frequency WMRE’S MUSIC & CULTURE MAGAZINE
Localsfest 2009 Presents
SONEN frequency 2009 ISSUE124 FALLFALL 2009
ISSUE 24 FALL 2009
EDITORS-IN-CHEIF James Hicks Charlie Watts CONTRIBUTING WRITER James Hicks Charlie Watts Jason Novsam Lauren Ladov Hilary Cadigan Stephen Hager Max Blau Nick Graham Steven Sherrin Andrew Robbins Logesh Dharmar Zachary Philyaw Leili Kasraie Wyatt Wilson Jamie Nussbaum Chelsea Douglas Nicki Janes Lara Kesler Omotola Ajibade Amber Lakin Sarah Jones Mich Flombaum Steve Siegel Tess Liegois Rose Cohn CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Charlie Watts Lauren Ladov Eric Innis DESIGNED BY Charlie Watts
This might be the first issue of Frequency with more than twice as many words submitted for publication than actually appear, but we just couldn’t fit them all. Page-long articles were cut to 200 words; the top 20 albums feature would have needed about eight pages to do it proper justice; and our interview with Sonen could have been twice as long as long as it is, easily (and trust us, we wish it could have been). We had to make cuts, certainly, and they took a little longer than either of us had expected. But the thing, really, is the end result, and we couldn’t be happier with it. The cover story for the Fall issue of Frequency is traditionally the Localsfest headliner, and we’d be shocked if WMRE has ever made a better choice. Keith, Holly, and Josh, the trio that comprise and embody Sonen, couldn’t have been any nicer or easier to work with, and the uniformly high quality of their music foretells the brightest of immediate futures. Localsfest is sure to be one hell of a party. We’d like to thank everyone who wrote for this issue, even those of you whose work got cut (we’re so sorry!). But too much material was obviously a better problem to have than too little, and the general enthusiasm displayed for this issue, both within the WMRE community and otherwise, made our lives a whole lot easier than they might have otherwise been. We’re proud of this issue, and we hope you enjoy it.
the magazine Frequency Magazine, supported by WMRE, is Emory’s only student-run music and culture magazine. We aim to bring Emory students, faculty and staff and others in the Atlanta area new information about music, film, food, fun, booze, and entertainment. Although we center most of our features on local Atlanta musicians and artists, we also like to slip in our vital insight into the radio world of WMRE. Begun in 2002 under the name Listen, the magazine was redesigned and renamed Frequency in 2007, then redesigned again in 2008. We’ve gone from black and white photographs on newsprint to this high-gloss, full-color work of art. We’ve featured artists ranging from Hot Chip to The Coathangers to Cipher Kenni. Frequency is written completely by contributing writers and we’re always looking for submissions, photographs and artwork. Questions? Complaints? Praise? Contact Charlie Watts at email@example.com or James Hickes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
22 culture report A Decade in Indie Music Production
WMRE’s Top 20 Local’s Fest:
MJQ vrs. Fuck Yes Little Five Drum Circle ATL Record Stores
CONTENTS ISSUE 24 FALL 2009
The Men of WMRE The Dark side of Bonnaroo
Concert Reviews Album Reviews
24 the report
The Blog Schedule
strength rather than a lack of cohesion) precisely because of its development as a culture rather than in spite of it. Indeed, the DIY spirit of the indie world lends it something of a to-each-his-own worldview, and any and all self-aware art has been allowed to flourish, largely unfettered from the presupposition that killed so many of its predecessors. There’s White people love indie music. Just
ask Christian Landner, who named it
itself is a bit ambiguous. When it first
the forty-first favorite thing of white
came into use in the 1980s, “indie”
people on his delightfully self-aware
referred only to record labels without
blog “Stuff White People Like,” one
major corporate funding. But, in the
of the bigger (and more uncomfort-
ever-more digital age, it’s come to
ably hilarious) internet sensations of
mean so much more. Besides a shift
the decade. “A white person’s iPod,”
in its connotational domain towards
he writes, “ is not merely an assem-
a particular musical aesthetic rather
blage of music [he] enjoys. It is what
than a band’s style of release, indie
defines [him] as a person.” And, to
has become something of a cultural-
some extent at least, he’s right. In
ly (and, at another level, individually)
this hyper-literary, Pitchfork-domi-
definitive term, employed by some
nated indie world we’ve managed
amorphous subset of the upper-
to build for ourselves (“we” here
middle class that drinks too much
being Generation Y, the children of
coffee, loves Barack Obama, and
the baby boomers), self-awareness
doesn’t really believe in God, pri-
is everything, and it might be what
marily as a means of congregation.
separates the things that fall into
In the 2000s, indie came to refer to
the ever-more-loosely defined indie
something more than music: a series
realm from those that don’t.
of cultural markers and ideologies
Frequency’s top twenty
The denotation of the word
shared by a group that also happens
albums of the 2000s so far, com-
to love Radiohead and self-criticism.
piled from a survey of WMRE DJs
(undeniably the most universally
“indie” lost its status as a musical
self-aware bunch on campus), has
moniker, because the truth is just the
only one decidedly non-indie entry,
opposite. Expanded and augmented,
Coldplay’s 2002 mega-hit A Rush of
indie rock has never been more pow-
Blood to the Head. Still, we managed
erful. Bands as disparate as Animal
to get most of the decade’s impor-
Collective and The Hold Steady find
tant albums because indie was the
a place under the ever-expanding
decade’s most important genre.
indie umbrella (a testament to its
This isn’t to say, though, that
still a degree of pretension, sure, but it’s a bit more organic than people realize. Given the general emphasis on self-awareness, it seems almost an unconscious safeguard against self-formation by way of manipulation rather than growth, or, more simply, a lack of authenticity. This air of pretension, more thickly veiled in some places than in others, defines the indie world in a more flattering light than one might imagine. It expects a lot, but it gets a lot out of those brave enough to enter.
I have no idea where “indie”
will go from here, nor does anyone else. The word appears on nearly every one of this magazine’s scant thirty-two pages, so often and with such dissimilarity that its meaning, even in such a relatively narrow context, begins to blur. The formation of factions, musically and otherwise, is probably imminent. But we’ve had a great decade, and we should cherish it. Our parents grew up listening to The Beatles and Bob Dylan, and, in the words of pseudo-poet Craig Finn, “Their sing-a-long songs [became] our scriptures.” We can only hope for the same. -James Hicks
It’s Easier than You Think Music production requires three things: persistence, talent, and money. A typical amateur producer has plenty of the first, a questionable amount of the second, and absolutely none of the third. Mixers, microphones, speakers, and synthesizers all cost money, and, while that garage sound is great, the old aphorism “you get what you pay for” generally holds true in the production business. That’s not to say that great music requires fancy equipment, but a cutting edge production studio certainly never hurt anybody. With such a large monetary investment necessary to set up a fully functioning studio, most people with an amateur interest in the business never get off the ground. In recent years, however, increasingly cheap and functional music production software has turned this trend around. Computer-based studios, which require only a computer and music sequencer software, are a much more realistic option for someone looking to produce their own music. While this technology has been available for many years, it has only lately become affordable and effective enough to be used as a replacement for an entire hardwarebased studio. Major studios now use music sequencing programs alongside more traditional equipment, and, particularly in the electronic music world, some artists write and even perform entirely from their computers. Many of the world’s top trance DJs, including Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, and Sasha, use laptops for their live performances, as the cutting edge software allows them to re-
arrange, edit, and add effects to their songs as they perform. For an amateur producer, music sequencers are indispensable. The latest software makes it possible to produce professionalquality tracks without any additional equipment. Programs such as Ableton Live, Apple Logic Pro, and Propellerhead Reason offer all of the capabilities of a hardware mixer and are compatible with hundreds of software-based synthesizers. These programs cost several hundred dollars (already out of reach for some aspiring producers), but a comparable hardware setup is still drastically more expensive. Image-Line’s Fruit Loops Studio, on the other hand, costs only about a hundred dollars (sometimes less) and offers almost all of the same functionality despite its low price. Although the program, which anyone can download as a free demo, is generally not recognized as a professional level tool, its affordability and ease of use have created a sizeable user community around the world, largely as a result of the enormous amount of support available over the internet in the form of user-made guides and videos. Notable artists and even entire music scenes have originated around Image-Line’s software. Indeed, young, amateur producers, opting to use Fruity Loops because of its price, pioneered the UK dubstep scene; dubstep now receives international attention and its early artists, many of whom still use Fruity Loops, are now successful, career music producers. Skream,
one of the scene’s most influential artists, began writing music in Fruity Loops when he was fifteen and is now a leading dubstep producer with a large following. Music sequencing software is now so powerful and widely available that its use is almost unavoidable. While many professionals still rely on traditional studio equipment, some of the world’s biggest producers prefer to use music sequencers whenever possible during the production process. The affordability of the latest programs has made music production a reality for countless aspiring amateurs and, in the process, given rise to some of the most innovative and exciting music scenes today. At this point, there’s no excuse for anyone interested in music production not to give it a shot. Download a free music sequencer, watch a few videos, and have at it. -Jason Novsam
n e M E e R Th M PIECES
A recent campus-wide poll* has just named the male members of WMRE’s Exec Staff the hottest male members of all club Executive Staffs (no surprise there). These men are not only damn good-looking, but they’re smart, fashionable, and of course have impeccable taste in music. If you’ve ever caught yourself gazing dreamily at someone in a flannel shirt or grey zip-up hoodie, chances are you were staring into the eyes of one of these fine men. And, ladies and gentleman, almost all these men are single. So get in a cozy (and perhaps private) place and get ready to swoon over The Men of WMRE.
Mclean Crichton James Hicks McLean has been with WMRE since his freshman year and is this year’s General Manager. With grace and an iron-fist, Mclean has no trouble leading WMRE...or the ladies. You can comfortably admire this elusive chairman from a distance on Thursday nights at 8 while MC Lean serenades you with a sophisticated array of indie jams. Year: Senior Sign: Leo Status: Wouldn’t you like to know Turn ons? A good jacket, the best song, independent people
never expected it to begin, with the same person you never expected it to start with.
Turn offs? Sports commentators/analysts and people who say “I feel” when they mean “I think.”
Any extracurricular activities? WMRE is my life
Favorite upcoming band? Cymbals Eat Guitars If you had to pick one song to listen for a whole day on repeat, what would it be? “Your Ex Lover Is Dead” --Stars What’s your idea of a perfect date? My idea of a perfect date is a night that ends how you’d
Flannel or zip up hoodie? Hoodie Mp3 or vinyl? Mp3 Musician you most want to bang? Easy, Haley Williams of Paramore What animal you’re most attracted to? Nala from the Lion King
Why are you in WMRE? It’s one of the few groups on campus whose emphasis is to have fun all the time. I never rushed, but I imagine WMRE is something like a frat/sorority, except we have a similar interest in music, whatever type it might be. When people tell me that they liked something they’ve heard/seen on WMRE, I actually feel extremely proud of everyone who helps with the station. But it doesn’t have to be from someone separate of the radio station. I just like it when DJs tell me they like doing their show! 4
By Lauren Ladov
James brings brains, brawn, and beauty to the exec staff this year as the Zine’s editor. But don’t let his size fool you; this grizzly senior has a soft spot for the finer things in life: Black Russians. With a show on Tuesday nights from 6-8, James still finds time to be the proud papa of this fine publication. Year: Senior Extracurriculars? sign: Leo Write, rinse, repeat status: Divorced Flannel or zip up hoodie? Turn ons? Flannel, just in case there’s an Places that serve breakfast all impromptu Fleet Foxes show day, Matt Berninger, kitsch theory, Milan Kundera, PitchMp3 or vinyl? fork I’m entirely too pretentious not to listen to vinyl. Turn offs? Emoticons, Fleet Foxes, kitsch, Favorite thing to do on a friday The Office, Pitchfork night? Make Black Russians in the Favorite bands? trunk of the car of whoever’s The National, The Hold Steady, driving my drunk ass around The Mountain Goats, Liz Phair circa 1993 Any musician you wouldn’t mind waking up next to? If you had to pick one song Neko Case of course to listen for a whole day on repeat, what would it be? What animal do you find yourMarvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” self most attracted to? is really the only option I’ve always had a thing for kangaroos. That pouch… What’s you idea of a perfect concert? Why are you in WMRE? An unannounced Neutral Milk Mostly because Wyatt is so Hotel reunion show with about damn good-looking. 150 people or Weezer fifteen years ago (or The National 365 days a year)
Wyatt Wilson Just mentioning the name Wyatt can make the whole room sigh. Since freshman year, Wyatt has been flexing his triatholon toned muscles at every WMRE event. Head of the music department this year, Wyatt brings you the best new tunes of every genre, and that pearly white smile. Sigh. Turn ons? Humor and 20-piece chicken nuggets Turn offs? News Radio and toe jam Any upcoming bands we should could our eyes on? Maps and Atlases If you had to pick one song to listen for a whole day on repeat, what would it be? “Listzomania” --Phoenix Idea of a perfect concert? Indoor acoustics, intimate setting. Bon Iver opening for Radiohead with an encore featuring Passion Pit Mp3 or vinyl? Business or pleasure?
Why are you in WMRE? Television rules the nation and we’re looking to change that.
Josh Booher Josh once told me that his favorite time of day is business time. Despite being the youngest man on exec staff, this fresh face is wise beyond his years, managing the business side of all things WMRE. Josh brings the sexy back to Sunday nights at 10 on his radio show The Deep Dish.
Favorite thing to do on a Friday night? Get paid
Year: Sophomore Sign: Scorpio Status: Taken
Musician you most want to bang? The cellist from Ra Ra Riot. Yeah, her, and Beyonce Knowles. Although I have heard that Scarlett Johansson is singing now…
Turn ons? Good hair, expensive jeans, foreign accents, pencil skirts and all musical covers performed by the cast of Glee
What animal do you see yourself most akin to? The three toed sloth, only because I enjoy watching life at a comfortable pace
Turn offs? Bad teeth, Crocs, tights worn as pants, and Paula Abdul
Charlotte Sometimes If you had to pick one song to listen for a whole day on repeat, what would it be? “Fireflies” --Owl City What’s your idea of a perfect date? A night curled up on the couch drinking hot chocolate and watching romantic comedies Flannel or zip up hoodie? Zip up hoodie…fo sho Mp3 or vinyl? Mp3 Musician you most want to bang? Shakira What animal you’re most attracted to? I’m most attracted to the lioness. Why are you in WMRE? Because it’s awesome. And I’ve always loved music and am hoping that my experience with WMRE will help me to eventually become a top music industry executive where my first order of business will be to reunite the pop not-so-super group Danity Kane.
What’s your favorite upcoming band? 5
PIECES PIECES “Patches” Logesh “Ogy” Dharmar Patrick Buntichai
Ogy may seem reserved, but those are the ones you’ve got to look out for. He’s the master of all things technological at WMRE, but this bachelor truly enjoys the natural side of this world. Try to spot this mysterious rare bird tending to Emory’s sustainable gardens or hiking along one of Lullwater’s trails. Or you can always turn on channel 26 Thursday nights from 6-8 for Ogy’s show, Kloset Kommunists. Year: 2011 Sign: Libra Status: Single Turn ons? WMRE Exec Board and Manifestos Turn offs? Uggs, Northface, and leggings If you had to pick one song to listen for a whole day on repeat, what would it be? “Bandwitch” --Broken Social Scene. What’s your idea of a perfect date? Saba and ZOMBIELAND Idea of a perfect concert? Daft Punk rocking the Variety Playhouse with LCD Soundsystem opening What’s your favorite thing to do on a Friday night? Taco Bell always makes Friday night a good night. Is there any musician you wouldn’t mind waking up next to? M.I.A.
Rounding out the list of seniors on this little list, Patches brings that Filipino zest that no exec staff should be without. With a knack for making a scene, Patches is the head of the promotions department and is soon to be the proud director of the hottest up and coming show on ETV, OMFG. And OMFG, is this man on fire. Year: Senior Sign: Leo Status: single Turn ons? Jews Turn offs? Humidity
Ladies: be on guard because this man may just steal your heart. Whether on the stage in a Rathskellar performance or cutting a rug at an impromptu WMRE dance party, Geoff ’s wit and charm will surely win you over. Year: Junior Age: 21 Sign: Virgo Status: Single Turn ons? The color purple, banana peppers, and dancing
Favorite bands? Beirut, Sufjan Stevens, Mariah Carey
Turn offs? Bad hygiene and type-A personalities
If you had to pick one song to listen for a whole day on repeat, what would it be? “[Untitled]” --Interpol
Favorite upcoming bands? The Antlers, Dirty Projectors, Neon Indian
What’s your idea of a perfect concert? Lady Gaga in a bubble outfit, playing an acoustic version of “Eh Eh” while flashing her lady parts Any extracurricular activities or hobbies? Boys Flannel or zip up hoodie? Genuine flannel…off the back of a lumberjack, chopping wood on a hot summer day Musician you most want to bang? Mike Dirt from The Bravery What animal do you see yourself most akin to? A female dog Why are you in WMRE? I’m not quite sure why
If you had to pick one song to listen for a whole day on repeat, what would it be? “Ballad of a Thin Man” --Bob Dylan What’s your idea of a perfect date? Cook French toast together Flannel or zip up hoodie? Zip up hoodie Mp3 or vinyl? MP3 Musician you most want to bang? Neko Case or Cydni Lauper
Why are you in WMRE?
The Dark Side of
When Snoop Dogg took the stage, a massive cloud of billowing smoke floated across the sky. The performer cried, “Everyone look at that mother f----in’ smoke ring.” But most likely few of these lookers thought immediately of a work of art as they gazed at the smoke. The Art of Such n Such is a different sort of artist collective. The Such n Such-ers have performed at Bonnaroo for the past four years, bringing together a melee of midway show, burlesque, and fire performance. Their art includes the largest Zippo you’ve ever imagined and the smoke ringer that shoots fire hundreds of feet into the air, forming the biggest f----in’ smoke rings evah. The Art of Such n Such is primarily a group of performers who come together to demonstrate circus-like feats of strength and poise. Growing out of Charlie Smith’s company Sparseland and gaining momentum through Burning Man and other such regional art events, the group’s main attraction is its creative use of fire. This year, the centerpiece of the camp was a brainchild of Charlie’s, the Fleeble Flobber: a 20-ft-tall, rotund clown caldron featuring eight seats extending from a pivoting basin, where participants could jump and shake the vessel. Other such creations have been included by talented artists Scott Dupree, Thomas Clarkson, and Jessica Marshall such as the Kitty Roaster (a flaming skee-ball machine), the Pigeon Tester (a flaming test-o-strength game), and the Red Hot Cock (a massive rooster sculpture that also functions as a BBQ). Fire plays an important role not only in all of these sculptures but also in the complementary performances.
“Everyone look at that mother f----in’ smoke ring.”- Snoop Dogg
caught up with the Hot Toddies own Stephanie Farley (pictured at right) and was able to ask about what it is exactly that they do. Charlie: In general, what are the Hot Toddies? Stephanie: Basically, the Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret is a professional entertainment troupe based in Atlanta GA. We have a magical blend of vaudeville & slapstick forged through the element of fire. C: What role do the Hot Toddies play at Bonnaroo? S: The Hot Toddies work with Charlie Smith (the Bonnaroo coordinator) and other artists to finely tune and tweak the look, feel and character of the collaborative nature of the living art experience. Such n Such is a mobile art organism that can adapt to any situation to present a cutting edge art experience. Hot and Spicy women blend cabaret with fire in acts of daring, mystery, and magic to make Bonnaroo a fiery party. Check them out at:
Accompanying the art is one sexy group of fire dancing extraordinaires. The Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret combines vaudeville and slapstick with fire for an unbelievable show. Fire breathers, hula-hoopers, poi spinners, men on stilts, clowns, and very hot belly dancers all intertwine to round out the flaming midway games and debauchery. The mustache wheel is also in play, with people being pulled from the audience to receive either a spanking new mustache or a pie to the face (depending on the spin, and whether the spinner pisses off the clowns, she might just get two pies to the face). When the sun is long gone and Phish is winding up its final jam, the signature fire begins shooting from the Zippo and the Kitty Rooster. Charlie Smith’s recognizable laughter echoes through the audience as he appears onstage in full clown regalia (tattered red tailored jacket, striped pants, and wearing various awesome hats). The stage is set up like a traveling circus with posters of women breathing fire, a large cow with two rumps and no head, and cacophones galore. In the center, a Zoltar booth surrounds the soundboard. In front of the stage, hundreds of people gather to marvel at the fire. No one knows what to expect. In fact, even 8
the performers don’t know what to expect, with improvisations such a key element of the performance. A large box is carried on stage by clowns on stilts with strings attacked to their fingers. Fog fills across the stage as four beautiful women decked out in matching corsets and puppet-like makeup pop out of the box, attached to the strings. On each of their hands are fire fans (steel fans that have flaming wicks at the end) that they twirl through the air. This launches the show into full swing. Different fire actors come out and play with a variety of toys, including the SuperHoopers, who perform with flaming I hula-hoops. Clowns come and go, randomly pulling people on stage to mock them for being incredibly wasted. At one point, a group of actors runs on stage with a giant blunt that they set on fire as Cheech & Chong songs blare in the background.
I n a feat of strength, he piles four ladies on top of him while he lies on a bed of nails (I actually think he enjoyed it).
As the early show comes to a close, the night is just beginning. Then Fire Hazard takes the stage, and the late-late night show begins. The crowd has thinned but is still engaged (or drunkenly passed out near the stage). Will Alberez, nicknamed “Fire Hazard,” is a very large man who seemingly knows everything about fire. In a feat of strength, he piles four ladies on top of him while he lies on a bed of nails (I actually think he enjoyed it). As the crowd thins and the cast gets more inebriated, debauchery ensues. The Bonnaroo Buskers show up and perform a live set of some old-timey folk music as clowns dance about. By the time the sun rises, people begin to think about going to sleep. The Art of Such n Such brings an element to Bonnaroo that is quite different and amazing. It adds another cultural aspect to the jam bands, the indie kids, and the hippies. If you ever stop by the festival in the backwoods of Tennessee and see flames shooting into the air, head for the stage and expect a hell of a good, flaming time.
- harlie Watts 9
Summer Festival Roundup BONNAROO
Established in 2002, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is an annual five-day music festival near Manchester, Tennessee, on Great Stage Park. Of the music festivals I’ve attended, it is by far my favorite. It’s many stages (with names like What, Which, This, That, and The Other Tent) confuse the bloody hell out of things (especially if you are drunk/high/both/your cell phone is not working). The atmosphere is very hippie, but the crowd is very diverse, everyone from hipsters to rednecks making an appearance. I was working for an acting troupe with a living area near the main stage and got to nap as Phish jammed for hours. I also got to shove a pillow over my head as Bruce Springsteen badgered on about “building a house of love.” I agreed with whoever yelled, “Shut the f--- up Bruce.” Besides The Boss, the line-up was actually amazing. Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, Of Montreal, and the Decemberists all played in succession on That Tent (I liked to died.) Of the 25 bands I saw, Andrew Bird, Of Montreal, St. Vincent, and Elvis Perkins in Dearland were my favorites. Karen O rocked out hard, but during her show, I had to help three different girls who passed out (drink some water already). I got thrown out of backstage at MGMT but managed to flirt my way back in with the same guy who tossed me out only to realize what I already knew: MGMT sucks live, so hard. David Byrne had a huge influence on the festival (which works for me) both performing and curating a stage for a day. I lived at This Tent because he brought together St. Vincent and The Dirty Projectors, both of whom played amazing sets. If you ever have a chance to go to Bonnaroo, just go. You’ll be nasty and dirty, you’ll smell bad, and you’ll probably end up covered in mud, but you will enjoy it thoroughly. Bonnaroo is an experience everyone needs to have.
ALL POINTS WEST
All Points West is a three-day music festival at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, right across the river from New York City. The venue was beautiful and the line-up fantastic, but the weather didn’t cooperate, turning the venue into a rain-soaked mud pit for most of the weekend. Friday got its momentum going with a gorgeous Fleet Foxes set, enhanced by a gentle rainfall that seemed almost perfectly synched with Robin Pecknold’s haunting falsetto, rising like smoke from the stage. And then it poured. Later in the day, Karen O made me forget that I was soaking wet and freezing, wearing a tank top in the middle of a 50-degree rainstorm as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs took the stage. Jay-Z wrapped up the night in top form with an awesome “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” tribute to the Beastie Boys, for whom he was standing in due to MCA’s cancer scare. The single greatest set of the weekend, in my humble opinion, was Ghostland Observatory’s on Sunday evening. They played on the smallest of the three stages, a sparsely populated tent that harbored stand-up comedy by day and dance-heavy electronica by night. Their infamous light show was everything it was rumored to be and more. Crystal Castles provided a similar counterpart for Saturday (Alice Glass is a maniac in the very best way). Other notable winners were The Black Keys, who may be the single coolest straight-up rock band playing today; The Pharcyde, who proved that old-school hip-hop is the best hip-hop; and the back to back sets of St. Vincent and Neko Case, who beautifully illustrated the indie’s range of talented female musicians. And then there was MGMT. I felt like Andrew and Ben were taking a giant shit on my excited little face. The first time I saw them (at Bonnaroo), the crowd was so amped up that I barely noticed the lack of energy onstage, but the lackluster nature of their APW performance became painfully clear rather quickly. In the audience, the jaded youth were out in full-force, pumped up and ready to be blown away, and, while it’s quite possible that the band is trying to make some kind of statement on this very jaded-ness, honestly, MGMT, I’m not in the mood. Apparently they ended their set early because they were rushing off to see Coldplay (a move that everyone and their mom knows is very uncool at a music festival). “Celebration,” a song from their upcoming album, was nothing to write home about, and they completely slaughtered “Kids”—it sounds better on my car speakers, and one of them is busted. I don’t know if this is a calculated downfall or the result of too many hit singles in too short a time, but something is awry. I was far more impressed by Tool. While a lot of people wondered what they were doing at the festival at all, they serve as an example of a band truly -Charlie Watts passionate about its work, and it showed. (continued on p. 30)
At face value, Perry Farrell’s behemoth musical/corporate orgasm offers one of the summer’s more incredible festival experiences. Lollapalooza’s lineups invariably consist of the music industry’s most innovative and celebrated artists, accosted by a diverse cross-section of excitable suburbanites. Fortuitously situated in Grant Park, Chicago’s beautiful and verdant centerpiece, Lollapalooza’s signature sonic brand reverberates off massive skyscrapers that enclose the festival from the North, South, and West, bleeding through the city’s Loop. The effect is a truly overwhelming spectacle. In practice, those willing to make the considerable investment in the Lollapalooza experience ($80 a day or $200 for a 3-day pass) are subjected to a frighteningly aggressive form of capitalism. In its methodical striving to generate as much revenue as possible, Lollapalooza has gluttonously reveled in unbridled growth. Recent years have seen excesses of
80,000 souls on individual days, resulting in an inaccessible viewing experience that runs contrary to the festival’s emphasis on exploration of its numerous stages. Acquiring a good position for a headliner typically requires camping out for hours in a semi-coital state with thousands of dehydrated partners (claustrophobics beware!). Astonishingly long lines will test the limits of one’s hunger and bladder capacity. And, while the sound projection is sufficient to reach those in the farthest reaches of the crowd (a prowess that Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival decidedly lacks), the crowd is far too large, giving it a tendency to spiral out of control. Lollapalooza is like the wealthy, maddeningly extroverted relative that one must endure at occasional family gatherings, frustratingly evincing both a repulsive sense of validation and a compelling energy. Despite Lollapalooza’s unsavory excesses, the incomparable quality of the artists it attracts ultimately outweighs the festival’s myriad drawbacks. Beyond crowd-pleasing headliners The Killers, Depeche Mode, Tool,
At only $75, the four-year-old Pitchfork Music Festival easily presented the best-valued festival (and my personal favorite) of 2009. Though smaller than other major festivals, it compensates by offering a combination of the best new upcoming indie acts and well-established indie-forerunners. Friday night commenced the weekend-long festival with the first ever “Write the Night,” for which fans voted on which songs the bands should play. The Jesus Lizard, Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise provided a variety of hits and fan favorites throughout their sets. Highlights from Saturday included Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who brought their A-game from the moment they stepped on the stage. The band impressed the crowd
and, regrettably, Jane’s Addiction, the mid-section of this year’s lineup was sensational. Amazing performances abounded from the likes of Los Campesinos!, Crystal Castles, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, Bon Iver, Santigold, Fleet Foxes, The Gaslight Anthem, and Animal Collective. Due to a medical emergency, Beastie Boys were unable to headline on Saturday, the coveted spot instead going to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, who confronted one of the biggest moments of their career with considerable confidence and skill. Each year I vow to never return, only to grudgingly gravitate back to Grant Park for Lollapalooza’s next installment. As Animal Collective make the perplexingly logical transition from “Fireworks” to “Brothersport,” one tends to forget a recently-purchased $3 water, the utterly-oblivious crowd surfers, and the massive Vitamin Water sign above Panda Bear’s head, lapsing into the unspeakably blissful detachment that only great music can precipitate. -Stephen Hager
as they cranked out a solid set. While the songs didn’t stray much from their album versions, they didn’t need to, as the band’s tightness defined their clean pop sound. The National’s set was highlighted by an array of their rich, pulsating songs drawn entirely from their past two albums—2005’s Alligator and 2007’s Boxer. “Abel” got lead-singer Matt Berninger screaming “well my mind’s not right!” over and over as if he was Abel himself, needing to yell to properly exude his pain. Their main set closer, “Mr. November,” capped off a tight set in excellent fashion. The emotion with which Berninger not only sang but lived this song was breathtaking. The songs overtook him to the point that he could barely control his spastic motions. (continued on pg. 30) 11
1. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot might have lost something over the years. Buoyed by the
mystique (late multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett famously feuded with Jeff Tweedy during the recording sessions and was ultimately fired) and irony (Reprise Records refused to release a record with so little apparent crossover potential so the band left for Nonesuch, another Time Warner imprint) surrounding its release, the album got more attention than Wilco could have ever dreamed it would. And, riding the beginning of the fuck-the-music-industry wave they helped create, critics ate it up with a spoon, giving Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the momentum to catapult its creators into the indie stratosphere, a role they occupied gracefully for at least one more album. If Kid A foretold where music could (and, when the
approaching forty, but it also makes sense that kids in middle
rest of the world caught up, would) go, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
school when it came out recognize Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as a
celebrated where it had been and played godfather (if some-
standard of their own generation, a triumph of the pop album
times indirectly) for a substantial subset of indie’s more recent
as an art form all its own.
standard-bearers. It’s no accident that most Wilco fans are
Funeral introduced the world not only to Arcade Fire themselves but to a larger, accessible muscial outlet for passion, despair, and overall grandiosity, all packaged into a tight 10 track 5” CD. Before the album’s 2004 release, Arcade Fire was just the Canadian lovechild of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, accompanied by a few inspired
friends. Yet Funeral saw the addition of ten more musicians, most significantly on the ever-uplifting track “Wake Up,” showing the band to be really more of an orchestra. In memorium to recent losses in band members’ families, Funeral lays much of its focus on in-depth emotional expressivity regarding all facets of death. And how the critics and soon-to-be undying fans relished every drop of Win’s dramatic vocals sailing through the cascades of multi-stringed instruments. From a Grammy nomination to a comfortable and constant spot on any and all Pitchfork top albums lists, Funeral became an Sisyphus-ian apex for the alternaive music scene to forever strive towards, yet never reach. Funeral broke genre constructs with its gloomy (if bizarrely uplifting) theatrics, which cemented both the album’s and Arcade Fire’s status in this decade, and, most likely, decades to come.. -Lauren Ladov
3 Kid A
On 2000’s Kid A, Radiohead achieved the stunning sonic regeneration that few contemporary pop artists have been able to execute. Shedding the dusty conventions of rock to which they had previously adhered, Radiohead reveled in perverting basic tenets of the identity they had so persuasively established on The Bends and OK Computer. Kid A incorporates heavy electronic sampling, synthesizers, drum machines, and vocal distortions, and employs a wide array of instruments typically foreign to pop music. Yet, as much as Kid A departs from earlier statements, it remains the quintessential Radiohead album, paradoxically representing both the band’s most fragmented and complete work. While earlier, more immediately accessible efforts tend to highlight the band members’ individual talents, Kid A’s subtle and seemingly disjointed parts steadily metastasize and bleed into one another, coalescing into a thrillingly cohesive whole. The album emanates from a distant place that they have not, and, in all likelihood, will never revisit. As Yorke concludes on “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” “I will see you in the next world.” -Stephen Hager
4 The Moon &Antarctica
Modest Mouse fans used to cherish this band’s most “Modest-Mousey” moments: with the guitars detuned to hell, frontman Isaac Brock got poetic—albeit in his self-proclaimed “Trailer Trash” kind of way—and the band rocked as ugly as possible (or, for a lack of a better term, started “Doin’ the Cockroach”). More to the point, many fans desired further exploration into the band’s own sound. The Moon & Antarctica fits this criterion but feels like a new thing entirely, an album that builds upon the band’s old rules while also standing alone as a grand, unique accomplishment unto itself. The themes and elements of The Moon & Antarctica are as scary-huge as its title suggests; its expansiveness and existential tilt urge the listener to become engrossed in the music, even ego-lost by the second third of the disc (“Hello, how do you do? / My name is you”, whispers Brock close to the ear). Brock has been quoted as saying he has his own special, personally-edited copy of the album, but, for the fans, The Moon & Antartica is special enough already. -Steven Sherrin
5 Silent Alarm
The release of Silent Alarm surprised us all. Bloc Party popped out of nowher. All of a sudden, here they were: a loud, in your face, polished group of young guys that you couldn’t ignore, and you didn’t want to because, damn, they were saying everything that you were feeling. As a product of the modern urban life, Silent Alarm illustrates themes of detachment and an alienation coupled with then-obligatory anti-war sentiments. The album’s disjunctive nature reflects these ideas while maintaining the appropriate ambiguity. Silent Alarm fuses rock, electro, R&B, post-punk, and pop to craft an intensely unique sound you can’t help but tap a toe to from the first few seconds of album-opener “Like Eating Glass.” It’s a mechanical poetry with simple beats and technical manipulations. With a young and fresh perspective, Silent Alarm stands on its own, providing 13 snapshots of the world’s evolution in the 2000s. -Lauren Ladov
With comparison to bands as temporally separated but sonically connected as Joy Division and The Strokes, Turn 6 Turn On the On the Bright Lights celebrates the early-2000’s particular indie aesthetic. Looking the part with expensive cloth-
ing and Carlos D’s fantastic mustache, Interpol seem already fully formed on their first full-length album. It begins slowly and solemnly with the mostly instrumental track “Untitled,” which hints at the more aggressive songs that follow, Banks declaring, “Surprise, sometimes, will come around.” As the album progresses, a series of incomprehensible lyrics and exciting, instrumental outros find their most fully-developed form in fan-favorite “PDA.” Turn on the Bright Lights ends much like it starts, album closer “Leif Erikson” standing as a good representation of the pseudo-romantic discourse at Interpol’s core. Chock full of straight-faced irony, Turn On the Bright Lights helped set the table for a decade full of the same. -Andrew The National’s ever-poignant Boxer is in its Borrowing an everyman lilt from Bruce Springsteen entirety a reflection on the state of Amerimore effectively than anyone else (save perhaps can upper-middle class post-adolescence. Arcade Fire) and carrying the ugly-indie-guys-with-great-songs Heartbreak, friendship, and the “Fake Empire” are neither flag once held by Pavement, The National burrowed for themselves depressing nor uplifting, maybe even a bit reassuring. Boxer a comfortable little spot near the top of the decade’s indie hierarchy, paints things as they are for twenty-somethings struggling to consistently making records with little immediate fanfare but huge, if find their place in the fake empire. Boxer is an indie triumph slow to develop, word-of-mouth buzz. If Boxer was the record where to stand next to any of the decade’s many. -Logesh Dharmar they put it all together, creating a unified sound of what it means to be a twenty-something American white guy who doesn’t really Zachary Condon is heavily influbelieve in love, Alligator expresses a parallel sentiment in its sonic enced by the French, Eastern Eurodisunity. “Didn’t anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a pean folk, and Hispanic big band. Always equipped with a room?” asks vocalist Matt Berninger to begin album opener “Secret ukulele and trumpet, Zach has managed to gather a group of Meeting,” and the confusion suggested in the question dominates musicians as talented and quirky as him. Intertwined with trumpet, accordion, and ukulele, the songs on Gulag OrkeAlligator’s discourse. Be they the doting men who “ballerina on the star create a new type of music, one where Eastern European coffee table cock in hand” in “Karen,” the titular would-be drunk gypsies meet American pop singers. driver in “Abel,” or the sons and daughters of the Soho riots, every-Charlie Watts body who makes an appearance in The National’s songs, like the rest of Generation Y, spends half their time drunk and the other half lost. And that’s sort of the point. -James Hicks
8 Alligator TheNational
9 Gulag Orkestar Beirut
10 Is This It
Something just felt right about Is This It. Every twelve-year-old who heard “Last Nite” for the first time wanted to be in a band from Manhattan; suddenly rock seemed cool again. Whatever the hype (some critics called them rock saviors while others drew Beatles comparisons), The Strokes were a breath of fresh air in a landscape too long dominated by copycat nu-metal. The chugging interplay of the dual guitar attack, the tight rhythm section, and Julian Casablancas’ endearingly distant vocals meshed together perfectly. The Strokes gave us all the same idea: this is what rock should be. When it comes down to it, Is This It is a collection of good songs that form a great album, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The Strokes never made another album quite as relevant, but a shift in the rock scene had been established. So is this it? Not quite, but after nearly a decade, Is This It is still as great as it was the first time around. -Zachary Philyaw
feature 11 llinoise
There’s nothing humble about Sufjan Steven’s fifth album. Although he proves his capacity for varied musicality, Sufjan’s true appeal rests in the more general purpose of Illinois: to document and evoke the state’s folklore. It’s a lot to take in, but underneath it all lies an enduring masterpiece. -Wyatt Wilson Fleet Foxes take their listeners into a world past, a world where things were simpler and the only thing a man had was his voice and a guitar. With their first full-length album, Fleet Foxes catapulted into indie stardom, and they damn well deserved it. Images of the Appellation Mountains arise as Fleet Foxes strips their music back to the elemental basics of a folk band. Most of the tracks are built around simple guitar lines, but the use of harmonics makes them something more, like an old folk tune that keeps on through generations. -Charlie Watts The Postal Service’s debut album Give Up shines with the brilliance of its collaborators; Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello play off each other’s strengths to create a dynamic electro-pop-indie sound yet to be replicated in exact form. The lyrics aren’t always perfect, sometimes approaching the borders of cliché, but the album’s overall strength enables these missteps to be overlooked. The songs come off as honest and accessible, and leave us with Gibbard’s question ringing in our ears: “Do you ever get the feeling that your perfect verse is just a lie you tell yourself to help you get by?” -Nick Graham While lacking the folksy charm of 2000’s Parachutes and the superlative production of 2008’s Viva La Vida, A Rush of Blood to the Head remains Coldplay’s best work in the realm of vocally driven guitar pop. As on all Coldplay releases, Chris Martin is the overwhelming presence, using lyrics purely as a means to convey melody. But, at Coldplay’s best, as when Martin hits the perfect note over Buckland’s grainy power chords in “The Scientist,” they make the argument that lyrics might just be beside the point. -Stephen Hager The Decemberists’ albums have always been glorified short-story collections, and The Crane Wife is no exception. The album relays a Japanese folktale about a man who finds an injured crane and nurses it back to health before releasing it, only to have it return in human form and become his wife. When he discovers her secret, she flies away and never returns. Despite the story’s odd content, The Crane Wife never fails to capture its beauty. Even with a pair of tracks over 11 minutes long, The Decemberists never lose the listener. The Crane Wife is like fine art for the ears: it may take a few listens to get it, but you’ll never forget how amazing it is. -Jamie Nussbaum The story behind the creation of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago may be as well known as the music itself. The tale spread: Justin Vernon lost everything from his girlfriend to his health and decided to hole up in a Wisconsin cabin to recuperate. Then, lo and behold, Bon Iver emerged from all the pain and self-pity. With elaboration on the often simple or repeated rhythms and melodies in all the right places, For Emma, Forever Ago is an album that toys with a ‘less is more’ sentiment while holding the listener’s intrigue and just maybe making them hum along. -Chelsea Douglas At first listen, the gravity of Iron & Wine’s 2007 Pitchfork-and-Paste-approved album, The Shepherd’s Dog, is less than apparent. Sam Beam’s voice is soft and almost inaudible, yet filled with a kind of paradoxical happy-sadness that tugs at your heartstrings (imagine Elliott Smith with singing lessons). The songs are fluid, similar enough to flow effortlessly into each other but distinct enough to produce a few immediate favorites. By the third go-round, The Shepherd’s Dog emerges as poetry set to steel guitars. -Nicki Janes (continued on pg. 30)
12 Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes
13 Give Up
The Postal Service
14 A Rush of Blood to the Head Coldplay
15 The Crane Wife The Decemberists
16 For Emma, Forever Ago Bon Iver
17 The Shepherd’s Dog Iron & Wine
Localsfest is Rocking out the Year with
SONEN Sonen might just be the best looking band in Atlanta. Keith, Holly,
and Josh showed up for our interview dressed to the nines and quickly displayed an intellect to match their outfits. When asked about their description of themselves as “electro indie dance rock,” all three cringed. The reality is somewhere in the middle of these maligned monikers. Self-serious but danceable, polished but organic, Sonen’s sound is hard to pinpoint; its best representation would probably look something like a grotesque three-dimensional Venn diagram. However you classify them, the band makes all the right choices, and the same Joy Divisionesque post-punk borrowed previously by Interpol mixes with something like the electro-pop bliss previously employed by The Postal Service to give the band a sonic identity all its own. But neither classification nor comparison is the point, really; dark and harmonic, the songs stand without context. Sonen has been performing as a band since 2007, and they’ve clearly learned a few tricks along the way. Named the best Atlanta indie act of 2008 by Creative Loafing, Sonen is poised for a breakout, and soon. 16
Interview by James Hicks Photography by Charlie Watts
Frequency: When did you guys start playing music? Have you been playing music your whole lives? Josh: The last thirteen years, for me. Holly: About the same. Keith: Since I was twelve or thirteen. F: How did you all meet? K: Holly and I met working a job together a long time ago, actually, at Media Play. And Josh we actually met online when we were looking for a new member. F: On your Twitter page you describe yourselves as “electro indie dance rock.” Do you like that tag, or is it just something you felt like you had to put? K: I think that’s partially accurate. That’s mostly drawn from buzzwords based on the people we’re tying to get to our shows, but I think we’re an amalgamation of a lot of different styles. But if we really had to pigeonhole it, narrow it down to four or five, that’s about right. H: I hate “genres.” K: Yeah, but you have to have something, because you always get asked that. F: Obviously there are problems of restriction there for everyone. K: Yeah, but it’s kind of something you have to have. F: Where did you grow up? Are you all from the south? J: [laughs] Right down the street. I grew up right off of Briarcliff Road. H: North of the city, in Alpharetta. K: I was born in New York but I grew up here, so I still consider myself a southerner. F: How did you come up with the name Sonen? Any connection to the town in Bavaria or the Norwegian TV channel? K: The name comes from an ancient Japanese word that doesn’t really have an exact translation, but the a 18
Japanese man once described it to me as the layer of consciousness between the mental and spiritual being, which, to me, is kind of where our music comes from.
around the Southeast, but most of our shows are in and around Atlanta. We’re working on a new album due out at the end of the year. So we’d obviously like to tour after that.
