Infinite Shuffle

May 30, 2010

29 – We Were Promised Jetpacks

Filed under: Scotland, W — assman41 @ 12:01 am

This review mostly came about because I recently had one the band’s songs stuck in my head for most of a day, even though I hadn’t heard it in several weeks or even months.

That’s the sign of a great song, and, clearly, “Quiet Little Voices” — the seventh track and first single off of We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ debut album, These Four Walls — is a great song.

I first heard about We Were Promised Jetpacks through NPR’s Song of the Day, when they featured the aforementioned single about a year ago.

I immediately fell in love with the song but couldn’t find anything to download initially. So they were pushed to the backburner until my friend, Scott, started praising them and suggested we see them in concert.

We saw them at the Empty Bottle in Chicago in mid-October along with fellow Scottish bands Brakesbrakesbrakes and The Twilight Sad and even hung out with them a little after the show. They seemed like a great bunch of guys, and I hope to see them again when they swing through the Windy City in a couple months.

As for their music, they sound like a mix between The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, all of whom are on the same label, FatCat Records.

Some other good songs off their debut include “Moving Clocks Run Slow”, “It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning”, “Ships With Holes Will Sink” and “Short Bursts”.

Earlier this year, they released a five-track EP, The Last Place You’ll Look, which includes two songs from their debut album.

The band just announced some dates for another North American tour. Do yourself a favor and check them out in person.

We Were Promised Jetpacks – Moving Clocks Run Slow

May 28, 2010

CONCERT REVIEW: Pearl Jam

Filed under: Concert, P — assman41 @ 6:01 am

When: May 7, 2010

Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (Noblesville, Ind.)

Opening act: Band of Horses

For much of the day, there was concern that the weather could turn ugly and the show would be canceled. As my friends and I were preparing to leave our hotel for the venue, we watched the weather forecast and saw an ominous band of severe weather heading straight for our location. When we were on the highway and getting hit by a downpour, we figured, best case scenario, we’d be stuck on the lawn, getting absolutely soaked.

Unfortunately, the weather was the least of our problems. That designation was saved, instead, for our actual drive to the venue. It was only about 25 miles from our hotel to the amphitheatre, but it took us roughly 2.5 hours to get there because of gridlock that had us sitting motionless on the highway at multiple times.

By the time we finally got parked, we could hear music in the distance. As it turned out, that was Band of Horses closing out its set. I was less than pleased, as they were the main reason I wanted to come to the show in the first place.

We grabbed our blankets and headed for the gate, chugging a few beers on the walk up. We were alerted that it was a “no blankets” show, due to the large number of attendees. I decided to wrap my blanket around my upper body and hide it under my windbreaker and ended up as one of the few patrons with a blanket to sit on.

It would come in handy as the once warm, windy conditions turned to cold and windy by the end of the show. The precipitation, however, had cleared, and it ended up being a rather pleasant evening.

We arrived in between sets and weren’t waiting around too long before Eddie Vedder and the boys came on stage. They opened with “Release” off their first album, Ten. According to their website, it’s somewhat rare for them to play that song as they’ve only included it in a handful of their sets in recent years.

Clearly, we were in for a good show.

As for my Pearl Jam fandom, I mostly just know the main hits and a few other songs off the various live albums I own. So, throughout the show, I was asking my friend what each song was.

They did play some that I knew during the initial set, including “Elderly Woman …”, “Daughter”, “Even Flow”, “Jeremy” and “The Fixer”. Unfortunately, I was in line for the bathroom during those last two, which closed out the set.

Most of Vedder’s banter was enjoyable, and he really seemed to make an effort to connect with the fans. At one point, he thanked the “Gods of Indiana” for keeping the rain at bay, then he said that the God of Indiana was Larry Bird. Although, he later referenced Salt Lick, when he should’ve said French Lick (Bird’s hometown), but I’ll let it slide.

Other nice touches were the concert tees, which not only had that show’s date and location on the front, but also a pair of checkered flags, an homage to Indy’s racing history. I think it was the first time I’d seen a concert tee made exclusively for the show I was at. They also played a cover of “Goin’ Back To Indiana”, much to the crowd’s delight.

The first encore opened with Vedder sitting on a stool and playing an acoustic guitar. The first highlight of the night for me came during the second-to-last song of that encore when the mass of humanity that was the audience sang along for the bulk of “Better Man”. It gave me goosebumps. Afterwards, Vedder relayed to us what guitarist Mike McCready said during the song: “I fucking love the Midwest!”

