JezebelMusic.com @ Music Hall of WIlliamsburg
March 6, 2010 | Nada Surf
It’s safe to say that the Music Hall of Williamsburg and it’s sold out crowd were thoroughly soaked in nostalgia on this particular evening. At the request of Nada Surf, Sea Wolf front man Alex Brown Church kicked off the night. Admittedly nervous without his usual backing ensemble, Church strummed through a set of bare bones folk/pop songs. The droning minor chords and his sublime tenor invoked the feeling of autumns past. After a few botched chords and false starts, Church met the crowd with a capricious smile that certainly matched the atmosphere. Things began to pick up a bit when Nada Surf front man Matthew Caws joined Church on stage for the Sea Wolf favorite, “You’re a Wolf”. Overall it was an enjoyable and intimate performance by an established indie rock front man.
March 23, 2010
Brad Oberhofer dresses the way his music sounds. At their core, his songs are wonderfully catchy pop tracks: perfectly simple and even a bit traditional, like his skinny jeans and narrow sneakers. But at the same time they’re meticulously layered with pulsing drums, slightly overdriven guitars, and even a glockenspiel now and then; when I met up with Oberhofer, he was wearing a t-shirt, under a black-and-white polka-dot button-up (which he tells me he found in the “Old Woman’s” section at Goodwill) and a beat up leather jacket. Attached to his jacket was one of his many thrift store pins and broaches—this one a multi-colored, smiling rain cloud—that echo the whoops and hollers that adorn almost all of Oberhofer’s songs.
At just 19, and currently a sophomore in the Music Composition Program at New York University, Oberhofer has started to make a name for himself with his blend of do-it-yourself indie-pop. His music has garnered comparisons to groups like Vampire Weekend and Surfer Blood, but none of these seem completely right. Really, it’s like Oberhofer’s in a class all his own. Something new and different, and kind of indescribable. But it’s definitely catchy as hell.
JM.com: When did you first start playing music and writing your own music?
Oberhofer: I started playing piano in 2nd grade and quit after 2 years. Then I picked up freestyle rapping in 7th grade and also started playing drums. When I was about 16, I started playing guitar and writing my own songs. And after I moved to New York, I started writing the songs for Oberhofer, except “Gold,” which I wrote the summer after my senior year of high school.
JM.com: What made you really want to start getting into song writing once you moved to NYC?
Oberhofer: It was something I was already getting into, really. And in Tacoma there are a lot of really inspirational people who write really cool songs. It just became a part of my life, and I had nothing better to do when I was in a dorm by myself. So I just started playing guitar and making cheesy little songs.
JM.com: Who are your favorite songwriters? More on Oberhofer
March 21, 2010
2010 | Virgin
Massive Attack. The name brings massive creditability and respect from both their peers and the fans that have celebrated their music for the past 20 years. The production unit that signed a massive deal with Virgin and that always unveils a rotating cast of who’s who return with their first full length in seven years. Their first album as a duo after 12, the reunion is definitely dark as ever, but can’t seem to muster what once was pure brilliance both in and out the studio doors.
The album starts on a slow churning piano dirge featuring the vocals of Tunde Adebimpe of T.V. On the Radio. While the track builds to a climax, the falsettos of Tunde cannot save it from its pulsing organ aftermath and slow return from where it came, a circle dance-cum-séance. Strangely sequenced first, it’s the album’s weakest track, and the album begins with a false ascent into a somewhat former position of greatness that the group once held. That misnomer is led by familiar Bristol singer Martina Topley-Bird. While this is her first official collaboration with Massive Attack, starting with the 2nd track “Babel,” she is a former collaborator with Tricky, who appeared on both “Blue Lines” and “Protection.” She is now also touring with them.
“Girl I love you” is no false treaty and Del Naja and Daddy G return to the greatness that they achieved on “Mezzanine” due partly in fact to reggae legend Horace Andy’s turn on the mic (Andy the only singer to work with Attack on all 5 albums). With its driving bass, pinning underlying chimes and popping horn attacks, this song convalesces upon itself and reaches the meditative state that originally brought Massive Attack out from the dance floor and into the mind.
