October 22, 2008

Born Ruffians in Spaceland [LA; 10/16/08]

Going to shows is way of life. But sometimes life can get in the way of, going to shows. Such was the case last Thursday, when Born Ruffians came to town and I was nowhere to be found.

Lucky for us, past roommate, present up-and-comer comedian, and forever the best red beard in Hollywood, Michael McCusker asked if he could cover this one.

Take it away buddy...
“I’m writing to you as a SS correspondent, lost in Spaceland, live* and on-the-scene.

Born Ruffians rocked and mega-rolled the intimate Spaceland on Thursday, but let’s start off the way they did… with the opening band, Nurses.

Another Portland indie band? Yes. Are they extremely listenable and fun? Yes. Truly a sweet discovery for this guy, and I hope you. Just click on what I give. Oh, and there’s a guy with a beard that rivals an old prospector.

Plants & Animals followed, and they were solid. These guys know what they’re doing, but it’s just not my cup (Sutton drinks it though). I’ll leave it at that. You peoples go use your people-ears and make people-decisions about whether or not you enjoy their “post-classic rock” sound.

And now back to the indie-popping boys from Ontario, Born Ruffians. 2008’s super-dooper fun album, Red, Yellow & Blue, remains in my top 5 list of the year. It’s one of the few CDs consistently on repeat in my Volkswagen GTI-POS. As expected they made me move. And they made everyone around me move. Oh, and everyone knew all the words. The big, special moment for me was when they started off their encore with a cover of “The Knife” by Grizzly Bear. Holy macaroni! (Sutton would never say that).

Singer, Luke Lalonde, has star quality with a unique voice, charming presence, and good looks to boot. However, if this guy wasn’t in a nationally touring band, one could easily mistake him for “the attractive, young dude on the second floor in technical support.” I’m just saying he just looks like he could fix a computer while eating a ham sandwich.

*I'm not actually writing this live.

Alright I'm signing out, … back to you, Dave.”

Thanks Mike!

The one video on YouTube from the show happens to capture my favorite minute of the previously blogged about album. Here is "Foxes Mate For Life."

And here, go ahead and download that cover of Grizzly Bear's "The Knife" that he was talking about, below.

Born Ruffians | The Knife (cover)

If you are in the LA area, make sure to see Michael every Tuesday at the aptly titled "Who's Available Tuesday Nights" on the 3rd street Promenade in Santa Monica. Free beer.

October 15, 2008

Pretty Excited About | Passion Pit [they're from Boston!]

I'm giving myself 10 minutes to do this.

Every major blog simultaneously gasped today at the debut video from a young Boston band called Passion Pit. I followed suit, spending much of my day with their myspace minimized and streaming. The standout, and featured track of the video below, is "Sleepyhead." A brilliant visual concept, an even better song. Their sound couldn't be more dead-on with what's been well-received this past year or so (see: looping hand claps). That and it's good.

I hear a tad of Cloud Cult vocals with a side of MGMT synthesizer, but they've still carved out something pretty organic. And besides, it's fun and Boston needs a buzz band. Not enough stuff blows up out of there.

So, my hometown chowder-heads, be proud of these guys. The Boston Phoenix already named them Best New Local Act of 2008 (reader voted).

They've signed to Frenchkiss Records, who re-released their debut, Chunk Of Change EP, last month. Expect their first full-length early 2009. Well, Passion Pit, the pressure is on now.

Download | Sleepyhead

Okay, that was about 26 minutes. Goodnight.

October 10, 2008

Happy Friday: On the Headphones...

There's been a lot going on this fall. Let's stick with what has really stuck. In a snapshot. I fully endorse these albums:

Department of Eagles - In Ear Park (2008)

Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen has hit this one out of the park. What really shouldn't be called a side project, In Ear Park is certainly one of this year's finest and fullest. They mix the sunny tones of Grizzly Bear with a more classic guitar drive.

TV on The Radio - Dear Science, (2008)
This is a monster album. It will likely make all the lists and break on a large scale (if it hasn't already). TVOR continue to make music that matters. Dear Science, has a warmer feel to it. A career-defining welcome sign. Strings, Doo-wop, vocal loops, soul-gaze... a lot of sounds are brought together, again making them impossible to classify. "Crying" and "Family Tree" offer up its highest moments. I'm looking forward to their show in November.

Kings of Leon - Only By The Night (2008)

Boy did I want to join the haters on this one. I laughed at the "heavy" lyrics and the grand stadium-rock arrangements and the awfully hunky video for "Sex on Fire"; I yearned for the old, fun Kings of Leon. But then something strange happened: I couldn't stop listening to it. I'm totally fine with these guys wearing the indie-rock title belt. Somebody has to. Rockstars are a dying breed nowadays.

Deastro - Keeper's (2008)

He's 21, and this thing is all over the place. For fan's of LCD Soundsystem and M83.

Todd Burns (formerly of Stylus): "This guy's got pop star written all over him."

Yancey Strickler (emusic): "Keeper's' ten songs are culled from demos and home recordings Chabot pieced together in his parents' basement, a land decidedly far from the dance floors and neon-lit city streets of his music, a place where his bald yearning and incredible talents find no boundaries, a place where he still lives."

Download | Deastro | The Shaded Forest

Electric President - Sleep Well (2008)

Marnie Stern - This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That (2008)

Well that album title took up my whole description box. Marnie Stern is back and she's still shredding. Not for everyone, but it is something to marvel at.

Chairlift - Do You Inspire You (2008)

Air France - No Way Down EP (2008)

This one has been getting consistent plays for a few months now. With chirping birds, ringing bell towers, dreaming children, and crying horses, No Way Down exists in some ambient Swedish town in the clouds.

