Monday, May 31, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Thursday, May 27th)

After weeks of anticipation and arguing over which bands should get the honor of being highlighted, Barcelona's Primavera Sound came off to a roaring start which included sets that won't be easily forgotten and others which reminded us of the shortfalls of the festival format.  Despite being the most crowded year to date, Primavera Sound was mostly free of the headaches that can plague a festival which has experienced such substantial growth in the past few years.  Yes, the lines to buy a beer were excruciatingly long at some points, but this predicament was offset by the excellence of this year's line-up.

Titus Andronicus (20:30)
Though mostly showcasing material from this year's The Monitor, these Jersey rockers strayed away from the cinematic touches that distinguish the album and decided to perform their material in the most straightforward and noisy way possible.  By extending the more rambunctious moments of their mammoth songs, Titus Andronicus managed to show that their sweeping flourishes aren't an exercise in presumptuousness but rather a vehicle to accentuate the grandeur of their ballads.

The Smith Westerns (21:45)
I knew these kids were young before coming in to this show, but I couldn't help but be taken aback but their amateurish pose and poorly hidden nervousness during their brief set.  The group may not have much material to work with, but their small legion of fans made up for any lack of energy that was felt on stage by providing the desperately needed spark which made the group interesting in the first place.  The grimy vocals and treblely guitars that filled their debut album were mostly washed out in their live mix and caused the simplicity of their songs to turn on them in a quite unflattering way.

Crocodiles (23:15)
While not known for their especially profound songwriting, Crocodiles seemed like a good alternative in a mostly guitar heavy night.  Using heavy kick drums and an over amplified bass to try to turn plain songs into instant crowd-pleasers, however, only works if the set features an effective balance of highs and lows, but by constantly relying on their simple rhythms, the set quite quickly became linear and not enjoyable.  Most of the crowd seemed to share my opinion in that they spent most the set chatting away or leaving halfway through. 

Pavement (1:00)
The most anticipated group of the night and possibly the entire festival brought such large crowds that it showed how much this band's stature and influence has grown in the past years.  Productively balancing favorites like "Cut Your Hair" and "Conduit of Sale!" with more restrained numbers like "Stop Breathin'"", Pavement's very presence and exuberance seemed to leave the crowd hanging on to every note with a concentration that is rare at such large venues.  Stephen Malkamus's guitar playing and vocals moved away from the sloppiness that defined their earlier material and instead seemed to focus on producing a precise effect for every moment.  Far from being a greatest hits set, the performance came off as a fresh, new statement for a band trying to define their already revered legacy. 

Delorean (2:45)
The popularity of these local heroes has grown unexpectedly in the past year thanks to their original blend of melodic pop and painfully dense electronic dance music.  At this hour, their live show came off as more of a showcase for their ability to get bodies moving rather than having a defined purpose or aesthetic.  The band should be admired for their ability to effectively reinterpret the loops that make up their songs and congeal them into a more fluid experience.

Moderat (3:30)
This Berlin based project featuring the techno powerhouses Modeselektor and Apparat, included all the positive aspects that one comes to expect from a minimal show.  Their stunning visuals and unpredictable dynamics, joyously brought the very long evening to an end that was surprisingly eventful for a Thursday night.  It may not have suited the tastes of everyone in the crowd but it certainly gave an extra boost to the few and faithful who decided to carry on dancing long into the night.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Primavera Sound and A Viva Veu: Fred i Son, Fantásico Club, May 24, 2010

This week's festival madness started on a low-key note with yesterday's intimate and modest set by Barcelona's own Fred i Son.  This three-piece group brings recollections of the days when Belle and Sebastian and other bedroom pop stars used to adhere to the philosophy of the barer, the better.  Free from the confines of any elaborate orchestration, the group made the most of their limited resources and provided the tightly packed crowd with nearly an hour's worth of gracefully pleasant amusement.  Restraining themselves from the tendency of turning acoustic sets into campfire sing-alongs, the rhythm section's keen use of brushed snares and melodic bass lines, turned what could have easily been a syrupy bore into an unexpectedly jolly start to a long week.

Fred i Son

A Viva Veu

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kira Kira - Bless

BLESS from Overture on Vimeo.

