Archive for September, 2010

Cool Black Angels CD, School of Seven Bells live

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

The Black Angels have given us one of the month's best albums.

The Black AngelsPhosphene Dream…The solid September, 2010 continues with these Austin boys.  If you like blusey 60’s-garage rock, this one’s definitely for you. When I first heard the single “Telephone”, it reminded me of The Dave Clark Five. The entire album is consistent, with The Rolling Stones and other 60’s luminaries constantly coming to mind.  These Austin dudes appeared on David Letterman several weeks ago and proved they can bring it live.  Track tips are “Telephone”, “Yellow Elevator #2”, and “Sunday Afternoon”.    

I was in Madison last week and caught School of Seven Bells at the Majestic. It’s a band I respect but haven’t gotten my arms around as of yet. The show was fine for their fans, but I’m not sure it would be something to attract new people. The stage was dark and the vibes warm and positive. I was surprised the sound was as lo-fi and bottom-heavy as it was. Perhaps more than it was intended to be. This isn’t the kind of band to raise the roof, but it should be noted that crowd response was decent although not overly enthusiastic.. I loved their final encore, which was a cover of Siouxsie’s “Kiss Them For Me”. It fit perfectly.

Solid September: Recommended CD’s

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Great new Thermals album, but too accessible for their long-time fans?

ChromeoBusiness CasualTheir electro-house approach hasn’t changed much and I think that’s a good thing in an era where so much electronic music has gone completely mellow.  These guys turn down the volume later in the album but there’s stuff to make you move.  Track tips: “Night By Night”, “Don’t Turn the Lights On”, “I’m Not Contagious”.

The DrumsThe Drums…Considering how long ago “Let’s Go Surfing” endeared me to these guys, it’s taken forever for this official album release in the U.S. The guys have become a major British success, which isn’t surprising due to their “Joy Divison/Smiths-meet-the-50’s and 60’s” influences. The album debuted at #16 on the English charts.  “Surfing” is about as happy as you can get, and the track almost didn’t make the album.  They adeptly blend dark lyrics with some of the most positive melodies around, so don’t expect “Surfing” to be representative of the remainder. Their quietest track “Down By the Water” became a free download and has become an internet hit.  I interviewed Jacob and Adam from the band last March at SXSW.  Great guys (although Adam has left the band), and you can catch it here.  Track tips: “Let’s Go Surfing”, “It Will All End in Tears”, “Down By the Water”.

Jenny and JohnnyI’m Having Fun Now…Jenny Lewis is Rilo Kiley’s lead singer.  During their hiatus, she’s hooked-up (so to speak) with musician/boyfriend Johnny Rice.  If lower-fi endless summer is somewhat if fashion right now, they’re in that uptempo sweet spot with great melodies and strong songs.  Single “Best Wave” deals with the struggling California economy. Other fave tracks include “Scissor Runner” and “Complicated”.

Of MontrealFalse PriestThis one is borderline for me, but rising.  Of Montreal has been one of my favorite bands, and people are responding really well to this album. False Priest will probably be a grower for me, but I’m not yet liking it as much as “Sunlandic Twins or “Hissing Fauna”. It’s surprising to me that people are calling this one more accessible because I feel those prior albums are more so. Just the same, Kevin Barnes is one of the most creative people out there, and he’ll always keep us guessing.  I’ll go with the majority and recommend you check this out. Track tips: “Coquet Coquette”, “Enemy Gene” f/Janelle Monae, and “Sex Karma” f/Solange Knowles.

The ThermalsThese Portland dudes have been around for awhile and their fans are rabid. I get great reports on their live shows. Some of these fans will be disappointed because this is the most accessible Thermals album to date. For me, it works really well and the disc is consistent throughout. The hooks in “I Don’t Believe You” are undeniable. I also like “Never Listen to Me” and “Not Like Any Other Feeling”.

Lots of good stuff coming just prior to the holiday blitz.  None of the above will probably make my year-end top ten, but all strong just the same and some just might make yours.  More September albums to come, and I’m looking forward to hearing the new Walkmen . Same for The Black Angels. I respect Interpol but their new one didn’t do it for me, sorry to say.  Keep raving on and talk soon.

Rave’s Faves: Airplay Artists, Summer 2010

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Best Coast's Bethany is bringing eternal summer to the airwaves

Since the last Rave’s Airplay Faves posting on June 11, an entire summer has flown by. Say what you want about radio, there is good stuff on the air. Here are some personal faves who are getting play on indie and/or mainstream stations.

Muse, LCD Soundsystem, Temper Trap, Mumford & Sons, and Futureheads were listed last time and still sound fresh as ever. Cage the Elephant maintains fave status following 3 huge radio hits and an album that was released in early 2009. This disc has continued radio potential. StoneTemple Pilots’ album is loaded with great stuff. I think a mistake was made in the choice of a second single and my hope is they go with something like “Cinnamon”. The Florence & the Machine disc has been around since last year, and cool to see “Dog Days Are Over” beginning to blow up for them. The Drums’ infectious “Let’s Go Surfing” is finally picking up some major markets as well, with some other big stations thinking about adding the song.

Arcade Fire obviously have one of the albums of the year, and I’m on board with buzz bands like Best Coast, Wavves, Jenny & Johnny, and The Thermals. !!! and Innerpartysystem will make you want to dance and have been getting some good radio support.

Of bands not as much on the national radar, there’s the Milwaukee band Jaill. Check out “The Stroller” if you’re into garage/punk. LA’s Fitz & the Tantrums play a punk-influenced version of compelling blue-eyed retro soul.

I’ve got album recommendations posted on June 2, July 3, August 4 (2010 faves so far), and August 23 so feel free to hit the archives to see what I’m liking best so far in 2010. September is shaping up to be a good month for new releases, and I’ll recommend a few next week. Stay tuned and keep raving on!

The XX grabs the 2010 Mercury Prize

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The XX: Seriously pleased about their win

Congrats to The XX, who copped this year’s Mercury Prize in the UK for best album! It’s based on critical acceptance rather than commercial success. Tastemakers around the world watch this closely, and UK gambling houses actually set odds. Typically what happens is that the award becomes a huge publicity boost as well as a shot in the arm for CD sales. Elbow won in 2008 and became huge in England.  The resulting wave of success even had a major impact here in the U.S.  Arctic Monkeys topped the shortlist in 2006 with their groundbreaking rookie effort. The band’s second album made the shortlist in 2007 but they lost out to Klaxons. Klaxons were big in the UK and although they failed to generate major album sales in America, they were regarded at the time as a major band to watch. In recent times, only the 2009 award marred the prestige of the prize.  Unknown and unappealing rapper Speech Debelle came out on top, probably because La Roux, Friendly Fires, and Glasvegas split the vote. I’m willing to bet that most people have already forgotten her, if they were aware of her at all. This year, I was hoping for either The XX or Mumford & Sons. The XX is one of those bands that grows on people anyway, and they’re great live.  Expect their album to have legs for a long time.

Wavves live…Arcade Fire…Mumford and Black Keys…Cee-Lo

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Main Wavve Nathan Williams

Back Monday night from a Seattle trip. Caught Wavves Wednesday last week at Neumos. If the intensity of their album is about an 8, it was a 12 onstage. Leader Nathan Williams added Jay Reatard’s rhythm section a year ago, and these guys are all about playing loud and fast. They all seem close and gave each other lots of good-natured shit between songs. Good show…Arcade Fire is shaping up to be the band of 2010 considering the outstanding album, amazing live shows, and now the most buzzed-about online music video this side of Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You”.  Interesting that while the band rejects virtually every licensing opportunity, a Google Chrome download is required to properly view the clip. I’m not sure I blame them, but it is ironic. “The Suburbs” is the type of complex album that has been a total grower for me, and where my favorite tracks keep changing. Bottom line is that almost all of it works for me…Of “indie” bands not getting tons of mass coverage, the Black Keys and Mumford & Sons CD’s are both lurking in the top 30 after being out for a few months. Good for them, and I like seeing that a banjo-oriented group can catch on with hipsters. In some ways, Mumford strikes me as a more-accessible Fleet Foxes in terms of their appeal.  BTW, Fleet Foxes are saying their next album will be darker. That’s often a mistake for bands. I’m not sure I’d recommend that direction to them, but I’m still very interested to hear what they’re coming up with…If you haven’t seen the “official” Cee-Lo video just out this week, you must check it out. Off-beat lightening has stuck twice for him, first with “Crazy” in 2006 and now with “Fuck You”. The clean “Forget You” version sounds great on the radio.