It's raining, so I decided to sit up at the bar and grab a whiskey and coke and relive what just happened only a few hours ago - a few minutes ago.
The night started unfortunate, as learning that The Builders and the Butchers would not be performing for the evening. Sure, this seemed to mean longer sets by both Thrice and Brand New, but I can't say enough good things about this band, and my excitement to be able to seem them. The best way to describe their music is that it sounds like a sinister, southern version of The Decemberists.
Thirce's tour manager Damon Atkinson said Builders are not off the tour, but simply fixing van problems, and hope to be at the next show in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
That aside, Thrice took the stage to blue backing lights and "All the World is Mad." Their first set of the tour, it was a solid mix of songs, mostly weighted in Beggars material. The band played "The Arsonist," for which they said they've only tried once before - maybe - and cuts from Vheissu ("Like Months to Flame" "Of Dust and Nations"). The band played their cover of "Helter Skelter." To be honest, it's a toss up between them and seeing Portugal. The Man's live off-the-cuff version, but I'll keep my mouth tight as too which I liked more live...it was a close race, I'll say that. The band ended with "Beggars," which may just be one of the best songs the band has ever created. On every level - energy, feel, lyrics, etc. - it is a winner.
Brand New took the stage to low lights, and with about an hour and half ahead of them. With a small intro, the band crept their way into "You Won't Know," everyone sharp and energetic.
Playing into earlier hits ("Degausser" "I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't" and "The No Seatbelt Song"), the band sound like they were deconstructing their previous works in a devious way: frontman Jesse Lacey creating guitar bursts and feedback during the bridge to "Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades" to the heavy ending of "The No Seatbelt Song," either the band was having fun over boredom of their older songs, are they were meticulously deconstructing what they created. Another laugh amongst the band was held when Lacey seemed to purposely drag on his part of the "Jesus" outro. Guitarist Vin Accardi thought this was hilarious.
The band launched into "Vices," guitarist Derrick Sherman rattling his guitar against his amp while violently shaking the amp against his stomach. Lacey then sang something to start "Gasoline," but launched into it thereafter, drummer Brian Lane and bassist Garrett Tierney steady on rhythm.
The night ended with Lacey, guitar, and an Indian-style sitting Accardi backing vocals on "Play Crack the Sky." That was it. No encore.
Though I missed As Tall As Lions play an off show over at Stubb's just hours later, I would say the show I saw was great. Two bands I have the utmost respect for as musicians: one who continue to challenge themselves and their fans, and one who continue to devilishly deconstruct themselves and give their fans something new every show, whether those fans like it or not.
That vinyl copy of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me is coming out though. So I'm calling that more than even.
Yesterday, while visiting with friends back home, there was an argument about whether or not it's "...on my way out," or "...on my way to hell." We both disagreed with each other, but what we did agree on was why the lyrics could have been missing from our tangible copies.
For decades, everyone from the casual radio-singles listener to the obsessed fanboy has argued the meaning of thousands, upon millions of songs that come out each year. Some artists release touching songs that we may never see live, because well, it's just too "personal," or "those feelings have passed."
Maybe they just forgot the words.
Brand New, I understand. I feel that you have a world of listeners clinging to your poetic abrasiveness blended in a gritty, dark stream of conscious, and that's a lot to hold up to. Maybe you don't want what is said to be tattooed on the shoulder, or posted as a social networking status.
That's okay. I see your point. I see the point of "Be Gone" - I do, and I love it!
Understand this, music is a form of therapy for some of us, and your music has reared its ugly head in just the right times of not only many users on this site, but for me especially.
Taking solace in your work might be wrong with misinterpretation, but it's solace nonetheless.
For whatever decision you made as a band, that's your artistic decision.
I just hope I never take anything out of context.
Let us not forget, art is built on interpretation.
