Monday, November 22, 2010

The Walkmen - Lisbon / Live in Tivoli, Utrecht

My country baffles me at times. Millions of people sit in front of their television set to watch a show about misbehaving drunken youngsters in Greece or they gather round to watch a show about misbehaving old people in Spain, yet only three-quarters of Tivoli was filled to see one of indierock’s finest at work. Hamilton Leithauser could have written a song about either a girl in the show, or a girl watching it. The Walkmen’s latest album is full of observation songs about the young and old, the witless and the thinkers.
“Lisbon” might very well top my personal end-of-the-year poll; a collection of 11 almost perfect songs about people mostly. Musically they haven’t strayed far from the dark sound of “You & I” . It has that same authentic and very unique Walkmen atmosphere, though somewhat more upbeat. My biggest question was how this would be translated to the stage, but that question was answered early on: it would.
In their only separate show in the Netherlands during their tour they played for about an hour. The sound needed some time to get together in the first few songs but once that was settled it all sounded beautifully. Loud at times, yet never distorted. The show the night before in Den Haag was not a great experience according to the band, but this seemed to be.
The Walkmen sound is predominantly made of the guitarsound of Paul Marroon’s Rickenbacker piped through an older amp set hi reverb to create a sound that is both mid -20th century sounding but also very 2010: A thick layer of deep guitarsound that colors the songs. The songs are carried mostly by Matt Berrick’s frantic banging on the drumset. Loose, inventive and sometimes counter-rhythmic he was the one highlight to watch. Some of their songs have almost no variations, but he never missed a beat.
The other is singer Hamilton Leithauser. I was already aware that he gave everything in every song and tonight was nothing else. Dylan-intonations at times but most of all Leithauser-strength. A towering clear voice that was louder than the instruments, but he never became a shouter. That’s a big positive: while the uptempo and highly emotional songs will lead many singers into the realm of gospel or punk shouts, he stays just under the surface to get the highest emotion.
Most of the songs were off the last two albums, with one song from their first and of course their ‘hit’ “The Rat” which is reaching almost mythical status as one of the best songs of this century. The Walkmen deserve a better audience than this. The concert might not have been among the best of the year, but what it did show as that “Lisbon” is a remarkable varied album that doesn’t have one miss among the 11 tracks.


Compare the first notes of Lisbon with You & I and notice that this album might be slightly more upbeat. But don’t be swayed by the music alone. In Hamilton’s world most things are dangly, shaky and ‘a tragedy’, though with some hope. It’s an us vs them album: ‘you’re one of us, or one of them’ he sings in the chorus of opener “Juveniles”. Superficial youth join us in “Angela Surf City”, about a girl who is easy, doesn’t hold a grudge over nothing but seems superficial, not knowing about the world that’s going on around her. Leithauser knows exactly what that world is and explores it in depth; sitting alone and wondering why in the almost Cash-like “Blue as your blood”. Juvineles, Angelas and black-eyed Spanish speakers all fall within the view of Leithauser and they don’t escape his pen.
The sound is indeed somewhat more upbeat than the at times very dark predecessor. Especially the slower songs ask the most from the band and they deliver: the teasingly slow “All My Great Designs”, the beautiful ballad “While I Shovel The Snow” and the great “Woe Is Me”, a happy song with a depressing title.
Age has made the Walkmen more observational, the urgency of “The Rat” has been replaced by a wisdom that hovers high about that of most television viewers. They have learned from their past, and from their mistakes. It’s all relative, it’s all over, anyhow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Explorer 50 for October 1st.

We're changing from 10 days to every 15, means more songs for you good people!

01 04 02 Kings of Leon - Radioactive
02 01 02 I Am Kloot - Proof (2010)
03 02 02 Cee Lo Green - Fuck You
04 06 02 Male Bonding - Weird Feelings
05 05 03 Blood Red Shoes - Heartsink
06 09 02 Surfer Blood - Floating Vibes
07 14 02 Wavves - Post Acid
08 -- 01 Belle & Sebastian - I Want The World To Stop
09 03 05 Darren Hanlon - All These Things
10 -- 01 Arcade Fire - Ready To Start
11 07 04 Ash Grunwald - Walking
12 10 04 Kula Shaker - Peter Pan R.I.P.
13 22 02 Morning Benders - All Day Day Light
14 08 03 Frank Turner - Try This At Home
15 15 03 Tegan & Sara - Northshore
16 24 02 Baths - Lovely Bloodflow
17 -- 01 Tokyo Police Club - Bambi
18 -- 01 Fight Like Apes - Hoo Ha Henry
19 27 02 Anne Soldaat - Born To Perform
20 23 02 Antony & The Johnsons - Thank You For Your Love
21 33 02 Cabins - Catcher In The Rye
22 -- 01 Kele - Everything You Wanted
23 19 03 School of Seven Bells - Windstorm
24 -- 01 Space Siren - This Radar
25 12 03 Interpol - Barricade
26 -- 01 Serj Tankian - Left of Center
27 25 03 Lola Kite - Different Story
28 28 02 Riva Starr feat. Noze - I Was Drunk
29 13 04 The Divine Comedy - I Like
30 -- 01 Strange Death Of Liberal England - Rising Sea
31 32 02 Tim Knol - Sam
32 35 02 The Count & Sinden feat. Mystery Jets - After Dark
33 11 05 Hungry Kids of Hungary - Wristwatch
34 -- 01 Band of Horses - Factory
35 16 04 Radical Face - Welcome Home
36 -- 01 Pond - Annie Orangetree
37 -- 01 Eagle and the Worm - All I know
38 -- 01 Grinderman - Heathen Child
39 -- 01 Little Red - Rock It
40 29 03 eels - Spectacular Girl
41 -- 01 Dan Kelly - Hold On, I'm Coming On
42 -- 01 Cloud Control - There's Nothing In The Water We Can't Fight
43 20 05 The New Pornographers - Crash Years
44 17 04 Devo - Fresh
45 18 04 DeWolff - Don't You Go Up To The Sky
46 -- 01 Beach House - Lover Of Mine
47 30 03 of Montreal - Coquet Coquette
48 -- 01 Washington - Sunday Best
49 -- 01 !!! - AM/FM
50 -- 01 The Brute Chorus - Heaven

Monday, August 30, 2010

Explorer 29 for August 30th

List has expanded to 29. Hopefully I'll make another one on September 10.

01 05 03 Darren Hanlon - All These Things
02 09 03 Hungry Kids of Hungary - Wristwatch
03 -- 01 Interpol - Barricade
04 02 03 The New Pornographers - Crash Years
05 01 04 Vampire Weekend - Holiday
06 12 02 Devo - Fresh
07 -- 01 Blood Red Shoes - Heartsink
08 03 03 Archie Bronson Outfit - Hoola
09 19 02 Ash Grunwald - Walking
10 -- 01 Cee-Lo Green - No One's Gonna Love You
11 27 02 Kula Shaker - Peter Pan R.I.P.
12 25 02 The Divine Comedy - I Like
13 22 02 DeWolff - Don't You Go Up To The Sky
14 07 04 Local Natives - World News
15 -- 01 Frank Turner - Try This At Home
16 04 05 The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
17 08 04 The Drums - Forever And Ever Amen
18 24 02 Radical Face - Welcome Home
19 -- 01 eels - Spectacular Girl
20 17 03 Lola Kite - Different Story
21 -- 01 The Sore Losers - Beyond Repair
22 -- 01 School of Seven Bells - Windstorm
23 -- 01 Tegan & Sara - Northshore
24 17 02 Kylfa - Moon Boogie
25 11 03 She & Him - Thieves
26 -- 01 Magic Numbers - The Pulse
27 10 03 The Lodger - Have A Little Faith In People
28 23 02 The Charlatans - Love Is Ending
29 -- 01 of Montreal - Coquet Coquette

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Explorer 27 for August 10

01 01 03 Vampire Weekend - Holiday
02 05 02 The New Pornographers - Crash Years
03 06 02 Archie Bronson Outfit - Hoola
04 02 04 The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio (live at Directors Cut)
05 15 02 Darren Hanlon - All These Things
06 03 04 Blood Red Shoes - Don't Ask (live DeSmet)
07 04 03 Local Natives - World News
08 08 03 The Drums - Forever And Ever Amen
09 13 02 Hungry Kids of Hungary - Wristwatch
10 12 02 The Lodger - Have A Little Faith In People
11 10 02 She & Him - Thieves
12 -- 01 Devo - Fresh
13 17 02 Kate Nash - Kiss That Girl
14 14 02 The Black Keys - Tighten Up
15 18 01 British India - Avalanche
16 18 02 The Jezabels - Easy To Love
17 -- 01 Kylfa - Moon Boogie
18 09 02 Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Sick Tonight
19 -- 01 Ash Grunwald - Walking
20 16 02 Lola Kite - Different Story
21 11 02 Washington - Rich Kids
22 -- 01 DeWolff - Don't You Go Up To The Sky
23 -- 01 The Charlatans - Love Is Ending
24 -- 01 Radical Face - Welcome Home
25 -- 01 The Divine Comedy - I Like
26 -- 01 Eliza Doolittle - Pack Up
27 -- 01 Kula Shaker - Peter Pan R.I.P.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Explorer 23 for July 20

We're back! After a summer of World Cup, Tour De France jobhunting and more things like that there's finally a new Top 23. As you can imagine a lot of new songs and the ones that remained were all released in the last two months (May and June).
Australians take note!

01 03 02 Vampire Weekend - Holiday
02 01 03 The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
03 02 03 Blood Red Shoes - Don't Ask
04 16 02 Local Natives - World News
05 -- 01 The New Pornographers - Crash Years
06 -- 01 Archie Bronson Outfit - Hoola
07 19 02 The Drums - Forever And Ever Amen
08 23 02 Band of Horses - Laredo
09 -- 01 Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Sick Tonight
10 -- 01 She & Him - Thieves
11 -- 01 Washington - Rich Kids
12 -- 01 The Lodger - Have A Little Faith In People
13 -- 01 Hungry Kids of Hungary - Wristwatch
14 -- 01 The Black Keys - Tighten Up
15 -- 01 Darren Hanlon - All These Things
16 -- 01 Lola Kite - Different Story
17 -- 01 Kate Nash - Kiss That Girl
18 -- 01 The Jezabels - Easy To Love
19 -- 01 British India - Avalanche
20 -- 01 Clare Bowditch - Bigger Than The Money
21 -- 01 Dennis Ferrer - Hey Hey
22 -- 01 Mystery Jets - Dreaming Of Another World
23 -- 01 Rox - I Don't Believe

Friday, June 11, 2010

Explorer 23 For June 10th.

Not too many new singles chartworthy so we skipped one. Here's the new one. Happy World Cup!

01 01 02 The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio (2x#1)
02 03 02 Blood Red Shoes - Don't Ask
03 -- 01 Vampire Weekend - Holiday
04 04 04 The Antlers - Sylvia (Spinner Interface)
05 02 04 Darwin Deez - Radar Detector (1x#1)
06 05 05 Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
07 07 04 Morning Benders - Promises
08 08 03 The Soft Pack - Answer To Yourself (Letterman)
09 13 04 The Salvadors - Atacama Disco
10 22 02 Lisa Mitchell - Oh! Hark!
11 06 05 These New Puritans - Attack Music (2x#1)
12 18 02 Harlem - Friendly Ghost
13 17 02 Angus & Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane
14 -- 01 Yacht - The Afterlife
15 21 02 Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! - Little Cowboys, Bad Hombres
16 -- 01 Local Natives - World News
17 20 02 Cloud Control - This is What I Said
18 15 03 LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
19 -- 01 The Drums - Forever & Amen
20 -- 01 Kapitan Korsakov - When We Were Hookers
21 -- 01 The Divine Comedy - At The Indie Disco
22 -- 01 The King Blues - Headbutt
23 -- 01 Band of Horses - Compliments

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt

The Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Mattson exploded onto the music scene in 2008 with his debut album “Shallow Grave” under the name of The Tallest Man On Earth. A confrontational, honest and authentic album with ten very original songs. It took me weeks to find out that this wasn’t a man playing on his porch somewhere in the Midwest or Southern parts of the USA but was really a not too tall man from Dalarna, Sweden. Most songwriters will try and sound to be from the US but TTMOE seems to do it effortlessly, making his work feel as authentic as possible.

And here is another ten-song collection called “The Wild Hunt” and he has done the impossible, make a better record than a record that was already a favorite for many. Some people like to say “I don’t see the comparison with Dylan!”. Well, those people need to listen to some more Dylan records and stop trying to be interesting because they are not. Acoustic guitar, similar playing and picking, a shaky voice, lyrics that are like poetry? Need I say more. Just listen to the beautiful “Drying of the Leaves” where he sounds like 60’s Dylan singing a 90’s Dylan song. And sounding like Dylan at his best is nothing to be ashamed of, because there is never one moment of “Eve of Destruction” type mimicking.

TTMOE is most of all his own self. Just listen to Mattson talk and you will hear some comparisons between his talking and singing. His voice is rough but honest and full of unforced emotion. If the scream in ‘King of Spain’ doesn’t get to you, go see a doctor. His singing has definitely gotten better since “Shallow Grave” and here he sounds like he is doing a show just for you in your own living room. It is just as overpowering. There are some background sounds, some crackling and his voice is not always 100% but that’s exactly what the music needs. Even the sometimes misfretted chords sound great.

We’re almost halfway through the year and this man from Sweden has made an album that far surpasses his earlier album. I can’t think of any albums released this year that have reached the overall quality of “The Wild Hunt”. Of the ten tracks just under 35 minutes there is not one not worth listening to on multiple occasions. An almost mystical experience.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Antlers in Paradiso, 25th of May, 2010

Last year’s “Hospice” ended high on our album of the year lists and even higher on our debut album of the year list. A remarkable collection of songs about a couple in a cancer ward set in layers of deep gut wrenching layers of sound. Instrumentation that first the theme of the album so well that even without lyrics you would not be surprised to hear afterwards that it was about a grave subject like this.

At last night’s show The Antlers managed to make the songs sound different from the album yet still retaining the overall mood. It was at times fascinating to hear just the band play while the audience was completely silent, as if they were stunned. Even for those in the sold out room unfamiliar with the album it might have left some bewildered about what had just happened. With only three members with the use of keyboards and a bunch of pedals they sounded great.

Apart from most of “Hospice” they played one very good new songs and if their new work will be anything like this there’s a lot more great music on the horizon.

Thank you likeahurricane69 for this great quality vid

Monday, May 24, 2010

The National - High Violet

One gets a different perspective on things when you move somewhere else. You start seeing your old world through different eyes, while at the same time viewing your new surrounding through the eyes of an outsider. If you want to remain an observer, always try to remain in this state. It’s the state from which Matt Berninger views his New York surroundings.

“High Violet” is very much an observation of New York and it’s people who struggle with universal themes like love, sorrow, faith, fear etc. Songs that are inhabited by drug addicted parents and soldiers. It’s about the moodier, more melancholy side of humankind. Is it dark? If anything it’s realistic.

Musically The National has not changed too much. Still that unique dark yet warming sound and Berninger’s soothing baritone. As always the drums drive the songs and add some of the melodies. A difference might be that the sound is slightly less polished as in the, for National standards, scruffy opener ‘Terrible Love’ but if you loved their sound before, you will still love it now.

While not reaching the artistic heights of “Alligator” and “Boxer”, this album is their “Only By The Night”. With it they will easily remain at the top of the indie-ladder and reach even more fans.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Explorer 23 for May 20th

With a break but a new list. A new #1, The National jumped straight into the lead with love favorites Blood Red Shoes not far behind.

TW LW #1
01 -- 01 The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio (1x#1)
02 01 03 Darwin Deez - Radar Detector (1x#1)
03 -- 01 Blood Red Shoes - Don't Ask
04 06 03 The Antlers - Sylvia
05 05 04 Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
06 03 04 These New Puritans - Attack Music (2x#1)
07 09 03 Morning Benders - Promises
08 15 02 The Soft Pack - Answer To Yourself
09 02 06 She & Him - In The Sun
10 08 04 Fang Island - Life Coach
11 16 02 MGMT - Flash Delirium
12 04 06 Mumford & Sons - The Cave (1x#1)
13 11 03 The Salvadors - Atacama Disco
14 07 05 Hold Your Horses - 70 Million
15 19 02 LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
16 10 06 Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You
17 -- 01 Angus & Julia Stone - Big Jet Plane
18 -- 01 Harlem - Friendly Ghost
19 23 02 The Last Dinosaurs - Honolulu
20 -- 01 Cloud Control - This is What I Said
21 -- 01 Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! - Little Cowboys, Bad Hombres
22 -- 01 Lisa Mitchell - Oh! Hark!
23 14 05 Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Get Better

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Titus Andronicus & Surfer Blood in Bitterzoet

True fans of the blog will know that Bitterzoet isn’t exactly my favorite spot to watch live music in Amsterdam. It has however hosted two great shows so far: These New Puritans and Titus Andronicus. TA was on a double bill with Surfer Blood who played last, but the more lasting impression was made by the 5-some from New Jersey.

When I got my ticket it was just for Surfer Blood. Their song “Swim” is #1 over the first 4 months of the Explorer 23 and their album is good, although at times uneven. So was their show. Frontman John Paul Pitts has looked into Ezra Koenig’s book of stage presence and moves and the band is youthful and fresh as the album is. “Swim” & “Catholic Kids” are great songs and potential anthems but the overall quality of the songs just doesn’t cut it compared to opener Titus Andronicus, who’s excellent 2nd album I’ve discussed a few weeks ago. It was a very pleasant surprise that they were added to the bill. As if you’re buying some fries in a restaurant and getting a juicy steak with it for free.

Starting with “A More Perfect Union” the band took off and never looked back. Bitterzoet’s stage is too small for a band with this energy. You can’t even fit 4 guitars on stage, the bass player had to stand sideways to leave some room for the jumping around of the other members. A collage of guitar sounds, piano and at times violins let to beautiful noise, broken at times by awesome breaks. You never know when a song is ended before the next one starts. They leave you guessing. The high energy led to some jumping around in the room too where a few glasses did not live to see the end. Yes, another great use of the Bitterzoet glasses: a potential danger for enthusiastic dancers next to being a nuisance during quiet shows.

Playing songs from both albums the power was more in the energy than in the songs itself, for that the lyrics were not easy to understand and the theme of the second album, war, didn’t quite get through to most of the audience. Highlight of the night, and one of the highlights of the year, was when singer Patrick Stickles joined the dancers on the floor during “Titus Andronicus” shouting ‘Your Life is Over’.

Surfer Blood may have more mass-appeal and hit-potential but the band that made a much bigger impression was Titus Andronicus. Both bands will hopefully play bigger venues next time around.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Explorer 23 For the first 4 months

Didn't get around to making a new list, so here is a Top 23 of the year so far.

01 Surfer Blood - Swim
02 Vampire weekend - Cousins
03 Mumford & Sons - The Cave
04 OK Go - This Too Shall Pass
05 Tegan & Sara - Hell
06 She & Him - In The Sun
07 Twilight Sad - The Room
08 Avett Brothers - Slight Figure
09 Soft Pack - C'mon
10 These New Puritans - Attack Music
11 The Antlers - Bear
12 Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste
13 Blood Red Shoes - Light It Up
14 Kings Of Convenience - Mrs Cold
15 Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You
16 Philadelphia Grand Jury - The Good News
17 The XX - VCR
18 Bettie Serveert - Deny All
19 Jonsi - Boy Lilikoi
20 Hold Your Horses - 70 Million
21 Atlas Sound - Walkabout
22 Phoenix - Lasso
23 Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Messy and Brilliant: Pavement in Paradiso, May 9 2009

It was as Stephen Malkmus said a weird day in Amsterdam. Piles of trash all over the city due to a strike by garbagemen and also the start of the Tour of Italy. 200 well trained guys on bikes who cycled through Amsterdam on a cold and cloudy day. This city can do that to you at times, show you how what messiness looks like while at the same time having some guys on bikes racing as no one else on this globe can. Maybe it was fitting that Pavement’s reunion tour brought them to the Paradiso on this day.

Pavement’s status as one of indie rock’s greatest band of the 90’s is without a doubt. Their first two albums “Slanted & Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain Crooked Rain” are classics and their follow-up albums are all if high-quality. After ten years they reformed and are now touring again. As their opener they had invited their onetime label mates Bettie Serveert who were Holland’s premier indie band in the 90s. Bettie Serveert never disbanded and have made beautiful records up to this day. Playing a selection of songs from their entire career they were good, though the high volume at times muddled their sound. But it was good to see them at work again.

Pavement’s setlist was also a greatest hits show. In a long set they played songs from all their albums so there were songs for every type of fan: The early ones from S&E and CRCR, their later “Brighten the Corners” fans and also quite a few young fans who were only around 8 years old by the time they disbanded. Pavement still didn’t seem to really be trying to be excellent but in good Pavement tradition it worked well. The band at times was sloppy and messy making you want to hear what they could really sound like. But face it, that is Pavement. If it was perfect it would not have been Pavement. The genius of the band shone through at moments, mostly later in the set. A great version of ‘Range Life’, a perfect rendition of their non-album single ‘Give it a Day’ and closer ‘Here’. ‘Here’ is a perfect pop song but almost improvisational in it’s live version.

Pavement was like the city was today. Messy but at times showing why in their field they are the best in the world.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Roll Over Beethoven, It's Matt and Zooey!

