Although not typically what we at Listen Before You Buy cover, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the insanity seeing of the Punch Brothers at The Basement, because good music is good music, and these guys ROCKED.
The Punch Brothers are pretty popular amongst bluegrass fans and fans of the folkier side of indie rock back in the States, but as this was their first Australian tour, their fan base is much smaller, so as opposed to playing a large concert hall, as they tend to do back home, they played at Sydney’s legendary jazz club, The Basement - a venue maybe a quarter size of what they play overseas.
The Punch Brothers mainly appeal to the (small) bluegrass demographic, as well as fans of the folkier side of indie rock - fans of bands like Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and The Avett Brothers. Lead singer/mandolinist Chris Thile (pronounced Thee-lee) was actually a member of late iconic bluegrass heroes, Nickel Creek, also including Sara and Sean Watkins.
Chris Thile could be one of the most all-around incredible frontmen: the man was as animated as ever for the duration of the hour-and-a-half show, shredding on that mandolin, and providing some of the most entertaining stage banter I’ve ever heard (banjo player Noam Pikelny responded to one of Thile’s retorts with “this segment, brought to you by alcohol”). Singing, the frontman was in typical frontman stature, perched in front of his microphone with his mandolin, but during his many mandolin solos, Thile really let loose, moseying and prancing across the stage with a similar gait as a velociraptor in typical Tallest Man On Earth fashion. Just watching him on that mandolin is mesmerizing, as his fast-as-lightning fingers move across the tiny mandolin fretboard - proving that he’s really the Jimi Hendrix of bluegrass music as he’s changed the fate of the mandolin forever.
Chris Thile really stole the show, but that isn’t to lessen the talent of the rest of the band, as the band’s acoustic guitarist, fiddle player, banjo player, and upright bassist showcased such talent, proving that they not only create some of the greatest songs in folk and bluegrass, but they also are some of the most talented musicians out there.
For a bluegrass band, the native New Yorkers are pretty damn rock & roll: songs like “Rye Whiskey” talk about their beloved alcohol with lyrics like “Rye Whiskey makes the band sound better / makes your baby cuter / makes itself taste better”, they’re signed to Nonesuch Records - home to modern rock & roll kings The Black Keys, and not to mention, their cover songs. These guys have the most impressive array of songs that they cover, and we got a taste of The Strokes‘ “Heart In A Cage” to which they added some of the most gorgeous harmonies, Beck’s scandalous “Sexx Laws”, and their most popular, mesmerizing cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A”. If covering The Strokes, Beck, and Radiohead isn’t rock & roll, I don’t know what is.
The covers were plentiful, but they also did a ton of original work, relying mostly on their most recent Who’s Feeling Young Now and 2010’s Antifogmatic, both released via Nonesuch Records. The guys performed hits like “Next To The Trash” (dedicated to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship), “Patchwork Girlfriend”, “New York City”, and “Movement And Location”, along with some other covers and instrumental pieces which had the five-piece trading off solos.
These guys were absolutely incredible, and I’d really recommend their live shows. Below are some pictures taken from the show as well as videos of their covers of “Kid A” and “Heart In A Cage”.
We’ve been blessed with not one, not four, but three new Conner Youngblood tracks this year, each one taking things up a level.
His latest track “The Warpath”, with follows on from “Gold” and “Proportions” might just be his most-magnetic track yet. The vocals slither into the ether as if being slowly squeezed through a meat-grinding voice-vocoder, all the while accompanied by hand-claps, whistles, and the fuzziest of The Black Keys-esque guitar licks.
As with his other tracks it can be yours below for free, and as with his other tracks you won’t be sorry for spending the rest of your week listening to it. Conner? Give us a goddamn album filled with these gems, eh?
Upon first viewing of this new video by The Black Keys you may go through the five stages of What The Fuck, or at least one of them.
- What the fuck!?
- Da fuuuuqqq!?
- Double you tee eff!?
- Someone pass me my What The Fuck blanket.
Listen below to the new JEFF The Brotherhood track, “Sixpack”, to appear on their upcoming EP, “Hypnotic Knights”.
JEFF The Brotherhood return with the first single, “Sixpack”, produced by The Black Keys’ singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and will appear on their upcoming EP, “Hypnotic Knights”, due for release on May 22nd.
