The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

Built To Spill Shine Bright at Starland Ballroom — September 13, 2019

Built To Spill Shine Bright at Starland Ballroom

The Keep It Like A Secret 20th anniversary tour kept on rolling Thursday night in Sayreville, New Jersey. The gig was the first of a new tour leg that will see Built To Spill work its way up and down the east coast for the next two months in support of their seminal album from 1999. The band had previously played 27 shows in Europe in the spring followed by an additional 31 dates earlier this summer focusing mainly on the midwest states. Like the majority of anniversary shows prior, Built To Spill opened with “Time Trap” before running through the bulk of Keep It Like A Secret in random order with songs like “Center of The Universe”, “Else” and “Carry The Zero” receiving the biggest audience responses on the evening. Frontman and creative leader Doug Martsch, the lone original member of Built To Spill, was a man of few words on the night. He instead chose to focus on delivering the music that featured sprawling guitar solos, tight percussion work and his trademark heavenly vocals that do not seem to have aged a single day over the last 20 some odd years.

After 10 songs the band left the stage before inevitably returning for a much expected encore that would feature a nice cross section of various Built To Spill classics over the last 30 years. First up was The Halo Benders tune “Planned Obsolescence” followed by There’s Nothing Wrong with Love’s “In The Morning”, Untethered Moon’s “Living Zoo” and Perfect from Now On’s “I Would Hurt A Fly”. Built To Spill is known to do some pretty awesome and random covers with tonight being no exception. The band launched into “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks and was a real highlight for the gig. I love the mini resurgence that song is having at the moment with Ethan Hawke singing it in the film Juliet Naked most recently. To bring the show to an epic conclusion, Built To Spill ripped through “Broken Chairs” and thus completing their Keep It Like A Secret 20th Anniversary show on a rainy night in suburbia New Jersey. Also on the bill tonight were Portland, Oregon indie rockers And And And who had what I would describe as a Band of Horses meets Fleet Foxes vibe going on as well as New Mexico hard rockers Prism Bitch who had a flare for the theatrics on stage. Both were worth seeing as you wait for the main course.

 

Setlist

Time Trap

Center of The Universe

The Plan

When Not Being Stupid Is Not Enough

Bad Light

You Were Right

Sidewalk

Temporarily Blind

Else

Carry The Zero

 

Encore

Planned Obsolescence

In The Morning

Living Zoo

I Would Hurt A Fly

Waterloo Sunset

Broken Chairs

Vampire Weekend Triumphant at MSG — September 8, 2019

Vampire Weekend Triumphant at MSG

The culmination of a decades worth of immense hype and hard work for the former Columbia University band was finally paid off in epic fashion Friday evening as Vampire Weekend took to the stage at a sold out Madison Square Garden. It was the band’s very first gig at the world’s most famous arena and they certainly rose to the occasion by performing a robust 32 song set that crisscrossed the groups already legendary discography. Some of the biggest cheers of the night were heard when Ezra Koenig and company ripped through VW classics such as  “M79”, “This Life”, “Harmony Hall”, “Diane Young”, “Walcott” and fan request “Ottoman”.

Also joining forces with Vampire Weekend on stage were opening act Angélique Kidjo during The Father of The Brides’ album closer “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin” as well as guitar virtuosity Steve Lacey for a cover of his own song “Dark Red” and Vampire’s “Sunflower”.  The band were in great spirits all night long and their adoring legions of fans ate it all right up. Sadly there was no surprise cameo by Danielle Haim during “Hold You Now” which is one of the real treasures from The Father of The Bride. One day it will happen. One day. In addition to being the hottest ticket in town Friday night, the band also streamed the event live on Twitter so that all who follow their music could enjoy the Garden party. Up next for the band are 53 more concert dates that will carry the band across the globe and into October 2020.

