• Guitar Wolf Redefines Loud @ The Firebird

    24 Abr 2012, 20:51

  • Mucca Pazza @ The Firebird

    24 Abr 2012, 20:38

  • Garage Party w/ Mikal Cronin + D Watusi @ The Gargoyle

    24 Abr 2012, 20:35

  • the Mountain Goats + Water Liars @ The Gargoyle, 4/21

    24 Abr 2012, 20:34

  • St. Vincent Saves Lives

    12 Ene 2012, 22:45

    Last week, my attention was directed to a tragi-comic essay on the the impossible nature of happiness, how the emotion everyone seems to be striving for is actually unsustainable and ephemeral, a nebulous marketing scam started relatively recently in human history to manipulate people into adhering to social codes established by The Man. The main takeaway is, whatever event or item you think will surely secure your happiness forever will never maintain or even achieve the level of happiness that you felt in the time leading up to that moment. The anticipation is the good stuff, everything else is a let down.

    Not ideal thoughts to have while leaning against my car, looking at the queue of excited fans alongside The Old Rock House. I’d watched at least two total strangers, teenagers, losing their minds on Tumblr for weeks, kids driving from Arkansas and Indiana just to see this concert. Could Annie Clark possibly provide an experience to rival the time spent almost tasting how blown away we’d be?

    But that’s the thing about St. Vincent, you know. She’s clever, wry even. She is the best super hero facade for human weakness: Wise, ambiguous lyrics and dazzling guitar to distract from the uncertainty, nervousness, and powerlessness that fill the time not spent on stage. The new album, Strange Mercy, demands and establishes a stable balance between nightmare spazz and the discomfort of uptight control.

    I have a special place in my heart for artists whose music is their solace and their torment. Last night, Annie Clark pulled a sold-out crowd into her head. She showed us what it’s like to face down a panic attack with your wits still about you. The strobe lights and spots disoriented, the bass was shockingly loud, the vaulted ceiling threatened to crash down upon us, but the music bound us together, even when the noise and feedback seemed to careen into infinity with no way back. The electronic drums beat out of time, but the math still held, and order never really left the universe.

    The confidence of the new album made songs from the older albums seem dark and doomed by comparison, especially “Actor Out of Work,” the only St. Vincent song I’ve ever heard on commercial radio. With slight changes in arrangement, the addition of two synths, the absence of the layered backing vocals, it was a whole new song, and scarier.

    At the end of the encore, as the last strains of “Your Lips Are Red” (a personal favorite) faded away, it was clear that Annie Clark has a solid grip on her ghosts. Driving home from the show, the windows down, it’s unseasonably warm for October and I’ve got the radio tuned to the local oldies station. Elton John sings, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

    It’s four o’clock in the morning
    Damnit, listen to me good
    I’m sleeping with myself tonight
    Saved in time, thank God my music’s still alive.

    And I am happy.

    Hysterical Strength
    Chloe in the Afternoon
    Actor Out of Work
    Just the Same but Brand New
    Champagne Year
    Neutered Fruit
    Strange Mercy
    She is Beyond Good and Evil (The Pop Group cover)
    Northern Lights
    Year of the Tiger

    The Party
    Your Lips Are Red

    Notebook: Oh, St. Louis! I follow a bunch of teenage fangirls on Tumblr, because that’s their natural habitat and it’s fun. The one who lives in Arkansas and drove to STL the day of the show and returned the same night because she had class this morning reports back that she got an autograph, a hug, her picture taken with Annie Clark, and Annie brought out a beer for everyone who waited.
  • Beirut @ The Pageant

    19 Oct 2011, 17:41

    Sunday, October 9th, 2011. “I’ve never seen so many smiles at once!” If Lætitia Sadier was faking astonishment, she’s a really good actor. And if she wasn’t? Shame on every audience who’s ever watched her perform. Like a quirky cross between contralto jazz singer Cassandra Wilson and experimental German counter-culture icon Nico, the charming former leader of post-rock outfit Stereolab commanded attention gently. For two songs, members of Beirut accompanied her on drum and bass, trumpet and trombone, but the bulk of her 40-minute set was just Sadier and her guitar.

