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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Melancholy Pop Perfection

Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill

This song off of Gorillaz' latest (and supposedly last) album is much less complex than the rest of the CD. The same 80's synth chords pulse through the entire song, yet the contrast between the care-free music and the emotionally loaded lyrics stops me in my tracks. An inner battle between lonely feelings of sadness and a therapeutic love for another person takes place throughout the entire song. When Damon Albarn sings "If you can't get what you want / then you come with me" it manages to make feelings of melancholy sound not that bad--so long as you have someone to share your misery with, up on a hill.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

SXSW Write Up - March 20th 2010

11 bands. 1 day.

Two days later, my ears have finally stopped ringing and I can stop to reminisce about my epic Saturday at SXSW


This completely-free (hard to find @ SXSW) day party went from 12-6PM and was always entertaining. At the beginning of the day, the place was very uncrowded, allowing me to have an extended conversation with Mark Redfern, the publisher of Under the Radar Mag-most excellent. As the day went on, the place became more crowded, but it still seemed like this party was a special event-one which not too many people knew about but featured bands that rivaled any of the other shows happening that day. The range of genres was low, but the level of quality was mostly pretty high. A good number of these bands were new to me, so here's a write-up of each of the sets in one or two sentences.

Vivian Girls (Brooklyn) - 6 hours of continuous standing influenced my opinion of this set, but I was still underwhelmed by the headlining act of this day party. This three-piece girl band rocked out with some attitude, but was not very receptive to the energy of the audience. Perhaps a better band in the studio, or maybe I just needed to mosh around more. 6/10

Sondre Lerche (Norway) - The young folk-rocker owned this set. Impressive guitar playing with infectious energy and honest charm. Only wish he could have played longer. 9/10

The Veils (UK) - Whining Rock (more grunge-sounding than pop) performed drunkenly, but with some decent hooks, nonetheless. 5/10

Plants and Animals (Montreal) - Indie-rock band (emphasis on rock) with some impressive singles. Landing in the very middle of the day, this performance sort of blurred in with some of the rest of the day (not a good sign) but I remember dancing about and having a very good time. 7/10

Avi Buffalo (L.A.) - 19 year-old's just signed on to Sub-Pop. Led by charming youngster with impressive guitar shops (shown in the live show). Clean sound and great pop sensibility. Catchiest band I heard all day. 9/10 [download "What's In it For?" by Avi Buffalo]

Everything Everything (UK) - Heart on sleeves dance-rock. Radiohead-like vocals & harmonies. Recommended. 8/10 [download "MY KZ UR BF by Everything Everything]

The Invisible (UK) - I got to see their last song of the set. Lots of looping and droning guitar made for a good live experience. The band did not perform out to the crowd, but rather stayed internal, a shame, but at least they had soul. 6/10


Once my friends Matt & Jackson got off work, the three of us roamed down Austin's 6th St. downtown looking for any show we could get into without a $900 SXSW badge. We window-shopped at a lot of venues, eventually landing at the outdoor patio stage of the mohawk, where an eclectic group of bands were playing that night. For $15 we got to see some funk, indie, punk, and rock. Here's a brief description of each act.

Dam-Funk (L.A.) - I was very excited to see this futuristic funk artist play live since his album is way groovy. Dam-Funk's set was not technically impressive, and he used a few too many pre-recorded tracks in the show, however this was one of the most fun sets of the night, mostly because it was so different from the majority of the SXSW bands. Funking good time. 8/10 [Download "Mirrors" by Dam-Funk]

Surfer Blood (Palm Beach, FL) - Another band of teenagers, Surfer Blood has been earning huge buzz these days. The band has a cleaned-up indie sound with some fuzzy freak-out moments, driven by its two guitar players (who played very well). However, as if often the case, the band had a hard time living up to its hype. They were a bit too subdued and not quite comfortable enough to put on a killer show. 7/10

Thee Oh Sees (San Francisco) - I didn't hear a word these guys sang, most likely because half of the time the lead singer, John Dwyer, had the microphone halfway down his throat. Dwyer drew all the focus during this set, with bizarre stage antics in typical punk-rock fashion. The music was loud but not especially memorable. 5/10

Turbo Fruits (Nashville) - Unapologetic Southern Rock n' Roll. The music was fast, loud, and fun as hell. I don't know whether I would buy their album or not, but after lead singer/guitarist Jonas Stein played a guitar solo hanging upside-down from the rafters of the stage, I was in love. Great performance. 9/10

Shut Up And Listen - # 5

Lawrence Arabia - Apple Pie Bed

Friday, March 12, 2010

On the Road

I am writing this post from the comfort(?) of a Megabus, heading back to Minneapolis for some badly-needed rejuvenation. On his awesome music blog, MFR, Ian Anderson posts a playlist of the songs that are carrying him through a road trip. I've decided to give it a shot.

I woke up at 5AM this morning so I'm tired and can't wait to get home. Therefore, most of these songs share a driving quality that, though they may not make the bus drive any faster, make the 612 seem just that much closer. This past week was strangely unsettling for me, but thinking of friends and home is a good remedy. All these thoughts come out in some form when I hear these songs.

Traveler or not, these tunes do the job.

Hauschka - Chicago Morning
Andrew Bird - Fiery Crash (Daytrotter Session)
Throw Me The Statue - Lolita
Brother Ali - Take Me Home
Dirty Projectors - Ascending Melody
Pavement - Range Life
Why? - Sky For Shoeing Horses Under
White Hinterland - Icarus
Matt & Kim - Lessons Learned
Dr. Dog - My Friend
The New Standards - Hey Ya

Monday, March 1, 2010

Who's Zombie Season?

With a band name that fits perfectly with the current media obsession with all things monster/gothic, Zombie Season initially appear to be estranged cousins (no pun intended) of Vampire Weekend. However, while VW provide warm hooks that can get any party started, Zombie Season provides songs that, while poppy, offer perhaps a relationship longer than simply a fun weekend--an entire season perhaps?

Enough of that metaphor, what shocks me is that this band is still unsigned and under the radar. Their post-punk, semi lo-fi pop sound reminds me a lot of bands like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart that are being gushed over currently. The members of the band are all in their 30s (or close to it), and they seem like they might be past the point of searching for fame. Instead, these subdued Minneapolis musicians may just enjoy making music and playing around with fun topics like Zombies and love.

Zombie Season - Film Students