April 29, 2013

Reviewed: The Milk Carton Kids, Molly Tuttle

Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids are quite an odd couple. Ryan is tall, lanky, meek, and a tad awkward. Pattengale is short, spastic, and sweaty. But together, they unite to form something mesmerizing, stunningly beautiful, and entertaining. The other night at the Brighton Music Hall, the two gussied-up California gentlemen made me laugh, smile, and fall in love with their music all over again.

The opening act, Berklee School of Music student Molly Tuttle, blew away the unsuspecting crowd with her rapid fire bluegrass guitar work that would put even the most talented shredders to shame. It was a marvel to see such incredible technical skill combined with a sweet voice and fun, barn-storming songwriting. She reminded me a bit of Nickel Creek, if all three members were transformed into a single bluegrass superhero.

Joey Ryan took the stage unassumingly, saying a meek 'hello' and proceeding to give a hilarious deadpan welcome to the show. Throughout the rest of the show, he managed to give the audience a lesson on the use of the comma, as well as deliver playful jab after jab to his bandmate, bringing quite a bit of laughter to a show filled with sad songs. While Ryan stood almost perfectly still strumming his chords, Pattengale swayed and swayed, as if he was squeezing every bit of his soul into each note. His lead melodies tastefully intertwined with Ryan's guitar work and produced a full, yet extremely simple sound.

Touring behind their new record, The Ash & Clay, the Kids are playing to the biggest rooms yet (or as Ryan mentioned, "the second smallest room in Boston"). Luckily though, they still played quite a bit of material from their stunning debut studio album, Prologue. Vocal harmonies were flawless, and the clarity of their vintage guitars was unparalleled.

After observing the mannerisms of Ryan and Pattengale, the band's name takes on a much more real meaning. Each with a different and unusual approach to social situations, the two may have likely bonded over their social difficulties. Whether that story is true at all, I get the idea that music is what saved these two from being lost.

April 26, 2013

Macklemore's 11 Best Lines

Most of you may know Macklemore from his now-ubiquitous track "Thrift Shop," a song that perfectly captures one side of the rapper's personality. But anyone who knows the Mack knows that there is more too him than it may seem. His music covers a wide variety of styles, influences, and subject matter that always keeps you guessing.

"Swore I was gonna be someone,
And growing up everyone always does."
from "Otherside"
"Otherside (Ryan Lewis Remix)"
This song, the first one he wrote after becoming sober, was arguably the first track to gain Macklemore some online buzz. It's a tell all, intense story of addiction and the people it hurts. This line at the end always gives me shivers and really speaks to the fact that anyone can become an addict, but nobody expects to be one.

"I don't control life but I control how I react to it"
from "Vipassana"
"Vipassana (Ryan Lewis Remix)"
This track is all about faith, Macklemore's complex thoughts on the topic, and how it helped him get through his hardest times. This line helps sum up his thoughts, and explains that you have to pick your battles in life.

"So I stare into this paper instead of sitting at a cubicle
Take all ugly shit inside and try to make it beautiful"
from "Vipassana"
A common theme in Macklemore's music is the fact that he proudly chose his passion and love for music over a stable, dependable, cubicle job. His music is his valiant (and successful!) effort to turn his often ugly internal thoughts into beautiful music.

"A generation of kids choosing love over a desk"
from "Ten Thousand Hours"
"Ten Thousand Hours"
Again, Macklemore chose music over an office job. He thinks that more and more kids are doing that these days, resulting in a burgeoning, passionate music scene.

"They told me to just do it.
I listened to what that swoosh said"
from "Wings"
The most intense line from one of his most intense songs speaks to how huge corporations can capture young consumers and have large impacts on their lives, either positive or negative. Nike basketball shoes were his particular childhood obsession that led to an addiction to consumption.

"Thought it would be shiny and beautiful,
Thought it would be alive and like musical,
But it feels like someone died, it’s got the vibe of a funeral"
from "Jimmy Iovine"
"Jimmy Iovine"
This track deals with his lack of a record deal and decision to be a completely independent artist. The song tracks Macklemore as he breaks into a label's office to "steal" a record deal. Then, when finally offered one, he decides against it. This line describes the feeling of walking into the office, expecting an exciting vibrant culture, he sees the exact kind of office life he has spent his life trying to avoid.

