Magnetic Fields perform "69 Love Songs"

For two nights in a row, loads of folks made their journeys, some near and some far, through the blistering cold temperatures to witness Stephin Merritt and company perform all 69 Love Songs. Both nights sold out long ago at the classical-style Somerville Theater in the Boston area. On stage in addition to the four core musicians were the three guest singers who appear on the albums. For the first night I witnessed something rather unexpected.

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REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

It's a good thing that I haven't filled out the survey for the best stuff of the year yet, because now I can honestly say I can add this film to it. I must admit I was worried that this film would be too MTV-generation, but the quick camera shots, center stage sound fx / score, and creative photography made this film all the bit more intense and entertaining. Ellen Burnstyn's role of the television slaved mother turned speed addict was a performance actors dreams are made of. Her character's physical and emotional transformation from start to finish of the film was absolutely intense. Jared Leto's role as her son was excellent as well, along with his strung out girlfriend and best friend, played by Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans, respectively. The film was bold in its portrayal of these four main characters and how their lives were ruined over the course of three seasons by compulsion and drugs. It was unsettling, uneasy, yet I couldn't remove my eyes from the screen. It was impossible as every single second, every image on the screen would make for a perfect picture. In no way is there a happy ending, everything is destroyed, everybody loses. It's most definitely more of an anti-drug propaganda film than Trainspotting. A requiem is more or less a song for a funeral, and "Requiem for a Dream" was truly a thrilling modern nightmare. 
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GODSPEED/WILL OLDHAM & MICK TURNER

I think I can finally put my finger on the characteristic of godspeed you black emperor's music which pulls at the emotions of so many people across the musical taste spectrum. Music listeners will have songs they're very fond of, and instrumentation can strike up an intense emotional response with a strong recurring refrain or chord progression. Something grand and beautiful will always be that one part of a song you just wish would go on longer. The Godspeed folks have taken that idea, the thought of a musical phrase itself and extended it, nurturing the sound. The sound becomes one on its own and has its own living and breathing life. They draw the sound out, let it build, color it with the numerous tools (2 bass guitars, 2 percussionists, 3 guitarits and 2 string players sure help) and let it run its natural course, letting it die perfectly without that sound—the riff or hook—becoming too redundant or repetitious. After all is done, an album of two to three tracks comes to a close, you feel satisfied, satiated and happy. The concert opened up with a performance by what was billed as Bonnie Prince Billy and the Marquid de Tren, the lineup was Will Oldham singing and playing guitar, Jim White (from Palace and other projects) on the drums, a bass guitarist and Mick Turner on guitars, loops, harmonica and melodica. The set was quiet yet gut wrenching. The addition of Mick Turner's layered guitar works on top of Oldham's bluesy heartfelt voice was a fantastic match, the bass took the role of providing the low pulse and the jazz-like improvisational drumwork from Jim pulled everything together quite magically. Luckily fans of the set could walk away with their album along with the two similar and fantastic Molasses discs at the merchandise counter. Godspeed's set was marked by a few stellar new tunes which haven't graced an official album yet along with popular favorites from all their commercial releases. The set lasted over two hours and ended with a beautiful encore with band spokesman Efrim playing the xylophone while drummers Bruce and Aidan walked through the audience playing percussives. The show was held in a rather large movie theater with a seated audience, and was sold out before the day of the show, which leads me to wonder where they'll play next time around. This setting was seemingly perfect, where everybody present could enjoy every single note while being close enough to view everything happening onstage. Any more would be less intimate, any less would be too packed.
5752 Hits

THE SHALABI EFFECT

Deep in the heart of Harvard Square lies the best record shop in the Boston area, a quiet place known as Twisted Village, where owners Wayne and Kate welcomed the four-piece collective from Montreal to entertain an intimate gathering of current fans of the group. I say "current fans" bearing in mind that after hearing their stunning debut and witnessing the talented display, it won't be long before many others catch on. Of course the loose connections to godspeed will no doubt be somewhat helpful. The 20+ crowd that gathered sat quietly in a dimly-lit store while the group played improvisational variants on tunes and melodies heard on their debut. Those present were Anthony on guitar, Alexandre St. Onge on electrics, Will Eizlini playing tablas, bowl, and other percussives and Sam Shalabi on electronics and an oud (an Egyptian precursor to the lute). The combination of Middle Eastern sounds combined with electronic noises and delayed guitars was hypnotic to say the least. Pleasant and peaceful, this is surely a moment I will never forget. The band was quite excited as this crowd was most likely bigger than the one present at the Knitting Factory in NYC only a couple nights earlier. The band is criss-crossing the northeast US over the next couple weeks, their dates are available at the alien8 website. I'm already planning my journey to Providence to see this show again.
5582 Hits

Quills

How's this for Hollywood trash? Sure, it's a movie about the insane asylum days of the Marquis de Sade (from which Sadism was coined for all you newbie gawths), but it's very VERY loosely based on historical events. Keep in mind if you see this that the film is in fact based on the play, and should be viewed for entertainment purposes ONLY. Aside from that the performance by Geoffrey Rush was incredible as Sade, the elegant and innovative use of sound was a pleasant unexpected surprise, and the supporting cast of imbeciles was exciting to watch. However, I can't get past a few grave inaccuracies and personal issues.

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Word of the Day: Turbid

The Word of the Day for December 2 is:

turbid \TER-bid\ (adjective)

  1. : thick or opaque with or as if with roiled sediment
  2. : characterized by or producing obscurity (as of mind or emotions) : confused, muddled*
Example sentence:
    According to one reviewer, Chauncey's first book was "the turbid and rambling product of an unclear mind."
Did you know?
    "Turbid" and "turgid" (which means "swollen, distended" or "overblown, pompous, or bombastic") are two words so frequently mistaken for one another that they could have been invented to keep dictionary makers in business. Not only do these two words differ by only a letter, but, adding to the confusion, they are often used in contexts where either word might fit. For example, a flooded stream is often both distended and muddy, and badly written prose is often both obscure and grandiloquent. Nevertheless, the distinction between these two words, however fine, is an important one for conveying exact shades of meaning, so it's a good idea to keep them straight.
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

----------------

- Brought to you by Merriam-Webster Inc.
http://www.m-w.com

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DANCER IN THE DARK

Do you like to indulge in Bjork-ness for long periods of time? Do you love to watch people do things on screen that you'd never do in their situation? Do you want to feel nauseous for 2 hours of unsteady camera shots? If you answered yes to any one of those questions, then this movie's most certainly for you. I'll admit: it was well-done, it was effective and emotional, I was in tears at the end, but I didn't need to see this movie. Like Bjork's character, I too can relate to daydreaming as well as listening to sounds and rhythms that exist in life, imagining songs to go along with them. Don't let anybody tell you this is a "musical." In a musical, there are happy endings and more than one character has songs. ["West Side Story" is considered more of a Modern Opera than a Musical.] Since Bjork is the lead singer in every song in this film, 'Dancer' is better classified as an extended music video. If you love Bjork and don't mind watching something completely self-indulgent then it won't be as stomach-turning as it was for me. After watching this film, I honestly wouldn't care if I never saw her face or heard her voice ever again. She's got two emotions: one is of deep melodramatic sadness and the other one is of that little girl looking at the big world through bright star-filled eyes. That's IT! There's nothing more to her character. Catherine Deneuve's extensive career has a long line of wonderful performances, showcasing many abilities - here however her role completely puts the esteemed actress to waste. I've never walked out of a film and I was seriously considering leaving after about an hour. By the time she shot and killed her neighbor, Bill, I knew I made the wrong decision in staying. I recommend this film for all Bjork fans because something about her aura just drives people to go insane and kill themselves. Cheers!
6808 Hits

Punish Your Fucking Machine

So I was enjoying Sunday brunch this morning at a semi-local diner restaurant. Next to me at the counter were two twenty-somethings talking about electronic music, dropping names of effects, software and hardware that I'm relatively familiar with. My curiosity was peaked and I felt compelled to ask them what they're doing with all this gear. From the conversation I heard, they seemed quite knowledgable about all the features and functions inside and out. When faced with this question, their answer was simply "house music." This made me sad, I didn't tell them this directly, but it reminds me of my days working for an ISP doing tech support. When the brand-spanking new all-powerful Macintosh G4 came out, the possibilities were seemingly endless. I was always curious to know what people were doing with such an expensive and powerful hunk of machinery the government wouldn't even let out of the country. Much to my dismay most of the customers were just rich people who love blowing their cash on useless things - "we're using it at the home for our spreadsheets and to browse the web." This is the time of year for giving and receiving, so with this in mind, be sure that if you've been good and get some wonderful gear (you can treat yourself, too, you know) USE IT! Scientists say that humans only use a small percent of their brain, don't do this with your gear.
17728 Hits

VOLCANO THE BEAR

They look like rock musicians, they smell like rock musicians, they even show up to gigs with a guitar, drums and organ - but they're not playing rock music. Their creative and charming blend of improvisational noise and organic soundcraft was what attracted Nurse With Wound's Steven Stapleton along with indie rock label Misra and UK indie Pickled Egg. This evening, the group was gathered in a basement in Allston, MA. The air was musty and damp but the show was most certainly enjoyable. The band begun with Nick bowing a guitar equipped with a wooden dowell, elevating a couple strings way off the fret-board. Other members Daniel and Aaron would make various sounds with their voices and switch off on drum duties. Over at the tapes was Lawrence, who stayed put for the set. The three soon began shifting around, with Nick going to the organ, Aaron playing a pennywhistle, Daniel playing clarinet and miniature accordion, all of them taking some duties with percussive sounds from various sources. Since the space was small and quite tight, the band was literally climbing over each other on various occasions. Perhaps it was a rehearsed part of the show, but I'm guessing much of their choreography is a combination of improvisation and order. The band's winding up their US tour currently and look for them in the future playing bigger venues next time.
5625 Hits

TYRO/MAN OR ASTRO-MAN?

So I was wondering what the heck Daniel Miller of Mute saw in Tyro. Their original incarnate, Atlanta-based Toenut released two albums on Mute before they lost their bassist. The core team, a brother and sister regrouped as Tyro and released "Audiocards" earlier this year. Tonight I saw exactly what I had hoped to see - an energetic group with low-fi electronics and blasting guitars charging an audience that's gathering for the headliners. If Add N to (X) added some guitars and knew how to write songs and kick ass, this would have been it I think. Everything was top notch from the drumming, guitar work and even rock and roll choreography. If Carl Sagan had a nightmare of The Muppets getting into a car accident with Dick Dale, Man or Astro-Man would be the result. You gotta have the uttmost respect for a group of alien surf-punks who open their show with fire and an OMD sample! Right on! To make the show even more electrifying, their set was accented by cosmic film projections, a dot-matrix typewriter and a Van Der Graaf generator on stage. I don't think they had fire permits for this kinda stuff.
6386 Hits

BROADCAST/THE SEA AND CAKE

While I like both bands, my opinions of each shifted after seeing this performance. Broadcast opened the show with a performance which sent shivers down my spine. I like the group but honestly, their music has never done a whole lot for me, but seeing them pull off slammin' live jams one after the other was incredible. I'm dying to go back and listen closer to their recorded sound, but at the end of their set, many friends present had agreed that Broadcast can surely pull it off amazingly well live. The Sea and Cake however lost a few points in my book tonight. I considered myself more a fan of TSAC than Broadcast but their show tonight was rather taskworthy to sit through. Sam Prekop's orchestrated guitarwork alongside Archer Prewitt is pleasant and endearing, John McEntire's drumming never falters, but I'm beginning to feel some times that all Sea and Cake songs sound too similar. The chords are almost exactly alike, the pace is almost identical, the vocals don't change much from song to song and they're all nicely compacted into an easily digestible 3-5 minutes. Together as a group, they're heading down the path of being written off as a one-trick pony. With so much talent gathered on one stage I'm almost embarassed that so little is being done to harness the power.
5613 Hits

Winter Warmer

There's a tradition this time of year for those of us in colder climates that I'd love to share. Gather a small group of some close friends (who happen to be music fans) and prepare a night of music listening while sipping some tasty hot mulled cider.
Ingredients:
  • 1 Gallon of Fresh Apple Cider (not that alcoholic processed garbage, but the real stuff you can find in your grocer's refridgerator)
  • Cloves
  • Cranberries
  • 2 Oranges
  • Orange Juice
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Ground Nutmeg
  • Brandy (Ginger Brandy recommended but not necessary)
Directions:
    Dump approximately 1/2 gallon of cider in a large pot, slice up two oranges and add them with a handful of cranberries. Add only a small splash of orange juice. Add some cloves but don't go overboard. Add the ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg to your desire and let sit on a low heat for at least a half-hour. When the oranges have sunk and look pretty drunk and the cranberries have gone soft, it's time to enjoy! Ladel the cider into some thick mugs, add the brandy and a cinnamon stick. Wander out to the livingroom and gather around the stereophonic hi-fi for an evening of socializing around some of the finest selections to suit your evening.
I did this on Friday night with three close friends and it was a certified success. As an added bonus, the pleasant and warm aroma of hot apples, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg lingered around my house throughout the following day. With many long weekends coming up, it's a wonderful time to be close to your friends during these cold and dark months.
11705 Hits

Rachel's & Matmos

Recalling the recording "Full On Night," I was expecting an evening of collaborative work between both groups, as there were two performances scheduled tonight at the Brattle Theater. The Brattle is not a typical rock venue, it's a movie theater which specializes in cult, foreign and art films. For the last few years, the Rachel's have been packing the audiences into the Brattle as they play their own special blend of instrumental serenity as performed by acoustic and classical instruments. Tonight was completely unexpected. Matmos opened with their own set.

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Brainwashed endorses Ralph Nader

In the US Presidential election the winner is going to be either Al Gore or George W. Bush. This is understood, but this is why we're encouraging a Nader vote: If Nader gets 5% of the vote, the Green Party will get Federal Matching funds in the next election. This means that we can indeed live in hope for a more truly democratic future. Currently, Nader's only on the ballot for 44 states. Mathematically he could win, but more than likely he will not.

