Archive for October, 2010

Chapel Club live, my All Access interview and Knack piece

Friday, October 29th, 2010

UK's Chapel Club: a band to watch in 2011

One of the best things that can happen for a baby band is to co-headline the NME Radar Tour. Check this impressive list to see alumni who’ve gone on to great things in the UK.  This fall’s lineup featured buzz band Joy Formidable and also Chapel Club, who dropped into LA following a couple of CMJ gigs. This Chapel Club gig at Spaceland wasn’t promoted, so it was a rare opportunity to catch a rising UK band without the hype that would normally accompany such an event. Their music is quite dark and evokes memories of David Bowie and The Smiths, with a dose of White Lies added to the mix. Singer Lewis Bowman has real star potential. This is not an obvious radio band, but the music itself is highly genuine and bodes well for this band having a long career. They haven’t yet recorded their debut album, so keep an eye on them in 2011.

Big thanks goes out to Director of Alternative Shawn Alexander at leading radio trade All Access, who made me his 10 Questions interview subject for this week. I outline my vision for the nationally syndicated version of my Go Deep With Bruce Rave broadcast, which is now being pitched to stations nationwide. Shawn is a widely-respected radio and trade paper veteran who does a fine job and is really passionate about the next wave of new music.

Knack fan? The new Doug Fieger website is very cool. Check it out, and you can find my Friends page contribution here. I’ve long felt that if “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the rock gateway to the 90’s, “My Sharona” was the same for the 80’s.

Alternative radio playing the right stuff? Other questions…

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Mumford & Sons breaking the U.S. through airplay, touring, word of mouth

Some interesting questions: Should alternative radio consider tweaking its music? Why is it so difficult for UK indie bands to crack the United States market? Why the scarcity of rock on recent UK singles charts?

The alternative format has recently relied heavily on 90’s music. Noted industry commentator Sean Ross is always on the lookout for new music approaches that can be employed at stations in various formats nationwide. Of course there are many sides to this debate, but you can read his take in his September 30 and October 5 posts here. He argues that a fresher sound would help stations retain listeners in the 12-24 demographic. National consultant Dave Lange in a letter to Sean posted October 5, suggests that the format needs tastemaker leaders. Further input from programming leaders can be found in Sean’s October 12 post. I believe that Sirius XM’s Alternative Nation channel is the future. They’re hooky and melodic, and they add indie bands far earlier than most stations in the format.

Former WOXY Program Director Mike Taylor has a cool new music blog and podcast called The Big Beat. Check out his article on the difficulty found by English bands trying to break in the U.S. Bottom line is they’ve got to tour, tour, and tour.  Then tour again.

Speaking of the UK, we always used to be able to look to them for the coolest hit rock singles, but their charts are no longer filled with exciting new rock-oriented artists. The record industry bible Music Week reported that through August, the top 100 year to date singles included only 5 songs that can be classified as rock or indie: Two by Florence & the Machine, one each by Mumford & Sons, Pendulum, and (get this!), Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.  From what a BBC Radio 1 exec tells me, it’s not that they don’t want to play more guitar-oriented and indie-electro music. They just don’t feel there’s much in the genres that they can get behind right now.

Kings Of Leon, Belle & Sebastian albums; Blood Red Shoes live

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Blood Red Shoes: good fun and lots of promise

Kings Of LeonCome Around Sundown…This album is very chill, which will disappoint those who prefer the band’s harder stuff. Their “Radioactive” is currently the most played song on alternative radio and that track is on the hard side, relatively speaking. This is a quality album that requires an enhanced level of attention but I don’t feel it’s a career highlight for the band. My favorite track is the more stripped-down “Mi Amigo”, which revists the feeling of mid-decade Kings albums. Other track tips include “Mary”, “Pyro,” and “The Immortals”.

Belle & SebastianWrite About Love…These popular Scotts return with their first album in four years. It’s consistently strong all the way through, although it doesn’t contain quite as many infectious hooks as previous album “The Life Pursuit”. I love the tracks “I Want the World to Stop”, and “Write About Love”, and also recommend “I’m Not Living in the Real World”.

