Phenomenal Video Saturday: Glissando

This week’s PVS is a band I’m particularly fond of, Glissando, performing an abridged version of its magisterial “Floods” at a London Chapel. The song is slow and brooding — all we have is a pair of gorgeous voices, a slow piano and a guitar for coloring — but it’s very lovely all the […]

[Abby’s Road] Flight

I’m back. In my pocket I have a good 25 stories I could share about my time cavorting about lower (and upper) Bavaria. I decided last week that upon returning to the States I would spare you the gory details of beer drinking, volksfests and barbecues and keep it musical. I was prepared. […]

Youngster: RickoLus

“This album is a homage to my youth. I had a wonderful time but I am going somewhere new. Good bye and good riddance…”

– RickoLus via liner notes on Youngster.

I know you’ve been waiting for it (humor me): the third and final installment in Abby’s Youth Series, 2010. Today, if you […]

Harlem @ Siren

A lot of bands with complicated sounds like to take their act to the stage and put on a big, complicated show. Sometimes, this works very well (see Holy Fuck) and sometimes this falls short (see Cymbals Eat Guitars). But sometimes a band with a very simple sound and a very simple show to match can steal an entire festival. Enter: Harlem.

I’ve long professed my love of this smarmy Austin trio who has made a name for themselves singing about weed, love and “Gay Human Bones,” and after seeing their set at Siren, I can now profess my love for their live act. After watching the seemingly snotty and disconnected Surfer Blood, Harlem was a breath of fresh air. Between ripping through the likes of “Friendly Ghost,” “Be Your Baby” and “Gay Human Bones,” the three kept things happy and playful, occasionally egging on the already feisty crowd for more support. As if at the band’s command, the audience moshed harder, crowdsurfed even more and were promptly shoved back in by security.

If any band had a finger on the pulse of the audience, it was Harlem. They played flawlessly and appeased what appeared to be every single person in attendance. Their garage side pleased the angst-ridden masses, while the pop side simultaneously lifted their spirits. Despite the pushing and shoving, the people in the crowd seemed genuinely elated. Even if nobody, including me, knew what “Gay Human Bones” was exactly about, the crowd and the band looked too happy to care.

Harlem – “Gay Human Bones” [MP3]

More photos after the jump.

Continue reading Harlem @ Siren

[MP3] Hands remix Local Natives’ “Camera Talk”

Wow. Hands just sent us their newest track, and it’s none other than a remix of Local Natives‘ popular song “Camera Talk”. As you may know, we don’t typically post remixes on Knox Road, but when two of our favorite bands combine, well, things change.

Local Natives and Hands have become friends out […]

Wye Oak @ Siren

Wye Oak is what happens if you take Matt and Kim, sap them of their top-40 savvy and say “Hey, this whole folk genre isn’t too bad.” What I’m trying to say is that the two bands are very much not alike, except they’re both guy/girl duos.

What an awful introduction that was. During its earnest set on Saturday, Wye Oak was pleasant but often subdued, considering the general lack of immediacy in its music. They played near-flawlessly, but there’s only so much to say about a band — guitar and vocals from Jenn Wasner and drums and simultaneous keyboards from Andy Stack — that is so content with just being nice to listen to.

However, the duo did play a few new songs, which were very exciting glimpses into the future of the band. The new tracks were more striking from the outset, whereas some of the band’s older tunes tend to get lost in hazy bouts of reverb and distortion. The crafting of the songs, even, was improved: disparate halves came together to form a surprising connection between verse and chorus where you wouldn’t think there could be one. All in all, good work. I’m markedly more excited for the band’s next release than the past one.

Wye Oak – “I Hope You Die” [MP3]

More photos after the jump.

Continue reading Wye Oak @ Siren

Earl Greyhound @ Siren

By Brittany Borghi

Rounding the corner of the Stillwell Stage for the 4:30 set, one thing became clear to me: Earl Greyhound is immediately awesome.

Lithe lead guitarist Matt Whyte looked like Anthony Kiedis from the “Under the Bridge” video; long scraggly hair blowing in the beach breeze while he shredded the most delicious licks into the band’s funky blues rock songs. Contrasting him on bass was the psychedelic Kamara Thomas. The way she dressed was an appropriate synecdoche for the band’s overall sound: flowing, 70s style wrap dress with vintage Native American inspired feather earrings; a giant, pulsing girl-power afro; and a block of space-age silver face paint on her forehead.

While she was grinding her bass into the ground and howling a loud “Why-yi-yi-yo” in their opening song, “Sea of Change,” a second thing became clear to me: Earl Greyhound is pure sex.

