Toronto’s indie rock collective Broken Social Scene are known for creating high art. Embracing sonic detail, seamlessly connecting vast dimensions of sound, and exploring untouched atmospheric landscapes is inherent. The frighteningly brilliant masterpiece that is Forgiveness Rock Record (May 2010) is a gorgeous example. Finally gravitating towards the pop tendencies that the group have toyed with for almost a decade, never have Broken Social Scene sounded so joyous, excited, and in love with the music they create.
Whereas earlier albums consist primarily of instrumentals, Forgiveness Rock Record finds the band playing with cryptic lyrics and elliptical word patterns, making this Broken Social Scene’s most accessible album yet. The tracks invite you to sing along, not just absorb. The album as a whole is more mature and direct, with a thematic bend that lends a sense of gravity to the music. Each song is a complete artistic piece, with all the integrity, allure, and complexity that fine art inspires. Rarely do songs sound so full. That is the nature of BSS. Each song is greater than the sum of its parts.
Broken Social Scene is known for bringing together a vast collective of musicians to fill out their sound. What began as an ambient post-rock collaboration between founding members Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew (the band’s 2001 debut Feel Good Lost) slowly evolved into the gorgeously fragmented super-collective sound nurtured in the mid-decade by the chaotic overdriven production style of David Newfield on 2002’s You Forgot It In People. The spiritual connection between the individuals, who at points have numbered 17, can be felt on each of the band’s 6 releases (4 full length albums, 1 B-Side album and 1 EP). The injection of inspiration from a mass of adventurous players creates huge washes of sound full of multi-colored textures that may overwhelm the casual listener. Forgiveness Rock Record sets itself apart by leaning on a slightly tighter group, while the “additional members” and “guests” number 31 strong. Longtime contributors Jason, Collett, Leslie Feist and Emily Haines make appearances along with special guests including Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop, but the lion’s share draws from frontmen Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning with Sam Goldberg, Lisa Lobsinger, Justin Peroff, Charles Spearin, and Andrew Whiteman. The greater focus begets music that unabashedly hits harder. The songs may be more succinct, but the band still sounds like it contains multitudes.
Since the collective’s 3rd release in 2004, individual members of the collective have made names for themselves outside of the confines of BSS. Feist became a rock diva after releasing Let It Die in 2004, Whiteman hit the road with Apostle of Hustle, Drew and Collett released solo albums, and Amy Millan and Emily Haines elevated their side projects Stars and Metric to even greater notoriety. Forgiveness Rock Record is lush and romantic and as eclectic as the members who create it. Each track has a distinct sound, embracing their endless ability to craft clever, soaring pop songs. This is no doubt enhanced by Tortoise’s John McEntire who produced the album.
“World Sick” is one of the catchiest songs the band has ever written. Harmonics and power chords swell and boom as the band both embraces global and personal yearnings. Drew’s voice leads the collective as they cry “I get world sick / Every time I take a stand / I get world sick / My love is for my land.” “Chase Scene” strings together old west guitar rumblings and horn filled climaxes with certain tension, set upon cryptic lyrics that mirror the band’s musical complexity and the gripping chorus, “I think I’m ready to fight for the scene of my life”. “Texaco Bitches” devises a joyous melody as vocal ascensions ride marching beats and atmospheric tings. “All to All” climaxes with a wave of female vocals led by Lisa Lobsinger married with a pulsating staccato base. Her angelic voice soars above electronic atmospheres like a phoenix as she has fun with words “It’s like the all to all, the all to all the ultimatum”. “Highway Slipper Jam” brings to mind one of my favorite bands, The Slip, and recalls older BSS. It’s slow and easy as high harmonies roll along and an array of subtle sounds merge together to create the end’s lullaby. “Ungrateful Little Father” shows unabated love for alliteration. The pulsing beat of “Sentimental X’s” is filled with Haines’ sweet vocal meanderings and marks the first time in the group’s history that Amy Millan, Emily Haines, and Leslie Feist have collaborated on the same tune. “Sweetest Kill” is dark and seductive, with echoes of Drew’s voice giving up deflated melancholy upon gorgeous guitar lines which closely follow his vocal tones. The album closes with an ode to masturbation aptly titled “Me and My Hand.”
Forgiveness Rock Record rounds up the BSS diaspora and serves as a robust reminder of the band’s commitment to their identity as an art collective. One of the many things that strikes me about BSS is how their free-form, chaotic approach to creating music transforms into beautiful song structures which unmask a deep understanding of when to embrace and when to subvert standards of pop songwriting. Forgiveness Rock Record follows in this vein, often to spectacular and inspiring effect. It is easy to fall for Broken Social Scene. They make accessible and challenging pop-art, they are unequivocally prolific as a collective, they spring from Canada, and over the years have become one of the most iconic and forever-evolving indie super-groups around.
On August 9, 2010 Broken Social Scene unveiled plans for their “All to All” remix series, which includes 5 different versions of the Forgiveness Rock Record track. Every Monday, a new remix was made available exclusively for 24 hours via a different online collaborator. And on Monday, the band released the provocative video for “Texaco Bitches” featuring a bizarrely sexual, oil fed wrestling match. The video’s eccentric take on today’s oil companies is coupled with a hilarious, unforeseen ending.
Don’t miss the opportunity to contemplate this collective in motion on their winter tour.
Broken Social Scene Winter 2011 Tour
1/16/11 London, ON @ The Music Hall
1/18/11 New York, NY @ Terminal 5
1/29/11 Edmonton, AB @ Freezing Man Festival
2/10/11 Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre
2/11/11 Tampa, FL @ Ritz
2/12/11 Ft. Lauderdale @ Revolution Hall
2/13/11 Orlando, FL @ Firestone Live
2/15/11 New Orleans, LA @ Tipitina’s
2/17/11 Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
2/18/11 Austin, TX @ La Zona Rosa
2/19/11 Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
2/20/11 Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
Ego vs Id will release their stunning debut this month, a tour de force that will no doubt put them on the map. It is hard not to fall for the band’s passion and fury filled version of guitar driven rock. With bold songs about love and pain, Ego vs Id strikes the heart with a sustaining blow. The band is equally as talented as other acclaimed rock bands gaining notoriety this year including These United States, Ha Ha Tonka, and Free Energy. The door is swinging wide open.
The band formed in the foothills town of Boulder, Colorado in 2007. Robbie Stiefel (guitar, bass, vocals) and Jesse Parmet (bass, guitar, vocals) began playing together as kids while growing up in the same suburb on the outskirts of Washington DC. The two were always waiting to find just the right crew to form a band. Jesse moved to Boulder after finishing his degree at the Berklee School of Music in Boston to reunite the duo and the golden dream was finally realized. Robbie met Nate Cook (guitar, vocals) one night at 7-Eleven during Cook’s stint on the graveyard shift. The next day the two played for a few hours trading songs. The band’s first show was at Trilogy in Boulder just two weeks later. Nick Cobbet (drums), the final missing piece of this evolving puzzle, joined the band this summer. Brian Dillon is credited with drumming on the album.
The process of writing and recording Taste was quite cathartic for the band. The four combined their energy and emotion in an attempt to create a piece of work that gets better with each listen, inspires one to take it in in its entirety, that takes the listener on a journey. They succeeded with full marks. The band began recording the album at the Sky Trail Productions studio on a large format SSL analogue board in January 2009 and it finally now reaches our ears. Of the album’s engineer and co-producer, Chris Wright, Stiefel notes, “He likes things thick but also enjoys open space. The recording console in conjunction with Chris’s recording techniques account for almost 95% of why the record sounds the way it does.”
The moving tracks that fill Taste simply sound good. Sunny “All American Love” is filled with shiny guitar riffs and sugary pop choruses. Witty lines like “we’ll inhale work and exhale rent” pervade and promptly draw attention to the band’s adeptness with words. “Lenny Bruce” is a stand out track offering stark images, gorgeous guitar intricacies, and reveals the band’s electric synergy as they roll and explode into the song’s closing notes. The depth of Stiefel’s vocals plead you to listen and it’s hard to resist that smooth tenderness and dexterity.