Well, I haven't seen this much hoopla over an album since the disagreements over Fall Out Boy's From Under the Cork Tree. It was definitely an experience listening to Brand New's Daisy over on YouTube late Saturday night, while browsing the forums of Absolutepunk.net, a site where the marketplace of ideas sometimes turns into Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, sans Tina Turner.
Since it seems people actually read this thing, and I have a few staff supporters, I'm going to weigh in on my most anticipated album this year, but before I go any further, I will be buying the CD and vinyl in two weeks.
Brand New have constructed exactly what I imagined from hearing live cuts of "Brought a Bride" and "Gasoline," and my theory was cemented after hearing the album's single "At the Bottom," for which I have also purchased off Amazon MP3.
The album is full of In Utero "angst," Modest Mouse guitar riffs, and the sampling/noise build that reminds me of a structure less Kid A and more Hail to the Theif. If I had to give it a RIYL, it would be this: Nirvana's In Utero, Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, and Radiohead's Hail to the Theif.
Those musical comparisons aside, for all relatable purposes, Brand New's Daisy is just like it's cover: dark, simple, and ominous.
There's already a more depressing vibe then the band's last release, 2006's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, but rightfully so. No one should be surprised that the record was going to come out this dark, but instead of being drifted along like the last release, you are punched in the gut with the off-guard opener "Vices," the acid-tripping freak-out "Gasoline," and the up and down blasts of "Sink."
Just as simple as any of the band's album covers, Daisy is no exception. With about 40 minutes of music, the band get to the point with each song -- possible exception being "You Stole" -- which gives the album a quicker hit of experience.
Then there's that damn fox. Sitting there. It's eyes glistening over the bottom of the cover. Sure, Lacey said the record would be "polarizing," but that may not be the right word. I say either "ominous" or "haunting" to the point of being "frightening."
I can't speak for the band, but it seems that they went in and put their all into it with less a self-righteous approach, and more of a careless approach to their audience. Now, like everything else, that may sound dick on the surface, but again, artists, whether music or some other form, should not create based on an audience, but based on what they want their work to become.
If bands wrote music based on an audience, we wouldn't have a dynamic spectrum of the influences that are present on Daisy. If you are one of those listeners who feels offset by the band's new album, then it would seem to me that is the point in it's creation. It's okay not to like it; it's okay to love it. Expectation aside, music is amazing because we get to discuss, and open up new ways at looking at any said piece of art.
One user said it best, "If brand new never reach their fifth album, daisy is one hell of a swan song."
You know what, if I had this much judgment come down on me, I'd probably say fuck it too. I'd put together something like "Be Gone" where it sounds intentional for the listener not to hear and pick apart what I'm saying.
This is what I have to say about the album. You won't see comments or debates in any forum from me. Music is subjective, any writer knows that, but any journalist is supposed to write in an objective manner. Yes, I know Brand New is one of my favorite bands, but if I take a look around on what's going on right now, and over the past few years, Daisy shows that they've held more ground than a lot more out there. That's a fact.
Maybe you've found my words subjective, but I've given the album more than a few spins on top of other new music I've been hearing as of late due to my interview schedule these past few weeks. All is good, but many of the artists haven't been around as long as Brand New.
Brand New have crafted an album that's the next step in their career, or the final nail in a grandeur of one. One day maybe I'll wonder why I ever liked this band....
...or, one day I'll grow up and realized I had sound judgment.
Well, we all waited in anticipation, and the day has finally come. To used a tired expression, the cat is out of the bag, and the music world will be changed forever yet again.
Jay-Z loves Grizzly Bear.
Oh, you thought I was going to talk about the leak of one of the most anticipated albums of the year, and the fact that many are wondering what the band feels about it, and the reactions and arguments across the sixteen thousand forums across this site.
Fuck that. Did you hear me? Jay-Z loves Grizzly Bear. One of hip-hop's most talented spitters, who single-handedly put the knife through the cold mechanical heart of "autotuners" across this great nation, loves a band that is proving themselves one of the most valued musical assets to come along in some time.
