October 24, 2009

The xx played the Apple Store Soho

CMJ is always a fun week in the city since there are countless shows to attend, however this year seemed to lack a many bands I wanted to see. The UK group The xx has been getting pretty solid reviews of their self-titled debut and while I enjoy the album it also seems to be lacking something. The sound never gets too big, the music is ultra simplistic, but the voices sounds really great. Putting a label on the sound is also rather difficult. They mix 80's post-punk, with R&B, and indie-pop. While the album sounds hollow, I figured I should not pass up a free show. The venue was pretty packed by the time the band took the stage a little after 7:00 and the band began to play pretty much straight through their album adding in a cover of "Teardrops" which is off their bonus disc. While the band did sound much fuller live, then on record, the show still lacked a certain element. The four members stood in a line behind two giant boxes with an "x" and lacked a real presence. The music is very low-key without watching the band, and the live performance did not do much to add to the experience. There were definitely some points where the crowd was feeling the energy and tried to dance and shuffle around and the dueling male/female vocals were still really intriguing and the band was loud. In all it was definitely a step up from a record that I already enjoy. However I think this is a record that will be most enjoyed super late at night. It's an after the party album best played when everyone has gone home and you and your friends are almost about to pass out. Throw on this record, sit back, reflect.

October 20, 2009

Hop Along played an apartment in Brooklyn

On Columbus Day weekend back in 2006 I was given an album entitled Freshman Year by a singer under the name Hop Along Queen Ansleis and it became one of the most sentimental albums of my college years. That was the one of the last weekends I would gather with my best friends from high school and the album was played on repeat. Three years later I was finally able to see Hop Along perform in a small intimate apartment in Bushwick Brooklyn. That album is a collective of background sounds layered under acoutic folkie guitar, however her recent demos have featured a backing band and I was very intrigued to see how this new lineup would relate to her older sounds. After three excellent performances from the other bands on the bill, Hop Along was accompanied by a drummer and bass player and began to perform her new renditions of which I can only seem to compare to Explosions in the Sky meets Band of Horses with female vocals. My friend Franny said it reminded her of Land of Talk. Either way Frances brought a rich lush sound that echoed throughout the small space and unfortunately overpowered her unique vocal styling; something that is always a problem at shows in spaces that size. This was one of the only sets from the night in which I felt the entire audience was engaged and had people singing along with Frances. She only played "Bride and Groom" off of Freshman Year, but it was performed with such perfection that it made the entire night worthwhile. After her brief set she announced she would perform a cover in dedication to the people she had been on the road with and then burst into Bush's "Glycerin" which happens to be a personal favorite of mine. The entire room erupted in a sing-a-long and provided the perfect end to an evening full of excellent truly independent music.

October 15, 2009

The Big Pink - Live on French TV

Along with The xx, The Big Pink have been one of the biggest acts from across the pond this fall. Their hit "Dominoes" has been getting pretty solid reviews as they bring forth an interesting mix of shoegaze/electro-rock on their debut album A Brief History of Love. As a whole the album is pretty heavy with loud distorted guitar sounds, driving bass, and what appears to be a pretty rockin drummer. Video above as well as one for "Too Young to Love" via P4K.

October 12, 2009

The Most Serene Republic played le Poisson Rouge

Ever since I heard the debut album by The Most Serene Republic I had been a quest to see this band live. Their interesting mix of poppy post-rock which I think of as a mix of Death Cab for Cutie and label-mates Broken Social Scene. Their records have all been easily accessible but layered with great sounds as well. All of their work is very intriguing and while they always follow their own sound each album still manages to sound a little unique. After years of trying to see them live, only to have other events get in the way, I was finally able to make it a reality last Thursday. I arrived after the band had already started, but the unusually early start time of 7:30 had granted me a good spot in the small crowd. The band powered through tracks from all of their albums and had great interaction from the audience. At one point the lead singer asked if it was worth it to buy the first Ramones album on vinyl, to which I replied with a thumbs up, and he said well alright I guess I'll go buy it tomorrow. Many reviews of TMSR have said that there is too much going on in their records and the band cannot really focus on a direction, however their live shows prove everything that gets lost in the studio. This is perhaps the most accurate way to describe the show. The triple guitars, bass, keys, drums, and a variety of other instruments all came together so well on stage. The only thing that really plagued this performance was that the band was suddenly switched from headliner to opener which drastically cut down their set time and had them playing for a much too small crowd.

October 6, 2009

Vampire Weekend - "Horchata"

Almost two years ago Vampire Weekend released their self-titled debut LP that either everyone loved or everyone loved to hate. Despite being critically acclaimed there were many who called it overrated bad pop by rich stuck-up white kids in boat shoes. I personally thought it was one of the best pop albums in recent years. Almost two years later they will release their follow up, Contra, and yesterday the band posted the first track on their website. "Horchata" ditches the poppy guitars but still sounds every bit as catchy as any song off of the first album. In a decade where very few bands have been able to repeat the same success as their debut, these kids might stand a chance.