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Archive for the ‘Lush’ Category

[ATTENDED: April 7, 2015] Alvvays

2015-04-07 20.23.26Canadian band Alvvays opened for The Decemberists last night.  I really like their debut album and I was pretty excited to see them.  Alvvays play a perfect update of female -fronted-90s-alt-rock that I really like (and which few bands do anymore).  There are plenty of touchstones for the kind of music they play (Letters to Cleo, Lush), and they do it perfectly–super catchy choruses, nice harmonies and simple ringing guitars.

In hindsight (after watching the headliners) it must be tough for a small band to play when the headliners have so much going on.  So the five members of Alvvays looked a little cramped on stage in their small area.  They didn’t say a lot and they barely moved around.  But they brought their A-game and ripped through their entire album (I think).

I remember thinking that their album is only about 35 minutes, so their set couldn’t be much longer than that.  It was about 30 minutes.  And, since I like the album but don’t really know song names yet, I’m not sure what they played or didn’t play (and setlist.com is no help at all).  I certainly recognized a few songs, but have no idea what order they were in.

I also had to wonder…if you are an up and coming band with a single that’s getting airplay (“Marry Me, Archie”), do you play it first and get the audience psyched to hear more, or do you save it for the end when more people have arrived.   Which they did.  And it was nice to see the crowd (who was responsive but not exactly rocking) nodding along to the song. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NOW,NOW-“Thread” (2012).

I really enjoyed Now, Now’s last single “Dead Oaks” quite a lot, and here’s another one.  A beautiful shoegazer song, hints of My Bloody Valentine, hints of early Lush.  The singer has a great voice soaring over the chugging and swirling guitar chords.

The song is smooth and dreamy, but when the guitar solo comes in, it’s kind of jagged and really unexpected–a nice treat to keep a sing from becoming too obvious.

“Now, Now” is kind of a crazy name for a band–i assumed that it would be difficult for search engines to find them.  But no.  Type in now now and there they are.

[READ: June 20, 2012] “Monstro”

I’ve read a bunch of stories by Díaz, and I was a little surprised to see him in a sci-fi issue.  Although his characters are typically nerdy sci-fi fantasy geeks, his stories are pretty much all about reality–scoring women, losing money, fighting cancer, getting women back.  And, that’s what this story is about too.

One thing that I especially liked about the story is that it is such a conventional Díaz story–his main character g0es to the Dominican Republic to be with his ailing mom.  (They live in the States but her medical costs would be much cheaper there).  So he goes to the DR for the summer.  And he meets up with a fellow Brown student who just happens to be a Very Important Person in the DR (he’s related to the 99th most wealthy person on the planet).  And this guy, Alex, hooks him up well–he gives the narrator the royal treatment all over the country.  Alex also introduces him to Mysty, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

And so they spend the summer together.  The narrator knows that Mysty is out of his league, but he lusts after her anyhow.  He confirms with Alex several times that the two of them are not an item, and that seems to be true. It’s clear that Mysty likes him–he doesn’t put up with Alex’s shit or with hers, but it’s also clear that they will never be together.

Díaz doesn’t skimp on the story either–we learn all about Alex’s background (and the fact that despite all of his wealth, he’s not coasting–he’s pulling down a 4.0 from Brown).  We also learn all about Mysty–her history, her desires and her disdain for the Dominican Republic.  And, naturally we learn all about the narrators mother–what’s wrong with her, how she’s coping and how she’s tells him that he doesn’t have  to stick around–he’s not doing her any favors.  And so he leaves her to have fun with his friends.  As he says, “What an asshole, right? What a shallow motherfucker.  But I was nineteen–and what is nineteen, if not for shallow?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMETRIC-Fantasies (2009).

I was hooked by the song “Gold Guns Girls.”  I liked it so much, I bought the disc, and I was absolutely not disappointed.  This disc reminds me of all of the best things about late 90s alt rock (one of my favorite musical periods).  There are echoes of later period Lush, or of Garbage or some other slickly produced commercial alt-rock.

I’m led to understand that this disc would merit cries of sell-out from older fans (their earlier stuff it a bit rougher, I gather), and yes, this is a pretty commercial release, but I don’t mind.  The songs are all top-notch: great songwriting, catchy choruses, wonderful production.  And there’s something slightly uncommercial about the lyrics which I think is what keeps this album from being too slick for its own good.

I have listened to this disc dozens of times at this point and I never get tired of it.  And, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go back and get some of their earlier releases too.

[READ: May 15, 2011] Fraud

I’ve seen Rakoff on the Daily Show, and his name has been cropping up in various places lately.  So I decided to read his actual published work to see what he was all about.

Fraud is his first book.  It is mostly funny, although it also dwells on serious matters by the end of the book.  In many ways Rakoff is like a slightly wilder, slightly edgier version of David Sedaris (the two have a long history of friendship and working together, so this may not be totally surprising).

I’m not going to compare him to Sedaris in any meaningful way, just to say that there are similarities of temperament and style; I don’t think either one of them is hilarious, but that I enjoy both of them and often laugh pretty hard at their material.

I’m also not going to review each essay in this book.  It seems to be constructed in a vague sort of narrative arc.  Well, actually, the second half of the book has the narrative arc (I suspect that the essays that were published previously were modified slightly and that the new essays allude to some of the incidents mentioned there.

