Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 In Review: Top Ten Singles

#10 Russian Futurists "Hoeing Weeds, Sowing Seeds"
#9 Radio Dept "Heaven's on Fire"
#8 Villagers "Becoming a Jackal"
#7 LCD Soundsystem "Dance Yrslf Clean"
#6 Hot Chip "Take It All In"
#5 Jonsi "Boy Lilikoi"
#4 Dr. Dog "Shadow People"
#3 Delta Spirit "Salt in the Wound"
#2 Broken Bells "The High Road"
#1 National "Bloodbuzz, Ohio"

i really loved the "Teenage Dream" cover from glee. it was knocking on the top ten. Katy Perry is a great songwriter. there i said it.

2010 In Review: Top Ten Albums

#10 Vampire Weekend Contra (this wasn't on the list until i saw shawn bopping to the commercial that used "Holiday," then i re-listened and realized how fun it is. This kicked Caribou off the list)

#9 Sleigh Bells Treat-hated the show, but this disc gets better each time i listen

#8 Atmosphere To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EP- it may just be an EP, or a collection of eps, but this is really good, music and lyrics.

#7 Twin Shadow Forget- i just keep playing this, damn the influences

#6 Frightened Rabbit Winter of Mixed Drinks

#5 Broken Bells

#4 The Drums

#3 Yeasayer Odd Blood

#2 Menomena Mines

#1 National High Violet (this would have been #1 regardless of the bonus disc, but every one of those b sides could have been on this album.)

We Interrupt This Program for the Following Announcement

Sorta kinda new year's resolution to cut back on the cheapo/fetus picking. i really don't need to go every week. maybe once a month is enough...and gad knows the amazon selling is getting time consuming (albeit quite profitable...think i made 1600 bucks off a 2700 investment...better than the market, plus the music!)

but the resolution is so tomorrow. today we feast:

a couple fuzzy warbles from andy partridge (vols 3 and 6)
david holmes let's get killed (dunno why i dig him so much)
belle and sebastian write about love (super cheap, i couldn't pass up a cd copy)
slowdive pygmailion (this completes my recent slowdive binge)
slade keep your hands off my power supply (reliable seller for $7)
men without hats collection ($5!!!)

2010 In Review: The Shows

Now onto the main selections of the year.

First off, is worst show of the year. and no, it's not going to be mumford and sons. nor is it going to be broken social scene (i was loving them right up until they decided to give us a little extra)

My worst show is easily the Julian Casblancas show at First Avenue last spring. I don't want to relive my ire and get worked up all over again by rehasing. Bad show. one of the worst i've ever seen. i'm so glad you were there to share the pain with me, ben.

Now on a happier tone, top five shows of 2010

#5. Crowded House. Minnesota Zoo. gorgeous night. wonderful setting. great songs and performers who genuinely seemed to enjoy the moment.

#4. National. First Avenue. 3rd time seeing them. great show as usual (and the antlers were awesome too) Bon Iver guested (and grabbed matt's ass, shocking matt a little). highlight was having 1200 people sing along to "conversation 16"

#3 Menomena. Varsity. I could rave more and rail about how they deserve a bigger crowd (i could say the same for frightened rabbit) but hopefully, they will put out one more album and tour before everyone finds them so i can enjoy another stellar show.

#2 Yeasayer. First Avenue. My da passed away shortly before this show. and of course, we had the memorial on the same day as this show. It wasn't really a question of not going, although the whole evening is a blur. I know the lyrics meant something else entirely, but i almost started bawling during the "...stuck in my mind, all the time" part of "One".

#1 Fanfarlo. Cedar Cultural Center. an utterly charming band. great songs, wonderfully sympathetic playing by a band on the verge who seemed thrilled and amazed that the audience was so into them. Trust us, it was we who were the delighted.

In The Light They Both Looked the Same

Arcade Fire (with Calexico)
Roy Wilkins
September 22, 2010

This was going to be a tough one. Lots of baggage going into it. The arcade fire/lcd soundsystem show 3+ years ago at the Roy is one of my favorite all time shows (top five, probably #5). The ICC hadn't seen them before, so i really wanted this to be a knock your socks off kinda show so he could know the cathartic joy of which i'd repeatedly spoke (taunted). And I'm not totally in love with The Suburbs (Neon Bible was more uneven, but it soared higher) so i was a little worried about how the show might translate. So it was really hard to not have heightened/unrealistic/confused expectations for this one.

