Faded Paper Figures :: "North By North"

I was looking for something that reminded me of The Postal Service. Maybe it's because it is becoming abundently clear that Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamberello will not be making a second Postal Service record. Someone else is going to have to pick up the slack. Maybe it's because what Ben Gibbard does is both achingly unique and not hard at all. His voice, the overly-candid lyrics - they are as difficult as they are democratic. Anyone can do it - he just does it very, very well.

Faded Paper Figures sound like The Postal Service. Which is good. Because I needed this.

Listen :: Faded Paper Figures - "North By North"
Bonus :: Faded Paper Figures - "Polaroid Solution"


Ryan Adams :: "Magick"

Things that are good analogies for relationships: balloon rides, animal attacks, natural disasters, road trips ... oh, and nuclear apocalypse. Ryan Adams, who once wrote the song "Nuclear" on the 2002 record Demolition, is back for more fission imagery with 2008 release, and current radio single, "Magick." I won't summarize. Here's the first verse:

"You're like a rain cloud
If it rained mushroom clouds
Everybody hits the ground
Arms folded, head down

You're like a missile strike
Government goes underground
Warhead on legs
What goes around comes around"

It's 2:17 of pure rock and roll emotion. He hates this woman. He loves this woman. She is a nuclear weapon. She is an unnatural disaster. Adams does seem to imply that this disaster will come at a karmic cost. What goes around comes around. She'll pay for this. But, it's hard to believe he believes that. She can harness the power of the atom. Frankly, no one ever had a chance.

Listen :: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - "Magick"
Bonus :: Ryan Adams - "Nuclear"

On The List :: Travis @ Webster Hall [4.25.09]

This review runs in full on the Bowery Presents Blog, The House List. It's a pretty interesting project and it's good to be a part of it.

"Webster Hall might as well have been a time machine Saturday night. Early in the set, 'Writing to Reach You' sailed out over a sold-out crowd and it felt just like 1999. In less than four minutes, 10 years melted like a Prospect Park ice cream cone on the first hot day of spring. It felt real. It felt like the last of the Clinton years. But things have changed. The economy sucks, Travis never became as big as Coldplay and 2009 can have a sobering character."

Some other notes: Travis was the picture of being almost famous. 1,400 people who know the words, are fired up and act like the last ten years haven't happened. The weird thing is: if you close your eyes, it's almost Coldplay. If Travis had written "Yellow" or "Clocks," it would have been a wildly different pop music landscape. Never under-estimate the power of less than seven minutes of pop music to entirely change a career. It cost Travis literally millions of dollars. Never under-estimate the fine line between being a "Chris Martin" and ... not.


Action Painters :: "456"

Listen up. I'm only going to say this once: Action Painters are the best band in New York. Now, what can you gather from that statement, once you penetrate its overstatement and intentionally incendiary rhetoric? Not much? Well, listen closer.

Latest single release "456" comes with an EP Lay That Cable and a spring tour. I shouldn't need to encourage you to see this band. But I will anyways: go see this band. They are probably in your town.

As for "456," it is the band's biggest work to date. The scope is utterly enormous. The guitars are spaced-out but the rhythm is unmistakable and driving. The down-stroke guitars swing us into gear and by the time the drums kick, this song is moving at 90 miles-per-hour hovering in the left-hand lane. Just try to keep up as lead singer Tom Haslow makes an explanation for rock's copycat life-style: "It's all been done/I do believe/There's nothing more inside of me." But wait, as the chorus punches, Haslow is back with: "But I do not need anyone/to tell me what to do." It's anxious and anti-authoritarian. We'll avoid the other rhetorical questions of the chorus ("How do you start up again/when everything is gone?") because we don't have the answers either. But as "456" crashes to conclusion we find some solace in the interrogative. At least they asked the question.

Listen :: Action Painters - "456"


Evan Voytas :: "Getting Higher"

In one of the more winning moments off Passion Pit's forthcoming LP, a chorus of little children chant "higher and higher and higher." The song, track two, "Little Secrets" isn't intensely memorable. But the elevation of children's voices, in all of their instructive glory, encouraging us to lift off will stick with you. Triumph seems to be a common theme recently, which might explain why Evan Voytas' "Getting Higher," - also higher-than-hi-fi rife with synth - is speaking to me. Get up, lift off. You can do this.

