Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Foster the People serenades Vancouver at secret acoustic show

Foster the People plays to a sold-out crowd tonight at the Vancouver's much-too-small Venue Nightclub, but to warm things up, they just played a secret acoustic warm-up set this afternoon! The Peak announced the location this morning, so I rounded up some friends and we converged upon the closed-off street in front of The Peak's own headquarters at 8th and Helmock. Foster the People was hanging out at the station, poking their heads out a few times from the third-floor balcony, while getting ready for a chilled acoustic session.

We had almost two hours to kill, so we hung out on the sidewalk with the growing crowd of fans, radio staff and curious passersby. When the clock struck 1:00pm, the band was briefly introduced, and I looked around to see a massive crowd had formed, filling the street and sidewalks.

It's a warm Tuesday afternoon and there was just a bit of light rain as they began. The band asked, “Who skipped school to be here?” One half of the crowd cheered, and the other half roared when they asked, “And who's dodging work right now?”

The set was short and sweet, just an acoustic warm-up before tonight's show. They played their three big hits, “Houdini”, “Helena Beat” and of course, “Pumped Up Kicks”. They also slipped in “Color On the Walls”, a new one from the album that they introduced as a song for 4 year-olds. Frontman Mark Foster took the lead with his guitar, giving us warm acoustic renditions of songs that are usually led by keys and synths. There was a different kind of energy in the crowd, as we all watched a band we love, doing a different kind of performance than what we usually get to see.

It was an intimate serenade, from high upon the balcony to Vancouver on the street below. Afterwards, the band graciously came down to meet some fans and sign autographs, while The Peak staff gave away some tickets to tonight's show. Thanks to The Peak for kicking off our summer with a fantastic little block party!

Vancouver photographer Billy Bob Koruna was there this afternoon, shooting for us. He sweet-talked his way up to the balcony during the set and was the only photographer to get a few quick shots up close.

The street had to be shut down for the large crowd that showed up for the secret show.

Vancouver musician and actor Kaboom Atomic enjoying the show.

Foster the People's frontman, Mark Foster.

Cubbie Fink, bassist.

Mark Pontius, drummer.

Foster and Fink.

Signing autographs and meeting the fans

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A night of haunting dreams at the Vogue Theatre with Lykke Li

Lykke Li
Grimes started the show with her solo act, a beautiful mess of raw synthesizers over crushing drum tracks. She has only been making music for a few short years, and has no training in musical theory or even reading music, so the way she expresses herself in her music sounds unnatural, and yet she's quite a natural at it. She began her set with “Crystal Ball”, feeling out the crowd; her nervousness showing with a few missteps in the timing of the tracks she was mixing together. By the time she got through the second and third songs, she had pulled it all together and the crowd was on her wavelength, dancing to her dark electro beats and basking in the glow of her ethereal vocals. It was like a gothic dance version of Enya. No, I'm kidding; I kept thinking that and then giggling because technically it's an accurate description, but it sounds fucking ridiculous. Grimes killed it. I didn't think many people knew her, but she is a born-and-raised Vancouver girl, and damn, did Vancouver show her love tonight! I don't know if it's the venue or if it's the bands they host, but the opening acts seem to get a lot more love at the Vogue than they do at other venues.

Grimes - Vanessa (YSI)

The lights went dark, and the sound of drums began to pound over ghastly drones, like a new age circus horror show. Flickering bursts from the strobe lights began to illuminate a dozen narrow curtains dangling from the ceiling, which were billowing wildly like trees in a pitch-black thunderstorm. A thick stream of endless smoke rolled over the stage and through the crowd, when suddenly everything screeched to a halt. The lights came on and Lykke Li was already into the first verse of “Jerome”, a creepy-sounding but warm and tingly track off her new album, an unexpected but perfect complement to the startling introduction.

The band all wore black suits, with Lykke wearing a black bodysuit and a long black coat. They powered through what seemed like hit after epic hit, though some were songs off the new album that not many people knew yet. A few songs in, they did a beautiful cover that I recognised instantly. I noticed I was singing along with every word, but it took a second before it hit me; it was “Velvet”, a stunningly gorgeous song by UK dream pop band The Big Pink, whom I actually saw here in Vancouver last year.

There were so many highlights in Lykke Li's set, and most of them, surprisingly, weren't even the popular tunes off her first album. “We will live longer than I will. We will be better than I was. We can cross rivers with our will. We can do better than I can. So dance while you can.” That is the soothing and sublime chorus of “Love Out of Lust”, which the band turned into one hell of an epic ballad. A few songs before that, Lykke finally got her hands on an instrument, when the lights came on to reveal an autoharp on a platform in front of her, which she used to accentuate the usually unplugged acoustic song, “I Know Places”. It's really simple: just push the button for the chord you want and then sweep a finger across the strings, but it gave the song such a radiant sound!

Nearing the end of the set, Lykke took a short break while the band played an instrumental excerpt from The Knife's “Silent Shout”, another one I instantly recognised, but embarassingly didn't figure out til later. It felt quite out of place, and sounded nothing like the rest of her set, but I really can't complain when it's such an awesome song. They changed it up a bit, making it grow more chaotic than the original. Finally, they closed with Lykke introducing “Get Some” as a party song to dance to, as if we weren't already an hour into our dance party with her! The song definitely has a funkier drum beat than the rest of her catalogue. And that was the last piece of Lykke Li's perfect setlist formula: end it with a fucking BANG!

Oh yes, there was definitely an encore, but I think I've already been quite thorough, so we'll leave that as a surprise, in case you get a chance to see Lykke Li soon. She has a half dozen more US gigs left before doing what all respectable European musicians do in summer: hit up all the massive Euro festivals that we're all so jealous of here in North America!

Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers (YSI)
Lykke Li - Get Some (YSI)

Lykke Li is promoting her sophomore album Wounded Rhymes. Grimes is promoting her 2010 debut Halfaxa and her new split LP Darkbloom, with d'Eon.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Five Weekly Video Mix, Vol. 3

5The Gift shows us their take on the classic let's-run-away-together-and-fuck-shit-up storyline. I really like this one, but I would have done the same thing he did at the end of the video, if she kept insisting on wearing that black wig.

4Afrobeta can pick up the slack that Frankmusik has left in the electroclash scene. Peaches' leotards, glamourized Hyper Crush-style, with a tinge of that glitchy electro sound from Eastern Europe that we stumble upon occasionally (see Bedük), and the girl is just good enough at rapping and yelling that she leans more toward catchy than ridiculous.

3Patrick Wolf is famous for calling Mika a ‘twat’ in 2007, and for his subsequent appearance on the British panel quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, but he also happens to be a fantastic genre-defying musician. He lives in a magical rainforest that grows inside his own home, as seen in the following video. Here is an excited red star, to draw more attention to how great this video is. ★!

2If you haven't seen this, you probably live under a rock, in Saskatchewan, AND in space. His name is Tyler, The Creator, and he's Pitchfork's latest shock rap sensation. The thing with shock rap and other shock entertainment, is that legions of posers fail at it, but among them are a few mad geniuses. Tyler is one of those deranged masters of things that offend, disgust and insult the soft-skinned people who charge the outcries that, ironically, make shock rock and shock rap successful.

1It feels wrong to say anything funny or sarcastic about Monarchy's new video. It's just too awesome. It's like when people joke about how slow motion makes things melodramatic, when really, they usually just make things actually dramatic. I really don't get the cupcakes, though, but even they add to the enigma of this video.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Night of Noise with Sleigh Bells and Neon Indian

Sleigh Bells
Vancouver's Vogue Theatre last night was host to a night of noise. The double-bill of Sleigh Bells and Neon Indian, along with opening act Oberhofer, all had a noisy lo-fi sound, whether it was filtered guitars or pounding electro drum beats. Each band came from a different branch on the tree of noise, and all three are fairly new, each with no more than one LP under their belts.

