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.