Monday, May 26, 2014

the screaming stars- 'iii'

third screaming stars record is finished (ironically while the second record hangs awkwardly in limbo) and posted on soundcloud. highly recommended if you're ever having trouble sleeping. this record was meant to document the weird transition from winter to spring this year.

Friday, May 16, 2014

diary 5.17.14- havin' a hellride

Diary 5.17.14- havin' a hellride by Shalloboi on Mixcloud

song- artist- album

1. linda's gone- the black angels- 'clear lake forest' 10"
2. baby's going underground- helium- 'the dirt of luck'
3. something goes wrong- medicine- 'part time punks'
4. imaginary person- ty segall- 'melted'
5. fifth in line to the throne- camera obscura- '4ad sessions'
6. calendar- alison's halo- 'dozen' 7"
7. love is to die- warpaint- s/t
8. red eyes- the war on drugs- 'lost in the dream'
9. night still comes- neko case- 'the worse things get, the harder i fight, the harder i fight, the more that i love you'
10. dreaming my dreams with you- cowboy junkies- 'the trinity session'
11. saturn song- beach house- 'the space project'
12. the lens- thee oh sees- 'drop'
13. undone- the stargazer lilies- 'we are the dreamers'
14. be above it- tame impala- 'live versions'
15. just a little boy- swans- 'to be kind'

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ruminations: neko case at the chicago theater 5.13.14

I can’t review a Neko Case show—to review something implies impartiality, which I’m just not capable of with Case’s music. It was the perfect ending to a joyfully surreal day that started with me heading to Reckless to pick up the new Swans record, which I then listened to in its entirety before heading to a friend’s house to drink a bunch of awesome homebrewed beer and then on to the show. Between this show and the new Swans record was the knock-out punch to lift me out of a recurring funk that I’ve been falling in and out of over the past few months.

Her new record’s release last year saw me feeling a bit ambivalent initially—my first listen wasn’t necessarily a delirious one and I was completely confused and underwhelmed by the single ‘Man.’ I ended up buying the record digitally and then falling in love with it right before the holiday season and can now honestly say, without any stars in my eyes, that ‘The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, The More That I Love You’ is her best record since ‘Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.’ When her set started off at the Chicago Theater it sounded a bit rickety to me, until Kelly Hogan announced ‘We’re going to play a make-out song now,’ before the band launched into ‘Lion’s Jaws’ which has been a favorite of mine since I first heard ‘Fox Confessor…’ (it’s those heavenly backing vocals) and it was the moment right near the beginning of every Neko Case show that I’ve been to where I end up thinking, ‘Well, there’s your money’s worth right there—three songs in.’ She remains one of the only artists I’ve been listening to for as long where this is true—in 2007 it happened three songs in when she played ‘Favorite,’ in 2009 it was after ‘Middle Cyclone’ and this time it was ‘Lion’s Jaws,’ which I’ve always wanted to hear live and it was absolutely flawless.

Her current live band has swapped in Eric Bachman of Crooked Fingers for long time live guitarist Paul Rigby and the band has more of a minimalist sound than it did before, which suits the new material perfectly. Bachman is also able to switch between keyboards and formidable backing vocal duties as well. They played all of the new record apart from only a couple of songs, a good chunk of ‘Fox Confessor…’ as well as several from 2009’s ‘Middle Cyclone.’ ‘Deep Red Bells’ from ‘Blacklisted’ and ‘Set Out Running’ from ‘Furnace Room Lullabye’ made an appearance as well. To call this set ‘generous’ is a bit of an understatement—by the end of the night the band had played for more than an hour-and-a-half and with plenty of surprises—I had no idea that Case had a song on ‘The Hunger Games’ soundtrack. Her first of two encores featured a duet with Bachman on Crooked Fingers track ‘Sleep All Summer.’ Starkness was the name of the game and it worked beautifully.

This show brings me to another rather surreal phenomena—people bringing their children to concerts. It seems like I can’t go anywhere I used to without being in the presence of tons of children, which I suppose reflects my age group more than anything else. I was in a lone seat up in the box section of the lower balcony—very comfortable and roomy—in the booth behind me was a family of four. In the end it wasn’t any more annoying than I usually find general crowd behavior, there are always people at shows to talk loudly and obliviously during quiet sections of songs to interrupt the trance you’ve been blissfully falling into. At least these were kids and their parents were trying to keep them quiet during the show—perhaps they were trying to teach their kids this type of etiquette at a young age. It was hilarious to hear Neko deliver so much profanity-laced onstage banter while hearing these tiny voices behind me asking their mother to explain what was being said. Then there was the fact that Case performed ‘Nearly Midnight, Honolulu’ after which someone yelled out ‘THAT WAS FUCKING AMAZING!’ ‘Yeah,’ Neko replied, ‘Chicago Tribune—one line—Neko Case at the Chicago Theater—“That was fucking amazing!”’ My favorite moment in this regard remains when Case declared into the microphone, ‘Now I’ve got a camel toe to go with these awesome pants,’ and once the gales of laughter died down I enjoyed the delight of hearing the mother of a seven-year-old girl trying to innocently explain what a camel toe was. They also left at the beginning of the first encore, ‘It’s time for bed,’ the mother cooed to her children.

review: angel olsen at lincoln hall 5.4.14

I can’t help feeling that tonight was one of those nights where nearly everything went wrong. I’m going to do my best not to let that colour my experience seeing Angel Olsen at Lincoln Hall tonight, but the fact of the matter is that this was one of those nights I wouldn’t have minded staying in and doing not much of anything. First of all Lincoln Hall was completely oversold tonight and more packed than I have ever seen it before (the previous holder of that title was Stars of the Lid in December). The bouncers even gave up on keeping the stairways clear—they settled on keeping one side of each stairway clear instead. It was so packed in there I had my first moment of legit claustrophobic panic in my life—during ‘White Fire’ the woman in front of me kept backing up into me and I was already cornered by a column and the ramp and railing on the left side of the room. I started to see stars, had trouble breathing and spent the entire song worried I might pass out. There were a lot of barriers to my enjoyment of the show—which happens sometimes when you go out in a giant crowd of people. Sometimes the rabble of nitwits you’re stuck in a space with can make it real hard to get your purpose accomplished, even if that purpose is something as simple as taking in some live music.

The opening band was deliberately chosen as a statement of intent it seemed—Promised Land Sound from Nashville, Tennessee did a great job of playing some very well-tread-territory type of music. There were flashes of the passion that Neil Young’s best songs exude, but they were only flashes. The lead guitarist did some impressive wah-wah work and had a lively, fresh approach. Everything else sounded rather generic. The only exceptions were when the band slowed things down and played something yearning and beautiful—again, a forecast for what was the follow.

Much has been made about the heavier, more rock-based sound of ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness,’ which Olsen made with a full band. Where her previous work dabbles in country and Patsy Cline-esque 60s pop as well as some beautiful, plaintive starkness, ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’ features the sludgy pop rock of ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ and ‘Hi-Five.’ Wearing a baseball cap that covered her face and chugging down beers for most of the set, Olsen was standing behind the more rocking material, but it was always the emotionally arresting beauty of songs that she performed from 2012’s ‘Halfway Home’ and 2010’s stark ‘Strange Cacti’ that held the crowd’s attention. Basically, it was the opposite of every other show I’ve ever been to—at this show people were heading to the bar to get another beer during the louder songs and everyone sat at rapt attention during the quiet songs. Considering what an anomaly this is I begin to struggle with the necessity of the rockier material—her best-written songs on the new album are the more emotionally bare pieces like the solo ‘White Fire’ and the cathartic closer ‘Windows’—those two tracks were the clear standouts of the evening from the new record. The band she’s assembled is nice and heavy and the songs sound fully fleshed-out and vivid (props to her for taking Implodes bassist Emily Elhaj along on this tour), it’s just that those tracks seem a little forced to me. Olsen is in her element most when she’s commanding a crowd on her own, which was true the first time I saw her at the Empty Bottle back in 2010—she’s one of the only performers I’ve seen bring the din of conversation at the Bottle to a deafening silence by playing ‘Some Things Cosmic’ by herself (which she ended with tonight as well). The full-band versions of older songs like ‘Free,’ ‘Miranda’ and ‘Drunk and With Dreams’ were magnificent as well. While I say that the more rocking songs on ‘Burn Your Fire…’ seem forced, it’s at least nice to hear that Olsen has a strong desire to push her sound in a different direction. One thing that ‘Burn Your Fire…’ has that her older records don’t is her fullest and richest-sounding vocals to date.