Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Phil Selway goes solo

Phil Selway, Radiohead's excellent drummer, is currently working on his debut solo album Familial. You can listen to one song here. The sound of track is definitely distinguished from his work in Radiohead but retains the band's dark beauty.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Suns: setting or rising?

Bat for Lashes, for those of you unfamiliar, is an excellent female artist who combines her haunting but lovely voice with dark textures and quiet ambient music. She's a favorite of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and really has the power to set a mood. The saturnine beauty of Bat for Lashes really shines through on her latest release:
Two Suns. I know that album was released a while ago but I'm discovering it for the first time and just wanted to share. The dynamics go back and forth between intense, blinding, darkness (see "Two Planets") and serene, contemplative, melancholy tracks like the operatic "The Big Sleep". While the mood of the entire album is undoubtedly low there are peels of happiness and hope that bleed through in certain songs which makes Two Suns more appealing than if it were just a simple, flat-line, of sorrow. Both relaxing and harrowing Two Suns is evocative without being overwrought.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Empire of the Sun sucks live?

I've been listening to up-and-coming, Australian, electronic, duo, Empire of the Sun for a while now and when I heard they were touring the US my heart skipped a beat. I was so excited. Not surprisingly though they're not coming anywhere near Houston, or even Texas for that matter. However, my disappointment has been alleviated by an article I read on which claims that they don't sound so hot live. I don't always take what the critics say at face value but it was just kind of shocking for me to hear this. I don't know if it means anything to you guys. Just a heads up if anyone has tickets to see them. However, I do recommend their 2008 LP Walking on a Dream.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Still whipping it

Devo has always been one of those bands I am supremely jealous that I did not have the good fortune to grow up listening to. Though they've been active since the reformed in 96 I barely knew it until the release of their latest album just a week ago. Their novel take on consumerism, conformity, and the workaday world is still just as clever as it was in the 80s if not sharper in their latest offering Something for Everybody. Watch this hilariously deadpan, pre-release address, by band member Jerry Casale on the content of Something:

I'm very happy about the album's sound and instrumentation which sounds fairly consistent with their earlier stuff, albeit a little more polished. Jerry even benefits from some autotuning on my favorite track "Human Rocket" while still keeping that satisfying electro 80's timbre instead of turning into a New Wave TI. Production here was key for me because it's hard to get into newer music from an older band when production is jarringly dissimilar from earlier work. Other great tracks include "Sumthin'", "Don't Shoot", Fresh", and "Please Baby Please". New fans or old fans will love Something for Everybody.

Seeing LIMB live is a religious experience

Last Friday I had the fortune of seeing LIMB play at El Rincón Social in the warehouse district to celebrate the release of their latest LP The Shape of Punk for Some and it only gave me more respect and admiration for their work. The band's set was surrounded by a plethora of surreal imagery that made it, for me, an almost mystical encounter. Featherface, an original experimental Houston rock band, opened with a relaxing ambient rock set that was only enhanced by the echoes of the cavernous El Rincón warehouse. Other performances of the night included trippy electronic artist Cosmic Sound, the fierce Somosuno, rapper BLACKIE, and finally, the immortal LIMB. Cosmic Sound played his set alongside a series of incredibly psychedelic, masterfully edited, video clips including appearances by various muppets. However, LIMB managed to up the psych ante by playing in pitch dark, with a flashing pyramid, naked band members, and painted dancers. At one point someone even did a handstand on the pyramid. It's hard to fully convey the mood with these words but hopefully some of the pictures will make up for that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Obscured by Coulds: a largely unknown pleasure

I grew up basically idolizing the Pink Floyd and everything they did. At first it was just for David Gilmour's masterful guitar licks but later I'd develop a fuller appreciation by understanding their full genius. I started, as many newcomers do, with
Dark Side of the Moon and from there I listened to all the Floyd the casual rock fan would know of (i.e. greatest hits type tracks). Later though, I got the Floyd compilation Echoes as birthday present from my mother and was exposed to less familiar, old school, tracks like "See Emily Play" and "Astronomy Domine" and I learned how rich the rest of their discography was. There were the albums like Meddle and A Saucerful of Secrets I'd never heard of before because they never got any radio play; now I knew of their existence and was full prepared to seek them out.

Two albums that a lot of Floyd fans have missed, largely due to their obscurity (no pun intended) were both movie soundtracks called
More and Obscured by Clouds. Obviously the movies never did exceedingly well and Obscured by Clouds actually tanked pretty badly yet their soundtracks are both good finds for true Floyd fans. Clouds in particular was a childhood favorite of mine and recently I acquired the album on vinyl and I continue to enjoy it. It includes quiet, majestic "Us and Them" type tracks like "Burning Bridges" and "Mudmen" but doesn't fail to take on a harder rock edge in songs like "When you're in" and "Childhood's End". Ballads like "Free Four" pontificate about human mortality and there's even an endearingly romantic song called "Stay" that you could use to set a mood for an intimate evening. Fuck Barry White, let's throw on some Floyd and make-a some-a sexy time! It's a stellar album but for some reason critics poo pooed its contents as merely a soundtrack rather than a standalone. I can see making that charge of More but Obscured by Clouds has lots of thoughtful songwriting, lyrics, and complexity unlike the former which is good but definitely sounds as if it's subordinate to something greater. Obscured by Clouds is actually my favorite Floyd album but what's a favorite when everything a band does is gold, I guess. Definitely worth a look though if you're unfamiliar.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't think twice, it's alright

This isn't a new song by any means but I was going through my library and found a song I listened to a lot last year. I don't know how popular it is but it's called "I couldn't say it to your face" by Arthur Russell and it's sweet and sad and I just wanted to share it with you guys.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Enter the Passion Pit...we promise it's nothing dirty

Passion Pit is coming to Warehouse Live on Thursday and as an added treat they’re bringing along catchy Canadian indie rockers Tokyo Police Club who just released a new album on the 8th of June. But back to Passion Pit; before you groan and say to yourself “oh, not that band on MTV and the phone commercials” let me assure you that if you haven’t listened to Passion Pit extensively before they got noticed and are extremely cynical, these guys are excellent song-writers and are certainly worth the fuss. I know we all have to put up with the scenie, poser kids who show up to Radiohead concerts practically shouting things like “play Creep! That’s all I came for! Attention world: I AM SHALLOW!” but those of us who really listen to all of PP’s work know that there’s a lot more there than MTV or scenesters do not notice. Take for example songs like “Eyes as Candles” which deal with complex matters like faith or “Little Secrets” in which vocalist Michael Angelakos seems to talk about drug abuse. I’d recommend that anyone showing an interest in Passion Pit who’s only heard Manners also listen to the band’s debut EP Chunk of Change, which was a gift from Michael Angelakos to his then girlfriend. My point is that Passion Pit is anything but a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon and deserves the attention of serious music-listeners. Don’t miss your opportunity to see a two great bands on Thursday. There might still be tickets and if there are there ain’t a lot. Thank Pegstar for booking this awesome show!

Friday, June 11, 2010

What to make of Alejandro?

I still don't know exactly what to think about Lady Gaga's latest video effort but at least it wasn't as ridiculous and confusing as her video for telephone. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge Gaga fan. I love her style, her music, her attitude but Telephone (both the song and video) just never cut it for me. The song was hi-jacked by Beyoncé and the parts where Gaga sung were just sort of boring. The problem with the video was a little different in that my problem was the fact that I had not a single clue what the fuck was going on. There was the pussy wagon from Kill Bill, the random poisonings, and Gaga's relationship with Beyoncé that all left me wondering whether I had missed an hour of plot from the storyline. The video for Alejandro was pretty good. I liked the dictator feel to it since it allowed Gaga to be creepy and weird: two things she is good at. The dancing was cool too even if the leather boys did freak me out just a little bit. No matter though, Gaga is just being provocative. Same thing with her use of religious imagery against raw, nasty, sexual images. Being a Catholic, I could be offended but I think I understand what the latex nun outift and rosary were all about. She's just juxtaposing different things for effect. I liked it a lot more than Telephone but not nearly as much as Bad Romance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some pictures of the Reverend

I'll make this short but the Reverend Horton Heat's show at Warehouse last night was very cool. The man is a Texas treasure and I feel so happy that I got to see him. I've never seen someone play the guitar like he does: my jaw was constantly on the floor. The opening band, Cracker, wasn't bad either.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Reverend is turning up the volume!

