Quips and summaries from experiencing and appreciating music in a city that is as foreign and familiar as they come - New York. So here is to music anywhere and everywhere. Starting from concert one on week one after the move in 2009.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What I Eat For Dinner, Mostly

With all of the 'Best Of' lists circulating around not only because it is the end of the year but the end of a decade, a pretty rocky one at that, I thought I would give you my very personal list. My criteria for judging each song had nothing to do with what Spin, Rolling Stone, Billboard, friends nor any other source said. I did not look at albums sold, concert tour earnings, or award winners (although I did enjoy going to the MTV Woodie Awards). I simply reviewed my lala.com collection and sorted by sheer number of times I played the song, and picked the top 25.
This is certainly not scientific - I have a large iTunes collection, listen to NPR music and woxy.com, and have a stocked iPod that were not consulted. I also had a slight bias towards keeping a few songs from albums that came out this year over a few older, more played classics; however you will see pre-2009 dates below that I could not bear to remove. Finally, as my last defense, several of these songs come from my 'she goes' playlist that is my favorite chill mix that I play late at night when I am working, writing, a little drunk or in need of comforting background music; it only makes sense that my relaxed mood music finally gets the praise it deserves.
I may very likely follow suit and follow this posting up with another one listing my top songs or albums of 2009, of the decade or go negative with my most hated songs. However, I decided to first give you a more intimate look into my music collection. I feel exposed, and maybe even a little embarrassed, or is that vulnerability? I suppose that is the feeling that anyone gets when sharing their preferences although, music is the throne for personal preference.
Enough of my rant, enjoy! The playlist is free to listen to, at least until Apple decides what to do with their new purchase - lala.com.
KEY: (Song, Artist, Year the album was released, Number of plays I have for the song)
1. Glass, Concrete and Stone, David Byrne - 2004 - 66 plays
2. The House She Lived In, The Veils - 2009 - 51 plays
3. Two, Ryan Adams - 2006 - 46 plays
4. Tightrope, Yeasayer - 2009 - 41 plays
5. Dog Days Are Over, Florence & The Machine - 2009 - 40 plays
6. Jacksonville Skyline, Whiskeytown - 2001 - 39 plays
7. Growing Up Beside You, Paolo Nutini - 2009 - 37 plays
8. Sit Down By The Fire, The Veils - 2009 - 34 plays
9. Sunlight, Harlem Shakes - 2009 - 35 plays
10. Goin' To Acapulco, Jim James, Calexico - 2007 - 33 plays
11. Goods, Mates of State - 2004 - 28 plays
12. Paranoia in B Major, The Avett Brothers - 2007 - 27 plays
13. Skinny Love, Bon Iver - 2008 - 27 plays
14. Whispered Words (Pretty Lies), Dan Auerbach - 2009 - 26 plays
15. Burial, Miike Snow - 2009 - 25 plays
16. Eet, Regina Spektor - 2009 - 23 plays
17. My Girls, Animal Collective - 2009 - 21 plays
18. Boulder to Birmingham, Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler (Live) - 2006 - 21 plays
19. Hysteric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 2009 - 21 plays
20. Winds Of Change, Fitz and The Tantrums - 2009 - 21 plays
21. Lalita, The Love Language - 2009 - 21 plays
22. Daylight, Matt & Kim - 2009 - 19 plays
23. The Giant of Illinois - 2009 - 18 plays
24. Intro, The xx - 2009 - 14 plays
25. Little Secrets, Passion Pit - 2009 - 11 plays
There are some really great albums expected to come out in 2010, stay tuned!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rob Drabkin

