Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sleepless Nights: Mia Doi Todd's Gea

This album review appears in the newly designed Wireless Bollinger.

The long term music project is a rarity in today’s furiously churning music industry. With the well defined hype buildup–explosion–backlash cycle established, an artist that’s survived for more than a couple years is often the exception rather than the rule. Generally, there are two paths for artists in this category: a strong, steady fanbase or one that’s more underground. Mia Doi Todd seems to be of the latter sort, hovering on the periphery instead of grabbing the limelight.

Gea is her seventh album, the latest in a career that’s spanned the major label Columbia and indie Plug Research. Many of her past collaborations, especially from the latter source, are electronic and experimental. She has sung on tracks by Dntel, Flying Lotus and Daedelus, curious company for a singer-songwriter. Unfortunately, such peers don’t seem to affect her work, which is decidedly earthy.

When listening to Gea, a contemporary point of reference is My Brightest Diamond. It’s not entirely fair to compare the fresh-faced Shara Worden with Todd, who has been at it for over a decade. However, the mournful, slightly operatic lilt is a common quality in both of their voices. (A more minor consideration would be their inclination towards genre-bending remix compilations; Worden releasing Tear It Down last year, while Todd produced La Ninja: Amor and other dreams of Manzanita in 2006.)

What differentiates Todd is her accompaniment, which gently pushes her towards the folk category. Although an ensemble of musicians are credited with appearances, including a woodwind and brass section, the music is hardly in the vein of triumphant chamber pop. Throughout the album, it never surpasses the gentle guitar strum and soft swell of bass. This restraint places one’s attention on Todd’s vocals, which are quiet lovely, but somewhat languid. As such, Gea is fine background music, adding a pleasant ambience to an environment when half-heard. But when one’s ears focus, the end result sounds somewhat insubstantial.

Todd has a penchant for stream of consciousness-style delivery, exemplified by opening dual song, "River of Life / The Yes Song." The instrumentation is stuck on a few notes, as Todd intones similarly repetitive lyrics. The rest of the album doesn’t differ much. While the lyrics are quite inventive when read, the execution leaves more to be desired. A foray into Spanish in "Esperar Es Caro" (to hope is expensive) is a welcome change of enunciation, but overall the album resembles wallpaper: interesting for only so long before fading into the background.

Ultimately, Gea is unlikely to sway more than the usual crop of critics and fans. There simply isn’t that much worth getting excited about. It’s a shame, because Todd’s collaborations suggest that there’s more to her than delicate introspection and this ultimately uninspired sound.


Mia Doi Todd opens for José González at Highline Ballroom on March 11th and Brooklyn Masonic Temple on March 12th.

MP3: Mia Doi Todd - River of Life / The Yes Song
MP3: Dntel - Rock My Boat (ft. Mia Doi Todd)
MySpace: Mia Doi Todd
Official Site: Mia Doi Todd

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Pills Won't Help You: Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree

This review appears in Washington Square News.

After the success of "Supernature," which sold over a million copies and spawned a string of hit singles, Goldfrapp has earned a break. On "Seventh Tree," the group substitutes its usual synth-driven disco for acoustic guitars. Despite this change in atmosphere, the band's strengths are still present.

Meandering opener "Clowns" contains all the lyrical obscurity you would expect from its title, with Alison Goldfrapp's murmured vocals complimented by gentle acoustic guitar strumming. "Happiness" contains the percussive 4/4 beat that has given Goldfrapp's songs their kick for years, but with its rough edges filed down. The band's emphasis on synths has been tempered, and Goldfrapp's coos resemble a singer-songwriter more than a disco diva.

Goldfrapp's signature iciness seems to have melted. While her vocals were just as audible on "Supernature," there is a vulnerability present that was missing from their previous albums. Few could have imagined this change in direction from a dance chart mainstay, and "Seventh Tree" may alienate some fans. But it is a bold move that establishes the group as skilled pop musicians, strobe lights or not.


