Monthly Archives: December 2009

a few weeks ago when i saw vic chesnutt, i had no idea it would be the last time. as is my habit i arrived at the venue somewhat early. mississippi studios has a little restaurant in front, my friend molly and i were sitting at table across from where vic and his band was eating dinner. i noticed that vic wasn’t talking and seemed more than a little distant. i discounted it because once on stage, he came alive. i was figuring he was road weary, the man tours and records constantly. now i know differently.

on christmas eve i read that he attempted suicide and was in a coma, my heart dropped. when he was 19 he was in a car accident that left him in a wheelchair and a battle with depression. vic’s music has been a constant in my life for over 15 years, and i’ve seen him so many times, he almost felt like a distant friend. his songs of alienation and struggle sung in his fragile cracked voice always spoke to me.

the next day word came that he passed away. i was surprised how affected i was. i can only suspect that it has something to do with the fact that this is the first holiday season since my mom died earlier this year. so this season already has a strong sense of melancholy for me. it’s such a shame when someone goes when were not ready for them to go. my thoughts go out to his family and close friends. my thoughts also go to his network of distant friends throughout the world that he touched with his songs.

for years in interviews vic mentioned his struggles as an independent musician dealing with health issues. and thanks to the fucked up u.s. healthcare system (or lack of) he always had trouble finding insurance. a fund has been set up for his family to help offset some of the costs of his healthcare. if you would like to contribute go here.


so here are the albums you should like if you want to be like me in the year 2009. aside from antony on the top, they’re in no particular order, although subliminally they probably are. there are too many links for me to deal with at the moment, so if you want to know more, i bet you know how to use google or bing.

the crying light – antony & the johnsons
released around the time of my mother’s passing, the crying light got me through on of the most difficult times of my life. antony’s beautiful homage to nature and the battle of light and dark was what i needed to work through the doldrums i was lost in.

bitte orca – dirty projectors
i didn’t pay any attention to dirty projectors until earlier this year, they played a show with bjork. dirty projectors main guy dave longstreth wrote all the music and lyrics, bjork sang them. i figured if bjork was working with i should give them a chance. at first i wasn’t too impressed with the album, then i really fell for the “stillness is the move” video. all of a sudden bitte orca was all i listened to for about a month.

at the cut/skitter on take off – vic chesnutt
two albums by vic in two months, yes please! at the cut is beautifully sculpted around his voice, using most of godspeed and guy piccotto as the clay. at the cut’s sound is so sprawling that vic’s voice is the grounding factor. skitter on take off i would describe as sparsely broken. recorded in several days with jonathan richman doing the productuion, it’s pretty close to experiencing vic live about ten years ago. both albums are amazing and will haunt you.

fever ray – fever ray
i was already profoundly impressed by the last the knife album, so i was pretty certain that i would like karin dreijer andersson solo debut as fever ray. she created something that is stark and lush at the same time. her lyrics are cryptic and hypnotizing. much like the knife, every aspect of fever ray (album covers, photo shoots, concerts, videos) is an artistic expression. if you’ve never seen any of the videos, you should. she is the hipster lady gaga.

investigate witch cults of the radio age – broadcast & the focus group
this ep is something that broadcast has been hinting at for years. a psychedelic collage of beautiful sound. i have a feeling that it was the focus group that helped them realize this vision. this is one of those albums that just hits me in the right place.

bromst –  dan deacon
joyous electronic chanting noise. that is all.

patches – dj/rupture & andy moor
dj/rupture is an auditory artist of world sounds and andy moor (from the ex) is one of the most creative guitarist the music world has seen. together they made an hip hop mixtape with a post punk edge to it. truly great stuff.
the hazards of love – the decemberists
this album is just epic. i refer you to the review i wrote in the spring.

felt squares – jamie stewart
technically called the ambient experimental minimalist series. jamie stewart (the lead guy of xiu xiu) had a whole lot of sounds and wanted to release them, so he made a subscription series. i get a cd a month, only three months left. on the cds are a melange of sounds from a variety of sources. these are collections of uncomfortable beauty at it’s finest.

traveling like the light – vv brown
this album came out of nowhere. sixties soul and garage mixed with modern pop sensibilities. it’s a really fun album, which may take some time to grow on you.

young one – the mayfair set
some of the best lo-fi pop released in years, from members of blank dogs and dum dum girls. kind of like early magnetic fields mixed with the aislers set.

portable dunes (w/john wiese)/live during war crimes 3 – yellow swans
they may have broken up, but the yellow swans still released two killer albums of dense drone. sonics so strong they clean your ears.

bonfires on the heath – the clientele
i’m a big sucker for the clientele, even though they’ve essentially released the same album over and over, i just think it’s fantastic.

fleurs – former ghosts
while former ghosts is a project of freddy ruppert (of this song is a mess but so am i) it counts jamie stewart as one of its members, he knows the sounds that my brain likes. his sonic stamp is all over this dark wave masterpiece. sounds like the work of a damaged mind.

III – espers
simple acid folk from greg weeks and company. they capture that sound, you know, the one that i love.

under and  under – blank dogs
krautrocky/synthy/no wavey/me likey a lot.

it’s blitz! – yeah yeah yeah’s
it’s blitz! was a slow burner, it took me a few listens until it clicked, but once it did, it was all over. so much better than show your bones, not groundbreaking but fantastic none the less.  so mad at myself for not getting to their show here a while back.

music of the modern white– zs
abrasive ambient with skronky horns, this album takes you on a journey you never knew you wanted to go on, but you end up loving.

the spoils – zola jesus
i got this album because a blog made it sound so good. i would describe it as minimal pastoral electronic no wave with vocals  inspired by the cocteau twins. a brilliant album. 

guns don’t kill people…lazers do – major lazer
this is diplo and switch’s dancehall project. it actually sounds more like a grime mixtape with a dancehall influence to me, and it rocked my summer. also, i’m kind of a sucker for diplo.

discoveries – not really new releases, but they are new to me.

sings the truth –  malvina reynolds
gosh, this album blew me away when i first listened to it. political/sociological folk that’s way ahead of its time.  she must have been the coolest grandma in town for sure.

the bridge – thomas leer & robert rental
electronic post punk form the late seventies released by throbbing gristle’s label. you should have this.

the best of – patience and prudence
a sister act from the fifties. simple pop pleasure.

secret stories – minny pops
simple synthy post punk from factory records. another one of those why have i never listened to them before moments. 

shop assistants – shop assistants
mid eighties indie pop from scotland. obviously and influence to the sarah records/k records/riot grrrl crowds.

index – index
it’s a bit hard to find information about these guys, and i can’t remember what blog i downloaded this from. index was a garage band from the sixties, similar to the monks. the version i have is a scratchy vinyl rip coated with mp3 hiss and i wouldn’t have it any other way.

my boy lollipop – millie small
sure i knew my boy lollipop, but i had no idea about the wealth of rocksteady goodness millie small had recorded.

disco club – black devil
i only just got this and i’m already impressed by this french space disco from the late seventies. mainly because the people behind it have obviously listened to quite a bit of krautrock.

a go go – dara puspita
a sixties girl group from indonesia, you know i’m gonna love this.

psyco analysis – corviria
another one i don’t know much about. it’s an affecting, sorta ambient, album possibly from the 70’s. one blog says “very moody music diagramming the sound of various pathologies of mental illness”.

new york city 1976-80 – come on
come on are on the cusp of post punk and new wave. fantastic stuff.

genesis – wendy and bonnie
another sister act, this time from the late sixties and this time with a psych folk sound. amazing for a couple of teenagers.

the teddy bears sing – teddy bears
phil spector’s first vocal group production. great, just great.

before i write about seeing morrissey i just have to rant about how the roseland made me check my camera, so you may want skip ahead to under the picture.

i walked to the venue and got in line. while i was waiting a man came down the line saying that no cameras would be allowed in and that they should be returned to your cars. he said that cell phones cameras were okay as long as you didn’t take any video. returning to my car wasn’t an option for me and i certainly wasn’t going to walk home with it, so i wrapped it in my scarf and hoped for the best. if you’ve ever been to the roseland here in portland then you know that they have security stricter than the airports, so of course they found my camera. i was told to put it in coat check, which i did, and i was more than a bit worried about getting it back. during the show hundreds of cell phones popped up to take pictures, and many took video. i imagine that morrissey doesn’t like cameras because of two reasons. first, he gets incredibly sweaty and kinda gross looking when he performs, so he probably doesn’t want that image of him out there. second, he’s had some incidents recently (collapsing and getting hit with flying beverages) that he doesn’t want documented and put all over the web. banning cameras doesn’t stop that, the person next to me was updating his facebook with video almost every song. at least with my camera the pictures would have been of good quality, and i don’t see the point in taking video. artists and venues need to accept that there are cameras everywhere now and drop the no camera rule.

now onto morrissey (with a generic picture i found on the web).

morrissey is another person i’ve been a fan of almost as long as i can remember. an old school mate alison gave me a tape of one of the smiths singles compilations and i became wrapped up in the world of moz. i’ve had the fortune of seeing him several times, the first time being on the a tour he did just before vauxhall and i came out. that show was at the webster theater in hartford ct, and it was amazing; i was right in front of him.

i rode past the roseland on my way home from work (four plus hours before doors opened) and there was already a healthy line formed. this time around i knew i wanted to be close again, so i got to the venue about forty-five minutes before doors opened, the line had doubled in size. once doors opened and i checked my camera (grr), i found a good spot near the front and in the center. i expected a crush when morriessy came out, because touching him is a big thing for fans. i touched him at that first show. it’s probably that aspect that gave him the saint morrissey nickname. the crush did come but people were respectful and really only pushed when he came near our section.

when i learned that morrissey was playing the tiny roseland theater, i wondered what he would think of it after playing huge theaters everywhere else. he seemed to relish being in the small venue. he chatted with the crowd, and seemed in fantastic shape while singing. there was a couple of times in between songs that he showed signs of being tired and a bit rundown. his voice wasn’t as strong as previous shows, but he still belted it out. morrissey has a power over people, he can make someone swoon at the drop of a hat or in moz’s case a wave of his arm. the setlist was alright, he’s touring off a b-sides collection so there weren’t many of his hits. i was good to hear “cemetery gates” and “the world is full of crashing bores”. i think if i hear “how soon is now” one more time i may do something rash, it never was a favorite of mine, and i was a little surprised he played it. the show was marvelous, but i left a little melancholy because i had a feeling it would be the last time i will see him. only time will tell.

this charming man
irish blood, english heart
black cloud
don’t make fun of daddy’s voice
death at one’s elbow
when last i spoke to carol
one day goodbye will be farewell
is it really so strange?
i’m throwing my arms around paris
cemetery gates
why don’t you find out for yourself
if you don’t like me, don’t look at me
the world is full of crashing bores
teenage dad on his estate
the loop
how soon is now
i’m ok by myself

first of the gang to die
swinging on a star

once upon a time at pearl street nightclub in northampton massachusetts a young joseph went to see wilco. he was unaware of who the opening act was. a guy in a wheelchair came onto stage and sang some songs. that guy was vic chesnutt. joseph was so impressed by vic that he has long forgotten any details of wilco’s show, but could tell you all about vic chesnutt’s.

vic chesnutt is a prolific artist that releases an album almost every year and tours almost all the time. he released two albums over the last couple months, the sprawling at the cut and the rough skitter on take off. so it wasn’t a surprise that he came through town, playing at mississippi studios. his current band is made up of most of godspeed you! black emperor and guy piccotto from fugazi. his live shows are an experience in jagged artistry, and this band is just the canvas he needed. he knows how to use his voice,  which is a very distinct one. i’ve never seen a bad show and i’ve seen him plenty.

mississippi studio is a pretty small venue, with a tiny stage that could barely fit the band. the stage is also unfortunately low, which made it real difficult to see vic or the other members of the band who were sitting. we were lucky that we were sitting on stools, that we stood on during the show.

i was pretty blown away by the show. vic was in great form, his voice was strong. he entertained the crowd with stories and general banter, a talent he shares with antony. also like antony, it is hard to take your eyes off of him while he’s performing. they both have affecting voices that can transform a room. the sound at mississippi studios was close to perfect, and the crowd was silent when he sang. the band sculpted a sound that held is voice in such an intuitive way. this band is the perfect group for him, i hope they stay.
sonically it was a great experience.

if it wasn’t for the fact that we couldn’t see a thing unless we were standing on a stool, this would easily fit in to the top twenty shows i’ve seen.

i’ve been a fan of they might be giants for almost as long as i can remember. when i was younger someone gave me a copy of lincoln and i never looked back, they just click with me. they are also the band that i get the most flack for liking. which is strange because a good portion of my music is way more out there than tmbg.  growing up in connecticut they seemed to play in or around ct four of five times a year, i’ve seen them more times than i care to even try to count. they have always put on a great live show, giving it their all. unlike most of their fans i have actually kept up on their releases, true that none of them will ever be classics like lincoln and flood became, but they do generally have two or three great songs. i should say that i haven’t given their children’s albums a chance, even i don’t need to hear them singing about the abc’s or math. if you’ve never seen gigantic (a tale of two johns), i would recommend it, i can even lend it to you.

the last time i saw tmbg was at a two night stint they did at the crocodile cafe in seattle six or seven years ago, i was there both nights. it was great seeing them in a tiny venue again, and they killed. this time i saw them at the crystal ballroom, which i’ve never been to before even though i can practically see it from our apartment.

i didn’t enjoy this show as much as i have in the past. tmbg didn’t seem to be with it that night, they seemed rather low energy. the setlist was a little weak for me also. i understand they have to play material off new albums, but this was an adult show, and they played too many songs off their kids albums.

musically they’re in great shape, they can still rock. i think another problem i had was with the venue. the crystal ballroom is a long narrow parallelagram shaped room and the stage is at an angle. i kept found myself standing with my waist twisted. my body wanted to align with the wall, while my head wanted to see the stage. also because of oregon’s liquor laws, there is an eight foot chasm down the middle of the crowd to separate the drinkers from the youngins. i found that really distracting, and so didn’t tmbg, who remarked on it several times. i don’t think i will be going back to the crystal ballroom again, unless it’s someone i have to see.

there were a lot of great moments in the show, i had a good time, i don’t fault the band for my not fully enjoying it. i just never connected with the show. i’ll see them again one day, just not at the same venue.

alright, i am way behind on writing this, the show was over a month ago. i’m surprised how much i’ve grown to like dirty projectors, considering how despite there experimentalism they’re firmly rooted in a genre of indie rock i find extremely boring. over the summer i became obsessed with their song “stillness is the move” and it’s video. i was excited for this show, and it was at the aladdin theater, which is one of my favorite venues here in portland.

they did not fail live, the put on a fantastic show and had great energy. musically  they didn’t really add anything to the songs, they pretty much sounded like the records. from what i’ve heard lead projector dave longstreth is a bit of an audio perfectionist, so that is probably why they didn’t veer away from record sound.

normally that kind of thing would ruin a show for me, i like live versions to be different, i want them to pack a punch. dirty projectors pulled it off excellently, because they seemed so happy to be playing. they were way into it, the songs still felt alive. i think that  says something about the strength of the songwriting.

the highlight of th show was the band’s use of a syncopated voice technique,  multiple singers taking different syllables and singing together so it sounds like one singer.  they used the technique  in two songs, one off of bitte orca and the new song, “when the world comes to an end”, which they closed with. you can watch them singing that song on jimmy fallon here. i could have listened to those ladies do that all night.