After a surprisingly loud and stunningly good set by LA's Roughed Up Folk, and a quick trip across the street for $2 Margarita night (Echo Park has downs but she has ups), LESANDS hit the stage around 11. A four-piece plus sampled synths and loops, the band is a wall of sound live. Of course, this says nothing of the live (and studio) strength of the song-writing on "Pretenders," the night's second song and a dead-ringer for a dubby version of Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition." The band also played "Glowing," even more enjoyable in echoing, shuddering volume. The lead singer apologized before their second-to-last song because he felt it was a little, "hip-hoppy." It wasn't, but it was absolutely enormous with peeling loops and samples washing over the audience like a well-directed and favorable swell.
The crowd spilled out onto Sunset and waited for the final band of the night to play. LESANDS packed their gear and you had to feel this band won't be playing 500 square-foot storefronts much longer. They didn't play like they were above this, but soon it will certainly be behind them.
Listen :: LESANDS - "Pretenders"
Listen :: Clubfeet - "Teenage Suicide [Don't Do It]
Of course, if GROUPLOVE were just a dramatic story, a chance meeting of fresh-faced, agreeable people, it would end in that moment. As it happens, this story of mortgaged futures and unbridled hope comes with a stunning first single, an excellent EP and a next 12-months as bright as any band in the United States. On this night in LA, the band is tight and loud, with Zucconi's vocals alternating between the soaring yips from the Issac Brock catalogue and a richness and purity all his own. Over a seven song set the band will play 80-percent of their self-titled EP, plus a stunning version of new cut, "Close Your Eyes And Count To Ten" and a few others we presume will show up on a full-length in 2011. Zucconi works himself into a frenzy, pushing the limits of what this writer has ever seen anyone do while holding an acoustic guitar. All of this leads, nearly inexorably, to the band's best song and set closer, "Colours."
Predictably, "Colours" is a broadly cast, meta-analysis shot through the rosy hues of youth. Unpredictably, it might be the best unsigned song of 2010. As a visual intro, Zucconi kissing Hooper is one of those shocking moments that feels desperately appropriate after the fact. "Colours" proves stunning, complete with the band screaming, "We call it ... life!" in one of those this-is-everything moments that feel like you're being pushed back in your seat by the acceleration of an airplane. And that's what this is, the moment before take off for a band on the verge of something seriously big, having cut themselves loose all just to get up in the air.
Listen :: GROUPLOVE - "Colours"
The UK's Yu(c)k have a fresh new cut called "Daughter." A far away piano progression backing some distant vocals, it sounds little like their hurricane of fuzz-pop, "Georgia." This is not a little bit haunting with oblique references to "the future" and empty space in spades.
Listen :: Yu(c)k - "Daughter" [zshare]
The band bends to its surroundings, sounding like live club music one minute and crushing airy, summer jams the next. At the Empty Bottle they were the former, providing thudding beats (and even a synthesized fog horn) and bright melodies that had the late-night Chicago kids bouncing. The next afternoon, their music washed over Union Park like an achingly sunny wave. The music didn't change, nor did the set-list in any grave manner. The movers, "Grow," "Stay Close," and "Deli" burned the crowd up in both venues. The tone may have been different, but the change was not in qualitative value, proof of a band growing untouchable in their sound and methodology.
"All My Friends" (Live @ Pitchfork 2010)
Listen :: Wolf Parade - "What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had To Go This Way)"
Listen :: Wolf Parade - "Ghost Pressure"
French Films, a brand new five-piece from Finland, released one of the more promising singles we've heard this year. Titled, "Golden Sea," the band compares themselves to The Drums and Wavves but with a flair for the dramatic out of the catalogue of post-post-punk acts. Angular, beachy guitars compete with soaring vocals and shimmering keys. It will be in your head for days like the haunting, chanted lyrics of the chorus, "It was only a dream/it was only a dream."
Listen :: French Films - "Golden Sea"
Listen :: Grand Lake - "Spark"
Listen :: Jaill - "The Stroller"
Listen :: Jaill - "Everyone's Hip"
Listen :: Soft Reeds - "This Affair"
Listen :: Murder Mystery - "I Am (If You Are)"
Listen :: Murder Mystery - "Change My Mind"
There was a fire on the top floor of a building catty-corner to Mercury Lounge last night. Stornoway singer Brian Briggs said the structure began burning during their sound check, so they ran outside to watch. The audience chuckled at such relevant stage banter, but the truth was larger than they knew. As Stornoway had gathered just hours earlier on the streets of the East Village for a bit of combustible rubber-necking, this crowd too gathered at Mercury Lounge to gawk and stare and be silenced by something stunning.
Playing only their second US show, Stornoway opened with the standout “I Saw You Blink.” It rode the inside edge of endearing, earnest for its own sake. Briggs looked toward the ceiling, asking, “I need to know, are you the one?” with vocal clarity so stunning and pure, it brought legitimate and spontaneous tears to the eyes of a woman in the third row. This was only the first chorus of their first song. Rolling through “The Coldharbour Road,” “Fuel Up” and “Here Comes the Blackout” (minus the carrot chopping you hear on the album, they were sure to tell us), the band proved that such beauty would come in bunches not bursts.
For the last two songs of their set, Briggs and his mates stepped in front of their microphones, unplugged their guitars and played with no amplification. The need for mutual trust in this moment couldn’t be missed: It is playing without a net, a performer’s voice no more powerful than any single audience member. The audience stood stock still and hush quiet as intensely human voices sailed out in blended three-part harmony. As they closed the set with “We Are the Battery Human,” Stornoway urged us out with the lyric “We were born to be free range, free range.” This was, of course, true. These people could do as they pleased. But for the moment, they stood and watched and clapped.
Back in November we wrote one of those generational apologias through the lens of Dominant Legs' one-off "Young At Love And Life." Now, the downcast San Francisco pop duo are ready to release their first proper EP on Lefse, the band are previewing "Clawing Out At The Walls," a pebbled bit of shambling reflection. Centered on a bongo-beat and a lazy guitar line out of the Camera Obscura school, the song soars and dips under its own power, like a halfway broken ceiling fan in a room too hot for its own good. Singers Ryan Lynch and Hannah Hunt revel in this bit of claustrophobia in the chorus, "Don't you see we're clawing out at the walls?" We do see it, it just doesn't sound as troubling as we thought it might.
Listen :: Dominant Legs - "Clawing Out At The Walls"
Sitting at the bar just after 8:30, the Stornoway bassist revealed they would be playing some songs acoustically. "It's such a small room," he continued. "It'll be nice to go unplugged." He returned to his hamburger held by a hand connected to a wrist covered to forearm with old show bracelets, like rings of a tree that stayed out too late. This unplugged promise seemed innocuous, in fact, it was hard to imagine how it would happen.
Stornoway opened with the crushing, "I Saw You Blink" before rolling into the pub shanty, "Fuel Up". The back of the crowd remained far too chatty, the mark of too many industry kids, but this is semantic. Singer Brian Briggs commended so many of us for knowing the words to "I Saw You Blink" and then made some magnanimous criticisms of illegal downloading. Yes, only in America will the people from your label talk through your set, while the people who stole your music sing loudly from the front row.
The set became unforgettable in the final two songs, performed without mikes and without amplification. Briggs' heart-broken vocals soared out over the room, and on the final song, "We Are The Battery Human," he encouraged us to return to our roots, "we were born to be free range, free range," as the audience agreed in unison. After an encore they closed with first single, "Zorbing," a song so light in weight it nearly floated away. Bassist, Oliver Steadman got one of those silly grins as the front rows spun and sung the words. You can travel 3,000 miles and find strangers who love your work; it's weird, but it works. At the end the band disappeared behind a curtain and their fans clapped into the night, glad to have met each other even as cross-directed arrows.
Listen :: Stornoway - "On The Rocks"
Last summer we raced to see if California readers or New York readers would tip the scales and take the title as 32feet's home. This summer, it's America. We're expecting a lot out of you.
Listen :: Marina and the Diamonds - "I Am Not A Robot" (Clock Opera Remix)
Perhaps motivated by and perhaps disgusted with dance, Bishop Morocco destroy last year's disco guitars with a song of roughly the same name. Languid, down-stroke guitars mix with an insistent, if not entirely demanding, bass line, together approaching just shy of the zip code where "Love Will Tear Us Apart" has been receiving mail since 1979. Think of a Toronto-based Egyptian Hip Hop, and cast your eyes downward, shuffle your feet and throw out anything shiny. There will be hush in the darkness and slow movements on the dance floor this year; disco be damned.
Listen :: Bishop Morocco - "Last Year's Disco Guitars"
tooth ache. - Skin by fatherdaughter
Listen :: Sufjan Stevens - "The Star Spangled Banner"
Electronic Fences by Computer Magic
"Teenage Ballad (High School)"
Teenage Ballad (High School) by Computer Magic
Listen :: Math and Physics Club - "Jimmy Had A Polaroid"
Listen :: Math and Physics Club - "Love or Lonliness"
Listen :: Math and Physics Club - "Darling, Please Come Home"