F: What do you guys listen to, right now and in general? J: I’ve been listening to a lot of Passion Pit, Crystal Castles, Phoenix. We use a lot of synth, so we get a lot of our influences from that realm. The Crystal Method was always a big electronic influence on me. K: My favorite band right now, even though their album came out last year, is Working For A Nuclear Free City. I think that’s the best record that I’ve been listening to continuously. Also, I DJ a lot, so I spend a lot of time going through thousands of singles to try to find four or five really good songs.
F: Have you played all the big Atlanta venues? H: Our third show, actually, was at Center Stage, which was great. J: We’ve played a lot of places— Center Stage, The Drunken Unicorn, Highland Ballroom. K: We’re actually hosting a monthly showcase at The Highland Ballroom starting the last Friday in January. We’re trying to get a lot of electrodance-type bands together and have a great time.
F: Would you say that what you listen to tends to sound like what you play? K: I don’t think so. H: I listen to all kinds of music. J: There are certain elements of what we play that are clearly influenced by other music, but there’s not a band that we can really say “that’s what we sound like.” Take The Pixies for example–a lot of people say that some of our rock and vocal influence sounds similar, but on the flip side our music also incorporates electronic influence from bands like Cut Copy, Orbital, and The Faint.. K: There’s a lot of dance, and there’s a lot of rock and roll with synthesizers, and it’s hard to answer that question directly, really, because I think we’re somewhere in between. H: I don’t know about you, Josh, but Keith and I were big raver kids [laughs]. F: Have you done any extensive touring? H: We all have jobs, which can makes touring difficult. We’ve been
F: Holly, what’s it like being the only girl in the band? Have there been any incidents with drunken fans? H: Yeah, that happens sometimes. At a show last year, I actually had to ask a guy to shut up because my parents were in the crowd. We actually used to have another girl in the band but she moved away. That was good while it lasted, though, because I had someone to try on a bunch of different outfits and do my makeup with. Now I have to use these guys, and they don’t really care all that much. K: Yeah, she always asks, ‘Are these boots okay?’ [laughs] We just say yes every time. F: Could you tell us about the best and worst shows you’ve ever played? H: I think the best thing right now is the three of us playing together, working so well together, and finding the sound we really want to put out. We’ve really started to play our best shows recently. K: Really what it boils down to for me is that previously we were trying to find a sound, and a lot of that is about seeing how a crowd responds. A lot of our past shows have been about seeing what’s going to happen and where that’s going to take us.
Now, we’re really confident in what we’re doing, and we’re really enjoying what we’re doing now, so the shows lately have been a lot of fun. Certainly some crowds have been better than others, so it really depends. J: I’ve been in a lot of bands before. I joined these guys in February, and the shows we’ve played have been the best of my life. F: Do any stand out specifically? K: At our Corndog-o-Rama show this year it was about 110 degrees outside. H: That may have been our worst show only because our computer died, and our computer is our drums. J: Yeah, there were technical difficulties, it was an early show, and it was hot outside. So humid. We ended up pulling it off, though. They only gave us ten minutes to set up. Everything was working great until I turned my computer on and it was dead. H: I literally ran outside and screamed “Who has a computer?!?” J: Literally as they were turning us up I was able to take out my iPod, plug it into another laptop, and play the songs that way. H: Then our synthesizers went off because of the heat. That was a technologically challenging experience. F: You were the Creative Loafing readers’ pick for best electronic artist in 2006 and best indie act in 2008. Did that help you guys out at all? K: Definitely. Any time you can get recognition like that, it always helps. There was definitely a rise in the number of people at our shows, the number of hits on our MySpace, all that. I got the first one when the band was just me, and I was doing a lot of DJing at the time, so that helped me draw people out for sure. Josh wasn’t in the band for either of those, though, and we’re much happier with our sound now. Sonen, along with Ghost Lights and The Shadowboxers, will play WMRE’s Localsfest on November 21st in the Emory Performing Arts Center, located at 1804 N. Decatur Road. Doors open at 7:30. The band will also start hosting a monthly event at The Highland Ballroom in Poncey Highland to showcase other local indie/electro artists begining January 29th and taking place on the last Friday of every month. 19
CULTURE CULTURE REPORT
MJQuestionable Wednesday night, to most, is not a typical night for partying. If you’re as devout as many of the people I grew up with, it is, in fact, a night for worship. But, for many of Atlanta’s thriftiest club-goers, Wednesday is the craziest night of the week. At the MJQ Concourse on Ponce de Leon Place, the brave souls who dare to go out on these Wednesday nights face no cover charge (provided they’re over 21, of course). This means, for many Emory students, that the night’s only cost is the fee for their cab ride and as many $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons as they can afford. Once one arrives at this multi-level concourse, the entrance to the club looks a bit like the descent into the underworld. A dimly-lit concrete ramp leads the way into the darkness and, from above, one can only hear the thump-thump of the dance music inside. On this ramp, disenchanted hipsters mingle, smoking their cigarettes and nursing their beers, but beyond lies the vast expanse of the club itself. The club consists of two rooms – one 20
known colloquially as the “Hip Hop Room” (which few Emory students dare to enter) and a main room that holds a gigantic island of a bar, a dance floor, and a stage which sometimes houses a DJ but on other nights simply holds more dancers.
a different descent into a different underworld, the MJQ Concourse hosts the F*ck Yesss Dance Party in a venue known as the Drunken Unicorn. The Party gathers a younger, hipper crowd. It’s an 18+ event, and the crowd reflects this unusual lenience.
The appeal of MJQ, however, lies in more than its lack of cover charge. The atmosphere contrasts sharply with that of a normal club or bar. The music is electronic without drifting to irritating house beats. The dancefloor is large but seems to enforce no pressure to be sexual. And the entire establishment is about 17 times dirtier than any other place you’ll ever go.
Outside, the line sometimes wraps around the building, and it starts early. The cover charge is $7 for those under 21, $5 for partiers of legal drinking age, but this doesn’t really stop most of the party-goers from arriving in an altered state of mind.
Oh, and everyone is absolutely wasted. No seasoned MJQ partier arrives before 12:30 am without a lethal amount of alcohol already in their system. There is no way to describe some of the drunken debauchery that occurs in this subterranean club, and some of the fun is just downright illegal. The odor of marijuana drifts through the air, enticing some and offering ambiance for the rest. The first Thursday of every month, however, is a different story. Down
Inside, the crowd writhes and jumps as a united mass to the sounds of upand-coming DJs Le Castle Vania and Rrrump. These resident artists lead the crowd in fist-pumping and synchronized jumping and chanting. And everyone loves it. The atmosphere of F*ck Yesss is nothing short of ecstatic. So the next time you’re looking to get your party on during the week, look no further than Ponce. If you pile enough people into your cab, the trip will cost next to nothing (especially if you know the cabbie *cough*Gamal*cough*). The MJQ Concourse always promises a good time. -Lara Kesler
CULTURE Drum Circles? It was summer when I first heard rumor of a drum
Record Stores If you’re ever in the Atlanta area and feel the need to music
hunting, here’s what you need to know. Criminal Records, 1154 Euclid Ave: If you’re strolling around Little Five Points on a Saturday afternoon and feel the sudden urge to go get some new records, it would certainly be no crime to check out Criminal Records. With a huge library of vinyl records, their collection is so eclectic that I can’t even begin to name all the genre possibilities. They’ve also got some pretty cheap second-hand CD’s, magazines and collectible action figures, so there’s definitely something for pretty much everyone that walks through the door. If you’ve got the cash to spare, they also sell Vinyl Writers, USB operated machines that can download vinyl records to a computer’s music database, a great tool to have for more orthodox DJ’s who like to go digging. Final Verdict: If you’re into vinyl and love classic rock, this is definitely a store you want to check out, but. If not, it’s conveniently located in L5P, so it’s still worth a look. I give it a B+. Wax n’ Facts, 432 Moreland Ave, NE: A basic principle of any great business model is that a product must be recognizable, a task that Wax n’ Facts takes to heart. If you’re apprehensive about technological innovation, you’ll probably have a good time checking out their music collection (they still carry cassette tapes!). They deal primarily in an extensive collection of vinyl records, mostly classic material from the greats in every genre that they carry. If you’re a DJ, a producer, or a fan of sampling, this store will definitely get you going in the right direction. Final Verdict: Thanks to the digital revolution, most of what this store carries is already easily accessible via the internet, so this store is really only good for people who are particular about how they experience their music or those who’ve been living under a rock since 1993. Provided you have a record player or a boom-box, though, you’ll find something you like. I give it a B-. Wuxtry Records, N. Decatur Rd: This store has the smallest collection, mostly because it also has the smallest lot. A major draw is their pretty great poster collection. At the storefront, there’s a collection of $1 vinyls, audio cassettes, and CDs from a lot of great bands, all of which make great room decor. The rest of the store is filled with a good bit of rock, pop, and jazz, mostly from the 60s to the 80s. They’ve got everybody from Rod Stewart and the Eagles to Miles Davis and a very small international contingent of international artists in the back left corner. Final Verdict: They’re the most diverse of the lot, but their overall quality is greatly hindered by a small store space, restricting the shopper to the legends of a genre. I give them a B+. -Omotola Ajibade
circle in a park near Little Five Points. Intrigued, my friends and I decided to investigate one Saturday night. We parked at the end of a side street off McLendon and began our walk down the street. Cars were practically stacked on top of each other on the sides of the streets, while all the neighbors sat chatting on their porches or walking to the same place as us. As we got closer to the end of the street, it seemed the echoes of the drums increased in proportion to the amount of dove and peace flags adorning the homes. At the end of our brief walk through the neighborhood, we turned onto a small path into a park. We paid a small fee and entered the circle to find a gathering of what seemed to be all of Atlanta’s hippie-types. Shirtless men with long hair and women with long, flowing skirts danced around a fire in a manner almost akin to some sort of pagan ritual. Drummers and spectators were interspersed throughout the outer edge of the circle. Though they stood fairly still, the beat of the drum seems to consume the crowd as much as it did the dancers; all those present got caught up in the rhythm and the heat from the fire. Nonetheless, we went to explore the upper part of the park. After walking up a set of stairs, we discovered a clearing with people gathered around its edge. In the center, a man held two strings with balls of fire at their ends, spinning the fireballs in patterns around his body and in the air; we were all amazed that he managed to avoid burning anything and immensely impressed by his tricks. Eventually, though, we returned to the circle and joined in the frolicking around the fire. We danced and danced and danced until the drumming stopped at midnight. It was not over, though, but time for the closing ceremonies. Everyone still in attendance joined hands and made a circle around the fire. At first, I was skeptical; this seemed a bit too much like a summer camp rendition of “Kumbaya.” But, after the night we all had, it was hard not to get caught up in the love and overarching sense of community so immediately palpable. Attendees chimed in with things they were thankful for— the land, their family, mother earth, and even the “fire trolls.” Finally, everyone reflected on the night with a soft “ohm.” Everyone took this part very seriously. In fact, when someone decided to say something besides “ohm,” another attendee felt compelled to yell, “we don’t talk during the ohms, you m*therf*cker!” After that interruption, things surprisingly went back to normal, and the night finally ended. We drifted out of the park, content and awed by what we had just experienced and determined to go back the next Saturday. The drum circle takes place on the first and third Saturday of every month at the Lake Claire Community Land Trust. The drumming begins at dusk and ends at midnight. Admission is $1.00 for drummers and performers, $5.00 for everyone else. All proceeds go directly to the upkeep of the land trust. -Amber Lakin 21
THEREPORT REPORT THE
St. Vincent Location: Ambient Sound Overall Rating: St. Vincent A+, Kia Soul FI’ve always had a sick fascination with Annie Clark. She is unlike any musician I have encountered in the sense that her music is a bizarre mixture of instruments and vocals that creates a feel of controlled panic. The first time I saw her live I had never heard of St. Vincent, her musical alias, and was blown away by her use of lyrical string accompaniment juxtaposed with gnarly distorted guitar passages. On her most recent album, Actor, she begins to tell the story of restless women yearning to break free from the repetitiveness of their boring lives through the use of jarring music overlaid with her calm, stagnant voice. If I thought her music was weird, it could not compare to her most recent concert in Atlanta. It was a free show but, to get tickets, one had to test-drive a new Kia Soul as part of their Kia Soul Collective Campaign, apparently designed to get hipsters to buy their cars. To make matters stranger, the venue and the test drives were held in Mechanicsville, near the Southside juvenile detention center. Dilapidated, burnt, and decaying homes and factories are interspersed with a few stray cats and cracked-out youth loitering in the shade of the abandoned warehouses (basically the ghetto). 22
To contrast this, the venue itself was amazing; it was obvious a lot of money had been put into the production of the show, as the huge loft space was decorated elaborately with advertisements. Ambient Studio was an amazing space for the concert (if only the location could be on par). We arrived a little early (20 minutes before she was supposed to start) and there were only 8 other people in the venue; by the end of the night, there the crowd had swelled only to about 50. When Annie Clark walked onstage, a hushed excitement rushed through the crowd. I looked up and then around only to discover that Bradford Cox was standing next me (dear lord he scares/intrigues me). Could this show get any weirder? Yup. If you’ve never seen Annie Clark before, she’s basically a gorgeous women with porcelain skin and massive eyes. During her performance, nobody could stop staring at her, with her spastic motions and movements backlit in a harsh red. The set list basically consisted of her new album plus a few oldies. Some of the highlights were “Black Rainbows,” “Actor,” and “Marrow.” In one particularly upbeat moment in “Marrow,” strobe lights switched on, and the only thing anyone could see was
her face in the eerie red light. Annie’s voice stayed pretty consistent at a calm, melodious tone, but she twitched and rolled her head, making her look on the verge of insanity. The accompanying drummer, flute player, saxophonist, bassist, and violin player switched back and forth between their instruments. Her flute and violin players were highlighted multiple times as they fluttered in and out with trills. One of the most impressive moments of the show was when St. Vincent used looped vocals and violins, creating a cacophony of melodious sound. After the concert came to a halt, Annie came back and played “Human Racing” for an encore and was so incredibly nervous
If I thought her music was weird, it could not compare to her most recent concert in Atlanta. (it’s strange to think how nerves still get to musicians after the hundreds of performances). We decided to wait around after to see if we could meet her only to find that some of the locals had smashed out the back window. As we waited for the police (who were total assholes and threatened to tow our car if we couldn’t find the insurance card), we saw her van pull away with the violinist waving back at us as they turned to head to the freeway. -Charlie Watts
Britney Spears When we heard Emory was giving out free Britney Spears tickets at the DUC, it took all of thirty seconds for us to get into the car. We raced to the DUC only to find a long line of people— and that the tickets had run out! We stalked LearnLink obsessively to see if any more tickets would be released, but we had no luck. Monday morning, though, DUC manager Jeff Martin answered our prayers with another giveaway, and this time we got the tickets. Needless to say, the rest of the week centered on the anxiety, anticipation, and the sheer joy that the prospect of seeing Britney aroused in us. You see, Britney is important to us. Mich saw Britney for the first time when she was in 6th grade, during the Oops! I Did It Again Tour. She was young and impressionable (both Mich and Britney), and the show was nothing if not a spectacle. Since then, Britney has slowly unraveled, but neither of us lost faith. We tried to remember her as the soaked-yet-pristine wanton from the “Slave 4 U” video. This concert was the test— we needed to see firsthand if Britney was okay. We’ve spent all four years of college concerned, and, finally, Jeff Martin gave us the chance to check in on our friend, and maybe even intervene (or just hang out afterwards) if given the chance.
Maybe our hopes were too high and we were really expecting greatness, or maybe we just took it too personally, but the concert was a let down. Yeah, she was okay— Britney wasn’t cutting her wrists or shaving her head or anything. She did look great, her recordings sounded fine, and her dancers were hot, but where was the magic? Where was the spectacle? Where was the schoolgirl outfit? We’re not saying it was a bad show. Trust us, we enjoyed it! Everyone did. Britney ran through all the classics and did a great job of convincing us to like her newer songs, too. She’s a pop princess and she’s hot, so it’s hard to go wrong. But she hardly danced, her costumes were flat, and there were no fireworks, literally or figuratively. Britney was lively, and she looked like she was really enjoying herself, and for that we thank her. Truly, we love that she’s back in the game. The lack of spectacle, though, didn’t help convince us that she has recovered. If Britney was back for good, she would have been able to pull off something great, something shocking. Instead, the show was safe. But at least Britney is safe too, and that’s the first and most important step to getting back in that proverbial red pleather jumpsuit. -Sarah “Peanut” Jones and Mich Flombaum
Regina Spektor As an a huge Regina Spektor fan, I went into her concert with colossal expectations and zero doubt that her performance would not fall short of my lofty standards. I had never seen Regina perform live before, so my generous expectations had no real concrete basis other than my love of her music. In regard to a set list, I could not imagine being disappointed. No matter what songs she chose to play, I wanted to hear them. To put it simply, listening to an hour and a half of my least favorite Regina Spektor songs would be more than enjoyable. Needless to say, I was extremely satisfied with her chosen set. Seated in front of her baby grand piano with two string musicians and a drummer for accompaniment, she opened with “The Calculation,” the upbeat opening track from her most recent album, Far. Though the beginning focused heavily on her latest album, she gradually started to incorporate more songs from her back catalogue. One of the multiple highlights of the show took place when Regina played “Poor Little Rich Boy” without accompaniment. Alone, she sang and played piano while also banging ferociously on a wooden chair with a drumstick. I was aware that she often performs this song during her concerts, but, being a person who often struggles (continued at http://wmrefrequency.wordpress. 23
THE REPORT E
with walking and talking simultaneously, I was absolutely astounded by, and honestly jealous of, her coordination and grace. My favorite part of her set, however, came when she chose to abandon her piano for an electric keyboard to perform “Dance Anthem of the 80s,” perhaps Far’s best track. With excitement that mimicked that of a little kid who can finally play with a new Christmas toy, she happily sang along while playing a basic repeated note before mixing in a digital beat. She continued to keep the crowd intrigued through her encore, playing “Us,” an older song recently featured on the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack, and a previously unreleased song that she introduced by stating, “I decided to write a country song. I don’t know why.” On first listen, I concluded Regina needs no further explanation of why she writes the songs she does other than one simple reason: because she can. Regina’s music, and concert, can most aptly be described as diverse. From her vocal range to the instruments used to the mood and melody of each song, she keeps listeners on their toes, leaving them often pleasantly surprised. Not only did Regina Spektor present a set that showcased her classical training, she seamlessly crossed into multiple genres and more experimental sounds. This diversity kept the crowd entertained and made for a wonderful show. 24
Ladyhawke On Thursday September 10th, Perez Hilton (yes, the maestro of gossip Perez Hilton) brought his “Perez Hilton Presents” tour to the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. My personal tastes for Mr. Hilton’s character aside, he does appear to have decent taste in music, as alt-rockers Ida Maria, British synthpop sensation Frankmusik, and New Zealand electropop rocker Ladyhawke all make appearances on this barnstorming musical tour of the U.S. In Atlanta, however, only Ida Maria, and, much more importantly, Ladyhawke, were there for the tour’s opening night. Ladyhawke, known on her tax forms as Pip Brown, already has developed a signature sound despite only recently releasing her first album, Magic. On the forefront of the 80’s rock revival/synthpop/electropop movement in Europe, LadyHawke’s music combines the best of 80’s female rockers like Pat Benatar with the soaring melodic sensibility of The Outfield by way of the cutting edge synthsounds of Akon or fellow tour guest Frankmusik. What separates Ladyhawke from other synthpop acts coming out of Europe, however, is the polish of her tracks: she sticks to 3:00 to 4:00 minute pop songs that all fill her listeners ears with enough luscious choruses and driving rhythms that they’d be hard-pressed not to imagine themselves
in a John Hughes movie. Although relatively famous in Europe, Ladyhawke has not really expanded her boundaries stateside just yet, so her Atlanta concert was doubly-important: not only was it her first time as a headlining act on a U.S tour, it was also the opening night of Perez Hilton’s tour. I am happy to report that the lady from New Zealand delivered, crafting a playlist packed with her big hits (“Paris Is Burning”, “From Dusk Till Dawn”), and a few fan favorites (“Better Than Sunday, My Delrium”). Onstage, she presented good energy and sound vocal chops, and her backing band was tight and showed the requisite skill to pull off some tricky bridges and extended solos. This band had obviously been practicing together for months, and their hard work paid off, as Ladyhawke and co. looked more like seasoned veterans than rookies on a U.S. tour (as a side-note, I wish I could say the same for Iva Maria). Ladyhawke pounced through her set list like the cats she features on all her album and single covers. Attacking each upbeat track with just the right amount of aggression but tapering off for the slower, more ballad-type tracks, she clearly fed off the crowds’ exuberant reactions; at one point, she came to the very end of the stage and rocked out on an extended solo in “Paris Is Burning.” Unfortunately for her, though, some obsessive fans began clamoring for her legs and boots, and she had to with-
draw back into the safety of her microphone. On that point, the only thing really missing was crowd interaction. At times, I felt she was too shy and, instead of rocking out properly, she stayed in the “safety bubble” around her microphone. Overall, though, it was a fine show, and definitely a satisfying live performance. Even meeting Perez Hilton wasn’t that bad. - Steve Siegel
The Killers Though sometimes touted as a band that takes itself just a little too seriously, The Killers can really put on a show. The Las Vegas based indie-pop band debuted its third studio album Day & Age in 2008 with singles “Human” and “Spaceman.” Their worldwide tour stopped in venues all the way from Rome to the nearby Fox Theatre in Midtown Atlanta to Lollapalooza. I, however, got to see the last stop on their tour in Miami’s South Beach earlier this month. The American Airlines Arena is a great venue for any show. The set-up, with the stage at the exact center, affords every seat a solid view. The concert was slated to start at 8 pm, but, as the time grew ever closer, fans still lined the concessions and merchandise table, and The Killers certainly don’t fall short on glamour. One could buy a t-shirt with sparkling gems surrounding a sparkling palm tree with “The Killers”
written in rhinestones or something more manly, like a bright purple shirt stating “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” in pink. By 8:30, the opening act, Chairlift, took the stage. This little known band has been running the college circuit, and is becoming well known among iPod users (their catchy tune “Bruises” was featured in an advertisement for an Apple gadget you can buy at your local Lennox Mall). I was excited when I heard Chairlift was playing, if only because I knew I would at least recognize one song. Other than the 3-minute performance of “Bruises,” though, I was generally disappointed. The lead singer was very energetic and danced in slow motion about the stage, rocking the keyboard, but the music whined on and on and on and no one in the arena seemed to care. The Killers took the stage around 9:30, their signature ‘K’ standing at the front of the stage and glowing along with its glitzy lights. During each song, a different scene was projected behind the band, depicting everything from desert scenes in orange to the song’s corresponding music video. Clips of the music video directed by Tim Burton accompanied the song “Bones,” while the Joy Division cover “Shadowplay” featured the full version of the frenetic original video.
Brandon Flowers took a great deal of time and care in relating to the audience. In most cases the band went directly from one song to the next, refusing to allow the energy in the building to ebb, but, every now and then, Flowers stopped and talked to the audience, explaining a song’s meaning. At one point during the song “Bling (Confessions of A King),” Flowers got off stage to receive what he called “human connection.” He also began ad-libbing a new song in the middle of “Bling” about making money and losing touch. At that point, I worried Flowers was going to do something crazy and controversial, but soon he jumped back on stage and began the song again where he’d left off a few minutes prior. In another of the night’s many highlights, Chairlift’s two singers joined The Killers on stage to sing a cover of T-Pains “Church Song.” I immediately regretted not liking Chairlift earlier, as they held themselves well on stage with an internationally known supergroup many years their senior. The encore was the best part of the performance, as expected. The band played three songs, confetti and pyrotechnics included. The Killers might not be oozing in cred, but they sure as hell know how to put on a nice glitzy spectacle. - Tess Liegois 25
KAREN O AND THE KIDS
WHERE THE WILDTHINGS ARE Arcade Fire’s “Funeral” joined with Spike Jonze’s beautiful imagery brought me to tears when I first saw the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are. Something about one of my favorite childhood stories paired with one of my favorite songs made me really think about what it means to be free. The trailer reminded me so much of the inevitable loss of innocence coupled with the desire to hold onto childhood forever. Though Arcade Fire does not appear on the film’s soundtrack, they set the tone for Karen O and The Kids to carry on the fantastical folkiness that the Montreal band began. Karen O and the Kids is by no means Karen O and a bunch of kids. It 26
alsoincludes Nick Zinner and Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Bradford Cox (Deerhunter), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs), Aaron Hemphill (Liars), Oscar Michel (Gris Gris), and Imaad Wasif (New Folk Implosion) on top of an untrained children’s choir. If one didn’t know this were for a children’s movie, it could easily have been a Yeah Yeah Yeahs acoustic set with some very talented friends along for the ride. The album is very much a stripped down version of It’s Blitz brought back up with an acoustic compliment. Strumming guitars and pianos dominate to create this cheerful assortment of Karen O ohhing and humming. The songs are also made more folksy by their use of clapping, stomping, and howling on various tracks instead of any classical instrumentation. I swear my life is not an emotional wreck, but, after listening to second track “All is Love,” I started tearing up again. It’s
lovely upbeat tone makes you want to jump around and dance amongst the trees, but for some reason it keeps making me cry(!). There are many more of these merry tones, but they are nicely substituted with such slow and lonely songs as “Worried Shoes” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” “Heads Up” could easily have been on Arcade Fire’s Funeral, but, instead of Win Butler, it’s Karen O belting out the melody. Arcade Fire might have left big shoes to fill, but Karen O and The Kids go above and beyond to create an album that fits perfectly with Where the Wild Things Are. After seeing the film, this view might change, but I can’t help but look forward to the movie and the tears I know it will bring. Grade: A Top Tracks: Worried Shoes, Heads Up, Highway 61 Revisited -Charlie Watts
Muse’s attempts at innovation have never pleased all of their fans, and their long awaited album Resistance is a grudging reminder of the band’s sometimes forced self-revolution. Their dynamic style and talent are still present in Resistance, but, while the album offers a glimpse of Muse at their best, you’ve got to wonder why they insist on straying from the operatic, progressive sound that made them so great. Resistance begins with the decent but slightly derivative pop-rock track “Uprising,” which doesn’t stray too far from the “pop” sound of the band’s earlier albums. The title track follows, continuing the pop-rock vibe. It brings more energy to the table, though, and its characteristically epic open and close make it clear that the old Muse hasn’t left us just yet. Resistance takes a definite turn for the worse after these promising tracks. “Undisclosed Desires” is, well, awful. An incredibly annoying pop beat that dominates the track totally ruins it; this is not Muse. On the topic of awful songs, “I Belong To You,” which appears later on the album, is nearly as terrible as “Undisclosed Desires” for most of the same reasons. Resistance certainly isn’t all bad. “United States Of Eurasia” is a solid, progressive Muse track, if a little Queen-esque. “Unnatural Selection” is a similarly worthwhile progressive track, driven by guitar rather than piano. Fans of Muse’s earlier sound will love these particular tracks, since they definitely bring to mind older songs like “New Born” and “Sing for Absolution”; The band obviously gave the arrangement and instrumentation of these tracks a lot of care in the studio. “Guiding Light” and “MK Ultra” fail to stand out due to an overuse of synthesizers and effects that eclipses
the potentially interesting melodies in both songs. The overblown drums on “Guiding Light” make it a difficult listen, while “MK Ultra” suffers from a poorly placed synthesizer that mostly just interferes. Muse made a lot of promises regarding “Exogenesis,” undisputedly the album’s most anticipated track, and, while it is a nice take on the progressive rock symphony, it isn’t quite as spectacular as some might have hoped. The band clearly spent a great deal of time perfecting their purported masterpiece before releasing it, as all three parts are soundly written, arranged, and rendered, but it’s not enough by itself to make the album a worthwhile purchase. If you’re a diehard Muse fan, Resistance will disappoint; it’s certainly no masterpiece. A more casual listener will find a few great Muse tracks and a few curiously horrible ones. Like most of the band’s albums, Resistance is a mixed bag both in quality and in sound. If you can put up with that, you might just enjoy Muse’s newest revolution. Grade: BTop Tracks: United States of Eurasia, Unnatural Selection, Resistance -Jason Novsam
It’s pretty apparent that WHY?’s newest album, Eskimo Snow, is quite unlike their past two full-length albums; Eskimo Snow veers noticeably away from previous efforts Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia in both subject matter and musical style. Each lyric is heavily loaded with death, the album’s most obvious focal point. Granted, mortality has always been a recurring motif for WHY?, seemingly a mild obsession of lead singer Yoni Wolf since Elephant Eyelash. But such allusions to dying in that album (“And the monterey birches
were bare, raising their skinny arms to the stars in surrender”) are more plaintive. Alopecia gets a bit more overt (“Faking suicide for applause in the food courts of malls”) but is almost comical or ironic at times. Eskimo Snow is Wolf’s take-no-prisoners plunge into the depths of death and dying. Where WHY?’s previous albums revealed some melancholy undertones, Eskimo Snow is practically dripping in woe from the first lines of the first song (“I wear the customary clothes of my time, like Jesus did, with no reason not to die”) to the last lines of the last (“On the crosses on the chests of dead soldiers in a field, and I’m still here, bearing my watery fruits if fruits at all, and I’m still here, barely understanding what truth that rarely calls”). That’s not to say that the woe is all thanks to the overarching death motif. While WHY?’s first two albums sound rather similar to each other, Eskimo Snow has a decidedly different musical character, the band dropping their pseudo-hip-hop vibe in favor of a more somber sound. But it is melodic and mature, and both the vocals and instrumentals lend themselves nicely to this new feel. Eskimo Snow stands as a more holistic masterpiece than previous albums, its unity and depth of sound illustrating the evolution of WHY? as a band. It seems Wolf had to disconnect himself from his fans to make Eskimo Snow, to delve into the depths of his own soul. Does it work in spite of its somberness? Are we let down? Showcasing WHY?’s range and revealing their self-awareness, Eskimo Snow is brilliant. Their album just as much an exploration of life as it is death, the balance WHY? has found between angst and refinement brings this collection of songs into harmony. Grade: ABest tracks: Even the Good Wood Gone Into the Shadows of My Embrace Berkeley by Hearseback
-Rose Cohn 27
THE REPORT MONSTERS OF FOLK MONSTERS OF FOLK Monsters of Folk sets up an exciting premise — Jim James (My Morning Jacket), M. Ward, Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes drummer and Saddle Creek producer) came together, Traveling Wilburys-style, in fits and bursts over a 5-year period after first touring together in 2004. While their eponymous debut album certainly doesn’t defy any of their respective methodologies, it does generate enjoyable results. The atmosphere is egalitarian rather than narcissistic; in fact, the mathematical division of lead vocals is almost comical in its precision, each of the three vocalists spending almost exactly equal time in the spotlight. There is, however, a laid-back, organic quality that keeps the record from becoming too formulaic. “One of our only rules was that we would only be the four of us playing everything. So that was kind of the one rule, if there was a rule,” said Oberst in a recent interview. Particularly on tracks like “Baby Boomer” and “Whole Lotta Losin”, there’s a pleasant “hanging out in the barn laying down jams and drinking PBR” vibe—nothing too striking, just fun, laid-back music made by friends. Ultimately, Monsters of Folk is just that. And it works, especially
when these friends happen to be some of the most influential musicians of the decade. That being said, the album is certainly not without its flaws. Proper flow is sacrificed, ostensibly for the purpose of group cohesion. Even though (or, perhaps, because) the communal vibes are so palpable, the result is a loose and rambling record. The album peaks early (as in first track early) with “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)”, which provides a nice abstract thematic focus: “If your love’s still around, why do we suffer?” asks the affecting chorus, harmonizing over a rippling harp and a rather unexpected trip-hop beat. The track strikes a meticulous balance between poignant and playful that could be the aim of the record as a whole, though it is never again crystallized in such a way. Consequently, “Dear God” sets a high musical precedent that gets a little lost as the album ambles on for 14 more countrified tracks, setting us up for a bit of a letdown. The particular style of each artist emerges immediately and continues to build as the record plays on. Oberst, as usual, comes across as overwrought and slightly exasperating, though he’s clearly trying to fit in here. M. Ward on the other hand comes off a bit lazy, adhering to his typically simplistic-butlikeable folk style. He hits his stride, however, in the gorgeous “Slow Down Jo”, a soothing lullaby that almost sounds like Brightblack Morning Light.
Mogis holds it down with smooth production and a winning guitar solo or two, smartly allowing the album to develop with its own natural progression. In the end, despite his egalitarian intentions, this album has Jim James, who seems to be channeling a recent George Harrison fixation, written all over it. Regardless, everything he’s been doing lately has been infused with a sense of fearless experimentation, and, for his part, this album is no exception. He glides humbly from the upbeat pop beats of “Losin’ Your Head” to the mournful seep of “His Master’s Voice,” and often saves his cohorts from themselves by layering his characteristic swooning falsetto under their ramblings. Grade: B+
Top Tracks: Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F), Slow Down Jo, Whole Lotta Losin’ - Hilary Cadigan
The Mountain Goats The Life of the World to Come
John Darnielle, for years the only official Mountain Goat, has always been kind of a weird dude. Despite achieving a level of relative success that one would assume would allow him to do so, he refused to record in a studio, cultivating, for better or worse, something of a unique Mountain Goats aesthetic in his sometimes painfully lo-fi boom-box recordings. But this was The Mountain Goats’ strange appeal for quite some time; his songs underdeveloped, his character sketches rougher than rough, his output beyond prolific, and his ubiquitous song cycles thematically cohesive but sonically disparate, Darnielle had the quirkiest little non-band of the ‘90s and early 2000s. Then, with the release of 2002’s Tallahassee, The Mountain Goats became a band. There were drums and a bass guitar, and Darnielle’s lyrics were suddenly decipherable without a lyric sheet and an anthology of ancient literature. Many objected, but more celebrated. Pitchfork, the ultimate measure of indie cred these days, included Tallahassee and The Sunset Tree in their top 200 albums of the 2000s. The Life of the World to Come,
a song series in the same mold as the “Going to…” and Alpha couple suites, marks another shift in The Mountain Goats’ sonic sensibilities. Darnielle derived each song from a specific bible verse (and titled them accordingly), but the bible he was reading apparently wasn’t Gideon’s. The man described in “Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace” shoots heroin as the world ends; the protagonist of “1 Samuel 15:23” sells self-help tapes to the homeless; the speaker in “Hebrews 11:40” dreams of revenge from a dungeon. But it isn’t the lyrical content that seems off— it’s the music. Where’s the desperation, the urgency, the anxiety? The Goats haven’t recorded anything to rival “No Children” or “The Mess Inside” since their early full band days, but there’s nothing here that even hints at the anguish of lost love and co-dependence at those songs’ cores. There are some pretty moments, yes, and many will call them great. But, for a certain core of fans, there’s still something missing. John Darnielle isn’t a religious man. He’s a self-described non-believer who goes to church occasionally because he likes “feeling that feeling of faith community.” Writing songs loosely inspired by bible verses is clever, certainly, and it fits the spirit the band has always cultivated. But that’s really all that The Life of the World to Come has to offer, and, with only a few exceptions, there’s nothing here to stand with the rest of The Mountain Goats’ upper-level catalogue. Grade: C+ Top Tracks: Genesis 30:3, 1 John 4:16, Ezekiel 7 ,Permanent Efficacy of Grace -James Hicks
Built to Spill There Is No Enemy
Like other 90’s alternative rock stalwarts Pavement and Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill’s longevity has bridged the gap of first generation alternative rockers such as The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. with contemporary indie-rock mainstays like Death Cab for Cutie. These seasoned indie-rock veterans have withstood the test of time with the release of their most recent studio
album, There Is No Enemy. And, once again, the Boise natives have produced a solid, blue-collar album in the same mold as their previous efforts. “Aisle 13” opens There Is No Enemy with Built to Spill’s characteristic aggressive, energetic guitar riffs, accompanied by lead singer Doug Martsch’s insightful musings delivered in his distinctive slight whine. The album treads forward with “Hindsight,” full of doubtful lyrics contrasting nicely with an upbeat, steel guitar-driven groove. Throughout “Hindsight,” Martsch continuously reflects on the downside of looking back on life, commenting, “They don’t want to think about the other side/is that grass just greener ‘cause it’s fake.” As the album progresses, Built to Spill’s reveal their real strength in their steadiness, offering a complete work of high quality. Mid-album highlights include the energetic, driving “Good Ol’ Boredom,” a blistering ode to a deceased friend in “Pat,” and “Done”— which mirrors the track “The Wait” from their 2006 album, You In Reverse. As There Is No Enemy nears its end, it reaches one of its finest moments with “Things Fall Apart,” an earnest confession of self-doubt and warning. This dark, melancholy ballad warily cautions those from coming too close, Martsch suggesting, “If no one thinks of no one/ then no one believes in no one/and no one fucks with no one/when no one’s afraid of no one.” As the track floats along, it becomes increasingly reminiscent of another You In Reverse song, “Saturday.” Built to Spill has created a reputation for themselves over the years for producing consistently respectable albums, and There Is No Enemy is no exception. Yet, despite its consistency, it falls short of the band’s finest moments from their earlier career, refusing to stray too far from the similarly pedestrian You In Reverse. Where There Is No Enemy stands, however, comes down to one question: is Built to Spill resting on their laurels, or are these seasoned veterans simply feeling comfortable in their own shoes? Your enjoyment of There Is No Enemy almost certainly depends on how you answer this question. Grade: B Top 3 Tracks: Hindsight, Pat, Things Fall Apart
THE REPORT KINGS OF CONVENIENCE
DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE
Teetering on a fine line between calming and boring, Kings of Convenience’s newest release is less impressive than 2004’s Riot On An Empty Street might suggest it could be. Though nothing stands out as especially objectionable, finding anything that stands out over these fourteen tracks is a formidable task indeed. Throughout the album, light percussion backs up guitar melodies that vary only slightly in tempo from song to song. The occasional appearance of and additional stringed instrument or two is the album’s largest redeeming quality. The melodies become intricate throughout the course of the album, but the minimal variation and layering of instruments along with a limited vocal range create an overly simplistic sound. If the songs could stand alone, this simplicity might not be a fault, but the album’s overall dull vibe possessed by the album as a whole certainly is one. Though Declaration of Dependence moves slowly, the Norwegian duo prove that they know how to play their instruments and create pretty and clean sounds void of sloppiness or confusion. The vocals are reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, with a tone similar to that heard in the more melancholy ballads of Red House Painters. The low voice is so soft that it is hard to associate it with something as authoritative as a declaration, even a declaration as needy as one for dependence, as the title suggests. The even tone is far from a cry and seems to lack emotion throughout the album. The dual vocals found in a handful of the songs prove something of a saving grace, but it’s just not enough. Kings of Convenience didn’t really do anything wrong; the harmony’s are still pretty, and the songs are still solid. But solid is as far as it goes. They just didn’t do anything interesting enough to form a great album. Grade BTop 3 Tracks: Boat Behind, Power of Not Knowing, Second to Numb
-Chelsea Douglas 29
FREQUENCY has a Sweet Sweet Blog
http://wmrefrequency.wordpress.com/ Music Festival’s Continued... APW
The gorgeously mind-bending, stomachturningly bizarre visuals on the screens were epic, and the music was real and true and the fans were doing their thing in ways you’ve seen no fans do their thing before. It’s kind of inexplicable, and I wouldn’t believe me if I hadn’t witnessed it either, but there was just something about it, man. Ultimately, despite the music and good times, there was a frustrating disconnect between what the festival seemed to stand for and its reality. There was the annoying multi-vehicle trek to get there each day, the Azkaban-worthy pat-down crew at the entrance gates, the cage-like beer tent where attempting to go in through the out door brought down the full wrath of Jersey bureaucracy. These things didn’t ruin the overall experience, but they kept it from reaching that utopian state of wholeness that the best festivals seem to create. I enjoyed All Points West, but, at $239.00 for a three-day pass plus $15 a day for the ferry, I wouldn’t pay to go again. - Hilary Cadigan
Besides his haunting baritone voice and somber lyrics, his complete immersion in his music became contagious, and the crowd felt his conveyance of sadness, loneliness, and the like. Blitzen Trapper kicked off Sunday, jamming with a slew of more powerful, Americana-based rock songs. Halfway through the set, the band played their hit “Furr”, which brought the hipster-filled crowd together for a singalong of sorts. The Walkmen’s warm, antiquated sound provided the crowd with one of the more impressive acts of the festival. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser led the band with his Dylanesque voice as the showcased some of their best songs, including the blistering, frantic “The Rat” and the meandering, 30
dynamic “In the New Year.” Supported by roughly a half-dozen horn players, which complemented their rustic feel nicely on songs such as the lonesome ballad “Red Moon,” the group provided one of the best acts of Sunday night. - Matt Blau
If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Barcelona, next year’s Primavera Sound has got you covered. Still relatively unknown, Primavera Sound is a 3-½ day music festival that offers an eclectic collection of performances from all over the indie spectrum. Unlike larger festivals, where it’s easy to feel lost and insignificant amongst thousands of screaming fans, the lack of international notoriety enables the concerts at Primavera to take on more personal and intimate tones. Night after night, bands of varying fame and notoriety bedazzled their fans with a wide range of sounds. Some of my favorite bands, including Phoenix, Andrew Bird, Bloc Party, Sonic Youth, and Deerhunter. In a nod to European shoegazers, Primavera even offered two opportunities to see a reunited My Bloody Valentine perform. But artists I’d never heard before gave some of my favorite performances of the weekend. My favorite was that of a one-man band by the name of Square Pusher. I stood in awe as an overweight thirty-year-old man with a ponytail made quick use of a synthesizer, keyboard, DJ mixers, and a bass guitar on stage; his compilations soon had the entire crowd moving and dancing as one, lost in a dizzying swirl of swinging limbs and gyrating hips. One of the best aspects of this festival was its offer to bigger acts (like Bloc Party) and smallest acts (like Shellac) alike the same opportunities to play to huge festival crowds. No small name bands were neglected and sent to small stages in some remote location, and the venues were large enough for everyone to enjoy an act if they so wished. Gone was the presence of an overbearing
music industry forcing radio-hit singles down your throat. Instead, we could just sit back, relax, and enjoy the music. -Nick Graham
TOP 20 Continued...
18. In Rainbows- Radiohead In Rainbows celebrates everything that is Radiohead. Motifs from as far back as OK Computer and Kid A resurface to form an album as epic as it is lush. Disc Two, the oft-forgotten latter half of In Rainbows, continues to astound, Thom York’s piano flourishes beautifully capping off an album that none could have argued was incomplete without them. 19. Alive 2007-Daft Punk For those who have experienced Daft Punk in concert, any production of their live performance is hard to exaggerate. Two men in spacesuits mixing turntables atop a 30-ft. pyramid that pulsates seizure-inducing lights for three hours: is this a concert or the final level in Halo? Certainly, the recording of their production can’t do the performance justice, but listeners still benefit from the sheer minute-by-minute remixing of Daft Punk’s greatest hits. Nearly surreal, Alive 2007 blurs the line between visceral and machine, organic and mechanical. After a few repeats, listeners will begin to wonder if Daft Punk are even men at all or super-machines programmed to create the best digitized music that human ears can pick up. -Wyatt Wilson 20. Neon Bible–The Arcade Fire The tracks that Arcade Fire put on Neon Bible thunder loudly—perhaps even more than Funeral’s do—but somehow it’s not as ra-ra inspiring. In fact, it sounds more like it was recorded in a haunted megachurch. Some people may discount Neon Bible because it lacks a “Wake Up”-like anthem that rouses the indie community, but Neon Bible isn’t Funeral. And it doesn’t have to be. Neon Bible succeeds on its own merits, the band dwelling in a particular, perhaps darker, phase of human existence.
WMRE's Music and Culture magazine, issue 24!