On Monday, November 30th I had the opportunity to see an old friend from high school take the stage at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. Rob is currently on tour opening for Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam; a very talented guitarist from the tiny Isle of Man (I had to look it up, note how funky their flag is when you look it up too).
Back in high school Rob was our school's resident guitar virtuoso so it makes sense that he is working to become a successful musician. He is getting popular in our hometown of Denver and after this tour, his first national tour, I expect great things from him.
What was surprising about his show is how strong and clear his voice was; surprising because he never sang in high school and if you read his bio on his web page (below) he only recently decided to incorporate singing with his guitar playing. I was also impressed by how well constructed the lyrics of his songs are, they are fun to listen to but always have a much deeper meaning.
You can get his CD on iTunes or through his web site: http://www.robdrabkin.com
A few good reviews of Rob:
"The surprise of the night was the middle act, Denvers Rob Drabkin. Taking the stage armed with an acoustic guitar, a djembe (small acoustic drum) player and an afro that would have made a Will It Go Round In Circles-era Billy Preston proud, Drabkin lit into the first of many short stories told with guitar and drum....His intricate finger picking method and character driven songs got our attention. With a voice and song structure not too far from Dave Matthews, just this side of Jack Johnson, Drabkin won me over... By the end of his set, I was a fan, bringing his cd home for closer inspection." - A.J. Crandall, KINK FM Radio. Show Review Oct 6th, 2008.
"Rob Drabkin somewhat mirrors Jack Johnson. Not so much in a musical way, but in a singer/songwriter way that will shoot him from MySpace to MTV faster than he can cut his distinctive hair. People were obsessing about Jack Johnson in 1997 when he appeared on Napster and now, almost 10 years later, his name is as common as a hipster drinking a PBR and riding a Vespa. If he keeps this up, he will shoot out of the local scene faster than The Fray" --The Colorado Daily.

Monday, November 23, 2009

There are some dynamic and smart m*&^%r f@#$%rs out there

During a recent trip home my family did something unusual, we cleared the clutter off the dining room table and ate like The Civilized. My brother was quick enough to switch out my ipod (I am as controlling as Madonna when it comes to the soundtrack for any occasion) and put in his new discovery of his - Gnawlede, Granada Doaba.
Gnawledge is comprised of two dynamic and smart members of this planet:
Canyon Cody - Research
Gnotes - Production
I am going to start by giving you the background on Gnawledge straight from their web site (http://gnawledge.com and http://canyoncody.blogspot.com/) and the biggest thing to note is:
YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THIS ALBUM FOR FREE!!! You can even remix it yourself.
"Granada Doaba is a flamenco hip-hop collaboration album recorded in Spain, produced by Gnawledge and funded by a Fulbright Scholar research grant."

"Granada Doaba explores the broad roots and divergent branches of flamenco hip-hop. Inspired by the religious convivencia of Al-Andalus, the album features 16 musicians from around the world who all currently live in Granada, Spain.

Spain’s history of multicultural confluence dates back to the early morning of mankind. Andalusia, the birthplace of flamenco and southernmost region of Spain, sits at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the New World. Until the Christian reconquista of Granada in 1492, southern Spain was known as Al-Andalus, a Muslim Empire that controlled Andalusia for 800 years.

Flamenco is Andalusian Gypsy music and dance with a diverse history of Arab, Jewish, Indian and Afro-Latin influences. As a result of convergent paths of immigration, rhythms from around the world have come together in Andalusia, where they evolved into an indigenous musical culture: flamenco."

"Hello! My name is Canyon Cody. In 2008, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholar research grant to study multicultural fusion and collaboration in Andalusian music. In concert with the Fulbright program’s mission statement, my project engaged the local Granada community by organizing a series of collaborative recording sessions in our home studio.

Gnotes is my partner in grime. He’s a multi-instrumentalist rapper who produced the 14 songs on Granada Doaba, which correspond with the 14 chapters of my accompanying academic text about the global roots of local music. Though the historical theory of convivencia initially motivated the recordings, the resulting songs eventually took up a life their own, which forced me to re-orient my thesis. In the end, we made an album in the dark and then I studied the result in order to shine some light on the process.

This a work in progress, both the music and my writing. Please send us a postcard with any criticism, questions or suggestions. Thank you for listening."

Contact Canyon Cody, he is responsive! - info@gnawledge.com

Granada Doaba took 4 years to produce, 4!!!! Take that all of you seeking instant gratification. Reading his blog about the experience is really cool and introspective; it presents the personal journey of someone that is so dedicated to a daunting task but doesn't want it any other way. I really admire this stranger because he is living exactly like I decided to starting with this year and will be ending...never!

Read the blog if you like details and want to learn how songs are built and mixed. There is also a really interesting theory on plagiarism, copying, biting, etc. and how it affects music vs. academia.

My point overall: Download the album and pass it around. Support this project because music is academic, it transcends history and borders, your music collection should be as diverse and dynamic as possible and because this is fucking good music.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

She Goes...

I can't believe I have not shared this playlist yet (at the top of the page or if I have moved it, just write a comment asking to get the link sent to you). I have been building and listening to it this entire year. Now that the year is almost over, somebody call me if you find 2009 btw, I think I should be a nice little girl and share. I end up listening to this playlist most nights as I bump around my room getting ready for bed, whether drunk or just exhausted. It clearly displays my love for both Ryan Adams and his Whiskeytown days but you will find some newcomers, especially as you get down the playlist.
If you want to buy a few albums that are chill, good for hanging around the house, an afternoon party, or while trying to drown out the crying baby and flight attendants when flying to wherever you need to go to really feel home during the holiday season, try these:
(Artist, Album Name)
- Swell Season, Strict Joy
- Paolo Nutini, Sunny Side Up
- Mark Knopler & Emmylou Harris, All the Roadrunning
- Bon Iver, either album
- Iron & Wine, any album
- Atlas Sound, Logos (solo album of the frontman of Deerhunter)
- Ane Brun, Changing of the Seasons

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Pet Project: A Good Christmas Gift

Here friends, meet a good gift.
With the giving/gifting season approaching along with a bigger pant size, I thought I would share one of the better gifts I have received this year. A very good friend gave me this Ticket Stub Diary when I moved to New York and it fit me and my interests perfectly, obviously. Over the years I have not kept as many ticket stubs of great concerts as I have wanted to so this gift was an opportunity to start cataloguing my ventures regularly and it has done a wonderful job. I put all kinds of tickets in here - Top of the Rock and museum entrance receipts, sports games, print out tickets, etc. I also put in any remaining stubs I had floating around my childhood home. Looking through the book says A LOT about me and my tastes.
So as you start thinking and then ultimately panicking and scrounging up last minute gifts for the people on your list, be a little creative and think of the simple charmers, the gifts that reflect that person - how you know them and what you like about them most. (Maybe pick up a few of these diaries for the inevitable people that get you a gift when you had them nowhere near your gift list - you chump).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

FLO - That Girl Can Sing

My biggest band crush and band du jour for awhile now has been - Florence and The Machine. Last Tuesday, October 27, it came to fruition by seeing Flo play to a sold out crowd in New York's famed Bowery Ballroom. I felt privileged not only because the Bowery is one of my favorite music venues ever but also because Florence only played this show and David Letterman. In early 2010 she is headed to Australia; she has no scheduled dates in the U.S. right now. Ya hear that, the crowd was selective and I was there! THIS is why I live in New York to all you hating on the Big Apple and it's rain, crazy prices and the smell of hot trash in the summer. The added perk was that the crowd was mostly crazed POMs (property of the monarchy) that had been fans for awhile since she is massive in Europe. One of my favorite attendees was a Scottish girl was a dead ringer for Jennifer Saunders' Edina Monsoon from Absolutely Fabulous. I sought her out at the after party and made friends, which was conveniently at BEAST, the late night bar around the corner from my Lower East Side abode.
My early favorite song on the album was Dog Days Are Over. It just makes you want to sprint in escape and I discovered it at the perfect time when summer was coming to a close and you could feel the leaves growing restless and preparing to make an exit and sweaters making their way into the popular clique in my closet again.
It was at the concert, however, that I discovered how awesome her song Cosmic Love is; a tour de force that was the perfect encore song. The song as a noun yelled at us in perfect pitch ' You had a good time tonight, go get drunker than you should for a Tuesday and moving forward remember to live with more conviction.' Pretty intense right, well I told you I really REALLY liked her.
I made a lala playlist of Flo's album and stuck it to the right of the page - just be sure to click the grey play/arrow button on the top and you can listen to it for free on my site without visiting lala.com. However, for the last bloody time, go visit lala and get a world of music that falls right smack between Pandora and iTunes, blending the best of both worlds. Then start following me - Katie M. - and you will be privy to all of the playlists I make and what songs I listen to and when - enter my weird little world amigos. (Disclaimer: Yesterday was a weird day, I think I channeled a 15 year old with braces from Omaha, so please disregard me listening to the entire new Carrie Underwood album and then switching it up by listening to the New Moon Soundtrack. I listened to the new Fanfarlo album all today to get back on track, which is sooo good).
Finally, I HAVE to love Flo and her Machine because I made the ginger oath long ago: To defend and champion your fellow red haired beauties. Make eye contact across whatever room, let them be the first person you try to meet at a party, share stories, discuss the genius of Ann Margaret and abhor the connection to Lindsay Lohan, and when applicable compare freckles.
Here is a short little interview and Florence playing a stripped down version of the song Boy Builds Coffins. Her drummer 'plays' the park railings.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Creative Ways to Interact with the Audience

