Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Andy Went to a Concert 2: Kaki King

Howdy you’all!  I come to you today with a much belated review of Kaki King’s April 17th Middle East show.  Yes I know it’s May now, I BE SORRY!

Let me paint you a scenario……. ok done.  Now let me TELL you a scenario.  It’s a cold, rainy night in Cambridge.  The air whips past your face like air whipping past your face (couldn’t think of a good analogy).  Streetlights illuminate and puddles accumulate (woah, that almost rhymed).  There is a soft thumping from the rock club in front of you, drowned out only by the line of 4.2 million people waiting to get in to it (perhaps sliiight exaggeration).  You are wearing a hooded sweatshirt AND a suit jacket because you’re so INDIE!

Anyways, a bunch more crap happens. they don’t accept my confirmation number for the tickets I ordered. have to beg my way into the club. cried a lot… blah blah blah.  Let’s get to the actual show.

Kaki’s new album Junior came out in early April and this show was part of a touring effort to promote the sale of this record.  “Ok, gotcha!  So she pretty much played new songs the whole time, huh?”  See, that what I thought! (We have so much in common… you wouldn’t happen to be free for dinner Saturday?)  Contrary to common conception, she played a really good mix of old and new songs, pitting new rock anthems like “Death Head” against classic acoustics like “Goby“.  The real difference in the show came in the energy.

Kaki King April 17 2010

It's rainbow because fuck you that's why!

This was a rock show.  As someone who has seen Kaki twice before, her typical show consists of a more laid back atmosphere.  Her shows are usually very banter-driven (seriously, if she weren’t a musician, I’d recommend stand up… great personality).  This show, however, was much more music-centric.  The songs were the focus of this show, and who could blame her?  This crowd wasn’t the type to sit quietly and listen to stories or jokes.

Come to think of it, this crowd wasn’t the type to sit quietly and listen to ANYTHING!!  At one point it got so loud one mutha’ucking genius decided it would be prudent to yell “SHUT UP” at the very tippiest toppiest of her lungs….. Bit of advice: remember all those movies where, if it’s too noisy, yelling something really loud shuts everyone up?  Those movies BLOW!  That doesn’t work!  It only makes everyone louder!  If the person who did that is reading this: I hate you! (but no, seriously call me… we’ll do dinner… ohgodplease*)

Now, with all this commotion, one might assume that the performer might get a bit flustered.  Not the case. Kaki King is an entertainer, pure and simple.  She fed off the energy of the crowd. In fact, during her encore (a performance of crowd-pleaser “gay sons of lesbian mothers“) she put the music on a loop pedal and jumped off stage and into the crowd.  It was there that she proceeded to dance… and dance…. and dance.  T’was awesome to say the least.  If I’d had a dollar for every time Kaki jumped off of something during that show, I’d be a rich man…(and a genius for finding a way to make money off of that).  All in all, kick-ass show!  Mucho approved-o!  A-plus-o! and other things that end in o.


And Thus Ends a Decade (Part 2 of 2)

December 16, 2009 2 comments

For those of you who read part one of this blog post thanks so much. For those who haven’t you can catch that here.

I’m not going to lie to you guys, this post is tough for me. I got cocky with my last post “Ooooh look at me… I’m soo important, there are only ten good albums blah blah blah”. Would somebody shut that douche up?  What, does he think he’s better than us? (Take notice how I have cunningly and craftily removed myself from the blame… ha-HA). Well as it turns out, there are lots of really great albums that came out over the last ten years, and now that it’s crunch time (and I already used up 5 of the 10) I’m finding the decisions tougher and tougher to make. Who am I to decide what albums are better than others? And besides, what is an album anyways… y’know, like in the grand scheme things… album is, like, just a label man… (Note to self, no drugs before blogging).

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is; these decisions were tough, but I just kept going with the criteria that I suggested in part 1 (that I should be able to listen to the album cover to cover without the urge to skip any songs).  There are some albums that didn’t make this list that I absolutely love, and some of my top 10 favorite bands didn’t make this list, but I have to knuckle down and be a man. Here are the last 5.

