Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Only Call It If You Need Me

November 20, 2009

I’m 100% positive that Jason Segel and I could be best buds. He’s one of my favorite Hollywood celebs, because he seems like a regular dude. Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared put him on my radar back in the day, with Forgetting Sarah Marshall and How I Met Your Mother eventually solidifying long-term trust in the actor.

As many know, I’m kind of a The Swell Season fanboy as well. Last night at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, a perfect storm emerged as the two joined forces to perform a new Jason Segel original inspired by advice from Marketa. Glen Hansard (another down-to-earth guy) has voiced his admiration for Freaks & Geeks on more than one occasion, so the collaboration makes perfect sense:

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As much as I would have loved to experience this moment firsthand, I’m still much happier with the show I was attending that night instead. Bruce literally played for over 3 hours without taking any breaks. Eight of those songs were Born to Run in its entirety. Plus, this happened.

Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore

September 23, 2009

60 years ago today, unquestionably the most important performer in my lifetime was born in Long Branch, NJ. The late Joe Strummer once said in a documentary that “Bruce is great and if you don’t agree with that, you’re a pretentious Martian from Venus.” He concluded by mentioning that “when the DJ puts on ‘Racing in the Streets’, life seems worth living again.” Although I may have issues with Joe’s choice of phrasing (nerd alert!), I couldn’t agree more.

Bruce knows how to connect — lyrically, rhythmically, personally. His honest themes mirror our own personal struggles while finding a way to inspire and instill hope. As much as I love discovering new music, Springsteen’s catalog is the only soundtrack I’ve truly needed.

His albums provide refuge to the stresses of entering adulthood, and his performances prove that live music still matters:

Happy Birthday, Bossman — I’d be lost without your music. While you may not be that young anymore, here’s to hoping there are still many years ahead. See you November 18th.

All the Colors Bleed Into One

September 17, 2009

I fell in love with U2 at a fairly young age in large thanks to my dad’s repeat plays of the arguably perfect Best of 1980-1990 on weekend trips to the lake. The “four Irish boys from Dublin” were instrumental in my early realization that rock music had the ability to transcend and, upon discovering the Rattle & Hum documentary years ago, I’ve been determined to experience them in person. Unfortunately for one reason or another, I’ve had to settle for DVDs and tapes for the past 15 years.

As recently publicized, my much anticipated wait finally ended last Saturday after the opening night of the North American 360 tour at Soldier Field. Suffice to say, I feel confident claiming that I’ll never attend a bigger show for the rest of my life:

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The video above doesn’t necessarily do the much-hyped stage justice, but I loved how Bono and Edge decided to cover Ben E. King at the end of the video. Spotting the top of “the claw” as we approached Soldier Field from Grant Park, I knew the stage was going to meet and exceed expectations. For a better grasp of the enormousness, take a look at these designer fun facts:

  • Designed to support 180 tons, the steel structure is 90 feet tall with center pylon reaching out 150 feet
  • Cylindrical video screen weighs 54 tons opening to 14,000 square feet (as big as 2 doubles tennis courts)
  • LCD video screen is made up of 1 million pieces (500,000 pixels, 320,000 fasteners, 30,000 cables, 150,000 machined pieces)
  • Takes 4 days to build and 12 hours to load in screen, stage, and universal production equipment
  • Takes 6 hours for production to dismantle stage and 48 hours to dismantle and load it out of the stadium

Referred to as “our spaceship,” the stage allowed the band to reach all corners of the stadium, thus eliminating the possibility of having a bad seat in house. I felt like I was on stage with the band instead of just another one of the 65,000 fans in attendance. Without a doubt, the band earned their “biggest band in the world” tag Saturday night.

As we stared and admired the stage monstrosity in front of us before the show, Christina asked if the night could potentially claim the top spot in my personal all-time favorite show list. While the production was certainly the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen, I can’t say that I felt as emotionally connected as I have at Springsteen shows.

That being said, U2 embraces their rock-star status and the live show further amplifies that image, so comparing them to Bruce is unfair. I will always be moved by U2’s powerful messages (especially up through Acthung Baby), and last Saturday night certainly felt like one I will never forget.

It Wasn’t Over, It Still Isn’t Over

September 7, 2009

I would have never guessed that a certain famous Hollywood actor was the band leader behind the following “Thriller”-esque teaser, but I’m intrigued for a variety of reasons:

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The creepy collaboration known as Dead Man’s Bones formed in 2005 after Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields met via mutual family interests; Gosling was dating my personal favorite Hollywood hottie while Shields was seeing her not-famous sister. Bonding over a shared love for all things scary, the two intended to write their own monster-ghost-love-story play, but scrapped production when costs became excessive.

