Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back on 2010

As this year ends it's time to look back and see the good and the bad.

Best Album of the Year

Well Kanye sure showed us. Not only was he the laughing stock of pop culture for most of the year, his tweets throughout only furthered his descent into the butt of every joke. Then he released Fantasy and everything changed. All at once the world remembered why we kept Kanye around, he makes some of the best music in the rap community. Fantasy took the next step, combing amazing piano solos, great strings and some kick ass beats of course to make one of the most diverse and appealing albums of the year. Sure Kanye may be crazy, but he's just the right kind.

Best New Band of the Year
Earth Program- Invade!

Earth Program's first album Invade was almost my album of the year. It's so well done and so well thought out it seems like it was made by a much older band who has been experimenting for years. It's great to know that there's good smart odd rockers still out there ready to take over the mantle bands like Oingo Boingo or the Talking Heads dropped back in the 80s. Earth Program is not only a shining light for Chicago music, but music in general.

Most Disappointing Album
Weezer- Hurley

Oh Weezer, what happened to you. It seems like the once saviors of alt rock have abandoned the church of the geeky to party with frat boys. Repetitive guitar solos and even worse lyrics make this the final nail in Weezer's coffin.

Best Album Coming Out Next Year
Pogo- Remix The World

Amazing remixer Pogo, best know for his Disney remixes is about to release his first legal to sell album. Not just okay with the normal beats and boops most techno artists use he has decided to travel to some distant country, record sounds from there, and then remix them into music. It's all based off his amazing Gardyn song. I wait with baited breath for what may be the most innovative album of 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Radio Is The Sound Salvation

For a year-end wrap up, After Hours contributors Duncan Strauss and marty will be appearing live on WMNF Radio on Wednesday, December 29th from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.  Listen to us online here.  Or if you are tooling around the Tampa Bay area (you lucky dog), check us out at 88.5 FM.   We will be playing some of our favorite songs from the past year and years past.  In the second hour of the show, we will have AH favorite Lauris Vidal in the studio for music and questions. 

Feel free to call in at 813-239-9663 or email us during the show with your requests.  

As always with WMNF, this will be radio as it was meant to be - eclectic, fun and full of passion. Plus, it will rock your bones. 

As Mr. Elvis says, "Radio is a Sound Salvation"

Radio Radio” by Elvis Costello, live at the Cleveland Agora, 12/5/77

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Avett Brothers To Open SunFest 2011?

In an email blast to its members, concert database Jambase reported that those sweet-sounding folk rockers, The Avett Brothers, will open the 2011 SunFest in West Palm on Wednesday, April 27th.  

This encouraging information about the favored festival appears to be premature.  SunFest isn't saying a word.  The Jambase page has been scrubbed.  But that doesn't mean it is not true. 

Such a booking makes sense and is a welcome look for the upcoming SunFest.  I believe it - just sayin'.  Can't wait. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fame Is Now Injectable

My Chemical Romance has gotten a bad rap. The first single off their last album "The Black Parade" has been mocked endlessly, they've been lumped into the genre of emo which they are none to happy with and they've been going through drummers like Grateful Dead going through keyboardists. So with all these image problems My Chemical Romance has thought long and hard and come up with an answer to all of it.

"F them all."

Their new album Danger Days is brash, loud and unreserved, it's straight up punk from an unlikely source. Masquerading as a radio broadcast from the wasteland as a energetic DJ gives cryptic comments and fortune cookie type phrases like "louder then god's revolver and twice as shiny." It's kinda weird, but it sets the stage for the album great.

The album is a collection of hits and misses. Songs like "Na Na Na" really set the tone for the album, somewhat anarchistic, somewhat silly, and absolutely no feeling sorry for yourself. Any resemblance of deep thought is replaced by pure fun, which I think is a wise move. After three albums of trying to be deep and only succeeding once these guys are much better when they let loose. Another highlight is "Party Poison" a great rock song that I can see taking radio by storm and I'm sure you'll be seeing it in a whole lot of movie trailers for years to come. It just has an immediately recognizable sound that you keep going back too.

"SING" is the ballad on this album and it's reminiscent of the rock ballads of the 80's and I'm sure it'll feel right at home at the amphitheatres the band usually plays in. "Planatary (GO)" is probably my favorite song on the album, from the slow, paranoia inducing opening to the heavy hitting chorus it's just a great song and one I hope isn't ignored.

Like I said there's misses too, "S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W" will probably win my award for most skipped song of the year. It's boring, meandering and it can't decide what it wants to be. In fact the three song after it suffer from just not being too memorable, you may enjoy them while listening to them, but after that you'll probably never hear them again. They're not bad, they just bring nothing new to the table.

Despite the misses, this album is great. It's not going down in history as revolutionary or as a look into the human soul. It'll be remembered as a album that rocks hard and that's good enough for me.

Second Opinion

"Danger Days" is the bastard child of an 80s hair band and a 90s pop/punk band (i.e. Blink 182). It is good-time "aggressive rock." High harmonies and grinding guitars. The album's high points rocked a car stereo of a sunny day. The rest was forgettable.

“Planetary (GO!) by My chemical Romance (mp3)(iTunes)(Amazon)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Modern Sounds in New Psychedelica

photo by joe capozzi
The Flaming Lips played one of the most expansive, outrageous shows 500 people will ever see.  With a visual assault geared for thousands, the Lips ended their current U.S. tour with this sparsely-attended show in western Boca Raton last night. 

If there was a show to "phone one in,"  this one was it.  An add-on show, a make-up date from the last minute cancellation from May's SunFest showBut the Lips are wonderfully weird professionals and it was easy to tell why these guys have been blowing people's minds for the past 27 years.

Quite appropriate for a band legendary in their visual prowess, the Lips entered the amphitheater stage through, let's be frank here, a glowing vagina on a 25-foot high video screen.  The image, obviously tied to the band's latest album, Embryonic, was randy and unsettling - just like all good rock shows.

The video screen and the surrounding proscenium of lights created the atmosphere for frontman Wayne Coyne's tight and bombastic brand of psychedelic rock.  The band was tight, with a special nod to guitarist Steven Drozd, and appealing. 

Coyne exhibited his chops as an ultimate showman.  There were balloons, confetti cannons and Wayne's bubble ride across the crowd - despite its small size. 

Despite the thrilling psychedelic journey with the Lips, the biggest surprise of the night was opening band, Morning Teleportation.  The five-piece band from Portland played a fun and trippy psychedelic rock.  The young men have been gaining some notice during their year of opening for and the Lips.  

No album yet - there is talk about a spring release. I can imagine that they will score some prime slots in next summer's festivals.  

I Can Be a Frog” by The Flaming Lips (mp3)(iTunes)(Amazon)


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reasons For Falling In Love With The Constellations? Let Me Count The Ways...

Apart from falling in love with a person, there are few experiences more thrilling and meaningful for a music fan than falling in love with a new band.

Of course, a chief component of this swooning jolt is the sense of discovery--Wow, I've never heard these guys before and I LOVE 'em!--a powerful feeling whether you're 12 or, let's say, 52. And, I'm guessing, older than that, regardless of whether that number ends in "2."

A case in point for me lately: Atlanta-based band The Constellations. Lemme set the scene. It's West Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this year -- it's April 28, when the local music fest (which, in the ensuing days, would offer the likes of Ben Harper, Rise Against, Patti Labelle, ZZ Top, B-52s and was slated to feature Flaming Lips, before illness forced their cancellation) SunFest was  presenting New Music Night, headlined by Weezer.

To be honest, and perhaps heretical, I didn't care much about Weezer, but I was excited to sample the new bands, a coupla of which -- Gringo Star (great name, no?), These United States -- I had heard, or at least, heard of. But otherwise it was, for me, a sumptuous new-band buffet. My response to the first few bands I saw was lukewarm, or worse, and then I took my place at the back of the grassy field facing the Tire Kingdom Stage (you heard me), where there were maybe a few dozen other concert-goers, as the Constellations eased into their set.

I was immediately intrigued by the funky, soulful racket the band was kicking up, struck that there were seven members--and amused that among this septet, there were  two back-up singers. I mean, that's a rock star gambit, a Sting move. But here's a new band that even most music aficionados haven't heard of, that can't be making any dough to speak of on the road -- still, they have not one, but two back-up singers. Hilarious. And interesting.

Not as interesting as the performance that unfolded.  It was rock, soul, R&B, hip-hop, funk -- and quickly added up to  way more than the sum of those parts. It was peppy, swinging, sexy, feisty, magnetic. It was messy, greasy, irresistible fun.

