Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Death and Disco

I know I've made a lot posts today but I can't forget to talk about the most creative cover of 2008. I saw Hercules and Love Affair this October at Middle East night club in Cambridge Mass and I was really impressed. If you're not familiar with Hercules and Love Affair they're a wonderful modern disco band that worked closely with vocalist Antony for their self titled 2008 debut album. Though lots of electronic bands try to replicate the disco sound through use of synths and samples of live instruments Hercules' uses actual live horns, bass, clavichord, and backup vocals even in concert.

After playing a very satisfying set, they concluded the concert with a disco cover of Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper". I was struck dumb at the audacity of picking a song with subject matter seemingly so incompatible with a disco treatment. However, the cover was dancy and fun while still maintaining enough of the original song's form. Take a look:

Shows in 08

May- Mobius Band/Black Kids/Cut Copy, Boston MA
June - Ringo Starr/Edgar Winter/Billy Squire etc. Uncasville CT
July - The Killers, Ledyard CT
August - Wintersleep/Wolf Parade, Boston MA
--------------Grizzly Bear/Radiohead, Mansfield MA
September - The Wombats, Boston MA
----------------- The Swell Season (with Glen Hansard), Boston MA
----------------Cut Copy/The Presets, Boston MA
October - Annuals/Minus the Bear, Boston MA
-------------Hercules and Love Affair, Boston MA
------------The Who, Uncasville CT

I regret not going to more shows this year but with my busy academic schedule and travel plans
it was hard to plan ahead long enough to buy tickets too far in advance.

^ 15 step live in Mansfield Mass. Watch Thom Yorke do his Thom Yorke dance. Brilliant.

Loser of the Year

When I was in Belfast this summer I discovered a piece of disturbing and infuriating news. I picked up a copy of NME only to find out that some wanker had stolen the headstone of my idol and inspiration, Ian Curtis late vocalist of Joy Division who committed suicide in 1980. I can only hope that it will be replaced and that terrible things will happen to the person who took it. You sir, are asshole of the year. A pox on you, whoever you might be.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wolf Parade visits Beantown

I've attended a lot of great shows this year (I'll list them all in another entry) but the best show I went to, hands down, was Wolf Parade at Paradise Rock Club in Boston. I've been listening to them for about a year now and I am completely blown away by their combination of synth and guitar; especially in songs like "Fancy Claps" where the two sound almost like one. Another unique aspect of Wolf Parade is the immediately recognizable Bowiesque vocals of frontman Dan Boeckner, which rang out just as wonderfully live as they did on studio recordings.

The opening band, Wintersleep, (also hailing from Canada) made me glad I showed up on time. Though not as genius as Wolf Parade, their set was very entertaining and original and inspired me to buy their album Welcome to the Night Sky. Then Wolf Parade came on. The band preformed all of their most recent album At Mount Zoomer and much of their first album Apologies to the Queen Mary. For me, "Fancy Claps", "I'll Believe in Anything", "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts", "Animal in Your Care", and "Kissing the Beehive" were the show's highlights and by the end of the concert most people screaming "I'll Believe in Anything" at the tops of their lungs with riot-like ferocity.

And like almost every concert I've gone to this year, against all odds, regardless of the venue, someone lit up a J. It wasn't even an outdoor concert. There wasn't even a lawn or outdoor seating. Yet some bold soul was toking up. Go figure. I salute you vigilant stoner man! (who seems to be following me from show to show. . .) I can't say too much more about the concert and I won't even try to convey my enjoyment any further but Wolf Parade live is something I eagerly hope I'll experience again.

^ I'll Believe in Anything (live August 08)

Wolf Parade pictures

^Language City (live August 08)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Look at: Suicide

I've been listening to a lot of less talked about post punk bands and post punk era bands lately, one of the most interesting I've come across is Suicide. While Suicide has been very influential in the formation of many modern alternative and electronic bands most people have no idea who they are. A friend recommended them to me and I went on iTunes and downloaded their first two albums, both self titled. A lot of their earlier stuff consists of vocals over simple drum machine beats and minimalist synth lines with very little if any post-production.

Their first album is so simple that at first it's hard to understand how they could be regarded as so infulential but upon later listenings I began to enjoy the album more and more. One song that really caused me to love their style is the dark and terrifying dirge of "Frankie Teardrop". The song is about a young man whos is struggling to support his wife and child but can't make enough money and in desparation turns a gun on them and eventually himself. Each of the deaths is marked by an otherworldly, bloodcurdling scream by vocalist Alan Vega. The lyrics have a sense of black humor to them, every terrible thing Frankie does is followed by "let's hear it for Frankie". The album also includes a live track called "23 Minutes Over Brussels" which includes some crowd chatter and a short set of songs by Suicide that eventually devolves into a riot. Near the conclusion of the tack the duo are trying to play a live version of "Frankie Teardrop" and at the last 25 seconds of the recording the listener can hear Vega angrily bellow "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" at the unruly booing audience.

Their second album I purchased on iTunes The second Album+The first Rehearsal Tapes is probably a better place for new listeners to start. The rerelease contains more songs that have a catchier poppier beat and are more accessible to newcomers while still containing plenty of experimental stripped down tracks that would appeal to more seasoned listeners of Suicide.
My personal favorite tracks are "Fast Money Music"; "Dream Baby Dream"; "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" and the non album track "Radiation".

Metronomy -Nights Out-

I was able to secure a copy of the new Metronomy album on Christmas eve (even though it hasn't been released in the US) and since then I've been listening to it non-stop. I've listened to Metronomy since early 2007 but I wasn't overly impressed with their first full length album, Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe). The album consisted of eleven electronic instrumental tracks and one with vocals (Trick or Treatz). A couple songs really stood out to me, my favorite being the very tight-sounding "This could be beautiful (it is)" with its well fused synth lines and handclaps; however, the album was ultimately scattered and disorganized.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nights Out consists of tracks that actually sound related to each other and it even includes intro and outro tracks (I am a sucker for themed albums): it didn't just feel like hastily chosen collection of tracks for a mix tape. Joseph Mount took the album in a new direction by including many more tracks with vocals (even if the vocals are just oohs and ahhs) and introducing more bass and guitar into the songs to create an infectious disco sound. My favorite track, hands down, was Radio Ladio which has a wonderfully weird and cool music video. Other highlights that I really found myself singing and tapping my feet to were "heartbreaker", "Back on the Motorway", "A thing for me", "My rapid heart rate", and "On the dancefloors". If you're a Yankee like me then it's a bit hard to get the album right now but if you can then I highly recommend Nights Out.


(originally written Dec. 26th)
Well, I decided to give Tom Cruise the benefit of the doubt; saw Valkyrie today. For those of you who don't know, Valkyrie is about one of the many plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler and the title is take from operation Valkyrie: the Nazi's plan B for if Hitler is killed. While I decided to put my hatred for Tom behind me for an hour and a half I wasn't ready to pay him. I snuck in instead. I was pretty thrilled at the prospect of a free movie. Even a free movie starring Tom Cruise is still a free movie. So, as I watched the film I was pretty impressed by the Nazi uniforms and vehicles and the well designed sets and the believability of the setting. The plot was engaging and well paced (I won't spoil anything lest I get hate-mail) and I was pretty satisfied with most of the acting. I would have paid for the movie if given the chance to see it again with someone else. There was only one problem with the movie. Tom Cruise. There was a part, where, I shit you not, he said hung instead of hanged. Tom's character thought he was being clever and dramatic by saying something to the effect of "this portrait of Hitler will be unhung and he will be hung" but sorry Tom Cruise, it's hanged. Yes, no one caught that. Did Tom edit the script too? Evidently. This part reminded me how much I hate Tom Cruise to a point where I could no longer suspend my disbelief. Yet again, Tom Cruise scholar of psychology and sage of scientology has destroyed another otherwise enjoyable film for me. Damn your eyes Tom Cruise.