Show Review: Vampire Weekend @ Austin City Limits (3/17)

vpwe

As SXSW 2013 came to end on Sunday, dotted by emerald wardrobes and the overwhelming scent of corned-beef and Guinness, NYC’s Vampire Weekend rounded out their trio of shows for the week atop the Moody Theater stage. Serving as the opening act for the 39th Season of Austin City Limits and for many festival goers, the pièce de résistance, the quartet served up a short, yet tight set leaving many wishing for more. Follow the jump for the rest of the review…

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Show Preview: Blockhead @ Parish (12/21)

Date 12/21/12
Location The Parish
Doors 8pm
Tickets $24

It’s the end of the world as we know it and what better way to go out than spending your last night on Earth at the Parish. Well, technically it’s not the “end” of the world, but the “Beginning of the World” according to the folks from Re-evolution Media. They have put together a great lineup of musicians and performance artists to celebrate the new era in our planet’s history, including Ninjatune‘s own Blockhead (AKA Tony Simon) who’s touting a great new LP, Interludes After Midnight. Come on out to get your aura cleansed and celebrate the dawning of a new day in style!

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Blockhead – Never Forget Your Token

Vincent Moon and Lulacruza – Esperando el Tsunami (film)

Rating: ★★★★☆

In a modern world where impatience, mass trends and uniformity seemingly reign supreme, sometimes we, as a collective international community, forget to slow down and observe the very things that make us human, as unique individuals or as collective cultures. In the latest filmEsperando el Tsunami (or visual album, as the group dubbed it), by French filmmakerVincent Moon (of La Blogotheque fame) in collaboration with Colombian/Argentinian musicians Lulacruza, the trio examined in detail the diversity and strength of community through music (and sound in general) in its wide array of indigenous forms over a period of a month and a half through various spontaneous adventures in Columbia. Cultural extinction is a wide spread phenomenon in the increasingly modern world via a variety of means including food source elimination in particular. Moon and Lulacruza capture the very essence of the vanishing Columbian culture and natural environment on film which in many ways seeks to educate the international public to harbor, protect, or at a minimum, just highlight the people and places the camera captured, even if only for a fleeting moment.

As mentioned above, this “visual album” bridges the gap between music, film, and spoken-word in a fluid, infectious statement. Field recordings in collaboration with local folk music makers highlighted the spontaneous nature and strength of music to bring people together towards a common interest including healing, religious rites, and joyous celebration. Overall, the film is about communication in its various forms and the beauty, diversity, and uniqueness of each style and its relationship to its region and the people which inhabit its ecosystem. The group noted that, “Columbia is the country with the most flora and fauna species by square km in the world.” Considering the lush and diverse environment, it’s not surprising to find just as wide an array of rich musical and cultural styles as we travel along with the band.

Criscrossing around the country, from the mountains, desert, and the sea, Lulacruzadeveloped soothing and invigorating musical journey in collaboration with the locals as Moonhighlighted the essence of each place in detail; the ever patient ‘Man with the Motion Picture Camera’. Those unfamiliar with Lulacruza’s musical style should be well initiated through the film within the first few moments, as Alejandra Ortiz’s spellbinding chanting and singing paired with natural noise-makers, electronic or formal percussive elements via Luis Maurette create an all-encompassing control over the viewer. In addition to this, Moon and his sound team incorporated a wide-array of natural soundscapes to aid the depth of auditory field and highlight the given place’s mood and soul.

In addition to the inspirational overall objective of the film, the release itself follows up on the ground-breaking marketing style as first debuted on Moon’s last film, An Island featuringEfterklang in 2011. The film is available to anyone in the world willing to open their homes or spaces to screen the film in what the director coined Public/Private Screenings. (You can find out more about the screenings here, including how to hold or attend one.) This project in particular gained strength through a Kickstarter fund, which allowed supporters a wide array of benefits in return for donations which provide d the group with travel and equipment funds. Considering the widespread interest in indie film and music in an international objective, the project was, not surprisingly, heavily supported through donations.

As for the film itself, Moon’s eclectic visual prowess, methodical timing, and patience are often the substance of the film, while these visual albums more or less are deprived of a true narrative or formal plot. More so often we are held in flux as a viewer in the back seat of the journey with no idea of our next adventure. The slow, brooding style asking the viewer to slow down in order to travel along is certainly a risk; though the tone of the film requests our acceptance and presence in the moment and respect for the subject matter. Visually speaking, the scenery and cinematography are striking and beautiful and we would expect of one of the Earth’s most vibrant ecosystems. Moon’s ability to use color and light sparingly as a highlight whether as a contrasting bird in nature or a bracelet on a child in an urban setting and capturing the simplistic elements of place are certainly well executed and add visual depth and interest. Asking for forgiveness, welcoming, and acceptance, Lulacruza’s obvious deep connection to the earth is touching and inspiring.

“There in the most profound darkness is where light grows and shines strongest”

As we see in the film, sometime the only way we can find out who we truly are as individuals is to listen to the place that surrounds us, gives us life, and feeds our energy. Opening our hearts to the world around us and patiently listening is the only way to absorb it. In the end, we must realize that we are all connected to this place we call home. The overarching theme of the film focuses strongly on respect: respect for the Earth, respect for culture, respect for musical diversity, and the respect for silence. If this film achieves one thing, it forces the viewer to slow down, breathe deeply, and truly pondered the place they call home. Listen to the sound of the earth, let it grasp you, and teach you its story.

Friday Top 5: Album Covers of 2011

Well, it’s a little later than last year but it’s time again to turn the music down and put on your art-critic monocles and top hats.  Yes, in a year where some heavy hitters came along with some high quality production, I did my best to highlight of few of the lesser known ‘other’ artists involved in completing the full album package. Just like the last two years (2009, 2010), my discriminating eye is looking for quality in a holistic sense when it comes to album artwork. Essentially my main question is whether or not it could stand on its own bringing into the discussion composition, tone, balance, introduction of text and its use, color, etc. With that said, here are a few of the best album covers for 2011.

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Show Review: Balmorhea @ The Parish (1/13)

On a chilly and regrettably less than spooky ‘Friday the13th’ evening, the Parish and Western Vinyl hosted a sold out event of emerging and established local talent.The audience was full with family and friends, young and old, who were treated to a sonic experience of the highest order and the way in which Balmorhea, in particular, presented their craft might have caught a few of them off guard.  Follow the jump for the full review. Read more

Friday Top 5: Instruments

We spend a ton of time on this site covering music and musicians, but rarely do we ever set our focus on the tools of music-maker’s trade. Excluding voice, clapping, whistling, etc. as instruments, which were almost certainly the first true musical tools, several apparatuses have left indelible marks on human society. Without instruments, some of the finest art and music in the recorded history of man would cease to exist.  The romantic image of a child and a piano becoming the next Chopin lead parents around the world to push their children into musical apathy, but sometimes a musician needs an instrument to find their voice, not the other way around. Throughout the history of music, a few instruments stand out as more important than others, so here is the FT5 of influential instruments.

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Liam Finn – FOMO

Rating: ★★★★☆

Getting out of the shadow cast by a famous father is a difficult feat. Just ask Julian Lennon or Jakob Dylan. In not quite the same extent, Kiwi Liam Finn feels their pain. Finn’s father, Neil, the widely respected and renowned musician from Crowded House, luckily has spread his musical genes on down the line. In cases like these, it’s uniqueness that divides the father/son relationship. There will always be members of the media that dwell on that fact, raising never ending comparisons. What Liam brings to the table for his sophomore release, FOMO, is pure unbridled musical creativity spanning genres as well as blood lines. Now, enough talk about fathers and legacies. Liam is trying to build his own, and he’s certainly on the right track where we find him at the moment.

The whiskers on Finn’s face scream folk, but on FOMO, there’s none to be seen. What we get is a mixture of the purest pop, solid psych guitar riffs (as always), and a little R&B thrown in for good measure. Compared to his debut I’ll Be Lightning, there is certainly much less aggression and more bubbliness, with the exception of ‘The Struggle’. The vibes could almost be opposites on the spectrum between lead single ‘Cold Feet’ and ‘Lead Balloon’. However, the psych influence is still placed at the base of FOMO’s pyramid, seen especially on ‘Chase the Seasons’.

Finn starts us off slow with a buildup of heavy feedback and his divine vocals on ‘Neurotic World’. Inclusions of piano and synth layer into a much more complete sound than were used to from Finn in the studio and certainly in the live setting, where he’s known for his raucous performances. ‘Don’t Even Know Your Name’ picks things up where I’ll Be Lightning left off, exhibiting the slow crescendos of vocal and guitar work with a steady beat churning the number along like a runaway train before busting through the station about a minute and a half in. The vibe gets smooth on ‘Real Late’ with Finn channeling his best inner Marvin Gaye. It’s by far the sexiest track on the album and unsurprisingly is a fantastic track to play as the night winds down.

It seems that for this release, Finn channeled all of his aggression into ‘The Struggle’, and in the overall scheme, it works well placed sixth as a palate cleanser of sorts. Otherwise, we find almost too much pop and not enough substance. Always one to end with a barn burner, rock anthem ‘Jump Your Bones’ finishes off the album with heavy feedback and a  theme that even the most unaware of people could pinpoint. This is surely the track that audiences will find the live power prowess that they’ve come to expect in Finn’s live performances.

Overall, FOMO is fantastic from front to back and is certainly a grower. Every time you go back, there’s something else pulling at you that was missed in previous listens. We Austinites are lucky to have Finn in our city for a show on October 12th at the ND. Who knows that next chance we’ll get to see him in town, so be sure not to miss what will surely be an awesome show. You just might want to bring some plugs. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


New Tunes from Working For A Nuclear Free City

Manchurian shoegazers, Working For A Nuclear Free City have just posted an epic free download and a new single. Below you can find a free download via the band’s soundcloud page and on their bandcamp page, you can purchase their latest single, Turning Shadow. The former, exhibits snippets of every style in which WFANFC dabbles and the latter, a solid wave of sound reminiscent of their acclaimed and highly underrated debut, Businessmen and Ghosts. It seems details are slowly emerging about the band’s follow-up to last year’s sprawling release, Jojo Burger Tempest.

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Download: A-P-O-P-T-O-S-I-S [MP3]

Blind Pilot – We Are The Tide

Rating: ★★★½☆

Finding an ever-present spot on the list of premier indie folk cities in the country is Portland, OR, with it’s country and folk roots, laid-back vibe, and organic character. The latest release from Portland natives, Blind Pilot, ‘We Are the Tide’, is quintessentially northwest, reeking of lush forests soaked in a summer rain as the sun emerges from the cloud coverage. It begins with the kind of rain that allows you to be meditative, creative, and above all, hopeful. Like watching the water drops on a window pane and connecting the dots as they ebb and flow. Later on, when the sun finally appears, life returns to the forest.

The young duo of Israell Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski gathered their musical and lyrical strengths as evidenced on the critically acclaimed debut, 3 Rounds and a Sound. For their latest release, We Are the Tide (released September 13th via Expunged) the duo took their sound to a more mature nature once again with the help of a long list of their talented friends. Here’s a group coming to grips with their sound and along with that, the arrangements feel more confident, surefooted, and optimistic.

On the opener, ‘Half Moon’, Nebecker’s vocal strength’s are remarkably solidified. The polished sound allows for more consistency in the whole release, working towards a stronger unified theme. ‘Keep You Right’, the first single on the album, is a pleasant meditation on a one sided relationship. The wonderful dichotomy of banjo and piano ballads, push the song along with harmonies and a harmonium following along to wrap it all together in a wonderful little package. The title track on the album, ‘We Are the Tide’, is much more playful in nature with an upbeat rhythm with Nebecker and company providing the vocal punch which has become the obvious trademark of the young group. This strength again is seen on ‘The Colored Night’ which is one the most complete tracks on the album, contrasts and changing styles all fluidly working together. The final track on the release, ‘New York’ utilizes the harmonium once again, providing a vacillant soundscape paired with desolate vocals with intermittent crescendos like crashing waves.

Since its release, We Are the Tide, is an album I have been consistently turning back to when I need a boost. The lows are not too low, yet the highs are not too high. It’s the perfect level of enthusiasm while still remaining slightly reserved. I think that in itself is a perfect philosophy for life. The fact that a release can affect the listener in such a manner is noteworthy in itself. Blind Pilot will be in Austin next week at the Parish on October 5th as well as a free in-store at Waterloo earlier in the day.

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