Thursday, December 30, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
1) Pantha du Prince-Black Noise
2) White Fence-s/t
4) The National-High Violet
5) The Strange Boys-Be Brave
6) Beach Fossils-s/t
7) Yellow Swans-Going Places
8) The Radio Dept-Clinging to a Scheme
9) Tabacco-Maniac Meat
10) Perfume Genius-Learning
...and 10 Tracks Too:
1) Panda Bear-'Tomboy'
3) Strange Boys-'Be Brave'
4) Girls-'Oh, Boy"
6) White Fence-'Mr. Adams'
7) The National-'Lemonworld'
8) Beach Fossils-'Daydream'
9) Thee Silver Mt. Zion-'I Built Myself a Metal Bird'
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
In a room swarming with fashion-forward Berliners, all eyes quickly rested on the most unassuming person in the whole place, who was wearing nothing but a washed out t-shirt, jeans and slip-ons. With no stage lights on him and no introduction, Panda Bear commanded the stage for over an hour with only an electric guitar, a small synth, two mixers and a mic. Oh yeah, and he didn’t play a single thing off either of his two beloved albums. Instead, Panda projected a montage of new work onto us without asking for permission or delivering any apologies. With equal parts dark/primitive to romantic/auspicious, you could almost hear each song spell out a different provocation: "Who cares about what I've done before?...Who cares what the concert promoters want out of me?... Who cares about how much better the state of the world was in a few years ago?...Why care about anything else besides being present in this very moment, together?"And before we knew it, the whole room was seemingly brainwashed into letting go of the past and all in favor of lionizing the future.
Then, just as modestly as he had appeared, he was gone. No mindless banter. No self-promoting. No indie smugness. Just music. Pure and unbridled, for a new decade....On the way out, I glanced at the merch table in the back and found there were zero Panda Bear lp's/cd's, stickers or hoodies for sale. Just one shirt layed there and it looked like it had been drawn on with a half-dead Sharpie...perhaps by his daughter even. Oh, if only the rest of the music world would invest more time on their craft and less time on their convoluted haircuts, tiresome wardrobes and splashy merchandise, I think we would all be more excited about what possibilities the future holds...and not just musically.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
The museum introduces the viewer to John Cage with his early percussion pieces of the 1930s and the idea that one must be equally open to arbitrary noise as to conventionally understood musical sounds. With several headphones strewn along on the walls, one could eavesdrop on the spectrum of ground-breaking sounds he created from highly unorthodox ‘instruments’ (rice bowls, bathtubs, etc). For myself, I couldn’t help but reflect on the ocean of musicians I adore who have since operated out of his bold rhythmic enterprising. Moving into the 1940s, Cage’s ‘prepared piano’ sat alone with its lid open, giving us spectators a chance to view the array of scandalous objects he inserted between the strings. By placing everything from screws to eraser heads inside, not only did Cage produce a whole new continuum of sounds for the piano but he also managed to emasculate a firm instrument of bourgeois culture at that time.
Through the 1950s, sometimes even before hostile audiences, Cage extended the idea of using chance in the process of writing musical scores as well as into the realm of performance. As expected, Cage’s landmark work, 4’33", was realized in this exhibition in several versions. This ‘silent’ composition, whose content is meant to be perceived as the sounds of the environment that the listener hears while it is 'performed' (rather than 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence) is presumably the most dynamic conceptual object to come out of the 20th century. Furthermore, many of Cage’s beautiful water and radio scores were also represented from this same period. In the 1960’s and beyond, John Cage became increasingly interested in media-based works that ruptured the ideas of authorship as well as attention. One the strongest pieces of the exhibition was his computer-generated slide, sound and film installation titled HPSCHD, which was presented in one of the final galleries of the show.
Lastly, the show explored Cage’s friendship and influence on several monumental artists including Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol and Nam June Paik. The museum displayed a number of stunning pieces from each of these visual pioneers and if you managed to look close enough, you could almost see Cage’s fingerprints quietly on them. Taken as a whole, MACBA did a tremendous job of clearly proving that without John Cage, the art and music of the last 80 years would have unfolded very differently…and certainly more drearily.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Everything a good post-rock instrumental band should be: Goliath-sized builds, inevitable pummeling, and cascading descents all driven by implausible guitar work and strings from another world. This Japanese quartet, who carries around a 28-piece orchestra, knows how to summon an army of sound in a matter of seconds and then retreat just as quickly. Hymn to the Immortal Wind is purely cinematic, with wonderful drama and perfect pacing....
Glass-breaking, pots-and-pans banging, raunchy synth-pop. Mica Levi happens to be a 21 year old classically trained instrumentalist who would rather play homemade guitars and a Hoover vacuum instead. Her sound is kinda like a love triangle between Blood Brothers Crimes, MIA’s Arular and Bow Wow Wow ‘s When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going. As expected, this album is pertinent for the iPod/ADHD generation, seeing that only two songs barely make it over the 3 minute mark. ‘Jewellery’ is an incredibly progressive debut that is straight-up fun. Plus, when you have Bjork out there repping you, you know Mica's phone isn't the only thing that's golden...
8) The Antlers-Hospice
The gut-wrenching forthrightness that comes from this record is astonishing. The album sits at the bedside of a terminally ill child named Sylvia and takes you through the spectrum of emotions you would feel as the hospice worker assigned to her, whether you might want to own up to them or not. The lyrics are certainly the best of the year, seemingly ripped straight from a journal: There was glass inside my feet and raining down from the ceiling, it opened up the scars that had just finished healing. It tore apart the canyon running down your femur (I thought that it was beautiful, it made me a believer.) And as it opened I could hear you howling from your room, but I hid out in the hall until the hurricane blew.’ At the end of the record, its startling how one person’s catharsis can end up being equally shared by the listener...
7) Real Estate-s/t
With ten tracks that gently billow with anticipation, guilt, and melancholy, this Woodsist four piece has captured the youthful honesty of a last bonfire before school starts again. While Real Estate's stratocasters cozy up to the likes of the Shadows and the Feelies, their laid-back harmonies create a sparkling panorama of the most unlikely of places, the Jersey shore. Originally hailing from there, it's quite a wonder how their decades of pollution troubles didn't manage to seep onto this recording (Syringe Tide anyone?). But that's just it I suppose...nostalgia is always a little washed-out and by its own nature, wonderfully forgiving...
6) The Dirty Projectors-Bitte Orca
The Dirty Projectors follow up a fantastic record, Rise Above, with an even more ambitious one that is full of astounding contrasts. It’s unpredictable yet accessible; playful yet virtuosic. Bitte Orca is crammed full of incredible musicianship and unorthodox time-signatures that Zappa himself would be proud of, all while making you want to shake and shimmy. With melodic bravery and pop sensibilities, these art-rockers have packed up and moved out of our planet and I can’t even begin to imagine where they’ll land next...
5) Here We Go Magic-s/t
Bought out of sheer happenstance, this record started out as a pleasantly likable album that slowly burned into a surprise go-to-record for any occasion this year. Luke Temple’s first release under the HWGM moniker is certainly the most unpretentious indie record to come out this year. Think dense Eno-esque multi-track vocals over perfectly restrained acid-folk rhythms, hazy electronica and minimalistic guitar ad infintum. Recorded on a 4-track, this ultra lo-fi album is like basking in a lazy river of sonic bliss that you’ll never want to get out of....
4) Grizzly Bear-Veckatimest
Grizzly Bear surpassed all our expectations this year. After two previous albums that were delicately modest, this record came out brimming with confidence right from the start. Instead of the vocals being awash in some distant reverb, this time the dual vocalists become the shepherds in which the music faithfully follows. And boy do they cover some seriously beautiful and uncultivated terrain. With flourishing string arrangements, complex guitar narratives and fantastic drumming (which is also much more prominent this time around), Grizzly Bear has finally matured into its namesake. There’s so much to take in on this album, I recommend an expensive set of headphones and a good old fashioned record player...
The Strange Boys proper debut is actually anything but that. With 16 ramshackle tunes that sound more like something off Chess Records instead of In the Red, these youngsters conjure up the rhythm and blues spirits of Diddley, Berry and Lenoir in a gritty-pop sound all their own. Lead singer, Ryan Sambol, sounds like a sauced young Dylan whose blurred together jocularity and deviousness, while the guitars and drums jangle around him with a Kinda Kinks temper. If, like me, you find yourself watching American Bandstand infomercials instead of what's on MTV2, then take heart! Go grab some moonshine out of your dad's cabinet, your prized white bucks and prepare to boogie your troubles away...
Merriweather Post Pavilion opened up the beginning of 2009 blooming with the utmost of musical integrity and freshness. This record is a noise collage of technicolor chants, tribal beats, and waves of synths that linger long after the needle stops circling. While each vocal hook snags you in the cheek and forces you to sing along, the lyrics bestow importance on such commonplace things as appreciating ‘the subtleties of taste buds’ in that very same mouth. Avey, Panda, and Geologist proved once again that there is still no other band making this kind of music right now. Not a single track is weak or flawed and MPP is overwhelmingly joyful from start to finish. Basically, this record is like Zoloft for your ears...
3) Antony and the Johnsons-The Crying Light
5) Laura Gibson-Beasts of Season