Tuesday, December 25, 2007

top five jamz

without further ado, top five records of the year n' shit.

5. Des Ark/Ben Davis-Battle Of The Beards

Besides being a DJ at WQFS, getting to see Des Ark play numerous times a year has been far and away the most rewarding aspect of the music scene in North Carolina. Aimee Argote, the voice behind the quietly vicious, and devastating music of Des Ark, has played a WQFS show each year I have been at Guilford, and getting to know her has been lots of fun. I was not really into half of this record, that being the half that she didn't write (Ben Davis' side). Yet her five tracks here are five of the most simultaneously somber, hungry and powerful songs I've heard all year, and by any artist, ever. Pitchfork Media compared her to Bright Eyes, and I was like, what the fuck? Her lyrics are dark, but far more articulate and honest than anything Conor Oberst could ever touch. I don't think I've ever been to a Des Ark show where half the audience didn't start sobbing. I also don't think I've ever heard of a band that lost its entire rhythm section, didn't bother to replace it, and made an instantly classic album like this one. It came along at a time when I really needed it in my life, and I am really thankful for it. It's perfect for spending night after lonely night, spinning it, sitting on your roof and smoking cigarettes, like I did this summer.

4. Radiohead-In Rainbows

I haven't really listened to Radiohead since I was 14, and with this record I was able to fall in love with them all over again. Don't get me wrong, Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail To The Thief were great records in their own right, but they just didn't really hit me like their earlier stuff. Different writers have claimed In Rainbows to be their most "accessible" record since Ok Computer, or the sign of their "coming back to earth." While I think claiming that a record sucks because it is too weird, there is something to be said for a certain level of accessibility. This record allows you to get out of it what you put into, where as with their last three records, I felt like there was sort of something you had to "get" when listening to them. This is Radiohead back to their ambiguously alienated, brooding, yet user friendly self, while still remembering that the last three records they made were incredibly innovative, and they need not abandon the blueprints they created. It's the sound of a band who reached the peak of a sound they were working with, and managed to find a brand new road to go down. And the music is good, too.

3. Explosions In The Sky-All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone

So I know a lot of people hate on Explosions In The Sky, especially this record, but seriously, I really think they are one of the best bands in the world. The beautiful cover art serves as the perfect introduction to this record, appropriately considering that their music is kind of like a painting. Each note, crescendo, crash and silence seems to represent another gorgeous brushstroke in their quest to make...uh, some kind of sweet painting. Anyway, from the lost in the flood/searching in the dark cover art that certainly brings to mind images of Hurricane Katrina, or just the sad and disconnected state of humanity, you know from the start that they are trying to get something across to you. It may be hard to notice if all of this instrumental bullshit sounds the same to you, but here they have abandoned everything that made their previous albums work so perfectly, and have come up with something else entirely that is somehow also pretty much perfect. They have songs under the five minute mark. They're kind of done with the basic soft/crescendo/loud/quiet structure they working with, a structure that spawned dozens of lousy imitators with no ear for melody. Instead, they succeed more than ever in writing songs so fitting and colorful that there is absolutely, positively, more assurance than ever that a vocalist would be useless here. The music itself fills the void, and then some. Unlike their previous work, these songs don't necessarily work as individual songs. This album requires a focused listen from beginning to end, a target that unfortunately may miss the mark for people who don't have the time or energy for that kind of thing. I first fell in love with it driving around the highways and backroads of their homestate of Texas over spring break. I have found few albums more perfect for a long, lonesome car ride than this one. A great record for a time of transition, loneliness, reflection, heartbreak, and eventual catharsis.

2. The Everybodyfields-Nothing Is Okay

This year I discovered, or re-discovered, my love for country music, and the band that singlehandedly did the most for me in this process was Johnson City, TN's The Everybodyfields. My first interaction with them was smoking pot with guitarist/vocalist Sam Quinn at the Shakori Hills bluegrass festival last fall. We talked about playing heavy metal and "Jungleland" by Bruce Springsteen, and I suppose it was all set from there on out. They describe their songs as being about "leaving, losing, and home." I think that about sums this record up perfectly. Sam and Jill Andrews, the other half of the band, used to date very seriously, and broke up shortly before the release of their first record, Halfway There: Electricity and The South. Subsequently, they have a consistent track record of writing and performing country music in a way that only ex-lovers could: passionately, regretfully, and honestly. The recording process of this album was particularly hard on the band, as the tension between Sam and Jill had escalated to such a level that, at several points, they were near canning the whole thing. This whiskey-induced desire to give up and go home to their lonely beds seeps through every pore of this record. It's haunted by the ghosts of the american south, the ghosts of country music of old, all the Johnny/June and Gram/Emmylou combinations there ever were, and many, many, empty handles of Jack Daniels. Musically speaking, it brings to mind the influence of 1970's, Comes A Time, Harvest era Neil Young, as well as Gillian Welch and The Band. This is certainly a record you can spend many lonely nights with, if you want to.

"I combed my hair, it looked just right. And went out to go to these places, I go."

1. The National-Boxer

Sometimes that perfect album comes along at the time in your life right when you need it most. Boxer was that record for me this year, perhaps the last two or even three years. I first saw them open for the Arcade Fire in may. I was really stoned and had great seats, and they started playing as soon as I sat down. I remember very little about their set except for how in awe i was, and how severely they blew the Arcade Fire out of the water that night. While this record did not hit me at first, in due time, it turned out to be exactly what I needed for a time where depression, happiness, deep reflection, and transition were hitting me all at once. There is as much variety within the lyrics of each song on this record, which is one of the many things that makes it so perfect. If you funneled all the decades of American folk, punk, alternative and indie into one band, that would be The National. In fact, if I could think of any one band right now that might be the perfect American band, it would be The National. They explore themes of alienation, aging, losing friends, falling in love, basically concepts involving both the triumph and downfall of the American dream.

The romanticization of the monotonous happenings of everyday life, the detailed descriptions of seemingly irrelevant place, weave in and out of these songs, bringing to mind the early music of Bruce Springsteen. While there's no Crazy Janey, Mission Man, or Wild Billy in any of these songs, each song describes interactions between anonymous American characters in anonymous American places, allowing the listener to put themselves into the song perhaps more easily than Springsteen allowed for. They can make a song about staying indoors and listening to records ("Apartment Story," the single of which features a gorgeous b-side cover/re-interpreation of Springsteen's "Mansion On The Hill") sound just as heartfelt and dying for empathy as any Springsteen song ever did. They turn the seemingly boring details of everyday life into poetry, assuring the listener that they, just as much as anyone, have a story to tell. It is so easy to listen to this record, and so easy to get out of it exactly what you want from it. This year, I have spent many mornings, afternoons, and nights with this record, and I have written so much about it that, at this point, all I can say anymore is just how fucking important it has been for me. Almost in such a way where, if you listen to it, I would be kind of embarassed as to what you might think of me.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

his camera is a phone...

8. Pissed Jeans- Hope For Men

I had always thought this band was some bunch of jaded hipsters playing post punk somewhere on the exterior of the DC punk scene, until I found out their new record was coming out on Sub Pop. This shouldn’t really mean anything, but if it’s Sub Pop, and it’s heavy, I feel rather inclined to trust it. Instantly, any photograph of this band will catch you off guard. They don’t look like the kind of band that would be playing heavy music, but at the same time they seem perfect for it. Four unassuming, normal working class dudes from Allentown, PA, made what seems like the best hardcore record of the year, a record that is itself an anti-hardcore record. Combining the sludgey, filthy sounds of Flipper with the anthemic loserdom of early Nirvana, with the sarcasm and humor of Black Flag, all the while taking out any element that would make it seem even remotely desirable to commercial exploitation, this is perhaps the most unique record of the year.

With a brooding sense of sarcasm and apathy throughout, singer Matt Korvette takes you to town on being sad and eating ice cream, guys with funny accents in his “Fantasy World,” and brings us a seething indictment of white collar liberal-ass mother fuckers, on the five minute, one tempo “People Person.” Pissed Jeans may be the first hardcore band to write an angry punk song without guitars, drums, or bass, as present on “The Jogger,” where all they do is recite a list of characteristics that tend to apply to any trust fund hipster who just used his grandparent’s will to move to Williamsburg after he graduated from Vassar. Whole foods…retirement plan…entertainment unit…and somehow you’re captivated throughout the entire song. Drummer Sean McGuinness is one of the sickest drummers on the planet, and he surprisingly holds back quite a bit here, all the while forming the essential backbone from which Pissed Jeans rip your face off. Hope For Men may be incredibly sarcastic, but somehow I felt sincere empathy seeping out of every pore of this record.

You can’t fuck with this band at all. There’s no real point in hating on them, they hate on themselves so much already it doesn’t really matter.

Friday, November 23, 2007

No. 9

9. Thurston Moore-Trees Outside The Academy

I'll admit that I was never a very big fan of Sonic Youth until this year. Even now, I still have my doubts about them. I tend to enjoy bands who were heavily influenced by Sonic Youth more than Sonic Youth themselves. Seeing them perform all of "Daydream Nation" at McCarren Park in Brooklyn changed a lot of that for me. It was a heavily captivating set throughout, and everyone there seemed to feel that they were a part of something truly special. I still felt that, because I was working my way back in time through the Sonic Youth catalogue, trying to grasp something that honestly didn't appeal to me on its own very much, that maybe they just weren't for me after all. But everyone talked up Sonic Youth so much that I felt as if there was something wrong with me for not getting it instantly. That was all until I heard Thurston Moore's recent solo album, "Trees Outside The Academy," for the first time this past September.