My next treat was when they finished with “Do the Evolution” then came back for a second encore — another first for me. They opened with a couple songs that I didn’t know, then went into “Alive”, which got me all revved up. I shedded the blanket that was keeping me warm and just started jumping around to the song.

Before the show, I had told my friend that I wanted to hear “Yellow Ledbetter” and one of two covers they like to play — “Last Kiss” or “Baba O’Riley”.

I ended up getting both wishes granted, as, following “Alive”, McCready started into that familiar riff of “Baba O’Riley”. Early in the song, Vedder ripped off his flannel shirt to unveil The Who shirt he was sporting underneath.

The last official song was “Yellow Ledbetter”, which was an awesome closer. But then, at the end of that, McCready played the “Star-Spangled Banner” a la Jimi Hendrix. That was a pretty awesome treat and one final goodbye.

One other highlight toward the end of the show came when Vedder was talking about growing up in Chicago and hanging out with his friends and how he was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to see any of them before the show. Then one of those friends, someone named Chris, hailed him from somewhere in the front of the crowd. You could see Vedder get a little choked up, and I thought that genuine show of emotion was really cool.

In the end, Pearl Jam played for more than two hours and were probably fined for going past curfew, but they didn’t care.

So, despite a rather annoying trip to the venue and missing an opening band I really wanted to see, there’s no way I can walk away from a Pearl Jam show with anything but fond memories.

May 23, 2010

28 – Class Actress

Filed under: Brooklyn, C — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Whereas most of my musical discoveries come from searching websites, blogs and podcasts, I found out about Class Actress almost by chance.

I happened to be in Chicago a couple of weeks ago to see Freelance Whales and the Shout Out Louds, and I stopped by my brother’s place to drop off my gear. When I arrived, he started playing some songs by a band he’d just randomly heard while in a store earlier in the day. And so became my introduction to Class Actress.

As it turns out, I already had a track of theirs downloaded and, on my drive home from Chicago, I came across another of their songs via the “KEXP Song of the Day” podcast.

As far as my musical tastes go, Class Actress is on the fringe. They’re out there on the “might-be-a-little-too-electro-for-my-liking” periphery with such acts as The Presets, Golden Filter, Empire of the Sun and Cut Copy.

One music critic likened their sound to Madonna, Depeche Mode and Chairlift. I don’t know about the Madge comparison, but the latter two seem apt.

The group consists of vocalist Elizabeth Harper and producers Mark Richardson and Scott Rosenthal. Harper started out as a solo singer/songwriter but switched gears after hearing some of Richardson’s remixes of her songs.

The trio set up shop in Brooklyn and released a five-track EP, Journal of Ardency, on Feb. 9 on Terrible Records, the awesomely named new label run by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor.

Overall, the disc shows some definite potential, and I’m hopeful I’ll like whatever they put out next.

Here are my two favorite songs  …

Class Actress – Careful What You Say

May 16, 2010

27 – Two Door Cinema Club

Filed under: Northern Ireland, T — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, Two Door Cinema Club has been tearing up the blogosphere for the past year. As for my discovering of the group, chalk this one up to the classic “record store recommendation.”

While on a recent trip to Indianapolis (for an amazing Pearl Jam show), my friend and I happened upon Luna Music. When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by a wall of employee suggestions. As I scanned through them, one in particular caught my eye. I was sure I’d heard of Two Door Cinema Club at some point in the past couple of months, but I knew nothing about them. The description — which went something like, “band from Ireland channels the best of ’80s New Wave/synth pop” — was enough to sell me.

I don’t feel totally out of the loop, since the electro-indie duo from Northern Ireland only released their debut full-length album, Tourist History, in the U.S. on April 27.

Perusing the web, the one band that pops up the most in terms of comparison is Phoenix. It’s no wonder that TDCC remixed the French band’s song, “Lasso“, and also toured with them earlier this year.

To me, from the opening track, “Cigarettes in the Theatre”, I couldn’t help but compare them to the less-heralded VHS of Beta. The electro instrumentation that permeated the entire album sounded just like that of the latter band’s 2004 release, Night on Fire.

Other bands that came to mind at various points in the album included The Bravery, The Killers, Editors (briefly) and MGMT.

There isn’t one bad track on the disc, and there are several solid ones, including “Do You Want It All?”, “Something Good Can Work”, “I Can Talk”, “What You Know”, “You’re Not Stubborn” and the aforementioned opener.

My two favorite songs were “This Is the Life” and “Undercover Martyn”, one of the album’s three singles.

The group was supposed to make a tour stop in Chicago recently with Phoenix, but it was postponed because of travel delays caused by the volcanic ash hovering over Europe.

They promised to make up the missed shows, and, with any luck, I’ll be in the audience for one of them.

In the meantime, they’ve got a whole slew of songs on their MySpace page for you to listen to.

May 9, 2010

Outroversion threeplay #2

Filed under: F, NYC, Outroversion, Sweden, U — assman41 @ 6:01 am

Despite having not checked out the website as much lately, the Outroversion blog is still a gold mine for great new music. Here are three more bands I discovered through the site, including one I probably would rather not have.

UUVVWWZ

This band has pretentious written all over it. The first time I heard UUVVWWZ (pronounced “Double U … Double V … Double W … Z”), I thought it sounded like Belle & Sebastian or Stereolab fronted by a riot grrl. On second listen, it’s probably closer to Deerhoof, which, as far as I’m concerned, is not a good thing.

On its self-titled debut album that came out in July 2009, the band alternates between misguided and annoying. Lead singer Teal Gardner keeps getting in her own way. She and the band have the potential to make some decent music, but instead, she sings grating, bratty vocals over instruments that seem to have no clear path.

But to prove that listening to this album more than once wasn’t a total waste of time, I did sorta like the opening track.

UUVVWWZ – Berry Can

Fine Arts Showcase

One of many bands fronted by Gustaf Kjellvander, this Swedish outfit is unabashedly a post-punk band, through and through.

With Kjellvander channeling the vocal stylings of Ian Curtis and Peter Murphy, The Fine Arts Showcase encapsulate all the best qualities of the early goth sound — including the deep, haunting vocals and the heavy synth beats.

Formed in 2003, the band has churned out four full-length albums, most recently of which was last year’s Dolophine Smile.

Their whole catalog is pretty strong, but these are the first two songs I heard through the Outroversion blog, and they’re still my favorites, by far.

The Fine Arts Showcase – Chemical Girl

Freelance Whales

Of the three bands reviewed in this post, Freelance Whales is the only one I’ve seen mentioned by other sources. The New York City group experimented with a hodgepodge of instruments on this year’s debut album, Weathervanes, and in the end, produced a sound that conjured up Postal Service and Owl City.

What those two acts have in common is that one is a Ben Gibbard side project and the other just sounds like one. Freelance Whales falls into the latter category, creating an alternate universe in which Mr. Gibbard has taken up new instruments, such as the banjo, xylophone and tambourine.

This group is a definite must for anybody who’s still waiting on that never-gonna-happen Postal Service follow-up.

Freelance Whales – Starring

May 2, 2010

26 – Jupiter One

Filed under: Brooklyn, J — assman41 @ 6:01 am

The versatility of Jupiter One’s sound can make for a fun listen, but it also makes it tough to pin down an apt description of the band.

They sound like a mix of a lot of popular bands, but it’s difficult to pinpoint which ones. A good place to start might be The Killers and The Bravery, with a little Bloc Party thrown in for good measure.

The indie quintet from Brooklyn is grounded in pop-rock and leans heavily on keyboards and, to a lesser extent, the synthesizer.

Their self-titled debut, which came out in 2007, is loaded with catchy tunes — many of which have found their way into a slew of television, movie, commercial and video game soundtracks.

Some of the standout songs include “Countdown”, “Fire Away”, “Turn Up the Radio”, “Mystery Man” and “Platform Moon” — that last one definitely leans toward the electro sound of such bands as Empire of the Sun, The Presets and Cut Copy.

Considering the high marks of the introductory album, I expected nothing less from the follow-up, Sunshower, which dropped last year. Unfortunately, I was left rather disappointed.

Sunshower is definitely inferior to its predecessor. It’s a mix of stuff that just doesn’t live up to the awesomeness of the debut.

Sometimes, a band’s sound will only change a little from one album to the next. Other times, the contrast is much more stark. Jupiter One (which, by the way, took their name from the ship in the ’60s TV show “Lost In Space”) definitely falls into the latter.

Part of the problem is the wide range of influences the band tries to jam into one album. One second they’re channelling The Cars and Foo Fighters, the next they’re churning out some jazzy-rock that harkens back to the ’70s.

Admittedly, after giving it a second listen, Sunshower had grown on me a little. Part of my contempt is the fact that I put the first album on such a high pedestal that there was no way the band could live up to my lofty standards.

Some of the better songs on this one were “Come On”, “Lights Go Out” and “Volcano”.

You can listen to eight tracks, covering both albums, at their MySpace page.

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