The Fresh and Onlys | Monster Island + Cake Shop | 5.14 + 5.15.2010


It's a fact: The Fresh & Onlys are the best. Certainly in the low-fi realm, they write better songs, have better musicianship, and are just working on a different plane than most of the bands they're associated with. This weekend they crushed both NYC shows they played. 

I feel now the only thing holding them back is the production of their recordings. Don't get me wrong — I've loved nearly everything they've released so far. All seven zillion 7"s, EPs and albums. But hearing them live, the full sonic force they bring, I want to hear that on record too. I'm not saying go get Bob Rock and protools their songs into digital oblivion, but some nice microphones and a real studio could do wonders for them. Which is just what we might get with their next album, Play it Strange, which will be out on In the Red later this year.

At this point I would like to point out the total awesomeness of guitarist Wymond Miles, maybe the most crimilaly overlooked guitarist in the indie rock world right now. While Tim Cohen's songwriting drives the band, and the rhythm section of Shayde Sartin and Gibson provides the solid spine, it's Wymond's almost shoegazy sonics (he's got like 20 pedals) that give the songs such amazing texture and take them to a new, different place. Again, they're more than the sum of the parts. They've got it all.

It should also be said that despite the bands they tend to play with and the labels who put out their records, The Fresh & Only are not garage rock. Psych, yes. But they've got more in common with Love, Echo & the Bunnymen or The Bees than Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall (both of whom I love). No doubt they are deeply a part of the SF underground scene, but If people stopped referring to them as garage rock, I think they'd get more attention. They certainly deserve it.

But I digress. The two shows this weekend had similar setlists, cherry-picking most of the killer cuts from all their major releases with emphasis on the new August in My Mind Ep which is maybe the single best record they've released yet. I do wish we'd gotten "Garbage Collector" from it, as well as the its title track. Apparently Kyle doesn't like former and won't play it. Kyle, wise up, it's awesome:

MP3: The Fresh & Onlys - Garbage Collector (buy it)

 The Fresh & Onlys will be back next month to play the Northside Festival as part of the Woodsist night at Music Hall of Williamsburg on 6/25. Hopefully they'll squeeze in another local gig while here. 

After the jump there's some great video from the Monster Island show courtesy Bleary Eyed Brooklyn, as well as some not as beautiful video from Cake Shop that was shot by your truly.

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Veronica Falls | Glasslands | 5.15.2010

I gotta say I wasn't expecting Veronica Falls to be as loud and rockin' as they were. Have you see their press photos? They look like you could knock them over with a feather. And as much as I love, love, love their single "Found Love in a Graveyard," it's on the gentle side. At least on record. When they played it live last night at their first-ever New York show, they tore into their instruments with an extended midsection that woulda made David Gedge proud. No other way to put it: they rocked. 

Short set, as befits a band whose second single is still a couple weeks away. We got "Graveyard" and it's b-sides from both the UK (the Pastels-y "Stephen") and American (Roky Erickson's "Starry Eyes") pressings. "Starry Eyes" was probably the highlight of the night, a rare case where a band covers a song and truly makes it their own.In addition to handful of songs previously unheard on these shores was the driving next single, "Beachy Head," which is a real showoff for drummer Patrick Doyle's bashing skills. I'd definitely want them on my side in a fight.

MP3: Veronica Falls – Starry Eyes

Veronica Falls play Bruar Falls tonight, you should definitely come out for it. Boston tomorrow, then back to us for the NYC Popfest on Thursday at Cake Shop. VIdeo of "Stephen" and a new song after the jump.

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The Soft Pack | Cake Shop | 2.05.2010

 Whenever you see a colorized high-contrast photo on this site, you know it's 'cause I took sucky pictures.  

Folks were just beginning to file downstairs at Cake Shop when the band launched into "C'mon," clearly ready to get on with their Friday night. It was totally a I-won't-do-what-you-tell-me Soft Pack thing to do. The LA band were finishing up a whirlwind tour promoting the release of their debut album, which included 10 shows the previous Saturday in their current hometown and had been going nonstop ever since. Only one show this day in NYC, but it was a late one — doors at midnight — as well as being all-ages and free. Me, I was in the bathroom line when they started but made it down front by the end of the the second song of their 13-number set.