SY drummer Steve Shelley and renown violinist Samara Lubelski provide the essential backbone of this record, which also features several fuzzed out, rip roaring solos from J. Mascis. From there, the rest is all Thurston, displaying his uncanny songwriting ability throughout, an ability that doesn't always come through in the more experimental, feedback drenched noise of other Sonic Youth records. Not to put that side of Thurston down, I just like the side that comes out in this record a lot more. As writer Michael Azzerad said, if you can’t play it on an acoustic guitar, it’s not really a song. Lubelski’s violin plays a crucial role throughout the record, filling in all of the empty space and turning the songs into gorgeous, autumnal tunes, meant to tug on your hearstrings. The album serves as a poignant reflection, a sign of Thurston’s maturity, yet a clear indicator he does not plan on throwing in the towel anytime soon. The fact that that he’s able to reinvent himself as impressively as this, so far into his career as a musician, is proof that he may in fact deserve the iconic status commonly ascribed to him. Songs like “Fri/End”, “The Shape Is In a Trance,” and “Never Day” are probably the strongest tracks on the record, but don’t expect to be skipping around much on this one. This is certainly a record where you hit play and just let it go, feeling truly transformed by the end of your first listen, and keeping you coming back for more.

The production of the acoustic mix on this record makes it come off like a punk album, in a sense. You’re able to hear the pick hitting the strings as much as you are able to hear what chords he’s actually playing, making sure you know that just cause’s he’s gone acoustic doesn’t mean he’s lost his punk rock energy. You can hear the energy he’s putting into hitting that thing as hard as he can as much as you can hear the fine craftsmanship he’s put into writing these songs.
The songs on this record seem a logical progression from the melodic, refined, and highly listenable rock songs of the last Sonic Youth record, "Rather Ripped." Could it be his biggest influence here is Sonic Youth? It certainly sounds like the intention of this record was to explore a whole different side of Sonic Youth that wouldn’t work as the follow up to “Rather Ripped,” but works perfectly as a solo attempt. On a side note, the title track is apparently about Ian Curtis, and the third track, entitled “Honest James,” is about James Brown. I’ll have to give those both a closer listen now.

Listen: “The Shape Is In A Trance,” “Fri/End,” “Never Day,” “Off Work”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

9. Thurston Moore

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

here we go...

so i guess at this point there aren't really going to be any really good albums released for the rest of 2007, so i may as well begin my albums of the year countdown now. this is obviously based on what i've heard, which is only a snippit of all the incredible music that seems to have come out this year. i make no claim to have any authority or even a handle on all the records that have been released this year. basically, if it sounds like bruce springsteen i'll like it...anyway, and without further ado, I shall start at Number 10, and count down!

first things first....


Red Collar
The Hands Up! EP (Power Team)

To be honest, when local NC promotions company Cool Fishing sent us this EP at the beginning of the summer, it fell under my radar, and it got lost in the shuffle of the office, a sad fact of life for many potentially great albums coming into the hands of WQFS. When we received from WQFS favorite Team Clermont, it caught my attention a little more, itself a sad comment on the psychology of college radio and music directing. Or maybe there are just too many bands out there, and the high volume of shit we get in from artists such as Electric Chubbyland has made me awfully jaded when it comes to finding out about new bands, or even giving them the courtesy of a quick listen. However, this is one of the few records we got in the station from a band I had never heard of before that completely and utterly knocked me on my fucking ass.

The first single, “Hands Up,” was somewhat catchy upon first listen, but as I sat through the rest of the EP, I was blown away at the depth, passion, and honesty present in each and every song. It became evident that no college radio campaign could appropriately explore the complexities of this band, complexities which provide the platform on which Red Collar seem poised to take the torch as the next great American band…At least in the state of North Carolina. Red Collar are probably at their best when they’re tugging on your heartstrings, which the dancey post-punk of the “Hands Up” single doesn’t quite capture. That song sounds a little more like a market strategy than a good reflection of what this band is truly capable of.

Speaking of heartstrings, for example, using the metaphor of selling used guitars as a way of mourning the sad realization of the mortality of the American teenage punk rock dream. For someone such as myself who is terrified about growing up, or “giving up,” the tension of which they explore in “Used Guitars,” this release speaks volumes. With this release, Red Collar achieve that rare accomplishment for any group of punkers who are growing up; letting your inner punk grow up with you. Instead of getting jaded and selling their record collection for beer money, they are busy learning more, taking in and sharing wisdom and honesty through song and live performance, and never giving up. Growing up in the DC punk scene, I often felt like there was a very low ceiling on what was deemed as acceptable personal growth if you hoped to retain your punk credibility. Red Collar shatter that ceiling to pieces, and say fuck it, let’s start our own thing.

Songs such as “Witching Hour” make it clear they grew up listening to Fugazi and Rites Of Spring, while songs such as “Stay” feature an indescribable mixture of influences that I can’t quite my finger on, although old Small Brown Bike certainly comes to mind. Like Springsteen, they never judge, they just explore, they ask questions, and they tell stories. They somehow manage to combine the impossible-to-package-and-sell qualities of The Clash, the devotion to DIY culture and ethics of Fugazi, the young, anxious, and stuck in a town full of losers restlessness of the Boss, and the dancey catchiness of Q And Not U. yet they’re never above the audience. They struggle with life and its hard lessons just like everyone else in the room. As one review said, “they’re no bar band, they’ve learned too much.” Plus they’re some of the nicest people ever, and they fully deserve your attention. So put your hands up and give it to them!!

Listen: “Used Guitars” “Stay” “Witching Hour”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wow, I have not updated this thing in forever. And what better time to update it than when I am currently trying to work on a research paper? I have been listening to a lot of really good new stuff, but briefly I just want to make a list of some of my favorite albums of the year so far, or largely just stuff that i think is going to be on my year end list. isn't that the most exciting thing about new years anyway? making year end lists? this is not any particular order, but i will definitely come up with some big year end entry come december. i have no clue what order these will be in, but for now i am just pondering some things you will see on there...

some of my top jams of 2007, in no particular order:

Ghastly City Sleep-Ghastly City Sleep
The National-Boxer
Pygmy Lush-Bitter River
The Everybodyfields-Nothing Is Okay
Panda Bear-Person Pitch
Akron/Family-Love Is Simple
Red Collar-Hands Up!
Big Business-Here Come The Waterworks
Thurston Moore-Trees Outside The Academy
Health-Where You From?
Explosions In The Sky-All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
Pissed Jeans Hope For Men

stuff that was really awesome upon first listen, and is okay, but kind of faded away rather quickly:

Bruce Springsteen-Magic
Ryan Adams-Easy Tiger
Animal Collective-Strawberry Jam
Georgie James-Places
Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin DrewSpirit If...

straight up trash:
Smashing Pumpkins-Zeitgeist
Rilo Kiley-Under The Blacklight

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Do you believe in Magic?

By now you may have read several reviews of the new Springsteen record, “Magic.” Perhaps this isn’t as much a review, but more of a reflection. I grew up on Springsteen. In fact, my very first big rock concert was the D.C. date of the ’99 E Street Band reunion tour that my sister took me to, when I was 13 years old. We were sitting behind the stage and in the upper level, and it still remains to this day one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Naturally, a man with as many fans as he is going to have high expectations placed on him for a new record. But Springsteen is no stranger to high expectations. In 1975, when he was writing and recording with the E Street Band for his then-upcoming album Born To Run, his record label had threatened to drop him from their contract if this one didn’t sell. Fresh off two semi-flops(which are now regarded as classics, Greetings From Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle), Springsteen and crew spent 18 hours a day and more in the studio writing, recording, re-writing, and re-recording, until they were close to killing each other. The result was the best record of the 1970’s, in my opinion, and on top of that, a record that still sells millions each year and is continuously finding new generations of adoring fans. The romanticized themes of aimlessness, escape, loss and friendship, as well as getting the fuck out of New Jersey, and the characters whose stories he was telling, proved to be timeless, and Born To Run is that rare record that is still as important thirty years after its release as it was then. What’s more, Springsteen himself has stayed vital and relevant til this day. While many of his peers are putting out their third rehashings of their greatest hits collections, Springsteen has put out four multi-platinum studio albums since his first greatest hits collection came out in the late 90’s. As many writers and critics have already figured out by now, Bruce Springsteen occupies a strange place in American pop culture.

Which brings us to Magic, an album that, from the title alone, sounded like it would be a rip-roaring return to his early days of bumming around the Jersey shore while checking out girls by day, and tearing up the club scene by night with the E Street Band. Critics everywhere were looking at it as a newer, updated Wild, Innocent, and after the adult-contemporary leanings of 2002’s The Rising, which was his first album with the E Street Band since 1983’s Born In The U.S.A, this notion was welcomed by Springsteen fans everywhere. The bad news is that Bruce is almost 60, and honestly, there’s no way he would be able to capture that youthful spirit again. Those early albums were so linked to the time and place in which they were written, that to expect him to be able to sit down and write another “Rosalita(Come Out Tonight” is pretty pointless. Magic sounds like the same Bruce, but an older, wiser, more mature Bruce. The bright production value and upbeat, rock-driven tempos that lay the grounds for most of the songs here are deceptively strange armor for the somewhat dark, dreary, and realist lyrical content that lie slightly underneath the surface. With an uncanny ability to use lyrical ambiguity to connect to fans everywhere, regardless of their political leanings, Springsteen touches on Hurricane Katrina, the lies of the Bush administration, the neglect of American soldiers returning home from Iraq, as well as the more personal topics of aging, love, sex, and death. The first single “Radio Nowhere” is an obvious single choice, but after listening to the rest of the album, may be one of the weakest songs on the record. Songs like “Livin’ In The Future” and “I’ll Work For Your Love,” do genuinely sound like they could have been taken from Born To Run or 1980’s The River, while songs like “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” and “Your Own Worst Enemy” try to achieve their goal of revisiting Springsteen’s early pop leanings, and most of all his obsession with rock producer Phil Spector, but unfortunately fail at their attempt. Spector was famous for inventing the “Wall Of Sound” approach to recording music, highlighted in the vast, epic sounds of 60’s pop classics such as The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Well, unfortunately Phil Spector is on trial for murdering his wife, and the rich, dusty, analog sounds of the “Wall Of Sound” technique have been more or less obliterated by the digital age of recording.

