Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

With the popularity of detective shows such as CSI and Law & Order, it's not surprising that there would be movies based on the most legendary mystery series ever. His name is literally synonymous with 'detective.' But the timelessness of the books does not necessarily insure the success of the films.

Do you remember that boxing scene in the first Sherlock Holmes movie? Where he plans out his moves in his head and the camera speed goes from really fast to really slow a couple times? If you're familiar with that clip, you've already seen half of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The repeated use of this effect becomes a gimmick within the first thirty minutes of the movie. Every other scene is filled with dark, fast, and confusing clips.  I have to admit, the boxing scene in the first movie was pretty cool. I hadn't really seen anything like it before. But now it seems like they're only using it as an excuse to show every fight scene twice.

Trailers are very important and I'm not talking about those motor homes. A movie trailer has to make someone want to pay to see it without giving away all of the exciting parts. It's a very delicate thing that can make or break a movie. With this one, I felt like I already knew the secrets about every situation they were in. 'There's a guy in the rafters. It's Sherlock cross-dressing. Watson has to make the shot count. They're going to run through the woods.' The trailer gave away all of the little mysteries in a mystery movie.

Being based on a book series, the story was well-done. I must admit that I have not read all of the Sherlock stories by Arthur Conan Doyle so I cannot attest to the movie's faithfulness. But if the story was modified (which I'm sure it was) they did a fairly good job of making it compelling and interesting to the audience.

This storyline takes place in 1891. Why do they all have perfect teeth? White as a pearl and straight as a ruler. They're English for godsakes! He's not supposed to have Robert Downey Jr.'s celebrity teeth! It was very distracting.

In some cases, people say 'read the book before you see the movie.' In this situation, just read the book. Don't bother with the movie.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Black Keys - El Camino

Before I talk about the new Black Keys album, El Camino, I need to talk about The Ramones. When The Ramones were around, the music world was filled with disco. There was a lot of popular electronic music. The world needed something that was catchy but also raw and powerful. The Ramones fit the bill. They only knew how to play one kind of song. Listen to their greatest hits and you'll see what I mean. In retrospect, they weren't great songwriters at all but they were able to provide human, catchy rock that saved the world from disco.

Fast-forward to today. Eight of the top-ten songs on iTunes are based on synthesizers and computers. Kids are listening to dubstep. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of great things in music that can be done with computers and electronics. But nothing can replace the humanity and roughness of rock. The Black Keys are what we need. They are The Ramones of today, saving us from the endless drone of robotic-tronica.

The comparison does not stop there. The Black Keys do sound a little repetitive at times. Blues-rock can only take you so far before you need to make some serious innovations and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that many of their songs sound the same. But that doesn't stop them from writing some seriously fantastic songs like "Little Black Submarines" which transitions from a slow acoustic ballad to a rolling jam. Definitely my favorite song from this album. The lead single, "Lonely Boy," is a fun pop song with an excellent guitar riff towards the end. It also has one of my favorite music videos of the year.

Producer Danger Mouse has done a great job once again. He also produced The Black Keys' last album, the very successful Brothers. The sound is tight, smooth and it plays great loud. This is the kind of album that you just leave in your car's stereo for two weeks because it makes you feel like a total badass when you listen to it while driving. It's a versatile kind of music that can fit any mood you're in. It matches your sorrow when you're upset and it makes you dance when you're happy. It can be a soundtrack to your rage and it can also improve your general level of cool when you're trying to impress someone. It's like a thermos. Hot stays hot, cool stays cool.

If you've been listening to them for years, it might be a just a tad boring. But if you're a new fan, this is the album to get. That and Rubber Factory.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Ladykillers

 Recently I've been trying to watch all of the Joel & Ethan Coen movies. I find them to be extremely creative and excellently directed. I'm also a big fan of dark comedies and the Coen's are pretty much the definition of dark comedy.

