Pluck All Your Silly Strings: Neutral Milk Hotel, in Chattanooga, TN (10/19/13)

Neutral Milk Hotel in 1998. From left to right: Jeff Mangum, Scott Spillane, Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes.

 

This is covert stuff. I’ve been waiting in line for 45 minutes to attend a show for which their are no real tickets — it’s all electronic, so as to prevent reselling and scalping. Now, the throng of diehards here to see a band that died 15 years ago, is herded into single-file lines. Women’s bags are checked. Men are given full-body pat downs. We’re all warned several times: no cameras, no video recorders, no audio recorders, no cell phone videos or pictures. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to file for Level 3 Security Clearance. People talk in hushed tones. What is inside Track 29, in Chattanooga, isn’t meant to get out. Inside is an experience, ephemeral, to be stored in one’s mind and not one’s computer. It’s like the nineties. Entering this venue is entering a time machine. This is not surprising, considering that the band we’re all here to see famously sang “I wish’d I could save her in some sort of time machine.” Everyone thought Neutral Milk Hotel was dead; perhaps they were saved in that very same time machine.

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Jake Bugg’s “What Doesn’t Kill You” Review

courtesy of videostatic.com

Now let me say singer-songwriter Jake Bugg is hands down my all time favourite artist in the whole world, so when he released his newest single around two weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised by the harsher, tougher, sound of What Doesn’t Kill You, marking a huge shift from the indie folk/rock sound of his debut album Jake Bugg. For his fans who prefer the tracks with just Bugg’s voice and his acoustic guitar (Simple as This, Country Song, Note to Self, Someone Told Me), it may take some time for the new single to grow on them, but Bugg’s charismatic voice and intimately personal lyrics only get better with each listen.

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Under-appreciated Albums: “The Hazards of Love”, by the Decemberists

A few weeks ago the National played at the Ryman, and fellow staff writer Nick Kline and I happened to meet up there. We talked about music, favorite bands, past concerts, and then we hit upon The Decemberists — we’d both seen them live, on their 2009 A Short Fazed Hovel tour, where they played the entirety of their recent album The Hazards of Love. Nick mentioned as an aside that HoL his least favorite Decemberists album, and conversation moved on.

Perhaps this (and, admittedly, a bad case of writer’s block) is what motivated me to write this. While I don’t necessarily know why it’s Nick’s least favorite, nor do I even know if he likes or dislikes it, the general opinion developed since The Hazards of Love‘s release is that’s it’s overwrought, weird, has too many guest vocals, is too repetitive, and too metal. By the time of the release of The Decemberists’ next effort, the superb The King is Dead in 2011, frontman Colin Meloy admitted “Even I’m starting to believe it, like, ‘I guess The Hazards of Love did kind of suck, didn’t it?’”.  By 2013, it’s largely been swept under the rug, left hiding under the skirt of the bigger and strong releases in their six-album catalog. Yet, I can’t help but love this album.  [Read more...]

CHVRCHES Soar With Thrilling, Excellently Executed Debut

Photo Courtesy of anotherrainysaturday.com

Coming off of last year’s monster single “The Mother We Share,” many (including yours truly) have been hotly anticipating more from Scottish synthpop band CHVRCHES. Could they sustain the rush of that song over a whole album? Would they be able to bring enough variety in their sugary-yet-melancholic sound to last an album’s length? Thankfully the answer to both of those questions on debut The Bones of What You Believe is “mostly yes.” With the sonic layers to please synth-heads and the songwriting prowess to please everyone else, CHVRCHES has delivered one of the year’s most fully realized debuts and one of the best pop records I’ve heard in ages.

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Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival is a Can’t-Miss Weekend

Image from Music Midtown

This past Friday and Saturday marked the 3rd year of the return of Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival to Piedmont Park.  The two-day festival included three stages and a diverse line-up ranging from rap genius Kendrick Lamar, to classic rock titans Journey, to live show titans Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I attended the festival with a friend who is a graduate student in chemistry at Georgia Tech.  In short, it was an amazing weekend.  After the jump, I’ll be giving you a look at it day-by-day, and then summarizing the festival experience as a whole to wrap things up. [Read more...]

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Day late and a dollar short, perhaps–this song came out eight whole days ago. In today’s hyper-consuming, Facebook-addicted, Reddit-ing generation where one week becomes one month and a year compresses into a day, a dream that flies past while we watch our lives unfold on our phones’ camera app–I think of Modest Mouse’s song “Heart Cooks Brain”–where was I? I get so flustered with all these lenses obscuring my view–wait, I remember–eight days is a long time. Don’t you know that one of my old high school friends has made 21 new posts since “Reflektor” released? Don’t you know that twenty-one important, life-changing things happened to them in that span of 8 days? I read it, too, all of it. Yet, a year from now, they won’t remember what it was all about. And I won’t remember it, either. They’re someone that I knew but not anymore.

We live now in an embattled state, where social media and self-absorption has blurred and obscured the line between friend and stranger. This is the world that Arcade Fire’s new single, “Reflektor”, inhabits, questions, and condemns. [Read more...]

No Trouble for The National as they Rock the Ryman

Photo by Rick Hawkins for American Songwriter

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.

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The 1975′s Self-Titled Debut is Driving and Relaxing All In One

Image courtesy of gigwise.com

I discovered The 1975 while browsing r/listentothis on Reddit last year, probably in September or October.  I was immediately enthralled with this band with an interesting name and a catchy, if unpolished, sound and I began looking for a larger catalog .  Or, attempting to find one rather; at the time they had only two EP releases to their name.  Very little information was to be found.  And so I was left to wait patiently for a debut album to appear, only to be met by consecutive EP releases that were interesting, but at the same time so short and left me wanting something fuller.  However, after all of my waiting, their self-titled debut album has finally arrived, filled with songs that sound like they could all be singles yet still find cohesion as a whole work.  Suffice it to say that I am not disappointed. [Read more...]