Monday, March 31, 2008

The Fleet Foxes at Bowery Ballroom, 03/29/08

The Fleet Foxes are a group that I’m sure everyone will be hearing a lot about in the near future. They’ve recently signed with Sub Pop and are prepping a debut album, Ragged Wood, which can already be found on the internets. The prelude to that is a five song EP, Sun Giant, which is an all too short and overwhelmingly beautiful introduction to the Seattle band.

I was lucky enough to catch them perform at the Bowery Ballroom this weekend, which reinforced my amazement of their music. Sun Giant perfectly captures the essence of the band but the vibrancy of the live show can’t be compared.

Maybe it’s just me being raised on “oldies” music but something about the Fleet Foxes resonates with me very strongly. They will almost certainly draw comparisons to Crosby, Stills and Nash. Even during the show, I was thinking that this is exactly what CS&N would sound like if they were new and vital today. I’m a total sucker for the Fleet Foxes’ lush harmonies and melodies. The sound is reminiscent but not derivative at all.

It’ll be jarring for some who are expecting a certain sound from a Seattle Sub-Pop signee. But their music does seem fitting for the picturesque Northwest scenery. I can imagine these guys sitting around a campfire playing these tunes for each other. The music evokes something within me that makes me want to hear it while on a long road trip across the country. It’s uplifting and serene yet intense and vibrant at the same time.

The guys seemed very down to earth. Pecknold was curled up in a chair with a guitar as if he were casually playing in his den.

Despite having a very limited discography (Sun Giant is even supposedly a tour or web-order only release), they already have a devoted following, that even surprised the band during several points in the show. The lead singer, Robin Pecknold, would sing the first line of a song off the yet-to-be-released album which drew cheers from the crowd. It caused him to do a double take and stall on the song. The 22 year old (yeah, that’s right) grimaced after every song as if he had butchered the song (due to being affected by the flu), but the crowd loved every song and the band was visibly moved by the warm reception they were receiving in New York.

Before the concert, I had only heard the five songs on the EP (albeit over and over again) and was thinking during the show that I really really hoped that they would release more material soon. Some bands I can only take in short doses, so an EP is much more preferable than, say, a double disc album. But with the Fleet Foxes, I have a feeling that I would devour as much as they’d be willing to produce.

White Winter Hymnal


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hey Sufjan! Do Texas!!!

It’s been a while since Sufjan Stevens contributed to his ambitious 50 States music project. ‘Ambitious’ is perhaps the wrong word. Maybe ‘impossible’ or ‘unlikely’ are more fitting. Seeing as how he’s got just 2 under his belt, an album for each of the remaining 48 states looks doubtful even if he puts out 1 per year. The outlook is even more bleak considering there was a span of 2 years between Michigan and Illinoise.

The rumors floating around the internets are that his next subject will be Oregon or California. Though given that only a select few states will get the star treatment, I thought I’d make a plea for my home state, Texas.

So here are 5 reasons why I think Sufjan should consider centering his next opus on the Lone Star State:

1. Austin – You can’t meet anyone who has ever been to this town that doesn’t love it. Sounds arrogant but it’s true. Even people I talk to who’ve never been will say that they know someone that loves Austin. The place is oozing with eclectic character and personality. It’s got a rich mixture of culture, intelligence and kookiness but has been able to retain an intimate, small town aura.

2. Because no one needs songs about Delaware –
If Sufjan can’t do all the states, then he’s going to have to pick and choose. And honestly, could he even come up with an entire album’s worth of content for some of the states out there? I mean, an EP maybe.

3. Rich source material -
I’m sorry, but Texas has a one-up on most of the competition in this category. The sheer size alone allows for a vast pool of people, stories and environments. You have urban cities, sprawling plains and the hilly countryside. The population runs the gamut of urban yuppies to mellow hippies to good ole’ country folk.

4. Because Texas needs Sufjan – There is a stigma about Texas that needs to be shaken. The Dallas theme song should no longer constitute any sort of representation of the state, nor should country music be the dominant soundtrack of Texas. Sufjan has the talent and sensitivity to help expel the hokey and clich├ęd perception of the state. There are plenty of nuanced aspects within the state-lines that shouldn’t be steamrolled by fiddles and banjos.

5. It’d be good for record sales – Texas has a strange notoriety throughout the world. You could say you’re from Texas anywhere else in the world and people’s interests will definitely be piqued. I still get raised eyebrows when I mention where I’m from. There’s a curiosity and recognition that isn’t reserved for any other state (like say, Idaho). I believe that an album based on Texas would generate a lot more interest (and sales) than a major chunk of the rest of the country.

So there ya go, Sufjan. I hope that helps in the decision making process!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Take Five: The Beta Band

I’ve been revisiting The Beta Band lately. They’re another group that should’ve gotten more attention than they did. So here are a few picks from a great but under-appreciated group.

I was first exposed to them in 2001 when they opened for Radiohead at Red Rocks Amphitheater. By strange coincidence I watched High Fidelity two days later in which they were featured in one scene. Although John Cusack butchered their name. It’s actually “Bee-tah” and not “Bay-tah”.

Their repetitive textures and the slightly dead-pan vocals were often hypnotic. I spent many listens trying understand what the hell the lyrics were. Inner Meet Me is particularly maddening. I can decipher “You’ve been feeling that the light is on the ceiling and you can’t see past your noses.” Beyond that, I’m generally lost. I’ve seen lyrics websites that just gave up and put "????" over huge sections.

Sadly, the band is now defunct, but not before releasing a couple of albums for the few fans to enjoy. Although I don’t think anything matched The Three E.P.s, Heroes to Zeroes had some nice moments.

1. Dry the Rain

2. Lion Thief

3. Wonderful

4. Inner Meet Me

5. Push It Out

Friday, March 07, 2008

Primary target

I’m starting to get a bit nervous for my boy, Obama. I was really hoping that he’d carry at least Texas or Ohio and have a reasonable lock on the Democratic Nomination by now, allowing him to focus on McCain. As it stands, the longer this battle draws out the weaker the Democratic party will be. McCain must be licking his chops.

How a few weeks will change everything. Things look a little precarious for Barack now. Hillary’s got the momentum and looks like her campaign strategy is working. Analysts are saying that Barack needs to hit back but also admit that that will weaken the approach he’s had throughout the primaries. He’s taken the high road and any negative shots towards Clinton will risk turning off supporters. He’s handcuffed in a way, and it’s easy to see now why so many politicians resort to slinging mud; it’s much easier to look clean by sullying the opponent.

After Tuesday’s outcome, Obama has lost in every "major" state. If Florida and Michigan had retained their delegate counts, Hillary would be leading. It’s a sobering realization, since the support for Obama seems so fervent in New York City. It’s hard to gauge the national stance from here.

Though I shouldn’t be surprised. Back in 2004, it was frustrating to see a graphic of Austin as a tiny blue square surrounded by the hundreds of red squares that made up the rest of Texas.

Actually, it’s not surprising to me. I guess I just held out hope that at least among the Democrats, there would be more rallying behind the optimist Obama rather than the battle-hardened Clintons.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It’s the little things...

Seeing shows at famous venues or going to a large outdoor festival is a great experience, but nothing’s more satisfying than seeing a band I love in a small space for cheap.

Case in point, The Little Ones are playing at Mercury Lounge for $10 in April. It’ll be just after they release their first full-length album, Morning Tide.

It’s a good day so far.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Notwist and Shout

Oh. My. Lord.

Thank you! It’s been much too long of a wait, but a new album from Notwist is finally announced!