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.