Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Matt & Kim - Great Video, Great Album, Great Band

I don't watch MTV or listen to the radio, so I'm hesitant to ever call a group an "Artist to Watch", so let's just call them "Approved". The Brooklyn based duo (Matt Johnson & Kim Schifino) released their second album "Grand" in January and I've been hooked ever since. Is it Punk? Dance? Possibly Electro-Pop? Who cares? It's good. I might have kept this group in the bag, never mentioning them had it not been for this video. It's not groundbreaking, it's not visually stimulating, it's not original, yet somehow it's perfect. Pick up the album and check them out at Pitchfork this year, you know that "other" music fest in Chicago.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lollapalooza - Hits & Misses

This year's Lollapalooza lineup was announced and in my opinion it's very good. I realize that some of the big name acts may be older than you would expect (Depeche Mode, Beastie Boys, Jane's Addiction), but I think other acts appeal to a younger demographic as well (The Killers, Kings Of Leon). I know you can't please everyone and if there is a glaring mistake, it is the lack of Hip-Hop artists this year, but I can count at least 25 bands I want to see this year. Here are the bands not to be missed (excluding headliners).

1. Bon Iver - I had his album "For Emma, Forever Ago" as my best album of 2008, absolutely beautiful. A simple acoustic folk, with lyrics of a broken relationship and a winter of solitude. To show it wasn't a fluke, he released the "Blood Bank EP" which is embarrassingly good.
2. Band Of Horses - I totally missed them when they released their first album "Everything All The Time", but the follow-up "Cease To Begin" was played as much as any other album last summer. Sounding eerily similar to My Morning Jacket, you can expect southern rock and textured jams, minus the funk.
3. The Knux - The New Orleans Hip-Hop duo actually got me excited to hear beats and rhymes again. Mixing guitars, keyboards and a live band element, they managed to take the best of Outkast, The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest. If that doesn't sound good, please stop reading this and never speak to me again.
Honorable Mentions: MSTRKRFT, Ra Ra Riot, Silversun Pickups, Vampire Weekend, The Decemberists

Now of course everyone can't play, some may have had scheduling conflicts or simply got overlooked, but these artists should have been asked.

1. Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band - No Conor Oberst band has ever played Lolla which is somewhat strange. Bright Eyes played Bonnaroo in '06, The Mystic Valley Band played ACL last year and pulled into Coachella last week. Add to that, that they are releasing a new album "Outer South" next month, for the love of god, why aren't they playing?!?
2. Birdy Nam Nam - This one might just be something overlooked, or not yet on the radar, but "Manual For Successful Rioting" is a killer album. Four French Djs who have won numerous competitions, including the DMC Technics Championship would absolutely blow up Perry's tent! I have yet to see any US dates, but a man can hope, right?
3. Sebastien Grainger - The other half of the now defunct, but still awesome Death From Above 1979, Grainger put out his first solo album and still can make great music. My guess is that with MSTRKRFT on the bill already (he is not speaking with former band mate, Jesse F. Keeler), Perry just had to choose. I refuse to quote Rodney King...

All in all, it's still a great lineup. By no means am I upset with all the great acts put together this year. Tickets are currently $190 for a 3-day pass, see ya there.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Death Cab For Cutie @ The Aragon Ballroom

If you blinked, or just stopped keeping track of Death Cab For Cutie, you might have missed that they have developed into a simply great band. Without a new album to support, they made the most of 2 hours by playing old favorites (The New Year, President of What?), hits (Crooked Teeth, I Will Possess Your Heart) and new additions (My Mirror Speaks, No Sunlight) with energy and force.

This being my third time seeing them, I was a little worried that some of the songs would feel old, or dull, but surprisingly they really do age well. I mean, it's a given that they will play "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" and close with "Transatlanticism", but every time they do, it's a sing-a-long with 3000 sweaty fans. You anticipate it, time your beer run by it and every time it's just as good... How do they do that?!?

Other highlights included "Cath..." taking on more life than the album version, Ben Gibbard praising Wrigley Field while mentioning that Cub Fans use high amounts of vulgarity in front of children, and "A Diamond & A Tether". My wish from the "Open Door" blog came true and it did not disappoint. "A Diamond & A Tether" is quickly racing to the top of my "Top 25 Most Played" playlist on my iPod and might stay there a while. Probably not the best thing to play at a wedding or club, but heartbreaking lyrics always get me. Check out what you missed...

1. Marching Bands of Manhattan
2. The New Year
3. We Laugh Indoors
4. Crooked Teeth
5. President of What?
6. My Mirror Speaks
7. No Sunlight
8. Title Track
9. Grapevine Fires
10. I Will Possess Your Heart
11. I Will Follow You Into The Dark
12. Title and Registration
13. Cath...
14. Fake Frowns
15. Long Division
16. The Sound of Settling
17. Bixby Canyon Bridge
18. A Diamond & A Tether
19. A Movie Script Ending
20. Soul Meets Body
21. Transatlanticism

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Dead Weather

Jack White has assembled yet another group and once again, it's fucking great... How does he do it? The Dead Weather features Alison Mosshart of the Kills on vocals, Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs on bass, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and Jack White happily behind the drum kit. After the Kills opened up for the Raconteurs on tour, White and Mosshart got together and quickly put together the album "Horehound", due out in June.

Although it may seem surprising that Jack White does not play guitar, it should be known that he started on drums early in his career. After dueting with Alicia Keys for "Another Way To Die", the theme from Quantum Of Solace, White admitted he wanted to play drums and produce a band from that angle. The result is "Hang You From The Heavens", the first single, enjoy...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

4 weeks and counting... Conor Oberst

When I saw Conor Oberst last fall supporting his first "solo" album, I noticed two things. One, he wasn't the vulnerable, shy frontman with a quivering voice I saw during his Bright Eyes days. Two, he obviously had written more than twice the songs needed for the album. Normally, when a band/artist put out their first album you can expect to hear almost the entire album because it's the only material they have. But, if Conor Oberst has taught us anything through his numerous identities (Commander Venus, Park Ave, Desaparecidos, Bright Eyes), the man is always writing and making great music. With his self-titled "Conor Oberst" not even a year old, another album "Outer South" is scheduled for release on May 5th.

This time around, Conor is shining some light on the folks that helped him make both records and played with him on tour, The Mystic Valley Band. Recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios, just outside El Paso, Texas, listeners can expect the same southern style, folk/rock that never seems too loud or slow. Among the 16 tracks are a few that were played on his last tour, including: Slowly (Oh So Slowly), Ten Women, Nikorette & I Got The Reason. One song I am curious about is "Eagle On A Pole", a great acoustic song that was already released on the first album, but making a second appearance on the new album as well.

If that wasn't enough, if you simply needed more. Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band will also release "One Of My Kind" on April 15th, a documentary filmed over the past year and a half filled with behind the scenes footage in the studio and on tour. The video will be available to stream or download for FREE at and Conor's site.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pete Yorn Releases 1st Single Off New Album

Pete Yorn has released the first single, "Don't Wanna Cry" and artwork for his upcoming release, Back & Fourth. The album was recorded at Presto! Studios in Omaha, Nebraska with the very talented Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis, Rachael Yamagata). The first single is Pete at his best, an acoustic guitar, great lyrics and subtle textures (pedal steel, horns, mandolin). Despite most of his recognition coming from upbeat, rock tracks like "For Nancy (Cos It Already Is)" and "Life On A Chain", they really don't showcase his skills. Slower songs like "EZ" & "The Man" have always been my favorite and I'm glad to see the new single following this path.

Early fans should not be disappointed either, another song "Can't Hear Anyone" is also posted on his website, retaining his rock sound, just not as loud. Back & Fourth is scheduled for release on June 23rd. "Don't Wanna Cry" is available on iTunes/Amazon and Pete will be the opening act for a few Coldplay show this summer.