Brighton, UK’s Blood Red Shoes hit the Bootleg Theater in LA Monday night, as part of a quick US introductory tour that will include several CMJ gigs. This two-piece consists of drummer Steven Ansell and guitarist Laura-May Carter. They come straight at you, without many bells and whistles such as bridges in their songs. They share lead vocals and both sing in the same register. Ansell is not only a great drummer, but he’s funny. They’ve got great energy, some good songs, and lots of promise. Their UK buzz is justified and it will be fun keeping an eye on them.

LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, Sleigh Bells at Hollywood Bowl

Monday, October 18th, 2010

LCD and Hot Chip at Hollywood Bowl were like drinking a triple espresso

No way I was going to miss this one. How often is it that a 3-act live bill will contain two of my top ten 2010 live bands who have recorded two of my top ten 2010 albums? The show took place Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl in front of a nearly sold-out crowd. Capacity is in excess of 18,000.

LCD Soundsystem headlined. Dressed in his trademark whites, leader James Murphy guided a greatest hits tour of their three albums. The band was flawless with drummer Pat Mahoney really killing it. Tempos were mixed, although they stayed away from their softer tunes. Few groups are as adept at elevating a song from mid-level intensity to something that suddenly drives a huge crowd bonkers. Murphy has often said that this would be the final LCD album, although I’ve since read a quote that he might be reconsidering given the tremendous response he’s seen from this release and tour.  He says he wants to go out on top with LCD, but it’s probable this band hasn’t peaked yet.

Hot Chip is a personal fave that I’ve been following from the first stages of their initial release. They were mostly unknown over four years ago when they first played Coachella to a half-empty tent. People were attracted to them, and the place was packed by the time they got to the finale of first single “Over and Over”. Three months earlier, I danced to them at Big Day Out in Melbourne. There might have been 200 watching. Years later, this band is established and continues to excel live. Their crowd reaction at the Bowl was not far from what we saw for LCD, with almost everybody up and dancing. The upbeat and dancy set was just about flawless. We heard their most popular songs but my only regret was that they couldn’t play longer.

Sleigh Bells surprised me with a much louder and harder guitar sound than what we hear on their recordings. The set blended harsh metal and hip-hop. That made them a strange opener for LCD and Hot Chip. Few people made their way to their seats in time for this early set, but reaction was good by the end. It was just the two of them, and singer Alexis Krauss is dynamic up there. This romantic and musical partnership isn’t my glass of scotch, but I respect anyone who can create the decent national buzz they’ve generated.

Fave bands at Culture Collide

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Klaxons still have that live energy and enthusiasm

Culture Collide is an annual weekend festival put on by the good people at Filter Magazine. Held at various L.A. venues, it features bands from all over the world, including the U.S. Attendance at most showcases was light to moderate, so it’s understandable on a certain level if some of the bigger bands maybe didn’t quite bring their “A” game.

If I had to pick one favorite from the festival, it would probably be Klaxons. I caught them at The Troubadour Saturday night rather than at their Echoplex festival appearance. (The Echoplex has a strange layout and isn’t my favorite venue.) Klaxons was a Coachella highlight for me a few years ago, and one has to love this band’s exuberance. New single “Echos” held up in comparison to the leading tracks from their debut album. The other new material didn’t hit me as well, but I look forward to hearing the entire album.

White Lies is another band I was keen to see– a band I’ve been following for a couple of years now. Their set consisted mostly of new tunes from their January, 2011 album; and the band kept it high-quality and low-key. I attended a listening party for this new album on Monday night, and it hurts me to say that the sound was terrible. I felt so sorry for the band members as well as the label people. We were able to determine that the album sounds like a second strong outing for the guys, but I’ll develop a more detailed opinion when I can hear the record under better circumstances.

Jenny & Johnny were off to a great start when I had to leave Sunday night. A large crowd had gathered by the time they hit the stage. Their Troubadour gig rocked earlier in the week and you can read about it in my October 8 post.  I got great reports on the Black Lips and Fran Healy shows, which I missed out onTokyo Police Club was solid but I’ve seen them better. Passion Pit bassist Jeff Apruzzese joined in for TPC’s finale of “Your English Is Good”. Amusement Parks On Fire was besieged by bad sound. Fuzzy guitars are one thing, but that’s about all we could hear. Their hooky melody lines were almost completely buried. Soft electro artists Phantogram didn’t stir the crowd too much, but they have some interesting ideas.  

