Went to see Free Energy a couple Fridays ago. The concert was at the First Unitarian Church in Philly, a venue which perfectly recreates the look and feel of the finest dens and finished basements of the 1980s, and a good place all around (people are always pretty psyched to be there). Some rough notes and music:
Sweatheart – Back Up
Sweatheart are from Philly, and they opened the show. This band has lots of energy, scary amounts of energy. Each individual band member was probably putting out approximately a kilojoule per minute by the end of the show. Their overall aesthetic seems like it’s drawn specifically from the comic relief guys sometimes seen in the background of Jane Fonda workout videos. This works really well for the music, which is fun and weird and extremely likable. Also interesting: two of the band members, Amanda and Rose, run Hot Probs, a call-in show/podcast that helps people with their real and imaginary problems.
[Buy Tell Your Sister]
The Postelles – Can’t Stand Still
Second band were Postelles, whose music hews close to the casual coolness of old rock and roll–there’s kind of an effortless feel to their songs. Also high energy on stage (this must be a prerequisite for touring with FE), the Postelles played an amazing cover of “Hound Dog,” and were just totally entertaining.
[Buy the Postelles LP]
Free Energy – Dark Trance
Free Energy attract a diverse crowd of listeners. I can’t recall ever seeing a more varied group of people come out to see a band at the church: there were families, high schoolers, hardcore hipster kids (including a guy who looked like he was the youngest and only Amish ombudsman ever elected to office), and people around my parents’ age. The classic-rock sound of Free Energy’s music obviously appeals to a lot of different people, but seeing that fact demonstrated within the confines of a basement was both impressive and somehow touching. I think this band is able to recreate, on a consistent basis, those sweetly accidental moments when a great song surprises you–on the radio, over the PA at a grocery store, blaring out of someone’s car–with its appropriateness for that exact moment. It’s kind of unbelievable how good Free Energy are at accomplishing this. They played maybe three or four new songs that night, and all of them were as brutely fun as the songs from Stuck on Nothing.
[Buy Stuck on Nothing]
from The Jungle Book – Bare Necessities
One of the best songs from Disney’s classic era. I will brook no opposition on this point. Van Dyke Parks worked on the arrangement.
[Buy the Jungle Book soundtrack]
Quarks – I Walk
Choice Cuts: the Lost Poems of Dr. Atkins
One would be forgiven for holding the opinion that Dr. Robert Atkins was merely the modern world’s foremost dietician, a man consumed by a love of meat. After all, who but Atkins’ own relatives knew that, all during the years of the regimen, the years of fame and famine, Atkins was writing poems like the following:
Hiding in the whorls
Of their pasta shells
Spooky Action, Up Close
If you are what you eat
Then you, Victoria
You’re bologna on rye
And I’m, alas, salami
Chew your mortadella, Isabella
And forget the canyons of dessert
Where at glazed bottom lies naught
But grief regret and hurt.
[Buy the I Walk 12″]
Lubomyr Melnyk – KMH Section V
The following quote is taken from Chapter 12 of my new book, “Syrups and Nogs”:
Brambleville and Oakburg, the twin cities of the booming oak syrup industry, are quaint and idyllic, unstained by the tincture of so-called ‘Big Syrup.’ Here, from stands of proud, sappy oaks, families harvest and refine their syrups the old-fashioned way: by mouth. Traditionally, the men will tap the trees to find the sweet spot, then cut a small hole in the bark and suck out the precious oak sap through a cast-iron pipe. And of course, there are the syrups: bitter and peppery, playful but not cloying, with just a hint of oak, the flavors mix perfectly on the tongue- these are the kind of hearty, viscous syrups made for kings and dignitaries, and they can and should be poured on the finest caviar, veal, venison, and sweetbreads.
[Buy Piano Music in the Continuous Mode]
Navies – Non-Contract
Navies is cut from the same cloth as the dearly departed Black Eyes: two singers (one handles melody, one handles shouts), heavy percussion, and disobedient guitars. To wit, “Non-Contract” starts off with a sketchy guitar squall that sounds a lot like a ___________ sharpening its fangs against its ________ (this simile is where you come in). Then a descending bass figure enters, stage right, shaking. This track is what you would play to celebrate the existence of plate tectonics, I think. Navies are definitely broken up.
[Incredibly enough, you can still buy the 10″ split that has this song, even though it was released 6 years ago]
Webern – Quatuor Diotima – Six bagatelles for string quartet, op. 9 (Sehr langsam)
Listening to King of Limbs this morning brought to mind Webern for some reason. Unexpected emotional turns in this piece. Clearings.
[Buy “Schoenberg, Berg, Webern” by Quatuor Diotima]
Tin Man – Scared
On January 17th, all of China made a thought.
The people of the People’s Republic stood in vast array, in their business, identical to the shape of a thought.
The shape of a thought in a brain looks much like the atoms on the surface of a bucket of water: meniscus, ripples, tension. Or a furcated lightning strike, bright and branching.
Black Dice – Smiling Off (Luomo remix)
Black Dice – Unknown 2
There are periods when it feels as if most music criticism can be interpreted in an emotivist sense, so that declarations like, “One could say the deconstruction of these micro-melodic forms suggests a movement towards rather than away from old-fashioned tonality,” can be taken in sum to mean “Hurrah for music,” or simply, “I like this.” I’m pretty sure the life of any mp3blog can be reduced to a number of these statements, within a set range on the spectrum of enthusiasm. “Up with chillwave!” and “I don’t know about this Kanye album” are probably the resultant values of whole TBs of writing from the past two years. Ahem. Let me say: “I like these two songs.”
[Buy the Smiling Off EP]
[Live recording of new Black Dice songs at Secret Project Robot on 1.15.11 by the wonderful Two Sails]
Benji Cossa – April
“April” is properly a springtime song, but why not have a little spring in winter? The first thing you notice in this song is that palpitating heartbeat-beat, dense and all-business. The guitar (squealing and squawking with delight) and piano (ghostly) drift together to form a hazy atmosphere, a cool crisp night, good for a walk in the park. This song is somewhat reminiscent (lyrically) of the Blood Brothers’ “Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck,” in that both deal with telling the story of a couple, or at least the initial encounter. Both songs also, for whatever reason, feel like they should have been shiny, innocent teen ballads back in the early 60s. Anyway, “April.”
[Buy Vault 2: Jewels and Gems]
Naked Lunch – Slipping Again
None of us spoke for a while. How many times had our parents dressed us, fed us, and bathed us? Woken up in the middle of the night to attend to our illnesses: midnight vomit, mysterious gas, skronky coughs, fevers and headaches? Listened to our nonsensical jokes (Why was the orange late for class? He forgot his locker combination), our ideas for inventions (a toothbrush with toothpaste inside it), our recitations of school day events, our made-up songs? How many times had they both watched us at our soccer games, baseball games, basketball games, tennis matches, and track meets when they maybe would rather have been doing innumerable other things? How often had they gritted their teeth at some careless ingratitude we flung in their faces and just as frequently thought hard to remember that patience was a solace and a virtue, because we were merely children but also theirs—made by them and possessed by them in ways that rose up to look them in their faces every day? How many times had the thought crossed their minds that the whole exercise simply wasn’t worth it, that whatever pleasure they derived from our boyhood successes and small affection did not outweigh the costs they had born dutifully for so many years—that although we were alive and functional, the family itself suffered from a failure to thrive—and did this transitory thought take the form of something flashing, half-heard, half-seen, like the visions that occur in the interstice between drifting off and full-on falling asleep?
[Buy the original 7″ on Ebay]