The Reverend Horton Heat is coming to Warehouse Live on Thursday to preach his gospel of rockabilly madness to the good people of Houston. These guys play within a very specific and under-appreciated genre called psychobilly which was pioneered by the Cramps in the 80s and subsequently picked up by lots of other excellent bands later on. The style has grown into a rockabilly revival with wittier lyrics, a louder volume, and harder slightly punk-like vocals. Even though it includes bands outside the US the entire genre sounds very American in nature. The Reverend Horton Heat has been active since 85 and includes all the trappings of 50’s rockabilly band but with a harder edge, a generous heaping of cynicism, and a mordant sense of humor. Get your tickets here!

Monday, June 7, 2010

2010 Free Press Summer Fest: a retrospective

I arrived bright and early at Eleanor Tinsley Park on Saturday morning, grabbed some tasty breakfast burritos that management was kind enough to procure for us, and hit the box office. I sold tickets from twelve to five and then found myself on what I would later realize was the high roller section. Now, for those of you who weren't lucky enough to sneak up there, the high roller section is this bad ass little platform right on the left side of the main stage where you're only about fifty feet away from whatever band is playing. I stayed there for the rest of the night and got some pretty good pictures of Martin, Medeski & Wood, Ra Ra Riot, and Girl Talk. Girl Talk was amazing live and he let about a crowd of people jump up on stage with him and dance so of course I obliged.

Day two started for me with some disappointment as I missed one of my favorite bands: Lymbyc Systym. Uh Huh Her was on when I got there and frankly don't care too much for them so I paid the Camel tent a visit. I went in looking for a free pack of good ol' Camel filters but also left with like eight cans of this nasty dip stuff called Snus (pronounced snoos). When they asked me whether I wanted any I lied and said I already tried it before and it made me sick. Without any explanation he sort of gently pushed two large cardboard boxes of Snus at me which I decided to take just so he'd give me my camels and leave me alone. It's kind of disturbing they give out that much merch hoping to get us hooked but cest la vie I guess, it's always been like that with tobacco stuff. After trying to give the Snus to about four people I saw smoking I dumped the unwanted Snus into the nearest trashcan. I then visited the 29-95 stage to watch Somosuno which is another project of Fernando from excellent Houston punk band The Takes. Somosuno reminded me of Captain Beefheart with different vocals and the addition of horns. During their set it started raining cats and dogs. It was the heaviest downpour I've ever been in and had to seek refuge in the HQ and hide my phone and camera. It was like a mini Woodstock! People were bathing themselves in the runoff coming from overflowing sewage pipes and rolling around in the mud. I think I completely destroyed a pair of white Vans I bought only a week ago but given the experience was totally worth it. Once the rain let up, around five o clock, I parked myself in front of the stage to watch Stars and didn't move from that spot all night. Stars were simply amazing; they played some very vocal driven indie rock with a slightly electronic feel to it. Extremely professional, they played a great set and had the same tight sound to them that they have in the studio. They'll be coming out with a new album on the 22nd called 5 Ghosts, so watch out for that. Next was Bun B and Slim Thug which was a little hard for me since I was getting pretty dehydrated but there was no way I was gonna miss half of UGK just because I was thirsty. Please. The set was well worth staying for and on top of that I was able to secure my spot for the Flaming Lips. There was a commencement ceremony before the Lips went on, to welcome them back after ten years of being absent from our fare city of Houston. Wayne, to my relief, told us that there was nothing wrong with Houston and that there was no particular reason they were gone for so long; there was "no bad drug deal or anything" were his words. The visuals for the Lips were surreal and included giant rotoscoped animation of a naked dancing woman, confetti, giant balloons, giant hands shooting lasers, and of course Wayne's famous space bubble. The Lips played songs from Embryonic, At War with the Mystics, and Yoshimi battles the pink Robots and even a rendition of "She don't use jelly" from 1993. It was the most fun I've ever had at a show, to date. The Free Press Summer Fest was a total success this year and will only continue to get better. Regardless of who the main headliner is next year, it will be very hard to top The Flaming Lips. It might be impossible.

Hospice comforts listeners and leaves them to die

Hospice, the latest studio album from the Antlers, is unsettling and comforting at the same time. The music is incredibly varied but is grounded mostly in ethereal, dreamy, music which ranges from pleasant and melodic to scary and atonal. It makes sense given the title is Hospice. A hospice is a place where people go to die but be made comfortable as possible while they do so. The music on the album seems to go back and forth between this idea of a place of comfort and care and also the real purpose of the hospice which is basically a waiting room for an impending death. This further visible on the album cover which includes an outstretched hand hovering over another hand clad in a plastic hospital bracelet. The band also plays a lot with dynamics and shifts of mood on Hospice. In the song "Two" the music is undeniably cheerful while songs like "Kettering" it's quiet, gloomy, and foreboding. These sorts of variations always indicate to me, a good band, capable of flexibility and universally relevant musicianship.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Free Press Summer Fest: Houston's most kickass music festival of the summer!