MP3: Goldfrapp - A&E
MP3: Goldfrapp - A&E (Maps Remix)
MySpace: Goldfrapp
Official Site: Goldfrapp

Friday, February 22, 2008

Interlude: Tomorrow's Taken

It's kind of arbitrary whom we choose to listen to. I'm not talking about continued listening - that's more directly connected to the music at hand. But the act of deciding on a particular track in the midst of what can only be called saturation is often pretty random. That's unless, of course, everyone tells you to hear something. "Young Folks" would fit this mold, and I think most of us would say the hype was warranted. One of the song's many endearing elements is Victoria Bergsman's turn at vocals; her shy, slightly accented delivery is pretty emblematic of Swedish pop at its best. I decided to check out her band Taken By Trees at Other Music primarily because of that guest appearance.

After a shiver-filled wait outside, we were finally let in about twenty minutes past eight. Victoria was joined by a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist. (I could get a shot of her because of the position of a camera, but that means there should be a video up eventually.) As expected, the band played generally mellow pop music, but with just enough impact to keep me interested. There were some hiccups - apparently the band was missing equipment - but it was overall a pretty enjoyable performance. Victoria was characteristically introverted, at one point saying that she was nervous, but her vocals were fine.

As is unfortunately the case with in-stores, it was a short set. But the final song, a cover of Guns n' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine," made it all worthwhile. A four-piece harmony was a nice feature, and the drumming really brought some gratifying energy to the room. It's a shame that someone else's composition is probably Taken By Trees' most immediate track, but their version suggests that there's more to this band than what's expected. But the choice, as always, is up to you.

Taken By Trees plays at Hiro Ballroom tonight.

MP3: Taken By Trees - Sweet Child O' Mine
MP3: Taken By Trees - Lost and Found
MP3: Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks (Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Reanimation)
MySpace: Taken By Trees
Official Site: Taken By Trees

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Interlude: Shout Out Out Out Out

I made it over to BAM over the weekend, hoping to catch the free White Rabbits show, but no dice. I didn't actually think I would go 0-for-February in concerts, but it was getting a bit close for comfort. Thankfully, Yelle's wholly unexpected but welcome appearance at the Knitting Factory made a Tuesday night far more exciting than usual. I hadn't been to the venue in a long while, and it'd be fair to say that I've distanced myself from the bands that usually play there. Still, it has a solid main stage, right around my ideal size. Props to DJ Lauren Flax, whom I saw last spring. She spun before and in between sets, pumping up the crowd with very nice house selections. Fluxblog was also at the show.


First up was Susan Ploentz aka Pash(ly), who had more than a passing resemblance to her previous tourmate the Blow. Ploentz assumed a similar, slightly awkward stage presence, but her music wasn't nearly as endearing. There's a strange intersection between the lo-fi singer-songwriter who decides to use a laptop rather than an acoustic guitar, and in this case it didn't really work. She began with a simple bass accompaniment - "just enough to get your hips moving" - eventually incorporating more instrumentation. But her songs were morose, with tales of loneliness and college girls with breakdowns. The lethargic tracks were difficult to get through, and unfortunately even the faster songs didn't really click.

MySpace: Pash(ly)


Kap10kurt was sick. There wasn't anything especially innovative about their maximal house, but the execution was perfect. The band's namesake, a Swiss native who's relocated to the city, was joined by Leah Shapiro, who bears a resemblance to the Raveonettes' tour drummer and a laptop. It was interesting how they would take vocals samples, or even record some snippets on the spot, and then layer it over the instruments, but it was primarily a drums and bass affair. Eviscerating synth lines were punctuates by the kap10's swaying frame and Leah's impressive beats, and the crowd dug in. Kap10kurt had a great stage presence, with a European casualness that gave the set some personality. At one point, he accidentally stepped on an electricity cord and cut out a song early, but they band recovered quickly and went back to smashing face. All in all, very impressive.

MP3: Kap10kurt - Dangerseekers
MySpace: Kap10kurt
Official Site: Kap10kurt


The lights dimmed, and we were on. The drummer GrandMarnier and keyboardist/general electro-master Tepr jumped on stage first, followed by Yelle, who was clad in a golden jacket. "Tristesee / Joie" kicked things off, giving us a taste of Yelle's versatile voice, which went from snapping off lines to a soaring chorus. It's clear that she's a seasoned tour veteran at this point, and it was incredible how effortless she made it look. Much credit also has to be given to her two friends in the back. The live renditions of songs from Pop Up had all the kick of their studio version, but often the band - and this was very much a band - would stretch out instrumental parts, until they hit a euphoric length.

The crowd was understandably excited, but the full intensity wasn't reached until the a few songs in, at the tail end of "Dans Ta Vrai Vie." As the song entered its (extended) outro, Yelle urged the crowd to start jumping, and in what would be the theme of the night, we obliged with gusto. With barely enough time to catch one's breath, Yelle launched into "Je Veux Te Voir," and the place freaked. Now, I'm sure the show had its share of native speakers, but I'd say everyone was chanting to that absurdly catchy chorus, unless they were too busy leaping. "A Cause des Garçons" followed, generating more excitement, and I have to say this was the most physically impressive show I've ever been to. And aside from a scuffle towards the beginning of the show, people were generally pretty good about not crashing into each other as well, at least where I was.

I think the end of the set really captured the mood of the entire night. After saying goodbye, the house lights went on, a general signal for the end of a show. I turned to leave with the rest of the crowd, but I saw Lauren up in the DJ balcony motioning back towards the stage. The encore has become a bit of a farce, now that everyone expects it, but this was really refreshing. It seems that the band decided on the spot to give us another round of "Je Veux Te Voir," which was given a rockier treatment, complete with Yelle crashing on the additional drum kit in the center of the stage. Someone mentioned after the show that she had only seen a couple of videos before coming, and thinking back, that may very well have been the case for much of the crowd. Pop Up hasn't been released domestically, and it's got to be another victory for the internet, considering how many (enthusiastic!) people showed up. It's amazing that an artist who's been predominantly active overseas can achieve such a following, and lots of credit has to be given to everyone who bothered searching her out.

Yelle's playing again at the Hiro Ballroom on Thursday. You can RSVP here.

MP3: Yelle - A Cause des Garçons
MP3: Yelle - Je Veux Te Voir
MySpace: Yelle
Official Site: Yelle

Monday, February 18, 2008

We Came To Dance

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Booka Shade. Movements has become a staple in my eardrums, and their aforementioned DJ Kicks is excellent as well. It was a very pleasant surprise to learn that they just released an expanded version of Movements, including a DVD of their performance to a massive crowd at Pukkelpop. One might question the point of an electronic group releasing a live performance album, but Booka Shade are not your typical knob-twisters. In fact, they don't even consider themselves DJs, and while their shows feature a fair amount of electronic stuff, Arno's sick drumming really differentiates them from other producers. I picked up the DVD during one of my regular stops at Other Music, and I highly recommend it, just like everything else they've put out on their label, Get Physical.

Here are two highlights from the album, and two large, full length recordings of two sets. I'm looking forward immensely to the next time they play here, hopefully at Studio B.

MP3: Booka Shade - Body Language (Interpretation)
MP3: Booka Shade - Mandarine Girl (Album Version)
Set: Booka Shade - Live At Grodan Cocktail Club (01.01.06)
Set: Booka Shade - Essential Mix (02.06.07)
MySpace: Booka Shade
Official Site: Booka Shade

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hallucinations: The Raveonettes' Lust, Lust, Lust

This review appears in Washington Square News.

The Raveonettes synthesize many influences. Their garage rock dissonance is reminiscent of Sonic Youth's experimental sprawl or the Jesus and Mary Chain's white haze of music. However, the duo's sweet vocals distinguish them from their noisier brethren.

Lust, Lust, Lust, the band's fourth album, does not stray far from their usual formula.

There is not that much variety. The most prominent changes on the record are in tempo. Opener "Ali, Walk With Me" moves along moderately: Foo's detached singing trades off with blasts of feedback. The album's first single "Dead Sound" offers livelier guitar work and harmonized vocals.

As the album's title suggests, the theme of Lust is romance. On "You Want The Candy," Wagner coos, "Sweet sweet lips/The taste of you tonight," but his words are secondary. Instead of writing inventive songs, The Raveonettes specialize in mood music.

The end result is a distinctive album, but one not for everyone. This is, after all, a band that recorded their first album entirely in B-minor and their second in B-major. Their priority is not accessibility. Instead, they promote a certain aesthetic, and one's enjoyment will depend on his or her patience for this technique.


The Raveonettes play at the Bowery Ballroom on March 26th.

MP3: The Raveonettes - Dead Sound
MP3: The Raveonettes - Dead Sound (Peter Holmstrom and Jeremy Sherrer Remix)
MySpace: The Raveonettes
Official Site: The Raveonettes

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Interview: Beach House

This interview appears in this week's Wireless Bollinger.

“I didn’t know what blogs were when our record came out,” says Alex Scally, one half of Baltimore-based duo Beach House.

Scally found out only after the band’s self-titled debut album caught on, receiving online praise and finishing at number 16 on Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums of 2006 list. With Victoria Legrand on vocals and organ, Beach House creates woozy, ethereal dream pop. Their sophomore album, entitled Devotion, will be released on February 26th.

The band recorded Devotion at Lord Baltimore Recording, the site of their first album’s creation. While the process was similar, the band benefited from previous experience, as well as additional time in the studio. That’s not to say it wasn’t entirely stress-free.

“Recording is a strange version of performing. You’re just hearing yourself constantly. Recording is nerve wracking, battling one’s own perfectionism and all that garbage. That can be really intense, but it’s worth it. I liked recording but I prefer writing and performing [live],” says Legrand.

The writing process seems comparably less intense, as the duo builds songs with aesthetics in mind, an organic process that is less about meaning and more about mood.

“One of us will have some chords or just a general melody and we’ll let it grow, play it and follow where it goes. Melody is at the core, it’s how it starts. The keyboard is probably the center of all the sounds, and it grows from that,” says Scally.

Although Legrand’s singing blends seamlessly with the band’s instrumentals, she considers Devotion a vocal evolution. “It has much more of a powerful presence,” she says.

Lyrics also became more of a focus. “They were very sparse on the first, and when I was writing out the lyrics [on the new record] there were many pages of words. I was very surprised. I felt like I had written some sort of story,” says Legrand. But she says the inspiration is unclear. “It’s some snippets from here and there, but it’s all meshed together, I can’t really say that it’s one particular thing. In the end it’s just a big journey, I think, of some sort.”

One definitive journey is the band’s continuous touring. In an effort to transition into a live setup, Beach House has enlisted opener Papercuts’ Jason Quever to play percussion on their upcoming spring tour. He provides “small sounds, accents, dynamics, things that are on the record already,” says Scally. The band also recently toured Europe, an experience that left them somewhat burnt out. “When you’re a new band, people aren’t as excited about you yet. You’re in a different country each day, and everybody is really different in each country. You’re just more distant,” says Scally.

Difficulties aside, there’s at least one good reason to hope that Beach House can break out in Europe. Legrand was born in Paris, and studied theatre at the International School of Jacques Lecoq. She was classically trained in piano from the age of 7, but eventually decided to pursue independence. “I would have more control making my own music, and being my own director,” she says.

She ended up in Baltimore through a friend who was also a musician.

“In the last two years there’s been a lot of attention on Baltimore for various things like Wham City, but that’s just a small gbeach_house_1_300roup of people,” says Legrand, alluding to the collective that includes Dan Deacon. She became involved in various other bands, but “nothing ever too serious,” before forming Beach House with Scally, a lifelong Baltimore resident, in 2005.

Thus, Beach House, the most committed project the two have worked on. But for such an involvement, Legrand is pragmatic when it comes to the current state of the music industry.

“When you have a record that leaks, for a moment it feels bad. It feels like something that you worked so hard on, it’s there and everyone can say something about it. It feels unfair, but in this era, information is going around constantly and you have to accept that,” says Legrand.

The benefit of such a fluid environment is that bands as independent as Beach House can flourish, thanks to an active, wired musical audience. Although the Legrand and Scally have second jobs as a bartender and carpenter, respectively, they’ve had success as a band.

“It’s nice when what you do supports you. It’s validated, it’s a real thing. The culture you’re in has to respect that art is a way of life for a lot of people,” says Legrand.

Scally compares music’s value to his preferred form of media.

“I really like vinyl because it’s really special. It’s big and the artwork is big and you can hold it in your hand and it gives you something real. Ideally, it’d be cool if people felt that way about music, where they owned it and possessed it and really loved it,” says Scally, who cites the Beatles as an influence.

When contemplating such huge success, Legrand notes the obvious perks, but reconsiders.

“I would kind of be surprised if we got to that level. I think it’s two of us and I think it’ll always be down to earth, hopefully,” she says.


Thanks to Alex, Victoria, and Ash for setting this up. Beach House plays at the Bowery Ballroom on April 2nd.

MP3: Beach House - Gila
MP3: Beach House - Master of None
MySpace: Beach House
Official Site: Beach House

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interview: Los Campesinos!

For Los Campesinos!, the journey is the destination.

“We’re not commercially driven. I think we’re realistic enough to know that we couldn’t make a lot of money even if we wanted to, but we don’t. We just want to make this last as long as possible,” says guitarist Tom.

The band has been wildly successful over the last year. After posting a thread on Drowned in Sound, Los Campesinos! was signed by Arts & Crafts and Wichita, subsequently touring the world.

“We were really, really lucky. I think we’re aware how lucky we are. Without the internet, we’d be pretty much nowhere. I don’t think we’re the band that can toil and tour in the traditional way,” says Tom.

“All hail MySpace, thank you Rupert,” adds guitarist Neil, only half kidding.

The band releases its full length, Hold On Now, Youngster… on February 25th. The album contains two reworked versions of songs off of the band’s Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP.

“For us, it’s been so long with these songs, we wanted to strike a balance. We didn’t want to feel like putting a completely new album out, because it wouldn’t feel like a reflection of us. It’s a good picture of where we are as a band currently. It’s like a live set but an extension,” says Tom.

The album was recorded outside Toronto in producer David Newfeld’s Stars & Suns Studio, described as a converted church. The name of the building is an allusion to Newfeld’s involvement with Broken Social Scene, a band that Los Campesinos! has opened for and greatly admires. However, it was their shared management with Super Furry Animals that got Newfeld – described as a “dream producer” – involved.

Not bad for seven friends fresh out of university in their native Cardiff, Wales. Although the extended lineup thing seemingly quite popular at the moment – from the aforementioned Broken Social Scene to fellow church dwellers Arcade Fire – the band’s crowd came together organically.

“We just accumulated more members, because we had a lot of shared friends,” says bassist Ellen. The rest of the lineup includes drummer Ollie, keyboardist Aleks, violinist Harriet and lead singer Gareth. (They have not revealed their last names, preferring to all go by the egalitarian Campesinos!)

The close-knit structure of the band has been helpful on tour, both in the usual grind and at the more compressed festivals. They’ve played Lollapalooza, a very muddy Glastonbury, Hillside in Camden, a “hippie festival where everything’s organic,” much to the band’s liking, and O2 Wireless Festival, which was more “corporate.”

The band feels more at home on stage – even if that stage is a continent away from home – than in the studio. “Part of the live show is mistakes, which makes it fresher,” says Ellen.

That’s not to say they’re sloppy – Tom notes that they attempt to be as professional as possible – but their music often sounds like a series of happy accidents, achieving surprisingly melody from what often resembles a cacophony.

“When it’s live it feels sort of loose, you can’t hold it yet, it’s a moveable entity,” says Tom, in contrast to the studio where “songs can mold and form in a certain way.”

Along with supporting slots for BSS, Danielson and the Thermals, the group previously brought along up-and-comers Sky Larkin and You Say Party! We Say Die! on a UK tour. They cited their tourmates’ energy as a conduit for their headlining sets, an experience described as “communal.” But they still relish the opener slot, which gives them an opportunity to play to a new audience.

Despite this unprecedented success, aided greatly by a seemingly youthful enthusiasm, the band’s outlook is very mature.

“We are on a record label, and it’s their job to sell records and make money. It’s not so much a compromise. It’s just being realistic about it. I think you can make money without compromising your ideals, you just have to go about it in the right way,” says Tom.

