I apparently missed the memo about Mid-Year Top 10. So nonetheless, here's my list:
1. John Mayer - Born and Raised
2. Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
3. Fun - Some Nights
4. Arkells - Michigan Left
5. Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts
6. The Cribs - In The Belly of the Brazen Bull
7. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
8. The Shins - Port of Morrow
9. Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game
10. Robert Francis - Strangers in the First Place
Shortly after seeing City and Colour live last month, I decided to browse YouTube and listen to live versions of Dallas singing. And somehow in doing so, I stumbled across Paulina Faith's version of "Sleeping Sickness." Within seconds, I was entranced and quickly became a subscriber. She's posted about a dozen videos over the last 2-3 years, many of which are covers. As one would expect, some are certainly stronger than others. There are those that leave a little to be desired, and then there are those, that are in a word: revelatory. Foremost of those are her covers of Adele' "One and Only," Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away," and Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning." Her most popular video, said cover of "Sleeping Sickness," was recorded when she was just 15. Her latest, however, Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," just might be her best.
And yet for all the power of her covers, Faith sounds best on her own compositions. Take for instance, "The Bluebird," a bouncy ode to personal fortitude, that has all the trappings of a timeless classic: positive message, confident vocals, a winning chorus. Equally as potent is the uplifting "Anybody But You," a paean to originality and self-worth. The Colorado teenager was actually one of ten finalists in Guitar Center's Who's Next contest, losing out to Tennessee's Josh Doyle. Being that she is only eighteen, one has to think that her share of the spotlight is not too far away. While the promise of a 3-song EP with Grammy-winner John Shanks has eluded her, it seems inevitable that something just as promising is right around the corner. Blessed with movie star good looks, soaring vocals and an innate skill wise beyond her years, there's little reason to think that given the right amount of time, Paulina Faith won't land herself in the center of the national conscience.
I spent at least 10 hours watching Bonnaroo live streams/feeds this weekend. It happened by accident. I turned it on Friday night to see Radiohead out of curiosity. I turned it on about 20 minutes into the set and boom, wouldn't you know Thom Yorke and crew suck me into their vortex. I was mesmerized, I could not turn away.
I figured it would end there.
But then Saturday afternoon came around and I saw that El Mariachi Bronx was playing. So I figured, why not? Everyone has been buzzing about this band. So I watched. I tried to like it. I was sorely disappointed. They looked utterly bored. I wanted more. I wanted to see another Radiohead. But Saturday came and went and I was out and about and doing things.
And then Saturday night came. Red Hot Chili Peppers was on the stage.
Now, I'll admit I caught the set late, but hot damn if Anthony Keidis and Flea didn't stop me in my tracks. Suddenly, I didn't want to go to bed, I wanted to see this thing to the end. And I'm glad I did. Quite honestly, I don't know how the band still does it. All the drug use. All that time away from the spotlight. And Lord if they didn't slay it. I have no idea who that new guitarist is. Josh something or another, but man, he certainly is no slouch. I understand he's no Frusciante, but few are. All I'll say is he's a worthy replacement. Then I thought, I was really done. Enough Bonnaroo for the weekend. Time to watch something else.
So I logged on and saw Gary Clark Jr. was playing BAM! Freaking Bonnaroo had hit me again. Then I looked at the day's lineup. Oh man. So many good bands, so much to see. And man if it didn't knock the cover off the ball.
Without further ado, here's some bullet points on what I saw:
Gary Clark Jr: One word: incredible. Amazing guitar solos. Top notch backing band.
The Antlers: Worth the praise. A lot more peppy than I expected. Peter Silbermann is the consummate musician.
Here We Go Magic: Really engaging. One of the surprises of the weekend. Did not know this band had that much talent in them.
Grouplove: One word: legendary. As good a live show as I saw all weekend.
City and Colour: Strong. Started off slow, got good towards the end. That Neil Young cover at the end was a delight.
Kathleen Edwards: Near-perfect. She hit all her notes. She was gritty, she was angelic. Man, she whipped it with a belt.
Ben Folds: Dazzling. Has it really been 12 years since they were last on stage? You wouldn't have known it. Folds also seemed genuinely humbled by the moment, and he's an egotist. That's a rare thing.
Bon Iver: I only caught some of it, but he is worth the hype. "Skinny Love," and "Beth/Rest," alone were worth the viewing.
The Shins: I always thought they were mid-tempo and boring. James Mercer changed my mind in a hurry. "Phantom Limb," and "Australia," alone sent shivers down my spine. "Bait and Switch," and "The Rifle's Spiral," were no slouch either. They also ended with a bang. "Sleeping Lessons," and "One By One All Day," most particularly.
