Eagulls :: "Council Flat Blues"

Storming out of Leeds, Eagulls are the opposite of "easy listening". On "Council Flat Blues", from the appropriately and awesomely titled Songs of Prey, the band opens with a protracted, feedback-heavy intro with chords that evoke the beginning of "Don't Look Back In Anger". But instead of a slurring Gallagher intoning, "Slip inside the eye of your mind," Eagulls elect for a longer, more furious build, moving from languid cymbal crashes to double-time drums. Your mind keeps waiting for Oasis but you keep getting The Pixies or The Cribs. The song strips down before exploding into a surging mixture of barked verses and sawing guitars. The hooks are fuzzed and swimming and undeniable. Like an intensely British version (and punkier) of Dead Confederate, Eagulls drag rock back down the tunnel into the depths, only to explode like a volcano on an overwhelmed therapist's couch.

Listen :: Eagulls - "Council Flat Blues" [mediafire]


[Video] Twin Sister :: "All Around And Away We Go"

Brooklyn's Twin Sister, one of our favorites, recorded live on a rooftop, sounding stunning in the glowing darkness. At the very least this gives Vinny Moon a run for his money, sinking to the bottom of the top of the borough.

Listen :: Twin Sister - "All Around And Away We Go"


Marina and the Diamonds :: "I Am Not A Robot" [Clock Opera Remix]

This is one of those stories that deserves a full narrative arc. It starts in the spring of 2009 when demo versions of Marina's seminal meditation on Humanity, "I Am Not A Robot" drop through UK publicists to US music outlets. The song is, of course, a complete stunner and crushes us immediately. The remixes prove just as valuable. This will later be a running joke: Guess what? Still not a robot.

Fast-forward to the winter of 2009-10 (Frightened Rabbit will suggest this is The Winter of Mixed Drinks, a name for which the jury is still out), and Marina's debut record leaks on the US market like a hurricane leaks into a major metropolitan area. People are destroyed, concerned parties look for shelter. And it is into this mess that another voice steps. Rumors begin to circulate about a remix of "Robot" so good it will get its own single release. We are used to the hyperbole and yet, this is different. The rhetoric is that of earnestly surprised, stunned insiders. Clock Opera reflects over his twitter about the profound excitement surrounding this recording. This is not particularly surprising. But like a bad teen murder movie about a cursed cassette tape, anyone who hears this thing is immediately killed by it. We wait.

Minutes before heading to the airport in late March, a copy of the remix hits my hard drive. It is a complete recasting of the original with a chopped, stunning chorus made of found parts. Never pick up. Anything. You don't ring ring run. The nonsense speaks. Guess what? Still not a robot. Prepare to be human, remixed.

Listen :: Marina and the Diamonds - "I Am Not A Robot" [Clock Opera Remix]

Treasure :: "Canada"

It's not that "chill-wave" and "glo-fi" aren't useful terms - they've just been overused to the point of noxious ubiquity. This puts us in an odd spot when handling Treasure, a solo synth project from London. It has the same warm sheen and sea-sick-cruiser tempo, like twirling in sunset circles while traveling, swallowing Dramamine. "Canada" is backed with a packaged clap-track and sailing guitar arpeggios, clouding a chorus that outlines either complex metaphor or simple geographic truth, "I'm in Canada." The pulsing background vocals provide an aesthetic of their own, gleaming, stuffed with color and ready to just lie down for a minute until this thing clears.

Listen :: Treasure - "Canada"


Thrushes :: "Trees"

Thrushes' latest mp3 release from their excellent, new record Night Falls is the spinning and soaring "Trees." Sounding a bit like Pomegranates covering Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, echoing and fuzzy guitars sail over pounding drums. The final question, "Are you the same?" will go completely unanswered as Thrushes explore the lusher ends of shoegazing rock, like kids who grew up listening to The Pixies but ended up reading Cortazar in college.

Listen :: Thrushes - "Trees"


[Elevator] Three Blind Wolves :: "Three Blind Wolves"

Sounding equal bits Frightened Rabbit and There Will Be Fireworks, with a heavy dose of We Were Promised Jetpacks, Glasgow's Three Blind Wolves should be glad their name is a metaphor and not a fairy tale sentence. What is certain is the pathos in play on their eponymous debut song. As a scraggly organ chord shifts and meditates, the singer suggests an image of three blind wolves dead by the road side. At 1:03 the song takes off into something full (trust me, when this isn't a demo, this moment is going to stand up the hair on your arms), evolving into a surging sort-of chorus that insists, "Don't leave, we need ya/don't leave, we need ya more." This is a band on the rise; a band who with some studio money and sheen will find themselves charging around the States in 2011. But, who are the dead, blind wolves? We assume the three little pigs finally exacted their revenge.

Listen :: Three Blind Wolves - "Three Blind Wolves" [mediafire]

Mary Onettes :: "The Night Before The Funeral"

My friend Nate ("all my friends") loves The Cure. This is not idle passion, although I suspect it has cooled and evolved over the years. He will occasionally ask for The Cure to be put on at social gatherings or insist that a Cure song be turned up or, most hilariously, deal an anecdote intimately related to "Boys Don't Cry". He is also the person who most recently encouraged me to listen to the pun-named, synth-pop dealers The Mary Onettes. This was last summer when I was feeling out the west coast and he was thrashing through a sweat-box New York July. Perhaps it goes back further, to 2008 when I forced the Shout Out Louds on him. This might have just been Robert Smith-inspired good turn. Back with a new record, and single of the same name, The Night Before The Funeral, The Mary Onettes still sound shocking like The Cure. And that's not idle passion either.

Listen :: Mary Onettes - "The Night Before The Funeral
Listen :: Mary Onettes - "Puzzles"
Listen :: Mary Onettes - "Lost"


On The List :: Yeasayer @ The Fillmore [4.17.10]

Urban legend holds that Led Zeppelin used 12 guitars to record "Stairway to Heaven." Inevitably, live versions of the song feel a wee bit lacking. It's impossible to replicate the studio feel onstage. Jimmy Page, for all his immense talent, can only thrash one axe at a time.

Odd Bones, Yeasayer's sophomore effort, plays as a lovely, layered, lushly orchestrated album. It's the product of countless hours spent working mixing boards until they emitted smoke. It is, inevitably, irreproducible live.

Yeasayer is also tired. The quintet played a show at Coachella the previous day and look drained from the sun. Chris Keating says he and his mates are genuinely happy to play the Fillmore, and we believe him, but their energy remains lost in the desert.

The set, front-loaded with mellow songs, starts slowly. The crowd wonders why they sound better on the album. There are moments when the momentum builds, but then it disappears. We grow restless.

Then "2080." Off of 2007 effort All Hour Cymbals, it's a simpler song, translating seamlessly from album to stage. It also happens to feature a perfect band/audience bonding moment: "Yeah, yeah. We can all grab at the chance to be handsome farmers!/Yeah you can have 21 sons and be blood when they marry my daughters." And we're off.

Keating, refreshed, asks "Are we ready to get serious?" before launching into "O.N.E."

"Because I like it when you lose control," he sings while the Fillmore's springboard floor turns into a trampoline under the stress of 1,000 dancing feet. "Ambling Alp" closes the set and Yeasayer disappears stage left.

They return for the encore. Keating grabs a digital camera a girl in the front row set on the stage. He improvs, "Leave the camera on the stage and it gets taken," while taking pictures of his band and the audience. "What do you think this is, your bookshelf?" he asks with a laugh before returning the Canon. He's having fun. So are we.

Don't give up on me, and I won't give up on you, k?

Listen :: Yeasayer - "Ambling Alp"
Listen :: Yeasayer - "O.N.E."


Beach House :: "The Arrangement"

Beach House are releasing a 12" with two new cuts to celebrate Record Store Day 2010. First up is "The Arrangement", full of peeling-off piano (think of a more meditative Mates of State) and a slightly cleaner mix than the cold-medicine jams that colored their certain Album of the Year contender, Teen Dream. "The Arrangement" is beautiful without trying particularly hard, like those girls who throw on a hooded sweat shirt, look at you with big, swimming eyes and say, "What?"

Beach House - The Arrangementbysubpop


LCD Soundsystem :: "Pow Pow" [Live @ Webster Hall 4.12.10]

"Pow Pow" is a slinky, hi-hat heavy jam of LCD Soundsystem's new record This Is Happening, and was debuted live on Monday night at Webster Hall. With no exaggeration, it was the best live show this writer has been to since the Arcade Fire, storm-the-stage show at United Palace in 2007. Murphy's "Pow Pow" is about the death-sounds of cultural relativism, "there's advantages to both/there's advantages to each," he intones with a completely straight face. But this is his judgement of an unjudgemental, lazy age. As Murphy finally erupts, "On this occasion there are couple of things that we know of to report from Fact Magazine: One, the king wears a king-hat and lives in a king-house. Two, your time will come but tonight is our night, so you should give us all your drugs. Three, we have a black president and you do not. So, shut up. You don't know shit about where I'm from that you didn't learn from TV."

http://vimeo.com/10894113 from Jaime's Weekly Concert Alert on Vimeo.


The National :: "I'm Afraid Of Everyone"

As songs continue to leak off The National's apparently outstanding next record, High Violet, we continue to see the darker side of the band. On the lush and dank, "I'm Afraid Of Everyone," Berninger is as restrained and smooth as the arrangement, which unravels like a wheel of rich and expensive fabric. Beginning as a low-key meditation on the nervousa of darker corners, by the end the drums are thudding in a threatening circle overhead while guitar feedback and fuzz hum. Meaning what he says, Berninger capitulates in the middle, saying "I don't have the drugs to sort it out." Perhaps the finest moment is a vocal-build, passing for a bridge, that involves layers and layers of Berninger repeating the same phrase, "Your voice is swallowing my soul" until "I'm Afraid Of Everyone" flushes and breathes with life. Or is it death? Appropriately, it all sounds like drowning in the dark.

Listen :: The National - "I'm Afraid Of Everyone"

On The List :: Florence and the Machine @ Terminal 5 [4.9.10]

This review runs in radio edit shine on Bowery's House List blog.

Florence Welch strutted to the stage dressed in a flowing white camisole, evoking something like a deconstructed swan, equally beautiful and breaking. Her knobby knees attached to skinny legs attached to high heels, which click-clacked to the microphone in front of a sold-out Terminal 5 packed with people who had come to see this tiny girl with the enormous pipes. Her performance would prove more workmanlike than mercurial, battling a worn-out voice through songs designed for her normally fighter-plane vocals. But like all the greats, Welch would not quietly bow to the wear of the road. Instead, we saw a different woman, profoundly animated, willing to work with us and through the night.

For clarity’s sake, saying Welch was “battling a worn-out voice” is roughly analogous to saying you stayed in the shittiest five-star hotel in Monte Carlo. She has push-you-back-in-your-seat, dunk-from-the-foul-line, big-enough-to-sink-this-city ability. Early in the night on “Kiss with a Fist,” the singer colored the domestic-violence metaphors by testing the top of her range in the song’s final third. Moving through album-stunners “Coffins” and “Between Two Lungs,” she eased off the throttle, while pointing and gesturing at the first few rows of people. It only became clear how much of a vocal struggle Welch was engaged in when she altered the melody on “Drumming Song.” Not coincidentally, the song’s centerpiece was a stunning breakdown where Welch, heels off now, skipped through the middle of the stage while barking an improvised second movement. The greats are great, even when they’re not.

Before “Cosmic Love,” Welch mentioned that she had some family in the audience. Of course this lead to a final denouement where the crowd insisted on being dubbed family, too. She raised her glass to us, and a thousand people raised their digital cameras in return. After closing with a carbonated “Dog Days Are Over,” Welch returned for an encore of “You’ve Got the Love” and “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).” In one of the last lyrics of the night, she wailed into the dark: “This is a gift/ It comes with a price.” A song about animal sacrifice could have been no more appropriate for the tiny woman who stayed long after her band left to bow, wave and thank the people who came to see her.

Listen :: Florence and the Machine - "You've Got The Love" [Jamie XX Rework]


On The List :: LCD Soundsystem @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

James Murphy comes to the stage last with a little yin-and-yang advice. "There's good news and there's bad news," he says, staring into the stage lights. The crowd claps furiously, curiously. "The good news is we're here." Music Hall is reaching a fever pitch. "The bad news is I'm wasted," Murphy finishes his home-coming haiku. It's all true; they are here and the leader of LCD Soundsystem is comically, fantasically drunk. He finally adds, "This isn't really a show ... This is just ... us, playing for our friends."

The first half of the set features "Us V Them" and newest radio-single, "Drunk Girls," but the story is more Murphy's between-song narration. He tells us that this is the longest time the band has ever had between shows. He struggles through the passive voice in much the same way as the writer of the previous sentence. He also tells us this two, three, four, and five times. The crowd cuts him a break; he's drinking whiskey and champagne, he tells us, from a water bottle brought by a part-time guitarist, part-time sideline supporter at stage right. Did he mention that this is the longest break between shows in LCD Soundsystem history? Yes. "This isn't a show," he repeats, "this is us learning to be a band again." James Murphy is drunk.

Of course, it would be easy to focus on his drunkness and ignore the night's most important moments. "All My Friends" was typically propulsive, with a back-lit Murphy standing on a stage monitor and screaming, with the crowd, "WHERE ARE YOUR FRIENDS TONIGHT?" You simply haven't lived until you've seen this live. The band departs after playing some material from their first sets of single releases, "Losing My Edge" and "Yeah."

Murphy tells us they don't do encores when the band returns. He says, "Encores are for other places, not where we live. Encores are for places where people think we're something we're not." They play "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," "Someone Great," and classsic, vaguely eponymous closer, "New York, I Love You." Murphy will play with the words a little, leaving out the most important one; "New York, I love you, oh don't change a thing."


Hooray For Earth :: "Surrounded By Your Friends"

Hooray For Earth's "Surrounded By Your Friends" opens with the humming, buzzy synths that seem to be everywhere, an odd, temperate familiarity. It is certainly a bit of sonic warmth to go with the lyrics, "I'm walking in and greeting with a smile." After this opening gesture, and beyond the blue-collar synth stabs, the arrangement is all backing vocals, crystalline keyboards and the kind of sound that it occurs to me now might only descend on us from above. Lyrically, the band doesn't stray from the fundamental concepts of the title and the opening couplet, suggesting, perhaps obviously, that in the end you're surrounded by your friends. Despite the lack of a topical nuance, the melody is undeniably infected with something catching, a mixture of longing and oikos, like a long camera shot as the credits roll in a movie you suspect you were cast in on purpose.

Listen :: Hooray For Earth - "Surrounded By Your Friends"

Twin Sister :: "Lady Daydream"

As we mentioned a few weeks back, Twin Sister are out with their second EP, Color Your Life. Not only does the band display a remarkable sense of humor (exhibit A, exhibit B) but the seriousness with which they approach their music astounds in equal and opposite measure. On the EP's second track, "Lady Daydream," the band returns to carry listeners through mushy reverberations and trustworthy lyrics, like a cold medicine edict from a pretty female vocalist. It is at once familiar and distant. Unlike other bands trafficking in similar waters, Twin Sister boasts singable melodies and hidden hooks. A comparison worth making, like Beach House, the washed out production isn't hiding a lack of substance; it's hiding something worth diving to the bottom of the pool for. The gurgling waters at the end of the track encourage the listener to sink to the bottom and look for the glittering American currency you left down there yesterday afternoon.

Listen :: Twin Sister - "Lady Daydream"


[Elevator] GROUP :: "Colours"

From the outset GROUP's lead singer, Christian Zucconi, is insistant that he is just like you. This is the final couplet of an opening lyric that describes himself as "a man, man, man/up, up, up in the air." Zucconi is slicing a little bit of magic realism as he tells a story where he gets to fly with the planets and still ask for understanding.

Tweaking like a late Modest Mouse record, or at times like a more acoustic, folksy Silversun Pickups, GROUP deliver a propulsive, stomping, instantly catchy anthem with "Colours." The song has two distinct movements, with an E-string bridge in the middle, the second-half relying on the lyric, "We call it ... life." Zucconi, over-layed with a delicate female vocal, wails into the sky before reinsisting, "yeah, we call it ... LIFE!" It's one of those, "this is everything" moments where you, quite reasonably, feel like your heart might pop. GROUP pleads they're just like us but they suggest something different - a place in the sky where elevation is just part of the process. It really ain't that bad. We call it life.

Listen :: GROUP - "Colours" [mediafire]


The Lodger :: "The Back Of My Mind"

Albums seem to develop unique complexes based on the order in which they were conceived. Like children, the eldest, and in this case the first, is often the most raw, the closest to real, perhaps the boldest statement. But the first record frequently shows flaws, flaws parents attempt to address or cover on the second album. This leads to trouble, an over-parented album, hell-bent on being different than the first or, worse still, too concerned with repeating in exactness the fundamental successes and legacy of the elder. By the third child, the youngest, the parents have their rap down but aren't terribly interested in imposing their artistic will in the same measure. The third child can be a disaster or she can be brilliant; she certainly has greater freedom to do either.

Bands are these parental curators and the records are their display case children. Meaning, for The Lodger, a band out of Leeds, their third record, Flashbacks, will be undeniably different than the previous two. Historically, The Lodger has been a purveyor of shiny, major-key pop. Some of that remains but the guitars are less concerned with clarity and perfection, finding their sound layered and, at times, buzzing. Lead track, "The Back Of My Mind" calls on the same territory as Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (In fairness, the band refers readers to Orange Juice and The Jam as their main influences). It is a very minor risk, but a risk that comes with time, a little more freedom and a feeling that, well, the other two turned out fine; we can take some chances here. Brilliant.

Listen :: The Lodger - "The Back Of My Mind"