The Soft Pack are a lot of fun to watch: Guitarist Matt McLoughlin has an intense, gnashed-teeth grin on his face the whole time; bassist David Lantzman (whose birthday it was) is all laid back California cool; and stand-up drummer Brian Hill keeps things barrelling along sans hi-hat. And singer Matt Lamkin ties it all together with that low key but we-mean-it-man attitude. We got most of the new album, a few choice cuts from their Muslims days and their almost unrecognizable cover of Phoenix's "Fences." They finish with the storming "Parasites" (the new album's only retread of old material) that makes the most of it's one chord. The song typifies the Soft Pack too. Maybe the parts aren't new, but they play them like they are.

SETLIST: C'Mon | Down On Loving | Answer to Yourself | Extinction | Bright Side | Right and Wrong | Tides of Time | Beside Myself | More or Less | Faith Man | Fences | Pull Out | Parasites 

MP3: The Soft Pack – Pull Out (buy it!)

I think "Pull Out" may be my favorite song on the new album, rivalling "Parasites" for energy and snarl, sort of surf rock via New Zealand. The whole album is good and, apart from "Parasites" (which was just a single) it's all new material. That first EP never really got a proper release so they coulda just reused all those songs for this, which they didn't (and clearly didn't need to) do and you gotta give them credit for that. The Soft Pack will be back in NYC in April with Nodzz, The Beaters and Male Bonding, so don't miss 'em when they're play. Dates are after the jump.

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Hot Chip | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 2.06.2010

 keep on feelin'

This year could be for Hot Chip what 2009 was for Phoenix: one where a band who've grown steadily more popular over the years release their fourth album and officially blow up. That's the feeling I got from the band's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg where the band had the sold-out crowd going bonkers the entire set. And the crowd wasn't just too-cool hipsters, either. (Though they were in full effect.) There are plenty of "normal" folks too, young and not-so-young. Everyone was dancing, sweating, singing along to every song. The positive vibes were definitely felt by Alexis, Joe and the rest of Hot Chip who pretty much beamed the whole show, especially guitarist Al Doyle who also rocked the steel drum on a few songs and seems to relish playing in two of the best dance bands in the world. (He's also a member of LCD Soundystem.) This was my seventh or eighth time seeing Hot Chip and without a doubt it was the best I'd ever seen them — by a mile.

We got about half of Hot Chip's great, new, gushingly romantic album One Life Stand as well as a smattering of songs from Made in the Dark and The Warning. (Don't think we got anything from Coming on Strong but I could be wrong about that.) Perhaps realizing this was a Saturday night crowd, apart from new number "Slush" in the encore they left the ballads at home. With a touring drummer now added to the mix, band both Doyle and singer Alexis Taylor playing additional percussion, all the songs have a little more oomph. Hot Chip always seeming to be changing the arrangements of their songs: "Boy From School" becoming a full-on dancefloor rager; "Ready for the Floor" has become such a better song I almost wish they'd rerecord it; and new track "We Have Love," spare in it's recorded version, sends the crowd into ecstasy; "Hold On" rocks harder. One Life Stand's "I Feel Better" still sounds like "La Isla Bonita" but still has the crowd (including Les Savvy Fav's Tim Harrington, a row behind me, singing all the words) going mental. 

And there is no stopping "Over and Over," sending the crowd over the edge into undulating hysterics, like when the killer in Perfume finally releases his perfect fragrance on an unsuspecting crowd. At the end of the song, I found myself a good 20 feet to the left of where I was standing at the start of the song. I'm not sure how that happened, but I still had all my clothes on at the end, so I'm not too worried about it. It may only be February, but it's gonna be hard to knock this show out of my Best of 2010 show list.

MP3 Hot Chip – One Life Stand

Best New Music recipient One Life Stand is out tomorrow on Astralwerks/DFA. The band will be back in April playing Terminal 5 with The XX and tickets are still available for the 4/23 show.

Fhb  Openers The French Horn Rebellion are a lot of fun, sort of the white nerd version of Chromeo with a bit of comedy team in there too. Siblings Robert and David Perlick Molinari (here with help from Savoir Adore's Paul and Diedre) maybe try a bit too hard in the yuks department, but when they actually get around to playing songs (like their killer single "Up All Night") you can't really argue with the grooves and hooks. They've got the studio skills, and will have their live show figured out soon, so watch out. Download a free EP's worth of tracks here.

Also in attendance: Cameron and Abbey of 'Sup who I braved the front of the crowd with for most of the night and have much better pictures than I do. A couple more grainy shots after the jump…

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Wild Beasts | Joe’s Pub | 9.08.2009


Despite having seen a short performance during South By Southwest, Wild Beasts had me confounded from the start at Joe's Pub. Two vocalists, and I knew — on paper — that guitarist Hayden Thorpe sang the falsetto's and the bassist Tom Flemming was responsible for vocals in what you'd call the more normal register. But they kept switching instruments between songs, to the point where I wasn't sure if I'd previously worked out which parts were sung by one person and which were by the other, despite who was playing bass or guitar at any given time.

It was around that point that I decided it was dumb to try and figure it out (even though I think I'm straight now). Wild Beasts' magic is in the interplay between the four members, and it's best just to think of them as one slithering unit. Vocals exchange between Flemming and Thorpe like twins, and the guitar lines snake around one another, bass pulses and ebbs, while drummer Chris Talbot (the band's secret weapon) gives most songs a tribal feel — lots of toms, not so much cymbals. Nobody stood still for a second, Thorpe and Flemming swinging and swaying, hooting and howling. A bit more "rock" than the versions on new album Two Dancers (Talbot plays a little more four-on-the-floor live) but if it's subtleties are missing, it's made up in a mesmerizing group performance. Seriously good, bordering on great, if a bit short at an encore-less 45 minutes. 

MP3: Wild Beasts – All the King's Men (buy it from Domino)

You've got two more chances to see Wild Beasts. Thursday (9/10) at Mercury Lounge and Friday (9/11) at Union Pool. I shot video of current single "All the King's Men" and though it looks like I pointed my camera at a TV monitor, I did not. 

Mystery Jets | Bowery Ballroom | 2.24.2009


Last we saw Mystery Jets, circa 2006 at Mercury Lounge, they were crusty youth who weren't sure whether they wanted to be Dexy's Midnight Runners or King Crimson. Fast forward two years and we're at a mostly packed Bowery Ballroom and a lot has changed for the band. Gone is 50-something Henry Harrision, singer Blaine's dad who played with the group and probably said thing's like "That's not how Rick Wakeman would've done it!' at practice. With him went Mystery Jets proggy tendencies, replaced by soaring hooks and a love of Big '80s pop. 

Their look has changed too, an unfortunate sparkly fashion sense seemingly inspired by Blanche on Golden Girls, complete with Prom Pearls. But we all wore some regrettable things when we were 20, as evidenced by the very young crowd many of whom looked like they'd just come from Neverland. (The island, not Michael Jackson's former ranch.) But I digress.

i'm bedazzled
The weird time signatures and other whiffs of the '70s might be gone, but that love of Pentangle and Yes has paid off. Mystery Jets know how to play. They are tight, the harmonies are spot-on and generally sound great. And the eccentricities come out in some genius arrangements. The band stuck mainly to their second album, Twenty One (my #2 album of 2008), which doesn't look like it's ever going to come out in the U.S. (Having just signed to Rough Trade, though, pretty much assures that the next one will.) We also got one new song, "Lady Grey," and the three singles off their debut, Making Dens.

The album's best singles — "Two Doors Down" and last year's best song, "Young Love" — made the least impact live. I didn't mind so much that Blaine Harrison sang Laura Marling's part on "Young Love," but guitarist William Rees, who sings lead on this one, his mike was still set at "backup singer" so it really didn't pop the way it should've. "Two Doors Down" is the kind of song that probably just shouldn't be played live, it's so over-the-top '80s it should just be heard on the radio. And with the songs's saxophone coda being replaced with guitar, it went from sounding like Whitney Houston to Big Country, which is actually okay by me. The night's best songs were the sweeping, more ethereal ones: "Veiled in Grey," "First to Know" and a show-stopping, goosebump-inducing "Flakes" which seemed to lift everyone a couple inches off the floor.

SETLIST: Hideaway | Half in Love with Elizabeth | The Boy Who Ran Away | Young Love | Lady Grey | Flakes | Hand Me Down | First to Know | Alas Agnes | Two Doors Down | Behind the Bunhouse | ENCORE: You Can't Fool Me Dennis | Veiled in Grey

MP3Mystery Jets – First to Know 

You can get the import of Twenty One from Amazon fairly cheap, but there's no legal digital option for us here in America, unfortunately. However, Mystery Jets just signed to Rough Trade which bodes well for us getting future releases.

Also at the show: The Music Slut, Music Snobbery, Sentimentalist, and my cohorts at Brooklynvegan.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart + caUSE co-MOTION + The Depreciation Guild | Mercury Lounge | 2.07.2009


The word "twee" gets thrown around a lot when talking about The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They are cute, with tendencies towards la-la choruses and cardigans ("we have three extras just in case"). But what you don't hear a lot, at least not yet, is how much they rock. Not the way, say, Cheeseburger rocks, but singer Kip keeps his guitar in buzzsaw mode and the amps set to Tinitus. (Another thing you don't hear people talk about too much is how dirty the lyrics are. All innuendo, but…filthy!) I've seen TPOBPAH a bunch of times over the last year and while they've always been good, they are genuinely really good now — tight, rocking, and both Kip and Peggy have become more confident singers. This was their album release show, tour kickoff, and first performance since being bestowed (deservedly) with Pitchfork's coveted Best New Music status. The room was packed — packed! — with friends and fans, all of whom were very vocal and enthused and bobbing and swaying. The only thing that could have made it a more perfect evening would have been if it had fallen a week later on Valentine's Day.

MP3: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Tenure Itch (buy it)

The whole night's line-up was kind of Friends and Family Night at Mercury Lounge. TPOBPAH's Slumberland Records label-mates caUSE co-MOTION played beforehand, with what I'm pretty sure was their first ever gig at the venue. (The band favors house-parties and Cake Shop.) Spazzy, scratchy, nasally, in an endearing way, they are the Eddie Deezen of indie with a bassist who literally bounces off the walls. Peggy was right up front in the crowd bouncing around too. They play again on Thursday at Cake Shop with Kansas band Rooftop Vigilantes, and Beachniks (which features JB of Crystal Stilts).

MP3: caUSE co-MOTION – I Lie Awake (buy it)
The other two bands both featured Pains drummer Kurt Feldman. He fronts The Depreciation Guild, who meld early-'80s electronics with classic shoegaze and the do it very well. Somehow, that combination of two quote-unquote dated sounds actually makes them contemporary. They did remind me a little bit of OG shoegazers Revolver but it may have just been Kurt's vocals. A lot of American bands tried to do the dreampop thing in the '90s but almost none of them pulled it off as well as the Depreciation Guild do now. Nice light show too. They open for TPOBPAH on all dates over the next month, so do show up early if you're going to see them. The Depreciation Guild's album is a free download.

Kurt also plays drums in Zaza, who are also in the dreampop realm but a little more on the arty, 4AD side, from what I could tell from the one song I showed up in time to catch. Will have to check them out again next time.

Please do check out Pains and the Depreciation Guild on tour if you can. Videos and tour dates after the jump.

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Future Tense: The Week That Was Hit the U.S. in March

Oh happy day. One of my favorite records of 2008 was The Week That Was' debut album, a lush production that recalls the days of Kate Bush, ZZT and The Blue Nile but minus some of the '80s ickier sonics. So I'm very curious how the Brewis brothers are going to pull the album off in a live setting when The Week That Was tours here briefly in March. But if anyone can do it, they can. Field Music were always great live, and all of them are also in TWTW. I guess the real question is how many other musicians will be along for the ride. I can't wait to find out. Here' where:

Mar 7 The Empty Bottle     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 9 Mercury Lounge     New York, New York (tickets)
Mar 15 The Grog Shop     Cleveland, Ohio
Mar 18 SXSW     Austin, Texas

The weekend of Mondo Kim's closing, I picked up the 7" of The Week That Was' brilliant "The Airport Line," mainly because it was $2 but then the b-side, the Razmataz Lorry Excitement remix of "Learn to Learn" turns out to be amazing, transforming the song from Peter Gabriel into Heaven 17:

MP3: The Week That Was – Learn to Learn (Razmataz Lorry Excitement remix)

And the original just for comparison purposes:

MP3: The Week That Was – Learn to Learn (album version)

Buy the album from Insound. It's brilliant.

Buzzy Hat Trick: Friendly Fires, White Lies and Soft Pack Tour Together This Spring

When I saw this triple-bill announced via Bowery Presents RSS feed, my initial thought was "hey, this is just like those 'Brats' tours NME puts on in the UK." And wouldn't you know it, the UK music mag is actually behind this. It's a good idea that has taken surprisingly long to come to these shores: put three up-and-comers together for one big roadshow. One of whom I genuinely love, another of which I genuinely like, and the third… well color me curious.

The Soft Pack back when they were the Muslims
We'll start backwards from how NME is presenting the lineup. Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity know I'm a huge fan of The Soft Pack ("formerly The Muslims," how many times will I have to write that?). I never got around to writing up their show at Union Pool on January 17, mainly because it turned into a giant, insane, drunken dance party (it was my birthday weekend) that took me three days to recover from. But it was easily the best show I'd seen them play (and I've seen them a lot) and I think they're ready for that next step. And it immediately me think the name-change is a non-issue. They played three new songs, all of which were really good. They're also reissuing their debut (my #6 of 2008) with thee extra songs, fleshing it out to proper album length. They're definitely the odd men out on this tour, as the other two are from the UK, slicker, more dance-y.

