R.E.M., 25 Years of Fandom

The first R.E.M. song I ever heard, Stand, which I had on vinyl 45:

The opening track from the first CD I ever owned, Automatic for the People:

Driver 8, a special song to me:

The classic show closer, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine):

For after work, Fall On Me:

The last song I heard played live, Man on the Moon:

Thanks fellas.

The Decemberists at the Riviera

[Decemberists at the Riviera]

A few thoughts in retrospect of the Decemberists show a couple weeks ago:

  • By my count, they only played 13 songs, but since three of those were more than ten minutes each.
  • I never thought I’d see a show which featured an accordion.
  • And like it.
  • Nor did I ever expect to see a large, papier mache whale at a concert.
  • Show highlights: a super-charged “July, July,” “The Mariners Revenge” featuring the aforementioned whale, and “The Island,” a song that just begs to be played live
  • I would have liked to hear “California One.”
  • The Decemberists are more well known for rambling tales of sailors and civil war era soldiers than overt political statements. However, they did play their two most political songs, “16 Military Wives” and “Sons and Daughters,” and requested audience participation on both.
  • I am prepared to say that next to Jack White, Colin Meloy has the best thing going in music right now.
  • The Riviera theater was built in 1918 and has enjoyed a rich history, but it’s been neglected for far too long. There’s potential for the place to be as cool as one of the venues in San Francisco, but as it stands, it’s a dump.

Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country

[Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country] I’m slightly scared of this album cover. But it got my attention, and after checking out their visit to Morning Becomes Eclectic, Camera Obscura [official site / allmusic entry] made it to the list. This is their third, and most polished, full length album. The tone is pretty mellow and upbeat highlighted by Tracyanne Campbell’s sweet vocals. The opener, “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken,” is the best track on the album, but it’s pretty solid throughout, and even received the Char-Broiled seal of approval.

For more information on what a camera obscura is, read the wikipedia page.

Flake Music – When You Land Here, It’s Time to Return

[Flake Music - When You Land Here, It's Time to Return]When I discovered the Shins, I completely devoured their two albums. I almost resorted to buying CD singles just to get a few more of their tracks. It wasn’t until listening to their show on Morning Becomes Eclectic that I learned about their predecessors, Flake Music. I’m not sure predecessors is the right word, since Flake Music disbanded only to return with the same lineup on the Shins’ first album. In any case, When You Land Here, It’s Time to Return features that lo-fi sound that you know and love.

Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising

[Hüsker Dü - New Day Rising]Hüsker Dü’s AllMusic bio begins:

“Hüsker Dü and R.E.M. were the two American post-punk bands of the ’80s that changed the direction of rock & roll. R.E.M. became superstars; Hüsker Dü never was more than a cult favorite.”

I’m not sure AllMusic has a line that would get me more interested in a band than that. After picking up New Day Rising, I had only one thought: Soul Asylum. But not Grave Dancers Union or Let Your Dim Light Shine that most people know. More like The Horse You Rode in on. Not surprisingly, both bands hail from Minneapolis, Soul Asylum trailing the elder Husker Du by four years (formed in 1983 vs. 1979). With respect to New Day Rising, it’s a good album overall, but no songs really stand out. If the price is right at Amoeba, maybe I’ll check out another one of their 5-star albums, but they’ve certainly moved down the list.

Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

[Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not] The Arctic Monkeys are the most promising UK acts finding their way into my collection. This album is superior to countrymen Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party. The radio single “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” is one of the album’s highlights and representative of the brash teenage type theme. I don’t think you can make a career out of it, but it works for this album. Hear them on Morning Becomes Eclectic.

I’ve been waiting to post this until I finished The World Is Flat. Until recently, the Arctic Monkeys music only existed online. So why did they succeed? Not because they were on the radio and MTv and shoved down everyone’s throats so many times that people decided it must be good if they heard it that so often. People had access to the music, listened, decided they liked it, and passed it on to their friends. The buzz got big enough, and they got a record deal. While there are going to be problems with the flat world, the state of music won’t be one, if the Arctic Monkeys are any indication.

KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic

I’ve frequently mentioned the radio show Morning Becomes Eclectic from KCRW, the NPR station out of Santa Monica, as a way to listen to new music. The typical format of the show is a 15 minute set, a 15 minute interview, and then another 15 minute set of music. What I didn’t realize is that they have quite an extensive archive of their past shows. The number of bands that have stopped in is pretty remarkable, including Eels, Cake, Elvis Costello, White Stripes, Beck, Flaming Lips (also Beck with the Flaming Lips), Radiohead, the Shins, the Decemberists, Broken Social Scene, and the Arcade Fire, amonst others.

Go find your favorite band!

Eels with Smoosh at the Fillmore

[Eels concert poster]A few words about the opening act. Smoosh [official site / allmusic bio] is a duo of sisters from Seattle, aged 14 and 12. They played at the Fillmore in San Francisco. This is an awesome way to spend one’s summer vacation.

What makes an Eels show great is that it’s going to be unique, almost by definition. The studio albums incorporate a substantial amount of electronics, which E doesn’t try to repicate live. Additionally, this tour is featuring a fourth member of the band. “Member of the band” might be a generous description. Krazy Al came on stage wearing a black t-shirt with “SECURITY” on front and back. At first, it seemed he was only on stage to look intimidating while E and Co. rocked the opener, Shoe to Drop. It wasn’t long though before he became part of the act, bringing E a phone mid-song, then put on a full blown martial arts demonstration. In addition to the visual and background vocals, he provided supporting percussion with lead pipes and bells. He even jammed on E’s guitar for a few minutes in the middle of “Guest List” while E went off-stage and later handled the keyboard as well. Other highlights of the main set were a solo variant of “Last Stop: This Town” and a gospel choir-esque “My Beloved Monster.” During the encore, Smoosh came back on stage, danced around with Krazy Al, and provided background vocals. It was a scene.

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The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

[The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema] In the genre of power pop, there’s basically Carl Newman (NP, solo album under A.C. Newman, Zumpano), then Fountains of Wayne, and then a large drop off. Jimmy Eat World stands out from the crowd a bit. NP get bonus points for the inclusion of Neko Case, who provides the fan-favorite female voice on a number of tracks. She has five solo albums to her credit which is more alt-country.

Apparently I don’t understand how music gets into the mainstream, because I feel like the New Pornographers would really take off. People love stuff this catchy. I did hear “Use It” off Twin Cinema back a very long ad on TNT a couple nights back, so maybe it’s around the corner.

Bloc Party – Silent Alarm

[Bloc Party - Silent Alarm]I sort of missed the boat on Bloc Party. Last year’s single Banquet garnered quite a bit of attention, but then I read a misleading review and passed on Silent Alarm. Anyway, I finally gave Bloc Party another chance, and it’s better than I rememeber. Does it live up to last summer’s hype? Pitchfork thinks so, AllMusic gave it four stars, and I think the first half is solid, the second half, pretty mediocre. If you’re into Franz Ferdinand, give it a shot.