I had the pleasure to see one of my favorite bands, White Denim, at Bottom of the Hill last week. And as usual, they did not disappoint. They are a great live band and rocked the entire show relentlessly. Throughout the performance my friends kept yelling anecdotes in my ear like “Led Zepplin 1971!” or “baby Led Zepplin!”. Yes, it’s true! When they launched into a rendition of “All You Really Have to Do/Mess Up Your Hair/Shake Shake Shake”, I thought my head was going to explode. While I can’t recreate that masterpiece for your here, you can get a taste of it from this smoking set recorded on From the Basement in the UK. Check it out.
Friday at SXSW kicked off in style with a great day party hosted by Insound at Club De Ville. Obits opened the day with an impressively scorching set, followed by one of my favorite bands, The Handsome Furs, who’s energy and chemistry did not disappoint. I had yet to see them live so was thrilled to get up close and personal with them at such a great venue. (Loved Alexei Perry’s leopard print jumpsuit too.) American Analog Set followed but they were a bit too quiet to be appreciated with a crowd in the full throws of an all you can drink PBR pint party, so off I headed to the Spin private event at Stubbs.
At the Spin party, which was a blast, I caught The Black Lips – who lived up to their infamous stage performance reputation — Glasvegas and the seminal band of the 80s Echo and The Bunnymen. Ian McCulloch’s voice was amazing and the band’s performance was one of my highlights of the festival for me. Between sets we were entertained by the likes of The Crystal Method and NASA. A great show all around! Thanks Spin!
Without missing a beat, we headed to the TopSpin party to see White Denim crush it. If you don’t know this band already, you are missing out. Exposion is my favorite album of 2008 and they are absolutely incredible live. Whew, okay. I’m a good nine bands in and we haven’t even gotten to the official SXSW schedule yet!
The evening kicked off with Alberta Cross. Man, these guys are good. Really, really good. One of the SXSW sleepers, in my opinion. Loney Dear was up next with a lackluster performance, but all was redeemed when we made it to Emo’s Jr. for King Kahn & The Shrines. Holy crap! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like them. Absolutely and completely crazy live performers. People were hanging from the rafters, taking off their pants, moshing and giving puja to the holy Hindu, King Kahn. I didn’t think the night could get any better until we ended up at the mother of all after parties to see Starf**ker. My new favorite band. I loooovve them!
My rock-n-roll vacation is just days, hours away. I’ve been combing the line up of 1400 bands for weeks now. My list is made, I’m checking it twice and trying to keep the panic at bay as I struggle to find a way to fit it all in.
SXSW is the equivalent of Mecca for the indie music junkie, like me. It’s the place you go to discover the best new artists everyone else will be listening 6 months or a year from now, depending on where you fall on the music curve. And already I’ve found some gems. Here’s a sample of a few bands I’m particularly excited to see. Believe me, there are many, many more. Some of them are classics reunited – like Echo and The Bunneymen and Red Red Meat – others somewhat establish, but most are new to the scene and trying to break out. Enjoy!
And here it is.My top 20 albums for 2008.This list represents the music that inspired me throughout the year and the albums that I kept coming back to again and again.I’ve tried to put the critic hat aside to be very honest in my ranking.What you see here, in order of appearance, are the albums I listened to the most throughout the year.In order of heavy rotation, so to speak.
So while some of you may judge my harshly for listing bands like The Raconteurs in the top 10, the truth of the matter is I listened to that album a lot this year and it got me off every time. It’s a great rock album. Plus they were one of my favorite live performances of the year.And hey, if they’re good enough to make Nic Harcourt’s top 10 list, it’s good enough for me.
1. Deerhunter, Microcastle
This album blew me away from the first listen and put Bradford Cox into the genius category for me. I really and truly can’t stop listening to this album. It’s brilliant start to finish and much more melodic and song-oriented than other Deerhunter albums. A classic for sure.
