Wednesday, May 16, 2012

diary- 5.17.12- 'following blind'

here's to slight improvement- this year i am slightly underemployed, but making actual strides towards a career goal for the first time in my life. last year i had just been fired from the job that i'd held the longest in my life. seriously not trying to sound bitter- there have been positive changes and progress. it's been a rough year, though, make no mistake. i kind of feel like i've started the process of rebuilding everything that had fallen apart over the last few years and having to do that is not such a bad thing at all.

song- artist- album

1. chico- lee hazlewood- 'lhi years: singles, nudes and backsides (1968-71)'
2. drown in my own tears- the righteous brothers- 'go ahead and cry'
3. reservoir #3- real estate- 'out of tune' 7"
4. i'd rather be lonely- the black angels- 'watch out boy' 7"
5. heading for the top now- spiritualized- chicago metro 2012 bootleg
6. the clouds are lies- the brian jonestown massacre- 'aufheben'
7. era- disappears- brooklyn glasslands 2012 bootleg
8. bear bee- radar eyes- 's/t'
9. microcastle- sic alps- 'long way around to a shortcut'
10. breathe again- white fence- 'family perfume vol. 1'
11. propagation- lower dens- 'nootropics'
12. equal mind- beach house- 'lazuli' 7"
13. gospel song- black rebel motorcycle club- 'howl'
14. amen- bardo pond- peel session 2001
15. dsharpg- sharon van etten- 'epic'

Friday, May 11, 2012

review: ty segall, white fence at lincoln hall 5.10.12

During the month of May I’m seeing a show every week. Last week was Spiritualized at the Metro, next week is Radar Eyes at Subterranean, followed closely by Kurt Vile at Lincoln Hall. For some odd reason I didn’t have much in the way of expectations when I walked through the doors at Lincoln Hall last night. I’ve seen San Francisco-based garage/punk wunderkind Ty Segall before—but it was at one of his many stops at Permanent Records. I believe this time was while he was touring for 2010’s ‘Melted’ and, for whatever reason, I found the whole thing a little disappointing. I don’t know why—it’s a free instore and not the best context to judge a live band’s power. Regardless, the chain of events that led me to buy my tickets were all rewarded in ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined way back then in February.

As I’ve mentioned before it’s difficult to get me to leave the house. I once bought tickets to see Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra at Schuba’s and never bothered to show up because I just didn’t feel like going out when the time came. Ridiculous, I know, but any more something has to be pretty sublime to get me out of the house to begin with and then, on top of that, there are annoying crowds of drunk people bumping into you all night while they push towards the bar, people who chit chat with their friends loudly about their boring day and then (here’s the part where my crotchety nature comes shining through) people plugged into their bright white-screened phones surrounding you tweeting, taking pictures and texting their night (and lives) away. Live shows, to me, have always been about the glory of the transcendental/transient moment where the music sweeps you away and outside of yourself and your life just for that brief period of time. When you have all of these outside influences piling up it can get a bit difficult to get to that place and as I get older I find my tolerance for these cumulative interferences waning with my desire to stand in a crowded room for three hours trying to maintain some semblance of my own personal space while enjoying music that I paid to hear. This year I’ve been on a fairly good run so far—the only show I’ve walked out of without seeing the band that I’d shown up to see was CAVE’s free show at the Empty Bottle a few weeks ago. It was just too overwhelmingly crowded and there were far too many drunk assholes so I just left.

Lincoln Hall has rapidly become my favourite venue in town to see shows. They have it all there—flawless sound (there literally isn’t a place in the entire room where it doesn’t sound magnificent), great bands and that beautiful balcony section. While I wasn’t too keen on the idea of sitting through a four band bill, I realized it would be a necessity if I wanted to stake a claim on a balcony seat. When my wife and I got to the venue and staked out our seats upstairs I was worried this night would turn into a bit of a farce—that Segall wouldn’t play until well after midnight and we wouldn’t be able to get home without taking a cab. I thought it was especially cool that openers Bitchin’ Bajas were set up on the floor of the main space. A small crowd of people who didn’t care about the Bulls game raging on the TV screens in the bar gathered around them in a circle as they washed the room in some pretty spacey keyboard drones as well as some layered, driving rhythms. They were much better than I was expecting. I have a tendency to get a bit worried when I see a bunch of keyboards set up onstage and no drummer. I thought their best stuff was the dronier bonkers oscillation stuff that they did—it was a nice extension of the best keyboard-based Spectrum stuff. They played a nicely woven 30-minute set and the Strange Boys were ready to go onstage within 15 minutes. I was excited to finally get to see the Strange Boys as I’ve heard about them a lot in passing for years. They stuck to their more restrained stuff, which I thought was an odd choice for an opening slot for Ty Segall. They didn’t get to the really noisy and rollicking stuff until they were practically out of time, which was a shame as it seemed like they were just getting started. It was humorous to hear them play instrumental accompaniment to the Bulls’ loss during the last few seconds of the game, which was projected on the screen above them as they were setting up.

