too. It's lovely to see a woman so comfortable, undramatic, un-pigeonholed on stage--and the fact that her bass lines are nicely agile doesn't hurt, either.

24 March 2006

Wow, even the Germans've got in on it

The whole brrreeeport thing, that is.

We're All Gonna Die: Progress

Pedro the Lion - Priests and Paramedics
John Vanderslice - Nikki Oh Nikki
Headphones - Slow Car Crash (or maybe the live Undertow Orchestra version?)
Death Cab - What Sarah Said

Gotta find a lot more tracks for this to materialize. Hm. Stars - Your Ex-Lover Is Dead might work in a pinch, but it doesn't really fit very well; more about aging and time passing than the real "we're all gonna die" idea I want.

23 March 2006

Sondre Lerche

Jens Lekman's Oh You're So Silent Jens is one of my recent albums of obsession, so when a friend recommended Sondre Lerche as similar, I was psyched. And he is similar, almost weirdly so--the same neutral, pleasant voice, wandering songwriting, mischievious sense of humor. But he isn't . . . interesting. I don't get how someone so similar to Jens can so completely fail to hold my interest. There are a couple of songs I like--Two-Way Monologue is catchy--but Oh You're So Silent Jens was my soundtrack for at least a week straight, and still makes me smile to hear any of it. I can't figure out what the difference is, and it's bugging me! "A Man Walks Into a Bar" is one of the silliest but loveliest songs I've heard in ages; and now on re-listening I think I've underestimated Jens' voice--it has a hint of that bloodhound-heavy levity you hear in Johnny Cash or Stephin Merritt, and Sondre's voice is, now that I think carefully about it, pleasant but remarkably featureless. Maybe that's it, then.

21 March 2006

An Unexpected Cover, part II

KEXP's most recent podcast Music that Matters (volume 10?) reminded me of the awesomely flexible cover Mark Kozelek did of Modest Mouse's Tiny Cities Made of Ashes. Cool thing about the cover is that when MM does it, it's a typically bombastic, angular Modest Mouse song; then Kozelek covers it and makes it into a dreamy, wandering meditation that's not at all surprising on a Sun Kil Moon CD. It's a little hard to take the SKM version seriously at first, but after the shock wears off, they're both good songs. And exactly what I always hope'll happen in covers.

20 March 2006

New Earworm

Final Fantasy - The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead. Got it from From Blown Speakers, and clearly he's right--it's a song that gets into everybody's brain. Now I've got to find the LP.

Edit: Final Fantasy is the solo project of Owen Pallett, string arranger for the Arcade Fire, guitarist/vocalist from Les Mouches, and former member of Internet, Picastro, The Jim Gutherie Band, Hidden Cameras and King Tut. Busy man.

18 March 2006

Not Music

Saw V for Vendetta last night. Trailer notes first.

A Scanner Darkly-- Was styled so drastically (filmed in live-action, and somehow transmogrified into flat, semi-impressionistic animation--looked kind of like a schizophrenic's art, with all those emanating lines and stuff) that it's hard to think about the content and its package at the same time. Content is yet another Philip K. Dick story, package may or may not be annoying and superfluous.

Silent Hill--By the look of it, just a there's-something-evil-out-there horror movie.

X3--Can't tell how Angel does himself, but it looked good. And there's Magneto! That'll go a long way.

Poseidon--A remake of a 70's movie about a cruise ship flipped by a great big wave. Looks execrable, not to mention unneccessary; dialogue includes Deep Blue Sea-like exclamations of "Ships weren't meant to float--upside down!" Dunn dunn dunn! And what was meant to be a touching, urgent line--"I need you to tell you that you love me" in extremis--got a big laugh, and a good three minutes of mocking imitation from the guy behind me.

And one other that I've forgotten, and suspect I actually liked.

V itself. Brilliantly done, I thought, with a few weak spots and one major weakness (one of which I bet is what--other than general cantankerousness--caused Moore to get his name taken off it).