Young the Giant: Better than I expected. I saw them live in Tampa earlier this spring and they were just as good, if not better. "Camera," in particular sounded the best. They've really got that one down pat. Can't wait to hear it on the new album.
Fun: One of the highlights of the weekend. Nate Ruess was made to perform. This was a first-class, first-rate concert. Truly awesome stuff. They deserve all the hype and praise.
The Civil Wars: Another highlight of the night. Considering every band listed thus far had a rhythm section, and an army of help, it was shocking how just two voices and one guitar could say and do so much. I have the albums, I've read the hype, I've never heard it live. Until now. If this band isn't on your radar, you're really missing out on something truly extraordinary.
Phish: Alright, I get it. They are top-notch musicians. But does every song HAVE to be at least 6 minutes? Can they utilize more guest vocalists? I don't think a single person in that band has a voice that I can listen to for more than 20 minutes. If anything, they get props for throwing in a swath of great cover songs. Not many bands can pull off TV On the Radio, Velvet Underground, Kenny Rogers, Son Seals and Lynn Anderson. I love their ambition, I love their talent, I just sort of wish they were an instrumental band.
And......Kenny Rogers, really? Really? I love me some country music, but seriously? Was Barry Manilow busy?
Last week I saw City and Colour live for the first time. I've followed Dallas' career from a distance but really got sucked in after my brother gave me a copy of Bring Me Your Love this past Christmas. Sure I'd heard of the album and I had heard "The Girl," but i had never spent time sitting down to digest it. My brother said it best when he told me, "It's your kind of record." I listened and instantly fell in love. From then on, I was hooked. When I spent some time with Little Hell this past January, it only confirmed just how talented Dallas really is.
So finally I saw him live last week.
I won't get hyperbolic and say it was the best concert I've ever been to, but I will say it might have been the most enjoyable concert I've seen this year, next to Zac Brown Band in Daytona Beach. I've been to nearly 25 shows this year, and City and Colour was the second best show I've seen. That's how good it was. But let me soften up all this adulation.
For starters, the audio system at The Beacham can get so shoddy, I always have trouble making out what the headliners are saying. I don't think I caught a single word of his onstage banter, and missed a good chunk of his lyrics. So from that standpoint, it could have been a lot better.
Insofar as the music itself, I was absolutely blown away and astounded by Dallas' backing band. Aaron Goldstein and Daniel Romano have to be two of the most supreme talents I have ever seen. Good Lord. Dallas really tucks himself into his songs and gives it all he's got. If anything, he may have been too restrained. Through the first five songs, he seemed shy, introverted and afraid to step into the spotlight. As the night moved forward, he seemed to step out of his shell. It's hard to pick which songs were best. The fans seemed most stoked about songs from Bring Me Your Love, so "Sleeping Sickness," "The Girl," "What Makes a Man," and "Waiting," all drew huge responses. Personally, I think "Body in a Box," and "As Much as I Ever Could," were the most moving.
And then the songs from Little Hell just blew it out of the water. As good as those songs are on record, they really shine live. "Little Hell," "Weightless," "Fragile Bird," and "Sorrowing Man," are the kind of songs that need a live setting to be fully understood. Much like "Body in a Box," and "As Much as I Ever Could," hit me the hardest, so too did "We Found Each Other in the Dark," and "The Grand Optimist." Also his cover of Low's "Murderer," was pretty much a heart-stopper. God, if they didn't slay it.
Perhaps the reason Dallas and band were so darn awesome is because the openers just didn't do it for me. I've been a fan of David Bazan since I heard Pedro the Lion's Control. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect his live set to disappoint me as much as it did. For starters, he sat down. Now I don't mind the whole sitting in a chair and strumming away on an acoustic, but when you're opening up a show, you need to at least connect with the audience. When you sit down, your mobility is limited and I just feel like it hampers the whole set. Now I am no touring musician, so I have no idea if some days you just don't feel up to it or what not, but God almighty, can you at least seem interested? Once again, the sound at The Beacham sucked, so I have no idea what he said in between songs. He just seemed really uninterested in performing and seemed ready to get off the stage ASAP. His set list is here, if interested.
Daniel Romano opened things up and that was pretty cool. It was nice to walk into a venue and not stand around for an hour before an opener comes on. But Lord love a duck, did Romano have to play EVERY sleepy song in his repertoire? Who wants to go to a set and listen to lullabies one after the other. I'm an avid country music fan, so I absolutely LOVED hearing Porter Wagoner's "Tell Her Lies," George Jones' "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me," and Roger Miller's "Got Two Again," but I never knew when he was playing an original or doing a cover. He seemed to be performing only for himself and not for the crowd. That being written, I did buy his two albums and wish like hell he toured the States more often. Next to Robbie Fulks, I don't know another singer-songwriter that identifies with country music as well as he does. He is a true talent and definitely something to cherish.
I think Canadian artists just understand in a way American musicians never will. But maybe I'm just crazy.
Having listened to their music casually for the last ten years, I was anxious and excited to see the pop-punk kingpins Say Anything last Thursday at The Beacham in Orlando. Songs like "Hate Myself," "Shiksa," "Belt," and "Alive With the Glory of Love," all have a special place in my heart. The night opened strong with captivating live sets from both Kevin Devine and Tallhart, and a tepid, if not mediocre set from Florida's Fake Problems. The hope was that Say Anything would keep the positive vibes going forward with an astounding and undeniably impressive live show. Unfortunately, anything but that happened.
Whether it was the venue, the band or strange concoction of both, the entire set felt bombastic, brash and obnoxious. Nothing felt fluid, nothing felt harmonic, nothing felt polished. The set was raw, in-your-face and pompous. Sure swagger is a good thing, but all swagger and no polish makes for an uncomfortable listening experience. And maybe it was that Tallhart and Kevin Devine were so engaging and compelling, few if any bands could have put on a set that would have kept the night moving forward. But something about Say Anything's set felt off. It didn't feel genuine.
And yet nowhere in the venue did anyone seem to mind. Vocalist Max Bemis belted out lyrics with wanton abandon and hundreds of awestruck fans bobbed around with wonder. Even on punchy singles like "Shiksa," and "Hate Myself," the entire thing felt forced, feigned and over-the-top. If the band deserves any credit, they most certainly played to their fans, performing a slew of crowd favorites and older material and kept the caffeinated masses happy.
I suppose in the end, that's all anyone can ask for.
Alright, I'll come right out and say it. I don't really love punk music. There are days it can grab me the right way, but for the most part I dabble in much softer stuff. That being written, I found myself at the Back Booth in Orlando last Sunday seeing a set by Joyce Manor, as they opened for Andrew Jackson Jihad.
Hot damn, was it something. For starters, the crowd was ridiculously into it. Flailing their bodies left and right, crowd surfing, stage diving, jumping on stage to sing with the band, hug the band, etc. It was absolutely one of the most surreal, intense and enjoyable concert experiences I have ever seen.
And then there was the band.
Wow. Their guitar work was incredible. The rhythm section was air-tight and even the sub-par vocals had a bit of urgency and energy that isn't fully captured on record.
Quite honestly, I knew very little about Joyce Manor before the show. I had read Blake's review of the new album and I had heard many people gush over what a great record it was. Then I heard that it was less than 20 minutes long and I figured why not give it a shot. Sure it's nothing earth-shattering or groundbreaking to me, but it is still enjoyable, and I can honestly say I am a fan.
I've seen a lot of live bands this year, I'm not sure anything will match those 32 minutes of Joyce Manor in Back Booth.
For pictures and a far better write-up, head here.
I've never really understood the appeal of pop-punk, but considering I work for a web site called AbsolutePunk, I do my best to dabble in the scene from time-to-time and try and find a band that strikes my fancy. Sure enough, every now and then a certain band will catch my ear and engage me.
For the last four years, the Boston quintet Transit have churned out accessible, engaging and melodic pop-punk that's often hard to dismiss. In the last couple years, the band has shifted their sound and moved towards something more indie, more late 90s emo, and more colorful.
Seen this past Wednesday in Pompano Beach, as part of the Glamour Kills 2012 Tour, the group did little to disappoint. On halcyon cuts like "Long Lost Friends," "You Can't Miss It (It's Everywhere)," and "Skipping Stone" they ooze confidence, charisma and commercial appeal. Vocalist Joe Boynton knows his way around a stage and bopped around with the panache of a seasoned veteran. Their 40-minute set had few flaws and on the urgent "Asleep at the Wheel," the band proved that crafting earnest, rock anthems is effortless.
But in this writer's opinion, what makes the band standout is their dedication to their fans. The following night in Orlando, five teenagers had driven down from Michigan to attend the concert. Unaware that the show would sell out, they foolishly arrived at the venue without tickets. When the Transit five heard about said misfortune, they retreated to a quiet alley behind the stage and performed a three-song acoustic set for the downtrodden teens. And it was actually in that three-song impromptu set that Transit let their true colors shine. Anchored by crisp three-part harmonies and Boynton's reedy croon, there was little not to like. Whether it was the stark sadness of "Outbound," or the undying yearning on "Long Lost Friends," there was something palpable, riveting and undeniably charming of those three songs.
Prior to Wednesday, I was always keen on Transit, but after the past two days, I'm unapologetically vowing my allegiance. May their road to success be paved with unending fortune and fame. They most certainly deserve it.