Instead, we have Brendan O’Brien, who is most famous for recording Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, who ham handedly interprets this idea by adding layers of cheesy synthesized strings and weird echo/reverb/delay affects to his voice. He touches up the record too much and makes it sound prettier than it needs to be. In addition, one can’t help but feel that this record sounds really rushed. The various members of the E Street Band flew down on the weekends to hurriedly record their parts, and didn’t seem to be as integral to the writing process as they have in the past. As a result, it has a tendency to sound somewhat disjointed at times. Clarence Clemon’s memorable saxophone solos, always a focal part of any Springsteen track, seem to breeze by without notice, playing it safe, simply repeating the melodies rather than building on them, as he has done so well in the past. Gary Tallent, a talented and capable bass player, may as well have played his lines on a keyboard. I understand that these folks have got the recording process down pretty pat by now, and it shouldn’t take them months to write and record like it used to, but working together as a unit in the writing and recording process might have served them well if they were trying to recapture their older sounds, after all.

While these issues are in fact minor faults of an otherwise wonderful record, Springsteen would be better suited to look for a new producer next time, as O’Brien’s 90’s radio style of recording can’t capture everything Springsteen is capable of, and seems more to diminish it than anything else.

Not all is lost, however, as there are some truly fantastic songs on here. “Gypsy Biker,” “Long Walk Home,” “Devil’s Arcade,” “Terry’s Song” and “I’ll Work For Your Love” are some of the best songs of his career, both taking from and building on his extensive catalogue. In all honesty, I would not say that this is a good Springsteen album to start on. For those of you who are more into the folk and country side of the spectrum, "Nebraska" is a classic. For the hopeless romantic, "The River," "Born To Run," and "Tunnel Of Love" are essential. For the bar crawlers, "The Wild, Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle" will help you get your drink on, and for those times when you’re feeling empty and lost, "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" will speak volumes to you. Clearly the Boss is alive and well, and doesn’t plan to quit making music anytime soon. I am driving up to D.C. to see him on Monday, November 9th, so while most of you are sitting through your three hour lab, I will be drunkenly yelling along to “Badlands.” While the idea of a three hour lab may actually sound more appealing to some of you than sitting through a three hour Boss concert, let’s just say we can agree to disagree.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ha! I KNEW it

he scruffy, Cincinnati-bred chroniclers of twenty-something life known as the National will take on that scruffy, Jersey-bred chronicler of blue collar life known as the Boss aka BRUUUUUUCE aka plain old Bruce Springsteen on the B-side of their new single.

The band's cover of Bruce's Nebraska gem "Mansion on the Hill", recorded live at the opening night of last year's New York Guitar Festival, will back the"Apartment Story" single. Beggars Banquet will release "Apartment Story" in the UK on November 5.


I knew they probably loved springsteen. who doesn't? nice choice of cover...

in addition, here are some fun youtube videos i've found in the last day or two:

Grizzly Bear doing an acapella version of "The Knife"

Broken Social Scene with Dinosaur Jr. at some party. this looks ridiculously hip.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive

so the new Bruce Springsteen CD leaked, and thanks to ben berkowitz, I FUCKING HAVE A COPY OF IT! I am listening to it and boy I am already kind of in love with it. Sounds like old Bruce, and i've already heard some tracks that blow the single "Radio Nowhere" out of the water....perhaps a preview coming up soon!

ps- my new favorite musical genre: "lamp rock." this was used to describe Doveman, the band who opened for The National last friday.

we've had a killer mail day at the radio station! we got in copies of :

new Georgie James
new M83
new Good Life
new Two Gallants
new Rogue Wave
extra copy of new Talib Kweli (thanks!)
and humourously, the soundtrack to the new nikki six journals/autobiography, entitled "The Heroin Diaries." cool...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

pickin apples, makin' pie

Last night I found myself at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, at the sold-out performance by Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati's own The National. The first and only other time I saw The National play was when they opened for The Arcade Fire at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville. I had really good seats at that show, in the middle floor section no more than 25 rows back, thanks to the lovely folks at Merge Records. As soon as I sat down, The National came onstage and opened with “Start A War,” the eight track on their new-ish album Boxer. Considering who they were touring with, I assumed they would be playing a similar vein of bleeding heart/gasping for breath/indie-rock-church-revival that Arcade Fire is known for. I was blown away when they started playing, and by the end of the performance I had to reach down and pick my lower jaw off the floor. They far outplayed Arcade Fire that night, and probably made polite, subtle, this-is-kind-of-overrated fun of them a bunch backstage. These guys are six normal looking dudes with scruffy facial hair, loose-fitting clothes, and thrift store button down shirts, playing without any projectors, stage props, or giant church organs to boot. That is to say, these guys let the music they play speak for itself.

After an enjoyable performance by openers Doveman, another Brooklyn band who feature about three members of The National, the band came out onstage and once again opened with the album standout "Start A War," and as I had remembered it from last time, extended it, built it up with more crescendos, and right when you thought each member was about to spontaneously combust from the intensity they were putting forth on such a seemingly calm, harmless song, they stopped, continuing right into "Mistaken For Strangers." Most of the songs on Boxer, lie somewhere in the three minute mark, displaying that solid songwriting is their strength, or as many reviews I’ve read have said, they know how to quit while they’re ahead, almost as if they’re anxious they might fuck up the song if they continue any longer. Thus, many of their songs come to a seemingly abrupt end, sounding rather truncated. They continued right into "Brainy," and from there on out they were unstoppable. Playing a nice mix of old stuff as well, they played nine out of the twelve tracks on Boxer. While I think the record is fantastic, the band sound larger, more epic, and downright more intense when they perform live, an intensity that I wish could have been captured a little bit more in the recording process. While this may simply be the virue of any band's live performance. There's nothing more boring than seeing a band who play their songs so note for note that they may as well be spinning the record onstage while they're signing autographs. That is the exciting part about seeing The National live: the performance transcends your experience with the music, by changing it up a little they give you a new part of themselves to go home with. For five normal looking guys, they leave every ounce of themselves onstage.

