2012 – Halfway Favorites

As 2012 hits the halfway mark, I can’t help but think this has been an underwhelming year so far for new music. This by no means doesn’t mean “bad”, I just haven’t been grabbed as strongly as I have been the last two years of this blog’s existence.

That said, there has still been a good number of records I’ve been enjoying, and I felt it a good time to share some of these that you may or may not have heard. This is by no means comprehensive, nor is it in a specific order, but take a listen to some of these if you’ve not had the chance to.

Ren HarvieuThrough The Night – This is a delightful old-school sounding pop record with lush/big arrangements and a girl with a voice that just rips right through you. I was astonished when I first heard this record a few months ago and it’s gotten regular spinnage since that time. If you’ve read this blog at all in the past, you know I’m a sucker for English girl pop, and this is another new discovery that I am quite proud of. Sensually warm vocals and great songs go a long way with me and this girl’s got both.

Listen to Ren’s track “Tonight” here.

 

The SpyralsThe Spyrals – A band from San Francisco that wield a great psychedelic sound in the vein of some of my favorites like The Black Angels. Excellent guitar work, killer vocals, and a classic sound frame 9 tracks of just damn good rock and roll. This is another discovery that has been getting a lot of play out of me and I am eagerly anticipating getting to see these guys in person. I am a bit shocked they’re still under the radar at this point (the record came out in January), but hopefully in due time they’ll start getting a bit more props. This is a record that sounds timeless to me.

Listen to the entire album here.

 

 The Walkmen – Heaven – The Walkmen are one of my favorite bands, so it’s no surprise that I’m really enjoying their newest LP, Heaven. It’s hard to really describe this record if you’re unfamiliar with the band’s music, but it perfectly fits the band’s already excellent catalogue. I am also eagerly anticipating hearing a lot of these tracks live, which is where this band truly excel. From the quaint strains of opener “We Can’t Be Beat”, straight through to the closer, this record stays with you after first listen and demands a return. A fitting follow up to 2010’s wonderful, Lisbon.

 

 

 Rose Elinor DougallThe Distractions EP –  Oh Rose, how I love thee? Let me count the ways.  Just by looking at this page you can tell that I am a big fan of Rose, who is a fantastic singer, and yes, another English girl. This is Rose’s first release since her excellent 2010 debut, Without Why, and although only 3 songs, it delivers. The reasoning given for this release is that her follow up album will be drastically different from this EP’s particular sound, and she “didn’t want the tracks to go to waste.” This is definitely a gift. All three tracks are scintillating and give Rose a perfect platform to blast off from.  I have and could gush about Rose even more.

Listen to the EP in full here.

 

 The Brian Jonestown MassacreAufheben – In recent times, I’ve been a bit wary about a Jonestown release. I’ve felt that Anton Newcombe has made some mistakes in album creation and his vision has been a bit hard to grasp. This is completely erased with this newest record, which may go down as one of the band’s best efforts. It’s quite obvious that Anton’s genius was missing the creativity brought to the group by Matt Hollywood, who returns for this effort. A smashing record from start to finish, this may be the most streamlined and most complete Jonestown effort to date. It’s a varied record that goes to a variety of different places and gives you something new with every listen. Love it.

Listen to “I Wanna Hold Your Other Hand” here.

 

That’s only five, but its a decent start. Some others that I’ve been digging include:

Tennis – Young & Old

Eternal Summers – The Dawn of Eternal Summers

Marissa Nadler – The Sister

Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes

Summer Heart – About A Feeling

Here’s hoping the 2nd half delivers some more good stuff. This isn’t all I’ve dug on so far this year, but these are the ones getting the most out of my ears at this point. With new records from The Love Language and possibly Rose Elinor Dougall releasing her second full-length, I’m anticipating the summer and fall greatly.

Bring It On.

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My favorites of 2011 – Albums/Songs/Gigs!

Another year is almost in the books and its time again for best of lists and xmas lists and all types of lists imaginable. For the last few months, I’ve been writing with other blogs and have neglected my own. I hope to change that (again) in 2012. For now though, here’s my favorites of 2011. Last year’s list is here.

Albums….

1. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain [L Y F Recordings] – Once in a while a band comes around and releases a debut LP that truly stands above anything and everything that year. It’s rare, but when it does it is typically memorable. This year, a debut album did that. Manchester band WU LYF (World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation) do not read on paper like they would be able to pull this off (i.e. growling & sometimes undecipherable vocals), but they do in spades. Go Tell Fire To The Mountain is an album full of exuberance and musical maturity that you do not normally find in a debut. With tracks like “Cave Song” and the epic “We Bros”, WU LYF exceed in presenting their brand of “heavy pop” to the masses.

 2. Wye Oak – Civilian [Merge Records] – Blending genres such as folk and shoegaze is something that has been done numerous times before. Bands like Mazzy Star made a career out of this. Baltimore’s Wye Oak, on their third full length, have added another record that can stand aside classics in either of those genres or completely on its own. With deft melodies, great vocal work, and a commitment to strong songwriting, Wye Oak have created an album that all future recordings they create will be judged against.

3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See [Domino] – On their fourth full length effort, Arctic Monkeys again create a record full of timeless alternative rock hooks and excellent lyricism from “The Songwriter of His Generation”, Alex Turner. Tracks like “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” evoke classics like The Smiths and The Beatles, parading alongside crunchy numbers like “Library Pictures” that evoke some of punk’s better moments. Consistency seems to be the name of the game when discussing Arctic Monkeys. Their debut is a classic in its own right, but they (and Turner) are still seeking their masterpiece.

4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [Sub-Pop] – Robin Pecknold is quickly becoming one of popular music’s most interesting characters. He’s regularly engaged on discussion boards, Twitter, and other avenues on the net and comes across as a very accessible artist. Such is the rarity not only when discussing him as a person in his position, but also when discussing his band’s exquisite sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues. This album is a perfect compliment to the band’s full length self-titled 2009 debut with pastoral imagery, the best harmonies in music today, and an album that only has to be played once to realize its scope and beauty. This is a band that is coming into its own very quickly with a frontman who possesses arguably the best lead vocal today. It’s all on display here. On an aside, this is also the year’s best album artwork!

5. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds [Sour Mash Records] – Noel Gallagher. The Chief. Wonderwall. Knebworth. There are very few artists putting out their debut records these days that match the caliber of pedigree that Noel Gallagher does. While  it’s arguable that the first two Oasis albums could be considered Noel solo albums for writing alone, this is not the case as brother Liam’s starpower on those essential classics (1994’s Definitely Maybe & 1995’s What’s The Story, Morning Glory?) makes it easy to forget who was the scribe behind them and the band would not have achieved 1/4 of what they did without the younger Gallagher.  For the first time, Noel steps into the spotlight as a frontman, on vocals for an entire record. This album is a great success which retains Noel’s ability to turn a simple melody into something special along with bringing different flavors into his dish. While the two best songs in this period of Noel’s career have been relegated to “bonus track” status (“Alone On The Rope” & “A Simple Game of Genius”), the LP is rock solid from start to finish and Noel should be proud to place this alongside his best work with the legendary Oasis.

6. The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low [Merge Records] – Being in a band as a couple seems like it’s hard to handle. With the soap opera-like personal lives of 1970s megaband, Fleetwood Mac springing to mind,  North Carolina’s The Rosebuds, while not coming close to that level of personal strife, managed to create a cohesive and introspective fifth record. Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp both shine on this very personal record with the common themes of love and loss on display. Reminiscent of last year’s #1 album on this blog, this record hits home and allows you to feel like you’re in the room with them. With tracks like “Woods”, and Crisp’s fantastic vocal on “Come Visit Me”, this is another top-to-bottom nugget that will be getting spins for years to come.

7. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi [Domino] – Being a protege of Brian Eno cannot be a bad thing.  Anna Calvi has been getting noticed for the last two years as an up and comer and only this year released her fantastic self-titled debut album. An excellent guitarist and amazing vocalist to boot, Anna’s debut is a romantic and swirling rock record that has the ability to captivate upon first pressing play. Showing off her chops on the opening “Rider to the Sea” to the  lyrical nuances of “The Devil”, Calvi’s talent is in your face and greatly admirable. Immediately conjuring up comparisons to other chanteuses such as P.J. Harvey and St. Vincent is easy and immediate, but Anna’s ax-work sets her apart. This is merely the beginning for her, and the excitement is palpable.

