Sunday, November 28, 2010
While waiting in the back of Schubas for Stornoway's first ever show in Chicago, I had a different band's song in my head. Blind Pilot's "Story I Heard" was right in there where a Stornoway song should have been. In fact, I couldn't even remember what Stornoway sounded like, but I had a feeling it must be something like "Story I Heard." By the time they played their first song, I understood why I was confusing the two. They do sound alike, with their mid-tempo folk melodies delivered with sentimentality and sincerity.
In fact, by the time Stornoway's set ended tonight I heard at least four songs that were much better than any Blind Pilot song. Both bands excel at indie folk pop, reminiscent of The Decemberists on their best days. But Stornoway easily beats The Decemberists at their own game. Since they're actually British, Stornoway doesn't have to try nearly as hard to appear bookish and refined. To them it's natural. The Decemberists wish they were British. It's kind of embarrassing.
Stornoway songs such as Zorbing, I Saw You Blink, We Are the Battery Human and The End of the Movie could all end up on a year-end list of 2010's best tracks. The Oxford quartet performs flawlessly in the live setting, offering brief, single-track surprises like looping violins (a la Andrew Bird), and cellos and banjos for the encore only.
But the best moment of their set tonight may be credited to the natural intimacy of Schubas' warm interior. Two songs were performed unplugged, with lead singer Brian Briggs turning his guitar amp all the way down while singing at the very front of the stage. If you've been to Schubas, you know how good it can be to hear a man step away from the microphone with only his acoustic accompanying him. Everybody can still hear him clearly, even from the back of the room. And the setting becomes all the more charming when Schubas puts up their big Christmas wreaths and white lights on the walls.
Or if you haven't been to Schubas for an unplugged experience like this, imagine that scene in Once when they're sitting in that house harmonizing and playing Irish folk songs in a big group.
Stornoway probably released the best album you didn't hear this year, but it's not too late to include Beachcomber's Windowsill on your "best albums" list. Schubas was far from sold out tonight, but don't be surprised if you have to pay a little more to see them in a larger venue come 2011. I'd be shocked if they didn't open for The Decemberists in America at some point. Of course, Stornoway deserves to be the headliner. And I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they were in 2012. Because, yes, they are better than The Decemberists.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The most important part of last night's show was my first official interview for CHIRP. I talked to Jim Cicero of the buzzing local band, Light Pollution. You can stream or download that podcast now (or anytime, anywhere). It marks my triumphant return to audio production. Call your sons call your daughters, call your friends call your neighbors. Here are the other songs from my show:
12:01AM Cee Lo Green Love Gun from The Lady Killer (Elektra)
12:05AM Justice Dvno from ✝ (Vice)
12:09AM Callers How You Hold Your Arms from Life of Love (Western Vinyl)
12:27AM Cave Hot Bricks from Pure Moods (Drag City)
12:32AM Generationals Trust from Trust EP (Park the Van)
12:38AM Ramona Falls The Darkest Day from Intuit (Barsuk)
12:41AM Warpaint Shadows from The Fool (Rough Trade)
12:46AM Blue Water White Death This is the Scrunchyface of My Dreams from Blue Water White Death (Graveface)
12:49AM Cut Copy Take Me Over from Zonoscope (Modular)
12:53AM Fops Black Boar from Yeh Yeh Yeh (Monotreme)
12:55AM Les Sins Lina from Lina (Carpark)
1:02AM Head of Femur By the Red Fire from Great Plains (Grey Day)
1:05AM Peter Wolf Crier Place To Be from Place To Be single (Jagjaguwar)
1:09AM Japandroids Shame from Heavenward Grand Prix (Polyvinyl)
1:13AM The xx Basic Space (Pariah remix) from Basic Space (self-released)
1:17AM Gold Panda Snow & Taxis from Lucky Shiner (Ghostly International)
1:22AM Gus Gus Polyesterday from 15 Ara (Smekkleysa)
1:28AM Sun Araw Last Chants from Off Duty + Boat Trip (Woodsist)
1:37AM Bear In Heaven Fake Out (Glass Ghost remix) from Beast Rest Forth Mouth (Hometapes)
1:41AM Teebs Humming Birds from Ardour (Brainfeeder)
1:46AM Depeche Mode Master and Servant from Some Great Reward (Mute)
1:51AM Ben & Vesper My Father's Eyes from Honors (Sounds Famlyre)
1:53AM Tyvek Underwater 2 from Nothing Fits (In the Red)
1:57AM Minutemen Spillage from Double Nickels On the Dime (SST)
2:00AM Russian Circles Harper Lewis from Station (Suicide Squeeze)
2:07AM The Flaming Lips Fight Test from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Warner Bros.)
2:13AM Elvis Costello My Lovely Jezebel from National Ransom (Concord)
2:15AM The Luyas Tiny Head from Too Beautiful to Work (Dead Oceans)
2:19AM Eux Autres You're Alright from Broken Bows (Bon Mots)
2:25AM Sufjan Stevens Woman at the Well from Woman at the Well (self-released)
2:28AM Giant Sand Thin Line Man from Blurry Blue Mountain (Fire)
2:32AM Scott Walker Mathilde from Scott (Fontana)
2:36AM Deerhoof Super Duper Rescue Heads! from Deerhoof vs. Evil (Polyvinyl)
2:38AM The Good Ones Egidia from Kigali Y'Izahabu (Dead Oceans)
2:42AM Animal Collective People from People EP (Fat Cat)
2:48AM Small Black Goons from New Chain (Jagjaguwar)
2:51AM Black Dice The Dream Is Going Down from Beaches and Canyons (DFA)
Friday, November 19, 2010
As usual, if you want to hear any of these albums just message me and I'll send you a download link.
Sometimes you just want to drink some neat whiskey in a downtown jazz lounge. I know The National isn't jazzy, but there's something so classy about Berninger's baritone. If you're an adult in 2010, you need High Violet. There's something reassuring about it, something that sounds like foggy skylines and the silence in your apartment when you get home too late.
Anticon is never quite on the cusp of electronic music, but always a half side-step over (not saying that's a bad thing though). Baths, on the other hand, is either completely lost on a deserted island or too far ahead of the group to even compare. The glitchy-breaky beats on Cerulean combine with found sounds to create the closest thing to Prefuse 73 Reads the Books since the EP that went by that title.
I always thought my favorite half of Outkast was Andre 3000. Now I'm not so sure. Big Boi's 2010 release is just the right mix of weird fun and street rhymes. For me, this is the only kind of hip hop that's worth anyone's time. Just imagining a new 50 Cent album being released in this decade is cringe-inducing.
Lucky Shiner is exactly what I hope to hear whenever I put on a new electronic album. Part of it is the dubstep/chillwave residue, but Gold Panda works best because of its clarity. There aren't any lyrics mucking it up, just a bunch of beats shining brightly from start to finish. The melodies are phantoms, yet the album is totally engaging and listenable.
Robyn wins best live performance of the year. On a 90+ degree day at Pitchfork Fest, she moved her body more than I thought was possible in such temperatures. All three parts of Body Talk make up ranking number 11, because they all came out this year, and they are all equally as fun and poppy when listened to together. After hearing this music, I'm amazed that anyone can care about Lady Gaga.
Like a good Kanye West album, Janelle Monae created something paradoxically eclectic and accessible. The ArchAndroid doesn't follow the formula of a typical pop record, and that's why we love it. All of the hooks and melodies are there for mainstream radio success, but the unpredictability of the album is what earns Janelle heaps of respect from critics and the more stingy listeners like me.
If Canadian power pop could be epitomized, it is Expo 86. By LP number three, Wolf Parade sounds less interested in proving themselves, and more apt to just rock out. It's the Wilco effect, for Canada. Whereas Arcade Fire felt the same old pressure to create a powerfully anthemic album for their day in age, Wolf Parade simply turned their dial up to 11. In my opinion, it's much more enjoyable to simply rock well, for wisdom knows that even grandiosity can become monotonous.
July Flame is one of those nearly perfect albums that nobody will remember in a few years. But whenever it comes back on in the shuffle we'll still smile. It's an example of songwriting as king. There is no marketing tactic, no hype machine that can compete with a skilled songwriter. Veirs is one of the best working today, and even if no one recognizes it, the music gods will remain with her and keep her listeners at peace.
We're too suspicious of musicians. We see talented players, and we condemn them for not having enough heart. But when I listen to Here We Go Magic, I set aside my suspicions. These talents are well placed, like the best Frank Zappa or Radiohead albums. Patience and intelligence are epicenters of Pigeons, prophesying a world of auditoriums and amphitheaters for future Here We Go Magic concerts. And the bigger the better. This is the sort of band I wouldn't mind becoming more popular than Coldplay. They have what it takes too.
One of my favorite bands remains. I trust the Books. I can't imagine this gimmick's effect wearing off anytime soon either. The staple that will always keep the Books interesting is their humor. As long as they're funny, and not topically so, we'll remember this music. A surreal absurdity blesses their music in the same way Monty Python had the good graces of silliness. The effect is universal and timeless, and occasionally a laugh riot.
I'm still surprised by this ranking. I never really cared about Beach House, but I can listen to Teen Dream at any time of the day, during any season, and I won't skip a track on the album. There's a quiet magic in this music, something simple but something that plunges deep into my psyche. It doesn't transfer over to the live setting very well, but if I can enjoy an album for 12 months out of the year it automatically gets a spot in the top 5.
I didn't expect a "grower" for the new Menomena album, but in retrospect, I guess they were due for one. The band's first three albums hit immediately and satisfyingly. Mines is different. It requires repeat listens. Its beauty is subtle, but possibly more potent than any other Menomena album.
The Wild Hunt alone is enough to garner a top three spot, but a five song EP never hurt anybody either. The Tallest Man On Earth stretched just a little bit from his acoustic finger-pickin' debut, Shallow Graves, playing more electric guitar and even a little piano in 2010. But the strongest skill of the artist isn't his playing style, which can be heard by the most boring classical guitar virtuosos of the world, Matsson is first and foremost a songwriter. His songs have a timeless quality that seem neither old or new, but just right for whatever time they're being heard.
Subiza is the soundtrack for summer days at the city beach, dethroning whatever Beach Boys album that was there for the past 40 years. I had the pleasure of seeing Delorean live this year, which is always a helpful way to more fully understand a recorded album. After seeing their show, I realized that the purpose of Delorean's music is pure enjoyment. Subiza is a bringer of happy thoughts and pleasant dreams, whether it's heard in headphones or a live show.
A lot of great albums came out in 2010, but none with quite as much hype as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In an age when downloading a zip file is the primary means of adding to our music collection, Kanye took advantage of our eager-to-download habits instead of pretending it's still the 1900s'. He says it best in Power: "I'm livin' in a 21st century, doin' something mean to it, do it better than anybody you ever seen do it." He's still just as audacious as he was on College Dropout, and the bravado is as entertaining as ever. The marketing alone clued us in that this album was going to be huge. Releasing a free song download on his website every week. Directing his own short film. Orchestrating the most memorable live music performance on TV this decade. By the time we're able to even hear the album, it's a miracle we're not underwhelmed. But great albums deserve a lot of hype. Over the last decade, I almost forgot that truth. Kanye made me anxious for an album in 2010. I can't remember the last time I felt that.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Sometimes, you just miss out and it's not that big of a deal because you'll have another chance to make up for it. But if you missed Delorean at Lincoln Hall last night, you really missed out. This is one of those shows to stay up late for, even if it's a weeknight. Big deal if you have work in the morning, Delorean is more important. Because they're going to make life better on a deeper level. They'll make you move around, without a care for work or anything else in the world except for what's happening at the present moment.