The arrangement is packaged, planned, and almost totally digital. "Getting Higher" is silicon-weightless enough to be a Tigercity song or a Phoenix b-side. Hell, if the vocals were more piercing, it could hide on the Passion Pit album. The Hall and Oates guitar is the only tip-off that instruments, in any conventional sense, were used in the making of this album. Warning: no synths were killed in the making of this record - only abused and left for dead. The drums are packaged and the synths soar back-and-forth doing the musical version of a bicycle figure-eight.

But, by the time the digitized chimes buzz your tower, this cold concoction of zeros and ones doesn't feel freezing at all. Even for all of its computerized austerity and careful planning, "Getting Higher" still feels like it might bounce off the ground. It is both likeable and self-aware. It has a heartbeat. This is rare. You can do it.

Listen :: Evan Voytas - "Getting Higher"


Emanuel And The Fear :: "The Rain Becomes The Clouds"

An Essay In Seven Parts:

1. This band isn't intentionally uplifting in the way that Natalie Portman isn't intentionally attractive. It just sneaks up on you.

2. "I don't watch tv/because it makes me feel ugly." While this is not remotely true, it is certainly delivered as a brilliant turn of phrase in this songs' final movement.

3. Let Rufus Wainwright loose on a Sufjan Stevens record, give it some urgency - real urgency, run from the cops urgency - and you've got Emanuel and the Fear. Orchestral, forward-thinking, and the definition of rich.

4. There is a certain ... connectedness here. Even the spare documentation of the water cycle seems to take the role of pertinent metaphor. Sure, the rain becomes the clouds and sure the clouds become the sky. But if it feels so simple, why is it elevating?

5. A close friend mentioned that things had gotten awfully morose around here. I balked. Then I considered. It's more true than I realized. I guess I forgot that everything is going to be fine. Truly, everything is going be fine. I can't say this enough.

6. This arrangement was meant to tumble out of control. Bear that in mind.

7. Whether you view it as a cycle or as a natural adjustment or a statistical anomaly: everything is going to be fine. However things are right now, they won't be forever. The rain becomes the clouds. The clouds become the sky. Bring the people outside. I can't say this enough.

Listen :: Emanuel and the Fear - "The Rain Becomes The Clouds"


The Local Natives :: "Stranger Things"

A little more than a month ago, we wrote up Local Natives. At least one person hated it. But our sense is, most people are digging in on this band. They're LA's newest crunchy, meditative piano-pop. While the band declined to comment on their label situation ("It's too soon to tell"), it's quite clear there are interested parties from some of the biggest indies. Personally, Saddle Creek would be an obvious home but the math seems to be pointing to XL. Give us three to six months and see if we're right. Until then, the band soldiers on as a truly independent group.

Their latest offering is the sublime "Stranger Things." The Rogue Wave comparisons come easily (the drum-beat, a cousin of the "Michigan" beat that broke me in half during the latter part of 2007). You can even find some Foreign Born in the vocals and some Jump, Little Children (we're talking 1999) in the strings. But the best part is the last part; a grand second movement, built as much to destroy as to construct.

Three minutes in, the song grinds to a halt, reconsiders itself - the group vocals, the claps, the sweeping chorus - and says, "Me? I'm holding out for something better." A piano plaintively lays the structure for the next few steps. A lazy guitar adds itself into the mix - the vocals, as polite as an invitation to dinner, are equal parts pure and broken. Even though we're jagging away from the original arrangement, nothing feels disjointed. A new, still sweeping, melody emerges and it's bigger than the first. "Stranger Things" tumbles to the finish, leaving only a lonely violin to make up the difference at the end. It's a somber end to a somber song. Appropriate, I suppose. And certainly the best thing for an April morning. Stranger things have happened.

Listen :: Local Natives - "Stranger Things"


Updates and mixtapes

Is it my fault those two words rhyme?

We have a twitter. I honestly can't quite wrap my mind around what that means but we do have one. It'll be what we're doing/listening to/getting our heads around. Technology is officially freaking us out: http://www.Twitter.com/32feet. Best of all, for the next few Fridays we're posting mixtapes in segments on the twitter. (Is it called "the twitter?") New songs, every hour or so on Fridays. Keep up or follow the thing once it's over. It's a live twitter/blog/interface. The world is over.

