Hear! Listen! Know! Rose Elinor Dougall @rosedougall

I’ve decided to start a new feature highlighting artists that you may or may not know. If you do know, I applaud thee and you’re probably a friend of mine. If you don’t know, try, and then be my friend anyway.

For the first entry, I’m picking an artist that I’ve ran my mouth constantly about, but whose music is still moving me after hundreds of hours.

Describing Rose Elinor Dougall‘s music is easy, describing what it makes you feel is another thing entirely. I discovered Rose before I had heard any of her previous work with her old band, The Pipettes. I had heard of this band, but I had never given them a proper go until I heard this lady’s solo work which came upon the UK music scene wide in early-mid 2010. I found her by chance, when her debut record was mentioned on an internet forum and the description (pretty English girl pop) sounded tantalizing. Immediately, I was hooked on her voice and the only way I have come to describe it is a “female Morrissey”.  Her southern English lilt and knack for coming up with the words to paint a picture in the listener’s mind is engrossing. Combined with her vocal prowess, it’s a recipe for musical sustenance that should last a very long time.

When I discover an act that I enjoy, I immediately start digging for more. I want to know how that artist came to where they are now, when they’re coming to my town, and what’s next. All three of these questions can be answered in respect to Rose Elinor Dougall, at least in regards to me.

Where: Rose is 24 years old and a quintessentially modern English girl. Born in London, raised in Brighton, Rose comes from a musical background. Her father and brother are both accomplished in their own rights, and this backbone is evident the moment you come into contact with her work. Unlike a lot of pop stars that are pushed down your throat, this is a young lady with taste and chops.

Whilst doing my digging on initial discovery, the first thing that jumped out was that she was a member of The Pipettes. Back around 2006, they were hyped up the wazoo, by both friends and UK music press. For some reason which boggles my mind, I didn’t give them a pass despite them wholly embracing big sounding 60’s era pop with 3 very talented and beautiful females at the forefront. Mental? Yea, I am a bit, thanks.

This is the first Pipettes song that jumped out at me which is soaring ballad with all 3 of the girls putting their best foot forward and Rose carrying the opening verse. According to my Last.FM, I have definitely been enjoying this song over the last 12 months. The Pipettes (who are still together with a different lineup), released one album, a couple of EPs, and a variety of one-offs, which are all excellent listening. Notably, The Pipettes appear on a track on Brakes‘ debut album. I mentioned this while speaking with Eamon Hamilton (lead singer/guitarist of Brakes)  prior to his opening slot for British Sea Power a few months ago and how fond I was of the track. In 2008, Rose (as Rosay Pipette) left the group to pursue her own interests.

Finally, Rose begun to work on her own material. Her debut 7″, Another Version of Pop Song was released in December 2008, with more singles released in 2009. The debut record, Without Why, was released in August 2010 following appearances at SXSW and has received acclaim from various outlets.  Since the release of her album, Rose has done some touring solo, as well as joining up with Mark Ronson with his band, Mark Ronson & The Business Int’l and has toured extensively. She is prominently featured on the LP Record Collection.

The male singer in this track is Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet.

According to various outlets including herself, she is currently working on her follow-up LP with her band The Distractions, which will hopefully see light this year. I personally am very hopeful for a visit to New York City, as she is easily one of the top 3 on my list right now that I’d love to see headlining.

Some of her non-released yet material has been played live, if these tracks are any indication, we’re in for a blinder.

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Gig review: Arctic Monkeys – Rumsey Playfield, NYC, 5/24/2011

For the first outdoor gig of the year, I felt there was no act better to fit this event than a personal favorite of mine, Sheffield UK’s own, Arctic Monkeys. The band is a four piece indie rock outfit led by Alex Turner, who in my opinion is one of the best songwriters going today. Combining wit and a heart-on-your-sleeve mentality, Turner’s lyrics are very vivid and intelligent without being pretentious.

I was very excited to hear that the Arctic Monkeys were going to be playing NYC so soon in support of their soon-to-be-released fourth record, entitled “Suck It And See“. I had never attended a show at Rumsey Playfield, and I’m not the biggest fan of outdoor gigs, but I love this band, so it’d take a lot for me to turn them down regardless of venue. Rumsey Playfield is a cordoned off section of the park to accommodate paid shows. I was very surprised at its layout, as upon arrival the line was so long I was afraid I might have been stuck in the suburbs trying to enjoy the show, but that was not the case. With a capacity of about 8000-10000, Rumsey Playfield wasn’t bad at all.

One thing about this show that stands out is how early it began. It was pretty militaristic in terms of its timing and the sun was still out when the headliner took the stage. I imagine this is due to curfew laws, but compared to most of the gigs I catch in this city, it’s rather unique to be on my way home by 10:30pm.