It's not the fact that Jay-Z likes Grizzly Bear, it's what he has to say about the musical scene they are associated with. When Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles were spotted at Grizzly Bear's free show Sunday in Brooklyn, he was interviewed by MTV yesterday, explaining his appearance -- as if that was even necessary.
Jay-Z tells MTV, "They're an incredible band," he said. "The thing I want to say to everyone — I hope this happens because it will push rap, it will push hip-hop to go even further — what the indie-rock movement is doing right now is very inspiring. It felt like us in the beginning. These concerts, they're not on the radio, no one hears about them, and there's 12,000 people in attendance. And the music that they're making and the connection they're making to people is really inspiring. So, I hope that they have a run where they push hip-hop back a little bit, so it will force hip-hop to fight to make better music, because it can happen, because that's what rap did to rock."
For that quote, Jay-Z makes a valid point, and one I've been stressing for the past few weeks: What is next for us, and music in general? I'll argue that music is so far genre defying and full of mixed ideas, that it's hard to say what the next "big thing" for music will be.
Sure, there are bands like Grizzly Bear keeping music fresh, among countless others, but I don't believe any of these bands have the ability to change a landscape of precedent at the moment.
What's interesting about the MC's point is how hip-hop changed a landscape based on word of mouth, the same way the indie scene has flourished across blog spaces on the Web. Grizzly Bear make great music, and then people talk about it, and then Jay-Z is stoked to see 12,000 people at a show with not much radio play, which we all know is controlled anyway.
Saying Grizzly Bear is an important role in the evolution of hip-hop is even more promising. Something I've learned, everyone loves hip-hop, especially indie bands, and it reflects well in their music. Even more powerful is that someone from the other side with pull, such as an artist like Jay-Z, has the ability to open up discussion across the musical board of listeners and creators alike.
Does this mean that since Jay-Z loves Grizzly Bear that we are going to see some surreal avant-garde hip-hop for the sake of redefining what we already know -- probably not, but each day is a new surprise.
The reflection is one that I liked when I read an article on Lil' Wayne sometime back. (The magazine escapes me. I believe it was either Maxim or GQ.) The article, very well written, was from the perspective of the journalist in one of the MC's studios. In a well descriptive part, Wayne talks about landing a drum beat like My Chemical Romance's "Welcome to the Black Parade." Not only could he not think of the band or song at the moment, he didn't look at the song as part of "its scene," or a "single," he looked at it for the impact of its music on the listener, and more so, what caught their ear and made it a success.
Before this gets winded, Jay-Z's remarks are one that gives hope to all we complain about. It's hope that music will continue to be fresh. Hope that artists will continue to try new things, and we as listeners should give it a better try, and maybe we'll see a higher appreciation rate for our selections.
I have a lot of thoughts on how this ties into Brand New's new album. About the cover reflecting what's inside; the length of songs; the approach; etc.
I need to collect my thoughts first, after at least 30 listens. I'm on 21. Results look good. I wonder what Jay-Z thinks of it.
"...sub-question: is it better to die out, or to fade away?"
I write this, mind you, while an infomercial for Monster Ballads is on the television. Maybe we just don't know what we've got, until it's gone.
Remember the entry where I shed some details on my conversation with ex-Refused drummer David Sandström? We had a small tangent of a conversation concerning the "death of the album."
Well, it would seem appropriate that the band we all love to hate to love may be putting that idea into play. Brand New, rumored, are about to take this idea into play.
But let's face it. We brought this upon ourselves. Case and point: Drew's entry that the new Thrice album has leaked three months prior to its release. This shows that the majority no longer longs for the days where we waited in anticipation for new releases, rushed to the store to grab it and flipped through the pages of the album's booklet while the first song off said album blasted out of our car stereo.
No, no...those days are gone.
