First Rate People :: "Film Star"

First Rate People told us recently that they like making music that, in theory, shouldn't work. They used the example of a country reggae song they managed to squeeze together. Another genre-bender, on "Film Star," the band uses a racing and playful break-beat to feature whirring chimes and warm horns. FRP continue to showcase their deftness with melody, a sort of intentionally underrated hit-making. As "Film Star" takes its final turn with the hook, "I am no film star," a second vocal hits in beat-poet candor, "Fresh start, when is it happenin'?/All the girls they still stick around when I'm here." The two hooks collide, then sync perfectly, like a multi-car pile-up turned into a 50-story Transformer, a beast running full speed down the middle of a North American highway.

Listen :: First Rate People - "Film Star"


Lali Puna :: "Remember"

Like glimmering and uncertain gesture, Lali Puna's "Remember" emerges as a series of loops and glitches that turn into something stunningly beautiful. The band, featuring members of The Notwist, is set to release its fourth LP, Our Intentions, a collection of pulsing and whirring electronic pop music. "Remember" implies a certain nostalgia, with warm guitars and hushed vocals, male and female, over-layed like coats of paint on the wall of your childhood bedroom. A chiming and stuttering chorus asks the obvious, "Will you remember?" We are left without a definitive noun to finish the hanging interrogative until the song's final word, "me?" With this the nostalgia is personal and impossible to forget.

Listen :: Lali Puna - "Remember"


Interview :: The Joy Formidable [1.27.10]

The Joy Formidable made their first trip across the ocean from Wales to the United States with a string of sold out shows in New York. We exchanged some emails with lead-singer, Ritzy Bryan. She reflects on the band's early distribution choices, decibels, and if New Yorkers are, in fact, jerks.

32feet: How did the decision to release the record through NME for free come about?

Ritzy Bryan: NME were the first to stream it for free, but it had been available from us prior to that as a free download. We wanted people to hear the record and we were confident that it would generate some real fans, who go on to see you live, and invest in different ways. We put a lot of thought into the physical format; a boxset, a poster edition: that balance between download and having something to hold and collect is important us. Was it a success; yeah it was a great record , everything else is pretty irrelevant.

The scope of your record, A Balloon Called Moaning is massive. It is true "big room" music. What were the inspirations for the sound?

We didn't go into it thinking I want it to sound like this, this or this, but we know what sonically pushes our buttons, what gives us goosebumps. I'm really tuned into dynamics, when things take off , I want to feel the walls quivering. You can have a great song, but on record if it misses that mark, it's really disappointing. In some places ABCM is pushed within an inch of its dBs, a producers nightmare, but we stuck with it, that's how it came out.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

It changes everytime I hear it. The best thing is that I don't have a least favourite. Today it's "9669."

You all just came through New York for the first time, opening for Passion Pit and then doing two of your own gigs at Union Hall and Pianos. New Yorkers are crushing narcissists. Tell us what you thought of us.

If they are, they hid it well. We had a brilliant time, a very warm welcome, loved seeing the PP boys again and two sold out shows of our own. We're itching to go back and hopefully this time do a longer tour.

Who is your favorite band you've shared a stage with so far? And do you have a dream tour partner?

We haven't toured with any arseholes, all the bands we've travelled with have been great, and many have become friends. And that's not the safe answer, there's plenty of arseholes out there like in every job, we've just been lucky or forged our own luck not to play with them. I've got a real soft spot for Passion Pit and Temper Trap as people, and musical admiration as well. A dream tour partner, let me think, my knees would shake if we opened for Elvis Costello.

Any big news for 2010 you can let the world in on?

The focus at the moment is our debut album, it's almost finished and we'll be releasing it later in the year. We've loved making it, after months on the road writing it, and it being an abstraction it's finally coming together. The headline tour in March will be our biggest to date and we'll be previewing some of the album, so that's exciting, and then in May we'll be Stateside again, doing a tour of Alaska.

Listen :: The Joy Formidable - "Cradle"


Two Door Cinema Club :: "Costume Party"

One year ago, we featured Two Door Cinema Club and predicted they were on their way to something big. First, came the storming, massive single, "I Can Talk," racing all the way to number 11 in our top songs of the year. The band's first official full-length, Tourist History is due the first of March and the band is offering another song, "Costume Party," a b-side not even cracking the top ten tracks they selected for the album. "Costume" proves to be a twitchy, instantly infectious cut that sails along like a pushed person careening on a block of ice down a dry grassy hill side. The downbeat isn't meant to snap but rather to move with delicate guitar plucking and warm synth work. This will stick in your head for days, or at least the five weeks until the album comes out. Then, you can try to handle how good the record is, given "Costume Party" didn't even make the cut.

Listen :: Two Door Cinema Club - "Costume Party"
Bonus :: Phoenix - "Lasso" [TDCC Remix]


On The List :: Free Energy @ Brooklyn Bowl [1.22.10]

Historically speaking, Brooklyn Bowl is situated on a block that Eastern European immigrants built and is now home to a graveyard of low-lying and almost forgotten brick, industrial architecture. It hearkens back to a place that Williamsburg used to be, a place that almost does not exist anymore. Inside Brooklyn Bowl, Free Energy, the long-drive from Philly, took the stage in front of a crowd, loosely packed back to the bar. The band, a mixture of winking and willful influences to rock's Golden Age of the 1970s, took the stage with a languid confidence, both thrown back in time and very much in the present.

With only a four-song EP, Free Energy quickly dove into material from their coming full length, Stuck On Nothing. Soon-to-be first single, "Bang Pop," a stomping and instantly memorable cut hung in the middle of the set like a vicious linchpin. Lead singer, Paul Sprangers, in the simplest of grey sweatshirts, strutted around the stage like a wiry drum major, leading the crowd through the eponymous chorus, "Bang bang/pop pop." It was rife with classic rock derivation but, at the moment, no one seemed to notice. In the closing moments, the band played "Free Energy," with its seminal battle cry of youth, "We are young and still alive/now the time is on our side," and "Something In Common," with a 4/4 time signature and enough inclusive language to make us feel like we had been through something, together.

It was perhaps, a night of ignoring disjoints: A bowling alley with a music venue inside of it, a neighborhood, both old and desperately new, and a band, with regard for the past, making music they are confident is enduring. Though it sounded like 40 years ago, we were still young and we were certainly alive. Time wasn't necessarily on our side but it had been successfully removed from the equation.

Listen :: Free Energy - "Something In Common"


On The List :: Spoon @ Mercury Lounge [1.21.10]

This review appears on Bowery's Houselist Blog.

The sidewalk in front of Mercury Lounge was divided into two lines like some sort of downtown apartheid: One for those seeking to pay their way in to see Britt Daniel and the other for those with their names on the guest list. They were faced in opposite directions—the music-industry insiders and the morally righteous superfans willing to stand in the cold and pay real money for music. It was thus written on the street that something special was happening inside. A band that will play Radio City Music Hall in two months was playing this tiny sold-out venue.

Spoon took the stage just after 10 and, Daniel, in a brown fitted shirt (he wrote an entire song about this in 2001), was awkward in the way cool people can get away with being weird and compelling. He thanked us for coming, and the room buzzed with the sense that we should be thanking him. Spoon slipped into “Black Like Me,” maybe their most cerebral effort, before shifting into “Is Love Forever?,” off their latest album, Transference, a downstroke anthem that ends with a collision of reverb and the feeling of a pulled plug. Daniel played most of the new record, including “Who Makes Your Money” and “Nobody Gets Me but You,” in the first half of the set. The crowd, quite obviously a sea of personal and music-business connections, leaned close and the room approached the feeling of a birthday party where everyone was sure their invitation was genuine.

Daniel upped the ante in the set’s final third. Favorites “Cherry Bomb,” “I Summon You” and “Beast and Dragon, Adored,” appeared next to new cuts like “Mystery Zone,” “Written in Reverse” and the night’s closer, the propulsive “Got Nuffin.” Daniel thanked us again for standing in the cold and we silently replied that we mostly hadn’t. But some did, and for the feeling of a major event with a big band in a little room, this is exactly what counted.


Emanuel and The Fear :: "Dear Friend"

Emanuel and The Fear turned out one of our favorite songs of last year, the seminal and sunshiney, "The Rain Becomes The Clouds." In a shocking twist, the band is releasing a new LP of 19 songs entitled, Listen, to back up last year's EP. We're counting that as prolific. The band is releasing an preview of the record, "Dear Friend," track seven on the album, and a perfect example of the band's orchestral, throw-back pop in the style of television montages from the opening credits. The song's first tones almost evoke Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" before spilling to a lighter-than-air series of strings, horns and Ben Folds-style piano. All of this swirls into a etherial bridge before the band finds a second movement recalling the most earnest of Stevie Wonder melodies, replete with summiting-major chord progressions. All of this levels up to a place, somewhere in a sharp focused 1983 family situation comedy, where it isn't possible to feel an ounce of bad.

Listen :: Emanuel and The Fear - "Dear Friend"


Interview :: First Rate People [1.19.09]

With summer-style slam, "Girls' Night" burning up stereos, we shot some emails back and forth with the hotly buzzed and Toronto's own First Rate People. With insight about their nomenclature, a bit about the ubiquity of "genre-hopping" and a new song, here they are.

32Feet: Where did you all dig up the name First Rate People?

First Rate People: We actually never intended to be "The First Rate People" which is what some people call us. We're not the First Rate People the name is referring to. Is that confusing? Our old band had a song called "First Rate" so we basically stole our name from that song. We've considered abbreviating the name to just FRP but we don't wanna make R.E.M. or MGMT mad at us.

Top 5 desert island albums?

The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths
Illmatic - Nas
Since I Left You - The Avalanches
All Is Well - Samamidon
Boxer - The National

Talk about some of the sonic influences on the first group of songs you have floating around, It's Never Not Happening. It seems like a delicate mixture of r&b, bedroom pop. What are you shooting for?

It's not a super-conscious thing but we're always up for making music that, in theory, shouldn't work. For example, one of our songs called "Dress So Fine" was our attempt to make a country reggae song. Country reggae sounds awful on paper, right? Our friend Dave tells us Willie Nelson once made a country reggae album to mixed results...

What should we expect from FRP in 2010? Big tour? How close are you to signing with a label?

We've been really lucky with how things have picked up in the past couple weeks. For the moment though, because most of us are still in school, we're gonna focus on making the live act really exciting and tour around Ontario and into the States in the fall.

What is the one thing everyone should remember about your band, no matter what happens in the coming months?

First off - that we're thankful for the attention. We hope to be able to continue changing styles (almost excessively). Tossing around the term "genre-hopping" has been overdone lately, but we really do have great respect for the Jonis, Sufjans & Becks of the world.

Listen :: First Rate People - "American Life" [zshare]

On The List :: Vampire Weekend @ Webster Hall [1.18.10]

This review runs on Bowery's Houselist Blog.

The four boys of Vampire Weekend took the stage at Webster Hall with an enormous screen-printed cover of their latest album, Contra hanging behind them. The face of the anonymous blond from Contra's 50-foot high cover art stared ominously out at the crowd. The band smiled winningly and immediately waltzed into "White Sky," an amphetamine-angle on a chord progression from Paul Simon's "Under African Skies." If it was a night of influences, it was also a homecoming; an ode to all the chosen parts that made album art stand five stories high.

It would be a set of contradictions; half drawn from their eponymous debut album and the other from their six-day old sophomore effort. From the outset when the band ripped through, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," "M79" and stand-out live track, "Cousins," it was clear that keyboardist, Rostam Batmanglij wasn't entirely together, holding a 10-mile stare and looking overheated and frankly not sober. He, along with front man, Ezra Koenig and bassist, Chris Baio all dressed in blue, checkered dress shirts, in the kind of gesture that is either hilariously planned or embarrassingly accidental. In the dead middle, the band played the haunting "Taxi," lit from below, casting huge shadows on the face of their album art. It was impossible not to think of these four as shadow giants, both legitimately enormous and completely inflated in the light of their new celebrity.

