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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks to Devendra Banhart & the Grogs

Performing the night before Thanksgiving in the capital of the U.S. is ambitious to say the least. The crowd at the 9:30 Club was pretty mellow, especially compared to the crowd I watched Devendra with at the San Francisco Outsidelands Festival last summer. A few hands flailed throughout the show, but I imagined the crowd being much more thankful.

Though, Devendra & the Grogs came out on stage with just as much energy as if it were a sold-out show and started it off with the whimsical "Long Haired Child." He kept the momentum going, with classics "Shabop Shalom," "Seahorse" and "Carmencita;" a few short diddies like "How's About Tellin a Story" and "Canela;" and a few solos that would break your heart including "It's a Sight to Behold" and "Little Yellow Spiders."

With his recent debut album on a major label, What Will Be, he rocked out to most of its tracks. The pop tunes stood out like sore thumbs - "Baby," "16th & Valencia Roxy Music," and "Goin Back." But they are all embedded with the spirit of Devendra's unique vocals and freak folk philosophy. He explained the meaning of "Maria Lionza," a tale of a strikingly-massive feminist sculpture in Venezuela. The instrumental verse in the middle is a conversation between Maria and Caribbean goddess Santeria, which could not possibly be put into words.

Devendra introduced all of the very-talented members of the Grogs and let them - against their will or not - perform at least one of their scores. The bassist, dressed in a navy blue Snuggie, yelped out an interesting tune. The guitarist turned up the blues with his jazzy number. The keyboardist and miscellaneous percussionist - who could've been Thom Yorke's younger brother - sang a pop song. The drummer rocked out to the heaviest rock song of the evening and head's bobbing and feet stomping.

Just when the crowd was starting to let loose, the show ended and without an encore but it was just enough to get you hooked. You'll have to cross international borders to catch him on the last leg of his tour. Check out dates on Myspace. (www.DevendraBanhart.com is coming soon!)

Find out how Devendra will be spending his Thanksgiving in this interview.
Check out his recent work on Beck's project "The Record Club."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Drooling Over "New Moon (the Soundtrack)"

Several months ago a few (hundred) of my friends tried to get me on to the Twilight bandwagon. and eventually I couldn't stand not being in "the know" of all of the Facebook status updates. I gave in and read Twilight. Within a few weeks, I had to get a hold of New Moon. It was official, I had become a Twilight-addict also known as a tweener.

The Twilight movie was a bit disappointing mostly because the books' characters, in my mind, were my age. Robert Pattinson just didn't do it for me. However, after reading New Moon my perception changed. Edward was a timeless and wise 109-year old vampire (that sparkled). While all of the hype spun around a young and fit Taylor Lautner - or Team Jacob - I, like Bella, remained true to Edward.

I waited patiently for 4 whole days to see New Moon and, of course, lovvvved it. And the music in the film was just as impressive as Jacob's six pack. Sample it at Amazon.com.

Track Listing:
1. Death Cab for Cutie, "Meet Me On the Equinox"
2. Band of Skulls, "Friends"
3. Thom Yorke, "Hering Damage"
4. Lykke Li, "Possibilities"
5. The Killers, "A White Demon Love Song"
6. Anya Marina, "Satellite Heart"
7. Muse, "I Belong to You (New Moon remix)"
8. Bon Iver and St. Vincent, "Roslyn"
9. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "Done All Wrong"
10. Hurricane Bells, "Monsters "
11. Sea Wolf, "The Violet Hour"
12. OK Go, "Shooting the Moon"
13. Grizzly Bear, "Slow Life"
14. Editors, "No Sound But the Wind"
15. Alexandre Desplat, "New Moon (the Meadow)"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's May and It's a Nail Biter

So what? The weather gets nice and I disappear for a month and half. Sorry. It's too nice outside to be cooped up on a computer. However, today is a very special day. Even though it's 80 degrees outside and I'd rather be out there riding a bike and drinking a beer (not at the same time, don't worry), there's some very important business I need to tend to. That's right, it's the Season Finale of American Idol Season 8.

So who's it going to be? Here are my predictions, that up until now I've kept to myself (or at least not on the blog):

While Adam Lambert is extremely impressive, there's something very irritating about his vocal style. He likes to scream. A lot. While that might fly on Broadway - nudge, nudge - I just don't think that will hold up on a debut album. Or any album for that matter. Unless you're Steven Tyler, Axl Rose, or Bjork. Come to think of it, Adam is the ultimate combination of those three. If he can keep in lieu of them, then he might have a shot.

Kris Allen, on the other hand, is quite the antithesis. Not only is he a folkster, he's also very religious. So his debut album might be full of praise to Jesus - and if you know me, I'm not an anarchist, but I'm certainly not into people preachin' & pushin' their religious beliefs onto others. Maybe I'm making too many assumptions. Kris has the voice and creativity and musical talent to take any lyrics - including Kara Dioguardi's awful "No Boundaries" last night - and make it sound DAMN breathtaking.

So while my predictions are still vague and I can see both Lambert and Allen as Idols, it's really up to the 100 million teener-boppers to judge. It's down to the final match:

Adam the Nail Polish Wearin' Rocker vs. Kris the Blue Jean Lullaby Folkster

Who will it be? Here are some other not-so-worthy predictions:

Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield's mind is still pretty ambiguous.

Here's a peek into the official odds.

Scientific Research.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bat, Your Lashes, For Lashes

Bat for Lashes released Two Suns today. It's gotten rave reviews. If you like gloomy glimpses into the female aspect of a relationship, this is the album for you. Her voice is soothing and she speaks in tongues of reassurance.  An albums worth of internal contemplation. 

Though not a fan of her debut, Fur and Gold, there were hints of brilliance in Natasha's lyrics and voice. This follow-up is definitely a turning point. The droning is catchy and will put anyone in the mood for a nice toke from the hookah. Don't take too much. Her lyrics can become eerie in an instant. 

Top 5 Tracks:
5. "Good Love" - a sorrowful organ(ic) nightmare on elm street... 
4. "Sleep Alone" - an oceanic voyage complete with dark rhythmic drums and echoes of electronica, complete with cryptic chants
3. "Peace of Mind" - acoustic strums of 'om'
2. "Glass" - a dream-like state of gypsy
1. "Traveling Woman" - feminist ode to women with flat feet and boots made for walking

An album you'll bust out when you're in "the zone."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; How: Airstream Trailer

On the indy radar, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is by definition a Muscle Shoals band. Isbell has the genuine southern twang down. From fly fishing to a great appreciation of the classic Airstream trailer, there's no denying Isbell has some good stories to tell.

Isbell, former Drive-By Trucker, recollects his childhood in Alabama on his second solo album. "Seven-Mile Island" deemed 'Song of the Week' by IndyWeek.com, is swamp-thumpin' tale of this nature preserve. Seven-Mile Island, home to passing Native Americans, flashes Isbell back to days spent with his father fishing and collecting arrowheads (that now cannot leave the land). It definitely speaks deeper to listeners than the other songs on the self-titled album.

"Good" is a T.G.I.F. party anthem that contrasts well with the tone of the rest of the album. There's no telling what Isbell will do on a Friday night. Oh, he's such a bad boy.

Blender gave the album three stars, deeming Isbell "unexciting" but encouraged his talented writing skills. Maybe he just needs a double shot of espresso? The Washington Post, on the other hand, reviewed their show at the 9:30 Club and compared Isbell to Joe Walsh.

Good news: he is on tour. Bad news, he rounded out the nor'easter earlier this month. You'll just have to rent an Airstream and become a groupie.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lite on the Soy Sauce, Please

A couple years ago, I started having a deeper appreciation for music in foreign tongue. It began with Stereo Total - which is kind of cheating since I studied French for 13 years - and more recently I got into Mexican Institute of Sound. I don't know much Spanish and you certainly cannot depend on learning it from their music. M.I.S. are electro-pop in Spanglish. Mejico Mexico (2007) was my workout album. I hula-hooped-up a sweat to that album. I swung my hips to "Miranda a Las Muchachas" and "Drume Negrita" like it was going out of style . I had no clue what words I was singing out loud, but it was so tangy.

Yesterday (3/24/09) M.I.S. released Soy Sauce. If you are looking for "different" as I was a few years back, it will keep you occupied for about, well, 50-minutes. After that, you'll be regretting that you wasted 50-minutes of your precious life. The rhythm and sauciness got lost in efforts to overuse fancy electronics.

Go back to the basics. We like that sh*t.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

PB & J Have Nothing to Worry About


They're baaaaack. No, it's not another sequel of Poltergeist; it's Peanut Butter & Jelly a.k.a. Peter Bjorn & John. I was driving back across country from L.A., Baltimore-bound, and my girl made me a mix tape. It was quite possibly the best indie mix I've ever heard, featuring "Young Folks." It instantly became my anthem.

In the car alone, I sang the words pretending to be different characters - Kermit the Frog, Barney Rubble, Barbie, and Danny Tanner. For three years, I've been patiently waiting to move on from Writer's Block.

Next Tuesday (03/31/09), PB & J release Living Thing - a lighter, fluffier, poppy seed bag of goodies. A dash of Paul Simon cultural grooviness with a pinch of indie catchy-tude, so watch out, you'll be hooked. You're friends will probably make fun of you, but don't listen to them cause they just don't get it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cough Up the Bucks

So during this whole change of power and the economic meltdown, we're all thinking, where is the man who usually has so much to say? Neil Young's being pretty quiet. WRONG! During his 2008 world tour, Mr. Young has penned an entire album's worth of protest. Dribbling a few leaks onto Myspace and performing a few songs on the road, it's a perfect time to let America hear his stand.

Fork in the Road exemplifies Young's sense of humor mixed with an unhealthy dose of political wit. Maybe not unhealthy, but the man did suffer from an almost-fatal brain aneurysm, he should be relaxing on his ranch in La Honda, CA. Yeah, right. In the "Cough Up the Bucks" video, Neil drives around aimlessly in the back seat of a limo while rhythmically-rapping the chorus and reading The Wall Street Journal ... "where did all the money go?/where did all the cash flow?" 

His other low-budget videos for "Fork in the Road"  notably films a large screen TV being repossessed and "Light a Candle" is shot in front of a trailer home.  Neil released two film versions of "Johnny Magic" - a song about the home of the heavy metal Continental, Wichita - in support of his LincVolt project a.k.a. his Electric 1959 Lincoln Continental. Watch him discuss it with Dave Letterman

Stay up to date with this 69 going on 30-year old on his hi-tech website: www.neilyoung.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is the original Santogold album worth $?


It's not very often that an artist changes their name during the peak of their career. Well, accept for Prince - but he just wanted to change it to a sound to be mysterious.  Apparently, the artist formerly known as Santogold has officially changed her name to Santigold. The original artist Santo Gold is making a come back ... with infomercials? Is that even fair? His name is Santo (space) Gold and he sucks. 

Santi White, we love you. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

BANG BANG BANG

After a crazy weekend, which included The Pretenders live at Electric Factory in Philly, drinking $10 24 oz. Miller Lites, a backstage conversation with the guitarist from the opening band, meeting Dave the band's tour bus driver, and sleeping in the backseat of my Jeep outside a hotel parking lot in Maryland, I'm beat. 

But this Sunday afternoon I could not get over how fuckin' rad it was to see Chrissie Hynde in black thigh-hi stiletto heels. She was rockin' out to her new album, Break Up the Concrete, and the entire 50-something crowd were brought back to their glory days. I was happy for them and my father, after all Chrissie had always been his dreamrockgirl. Merry Christmas, Pops! 

The opening band, American Bang, were a bit younger and a bit more ... well ... of my era. These Nashville-hair-bred boys knew exactly how to get the crowd goin' and it wasn't easy to jump start these 50+'s. Skinny pants, big hair, fast talkin' fingers, and a voice (courtesy of Jaren Johnston) of smokin' cowboy 'tude took my breath away. Sigh. 

These whiskey-drinkin' boys are so upbeat, they start with a two-step stomp, take it to the sexy swagger, and then split- jump 13 feet in the air. And you're eyes are glued the whole time. Rock at it's best circa 2009.

BANG BANG BANG!!!! America's back.

American Bang's EP is available now via iTunes. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until July for the full album. Catch'em live now until May.