Needless to say, please go visit the band’s websites as I post these xmas videos and buy their music. I KNOW some of you out there still haven’t finished your holiday shopping
This very Scottish track caught my ear tonight and I had to share it with you all. I had a twitter exchange with a friend this week that reminded me of how much we love finding new music and of how sick to death I am of major label artists who put out album after album the same old thing. That’s not to say that all established musicians lack creativity and courage – not at all, but I just can’t bring myself to hype the latest regurgitation of whatshisname just because some major corporation has put a shit ton of money into it. THIS here product by The Moth and the Mirror, who are are: Stacey Sievwright (The Reindeer Section, Arab Strap), – Vocals; Guitar; Gordon Skene (Frightened Rabbit) – Guitar, Vocals; Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow, Song of Return) – Guitar/Vocals; Kevin McCarvel Smoke Jaguar) – Bass; Iain Sandilands – Percussion; Peter Murch – Drums), is not only new music by some new people and some seasoned musicians, but it SOUNDS new and exciting, yes? I like its dark moodiness and the way it doesn’t all wrap up happy in the end, like French movies. We americans are always looking for that happy ending, it’s so boring. This track, this is hardly boring. xoxo
Back from his travels far and wide, Mike brings us his review of Fleet Foxes’ latest effort. It’s nice to have other voices here, and I hope you it gives you all something to talk about, eh?! Look forward to more guest posts from contributing writers. If you’d like to be part of Love Shack, Baby, give me a holler. You don’t need to be here in Chicago, just genuinely love music and care about who’s making it and how, xoxo
Fleet Foxes return with their second full-length album Helplessness Blues, an ornate, densely-layered folk confection bound to give a stomachache to the uninitiated. But the fans who relished the self-titled breakthrough album in 2008 will only find more cause to rejoice in this twelve-track travail through a long playing version of Middle Earth. Too hippie and earnest for the Grizzly Bear crowd, too long-winded for the Maps & Atlases contingent, Fleet Foxes have carved out a unique niche for themselves on the contemporary indie scene as the musical heirs of the precious, manufactured-complexity of Art Garfunkel.
The traditional folk complement of acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass and violin, fills out Helplessness Blues with a homey intimacy reminiscent of your favorite watering hole in the Shire. Fleet Foxes would make a great Hobbit bar band, or even a wedding band — their music champions all the traditional Hobbit values: innocence, devotion, daring to dream. “Grown Ocean” is a galloping, wide-eyed anthem of hope, “In my dream I could hardly contain it/ All my life I will wait to attain it…” Cue the warbling strings, the moony gaze over the windswept plain, the turtledove alighting on a branch. Every Fleet Foxes song could double as the soundtrack to a fantasy-epic cutaway montage.
Who can decipher the opaque mysticism of the Seattle-based band? The disconnected medley “The Shrine/An Argument” presents itself more as a riddle than a pop song. A stiff, nasally chorus announces cryptically, “Green apples hang from my tree/ They belong only to me/ Green apples hang from my green apple tree/ They belong only to (only to me)…” Quite right. Having set the record straight on the fruit issue, a moody violin grounds a frenetic saxophone outro. Powerful stuff – a saxophone hasn’t sounded this good on the end of a pop song since Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side.” But pasted at the end of the odd green apple trope, though, it comes off as an awkward misfire.
Fans of a less fantastical Fleet Foxes will enjoy the modest appeal of “Someone You’d Admire.” A quiet, reflective number that weaves sweet melodies out of real human (not Hobbitt) heartache and toil. Yes, Beavis & Butthead (or the cast of Jackass) would make winged farting noises over such delicate mewing. But the rest of us have a more refined emotional palate capable of appreciating the finer sentiments. Fleet Foxes is most defensible when they pull from the rich tradition of group-form folk balladry – from Crosby, Stills & Nash to Peter, Paul & Mary – that has proceeded them. “Someone You’d Admire” harks back to the greater compositional restraint of hits from the first album, like “Oliver James” and “He Doesn’t Know Why,” all songs that don’t disdain a hummable melody.
