Thursday, August 26, 2010

AM to AM at Crash Mansion [8/19/10]

(Re-printed with love from the best blog in the world:

Indie rockers AM to AM had their work cut out for them last Thursday night at Crash Mansion. Up until they started their late set, it had been a fairly subdued evening. Three low-key bands played before them and by the time we arrived, the wallflower audience situation looked dire.

Perhaps sensing they had to get a jump on things, AM to AM immediately opened big with “Pop As Science” (here’s a group who knows how to title a song appropriately!), and hit the ground running from there. We really enjoyed this one, if only because it included an unbelievable amount of shouting from the ensemble and they all have great voices. So it came together in a way that was both urgent and professional at once.
Their energy and massive ambition (and some pretty nice Gibsons) remained tight for the rest of the 45 minute set. Another for-sure standout was definitely “Mirror Clear.” This song’s middle-eight shows off great cabaret-style piano work from keyboardist Sarah Goldstone. Its twists and turns help give the song a distinctive character to stand on its own two legs. Indeed, the fun, stylistic detours through this number showcased their cohesiveness as a band.

For “Feed Me To The Ghoul,” lead singer/songwriter Will Tendy put on what looked like a Nintendo power glove, and began sequencing an eight-bit counterpoint to drummer Jonathon Schmidt’s rhythms. In equal measure, Schmidt clocked his arrangement with canned, electronic drums perfectly. This was all pretty impressive, and did not go unnoticed by the crowd.
The closing number was a barn-burning cover of “Pump it Up” that, once again, exhibited their talent as an ensemble. At that point, it seemed as if the audience was just beginning to dance and cut loose, but they had to cut short the abbreviated set. Nonetheless, AM to AM ended with everyone wanting more, which is always the true sign of a great show.

Overall, their set consisted of all the songs from their new self-titled EP, which sounds like a less obnoxious and more poppy version of lead singer Will Tendy’s other band, Morningwood. While Morningwood has great energy, it’s not for everyone. AM to AM is less crass and a bit more sensitive and playful. And even though they just started playing out (this was one of their first NY gigs), we’ll be seeing more of this band around.

Written by Mike Levine

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Star is Born

While on Deli mag this morning, I ran across an ad for a band I once played with. Local Bk hip-hop duo The Metermaids. While they were always great both on stage and up close...  professional doods that managed to make white hip-hop not look all that dorky, they've certainly come a long way since I played with them at 3rd Ward years back.

They have a new free EP out now produced by Rob Swift... and though I only listened a couple times, shit is a banger! My personal fave: A Star is Born. If anyone can tell me where this sample is from, please do!

Anyways, you all should push on over to their myspace and dl asap. A lot of great production from Jack White, Andrew W.K. and BK gets repped too: Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear get some great treatment too:









Sunday, July 25, 2010

Arcade Fire does not sound like Radiohead

People love comparing shit. Raising various comparisons for Arcade Fire's new one, BBC likens the record to the most favoritest album of all critics who don't normally review music, Ok Computer (gasp!), this provocative quote definitively assuring they're quoted across the internets. I've also heard Hold Steady and Depeche Mode used in the same sentence. Neato!

This sounds like a lot of fun actually, so let me throw my hat in the ring. How about Born to Run???? It's no news that Butler adores Springsteen, so naturally the Butlers would go there. The need to escape on highway 9 is no different than the need to get out of the suburbs of Houston (I think?). Frustrated run-ins with police and first loves, jerkoff bullies, malls, boredom... all these are confronted and made much more intense than I remember these experiences being. No matter... Win Butler's always been good at turning relatively mundane experiences into the 'Double Rainbow' of tropes.

(Bonus comment: It might be nice if they incorporated some of Springsteen's groove while they were at it, but of course Win Butler is far too serious for any of that.)

And what of the music? This is an excellent record. Very cohesive, expertly sequenced and feels much more like their second record than Neon Bible. Where Funeral gives voice to frustrated teenage energies across the western world, Neon Bible feels a bit too impersonal... detached and topical in its indictment of everything Institutional. An anti-Bush record for its time. The Suburbs is a giant step forward for this band; this time they handle lyrical negotiations of their past more maturely and confidently.

With The Suburbs, Arcade Fire are ready to handle the personal frustrations of adolescence with the same anxieties heard on Funeral, but with the mature take on institutions of their second release.

Standout tracks: Suburban War, Ready to Start, Half Light 1, Sprawl (Flatland)... (the second Sprawl track could have been lifted verbatim from The Knife's Silent Shout, not that there's anything wrong with that... but the song feels like maybe it belongs on another record... or on the second side to one of it's singles anyways).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In The Singing Box

I figure I should let everyone know that the name of my blog was ill-chosen...

Not that I'm entirely unhappy with that. I just don't know how it's possible that all the other good Animal Collective songs were already chosen. I didn't expect I would be so lucky as to get to use "Did You See the Words", but I at least thought maybe "The Purple Bottle" might be available. A lesson in the limited frontiers of internet real estate to be sure.

(Note: whoever is behind the weirdness of "" only updates once every 3 months... based on that statistic, I should legally be allowed to squat this awesome URL. Damn you!!!!)