The Ladykillers is a 2004 remake of a 1955 british comedy. It's about a very smart professor (played by the legendary Tom Hanks) who has come up with a perfect crime in a small southern town. With his team of relative strangers, he intends to dig a tunnel through a basement to get to a casino vault. It's a flawless plan except for the fact that the owner is a church-going southern manners kind of woman who doesn't allow cursing or smoking in her house let alone felonies.

The cinematography is beautiful and uses many creative and innovative shots my favorite of which is a first-person view of a football player. Just like their 2000 hit O, Brother Where Art Thou?, the Coen's provide a very fitting soundtrack. This one combines gospel and a little hip-hop in a way that always makes sense with the events on screen.

The acting is very believable. The main character is played by Tom Hanks so there's obviously no problem there. Surprisingly, Marlon Wayans (Don't Be A Menace) is very tolerable in this film. I like to think that Hanks was giving him a few pointers on the set. His character is pretty classic Wayans but toned down to fit a darker film.

If you're in the mood for a dark comedy or a heist, I recommend this film. It made me laugh but also made me question whether or not a professor can outsmart a senior woman who follows God.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I didn't have very high expectations when I walked into the theatre to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It's been a while since I've seen a good blockbuster spy movie and this one seemed pretty blockbuster. I also wasn't sure that Tom Cruise still had it in him. I was delightfully surprised to find that I was wrong.

Starting with the opening titles, it was apparent that this Mission Impossible movie was not aiming to be incredibly modern but nostalgic. "Light the fuse," says  Cruise. The opening titles follow a lit fuse and play the classic theme song, just like the TV show. While there are quite a lot of computers in this movie, it's not all about hacking like other newer action films such as Live Free or Die Hard. It still had the elements of a classic spy movie. Letter drops, disguises, gadgets, and Russians. Speaking of gadgets, did you know you can make a hologram wall using an iPad? It's amazing what you can do with product placements these days.

The plot revolves around the Russian nuclear launch codes being stolen by a crazed man who believes that the world will be stronger after a nuclear war (similar to Ozymandias in Watchmen.) There are several great action scenes including a car chase, the world's tallest building, and a parking garage with an automatic valet system. There were at least two gasp-worthy "oh shit" moments and countless instances of bone cracking.

Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) plays the humorous geek character very well. I hope that we get to see that Brit make more appearances in the next few years. I can't help but attribute this movie's awesomeness to director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek.) There was also a subtle reference to Lost with the line "whatever happened, happened." Abrams doesn't appear to forget about his fans.

Cruise has still got it, Abrams has still got it, Pegg has definitely still got it and I'd say the franchise has at least one more strong film in store for the future.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bob Log III @ Off Broadway

      Opener Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout was really something else. I've never witnessed a lead singer take his mic with him upstairs, into the bathroom, and out the front door all while singing. The craziest part? It wasn't a wireless microphone. He was dragging this thing on a cable throughout the whole venue, frequently serenading the audience one person at a time. Despite the strangeness, the band sounded cool too, spanning several genres including circus music. I might describe it as weird hardcore (weirdcore? Is that a thing?)
     Bob Log III is a blues musician. That's the simple way of putting it. He's a one man band. Also, he always wears the helmet and jumpsuit. Seeing him in concert is definitely an experience. At first I was really intrigued by the absurdity of the whole thing. He can barely see out of the helmet and his songs are mostly about sex and "doing whatever the hell you want." But then, as the show continued, I became incredibly impressed with the music and the skill it takes to perform that music. It's pretty hard to concentrate on singing, guitar, kick drum, high-hat, two drum-machines, and a clap pedal at the same time. My eyes couldn't even follow his left hand.
    Audience participation? At every show he invites two girls to sit on his knees while he plays his hit song, "I Want Your Shit On My Leg."
     "This one is for the ladies. And when I say ladies, I mean ladies named Shirley. Any Shirley's out there? No? No Shirley's? Well shit, this song ain't gonna fuckin work."
     I'm serious when I say that the last true bluesman is not Jack White or The Black Keys. It's Bob Log III. Isn't that what the blues was all about? Being the only person in your band, drinking, and acting crazy? 
   Here's a music video to help you understand what it's all about.

    Before the show, I was able to get a brief interview with Mr. Log himself. He laid on a couch while I sat down. I was like a therapist, trying to understand his insanity.

Anti-Formula: How old were you when you learned to play guitar and how did you learn?
Bob Log III: Well, I first started to play guitar when I was eleven. Umm, I didn't necessarily LEARN to play guitar when I was eleven but I started. And how did I learn? I just picked it up, put on a record and started just making noise  like the record was making, or tried to anyway. Just start hitting it. "Beat that thing every fuckin day," that was the plan.

AF: Where are you from and where do you live now?
BL: I'm from Tuscon, Arizona but I live in Melbourne, Australia.

AF: Is it true that the toilets flow backwards in Australia?
BL: I've never seen that happen because we don't have a swirley toilet, we've just got a whoooosh! toilet. It just all goes straight.

AF: Besides Evel Knievel, what are some of your influences?
BL: Well, Angus from AC/DC. I kinda liked Superman when I was a kid. And, uh, I like pole-vaulters. I think that they do a good job getting over that pole.

AF: They do. They are some of the most underrated athletes, I think.
BL: Right, right. And it's kind of a sport you kinda have to do alone. There's no real "team" pole-vaulting. And I'm not saying that there shouldn't be team sports, that's great. I play like pole-vaulting of music. It's kinda like you kinda gotta be alone to do it the way it's done right. This thing, anyway.

AF: If you weren't a musician or a pole-vaulter, what would you be?
BL: Yeah, I have no idea. I've never even thought about that. Hmm... nope, no idea. [laughs] Never occurred to me.

AF: Alright, that's all I got. Thank you very much.
BL: Alright, Dakota. That was very easy! Thank you very much, man.

     I'd like to end this one with a quote from the show last night. I want it to be the epitaph on my tombstone.

"I ain't done yet, goddamit." - Bob Log III

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mildred and The Mice - I Like My Mice (Dead)

There is a shroud of mystery that surrounds the musical act Mildred and The Mice. Jack White, the album's producer, has given us one story about a hardware store, a Winnebago, and a lack of artist info but I have some doubts. It's a wonderful story and I hope it's true but I just can't be sure. However, I know that they created a 45 single and that's what I'm going to talk about.

I picked this up at Vintage Vinyl knowing nothing about Mildred or her mice. I just knew that Jack White is one of my favorite producers and the girl on the front looks crazy. Awesome.

"I Like My Mice (Dead)" is a very simple song containing only two or three chords. It begins with Mildred singing in "meows" with some instruments behind it. Everything stops and the guitar comes back with a different riff. The ultimate stomp beat, Mildred shouts about killing mice. The guitars sound naturally distorted, a common theme with Jack White. After a few great screams, the tempo really picks up. If you listen, you can tell that Mildred barely has any breathe. She makes this kind of face-melting noise towards the end.

The B-Side, "Spider Bite," also starts with some excellent meowing. The song is very slow and scary as Mildred sings lyrics that are similar to "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" except the spider sneaks into houses and bites children. Then she sings about a cat that comes along and kills some more mice, a common theme in Mildred's small discography. Very quickly the song changes back into the fast tempo of "I Like My Mice (Dead)" and the entire song changes. That's right, the B-Side turns into the A-Side.

"I Like My Mice (Dead)" is out now on Third Man Records. The mystery of this record only makes it more exciting. I think it's pretty interesting, funny, bold, and a great way to make your friends very concerned. I only pray that Mildred hasn't already murdered the rest of her band...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Foo Fighters @ Scottrade Center

Photo courtesy of Danny Hommes
     A band as big as Foo Fighters typically has two openers so let's get that out of the way first.
     Mariachi El Bronx, the alter-ego of hardcore band The Bronx (it's a little confusing; they're not even from the Bronx, they're from LA), took the stage in their matching black and red mariachi outfits. While at first a little confused, I was pleased to hear their unique sound. They combined mariachi and punk music in a really cool way. Their drummer, a Buddy Holly look-alike, played a cocktail kit that sounded awesome. It was clear that the whole band was having a blast.
     What can I say about Rise Against? The bass player was solid. The singer had a lot of enthusiasm. That's the positive stuff. The drummer was weak. The songs sounded the same. The guitarist can kick his foot above his head and does so at EVERY POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY. But, they made the Foos sound better. Gotta give them that.
     The band finally took stage and opened with "Bridges Burning," the first track of their new album. Playing a great mix of old and new songs, the set lasted three hours just as Dave promised. Many of the songs had extended endings and "Stacked Actors" featured a guitar battle between Chris Shiflett and Dave Grohl.
     Emphasizing on the epicness of their rock music, the stage had a platform that extended all the way across the floor of the arena. Have you ever been to Scottrade? It's pretty big. There was also a riser at the opposite end. It doesn't get any bigger than singing lead vocals for a band all the way across a stadium. They also had an awesome light show.
     "Young Man Blues" was covered by Foo Fighters for VH1 Rock Honors The Who in 2008. Since then, they've been playing it at most of their live shows including the one last night. They also led us in Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker's "Breakdown."
     At the beginning of the encore, Dave played a few songs on acoustic before being joined by the rest of the band. Finally, the best possible song to end the night, "Everlong." This is my favorite Foo Fighters song as well as that of many other fans. It has the amazing quality of meaning something great to everyone who hears it even though everyone hears a different meaning. If you enjoy any form of rock, go see Foo Fighters in concert. They're the most accessible great rock band on tour.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sleepy Kitty - Infinity City

St. Louis local music always surprises me. Sometimes it's hard to believe that such good music can be made by people who live so close to me, people I see on the street or in the audience at concerts.
Infinity City starts out with "Gimme A Chantz!," a rocking song to start out with. Paige Brubeck has a great Nilsson-like way of harmonizing with herself that appears throughout the album.
"Seventeen" is a cover of the Beatles' "When I Saw Her Standing There." At six minutes long, it's not quite like the original. It's an intriguing jam of the classic hit.
"NYC Really Has It All" is a conversation with an old friend about how much their hometown has changed since they were young. This is a perfect anthem for reminiscing about your own childhood.
My favorite track, "Dykula," has vocals that remind me of Karen O. Her basic message in the song is clear: I wish I'd never met you. I also like the retro "shoobop's."
Lastly, the vinyl-only eleventh track, "Greetings From Cherokee St USA," is a simple song of piano and beautiful vocals. At certain points it is filled with street noise, presumably recorded from Cherokee Street. It is a beautifully written song about Sleepy Kitty's neighborhood. Like most vinyl-only tracks, it's only available on the vinyl copy, sadly.
Infinity City is out now on Euclid Records. I bet you can pick it up at a certain record store of the same name.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Buchers Boy - Skin and Bones

Country music is frequently filled with themes of sorrow, coffins, shotguns, and dogs. This album may not have those last three. As far as sorrow, it goes one step farther. Rage. This is country music that definitely seems to be more anger-fueled than woe-fueled.
Butchers Boy is a country-rock band with an emphasis on 'rock.' The vocals sound tortured at some points. I can't always understand them which makes me want to listen to them over and over again until I can understand the entire message.
The drums provide very innovative takes on well-known rhythms. Some of the guitar solos are especially mean.
Highlight tracks include the title track, "Skin and Bones," with a slightly sinister mood and brilliant guitar. On top of it all, my favorite part is the xylophone solo at the end. "Put On Your Jacket" starts out slow and then builds with tumultuous drums and some awesome breaks. The organ on "Wicked On Broadway" makes the song sound like a great party.
Possibly the coolest thing about this album is that all twelve tracks were recorded live in the studio and in only two days in August of 2007. That's a pretty difficult task to accomplish but it sure makes for a fun album.
"Skin and Bones" is out now on Grape Juice Records but it may be a little hard to find, especially for anyone outside of Chicago. That said, if you ever come across a copy of it, buy it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday - LouFest 2011

Ume rocking very hard
The retro rock of Old Lights started out the day. Their set reminded me of early Elvis Costello, definitely not a bad thing. Although their lead guitarist broke a few strings and experienced other difficulties, there was always another spare and the set continued just fine.
Jumbling Towers had a chaotic, unique keyboard based sound that my friends and I all enjoyed. The drummer was very talented and the singer looked like David Byrne of Talking Heads if you squinted. Definitely one of my favorites from sunday, I was disappointed to find a different sound on the free sampler they gave me. A drum machine? Where's that awesome guy? That said, I look forward to future releases from them.
Ume was the heaviest band of the weekend in my opinion. Their hardcore songs paired with Lauren's sometimes sweet vocals made a great combination. Her outfit was actually a great representation of the band's sound. A little black dress and combat boots. Also, she's the best headbanger I've ever seen.
Next up was the band I was most excited for, Lost In The Trees. Their set did not disappoint. The soft orchestral folk music was a stark contrast to Ume. The audience seemed quiet and respectful of their delicate sound. The set included brand new songs, a skeleton horse puppet being paraded through the audience, and a personal story about delivering pizza to the wealthy while on narcotics. Awesome.
The Low Anthem followed, being the only other folk band on the bill. The singer's voice sounded a whole lot like more recent Bob Dylan tunes.
Das Racist was definitely the wild card of sunday. The three maniac rappers took the stage and played much of the material from their forthcoming album, "Relax." Never taking themselves seriously, they told us how they planned to "do a couple more blues songs, some classic rock songs." They showed a lot of energy and I swear there must have been at least one of them talking at all times. They played Metallica on their laptop, air-guitaring heavily as they walked out.
!!! was one of the most entertaining bands of the weekend. How could you not enjoy watching the singer dance, dance with the audience, dance with a man in a wheelchair, dance on top of the speakers, and knock a row of lights right off the speaker while dancing? It was incredibly entertaining and created a great environment to hold an impromptu dance party with strangers. It started to drizzle a little bit near the end but that didn't stop anyone from grooving.
Cat Power doesn't play many live shows but for St. Louis, an exception. Her vocals sounded just as good, if not better, than they do on the album (which is pretty great.) The entire band experienced some issues with their monitors but it still sounded great from the audience. True to her discography, Cat Power played at least a few covers. In the middle of the set, an amazing sunset and a rainbow appeared. This would have been cool with any of the bands but it was an absolutely perfect visual for Cat Power's stunning set.
TV On The Radio had a noisy and rocking sound that has become their signature. Keeping with the theme of their new album (Nine Types Of Light) they had a great light show to go with the music. In my opinion, they could have mixed the audio a little better. It didn't ruin such a moving set however. I was particularly excited when they played my two favorites, "Repetition" and "Wolf Like Me," in a row. Dealing with the death of their bass player, Gerard Smith, this could be TV On The Radio's last tour. Whatever they do, I'm sure it will be in everyone's best interest. This set was really powerful and loud and a great way to end a great weekend in St. Louis.

Saturday - LouFest 2011

Kings Go Forth
The weekend began with Jon Hardy and the Public. I heard a rumor that they practiced the entire set fifteen times including turning off the AC at Jon Hardy's house to experience the predicted heat. It paid off because they sounded great. Near the end of the set, one of their guitarists had to quickly change clothes and go get ready for a set with his other band, Troubadour Dali.
Troubadour Dali rocked the house (err... lawn) with their psychedelic music. They definitely helped prove that St. Louis does in fact have great local music, something that everyone in this area should recognize.
Sleepy Sun played some of their heavy, long jams. The best way to describe this is 'epic.'
All nine members of Kings Go Forth appeared clad in white uniforms. Their funky soul music was a great contrast to Sleepy Sun, pouring out love and sunshine. It was incredibly danceable, as I quickly found out.
Dom was, although limited, very cool including a special cover of The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry." Not that it matters in the long run, but the singer totally looks like a girl. Girl hair, pants, and voice. It was a little awkward but contributed to the absurdity of their music.
Surfer Blood played a good combination of fun and dark songs including some new tracks that have yet to be released. The frontman needs to learn to not talk quite so much but still a very fun set.
Due to hurricane Irene, The Roots could not make it. However, ?uestlove graced us with his DJ set of awesomeness. Boasting that it covered 85 years worth of music, this was a great big dance party at LouFest.
Deerhunter appeared calm and cool on stage while they played many fan favorites. The bass player looked pretty stoned to me but it certainly didn't prohibit him from playing some amazing bass lines. After announcing to the audience that this would be the last song they played on tour for a long time, the singer realized they still had thirty minutes left in their set. This mistake caused some people to leave that area but didn't take away from a great set.
To end saturday, The Hold Steady took over the blue stage. The sun had gone down at this point, making the stage even more of a focus. Belting out lyrics like a dictator giving a speech, singer Craig Finn was full of energy, frequently repeating lines away from the microphone and moving his limbs around. They played a wonderful set despite last year's departure of their keyboard player. It featured a great combination of old and new material.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

...soihadto... - Adventure Stories (Not Based On Fact?)

...soihadto... (that's their actual name) has created the soundtrack for an incredibly epic science fiction movie. Don't look for the movie online; it hasn't even been conceived yet. But I have confidence that it's a movie I will eventually take my grandkids to go see in the distant future.
This is made of songs that start out simple and then build until it's the most rocking thing you can possibly imagine. Until you go to the next track.
The drums are a fantastic foundation for epic guitar solos without being excessive. It never reaches that moment of "too much." The guitars have some pretty cool effects that are used sparingly and frequently in the background. I'm also pretty curious about the backwards voices on "Searching For The Cure" (I wonder who's dead this time?)
 I would call this a progressive album because of the long length of the tracks and the way that the songs can change within one of those tracks. On the other hand, some of the shorter songs have the raw energy of a punk band. Progressive punk? Is that a thing? Maybe it is now. Whatever it is, I like it.
Something that's fun to do, especially with instrumental music, is to close your eyes and visualize an imaginary movie that would go with the music. I do this at concerts sometimes. In my head this album is full of alien assassinations, cool cars, a lot of running, and shifty government contracts. I can't wait for it to be in theaters. What do you see when you listen to it? One could write a whole trilogy of films while you listen to this album.
"Adventure Stories (Not Based On Fact?)" is out now on Grape Juice Records.

Wilco - I Might

An acoustic guitar and a growling bass start off this single from Wilco's forthcoming album. The drum's create a real great stomp beat and the organ in the background makes me think of Elvis Costello's "My Aim is True" album. The lyrics on this song are abstract and beautiful in a style that is pretty signature Tweedy. This song makes me happy despite hearing Jeff sing "It's alright. You won't set the kids on fire. But I might." But, whatever, it's alright.
The B-side is a cover of Nick Lowe's "I Love My Label." This song is a new recording but if you close your eyes it just might take you back to 1977. This song is of course a tongue-in-cheek joke for Wilco. Having gone through much label trouble with the release of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," Wilco is finally on their own and Jeff Tweedy is his own boss. "We're one big happy family," he sings.
"I Might" is out now on dBpm Records and their new album "The Whole Love" is out on September 27th.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lower 48 - Everywhere To Go