I picked my jaw up off the pavement just in time for them to play “Ghost and the Witness” off their new album Suspicious Package. Whyte and Thomas’ echoing harmonies were the best I’d heard all day, and the song’s pelvis-injected, spine-winding goodness was hypnotic at least. Thomas’ bass pumped through the rest of the set, carried by Ricc Sheridan’s R&B inspired drums, smoothing it out during the melodic moments and pumping like an anti-war shotgun when things got more militant.

The trio was light-hearted about their overt sexuality, promising the crowd a “’Suspicious Package’ in a special place,” if they so desired. The band was selling the new album for however-much-of-a-donation people were willing to pay, and you could meet and chill with them after the set. Again, they are awesome.

Earl Greyhound – “Ghost and the Witness” [MP3]

More photos after the jump. Continue reading Earl Greyhound @ Siren

Surfer Blood @ Siren

By Brittany Borghi

It was hotter than West Palm Beach balls underneath the Cyclone, but the crowd was still amped for Surfer Blood to take the stage. Sadly, their sweat was shed in vain. Surfer Blood may have spouted that they were “stoked” to be on Coney Island for the first time, but they couldn’t have seemed more nonplussed.

John Paul Pitts’ energy hit an all time high during “Take It Easy,” when he paraded around the stage, flamboyantly presenting himself in front of the monitors for the drooling photogs (see: Jamie Hale) to snap a quick picture before retreating behind the mic stand. I kept waiting for things to escalate, but the band couldn’t seem to get past poking fun at their Toyota commercial success and flippantly dedicating their set to Metro PCS. I mean, I know, they’re like, SO over all that corporate jazz, but c’mon man, we’re on your side!

I have to make one concession: keyboardist Marcos Marchesani’s flowing black fro was wonderful to watch, and he actually seemed like he was happy to be there. The rest of the band acted like your 14-year-old brother and his gang of friends who have an inside joke that you’re just not in on.

Maybe if I had seen SB on their own, the set wouldn’t have been so “bleh,” but sandwiched between some truly amazing sirens (Apache Beat, Screaming Females, Earl Greyhound), they just came up short.

Surfer Blood – “Swim” [MP3]

More photos after the jump.

Continue reading Surfer Blood @ Siren

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ Siren

I can totally see what The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is trying for with its music, and I don’t even mind listening to it that much, but something about their live set just sat wrong with it. It probably had something to do with the way their nostalgic, ’80s-tinged dream pop is constructed. On guitar, almost every song involved the placement of a capo on one of the first four frets and strumming of open chords throughout the duration. Now, I love open chords and I love capos, but with an instrument as versatile as an electric guitar, the band needs to at least vary things up a little bit. It was like the capo was a last-ditch effort to switch the pitch of songs that would be shockingly similar otherwise, and it didn’t even work that well. The songs quickly bled together, all starting with dreamy, reverberated downstrokes. Kip Berman’s vocals, while evoking that nostalgic mood pretty well, also don’t change much from track to track.

It led to a set that was put together nicely — again, it wasn’t like the songs were particularly challenging, though — but bled into one big sea of sound. And the fact that the music was autumnal on one of the hottest days of the year (read: ever) didn’t help too much.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Everything With You” [MP3]

More photos after the jump.

Continue reading The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ Siren

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists @ Siren

By Brittany Borghi

Siren veterans Ted Leo and the Pharmacists brought it big time to the Main Stage last Saturday, ready to prove that they can still shake up a crowd. No stranger to the free festival, they made their first appearance at Siren in 2003, and came back to show off to a new generation.

And ya know what? They sounded great. The band is undoubtedly tight, and they had no shortage of energy onstage, stomping around and genuinely having fun. Most notable is the fact that Ted’s voice still sounds uh-MAZING; from his punctuated hisses and shouts to his ability to let it all out and wail, the guy’s pipes are a well-oiled oracular delight. It’s clear that these guys still love what they do.

The only downside is that the crowd didn’t quite share that sentiment. And I tend to agree with them. The band is impeccable live (I promise I’m not about to contradict myself) but their new stuff played back-to-back, well, it just falls flat. The sound they’re putting out is just a little too generic rock, like all of the satirical heart they had got popped by The Man’s pin. And no matter how much feedback they bled into the speakers, the crowd just wasn’t getting into it. Was it too much to ask for a little “Me and Mia”? A little “Counting Down the Hours”? I hate to hate on Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, especially for going in a new direction, but it seems like they burned the map and just landed in a dead end. They have a fever, and the only prescription is more music that sounds like what they used to sound like.

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists – “Biomusicology” [MP3]

More photos after the jump. Continue reading Ted Leo and The Pharmacists @ Siren