So I've always wanted to make a music video using images of solar wind mills (ask anyone who's driven through Palm Springs with me). That dream has collapsed due to this video for "Collapsing At Your Doorstep."

Sorta like a dream?...no better... Sorta like a dream?...Isn't it?...no

Deerhunter - Microcastle (2008)

No previous interest in Deerhunter required. The band is at its most listen-able here. The noise has been turned down and replaced with sincere 60s dream-pop.

The Walkmen - You & Me (2008)

Another solid release from one of New York's best, straightforward indie bands. Hamilton Leithauser's trademark vocals again carry their distinct sound. But everything has matured. Vintage organs and pianos can be heard throughout. "In The New Year" is such a good song.

Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson (1971)

Thanks to some friends for sharing this one with me. The key ingredients here are pop, funk, orchestra and French spoken word. I'd head to the wikipedia page for a detailed background on this "concept album by the controversial French songwriter. The Lolita-esque pseudo-autobiographical plot involves the middle-aged Gainsbourg unintentionally colliding his 26-horsepower 1910 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost into teenage nymphet Melody Nelson's bicycle, and the subsequent seduction and romance that ensues."

I recently re-declared my love for Beck's 2002 album, Sea Change. It's nice to hear what he was listening to when he wrote it. You'll also hear where the Hanes underwear jingle comes from.

October 6, 2008

Fleet Foxes @ El Rey Theatre [LA; 09/22/08]

Last June, I struggled to find words to review a (for lack of a better word) breathtaking show by Fleet Foxes. After that night, the band would cover the States again, cross some international water, and further cement themselves as the breakout act of the year.

LA went craigslist crazy for Monday’s show. The El Rey Theatre added a second show for Tuesday, which also sold out. This entry is about the first night (and the last leg of that ambitious music weekend we had. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since).

This go-around was equally as enjoyable, even with an entirely different vibe. El Rey is a classier, more spacious venue. Singer Robin Pecknold likened the theatre’s chandeliers to the ballroom from The Shining. When a band has 4 vocalists, they have 4 microphones, and each one was utilized with quips like that all night. In fact, the amusing banter was the most striking contrast between the two experiences. At their last visit, songs were silently connected by a thick sense of seriousness. It suited the harmonies, the mood, and my own awe.

Any lack of fluidity this time was made up for with intimate, well-timed wit. The whole thing played out like a taping of VH1 Storytellers. It too, worked. They were funny, smart, just plain likable (“Geez Dave, why don’t you marry Fleet Foxes already?” I would if could, hypothetical friend voice, I would if I could…).

Friendly crowd heckles were encouraged, usually becoming conversation pieces. Topics like “The architectural history of El Rey” evolved into “Nickelback’s terrible music” and “you need to try Burt's Bees Carrot Seed Oil Complexion Mist for dry skin, we’re all addicted to it.” Eventually drummer, J. Tillman (who has great solo work, check him out), ran to the nearby Walgreens during Robin’s two-song solo set, and returned with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of that carrot spray, proceeding to mist the front row. Maybe you had to be there, but these guys were entertaining on a number of levels. The highest level still being, music.

Everything expected was magically played ("Blue Ridge Mountains", "White Winter Hymnal", "Drops in the River", etc). The most memorable point, believe it or not, came with the introduction of a new, never before performed song, “Silver City.” They prefaced it with that kind of thing your buddy does when he tells you a song isn’t finished yet, “so, you know, be nice.” They endearingly asked that we not put it up on youtube. Raw and tense, it was an honest look at the trial of a song. Of course, it was good; a little faster, and more electric.

I attempted to tape the opening song, but wasn’t aware that El Rey prohibited videos. A security guy tapped me on the shoulder just as it got underway. I really wished I wasn’t 6’3 and right up front when that happened. Youtube has enough of them by now anyway, right?

Here’s that beautiful greeting which was unfortunately cut short visually. I go from sheer joy to utter shame in under a minute.

To make up for the lack of live footage, this is the new video for “He Doesn’t Know Why.” It’s a good look at that sense of humor of theirs.

October 1, 2008

Hot Chip @ The Wiltern [LA; 09/21/08]

There was a point, about three songs into Hot Chip’s set last weekend, where I was embarrassed for Los Angeles. Sure, the expected energy bursts were present, but still, the crowd wasn't moving. This is Hot Chip. They are dedicated to making people move across the world. They write songs with calculated crescendos for that very purpose. I’ve seen them convert the past two Coachella’s into all-out raving dance parties, in broad daylight (that link is worth it). And here we are in LA, a sold out show, and the crowd is too cool to dance? Hot Chip is not a band to be “watched” (though they are entertaining), they are a band to be joined.

Luckily, that wall didn’t hold up too long against such fun-loving synth pop. And balloons! You can't deny balloons. By the time we reached “Ready for the Floor”, there wasn’t a dry brow in the house.

Hot Chip hit all their live staples: “Boys From School”, “No Fit State”, “Over and Over”, “Shake a Fist”, and the aforementioned show-stopper. Often the difference between festival sets and exclusive venues is breadth of material. More time lets bands dig deeper into their bags. So the lesser-known tracks were quite enjoyable this time. 2004’s “Down with Prince” was hilarious and funky as hell. Another one off Coming on Strong, “Shiny Escalade” showcased the often-overlooked vocals of Joe Goddard (the big guy, FYI: Joe produces their records too).

Also interesting: Unlike past shows, they had a live drummer; perhaps hinting at that “new direction” quote singer Alexis Taylor gave to NME the other day – “…looking to change the sound of our band for the next few months”

Hot Chip would sell out the Wiltern again the following night. But we were already onto Fleet Foxes. That blog is coming soon.