Saturday, January 20, 2007

Interlude: Masters of the Universe

The Dears, Annuals, Pilot Speed - Jan 19th, 2007

A day after extolling the benefits of attending a concert unprepared, in a fit of capriciousness, I did just that. I knew that the Dears were playing in town, but for some reason or another, I hadn't really gotten into the band enough to commit to a ticket. Despite the darn good reviews of Gang of Losers, I hadn't really been induced to give it more than a couple detached listens. Incidentally, the hike to the Mercury Lounge box office is also a bit of a hassle. But after a week of academic grind, with nothing particularly compelling to do on Friday night, I figured it was worth a shot to stop by Webster Hall. I was actually a bit surprised that the show wasn't sold out, but it worked out quite nicely. The evening was very refreshing, due in no small part to my unfamiliarity.

Pilot Speed
Small world, I have a one-of track in "Barely Listening" from these guys via iTunes' weekly free son series. What struck me about this set - and perhaps it's simply because I've been away from the venues for far too long - is how each song seemed to continue churning on for an extended amount of time, each one developing a series of peaks and valleys. Again, that analysis is hardly scientific, but Pilot Speed seem a bit more interesting than your average rock band, and there's definitely some potential here.

YouTube: Ambulance
YouTube: Barely Listening
Official Site: Here
Buy: Here


Annuals are pretty much blog royalty at this point, and after this set, I'm a believer. I'm still a bit bummed about missing their in-store, acoustic appearance at Other Music many moons ago, but, I'm not sure if a more intimate setting would actually be as immediate. There's definitely a dreamy, meandering side to their sound, but it can quickly evolve into a BSS-comparable cacophony. All of this is encapsulated in the great single "Brother," which you can find in downloadable sound or streamable video, as if you don't have it already. Anyways, frontman Adam Baker really commanded this set, delivering ferocious yelps, melodic singing, and pure energy on keyboards, guitar, slide whistle (!), and occasional drumming. The latter instrument was a definite highlight, with up to four of the six members doing percussion on a number of occasions.

MP3: Brother, via Pitchfork
YouTube: Brother
Official Site: Here
Buy: Here

The Dears

Which brings us to the headliners. Now don't get me wrong; I really enjoyed this set, but I'm still not completely enamoured with the Dears, at least not to the extent of, say, fellow Montrealers Stars. It's an inexact science, but if we take the route of comparison, I guess I can start to formulate what exactly is lacking. Well, perhaps most prominently, there hasn't been that one spectacular single to hook me in, quite literally. What I've heard, mostly off of No Cities Left, has been admirable, meticulously detailed songcraft, but something's missing. This is probably just a matter of taste, but I'm not sure it's simply a matter of aesthetics, or preferring particular brand of heartbreak over another.

Murray Lightborn is a strong frontman. To put it esoterically, he combines the intellectual dissatisfcation of Kele Okereke with the yearning romanticism and style of (who else?) the Moz. While I'd personally love it if the pretty vocal contributions of Valerie Jodoin-Keaton and Natalia Yanchak were expanded from their current, somewhat sparse role, again, that's a matter of taste. It's the (melo)drama that I'm just not sure on. While I can easily appreciate the earnest, perhaps somewhat idealistic content of Stars, this is a bit more difficult, a bit darker. All of this is basically a roundabout way of saying that I need to give this band more time, and seeing them live has given me the impetus to really dive into what's quite a back catalogue.

Okay, so that's all well and good. Now it's your turn; here's their appearance on KCRW's Morning Becomes Electic, on November 29th, 2004. It's been posted over at B(oot)log, but I figure that there isn't much live stuff floating around, and it wouldn't hurt to post.


1. Intro
2. We Can Have It All
3. Lost In The Plot
4. Who Are You, Defenders of the Universe
5. Interview
6. Hate, Then Love
7. Postcard From Purgatory
8. Outro

Buy: Here

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