Patrick Watson at The Great American Music Hall

11/19/2012

Like the comforting warmth of hot chocolate or coffee on a cold day, Patrick Watson‘s vocals can send magical shivers through your bones that warm your heart. His recent album, Adventures In Your Own Backyard is full of dichotomies–like the songwriter himself. Sweet tones accompanied sad and lost lyrics. Live his playfulness understates the seriousness of his music. Together though, these balances provide for a beautiful experience.

Win two tickets and catch Patrick Watson tonight at the Great American Music Hall. All you have to do is:

1. Sign up for our mailing list (make sure to verify and use an email we can contact you at!)

2. Comment below telling us your favorite Patrick Watson song.

We’ll announce a winner today by 4pm PST on this post and our Facebook wall. Until then, enjoy his performance at the 9:30 Club in DC.

El Ten Eleven at Rickshaw Stop [Review]

11/18/2012

It’s crazy how much sounds El Ten Eleven create. Without a single laptop or sequencer, the duo generate enough noise you’d think it was a much larger group of musicians. Lacking lyrics to specifically explain their deep emotions, the pair instead uses a barrage of bass and drums. With an upbeat ambient style containing subtle, but complicated melodies, similar to that of Explosions in the Sky and Ratatat, El Ten Eleven performed at the Rickshaw on Friday night to a hip, diverse crowd.

Following opening performances from the energetic Chicago rock group Yourself and the Air and New York glitch hop artist Michna, the headline musicians stepped in front of a self-constructed façade strung-together by square LED panels that gracefully transitioned between views of space, underwater and flashing solid colors. The two “don’t-call-it-post-rock” band members proceeded to continuously loop themselves and juggle innumerable layers of dreamy tracks on top of each other with impressively intricate prowess.

El Ten Eleven’s guitarist Kristian Dunn primarily strummed his double-neck bass/guitar (sometimes playing both simultaneously) with extreme precision like weaponry, while his feet danced upon an extensive floorboard of looping devices and effects pedals. His other instrument of choice for the evening was fretless bass. Drummer Tim Fogarty maintained all the fluctuating tempos with veteran savviness. Alternating between traditional acoustic drums, electronic drum pads and roto toms within each song, he occasionally looped his 808 kick beats beats into the mix. All of this ethereal and electric chaos synced harmoniously. The track that resonated the most that evening was their newly released single “Yellow Bridges,” thanks to its abstractly rich textures.

Surprisingly, the band has been around for ten years with five full album releases. Dissimilar to most independent bands without a record label or management, El Ten Eleven decided to go rogue by choice because they were unwilling to give up artistic control. They preferred to form their own record label, fittingly named Fake Record Label and now armed with a marketing agency and a publicist, it is officially a business. Dunn has been previously signed by seven different record labels, including Atlantic. Both Dunn and Fogarty are also members of the San Diego-based electro pop group Softlightes, the first American band signed to the Australian label Modular Records.

To assure their independence in 2012, the band wanted to raise $2,000 for their fifth album, Transitions, on Kickstarter. Using perks such as downloads, vinyl and private music lessons, El Ten Eleven received over $10,000 entirely from their fan base. The record was officially released on October 2.

Tame Impala Live Review From The Fillmore

11/18/2012

Photographs by Leticia Molina

A buzz built outside of The Fillmore. “Can I get a ticket?” “Anyone have tickets to sell!?” Anxious fans without tickets crowded around the venue trying their hardest to find a way into Tame Imapala‘s sold-out performance. Inside, The Amazing opened up the night to a few dozen huddled fans. “I never dreamed I would stand on this stage,” proclaimed the bassist in the most polite and appreciative Swedish accent. Setting the tone for the evening with their chill-back vibes and mellow music, halfway through their set the venue was packed with a very stoned audience.

I’ll admit, the excitement surrounding the show came as a little of a surprise. Three months earlier Tame Impala headlined Outside Lands‘ main stage early in the day to a sparse audience. That was before their sophomore album Lonerism was released. The album has climbed the Billboard Charts, received high praise from esteemed BBC critic, Zane Low, and likely will be included atop many end of the year lists. Without sounding trite Lonerism’s 60s pop rock style flashes shades of late Beatles and Cream. Like the album, live, Tame Impala has a relentless, full sound that swirls with psychedelic layerings and crisp guitar leads. Kevin Parker’s vocals wax and wane as though desperately trying to emerge from underneath the water.

From set opener “Be Above It” to the group’s single “Elephant,” the crowd’s excitement never faltered. The group’s music is easy to get lost in. Behind the band a WinAmp visual circa ’95 burst in-synch with the high and low notes, which seemed fitting given the band’s throwback style.

It was awesome to hear that Lonerism live sounded almost exactly like the album. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the aesthetic magic of the album was lost outside the studio, but this wasn’t the case: the revving guitars of “Elephant” pumped tightly, the synths of “Music To Walk Home By” soared and Parker’s somber tone cried out on “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.”

As the show came to its end, I felt like I had just witnessed something special. For those unfortunate few that didn’t get tickets in advance, don’t miss out on the next opportunity. Tame Impala is on to something.

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Benjamin Gibbard @ Palace of Fine Arts

11/15/2012

The Palace of fine arts is somewhat of an intimidating space. For Damien Jurado, there was dead silence as he told us stories and sung with nothing but an acoustic electric guitar. It was indeed going to be an intimate night.

Once Ben Gibbard took the stage the audience gave him the same respect they showed to the previous performer. We all just held on to the silence and let the master work, trying not to make a sound in our seats.  Ben was on stage with nothing but a guitar, a mic, some amps and a piano.  All the fancy light work you usually see at a concert these days was gone. There was a main spot light and some colored lights pointing down on the center stage–but that’s it.  I imagined this is what he looked like when he practiced solo in his home.

Ben sung many of his greatest hits to date. He mentioned, ‘”This tour is like the greatest hits played slower.”  And ‘slower’ it was.  All of the songs were taken and stripped of anything and everything that wasn’t Ben himself.  This was his night. It was his night to show us the songs that he had written in a way that re-exposed us all to them in a new light.  We were all taken back, to the early days of our high school or college careers, where love was still new.  I remembered a lot of the first times I heard those songs, and what made me connect to them in the first place.  Those memories crept up on me as the night went on.  And I think that I speak with most of the audience when I say that  it was truly a magical experience.  The woman next to me was in tears on her lover’s shoulder silently mouthing the words to every song.  And the whole crowd cheered and smiled when another of their favorite songs had begun.  Even when he played songs off of his most recent solo album, Former Lives, we were all extremely captivated.

I think this is the show that Ben has always dreamed of having.  Playing in one of his favorite cities, and having the utmost respect given to him.  Several times he mentioned how he never imagined playing in a ‘palace.’ And to thank us as a city, he played Scott Mckenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”  We really appreciated that one. Thanks Ben.

Listen to Flume – Insane (feat. Moon Holiday)

11/15/2012

Harley Streten is a local Sydney beat maker who got his first taste for producing music at age 13 from the unlikeliest of sources: a cereal box. The breakfast bundle strangely ignited his career because it included a music production program. Now 20-years old, he still lives with his parents in the Australian beach-side suburb of Manly and performs as the dance artist, Flume, with heavy melodic bass that represents a friendly future sound.

This recent collaboration with atmospheric vocalist and Sydney resident Moon Holiday (Alex Ward) originates from his self-titled debut album that was released on November 9 via Future Classic. The ghostly edits and chromatic beat amplify the enigmatic aura. Garish alterations sweeten the mood for a lush and flourishing experience. Flume constantly adds new elements and vocal manipulation to the melancholy chord progression, avoiding repetition and keeping listeners entertained.

He recently shared fascinating thoughts about his music during an awesome interview with a local radio station: “The whole “EDM” thing, it’s been commercialised – but dance music for me has now become like TNGHT, that Hudson Mohawke and Lunice trap kind of stuff. All of those guys is what I’m really enjoying about dance music right now. It’s not four-four stuff, but it’s club music and for me that’s the future of dance music.”