It must be truly weird for these guys to be having the success that they’re having. The band consists of two pairs of brothers on the drums, bass, and guitars, all of whom are originally from Cincinnati, OH. Their Midwestern roots from a part of the country that many Americans probably forget even exists, a city whose biggest claim to fame is either Pete Rose or the chili they have, seems to maintain a high level of influence on not only their music, but their attitude as well.

The fact that opening band Doveman, which features two or three members of The National, did a spot on cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” reveals The National’s great sense of history, welcoming the influence of North American music in with open arms. As Josh Neas put it in his review of the album, the music sounds like a journey through decades of American music, combining folk, punk, new wave, indie, and country into one flawless sound. They probably listen to Bruce Springsteen as much as they do Grizzly Bear, and for folks like me who can never settle on any one kind of music to listen to, The National speak volumes in their influences.

From the brit-pop/Modern English sounding “Apartment Story” to the fleeting, stay-up-all-night feel of “Fake Empire,” they played a positively, disgustingly good set throughout. Interestingly enough, some of my favorite songs they did were the ones I didn't know, presumably off of 2005’s Alligator, which I picked up on vinyl at the show. They put forth that rare performance that, even though you know all the songs from beginning to end, leaves you wanting to do nothing the next day but listen to their records, as I am doing right now.

Their touring violinist/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist dude adds so much to the band, with his violin(maybe it’s a viola?) filling in a lot of the empty space between the guitars, flushing it out and making it sound about 10 times more epic. The National perform like a very modest band who seem quite unsure of themselves, conveying both confidence and overwhelming stage fright at various points through the night. They awkwardly thank the crowd in a very sincere and earnest way. Vocalist Matt Berninger is the anti-lead singer, somehow maintaining a captivating, earnest stage presence while simultaneously looking as though he were trying to crawl inside himself to get away from the thousands of onlooking eyes across the room. They perfectly captured the sense of American anxiety that seemed to fill every member of the sold-out crowd who came to see them play. They don’t need to dress up like chickens or something onstage, nor are they going to write an entire album about how the lead singer’s girlfriend dumped him. Honesty bleeds through their music and Berninger’s fantastic lyrics, leaving you with something to take home, whether it’s a t-shirt, a poster, an LP, or just the feeling that you’ve grown immeasurably by witnessing their set. Maybe all of the above.

Video for "Mistaken For Strangers"

"Fake Empire" live on Letterman

"sometimes you get up and bake a cake or something. sometimes you stay in bed."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Friends, the CMJ Music Marathon is upon us, in just a matter of weeks. My duties as Head Music Director have afforded me the opportunity to go to this week-long event with my ticket, airfare, and hotel stay all paid for, because it's a "conference." really, I am just going to be going to several shows every night for free, eating out a lout, walking around the city a bunch, perhaps enjoying some alcoholic beverages, and seeing tons of great music.

They have announced the first few rounds of bands. There are your predictable big acts, such as Spoon, Deerhunter, and other crap like that. Full details on the bands who have been announced thus far can be found at the CMJ Website. I haven't heard of most of the bands they've announced, and most of them are probably awful, but here is a short list of bands I'm particularly stoked on seeing:

Brother Ali
Matt and Kim

also, Owen, Mates Of State, and others are playing...I haven't updated in a while, I am still contemplating the new Everybody Fields CD, as well as the new album from Ghastly City Sleep, which is really delightful to listen to now, but I can't figure out if it's a huge letdown or not. It's not at all what i was expecting from these ex-members of Majority Rule and City Of Caterpillar, and being one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year for me, I can't say that it's living up to my expectations of it. Sounds a lot like older Radiohead, basically...

reviews of both of these albums are being worked on and will be posted this weekend! so check back then. Until then, enjoy the new Bruce video.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Springsteen Tour Announcement

Tour Dates have been posted for the fall Springsteen tour, his first full tour with the E Street Band since 2003!! I won't post them right here, but you can go to the official Springsteen site for all pertinent tour information. I must say that I am a little dissapointed that this is not a bigger tour than it is. The furthest south he is going is Washington D.C., and with the exception of Giants Stadium, it doesn't look like he is doing any more than one show per city. In addition, it seems there are at least three days off in between each show! Is the E Street Band getting too old for this job? Or does Max Weinberg have to fly back and forth between NYC and each show to film his nightly performance on the Conan O'Brien show? Who knows.

The date I will be attending will most likely be November 11th at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. I am sure I can make it back to Greensboro the next day before my 2:30 class. I can make a nice weekend home visit out of it...I hope to see all you dixie folks at this performance. Which led me to thinking...

