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Albums Worth Mentioning

April 21, 2010

Volume Two, same as the first, but a little bit worse

She & Him
Volume Two
March 23, 2010


The theme of this year seems to be disappointment. The second most anticipated album from 2010, The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit, was nothing short of a let down, and now I have that familiar bitter taste in my mouth about She & Him’s sophomore album.

Everything I hear in Volume Two sounds like a reproduction of a song from their first album with one major difference: It’s not as fun. The whole time I’ve been listening to this album, in my mind I’ve been inserting Volume One lyrics and it seems to fit just fine except that Zooey’s voice is falling flat off the speakers.

Maybe I’m spoiled, but there was an indefinable enthusiasm present in the voice of Zooey Deschanel on each track. This charming exuberance was never more apparent than her playful laughing on “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” On Volume Two we are greeted with playful melodies (i.e. “Don’t Look Back” and “Over It Over Again”) but then get a particularly lackluster performance from the lead singer.

There are some songs, like the first single “In the Sun,” and, of course, the wonderful music created by Matt Ward, that highlight this album; however, it’s just not enough to propel this album to the heights of its’ predecessor. Overall, I would classify Volume Two as yet another misstep from an incredibly talented group.

She & Him – “In the Sun”

Wasilla Rock City

Portugal. The Man
American Ghetto
March 2, 2010
Equal Vision

Rating: 8.7/10

Wasilla is probably best known for giving us the indomitable republican, Sarah Palin, but it’s their second most famous export that are really making a name for themselves. Portugal. The Man burst on the scene with their album Waiter, You Vultures in 2006, a startlingly original composition of genre-bending lysergic bliss. Since 2006 the band has released four full length albums to various degrees of success.

The one constant among the band was failure to consistently stick with a specific genre. For instance 2007’s Church Mouth dwells more in the genres of blues and roots rock, whereas The Satanic Satanist from 2009 draws its’ sound from the psychadelic rock of the 70’s. Their latest effort, American Ghetto, doesn’t pick a certain genre so much as meld together their previous efforts into one cohesive style.

American Ghetto finds the band at the peak of their game, providing calm, cool psychadelia blended with quick hits of classic rock guitars. Standout tracks like “The Dead Dog” and “All My People” excel for their simplicity: cool, under control, poppy and genius.

This album is a staggering work of inventiveness; American Ghetto seems to find Portugal. The Man settled on a genre, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Portugal. The Man – “When the War Ends”


Video: New Owen song

April 18, 2010

Taken from his April 16 show at Lincoln Hall with Rocky Votolato and Brooke Waggoner. Both opening artists played great sets, setting the stage for Kinsella’s set. He played a nice variety of new and old material and interjected humor into his performance.

The ending of the show, however, was quite suspect, and even frustrating. After promising the crowd one more song (as an “encore”) Kinsella proceeded to plod through various Metallica and Megadeth riffs on his acoustic guitar rather than playing any of his material. After about 20 minutes, he decided he had done enough and put his guitar down to end his show. Certainly the strangest (possibly least satisfying) ending to any show I’ve attended.

The new song is good though, hope you enjoyed it.

Local Natives aim high with debut

April 13, 2010

Local Natives
Gorilla Manor
February 16, 2010

Rating: 8.6/10

When describing Silver Lake, Calif. quintet Local Natives it is quite easy to describe their sound as “reaching for the sky.” It is an aesthetic to their music that is immediately available to the listener; that of soaring dynamism.

When the first layer of guitar is set on the opener, “Wide Eyes,” it’s understood that this song will continue to build and grow. What’s not necessarily unexpected, but learned, is that as the album grows in sonic scope it also grows on the listener.

Gorilla Manor has everything demanding music fans have come to expect in this age of illegal downloads and MySpace bands. The music is engaging, soulful, pretty and most importantly it is unique.

There aren’t many bands around that work the generic five-piece structure as well as Local Natives. The aural landscape that these gentlemen create with two guitars, a keyboard, bass and drums is quite impressive, but the real key to their larger than life sound is the beautiful three-part harmonies that chime over their post-punk instrumentation.

Comparing their vocalizations to that of Fleet Foxes has become a lazy journalist’s platitude. Certainly a similarity can be drawn, but there is a similarity to the Beach Boys as well; I’m not ready to make that leap yet.

Read more…

Josh Ritter does Daytrotter

April 12, 2010

I love Daytrotter. No ifs ands or buts about that.

Today they made my affinity for their work grow exponentially when they posted a session with Josh Ritter.

His set includes two songs from his forth coming album, So Runs the World Away, one from The Animal Years, one from Golden Age of Radio, a song from The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter and one unreleased song.

With sessions forthcoming from Surfer Blood, Maps & Atlases, Justin Townes Earle (info courtesy Sean Moeller’s Twitter account) and the Daytrotter Barnstormer tour coming right by my hometown, I might end up being the biggest Daytrotter fan on earth by the end of the month.

Enough rambling, go listen to Josh Ritter.

Josh Ritter on Daytrotter

The winter of my discontent

April 6, 2010

Frightened Rabbit
The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Fat Cat

Rating: 6.1/10

Oh how I anticipated this! The new Frightened Rabbit album, my earnest desire, I put you up on a pedestal, your promise increasing my anticipation to fever pitch.

First, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” teased me into believing that you were going to be a sunny, bright voyage away from the lovable gloom of Midnight Organ Fight. Then “Nothing Like You” made me think that maybe it wouldn’t all be sunshine and flowers, but that it would still be a damn good rock ‘n’ roll album.

For all intents and purposes it is a good album, maybe even more rock ‘n’ roll than MOF, but it just doesn’t hit the highs that I was expecting, and honestly left a bad taste in my mouth because I am a classic over reactor.

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Ya hit me like a tom

April 3, 2010

Image courtesy Flickr user kk+

Spoon with Deerhunter and Micachu & the Shapes
Aragon Ballroom
Chicago, Illinois
April 1, 2010

I don’t care what any rapper wants to tell me about swagger: they don’t know a thing until they’ve seen Spoon play.
I expected Britt Daniel & Co. to exude cool, but their relaxed demeanor and effortless performance were truly a spectacle to behold.

The evening started a bit slowly for myself, thanks to some notorious Chicago traffic, which caused me to miss the performance of Micachu & the Shapes. I felt fortunate, however, that Deerhunter were just prepping for their set as we entered the cavernous ballroom.

Though I enjoyed their last album, Microcastle, it had a distinct tendency to ramble and generally just go on for too long. Prior to their set I had fears that particular aspect of their music would be prominent in their live show. Luckily the Georgia natives found a way to inject improvisational creativity into their performance.

Bradford Cox utilized his effects adeptly, creating their signature layers of sound and blowing out the speakers in the venue. The walls of noise that the quartet created were intense, to the point that by the end of their set the noise was almost unbearable. Their departing song fell into the category of repetitious and obnoxious, leaving a bit of a bad taste in my mouth about their performance.

It only took a few strums of Britt Daniel’s acoustic guitar to remove any lingering hostility, however.

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Stick as close as you can

March 29, 2010
tags: ,

Coolest thing on the Internet today? No question, the Wilco Take Away Show.

The fine folks at La Blogotheque continued their fantastic series of videos with a casual performance from the Chicago alt-country legends.

The whole video is dynamite: from Tweedy’s sarcastic pompousness to his gracious thank you at the end of the song.

I adore the videos that La Blogotheque has put together and this one is certainly one of the best I have seen from their collection.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Wilco – Country Disappeared – A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.