Attractive opposites at the Troub: Jenny&Johnny, Futureheads

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Jenny & Johnny's show was as good as advertised

Jenny & Johnny have one of the best recent albums, and their Tuesday Troubadour show sold out. Jenny, of course, is Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis. Her boyfriend is musician Jonathan Rice. They first worked together in 2005, and this gig showed beyond a doubt that Johnny is more than able to hold his own. The songs are good and their harmonies flawless. They both have a fine stage presence. The entire band is a 4-piece, and the other guys deliver just fine. Politically relevant lyrics are a staple for them, and current single “Big Wave” covers the faltering California economy.  Most of the set rocks, and the crowd was beautifully silent for the duo’s accoustic segment in the middle of the show. People in LA are stoked to hear that J&J have been added to the Cultures Collide bill this coming Sunday night.

The Futureheads graced the same stage the following night, playing a smoking set to a moderate-sized but enthusiastic crowd. Completely different than the night before, there wasn’t a soft note to be heard, and that’s exactly what one expects from a Futureheads show. The band was tight. All of the hits were played. Most of the the less familiar songs came from the first album, which was a pleasant surprise to their core fans. They were last in LA 4 years ago, and their live banter now includes far more humor, which definitely works. Their last album is a 2010 highlight for me, but the band is underappreciated at a time when this style of music isn’t as much in vogue either here or in the U.K. They’re hanging in there, and I give them major kudos for that.

The Drums and Surfer Blood live

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Drums co-founders Jonathan and Jacob bonded over Kraftwerk and The Smiths when they met as kids at boys camp

These growing buzz bands co-headlined Wednesday night at LA’s Henry Fonda.  I liked both at SXSW this year and both have improved another notch,  following a summer of playing out. The house was about two-thirds full, not bad considering the number of tours hitting LA right now.  The Drums’ “Let’s Go Surfing” and Surfer Blood’s “Floating Vibes” are both destined for my year-end top tracks list.

The Drums recently lost guitar-player Adam Kessler and they’re now a 3-piece with a side guitarist. The band would probably tell you they have rough edges to work out, but all was fine from an audience perspective. These guys have massive potential if they nail their second album. Singer Jonathan Pierce is a star. Both Jonnie and co-founding guitarist Jacob Graham have become more animated, and Conner Hanwick is a strong drummer. These guys know how to write great songs, but there is a certain sameness when hearing them back to back.  Their second album should really help with this. Given this sameness, it’s surprising they save beautiful, haunting ballad “Down By the Water” for the end rather than playing it earlier to mix things up. Hit up the Go Deep Music site to hear my SXSW interview with them.

Surfer Blood impressed me in March with their power. It seems that there is now more spice and variety in their show; although there is certainly a difference between seeing one of a band’s 10 SXSW gigs and viewing their major LA showcase. Singer J.P. Pitts has developed into a magnetic front man, and his band can play. Besides “Floating Vibes” the single “Swim” did well for them. I’d like to see them write more in the vein of these two songs as they “swim” forward.

Go Deep #38 webcast!!

Friday, October 1st, 2010

!!!(Chk Chk Chk) have a fine album that hopefully won't be overlooked

Want to check out 16 of the best newer, deeper tracks?  Download my latest Go Deep webcast and enjoy!  Here’s the playlist.  Included are exclusive interview bits with The Drums and Drawn From Bees.

Tricky – Murder Weapon (You’ll never go wrong with the Peter Gunn theme)
The Black Angels – Telephone (If you love 60’s-garage, this band’s for you )
Matt & Kim – Cameras (Much bigger sound this time around)
The Drums – Down By the Water (Set closer at their recent LA gig)
Fitz & the Tantrums – Breakin’ The Chains of Love (Fine album of blue-eye retro soul)
The Thermals – I Don’t Believe You (Their most accessible album to date)
Wavves – Idiot (Entire album really good)
Of Montreal – Enemy Gene (Great reviews on their new album)
Arcade Fire – Half Light II (A fave deeper track)
Cut Copy – Where I’m Going (New album coming in 2011)
Mumford & Sons – Roll Away Your Stone (Album a consistent top seller)
Jenny & Johnny – Committed (Deeper track from great album)
Jaill – Stroller (Check out the guitars)
Drawn From Bees – The East Wood Fox (Ace progressive track from Brisbane band)
!!! – AM/FM (Berlin-recorded disc features fine grooves)
Les Savy Fav – Let’s Get Out Of Here (Nice hooks from Brooklyn noise-rockers)