Mother Mother – O My Heart (2008)

If there was one band I was absolutely sure had to make this list, it is the canadian quintet Mother Mother. Originating in Vancouver, they have released two albums and have done several multinational tours. The band started when lead singer Ryan Guldemonde wanted to round out the sound of his music in a full band setting. He recruited his sister Molly, and before long Mother Mother was born. Now they have released 2 full length albums to high critical praise and are already working on a third. Their 2008 effort, O My Heart is without a doubt a weird album. It fuses elements of folk, jazz, rockabilly and even rap into the alternative rock genre. The focus with most of the songs is certainly the melodies. Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics are fun, but often heavily repeated (see Hay Loft). This album is odd, quirky and downright strange… but it’s also one of the most endearing I’ve heard. You can’t stay mad listening to “Ghosting“, “O My Heart” or “Body“.

Antoine Dufour – Existence (2008)

I first heard about canadian born folk guitarist Antoine Dufour almost by accident. I was watching a popular video on youtube called “Drifting” by one of his contemporaries (Andy McKee) and Antoine’s “Spiritual Groove” came up in the related videos section… the rest is history. This choice was not an easy one, for if you actually take a day to watch all of the videos on the Candyrat Records channel, you’d realize that there are literally 5-6 very talented and overly qualified artists all doing amazing things with the guitar. I decided upon Dufour’s Existence because there are so many beautiful and complex songs on that record. There is the musically entrancing “Catching the Light” and also the technically demanding “Song for Stephen” wherein he changes the tuning of his guitar mid-song. He is the winner of the 2006 Canadian Guitar Festival’s Fingerstyle Guitar Championship, and the winner of my attention. BRAVO (brav-ohs… also a new breakfast cereal.)

The Weakerthans – Reunion Tour (2007)

This Winnipeg based quartet is certainly not new to the music scene.  The Weakerthans have been making records since 1997.  This project was formed by John K. Samson, who used to play for the popular punk band Propaghandi.  This new project, however, was a departure from the heavy fast political punk of his old band.  The Weakerthans takes a step in a more mellow direction, which isn’t to say they can’t still rock out.  The fun blues and folk inspired punk riffs, however, are not even close to what makes this band worth a listen; that award goes to the lyrics.  The lyrics are introspective and insightful, like nothing I’d ever heard before.  Several of their songs are written from the perspective of Samson’s cat Virtute, and are often commentaries on the state of his owner.  The depth of meaning in Samson’s lyrics coupled with his nasal yet earnest and unimposing vocals makes this music to think about (and who doesn’t like using the old noodle?  Also, in addition to that noodle thing, who doesn’t like using their brain?).  Reunion Tour is their ten year anniversary album, and their fourth studio effort.

With lyrics like “My popcorn squeaks with the question, wonders why I’m not at home” and “Why can’t I draw right up to what I want to say?  Why can’t I ever stop where I want to stay?” it may be tough to tell he’s actually talking about the sport of Curling, but that’s exactly what “Tournament of Hearts” is about.  My other favorites include “Night Windows” and “Civil Twilight“.

Modest Mouse – We Were Dead  Before the Ship Even Sank (2007)

Modest Mouse is yet another band that has been around seemingly since the beginning of time.  Starting in 1993, they remained, for the most part, a second tier indie band throughout the remainder of the 20th century.  They really came into the public forum, however, with their 2004 hit “Float On“, which was so popular as to become overplayed and subsequently (and ironically) unpopular.  With the corresponding album Good News for People Who Like Bad News people began to recognize them as a serious indie contender.  With that kind of hype, however, there is almost always a tendency for the follow up record to be a large disappointment.  This is usually due to either the band being unable to handle the pressure, or because the record label sees an opportunity to make a quick profit and over-produces the album.  Modest Mouse’s follow up, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, did not fall victim to either of these pitfalls.  Aside from a suspiciously MIDI-enhanced sounding Dashboard (which even still is a really good song) the band sticks to it’s guns, keeping overdriven guitar and lead singer Isaac Brock’s gritty voice the focus.  The album showcases several great songs such as “Spitting Venom” and “Missed the Boat” as well as “Little Motel“.

Maritime – We, the Vehicles (2006)

Maritime, like The Weakerthans, formed after a prominent underground indie band broke up… actually two prominent indie bands to be precise.  In 2003 Maritime was formed by Promise Ring singer and guitarist Davey Von Bohlen and included the bassist from The Dismemberment Plan, as well as Promise Ring drummer Dan Didier.  Von Bohlen decided to take this project in a different direction from either of the bands from which it spawned.  This band was much more acoustically oriented and tended to lean away from the borderline emo lyrics from their early 21st century counterparts.  Maritime’s second album We the Vehicles is an orgy of power chords, fast strumming and melodic vocals.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, they’re really not terribly important… they don’t stand out too much… they’re just like any other indie band from the last ten years.  So why pick this album?  Quite simply put, I’ve listened to loads and loads of these types of album: catchy, but nothing to write home about.  Of all of those albums, however, none have made me want to write home quite as much as this one.  Check out “Tearing Up the Oxygen“, “Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts” “We Don’t Think, We Know” and “No One Will Remember You Tonight

So… there ya have it…  There were soo many eligible albums to choose from.  When it came time to pick these last five, I found myself with a short-list of 14 albums that I consider to be great.  Unfortunately only 5 could make the list.  I’d list the runners up but I feel as though that would diminish the sense of mystery.  Maybe your favorite album just barely didn’t make it, ooooohhhh the mystery oooooohh.  Anyways thanks so much for giving enough of a shit about what I think to read this far into my post.  I hope at least I’ve helped you discover a few new artists you’ll like, if not validated your feelings towards a particular band.  Again, if you didn’t catch part 1, you can do so here.

P.S. Sorry, but have to give these guys some credit.  They did make my short-list, but overall I decided they just didn’t have quite the volume of songs I was looking for on their album.  This, however, does not diminish from their overall musical prowess.  Boston’s own Art Decade and their album Royalty (2009) definitely deserve an honorable mention.  They’re just a blast to listen to and really fun to talk to, as I discovered when I interviewed them on my show a few months ago.

Check them out on myspace.

(Also check out Audiophilia‘s Top 10)

Categories: Roundups, Uncategorized Tags: , ,

And Thus Ends a Decade… (pt. 1 of 2)

December 10, 2009 7 comments

Well it’s that time of century again… when the last few seconds of 2009 expire in just a few short weeks, it will be a new decade.  Seeing as it has been a popular topic for bloggers, music enthusiasts and, oh yeah, just about every radio station in the continental US… I thought it might be nice to reflect upon the last 10 years.

The 2000s were  responsible for introducing us to bands like The Jonas Brothers and Kanye West.  It was a time when phrases like “superman dat ho” and “sugar we’re going down swinging” were made to thrive.  I guess I can’t say it was all bad though… at least we managed to put out 2 Twilight movies, am I right?

Now I know you’re all thinking: Andy, there must be something you liked about the last 10 years?  You are correct.  Amidst all the Kelly Clarkson and Bronson Arroyo (better known for his being a red sox pitcher NOT A MUSICIAN DAMMIT), the music industry did manage to put out several albums that I consider to be worthy of the highest praise.  I’m the kind of guy who can barely pay attention to anything long enough to even tie his own shoes, so any album that I can listen to cover to cover and not get bored with any of the songs is really a keeper (to be said in the most wisconsonist of ways).  Here are a few that have been able to do just that (in no particular order… at least listen to the links if you’re not gonna read it haha):

Death Cab for Cutie – Plans (2005)

Death Cab’s album, Plans, came out in 2005 and was a huge success.  Death Cab was formed by lead singer and guitarist Ben Gibbard (also of All-Time Quarterback and the ever popular Postal Service).  This was the first record that they released on the Altlantic Records label.  They had experienced some indie success for their previous album Transatlanticism, which showcased the single “Sound of Settling”.  Yet as good a single as that was, they really hit their stride with their 2005 follow up Plans. On this album they boasted heavy hitting chart toppers with their singles “Soul Meets Body” and “Crooked Teeth“, both of which received extensive airplay.  However this is not what makes this album worth a listen.  If it only had two good songs, I would simply recommend you go out and download them and be done with it.  This album is however a masterpiece of songwriting.  Each song is an ebbing and flowing tribute to the beauty and simplicity of analogue sound.  You know a song is good when even the bass line is holding your attention; no song does this better than “Summer Skin“.  However, my favorite song on the entire album has to be “Brothers on a Hotel Bed“.  Death Cab later went on to make the personally dissapointing “Narrow Stairs”, and most recently a single called “Meet Me on the Equinox” which so far as I can tell, was written explicitly for Twilight’s sequel “New Moon”.  Come on guys.