If you're more comfortable following the blog through other means, you can become a follower (again) on our sidebar. We also have an RSS-feed. It's hard to be sure what all this stuff means, but it seems like some people use it. And if we're going to throw our emotional energy behind something, we might as well let you press three buttons to keep a close eye on us. It's the least we can do.

We'll be blogging over at The House List sometimes. It's the Bowery Presents Blog. If you live in New York, it will mean something to you.

As always, you can reach us at 32feet(at)gmail.com. We respond to most things we get that aren't crap music from crap bands.


The Rural Alberta Advantage :: "Frank, AB" and "Don't Haunt This Place"

I was supposed to catch the sublimely-titled Rural Alberta Advantage two Sundays ago. It was actually supposed to be a date. Various things got in the way and, I suspect, I will come to regret it. Not in the way you regret missing something critical or developmental like learning to read. This is a "missing" that you can explain less and speculate about more. After all, you weren't there. You can't possibly know if it was good or bad. So whatever happened at the Bell House eight days ago, all we have is our imagination.

And like a bored only child, we're going to use our minds for fun. In my mind, The Rural Alberta Advantage sound, in person, exactly like they sound on recording: some parts Okkervil River, some parts early Bright Eyes, and some parts Tullycraft. Their music is small and taut and heartbreaking where seems reasonable. The sonic quality put into an amazon.com genre smoothie would be "acoustic," "alt-country," "boy-girl pop," and "Canada." But what does that mean? Absolutely nothing. The imagination looks for significance and fabric and, in this case, The Rural Alberta Advantage aren't in the market for metaphor. They play something that would be like an upbeat Jump, Little Children. How many references can we pack in here? Enough to get a mental picture. Because we sure as hell didn't see anything.

Listen :: The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Don't Haunt This Place"
Bonus :: The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Frank, AB"

On The List [Photos] :: Airborne Toxic Event @ Slim's [San Francisco 4.8.09]

This is an update and addition to the Airborne Toxic Event review we posted from last week. First of all, great show and I only half did the experience justice. They are an incredibly gracious and warm group of folks. Not a bad word to say about them. We did get our hands on some great live shots from a friend of the band we met quickly backstage. He was down with sharing them and you can look through the whole stream over at flickr.


On The List :: Airborne Toxic Event @ Slim's [San Francisco 4.8.09]

Lead-singer Mikel Jollet runs up the stairs, looks me in the face and says, "Want to play something?" I smile, don't have an answer, and honestly couldn't play more than five chords on anything sitting in my field of vision. It was a rhetorical question, one hopes. Airborne Toxic Event head out on stage at Slim's for their encore to play "Does This Mean You're Moving On." The crowd is going San Francisco's version of crazy. The band is gracious. This is their job and they'd be stupid to turn any part of it over to me.

The crowd is affable and knows this by heart. There is even a kid in the front row, decked in a skinny tie and hard-rimmed glasses, who knows all the words to all the songs. It is a mild feat and, if you scan the audience, he is not alone. The band's self-titled record doesn't speak to people because they have a song at radio. It speaks to people because it means something; something enough to be memorized. And those people are here. The crowd isn't the most mercurial but they are polite and they are engaged. They don't need their lives changed tonight. You sense the record has already done its damage.

The set-list is roughly the same one we caught in New York a few weeks back. They open with "Wishing Well," fill the middle with some new material ("Echo Park," which sounded phenomenal) and they close the main set with "Innocence." During the encore, during "Does It Mean You're Moving On..." Jollet and Anna Bulbrook spill into the audience and flail around in the first few rows. It's one of the moments that makes this band so likeable. There isn't an ounce of pretense, even in their dark jackets and dressing room Grey Goose. Jolett tells us it means a lot that we all came out. Airborne Toxic Event are, in the simplest of ways, not about themselves at all. This is nothing less than impressive.

