05 February 2013

Interview//Setlist: Matt Pond, Charleston, SC

Fortunate to have spoken with Matt Pond recently about his new album, the authors that he reads, and how his music relates to his perception. Read the interview at Stereo Subversionhere.

(Matt Pond, The Lives Inside the Lines In Your Hand, 2013)
Matt Pond's new record, The Lives Inside the Lines In Your Hands is out today and is excellent. He played a great set with a full band last Friday, February 1 at The Tin Roof in Charleston, SC. Here's the setlist:

Matt Pond, February 1, 2013: The Tin Roof, Charleston, SC
-From Debris
-So Much Trouble
-Let Me Live
-Brooklyn Stars
-Love to Get Used
-Go Where the Leaves Go
-Closest (Look Out)
-New Hampshire
-Wild Girl

30 January 2013

Live Review: Jeff Mangum, Charleston Music Hall

If you had no context, no knowledge of the past 15 years of popular music, and you wandered in seemingly unaware of who Jeff Mangum was and why so many people were packed into a concert hall to hear his simple, ethereal songs, then you might not understand. 

But, then again, maybe you would. Maybe Mangum could help you to understand. 

Jeff Mangum is his own gravitational force, both in mythos and in reality. Have any of us ever gotten tired of seeing that lilting cover of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea? Do we get bored when listening to "King of Carrot Flowers" for the 1000th time? Do we still weep when Mangum sings, "how strange it is to be anything at all"? Can Mangum be the man behind this opus? 

Wandering onstage while the house lights were still up, my brother-in-law turned to me and said, "Is that him?" I wasn't a question; more of a proclamation. That was him. He really was here. He was about to play all of our favorite songs. The mere sight of a long-haired, chin-bearded Mangum made the audience rise to their feet; some younger college-goers bowed in a "We are not worthy!" manner. Women and men screamed, "I love you!" Half the crowd could have left after just seeing him come onstage. 

Mangum took his time getting warmed up, dipping his toes in with the deep end with the 8 minute, "Oh Comely," moving   lithely on  to "Two-Headed Boy," then "Song Against Sex" and "Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone," before finally indulging us to sing-along with him on "King of Carrot Flowers." The sold out theatre dipped and hummed trying to keep up with his vocal responses--it felt spiritual, communal, cathartic. Everything felt ok. A longing we kept with us had just been cured, and as long as we got to sing along a little more and maybe hear, "Holland, 1945" and "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," then we could all get up and make it through the next day. We sang along with Mangum to both songs. People danced, literally, in the aisles. Some wept. Not openly, but quietly, tears gathering at the corner of their eyes.

It was quick evening. Openers The Tall Firs (lovely fellows, by the way) were on by 8:12PM, off by 8:40, Mangum strolled out a little after nine, and we were home by 10:47. But it was all we needed; all we could have asked for. No new material (of course) just Mangum covering most of On Avery Island--including one of my favorites, "Naomi"--and Aeroplane. I heard the usual chatter as we exited: "That was the greatest show I've ever seen," "I'll never be able to see another show in my life," "I can die happily now." Hyperbole, all; but that's what Mangum inspires. And in an era where irony is still very much passed off as credible currency, the evening felt like something genuine.  A small fraction of like-mindedness and unparalleled joy. 

13 December 2012

15 Albums for December :: Day 2, Radiohead, Kid A

I have albums that I know will come out at least once a year, in December. I may gear them up for listening before that, but when December hits, they stay in heavy rotation. Something about them always conjures up feelings of colder temperatures, loneliness and isolation, and a nostalgic mixture of a festive holiday season coupled with happy memories. These albums document my experiences in December. Enjoy.

Radiohead, Kid A
(Capitol, October, 2000)
Kid A is the definition of sterile. It's cold, unwelcoming at times, abrasive in its neutrality, and utterly bleak in its context. But, it's also really fucking good. There's so much about Kid A that's already been tread and retread that I won't waste time here going over what everyone already knows. (But I will say that Marvin Lin wrote a phenomenal 33 1/3 Series book about Kid A.) Instead, here are some randomly collected thoughts inspired by Kid A:

-Discovering the creepy booklet behind the CD holder may have been the coolest experience I've had with a CD
-Like Marvin Lin, I, too, fell asleep during my first listen to Kid A
-Listening to "Treefingers" in stereo surround sound is frighteningly beautiful 
-Often I walk around the house putting away toys, books, etc, thinking "everything in its right place"--it makes me feel like a machine
-Kid A is the only album expressly about global warming
-Kid A was released in October 2000; it is eerie how much it foreshadows our national decline
-Nothing about Kid A seems out of place, even 12 years later
-I have never listened to this album in my car, only in my home or on headphones
-I have never skipped a track on this album
-I have never stopped this album before it was over
-I have never
-I have 

04 December 2012

15 Albums for December :: Day 1, Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak

I have albums that I know will come out at least once a year, in December. I may gear them up for listening before that, but when December hits, they stay in heavy rotation. Something about them always conjures up feelings of colder temperatures, loneliness and isolation, and a nostalgic mixture of a festive holiday season coupled with happy memories. These albums document my experiences in December. Enjoy. 

Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreak
(Roc-A-Fella Records, 2008)
I will try as hard as I can not to veer into the realm of the intensely personal when making this list. It's going to be difficult, though. Many, if not all, of these albums touch on brutally personal themes and/or are entirely indicative of personal conflicts I was experiencing at the time of their release and 808s and Heartbreaks may be the single-most album that falls directly into this category. 

I'm not a huge Kanye fan; I found My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be overlong and overhyped (read the title for God's sake) and thought Late Registration was weighed down by stupid skits and guest spots. But as I was browsing the wasteland of new releases at the record store in late November, 2008 (Kanye has a thing for releasing albums near the end of the year), 808s and Heartbreak was the only release that intrigued me.

Kanye was in a reflective mood on 808s; his mother had passed away unexpectedly and his relationships were becoming increasingly volatile and public. So, he did what most people do in that situation: he withdrew into himself, discovered auto-tune, and made a record. 808s is definitely the oddball album in Kanye's backlog. It's confessional to a fault and darker than most listeners realize ("life's just not fair" he repeats breaking down on "Street Lights"). There are no club jams, unless you count the tribal rhythms of "Love Lockdown," but that's stretching things. And everything about it sounds and feels cold, distant, and utterly electronic. His vocals are masked under ten kinds of filters ("Real Bad News," "Street Lights") and even the beats sound minimal and melancholy ("Say You Will," "Heartless," "Amazing"). 

It's easy to read 808s as a phony cash-in on genuine suffering; Kanye, after all, doesn't earn much good will through his public feuds and juvenile antics. But 808s sounds like sadness pushed though a micro filter and disseminated into digestible parts, the only way true sadness can be dealt with; piece by piece, one day at a time, until it's small enough to manage. 808s and Heartbreak is the sound of Yeezey cutting himself open and asking for help the only way he knows how, very publicly but very reservedly. It's cold, bruising, and imminently listenable. 

30 November 2012

Spotify Playlist :: December 2012

Hey friends and readers--I made you all a playlist for the month of December. Because I love you. It's a playlist filled with loneliness, darkness, light, hope, joy, despair, death, drinking, and religion. December is a lonely time for some, and special time for others. Here's to us getting through it together, with or without medication.

Some notes on the playlist if you're so inclined to read those sorts of things:

1. The Clientele, "Since K Got Over Me" - Asheville through Sam's Gap, all the way to Kinsport, TN - frigid winds - "it's like walking on a trampoline"

2. Wilco, "I Might" - borrowed my brother's car, it smelled like Old Spice and onions - "you won't set the kids on fire, oh, but I might"

3. My Morning Jacket, "Xmas Curtain" - out of college, applying for shitty jobs - the sparseness of winter air - "the criminal who never breaks the law"

4. Sun Kil Moon, "Carry Me Ohio" - early damp mornings, teaching college - the highways were empty, the countryside a friend - "sorry, I could never love you"

5. Sufjan Stevens, "Oh Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)" - why the heater won't work, I don't know - coffee is too hot to drink - no snow for this year, but definitely snow in Michigan - "Industry! Industry!"

6. Damien Jurado, "December" - taking medication for my mind - wondering where the future is - "cause one day I'll kill you, too"

7. Bob Dylan, "Not Dark Yet" - packed like sardines in an apartment - sharing floorspace with my brother - an early Christmas present "it's not dark yet, but it's getting there"

8. Halloween, Alaska, "The Jealous Ones" - so much traffic - not sure this new year will pay off - "you're half right, you're mostly right"

9. Beach House, "Norway" - January won't stop raining - not alone anymore - where do I go from here? - "we were sleeping til, you came along"

10. Destroyer, "Virgin With a Memory" - mornings last forever - spending money I don't have - a striking warmth here with you - "the singer not the song, no"

11. Ida, "Lovers Prayers" - I may not ever figure this out - so much to do, too much time to do it - you may never finish what you started - "watching the sun turn black in the desert sky"

12. Low, "Long Way Around the Sea" - is this what Christmas can be? shot full of possibilities? - a new faith - "Herod heard, said bring me word"

27 November 2012