Lincoln Hall is the perfect venue for a band like Delorean. It's not a massive cave with echoey sound, but it's not so tiny that it feels like a hole in the wall. The acoustics at the venue are perfect, especially when you're on the main level. Delorean goes heavy on the samples, but blends them with live drums, guitar and vocals.
The four musicians on stage almost performed like four DJs. Animal Collective's live show comes to mind at first, although the two bands don't sound anything alike. But like Delorean, Animal Collective are made up of four guys, mixing samples and electronic sounds with more traditional instruments. And the pulse gets remarkably heavy. It's never quite a dance party at an Animal Collective show, but the music occasionally gets into rhythm with your heartbeat, scaring the hell out of your respiratory system.
But where Delorean differs from (and exceeds) the Animal Collective show is in their ability to crescendo a song to such a level that the crowd feels no other choice but to jump up and down. The band piles on the layers of intensity higher and higher, until we feel like we should all be at the ceiling of the venue, looking down at the spotlights on stage while we spin the disco ball with our fingertips.
If you're not from Spain, you might have to wait for your next opportunity to see this band perform live. Those Europeans have plenty of options on their side of the world, they don't need conservative Americans to tell them how to party.
But if you like Delorean's recorded music at all, you'll be amazed at what they do with it live. It's much less about performing the song exactly as it's heard on album, and more about elongating the music, building tension for the live experience. Some of the songs seem twice as long when performed, but 10 times more intense and overwhelming. My ears aren't even ringing, because the levels last night were just perfect. Even though I felt surrounded by the bright beats and pounding bass, I never wanted to escape. I didn't have to look back at the sound guy once.
My wife had to wake up at six in the morning today, but Delorean hit the stage well after 11 PM last night. She stayed for the entire show, and today admitted that she felt less stressed and more energized than she's felt all week, despite getting considerably less sleep. This is just what a great show will do though. Good music is uplifting to our emotions and psyche. If you needed a pick-me-up, Delorean would have done the job and then some. But hey, if you missed out... just don't make the same mistake next time.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I played some Light Pollution because I'm interviewing the band today for CHIRP (and an extra for Jettison). They're opening for Delorean at Lincoln Hall tonight. If you want something to do this evening, make sure you get to this one now. Delorean is from Barcelona and doesn't come to the US as often as I'd like. Here's the playlist for an all-around enjoyable late-night independent online radio show.
12:03AM The Autumn Defense Back of My Mind from Once Around (Yep Roc)
12:06AM Kanye West Dark Fantasy from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella)
12:10AM Charles Bradley No Time for Dreaming from No Time for Dreaming (Daptone)
12:14AM Light Pollution All Night Outside from Apparitions (Carpark)
12:19AM Aphex Twin Windowlicker from Windowlicker EP (Warp)
12:28AM Bob Dylan Jokerman from Infidels (Columbia)
12:34AM Björk Brestir Og Brak from Gling-Gló (One Little Indian)
12:39AM DVAS Questions from Society (Upper Class)
12:43AM Slaine Night After Night from A World With No Skies (Suburban Noize)
12:47AM Shigeto Brown Eyed Girl from Full Circle (Ghostly International)
12:51AM Regina Spektor Samson from Begin to Hope (Sire)
12:55AM Spiritualized Cool Waves from Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (Dedicated)
1:01AM Ratatat Loud Pipes from Classics (XL)
1:04AM AfroCubism Al Vaiven de Mi Carreta from AfroCubism (Nonesuch)
1:13AM The Album Leaf Broken Arrow from Into the Blue Again (Sub Pop)
1:17AM Dustin Wong Infinite Love 5 from Infinite Love (Thrill Jockey)
1:19AM Eluvium Prelude for Time Feelers from Copia (Temporary Residence)
1:26AM Peter Gabriel San Jacinto from Security (Charisma)
1:33AM Syl Johnson Concrete Reservation from Complete Mythology (Numero Group)
1:35AM Jonsi Sinking Friendships from Go (XL)
1:42AM Sarah Kirkland Snider, Shara Worden and Signal Baby Teeth, Bones, and Bullets from Penelope (New Amsterdam)
1:49AM Why? Fatalist Palmistry from Alopecia (Anticon)
1:53AM Gregory and the Hawk Landscapes from Leche (FatCat)
1:57AM Prefuse 73 Minutes Away Without You from Surrounded By Silence (Warp)
2:02AM The Books An Animated Description of Mr. Maps from Lost and Safe (Tomlab)
2:06AM Steve Reich Double Sextet - 3. Fast from Double Sextet/2x5 (Nonesuch)
2:15AM M. Ward Shangri-La from Hold Time (Merge)
2:17AM Yeah Yeah Yeahs Maps from Fever To Tell (Interscope)
2:21AM The Byrds Wasn't Born to Follow from The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Sony)
2:24AM Kisses Bermuda from The Heart of the Nightlife (This is Music)
2:28AM Motion Plus Family Tree from Night Owls 5: Bird Flu (Syntax)
2:32AM The Whitest Boy Alive Dead End from Rules (Bubbles)
2:37AM Dntel Flares from After Parties 2 (Sub Pop)
2:41AM Surf City Kudos from Kudos (Fire)
2:44AM Wire Outdoor Miner from Chairs Missing (Pink Flag)
2:49AM Wooden Wand I Wanna Make A Difference from Death Seat (Young God)
2:53AM The Wind-Up Bird Till They Touched the Birdbread, Thus Combining Wheat and Chaff from The Wind-Up Bird (Alone)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
After two entertaining weeks of watching various clips and games on League Pass, here are my predictions for what the playoff rankings will look like a few months from now:
The power shift is complete. This year, the east is top heavy. The three best teams in the east can all beat any team in the west. I'm pretty confident that these are the eight teams we'll see in the playoffs. The order might change, but these are the best bets right now.
1. Boston Celtics
This feels like the last dance for Boston. They looked old last year. But after we saw what real veterans could do last year, it just feels like the Celtics are mature enough to steal the crown from the Lakers. And Rondo is now the best player on the team. Which is terrifying.
track 1: The Cool Kids - What It Is.
(Old school hip-hop with 2010 style. Yeah... yup. Boston is a brotherhood.)
2. Miami Heat
Yeah, they won't win 70 games. But they'll probably get 60. Which is awesome. LeBron and Wade will combine for the most highlights this season. They'll be way too much fun. They are capable of beating anyone. But will they? I don't think they'll get a championship this year, I see at least one year of growing pains. But after 2010-11, watch out...
track 2: Foals- Miami
(easy going rhythms to 60+ wins)
3. Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard is the best center in the league, and he has a lot of talent around him too. The Magic have enough to make it to the finals again, but there's still a glimmer of immaturity in this team. Especially compared to the Celtics, the Magic kinda look like kids on the basketball court.
track 3: Tobacco feat. Beck- Fresh Hex
(Magic = Hex.)
4. Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose's confidence is out of this world. He has the ability to become the most improved player, even though he was excellent last year. When Boozer comes back, he really will add a lot to the team, pushing them into the top four of the eastern conference. Joakim Noah will be an All Star this year. The team will easily make it to the second round of the playoffs.
track 4: Kanye West- Take One For the Team
(Chicagoans Yeezy and D Rose, great team players and even better individual leaders in their respective games)
5. Atlanta Hawks
Almost exactly the same as last year, the Hawks are one of the most talented teams in the league. I don't know what it's going to take to push this team into the championship discussion, but they just don't have it. They'll give any team in the east trouble though, and might even upset one or two of the top four teams.
track 5: Robyn- Hang With Me
(Josh Smith gets hang time.)