I needn't have worried.

Oh sure, i got drenched going into the Roy. And as much as i like Calexico on record, the cavernous Roy is NOT the place for them. Their sound was muddy and the mix just didn't work. I was counting songs and wishing them off the stage (although in the proper venue i'd go see them again). and of course, our meeting spot was inhabited by a loud know it all and his even louder know it all (what i assume was his) father. (dude, i'm so glad your brother went to college with win's brother...please tell me again, and again....btw, your wife/girlfriend seems kinda embarrassed by you and your fawning over that high school classmate)

But Arcade Fire were just as phenomenal as they were 3 years ago. Dynamic, energetic, passionate, they believe that rock and roll can save your mortal soul (or fire it up as the case may be) and make you dance real slow. And for 90 minutes i even liked the Suburbs songs (ok, i've cottoned to more of them than i had before the show, although i haven't listened lately....) I love how they destroy their instruments on stage with their furious playing (well...maybe it isn't exactly their instrument they are destroying what with all their promiscuous instrument switching), i think they would be wonderful to see just standing naked under the autumn moon, pounding on rocks and tearing out grass and howling like demented monkeys.

Primal and urgent and full of truth and beauty they are. There aren't many bands i'd want to see more than once or twice. I'd go see arcade fire anytime.

I Fell In Love Again

Sufjan Stevens
Orpheum Theatre
October 16, 2010

I don’t think I’d ever sat in the front row of a concert before this one (I was close enough to the stage to get sweat on by peter garrett but I don’t think that counts). I don’t go to that many sit down shows, and I’m definitely not that lucky, so no big surprise there. But four front row seats for Sufjan? I guess it helped that the show was announced before All Delighted People AND The Age of Adz were announced, and it was a fanclub pre-sale, but still I got completely shut out for the 400 bar show (and Shawn was even helping) so even with the show at the Orpheum, I wasn’t even hoping for first five rows. Somebody is cashing in karma points.

But you might exclaim, two cds of new material (how can it be an ep if it’s 60 minutes, you might also ask)? I can’t digest, you protest. Plus he’s going to focus on that isn’t he and we won’t be able to sing along (and weep when we hear the first notes) of all our favorites, and isn’t it a departure in sound for him (all electronic and dancey)? What good is Sufjan if he isn’t doing his state songs or his acoustifolk stuff?

Well…let me start off by saying, I too am I’m not totally on board with the new stuff. I think his folky stuff is his sweet spot musically and those plunky banjo songs….well…there’s a reason oreos are delicious. But still, I applaud his artistic yearning and he’s definitely earned my respect and willingness to follow him on his musical journey. Also, I was warming considerable to the sound even before the show.

However, some of your fears were realized. He played mostly the new stuff (with a couple of seven swan tunes thrown in and a couple favorites in the encore) playing almost all of The Age of Adz over the course of the 2 plus hour show. I think he did help me turn a corner on the new songs, the arrangements were less fussy than the recording and he definitely put a lot of intensity in a few songs (rocking out at a level folks would not expect…especially on Vesuvius.) He had a nice big band with him (although he did play solo acoustic for a couple lovely songs...highlights for me) Too Much (I think this was the one with the funky and by funky I mean super nerdy choreography), Heirloom, The Owl and the Tanager and Get Real, Get Right were some of the highlights for me. And just to make everyone happy, he pulled out Chicago for the encore, so everybody got their big singalong.

Admittedly, the show was a work in progress as Sufjan and the band worked out live arrangements on the fly, missing a lyric here and there, and a number of false starts and do overs. I could see where some folks would be annoyed by that, but he has such a charming, unpretentious manner, that I felt more like I was watching a private, friendly spontaneous rehearsal, rather than a stuffy IMPORTANT alternative icon show, so those warts just enhanced the show for me.

