Video Murk: Iron & Wine’s “Joy”

Iron-And-Wine-Ghost-On-GhostIt’s raining like, everywhere today, right? Then let Iron & Wine’s “Joy” take you away to a magical place. Although Sam Beam’s last couple of outings as Iron & Wine didn’t do too much for me, his latest, Ghost On Ghost is doing very very nice things to me, and I’ve been getting lost in “Joy” for the past week. There’s also a really awesome stop motion video to go along with it, and both are equally gorgeous. Fast Company has an article on how it all came together. Check out “Joy” below.

 

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Solange @ Bottom Lounge 4.15.13

photo 1Remember when Solange was supposed to perform in Chicago in February, and then cancelled the performance, citing “scheduling issues” and “weather,” but really it was probably so she could do chic things at the Oscars?

Well, she made good on her promise to make it up to us, finally returning to the City of Big Shoulders that were collectively holding some pretty high expectations for the performer we affectionately call Beyoncé’s little sister. The entire area outside of the Bottom Lounge (we’ll get to that in a minute) smelled like weed, so people were also just high, regardless of expectations.

Anyways, when Solange o’clock hit, the booming sounds of “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work” started blasting from somewhere other than the two horribly placed speakers on either side of the stage. Sound issues for Solange, really? Thankfully, things kicked into gear just before Solange took the stage along with the rest of her band including two #chictothenextlev backup singers. Unfortunately, more sound issues would plague the entire show, however Solange grooved through the entire hour-long set determined to deliver.

From the first minute the crowd, which was one of the most interesting I have ever seen at a show, was hooked, and Solange’s vocals were surprisingly powerful as she hit all the right notes. Without mentioning anything specific relating to the events in Boston that day, Solange told the crowd that the show was all about celebrating joy before performing “Don’t Let Me Down.”

photo 2The sultry dancing finally clicked with “Bad Girls,” Solange telling the audience “grind out whatever aggression you have with this one. Just grind.” Solange herself got really into this one, twerking it hard on stage letting the beat ride out. “Why did I wear a fucking sweater?” Solange asked herself.

Even though the sound was never 100 percent perfect, everything off of the True EP sounded great live, but the show was finally taken there with “Lovers in the Parking Lot,” which sounded absolutely huge and had Solange pushing her vocals the hardest. With more emphasis put behind the beat in the live version, the crowd threw their arms in the air like this was a hip hop show, and Solange was very into it. Good thing, since she told us all she just shot the music video and it’s her next single.

“Lovers in the Parking Lot” led to the moment; “Losing You.” Even though it’s actually a really depressing song, everyone was singing along in some sort of joyful/sad cathartic release, a true party atmosphere celebrating broken hearts.

Solange exited the stage for a brief moment before returning for the encore, which closed with the triumphant “Sandcastle Disco.”

I think it’s safe to say Solange upheld all of the expectations and finally made good with Chicago, sound issues aside, and brought some brightness and joy to a day that had been pretty dark. Ultimately, isn’t that when music is at it’s best?

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Phosphorescent @ Lincoln Hall 4.13.13

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I’m not gonna lie, the details of Phosphorescent’s sold out show at Lincoln Hall Saturday night are a little hazy.

You see, I was convinced to do some day drinking in Wrigleyville (I know), only to wake up an hour before the show already a little hung over. There was only one thing to do; smack back a Miller High Life tallboy and head on down to the show.

Opening band Strand of Oaks were great, if only a little sleepy. Maybe it was all the smoke from the fog machine. All I know is that after positioning myself in prime position since I was flying solo, Phosphorescent took the stage and started with one of my favorite songs from Muchacho, “Terror In The Canyons.”

Just like on the record, lead singer Matthew Houck’s voice sounded a little frayed, but that actually added to the raw, forlorn alt country aesthetic of the performance.

“Song For Zula” found Houck very comfortable on stage, meandering around as the live band shuffled around with him in a very relaxed and confident manner, everyone in the audience finally hooked into the performance. “Down To Go” continued this vibe.

Playing mostly songs from Muchacho, the highlight of the show had to be the expansive take on “The Quotidian Beasts,” which hit with a certain intensity that can only be captured live.

After concluding with something that I can’t quite remember, Phosphorescent came back to play a very lengthy encore, including a Randy Newman cover before finally saying adieu.