Taste‘s exquisite production, musical texture, and lyrical finesse continue to draw one in track after track. “Tennessee Honey” is filled with mysterious musings of a bad boy and the guitar riffs speak the same. “Landmine” and “Diamond” blast forward in true stadium rock form with wailing guitars awash with sex appeal. Cook and Stiefel howl like many rock gods before them have done. On “Jenny” EVI draw on the bounce of 50′s rock and at moments I feel as though I’m within a Rilo Kiley tune. The slow crooner “Game I’m In” is soft, sultry, and endlessly gorgeous. The chorus stays with you long after the track ends. “Cause maybe we can’t win, maybe we can’t win, oh that’s a hard way to live. ”
EVI’s debut will be released on their newly founded label, Abattoir Records, on November 16th. Says Stiefel, “We have a lot of things that we would like to do differently from others in the industry, things that most other folks in the industry seem to be getting wrong. I think the fans will notice this and appreciate it. We start by asking ourselves what we think the listener will want, what the music fan will want, and we build things from there. We’re going to be breaking some rules here and I think that it’s going to set a new standard for what a band along with their label can do.” Taste will be available digitally via iTunes and Amazon and at several independent records stores including Albums on the Hill (Boulder) and Twist and Shout (Denver). Ego vs Id’s CD Release event will be held at The Speakeasy in Boulder on Friday, November 19th. Tickets are available online through the band’s site.
Ego vs Id are kings of choruses, walls of sound, and polished production. They make rock new and relevant. Get ready to watch their career progress. Ego vs Id are fully teeming with potential.
Leave any attachment to cartoon characters behind. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s animated oddballs served as an interesting concept at the onset and propelled the intrigue of their project into the mainstream, but on the third Gorillaz release, Plastic Beach (2010), it seems they’ve left behind the idea that Gorillaz is purely a vehicle for a cartoon fronted federation. The former Blur frontman has transcended the futuristic wiliness of the original image, creating one of the best records of 2010, one that is innovative, powerful, eclectic, and soulfully diverse. Truth be told. Gorillaz are real.
Damon Albarn and British cartoonist Jamie Hewlett started the fictional cartoon band in 1998. The band was instantly successful with their self-titled debut album (2001) which included songs “19-2000″ and “Clint Eastwood”. The concept band was composed of four animated members: 2D (lead vocalist, keyboard), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboard, and occasional vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion). The character’s fictional universe is explored throughout the band’s website and music videos. The due released Demon Days (2005) with smash hit “Feel Good Inc.” and “Dirty Harry” and five years later, Plastic Beach.
Filled with guest cameos from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, De La Soul, and the enigmatic Little Dragon, Plastic Beach rides on the formidable musicality and flawless production Gorillaz lovers have come to rely on. The album’s scope and depth as it meshes hip-hop, electronica, and pop is more engaging as a whole. It’s a concept album with a clear message about the Earth’s deflowering by pollution and snowballing technology. The record marks the first time Albarn has produced a Gorillaz album in its entirety after yielding the boards to Automator and Danger Mouse on previous efforts.
Plastic Beach opens with a dramatic, orchestral intro yet quickly runs into the sexy “Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach” featuring none other than the saucy, one and only, Snoop Dogg, dogmatizing that the “revolution will be televised… push peace and keep it in motion”. Look through the doom to behold the beauty beyond is the manifesto held in Albarn’s world.
“White Flag” reveals more of Albarn’s imaginings via hard hitting, hip-hop wrapped in samples and the lyrical prowess of Brit MC’s Bashy and Kano juxtaposed with sugar sweet melodies unraveling from The National Orchestra for Arabic Music. “No war, no guns, No corps, just life, Just love, no hate, Just fun, no ties, Just me and my mind, Just me and my wife.” No walls and jails on this paradise that rains condoms.
Albarn’s voice leads “Rhinestone Eyes” as he voices climatic concerns with syncopated fluidity atop electricity filled synth lines. And there’s “Stylo” with soulful vocals from Albarn and Bobby Womack plus raps from Mos Def expertly meshed with swirling electronics and unrelenting beats pushing you further into another dimension. Electric is the love.
“Superfast Jellyfish” is light and silly. Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys & De La Soul collaborate on this microwave-meal-fast-food biting spoof adding another dimension to the album’s already apparent multiplicity. And then the dreamy “Empire Ants” begins, easily taking the title of most compelling and gorgeous track on the record. The slow, subtle intro by Albarn leads to a fully electrifying song body rich with the alluring vocals of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano. The beats are to die for. “Empire Ants” the perfect soundtrack for a spontaneous dance party on the street with your car speakers blaring.
“Some King of Nature” stands out with deftly spoken lyrics from luminary Lou Reed who adds something entirely bizarre and psychedelic to Albarn’s cough syrup dripping choruses. “Melancholy Hill” causes the energy to drop off, but “Broken” picks it back up again with eerie melodies leading into nighttime driven musings about distant galaxies. The slow pace is irresistible. The album winds and turns through the rest of it’s 18 track sand then swiftly drifts into two movie score ready tracks, “Pirate’s Progress” and “Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons”.
Plastic Beach captures your imagination and triggers a full-color, 3D listening experience. The album is stunning in its entirety and is one of Albarn’s most fully developed musical conceptions yet. The pretense of the animated band has clearly been surpassed. And there might be more to come. Albarn recorded more than 70 songs for this release, and the designing pair is apparently considering sequels.
Gorillaz debuted Plastic Beach at Coachella 2010 and arguably played one of the most dynamic sets of the festival. Live, the band includes Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash along with Cass Browne (The Senseless Things) and a number of talented musicians and guests, which at Coachella included Mos Def, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Little Dragon, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The 35-date international tour in support of the album began this October with 5 U.S. dates still remain including Denver, Phoenix, L.A., Oakland, and Seattle. Catch them if you can. It just might be one of the most epic shows you see all year.
Oct 24 – Wells Fargo Theatre, Denver, CO
Oct 26 – Dodge Theatre, Phoenix, AZ
Oct 27 – Gibson Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA
Oct 30 – Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Nov 2 – Key Arena, Seattle, WA
Rather in love with this track. Ironic in that at the core it feels quite heavy-hearted. As another writer aptly put it, “If you’ve ever stared broken-hearted from a train window as frowning forests fly by then you already know what it sounds like.” (Pinglewood)
Phoenix’s buoyant, soaring track turns into something rather bittersweet. The resounding melancholy mood is soft and subtle. The elegant remix lingers in the bridge, poignantly resting on few lyrics to bring out the essence of the song. And that is what Banhart has accomplished. He struck the emotional spirit of the song making this rendering arguably better that the first.
People should move to Colorado just for Red Rocks. That venue with its perfect sight lines and sound set within two majestic red rock slabs doesn’t get any better on a warm summer evening like last night. Vampire Weekend blew it off the charts. My favorite quote of the night from Ezra Koenig, “You guys look nice at an angle.”
The band came out at a 10 and the audience gave it all back. The energy swirling between the rocks was palpable and Koenig repeatedly commented on the communal feeling wafting from the audience. “We haven’t been to the Denver area since we started touring… You guys are amazing.” The band rewarded fans with the second ever played Contra and a set that both highlighted their keen musicianship and a knack for writing short gems blending danceable influences from around the globe. Every song they unleashed off their two albums differed from the studio cuts, increasing the feel that we were getting something truly special.
Best view walking to the parking lot ever. I relished in the sounds of people yelling in appreciation as I made my way to the car. Last night was the most beautiful show I’ve been to in ages. It made me cry.
Vampire Weekend is one of the best live acts touring now. Go see them.
Phish will give its first television performance since 2004 tonight on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” The appearance is part of a Rolling Stones’ tribute week to their 1972 album Exile On Main Street. Each night on Fallon a different band will cover a song from the classic album. The show starts tonight at 12:35 / 11:35 CST on NBC.
The tribute week concides with the May 18, 2010 deluxe release of a remastered version of the album featuring 10 previously unheard tracks including “Plundered My Soul”, “Dancing in the Light”, “Following the River” and “Pass the Wine” as well as alternate versions of “Soul Survivor” and “Loving Cup”.
