September 26, 2008

Beck, Spoon, and MGMT @ The Hollywood Bowl [LA; 09/20/08]

You read that correctly. This was one Saturday night. Beck had an orchestra too. Clearly, it was a good time.

Still spoiled from Radiohead’s performance a few weeks before, we showed up late and casually (sort of) acquainted ourselves with seats and wine.

This would have made our 4th MGMT show this year. Given that realization combined with the usual lack of liveliness observed during opening acts at the Bowl, I was at peace with missing them. The night may not have been about MGMT, but it’s pretty cool that a young band can score such a gig so early into their careers. After watching some “eh” videos from their set, I’ll encourage anyone there who wasn’t impressed to go see them headline a smaller place.

"You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"
went off right as we sat down. Spoon, no stranger to big shows, took us into the night with an hour’s worth of their finest. It would be hard not to appreciate a sound and presence as warm as Spoon’s. And every time a track from 2005's Gimme Fiction was played, a great sense of “man, I really underrate these guys” came about. "I Summon You" and The Beast and Dragon, Adored" made my tickets paid for already.

Next up was the homecoming of Beck. He’s treated this city to years of shows, sometimes even secret ones, but never a large-scale Bowl. He wasted no time sliding into the first chords of “Loser.” I’ve wanted to see Beck live for as long as I can remember “Loser” being on MTV. Again, the excitement should be fairly obvious here.

From there it went all over the map. I couldn’t help but scratch my head at times. This is due in part to the idiosyncratic evolution of Beck.

1994 Beck might have break-danced in flannel. 1997 Beck might’ve done splits in a leisure suit. 2000 Beck might’ve crooned sex-funk on a satin bed. 2002 Beck might’ve poured his heart out over an acoustic guitar. 2005 Beck might’ve brought his interpretive dancer along, or his puppets, or his dinner table hand-clapper band.

For the record, 2008 Beck can do whatever he wants. He’s Beck. But I will say he did absolutely none of the above. Nearly stationary and frequently somber, you could say he let the songs sell themselves. Luckily, most of those songs were exceptional. The ones from this year’s Modern Guilt were perhaps his most inspired; you could tell they were fresh in his mind.

And select tracks from 2002’s Sea Change also came to life with the added strings from his father’s orchestra. Strategically, this might have misled the crowd to a sit-down mode right in the middle of the set. But I had no complaints.

(It’s safe to declare my favorite Beck album as Sea Change. This could be a minority view, but that record was a separate entity; such a reflective, serious sentiment from a guy who at the time was only known for perfectly ironic, fun songs.)

So onlookers may have snoozed a bit, but sure enough, Beck would wrangle them up for the encore of “Where it’s At.” And the amphitheater got its party.

I suppose a true showman doesn’t need a bag of tricks (at least one Prince split wouldn’t have hurt though). Alas Beck is not a 38 year-old dispenser of stage antic. He’s a legend, and it was an honor to see him continue the “mutations.”

Here's a Sea Change-ing highlight from Saturday, "Lonesome Tears":

Set list:
Loser / Girl / Nausea / Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (Dylan cover) / Que Onda Guero / Nicotine & Gravy / Mixed Bizness / Devils Haircut / Timebomb / Soul of a Man / Gamma Ray / Hell Yes / Black Tambourine / Modern Guilt / Paper Tiger / Think I’m in Love / Missing / Lonesome Tears / Replica / Round the Bend / Chemtrails

Encore: Where It’s At / E-Pro

September 10, 2008

For Conan, Forever Ago [09/08/08]

I'm really just posting this so I could do that blog title.

Bon Iver, one of 2008's best, stopped by Conan O'Brien to play a gem from that sweet, sweet For Emma, Forever Ago. Justin Vernon looks fairly comfortable sharing his introspective pains on national TV. Watch below.

"Ah It's so damn hot!, "Flume" was a good choice."

Nice version of "Flume" there. Great timing. And Conan pronounced the name right too.

I already stated my two gushing cents about the album here. I will add that it has aged very well. So summer is almost over; I might be ready to get back into this woodsy-winter soundtrack (you can only pretend in Southern California).

Extra videos and a more extensive analysis can be found at Stereogum.

September 8, 2008

Pretty Excited About | Chad VanGaalen's Soft Airplane

I try not to bypass the digestion of an album and just throw-up a blog after a day’s listen. But here we go, blahhhhhhhh...

So without rushing, I'll say this record is pretty good.

The Internet tells me Chad VanGaalen didn’t just come out of nowhere. He’s been releasing stuff for a few years now on the Sub Pop label and gained some critical praise for 2006’s Skelliconnection. Nonetheless, this album is as handmade as they come, recorded "primarily on an old tape machine and a JVC ghetto blaster" in his own Calgary basement. I wouldn’t have guessed that, unless you told me Chad’s basement was an actual recording studio.

Soft Airplane is spanning. It never rests for too long in one place. The first few tracks play with a twangy, Neil Young appeal. From there he plugs in. Synthesizer thumps drift throughout the belly of the work, really hitting stride by the half way point.

A band that keeps coming to mind is The Figurines. But of course, VanGaalen has something truly all his own. Soft Airplane officially comes out September 9th, 2008. The whole thing is streaming from his myspace as you read this. It’s worth a listen.

He’s also a visual artist and illustrator, so naturally, he makes his own music videos. See below.

Chad VanGaalen | "Molten Light"

And from Skelliconnection, here's 2005's single, "Flower Gardens." He animated this one too.