I’m truly obsessed with this Austin-based band. I listen to this album, without fail, every single day. I start with the Let’s Talk About It EP followed by Exposion. It’s my go-to, late night, ‘gotta wake my ass up to get some work done’ combo. I just love their stripped down Stooges/White Stripes vibe. Feels really good. And seriously rocks!
“I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce…,” is the opening line from the rockin’ single, ‘Grounds for Divorce,’ off Elbow’s fourth and best release to date, The Seldom Seen Kid. The song is immense, snarling with emotion and emblematic of the theme of the album – the joys and sorrows of everyday life.
‘The Rockintours’ as my 3 year old son calls them, this album was most definitely on heavy rotation throughout 2008. To the point where he has developed an obsession with Jack White and tries to emulate his moves on his toy guitar. Could Jack White be the rock god of his generation? Very well could be. He made demi-rock god status in my book after seeing them play at Bimbos earlier this year, one of my concert highlights of the year. A relentless assault of rock and roll I haven’t seen the likes of in quite some time.
I’ve been a fan of The Duke Spirit since their first album, Cuts Across the Land, hit the US in 2005.With their second release, Neptune, the band has clearly come of age.The album is a seductive blend of lead singer Leila Moss’s bluesy-rock vocals and ferocious guitar riffs.The songs, evoking images of sea gods and ships, are a journey of brooding intensity that, in the end, leaves me only to say… “All Hail The Duke Spirit.”
This album is almost entirely a solo project showcasing the genius of David Brewis, member of the on-hiatus group Field Music, and is a true album experience.Like a mini rock symphony, the album starts and ends with a series of songs called ‘Rockists Part 1 and 2’ and ‘Rockists Part 3 and 4’.Parts 1 and 4 are different versions of the same song but strung together and listened to in it’s entirety, is a stunning arrangement. The songs are exquisitely constructed and I love the way he plays with structures and sounds.
My biggest regret of the year? Having to miss Beach House play The Swedish American Music Hall. Grr. It’s such a lovely, lovely, album. I love their etherial, haunting, lovelorn music and Devotion was a late night favorite on my headphones all year long.
Department of Eagles is essentially a side-project of Grizzly Bear singer-songwriter Daniel Rossen, who developed its dreamy, autobiographical songs with college friend and cohort, Fred Nicolaus. Their latest album, In Ear Park, was developed over the years between the two, stealing time on weekends and between tours.
This is the kind of album that grows on you over time. As you dig deeper through the album, you’ll start to appreciate the complexities and amazing orchestral arrangements that continue to unfold listen after listen.
Have you heard the one about this girl who walks into a bar in Austin, TX and sees Fleet Foxes for the first time? Call it serendipity, call it love at first sight – er, listen – she’s smitten. And so is the rest of the indie rock world. With good reason. Another one of my top live performances of 2008
Are you a Pavement fan? If you are, you’re gonna like the latest release, Heavenly Bender, from the Brooklyn-based quartet,Sam Champion. Steeped in lo-fi, garage-rock jams, their sound may be a little too Wowee Zowee for the non-Pavement aficionado, but for me it’s the perfect combination as bands like Pavement /Stephen Malkmus represent everything I like in Indie Rock music – crunchy guitar jams sandwiched between sweet harmonies. My indie rock PB&J.
Remember when this band was fresh on the scene and how great it was, for that brief moment, to have them all to yourself? Then suddenly they were everywhere and even your non-music friends started talking about them. ‘Have you heard of this band called Bon IVER?’ At least we had the satisfaction to smugly correct them on their mispronunciation. “It’s pronounced Bon Hiver – like good winter in French? Phht.” Okay, maybe that was just me. All kidding aside, this is such a beautiful album and truly one of my favorite live performances of the year. It gave me goosebumps.
The Portland-based duo, The Helio Sequence, released their third album ‘Keep Your Eyes Ahead’ in January of this year; but it’s one of those records I just keep coming back to again and again. It makes me feel so nostalgic. Perhaps it’s because there are moments on the record that sound so early U2/Joshua Tree I can’t help but feel that way.
This stripped down, two-man San Francisco band consists of Meric Long on guitar and vocals and Logan Kroeber on percussion.Both are feature performers– on the recording and live.Their simplicity has drawn comparisons to a crop of new-primitivist bands like Yeasayer and High Places.Whatever the case, you should listen to this album and make a point to see them live. They’re mesmerizing.
Welcome to the Night Sky is the third album for the Halifax-based Wintersleep, and one that seems destined for success in the US. Already quite popular in Canada, the band recently received the 2008 Juno award for ‘New Group of the Year’. Their sound is expansive with heavy, smashing guitars combined with delicate, heartbreaking vocals. A sound so well represented in the track ‘Drunk on Aluminum’.
Women are a Canadian group (two of them brothers, actually) with their self-titled debut released July 8 on Flemish Eye Records. I was very pleased to learn that Chad VanGaalen produced this album, of whom I’m a big fan. He recorded the album in his basement on old tape machines and ghettoblasters. To say their sound is lo-fi is an understatement. My guess is you’ll be hearing a lot more from this band.
I adore this guy. He’s a wonderful and interesting artist, a virtual one-man band who’s notoriously very reclusive and apparently obsessed with death and other morbid topics. I find a stark beauty in the basement-recorded ‘Soft Airplane’ (as well as a nice cover of The Shins ‘City of Electric Light’). And while it’s true that the basement can be a dark and scary place at times, it can also be filled with wonder and surprise.
This Chicago quartet has been around for quite a while and there’s a comfort in the familiarity and consistency of their music. Their latest release, Car Alarm, is no exception. One of their best albums in over a decade. I’ve been listening to their electronic grooves a lot. Mellow yet powerful at the same time, they are firmly rooted in Indie rock with a splash of that electronica sound I like so much. It’s smooth, well balanced, easy on the ears and layered with just enough complexity to keep it interesting listen after listen. Like a fine wine.
Last, but certainly not least, is Juana Molina’s, Un Dia. This Argentinean singer /songwriter is an amazing interpreter of sound. I discovered her by chance many years ago opening for a band I can’t even remember now because her performance was so compelling and mesmerizing I’ve forgotten everything else about that night. I’ve been an ardent fan of her dreamlike, hypnotic music ever since. Her fifth full length album, Un Dia, is her most adventurous, upbeat and rhythmic release to date.
From the Basement is a UK-based music TV show that has launched a series of live performances from an impeccable collection of indie artists – like Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, The Kills, Andrew Bird, Beck and lots, lots more. The program is featured on the Sky Arts channel in the UK, Rave in the US and, starting in January 2009, the IFC channel.
Until then, you can catch sneak previews of some performances. Like this one from my current obsession White Denim.Click here to check out this blistering rendition of ‘All You Really Have to Do/ Mess Up Your Hair’. Oh yeah, these guys rock! Well worth the jump, I promise.
Whoo hoo! I just bought my first album today via Topspin! And it was the much anticipated debut LP from my favorite Texas rockers, White Denim, to boot. The album is being digitally debuted with the new platform in advance of the album’s physical release on November 3. In case you don’t recall from my prior posts, Topspin is a cool new technology platform that is helping artists circumvent labels and market directly to the fans. It allows artists to offer a variety of ‘value add’ options and services to their fans.
Download the album in MP3 format with artwork for $8.99,
Download the album in lossless FLAC format (for all you sound junkies) for $13.99,
Or subscribe to the ‘band’ for a yearly membership of $29.99 and receive their new album in 320 kbps format, a 12″ copy of the album, a 7″ copy of the “Let’s Talk About It” EP , and a collection of unreleased digital live tracks. Plus a lot more goodies throughout the year.
Cool huh? It’s a whole new way to consume music and the artist gets to reap the rewards. What a concept.