MP3: The Soft Pack – Parasites

Friendly Fires at Pianos, CMJ 2008
Co-headliners Friendly Fires are quite good too, and have taken cues from Soulwax, Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem as to the proper way to perform dance music in a live setting. (Seen 'em a couple times.) In their case, it involves two drum kits, plenty of agogo, awesomely spazzy dancing, and a dustbuster. Though there was too much previously-released material for it to make any of my 2008 Best-of lists, their self-titled debut is really, really good, and it's hard to argue with tracks like "Paris," "On Board" and their fantastic new single "Skeleton Boy":

MP3: Friendly Fires – Skeleton Boy (Buy it)

WhiteliesAs for White Lies, they are one of the hottest new bands in the UK right now, and as you can probably guess what they sound like just looking at this picture of them. Gothy club music, which as someone who owns his share of Sisters of Mercy records, is not necessarily a bad thing. More specifically they lie somewhere between Editors and The Killers which is not a place I'm exactly comfortable with… at least not in public. (They are better than The Whip who might also fit that description.) "To Lose My Life" is one of those guilty pleasure songs for me, one that you hear the first time and roll your eyes, but you would probably crank in my car if I had one. I will hold judgement till I see them.

MP3: White Lies – Lose My Life (Pre-order from Insound, get a free DVD)

The NME tour hits most major North American cities, including two nights at Bowery Ballroom, tickets are on sale now. Tour dates…

March 24 Washington, DC, Black Cat
March 25 Philadelphia, PA, First Unitarian Church
March 26 NYC, Bowery Ballroom
March 27 NYC, Bowery Ballroom
March 28 Boston, MA, Paradise Rock Club
March 30 Montreal, QUE, Les Saints
March 31 Toronto, ONT, Lee's Palace
April 01 Ann Arbor, MI, Blind Pig
April 02 Indianapolis, IN, Radio Radio
April 03 Chicago, IL, Double Door
April 04 Minneapolis, MN, Triple Rock Social Club
April 07 Seattle, WA, Neumo's
April 08 Vancouver, BC, Richard's on Richards
April 09 Portland, OR, Doug Fir Lounge
April 11 San Francisco, CA, Slims

Some videos after the jump….

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Golden Triangle | Death by Audio | 1.23.2009


The stage was draped in toilet paper and the drummer had a sheet strapped to his head that made him look a bit like the Elephant Man, but judging from photos of past Golden Triangle shows this was fairly toned down as far as spectacle goes. But you don't really need much in that department when you've got two ladies up from shaking tambourines like no tomorrow and wailing on the mike. Sounding a bit like Brix-era Fall or We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Going to Use It or '60s girl group The What Four, Golden Triangle push all the right psych-garage-punk buttons for me. (Plus a very cute bassist.) Live, they stay just on the right side of chaos so that they never forget they're playing songs, but also allows for a finale that finds half the band on the floor. Not somewhere I'd personally like to end up at Death by Audio, but that's me.

 MP3: Golden Triangle – Prize Fighter

shake itThis is from their new EP on Kemado's vinyl-only imprint Mexican Summer. Like most of Golden Triangle's releases to date, it's super limited edition so get it while you can. Unlike their other releases, though, you can also get this one through Emusic.

The rest of the country (well, some of it) will get a chance to see these Brooklynites as they'll be hitting the road with King Khan & the Shrines in March… definitely a wild double-bill. Get there early. Tour dates:

Mar 9 Eckerd College ** St. Petersburg, Florida
Mar 10 Masquerade ** Atlanta, Georgia
Mar 12 Orange Peel ** Asheville, North Carolina
Mar 13 Exit In ** Nashville, Tennessee
Mar 14 Hi-Tone ** Memphis, Tennessee
Mar 15 One-Eyed Jacks ** New Orleans, Louisiana
Mar 16 Palladium Loft ** Dallas, Texas
Mar 17 The Warhol ** San Antonio, Texas
Mar 18 Club 1808 w/DarkMeat,StrangeBoys,Monotonix,ReverseXrays Austin, Texas
Mar 19 Mexican Summer Showcase @ Club 1808 w/Soft Pack, Crystal Stilts, Crystal Antlers, Vivian Girls Austin, Texas
Mar 21 Moose Lodge w/ many bands Austin, Texas
Mar 27 Don Pedros w/ the Weakends (FRANCE) brooklyn, New York

Also, video: