Infinite Shuffle

April 28, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: The Rural Alberta Advantage and Lord Huron

Filed under: Concert, L, R — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When: April 23, 2011

Where: Radio Radio (Indianapolis, Ind.)

Headliner: The Rural Alberta Advantage

Opening act: Lord Huron

All along, my friend, Drew, and I had been planning to go to the New Pornographers show on a Friday night, then just hang out in Indianapolis the following night.

But as fate would have it, while doing research for one of my latest posts, I saw that The Rural Alberta Advantage would be in town that weekend. Not only that, but they were touring with Lord Huron, one of the bands I’d discovered at SXSW.

Needless to say, I was quite giddy.

And as an added bonus, the venue was located just outside of downtown in the Fountain Square district, a couple of blocks from a Thai restaurant Drew was a fan of.

The neighborhood, itself, looks like it was at one time cool and has since been a little rundown. But judging from some of the businesses there, I feel like it is on the brink of a resurgence.

If it happens, Radio Radio will definitely be a key component. The place is on the small side, but not too small. There is a circle of cozy sofas located on either side of the entrance. Past those were the bar on one side and an ample amount of tables and stools on the other. Then there was the dance floor leading up to the stage.

There is no real “backstage.” The artists’ area isn’t linked from the stage, so band members have to walk through the crowd to get there. It all just adds to the cozy quality of the place.

Within a few minutes of our arrival, a couple of dudes, who looked nothing like the guys I saw in Austin, took the stage and started performing. The guitarist was solid, but their music was mostly boring. I have no clue what their name was, nor did I care. I was just worried there was another band out there named Lord Huron and I got the wrong one.

As it turned out, that was not the case.

Lord Huron

As I noted in my last post, Drew and I have pretty different musical tastes. So, when we discussed Lord Huron’s Mighty EP, it was no surprise when he described the title track — my favorite — as the most annoying one on the disc.

And much to Drew’s disgust, the band actually opened their set with “Mighty.” I found it surprising, as most bands will save their big single for later in the show.

But no biggie. It definitely grabbed the audience right off the bat and had it hooked from the onset.

I didn’t keep count, but they probably about five to seven songs. The one thing that really struck me was how different they seemed compared to when I saw them at SXSW.

I think it’s because during their Indy show, they stretched their songs out a lot more and did more jamming. That’s understandable, as they were on a pretty strict time limit in Austin and were probably just trying to play as many songs as they could in order to let the fans hear their sound.

The Rural Alberta Advantage

While I could only pick out one particular song of Lord Huron’s, I recognized nearly all of the tracks in The RAA’s set. I suppose that’s because I’d listened to their two albums about four or five times during the weeks leading up to the show.

And although I was mildly torn on the awesomeness of their most recent release, seeing the songs performed live erased any doubt as to whether it’s one of the best albums of the year so far.

From researching the band, I knew that all or most of the songs were based on growing up in rural Canada. But I guess I didn’t realize the extent until lead singer Nils Edenloff gave us some background details before playing a lot of the songs.

Nils Edenloff sings his heart out while Amy Cole (left) bangs the tambourine and Paul Banwatt (right) pounds the drums.

The band had just played in St. Louis the night before, when some powerful tornadoes ripped through the city and did some major damage, including to the airport. Edenloff brought that up as he introduced the song “Tornado 87”, which was written about a tornado.

Another song of theirs is based on a natural disaster as well. “Frank AB” is about a landslide in Frank, Alberta, that killed nearly 100 people in 1903.

My favorite song on their second album, “Barnes’ Yard”, came to Edenloff when he thought back to his days delivering newspapers and the yard of one of his subscribers, Mr. Barnes.

That song was the second of four that the band played during their encore, which was prompted not only by clapping and cheering but also foot stomping.

The final song of the evening, and the most rocking, was “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge”, which, as one might guess, alluded to an actual bridge.

The show was definitely a rollicking good time and is one that should be seen.

But just as great as the show, was the after-party that Drew and I took part in.

Epilogue

At a lot of shows I’ve been to, bands will hang out at the merchandise table after their set and sell their wares and greet fans. But on this night, the members of Lord Huron and The RAA did more hanging out and fraternizing than I was used to.

Drew and I naturally took advantage of this to talk to most of the guys — and girl — about their music and backgrounds.

Drew decided he’d give the members of Lord Huron a piece of his mind and let them know that they should stick to the more melodic and downtrodden stuff and get away from the island sound.

Thankfully, they took everything with a grain of salt and seemed to actually be amused by Drew. We proceeded to drink some more with the bands and followed them to a nearby bar.

The RAA left a little early — probably because of Drew’s creepy obsession with percussionist Amy Cole’s ear lobes.

But it was definitely a solid night and makes me want to try to get to know more of the bands I see in concert.

April 26, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: New Pornographers and The Walkmen

Filed under: Concert, N, W — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When: April 22, 2011

Where: The Vogue Theater (Indianapolis)

Headliner: New Pornographers

Opening act: The Walkmen

My friend, Drew, and I are both big music fans and we both have relatively eclectic tastes. But, for the most part, we don’t really overlap too much. He generally likes his music on the heavier, guitar-laden side, whereas I lean toward lighter fare.

But there are definitely plenty of acts where we see eye to eye — or would it be “hear ear to ear” — and nowhere more so than when it comes to the New Pornographers.

I’ve loved Neko Case ever since I saw her performing solo in 2006, and became a fan of the rest of the crew soon thereafter. Drew’s love of the band peaked after seeing them at a festival a few years ago, and his infatuation with Ms. Case would probably be labeled as unhealthy.

Nevertheless, when their tour schedule was announced in November, we quickly decided we needed book a trip for the Indianapolis show.

And it was definitely an added bonus to see that The Walkmen would be the opening act.

The Walkmen

When I first heard The Walkmen about seven years ago upon the release of their second album, Bows + Arrows, I deemed them another one of the many Strokes wannabes that were on the scene at the time.

But after a few more releases, I started to hear a definite Bob Dylan influence in the vocals — especially throughout A Hundred Miles Off.

After listening to their latest release, Lisbon, a few times, I detected a slight vibe of The National — most notably in the drums. That opinion was cemented after seeing them in concert.

Not only did the drummer — Matt Barrick, who was excellent by the way — remind of The National’s man on the skins, Bryan Devendorf, it quickly became apparent that the two bands are very similar in overall tone. They both play a lot of dark, sorrowful songs that dig into the listener’s soul. Even their more upbeat songs are still haunting lyrically.

As Drew noted before, during and after the show, about one-third of The Walkmen’s songs are boring and the rest are really good. We ended up getting a mix of both types during the band’s set, which was just shy of an hour long.

Personally, I find that The Walkmen’s songs sound a lot alike, so I can never really differentiate one from another. But I was able to pick out a few of their hits, including “The Rat”, “Donde Esta La Playa”, “Woe Is Me” and “Angela Surf City”.

The one thing I noted was that, for pretty much every song, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser waited a longer-than-usual amount of time before singing any lyrics. You can see for yourself in the above clip.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it allowed me to enjoy the solid instrumentation more than I normally would. It was just something that stood out to me.

Drew complained that they ended on the wrong song and should’ve finished on their second-to-last one. I agreed. Unfortunately, I don’t know the title of the last two songs, which might help clear things up a little.

All in all, it was a solid set. Leithauser had great energy during most of the songs and they managed to get my feet tapping and head bobbing on multiple occasions.

New Pornographers

I’d never properly seen Neko Case perform with the New Pornographers. Before last weekend, I’d seen the band twice — once at Pitchfork Music Festival and again at a venue in Chicago. The first time, I was pretty tired and slept through much of the set. The other time, Neko was not touring with the band.

So, needless to say, I was pretty excited to finally attend a real New Pornographers show. (OK, so Dan Bejar wasn’t there, but I’m still counting this.)

Immediately upon taking the stage, they displayed the stature to which they have ascended as they opened with a cover. It was Shocking Blue’s “Shocking You”, which I doubt more than a few in attendance actually recognized. (I certainly didn’t.)

Drew would later note that few bands can get away with such a stunt. Pearl Jam did something similar when we saw them last year and they opened with an acoustic tune.

They then proceeded to churn out songs from all throughout their catalogue, including such ditties as “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”, “Crash Years”, “Twin Cinema”, “Your Hands (Together)” and “The Bleeding Heart Show”, which ended the set.

I found an unofficial setlist online that seems pretty accurate from what I can recall. There’s some debate as to whether they actually played “Jackie, Dressed In Cobras” or not. A couple of people on that site think they did; Drew vehemently disagrees.

Anyway, they quickly returned for a three-song encore that started with my favorite tune of theirs, “Challengers”, the title track from their penultimate album. They sent the crowd home happy by closing with “Sing Me Spanish Techno”.

It was a great set from top to bottom. My only complaint was that Carl Newman’s vocals seemed somewhat muted. Also, Neko’s vocals stood out from time to time, but not quite as much as one might expect.

No matter. Still a great show.

April 24, 2011

Outroversion threeplay #3

Filed under: B, Dublin, Lake Worth Fla., Los Angeles, Outroversion, R — assman41 @ 12:01 am

In my latest installment of goodies that I found over at Simon’s site, I give you a band that needs to stop making music, another that already has and one that has yet to put out an official album.

Billy Boy On Poison

When you hear, “On My Way”, the opening track on Billy Boy On Poison‘s 2009 debut, Drama Queen Junkie, you’re immediately sent a few years back in time when the band Jet ever-so-briefly ruled the world.

Billy Boy On Poison – On My Way

However, just like their Australian counterparts, BBOP don’t have much staying power. It quickly becomes apparent that they are just a one-trick pony, churning out glam/garage-rock that conjures up thoughts of bands such as The Subways and Living Things.

Although this five-piece band hails from Los Angeles, at times you would swear that it was borne out of the same scene that begat British rockers the Arctic Monkeys and the Fratellis.

They do try to slow things down on occasion, and do so successfully on the introspective “4 Leaf Clover”. But, aside from a couple of good tracks, this album is a throw-away.

The group, which takes its name from a quote in A Clockwork Orange, is said to be working on a sophomore album. But if it’s anything like the first one, don’t waste your time on it.

The Rocking Horse Winner

I begin this entry on a sad note. After putting out two very solid albums at the turn of the century, The Rocking Horse Winner has since disbanded. But their music lives on, and I shall now attempt to describe it.

Fronted by the soft, angelic voice of Jolie Lindholm, TRHW sounded like a less-rocking Shirley Manson fronting Dashboard Confessional. In fact, Lindholm has sung on several of that emo band’s recordings.

Evoking memories of The Sundays in their heyday — and perhaps the Cranberries without the accent — TRHW deliver emotionally raw tunes that uplift rather than depress, like their emo brethren.

The Rocking Horse Winner – When Songbirds Sing

The Lake Worth, Fla., outfit formed out of the ruins of the band As Friends Rust. Lindholm joined as the vocalist and, after making a split demo, they released their debut State of Feeling Concentration in 2001. They put out Horizon the following spring, but within a couple of years, they had called it quits.

The various band members have since gone their separate ways. In fact, unsurprisingly, guitarist Henry Olmino is now touring with Dashboard Confessional.

Meanwhile, Lindholm is fronting a new band, Popvert, which released its second album in 2009.

You can still hear some The Rocking Horse Winner’s songs on their MySpace page.

And, on a sidenote, the band’s name is derived from the title of a short story by D.H. Lawrence. I actually had to read it in high school and watched the movie. It was an interesting one. You should check it out.

The Riot Tapes

It’s difficult to make a good comparison for The Riot Tapes, mostly because there aren’t any well-known acts out right now that sound like them.

This female-fronted pop-rock five-piece from Dublin are most similar to what you might’ve heard on the radio around the late ’90s and early Aughts.

That sound is most prevalent on their first single, “Photograph”, where they sound a lot like Garbage, with Elaine Doyle playing the role of Shirley Manson.

“Open Eyed Dreams” starts out slow, with Doyle baring her soul about a lost love — I think. And song ends with that late ’90s vibe.

That retro label isn’t meant as a bad thing. The Riot Tapes definitely have modern feel as well, especially on the more electro-based tracks “Sun Keeps Beating” and “Everything Is Local”

The Riot Tapes – Everything Is Local

As of yet, The Riot Tapes have only shared some demos online and have not yet put out an album, but when they do, it should be pretty solid.

You can hear six tracks, including a live one and a remix of “Photograph”, on their MySpace and Facebook pages.

April 17, 2011

66 – The Rural Alberta Advantage

Filed under: R, Toronto — assman41 @ 12:01 am

As I settled into my usual spot on the couch, preparing to finally give a proper listen to the music of The Rural Alberta Advantage, I quickly checked them out on Amazon.com. Scanning through the recommendations of similar albums, I took note of the inclusion of, among several newer discs, Neutral Milk Hotel’s magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

Immediately as soon as I heard “The Ballad of The RAA”, the first track on their 2008 debut, Hometowns, I could see that the NMH comparison was apt. Lead singer Nils Edenloff’s raw, emotional vocals sound hauntingly similar to those of former NMH frontman Jeff Mangum.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Ballad of The RAA

The first time listening to that album, as well as the band’s follow-up, Departing, which came out this past March, it’s hard not to focus on the similarities to NMH. But upon further listens, a much more complex and nuanced sound begins to emerge.

Based in Toronto (nope, not in Alberta) and made up of only three members — Edenloff on guitar, Amy Cole on backing vocals and keyboards and Paul Banwatt on drums — their sound is simple but surprisingly varied.

The RAA are at their best when they pump up the vocal harmonies and add layers of instrumentation. “Don’t Haunt This Place” is part mumbly shoegaze, part soft indie-pop. And on “Four Night Rider”, the vocal exchanges between Edenloff and Cole call to mind the best of The New Pornographers.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Don\’t Haunt This Place

While they are indie through and through, The RAA evoke thoughts of more mainstream bands, such as The Walkmen, The Hold Steady and The Strokes.

They’re also similar to The Avett Brothers in that they mix their sound and pace well throughout the album. They can go from rocking (“The Dethbridge to Lethbridge”) to folky (“The Air”) to slow and soft (“Sleep All Day”)

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Dethbridge in Lethbridge

Often on Hometowns, as Edenloff’s voice becomes more strained, he starts to sound like something of a reined-in version of Billy Corgan. You can hear it on tracks such as “Luciana”, “Frank AB” and “Edmonton”.

On their latest release, they smooth out some of the rough edges but continue to explore varied influences. The piano plays a more prominent role on this album, with several tracks calling to mind — for lack of a better phrase — a “VH1 sound.” The songs have hints of acts such as The Fray or Mat Kearney or some other group that is tailor-made for VH1 that I just can’t put my finger on.

Thankfully, that vibe isn’t too overbearing.

Lest you forget about that Neutral Milk Hotel influence, the opening track, “Two Lovers” thrusts it right back into your consciousness. Other standout tracks include “Muscle Relaxants”, which doesn’t quite sound like anything else on the album, “Tornado ’87”, which reminded me of Billy Corgan trying to front an alt-country band, and “Barnes’ Yard”, possibly the catchiest track on here.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Barnes\’ Yard

The album has been out less than two months, and I’m already clamoring for more from the band.

I just bought tickets to see them next weekend in Indianapolis. So that should quench my thirst for a little while.

Meanwhile, check out some more tracks from The RAA on their MySpace page.

April 10, 2011

65 – Yuck

Filed under: England, Y — assman41 @ 12:01 am

With the latest resurgence of the shoegaze and twee genres, there have been plenty of solid acts to rise to popularity. But, for the most part, those bands have been one-trick ponies, churning out albums full of songs that are all pretty much the same.

That’s what makes the band, Yuck, stand out. These four gents from London can not only stare at their kicks with the best of them, they can also crank it up and grind out their share of solid, distorted alt-rock.

Straddling the line between hard and soft, Yuck released their self-titled debut in February and officially marked their spot in the pantheon of fuzz-rock greatness.

From the opening chords of the first track, “Get Away”, the listener is immediately transported back to the early/mid-’90s — to a time when vocals were as much an instrument as a medium for conveying lyrical emotions.

Yuck – Get Away

Yuck’s music is, at the same time, familiar and new. Listening to this album will conjure up many bands from the past — most prominently, but not limited to, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Nada Surf, Yo La Tengo and Teenage Fan Club.

Admittedly, my knowledge of those bands is very basic and limited, but it’s not hard to hear their influence on Yuck. (Sidenote: If you’re interested in a much more profound and eloquent review of this album, go here.)

Yuck – Suicide Policeman

Other standout tracks include “Shook Down” (prominent female vocals with a ’90s college radio vibe), “Suck” (shoegaze with a post-punk feel), “Operation” and “Sunday”.

My favorite song is “Georgia”, which, in addition to the distorted guitars and vocals, includes some harmonies and a nice melody.

Yuck – Georgia

Barely a quarter of the way through 2011, Yuck is firmly entrenched, along with The Decemberists, in the discussion for album of the year honors.

April 3, 2011

SXSW 2011: Follow-up

Filed under: Austin, Lafayette La., Los Angeles, Nashville, SXSW — assman41 @ 5:24 pm

After the barrage of music I listened to leading up to and during SXSW, I sent my ears on hiatus for a little while afterward. Upon returning home, the only music I listened to for about a week and a half was whatever was on the radio during my commute to and from work.

Now that I’ve had plenty of time to recuperate, I’m back with a vengeance. I downloaded as much stuff as I could find from all the new bands I discovered in Austin and have been lying on my couch listening to it all for the past day or so.

Rather than putting them in any special order, I’ll just discuss the bands in the order that I listened to them.

The Civil Wars

As I noted in a previous post, The Civil Wars are just a man and a woman — John Paul White and Joy Williams — and they’re from East Nashville, Tenn., and Muscle Shoals, Ala., respectively.

They sing beautiful country harmonies over an acoustic guitar and an occasional violin. At times, Williams’ voice kinda reminded me of Alison Krauss.

All of the songs on their debut full-length album, Barton Hollow, are solid, but the title track is definitely the highlight.

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

GIVERS

I kinda regret missing these guys. This was the band that my friends saw while I was soaking up all the free food and beer I could while crashing a private party across the street from said show.

All of my friends said GIVERS was one of the best bands they saw during the week, and they’ve received a lot of positive post-festival reviews — including shout-outs from NPR and Time magazine.

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2060909_2060910_2060865,00.html

The quartet, which hails from Lafayette, La., plays very solid, indie-pop with an Afrobeat vibe reminiscent of Vampire Weekend and a little island flair.

GIVERS – Up Up Up

They put out a five-song EP in 2009 and will thankfully be releasing their debut LP next month.

Lord Huron

A perfect opening act for GIVERS would be Lord Huron. They sound a lot like the Fleet Foxes, but with a notable island twist.

Lord Huron – Mighty

The group is from Los Angeles, with roots in Michigan, and has put out a pair of EPs — 2009’s Into the Sun and last autumn’s Mighty. With only seven songs between to the two discs, they’re definitely leaving me wanting more.

I am most assuredly looking forward to their first full-length release, whenever that may be. In the meantime, maybe I’ll go see them when they pass through Chicago in May.

Zookeeper

I’ll be the first one to admit that Zookeeper really isn’t as good as I thought after seeing them live. Maybe it was the fever’s fault, but when I saw them the first night I was in Austin, I found myself transfixed by their music on multiple occasions.

I remember comparing them to acts such as The Band when I saw them live. But after listening to their album, Becoming All Things, that is no longer apt.

Really, I’d just call the Austin group a run-of-the-mill indie folk group.

Zookeeper – Boy & The Street Choir

The Lemurs

Speaking of my first night in Austin, it’s clear that the best band I saw that day was actually The Lemurs.

The hometown crew had the Ghost Room jumping with their surprisingly solid indie rock set.

They also mix in plenty of electronica and called to mind VHS or Beta a bit.

The Lemurs – My Definition

This comparison may be totally inane, but on at least one song, the vocals reminded me of a non-British Simon Le Bon.

I feel like these guys have the potential to breakout nationally.

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