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Archive for the ‘Mumford and Sons’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE LUMINEERS-Tiny Desk Concert #966 (April 6, 2020).

When The Lumineers first came on the scene they were the band that sounded like Mumford and Sons.  It now seems likely that The Lumineers are more popular than Mumford.

I’ve known them since “Hey Ho” but I’ve never seen them I guess because sinegr Wesley Schultz doesn’t look anything like I thought he would (I’m not sure what I thought, but that’s not it).

Much of The Lumineers’ Tiny Desk comes from the band’s third LP, III, which tells a story of addiction in three acts.  They began with gut-wrenching renditions of “Gloria” and “Leader Of The Landslide.”

I’ve heard “Gloria” a million times, but it was nice to see it live.  I especially enjoyed  when violinist Lauren Jacobson joined in on the high notes of the piano while Stelth Ulvang played the low parts.  Byron Isaacs plays some interesting bass lines (That I’ve never noticed before) and adds nice backing vocals.

“Leader of the Landslide” has a very sad introductory tale.  Stelth Ulvang switches to accordion.  It is “accompanied by a cassette recording of crickets made on iPhones and dubbed to play on a boombox.”  It’s a quiet song, unlike what I think of them as playing.

The third track is also from III, but was an assignment from director M. Night Shyamalan. He tasked Schultz and his suspender-clad writing partner, Jeremiah Fraites, with composing a song for the end credits of a film. “Jer and I worked really hard on that, and then he didn’t need it,” Schultz confessed. The results are the stark and haunting “April” and “Salt And The Sea,”which strikes a different chord than any other song they’ve written.

“April (instrumental)” is a one-minute instrumental that segues into “Salt And The Sea” Drummer Jeremiah Fraites plays piano while percussionist Brandon Miller switches to drums. but he’s mostly playing cool atmospheric percussion (my new favorite thing of scraping drumsticks on cymbals).

It wouldn’t be a Lumineers show without a foot-stompin’ sing-along to end the set, which came with their crowd-pleasing hit “Stubborn Love”. Stelth Ulvang demonstrated a level of barefoot acrobatics unrivaled at the desk thus far, not an easy feat (or should I say, feet).

I never knew the name of “Stubborn Love” but I’ve certainly wanted to “Hey oh, oh oh oh) along with it.  And yes, Ulvang jumps on Bob’s desk to get everyone to sing along–I hope he didn’t step on anything (and that his feet were clean).

I’ve never thought about seeing them live, but I’ll bet their show would be a lot of fun. However, since they are now playing to 20,000 people, I can probably give that a miss.

[READ: April 25, 2020] “The Bird Angle”

Nell Zink and Jonathan Franzen are intricately linked.  As she writes in this essay

All I wanted when I first wrote to Jonathan Franzen–a birder who moonlights as a journalist–in 2011 was some attention for a bird-obsessed NGO.  With his help I debuted as a novelist five years ago at age fifty.

Her fifth book comes out this year.  She now has some money and wondered what to do with it.  Franzen recommended birding in Peru.

So this is the first non-fiction piece of hers that I have read.  It’s also the first piece about birds (aside from her novel the The Wallcreeper which has a bird prominently in it).

She was going to Cuzco, Peru for thee days.  First she toured churches (seventeenth century Jesuits made Christ look especially gruesome).  The next morning she hiked to Sacsayhuamán, an Incan ruin made of exceptionally large rocks.

She imagined Peru would feel like a hot night in New York when the A/C broke.  But she only got two mosquito bites the whole time she was there (both on her ass from peeing outside). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 5, 2017] Pierce Brothers

This new construction on the way to Philly is really cramping my style.

I got to Union Transfer about 15 minutes late (unavoidable this time).  And that delay meant I missed some of the best supporting act that I’d never heard of before.

Pierce Brothers are Australian twins Jack and Patrick Pierce (that’s Jack on the left).  I saw three or four songs–walking in during a rollicking “Genevieve” that had the crowd going utterly nuts.

I don’t know what the crowd (which was quite large when I arrived) was like when the guys first started, but we were eating out of their hands by the time of this song.

During “Genevieve,” Jack was on electric guitar while Patrick played acoustic and sang lead.  Jack was jumping around and inciting us all to sing along and have a great time. (more…)

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whiteSOUNDTRACK: IMAGINE DRAGONS-Night Visions (2012).

nightvisImagine Dragons is a band that is hugely popular (popular enough for “Weird Al” to parody their song) and seemed to come out of nowhere.  I kind of sort of like them but also sort of don’t.  I didn’t know anything about them when I first heard “Radioactive” a big bombastic anthemic sing along with big drums and an amusing (or interesting at least) part in the beginning where the singer “breathes in chemicals.” And what’s great about the song is that it’s fun to sing along to and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

But the thing about the album is that some of their songs veer right into the realm of cheesey pop.  “Tiptoe” has a synth sound that is so cheesy I can’t stand it.  It also has a chorus that a boy band could easily do.

So the album is full of songs I like and one or two I dislike a lot.  “It’s Time” stays on the good side of pop with a preposterously poppy song which never drifts into cheese (even if it flirts with the line). “Demons” is catchy and fun as is “On Top of the World” (with the “hey”s and handclaps).  Depending on my mood, I could easily hate these songs, but most days I find them happy and enjoyable.

“Amsterdam” and “Hear Me” are rocking anthems that sits pretty squarely in the not-too-poppy camp.  They have big choruses and are pretty easy to like.