The Nashville brothers release one of their greatest efforts to date, filled with crunchy guitars, plenty of “oohs” and “aahs”, and vocals reminiscent Pinkerton-era Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. “Sixpack” is a two-and-a-half-minute surf pop garage rock gem that shows much promise for their upcoming EP and LP of the same name.
I’m going to be honest, I listened to this record six full times through and remained unimpressed. I felt disconnected from the music and didn’t have that same special feeling that their first record, “Cape Dory” had given me. Then suddenly, and this does happen sometimes, on the seventh listen through it was as if a trapdoor had opened and I was falling and falling for this record. I find it so strange when this happens with records, just imagine if I had given up? Just left the record for dead? Then I would be missing out on a lovely, lilting gem of an album that crescendos and crashes like a wave upon a shore.
The sophomore release from Fat Possum’s Tennis was much anticipated, and “Young And Old” certainly reflects a lot of the same facets that made “Cape Dory” enjoyable. Namely, the combination of the couple’s simple strengths. Alaina Moore’s deliciously delightful voice, like an ice cream sundae for your ears, and Patrick Riley creating this 60s/70s sounding vintage pop vibe now fleshed out with drummer James Barone. Another element that really sets “Young & Old” apart from the band’s initial album is the production help of Patrick Carney from The Black Keys. Clearly he knows his stuff as this sophomore effort isn’t just the lilting, languishing sea-bound journey that “Cape Dory” was, but is a record actually sets foot on land and starts evolving right in front of you. If my initial disinterest in the record taught me anything about this release, it is that the music contained within is much more complex, layered, and thought-out than a cursory listen reveals.
Deceptively simple, there is a lot going on below the surface. Not so much a fever dream as a slightly dolorous musing, the record is like listening to a loved one sigh, or if a lazy, sunny afternoon was translated into sound, it would be this album. “If I don’t use words / Then each sound goes unheard” Moore sings on “My Better Self”, which is only partially true in this case as the drums and piano on this song are too precise and pretty to go unheard. But the subtlety of thought in that phrase certainly doesn’t go unheard, and this type of lyrical enigma is heard looped throughout the album, as on “Petition” when she sings “Misinform the life I know / On my banner censors show”. I use these examples to indicate that though the sound of Tennis might be likened to crystalline pop a bit more than they deserve, their lyrics are certainly much more thought out than those of Katy Perry or Robyn (Oh yeah, and they weren’t written for her by a ghost writer).
Final element to note on this record, the beautiful dose of organ music that appears at just the right moment. My favorite song on the release “Take Me To Heaven” contains a liberal dose, and also reaches a loud, insistent crescendo that many of the other songs avoid, as Moore reveals that her voice is oh-so-sweet, but she also has chops. Please listen to this record, it nearly makes me cry to think I could’ve missed it by not paying close enough attention or not giving it enough of a chance.
We featured Alabama Shakes as “Ones To Watch” back in January of this year, and really we were hardly pioneers for doing so: Alabama Shakes have been on a blistering run of live shows, starting with a breakout performance at CMJ last year and carrying on right up to SXSW last month, that has put them on pretty much everyone’s watch list. Well, now “Boys & Girls” is here, and the whole world can hear the soulful blues rock [or should that be bluesy soul?] that has previously been reserved to a lucky few.
“Hold On” opens the album like a warm embrace: chances are you’ve heard this song before and like it already, and if you haven’t yet you’ll probably like it now. The riff is perky, the guitars are crunchy, Brittany Howard’s voice is in full wail, and, all in all, it feels pretty damn good. The following track, “I Found You”, is the first of many songs on “Boys & Girls” that have capital letter Big Finishes, tunes where the entire song is ultimately in service to an epic ending, you know the type.
The thing with “I Found You”, though, is that the payoff is actually disappointingly flat, and the same goes for most of the Big Finishers on this album.The possible exception to that rule is “You Ain’t Alone” – a song which gets closer and closer to The Beatles’ “Oh Darlin’” every time I hear it, a disorienting effect if not strictly speaking a bad one – which has such a fragile, piano driven opening that it has no choice but to get louder.
