Wednesday, February 20, 2008Rave Rave Rave
Sometimes I forget about time, I neglect the bigger picture, I take life one day at a time. I forget that I've been writing this blog for almost FOUR YEARS, that I've been in a relationship for longer than that and that it's now SEVEN YEARS since I fell in love with all those New York bands who changed my life and took my appreciation of music to new stratospheres. With the film Juno getting a whole 'nother generation of indie kids into the Moldy Peaches, I realised holy cow, this music shaped the lives of me and my friends for the summer of 2001. We discovered our own senses of irony and lo-fi and sincerity and pretension all in one year. And that's SEVEN years ago. Sheesh.
The Raveonettes are one of my favourite bands who emerged from that garage rock, throwback scene and have outlasted many of their contemporaries. Sure, they've built their band up and broken it back down to the core: Sune and Sharin. And last year they released their fourth album, Lust, Lust, Lust, with many reviewers declaring it their best album to date. A lack of airplay and buzz round its release would have you thinking that people had stopped caring about the New York/LA-based Danish duo, but their gig at 229 in London last week was a reassuringly rowdy return to the capital.
Playing songs from all of their albums, they had the slightly older crowd eating out of their hands. The venue was quite spacious and people were dancing and swaying freely. Without meaning to be patronising, it was nice to see a whole room of people of all ages unashamedly dancing away and just having a good time.
The Raveonettes just stand there looking super ice cool and playing pricelessly cool music. Songs from their latest album are especially of tha ilk; it sounds even more LA, even more girl-group inspired and is driven by lovely soft melodies over layers of feedback in a modern interpretation of wall-of-sound. Sharin, being impossibly beautiful and glamorous is subject to much male fawning and gazing and it's sad to note the large group of 40 year old males with their camera phones hoisted in the air taking pictures of her like she is a piece of meat.
Sharin and Sune seemed unphased by the attention and played on. On earlier tours their performance has been slightly more intense and dirty, and involved more interaction between Sharin and Sune. I suppose that seems less genuine if the sound of the new material is less intense and more poppy. With the album released last week in the USA, it looks like they'll be on the road for a while, so I hope they will end uo injecting some of their olf bad selves into their performances!
Saturday, February 16, 2008You love Sons and Daughters
First thing's first, Sons and Daughters' new album, This Gift, is astounding. It's a breathtaking journey of the punchiest, darkest pop music you can imagine. Infused with S&Ds' characteristic Scottish folk influences and combined with some filthy guitar work, pounding drums and soaring choruses, it leaves you breathless and begging for more. If there is any justice in the world, Chains will be the song that makes Sons and Daughters the global superstars that they deserve to be.
Their gig last week at ULU was a real triumph. Usually London crowds are a little shy around Sons and Daughters. There's maybe something a little dark and confrontational about their performance that makes a crowd feel uneasy. It's especially noticable in the fluorescent light of an in-store that an audience can feel exposed and awkward in front of Sons and Daughters' collective menacing stare. For whatever reason, the gig at ULU melted that divide and had the whole front half of the (possible almost) sold out venue bopping along.
The S&Ds tore through a set of old, new and very old. Like their last two albums, which come at you like a speeding lorry of intensity and leave you battered and bruised, the gig was packed full of their meatiest, most powerful songs with hardly a moment's pause for a bit of Glaswegian banter.
It wouldn't be Sons and Daughters if it wasn't so, but it seemed that S&Ds have such a robust backcatalogue of established favourites that they might be slipping into playing a similar 'greatest hits' set night on night. It didn't quite feel like they were tearing through the set to get over with, but it's a real danger when you have a long tour ahead of you and you want to be winning people over every night to fall into a set routine. I have plenty of faith in S&D's artistic and performing integrity to quash any doubts that that might happen.
Monday, February 11, 2008Marling-mania
Last weekend I totally fell in love with Laura Marling. I was very excited about her gig at Soho Revue Bar, which sold out in a couple of days without any publicity. She took to the stage all low key and tuned up her guitar, which looked enormous against her slight frame. She greeted the crowd with a nervous, posh-ish estuary English 'hello' and could have been just any eighteen year old girl trying her luck on stage. As soon as she opened her mouth to sing, any doubts were instantly dispelled. Her warm, rich, fragile voice defied her appearance and demeanour; all impressions of a happy-go-lucky teenager were bulldozed by the sheer dark emotional wisdom and experience evoked through the material played in this short set.
Laura Marling's concentration when singing is so intense that she does not move nor make eye contact. She looks possessed as she sings, eyes trained on something in the middle-distance, foot tapping nervously. It's as though focusing all her energy on the emotion of each songs consumes her. She had an excellently dapper band with her, playing fiddle, ukelele, accordian, guitar and bass, bringing out the full Celtic skeletons of her songs. Clearly not expecting the crowd to be so enthusiastic, she hadn't prepared an encore and decided not to play old favourites like New Romantic or London Town. Instead she played a cover of a Kimya Dawson song, which endeared her to me even more.
I had the songs swimming round my head all weekend and I couldn't wait for her album to arrive in the post. On Sunday I went to see Noah and the Whale in Chiswick. It transpired that this would be one of Laura's last few times playing with the band, which is a shame. Noah and the Whale are excellent - the grandiose, eccentric instrumentation of Arcade Fire et al, Celtic influences and London urchiny vocals. Annoyingly, they are all about eighteen years old too. I didn't think the time when my favourite artists were younger than me would come so soon.
Laura stood out of the limelight and NATW came across very much as a unit, playing their soaring, energetic and frantic to the happy but slightly dozy Sunday night West London crowd. They finished on my favourite song, Rocks and Daggers, which I'd been jigging away to all day with my friend Afsi. I saw Noah and the Whale for the first time supporting Feist in July last year. They'd made me and all my friends want to pick up our various instruments and form a band and I got that exact same feeling seeing them again. They are currently touring the UK as part of the Young and Lost tour. You should definitely see them.
As if I hadn't had enough of that whole scene by Monday, I ventured over to Rough Trade West to see Laura Marling do a mini-gig to launch her amazing song box. The song box is her ingenious way of packaging her album, Alas I Cannot Swim in an oversize, colour ful box, with little mementos which relate to each song on the album. You also get a voucher to claim a ticket for her tour - so only people with this nice big song box can go! It's Laura's way of making people listen to CDs and thinking about the content, rather than just ripping the songs onto an mp3 player and listening to the music through bad headphones. Great idea.
The Rough Trade gig was more of the same very, very good stuff. Rough Trade shops give me the musical thrill of libraries. I like to think of them, steeped in history, smelling of old records, dust, and the staff as mines of knowledge doing their job for the love of it. I didn't hang around to get anything signed, I was still waiting for my song box to arrive in the post from Amazon and, besides, I never know what to say to musicians I admire anymore; too self-conscious.
The album is amazing. Absolutely the best thing I've heard for ages and ages. It unravels more with each listen. I want every song to be at least another 340984985 minutes long. Still a few song boxes left on amazon - get one while you can!