Mazes Are No Puzzle


For those waiting for a new 1900s album, may I suggest checking out Mazes, which features Edward Anderson and Caroline Donovan of said awesome band, with friend Charles D’Autremont. Mazes is a little less lush than the 1900s, maybe a little more psych (more VU, less FM) but just as good. And for those who wished Anderson got a little more mike time in the 1900s, it's a boon. A truly lovely record. Highly recommended.

MP3: Mazes - I Have Layed In The Darkness

MP3: Mazes – Cat State Comity

Mazes' self-titled debut is out now on Parasol. (Unfortunately not on vinyl from what I can tell, on which it would sound amazing given its warm vibe.) The band have been played a few gigs in Chicago but have yet to venture elsewhere the U.S. Hopefully soon. The 1900s are amazing live.

Meanwhile, the 1900s have been going through some ups and downs, member-wise and just announced that Pierce Doerr (who does the music for the send season of This American Life the TV show) has taken over the drumkit.

The 1900s + Stevie Jackson | Union Hall | 1.10.2008

1900s_unionhallJeepers, how good are The 1900s? It’s been almost two years since I saw them open for Midlake at Mercury Lounge and had kind of forgotten how good they are. And they’ve gotten better since. Watching last night’s fantastic show at Union Hall makes me wonder why I left their album Cold & Kind off my Best of 2007 list.

The 1900s are better live than on record, however, and the warm vibe of Union Hall really fits in with their psychedelic/baroque take on Fleetwood Mac. (They even covered Tusk‘s "I’m Not Wrong.") It doesn’t hurt that the band are super-tight and can replicate the harmonies heard on the recordings. Most reviews tend to focus cute redhead vocalists Caroline Donovan and Jeanine O’Toole, and perhaps rightly so, but there’s something about songwriter-guitarist Edward Anderson‘s voice that is appealing. And when mixed with the ladies’ voices it’s tingly good. There were less psychedelic freakouts this time around, though the monster show-closer "Two Ways," which featured Stevie Jackson doing his best Doug Yule impersonation, certainly made up for it…if that’s what you were looking for. Setlist:

Flight of the Monowings | Acutiplantar Dude | Bring the Good Boys Home | Georgia | The Medium Way | Cold and Kind | When I Say Go |I’m Not Wrong | Two Ways

MP3: The 1900s – Two Ways
(buy Cold & Kind)

Speaking of Mr. Jackson (who is exactly one day younger than me, turns out) Belle & Sebastian’s #2 man in charge played a fun, funny opening set. He is integral to B&S though I’m not always that crazy about his songs, which tend to be a little too cutesy Jonathan Richman-ish for me (though he has definitely improved since "Chickfactor"), but in a solo context it’s much better, with him telling stories between songs, encouraging audience participation, and generally having a good time.

He only did one B&S tune, a lovely arpeggiated take on "Jonathan David" (perhaps his most Stuart Murdoch-esque song), though that may be wrong as I missed the first couple songs. Mostly it was new stuff, including a slow-jam rap about filmmaker John Huston. There were special guests too. Laura Cantrell (not to be confused with Laura Gibson, who opened the night) joined him for a cover of Hank Williams’ "Lost Highway" and an original called "Dusty." Then he brought the 1900s out to back him on show-closer "Try Me" which I shot kind of sucky footage:

MP3: Belle & Sebastian – Jonathan David

The 1900s and Stevie play again tonight at the Mercury Lounge and, as of around noon, there were still tickets available.

The 1900s | Mercury Lounge | 6.20.2006

I got to the Mercury Lounge early last night (8:30) to catch Chicago septet The 1900s who were making their New York debut. Despite playing to only a handful of people, they put on a fantastic show. On their MySpace profile, they describe themselves as " Psychedelic / Indie / Folk Rock" which is pretty accurate: part Chocolate Watchband, part Doors (the good bits) and a smidge of The Fairport Convention. And maybe just a little bit of Hee Haw: everyone was dressed like it was 1978 (in Nashville). Singer-guitarist Edward Anderson may be the frontman, but additional vocalists Caroline Donovan  and Jeanine O'Toole (decked out in a Country & Western shirt and the kind of high-waisted denim the world hasn't seen since someone got between Brooke Shields and her Jordache Jeans) totally stole the show. 

I really wish more people had seen their set, full of melodic "doo doos" and "bah bahs" and swooning violins, but also guitar and farfisa freakouts, tambourine shaking, choreographed dance moves and the occasional VU drone. The band was at their best when keyboardist Mike Jasinski would switch to guitar. His arpeggiated parts took the dynamics to a new plane that never quite hit those altitudes with the vintage organs. They played most of their debut EP, Plume Delivery, but my favorite songs were ones I hadn't heard before.

• The 1900's – "Bring the Good Boys Home"

New York, you've still got two chances to check out the 1900's and I strongly suggest you do so:

Tonight (6/21) at Fontanas (10pm)

Thursday (6/21) at Arlene's Grocery (11pm, according to the website)

I'm going to try and make the Thursday gig if Asobi Seksu's show at Mercury Lounge finishes in time.