Friendly Fires | Mercury Lounge | 7.28.2008

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Friendly Fires, playing their second U.S. date (first being Saturday at Santos Party House) to a half-full Mercury Lounge crowd, know how to translate the percussion-heavy sound of their records to the stage. Bassist Jack Savidge also manned a second drum kit; Edd Gibson thrashed around with his guitar like a young Andy Gill; and singer Ed Macfarlane is the most awesomely spazzy dancer to come from the UK since The Rakes’ Alan Donahoe. And a hired gun drummer kept things tight and moving forward.

I just wish they had more quality songs. Apart from “Jump in the Pool,” “Paris” and “On Board,” the songs were funky but indestinctive and lacking in the kind of hooks that have you heading to the merch table afterwards. (Not that this band, who’ve yet to release anything in America had anything at all to sell.) It’s the opposite problem of Cut Copy, who seem to only be able to write singles but completely drop the ball in the live setting. (I realize I am the minority opinion on this but I am right.)

Maybe Friendly Fires do have the songs and they just didn’t play them Monday night. They sure didn’t trot out “Photobooth,” which is one of their best to date and that I was most looking forward to and seems to be one that could easily make the transition to stage.  Or maybe if I’d heard their debut, due out in September on XL, I would’ve been more taken by it all. The highs were high but the other songs had me checking my watch. In the end I left with a sense of promise not quite yet fulfilled.

One of the highs was “On Board” which I shot most of guerrilla-style:

Then again, I’ve been in a crappy mood lately and maybe I just was unable to fully enjoy things: The Music Slut’s J and M were there and way more into it than I was.

Friendly Fires Tonight at Mercury Lounge

FriendlyfiresOne of the best undernoticed singles of last year was “Paris” by UK dance-rock act Friendly Fires. It’s one of these young love, “us against the world” romantic epics but the arrangement and production is just perfect, big and sprawling with waves of big synths washing over the syncopated percussion. It’s fantastic.

MP3: Friendly Fires – Paris

The band released two EPs last year in addition to that single, one of which, “Photobooth,” is pretty good too:

MP3: Friendly Fires – Photobooth

Their debut album comes out in September in the UK. (No U.S. release date yet, but they’re on XL so it’ll happen at some point.) and they’re currently here in NYC playing some shows. They played Santos Party House on Saturday night and they’ll be at Mercury Lounge tonight.

Tickets are still available.

You never can tell whether bands like this are going to be any good live, though; how much they’ll rely on backing tracks, etc.  But it’s worth showing up to find out. Plus, Modey Lemon is on the bill, who were really good last night opening for !!!. See you there?

Amazing Baby | Mercury Lounge | 6.12.2008

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Another good show from one of Brooklyn's most promising new bands. This was Amazing Baby's fourth show in their short existence — but as I said about their live debut a month ago — they seem to have it pretty much figured out. Heavy, glammy psychedelic rock with plenty of melody, by people who know how to play their instruments and hold an audience's attention. Singer Leah Carey was back with the band this time (she missed her band's first show!) and the chemistry between her and the band's other singer, William Roan, just added to the show.

I do wish they'd kept the backup singers they had at Union Hall, though. Without them, my initial description of "heavier, more psychedelic Roxy Music" seems less appropriate. (And the band just a skootch less distinctive.) And I like describing them that way. It was more straight up psych-folk-rock (if there is such a thing) akin to prime Brian Jonestown Massacre. There were also projections this time, though I can't say they added a whole lot. Set highlight was the closing number, "The Narwhal," which is so much bigger, louder, more epic, more awesome than the recording of it that's been floating around. Those singer would've come in handy on the "ahhs."

MP3: Amazing Baby- The Narwhal

Despite the photos on their MySpace, they don't play shirtless with
tribal makeup smeared on their bodies… which is a good thing. Between MGMT and Man Man and Apes & Androids, there's enough of that.

Apparently Mark Ronson was there checking them out. This was their last scheduled show for a month, but they've got shows in July.

Jul 11 – The Glasslands Gallery Brooklyn, New York
Jul 23 – The Paradise Rock Club w/ MGMT (sold out!!!!!) Boston, Massachusetts
Jul 24 – The Paradise Rock Club w/ MGMT Boston, Massachusetts
Jul 25 – First Unitarian Church w/ MGMT Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Amazingbaby_mercurylounge3

More pictures at my Flickr...

Young Knives | Mercury Lounge | 6.09.2008

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"We're always getting called 'indie schmindie.' Tell me, do the Arctic Monkeys have a song that sounds like that?" Young Knives singer Henry Dartnall was getting just a bit defensive, not at anyone in the Mercury Lounge audience, but at certain critics/bloggers who tend to see them as also-rans. Sure, there's some disco hi-hat and spiky guitars on all the Young Knives albums, but there's a lot more going on there too: odd, distinctive harmonies, more than a little acid folk and mushroom tea psychedelia, consistently good lyrics, and catchy tunes. All of which were in full effect at the show. Plus some hilarious brotherly bickering between Henry and Thomas Darntall.

Henry's little outburst could've just been the heat. Monday was Day Three of upper-90s temperatures which was taking it's toll on the band who were playing their last show of a NYC-Philly offensive. I have a feeling that the "hot summer, hot hot summer" sung about in "Weekends and Bleak Days" is probably only about 80 degrees. (that's 26° C centigrade!) He added, "It's tough for us fat guys. I'm a little squodgy down there I have to admit." They really need to stop going on about their weight — guy's you're really not fat.

Squodginess aside, this was easily the best of the four Young Knives shows I've seen. (That's right, I've seen them four times.) It was also the first show where there was a full house to see them, with genuine fans besides myself and my friend Heather. When the band lit into "Weekends and Bleak Days" there were cheers from the back of the room and a group of ten or so pushed their way to the front and made one of the politest mosh pits I've ever seen — after bumping into a girl and spilling her drink, the offending reveler immediatley apologized. Which probably says as much about the Young Knives as does their music.

The set was mostly about their fine new album, Superabundance — most of it was played, though surprisingly not the single "Up All Night." We also got "The Decision," "Coastguard" and and encore of "She's Attracted To" which really sent the pit into hysterics. Young Knives still aren't getting the respect they deserve, but it seems they're getting closer.

SETLIST: fit 4 u | counters | terra firma | rue the day |
coastguard | i can hardly see them | turn tail | dyed in the wool |
weekends and bleak days | the decision |  current of the river | she's
attracted to


MP3
: Young Knives – Fit 4 U

MP3: Young Knives – Up All Night

Buy Superabundance, won't you? And a season-appropriate song from Voices of Animals and Men:

MP3: Young Knives – Weekends and Bleak Days (Hot Summer)

Out of Swede Puns, but Go See Mary Onettes Anyway

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For as many quality Swedish bands as there are, we don’t get a whole lot of them touring in America. Which makes The Mary Onettes’ current US tour exciting… for me at least.

One of Labrador Records’ best bands, The Mary Onettes are like, many of the groups from Sweden, obsessed with the ’80s. And they’re not denying it. Their MySpace page actually lists "mostly bands from the eighties…" in their Influences section.

You can hear some Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order, The Cure, The Lucy Show, The Chameleons, and other bands creeping through on The Mary Onettes’ eponymous debut but they do it well and, most importantly, the songs are good. And according to my friend Toby at Seattle blog The Finest Kiss, they’re even better live than on record.

The touring is wrapping up this week with dates on the East Coast, including two stops in the NYC area, one being tonight at the Mercury Lounge:

May 19 | Mercury Lounge, NYC
May 20 | M Room, Philadelphia
May 21 | DC9, Washington, DC
May 23 | Union Hall, Brooklyn
May 24 | Middle East, Boston

Here’s a couple MP3s from their album which you should buy of course…though chances are it will be cheaper at the show merch table than the $20 they’re charging for it on Insound.

MP3: The Mary Onettes – Void

MP3: The Mary Onettes – Pleasure Songs

Blacklist
Opening for The Mary Onettes, on the NYC and Boston dates at least, are Blacklist who I caught a couple weeks ago at Death By Audio opening for Film School. They kind of sound like every band signed to Beggars Banquet between 1979 and 1983 — to the point where I’m not exactly sure how serious they are. But if you have any affection for Bauhaus, Southern Death Cult and the like, be sure to get there early.

MP3: Blacklist – Blue Shifted

Peter Moren + Tobias Froberg | Mercury Lounge | 4.21.2008

"Don’t worry, I’m Swedish." Tobias Froberg was learning the problems of playing with a laptop as backing band — namely if you flub an intro you have to restart the equipment. Which meant running around the amplifiers and such, over to his macbook.

