SXSW PIONEER ABE VIGODA
SMITH WESTERNS GIRL TALK WARSEID
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TABLE OF TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTENTS
F E ATU R E S
8.10 Smith Westerns 11 Oberhofer 12.13 Pioneer 14.15 Abe Vigoda 16.17 Warseid 18.19 Point-Counter-Point:
Should Weezer Stay Together? 20.21 Meet Your Local Record Store Owner 22.23 SXSW 24 Snoop Dog 25 A Eulogy for The White Stripes 26.27 Face Reviews
SHOW R E V I E WS
30 The Decemberists 31 Jeff Tweedy 32 James Vincent McMorrow 33 Tiesto 34.35 Girl Talk 36.37 Middle Brother 38.39 Tapes n Tapes 40.41 Locksley 42 In Tall Buildings
43 Say Hi
A L BUM R E V I E WS
46 James Black and O.F.W.G.K.T.A. 47 Cut Copy 48 Lumerians and Bright Eyes 49 Moses and David Bowie 50 Radiohead and Blaqstarr 51 Icarus Himself and Starfucker 52 Willie Wright and Blueprint 53 Cage the Elephant and Minks 54 Ages and Ages and Iron & Wine 55 The Strokes and Adele
EDITOR’S NOTE EDITOR’S NOTE
Hi Everyone, In this issue of Emmie we’re all about trying new things. New means never done before, and never having to say you’re sorry, or something like that. With said token of wisdom given to me by myself, I’ve led my Emmie crew this past semester with a central goal- let’s get more creative than ever, and yeah, definitely try new things. We’ve brought back the Emmie tradition of displaying student artwork, with three full spreads denoting each section, and have upped the ante with features that defy standard music reviews. There’s face reviews that visually depict reviewer reactions, eulogies to appease band break-up heartache, local storeowner profiles to connect faces to music havens, and a pointcounter-point debating Weezer’s place in music. With a staff full of newbies and an issue packed with innovative content, Emmie is tyring new things like it’s our job, which is kind of is. Thanks for picking up a copy and be sure to check out emmiemagazine.com for even more content and tune into WSUM 97.1FM on Sundays at 4pm for Emmie Radio Hour! Bis,
Joyce Edwards Editor-in-Chief
EMMIE STAFF EMMIE STAFF
Editor-in-Chief: Joyce Edwards
Promotions: Rachel Grosz
Features Editor: Liza Burkin
Assistant Editor-in-Chief & Radio Editor: Meher Ahmad
Layout Editor: Julie Jarzemsky
Shadow Chancellor: Josiah Savary
Copy Editing Staff: Alex Rezazadeh Tyler Fassnacht
Features Editor & Copy Editor: Alex Grossman
Album Review Editors:
Staff: Andy Cedzo Alex Rezazadeh Alex Ross Ben Justman Chris Madsen Emily Genco Ibby Balkhy Kaitlyn Schnell Katherine Kehoe Katie Witham Laura Stingl Livi Magnanini Lucio Reyes Renee Kramer Rusty Lalkaka Ryan Lehrman Madison Rademacher Molly Trerotola Olivia Jakiel Sam Eichner Sara Pierce Sean Mannion Tyler Fassnacht Zach Cherny
Layout Staff: Andy Cedzo Chris Madsen Emily Genco Kaitlyn SChnell Livi Magnanini Madison Rademacher Molly Trerotola
“Eternal Return” by Andrew Salyer
Fresh off the first leg of their headlining tour, Smith Westerns had a couple weeks to relax before heading over to the UK. Emmie was able to catch up with lead singer Cullen Omori to talk about their sophomore LP, ìDye it Blonde,î their burgeoning popularity and the benefits from being a Chicago band. Emmie: You guys just back from SXSW, right? Cullen Omori: Yeah, like two days ago E: How was that? CO: It was fine, I mean, it was SXSW. I mean, I don’t know, it’s like playing regular shows. It’s not really a festival festival… So it was fine. E: You guys played there last year? CO: Yeah E: Was it different this time around with your second album coming out? CO: I mean, yeah, I think that, you know last year anybody who heard anything about us or found out about us there was really low-key. We were kind of more of a stumble-upon band. This year when we were playing, I think every show we were playing we either headlined or we were like opening for like TV on the Radio, or Duran Duran or Big Boi or something (laughs). E: That’s awesome. CO: Yeah, so you know, it was a lot different. I guess it was kind of… I guess like if you went to Pitchfork last year. It was pretty fun. E: So if SXSW is different going a second time around, is this tour in general different from when you guys were touring for your first album? CO: Yeah… for the first record we were touring by ourselves and
it was mostly support stuff, but when we did do a couple headline shows, it was usually not very good; the turnouts were not very good, like it wasn’t like people didn’t like the shows, but we weren’t playing for sold out rooms like we played on the last tour we headlined on every night and so, yeah, it’s been totally different in every aspect since the new record came out. E: As in better you think? CO: Yeah, no I mean, of course it’s better. E: I was there at your show in Madison, which sold out, so congratulations on that one. CO: Yeah thanks. E: On stage you guys played great, but you looked exhausted.
ìwe definitely arenít trying to bring anything back, we are trying to make something new.î
CO: Well I don’t know, I mean, I enjoyed the show; I think it was a good show. But, I mean, it was hot in there. Um… I mean, I don’t know, I think that’s a common thing that people always say to us, like we look like we’re tired on stage or something. I mean, I’m enjoying playing music, but I can’t be like David Lee Roth playing your favorite song (laughs). But other than that, I mean, we try to make our shows entertaining. E: Yeah, I guess what I’m trying to get at is if with headlining all
it’s really cool that like Wilco helped confirm our place in the Chicago music scene. E: Yeah, like when you think of Chicago bands, Wilco is usually one of the ones you first think of. CO: I mean, yeah, exactly. E:I’ve been reading a lot youaintnopicasso.com the shows and stuff, is if it’s more tiring about the attouring that way and having to do more tention you guys interviews like this? have been getting for the new album and CO: Well, it’s not more tiring, I think it’s a it seems like a lot of people are focusing little more, um… I mean you just have to understand that there are people there to see you and pay money and that there’s no one going on after you and you’re the headlining band and I think we are just starting getting over, by this last tour, the mentality of you know… like I feel like we are a really good opener, like we know how to get our stuff off the stage really quick (laughs), and play a short set and stuff like that. But it’s different when you’re headlining and the audience is really your audience. There’s a lot of different interactions and stuff that you can do with the audience that’s useful as an on the change of recording aesthetics, like opener because it’s not your crowd, that we changing from started using to keep them together now. “Lo-Fi.” What do you think of that? E: Speaking of opening, how did you CO: Um, I mean, I don’t know. I think that it guys land the gig opening for Wilco? shouldn’t really matter; if the songs are there CO: Um, I don’t know, I think our agent the songs are there regardless. I think that had like met them beforehand or, I don’t know, I don’t know exactly how it happened. I just remember being… like it was before we left on tour and there was an email in our inbox that was like “Oh you guys, Wilco wants you to open for them,” I don’t know if it was like they personally wanted us to open for them, but someone there had at least listened to one of our songs and liked it. Yeah, it’s really cool, because like, coming from Chicago, it’s more important. I mean, of course it’s important, but like it’s a little more meaningful because I feel like in Chicago there’s been this thing, like almost a backlash of a mixture between people who supported us for years and other people being really unsupportive… so
people weren’t, on the first record, weren’t looking for all the noise, they were looking for the songs, you know, the melodies and stuff. So as long as those things are there… I mean, I don’t know. What do I think about it? I don’t really care. Like I feel like there are a few people annoyed with our new sound, but then I just think of all the people who have been converted to fans because of our sound now, so like, yeah. E: But are you guys getting annoyed with all the people asking, “Why the change?” CO: I mean, it’s simply because we had more money (laughs). What happened with our first record, it was absolutely chaotic having to work everything out, without having enough money, so really it was just a money thing. But we always kind of wanted to make an album like that… it worked out well. I mean, we went to a studio and like with our first album, we weren’t as experienced playing our instruments, which totally changed every year we toured and stuff. E: When you guys started the Smith Westerns, where did you think you guys were going to end up as a band? CO: I think, like in the beginning and stuff, it was just to play shows and open up for bands that we liked and then after that it was to play out of Chicago and then get a label and then sell some records and then to be able to headline shows. I mean, I think we were going on a very, like, basic stepup level thing… E: So what’s the next step for the band? CO: Um… I don’t know… I couldn’t tell you. E: When you guys get summed up online
ìI think that people werenít, on the first record, werenít looking for all the noise, they were looking for the songsî
FEATURES and in publications, people often say like the “young glam kids.” Did you guys have that idea of being almost like glamrock resurgence? CO: No, not really. I think that like that thing is dead. Like the reason it died was because glam was a gimmick, like the New York Dolls and like Ziggy Stardust (laughs), like they were all really gimmicky. Um, I mean, we wanted to be like a guitar band, like um not trying to revive glam rock. Like, I think the first record was definitely really glam-y, but I think the second record has a lot more classic rock influences, you know. I think we see T. Rex and David Bowie or you know Gary Glitter or any of those kinds of glam bands more in the same realm of you know, Led Zeppelin or, um, Lynyrd Skynyrd, you know, Plastic Yoko or Ono Band or whatever. You know, kind of like that. For us we definitely aren’t trying to bring anything back, we are trying to make something new and I think for us it was like trying to make something that was “Smith Westerns,” and something that our favorite bands from the 70’s and onward would like… because the record is so heavily rooted in guitar, you know, people know what guitars are supposed to sound like and so they draw comparisons immediately, but for us it’s definitely trying to make our own
really matter because they weren’t going to be giving us any drink tickets because the headliner would only draw like 40 people on a Thursday night (laughs), so we were always able to play and it was good because it kind of gave us an idea of how we would play a song and see like how [the crowd’s] reaction was to that, like what
ìI canít be like David Lee Roth playing your favorite songî
to keep and what we’d need to take back to the drawing board and put in something else and try and play it… Also I think being able to have a show to look forward to made us practice harder. Like there’s a reason to be practicing and a reason to be playing together and you wouldn’t necessarily even be as hardworking if there wasn’t, but yeah. E: So do you have advice for other young musicians who are trying to play and start a band and be taken seriously? CO: I don’t know, I mean I think that like it’s one of those things that it either takes a really long time, or no time to get popular and to be taken seriously as a musician… I mean like, I think the best way for people to be taken seriously… like rWight now bephoto: sandy kim cause of the internet it thing, but while keeping in mind our favorite musicians. makes it really easy for like anyone to put up music and like if it’s E: One of the first things people realize about the Smith cool, some cheap label will put out anything. Like that was one of Westerns is that all you guys are relatively young in terms of a the really cool things, like we had a lot of 7”s put out with our one touring band who releases records and sells out venues. Start- label [HoZac Records] who put out our first record and our first 7” ing out, did you guys face a lot of problems with being a young with like “Be My Girl” on it… so it’s just finding someone because band? there are so many labels and places you can find on the internet. CO: Not really. I mean, I think it’s a weird question because Like for putting stuff out in Europe we got in touch with Domino’s we, you know, we weren’t like a high school band. We weren’t A&R and then Domino became its own label so now we’re in this like playing high school talent shows and shit, we were kind of Domino weird world in the UK and the rest of the world… Everyoperating in our own little sphere, you know, in our basement… thing is interconnected so you just need to make it into the stream It was really easy actually, playing in Chicago, they aren’t like… and eventually you’ll get somewhere. I mean they’ll card you. Like when we were playing shows in the tyler FASSNACHT beginning we would get carded so we couldn’t drink, but it didn’t
Oberhofer A Man with Secret Talons
fter Oberhofer opened for Tapes N’ Tapes at the High Noon Saloon, I stopped to chat with frontman, Brad Oberhofer. Brad is a young gentleman with a weird sense of humor- thank God for my sake- that has been solidifying his own place in music this past year. We chatted for a bit about really heavy stuff (not) until we were graced by that guy. You know, the man who is really drunk and shouts out incoherently during the entire set; this iteration had a White Russian held above his head throughout. Upon seeing Brad and me talking, said man asked if we “ya know, do it.” With finesse, Brad calmly explained that I was in fact his mother (I’m younger by a few months...)and that we have an incestuous familial bond. And so the interview goes... Emmie: First of all, if you had to choose, would you pick meat socks or cheese socks and of what variety? Brad: Brie ankle socks Good Answer. Humor me for one more Emmie favorite if you will. If you could eat cereal with anyone dead or alive, what cereal would it be and with whom? Definitely Cookie Crisp with Mozart How do you prounce your album title, o0Oo0Oo? oo! OO! ooh! OOO! What is the first CD that you bought with your own money? I bought the Marshall Mathers LP, yeah. You’re young and based in Brooklyn
right now, but are you still enrolled at New York University? Right now I’m taking time off to tour and play music, but I have junior standing at NYU still. What do you like to do when you’re on tour and not on stage? I love to run around and walk in the cities I travel to. I like to explore; I went around Willy Street today. Do you have any big plans for 2011? For sure. Right now I’m focused on touring for four and a half weeks with Tapes N’ Tapes. I’m planning on writing a ton of news songs too. Other than song writing, do you write for fun? Yeah! I write children’s poems and I have a notebook that I write a thought per page in. I also keep a dream journal. I really like to write creatively. Has anyone ever told you that when you scream in your songs you kind of sound like a mix between Corey Mathews from Boy Meets World and Louis Stevens from Even Stevens? Haha nice! I’m glad you didn’t say Animal Collective, seriously. Haha ok. The band name is your last name. Is there any significance to that or does it have any specific meaning? It’s a solid name.
What’s the origin of the name? I’m from Lithuanian, Norwegian, and Russian heritage, so yeah, that.
(Cue mumbling) Do you have any secret talents? Secret talons? Yes, I have secret talons. That’s my secret talent. Whaaachaw! (Extends fingertips in a burst of talonesque energy) It seems like you’re having a lot of fun. You’re a pretty cool guy involved in a lot of cool things right now, but is there anything in particular that you’re looking forward to? I’m not that cool, I’m just really lucky. I’m going to Rock Island to do an interview covered by Time Magazine tomorrow, so that’s really exciting. Pretty cool.
