Side A: Chris’ Picks
Side B: Todd’s Picks
(Chris and Sam both attended Riot Fest Chicago. Below you’ll find their takes. Sam’s is up first; you can jump to Chris’ by clicking here.)
I won’t bury the lead: I’d like to announce my retirement from the three-day music festival. I just don’t think I can do it anymore. My poor back and feet can no longer take it. And if I was on the fence, Mother Nature made sure I came to a decision right then and there at the beginning of Riot Fest 2014.
Friday was pure hell. It was butt cold and rained almost all day, making the next two days (which actually had pretty damn near-perfect weather) pretty insufferable, too, because of the mudpit it created throughout Humboldt Park. I ended up wearing the same pair of pants all three days of the festival because I didn’t feel the need to ruin a whole gaggle of clothes. Hey, I guess a cheap bottle of Old Spice Swagger actually DOES have some value.
And somehow someway, my shoes actually survived … but let’s pause and pay respect to the towels at the low budget Howard Johnson’s we stayed at that had to make the ultimate sacrifice for my feet. They will be missed.
I didn’t get to see Slayer (seriously, that sucked), the Dandy Warhols, or Cheap Trick. Same with the Flaming Lips. The set-up kept me from properly enjoying Tegan and Sara, Television, and Patti Smith. The curse of the festival: Not getting to see everyone you want. Ugh.
Plus, there was plenty to complain about logistically, as my compatriots and Riot Fest veterans Skeet, T-Dub, Seany, and Chris (not MoSS? Chris … I’ll call this Chris Mr. Cool from now on) continually reaffirmed to me all weekend long.
But if this is my festival swan song (and I have no reason to think it won’t be … in my seven straight years of Lollapaloozas and now Riot Fest, I’ve seen almost everything I can possibly think of), I think the music of Riot Fest 2014 will make it a proper send-off.
(I ain’t even touching The Cure, OK? My MoSS? cohort Chris camped out all 10 hours of Day 3 and was rewarded with a prime front row spot not only for his favorite band of all time but other sets by Superchunk, Tegan and Sara, and Patti. In addition, he spent more time on the stage’s big screen than Robert Smith himself. I’ll just let him tell that tale.)
Let’s not waste time here … MASTODON!!!
Riot Fest is pretty much known as a punk rock festival. And there’s plenty of punk rock I love. But I’m much more metal. I prefer killer riffs to anthemic choruses.
And when it comes to metal in 2014, it begins and ends with Mastodon. They’re the gold standard. Yes, there’s plenty of doom and gloom in their music. But with his jovial preening and crowd banter, bassist/co-frontman Troy Sanders showed that metal is super fucking fun, too. It reminded me of those old videos of Ozzy bouncing up and down with a shit-eating grin on his face while singing sinister songs like “Children of the Grave” and “Black Sabbath” in the California sun in the ’70s. And when lead guitarist/co-frontman Brent Hinds screeched the hook of “Blasteroid,” I would’ve needed plastic surgery to remove the shit-eating grin off of MY face.
And the riffs? Praise Jesus. The crowd went nuts when they tore into “Oblivion,” with the differing tempos and three different vocal sections (Sanders on the bridges, Hinds on the hooks, with drummer Brann Dailor tackling the verses ). It was just perfection across the board. The only thing that sucked is that they didn’t play longer.
Mastodon was my priority of the festival. Hands down. And they did not disappoint. In fact, all the shit on the opening day of the festival – the rain, the cold, the fucking mud, the smell, the congested walkways, the hampered VIP shit –was worth it, because Mastodon rocked my ass off.
Now the bad …
Hey, Riot Fest … fuck you!
Fuck you for making me choose between Slayer and Jane’s Addiction. Seriously, fuck you right in the ear.
In my life, I’ve seen them both an equal amount of times. So it became a question of hearing Reign In Blood start to finish or hearing Nothing’s Shocking start to finish. Both in my all-time top ten list. Not an easy choice. After Mastodon blew my doors off on the same stage, I was prepared to just stay put for Slayer. My hometown pals (and friends and colleagues of MoSS?) Chris, Travis and Annie were already there and I would’ve had a kick-ass spot. But because of the getting-home scenarios with my travelmates in the shitty weather and my unfamiliarity with the area, I ventured back to the other side of the park to find them for Jane’s … just as Slayer took the stage and tore into “Disciple.” I cursed under my breath the whole way over there like a kid with Tourette’s.
Jane’s? Yeah, they sounded great. Love that album. I could see them every day and never get sick of them. That said, I wish I would’ve stayed for Slayer … especially since my festmates took off without me anyway and left me in the middle of nowhere with no previous frame of reference for getting back to the hotel. But just as I was venturing into a pretty sketchy part of Chicago looking for solutions (I was probably a half a block away from getting my throat slit for 25 cents), I serendipitously ran into Annie, Travis and Chris again on the street in a crowd and we shared a cab back downtown. So yeah, guys, thanks for saving my ass. Drinks on me at Van Etten next month.
No seriously, Riot Fest … fuck you!!
For years, all I’ve heard about from my oft-returning friends is how much better Riot Fest is when you get VIP. Well, I got VIP the year they expanded to five stages and changed the layout. My pals were NOT pleased. In fact, they apologized to ME afterward.
Yeah, there were some perks. It helped to be able to take a piss without waiting in line. And I can’t front … the drink tickets were a plus. I’ll admit that. I got 12 drink tickets right off the bat, while the commoners had to spend $7 a beer all festival long. In fact, when I told Annie, Travis and Chris – who were serfs to my VIP – about the tickets, Annie did express some envy.
But for me, I bought VIP for sightlines. And there was nothing special about them. I had to stand out in the crowd with the cretins if I wanted even remotely a good spot for the bands.
Now, I did hear secondhand that if the weather had cooperated, there would have been a VIP path between stages avoiding all the congestion on the walkways that hampered everything. But those flooded almost immediately on Friday and were never opened. And I’ll never know if this also applied to the spots to stand and watch, too.
So, Riot Fest, I’m sure you meant well, but that’s did me no good. So suck it.
The best part of the weather and the mud pit, besides the smell and piles of destroyed shoes, of course? Everybody spent all of Saturday and Sunday under siege by bees. I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie. It’s a miracle I never got stung.
OK, now the music …
After 15 years, the Dubs are finally off the hook
In 1999, I bought a ticket to see Face To Face at First Avenue in Minneapolis. It was back when I was a working a grueling schedule as a high school sports reporter and hadn’t had a day off in weeks. I needed this. Bought a ticket. Told my boys T-Dub and Skeet, who were also going. It was all set up. Except it wasn’t, because the assholes went without me. To this day, they swear we never had that conversation. They should know better than to test my memory, but whatever.
Well, after waiting a generation, I finally saw Face To Face on Saturday. Dare I say, it was worth the wait. You see, I like my punk rock heavy. A lot of it is actually quite bright and a little thin, which gets covered up by hooks that get shouted and chanted endlessly. But Face To Face’s riffs can be a little dirty. Crunchy. They speak my language. Two of my favorite punk records – Don’t Turn Away and Big Choice – are both Face To Face records. Fifteen years after I got left behind, I finally got to see “Disconnected” live.
So I forgive you, Dubs. Don’t let it happen again.
When it comes to punk rock, the Brits still do it best
I started the festival with the Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast. Excellent. On Saturday, I watched the Buzzcocks, from England. Very strong. Caught a solo set by Paul Weller of The Jam. I was hoping for more old Jam songs, but it was still a solid outing. Hell, I even caught London vets Cock Sparrer while I was waiting for the Descendents. They were still super tight. I’m telling you: don’t fuck with our motherland, everybody. They’ve still got it.
Oh, there’s some great new punk rock, too
Check out the Menzingers. And PUP. For sure. PUP’s riffing had some serious balls. Highly recommended.
The ‘90s was the greatest era of rock ever, and it was well represented
Just because the surviving giants like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails weren’t there, Riot Fest found a few bands for the fans seeking some nostalgia. I caught a fantastic set by cult faves Superchunk with Chris (at the top of his Cure campout – I still don’t know if he made it through the day without eating, drinking, or peeing, as that stage filled up almost immediately after I left. If he did, kudos). I somehow missed the Dandy Warhols (sad face), but have it on good authority they were on point.
And even the rap was better in the ‘90s? Proof in point: Wu-TANG, Wu-TANG. The RZA was holding court on Saturday, yo. And with them, I’ve been lucky enough to see the majority of the Mount Rushmore of my rap fandom live, joining Public Enemy, Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest (it’s impossible to see NWA without Eazy-E, so Ice Cube, I’m coming for ya).
On Friday, with rain and mud becoming a real issue, I was still unfamiliar with the layout of the park. There was no fucking way I was jeopardizing my shot at seeing Mastodon so I took the time to walk the routes. By doing that, I caught a few songs by Clutch (bottom heavy yet hook-y … a good combo), bookended on both sides by a few songs by Failure, a band I was never that familiar with before but I found myself really kind of enjoying them. Pretty damn heavy, technical, drony, almost prog. I found myself kinda wanting to check out their stuff when I got home. But they might not have been the right fit for that snotty, punky Riot Fest contingent. Speaking of which …
NOFX? Yeah, those guys are dicks
Failure wasn’t finished for more than five seconds on the Riot Stage when NOFX took the neighboring Roots Stage and frontman Fat Mike started berating the shit out of them for sucking. In fact, they wasted a ton of their set with stage banter insulting the crowd and the other bands on the bill, managing to fit their seminal 1994 album Punk In Drublic around it (I haven’t been able to confirm from anyone if they actually played the whole thing as they were supposed to as part of the festival’s “10 Essential Albums” series). But apparently being dicks is their thing, because their fans eat it up (believe me when I say I have decades of experience gathering intel on this matter), so more power to them.
I took off early to get my spot for Mastodon, but I did hear that when they went were in danger of going over their allotted time and told they only had time for one more song, they launched into “The Decline” – yeah, the song that’s its own EP, clocking in at over 18 minutes. When they got cut off early, Fat Mike announced “you’re the first people to hear three-fourths of ‘The Decline.’ See ya later.”
Yeah, with stunts like that, I can see why punks love them.
The other white whale I caught? DESCENDENTS!!!
The first two albums I bought as a University of Iowa student? One was M.O.D.’s U.S.A. for M.O.D. – undoubtedly the best album ever recorded that contain the lyrics “What a fucking beast/Her ass alone would be a feast.” The other was the Descendents’ incredible retrospective Somery. Played it endlessly. Probably my favorite piece of punk rock of all time.
Never got the chance to see them live before. Until Saturday.
As part of the “10 Essential Albums” series … I mean, when I think of the concept of hearing a band play one of its albums from start to finish, my brain expects to hear something like Dark Side of the Moon. Well, the SoCal veterans played their 1982 debut Milo Goes To College. We’re talking about “Myage.” “Suburban Home.” “Bikeage.” Those are some heavy hitters.
But still, yeah, it took all of about 20 minutes. You know what? Not a problem.
Because in reality, it felt like they tore through the majority of Somery. I can’t think of anything I wanted to hear but didn’t (well, except “Sour Grapes,” I guess). I got “Clean Sheets.” “Silly Girl.” “Weinerschnitzel.” “Get The Time.” I was happy.
And they actually sound lo-fi live. That’s not an insult, by the way. Actually, quite the compliment. They were fucking awesome.
A post script that must be documented for generations to come…
My friends? Can drink. A lot. Like Vikings, in fact. That’s selling them short, actually. I mean, you know the tales of Vikings pounding stein after stein of mead at the Festival of the Vernal Equinox? Yeah, well, my boys make those Vikings look like 14-year-old girls trying wine coolers for the first time at a high school kegger.
When we got to town on Thursday, we went out for a quick cocktail to start the weekend. Or so I thought, until the bartender brought us a tab 90 minutes later for $280, a Herculean effort in day drinking … and it was only Thursday. In what can only be described as a truly heroic intake of cocktails, Mr. Cool inhaled 12 Miller Lites the way normal people inhale … I don’t know, oxygen? Needed to be seen to be believed.
And T-Dub? He was Don Draper in a pair of Vans with his partaking of the Old Fashioneds . But I think Mr. Draper, the pussy, would’ve needed Mrs. Blankenship to hold his calls all day afterward as he napped on his office couch. For Dub, it was just Friday.
Hey, we were on vacation!
Fueled up the Equinox. Hit Iowa City. Grabbed pear cider for Denise, my favorite Chicago host; she doesn’t consume gluten, hence the fancy pear juice. Picked up Travis, Annie, and a guy we’ll call, um, “Roger”. Listened to Descendents. Annie hated it, or perhaps just my singing. Avoided the traffic by rolling into Chicago at 2 a.m. Crashed for a few hours. Met Denise for lunch, ate my weight in tortilla chips. Rode in a cab driven by a guy named Lemmy. He ripped us off AND he listened to Backstreet Boys; obviously not the Lemmy of “Ace of Spades” fame.
Rain. Not heavy, but its persistence was characteristic of Chinese water torture. But not nearly as tortuous as the douche canoe behind us as we lined up to get beer tickets. Guy turned a Clash song into his own personal protest song. (“Beer riot! A beer riot! Beer riot! Riot for some beer!”) Yes, I’ve written out the lyrics; no, you can’t understand the fullness of the suck unless you were there. But go ahead, imagine how stupid it sounded. Annie and I played rock/paper/scissors to see who got to kill him, or we should have. Beer selection also sucked. Dos Equis Amber is the best you can do? Or Newcastle Brown Ale? Is an IPA too hipster and/or passe these days? But hey no PBR so hooray.
This was HEAVY FUCKING METAL DAY. So why not start with Gwar. But not too close; I was wearing a snazzy button-down shirt and didn’t feel like wearing “my” poncho to fend off the blood. (“My” is in quotes because it was a borrowed poncho, and I’ll just leave it at that.) Those guys are funny, even if they killed a Robert Smith parody. If the real Robert was on stage, those goofballs wouldn’t step to him, I GUARANTEE IT.
Clutch played next. Think my dad would have dug their set. Seriously. Bluesy, definitely his speed. If you know my dad, you’ll know that I’m not dissing Clutch. They weren’t incredible or anything, but good stuff.
Rain coming harder. Mastodon coming hardest. HOLY SHIT those guys were great. Owned the stage. And we had good spots. Common theme on Friday. Not sure if it was the rain or the workday or the shorter schedule but it wasn’t terribly crowded. This would change.
Biggest conflict of the festival was upon us: Slayer vs. Jane’s Addiction. I hadn’t seen either one before (unless you count Porno for Pyros, but that would be silly). Both were playing landmark albums front-to-back. But this was HEAVY FUCKING METAL DAY, and this was Slayer, and this was Reign in Blood, so really it wasn’t as tough as it first seemed on paper.
Slayer played the song that my wife LOOOOOOOOVES, “Disciple.” Sarcasm, of course. She once yelled at me for listening to it. “On a Sunday, no less!” Hilarious. God hates us all. Played a few more choice tracks, including “War Ensemble,” which made me think of Sam’s air-guitar antics at our first post-college job in M-Town. Kerry King ain’t got shit on Sambob. Then “Angel of Death” to “Raining Blood,” in one fell swoop. Travis and I provided great vocal accompaniment. There’s only one way out of here…PIECEBYPIECE! DO YOU WANNA DIE?!? I HAVE YET ONLY JUST BEGUN TO TAKE YOUR FUCKING LIFE! (devil horn hand gesture!!!!) One person in front of us commented how cute we were or something. Not very metal of her.
The music ends. The line for taxis begins. The rain continues. The cold gets colder. Taxis don’t come for 45 minutes or so before we finally started walking in search of a ride, which we found eight blocks away on Damen. But the wait was divine intervention, perhaps, as we reconvened with Sam and got him back to his hotel safe and sound (unless the cabbie did something impure/unseemly to Sam after we got out). Food run to nearby Walgreens. Muddy footwear left in the hallway. My socks were quarantined to a pocket of my suitcase. Jeans in rough shape but they’re going back on tomorrow. First day done. Fuck yeah.
(My gang hung together for most of Friday, although Denise missed the rainy day entirely thanks to being a responsible job holder and all that. So not much third-person post-script this time. I will say this of our pre-festival shopping trip: H&M has reasonably priced apparel.)
Denise with us today; no more of that work stuff for her. More direct cab ride to Division. Found some good breakfast eats (read: chocolate chip pancakes) a few blocks from the park. Arrived at Humboldt to find a line longer than Bill Ennis-Inge’s junk (too obscure?) and a lot of bees. Annie and I would duke it out all weekend long to see who would deliver the best bee puns. I would say I won Saturday. Orderly punks seems odd and it didn’t last forever; eventually we swarmed the gates. We missed the Pizza Underground due to the wait. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but I would have taken a free slice from Macaulay Culkin.
7 Seconds in a swamp of mud: pretty cool. Buzzcocks on more steady ground: awesome. Television while chilling under some trees about 100 yards from the stage: relaxing.
Left the punk scene and headed over to Riot Stage. Die Antwoord. I’d previously only thought of them in terms of gimmicky nonsense; now I think they’re a lot of fun, at least live. Freaky but I liked them a lot. Still, those haircuts are fucked.
Jeans were struggling at this point. Grabbed some sliders and nachos and found a quite area to feast. Went back to Riot/Roots stage area to watch Wu Tang Clan, who still claim they are nothin’ to fuck wit. I might beg to differ. I mean, I wouldn’t step to them, but the music is not beyond reproach. Left after a few songs, leaving Denise alone to later get dragged through the mud during Metric by some crazed kid. Bag contents strewn about the mud. Figures the one HUGE Metric fan would have to run by D.
I wanted front-row action for Descendents. Sat through the last few songs of Get Up Kids, then swam upstream against the fleeing flock of emo kids to get a spot on right side of stage. Cock Sparrer played on nearby stage; not bad. Milo comes out with backpack, ready to go back to college.
Band spends first 20-some minutes playing Milo Goes to College. Then knocks out probably 15 more songs after that. I sang damn near every word while holding on for dear life. Hadn’t been in crowd action like that in many a year. Couldn’t breathe against the gate a couple of times, still sang my heart out. Inner nerd came flying out with fist pumps galore. “I’m not a cool guy anymore//As if I ever was before.” Milo even came down to the rail so that the fans could sing; found the mic in my face. What fun. Got quite a workout passing crowd surfers over rail to security staff. Felt half my age in the moment but twice my age by night’s end/the next morning…sore as hell. Hardly any voice left; so what.
Despite that, I still sounded better than Danzig did with Samhain, which immediately followed Descendents on nearby stage. Fucker was out of breath by second song, even though he wasn’t being smashed against iron by a crowd of hundreds. They were horrible.
Learned our lesson about waiting around Humboldt for a cab. Walked down Division, grabbed huge slices of pizza, found a cab. Damen is the place to find a cab in that area. Got to Denise’s, threw away jeans. Put on different pants. Annie, Travis, and I hit a bar near Denise’s apartment, first stopping to get some cash and discuss the amazing nature of palindromes. Annie kept referencing “racecar” while I helpfully added “boob” and “tit.” Jukebox was rockin some country…until I played Slayer’s “Postmortem.” One guy across the way nodded in approval. Drunk ladies seemed oblivious. One such lady soon found the floor. I went to play more Slayer but some dude had put in 16 credits and was going to town picking Van Morrison tunes—an upgrade from Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon,” I suppose, but that seemed to be our cue to GTFO. Back to Denise’s to crash. Second pair of socks quarantined. Still had manic energy from Descendents set but somehow fell asleep. That’s one comfy ass egg cushion on Denise’s sofa sleeper.
(Stuff I missed: everyone else was raving about Flaming Lips; the fact that the power went out early just added to the legendary moment. Travis and Annie got a cool selfie with Wayne in bubble above them. Roger agreed with my Samhain summation: sucked. Annie had a good day catching Orwells, Dandy Warhols, and Tokyo Police Club. Wish I could have worked in Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas.)
No one was worried about arriving too early. Slept in, grabbed delicious burger at Parlor, which just opened two days prior. Annie built an insurmountable lead in the “bee pun” game; one landed in her mimosa and she quickly observed, “That bee’s sure getting a buzz.” GAME OVER, although she made some other comment later about making a bee-line for something, piling on for good measure. Cabbie was playing King Sunny Ade and Bob Marley on way to Humboldt; our best taxi soundtrack yet. Punks learned to say “fuck waiting in line” or else we just got there late enough that most people were already in the park. Took a piss and prepared for my endurance test. Went over to Riot Stage, where the Cure would be playing to close out the fest, and caught Kurt Vile and the Violators. Set got over around 2:15, I plowed my way to the front rail. I would be staying there until the Cure played the final note of the set at 10:00. No food, no water, no bathroom break. Mind over body. I was about 25 feet from where Robert Smith would be standing so it was mission accomplished as far as I was concerned.
And it’s not like I just stood there staring at walls for the next five hours. I had great views of Superchunk (fun as hell) and Tegan and Sara (really great set) and Patti Smith (surpassed my expectations). When our stage was quiet, the nearby stage featured the music of Billy Bragg, Naked Raygun, Dropkick Murphys, and Social Distortion (who played a few minutes long and fucked up the Cure’s encore…more on that later). Sam hung out with me during Superchunk and I was surrounded by friendly Cure diehards—I wasn’t the only one willing to sit tight for the entire day. The woman on my right was surprised to learn I was going to stay there through the Cure; she figured with my Paddy cap and Donnelly’s Pub t-shirt, I would be sprinting over to Dropkick Murphys.
I counted five people hauled out of the crowd after passing out for one reason or another. The first one happened right at my feet during Tegan and Sara. Security couldn’t quite reach him, and seeing as many a member of the T&S audience belong to the small teenage female demographic, I had to do some serious heavy lifting to get the guy over the gate. Once again I felt it was proper to chalk it up as even more exercise.
Patti Smith was encouraging an overthrow of pretty much everything in between her rockin’ renditions of her tunes. I was more impressed with the ferocity of her music than the rally cries but whatever. She was not afraid to be confrontational with songs like “Rock n Roll Nigger.” I went into the set thinking it would be an interesting novelty act but I was genuinely impressed. Denise was not impressed. AT ALL. She had worked her way up, getting within about two or three “rows” of me at the front, but the diehards were not letting her through, even after I confirmed that she was with me. I was bummed, but at the same time, I get it.
Cure was supposed to go on at 7:45 but fucking Social D was still playing. They went over by five minutes. Not a big deal, one might say, but it was to us. Anyway, Social D shuts the fuck up finally, fog machine in high gear, intro music from the Wish era comes over speakers, the lads come out, and I swear to fucking god Robert locks eyes with me momentarily and gives me a hint of a nod. I know I sound 14 instead of 40 with that sentence but it’s an honest assessment of the moment so I’m sticking with it.
What is undisputed: I’m in the front row at a Cure show.
The first half of the set was really nice. “Open” led into “Fascination Street.” The latter is the one song I recorded on my phone; the video below will give you a glimpse of my view. And yeah, you can hear my finest Robert Smith singing voice on this vid.
One of my favorite “album tracks,” “Push” from The Head on the Door, was played fourth, followed by the sing-along keyboard line in “Play for Today” and the simple-yet-ominous tones of “A Forest.” As you can hear around 10:22 of the embedded video below, I unleashed a timely scream of “SIMON!!!!” just before he plays the closing notes of “A Forest.” I knew I gave it a good belt, confirmed by being picked up by some other guy’s video.
Simon Gallup is age-defying; at 54 he has more energy than rockers half his age. It’s no wonder I once named my cat after him, because he rules. (So did my cat…RIP.)
The second half of the set featured a few of the overly poppy songs that I enjoy (“Close to Me,” “The Walk”) and some that I could do without (“Mint Car,” “Friday I’m in Love”) but it’s a festival so there’s no sense brooding about not hearing 23 deep cuts. And truth be told, the pop songs are quite good but just not my favorite side of the Cure. But toward the end we got “One Hundred Years,” which is as punishing as pretty much anything played throughout the festival.
So the band finishes “End” right at 10:00. Robert says thank you (or, you know, “Q!”) and then looks at us and shrugs and walks off. Photo of the setlist reveals that they were going to come back out and play a one-song, four-minute encore: “Give Me It,” a great song from The Top that would have satisfied the diehards, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, fucking Social D had to run long and fuck it up, since Chicago has a very strict noise ordinance that cuts off the music at 10:00. Lot of whining from fans around me, mainly because they didn’t get to hear “Boys Don’t Cry,” which it turns out they weren’t going to play anyway. Ha. Still, while not the perfect setlist, the performance was top-notch and my front row spot was amazing. Worth not consuming or excreting anything for eight hours.
Stopped at the same pizza joint from the night before. Left my knapsack there…goodbye awesome gray Paddy cap. Would have cost three times the retail value to take a cab there and back, as I only realized the loss once we were back at Denise’s. Third pair of socks quarantined. Lou Mitchell’s breakfast in the morning before returning to our Iowa reality.
(Stuff I missed: the gang applauded Primus. Annie and Denise enjoyed Weezer. Denise HATED Patti Smith—did I mention that already? It needs to be noted twice. HATED HER. Dropkick Murphys made people happy.)
My top 5 of the weekend:
5. Die Antwoord
2. The Cure
Honorable mention to Buzzcocks and Patti Smith.
If this mega-sized version of Riot Fest irons out some wrinkles (the park layout was horrible; a couple of scheduling conflicts seemed unforgivable), I think I’d go to this as long as I’m physically able (and as long as my wife keeps letting me go to these things). Maybe I can make it long enough that The Next Generation could go with me…a dad can dream.
I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a 39 year old hetero male and I friggin’ love Tegan and Sara. Their last 3 albums are ranked right up there with some of my favorites of all time. Sainthood made my top 100 albums list and Heartthrob topped my best of 2013 list. Honestly, I had never really considered my enjoyment of them to be something to feel ashamed of. I just liked their music without thoughts to their sexual orientation, the main demographic of their fan base or how any of it does or doesn’t effect me. They produce songs about universal themes of life, love, and loss that anyone should connect with.
At a recent concert, one of my fellow concert goers gave me shit about my high regard for T&S and called into question my musical taste in general.
Concert Goer: “I don’t trust your opinion. You like Tegan and Sara.”
MoSS? Todd: “What? You don’t like them? Really? Come on, they’re great.”
Concert Goer: “No, I’m not a sexually confused teenage girl.”
MoSS? Todd: “What what what? I’m like the exact opposite of that and I love them.”
Concert Goer: “They suck”
MoSS? Todd: “Yeah well……You suck”
Well you get the point. I like Tegan and Sara and any of you paying attention over the last few years of MoSS? posts will know I am kind of obsessed with Prince. What does that little tidbit of info have to do with anything you ask? Well, a few months back, Tegan and Sara announced a summer tour and one of the stops would be at First Avenue in Minneapolis, a venue made famous by Prince and the movie Purple Rain. I’ve seen that movie a million times and have always wanted to see a show there. It was definitely in my top 5 “Concert Venue to Visit” checklist along with CBGBs unfortunately now defunct, Red Rocks in Colorado for the amazing scenery, The Metro in Chicago due to the Smashing Pumpkins association and The Whisky A-Go-Go because ROCK!!!
So you can understand my excitement when I saw Tegan and Sara were playing at First Avenue. For the second concert ticket purchase in a row I was able to score 4 pre-sale tickets so I could assure entry. The owners of the other three tickets would be Mrs. MoSS? Todd and our friends that have expertly served as concert support crew for many shows written about here like the 2012 Pygmalion Festival Best Coast show and last summer’s Fleetwood Mac tour.
We had everything planned out perfectly for the day of the show. Hit the Mall of America for part of the day, head downtown and check into our hotel which was conveniently located approximately 50 feet from First Avenue, grab some pre-show food and drinks then head to the show. It all went without a hitch until the U.S. World Cup Soccer Team threw a wrench into our schedule. One of my support crew member made the excellent recommendation that we go to the legendary Gluek’s Restaurant and Bar for pre-show sustenance (This place is really cool. Good food, good beer and the place has been open for like 80 years and hasn’t changed much since then. It’s like a time warp. If we had a bar like it where I live I’d go there everyday like Norm from Cheers.) We purposely got there in time to grab a table near a T.V. so we could watch the match. Team USA played at 5PM and doors for the show opened at 7:30. We thought we’d watch as much of the match as possible then hop into the line at First Avenue and get a good spot to watch Tegan and Sara. Little did we know that this would be such an exciting match. With the scored tied 1-1 late there was no way we were making it to doors in time. Miraculously,late in the match, Team USA scored with a beautiful header from a corner kick. GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!! U.S.A….U.S.A.
After the excitement wore off, we headed over to First Avenue. Since we were late for doors the place was a little full but the ladies in our group weren’t dissuaded. They beat a path through the crowd while the guys purchased beers. I will say that one of the benefits of going to a show where the attendees are predominantly of the LGBT community is that most of the crowd is shorter than me. We were about 10 feet from the stage and I had an unobstructed view. My 5’2” wife could even see perfectly and this is usually not the case in general admission.
The first opener was Vancouver indie pop trio The Courtneys. I really enjoyed the set. Their music has an old school early ‘90s lo-fi feel to it and I’m always impressed when the band’s drummer is the lead singer too. Check out one of their videos below.
The second opener was the electro-pop group My Midnight Heart. Lead singer Angelica Allen has a powerhouse voice and she really showed it off during their set. I found them to be pretty similar to the group Blood Orange whose album I really enjoyed last year.
As good at My Midnight Heat were, we were all getting pretty antsy for Tegan and Sara to get up there. To soothe our anxieties we knocked back a couple of our smuggled in booze shots, grabbed another Miller tall boy and before we knew it, it was show time.
The crowd erupted as the sisters Quin started the set off with “Goodbye, Goodbye” (strange choice for the opening song) and followed that up with 3 more upbeat numbers from their most recent album Heartthrob. It was a great way to start the show because the crowd never stopped being engaged even when they changed the tempo in the middle of the set with songs from their older less danceable albums.
This was probably my favorite part of the show. They played my personal favorites from 2007’s The Con “Back in Your Head” and “Nineteen.” Then, I lost my voice singing along to a cluster of songs from the 2009 album Sainthood, “Sentimental Tune”, “Alligator” and “On Directing”, also personal favorites from that album.
They ended the first set with their most successful single (it actually hit #1 on the U.S. Dance Charts), “Closer.” This would have been a more than satisfying ending to a fantastic show but we all knew they weren’t through yet. After a brief break, Tegan and Sara came back up for three more tunes. The first two were from their own catalog, a rearranged version of “Call It Off” and an older song, ‘Living Room”, from the 2003 album If It Was You. The final song of the night was a super-synthed-up and shimmery cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door”. They dedicated it to the crowd as a thank you. No need to thank us ladies, all we did was sit back and enjoy a stellar show. As per usual, my video of the event was horrible so I found this clip of the closing number from a few weeks back.
Bonus Concert Coverage:
Check out these photos of a semi-inebriated and excited MoSS? Todd posing by his favorite band’s stars at the First Avenue wall of fame.
#1: Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob
They did it! Heartthrob has done what the sisters Quin’s previous 2 excellent releases, The Con and Sainthood, could not do. Break the #2 curse. That’s right. Both of those records were tabbed as my #2 favorite for their respective years. What an accomplishment! Congrats, ladies.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention to my list this year, you may have noticed something of a trend. It’s chock full of sister acts. Along with Tegan and Sara are Lily and Madeleine, Bleached, Haim, and the sisters from Waxahatchee and Swearin’. The ladies from Deap Vally and Savages could probably be thrown into that bunch as well.
Was this a coincidence or a deliberate “anti-bro band” response? Not familiar with term bro-band? Here is the definition from the urban dictionary.
Bro-Band: An expansion of jock-rock which is the male parallel to the boy band; any music that causes “Bros” to enter a state of wild abandon, swinging their arms violently, spilling beer and lip-syncing every lyric perfectly, essentially causing them to act like club-girls.
Examples of Bro-Bands include but are not limited to: Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews, Mumford and Sons, James Blunt, O.A.R., and others.
You definitely don’t see any bro-bands on my list. As a matter of fact, all those bands pretty much suck. As for the the previous question…
Coincidence or Anti-Bro crusade?
While I strongly dislike the Bro-Band genre, I respect everyone’s right to fill their ear holes with whatever music they want. Even shit laden bro songs. I will file this year’s sister act love under happy coincidence.
Now back to the Tegan and Sara album Heartthrob. This time around the ladies changed up their style quite a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to their new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Then, I realized that hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. While listening to this record I can imagine each of the song being played in the old tried and true Tegan and Sara folk-rock format. And while I’m sure that album would have been good, it just wouldn’t have been as interesting as the way this version of Heartthrob turned out. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it.
#1: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
What an odd coincidence. Just like Todd with Tegan and Sara, I had given Vampire Weekend #2 honors with their previous two albums before awarding top honors to Modern Vampires of the City this time around. While previous years saw roadblocks in the form of Portishead (2008) and Crystal Castles (2010), no one could stop the VW from achieving top honors, even though 2013 has proven to be most excellent, far deeper than either ’08 or ’10.
From the minute I heard them play “Unbelievers” on Kimmel (around Halloween of 2012) I knew to set my expectations high. They were met. The songs are incredibly tight, varied in sound, inventive. I love the upbeat, drum-pounding, bass-popping, pitch-altering workout that is “Diane Young.” The dreamy synths and funky swing of “Everlasting Arms.” The fast strumming and soaring chorus of “Worship You.” The screams of “If I can’t trust you then dammit Hannah!” and the piano accents on “Hannah Hunt.” The excellent drumming showcase and the frenetic keyboards (and funny vocals, truth be told) of “Finger Back.” Frankly, I could list the drum work on nearly every track as a highlight. Chris Tomson is fast becoming one of my favorite drummers of all time. Watch your back, Jimmy Chamberlin!
The real standout here, on this album or any album in 2013, is “Step.” Brilliant lyrics, equal parts introspective and clever, augmented by piano, strings, a chorus of human voice synth, and a very simple rhythm section that doesn’t distract from Ezra’s lyrics/vocals. There’s something beautiful and haunting about this song; I think I first noticed the latter quality once my son started singing along to the song in the car. To hear a seven-year-old boy sing with all seriousness, “I feel it in my bones” and “I can’t do it alone,” hammers home and somewhat parallels the wide-eyed delivery of fears and longings sung by a relatively young Ezra Koenig. It’s one of those songs that makes me wonder how long it took to create the piece and how exactly did it all fall into place?
This is a front-to-back masterpiece from a band that has had its shit together from Day One. Ezra sings in “Step” that “wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it for youth.” Seeing as the band has released just three albums, with an upward trajectory with each release, it’s fair to say they have wisdom AND youth.
P.S.: Go see these guys in concert.
Fun fact: My top three albums of 2013 featured black-and-white images. (FUN FACT!)
At the beginning of June, many music sites started posting their “Best Albums of the Year So Far” lists. They considered June 1st the perfect time do so. It being the halfway point of the year and all. Well, we here at Music or Space Shuttle? actually own and know how to operate a calendar. Bear with me here, I’m going to do some math. You see, there are actually twelve months in a year. The halfway point would be after six months. That would make the the end of June or early July the perfect time for a “Best Albums of the Year So Far” list. Enough snark. Let’s get to the list!
Deap Vally, Get Deap! EP – Get Deap! is probably my biggest guilty pleasure record this year. The rock duo’s EP is four songs of dirty guitars, screaming vocals and questionable feminine hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing hard on the both of them. They’re like a cross between PJ Harvey, The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. Hoping they come to the area for a live show soon. I may just run away with them. –T
Key Track(s) – “Lies”, “Gonna Make My Own Money”
Ducktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last prior to the release and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They were in Iowa City in April and put on a great show. Chris wrote about it here. -T
Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”
My Bloody Valentine, m b v – What was almost as unbelievable as the release of a new My Bloody Valentine album is the fact that somehow it was not an absolute letdown. In fact, it was brilliant. The first three songs sound like a natural continuation of Loveless. The middle third reminds me of stuff the band released on the various EPs from 1988 to 1991. And the final third showed where the band could go if it damn well wanted: jungle beats, devilish swirls of guitar, soaring synths. A longer examination of an instant classic can be found in a post from February. –C
Key track(s) – “in another way,” “wonder 2”
Palma Violets, 180 – When I hear hype surrounding bands like Arctic Monkeys or the Vaccines or the like, I give their records a spin and often come away disappointed. This isn’t at all what I thought I would hear! Yet when I listened to a band that lacked the “next big thing” tag, one called Palma Violets, lo and behold, there it was! 180 is the album I’d always thought I’d hear from the buzz bands. “No-frills” rock, but punctuated with a charismatic singer and nice use of keyboard among the garage rock sounds. I’m starting to rethink my declaration of seeing Wild Belle instead of these guys at Lolla. –C
Key track: “Best of Friends”
Rhye, Woman – Reminiscent of The Weeknd in a couple of ways: one, is the singer a guy or a girl (answer: guy); two, regardless, this is really freakin’ great. Slinky, sexy, smooth as silk. “The Fall” is a vocal treasure, while “Last Dance” parts the smoky haze of the record for a few minutes to allow for moments of upbeat groove. While the vocals are natural to pair with slow and low tempo, it’s the juxtaposition of the emotion against the more up-tempo instrumentation that keep this collection from coming off as one-note. The comparisons to Sade and the xx are fair both in terms of similar sound and similar quality. –C
Key track: “The Fall”
Savages, Silence Yourself – The savage (ahem) rumble of the drums and bass is what does it for me when it comes to Savages’ music. Of course, that alone isn’t going to get the job done, and thankfully the vocals and guitar work provide sharp contrast. That’s not to say the drumming is some sort of sloppy, tribal, Meg White-kind of stuff (which I like as well, in that context); Fay Milton snaps off precise snare hits and provides a tight, fast backbone. Anyway, this is what you get when you get four people dedicated to art but aren’t afraid to also make tight, listenable songs in the process. –C
Key track(s): “Shut Up”
Sigur Ros, Kveikur – I love that one of the coolest, heaviest records of the year was created by three dudes from Iceland, including the pixie-like Jonsi. It’s not like the band had to reinvent itself to sound this way; songs from the early albums have been intense, bordering on metallic at times. Even on the relatively chill album ( ), they showed they could deconstruct into harsh madness (“Untitled 8,” anyone?). As one reviewer put it, perhaps Georg (bass) and Orri (drums) were sick of never getting any credit, and just went buck wild on all our asses. It worked. –C
Key track: “Brennisteinn”
Small Black, Limits of Desire – I had big hopes for this album after loving their first full length album New Chain and subsequent Moon Killer MixTape. After the first listen, I was less than impressed. Maybe it was their bizarre album cover. Maybe it was because the chillwave vibes of the first album were mostly gone and what was left was mainly a synth pop record. It took a few additional listens for me to remember, “I f’ing love synth pop records!” -T
Key Track(s) – “No Stranger”
Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob – This one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my overall Best of 2013 list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it. -T
Key Track(s) – “How Come You Don’t Want Me”, “Closer”
Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin – Let’s say Tame Impala had a love-child band with one of those garage rock groups you might find on an old Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation. Sounds as dreamy as chocolate and peanut butter coming together, no? Thee Oh Sees pretty much sounds like the spawn of the aforementioned scenario, doing its thing at an incredibly prolific rate, to boot. Floating Coffin seems like their fourth album in three years–probably because it is!–and each output continues to satisfy. Not only is there energy galore in the tunes, you won’t find a much better use of the vocal weapons “Whoooo!” and “Owwwwww!” anywhere. –C
Key track: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”
Torres, Torres – I know I’m supposed to use these single paragraphs to sing the praises of our favorite albums thus far in 2013, but with Torres, I’m having trouble pinpointing. Perhaps it’s the way her voice melts throughout the opening song, “Mother Earth, Father God.” Or the lyric “Honey, while you were ashing in your coffee, I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me” on “Honey.” Or how there is a sinister element to her songs. Or how the chorus just falls out of her mouth so wonderfully on “Jealousy and I.” Or that someone named Mackenzie Scott decided, “You know what? I’m going to go by the moniker ‘Torres’!” (shrug) Oh, look what I just did. I guess it’s all pretty great. –C
Key track: “Jealousy and I”
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – This might be the year that Vampire Weekend finally drops its bridesmaid status on my end-of-year lists and moves up one slot to the top. (Finished second to Portishead in 2008; Crystal Castles in 2010.) The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. The esoteric lyrics are still here, but the most moving words come on “Step,” where Ezra declares “I feel it in my bones” and “I can’t do it alone.” –C
Key track(s): Pretty much all of them
Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee is the solo project of songwriter Katie Crutchfield and is for the most part very simple. One vocal, one guitar and occasionally some drums. The songs ebb and flow from soft acoustic to droning distortion filled guitars and her vocals float effortlessly overtop all of them. I started listening to Cerulean Salt a few weeks after the new My Bloody Valentine record was released. Like anything else that was released post m b v, I assumed I would be over it quickly and back listening to the masters of shoegaze. I was wrong. I was stuck on this album almost as long as I was on m b v. It was tough picking a “key track” for this one because this is one of those rare records that I find all the songs to be equally as good. Take a listen to “Peace and Quiet” below and judge for yourself. -T
Key Track(s) – “Peace and Quiet”
When I made that impulse buy, the Sunday ticket for Lollapalooza 2013, I was swayed by a couple of factors. One, my friend Travis Who Isn’t the Beast was going; the morning the one-day tickets went on sale, we were both waking in Chicago the day after the Sigur Ros show. He egged me on, and I was still riding the live-music high provided by the Icelandic trio. So without checking with the missus, I bought a ticket via smartphone. I’m a pushover. (As a result, I’m also probably taking the family to Chicago for the weekend, as it happens.)
Second, the killer roster, headlined by the Cure, my all-time favorites. I haven’t seen them in 13 years…it’s time. Vampire Weekend, Beach House, and Tegan & Sara also jumped off the poster. Looking at the artists and paying no mind to the logistics of stage placement and prominence, I envisioned a dream day as follows:
Now that the schedule is out and logistics come into play, here’s what I’m looking at:
VW is the huge omission, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it unless I want to sacrifice Cure position. VW will play before Phoenix on the other side of the park; Grizzly Bear precedes the Cure. That’s a bit of a nut-punch (I don’t get the Grizzly Bear love), but I am seeing VW in October, so I can live with this.
(However, I am considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to see if I can bribe Grizzly Bear to switch stages with Vampire Weekend. I might even match every dollar pledged to the cause. Check MoSS? regularly for updates.)
DIIV also falls off the list, which is a bummer, but they are playing much later in the day than I would have anticipated, so I don’t want to move too much at this point. I might be able to sneak off to Palma Violets between Guards (whom I’ve seen up close and personal, opening for Cults back in 2011) and Wild Belle.
All in all, I’m happy. I must admit, my Vampire Weekend tickets for the Kansas City show make this a much easier pill to swallow. But I’ve been getting a kick out of all the people whining on social media about the various conflicts. Like how in the world could you put Nine Inch Nails against the Killers? Or why are Mumford and Sons going up against The Postal Service?
It should come as no surprise that the day’s two headliners would be pitted on opposite ends of the park. And really, is there much debate as to which band you should see, assuming you can maneuver around the park as you wish?
If you need help making a choice, you’re in luck: I’m here to help. I’ll address some of the conflicts I’ve seen discussed on Facebook…
First off, why is Jessie Ware playing so early? 1:00 is the best she could pull?
Band of Horses vs. Crystal Castles (4:15): A bunch of wusses who make decent tunes against the manic energy of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass. Even though I fear their sound doesn’t translate well live, I’m still going with Crystal Castles.
New Order vs. Queens of the Stone Age (6:15): “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Age of Consent” and on and on and on vs. the guy whose best work (to my ear) is the stuff he did with John Paul Jones. New Order
Nine Inch Nails vs. the Killers (vs. Lana Del Rey?) (headliners): The worst tracks on The Downward Spiral would easily make the cut against the Killers. And LOLa Del Rey…come on. Nine Inch Nails
SATURDAY (a.k.a. “Bro Day”)
Heartless Bastards (6:00)/Death Grips (7:15) vs. The National (6:00) vs. Kendrick Lamar (6:45) vs. the Lumineers (7:15): Duh. The National
Mumford and Sons vs. the Postal Service vs. Azealia Banks vs. Steve Aoki (headliners): Duh. Get some sleep at the hotel
Palma Violets (1:00) vs. the Orwells (1:00) vs. Wild Belle (1:30): I like what I’ve heard of Palma Violets, but not quite as much as Wild Belle. Orwells are third, but not meant as an insult. Wild Belle
Lianne La Havas (3:00) vs. MS MR (3:30) vs. Baroness (3:30): Baroness might provide some much-needed testosterone, and MS MR is cool as shit. I’m going with La Havas just to stay in one area, but if everything were equal…MS MR
Grizzly Bear (6:00) vs. Vampire Weekend (6:30): Overrated vs. Hypeworthy. Modern Vampires of the City came out today; I’ve listened to it at least six times all the way through since waking this morning. The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. Seriously need to consider that Kickstarter/stage swap idea. Vampire Weekend
The Cure vs. Phoenix (headliners): Of course I’m going to say the Cure. How Phoenix headlines over Vampire Weekend baffles me, so I’m not even going to consider recommending the former against Robert Smith & Co. The Cure is sounding fantastic live with former Bowie guitar man Reeves Gabrels in the fold, and Simon Gallup is still the coolest guy in music.
If you’re going to Lolla, or even if you’re not, I’d like to hear the tough choices you’d make.
Here at MoSS? we care about our readers. We know finding good new music can be a challenge. Lord knows you don’t hear it on the radio these days. Against my better judgment, I turned on the local rock station the other day and what do you think they were playing? Buckcherry. That’s right, Buck-fucking-cherry. It’s like regular “over the airwaves” radio is stuck in some early 2000s black hole that it can’t escape. So anyway, as a service to you loyal readers we’ll be sharing some music that “You Should Be Listening To.” Yes, we will still be doing the monthly mixes but we only get 5 songs each and sometimes that’s just not enough. Also, these posts will be mainly aimed at LPs/EPs and not singles. So pay attention. We don’t want you wandering around aimlessly listening to shitty music now do we?
January 2013 has been a pretty good month for music. Normally, January is a very slow time for new music. Also, early in the year releases can be a tough for an artist with designs on landing on my uber-prestigious best of year list. In the last few years, there have been some early releases that I loved. Examples: Frankie Rose, Interstellar in 2012 , and Cut Copy, Zonoscope in 2011. Both are great records and were my favorite of there respective years for quite awhile do to the lack of competition. Unfortunately, I burned them out and was so sick of them by year’s end that they both struggled to crack the top 10 on my list. Maybe some of this January’s releases will fair better with so much more competition for air play.
Earlier in the month, we had a few interesting releases by:
Free Energy, Love Sign – Just plain old good time rock. I heard them described once as “Trans-Am Rock”…seems fitting. Wish I could have made it to their show last weekend at RIBCO. Heard it was good. Maybe next time around.
Key Track(s) – “Electric Fever” ,“Girls Want Rock”
Lily and Madeleine, The Weight of the Globe EP – These girls are like 19 and 16 and can write and sing like this? I was just trying to figure out how to play an F-Chord at that age (I still fake it a bit on that one and use my thumb on the low E). Vocals sound a lot like the group First Aid Kit. Their songs kind of remind me of The Swell Season with their use of guitars and piano. Check out Lily and Madeleine’s Bandcamp page and think about supporting them with a purchase.
Key Track(s) – All five songs are good.
While those releases were good, today’s the day I’ve had circled on my calendar. Four albums came out today that have me excited:
Ducktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last week and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They are coming to Iowa City in April, may have to check out the show.
Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”
Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob – Much like Vampire Weekend’s upcoming album is likely to be Chris’ 2nd favorite album of the year, this one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it.
Key Track(s) – “Closer”, “Now I’m All Messed Up”
Local Natives, Hummingbird – iTunes streamed this record last week and I liked it right away. It’s not like much else out there today. Chris is way better at expressing in writing why a record is good. Usually, I just go by the feel of it. This one feels good to me. Some of the songs sound like long lost Jeff Buckley tunes so maybe that’s why.
Key Track(s) – “Breakers”, “Colombia”
Bleeding Rainbow, Yeah Right – Solid release that I haven’t had the chance to really dissect yet. They streamed it at Pitchfork last week but the Ducktails album made me forget about it. I was really looking forward to this one too. It was supposed to be out last October but they delayed the release. Usually, that’s not a good sign but I’ve listened to Yeah Right and liked what I heard. It’s definitely worth checking out if you like distortion filled shoegazey type stuff.
Key Track(s) – “Pink Ruff”
Can’t wait to see what next month brings us. It’s going to be hard to beat last year as Chris dubbed it the “Best February Ever”.
Seems like every website is putting together a guide for upcoming album releases in 2013. Why should MoSS? be any different? We aren’t going to bore you with an endless list of shitty albums coming out this year. Instead, we are just going to share a few of our most anticipated albums.
January is a big month for me because four albums I’ve been not so patiently waiting for are being released.
Free Energy, Lovesign [Free People]. This one’s a real guilty pleasure for me. The songs can be sort of cheesy but they are catchy as hell and these guys don’t try to be anything but straight up rock and roll.
Bleeding Rainbow, Yeah Right [Kanine]. The band formerly known as Reading Rainbow. I guess if you name your band after a beloved PBS children’s show, you can expect lawyers to come knocking at some point. Anyway, they are back with their 2nd LP. It was supposed to be released in October 2012 but was pushed back. I am hoping the delay wasn’t because the record sucks.
Local Natives, Hummingbird [Frenchkiss/Infectious]. Another group hoping to avoid a sophomore slump. I’ve heard two songs from it and both are pretty good. If the rest of the album is as good, then they should have a record of the year contender on their hands.
Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob [Warner]. I really loved the last two Tegan and Sara albums. The ladies released a single “Closer” from Heartthrob last fall and they revealed a much more dance/pop oriented sound. At first I hated it. Eventually, as my family (and its placement in my Top 10 Songs of 2012) can tell you , I wore that MP3 out.
There are a few albums I’m excited about being released this spring. The album I am most anxious for is…
Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse [Fat Possum]. I missed the boat way back in 2011. Youth Lagoon’s first LP, The Year of Hibernation, came across my desk at MoSS? HQ but I ignored it. Since then, I have listened to that record more often than several of my Top 10 of 2011 selections. Maybe this one will make the 2013 Top 10.
Other releases I’m hoping for…
Phoenix, TBA [Glassnote]
Neon Indian, TBA [Mexican Summer]
I Break Horses, TBA [Bella Union]
Small Black, TBA [Jagjaguwar]
Release I am always hoping for but will probably never happen…
Pixies, TBA [4AD]
I don’t know why I am buying into Kevin Shields’ promises anymore, but supposedly we are getting a new My Bloody Valentine album sometime soon. Of course, Shields said it would be out before calendar year 2012 concluded. And he’s said numerous times before that something would soon follow up the 1991 masterpiece Loveless. Yep, the 1991 album. But there seems to be some concrete talk this time. Bassist Debbie Googe spoke about the album, even though she made it sound as though Kevin is channeling his inner Billy Corgan and handling a lot of the instrumentation himself. And one of these times it has to be the real thing, right? So I’ve got this to look forward to…possibly all year long (and beyond).
Toro y Moi, Anything in Return (January 22). I really liked Causers of This but was slightly disappointed by the 2011 release Underneath the Pine. I’m hoping for a return to greatness with Anything in Return.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II (February 5). I loved UMO’s first album in 2011; here’s hoping album No. 2 is even better. Led Zeppelin and Crystal Castles set the bar pretty high for albums titled II, though (as did Chicago, for that matter).
Iceage, You’re Nothing (February 19). Another band that released a wonderful, economic debut in 2011. Frankly, if Iceage simply releases another 12-song, 24-minute blast of dark punk, I’ll be satisfied.
Junip, TBA (April 23). Jose Gonzalez never fails to deliver.
The Weeknd, TBA (?????). If you believe his Twitter feed, Abel is dropping a new album in 2013. I’m still a huge fan of House of Balloons and found the other two parts of Trilogy to be interesting at worst and quite excellent at times, so I’m in on more Weeknd.
Also, without comment:
The Joy Formidable, Wolf’s Law (January 22)
Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob (January 29)
Sally Shapiro, Somewhere Else (February 26)
Rhye, Woman (March 5)
Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia (March 19)
Side A: Todd’s Favorite Songs of 2012
1. Tanlines, “Brothers”
2. Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”
3. Grimes, “Oblivion”
4. Best Coast, “My Life”
5. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Baby”
6. Field Mouse, “Glass”
7. Frank Ocean, “Pyramids”
8. Wild Nothing, “Shadow”
9. Memoryhouse, “The Kids Were Wrong”
10. Tegan and Sara, “Closer”
Side B : Chris’ Favorite Songs of 2012
Crystal Castles, “Plague”
Earl Sweatshirt, “Chum”
First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”
Ke$ha, “Don’t Think Twice (It’s All Right)”
Rhye, “The Fall”
Sleigh Bells, “Comeback Kid”
The xx, “Swept Away”
Side A : Todd’s Picks
1. Tegan and Sara, “Closer”
2. Dan Deacon, “True Thrush”
3. Local Natives, “Breakers”
4. The Sea and Cake, “Harps”
5. Lower Dens, “Blue and Silver”
Side B : Chris’ Picks
1. Kate Boy, “Northern Lights”
2. Earl Sweatshirt, “Chum”
3. Hannah Georgas, “Enemies”
4. Black Moth Super Rainbow, “Psychic Love Damage”
5. Crystal Castles, “Child I Will Hurt You”