Archive | January, 2012

i was there: real estate at black cat, 1.22

30 Jan

Exactly one week ago, I saw a really amazing show. A show that I did not anticipate would be as amazing as what transpired that night. So amazing that I needed a week to let it resonate—to gather my thoughts, to let the impressions stew, to listen to the band’s discography impulsively to reevaluate how the show transformed my feelings toward their music.

Now that I have sufficiently procrastinated mulled, I finally feel prepared to offer an insightful take on the show, albeit with the input of some friends who understand this band on a deeper level than I.

Last Sunday, a New Jersey-based quartet called Real Estate rolled into town for the first time since fall 2009 to play at Black Cat. (Sidenote: what’s with all of these impossible-to-Google band names? “Girls”? “Real Estate”? “The The”?! You guys are making my smart phone work waaay too hard). After releasing their self-titled debut in 2009, Real Estate built their reputation as ambassadors of chill; their sound is the epitome of dreamy and laidback, but with enough bells and whistles to keep things interesting. In fact, the first time I listened to Real Estate I instantly declared, “Oh, neat, a West Coast version of the Shins.”

Incorrect assumptions about geographic origin aside, a beach bum aesthetic pervades each and every song as it drifts down a musical lazy river, with lyrics that romanticize the mundanities of daily life in a small beach town. Yet the simplicity of their lyrics is completely calculated, and they serve as a neutral palette for the supremely crisp, multifaceted, and expertly edited instrumentals. When the band recorded their second album Days in 2011, they stuck to this formula and, quite simply, did it better. They keep the lyrics uncomplicated and let their beautiful instruments play the starring role.

That being said, Real Estate’s music never made me think, “I cannot WAIT to see these guys live.” I couldn’t predict how their sound would translate on stage. If performed improperly, “dreamy” music can easily border on “drowsy” in a live setting. However, if the band could amplify every shimmering, gorgeous layer of their tunes into a casually grandiose experience, then that show could be a treat.

Last Sunday, I happily experienced the latter. On stage at the Black Cat, Real Estate conveyed exactly what makes their music so uniquely special: they capitalize on the carefree simplicity in their lyrics to make their instrumentation soar, and the band’s live presence felt nonchalant but genuine. Bassist Alex Bleeker donned a Giants sweatshirt and clearly struggled to focus on the performance as the G-Men went into overtime, and lead vocalist Martin Courtney’s dance moves never strayed far from some turtleneck head-bobbing.

In a breezy 90 minutes, the band at least touched on all 10 tracks from their latest album. They set the bar high by opening with a rock-solid rendition of “Green Aisles,” a standard to which not every subsequent song could meet—though many came close. Also, I would have appreciated a bit more time dedicated to “All the Same,” the superb 8-minute number that closes out Days. The swells and spirals of that tune offer a glimpse of a future Real Estate, one that can leap out of their comfort zone, and I would have loved to see them really lay into the jam session parts of the song.

Ultimately, however, the award for “having more fun than anybody” definitely went to lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile, particularly when he fell off stage during the encore. That’s ok, though. Even before his puzzling tumble, Mondanile was the best performer of the bunch, taking the energy up a notch at times when, frankly, it needed to be taken up a notch. The group relies on him for that ounce of traditional charisma that they normally dodge, and that ounce is all they need to put forth a performance that could convert a skeptic into to a believer (myself included).

More iPhone photos for your enjoyment. Real Estate is also not so down with the flash from a DSLR, according to Black Cat.

Lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile: drunk or just clumsy?

Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney, gettin his turtle on. Real Estate Bassist Alex Bleeker reppin the New York Gians. #Dynamicduo


two bars three stars: weekend roll out, 1.27

27 Jan

Sorry for the light writing week, friends. I promise I saw Real Estate at Black Cat and a whole bunch of artists at Gold Leaf last week, and I will tell you about the aweseomness soon. But not right now.

Right now, I will simply share a track from an artist I am super stoked about seeing this weekend. I’m attending the Socket Records show case at Black Cat, where everyone in the crowd will be celebrating a local music success story. Yes, Socket is a homegrown record label, and they are killing it.

Speaking of killing it, Imperial China is one of my favorites of Socket’s artists, and I am amped to dance semi-erraticall/poorly during their set. If you’re thinking about going to Black Cat on Saturday, think harder. #Localmusicalldayerryday

Imperial China, “Limbs”

on my boombox: alabama shakes

26 Jan

When NPR says you should listen to a band, you listen. When Patterson Hood says you should listen to a band, you drop everything you’re doing and listen. As such, let me introduce Alabama Shakes:

I first learned about this quartet from–yes–Alabama in December 2011, when they opened for one of the Drive-By Truckers’ DC shows. I saw a different opener at the Thursday show, but some friends attended on Saturday night and raved about the twangy roots-rock group and their power house female vocalist/guitarist who opened the show. Blue Car Syndrome took over from there, and I soon noticed when NPR featured the Shakes on World Café: Next  and–in a rare display of relevancy—when Rolling Stone gave them a nod.

The downside to being early to jump on a band’s wagon is that, sometimes, the band’s discography appropriately reflects their status as “rising” stars. Such is the case with Alabama Shakes. After finding only a few tracks on Grooveshark, I assumed I had missed something and frantically looked elsewhere. No dice: the Shakes have released only one four-track EP thus far. Thankfully, the band recently announced that ATO will release their debut album, Boys & Girls, in April. Hallelujah.

File these guys under “bands to watch in 2012.” The group’s icky thump percussion, plus Brittany Howard’s soulful, show-stopping vocals, plus the finger-lickin guitar you’d expect from a Southern roots band… it’s an impeccable combination.

Until April… tide yourself over with the EP.

on my boombox: weekend roll out, 1.20.12

20 Jan

Alright alright alright. Another weekend looms near, and I have a lot to be stoked about today. I’m finally attending a Gold Leaf Studios party tonight. The P.Bombs (real) last show will go down at Big Bear Cafe tomorrow. I’ll return to Black Cat to see Real Estate on Sunday. Oh, not to mention that I now have tickets to BOTH M83 shows at 930 Club in May. SNIPE.

So, how about some feel good tunes, shall we? This oldie from up-and-comer Starslinger (not to be confused with the already-come-up Starfucker) always puts me in a mellow, head-bopping mood, which isn’t even necessary today because nothing can kill my buzz right now. Not even the fact that I recently realized that Sleigh Bells and Zola Jesus perform in DC on the same night, and I have tickets to both. Whatever, I’ll make it happen; Uhall and 930 Club are within easy sprinting distance from one another. ROOOLLLL OUT. 

Sister Wife (Starslinger remix), Alex Winston



on my boombox: a bad day for the internet, a great day for music

19 Jan

The internet is virtual battleground right now, full of landmines in the form of blackouts and petitions. In the spirit of uniting against those four-letter acronyms of SOPA and PIPA, enjoy these four internet musical discoveries rocking my world today. Four discoveries that likely wouldn’t happen under the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislations. Today, listening and watching gems like these take on a whole new meaning, because the risks of losing them are real and serious. So, enjoy the video, enjoy the tracks, and then go sign a petition.

Soap box over, on to the tunes.

1. Santigold, “Big Mouth”

Hot DAYUM. Santigold justifies my obsession with her over and over again. She consistently proves that she is two steps ahead of everyone in terms of sound, style, and straight up swag. Today, she debuted a video for “Big Mouth,” the first single from her (frustratingly) unreleased album, Master of My Make Believe. I haven’t felt so inspired by a music video since September 2006, when I discovered M.I.A.’s “Galang” video and fell in love with neon leggings at first sight. I feel the exact same way today, except that now I just want to take crayons and draw all over everything I own.


2. “I Got You,” Jodie Marie (Shook Remix)

My friends over at The Chicken Donut have superb taste, and I often discover new music from their site before anywhere else. My latest TCD jam is this cat Shook, whose sound is right up my alley: play that funky music, mix and remix it with some robot beats, and come up with some sexy noise hand-crafted for boogeying. Shook it real good.


3. Craig Finn, Clear Heart Full Eyes

I’ve recently become a Hold Steady fan, albeit a lukewarm one—I adore Craig Finn’s ability to tell a coherent story in his lyrics, but their sound has always been a little too Midwestern nice for my East Coast ears. But Craig Finn’s new solo effort, streaming in its entirety on NPR First Listen, takes the best elements of Hold Steady and makes it a little edgier, little moodier, and a lot more mature. The native New Yorker in me is pleased.

4. “The Evolution of Music Online”

Obviously this video isn’t a piece of music (though the soundtrack includes a bevy of top-notch selections), but it provides a great perspective on the past, current, and future state of music creation, consumption, and taste arbitration, and how that future changes drastically (and perpetually) in the digital age. With an all-star cast of internet music trendsetters and game changers, such as the founder of Hype Machine, a senior editor at Pitchfork, the co-founder of FADER, and the VP of Creative Development at Vimeo, the video gives an optimistic but unbiased take on how today’s radically different musical environment spurs innovation, creativity, and accessibility like never before. Brush your shoulders off, Youtube stars and music bloggers, this one’s for you.

i was there: cults at black cat (early show), 1.14.12

17 Jan

I’ve attended some awkwardly early shows lately. Something feels slightly strange about walking into Black Cat, a place normally reserved for nighttime frolicking,  before even eating dinner—though not as awkward as being in U Street Music Hall at 8 p.m. for the Penguin Prison show in December. That just felt straight up wrong.

I found myself in a similar predicament this past Saturday, when I attended the first of Cults’ back-to-back sets at Black Cat: doors for the early show were at 6, late show at 9. I worried the show would feel too brief, too “early bird special,” and not give me enough time with a band I consider one of my most exciting musical discoveries of the past six months.

But somehow, this short-but-sweet format works for Cults, an NYC-based girl-guy duo (with matching haircuts) that pairs singer Madeline Follin’s girlish, sing-along vocals against Brian Oblivion’s ’80s new wave guitar and synth. After all, their tremendously successful 2011 self-titled debut album clocks in at 30 minutes, and they built their indie reputation on just three singles they released online in 2010. No one expects them to play an marathon set with a lot of depth and layers. Instead of feeling abrupt, their performance felt nothing but charming despite its brevity.

The duo expands to a group of five for live performances, though Follin and Oblivion play the starring roles. Given the limited catalog the to pull from, the band easily covered all of their fan favorites (they opened with “Abducted” to get the crowd moving), but they threw in a pleasant surprise with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” which Oblivion claimed the band had performed only once. If that’s true, then wow- big ups, guys.

Also, is it weird that one of my favorite parts of the performance was that they didn’t do the requisite faux-exit before the encore? After closing with early hit “Go Outside,” Follin uttered a squeaky thank you and simply stated that the band would stay on stage for the encore, the light and breezy “Oh My God.”

I’m guessing the audience at Black Cat was prepared for the speedy conclusion, given that, well, another show was scheduled for an hour later. Or maybe the bouncy, whimsical sound of Cults’ insanely catchy melodies quelled any negative vibes the audience held. Because I, for one, enjoyed every 45 minutes of their set, and the happy chatter on the way out suggested others did too.

And then, we all left Black Cat to eat dinner and continue our nights. Weird.

Black Cat isn’t too keen on flash photography but enjoy some Iphone pics. Fittingly, hair is the strongest visual element in all of these:

on my boombox: weekend roll out, 1.13.12

13 Jan

WHEW. What a Thursday. What. A. Thursday. All Things Gold 006 went down at U Street Music Hall last night, and the Knocks straight killed it. Killed it so hard I bought an ill-fitting t-shirt in a moment of post-show euphoria. Magic Man and Brenton Duvall weren’t too shabby either, especially Magic Man’s ultra-hipster rendition of R. Kelly’s “Remix to Ignition.” YUP.

Anyway, the weekend hasn’t even officially begun and I’m feeling a smidge tired. But there is obviously no time for that. We have show day on show day coming up, starting with my favorite DC bluegrass outfit the P. Bombs tonight, plus Cults’ early show at Black Cat tomorrow. So let’s get amped, shall we?

I’m not going to tell you anything about this DJ, because honestly I don’t know anything about him(/her). I’m just going to let you sit back and get P-U-M-P-E-D for a weekend of lights and music. I dare you not to dance in your seat. Your cubicle can’t handle you right now. ROOOOLLLL OUT.