Sunday, April 29, 2007

kid koala skools suckahs (portland, 4/21/07)

kid koala is an artist i've admired for a long time, but who i didn't get a chance to see until this year, but what a year it's been. i saw him spin about a month ago when, at my invitation, he came to my (soon-to-be-ex-) college to do a set for us. that was so awesome that i decided to go see him in portland last weekend as well. koala (real name: eric san) not only remembered me, but we talked for a while as well, and i got some good koala gossip. first off: there's gonna be a new deltron. koala and dan (the automator) have finished the beats and samples, and del is working on rhymes right now. so fuck yeah. more album news: there's gonna be a new lovage. apparently, there was a lot of tension between mr. patton and ms. charles on tour, but that's been resolved, and there could be a new lovage by 2009. here's hoping. more gossip at the end of the post.

kid koala is probably one of the nicest people i've ever met, in the entertainment industry or outside of it. behind the decks, the most common expression he wears is a smile, and he talks to everyone who wants a moment of his time after the show. he's currently on tour in europe, having just wrapped up an east coast launch for his new album, your mom's favorite dj, which you should buy directly from ninja tune here. i'll be honest; i liked some of my best friends are djs a lot more than the new album. your mom's has less of the bluesiness i liked of best friends and more aggressive samples, like the heavy guitar line that opens the album. but it's still a kid koala album, and he's still better than pretty much every other dj out there, but without the press. i would even suggest that he's a little publicity-shy, avoiding matchups like madvillain, and is more content to add the gloss to projects like deltron and lovage than to assert himself as a major force in the turntable world. which is a damn shame, because his work is just as good as madlib's or shadow's (and way better than the new rjd2), and he's getting no tour support while your mom's barely made it on the radar last year, when it was actually released. however, his portland show sold-out, and people were getting turned away at the door, so he's doing something right.

some local folks opened the gig, a recently formed trio of sontiago, dilly dilly, and gabe fm, a freak-folk rapping mix with dj support. dilly dilly will soon be touring as part of sage francis's backing band (she's the one on the right in the photo), and she contributed more of the freak-folk vibe. sontiago, the lady on the left, alternated between singing and rapping, and they even invited a few guests up on stage. i didn't catch either of their names, but one must have been a local opera singer, who sang backup harmony on one enchanting song. the other was an MC, probably a local one as well. their set was nice, but not something i'd listen to in my spare time. as far as i was concerned, the sooner they finished, the sooner koala went on.

even when their set ended, though, i was stymied. a beatboxer named chas took the mic for two, well, songs, for lack of a better word. i saw rahzel for free last year, and was really disappointed by this whole beatboxing thing, but chas was pretty good. he kept it short, timing his little interlude perfectly, in fact, so that he merely whet our appetites before kid koala took the 'tables.

i want to apologize for the picture quality and lighting...the space (name of the venue) decided to forgo any actual illumination for koala's set, leaving him drenched in red light. i took some pictures with the flash, but that virtually eliminated any chance of seeing the projection behind him. i hope you can live with them.

he opened his set with the starting sample from your mom's favorite dj; most appropriate, as this tour is a launch for the album. after that song, though, i couldn't tell you where he went at all. he spun for over an hour and a half, flipping records like they wuz nuthin. he was traveling with the same case of records as i'd seen him spin at school, so most of the samples were the same, but his mixes are always so fresh that it barely seemed similar. he also dropped some records that he hadn't before, and that was really exciting. there was even some godspeed you! black emperor in the mix ("the dead flag blues," one of my favorite godspeed songs), alongside his more conventional fare of ray charles or m.i.a.

as awesome as his freestyle mixing is, i do like koala's songs the best, especially his cover of johnny mercer's "moon river." he plays it quite frequently, im assuming, since i saw it at each of his shows, because it's his mom's favorite song. and, damn, does he do it justice. the original song is good, yes, but when you watch san pick up the needle and put it exactly on the right groove in the vinyl, producing the perfect note...why, it's nearly a religious experience. it is breathtaking, literally. my videos of "moon river" didn't come out well (definitely time for a new camera), so i've posted an official ninjatune video of the song below.

from my perspective, the crowd was pretty crappy, a lot of drunk douchebags and overaggressive pricks (not to mention the far-too-white-to-breakdance breakdancers), but they all were very vocal in their love for koala's scratching. and, really, it is something very special and unique. thanks to his mini spy camera, the audience gets to see how his hands move over the tables and mixer, taking a self-explanatory form of media (the LP), and making music with it that the original artist could never have imagined. his hands are usually a blur as he scratches and spins and distorts the sounds to create new sounds. as i said above, kid koala seems perfectly happy and totally comfortable behind the tables, and his own joy and passion definitely inspired the crowd as well. by the time san was winding down his encore with rage against the machine's "guerilla radio," the audience was jumping and screaming with joy.