Even though I can’t remember the specifics (sorry mom), I did leave fully satisfied. If Phosphorescent is playing in your neck of the woods anytime soon and isn’t already sold out, go, drink a few beers and enjoy.

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Rhye @ Schubas 4.11.13

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Normally, getting told at the door about a band’s request for no photos, no in and out of the room during the show, no loud talking, and then two more similar announcements before the show starts with the additional piece of information that the bar would be closed during the show, would generally irk me. Believe me, I’m the biggest advocate of no talking, pictures with flash etc. during a performance, but they way they were really hammering this in at Schubas before Rhye took the stage was a little much. Then the music started and I couldn’t have cared less.

I don’t even know how to talk about how good this show was because while I was expecting it to be really good, I didn’t know it would be that good. Like, witnessing something truly special good.

Seeing Rhye at a place like Schubas, with candles lit and enough Warby Parker frames to fill a flagship store, is really the only place anyone should see Rhye, and as all those in attendance refrained from talking and taking pictures, Rhye and an impressive live band that included strings and a trombone cast a spell. A really chic, sexy love spell.

The band played some mood music as lead vocalist Mike Milosh walked on stage then went right into the understated “Verse.” With a tremendous command of vocal restraint, the sounds of “Verse,” including expert harmonizing from the group, melted the room before they performed a transformed, stripped down version of “3 Days.”

Milosh kept his own talking to a minimum, however he acknowledged he was getting good vibes from Schubas, saying “yeah, this will be nice,” as the mood picked up a little and everyone started grooving to “The Fall.”

Throughout the evening, Milosh kept signaling to his band to draw songs past their normal running time, letting the beat ride as his voice floated sublimely above everything.  After “Shed Some Blood,” things continued to heat up with “Last Dance” and “Major Minor Love,” the room dead silent, hanging on to every last word and note.

Nearing the end of the hour long set, the mood turned more celebratory with “Open,” and then “Hunger,” which featured solos from each band member including a fantastic trombone solo.

After explaining that they had one more song left, the show closed with the band performing one of Milosh’s singles, “It’s Over,” aptly titled to close out an other worldly performance.

No doubt, Rhye are on an upward trajectory and will soon be leaving rooms like Schubas behind for bigger theaters and festivals. With the ability to craft a bubble of Rhye-ness at Schubas, even if it meant threatening signs and announcements, Rhye as a live show was something transcendent. Too bad you can’t get 1,500 people that quiet no matter what you do. Go see Rhye before the crowd starts talking.

And yes, I snuck one photo and I didn’t lift my phone up or use the flash. SFP.

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Demo Murk: Sufjan Stevens’ Love Yourself

tumblr_mgnhwuW2wC1qa9n7io1_r1_500Sufjan Stevens’ blog, the title of which he rotates (it’s currently “The Secret Is Loneliness”) is full of little Sufjan nuggets, including pictures of him in Miami, lots of excerpts from the author Emily Post and even some unreleased songs and early demos. A couple of weeks ago, Sufjan uploaded three versions of the song “Love Yourself,” one recorded in 1996, another from 1999 and finally a version from 2011. It’s a great introduction to the evolution of Sufjan’s music over the course of his career, as well as a reminder to those who were thrown off by the electronically heavy Age of Adz that Sufjan has always been fooling around with electronic noises. You can listen to the progression of this sweet little song below.

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Caitlin Rose @ Schubas 4.9.13

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Caitlin Rose looks like a cross between Marion Cotillard and an Olsen twin with the vocal power of Neko Case mixed with the sweetness of Zooey Deschanel (I mean that in the best way possible) so basically she’s just like one giant chic package.

Belting bittersweet country songs dripping in slide guitar and regret, Rose and her band, including opener Andrew Combs, cast quite a spell on Schubas last night, with Rose even commenting “I thought only people in England were this quiet.”

We were so quiet because holy shit, this 25-year-old vocal and musical powerhouse commands the attention with stunningly simple yet powerful alt country songs that can easily make you forget about others in her genre. Did I mention I’m obsessed with the slide guitar?

Rose played almost all of the songs off of her latest album, The Stand-In, kicking it into high gear early in the set with “Waitin’” while explaining the irony behind the song “Pink Champagne,” telling people that it’s really about marrying someone quick in Vegas and advising the crowed not to play it at their own weddings.

