Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Say Anything 2.25.08

Say Anything at James Madison University, 2.25.08.

Say Anything played a one-off show at the end of their tour at JMU. The opening band was a local jam band called Electric Baby. They played for an entire hour and it was difficult to not tear my ears off. Luckily I was able to doze off for awhile until they finished.

The show was advertised as reserved seating, since it was in a theater. However, as soon as Electric Baby left the stage, the audience was allowed to move about. Of course, this quickly turned into people rushing towards the stage, where there was not enough room for everyone. We decided to stay towards the back so we could see and just stand at our seats.

As Say Anything took the stage, the recorded intro to "Belt" played through the speakers, and the band tore into the track. The set was roughly as follows:

Skinny, Mean Man
The Church Channel
The Futile
Shiksa (Girlfriend)
Baby Girl, I'm A Blur
Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too
Every Man Has A Molly
People Like You Are Why People Like Me Exist
Alive With The Glory Of Love
An Orgy Of Critics

The band had incredible energy throughout the set, and Max Bemis alternated between being congenial with the audience and ridiculing them. The crowd varied in the songs they knew - some people clearly had only heard ...Is A Real Boy, while others seemed to be newcomers. I was surprised to hear "The Church Channel," since Hayley Williams' voice is such a large part of the song. However, Bemis handled it well and the song was not lacking. Overall, it was easily one of the best shows I have seen in a long time.

Sherwood 2.23.08

Sherwood, Houston Calls, The Higher, & We Shot The Moon at the Masquerade - Atlanta, GA 2.23.08.

We Shot The Moon took the stage at 7:15 PM and rolled their way through a quick set that included four songs from the EP (all but "Julie") as well as two or three newer songs. The band was working well as a group, seeing as how the lineup is still being solidified. Jonathan Jones still knows how to work a crowd, and his singing was near perfect.

After a quick break, The Higher stepped up for their set. I'll admit it, this band is a guilty pleasure of mine. Unfortunately, singer Seth Trotter is much more nasal live than recorded, and sounds like he's really straining hard to hit his notes. You'd also think that a band with such high octane songs would be more active onstage. To their credit I do think they were a bit more interactive than the last time I saw them. Nonetheless, they are still fun to dance around to.

I'd heard all kinds of good things about Houston Calls' live show for awhile now, so I was pretty excited to see them, and they did not disappoint. They were very high energy and continually working the crowd. The room exploded when they began playing "Exit, Emergency," and things never slowed down from there. The band closed with "Bob And Bonnie," who were apparently in attendance that night.

Sherwood took the stage with their usual sunniness and charm, and played a very brief set - only about 45 minutes or so. Songs played included:

Middle Of The Night
We Do This To Ourselves
For The Longest Time
Alley Cat
Traveling Alone
The Best In Me
The Town That You Live In
Holiday (Get Up Kids cover)
Never Ready To Leave
Give Up
Song In My Head

To my dismay, the entire crowd stopped moving with the Get Up Kids cover - no one seemed to recognize the song! However, their set was very good, even if it was so short. I don't think I will ever get tired of going to see this band.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

2.17.07 recs

We Shot The Moon.
The newest project of former Waking Ashland frontman Jonathan Jones. These piano pop songs are catchy as hell, and I can't stop listening to them.

Kiss Kiss.
I should have listened to people earlier when they told me about this band. Their odd brand of darkly theatrical pop-rock is creative and always impresses me.

The Faint.
I recently rediscovered my love affair with this bizarre Omaha-based electronic group. Their dark lyrics and detailed instrumentation can get just about anyone out onto the dancefloor.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

2.10.08 recs

Mercy Mercedes.
Usually I'm not a fan of dance-rock, but Mercy Mercedes are the catchiest new band I've heard recently. "Dr. Huxtable" has been on repeat ever since I got a hold of their new Casio Rodeo EP.
For Fans Of: The Years Gone By, Farewell, Cobra Starship

Once soundtrack.
Once is one of the most beautiful and touching movies I've ever seen, due in no small part to the incredible soundtrack featuring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. These are songs that can easily bring me to tears.
For Fans Of: Damien Rice, Jeff Buckley, The Frames

At The Drive-In.
Here's a classic for you. Complex prog-rock band that had a brief and intense career before splitting up to form The Mars Volta and Sparta. If you don't already own the album Relationship Of Command, you should probably go to your local record store immediately.
For Fans Of: Fugazi, Bear Vs. Shark, Death From Above 1979

Thursday, February 7, 2008

We Shot The Moon - Polar Bear & Cougar EP, The

We Shot The Moon - The Polar Bear & Cougar EP
Label - The Militia Group
Release Date - December 18, 2007

I was really upset when Waking Ashland called it quits. They had been a favorite of mine for a long time, so when I heard that Jonathan Jones was working on a project with some of the Sherwood guys, I leaped for the EP. To my relief, I was not disappointed.

The collective known as We Shot The Moon encapsulates the best of Waking Ashland, Sherwood, and the California sunshine. The EP's opener, "Sway Your Head," has one of the catchiest hooks in recent memory, along with a nice piano melody and a strong drum backbone. Jones' vocals are dead on, and he ranges up and down the scales effortlessly.

"Julie" is a lilting pop-rock powerhouse with loud guitars and Weezer-like harmonizations. "Water's Edge" is very reminiscent of Waking Ashland circa Composure, only it is overflowing with more energy than Waking Ashland ever had. The chorus practically explodes out of your headphones. "LTFP" is the most rock-oriented of the tracks. It takes awhile to build up, but when the chorus drops down, the band delivers another crack hook.