kid koala is currently touring without any support, only himself, his wife, his records, and their cases of merchandise, and i believe he's having a hell of a time doing it. he's the most approachable guy ever, and one of the humblest i've ever seen (one kid came up to him and told him he was legendary. san shrugged it off and said thanks.). you can buy all of kid koala's records at the ninja tune store (or at his show), and you should. at the end of his set, san thanked the crowd and the venue for supporting underground music, because it's something that so few people "get." kid koala puts on a great show, and for more than a fair price. he loves his job (though who wouldn't?) and he makes people happy. i'm happy to shell out a couple bucks for that.

i've posted "shanky panky" at the end of the post; it's from some of my best friends are djs, and it could be my favorite studio track of his (though "nerdball" is a close second). do yourself a favor and go see him, and while you're there, enjoying yourself as much as he is, buy an album or apron.

kid koala - "shanky panky"

p.s. i forgot to mention the rest of the gossip. san really digs his labelmate fog's music, he's working on a project to be recorded under "the slew" moniker, and he and his wife (who happens to be a set designer) are working together on an as-yet untitled project about mosquitoes who play jazz. i assume it will be much like nufonia must fall, a book packaged with accompanying tunes, and san told me that he's making the mosquitoes from clay and then photographing them in the sets his wife built. should be fucking awesome. another release from kid koala can't come soon enough.

the decemberists, my brightest diamond @ avalon, 3/24/07

with all the success the decemberists have enjoyed lately (like being npr's album of the year...a much better way to attract aging fans), it's great to see them still playing medium sized clubs. though the avalon is pretty shitty, with a much-too-narrow stage (it's more of a nightclub, less of a proper rock venue), colin and co. threw their backs into it and put on a great show for the sold-out house. this was my third time seeing them, though my first post-crane wife, so i was somewhat prepared for their antics, though they still managed to impress.

this show had special significance for me because my sister (who took all the pictures) and mother came up from new york for it. i took a weekend off and caught the train down from maine, and we all met up for the show, our first as a family (and their first with the decemberists). my mom receives a lot of music through osmosis the way my sister and i crank up the volume when we're home, and the decemberists had worked their way into her heart (or, at the very least, their damn-catchy melodies were rolling around in her head). in any event, we scored some extra tickets off the ever-reliable craigslist and reserved a room for the night.

my brightest diamond opened, an act i was looking forward to more than the decemberists. i had heard her stunning bring me the workhorse, released last summer, but had always gotten the impression that she was holding something back, that her majestic wails and octave jumps were reserved. i was hoping that her live show would be more satisfying, and, damn, was it.

shara worden, a.k.a. my brightest diamond, used to (still does?) sing in sufjan's illinoisemakers, but you would never have guessed it in her outfit that night. a far cry from cheerleading outfits and pigtails, worden and the other diamonds set the fashion tone for the night in their head-to-toe white outfits (the decemberists all wore white seersuckers). her hair was much longer than when i had seen the illinoisemakers last summer, which gave her a much more serious look. her set was disappointingly short--the all-ages crowd was there for the decemberists and not for worden, despite meloy's well-known love for workhorse as one of his favorite albums of 2006. they played the expected "golden star" and "magic rabbit," two of their best songs, and ended with an energized "freak out," really punky and spazzy. they also played led zeppelin's "no quarter," which, sadly, received the most applause because no one knew her other songs. such a shame. she's one of my favorite new artists, and i'd love to see her in her own right...i bet she'd kick serious ass.

i've posted "magic rabbit" below, from her daytrotter session...better than on workhorse and free free free. because it's recorded live, worden really lets her voice out, justifying the "operatic" tag that m.b.d.'s been given. go download the rest of the daytrotter set, then go buy bring me the workhorse. it's available from asthmatic kitty in both CD and LP versions.

the decemberists always try and include a little bit of over-dramatized ham in their shows, and this was no exception, featuring an at-least 20 foot tall backdrop of "twilight in the forbidden forest," the name of this tour (i wish i could've seen "rout of the patagons,"'s a way cooler title). colin's girlfriend, the source of despair for indie ladies the world over, was responsible for it, and it didn't disappoint. and neither did they.

i'd wager few people were surprised when they opened with the ubiquitous "crane wife 3," given their wont to open shows with leadoff tracks (they used "the infanta" every other time i saw them) and that song's recent popularity (i.e., it was in scrubs). colin came onstage alone with his twelve-string and serenaded us until the rest of the decemberoos joined him for the climax. they went straight into "july, july!" (as always, a fan favorite), which got everyone warmed up and excited. "the soldiering life" was a bit of a wrench, throwing a lot of the young crowd off track (damn all-ages crowds), but pre-crane wife fans happily sang along. "the infanta" was satisfying, as usual, though "the bachelor and the bride" is too much like "soldiering" for my taste...i would've preferred a nice version of "youth and beauty brigade," to be honest.

for "yankee bayonet," colin invited shara worden back on stage to sing the pertinent parts, a far cry from laura veirs's studio backing vocals. worden fleshed out the song nicely, bringing it even greater depth and beauty. the decemberists offered a treat next, a song cut from the crane wife, called "culling of the fold." i had heard rumors of this track from no place in particular, a b-side merely because jenny had deemed it too violent for the album itself. after the show, i had the devil's own time finding a copy of it online, but, in the end, was successful, and i've posted it below for your pleasure. in his introduction, colin joked about jenny's sensitivity before launching into the first lyric: cut him up, boy / you gotta cut him up, boy. between pretending to hang himself with the mic cord and singing with a person in the front row who knew the song, colin pranced about on stage, unfettered by his guitar, and enjoying himself wholeheartedly.

after "culling," the 'rists returned to standard fare with "on the bus mall," followed by "the legionnaire's lament." the latter is one of my favorite decemberists songs, though i have heard it at every show of theirs i've seen. they followed with the expected "o valencia," keeping the energy level high after "lament," and segued right into "the island." i had been anticipating "the island;" i think it's probably the decemberists' most versatile work to date (not counting, of course, the tain), and i was excited to see them do it live. well, their performance put even my hopes to shame. after thrilling us all with the pirate melodies of "the landlord's daughter," everyone except colin put down their instruments and grouped together by jenny's piano, picking up different instruments for "you'll not feel the drowning." jenny moved to the harpsichord, john took piano, nate played cello, and mr. funk gently played the violin, bringing the set to an elegant and, really, a special end. except the set wasn't over yet. after acknowledging the well-deserved applause for the "drowning"'s rearrangement, the decemberists retook their positions and treated the audience to a great rendition of "when the war came." i was surprised (and glad) that "island" wasn't the end of the set...i didn't get a copy of the set list, so i can't say whether it was planned or impulsive, but the crowd had good energy the whole show, and they definitely responded to that.

i think we got a double encore (not coming on stage twice, but two songs) primarily because of the audience's enthusiasm. someone had been calling out for "eli the barrow boy" all night, and colin, jenny, and chris funk came on alone to satisfy this request. i don't think i'd seen "eli" before this show, and it was cool to see funk play the hurdy-gurdy. but "eli" isn't a favorite, and i was more excited for "the mariner's revenge song," the encore staple that it is. and what a great way to end the show it is. adding a new dimension to their impressive live repertoire, the decemberists decided to forgo funk's shark impersonation for, well, a real-er one.

all in all, the gig was great. it was even better seeing it with mi famiglia, and we got to hang out with the decemberists in the street after the show. we waited around to get some things signed and say hey and thanks for the show, and they all came out and we chatted with all of them in turn, which was probably the best part of the whole night. so many performers don't mingle after shows, so it was especially great that they did. i've posted the a video my sister shot of the decemberists singing "hang the dj," a little response to the avalon's penchant for scheduling dance parties while the main artist is still playing. my favorite part of the decemberists's live shows is their demeanor--they're so relaxed and comfortable, and willing to play and improvise and connect with their audience--it's a great atmosphere. i'm also posting my brightest diamond "magic rabbit" from her daytrotter session and the "culling of the fold" for your enjoyment. both bands rock and deserve your support, so go out and spend some money on them.

my brightest diamond - "magic rabbit"

the decemberists - "culling of the fold"

more gig pictures below:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

balkan beat box is proof that god wants us to dance,

so we did. their sold-out bowery ballroom show on april 19 was a study in culture as well as in dance moves, only the second time i've ever been at a concert in new york where english is not the dominate language. it was really cool. the last time was when gotan project played summerstage 3 years back, and it was like entering a different city. i've always had a lot of euro-envy, and i felt really privileged to be in such a diverse crowd, even in new york. so when i heard more slavic and middle eastern tongues on delancey street last week, i knew the show was going to be great.

i hadn't really prepared much for the show, beyond my casual obsession with balkan beat box's self titled debut from 2005 (available on jdub records). wikipedia has very little info on bbb, and i really had no idea what to expect. an evolution of the gypsy punk of gogol bordello, balkan beat box has less of a punk aesthetic and is more focused on the native rhythms of eastern europe and the middle east. incorporating elements of gypsy melodies alongside traditional sephardic verses, in addition to myriad other influences, balkan beat box was a great album. i expected the same level of foot-stomping intensity, but i didn't have any clue as to the extent of their live show. even the 'vegan was reporting secondhand. a few videos are on youtube hint at how good bbb are live, but, to be honest, i didn't find time to watch them before the show, so i was a blank slate.

balkan beat box kicked off their current tour at new york's bowery ballroom last thursday. featuring labelmates golem and local sephardic rockers deleon, the show was simply incredible. i took a great video, but it's too big for youtube, and my html skills don't extend to embedding videos, alas. fortunately, my co-author, tearknee, put me on to this video, which i'm inserting at the end of this post.

deleon - these guys were really solid. we didn't know it yet, but their black and red color scheme was going to be par for the night. straight reppin from brooklyn (where else?), deleon opened their set with a sephardic prayer set to music, which set high expectations for the rest of it. singing in sephardi, english, and spanish, frontman dan saks also proved himself adept at both the guitar and banjo. as an extra-special-awesome bonus, deleon gave away free pins to the entire crowd. pretty effing sweet, deleon.

the influence traditional spanish music plays in deleon's sound is palpable, taking the fore in songs like "ochos kandelikas," driving the melody with hip-shaking rhythms underlying the sung language itself. deleon was definitely very enjoyable, the perfect opener for balkan beat box, and i would definitely go see them again. they're unsigned and don't have any songs for download, but you can hear four tracks at their myspace page.

golem - a lot of people i talk to say it's never worth coming early to shows for openers. golem's set at this show proved them all wrong. i first heard of golem when an mp3 of "warsaw is khelm" was distributed as part of the SXSW package. the song was really catchy, and i've posted it below, to urge you all to go out and support (yet another) brooklyn band. it, along with two other songs, can be heard at their myspace. i purchased a copy of their debut fresh off boat (released by jdub records) at this show, and haven't been able to stop listening to it.

golem sounds like the band you wished you could've gotten for your bar/bat mitzvah. golem does not play guitars. golem does not play piano. golem does not use instruments that necessarily require electricity. what golem does do, however, is seriously kick some ass.

fronted by a pantomiming drunk tambourine player named aaron dishkin and annette ezekiel, smart-assed accordion virtuoso, golem calls themselves a folk-punk band, but i'd say they sound more like klezmer-punk. and the punk is generously used there. the songs are sung in english, and, as they dramatically announced to the crowd when they took the stage, yiddish. golem's pride in their eastern-european heritage is something we can all appreciate, especially on songs like "bublichki," which opens with a standard klezmer introduction of a mess of drums and horns, before stopping and re-starting with slow vocals that rapidly accelerate so fast that you don't even realize you've stopped standing still and you're dancing madly. "bublichki," which is mostly sung in yiddish, earned a laugh from the audience on the english interlude where dishkin informs us of the problems of his family, namely that his little brother earns his living from robbing hipsters on the L train.

golem ended their superb set with an called dance (don't ask me which song it was to - i was too busy trying to step left and right at the correct time to listen), and the best part was that ms. ezekiel introduced the band and each member performed the dance in time, even the drummer. dishkin pantomimed drinking six glasses of vodka during one song and stumbled about on stage, and another song featured ezekiel and dishkin flirting with each other to much hilarity. even though i could maybe understand one out of every three or four songs, golem speaks the language perfectly...building on the crowd's excitement from deleon, golem managed to get the crowd dancing , language barrier or no language barrier, with very little work indeed. by the time they left the stage, to much applause, golem had done their job perfectly: bowery ballroom was wetting themselves with excitement for balkan beat box.

and no one went home disappointed. after setting up on stage, bbb disappeared, only to reappear, in masks and all, in the balcony. carrying their saxophones and with two shoulder rigs for drums, balkan beat box jammed their way down the stairs and through the crowd before ending up on stage, the excitement level so high you could actually taste it. balkan beat box is one of those special bands that began as a two-person project and has morphed into a six-person touring lineup. founded by ori kaplan (sax) and tamir muskat (drums and production), balkan beat box now includes peter hess (sax and clarinet), jeremiah lockwood (guitar), tomer yosef (vocals, samples, drums), and itamar zeigler (bass). together, these six men made more new yorkers dance than i've ever seen before.

