Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Turntable 5.26.09

How's it kickin'?
For us here in Denver, it's not kicking too much. We are on our 6th straight day of weary dreary rain and grey skies, definitely not typical for a state that gets 300 days of sunshine a year. To celebrate (or, if it's your style, mourn) the rainy days, both literal and figurative, our turntable this week is slow, sad and stormy. Here follow my most favorite songs to be sad to :-(

"Exit Music (For a Film)" is off Radiohead's multi-platinum OK Computer, and gained even more attention for appearing in Baz Luhrman's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. In fact, the ponderous ode was written specifically for the end credits, as you can see from the title. Thom Yorke wrote the song to take place the morning after Romeo and Juliet consumated their love; Yorke said regarding "Exit Music," "I couldn't understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn't just run away. The song is written for two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts. A personal song."

"Something in the Way" is next, from Nirvana's Nevermind. It can be said to close Nirvana's master work with the same simplicity and cynicism that made the band famous. There is only one verse and a one-line chorus, and the feeling that Kurt Cobain might have fallen asleep while singing this song is an aestethic pretty unique to Nirvana.

"The Ice is Getting Thinner" is one of the best tracks on Death Cab for Cutie's Narrow Stairs. It might just be me, but this song, even from the first time I heard it, has always made me self-reflective, listening to the hollow guitar echos and searching its lyrics for relevance in my own life. Even though the literal meaning of the song is pretty clear, just the sound of it can mean anything the listener needs it to, and goodness knows I've needed this song a couple times since I discovered it.

Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" is the most famous cover of Leonard Cohen's original. Sadly, Buckley's track was not released until after his death. This tragedy has, however, made certain the song hasn't lost any of its well-earned acclaim and adds deeper meaning to the beauty Buckley accomplishes on this, his last hit.

"Nude" comes from In Rainbows, Radiohead's newest album. Some great features of this track are the dramatically palm-muted guitar chords, echoing production, and, my absolute favorite part of the song, Thom Yorke's voice as the rest of the band drops out at 2:59, his voice soars over the track in the breathless climax. Seriously, shivers every time.

Don't let these songs make you sad, instead, let them envelop you in to a nice stormy cocoon as you front the literal storms outside.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

DU May Days Music Fest 2009

It’s late May, and the powers that be at the University of Denver have insisted on holding its students through the beginning of next month. This seems like torture when the rest of the Colorado schools let out 2-4 weeks before and when you are walking between classes in 80-degree weather and immaculate sunshine.
Every year, then, as a token of good will to its students, DU arranges a week-long May Days event, culminating in the May Days Music Fest, seven hours of local music on the campus-central Driscoll Green.
This year’s event doesn’t boast the warm weather and summery sunshine invoked by the event’s colorful posters; instead, it’s about 50 degrees and cloudy. However, that hasn’t stopped about 200 DU students from congregating on the lawn for free food and tunes.
Heading to a free music festival on my campus, I must say I didn’t have the highest expectations for the actual quality of the music. Turns out, though, the lineup chosen for the festival featured some pretty promising acts, especially as the afternoon progressed.
Student band Bokonon pulled off a 45-minute set of ambitious instrumental experimental rock, instrumentation including an extra percussionist, sax and trumpet in addition to the typical guitar/bass/drums setup. Bokonon’s set was convincing, professing a level of skill and credibility that is epidemically lacking in the amateur prog-rock genre. They announced an upcoming show at the Mercury CafĂ© June 4th with fellow openers Petals of Spain. http://www.myspace.com/denverbokonon
The Foot is the most active, or at least most promoted band on campus. Sounding something like Lenny Kravitz, on the first song of their set their sound isn’t terribly original, but it is an accessible and crowd-pleasing one. A cover of Muse’s (I’m breaking down) Supermassive Black Hole draws more to the crowd, at this point numbering around two hundred people. Once the crowd was sufficiently bolstered, The Foot brought out new track “Whiskey and Water,” definitely the favorite of the crowd. The three are graduating DU in June, and plan to release an album in fall and start touring plenty of local venues. http://www.myspace.com/findthefoot
The Epilogues followed up The Foot, with a sound that would be popular with fans of either hardcore or electronic rock a la Shiny Toy Guns. Their set worked well with the rain that was unfortunately starting to thin the crowd, playing an alternating set between slower, more introspective tracks like “Caroline” and their more sinister, mysterious material, like “Adieu.” Their set ended somewhat abruptly, but not without impressing the crowd with an extended guitar jam at the end of their last song. http://www.myspace.com/epiloguemusic
The Photo Atlas probably suffered the most from the sketchy quality of sound that is achieved on outdoor stages; the vocals too faint, the guitars overpowering. However, their set had the highest energy that had yet performed, and they drew eyes as well as ears from the surrounding festival. The last of the rock acts for the night, The Photo Atlas did the finishing work of gathering the crowd for the dance party that supposedly followed. http://www.myspace.com/danceatlasdance
I say ‘supposedly’ because, much to my current dismay, I didn’t stick around to see Savoy or Clipse. Hey, it was raining and I was freezing in my sodden sundress! I’m sure that a great time was had by all, but sadly I had to venture away from the festival to return feeling to my outer limbs