For those interested, the Pompano set list was:
1. Long Lost Friends
2. You Can't Miss It
3. Asleep at the Wheel
4. All Your Heart
5. Please Head North
6. Skipping Stone
7. Cutting Corners
9. Stay Home
The acoustic set the following night was:
2. You Can't Miss It
3. Long Lost Friends
Attention music fans: Listen to the band New Cassettes. The British quintet plays dance-inspired post-punk not unlike The Vaccines and Arctic Monkeys. Their songs are hook-heavy, confident and incredibly polished. Seen live at The Social in Orlando, FL, last night, the group did not disappoint. Coasting through an eight-song set with the swagger of seasoned veterans, the group used vocalist Tom Stubb's emotive timbre and the propulsive drumming of Ed Hoare to fuel their captivating live set. Highlights included the ebullient "Bite Your Lip," and the spiky "Silent Guns." Equal parts jittery, urgent and infectious, the group seems ready to take on larger stages. For more on the band, head here.
Does anyone remember The Mars Volta? Hot damn they were good.
Just decided to pull out DeLoused in the Comatorium on the way home from work. Probably the first time in at least six years Iíve listened to that album. And just like it always did, the album floored me. From start to finish.
Like seriously, why did they have to have such an ephemeral career?
I've been listening to a lot of This Day and Age this week. I'm not even sure if I can put my thoughts about them into accurate and coherent sentences. I had the privilege of seeing this band at least a half-dozen times. Never once did they disappoint.
Though I don't own their debut album, Always Leave the Ground and The Bell and the Hammer remain as important to my heart, my psyche and my development as a person as many of my favorite albums. All their songs dot the landscape of some of my most fond memories and some of my worst moments.
Jeff Martin's lyrics were never the stuff of legends and often bordered on saccharine and maudlin. That being written, they still hit at a place everyone could relate to. A voice like his comes along every once in awhile and it was those two factors combined with inimitable music that made the band so truly memorable. I've tried in vain to find a band that recreates this sound but to no avail. In the end I've given up searching.
I don't like talking about myself and I hate even more bringing attention to myself, but the outpouring of positive comments since I rejoined staff has been nothing short of tremendous. Anyone who has said a kind word or extended themselves is truly something else. I am far from the champion ya'll seem to think I am, but I appreciate the respect nonetheless. I wasn't sure how me coming back would be taken and it's truly awesome to see you all be so kind.
I don't know if I'll be able to write with the same capacity or proficiency as last time. I have a new job now in a new city (and state), and won't be anywhere near a computer from roughly 8-6. That being said, this new job is a far departure from writing and I will need an outlet to fuel my lifelong passion. I am hoping that this site can revisit and replenish my writing whimsy.
There are no words to describe how grateful and appreciative I am. I do honestly feel like one lucky sonofagun.
Over the last month, I've been revisitng the self-titled EP from Galaxy Farm. Not sure if any of you remember it, but I wrote it awhile back. I still contend that their song "Lady in the Midnight Sun," is one of the best singles of 2010. And upon further release, their song "Take What's Yours," is now also making a big impact in my cranium. Can a band really be looked at as promising with two powerhouse songs and four mediocre songs? In the case of Galaxy Farm, the answer might be yes. "Lady in the Midnight Sun," and "Take What's Yours," are the kind of songs bands just aren't writing anymore. To be honest, I had thought these songs just wouldn't be written anymore. Thank God for this band and for these two songs. Truly terrific stuff.
But you never expected this out of me. But here goes:
There are far too many reasons to dismiss and attack Fall Out Boy, but 2005's From Under the Cork Tree is not one of them. Aside from its verbose and completely inane song titles, the album has some of the more appealing and indelible choruses released in the 2005 calendar year. Certainly the merits of "Sugar We're Going Down," have been discussed ad nauseum, but the razor-sharp witticism and air-tight production still deserve a place in the annals of rock music. Sure it came along at the right place and the right time, but few, if any bands had the prescience to build on the momentum and catapult it to soaring heights. Fueled by the jittery "Dance, Dance," and the propulsive, "I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy....," From Under the Cork Tree partnered humor with timeliness and sex appeal in a way that hasn't been felt since. Ten years from now, high school kids in garage bands are still going to pine for this kind of album. Not so much for its pop perfection, but for its widespread appeal. It did and said everything and never once took itself too seriously. The end result? Hordes of sales and titanic status. When was the last time that happened?
The new Bright Eyes song "Shell Games," is pretty fucking amazing. I'm so glad this dude is back at it. Aside from "Cape Canaveral," and maybe one or two other songs, the bulk of the material from his last two albums have been hot messes. "Shell Games," is a return to form and holy hell does it make me happy. Music needs this guy to be on his A game far more often. Download it.