Frank Ocean Channel Orange Album Review

11/14/2012

Just before Channel Orange’s release, Frank Ocean announced his homosexuality in a note posted on his Tumblr. Like a crashing piano, the noise of support and criticism blurted out at once. Rarely has anyone, certainly not as recognized as Ocean, come out to the largely homophobic hip hop and R&B community. The admission was powerful in its simple truth: “I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore.”

Frank Ocean’s honesty shines throughout Channel Orange. Struggling with his love addiction (“Thinkin Bout You”), he tries to escape (“Crack Rock”). Midway through the album, he spirals out of control on a nine-minute track (“Pyramids”), and later questions life’s meanings and his place in it (“Bad Religion” and “Lost”). From start to finish, the album is the story of him mending together the pieces of his broken heart.

This is Frank Ocean’s strength: words. Without seeming preachy, overbearing, or the least bit cliché, Channel Orange pulls you in like a page-turning novel. At times, he’s direct like in “Sweet Life” as he sings “why see the world when you’ve got the beach.” In other cases, he plays with metaphors and words like on “Crack Rock” where he confesses, “You don’t know how little you matter until you’re all alone / In the middle of Arkansas, with a little rock left in that glass dick.” It’s in this vein that there’s something truly special about Frank Ocean. It’s impossible not to sympathize with him.

Like fellow melancholy crooner, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean’s vocals emphasize tone over range. Unlike some of his noted influences (Stevie Wonder and Mary J Blige), there are no gospel solos reminiscent of Whitney Houston or Boyz II Men. In turn, this places the emphasis on his lyrics. After asking a taxi driver “to be his shrink” on “Bad Religion,” he sings, “This unrequited love / To me it’s nothing but a one-man cult / And cyanide in my stryofoam cup / I can never make him love” in a falsetto voice that suggests his instability. Then, on “Pilot Jones,” his sultry and soulful tone is accented by a simple snap rhythm that recalls the sultriness of D’Angelo.

Given his writing, the amount of subtle nuances and intricacies throughout the album is not surprising. From the beginning, “Start” picks up where Nostalgia, Ultra left off, using the same Street Fighter sample and clicking noise of a tape cassette. With “Pilot Jones,” Ocean sets up the metaphor of love as a drug, which continues through “Crack Rock” and “Bad Religion.” And while it’s easy to overlook the transitions, “Pilot Jones” concludes with the sound of a plane getting ready to take off before segueing into “Crack Rock” where Ocean sings about getting high.

Undoubtedly, this album will top many end-of-year lists (certainly mine), but its impact will last much longer. Amidst the many rappers who use f***** in casual slang and those that are actually homophobic, Frank Ocean’s coming out is courageous, but in the context of this album, there’s more. He wrote in his Tumblr letter, “I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager. the ones I played when I experienced a girlfriend for the first time. I realized they were written in a language I did not speak.” There’s no doubt that Ocean now speaks this language, a language we can all understand — regardless of our sexual preference.

 

Listen to Alt-J – “Buffalo”

11/14/2012

The soundtrack for the upcoming film Silver Linings Playbook has a stunning mix with Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Alabama Shakes, Eagles of Death Metal, and Alt-J. The latter is a British art-rock band. The group of Literature and Fine Arts majors founded the band in 2007 at Leeds University. Holding jam sessions in their dorm rooms and all open hallucinogen enthusiasts, ∆ (pronounced Alt-J) consists of Gwil Sainsbury on bass guitar, Joe Newman for vocals and guitar, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Green keeps the tempo on drums. Their September debut, An Awesome Wave, recently beat out other talents such as Ben Howard, Django Django, Jessie Ware and many others to win the prestigious Mercury Prize, the annual award for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Art-rock can essentially translate to indie pop–these days. Whatever the case, the alternative group recently collaborated with Vermont folk trio Mountain Man on an intricate and lighthearted indie electronic track. The new song seems appropriate as background music for a romantic dramatic comedy. Delicate harmonies correspond to the plucking guitar for a unique hybrid genre sound with a warm aesthetic.

The band is playing a a two-set show on December 11th at the Bottom of the Hill. Tickets for the late show have already sold out, but the early show is expected to go on sale soon. The soundtrack will be publicly available on November 19th and the movie arrives in select theaters on November 21st. Check out the trailer below.

Watch Video for Flight Facilities – Clair De Lune (feat. Christine Hoberg)

11/13/2012

Honestly, the Aussie electro-funk group Flight Facilities has yet to release a disappointing track. Big ups to them for their confidence and effectiveness on their new single with a new direction. Rather than the group’s traditionally upbeat disco dance style, “Clair De Lune” provides a dark and subdued sound, incorporating deep and reflective noises in a relaxed manner. Subtle down-tempo grooves flutter with a tingling piano, a heavy orchestral beat and the beautiful voice of Brooklyn-based indie vocalist Christine Hoberg.

Together, the feel is chilling and cinematic. This newly released video was shot in the Californian San Fernando Valley, starring Rachel Parsons as Claire and Kelsey Reinhardt as Luna. It is directed by Dave Ma, who has previously done work for Foals, Delphic, and The Horrors. The track is available now via Glassnote Records.

The Debut of Christopher Owens’s Lysandre at The Lodge

11/12/2012

Photos by Evan Cohen

Well, it’s now completely clear why there is no longer any Girls. I’m sitting in The Lodge – a warm room decorated in the style of an early 20th century masonic lodge – in a chair. Among rows of chairs. There’s even a chair on the stage. The Lodge looks far more like a playhouse then a music venue. Programs litter every seat, plain and elegant, each one stating at the top “Turnstiles Music and Fat Possum Record Presents The Debut of Christoper Owens’ Lysandre.

There are elegant tapestries adorning each wall, bright carpet on the floor. Someone’s wearing a Zissou beanie. No cell phones, so everyone has to talk to one another. The room has a buzz. It feels like most of the crowd is waiting for an opening of an art installation, not the opening of a rock show. That’s probably appropriate, since Lysandre, the album that Christoper Owens and co are presenting is a concept album. The concept being mostly that love is beautiful and that the listener should sit and enjoy them sing sweet songs about love. That might sound unusually corny, but it’s not. It’s really quite beautiful.

While the album has a clear theme and a clear sound, it’s just as schizophrenic as the Girls’ first two LPs. The songs flow together like a group of stalactites: upbeat songs jutting out of one with a calm, soft melody. And somehow it works. Lysandre‘s lyrics are filled with the blunt lyrics, unadorned and honest, that are found in a lot of Owens’ songs like, “What if I’m just a bad songwriter? What if everybody just thinks I’m phony? What if people are sick of hearing love songs?” (“Love is in the Ear of the Listener”).  The lyric that “Everywhere You Knew” centers around,  ”I’ll always make time for love,” captures what I think is so endearing and weirdly original about Owens’ songs. In each song there will come a time when you think you’ve heard it before, only to realize it’s much plainer, and therefore truer, than the genre’s previous takes. Most of the songs are a clear throwback to doo wop, to what Owens feels real love songs used to be about and where honesty comes through to form well-written songs.

Owens is backed by a solid band, two subtle backing vocalists (that really add to the album’s beauty) and a flute, saxophone and harmonica, which alternate in make endearing appearances throughout the album: 1)  The saxophone on “New York City” 2)  The acoustic guitar on “Everywhere You Knew” 3) The full band feel on “Riviera Rock.”

Overall, it was a night of nostalgia. It was found in the style of the room, the set,  the tone of Lysandre and the encore covers of classics like  “Wild World” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” But mostly I think it’s Owens and company’s inviting nature that so honestly and clearly says, “Hey, please, come sit down. Let us shower you with love through song.”

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