Iceland's reputation has taken quite a hit within the past few months.  First the country went bankrupt, and now we're living with the threat of having its recalcitrant volcano ruin all of our summer travels.  The musical output from this beloved island nation however, has continued to fascinate with both its diversity and high caliber artists.  Kira Kira's work blends electronically damaged vocals with ambient tones to create a visual spectacular that merges so gracefully, it becomes a new experience in itself.  Their most recent LP, Our Map to the Monster Olympics, comes off as more of an atmospheric soundtrack than a full-fledged album but remains captivating thanks to its soft fluctuations and pop sensibilities.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't Look Back #5: Beat Happening - You Turn Me On

The regression to an idealized version of childhood might be Beat Happening's most prevalent vestige in terms of developing indie's current aesthetic. But what makes You Turn Me On stand apart from the work of other twee idols is how it doesn't allow its minimal style to hinder or obscure the pure strength of its content.  Album opener "Tiger Trap" features all the ingredients of their earlier work: Calvin Johnson's baritone droning, simplistic chords, and a driving rhythm section, however the subject matter is interpreted with such earnestness and depth that it is impossible to not be taken aback by this new, more mature approach.  Instead of using the innocence of youth as a defense mechanism for a lack of maturity, every story is told with total vulnerability that requires the listener to appreciate the grace and bravery of displaying your humanity without regard to the values of the "adult" world.  Full of contrasts yet easily understood as a whole, You Turn Me On completes the journey that we all must take when we choose to define concepts as broad as life, love, and death.  Though this mission might seem like an arudous and thankless task, it's the special attention that is given to the ephemeral moments of life which makes it such a fulfilling experience.

Beat Happening - Teenage Caveman

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Primavera Mix!

How does one define a concept as broad as "excitement"? Is it that feeling of anticipation that arises when you know that something significant is going to happen? Or could it be that all these emotions are just the result of our perceptions of previous experiences?  We can imagine all we want but eventually the big moment arrives and rarely does it resemble what we had envisioned.  Big names and hype are fun but surprise is what I pay for when I go to a festival.  With Primavera Sound right around the corner, we've decided to throw together a mix of some of our favorite bands this year.  Thanks to Bateman for his contributions and enjoy.

Kids Don't Follow - Primavera Mix

Sunny Day in Glasgow - Shy
Surfer Blood - Neighborhood Riffs
Aias - La Truita
Montañas - Andrín
Built to Spill - Center of the Universe
The Pixies - Alison
Sic Alps - Message from the Law
HEALTH - Die Slow
Joker & Ginz - Purple City
Fake Blood - I Think I Like It
Major Lazer - Keep It Goin' Louder
Delorean - Simple Graces
The Big Pink - Velvet
Ganglians - Try To Understand
Best Coast - When I'm With You
Pavement -  In The Mouth of a Desert

Monday, May 3, 2010

The New Pornographers - Together

How did The New Pornographers manage to surprise me after I thought I had them all figured out?  Challengers, although it had it's share of sweeping finesse, felt like a tired effort in trying to create a new "adult" sound that ultimately resulted in stamping out all the chaotic joy that made me like this group in the first place.  The lack of innovation on A.C. Newman's solo album Get Guilty then led me to believe that he had no more songwriting tricks up his sleeve and any new material would just be a further exercise within the same used template.  It would be an exaggeration to call Together a radical departure but the album exemplifies that the band's previous indulgences in orchestral recording were not just for show but rather a step in creating a new identity.

Once known for perfectly blending syrupy, dense distortion along masterfully written power-pop, the thrills on Together come from the attention that is given in a creating distinct momentum for every track. Feedback hiss is traded for elaborate vocal harmonies and this is without a doubt, the most treblely Porno's album to date.  Thanks to the return of Kurt Dahle's more aggressive and versatile drumming, slower numbers no longer plod but keep the listener engaged with the countless shifts in melody and moon.  Dan Bejar's eccentricities are once again exploited to their full potential; like on "Daughters of Sorrows", which might awake memories of a more lush version of Destroyer's Rubies.  Any hints of staleness are completely erased once the album reaches it's majestic closer "We End Up Together" which summons all the gumption and talent of each member to create a audacious statement on how tireless resourcefulness can somehow still produce bright material despite increasing public indifference.

The New Pornographers - A Bite Out Of My Bed(dead link, sorry guys!)