As for songs I dislike–“Every Night” is the worst piece of pop crap drivel I’ve heard in a long time.  Everything about it is gawdawful ( I won’t even list them all).  I can see it being huge.  And “Underdog” goes over the line into cheese for me as well.  I don’t know if it’s the synth sounds or the lyrics or what but I can do without it.

“Bleeding Out” returns to that gritty vocals but still pretty polished sounding song that Dragons do quite well.  “Nothing Left to Say” is an interesting ender to the album (with cellos and all).  The tacked on coda “Rocks” is also kind of fun in a Mumford and Sons sorta way.

It was about half way through the disc that I realized the band sounds like Coldplay (the opening of “Demons,” jeez–I may have even heard this on the radio and assumed it was Coldplay)–but like an excessive version of Coldplay (both in anthemic quality (which is hard to do) and in pop potential).

I haven’t heard the band’s new single, but it should let me know which way the band is going–more rock anthems or into the pop pit of despair–and that will probably determine my final verdict of the band.

[READ: October 17, 2014] White Cube

I found this book at work and was quite intrigued by it.  Of course, I am intrigued by nearly everything Drawn & Quarterly puts out, even if I don’t love everything they release. And I didn’t love this one.

In fairness, there was a lot I liked about it.  The fact that it was originally published in Belgium is pretty cool.  And the fact that there are barely any words in it also made it intriguing.  I even enjoyed that there were two main characters, each one a virtually identical pink bald man who express his pleasure by giving a thumbs up.  And yes, I enjoyed that most of the stories were about art.  So, perhaps I did enjoy this more than I realized.

The book as a whole seems to be mocking the state of modern art.  When the two unnamed guys go into the “White Cube” they follow signs for Modern Art and then make adjustments to what they see, giving a thumbs up when they are done.

What confused me was trying to figure out whether each piece was an individual story or part of the whole. Several of them start with a “title panel” that says White Cube (while others seem to have different titles).  But since they all seem to be about art, they could all be rooms in the big White Cube. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUMFORD & SONS-Sigh No More (2011).

I had assumed that this album was massive until an email sent around to some of my friends revealed that many of them had never even heard of the band.  So I guess it’s massive in my own little world.  Well that’s fine, I’ve always liked rougher folk music.  And there are two or three songs on this album that absolutely deserve to be massive.

If you’re like my friends and you don’t know Mumford & Sons, this album is a kind of rocking folk album (lots of banjos and harmonies).  But it’s less Fleet Foxes and more Waterboys–earnest folk with updates to the traditional sound.  The disc opens kind of slowly with “Sigh No More.” It take about two minutes to get going (and for the banjo to kick in).  In addition to the banjo (seriously, who knew a banjo could be so catchy?–well, bluegrass musicians, for one), the main selling point is main Mumford’s voice–it’s powerful, bellowing and quite emotive.

“The Cave” is the first indication that this album is going to be impressive.  It starts out deceptively simple. Once you get to the second round of the bridge, “and I….” the song soars to the heavens in catchiness, (the singer’s enunciated vowels are weird and fun too).  “Winter Winds” has a bit more Irish feel to it (Irish via The Pogues), but it also has the same kind of soaring qualities as “The Cave.”

“Roll Away the Stone” features the banjo heavily and is all the better for it.  And “White Blank Page” really features the rough-hewn vocals that are the signature of Mumford & Sons.  Never has the word “raaaaage” been so singable!

Some of the slower moments of the album kind of bog the disc down.  Of course you couldn’t play everything at breakneck speed and still have your dynamic parts sound dynamic.  So a song like “I Gave You All” opens slowly but it builds in power.  The break is welcome (although quite a lot of songs start out slow and then get faster).  But the chorus is outstanding.

The pinnacle of the album comes with “Little Lion Man” an amazingly catchy chorus (with a very bad word in it) and more raucous banjo playing.  It’s almost impossible not to stomp your feet along.  “Thistle & Weeds” is another slow builder–you can really hear the angst in his voice by the end.  The end of the album is kind of a denouement.  On my first few listens I didn’t care for the end of the disc so much but by now the album has so won me over that I can just enjoy this folkier ending.

In many ways there’s no major surprises on this disc–it’s rocking folk after all–except for just how damn catchy the band is.

[READ: February 22, 2012] “Corpse”

I wasn’t too keen on reading this story (one of the Walrus‘ longer stories) because of the title (and the accompanying picture of two boys with a deer in their sites).  I didn’t think I would enjoy a hunting story.  And yet, it started out so peaceful and zen that it sucked me right in.

It opens in a very female space.  Maura and Angie are relaxing in Maura’s house.  Well, Maura is doing yoga while Angie is relaxing.  Maura is talking about the yoni, the great universal twat. Angie visualizes a massive latex vulva that she and her boyfriend Gordon enter.  After a few moments, Angie and Maura look at each other and start cracking up.

The female space is penetrated by Malcom, Maura’s 13-year-old son, carrying the beginnings of a bow and arrow.  He wants to know what’s so funny.  They pass of a few lame jokes which he doesn’t fall for until Angie comes up with a really funny one.  One that is especially funny in the printed delivery, in which you’re not entirely sure that  joke is being told (a nice trick!).  So I won’t spoil it here.

Malcolm informs them that he is just going to shoot his arrows at cans with his friend Andrew.  But in fact they have bigger plans.  A deer has been spotted in the local dog park (they live in the city so the deer are a rarity).  After laughing at the joke, he runs off with Andrew to go hunting. (more…)

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