Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Sampler- Tracks of the Week (Week 2)

Here’s this week’s sampler of songs I can’t stop listening to. This week they’re coming from all eras, both old and new.

Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky

First released in 1977, off of the album Out of the Blue, Mr. Blue Sky still remains incredibly influential and one of the most brilliant pop rock songs of all time. The song opens the way every great happy go lucky song should, with a pounding piano, hard snare hits, and hand claps. Switching in mid-song between high seventies rock voices, and low, nearly comical bass swells, the band swells in and out of the song with a childish glee. Even though it’s turning to autumn, you can still listen to this song and be enveloped in a summer haze.

September Collective – Out of Intention

The September Collective’s new (and only) album just came out in July of 2007. The first track off of All the Birds Were Anarchists is smooth and velvety, something that can take your mind off of anything. The entire album is ambient music, made by three friends from Germany, using only synthesizers and computers, and just a tiny bit of guitars and drums. Listening to the first song (and indeed the entire album) brings night to the mind. Listening to it, one can’t help but picture streetlamps and flower pedals curling in on themselves. The album is hard to get (seeing as you can only buy it as an import from but if you have an eMusic account, it is available for download there. I’d highly recommend it.

So far, those are the only two songs that have been in my head all week, but keep track of the samplers, because compiled together, they’d make one hell of a mixtape.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The National at the Slowdown in Omaha, NE

The National have always been a hard band to describe to people. They do not sound like the typical indie rock band. Somehow they maintain a tone of elegance, and a real tactfulness for their craft of songwriting. Gracing between complicated drums and gliding pianos, excited guitar and jumpy violins, they are a very distinct band. Lead singer, Matt Berninger, sings with a very deep baritone voice, and his lyrics are often alienating but brilliant.

Whenever listening to a National album, one feels a surging pulse beneath the more obvious musical tones, a strange energy that pushes what seems like should be slow, ballad numbers. This push/pull between songs creates an addicting giddiness, but live, the giddiness is overwhelming, with the underlying energy in each song being brought directly to the surface, and creating a seething angst that is impossible to stand still to.

Stand-outs of the set included Fake Empire (from Boxer), Abel (from Alligator), and Squalor Victoria (once again from Boxer). Berninger puts such emotion into his live performances that he ended up crying after more than one song. Switching between the microphone and a bottle of wine and a bottle of scotch, he became increasingly deeper and deeper enamored with each song.

Opening for The National was St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, who was also wonderful. For each song she played, she would start out by playing a beat on an electronic pad, which included samples of her own voice and then record it live and loop it back. Building upon each loop she recorded, she would construct an entire pop symphony by herself. The entire show was incredibly satisfying and energetic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Sampler- Tracks of the Week (Week 1)

Here is this week’s rundown of songs that I have discovered that are excellent:

Les Savy Fav- Patty Lee

Les Savy Fav have always been visionaries, reinventing themselves and the indie dance/punk/rock genre with each album they realease, but they have outdone themselves this time. This is from their new album, Let’s Stay Friends, and bears listen after listen. The song starts out with the group’s usual frenetic guitar and drums, and lead singer Tim Harrington comes in with a high falsetto croon, and hits the chorus in his usual scratchy yell. Les Savy Fav incorporate the disco bass they were inching towards on their last album, Go Forth, but perfect it on this song.

Shout Out Louds- Tonight I Have to Leave It

The first track from the Shout Out Louds’ latest album, Our Ill Wills, is quite possibly the best track on this or their previous record. Produced by Bjorn of Peter Bjorn and John, the song is much more dance-oriented than anything from their previous album, and incorporates guitar, strings, bells, and pianos. The song tells the story of gaining true love only by leaving it. Adam Olenius gives his usual emo yelp fitted into an indie sound, but it sounds much more applicable in the new sound setting that they acquired.

Blitzen Trapper- Devil’s A-Go-Go

The opener from Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper’s latest album, is a fuzzy, spasmodic, dirty, eclectic, and undeniably addicting track. The group play with such an energy that one feels compelled to forget who’s watching and break out the old air guitar. Littered with hoots and cat-calls from the band, Devil’s A-Go-Go is reminiscent of early Pavement, lacking direction and not giving a f*** who knows it. This band is shaping out to be promising, and so far has my vote for best album of the year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Besnard Lakes at the Showdown in Omaha, NE

I had never listened to a Besnard Lakes album, but had only read about the band. Yet when I saw they were playing in Omaha, I felt I had but no choice to see them. So I called up a friend of mine, and we drove down to Nebraska to see the band. They were playing at The Slowdown, and there was a cover charge of ten dollars. Both the gas money and the cover charge were completely worth it.

Both of us were blown away by the music of the Besnard Lakes. They are an indie rock group from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The group was formed by husband and wife Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, and currently has six members. Even though there were not many people at the show, the band retained a funny and happy persona, joking in between songs and interacting with the audience.

Most of the Besnard Lakes’ songs start with a low, soft pace and build until the songs reach an ear defeaning climax, with all of the band members shouting at the top of their lungs. I found something to love within each song, and the band did not lose my attention throughout the entire performance.

Opening for the Besnard Lakes was Baby Walrus, a three piece that consisted of piano/synthesizer, guitar, and drums. The band was a good opener, with many lush melodies and upbeat dance numbers. Following them, there was also Starving Hungry, a four-piece punk band that was also very good. All in all, it was a terrific show.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Stage Names

My most recent music purchase was “The Stage Names” by Okkervil River. I had never heard the band before, but made the purchase based on a review I read on Pitchfork Media. If you’ve never listened to the band, you need to pick up this album immediately. In the first song, Our Lives are Not a Movie or Maybe, the band screeches through a chorus of “Ooh, ooh’s” with a perfect resonance for pop music. The songs are energetic and well-crafted, as well as incredibly addicting. The band goes on to play two more songs, each perfect mixes of rock and pop sensibility. On the slightly off-kilter Unless It’s Kicks, the band repeats the verse, with each verse getting more steadily raucous, until the burgeoning last stretch, when the entire band loses itself to the emotion of the song, reaching a sort of blitzenkrieg shout/sing and letting the instruments do the talking.

Okkervil River plays art house indie, but never stretches the limits, making it radio-ready, but very intelligent at the same time. The lead singer, Will Sheff, maintains a beautiful baritone voice, and enjoys stretching it as high as possible on many tracks. The more he stretches his voice, the more the band builds until it hits a chorus, and you know it’s your turn to sing along. “The Stage Names” is an album that bears many repeats, and with each listen, one is able to find another golden nuance, earning itself an 8.7 out of 10 from me.