March 20, 2010
Pop music has offered dozens of story-songs, from the funny (“A Boy Named Sue”) to the tragic (“El Paso”) to the sorta nonsensical (“Hotel California”) and beyond. The following four story-songs are all pretty good… but they’re pretty darn strange, too.
The Royal Guardsmen | “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron”
A fairly weird attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Peanuts comic strip, this novelty single by The Royal Guardsmen recreates the fantasies of Charlie Brown’s dog. Manfred von Richtofen, aka The Red Baron, is wreaking havoc on dozens of good-guy fighter pilots (the song specifies 80 men, which is apparently his legit war record). And while history would have us believe that the Red Baron succumbed to injuries he sustained during a firefight with Brit flying ace Donald Cunnell, the Guardsmen know it was actually “a funny-looking dog with a big black nose” who brought the Baron down. In the song, the Baron shoots down Snoopy easily at first, but Snoopy consults the Great Pumpkin and comes back bigger and better than ever, to knock the Baron from the skies. He doesn’t kill him though, because the Baron returns to face Snoopy in two more very similar-sounding (but not quite as fun) novelty singles, “Return of the Red Baron” and “Snoopy’s Christmas.”
Genesis | “Domino”
Frankly, I could have filled this entire column with weird-ass story-songs by Genesis, but this is a notable late-era example, hiding between hit singles on the band’s ubiquitous pop album Invisible Touch. “Domino” is a two-parter that begins with the sedate but creepy section “In The Glow Of The Night,” where the lead character yearns for a lost love, bemoans his solitude, and mutters, “Do you know what you have done? Do you know what you’ve begun?” Then we are sent hurtling into the second part, “The Last Domino” which sounds like an ‘80s sci-fi/action movie apocalypse, as the (anti?) hero describes “a beautiful river of blood” that drowns him while nearby children are playing with boats. Is it all in his mind? Did he murder his lover? Did he set off a cataclysm that will kill us all? What is going on!?! The song insinuates more than it answers, which is part of why it is so unsettlingly memorable, like a well-made artsy horror movie.
JezebelMusic.com @ Glasslands
March 6, 2010 | We Are Country Mice, Dragon Turtle, ARMS, Tall Firs
I had never seen a show at Glasslands prior to this Saturday, and have to say, despite its somewhat abandoned location, I was enchanted. As I sipped my beer, waiting for the show to start, I took the time to appreciate the excellently haphazard and whimsical space, hoping the music would follow suit. Supported by an energetic coterie of glow necklace adorned fans, openers We Are Country Mice were by far the highlight of the evening. Brooklyn-based, but mid-country reared, their sound is honest and refreshing. Sometimes twangy, sometimes vaguely surf, they’re just plain fun. They won me over with “The Ballad of John,” a gorgeous, harmonious country-esque rambler that breaks out into a crashing, cathartic rock song. “A Good Old-Fashioned Barn Raising” is a lot less creepy live, and come on, who doesn’t love to see a megaphone appear onstage? Drummer Kurt Kuehn looks like he’s having an absolute blast, as they all do. Between a xylophone cameo and some inherent scrappiness —lead singer Jason Rueger smilingly manned their merch table all night — We Are Country Mice, are for sure at the top of my small-indie-bands-I’m-rooting-for list.
JezebelMusic.com @ The Knitting Factory
March 15, 2010 | Brooklyn Vegan Pre-SXSW Show
Banjo Or Freakout is a bedroom recording project recently turned live band that sounds a lot like, well, a bedroom recording project recently turned live band. It has the flaws you’d expect: the band is competent but slightly uncertain, the vocals falter and slip out of tune in a way that does not sound intentional or stylistic, most of the songs pick one rhythmic and melodic idea and just hit it on the head for about five minutes, the whole set is smothered in synth washes and reverb that hide all the melodies, no one really moves around much. This last was especially surreal at the Knitting Factory, given the generous size of the stage and the absolute swarm of photographers pacing the front with bizarre, spiderlike stabilizing contraptions and poking their lenses out from behind the amps. The obsessive documentation seemed to call for a little bit more than Alessio Natalizia and company were willing to give us, a fact that crystalized in the moment when I saw the videographer do a dramatic zoom in on the hands of the bassist as he played the same single note he’d been playing for about three minutes. Then the three Londoners in The Wave Pictures came on and obliterated the entire Banjo Or Freakout set with one blistering guitar lick.
March 14, 2010
ART OF SONG
“Hug the Harbor”
The Law of Large Numbers
Chemikal Underground | 2010
Emma Pollock is a very trusting lady. In “Hug the Harbour,” she refers to you, yes, that’s right YOU. And though you should have “hugged the harbour,” which would have “avoided all the disaster,” there are still “all the people that are dear to you / sitting right behind / and trusting you. / My trust lies in your precision.” There is a neat little piano flourish that really drives the point home.
That’s just stanza one and already it’s more positive than most songs I end up reviewing for this column. People? Being nice? TRUSTING? Unheard of, really.
There is something about this song that reminds me of Neko Case-led New Pornographers songs. Although there is more pounding drums rather than tinkly bells, the floaty imagery and the strong-but-sweet female narrator is still there. And believe me when I say this, Miss Pollock and anyone else who may stumble across this article and wish they never found it, that’s a compliment. Of the highest degree. New Porn is very close to my heart.
The instrumentals are, for the most part, forgettable. Though the way they pick up towards the end is admirable. You can tell Pollock is amping it up to keep this from being just another slow-moving song about the choices you make.
It gets dark before that though. Literally. You, our intrepid adventurer, have to meet the dark. And your knowing leaves you. And now this is starting to turn into a Death Cab song about following people into dark places or something like that. There is no greater metaphor here, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
“Hug the Harbour” is cute. It’s neat, and polished. The lyrics are deep, though they get repeated often. It seem like Pollock wrote a really good stanza, and decided to turn it into a song. But hey, it’s been done before, and done successfully. And Pollock seems to really believe what she’s throwing out at you, and sometimes that makes the difference.
“Hug the Harbour” is available to stream on Emma Pollock’s website: http://www.emmapollock.com/
by allison levin
March 9, 2010
Welcome to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses 2003 and the good old days when kids took the time to ride their bikes to record stores to pick up new albums instead of downloading songs with a simple and thoughtless click. For earlier installments, go here.
If the moment upon which the music industry gave up the ghost for real can indeed be pinpointed to a single date, I would posit that it came with the release of Good News for People Who Love Bad News, the commercial breakthrough from Modest Mouse, long beloved Washington indie rock darlings. And I can’t even blame the death of the industry on Modest Mouse: while Good News is not nearly as good as the albums upon which Modest Mouse’s reputation was built, the album is still quite good. I would posit, though, that the end of the old standard came with Modest Mouse’s crossover because I can’t for the life of me think of one other new album that’s had anywhere near the impact of Good News.
(Before you get started in on me about music over the last seven years, let me just say: Animal Collective, M. Ward, Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, Bon Iver, !!!, Neko Case, My Morning Jacket, Screaming Females, etc. I know. Shut up.)
But given that I promised to wrap things up in 2003, let’s just go ahead and say that any events dating after December 31, 2003, are epilogue. I would point out that 2003 is the year Radiohead, previously the bastions of adventure and limit-testing in modern rock, first failed to live up to the hype surrounding them. Where moments on each of their previous albums carry unmistakable resonance to this day (discounting 2001′s Amnesiac, which was more of a companion piece than actual album), 2003′s Hail to the Thief was the first more or less unmemorable Radiohead album. Considering that Thom Yorke and Co. are hailed in the media as industry saviors on a more or less daily basis, I would guess that a lot of guys who wear ponytails and $1,000 suits started bucketing water out of the higher floors of the Capitol Records building when Hail to the Thief failed to reinvigorate the industry.