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March 26, 2009

Micachu & the Shapes - Pianos 03.25.09

via Music Snobbery

It’s true that euphony cannot exist without dissonance, but sometimes noise, even when deliberate and carefully executed, is still just noise. I hadn’t completely bought into Micachu & the Shapes prior to seeing them at Pianos, but glowing reviews from the fathers of music blogging and my favorite person on Twitter convinced me to put aside my skepticism for a night. After last night, I think I’m in the camp of people who think Micachu is mostly hype, as much as I do enjoy some of their songs.

Perhaps I’m missing some glaring point, but I’m fairly confident that I “get” Micachu’s music. No note, yell, crash, or jangle is a mistake or slip; every piece is intentional. Seeing Micachu & the Shapes in person makes this meticulosity even more apparent. They confront chaos and embrace it fully, making for a one of a kind listen. In the end, my thoughts on Micachu come down to my personal preferences for musical styles and ideas. Last night at Pianos, I realized that about 80%+ of the music was rough discordance, which is not what I expected. Maybe because I’m drawn to the more melodic songs of Jewellery like “Golden Phone” and “Vulture,” I thought the set would be more along the lines of those songs. “Golden Phone” is an incredible song that is both fun to listen to and unlike anything I’ve heard before. It’s playful and like a musical riddle, as the song bounces around different degrees of consonance and dissonance. Most of the time, the lines between the two are blurred, which only makes the listener want to hit the back button in order to figure it out. But, when the melodic snippets were removed from Micachu’s music, I was left a little confused. It’s like a joke with no punchline. I needed more melody to balance out the noise. Judging by the faces around the room last night, I don’t think I was the only one who was a little puzzled.

So, I didn’t exactly like Micachu’s final show in NYC. But, don’t let this deter you from listening to Jewellery, since there are definitely some tracks worth checking out. I’m not ready to make abstract listening a regular activity, but kudos to those of you who do. For now, I will stick with my Grizzly Bears.

Jewellery will be officially released on April 7. Pre-order it here.

Golden Phone - Micachu & the Shapes | Alternative Link

Vulture - Micachu & the Shapes | Alternative Link


March 19, 2009

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

via Grizzly Bear Blog

I’ve been really torn about whether or not I should be writing this post so far in advance of Veckatimest’s official release date of May 26. But, now that a high-quality “Cheerleader” is available for legally free download, I feel like I’ve been given the green light. That being said, if you don’t give this album a listen, then you are missing out on one of the best albums of the year. I don’t want to spark a debate on whether Veckatimest is better than Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion (You can head over to the comments on Brooklynvegan or Stereogum for that entertainment), but this new Grizzly Bear album is particularly special to me because it’s made me reevaluate my thoughts on the way humans consume and pay for recorded music. Even if Veckatimest is not enlightening in that way for you, at the very least you will listen to some wonderful tunes.

Recently on Idolator, there was an article about how an initial reaction to music can be similar to the physical effects of love at first sight. I can’t think of a better way to describe my first reaction to Veckatimest than to say that I fell in love with it, as corny as that sounds. Even with the crappy quality of the leaked rip (that spurred a lot of douchebaggery on Twitter), I am confident in saying that I really really really like it. The album opens with “Southern Point,” such an explosive start that I could have repeatedly hit the back button for the next few days. Musically playful with interplay between the acoustic guitar and the other instruments, this song is just fun to listen to. Fun is a word that I don’t normally associate with Grizzly Bear. Beautiful, haunting, and heartbreaking are adjectives I would generally use to describe the band’s music. With the first song, Veckatimest is already changing everything that I thought I knew about the band. And, from there, the album continues to delight the senses, whether it’s with the soft harmonies of “Two Weeks” or Grizzly Bear’s signature hollow body guitar sounds in “While You Wait for the Others” and many other songs. And, thanks to this high-quality download of “Cheerleader,” legally available here, you can actually hear and appreciate the production on the album. If you’re a talented live band like Grizzly Bear, then the goal of production is to make recorded music sound as close to the real thing as possible. But, how do you capture the essence of a band in a recording?? ‘Tis a mystery that the talented Chris Taylor has solved, methinks.

Generally, Veckatimest is much sunnier and more poppy compared to previous Grizzly Bear albums. Compared to Yellow House, an album that I have grown to love, Veckatimest is much more of an immediate like. But, it has areas that take more time to appreciate, which makes for a rewarding listen. Basically, Veckatimest has the crisp first sips of Pepsi but the overall more satisfying drink of Coca-Cola. But, what makes this album and the band so good is their ability to invoke different images and emotions with their music. Maybe I’m alone in saying this, but I listened to Veckatimest with more than just my mind, all unintentionally. There is a certain musical je ne sais quoi to the album that just encourages me to let down my guard and get lost in the music. And, folks, this magical quality is the reason why I love music.

Yes, so you get that Veckatimest is a good album. But how has it changed the way I think about music consumption? Well, I first listened to this album in the same way that you probably did. I downloaded it and listened to it on my computer. While listening to the album, I talked to a couple friends online about the songs. Sound familiar? This is how I consume most new music, and you probably do too, whether you want to admit it or not. In the modern day, listening to and sharing recorded music has become too easy. What we've gained in convenience, we've lost in human interaction. When I was listening to Veckatimest for the first time, I wished that I could have shared that moment with someone in person. For me, a part of my music experience is the sharing of said experience. That's why I started this blog in the first place. But, writing things here is not the same as saying them in real-time. We still pack venues to see bands, so we can't all be lazy hermits. Still, I don't know anyone who still holds listening parties, besides the people who hosted them for the "unheard" Sufjan song. So, I have a proposition. Next time you plan on listening to an album in its entirety, invite some people over. Humanize sharing again. It doesn't even matter if you and the other people have all heard it before. I may even host a listening party in Brooklyn for Veckatimest if there's any interest...

Of course, everything I've said about the album up to here is all a premature evaluation since I haven't had a proper listen yet. I've decided to stop listening to the leaked rip, as much as I can help it, until I get the real thing on vinyl. That's right, I'm paying for music. And, I've decided to start buying vinyls of albums that I consider to be incredible so that I feel like I'm actually getting something of everlasting value when I pay for recorded music. Pre-order information for Veckatimest can be found here. It's worth it.

Post on Grizzly Bear's show at BAM with the Brooklyn Philharmonic here.

Grizzly Bear, see you at Pitchfork. Grizzly Bear play Town Hall on May 28 and May 29.

Cheerleader - Grizzly Bear

Two Weeks (Live @ Boston MFA 08.14.08) - Grizzly Bear | Alternative Link

While You Wait for the Others (Live on Morning Becomes Eclectic) - Grizzly Bear | Alternative Link


March 16, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Bell House 03.13.09

It took me awhile to correctly remember this band's name, so I surprised myself when I jumped on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart wagon last month. I didn't think that TPOBPAH was particularly amazing at first listen, but it turns out that they're more infectious than the This is Why You're Fat meme and way less gag-inducing.

For whatever reason, I really love starting and ending my weekend nights with TPOBPAH. I must be quite a sight, jamming on the street while walking home in the early hours of the morning, but I can't really stop myself. So, it only seemed appropriate that I kick off a weekend with a Pains show at one of my favorite venues, the Bell House. Riding the Pitchfork BNM wave, TPOBPAH packed the room with eager spectators, myself included. I expected a dancing-good time, and Pains absolutely delivered. Seriously, I don't understand how anyone could not have had fun at this show. Sure, the band wasn't always perfect on the technicals, but they make up for the lack of precision with irresistible songs like "The Tenure Itch" and "Everything With You." I really hadn't been giving TPOBPAH enough creative credit. Yes, some of their songs sound a little indistinguishable, but that's sort of the nature of their genre. After listening to the opening acts, I could see that shoegaze/dream pop is not as easy to execute as Pains make it sound. I only wish they had more songs because 30 minutes of TPOBPAH is not enough.

Like I said before, I can imagine listening to TPOBPAH during the middle of the day at an outdoors festival. Looks like we will be doing just that at Pitchfork Music Festival this July. And the July countdown begins...

The Tenure Itch - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart | Alternative Link

Everything With You - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart | Alternative Link

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart


March 15, 2009

"Already Over" - Violens

via Sonic-Exposed

When David asked me if I had heard Violens, I replied with an immediate, "Of course." But, when I searched through my library, I realized that I actually had none of their music. Then, how the hell did I know the name Violens? It slowly dawned on me that I may have seen them perform before. Don't think that my lack of memory implies that they are not worth knowing, because I'm currently very addicted to a couple of Violens songs. One of these songs, "Already Over" is pretty much on permanent repeat because I can't get enough of it. Simple components like a moving bass line, reverby vocals, and light snare drum all come together in the most delightful way in the first verse. Less than a minute in, and I'm already completely won over.

Violens' self-titled EP is currently available for download on iTunes with a physical release on March 17. I tried to see them again last night, but a long door line deterred me. Epic fail.

Thanks to David for the reintroduction.

Already Over - Violens | Alternative Link



March 7, 2009

Handsome Furs - Mercury Lounge 03.06.09

via Modage's Flickr

A remedy for any case of the blues, Handsome Furs' forthcoming Face Control is an album that I've cranked up while walking around the city, especially very late at night. With his wife Alexei Perry, Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade) has created an irresistibly fun dance-rock album. I was pretty bummed about being thirty minutes too late in buying tickets to the sold-out show, but I managed to grab a pair via the miracle that is Mercury Lounge's Twitter. I'm so addicted to Twitter, for all the right reasons.

Sometimes after a long week, all you want to do on a Friday night is grab a few drinks and let your body move to the grooves. After standing through two opening acts, surprisingly good/appropriate (The Hundred in the Hands) and not-so-much (Iran sans Kyp Malone), Handsome Furs finally took the stage to start a much-needed dance party. For whatever reason, I had expected some sort of elaborate stage set-up with lots of gear. Because they really pack the punch on record, I just assumed that they performed with traveling back-up members. Instead, Handsome Furs is truly a duo both on and offstage. It was just Dan with his guitar and Alexei on synth/drum machine, and that was all I needed to hear.

Unsurprisingly, with the release of Face Control in just a few days, Handsome Furs played most of their new record, which four lucky winners of an impromptu trivia challenge received last night. Not only was the music perfect for dancing, the shoe-less Alexei was so energetic and fun to watch. I may have a new idol (Sorry, Karen O). And how does Dan make the guitar look so easy to play? Seriously, he makes it look completely effortless.

Although I've been living in New York for nearly five years now, I can never get over how much the crowd can suck sometimes. While I was dancing and having a good time, not many people within my (limited) range of vision were moving more than just their heads. Tragic, since the Handsome Furs show was one of the most fun ones I've been to in awhile. They definitely deserve a warm reception.

Face Control is officially available on March 10. Pre-order via Sub Pop here. It's great for personal dancing in your underwear...not that I would know.

Talking Hotel Arbat Blues - Handsome Furs | Alternative Link

All We Want, Baby, Is Everything - Handsome Furs | Alternative Link

Handsome Furs


"Spirited" - Laura Gibson

via Hush Records

If you're in New York, then you were lucky enough to awake to a beautiful spring morning today. Unfortunately, the sun is playing a game of hide and seek, but it's still warm enough to abandon your jackets and scarves. I was taking a leisurely stroll to the library earlier today when Laura Gibson's "Spirited" starting playing on my iPod. The gentle vocals, soft drums, and sparse guitar picking of the song seemed to perfectly complement the spring weather preview we're experiencing at the moment. On a day like this, I just want to slow down and appreciate the uncomplicated joys that life offers us. So, the minimalist song of Gibson immediately caught my ear. From Portland, Laura Gibson is a name that I've come across several times in the last month or so, but I had yet to listen to any of her music until this cosmic day. I haven't listened to her latest album Beasts of Seasons, but I hope the rest picks up from where "Spirited" ends.

Showers are in the forecast for tomorrow, so take advantage of this perfect Saturday before the spring forward.

Spirited - Laura Gibson | Alternative Link

Laura Gibson


March 1, 2009

Final Fantasy, Grizzly Bear - BAM 02.28.09

via willshu

Grizzly Bear and Final Fantasy with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Enough said, I had to go to the show that seemed like years in the making. I'd seen both Final Fantasy and Grizzly Bear before, but not with an orchestra! I am not one to pass up on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially when it's related to music.

As I arrived a little late, the first song that I heard was "Horsetail Feathers," a song off Final Fantasy's Plays to Please that was originally recorded with an orchestra (Listen here). To my surprise (and dismay), Final Fantasy aka Owen Pallett was without his usual main instrument. Trading in his violin, he was behind an upright piano and an electric piano for this performance. Maybe because he was accompanied by fifteen violinists, there wasn't really a need for another one. Perhaps I missed him on violin for an earlier song. Can someone fill me in on what happened before "Horsetail Feathers?" Either way, Final Fantasy sounded fantastic with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, as was expected by the nature of his music, and he even previewed some of his new material. Surprise guests Aaron Dessner and Bryan Devendorf of The National also joined Owen onstage on bass and drums, respectively. Bootlegs from the set, including two new songs, are available here via One For The Good Days.

Although listening to Final Fantasy with an orchestra was an incredible experience, I couldn't help but think that I preferred seeing Owen perform with Matt Smith a few weeks earlier at the Kitchen. If you missed out on that, imagine seeing just Owen play the violin but hearing the fullness of a much larger ensemble. It's an illusion, not a trick, that fools your eyes and ears. You can read about that show here. So, if you were somehow not very impressed by Final Fantasy, I strongly suggest that you see one of his solo shows and listen to his entire discography in the meantime. He is a brilliant artist and his music never fails to move me in some way.

While I had a clear idea of what Final Fantasy would sound like with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, I didn't really know what to expect from Grizzly Bear's set. They played a show with the LA Philharmonic last year, but it seems like they played a set separate from the orchestra. With arrangements by film score prodigy Nico Muhly, the show was guaranteed to be good. What an understatement. Nico did a phenomenal job of creating arrangements that enhanced Grizzly Bear's music without reinterpreting it to a point where its integrity was compromised. The guys also had some fun and dug out songs that they didn't normally perform, and Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National made a couple appearances on the banjo and guitar throughout the night. One of the rare live songs, "Central and Remote," was one of my favorites of the night and one of the many songs that were complemented by the orchestra. For "Reprise," Daniel even brought out his banjo, which he said was a first for a Grizzly Bear show.

Whenever the orchestra rested for a song, I liked to watch the members watching the band. While most of the ensemble remained very composed, I caught one cellist tapping his bow to the beat (Hah!). Even when the orchestra did not play with Grizzly Bear, I never felt that there was a lacking depth of sound. Grizzly Bear didn't need an orchestra to put on a fantastic show, but it was a wonderful combination to experience, especially since we heard songs that they will unlikely play again unless they're with an orchestra. One thing to note was that they didn't perform "Knife," otherwise known as the perfect masochistic break-up song. Like Ed said in this interview with Pitchfork, Grizzly Bear seems to be tucking away the much-loved song, and tonight may have been the beginning of that end. But, that's okay with me, especially since they performed "Deep Blue Sea," my wish list song from last April.

Every time I see these guys, in whatever shape or form, I end up liking them even more. At this performance, I spent a lot of time watching the individual members of the band. Chris Bear never fails to entertain me, and I always enjoy watching him play the drums. He seems to play with restraint most of the time, until his hair goes flying around. But, even that is a bit restrained. Daniel Rossen always has the most serene look on his face when he sings, as if he were singing a lullaby. Chris Taylor has an essence that's been described as otherworldly. It's true, I sort of freeze whenever I see him. I once stood next to him during a Chairlift set, and I was distracted the entire time by the fact that I was standing next to Chris Taylor. The man plays so many instruments, he sings, and he has a list of production credits. Is there anything he doesn't do? And, there is Ed, the seemingly shy lead who never smiles at his own jokes. I'm pretty sure that Ed was wearing the same shirt from the last time I saw him. I'm not going to deny that he is my favorite person to follow on Twitter, and I love reading the Grizzly Bear blog. He's just so funny and witty!

The much-anticipated Veckatimest will be released on May 26. Of the set list below, "Ready, Able," "Two Weeks," "Dory," "While You Wait for the Others," and "Foreground" are all from the forthcoming album. I was obsessed with "While You Wait for the Others," but now "Ready, Able" may be my current favorite.

More on Final Fantasy here, Grizzly Bear here. Bootleg of the Grizzly Bear set posted on At Ease and can be found here (via You Ain't No Picasso). Great quality recordings of rare and new songs at One For The Good Days.

Pictures were prohibited and I managed to delete the one picture I had taken

Final Fantasy Setlist (via brooklynvegan comment)
None of You Will Ever See A Penny
Horsetail Feathers
Keep the Dog Quiet
Lewis Takes Action
Arctic Circle
He Poos Clouds
Midnight Directives/End of Time
Tryst with Mephistopheles
The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead (Many Ives Version)

Grizzly Bear Setlist
Central and Remote
Ready, Able
Two Weeks
Little Brother
While You Wait for the Others
Deep Blue Sea
He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)

Grizzly Bear encore Deep Blue Sea at BAM from lofi.tv on Vimeo.
This guy was ballsy. I could clearly see him taping this song, yet none of the BAM vultures were on him to make him stop.

The Butcher - Final Fantasy | Alternative Link

This Lamb Sells Condos - Final Fantasy | Alternative Link

Final Fantasy

Two Weeks (Live @ Boston MFA 08.14.08) - Grizzly Bear | Alternative Link

Easier - Grizzly Bear | Alternative Link

Head over to One For The Good Days for great quality recordings.

Grizzly Bear


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