"She said 'We have a flame, your fire's ignited with sound.
Are you building the empire up, or using your fire to burn it down?'"
from "Contradiction"
This song speaks to the contradictions in his music, his complex views on drugs and alcohol, sexism, and the like. After a run in with a fan who tells him that everyone has a little power (a flame) that they can either use to maintain the system of sexism, or help in bringing it down.

"I will moon walk to Pluto in honor of Michael Jackson.
In heaven he'll be saying that man is tight at dancing"
from "And We Danced"
"And We Danced"
Macklemore has many sides. And while he has some great, extremely serious songs, his goofy side is pretty awesome too. This track was his original party anthem and praises the great dance king, MJ. It's also one of the best set closers ever.

"But we still owe 'em 40 acres, now we've stolen their 16 bars"
from "White Privilege"
"White Privilege"
This song is gold. If you haven't heard this side of Macklemore, I urge you to now. This track explains his thoughts on being a white rapper in a culture that was invented by African-Americans. This is possibly the best song to ever sum up this constant controversy.

"I learned from my teachers but became through my music"
from "The Town"
"The Town"
Yeah, teachers can teach skills and valuable education, but Macklemore didn't become who is in school.

"I write to the beat and let life play the guitar strings"
from "The Town"
I couldn't not put this in here. About 2 years ago, this is the line that inspired the name of this very website! Because when it all boils down, isn't that what all music writers do? We're writing to the beat.

April 23, 2013

Reviewed: The Lone Bellow, Ivan & Alyosha

Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA

I kind of feel bad for Ivan & Alyosha. Their recent album, All The Times We Had, is a solid, catchy, and interesting indie folk-rock record, and they put on a very entertaining show to back it up. When this tour of theirs was booked, few had heard of the opening act, but now, touring behind their fantastic Civil Wars-meets-Mumford and Sons debut, The Lone Bellow is taking the nation by storm. So when they finished their jaw-dropping opening set, Ivan & Alyosha had a pretty tough act to follow. 

I have never seen an opening band win over a crowd so quickly and effectively. While it seemed that at least half of the crowd was familiar with The Lone Bellow, by the end of their set, they had 300 new guaranteed fans. 

The first thing that stands out about The Lone Bellow is the harmonies. And yes, they are pristine live. Frontman Zach Williams jumped, sweated, and hollered all over the tiny stage, whipping his soaked curls with excitement. While most people say they put 100% into every show, Williams manages to squeeze all 100% into every single song. Between tracks, he looks like he is about to pass out, and then, miraculously, summons enough energy and power to do it all over again. Ten more times. As NPR's Bob Boilen accurately describes it, he sings "every word as if it's the last time he'll ever get the chance."

Guitarist/singer Brian Elmquist didn't step into the spotlight for most of the show, but when he finally took the lead on his track "Watch Over Us," it became instantly clear that there is no weak link in this group. His voice was crystal clear bluesy perfection and the song was a nice change of pace that split up the set nicely. Please, RELEASE THAT SONG. It was unreal. 

Those lucky enough to be in the audience knew what they were witnessing: a band truly on the verge.

April 10, 2013

Coachella 2013: Set-Time Conflicts

Another drawback to large festivals: crazy set-time conflicts! Coachella has just released the set-times for Weekend 1 and this is going to be a tough year for all you attendees. Here's where we recommend you go in each of the following hair-pulling situations. Obviously it is up to you, but here's what we would do. Click on the images below to zoom in.

April 09, 2013

5 Artists You Can't Miss At Coachella

Coachella's huge lineup can be awfully overwhelming. And since it is jam packed with excellent live acts, it can be nearly impossible to decide who to see! If you are headed to the desert this weekend, regardless of what else you do, here are 5 artists that you better not miss.

TNGHT - Friday - 8:35 - 9:20, Gobi Tent

'Nuff said.

Dub Fx - Sunday - 10:25 - DoLab

This Australian loop-pedal master has been honing his skills on street corners around the world and is finally hitting the US with his purely vocally-created tracks.

C2C - Friday - 1:30 - 2:20, Sahara Tent

After conquering the French DJ scene and winning multiple DMC World Championships, these four disc jockeys are finally ready to conquer the States behind their infectious debut album, Tetra. They kick off their efforts at Coachella and a few select dates elsewhere.

Rodriguez - Sunday - 6:35 - 7:15, Gobi Tent

The subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, Rodriguez became an underground sensation in South Africa while he remained unknown and oblivious to his fame in the US. For the first time in 40 years, the Bob Dylan-esque revolutionary songwriter is traveling the states and making a sure-to-be-amazing stop in the Desert.