The EP closes with the acoustic based "Welcome Home," which was originally one of Jones' solo songs. I might even go so far as to say it's one of the best songs he's ever written. The lyrics are the most complex on the album, and the addition of bells are a nice touch. Jones sounds completely sincere in his delivery, which is nice to hear in a pop-rock band. If these five songs are what We Shot The Moon came up with right out of the gate, I cannot wait to hear what they'll come up with for their full-length debut.

Track Listing
01. Sway Your Head *
02. Julie
03. Water's Edge
04. LTFP
05. Welcome Home *

* - standout tracks

For Fans Of: Waking Ashland, Brighten, The Morning Light

Listen At: Web Site | MySpace | PureVolume

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Stranger's Six, The - A Date With Daylight

The Stranger's Six - A Date With Daylight
Label - Orange Peal Records
Release Date - May 8, 2007

I have to admit, when a band advertises itself as "a perfect blend of sleaze and class," I approach them rather cautiously. Is it possible to mix those two? Or does it end up just being a slimy mess?

A Date With Daylight opens with stuttering drums and loud, monotone vocals. While the chorus of "Back To The Start" has a nice hook that brings +44 to mind, the sleaze factor is pretty high in this one. This song, and many of the ones that follow it, stick to a standard song structure and don't really ever step out of the box. Singer Aaron "A-Fresh" Thompson is trying hard to make his voice sound booming and epic, but he ends up merely shooting out the words without much emotion behind them. This emotionlessness makes it tiresome to try and pick out the lyrics, or even to hear much of the music under the vocals. When you can hear the instrumentation, it is also often bland. There are occasionally interesting guitar licks, but most of it is just a wall of sound that takes a backseat to the vocals.

All of the songs follow the same format: guitar intro, verse, chorus, verse, bridge/breakdown, chorus. You might even go so far as to say the band are sticklers for this format. There is no variation - even the choral hooks sound very similar. It feels like there was no passion put into these songs. "Hiss And Hearse" has the most unique instrumental intro, with a neat distorted guitar sound that isn't heard anywhere else on the album. Unfortunately, Thompson soon begins droning over this glimmer of creativity.

By the time "One Step Closer" rolls around, one begins to feel like they've heard all these songs before. And indeed, the guitar in this song sounds very similar to the one in "Echo," and then the same tone is used again in the next song, "Ready To Fall." And true to cookie-cutter form, the band puts a slightly slower song at the end. However, this doesn't imply a more heartfelt song - just a slower tempo and more drawn-out vocals.

So for The Stranger's Six, the question of sleaze versus class is answered: sleaze will overpower the class every time.

Track Listing
01. Back To The Start
02. Echo
03. Skin Your Teeth
04. Love Letter
05. No Time For Queens
06. Caged Heat
07. Hiss And Hearse
08. Chopping Block
09. One Step Closer
10. Ready To Fall
11. I Only Sleepwalk

* - standout tracks

For Fans Of: Good Charlotte, banging your head against the wall repeatedly.

Listen At: Web Site | MySpace

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ryan Ferguson - Only Trying To Help

Ryan Ferguson - Only Trying To Help
Label - Better Looking Records
Release Date - August 21, 2007

A lot of bands try and cultivate their image to be that of traveling minstrels. I hate when bands do that. A lot of indie bands have vocalists that deliver their lines very flatly. I hate when bands do that. Ryan Ferguson does both of these things. I love Ryan Ferguson. The San Diego songwriter appears minstrel-like, but it isn't forced. His vocals are often slightly monotone, but he doesn't sound pretentious when he does it. His newest album, Only Trying To Help is refreshing because of this.

The album begins with the jangly chords of "Remission," and metaphors of surgery guide the listener through the tinkling keys and fairly forceful vocals. With a few well placed "whoa-o's," Ferguson has my full attention. The hooks are subtle and the melodies enjoyable while the the lyrics are deceptively dark. The stuttering guitars on "X's And O's" underline the sadness of the words.

never a big fan of fiction / I think I'm converting just to serve this fantasy of mine / no ink in my last pen / you've dried it out with run-on sentences / she's writing now with dark lipstick / engraving x's and o's in my head

"Kill My Confidence" is the album's lead single, and it's got a rollicking chorus that will stick in your head for days, complete with choral backup vocals and perfectly arranged keyboard flourishes. The music takes a dark turn in "Introduction." There are ominous strings sections, and the verses are chanted rather than sung. However, the tunes turn light again with "Future Reservations," going so far as to recall the likes of Death Cab For Cutie. Ferguson also evokes The Shins with the instrumentals on "In The Sea," but his vocal delivery is more along the lines of Straylight Run.

"Must Be Friday Night" is a highlight on the album. It begins with light guitars and choir vocals before giving way to Ferguson's plaintive voice, and building up with more and more instruments and voices as the song progresses.

The album closes with the expansive "And I Worry," where Ferguson's listed instruments include "guitars, vocals, bass, piano, percussion, nonsense," and Chris Prescott is noted as "mallet master." Overall, the album is fresh and enjoyable. It somehow manages to take all of the things I hate about indie rock and mold it into something I can love.

Track Listing
01. Remission
02. X's And O's *
03. Kill My Confidence *
04. Introduction
05. Future Reservation
06. The Impostor
07. In The Sea
08. Better Off
09. Not On My Watch
10. Must Be Friday Night *
11. And I Worry *

* - standout tracks

For Fans Of: No Knife, Pinback, Matt Costa

Web Site | MySpace

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2.3.08 recs

Their initial claim to fame is that their guitarist is Tom Conrad, formerly of The Academy Is. However, Empires is a legitimately separate entity from that band, and I think they might really make waves with their pop-rock tunes.

The Morning Of.
These kids have seen a lot of hype recently, and with good reason. Bouncy pop songs with dual male/female vocals, their album is a good time all around.

City And Colour.
The acoustic side project of Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green. This is his second album as City And Colour, and it's completely breathtaking.