Throughout the week artists will sit in with hip-hop artists The Roots, Fallon’s house band since March 2009. Other musical guests this week included Green Day, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Taj Mahal, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, and Rolling Stones’ keyboardist Chuck Leavell. LL Cool J is appearing tonight along with Phish.
The million dollar question: What will Phish play? So far nothing has been announced. The rock legends played Exile in its entirety at Festival 8 over Halloween this past fall, so anything is possible.
Check out this clip of “Rocks Off” from Festival 8.
Looking forward to the unveiling of Phish this evening!
At the end of a weekend of award-winning sets, blue skies, and hipper-than-hip crowds, an esteemed analyst of mine pronounced that Gorillaz had won Coachella. After falling for the title, I’m compelled to share who made the grade, offered stand-out sets, and made Coachella what it is: the picking ground for some of the best artists performing now.
Several acts were immediately taken out of the contest due to their inability to get to the festival. The Cribs, Gary Numan, Bad Lieutenant, and Delphic fell pray to flight cancellations as a result of the plume of volcanic ash from Iceland that descended on the UK and parts of Scandinavia during the week prior to the festival. Sly Stone has been disqualified as well due to the last minute postponement of his Sunday set until later that evening and the difficulty he had making it through his own songs.
While the remaining 130+ artists competed enthusiastically, the Lux votes are in and it’s a tie between Gorillaz and Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace. The remaining titles have been awarded respectively to Dirty Projectors, The Whitest Boy Alive, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, Phoenix, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, LCD Soundsystem, Jónsi, Pretty Lights, Vampire Weekend, La Roux, Jay-Z, Hot Chip, Pavement, MGMT, Gossip, The Avett Brothers and Little Dragon.
Owen Pallett’s geeky laugh, the longest bout of insanely loud distortion from Girls, and Mutemath’s Paul Meany performing flips on and over his keyboard made for other memorable Coachella moments.
Special thanks to Ra Ra Riot, Local Natives, Little Boots, Beach House, Sia, Miike Snow, Flying Lotus, Sleigh Bells, and Imogen Heap for playing. You have each been awarded an honorable mention.
Last place goes to Tiësto. You can’t win when you insist on being louder than every other artist to perform and drown out your competitors.
Congratulations to Coachella for their first sell out in the festival’s 12 years. Your decision to hold the fest on the meticulously manicured and palm-tree lined grounds of the Empire Polo Fields in California where the weather might be the finest in the nation might warrants you the prize of best indie festival around.
#1 – Gorillaz
The Gorillaz set was all over the map in terms of music diversity. Quality beats and grooves drove audience members to produce their best dance moves yet. Who needs holographic bandmates when you’ve got a live band made up of the Hypnotic Brash Ensemble and a long list of guests including former Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, Little Dragon, De La Soul, Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack. MySpace|Website
#1 – Atoms For Peace
Thom Yorke’s music is meant for large scale productions like Coachella. The incredible presence of Yorke live with Flea adding his electrifying bass lines truly brought The Eraser to life. Thick beats, resounding piano lines, psychedelic interludes and Yorke’s haunting vocals created an entirely cathartic experience built on inspired song-writing. MySpace|Website
#3 – Dirty Projectors
With chanteurs that sound like birds, Dirty Projectors dazzled listeners with their experimental sonic alchemy. The beauty of Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Deckle’s voices shone radiantly alongside the intricate and unique musical stylings of their compatriots. The power of this group live is something to behold. MySpace|Website
#4 – The Whitest Boy Alive
Some of the best music I heard all weekend came from this band out of Berlin. I’ve had a lasting affection for Kings of Convenience, which made it even more exciting when I heard KoC lead singer Erlend Øye’s new project. Øye has dove headfirst into an entirely original form of electro-dance music. His unique vocals fraternize perfectly with the band’s funk guitar lines, smooth keyboard melodies and dance-heavy bass and drums grooves. After the set ended, Øye came out to slap hands with the remaining fans, sing a few lines with them, and proudly wave the German flag that was tossed to him. MySpace|Website
