Photos by Patrick Kelly
Avi Buffalo, the Long Beach, California-based guitar pop band has been garnering a great deal of attention in the weeks leading to the release of their self-titled debut album. Despite the hoopla, they took the stage at the Independent to a fairly thin crowd. The band's youth is incredibly evident in both their appearance and stage presence. While it is a huge asset, creating the fresh arrangements and some of the cutest, quirkiest lyrics heard in ages, the first few songs of the set were noticeably stiff. "Summer Cum" was appropriately high energy and dreamy, but it wasn't until the almost eight minute long "Remember Last Time," that the boys let loose and showed their range and precocious skills. The songs transferred beautifully to the stage, and will no doubt get better and better as they continue to tour.
Japandroids rocked out. The set was loud, slick, and in-your-face. It was a little unbelievable to watch two handsome young men scream into microphones for an hour, while they banged seemingly impossible, but amazing noises out of a drum kit or made the grungiest electric guitar sound fantastic while flying around the stage (nonetheless, while in skinny white jeans). It was striking to watch, and even more incredible to listen to. Their devil-may-care anthems of youth, like "Wet Hair" and "The Boys are Leaving Town" are reminiscent of the dirty garage punk rock that teenage boys all over the world hope to master as an outlet for their angst. The Japandroids make it as much about youthful disillusionment as skillful musicianship, and it truly makes for a kick-ass show.
Avi Buffalo continues their tour with Modest Mouse this summer. That lineup will perhaps make more sense, at least to those who like their whole show to represent one feel. There was something else entirely connecting Avi Buffalo and Japandroids, and boy was it a smart combination. Both are the themes of youth: naivete and self-absorption, sex, the future, and identity. It is rare that bands are booked together based on something so esoteric, but it really should be happening all the time.
There’s something about “Rope And Summit”, the new track from José Gonzales’ band Junip, that makes us want to renounce electricity and cycle vertically across the Americas. Maybe we and José can ride tandem.
David Guetta: Kid Cudi "Memories" (Remix)
I walked into Amoeba the other day, and on the top shelf was David Guetta's new album, One Love. Kid Cudi may have gone off his rocker, drinking, ego-tripping, and David Guetta just helps Cudi further on this track! Memories are for sissy girls, drink up.
Deer Tick: "20 Miles"
Deer Tick began in December of 2004 in the bedroom of Providence native, John McCauley. With a tape recorder and a nylon string guitar, he ... (more) did what most anybody would do; he made tapes for his friends. Now he makes tapes for you.
ARMS: "Heat & Hot Water"
ARMS is Brooklyn-based mid-20s-type Todd Goldstein, who also plays guitar in a band called Harlem Shakes. In ARMS, he records himself playing a whole mess ... (more) of different instruments, sings, and tells stories about mildly freaky situations.
Health; "USA Boys"
“USA Boys” was recorded at former tourmate Trent Reznor’s home studio with Alan Moulder at the mixing desk, a guy who’s produced Depeche Mode, My Bloody Valentine, and a grip of other crushingly coarse, wonderfully hi-fi records. And while that information alone should have you already clicking “download,” let us also say that this is a HEALTH song like few others–dirge-slow and beaty, if not completely refuting their love of strobscopic textures.
“We are very pleased to have a special guest in the audience tonight: former heavy weight champion of the world, Mr. Joe Frazier,” informal emcee Todd Coolman announced from behind his bass. As the audience scanned the room for a glimpse of Smokin’ Joe, the bassist didn’t miss a beat, quipping, “Oh, sorry lady, thought you were Joe...”
Coolman’s tongue-in-cheeker was characteristic of the light-hearted tone that prevailed at Yoshi’s last Saturday. The joke also happens to be a favorite of the great saxophonist James Moody, who’s 85th birthday we had gathered to celebrate.
Though the guest of honor was ill and unable to attend his own party, the night did not disappoint, as a host of talented musicians played on in tribute, including Frank Wess on sax and flute, Jon Faddis on trumpet, Joey DeFrancesco on the organ, drummer Adam Nussbaum, bassist Todd Coolman, vocalist Nnenna Freelon, and pianist Mike Garson.
Who’s James Moody, you ask? Well, my friends, James Moody has become something of a jazz institution – a qualifier generally reserved it seems for those who’ve blown their horns (or tickled a piano) for more than sixty years and came up under jazz wizards like Dizzy Gillespie. As it happens, fresh out of Air Force service in World War II, a young James Moody joined Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra in 1946 – an all-star band that boasted some p-p-p-retty talented jazz hands, like vibraphonist Milt Jackson, drummer Kenny Clarke, bassist Ray Brown, the inimitable crazy-man Thelonious Monk, and arguably the most famous jazz name of them all … Miles Davis … to name a few.
Moody’s subsequent rise to fame is a cool – and kind of unusual – story. In 1949, while in Sweden on a mini-tour, Moody recorded Jimmy McHugh’s “I’m in the Mood for Love,” in which he played a distinctive, dynamic bop solo that made the recording a big hit back in the U.S. of A. (Moody moved to Europe after a few years in Dizzy’s band.) A few years later, Eddie Jefferson wrote a melody from Moody’s improvisation, set lyrics to it, and called it “Moody’s Mood For Love.” A singer with one of the great (and presumptuous) stage names in music history, King Pleasure, then made the song famous, and in so doing, secured Moody’s status among the great horn players of the era. “Moody’s Mood For Love” has since become a jazz classic and has been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, and many others.
Moody’s story is illustrative of an era when things like that could happen, when a musician could rise to fame based on an improvised solo … a jazz one no less. Weird, huh? Add 60 years of touring and recording and you start to see why Moody’s birthdays have become special events in the jazz world -- causes for celebration both among musicians and his many friends.
In a fitting tribute Saturday, Moody’s friends played a raucous and light-hearted version of “I’m in the Mood For Love” that included a hilarious vocal performance by Joey DeFrancesco. If you’re not familiar with DeFrancesco, he is a big fella and is renowned for his virtuosic Hammond skills (when he was 17, Miles asked the organist to join his band) and relentless touring and guest appearances … but he’s not exactly known for his dulcet voice. Imagine Newman (from Seinfeld) with a goatee belting out a ‘40s jazz tune. No doubt Moody would have been proud. Or at least laughing his ass off. Happy Birthday, James!
Another of the night’s highlights was the performance of uber talented jazz vocalist Nneenna Freelon, who has toured extensively with Moody in the past few years. She opened by telling the audience that she knew “Moody was here in spirit” because, after all, “he’s a brother who always enjoys a good party.” Then, along with pianist Mike Garson (who played on Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour in 1972 and Aladdin Sane) Nnenna launched into celebratory renditions of “Squeeze Me” (and old Fats Waller tune) and “Blue Skies” (an Irving Berlin classic).
I’m not usually a fan of jazz vocalists, but Nnenna’s version of “Blue Skies” made me feel all funny inside – and want to join a congregation. It also helps that, though she’s in her mid-fifties and has 5-Grammy nominations and years of touring under her belt, she looks incredibly sexy in a black dress. I still think that most jazz vocalists are cheese dealers, but the traces of gospel in her tone, mixed with shades of pop and blues made her sound like Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, and Beyonce rolled into one. Or at least that’s what someone who sings well (and knows who Beyonce is) told me …
Another reason that Nnenna’s performance was so enjoyable was how well her voice was complimented by the saxophone of Frank Wess. Prior to the show, I wasn’t particularly familiar with Wess, who, I’ve since learned (like Moody), is a sax veteran, debuting in the “Big Band” era with Bill Eckstine and Count Basie. Today, the National Endowment of the Arts identifies the 88-year-old as a “Jazz Master.” Not quite a doctor, I suppose, but master will do. Wess’s playing, especially on the standard “Never Let Me Go,” was brilliant.
Following this particularly hott (yes, that’s with two “t’s”) rendition in which Wess (who walked to his place on the stage with a cane) played the classiest, most tasteful, it-takes-a-guy-who’s-been-around-awhile-to-know solos I’ve seen, trumpeter Jon Faddis acknowledged his consummate playing by declaring: “Well … now I don’t have to go to church tomorrow…” So apparently Wess is a master and a minister. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.
All in all, it was one helluva birthday party; Mr. Moody was celebrated in style. It left me hoping that my 85th birthday – really, any year – features a musical cake with some badass saxophone and a sexy jazz diva.
Rating: 12 out of a possible 13 bassoons.
Murs @ Fillmore, April 29th, 8pm ($20) Former Living Legends member, LA "backpack rapper," however you might label him--one thing is for sure, Murs is just plain good. One of the most lucid, interesting rappers in hip hop, Murs will be performing at the Fillmore. I've seen him many times, and personally can attest, he's great live.
Solid Gold @ Rickshaw Stop, April 30th, 9pm ($9.99) The Minneapolis funky, indie-electronic group are a SFCritic favorite. Opening for Lemonade, this will surely be a sweet treat of a show.
The Antlers/Phantogram @ The Independent, May 1st, 9pm ($14) Led by 23-year-old Brooklynite Peter Silberman, The Antlers make grandiose yet intimate indie rock in a favorable review of their sophomore album Hospice. Thanks to the album's heavy and deathly subject matter and Silberman's quivering croon, the Antlers have garnered many comparisons to Arcade Fire. And it's hard to ignore the way both groups can turn fatalism into something uplifting. Lastly, Phantogram is another rising group not to miss. The love-duo put together gritty beats polished with hip hop swag, topped with great indie vocals. HONESTLY, I can't believe this is only $14!
Blue Scholars @ People's Park in Berkeley, May 1st (Free) 12-5 UC Berkeley's Students for Hip Hop every year throw a FREE concert, Hip Hop in the Park. This year’s lineup is dope (as always), which includes: Blue Scholars, Invincible, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Rocky Rivera, Otayo Dub, Kurse and more...
B.o.B./Lupe Fiasco @ The Warfield, May 4th, 8pm ($33.25) It's been a long time, probably since 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Trying that there has been such a buzz circling a debut album, but with B.o.B.'s hit single "Nothing on You," you can hear and FEEL that buzz. Never to be overlooked, Lupe Fiasco (the actual headliner) is also out with a new album and is nothing to shy away from.
Cocorosie's new album Grey Oceans, is now available to stream (see below). Signed to Sub Pop, Cocorosie is lead by sisters, Bianca "Coco" and Sierra "Rosie" Casady. For those fans of Emily Wells, Cocorosie have a similar sound with a heavier leaning towards electronic (not hip hop). Take a listen, and enjoy.
CocoRosie - Grey Oceans by subpop
As the crowd fills the floor dancing away the night, the DJ plays music from a dark corner, his headphones on, lost in his own world. It’s a foreign world for many, which once brought criticisms about their musicianship and artistic skill. Simon Green, a UK producer and DJ better known as Bonobo, is touring behind his new album Black Sands. He spoke with SFCritic during a phone interview.
SFCritic (SFC): Are you formally trained in any instruments?
Bonobo (B): No, I’ve always kind of bluffed it with instruments. I play all the instruments on the album. I always just find a way to get a melody from an instrument.
SFC: Do you have any training in music theory?
B: Yeah. I’m not that trained in theory, but I just find my way around instruments fairly easily. If there is a melody in my head, I can generally get it out and play it.
SFC: Did that always come easy for you?
B: Once you know how to play the keys, and once you know how to play guitar, anything else is just a variation of that. If you understand how scales work and key structure you can translate anything.
SFC: I noticed that you stuck with one vocalist on this record, as you’ve also done in past records. Why do you choose to do that?
B: Because I wanted it to sound like a record. It’s this effective coherence. I don’t want to fill the record with guests, because it doesn’t have any identity that way. It needs to have a signature.
SFC: Why don’t you stick with the same vocalist through different records?
B: I want the project to still be my music, and not necessarily a band.
SFC: Have you ever been criticized for not being a “real musician” for the electronic elements in your music?
B: No. And if they do I don’t care. There used to be the argument that sampled music was not real music. That’s ridiculous to say that electronic music isn’t real music.
This is an argument from ten years ago about sampled music. I used to hear that argument.
SFC: What do you think changed?
B: Sampled music and electronic music infiltrated the mainstream and everyone’s consciousness. It’s not this kind of threatening new music that is used to be.
SFC: Did you ever receive any criticism for not being a good live show, or anything of that sort?
B: No people really like it. It’s sometimes ambiguous whether it’s one person, or a band, but I kind of like that. I get more criticism when I DJ because people don’t hear the sound they know as Bonobo. They don’t know what the project is, and then there’s a dude playing records.
SFC: What is the process of putting together a DJ set like for you?
B: I don’t play my own music, because you need to keep to the dance floor. I play music that is like mine, that has the same vibe, the same style — but at the same time it’s heavy enough that it carries itself on the dance floor.
SFC: Do you go into a set with a predetermined set-list?
B: Sometimes I do, but within that there are certain times where it would be inappropriate to go too hard. I have a plan but I can make diversions.
SFC: Do you ever make personal mixtapes for friends?
B: No, I used to. I make more playlists, which isn’t like the old mixtape where you would spend time writing stuff on the seam of the cassette. Now you just make a folder for someone. It doesn’t really have the same love or craft go into it.
SFC: Not the way you describe it, it definitely doesn’t. In that regard, does music translate into emotion for you?
SFC: Ok. Maybe we can do a few examples. If you’re really sad, what record would you put on?
B: There would probably be something by this neo-classical Polish composer, Jacek Kaspszyk.
SFC: What about if you’re angry?
B: I don’t know. I don’t really have an angry mixtape.
SFC: What if you’re trying to seduce someone?
B: Porteco Cortet, their Isla album.
SFC: I have one last question, and I’m sure you’ve heard this question before…
B: The monkey.
SFC: Yeah. Are you already regretting naming yourself it?
B: I regret talking about it everyday. I know what they do. I know what they are. I know everything about them.
Ariel Pink is a lo-fi, pop rock artist from Southern California. His latest album, Before Today, is set to be released by 4AD. Pink was first recognized by the members of Animal Collective, and was the group's first artist signed to their label, Paw Tracks. Ariel Pink's avant-garde sound was first referenced to SFCritic in an interview with Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow. After listening to Pink's music, it's hard not to be caught up in this tripped-out musical word on tracks like "Tinseltown Trannie," or his remix of The Doors "Light My Fire."
Ariel Pink: "Politely Declined"
Ten years ago Broken Social Scene literally broke into the scene, creating waves of acclaim for their ranging sounds. Five years have passed since the group’s last record, during which Canada has produced tons of new great artists. Withstanding time, the group’s open-door policy continues on their new album, Forgiveness Rock Record, which features familiar faces like Leslie Feist (Feist), Emily Haines (Metric) and Amy Millan (Stars). Before their May 1st performance at The Fillmore, drummer Justin Peroff spoke to SF Station.
SFCritic (SFC): So I saw that you're blogging. It’s called Pfffftt.
Justin Peroff (JP): Yeah--it’s hard to pronounce. It wasn’t my choice to name it that. It seems sort of tongue and cheek, but you know—internet culture.
SFC: How’s that going? Do you enjoy it?
JP: I enjoy it. It started actually really casual, and then I started to hit up bands I really like on my own, and say, “I got this blog that I do, can I ask you some questions and interview you?”
SFC: What is it like to be on the other side of the interview?
JP: Well I always consider some of the questions I ask some of the bands. I’m pretty inquisitive as a person as it is, so it’s not a departure from me as an individual, but I guess I’m sensitive to the questions that I ask. I’m in the situation sometimes.
SFC: I was looking for interviews with you, and couldn’t find many. Are you interviewed often?
JP: I don’t do a ton. At first when we started touring, almost ten years ago now, when we started to get interviews and what not, I chose not to. Now I’m totally into it.
SFC: Over the years with the band you’ve seen some solo projects really succeed, while others didn’t receive as much attention, have there been any troubles with egos when the group gets all together?
JP: No. I think it’s more an issue of scheduling. If anything at all, and eventually, it depends on what error or chapter you’re talking about.
SFC: Alright, now for you. How the heck do you manage keeping a rhythm with so many artists on stage?
JP: A nicely dialed in monitor, no, I’m just kidding. I just expect everybody to be listening to everybody. When I’m on stage, in my monitor I have Kevin. I have his guitar, and I think it’s just a matter of channeling what I know those songs are to be as written tunes sort of in my bones and in my heart. We all wrote those songs together without as many people on stage, without as many people in studio at that time, and then eventually, mixing and refining those songs in the studio.
When I play those songs, it’s not a matter of anchoring four guitars on stage, or whatever the case may be, it is just playing those songs. I think those guitars are looking more daunting, and a little more like a guitar harmony than they actually are. Each of those guys have very individual parts, doing their own thing, whether it be a little lick here, a strumming there, they’re all doing their own thing.
SFC: So who has the best butt when you’re standing at the back?
JP: Whiteman has got some good cheeks. His ass is a little higher you know. He’s got a nice ass for sure.
SFC: Is Canada producing so much good music because they have universal health care?
JP: [laugh] The answer is yes. I don’t know. I feel the same thing about California these days. There is a lot of awesome music coming out of California.
SFC: We’re really close to legalizing marijuana, which I think is part of the reason. I don’t know much about Canada’s Factor endowment system, but that seems like it has played a huge part in the music scene now.
JP: Yeah, Factor is huge. The whole government grant system is really, really healthy. I think it encourages bands to go into the studio, make a record properly, and ultimately follow that up with a video, which can also get funds from Factor Video.
SFC: Can you tell me a little about the album title? I know there was some discussion about maintaining some political relevance, but not sounding like a knock off of R.E.M.
JP: I’d say that any Broken Social Scene record that has been made is a love letter in many different ways, shapes, and forms. I think in any love letter, or in any of those particular love letters the word forgiveness can, may, and usually pops up at some point. I think this is a love letter that definitely doesn’t necessarily rotate around the theme of forgiveness, but forgiveness is important in this particular album, and this particular love letter in the Social Scene chapter.