Oberhofer kicked things off with a summer vibe, their set decorated with tropical plants and the four-piece band rocking shiny shelltoes. These guys had a massive stage presence, right from song one, kicking things off with “o0O0o0O0o”, a song whose title might be the best way to describe the band. Their style is all over the place, but they began with some catchy rock tunes and a high-energy, lo-fidelity pop sound. It only took me a few songs to realise that Oberhofer has this unusual habit of ignoring the urge to play a catchy chorus, instead using pop music's catchiest vocal sound ever discovered, the sound of “ooo-ooo-ooo”, into every song.

By mid-set, however, they had swung over to an instrument-focused noisepop vibe, with the energy of a punk band. A song finished, and there was silence, when suddenly a piercing shriek exploded through the theatre, giving everyone a start, and so began the chaotic intro to “Haus”. It was like they were saying, “Wake the fuck up and listen to us!” except everyone already was. The song eventually became cohesive and even catchy whenever they got to the chorus of “I wanna build a house with you, a house with you”, but then the sounds would break apart into a chaotic cacophony of smashing drums and shimmering riffs, only to reform for the next chorus. Oberhofer is fantastically unpredictable and has a hell of a stage presence, for such a new up-and-coming band.

Oberhofer - I Could Go (YSI)

Neon Indian was up next, and their set definitely gave me mixed feelings. I think they were sort of co-headlining with Sleigh Bells, but it made sense to have the weird, eclectic band play before the band with the big stage show and more danceable tunes. They're quite an experimental band, which I love, delving into the new genre of chillwave with a four-piece band playing synths, drums, bass guitar, and frontman Alan Palomo on vocals and keys. As is natural with chillwave, due to it's similarity to shoegaze, everything was covered in a layer of noise, and the vocals took backseat to the instruments. However, on record the band still makes some damn catchy singalong tunes, but on stage, everything was just buried in too much noise. I knew a bunch of their songs already, but I couldn't recognise a single tune they played, with the exception of “Deadbeat Summer”, their biggest hit, and that was only because they introduced it and tried in vain to get the crowd to sing along.

I love experimental music, but if your songs have a fairly “pop” vibe, you shouldn't be turning your live set into a new experiment. Best case, you'll alienate all but your biggest fans. The music I heard from Neon Indian last night was good, and it was interesting, but it sure wasn't the same band that's in my headphones, and that was disappointing.

Neon Indian - Deadbeat Summer (YSI)

Sleigh Bells was a shocker. They hit the stage hard and fast, with a massive wall of Marshall stacks and pillars of lights behind them. Sleigh Bells is a Brooklyn duo, a boy guitar/girl vocals band, backed by earth-shattering drum tracks. Not unlike a certain two-piece rock band I also reviewed recently. What I really didn't expect was the hardcore, as they opened their set in darkness, to the screams of the sweaty crowd and the screams of Black Sabbath's “Iron Man”, which transitioned into their own “Crown on the Ground” as the lights came on. Sure, let's rile up the crowd into a riotous horde in the first fucking song, right? Actually, I fucking love when bands do that. Alexis and Derek came onstage, Alexis rocking a red Sleigh Bells/Slay Bells jersey. Like the bands before them, Sleigh Bells is definitely an experiment. On record, I had only gotten a small taste of what they can do. On stage, they rocked militant electro drum beats, with a variety of raucous synths and wailing guitar riffs.

Alexis was like a trashy grrrl version of Alison Mosshart; fresher and more down and dirty. They played all their best songs, with Derek leaving Alexis alone onstage for the few songs that didn't feature him on electric guitar. Their setup with Derek on guitar, Alexis on vocals, and a backing drum track reminded me of The Kills, who have the exact same setup, but their aggressive vocal tendencies and raging electro beats actually reminded me of when I saw Atari Teenage Riot live. Sleight Bells was like a bizarre combination of the best parts of The Kills and Atari Teenage Riot, with explosive results. Sleigh Bells definitely slayed.

Sleigh Bells - Crown on the Ground (YSI)

Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian and Oberhofer all have more US tour dates in the next few weeks, together and apart. Don't miss them!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monday Five Replacement Video Mix: Vol. 2

Well, I got distracted by all the pandemonium of last weekend's official worldwide Judgement Day Rapture (which was postponed, btw), and I posted a quick Rapture Video Mix on Friday, before running off to find out God's favourite ice cream flavour. So, since there wasn't really an official Friday Five, here is the replacement Monday version. Volume 3 will be back on Friday, later this week, unless the world is again stricken by another false catastrophe, in which case I'll be eating Heavenly Hash and listening to Blondie and Britney Spears all weekend, again.