Go West, youn
Madison folk-rock band Pioneer talks sound
ust back from their cross-country adventure to the Lone Star State, Madison folk band Pioneer sat down to talk about their evolving sound, acoustic jam sessions gone awry and love of tacos. Pioneer has become a celebrated folk fixture on the local scene, appearing alongside artists like New York-based Pearl And The Beard at the alternative music venue Project Lodge. Since they formed last summer, Pioneer has worked to congeal musically, improving their sound and adding to their repertoire. Lead vocalist/guitarist Kenny Monroe and cellist/supporting vocalist Jacqueline Kursel have begun writing music collectively, pairing expressive finger-picked guitar with sonorous cello lines to dial up their folk intensity. “We’re trying to take some of the older stuff we’ve been playing and make it more complicated,” Monroe said. In March, Pioneer hitched up their wagon and drove to Texas to play a Wisconsin showcase (SXWI) outside Rainey Manor during the SXSW music festival in Austin. Local DIY promoters including Wyndham Manning, Rock of
“It was a great honor to be a part of the first annual SXWI. The showcase was a lot of fun.” the Arts and Spencer Wells and Amanda Kievet of Urban Agrarian organized the showcase featuring All Tiny Creatures
and Cedarwell among others. “Urban Agrarian’s our number one fan. We owe so much to them. Spencer’s given us such good videos, because we don’t have recordings. Spencer is awesome at that. Amanda takes photos for us and sets up shows for us. Our first show ever, they set up for us,” Kursel said. During their trip, Pioneer had a run in with a particularly energetic fan, albeit unnaturally so, in Fort Worth, TX. After
photo: John Hanson
playing to an empty room (literally) with Cedarwell for three hours, a couple walked into the bar during Pioneer’s last song. They offered their home as a place to sleep - or so the Madison group thought. “After talking our ears off for nearly an hour about DJ-ing and electronic music, finally, we made it back to their house,” Monroe said. “He set up his turntables and gave us a private DJ show and
d, SXWI experience in Austin and tacos. scratching tutorial is his bedroom at three in the morning. He then insisted on an acoustic ‘jam’ session. We thought he was just a really energetic guy who really wanted to hang out, which may be true, but we later found out that he was also doing coke lines in his bedroom off and on all night. Long story short, we snuck in maybe two hours of sleep, and he didn’t sleep at all.”
successful the showcase could be in years to come,” Monroe said. Pioneer’s musical and personal connections also extend to Michigan, which
En route to play SXWI, Pioneer discovered a love of ice cream thanks in part to their friends and tour mates Erik Neave and Jared Beckman of Sheybogan band Cedarwell. “We toured down with them and had a blast eating Monroe (above) and Kursel (below) perform at The Bassment. ice cream, freestyle rapphotos: Maren Celest ping, screaming at frightened southerners and going for brief jogs around truck stops and/or down the interstate during traffic jams,” Monroe said. “It was really inspiring to be able to watch them play every night and get to know both their music and them as people.” Pioneer hopes to return to play another SXWI showcase at SXSW. “It was a great honor to be a part of the first annual SXWI. The showcase was a lot of fun. We met other great Wisconsin bands we might not have otherwise, like Group of the Altos from Milwaukee. It’s exciting to see so many great artists coming from Wisconsin and to see how much more
may help to explain the more frequent stops by Michigan artists in Madison lately.
“I know a lot of artists [and] friends from Michigan, because I grew up with that music scene. Now that I live in Madison and have gotten better at setting up shows, they are starting to visit. All you really need to set up a show somewhere is one good friend [or] connection, and I think I’ve become that friend for Michigan artists,” Monroe said. When it comes to Pioneer, at least two things are certain: their immense talent and insatiable craving for tacos. Kursel and Monroe debated the various Mexican restaurants in Madison and concluded South Park Street is where it’s at. “I could easily spend my entire paycheck for a month on Mexican food, and that’s saying a lot, because Mexican food is generally pretty cheap,” Kursel said. Pioneer’s energy and talent serve as the axel grease propelling their metaphorical wagon forward. They are currently recording. Fans of the rustic renegades can expect guest instrumentals from Chicago folk band the Photographers whose airy and playful instrumentals transport listens to a winter wonderland. Braiding together the sounds of these two talented ensembles will be the musical equivalent of discovering land beyond the Mississippi. EPIC! emily GENCO
Juan Valasquez and Michael Vidal of Los Angeles’ Abe Vigoda sat down to talk with Emmie after their show this March in Der Rathskeller. Drummer Dane Chadwick and bassist David Reichardt didn’t join because, in the words of Juan, “They wouldn’t say anything anyway.” One half of the band explained their change throughout their like, albums and how Smashing Pumpkins was instrumental in their friendships.
Emmie: A lot of people ask you about how your sound changes from album to album; so what inspires the sound for each album? Juan: I feel like it’s not apparent ever, like I feel like we just start writing stuff and it becomes different... It’d be harder for us to write a song that’d be closer to our other one, just because of like time and influences and stuff like that. So I think it’s just more like, sort of like an organic,(Michael laughs) that sounds cheesy, but. Michael: Our creative process is sort of ambiguous, usually. It’s kind of like, themes with albums sort of present themselves as songs are written, like piece by piece. J: Like I feel like... after a couple songs, sometimes you scrap some, it sort of is more “this is kind of where we’re going with it.” Like we just started writing a new song right before we went on this tour, and it’s like this, Steven Morton... maybe not as big of a leap as this stuff, from Skeleton to this newest one, but it’s still like... different, it kind of opens up a whole ‘nother world to it. E: Does this come about when you’re recording or when do you guys bounce these sounds and ideas? M: We don’t really go to a recording studio until we have a batch of songs ready, because it’s always kind of a process figuring out how we’re going to record, and we always want to have a batch of things ready, so I guess during our sessions, during practice.
photo: dailybeatz.com J: ...It’s been a while since we’ve written stuff. Cuz we recorded the record almost a year ago, now, like we recorded last February, so we haven’t written anything until for a year really, so we started doing this thing right before we left. And even like a whole year’s process of like going on tour, listening to new stuff, bla bla bla, has led us, kind of put us in a new direction. E: Does each band member have sort of a sound personality, where they influence the sound in a specific direction, or does the whole band progress with each album? M: I don’t know.... we always work super collaboratively. It’s always kind of, equal parts coming together. A lot of us listen to a lot of different things, I feel. I don’t know, our drummer is really into like electronic music J: It’s like R&B. M: (laughs) It’s like new generation R&B. It’s kind of like a weird culmination of individual influences. It’s always exciting, when I bring a loose idea to practice to see what comes out, because it’s always dramatically different. And that’s like half the fun of being in a band, I think. E: I feel like there are a lot of genres that get thrown onto your band, that involve a lot of slash marks. Do you normally embrace those? Because each album is like “tropical punk/new age/ lo-fi/....” so when it comes to like, your Myspace page, what are the three slash marks that you go with?
M: (laughs) Right now it just says alternative J: Haha, yeah right now it just says alternative/electronica, that’s like a joke... or like, whatever. I don’t know, I feel like it’s always kind of hard, people always want to categorize things, I mean, it’s fun. M: Writing about music is kind of a hard task, sometimes. And a lot of people think just throw words out there that don’t even necessarily mean anything. E: There are sort of like buzz words that don’t have a lot of meaning behind them. M: Tooootally. J: I would just say that we’re in like... a pop/rock band.... I don’t know, I don’t really know what to say. But if you get someone that’s not as involved in indie music, they would just say... rock! Those genres are for people who are really music nerds like us, which is great. So, I can’t really be offended by it. I just think it’s cool. M: I’m always excited when people even want to write about us. E: How has the recording process changed throughout the albums? M: We used to do it ourselves, or with our friend, really cheaply, like in our friend’s bedroom, and then we went to our friend’s dad’s garage, who had actually a nicer studio for like Skeleton. He had like actual mics and things. And then, with this new record we went to a legitimate studio and spent 2 weeks recording it, which is totally new for us,
but it was a lot of fun and we put a lot of things out there that we were maybe missing before. E: Do you think that is part of the reason this album is more polished in sound, or has it affected the direction you guys are going in? M: I’m way more into singing and vocals after recording the album. Like, it totally exposed me to a whole new dynamic to explore. J: Even live-wise, we had played these songs live already before we recorded them at local shows and stuff, and after recording them, some songs changed or whatever, but after recording we realized how things could sound better if they’re quieter, if there’s space, like that kind of stuff, like being more restrained in a way. To me, I wanted the songs to sound as good live because I think on the record they sound really good. It kind of made it more difficult and more of a challenge to be able to translate those songs live. And still, it’s different, because it’s impossible really to do the same thing, but it’s kind of made it more, I’m more interested in the live sound. Whereas before, it was way more chaotic, we just were turning the amps up as loud as we could and it was fun, and I was able to freak out and jump around and do whatever, but I feel I really want people to hear what we’re doing. E: What kind of music did you guys listen to in high school? What band was really formative? J: The Smashing Pumpkins was like, that’s how I met our bass player in junior high. He had Smashing Pumpkins written on his backpack in like, white out, and I was like, oh my god that’s my favorite band, so we became really good friends... M: (whispers) He knows... (both laugh) J: And I became friends with Michael because I saw him the first day of school in high school, and we was wearing a Smashing Pumpkins shirt, like a really hard to find one, like on the internet kind of thing. I was like, uhhhh, kay this guy is cool, slash, he’s like, in my shit, like this is stuff I’m obsessed with. I think the first like really weird band we got into was Xiu Xiu. Like, seriously.
Like that was the first time we were like, this is crazyyy. Like I even like emailed him and he emailed me back and we went to go see him play, and sometimes it was just him playing by himself. This was like, wayyy early on. That was the first thing that I listened to that I was like, this is actually really challenging and really scary and cool. And really new sounding.
and we already had become friends with them. And it was cool because all of us were like geeky like alternative, and they were like, in high school, they were like, punk. Like full on street punk. And to me, I didn’t know that, I didn’t have friends like that. That was, for me, my first introduction to punk, like what was cool in punk. So that’s kind of how they were influential. M: Sort of, being unapologetic (laughs.) E: So just super Mika Miko. (Both laugh) J: And yeah just like fun. To this day we’re all really good friends. And they were like our first friends that introduced us to that whole Smell thing and made us feel comfortable, which is really cool. E: I don’t know if you can tell, but I have a really big girl crush on Mika Miko. J: Oh yeah, they’re great. Actually, Jenna, one of the singers, I was her ring bearer at her wedding. So it’s kind of like, like that’s how deep it goes. They’re such fucking cool people, they’re great.
“He had Smashing Pumpkins written on his backpack in like, white out, and I was like, oh my god that’s my favorite band, so we became really good friends.” E: You guys played at The Smell pretty early on. How was that? J: Yeah, surprisingly enough, in 2004. M: It was really inspiring to go to a place and see things growing up in the suburbs
you would never see before... It really opened doors, like mentally, and the idea of what music could be totally changed. E: How did the other bands at The Smell, like Mika Miko, influence your sound or your sets? M: Maybe not so much musically, but as far as ideology... The fact that they were doing tours. We were like, we should do tours! Like, we should totally go out and play. J: We did our first out-of-southernCalifornia shows with them. And it was really fun, they had already done a tour before that, like oh my god like so cool,
E: Did you guys get a good fan base from The Smell? It seems like there are a lot more kids there, as opposed to over-18 venues. J: Yeah... I think, the only reason, really, we would never be doing tours or doing this as a living or whatever, if it wasn’t for... I did quotes around “the living” okay, haha, we wouldn’t be able to do that without The Smell and kids liking us locally and giving us support and making us feel like this is something we could actually do. photo: dedica.la E: Last question, what is your favorite after school snack? M: I always liked, like, Hot Pockets. J: (laughs) Oh, my mom would always get like Bagel Bites sometimes. Ice cream? I was kind of a chubby kid, haha. meher AHMAD
Madison s Black Folk Metal band
Joe Meland (Keys/Accordion/Vocals) Kyle Cushman (Bass) Kellan Hilscher (Drums) Logan Smith (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar)
Emmie: What are the origins of Warseid. How did you guys form? Logan: It started out with me wanting to do a folk metal side project, so I started putting things together on my own under the name Varangian Guard and then I decided that I really wanted some other people to write the music with, so I got Kyle and Kellan on board with me… and like I was really only guitar at that point, I didn’t even have any vocals written… but then we decided to incorporate more… so I ended up doing that. Then we wanted more so we got Brandon (no longer in Warseid) on lead guitar and eventually we ended up with Joe… Joe: Actually, I met Brandon through snowboard team… he saw me wearing a Dimmu Borgir shirt, so we immediately became friends… Then I went over to his house and you (points at Kellan) came over. Now, Kellan sometimes isn’t the greatest around new people, so he just looked me straight in the face and said “who the fuck is this?” (Laughs) Logan: Then when Joe joined up we thought it was significant enough to change the name and we called it Warseid. E: So a couple of you guys are still in high school? Kyle, Kellan, and Logan simultaneously: Just Joe. E: So how old are the rest of you?
Logan: I just turned 19. Kellan: I’m 20, turning 21 in May. Kyle: I’ve been 20 for just about two weeks now. E: Ok, so this is a relatively young band.
Joe: Yeah, I’m 17…(everyone laughs) E: Do you guys find it hard as a young band to get shows and to just get out there? Logan: Yeah, a lot of the time when we try and contact people, they don’t take us seriously once they find out how young we are. Joe: I think on a local level though, we’ve
"Get rich and famous... unlimited girls”
gained a bunch of contacts like Arabis and Lords of the Trident (Madison metal bands) and just by getting the contacts we have more credibility I guess. It’s like “We’re young, but these guys like us!” Logan: Also I feel like it’s a lot different when people see us live rather than just
online… E: You were mentioning some other Madison metal bands. What do you guys think about the Madison metal scene, or Wisconsin in general? Kyle: Well it’s more than it was a couple of years ago and it’s still growing in ways I like, but it’s still not really big enough for Madison bands to really stay in Madison. A lot of times we need to travel around to play good shows and to get a good crowd. But Madison is definitely growing in the metal scene and it’s a great development. Logan: I’d say we probably have played as many show outside of Madison as in Madison, so it would be nice to see even more metal bands spring up here… Joe: Yeah, but there is also a growing deathcore scene that I’m just… not my style. Logan: Yeah, I don’t have a problem with deathcore starting up, but I’d like to see more black metal. Kyle: I remember 2004-2005 was when the hardcore scene grew in Madison, but they all moved to Milwaukee… then more bands started popping up playing deathcore, which isn’t really the same scene as extreme metal like black metal, death metal, anything like that. And for us especially because we are folk metal which is more of a European style… it’s kind of a double-edged sword because it’s good for us in the fact that people are like “folk metal? I’ve never heard of that genre, I’m going to go listen to it,” but on the other hand… no one’s ever heard of it. Logan: Yeah, I feel like a lot of people get turned off by the word “folk” being right next to “metal.” They are like “wait, am I
going to go listen to country or something?” Kyle: With like a banjo. (Laughs) Kellan: I mean, if you are going to compare the elements to more familiar types of metal, like symphonic metal and black metal, it has a lot of black metal elements in it, I find it easier for people to know what it is. Like they might have a misconception about it, but at least they’ll know where you’re coming from. E: I feel like that’s one of the biggest things about metal: the subgenres. Logan: There are always those YouTube debates, which I just laugh at. It’s like “Amon Amarth is not Viking metal!” “It’s mellow death metal!” “No, it is Viking metal!” Joe: It’s technical Nintendo-hardcore! (Laughs) E: What do you guys think about that? Like how it has developed into so many subgenres. Joe: I mean, being a metal head myself and knowing metal heads, we all want to categorize things to know exactly what we are going to get into or if you want to look for a certain style of band because metal is so varied. But I think to a certain extent it’s gotten to the point where bands almost have their own subgenres… Logan: Everyone wants their own genre. Joe: I mean, it’s good to a point… Kyle: I think once you get into tertiary adjectives (laughs), that’s when it starts getting over the top. E: Speaking of types of music… Who are your guys’ idols? Like what brought you to metal? Kyle: Oh you are going to get a long list. Joe: Linkin Park (everyone laughs). Not going to lie. Kellan: I mean if we are talking about first “metal” bands we listened to, mine was Slipknot… Joe: To be completely honest, I don’t really listen to that much folk metal… I really like mathcore. My favorite band is Converge though. Emmie: Yeah, I saw them open for Dethklok and Mastodon in Milwaukee. Joe: I was there! Logan: What really gets to me though are the metal purists… like I listen to a lot of folk acoustic music… I just feel like I need to get inspiration from a lot of dif-
ferent places. I need to spread out. Joe: Yeah, recently I’ve been getting into a lot of modern classical music… it’s actually not that too far removed from metal. Kyle: Like I mostly listen to metal… but I also like Vivaldi and Bach. Logan: I really got started with melodic stuff like Iron Maiden. E: In terms of music, metal is a pretty difficult genre to play. How do you guys go about writing a song? Kellan: Computers help. Kyle: Well usually one of us will start out with a cool melody and send it out to everyone else… Logan: Yeah, we’ve got a system going… we aren’t always together for the process. Kyle: We do this because we’re all in college. [Kellan] goes to Platteville, while Logan and I go to MATC and then [Joe] is still in high school… we really can only get together on the weekends… when we are all in school, this way is a lot more productive, a lot more efficient. Emmie: What do you guys see as the future for Warseid? Joe: Get rich and famous… unlimited girls. Logan: Like, a really big house. Kellan: Yeah, we are not above compromising our music for financial gain… but honestly, none of that is true (laughs). The most important thing in my mind is just to keep making music… Kyle: And if people enjoy it, all the better… I mean, we have met a lot of big touring bands and ultimately that’s what we want to do. Logan: Yeah, just to play more shows. Kellan: But if the crowd sucks, or there is no crowd… which has happened. Joe: Yeah, we played at the Dry Bean with Lords of the Trident and our crowd was… Lords of the Trident… Let’s just forget the early days.