It has never seemed like Springsteen has had much of a presence in the South. As a friend of mine from Alabama once said, he plays "country music for yankees." I suppose that there are some cultural, historical divides that seem to prevent his music from reaching a wider audience in the south. Considering that his lyrics tend to serve as narrative to the working class white factory man, differences in Industry between North and South could also account for Springsteen falling on deaf ears down in this part of the country. The North has always been more industrialized and city-based, while the South was Agriculture-based up until the Civil War. The Post-Civil War south experienced increasing urbanization, in order to modernize in the wake of an economic system that was literally left in ashes at the end of the Civil War. This Rural-Urban migration brought different populations of people together, all of whom migrated to the city in order to find some chance at work and assimilation into industry, since their former ways of self-reliance and sustainability could no longer be obtained. It should also be noted that dependence on the convenience and low price of slave-produced goods that could no longer be obtained obviously gave the American Economic system a huge kick in the ass, both in the South and the North as well. All of this is to say, that the effect of the romanticizing of industrial, working-class, urban lifestyle that we see in Springsteen's lyrics does not seem to translate as well when applied to the American South, which has a unique and vastly different history than the rest of the Country.

The Country music that the South is know for developed out of a rememberance of that slower, older way of life, where as in Springsteen's music seems rooted in the gritty industrial smokestacks of Central New Jersey. Immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century moved south and west to escape this way of life and to find their own land to work. Sometimes American cultural divides can be seen clearly in simple questions like who likes Bruce Springsteen and why? As much as I can tell, his audience tends to consist largely of liberal, working class to middle class white adults (as biographer Dave Marsh has said, you see more black people onstage at Springsteen concerts than you do in the audience) based in the North and Midwest.

I would write more but I need to do homework. I am a f ull time student as well. I may finish this later, but for now, meet Old Gregg:

Radio Show 8/28

here is the playlist for my radio show that aired yesterday at 2 PM:

Artist- Song

Pinback- From Nothing To Nowhere
Animal Collective- Peacebone (new single from the upcoming Strawberry Jam)
Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators-Feeling Free
Sean Na Na- W've Been Here Before
Aesop Rock- None Shall Pass
M.I.A- Jimmy
Endless Mic- Academia
Billy Holiday, Re-Mixed and Reimagined- I Hear Music
Mirah- My Prize
Ryan Adams- Pearls On A String
The everybody fields- Lonely Anywhere
Emily Haines- The Bank
New Buffalo- Cheer Me Up Thank You
Okkervil River- A Girl In Port
Adrian Orange and Her Band- Window
Caribou- Eli
New Young Pony Club- Ice Cream
The National- Brainy
Angels Of Light- Promise Of Water
Maserati- Synchronicity IV
Caleb Caudle- Uncle Benny
Eyvind Kang- i forget
Airiel- Think Tank
Rebuilding The Rights Of Statues- Police
The Bronzed Chorus- War Of Bees

All of the music here is currently in rotation at WQFS. If you have any interest in requesting it, call in at 336-216-2444 and tune your dial to 90.9 FM!

Monday, August 27, 2007


So last week, Springsteen enthusiasts such as myself finally recieved the long awaited confirmation that Bruce Springsteen had completed a new album with Producer Brendan O'Brien, and, as expected, it was a project with the E Street Band, who have served as his eyes and ears over his 35 year + career. The album is entitled "Magic," and it's supposed to be a return to the high energy rock n' roll of his earlier work with the E Street Band. I don't think Springsteen is capable of making another "The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle," or a "Greetings From Asbury Park." Those albums were so tied to the time and place in which they were written, and though they serve as timeless artifacts of a youthful enthusiasm rarely seen in today's mainstream, Springsteen has obviously grown up too much to make an album like that again. and no one is expecting him to, so it's fine. I can't help but assume his decision to make what manager Jon Landau has already called a "high energy rock album," unlike the adult contemporary feel of 2002's "The Rising," has everything to do with the recent resurgence in focus on the sheer genius of his earlier work, in great part due to the 30th Anniversary reissue of 1975's "Born To Run."

I had always been a basic Springsteen fan, but never realized how fucking incredible he was and is as a songwriter and performer until the 30th anniversary reissue came out. Pitchfork Media gave the release a 10/10, and Rolling Stone named Springsteen as a "Hot Influence" in their "Hot List" of the year or whatever, which doesn't necessarily reflect anything, but it certainly didn't hurt in making Springsteen hip again, or making it okay for all the closet Springsteen fans to come out of those dark, dark corners of the listening room. In many ways, the musical climate in which Springsteen found his popularity skyrocket is much like the way it is now. When "Born To Run" came out, a vast majority of important American musicians of the time had either choked on their own vomit, taken an extended vacation from recording, or were holed up in the backroom of the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, doing tons of coke with The Band. Today's generation is busy wondering where our Nirvana is, and the Music Industry isn't exactly making that process any easier. It is only logical that Springsteen's popularity would find a new home in a new generation of young listeners, in a period of such musical uncertainty.