Oh, I'm going to start putting arbitrary numbers on the videos, like it's a countdown. The order isn't significant, thought it might be one day.

5Since this is only the late replacement mix, we'll start things off on a dull note with “Step On” by the Happy Mondays, one of the worst music videos ever made for one of the best songs ever made. Watch as they dance like noodles and take their sunglasses off, only to put them back on again.

4Young people running through fields and playing games seems to be the winning formula for indie/electronic music videos these days. Here's Starfucker's interpretation of the concept. Whenever I introduce Starfucker to a friend, they ask who it is, and I say "Oh it's Starfucker," and then I always hesitate for a second, wondering if I said the FUCK part too strongly, and have offended them. But those awkward moments aren't the only reason Starfucker is one of my favourite bands. Just watch the damn video. It's sort of cool.

3“I said I was a musical genius. I repeated it until it became meaningless. Because you assumed I was joking, and then you thought about it like, ‘He's not joking!’” The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales, who has adds a new prefix to his name with every project, is getting ready to release the world's first orchestral rap album. Upon watching this video, my thoughts were, “This is so horribly bad that it might actually work, simply because he knows how crazy he is, and that makes all the difference.” For those who don't know Gonzales, he is famous for being Feist's roommate and for once besting Andrew WK in a piano battle, after distracting him by tossing a gold chain at him.

2Krissi Moses, yeah we have no idea who she is, and neither does most of the internet. Sticking with today's theme of sub-par music videos that have some redeeming quality to them, “You're Forgettable” a forgettable girl-power, man-eating tune with a surprisingly hilarious and sexy video. Krissi herself plays the lead, a vengeful bitch disguised as a vacuous trollop.

1And last, we have a weird video by Teams vs. Star Slinger. The track is a semi-catchy tune that's mostly just a DJ being a little too self-indulgent (oh god, I've just accidentally had it on repeat while I was formatting and editing this article. Now I hate this track!), but it's a cool soundtrack to the video, about an odd little alien man who's just trying to fit in, in our world. Does it spoil anything if I say there's an unexpected ending?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Rapturous Playlist for Judgement Day

Judgment Day is now upon us! Let's put on some celebratory tunes while we await the big moment!

Post a comment if you think of any songs I missed!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SK & Friends: Summer Beach Party Mix

Photo by Kyle Kruchok
Silence Killer is proud to present a brand-new feature series, SK & Friends, where we round up a themed selection of music recommendations from our friends and our favourite bloggers, artists and DJs. This round we asked each participant to recommend an interesting song they would like to hear on a late summer afternoon at a beach party. Summer is only weeks away, so sit back and relax while we cure your spring fever!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yelle à la Commodore avec French Horn Rebellion

French Horn Rebellion started the night with smoke rolling over The Commodore's empty stage, while their dramatic intro played. When the two brothers from Milwaukee, Robert and David, took the stage, they made a few waves, gestures, taps on the decks and keyboards, and a fever began to spread through the quickly growing crowd on the dancefloor. They aren't entirely a band, or entirely a DJ duo either, but whatever they are, they are the type to give the audience a banging first impression. There's an odd thing about synthpop music: on record, it usually sounds chilled and relaxed, but even without changing much, the same songs live on stage become massive floor killers. It always shocks me a little every time. In the first few songs, David manned the tables while accomplished Robert played the French horn, running all over the stage and through the crowd, pumping up the audience like an overcaffeinated aerobics instructor. The band's antics and their pounding synth beats turned a small crowd that seemingly had no idea who French Horn Rebellion were, into a mass of dancing bodies. Perfect warmup for Yelle.