So far, the right way seems to be working just fine.


Thanks to Brendan, Tom, Neil and Ellen!

MP3: Los Campesinos! - Don't Tell Me To Do The Math(s)
MP3: Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives
MySpace: Los Campesinos!
Official Site: Los Campesinos!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dance Party, Pt 2

So, a couple months ago, I posted a little mix that seemed to appeal to a decent amount people - despite the fact that I wrote all of one word of description. I guess this is a follow up to that, although the word "minimal" isn't entirely appropriate here, as the collection has its share of anthemic basslines. I've been listening to a fair amount of DJ-Kicks of late, specifically those from Hot Chip, Erlend Øye and Booka Shade (who have a new live DVD out!), and I strongly, strongly recommend them all. I haven't given any other series as much time, although Fabric and Kompackt's Pop Ambient and Total seem good as well.

Anyhow, I've always been fascinated by the idea of creating a sustained listen using disparate sources, and this is my latest attempt. I've tried to stay away from your typical blog house suspects, although the Knife was far too good of an intro to pass up. Hopefully there's lots here that's new to you. It's a bit lean at eight tracks, but I think it's a length that's workable without being unwieldy. I'd appreciate any feedback, tips as far as actual digital mixing software, and any general mix recommendations. Cheers.

1. The Knife - Silent Shout
2. Apparat - Fractales Pt 1
3. Modeselektor - Godspeed
4. Seefeel - Industrious
5. Nathan Fake - Grandfathered
6. The Future Sound of London - Pulse State
7. Plastic Operator - Parasols
8. Luomo - Tessio

Entire Mix: Mediafire

WSN Reviews: Xiu Xiu | Kate Nash

Washington Square News is back to its normal publishing schedule (although the arch is now fenced off, thanks to construction), which means more writing opportunities for me. This isn't the first you've heard from these two groups here, but hopefully the somewhat critical perspective makes for a worthwhile second look.

Xiu Xiu - Women as Lovers

Songwriter Jamie Stewart's musical experiments continue on his band Xiu Xiu's sixth album, which remains as musically eclectic and puzzling as the band's other LPs. It is obvious from the opening salvo "I Do What I Want, When I Want" that Xiu Xiu is not for everyone. Stewart's hushed, near-spoken vocals are an acquired taste. While the song contains pop elements, the unconventional blasts of noise and mostly unintelligible lyrics are distinctly avant-garde. The album only becomes stranger after this first song. As it continues, Stewart alternately moans and yells his way through fourteen tracks.

A version of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure" is the album's highlight. Along with Swans vocalist Michael Gira, the song features Stewart's cousin Caralee McElroy on breathy backup vocals. The song even reaches an anthemic conclusion, which is extremely rare for the band. Xiu Xiu has recorded many covers, having taken on everyone from the Pussycat Dolls to Bauhaus, and their latest effort is just as fantastic.

Unfortunately, their own material is not nearly as accessible, and "Women as Lovers" continues to be a difficult album. It is fair to say that no one sounds like Xiu Xiu, but it is up to the listener to decide if that is a good thing or not.

Source: WSN
Previously: Interview: Xiu Xiu

MP3: Xiu Xiu - Under Pressure (ft. Michael Gira)
MP3: Xiu Xiu - I Do What I Want, When I Want
MySpace: Xiu Xiu
Official Site: Xiu Xiu

Kate Nash - Made of Bricks

Kate Nash is the latest in a group of young female singers from the United Kingdom. Her original buzz can be attributed to fellow Brit Lily Allen, who posted one of Nash’s songs on her MySpace page. After the success of Nash’s single “Foundations,” the release date of her full-length was moved up five weeks. It debuted at the top of the UK charts.

“Foundations” represents Nash at her best. Every track on the album is essentially a love song, but Nash’s biggest single explores the theme most cleverly. Nash wittily maps out a dysfunctional relationship using distinctly British language, such as “you’ve gone and got sick on my trainers.” She capitalizes on this success with “Mouthwash,” which contains piano parts that give credence to favorable Regina Spektor comparisons.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album never quite captures the energy of the first two tracks. But aside from a couple missteps, it remains quite enjoyable. “Dickhead” is as blunt as the title suggests, though not particularly interesting. “Shit Song” is a better take on obscenity. Its keyboard chords and catchy taunts make it a surprisingly appealing pop song.