    She sang several songs from her 2010 solo album The Trip (English and French) and two Stereolab covers, all while bathed in thick yellow light from lamps on either side of the stage. By the time she wrapped, we felt like we were staring straight into the sun.

    In the brief break between bands, I listened to some people play a round of hipster bingo, but it wasn’t much fun. There were a few guys in suspenders and newsboy caps, and a girl with a glass of wine rubbed at a charcoal drawing in her Moleskine sketchbook, but from where I sat, I was relatively surprised to notice the thing most of the audience had in common was youth. Then I remembered something very easy to forget when listening to Beirut’s complex arrangements and unique blend of Balkan folk and American pop music: Zach Condon, the floppy-haired genius (and I don’t use genius lightly) behind the whole sound and spirit of the big band Beirut, is 25 years old. Like Sufjan Stevens, he started his own label, Pompeii Records, to keep creative control over his music.

    “I don’t know if you know this, but…” Condon seemed shy and a little giggly. “Half of my family lives in St. Louis. And a disturbing number of them are here tonight.” A hearty whoop came from the balcony and he located his people, triggering more nervous laughter. While I’m sure it’s largely owed to the power of suggestion, the audience at that second ramped up their warmth, seemed to help welcome him home to his family.

    It’s difficult to describe a Beirut show because there’s something mystical about it. When multi-instrumentalists are rotating and alternating on trombone, flugelhorn, trumpet, euphonium, ukulele, piano and accordion, when Zach Condon’s low droning voice is soaring through nebulous lyrics intended to sound foreign to anglo ears, and Kelly Pratt’s singing high harmony, and the drums and the electric upright bass are pulling the party into the realm of pop, the audience just gets lost in the carnival.

    It isn’t until you’ve walked to your car and you’re wondering how you got there that you start questioning whether what you experienced was even real. More than once I thought, I can barely believe the world as it now exists can even make someone who builds songs as beautiful as these. But I’m happy to report that I think that a lot.

    After nearly two solid hours of music, the second encore ended with blistering applause and a standing ovation, and a genuine one, not the polite St. Louis-style perfunctory kind. Condon looked just as teary and overwhelmed as we did when he squinted and smiled at us, and quietly said, “We’ll be back. I promise.”
    You’d be a fool to pass this show up twice.

    Kelly Pratt did a fantastic job of praising Lætitia Sadier, speaking of how humbled they are to tour with her, but then he stuck his foot in his mouth towards the end of the night. He was telling us about how the band got to go see a Dolly Parton show last week and that it was amazing. “If you have the chance to see her in concert, go! She won’t be around for much longer.” The audience stiffened and grumbled adorably, and Pratt realized what he’d said and backpedaled with fury while Condon laughed at him.

    Dolly Parton’s not coming anywhere near St. Louis on her tour. Sadface.
    Another gem from the encore: Ben Lanz’s RAGING tuba SOUSAPHONE solo. [Thanks, KT] Who knew that was even possible?

    If you’re new to Beirut, and even if you’re not, you won’t regret watching their tiny desk concert on NPR.

    Special thanks to Corey Woodruff, our extraordinary concert photographer for the evening.
  • "We're Scary," S. Carey at Off Broadway, St. Louis

    30 Abr 2011, 19:08

    You can read my review of this show at I Went to a
  • The Foals & The Naked and Famous @ The Firebird, St. Louis

    30 Abr 2011, 19:04

  • My Flowery, Indulgent, Excessive End-of-the-Year Music Essay

    14 Dic 2010, 20:28

    I'm not a list fan in general. Katy Henriksen sums up my thoughts pretty succinctly with her article on Year-End Lists for The Brooklyn Rail. But it's the end of the year whether I like it or not, and 2010 was a special music year for me. I was incredibly fortunate to see many of my all-time favorite musicians perform live, and some of my favorites also put out my new favorite albums. I don't know from *best* album of the year. I hope that won't be known for decades. But I do know exactly which new albums I couldn't stop playing on repeat this year, and it is those I offer you here.

