The Decemberists :: "Valerie Plame"

Last we heard from The Decemberists, they were costing Capitol Records money (hey, Interpol, whose record can put this company in the red first? Ready? On three - go! ) and singing about Valencia. The Crane Wife ended up being critically better than Picaresque and yet somehow less satifsying. Then Colin Meloy went and toured on his own and released a live album. It kind of seemed like a "eff you" moment. It seemed like The Decemberists were maybe, a little done.

Fast-forward to 2o minutes ago and new Decemberist cut, "Valerie Plame" (admittedly, a b-side) spinning through my speakers. First reactions: it sounds exactly like you'd expect. It sounds like The Decemberists and Colin Meloy is hard to miss. The rhymes are cheeky and tight. It is just what you might think. There's sort of a "Hey Jude" sing-along there at the end. It's not a step up or forward or back. It's a step in place. All to the tune stomping tuba. But, in this case, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Listen :: The Decemberists - "Valerie Plame"


Miniature Tigers :: "Cannibal Queen"

You could argue that animal names for bands ceased being useful when Montreal's AIDS Wolf hit the scene in 2005. If a deadly communicable illness and a vicious pack animal could be lumped together, where would it stop? Animal Collective? Nope. Tigercity? Certainly not. The Republic Tigers? Already on Gossip Girl.

But maybe there's room for. just. one. more. Miniature Tigers pop out of Phoenix, Arizona with a song sweet enough to rip out your fillings and stick your jaw together like a sugar baby. "Cannibal Queen" has the up-down-up-down guitar riff that Destiny's Child borrowed from Fleetwood Mac for "Bootylicious." Wait for it. Yeah, it's almost identical.

The lyrics are your average, sad-sack, "I just want somebody to love, please don't hurt me again, I've been burned before but GOD do I remain hopeful" type of fare. But, underneath what seems obvious is something else. He's actually talking about eating this girl's heart. Sure, it's supposed to be cute but (I'll say it again) he's talking about eating this girl's heart. And he means it in a good way. Do that math.

Listen :: Miniature Tigers - "Cannibal Queen"


Dan Black :: "HYPNTZ"

This is an absolute smash. Well, again.

Dan Black, London turned Paris' version of Tom Vek spits a half-choral, half-orchestral cover of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize." Not to say it's better than the original. They're entirely different animals. But Black has re-imagined the song melodically and added the "Umbrella" rhythm section and Jigga's "un-huh's." The combination sounds disjointed but it sails along like zero-gravity montage to 2009: A Space Odyssey starring Biggie.

Black also just pulled down a record deal and has some original material up on his myspace - check out "Wonder" for a darker (new-wavey?) version of that Tom Vek idea that set New York on fire in 2005. Basically, this kid is going to be massive when all is said and done. Massive.

"HYPNTZ" should liquidate your Friday and send your assets plunging into oblivion. The market ain't everything. There was a time in the 90s when words could hypnotize. Which is why I'm so broke and you're so paid.

Listen :: Dan Black - HYPNTZ


On The List :: Bloc Party @ Roseland Ballroom [9.18.08]

32feet can't be everywhere at once. This guest concert review is brought to you by Chuck from Dead Bands, one of the best blogs in the world.

A free concert almost always turns out to be a bittersweet affair. Such was the case for Bloc Party's free, semi-secret show at Roseland Ballroom on Thursday night. Although the initial response to the ticket price is certainly appealing, you never really think about the dire circumstances that you will undoubtedly face upon arriving at the venue. Doors for this particular show were scheduled for 7:15 pm. By the time I got there, the line had wrapped around the entire block (insert pun here), so that the first and last person in line were standing right next to each other. The website for the event claimed that no one would be let in without an online RSVP. However, I found the coordinators were haphazardly doling out bracelets to anyone walking by. Despite how many people actually showed up for this thing, once they were filed into the venue, it was actually downright comfortable.

The opening act for the evening was Amazing Baby, who also played the last Bloc Party show in New York, about 4 weeks ago at Webster Hall. It is unclear why this Brooklyn septet was chosen to open both shows, considering the fact that absolutely zero Bloc Party fans could get into them. Every song sounded like a junior high cover band attempting to play “Gimme Shelter.” Not even their two homely backup singers could grasp the attention of the audience. The “band” mercifully ended their set after roughly 40 minutes. Just as everyone started to get the feeling they had been cheated, the lights went down and Bloc Party appeared. Drummer Matt Tong walked onstage draped in what appeared to be a velvet blanket, only to reveal himself wearing nothing but boxers and a wife beater. Singer/guitarist Kele Okereke, once again donning his Jamaican-flag-colored Barack Obama shirt, immediately addressed the fact that this show was free, and that everyone should be cheering louder.

Another downside to the free show experience is that this gives the band the right to try out all of their new stuff on the audience. Although you really want to hear all of your old favorites, you will most likely have to sit through at least 5-6 songs that this band is not used to playing live. This accounted for a rather tired rendition of “Signs” and “Ares,” which found Kele rushing to sing both of his studio-overdubbed vocal parts at once. Unfortunately, they decided to leave “Ion Square” out of their set, which is far and away the strongest song on their new album, Intimacy. Although there were some decent moments in a few of the new songs, it was clear what the audience really wanted to hear. When the opening chords to “Banquet” and “Helicopter” broke in, it was an absolute frenzy. In contrast, songs from A Weekend in the City got a lukewarm reaction. By booking a free show, Bloc Party guaranteed themselves a Silent Alarm type of crowd. This made for a show that was only about 40% satisfying for most attendees. Thus is the dilemma of the free show. Bloc Party comes away with a little bit more experience, but also an unsure outlook for their future. The audience comes away with just enough satisfaction to make it worth their time.

Listen :: Bloc Party vs. Katy Perry - I Kissed A Banquet


[Elevator] The Killers :: "Human"

It is, perhaps, appropriate that The Killers' newest single, "Human" is a completely synthed-to-death meditation on the nature of humanity in a digital age. The first track in support of a new record, Day & Age, "Human" is by far the most artificial the band has ever sounded. This is saying a lot when you consider their first record reflected an unabashed affinity for copy-cat synth-rock.

But the question has always been, how much does the band realize that they are unoriginal? The problem is less that they are unoriginal and more that they may not know it. And on the heels of Hot Fuss, Brandon Flowers only managed to switch influences for Sam's Town. The question of his originality wasn't on trial, but suddenly, his self-awareness was. Fast-forward to this afternoon and my desk. "Human" comes pounding out of the tiny computer speakers with the metallurgy of When In Rome's "The Promise;" which is to say, mildly, this song is slick and polished within an inch of its digitized life.

The lyrics hint at non-sense but underneath, down below what seems ripped-off, is something deeply ironic and ironically, deeply important. Flowers is taking on his own death at the hands of the machines - all to the tune of packaged drums and soaring, synthetic chords. To what degree do we mindlessly dance to MGMT and Justice as our souls slowly metastasize into zeros and ones? To what degree are we living inside of a gigantic discotheque, too busy moving to digital heartbeats to ask: "are we human or are we dancers?" It seems profoundly stupid and it is absolutely not.

In the bridge: "Will your system be alright/when you dream of home tonight?/there is no message we're receiving/let me know, is your heart still beating?" The artificial kick-drum mimics the digital heart beating itself to death as Flowers breaks us down, before asking one last non-sensical time, "are we human or are we dancers?" It's a death dance song. It's a digital answer to a computerized question. Do we even feel anything anymore?

The answer is in the title. Human. Armed with keyboards. Denser.

Listen :: The Killers - "Human" (link fixed)


Tigercity :: Live on XFM [9.18.08]

Tigercity has been one of my favorite New York bands ever since I saw them open for Junior Boys in early 2007. I was blind-sided. I ended up not even staying for the headliner. It was both mainstream and avant-garde at the same time. It was somehow derivative and exciting. In the best spirit of indie rock, it was looking backwards while trying to sprint through a wall. At the time, I made some Hall and Oates references but Tigercity was more than a few name-checks in a decently put together concert review. More than many bands I saw that year, I felt Tigercity had a chance to get up and get out. I started rooting for them.

That was 18-months ago. They're still touring behind a mini-album Pretend Not To Love and last night they hit XFM with a two-song set and a brief interview. Is this a step-towards that super-hit status? Maybe. But probably not. I guess I thought they would be bigger by now. And I'm not happy they're not. But, in the great spirit of indie rock, I'll keep it like a secret.

Listen :: Tigercity (Live on XFM 9.18.08)


The Piano Creeps :: "Hey Love"

Despite its chatty and potentially affectionate title, The Piano Creeps', "Hey Love" is neither. It's dark and more than a little haunting, in the same style that K's Choice made crisp, if at times unmemorable, adult alternative music in the late 1990s. In "Hey Love," a hollow, plinking piano progression drives the kind of melody that could either end an episode of Gossip Girl or, used in an ironic way, be in the final murderous scenes of a medium-budget horror movie.

To tell you the honest truth, the first image that popped up was the famous gun-fight in Face/Off where Nick Cage (or Travolta, I forget who is wearing which face at this point) puts the headphones on Castor Troy's kid and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" echos through a scene ostensibly about shooting everything that moves. Maybe because "Hey Love" is about losing that killer instinct, it seems perfect for a homicidal visual. There is something absolutely crushing going on here and The Piano Creeps aren't afraid to call it what it is: "hey love, don't make yourself unhappy/hey love, you know the situation's bad/each day means one less happy ending/hey love, hey love, you make me so damn sad." So the bullets whiz by your face and you flip into a barrel roll. You aim your weapon at motion and the slow-motion camera yawns to the left. Everyone is about to fictionally die.

Listen :: The Piano Creeps - "Hey Love"


[Elevator] School of Seven Bells :: "Connjur"

This band is a comer. No question. School of Seven Bells rose out of the ashes of Secret Machines' mercurial flame-out, as guitarist Ben Curtis got tired making of psych-rock and started making Norwegian-flavored, electro arena pop. The first thing that came to mind was, "this is the record The Knife meant to make three years ago." It's big and dark and, at times, really unsettling. But it's incredibly credible. In fact, subtract The Knife's "Heartbeats" (and I understand this is incredibly impossible), School of Seven Bells have a record that is vastly better than Silent Shout.

"Connjur" is the first single off Alpinisms and a perfect example of the dark electronic soundscapes that this band traffics. It's probably not the best song off the record ("Chain" is instantly more satisfying and "Wired For Light" is mas. sive.) but "Connjur" is enough to get you started. There's something almost tribal going on here; like a late-night, northern lights freak-out, where Bjork's catalogue is tirelessly remixed into reverb-heavy 125bpm dance-hits. Or like a downtown, drugged-out rain dance. It's all connected. So pray the Sun God doesn't come out tomorrow and it stays dark forever.

Listen :: School of Seven Bells - "Connjur"


Empire Of The Sun : "Walking On A Dream"

Empire Of The Sun sounds like it should come directly after a colon and the words "The Mummy 4." Actually, they're another synthed-out (potential) waste of space, throw-back. I mean, at what point are we going to get sick of all this 1980s revivalist shit? No matter how well it's being done now, it's definitely been done before. Duran Duran was awesome. We already had Human League. I already like Depeche Mode. What's your policy of truth?

Problem is, this song rips. Really, really rips.

Like a cut out of Phoenix's early career (there are shades of "If I Ever Feel Better," although that is insulting to both parties), Empire Of The Sun have strung together as effervescent a song as you'll hear this year. It glides over, above, and sometimes through its own arrangement with a propulsive hum, hiding just at the back of the mix. Simple synth-resolutions end up giving the quality of a heaving chest. By the time we come to the lyrics, "we are always running/just for the thrill of it (the thrill of it)," it's decided. You'll drive the car until it runs out of gas and then you'll get out and sprint until you pass out. It's that kind of motion - sea-sick with color and completely out of oxygen

Listen :: Empire of the Sun - "Walking on a Dream"


On The List :: Tokyo Police Club @ Mercury Lounge [9.7.08]

Tokyo Police Club took the stage last night at the Mercury Lounge and it was anything but a secret. The show, billed as Mark Knight's Tropic Zone, was Bowery Presents' foray into the world of unannounced, big name gigs. Unfortunately, it was such a secret in the weeks leading up to the show, speculation got out of control. TV On The Radio? Nope. Wolf Parade? All your secrets were drowned. No other bands, just Tokyo Police Club back at the Mercury Lounge for the first time in 18 months.

And everybody did their job. TPC owed Bowery Presents a show, accounting for a Webster Hall gig they backed out of a few months ago. You traded me for the lump sum. Bowery Presents slung together the secret gig, and TPC agreed. Everyone was fairly polite - it was more business deal than desire to connect with people. It was more of a transaction than a secret.

The band took the stage just before 11:15pm and the room was just a little under full. Tokyo Police Club always come out a little flat. The word on the street is you got a weakness. It seems like they're surprised to be there or a little too grateful - they just never come out and kill it. By now they have a catalogue deep enough to come out a little weak and rely on their bigger songs to close the set. This is not a total disaster.

Despite some equipment malfunctions, this is a radically different band than you might remember. After fiddling with their bass amp, the lead-singer jokes, "We're professionals." You've got nerve but we've got tact. It's not a joke. They've got a fancy guitar effect on all the songs from Elephant Shell and the guitarist has to look over at the guitar tech to make sure everything is opperating. It makes the new material sound, bluntly, huge. They've managed to embrace all the stage flourish of a big touring band. Their light-tech is working hard and the stage lights suddenly go out after almost every song. This band might work best in a small room but they aren't a small band anymore. Not even a little.

The show ends up being unexpectedly intimate. They play a down-tempo version of "Juno," seemingly inspired by the Ra Ra Riot remix of the song that dropped last week. There's a positively anthemic version of the slower-ride, "Listen To The Math." There are technical problems to the point where the keyboardist does about 60 seconds of filler about the first time they played the Mercury Lounge. It almost feels like you're seeing one of the biggest rock bands of the year play in someones basement. You're my cave and I've been hiding out. It's disjunctive but it works. They're not really trying to blow anyone away (and they don't) but they're trying to show up and put on a good show (and they do).

For a show that got scheduled because of a contract dispute, it ended up being more agreeable than not. We all signed on the bottom of the waiver and came out on a Sunday night. It was late and they band played nearly their entire catalogue. It was an invisible hand shake. We didn't need an opener. It's good enough that you're here. And it's better that you've come alone.

Listen :: Tokyo Police Club - Juno (Ra Ra Riot/Andrew Maury Remix)
Listen :: Tokyo Police Club - In A Cave
Listen :: Tokyo Police Club - Tessellate (Tom Campesino's Remix)
Listen :: Tokyo Police Club - Juno
(photo courtesy of sethhunters iphone)<


Friendly Fires :: "Lovesick"

The Friendly Fires album came out yesterday and just wait, it's going to knock down your doors. We caught them at the Mercury Lounge a few months back and it was immediately apparent that this band is on the up. They didn't look or sound a bit like a band playing to 60 people on a weekday night. The only disappointment being: they didn't play "Lovesick," which at the time had just poked its head above the Internet's surface, only to look around and then go back under. Luckily, we've got a copy of the song which might be the most approachable, if not the empirically best, song on the album.

Listen :: Friendly Fires - "Lovesick"


Awesome New Republic :: "2k3012"

The start dates of the first true Republic range anywhere from ancient Rome to the day Barack Obama announced he was running for President. Now, an Awesome New Republic in America, that could date anywhere from 1776-2000 (we'll assume anything that happened after the Clinton administration was neither "awesome" nor particularly "republican" - despite what the ironically-titled party in power would have said). Founded not in 1789, this Awesome New Republic (a musical one) kicked off in Miami in 2003 (oddly, the same place where three years earlier the Republic had been hijacked and stolen with all the grace of gas station robbery).

What did they sound like? They wanted to mix genres together into a cocktail that would be equal parts synth-rock, dance break-beat, and alt-rock. You can imagine they succeeded. And a mixing of parts will pass for success in the same way approaching a soda-fountain with a democratic mind-set will successfully give you something extremely sweet, though not particularly tasting like Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, or Hi-C. It's just a light brown and has enough sugar to make you diabetic by mid-afternoon.

Well, "2k3012" doesn't exactly work but it's an interesting experiment. And there are moments, mostly under the age of 12, when you take a tug on your straw and you're sure that your "mixture" is better than any of it's individual parts. You're wrong. But you tried. Which is more than your unadventurous, Sprite-drinking, colleagues could say. And I'd rather go down in corn syrup dreams than drink the same shit every day.

Listen :: Awesome New Republic - "2k3012"