With so little joy to report from Helplessness Blues, dark times have indeed spread over Middle Earth (and we’re not just talking the usual Seattle cloud cover). The good news, however, is that Fleet Foxes hasn’t shed one iota of the talent or ability that made them the indie darlings of 2008. Their core-audience will once again be astonished, reading genius into every extra minute tacked onto a song, every superfluous viola flourish, every nonsensical lyric. But if the indiesphere was hoping that Fleet Foxes, Seattle’s favorite sons, would become general ambassadors of a new “Northwest” sound, it can only expect disappointment. If anything, the band has retreated further into its creative shell with the stony, hyper-mannerisms of Helplessness Blues. Think: Congratulations for nitrous enthusiasts. Another album like this and Fleet Foxes will be exiled to the New Age circuit.
So I like bucking the trend, not reading my email, not knowing if I’m covering a band that’s solicited my attention or not. Why not, eh? It’s Saturday, I’ve worked hard all week, had my various commuter adventures that really should be forgotten and now I’m feeling rebellious. And I bring to you this band that I tripped over on my way to the Taste of Randolph St. For you out-of-towners (which frankly is 90% of my 5 current readers) Chicago is full up of wonderful street festivals which feature not only great food and shopping goodies but also, and most importantly, awesome bands. And on the various schedules for these glorious festivals you may find links to the bands scheduled to play.
On such a page I found this link to a band named Merlin Wall. What hooked me was not the name, not the pretty album cover, but these words: ” surf-punk slackers.” Yes, darlins, I’m just that easy. Their bandcamp page is truly a treasure trove of slick, chilled-out tunes which feature a good amount of guitar grinding and vocal distortion to please the 80s punk girl in me. Merlin Wall stays true to the part of punk aesthetic that require simple bass lines and repetitive beats. But don’t be fooled, it’s all indie. Dispassionate vocals and angst-ridden lyrics betray that middle-class anomie that will always cause this generation to cry nostalgically into their PBRs. Now if we can just get them to wipe that smirk off their faces the rest of the time we might feel for them sometimes, eh?
Don’t let that stop you from enjoying Merlin Wall. There’s plenty of clashing and crashing to really say something here. I’d recommend this album to you to buy, even if they hadn’t gone and given it away for free – the fucking slackers, xoxo
So this blog seems to have gone to hell, well I guess my life has in a sense as well. So many changes have happened lately, I can’t even begin to fill you in on them all. The most telling one is, however, that I’m spending 10 hours a day at work and too few at home in front of my own, personal computer doing what I want with my time. It’s a good thing, in the big picture, there’s increasing evidence that this will pay off and get me a permanent position if not at this company, then somewhere else when this gig ends. The sacrifice seems to be worth it. I miss you all though. I miss blogging and now that I’m feeling so much better about life, I miss it even more.
I AM catching more shows lately and that is fantastic! Last weekend I got to drool over Jessica Lea Mayfield and Nathaniel Rateliff. It was their very last show of a very long tour and you know those gigs are so special. I’m always thrilled to catch those moments, I’ve caught a few and they are magic. I know if you’re reading this you must know Ms. Mayfield, she’s one of my favorite young artists and always manages to stab me in the heart with her syrupy sad songs. She grows more beautiful each time I see her, both as a person and as a musician. Even singing those songs she debuted three or so years ago now, she brings such heartfelt agony to it all over again. Her album was one of the first I played once I got my turntable set up in my new apartment. Get it if you don’t have it!
And, have you heard Nathaniel Rateliff? Wow, I was so pleasantly bowled over last weekend by his set. I’ve heard him before, from much further away at a bigger venue and I liked him. But this time, closer up, his personality just pushed the whole thing over the edge in a good way. His songs were really organic, like something unrehearsed and unrefined (again in that good way) even though his voice is well-trained and it’s clear he puts much time into the craft of songwriting and performing. I think the lack of pretense in his music is simply a reflection of the lack of pretense in the person. I was ready for that on Saturday night, and it was a perfect companion to the slight distance that his tour mate keeps to her audience, (with good reason and to wonderful effect). I don’t know why I don’t have his album. And I’m kicking myself for not buying the LP, In Memory of Loss that night. Damn friends of mine rushed me out into the rain! No, actually, it was crowded and obnoxious and I rushed them out, I think. Ha!
What will this weekend bring? Damn, I wish I had taken the time to reply to my emails and set up a schedule to see shows. I’ve got invites I’ve neglected, requests for coverage of bands and artists both local and from afar. I think I might really need to get serious about bringing in another writer full-time.
Here, have this little fun thing I got in my box today. I’m gonna use it as music to work by. Sometimes you need stuff like this for to put in your head while you do those repetitive tasks you do at the kind of job I have… click this box, type that phrase, close that window, check that page,… and repeat. Why they pay me this much to do that I cannot fathom. But this music makes it a whole lot more bearable.
Phil and the Osophers are a band I love for the simple reason that it took me a while to really “get” them but once their sound sunk in, I truly got it. I appreciate stuff I have to earn, you too? Well, this music isn’t all that hard to get for most people, it’s lazy-feeling, retro, incredibly catchy. Everything I’ve heard from them reminds me of 1950s Italian movie soundtracks (or American spoofs thereof) but in a good way. Phil’s vocals slide around the melodies in a characteristic manner – you immediately know it’s a Phil and the Osophers’ song. The instrumentation is deceptively off kilter. The percussion is insanely odd at times, perfectly sublime at others. The guitar work is just the way I like it: jangly, twangy, sharp and sweet, all at once. You can dance to it. Go ahead, I dare ya. This new single, “Ink On The Page” is a track that easily fits in with those on Parallelo (if you don’t own that, go get it now, it’s the perfect summer album.)
Phil tells me there’s new music coming down the pike, they’ve been working on a new album for a while now. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing two tracks that might make their way onto it. Both are fantabulous, this band continues to evolve leaving me comfortable knowing they will continue to produce music I love.
David Vandervelde is someone who, whenever he comes to town, I will drop whatever I’m doing and get myself to that gig. In fact, of the many, many great bands/artists Steve over at Baby You Got a Stew Goin has introduced me to, David Vandervelde is certainly in my top ten of favorites. He not only has a great voice, can write wonderful melodies and catchy songs with good lyrics, but this man can PLAY GUITAR like nobody’s business. That’s not something that the casual listener notices when hearing his records and I wonder, when I’m standing amongst those chatty, rude, idiots that seem to flock to Schubas on a Saturday night if they got more than they bargained for. Because David does some serious guitar soloing. But unlike those “stars” that simply show off and then look for the applause (all the while pretending not to), this guy gives off the vibe that he just can’t help but do that solo, it had to come out and he’s kinda a little embarrassed you had to see it even. Well, maybe not embarrassed, because the man loves to rock, and he’s good at what he does. But these songs do not depend on that guitar virtuosity, they stand alone as the kind of tracks you want to hear on your radio on a summer day in your car with the windows down. Just take my word for it, you really want to hear them live, hear what else he packs into them once he gets going. He played a full set of at least 10 songs, three on his own without the aid of his drummer, a friend from Nashville, David’s new home (he’s a Chicagoan, ya know) and without bass player extraordinaire, another Chicagoan who will be missed around these parts. I’m disappointed in myself for not capturing a picture of David’s pedals for you. He uses a variety of effects pedals and switches to enhance his gorgeous guitar work, none of it overdone or masking the real talent there. Don’t miss David Vandervelde and his band, they’re only on tour for a few more days as they ready up a new album for us. Lucky, lucky us! xoxo
05/08/11 Bloomington, IN – The Bishop
05/10/11 Arlington, VA – IOTA Club & Cafe
05/11/11 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live – Upstairs BUY TICKETS
05/12/11 Allston, MA – Great Scott BUY TICKETS
05/13/11 New York, NY – The Mercury Lounge BUY TICKETS
05/14/11 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl BUY TICKETS
05/15/11 Baltimore, MD – Golden West
05/17/11 Charlottesville, VA – Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
05/18/11 Asheville, NC – Emerald Lounge
05/19/11 Knoxville, TN – Barley’s Tap Room