Last Wednesday night had a large crowd flooding to the Frank Erwin Center for a night of music indie rock legends by the names of Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. If you’ve been around or even somewhat paying attention to the music of the past decade, it feels like it would be an impossible feat to not recognize at least one of these two household names. While Wolf Parade has lived a fairly tame existence in terms of constant rock goodness, Arcade Fire have admittedly dabbled in controversy as of late. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the evening: would the infamous band that created Funeral and Neon Bible force its fans to pay 75 dollars to hear only new material off their less-than-good latest release Everything Now, or would they delight fans to the music that made them famous?
We’ve dropped a few tunes from the debut for Finland’s the Holy over the last month or so. The most impressive thing about listening to the entirety of More Escher and Random Notes is just how polished the band seem to have grown into during these, the early years. You can hear bits of Arcade Fire and Coldplay, blending orchestration and noise with massive hints of pop sensibility. Soliti Music will be releasing the EP next week, August 10th, worldwide, but you can stream it below just to make sure you loved it as much as we do.
Okay, so perhaps the indie rock explosion bubble burst long ago, but the remnants of that still remain with lasting influence of Arcade Fire and the Decembrists. That’s exactly where Loch Lomond picks up, with a combination of those two, only slightly less orchestrated. There’s still a poetic note in the lyrical content, and symphonic touches that flourish in all the right places, so the Portland act isn’t too far removed from everyone’s heroes. This song was released via Tender Loving Empire to kick off the band’s tour through the West, and it’s a great way to start off your week…so says I.
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Thursday night had a lot to live up to: big stage, bigger venue, and a band who seem to be bigger by the minute. What else was big? Ticket prices. With Standing GA/Floor tickets going for 70 dollars and seats for 50, I was hesitant to fork over the big dollars, but having seen this band twice before, both in a festival setting and on their own, I knew the incredible live show they were capable of. I talk, of course, of Arcade Fire, indie rock cornerstone band that has bled into the mainstream. While not a big fan of Reflektor, I lowered my expectations in anticipation of the heavy prevalence of these new tracks, but I did not expect the level of gimmicks that was in store for the night.
Coachella is again using the two weekend format and will feature Outkast, Muse and Arcade Fire as headliners. I get Outkast and Arcade Fire, but please stop booking Muse at every festival. Please. It has to stop. I walk out when I hear Muse; it is my “you’re drunk, go home” alert. Or maybe that is why they are booked as headliners. “Hope you had fun, this is your queue to leave and rest up for tomorrow.” So many lasers. So many.
The festival is getting spendy, passes are $375 and $435 with daily shuttle service. Yikes. Weekend One only has the passes with shuttle service available. VIP will run you $799 with $150 more for parking.
Notables for me on the lineup, as with most festivals, are further down the list: Flume, Jagwar Ma, Dum Dum Girls, Wye Oak, Holy Ghost!, Blood Orange, Mogwai, Chvrches, STRFKR, Daughter, Poolside, Surfer Blood. Mid-levels I’d be stoked on are Bryan Ferry, The Knife, Pet Shop Boys, Beck, Neutral Milk, Motorhead and Little Dragon. You going to the desert? You wearing flip-flops?
The California based Gardens & Villa have always had this underlying electronic influence in their music, even though they’re often labeled as a band with folk influences (see flute solo below), and that aspect is pushed even further on the latest single released from the band. There’s a natural groove to the song, fitting perfectly with the high pitch of the vocals on the tune. Their new record is titled Dunes, and it’s going to see a February 4th release from Secretly Canadian. This is like a less-pretentious version of what Arcade Fire seems to be doing…which in the end makes it pretty enjoyable. I’m going to enjoy this jam for the rest of the day.
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“Thought you were praying to the resurrector, turns out it was just a Reflektor,” Win Butler repeats into the mic— a line from single, “Reflektor,” ironically talking of falling short of adored pop culture icons. Whether you love them or hate them, it seems these days it is impossible to ignore Grammy winning, Indie Rock icons Arcade Fire, as their success from 2010’s The Suburbs threw them into the rough of the public eye. If that wasn’t enough, the publicity campaign for Reflektor, their fourth full-length studio record has been splayed across all forms of media for the world to latch onto. There was an obvious sense that this band was after something big: and at 85 minutes long, Reflektor is definitely large, but has this group bitten off more than they can chew?
The answer to that question is complicated, and while others may turn to the band’s obvious influences and sonic similarities for the solution, I think the answer lies within the music itself. There are some interesting tracks on Reflektor, more so on the latter half of the album than the first. Second track “We Exist,” stands out immediately in its driving synth line that promotes the ‘dance’ aspect of their sound that the band has been allegedly aiming at. The song builds to a graceful crescendo complete with beautiful string work in the background and Butler’s voice stretched to its peak in emotion, bleeding through the effects on it. Later on you have “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” that brings out the clear cut snarling guitar back and “Porno,” which is a slower number laden in synth whose chorus and twists and turns in the lyrics beg your attention.
These are some of the moments on this record when the overproduction hasn’t squeezed the life out the sound and where you can still recognize the band, but those instances aren’t there a great deal of the time. If you were to receive this record with no expectations, from a band under the moniker The Reflektors, it would be easier to enjoy. As a fan, it’s really difficult to get behind the overall lack of lyrics, emotion behind the vocals, when the past three LPs, as different as each are from one another, were chalk full of those aspects—that was what drew me in. All in all the record feels a bit hollow: Butler’s voice is distant and flat in instances when you want emotion, (“Afterlife”), the lyrics are a little simple and repetitive, (“Flashbulb Eyes”), and the songs drag on, (“Awful Sound”). Reflektor is not an awful record, but it certainly doesn’t live up the hype, nor the glory that this band has made for themselves.
Trust me, I have long had a guiltless adoration for this band, and it brings me much pain to write a review so critical of simple people who sing and talk and play music about a reflective age in which everyone is terrified to create for fear of ridicule. I muse that was what Butler was aiming at when he wrote those lyrics I quoted—when we glorify artists, we forget that they are just people with lives of their own and they don’t exist to make music for us. That being said, I am left to wonder why would you invite, then, more of the general public and the media to consume your material when you have already gained worldwide acclaim? Why did Arcade Fire buy into the very thing—publicity they have long claimed to despise—when they could have just let the music speak for them? Perhaps a lack in the actual substance of Reflektor is the reason.
Hey folks! Have you heard about the awesome art show/sale at Red 7 this Friday night, followed by an even more killer rock show? Well, it’s going to be a special night for the Austin community, so you owe it to yourself to be there. We’re offering you some insight into some of the great artists showing their work, and we’re pleased to introduce you to our hard working and genuine mate, Brian Gray. Meet him… Read more
Last fall I caught wind of this great band, White Birds, a Philly group that was creating lush pop music with a nice coat of fog. Just this past weekend the band released a new track from their debut, When Women Played Drums, which unfortunately will be on a limited cassette release. Again, they come at us with this really steady pop, with the vocals run through this wash of noise…it sort of reminds me of what I would expect a mello Arcade Fire to come off as if they recorded in the midst of a windstorm. I don’t know, it’s quiet and gentle, and perfect for my chilled out afternoon jamming.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/White_Birds_-_Waters.mp3]
Download: White Birds – Waters [MP3]
You’ve probably listened to Kelly Pratt thousands of times and not even know it. He’s the multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Beirut, Arcade Fire and even LCD Soundsystem, but now is his time to shine as Bright Moments. His album Natives has just been released, and you’re going to enjoy listening to this track–I guarantee it. It’s definitely a pop song, but it’s got all the careful brush strokes you would expect from a talented musician such as Kelly. It’s filled with horns, unique percussion and an overwhelming sensation of joyousness. Try this one on for size.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/08-Travelers-1.mp3]
Download: Bright Moments – Travelers [MP3]