Archive | March, 2012

weekend roll out: arcade fire, “sprawl II (mountains by mountains)” (soulwax remix)

30 Mar

Heyo. No time for commentary. And no need for commentary- Arcade Fire needs no introduction, and this Soulwax remix speaks for itself. Enjoy.

Roll ouuuuut.

Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II (Mountains by Mountains)” (Soulwax Remix)

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i was there: sleigh bells at the 930 club, 3.28.12

29 Mar

Not wearing earplugs last night was a supremely poor life decision.

Sleigh Bells. The loudest band around. The only one that can make bang your head, shake your groove thing,  pump your fist, and cover your ears in pain/pleasure, all in a 49-minute sprint of a show.

Tuesday was my third time seeing the Bells, but the first since they released their second album Reign of Terror. My expectations for a Sleigh Bells show are always incredibly high, but I always come away with the same conclusion: so damn good. Too damn short.

These whippity quick sets were easier to justify when the Bells had only released one album- they somehow toured for over two years on just 32 minutes of recorded material(!!!). Now with two albums under their belt, I expected more longevity during this tour. But, true to form, the Bells stormed the stage for 49 minutes that passed in a snap. However, given the bone-crushing energy that the New York duo pour into each and every song they perform, I can forgive it.

The biggest thing that struck me about the Bells’ performance on Tuesday is just how much they have, despite their best efforts to hide it, matured. Sure, bad ass frontwoman Alexis Krauss still howls like a werewolf at opportune moments. Also, for the first half of the show, I thought she was wearing sunglasses- nope, just layers upon layers of dark eye makeup. The basic formula of the Bells’ show remains the same: they thrash and scream and the audience moshes and it’s a big sweaty mess. But now, it feels a bit more professional.

Most importantly, the Sleigh Bells I saw on Tuesday convinced me that I actually like their new album. When I first listened, I was intrigued by the direction they took with their softer tunes like “Crush” and “Leader of the Pack.” But the album as a whole felt a little disjointed, and I wasn’t confident it would work live.

Fortunately, I was wrong. The Bells have fine-tuned their craft and know exactly how to weave the hard and fast with dance-y and soft and everything in between. They commanded that show like expert puppet masters who understood what each song would do to the audience. They brought us up and down and threw us all around, but the entire show felt perfectly balanced. They seamlessly wove all of their disparate sounds into a very cohesive show that displayed the best of everything Sleigh Bells does well.

Third time was a charm, but here’s hoping the fourth and fifth times are just as swell.

Sleigh Bells, from Reign of Terror

on deck/weekend roll out: polica at red palace

23 Mar

As you’ve probably noticed, about 50% of my weekend roll outs also function as show previews. Clearly I don’t want to miss the chance to hype whatever cool music I plan to hear over the weekend, and–conveniently–oftentimes the bands I see on Friday nights provide perfect pump-up music.

On tonight’s show agenda: Polica.

Polica is part of the slew of Minnesota-based groups that have infiltrated my regular rotations thanks to significant influence from my Midwestern friends. Polica (and Trampled by Turtles, Atmosphere, etc etc) would probably not be on my radar if it weren’t for said influence.

More so than regional origin, though, Polica has gained a reputation for its heavy reliance on auto tune–a tool once confined to the T.Pains and the Kanyes of the world, but has gained popularity in indie music through the likes of Imogen Heap and Bon Iver. I’m normally a skeptic of auto tune, but it gives Polica’s music an almost hypnotic quality. Combined with an awesome percussion section that always keeps you guessing about where a song will end up, listening to their album beginning to end feels like you’re just getting started.

Get pumped by the track, but cop the whole album. (And I would say come see them with me at Red Palace tonight, but it sold out. Gooouh).

Polica, “Dark Star”

on my boombox: the shins, ports of morrow

21 Mar

If my posts are brief this week, please forgive me. But really, who needs my flowery prose; you come here for music, right?

As such, let’s jump right in. Over the past few days, new music from old favorites has been occupying my earbuds lately. And not just any old favorites, but serious heavy hitters: most notably, the Shins.

After releasing the first new single “Simple Song” with well-deserved fanfare, yesterday the Shins finally, finally dropped their first album in five long years, Ports of Morrow. The group had a tough act to follow from 2007’s Wincing the Night Away, but they are back with a vengeance on Ports.  The album presents a triumphant return to the style that the Shins do better than anybody: playful and jingly and full of bells and whistles, but without sounding overproduced.

More importantly, though, the album shows James Mercer at his songwriting best. In quintessential Shins style, the words may not mean much at first (hell, at times you can’t even discern them properly), but if you dig in deep, you find gold. Like most great writers, Mercer doesn’t let any word go to waste, and the intricacies, inventiveness, and wordplay he packs into each song is impressive.

Grab this now, spend some time with it, let it soak in, and welcome the Shins back into your life.

The Shins, “Simple Song”

weekend roll out: wonderland mafia

16 Mar

So this is a big week for me. Today is my last day at my current job, which is the same firm I’ve been with since my college internship. I start at the new place, which is somewhat of a dream office, on Monday. MEEP! <— Excited noise.

Somehow this transition time led me to think back on my first weeks on the job as a college grad, back in August 2010. Which is right about the time when this video came into my life (yes, I remember this precisely. Yes, my memory is scarily accurate).

This video instantly mesmerized me, as I am a lifelong Lewis Carroll fanatic. As a child, this meant watching Alice in Wonderland repeatedly. As a college student, it meant spending the better part of a semester writing a 30-page paper about the role of absurdity in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. (I also wrote my thesis about late 80s/early 90s hip-hop’s relationship with racial identity. Dedicating a chapter of your thesis to the Wu-Tang Clan is the epitome of English major perks, if you ask me).

So, for your weekend roll out, a video that I once watched incessantly and reptitively for several months in 2010. Man, where did people display all of their hidden talents (such as perfectly matching movie clips to rap song lyrics) before YouTube? Dark days.

Roll out, friends!

on deck: megafaun at black cat

15 Mar

Contrary to popular belief, or what the tag cloud on this blog might indicate, sometimes I go to shows that don’t involve synthesizers. Or drum machines. Or glowsticks.

…just kidding, glowsticks are always in play.

But as much as I love my electro and hip-hop and chill wave and trill wave and whatever else we import from Williamsburg these days, sometimes I just need a break from all the bells and whistles. In these instances, I turn to bands that serve straight-up rock and folk, my musical equivalents of comfort food.

Enter the folk-rock gods of Megafaun.

This band entered my life when my all-time favorite DC bluegrass band, The Potomac Bombs, covered the Megafaun single “Get Right.” Upon discovering that this beautiful song sadly did not belong to the Bombs, I began delving into Megafaun’s discography.

I started with their 2011 self-titled album. I dug it just fine, but the real adoration didn’t set in until I started listening to 2009’s Gather Form & Fly. This album is pretty close to perfect; it’s an amazingly subtle blend of melodic harmonies with obscure lyrics, meandering song structure, and all sorts of unexpected twists and turns. Their brand of rustic Americana is fresh, yet somehow still incredibly casual and not even slightly contrived. These guys always sound like they’re just screwing around and having fun, but happen to stumble upon moments of greatness.

Pitchfork perfectly articulated this sentiment when they described the group as “attempting the familiar, arriving at the unexpected.” This is especially admirable as so many bands are guilty of just the opposite.

So if you’re in the mood for some juicy pop tunes mixed with psychedelic banjo, that will be in ample supply at Black Cat tomorrow night. A match made in heaven, if you ask me.

Megafaun, “These Words”

on deck: u street music hall’s two year anniversary week

13 Mar

It’s hard to believe that just two short years ago, DC existed without U Street Music Hall. The now legendary danceclub/music venue/electro basement has played such a crucial role in my DC nightlife experience right from the get-go that I simply can’t imagine my life in DC sans UHall. No place has so often made me curse the weeknight Metro schedule, sing the praises of Natty Boh, or lose my voice from shouting over an eardrum-blasting soundsystem than U Street Music Hall.

Ok, mushy stuff aside, let’s get serious. You know the folks at UHall wouldn’t let an anniversary pass without throwing down in a big way to celebrate… all week long. Make it to one event, make it to them all- you owe it to UHall. They do so much for the young and bass hungry of this city. So go forth, don your glowsticks, and toast to many more successful years spent dancing at one of the nation’s best clubs, right here in our hometown.

Tuesday: Anniversary week launches with a live performance from one of the most highly respected and prolific DJs in the game, Four Tet. So respected, in fact, that he was one of a handful of DJs who received the ultimate privilege of remixing Radiohead for the King of Limbs 12″ remix series. Tet will be joined by New York-based garage/Hip-Hop/dubstep-influenced electronic producer FaltyDL and local mixmaster Harry Ransom. Advance tickets are sold out (womp) but a limited number of additional tickets will be available at the door.

Four Tet, “Pinnacles”

 

Wednesday: MOOMBAHTON. A homegrown electro subgenre that is doing amazing things for DC’s rep on the national electro scene. The 13th installment of UHall’s monthly Moombahton Massive features Moombahton pioneer and D.C. native Dave Nada with partner Matt Nordstrom (a.k.a. Nadastrom), resident DJ Sabo (Sol Selectas, Los Angeles), and special guest Toddla T of BBC Radio 1.  Oh, and HUGE bonus points for arranging Dave Nada’s mother, “Mama Nada,” to hold down the kitchen and whip up an assortment of her homemade empanadas all night. Yes please. 

Nadastrom, Rum & Coke EP

 

Thursday: D.C. electronic music blog Blisspop.com presents DJ sets from Ellum Audio, Maceo Plex, Catz N Dogz, along with Bristol’s bass-heavy house producer Eats Everything and Blisspop’s DC favorite Lxsx Frxnk.

Lsxs Frxnk, “Lost and Sound” (teaser)

 

Friday: I admit my trips to UHall more often occur on weeknights and Saturdays, but UHall has a weekly house party called Red Friday. This week the lineup includes house pioneers Derrick Carter and Alan Braxe, with a set from local DJ Juan Zapata.

Derrick Carter, “Get On It”

 

Saturday: Ok, here’s the biggie– Bliss, one of D.C.’s mainstay parties fronted by UHall co-owner Will Eastman, will host a special anniversary night featuring a selection of D.C.’s hometown heroes including the debut club performance of Volta Bureau (Will Eastman, Outputmessage and Micah Vellian), Starks & Nacey of Nouveau Riche, and UHall’s resident DJ, Brian Billion. Holy ish. Gold on gold on gold. This is basically DC’s royal family on the turntables all night, and this lineup is the only one that could bring me to a place that doesn’t serve Guinneess on St. Patrick’s Day. I went to anniversary night last year, and it’s definitely not one to miss.

Volta Bureau, “Alley Cat”