After the equally spot-on "Diplomat's Son," Koenig thanked the crowd for joining the band on, "this odyssey of growing up." The band then played the opening to "Giving Up The Gun," a meditation on modernism and the loss of innocence in the face of flux. Of course, as much as Vampire Weekend is different than the band we saw three years ago, they still close with "Walcott," at the end of their encore. It was a song of departure for a band just arriving. In the city that bore them, an unflinching, five-story stare hung in the background and shadows shuffled off to stage right.

Listen :: Vampire Weekend - "Horchata"


On The List :: The Dodos @ SF MOMA [1.15.10]

It's clear from the line wrapped around not one, not two, but three sides of the block demarcated by 3rd, Minna, Montgomery and Howard Streets that 1,000 of our closest friends will be joining us on the list tonight. More accurately, a great many of SF MOMA's good acquaintances also received an invitation (+1!) to opening night of the 75th anniversary show with special guests including Jackson Pollock (deceased), Dorothea Lange (deceased), and The Dodos (alive; on stage).

We couldn’t care less about The Dodos. We don't really care about the art (although the show turns out to be excellent. If you'd like to go, you can borrow our membership card.) We are here ostensibly for the potential of meeting girls but honestly for the certainty of free drinks promised by the invite.

By the time we navigate the line, however, tickets entitling one to a free glass of Korbel are no longer available at the door. Dewar's, however, is only six bucks. We settle.

Two choices present themselves: Upstairs to the art, where no drinks are allowed, or right into a hot room where The Dodos, accompanied by The Magik*Magik Orchestra, play.

The triumvirate of Scotch, rocks, and music triumphs.

The band fits the role of local favorite well. (We later learn one of them lives within a couple blocks of us and held a Halloween party where he played drums while wearing a purple dress. This anecdote, while having no bearing on the content of this review, seems worth sharing.) The front few rows dance as much as they deem appropriate given the setting. The rest of the crowd oscillates between paying attention while trying hard to look like they are not and enjoying themselves while attempting to look like they aren't paying attention.

We pay attention. Almost immediately, The Dodos remind us of The White Rabbits. Tribal drumming and a singer who resorts to a strained voice will do that. (See "Men" for further proof.) The San Francisco version favors leading with a guitar and letting the drums take over, while the boys from Brooklyn launch into the skins from the get go, but the distinction is simply semantics. They are brothers from a different coast.

The Dodos play two sets, of which we catch probably seven songs. (At some point, we feel obliged to wander through the galleries upstairs.) At 10:30, they finish, SF MOMA begins to shut down, and we leave.

But the beat goes on, da da dum da dum da da.


On The List :: Julian Casablancas @ Terminal 5 [1.14.10]

Everyone was calling Julian Casablancas by his first name. Near the ticket window it was, "Julian" and upstairs in VIP it was a more familiar, "Jules." Opener Tanlines even referred to him as the vaguely messianic "JC." Apparently, New York assumed it was on a first name basis with the guy who allegedly saved rock and roll in 2001 on the Lower East Side. As if winking at 3,000 people at once, Casablancas opened with "Ludlow St.," an overly sentimental ode to the street he helped make famous. Of course, it was also to say that if we thought we knew him, he most assuredly knew us better.

Casablancas, dressed almost head-to-foot in black leather came to the stage last, a subtle tip to the significance of his return to the city that bore him. After "Ludlow St.," he directed the band in the wailing and enormous "River Of Brakelights," a song that few outside the first twenty rows grasped or reacted to appropriately. Followed quickly with "11th Dimension," Casablancas turned Terminal 5 into a sea of jumping heads and bobbing angular haircuts. As if to endear himself, during "Out Of The Blue," Casablancas whipped the mike around by its cord, before catching it and ripping through the last chorus. It was the kind of maneuver that said both, "I've still got it" and, "I never really left."

Of course, this return couldn't be complete without an unscripted ending. After closing his first encore with "4 Chords Of The Apocalypse," Casablancas slammed the mike on the stage and reached into the crowd with all the magnanimous affect of a messiah. The crowd visibly pushed towards their hero and he seemed visibly affected by this display. Terminal 5 turned on their background music and the crowd was supposed to leave. No one moved. Casablancas returned, rather sheepishly, saying, "We really were done." He then played "Tourist," as if to indicate that even The Messiah feels a little weird when everyone tries to know his name. The crowd, unabashedly, sang along with their own personal Julian.

Listen :: Julian Casablancas - "I Wish It Was Christmas Today"


Happy Birthday :: "Girls FM"

I think we can all agree we've let this lo-fi, glo-fi, surf-rock, beach comber, reverb-drenched thing go a little too far. We gave it a long leash because, well, we didn't have any better ideas and we're not exactly taste-makers so much as we are weathervanes. And now we're being ripped along with the breeze of a storm we didn't see coming inasmuch as we also allowed it to form. We are also lost in our analogies.

And then, along comes the innocuously-titled Happy Birthday, a recent signee to Sub Pop. Picture the happy medium between the youthful solipsism of The Drums, the garage-rock obviousness of Surfer Blood and maybe the 1970s fun of Free Energy. The shabby guitar work recalls something unpolished and winning, and yet the shimmering "Everyone's Going Surfing," chorus will stick in your head like a piece of used up Juicy Fruit gum, spat from a passing Schwinn Cruiser bicycle. Just try to get it out.

Listen :: Happy Birthday - "Girls FM"


[Elevator] First Rate People :: "Girls' Night"

Indie rock has undeniably been stumbling towards having some hints of hip-hop influences. Perhaps it began with Matt and Kim's "Daylight," only to continue with Dirty Projectors' "Stillness Is The Move," and buoyed by Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks." Hell, even, The Big Pink's "Dominos" could have been turned into a slow-ride hip-hop cut. So it is no surprise that Ontario's First Rate People have churned out a bouncy, ebullient summer jam, "Girls' Night." The boy-girl vocals operate on different planes but eventually overlap, again and again, like two people having unrelated, and yet topically similar phone conversations in an airport lounge. The verses, a cold-medicine yip delivery, find themselves advancing behind picked guitars, whirring keyboards and a surprisingly layered arrangement. Hip-hop or not, "Girls' Night" is enough head-nod to break your neck off.

Listen :: First Rate People - "Girls' Night"


Shout Out Louds :: "Fall Hard" [Video]

We posted new Shout Out Louds cut, "Walls" a few weeks back. It clearly wasn't going to be the first single. With a flurry of press releases today, the band officially returned a video for first single, "Fall Hard" from the band's third LP, Work, due on February 23. "Fall Hard" is a horn-infused, high-hat-heavy, boy-girl racer. The threat of the chorus, "And if you fall hard/I fall harder," is certainly a bit of mutually assured destruction. Lead-singer, Adam Olenius looks a little worse for wear, but intentionally so. Call it exactly what we need for the warmest part of the winter.

Shout Out Louds - Fall Hard from Merge Records on Vimeo.

On The List :: The Joy Formidable @ Union Hall [1.11.10]

In a sleepy section of Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, The Joy Formidable are flooding a basement with a wall of noise. The room is packed, a guest-list stuffed, much buzzed show; only their fourth in the US. From the opening chords of album and set opener, "The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade," it is easy to see why. Vocalist Ritzy Bryan is a sprite of energy, equal parts Emily Haines, Courtney Love and Karen O. With bangs cut at an aggressive straight-line and a shock of blond hair, Byran stares blankly, almost possessed through the opening tones of "Cradle," the night's second song, before exploding into the verse.

Undeniably, the night's best moments come near the beginning and at the very end. The set loses its mandate in the middle, though Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd never lose their edge. Deeper cuts from the band's seminal debut, A Balloon Called Moaning, fill the middle of the set. Even at their most middling, there is something about this music, parts shoegaze, parts garage-rock that moves the crowd to bounce, clap and cheer along. The band, of course, saves its best for last.

Motoring through "Austere," we are left the the crashing and intensely melodic "Whirring." A yuppie to my 12 o'clock whispers in his girlfriend's ear, "This is their big radio single." She nods knowingly. She has no idea. The Joy Formidable, twenty rows toward the front thank us before stomping into the opening chords. The song will end with a thrashing breakdown, leaving the crowd wrecked and Bryan's guitar beyond repair. As the band returns for an encore, Bryan fiddling around with her equipment for a minute before sheepishly apologizing because her guitar simply won't play. This is much more than a basement band, willing to break themselves to achieve something larger, and next time you see them it will not be in a room this small.

Listen :: The Joy Formidable - "Cradle"


On The List :: Passion Pit @ Terminal 5 [1.8.10]

Gigantic LED screens lit the stage as Passion Pit took the stage with entrance music pounding through the speakers, an evolutionary gesture. The crowd, a mixture of hardened hipsters with their battle stories and tweens with tickets bought on parental credit cards, lost their collective minds in that cocktail of excitement and uncertain celebrity usually associated with mid-level professional athletes and reality television stars. Passion Pit, the kids from Boston with that independent EP turned Columbia Records LP, proved as magnanimous as confident in their pose, saying something unspoken like, "Dear 3,000 people, thanks for buying tickets to see us. Appreciate it. Now we're going to light this place up, okay?"

For a band who little more than 18 months ago was playing their now famed residency at Pianos, filling the joint at Terminal 5 could have been nothing more than surreal. As if paying homage to their humble beginnings, the band opened with "I've Got Your Number," the lead-track from their self-released EP Chunk of Change. The crowd appeared clocked in on the band's catalogue, words memorized and movement ready. The band then proceeded to make good on their unspoken promise, playing "Make Light" as the room turned into a cascading series of flashing, white LED lights.

The set opened in massive character, lagged a bit in the middle, only to find its legs in the home stretch. The band closed the main set with second-single stunner, "Little Secrets," turning the crowd into little bubbles of boiling water, popping to surface as if driven by something non-negotiably elemental. After a well deserved encore, Passion Pit returned with "Eyes Like Candles," an explosive cover of The Cranberries' "Dreams," acting as the nights' most unexpectedly pleasant moment; before closing with "Sleepyhead." As the floor turned into an undulating mass of clapping, stomping and jumping, Michael Angelekos stormed around the front of the stage. This was nothing like band who played the city those short months ago; turned into a rapidly growing, hungry animal. As the lights swam around the stage, you wouldn't want to forget where they had been but it was far scarier to think about where this band could be going.

Listen :: Passion Pit - "To Kingdom Come" [Artwork Remix]


Rogue Wave :: "Good Morning"

Last we left Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave, he was in a Zune commercial talking about global warming in the lyrics of "Lake Michigan." I immediately put it on a mixtape and sent it to someone in Montana. Since then, the Zune has completely failed, the Copenhagen summit was a sort-of-failure, and I've sent six or seven more mixtapes to various zip codes around the continental United States.

Of course, Zach Rogue isn't standing still and he won't be a part of three maybe-blighted narratives (see above). The opening moments of "Good Morning" showcase packaged drums and a shabby guitar riff before exploding into something more bombastic. This isn't the least bit organic. By the time Rogue is charging into the chorus, the guitars are buzzing and his vocal is (oh my God, really?) auto-tuned. And yet, the lite power-pop tones are the same charming melodies that showed up on Rogue's first two records. "Good Morning" is a grower, repeating the mantra, "the future, the future," through the bridge. I suspect Zach Rogue would rather take us somewhere vaguely uncomfortable and new than fail in his place.

Listen :: Rogue Wave - "Good Morning"


Northern Portrait :: "Favorite Moment"

Northern Portrait are guilty of being a little overdone as a band. Any lyric that presupposes to understand "your new favorite moment, your new favorite time," is stretching the limits of superlatives as we know them. This does not mention its presupposition that exaggeration for the sake of effect is acceptable, a cultural concept that went out of style sometime in 1996 when Alicia Silverstone had "the best time ever" in Clueless.

But perhaps we can be a little cynical. And in an increasingly relativist society, who I am to call anyone "overdone?" My criticism alone is overdone (see above, everywhere). I reflect. It precisely at this moment that the sonic love-child of The Cure and The Lucksmiths explodes out of the speakers and "Favorite Moment" becomes exactly that - your new favorite moment. Shimmering and ebullient, Northern Portrait have crafted something that explodes cynicism with all the regret of a safe-cracker blowing a safe. We are, for the moment, open and grateful for it.

Listen :: Northern Portrait - "Favorite Moment"