Archive for December, 2007

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On being relentlessly positive

December 30, 2007

Reading this blog, you’d probably get the impression that I am uncritically enthusiastic about music. But this is a place for me to share the music and bands that I like, and that I want to see gain more fans. So you’ll never hear about me walking out of a concert after a song and half because the lead singer had negative charisma, or the album that I listened to in its entirety before realizing that none of the songs impinged on my consciousness. If you are interested in snarky album and concert reviews (and really, who isn’t?), might I recommend such venerable music sites as these?

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Heartbreak, mix CDs, and something happy

December 29, 2007

I love making mix CDs, for other people and for myself, and I’m delighted that technology has revivified and simplified this art form. One of my favourite creations is called Heartbreak, Unrequited Love, and Clever Lyrics, and I recently created a sequel, The Heartache Continues. This exercise reminded me of a passage from Nick Hornby’s novel, High Fidelity: “What came first — the music or the misery?”

Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands — literally thousands — of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don’t know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they’ve been listening to the sad songs longer than they’ve been living the unhappy lives.

So, as an antidote to all of the Dave Gahan and National and Nicole Atkins, here’s a cheerful song about the unbridled enthusiasm of young love, writing poetry, and unprotected sex.

Link to MP3 download page: The Moths – Valentine

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Listen local: Bon Savants

December 28, 2007

Bon Savants by Maryanne VentriceMy favourite rock and roll moment of 2007 was at a Bon Savants concert. At the end of their show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, frontman Thom Moran (everybody’s favourite rocket scientist) lifted his guitar over his head like a – literal – axe to mock-smash it down on the stage, in an homage-slash-parody to hard rockin’ guitarists everywhere. Unfortunately, its trajectory took it straight into a mirror ball hanging above him, and shards of glittering glass confetti’ed down onto the stage. The best part was the look on his face – any semblance of rock poseur was gone, and it was pure little boy, just got caught stealing cookies and worried about getting in trouble with mum.

Guilty looks aside, the Bon Savants play thoughtful, tuneful, sophisticated pop, mostly about love and loss but interwoven with scientific and other metaphors. Their self-released debut album, Post-Rock Defends the Nation, has been occupying a CD slot in my car stereo for most of the year. The standout track remains ‘Between the Moon and the Ocean,’ with ‘Mass Ave and Broadway’ a close second (despite the lyrics that refer to Porter Square as located at that intersection; in reality, Porter Square, Cambridge is at the intersection of Mass Ave and Somerville Ave).

Image: Bon Savants at the Mercury Lounge, New York, in June 2007. Photo by Maryanne Ventrice, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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MP3: Bon Savants – Between the Moon and the Ocean

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2007 in review: Dan Deacon

December 21, 2007


The best concert I went to in 2007 was twenty minutes long.

I had gone to see Dan Deacon at Avalon, where he started off a concert with Simian Mobile Disco and Girl Talk. As usual, I misjudged exactly how stupidly early Avalon starts its concerts, and I managed to miss him entirely. But a friend of mine texted me to say that Deacon was doing a show at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain, and so I went home, got my car, and drove out to catch his show. It started at 12:40 pm and ended, thanks to Boston’s draconian licensing laws, at exactly 1 am.

The military spends a lot of energy trying to create sonic weapons that make you want to throw up, run away, or otherwise feel terrible. But no one is systematically trying to find sounds that make you feel really, really amazing. Fortunately, we do have accidental empiricists like Dan Deacon. Something about his music just goes straight to your pleasure centres, makes you happy, and makes you want to dance. It was remarkable – within a few seconds of his starting to play, we were all happily bouncing along. Whatever acoustic anti-weapon he’s discovered, however, doesn’t really seem to be captured in his recorded music. If he plays near you, go see him live, even if you don’t think you like electronic music.

MP3: Dan Deacon – The Crystal Cat

Geek out: An interactive guide to Dan Deacon’s gear.

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Listen local: The Dresden Dolls

December 11, 2007

flyer from Dresden Dolls March 2003 show

The first local band that I heard after moving to Boston was the Dresden Dolls. I had gone to see Michael Gira play with his band, Angels of Light, in the South End in March 2003. Their opening act was an unknown folk-y singer that Gira had signed to Young God Records, with the unusually cross-cultural name of Devendra Banhart. But the local openers were a band called The Dresden Dolls, who were just astonishing – I vividly remember my first hearing of ‘Miss Me’ and ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ – and I also remember noticing Amanda Palmer’s modded keyboard, with the Kurzweil logo painted over to instead read ‘Kurt Weill.’ After their performance, I cornered Brian Viglione and told him how much I loved their music and that I was happy to discover that I was not the only person who listened to both the Buzzcocks and to Lotte Lenya. At the time, I remember thinking, ‘Well, I love them, but they’re never going to find a wide audience.’ Then, of course, I was mandible-to-the-mat astonished when they won the WBCN Rock’n’Roll Rumble a few months later (I mean, come on, the Rock’n’Roll Rumble?) and delighted by their subsequent success.

Sadly, I fear that they are drifting apart – Amanda is working on a solo album, produced by Ben Folds, and Brian has been playing with another local band, HUMANWINE (and I’ve heard a rumour that he’s accepted an invitation to join Nine Inch Nails permanently – well, insofar as any NIN band member is permanent), so I do wonder if the upcoming tour is their last.

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MP3: Dresden Dolls – Girl Anachronism

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Concert notes: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

December 3, 2007

[Roxy, Boston, MA; December 1, 2007]

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are amazingly fun live, and I’ve seen them several times in the last year or so. Ted Leo writes and sings tightly constructed songs, with literate and interesting lyrics, and the Pharmacists are an excellent set of musicians. But the real joy of a Ted Leo concert is in the way he talks to and interacts with the crowd. On Saturday night at the Roxy, he announced, “That was the most inarticulate forty-five seconds of heckling I’ve ever heard,” and proceeded to do his impression of what it sounded like from the stage, acting out the competing hecklers in Charlie-Brown-grownups-style voices. It was pointed and hilarious. I’ll keep an eye out for audio or video from the Saturday show, but in the meantime, here’s a video clip from Ted Leo’s previous Boston concert, in which he tells a story about visiting his hometown.

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MP3: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?

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