8. North Highlands – Wild One [Self released] – Another indie pop band with a girl up front! However, this is no mere girl. This is Brenda Malvini, the highlight of listening to the music of North Highlands. Combining old school pop stylings along with the new, North Highlands unique musical diversity sets up a scene with one of the best new voices to emerge in Maldini, and you have a recipe for future success. With an assured sense of arrangement and melody fully displayed on tracks like opener, “Bruce”, North Highlands follow up their debut EP with a strong first effort out of the gates.

9. Wooden Shijps – West [Thrill Jockey Records] – Taking their name from a classic ’60s anthem (although spelled differently) may lead you to think that San Francisco’s Wooden Shijps may play a certain “style”.  They certainly do make no mistake, but they wield the weapons of rock very well. A modern day psychedelic band with a shoegaze slant, Wooden Shijps play music that parents wouldn’t let you listen to, straightforward, distorted, dirty rock and roll. These guys have been around the block for a little while and have created their best record to date with this effort that echoes the best of Spacemen 3 and classic rock acts like The 13th Floor Elevators. From the opening snarl of “Black Smoke Rise” to the all out distorted noise of “Rising” to close, this is a record that does it exactly what it sets out to do and leaves you wanting it all over again…and again.

10. Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler [Box of Cedar Records] – Marissa Nadler is an artist you cannot help but to admire. She has an immense talent and works very hard to get her music out there for people to hear. Most striking about Marissa is her vocal, which is reminiscent of Joanna Newsom in respects, but there’s something more to it. A lilt that seems to hover and stay with you long after she’s stopped singing to you her stories of love and despair. On her latest, she delivers on a set of songs that conjure the best of folk, Americana, and dream pop in one swoop. “In Your Lair, Bear” sets the stage for a darkly enlightening ride in the moonlight.

The rest of my list…

11. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake

12. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

13. Charlene Soraia – Moonchild

14. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

15. Asobi Seksu – Flourescence

16. Cults – Cults

17. Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

18. Alex Turner – Submarine EP

19. Night Beats – Night Beats

20. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

21. Tennis – Cape Dory

22. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

23. Snowmine – Laminate Pet Animal

24. Real Estate – Days

25. Yuck – Yuck

26. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

27. The Sand Band – All Through the Night

28. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

29. Fruit Bats – Tripper

30. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

31. Megafaun – Megafaun

32. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

33. The Raveonettes – Raven In The Grave

34. The Edgar Jones Free Peace Project – Stormy Weather

35. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee #2

36. Alexander – Alexander

37. Shapes Have Fangs – Dinner In The Dark

38. The Pierces – You & I

39. Dirty Beaches – Badlands

40. Miles Kane – Colour Of The Trap

Songs…

1. Radiohead – Lotus Flower

2. Wye Oak – We Were Wealth

3. Noel Gallagher – Alone On The Rope

4. WU LYF – We Bros

5. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

6. Asobi Seksu – Little House of Savages (Cover of The Walkmen)

7. Dirty Beaches – Lord Knows Best

8. Alex Turner – Hiding Tonight

9. She Keeps Bees  – Vulture

10. Miles Kane – Rearrange

Gigs…

NYC unless noted otherwise. Top 12 because I wanted to.

1. L.C.D. Soundsystem – Madison Square Garden 4/2

2. The Black Angels – Bowery Ballroom 4/8

3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Beacon Theater 11/15

4. Arctic Monkeys – House of Blues, Atlantic City NJ 10/14

5. Karkwa & The Blue Angel Lounge (separate sets) – Pianos 4/22

6. British Sea Power – Maxwells, Hoboken NJ 3/21

7. Asobi Seksu – Mercury Lounge 2/17

8. Richard Ashcroft – Bowery Ballroom 3/23

9. The Black Angels – Music Hall of Williamsburg 4/9

10. Fleet Foxes – United Palace Theater 5/18

11. Anna Calvi – Bowery Ballroom 5/25

12. Arctic Monkeys – Central Park 5/24

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.