Things got very country-emo when everyone but Rose and Combs left the stage so the two could sing an absolutely arresting version of Combs’ song “Too Stoned To Cry,” which is a feeling the Olsen twins (mostly Mary Kate) experience all the time.

“Shanghai Cigarettes” was good enough to almost convince me to go home and open one of the packs of Chinese cigarettes I had procured when I visited Shanghai, but they’re about five years old now and like, no. But it’s good to know Rose and I could relate.

Speaking of relating, Rose was pretty funny with her between song banter, asking all of us to be friends, commenting that her drink wasn’t strong enough but that she still loved Schubas (it was Rose’s second time there).

Rose actually forgot to walk off the stage before the encore, so she asked us to pretend that she did before diving into a Buck Owens cover, “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail.” There was a final song but I had forgotten to eat dinner and I was about four IPAs deep at this point so that explains things a bit.

As I walked the mile back to my apartment, visions of the big Texas sky dancing around in my head, drunk on Rose’s addictive vocals (ok it was that and two more beers before heading home), the temptation of a late night Cheesie’s stop was too much to resist. Sitting at the bar alone, contemplating if I had made the right decision to go with the mac and cheese grilled cheese with a side of sweet potato fries, the sounds of Run-D.M.C’s “Tricky” filled the speakers and were enough to get the entire bar singing along. It brought a tear to my eye.

It was a good night.

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Pre-release Murks: James Blake, Dawes and Kurt Vile

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James Blake – Overgrown, out 4/9

After a slew of EPs and a strong debut LP, James Blake hits all the right bass-filled notes with Overgrown. It’s a strong album across the board, and while sonically it continues in the dub-step-y, synth vibe that Blake is king of, Overgrown takes on more hip-hop influences, which can be heard in the excellent “Life Round Here” and, of course, “Take a Fall For Me,” which features RZA. Bonus track “Every Day I Ran” even samples Big Boi.

Essential tracks include “Life Round Here,” first single “Retrograde,” “Digital Lion,” which blossoms into something beautiful at the mid-song mark before returning into looped madness, and the one-two punch that comes from album closers “To the Last,” and “Our Love Comes Back.”

Definitely put this one on your purchase list when it drops on Tuesday.

tumblr_inline_mhtkui8atB1qz4rgpDawes – Stories Don’t End, out 4/9

The third time proves to be a charm for LA-based Dawes. Stories Don’t End is an enjoyable, easy and accessible album from top to bottom. While the band’s previous efforts were solid in their own right, Dawes’ sound was hard to distinguish from others in the crowded genre (Mumford & Sons, Avett Brothers, etc.), but with Stories Don’t End, Dawes have manage to set themselves apart in the “Laurel Canyon” sound, even if Father John Misty continues down his current path.

Bookended with the lovely “Just Beneath the Surface,” and its reprise, other highlights include “Someone Will,” “Most People,” which manages to overcome the clichéd message of its lyrics because of its killer melody, “Something In Common” and my personal favorite, “Side Effects.”

Definitely grab this one on Tuesday as well.

OLE-998 Kurt Vile-Walkin On A Pretty DazeKurt Vile – Walkin On a Heavy Daze, out 4/9

The track lengths on Kurt Vile’s latest, Walkin On a Pretty Daze, might be intimidating at first, however you know a song is good when nearly 10 minutes pass and it feels like 2, which is exactly the case with the album’s opening track, “Walin On a Pretty Day.”

Vile works magic again with “Was All Talk,” the relentless drum machine propelling the song into new territory like an unfolding landscape for nearly 8 minutes. “Pure Pain” is another gorgeous chameleon of a song, while album closer “Gold Tone” sounds exactly like its title.

The songs are long because not for the sake of being long (I’m looking at you Mr. Timberlake) but out of necessity – each minute has its purpose in making Walkin On a Pretty Daze some of Vile’s most engrossing work yet.