She & Him in the Melkweg, May 6th 2010

I could start this piece by talking about her acting career and how it might have helped her musical career. It’s a topic a lot of people would start talking about. I won’t. Fact is that she was already playing and writing music from a young age. An actress who sings or a singer who acts? It’s not really important. The only things to remember about the movies is that she was in Almost Famous (yes, that movie that made singing Elton John songs cool again) and also in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Anyone slightly connected with whatever form of the HHGTTG is automatically on my coolwall. If she had never acted however she would still have a fine career as a musician. And oh, being married to a member of Death Cab will bring you even more cred.

My biggest concern before the show was Zooey’s voice. On some of the live YouTube clips her voice wasn’t exactly powerful and she looked shy and ill at ease most of the time. But nothing like that on the Melkweg Max stage. With a powerful stage presence and a voice that was better than on record it was a great show that has to shut up any nitwit thinking it’s that cute actress who also sings. Cute she definitely is. Most striking are her eyes and hair that glow even at the people in the back. Her incredibly lowcut summer dress was stylish and some of the girls in the audience have seem to taken to the Zooey-look, a down-to-earth yet classy way of dress. But with a woolen sweater the songs would still be great.

On "Volume 1" Deschanel has proven to know how to write a timeless song and on "Volume 2" it is no different. Actors making a CD will usually sing a selection of covers or songs written for them. Deschanel writes all the songs herself and can really hold her own as a songwriter. From perfect Brill Building Pop (‘I Was Made For You’), Beatles pop to Nashville country (‘Got Me’), she can do it all. The true genius is in how the songs sound from that era and not like songs that are supposed to sound like from that era but with a distinct modern flavor. The chosen covers fit neatly into the set and the albums and she could have written them herself like the funny and coy ‘Gonna Get Along Without You Now’.

Responsible for this great sound is M. Ward. The songwriter, producer, member of Monsters of Folk and Conor Oberst’ choice for president. That singer from Death Cab is the luckiest guy on earth. Not only has he married one of the most beautiful people in Hollywood, his wife also gets to hang out with M. Ward! His trebly guitar, with sometimes a slide, adds a perfect warm sound to the songs. If Zooey is the ultimate cool for the girls, Ward seems to be that for the guys with his calm and easy stage presence in which he let’s Zooey get all the attention.

Highlight was halfway through the show where as a brief interlude just the two of them played a small acoustic set that included ‘Brand New Shoes’ and Smokey Robinson’s ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ that was greeted by an extended applause. Another cover was played as the last song, a rocking version of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven”.

Let Zooey make more movies and let M. Ward make more great albums but I hope they get together more often to produce some fine music and some fine live shows.

Thanks again StartBeginning for the great footage

Monday, May 3, 2010

Explorer 23 For April 30

01 09 02 Darwin Deez - Radar Detector
02 03 05 She & Him - In The Sun
03 02 04 These New Puritans - Attack Music (2x#1)
04 01 05 Mumford & Sons - The Cave (1x#1)
05 05 03 Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
06 14 02 The Antlers - Sylvia
07 07 04 Hold Your Horses - 70 Million
08 08 03 Fang Island - Life Coach
09 16 02 Morning Benders - Promises
10 04 05 Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You
11 20 02 The Salvadors - Atacama Disco
12 10 06 Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste
13 06 06 The Twilight Sad - The Room
14 12 04 Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Get Better
15 -- 01 The Soft Pack - Answer To Yourself
16 -- 01 MGMT - Flash Delirium
17 18 03 Stornoway - I Saw You Blink
18 19 03 Kate Nash - Do Wah Do
19 -- 11 LCD Soundsytem - Drunk Girls
20 22 02 Joy Formidable - Popinjay
21 -- 01 We Are Scientists - Rules Don't Stop
22 13 04 Tegan & Sara - Alligator
23 -- 01 The Last Dinosaurs - Honolulu

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

No Fluffy Bunnies, These New Puritans in Bitterzoet April 28th, 2010

That Bitterzoet wasn’t even sold out for These New Puritans is beyond me. But then again confusion and uneasiness seem to be an emotions linked to TNP like feeling nothing is to let’s say… Matchbox 20.

Touring to support their fabulous ‘Hidden’ album the foursome left an impression that will not be forgotten easily. If it was a great show? I couldn’t honestly tell you. Depends on what your definition of a great show is. If a concert is supposed to make you feel more happy afterwards than they failed miserably, if a concert is supposed to evoke strong emotions than they passed with flying colors and it will easily be one of the best shows of the year so far.

My biggest question beforehand was how they would recreate the sounds and atmosphere of the album and most of all the beats. With one tight drummer and one smashing drums half of the time while working samplers at the same time this was no problem. Battery songs is what frontman Jack Barnett calls them and ‘Attack Music’, ‘Three Thousand’ and ‘Drum Courts’ made you feel like you were at one time back in the late 70’s at a Joy Division concert but at the same time in that dancing scene from the Matrix movies. Keyboard player Sophie Sleigh-Johnson’s never changing facial expression definitely added to a more gothlike atmosphere. A band playing this tight is a sight to behold and summons up memories of Battles and Shellac. The amount of improvisation is something I did not expect at all. Loops with last longer or shorter, the guitar sounds was different but it all came together.

Barnett was at most times inaudible, due in part to huge echo on his microphone. If you didn’t know what the album was about you could still feel that it wasn’t about daisies and fluffy bunnies but about something more serious. Confusion was only added when Barnett kept saying it was the last song for about 5 songs.

War is serious but will also leave you with scars for the rest of your life. TNP is serious and it will leave a scar for a very long time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Explorer 23 For April 20

01 02 04 Mumford & Sons - The Cave (1x#1)
02 01 03 These New Puritans - Attack Music (2x#1)
03 03 04 She & Him - In The Sun (Kimmel Live)
04 05 04 Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You (Telegraph Tv)
05 10 02 Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
06 04 05 The Twilight Sad - The Room (405 Session)
07 09 03 Hold Your Horses - 70 Million
08 14 02 Fang Island - Life Coach
09 -- 01 Darwin Deez - Radar Detector
10 07 05 Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste
11 08 05 The Soft Pack - C'mon
12 12 03 Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Get Better (5:19 show)
13 16 03 Tegan & Sara - Alligator (The Current)
14 -- 01 The Antlers - Sylvia
15 06 07 Surfer Blood - Swim
16 -- 01 Morning Benders - Promises
17 11 06 The XX - VCR (Le Live De La Semaine)
18 19 02 Stornoway - I Saw You Blink
19 23 02 Kate Nash - Do Wah Do
20 -- 01 The Salvadors - Atacama Disco
21 -- 01 Dan Sartain - Atheist Funeral
22 -- 01 Joy Formidable - Popinjay
23 -- 01 General Fiasco - Ever So Shy

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

War seems to be good subject for albums this year. These New Puritans already made a unique album with ‘Hidden’, a vibrant collection of interlocking songs about war and interspersed with the sound of a sword going in or out of a sheath. It was also a big step up from an already great debut album. Much of the same can be said about Titus Andronicus’ second album ‘The Monitor’, a collection of songs about the American Civil War woven together with bits of spoken word quotes. Both albums are two of the best of the year so far but that’s where the comparison ends.

If there is one word to describe TA’s stance towards war it’s confusion: how war makes everything black and white, us versus them, the devil versus the Lord. War brings forth the same confusion as alcohol, the second theme of the album. The listener is being pushed into another time and place before returning to a basement of a Garden State with the help of alcohol, as in a weird musical version of Slaughterhouse 5. This time traveler also travels between songs, appearing in the guest-star heavy ‘To Old Friends and New’ where he lectures us on the morality of war and religion. He’s chased around by the enemy who is everywhere on the album, like he is everywhere in war.