Sept. 6, 2019 — Madison Square Garden, New York

* “Bambina”

* “Unbelievers”

* “White Sky”

* “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

* “Holiday”

* “M79”

* “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)”

* “Sympathy”

* “Unbearably White”

* “Step”

* “New Dorp. New York” (SBTRKT cover)

* “This Life”

* “Diplomat’s Son”

* “Hold You Now”

* “Harmony Hall”

* “Diane Young”

* “Cousins”

* “A-Punk”

* “Hannah Hunt”

* “2021”

* “California English”

* “Dark Red”

* “Sunflower”

* “Oxford Comma”

* “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin”

Encore

* “Big Blue”

* “Ottoman”

* “Obvious Bicycle”

* “Run”

* “Worship You”

* “Ya Hey”

* “Walcott”

Big Thief Unleash “Not”, Ready New Album — August 25, 2019

Big Thief Unleash “Not”, Ready New Album

To the surprise of many Big Thief have dropped a new single titled “Not” and also announced a new album due out on October 11, 2019 called Two Hands. Big Thief are already coming off a banner year with rave reviews for their album U.F.O.F. with many people believing it is the album of the year for 2019. I really can’t argue with that. This band is on fire at the moment with a steady stream of great albums since 2016’s Masterpiece and 2017’s Capacity. Throw in lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s solo album abysskiss from last year and it is safe to say the group is sitting on a purple patch of creativity much to listeners delight.

Our first glimpse of Two Hands is the super charged, raw and emotional “Not”. It has made the rounds as a fan favorite live track over the last few years but until now has never seen the light of day studio wise. The song features a ferocious guitar solo that runs almost 3 minutes long and would almost certainly make Neil Young blush in admiration. This is easily the best song I’ve heard all year. It is not even close.

Two Hands is described by the band as the twin sister to U.F.O.F.  and is billed as “the celestial twin” with Two Hands as “the earth twin.” Big Thief recorded the album at Sonic Ranch in the border town of Tornillo, Texas and features very little overdubbing, with an emphasis on live takes.

As Adrianne Lenker states in the press release:

“Two Hands has the songs that I’m the most proud of; I can imagine myself singing them when I’m old. Musically and lyrically, you can’t break it down much further than this. It’s already bare-bones….While you listen, let your own two hands rest in front of your body with palms facing inward and see what power grows between them.”

Two Hands:

1 “Rock And Sing”
2 “Forgotten Eyes”
3 “The Toy”
4 “Two Hands”
5 “Those Girls”
6 “Shoulders”
7 “Not”
8 “Wolf”
9 “Replaced”
10 “Cut My Hair”

Pre-order the album here.

https://bigthief.ffm.to/twohands.opr

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Touch Down in New Jersey — August 9, 2019

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Touch Down in New Jersey

The 16 date Noel Gallagher/Smashing Pumpkins North American tour launched Thursday night in Camden, New Jersey. Or as Noel kept saying all show……Philadelphia. Very close but wrong side of the Delaware Mr. Gallagher! The High Flying Birds began their hour long set with 5 straight songs off 2017’s excellent Who Built The Moon? that really incorporated the strengths of the 11 piece band. Holy Mountain got the crowd twisting and shouting from their seats. I was behind a woman who kept holding up a sign that said “She Danced, She Danced” during the song’s soaring chorus. A nice touch and it was great to see fans get really enthusiastic over newer material. Thursday night also marked the live debut of “This Is The Place”, the lead track for Noel’s forthcoming new EP of the same name. It went down extremely well for a song most people in the audience still hadn’t discovered yet. The track is equal parts Jungle and New Order and is the most modern sounding recording of music Noel has yet released as a solo artist. He has come a long long way from his Oasis days. Also performed was Noel’s single from earlier this summer “Black Star Dancing”. Loads of bass thumping and heads bumping to that one. Just as Noel predicted to the press back in June. It was refreshing to hear Noel open his show with 7 straight solo songs, all from the last two years. Next came the big ones, “Wonderwall”, “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”. Not sure when Noel dropped doing the slower Ryan Adams version of “Wonderwall” but I’m glad he did. The song goes down much much better live with the faster tempo. Reminded me of his vintage 1996 performances. This was also my first time hearing “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” live. When I saw Oasis twice in 2002, it wasn’t played either time (Las Vegas, Coachella). The evening came to a close with Noel dedicating the last song to President Donald Trump….”All You Need Is Love”. God knows we need it lately in this country with multiple mass shootings this week. Overall the gig was terrific. Noel was in great spirits all night, smiling and laughing with bandmates. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look that happy on stage in person before. Noel is certainly flying high as a solo artist in 2019. Looking forward to the rest of his EPs this year with one dropping in September and the final one in December.

 

Full set:

Fort Knox

Holy Mountain

Keep On Reaching

It’s A Beautiful World

She Taught Me How To Fly

Black Star Dancing

This Is The Place

Wonderwall

Stop Crying Your Heart Out

Don’t Look Back In Anger

All You Need Is Love

The Music of Quentin Tarantino — August 6, 2019

The Music of Quentin Tarantino

And away we go….

Every Quentin Tarantino movie is a grand adventure and spectacle. Few directors command the respect, attention and globally admiration that Tarantino does. When he releases a film it’s appointment viewing. I can’t really say that about too many other current directors. Maybe Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan or Paul Thomas Anderson. Needless to say it is a short list of prime movie directors. This is no different than Tarantino’s 9th feature film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a fading tv star named Rick Dalton. Best Pitt plays his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth. Together they toy around 1969 Hollywood trying to resurrect Rick’s struggling movie career while the Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski and Manson Family looms large in the periphery. It’s a new tone for a Tarantino movie and often very melancholy. It’s more Jackie Brown than say Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. This is very much a love letter to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Tarantino fell head over heels with as a young boy growing up in the city of Angeles. It’s also an excellent film worth repeated viewings for all the snappy dialogue, subtle LA references and Tarantino Easter eggs. 

With each new Tarantino film comes an eclectic soundtrack packed full with killer songs from yesteryear. Tarantino doesn’t just rescue fading Hollywood stars like John Travolta or Pam Grier or even David Carradine. He also exhumes lost musical nuggets that the hands of time have forgotten about. He’s done this over and over beginning with his very first film Reservoir Dogs going straight through to Hateful Eight. Songs like the George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag”, Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You”, Urge Overkill’s cover of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”, Dick Dale’s cover of “Miserlou”, The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time”, Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” and The 5.6.7.8’s cover of “Woo-Hoo”. Each one of these songs re-entered the pop lexicon to tremendous success and lasting impact. Whenever you hear these songs they automatically transport you right back to his films in which they appear. Often times creating a perfect marriage of sound and cinema. That is part of the gift that is Quentin. 

The soundtrack to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood continues this time honored tradition. As the story goes Tarantino had two rules for the soundtrack. First, no songs could be included past the year 1969 and second the songs needed to be played on Los Angeles’ KHJ radio (AKA Boss Radio) in the summer of 1969.  He accomplished the latter by contacting tape trader communities who made it a hobby of recording popular DJs on KHJ throughout the 60s. He ended up with over 14 hours of material to comb through. Anything he heard on those tapes were in play to appear in the film. Tarantino zeroed in Paul Revere & the Raiders who in their own time were quite popular in the late 60s but have since been lost in the infinite shuffle of popular culture. Three of their songs feature in the movie including the extremely catchy “Good Thing” with its sunny day Beach Boys vibes. Also unearthed were Neil Diamonds’s gospel preacher anthem “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” and Los Bravos absolutely rollicking “Bring a Little Lovin’”. Those three tracks in essence make up the backbone of the film musically. I don’t think I have ever heard any of them prior to this film being released. Now I’m happy to have them living and breathing on my iPhone at all times. As an encore, Tarantino deploys Vanilla Fudges’ psychedelic freakout “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” during the film’s dramatic conclusion on Cielo Drive. Few do it better than Tarantino on a continual basis and this article doesn’t even touch on all the brilliant movie scores he’s borrowed and mixed in over the last two decades from old spaghetti westerns, vintage war films, defunct tv shows and forgotten Ennio Morricone compositions. That is a story for another time. For now enjoy Tarantino’s new film effort and the music he painstakingly selected for your listening pleasure.

 

All songs that appear in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood….

  1. Treat Her Right – Roy Head & The Traits (1965)
  2. The Green Door – Jim Lowe (1956), performed by Leonardo DiCaprio
  3. I’ll Never Say Never To Always – Charles Manson (1970)
  4. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel (1968)
  5. The Letter – Joe Cocker (1970)
  6. Summertime – Billy Stewart (1966)
  7. Funky Fanfare – Keith Manfield (1969)
  8. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – The Bob Seger System (1968)
  9. The House That Jack Built – Aretha Franklin (1968)
  10. MacArthur Park – Robert Goulet (1970)
  11. Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course – Chad & Jeremy (1968)
  12. Hush – Deep Purple (1968)
  13. Son of a Lovin’ Man – Buchanan Brothers (1969)
  14. Choo Choo Train – The Box Tops (1968)
  15. Kentucky Woman – Deep Purple (1968)
  16. Good Thing – Paul Revere & The Raiders (1966)
  17. Time for Livin’ – The Association (1968)
  18. Hungry – Paul Revere & the Raiders (1966)
  19. The Circle Game – Buffy Sainte-Marie (1967)
  20. Jenny Take a Ride – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (1965)
  21. Can’t Turn You Lose – Otis Redding (1967)
  22. Soul Serenade – Willie Mitchell (1968)
  23. Bring a Little Lovin’ – Los Bravos (1966)
  24. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond (1969)
  25. Hey Little Girl – Dee Clark (1959)
  26. Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon – Paul Revere & the Raiders feat. Mark Lindsay (1969)
  27. Don’t Chase Me Around – Robert Corff (1970)
  28. California Dreamin’ – Jose Feliciano (1968)
  29. Dinamite Jim (English Version) – I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni (1966)
  30. Out of Time – The Rolling Stones (1966)
  31. Straight Shooter – The Mamas & The Papas (1966)
  32. Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) – The Mamas & The Papas (1968)
  33. Snoopy vs. The Red Baron – The Royal Guardsman (1966)
  34. You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Vanilla Fudge (1967)
  35. Miss Lily Langtry – Maurice Jarre (1972)
  36. Judge Roy Bean’s Theme – Maurice Jarre (1972)
  37. Batman Theme – Neal Hefti (1966)
Strange Ranger – Remembering The Rockets Review — July 28, 2019

Strange Ranger – Remembering The Rockets Review

Every once in awhile an album comes along that catches you completely off guard. That happened this very week with Strange Ranger’s fantastic new LP Remembering The Rockets. I first came into contact with this hot new young band by listening to Princeton University’s college radio station 103.3 on a drive home over the Christmas holiday in 2017. The tune played was “Most Perfect Gold of the Century” from their album Daymoon. It’s a sprawling, guitar shredding, indie gem that is equal parts Modest Mouse, Built To Spill and Crazy Horse Neil Young. A great introduction to the band. Later I’d find Daymoon on vinyl at the Princeton Record Exchange brand new for $5. A huge score for a random spring evening. Also purchased that night on vinyl was the Burial/Four Tet/ Thom Yorke collaboration from 2011 for $24. Anyways, I digressed, Remembering The Rockets is an album perfectly paired with the warm sunny summer. 

The album was teased over the last few months with the addictive bubble gum indie pop of “Leona”, the synth drenched “Living Free” and “Message To You” which channels the likes of Massive Attack crossed with Yves Tumor. It’s a total flex move having the ability to have keyboard player Fiona Woodman take over to write and sing a tune on an album that already features the pipes of lead singer/guitarist Isaac Eiger. Toss in the fact that bass player Free Nixon can also rock the mic with the best of them. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. Isaac recently told Fader.com that The Cure’s Disintegration was a huge influence on Remembering The Rockets, not lyrically but sonically. This is clearly evident on “Sunday”, “Nothing Else To Think About” and “Living Free”. All three lean heavy on The Cure. The first two sound like the best parts of Wish, “Sunday” has hades of “Friday I’m In Love” with R.E.M. guitar jangle, and the latter of the trio is pure Disintegration bliss. 

Elsewhere on Rockets, another silky smooth indie anthem is found with “Planes In Front of the Sun”. A clear cut highlight from this album that rivals the addictive qualities of “Leona”. Also sprinkled throughout the album are three short ambient pieces of music that lend added sonic textures to an already rich palette. The best of the batch being “‘02”. The album closes with a beautiful yet melancholy ballad called “Cold Hands Warm Heart” which evokes memories of Wayne Coyne’s vocals on The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips. This is a proper album send off for one of 2019’s strongest efforts to date. I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more from this Montana/Portland/Philadelphia band over the coming years.

Grade: A+

Thom Yorke’s ANIMA: A Track By Track Breakdown — June 30, 2019

Thom Yorke’s ANIMA: A Track By Track Breakdown

This album was a solid four years in the making with a handful of mini tours previewing future material. Once again Thom teams up with producer Nigel Godrich as bandmate and creative partner. I feel fortunate that we are now in a phase when so many Radiohead projects are seeing the light of day. Between Thom’s new solo record ANIMA, last year’s film soundtrack to Suspiria, Jonny Greenwood’s film scores to Phantom Thread and You Were Never Really Here, to Phil Selway’s solo albums/movie soundtrack and Ed O’Brien’s upcoming solo debut due this fall. That is not to mention the Ok Computer mini disc leaks of early June and a heavily teased 20th anniversary Kid A/Amnesiac boxset reissue for October 2020. These are very happy times. Before you know it Radiohead will be gearing up for LP10. 

Traffic – ANIMA picks up where Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes seemingly left off. Very similar DNA on this track to many of those tunes and is also featured as the middle section of the ANIMA one reeler by Paul Thomas Anderson on Netflix. 

Last I Heard (…He was circling the drain) – Sonically feels like another version of “Interference” from Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. A good thing in my opinion as that was a stand out song. Thom describes a dystopia of human sized rats and swimming through the gutters. 

Twist – One of the crown jewels of this record. A long time live favorite which exceeded all expectations on the record. There is even a call back to “15 Step” with children shouting “YAY!”. The real treat of this song is the three minute coda which was previously known as “Saturdays”. Definitively one of the best passages of music Thom has cooked up as a solo artist.

Dawn Chorus – A long time rumored Radiohead song with a mixed bag of fact and fiction surrounding it. Believed to be many other songs (“Open The Flood Gates”, “Wake Me Before They Come”) Thom performed live over the last decade but it ended up being none of those. A devastating beautiful spoken word track that looks back on a life worth living twice despite any hardships. One of the best keyboard melodies the man has ever committed to tape. Sounds like the older brother to “Glass Eyes”. Looking forward to this one live. “Dawn Chorus” is also the final song in the ANIMA one reeler which ends in a surprisingly romantic way for a Radiohead related project. A visually stunning finale to Paul Thomas Anderson’s 15 minute short. 

I Am A Very Rude Person – The most Radiohead like sounding song on ANIMA. Could easily have been on A Moon Shaped Pool. The first guitar notes of the album are heard here. Very heavy on the bass which translates into some fantastic grooves. The ending choir effects are a nice touch. “I have to destroy to create”. 

Not The News – A song that just makes you want to dance and give way to whatever impulses you might have. I consider this the lead single for the record despite not officially having one. An IDM banger. The orchestra swell mid song is truly hair raising stuff and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Jonny Greenwood was a part of that moment. This is also the opening montage to the ANIMA film project. 

The Axe – If the Black Mirror TV show had a theme song this would be it. Humanity vs. technology. Thom wanting to take an axe to our over reliance on technology reminds me of Pink Floyd’s warnings that “one of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces”. A real album highlight for sure. Nigel Godrich with some of his best production work.

Impossible Knots – On first listen this track sounds like Thom’s other side project Atoms For Peace. Great pulsating bass lines and cameo drumming by Phil Selway. Likely to be a favorite of many who listen to this record. 

Runwayaway – Beginning with guitar noodling that sounds like an outtake of Radiohead’s “These Are My Twisted Words” before morphing into its own unique creation. Thom even revisits his Quasimoto style vocals not heard since the Amnesiac days. The final moments of our journey through Thom’s dreamscape subconscious. Time to wake up….

Grade: A    (Thom’s best solo work by a wide margin)

The National Are Easy To Find — May 20, 2019

The National Are Easy To Find

As the story goes The National Had no intentions of a quick follow up to 2017’s Sleep Well Beast. Instead the band planned to take a year long break to rest up, spend time with their families and explore outside endeavors. That all changed with an innocent email from director Mike Mills shortly before the release of Sleep Well Beast. The email was an inquiry to see if The National would be open to work together on “something”. Be it a film soundtrack or more likely a music video. As fortune would have it the band was intrigued with the idea and loved the previous film work done by Mike Mills, specifically “20th Century Woman” from 2016. It wasn’t long before lead singer Matt Berninger sent Mills a Dropbox folder containing a dozen “in progress” National songs to get his feedback on any future potential between the director and the band’s unused material. Mills was moved and inspired by what he had heard. 

Out of this was born I Am Easy To Find in two very different mediums. One being a short 24-minute film of the same name directed by Matt Mills, staring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and backed by new music of The National. The second was a full fledged National album, their 8th overall, which was an emotional response to the film that Mills had created. Mills described the project as a “symbiotic relationship” where neither art form would exist without the other. Mills was even invited by the band to join them in the studio and serve as the album’s producer which terrified but also excited the film director as he had never been involved with music production prior. Mill’s biggest contribution to the sound of the new record was his ability to successfully mediate inner band politics on certain tracks, offering alternate arrangements and removing key guitar parts that might have seemed preposterous a decade before. However, the biggest changes and surprises were still yet to come.

The album opens with “You Had Your Soul With You” which immediately feels like a call back to the Sleep Well Beast until the 2 minute mark when something extraordinary occurs within The National universe. Gail Ann Dorsey of David Bowie fame enters the picture as a guest vocalist, sharing verses with Matt until the song’s rousing conclusion. Dorsey is the first of many guest female singers on I Am Easy To Find. She is further joined by Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, Mina Tindle, Eve Owen (Actor Clive Owen’s daughter), Kate Stables, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus throughout the course of this 16 track Odyssey. In an almost unthinkable fashion, Matt Berninger and his powerful baritone vocals, take a backseat letting the beauty of his female collaborators voices take over and help transform the band into an almost unrecognizable state of existence. The results are positively breathtaking in scope as Matt never sings any songs completely on his own and many times he is merely harmonizing. In addition there are two instrumental pieces, a choir led track and even a free form spoken word passage called “Not In Kansas”. These are uncharted waters for a 20 year old band to fool around in but at the same time it is an exhilarating listening experience proving it was well worth the swim in the first place. 

Deep down all the National’s hallmarks still remain. The brutally honest lyrics by Matt Berninger and wife Carin Besser, the identical twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner on dueling guitars, the steady bass lines of Scott Devendorf and the brilliant percussion work by his brother Bryan Devendorf. All of it coming together to create some of the best material the band has cooked up yet: “Quiet Life”, “Oblivions”, “I Am Easy To Find”, “Where Is Her Head”, “Lights Years” and the beloved live classic “Rylan” are all stellar. For years National fans clamored for its release dating back to the High Violet days but with each subsequent album and passing year it did not appear. It is pretty safe to say this song had become The National’s own version of Radiohead’s “True Love Waits” which also began its life as a live favorite in 1995 before finally appearing on A Moon Shaped Pool in 2016. It merely took the right project, at the right time, with the right person (Mike Mills) pushing for it to become a reality. 

Where The National go from here is anyone’s guess? We do know that the band now consider themselves a collective hive of different artists coming together, from family to friends to even Hollywood directors, to create beautiful pieces of music that aim to transcend just musical boundaries. The National have said they are not done with Mike Mills and Mike Mills said he is not done with the band. They even consider him a 6th member of the group at the moment. It is invigorating to see the band inject this much life into its system after almost 20 years together and that has resulted in a very rewarding ride for its fans. If you are new to the band go and buy I Am Easy To Find. You won’t regret it.

Get to know Wand — April 24, 2019

Get to know Wand

Truth be told 5 days ago I hadn’t heard a single note played by this band. Seen the name written many many times over the last 4-5 years but never took the time to click play on any of their music. That all changed with Laughing Matter. It’s been said that Laughing Matter is nothing like the roads previously walked by Wand. They have slowly evolved out of their psyche folk rock skin into meatier guitar licks and a new found art rock direction. I will still go back and check out their earlier material because like this album, they’ve all gotten pretty solid thumbs ups across the board but I’ll save that for another time. This album has been compared to mid 90s Radiohead so often in the last week that it now feels extremely cliche to write about that angle. Let’s just get it out of the way. Wand are not Radiohead. Not even close. Are they inspired and influenced by them? Sure. I think that is a safe bet. Does anything actually sound like The Bends or Ok Computer? No. Not really and that is ok. Wand are making smart, dark sophisticated rock music (hence the Radiohead allusions) in a world that is seemingly losing that kind of magic on a daily basis. Does anyone remember guitar solos anymore?

To my ears the only track that remotely sounds like Radiohead is the arpeggio guitars running throughout “Thin Air”. Outside of that I think many listens are reaching and looking to fill that Radiohead void as the band is in the middle of a lengthy hiatus. Laughing Matter is a double LP that is all over the map in the best ways possible. You have the harder hitting rockers in “Scarecrow”, “XOXO”, “Walkie Talkie”, “Wonder”, “Lucky’s Sight” that are supported by a handful of gentle and lush compositions in “High Planes Drifter”, “Rio Grande”, “Wonder (II)” and the sprawling 9 minute epic “Airplane” that features one of the best guitar ending meltdowns of the last few years. Reminds me of some of the guitar work done by Jeff Tweedy on Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born. Mixed in throughout this record are some relaxing instrumental passages called “Bubble”, “Hare” and “Tortoise” giving the listener a bit of a reprieve before lead singer Cory Hanson and company continue with their onslaught of “music from the ashes of a world that can no longer suffer its human abusers, to inspire us to hold the spirit close and do what’s next” as their record label describes this LP’s mission statement. 

Interestingly the album comes to a close with a song titled “Jennifer’s Gone” that completely pays homage to the spirit of Lou Reed in his Velvet Underground days. Definitely not the type of song I would have been expected to pop up on this record after an hour of solid alt rock offerings. Not that it is bad in anyway, its actually very excellent. This song feels like it could have easily been on last year’s album I’m Bad Now by Nap Eyes. I guess the band wanted to give some sort of tribute to the late great Lou Reed. All in all Laughing Matter is offering up a lot of well written material that covers a ton of ground and makes you really appreciate the lost art of the album format. In a musical landscape that is constantly embracing and pushing solo artists, Wand make it cool to be in a band again. Go pickup, download or stream Wand’s Laughing Matter. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll probably even tell your friends about them. 

Noel Gallagher Flying High on Record Store Day — April 19, 2019

Noel Gallagher Flying High on Record Store Day

Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds have long been friends of Record Store Day by releasing a steady stream of titles since April 2012. This year was no different as Noel brought in electronic producers Nicolas Laugier (The Reflex) and Richard Norris to rework three tracks from Gallagher’s outstanding album from 2017 Who Built The Moon? The Reflex tackled two songs for this EP release titled Wait and Return. The first being “She Taught Me How To Fly” which doesn’t at all sound like a remix. This track always reminded me of Oasis meets Technique era New Order. The Reflex plays off those ideas to extraordinary results. I’m willing to bet that many Noel Gallagher fans would have had no problem if this was the version of the song found on Who Built The Moon? It really is that good of work. Hats off to all of those involved in this remix. If you can’t tell it is a remix then mission well accomplished.

The Reflex’s second effort on the EP was “Keep On Reaching” which originally sounded more traditional with guitar, drums, bass and a little brass section with a touch of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels swagger mixed in. Under Laugier’s direction the song gets a modern face lift and fits more in line with the direction David Holmes was trying to accomplish while producing the full blown version of Who Built The Moon? I’m sure you all remember Noel’s promise to work with an electronic producer (Holmes), write material only in the studio and expand upon his sonic palette that was only ever hinted at while doing one-off side projects over the years while in Oasis. Think Goldie, Chemical Brothers and UNKLE. These two interesting pieces by The Reflex really make you wonder that maybe Noel should hire this man to produce his future albums. I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all based upon the results of this collaboration. 

Richard Norris gets a crack at the final song on this EP “Black & White Sunshine”.  The album version of this track was one of the more straight forward and safe rockers found on Who Built The Moon? I don’t mean that as huge negative but it is the one song from Moon that could have easily been on Noel’s 2011 debut album or 2015’s Chasing Yesterday. Norris strips away a lot of the introductory guitar lines and drums fills, replacing them pulsating electronic thrills. The song is stretched out to an atmospheric 7 minutes that really lifts the song to a more interesting level than its official studio brother. Noel has a real talent for selecting electronic producers who really know how to re-imagine his work. Be it Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve, David Holmes, Andrew Weatherall or Mike Pickering/Graeme Park. The results are always the same. Outstanding work and contributions I’m proud to have in my record collection. Keep it coming Noel.

Wait and Return EP (2,500 copies)

A1. She Taught Me How To Fly (The Reflex Revision)  

A2. Keep On Reaching (The Reflex Revision)  

B1. Black & White Sunshine (Richard Norris Remix)