Next up was the first great surprise of the night. I’d never really heard of White Fence until hearing about the collaborative record that main man Tim Presley (who’s played in the excellent Darker My Love, not to mention the Strange Boys and a brief stint in the Fall) recently released with Segall (entitled ‘Hair’). I was not at all prepared for how blown away I was by them. The music would shift from skuzzy garage to hooky 60s jangle and then veer off into these unexpected psychedelic takeoffs. There was even one song where they droned away on one chord for quite a while. It was pretty amazing. There was a guy sitting a few seats over from me wearing sunglasses and bopping his head the entire time who kept saying, 'Fuck! Rock and roll!' after every song. It was enough to prompt me to get my hands on ‘Family Perfume Vol. 1’ immediately and listen to it a handful of time since last night. Can’t wait for Vol. 2, which comes out on Tuesday.

Finally Ty Segall took the stage. Presley joined him for the first two songs which were from ‘Hair’ (and sounded massive) before Segall started strumming the chords to the title track from last year’s ‘Goodbye Bread.’ As Segall moved things into a more pummeling direction what happened next was something I haven’t seen in at least 15 years—a mosh pit. It was glorious to watch from above. It was no mere mosh pit, it was the gold-standard kind, which I remember from punk shows where people are quick to pick people up who’ve fallen down and where everyone was having fun and looking out for one another. I’ve only been in a few of them (I’ve always been the guy who sits in the back and tries to take it all in), but I know it when I see it. There were even a few crowd surfers and some humorous incidents involving security trying to stop it. In the end they just formed a ring around the pit trying to keep it somewhat contained rather than trying to stop it. It was pretty inspiring. The music was suitably fantastic as well—drawing liberally from all of Segall’s many albums (although a lot of it was from ‘Melted’—not a surprise as it’s one of the most perfect mixes of garage and psych that’s been released in the last ten years) the kids in the pit screaming along with their hands in the air. It looked really fun, but I have to say that I enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t stuck in it as well. There were even a few bras thrown onstage.

After an intense set with a lot packed into it, Segall came back for an encore and launched into a dead-on cover of James Gang’s ‘Funk 49’ before bringing things to a close with ‘The Drag’ from the self-titled album which sounded amazingly beefy with his incredible live band. So I left with a shopping list of four new records to buy (‘Hair,’ ‘Family Perfume Vol. 1 and 2’ and the forthcoming ‘Slaughterhouse’), rounded the corner to find the Fullerton bus waiting for me to board at 11:30. A four band bill that worked and was over in three and a half hours?! An inspirational mosh pit?! A new band to be obsessed with?! A ridiculously talented young musician getting his due (I neglected to mention that Segall was able to sell out Lincoln Hall—a feat that Thee Oh Sees and Woods haven’t been able to accomplish yet) while churning out quality releases quicker than I can keep up?! My only hope is that I haven’t used up all of my good show karma in one night.

Monday, May 7, 2012

review: beach house- 'bloom'

So, my resolution to not track anything down early lasted about as long as it took for me to realize that once I’d pre-ordered this album directly through Sub Pop that I would not be able to stream the record while waiting for it to arrive. I have no willpower whatsoever and the reward of being able to listen to the record through an online stream while waiting for it to arrive was pretty much the only reason I pre-ordered directly from them anyway. So I got my grubby little mitts on the record early.

After listening to this record on endless loop for about a week and a half I can safely say that it’s every bit as addictive as any Beach House album is. As far as how it ranks against their back catalogue I don’t think it’s quite strong enough to dethrone the mighty ‘Teen Dream’ for the title of ‘Best Beach House Album.’ I’m currently trying to figure out if I rank ‘Bloom’ above the self-titled debut, but whenever I get into this ridiculous mindset I end up deciding that it’s completely pointless to rank a band whose albums I love so much. I’ve always considered ‘Devotion’ my least favourite album of theirs, but that’s really not saying much—I’ve still spent inordinate amounts of time listening to it on vinyl and on the go. One only has to flip through a few of my diary playlists to find plenty of its songs in my mixes. ‘Bloom’ actually has the most in common with ‘Devotion’ in that it’s a bit of a grower. My initial listen felt a touch lackluster, but as I continued to listen to the album over and over again each song seemed to present itself individually until I’ve reached my conclusion that the album’s consistency is what created the illusion of lackluster quality which was also my initial perception of ‘Devotion.’ This happens sometimes, who knows why?

