SXSW 2015

188910_4676186619567_708858900_n

This was a year of many firsts for me at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. For the first time in 12 years, I didn’t get a wristband, didn’t attend the entire week of events, and didn’t have any friends join me for the week of music madness. All of these firsts were a result of another first for me – my spring break from work didn’t line up with the music festival this year. After spending my actual spring break in San Diego with a friend (great beaches, great weather, and great beer), I didn’t think I’d attend the festival this year due to money, work, and the lack of comrades.

Then, of course, the day of the festival neared and I got the SXSW itch – I had to go. I ended up calling-in sick to work two days (don’t tell my boss) and made the best of my three days in Austin. Usually the SXSW experience contains its moments of frustration (the goose chase that is buying a wristband, the annoyance of not being able to get into shows, and the insanity of 6th Street) but this year didn’t feature any of these issue. I avoided 6th Street for the most part, didn’t worry about the wristband rat race, and was able to get into every venue I walked to. Not only that, but almost every performance I saw was top-notch. Although I don’t have nearly as much experience to draw from for this year’s best of SXSW list, here were some of the highlights (and a few low-lights).

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under South by Southwest

Pond “Man It Feels Like Space Again”

Pond

Man It Feels Like Space Again

[Caroline; 2015]

Rating: 8

I’m not quite sure what’s going on in Australia these days, but based off the recent influx of innovative psychedelic pop bands from Down Under (Tame Impala, John Steel Singers, Blank Realm) someone might want to check the water for traces of DMT. Often lost in this Aussie Invasion is the outlandish, psych-outfit, Pond. Many may see them as a side-project to the more widely popular Tame Impala (only one member of the band hasn’t served time with Pond), but this is an unfortunate misconception.

Pond’s latest release, Man It Feels Like Space Again is evidence that these Vegemite stoners deserve more credit for the mind-expanding mischief they’ve concocted over the course of six albums. Not that you should take their bubbly, far-out mix of melodies seriously – these songs are meant to be silly and fun. It’s this complete lack of pretension that makes their rumpus ride more deserving of accolades from psych-pop aficionados. In fact, that refusal to take themselves too seriously helped to make the Pond listening experience stand in stark contrast to their more well-known brother-band, Tame Impala. While Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker ponders the emotional struggles that come with loneliness and isolation, Pond opts to sing songs with titles like “Elvis Flaming Star” and “Heroic Shart” (yes, “shart” – that magical contraction of the words “shit” and “fart”).

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Album Review, Best New Albums

BDWPS Podcast: Episode #33

2011-12-11__podcast.jpg copy

In the latest episode of BDWPS Podcast, we check out some of the best music to come out in 2015 so far, including new music from Panda Bear, Sleater Kinney, Bjork, Elephant Micah, and Joey Bada$$. I also discuss the documentary “The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart,” and continue our journey through Robert Shelton’s Bob Dylan biography “No Direction Home.” Check it out HERE or subscribe to the podcast on Stictcher or iTunes (Search: BDWPS).

Track List:

Panda Bear “Boys Latin”
Sleater Kinney “Surface Envy”
Twerps “Back to You”
Joey Bada$$ “Paper Trail$”
Bjork “Lion Song”
The Sidekicks “Hell is Warm”
Elephant Micah “By the Canal”
Captain Beefheart “Low Yo Yo Stuff”
Bob Dylan “I Want You”

Leave a comment

Filed under BDWPS Podcast

Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear”

Father John Misty

I Love You, Honeybear

[SubPop; 2015]

Rating: 9

On the latest BDWPS Podcast (check it out here), I took a look back at the music that defined the year 1972. One of the most popular genres at the time was the singer/songwriter movement. While Bob Dylan certainly “brought back” the folk movement in the early 60s, artists like Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Don McLean, Harry Chapin, and Jim Croce took this personal approach to songwriting and made it more palatable to the masses. Their songs were simple odes to the power of love and appreciation for the simpler things. These artists may have dominated the mainstream, but during that same time, a different vein of songwriters were releasing a strange mix of melodies and storytelling that didn’t fit within the cookie cutter constraints of the radio friendly folkies. Guys like Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, and Harry Nilsson were creating innovative songs that strayed outside the norm. Sure, they still all had a knack for melody, but their lyrics were filled with cynicism, humor, and despair.

Father John Misty (real name J. Tillman) is a welcomed throw-back to this unconventional approach to songwriting. There are certainly a large of amount of singer/songwriters out there today creating songs that are weird and avant-garde, but the difference with Father John Misty is his voice. It’s soft and smooth like velvet. It’s rich and strong like mahogany. It’s magical and hypnotic like the northern lights. At times his voice reminds me of Nilsson, at other times it conjures up memories of Jeff Buckley.   I shouldn’t be so shocked that a professional musician has such a phenomenal voice, but guys who sing about running down the road naked on hallucinogenic drugs aren’t supposed to sound this good.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Album Review, Best New Albums

Let It Be: Redux

let-it-be-album-cover copy

Author’s Note: In the Oscar nominated film Boyhood, Mason Senior, played by Ethan Hawke, gives his son a mix CD entitled The Black Album. On it, he explains, is a mix of all the best songs recorded by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in the decades that followed the band’s break-up. Hearing this explanation frustrated me because for over a year I’ve been planning to create a similar list (although much more specific), and I realized that my idea wasn’t quite as original as I had once thought. I decided I’d better write this post before Boyhood takes the “Best Film” award this weekend and everyone and their mother goes and sees the film.

Let’s make something clear form the outset – Let It Be is not a classic album. Heck, it’s not even a great album. Songs like “Across the Universe,” “Get Back,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Let It Be” are certainly excellent songs that belong in the pantheon of the band’s biggest hits, but once you get beyond these classics, you’re left with an album of filler. The members of the band would probably have agreed with this assertion. Lennon himself described the recordings as “the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

Despite their reservations, the band, which happened to be on the verge of breaking up, were forced to gather leftover material from their botched documentary, Get Back, and piece together an album in order to relieve contractual obligations. As a result, you get two tracks that clock in under a minute and a handful of sloppy blues songs. Even the songs that live on in infamy are swathed in unnecessary orchestral swells as a result of Lennon asking Phil Spector to come in and try to rescue the shambolic tapes that remained.

The Get Back Sessions, or Lennon called them, "The shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

The Get Back Sessions, or as Lennon called them, “The shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

What bothers me more than the lackluster songs on Let It Be is the fact that John, Paul, George and Ringo all released solo albums that same year – 42 original songs that could have been used on Let It Be instead of their own projects (at this time, the members of the band had become very territorial with their songwriting, and the one-time collaborative spirit was all but dead).
Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Essential Albums

Viet Cong “Viet Cong”

Bob-Dylan-Google-Instant copy

Viet Cong

Viet Cong

[Jagjaguwar/Flemish Eye; 2015]

Rating: 8.5

Around ten years ago, one of the biggest sounds to emerge was what I would call “imitation post-punk.” Bands like Bloc Party, Interpol, and The Bravery put out entertaining albums that borrowed heavily from the post-punk sounds of the late 70s and early 80s.  A dash of Gang of Four angular guitars here, a smidge of PiL’s haunting synths there, and a catchy melody to boot – you’ve got yourself the ingredients for a nostalgia-based album.  While it was fun to listen to these bands playing a game of “Where’d they steal that from?” the whole movement also felt a bit empty and inauthentic, much in the same way a re-release of Boo-Berry (now with more corn syrup!) didn’t sit well with cereal-aficionados.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Album Review, Best New Albums

BDWPS Podcast #32

2011-12-11__podcast-copy copy In this episode we take a look back at the year 1972 and some of the best music to come out. We take a look at the singer-songwriter craze, the evolution of glam rock, and some of the hidden gems from the ’72. You can listen to it HERE or you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher (search: BDWPS).

Playlist: Randy Newman “Political Science”

Stevie Wonder “Maybe Your Baby”

David Bowie “Starman”

Lou Reed “Satellite of Love”

Curtis Mayfield “Pusherman”

Big Star “The Ballad of El Goodo”

Night Sun “Livin’ with the Dying”

The Band (featuring Bob Dylan) “Like a Rolling Stone”

3 Comments

Filed under BDWPS Podcast