Archive for the ‘Listen local’ Category

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Listen local: Head Like a Kite

November 21, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can't see it, click here]

Seattle’s Head Like a Kite have been getting all kinds of buzz, including getting picked up for MTV2′s ‘On the Rise‘ series, and they actually deserve it. Their music, which mixes samples, fuzzed-out guitars, electronics, and indie-pop hooks, is that rarest of beasts – tunes for both your butt and your brain. Layered, sophisticated and thoughtful enough that you can lie quietly and listen to it in your headphones, but with enough immediate appeal and a solid enough groove that you can just get up and dance. If you need more details, I’m going to refer you to the terrific review of their latest album, There Is Loud Laughter Everywhere, at Three Imaginary Girls.

Head Like a Kite are playing on Saturday, November 22 at Neumo’s in Seattle, along with Truckasaurus and Slender Means.

website myspace

MP3Head Like a Kite – We Were So Entangled (buy)

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Local news: “Seattle, City of Music”

October 30, 2008

Mayor Greg Nickels thinks that Seattle is not getting the recognition it deserves as a music city, and last night he unveiled the Seattle Music Commission. Modeled after similar organizations in Austin and Chicago, it has a twelve-year mandate to work to improve Seattle as a city for musicians, for live music, and for music businesses. Nickels has had a somewhat rocky relationship with Seattle music venues, having spearheaded some fairly draconian city bylaws, including asking for the authority to shutter clubs that didn’t comply (the City Council balked, and ultimately Nickels decided to veto the scaled-back versions). However, he’s recently proposed rolling back the admission tax at venues and providing city assistance to help new venues start up. Last night also marked the release of a new economic impact study; highlights include the 20 000 or so music-related jobs in Seattle, the 1.2 billion dollars of revenue, and the fact that about 40% of this revenue comes from sales outside King County, bringing cash into the area. Nice to see the Mayor’s Office step up to the plate to help Seattle get even better as a music town.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer article. Mayor’s Office press release.

Image: Music sign at Seattle Center by Flickr user jcolman, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Listen local: Pretty & Nice

October 24, 2008

Following up on yesterday’s post about the Indie Music Survival Guide, and how I want bands that I like to keep making music…

Boston band Pretty & Nice had a sobering run-in with one of their musical heroes:

This may be the most telling anecdote about modern rock ever: A new band with a seemingly bright future meets one of its idols – a guy signed to a major label with 15 years of storied records and tours under his belt – and he’s managing a Jiffy Lube in Boise, Idaho….

The bright new band: Pretty & Nice, which plays a CD release show for its new album “Get Young” Sunday at Great Scott. The idol: Built To Spill bassist Brett Nelson.

“We met Brett at the Jiffy Lube he manages in Boise.” said Holden Lewis. “I came out from paying and was wondering, ‘Who’s this guy talking about touring?’ The whole interaction was about 30 seconds long, but he came to our show in Boise that night and invited us to their Boston show last month.”

The article focuses how what it means to ‘make it’ in the modern music industry, and how the days of being wildly successful (a là KISS and their ilk) are pretty much over. Hugh Dillon‘s character in Hard Core Logo says of his bandmate, “Billy wants the models and limousines, while I’m happy with hookers and taxicabs,” and it looks like it might be all cabs, no limos from here on out. There are clear parallels to other media, and how they are becoming increasingly niche-oriented: instead of everyone sitting in front of their TV watching Dallas on a major network, we moved to the 500-channel universe, and then to watching clips on YouTube. Music seems to be going in the same direction – instead of relatively few bands that are massive and ubiquitous, there’s a complete ecosystem of bands thriving in a wide range of niches. At least, I hope that’s how it plays out; I really need to keep going to shows and buying CDs, Pretty & Nice’s in particular…

More Pretty & Nice: myspace website label

MP3: Pretty & Nice – Tora Tora Tora

[via Boston Blog Crush]

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Listen local: The Maldives

October 17, 2008

I don’t listen to a lot of country, or even alt-country (unless you count M. Ward, or Band of Horses), but I think the Maldives are drawing me in. Jason Dodson, the principal, settled in Seattle but was raised in Virginia, and their music definitely sounds like it hails south of the Mason-Dixon line. Since I don’t usually seek out country music, all I ever really hear is bits of radio-ready, ultra-mainstream singers, which has little appeal to me. But listening to the Maldives makes me realize why people like country music: it has warmth, emotion, and narrative, while being evocative of a different place and time (that is, one that is not a rainy Seattle evening at the dawn of the 21st century). The band came to my attention through a friend of mine, who tells me that they are phenomenal live. They’re playing at Neumo’s tonight, and they have a steady slate of local gigs lined up over the next couple of months – check out their website or Myspace page for details.

