Everyone has “that one band.” That one band that first exposed you to what would become your taste in music (Modest Mouse for me). That one band that expanded your horizons as to what music could be (Radiohead, specifically the album Kid A for me too). Bands or artists that exposed you to various genres: metal, hip-hop, jazz, what have you. The National is that one band that I listened to every time when things just seemed to suck as a teenager. Of the top 25 most played songs in my iTunes library, 9 of them are by The National (including 2 of the top 3). I have a deep and abiding love for Matt Berninger’s velvety dark-chocolate baritone, Bryan Devendorf’s jittery, spastic drumming, and the Dessners’ genius arrangements. But despite this, I’d never had a chance to see this juggernaut of my teenage life in concert (hence why I woke up early for the pre-sale and refreshed the Ticketmaster page until it actually went live). Thus, this review may be a little skewed. Even on the off chance that the live show didn’t quite match the power of their records, I would be head over heels for that Sunday night. However, I’m happy to report that this (like my experiences with Death Grips, The Mountain Goats, The Hold Steady, My Morning Jacket, Radiohead, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor) was not just a great show, but a defining moment of my year.
Bon Iver may be done for a little while, but between popping up on hip-hop albums big (Yeezus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne) and small (P.O.S.’s We Don’t Even Live Here), playing with his band The Shouting Matches, and collaborating with The Blind Boys of Alabama, Justin Vernon hasn’t exactly been quiet. Nevertheless, the announcement of another album from Volcano Choir, a collaboration with post-rock band Collections of Colonies of Bees, was a bit of a surprise. Their 2009 album Unmap was a solid collection of abstractions with the occasional killer song (“Island, IS”, if you haven’t heard it, is still awesome), but it was a bit unstructured (and quite strange for my tastes). However, it seems to have been an important project for Vernon. Just look at the world of difference between For Emma and Bon Iver, Bon Iver: all the layered, more complex instrumentation. The odder, instrumentally complex, direction of Volcano Choir definitely had a hand in influencing that album’s left-turn from the dude-in-a-cabin scrappiness that defined his debut. On Repave, however, it’s Bon Iver that is influencing Volcano Choir.
Like many of you (or at least those who don’t have their ear to the ground in the Vancouver indie scene), my first exposure to The Belle Game came from indie-rock kingmakers Pitchfork, who named their single “River” as a Best New Track earlier this summer. They were right, but to call this band “new” isn’t entirely correct. After amassing much acclaim in Vancouver with two EPs over the course of four years, debut album Ritual Tradition Habit is a chance to cement The Belle Game as a new player in indie-rock (and another chance to prove the good ol’ Pitchfork effect). While it doesn’t quite follow through on the promise of that aforementioned revelation of a track, The Belle Game’s familiar sound lends itself to a solid debut.