Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Annie / Hiro Ballroom / June 28, 2005

amy: well, that sucked

caryn: Oh, Annie, Annie, Annie. Look what you've done for us.

amy: so where were you standing the whole time?

caryn: I was sitting in the reserved section. From now on, anytime I see a reserved sign anywhere I will simply sit there regardless of whether it is indeed reserved for me or not.

amy: could you see the guide vocals thing she had going on?

caryn: No, describe. I could tell there was some, uh, help.

amy: well, about halfway through, i noticed that she had something clipped onto her pants that looked like a cell phone

caryn: Uh huh.

amy: and i was like "well, that can't be a monitor for a cordless mic, because she's not using one"

caryn: Hmmmm

amy: so i asked daphne and she was like "that must be for guide vocals"

caryn: How would that work?

amy: and then, sure enough, you could see that there was a white wire going into her ear

amy: i don't know how it works exactly

caryn: Well, she was singing. Badly, I might add. During Me Plus One she was literally croaking.

amy: i think it was piping in vocals for her to sing along to

amy: the absolute worst part was during the verse in heartbeat thought

amy: she sang completely off-key

amy: and then she just skipped the second verse

caryn: Here's my take: harmless, bland, slightly bouncey, forgettable.

amy: do you like the record?

caryn: She's the anti-MIA. MIA's lyrics, her phrasing, her topics, her music are all so interesting and takes pop forward. Annie is just lite.

amy: wait, you DON’T like the record?

amy: annie's liteness is what's so great about her

amy: not everybody has to take music "forward"

caryn: It's fine. There's some decent tracks. It's just not that interesting to me. Liteness can be done really well. I'm thinking Olivia Newton John or ABBA. I just don't think Annie's all that.

amy: ah, ok. well i am in love with the record. she just sucked all the life out of it live

amy: she was so STIFF

caryn: So your main complaint is her performance then? What do you like about the record so much?

amy: i find it catchy and addicting in a way that i can listen to over and over again

caryn: A few of the songs are sticky for me, but not outrageously so.

amy: a lot of the songs are quite off-kilter and can be really burrowed into and dissected, but i love it like i love kylie or madonna

amy: like heartbeat is really weird if you think about it-- the way it starts so unexpectedly, that weird drop in the melody in the chorus

amy: (she managed to hit that note somehow)

caryn: There's more going on with those two, I think. And, I just think this year MIA has set the bar so high for pop that in comparison, Annie's just eh.

amy: i don't think you can compare them at all. how do you think she compares to kylie or madonna?

amy: i think m.i.a.'s closest comparison is missy elliott

caryn: Why not compare them? Are we comparing shade of skin or genre of music? This is pop!

caryn: And don't forget, Annie, uh, raps during Me Plus One.

amy: well why not compare them to nirvana or avril lavigne or 50 cent?

amy: i guess she sort of talks on that song

caryn: I will: all three of those artists are far more compelling than Annie. I used MIA because they are two break out artists in pop at the same time.

amy: what do you mean by "compelling"?

caryn: The music grabs me. The artists' steelo grabs me. They have carved out something new (at the time), exciting, signature and unforgetable.

amy: well, i don't think any of them were doing anything new. as for the other stuff, i find annie to be all those things.

caryn: Well, we'll have to agree to disagree I guess.

amy: ok

amy: now back to how bad that show was

caryn: But just know this: you're wrong.

amy: dude, pitchfork number one song of the year! of course i'm right!

caryn: Oh, so whatever Pitchfork says I have to swallow. They've really inserted that chip into you, huh?

amy: yup. speaking of which – I am so in love with the arcade fire right now.

amy: i forgot how much i love them until the dj before annie played them. now I am listening to the album again.

caryn: Fuck YEAH! It was the one time all night that I really, really wanted to dance!

amy: that proves how bad she was-- i left wanting to hear the music played BEFORE the show!

caryn: Ok, the show. So who's that guy who does her music? He kinda looks like a rockabilly Nordic hispter.

amy: i dunno, some producer guy. he worked on the album with her. he may or may not be her boyfriend

caryn: He had one of those faces that is clearly not American.

amy: i think the best part of the show was when he did the robot voice on "chewing gum"

caryn: Yeah. It was a bit mangled, which made it better.

amy: the mix was terrible. her vocals were really low. probably for good reason.

caryn: That room, the Hiro, is quite nice. A calming setting with Asian overtones and Bright Lights, Big City crackheads jumping up and down in the booths.

amy: oh i remember reading some guy talking about how it was racist

amy: let me find that

amy: “We enter Hiro, and we get it. Asian themed. The stage is a horrible wooden facade, with a dragon spewing smoke from its eyes and mouth. Stereotypes abound. Innumberable paper lanterns. Nonsense Japanese script on the walls. Stereotypes abound. Red walls and faux-bamboo mezzanine. Stereotypes abound, albeit confused ones.”

caryn: I have a friend who is an asian activist and if she ever saw anyone dressed up in asian-wear during Haloween or whatever, she would go up to them and shout, "Someone else's culture is not your costume." I amused myself tonight by wondering if the characters on the walls actually could be translated into things such as, "Die Yuppie Scum" or "I'm with Dickhead."

amy: haha maybe. that would be amazing.

amy: also-- what was that thing she was hitting that made the mwah mwah sounds

caryn: Right, if was like an electric cowbells that she hit ever lackadasically and without much rthym.

amy: it was pretty silly

amy: oh and her shirt! good god that was awful

amy: it was half truckstop ho half my grandma

caryn: Now Amy, everyone can't have a cute Decemberists ringer tee like you. Leave the poor Nordic girl alone.

amy: yeah but you figure she'd have a stylist or something to be like "whoa... you are going out in public in that thing?"

caryn: That's what my mom says to me all the time!

amy: haha yeah that happened to me a lot in high school

caryn: On that note...

amy: in the words of that other annie, instead of treated we got tricked

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Northern State / Rothko / June 22, 2005

I guess it’s not cool to like Northern State anymore. Was it ever? Either way, I don’t care. I’ve loved these three Strong-Island-representin, Yes-quotin, baggy-pants-wearin ladies with all my heart since day one. They are smart and funny and catchy and silly and I want to be them when I grow up. I don’t give a shit if they are “bad” or “wack” rappers. As I’ve said time and time again: FUCK AUTHENTICITY. Can somebody make me a T-with that on it?

I love how Hesta Prynn, Sprout and Spero love each other so much. They are obviously BFF with the bracelets to prove it. Tonight they kept clasping hands and throwing arms around shoulders and big-up-ing one other, lolling drunkenly and happily across the stage. Spero is all about well-placed karate kicks. Hesta Prynn just might be the most beautiful woman alive. (Yeah yeah, I know, it’s a three-way tie with Phyllis from Out Hud and Mischa Barton.)

This show was a benefit for the Village Voice’s strike fund, so there was much “give it up for the union, y’all!” going on. Also, I do believe this is the first concert I’ve ever been to in which there were shout-outs to Robert Christgau, Chuck Eddy and Tricia Romano.

Modest Mouse, Camper Van Beethoven / Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA / June 18, 2005

I have never seen a good Modest Mouse show. Have you? Allegedly, they happen from time to time. I remember Alex coming back from their show at Irving Plaza a few years ago and being extremely pumped. So when we saw them play a completely lackluster set in Philly last weekend, he was all like WTF happened to these guys? Why are there ten people on stage? Why do all the guitar parts sound watered-down? Why does nobody in this band seem to give two shits about the music they’re playing?

I don’t know, dude. I mean, I fucking love their records so much. “Float On” was my number one single of last year. But they even messed up that song. Whenever I imagine an ideal Modest Mouse concert in my mind, it climaxes with the whole place going crazy and everybody lock-stepping and fist-pumping to the “all right, already, we’ll all float on” part at the end, and the band extends it for five extra minutes of stepping and pumping. But nobody seemed enthusiastic when they dropped it in the middle of their set, least of all the band. I guess they’re probably sick of it by now.

One cool thing: Isaac Brock started almost every song by saying “This song is about…” and then just launching into it.

David Lowery—bitterest man alive? He kept calling the crowd “suburban pussies” and saying stuff like “have you people ever even listened to Modest Mouse before?” and “you people think you’re at a Coldplay show, don’t you?” What snobby indie bullshit. If playing for kids who only know “Float On” bothers you so much, why did you agree to do this tour? Not even “Take the Skinheads Bowling” could get the bad taste out of my mouth.

Check out my snarky review here, with an even snarkier headline courtesy of the Inquirer!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Architecture in Helsinki / Northsix / June 13, 2005

Sufjan Stevens did not enjoy himself at this show. No sir. He stood there, arms crossed, stern look on his face, for Architecture in Helsinki’s entire set. Occasionally he would clap half-heartedly or snap his fingers next to his ears. He was wearing a Michigan baseball cap and had a pocketknife attached to his belt.

Why so glum, Sufjan? Is it because a bunch of goofy Australian flower children completely SCHOOLED you in the art of making a sprawling, epic indie rock record? Because their melodies are prettier and more buoyant than yours? Because they were having way too much fun up there on stage, bouncing around with silly grins on their faces? Because there is a white guy with dreadlocks in the band who plays the flute and the bongo drums? Because their Randy Newman cover was kinda weak? (You gotta admit, though, their take on “Love Is the Drug” was pretty rad.)

Sufjan, you didn’t even move during “Do the Whirlwind”! How is it humanly possible to stand still when that bassline is popping and locking, especially when there are unbelievably adorable girls in tank tops playing horn instruments over it?

I’m sorry you had such a crappy time. Architecture in Helsinki make me giddy. The last time I saw them play, it was in my friends’ basement. Now they’re selling out the Knitting Factory and Northsix! I’m so proud!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Cloud Cult / Sin-é / June 10, 2005

I had never cried at a show before. But I was having one of those days when everything happens at once and you’re forced to make Big Life-Changing Decisions, so when Cloud Cult started playing a particularly delicate song, the floodgates opened. I must have looked like a total freak, this girl weeping quietly in the corner all by herself.

Maybe I was in such an unbalanced state that the music wouldn’t have mattered, like I could have been at the LCD Soundsystem show that same night and I would have started bawling during “Tribulations” or something. Cloud Cult’s set was quite joyful—there were cut-and-paste video projections and a guy painting a picture on a canvas on the stage. Everybody was all smiles, and Cult leader Craig Minowa kept talking about how excited he was to be in New York City for the first time. The band—Minowa, a drummer, a bassist, a cellist and a violinist—played their busy indie pop/hyper-prog briskly and messily. But I couldn’t keep the bad vibes away, especially when considering Minowa’s tragic backstory (you can read about it in this review I wrote of Cloud Cult’s latest album).

I really hope this band gets big. Or does an 8.3 on Pitchfork not mean anything anymore?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mutek 6th Edition / Various venues, Montreal, CA / June 2 – 5, 2005

Once again, Pitchfork has the exclusive on my “deep thoughts.” So here are some shallow thoughts on last weekend’s trek to Montreal for Mutek. Keep in mind that I know, like, nothing about electronic music.

For more Mutek musings, check out this, this and this.

Car ride there: The Juan Maclean album on repeat for hours.

Night 1:

Robert Henke does “Studies for Thunder” (read: stands behind his laptop while it makes thunder noises) in a room that is completely dark except for the streetlights coming through the windows. The audience is sitting or lying on gym mats on the floor. We bliss out for 20 minutes, then leave.

Day 2:

“New Markets in Electronic Music: The Space Between Peripheral and Emerging” panel

This guy says there is no electronic music underground in China. Audience member Mr. I’m-So-Cool-Because-I’m-A-White-Guy-From-Nebraska-Who-Lives-In-China disagrees vehemently and annoyingly. Uwe Schmidt (a.k.a. Atom Heart, Senor Coconut, etc.) is also on the panel. He is wearing a white suit, has a moustache and long, slicked back hair. He looks like the kind of guy who rolls down the window of his black Cadillac to shout naughty things at women walking down the street. I find him strangely attractive.

“Beyond Borders: Cultural Hybrids” panel

Uh oh. Mr. ISCBIAWGFNWLIC is on the panel this time. He keeps asking, “Am I Chinese? Am I Nebraskan?” We don’t know! We don’t care! Stop rubbing your head in that creepy way!

I ask four different people what, exactly, “tech-house” is. Nobody can tell me.

Night 2:

The only woman I see operating a computer on stage all weekend, Diane Labrosse, makes me cower in fear with loud crashing rumbling that sounds like a dinosaur stomping through the forest on its way to eat me.

Apparat’s set is best when it’s dirty and dark and overdramatic and gothy. It starts out super intense but gradually relaxes. At one point, everything stops because his computer crashes or something.

Pan/Tone is fond of low synth tones that go mwwah mwwah mwwah. I like his set because it is playful. I am told that it was “cheesy” and “bad” by someone who danced deliriously through the whole thing.

Day 3:

I lie on the floor on a gym mat listening to Tim Hecker’s set on headphones. I’m not sure if I’m asleep or not.

Night 3:

This is the only show that is taking place at an actual dance club. Everything else is in a converted museum. The sound at this club is incredible—really loud, bouncy and bassy, but still, you can have a heart-to-heart conversation with someone while standing directly in front of the speakers.

Ricardo Villalobos has “missed his flight” and therefore won’t be filling the headlining slot with his partner in Sense Club, Luciano. Whatever. I wouldn’t know Villalobos if he was playing video games in my living room right now.

Mathew Jonson makes me dance like a crazy person. I drink a gallon of water after his set.

I’m not really feeling Luciano, especially when his set, like Apparat’s, is derailed by a technical glitch. We go up to the balcony and sit down. My friend falls asleep as I am hypnotized by all the pretty lights.

Atom Heart, filling in for Villalobos, does a set that sounds like house mixed with dancehall. It makes me feel all jiggly.

In the car on the way back to the hotel, Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” comes on. I sing along and am filled with joy.

Night 4:

Omigod there’s a girl on stage and she’s singing! Suzana Rozkonsny’s breathy moans and hiccups sounded like Kleenex/LiLiPut meets Arthur Russell, and when coupled with SoulPhiction’s hard-driving beats, it was like having sex at zero gravity. Not that I’d know or anything.

The last performer I see at Mutek is far and away my favorite. Nego Mocambique plays a partytime electro-house set with lots of old soul samples and funk rhythms. He is also a very good dancer and seems very happy.

Car ride back: Juan Maclean on repeat AGAIN. The girl who sings “Dance with Me” is now my mortal enemy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

O Canada

Tomorrow, More in the Monitor, Riff Central, The Music Issue and The Original Soundtrack will pile into The Music Issue's car and head to Montreal for the Mutek festival, where we will transform into dancing robots for four days. Expect a wrap-up when we return.