Monday, October 18, 2010

Concert Review: Jukebox the Ghost w/ Hooray for Earth, A B & The Sea

Kilby Court
Salt Lake City, UT

October 7, 2010

Headliners Jukebox the Ghost were--appropriately--the highlight of the night, but both Hooray for Earth and AB & The Sea added to a thoroughly enjoyable fall evening in Salt Lake City.

San Fransisco's A B & The Sea opened to a tiny crowd, but made the most of it with a high-energy performance that ended up being a great introduction for most of the audience. The band's jangly retro-rock sound (think Dr. Dog with an extra helping of sun and sand) was easy to love, with plenty of bright melodies, smooth harmonies, hand-claps, and insanely catchy riffs putting smiles on the faces of all those in attendance. One song that stood out in particular (I looked up the title afterward) was "Yellow-Haired Girl," which is as catchy a pop-rock tune as I've heard in some time. It was an incredibly fun half-hour set that makes me feel confident in saying you'll be hearing much more about these guys in the coming months. MySpace

I had heard a little from Hooray for Earth, but I was not prepared for their awesomely strange, almost chaotic live act. Utilizing squealing guitars, spacey synth and thunderous drums, the band's songs ranged from dense, noisy rockers to otherworldly dance numbers all of which were both punishingly loud and unusually captivating. This bombastic take by the group on their comparably tamer studio material seemed to catch the crowd by surprise, but despite being the odd band out stylistically, Hooray for Earth was electrifying. The soaring finale was especially awesome, but their entire set was an impressive showcase of talent and creativity that was certainly enjoyed by those who didn't mind traveling well off the beaten path. MySpace

Download: Comfortable, Comparable (via Stereogum)

Though a fairly young band, Jukebox the Ghost were easily the veterans of the evening and it was evident immediately. Right from opener "Good Day," the trio had the crowd's undivided attention, executing each song to perfection while seeming to have a great time in the process. Dual singer/songwriters Ben Thornewill and Tommy Siegel both proved to be excellent showmen, as did drummer Jesse Kristin, whose intricate beats stole the spotlight at times. The crowd was still unfortunately thin, but that didn't stop Jukebox the Ghost from giving a performance fit for a sold-out show in this very modest setting.

Every tune was well received, inspiring awkward dance circles and plenty of clapping and singing along that seemed appropriate for the band's buoyant brand of pop. Highlights from the night included "Popular Thing," "The Stars" and the encore, "Empire," though I guess those are probably my favorites from the band anyway, so I should simply say each song was excellent and added to a hugely entertaining set. If there's any justice in this world, Jukebox the Ghost will play to a packed house next time around, these guys deserve it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Will Stratton - New Vanguard Blues (* * * * 1/2)

Patience is a virtue, sure, but one that tends to slow things down and occasionally even seems completely unnecessary. Will Stratton’s third album, New Vanguard Blues, serves as a reminder that impatience can be just as valuable a trait. After offering one of my favorite records of 2009—the consistently stunning No Wonder— Stratton apparently didn’t want to bother taking the traditional route in releasing his third full-length. Recorded and mixed by the songwriter himself over the weekend of July 9th, the album was made available online only a couple weeks later, an unusual but certainly welcome decision as New Vanguard Blues is in many ways Stratton's best effort to date. Shedding the varied sonic decorations that enhanced the tunes on No Wonder, his latest is simple and stripped-down, resulting in a tighter, more focused set of songs that relies almost exclusively on his impressive guitar work for accompaniment. But the album mostly succeeds for the same reason the last one did: Stratton’s singular songwriting, which has only gotten better with time. (Continue reading at In Review Online. . .)

Review: The Thermals - Personal Life (* * * 1/2)

The Thermals have always been more interesting than the majority of their pop-punk peers, mostly because they have so much to say about so many topics. Where their previous effort, 2009'sNow We Can See, focused on the purpose of life through the lens of death, and the two before that—2006's The Body, The Blood, The Machine and 2004's F****n A—were scathing rebukes of conservative American politics, the band’s latest turns inward, as its title might suggest, and takes a look at the complexity of relationships. “I’m gonna change your life/I’m gonna steal your soul” insists Hutch Harris on the first line of opener “I’m Gonna Change Your Life,” and somehow that kinda sums up the nature of the 32 minutes that comprise the remainder of the band’s fifth album. Looking introspectively through his cracked yet ultimately hopeful perspective, Harris proves that though his typically fiery indignation seems somewhat abated (or set aside, at least), his passion and lyricism remain a compelling combination. Less focused and less consistent perhaps than the band’s previous two albums,Personal Life may disappoint fans of Harris’s bigger statements, but the record has too many great moments to be ignored. (Continue at In Review Online. . .)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Daily Dose - 10/1: Twin Shadow

Artist: Twin Shadow
Latest Release: Forget
Genre: Electronic/Pop/Dance

George Lewis Jr. is the lone man behind Twin Shadow, a retro pop project that's been turning some heads this year, and for good reason. Blending 80s synths with a generous dose of electro funk, Lewis' debut LP, Forget, is a stunning set of smoldering, low-key dance songs that are, well, unforgettable. Featuring production by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, Forget definitely favors mind-altering arrangements and unusual electronic soundscapes to straightforward club beats, yet most of these songs are insistently danceable as well. The music of Twin Shadow has a sort of otherworldly sexiness to it that I just can't get enough of, and I highly recommended it to any adventurous electronica/dance fan.

Key Tracks: "Shooting Holes at the Moon," "Yellow Balloon," "Castles in the Snow"

Download: Castles in the Snow (via Pitchfork)

Watch: Video for Castles in the Snow

Twin Shadow - Castles In The Snow Directed by Jamie Harley from Twin Shadow on Vimeo.