SFC: My final question, what are two truths and a lie about the Broken Social Scene.
JP: Ok. One, Murray Lightburn the vocalist of The Dears doesn’t make an appearance on the opening song on the self-titled record. Two, I make a vocal appearance on the new record. Three, Michael J. Fox was supposed to make a vocal appearance on the new record.
SFC: Oh wow. I’ll leave that for the fans to answer.
Broken Social Scene performs at the Fillmore on May 1st. Tickets are $25. The performance starts at 9pm.
Throwing it down has got a whole new meaning. Bird Peterson's project, Drakenstein mixes Southern rap with trance samples, creating a whole new beast (hence the album name). "Jiggle that, work that," show me what you got over a four/four beat might seem irritating, but really, it might be that little extra you never knew you wanted, needed, but now that you got it, you can't stop, won't stop listening till you flip, flop drop. Ya heard? Have a nice weekend.
Download Drakenstein from our folks at Mad Decent.
Florence Welch, of the Brit band Florence and the Machine, has a strong voice that channels Grace Slick. Perhaps feeling the earthy San Francisco vibe, she entered the stage barefoot and in an all white outfit that could have easily been purchased on Haight Street. Another sign of her Grace Slickdom is the bands t-shirts for sale: they have a photo of Florence holding a big white rabbit, an animal Grace Slick epitomized with Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit in 1967.
They chose an unsophisticated band to open for them that would lose an audience around a campfire however the crowd managed to wait in boredom and give Flo a warm welcome. She tiptoe danced around the stage, jumping and belting. The tunes didn't grab me, however her strong voice, milky white skin, slender attractive body and apparent yearning to operate on the peripheral did. Florence seemed to be trying to evoke a mystical spirit. This 23-year-old has the potential if she can get a decent songwriter on board. She will then have the material backing her attitude and talent, leaving no need for tiptoeing. The fans stayed in packed and happy till the end.
By Rip Empson
Judgement Day was upon the hill Saturday night, and to the right were the Sinners and to the left were the Blessed. Everybody Else was somewhere in the middle. From atop their mount, the hometown trio brought a small apocalypse to the ears of the gathered faithful. Honestly, those in attendance will probably be disappointed if a day of reckoning should arrive without a sound track composed by a "string metal" band. Judgement Day’s sound, and its resident genre, are well-suited to narrate epic events – in the biblical sense, of course – like Morgan Freeman is to penguins.
Judgement Day, which consists of Anton Patzner on violin, Lewis Patzner on cello, and Jon Bush on drums is what you might now expect: progressive rock and metal blended with classical composition, played on strings dipped in distortion. This musical marriage is a unique one--like the galactic honeymoon of Dracula and Venus. And like their genus, Judgement Day is nothing if not unique.
Celebrating the release of their second studio album, Peacocks / Pink Monsters, Judgement Day played to a crowd of head-bangers, hipsters, locals and classical fans alike, mostly featuring work from their fresh release. Bottom of the Hill is an intimate setting – and though the band seemed a bit road-weary after the first leg of a national tour – it seemed a welcoming venue and energy in which to return home. Nothing says “home” like a plaid mosh pit.
For a trio with two classical instruments, the band has a big sound and is a blast to see live -- the black-tar theatricality of metal mixed with the rich resonance of effects-layered strings sounds crisper on recordings – but that raw energy translates much more effectively bouncing off walls and bodies in a live setting. A studio can make Ashlee Simpson a good singer, giving musicians and producers time to get it right, to tinker, and add digital band-aids, so when a band and its music sound better live, it’s always a testament to the quality of the material, and the musicians.
Definitely check out “Peacocks / Pink Monsters” and “Zombie Rodeo Clown” – two songs from their new album that will give you a good taste of what the band’s all about. On these tunes, the violin and cello bring a grace to the metal, whereas metal responds by coaxing mayhem out of orchestral arrangements that might not otherwise be so promiscuous. Plus, Bush kills it on the drums. So go check out this homegrown band. You’ll dig their album. It comes with art and stuff. And chicks love art.
The Steppouts: "Demons and Devotees"
The Steppouts is the studio project of guitarist Barrett Alley and John Winter. Thanks to some lo-fi fuzz from engineer Stuart Sikes, who has worked with groups like The White Stripes and Modest Mouse, the duo sounds as if they could have recorded from a garage. Their blues infused rock follows a little too consciously in the footsteps of the White Stripes at times, but Alley’s reserved Texas drawl keeps things a little below the boiling point of the all out rock abandon White sometimes flails into. Instead, the two hearken back to garage rock’s early days. Loud, gritty and full of nonsensical, vaguely rebellious lyrics, “Venison Stew” sounds like a stomping reply to “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” There is a slight snarl to Alley’s vocals, but they’re channeling an attitude that predates punk rock. Their new album, Demons and Devotees is straight rock and roll.
Sounds Like: The White Stripes if punk rock hadn’t existed
Listen To: Tiger, Venison Stew, Hand Me Down Hop
Carnivores: "All Night Dead USA'
We’re going back to the garage again for our second submission pick this week: this time from Atlanta Georgia’s Carnivores. On their Myspace, the band says that in order to get a handle on their roots, take a “psychedelic trek into lo-fi tropicalia, lounge and death-afflicted sound collages that defy easy categorization.” That’s a good place to start to describe their new album, All Night Dead USA. Much more on the psychedelic side than our other pick, The Steppouts, Carnivores sound almost like a lo-fi Animal Collective at times. Other times, they’re just creating washed out, grimy yet melodic soundscapes that utilize the whole band. There’s also a strangely tropical vibe to songs like “Heart of Copper” with overly distorted beach chords that feel like the band taped up some palm tree cutouts on their garage door. It’s nice to see someone do a little bit of decorating to change up the scenery.
Sounds Like: A loud, lo-fi luau set up by people on acid
Listen To: Heart of Copper, A Crime, Ghost and the Darkness
As A People @ El Rio April 22nd, 8pm ($5) Inspired by their diverse taste (Pixies, Queen, Grateful Dead, Busta Rhymes)the band set out to create a mutant variety of rock 'n roll. Get a taste as the band promotes their new album Carpet Bomb Ballet.
Yo La Tengo @ Fillmore April 22nd - 24th, 9pm ($29.50)Yes the venerable rock band is taking the stage for three nights in a row at the Fillmore. What makes any one of these evenings worth attending is the stellar line-up of openers, many of whom are more accustomed to top billing. Thursday night Camera Obscura takes the stage, alt-punk greats Thee Oh Sees are on Friday, while the local but internationally adored Sic Alps start things on Saturday. The odds are good that each evening will be filled with more than just Yo La Tengo's always stellar performance.
Japandroids with Avi Buffalo @ The Independent April 23rd, 9pm ($13 adv, $15 door) Japandroids (aka JPNDRDS) is a two piece band from Vancouver, BC. This 'band' started in 2006 as a creative outlet for the post-teenage angst of Brian King and David Prowse. Originally intended to be a trio, the boys decided to forgo the logistical nightmare of having a 'lead singer' and do it themselves. As a consequence, Japandroids are 1 guitar, 1 set of drums, and 2 vocalizers. They call it garage rock. They don't care what you call it, as long as it's not minimal.
Geographer @ Cafe Du Nord April 23rd, 9:30pm ($12) After a packed album release party at San Francisco’s landmark Cafe du Nord that included members of Bright Eyes, and the privilege of being voted one of three “Undiscovered Bands You Need To Hear Now” by SPIN magazine, Geographer is poised on the brink of becoming one of the most exciting newcomers in Indie music.
MGMT @ The Fillmore by Eve Marcellus
If any of you have read the SFCritic review of MGMT's sophomore album Congratulations, you might be wondering why in the world I even bothered to venture to the Fillmore last week to watch them perform most of it live. My answer prior to that evening would have been "no idea." Thankfully, I recovered from my haterade hangover in time because, whew, those boys sure can put on a show. As for the album, I kind of love it now (most of it anyway, "Lady Dada's Nightmare" is still the worst). I am not ashamed to stick my foot in my internet-mouth.
The stand-out tracks on the album, the first single "Flash Delirium" as well as "It's Working,” sounded more energetic and lushly layered when backed by a real (and really good) live band. The goofy, vanity track "Brian Eno" was louder, tighter, and more sincerely ridiculous in person. Even "I Found a Whistle" turned out to be a pretty solid techno ballad. Indeed all of their new material, in its psychedelic synth-surf-rock glory, benefited from this. Oracular Spectacular's mega-hit singles, however, didn't really sound as magical as they have in the past. "Electric Feel" came off a little flat, and by the time they got to "Kids" the band had exited the stage and the crowd was left with basically Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser singing karaoke.
But it was ok! Everyone in the audience was singing along too. This was oddly one of the most intimate moments, because for the majority of the show the audience chatted pretty loudly throughout the ballroom when unfamiliar songs (read: everything on Congratulations) were played. While the set barely stretched to an hour including the encore, it was great to watch MGMT settle all the critical chatter surrounding their new work with a more than solid show.
Whitest Boy Alive @ Slim's
by David Johnson-Igra
“Alright this is the second song of our first show ever in the United States,” explained Erlend Oye, as though the overly crazed crowd had lost all reasoning from their excitement to see Whitest Boy Alive. In fact this was probably true. The invigorated crowd danced away the night carefree from start to finish. Already surged with energy infused by Bay Area locals Sugar & Gold, Whitest Boy Alive “raised the roof” (which is in quotes because is it truly possible for a sea of plaid to raise the roof?). Midway through the set Oye even seemed in disbelief, stepping away from the microphone to observe the packed crowd. Everything seemed to be working out, as Oye ecstatically explained that the group even got to borrow Steve Taylor’s (Rogue Wave) 1978 Crumar synthesizer! Well, gee golly that thing there sounded swell! Some performances are more than memorable, this was one of them.
Beach House @ Bimbo's by Eve Marcellus
It would have been nearly impossible not to be a little blown away by the scene that was set at Bimbos for the Sub Pop starlets Beach House. For those of you unfamiliar with the venue, it is one of the city's true gems. It is at once intimate and grand, with red velvet and gold accents throughout, and generally feels like someplace your grandparents would go for spaghetti carbonara and martinis. Filled with a sold out crowd of well dressed, drink-swilling young people, who seemed pretty familiar with the Teen Dream material, it was a party--albeit of the most lo-fi persuasion.
Victoria Legrand, the hopelessly magnetic,
sultry-voiced and heavily fringed front-woman sounded haunting while she made pretty twinkles on her keyboard. Her mostly silent cohort, the striking Alex Scally, brought some of the album's subtle guitar to an ever so slightly more energetic level on each track, without ever sounding out of place or upsetting the delicate balance between live instruments and synth that makes Beach House so appealing in the first place. They even let the drummer sit up front (yes, they performed as a trio).
Highlights included set-opener "Walk in the Park,” which was so spot-on sound-wise it was barely discernible from the recorded version until you actually walked into Bimbo's main room. "Used to Be," aside from being pretty, was the energetic highlight of the evening and as close to a rock anthem as Beach House can get. While the show stayed fairly consistent in tempo, volume, and was visually fixed, much like a listen to the album, it didn't overwhelm the intricacies of the individual songs. "Lover of Mine" still sounded every bit as early 70s classic rock-tinged, and "10 Mile Stereo" had everyone captivated, swaying (almost dancing, almost).
Do I think it was a "can't miss" kind of show? Frankly, no. Teen Dream is delightful, suited to any number of appropriate listening scenarios and grows richer with each one. It is a reflection of the band’s graceful evolution and, in my opinion, a harbinger of greatness to come. Ardent fans were rewarded with a satisfying and true live performance of their work, and casual listeners were treated to a lovely evening that was sure to inspire them to revisit both Teen Dream and their (also excellent) previous work.
Pretty Lights @ Mezzanine by David Johnson-Igra
Having seen RJD2 the week before, talked to Bonobo a day earlier, one might expect I’d be prepared for Pretty Lights. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t have anticipated the packed energy, the random smattering of people (ravers meet hip hoppers), the non-stop dancing, and the prompt start-time (which never happens at Mezzanine).
While touring, Pretty Lights (aka Derek Vincent Smith) is accompanied by drummer, Cory Eberhard. Together, they created that extra kick in your step the way an Irish coffee does instead boring black coffee. Unlike comparable groups (Ratatat, Madlib, MSTRKRFT), Pretty Lights isn’t characterized by a signature sound such as a saw-synthesizer, mashups, or alarm sample. Their set was fresh, crisply shifting between hip hop, house, and electro-indie—never reaching a dull moment. They were everything I had been told, but could have never expected.
Happy 4/20 everyone, and do I have a tasteful treat for you:
This year's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is going to be bigger, better and even more tasty. Today, the popular music festival that Rolling Stone called one of "50 moments that changed the history of Rock & Roll," announced another monumental addition to their line-up: BONNAROO BUZZ! With this unique joint venture, Ben & Jerry's has once again elevated music and ice cream to another level.
By Big Vic Smith
You couldn’t help but shake a tail feather at Oakland's Fox Theater. New super-group Atoms for Peace provided modern tribal unification for two smashing nights (April 14th & 15th). The group is comprised of: Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar and piano) of Radiohead; Flea (bass) of Red Hot Chili Peppers; longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich (guitar and keyboards); Joey Waronker (drums) who has played with notable groups R.E.M., Beck, and Smashing Pumpkins; and, Mauro Refosco (drums and percussion) of David Byrne.
The night's rhythms and vibes could be felt in our spines. “Move!” it said, as Flea hebee-geebee’d with non-stop grooving. Even Tom Yorke showed off his signature dance moves which seem to be a language onto itself, divulging his sexy deep soul. Thom and Flea are a perfect pair of ying and yangers.
After the first night's encore the lights went on, but the crowd refused to go. Stomping, cheering and clapping, the crowd hung tough for ten minutes before the group made a surprise return to the stage. The real surprise: they hadn’t any material to play. They broke into an impromptu never-seen-before jam. Night two, a bit more prepared and maybe now expecting the crowd, again a deserved encore was had. This time the band returned to perform an epic “Love With Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. Deserved encores are the best.
You don’t have to own any of the band's albums, but if Thom Yorke is coming to your town--go. You hear me? Do not miss the opportunity to get a sense why music has been bringing us humans together in the first place. The only part of the show that sucked was that it didn't go until dawn.
SPIN magazine named Bay Area band Geographer as one of the “Three Undiscovered Bands You Need To Hear Now”—but most people don't read SPIN, just SFCritic (so we're repeating it now). The group’s dance-infectious pop deceivingly masks the recent and tragic death of lead singer Michael Deni’s sister. Before, celebrating the release of the group’s new EP, Animal Shapes, at Café Du Nord on April 23rd, SFCritic interview Michael at SXSW.
SFCritic (SFC): Where did you meet the rest of the band?
Michael Deni (MD): We met through a friend of a friend at an open-mic in San Francisco, shortly after we all moved there.
SFC: Where was the open-mic?
MD: The Hotel Utah.
SFC: Have you been there recently?
MD: No. I feel like it was like a right of passage. It was really awesome when we moved, but now I really don’t want to go back there. I’m happy to put it behind me.
SFC: I know you wrote some of the songs while you were living in New Jersey. Was it helpful to move away?
MD: It was helpful to move from Jersey to finish the songs. It was also helpful to meet these guys [the band]. I was living with my mom in Jersey. I didn’t have a lot of friends besides my roommates, and I didn’t have a job, so I was just playing all day long [after moving to San Francisco]. I feel like that really was when I found myself as a song writer.
SFC: The experience you left in New Jersey was obviously very emotional and was reflected in Innocent Ghost. What was the writing process like for you on Animal Shapes?
MD: That was something that I was really worried about because I had so much fodder for inspiration, and I was thinking, “Well, what am I going to write about now?” I mean Innocent Ghost was way more close to the bone. When I finally finished “Can’t You Wait,” in my bedroom and I hit that synth line when the beat drops, I just burst into tears. This happened as I was writing, and I was like okay, this is probably going to be a good song.
I never had any moments like that with Animal Shapes because it was more about the sounds, and ideas than it was about just pure feelings—I guess. In some ways I think that’s what makes it better.
SFC: Would you say the writing process was easier or more difficult?
MD: It was way more difficult for all of us to do Animal Shapes. There were times when I was just yelling, pounding on the desk to write lyrics. The lyrics were the hardest part for me because they used to just pour out for Innocent Ghosts. Now I really had to craft them, and make them good.
SFC: You're lyrics are very personal, and vivid. Do you feel you’re as communicative in a conversation?
MD: A lot of things that I talk about in the songs I do not talk about with my closet friends or my family. We were being interviewed once, and someone asked me what “Kites” was about and it made me upset for the rest of the day.
What it’s about for me I think is really different than what’s about for other people, and I kind of don’t want to mess with that. The whole reason that I wrote the song was because I couldn’t express it verbally in conversation.
It’s almost as though expressing it without the music, is expressing it incompletely, and something about that is very jarring for me.
SFC: When listening to your music, the average listener might be caught up in the upbeat melodies and harmonies, completely missing the lyrics. Does that bother you?
MD: The lyrics are for me that’s the more selfish part of it: the cathartic part of it. The way I listen to music, the music always comes first for me, but I need to have something meaningful to say as well. I love to see people dancing. At first it was a little weird. I would be playing “Rushing In, Rushing Out,” and everyone would be dancing going “Yeah!” and I was like, “Okay great! I was a little worried how you would react to such a sad song with such an upbeat vibe to it.”
That’s also sort of the best part, and most important, that I’ve turned these very sad things into beautiful creations where I can experience other people and turn it into something positive--because that’s what I can’t do in my actual life.
Geographer play at Café Du Nord on April 23rd. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8:30pm. The show starts at 9:30pm.
Alan Mckim: "The Law of Attraction"
Hailing from Paisley, UK, Alan McKim is a singer-songwriter who wears his heart on his sleeve. Like a lot of the bands emerging from Scotland these days, his music is bursting at the seams with a restrained emotion that just barely keeps itself from boiling over. But while groups like Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks build that emotion with brooding verses and soaring choruses, McKim sticks to a pretty bare-bones formula. He does have a backing band, but his guitar and vocals are definitely at its center. His quivering voice may be a turnoff to some, but it serves as the driving force behind his music, especially when he breaks the restrain and releases the pent up emotion like he does in “Elated,” the first single off his new EP, The Law of Attraction. The EP is his second release since his first full album in 2009, The Captain’s Rest.
Sounds Like: Bright Eyes with a Scottish accent
Listen To: Elated, Addicted to Poison
Mother Falcon: "Still Life"
A lot of chamber pop bands are described as such because they tend to incorporate the instrumentation and rich melodies of chamber orchestras. The pop usually takes precedence over the ‘chamber’ aspect, but Mother Falcon have it the other way around. The music from their upcoming EP, Still Life, is inspired by the likes of Beirut and the Arcade Fire, but the 18-piece group is an orchestra at heart. Nick Gregg leads the group, but barely stands out when the group performs live, all bunched together as one unit. There are no bells and whistles in the production to enhance any of the sweeps and swells. Everything is completely organic, keeping their music pleasantly grounded when the vast orchestration could easily lead to excess. But even with their classical construction, Mother Falcon show a mastery for pop songwriting, full of lush, baroque soundscapes and warm harmonies.
Sounds Like: Andrew Bird conducting a chamber orchestra
Listen To: Marigold, To Mama
As many of you are aware--this Saturday--April 17--is Record Store Day. What does this mean? Many great things! Labels big and small, like Seattle's prolific and always reliable Sub Pop, put out special edition vinyl to get us music nerds to spend our dollars at our local shops. Everyone wins! Also, it is a day full of some kind of incredible artist in-store appearances, gift bags, and a multitude of other special surprises. Here's SFCritic's handy guide to the highlights of Bay Area Record Store Day 2010. The weather report calls for sunshine, so walk or bike around and get some good stuff. Don't forget to bring your own bag (we keep it green).
Complete National details and listings here.
Ameoba San Francisco
Charlotte Gainsbourg (signing)
Jonsi of Sigur Ros (performance)
A great selection of rare releases.
Creative Music Emporium
Lots of contests and giveaways!
Forces of Habit Records
Medium Rare Music
It's Coachella week, and if you didn't already know that--you might be out of luck. With bands heading to LA for the weekend, many of them are stopping in San Francisco before or after the weekend. Here at SFCritic, we will be at shows every night, so if you plan to see any of the shows we've listed, holla at us. Drop us a comment, let us know--it'd be cool to meet up!
Beach House @ Bimbo's April 14th, 8PM ($18 @ the door) Whether or not you're a fan of Pitchfork, or know anything about them at all--it's hard to disregard that Beach House's two albums have been considered best of the year by the staunch, particular and once well respected music critic site.
Passion Pit @ Warfield April 15th, 8PM ($29.50) The Chunk of Change EP was originally put together as a (belated) Valentine's Day present to Angelakos' girlfriend which then prompted him to give it out to friends and fellow students at Emerson College. Angelakos wrote and recorded the entire record by himself and it only hints at what is to come from this extremely talented perfectionist.
The Dead Weather @ The Fillmore April 14th and 15th, 8PM ($35) The Dead Weather is an American alternative rock supergroup formed in Nashville, Tennessee in 2009 and is composed of Alison Mosshart (of The Kills and Discount), Jack White (of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs), Dean Fertita (of Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (of The Raconteurs and The Greenhornes).
Yeasayer @ The Fillmore April 17th, 9PM ($20) The Yeasayer is an experimental indie rock band from Brooklyn, NY. Over the last few years they've made a name for themselves, and are definitely worth a look.
Ceu @ The Independent April 18th, 8PM ($22) Ever since Brazilian phenomenon Céu captivated the world with her self-titled debut album in 2007, her follow up release has been widely anticipated. After being chosen as the first international artist featured in Starbucks’ Hear Music™ Debut series, Céu earned both Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations, countless press accolades, and chart topping numbers. So how does one of the most successful Brazilian female artists of our time respond? With her typical grace and artistry.
RJD2 walked onto stage as the latest creation in dj’ing. Wearing a black jumpsuit with bright sequins, a welding mask, and an MPC player over his crotch—the man was part human and robotic dj thrust-pumping machine. RJD2 was ready to perform, as he teased the crowd saying through a vocoder, “You seem like bright people, and can see that I have made modifications to my cock and balls area.” With the slightest touch of his finger to his pad, his MPC, or crotch, he controlled the dance floor—a feat any man wishes he could do.
While touring his last album, Since We Last Spoke, RJD2 surprised fans by moving away from turntables in favor of live instrumentation. Like any surprise, some fans embraced this move while others questioned it. The move reflected a growing trend in electronic music, emphasizing more of a live a performance—after subjected to criticism for being “just a guy on a laptop.” In today’s digital era musicians must sell show tickets. The ease at which (click!) someone can download an entire album has put extreme pressure on musicians to perform, and perform well.
After thrust-pumping the crowd into excitement, RJD2, born Rambler John, removed his mask, and stepped behind the instrument that made him famous: the ones-n-twos (turntables). These days it feels like only turntablists or club djs (with the exception of Girl Talk) continue to use turntables for performances, but RJD2 appeared unfazed as though he’d never read these criticisms.
Jumping right into his new album Colossus, the performance ran the gamete of his ten years of work from “Iced Lightning” to “The Horror,” to remixes using the Mad Men soundtrack. It was a dazzling showmanship. He never scratched too much, or shortened his tracks to indiscernible snippets. The crowd swayed back and forth as RJD2 moved seamlessly between songs building excitement.
Then half way through his set, RJD2 put his turntables aside picking up a bass guitar instead. Three other musicians joined him on stage, and all of sudden the dj once so secure behind the ones-n-two, became a side-note within a band. Worse, the band felt like a cover band of RJD2 songs. The intricate mastering that make his songs so intangibly unique, were muffled within the jamming.
It’s not that RJD2 isn’t a good bassist, he’s a great producer. At the night's beginning he had the dance floor at the touch of his crotch, then he gave it away--now that's puzzling to any man, or fan.
The Gorillaz's Plastic Beach is not so much a typical album as the soundtrack to a post-modern dystopia of the future. In the opening track of the album “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” Snoop Dogg sits on the orange-skyed polluted beach, blunt in mouth and snifter of Hennessy in hand, to gather the future child inhabitants of the island around him for history lesson. “Kids gather round/ I need your focus/ I know it seems like the world is so hopeless…” he opens.
Arguably the best track on album to play at loud volume is “White Flag," The Lebanese Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music winds its way through the plastic beach, setting the scene for London grim rappers Kano and Bashy to lay down the law of the land, “No war/No guns/ No corps/ Just life… Look respect the island, no stealing/ And don’t bring religion here, no three kings”. In the single “Superfast Jellyfish,” Gruffy Rhys and De la Soul ask the listener to reminisce on the post-consumer world that brought life to the island, a world of microwave dinners, and chemical pre-wrapped food, and asks to a hip-hop-television“was it worth it?” On “Broken,” Gorillaz front man David Albarn answers bluntly “no, ”asking that we evaluate our part in his future premonition, “It’s by the light of the plasma screens/ we keep switched on all through the night as we sleep.”
Plastic Beach is a true concept album—one you can dance to at a club or bob your head to while playing the “Escape to Plastic Beach” video game at Gorrilaz.com.
The Land of Make Believe, the third album from Kidz in the Hall, isn’t all fairy tales. Bluntly stated, the duo seem frustrated with their amount of success determined to make a name for themselves. Their breakthrough single, “Drivin’ Down the Block” off their previous album put them in the spotlight, but left things unsettled. Headlining a national tour with everything riding on Land of Make Believe, there is hope for a happy ending. SFCritic spoke to the duo (emcee Naledge and producer Double-O) before their recent show at the Independent in San Francisco.
SFCritic (SFC): You’ve described this album as a “make or break,” would you elaborate why?
Double-O (D-O): We felt there was still some contention as to who we were, and how we were different than anybody else, so I think this album is more a definitive album for us to let the fans know if you like it then cool let’s keep going, and if not that’s fine as well.
All photos by Victoria Smith
SFC: What is the confusion around who you are?
Naledge (N): It’s not confusion so much, as much as nobody has any idea who we are. We have been defined largely as underground backpack. Then last album we were defined as hipster. Those are broad statements. We don’t want that type of fan anymore. We want a person who is just in love with Kidz in the Hall. For that to happen, we had to be more personal.
SFC: I’ve heard you say that the character "Naledge" is different than Jabari. On the track “I Am” it’s a little bit more about you as Jabari than Naledge is that because you’re trying to be more personal?
N: I mean those are the types of songs and the types of rhymes I’ve always been able to write and wrote them. I just never put them out. I just don’t care at this point. You get one life, so why not just talk about it. I’m an open book. I’m just more willing to let that type of stuff be heard.
I think sometimes I’m apprehensive about how people are going to take it, but I do this for me at the end of the day. It was comfortable. I was at home and was really able to draw from reflection. It was the first album I ever recorded in Chicago.
SFC: You were saying that in the past you had tracks like this, but you never included them on this album. What was the change this time around?
N: We don’t have a space to put out a solo album. Kidz in the Hall is the vehicle. While before we put together projects that weren’t meant to be albums but ended up being albums, this was the first time that we actually put something together with the idea that we were going to make an album.
SFC: Did you have anything you wanted to add Double-O?
D-O: There were precursors with “Inner Me” on the last album. There was actually a decent balance of personal and anecdotal songs on the first album, but nobody heard it. We only sold about four thousand records in the US, so nobody really got a chance to soak in all of that. Everyone knows us from “Driving Down the Block.”
Since most people haven’t listened to all the mixtapes, then we have to give them that world condensed in thirteen songs and taken from the perspective of where we are now, which is very conflicted--often confusing and annoying world where the balance is of what we’ve aspired to be, where we thought we’d be, and where we are in reality.
SFC: That statement is interesting because that’s kind of what the critiques, whether positive, or negative, have been about this album. I mean who cares what reviewer’s say about the album at the end of the day, it’s more about the fans.
D-O: You know I love you guys, but I definitely think that journalists and reviewers have lost their strangle hold on the critical analysis of music. The fact that a leak happens four or five days or a week prior to an album coming out, it doesn’t matter what the magazine says, because the fan can listen to it themselves and immediately make their own decision.
SFC: I totally agree. As a writer I’m more here to show artists as individuals than to critique their work.
D-O: In the same way that the internet has affected us in some positive, and some negative, it’s done the same thing to every other industry associated with it. It’s changed the way we operate when taking in music as a whole, the way we think about it, and analyze it. Before five mics in the Source was a guaranteed purchase, but get five mics in the Source now and no one will buy your record because it means nothing.
SFC: It’s also a problem that all these critics are labeling you backpack rappers because you’re Ivy Leaguers and they have an expectation that you’re going to come out and sound like Vampire Weekend.
D-O: I agree. That is basically what I took from our Pitchfork review. You don’t really know what in their head they’re expecting, but I assume they’re expecting something that could never occur. Just because you spent four years at a college doesn’t mean you negate your entire upbringing. It doesn’t negate where you’re from. Straight-up and down, Naledge is from Southside of Chicago. At the end of the day, he has spent more time there in his life than he has at the University of Pennsylvania.
It’s not like a Harvard, in that it’s cut-off from the rest of the urban metropolis, kids get robbed on campus and there is all other types of stuff that go on. So there wasn’t like this, oh we’re going to come out and be these super hipsters with African rhythms over sampled beats and say quirky-interesting things because that’s not going to last that long.
Naledge was prom king. I was senior class president. We’ve been popular for a little while. At times if Naledge is bragging that’s just the way it is. You can be mad about it if you want. You can want him to be the weird nerd in the back of the class, but it wasn’t that. Well-rounded kids get into college too, not just the misfits.