#5 – Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear put other artists to shame with their voluptuous 4-part harmonies. The sounds created a thick atmosphere drenched in their deeply textured psychedelic pop. The audience was moved and accepted the invitation into their sonicly rich world. MySpace|Website
#6 – Passion Pit
One of the best synth-pop band out there electrified their audience as the sun dropped over the mountains in Indio on Friday. Offering their realm of highly danceable pop grooves, Passion Pit glimmered and soared. The blissed out crowd reciprocated with elation-filled singing and tumbling exuberance. MySpace|Website
#7 – Phoenix
Phoenix’s sparkling indie-pop has clearly taken the U.S. by storm. Their infectious set on Sunday was packed as Coachella-goers drank in the energetic performance by France’s new sensation. Crowds sang along, danced hard, and demonstrated unabashed love for Phoenix. The band’s lighting designer got caught up in flight delays in Europe but no need when you have an engaging Thomas Mars writhing on stage and getting down into the audience to sing the set’s closer. MySpace|Website
#8 – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ hippy, communal vibe and jubilant feel-good tunes created the perfect soundtrack for Coachella on Saturday. The band took their audience on a magical trip into their realm of love, hope, and happiness and for the trippers I saw, it couldn’t get any better. The female vocalists surfed the crowd in short dresses and the tangible intimacy between Alex and Jane could be felt no matter how far back one might have been. MySpace|Website
#9 – LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy’s disco-tinged, dance-punk, David Byrne-recalling set on the main stage of Coachella Friday night magnified the impact of his imaginative musical world. Murphy was egoless, at points even apologetic, inspiring the audience to equally let down their hair and let go of self-consciousness. The band consistently wowed those ready to dance with heavy synth and explosive drum fills, ridden by Murphy’s smart, lyrical meanderings. MySpace|Website
#10 – Jónsi
Jónsi’s uplifting sounds created the perfect daytime set at Coachella. The exclusion of the fantastical theatre set and projections that accompany the rest of his spring tour enabled fans to focus on Jónsi’s pure musical gift. Flawless falsetto, glistening crescendos, and orchestral embellishments washed over the crowd as the sun warmed them. MySpace|Website
#11 – Pretty Lights
Colorado sent their best and brightest to Coachella to incite audiences with cutting-edge dance beats, heavy funk grooves, diverse hip-hop samples, and eletro psychedlia. It went off. Who cares if it’s daytime when you’re in the Sahara tent dancing to Derek Vincent Smith’s sonic intuition coming to life coupled with the venue’s over-the-top lights, lasers, projections, LED screens and surround sound speakers. MySpace|Website
#12 – Vampire Weekend
The band’s energetic, youthful enthusiasm and deft musicianship infused their performance, which drew on favorites from both of the group’s records. The highlight of the set came when Ezra Koenig shared his love of screaming by encouraging the audience to just let it all go and join in as he shrieked the chorus of “Blakes Got A New Face.” MySpace|Website
#13 – La Roux
La Roux’s set in the Gobi tent might have been the most packed performance of the weekend next to Florence And The Machine. The young crowd went wild for Eleanor Jackson’s synth-driven dance-pop and sugar-sweet vocals. MySpace|Website
#14 – Jay-Z
Classic beats, Jay-Z’s smooth stylings, his evident love for his fans, an unannounced cameo from Beyoncé, and spectacular visual backdrops made for stellar entertainment Friday eve. Just the kind of set you’d expect from the first hip-hop headliner ever at Coachella. MySpace|Website
#15 – Hot Chip
U.K’s electro-pop ambassadors created a massive dance party on Coachella’s Outdoor Stage on Saturday. “It’s our third time at Coachella,” Alexis Taylor told the crowd, “and this is the most fun we’ve ever had.” The high-energy set, based mostly on the group’s latest release, One Life Stand (2010), wove the band’s synth explorations within elegantly placed samples all topped by Taylor’s pastel-colored vocals. MySpace|Website
#16 – Pavement
The legendary indie rockers played one of their first sets in 11 years, proving both their legitimacy and renewed energy. The show was filled with self-effacing humor, dynamic favorites from their vast catalog, and plenty of moments that reminded the audience of what they’d been missing in the 00′s. The set was a redeeming one as many fans consider their performance at Coachella #1 in 1999 as one of the worst Pavement sets ever resulting from the band being burned out and annoyed with each. Plus Stephen Malkamus almost lost his voice from allegedly scorching his throat on a bad-bong hit. MySpace|Website
