Album of the Week: 4/29/13

Neck Of The Woods – Silversun Pickups

Sometimes, a band just clicks. I’ll listen to a song, and then I’ll research them, and then before I know it, I’ve gone through their whole discography and know all of the lyrics after the 15th listening to my favorite song from them.

That wasn’t the Silversun Pickups.

They were one of those bands where I had a few songs, maybe one or two, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find any other songs.  I’d start to listen to an album but I’d stop, get distracted, or listen kind of in the background when I really should have been paying attention. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about the vocals.

I don’t really know what was stopping me. I had really liked what I had heard so far. “Lazy Eye” was a great song, and its moodiness was perfect for rainy days. “Substitution” was a fun song when walking to class.

But I didn’t want to rush into anything – I could tell that they were one of those bands that was growing on me, and I needed to let them grow. You can’t really rush something like that.

That’s what happened with the Decemberists. The first time I heard “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid,” I couldn’t stand Colin Meloy’s voice. “Man, this’d be a great song if it wasn’t for that singer,” I remember thinking.

But then I saw them live, and that was it for me. Colin Meloy is now one of my favorite singer/songwriters, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to the Crane Wife and the Hazards of Love.

So I knew. I knew that one day I’d be really, really into the Silversun Pickups.

And I’m glad that I waited. I’m glad I waited to fully absorb them. When you first start experiencing a band, you need to make it intentional, whether you happen upon them or are introduced to them by someone.

What did it for me was happening to listen to “Lazy Eye” on Pandora last week. I’ve heard the song at least 30 times, but it was the first time where I felt like I really listened to the music. I had always focused on the lyrics so much, I decided to let the guitar solo and emotion behind the music get inside my head. And after, as the song dwindled down, I just had this incredible sense of relief. Like I had done something, when really all I had done was listen to a song.

So then I listened to Carnavas and Swoon in one go, and I could feel the band continuing to grow on me. I’d listen to parts of these albums before, but now I was paying attention. I was taking in the music, not trying to focus on the lyrics or meaning, just letting the music take over my train of thought.

That’s the beauty of the Silversun Pickups’ music. They’re a great band to listen to for their lyrics, but my favorite way to listen to them is as a way to clear my mind. The songs are so full and rich that you don’t really need to think about anything when you’re listening to them. It puts me in a sort of reflective state, but not really needing to be reflective about anything. So it’s like I’m thinking about nothing, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve been contemplating life’s great truths. If you want to call it that.

So I really liked Carnavas and Swoon. A lot.

And then I listened to Neck of the Woods.

And that’s what did it for me.

“Skin Graph” came on and I distinctly remember thinking “Hold on… what?” This song was exciting, booming, unpredictable. I couldn’t stop. I needed to listen to it all. “Bloody Mary” still keeps with the reflective nature of Silversun Pickups songs, and is a perfect song for a windy, cloudy day.

“Mean Spirits.” Well… “Mean Spirits” is just bad ass.

The album’s strength is that it’s a bit different from Carnavas and Swoon. While it’s obvious that Neck Of The Woods is my personal preference, Carnavas and Swoon are just as good, if better, than Neck Of The Woods. That being said, Neck Of The Woods is a bit cleaner, maybe a little bit more mainstream sounding. But it works, and the slight changes in their sound that they implemented are exactly that – slight. It’s like they tweaked some things and refined different elements to their sound. It’s like the Black Keys a la Thickfreakness versus El Camino (although in that sense, while I love both of those albums to death, Thickfreakness is my favorite Black Keys album of all time because of the grittier, older sound).

The great thing about Neck Of The Woods is that I feel like this is an album where I’ll go back to after the umpteenth time I’m planning on listening to it, and I’ll still find things that surprise me or I’ll be able to listen to it differently. It sort of reminds me of how I listen to Moon & Antartica by Modest Mouse – I’ve been listening to that album for a good 5 or 6 years now, and yet, I feel like I have so much to learn about that album. In fact, now that I think of it, Silversun Pickups does what bands like Modest Mouse and Smashing Pumpkins do for me. Also, they sound like a combination of the two.

And I will have to say this – I’m starting to really dig Brian Aubert’s vocals.

Track of choice: “Mean Spirits”

Catch them on tour this summer: http://silversunpickups.com/tour/

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Music News #1

No, for the last time, LCD Soundsystem are not getting back together.

That’s what James Murphy reiterated in his facebook post earlier today. Personally, I’d love to see the band get back together for a tour (I came into the LCD craze all too late), but at the same time, what they have is what they have. Short, yet effective. Sometimes, that’s the best way to go.

Jack White has been a busy, busy man. Not only was he at the forefront of Record Store Day, but he also opened his “vinyl-recording booth” as MSTARZ News puts it. In the booth, musicians can make a two minute vinyl recording. Not only that, but White and Neil Young are recording together, and White covered Lorretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Just further proof of White being a Renaissance Man of rock and roll.

Despite the fun and festivities of Record Store Day, the reality of the nature of music market is continuing to take its toll on record stores across America. Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies, renowned record store in New York City, closed for good April 13, 2013. The store was a favorite for musicians, music enthusiasts and celebrities alike, as it was in Fred Armisen’s SNL intro and a favorite place for Armisen. SPIN does a great feature story on the store, its owner, and its legacy. Close to my heart for me are the troubles that The Sound Garden in Syracuse is facing. The Sound Garden said that they will “pull up stakes and move… elsewhere” according to syracuse.com if an ordinance enforcing greater scrutiny on secondhand media, such as vinyl, doesn’t get revised.

Weekend of Music: Record Store Day and Fitz and the Tantrums

There’s nothing I like doing more than waiting in line for music.

Most things you wait in line for are tedious and boring things – the bathroom, food (except there are cases in which food can be quite exciting), and the DMV, for example. Really I just wanted to use the DMV example because everyone uses that as an example.

But for music? It makes me happy. Like I’m part of a community.

I stood in line for two different events this past weekend – one for exclusive vinyl goodies on Record Store Day at the Sound Garden in Syracuse, and another for the Fitz & The Tantrums concert at the Westcott Theater.

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I got to the record store around 11 am, two hours after the store said it would open for this holiday of vinyl for music nerds from the area.

I walked in, and the store was filled with people.

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People paying for their purchases, sifting through posters, browsing the walls lined with DVDs and, of course, waiting in line for the Record Store Day exclusives.

This is how record stores should always feel.

Also, Darth Vader was being a deejay.

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The line started from the beginning of the store and extended towards the back where people were let into the area with the exclusives by small groups. The flow of the line was pretty good, so waiting wasn’t that bad.

Everyone in line was talking about the bands they liked and the albums they wanted and it was as if every sort of music knowledge anyone had was being said and discussed. Those further in line complimented the picks of those who had already looked through the collection. Peoples’ investments were praised and gave others ideas what to look for later on.

I went into the store not sure whether or not I was going to get anything, but once I saw people’s records that they were buying, I had my heart set on the See Emily Play single that Pink Floyd released.

And when I got to the back, there it was. 45 RPM pink vinyl. $12.99.

I couldn’t say no.

The other pick was more spontaneous, but still had a reason – I picked up the Fitz & the Tantrums’ 7-inch vinyl of both singles from their soon-to-be released album. I felt like I had to, considering I was seeing them the next day.

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Which brings me to my other line – waiting outside of Westcott for the doors to open. Not everyone knows Fitz & the Tantrums by name, which was a common topic of discussion waiting and walking into the theater, but everyone has definitely heard of MoneyGrabber.

The opener was Hunter Hunted, and if you haven’t heard of them, check them out right. Now. I hadn’t heard of them either until I got there. Here, I’ll make it easy for you:

http://teamcoco.com/video/hunter-hunted-02-27-13

This is their performance on Conan.

Yeah, they’re going to be big.

Not to mention, it was fantastic to be so close to them since I ended up standing right next to the railing next to the stage. So that was a first for me – nearly front row spots.

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Their set was the perfect amount of time and energy for an opening set, which is something to be said for opening bands. Sometimes the opener can drag on or hardly plays anything at all. Hunter Hunted played their bit, but still got the crowd anticipating for what they had come for.

And then, Fitz & the Tantrums came on, and the space was filled with soul.

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The big, filling vocals that you hear on their album are exactly how they sound on stage. What’s more, the style and attitude of the band reflected their sound: fun and vibrant, but they also knew how to have a thick sort of mellow sound to inspire moody, nostalgic reflections.

The stage chemistry between Noelle Scaggs and Michael Fitzpatrick was indelible – using each other as actors in their own lyrics, they interacted ranging from belting angsty confessions to dancing near each other, flirtatiously getting closer and closer.

The audience and I were also in for a treat with the covers they did – “Sweet Dreams” and “Steady As She Goes,” both of which they incorporated a jazzy flair to the songs.

The set ended, and of course they came back and of course they did MoneyGrabber. A fun part to the song was when the entire audience crouched down low and then jumped up for the last chorus. It turned into a dance party at that point. They played their last songs, ended with “News 4 U,” and took their final leave.

And so, my weekend ended. As my ears started to stop ringing and my nerves started calming down, I was in a euphoric sense of comfort and satisfaction.

The community and environment of music lovers are all that you need sometimes.

Album of the Week: 4/22/13

Gorilla Manor – Local Natives

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I have to admit, a few months ago I was one of those people that when Hummingbird had already been out for a few weeks, I was asking, “who are the Local Natives?”

Fortunately, I had friends who couldn’t even believe I hadn’t heard of them, and started to listen to them.

Hummingbird became a normal routine for me: Got to study? Well, “You & I” needs to go on so I can get in my zone. Working out? Time to listen to “Breakers” at least 30 times.

Try this at home: Listen to “Ceilings” on a train on a bright, sunny day. You’ll feel like you’re in one of those “coming-of-age” movies (really, it’s just that everyone likes to use that phrase).

As much as I love Hummingbird and listened and listened to it, that moment happened. The moment where you’ve listened to an album so much, you start just choosing select songs and even forget about the others. I don’t know the last time I listened to “Wooly Mammoth,” but I can tell you exactly when I listened to “Heavy Feet” last (it when I was walking to class).

So I started to drift away from this new band, this band I had connected so well with. I felt like they were one of those acquaintances where you have so much in common, but you don’t ever take the next step into friendship. I listened to “Ceilings” and “Breakers” from time to time, but that was that.

And then I joined the rest of the world and got a Pandora, and made a station with Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, and Local Natives all wrapped into one little randomly generated playlist.

And “Sun Hands” came on.

It’s unfortunate how I came to the album, however, because I was in the deli sandwich line. I was ordering my sandwich when that moment came on.

You know, that moment.

Here I am, trying to concentrate on whether or not I want honey mustard or mayonnaise, and Tim Rice is shouting in my ear.

“Yes, I’d like to have lettuce-”

“AND WHEN I CAN FEEL WITH MY SUN HANDS”

“And, uh, pickle…”

“I PROMISE NOT TO LOSE HER AGAIN.”

Suffice to say, I managed to get the sandwich and finish the song. Later, as I was exploring the depths of Pandora (I don’t even know why it took me so long to get one), “World News” came on it and it made me want to climb a mountain or at least skip to class. Then I looked up the track listing and realized that this was where “Wide Eyes” was from.

I decided to listen to Gorilla Manor in its entirety then, and the love was back.

It almost made me angry how good the album was, how everything flowed so fluidly. The variety in the songs and style created a sort of loose and varying pace and made the “listening experience” exciting, unpredictable.

It was exactly what I needed – something to jolt me to realize, “Yeah, this band… it’s going to be one of my favorites, isn’t it?”

And the more I learn about Local Natives, the more I’m falling in love with them. Hummingbird was produced by Aaron Dessner of the National, another of my favorites, and they’ved open for another favorite of mine, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

The album Gorilla Manor itself is filled with anthems – “Shape Shifter” and “Who Knows Who Cares” are bold and swell in sound, and they’re those songs that actually have an invigorating pay off. For example, the biggest disappointment I have with the Decemberists’ The Crane Wife is that in “The Crane Wife 1 & 2” is that it swells but never quite gets there.

I feel that in Gorilla Manor the mood is less uniform than in Hummingbird. Hummingbird is great for when you’re moody, especially with songs like “Mt. Washington” and “Bowery.” But Gorilla Manor is going to make you do several things – sit and muse with songs like “Wide Eyes” and “Cards & Quarters,” smile and enjoy the day with “World News,” and air guitar with “Sun Hands.”

So, if you’re like me and listened to Hummingbird, make sure to check out Gorilla Manor. It’s a side of Local Natives you don’t quite know yet. But, it’s important to know. It’ll make Hummingbird that much sweeter.

Track of Choice: Sun Hands