Vintage Trouble - Saturday - 12:15 - 12:55, Coachella Stage

While your chances of seeing James Brown live are shot, Vintage Trouble are the closest thing out there these days. The group's livey retro grooves have been lighting up stages all across the nation and prove that live music can have enough energy to rival the Sahara tent's dancey bleeps and bloops.

April 04, 2013

Reviewed: Frightened Rabbit

House of Blues, Boston, MA

"Who wants to see me down this whiskey?" That was perhaps the most popular moment of the night as Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison took advantage of Boston's avid alcohol fervor. The drinking was not out of place, however. The Scotsmen are well known for making some of the most raw, honest, powerful, and painfully sad music out there. While the music may bring to mind heart-wrenching breakups and lonely nights, Mr. Hutchison, charming accent in tow, provided the most entertaining, hilarious, and lively stage banter I have heard in quite some time. It makes me want to go to Scotland just to meet people like this every day.

While the night started off terribly, with a horrifically tedious subway debacle, causing me to miss opener Wintersleep's entire set, Frightened Rabbit did an awfully good job making up for it. The guys have an extremely rabid fan base, one that is familiar with all four of their albums. A recent devotee, I primarily know their latest Pedestrian Verse, an album that took me by surprise and inspired me to delve into their catalog. They filled about about a third of the night with new cuts, but also featured quite a bit of their critically-acclaimed breakout album, The Midnight Organ Fight. The new material fit in seamlessly with the classics, incorporating their trademark huge emotional swells and poetry-like lyrics. While many groups tend to bore the audience with long-winded chats, Hutchison's words are what made the night something special. He provided astute narration and a character that allowed us to put the songs in context.

Frightened Rabbit-"The Woodpile"

April 02, 2013

Reviewed: Local Natives

House Of Blues, Boston, MA

Growing up and developing a broad music taste when I did, Local Natives' debut album, Gorilla Manor, was one of the first indie albums I loved. It had a fixed spot in my car's CD rotation and was probably the album I listened to most during my last year in high school. My fanhood peaked and I saw them live for the first rocking the 2011 Sasquatch main stage. Sadly, three years and hundreds of music discoveries later, the SoCal group that I was so fond of rarely entered my thoughts. In January, when they released their sophomore effort, Hummingbird, the memories of jamming out to "Airplanes" in my car flooded back. They had created a second record that fulfilled the elusive goal of expanding upon their sound while maintaining all the qualities that made them great in the first place. Hummingbird is no doubt more atmospheric and less rollicking, but just as catchy, harmony-laden, and sunny. 

The other night, I went over to House of Blues to see them perform their new tracks in front of a quickly sold out crowd (the biggest on their tour). Luckily for me, they split the night evenly between their two records, playing every song I had so wanted to hear with the lone exception of "Camera Talk." In a live setting, the tracks on Hummingbird were much louder and tighter than I was expecting, almost allowing me to forget which album they were on. Between the spastic moves of guitarist/singer Taylor Rice and the unassuming but powerful presence of keyboardist/singer Kelcey Ayer, the Natives were in fine form. Ending the show with the powerful "Sun Hands" was the perfect move, leaving the crowd jumping with their hands in the air, hoping to catch some of the bands warming rays. 

April 01, 2013

Vitalic - "Fade Away (C2C Remix)"

French DJ wizards C2C are back at it. This time, their scratching and spinning treatment gets paired with fellow countryman Vitalic's electro-dance track "Fade Away." The 4 jockeys chop up everything and put it back together for a spastic, infectious, and equally epic take on the lovely dance number.

C2C will embark on a US tour in April, bringing their renowned live shows stateside for the first time in years. Catch the tour dates below.

 Apr 04 - Irving Plaza - New York, NY
 Apr 06 - Theatre of Living Arts - Philadelphia, PA
 Apr 07 - Metropolis - Montreal, Canada
 Apr 08 - The Mod Club - Toronto, Canada
 Apr 09 - The Metro - Chicago, IL
 Apr 12 - Coachella - Indio, CA
 Apr 13 - The Independent - San Francisco, CA
 Apr 16 - The Depot - Salt Lake City, UT
 Apr 17 - The Summit Music Hall - Denver, CO
 Apr 19 - Coachella - Indio, CA