Musically ‘Bloom’ is a great deal more upbeat than anything else they’ve done. ‘Teen Dream’ was their most unabashedly poppy album, but that sense of immediacy was always tempered by the thread of melancholy and dread that has always been an underlying presence on all of their records. Curiously neither ‘White Moon’ off of their iTunes session or ‘I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun’ (released as a free download on their website right before Christmas in 2010) did much to point the way to where they ended up here. Written on the road over the course of almost two years of non-stop touring that saw their fanbase explode at an incredibly rapid pace (in January of 2010 they were playing tiny venues such as the Bell House in Brooklyn and within a year they were headlining much larger venues such as the Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia), it’s an appropriately atypical ‘written on the road’-type of record. In keeping with such doubtlessly surreal conditions the album’s tracks are built on a sun-drenched brightness and vibrancy that channels the salad days of the Cocteau Twins—such an obvious musical parallel in retrospect that had always escaped me when trying to describe them. Most records that a band has written while on an equally grueling tour schedule don’t sound like this—it seems clear that they were able to enjoy the ride, which is refreshing for a change.

Even though I had already heard ‘Myth’ when it was released out of nowhere back in late February, it did little to prepare me for the rest of the songs. ‘Lazuli’ is built on a climbing keyboard melody wrapping around Alex Scally’s shimmering guitar textures. Scally and singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand seem to have switched musical roles here—where previously Scally did more to provide the bouncing melodies, here most of the melodic colour is provided by sparse but restless keyboard figures. ‘On the Sea’ is a nice example of the type of hypnotic trance that this dynamic whips up. ‘Other People’ takes on a dreamier shape from the live video that circulated on youtube. I didn’t recognize it until the vocals kicked in. Lyrically Legrand seems to delight in alternating between her typical impressionistic wordplay and more barren confessional type of sentiments—sometimes within seconds and sometimes in the same line. Initially I found the first half of the record to be the strongest, or at least the most accessible. Then there’s that ending couple of ‘On the Sea’ and ‘Irene.’ I am declaring right now that this is the strongest pair of ending tracks on any Beach House album. ‘Irene’ has replaced ‘Real Love’ as the most beautiful of all of their songs in my mind. When it drops into that Spacemen 3-esque drone in the middle only to kick back into the refrain as it soars and soars and soars and then bursts I have a difficult time breathing to get through it. Fantastic! ‘It’s a strange paradise,’ Legrand sings over and over again.

Friday, May 4, 2012

review- spiritualized at the metro 5.3.12

I would like to preface this entry by saying that I absolutely loathe the Metro. I will only enter its doors to see my favourite bands. Since this show was sold out I made sure to show up early before the opening act so that I could snag a good view in the balcony. This turned out to be a dynamite decision which I’ll be repeating should I end up going back in August to see the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Considering the fact that the last time I’d seen Spiritualized at the Metro was in 2008 it seemed worth it to brave a place that I dislike. It struck me that a lot has occurred in their absence—their opening act at that show was Grand Ole Party, a band in which Kristin Gundred was the drummer and singer. In the four years that have passed since then Gundred quit Grand Ole Party and recorded and released an EP under the name Dum Dum Girls on a 4-track that instantly sold out its initial pressing leading to each subsequent 7” release selling out instantly prompting Gundred to assemble a live band (composed of gorgeous women in black dresses) to play the songs live and tour extensively. The band were signed to Sub Pop after a strong showing at SXSW and have released and toured behind two highly acclaimed albums. In that time Spiritualized have been fairly busy as well—the completion and release of ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’ was delayed by the string of shows that the band embarked on where they would play 1997’s ‘Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space’ in its entirety with a full gospel choir, strings and horns. Then, of course, there was the degenerative liver failure treatment that Jason Pierce had to undergo while finishing the record.

When I arrived just after the doors opened, the setup onstage was one that seemed fit for a solo acoustic opener which ended up being the case with Nikki Lane. A solo acoustic performer as the opening act for Spiritualized?! I was petrified for this woman. Her set ended up going fairly smoothly, though, and she got a good response from the crowd (who talked through most of her songs unsurprisingly). She sang a lot of country-tinged songs with bright melodies about all manner of morbid subjects—in the first she talked about selling her soul to the devil, in another she bullied a cheating lover into owning up to his infidelity. The songs were all solid and the lyrics were engaging. I actually enjoyed her set far more than I have most other opening acts I’ve had to suffer through lately. I might even have to pick up her record at some point soon.