Grizzly Bear - "While You Wait for the Others"

Okay, so it isn't usually my style to feed something on this site directly off another, but something happened this morning that was so shocking, I feel compelled to share.
Browsing today's Pitchfork reviews, I noticed that it had awarded a single the score of 10.
Pitchfork gave something a 10. This must be investigated diligently.

So the track is called "While You Wait for the Others" by Grizzly Bear. Pitchfork praises it as one of those "resolute and austere break-up songs" we all have such a weakness for, and cites how well it fits into Grizzly Bear's discography. Not being super familiar with Grizzly Bear myself, I was judging this track on the 4 minutes it gave me, without the discographical context.

What it gave me was, honestly, pretty deserving of a 10, even a Pitchfork 10. The track has that aura of deepness, not referring to the philosophical kind of deepness but the audio kind. The use of hollowed bass drum and guitar effects plus the lone vocalist in the intro suck you into a vacuum that I was only too happy to occupy. The minimalism is stripped away verse by verse until the track reaches its cathartic chorus, invoking Beatles-y vocal harmony and an incredibly well-put-together band dynamic, not to mention heartwrenchingly honest lyrics.

Don't take my word for it, check it out here. I hope you all like it as much as I do!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Turntable 5.19.09

I'm kind of cheating this week. This isn't a turntable I'm inventing. Actually, it comes from the soundtrack to Fallout 3, probably my favorite game ever. Typically one doesn't consider video games to be a source of great music, but Fallout 3 is well-known for its classic jazz and blues playlist that is worked into the plot of the game as radio station Galaxy News Radio by DJ Three-Dog, which is broadcast over post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. in about the year 2270.
I've had a grouchy week, and this soundtrack has been the only thing I've had any interest in listening to. It never fails to perk up my mood, or at least make me feel nifty Billie Holiday loftiness.

These songs sing for themselves, so I will leave you to it!
[Three dog, ooooout!]

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday Turntable 5.12.09

Buenas dias, readers!

Shockingly, (shockingly!) we are already 5 months into 2009. We're being pelted with news of a failing economy, watching the giants of record stores close their doors, people are in theory having less to spend on shows and albums.
But the artists out there aren't taking this as a cue to hold back. Far from it, the first bit of 2009 has churned out some really impressive and inspiring new music.

The disco backbeat of "Heads Will Roll" is the most conventional use of synth Yeah Yeah Yeahs have employed on new album It's Blitz, but it does nothing to take away from the fresh feeling of the track. Some U2-reminiscent guitar backing makes the track feel mature and legit. First and foremost, though, YYY are looking to send some great dance-pop our way, and this is indeed first-class stuff.

The amount of praise Merriweather Post Pavilion has been receiving has been daunting, a lot for the Animal Collective album to live up to. However, Panda Bear's ode to his wife and daughter, 'My Girls,' is every bit as freaky and fantastic as we have come to expect and love from Animal Collective. The ethereal Beach Boys harmonies build to a very AC climax, and ends leaving you want to devour the critically acclaimed album in its totality.

I am new to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart but not to their indie-roots lo-fi sound. When you hear a band with a sound as raw and exposed as that on "Contender," you feel this instant inclination to instantly become an insanely loyal fan. This band excites me, I can't wait to snatch up their album and explore them further. Until then, they are so cute that I insist upon spreading their name as far as I can.

I resisted using "The Rake Song" as representative from The Decemberists' Hazards of Love. A cool song, and certainly the most single-ready (although, from Hazards, 'single-ready' is a heavily relative term.) In most respects, "The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid" is a stronger song, and my favorite from the album. My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden's vocals in her role as the Witch-Queen blow me away every time.

As I am disposed to do, I leave us dancing at the end of this turntable. Suburban Kids with Biblical Names are another up-and-coming group that has mags and review sites buzzing. "1999" makes me think of some of its poppier antecedents in the 80's, but you would never actually mistake SKwBN for something that actually came from the era of The Breakfast Club - it's sound is too new and experimental. New is good. Me likey.

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