Director – We Thrive on big Cities (2006)

What do Director, Bell x1 and U2 all have in common?  If you said they’re all bands, you’re right… and retarded.  The actual answer I was looking for was they’re all Irish.  In 2006 the young quartet from Malahide, Ireland released their first album We Thrive on Big Cities, which found a strong foothold across the Emerald Isle.  They were praised for singles such as “Reconnect” and “Big Cities“.  They then proceeded to win several accolades for the album, including a 2007 “Meteor Best New Band” award.  I like them personally because they have a style reminiscent of other art rockers, such as The Strokes, yet at the same time have a level of songwriting I’ve seen nowhere else.

Telefon Tel Aviv –Fahrenheit Fair Enough (2001)

During my freshman year at Northeastern, my friend Charlie introduced me to New Orleans duo Telefon Tel Aviv.  They are a part of a movement within electronic music known as IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), which tries to express complex beat structures and off-kilter sampling through the digital medium.  Their 2001 album Fahrenheit Fair Enough is certainly an interesting take on the electronic genre.  In the background they contrast the smoothest of synth melodies with the most random cacophony of any and every sampled sound, which serves as the beat.  The resulting mish-mosh is prickly,  frenetic, almost epileptic and yet oddly soothing .  This music is well suited to studying, and I’ve even found I study better while listening to it.  Also try driving and listening… whoaaah.  If you haven’t already, check out “Fahrenheit Fair Enough” and “John Thomas on the Inside Is Nothing but Foam“.  But wait, also try TTV.

The Slip – Eisenhower (2006)

The Slip have been around a while and have been kicking ass for almost as long.  They originally started off playing avant-garde rock in 1996 after dropping out of Berklee College of Music.  10 years later they released Eisenhower, which was, by far, their poppiest foray into the music business to date.  Their song “Even Rats” even made it into the first Guitar Hero game.  However, this album was certainly not about the fame.  Every song on this album is its own little world, with it’s own stories and its own ambiance.  One song might be a slow ballad showcasing the vocal talents of singer/guitarist Brad Barr, the next might be a heavily percussive funk inspired mostly instrumental piece.  This range is seen quite clearly between “Suffocation Keep” and “Airplane/Primitive“.  The one thing that makes this album so easy to listen to, is that it never, for even one second, gets boring… and yet it does so without resorting to heavy on/off, loud/quiet shifts.  My hat is off to the Boston based trio.

Kaki King – Dreaming of Revenge (2008)

Kaki Kings 4th studio album continues in the tradion of her previous efforts; amazing acoustic guitar.  This album however sees much more of her vocals than her previous albums, a huge step for the New York singer/songwriter.  She had been hailed as one of the best female guitarists of our time.  Over her short career she has managed to work with such bands as Tegan and Sara, Northern State, and oh yeah… THE FOO FIGHTERS.  The lead singer of whom is quoted as saying “There are some guitar players that are good and there are some guitar players that are really fucking good. And then there’s Kaki King.”  She has also helped score such films as “August Rush” and “Into the Wild”.  But enough about her… the album “Dreaming of Revenge” was released in 2008 and showcases Kings talents as a guitarist, a vocalist and a songwriter.  She shows off her ability to play guitar on “Bone Chaos in the Castle“, her singing prowess in “Life Being What It Is” (song starts at 43 secs) and her ability to write a crowd pleaser with “Pull Me out Alive“.

I hope you’ve taken the time to read all of this, and if you have… THANKS GOMES.