During the last three measures of "Missy," the night's official closer, the crowd gets their moment of transcendence. Bassist Noah Harmon climbs up two amps, freezes near the top of the room and then lets loose down to the stage. It's the final image of the night and it is a good one. It's just before midnight and this band is killing itself to live. They're from the West Coast and the show is sold out. You'd think they wouldn't have a ton to play for. But that's the great reveal. Believe them when they say this means a lot and see what it's like to go to work at 10:10 on a Wednesday night. This is their job - jumping off speakers, pouring into the crowd, and unleashing narrative and melodies that affect. This is work. And it means everything.


32ft Left :: Pomegranates :: "Corriander"

32 Feet is posting from the West Coast for the next week or so. We'll be catching some shows, posting wildly, and drowning in rain. Posts will be shorter, barely topical, and across three time-zones. Stick with us. Pioneers have been trying to live out here for 200 years - we're just the next wave.

Pomegranates are traditionally a lot of work. The pay-off usually doesn't come until the end. Investors and soft-drink makers tried to distill the fruit down to its juice and were rewarded with something that is as healthy and high in antioxidants, as it is bad-tasting and bitter. You can't just strain out the bad parts and keep the good. You have to be thorough, by hand, and do the work.

That being said, we don't know anything about Pomegranates work habits or ethic. It seems like they're meticulous but we've been mislead before. They play a brand of post-shoe-gaze, or put another way, something that is both atmospheric and focused. Something that has moved beyond space-age guitar pedals and loops. Something that is headed somewhere. But the destination, and the effort to get there, is considerable.

From the first measure of "Corriander" they introduce a cascading guitar that seems like it should be the backbone of the whole track. But you can't press out the juice and expect it to taste sweet. You have to do the work, and in this case the work is to wait. And in the last ten measures, we're rewarded for our patience. The riff comes back and is finally the central focus. It's crystalline. It is a wave of sound. It's worth not squeezing.

Listen :: Pomegranates - "Corriander"


32ft Left :: Honey Claws :: "Pemporer"

32 Feet is posting from the West Coast for the next week or so. We'll be catching some shows, posting wildly and drowning in rain. Posts will be shorter, barely topical and across three time-zones. Stick with us. The pioneers have been trying to survive out here for 200 years - we're just the next wave.

If my life was a movie, I'd want Honey Claws' "Pemporer" on the soundtrack. It thumps like a slo-mo 1990s club cut and the backdrop is equal parts spatial and ambient. Except for this little post-colonial-tropic keyboard that sings out and makes you feel like calypso is alive and well. Altogether it feels like the middle of the afternoon and you're walking somewhere important.

Everything is pretty and it's all about you. The Lower East. East LA. Even in rainy San Francisco, you touch down and start to move. Objects fall into rhythm and the world is your music video. People are your extras. The universe revolves around your field of vision. It's like your heartbeat is the only thing powering all the machinery in front of you. All these people are depending on your continued existence for their continued existence. This is the feeling of responsibility for everyone and this is the taste of fear. This is proof that the most self-interested among us should be the most terrified. When the world revolves around you, everything is your fault. Which is why we're shutting down production and making everything about someone else.

Listen :: Honey Claws :: "Pemporer"

On The List :: Mates of State @ Webster Hall [4.6.09]

I am unexpectedly attracted to Kori Gardner. She is stuck behind all these keyboards and, yes, I know she's already married to the drummer. And yes, I know they have kids. And I know they live in Darien, Connecticut and by all reports lead the bohemian rhapsody that we all chase and never catch. But that doesn't mean I can't love her from 20 yards away. Her bangs are in her face and her voice is a more squeaky Neko Case. I feel like I could be good for her. If I only had something to offer.

Luckily, Mates of State start with "My Only Offer." By the end, I'm more than ready to offer "stifled copies of myself." I mean, frankly, she could have the originals. No one is going to be terribly picky. Without missing a beat, they turn on "Get Better" which sounds as uplifting and glossy as it does on the album. The difference is, here, now, I want to float off the ground when Kori (we're on a first name basis) says, "everything's gonna get lighter." It's a plea for perspective in a time of seriousness. It's a desire to float when everyone is sinking.

The band pounds through songs I haven't heard since 2004. This is the old stuff. These are the deep cuts. This is exciting, especially remembering my college roommate yelling, "what the hell is that awful shit?" when I played it at 10am on a weekday morning. I mean, at this point, could he have been more wrong? The band plays "Ha ha" which always moves people and then "Fraud In The 80s." The new stuff is empirically better but the songs from five years ago thump and pulse in a way that can't be recaptured. That was before Matt and Kim upped the ante. That was before Mates of State felt the need to destroy everyone.