It was a raucous house party, yet it didn't take long to see that the host--in this case, lead singer Elijah Jones, was deftly controlling the chaos, the frontman equivalent of the guy who throws a giant bash, and while keeping the drinks and stories coming is also subtly surveying the scene to keep the tipsy gal across the living room from knocking over the antique lamp, or the pair of blotto, increasingly grumpy guys from throwing any punches 'til they step outside.

Indeed, Jones has charisma to burn, and while he projects an image of the whirling-dervish party animal, he also knows exactly what he's doing (if he's crazy, he's crazy like a fox), and more to the point  loves  what he's doing. Also, his manner suggests catholic tastes in music, and vast knowledge -- he probably has a better, broader music library than you or I do, combined. 

But The Constellations is far from a one-man band, and as I became swept up in the magic carpet ride of their SunFest performance, it was because all the musicians on stage locked into a blissed-out whole, forming a huge beckoning finger, luring the listener into the fold. 

Literally, in my case. As they galloped deeper into their set, I gradually moved from the back of the grassy area closer and closer to the stage--that's how mesmerized I was, and if they'd played any longer, I might well have climbed on stage with them.

Which would've been awkward. It doesn't appear they're looking to expand their ranks, but I thought afterwards they did remind me a bit of Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros, an even larger collective, though much as Sharpe & company seem to be a buzz band of the moment -- I'd say tapped into the zeitgeist, but I'd have no idea what that means -- I find The Constellations more soulful. And more fun.

As soon as I got home that night, I searched online for The Constellations music, learning a debut album, "Southern Gothic," was on the horizon--but downloaded the song that was available, "Felicia," a wonderfully funky number propelled in part by Jamie Gordon's spirited electric piano. I've since played "Felicia" a bunch of times on the Wednesday Sonic Detour on WMNF, and enthusiastically sung the band's praises on-air each time.

And "Southern Gothic" more than lives up to the expectations created by the live adventure: it offers much of that vigorous chaos and genre-traversing--this thing travels from Tom Waits (in the homage-more-than-cover "Step Right Up") to a guest turn by Cee-Lo, who's featured on "Love Is A Murder"--but is delivered with a firm, unifying hand by producer Ben H. Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley).

Then, over Labor Day Weekend, my crush on the Constellations only deepened when I saw them at Bumbershoot, the Seattle music and arts festival celebrating it's 40th anniversary (I started going 19 years ago).  Semi-interesting coincidence: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros were also there, performing about five hours after The Constellations.

This set was longer, bigger, more colorful--better. From launching the show with the hypnotic "Setback" (I suspect I won't be the first, nor last, to note that this song is a kindred spirit, sonically, with "Tomorrow Never Knows") The Constellations were a blast, whether churning out the extended Waitsian extravaganza, "Step Right Up," rendering a cover of "Let's Dance" brimming with as much percolating fun as any version I've seen Bowie himself perform (and highlighting that another not-so-secret Constellations weapon is Wes Hoffman, whose bass lines are as big as his 'fro, which is saying something) and nearing the finish line with a smokin' "Felicia." And even when their time was up, they squeezed in a quick cover of "I'm Waiting For My Man."

Jones was, once again, screwy-captivating, including between-song patter that ranged from first impressions of Seattle to noting that -- when he peeled off his jacket, revealing a hideous, mostly-yellow floral shirt --"I dress like a pedophile," and generally keeping things moving, as  he kept moving.

And he moves with something of a swagger, mild enough so it's not off-putting, but pronounced enough so it underscores everything else: Elijah Jones was born to front a band--not just any band, mind you, but a band with as much horsepower, and as many gears (and as many members!) as The Constellations.

Which brings us, finally, to a couple of key questions: Are The Constellations the most original force to arrive on the national music scene? No, although the way they encompass and combine genres, and sometimes styles from different eras, is enormously refreshing -- few bands, old or new, can touch them when it comes to chemistry, and alchemy.
Question two: can they change the world? Again, no, but for an hour or so -- listening to "Southern Gothic" or, especially, catching them live -- they can change  you, making you feel carefree, transported and deliriously happy. And, that's why I fell in love with The Constellations.

