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May 29, 2009

Girl Talk, Violens - Hiro Ballroom 05.28.09

Thanks to BrooklynVegan's tip, I entered in a photo contest and won a camera and a pair of tickets to a private Girl Talk show at Hiro Ballroom. The 2nd prize winning photo can be found here, and you can see that it's a pretty amateur fan shot. Nonetheless, it won something and I happily danced to Girl Talk for the fourth time in two years. A significantly smaller and older crowd (21+ only) made the experience much more enjoyable, although I was a little disappointed to see so many people not dancing as if they didn't know what to do at a Girl Talk concert. Girl Talk shows are always a good time to let loose and jump around to songs that you may remember from Jock Jams (Volume 1).

By now, you should know that Girl Talk shows are crazy, complete with inflatable balls, bubble machines, and a DJ who will not stop moving around. I wouldn’t say that I’m the most dance-happy person, but I will get down to Girl Talk because it really is a shame not to have a good time. Although the grand prize winners were supposed to dance onstage for one song, the crowd rushed the stage during the first song in true GT-show fashion. This time I didn’t get crushed by eager dancers, but my friend J. and I opted for more breathing space and left the stage after a few songs. I pretty much lose it every time Gregg samples anything Daft Punk (especially “Aerodynamic”), but I wish he would bring back the Grizzly Bear “Knife” sample. I’m still holding onto my memory of Grizzly Bear joining Gillis onstage at Pitchfork Music Festival ’07.

Girl Talk shows have always been a bonding experience for my friends and me. I listen to music that they’ve never heard of, and I flabbergast them by barely knowing any Top 100. These differences aside, my friends and I know how to have a good time and we have Gregg Gillis to thank for providing a happy medium. Girl Talk: Bringing weird indie kids and mainstreamers together since 2006’s epic Night Ripper.

Violens, who has also been given love on Made a Blog, opened for Girl Talk. Their performance of “Already Over” was divine, and I can’t wait for their forthcoming album.

Thanks to Spin and Canon for sponsoring the event and Absolut for the complimentary open bar.


Onstage view of Gregg Gillis

Already Over - Violens


In Step - Girl Talk

Purchase Feed the Animals here.


May 26, 2009

"Ambivalence Avenue" - Bibio

via Warp Records

Back in December and January, Here We Go Magic's "Tunnelvision" was my in-transit anthem. The song's upbeat, repetitious melodies kept me moving very quickly from door to door, a motivation that I desperately needed back then. Even listening to it now brings back memories of the snow, cold wind, and busy Manhattan streets. Now that the weather has warmed up and leisurely strolls have become a new habit of mine, I find myself playing "Ambivalence Avenue" to accompany me on explorations in my new neighborhood.

While I had downloaded experimental electronic artist Bibio's new album sampler on RCRD LBL, I didn't listen to any full songs until "Ambivalence Avenue" was featured on Pitchfork's Forkcast. Founded on layers of acoustic guitar loops, "Ambivalence Avenue" is an infectious tune that sounds so natural that it hardly suggests the complicated recording process, as outlined in Bibio's bio via RCRD LBL. Combined with the warm lo-fi sound, the lethargic rhythm of the song (I believe it's in 3/4 time) paints a picture of a lazy summer Sunday, complete with deliberately slow walks that have no real destination in mind.

Judging by the rest of the sampler, I'm excited to hear the rest of the album. I was surprised by the wide range of genres that Bibio dabbles in for the forthcoming Ambivalence Avenue, including funk and hip-hop, which I didn't expect after hearing this song. Ambivalence Avenue will be officially released on June 22nd, but you can pre-order it on vinyl and CD here.

Ambivalence Avenue - Bibio



May 20, 2009

"Power Osci" - Shuta Hasunuma

via Western Vinyl

Yesterday, I received a wonderful surprise in my inbox from Brian over at Western Vinyl, home to past obsession Here We Go Magic and J. Tillman, the Fleet Foxes drummer. Shuta Hasunuma is a glitch pop artist from Tokyo who is fearlessly making some of the most engaging electronic music that I've heard in a long time. Combining traditional instruments with electronic layers, Hasunuma gives a modern context to his beautifully organic soundscapes.

"Power Osci" from the forthcoming Pop Ooga is definitely the pop song of the album, and it has been playing on my headphones and speakers all day. The song begins with a complex plucked guitar loop, joined by a simple synth keyboard melody. When Hasunama's voice enters the web of sounds, an immediate warmth soothes the listener. His wispy, R&B-tinged voice reminds me of the male J-pop artists I listened to nearly a decade ago. Perfectly complementing the intricate instrumentation, the vocal melodies are straightforward and delightfully catchy. I have no idea what Shuta could be singing, but I must admit that I have attempted to "sing" along. Needless to say, I should stick to just humming for now.

Pop Ooga will be released on vinyl on June 9, but it seems like it's available on iTunes now. Fingers crossed for some future U.S. dates.

Power Osci - Shuta Hasunuma

The Play - Shuta Hasunuma

Shuta Hasunuma


May 19, 2009

"Early Warnings" - Foreign Born

via Dim Mak

Introduced to me by Ed Droste of the much-loved Grizzly Bear, Foreign Born is a folk rock band hailing from L.A., a music city that I tend to overlook. Foreign Born has been around since 2003, but I only recently started listening to them, starting with their forthcoming album Person to Person. There's something strangely familiar about Foreign Born's sound, probably because I associate certain techniques with specific artists. Listen to the intro to "It Grew on You," and tell me if you hear Radiohead as I do. Whatever their influences may be, Foreign Born uses the elements to mold a new incarnation, one unlike anything else I'm listening to at the moment.

The latest free song off Person to Person is "Early Warnings," a tune that plops down in your head and refuses to move. Starting with a cascading, African-inspired riff played on a hollow body guitar, the song has an instrumental melody that one might expect from a certain Upper West Side Soweto-influenced band. Lead singer Matt Popieluch's vocals are finished with a touch of reverb, which gives it an M. Ward-like quality. There's nothing groundbreaking about "Early Warnings," but it's so delightful that I can't help but leave it on repeat.

Person to Person will be released on June 23rd. Pre-order the album here. Foreign Born will also be supporting Grizzly Bear at a couple of shows before embarking on a nationwide tour with The Veils.

Early Warnings - Foreign Born

Vacationing People - Foreign Born

Foreign Born


May 12, 2009

Akron/Family - Bowery Ballroom 05.06.09

How does one even begin to describe Akron/Family? Aaron Kayce at Jambase hints at a close description by saying that Akron/Family is "fifty bands in one." Indeed, their music seems to be influenced by so many genres that it's impossible to put them in any category. In the simplest words, I would say that Akron/Family's music is by and for true music geeks, the ones who get a kick out of testing their music knowledge. Yea, you know who you are.

After hearing so many people personally recommend seeing Akron/Family live, I was too curious to pass up another opportunity to see them. The band's latest album, Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free, had been released on the previous day, so they organized an all-ages record release show with special guests that included the eccentric Charlyne Yi and William Parker's Southern Satellite, a modern free jazz ensemble. To be honest, I had heard very little of Akron/Family's music prior to the show. Since I'd been told by my friend Lyanne that the live performance quality generally surpasses that of the recorded songs, I decided to go into the show with a blank slate and no real expectations. Turns out this was the best way to go.

At most shows, the bands usually stand around onstage and play songs that roughly resemble their recorded form. Sound familiar? Well, Akron/Family deviate from this traditional format and use their stage performance as an opportunity to showcase their improvisation skills, as well as their cohesiveness as a performing band. Joined onstage by backing brass, woodwinds, and strings (including some members of Parker's ensemble), Akron/Family preceded to blow my mind, especially when they embarked on extended jam sessions. It's really incredible to experience a band who is able to improv so well with each other that I could have mistaken the long interludes for pre-written, rehearsed music. One of my favorite songs of the night was "Everyone is Guilty," a song that seemed to be constantly evolving with each passing second. With funk guitar riffs, rustic American percussion, tribal-like sing/shout lines, classic rock and metal chords, and even Aaron Copland-inspired instrumentals, it was a song that epitomized Akron/Family's unique sound and dynamic style. Of course, the night would not have been complete without a couple audience sing/snap-a-longs and an ending performance among the crowd of fans.

If you're looking for a traditional concert, then an Akron/Family show is the last place you should find yourself. But, if you're interested in experiencing a one-of-a-kind show that emphasizes the improvisational ideas of free jazz, then they cannot be missed. I admit that I am very unfamiliar with Akron/Family's discography, so I can't comment on how the new material stacks up against the old. But, I've posted a song called "River" from Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free. It's one of the more linear and accessible Akron/Family songs, and it's a good place to start.

Thanks to Kyle and Addison for making me see this band. It was one of the most memorable shows I've ever attended.

River - Akron/Family



May 11, 2009

St. Vincent - Virgin Megastore Union Square 05.05.09

Didn't think I was going anywhere, did you? Once again, it's been a bit quiet on the Look at me, I made a blog front. But, after an unfortunate hard drive crash, an apartment move out of Manhattan, and a quiet passing of another birthday, I'm glad to be back with a series of very belated posts that will be up this week.

Amidst the chaos of my life, I managed to sneak in some much-needed music therapy with a brief set by St. Vincent at the Virgin Megastore in Union Store. For inexplicable reasons, I am generally not a big fan of female singers, although there are several female vocalists that I do appreciate. After seeing her live, I've added St. Vincent to this growing list. Originally from Texas, Annie Clark aka St. Vincent is not a newcomer to the music scene with past solo efforts and as a member of Sufjan Stevens' touring band. While she's been highly recommended by my friend David, I didn't give St. Vincent a serious listen until I got my hands on her latest album, Actor.

Actor was a pleasant listen, but the stickiness factor of the album didn't kick in until I saw St. Vincent and her backing band. With the new album awkwardly playing through the store speakers in the background, St. Vincent and her band kicked off the short set with "The Strangers." The "jammier" songs like "Actor Out of Work" and "Marrow" showcased St. Vincent's phenomenal talents, as evidenced by the arranged layers of multiple instruments, as well as her ability to really rock it on the guitar. My current favorite song, "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood," was a more minimalist pop tune, with catchy lyrics and riffs. In combination with the unique instrumentals, the emotion that St. Vincent conveyed with her voice was what made the short performance leave a lasting impression. In general, Annie's sultry voice was so perfectly controlled that it was a little hard to believe your ears. In "The Party," she expressed a subtle vulnerability in her voice to accompany the ambiguous lyrics, suggesting a certain melancholy. Toward the end of the song, every member of the band joined her in acappella choral form, demonstrating that everyone onstage could indeed sing. Does anyone know more about the backing band members?

If you have a chance to see St. Vincent and her band, please do not hesitate to go. They only performed five songs of Actor, but it was enough to convince me to carefully listen to the rest of the album. Actor is currently available for purchase. Tickets to St. Vincent's Webster Hall show on May 20 are still available for purchase.

Actor Out of Work - St. Vincent

Laughing With a Mouth of Blood

St. Vincent


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