French Horn Rebellion - Up All Night
Previously: French Horn Rebellion - Beaches and Friends (Hey Champ Remix)

Yelle's bandmates, GrandMarnier and Tepr, took the stage first, dressed like big-game hunters on a safari, pounding their floor toms to the beat of “S'éteint le soleil”. I have no idea why this is the closing track on their new album Safari Disco Club. It's the perfect intro. A tall mass of foliage, shaped a little like a slender French woman, swept onto the stage and began singing. Further into the song, the lights went out and the music paused for effect, and when the lights flashed back on, Yelle's ghillie suit was gone, leaving her dressed in her trademark leopard skin. A few songs into the set, the band played “Ce jeu” and “La musique”, the second-biggest hits from the old and new albums. This is when it became apparent that the band actually reworks every song for the live show, not only giving them steadier, more danceable beats, but they also make sweeping changes to the instrumentation. Every song is essentially a remix, produced for the live show with GrandMarnier on drums and Tepr on keyboard and synths. It was a great effect, keeping the beat consistent to keep everyone dancing, even though they took a few brief breaks between songs to banter and introduce the next songs.

Going into the show, I was curious how the language barrier would affect the show, since every Yelle song is entirely in French, except when it's natural to borrow phrases from English, like the chorus of “Safari Disco Club”, the title track off the new album. Not many audience members were seen singing along during most of the show, but Yelle's French lyrics had no effect whatsoever on the energetic link between the band and the audience. After a funky Zapp-esque detour, where Tepr and GrandMarnier played sans Yelle, the band soared through more of their new material, finishing the set with the one song everyone knew the words to, as they shouted the simple chorus of, “Les animaux dansent dans la Safari Disco Club!” (For those of you without the basic elementary French that most of us have here, even in English-speaking Canada, it means, “The animals are dancing in the Safari Disco Club!”)

Sometimes, when an act leaves the stage, the crowd's cheering will rise and fall until they return for an encore. Yelle's audience, on the other hand, ROARED. GrandMarnier was so excited, he ran across the stage twice, first shooting the crowd with his camera, then pumping his fists in the air on the way back, which only charged up the crowd even more. I'm still kicking myself for not knowing enough French and enough Yelle to identify all the songs they played, but they played one more, then finished with the one everyone was waiting for, “A cause des garçons”. Et la concerte fini avec un grand éclat!

Yelle - Safari Disco Club
Previously: VIDEO: La retour de Yelle

Yelle's tour continues down the West Coast USA in May, after which they're heading back to Europe then Japan for the summer. Check out Yelle's new album Safari Disco Club and French Horn Rebellion's The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion, both available now!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Five Weekly Video Mix: Vol. 1

Presenting, our first-ever weekly feature! Five new music videos every Friday! This week we've got a sweet selection of weird and creative videos we've discovered lately.

NewVillager - Lighthouse
Experimental freak-pop madness. Love it.

Amanda Palmer - Map of Tasmania
If you're old enough to know what a map of Tasmania is, you probably won't like this video.

Chilly Gonzales - You Can Dance
It's like a classy version of Benny Benassi's infamous “Satisfaction” video.

Little Comets - One Night in October (One Guitar Version)
English indie rock band plays one of their first hits with all four band members on ONE acoustic guitar! It sounds incredible.

Lights - Second Go
I feel so reluctant, recommending anything by a mainstream teen idol popstar like Lights, but she was actually cool for a few brief moments before becoming famous, like Owl City and Kesha were. Watch her get down and dirty in this one-take video!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Peter Bjorn and John win three thumbs up from Vancouver

Bachelorette started the sold-out night at Vancouver's Venue nightclub with some minimal homemade electro folk, which sounded like it would have been almost relaxing to listen to on record. Her stage setup, however, was poorly calculated. Either I'm getting old, or it was just too LOUD. Everything—beats and vocals—were overdriven and overcompressed, far beyond the “we're too loud because we think people like hearing damage” level. It sounded like it was intended to give the audience a mass aneurysm. I didn't set up the sound equipment at Venue tonight, so I can't direct blame, but it wasn't the soundman. He's the usual awesome guy who does the sound at Venue, and PB&J sounded great. However, to give her some credit, Bachelorette does sound good on record. I just checked out her song “Blanket” and it sounds great. Have a listen:

MP3: Bachelorette - Blanket (YSI)

Peter Bjorn and John took the stage, after a lengthy dramatic intro of a catchy instrumental beat that I couldn't identify, leading off the night with “May Seem Macabre”, a song I seem to have overlooked on their new album Gimme Some. I've always been only a casual PB&J fan, and I always thought of them as an indie pop band, but “Macabre” made it instantly clear that they are more of a rock band that happens to have delightful pop tendencies, probably stemming from their Swedish roots. Everything that comes out of Sweden seems to have a deliciously glistening pop quality to it. From the very beginning with ABBA to today's Swedish scene that includes the likes of Robyn, Lykke Li and The Tallest Man on Earth, they all have roots in their own given genres, but they all have this undeniable quality that gives their music a different kind of "catchiness" and makes them sound a little happier and content than the rest of the world's musicians. It makes me think of Sweden as an isolated land of enchantment and fantasy.

The boys made it clear from the start that they are not a regular rock band, though. Sure, they have wailing riffs, heroic guitar moves, and a ridiculous "theme" of nonconformity (Peter suited up, Bjorn wore leather and John dressed like a homeless), but while exuding an energetic, larger-than-Sweden stage presence, they looked way too happy to be just a rock band. They pushed through a slew of fan favourites, mostly off the new album and the previous, Living Things. They hit most of my favourites, including “It Don't Move Me”, “Tomorrow Has to Wait” and “Second Chance”, but then they started throwing in some more rock-oriented songs, a few that got a lot more close-your-eyes-and-feel-it shoegazing than I expected. They closed the set on one of the reverberating dramatic numbers, “I Know You Don't Love Me”, but it was far from the end.

They left the stage, and the crowds cheers rose and fell in waves for a few minutes while the guitar tech retuned Peter's guitar, making it obvious that they weren't finished. Peter rambled back on stage, harmonica and microphone cupped with both hands over his mouth. This was the first we'd seen of his harmonica, so the crowd went wild when they realised he was playing an all-new harmonica version of “Nothing to Worry About”. Bjorn and John joined him on stage, then Peter decided to join the crowd, grabbing my shoulder for support as he hopped off stage left. He made his way through the crowd, tangling his microphone cord all over the audience while everyone joined him on the chorus of “Doing this thing, this type of thing, put a little money in this type of thing, I got nothing to worry about!” The boys went for the extra-large encore, with another 3 songs after “Nothing to Worry About”, then left the stage once again.

The audience was bewildered when the lights didn't come back on and the tech came back on stage to retune again, but who wasn't down for more? The waves of cheers began again, eventually bringing the band back on stage for a second encore. They started with “Stay This Way”, an odd number off their previous album. Then, Peter began whistling a familiar tune that brought the audience to an instant roar. The song from countless television programs and adverts, the song that brought the art of whistling back into the international spotlight: “Young Folks”, the biggest hit of their career. Instead of playing their hit song like a repetitive chore, they went all in. Peter rejoined the audience while Bjorn and John backed him up from the stage, and by the end of the song, even the soundman was applauding. They finished with one more song, “Lies”, to come down and wrap up the show.

I already loved Peter Bjorn and John, going into this show, but there is so much more to this band than I ever knew. Three thumbs up.

MP3: Peter Bjorn and John - Second Chance (YSI)

Lead single off the new album, Gimme Some

MP3: Peter Bjorn and John - Nothing to Worry About (Van Hammer Remix) (YSI)
Funky disco remix of the lead single off their previous album, Living Things

Peter Bjorn and John are promoting their new album Gimme Some (highly recommended!) on the final West Coast leg of their tour, after which they head back home to Europe to hit up the summer festivals!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Kills & co. crash the Commodore

The last time The Kills headlined in Vancouver was in 2008 at Richards, so their newfound fame brought a lot of curious new fans to their sold-out show at The Commodore last night. I think people were expecting a regular rock gig, so they were only mildly excited by the jarring noise of openers The Entrance Band and Cold Cave.

The Entrance Band are a three-piece psychedelic rock band with a lot of credibility in the alternative scene, having toured with many oddball-but-now-famous artists like Devendra Banhart, Cat Power even Sonic Youth. I only caught their last few songs since the show started early, for some reason, but they were fantastic.

The Entrance Band - Lookout! (YSI)

Cold Cave really blew me away, though. Literally. LOUDEST KICK DRUM EVER (as I said on Twitter last night). One part synthpop, one part new wave, and three parts crashing, scratching, grinding, piercing NOISE. These guys were off their shit, and for the right crowd (myself included), they would have had the dance floor bouncing, but honestly, they were so loud my teeth hurt, which is probably why no one was dancing.

Cold Cave - The Great Pan Is Dead (YSI)

The Kills, well, they killed it. I wonder how many times that's been said. Alison Mosshart dominated the stage. She is one hell of a rockstar. If you don't already know, the band is basically Alison and her guitarist, Jamie Hince. No bass player, no drummer, just the two of them and a full setlist of smashing drum tracks that sound like they came from a Casio keyboard that was just put through a meat grinder. Alison strikes me as someone who would be flattered to be compared to Siouxsie Sioux, and that's exactly what was going through my mind during the show. Their set leaned a bit too heavily on the new album though. Only 2 or 3 of the 8 songs they played from the new album got the crowd excited, and I'm sure a lot of their fans, like me, were disappointed that they left out “Cheap and Cheerful” and “Last Day of Magic”, two of the biggest fan favourites. Despite the missing songs, Alison has a reputation for her energy on stage and together with Jamie (who really deserves more spotlight, what with his magic fingers and all), they rocked the Commodore.

The Kills - Cheap & Cheerful (listen and tell me how they could skip this one!) (YSI)
The Kills - Satellite (off the new album, Blood Pressures) (YSI)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Need moar dubstep

Silence Killer needs more dubstep, am I right?

It's a narrow genre, so it doesn't impress me if it sounds like every other dubstep track, but I've been finding some really great tracks lately.

Jamiroquai - Blue Skies (Flux Pavilion Remix) (YSI)

More to come...

The Sound of Arrows

In case you missed it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother Mother and Brasstronaut brandish originality at the Vogue

I'll begin with a bold statement: Mother Mother and Brasstronaut are two of the most original bands in the history of Canadian music. Brasstronaut, the surprise opening act for Mother Mother at the Vogue tonight and a staple of Vancouver's indie music scene, is an ever-changing collective of jazz and rock musicians centred around pianist/vocalist Edo Van Breemen and trumpet player Bryan Davies. Tonight was my fourth time watching Brasstronaut perform, and they never fail to impress. When musicians reach the peak of their musical ability and instrumental skill, often one of two things will happen: either they become a studio musician, recording with other bands, or they form some sort of collective or supergroup with other similarly skilled musicians. This fosters a whole new level of musical creativity (or chaos?), well beyond what your average pop, rock, or even jazz band are capable of. It's how new genres are born. I feel like I've still fallen short of describing Brasstronaut to you, so here, just check them out.

Brasstronaut - Slow Knots (YSI)

Mother Mother takes a slightly different approach with their originality. Instead of an eclectic smattering of genres and experiments, they begin as a rock band, twisting their sound in every possible direction. They have three vocalists, brother-sister duo Ryan and Molly Guldemond and newcomer Jasmin Parkin. The ladies sound nothing alike—Jasmin's voice is strong and powerful, while Molly's is soft and graceful—but they both harmonise stunningly with Ryan's strikingly dynamic voice. Ryan's voice, even while speaking, has an interesting sound, almost like he has some unique accent that no one can pinpoint, because when you listen for it, you don't hear an accent.

It's not just the vocals in the band that are diverse. The band composes their music in an entirely different fashion than your average rock band. You know how music has rules, like which notes and chords belong in a song, based on what key the song is in? Yeah, throw that out. In some songs they'll seamlessly jump from one key to another between verses and choruses, and then back again. Then, as if by magic, in the next song they'll throw out all the rules entirely and play progressions of chords that aren't even progressions, in the sense of "repeat these three chords for the whole song", and out-of-key chords that just happen to all work together. You know how rock, pop, hip-hop and basically anything popular has a fairly predictable verse-chorus-bridge structure? Yeah, throw that out, too. The band has choruses in most songs, but every song is a ride of unpredictable madness, yet somehow it's all cohesive—that's the key point. Mother Mother takes all these idiosyncrasies and makes music that sounds like nothing we've heard before, yet is so fantastic that everyone shows them love, including mainstream radio DJs, indie music bloggers/hipsters/snobs, and the hundreds of teenage girls that were at the (all-ages) show tonight.

After a description like that, it's a given that Mother Mother has fantastic production on their albums, surprisingly helmed by lead singer/guitarist Ryan Guldemond. It takes extraordinary skill to translate songs seamlessly from studio to stage without rearranging and changing the feel of the songs, especially when, like Mother Mother, they're infinitely more complex than your average rock band. Ryan and his band made every song sound "live" tonight, not trying too hard to replicate the sound of their records, but not straying too far from what was already a perfect formula. It took me a few songs to get over the fact that they didn't have the physical energy that I usually expect from a good rock band, but they're just not that type of band. There's really no need for dance routines and witty banter when you're a musician who is simply driven by music.

This was my first time seeing Mother Mother, and I've been waiting a long time. Having lived in Vancouver almost 2 years now, I finally got my first chance to see the band I've been listening to since long before I moved to their hometown. They played nearly all my favourite songs (I have a long list) from their three albums, and loads more, totaling a long setlist of well over 20 songs. One of the highest points was in the second half of the set, when they played their new single “The Stand”, followed by “Body of Years”, a hit from their previous album. I read once, from Ryan Guldemond, that the latter was inspired by the Pixies' “Gouge Away”. So, in an interesting turn of planning and coincidence, the band followed “Body of Years” with a cover of “Gouge Away”, which was all the more fitting since the Pixies themselves were actually performing down the street at The Commodore, at the very same moment tonight!

So, that was a fairly technical review, but in my defense, music that is not only complex, but also catchy and sounds fantastic, is fun to pick apart. If you got through my whole review, then either you're not a technical person when it comes to music and I explained things well, and you'll start noticing things that never caught your attention before, when you listen to Mother Mother... or, you are technical with music and I held your interest right up to the conclusion of how mindblowing fantastic Mother Mother is. Check out their new album Eureka (and their other two albums!) Here's the video for “The Stand”, the lead single off the new album, and an mp3 of “O My Heart”, which was featured here in Vancouver at the fireworks and laser light shows during the Olympics, and is the title track off their last album.

Mother Mother - O My Heart (YSI)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mogwai at The Commodore: Cancelled!

I was just writing a concert preview for Mogwai's show at the Commodore this Friday, when I stumbled upon the unfortunate announcement on their website. Apparently they had some visa problems. The band says they hope to be back in Vancouver as soon as they can.

The instrumental rock band holds legendary status in their scene, as one of the most influential post-rock bands of the 2000s. The band rejects the label post-rock though, which I have to agree, is an overanalytical name for such a broad genre. In many cases, I might rather just call it shoegaze, since there are a lot of identifiable similarities between post-rock and shoegaze, and shoegaze generally has more charm, in both nomenclature and musical stylings.

I have to admit, I had to push myself a little to understand why Mogwai chooses to leave vocals out of most their songs. Their guitarist, Stuart Braithwaite says, “I think most people are not used to having no lyrics to focus on. Lyrics are a real comfort to some people. I guess they like to sing along and when they can't do that with us they can get a bit upset.” You really have to just put on a Mogwai album for awhile and sit back; then suddenly it hits you that vocals would really just get in the way of their music.

Without further ado, here's a couple samples of what we'll all be missing this Friday. Keep an eye out in case they reschedule, because a Mogwai show in Vancouver is not to be missed. In the meantime, check out their new album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, from which these two tracks were taken.

Mogwai - Rano Pano (YSI)
Mogwai - San Pedro (YSI)

Is it just me, or does it sound like Mogwai was listening to O Children's “Dead Disco Dancer” while they wrote “San Pedro”?