Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Year Anniversary Today

Just wanted to document that I officially started this blog one year ago today. I began it just as a way to track the shows I attended and music I enjoy. It has definitely grown into a little bit more. I want to thank all those who have read the content and sent in emails, entered the contests, etc. Hope everyone has a good 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 10 Concerts of 2009

Down to the last list for the year. Top concerts of the year that I attended. It's difficult to rank these because some of the more recent shows are fresh in my mind while others in the beginning are stale. Be sure to post your top choices as well.

10) Bad Veins - Garfield Artworks - 8/7/09 - Good, fun show to a few patrons. They played a blistering set with a pounding drum beat and a old reel to reel tape machine that provided the pace of each song. Nice guys.

9) Blind Pilot - Club Cafe - 4/1/09 - Really enjoyed this show plus local act The Slant. They just recently came back to Club Cafe a month ago but I wasn't able to make it. Sure they did well.

8) Metric - Mr Smalls - 11/24/09 - Every time I have seen them play they put on a entertaining performance. This was no exception as Emily Haines strutted her stuff conducting sing-a-longs with the crowd.

7) Fanfarlo - Brillobox - 12/12/09 - Just saw this show so it's fresh in the mind. Good crowd with a great set by this 6 piece. Checkout some of the video to see what I am talking about.

6)Cursive - Diesel - 5/5/09 Cursive is one of those bands that is a can't miss when it comes to a show.They never disappoint, playing the hits that the fans want to hear even though they are touring on a new album.

5) Mr Gnome - 7/17/09 - Bloomfield Bridge Tavern - Sometimes I feel like a pimp trying to get others to see a band I totally dig. I guess that is what you do when you blog. This duo made my top 10 album and now show list. I hope they play in Pgh soon. They put on a fantastic show with their skill and charisma. Plus, they are 2 of the nicest peeps you will want to meet.

4) Old Canes - Brillobox - 10/23/09 - I don't know what I was expecting, but this one caught me by surprise. I had listened to the album for about a month and still love it. It sounded even better live. Some technical issues in the beginning quickly smoothed out. One of the better sounding shows in a while.

3)Frightened Rabbit - CMU - 1/26/09 - This was in the beginning of the year and I still recall what a great show it was. Props to CMU for bringing them in.

2) Girl Talk - 7/31/09 - Amphitheater at Station Square - I remember debating whether to go see Jason Lytle (dug Grandaddy in the day) and Neko Case at Sandcastle or seeing an all-star Pittsburgh show. What was I even debating? A party atmosphere like none that I have seen. To all those that saw Neko instead, sorry, you really missed out.

1) AA Bondy + Holly Miranda - Club Cafe - 6/9/09 - It's funny when you go to a show not knowing what to expect or anything about the opening act and the show simply blows you away. This was that show for me. Holly Miranda opened and had the best voice I have heard in quite sometime. Plus, the music was pretty darn good too. The show was under attended (maybe 25?) but every table there bought her ep after the set. Then AA Bondy came out and played a set that just blew the doors off of the whole venue. He didn't mail it in because of the crowd size, but played to an attentive, appreciative audience. Definitely someone to see live.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top Albums of the Year 2009

2009 was a bit of lull for me in regards to albums. There wasn't any one (well maybe one) that simply blew me away on first listen. But some did creep in after many repeats. Here are my top 10:

Honorable Mention: Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer - A "side project" to Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown third album continues down where Spencer Krug's previous ventures left off. The album is probably the most accessible yet.

10) Generationals - Con Law - I saw these guys at Garfields only after catching a few songs on 91.3 (thanks Cindy). While I thought they were good in concert the album is that much better. Motown sounds over pop gems with a bit of Belle and Sebastian mixed in.

9) Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us - The local Pittsburgh act went with producer David Fridmann and made their most enjoyable album for me. Starting with "Born on a Day the Sun Didn't Rise", the lp bowls you over with synth sounds and booming drums. Have seen them twice now in concert. It's a different experience, but an enjoyable one.

8) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz - A bit of a different sound throwing in some new wave into their bread and butter.

7) Old Canes - Feral Harmonic - Great lo-fi diy album that stretches the home made recordings. See my album review here.

6) Built to Spill - There is No Enemy - One of my favorite bands in the late 90's who made "indie" a brand name. This is their best lp in what seems like a long time.

5) Rurual Alberta Advantage - Hometowns - I went to see The Lovely Feathers at Garfields and these guys were the headliners. Never had bothered to even listen to them. Of course when I did they ended up in my top 10 for the year. Hailing from Canada, they get compared to Neutral Milk Hotel a lot and for good reason.

4) Mr Gnome - Heave Yer Skeleton - The sophomore follow up to Deliver This Creature doesn't disappoint. Why this duo doesn't get more hype I don't understand. Based out of Cleveland the duo are a mix of Portishead and Bjork with some prog rock. Great follow up to one of those "under the radar" bands.

3) Bat For Lashes - Two Suns - Natasha Khan follows up her breakthrough Fur and Gold with this ambitious follow up.

2) AA Bondy - When the Devil's Loose - I hyped this guy up a lot because I truly enjoy him. This was in my player forever (and is still in the mix). Checkout my review here.

1) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - A French band making a splash in the US market? Believe it. A fifth album breakthrough that is probably at the top of everyone's list in the mainstream and underground. The dance pop rock outfit made catchy melodies making it easily accessible to everyone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Albums of the Decade - The 2000's Edition (Part 3)

I rented a cabin last week and ended up in over a foot of snow. Picked the wrong week for a retreat. This will be my last installment of under the radar albums of the decade list before I get to the top 10 of the year. Again, I didn't want to replicate a bunch of other lists. These are albums I feel should get more attention. See my previous list here and here.

The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? (2003)

True story. I was down in Miami and saw The Unicorns play for about 5 songs. Between songs, one of the members went off and slugged the other before running off stage. The member decked threw down his guitar and gave chase. Meanwhile the drummer picked up the guitar and did an impromptu solo before the show ended. Thought it was a joke but apparently not because they soon disbanded. This album for me made arty-pop accessible to many who probably wouldn't listen to it otherwise.

Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism (2003)

The breakthrough album for DCFC and one of my wife's favorites. Remember the "OC"? The awful show that put DCFC further in the mainstream? The album starts off with "The New Year" layering the song with various arrangements before coming together in accumulation of sound. The layering can be found throughout making this one of DCFC best.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak (2003)

Some people cannot get past the falsetto voice (which threw me off at first). But if you can, this is Ted Leo's best album. I used 'peaked' a lot in my last posts, but this is where I felt Ted did just that. He added a keyboard and extra member to create Hearts and it was definitely worth it. His last couple of albums have been ok, but nothing near this level.

The Mountain Goats - Tallahassee (2002)

A full narrative of a marriage going through hell. This is John Darnielle's first venture into a proper studio and creating one of his more accessible albums. From the opening the album blitzes through a pace of despair and sympathy. One of his best.

Bat for Lashes - Fur and Gold (2007)

Another of the better half's picks. This album opened up Natasha Khan to a wide audience. Often compared to Bjork, Natasha weaves raw emotions in soft melodies and hush sounds. She has the lyrics of someone pushing the envelope while using harpsichords, violins and hand claps on the album.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Live Review - Fanfarlo - Pittsburgh - Brllobox - 12/12/09 - Show Review - Concert Review

Fanfarlo played at the Brillobox last night to a capacity crowd. They put on one of the more enjoyable shows I have seen at the Brillo with regards to both sound and audience. In my previous preview I had mentioned that they sounded like Beirut, but throw in a little David Byrne in there as well.

The set started out with just lead singer Simon Balthazar and member Cathy Lewis singing "Drowning Men" to the crowd with a little percussion in the background. A very good start before bringing on the rest of the band (a 6 piece) to kick things up a notch with "I'm a Pilot". Throughout the set the ensemble utilized varying instruments including trumpet, violin, clarinet and mandolin just to name a few. It provides quite a wall of sound to the audience who was very appreciative and enthusiastic.

The set hit a high point for me in the middle when the band played their single "The Walls are Coming Down". Five members of the band made their way to the front of the stage and began singing the first lines of the song in unison (ala Arcade Fire) before launching into their hit. Have to say after watching it again, it gives me a little pause. The band had mentioned that a member (Justin) was having a birthday soon. At the stroke of midnight a rendition of "Happy Birthday" was begun by Hugh (from Hughshows) that was soon sung by the rest of the crowd.

By the end of the night the Fanfarlo appeared to have cast a spell over the crowd. They were dancing and singing with Fanfarlo having a great time, probably with the help of some libations. On the encore the band handed out several large "twirling whistles" to help out with the sound. Members whirled the large plastic devices over their heads while handing them around to finalize a memorable evening and good show at the Brillo.

Set List:

Drowing Men
I'm a Pilot
Finish Line
Harlod T Wilkins
The Walls are Coming Down

**Thanks to Hugh for the pic.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reminder - Fanfarlo - Saturday - 12/12/09 - Brillobox

Just a reminder that Fanfarlo will be playing at the Brillobox this Saturday at 9:30p. They put on a very good show, see a review here from their recent stop in Austin. My preview of the show can be found here or below.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Concert Review - Arctic Monkeys - Mr Smalls - 12/7/09 - Show Review

Arctic Monkeys played to a sold out show Monday night at Mr Smalls. There was a very diverse crowd in attendance from pre-teen adolescents with parents in tow to the over 40 crowd (without the kids). First up was Screaming Females by way of New Jersey. The best thing I can say about them is they were young and could actually "Scream(ing)" pretty well. I couldn't figure out the other "Female" part, but then it was decided the androgenous lead singer was actually a girl who had no real crowd interaction. They didn't do much for me although they have received praise from Dinosaur Jr and Jack White. Go figure.

Arctic Monkeys were up next and brought the crowd into a racaous frenzy. With each song the crowd became more and more intense with a mixture of dancing and fist pumping near the stage. Arctic Monkeys were very good drawing the crowd in from their first tune while providing a proper dose of banter between songs. They made it known this was their first visit to Pittsburgh and really were enjoying it (I remember Eddie Vedder saying the opposite once during a show here).

I have seen these guys once before a few years back at the Coachella Festival in California. I felt they were a bit more energetic and crowd pleasing then, but this was a totally different environment than they probably experience. Of course, the crowd was definitely into it enjoying the setting and interaction with the band, so what do I know. The crowd cheered with hands raised above their heads for each song loving every moment. They are a young band that should be touring for quite some time.

Reminder - Cavalier Rose - Howler's - Tonight - Wed 12/9/09

Just a reminder that Cavalier Rose will be playing this evening at Howler's. Doors are at 8p show is at 9:30p. If you want a pair of tickets for free just email me with your name here. See my previous post with samples here or below.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Show Announcement - Fanfarlo - 12/12/09 - Brillobox - Show Preview

Fanfarlo will be performing at the Brillobox this Saturday, 12/12/09 at 9:30p. They are a London based band that has been around since 2006. They play what would be described as indie orchestral pop/rock who utilize the trumpet, violin, clarinet and mandolin on virtually every song. Their debut album, Reservoir, was produced by Peter Katis who had previously worked with both The National and Interpol.

"The Walls Are Coming Down"

The album has symphonic overtures with a bit of a gypsy feel. It reminds me a lot of Beirut and a bit of the Arcade Fire with their multiple layered instruments. The sound is a bit despondent with down trotted harmonies. The lyrics are a bit mysterious and haunting. On their song "The Walls Are Coming Down": The walls the walls are coming down, the here and now is coming round/It will some day let you down/The ships the ships are coming in, the great ideas are wearing thin/There is nothing left to do.
"Harold T Wilkins"

I have seen comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel by various publications. I don't see it, but I did see this great video of them doing a cover "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Fabulous cover, one of the better ones I have seen. Brought back a little nostalgia of a period when this album was in the player all the time. Anyway, if you like what you see and hear be sure to check them out at the Brillobox at 9:30p.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Albums of the Decade - The 2000's Edition (Part 2)

Continuing my list of under the radar albums of the decade. Again, I didn't want to do a list of top 10 albums because I would probably be duplicating everyone else's list. So, I decided to recognize records that I feel should get more attention. My measuring stick are lp's I can listen to from beginning to end without getting sick of them. See my previous list here.

Andrew Bird - Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)

My better half rolled her eyes when she saw this on my list. I think its because of different reasons, but maybe not. I really enjoyed this album when it came out. The quirky whistling, sampling, etc. made this one of my favorite lp's of the year. I believe that Bird peaked with this album as the last couple have been pretty mediocre. I have seen Bird more than four times in concert and honestly, he really is boring (close second to Pavement). I kept wanting to give him another chance but I just don't find him entertaining. I know that might come as a divisive statement to other bloggers but that doesn't mean his albums are bad.

The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006)

I listened to this band way back when they were first called Hutch & Kathy. They played fast lo-fi punk/pop. This is without questions their best album. This album had the right wing political and religious mockery. "They'll pound you with the love of Jesus/They'll own your days/ They're only God's babies/ They follow, they know". Never had the opportunity to see these them live but I have heard they put on a good show.

The National - Boxer (2007)

Ok, this might be on some lists, but still one of the more under appreciated albums in my opinion. Whenever people (who aren't music snobs) ask me for a record they might like I always hand this to them. Haven't heard a bad comment on it yet. The piano intro of "Fake Empire" kicking things off to Sufjan Stevens appearances on "Ada" and "Racing Like a Pro". I am hoping their next album continues to expand on the band's signature sound.

Bright Eyes - Lifted, or, The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002)

This is one of my better half's favorites. Conor is at the top of his game with his ability to weave stories throughout the album. Its a mixture of chamber pop with just a hint of the alt-country which Conor has since evolved into. His distinct lyrics give voice to each track. This put Conor on the map for both a national audience and media standpoint.

Love is All - Nine Times That Same Song (2005)

Hailing from Sweden this group came onto the scene with their distinctive indie new wave/punk sound and loud vocals. Made up a 5 members they incorporated varying percussion devices to create a lo fi aesthetic on the album. The album sprints with a manic pace most suited to punk bands. Their last album was ok, but not in this category.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Show Announcement - Cavalier Rose - 12/9/09 - Howler's Cafe - Show Preview

Cavalier Rose will be playing at Howler's Cafe on 12/9. Doors are at 8p and Cavalier Rose is scheduled at 9:30p. This is an up and coming band based out of NYC in the Brooklyn area. They have been together a little over 6 months and have one ep to their name along with some demos. They are a 4 piece made up of 2 female members(on drums and lead vocals, keyboard) plus guitar and bass.

"Lie To Me"

They play a bluesy rock marked by lead singer's Heather Christian distinctive vocals. From their bio:

The daughter of a blues musician and a dancer, Heather grew up in Southern Mississippi and moved to New York to study music and theater at NYU. She was now singing and playing piano around the city. While her music was of a different attitude and style than the music they were currently creating, Gibbs Drinon (guitar) and Chase McGowan (bass) immediately heard hers as the voice of Cavalier Rose. They contacted her later that night and included a link to the demos they had recorded in Sarah’s basement several weeks earlier.

With Dave’s help, the band self-produced and mixed Primary Colors, the 6-song EP they recorded at his farm. Primary Colors was made available for free on Thursday, May 28th via the band’s website. That night, they played their second ever show (again, to a packed house at Pianos) in support of the EP’s release. All 150 copies of the EP they pressed were gone by the end of the gig. Two weeks later, Cavalier Rose was named "NYC Artist of the Month" by The Deli Magazine.

"Painted Bird"

Listen to the songs posted and if you like them be sure to checkout the band on 12/9. I am giving away a pair of tickets to the show. If interested just email me with your name here.