More: myspace website

MP3: The Maldives – Darkness Follows

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Listen local: Grand Archives

October 8, 2008

It’s been a couple of months since zed equals zee relocated, and we’re now heading into our first Seattle winter – perpetually overcast skies, cold drizzle, and steadily shortening days. Fellow Seattle-ites Grand Archives must understand this, as their music is the perfect warm, comforting, laid-back antidote to the weather. Principal Mat Brooke left Band of Horses, which he co-founded, to get Grand Archives going. Their demo got some notice, including a review on Pitchfork; they subsequently signed to Sub Pop and released their first, self-titled album earlier this year. I’m really sorry I couldn’t go to their show here in Seattle on Saturday night; I’m hoping that they’ll do another hometown show soon.

MP3: Grand Archives – Sleepdriving

More: website myspace NPR feature

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Listen local: The Builders and the Butchers

September 25, 2008

Portland, OR’s The Builders and the Butchers might have the most varied instrumental lineup of any band I can think of. Their Myspace page lists, in addition to the usual, banjo, mandolin, accordion, xylophone, bells and washboard (lead singer Ryan Sollee admits to something of a thrift shop instrument addiction). And they’ve been known to hand out tambourines, tom-toms and the like to get their audience involved at their raucous, revivalist live shows. I’m looking forward to checking them out. Meanwhile, here’s their track, “When It Rains,” – I think it sounds a little like early Mountain Goats.

MP3 link: The Builders and the Butchers – When It Rains (at RCRD LBL)

More: myspace

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Listen local, old school-style: Morphine

September 16, 2008

Lots of bands are described as having a unique sound. At the risk of offending high school English teachers, who remind us that ‘unique’ is definitively singular, I submit that some bands are more unique-sounding than others. Case in point, Morphine. Founded in Cambridge, MA, by Mark Sandman and Dana Colley, Morphine really didn’t sound like any other mid-90s indie bands (or anyone since, for that matter). Sandman’s description of the band as ‘low rock’ is a play on words in at least two ways – the first is for the downtempo, crooning style of the songs. But what really made Morphine sound different from anything else on the radio was the musical line-up, which consisted of Mark Sandman’s baritone vocals, his two-stringed bass guitar played with a slide, Colley’s baritone sax, and drums – a distinctively low-pitched sound. They broke out with their sophomore album, Cure for Pain, and achieved modest college-radio success in North America, together with more mainstream success in Europe. Shockingly, however, Mark Sandman suffered a fatal heart attack on stage in Rome at a 1999 show, and the band disbanded shortly thereafter—a short but notable chapter in Boston and indie-rock history.

MP3: Morphine – Super Sex

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Listen local: New Faces

August 28, 2008

Even before z=z relocated to Seattle, I heard that New Faces were an up-and-coming local band. I haven’t seen them live yet, but by all accounts they complement their catchy Britpop-meets-garage sound with a dynamic stage presence that belies their youth. Local label Loveless Records signed them, and their first full-length, Two Years, just came out. They’ll be at Bumbershoot on Saturday, and they are scheduled to open for Ra Ra Riot and Walter Meego at King Cobra on September 20th.

The New Faces: myspace website

MP3: New Faces – Cracks

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Listen local: The Motion Sick

August 23, 2008

Boston’s The Motion Sick are doing a residency at Church, playing every Wednesday night in August. Every night has a different theme; last Wednesday was the superhero-themed “Flash Wednesday,” and they were supported by zed equals zee faves Electric Laser People (playing—and costumed as—”Michael Phelps and the Defenders of Freedom”). For each night of the residency, The Motion Sick has a theme song, and for the superhero show, it was the hilarious (and deeply catchy) “Aquaman’s Lament.” Check out the other theme songs on their website and, if you are in the area (and not three thousand miles away, like me), go catch the final night, this upcoming Wednesday, August 27th.

[thanks, Erich!]

The Motion Sick: website myspace

MP3: The Motion Sick – Aquaman’s Lament

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Listen local, Indiana edition: Whisper Down

July 28, 2008

A special ‘Listen local’ post from the road, as I’ll be passing through Indiana tomorrow. Whisper Down is a Terre Haute-based folk/alternative band (they cite influences from The Smiths through Death Cab for Cutie through Tracy Chapman). Like Sloan, they share songwriting and vocal duties. Check them out if you’re in the area.