I have to share a few good ideas that I recently witnessed at the Port O'Brien show at The Mercury Lounge on October 14th. Port O'Brien, a California acoustic/indie rock band recently came out with their third album Threadbare on October 6th and have been touring to support the album. The indie powerhouse that is M. Ward (part of She and Him and Monsters of Folk in addition to a solid solo career) recently named Port his 'favorite new band'. I would check out their new single 'I Woke Up Today' to taste the flavor and see if you like them.
Anyway, they brought Mad Libs to the show! The greatest vocabulary game of our youth aka hard evidence that we were all little perverts on the playground. In between songs Port asked the audience for nouns, adjectives, etc. to fill out a page that they read at the end of the show. They have been doing one Mad Libs for each show across the past few weeks. A few interesting notes - Boston was WAY more dirty and politically incorrect than New York was and there was way too long of a pause before someone tried their hand at yelling out a pronoun, it should embarrass every third grade teacher. Overall, Mad Libs was a really cool way to engage the crowd and fill time in between songs to allow band members to quickly tune or switch out instruments. They were kind enough to give me the one from the show, see photo. 
Another really cool thing that Port did was encourage a kitchen crazy end to their show. Before their last song, 'I Woke Up Today', they passed around wooden spoons, pots and pans, aluminum pie holders, and a whole bunch of noise making fun out to the crowd. It was a great way to end the showI am pretty impressed that they haul around a big heavy bag of all that crap from city to city.
The moral of this story is it pays to be creative with your shows and how you interact with your audience. It makes you memorable, it helps to show your personality as a band and it helps to shake things up from one gig to another.
Bonus - you can buy a whole bunch of different Mad Libs on this web site: http://www.madlibs.com
A fun little stocking stuffer or office present this year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If you are sick of your ipod...

Here are some artists I recommend checking out, downloading and changing up your music a bit. Give Pandora a rest and invest in some exploratory music time. You can listen to most of their songs for free on www.lala.com, a lot are also on www.pitchfork.com, or you can go to itunes - expensive house. Look to the playlist on the right for my favorite songs of these groups/artists.

Artist

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - These guys should make the next Wes Anderson soundtrack

Jack PeƱate

Little Joy - side project of Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes

Volcano Choir - side project of the guy from Bon Iver

Santigold

Islands - This whole album is pretty solid

The Temper Trap - so is this album

Wild Beasts - a very well respected music friend says this makes his top 5 albums of 2009

Mew - warm up to them, they are worth it

The Dutchess & The Duke - they sound a lot like The Kinks, so they can't go wrong in my book

Karen O and The Kids - whether you like the movie or not, this soundtrack is pretty sweet

Mayer Hawthorne - this guy is super hot in London right now so says my ex-pat friends

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One Ring to Rule Them All...

Five months after buying the tickets I finally got to see Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring at Radio City Music Hall this past SAturday on October 10th. There was a live orchestra, two adult choirs and one child choir for a total of 300 people under an Imax screen showing the movie. We had 6th row seats because we bought them right when they went on sale in May - I know we are nerds but nerds have great ideas and follow through with them.
The entire movie they were spot on with the music, it was really impressive to see all those people work together and make it look effortlessly. At any part of the movie they had parts of the choir standing up, kids going to the microphones for solos, a lady in a satin prom dress singing the elfish songs, and the conductor looking at a small screen with the movie showing to ensure the orchestra's timing. You could opt to see the violinist's fingers move rapidly, look up and see Legolas (aka Orlando Bloom in the role that made him a heartthrob) fighting Orc, notice how patiently the children in the choir wait for their time to sing or back to see all of the people that had filled the performance hall; there was not a boring moment. The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for composers especially movie composers - they have the ability to heighten the drama and really make the moment and create the world for a movie. Well done Howard Shore.
It was worth it to get the $90 dollar seats. I am already on the e-mail list for the 2010 tickets to see The Two Towers. It was a total experience and I highly recommend it. For the record, we are not the biggest nerds on the planet, the people that are going to the concert of all popular video game theme songs with a live orchestra in a few weeks at Radio City win the prize.
Here are some pictures of the event.
PS - NEVER wear jeans to Radio City Music Hall. It is too beautiful, has too much of a history, and proves to everyone you are a tourist, took the train in, and support the slobification of America. OK, I am done being bitchy and will stick to music and musician outfits from now on.
Here are a few of my favorite movie scores:
- Braveheart - James Horner, also did Titanic
- Last of the Mohicans
- Star Wars - John Williams, the greatest
- E.T. - also John Williams (Jaws is his too)
- Gladiator
- The Lion King
- Sound of Music
- This is Spinal Tap
- Purple Rain
- Phantom of the Opera
- Anything Danny Elfman does - Most Tim Burton movies including Beetlejuice, he was the voice of the oompa-loompas in the 2005 version AND he was the lead singer of Oingo Boingo
Forrest Gump - not the soundtrack but the Forrest Gump Suite, the scene with the feather, so pretty

Monday, October 5, 2009

U2 & How to Snag a Better Seat

I keep a short list of bands I have yet to see and would be willing to pay their high price, do you?
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – I want to be part of their energy

- Rolling Stones – Even though Charlie Watts is the only one left that can hold it together

- U2 - I am Irish after all

- Madonna - To feel bad about my body

- Lady Gaga – Still pissed she rescheduled her NYC show for a weekend I was out of town

- R.E.M. – Not even a big fan but have heard of the magnetism Michael Stipe can yield

- Justin Timberlake - We all have our guilty pleasures

It was because of this list that I was pretty excited when the opportunity to see U2 with a group of friends came up. So I can now cross U2 off my list and you know what? It was an experience I now recommend to anyone, particularly if you like U2 and/or if you attend enough sports events or concerts where you can take the sheer volume of people you will see the concert with. There are downsides – it is an elitist environment with the VIP packages, the limos lined up, the stadium prices, the box seats, $9 dollar beer night hence the long line, etc. Also, as a person that is a tenured concert goer this was clearly a crowd that was not well versed on the rules of concerts. You get a very different crowd attending then a 300 person venue where the concert starts at 10pm on a Wednesday, etc.

That said, the upsides were immense - they rocked out for 2 hours and 15 minutes, they have such a catalogue to choose from and did a great job of combining the new with the old, the unknown songs with the overplayed (even though it was still fun to sing them word for word). Plus their sound, voices, and stage presence is varsity all the way. They passed the crucial 10,000 hour practice point about 20 years ago so you can imagine how comfortable they are on stage.**

My favorite part of the night was when I pulled a grand caper with my friend Captain Fabulous (actual nickname). We snuck out of our section 404 seats on a mission to get as close as we could to the stage and stay there. We brilliantly made it to section 138, had plenty of room and watched the entire concert from our elitist seats. Here is how we did it and here is how you can too, I have proven this many times over the years:

- When you go to a stadium/arena show there are so many seats that go to season ticket holders, corporations, etc. and so many of them go unused even if the concert is sold out.

- Wait until after the opening act and then go down to the area you are shooting for and wait until just before the headlining act comes on. It is good to get a beer, food and go to the bathroom, it may be your last opportunity.

- Wait until 30 seconds into the first song that the headliner plays, you want to get caught up in the rush of people getting to their seats. Weekend concerts can throw a wrench in the plan because some people hang out in the parking lot until the headliner starts and then rush in after 2-3 songs.

- Power walk and get behind a group of more than two so they will crowd the ticket checker and this is key - quickly, looking straight ahead/stage, power walk to the side and down away from the group and ticket checker. Keep walking but start slowing down after you are in the clear and look for openings of more than 2 that you can get into.

- Only do this with two people, it gets tricky with more. Getting to the floor level is more difficult because they often make you get bracelets and the checkers are more strict. We tried to get to the floor for U2, played dumb about bracelets, acted like we were headed back to get them and spotted an opening of +6 seats two rows above general admission. We were above the floor crowd and had direct eyesight to the front of the stage. No one came to claim the seats and we were super nice to the people around us, acting like we belonged there. It was perfection and we giggled about it all night.

This isn't rocket scientist and don't try to do it every time but have the guts to give it a try when it is a band you really want to get close and experience, be part of the vibe.

**The 10,000 hours of practice is referencing a well-known theory that in addition to ability you must have dedication and a solid work ethic; citing that every top professional, regardless of their field, will not reach their peak before practicing for 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell references this theory in his newest book Outliers. He uses The Beatles and how they obtained their crucial practice hours, check it out!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why it is fun to pay $20 to sit in the back and bullshit with your friend

I went to see Owl City at the Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday, September 15th but I couldn't tell you the setlist, I don't have pictures or any video footage and I didn't really take stock of the crowd. However, I did have a really good time even if I spent $20 to have background music. I had a great time because one of my closest friends was visiting and since I already had the tickets I took him. He also happens to be one of my favorite music nerds, one of the first people I tell when I have a new musical discovery. We have grandiose conversations that turn into debates about our favorite songs and bands and have done so for years. While we don't always agree - he always needs a band to have a 'sense of urgency' and I can take a lot more singer/songwriter and experimental indie rock - we always have a great time. So this is why I did not pay attention to you Owl City, sorry. I don't think you cared that much because you were clearly thrilled to see Taylor Swift doing her gawky/baby giraffe arm waving dance to most of your songs up in the balcony with a few friends and a beefy bodyguard. Congratulations on the sold out show in the U.S., you are following in the footsteps of other Euro boy band acts like Aqua, you should be grateful. We also congratulate on providing a perfect first date scenario – dark, not too loud you can’t hear each other but don’t talk too much because the rest of the crowd is into it, and there is a fucking string section which always plays into your sentimental side. What I can tell you about Owl City is the hilarious comments both of us fired at each other from the back bar aka the bourbon soaked peanut gallery: - Owl City, aka ----, looks exactly like Todd, the creepy artist brother in Wedding Crashers. We called him Celebration the entire night. - After a few songs Owl City said ‘I have a bit of a cold so I want everyone to sing.’ To which we reply, ‘You pay us then.’ At this point we realized we should stop trying to focus on the concert and revert to the back bar to entertain ourselves and stop destroying date night for the people surrounding us. - A new addition to an ongoing joke we have – “Just a girl and her piano, just a boy and his laptop.” - Owl City would do a great job of playing the soundtrack to a Volvo commercial. “Conservative but fun loving, expensive but popular, safe for kids, recommend driving if you live in a college town.” Robin Williams always said a radical conservative was a Volvo with a gun rack, which reminded us both of our favorite Robin Williams jokes, which filled up at least 20 more minutes of chat time during the concert. - I say, pretty loudly in the direction of our Euro boy band leader “Hey, how do you put this dresser together.” Friend joins in, “I love the new Birchwood line.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Foresighting The XX and Family of the Year as two bands that will get BIG

I am calling it now - The UK band The XX and LA/Silverlake band Family of the Year are going to be big and popular by the end of the year. Both don't have that much information out about them and are newcomers but the buzz has been hitting me wave after wave and I am continuing the trend. I will have official confirmation of how good both bands are when I see them back to back on October 20th and October 21st when they come to New York.
Right now The XX are killing all over Europe, playing some of the dates with Florence & The Machine, which is another band I have really been into. The band is comprised of two boys and two girls from South London, they are only twenty but have producing abilities well beyond their years. Their sound is kind of like Massive Attack, Thievery Corporation or Hot Chip but more lyrical and they have that distant, slightly creepy, spacey sound down perfectly. It is perfect music to play while you are chilling with friends, bumping around the house doing little tasks or while getting some action (which makes sense since the tracks are chockablock full of sexual references). Their influences clearly come from R&B; they garnered a wave of buzz from covering Aaliyah's Hot Like Fire. These are the influences they list on their MySpace page: Aaliyah to CocoRosie, Rihanna to The Cure, Missy Elliott to Chromatics, The Kills to Ginuwine, Pixies to Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake to Tracy + the plastics. Check out The XX album in the playlist on the right side of the screen - Intro, Basic Space, and Heart Skipped a Beat are my favorites. Also, look them up on MySpace for more tracks and other cities they are playing in November and December - http://www.myspace.com/thexx.
Family of the Year is a brand new find. I was told about them by their manager that lives in New York this past week. They are about to self-release their EP Where's The Sun on September 22nd, which is pretty incredible given that they have had such a huge response to their music even though they don't have an official album out yet. Ben Folds just asked Family of the Year to open for him on a few upcoming dates. The band is comprised of four guys and two girls; they describe their sound as 'post-teen spirit' and claim such influences as Chumbawumba, Barenaked Ladies, and System of a Down. They aren't on itunes or lala.com yet but you can hear several tracks on their MySpace page - http://www.myspace.com/familyoftheyear. They only have a few gigs in New York and LA up on their page but stay tuned, it is about to be packed with appearances. You will all have your chance to see them in a small venue the first time around and I suggest you take it. We all have stories about liking a band and not seeing them the first time around and the next opportunity you have is a big venue full of more late to the party teeny boppers than you can stomach.
Check out these other newcomers to my rotation:
Fitz and The Tantrums - good old soul with a modern twist a la Amy Winehouse or Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. Their album title is genius Songs for a Breakup Volume 1.
YACHT - like The XX but a bit more pop, get up and dance.
The Antlers - a darker Explosions in the Sky at some points, a dash of Radiohead and pinch of Yeasayer.
Ramona Falls - Menomena side project. Good, creepy rock.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Finn Can Live in My House

- I peed my pants a little when he looked directly at me while I was taking this picture.
Have you ever seen a concert by yourself? I have come close a few times, such is the life of the avid music fan that always buys two tickets first and then finds people to go with later. My friend Evan once saved me from having to see Cat Power by myself at the 9:30 Club in D.C. - a fellow music fan, he understood and allowed me to give him the extra ticket as his upcoming birthday present (which kind of makes me sound like a selfish asshole now that I think about it). Anyway, I officially went to my first concert alone on July 30th - The Veils at the Mercury Lounge. You want to know what? It didn't even fucking matter I was by myself, Finn Andrews (frontman, songwriter) and Company were that good. I do have friends and there was a plan - my friend Jenny unfortunately moved to Chicago before we could see the band she loves so much and can be credited with bringing me into and my replacement friend bailed last minute - I am talking while I was walking to the venue I got the 'I have to bail' text. RUDE! (I am channeling Bon Qui Qui from Mad TV - 'Seccurrrityy!', watch it on YouTube, it is some funny shit.)
However, I sold my extra ticket, used bourbon for a little confidence, and marched right up to the front to watch The Veils. I had my camera and pen and pad and looked the part of the music journalist - take notes if you plan to go to a concert solo, this was a good idea. I was only a few feet from the stage because I wanted to see what Finn was going to do, he has a reputation for being a bit erratic onstage, singing with possessed passion and sweating his ass off. Here is the set list I ripped off the stage at the end:
My personal favorite going into the concert was The House She Lived In, because it is so much fun to sing. However, Calliope, Sun Gangs, and The Tide that Left and Never Came Back were killer songs live and have been solidly stuck in my head since. Here is a video of Jenny's favorite song - Sit Down by the Fire. To provide a little context, the video starts out while Finn is explaining that couples always think it is a love song (just like they do with U2's One or The Police's Every Breath You Take - I think these are the same couples that wear matching outfits on a vacation to Disney World childless). He always tells them it is explaining the death of a relationship, when everything is burning there is nothing left to do but sit down and watch it, get a little warmth from it when it is cold all around you. Good story, great song, but maybe don't listen to it when you are in that early post-breakup phase, might be kind of brutal for you.
video
Finn Andrews was born in London but spent part of his life in New Zealand, making him a Property of the Monarchy (POM) through and through. He has a thing for Sylvia Plath, the band name is said to have taken their name from the Plath poem A Birthday Present and has a song called Death & Co. which another poem title. The band members have changed a few times, I think for the better because the bassist Sophia Burn is hot and brings a good sound to the band. I would get their most recent CD Sun Gangs and work your way back, or download the songs from the set list. Either way, take note that this is a band du jour of mine.
Stay tuned for my tales from seeing the Kings of Leon at Red Rocks on August 9th! Here is a hint - it was from the 6th row just left of center - closer to the bathroom and beer tent.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Music and The Scarlet Letter