Click here for Part 2

Kings of Convenience – “Declaration of Dependence”

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the past year or so, I’ve divided my time between my work, my friends and listening to acoustic pop duo Kings of Convenience. Their intricately intertwined acoustic arpeggios and haunting baritone harmonies have given me goosebumps (hopefully it’s not something more serious) since the very first time I heard them just over a year ago. Songs like “I’d rather dance with you” and “Misread” (both off of the 2004 “Riot on an Empty Street”) became a mainstay on my personal sountrack. So you can imagine my joy upon hearing that the Norwegian pair had just released their new album “Declaration of Dependence”

Ok, so a bit of background. Kings of Convenience are not for everyone, fans of metal, hard rock and women who are nursing or pregnant should consult a doctor before listening to KoC. These guys are quiet… like really quiet. Hell, their first album was called “Quiet is the New Loud”, and you know what? That’s the only album that makes noticeable use of percussion. Most of what you could conceivably call percussion in either their 2004 “Riot on an Empty Street” or the new “Declaration of Dependence” comes from string smacks distributed throughout the swirling guitar arpeggios. The band consists of Norwegian Guitarist/Singers Erlend Øye (also of Whitest Boy Alive) and Eirik Glambek Bøe. You’ll notice that both of these musicians have that awesome O with the slash through it, which leads me to believe that all of Norway is f***ing awesome. One last bit of background, though they are more popular in Europe, they will forever be overshadowed as the second most popular band in America whose name starts with “Kings of” (falling just shy of their Leon-esque rivals).

Ok, so lets get to this new album shall we?

First thing I notice is that this album has taken a less poppy turn than their previous “Riot”. On that album they really took off with popular songs like “I’d Rather Dance With You” and “Know How” which were very up-tempo and had catchy melodies. It appears as though this new album will be more of a return to their early work on “Quiet is the New Loud”. Immediately it is evident that they’ve still got it. The album opens with “24-25” a slow acoustic ballad which showcases their fundamental style: simple, straightforward guitar and vocals. Their voices spend most of their time twisting around each other like smoke rising from a newly extinguished candle. This is consistent with their previous work, but is nonetheless beautiful in a slow lilting sort of way.

The album then moves into slightly more uptempo selections such as their first single off the album “Mrs. Cold”. This single serves to change the mood from the slow, lilting “25-24” to a more playful one, starting off with the words “Hey baby”. From here the album only gets better and better. I’ve become personally attached to songs like “Me in You”, “Rule My World” and the albums second single “Boat Behind” (seen here live) which resorts back to the use of violin in support of their bouncing guitar and fluctuating vocals. “Rule My World” doesn’t seem like it should stand out in any way. Sure its kind of catchy, and the musicianship is clearly present, but it’s not a track you would expect to stick out from the rest. Well let me tell you, that song has been stuck in my head all day long, which normally annoy me, but this song is seriously good. The thing I absoutely love about this album is that even when they use chords, they’re not the same overused bland space filling power chords you hear in most music nowadays. Each chord could be listened to on its own, on repeat, and still not be boring.

Overall, this is the kind of album that you want to listen to as background noise, but the complexity of the chords and harmonies won’t let you. You almost have to pay attention to fully understand the songs. In their previous work, they wrote easily accessible songs that were both catchy and slightly more complex than the rest of the pack, but on this album they aim for a richness not seen in the pop songs of “Riot on an Empty Street” and succeed. My only complaint is that I kinda like a straight pop song every now and again, and this album doesn’t seem to have one. Overall I give it an A-. If it had had a “I’d Rather Dance With You”-esque single it would have gotten an A hands down.

In their own words “I can’t stop listenin’ to the sound of two soft voices twisted in perfection, from the reels of this record that I found.” (from the song ‘Misread’ found on “Riot on an Empty Street”)

Listen to their myspace!

“Rush” – – Black Gold

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

These days, it’s impossible to label something with just a genre. You can’t be hardcore, you’re “screamo post-metalcore.” You can’t just be pop, you’re “psychadelic girlpop with a psychobilly tinge.” Part of it is musical evolution, and that’s a good thing. Black Gold’s debut is fairly good at this mixing of genres, but it makes the album a little hard to get behind, just because they haven’t finished their trek to finished band.

