Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pet Lions-Houses

If you’ve ever seen Pet Lions live, you’ll know that girls throw bras on stage at their shows not once, but twice throughout sets. Granted, this happened recently at their Lincoln Hall LP release show, and the crowd was all but sold out; people’s emotions were perhaps running on pure sexual adrenaline.

Release Night: "To the Coast" @ Lincoln Hall

Anywho, Pet Lions recently released its first full length album, Houses, last month to a nearly sold out crowd in Chicago, IL--the lads’ hometown (or, well, base camp, if you know what I mean). Anyone familiar with Pet Lions has been anxiously awaiting an album since their poppy gem of an EP, Soft Right, was released independently several years ago.

The new album shows undeniable maturity and deliberate growth on Pet Lions’ part. No worries though: there are certain remnants of those catchy choruses, and the concisely infectious melodies we remember from “Girls of Athens” and “Roman History.”

Houses is darker, more musically sound, and at moments--hardly sounds like the same band. The opening track, “The English Room”--a title I still can’t figure out-- is easily one of my favorites, with the lyrics and melody following the guitar riff almost exactly-something I’ve always found to be challenging and intriguing at the same time. Enter pounding percussion, haunting harmonies, and hard-to-forget chorus, and you’ve got a clutch opening track: keeping the best parts of their first EP, and adding elements and layers of depth to the songs.

The album was recorded in a short period of time with Neil Strauch, who has also worked with everyone from Margot & The Nuclear So & Sos to Iron & Wine. The guys were clearly working with well-crafted songs and a talented producer as they’ve managed to create an album that flows seamlessly from song to song whilst still maintaining an intense originality for each individual track.

“When I Grow Old” highlights the punchy pop of Soft Right while showing the group’s ease into the licensing world: Not only can you sing along with every bit of this song, but you can also imagine how it fits easily into the scene of a popular television show (as it already has, on the CW’s Vampire Diaries): These tracks cling to a sort of subtle infection that differs from the first EP---where you didn’t even realize you had the melody in your head, but it’s been lingering there for weeks.

The songwriting on Houses is intricate and detailed, with lyrics reflecting the wanderlust and energy of the invincible twenty-something. Some of the songs have sneaky anthem-esque choruses (“Slow Wave,”) with others familiar stories about bar fights and big city livin’--split into the epic 2-part song (“ Theives “); Others sound like a mix among the I Dream of Jeanie theme song,trippy acid-rock guitar riffs, and a pseudo-drunk The Cure chorus (“Sleeping”).

No matter what way you look at it, there’s a musical diversity on this album that works: you can get your 80s synth, your bubble gum infectious catchy pop dream chorus, your slurry-lyric droning harmonies, your sharp, punching guitar riffs, and the pounding percussion and bass lines that make it hard to sit still. (Which is probably why girls are always throwing bras on stage). Like any album, some songs are better than others (with my preference leaning towards the beginning of the record), and there’s certainly room for growth. Fans of the the Soft Right EP may take a bit to come around to Houses, but I think after several listens, people will like what they’re getting. I imagine Pet Lions will land somewhere safely in between this release and their last, finding a middle ground that packs in everything they do well.

Stream the full album here
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Holcombe Waller w/ Daniel Martin Moore @ The End

If you haven't heard of Holcombe Waller yet, now's your chance. Get a ticket and head over to The End on Elliston tomorrow and check this guy out.

Waller has a soothing, more versatile voice than most singer songwriters, and he packs more emotion into three lines than most artists can in 3 minutes. His videos and songs have an eccentricity to them to be expected from almost any musician, but there's something particularly compelling about his vocals and his sincere, honest lyrics. His full length, Into The Dark Unknown was released last week via Napoleon records, and he is headed around the U.S. with Haley Bonar as I type.

He's garnering some pretty impressive press, and you can check out what the New York Times has to say about him here and what NPR has to say about him here

If you're in the Nashville area, swing by Elliston place and trapse on into The Enda and catch this chamber folk all-star in action tonight @ 9.
Monday, June 27, 2011

The Middle East: I Want That You Are Always Happy

I first heard The Middle East about a year ago, when I began to preview some of their tunes before Bonnaroo. I managed to catch their sticky set and was impressed with their calm, melodic, acoustic-based tunes amidst the chaos of the heat and sweat.

Now, a year later, The group is dropping its debut LP in the U.S. on July 12. I Want That You Are Always Happy--a title that I personally loved before listening to any of the music. The group is large: seven people scattered across the stage and the depth of sound to show for it.

The album has a versatility to it that you don’t always anticipate from a group early on: the first two tracks have a haunting ambient sound about them, and I imagine listening to them in a dark room on a dreary day while I ponder what it feels like to die. The songs ebb and flow and stretch into dissonant crackles behind eerie, yet beautiful pieces of broken piano chords; it’s like Radiohead’s “Videotape” got drunk and slurred its speech with The Low Anthem’s “Charlie Darwin” and then cried a little bit.

“As I Go To See Janey” moves into a folkier realm with the lead singer’s voice gliding with ease over an array of hard-to-understand lyrics that place me back again to Radiohead’s In Rainbows and and then the album begins to show off its versatility through the next several tracks. The pace picks up (as does the singer’s falsetto) and the harmonies become more prominent.

Right in the middle of the album is where they really win me over: “Land of the Bloody Unknown” highlights what the group does best: They weave together subtly pulsing percussion, an array of instrumentation, and a memorable melody sung with flawless harmony--all of which is done in such a way that could impress the snobbiest of our elitists here in Nashville. I think that “Months,” “Hunger Song,” (not to be confused with the immensely popular novel, The Hunger Games), “Dan’s Silverleaf,” and “Ninth Avenue Reverie” are some of the albums' most shining moments--whereas some of the interludes and wordless dissonance seem like unnecessary fillers.

The Middle East - Mt. Morgan / Hunger (Live on KEXP)

 I want to listen to this album while I drink tall cups of coffee and sit on the couch instead of going to work, and I want to play it while I have a long drive to make through the summer night. It's somber yet peaceful and it's haunting without being overly depressing--a hard balance to find for any band.
Friday, June 24, 2011

Agnes Obel-Elliott Smith Cover

I'm not usually one to listen to or post about solo female artists. I find it tough to embrace them as solo artists because, frankly, they all sound so similar. However, I was recently introduced to a gal named Agnes Obel who does a haunting version of Elliott Smith's "Between The Bars." Although, I suppose you can't very well describe any Elliott Smith song or cover without the words haunting or overwhelmingly depressing.

The reason I like this cover? It's simple, and Obel sounds, maybe, sadder than Smith did on the original. Her voice is crisp and strong, and it slides through the song with ease- dark and moving, just like the song itself.

Obel is a Danish singer/songwriter and recently had a TIMES MAGAZINE (!!) profile done on her. Check it out here

And, more importantly, listen to the cover of "Between The Bars" here.
Friday, June 10, 2011

My Morning Jacket to Play Tuscaloosa Benefit Show

Having several friends who went to Alabama, and, well, having a heart---I find this pretty cool. Show is August 19th, and tickets go on sale June 17th.

Other participants include Neko Case and Phosphorescent. (Might I add--Neko Case's attention to philanthropic events has really intrigued me lately--I'm quickly becoming a fan)

Statements from each artist:

Statement from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James:

"My Morning Jacket is honored to be given an opportunity to do our part in
helping the folks of Tuscaloosa cope with this tragedy and for us, it is a
reminder of just how close we all are as people and how important it is
for us to come together in times of trouble. Life is a crazy journey and
you never know what the next day may bring. We all need each other to
help make it thru.'

Statement from Neko Case:

"When I saw footage of the tornado destruction my heart broke. But I'm also SO inspired by all the coverage of people helping each other though the tragedy, be it selfless acts of bravery or just sending what little they can. I want to help too. Humans are amazing creatures when we stick together! I love us! "

Statement from Phosphorescent:

Phosphorescent was on tour when the news reached me about the Alabama tornados. Alabama is my home state and we were in San Francisco and it was two full days of worry before I could get through on the phone lines and reach my family. I am very lucky to have found out that they were all ok and it is devastating to think of all the people who weren't as lucky. Since then I have been racking my brain to find a way to help or to set up a benefit or figure out anything we could do. It means the world to me that the My Morning Jacket boys were thinking along the same lines and that they reached out to Phosphorescent and that we can get down there to Tuscaloosa and lend a hand. Alabama, this one's for you.Love, Phos
Monday, June 6, 2011

Sondre Lerche-June 10 @ 12th and Porter

Hello Nashville,

Norweigan/Brooklyn's hottest blonde-ish-crooner is heading our way this coming Friday. 12th and Porter, Now I spent one of my recent posts doing a bit of hating on Brooklyn's genreless genre, but Sondre Lerche falls through the cracks of the hipstamatic photos of Williamsburg and the tank tops in Urban Outfitters' windows. In a good way.

I first heard of Lerche several years ago through a friend, and his EP, Two Way Monologue, has been resting somewhat solemnly in my Itunes for quite some time. His newest self-titled album drops tomorrow and he's in the midst of a tour in support of it. When I see pictures of Lerche, I immediately melt at the sight of a model-esque more sandy-haired Conor Oberst.

But, there are few self deprecating, soul-gashing, melodies on this album. I was pleased to hear a series of simple and raw acoustic-based songs that blend from quiet and calm to upbeat and cathartic. The new single, Private Caller, is charming and sing-songy, with a finale that rattles and juxtaposes with the mellow serenity of the track that follows it, Red Tracks.

One aspect of Lerche's latest that I truly enjoy is his ability to turn everyday questions and conversation into lyrics and sweep the melody into your brain with ease. He somehow manages to turn the line, "I saw you on the roof tonight," into an infectious chorus with unforgettable prowess. The album depends on te folk-y acoustics as its lifeline, and then builds upon it step by step.

The songs can blend together almost too a over saturated degree, making it difficult to pinpoint songs you want to hear again and making certain lines and melodies less memorable than they might actually be. Still, for fans of Teitur, Owen, and other lustworthy singer songwriters, this album will certainly be on repeat.

Private Caller:

Private Caller (solo) from Sondre Lerche on Vimeo.

Tour Dates:

Venue City Date Notes Tickets
9:30 Club Washington, DC 06/07/11
Cats Cradle Carrboro, NC 06/09/11
12th & Porter Nashville , TN 06/10/11
The Variety Atlanta, GA 06/11/11
WorkPlay Theatre Birmingham, AL 06/12/11
Southgate House Newport, KY 06/14/11
The Old Rock House St. Louis, MO 06/15/11
Fine Line Music Cafe Minneapolis, MN 06/17/11
Schubas Tavern Chicago , IL 06/18/11
Lincoln Hall Chicago, IL 06/19/11
Larimer Lounge Denver, CO 06/21/11
Urban Lounge Salt Lake City, UT 06/22/11
Biltmore Cabaret Vancouver, BC 06/24/11
The Croc Seattle, WA 06/25/11
Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR 06/26/11
Great American Music Hall San Francisco, CA 06/28/11
El Rey Los Angeles, CA 06/29/11
Belly Up San Diego, CA 06/30/11
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is Tropical: The Greeks

I have no idea what I think about this, but it's gone totally viral, and for obvious reason. It's something between shocking, absurd, laughable, disconcerting, and intriguing.

It's directed by Megaforce and it's bizzaro.


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