Monday, February 13, 2012

Vote for Mayor Hawthorne! (ok, it's really spelt Mayer. But for the sake of a catchier caption...)

"Boston, I don't know what you're waiting for -- but we're the headliners."

Mayer Hawthorne's tongue-in-cheek comment at the start of his set to make some noise goaded Boston off their feet and cheering last Thursday night, February 8th at Brighton Music Hall. If you're at Brighton Music Hall, chances are you're already on your feet at the majorly SRO-venue, but in any case, it jolted the crowd awake and snapped them out of their cool, hipster apathy.

WFNX, Corona and Malibu Black sponsored the free show. The opening band, The Sterns, a native Boston band opened for Mayer Hawthorne and the County, the suit-donning, jazzy-soul-throwback band who kick off their World Tour on Feb 23rd in Auckland to celebrate the late-2011 release of their album How Do You Do.

Born in Ann Arbor, MI, outside of Detroit, the 33-year old lead singer Mayer Hawthorne (born Andrew Mayer Cohen) incredibly has no formal training, and, up until a couple years ago, had no hopes of taking his music public. It took only two songs for Stones Throw Record head man Peanut Butter Wolf to sign Mayer Hawthorne, resulting in his debut album A Strange Arrangement, highlights of which include "I Wish That It Would Rain" and "Green-Eyed Love" both performed last Thursday night.

After releasing his first debut album, every major record label was busting down Mayer Hawthorne's door to sign him. With only a month to go until his sophomore album release date last year, Mayer jumped ship from Stones Throw and signed with Universal Republic, a decision he attributes to the fact that Universal Republic understood his vision and music clearly. Key tracks from the album include "No Strings," "The Walk," and "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" also featured at the show.

As a performer, Mayer Hawthorne breathes class and soul. With a hair-pin-turning falsetto and unapologetic attitude, he takes us back in time when a love song was really a love song, not a mangled pelvic thrust of synthesized beats and cheap, contrived lyrics. His bandmates ooze the same cool cat vibe with their mixture of matching grey suits, big hair, and opaque sunglasses.

Charming and piquant, Mayer Hawthorne declared at one point it was "picture time," during which he swiveled side to side with mock histrionic poses so the crowd could take shot after shot with their SmartPhones. After this segue, he encouraged everyone, "Ok. Picture Time is over. Now we're going to pretend like we're all actually here. In real time. And it doesn't matter if we catch it on video because we were here."*

I encourage you all to see Mayer Hawthorne in real time when they return to Boston at the Paradise with The Stepkids on Saturday, April 21. Doors at 6 PM, All Ages show, Advance Box Office Price $18.

*Note: This is more like a paraphrase.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Justin Vernon's Voice Stands Up Tall Outside Studio

Bon Iver performed last Friday, August 5th @ the Boston House of Blues. Biggest concern was that Justin Vernon's tenuous voice might be too gossamer to stand up on its own and carry the same characteristically raw tune. From the very first note of Perth, the opener, it was clear this fear was unjustified.

Bon Iver made their way through the majority of tracks off their new self-titled sophomore album, just grazing the first album, For Emma, Forever Ago. Cast in hazy blue lights, the band gave the spacious venue a predictably intimate feel. Accompanied by eight or nine (okay, admittedly, the PBRs were flowing) fellow bandmates, the sound was rich as a choir. This new rich sound is a noteworthy departure from the skeletally stripped down sound of the first album.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bon Iver, Bon Iver: Definitely Not Broken Record