Arctic Monkeys - photo courtesy of Themis

The band came out to raucous applause and launched into their opening number, a song off of the forthcoming album entitled “Library Pictures“. This track can be best be described as a direct cousin of a track on its predecessor, “Humbug” called “Dangerous Animals“, with a major difference being that “Pictures” lacks a spelling lesson. It was a very strong rock opening and while the majority of the crowd were unfamiliar with it, it did not go down without fanfare.

From there on, the band played a healthy mix of tracks from throughout their already stellar catalog which is definitely aided by the excellent “Suck It And See” which I was happy to hear before seeing the show and knew that the new material would come off well. The set was very brisk and a lot of the crowd nearest to us knew every single lyric (asides from the newest material), which is a good thing. Highlights of the set for me included “Teddy Picker” and “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor“, both off the debut album, as well as “Potion Approaching” off of Humbug.

There wasn’t much banter from Turner and Co., but the band’s chops cannot be understated. This is a band that knows it’s fanbase very well and they catered to us on this night. For the most part, the set was very uptempo with very few ballads aside from the now ubiquitous “Cornerstone” and what I think can be termed a ballad off of the new album, main set closer “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”.

The show was over in an instant it seemed following a short three song encore which included a blistering rendition of “When The Sun Goes Down“. All-in-all a terrific set that was over much too soon, and a fitting way to kick off the Summerstage series.

Arctic Monkeys – 8/10

Gig review: Anna Calvi, Cuckoo Chaos, & She Keeps Bees – Live at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC, 5/25/2011

Once again, I hopped on the J train to the Bowery stop to the wonderful Bowery Ballroom. This venue is very quickly becoming one of my absolute favorites in the entire world, and yet again, I was treated to a great show that introduced me to a wonderful act I had never heard before and solidified an opinion that was already high for the headliner.

Jessica Larrabee of She Keeps Bees

Up first was Brooklyn’s “She Keeps Bees“, a duo consisting of Jessica Larrabee on guitar and vocals and Andy LaPlant on the skins. The best way to describe “She Keeps Bees” is take The White Stripes, swap Meg and Jack’s instruments, and replace the vocals with a soulful and bluesy female reminiscent of Cat Power. I was incredibly impressed with these two and I wanted them to keep going once their set finished. Most impressive was Larrabee’s stage presence. She playfully bantered with the audience and kept spirits light, but when she got going on the guitar and vocals, she had everyone’s attention. I especially loved her ability to captivate with simplicity, especially during some of the numbers where she was singing with only the drums as the backing instrument. Fantastic vocals, above average guitar-work, and a solid backbone really filled their sound out. I didn’t even notice until now that they didn’t have a bass player. None was necessary. An excellent introduction to a band I am diving headfirst into immediately. It didn’t hurt at all that Jessica is a beautiful girl and her lighthearted banter went a long way in my eyes. Luckily, they have two full length LPs and a couple of EPs/singles out there to keep me occupied till I definitely catch them again.

Cuckoo Chaos

Second on the bill was San Diego’s Cuckoo Chaos, a five-piece indie rock act. Like the first act of the night, this band was a complete unknown to me going in. After the fantastic first act, I was hoping for more of the same when it was time for these guys to play. While their stage was being set up, I was impressed by the fact there were 4 microphones front and center. Immediately, I was thinking there would be some great harmonies. They’re quite hard to pigeonhole looking back, which is a good thing. Sadly, I can’t say that I was overly impressed with their set. They were very capable musicians and carried themselves well on stage, the music just didn’t click with me.  I also felt that the 4 vocalists was a bit overkill as none of them seemed to really have a fronting voice and the harmonies were few and far between. Big kudos to themtelling us that they drove to New York City from San Diego directly in 48 hours. That is a helluva haul considering the last time I drove cross country, it took almost 6 days. Then again, I only drove 8 hours per day. Capable band and undoubtedly will gain some fans after tonight, but not really in my wheelhouse.

Finally, the headlining act was ready to take the stage.  Anna Calvi is a singer/songwriter/guitaress extraordinaire who lives in London, but has a multi-cultural background and upbringing.  She’s apparently a Brian Eno protege, so that should tell you that she is very highly regarded. I first became aware of Anna on a whim about 6 months ago while browsing Youtube. Shortly thereafter, her debut self-titled album was released which I immediately grabbed and have been hooked ever since. I was first due to see Anna back in March on the same night as I saw The Love Language and Telekinesis at the Mercury Lounge, but unfortunately Anna had to cancel. I was greatly disappointed when that occurred because of my love for that venue, but was very happy to hear that she was returning when this show was announced shortly thereafter. The best way to describe Anna’s music is “romantic rock”.  Take a bit of Edith Piaf, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, and some blues, put it in a blender and you may come close. Backing Anna on this night was Mally Harpaz on the harmonium and various percussion instruments, and Daniel Malden-Wood on the drums.