    The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens
    If you like a challenge, if you don't mind alternating between frenetic noise and cathartic lyrics, and vocals and instrumentation with DNA-level saturation of a hurting but healing human being, and often all of that at once, The Age of Adz awaits your undivided attention. I've listened to this album at least 50 times since August. It refuses to be background noise. I lose 90 minutes of everything else every time I fire it up. Even if (especially if) you're not historically a big Sufjan Stevens fan, this album builds exponentially on everything he's ever done. If you’ve ever listened to The Lord God Bird story on NPR, you know that Sufjan can phone in what other people work for months to pull off. The level of his talent is high enough that a real challenge for him is almost a burden to his listener, but what a beautiful burden it is. The Age of Adz never stops giving up surprises. It's an Easter basket made out of Easter eggs filled with more Easter eggs. It feels gross writing about it with strangers. Listen, and then we'll talk.

    My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
    A controversial pick? Perhaps. I've had this album for less than a month, but I do believe I was primed for it, having listened to The Age of Adz so many times right before it dropped. The two albums share so much fragile humanity and vulnerability that I get giddy thinking on it. Yeezy and I have had our differences, but this album is so, dare I say it, P4kPerfect, I forgive him for every crazy thing he's ever done and will ever do, including asking Rihanna in an interview if she's happy that she can turn straight women gay. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is like in the movie Ghost, when Patrick Swayze's character is looking for Vincent Schiavelli's character on the subway and he sticks his face through the wall of the train as it moves through the station. The listener is Patrick Swayze and the train is Kanye's subconscious. (It’s also kind of like the part when Demi Moore totally makes out with Whoopi Goldberg.) Through the music on MBDTF, Kanye asks his fans, "Why does love always fail me?" and his fans can listen to this album and reply, "Cuz you kinda crazy, and cuz you think our love is enough."

    The Black Dirt Sessions, Deer Tick
    Technically, I think I saw Deer Tick (or at least John McCauley) four times in 2010. Not once did I walk away disappointed. The Black Dirt Sessions is a hard-core freak folk album that features what I believe will be the last gasps of John McCauley’s demons for awhile. When I saw Deer Tick on Halloween, they played a few of their new songs, and love has lightened McCauley’s load a perceptible amount. Drown yourself in cheap beer and wail along with The Black Dirt Sessions, because agonizing pain and intense soul-suffering never sounded so good.

    Weathervanes, Freelance Whales
    My first love of 2010! If you let yourself be swept up in the charming, multi-instrumental fun factory that is Freelance Whales, you will never stop coming back to them when you need a whimsy fix. Judah Dudone's gentle vocals feel sincere and worldly and this is the kind of album that makes you stop believing those two words are opposites. Their harmonies are ethereal and adorable, their lyrics are honest and artful without pretense or preciousness. Weathervanes can solidly stand in for a friendship and that's not something I take lightly. And the Whales play a watering can! C'MON!

    [Please indulge me a preamble for the next three albums.]

    When Owen Pallett Didn’t Fart in St. Louis’ Sleeping Bag
    I have a lot of feelings and opinions about gay civil liberties issues and discrimination and second class citizenry, etc. This year, we (the US) saw a rash of highly-publicized suicides committed by gay teenagers after documented evidence of long-term bullying and harassment. I don’t believe that there were more suicides (or bullying) than there have been in the past, but for whatever reason, the zeitgeist this year lent itself to a public outcry about it. The Trevor Project started publicizing its suicide hotline for GLBTQ teenagers, and celebrities started making the ubiquitous “It Gets Better” you tube videos to encourage kids to stick it out until they’re rich and famous and live in a big city.

    In the middle of all that, Owen Pallett came to St. Louis to open for The National at The Pageant. Before the show, he granted an interview to The Riverfront Times and one of the things he spoke about was his apprehension about being openly gay and touring in middle America with a bro-band. He’s from Toronto, which is in Canada, a magical fantasy land north of the US border, where gays aren’t persecuted and maple flavored sandwich cookies grow on all the trees year round. That isn’t a hostile assessment; I’d very much like to move to Canada and get married and eat maple flavored sandwich cookies until I vomit. I would also like a unicorn and a rowboat, but I digress. I attended that sold-out concert for the sole purpose of seeing Owen Pallett play (I left after exactly one song from The National, hate me if you must). He melted hearts and faces, and the crowd was enthusiastic beyond both his, and my own, expectations. He even spoke to RFT music editor Annie Zaleski after the show and said he wished he could take back his doubt about St. Louis, that his merch totally sold out, and that he felt unreservedly adored by us all. Luckily, he couldn’t see my Twitter feed with all my The National-loving dude-bros saying, “Cool I guess, but this is not my thing.”

    I love the next three albums for lots of reasons, not the least because of the way they approach life with audacious fearlessness that isn’t necessarily American or Canadian, but is mostly just awesome. And gay. The segregation of art in terms of identity politics does a disservice to everyone (A gold star for you if you see how I used this ridiculously long preamble to segregate three gay artists’ albums. Hooray for metaphor!). In America, if you’re different, you pick one of two ways to do what you think you’re good at and still be who you are: Either you become the loudest person in your minority and you don’t shut up about how you’re held back from a broader audience by your difference and you neglect your craft to spend all your time forcing everyone in your minority agree with you, or you spend your time honing your craft and you become the absolute best at what you do, in spite of your difference, so that no one inside or outside your minority can argue with your talent. In terms of film direction, you can either be a Guinevere Turner or a Pedro Almodóvar. When handed those two choices, it’s obviously wicked easier just to pretend to be someone you’re not and level the playing field. And that’s why being gay is so difficult for people to equate with an ethnicity, and that’s why gay people are discriminated against in America, by our friends, by our families, by our judicial system, and by our government. As long as our most talented artists (be they actors, comedians, musicians, painters, writers, what have you) create within the confines of the closet, the rest of us poor schmucks are screwed.

    The next three albums were crafted by total Almodóvars. There’s no real way to tell if I’d be drawn to the work of these three guys if I didn’t know they were different like I am different and the same like I am the same, but that’s the way opinions work, so suck it.

    Die Stadt Muzikanten, Woodpigeon
    Okay, so Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon is often called the Canadian Sufjan Stevens, but without Jesus or the intense pressure put on prodigies and perfectionists, virtuosos and the virtuous, and without the crazy hippie parents (Hamilton’s parents might be crazy hippies, but he doesn’t sing about them), so yeah, not really like Sufjan Stevens at all except that he sings and writes pretty songs with ornate arrangement and instrumentation. I listened to my first Woodpigeon album, Balladeer, after I saw a link to it on Twitter. Woodpigeon is quality baroque pop music. If you let yourself get carried off in the lushness and excess of the music, you totally miss that it’s a dude singing romantically about other dudes. Die Stadt Muzikanten is an introspective album about heartbreak and universal themes of loneliness and betrayal, with a tiny hint of bitter pissiness for spice. He doesn’t fuck around with pronouns and get cute with character ambiguity to hide who he is or who he loves, and I respect that, mostly because he does it artfully, and isn’t in any way musically lazy. He just seems like a such a nice, well-adjusted boy trying to navigate the damaged people around him.

    Heartland, Owen Pallett
    Where Hamilton is kind of an every-man regular guy, Owen Pallett embraces an intimidating version of perfection that shuts down any attempt to intellectualize what he does. Off-stage (you know, on Twitter), he’s funny and engaging and sweet, but as soon as Heartland starts up, you forget about Owen Pallett the aw-shucks cutie, and you stand in awe of one of the most gifted musicians alive. Heartland channels aggression and power via gorgeous violin loops, gravity-filled vocals, precise and spare percussion, and the most dense, clenched, and literary lyrics of any album I’ve ever cared about. Because he can easily support himself by arranging music for other bands, movie soundtracks, pretty much whatever he wants, he doesn’t compromise with his music to keep fans. Heartland doesn’t help you love it. Either you love it, or you’re not up to the challenge.