#17 – MGMT
MGMT have emerged in 2010 as one of the most eccentric band’s on the indie scene with their new release Congratulations (2010). While the audience wasn’t as familiar with the new material, the band didn’t care as they tore through a set of psychedelic wanderings, melodic detours, and Beach Boys-esque harmonies with unabashed ardor. While certainly bizarre, it was hard not to respect the band’s dedication to their evolving sound. MySpace|Website
#18 – Gossip
Beth Ditto might have been the ultimate diva at Coachella despite her stiff competition, namely from Little Boots’ Victoria Hesketh. Ditto controlled the crowd with her powerhouse vocals, enchanting self-assurance, and unabashed elation. The appropriate response? Grin ear-to-ear and dance along with her. MySpace|Website
#19 – The Avett Brothers
The Avett’s played a moving set of tunes to an enamored audience soon after the gates opened on Friday. Closing with “I and Love and You”, the band invited the crowd to sing along and sent the audience on their way wrapped in their heartfelt lyrics. MySpace|Website
#20 – Little Dragon
Sweden’s Little Dragon gave off their bizarre sounds topped by Yukimi Nagano’s sultry vocals to sweet response. Filled with synth, ambient noises, and multi-layered musical explorations all backed by a steady beat, the Gobi tent relented, entering their strange world and keeping in the groove. MySpace|Website
Like any great album should, Big Light’s full-length debut Animals in Bloom (2010) draws me in more completely with every listen. The songs endlessly unravel as one’s ears open to the nuances. I’ve been enamored with the band since they debuted in San Francisco near the end of 2007 and it’s all in the combination. Skillful songs, prodigious musicianship, and a certain sincerity. It’s the kind of music you want to sit back and take in and also the kind that you want to move to and lose yourself within. It’s the best of all genres, melding the weight of rock, the earnestness of folk, the edginess of indie, and the transcendental psychedelia of jam. The band’s sound is easy to love and hits with an immeasurably depth. As my friend Melissa and I would say to each other back then, “Big Light plays just the kind of music I want to hear.”
From the grittiness of “Triceratops”, to the tenderness of “Departed”, to the touching words, melodies, and guitar riffs of “Rainbow Eyes”, Animals in Bloom gets inside. “Good Time of the Year”‘s youth-filled intimacy is undeniable and “Monster” strikes with washes of sound. “Heavy” just tears it all apart. It’s not just the raging guitars that send you to oblivion but the band as a whole progressing, ripping, lying deep within the groove. Unabating until the raging finale moments of “Bonebreaker”, the album is a solid realization of Big Light’s limitless potential. The album’s lyrics are poetic, pensive, inspiring and filled with color. The songs catch inside your head and refuse to let go. It’s intimate and makes you feel included.
The San Francisco foursome features Fred Torphy (lead vocals, guitar, songwriting), Bradly Bifuclo (drums), Steve Adams (bass, vocals) and Jeremy Korpas (lead guitar, vocals). After several shifts in lineup, this band feels like the one Torphy needs to convey what’s inside his head. Torphy’s voice morphs from track to track all the while staying endearing and real. And his guitar solos soar. Bradly Bifulco contributes a strength of foundation and depth that stands out on every song. ALO’s Steve Adams exemplifies what this incredible player can do when offered an alternate existence. And the most recent addition of Jeremy Korpas seals the force of Big Light. Korpus’ ripping playing which has earned him the name “Swordfish”, raised the bar of Big Light’s musicianship, allowing the band to travel where it was ready. A nod to the benefit of timing and luck, Korpas’ inclusion came by chance after needing a place to crash when first moving to SF. By way of a friend he landed on Torphy’s couch and later joined the band. Together these four individuals gesture gratitude to the great bands that inspired them – Dr. Dog, The Slip, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket – yet seamlessly unite to create a sound that is undeniably Big Light.
Yesterday, I got to chat with songwriter Fred Torphy about the album…
How does the current state of Big Light compare to what you imagined when you originally formed the band?
Torphy: Probably closer to what I imagined it being. More professional and cohesive and focused. That was something we had to work for, a permanent lineup. You saw a lot us in the formative days. It was sprawling then and you never knew who was actually going to play. That was always really hard to deal with as a bandleader. All the coming and going of the personal and getting the band staffed probably. You don’t want to push any of those things. It needs to happen on its own. Give it time. That happening was cool. I’m just stoked that it’s where it’s at right now. And that we are more lean and mean. More focused.
Are there any unseen insights into the album that you want to share?
Torphy: Mechanically we got really experimental and went deep. There are sounds you might not hear unless you’re listening on headphones. There are all of these undercurrents of noise that prevail from the beginning to the end. We capture sounds that aren’t musical in some senses. Detuning ukuleles or dropping an amplifier on the ground so that it makes a crazy thunderous sound. We put ghosts in the recording so that they could be heard later when someone is listening a little closer.
The one thing that probably nobody one knows is that there’s one guitar amp that we ended up using for 90% of the record that we got from this dude who lives in an apartment that’s next to the studio where we recorded. He’s this guy Kidd Candelario, Jerry Garcia’s right hand man for like 30 years, his guitar tech and all this stuff, and he has a bunch Jerry Garcia’s old gear. He gave us this Fender Twin that had belonged to Jerry and that Jerry used on stage for a really long time. We went back and looked at pictures and saw this thing. We had this modified Fender Twin that was Jerry Garcia’s primary guitar amp and we used it in every situation imaginable because it was cool… it sounded so different from everything else because it was modified for him. It was really loud and you could do crazy shit with it. It was fun playing with that thing. The history, recording the album in San Francisco… We’re not a Grateful Dead leaning band at all in any respect. I mean we like improvisation, we love that band, but they aren’t a model for Big Light in any way. But we did love using that guitar amplifier to make all the cool guitar sounds.
Who’s singing the words before the chorus on “Rainbow Eyes”?
Torphy: We call that the “gang vocal”. Our friend Ty Roberts and his family, Sabrina & Ted, Chris Joseph, Ray (Bradly’s wife)… There are probably 40 voices. We threw a whiskey and pizza party one night in the studio and invited our supporters and friends and asked them all to yell “rainbow eyes”.
Below is a teaser for Animals in Bloom featuring studio and tour footage and clips from their December ’09 performance at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, all set to an excerpt of the new track “Triceratops”.
For Big Light, club dates have translated into high profile gigs, including appearances at Outside Lands, Noise Pop, Wanderlust, and High Sierra and at renowned California venues such as the Troubadour and The Roxy in Los Angeles and The Fillmore in San Francisco. They’ve also been placed on bills with Spoon, Broken Social Scene, The Mother Hips, Dead Confederate, Surprise Me Mr. Davis, Everest and Howlin Rain. As a fan from the beginning, it’s truly exciting to stand back and watch Big Light constantly progress and evolve at such an electrifying rate and receive due recognition for their musical journeys. Big Light’s CD Release tour for Animals in Bloom kicks off with a performance at San Francisco’s Independent on March 4th (TODAY!).
Mar 4 – The Independent, San Francisco, CA – Animals In Bloom Release Party w/ Guns for San Sebastian and Everest
Mar 5 – 50/50 Brewery, Truckee, CA
Mar 11 – The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ
Mar 13 – Sullivan Hall, New York, NY
Mar 17,18,19,20 – SXSW, Austin, TX
Apr 8 – Crystal Bay Casino, Crystal Bay, NV
Apr 16 – Cooper’s, Nevada City, CA
Apr 17 – South Lake Tahoe Earth Day Festival, South Lake Tahoe, CA
July 1,2,3,4 – High Sierra Music Festival, Quincy, CA
Animals in Bloom is for sale on the Big Light’s website, at Amazon, and on iTunes where you can download the added bonus track of “Piece Together Wings”, co-written with Nathan Moore and featuring Dan Lebowitz (ALO) on pedal steel. Jeremiah Kille of Conspiracy Surfboards created the memorable album artwork for Animals in Bloom. Check out more of Jeremiah’s work.