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.

Gig Review: The Black Angels, Suuns, Bowery Ballroom, NYC, 4/8/11

Where do you go when heaven calls you? What do you do? Who do you turn to?” These are just a few questions that are asked by The Black Angels in a cut off of their 2006 debut, “Passover” called “The Sniper At The Gates of Heaven”. Luckily, I have answers. I go to a Black Angels gig. I zone out. And I turn to them.

The Black Angels

The Black Angels seem to enjoy New York City and the people that helped sell out the Bowery Ballroom on this Friday night seemed to give the love right back in spades.

Marking their fifth appearance in this wonderful city in support of their latest, 2010’s “Phosphene Dream“, but the first in a headlining capacity, The Black Angels ,along with opening noise quintet, Suuns, ripped the roof off of the Bowery Ballroom on this Friday night and played sets that transcended their respective genres. The mood in the crowd was jovial and spirits were high for a set that saw a band I  have come to love play almost every song in their catalog that I wanted to  hear as well as chucking a few surprises my way.

Suuns

Leading the charge promptly at 10pm was Montreal’s Suuns (pronounced Soons) who brought their meld of noise, psychedelia, electronic, and pretty much any other genre you can mix into the stew which ended up being a very fulfilling opening set. I came into the night wholly unfamiliar with their catalog bar one video I watched on Youtube after the initial gig announcements. Suuns tore through a set comprised mostly of tracks off of their 2010 debut record entitled “Zeroes QC”. I’m unaware the significance of that title, but I greatly appreciated the band’s fortitude and “into it” attitude. It didn’t hurt that the two girls positioned at my right and left at the front of the stage were also heavily into it and their exuberance brushed off on me very easily. Lead guitarist/vocalist Ben Shemie was officially “havin it” on this night and helped lead the rest of his bandmates tear through a set that was over quickly, but not underappreciated.

At last, it was time for the main event. Austin, TX’s newest heroes and in my opinion, the current flag bearers of the psychedelic scene, The Black Angels. As a fan, I knew what to expect leading into their show. I knew to listen for the strains of The Beach Boys’ seminal classic, “Good Vibrations”, as it is appropriately the lead-in to their opening number off of Phosphene Dream, “Bad Vibrations”. This was one of the most fitting segues in regards to the use of “walk-on” music that I’ve seen in recent years. Once singer Alex Maas hit the stage, it was time to get down to business.

The Black Angels

The Angels ripped through a setlist of around 16 or so  songs and not one of them went down in any way other than spectacularly. Positioned right underneath Alex for most the night, I was able to get a sense of his performance strategy. He throws himself head first into the music and like a new wave Jim Morrison, wraps his silky smooth vocals around a pure psychedelic vision. On the back end, Stephanie Bailey gives me new appreciation for her excellent drumming skills, along with Nate Ryan and Kyle Hunt playing various instruments and complementing lead guitarist Christian Bland‘s absolutely scintillating guitar that shook the entire building while the smell of sweet sickly cannabis smoke wafted all around me. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

The setlist was a great overview of The Black Angels absolute dominance in their current genre. The band played songs ranging their entire catalog, including songs I would consider to be rarities, like “Surf City (Revisited)” and a track  on the Phosphene Dream Deluxe Edition that I have come to love entitled “My Boat Is Sinking“. I love it when bands really mix things up and it helps a neophyte appreciate their depth of catalogue. I am no Angels neophyte, but I can see how one would be able to fall for this band quickly after a set like this.

The Black Angels’ set was over quickly following a short encore that ended with “You In Color”, which was a fitting close to an absolutely perfect way to spend a Friday night. This is a band that has a lot of their shoulders in respects to psychedelic rock right now. They are definitely up to the task and I cannot wait until I see them again. Don’t miss em.

The band also played on Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg over in Brooklyn, which I also attended. I will be writing a review of that for another blog, so feel free to hit me up for a link if you interested once its published.

Big thanks to my friend Themis who attended the gig with me and taped this performance of “My Boat Is Sinking” for posterity.

The Black Angels:  10/10

Suuns: 8/10

There are more pics available on my Flickr, which is accessible via the left pane.

 

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