It was early in his set — second song — but it could’ve been said at any point during the evening, a laid back, fun show featuring a couple Swedes and an American named Doug. Froberg was opening for old pal Peter Moren, who was taking a break from being in Peter, Bjorn & John to play some shows in support of his first solo album, The Last Tycoon, which Froberg plays on. Froberg was supporting his second album, Turn Heads, which Moren plays on. So not surprisingly they were both out there for each other’s sets. They’d just come straight from a European tour together, they played Dublin last night. But for the US dates, they’ve got Dirty on Purpose drummer Doug Marvin as a third — you might recall he played bongos for Peter Bjorn and John on some American dates last year.

Froberg not you typical Swedish indie rocker. His songs have more of a ’70s feel, more emotional, many being piano driven. "Just Behind a Brickwall" has an undeniable Elton John feel. But not cheesy. He seemed excited to be playing to a semi-full room, making jokes inbetween songs, mainly of the "Thank you America!" variety. He was good, even though he didn’t play "When the Night Turns Cold" off his first album which is my favorite.

MP3: Tobias Froberg – Slipping Under the Radar
(buy it)

Moren’s set was equally loosey-goosey. Though Doug — whose name sounds like "dog" when spoken with a Swedish accent — had played with Moren at Joe’s Pub for a couple shows a few months back, Moren and Froberg kept throwing him curve balls, but he’s a good musician and held his own, though when they put him on piano for one song, it was entertaining to watch him craning his neck to try and figure out what chords Moren was playing. He finally gave up and switched to tambourine.

Moren’s solo album is pretty different from the pop he writes for PB&J. The songs are more obtuse, less obviously hooky, the lyrics much more personal. But he was much more a showman here than I remembered him being at either of the shows with Bjorn and John I caught last year. He was a real Chatty Cathy, and a charming one at that, with lots of stories about his songs, from his time in mandatory military training ("Reel to Reel") and as a teacher ( "Social Competence"). There was also a string section for three songs. In addition to most of The Last Tycoon, we also got two PB&J songs ("Sunday Morning," "Goodbye, Again Or") and a couple covers: A Ha’s "Take on Me" (which had all the ladies in the crowd singing along) and Buddy Holly’s "Oh Boy." Everybody was clearly having a good time.

MP3: Peter Moren – Social Competence
(buy it)

This was the first date on their tour, and I can only imagine it’s one that will be better at the end, when Moren and Froberg allow Marvin to get up to speed. Dates:

Apr 22     Middle East Upstairs, Boston, Massachusetts
Apr 23     Cabaret Musee Juste Pour Rire, Montreal, Quebec
Apr 24     464 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
Apr 25     Wexner Center, Columbus, Ohio
Apr 26     Schubas     Chicago, Illinois
Apr 28     Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, British Columbia
Apr 29     The Triple Door, Seattle, Washington
Apr 30     Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, Oregon
May 1     Swedish American Hall, San Francisco, California
May 2     Hotel Café, Los Angeles, California
May 3     Troubador, Los Angeles, California

Double Bill of the Week

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this Friday’s show at Mercury Lounge featuring two of New York’s best "dream pop" bands (trying to avoid the S-word). Headliners Dirty on Purpose haven’t played, aprart from opening for Band of Horses on Valentine’s Day, for five months or so, though they’ve been plenty busy. January saw the release of their great Like Bees EP while also releasing a free, digital-only EP,Dead Volcanoes, through RCRDLBL.com, albiet in drips and drabs. The latter has been interesting to hear as it really finds the band stretching out and trying new things. I’m told that the final song they’ve yet to post is unlike anything they’ve ever done before (and George takes the rare lead vocals). Meanwhile, of the three that are currently available, I really like "The Thing About Getaways" and "Hard to Tell You" which sounds a bit like Luna covering "Crimson and Clover." (Nice spot, Sung Bin.) Friday is also bassist DJ Boudreau’s birthday, so be sure to buy him a shot… after the show, please.

Mahogany, meanwhile, have been laying low since releasing the masterful Connectivity! in 2006. I don’t think they’ve played a show since last summer. Their Myspace hasn’t really been updated since then either, so who knows what they have in store for us. Maybe some more of Connectivity!, as most of the shows I saw them play for that album were only about five songs deep. But they made up for it with the two-drummer, multiple guitarists and keyboardists and vocalists attack. And "Supervitesse" has yet to get old for me.

This is kind the 2008 equivalent of Ride and the Pale Saints touring together (which they did way back a licensed driver ago). It’s just one show, but still a perfect match. Tickets are $10 and will probably sell out before Friday I’d imagine.