The opening track to this folk-rock EP, "Transmisson Pt. 1," begins with a single acoustic guitar. It slowly builds adding two vocalists, a second guitar, a little piano and violin before breaking back down again. "Sunshine on the moon makes me wonder what it's like back home." This song is the perfect start to an EP about traveling.
"Mama's Eye" showcases Sarah Parson's cool, calm style of singing as she tells a story of dreaming to leave home and fly away. The viola is dramatic in a way that only classical instruments can be. 
There are more wonderful vocals on "Bedroom," a bit of a downer about the sorrowful thoughts that can be had while lying awake in bed.  
"Miles From Minnesota" is one of my favorite songs right now and definitely the highlight of the album. It's a fast-talking duet about a couple planning the trip of their dreams. It's also the title track to this fine disc. The two singers, although very different in style, sound very awesome next to each other. They don't have to be the same to be a great match (kind of like relationships, the subject of the song.) 
This seamlessly transitions into "Transmission Pt. 2" which contains the lyric "Don't stop the car." I don't know if that car actually stopped but I know my CD did, against my will. This came out in 2009 but I want to hear some more NOW. According to their facebook page, a new album is in the works. Until then, "Everywhere To Go" is out now on Grape Juice Records. A great road trip album, you can listen to it everywhere you go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Musikanto - Sky of Dresses

This is a wonderfully genuine americana album that covers many genres. The first song, "Blues for Momma," is a blues tune that makes me think of childhood. The classic blues style of repeating lyrics only makes them more powerful. 
"Every Which Way" is about love, the most classic theme, and it is definitely one of the stand out tracks. "I want your love right in front of me, I want it every which way. I need not know where you come from my darling just that you wanna stay," he sings. The simplicity of love is a curious thing. We spend all of this time trying to figure out who it is and what it means but it's really simple at the core. I like you a whole lot and I wanna be around you, right? That's what I get from this song. The dreamy guitar tone comes to a halt just before the chorus which creates a really cool effect.
The fourth track, "Ballad of Two Vultures," beautifully transitions into "Awful Mind" which has a western-like organ. The "oh my my's" in this song fit perfectly with the organ's tone.
The title track is an abstract collection of memories followed by "False Wind" with a whimsical violin intro.
The very last song is "The Waiting Room." In my interpretation of this one, it's about having a baby. "I don't see much of me in you but I want to." The female vocalist Sarah Holtschlag takes over during the chorus which sounds fantastic. The song moves along and the acoustic guitar sounds like it's over-flowing with doubt. Until, from out of nowhere, an electric guitar bursts in and the song builds into something else completely! Musikanto repeats the phrase "in the waiting room the walls are cold" until the song finally settles down. A very fine way to end a great album. 
I can't wait to hear more from Musikanto and I hope he makes his way to St. Louis sometime soon. Until then, "Sky of Dresses" is out now on Grape Juice Records.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Curtis Evans and Our Friends Electric - Life With The Buffalo

This is an album for people who like little surprises. The first track I heard from this album was "You and Me." Judging by the title, I thought it was going to be a love song. "You and me and the devil make three." It's quite dark. Despite the depressing lyrics, it still carries a beautiful duet. 
I was surprised again when I listened to the album. The second track, "Baltimore," repeats the lyric "In Baltimore there are mothers pleading / All our babies have x's on their eyes." Whoa. I knew this was dark but that is some heavy stuff. Then I got to the seventh track, "Mark of the Beast." It really grooves and the guitar is pretty ripping. It's not the kind of song I would expect to hear when there's nature photography on the cover sleeve and the first half is mostly acoustic. And I REALLY didn't expect the next song, "Sister." It's got a guitar riff that reminds me a little of Black Sabbath! "What if I can't wake up, sister?" And then on the track after, it's another slow song. "Won't Serve in Heaven" is a beautiful song that questions what qualifies us into heaven. "The Good Life" is a bitter song about being paranoid. "Will she kill me in the night?"
This showed me just how versatile Curtis Evans can be. The entire album features songs of different styles but they all seem to make sense next to each other. This is definitely a unique album and I hate to try and categorize into just one genre. "Life With The Buffalo" is out now on Grape Juice Records.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Manchester Orchestra @ The Pageant

On May 3rd I attended the Manchester Orchestra concert at the Pageant. While the show did not sell out, the pit was incredibly crowded because the balcony wasn't open. I was in the second row of humans, center stage.

The first of three bands was Harrison Hudson, a three-piece outfit from Nashville. The singer and guitarist, Harrison himself, had the appearance of Buddy Holly meets Arcade Fire. Big glasses and a slightly strange haircut. Between the three members, the songs were well-balanced. No one outshined the rest. They played songs about relationships including a very humorous song about Katy Perry. THe entire set could be summed up in their song "Run My Way." "Love is a waiting game." Very true words.

The second band was Australian rock duo An Horse. They showered us in half-shouted vocals and fast beats. Singer/guitarist Kate Cooper played an orange Fender Mustang that looked as though it had been bought earlier that day. He vocals were very energetic but sometimes difficult to understand. Drummer Damon Cox pulled out some stunning fills that I definitely don't remember from the album. Despite the tease of an acoustic on stage, there were no acoustic songs.

Finally Manchester Orchestra took stage, starting with an older fan favorite, "Shake It Out." Friends, it only takes a few melty crayons to ruin an entire coloring book. When one guy charges his way to the front, it creates a mosh pit. This was a particularly violent one. Three songs in and frontman Andy Hull had taken notice.

"It seems some of us are smiling a little too much about all the pushing and shoving."
"Thank you!," said everyone in the front.
"Yeah, do you see all these people, especially women saying thank you?," said Andy to the moshing guys, "That means you're wrong."

 The set included a few songs from their forthcoming album, Simple Math, but was for the most part very old-heavy. We were treated to a beautifully slow cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's "Holland, 1945." Andy continued to play many of their most popular songs at a much slower tempo than the album. I like to believe that this was to discourage shoving in the pit. Hull played a black Gibson hollow-body the entire show except for one song played on a custom telecaster built by guitarist Robert McDowell.

My favorite thing about Manchester Orchestra is that it seemed as though all five members knew exactly what their songs were about. I could really tell that they were feeling the lyrics as they played the songs. Drummer was smiling like a little kid during the entire show.The band opted to not do an encore and just play one extra long set.

A fantastic concert. A terrible audience. It only takes one, kids. It only takes one...

Monday, January 10, 2011


Weezer gets a lot of crap from their old fans these days. I don't want to stereotype - they're still a very popular band and have many old fans - but a large portion of their fans have been upset with the band's sound in recent years. Many fans claim that they have sold out and don't have the same sound that they used to. 
1) They may have sold out just a wee-bit. But not much!
2) If a band keeps the same sound every album, the audience will expect it and stop buying the albums.
Take a look at Wilco. They aren't quite the alt-country band they were when Uncle Tupelo broke up. Bands have to change to survive.
The new Weezer album, Hurley, is all new material. The first track "Memories" is very upbeat but has lyrics that long for the past. Perhaps a past where their fans were more appreciative of them? The more I listen to the album, the more it seems like it could be about the fans. In the dark "Unspoken" Cuomo says he's "dreaming of a chance to make it right." Sure, it could be about a personal relationship but what's more personal than writing songs for thousands of people to hear?
It seems to me that Weezer is trying to gain that portion of their fans back. I can't see why some listeners are upset about Weezer. Sure, there was a rap song on "Raditude" and okay maybe "Pork and Beans" sounded too much like pop music, but shouldn't we try and trust the band that we loved so much in 1994? 
Fan politics aside, Hurley is a dark album with many interesting song structures and lyrics. It is not their best but it is certainly not their worst. Definitely good for a few pissed-off rock songs.