Elsewhere, Howard’s words are belted out so consistently powerfully that when she needs to shift up a gear there’s not much place to go: sure she sounds more forceful, but somehow she’s not any louder, as if she’s leaning away from the mic, Tay Zonday style. The only time that “Boys & Girls” does shift gears, it’s a downshift on the pointedly slow title track that comes of as decidedly damp.
The mostly unchanging intensity disguises some of the album’s better tracks, like late highlight “I Ain’t The Same”, with its brilliantly sunny, sidewalk-swagger verses, which is liable to get lost in the mix if you’re not paying enough attention. Ultimately, though, Alabama Shakes’ inability to take it up a level on “Boys & Girls” leaves me with the same thought after every listen: man I’d like to see them live. Some of that, no doubt, is down to the consistently brilliant reports that continue to come for their shows, but there’s more to it than that. It speaks to the fact that for all of its climaxes, “Boys & Girls” could be a bit more muscular, a bit more Black Keys, a bit more [hopefully] Jack White. There’s some good soul and blues to be had here, but I think Alabama Shakes will have better to offer in future.
There’s something incredibly authentic about Alta Mira. Listening to their music is an interesting phenomenon given the current state of things because it truly feels like what-you-hear-is-what-you-get. There’s no studio trickery, no inorganic sounds, nothing excessively flashy. What there is is straight up indie pop/rock, and of a very high caliber.
The four-piece from Albany, NY, have actually been around since 2007 when they put out their first release, “The Fables and Fabrications EP”. In 2009 came their first self-titled debut album, and since then opening slots for the like of Ra Ra Riot, OK Go, Titus Andronicus or Deer Tick, quite the introduction. Now, just last week, in fact, the band have returned with “I Am the Salt”, their latest full-length effort.
Given that the music is so familiar - and familiar here doesn’t equate to generic - it comes as a surprise that they haven’t made more of a name for themselves. Alta Mira show that they’ve studied the back catalog of indie rock, the good back catalog, and have gathered the best bits to incorporate it into their own sound, an impressive feat.
Songs like “Good Enough” could maybe have been penned by James Mercer (of The Shins, for those that have been living under a rock) if he had a knack for making his songs a little more uptempo. While not exactly catchy in the strictest sense, there’s definitely tune that’s bound to stick, especially on repeated listens.
“The Elephant” is another good showing of the band’s strengths. Here, the bass, guitar, drums and vocal combo builds to more than just the sum of its parts to create another strong tune. While quiet at times, there’s some definite toe-tapping moments here. Other highlight, “Organ Anthem” is a tad more driven. The vocals tend to more of a growl, and the guitars really get a chance to shine during an instrumental section in the middle of the track before completely taking over. At times it reminds me a bit of The Black Keys, but not entirely as bluesy.
On the rest of “I Am the Salt” there’s plenty more to like if in need of a good indie rock fix, so I suggest you look no further. My guess is that soon enough those opening slots the band have had will soon enough turn into headlining times. For now, though, be sure to download “Good Enough” and listen to “The Elephant” below.
Michael Kiwanuka and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys get together for a song!
I have to say that I’m pretty pissed at Kings Of Leon at the moment.
I guess these days there are a shitload of people who say they’ve been a KOL fan from the start but actually haven’t, however I have. I remember when I lived back in Edinburgh there was a lot of buzz around them before their debut album was released and I never really paid them much attention, that was until my younger brother bought the album when it came out and I listened to it with him. I fucking loved it, and have loved the band since, including their last album “Only By The Night” which a lot of “old” KOL fans apparently hated, or stopped listening to them because of it.
The reason I’m pissed is that myself and a buddy from work were supposed to be seeing them, The Black Keys, and The Whigs, play at Hershey Park tonight and they only went and cancelled the show last week, ten days before it was supposed to happen due to a “scheduling conflict”. Well that ain’t true, it was because they didn’t sell enough tickets. Isn’t that a pile of shite? So yeah, I’m pretty pissed at them but hopefully the new album will remedy that, however I have a feeling it won’t.
Here’s the first listen of the first song from their upcoming fifth album “Come Around Sundown”, set for release on October 19th (unless of course there aren’t enough people interested in buying it then they might just not bother). I literally stayed up all night to hear and rip this as it was being premiered all over Australian radio before anywhere else (7am EST, 9pm AEST).
Buy “Come Around Sundown”
Kings Of Leon - “Radioactive”