6. Milwaukee Bucks
This team will challenge the Bulls for the central division, but they won't pull it off. They have more depth than the Bulls, but not as strong a leader. Jennings and Bogut will orchestrate some of the sickest plays of the season together, but this team still doesn't have that killer instinct. They won't get out of the first round again.
track 6: Bumblebeez 81- Pony Ride
(Ponies. Deer. Animals with hooves. They kick ass apparently.)
7. New York Knicks
Amare Stoudamire is arguably the best power forward in the league. He doesn't have much help around him on the Knicks' roster, but he makes them better this year. And with a still weak eastern conference, he's got more than enough to lead his team to a lower spot.
track 7: Yeasayer- ONE
(Brooklyn band, Amare's number. It works.)
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have something to prove this year. For the simple reason that they hate LeBron, they'll will their way into the playoffs. Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams are good basketball players, and will help this team win enough games during the regular season to get swept in the first round. Of course everyone will want a Heat/Cavs playoff, which is very possible actually (and would be a lot of fun).
track 8: Lee Dorsey- Yes We Can
(soulful, hopeful, and jammin'.)
The west is much more difficult to predict. I didn't even include the Suns or Nuggets in the playoffs this year. Crazy? Maybe. But things were shaken up so hard this year I just don't see them pulling it off. I also feel the Nuggets will implode the day Carmelo leaves. If he sticks around, of course they'll make the playoffs, but who knows where or when he'll go (and he will go at some point). He's definitely the wildcard difference-maker for a lot of teams this season.
1. LA Lakers
Defending champs until dethroned. They've still got all of the elements of a winning team, and they might even do it again. But the Lakers have the toughest road ahead of them this year. The Thunder could do them in this year, as could any of the top teams in the east. But irregardless, the Lakers still have what it takes to three-peat.
track 9: Big Boi- Daddy Fat Sax
("Niggas wish [Kobe] would retire.")
2. Portland Trailblazers
This is aiming high, but the Blazers should've been the second-best team last year too. Remember all of those injuries though? It was uncanny. It won't happen again this year. And they'll be more determined to make up the ground they lost. Watch Brandon Roy closely, because he'll be the stealth killer this season.
track 10: Mos Def- Quiet Dog Bite Hard
(It's the stealth connection. Nobody expects Portland, but that's when they'll bite the hardest)
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
The country's favorite team (and for good reason) is the Thunder. They remind me of the old Charlotte Hornets when they emerged in the 90s' with Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson (Grandmama), and Alonzo Mourning. Kevin Durant can possibly snag the MVP award this year, and Russell Westbrook is very likely to get his first all-star nod. They'll make it out of the first round of the playoffs, and (like last year) give the Lakers a major challenge.
track 11: Kasper Bjorke- Thunderstorm
4. Dallas Mavericks
Basically the same strong team Dallas had in the second half of the season last year, Dallas won't be a surprise this year. They won't be better or worse. They won't win a championship. They'll be respected around the league as one of the top 10 teams and they'll play solid basketball all season long. For some reason, I still feel bad for Mavs fans.
track 12: Sleigh Bells- Tell 'Em
(the Mavs walk the talk)
5. Utah Jazz
Losing Carlos Boozer, and a couple other Jazz players, shook the team up over the post-season, but D-Will is the best point guard in the league. By the end of the season, he may be dethroned by Rose or Westbrook, but for the moment, Williams is capable of getting his team to the second round by himself.
track 13: Broken Bells- High Road
(It's a joke about Mormons)
6. San Antonio Spurs
I think this is the last year for the Spurs, but they'll make a go at it regardless. Duncan, Parker and Ginobli are still there, playing well. These guys are champions, and they'll play like it.
track 14: Vitalic- Second Lives
(More like "last life," but it could be the championship we never expected in 2011)
7. New Orleans Hornets
Chris Paul got his team off to the best start of the year, but I honestly can't see him sustaining it for 82 games. Trevor Ariza is already starting to gel with his new team, and their energy will propel them into the playoffs with a lot of confidence. As long as they don't get the Lakers in the first round, they might even make it to the Western Finals.
track 15: Maximum Balloon with Theophilus London- Groove Me
(CP3 grooves. Oh yes.)
8. Memphis Grizzlies
Z-Bo, Rudy Gay, and OJ Mayo. If these guys continue to grow together, Memphis could have their own organic version of the big three. The talent is there, they just have to push harder this season if they want to make the playoffs.
track 16: Slim Thug, TI and Bun B- Three Kings, Ratatat Remix
(Three kings in the south. This is how it sounds in Memphis)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Yesterday I was on CHIRP for six hours. Filling in for a vacationing DJ's 6 to 9 AM shift, and less than 24 hours later for my weekly midnight shift. Today I feel burnt out. The challenge is keeping my monthly playlists fresh. I'm not posting all of the songs I played yesterday, but you can check them out here:
Unfortunately, I've repeated a couple artists in the past few weeks. It's difficult enough without having to do two shows in a 24 hour period, but yesterday was kinda brutal. Hopefully things go back to normal next week though.
I am tired. I'm taking a break from music today.
Friday, November 05, 2010
November is a melancholy month. The brown leaves barely clinging to the branches are scarce and those that have fallen to the ground are all shriveled. The wind is quicker and chillier, sunshine has turned from yellow to gray, and Schubas is the most comfortable place in the world.
Portland's Horse Feathers made their Chicago stop for a double-bill at Schubas, the most intimate venue in the city and really the only appropriate place for the band to perform if not in someone's living room. The space is small and welcoming, like a Canadian log cabin waiting for hikers to get out of the snow and in front of its fireplace.
During their first set, Horse Feathers' frontman Justin Ringle reminded us of what we already knew, "It's great to be back here at Schubas. You guys are lucky to have this, it really is one of the best venues we've ever been to."
Suddenly a flash of Scubas memories came back to me. When Sufjan Stevens played there before Illinois was released, it might have been one of my favorite moments at Belmont and Southport. Damien Jurado, Denison Witmer, St. Vincent, Rocky Votolato, and Sleeping at Last all brought their acoustic talents to Schubas for my listening pleasure. But one of my favorite moments at Schubas was actually when Horse Feathers played the venue a couple years prior to tonight's show.
They were touring as the opening act for Blitzen Trapper. Two of the finest Portland bands on the same bill, playing Chicago's folk-friendliest bar. It was the only time I've seen an opening band get called back for an encore. I've never seen this happen again before or after (not counting outdoor festivals of course).
I think the encore happened because Horse Feathers may just be the ideal band to play a venue like Schubas. When they pluck slowly on the banjo and violin, a natural warmth fills the room. With the wall candles dimly lighting the space, it's an atmosphere for falling in love with someone you just made eye contact with for the first time.
That magic of a perfect band playing at the perfect time in the perfect place, that's what happens every time Horse Feathers plays Schubas. It's almost a spiritual experience. After they finish the last note of a song, exhales are audible around the room. The crowd is so in tune with the gentle melodies, soothing strings and somber lyrics, anyone speaking during the set would be rightfully scorned. Even the bartenders seem a little bit quieter with their cash registers during a show like this.
Four players occupied the stage for Horse Feathers. Singer Justin Ringle the only one standing, either with an acoustic guitar or banjo. Sitting to his left is a beautiful, dark-haired young woman playing the cello. Behind her, a fiddle player, who also plays the saw during a couple songs. And the percussionist at Justin's right, with miniature xylophones and mandolins on hand.
Not a single sound is synthetic. The amplification of the house speakers isn't even necessary. This is a concert where we'd rather hear how quietly a performer can play opposed to how hard he can rock out. Singing in a whisper while finger-picking a muted guitar strikes deep into the listener's soul. We're all on a raft drifting down the Mississippi River, listening to this music tell us stories of an American past we can still feel patriotic about. It's the country we still feel good about. The home cookin' we never get sick of. Horse Feathers set the table for Thanksgiving, and I'm so very thankful tonight.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
I might be DJing at The Burlington sometime next month. So for practice I used my own DJ software on my laptop for the majority of my show last night. If you couldn't quite tell when one song was ending and another one was beginning, that means I mixed well. (shrugs) I'll update this blog with event details if I do in fact snag a slot a The Burlington. Until then, the weekly CHIRP playlist:
12:01AM Owen Pallett Don't Stop from A Swedish Love Story EP (Domino)
12:05AM Maximum Balloon Young Love from Maximum Balloon (Interscope)
12:07AM Elvis Costello Five Small Words from National Ransom (Concord)
12:14AM Lupe Fiasco Go Go Gadget Flow from The Cool (Atlantic)
12:18AM Sleigh Bells Run the Heart from Treats (Mom & Pop)
12:20AM Menomena Weird (Dekoder Remix) from Friend & Foe (Barsuk)
12:26AM Bumblebeez 81 Pony Ride from The Printz (Geffen)
12:29AM Isolee Pictureloved from We Are Monster (Playhouse)
12:33AM Out Hud 2005: A Face Odyssey from Let Us Never Speak Of It Again (Kranky)
12:41AM Hauschka Madeira from Foreign Landscapes (FatCat)
12:46AM The Hundred in the Hands Pigeons from The Hundred in the Hands (Warp)
12:52AM Kraftwerk Computer Love from Computer World (Phantom)
1:01AM Arcade Fire Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) from The Suburbs (Merge)
1:06AM Kasper Bjorke Thunderstorm from In Gumbo (Defend)
1:11AM Toro y Moi Low Shoulder from Causers of This (Carpark)
1:16AM Chico Mann Harmonia from Analog Drift (Wax Poetics)
1:22AM Glasser Clamour from Ring (True Panther Sounds)
1:28AM Jens Lekman Into Eternity from Night Falls Over Kortedala (Secretly Canadian)
1:32AM Walter Meego Forever from Voyager (Almost Gold)
1:39AM The Corin Tucker Band Half A World Away from 1,000 Years (Kill Rock Stars)
1:42AM Small Black New Chain from New Chain (Jagjaguwar)
1:46AM Bear Hands Crime Pays from Burning Bush Supper Club (Cantora)
1:52AM Daft Punk Da Funk from Homework (Virgin)
1:57AM Vitalic Polkamatic from OK Cowboy (Different)
2:00AM The Rosebuds I Better Run from Night of the Furies (Merge)
2:03AM Friendly Fires Skeleton Boy from Friendly Fires (XL)
2:07AM Caribou Bowls from Swim (Merge)
2:15AM Zapruder Point Here Comes the Sun from Heads Together EP (self-released)
2:17AM Cloud Nothings Water Turns Back from Turning On (Carpark)
2:22AM Marnie Stern Her Confidence from Marnie Stern (Kill Rock Stars)
2:27AM The Tough Alliance 25 Years and Runnin' from New Waves (Sincerely Yours)
2:32AM LCD Soundsystem Home from This Is Happening (DFA)
2:42AM Brian McBride Melodrames Telegraphies (in B major 7th) Part 2 from The Effective Disconnect (kranky)
2:47AM Maserati We Got The System To Fight The System from Pyramid of the Sun (Temporary Residence Ltd.)
2:51AM Light Asylum Dark Allies from In Tension EP (self-released)
2:57AM M.I.A. Paper Planes from Kala (XL)