The disc starts with “Detroit,” a pop song with airy vocals and heavy beats. The piano adds a nice touch. Effectively, it’s like they’re taking the beats and legitimacy of Passion Pit and mixing it with the sexy pop of the Friendly Fires. The second track, “Plans & Reveries,” tries to be a pop anthem, but it just makes it generic but trying the big catchy choruses on for size. It’s hard to sing along to, which is a no-no for pop music.

Track three, “Breakdown,” has me mixed. Now the track is a sexy dance song, but it tends to fall flat in the chorus. Now, this was the moment that I remembered that I had seen this band live, opening for (lol) Jaguar Love. I remembered this track because it was hot as hell. It was a dance INFERNO in the Middle East Upstairs. The track on the album does not reflect this very well. This gives me hope that they just don’t translate to tape well.

Then we get to track 5, “Silver,” which is a Jet-a-la-Shine-On pseudo-folk ditty that just doesn’t do much for me at all, especially in the world we’re in that inundates everything with “folk.” Track 6, “Shine,” doesn’t improve much, though it does have a vaguely Sondre Lerche feel to it that I can appreciate.

Basically, the end of the line is that the first four tracks are some hot electro-pop, the next four are folk-y parlor tunes, and the album ends on some underwhelming Third Eye Blind/Semisonic type tunes. Grab “Detroit” and “Breakdown” and call it a day; seeing these guys live is totally worth it, but Rush leaves me mostly unimpressed.

Categories: Review Tags: ,

When You Grow Up #1

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

There are only 2 kinds of people in the world… AND I’M 3 OF THEM!!  We all know this is, of course, a lie.  There are billions of kinds of people in the world: short ones, stout ones… ones that wear socks AND sandals (come on guys)… ones who cite overused cliches (come on me)…. ones who are REDUNDANT (“overused cliche” is redundant… come on people, stay with me).

Now in the modern world there are just so many options for what kind of person to be.  When you were a kid, I’ll bet you had a pretty good idea of what you wanted to be when you grew up: a fireman, a veterinarian, even a princess (for some of the guys who are reading this).  Well you were young, and things have changed, now you’re not so sure.  Well LET ME HELP YOU OUT.

Every now and then I’ll be picking out a few of my favorite songs and reviewing them here.  I will then group these by what kind of person would like them.  Listen, read, and if you like 2/2 songs, I’ll suggest what you should be when you grow up.

The Songs:

“Harder Better Faster Stronger” – Daft Punk.  Yes this was a song before Kanye West got his bespectacled hands all over it.  In fact it was a really good song… This song certainly has enough of a beat to classify it as a “dance” song, but this isn’t really a get out of your chair and boogie kind of jam.  The focus is really more on the melodie, which if you hadn’t noticed, is really catchy.  For the most part, the tune is carried out by a vocoder… which almost makes you want to rise up against your human overlords, who have let you carry out all the work while they all sit on a yacht in Bill Gates swimming pool (i.e. the Bering Sea). \”Harder Better Faster Stronger\” – Daft Punk

“Heartbroken” – Meaghan Smith.  I just heard this song for the first time a few days ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.  This song, “heartbroken” is the kind of song that fills your heart with whimsy like the first time you had eggnog when you were a kid.  The interesting thing about this song is that the tune is so happy and upbeat, but the message is so downtrodden… So really, it’s like the first time you drank beer when you were a kid, you’re happy but you don’t have any reason to be happy.  Listen to the song on her myspace.

Did you like those?  SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?  What could these songs possibly have in common?  Well, I think that based upon your tastes, when you grow up you should be: “AN OLD FART WHO REFUSES TO ACCEPT NEW TECHNOLOGIES”.  Why?  Well if you listen close enough to each song you can hear there is that faint crackling sound that can only come from vinyl being scratched by a needle.  This sound is, of course, intentional in both songs, but come on dude… get with the times.  It’s the 21st century.  We currently have phones that allow you to browse the web to search for other phones.  We have robots that can… err… carry old people places.  Even still, there is something to be said about the faint warm crackle of an old phonograph, even if Daft Punk is throwing it through 12.2 billion filters.

Categories: Review Tags: ,