TA’s music has much less musical depth than TNP. Their style is almost shoddy punkrock that on this album has drifted more into the field of singer/songwriters. Think of Conor Oberst, the early years, with a rougher edge. Especially ‘Richard II’ and ‘A Pot in which to Piss’ could have easily been on a Bright Eyes record. The Conor Oberst sound at times sounds too obvious, but at least they copied someone worth copying. A big departure from their usual music is the almost nine minute song ‘Four Score and Seven’, a shouted ballad complete with bagpipes that if played a faster would be a good Pogues or Dropkick Murphys song.

From a band who’s named after a Shakespeare play you can really only expect smart songs and the Monitor is exactly that. It’s like an episode of Family Guy: if you know a lot of movies you will constantly see references. On ‘The Monitor’ TA refers to authors like Camus, Whitman, names Civil War sites and literally quotes songwriters like Billy Bragg and Bruce Springsteen. The Boss is quoted in the opener ‘A More Perfect Union’ in which they make no big deal about being from New Jersey as well. He’s also name checked in the closer ‘Battle of Hampton Roads’ which clocks in at 14 minutes. If there is one bad thing to say about the album it is that is about 14 minutes too long. But you have to listen to the album in it’s entirety to grasp the whole concept.

Titus Andronicus have catapulted themselves to the upper echelons of American indie rock with “The Monitor”. 2010 is a great year for music so far in my humble opinion. In May they will play in Amsterdam, a double bill with another new great band Surfer Blood (reviewed before). Could be a legendary show…

Monday, April 12, 2010

Explorer 23 For April 10

OK, OK! It's two days late. Winers... be happy it's spring!

01 01 02 These New Puritans - Attack Music
02 05 03 Mumford & Sons - The Cave
03 07 03 She & Him - In The Sun
04 08 04 The Twilight Sad - The Room
05 11 03 Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You
06 02 06 Surfer Blood - Swim
07 06 04 Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste
08 03 04 The Soft Pack - C'mon
09 17 02 Hold Your Horses - 70 Million
10 -- 01 Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
11 04 05 The XX - VCR
12 18 02 Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Get Better
13 09 04 Field Music - Them That Do Nothing
14 -- 01 Fang Island - Life Coach
15 10 05 The Antlers - Bear
16 16 03 Tegan & Sara - Alligator
17 23 02 Fanfarlo - Harold T. Wilkins
18 -- 01 Fixkes - Rock 'n Roll
19 -- 01 Stornoway - I Saw You Blink
20 12 06 Blood Red Shoes - Light It Up
21 19 02 Local Natives - Airplanes
22 13 06 OK Go - This Too Shall Pass
23 -- 01 Kate Nash - Do Wah Doosh

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Frightened Rabbit - Winter of Mixed Drinks / Live Paradiso April 11th, 2009

What can you do after playing a show at 5:30: you can watch a film or call your mom. Plenty of jokes by Scott Hutchison concerning the early time of the concert in Paradiso’s upstairs room. At least, as he said, the curtains where shut so it was still dark. It’s not a very rock and roll time of day, but that’s what you get with a full Paradiso, at least they didn’t play in Bitterzoet. If the early time was also the reason why it was not completely full… it could be.

Though already having released 2 albums prior to their breakthrough “Winter of Mixed Drinks” this was the first time for the Scottish band in Amsterdam. “WoMD” is getting great reviews and rightly so. Frightened Rabbit have a similar sound to fellow Scotsmen We Were Promised Jetpack and the Twilight Sad. Atmospheric guitar music that is typified by almost minimalist use of chords. One chord would be played for quite a few bars before changing to a different chord. To these chords are then added layers of sound using guitars, keyboards and a score of pedals. Out of this wall of sound then comes the Scottish drawl of Hutchinson. The guitars all sound great and they did as well live. “Winter of Mixed Drinks” has a few highlights, some of which are the excellent singles ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ and ‘Nothing Like You’ or ‘Living in Colour’ as part of the encore. Impressive was the first song of the encore where Hutchinson sung a song with just acoustic guitar, without the aid of amps and microphones. It was also the only song where the vocals were clear, in the other songs his voice got muddled and his at times great lyrics were unfortunately not heard.

While not yet having reached the elaborate soundscaping genius of the Twilight Sad or the great songwriting of We Were Promised Jetpacks their album will turn up in some end-of-the-year lists and their next show in Amsterdam definitely won’t be at 5:30 on a Sunday in a small room in Amsterdam but a bigger venue with people standing outside trying to get a ticket from someone because it’s sold out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pavement - A Personal History

Pigs The Tend To Whiggle When They Walk

I guess Pavement fans have always been different. Maybe not the most social and certainly not the most mainstream people. Lovers of good alternative music but not necessarily sharing a need to show this to the outside world. They were called slackers, and were not wearing the designer clothing but also not wearing the metal spikes. They could easily have worked in an office or library and were never a “threat to society”.

Pavement played a big role in my teenage years. My first introduction to the band was in 1994 with the single ‘Cut Your Hair’ and album “Crooked Rain Crooked Rain”. CRCR to this day remains my favorite. It still has the lo-fi wackiness of “Slanted & Enchanted” but already showed glimpses of finely tuned songs on later albums. In my case it is the same as with many other fans, the first Pavement album you heard is your favorite and will carve out a part in your personal history.

I didn’t know a lot of Pavement fans in high school, in fact I didn’t really know anyone who shared my taste in music, apart from the friends who I introduced it to. But I didn’t care, it was good to have something you love just for yourself sometimes.

Pavement didn’t seem to care about how songs should be played or written. CRCR didn’t really start like ‘Nevermind’ or ‘Highway 61’ did. You were lured into an album that seemed to have been there for some time already. The structure of the songs was strange, the chords were strange and the two drummers were just plain weird. And the lyrics? Well, you knew they were highly intelligent but you also had no clue what Malkmus was singing about. But it seemed to work. It was how I wanted to be. Don’t do a lot of things but give the world pure brilliance when you decided it was time to give it to them. And then be laconic about it.

1994 was a special year. Jon Spencer blasted away his blues riffs on ‘Orange’, Lou Barlow showed his genius on Sebadoh’s “Bakesale” and former bandmate J Mascis sped up a chorus like I had never heard before on Dinosaur’s ‘Feel the Pain’. Shellac’s “At Action Park” let me hear how music could also be made and Weezer’s first album I played endlessly walking to school. It might be because 94 was such a special year for me that all these albums still rank amongst my favorites. All are still around 16 years later as well and still making worthwhile music. All apart from Pavement. After 3 more albums the disbanded.

But yay! The slacker, early 30’s generation, finally has it’s equivalent of Led Zeppelin reunion. Pavement are now on a comeback tour of sorts and have released a compilation album called “Quarantine the past”. It has the hits and a few not-so-hits but that very much show the band Pavement was. Of course there are songs you miss (personally I think ‘Give it a Day’ should be on there). The tracklisting is just as irratic as the band’s albums, and it should be. Every Pavement fan, from the early Slanted-fans to their last albums will be happy with the CD.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Explorer 23 for March 30

01 -- 01 These New Puritans - Attack Music
02 01 05 Surfer Blood - Swim (live on KEXP)
03 02 03 The Soft Pack - C'mon (live on KEXP)
04 07 04 The XX - VCR
05 20 02 Mumford & Sons - The Cave
06 09 03 Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste (Jools Holland)
07 12 02 She & Him - In The Sun
08 10 03 The Twilight Sad - The Room
09 11 03 Field Music - Them That Do Nothing
10 04 04 The Antlers - Bear
11 18 02 Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You
12 05 05 Blood Red Shoes - Light It Up
13 03 05 OK Go - This Too Shall Pass (backwards)
14 16 03 Hungry Kids of Hungary - Let You Down
15 13 04 Beach House - Norway
16 19 02 Tegan & Sara - Alligator
17 -- 01 Hold Your Horses - 70 Million
18 -- 01 Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Get Better
19 -- 01 Local Natives - Airplane (not official)
20 -- 01 Yeasayer - O.N.E.
21 -- 01 Sunderbands - We Only Can Because We Care
22 22 02 Liars - Scissor
23 -- 01 Fanfarlo - Harold T. Wilkins

Friday, March 26, 2010

Broken Bells - 1+1 does not always equal 3

It’s been a while since the Shins have released an album but they haven’t been doing nothing. Singer James Mercer has recorded an album with Danger Mouse under the moniker of Broken Bells. If you think Shins songs with different instrumentation and production… well, you’re really not far off on some songs like ‘Vaporize’ or ‘October’. The production is low-key but good and almost never strays into the hard sounds that make the Gnarls Barkley albums so effective. Only ‘The Ghost Inside’ is reminiscent of the GB beat. It shows once more that Danger Mouse is one of the premier producers of the last few years. Mercer’s songwriting should never be subject to suspicion either as all songs here carry the Mercer mark. If you can write songs that sound like you wrote them even though they are recorded differently you are a true master in your craft.

The album definitely has it’s moments, but don’t expect a 1+1=3 album. The talent of both artists doesn’t mean an even better album. It’s a pleasant listening experience but there are not enough memorable moments to make this album a contender for album of the year. 3 ½.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

Reverb on high and the let the sound echo through your house and head: here’s another new American band which has looked into the long history west-coast surf, garage and beautiful Beach Boys melodies, even though they Surfer Blood hails from Florida. Where the Soft Pack (earlier reviewed) stray more towards the dark garage and the Drums to pop, Surfer Blood is more adventurous.

That they like a dare is evident from the first song which believe it or not is actually about surfing. The surf sound is continued in the single, and Explorer #1, ‘Swim’ with its multitracked guitars and vocals to give it a spacey sound. The break in the middle is absolutely brilliant. The same recipe is used in ‘Twin Peaks’ which is almost a copy of ‘Swim’. But if you copy something great, it’s still very good if you do it well.

That they can go into other styles is evident in ‘Take it Easy’ which could easily have been on the latest Vampire Weekend record. ‘Catholic Pagan’ has the funny lyrics working for it and is the most Weezer-like song and the instrumental ‘Neighbor Riffs’ would not be out of sync on a Pixies/Breeders collection of B-sides or even a Pavement throwaway album (and I mean that with the greatest respect).

There are a few songs that are forgettable and will make you press skip sooner rather than later like ‘Harmonix’, ‘Slow Jabroni’ or ‘Anchorage’.

Best song on the album might be the shoegazing ‘Fast Jabroni’ which evokes Santogold’s ‘Lights Out’. The extra instrumentation and supereasy but effective solo make it a song to be remembered.

It’s an album to be remembered. If you delete the forgettable songs you will still end up with a great album. (4,5 stars)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Avett Brothers in Paradiso: March 22, 2010

It took the Avett Brothers a decade to finally make it to the Netherlands for their first ever show. Why it took them so long? It beats me because the two brothers have proven to be some of the most talented songwriters of the last few years. In their native US they have been on shows like Letterman and Conan and their albums chart high. Here their latest record “I and Love and You” won’t be released until April.

The Avett Brothers fit into the Americana category but are not afraid to stray outside of the genre. It is true that folk, country and bluegrass are the main ingredients of their music but they also show that they listen to contemporary music since it has influences from seventies rock and 80’s punk (one reviewer used the word grungegrass). Their career has developed steadily the last decade and only with the last album ended up on Rick Rubin's label, who also produced their album.

Most of the songs are performed with acoustic guitar, banjo, bass (both electric and standup) and cello. The brothers also use kick- and bassdrums with their feet to add power when the song calls for it. They do change instruments all throughout the show with both playing acoustic and electric guitar, drums and keyboards. Both are accomplished singers but it’s Scott whose powerful voice is the strongest and contrasts nicely with Seth’s softer and higher voice. Songs are performed with power and enthusiasm and the band seemed to enjoy, easily playing for 90 minutes. They add energy to the songs that is sometimes lacking on the albums and broke quite a few strings in the process. I counted at least 8 but would not be surprised if it was more.

Their biggest strength is their songwriting. There are some pop gems like “Kick Drum Heart” and “Slight Figure of Speech”, ballads like “January Wedding” and even a power ballad, the beautiful “Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise”. They played songs from all their records since 2004 but the most (and best) were from ‘Introducing Emotinalism’ and ‘I and Love and You’. At an Avett Brothers you will jump along, laugh (“Yardsale”), listen to the harmonies and sing along for 5 minutes (“Go To Sleep”).

The Paradiso small room was sold out, let’s hope they will win many more fans and play in the big room next time. After a decade of writing beautiful songs they deserve it and energetic live shows like this can only help their stature.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Explorer 23 for March 20

01 02 04 Surfer Blood - Swim
02 07 02 The Soft Pack - C'mon
03 01 04 OK Go - This Too Shall Pass
04 03 03 The Antlers - Bear
05 04 04 Blood Red Shoes - Light It Up
06 10 02 These New Puritans - We Want War
07 11 03 The XX - VCR
08 12 02 Futureheads - Heartbeat Song
09 14 02 Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste
10 16 02 The Twilight Sad - The Room
11 18 02 Field Music - Them That Do Nothing
12 -- 01 She & Him - In The Sun
13 06 03 Beach House - Norway
14 18 03 Girls - Morning Light
15 05 03 Deep Sea Arcade - Don't Be Sorry
16 22 02 Hungry Kids of Hungary - Let You Down
17 09 03 Washington - How To Tame Lions
18 -- 01 Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You
19 -- 01 Tegan & Sara - Alligator
20 -- 01 Mumford & Sons - The Cave
21 23 02 Tunng - Hustle
22 -- 01 Liars - Scissor
23 -- 01 Two Door Cinema Club - Undercover Martyn ;)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Everything With Little

Blood Red Shoes in Paradiso, Amsterdam on March 17th, 2009

According to drummer Steven Ansell the Paradiso show was the biggest they ever headlined. Touring in support of their new album “Fire Like This” the show was loud, tight and energetic. Warm-up act “Pulled Apart By Horses” was fitting and at times I wondered if this was how Nirvana sounded about 20 years ago in this same venue.

Blood Red Shoes have perfected the art of doing everything with the bare minimum. It’s not a band you go to watch amazing musical ability. Laura-Mary Carter’s guitar playing is simple: easy riffs and chords that most accomplished players will be able to play, but she plays them loud, she plays them tight and she plays them well. No Springtime guitar unfortunately, that would have been a real treat. Steven Ansell uses his drumkit entirely to give the music something extra. You never miss any other instrument with both getting everything out of their instruments. They are not the best singers, in fact the singing doesn’t really add anything, but they sing anthems that people can anticipate, jump around on and sing along. Their mix of grunge and punk rock doesn’t sound very English but their unique setup allows them to have an own style that might not be very inventive, but very effective as a live band.