The band closes with a Tom Waits cover and "The Re-Arranger." I cannot say enough good things about "The Re-Arranger" and this performance offers no new light or different perspective. It was good on the record. It's good in-person. Kori Gardner is as perfect as can be and we're all just copies of ourselves.

Listen :: Mates of State - "My Only Offer"


Delphic :: "Counterpoint"

An excerpt from an email I sent to a friend in February:

"ok, so this is maybe the worst song from this band delphic. the word on them is so quiet it's almost scary. i mean, they're opening for bloc party in europe right now and there is only ONE mp3 available? in addition, there's only been ONE blog post written about them? that is a crime."

It wasn't entirely accurate and I was talking about "Doubt" and not first single, "Counterpoint" but the message shouldn't missed: it is an outrage if you're not listening to this band. I will use all caps if I have to: IT IS AN OUTRAGE.

If we're being entirely honest: Delphic hasn't really snuck up on anyone. Out of the ashes of Lisa Brown and Snow Fight In The City Center, Delphic formed like the knife of its namesake - to be a sacrifice with something for everyone. A few parts shimmering LCD Soundsystem, portions of the dynamics from the last Bloc Party record, a splash of Cut Copy (as much I hate to say it) and a share of radio-ready melody should make Delphic one of big bands of 2009. So maybe email some friends. Feel free to use caps lock. It's complicated but it works.

Listen :: Delphic - "Counterpoint"


The Killers :: "Four Winds" [Bright Eyes Cover]

The big news this week is The Killers are releasing an EP with the "Spaceman" single release. And the big song off that EP is going to be "Four Winds," a distopian Bright Eyes song run through The Killers' synthed-out, arena hurricane. Are those church bells in the background? Sure, absolutely. Does it sound a little like When In Rome or Erasure? Sure, absolutely. But neither of those bands had the epic sensibility of Flowers. Outside of New Order, you really have to wonder if there was a single synth-band in the 1980s that had the 50,000-seat sound that The Killers wake up and spit most mornings. Inflammatory remarks? Check.

So, explain how Oberst's insane, verbose, and frankly concerning lyrics morph so easily into the hands of a band that could play the Super Bowl. Explain how the phrases: "there's bodies decomposing in containers tonight" and "where a genocide sleeps" roll off the tongue like invitations and encouragement. This is a song about the intimacies of the apocalypse. And all it makes you do is pump your fist in the air and sail through a Friday. Something about Oberst's introspection makes this level of forthrightness, the synths, the thudding bass-line, seem appropriate. The world is going to end and we're supposed to keep quiet? What good is that secret unless you tell everyone? And what good is the end of the world if you can't enjoy it?

Listen :: The Killers - "Four Winds" (Bright Eyes Cover)

The Wooden Birds :: "Sugar"

Andrew Kenny used to front American Analog Set, and wrote the song, "Punk As Fuck;" a hanging metaphor. Kenny is equal parts sarcastic and serious. American Analog Set didn't sound like any punk you've ever heard before. But then again, what really defined punk anyways? It was anti-commercial, anti-establishment, and anti-aesthetic. Or it was supposed to be. And couldn't an artist accomplish all of the above with lo-fi, hushed, folk music? At the very least, Andrew Kenny was going to challenge our perceptions in 2001.

It's eight years later and crying out against "the man" still doesn't have to be loud. The revolution will not be turned up above -40 on your home stereo receiver. The throwing-out of the old order will be done quietly. In fact, it will probably be managed by a PR firm and micro-managed by an event planner. The new boss is definitely the same as the old boss. I suspect, this makes Andrew Kenny sick.

So, he started a new band. With a new song. The Wooden Birds. "Sugar." Everything is still hushed. It actually sounds like an old Neil Young melody that's been stuffed under a bed and isn't trying very hard to get out. It's just kind of hiding there. Waiting. But it's meant to be there. The secrets are the revolution. It's certainly going to be hushed. Quiet is the new loud, punks.

Listen :: The Wooden Birds - "Sugar"