There is a risk that Kate Nash may be another “artist of the moment,” destined to fade away as quickly as she became famous. Made of Bricks is not going to be immune to diminishing returns. It is inevitable that the listener will eventually move on. However, it is fun for as long as it lasts.

Source: WSN
Previously: Kate Nash in Amsterdam

MP3: Kate Nash - Foundations
MySpace: Kate Nash
Official Site: Kate Nash

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Slide In: Goldfrapp in Manchester

Goldfrapp is set to release their fourth album, Seventh Tree, on February 25th. First single "A&E" is a marked departure from the disco inferno of their last album, Supernature. The song's acoustic strumming is a far cry from the synth squelches of past songs, but Alison's voice is, if anything, more magnificent. The video for the song starts pastoral, but quickly turns equal parts silly and fun, suggesting that perhaps this is the group's ideal setting. It remains to be seen if the rest of the album holds up, but with some tour dates scheduled in Europe, it's inevitable that she'll be playing here soon.

To get prepare you for upcoming appearances, or perhaps to introduce you to the group in the first place, here's their set at Brixton Academy in Manchester from 2005. Enjoy!

1. Utopia
2. Train
3. Tip Toe
4. Lovely Head
5. Koko
6. Slide In
7. U Never Know
8. Deer Stop
9. Fly Me Away
10. Satin Chic
11. Beautiful
12. Ride a White Horse
13. Ooh La La
14. Strict Machine
15. Number 1
16. Black Cherry

MySpace: Goldfrapp
Official Site: Goldfrapp
Entire Set: Sendspace

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Album of 2007

As we say farewell to January and (belatedly) 2007, the music industry seems as mutable as ever. This moment's flavor becomes, more often than not, stale and somehow expired just a couple months later. Thus, the album's continued validity as a creative form seems somewhat tenuous. While it remains a viable form of packaging, the rise of aggregate listening means the average time spent with one band is just a few minutes, rather than the better part of an hour. That's not to say that the last year was devoid of exciting new music, far from it. However, it was a rare full length that captured my fractured attention for more than a couple weeks, probably less than the agreeable top ten. So, the National's Boxer is unique, in so many ways. Over the last six months, it's been one of the few constants in my life. Always a gratifying listen, there was always something new to discover.

It begins, of course, with "Fake Empire." The elegant piano rhythm is quickly displaced by Matt Berninger's perfect baritone, but it's only the beginning. The way this song builds constantly, save for a quick break for drumming jabs, is incredibly disciplined. What was once a simple melody becomes a inexorable, yet gentle, storm, complete with trumpet wails. "Mistaken For Strangers" takes a more direct root, with its deep-throated bass and immediate volume. The prevailing nocturnal mood of Boxer is broken somewhat, but the unquenchable romanticism is not, as Berninger sings of the "silvery, silvery city bank lights." And so it goes, each song as consistently great as the last. And it might be this constant quality that makes the album envelop me whenever I hear it - it could also turn someone off.

Paste's succinct three star review was one of the few less-than-gushing takes on the album. Six months later, Boxer would be the magazine's number one album, with Editor Josh Jackson literally (or literary-ly) adding two stars in his column. In a world where hype has become a self-sustained cycle and deadlines are endless, that sort of retrospection is rare. It's a testament to the album, and also to the fact that music is very subjective. But as far as I'm concerned, this is the album of the year.


The National plays two sold out shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in February. They return somewhere in the city on June 19th in a gigantic tour supporting REM and Modest Mouse. Here's the bands' White Sessions, which includes most of Boxer's songs and a couple older cuts, with a bit more live grit.

1. Start A War
2. Brainy
3. Slow Show
4. Squalor Victoria
5. Apartment Story
6. Racing Like A Pro
7. Ada
8. You've Done It Again, Virginia
9. Mistaken For Strangers
10. Fake Empire
11. About Today

Entire Set: Mediafire
MySpace: The National
Official Site: The National
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