most of the set was material from nu-med, which had come out two days previous. yosef rocked the mic the whole night, supplying lyrics everywhere they were needed and encouraging the crowd to dance harder. the only nu-med song i've heard is "digital monkey," featuring rhymes by saz, a palestinian MC who has joined balkan beat box, but it sounds good. highlights, for me, were songs from their self-titled debut, because i knew them already. "bulgarian chicks" really got the crowd going, and they jammed on it, really milking the song for all it was worth. balkan beat box takes pride in the fact that their music is hard to describe, blending gypsy, arabic, jewish, and eastern-european elements as they do, so i'm not even really going to try to tell you how amazing this show was - you really need to go experience it yourself. they have a slew of dates lined up, including one in both detroit and chicago, but most of their other gigs are on the other side of the atlantic. the video below gives you an idea of the energy, but it they are honestly one of the few bands whose live show is unmissable.

balkan beat box is currently rocking the east coast on a
tour to support their recent nu-med, which came out on april 17. accompanied by labelmates golem, balkan beat box is shaking asses near you. you can buy nu-med on itunes, where it features "ramallah tel aviv," a bonus track, or directly from jdub.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

art brut - two nights for the price of two

art brut's magic has always been two-fold, from the biting witticism of lead singer eddie argos's studio lyrics to their raucous live shows that make the floors shake from the jumping. i had been smitten with art brut ever since "formed a band," the first song on last year's bang bang rock & roll, and i needed no excuse to see them this week on their american mini tour. their show at southpaw last year had literally left me floored, so it was a no-brainer when i saw they were playing at both bowery ballroom and studio b - i got a ticket for each night and made sure my dancing shoes were clean. here are the stories:

4/17/07 - bowery ballroom with ra ra riot and holy hail

i've had terrible luck getting good openers at bowery ballroom far too often. i saw the hold steady there last year, an
d black mountain had visa problems, so they replaced him with a judas priest cover band and a local mediocre alt-country band, a situation that seems endemic to the venue. this show's openers had a similar cobbled-together-quickly feel, with ra ra riot coming from syracuse university and holy hail from the l.e.s., no doubt. ra ra riot put on a good show for such a young band and had tons of energy, jumping around and headbutting each other, their enthusiasm making up for the lack of musical nuances. they had a cello and violin, which added a little bit of cool to their sound, which was layered and driven. however, the cello was entirely lost in the mix, though the violin came through loud and strong. their sound is not mature enough to compare it to anything like land of talk, but i would think that's where they're heading, strong repetitive guitars supporting vocal/violin melodies. maybe check them out in a few years.

holy hail, on the other hand, was downright awful. jesus. partway through their set, i started asking myself if coming tonight was even worth it, they were so bad. they had a crappy, played out, dark synthy rock sound accentuated with yelps and screams and entirely indistinguishable vocals. they didnt use much in the way of dynamics or tempo changes or any concessions to musical ingenuity and flexibility, and even stood still most of the time, just like the audience. what a mistake, coupling them with the 'brut. even worse, their set felt like forever, and was nearly 40 minutes long...i would've preferred ra ra riot played an extra 10 minutes than listen to holy hail longer. seriously gross.

but then, thank the gods, there was art brut to save the night. thanks to a vegan in brooklyn, i had downloaded five new songs and was prepared to sing along; a wise decision, since they opened the night with "pump up the volume," a seriously philosophical song that debates the wisdom of breaking from a kiss to turn up a pop song. the conclusion? well, go for the pop song, of course. other new songs included the also-downloaded "direct hit," which exhorted the crowd to move around like their shoes didn't fit, and many obeyed. by the third song, which was probably "bang bang rock & roll," the whole front of the stage was jumping and pushing and was awesome. the crowd literally went from maybe a one on the excitement meter to at least an eleven. in addition to the brilliant "nag nag nag nag," released as a single in the u.k. last year, art brut rocked all the songs i had downloaded as well as three other new ones, "people in love," "i will survive," and "blame it on the trains" (i'm not positive about the last one). which was all good and well, and very exciting for it's a bit complicateds june 19 release on downtown, but most of the crowd obviously hadn't heard any of the new stuff, and the best responses came to favorites off bang bang. "rusted guns of milan" enjoyed a big sing along, and "bad weekend," introduced as a blues song by a blues guitarist (ian), played early in the set, got the crowd moving like mad. the biggest hit of the night, of course, was the inimitable "modern art," replete with backup vocal yelping and superincredible dancing in the pit. at the end of the song, eddie jumped into the crowd, driving everyone into a jumping screaming frenzy for at least two minutes as he navigated his way back to the stage. during "moving to l.a.," eddie displayed his airplane prowess and informed the crowd he would not only be drinking hennessey with morrissey, but that he would also imbibe rose with axl rose, stella with paul weller, and a couple other celebrities i can't remember now.

while we're on the topic of argos's in-show vocal improvisation, he does it. a lot. not only on
"moving to l.a.," but on "modern art," "post soothing out," "late sunday," and a handful of other tracks, which, for me, is part of the live art brut magic. all of their antics, from jasper's pointing (eddie repeatedly claimed this stems from his inability to actually play the guitar) to argos's own fun, which happens mostly during the instrumental bits. during their inestimably fun love song "emily kane," argos jumped rope with the microphone cord and later did pushups with the same candidness and tongue-in- cheekness that is part of everything art brut does.

art brut's mission remains the same as it ever was: getting everyone in the
whole world to form a band. in one of the many mid-song interludes, eddie argos ordered the crowd to go home and make a band the next day, comparing how much fun we in the pit were having with how much more fun everyone on the stage was having (apparently, they were having a whole lot more). other argos interludes included a long rant in "emily kane" about how absolutely stupid we all were to listen to people in bands, because bands lie and make things up. in interviews, argos often talks about how uncynical american audiences are, and how easily we all buy into the reality of emily kane, but why he feels so strongly that we shouldn't believe him, i don't know. there is one band that argos believes in and told the crowd to believe in as well: the mountain goats (more on this later).

art brut gave us a double encore of "my little brother" and "good weekend," which included a nice little bit of "formed a band" in the middle. argos recited his standard schtick about "good weekend"and how it was top of the pops everywhere that doesn't have top of the pops (the now-deceased british television program), including germany, sweden, portugal, narnia, hogwarts, and the american independent charts, to the great delight of the crowd. by the time they finally left the stage, it was like the rest of the night hadn't even happened.

4/18/07 - studio b with o'death

after how fucking awesome the previous night's show was, i had high expectations for this one. i had never been to studio b before, but had heard about how good the crowds are and was totally psyched for more sweaty dancing. this was a todd p show, which also contributed to my excitement, and the press on o'death has been really favorable. so, basically, my excitement was at an all-time high for this show.

it started on a bad note. i hate wearing pants to show where i know i'm gonna dance, so i wore shorts, like i did the previous night. however, i arrived at bowery ballroom aft
er the doors opened, so i didn't get cold outside. i got the studio b right around the advertised door time of 8 pm, and then stood outside for 40 minutes for no reason along with everyone else. so that sucked and put me in a bad mood for starters. o'death was simply fabulous, however. their myspace describes them as gothic/country/punk, a fairly spot-on assessment, though i would think less punk with a double scoop of gothic. the sound itself, the fidelity, has a lot in common with iron & wine, but greg jamie's vocals are thin and reedy, almost piercingly high and melancholy like you can only get in country. you can almost taste the agony during the slow parts, and you can't help but stomping your feet when they get good and riled up, which happens often. they're all obviously very talented musicians, and i definitely want to hear a lot more from them in the future. they have a lot of mp3s here, and i'll post some at the bottom as well.

the worst part of the o'death set was that they only play for 20 minutes. what's up with that, todd p? i'll tell you what's up with that - it was for the same reason that art brut was off the stage and packing up by 11. soulwax and 2 many djs were playing a set afterwards. i really hate that shit. i didn't know that until afterwards, but it's such fucking bullshit. that, plus the awkward setup of studio b, really soured me on the venue, and i don't think i'll be going back there anytime soon (it's also fucking way far away from the L train).

i think, by the time the show started, it was another sold out one for art brut, but the dynamics w
ere really different than the previous night. i recognized some familiar faces from the night before, but the energy level was entirely different. art brut opened the night with "pump up the volume" again, and it seemed like, right there, the second-nighters resigned themselves to the same set as at bowery. sadly, it was indeed virtually the same. they played "my little brother" during the set this time, but there weren't any different songs. there was a request for "maternity ward," but eddie said jasper didn't know how to play it. in this same vein, much of the banter was the same. there were the same exhortations to form bands, the same chiding for believing in what bands say (this time, it was except for the mountain goats and the hold steady), the same new lyrics to "moving to l.a." that was really disappointing for me, but it was understandable at the same time. the crowd was really bad, with very little dancing until 3/4 of the way through the set. even as eddie dove into the crowd during "modern art" few people were moving around. the stage at studio b is much smaller than bowery, and i maintain that small stages are terrible because it gives the crowd less space to be close to the band as well as condensing the band space. eddie couldn't move around without having to duck because of the lights, and i think it was a bad setup overall.

two nights of art brut might have been one night too many, for a few reasons. the venue and crowd at studio b was definitely to blame for a lot of the less-than-stellarness of
the second night, but if art brut had made a different setlist and new jokes, that would've gotten a lot of repeat-nighters more involved. when they come back to new york, if they play two shows, i think i'll just go to one next time, but we'll have to wait and see how fucking awesome it's a bit complicated is actually gonna be. i've got the faith.

as for it's a bit complicated, it's due out on june 19 on downtown and pitchfork has the tracklist. they've also got a dvd coming out on may 22 (though eddie isn't thrilled about it...check back later for more). i've posted an o'death song and two new art brut gems, "nag nag nag nag" (though, to be fair, this has been online for at least six months) and "direct hit," both off complicated. all five of the leaked tracks are here.

o'death - "down to rest" their album head home is being re-released on june 12th by ernest jenning. check out or itunes for more.

art brut - "nag nag nag nag," "direct hit." bang bang rock & roll is still available; it's a bit complicated drops june 19 on downtown records.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

she's feisty, she gets around

since feist has been on everyone's lips this week, i thought i might as well toss my two cents in as well (she's fucking awesome). pitchfork posted her new video "1 2 3 4" earlier this week, and it's absolutely gorgeous, lots of bright colors and dancing, but i still prefer "my moon my man," the reminder's first single. arts & crafts is playing the reminder close to the vest, as only three songs have been leaked from the album (due to arrive on may 1 in the u.s. and canada).

i might've missed the press on the video for "my moon my man," (though i didnt see any) so i'm posting it here to compensate. shot in color, "my moon my man" is a black-and-white airport fantasy, sharing the same dreaminess and synchronized dancing that all feist videos have. the lighting in this video is beautiful, as abrupt and stark as moonlight itself, perfectly complementing the stylized choreography. my favorite part is in the middle, when the lights cycle on and off, illuminating feist and her dancing cast as statues for split seconds. my sister called feist "a biter" for using a moving sidewalk, apparently ripping off ok go's "here it goes again," but the differences are too great to be trivialized by this similarity. also, "my moon my man" is way sexier.

i also want to post a remix off the my moon my man single of that same song, performed by boys noise. feist is fond of remixes, having released a whole album of them, and i'd be surprised if more didn't surface after the reminder drops. also included is "the water," a b-side (though it's on the album as well). for those of you keeping track at home, feist has also been releasing webipsodes via myspace, including one of "my moon my man," but it's not the official video. also, i didnt hear about these webisodes until i wrote this post, so someone dropped the ball with publicizing them. bastards.

"my moon my man (boys noise remix)"
"the water"

from the reminder, available april 23 worldwide, may 1 in the u.s. and canada. check itunes for preorder info.

THIS JUST IN (courtesy of the music slut): follow her link for pre-sale feist tix at nyc's town hall, june 11. username: feist, password: tickets. it's that easy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

free music is the best music

this is probably old news, but I just found about the amazing, a label located in los angeles. Information on slabco is scarce, but i've managed to learn they're home to at least eleven artists and over fifty releases. in addition, slabco creates customized tracks for commercial use.

the best thing about slabco? they have a rotating cast of absolutely free 100% legally downloadable albums. right now, some gems from bands i've never heard of like dynomite d, sukpatch (i like them), the wonderfully named sientific american, casiocore, and steven are up under the "mpfrees" link. steven, by the way, is the only artist who seems to have albums for sale, probably because he seems to be the label head and founder.

Interviewed in 2006 for drama magazine, steven (last name nereo) disses interpol and the rapture like an old-timer. His most recent work seems to be making music for a napster ad, and his last album titled, mystery of attraction cancelled, was released october 2005.

slabco has recently branched out into clothing, apparel, and bikes.

i think the best word to describe the catalog is "restrained." populated by djs and songmakers, slabco's sound is complex and integrated, each of its artists incorporating electronic and vocal elements into a textured and subtle albums. sukpatch sounds cute without being twee, a rare distinction these days, and the dynomite d album features a guest spot from none other than my personal favorite, kid koala. the slabco51 sampler includes tracks from both the cassette and vinyl years. each band has a unique sound that simultaneously blends into the larger slabco aesthetic, a comprehensive seamlessness that few labels can boast of.

i've posted sukpatch's "fleet" from their honky-tonk operation e.p. and dynomite d's "stick 'em" from by the way as two examples of some of the fine work that's available for free at slabco. hope you enjoy them like i do.

sukpatch - "fleet"
dynomite d - "stick em"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

celebrating kurr

if you're like me, you hadn't heard of amiina until you went to see sigur ros (best icelandic band around...take that, bjork!), and you regretted the oversight for months. also known as sigur ros's backing string quartet, these four women can play more instruments than i know the names of. their sound is at once gentle and quirky, finding simple, cyclical melodies with unique sounds.

amiina put out their debut LP recently (because it was self-released, the date was somewhat iffy), and i managed to hop over to sandbag and get one of the 200 copies made. pretty sweet indeed. aside from making the bitchingest case ever (forget plastic and those damn irritating stickers), kurr, as this gem is called, is all new except for one song, "seoul," that great fan favorite from the seoul ep (it's the one with the musical saw).

to celebrate kurr's release, i'm posting this sweet 30 minute live set from icelandic TV. featuring old and new songs (plus people speaking icelandic), the visual quality is high and the audio quality even better. as you'll see in the video, their instruments include said musical saw, cello, violin, viola, some bells, water glasses, a couple different keyboards, a music box, an apple laptop, some xylophones, a guitar, and a casio keyboard from when i was a toddler.

i've managed to see amiina once sans sigur ros, at the bang on a can marathon in new york last summer, and, if anything, they're even more withdrawn than the 'ros, which makes them twice as intriguing. do yourself a favor and check them out.

tour dates available here.

amiina- "seoul." ep available at itunes
and sandbag

lily allen with the bird and the bee - 4/7/07, boston

we headed down to boston this past weekend to check out lily allen's gig at the roxy. she's playing next month in new york, but at a venue 3-4 times the size, and i wanted to see her in a somewhat intimate space before she exploded. turns out she's already done that. tickets on craigslist were even a little outrageously priced, but not like the amy winehouse ones in nyc ($150 each!), and the joint was packed.

i've noticed that boston crowds generally suck, and this one was no exception. it seems to be par for the course that the show was all ages -- i saw
the decemberists there two weeks ago, and the crowd was equally teenaged and irritating. to be fair, lily does have tween appeal, but she also does say "cunt" with a good dose of ferocity.

the bird and the bee opened, and i wasn't prepared to be impressed. i downloaded a song via a week before the show, and, while it didn't get me interested, i liked them a lot more live. they had two backup singers, which was cool, and a multi-instrumentalist who played xylophone among other things. nothing really intense, but a nice sugary sweet set.

the dj at the roxy was probably the worst one ever. at an ostensibly indie show, all the set music was 30-second clips of bangers from the 70s and 80s. you'd never have known disco died the way this guy was churning them out. he added the occasional canned scratching sounds for effect, but i would rather have sat in silence for half an hour. the best part was that he was on board for the latin night that started at 10, which gave us the hint that 7.30 wasn't the door time, it was show time. what is up with the early shows, boston?

after half an hour or so, lily came on to thunderous applause. she opened with "ldn" and segued right into "friday night." her energy was really high (she later admitted she was sober for her third gig in a row), but not infectious enough for the crowd to start moving. even as she went through her fuck-bureaucrats anthem "everything's just wonderful," and the impossibly dance-able "smile," the crowd remained still, with the exception of some drunk frat boys and a fight near the stage. this was no fault of lily's. she took her time and enjoyed her set, backed by a live band. The band, a nice touch, visibly enjoyed themselves as well, dancing along to the beat and smiling and laughing. midway through the set, half the band left and lily sang two acoustic songs, backed by guitar and piano. the first one was by keane, a song i didn't know, but the second was "naive" by the kooks. i liked her take on it, though it was pretty straightforward and more of a participatory song than anything else. highlights were definitely "not big," her rant about her boyfriend's small penis, which she prefaced with a funny monologue about tiny dicks in general. before "friend of mine," a hate song about a fake friend, lily informed the crowd that the girl this song is based on is now a crackhead. she sang the obligatory "littlest things" for her boyfriend at home, and encored with a cover of "heart of glass" and "alfie."

disregarding the crowd issues, lily's performance was spot-on, a good attempt at a live replication of the studio environment. i, however, feel like that's a problem. live never sounds as good as the studio, but the best artists compensate for that with audience involvement or live improvisation. with a full band at her disposal (a trumpet, trombone, sax and organ), there were only two solos. her songs are nowhere strict enough to disallow more improvisation, but it didn't happen. i would've liked to have seen more of that and more audience involvement (aside from the one-would-assume standard song stories, she only responded to a fight in the audience and someone smoking pot). worth the money and the time, definitely, but not good enough for me to go see her at roseland next month.

more pictures below:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

welcome to mr. mammoth

mr. mammoth is a music blog that we've created to serve the needs of the people. they aren't served enough already by other blogs with clever animal imagery, you ask? no, we say.

mr. mammoth is our entry into the world of anonymous opinion-expressing, and we're quite excited about it. we're starting out as a concert review blog, sprinkled with exciting news tidbits (like the madvillain release date) when we get them. our tastes are diverse, but we're poor and picky, so sometimes we won't go to concerts for weeks. we spend our time in several places -- right now, we're in lewiston, maine because we're students here. we also live in nyc and d.c. and edinburgh, scotland. we're not trying to be exhaustive; we just want to share.