A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.
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November 8, 2013 at 8:50 AM
Andy Kaulkin doesn’t remember where he started that day, but his Spotify rabbit hole eventually led him to The Melodic, a British band as influenced by classic American folk as with African and South American beats. He was instantly hooked.
“A lot of times when people are embracing older forms of music, they do it in this academic way,” says Kaulkin, the CEO of ANTI- record label, home to albums from Neko Case, Tom Waits and, as of this week, The Melodic’s debut LP, “Effra Parade.” “They’ve internalized this stuff, but they’re just doing their thing. They definitely sound like they’re from London.” (more…)
October 29, 2013 at 10:33 AM
Arcade Fire, Reflektor (Merge)
“Reflektor” isn’t the Arcade Fire’s best album. In fact, it doesn’t best any of the Montreal’ band’s first three efforts. Arcade Fire’s achievement on “Reflektor” is that the band is able to make its weakest record to date and still maintain its position as one of the world’s most exciting rock bands by planting the seed of anticipation.
“Reflektor” is simultaneously a quintessential Arcade Fire album and a, yes, reflection of the time in which it was made. The band’s signatures are here: the cascading crescendos, the religious imagery and the foot-stomping melodies. It’s all pushed through the broad dance-music prism that has permeated nearly ever genre of music today, from rap and rock to pop. The album is tastefully dated, a reflection of both the band and the era from which it was spawned.
A band’s cannon needs texture – hits and misses; experimentation and comfort. “Reflektor” is all of this. By taking chances – by refusing to go the way of bands like Pearl Jam that coast down the same sonic freeway for more than a decade – Arcade Fire has proved that it can put out a solid, if not classic record by expanding on, rather than imitating its past.
The album’s been out less than 24 hours and I’m already curious about what happens next.
July 26, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Randy Newman took the stage at the Woodland Park Zoo Wednesday evening in a floppy, untucked, button-down shirt, the uniform of choice for many in his audience of male boomers, who slouched atop suffering folding chairs.
He played unaccompanied — save for his grand piano and upright eyebrows — for two sets that ranged from ’60s gems (“Mama Told Me Not to Come,”) to more recent hits (“You’ve Got a Friend in Me”) penned for his gig as the Pixar house organ.
The songs were short and the stories were long. Newman spent less time on his first three numbers — he opened with “It’s Money That I Love” — than he did telling the abridged version of the “Toy Story” saga.
“As long as Woody and Buzz want to run around, I’ll run after them with a couple of flutes,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of money,” he added soon after, “and I’m very happy about it.”
To call Newman one of the country’s great “singer/songwriters” would be to elide the fact he is one of the greatest singers
and the greatest songwriters. His is one of the greatest voices in popular music (a much different quality than “perfect”) and his songs are among the very best.
Newman’s voice has the ability to peel back inhibitions and expose emotional nerve endings. There’s a comforting nostalgia to his sound, his songs washing over the listener. This is why the preferred way to experience Randy Newman’s music is as naked as possible. Anything that gets in the way, whether it’s excessive instrumentation — guitars, drums and other noisemakers — distract from his magnificent instrument and the characters in his songs.
While the instrumentation of the performance was perfect, the venue was not. Yes, it’s a great venue for what it is. And it’s the optimal time (kickoff was at 6:15 p.m.) and space for kids to roam around wearing Buzz Lightyear wings. A picnic is the wrong setting for his music, which got lost in the expanse of the scenery. A contained room like Benaroya Hall would have been a more appropriate setting. It also would have been a space that would have made Newman’s nonchalance more engaging.
Newman performs in a cozy, perfunctory manner — like the houseguest who’s implored to sit down at the piano and “play that song again.” There’s a rush to the repertoire. His songs don’t end as much as they whisper to a close, and suddenly, he’s plucking into the next number; pounding on the keys, raising his voice and lifting his eyebrows.
June 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM
Sean Nelson celebrated his 30th birthday feeling comfortably smug. Standing on stage at a club in New York, performing with Seattle’s The Long Winters, he remembers thinking: “This is a cultural archetype that I can really get behind. I’m a touring musician in a band that’s good. Not a lot of people know about it necessarily. But the choices I’ve made to get here feel like they were worth it.”
Ten years later, just weeks after his 40th birthday, Nelson celebrates the release of his solo debut, “Make Good Choices,” Wednesday at Neumos.
Times have changed, he said recently — and for the better. (more…)
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