Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Killers - Day & Age Review

The Killers
Day & Age


I wanted to like this album. I really, really did. After all, just like any other self-respecting teenager in 2004 I had The Killers's Hot Fuss on steady repeat. It had everything you could want from The Killers - catchy lyrics, danceable singles, a relatively innovative sound for 2004. Best of all, the 2004 Killers were The Killers. As opposed to what they have now undeniably become - Brandon Flowers and His Diva-licious Synth Band.

The greatest hope for this album was that they would remove some of the elements that made Sam's Town a disappointment - opaque concept-album lyrics, failed experiments in genre-crossing. However, Flowers' ambition to become the Next Big Thing in glam rock has done away with any credibility the band might have retained. Instead of making a return to the success of Hot Fuss, Day & Age has effectively removed the features of Sam's Town that were still functional and replaced them with indulgence.

The first time I heard first single "Human" was in the 2008 Victoria's Secret fashion show, and I'm convinced that couldn't be more appropriate. Oddly reminiscent of Cher's 1999 comeback "Believe," Flowers truly embraces his inner diva. The big controversy of this song has been its grammatically-garbled chorus, ("are we human / or are we dancer?") which Flowers claims he lifted from a Hunter S. Thompson quote, "We're raising a generation of dancers." Flowers seemed surprised by his fans' adverse reaction to the lyric, telling MTV News "I took it and ran. I guess it bothers people that it's not grammatically correct, but I think I'm allowed to do whatever I want." (Montgomery, "Killers' Brandon Flowers Stands Behind 'Human' Chorus, Feathery Jacket," 31 Oct 2008)

Flowers certainly does 'do whatever [he] want[s],' as evidenced by train crashes "Joy Ride," which sounds like it could be the soundtrack to "Starsky and Hutch Go Calypso," and "This is Your Life," which is rife with baffling (spiritual?) chanting as a background track behind lyrics which lament the disillusionment of characters Jackie, her steps dogged by police, and Candy, who notices that "no one cares about her hair."

As seven-minute "Goodnight, Travel Well" closed this album with an obese exclamation point, all one is left wondering is, 'whatever happened to "All These Things That I've Done"?' Perhaps Killers fans will see a return to the happier days of Hot Fuss once Brandon runs out of mascara, and birds to strip for his feathered jackets. We can only hope.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Turntable for 2/24/09

This week's theme is upbeat, dance-y, get-yourself-out-of-bed-and-into-the-big-bad-world-with-a-pep-in-your-step kinds of songs.

We start off with "Jai Ho," A.R. Rahman's Oscar-Winning finale to Slumdog Millionaire. As someone unfamiliar with Bollywood, this song is definitely novel to me, but I find it totally infectious and it never fails to put me in a great, inspired mood. Little Golden Man well deserved!

Next up is "Ulysses" off the new Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. This is sort of a taster, considering you will be getting a concert review of the best Scotland has to offer next month. Think of this song as the anthem of going out with your best, most dolled-up friends and wreaking havoc on the local nightlife. Gives me big smiles every time!

"Lightspeed" by Matt and Kim is another teaser, expect to see more of them on the site in the upcoming weeks. It's a wonder this dance-punk duo has remained as far under the radar as they have, but with the release of Grand a month ago, hopefully this will change in the near future.

A (relative) oldie-but-goodie, it would be a crime to leave "Dashboard" by Modest Mouse off a playlist of the best dance beats in indie rock. I suppose the hidden underlying theme of this Turntable is previews of upcoming articles, since there will be a review of this Saturday's Boulder Modest Mouse show posted in the very near future!

Finally, we end with 2008's best act, MGMT, and their fantastic "Electric Feel." After being named best of 2008 by multiple big-name music sites and magazines, everyone is just itching to see what MGMT does with their well-earned new fanbase. 

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Edison Woods - The Prettiest Band That Side of the Mississippi

No, really.

The New York-based band seems to be as much art as they are music - in addition to front-woman Julia Frodahl's dreamy, romantic, primarily slow and sad arias, Edison Woods seems to be as much characterized by its focus on visual art. Regular work with photographers and artists bring image in line with melody, meaning being a fan of Edison Woods will find you both beautiful music and seductive aesthetic.

Listening to newly-released The Wishbook Singles is enough to make any girl feel like a princess, living in a world of romance, elegance and wistfulness. "Finding the Lions" is perhaps the best embodiment of the escape Edison Woods offers. Showcasing Frodahl's airy voice, the characteristic artful use of strings, and enchanting lyrics, ("Gonna find the parade, gonna wear those colors, gonna marry the lions…") it is easy to see why Frodahl calls The Wishbook Singles her favorite music the band has ever made.

The following is the video for Edison Woods' most popular single, "Last Night I Dreamt I Would Last Forever," the perfect showcase of the visual and auditory experience of Edison Woods.

As a special treat for Wax Cylinders' first piece, I was lucky enough to land an exclusive interview with Ms. Julia Frodahl herself. Enjoy, and I hope you stick around to see where Wax Cylinders is headed!

Wax Cylinders: The visual art of the band - on merchandise, album covers, not to mention Alicia Reginato's direction in the video for "Last Night I Dreamt I Would Last Forever" - is a big part of the beautiful aesthetic communicated to the fans. Does the visual art come from a member of the band, or do you partner with artists in New York?

Julia Frodahl: We partner with artists from lots of different places. I think the music tends to attract a particular kind of visual artist, and we tend to know pretty instantly if we’re a good match. Alicia Reginato, Sean McCabe, Elisabet Davidsdottir and Daniela Molnar are some of the artists we’ve worked with. They have all added beautiful dimensions to our sound and aesthetic.

WC: The most striking thing about Edison Woods music to me, particularly in instrumentals such as Letter to the Garden, is the elegance of the string arrangements. As a cellist myself, I notice that only rarely do popular musicians use strings to their full potential. How and why does the band use strings in the way it does?

JF: I can’t say there’s a reason why. I’ve just always been deeply moved by the violin and the cello. Their sounds are spiritual. Like the human voice but without the perimeters of words. Edison Woods has had the pleasure of playing with some of the most precious string players in the world. People full of beauty and it materializes in the very way they touch the strings, there’s no question about that. Meanwhile, we arrange our songs so that whatever is in there has a purpose and can be heard. We carve out lots of space for that.

WC: The majority of Edison Woods' tours in the past years have been focused in NYC and Europe - do you have any plans for a US tour?

JF: We don’t currently have plans for a US tour and the reason, unfortunately, is financial. We’re a seven-piece band. I’ve been asked many times by business people to strip it down to three or four and tour the US. I’m sure something lovely could be created from that, but it wouldn’t be Edison Woods. The warm, hermetic embrace of sound that is created by the full group is essential. However, if we work directly with fans to set up shows in various places and pre-sell tickets for example, we could travel to other cities in the US and it would be wonderful. The expenses would be much lower that way. We’d love to hear from fans who’d like to do this with us.

WC: The costs of producing music, let alone touring, are daunting to bands without major label support. On, you've cited that it costs about $2000 to produce each song. What are the best ways for new fans to support Edison Woods?

JF: If fans would simply pay for the recordings they listen to, things would become more affordable to artists. Especially now that so many of us are doing it without labels and distributors. Most of the 99c you pay for a song on iTunes goes directly to us now, and it would really add up and make things like touring and recording possible if people would pay for their music.

WC: What is the most exciting thing happening with Edison Woods in 2009?

JF: Making music in the new Obama era, and the release of our Wishbook Singles album coming later this year. Of all the music we’ve ever made, this is my favorite.