Kyle: That was like last summer (laughs). Logan: But when we opened for Epica, that was so fun both times. Kyle: Yeah, we played with Epica twice at the Rave [in Milwaukee], and they were like the best shows we ever played… the response was just really good. For both shows we played to over 100 people and we made a fair amount of money for those shows, so it was worth it. Logan: It would be worth it if we lost money. Kyle: Well we more than broke even… we were webcasted. E: Well, a lot of people are kind of turned off by metal, because of how abrasive and aggressive it is… Kellan: Yeah, it’s awful music (laughs). E: Exactly! But seriously, what is it about metal that drives you guys? Joe: Well I really like dark sounds, fast sounds, and epic sounds… metal combines it all! Logan: For me… I really like all the diversity… like when you say metal, it is so broad. Joe: Another thing I really like is the brotherhood, like I’ll just go to a show and all of a sudden I’m talking to the guy next to me like he’s an old friend.
Kyle: It’s just such a community… it’s just one giant family Kellan: I agree with all that. Plus I just like music that sounds evil. tyler FASSNACHT photos: Warseid
Point eezer Should Stay Together W
eezer should stay together as a group for three main reasons; The Blue Album, Pinkerton, and so that Rivers Cuomo does not go solo. The Blue Album is undeniably a standard in every music collection. From being fresh out of batteries in “My Name is Jonas,” to unraveling a knit sweater and becoming naked in “The Sweater Song,” Weezer knows exactly how I feel when “Somebody’s Heine’ is crowding my
the album is the tale of finding his own ‘pinkerton,’ a reference to the character B.F. Pinkerton in the Japanese-influenced opera, Madame Butterfly by Puccini. Whatever self-indulgent reason for the album aside, my favorite Weezer song, “El Scorcho” is off of Pinkerton, warranting my want to continue to see the song performed live.
icebox.” So maybe Weezer should have stopped making color-named albums after Blue (let’s not even talk about Red…) but after popping Blue back into the boom box, such things are easy to forget while howling along with “Say It Ain’t So.” The second reason that Weezer should not break up is much like the first, but for chronological reasons comes second. Weezer’s sophomore album, Pinkerton, is less surfer-pop and more sensual while still maintaining a standard pop cheekiness. Cuomo has been quoted saying that
will be unleashed onto the masses. Harvard educated, pretentious and with over 800 tracks already under his belt (including a massive collection of solo demos), it wouldn’t be long until we are all at the mercy of experimental pop songs with sitaar and that awful ratchet instrument from fifth grade music class. A weird itchy, burning sensation deep in eardrums that simply can’t be itched will become epidemic and radio stations will go out of business. People won’t con-
photo: deckflight.com photo: jamesallen.com
“DO NOT ALLOW RIVERS CUOMO TO GO SOLO.”
Arguably, however, the main reason that Weezer should not break up is so that Rivers Cuomo does not go solo. Seriously, no on wants this and it’s inevitable if the group ever disbands that the very reason for Weezer’s downfall (Cuomo)
verse because the sensation is so painful. Babies will be neglected. Puppies will whimper. DO NOT ALLOW RIVERS CUOMO TO GO SOLO. In conclusion, Weezer is a great band that should most definitely continue to tour with their families and produce music not even reminiscent of their 90’s grandeur. I’d rather hear fragments of Blue and Pinkerton mixed with the sound of hurling than face a future with a solo Rivers Cuomo. joyce EDWARDS
Counter-Point eezer Should Break Up Weezer sucks, and we all know it. Just look at the last album they put out. No, just look at the cover and throw up in your hands. I first realized Weezer was on their way to suckland with the release of Make Believe in 2005. The band’s emo-but-not-really appeal was lost in favor of self-satisfying-simplistorock. It was after listening to this album that the band died for me. However, there was a small chance that they could be brought back to life with the release The Red Album. They were not. Try as the musical paramedics did, Weezer was beyond recovery, dead on arrival with flops like “Troublemaker” and “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” (“I am the greatest man that ever lived/I was born to give”—really, Cuomo?). Who would’ve thought the day would come when any middle-schooler could easily match Cuomo’s lyrical prowess (or lack thereof)? Besides, you know you’ve got issues when you’re not even a blues band, yet the best song on your album is called “Pork and Beans.” I wouldn’t know so much about the Red Album, but I have purposely listened to it just so I could remember how bad it sucked and creatively describe all the ways in which I hate it.
plate your actions. Oh and did I mention, he painted apartment black and took “Tired of Sex” literally, becoming celibate for a while (really, Cuomo?). Maybe he should take “My name is Jonas” seriously, change his name and start a new life as a working class citizen.
However, we have yet to give
Cuomo due credit for his crimes against humanity. First of all, what’s up with the mustache? There’s no wah in any Weezer song. It’s just unnecessary. He looks like a 70’s porn star, which would actually be an improvement. My suggestion: go on another three-month meditation exodus and contem-
The only downside to Weezer disbanding is Cuomo going solo. He has like 800 demos under his belt, and a plethora of solo endeavors. Do we really want these to be thrust into the world like swine flu 2.0 infecting the ears of unfortunate souls who, unwary, pull it off the shelf? Let me remind you we’re talking about a guy who is not named Rupert Randolph and yet has toured with his own family (really, Cuomo?). And while I admit I can’t cite any of these facts, they are likely true. Although this presents us with an interesting dilemma, letting Weezer die is still the right choice. We can’t let them go on destroying their legacy and hurting the eardrums of hopeful diehards (and corrupting the minds of the youth like a dumbass Socrates). I’ve said my peace. You should too. josiah SAVARY & matt CHRISTIE
Meet Your STORE STRICTLY DISCS Owner:Ron Rolaf How did you come into owning a record store? I came Madison, I was working for a bio-medical research firm right out of college, and I’ve always been a music consumer. I never considered being in the music business, not one time prior to a bolt through my brain of, “Oh! The West-side of Madison is booming and thriving, there’s this new format, CDs... That’s interesting.” I put a business plan together in my head in about seven minutes, called a major Madison real-estate magnet... and then five months later I left the biomedical research firm and I was in business. What prompted that thought to come into your head? Marijuana. Have you seen the effect from the change in the music industry, in terms of downloading music free online? Well there’s certainly been a decline in the unit sales of CD’s, but that leveled out 2009, towards the end of the year. It’s kind of like the McDonald’s of the food chain industry. You’re buying McDonald’s for a few reasons: either you’re drunk and it’s two o’clock in the morning, you don’t really have the disposable income to eat at a higher quality restaurant as frequently because you’re a poor-ass college student, so you do things like eat burritos as big as your head to fill the gap because you want to save your money for weed and beer. When you get out of school, and if music is something that’s really moving you, you’re going to move from that format to something that’s going to deliver the goods for you. What is your favorite live-music venue in Madison? Historically, OK’s and Crystal, when there was a lot of blues coming in on Saturday night.
MADCITY MUSIC EXCHAnge OWNER:DAVE ZERO Is there a reason people call you Dave Zero? It’s just an old radio name, I had a show on WORT for quite a few years and it just stuck. Generally, what kind of music are you interested in? Only the finest! No, I’m all over the board, that’s one of the advantages of working in a record store. You listen to a lot of music you listen to tons of things you never thought you would care about or want to care about. My personal taste lies more towards guitar heavy garage rock, more of the vintage stuff, rockabilly, R&B, a lot of new-wave and power-pop, those are the big ones for me. What music did you first listen to in your early years? Seeing Van Halen on MTV really made me want to play guitar, because it looked like a lot of fun. When I got a “Best of ” of Velvet Underground it completely confused me and attracted me at the same time because I couldn’t understand how they were music so simply and why it was drawing me to it, and after high school, the 80’s punk and new-wave that was already kind of past its time finall got around to me, stuff like the Replacements and Husker Du. So you’ve got to keep it fun, you’ve got to keep it interesting. What would you say your favorite band of all time would be? That’s too hard. But I’ll always keep my Velvet Underground with me, I’ll always keep my Replacements, my Neil Young with me. If I really had to think about it, i could narrow it down to a good 50.
Owner EARWAX OWNER:Rob Cleveland Has the store shifted towards metal more because of your preferences of because of what people want to buy? Well it’s both, for sure. And I don’t know if I have influence going the other way. In certain circumstances, we ended up with a couple metal CD’s.We really didn’t even know what they were... and then they were all sold out. So that was kind of like, we really need to find out about this stuff, we need to sell it because it’s what’s popular. Heavy metal gets a bad rep, it’s pretty diverse these days and there are a lot of elements from other music, like jazz and classic music, that kind of thing. What was your most formative band from your first foray into music? I don’t still have to like them, do I? I would say it would have to be Slayer, like when I was in high school or whatever. Are you embarassed about that? Well, i’m not so into them anymore. A little bit, they’re very mainstream now, all their albums are the same. It’s great for a little kid, but I’m not in high school anymore. What’s your favorite part about owning a record store? Well I still love the music, if you can believe that. I don’t know, though, I see these guys sometimes and they’re unhappy with their jobs, or they don’t even have a job or something. so it’s almost, I’m happy that this business is viable and I don’t have to go out and get a job. I mean, I haven’t had to write a resume in like 15 years. But yeah, there’s some sucky parts too, but overall it’s pretty good. I like the freedom and being able to be my own boss.
Exclusive Manager:Daniel Peters What bands do you listen to outside of what you listen to here? Well, my all-time favorite band of course is Fleetwood Mac. I like the classics. The Elton John, I like Tori Amos. But I mean, I’ve always got my ear open. How did you end up managing a record store? It was my college job when I was going to school in Osh Kosh and when I graduated they gave me a chance to open up stores in Milwuakee and then I was there for four years and then I came here. What is your favorite venue here in Madison? I like The Majestic. I like a little more contemporary music. What is your most memorable concert experience of all time? Back in the day, The Oriental in Milwuakee used to have great shows, like REM and Tears For Fears and New Order in kind of a smaller venue. I remember seeing Tori Amos at a show for Boys for Pele and for some reason she was really on that night and it was really kind of a chilling experience. And I’ve seen her probably like nine and ten times, so it was really memorable. Yeah, she was really on, and really into it, it was a really chilling performance. Do you think the resurgance of vinyl has changed your store? Yeah, definitely. You know, it’s interesting that format that’s been around for 100 years in one form or another can peak the interest of a digital generation. But i think people have discovered that the sound is different.
words and photos by liza BURKIN
Rainey Manor- SXWI Pioneer and Cedarwell
Yes, SXSW is an amazing place to discover new music from all over the country, and that I did on my first trip down to Austin. However, I also decided to spend a good portion of my time there seeing how some of our beloved Midwest acts messed with Texas. Whether enjoying old favorites or experiencing new regional acts for the first time, it felt great to support local music even from afar. Austin was bursting to the seams with bands playing on every conceivable inch of the city, and while I couldn’t even begin to catch it all, here are some photo memories from an amazing week of Midwest music.
Madison’s own Pioneer and Sheboygan’s Cedarwell moved the hometwon crowd at Rainey Manor for the fun-filled SXWI Showcase. Both bands’ heartfelt and masterfully crafted ballads almost brought the mood to a gorgeously woeful halt....until the Spotted Cow keg was tapped and the brats were served! Regretfully, I couldn’t stay for the whole day, but I knew ample talent from throughout Wisconsin was spilling onto the Austin streets. Also on the bill: P.C. Allen, Corcorvado, Shane Shane, Brett Newski, Amy Musser, Subvocal, Group of the Altos, Double Ewes, Andrew Fitzpatrick, Richdad, All Tiny Creatures.
The Trophy Room- SXCHI In Tall Buildings Later in the day I caught In Tall Buildings, longtime Chicago musician Erik Hall’s first solo effort. In the tradition of other hometown heroes Wilco, Hall’s wistful lyrics and dreamy recorded soundscapes transformed into a more spirited, jam-filled live performance. Although all the music on the 2010 debut album was written, recorded and performed by Hall, he is joined live by dummer Quin Kirchner (both also play in Chicago jazz-rock sextet NOMO) and bassist/composer Matt Ulery of Eastern Blok. Live, the trio blend Hall’s ethereal, atmospheric sensibilities with more grounded and well-trodden altrock grooves. Hall’s voice, however, remains just as astral and lulling onstage as recorded.
ROCKS SXSW The neo-soul renassaince that is sweeping the country blew through Austin at SXSW, horn sections a-blazin’. Bands with a sound of days past are experiencing a revival due to the success of acts like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Chicago’s The Right Now is just one of the many old-school soul/funk/R&B that are giving an older genre a new spirit. Lead vocalist Stefanie Berecz commands any stage with her infectious smile and stage presence, not to mention her arresting voice. The band, however, is far from a one-woman show. From the synchronized dancing horn section to the funky rythms of the bass and drums, this is a show that is impossible to stand still to. The Rabbit’s Lounge performance started out with an audience of four, and grew to about 40 as passersby stopped to listen and didn’t leave till the band blasted their last notes.
Rabbit’s Lounge Fuckin’ D Showcase The Right Now
The Mohawk- GAYNGS Affilyated Showcase Megafaun The GAYNGS Affilyated Showcase at the Mohawk was a four-hour extravaganza of independent Midwest music. Among those who played were hip-hop collective Doomtree, eccentric porn-groove artist Har Mar Superstar and electroglam outfit Solid Gold, not to mention the hallowed GAYNG itself. However, in my opinion, the most noteworthy set of the night came from Eau Claire’s Megafaun, whose tawny alt/country tunes got the crowd swaying and leaning on one another in the perfect night air. Covering material from both their critically acclaimed Gather, Form & Fly as well as the newer mini-album Heretofore, Megafaun’s set was resplendent with the down-home rock n’ roll spirit of Austin.
Central Presbyterian Church Red Ryder Showcase Great Lake Swimmers When I think of Ann Arbor’s Great Lake Swimmers, the first word that pops into my mind is ‘beauty.’ Add a magnificent church, soft blue mood lighting and a few drinks into the mix and it becomes ‘sheer, utter beauty.’ Fortunately, the GSL were just the finishing touch a night of transcendently beautiful music. Sharon Van Etten, Typhoon, and the Rural Alberta Advantage all graced the stage of Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church on the last night of SXSW. While each and every act of the showcase was stunning in their individual lyricism, collaborative instrumentalism, and heartfelt connection with the crowd, it was GSL’s “Everything Is Moving So Fast” that truly captured the spirit of the evening, the festival, and life itself.
d e p o o n S w o n S t ou Day g At g o D Snoop pheum r The O
There are few things in life that would motivate me to walk a mile through a violent blizzard complete with three feet of snow and the prospect of losing feeling in all of my extremities. Tonight, though, provides me with one of those large and herbally-infused exceptions: Snoop Dogg. When my friend and I finally arrive at the Orpheum on the legendary 2nd Snow Day Eve, it doesn’t even matter that I resemble a haggard, wet rat because the idea of the Doggfather himself dropping the hardest of beats is enough to warm both my heart and my mind from the inside out. The Orpheum is already packed inside when I get there two hours before Snoop even comes on. I find myself among a very diverse crowd, and I like the vibes everyone gives off. Maybe it’s because the majority of the audience is under some sort of influence or another, or maybe it is the idea of being in the same vicinity as the artist who gave me my first taste of real rap. Either way, it’s the perfect combination of excitement and tranquility. Unfortunately, I miss the two openers before the show. I get there just in time for the 20 pre-recorded songs in a row before anyone important showed up onstage. It definitely gets the crowd in the mood, but we all only want one thing: a nice, solid dose of gangsta lovin’ from our one-and-only Snoop D-O-double G. Finally, DJ Warren G arrives and immediately starts mixing, but not without lighting up a celebratory blunt first. He shows off some of his DJ skills from his
throwback days as a member of hip-hop group 213, of which our beloved Snoop Dogg was also a member. Warren G’s musical stylings are much appreciated by the entire audience as he allows our anticipatory juices to start flowing. The air around me becomes cloudy and I’m brought back to my days as a junior in high school when, off to my left, the faint smell of a grape Swisher Sweet enters my nose. This little soirée continues for several more minutes until about seven entourage members come onstage and Warren G utters the sweetest words that ever were: “Snoop. Doggy. Dogg.” Snoop Dogg’s entrance onstage is nothing less than expected, complete with a diamond-studded mi-
initely f e d g Dog p o nt to o a n w S I “ t e wha m s e v gi ear” h d n a see crophone and
boatloads of swagger. The crowd erupts with screams and I feel both honored and touched when he includes all of us in the customary “Make money money make money money MONAYY!” chant. Snoop goes on to perform songs from the entire spectrum of his career, from Doggystyle to Malice n Wonder-
photo:trueendeavorsblog.com/ land. We even get a look at his newest video, “Wet”, which basically involves Mr. Dogg encouraging sexual activity and features him being smothered with half-naked biddies (how typical). Crowd favorites from the night (and all-time) are some of Snoop’s earliest numbers, including “Gin & Juice”, “Who Am I (What’s My Name)”, and my personal favorite, “The Next Episode” (Dad a da da da/ It’s the mother-fuc*** D-O-double G) . With his classical attitude and chill demeanor, Snoop Dogg definitely gives me what I want to see and hear. As a treat, he picks four ladies out from the crowd and invites them to dance on each other as he performs “Sensual Seduction”. Although extremely jealous, I appreciate his enthusiasm and kindness towards his devoted fans. “Drop It Like It’s Hot” is another huge hit that the entire theatre sings along with and keeps the gangster mentality rolling hot. Although he wasn’t onstage as much as I would’ve liked, the show proved to be one of the best I’ve seen and Snoop Dogg showed the world that pimps only gain more swagger with age. alex ROSS
A Eulogy for
The White Stripes A
s a young pigtailed girl, I unwrapped my first White Stripes CD, Elephant, on my 12th birthday. The album was a gift from my older brother and it became my anthem, rotating every morning while getting ready for school and every afternoon on my walk home. Elephant was “it” I was convinced. No new music ever needed to be created and nothing would ever compare. “Black Math” totally got me. Though I was young, I was certainly not one to tolerate being talked down to, with lyrics, “Unequivocally showing my age… Undeniably earning your wage” becoming a mantra drummed into my mind. Never able to sing a decent tune in my life, “In The Cold Cold Night,” hoarsely whispered by Meg White gave me hope that maybe I too could be a rock star, or at least siblings/married to one. While I can sing- but I’ll spare you- every lyric to every song on the record, my favorite is “Hardest Button to Button,” a methodical tale of anecdotes and brains stirred like pancake batter. How did Jack White know I had a stick and a dog in my backyard and that I love pancakes? My answer? Because this album was made for me. Then of course I got my hands on White Blood Cells. To this day, the sequence of “Aluminum,” “I Can’t Wait,” “I Can Learn” and “This Protector” is my favorite succession of songs ever in existence. This article is about to get freaky, so hold on. My discovery of DeSijl and The
White Stripes soon followed and “Sugar (certainly) Never Tasted So Good.” Sorry, I had to. “When I Hear My Name” and “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)” take me back to justifying not answering when my parents called up the stairs and Jack’s personal pledge to stick around and make new music for me,
worthy of critical acclaim that transition The White Stripe’s sound from Detroit garage rock to electronic risk taking in “Blue Orchid,” and embodying the spirit of a matador in “Conquest.” Throughout such changes, Jack’s raw vocals and heavy guitar have always remained at the forefront and core of The White Stripes. At 12, I was convinced that Jack White could do no wrong, and honestly that statement is truer than ever today. Currently, Jack has an entire record company, Third Man Records, backing him in his endeavors, and honestly if it weren’t for Third Man producing collections of truly innovative music this keyboard would be filled with a lot more tears.
photo: myspace.com personally, to listen to. In middle school, my friend Chris and I talked about The White Stripes incessantly, making peppermint homeroom t-shirts in seventh grade and warranting the beginning of my short lived drumming career. Fast-forward through Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump, two albums still
Reliving what the experience of seeing a White Stripes show live would be like by watching concert dvds Under Blackpool Lights and Under Great White Northern Lights, I cope with the break up of my favorite band. For Halloween my friend and I dressed up as Jack and Meg, donning their iconic black, red and white duds. My crinkled and ripped poster of Meg standing in front of Jack from when I was 13 remains on the wall above my bed. My White Stripes baseball tee from their first Japanese tour is in my drawer. Their B-sides are on repeat. “I just don’t know what to do with myself/ I don’t know what to do with myself.”
FEATURES FACE REVIEWS
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Das Musik! Me in 30 years. Dum dee dum dee dum...
Gurl power! 26
Anomie B elle How Can IB
Golden Week t Poco Poco Bea
Tickles me pink! :D
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its The FSapng Castle
This is worse than my ‘Nam flashbacks—bad trip!
I need a gl of warm ass m or I mig ilk ht nightm get ares...
Daddy, tell me a story. Hey, Lady GaGa, F*ck you! I wish I was born this way... Woo 11 GaGa!!!!1 27
“Anamorphs 03” by: Rachael Smith
“I go to a lot of concerts, but this was the first ‘show’ I’ve been to in long time,” said the bearded guy in the plaid shirt (wait, which bearded guy in the plaid shirt?) behind me at the show. True story: the Decemberists’ February 5 show at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater was truly a production. The band played a lively and theatrical set to an audience so adoring that you could almost feel the love emanating from the seats to the stage. The Decemberists are on tour to promote their latest release, The King Is Dead, which impressively reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. On February 5, however, the band definitely catered to its tried-and-true fans. Many of the songs they played were from Castaways and Cutouts and Picaresque; they drew minimally from the new record. In this fan’s opinion, the older songs they chose melded effortlessly with the new ones to create a beautifully cohesive setlist.
The band started the set with two of The King Is Dead’s strongest tracks– “Don’t Carry It All” and “Calamity Song.” Generally, I think the more spirited and upbeat a song is on a record, the better it will sound live. However, at this show, the faster songs lost the perfect rhythm of their recorded versions. Additionally, although touring backup vocalist Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek put forth her best effort, nobody can truly fill Gillian Welch’s shoes. Her gorgeous voice on the harmonies was sadly missed.
As the show progressed, Meloy became increasingly captivating and charismatic–it is obvious that he absolutely loves being onstage. He also adores his fans: at one point, a girl in the audience was taking pictures, and he grabbed her camera and had the band pose for a photo. (Meloy, always self-confident, also snapped a few glamor shots of himself!) I was excited to hear a couple songs from The Hazards of Love – “Won’t Want For Love” and “The Rake Song” – since I wasn’t able to catch the tour in 2009. Here, the band was particularly electric and theatrical, and the crowd took to singing and dancing in the aisles. Other memorable moments included “The Mariner’s Revenge,” when the band members acted out the plight of the sailors and, at the end, had the audience scream out as if they were being swallowed by a whale. photo: 52shows.com Despite the excellent new tracks, “June Hymn,” “July, July!,” and “Yankee Bayonet” were unquestionably the best songs of the night. It was wonderful to hear so many older songs, and as Meloy said in an interview with NPR, after playing the entirety of The Hazards Of Love every night on the last tour, the band is enjoying the freedom to play whatever they want.
One of my favorite things about going to live shows is that it often gives me a whole new perspective However, with the next song on a band. After seeing The “Rise To Me,” the band definitely Decemberists live, I feel that redeemed itself. Between the they are one of the most unique beautiful tone and quality of indie rock bands today. They frontman Colin Meloy’s voice, have differentiated themselves photo: blogs.delawareonline.com in a market with a lot of overlap. The Riverside’s stellar acoustics, and the self-assured sentiment of the lyrics (“I am gonna stand Their instrumentation is complex my ground/you rise to me, it’ll blow you down”), this was one but catchy; their lyrics are intelligent but accessible, especially of the best moments of the evening. The band stayed strong on the new record. You haven’t missed your chance to see with “Yankee Bayonet,” my favorite track from 2006’s The Crane them: after the European leg of their tour, The Decemberists Wife. This song seems like it could have been on the new are coming to Madison! They will be at the Overture Center on record; The Decemberists definitely have a signature sound. April 19. I’ll see you there! renee KRAMER
THE BETTER J.T.
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy delivers a hilarious and joyous solo acoustic set at the Capitol Theater on March 28 help but think of Bob Dylan, whose tattered performance at the same venue just a couple months before had been so utterly depressing. However, unlike the other legendary Midwest singer-songwriter who hardly spoke a word to the audience, Tweedy’s demeanor throughout the night was one of good-natured, wry humor.
aged sing-a-longs for the beloved hits “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Jesus, Etc.,” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” while capturing the crowd’s full attention during deeper cuts like “She’s A Jar” “A Shot in the Arm” and “Candyfloss.” With Woody Guthrie’s romantic “Nora Lee,” he layed the charm on thick in true J.T. style. Between the crowd involvement, the captivating guitar work, flawless vocals and request-filled setlist, the nearly two hour set seemed to fly by in minutes. While some may say that Jeff Tweedy and Wilco are past their prime, I disagree. Tweedy has never seemed so confident and self-assured onstage, even without the support of his band. Lyrics like “subtract the silence from myself ” from the new song “I Was Born To Die Alone” show that he still draws from a deep well of emotional complexity and existential angst, yet now has the maturity and depth
Famous for his witty stage banter, Tweedy did photo: Autumn de Wilde not dissapoint, ranging I’ll admit it: I was apprehensive about in topics from Lady Gaga, “I was carried seeing Jeff Tweedy solo. After witnessing in in a giant egg” to the Wisconsin union Ted Leo bomb at SXSW due to his lack of protests, “When I think of unions I think Pharmacists, I was worried that Tweedy’s of Jesus Christ smoking crack” to scolding lonely, acoustic act at the Overture Centhe audience for ter’s intimate Capitol Theater would be a multiple “Free- “Tweedy has never seemed so confident and mediocre snoozefest. I have never been so bird” requests. self-assured onstage, even without the support of his glad to be so wrong. On March 28, the Better J.T. (as I will now refer to him) took center stage in front of a semi-circle of six acoustic guitars. A warm, yellow light spilled over his likeable features as he played the opening chords of “Via Chicago” in the nearly airless, otherwise-silent room. Immediately, Tweedy’s love for his hometown inspired visions of the Chicago skyline and I knew this show was not going to be a letdown. The sweet, familiar opening of “One Wing” began the first of many beloved Wilco songs Tweedy would play throughout the night–he certainly didn’t shy away from the hits. Instead, he seemed to relish in them, flying back and forth, covering material from throughout the band’s career, treating each song with equal delicacy and thoughtful acoustic arrangement. Skillfully layered harmonica enhanced about half of the songs, and with his tousled hair and classy black suit I couldn’t
My one critique of the night was that Tweedy’s good-humored nature and consistent joke-making distracted from the sincerity of some of his more angstridden songs. It was hard to get involved in lyrics like “I’ll fight for you/I’ll kill for you” during “I’ll Fight” when he was cracking jokes two seconds later. When it came down to it though, I was just having too much fun to care. Like every performer passing through Wisconsin these days, Tweedy focused on the labor struggle. Before performing the Loose Fur’s “Ruling Class” by audience request, he spoke about growing up with a father who was a company man for the railroads and brothers who were union members. “I hated being in the middle of that shit,” he empathized.
of experience to express it. When reappearing for a 100% acoustic second encore completely devoid of amplification, Tweedy yelled sarcastically, “This is what concerts would sound like without unions! Pretty awesome, right?” You could hear a pin drop as the laughter subsided and he began the jaunty “Walken.” Completely at home on the stage and treating the residents of his honorary city as friends and equals, Tweedy played one last song for us, and then we clapped. liza BURKIN
Tweedy’s set included nearly 20 tracks, each played short and sweet. He encour-
James Vincent McMorrow
at the High Noon Saloon
The High Noon Saloon is one of my favorite venues in Madison and not even a little hiccup like, let’s say, getting off at the wrong bus stop and having to walk an extra mile and a half down E. Washington, would stop me from seeing James Vincent McMorrow. Seeing as he had only a random string of US tour dates, I was beyond determined to see his long-awaited performance. After an unpleasant stroll in below-freezing temperatures, I finally got to the High Noon and was pleasantly surprised at the size of the crowd; there were a lot more people than I expected. I wove my way through the sea of flannel (SO MUCH FLANNEL!) and headed straight to the bar for a gin and tonic,
then crept my way up to the stage. Sadly, I missed the In Tall Buildings set, but was relieved the see that James Vincent McMorrow was just starting to play. McMorrow, although backed by a full band, single-handedly seemed to captivate the audience and put them in a trance. A combination of soaring vocals and musical bliss influenced the audience to sway back and forth and sing along to every song. I found myself unknowingly bumping into a lot of people around me; I guess we weren’t swaying in unison but rather to wherever the music was taking us. Personally, I have a three-foot bubble, and would usually be a little irritated by the constant contact with strangers. However, McMorrow’s golden voice must’ve relaxed the hell out
of me because I did not mind at all. In between songs, McMorrow seemed to charm the audience further with his random commentary and accent. Most, if not all the songs from his album, Early in the Morning, were played and loyally sung along to. The set went by far too quickly, though. It seemed as if as soon as the performance started, it ended. The crowd roared and cheered after the last song was played, and simultaneously everyone in the audience seemed to turn to each other and say “OH. MY. GOD. THAT WAS SOOOO GOOD.” And you know what? Everyone was absolutely, one hundred percent correct. In addition, I was also thinking two more things: when is he going to come back to Madison, and when can I buy my tickets? McMorrow’s performance surged with a type of energy that hypnotized the audience from start to finish. Maybe it’s the way he coos lyrics such as “if I had a boat, I would sail to you/hold you in my arms, ask you to be true” and “see I’ve been breaking hearts, for far too long/been loving you, for far too long”. Or maybe it’s the way James Vincent McMorrow seduces listeners with an uncanny Bon Iver-like haunting falsetto. Whatever it is, McMorrow has the undeniable ability to engulf his audience in his music and impress listeners with his flawless vocals. olivia JAKIEL
My Personal Dubstep Savior A disclaimer before I begin this article: I, Sam Eichner, know absolutely nothing about dubstep. The first time I heard it, I thought for sure that we as a society had reached its musical nadir—a point beyond reproach even by contemporary geniuses like Radiohead or Bob Dylan or (sort of) Kanye West. The days of gentle guitar strumming and 4-piece rock bands were over for good; folk singers and punk rockers would fade into the past along with “magazines” and “books”; lyrics would be substituted by the sounds of robot trying to talk to themselves without words. Machines would make all the music. We would yield to a musical apocalypse. A musicalypse, if you will… and Indie wouldn’t even shed a tear. So as I strolled alongside my brother and his friends into the Contemporary Arts Center Warehouse in New Orleans for Tiësto my expectations weren’t extremely high, music-wise. Sure, raves were fun and exhilarating when you were there, and sure, it was the last day of mardi gras, but they never had the power to blow me away or move me like its rockconcert counterparts were able to do. Still, my spirits were high, and as we finally reached the entrance to the Warehouse I could see that this was to be no ordinary show: elaborate black lighting bathed the dance floor in a Mars-like glow and a shallow cloud of fog blanketed the floor. On the ceiling, colorful streamers stretched from wall-to-wall like patchwork. When we walked closer to the stage, we noticed laser lines of every color dispersed across the room, and finally Tiësto himself, staring stoically at the audience like
someone possessed by his own actions. Even for someone with such a low dubstep IQ as myself, I could see and hear that this guy knew what he was doing. Each beat would periodically build into a slow, often protractedly suspenseful peak until it dropped, releasing a powerful surge of sound and energy into the crowd. About halfway through the show, a timely “Sweet Disposition” mix invigorated the audience, as the drop in the beat paralleled the big break in the song. At several points, a rush of fog would flood the dance floor at the beat’s climax, surrounding the audience in a hazy cloud of smoke and lights and sound. Time fled by, and soon the crowd recognized an impending conclusion. I could only stand by and dance uncontrollably as the last beat sounded and Tiësto left the stage to immediate chanting from the audience. A sweaty, shirtless mob of
exhausted youth pled for an encore to no avail. The lights turned off, and we staggered outside, simultaneously wired with adrenaline and drowned by fatigue. Walking into the dim light of dawn over the wreckage of a New Orleans street post-mardi gras, I felt unbelievably used up in the best possible way. I had given myself over to something I had no intention of giving myself over to, and I had come out on the other side unscathed. Maybe it was just the decorations or the mardis-gras atmosphere, but something about Tiësto’s performance that night stirred in me a newfound respect for dubstep. With precise timing and creative beats, Tiësto exceeded my greatest expectations and made a memorable mardi gras even more memorable. sam EICHNER
A Mashed Up Mond
Flash back to 7:30 when the night began: The bus ride over to the Alliant Center from Memorial Union was filled with a contagious energy. Resounding cheers of “GIRL TALK” for three quarters of the journey must have really gotten to our bus driver, but he never let on. The first act, Junk Culture, was packing up when we arrived, but the crowd retained its pulsing energy. Not even general unfamiliarity with the second opener Max Tundra’s music could kill the mood. As the clock began to tick down the minutes to Girl Talk, I decided to talk to some neon-clad, crop-topped girls with side ponies in huge scrunchies. Jackie Pecquex, a sophomore, said “I’m really stoked to dance; I’ve been waiting for this concert for awhile. It’s going to be sick to see him live.” Ali Pavela and Jessie Schanker, two freshmen, chimed in “I’m just excited to see what he does!” Girl Talk’s party sound in All Day is distinct from his previous two albums. Said Pavela, “I listen to All Day when I work out, but Feed the Animals is something I can listen to when I’m driving, when I’m just living my life.”
“ARE WE READY TO DO THIS MONDAY NIGHT STYLE, MADISON?” I’m not sure what Monday nights Gregg Gillis is used to having, but this was certainly not my typical first night of the week. Jumping out into the crowd, the mastermind of all things mashup, Girl Talk, greeted his fans and welcomed them to the party. And this was certainly some party, the stage itself transforming into a dance floor packed with girls in tutus, boys in sunglasses and pinnies, and neon, neon, neon. Wasting no time, he launched into first song “Oh No”, off the new album, All Day. Flashing lights, pounding beats, and a spontaneous dance party on the stage simply weren’t enough –this party needed toilet paper and streamer guns too. Girls from all sides feverishly tried to rush the stage, all to be a part of the madness. Even behind the barricade, we could barely contain the urge to follow Girl Talk’s advice at the moment and “Jump on Stage”, another song off of All Day. How was this already happening?
The moment Girl Talk stepped out on the stage, the incredible light show began. Exhibiting all types of fluorescent, strobe, and flashing lights, the entire room was bathed in neon. Behind the stage a giant television screen flashed images of bizarre, inexplicable (but who cares?) objects such as tacos, teacups, and rolling dice. Words like “Shout” and “Get loud” gleamed to excite the audience. However, the stage itself was packed with the more interesting visual spectacle: bodies in continuous motion, drenched in sweat, and screaming “GET YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!” We were transfixed.
With Girl Talk
And then the confetti fell. Throughout the show, Girl Talk used several props to get the audience going–confetti, balloons, streamers and even toilette paper all dropped from the ceiling. To add to the chaos, strange men (presumably Gillis’s team) occasionally rushed the stage throwing water and shooting streamer guns at the crowd. At one point, it seemed like the guys were holding leaf blowers, in an effort to literally blow the audience away. The confetti acted like an audience-wide mood stimulant: everyone went absolutely nuts as they were showered in the colorful paper bits. Covered in water, streamers and fellow dancers’ sweat, the party raged on. Throughout the show, Gillis seemed to want the concert to seem more like a party than a performance. This put the audience at ease, allowing them to experience the concert rather than just watch it. Although he played a good amount of songs from All Day, Girl Talk brought back some fan favorites from his first album, Night Ripper, such as “Summer Smoke” and “Smash Your Head.” Of course there was the standard Feed the Animals fare, with exceptional versions of “Here’s the Thing” and “Play Your Part 1 & 2”. But Gillis doesn’t stick to the rules, he mashes up his mashups. Adding tracks like “Dirty Bit” from the Black Eyed Peas and Peter, Bjorn and John’s whistle happy “Young Folks” to his already mixed-up songs ensured there was never a dull moment.
The balloons held in a net overhead seemed like a tease from the beginning of the show. But as the show came to a thunderous finish, the balloons finally began to fall. Blinding white lights bathed the crowd as Girl Talk mixed in some Wiz Khalifa “Black and Yellow” and “Walk It Out” by DJ Unk. In response to Ludacris’s “How Low Can You Go?”, the majority of the audience dropped to their knees, only to be told not soon after to jump up and “Shout” in a reworked version of “Make Me Wanna”. Shedding his shirt amongst his stage posse, Gillis jumped on top of the platform to lead the crowd in the grand finale. He looked like a conductor of some bizarre symphony of bodies, everyone locked together in the last seconds of music and motion. Finishing with an extended verse of John Lennon’s inspirational and emotional “Imagine”, the rest of the balloons dropped, making the moment that much more incredible. As Lennon’s voice crooned “and the world will live as one,” an amazing feeling of unity spread through the crowd.“This does not feel like a Monday night anymore, Madison. It’s good to be back.” Good to have you, Girl Talk. livi MAGNANINI photos: molly TREROTOLA
MIDDLEBROTHER IGNITES MAJESTIC SHOWS
In a recent interview, the members of indie rock supergroup Middle Brother (Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit, John McCauley of Deer Tick and collaborator Johnny Corndawg) explain the origin of their band’s name. ‘Middle Brother’ wasn’t just the most commercially viable name they came up with (although ‘The Traveling Bill Murrays’ would have been awesome), but also the most metaphorically appropriate. “All the scheduling and all the time we’ve been able to dedicate to
it has been dictated by our other bands,” explains Goldsmith. “It gets the shortend of the stick in every case, it’s the stereotypical, neglected middle brother.” “It’s like Jan in ‘The Brady Bunch,’” adds McCauley with a smirk. “I am the middle brother,” says Vasquez. “And it fuckin’ sucks.” Further metaphor can be drawn from the idea of sibling rivalry– fans might question how three (four, when Corndawg shares the stage) lead singer/songwriters can share the spotlight and integrate the same blistering roots-rock DNA the flows through their veins without competition and brotherly conflict. The answer Middle Brother presents this year on what’s being billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime” tour is simple: just have every band play a full set so everybody gets plenty of time to shine. Thus, on March 13, Deer Tick feat. Matt Vasquez, Dawes feat. Johnny Corndawg, and finally, Middle Brother, pounded the Majestic with a near-continuous four-hour set that reveled in the purest joys and deepest pains of rock n’ roll. The night began with Deer Tick, who right away set the pace for a much louder and raucous show than some of the older crowd seemed to expect. The often mellow, acoustic recorded music of these
three bands do not hint at their equally scorching, guitar-heavy live performances. I was highly amused to see a
"OFTHETHESECOND HALF SET BECAME
A FOOT-STOMPING, HOWLING ROMP IN WHICH GOLDSMITH'S LYRICISM, MCCAULEY'S CRAGGY RAWNESS AND VASQUEZ'S PLAYFULNESS BLURRED LIKE A WELL-MIXED, FIERY COCKTAIL" good number of older people around me plug their ears in pain as McCauley and Vasquez tore through Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice,” Vasquez channeling Cobain’s raw fury. This was clearly not what they had had in mind for a pleasant Sunday evening. However, the vast majority of the crowd absolutely loved it. Deer Tick’s opening set became even more boisterous and unpredictable when McCauley decided to go where (to my knowledge) no guitarist has gone before: an impromptu solo in an opera box during “________.” Handing off his guitar to an unassuming audience member, McCauley disappeared backstage only to reappear in the box a moment later. To the crowd’s euphoria, he wailed a raw, burning solo in the box before handing back his guitar and giving the spotlight
to Dawes. Dawes’ set was a healthy mix of material from 2009’s North Hills and their upcoming spring release Nothing is Wrong. Whether the old classics, (“Western Skyline”; “Peace in the Valley”; “When My Time Comes”) or the new tracks, (“Time Spent in Los Angeles”; “How Far We’ve Come”) Dawes’ set is unfailing in its impeccable tightness, explosive emotiveness and raw vocals and instrumentation. Capital Times reporter Andy Downing draws yet another familial metaphor between the groups in his review of the show, one with which I definitely agree: “Imagining the two bands as siblings,” he writes. “Dawes came across like the older, more responsible child, with Deer Tick playing the part of the impetuous, unpredictable and far more entertaining young’un.” Finally, it was time for Middle Brother, that sad, neglected child, to take the stage. Although most of the songs on the album do evoke a battered, whiskeysoaked melancholy, the atmosphere at the Majestic was alive with optimism. Goldsmith, Vasquez, McCauley and Corndawg’s obvious love for each other
and their music showed that you can get through the heartbreak and neglect with a drink, a guitar and your brothers by your side.
For Nothing” to Vasquez’s sexy romp “Blue Eyes.” While some tracks featured one singer more than others, the group efforts of “Me, Me, Me” and “Blood and Guts” inspired true catharsis and transcendence. As nearly every Middle Brother song has some reference to alcohol, there was no real option to stay sober during this show. In the interest of full disclosure, the second half of the set became a foot-stomping, howling romp in which Goldsmith’s lyricism, McCauley’s craggy rawness and Vasquez’s playfulness blurred like a well-mixed, fiery cocktail.
Middle Brother played for over an hour, trading the spotlight and shuffling around instruments in the spirit of a truly collaborative supergroup. Hardly complete with just the singer/ songwriters, the stage included up to 11 backing musicians, making for a truly voluminous sound, in both complexity and decibel. They covered most of the album’s material and the whole spectrum of love-inspired emotion, from Goldsmith’s broken-hearted “Thanks
My euphoric fog cleared as everyone on stage lined up for the grand finale, a bluesy, solofilled rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home.” As each member of Middle Brother showed off for one verse and then literally brought it on home with the “Yeahs,” I couldn’t imagine a more perfect ending to a more perfect evening. Seeing Middle Brother doesn’t feel like watching a performance from your average band, it felt like hangin’ with family. liza BURKIN photos: carleigh KNOWLES
Tapes'nTapes off of their album Outside, released just a few days earlier.
hen I heard that Minneapolisbased indie rockers Tapes N’ Tapes was playing a show here in Madison, I was thrilled. I had been a big follower of this group for several years, ever since their 2005 self released debut album, The Loon. Now, these seasoned music veterans were rolling into town to promote their third studio album, Outside.
Featuring a steady dose of distorted chords and rim shots to help drive the beat, this was a great song to open up the set and to familiarize any strangers in the audience to Tapes and their sound. With Tapes N’ Tapes, it is not difficult to spot their musical influences. Their guitar tone and drumming style instantly elicit visions of Pavement and The Pixies, who could best be described as their alternative rock forefathers.
The show got started a bit later than scheduled, with opening act Oberhofer taking their sweet time preparing for the show. Once they started playing, however, all was forgiven. Oberhofer’s clean finger-picking, coupled with heavily distorted choruses and distinct vocals, produced a unique sound that had the audience fixed. Lead singer Brad Oberhofer, who generously lends his namesake to the group, was actively engaged with the audience, repeatedly joking with the ligts operator to dim the stage lights due to the bassist’s “sensitive skin.” It was clear this band was having a good time, and the audience picked up on that vibe from the start. After seven or eight songs, I came away very impressed with this group, and would not be surprised to see someone else opening for them in the years to come.
As the heavy beats of the intermediate songs played between acts began to fade away, the audience, made up mostly of college kids, began to swell with excitement and crowd the stage. Tapes N’ Tapes took to their positions and started off the show with “Badaboom,” a track
What made this show great was the fact that despite being on tour to promote their newest album, Tapes brought back some of their best tracks from previous releases. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the riff centered “Demon Apple’” which starts off slowly with a lumbering, reverb-heavy guitar and gradually morphs into a more upbeat jam. It was clear that this band was accustomed to playing together. Their sound was tight and coherent, driven the entire night by the precise beats of drummer Jeremy Henson, whose perfectly coiffed hair seemingly embodied his playing style, as each beat was placed with accuracy. Lead singer and guitarist Josh Grier’s vocals were spot on, from th softly spoken lines in “Manitoba” to the energetic “SWM.” Meanwhile, bassist Erik Applewick consistently laid down skillful
at HIGH NOON saloon bass lines that meshed perfectly with the fuzzy, distorted guitar. Meanwhile, Matt Kretzman produced keyboard melodies that varied from supportive to haunting. Midway through the set, the band attempted to make a shift to a more intimate setting. Grier donned an acoustic guitar for the slow temp “Omaha,” a move that did not go over as sucessfully as planned due to some technical difficulties. Grier was quick to brush off the minor setback by stating, “This is the
first time we’ve ever tried using an acoustic during a live show,” and honestly, I don’t think the audience minded the
The band quickly changed gears and regained the sound and energy with which they started the show. Next up was “The Saddest of All Keys” with sharp, disconnected guitar chords and fuzzy bass that had everyone in the audience moving along.
“The audience, made up mostly of college kids, began to swell with excitement and crowd the stage” attempted switch at all.
Tapes closed their main set with “Freak Out,” perhaps the most widely known track off of their latest album, which features quick strumming and a chorus filled with bright major chords. The band left the stage without playing some of their most beloved songs, so it came as no surprise when they reentered the stage just a few short minutes later to a thunderous applause. The centerpiece of the encore came as their final song, “Insistor”, off of their 2005 release The Loon. Featuring a sound that somehow beautifully blends both western and polka styles, this song was above and beyond the crowd favorite. It didn’t hurt when Grier belted out “and don’t you know I’ll be your badger” in the chorus. At the end of the night, I left the concert feeling a twinge of Minnesota pride, as these Minneapolis boys put on quite the show for their neighbors to the east. chris MADSEN
LOCKSLEY COME the Del Rios, “There’s a Love,” the guys set the scene of a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll show. Locksley quickly transitioned into their originals, including “Darling, It’s True,” “The Whip,” “All Over Again” and “Don’t Make Me Wait,” among others. “Oh, Wisconsin!” Locksley’s ode to their home state, gathered much applause. The place and timing was right, and it made me proud to be from the Badger state. The protesting just a block away suddenly had so much more purpose and urgency. Few bands can fire up the crowd with their music, let alone politics, but Locksley accomplished both effortlessly. Take that, Bono.
n a chilly Wednesday night in March, as the Madison capitol swarmed with people protesting Gov. Walker’s signing of the budget bill, a small crowd of music lovers gathered at the Orpheum Stage Door. A spotlight hit the stage as four dapper-looking men dressed in black and white suits ran out. A blue pin on one suit reading “Honor Labor” glimmered under the bright lights. “We’re a band called Locksley. A band’s kinda like a union, right?” said frontrunner Jesse Laz, with screams of consent emanating from the audience. “Tonight, we dedicate this show to the right to organize.” And the rocking commenced – with members Jordan Laz, Jesse Laz, Kai Kennedy and Sam Bair playing a show to remember. Besides the mass of giddy high school girls ready to pounce on the guys with any chance they got, the rest of the crowd took the concert with composed enthusiasm. Because this was a homecoming show for Locksley, as the members are alumni of Madison West High School, family and friends stood amidst the fans. A handful of college students were thrown into the mix as well. Sure, Locksley was the opener for three other bands, Runner Runner, I Fight Dragons and Mechanical Kids, but the number of people who left after they played showed exactly just who the crowd was there for that night. The guys dressed to impress with slicked-back hair and Beatles-esque outfits. Bair, the
This isn’t the band’s first musical-political hybrid stunt. In 2008, they headlined MTV’s Choose or Lose Tour to promote veterans’ issues and voter registration. They hoped to encourage young people to get educated and involved in the elections. Locksley was definitely on to something: why not make a difference with what you’ve got? drummer, sported a wicked handlebar mustache. The uncoordinated and obnoxious lighting from the techies couldn’t mar their charisma and suaveness. Constant, hyper jerking and jumping while playing their guitars thrilled the crowd and made for endless entertainment. However, Locksley’s infectious high energy wasn’t the only source of amusement that night – their do-wop punk setlist once again left the audience more than satisfied. Starting with a cover from
I’ve been catching Locksley shows on and off now since 2007, and it’s obvious the guys keep getting better and better. Their comfort up on stage is apparent, and they meld the four-piece band together perfectly. By far, they are the best “opening band” I’ve ever seen. Locksley’s past two albums, Don’t Make Me Wait (2007/2008 re-release) and Be In Love (2010) capture their signature up-tempo, Kinks/Beatles/Strokes sound. A new album, coming out tentatively July 12, promises that same feeling, as well as a single around April 12. The
ES BACK HOME judge their encounters with screaming teenage fans doesn’t faze them as much as expected. “We could be doing death metal and they’d be like, ‘Aww, my son.’ You know how moms are,” said Laz. “And then later on, ‘I didn’t like when you cursed.’” So what’s next for Locksley? First the guys will head down south for a bunch of
“We could be doing death metal and they’d be like, ‘Aww, my son.’ ” “Bits of Swing, 50’s Doo-Wop, 60’s Soul and early American Punk” that their MySpace claims gives Locksley that traditional, yet entirely unique approach.
“Well, this is where we grew up and where the songs are from and everything,” said Kennedy. “And it’s nice to play in such a comfortable setting.”
In the past year, Locksley has earned some national, nevertheless strange, recognition. Remember watching Jersey Shore when Vinny took the Situation’s sister home from the club? Locksley was playing. Remember seeing that Bones season six promo? Locksley was playing. Remember watching the freaking Super Bowl XLV?! Yeah, Locksley was playing.
Laz pointed out the importance of the people and camaraderie from familiar faces.
I got to talk with Jesse Laz and Kennedy after the show, and besides learning of their undying love for pizza and Spotted Cow, the guys enlightened me to their favorite part about playing in Madison.
“It’s pretty awesome. We play here pretty often. We live in New York now and whenever we meet someone from Wisconsin, it’s that connection, you know. So when we get that with an audience of any size? I feel very comfortable, I guess.” With the Madison audience consisting of many friends and family, Laz and Kennedy still don’t trip over their parents chilling in the crowd. Having their moms
interesting shows at SXSW, one including Big Boi and the Sounds. Locksley is also teaming up with MTV once again to write a few songs for them. Jesse said they are at the beginning of a cycle of trying to go big for the first time. They’ve always released songs independently and small scale, but the guys are shifting their technique and “trying to go more mainstream, not sounding more mainstream, but marketing at a higher level,” said Laz. Or, in Kennedy’s words, “spending more money.” But, if that means more of Locksley to go around, I’d say go for it. Make it rain, Locksley, make it rain. kaitlyn SCHNELL
. . . s i l l a H k i r ago’s E
photo by David Sampson
In Tall Buildings
In 2010, veteran Chicago musician Erik Hall released his debut LP of eight swirling, ethereal tracks of emotive indie-pop under the moniker In Tall Buildings. In 2011, he’s hitting the road. Over the past two months, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing In Tall Buildings three times–Feb 4 at the Rathskeller, March 17 at SXSW and March 24 at the High Noon Saloon. Taking nearly three years to write and record the album, each of Hall’s songs is intricately layered and arranged, tying the complexities of life and love to his similarly scattered inner cognizance. His voice– a gentle, almost seraphic tenor–and lyrics convey the pleasantly bewildered feeling one gets when staring out the window of a tall building at the tiny, messed up world below. The self-titled album (released on Chicago’s Whistler Records) was written, recorded and performed entirely by Hall himself. However, while on tour he enlists drummer Quin Kirchner (of jazz-rock sextet NOMO, in which Hall plays guitar) and bassist Matt Ulrey (of Eastern Blok) to help transform his dreamy compositions into more spirited live performances grounded in rich alt-rock instrumentalism. With each consecutive show, Hall’s confidence and the trio’s cohesion onstage visibly grows. At the March 24 show at the High Noon, standout track “The Way to a Monster’s Lair” truly came alive with a spooky
serenity. The opening lines implore the listener to open the window into Hall’s consciousness and see his musical journey– “Rummage through my mind/ And you will see/ Left of the divide/ Straight through the sea.” Hall, Kirchner and Ulrey seamlessly expanded the composition into a full-fledged, goosebump raising jam. Other highlights from throughout the three shows I’ve seen have included the Neil Younginfluenced “Alarm Will Sound,” and the dusty, haunting version of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings’ “Elvis Presley Blues.” Hopefully, Ms. Welch will join Hall onstage for it someday. 2011 promises to be a busy year for In Tall Buildings as they begin a monthlong tour of the U.S. in April and prepare for the next album. On Record Store Day (April 16), Hall will release a special edition 7” that will include a cover of Cain & Abel’s “Warm Rock” on the A side and an
alternate, low-fi version of “The Way to a Monster’s Lair” on the B side. For further listening, check out intallbuildings.com.
Madison says hi to
Amid the political fervor rocking Madison, Seattlespirits further, but don’t bother asking them to play an based indie rock band Say Hi returned on February 23 encore. Say Hi concert virgins may have been affronted to treat fans to Eric Elboby Elbogen’s persnickety degen’s light, frothy vocals and meanor. Elbogen met requests effervescent instrumental for “She Just Happens to Date arrangements. the Prince of Darkness” with a curt retort that the group was Madison group Crane Your not a wedding or bar mitzvah Swan Neck and Big Apple, band. Instead, he emphasized low-fi artist Blair opened at expressive playing as he atthe High Noon Saloon. The tempted to impart his musiusual concert suspects were cal vision to the audience. He present and accounted for: made it clear Say Hi was not the amorous couple canoojust a breathing jukebox. dling and the drunk girls dancing in front. Woa! This Among other tunes, Say Hi is beginning to sound like an played “Posture,Etc.,” All the LCD Soundsystem song. Pretty Ones” and “Devils” off magnetmagazine.com the group’s latest release “Um, Uh Oh” along with some Crane Your Swan Neck forwarded old favorites. They veered clear of an emotional and wailing sound. their comparatively more witty Their between-song banter quickly material referencing vampires and segued into political commentary. teenage angst much to the audience’s chagrin. Hallie and Henry, “This next song is a heartbreak with their hair like mops, were song, because Scott Walker broke nowhere to be found. my heart,” lead vocalist Randallj Luecke proclaimed. Say Hi succeeded in replicating its album quality live, except for the song “Maurine.” Crane Your Swan Neck also referenced a hygiene Elbogen lowered his voice and failed to capture the product between tunes that rendered their audience contagious energy of the song on the album. interaction little more than a graphic infomercial. Jazz-infused keys lines filled the room adding complexBlair followed and delighted the audience with ambi- ity to the group’s sound. ent, floating vocals much like a less pitchy Karen O live meets MNDR. Blair used samples to create waves As Say Hi closed, Elbogen finally gave the crowd what of sound that lapped over the audience. Paired with they wanted: a song about vampires. “Sweet Sweet keys, Blair created the same feel-good melodies em- Heartkiller” left the audience humming as they dissibodied by The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” pated into the night.
"This next song is a heartbreak song, because Scott Walker broke my heart”
Say Hi’s appearance on stage buoyed the crowd’s
album reviews 0 2,500 5,0 disturbingly bad Substandard “Untitiled Drawing: Stones Project” 44Alaura Seidl by
000 7,500 10,000 awesome
disturbingly good 45
Wilhelm Scream.” Rather than resembling the painful sound effect that Hollywood movies constantly use, Blake uses his loop machine to the fullest extent, toying around with the recurring lines “I don’t know about my love/I don’t know about my lovin’ anymore/All that I know is/I’m fallin’, fallin’, fallin’, fallin’/Might as well fall in.” Around the 2:10 mark, a wave of distortion creeps in and gradually covers Blake’s vocals; it then rises to a crescendo until it hits the climax. All of a sudden the distortion halts, marking the end of the mini-opus.
James Blake [Atlas] 9,000
If you asked anyone what dubstep sounded like, he or she would probably respond with great enthusiasm, then proceed to making onomatopoeic sounds such as “DROP-wobwob-wob-wob.” To dubstep enthusiasts or purists, that relatively hardcore, wobble sound characterizes a subgenre called brostep, which emphasizes high frequency samples and most importantly, the “filthiness” of each track. Now, James Blake’s work is certainly a huge departure, if not in a complete different realm of dubstep, from those of wellestablished artists such as Rusko and Flux Pavilion. Instead of injecting testosterone into his work, Blake experiments with soul, auto-tune, tribal drums, and two-step drumming patterns, resulting in an ethereal and ambient sound that would charm any listener who appreciates the sound of minimalist soul. This is especially distinct on one of the gems on James Blake, “The
Sonically speaking, the harmonies, depths, and textures on James Blake certainly achieve a whole new level of ambience. This is evident on “I Mind,” where Blake chops and manipulates his vocals into different frequencies. Besides vocal manipulation, Blake also reverts to simplicity on the two-part “Lindisfarne I” and “Lindisfarne II,” where some good ol’ guitar picking can be heard. Some call James Blake the Justin Vernon of dubstep; some think Blake possesses the mind of Thom Yorke. No matter what, this 22-year-old producer is sure to be sticking around for years to come. nick YEUNG
[Fat Possum Records ] 9,100 The word “punk” is synonymous with all things cool in my head, and when I first heard Earl “Sweatshirt” of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, that’s all I could think about. A group of up to ten skaters from Los Angeles, Odd Future came on the scene in 2007 when they started uploading their music onto their blog. They’re all under 21 years old, which is baffling because their rhymes are some of the dirtiest and hard-hitting I’ve heard from any rapper in years. Earl was spitting lines like “Your grind’s feeble, I’m really regal, I’m Will as Smith/I am legend/A Snickers dick in a vanilla chick.” This kid was younger than my little brother when he recorded that. He’s now rumored to either be in juvenile detention or boot camp, as prescribed by his mother when she heard his lyrics, inspiring the latest civil rights movement in the rap world, “Free Earl.” Tyler, The Creator is the face of the group and it seems like his goal is to fight the standard rap show stage demeanor. Don’t expect him to just walk around and rap into a mic at a show. Au contraire, this guy will start a mosh pit reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine circa Lolla ‘08. He explained his attitude in
a recent MTV interview: “Do you know how many f*cking middle fingers we get at our show? But it means something, and that sh*t is f*cking tight.” That sh*t is f*cking PUNK is what it is. Tyler, The Creator is releasing his second feature-length album Goblin this May, and the album is already surrounded with buzz. The group alludes to “hipster blogs” being into their music, but only with that same middle finger in the air. Odd Future’s got a pretty good hold on the internet, with their blog being updated almost daily and Tyler’s twitter page (@fucktyler) providing hilarious nonsensical captions to pictures of things like pigeons in LA. But instead of letting the internet create some sort of auto-tuned trainwreck, Odd Future is the, well, future of underground rap. All you need now is a computer and some basic sound-editing software and you can send a song into the internet fray (as proven recently by little miss Rebecca Black.) In this case, instead of a whiney tween voice, these kids have tangible, magnetic talent. meher AHMAD
Zonoscope [Modular Fontana, 2011] 8,520 The first thing I remember thinking about Cut Copy’s previous release, In Ghost Colors, was that it was appropriately named. The album was certainly a pastiche of various 1970’s and 1980’s music, but the way in which they channeled the spirits from those decades provided a mesmerizing and vibrant palette of sound. Prominent examples include the singles “Hearts on Fire” and “Lights & Music”, as both fused elements of rock, disco, and electronica in order to recycle antiquated themes and produce something remarkably fresh and almost ethereal. However, this combination is not as appealing as it was three years ago, mainly due to its recent surge in popularity among other acts. The critics who once praised this mixture would certainly lambaste any attempt to continue this trend, even if the band was at the forefront a few years ago. Therefore, on their third release, Zonoscope, Cut Copy shows us their desire to adapt rather than stagnate. The distinguishing feature of Zonoscope is that Cut Copy played down the rock aspects which pervaded their previous releases in order to perfect the electronic ones. This doesn’t sound like a thrilling proposition initially; one of the most intriguing features of this band was their ability to jump between and integrate these categories as if they were on safari for the perfect sound. However, this decision is very auspicious, as they are able to take full advantage of the immense size of the genre. No subgenre of electronica is left untouched; “Pharaohs and Pyramids” highlights the band’s familiarity with disco, “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution” forays into synthpop, “Strange Nostalgia for the Future” is a perfect interpretation of washed-out psychedelia, and “Corner of the Sky” could be mistaken for a lost Kraftwerk piece. Moreover, the constraint resulting from favoring one area of music makes the album much more cohesive. So “Take Me Over”, the catchiest electropop song on the album, is easily followed by the slower Beach Boys tribute “Where I’m Going”, making it seem like these vastly different styles were meant to exist together.
Strangely, it is what Cut Copy do with the empty space between tracks which is at times more intriguing than the apices. One of the few features about In Ghost Colors which bothered me was the sharp definitions of where songs begin and end. On Zonoscope, Cut Copy illustrates that they have spent their threeyear respite studying the art of transitioning. Despite the wide range of musical styles incorporated, each song flows seamlessly into the next, creating a much richer experience. This tactic would fail had the band not also invested heavily in complex instrumentation; each song is embellished with an arsenal of beats and complex melodies to keep even the most cynical listener entertained throughout. It’s clear that the album was designed to be listened to in order, in full. Don’t get me wrong, this is far removed from anything that can be labeled ‘conceptual’ (just pick a song at random and look up the lyrics), but the extra thought that was put into this LP makes it shine even more. There are a few downsides. The first is that each song is strengthened by the ones which surround it, so any singles you choose for your playlist labeled “Good Times” may lose some of their brilliance. Similarly, Zonoscope is a little more inaccessible than their previous releases. For example, it may take a few tries to recognize the magnificence of fifteen-minute closer “Sun God”, which gradually gains momentum and becomes a psychedelic blockbuster. But give this album time and it will slowly infect you. Soon, you won’t be able to forget the way Dan Whitford wails the girl’s name in “Alisa”. And once you give in, focus on how this music will be even better during a summer festival, with speakers drowning any residual sounds as you are bathed in flashes of neon light. kyle GREIBER
Listening to Transmalinnia raises a lot of questions for me. What is this? What the hell are “Gaussian Castles?” Do I “get” Lumerians? Did their Facebook really claim this was “strippeddown organ psych and fuzzed out space disco”? With a straight face? What genre is this really? Does it go beyond constrictive genre labels? Or does it try to, but actually perfectly exemplify psych-drone-bongocore? Am I supposed to be high when I listen to this? If I were, would the unending atmospheric riffing become an amazing backdrop to a grand psychedelic adventure? Do they realize their music takes ages to do much of interest for sober listeners, or are they beyond caring?
Transmalinnia [Knitting Factory] 5,666
Transmalinnia sounds like music trapped in sludge, and I truly mean that in the best possible way. Yes it moves slowly, and yes you get the gist of most songs after about a fifth of their runtime, but Lumerians undoubtedly have the ability to create a uniquely dark, trippy-but-ominous sound. “Longwave”, for example, starts with a legitimately cool distorted bass groove supported by a heavy plodding drum beat. But then there’s another nine
minutes, and it starts to wear a little thin. The album’s not all good ideas stretched long though; in “Black Tusk”, an extended bongo solo segues right into an organ solo. Come on. Though there are a few memorable spots which stick out, and the album as a whole crafts an atmosphere that’s impressively heavy, the pace is ultimately too slow to really grab you. By all means, go buy this album if you need a good soundtrack to your next blacklit salvia spirit quest, but if you’re looking for something catchy to bob your head to, steer clear. eric WALTERS
BRIGHT EYES The People’s Key [Saddle Creek] 8,100 Bright Eyes is back and Conor Oberst, the band’s vocalist and lyricist, is still disillusioned and kind of depressed. In the second track on the album, “Shell Games,” Conor asserts that he is “still angry with no reason to be” but then proceeds throughout the album to come up with quite a few reasons including, in a lyric on the same track, his personal life which is “an inside joke no one will explain to [him].” After a four year break during which Oberst kept himself busy with side projects like the Mystic Valley Band and Monsters of Folk, he has returned to his Bright Eyes roots alongside Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott for their tenth studio album, The People’s Key. Despite some forays into his personal problems, the album overall feels like a quest for answers, particularly an explanation for our existence on earth, a question that nearly everyone struggles with. Oberst explores the idea of the Holy Trinity in the track “Triple Spiral” and laments the fact that he has lost his faith in it. It is the human condition of desiring and fervently pursuing answers to questions of faith and existence that Conor focuses on along with his own internal conflict. Oberst said in a recent interview that he feels that most of his albums are concept records to some extent; this one definitely fits that mold. A spoken word introduction in the first track, “Firewall,” sets the questioning tone of the album. A few other soundbytes reinforce the tone and add cohesiveness to the album. At times these are poignant and contribute another layer of interpretation to the song, but some miss the mark and just seem out of place—in “Approximate Sunlight,” the soundbyte
able to give.
seems disconnected. One of the more striking moments of spoken word comes at the end of the last track and serves as a bookend to the beginning of the album, giving it a smooth finish. The speaker gives his final message of love and mercy to fellow human beings, bringing the album to a head and offering as much of a conclusion to the album as Oberst is willing or
When listening to a Bright Eyes album, the focus is primarily lyrical. Conor Oberst selects words in a very deliberate and poetic way. This album is his most complex in that he writes in a very broad, conceptual way using words chosen for the quality of their sound rather than clarity. This makes the album difficult to follow at times, and there are moments when Oberst is almost drowned out by his metaphorical writing style. One of these moments comes in “A Machine Spiritual (In The People’s Key)” when he sings, “History bows and it steps aside, in the jungle there’s columns of purple light. We’re starting over.” You lost me, Conor. Musically, this album has a much fuller sound than the sparser Cassadaga. The same amount of instrumental variety that Bright Eyes is known for remains, but the guitar takes a larger, more traditionally rock and roll stance. As Oberst has said, Bright Eyes is very much a studio project, so the instruments build upon each other in layers of sound rather than in a spontaneous group dynamic. A heavier percussion sound particularly comes out in “Haile Selassie” when, with Oberst’s voice, it contributes a forcefulness not found on Cassadaga. The richer, layered sound becomes an important element in producing meaning when Conor’s words fail him, making it a saving grace for this album. katie WITHAM
Redefinition [Higher Education Records] 9,000 For the past two decades, the perception of hip-hop has been entrenched in the images of drunken club scenes, drivin’ a Rolls, and girls gettin’ low. Associated with thugs in the hood, using rhyme-spittin’ as their road to riches, it has been the musical genre inevitably chained to the underlying facets of money, alcohol, and sex, as opposed to a genre synonymous to its essence, conveying themes through intricately woven beats, melodies, and rhyming schemes. However, over the past two years, Mo, better known as Moses, has defied the boundaries of Hip-Hop and is redefining the genre as we know it. A percussionist since elementary school, Moses has ever since been encompassed in the world of rhythm. He embarrassingly admits that his first music-recording software was Fruity Loops 9, but he “had to start somewhere.” He then began recording his own percussion tracks after senior year of high school, and became more familiarized with the program. He laughs, “I had no idea that you could hook up the keyboard to the computer, so I was plunking each note in when I made the track!” Thereafter, he not only became more acquainted with the ins and outs of track synthesizing, but also with more people in the industry. Adam, a senior in the First Wave program at UW-Madison, has connected him to many rappers and other artists across the country, from Chicago to Texas, even L.A. to the UK. His connections to other artists in the hip-hop world are evident in his
diverse mixtapes, including Higher Education MixtapeLesson 1 and StereoSmarts. “I’ve met a lot of people through Adam…I owe him a lot actually,” Moses says. In addition to the diversity of artistic talent within his network of connections, it is unsurprising that his music has the same intrinsic variety. Some relaxing and mellow beats include “Stressin’”, which contrasts the sinister mood evoked by “Southside State of Mind,” the latter of the two a sharp response to “Empire State of Mind” (Alicia Keys and Jay-Z), with a realistic portrayal of Chicago’s less attractive sections. “I just start making a beat, and then listen to what the beat and melody remind me of…what it conveys to me. And then I name a track based on what it sounds like to me, like ‘Lay Back & Chill…’ Syncing the lyricists and music is also a similar process, signified by the succinctness of the beat: “Like ‘My One And Only’ [Sean Smart], when my line lined up with his, I knew it was meant to be.” Moses currently attends Madison Media School and intends to graduate in May. He plans on either getting his Associate’s degree for solidification of his business career (he now has his own company (‘Moses’), manager and all) or jetting out to L.A. to further his music endeavors, continuing to defy the perception of hip-hop. alex REZAZADEH
DAVID BOWIE Toy [Virgin Records] 8,458
Before you continue reading this, I have to state a disclaimer: I am not a Bowie fan. That is not to say I don’t like Bowie, but I’ve never sat down and listened to his discography in full, discussed at length the meaning of “Space Oddity,” or idolized Ziggy Stardust with semi-shrines in the back of my closet. Well, maybe that last one. This album leaked on the internet the last week of March as a gift to Bowie fans around the world. Scheduled to be released in 2002 by Virgin Records, the album faced a number of copyright issues that prevented its release. Coupled with Bowie launching his own label called ISO, the album was completed and sealed. After nearly a decade since his last release, Toy made everyone have an internet spasm, so I decided that this could be
my first foray into Bowie. The album is supposedly reminiscent of his glam years, but for me that translates into really catchy classic rock. “Baby Loves That Way,” and “Hole in the Ground” have the melody and build-up of an instant-classic. He rereleased a few songs from decades past in this album as well, like “In the Heat of the Morning.” “I Dig Everything” was hilarious, with Bowie repeating “Everything’s fine, I dig everything” in his Bowie vebrato. What makes this album awesome, though, is what makes all Bowie awesome: it’s Bowie. Toy just proves that he’s still got it in him. meher AHMAD
The King Of Limbs [self-released] 7,499 When I listen to Radiohead, I feel like I’m touring a gothic Epcot Center where all the gadgets on display are portents signaling a new age of subterranean unrest and invisible dangers. The fans of Radiohead will agree that this is one of the shining qualities of the band, assigning to their music an intangible sense of relevance to the present seldom found elsewhere. As if this weren’t enough, Radiohead’s signature unease is a rare instance of non-ironic discontent with the future that can be taken seriously. To receive such three-syllable accolades from album to album sets a lofty bar to rise above, and while The King of Limbs climbs towards these, it still remains in the arching shadows of Kid A (2000) and In Rainbows (2007). However dystopian their depiction, Radiohead have made records that sound authentically futuristic. That’s why the folkloric “Morning Mr. Magpie” feels out of place, going against the future-grain of the band’s honed aesthetic. Although the title probably strikes a chord of national identity with British listeners, the fairy tale allusion saps the strength of Radiohead’s self-established gravitas. The song also showcases guitar hooks reminiscent of Eno’s “The Jezebel Spirit” (1981), plucking out the feathers of 80’s flair but leaving the date intact, as
if the Epcot exhibit were a DeLorean instead of a hover car. The past’s rendition of the future is always entertaining, but hard to take seriously.
Other songs sound like b-sides from frontman Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo album The Eraser. Fleshedout and democratized by comparison, these tracks on Limbs resign themselves to a respectable ambience that fits nicely under the tent pitched by “Lotus Flower,” the album’s towering single, which features angelic vocals to prove its height. Digitally retrofitting “Reckoner” (2007) with purring synthesizers and anthemic bass, the song satisfies the band’s trademarks while rising above them with an unprecedented liveliness especially apparent in the music video. In step with the transcendental connotations of “Lotus Flower,” the vocal lines of the verse roll off in an entrancing lilt, reaching some plane of postmodern enlightenment in the chorus. Limbs doesn’t fall short of Radiohead’s past albums because of an overall inferiority, but rather it does so because of its diffuseness. The album one-ups former releases in some regards, as in the song “Codex.” Pensive and despondent, it paints a landscape of stark beauty with tundra trumpets and underwater piano, lyrically invoking dragonflies in order to get back to something simpler; Yorke sings, “the water’s clear/and innocent.” But this is not enough. “Codex” is in the minority on an eight track album, a length that doesn’t leave much room for reconciliation. Devoted fans defensively post their theories of the current release being only the first part of the entire album— here’s hoping they’re right. matt CHRISTIE
The Devine [N.E.E.T. Recordings ] 1,243 What the hell happened to Mos Def and Talib Kweli? Sounds like they both got really drunk and decided to imitate Fergie. Actually, this whole thing is very Black Eyed Peas, which is strange because Black Star is usually on the opposite side of the spectrum of bands with the world “black” in it. Perhaps this is 2011’s version of Black Star. You know, everyone is doing crazy unexpected things; that’s what 2011 is all about. Sufjan Stevens uses auto-tune, Kanye even dipped into some lo-fi, who knows what Black Star has up their sleeve. Maybe this is the new direction all music is headed in: trade out some politically and socially hard-hitting lyrics for some club lines. Instead of “Ni**as is sweet so I bet if I bit I’d get a cavity/Livin’ to get high, you ain’t flyer than gravity,” the best alliance in hip hop is singing “The way you dancin’ in front of me/ I like it/ It’s a fantasy.” And what’s up with them reppin’ B-more now? I need to Wikipedia this just to
be sure, but I remember Mos Def and Kweli being from Brooklyn. Maybe not. Maybe Baltimore is the new Brooklyn. Maybe this is some elaborate joke. We’re David Letterman, Black Star is Joaquin Phoenix, and this album is Joaquin’s “hip hop career.” Here, we think Black Star has devolved into some whiney, doped up version of themselves, when this is really Mos Def and Kweli trying to show the public the state of music today. Okay, this is actually really cool. I get it, the message is not the music, it’s what the music is a metaphor for. Music today is focused on synthetic, generic beats and some basic voice editing with a few dance-floor related lyrics anyone could come up with. Even if this isn’t the lyrically conscious music we’re used to, we still eat it up because that’s the state of the industry today. Er, hold on... meher AHMAD
With Icarus Himself looking to release a new full-length record by late summer or early fall, let’s revisit the Madison trio’s experimental EP titled Mexico released in 2010. The self-described cavernous, electro-folk rock group creates its signature sound by layering complex instrumental and vocal lines with an infusion of reverb and enough effects to boggle even Charlie Sheen’s mind.
Mexico [Science of Sound, 2010] 8,500
Carefully crafted instrumentals play an integral role in the undeniable success of Mexico. The lead track “Digging Holes” begins with the ethereal wavering of the omnichord and immediately transports listeners to an antique shop where marionettes sway in the low light. Guitar complimented by omnichord beats combine carnivalequse elements with the tenderness of an eerie lullaby. Later on the EP, Nick Whetro, lead vocalist and guitarist, revisits his youth band days by incorporating a steady trumpet into “Cadaver Love Song.” The song also features a machine-gunlike percussion loop that creates its rhythmic backbone. Instrumentals and effects on Mexico form a tunnel of sound for listeners to travel down as they experience auditory nirvana. Seriously. Vocal and lyrical discretion enables Icarus to create songs with unconventional but satisfying structures. Icarus does not saturate songs with verbage, instead opting to repeat simple lyrics. This, along with punctuated delivery of lyrical phrases in “Half Ton Load” and “Digging Holes”, highlight the instrumentals underneath. “Sometimes I feel a song like ‘Digging Holes’ is less of a traditional song structure where you’re telling a story. It’s more of just a sound,” Whetro said. The topics Icarus does discuss hold deep personal significance, be it a nod to Whetro’s morbidly obese, childhood babysitter or
his love. The phrase, “You’re my Mexico” in “Seen It Coming…Mexico” always seems to confound listeners. “You’re my Mexico” references escapism through vacationing and love for his wife realized in song. Whetro sets the record straight. “We were seeing Mexico as a get-away, this beautiful place in the middle of a terrible winter in Wisconsin,” Whetro said. In but a few lyrics, Icarus also manages to spin humorous euphemisms. “Half Ton Load” features the line “Your mother slept while you were born,” a graphic image that captures the wit and realism the group forwards on the EP. “Girl>Boy” also forwards a less sugar-coated version of the dating scene many experience. Though the discerning Daytrotter music Web site recognized “Digging Holes” as one of the best songs of 2010, “Seen It Coming…Mexico” is arguably a fan favorite off the album. It begins as a powerful cacophony of percussion and guitar and gathers momentum on the back-end like a runaway train. “In ‘Seen It Coming [… Mexico]’ during the quiet part when I’m just yelling, the audience members who know it sing that part, or they have been singing it as of late. So, it kind of brings the audience together,” Whetro said. “It feels really good on stage.” After an EP that features instrumental vigor and a healthy appetite for experimentation, indie music fans stay tuned for the full-length effort from Icarus Himself. emily GENCO
Reptilians [Polyvinyl Record Co.] 8,888
The name Starfucker strikes fear in young childrens’ hearts. As soon as “Julius” came on, I felt the Satanic urge to fuck my speakers and go to 11 - time for the bass amp. This struck fear (and loathing) into my neighbors’ hearts. No surprises there; they are children. A knock on the door. Could it be? “Excuse me sir,” he said while emulating a Tourette’s twitch, “could you turn it down a skotche.” To that I screamed “THIS IS STARFUCKER” before unceremoniously booting the undescended testicle of a neighbor down the stairs. Child or not, you do not fuck with the Starfucker. My undulating reptilian brain waves found the arpeggiating synth riffs soothing for my intermittent explosive disorder (IED). It is fortunate I am not epileptic (rage disorders are hard enough on their own) – iTunes visualization of the album quickly led to sensory overload and a burning rage welling up from the tips of my toes to the edge of my nose. I could feel the aura, and I no longer had a
prepubescent neighbor to kick in the chest while screaming “PUNT!” Now that we’ve set the stage, on with the review. For the above reasons, Reptilians is awesome. It is also over the top, much like the scene set above. Multiple arpeggiated synths dig a grave in which vocal caskets are buried in much of the album. Easy listening, this is not. “Julius” is infectious, even without a bass amp wired directly into a preamp. Make no mistake; Reptilians is a noise violation waiting to happen. Cop this album now. ST4RFUCK Y0U, Y0UNG ‘UN cao XING
WILLIE WRIGHT Telling the Truth [The Numero Group] 5,900 Willie Wright’s rereleased album Telling the Truth is one of those albums that fell between the cracks when it was first released, as did Willie Wright himself. Neither is often remembered outside of 1970s soul enthusiasts. He began his career in the 1960s singing in doo-wop groups in New York City (taking me back to a time that only exists in the memory of my grandparents), moved on to recording covers, and then finally recorded his own work. The Numero Group, an archival record label, has
rereleased his 1977 album Telling the Truth in line with their mission statement promising the label’s devotion to “dragging brilliant records, films, and photography out of unwarranted obscurity.” While I certainly don’t want to say that in this case obscurity was warranted, it is not hard to see how, alongside the likes of 1970s soul icons like Marvin Gaye and James Brown, commercial success could have eluded Willie Wright. That said, there are elements and influences on the record that give it an eclectic yet soulful sound. The deep, resonant voice of Willie Wright is undoubtedly the best part about this record. His voice falls heavily yet effortlessly on the light Caribbean-influenced instrumentals creating a pleasing balance of the two. The dialogue between voice and instrument at times tempers a melancholy, almost folky sound as it does on the second track “Lady of the Year.” The very next track gives voice to an outspoken guitar providing the upbeat mood predicted in the title, “I’m So Happy Now.” Occasionally piano
reminiscent of elevator music kills the vibe, reminding me of a posh hotel (and in a stuffy way, not a good way). Lyrically there is not much depth to this record, although there is something to be said for the simplicity and straightforwardness often realized by lyrics from this time period. Most of the songs focus on standard trials and tribulations of love particularly in “Love is Expensive” in which Wright’s chorus is “Love is a very expensive game to play, you might lose your heart.” While there are predictable moments on this record, its title is apt. Sometimes there’s no way around truths of life and Willy Wright tells life as he sees it in each track. I can’t say I’ll be listening to this record on the regular, but the next Motown-themed cocktail party I have I know exactly what will be at the top of my On-The-Go playlist. katie WITHAM
‘Keep Bouncing’ and ‘Radio-Inactive’ [Rhymesayers Entertainment] 8,500 Ex-computer programmer Albert Shepard is not only able to write code, but also poignant hip-hop that keeps it classy without being pretentious or diluted. Releasing music under the name Blueprint and sometimes collaborating with producer RJD2 as Soul Position, his new album Adventures In Counter Culture is scheduled to come out April 5th. These singles are just a taste, but they are promising signs of another signature-Blueprint record that tells it like it is without the cliché that doing so entails.
“Radio-Inactive” sounds like the banner carrying the album’s title, a song in stark contrast to his bare-fanged sarcasm heard above. For some artists, sincerity is like pulling teeth; not for Blueprint, whose no-shit true-blue candor shines through amidst an uncharacteristically atmospheric end-of-the-road beat that sets the mood. The lyrics are articulate, almost compulsively so, so that the song transcribed would look like the defense’s closing argument in a courtroom where hit radio is pressing charges. “Radio-Inactive” is a succinct and powerful outline of why artists On “Keep Bouncing,” Blueprint is able to celebrate having a good shouldn’t sell out. time, staying on the docks of dignity without dumping the contents of the song into the shallows of synth-swallowed party rap. The production is perhaps simplistic at worst, but Blueprint At least that’s how it seems, if you’re too drunk or too stupid to doesn’t pretend to be bigger than he is. It is his modesty in light actually listen; “Keep Bouncing” oscillates between Soul Position’s of the greed and excess of the mainstream that sets him apart cautionary tale of “Drugs, Sex, Alcohol, Rock ‘n Roll” (2006) and from and above acts that indulge in the stereotyped vices of the the poker-faced humor of “Blame It On The Jäger” (2006) that’s genre. After all, a blueprint is basic, stripped of all frivolous mateexecuted so swiftly and subtly it’s hard to tell if it really is satire. rial in order to highlight the parts of the foundation that matter. matt CHRISTIE
CAGE THE ELEPHANT Thank You Happy Birthday [Relentless Records] 8,005
In 2008, Kentucky group Cage the Elephant released their debut self-titled album. With lead singer Matt Shultz’s yelps, his Beckesque spoken word rapping and music that took fast powerchord alternative rock and an added a southern blues swagger like a wink from Jack White, they were able to achieve relative success. The end result, however, was over-produced, musically cliché, predictable and sometimes just plain annoying. Their singles “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “In One Ear,” were so catchy, they seemed to be manufactured in a lab. The popularity from the album allowed CTE to tour extensively, play coveted festivals like Lollapalooza and even headline Madison’s own “prestigious” Freak Fest. Basically, I expected never to hear from these guys again. Fortunately, I was wrong. Thank You Happy Birthday, the bands second effort, is a huge step forward in originality, songwriting and all around sound. Cage the Elephant managed to stay recognizably themselves, but in the two years between records they seem to have matured significantly. Shultz keeps his frantic vocals, yet on tracks like “Rubber Ball,” he croons and almost whispers, accompanying repetitive guitar strumming and flourishes of strings and choir singers. The tender side of CTE isn’t cheesy as one might expect from their first record, but endearing and touching. Although the small touches make “Rubber Ball” beautiful, other tracks like “Always Something” sounds crowded and over produced,
which is one technique these guys unfortunately retained from their self-titled; in a couple of instances, such as the end of “Shake Me Down,” I wonder if they were listening to too much U2 in the studio. The thing that makes Thank You Happy Birthday such an enjoyable album, though, is that CTE really make an effort with stronger melodies. Guitar lines and choruses to tracks like “Aberdeen” and “Around my Head” will be stuck in your head for days and you’ll love every second of it. These guys really have a knack for writing a catchy tune; this time, however, in a much more positive way. Also the influences throughout the record are much better; at times it wouldn’t be outlandish to call this album Teenager of the Year Part 2 with the guidance heard from Frank Black’s solo work and later Pixies albums; I mean that in the best way. The band no longer sounds like a major label’s attempt at making a hip alt-rock group. They’ve found a sound that is identifiable and unique to them, as Shultz still yells and wails his strange, yet contemplative lyrics and everyone else still bashes and kicks out the jams. With a track record like this, their third record might just be perfect. tyler FASSNACHT
By The Hedge [Captured Tracks] 7,203 You could’ve mistaken this album for a poorly recorded album by The Cure at first, but Minks surprisingly gave more depth to their tunes than the average neo-goth band. Sleepy singing and sedated bass were pocked with occasional upbeat melodies like “Ophelia,” which captured the bittersweet melancholy The Cure perfected with a lo-fi attitude that was strangely refreshing amidst a slew of bands that depend on crappy mics as a gimmick. The band itself is shrouded in the same black veil as their music. Their MySpace gives no indication of how many members
Minks has, aside from one photo of a blonde girl who appears to have just woken up sitting next to a guy that looks like Amy Winehouse’s husband with a bowl cut. Some live footage on YouTube shows somewhere between four and six people in the band. Seems like the permanent members of the band are the blonde and bowl cut, though, a bit like the two-part shoe gazers known as Beach House. This album has quite a bit of the Beach House vibe, with synth-heavy songs like “Our Ritual” that give the album a hint of disco glam. Although blonde sings in a few songs, don’t expect any operatic masterpieces the likes of Victoria Legrand. Blondie’s voice is sweet and earnest, a little airy, exactly what you’d expect a shy goth girl to sing like. In fact, this entire album is exactly what you’d expect a shy goth girl to sound like. meher AHMAD
Alright You Restless [Knitting Factory Records] 6,600 The debut album from the seven-piece Portland band AgesandAges, Alright You Restless definitely displays signs of future success, but overall it struggles to portray the group as anything more than satisfactory. With the strong harmony, folksy rhythm and happy melodies of the opening track, “No Nostalgia,” the rest of the album looked reasonably promising. A rootsy feeling began to form, the product of seven voices singing into one microphone during a mostly-live performance of the album. However, the following tracks fall into a blur of acoustic guitars and an overload of voices. Although the two female singers add some variety into the mix, they sometimes get lost in the church choir sound. Each verse leaves a sense of restlessness, with continual hope for something fresh to appear any second.
breakdown. While the press release for the album claimed ridiculously hilarious statements, such as it being a “dream-filled interpretation of campfire pop” and that the “vocal harmonies seem to wrap around each song like a warm blanket,” it truly would not be a surprise if “Kumbaya” popped up as a hidden track at the end of Alright You Restless. Being a fairly new band (2009), the group has the potential to develop their sound further. AgesandAges have the talent to make it big if they would just scrap the typical Northwestern, bearded mountain man, Twilight-evoking act and kick it up a notch. kaitlyn SCHNELL
Some gems do appear here and there to provide relief to the anxious listener. “Tap On Your Windowpane” presents an eerie work of art while showcasing only one strong voice in the foreground. “When I Was Idle” follows this sentiment, adding tinkling keys and foot-tapping drums during a catchy
IRON & WINE
Kiss Each Other Clean [Warner Bros] 9,000 After three long and arduous years, front man Sam Beam of Iron & Wine has finally graced us with another beautiful record, Kiss Each Other Clean. A man that has never embraced just one sound, Samuel Beam’s experimental jazz and intimate lyrics has hit the public with musical euphoria. Without a stutter, this album is his best to date. Sam Beam, how we have missed your sweet and sultry music. Moving away from the lo-fi indie folk that Iron & Wine encompassed in older albums, Beam incorporates a newer, reverberated sound. It’s nearly reminiscent of an old 80’s cassette of Pink Floyd. But please don’t confuse the two – Iron & Wine is earthy and poignant and steers clear of any hooks that might make him seem “indie pop.” Consistent with Beam’s habit, he once again experiments with genres, incorporating flute and saxophone in this album as if they’ve always been paired with
indie folk. And maybe they should; jazz never sounded so good on an album that otherwise jams to the sounds of guitar and bass. Any fan of Iron & Wine knows that Beam comes chalk full of surprises in each of his albums. We recognize this too in Kiss Each Other Clean with the changing dynamics between each of his tracks. “Me and Lazarus” and “Big Burned Hand” both sway to their jazzy counterparts, but then the album picks up with harmonies and guitar in a mixed range of ballads and upbeat jams. And as for his lyrics, well, he shifts from singing about a man from the bible to singing about a love lost. So if you can’t follow along, just tap your feet. sara PIERCE
“Under Cover of Darkness” the popular first single off the album represents the familiar, the Is This It (2000) garage-band roots that gave the band credence in the modern rock world. But the boys have grown up since 2000 and so has their sound. Boasting exciting and steady drumbeats, guitar riffs tweaked to perfection, and a whining Casablancas remarking that too good for that -- their sounds are not “everybody has been singing the same recycled, just rejuvenated. “Machu Picchu”, the opener feels effortlessly cool with a very song for ten years”, we can tell that layered sound, featuring crisscrossing vocals, they sound just like they used to...but better. the faint sound of bongo drumbeats, and repetitive guitar riffs. You can tell the whole band is in action; the cogs of the machine are Some other favorites include the passionate yet clean “Taken for a Fool”, turning in a fierce energy between what is the loose and effortless “Gratisfaction”, challenging and what is familiar. and the soft and serious toned “Life is Simple in the Moonlight.” The boys The album is a series of layers,with the take risks with songs like “Games” garage-band sound we know and a newer which is overwhelmingly electronic space age, futuristic tone with hints of and the rough, cold sounding “Meelectronic and 80’s new wave. Deviating from their usual production pattern, Angles tabolism”. But these risks speak to features a contributive effort from the other the range they cover on this album, members and less of Casablancas, who in the something they should be applauded past has controlled everything from writing for. Despite the previous hiatus, the to when bass lines and guitar solos would be band promises that a fifth album will featured. But not much has changed in terms go into production later this year. As of Casablancas’ insecurity and vulnerability, Casablancas croons in the last track, which reigns through in the lyrics from start “Don’t try to stop us/ get out of the way.” No way we’re stopping you guys now. livi MAGNANINI
Angles [RCA] 8,500 It’s been a long and painful five years since we last heard from our favorite New York boy quintet, the Strokes. With lead singer Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr. (guitar) releasing solo albums and Fabrizio Moretti (drums) and Nikolai Fraiture (bass) both doing side projects with new bands, (Little Joy and Nickel Eye, respectively) it seemed as if the band would never get their act together. Their fourth studio album, Angles, proves that they have done just that and so much more, resulting in the best album since their debut. The opening of the record feels like a blast off, an embarking journey into a bizarre space-age sound. Immediately I was reminded of the futuristic bent of 2006’s First Impressions of Earth. But the Strokes are
It’s true: Adele writes and sings primarily about love. Contrary to the majority of artists in her genre, though, her viewpoint provides something much deeper and relatable. This album provides us with an introspective look into the animus of a 21-year-old woman. There are no bullshit commentaries about coffee shop interactions or cases of unrequited love between two swooning twenty-somethings. 21 is a raw, provocative album that illustrates the realistic range of emotions that accompany giving up everything to another person and making yourself vulnerable in only the most extreme of ways. The first thing that made a strong impression when listening to this album was the versatility in the styles of the songs. Adele’s previous album, 19, was an enjoyable batch of gorgeous songs consisting of her voice and a piano with an occasional synthesizer riff thrown in the background. In “Rolling in the Deep”, the first single released off 21, low acoustic guitar chords and a pounding bass drum are the lead in for Adele’s rich, caramel-toned voice that quickly turns into a belt when the chorus hits. Adele’s sassier side shines through with the
21 [Columbia] 9,994
help of a few back-up singers in “Rumor Has It”, while “Turning Tables” brings us back to the more traditional Adele style with strong piano and a few string parts. “Set Fire to the Rain” receives the title of my favorite song on 21, if not because of the chord progressions within the fusion of instruments, then definitely because of the lyrics. This track is the epitome of just how effectively Adele can use her vocal and writing skills to create something so much more than a dirge about a break-up and somehow channel her feelings of loss into a song without cheapening any emotions. Other notable songs include “He Won’t Go”, which exudes a 70s funk, slightly Stevie Wonder-esque feel and showcases lighter lyrics, and “Take It All”, a ditty that features a gospel choir backing up a lament in which Adele shows off her incredible range. “I’ll Be Waiting” is a gritty, up-tempo track that seems to channel the Scissor Sisters,
but the addition of horns and the style of voice make it very uniquely Adele. The last track on 21, a bluesy cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong”, brings to fruition a feeling of haunted contentment. My overall feelings towards this album can be summarized with the words transcend and genius. 21 goes above and beyond the capabilities of many artists in terms of both lyrics and music. The combination of massive talent and meaningful material is what drives 21 to be the amazing album that it is and what proves Adele to be one of the most underappreciated and phenomenal artists of our time. alex ROSS
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