If his first full-length album For Emma, Forever Ago, was cyrogenically-frozen-blue, Bon Iver's second self-titled album is shimmering-gold. The album is quiescent wind chime meets full-throttle marching band in pregnant pauses and unexpected turns.
His 10-track sophomore album is bomb. Vernon has emerged from the heartbreak-hotel-cabin he holed himself up in to write For Emma three years ago and has released a beautiful album heralding renewal.
Released in late June (though iTunes OOPSed and released it a week earlier than it was slated to), highlights of the album include:
Perth (haunting opening guitar crescendos to Mickey Mouse wrastling broomsticks a la Fantastia)
Michicant (throwback to Jeff Buckley's merry-go-round tune in Je n'en connais pas la fin)
Wash. (lighthearted piano pinnacles)
Holocene (slowly growing momentum-turns-tempest)
Bon Iver will be lighting up Boston's House of Blues next Friday, August 5th. The show's been sold out for months. In a righteous move, they made it a will-call show only. This artist continually jaw-drops me with his coolness. I'm considering sleeping on the street like those crazy moms post-Christmas outside Walmart to get a spot front-and-center.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On a Boat with DeerTick and Gem-of-an-Opener Aunt Martha

On Thursday, July 7th, a buddy of mine and I hopped aboard the Mass Bay Lines for the Rock On! Deertick Concert Cruise. This is a band that first grabbed my attention with their beautiful odyssey-like song These Old Shoes and poignant, gut-wrenching ballad Dirty Dishes. The former is an avowal to get to the singer's love at all costs. The latter is a eulogy to broken love that evokes nitty gritty imagery and sorrow a la Dire Straits Romeo & Juliet. The Providence-born band, which has evolved over the past 6 years, is spearheaded by John Mccauley, with a slingback-bourbon-voiced guitarist who is oddly hot with his hipster trimness and unapologetic fun-loving attitude. They've released three albums since their beginnings in 2004, the latest being the Black Dirt sessions, so dubbed because they recorded it in upstate-NY studio Black Dirt Studio.
As to be expected, DeerTick rocked hard, galvanizing the crowd with their raw energy and guitar work. BUT the highlight for the night was completely unexpected: Aunt Mother, their hands-down-just-bloody-talented opener. Check out some of their songs on their MySpace page (namely, Bloodshot). They've got an unbeatable lineup: violinist Brian Kim (this adds a dimension to the alt-country sound that was magical), unforgivably sick drummer Garret Leahy, and lead singer and guitarist, Tim Noyes, who every woman -- and more than likely man -- mentally disrobed at least once in the night. This is a band that I will be following. Forming in NYC with a diverse range of backgrounds, Aunt Martha has been together for a short two years, but have the lyrical prowess, dedication, talent, energy, and unique sound that bodes well for survival and success.
Check out their first self-released album from 2009 Candy Make and their highly-acclaimed EP Bloodshot released in early 2011. Pick up their 7-song free download of their Abandoned Bedroom Sessions after July 25th. Don't be too cool. It's free.
As for the concert -- get your ass on a boat in the harbor this summer for a concert. We drank myriad Coronas, watched the sun set from the harbor, and sweated and danced with the happiest people in town to amazing tunes. The only downfall was that no one covered I'm on a Boat. But whatever, we were, and we didn't need to be reminded.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Slain by Friendly Fires Sophomore Album Pala

UK dance psychedelic band Friendly Fires is set to release their sophomore album Pala this upcoming Tuesday, May 24th in the US (the Brits are surely already getting down to this with their earlier release this past Tuesday; alas Europe will always be cooler no matter how much tea we threw in the harbor).

The new album doesn’t disappoint: Lead vocals Ed Macfarlane is back with his spacey voice, Edd Gibson (guitarist) brings it with his same head-bobbing, foot-tapping riffs, and – my favorite element on the new album – Jack Savidge offers some drumlines that will amp your heart’s BPM. While the lyrics may not be the most profound, they’re certainly universally applicable.

The action item from their first, self-titled album was: Simon Says, 'Dance, dammit.' Without a doubt, the second album's command is the same, and is sure to catalyze some hot kinesthetics. “Blue Cassette” begins at an nostril-scrunchingly, skeptically slow pace but quickly opens up with a verifiable “This is my heart on fire!” chorus line that rocks. “Hawaiian Air” offers that high-energy drum beat and flies high with ethereal lyrics and sound. A distant-cousin-throwback to their first album, “Pull Me Back To Earth,” sounds more familiar in lyrics and beat, which is a welcome reminiscence.

The first single off the album “Live Those Days Tonight” recommends to listeners “Don’t hold back!” Our heads, shoulders, knees, and toes will be sure not to hold back from boogeying when Friendly Fires command the stage next Friday, May 27th @ the Paradise.

Pala streaming on Hype Machine

Great YouTube mix replete with live and studio recordings

Pop Wreckoning's 3-part Interview with FF Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

UK's Prized Foals = Best in Show

On Monday, May 2, when I headed to the 'dise to see the Naked and the Famous, Freelance Whales, and headliner Foals, the latter was the band I was least excited about. To me, they'd sounded a little flat in their two albums, Antidotes and Total Life Forever. If you've felt the same way listening to their tracks please do the following: Chuck, incinerate, destroy these preconceptions and get your ass out to their next show. The Foals are raw, wild, and jam harder and better than any band I've seen live in months. After pondering why they sound smaller on their albums than their true-larger-than life status, I've concluded they are so hot and SO good, it's impossible to contain them in an inanimate object like a CD or MP3 file. Hopefully their next album does justice to their true talent.

Opener Naked and the Famous didn't show up to open due to illness, but Freelance Whales seamlessly hopped on stage and gave the Foals a worthy opener. To the starstruck fan in the audience who shouted "I LOVE YOU" lead singer Judah Dadone replied a bashful and perfectly timed, "I really, really have ... strong feelings for you." They were a pleasure to watch, galvanizing the crowd from the first moment with their enthusiastic "Generator First Floor" a song peppered with a hot xylophone melody.

Despite the fact that, according to Dadone, it was their seventh time playing Boston in twelve months, Freelance Whales offered a fresh, mellifluous performance, punctuated with sick drumlines, vocals, accordion, and watering can (!?). Best picks of their set list include: The Great Estates, Ghosting, Broken Horse, and Hannah. Dadone revealed that after touring, the band's headed home to work on their second album (the first being Weathervanes). It's definitely one to wait for with bated breath.

After an, ahem, incredibly thorough sound check, the Foals took the stage. They exploded with "Blue Blood" to the delight of Foals zealots in the crowd. They played on early through technical difficulties with bassist Walter Gervers's guitar, following lead singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis's no-big-deal suggestion, "Come on, let's just jam." It's rare for me to truly enjoy a long-ass jam, but their set was punctuated by these sporadic crescendoing sessions that I literally never wanted to end. I think we were all hoping there'd be some sort of Star Trek, Rip Van Winkle vortex that would suck us in where we'd listen to Philippakis's insane, kinesthetically unbelievable guitar rifts endlessly. The British, Oxford-formed band works effortlessly together and has a palpable, beating-heart energy. It helps that diminutive Philippakis is on the lunatic fringe, climbing into the lights to play during Spanish Sahara, flinging the microphone and its stand around stage, beating the big single drum on center-stage a la some sort of primal pyro-tradition song and dance. No one wanted the show to end, and truly my ears and soul are still ringing.

Key tracks include: Everything they played, but if I must be more specific: Spanish Sahara, Red Socks Pugie, and Olympic Airways. My three favorite moments of the show: Realizing the keyboardist was playing in polka-dotted socks without shoes, seeing a fan inconspicuously plucking and swigging one of the guitarist Jimmy Smith's un-touched Coronas off-stage, and witnessing Philippakis's entire Tasmanian Devil, seizure dance repertoire.