Being an intern here at Free Press I feel obligated to continue to promote our upcoming Free Press Summer Fest but even I weren't working here this event would still be incredibly noteworthy to me, given the incredible lineup.

It's only our second annual festival and we've already managed to book the Flaming Lips as headliners this year. That's pretty fucking cool if you ask me. I've wanted to see these guys play for a long, long, time and given that I am from Connecticut there were not a lot of opportunities. The Lips don't seem to like going all the way up to the east coast. It should be just as special for Houstonians as it will be for me, given that the Lips haven't played a show here in Houston since they opened for Beck over ten years ago. Even though every Lips album so far has been great, it sounds like the trippy, enthralling,
Embryonic will really lend itself to a great live show.

Other headliners I'm looking forward to are American DJ Girl Talk (who else can combine hip-hop, Foreigner, and the Doobie Bros in one song?), Canadian electronic band Stars, classic southern rap artist Bun B, Ra Ra Riot, Lymbyc Systym, Mic Skills, punk rockers Cro-Mags, and dancy musicians Sugar and Gold. In addition to these headliners we've got a bunch of local Houston and Texas bands like Caddywhompus, Blackie, The Takes, The Gold Sounds, and a LOT more. You can get tickets at any Urban Outfitters in Texas, Soundwaves in Montrose, or here at the Summer Fest home page (where you can also see the full lineup). Tickets will also be available both days of the festival (June 5th and 6th) and there are no one day passes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Keno is a punk rocker! Keno is a punk rocker!

On, the 15th of May I got to see local punk-rocker, Keno Sims, play with his band at Cactus Music and bought a copy of his latest EP What if harm's way was headed your way (which you can purchase at Cactus Music for a measly four bucks). Sims told us all that he was kind of hoarse from a show he played the night before and that the band was missing their bassist who got roughed up at the same show but despite the setbacks, the set still managed to excite me. His presence was great and the music had me tapping my foot and nodding my head all throughout the set. The EP was excellent too and I encourage all of you to pick it up and listen for yourselves. One of the things I like about the studio recordings is that the songs combine a fairly raw guitar sound with the occasional subtle synth or acoustic guitar. Sims' vocals also kind of remind me of TV on the Radio too (albeit more intense and punk). According to his Facebook Sim's first full LP Young Dilemma Young Delight is nearly done. I'll throw a review of that up on the blog once it comes out.

LCD Soundsystem's newest (and last?) album

I waited patiently the morning of the release date, with my iTunes open, and poised to click "buy album" and my musical vigil was rewarded with some very satisfying new tunes from one of my favorite projects of all time. Some of the best tracks on
This is really happening are "You wanted a hit", "I can change", "pow pow", "drunk girls", and "home" (even though I consider the entire offering to be more than praiseworthy).

"You wanted a hit" in particular, summed up the attitude of James Murphy towards music today and the industry itself. He expressed a kind of carefully worded frustration with the manic songwriting artists must engage into fulfill the terms of contracts or to create a "hit". Murphy sings: "You wanted a hit but maybe we don't do hits. I try and try and it ends up...feeling kind of wrong" which hints at true artistic frustration than the puerile, temper tantrums, against the capitalist world which end up (no coincidence here) making the artist piles and piles of money off of malcontent, angst-ridden, teenagers ( á la Rage Against the Machine).

As is usual for LCD Soundsystem, the other lyrics are droll, thought-provoking, stream-of-consciousness rants by Murphy, some of which contain concrete meaning while others just sound like really, really, cool dadaist poetry. The music itself is played in accordance nature of previous albums without sounding recycled or boring. If you liked the band's first two albums then there is no reason you should shy away from
This is really happening. Some of the catchiest melodies on the LP come from "I can change" and "You wanted a hit". It's all thinking man's dance music with a heavy heaping of disco beats, synths and feedback-laden guitar: very post-punk. I can't say too much else about how much I love this album and encourage all of you to go out and buy it legally to reward Murphy for his genius. There's a rumor, which I can't seem to trace to its source, that the album might very well be the last. I hope this is not the case but even if is, this project has left us all with some stellar music.