Archive for November, 2010

Live: Best Coast, The Thermals, Fitz & the Tantrums

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Fitz & Noelle. These guys need to tour, tour, tour

There are three reasons to see Best Coast. Bethany Cosentino’s voice is beautiful, she writes stellar songs, and she’s generally cool. If you want frills and/or showbiz, this ain’t the place. The band is a three-piece, the sound very raw compared to the album, and on-stage harmonies nonexistent. The Troubadour was sold out for two nights. Bethany commented that the crowd was very quiet. They appreciated her but as the LA Times put it, the show was oddly listless. That review also suggested a bass player for the band. I’d agree the sound needs filling out and the energy needs to increase. This band is so talented and while Bethany likes keeping it real, I bet the live show will grow over time.

The Thermals headlined at LA’s El Rey. Friends have been raving about this band’s live shows and I now know why. The energy level was super and the band brought their A-game despite the small crowd in attendance. This is a band that writes some great songs and deserves more of a following. They’ve never been promoted on anything more than a pure indie level, but it seems to me they’d nicely fit mainstream alternative radio. A friend remarked they’d kick ass on the Warped Tour, although that might dampen the band’s indie cred.

Fitz & the Tantrums have been faves of LA tastemakers for a few months now. They play blue-eyed retro soul and their “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” album is strong throughout. With their growing live reputation and local radio play on KCRW and on KROQ’s local music program, the band was able to sell out the El Rey Wednesday night. Capacity is 771.  It was their biggest headlining show to date and they were able to stir the music industry hipsters into a state where it didn’t feel like an LA show at all. Charismatic leader Michael Fitzpartick has a certain punk aura about him. Vocalist Noelle Scaggs is a supurb #2, with voice, looks, and presence that elevate the band to a higher level.  They were backed by 6 players, which interestingly didn’t include a guitar player. They need to tour enough for their live reputation to catch on in other cities.  Here’s their “MoneyGrabber” single and final encore that night, as featured on Carson Daly.

Here’s the Go Deep 39 webcast!

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

New York's So Go Glos worth some attention

Here’s a new batch of very fresh and cool tracks that are bubbling just under the mainstream. Check out the show at this link. The playlist:

The Knack – (Havin’ A) Rave-Up (The Go Deep theme song)
The Gay Blades – Try to Understand (Really fun from 2 New York dudes)
Band of Horses – Georgia (Cee-Lo cover with U. of Georgia Marching Band)
Foals – (Deeper track from critical faves)
Kings of Leon – Mi Amigo (Like more stripped-down version of band in past)
The Avett Brothers – Kick Drum Heart (My fave song of theirs)
Lykke Li – Get Some (Loving the tribal-sounding rhythm section)
The Morning Benders – Excuses (Song in Reese’s commercial)
Arcade Fire – Rococo (So many contenders on this album)
Belle & Sebastian – I Want the World to Stop (Perfect definition of infectious)
The Futureheads – Sun Goes Down (Entire album very solid)
So So Glos – Lindy Hop (Cool New York band with promise )
Gorillaz f/ Daly – Doncamatic (One-off single w/ great new singer)
Mark Ronson – Record Collection (Featuring Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon. )
Deerhunter – Helicopter (Beauty from band’s 3rd)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Simple Girl (Sounds like a great McCartney song.)
Wavves – Baby Say Goodbye (Punkish band’s most melodic track)
The Knack – (Havin’ A) Rave-Up (The Go Deep theme song)

Fine Florence & the Machine show, other commentary

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Florence Welch...that voice!

Florence & the Machine is massive in her native UK and has broken through in other countries. Her Coachella overflow crowd provided early indication that the same would be in store here in the U.S., but it was that Video Music Awards appearance that really got the ball rolling. They just sold out 3 nights at The Wiltern. I first saw her a year ago at The Troubadour. Florence’s voice has always been amazing and she had a nice presence back then. Now the success and touring have made her a full-blown star. She’s got the moves and a pleasing between-song banter to augment her hit songs and…that voice. We were struck by the gorgeous set and lighting. The crowd was very young and well-scrubbed; they they were loud! Even the intermission buzz displayed a level of anticipation rarely seen in L.A. Most of Florence’s main set was fairly down-tempo (except for that voice), but the crowd stayed with her. Hit rockers “Kiss With A Fist” and “Dog Days Are Over” were the final two encores. Not many newer artists can get away with saving the hard and fast stuff until the end.  It all seems to come very naturally for her, which bodes well for a long career.

Good news for alternative rock stations around the U.S.!  Ratings are improving and one has to believe that the influx of fresh sounding new music and new artists is having an effect. The indie world has broken Muse, Kings Of Leon, Vampire Weekend,  and Arcade FireMumford & Sons, Black Keys, La Roux, and Florence & the Machine are closing in. Even if many hipsters may not personally love all of these, indie fans can all be proud that their movement has spawned artists gaining well-deserved mainstream acceptance…Many newer artists feel that January/February is the best time to release a new album. Looking at the past several years, I feel July-October is actually better. Lots of mid-level established artists drop critically-acclaimed CD’s right after the holidays, which makes it harder to get noticed. July-October is actually a better window because there’s less out there. Of course, there’s no telling what 2011 and 2012 will be like but this is at least food for thought…Speaking of release dates, it’s interesting to note that Matt & Kim released their “Grand” album on Obama’s Inauguration Day. Last week’s “Sidewalks” came out last Tuesday on the day of the midterm elections…I saw “Nowhere Boy” last week. Great film about teen-age John Lennon…I’ve been meaning to thank WSUM General Manager Dave Black and Program Director Sawyer Hildebrandt for giving me the opportunity to jump on the air and play an hour’s worth of great new music back in September. Thanks also to Kyle Deckelbaum of the station’s “Red Alert” sports show for inviting me to sit in with the crew and opine about my two favorite teams, the Wisconsin Badgers and Chicago Cubs…I enjoyed my onair chat last Sunday night with George Walsh, who hosts “The Scene” on internet station We covered some of my A&R projects and some fine new music as well.

FUN: Matt & Kim CD, Of Montreal and Janelle Monae live

Monday, November 1st, 2010

View from their Coachella stage in April

Matt & KimSidewalks…I first met Matt & Kim at SXSW 2009, shortly after the release of their last album “Grand”. Delightful people, and you can check out our interview. Their crowd reactions are some of the most exuberant anywhere. They create more per capita audience grins than almost anybody. “Daylight” from their last album actually went gold just from TV exposure and word of mouth, as it didn’t receive much radio play at all. Constant touring and rave live reviews have set them up beautifully for the release of new album “Sidewalks”.  They recruited noted producer Ben H. Allen as opposed to last time out, when they self-recorded in the bedroom where Matt grew up. As expected, the sound of this record is far bigger and the music more mature. Matt has some dazzling synth parts and the choruses are catchy. While they are once again melodic and fun, it’s not as much fun. There is that loss of some spontaneity and infectiousness that often accompanies musical growth. These songs will work great live and hopefully in TV commercials, but the album itself feels formula to me. To really blow up, Matt & Kim need to strike gold again. I’m rooting for them big time, but I’m not sure they are any hits on this record. Track tips besides single “Cameras” are “Good For Great”, “Red Paint”, and slower song “Northeast”.

Of Montreal played a Halloween-eve show at LA’s Palladium. Perfect timing! Leader Kevin Barnes can always be counted on to provide something new and different, and this tour is no exception. He was backed by a 7-piece and a dance troupe that is unpredictable even by OK! Go standards. The dancers were a true highlight, dressed as dragons, skeletons, pigs, goldfish, etc. It was a good show as expected from Kevin & Co. As is the case with many bands, the older songs went down better. Earlier shows on this tour featured Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for an encore. That would have been ideal on Halloween weekend but the tune was curiously omitted this time.

Janelle Monae opened. She’s a huge Of Montreal fan and added vocals to their “Enemy Gene” album track. Janelle sings great, looks great, and moves great. She’s on her way to becoming a star. It was disappointing that she didn’t duet with Kevin on “Enemy Gene” as she has on other tour stops. She would probably have also joined in for “Thriller”.