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Movie Trailer Murk: The Great Gatsby

the-great-gatsby-2012Don’t worry, I know I’m kind of late on this and the new trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby dropped yesterday, we need to talk about the music for a minute, especially the clip of the new Lana Del Rey song, called “Young and Beautiful,” set to be featured on the Jay-Z curated soundtrack for the film. If you haven’t already seen the trailer, watch it below. If you have, Lana moments happen at the 42nd second mark:

I mean…hi. I’m dead. If Lana singing “Will you still love me/When I’m no longer/Young and beautiful,” doesn’t absolutely kill you, especially on top of the over-saturated, CGI-crazy scenes from 1920s New York, then I’m a little busy for you. Apparently the song was supposed to be on the Paradise edition of Born to Die, but some idiot decided not to include it.

Anyways, here’s the entire tracklist for the soundtrack:

1.   “100$ Bill” — Jay-Z

2.   “Back to Black” — Beyoncé x André 3000

3.   “Bang Bang” — will.i.am

4.   “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” — Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock

5.   “Young and Beautiful” — Lana Del Rey

6.   “Love Is the Drug” — Bryan Ferry with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra

7.   “Over the Love” — Florence + the Machine

8.   “Where the Wind Blows” — Coco O. of Quadron

9.   “Crazy in Love” — Emeli Sandé and the Bryan Ferry Orchestra

10.  “Together” — The xx

11.  “Hearts a Mess” — Gotye

12.  “Love Is Blindness” — Jack White

13.  “Into the Past” — Nero

14.  “Kill and Run” — Sia

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Wavves @ Subterranean 4.1.13

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Lots of intense head bobbing was happening last night at Subterranean, which held an all ages show (yuck) headlined by Wavves.

With underage kids getting kicked out left and right, smoke illicit in nature swirling about the room and enough PBR tall boys to fill a dumpster, the Wavves show felt like a college house party in all the best ways and worst ways possible; the bros in the audience outnumbered the girls at least 10:1, there was crowd surfing, shirtless dudes, etc. All of this fit naturally with Wavves flavor of stoner surf rock.

Although the entire show could be boiled down to LOUD NOISES, Wavves kicked into a good groove in the middle of the set which featured some of the group’s hits, including the super fun “King of the Beach.”

“Demon To Lean On” from the just released Afraid of Heights was another standout and a literal change of pace before things got intense again with “Green Eyes,” which unfortunately lost the nuances that make it a standout song in the pumped up live setting.

And while everyone was clearly there to party, it would have been nice if Wavves had slowed things down and included some of the subtler songs off of Afraid of Heights, including Nirvana-esque “Dog” and album closer “I Can’t Dream,” which really showcase some great songwriting and versatility. Sorry for being emo.

The short, sweet and intense set (Nathan Williams kept referencing the damned curfew that comes with all ages shows – seriously, when was the last time you heard the word curfew?) was surprisingly light on newer material, instead balancing songs from Wavves’ debut album, King of the Beach, the Life Sux EP and Afraid of Heights. Bravo.

And so, since everything wrapped up at 9:15, it was over to Big Star to eat tacos, drink margs and pretend to be king of the beach in the middle of the prairie.

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Secret Colours are Murking Me

Peach-Promo1Maybe it’s because I recently watched Martin Scorsese’s excellent documentary on George Harrison, but I have a feeling the late (and my personal favorite) Beatles member would have totally dug Chicago-based Secret Colours. Mr. Harrison would probably appreciate the band’s British spelling of ‘colours,’ right?. I’m also totally biased because band member Dave Stach happens to be a friend, but I would totally be a fan of these guys even if I wasn’t.

Today, the group released the single “Blackbird (Only One)” from the upcoming LP Peach, which is due out May 28, making this spring, if it will ever actually arrive, one of the more exciting music release seasons in recent memory. A single that the band’s management agency describes as “Sonically Prismatic,” “Blackbird” fits perfectly with Secret Colours’ aesthetic, a chameleon of a song that morphs and transformes while dripping in sonic reverb and swirling guitars. It’s like, ‘it’s the 60s and there’s all this free love and drugs going around’ chic, which is a look that never gets old.

Check out “Blackbird” below.

Secret Colours tour dates:

Saturday, April 13th – Woodlands Tavern, Columbus, OH

Friday, April 19th – The Office, Batavia, IL

Saturday, April 20th – Cactus Club, Milwaukee, WI (part of Milwaukee Psych Fest)

Sunday, April 21 – Subterranean, Chicago, IL

 

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