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


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bon Iver's Self-Titled Album to Release in the US June 21

Lead singer for Bon Iver, Justin Vernon, is a prophet. His music reaches great heights in his sporadic soprano and plumbs great depths with haunting guitar riffs, unexpected melodies, and eviscerating lyrics on love and loss.

A Wisconsin native, during his teens and college years, Vernon formed the bands Mount Vernon and DeYarmond Edison (Vernon's two middle names) with friends in Eau Claire. Meeting success in Wisconsin, the band headed for Raleigh where they released two albums, but eventually parted ways after five years of playing together. That break-up, alongside Vernon's break-up with a girlfriend, catalyzed Vernon's 3-month hibernation in a log cabin in Wisconsin, during which time he churned out For Emma, Forever Ago. Listen to this stripped-down, haunting album and you will understand why the world has turned purple in the face holding our breaths for the next album from Bon Iver. Not to be overlooked, Bon Iver's EP Blood Bank, released in 2009 with four tracks, was beautiful but far too brief.

After collaborating with Kanye West on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, releasing two albums as Justin Vernon Self-Record and Hazelton, and myriad other side projects, Bon Iver's label Jagjaguwar is set to release the band's second full-length album Bon Iver on June 21. If you can't wait, take that trip to Europe you've been pondering so you can get it a day earlier ... I might.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lord, I'm a Fool for an Old School Freight Train

Looking for Ben Harper on Grooveshark during work the other day, I stumbled upon Old School Freight Train, a seismic, otherworldly bluegrass band that has literally left me with an unquenchable thirst for more. Alas, this band is the J.D. Salinger of the Interweb, and seems to have disappeared circa 2006 with their last album Six Years. I seek in nooks and crannies for the last droplet of information in the canteen and come up parched.

Things we know:
The band formed in 2003 in Charlottesville, VA.
The lead vocalist and guitarist's name was Jesse Harper.
They may have toured with Josh Ritter, which makes them 700 times cooler than they are already.
They covered Ben Harper and Coldplay in CMH's Pickin' On series.
And. The band is the smoothest fucking bottle rocket of bluegrass I've ever heard.

The Pickin' On series was an idea drummed up by CMH Records's David Haerle (son to co-founder Martin Haerle) where bluegrass bands paid tribute to well-established rock, pop, and country groups. But, contrary to the series' name, there's no heckling or noogies -- it's pure idolatry to the musicians and bands they riff on. How can a cover take you to a new place? you ask. It's a cover -- it's recycling, rehashing. The answer is OSFT, who cover Ben Harper and Coldplay better than Ben Harper and Coldplay could cover themselves, and in a sixth dimension -- another realm. The melodies are larger than life and crescendo up and down like a catarata; spine-tingling and mystical. These are instrumentals, I might add, which is even greater adversity training and deserves bigger props for the successfully beautiful sounds.

Once clicked, OSFT's official page (according to Wikipedia) brings you to a site with a big picture of marshmallows. So, where did you go Old School Freight Train? This girl wants to know. And also wants a smore.

For the real deal, go to grooveshark.com and check out OSFT Pickin' On Series: Pickin' On Ben Harper. Tracks "The Woman in You" and "With my Own Two Hands" = divine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Feel Like It's New Year's Every Day: Listen to Macklemore

Seattle mc Ben Haggerty, who goes by the moniker Macklemore, has got a special something, a sonorous centrifugal force that pulls you in to its beautiful, incisive orbit. This draw results from a combination of refreshingly honest lyrics, a frank willingness to reveal personal and intimate nooks and crannies, relatable storytelling, and unexpected turns in his tracks. If you were lucky enough to snag a ticket to his show this Wednesday, April 13 at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, consider it your Willy Wonka golden ticket of spring 2011.

To explain the title of this post, New Year's Day is how I feel when I hear Irishman Macklemore's lyrics: It's time to make resolutions to be better, and to just be in a pure and beautifully present sense. It's like we're watching a crysallis break open and out comes Macklemore. And his songs make us feel like we can do it too -- that we can be the best version of ourselves. These realizations have not spontaneously generated in moments of cartoon-lightbulb-switched-on-over-the-head: Some have been hard-earned through tough bouts of substance abuse, an issue he chronicles in Otherside, meaningfully employing RHCP's same-titled track in the song.

Macklemore tackles tough themes like this with an uncharacteristic and unapologetic attitude. Produced by Ryan Lewis, "Wings" is a verbal tapestry woven with anti-consumerist threads through a cool and hypnotically riveting childhood story. The chorus of children singing in the song lend an eerie and poignant element that takes the song to a whole new level.

Irish Celebration, a track that's sure to be a winner with our ubiquitous McDonoughs and McVarishes in Boston next Wednesday, implores listeners to carpe diem the hell out of life and “Live tonight cause you can’t take it with ya.” It's a celebration of heritage, life, struggles overcome, and of course, a little beer and whiskey. We can dig that in Boston -- consider Brighton Music Hall your open-armed Ellis Island next Wednesday, Macklemore.

A few more tracks/video not to miss:
Download a few tunes from KEXP courtesy of NPR: