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Archive for the ‘Death Cab For Cutie’ Category

[ATTENDED: June 10, 2019] Death Cab for Cutie

It’s not often that you get to see a band twice on the same tour–eight months apart.

When I saw that Death Cab for Cutie were playing Starland Ballroom, at first I thought I didn’t want to go because we had seen them a few months earlier (and amazing show at the tower Theatre in Upper Darby).  Then I looked at some set lists and I saw that they were mixing things up a bit.  It was still a tour for the new album, but they were changing placement of songs and adding different ones.

I also didn’t realize until we got there that they had changed their lights how (for this performance at least).  Last time their lights were very tall–two layers of lighting rigs with a giant video screen behind and above them. This time there was no video screen and only one bank of lights.  Smaller club lighting maybe?  The keyboardist Zac Rae was actually between two light poles so we could see him whenever he didn’t lean too far forward.

I had hoped we could move from where we were on the side because I’d remembered the lighting was so cool.  From where we were, the lighting rigs blocked some of the stage (but only a little) and while the lighting was cool, it was much more subdued than last time.

It turns out the setlist wasn’t radically different from last time either.  They played four different songs than last time (and one fewer because I think one of the newer songs had a lengthy jam tacked in the middle). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 10, 2019] Jenny Lewis

I somehow missed Rilo Kiley from the get go.  It’s not that I didn’t like them, i didn’t know them.  I may have heard a song or two, but otherwise nothing.

Same with Jenny Lewis solo.  I know a lot of people love her, but I just missed her completely.  I’ve heard a few of her songs from her last album and I rather liked them.  So I was pleased enough that she was opening for Death Cab for Cutie.

Obviously I had no idea that they had a connection to her.  (From the same region, on the same label, she sang on Ben Gibbard’s side project).  So this was a nice tour for them.

We arrived at Starland Ballroom to find a line wrapping around the parking lot.  So although we were early, we didn’t get into the building until about 5 minutes before she went on (and it wasn’t even sold out!).  It was packed though and trying to find a spot in the center was impossible.  So we wound up standing on the elevated platform off to the right.  Not the best location, but honestly if we were on the floor, it would have been really crowded and really hard to see. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2018] Death Cab for Cutie

I can remember listening to a compilation CD [I believe it came with Future Dictionary of America] in my car and “Title and Registration” was on it.  I couldn’t stop listening to the song.  I had heard of Death Cab for Cutie but didn’t know them.  And this song set me on a years-long path of enjoyment.

So I’ve liked the band for some 15 years but I’d never seen them live.  I was pretty much okay with that because from videos I’d watched, they didn’t seem like they were very dynamic live.

Then they announced this show at the Tower (which sold out and they announced a second).  When WXPN played the extended version of “I Will Possess Your Heart” and S. said how much she liked the intro and that was enough for me to get us tickets for the show.

The seats were great (3rd row mezzanine) and we could fully enjoy the lighting spectacular.

Yes, lighting spectacular.  I never assumed that Death Cab for Cutie would have a big light show.  It just doesn’t seem to fit with them.  And it wasn’t crazy big or anything but it was pretty dramatic and worked very well with the music.  There was a video screen above the band too but it just seemed to be projecting nonsense so–whatever about that.  Occasionally there were colors which added to the visuals, but mostly it was half images of static.

DCFC’s latest album Thank You for Today (I enjoyed this welcoming video) had recently come out but I hadn’t had much opportunity to listen to it (except for single “Gold Rush”).  They played 7 of 10 songs from it, so there was a lot that was unfamiliar to me.

But here’s the thing about DCFC for better or worse.  A lot of their songs sound similar.  Not that they are indistinguishable, but that the opening chord patterns and playing style are pretty much the same before they turn into their own animals.  So a number of times I thought they were starting one song bu it turned out to be something else.

They interspersed those new songs with songs from nearly their entire discography, which was awesome.  After playing two new songs, they played one from 2015’s Kingusti which I realized I hadn’t listened to very much.

But then we got into really familiar territory.  They played the wonderful “Long Division” (to be a remain… remain…. remain… remainder) from Plans.  And then they played “Title and Registration” and I was instantly swept back to that day driving in the car.

The new song “Gold Rush” is fun to sing along to but they went really far back into their catalog (2001’s The Photo Album) for the delicate “A Movie Script Ending” (I was on the high-way… high-way… high-way).

They followed this with two more songs from Plans.  First was the tremendous “Crooked Teeth” (I love that bass line).   Then Ben Gibbard moved back to the piano for the lovely ballad “What Sarah Said.”  They followed it with another piano song, the new “60 & Punk” which I was sure was an older song–it must have sunk in when I listened to the record. It’s a great melancholy song.

Gibbard played piano, electric guitar and acoustic guitar. And the overall sound of the band was fantastic.  I loved that you could very clearly hear Zac Rae on guitar–especially when he played some crunchy chords.  Which was often.  I was delighted with just how noisy the show was.  Not ugly…just not polished and sleek.  It was also cool that Dave Depper on keys also played guitar from time to time–there could be three guitars on stage at once.

Then came the moment S. and I were waiting for.  That awesome bass line of “I Will Possess Your Heart.” “Not only did they play the extended intro they jammed it for about 10 minutes and it was fantastic.

They followed it with the oldest song of the night, 2000’s “Title Track.”  I have always liked this guitar riff and it was great to hear it live.  Then back to the new album with “Autumn Love” and then to Kintsugi with the awesome “Black Sun” (I guess I have listened to that album a bit).

Then it was onto Transatlanticism for “Expo 86.” The crowd went nuts when we heard those opening notes (they had recently played all of Transatlanticism the other night in Chicago, but I’m glad they didn’t for us (kind of).

I was intrigued that they kept playing new songs throughout the night.  Sometime the end of a set can get hits-heavy, so it was nice to keep everyone on our toes.  I was amazed at how much “Northern Lights” and especially “Doors Unlocked and Open” sounded like a Rush song circa Grace Under Pressure–the way the bass and guitar intertwined.

Next up was “Cath…”  It was on this song that I was really aware of how great the drums from Jason McGerr sounded.  It sounded terrific, but it was nothing compared to the excitement the crowd felt during “Soul Meets Body.”  The crowd sang along perfectly to the bah bah bah bah bah part (and pretty much everything else).

A few songs earlier I realized that I didn’t know how long they had been playing and I didn’t know how long the show was going to be.  I assumed that DCFC would not play a super long show, and yet they have been around for 20 years, so they could play forever.  And as they played “Soul Meets Body” I realized that there were probably a half dozen songs that I loved which they hadn’t played.

Turned out they were ready to end the main set and they returned Transatlanticism (they played 5 of 11 songs) for “The Sound of Settling” (bah bah, bah bah, this is the sound of settling).

After a fairly short encore break, Ben Gibbard came back out with an acoustic guitar.  The lighting was great and Ben started singing the opening to “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.”  The sound was great and the crowd was initially respectful as Ben started singing.  But it was hard to hold back and soon everyone was singing along with him.

It was a beautiful moment and could have easily ended the show.  But they were not done by a long shot.

A recent trend, it seems, is to include a new song in the encore.  It’s disappointing if you are expecting a favorite hit, but it usually means that there will be a few more songs.  So you can sit back and enjoy a song like “Near / Far” and appreciate it and want to listen to it more.  Once the other songs are done, of course.

They ended the night with two more songs from Transatlanticism (which was great).  The first, “Tiny Vessels,” a sad but lovely song (“she is beautiful, but she don’t mean a thing to me”) that builds to a pretty big rocker in the middle.

Then came the slow buildup of the title song “Transatlanticism.”  It starts on piano and effects.  Then the beautiful guitar riff–two three note melodies and a big slow chord  that propels the song forward.  I have always like this song because of that riff, but I never expected what they would do with this song.  It takes about three minutes for the drums to begin–a slow steady rhythm which is joined by the bass (Nick Harmer).  Then Ben came from behind the piano and picked up his guitar.  The band began jamming the middle of the song–repeating that guitar riff and the lyrics “I need you so much closer.”    And the song just kept getting bigger and bigger and louder and louder.  They must have repeated that section for three or for minutes just getting fuller and fuller until was almost unbearable.  It felt like the walls might come down.  I still get chills thinking about it.

It was one of the best endings to a show I’ve ever seen.

SETLIST

I Dreamt We Spoke Again ¥
Summer Years ¥
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive  ℘
Long Division ⇑
Title and Registration ™
Gold Rush ¥
A Movie Script Ending ∏
Crooked Teeth ¶
What Sarah Said ¶
60 & Punk ¥
I Will Possess Your Heart ⇑
Title Track ϖ
Autumn Love ¥
Black Sun ℘
Expo 86 ™
Northern Lights ¥
Doors Unlocked and Open ⊗
Cath… ⇑
Soul Meets Body ¶
The Sound of Settling ™

Encore:
I Will Follow You Into The Dark ¶
Near / Far ¥
Tiny Vessels ™
Transatlanticism ™

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ϖ We Have the Facts And We’re Voting Yes (2000)
∏ The Photo Album (2001)
™ Transatlanticism (2003)
¶ Plans (2005)
⇑ Narrow Stairs (2008)
⊗ Codes and Keys (2011)
℘ Kintsugi (2015)
¥ Thank You for Today (2018)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2018] Charly Bliss

This was our second and last ever show at the Tower Theater.  The last time we had run into all kinds of traffic and it took forever to get there.  This time, we decided to go a slightly different route and (although we found free parking) because of traffic it still wound up taking nearly 2 hours to get there.  No more.

We walked in just as Charly Bliss was starting their set, so we missed the very first few minutes but I could hear them fine from the balcony area.  If you can get lower balcony seats, they are excellent.  We had a great view and the sound was terrific.  And the lobby was 1000 times less chaotic than downstairs.  Again, shame we’ll never go there again.

Charly Bliss hits a sweet musical spot for me–90s alternagrungepop with smart women as lead singers.

They are a relatively new band and they are just full of boundless energy and hooks galore. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS WALLA AND J. ROBBINS-Create ‘Mercury’ (Project Song: October 12, 2009).

Project Song was a nifty little show that NPR Music created.  The premise was that NPR would give a musician some prompts and a recording studio.  They then had two days to write and record a song.  I don’t know how much of the process was to be filmed, but presumably most of it. Then it would be edited down to a fifteen minute show.  The results are pretty cool and it’s a shame they only made five of them.

The fourth one they did was over a year and a half after the previous one.  This Project was offered to Chris Walla (of Death Cab for Cutie) and a performer he’d admired, J. Robbins (of Jawbox and Burning Airlines).

What made this project especially difficult was that the two had never even met before they stepped into NPR’s performance studio.

I supplied some inspiration for their song: photo collages created by artist Tom Chambers [The picture are really, really cool]. They chose a photograph of a house in a canyon filled with water, tilted and flooded. Not far from the house is a dog on a boat, floating either toward or away from the house. I also supplied a series of words. They selected the word “cerebral” and promised when they wrote the song not to be too cerebral about it.

Unlike the pairing from Georgie James, this pair is instantly excited at the possibilities–changes and ideas.

Robbins says he will not write any lyrics, it takes him a month and a half to hone them,

But it didn’t take long for Robbins to pick up his bass guitar, for Walla to pick up a guitar, and for the two to begin their musical friendship.

They were inspired by JG Ballard and his drowned world series. In these books there are people who know the world is dying but they embrace it as a forward movement into the unknown

J. get a great bass line right away (its sounds very Death Cab, interestingly).  Bob asks about the music and J. says the music sounds like a dog on a boat heading towards a half-submerged house.  And Walla is singing the word “mercury.”

Walla and Robbins were joined by Robbins’ friend, drummer Darren Zentek.

He adds a wonderful beat and the song sounds great.  They get excited filling out the possibilities–end on the bridge!

Walla goes off by himself to write lyrics.  And Robbins works on a piano part.  And then things really come together when Walla picks up the 12 string.

The song they created, “Mercury,” takes its subject matter from that photograph, which is a bit of a cataclysmic scenario turned into a song about the climate crisis.

The result has a definite Death Cab feel, but with Robbins and Walla alternating lead vocals it is a different, wonderful thing.

[READ: July 23, 2018] “I Walk Between the Raindrops”

This story centers around Valentine’s Day.  But it’s a T.C. Boyle story so there’s always something else to look forward to.

I love the way this story opens with Brandon the narrator telling us.