(and ok, I’ve been saying Sufjan incorrectly for forever. But I’m not gonna help you out, you’ll have to figure it out on your own…maybe when you are sitting in the front row and your significant other catches you in a mistaken pronunciation)

2010 In Review: Worst Album

I think we are in agreement on this one.

Brandon Flowers: Flamingo

It would be easy to say Duffy because i almost didn't even include that in the MHD, but it's not like i expected to like her, or that i think she has any talent, plus she's given me an over the top vibrato i can mock mercilessly, so there's that.

But hell...i like the Killers (i even like a couple songs off the sawdust leftovers disc, and the christmas singles are good) so who would have thought this album would be so awful, boring and pretentious (all at the same time). i mean, c'mon...a springsteen-ian treatise on the losers of vegas? but you don't really have anything to say? plus, you (BF) barely know how to write about yourself, much less real people (and i'm pretty sure you aren't that in touch with the real people/vegas losers.) blech, i'd rather eat pickled beets. and the music sucks too. (although i still sorta wonder if i should have seen him at first ave this fall...i mean...he's gotta fill a set, right? is it wrong to expect a killers song or two?)

I Admit. Sometimes, I Say Too Much (or I've Got to Scratch This Itch of Mine)

Varsity Theater
September 23, 2010

You know how i said "Wow" about Mumford & Sons in the most negative manner possible? Flip that over and apply it to the Menomena show at the varsity. and then multiply it; 2x, 3x, 4x, whatever you feel comfortable with, and i'd agree. All those mumford fans should have been at this show if they really wanted to see "the goods". Jeez, i get goosebumps just reliving the show in my mind as i type away. (although i am realizing how Modest Mouse Queen Black Acid is) Great album to tour behind (mines), great song selection, (within the songs themselves and throughout the set list...was just a great mix of crowd pleasers, teasers and squeezers building up to the finale) amazing dynamics/chemistry between the band members (i guess it helps to have three unique singers, he said overly obviously) Seriously, every song was a gem (most of mines was played and lots of friend or foe...something for EVERYONE) i could go on, but i don't think i need to. again...just go check them out. EXCELLENT!

btw.....only one encore song? sheesh. (and what was with the singerdrummer? too much queen black acid?)

(oh yeah, i might be coming around on the suckers--the opening act...sorry)

(double oh yeah...Adam, do you REALLY have to shout crap from the audience? I hope Chad's band coalesces and i can go to the show and shout non-non sequiturs)

2010 In Review: Soundtrack

I'm sure you are sick of belated concert reviews.
Let me get to what you really want to read.
My 2010 top tens....

And the award for favorite soundtrack of the year goes to.....

The I Am Love soundtrack. Perfect complement to the movie ('s practically a character itself) but it works quite nicely even without the visuals. Love it, course i'm a sucker for that kind of repeated single note stuff.

Runner up is the True Grit soundtrack. It is pretty great too.

And shockingly, i don't really have a worst soundtrack this year. there are a bunch of them that didn't really do much for me, but nothing struck me as out and out awful (although the Tron:Legacy soundtrack was a disappointment, how can you have Daft Punk do your soundtrack and then make them NOT be Daft Punk...sigh)

I Really Fucked It Up (or it’s not me, it’s them)

Mumford & Sons
First Avenue
October 29th

This was probably my most eagerly anticipated show of the year. And I kinda fucked up tickets because I can’t tell the difference between eastern and central time. So big ups to Rhi for being so kind to trade me her extra two for my extra two to front row sufjan. But wow. What a disappointment. I waited a bit on this one (kinda cos I’m lazy and kinda cos I wanted a little distance before I wrote about it). But still…wow….what a disappointment.

Where to begin…..

I’m not blaming the band for the power going out midway through the set. Act of god and all, and I dug them playing some (truly) unplugged songs in the interim (even though I couldn’t hear much…I think it was the Wagon Wheel cover). And it wasn’t the crowd either (although they were pretty damn drunk and obnoxious…but I kinda expect that at these mainstream masses shows). Maybe a little bit of too much adulation has made them a little big for their britches? Hard to say where ego overwhelms, and I’m not quite sure they’ve gone that way yet, but though close, I’m not sure they’ve gone all KoL yet.

What made the show a drag was some bad song sequencing (c’mon guys, these are your songs, how can you not know what works together in terms of pacing a show?) way too much noodling between songs (killing any momentum they made have built up in spite of the haphazard sequencing) and the biggest sin of all….too much chatter from the head mumford. I shouldn’t go into the “discussion” about politics with the audience member, but sheesh dude… ain’t billy bragg, keep the politics out of it, you’re having a hard enough time playing the songs. Also, their harmonies are lovely, but I don’t need them to break into an extended choral sequence every song to show it off (the songs are pretty great…why not just service them instead of servicing yourselves?) Dunno. I was kinda hoping the power would go out again and we could all just go home. And that’s a bummer feeling to have at a show. I can’t recommend any of the song performances. I definitely won’t need to see these guys again (but all you drunk obnoxious folks staggering up the ramp can have at it).

BTW, i'm listening to Sigh No More as i write this...i still really like that album so at least the live performance didn't change my mind about that.

c’mon and get the minimum!

Broken Bells
First Avenue
December 6, 2010

i have had a picture of james mercer staring at me from above my desk for at least three different jobs now (all the same company so don’t be all job whore judgmental on me). not always the same picture mind you, i’ve definitely gravitated to the bearded current guise, but always mr mercer in some shape or form for quite a while now. he looks on with silent shy encouragement on good days, bad days and days that are just a function of watching the sunshadow move across my computer screen. couple obvious reasons for my fandom. the shins really ushered in the 3rd era (or 4th depending on your math) of music for me (and perhaps the prime of all eras); the indie years, he’s devastatingly appealing to me (the ICC is soooooo wrong, and it’s not just the beard) and he just seems like a terrifically thoughtful, classy and charming guy (those videos with the kids reviewing broken bell tracks cinched it for me).

so yeah, couldn’t wait to see broken bells when they finally got around to getting up to the MPLS. and i guess i was pretty predisposed to love the show, regardless. thankfully, they did not disappoint.

not the most chatty guy (dangermouse even less so) with little more than “hi how ya’s doing” and “you’re a great crowd” (and not in that smarmy julian casablancas kind of make me want to hit him way). but they were all definitely into the show. lots of fun little jam intros (but not to jam if’n ya follow me) tight crew. short set, but satisfying. highlights of course, the high road, merilyn fields (how could this not be on the album), a KILLER vaporize, october. got a nice version of insane lullaby (from the dark night of the soul), a neil young cover, plus the most shins-ish, your head is on fire.

dunno what it says, but i keep hearing the fade on THE HIGH ROAD differently. sometimes loss, sometimes laws, sometimes love....depending on my mood. i love that song.

Is It Really the Moon?

Drums/Surfer Blood
October 13

I’ve had a cough for a couple weeks now. About half the time I cough (and yes, I do turn my head, less so to be polite, more so just to get lucky) I’m pretty sure I’m coughing out smoke balls from the Drums show at the Varsity. Definitely a great show full of all the the trappings of the 80’s (a good thing, I would say). The aforementioned fog machine, so dense at times you could barely see the Drums’ singer, much less the players on the side, some heavy duty lasers (I wonder if complimentary Lasik procedures become part of their tour), and bass heavy throbbing georgio moroder like disco beats all combined to create a quite memorable show. The ICC commented on how different the live show was from the debut album (and earlier ep) and I’d have to agree, but I dig both equally well. (perhaps the sound of the live show had something to do with the guitarist for the band leaving shortly before they hit Minneapolis, although live, they sound a lot more like leader, Jonathan Pierce’s previous group, Elkland. Whatever it was, it was definitely working and I really loved the show and was sorry that the set was so short. Pretty much every song (again, less surf beat than the album and more love to love you baby arrangements) was a highlight, but if you held a strobe light to my head, I’d have to say “Skippin’ Town”, “It Will End in Tears” “Book of Stories” (personal fav) and “Let’s Go Surfing” were highlights. I really can’t wait to see these guys again.