Anna Calvi

When Anna first took the stage, I was struck by how small she seemed. What was not there in stature, was absolutely forgotten about when she started to play the strains of “Rider to the Sea”, which is also the opening track on her record. A simple guitar instrumental that highlighted her downright scintillating ability on the guitar that, just like the record, led into No More Words, which has  quickly become a favorite. She led a brisk and short set that saw her play the majority of the debut, an Elvis Presley cover (Surrender), an Edith Piaf cover (Jezebel), and finally closing with the album’s closer “Love Wont Be Leaving”, which gave us an absolutely terrific Anna guitar solo. I was also pleased that we received a blistering rendition of her album track, “Desire“, which is arguably my favorite tune of hers up to this point.

I was pretty much blown away by Anna Calvi and her bandmates this evening. Again, the set was over too soon, but I don’t think there’s a shadow of a doubt that this is someone to take notice of. Definitely check her record out or go see her perform if you have the opportunity. This is one of those gigs that I am thankful that I was able to attend.

Here’s a video capture of the aforementioned “Love Wont Be Leaving” that I recorded.

Anna Calvi – 10/10

Cuckoo Chaos – 6/10

She Keeps Bees – 9/10

I have more pics via the buttons on the left if interested.

Gig review: Fleet Foxes – United Palace Theater, NYC May 18, 2011

New York City’s United Palace Theater was the site of the first night of Fleet Foxes‘ two-night NYC stand in support of their second record, “Helplessness Blues“. This was my second time seeing Fleet Foxes and my second time making the trip way up to 175th street to this venerable old place. For those that have never been, United Palace Theater is a former movie theater built in 1930. It is now mainly used as a church and a concert venue. It’s easily one of the most uniquely beautiful theaters I’ve ever seen and the acoustics are great.

The one negative to this show that I feel has to be mentioned at the onset is the fact it was a seated gig. I tried and tried upon the end of the concert to remember the last seated gig I attended and it just wasn’t happening. I realize now why seated rock concerts are so few and far between.

Fleet Foxes - photo credited below and linked here.

Fleet Foxes are one of my favorite bands currently, so I jumped at the chance once word of this concert was announced. Frontman Robin Pecknold is, in my opinion, one of the best vocalists in all of music right now and combined with the vocal harmonies of bassist Christian Wargo and drummer Joshua Tillman, this is a band that takes the classic and makes it current, taking it to a whole new level. Joining them on this tour is multi-instrumentalist, Morgan Henderson, who could be seen on this night playing everything from a stand-up bass, flute, saxophone, and just about anything else you could think of.

The band took the stage to the lovely strains of “The Cascades“, an instrumental cut off of their current record and performed a variety of tracks off of all of their recordings aside from the debut EP. I felt there were was some over-emphasis on the bass in the mix at the opening of the set, but this was quickly rectified by Tillman who called on the sound engineer to fix his fail. By the time “Mykonos” off of the Sun Giant EP was being played, the sound was crisp and on-point for the rest of the night.

One of the highlights of the show for me was Pecknold himself, who had no problem bantering with the crowd as catcalls could be heard throughout the theater. Unassuming and very charming, Pecknold regularly would answer catcalls and almost like Conan O’Brien, gave way to self-deprecation often. The crowd was for the most part subdued, due in no part to the fact this was a seated gig. Aside from the occasional request yeller (annoying guy who kept yelling for Oliver James, you suck and the band thought so too!) the crowd was mainly limited to hearty cheers at the end of songs and occasional retorts to the banter. All in all proper and not unwelcoming, but I felt that the energy that a crowd who appreciates an act so much can give of was lessened by the fact we were all seated.

The show was over much too soon and while I felt that the band was superb throughout their set, there seemed to be that one piece of magic missing for me. Everything about the gig was good performance wise and song-selection wise, but at the end of the night I felt that this show was missing something. On the other hand, appreciation for the material on the newest record, which I have already learned to love,  has grown by leaps and bounds, so in that respect the mission was more than accomplished. I had chills during “Grown Ocean” and “The Shrine/An Argument” especially.

I am looking forward to tonight’s performance and hoping that missing piece can be found.

Fleet Foxes played:  The Cascades – Grown Ocean – Drops In The River – Battery Kinzie – Bedouin Dress – Sim Sala Bim – Mykonos – Your Protector – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song – White Winter Hymnal – Ragged Wood – Lorelai – Montezuma –  He Doesn’t Know Why – The Shrine / An Argument – Blue Spotted Tail – Blue Ridge Mountains – Oliver James – Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes: 8/10

I took a few of my own photos, but unfortunately, my camera is not wanting to work right now. The photo above was taken by Cory over at his Tumblr site, which is here.

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