More Whisper Down: myspace website

MP3: Whisper Down – My Part-Time Guardian Angels (MP3 removed at the request of the band; you can hear some of their songs here)

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Listen local: Electric Laser People

July 13, 2008

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[click photo for Performer Magazine article on ELP

Regular readers of this blog could probably compile a list of what I think is notable in music: local artists; funny, sexy or geeky lyrics; band members with academic or scientific day jobs; hooky, danceable songs; great live shows. If you had to create a band that I would love, Frankenstein-like, you’d probably come up with Electric Laser People. A minor disclaimer – I initially went to see them play because they are friends of friends.

Musically, think electroclash crossed with hip-hop, with a dash of punk, and a soupçon of opera, thanks to classically-trained Jess Riley’s soaring vocals. The Boston-based (check) band sing songs like “Disco 3000,” about going to the future and trying to get with ‘permatan honeys’ at a club where ‘everyone is beautiful/and owned by Monsanto’ (lyrics: check). Lead singer and bassist Dan Paluska is an award-winning robotics engineer for art installations – check out this insane video of one of his pieces – and guitarist Grant Kristofek is a  design consultant; we share a colleague, in fact. (day jobs: check).

Their album, Straight Talk on Raising Kids, is permanently embedded in my car stereo, to say nothing of my brain, since many of their songs are catchy to the point of becoming earworms (hooky: check). However, they really come into their own live. Like Dan Deacon or Holy Fuck, they just seem like they are having enormous fun on stage, and that gets communicated to the audience (great live: check). Electric Laser People play at Church on August 20th. Go check them out.

More Electric Laser People: myspace website allmusic bio buy

MP3: Electric Laser People – Disco 3000

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Listen local: Bishop Allen

May 14, 2008

click for larger version

Okay, so ‘local’ is stretching it a bit. Bishop Allen are named after the street in Central Square where the founding members lived while at school in Cambridge (and which is half a block from zed equals zee mission control). As seems to be the case for many musical Cantabrigians, the hipster ‘hood down I-95 beckoned, and Bishop Allen relocated to make their quirky, charming indie-pop in Brooklyn. The song below, “Click Click Click Click”, is a wonderfully infectious soundtrack to these late spring/early summer days. Check them out at the Middle East tomorrow (Thursday, May 15); more tourdates here.

website myspace emusic

MP3: Bishop Allen – Click Click Click Click

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Mayfair: Harvard Square, May 11

May 6, 2008

Harvard Square’s Mayfair was delayed to this Sunday, May 11th, because of the nasty weather in Cambridge last weekend. So you didn’t miss your chance to see Hallelujah the Hills or Girls Guns and Glory (4 pm and 3 pm, respectively, on the main stage). Lots more music (Action Verbs gets the z=z ‘best name’ prize) as well as dance, film, kids’ stuff, and other goodies. Full details, including set times, here.

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Listen local: Mission of Burma

April 1, 2008

Mission of Burma

In case the previous post doesn’t mean much to you…

Mission of Burma are arguably Boston’s most significant contribution to rock music, and living proof that the ability to create and perform music that is edgy, progressive and, um, loud, doesn’t have to diminish with time. The band formed in 1979 and broke up in 1982, and produced exactly three releases: an EP, a full-length album, and a post-breakup live album (all of which were recently remastered and re-released by Matador). Despite this paucity of material, Mission of Burma were, and remain, hugely influential – everyone from REM to Nirvana to Moby cites them as an inspiration. That should have been the end of the story. But after a two-decade hiatus, the band started playing together again. Since then, they’ve recorded two more albums, ONoffON (2004) and The Obliterati (2006), to massive critical acclaim. I was lucky enough to see them twice in 2006, including at that summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival, where they made most of their successors look like snot-nosed poser-punk kids. I’m stoked that they’ve been invited back to Pitchfork for 2008.

website myspace emusic

MP3: Mission of Burma – Donna Sumeria

Image: Mission of Burma @ Music Hall of Williamsburg – 1.19.08 by Flickr user Bryan Bruchman, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Listen local: Freezepop

March 28, 2008

Freezepop

Freezepop is the band that dragged synthpop out of the 80s and into the 21st century. Their third full-length release, Futurefuturefutureperfect, is as perfect a piece of danceable electronic songwriting as you’ve ever heard. But they are really at their best live; I saw them a few weeks ago, in front of a full house at the Middle East, and it was the most fun I’ve had at a concert in ages. The show featured duelling keytars, a shark-encased microphone, and generally playful behaviour from the band, especially the aptly-pseudonymed Liz Enthusiasm. They did a brilliant live version of “Melon Ball Bounce,” a jingle that Raymond Scott wrote for Sprite (which they recorded as a bonus track on Fashion Impression Function). One of the highlights was the Duke of Pannekoeken‘s virtuosic theremin performance on ‘Frontload.’ Sadly, the Duke (Kasson Crooker) has severely curtailed his touring with the band; his day job is keeping him pretty busy.

website myspace emusic

MP3: Freezepop – Frontload

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Listen local: The Main Drag

March 8, 2008

Boston-area’s The Main Drag played last night with Freezepop and The Information and they were phenomenal (actually, all the bands were terrific). They first impinged on my consciousness in late 2006, when they won the Salon Song Search with “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter.” (Boston was well represented, with another local band, Hallelujah the Hills, taking third place). The Main Drag’s second album, Yours As Fast As Mine, came out last year – I can only presume that they spent their $5000 in contest money wisely. ‘Jagged’ and ‘gorgeous’ are both excellent descriptors of their string-laden songs.

myspace

MP3: The Main Drag – A Jagged Gorgeous Winter

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Wrap-up: guest DJing on WMBR

March 6, 2008

microphone

Well, I had a terrific time guest-DJ’ing on WMBR this morning. Emphasis on the ‘guest’ – I got to do all the fun parts, like choosing all the songs and talking. Keith handled the control panel with gracious professionalism, and made me feel very welcome and less like the total newbie I am. I decided to focus on Canadian indie music, just because I know it pretty well and I needed a theme to narrow down the universe of possibilities. You can listen to the stream (.m3u file) for the next two weeks (until the morning of Thursday, March 20th). Note that I don’t come in until about the half-hour mark; Breakfast of Champions, WMBR’s morning show, runs from 8 to 10 and I was officially in from 8:30 to 9:30 am.

EDIT [March 20, 2008]: If you missed the streaming, but still want to hear it, feel free to contact me at debcha at gmail dot com and I can hook you up.

Here’s a copy of my notes from this morning; you can guess what I thought was the most important thing to remember (click on image to see a PDF).

playlist notes

Here’s the full playlist:

Treble Charger: Red (NC-17 version)

Destroyer: The Leopard of Honour

Ladyhawk: Fear

Les Breastfeeders: Tout Va Pour Le Mieux Dans Le Pire des Monde

Leather Uppers: Say It In French

Mother Mother: Touch Up

Wintersleep: Weighty Ghost

Caribou: Melody Day

The Besnard Lakes: Devastation

Miracle Fortress: Hold Your Secrets in Your Heart

Immaculate Machine: Dear Confessor

Tokyo Police Club: Nature of the Experiment

Born Ruffians: Hummingbird

The Awkward Stage: Heaven is For Easy Girls

Sloan: Underwhelmed

The Weakerthans: Tournament of Hearts

[background music]

Broken Social Scene: I Slept with the Bonhomme at the CBC

Broken Social Scene: Love and Mathematics

Top image: Speak into me, by Flickr user billyv, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

Previously: Listen local: my guest DJ slot on WMBR, Advance warning: my guest DJ slot on WMBR

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Play local: Harmonix

January 20, 2008

xkcd.com

An excellent xkcd.com shoutout to Cambridge, MA game developers Harmonix, creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Scroll down to the ‘bonus songs’ in Rock Band to see songs by Harmonix employee ‘side projects,’ local bands like Bang Camaro and Freezepop.

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Listen local: Hallelujah the Hills

January 11, 2008

Hallelujah the Hills upcoming shows

Boston-based sextet Hallelujah the Hills had an unusual trajectory, reaching national prominence early, as a finalist in Salon’s Song Search contest for best unreleased song in December 2006 with their eponymous fight song. Their debut album, Collective Psychosis Begone, marries complex instrumentation with tuneful power-pop – like Animal Collective, but much more fun to sing along to. Check out their songs or go see them at the Middle East Downstairs on February 16, 2008.

website myspace amazon emusic

MP3: Hallelujah the Hills – Wave Backwards to Massachusetts (live)

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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.

website myspace amazon

MP3: Bon Savants – Between the Moon and the Ocean

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