Archive for May, 2009

Robin Foster – Life is Elsewhere Review

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed post-rock on our site, and that doesn’t go without reason. I think solely focusing on post-rock undermined my love and passion for it…in fact, I went several months without listening to post-rock of any sort. I was a little upset about having to miss the Mogwai show this month, but being introduced to a whole new wave of great post-rock music makes it all better. Robin Foster is a post-rock artist hailing from France, who has facilitated my ‘resumption’ of reviewing said genre.

Life is Elsewhere was released last year, along with the release of the single, “Goodnight & God Bless.” Both have been very well received. It is a very ethereal album that conjures up images of fast-paced city nights and post-apocalypse. I suppose because it is borderline trance, packed with ambient and electronic influences. The titles sort of represent this as well, in my opinion–“Last Exit/Brest By Night” and “Blue Lights At Dusk” as a couple of examples. And while we’re on the topic of titles, there are a few pop cultural references on this album–“Down (by law)” in reference to the 1986 movie and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” to the Philip K. Dick novel.

Although the majority of the album is blatantly post-rock, there are some vocals in this album (“Goodnight & God Bless” and “Down (by law)”), which to me, takes away the ‘post-rock’ feeling and makes it sound more like a pop rock song, since it does take most focus. Some post-rock bands that do have vocals in their songs (Gregor Samsa and Mogwai to name a few), but I think that the difference between Robin and these bands are the fact that he enunciates well. You can barely make out the mumbles of Mogwai, and the instrumentation is far too powering over the vocals in Gregor Samsa’s music, so that they essentially become part of the instrumentation. I don’t think this really such a flaw in the album as a whole, but it is one thing that stood out for me.

If you like pg.lost, The American Dollar, and God is an Astronaut, you probably will enjoy Life is Elsewhere for its ethereal dreaminess. It’s very electronic-based, with electronic percussions, airy synths, and melodic clean electric guitars. The melodies are mostly driven by the guitar, with lots of layered synths over. Often, the percussions are distorted, giving off a mechanical, post-apocalyptic feel. The weave of all layers proves how well the album is produced–it’s very intricate and well thought out.

Life is Elsewhere is an amazing post-rock album that stays true to post-rock themes, but adds its own umph, without coming off as too verbose or unoriginal. I look forward to Robin Foster’s upcoming album, which according to his MySpace, is coming out to be something “post dance rock.” Also interesting to note is that Robin interviewed Mogwai, which I’m looking forward to read when it gets up online. I’m definitely recommending Life is Elsewhere to post-rock fans who want to dig into an album that is still true to the genre, but adds its own voice. I think Robin Foster has a lot of success coming his way (he even has one of his songs, “Blue Lights At Dusk” featured in a 2008 Hugo Boss commercial–click here to see).

Robin Foster – Disco Ouessant
Robin Foster – Life Is Elsewhere
Robin Foster – Loop

Wavves – Breakdown Due To Drugs or Lame Excuses?

Full disclosure here, we (or I) was not a fan of Wavves’ Wavves which we publicly lambasted to surprisingly some praise from commentators. There are a few great reviews for their album and some poor ones. I’ve found that while there are some who will call the album good/great there’s about 5 times as many hating on the album. Rightfully so as Wavves is probably more potential then talent which leads to their breakdown at the Pitchfork Stage in Barcelona, Spain at the Primavera Festival.

From Ryan Schreiber, founder of Pitchfork himself:

From the moment they took the stage, the duo was clearly not in any kind of mood to be playing to a potentially adoring crowd […]. While the audience– riding high on colossal sets from Phoenix, My Bloody Valentine, and Aphex Twin on alternate stages– grew increasingly impatient, singer/guitarist Nathan Williams fumbled through a disastrous soundcheck, alternately bickering with drummer Ryan Ulsh, complaining at the sound guy, and confusing the three components of their setup (drums, guitar, and vocals) on the monitors.

Still unsatisfied more than 15 minutes into their scheduled 2:20 a.m. set time, Nathan finally succumbed to shouts from the restless crowd and began lifelessly strumming his guitar in what appeared to be totally random chord progressions. As drummer Ryan struggled in vain to find a tempo for Nathan’s seasick improvisation, the music slowly turned into a half-speed […]

After five minutes of directionless strumming and arbitrary snare hits, Nathan dodged the evening’s first bottle and decided to wind the aimless tune to an abrupt close. Then, rubbing his hands against his face, he declared in annoyed resignation, “All right, hi everybody, we’re Wavves,” […]

Nathan began ineptly mocking the crowd (“Ooooooh, I’m on ecstasy!”), going off at length about his preference for California over Spain, and eventually telling them the festival was “one of the coolest things we’ve been part of in a while,” dripping with sarcasm. Finally, fed up with Nathan’s petulant behavior, Ryan ran out from behind his drumkit and poured a full cup of beer over Nathan’s head. The act would be met with their most enthusiastic applause of the evening.

At 3:00 a.m. sharp, having dodged their share of bottles and even a shoe, the show mercifully came to a screeching halt: Ryan ran offstage, throwing his drumsticks at Nathan. Infuriated, Nathan screamed into the mic, “Come back here, motherfucker, we’re not done yet!” Immediately, stage crew appeared, breaking down Ryan’s kit. “Fuck!” Nathan shouted, “Stop doing that!” They didn’t, so Nathan decided the show must go on. Helplessly, he strummed his guitar again, clearly intent on playing another song. But as he stepped back to the mic, he realized it had been cut. As the crowd booed, the house lights came up, and a defeated Nathan Williams threw his hands up and left, along with the few remaining attendees.

Not surprisingly Wavves canceled the next tour date. As much as it was funny to read, I’d probably wouldn’t wish this on any other band. Wavves seemed to be riding on the hype machine that Pitchfork perpetuated, having Wavves headline a stage in front of many better acts, it’s almost funny to see this one hit Pitchfork right back in the face. (They labeled the story gossip and many people were talking about it before they finally published something).

Still not going into solitary, Nathan wrote an EVEN more hilarious blog post – which has now been deleted:

I think in the back of my head I knew I wasn’t exactly mentally healthy enough to continue to tour the way I have been since February. Honest truth is this has all happened so fast and I feel like the weight of it has been building for months now with what seems like a never ending touring and press schedule which includes absolutely zero time to myself. I’m sorry to everyone who has put effort into this and to everyone who supported me. Mixing ecstasy valium and xanax before having to play in front of thousands of people was one of the more poor decisions I’ve made(duh) and I realize my drinking has been a problem now for a good period of time. Nothing else I can do but apologize to everyone that has been affected by my poor decision making. I made a mistake. Not the first mistake I’ve made and it for sure wont be the last. I’m human. Don’t know why I chose the biggest platform I could imagine to loose (sic) my shit, but that’s life.

Apparently he was on Ecstasy, Valium, Xanax and mixing it with alcohol. Which on a serious note, is very dangerous. For some reason I don’t believe him, most accounts say he was mocking the crowd by suggesting he was on E (see above). Even then, his drug related issues don’t address the issues within his band. His band member embarrassed/down right humiliated him in front of 1000s. Whether or not Nathan narc’d himself or not is hardly the point.

Ryan Ulsh hasn’t come out with a statement that he was on drugs and thus lashed out at a band member. Obviously it’s something deeper than that. While I try not to wish anything negative on indie bands, Wavves was riding a wave (lame pun) of success that I felt was unearned and most people hoped they would come back to earth and they probably hit rock bottom here.

There’s obviously much more to this set of news, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is A) a lineup change soon. B) Total cancellation of their European tour. For Wavves, no news is the best news.

Fiery Crash by Andrew Bird
Addicted To Drugs by Kaiser Chiefs
So Bored by Wavves

Mother Mother – O My Heart

A lot of bands today are getting to be very extravagant, spending a far chunk of their time adding in as many instruments as possible. Which can be fine, but frankly its more impressive if a band can make a unique sound using only the basics, and if there is any band that can do this it’s Mother Mother.

Mother Mother’s sophomore album O My Heart may be one of the most intriguing albums I’ve heard in a long time. It differs a lot from their first album Touch Up, but they both have a similar feel to them. Touch Up was much more acoustic, with O My heart focusing more on the whole of the band. The songs are all based on three part harmonies, which are mixed together beautifully. Lead singer Ryan Guldemond usually takes the main lines while the two female vocalists will harmonize occasionally taking lead parts through out the songs. The vocals alone are reason enough to check out the album, but the instrumentation remains amazingly interesting as well; with songs ranging from being based on simple chord structures, heavy riffs or complex countryesque guitar.

Mother Mother sound like The Pixies would today if they got along really well with each other and then never broke up (please excuse how pretentious that description was). The songs often are focused more on the vocals rather then actual lyrics, but there has a certain charm to it. Take for example Hayloft, the lyrics tell a simple story of a couple having sex in a barn and the girl’s dad walks in with a shotgun. It’s just a simple story but it’s much better than anyone trying to come up with clever way to write the same love story over and over.

I cannot recommend this album, or this band more. It’s a shame that these guys have been relatively overlooked, as they are doing more interesting things than nearly anything that’s being made right now.

Mother Mother – O My Heart
Mother Mother – Hayloft
Mother Mother – Wrecking Ball

Saturday Night Remix Party: Retro

After scouring the internet, I’ve been able to come across a lot of remixes of songs from my childhood – the music you either hate to love, or love to hate. A great amount of mixed emotion came into play as I put together this collection of redone “classics”.

The 80’s has always been a questionable time for music in some people’s eyes and sometimes passed off as a joke, but this decade was full of musical surprises. Whether you like it or not, musical advancements were definitely made and without a doubt, a culture was created – minus the clothes and hair.

Which brings me to a point on a more personal note…. Kids: please put the leggings, Cosby sweaters, Max Headroom sunglasses, Magnum P.I mustaches and anything neon away. Adults: burn these items if you still have them, do not send them off to Value Village to re-live their not-so glorious days. I had to go through that fashion disaster once and to see those things come back rips a part of my soul open. Cyndi Lauper and Boy George should never be looked to as fashion icons. If you really want to celebrate something from that time, bring back Fraggle Rock and ThunderCats, God dammit!

Rant, done. Sorry about that.

Maybe these new installments of the old songs can tear away any ill feelings some may have against this time in musical history, maybe they’ll just leave you wanting to hide back in the originals, or just hide all together… Either way, there’s no denying that these songs in some way shaped what we listen to today, for better or worse. You be the judge.

The Outfield – Your Love (Toy Selectah Remix)
A Ha – Take On Me (Twelves Remix)
Jouney – Any Way You Want It (Telemitry Remix)
Bruce Springsteen – Blinded By The Light (DJ Donna Summer Boot)
ACDC – Thunderstruck (Crookers Remix)
Bryan Adams – Summer of 69 (London Calling Remix)
INXS – Need You Tonight (Streetlab Mix)
Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters (Don Rimini Remix)
Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (OCD Automatic Remix)

Au Revoir Simone – Still Night, Still Light

Au Revoir Simone are easily one of the top five most important bands to me as a human being – that is, as a person, as a musician, and everything else. I may have already established myself as a mostly guitar-oriented music listener, but from the first time I heard “Through The Backyards” all that time ago, the delicately enveloping sound of three quiet girls playing keyboards has politely laid eggs in my heart and remained there ever since.

The evolution of Au Revoir Simone’s sound since their David Lynch-approved debut, Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation, has been subtle but traceable. In the beginning, whether they meant it or not, there was a sense of self-awareness in the way the band wrote classically perfect pop songs using vintage keyboard and drum machine sounds; they played their Korgs and Casios like they were Rickenbacker guitars drenched in Spectorian spring reverb, and the aesthetic wrapped them in a mystique similar to the girl groups they idolized, despite the occasionally disarming directness of their lyrics; they were described rather accurately by Pitchfork (natch) as “anti-synth pop to the Moldy Peaches’ anti-folk.” On last year’s The Bird of Music, they more openly embraced the hamminess of their sonic palette while dissipating some of the reverb, allowing their detached emotionality a more direct path to the ears as well as the heart.

On the much anticipated Still Night, Still Light, the band takes another small step in a new direction, this time towards straight electronica, a move that suits them well. Whereas early ARS favorites like “Stay Gold” and “Lark” wrapped their sorrow in milky warmth, Still Night is icy and dark, like if Axel Willner started listening to the Ronettes. The band have realized the potential of their mechanical toolset to communicate the lackadaisical state that so often accompanies heartbreak, and the music is tighter and sadder than ever – those expecting superficially sprightly swingers like “Fallen Snow” may be disappointed at how pervasive the stolid sadness on Still Night is.

Despite the stubborn joylessness of the subject matter the music sparkles with subtlety, the hooks being of the simplest construction yet finding their way onto your lips long after they’ve passed out of the air. The girls still know how to poke our heartstrings with their polite yet relentlessly direct lyrics – I almost wish I was heartbroken so I feel them more deeply. Whole days could be passed wondering wishfully at the seductive intonations of the word “all” in “All Or Nothing,” or admiring how note-perfect the keyboard arrangements are. The album gives a feeling that the girls have come into their own as songwriters and as players, and amounts to their strongest effort to date.

Au Revoir Simone – All Or Nothing
Au Revoir Simone – Anywhere You Looked

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