    Learning, Perfume Genius
    So two Canadians, and now Perfume Genius. Washington native Mike Hadreas will break your heart old school Maya Angelou style. One of my many criticisms of organized religion is the paltry bullshit believers come up with to explain the purpose of human suffering. The relationship between suffering and art, now *that* is a worthy conversation. Learning is a brutal listening experience. Hadreas plays what sounds like a cheap church piano and sings excruciating lyrics without flinching. To call this album evidence of the raw strength of the human spirit would be trite and histrionic, but it’s still true. Learning is hope for anyone who, as a child, suffered at the hands of adults charged with their protection. Also, as quite possibly the most unintended consequence of an album ever recorded: It made me long to find Augusten Burroughs and beat the holy crap out of him. [See also Keith Banner’s short story collection, The Smallest People Alive] Matador Records has just re-released Learning with new artwork and 3 new songs, so it’s a good thing you waited.

    Little Songs About the Big Picture, The Red River
    I saw these kids in the simplest of settings, The Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center where I bought Little Songs About the Big Picture about three weeks before it was released. I’m not sure I have anything to say about them that I didn’t cover in the review of their show. The songs are simple and joyful and honest and eager and audaciously uncool. The album is perfect when you need grounded, when you’re focusing on all the wrong things and you need to be reminded why it is you even bother.

    MPLS, Arron Dean
    Ahhh, my black sheep, my dark horse, my band least likely to. Arron Dean is a South African farmboy who moved to Boston to be a famous jazz musician. Once stateside, he learned that everyone here kinda hates jazz (to their own detriment!), so he decided to go rogue and move to NYC to be an indie rock sensation instead. He and his bandmates drugged up, drunked out, and decided to flee to Minneapolis. Like some kind of Donner Party daydream, only Arron Dean arrived. The album, MPLS, is the product of his isolation and relative poverty, and it’s BOSS.The interplay between the chamber folk, then jazzy, then alt-country, then spare singer-songwriter instrumentation and the steady, damaged lyrics of the often-drunk protagonist? It SLAYS me. It’s a perfect winter record. Listen to the title track and you’ll be sold. Minneapolis and St. Louis share the friendliest of rivalries along with our river. Move me, in this system of capillaries, we swim or freeze. I think 14 people know about Arron Dean, go be one of them. You can even stream the whole album before you buy it.

    Buzzard, Margot & The Nuclear So and So's
    And one accessible and relatively mainstream pick for you. I've been a fan of MATNSS for awhile, but this is the first album of theirs that I just can't get enough of. Clever, witty lyrics and tight instrumentation make for an all-around joyful listening experience, which is hilarious since most of the subject matter is doomsday-dark and hella cynical. It's great for driving when you're not sure where you're going, and metaphorically speaking, do any of us know where we're going these days?

    If you read this far, another 10 points to Gryffindor. I let myself get carried away by my enthusiasm, and as usual, I’m not sorry. 2011 is shaping up to be just as outstanding. Jes Kramer made her Kickstarter goal, so we’ll soon have Nine in our hot little hands. Mountain Goats is putting out a new album, All Eternals Deck, and there are a ton of projects we can’t even talk about yet. So listen to something new, crate-dive something old, go see some shows, and drop me an e-mail when you find something you love so much you can’t sit still.
  • When Doves Cry, or, Sufjan Stevens Dances Into Kansas City, The Land of Applebees…

    2 Nov 2010, 0:48

    Sun 17 Oct – Sufjan Stevens

    I don’t think it can be understated how brave it is of Sufjan Stevens to even set out on a tour with new music after his fans had five years to obsess over his last album. And he shows up with black lights, projector art, a new sound, and dancing and cursing! That’s like, say, Prince becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, suddenly shunning sexy writhing and naughty lyrics and touring on his brand new album of songs about Jesus and then most of the ticket holders don’t bother to look this up before they are subjected to a spirited falsetto rendition of “If I Was Ur Savior” sung before seven neon crucifixes. Can you imagine? NEON JESUSES.

    read more here: