Monday, March 22, 2010

Yo La Tengo (March 19, Sala Apolo)

As a band that has been consistently releasing quality records for over two decades, it would seem that Yo La Tengo might have little need to prove themselves when it comes to distinguishing their live material from that of their recorded.  A "best of" set list with perhaps a few songs off the new album would be suffice for your typical band that's now well into their forties.  But alas, Yo La Tengo has repeatedly shown us that they are not so easily pigeonholed and Friday night's performance demonstrated that though they may no longer have the need to reinvent their identity with each new release, the constant reinterpretation of their vast repertoire eliminates any notion that they're anywhere near to becoming irrelevant or outdated.

The most striking feature for those who had yet to see Yo La Tengo perform in a such intimate setting, as opposed to the more withdrawn set from last year's Primavera Sound, was the immediate sense of unpretentiousness and stoicism that all three members distinctly project to the audience.  Their many years of touring have turned them into masters of their craft but they've constantly maintained their accessible and above all else, humble origins.  The first segment of their show highlighted the standouts from 2009's Popular Songs and a clear favorite was the reconstructed and bent version of the opener "Here to Fall".  By being their most orchestral piece of recorded music, the song clearly presented a new type of challenge for a band whose reputation lies most in their low-fi style. Nonetheless lead-man Ira Kaplan's saturating use of a totally refashioned analog organ filled in any space that might have been felt in the absence of the song's original lush production.

The group wisely took advantage of their multifaceted talents by dabbling in every nook of the immense pool that is the Yo La Tengo sound.  One number might consist of no more than two acoustic guitars and the accompaniment of Georgia Hubly's fragile voice whereas another has them showing off their best brother Gibbs impression or then shatteringly performing their dense noise rock classics.  Apart from playing their own material, their shows have grown in notoriety for their eclectic selection of covers from more obscure artists.  This segment was underscored by the recent death of Mephsis legend Alex Chilton.  While his more rambunctious pieces have become staples of the power-pop genre, one of the night's true highlights was the subdued tribute paid to the Big Star favorites "Take Care" and "Thirteen".

Constantly thanking the public and unable to hide their gratification for the lively, yet at times quite raucous reception, Yo La Tengo's final number "My Little Corner of the World" epitomized what the band has successfully worked for throughout their career in generously giving their fans a serene hideaway that their music both represents and repeatedly provides.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homemade Music for a Sunday Evening

This hastily thrown together collaboration seemed to have more technical interruptions than moments of musical inspiration and I suspect the previous night's boisterous activities might have been a contributing factor to its disheveled condition.  

1.  Los Payasos de Circo - ¿Como están ustedes?
2.  Agaric - We Are
3. Pictureplane - Goth Star
4. Neon Indian - Terminally Chill
5. Lindtrom and Prius Thomas - Boney M Down (alt. version)
6. Portishead - Cut the Tear
7. Yo La Tengo - If it's True
8. Best Coast - Sun Was High
9. Ducktails - Horizon
10. Julain Lynch - Rancher
11. Animal Collective - On A Highway
12. Washed Out - Feeling All Around
13. Atlas Sound - The Light That Failed
14. jj - Ecastasy
15. Moderat - Rusty Nails
16. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
17. Four Tet and Burial - Moth
18. Gorilaz - Orchestral Intro (Feat. Sinfonia VIVA)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pictureplane - Beyond Fantasy

"Goth Star" by Travis Edgey aka Pictureplane was one of last year's best examples of how the effective yet unrelenting looping and splicing of samples can create a dense rhythm section that still manages not to lose the essence of a song.  His latest work rips apart Baby D's cheesy ballad "Let Me Be Your Fantasy" and transforms it into a dark and desperate cry of synth-pop vitality.  Far from being profound or evasive like his earlier output, every vocal manipulation and drum break has a clear purpose in elevating this track to its euphonic finale.  Though seeming fragile in its growing hysteria, "Beyond Fantasy" manages to hold together and deliver an indulging standout.

Pictureplane - Beyond Fantasy    

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Primavera Preview #5: Scout Niblett

One's first impression of Scout Niblett might conjure up memories of grunge's heyday in the mid-nineties.  She's worked with legendary producer Steve Albini, she's known to cover "Verse Chorus Verse" live, and every review of hers can't seem to avoid mentioning PJ Harvey.  Once you get past all these surface traits though, you'll find that her albums are far more intimate than the work of these aforementioned artists.  Using the most crude and direct approach to making a guitar rock album, Niblett creates the sensation that she's not playing for a large audience, but rather that her music serves as her own form of personal therapy.  She gives her minimalist methods plenty of room to breathe and fill the arid silence between her tensely delivered passages that often allude to mysticism and classical tragedy.  Expect an obscure set with brief flashes of fiery distortion followed by intensively long periods of barren distress.

Scout Niblett - I.B.D.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cults - Go Outside

Robert Frost once said that unlike poetry or art, cults offer the promise of a great clarification and refuge from the confusion of everyday life.  A true work of art on the other hand, at first delights and then ends in wisdom, without the false comfort of empty promises.  "Go Outside" probably fits best into the former category, as it breaks out with undeniably infectious harmonies and a mammoth sound that gives both shelter and a sense of triumph.  I've been trying to find more information about these new pop minstrels but so far, there is little to be discovered regarding there history or origins.

Cults - Go Outside