Artist: Arcade Fire
Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Victoria, Australia (in the somewhat elite seated section – not that we sat down)
Date: Wednesday, 21 January, 2014
Who?: The amorphous ensemble from up Quebec way with a huge indie/crossover following, a big equipment haulage budget, and a welcome desire to dazzle.
Crowd?: Thousands of adoring folks with about 30% beards and lots of skinny jeans.
Best Bits: The aforementioned razzle dazzle, human bobblehead costumes, about three absolute killer tracks.
Could be Better: Heavier basslines, better mix (percussion was too muted), perhaps less cowbell.
Dream Venue: At a festival where they had to tighten up the setlist
Dream Lineup: I’m thinking Echo & the Bunnymen, Bright Eyes… and reformed Canadian gag-popsters Corkie and the Juice Pigs:
Worth a Second Look?: At a festival, yes. At this price solo, nah, probably not.
Give us a look: OK, here’s 67 mins of action (Win wore the same jacket last night)
Here’s another act we caught live in NYC. The attraction was really the venue (Radio City Music Hall), and a couple of cool-ish supports (, Wild Flag, and Wild Flag).
But I had some inkling that I’d quite enjoyed reviewing an earlier Bright Eyes release, and the chance to see them showcase a new CD was appealing.
I went along expecting a pretty mellow, warbly singer-songwriter affair, with perhaps a little artiness.
What we got was an elaborate, full-band, full-blown art-rock extravaganza, which matches perfectly to the content of this recording.
The CD abounds with whacked out Rasta imagery, lengthy soundbites of some very creepy L.Ron Hubbard-esque rambling and refreshingly organic electro sounds. The drums in particularly are well-mixed (and live were reproduced through multiple drummers – Modest Mouse style), while Oberst’s vocals are much stronger than I expected.
The songwriting is expectedly verbose and eccentric, and rewards multiple listens. This album reminds me most, in terms of overall feel, with the recent Arcade Fire effort, and I’d certainly be delighted to see these two acts back-to-back on some festival stage.
Last time I reviewed BE I promised to pick up some more of their albums. This album reminds me I need to do just that (plus the Wild Flag debut). If you’re unsure, you can watch/hear this entire album here:
File under: Ear-opening
Loyal readers, you might have noticed a lull in proceedings over the past week or so. I am currently staying in New York (with sporadic commutes down to Philadelphia). Our apartment here doesn’t have a newfangled stereo that’ll play my iTunes, so the albums currently in the queue are only heard when I don my headphones.
As such, you should lower your expectations regarding frequency of reviews. I suspect I might only get to one a week for the next 3 months!
On a more positive front, I am enjoying new venues and new gigs to see. Last night’s show featuring Wild Flag (featuring two members of Sleater Kinney), Superchunk and Bright Eyes at Radio City Music Hall was superb.
This is the only CD I own from US wunderkind wordsmith Conor Oberst. In many ways, he’s a shares a lot with Will Oldham, burdened as he is with a warbly voice and a penchant for multiple band names. He is much more palatable however, with less idiosyncrasies in delivery plus Teenbeat good looks (so you’re much more likely to see him on tele and splashed across the magazine pages). Hence his much great success.
His fanbase is a refreshing outcome, as his work is not overly immediate. This album, for example, is a ‘grower’, filled with little tales that benefit from multiple listens. Oberst sings in such a fashion that you want to understand him and share his experience. There is biting satire and pithy commentary in amongst it all.
The underlying orchestration feels eerily familiar. He’s treading very similar ground to other ‘sway and swoon’ type efforts from Neko Case and Martha Wainwright. It is a damn effective genre, as long as you’re willing to listen hard.
Intriguingly, this album came out at the same time as an ‘electronic’ album by the same crew. I’ll have to chase it up to hear the contrast.
File under: Subtle but effective
This is the second album from a small, now defunct indiepop outfit from Winnipeg.
Sugar sweet and well-produced, this is like Juliana Hatfield without much of the angst. It’s less jarring than her too. The harmonies from the two female singers make a huge difference, boosting the sense of lusciousness.
The song-writing is very unforced and endearing (click on the pic to the left for some tunes). These guys sound meaningful even when confined to some “doooo, doooo, doooo”s.
All in all, I find this a very relaxing, yet uplifting album. It invokes a promise-filled spring day (rather than today’s windy sweatfest). There is so little pretension here, just a love of sweet tunes, some moog squelching and a bit of rocking out.
Turns out these guys went on to become Paper Moon. Will have to check them out.
File under: Sweet and shiny spring sounds