Back to Sandström and mine's conversation. He believes that single will possibly make it's way back into the system. Get rid of filler, and constantly spin the killer, right?
Well, that's good and bad for artists and listeners. Artists will be able to release music instantly. Record a song, or two, release them digitally, and boom, instant gratification! Listeners will no longer have to beat the system, never have to wait impatiently again, constantly updating their MP3 players daily with new music from their favorite artists.
Win-win, or not?
Some of the best music is a full album. Ranging from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come. These records work best as a whole, argueably containing great stand-alone tracks though. The shape of music would change, and I would bet the major's would lose more money because they are shelling out less of a product. If the market is flooded already, can you imagine an increase in songs, since the new way to create art is in singles, not in albums. Well, I guess someone like Ryan Adams or Sufjan Stevens would like this idea, but there are exceptions to every rule.
To see music being created one block at a time would be tragic. By producing a full product, artists create something on a full scale to be judged as a whole, instead of incriments. Singles and demos are fine when it comes to selling and creating interest, but the idea of creating songs at a time in an already flooded market seems too much of a bad thing.
Two incredible albums are released today: Portugal. The Man's The Satanic Satanist and Rx Bandits' Mandala. Both these records would not work as separate tracks, and I'm stoked that they came together as a whole.
To Brand New, you may mean something along the lines of what I'm speaking of above, or possibly moving to a completely digital medium, since it would seem the public doesn't care about money put into tangible products of your art.
Whatever the case be me, I hope that your band and Sandström are wrong in the end.
Should I be fighting this thing? Should I continue to ride the line of buying in and sampling on a five finger discount, or should I learn to play by the rules?
Riding the line of a love to consume music and a tight pocketbook, where each handbill better count-- may be it wrong to obtain an art form for free without compensation, distributed by a few bad seeds whose ship is sinking and is draining water into the life boats to save their own hide?
Does the free consumption of music have its potential to weed out those who don't deserve a three song set on stage? Or is the major consumption based around a major industry with bland and garbage as product?
All of these can be combated back and forth with answers for each side.
After reading through the thread on the front page, Jason makes a lot of points of how the labels put back into the artists' pockets to create the music we end up just taking.
And he's right. Scott Heisel explained a similar motive to me a year back. While as consumers, we think we are sticking it to the man, we may just end up hurting our chances of quality music in the end by the artists we love.
But how does this explain artists who are taking their own funding and investing it back into themselves to do things on their own terms?
Portugal did it. Thrice are thinking of doing it after their contract is up with Vagrant. I would like to think other artists are poised to do this as well.
Art is hard to bargain, but most of us don't know the amount of dollars that go into making that little jewel case that sits in cellophane at the record store.
Simply asking Google, it seems studio time is based by the hour (duh), which means anywhere from $50, upwards of $200 to $300 for your bigger studios.
Then a song has to be mastered. Again, to Google's knowledge, that could mean around $100 per song, if not more!
For your bigger acts, I wouldn't even know how much would go into having a producer.
Needless to say, that's a hefty fee that is usually fronted by the label, both major and independent.
But since there is a move from the physical sale to a digital sale with deals from Amazon MP3 and iTunes, are artists and labels making back those cost?
There's a lot of discussion that is hazy because of a shift in both at-home-production versus the old studio standard or the fact that bands can now have their own imprints for copyright purposes and distribute through Web and online retail, which is still a growing market (unsure if it is dominant over an actual store).
Who knows what Jesse Lacey and his band has made, or been making off their releases. But they have had consistent sold out tours and that certainly makes sure of merch sales, something, if void of a shitty 360 deal, are the best way to make money as artists.
Me, I'll still out weigh my handbill to see a band and buy a shirt or physical copy at a show if it cost them a preview of their album via a friend's iPod or the Internet.
The model is drastically changing, and it'll always be interesting to see where it ends up.
I promise this though...if I start making salary, I'll do my part to help those who truly deserve it.