In other Dirty on Purpose news, "Audience in the Room" from Like Bees can currently be heard in a Virgin Mobile commercial. (And I still think their cover of "Send Me an Angel" would be perfect for Gossip Girl.) Meanwhile, drummer Doug Marvin (who sings lead on "Getaways") has a solo project, Purse Snatchers, with some help from his wife Annie who plays in Au Revoir Simone when she’s not judging potential New York Noise VJs. The Purse Snatchers album, To Feet of Snow, is full of the pretty melodies and gentle singing athat Marvin brings to the songs he pens for Dirty on Purpose. There’s just more of them. And one of them is available on RCRDLBL.com.

MP3: Dirty on Purpose – Audience in the Room
(from Like Bees)

MP3: Mahogany – Springtime, Save Our Country
(from Connectivity!)

The Duke Spirit | Mercury Lounge | 2.13.2008

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Liela Moss
is a pistol. As much as you wanted to check out the rest of the band, it was hard to take your eyes off her. She knows what she’s got and she knows how to work it… and there were photographers  who literally never stopped taking pictures of her the entire show. Actually there were about 12, right up front, whose lenses seemed mesmerized by her. There is no doubt Moss is beautiful, but she’s got the pipes to match and, obviously, a stage presence to hold it all together. She’s also pretty good with a harmonica.

That said, The Duke Spirit killed it. were playing their first US headlining shows since completion of their  second album, Neptune. I was never that big a fan of the band before but the new album is just great — it rocks, it pops, and just sounds great. (If you’re got real speakers, crank it up.) Moss held the crowd but certainly the rest of the band kept her up, powering through nearly the entirety of Neptune before peppering the set with songs from their debut. Highlights were new single "The Step and the Walk," the breezy (for them) "Sunken Treasure" and "Lassoo" which rocked and showed off Moss’ total command of the stage. A lot of crushes were made Wednesday night but The Duke Spirit are the total package.

MP3: The Duke Spirit – The Step and the Walk
(Download Neptune now, the CD’s out in April)

Setlist: Send a Little Love Token | You Really Wake Up the Love in Me | Sunken Treasure | Lassoo | Dog Roses | Sovereign | Neptune’s Call | The Step and the Walk | This Ship Was Built to Last | Red Weather | Love is an Unfamiliar Name | Lion Rip | Into the Fold

Tickets are still available for their show tonight at Union Hall.

Photo above from treeannolson’s Flickr photostream. Others in attendance: Punk Photo, Disconap, Music Snobbery

I interviewed guitarist Dan Higgins. We talk about food.

I thought my camera kicked the bucket before the show but it turned out I had changed some setting that magically fixed itself after a restart…which I figured out after the show. Though I couldn’t take pictures, it did allow me to shoot video:

The latter half of "The Step and the Walk":

And "Red West":

The Teenagers + Bear Hands | Mercury Lounge | 1.30.2008

Teenagers_mercury
"I saved some of my best moves for New York — did you notice?" Quentin Delafon, one-third of Paris pop group The Teenagers, was a real ham Wednesday at Mercury Lounge for the band’s NYC debut, holding more poses for cameras than Derek Zoolander. He also comes off in some ways as the French equivalent of The Rakes’ Alan Donahoe — lots of weird, spazzy arm dancing.

Delafon kept telling the crowd how nervous they all were, it being New York and all, and maybe the rest of the band was, but he was certainly having a good time up there and knew how to work the crowd. Which is good because all the Teenagers songs pretty much sound the same — shoegazy, not that far musically from the Radio Dept. really — with spoken verses and sung choruses featuring lyrics either about meeting beautiful girls (who drink Red Bull and vodka) and trying to score with them, or what it’s like being a Teenager. Sometimes their songs are about both. Sometimes those girls they try and score with end up stealing their prized Jazzmaster guitar. It’s a hard life being a Young Parisian . Though not as hard as being a baby.

I wouldn’t say that the crowd was going nuts for them, except maybe the girls near the front, but everyone seemed entertained. OK maybe the girls in the front were going nuts. Two of whom were invited on-stage to sing the female parts on their C-bomb dropping single "Homecoming" which was probably the best song of the night. Though I like the song about the Jazzmaster too. Their fucking Jazzmaster!

MP3: The Teenagers – Sunset Beach (Their album, Reality Check, is available digitally now. On CD in March)

Lots of bloggerati were there, I think. I know Matt Music Slut was there, as was Abbey Punk Photo. Abbey’s got video as well in her post.) For those who couldn’t score tickets, The Teenagers are playing Hiro Ballroom tonight which is free with a Going.com RSVP. They’re also playing the official Hot Chip afterparty at Studio B on Saturday, if you’ve still got energy. I have a feeling I won’t.

Bearhands Local openers Bear Hands were good too. I’ve seen them a few times over the last six months. I’m not sure how to describe their sound. Poppy in a lopsided Wolf Parade kind of way, though maybe that’s just because bassist Val Loper sometimes picks up drumsticks and wails on a floor tom at the front of the stage.

They’re fun to watch and I’ve come to really like a few of the songs — though most are newer (possibly older, what do I know?) than their just-released Golden EP. Though the title track is pretty good.

MP3: Bear Hands – Golden (buy it)

The Dodos + Alberta Cross | Mercury Lounge | 01.28.2008

Dodos"More with less." That’s one of the themes of the current, final season of The Wire. In that world, it’s all about downsizing and budget cuts. But with The Dodos, "more with less" is a good thing. The San Francisco duo pretty much wowed the crowd at Mercury lounge.

The more comes from singer-guitarist Meric Long, who used two microphones, a looping pedal, and a heavy wash of reverb to do the work of two, possibly three rocking people. The less came from mustachioed drummer Logan Kroeber whose minimal kit didn’t include a kickdrum or hi-hat, though he did have a tambourine duct-taped to his left foot. He more than made the most of, though, and together the Dodos made an awesome ruckus.

What is it about duos that make them work so much harder than bands with more members? From House of Freaks and Chickasaw Mud Puppies through the White Stripes, Viva Voce, Mates of State… there’s a long history of the power of two. Nine songs, about half of which are on their upcoming second album, Visiter, also equally divided between prettier Magnetic Fields-ish pop (Long sounds a lot like frequent Mag Fields contributor John Woo) and stomping — literally stomping — blues rock. Listening to the album, I wasn’t expecting them to be so loud. Or even so good. Horrible name, though.

MP3: The Dodos – Fools

Golly, it was Blog Central at Mercury Lounge last night and I spied Brooklyn Vegan, Matt Music Slut, Abbey from Punk Photo (she got some nice video) and Jerry Yeti though there were probably more than that.

They’re playing again in New York on Saturday at Union Pool (not Hall) with Phosphorescent — and insanely good double-bill that I wouldn’t miss if I didn’t already have tickets to Hot Chip at Highline. And the Dodos will be touring now pretty much though April. Catch ’em if you can:

Feb 2     Union Pool/Brooklyn NY    
Feb 15     The Blank Club/San Jose, CA    
Feb 28     Cafe Du Nord/Noise Pop
Mar 8     The Smell/Los Angeles
Mar 9     Bar Pink Elephant/San Diego
Mar 11     The Line Bar/Juarez, Mexico
Mar 12     French Kiss Showcase @ The Mowhawk/Austin, TX    
Mar 13     American Songwriter Day Party @ Tap Room/Austin, TX
Mar 14     Leafy Green Showcase     Austin
Mar 14     Hot Freaks Day Party @ The Mohawk/Austin, TX    
Mar 15     SFXSXSW Day Party/Austin, TX Austin
Mar 19     Lola’s/Ft. Worth, TX      Ft. Worth
Mar 22     Ballroom/Marfa, TX      Marfa
Mar 23     Mink/Houston, TX      Houston
Mar 24     Baton Rouge TBA     Baton Rouge
Mar 25     The Bottletree/Birmingham, AL      
Mar 26     Atlanta TBA     Atlanta
Mar 27     Harvest Records/Asheville, NC    
Mar 28     Bull City Headquarters/Durham, NC    
Mar 29     Tea Bazaar/Charlottesville, VA      
Mar 30     DC 9/Washington D.C.     Washington D.C.
Mar 31     Johnny Brenda’s/Philadelphia, PA    
Apr 2     Cafe 9/New Haven, CT     New Haven
Apr 3     Terrace Room @ Princeton/Princeton, NJ    

AlbertacrossLondon via Sweden band (or is it the other way around) Alberta Cross played a stripped down acoustic set before the Dodos and while I like their album and enjoyed them as a rock band during CMJ, this unplugged approach did nothing for me. I spent most of the time admiring their expertly tailored jackets, though I would think it would be hard to play your instruments in such tight-fitting clothes. Not that I’ve ever tried.

They’re playing a full electric set on Monday at Bowery which might be worth checking out.