The most important vote however on Election Day is never the president. Your local and state politics are most important since they will effect you the most. Pay attention to ballot questions because it's your chance to say what you think is right for your state. Read the questions carefully and keep in mind that while tax cuts look good on paper, they might be cutting into education or other necessary funding. Pay attention to who's supporting which question and ask yourself who's causes would you rather support,... Whatever you do, get out there and vote.

10115 Hits

Sigur Ros on the cover of the NY Times(?)

On Tuesday this past week, "Rekyavik Rocks" appeared on the cover of the New York Times. Open to the Arts section and there was a large feature on the Icelandic music scene, with lots of attention paid to Sigur Ros. I'm pleased to see this, truly, as video outlets like MTV, VH-1, coupled with the commercial radio outlets (mainly those posing as alternative) are absent minded when it comes to fresh, exciting movements in new music.

It's nice that the New York Times will feature something like this, as these budding scenes should not go unrecognized. Reading further through the article, I'm somewhat disturbed when I find my former boss, Leigh Lust quoted. Lust was my boss at Capitol in A&R, now he works for Elektra in A&R, and he still doesn't get it. The man's a great man, but he talks about how the Icelandic bands should collaborate with English writers so their songs can be done in English, thus making them more commercially viable abroad. Is he that much of a buffoon to think that the people of Iceland don't already know English and choose to sing in Icelandic?

Hearing somebody sing in their native tongue and reading along with translated lyrics in a booklet is like watching a foreign film with subtitles while having the songs re-done in English is like watching a foreign film dubbed. A person like Lust has been so involved inside the music biz for so long, that it seems he's forgotten what art means. Score 1 for the NY Times, 0 for the major-label music industry.
11549 Hits

LOW/IDA

While I have ranted and raved before about each of these groups in concert, I felt the need to talk about this show, perhaps one of the best concerts I've ever seen here in Boston. On Monday night, both bands took to the stage in front of a fully packed movie theater, Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline and played to a smokeless attentive, well-behaved audience. The biggest beef I think any fan of these groups has is that their shows' crowds can often be too loud, interfering with each's own brand of quiet and intense music. Ida's set nearly brought me to tears, featuring many combinations of on stage musicians, including the core four (playing guitar, bass, piano, drums, percussion, and stringed instruments) accompanied with a full-time violinist and double-bass player. Low's set included many unrecognizable new songs from their forthcoming album. From what everybody heard on Monday night, it's going to be stunning. Additional surprises included their cover of the Beach Boys' "Little Surfer Girl" and a captivating lullaby for Alan and Mimi's new baby daughter. I was hardly surprised to see all the copies of that 7" single gone by the time I saw the merchandise table that night. Thanks to this concert, I have new hope for Boston venues, let's just hope the magic doesn't die.
5747 Hits

LAIKA

On a brief tour supporting their recent full-lenghter the closest this London-based band came to Boston was NYC. Although I bitched and complained when they toured last supporting Fiona Apple, I figure I spent more trying to get to NYC to see them this year. It was worth the trip however. Laika's rhythmic pop charm is undeniable - you can't play their music for anybody without them being instantly captivated. "Good Looking Blues" is one of my top albums of the year and to see them live once again was enjoyable. The band played tunes mostly from this album and their previous release, "Sounds of the Satellites," basically picking up from the last time I saw them (on tour supporting Tricky following their debut release "Silver Apples of the Moon.") Fronting the band is Chicago-area born Margaret Fiedler, whose vocal abilities have grown over the years to a range that goes from almost beat-poetry spoken word to beautiful lead melodies, blanketing the jagged rhythms beneath. Watching her play guitar is a treat as well, as her abilities match some of the best lead/rhythm guitarists of rock. [FYI, her guitar abilities earned her a spot in PJ Harvey's touring band, hitting the USA in a matter of weeks.] Surprises of the night included "Looking for the Jackalope," a tune which first appeared on the 'Off-Beat' compilation, later remixed by Jack Dangers into a stunning 9 1/2 minute piece.
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CECIL B. DEMENTED

"I held a Pasolini film fest and nobody showed up!" Waters takes out the Hollywood trash in Cecil, letting his bitterness towards the Californian movie machine shine bright.
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6908 Hits

Need Another Reason to Boycott the Majors?

This past week, 28 U.S. states filed suit against the five major labels and three of the biggest retailers, demanding "hundreds of millions of dollars" in damages.
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9002 Hits

THE FOR CARNATION/DAVID GRUBBS

Tonight the For Carnation pulled it off - they recreated the sound that was captured on one of this year's best CDs on a stage.
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5699 Hits
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