Archive for the 'music' Category

for just one day

“It’s tough having heroes. It’s the hardest thing in the world. It’s harder than being a hero. Hero-worshippers (fans) must live with the continually confirmed dread of hero-slippage and humiliating personal compromises in your standard and plain good sense about, oh, two to three weeks after the elpee masterwork first hits our turntables.”

Lester Bangs, “Chicken Head Comes to Roost”, Creem Magazine 1976.

Ben Kweller @ Paradise Rock Club – Oct. 16

I was that close.

Okay. So I am finally up after a night of singing-along and line dancing at the Paradise. Alright, I’m kidding. There was no line dancing, but there sure was a lot of Garth Brooks, “Thunder Rolls”, “Friends in Low Places” and such in the background before the show even started.

 

Now, if you live in Boston and go to concerts every now and then you know: people here don’t dance, don’t sing, don’t smile. It’s crazy to me, being from Brazil and all, that you would go to your favorite band’s show and wouldn’t want to, at least, smile. But yeah, that seems to be the standard indie audience behavior, specially if your ticket reads Museum of Fine Arts. Then my friend, you’re in for a great silent trip. Don’t dare showing emotions or else the next bearded guy will give you the look. You know. The Look.

 

against all Boston’s odds, people sang along

 

But good Lord, y’all, last night was different. A multi-colored plaid shirt-wearing, cowboy boot-strutting group of people sold-out the Paradise and made it feel like home. Don’t be fooled by the appearances though: you could still recognize the good ol’ Berklee student, with his black-framed Wayfarer-type reading glasses. Even the bearded guy was there. A little shy, in the back, drinking a PBR and trying to hide his copy of “How Ya Lookin’ Southbound?” in his back pocket.

 

 

Ben Kweller immersed himself in his true roots when writing his new stuff. On “Somehow”, the last and in my opinion most beautiful song in the EP, he says: “I got lost somewhere along the way / Oh, NYC is killing me”. The New York years definitely helped him build an identity as an artist, being influenced by friends from Ben Folds and Evan Dando to Albert Hammond Jr, opening for huge deal bands such as Death Cab and My Morning Jacket and leading him into the ultimate singer/songwriter growing move: the writing and recording of a whole album by himself: “Ben Kweller”.

 

Now, if the storm of influences fogged out young Kweller’s creative self, only time will tell. Critics were never too kind with the work he put out, but always made us hopeful that one day we could wake up to a grown-up artist who knew exactly where to go, and how to get there.

 

The release of the EP “How Ya Lookin’ Southbound? Comein..” marks the beginning of that trip. In the back of a truck, the destination was Austin, Texas, and the radio played Neil Young and yeah, Garth Brooks.

 

“eeeeha!”

 

Out of all Ben Kweller’s concerts I’ve ever seen last night’s was, by far, the best. The whole idea of bringing back his country roots to stage made complete sense and songs like “On My Way” and “Sundress” seemed to have always been written for the pedal steel. The setlist was a mix of all albums. He opened with “Fight” and closed with “Lizzy”. Strummed that guitar like no one else in “Penny On a Train Track” and “The Rules”. Kweller made people whisper along to “Thirteen” and yell “pa-pa-pa-pa” on “Falling” when he sat at the piano. Willie Mason’s “Waiter at the Station” is also a big part of the show. At this point, his fans made sure they knew the lyrics to that one, too.

 

Mr. Rich Hinman, pedal steel virtuoso.

 

 

 

At the end, Ben Kweller repeated once more how much he loves Boston and how meaningful the city is to him: this is where he met Liz ten years ago. With his family in the audience, he thanked and thanked and thanked the fans, who yelled back: “We love Dorian!”, his two-year old son, wearing gigantic ear muffs, watched the concert on his mom’s lap.

 

Looking forward to the January release of “Changing Horses”, that’s for sure.

Harvest Moon

'The Drunken Trees' EP. Love it.

'The Drunken Trees' EP. Love it.

 

Oh, the Autumn.

 

My favorite time of the year has come and it took me a whole month to post about it – in part, because with September, great news arrived as well. My life has changed a bit. I got two new jobs and basically, for the first time, I am able to work with the three things I love the most: one is music; the other is journalism – writing, you know, and last but not least, fashion. So forgive me if I haven’t been around, but trust me when I say I’ve been having some fun – and learning a lot.

 

In other (un)related news, it seems that the weather in Massachusetts is a little ahead of time in its regular schedule – it’s been cool in the morning and the feeling you get is that we went to bed on a sunny, 80-degree Sunday and woke up to a cool, breezy, low-50s Monday. I’m not complaining. I love the fall and it feels good to see it coming, I just think people weren’t prepared for it just yet. But really, how hard is it to adapt to hot cider, cute cowboy boots and Au Bon Pain’s butternut squash & apple soup?

 

The Soderberg Sisters

So, two days ago, Nate told me about this video he saw on the Fleet Foxes’ Myspace page: two girls, in the middle of the woods, sporting their best plaid shirts, playing guitar and singing a version of their ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ – a beautiful, girlie version. Later I found out that they are a duo from Sweden, called First Aid Kit. Their own Myspace page is cute but unfortunately still doesn’t show any tour dates. Needless to say I fell instantly in love with the two Soderberg sisters, Klara and Johanna. Their voices are precious, not too sweet, not too rough – just like folkie songs would ask. I am a harmony lover and the way these girls work the combination of tones and acoustic guitar makes me feel like taking the week off to go see the foliage in Maine.

 

 

With September coming to an end in a week, it’s time to prepare for the real deal, go check out the Topsfield Fair and of course, decide on your Halloween costume. I just beg that people don’t go partying dressed as The Joker or Sarah Palin. Yes, they’re great Halloween ideas, both equally creepy, but cliché. You don’t wanna be one in a million, just use your creativity. I’m still working on mine.

First Aid Kit – You’re Not Coming Home Tonight.mp3 

 

 

Radiohead @ Mansfield, Aug/08

I knew I couldn’t get by without posting a review about Radiohead’s concert last week. And considering that I was never a huge Radiohead fan (although a great admirer of their talent), I had two options: option a) write an ok review about it, and hope for good feedback, or, option b) ask someone else to do it. And do it well.

It just so happens that I’m married to the biggest Radiohead fan I’ve ever met. It’s also a coincidence that he is a musician and a great writer. I believe you already figured out who is Blackberry Jam’s official collaborator of the month. Ladies and Gents, Nathan Collins:

 

 

“Radiohead rolled into town this past Wednesday night for a show in Mansfield that would ebb and flow with excitement and restrained beauty.  More than any other time in their career, the band seems to be at peace with its music, its fans and most importantly itself.  What more can be said about Radiohead at this point?  They have encapsulated the utter alienation and powerlessness inherent in modern living and turned it into something quite palpable and powerful for legions of music fans and critics alike.  As they have grown ever bigger in scope and influence, they have somehow become more intimate with their fan base.  They have managed to embrace new music formats and technology while still maintaining the sanctity of putting out great records.  While the world goes mad with Ipod sound byte culture, the rest of us are impatiently waiting to see what Oxford’s finest will do next.  The band is the pre-eminent modern rock band and a true artistic gauge for the new millennium. 

 

For this fan in particular, they have time-stamped every important phase of my adult life.  OK Computer ushered me away from grunge and into a soul-searching freshman year of college and is a record that stands atop the heap of late 90s post-grunge and ‘late to the party’ alt-rock nonsense.  2000’s Kid A lured me into perhaps a drug-hazed and more introspective senior year of college, with a forward glance to the future.  2003’s Hail to the Thief sustained me through my first real heartbreak and eased my self-doubt.  And now with all of the expectations so incredibly high, the release of In Rainbows marks my transition into married life. 

 

As I lied in bed Wednesday afternoon with a debilitating migraine, I went to sleep with a sense of disappointment that I might not in fact be able to attend the show, what was supposed to be the pinnacle event of the summer for me.  And as I slept, I’m fairly sure Radiohead were the soundtrack to my convoluted dreams.  I awoke four hours later feeling somehow refreshed and compelled to make it to Great Woods (or whatever the hell they call it now).