This past Valentine’s Day, I was in Kingman, Arizona, with my wife, Nola, staying in the Motel 6 there, just off the I-40. You might not think of Kingman as a prime location for a romantic getaway (who would?), but Nola and I have been married for fifteen years now, and romance is just part of the continuum….  Were we slumming?  Yes, sure.  We could have stayed anywhere we liked…and if it’s not ideal, at least it’s different.

They were there because Nola’s father lives nearby and they decided to pay a visit and to let Nola search for antiques.  They went to Denny’s (the only place her father will eat), and after eating, Nola went antiquing and Brandon went to a bar to wait for her.

It’s not unfriendly (despite some graffiti like “fuck you, liberal pussies” (which he chooses to take as ironic), but he doesn’t order a Pinot Noir or anything.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS TREE? (2003).

 I really didn’t like the second volume of this series.  But this third volume is back to form.  Nearly everything on this record is great.  There’s a few songs where they have chosen to take all of the joy out of the Christmas song.  This is a valid choice, sure, but it doesn’t work when a collection mixes it up with happy Christmas songs.

But by far, this album is far more positive than mopey.

THE POLYPHONIC SPREE-“Happy Christmas (War is Over)”
I don’t really like this song, but this version is fun.  I think the full choir overwhelms what i don’t like about the song.

THE RAVONETTES-“The Christmas Song”
I don’t really know The Ravonettes, but I love this version of this song  The whispered vocals, the plinky guitar, the general rocking shuffle–it’s all good to me.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE-“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
It would take a lot for Death Cab for Cutie to mess this up.  This is a terrific version of this song.

PEDRO THE LION-“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
This is a slow piano ballad.  I actually thought it might be Coldplay.  It’s too slow, especially given the other songs so far.

BELSANA-“Bittersweet Eve”
This is a catchy folk song although it leans towards the mopey in the vocal delivery.  And technically it’s about New Year’s Eve.

IVY-“Christmas Time is Here”
I love Ivy.  Her voice is so great in general.  This version of the song sounds really compressed, almost like a music box, which makes its sound even prettier.

ROYAL CROWN REVUE AND VICKY TAFOYA-“Baby It’s Cold Outside”
I don’t know if Royal Crown Revue is typically a retro sounding band, but man, this song is perfectly retro.  It sounds like it could have been recorded a long time ago, right down to the vocal styling.

TOM McRAE-“Wonderful Christmastime”
I don’t understand why you would take this song and make it a downbeat ballad.

PILATE-“Fairytale of New York”
I love the original of this song so much.  Musically, this version is pretty good, but there’s something vocally about it that falls flat for me.  It may just be that it’s close but not exactly right so it feels off to me.

LISA LOEB-“Jingle Bells”
It sounds like she’s smiling entirely through this song, which is exactly as it should be–even with a somewhat breathy version like this.

JARS OF CLAY-“Christmas for Cowboys”
This is a John Denver song that I didn’t know before.  It’s kind of a country song, but it doesn’t really feel like it in this version.  I like the cowboy whistle.

COPELAND-“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Because of the autotune, this version grates.  And yet, I find it strangely compelling add well.   The guitar chorus and synth voices are great, but when it gets into the auto tune it goes too far until it goes way too fast and actuate sounds interesting again..

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Kings”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

I really enjoyed this story, which was designed as a Crowdfunding request to do exactly what the title asks.

We see that the person’s goal is $5,229 and that she has received $1,395 with 28 days to go.

That all seems reasonable except for the whole Land of the Dead business. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-“My Missing Eye” (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the first release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The bandcamp site describes this song as

“Garbage thrown together on a free trial of Reason. Song’s about missing a fucking eye. Real music soon.”

This is two minutes of noisy instrumental metal math rock.  There’s a lot of different sounds in this two minute song.

It opens with some staccato pummeling sounds–the guitars are interesting in that they sound like they are chords yet ringing out at the same time.  The middle is a really fast pummeling section that reminds me of Ministry.  Those opens stringed chords come back late in the song, and they sound really cool.

I’m curious to see what TETA’s “real music” is going to sound like.

[READ: July 20, 2017] Reheated Liō

I have really enjoyed the Liō books (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

The strip has been going on for some 12 years now, which is pretty amazing.  And yet, there don’t seem to be any new or recent collections out.

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos.  Over the years his character hasn’t changed much but Tatulli has given him some surprising tenderness, which is a nice trait. (more…)

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