The Constellations will be making a significant Florida run with the following Sunshine State shows:
October 3, 2010 - Vinyl Music Hall, Pensecola, FL 
October 4, 2010 - Jack Rabbits, Jacksonville, FL
October 5, 2010 - Culture Room, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
October 6, 2010 - State Theater, St. Petersburg, FL
October 7, 2010 - The Social, Orlando, FL

“Felicia” by The Constellations (mp3)(iTunes)(Amazon)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Listening for The Tin Hearts

There is something magical about the mixture of folk, country and blues.   Something hardscrabble, dusty and soulful.  Call it Americana or or whatever.  It is the music of my home, my youth and my continued passion. 

Not surprising, I count My Morning Jacket, The Felice Brothers and Wilco as guideposts for my fervor.  Mix in some Blitzen Trapper, Band of Horses, Hayes Carll and some Ryan Adams and you have a well-rounded playlist of modern Americana. 

It is time to add another to the list.  The Tin Hearts, based out of Columbus, Ohio, is a welcome addition to the club.   

The tight, five-piece band plays honest, hard-working music that will keep the honky tonk lights burning until dawn. However, it is Matthew Sullivan's gritty vocals and harmonica work that make the band stand out.  Like the aforementioned bands, The Tin Hearts possess a rollicking honesty that will take them far. 

After releasing their self-titled debut album last year, The Tin Hearts will release their second album, "No Good Deed," on Singing Moon Records on September 10th.  I can not wait to hear more from this up-and-coming band of musicians. 

Times Like These” by The Tin Hearts (mp3)(iTunes)(Amazon)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The NSFW Song of The Summer Mania Continues

A great version by AH hero, Tristan Clopet, in the latest installment of his Living Room Series.

Cee-Lo's Shawshank Redemption from Dallas Observer on Vimeo.
The obligatory mash-up.

And, of course, the official video drops.

You can keep a good song down. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The NSFW Song of The Summer

Joining the growing chorus, I can not get enough of Cee Lo Green's NSFW summer hit.  From its neo-pop/soul intro to its infectious and ribald chorus, the song is a joy and demands repeated plays.

Using the quintessential two-word expletive as the title and driving force, Cee Lo tells the common tale of a girl falling for a more upscale guy - a theme passed down for generations including rock classics, "Satisfaction" and "Rosalita." Also, does he really cite Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield?"

Much like "Hey Ya!" led both soccer moms and their brood to "shake it like a Polaroid picture," this song has the goods to unite us all behind this immediate reproach for the times.

Too much analysis already.  Just get in the car, roll down the windows, blast the stereo and let Cee Lo do the talking.

Fuck-You” by CeeLo Green (mp3)(Buy)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Summer of Our Discontent

These are the dog days of the our summer of discontent.

The typical bread and circuses have not been so satisfying - especially when you are short on the bread.  There is plenty of anger to go around, but apparently not enough to get folks off the couch

It is hard times, my friends.  But its been worse and its been crazier.  As Brother Jimmy was fond of saying, it is time to "break on through.

To help us on the ride, I offer this crunchy little gem from The Greenhornes, The Cincinnati-based band is better known as being Jack White's bandmates for his unstriped diversions. But Jack knows his stuff.  These guys are the real deal. This track from their 2002 album Dual Mono is a garage-fueled thrill.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Soulful Funk of Tristan Clopet

There is a lot of blue-eyed soul in Tristan Clopet.  

Blue-eyed soul wrapped around an infectious, hardcore funk. 

Toronto-born, Miami-based Clopet and his band, the Juice, often get compared to Red Hot Chili Peppers, circa 1991, and justifiably so.  On his latest EP, Purple, Clopet spits out his lyrical rap over that wonderfully nasty rock/funk groove that the Peppers did so well.

But there is more going on here than emulation. Clopet's soaring vocals and searing guitar sets him apart. 

His voice is not as gritty as Anthony Keidis of the aforementioned Peppers. It contains the soulfulness that Steve Winwood and Robert Palmer perfected.  Listening to the EP, one will also be briefly reminded of Faith No MoreArrested Development, John Legend and even U2 The funk/rock blaster, Superficiality Is A Sin, has joyfully kept with me for the past month. 

And the man can play guitar.  Just like ringing a bell. 

Clopet, who is currently in the studio working on new material, is selling his EP online with the internet-friendly "pay your own price" policy.  It is also available at iTunes and Amazon. Give a working musician so love and treat yourself to some badass funk.