Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Study" Abroad

There's this lady I know that has a blog about travel. It's in its beginning stages, but is interesting and a good way for her to express, digest and discuss this quasi obsession of hers. I was thinking tonight about various great experiences I've had while traveling and also about certain memory triggers. Does your life unfold to a soundtrack?

A defining moment in my life on multiple levels was my four months studying abroad in Italy in 2005. It was an unbelievable experience and an immersion that was completely foreign to me in my life to that point. That semester brought with it powerful memories of food, cities, landscapes, trains, language, cultural events, wine, history and architecture, and great friends. Now, along with the collection of photos and storytelling, I have strong association of certain music to this events to trigger memories. A classmate and friend of mine, Mike Baskett, let me copy some albums from his laptop while we were studying in Castiglion Fiorentino and introduced me to Dntel and The Wrens (no, not the old R&B group).

As I'm sure most college students across the US at the time were, we had this little obsession with The Postal Service a few years prior and when I heard that James Scott Tamborello has earlier been involved in the solo project, Dntel, I was intrigued. As is common, Dntel strikes me as the experimental and more abstract origin of the Postal Service pop approachability. This was perfect for providing a spacey epic backdrop that kind of stutters and pops as it stumbles out of the headphones. I hear this and imagine myself sitting alone at Villa D'Este sketching, or taking a moment to soak it all in at the top of the mountain over Lake Como.

Dntel - Anywhere Anyone

The Wrens appealed to me in a much more simple and irrational way. Living in New Jersey and with very little mainstream success, this group had just the right amount of obscurity and pep to keep me interested. I don't really remember falling in love with their 2002 album, The Meadowlands, but I do know that I played it over and over again. I even have a very distinct memory of listening to a song while walking up the hill in Castiglion to the bus stop some random morning. This is striking to me because I have a poor memory in general and retain very little unless it has an emotional or strong visual impact on me. I can't really explain that bust stop memory at all.

The Wrens - This Boy Is Exhausted

Thanks to Mike B!
_Michael T

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two friends, two shows

If you're looking for a break from your routine. I have a couple of great options for you this week. Tomorrow night, Justin (Commodore 69) will be DJing at his monthly Laszlo show, Computer Rock. They've been known to play killer music, project nintendo on the wall, and generally keep you up past your bedtime on a school night. This month hosts a special birthday celebration for local NONEWYORK

Thursday night at Hotel Utah, Tanner will destroy your eardrums as a part of the band Raised By Robots. Their shows are always energetic, loud and unpredictable including a recently added horn section. You can also check out their eclectic sound on muxtape. If you listen closely, you may just hear the subtle noises of stage diving.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Live and in person

Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger, yet another bully monopoly move in the corporate world, has been on my mind lately after reading the lengthy article about ticket prices in a recent issue of Rolling Stone. As a consumer, I'm obviously unnerved by the fact that ticket price averages have tripled in the past 15 years (~$25 to $65) and Ticketmaster can easily be held responsible for that atypical percentage increase. It is also, to some degree, a reflection of the evolving business. Many artists make most of their money on live shows, where they get a big cut of the earnings, as opposed to the ever-increasing inconsistency in revenue from albums sales where the record companies reap most of the profit. I'd always rather the money go to the artist, but concert prices are increasingly making live shows less accessible to the average consumer.

Luckily, there are still options even in the most obscure of places. I have many fond memories of seeing live shows of small unknown bands at small unknown venues. I grew up driving to places like The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS (among others) and was happy to see they still sell tickets independent of ticketmaster. Similarly, here in San Francisco, you can see amazing shows at The Independent for low prices and avoid the ticketmaster trap. Here are some upcoming shows I'm excited for:

July 16
Kanye West's DJ, A-Trak will rock the stage with opening acts from Theophilus London, Treasure Fingers, and I've heard rumors of Rye Rye.

August 25
Chicago/Portland band Fruit Bats will be on tour promoting their upcoming album under the killer label Sub Pop.

September 18
Out of Selkirk, Scotland and now in Glasgow, Frightened Rabbit are a great band who recorded a fantastic album with an even better title, Midnight Organ Fight.

September 19
Victoria Christina Hesketh, known as Little Boots out of the UK released the album Hands recently to provide you with even more 20 something girly "good time" pop music.

Follow the artist links and check out some of their tracks. Even more good news? All of these shows are under 20 bucks. What?!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

You know that one time when I said...

If you know me well, you know that I often find myself complaining about vocals. It's safe to say that in general, whacked out vocal styles just don't do it for me. Don't whine, don't fake an accent, don't make your voice shudder.
--insert autotune debate here--
If I'm aware of some deeper artistic expression and/or rebellion, well okay I'm inclined to appreciate that, aka the punk movement. If, however, I feel like you're just trying to get a rise of your hipster fanbase, I'm done. Equally painful, but more at the level of sympathy, when a band has great instrumental and songwriting potential, but decides it's okay to let someone sing who obviously cannot. If your band's signature sound is not purpose-driven, but merely a result of a lack of talent, you've got to wonder.

All that said, I find myself regularly breaking my own rules. For reasons I cannot explain, I present to you three groups that I keep adding to my present listening rotation, despite their borderline painful shaky, nasally or awkward voices. So I eat my words, enjoy!


Airborne Toxic Event - Sometime Around Midnight

Passion Pit - Little Secrets

Empire of the Sun - We Are the People