 

As we pulled into the parking lot, I could hear the chiming organ and bass tones of Kid A followed by the dark and sexy drum and bass groove of All I Need.  My wife noted how good it sounded from so far away. 

 

The show was a great mix of In Rainbows material and Kid A songs with a few classics to spare (i.e. The Bends and Karma Police).  Loose and energetic, the band adeptly moved through mid-tempo rockers and more electronic based songs.  Long gone are the days of OK Computer onstage discomfort.  Today Radiohead finds itself working massive crowds into frenzied rhythms with songs like The National Anthem and Everything In Its Right Place.  No one could have predicted these types of live interpretations upon the release of the darkly powerful and alienating Kid A from 2000.  Contrary to the claustrophobic and synthetic feel on the album, Everything In Its Right Place is a crowd-clapping foot-stomper with Yorke’s vocal loops doing circles in the sky.  There is something to be said for the versatility of the band on display during the Gloaming, with music whiz-kid Johnny Greenwood simulating loops with various effects and the elder Colin playing a slinky bass-line.  Drummer Phil Selway is nothing short of a metronome at this point, often playing in and out of parts with electronic beats with precision.  Certain tracks from In Rainbows including Nude, Videotape, Faust Arp and House of Cards filled the cool August night air with a delicate serenity. 

 

The anthemic Bends launched the crowd into full throttle 90s guitar glory.  Yorke’s solo introduction to Exit Music leveled the crowd into a silence I’ve never heard in the venue, save for one fan who exclaimed “Thom Yorke for president”.  And this was acceptable on this night, because there seemed to be plenty of good cheer going around.  Arpeggi’s cyclone of guitar lines at times would convince that you that there were five guitar players instead of three.  This versatility, virtuosity and vision has enabled Radiohead to write and record brilliant arrangements and simulate them in very interesting ways live.  The music world waits for what’s next.”

… and the blogosphere waits for Nate’s own blog. We’ll see how convincing I can be about that.

Thank you, baby.

sticking to PBR

Santogold’s ‘Light’s Out’, my favorite track on her album, illustrates the new Bud Light Lime ad:

The fake lime taste probably doesn’t remind her of Lysol. The ad is pretty cool though.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

In a 1999 interview for Rolling Stone, David Bowie said that thirty percent of the lyrics he ever wrote referenced his dreams. My impression is that, considering the characters he played throughout his career and the creativity involved in it, the percentage is quite small. Bowie is not only known as an incredible musician but as a multi-talented artist. “Cracked Actor”, a BBC production from 1974 explores the artist’s US tour “Diamond Dogs”, his drug habit and struggle to let go of his famous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. The producers chose the title, taken from one of Bowie’s songs, to name the documentary – it seems like the theatrical inspiration and behavior seemed to be present whether he was playing a role onstage or not.

(love the road trip part where he sings along to Carole Kings’ version of ‘Natural Woman’)

One of the world’s most influential musicians of all time, Bowie makes himself always present. His last studio album was released in 2003 and since then we’ve seen him in several different occasions: supporting indie rock acts like the Arcade Fire and Scarlett Johansson, being awarded with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and playing roles in Hollywood features such as “The Prestige” (where it seems that the character was specially designed for him: a modern Wizard of Oz we all know Bowie is).

Arcade Fire's fairy godfather

This summer, two different releases bring us back to David Bowie’s music, although in completely different ways. “Live in Santa Monica ’72”, recorded during his first U.S. tour, and “Life Beyond Mars”, a compilation of covers produced and recorded by emerging electronic artists. Both records illustrate Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars’ phase and their release in the year of 2008 couldn’t be a louder statement that ‘Ziggy’ was a highlight in his career.

“Live in Santa Monica ’72” is considered Bowie’s best concert album and was only available as a bootleg for over twenty years. What once was considered a rarity and part of a fan memorabilia, is now being officially released by Virgin Records. Curiously, it counts on a surprisingly good sound quality, backed by a great set list which includes the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man”, “Jean Genie” and, of course, “Ziggy Stardust”. I believe that the way it was recorded made the album more interesting than it would’ve been if its official release was planned ahead. The mix between instruments, Bowie’s voice and the crowd’s reaction to each and every song seems to bring it all to a perfect equation.

In 2007 David Bowie turned 60 years old. According to indie Hip Hop label Rapster Records, the birthday brought an idea of recording a compilation of covers inspired by the artist’s songs. Rapster is also responsible for gathering electronic artists around Radiohead’s hits for a cover album they called “Exit Music”, released in 2006. (The release didn’t have a good effect on music critics and reviews like Pitchfork’s are harsh on the project. The website gave “Exit Music” a rating of 0.6).

 

Despite the negative reviews towards Rapster’s former cover production, “Life Beyond Mars” comes out in the end of July with a buzz in the online media. With little effort you can find some of the tracks to download. I recognize I didn’t fall in love with the project right away. Even though I consider myself a David Bowie and electronic music fan, it was hard to mix both and have some sympathy for the mash-up at the beginning (even though I like “Earthling”, Bowie’s ’97 electronic-influenced album). A week has passed and it made me look at things in a different way. I allowed myself to know some of the bands, such as Au Revoir Simone – whose keyboards are a trademark of their music and their performance an almost ethereal version of “Oh, You Pretty Things!”, Matthew Dear and Kelley Polar, most of them at the beginning of their careers and assumed Bowie fans.

I couldn’t find any articles that reflected David Bowie’s opinion on both summer releases. It’s hard to imagine his disapproval, though. Known as rock’s first and best chameleon, he walked through his career using different genres as steps and exploring personalities for inspiration. While a live album that reflects one of his best moments as a performer may shine a light over a new generation, a project that translates the same generation’s recycling of his own work might be well accepted by a man that once took risks as a musician himself.

Joy Division’s “Warsaw” – Review

The following is my review for the Joy Division song “Warsaw”, an assignment for the Punk Rock & Underground class at Emerson College.

The challenge here was to review the song with no research or side material whatsoever. Although, being a Joy Division admirer, I think I let myself use of some little known facts to base my opinion on.

Later, I found some information on the web, and I thought this site was pretty helpful. If you wanna do the exercise yourself, feel free to download the file at the end of the page post, THEN read the review, THEN check out the link.

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Some people would say that reviewing music in retrospect is an easy job, considering that time has passed by to show you the background of the scene where it belonged – whatever consequence that movement had on its surroundings is already history. Another group would disagree: to build opinion about music that had a future which you’re aware of, is tough. How to pretend that the artist never became successful and not look at his early work as a promise, for example? Or how to ignore the influence of managers, producers and recording studios on some band’s music when you know their entire career, with its ups and downs? I consider myself part of the second group and have to keep ignoring what I already know and hope that it won’t trespass the opinion line. 

When I first listened to “Warsaw” I couldn’t help thinking about a group of teenagers playing music and following the recipe to become a punk rock band. The simplicity of the song’s structure translated into instantaneous punk reference. The loud but steady bass line, the guitar riffs that were never too risky and the monotone vocals gave me the same impression. The number shouting at the beginning reminded me of The Ramones even though these ones seemed to make less sense than “one-two-three-four”. Despite of that unoriginality aspect, I thought that the recording of the track itself counted on undeniable quality. The instruments could be heard clearly. At times though, I caught myself not being able to tell if drums were being played throughout the whole song or if a synthesizer was also being used.

Finally, listening to and analysing the verses left me a bit mislead – at the same time, I couldn’t understand their meaning due to its metaphors but I also admired the band for writing lyrics like that, considering that I pictured them at an early stage of their career.  I guess my admiration could be justified – they didn’t automatically jump into the mock-rock punk style like many others would, following steps already taken by The New York Dolls, The Dictators ad The Sex Pistols. That formula worked for those bands, but by the content of “Warsaw” I could tell that these guys were trying to send a message, whether it was encoded or not.

As I listened and gathered ideas to review “Warsaw”, I tried not to think of the band as the Joy Division they would become, but as a band like any other. It was easier than I expected, considering the development that time brought to their different fases as a band – at the point where this song was probably recorded, their music didn’t have the character that later they would find.   

 Joy Division – Warsaw.mp3