Surfer Blood (ostensibly the headliner) were a bit of a surprise. I guess I should read news clippings, because I had no idea the band leader was a 12 year old boy.
Ok, I exaggerate. He was 15.
Ok, So he was probably legal, but looked younger (portrait. Closet. Just saying)
Sure “Swim” is the hit, but the album is pretty good (albeit in a post grunge-alterna rock kind of pose) and they did a great job adding just the right amount of spice and muscle to the live presentation. Maybe paled a little bit after The Drums (not sure they were the right fit musically with the drums and I was suffering a little bit of a musical induced comedown) but they tore through their set with energy and intensity (although the album is a little too mid-tempo-ey) and had me on my toe tips as well (and not because I was trying to look over anyone, the show was sadly, quite sparsely attended). “Harmonix” “Take It Easy” and “Twin Peaks”, my favs from the disc, were my favs from the show. Good one though and another band to keep an eye on.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let's Get It Wrong

ok. so there were three critical pieces of music that bridged me from college to the world beyond. The Woodentops Giant (had no idea who they were, but found a used copy of the album at the wax museum in dinkytown and i was feeling daring), Robyn Hitchcock Element of Light (courtesy of Mike Orr) and the Jazz Butcher Fishcotheque (think i’d heard “Get it Wrong” on the radio and stumbled across a cassette tape of the album at the minneapolis public library). Their import can not be overstated. i have no doubt that hearing these three albums—actually two albums and a cassette tape (and playing the crap out of them) is the difference between me still being invested in new music today versus me acting like U2 are the greatest band ever. They were my gateway drugs into college/alternative (i hate that term, btw) and evenmoreso, my continuing journey into the past and future of pop music.

Certainly, the music provided a security blanket for me as i was transitioning from my safe little college world and striking out on my own. This was new (and pretty damn good) music and kinda adventurous compared to the safe and community selected and approved stuff i had been listening to (insert your U2s, your Midnight Oils, your Bodeans et al here). Here was my manifesto to the world, “Look out world, I’m not rolling over. I’m gonna keep on rocking (yes, i cracks me up to write it too), even after college was over (“i’m not, i’m not, i’m not growing old”)”. I made new friends, heard new music, and went to shows (repeat steps 1 and 2) from my connection to these three albums. and of course, there was a lot in the music itself hit the spot whenever I needed it.

Robyn Hitchcock is pretty inescapable (which sorta amazes me cos he’s such an oddball) and he’s been at my side for most of the journey (kinda lost track around the post globe of frogs era, but only for a few years) and although the woodentops are very dearly departed, Giant and Well, Well, Well (even wooden foot cops) stay in pretty regular rotation with me. But the jazz butcher? I know Pat Fish has continued to record, but other than that Excellent collection, he’s pretty much regrettably fallen off my radar.

so i was delighted to find a copy of The Jazz Butcher’s Fiscotheque at cheapo yesterday. granted, i choked a little at the price ($19.99) but i quess i can eat beans and mac & cheese for christmas week. I literally wore out this cassette tape (with apologies to the walker library) by playing it over and over and over for my three week check out term. (or maybe i checked it out again, it it was the second time i had it on loan that i wore it out, i can’t remember). i dunno why i didn’t put it in the player as soon as i got back in the car (well...i was listening to a barry manilow cd...) but here i am at my computer and i’m not playing it yet. it really has been nearly 25 years since i last heard it. (might have heard “get it wrong” on a compilation disc somewhere in the interim, but that’s it). what if i don’t like it anymore? what if i find it’s really not all that i had thought it was? what if it was the time and place and not the music. i dunno. i’d hate to have carried this fond memory of the music all this time to find that...well, it was just a meaningless fling held firm by fond remembrance only. hmmm. filter of the past, bright light of the present, cold hard snowy truth. ok. courage. here goes.....i’m putting it on now....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Feeling Low

I'm pretty excited about the impending blizzard (drive safe everyone and stay home if you can). Made me want to crack open the christmas music (wasn't sure if i'd feel like christmas this year..still not sure, but this is a start). First up: Low Christmas. Lo Lo LO!

ps: i picked up the tron legacy soundtrack. i had the feist cd/dvd in my hands, but then i wondered, do i REALLY need this???? answer: no, not for nearly $30. i couldn't find the freezpop disc....and i didn't want to ask at the counter cos the only guy available was the "too drunk to pee on his own" clerk. thoughts on tron:legacy....why did they have to get all composer-ey?