A few times both mentioned how much fun they were having and the crowd seemed to enjoy it as much as the band. Dozens of people jumped off the stage into the audience to be carried far into the room. At times you could see more people looking at the surfers than the band.
After the show ended Ansell decided to top his great night out with a jump into the audience and was carried all the way to the end, followed a few minutes later by Laura-Mary. It seemed a fitting tribute to the sometimes crazy crowdsurfers.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Return of the Surfrock

Good to hear that some young dudes in the US are listening to some good old garage rock with their guitar amps turned to 11 on the treble/reverb. Guys who like music but could probably work with you in the office doing some boring desk job, but with a side that not everyone at the workplace knows about.

The Drums have had some success with their phenomenal single "Let's Go Surfing". Album is good, but at times too poppy. Surfer Blood will be discussed in a later post about their great "Astro Coast" album. Their "Swim" single is currently riding high in the Explorer 23.

Two weeks ago the Soft Pack played a very short and energetic show in the Paradiso upstairs room. 40 minutes, almost no breaks, loud and fast and with no encore. That is rock and roll like it should be.

Their self-titled debut-album is a wonderful collection of garagesurfrock. Starting with the single 'C'mon' (sing along everyone!) and 9 other great tracks the album clocks just over half an hour. Perfect length for this type of music. There's great rhythm and some nice twangy guitar riffs. And of course the surf-organ is present adding some authenticity to the record.

Garage Rock and surf rock prop up about every 15 years and it's good to see that a music style that is based on just a few chords and an abundance of energy still lasts and is still reinvented to fit the 21st century. Drums, Soft Pack and Surfer Blood are certainly doing that. Going to be the summer of surf!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Explorer 23 for March 10

For everyone who has been waiting a while now: Explorer 23 comes out every 10th, 20th and 30th of the month ;).

New list, new entries, new #1. All thanks to an instantly legendary video. Enjoy!

As always, look for the Wide Eyed Explorer on Facebook and Twitter.

01 04 03 OK Go - This Too Shall Pass
02 08 03 Surfer Blood - Swim
03 01 02 The Antlers - Bear
04 06 03 Blood Red Shoes - Light It Up
05 12 02 Deep Sea Arcade - Don't Be Sorry
06 03 02 Beach House - Norway
07 -- 01 The Soft Pack - C'mon
08 02 02 Girls - Morning Light
09 06 02 Washington - How To Tame Lions
10 -- 01 These New Puritans - We Want War
11 -- 01 The XX - VCR
12 -- 01 Futureheads - Heartbeat Song
13 07 02 Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home
14 -- 01 Wild Beasts - We Still Got The Taste
15 15 05 Jonsi - Boy Lilikoi
16 -- 01 The Twilight Sad - The Room
17 10 04 Tocotronic - Macht es nicht Selbst
18 -- 01 Field Music - Them That Do Nothing
19 20 02 John Butler Trio - One Way Road
20 09 05 Bettie Serveert - Deny All
21 05 06 Vampire Weekend - Cousins
22 -- 01 Hungry Kids of Hungary - Let You Down
23 -- 01 Tunng - Hustle

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

These Days.... Tallest Man on Earth in Paradiso

Wanted Barman for Bitterzoet.

Skills needed:
- knowing how to slam a cash register shut
- sort change during quiet songs
- stack glasswork as loud as possible

- people will look at you all the time
- artists will stare you down
- you can drink on the job and be even more oblivious to the reasons people paid money to come to your workplace

Ok, that will be all my complaining about by far the worst music venue in Amsterdam. Why Paradiso ever collaborated with this affront to good music is beyond me. They should be ashamed. Let’s hope it’s better when the punkrock/surfrock bands come and play there.

But now the good part. The Tallest Man on Earth returned to Amsterdam. With a new album coming out in April he once again prowled over the stage. To see him play is not just listening to songs that are great, but it’s an experience in itself. He stares into the crowd, holds his head really close to the audience, walks around stage, kicks over some crate and at one time even walked a few meters into the audience. Playing some songs from his new album but mostly songs from his “Shallow Grave” in a sold-out venue and still getting most of the venue quiet, it’s a feat. In one twitter-feed I read that someone said something along the lines of “I hate it when people feel you need to be quiet during a show”. Well, it’s true. You can yap away about your puny lives somewhere else. Go sit in the smoking room for example. Or just go outside and give your ticket to someone who really wants to see this remarkable artist at work. TMOE knows how to get an audience quiet, if the music doesn’t do it he will stare at you, shooting guitar sounds your way.
He looked somewhat more at ease than in September. He talked more about his day and the city but was also tired. He played one encore, a beautiful version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” (made popular also by Nico). A great ending to a musically great show. Please return Tallest Man, there’s a few bigger stages waiting for you.

For more about his music and playing read an earlier review I wrote.

Thanks Florine for the video

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

These New Puritans - Hidden

Maddening, mindboggling and absolutely brilliant.
These New Puritans first album “Beat Pyramid” was a fine record which I played quite a few times. With their second album “Hidden” they have gone far beyond their debut. Far beyond anything released this year in fact. It’s not an easy album, in fact it is still driving me crazy while I write this. An moviescore opening followed by a collection of songs that all are related to war. This war is an all-encompassing war, a war of words, a war or worlds, an attack on the mind and this is the soundtrack. War has no logic, and “Hidden” has no logic. Beats that are like bombs, sometimes leveling an entire city, sometimes just severing a toe. Music that goes from attack music to classical interludes, or the crazy person in his own jazz world (“Hologram”), not knowing what is going on around him. It’s a 21st century post-modern album for a 21st century post-modern war where you are not exactly sure who the enemy is, what the cause is and what you are fighting with. From bombs to swords to words, everything is used to the same effect. An album for lovers of classical music, 80’s industrial rave and 90’s hip-hop. Even Phillip Glass chord changes can be heard. “Hidden” is maddening, chaotic, mindboggling but absolutely brilliant album. This will definitely end up on a lot of end-of-the-year lists.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vampire Weekend - Paradiso 24 Feb 2010

On the hottest day of the year so far, a toasty 7 degrees (or high 30’s for you Fahrenheit people), Vampire Weekend played in Paradiso on their tour to support the release of their sophomore album “Contra” released earlier this year.
With a depiction of the album on the huge canvas behind them staring out over the room (sometimes with green or red eyes) and with chandeliers above them they played a very energetic show with almost all of their songs with the exception of two or three.

Starting with ‘White Sky’ and ‘Holiday’ the crowd was warmed up. Not that they needed that, Paradiso seemed like a sauna with even higher temps the night before at the Beach House show upstairs. If the music didn’t do it all, it was singer Ezra Koenig who added the finishing touch, interacting with the crowd and introducing some of the songs. His movement was fun to look at and I bet there are now a few pictures on the interweb with him posing in one of the many rockstar poses he showed tonight. But don’t worry, a rockstar he is not.
Things have gone fast for them. Two years they were still a small band playing in the small upstairs room, and now in the sold out main room. But that’s what you get when you can write fan favorite songs like ‘A-Punk’, ‘Cousins’ and ‘Campus’ but also make music interesting enough for any music fan. Weird and always changing rhythms, the clear sound of keyboards and bass and Koenig’s clear guitar, with high treble. VW is a truly unique band who have found a way to bring their music to the stage. Maybe not by playing the songs that much different from the albums, but why change something that is already good.

(the picture is from the OOR website which I used without any permission whatsoever)

Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa from the Paradiso show, thanks Jackelien Beerens for posting this on YouTube, sound quality is great.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Explorer 23 For February 20

Seems to the year is really starting in February. Lot of new entries, including the entire Top 3.

Someone asked what the columns were for: TW = this week, LW = last week, #W is number of weeks.

Also back is the embedded list at the bottom


01 -- 01 The Antlers - Bear
02 -- 01 Girls - Morning Light
03 -- 01 Beach House - Norway
04 05 02 OK Go - This Too Shall Pass
05 01 05 Vampire Weekend - Cousins
06 14 02 Blood Red Shoes - Light It Up
07 -- 01 Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home
08 08 02 Surfer Blood - Swim
09 02 04 Bettie Serveert - Deny All
10 04 03 Tocotronic - Macht es nicht Selbst
11 07 04 Jonsi - Boy Lilikoi
12 -- 11 Deep Sea Arcade - Don't Be Sorry
13 13 03 The Paper Scissors - T-T-Time
14 03 05 Tegan & Sara - Hell
15 -- 01 Yeasayer - Ampling Alp
16 -- 01 Washington - How To Tame Lions
17 04 05 Avett Brothers - Slight Figure Of Speech
18 09 03 Adam Green - Buddy Bradley
19 21 02 Los Campesinos - Romance Is Boring
20 -- 01 John Butler Trio - One Way Road
21 10 05 Kings of Convenience - Mrs. Cold
22 11 05 Philadelphia Grand Jury - The Good News
23 -- 01 Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Explorer 23 for February 10

01 01 04 Vampire Weekend - Cousins (Letterman)
02 06 03 Bettie Serveert - Deny All (DWDD)
03 02 04 Tegan & Sara - Hell
04 15 02 Tocotronic - Macht es nicht Selbst
05 -- 01 OK Go - This Too Shall Pass
06 03 04 Avett Brothers - Slight Figure Of Speech
07 08 03 Jonsi - Boy Lilikoi
08 -- 01 Surfer Blood - Swim
09 12 02 Adam Green - Buddy Bradley
10 04 04 Kings of Convenience - Mrs. Cold
11 05 04 Philadelphia Grand Jury - The Good News
12 14 02 The Paper Scissors - T-T-Time
13 07 04 Phoenix - Lasso
14 -- 01 Blood Red Shoes - Light It Up
15 09 04 Atlas Sound - Walkabout
16 17 03 eels - Little Bird
17 13 04 Camera Obscura - The Sweetest Thing
18 16 04 Hot Chip - One Life Stand
19 10 04 Manchester Orchestra - The Only One
20 19 02 Riton & Primary 1 - Who's There?
21 -- 01 Los Campesinos - Romance Is Boring
22 -- 01 Jamie T - The Man's Machine
23 -- 01 Lightspeed Champion - Marlene

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Bittersweet Night. Lou Barlow in Bitterzoet

Bitterzoet is a new venue near Amsterdam’s central station. It is small but has the advantage of stairs and a balcony. The first thing I noticed in Bitterzoet are the glasses, made from actual glass. Must mean that they don’t expect too many rowdy visitors. But when Lou Barlow starts playing his first songs and the entire crowd gets quiet the biggest flaw of the venue becomes painfully clear. The bar is located a few meters from the stage and the bartenders make almost more noise with the glasses than Barlow does with his guitar.
If Lou Barlow plays alone prepare for a very intimate set. Almost all the people in the crowd are fortunately familiar with this so there aren’t too many a-holes who find it necessary to talk through the show. The bartenders are clueless however and when Lou plays ‘Rebound’ in my right ear I am annoyed by the sounds of stacked glasses in my left ear, with some euro coins providing the percussion. De Melkweg has the bar(s) in the corner in the back and the same is true for the Paradiso main room. The Paradiso upstairs has even moved the bar behind a door. They also use plastic, a much better option. It seems like Bitterzoet wasn’t planned to be a music venue, otherwise the planners should be compared to those guys who made that wobbly bridge in the Northwest US or that art museum in Denver that leaks…

But this luckily isn’t a solo set. Two bandmembers join him for a loud set and the glasses are forgotten. Playing mostly new songs they seem to be enjoying themselves but only rarely do we get a glimpse of the legend of indierock that he is. The songs are good, in fact the quality is as always high. What else can you expect from a man who was responsible for the great songs on Sebadoh, Sentridoh, Folk Implosion and now under his own name. It’s always different: swinging the bass with Dinosaur JR, playing rock shows with Sebadoh or the most intimate concerts you can think of when he is alone with his guitar. There are only a few people who can get an entire room quiet and when he played his classic ‘Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)’ he did just that. And without too much glasswork.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Explorer 23 for January 30th

Not much change at the top.

Still on Twitter.

01 01 03 Vampire Weekend - Cousins (MTV Unplugged)
02 03 03 Tegan & Sara - Hell (FlyTv)
03 02 03 Avett Brothers - Slight Figure Of Speech (The Interface)
04 04 03 Kings of Convenience - Mrs. Cold (Amsterdam Acoustics, I apologize in advance for our Public Transport officials)
05 05 03 Philadelphia Grand Jury - The Good News
06 15 02 Bettie Serveert - Deny All
07 07 03 Phoenix - Lasso
08 23 02 Jonsi - Boy Lilikoi
09 07 03 Atlas Sound - Walkabout
10 11 03 Manchester Orchestra - The Only One
11 12 03 Cloud Control - Gold Canary
12 -- 01 Adam Green - Buddy Bradley
13 13 03 Camera Obscura - The Sweetest Thing
14 -- 01 The Paper Scissors - T-T-Time
15 -- 01 Tocotronic - Macht es nicht Selbst
16 14 03 Hot Chip - One Life Stand
17 18 02 eels - Little Bird
18 06 03 King Charles - Love Lust
19 -- 01 Riton & Primary 1 - Who's There?
20 10 03 Julian Plenti - Games For Days
21 -- 01 Two Door Cinema Club - I Can Talk
22 09 03 The Mess Hall - Bell
23 17 03 Los Campesions! - There Are Listed Buildings

Monday, January 25, 2010

eels - End Times

Eels – End Times

“Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss.” (Nick Hornby – High Fidelity).

Mark Everett wasn’t the most cheerful guy to begin with. Deaths of parents and siblings leave a mark and his music with the eels has always had a sad undertone. And don’t expect anything new on ‘End Times’. Let’s face it, even the title is depressing. The theme of the album is a divorce and the ensuing depression. Recorded mostly at home on a simple four-track the songs are simple and vintage E. Mostly just him strumming some chords on a guitar or playing them on a keyboard.
Starting in heaven he slowly spirals down into the phases that are part of breaking up, including locking yourself up in your house without much outside interaction ( the beautiful Mansion of Loz Feliz). They are emotions that we have all gone through, at one point he explains seeing a million trees at the side of the road and feeling just like one of them, but still feeling lonely. At least he has his Little Bird to talk to and we have the eels we can listen to, to let us know that even though we feel awful at times, there are millions more that feel the same.