Even as a frequent Animal Collective apologist, it's hard to defend 'In The Singing Box' as a decent blog title. Based on its use as a song alone... this off-balanced trapeze act from their debut is about as unlistenable as this amazing band ever gets.

Alas, it's time to deal... In The Singing Box it is!

And I even promise to update this too... just... for you!

Live from Bedstuy,

Apollo Run at Rockwood Stage 2 [5/21/10]

Originally published on Bowery Boogie.

John McGrew has a couple of things on his plate. When he’s not giving nursery school children their first music lessons, or teaching his course, Igniting The Creative Process, or writing songs for any number of theatre and dance company troupes, he somehow finds the time to front the highly motivated rock trio, Apollo Run. The band has been around in its present form for about 2 years now, and is all set to release their white label, 3-song EP this fall, produced by the always eclectic DibS .

All this ambition came to a head Friday night at Rockwood Music Hall’s new Stage 2 at 196 Allen Street. Four times the size of its neighboring Stage 1 but with a sound system to match, Rockwood’s second stage feels much like the famous showcase venues over on Bleecker Street. Just like Lion’s Den Sullivan Hall and The Bitter End, you only play the Rockwood if A&R is already beating a path to your door.

Apollo Run was just the band to help christen this month-old venue. Not content to simply sing and write the majority of this band’s music, John dabbles in a bit of everything. Last Friday night, he bounced around from instrument to instrument. He first started with a piano, then cycled through a trumpet and floortom before finally returning to the piano.

Treating the music venue with the same drama and panache of an off-broadway stage production, John effortlessly broke into falsetto while replacing the usual guitar theatrics with some workmanlike touches on the Rockwood’s beautiful grand piano. It was surprising to me how little I missed the guitar. I guess I was focused too much on bassist Jeff Kerestes’ rockstar faces to care. You could immediately tell he’s wanted to do this his whole life, and I for one, was more than happy to help him feel at home. Equally tight, drummer Graham Fisk approached each fill with his inner athlete, placing his rhythms carefully behind the band, and running it home during the fills.

And I’d be remiss not to mention the incredible horn trio featured on several tracks. Tight and focused, they ran through well-orchestrated lines with ease. My personal fave was the crowd singalong-ready Stars. One of those “had-to-be-there” happenings. Check it out.

The crowd was composed of just the sort of folks who appreciate good, old-fashioned rockstar tendencies. People arrived from Hoboken, the West Village, and midtown east to see Apollo Run reach their LP fantasies. And speaking of which, if you’re a single guy looking to pick up a lady, definitely find out where this band is playing next.

Admittedly, when Apollo Run stands out the most, it is when they are playing time-tested material. Riffs coded genetically as the DNA of arena rock music a la Queen, minus the machismo. Their music takes you through a collage study of rock music’s history: from loose cabaret, to tight Journey-style anthems, to horn lines straight from Cetera-era Chicago, all channeled through fairly intimate lyrics for such a large sound.

What this band lacks in spontaneity, they make up for in genuine zeal. One song in and you can immediately see how hungry they are. They really want it. They are determined to win you over. So much so, they are willing to write a song named for you for the asking price of just $2,500 courtesy of (not a bad deal!).

Whatever your initial impression, they will definitely have you paying attention by the end of the night… and their hooks will be buzzing around your head for weeks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yay! Sleigh Bells are not another BK Psychedelic Trip

I'm gonna go ahead and hop on the Sleigh Bells bandwagon. Whatever this is, it seems to be worth talking about.

And why are they worth talking about? Because they don't sound like the bands people are talking about. No Brian Wilson-approved vocals, no borrowed beach nostalgia... it looks like new psychedelia's potsmoke dreams have not completely eliminated a visceral need to confront the beat head on. That's exactly what we're getting from Alexis Krauss.

In the back of my head, I keep thinking this band has one of those sounds that will cause us to look back and think... 2010... that was when we listened to Sleigh Bells! Like the way we remember Andrew W.K. or Candlebox (ok, no one remembers Candlebox) They share something in common with the XX... in that, they have a sound, and they do it and they do it and they do it again... I don't remember the titles, but I do remember that jackhammer guitar hitting me over the head. The song titles (and for that matter the lyrics) being almost completely inter-changeable. But hey, what's wrong with that right? Who cares when you have a song that endlessly repeats the title Terry Riley-style.

(Got my A Machines on the Table / Got my B Machines on the Floor... get it yet????) Ms. Krauss is well aware of where the band's talent lies, by being well aware of where it doesn't. In interviews she's confessed to not being a particularly verbose lyricist...

These riffs are the envy of any would-be banger. (Why Crown on the Ground hasn't been used on any mixtape yet is beyond me.) And what about that song, Rill Rill??? I bet you heard Infinity Guitars and thought you totally got it.. then heard Rill Rill and you were like... oh, that's that band?? This isn't bad! Likewise, maybe you hate MIA and are completely over IT. Well, she co-produced their debut Treats . (If only MIA would stick to doing more things like this.)

So thank you Sleigh Bells! For proving that once again, Brooklyn has figured out how to work its way out of a hole of psychedelic mopiness and allowed space for the loud and the direct into its hipster heart.