The bonus of the acoustic performer as opening act is that it means you won’t have to wait long for the main event and Spiritualized walked onstage right at 9 o’clock—the two new gospel singers in their white short-shorts and ridiculously high heels leading the way and Jason Pierce coming out last (as always). The band started ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’ lead single ‘Hey Jane’ on shaky legs and the first half was a bit subdued but made a grand recovery for the second half during the entrancing and emotional chanting of the album’s title leading up to the explosive end. From there they went into the first surprise of the night—‘Lord Let it Rain on me’ from 2003’s ‘Amazing Grace,’ considered by many to be a song bordering on self-parody. When I saw them live on the ‘Amazing Grace’ tour I considered the song one of the highlights, but this version blew that one away—billowy and soft and then growing into a frothy, churning growl. Very nice. Despite the typically muddy sound at the Metro the band soldiered on and began kicking up quite a bit of steam in the most unexpected places. ‘Heading for the Top Now’ was played in a powerful arrangement that was vastly different from how it appears on the record—in fact it bore little resemblance to the live version from the Royal Albert Hall bootleg from last fall. It was built up slowly and hypnotically, stretched over time until it exploded at the end.

When I saw the band on their last stop at the Metro they pulled a surprising move midway through their set and played ‘Oh Baby’ and ‘Rated X’ together. It served as a nice mid-set breather then, but when they did it again tonight it had lost a bit of its luster. Both versions were heartfelt and striking, but I can’t help wondering why they didn’t use this mid-set breather to maybe play a few songs from 2008’s ‘Songs in A&E’ for a similar effect—i.e. they could’ve played ‘Sweet Talk’ and ‘Soul on Fire’ together. All in all they played four songs from ‘Amazing Grace’ (they played a rousing version of ‘She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)’ soon after) which seems a bit odd when they played absolutely nothing from ‘Songs in A&E’ (whose songs worked beautifully and just as effortlessly in a live context). The next unexpected surprise of the night came when they launched into a long version of the title track of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space.’ While I’ve seen them play it before, it’s the type of surprise that never gets old as it’s still not a song that’s been played live terribly often. When it is played every version is almost completely different. A slowed down version of ‘I am What I am’ somehow managed to make the song even swampier and sleazier-sounding than it already is on record.

One of the best sections of the night was finally getting to hear a live take of ‘Pure Phase’s droning instrumental centerpiece, ‘Electric Mainline.’ When I’d heard that they’d been playing it again I wasn’t that excited, but witnessing it tonight really made me understand what all the fuss was about. It was hypnotic and breathtaking—everyone onstage was so focused on what they were doing and the song almost began to take on a life of its own as the band were locked together in its naturally progressing ebb and flow. Wow. This is the point at which things really started to reach a transcendental lift-off that only Spiritualized are capable of live. The closing set of songs were all building upon whatever had come before—‘Mary’ was powerful and dramatic, ‘Stay With Me’ was extended and arrestingly beautiful (I’ve heard plenty of versions on bootlegs at this point, but none of them could prepare me for what it felt like to finally hear this song played live), ‘So Long You Pretty Things’ moved from plaintive and heartfelt to sweeping and anthemic all leading up to ‘Come Together,’ which is probably the most anthemic Spiritualized song in existence.

While I thought that the way that they had played ‘Come Together’ and transitioned into Spacemen 3’s ‘Take Me to the Other Side’ during their 2008 tour was a lot stronger and more effective, that tour was really lacking in the encore department. This time, though, they came back and played ‘Electricity’ and then ‘Cop Shoot Cop…’ bringing the total number of songs from ‘Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space’ to five. On the ‘Amazing Grace’ tour I saw them play ‘Cop Shoot Cop…’ and this version was definitely a lot grittier and more passionate. The band gains a lot from being pared down to a two-guitar arrangement—both Pierce and guitarist Tony Foster (aka Doggen) push themselves to new heights that there just isn’t room for when John Coxon is part of the party (which he was during the ‘Amazing Grace’ tour as well as the ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’ shows). Talk about a perfect song to end with—it’s a 17-minute long monster on record and here I was witnessing it being extended even longer as the gauzy buildup from the smoke machine filled the air. There are times when I’m recording guitar parts in my room and when they get loud and I’m able to wring textures out of the guitar that you can only get when it’s played really loud I often notice one of the most delightful smells—the smell of the tubes in my amp burning nice and hot and giving off the most distinctive aroma that gives me a sense of calm and satisfaction that I can’t get from anything else. To me, that smell lingered in the air at the Metro as the houselights came up. I don’t really care if it was wishful thinking or not—I just enjoyed the feeling. Complete satisfaction. Hopefully it won’t take another four years before they’re back as they remain one of the most powerful live bands around.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

repost- spiritualized at radio city music hall

since megaupload went under and the old entry still nets so much traffic i figured it might be a good idea to repost this rip of the stream of spiritualized performing 'ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space' at radio city music hall in new york. this is probably my favourite of all of my spiritualized bootlegs (and there are sooooooo many). the stream couldn't have been mixed more perfectly. this one definitely cooks. i've updated the old post with the same links as well. enjoy!

192 kpbs mp3s

flacs, pt. 1
pt. 2-
pt. 3-