Freelance Whales
Doris Cellar (accordion, vocals, guitar)
Chuck Criss (keyboard, xylophone)
Judah Dadone (lead vocals, guitar)
Jacob Hyman (drums)
Kevin Read (guitar)

Yannis Philippakis (lead singer and guitarist, big drum player)
Jack Bevan (drummer)
Jimmy Smith (guitarist)
Edwin Congreve (keyboards)
Walter Gervers (bass)

Foals set list
Blue Blood
Olympic Airways
Total Life Forever
After Glow
Black Gold
Red Socks Pugie
Spanish Sahara

French Open
Two Sets Twice

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Submarines Ignite Brighton Music Hall on Tour Touting Newest Album Love Notes / Letter Bombs

The Submarines lit up (literally: see Christmas lights and star-spangled glitter cutouts) Brighton Music Hall on Monday, April 25th. They were ushered in by openers Yellowbirds - the alias of former Apollo Sunshine founding father Sam Cohen - and Nik Freitas, the latter whom has been touring with the Subs for the last two weeks.

Cohen demonstrated laudable prowess on his electric guitar and was backed up by solid drums and bass. I will definitely be checking out Yellowbirds' schedule around New England as he shows off his newest album, the Colors. Freitas strummed some sweet melodies on the guitar, but it was an abruptly mellow turn from Yellowbirds' bass-thumping beats.

Then, the Submarines popped on-stage in true indie, DIY style. Just minutes before they perform, beautiful bombshell and co-lead vocals Blake Hazard is happily stringing lights on stage like a little kid to a Christmas tree in winter. I think it's safe to say that the sparkling glitter stars on her xylophone, the lemon-shaped maraca, and Christmas lights are her additions to the set -- not the idea of her counterpart, guitarist, vocals, and husband, John Dragonetti.

It's been the best of times and the worst of times for this musical couple over the years, whose romance first ignited in, fancy that, the city of Boston. Their beautiful, fresh lyrics chronicle the twists and turns their relationship has taken over the years. Knowing this history, and listening live in a venue as intimate as BMH, invites you deep into the show and band.

The mix of professionalism and whimsicalness of the Subs was a perfect potion. Hazard was the spokesperson, wooing the crowd with excited comments and her sparkling personality. The drummer didn't stop smiling the entire time, nor did the bassist; Dragonetti kept it cool for the most part but was clearly happily rocking out. Their music is animated by unparalleled energy, amazing guitar work, and an unconventional use of xylophone and tambourine.

You, Me, and the Bourgouisie was the track that motivated me to go to Brighton to see them in the first place. I walked away with five new tracks that I'll be proselytizing to friends and family: Birds (great guitar intro by Dragonetti), Ivaloo (a street in Somerville friends of the band named their baby), The Thorny Thicket, Xavia, and 1940.

To Hazard's seeming dismay, a fan in the crowd begged for the aforementioned song 1940 during the encore. After a moment of indecision, the band acquiesced. The tone of the song was strikingly different; darker and bass-ier, wholly seductive with its gloomier undertones. The song, though Hazard was principally reluctant to sing it, showed off the dimensions and passion of her voice in a way that hadn't been manifest before. It's a throwback to darker times, conjuring images of bootlegging moonshine in the night, or catching a voyeur outside your window. Hot.

Lastly, as part of a tribute to their newest album, love, and conflict, the Submarines are carrying a box where audience members, after the show, can pick up a note paper entitled "Love Note" or "Letter Bomb" and write a note to their "favorite enemy." These notes will wind up somewhere on the Facebook.

During the show, Hazard said they've had to learn how to say "We are the Submarines" in Spanish and French during this latest tour. "But here we are at home, and we're the motherfuckin' Submarines!" she cried happily. No matter how you say it, the Submarines rock.

Set list:
Peace and Hate
Swimming Pool (a song about love in the city, according to Hazard)
Tigers (SO much energy)
Ivaloo (named after a street in Somerville)
Brighter Discontent (Hazard soloed this for the most part)
The Thorny Thicket
You, Me & the Bourgeoisie
The Sun Shines at Night