A gigantic, unspooled wrap of neon gauze envelopes me as I’m lowered into a glowing pool of water. My eyes reach toward a menagerie of pink-hued trees and bright-black stars as a brisk rush of crystal clear water completely submerges me. The rhythmic, volcanic pulse of the earth’s beating heart brings my eardrums to shudder, and I feel connected to the natural world in a way wholly surreal yet violently tangible. Admittedly, no psychedelics were involved in this experience. Rather, it’s a poor attempt to approximate (in my strange terms) the first time I listened to Purity Ring’s incredible, stirring debut Shrines with headphones. A few friends spoke of the record on various occasions during the the second half of 2012, but an all-consuming procrastination prevented me from giving it a fair once-over, no matter how ecstatic the praise. An unusual dinner party request near the turn of the new year inevitably put the group in my pathway: Each couple was required to bring an iPod with their 10 favorite songs from from the past 12 months, and a random drawing determined the order in which the playlists would be heard. Mine was drawn to play last, and I thankfully waded through an exciting stream of music that gave me a fascinating insight into each couple’s experience throughout the year. I say “thankfully” because, in all honesty, I hadn’t listened to that much new music throughout 2012, especially in comparison with the monolith that was 2011. The MOTH Collective at that time decided to take a break from our traditional focus of interviews, reviews, etc. to focus on various creative projects (explaining our oblivious absence from the local music scene, save a few random tweets and posts of various shows or videos that grabbed our interest). We recorded/wrote/labored over various sketches, ideas, concepts, and ill-conceived pipe dreams (the latter refers to me, of course) to varying degrees of success. Continue Reading »
In a previous post detailing 2010’s left-of-center musical delicacies, I made reference to my friend Michael Campbell’s essential role in illuminating the possibilities of recorded music to me over long winter afternoons in Putnam County, New York. I finally understood the allure of improvisational sound construction, and acknowledged the masters who can harness the seemingly intangible and shape it into accessible composition. If not for his convincing arguments on the validity and expanded range of sound that such genres contained, I wouldn’t have the deepened appreciation for an already-personally-revered auteur such as Brian Wilson that I currently hold. I also wouldn’t be championing the brilliant, eponymous work of A Winged Victory for the Sullen (http://www.awvfts.com/) which I’ve been doing wholeheartedly. Continue Reading »
An Under Cover Weekend is not just a brilliant introduction to the local music scene in Saint Louis. It’s also a way to get reacquainted with albums you might have pushed under the rug in the past few years. When I heard that The Breaks would be attacking the catalog of The Strokes for this year’s installment, it immediately rekindled the love I have for their record Room on Fire. Turns out, the feeling is most certainly mutual: Sean Gartner of The Breaks is a big fan, too. So, we had him provided a little commentary on why that overlooked record is worth a second opinion. By the end of this post, I have no doubt that you’ll have that sweet, symmetrical sound burning up your preferred method of media. Make sure that you make it to Night 2 of AUCW to see The Breaks set The Firebird on fire with blazing jams from the early Aughts.
ROOM ON FIRE
There’s a fairly negative/pessimistic attitude throughout this album, which really doesn’t speak to me personally, but the lyrics are so smart and witty that I can almost hear it playing off sarcastically, which I love. The real reason I love this album though is just the overall sound and mix of it. It’s still garagey and dirty like the first, but everyone’s tone is slightly expanded into a really nice, full sound. I’m a total “mix snob”. Everyone is loosened up quite a bit too, playing more complicated rhythms and melodies atop each other… all the while keeping one or more parts fairly simple and grounded, making it totally accessible to just about anybody.
“What Ever Happened?”
-A sweet, but not raging, kick to the teeth to get you started, and it kind of lets you know that it’s not just gonna be the all same old stuff with a different packaging. It seems to be part breakup song/part “insecure about living up to first album” song, which just seems hilarious to present as your first song with next to no confidence for the whole album.
-Love this one too. The energy from this one just takes the entire band to a level that they hadn’t been to yet. I’m also really surprised that this song had the ability to be so popular; the overlapping melodies & rhythms on the chorus are so bizarre for a “pop” song. I’m not sure I can compare this chorus to anything I’ve ever heard before. I’ve never been a huge fan of the guitar solo though. Oh yeah, I’m a “guitar solo snob” too.
-I really like odd rhythms for the verses, but for me, the part that really rules about this song is the lead guitar melody for the chorus; totally simple, but it compliments the vocals perfectly. Hotness.
-This song always felt like a love letter to The Cars for me. I really love that the lyrics, literally, could make this a fairly simple love song, but by the end of the song, his vocal tone makes him sound so bored with this girl that he’s almost ashamed of himself. Sung a different way (happier), and this song is pretty lame. That super-chorused guitar sounds great too; it might as well be a synth keyboard. Definitely a stand out song for their entire catalog for me.
“You Talk Way Too Much”
-My favorite Strokes song. Yep. It just sounds so gorgeous and bright, yet the message is totally disappointing and broken-hearted. Having such contrasted music composition to lyrics, it’s just so sarcastic and hilarious to me. Whether it be intentional or not, I love it. Maybe the music is supposed to be the hopeful feeling when his vocals are what’s realistic or his conscience…who knows…who gives a crud, the song sounds fantastic.
“Between Love & Hate”
-This song is pretty angry…kinda slow too, and that might be one of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of it. Seems like he’s not only being a jerk to this gal, but he’s calling out his listeners, and telling them to eff off….but of course there’s another happy, bouncy chorus for him to chant about how he never needed anyone, and he never will (which the music might be his false pride trying to make himself feel better about being totally heartbroken, too). I do really like the matching lead guitar/vocals in the chorus, though.
“Meet Me in the Bathroom”
-”You trained me not to love/after you taught me what it was”… RAD line. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like another song about a failed relationship. I really like how this one builds, drops down, and then kicks into the chorus with an awesome,driving bass line. I’ve always really loved the way that the lead guitar meets up or harmonizes with the vocal melody during the chorus, without forcing it too much.
-This is really the only song that comes to mind when I think “The Strokes’ Slow Jam.” A young love song. Ugh, I loooooove this guitar solo. Jazzy, melodic, simple; it’s probably my favorite guitar solo on the album, and my favorite part of this song. I always rewind and listen to it 5 or 6 times each time I listen to this song.
“The Way It Is”
-A really awesome way to pick up the end of the album right after the slow jam. Sounds like Julian is finally over this relationship he’s been talking about for the whole album, but still depressed and annoyed. This song is solid, but the only thing that really stands out musically for me is the drums during the verse. It’s a pretty odd, technical breakbeat for a pop-rock song, and the mix makes it sound like it’s coming out of a shitty 90′s CasioTone.
“The End Has No End”
-This one seems to be about life in general, and how it’s really up to you to make yourself happy… and how it’s really frustrating to watch other people make no effort to make their lives better and blame everyone else for it being shitty; however, being that nearly every other song is fairly negative and pessimistic, I could be reading into it wrong. But whatever, that’s what the song is to me. I really like the 80s feel of this one, too; again, kinda of “Cars-y” motivated.
“I Can’t Win”
-Great closer. I think he’s reiterating that he doesn’t think that this album will live up to the first one while he squeezes in one last bit about failed romance; he wants something easier, but doesn’t want an easy lover. This is definitely one of my favorites. Each section is dynamic, but transitions into the next extremely well.
I have no use for summer. Let’s just forsake this excessively sunny afternoon, put on a good pair of headphones, close the blinds, and listen to a few records front-to-back, as we imagine being transported to the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest.
Was this a flashback to your adolescence in the sorrowful Midwest? If you are as guilty of that scenario as I am, then I’m sure the words Suicide Squeeze, Barsuk, and Up graced your lips far more times in conversation than your uninitiated friends probably thought it should. There’s something enternally welcome about an effects-drenched guitar spinning out dizzying arpeggios, splashing grey-hued color onto grey-hued color, painting a portrait of life in suspended animation. You know the feeling: Trying to make it past that certain someone with your heart intact, and tears docked deep in your gut. Carissa’s Wierd, 764-Hero, Pedro the Lion, Kind of Like Spitting… They’ve all agreed, at one time or another, that it’s going to end badly. The emotional kinship that Union Tree Review shares with those aforementioned bands helped me to gravitate toward them so quickly, and so assuredly. I understood every turn of phrase, note, and emotional beat, not because of predictability, but because the same blood flows through our veins. Death & Other Forms of Relaxation will likely find itself in rotation for a similar afternoon as described in the outset.
Black Francis (a.k.a Frank Black), most commonly known as the leader of the venerable legends Pixies, found his way to the Old Rock House this past Tuesday night. He performed stripped-down versions of his solo work, as well as a few Pixies tunes sprinkled in for good measure. It made for a very satisfying evening of dynamic songs. He was accompanied by Eric Drew Feldman, who played keyboards on the Pixies’ Trompe le Monde (as well as worked on several of Francis’ solo records). Below we have a video of Black performing “Where is My Mind?”, photos, and a setlist. Enjoy!
- The Black Rider
- Los Angeles
- Song of the Shrimp
- Nimrod’s Son
- Two Reelers
- All Around the World
- Robert Onion
- I Heard Ramona Sing
- Ten Percenter
- That Burnt Out Rock and Roll
- She Took All the Money
- Horrible Day
- Where is my Mind?
- I Burn Today
- Brackish Boy
- Dead Man’s Curve
- Planet of Sound
- I’ll Be Blue
It’s no short order to mix the influences of six people while creating your own unique niche and create a lasting stamp on your hometown crowd. Upon my first time ever hearing of Scarlet Tanager I was stunned; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I heard bits and pieces of several artists, old (I mean older than me, 1950′s and 60′s groups) and new but before I could put my finger on one artist they sounded like they would effortlessly drift to another sound or influence. Somehow this group kept their influences intact without completely ripping them off and they owned their sound. From the vocals to the rhythm section and beyond, this would be the group that restored my faith in local music. This sextet was indie pop and everything great about pop music, with a bit of homegrown twang, in general. Continue Reading »
Topics: Scarlet Tanager
There’s a section of Willott Road (Saint Peters, MO between Spencer and Jungermann) that served as a great release for the elephantine wave of angst, anxiety, and energy not uncommon in most Midwestern teenagers. This stretch of road is a long descent, followed by a quick ascent, that seems to be planned, zoned, and paved for the sole purpose to drive at alarming speeds, windows down, blasting your favorite song of all time (a.k.a that millisecond). In preparation to drive this portion of road, I approached selecting music for the drive with the furrowed-brow determination of a film composer scoring a climatic scene. The ebb and flow of the chosen track had to match the euphoric rush of spring air racing through my vehicle. It could be the Pumpkins, JJ72, Blur, or any other band of my choosing, but they had to have one thing in common: The track had to rage. Continue Reading »
I’ll tear through any rock biography or music magazine I can get your hands on. What’s always of interest to me in a dissection of a band’s work was, not the landmark achievements and accessible documents, but the aborted ideas and unfinished projects that slipped from their creative grasp. While I thought I would love the details of the recording of Pets Sounds, rather, I was completely absorbed with the mystery that was the unfinished Smile. No matter how prolific their output, every band has at least one project that was abandoned due to unforeseen circumstances or artistic indecisiveness. Let’s be honest: No matter how much you love Rust Never Sleeps, you know that you’d do anything to have a finished version of Chrome Dreams in your possession. Continue Reading »
We try our best as MOTH to use our voice in the service of artists that might be overlooked by the general public. It’s been a joy espousing praise upon US English, Raymilland, Phaseone, Teresajenee, Julianna Barwick… and the list will continue to grow, I assure you. Saint Louis has now become a safe haven for quality, local music that makes it easy for those in our position to write about it in so many wonderful, complex words. But, I need to take a few of those words to talk about a national tour making a stop in Saint Louis that, truthfully, more than a few of you will glance over in your latest issue of the Riverfront Times. This is my argument as to why you should take the opportunity to see Queens of the Stone Age at The Pageant on April 5th. Continue Reading »
Midway through their performance on the rooftop of a strip mall constructed in the mid-80s, we all realized we were going to have to join Conference Call in the alcove where they had previously sequestered themselves. Ever the gracious host, bassist Joe Fonda ushered all 20 or so of us to hide from the increasing rainfall. Some huddled to the sides of the “stage”, while the rest of us got a great view directly behind the band. Nightfall brought an end to the day and the only light available to us came from a concert promoter’s Toyota Camry headlights. Needless to say, this was indeed a unique show.
“The closest reference point for me would be those mid-60′s Don Cherry records, Complete Communion and Symphony for Improvisers, albums that consisted of sidelong tracks that strung together distinct tunes with lively interplay.”
Oh, yeah, they actually played music, too. My previous experience with this group had come through the Clean Feed release Poetry In Motion, a tight, composition-centered 2008 update of the post bop ethic. The pieces were unique, accessible and daring and their performances of them made for a great recording. It didn’t really prepare me for the format of their understandably abbreviated set. The closest reference point for me would be those mid-60′s Don Cherry records, Complete Communion and Symphony for Improvisers, albums that consisted of sidelong tracks that strung together distinct tunes with lively interplay. Conference Call used a similar dynamic, but traversed a wide gamut of styles, everything from European free improv to Hammond B-3 soul-jazz.
Their brand new Nottwo release, What About….?, is a 2-Disc live set that mirrors that approach. The performances of Fonda, reed player Gebhard Ullmann, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and drummer George Schuller (son of Gunter Schuller) are loose but often exciting, employing contemporary creative jazz tropes but interjecting them with effective spontaneous composition. There’s even tango thrown in for good measure. There doesn’t seem to be the same stylistic diversity that highlighted the set on top of that be-darkened parking garage, but that doesn’t make this incurably re-playable recording any less enjoyable.
“I’m pretty sure that if non-museum piece jazz is to thrive, it will need to embrace the same spry stylistic versatility that groups like Conference Call embody”.
I’m pretty sure that if non-museum piece jazz is to thrive, it will need to embrace the same spry stylistic versatility that groups like Conference Call embody. The sort of music that neither denies the music’s past nor scoffs at it’s future. This group is proof-positive that artistic success can indeed be met on those terms.