OK. So, I've been really high on Tapes 'n Tapes for a while now. I'd guess that, on average, I've listened to The Loon at least once a week for the past two and a half months (not that you'd ever know it from looking at my Last.fm/Audioscrobbler page, since I've still not been able to figure out how to get it to tally the playcounts from my Nano even with the supposedly handy free plug-ins--grr). It's a totally great album, I've been recommending it to friends left and right all spring, and I was really psyched to see them play the show at the Abbey on Friday night, especially after all the post-SXSW praise heaped on their performances by Stereogum and tons of other music blogs. Well, I hate to be a hater, but I was a little disappointed by their live set. It was totally competent, sure, but nowhere near transcendent. They sounded very loose, and not loose in the good way, when they first rolled out with "Just Drums." The keyboard was up way too hot in the mix, and the should-have-been-thrilling rhythmic interplay between the drums and guitar just couldn't seem to settle down into the pocket. They played through the entire album basically in running order with only a little variation and one new song. They sounded a little better, a little more confident with each passing song, but I was left resoundingly underwhelmed. The disproportionate amount of cheering, hooting, and applause from the audience certainly didn't help, either. It seemed like the packed house was celebrating their hipster cred via their own recognition of the tunes after the fewest number of introductory notes possible way more than they were celebrating the quality of the performances. I have a big problem with this kind of audience slut factor--giving it up too quickly and too easily--in general, though, so maybe I was just being overly sensitive. But, I don't think any of this changes the fact that they're still a great young band with great promise. On stage, they do have a very earnest, very goofy Minnesotan charm. Lead singer and guitarist Josh Grier seemed genuinely happy to be there, and, as far as diminutive yet powerful drummers go, though my heart will always belong to the Walkmen's Matt Barrick, TnT's Jeremy Hanson more than did his part to keep the set aloft. (Speaking of the Walkmen, why have there been so many mediocre reviews of A Hundred Miles Off? I think it's quite good.)
Openers for the openers, local group Moxie Motive, were way better than I expected them to be, and, if lead singer Matt Duhaime can shake the unfortunate Adam Duritz influence on his vocals, especially on the ballads, they'll be a band to watch. Plus, you just gotta love any indie rock group with the balls to pull out the upright bass and rock some 6/8 time signatures.
The night, however, absolutely belonged to the Cold War Kids. These guys are not fucking around. They put on a stellar set full of noise, jumping, sweating, percussing, and, perhaps most exciting of all, space. They possessed the confidence and the true musicianship to be completely unafraid to leave things a little ramshackle, a little unformed, a little unadorned. They intuitively knew that the notes they weren't playing and the empty corners they weren't filling were every bit as vital as the bluesy riffs and piano vamps hanging thick in the hot, smoky air. Nathan Willett, with his yelping, keening vocal delivery and old bluesman's hunch over the microphone, is a perfectly charismatic, even hypnotic, frontman, the kind who could conceivably convince impressionable young shepherdesses to abandon their flocks and slip off over the hillside to drink blackberry wine and howl at the moon all night. Bassist Matt Maust and guitarist Jonnie Russell wrestle their instruments like men possessed, pacing like caged animals, high-kicking at demons. Drummer Matt Aveiro lays it down nice and smooth, with nothing but impeccable fucking taste. Knowing, as many of you do, my love for Spoon's minimalist strut, which only produces more enticing friction the more elements it takes away, it's really no wonder that I feel myself falling for these Cold War Kids. Look for 'em on my 2006 year-end list.
I'm sure you've already read on Pitchfork that the Decemberists' major label debut and fourth full-length, The Crane Wife, is coming out October 3. Don't let us down, Colin. We're all counting on you to bring it.
New York Doll is an incredibly touching little film. Actually, I should say, Arthur "Killer" Kane's story is incredibly touching, and dumb-fucking-lucky documentarian Greg Whiteley just happened to be around to catch an extremely poignant part of it. There's a slight bit of condescension in his approach, but enough of Kane's heart shines through to redeem the whole project. Recommended.
Teleporting fish in Atlanta. Which eeriness brings me to
Whether you're heading to Hell, spending the day with Slayer, or taking in the "supremely unnecessary" remake of The Omen, I wish all of you all the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil you can handle!