Fortunately, the boys decided to continue with the play’s songs, which sound like what would happen if Roy Orbison decided to team up with Arcade Fire to make a Halloween doo-wop record:

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According to the band’s first interview with Pitchfork, the pair felt that keeping things as raw and real as possible was an integral part of the album’s creation. They chose to play all the instruments on the record, even those they had never touched before, in hopes of letting any imperfections highlight the strengths of the music.

To aid in capturing that sound, Dead Man’s Bones recruited the children’s choir of Silverlake Conservatory of Music to rehearse and record with once a week for several months. The “In the Room Where You Sleep” video below was filmed on their final day together:

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I’m comfortable in admitting that Ryan already had my respect after The Notebook, Half Nelson, and The Believer, but this musical project could take the admiration to another level. Although I’ve only seen the two live performances above, I’m anxious to hear the final release from the very respectable Anti Records come early October.

Seriously though…with sweet mustaches, sultry romances, and critical acclaim, what more does this man really need?

You Are Not Alone In This

September 1, 2009

Mumford & Sons are becoming close friends with my ears this year. Today I discovered another new tune titled “Timshel” courtesy of a MTV UK Session posted by a clutch college repping comprade. While unsuccessfully searching to find a point of purchase for the new ditty, I decided that I actually enjoy their live version from London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts even more than the MTV production:

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Apparently written after falling into the sea at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, the band played “Timshel” in essentially total darkness that (probably shadowy) March evening. Based on the song’s alleged inspiration, I give the stage concept two thumbs up.

At this point, I’m not sure if Mumford & Sons knows how to do anything less than epic. Like every other song from this band, “Timshel” makes me giddy for a proper full length release. If that mysterious date happens to fall in 2009, I have no doubt it will be a strong contender for Album of the Year.

One more thing — if you’re looking for four minutes of forceful foot stomping, check out the official video for “Little Lion Man” too.

My Desert Island, All-Time, Top 50 Songs

August 31, 2009

Much to my pleasure, I Guess I’m Floating recently posted their “Best Songs of the Decade” list. Considering their blog caters to the type of music crowd that judges the order of every pick, I liked how IGIF’s blogger explained that his selections were nothing more than “the fifty songs that meant the most” to him. In my opinion, all lists should be constructed in a similar autobiographical fashion:

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Reading IGIF’s list brought back some fond Old East memories. For a glorious two week period during our sophomore year, the third floor rediscovered its appreciation for 90s pop music. I’m fairly positive this love resulted from my discovery of the accessibility of Billboard’s annual Top 100. Revisiting Jon Secada, Mark Morrison, and Real McCoy reinvigorates the soul. Guilty pleasures blasted from dorm rooms and the majority of our dinners at Lenoir turned into heated debates over personal favorites from 1995. For every Boyz II Men supporter, there was an adament challenger proclaiming All 4 One’s superiority.

The pop music discussions led to many of us devising and distributing our own actual Top 20 Song lists. Out of curiosity, I went back and found my original list from that semester. Although damaging to my credibility, I thought the list would exemplify how much four years can change one’s preferences. Each pick had a winded explanation at the time, but I still don’t know what I was thinking on a lot of them.

For comparison’s sake, I decided to revisit the idea again. Even after years of priding myself on listening to music that you’ve never heard of, the updated list still confirms my underlying love for pop. As musically diverse as I’d like to think I am, strong melodies and emotive messages continue to trump the more obscure MP3s found on my iPod. Apparently, I’m a glass case and will never be able to escape the emo label I received for wearing band shirts as a Darkside rookie.

I guess I’m still a romantic at heart? Do I listen to pop music because I’m miserable? Or am I miserable because I listen to pop music?

I’m Going Crazy for September 12th

August 23, 2009

Hello, hello! Why am I going crazy for September 12th? I’m only asking, but I think you know. I’m finally finding what I’ve been looking for — experiencing the world’s biggest band live for the first time where the bright lights and the big city meet in Chi-town:

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Boy, I’m still disappointed about the mysterious way in which Bruce postponed the 10th to make me wait on a bed of nails until mid-November, but U2, with the accompaniment of my sweetest thing whom I want to be with night and day, should provide enough magnificent memories and prideful fist pumps in the name of love for that week’s worth of singing new songs.

If this 360 stage turns out to be half as awesome in person as it appears to be online, it’s going to be a beautiful day. I know I’m probably asking too much, certainly more than a lot, but thinking about it keeps me wide awake. I can’t close my eyes and make it go away. I’ve got no self control. I’m stuck in a moment and I can’t get out of it. Watching the live video isn’t better than the real thing, but for the next three weeks, it’s all I can do…


Things That Keep Me Calm

August 18, 2009

Glen Hansard can do no wrong in my eyes. A long-time Frames fan, ONCE and its subsequential U.S. tours only strengthened my love for the man. As one of the more avid music fans in my circle of friends, I often get probed in High Fidelity fashion, and I’m strongly convinced that my Swell Season concert experience at Meymandi Concert Hall with Mr. Neptune will forever remain in my “Top 5 All-Time Shows” list. I don’t know how Glen operates with such apparent ease, but every one of his performances feels intensely beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Glen and ONCE partner Marketa Irglova have a follow-up titled Strict Joy out on October 27th and the pair stopped by NPR’s D.C. headquarters to play for the “Tiny Desk Concert” series:

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For contextual purposes, the “Tiny Desk Concert” series invites musicians to play behind All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen’s small office desk. In preparation, NPR was to have a keyboard set up for Marketa to play next to Hansard’s antiquated acoustic guitar, but they quickly discovered the severity of their spacing issues. Thus, the duo’s performance essentially became Hansard and his guitar, with Irglova providing backup harmonies and the occasional improvised instrument. As seen above, this eleventh hour change only increased the concert’s overall sweetness level.

Furthermore, although the standard Tiny Desk set lasts three or four songs, Glen and Marketa played six new delights before performing the first-ever series encore with ONCE‘s “When Your Mind’s Made Up.” As expected, the new material sounded tasty, and I’m anxious to hear what each track will sound like with full instrumentation. Fortunately, the lovely studio version of “In These Arms” is already available:

You can also download the whole seven song live podcast on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts page. October 27th and another U.S. tour can’t come soon enough…

I Don’t Love You But I Always Will

July 26, 2009

My good friend Schafe flew in for the weekend to visit Nashville for the first time and, as expected, our reunion was memorable.  The weekend’s success can largely be attributed to Adam’s desire to experience live music in the Music City. Always looking to satisfy his concert desires,  I decided to take him to a show at the Mercy Lounge showcasing three native Nashvillests:  Trent Dabbs, Sarah Siskind, and The Civil Wars.

With Trent being the mastermind behind the fantastic Ten out of Tenn movement and Sarah garnering much blog attention from Bon Iver’s love for “Lovin’s For Fools”, I figured the evening and venue provided perfect representation for the local scene.

Without question, the opening duo stole the night though. The Civil Wars are a new collaboration between the adorable Joy Williams and fantastic John Paul White. Imagine an American version of The Swell Season, but arguably better. As a Glen Hansard fanatic, I hope this hefty comparison speaks volumes.

Joy and John’s harmonies were literally jawdropping, epitomizing the “sum is greater than its parts” adage. Case in point, take their live performance of “Poison & Wine” from Atlanta:

The duo was built for the stage, and fortunately, both seem aware of their biggest strength together. A side project of sorts, their only available offering is an incredible live show downloadable for free on their myspace page. The band enthusiastically promoted the pristinely mixed live album to last night’s crowd, excitedly announcing the recent surpassing of 10,000 downloads while requesting supporters to continue spreading the word.

Please take a listen:  the album’s clarity could easily pass as an actual release in stores and I promise it won’t disappoint.  In search for criticism, the only elements missing from Live at Eddie’s Attic are the corresponding visual element exhibiting the duo’s charismatic stage presence and their standout take on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” from last night’s show.

If you like what you hear, pass along the link and be sure to support Joy in the upcoming third installment of the Ten Out of Tenn tour.

No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer

June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson

I coincidentally turned on CNN right after their initial discovery of the hospitalization early this afternoon.  In the hours following, I’ve received dozens of text messages from friends apologizing for potentially “breaking the news” of the death of one of the most important musicians of my childhood.

Succinctly, Michael Jackson introduced me to pop music.  He ironically led me out of a life soundtracked with nursery and Disney rhymes into a world of dance beats and catchy melodies.  One of my most vivid early memories is the day my dad surprised me with my first ever cassette tape (Dangerous) the night before our move to Pennsylvania. Unaccustomed to receiving gifts on any date that wasn’t my birthday or Christmas, I happily spent the rest of my lonely summer in a new home blasting “Black or White” from my bedroom in a similar fashion to the single’s comedic introduction. That summer marked the first of many relocations accompanied by specific albums to pull me through a new transition.

Dangerous opened the door to Bad and Thriller and Off the Wall, and acquainted me with a MTV and VH1 that still believed in music videos. Listening to “Man in the Mirror” as a second grader showed that pop music can have a stronger social message.  “P.Y.T.” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” provided quintessential shower singing tunes, while watching “Smooth Criminal” videos and “Billie Jean” Motown 25 performances made me wish I had better moves:

As confirmations of his passing dominoed across media outlets, I realized that today would be one of those cultural moments I’d remember the rest of my life as many before me will never forget December 8, 1980. I strongly doubt there will ever be another international superstar of his magnitude.

I don’t care whether it’s cool to like him these days.  Regardless of the disturbing personal/legal problems that have overshadowed his image the past decade, Jackson will always be the King to me and his significance cannot be denied. After spending essentially his entire life under constant public scrunity, I’m happy and hopeful that Michael can finally rest in peace.  Thanks for the memories, Mr. Jackson.