First weakness: That scene where V comes out of the fire and roars. Unnecessary and silly--kinda like newly Darth'd Vader's howl in the last Star Wars. Intercutting it with Evey in the rain just pointed out how unsubtly both were done.

Second weakness: That fight with Creedy's men. Too much fake-looking blood flying, and too many demonstrations of what a cut throat looks like and does to the person it belongs to.

Third and most important minor weakness: The flood of Fawkes-masked people to Parliament, and Evey's confrontation with Finch at V's exploding-train pyre. Sentimental, not credible, and beside the point. The inclusion of characters already killed in the Fawkes-mask-montage was a particularly mawkish touch.

Major weakness: The whole anarchy thing was pretty much gone; maybe in the interests of making V a sympathetic character? Like they toned down (or didn't show, at the least) Evey's torture. It meant that in the book V was a difficult character to sympathize with, and I guess you can't have that in a movie.

Besides the unfortunate ending, a couple of weak scenes, and the overall weakifying, it was a brilliantly-done movie. Hugo Weaving gets mad props for voicing V so credibly and expressively that the unchanging mask became just what it was supposed to be--a cipher, a stand-in for a complex person. Natalie Portman was a good choice for Evey--the right combination of vulnerable and tenacious, uninitiated into the world she happens upon; Finch also was well-cast, with a bloodhound's look and a bewildered patriot's instincts.

One thing I do wonder, though: with what thought was the art in the Shadow Gallery chosen? Van Eyck's The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini with Giovanna featured prominently behind V in at least one shot, and granted it was radical at the time, but it could hardly look more bourgeouis and unthreatening now. Why that painting?

I'm not sure if this was imaginary or accidental or what, but it seemed to me that Party or Government members had very dilated pupils, while people outside the Government had very constricted pupils; maybe interesting to think of in terms of arousal, but maybe not.

Oh, another thing that didn't please me: the digs about "America's war" and that flag in Dietrich's secret bit with the words "Coalition of the Willing" around the swastika. V's England is supposed to be a little fantastical, not directly connected to the present, even though it was written as a protest.

16 March 2006

A Most Unexpected Cover

Damn, I wish I had Ben Taylor singing Mos Def's "The Boogie Man Song." That was good.

15 March 2006

Damian J. Kulash of OK Go

This is utterly cracking me up. Just to make sure I never forget . . .

. . . The unofficial charge is "giving the wrong answer when a police officer asks you 'what part of move don't you understand?'" For those of you planning travel in the Orlando area, the correct response is not "I understood what you said; I just didn't do it." Damian didn't know that.

. . . Until then, he'd like to address two rumors that have sprung up on the Internet in the last 24 hours: No, he wasn't drunk; and Yes, he did get the arresting officer to watch the "A Million Ways" video on the on-board computer.

Sylvie Lewis

Saw her opening for the Greencards at Club Passim and thought she had a brilliant voice, but was maybe weak on the instrumental skills--her guitarwork was probably the most basic I've seen onstage. A week of unshakeable earworms later, I'm solid on this conclusion; the instrumentation on her CD is boring and kinda canned-sounding, but it doesn't interfere with her voice too much, and it's the voice that's gangbusters. I can't quite pin it down, but she reminds me of older vocalists in how three-dimensional and lustrous her voice is. Her lyrics are mostly on the standard love-and-relationships theme, but just wry enough to make me forgive 'em for that.

13 March 2006

Damon & Naomi/Isobel Campbell

Saw Isobel Campbell last night at the MFA (of whose indie music series I'm getting increasing fond). Damon & Naomi opened, and while I was impressed with Naomi's voice, Damon is kinda confusing--boring guitar-playing, barely noticeable vocals, and really odd stage patter. Is he the song-writing genius, and nobody will tell him he's not a performer? Naomi's husband/brother/uncle/second-cousin-twice-removed? The one with the music biz connections? What's he doing there?

Isobel Campbell's voice was lovely, as always; her voice blended and complemented Eugene Kelly's remarkably well, and the band's sound was cohesive. My favorite visual of the night was the contrast between the two bassists: one in a pink collared shirt and slacks, and the other in a t-shirt and trucker hat--I think they're both called Dave, but I don't know which one is Gormley and which one is McGowan, and could be mistaken on that entirely. She did an unexpected Sneaker Pimps cover, too--"How Do." Did it damn well, too, although didn't add much to the original.


Magnet was pretty good; his instrumental style I liked--wandering and dynamic, kinda like Mogwai or Dave Bazan or, in fact, Stars themselves. Usually wasn't very interested in his voice, though.

Stars, though--ah, Stars! oh, Stars! Great show. amy millan's voice is wonderful--a little like Björk in her gentler moments. Torquil Campbell reminds me a lot of James, the frontman for a'tris, plus twenty years and a lot of drugs. (He took the spastic drugs and Amy took the floppy drugs, it seems.) Stage setup was pretty cool--a shitload of equipment and instruments--there were nearly as many guitars as songs--plus four ugly, boring, almost colorless living room lamps. The lamps would dim and switch lineups occasionally (which I think one of the guitarists was cuing--took me forever to figure out what he was doing), and then before the encore, they ran through this sequence which was pretty easy to predict, at the end of which the band came out again. (They sure did make us work for our encore, too.) The glow was really lovely, and was a good contrast to the usual garish stagelights.

Brilliant show. And I have the hoodie to prove it. Sadly, Torq said they probably wouldn't be touring again any time soon--wonder what that means, are they breaking up?

David Saw/Chad Perrone/Ben Taylor

There were two openers for this show. First up was Brit David Saw, who did good. Not very memorable, maybe, but pretty good at holding attention. The second opener--Chad Perrone--was actively boring; I swear I saw everyone in my section check their watch in the last fifteen minutes of his set.

Ben Taylor gets mad props, though. His voice sounds weirdly like his dad's, especially in its higher ranges (James Taylor, of course)--I'm sure he's tired of hearing that, but it's true; and he uses it well, with short a cappella interludes in most songs. He's got a good stage presence, and his songwriting seems pretty strong, with a nice jazzy, funky, comfortable feel to it. Refreshing to hear live music (in the Paradise, no less!) that is real sure it's not emo. He, er, I think he did a Mos Def cover too--Mos Def - The Boogie Man Song; it was a fantastic fit for his voice, and I only wish I could get a recording of it.

He mentioned in the middle that his mom was at the show, and for the encore his sister Sally Taylor (who sang backup the whole show--her voice's inherited her mom's impressive size, but not the bell-like tone quality) and his mom got up and harmonized as he sang James Taylor - You Can Close Your Eyes. That was a treat. I wish it were one of those recorded concerts where you can buy the CD right after, though. I want Boogie Man and Close Your Eyes.

Really kinda weird to see a show that's such a family affair--usually my attitude to musicians is that I like their music, but I don't need to bother them personally or hear about their private lives. With this it's kind of unavoidable, since I grew up listening to James Taylor and, to a lesser extent, Carly Simon; and, y'know, his sister sang backup, his mom was there, and he covered a song of his dad's. He seems to be okay with it being a family affair himself, so I guess I should be too.

Anyway. Lovely concert.


Pedro the Lion - Priests and Paramedics--one of these days I'll make a CD and call it We're All Gonna Die. This and John Vanderslice - Nikki Oh Nikki will be featured, and maybe Death Cab for Cutie - What Sarah Said (Death Cab for Cutie - I Will Follow You Into the Dark is a better fit thematically, but What Sarah Said is a better song).

Undertow Orchestra (Dave Bazan, Vic Chesnutt, Mark Eitzel, & Will Johnson)

Brilliant concert. David Bazan was the only one I knew beforehand, so he was mebbe unfairly my favorite; hearing the voice of Pedro come out of an actual person was as weird as it always is with singers I've been listening to for years before I see 'em, and he did a couple of songs I didn't know (the one I liked most started out "your purse hit the windshield / when I locked the brakes," and I can't find it anywhere online). Vic Chesnutt was playing the gnome-in-a-wheelchair part and hamming it up a bit, but the interactions onstage seemed more . . . like a real conversation? than those of established bands; maybe because these guys haven't spent a whole lotta time together for years and years. Will Johnson from Austin was okay, but the standout artist I wasn't familiar with beforehand was Mark Eitzel--really strong and pleasant voice he's got. Overally their sound together was goodgood; I was kinda surprised how well Dave Bazan's often wandering instrumentation came off onstage. Really good show.

Zoe Keating/Imogen Heap

Zoë Keating is the best opening act I've seen in a long time--an opener I don't know can rarely keep me from being impatient for the headliner I do know, but she managed it. I'm a sucker for strings in electronica, and it's always impressive when somebody can manage tracks and an instrument live. Bought her CD, and it was no disappointment, which is a bit unusual at that level. Maybe hanging out in Rasputina gave her the recording experience necessary.

Imogen Heap's voice is just as remarkable live as it is recorded--all of the remarkable power, versatility, and tone quality is there. The first song she seemed nervous or distracted by all the electronics she had to manage, and I wondered if her voice was studio-constructed, but she settled in after that, and it ain't. Didn't sing as much from Imogen Heap - I Megaphone as I'd hoped, but given how much she's done between now and then, I guess that's not surprising. Oh and the stage design was nice--pretty and ethereal, but her little sarcasms about it and obvious enjoyment of it kept it from being twee or cutesy. Seems a bit odd that she did a song for Narnia, and it's not a particularly good song, but she's brilliant. Favorite new(ish) female vocalist.


Jens Lekman - A Man Walks Into a Bar. "A man walks into a bar / Orders a beer and a bowl of peanuts / But the bar turns into a spaceship / And the bartender gives him a haircut / I can't remember the end of that joke" Best opening verse ever.

David Garza/Fiona Apple

David Garza was the opening act; he seemed pretty cool--acoustic guitar with a little bit of edge, not too self-indulgent or over the top. But as always, opening acts I've never heard of get short shrift in terms of attention.

Fiona Apple was . . . interesting. She's a good performance answer to Feist's looniness: she knocks up the intensity just a bit (so there's actually a difference between live and studio performance), but not so much that she ruins her sound and leaves everyone in the audience bewildered and alienated. She played surprising amounts of her early stuff, and not as much as expected from Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine (stupid tag format). I don't know enough about this to know what it means, but Elizando was playing base--given that he's Dre's right-hand man (and therefore a big shot?) and was brought in to re-produce the album . . . dunno how to integrate all that, but it seems noteworthy.

Somebody had the brilliance to put her in a long, heavy, beautifully-draping black dress with sort of cape-ish sleeves and a coral belt. This had the effect of making her weirdly spastic dancing (?) remarkably beautiful. Also, her set designer or lighting director or whatever is smart. The lighting was atmospheric and color-smart, and there was very little of that execrably stupid rock-show "flash-the-lights-in-time-with-the-music" crap.

Crowd notes: Good-looking women like Fiona. And there was a high fangirl presence, good-looking or not.

Magic Numbers/Feist/Bright Eyes show

The Magic Numbers is cool--and their bassist is awesome. She looks like she's being what and where she should be, which is always heartening. Band in general had great energy and their songs did well live, unlike . . .

Feist live, on the other hand, is the weirdest thing I've ever seen. Comment garnered by her initial appearance onstage: "Oh. She took all the drugs then, did she?" And it would seem she did. She tried to rock out to songs which were completely un-rock-out-able (ruining her best song in the process) and lost an already restless audience completely by going to a slow-dance kinda song just when the audience was most bored with her weird, coked-out stage presence. Sucks, because her CD's goodgood. Onstage she seems to be trying to be Fiona Apple--skinny enough to verge on scary, and unexpectably rockable--but she definitely isn't pulling it off. And her crowd-managing skills need serious help.

Bright Eyes had more musicians, and more instruments, onstage at any one time than I've ever seen in a single band. A full upright harp, two drummers, three guitarists, and at least one dude wandering around playing trumpets and other miscellaneous instruments. Connor's vocals are still way too self-pityingly screamy for me to like most of the time--but the idea of the band's a good one.