Did I ever tell you my favorite story about music and education?
It has to do with Fiona Apple, Hester Prynne, A midterm test, A ponytailed teacher that was the product of a northeastern liberal arts college, and me getting a big, fat f***ing A. I didn't think so.
I was dropped kicked into the deep end of English literature like most sophomore high school students. It was painful at times, mostly because of the weight of the Norton Anthology of American Literature I had to carry around all year or maybe because I had a huge crush on a guy in my class at the same time I was battling a little acne, had to get glasses, and at 5'9 couldn't fit in anywhere. 
We spent the better part of the first semester reading through and dissecting Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850). I loved the book and so did my teacher Mr. Cze...(I have never been able to spell his name correctly, it is not to protect his privacy, consider that a bonus for him). Now I will save you from my summary of the plot and characters and get to the music part of it . That said, here is a link to Sparknotes if you want to brush up - I am looking at you the entire back row of baseball players that only perked up when they heard Hester Prynne spelunked the minister - http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/scarlet
After that much time on the book everyone knew the bulk of the midterm, a few short essays and one long essay, was going to be about The Scarlet Letter. None of us were prepared for the actual question of the long essay.
The question, though a little muddled by my own hard living memory was:
Below are the lyrics to the modern song 'Criminal' by Fiona Apple. Argue how the lyrics do or do not explain the main plot in 'The Scarlett Letter'. Cite specific examples and character references.
Criminal 
by Fiona Apple 
I've been a bad bad girl I've been careless With a delicate man And it's a sad sad world When a girl will break a boy Just because she can Don't you tell me to deny it I've done wrong and I want to Suffer for my sins I've come to you 'Cause I need Guidance to be true And I just don't know Where I can begin
What I need is A good defense 'Cause I'm feelin' Like a criminal And I need To be redeemed To the one I've sinned against Because he's all I ever knew of love Heaven help me For the way I am Save me from These evil deeds Before I get them done I know tomorrow brings The consequence at hand But I keep livin' this day like The next will never come Oh help me but Don't tell me to deny it I've got to cleanse myself Of all these lies till I'm good enough for him I've got a lot to lose And I'm bettin' high So I'm beggin' you Before it ends Just tell me where to begin What I need Is a good defense 'Cause I'm feelin' Like a criminal And I need To be redeemed To the one I've sinned against Because he's all I ever knew of love Let me know the way Before there's hell to pay Give me room to lay The law and let me go I've got to make a play To make my lover stay So what would an angel say The devil wants to know...
Now I think part of the reason why I got so excited for this question and still reference it as one of my coolest stories while being edudimacated as well as the teacher that left a profound impression of me is that I knew the song by heart already - I wholly subscribed to the Fiona Apple vibe, it blended in nicely with the Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos in my repertoire. Like I am always saying, OWN IT - own what you like.
I knew that song, I sang that song in a car both with friends and solo, the video of the song by Mark Romanek is still one of the coolest and was on MTV all the time (videos on MTV, the novelty). That said, I didn't ever combine my music tastes and pastime favorite as a source of true education, at least in the traditional sense I knew education to date. As a result of combining the two, I think Mr. Cze... not only got proof that I had read AND comprehended the book but how I could relate to it, he got me to be a little bit more personal with my formal private school writing. That was just the beginning of making music a key subject in life, a source of my continuous education.
P.S. - Fiona Apple IS Hester Prynne, only without the red meat, cream, potatoes, and seamstress abilities.
Lillian Gish as Hester Prynne
Fiona Apple in the 'Criminal' Video, Demi as Hester!
Note to self - it was fun writing that and you should NOT have put it off for over a month. Writing is fun, not work, at least for now.... Stay Tuned!