I am a sucker for anything Coney Island-related. Add in Wye Oak and my love gets supercharged.
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Who schedules outdoor festivals during the hottest part of the year? The heat was excruciating today at Grant Park where Lollapalooza 2011 kicked off. I guess if there was any sort of relief, it was that clouds blocked some of the sunlight by late afternoon but it still wasn’t much of a reprieve.
If you check out bands that you’re truly interested in seeing, chances are you won’t walk away disappointed and while I’m not a superfan of any of the bands I checked out today, I didn’t stray far from what I knew so therefore I had a great day.
Started off at high noon with Merge Records duo Wye Oak. Poor Jenn Wasner was plagued with guitar pedal problems almost from the get-go and at one point stopped midsong saying, “I can’t do this. I’m sorry.” You had to feel for her as she was playing in front of a large and eager crowd ready to get their Lollapalooza weekend started. Wasner is a completely amazing guitarist and she battled back from the problems early in the set to wow those hanging out at the Sony stage.
Feels a little weird to be calling this the 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza even though the festival did make it’s debut in 1991. There was a period of inactivity and the reformatting of the concept, going from a traveling alternative rock circus to an annual 3-day festival in Chicago that features many mainstream acts.
That being said, there’s plenty to see this coming weekend at Grant Park. Last week I spotlighted two lesser known acts performing this year – Midnight Conspiracy and Kyle Lucas & Captain Midnite over on Lollapalooza.com.
Here are ten songs I want to hear at Lollapalooza this weekend.
My Morning Jacket – “Victory Dance” (performing Saturday, 8pm, Bud Light stage)
The AV Club just posted details of their annual free show during SXSW. Always one of the best line ups every year.
It’s March Into Softness 2011, our free SXSW day party, slated for Friday, March 18 at the Mohawk. Here’s the lineup, designed for maximum aural satisfaction and assembled with great care with our co-presenters, Canvas Media and Flowerbooking:
Low (5:15 p.m.)
Chikita Violenta (4:15 p.m.)
Maritime (3:15 p.m.)
An Horse (2:15 p.m.)
Tristen (1:15 p.m.)
No Joy (12:15 p.m.)
Plentiful (and hopefully free) libations and other party favors will be on hand as well; keep watching for updates on those, as well as the RSVP address which will allow you to gobble them all up. March Into Softness 2011: It’s free, it’s fun, and, more than likely, it won’t involve anyone getting smashed in the face with a can of Pepsi Max.
Guess I’m not going to be looked at as a trendsetter this year. Believe me, I’m as surprised as anyone that my two favorite releases of the year were put out by bands that were active in the hair metal community in the late ’80s. But when I went back and scanned through iTunes to see what I listened to the most, these are the ones that were clear cut favorites.
1. Danger Danger – Revolve
The best CD of 1989 was released 20 years late! This b-list hair metal band brought original singer Ted Poley back for a reunion album filled with big hooks (“Hearts on the Highway”), bigger choruses (“That’s What I’m Talking About”), songs about girls (“Rocket to Your Heart”), guitar solos (“Ghost of Love”), and power ballads (“Fugitive”). Def Leppard and Bon Jovi’s recent efforts didn’t sound nearly this good.
Listen: Keep On Keepin’ On
2. Ray West – All Pointz West
Spread Eagle’s Ray West was my favorite singer from the sleaze-glam era (early ’90s). His solo debut may have been 15+ years in the making, but it was worth it as he updates Spread Eagle’s sound (which was similar to Skid Row, Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue) by making it heavier and more aggressive (ala Godsmack, Disturbed, Killswitch Engage). I listened to this CD more than anything else this past summer.
3. The Damnwells – One Last Century
My fears that The Damnwells were done were unjustified and proven false when the band released this FREE album in February. The older carryovers (“55 Pictures”, “Bastards of Midnight”, “Down with the Ship”) were my favorites initially but I grew to love the collaborations Alex Dezen did with his wife, Angela (“Dandelion”, “Like it Is”), just as much as anything the band has previously done.
Download:One Last Century (full CD)
4. Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter
Halfway through 2009, this album was my favorite. Though it’s billed under Lytle’s name, it’s really just an extension of the singer’s Grandaddy sound (spacey/dreamy indie-pop) and “Brand New Sun” may be one of the best, simplest pop songs released this year.
Watch: Brand New Sun
5. The Prairie Cartel – Where Did All My People Go?
Blake Smith and Mike Willison hinted at their electro-pop/sample fascination as members of the short-lived alt.rock band Caviar but bring that fascination to full fruition (along with Local H’s Scott Lucas) on The Prairie Cartel’s long overdue debut (most of these songs were on a demo CD the guys gave me at SXSW back in ’07). The versatility of the music allows The Prairie Cartel to perform it live as either a full band or in a DJ setting with Lucas singing over pre-recorded sounds loaded onto an iPod.
Download: Beautiful Shadow
Donewaiting presents Blitzen Trapper and Wye Oak at Skully’s on Tuesday, October 13. More info can be found here.
Before the interview begins, some obligatory praise for Wye Oak’s sophomore release, The Knot (listen to it, in full, at the end of the interview). Admittedly I was relatively unfamiliar with the duo (Jenn Wasner – guitars/vocals, Andy Stack – drums, keyboards) other than checking out a couple of MP3s from If Children that we posted last year on the site. That being said, within the first 5 minutes of The Knot, I emailed the duo’s publicist at Merge Records and said something to the effect of “Is it possible to fall in love with an entire CD before the second song has even ended? If so, I’ll drop to one knee and propose to Wye Oak on the spot.”
MP3: “Take It In”
The Knot opens with the spacey “Milk and Honey” – the subtle effects-pedal-drenched guitar hanging in the background (the guitar playing – and the song itself – remind me a lot of Ashland’s Bel Auburn). It’s the first – and last – song that Stack will provide lead vocals on on the CD. The rest of the CD works on the ebb and flow of slow to loud, loud to soft that bands that Wye Oak have compared to are so proficient in (Yo La Tengo, My Morning Jacket, The Spinanes). It’s a beautiful sounding, at times loud and chaotic, CD and, as mentioned before, one that knocked me out from the get-go.
A few weeks into a tour with Blitzen Trapper, I sent Wye Oak some questions via email hoping they’d have internet access somewhere along the way. They did and the following are Jenn’s answers to the questions I sent.
Have you found that touring with a band like Blitzen Trapper – a band with critical buzz – has led to a “fan” buzz? Have you been pleasently surprised with the attendance at shows so far on the tour or have you played to smaller crowds than expected?
The shows with BT have been so excellent! It’s always interesting to play to audiences that aren’t necessarily there to see you. It puts you in a position where you have to try to win people over, and that really provides a good bit of energy and excitement, especially when you’ve been playing shows for weeks and weeks. It’s always really satisfying when you can get a good response out of an audience that’s never heard your music before. Continue reading
This should be a great one. Blitzen Trapper‘s Furr (Sub Pop) was one of my favorites from last year, and the Portland band has a new EP, Black River Killer, out on Oct. 6 (eponymous mp3 below). Songwriter Eric Earley says here that the EP is completely separate from Blitzen Trapper’s upcoming album. A snippet:
So there’s been alot of questioning about the songs on the BRK EP, thought i’d do some explaining… Silver Moon is near four years old, recorded around three times in differing formats, Preacher’s has about the same timeframe, Black Rock and Shoulder are older dating back to the old house on 69th and Long where garmonbozia was recorded in ’02 and ’03 roughly. Big Black Bird was originally an instrumental track recorded at the 69th house for the soundtrack to a film we made entitled Who is Manfred Milner? or something like that, it ran during the final credits, the complete soundtrack i’ve never released, around the time of Furr or previous I recorded the version you now hear adding lyrics and other notable soundz… The BRKiller EP is in no way a linear follow up to Furr and is in no way exemplary of the new record which I’m working on and of which i’ve only spoken of in a few interviews and that mostly inaccurate and amusingly misleading.
We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for this show, too. To enter, send a blank e-mail with the subject title BLITZEN OAK to email@example.com. A winner will be randomly chosen on Oct. 12. And, of course, you can always purchase tickets in advance.
“Black River Killer” video after the jump. It’s worth a watch. Continue reading
Formerly known as Monarch, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, now named after the Maryland state tree, Wye Oak project the hallmarks of a band too meticulous and maybe even a bit overproduced — long nights, double takes, excessive overdubs, might have sucked some energy from what might translate live. In the style of the trad-Merge, off-kilter, dual sex subgenre (see Butterglory, the Rosebuds, She and Him) If Children, the group’s debut is as varied as leaves from the tree. As we wait with baited breath for the next installment of My Bloody Valentine there’s still time to throw your own Loveless replicate into the ring and Stack shows submits his love letter. Well, at least on “Warning,” a full-on fit of buzzing and massaging waves of guitar fuzz, pure sonic navel gazing.
Coming from Maryland, disbelief is suspended and the mess is that bit of the Dixie seeped over the border. I hear harbor and fog, salty inlets forged by the sea rather than swampland and twang. Sure the duo is guilty of staying up late night with Palace LPs (the barren-soul whimper is a constant) but these songs are more shanty – swaying, low-ended, benders more reminiscent of the Breeders and Come and Scrawl (‘specially when Wasner takes the commanding lead, not just using her the voice as wispy instrument) on the double bummer of “Family Glue” and “Orchard Fair” – these are not death ballads. Hope is prevalent; it’s just wobbling in intoxication.
Stack is a trained songwriter and great at the finger picking (an epilogue to Bon Iver?), which makes his band’s eclectic choice of ideas even the more strange. Pleasantly surprised is the apt descriptor here, as most of If Children doesn’t follow a blueprint, it goes from feeling to feeling. It’s certainly not groundbreaking stuff. Songs like the ballooning mini-epic “I Don’t Feel Young” though, tend to stun more often than not — always a stinging and spacey subversion from slightly similar precious and sensitive albums that battle with mediocrity. In here there’s a beating heart.