Artists such as The Hold Steady and Jason Anderson, who take obvious, direct influence from the 1970's Springsteen catalogue, have also been enjoying immense success in the last year, particularly The Hold Steady, who made just about every Best Of list with their last album "Boys and Girls in America." Listening to "The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle" makes it gravely apparent that this album is probably the biggest influence on the resurgence of 70's wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve rock n' roll highlighted by bands like The Hold Steady, and particularly apparent in vocalist Craig Finn's lyrical content, structure, and vocal stylings.

The influence of this earlier work became apparent when in late April, a tribute to Springsteen benefit concert for music education in New York City schools was arranged at Carnegie Hall. The finale of a Springsteen cameo/performance of the classic "Rosalita(Come Out Tonight)" with the entire fucking cast of performers(which included Jesse Malin, Badly Drawn Boy, Steve Earle, Josh Ritter, Holmes Brothers, etc.) where anyone onstage was invited to take one of the many verses featured in the song, provided evidence of Springsteen's continuing, vibrant influence on today's crop of young musicians teetering on the edge of mainstream success/indie credibility.

Several books have been written on Springsteen, regarding his lyrics, relationship to his obsessive fans, his portrayal of the American dream, etc., so I will stop here, but I am definitely excited to hear Springsteen try and re-visit his earlier days on E Street. While "The Rising" served its purpose of providing us with a portrait of American life in the post 9/11 political climate (and with politics the way they are these days, that album already seems outdated and no longer relevant), and "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" gave new life to classic American folk songs, his last truly great album was 1987's "Tunnel Of Love." "Born In The U.S.A" was his last try at straight up rock n' roll. I am nervous about how this album will turn out, but I do have high hopes.

anyway, here is the cover of the album, and with that i leave you.

links to some stories/interviews about "Magic":Rolling Stone Album Details

Interview with Brendan O'Brien


feedback highly encouraged!!!!!

first entry

partially inspired by the several interesting music/arts related blogs that friends of mine have started in recent months, and or years, and considering that i am doing an independent study on music journalism this semester, i figured i needed a place to spill my brain out other than the livejournal i've had since high school, music-wise.

here you will find: album reviews, concert reviews, general gossip/shit-talking about music news, trashing pitchforkmedia as much as possible, and much much more, hopefully.

so, about me: i am currently the head music director at WQFS Greensboro, the radio station at Guilford College in the fine town of Greensboro, North Carolina. i was born in San Antonio, Texas on September 23rd, 1986, and shortly thereafter moved with my family to the massively sprawled out and ever-extending suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, right outside of Washington D.C. After a warm and delightful childhood filled with several losing seasons of little league baseball, soccer, and basketball, I started playing guitar the summer before my 7th grade year. Around this same time I bought my first band t-shirt: a thick, black Nirvana t-shirt purchased at a CD store in the mall, the kind where they only sell extra large t-shirts. This one in particular went all the way down to my knees, but knowing no better, I wore it anyway, day in and day out. I wish i still had it, I honestly have no clue where it is now.

After a pre-teen-angst phase where I listened to The Doors and Nirvana basically non-stop for over a year, I slowly became interested in the storied local music scene of Washington D.C. My sophomore year of high school, after several failed attempts to start anything resembling a decent band, my friend Daniel asked me to play bass in a band he was starting. The result was a band we called Spoont. We played about 30 shows over two years, all in D.C. or the surrounding areas, writing and performing songs about girls that didn't like us, and in one storied show performing not one but TWO Saves The Day covers. Can it get any better than that? More than three years after we played our last show, which was on June 12th, 2004 at the Electric Maid in Takoma Park, MD, with Still Strong, Period 4, Alliaecous, and The Noelles(none of whome are together anymore), our career culminated when we were briefly mentioned in a recent New York Magazine article written about Livejournal and Myspace (you know, how every media organization feels the need to inform the public that they have discovered the "new" fad of online blogging/networking etc.). Honestly, the story has nothing to do with us, we just happened to be referenced, as one of my friends from high school was interviewed for the story.

Anyway, I also played guitar in the band Bear And The Butterfly for about two years. We played over fifty shows, went on a brief east coast tour, self-released a full length CD and a split-tape with our friends The Author, and played with bands such as Q and Not U, Circle Takes The Square, Mass Movement Of The Moth, Stop It!!, and others.

Anyway, since, i've played in various sideprojects that were started and ended in a matter of weeks, and existed only for the purpose of playing particular shows. This is my favorite way to do bands, and most of these bands has been with my dear friend Jacob Mazer.

I am in my senior year at Guilford, where I study Sociology, Gender Studies, and East Asian Studies in one form or another. A couple years ago I spent three and a half months studying in Beijing, China. That was a trip....literally. Now I live in a cute little house with a dog and two fine ladies in the Glenwood neighborhood in Greensboro. Will anyone read this? I don't know, and it probably won't matter anyway.

Check back soon for:

-a preview of the new album from Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, entitled "Magic," out on October 3rd!
-a review of the new album from the everybody fields, entitled "Nothing Is Okay," in stores now!
-snip-it reviews of the various albums i've had to review for WQFS.
-playlist and commentary on my radio show that will happen TOMORROW on WQFS 90.9 FM at 2 PM EST.
-other random shit.

i hope this does not get too annoying. any and all comments can be e-mailed to andywqfs@gmail.com!