The first few essays of the book are the funnier ones (insert joke about Woody Allen’s early funny movies here), and they stick more to the idea of Rakoff as a “Fraud.”  In them, Rakoff, a Canadian ex-pat (he’s from Toronto), somewhat neurotic, gay, New York Jew goes to different locations where he is an atypical person and then reports on them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: METRIC-“Gold Guns Girls” (2009).

I mentioned to Sarah that WRFF plays this song all the time and that I really liked it but I had no idea what the band or even the song title was because they never say it.  And, I couldn’t really figure out any of the words (I’m usually working with loud tools) to investigate online.

Well, we were in the car the other day and, of course, they played it again.  Happily, the Prius has a “message” button on the radio that tells you the names of the band and the song title (if the radio station provides it).  Huzzah, here’s the song (hilariously, they played it on the way home from our Halloween party too, proving my point that they really over-play this song).  But I still think its great.

I’ve been interested in Metric for a while (there are members of Broken Social Scene in the band) but for some reason I never listened to them.

This track opens with a fast guitar riff which is undercut by this cool bass riff.  Over the top staccato vocals (that come in unexpectedly) and a nice harmony type vocal (like later period Lush) make this opening really captivating.

The repeated chorus “Is it ever gonna be enough” (with I think whispered “enough”s in the background) remind me so much of the mid 90s alt rock that I love so much.  I have no idea if the rest of the disc is like this, but I have finally bitten the bullet and decided to order the whole thing.  I hope I’m not disappointed.

[READ: 2005 & October 25, 2010] “Bird-Dogging the Bush Vote”

A while ago I read a whole bunch of pieces by Wells Tower.  I intended to read all of the pieces I could find by him and I discovered he had written a few pieces for Harper’s as well as the articles for Outside.  I’m fairly certain I read this story back in 2005 when it came out, as it sounds kind of familiar, but maybe I, like Tower himself, was too bummed with the results to actually read about it in detail.

In this piece, Tower decides to go “undercover” and volunteers at some Bush/Cheney offices in Florida (a pivotal state that year and one in which malfeasance was predicted on a large scale).  Tower is unabashed about his distaste for Bush (to us, not to the Floridians).  He admits that he did feel a bit of hope in the President right after the events of September 11, 2001, but by September 12, he was already disgusted with him again.

And so he spends a few weeks in Florida actually asking people to vote for Bush in hopes of finding something out of the ordinary.  Which, aside from some real mean spiritedness (which I’m sure was the same in the Kerry camp), there was nothing scandalous to report.   Although I will say that the example he gives (telling a Democrat that voting was on the day after the actual election, which I’d seen in a number of other places too, really pisses me off despite its fairly innocuousness and no doubt ineffectiveness–as a librarian I hate telling lies to people). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES-Elan Vital (2006).

Every time I listen to this record I think I’m not going to like it, and that is because I really don’t like the first song. I’ve never had a record that rubbed me so badly off the bat and then turned out to be such a fulfilling record overall.

I first heard PGMG when they first came out. I knew their band name from the Smiths’ song, so I had to see what they were about. But I was surprised to hear how unSmithsy they were. Their first two albums were great and then they seemed to go away for a while. When Elan Vital came out I’d read a few mixed reviews of it and it took me ages to pick it up. And, then, as I said, that first song…. I’m not sure what it is about the song that rubs me the wrong way. In and of itself it’s a very generic sounding song, but after listening to the rest of the album I think I figured out what i don’t like about song one.

The rest of the album is very sparse, almost angular, and yet they maintain an incredibly catchy aspect. There’s always at least one interesting part of every song. “Pyrite Pedestal” reminds one of later Lush, but only in the vocals, because Lush has always been kind of smooth and, well, lush. This song keeps the attitude of Lush, but sticks in a very simple melody line and instruments. The simplicity really highlights all of the aspects of the song…nothing is lost. And this is true for the rest of the songs as well. Each instrument, each vocal line, everything is so crisp, it really stands out.

As I’m reliving the record I’m realizing why it’s so hard to describe. It’s because although every song sounds like PGMG, the vocals are very strong and consistent and there’s a punk edge to everything, the styles of the songs vary greatly within the record. “Domino” is practically disco (but angry disco). And yet overall they remind me of X-Ray Spex. Andrea Zollo’s voice is less shrieky and much prettier than Poly Styrene’s and they are clearly post-grunge in their sensibilities, but they hearken back to the 1970s punk scene quite clearly.

Two other things that have changed in the band since their first two great albums: they’d added a keyboardist, who contributes really nice touches, and even carries one of the songs…but the keyboards never “soften” the songs. And, they use horns from time to time. I don’t recall if they did before but it does stand out in the mix now. (They are used to their detriment on the last song however. The main body of the song is quite good, but then it degenerates into a weird 4 minute keyboard and horn jam session. It’s as lame as it sounds. I don’t know what they were thinking ending their album like that.)

Oh, and so why don’t I like the first song? The whole album is clear sounding and immediate. Each song, with its differing styles and sounds is so unique. However, the first song sounds like they threw all of these elements together. There’s so much going on that it turns the whole song into mush. It sounds like a generic 90’s alternative song with layers of noise. But, don’t let that fool you. Skip track one and enjoy the awesome songs of Elan Vital

[READ: February 2008] Comedy By the Numbers.

A sample chapter of this book came with McSweeney’s 23. It was pretty funny so I bought the book. This is one of those strange books that McSweeney’s excels at: It seems like a joke and yet it is quite serious, except when it’s funny. So the premise is that this is a list of 169 comedy tropes that, once you master, will make you funny.

(more…)

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