Monday, March 22, 2010

Joe Pug @ J&J's, Roadside Graves @ Lamberts

These two videos explain two things: why I've barely slept the last two weeks, and why I love these bands.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

AM - Future Sons and Daughters

Because I was born in 1984, I was forced to listen to AM's charismatic folk-pop album, Future Sons and Daughters, as a postmodern thing. However awful that word is, folk-pop bands are utilizing the excitement of the movement these days: upending modernity like a Dadist paints a pipe and then says it's not a pipe, and then paints a dog smoking a pipe. In a way, it's what AM is doing. There's a Christmas tree of adjectives and genres he's hanging his music on, and all of it is done with charm. So many postmodern artists today challenge listeners in their own ways, and a lot of it is raw, rough or coarse. AM approaches his music with a cosmic milkiness, a sugary groove, and a Vampire-Weekend-esque swagger.

The sweet, ukulele strummed "The Other Side," is sung as a broadcast as opposed to a romantic whisper: "Hear my words / Don't you listen?/ Because I don't know about the other side of me." And it's damn catchy. It's really catchy. Because he's confident. An attractive quality in a postmodern artist; how many bands could we list that play with an intense, horrifying perspective on a dying world?  

"Take my time and take my chances / Cuz I don't know what all of this will ever mean" AM sings instead.

The album continues the upbeat groove with "It's Been So Long" and even "Darker Days" has a worldly swagger: "Liberate my love / from the futile hands of those who don't believe / in what I need." These two songs, I argue, are the more hook-less points of the album. They're pleasant tunes, but the album's strength comes from the acoustic, almost Nick Drake-ian, "Leavenworth." It breaks down what it means to locked in a loveless relationship. You can't find the light in this sort of prison, he says: "And in Leavenworth / you knew / what you wanted but couldn't do." Like many bands these days, AM is mimicking his influences by playing in their decade--but not like an rebellious outlaw, or an emotional criminal ready to sink the world. His desire is to love and be loved in return, or know that it can come if you want it.

AM is on tour right now with Air, and his album is available wherever MP3s are sold. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dawes at the Cavern, Thursday

The maximum capacity sign bolted to the front swinging doors of the Cavern say "49", but there was way more people there for Dawes on Thursday. I don't know if they were all fans (there was a couple behind me who collapsed from what I assumed was a washing machine of Jagermeister and Shiner inside their bodies), but I know the guy to my left was. He knew every lyric, every song.

Not to prove a point, but I love North Hills--it reminds me of Springsteen's Nebraska. North Hills has enormous quantities of heart, and doesn't give a shit whether you like slow songs, fast songs, or perfectly-edited radio hits. The album's about exploring the story behind the decisions you make when you're lonely, heartbroken, or just regular-old broken. It's about how all of that interacts with the city that you're living in.

So, it was hard to dance. But for the guy next to me, who made me feel like I should be holding a proud beer up to Dawes' good lyrics, it was a raucous occasion. Am I still a fan / good concert-goer if I stood there with my arms crossed? I felt the bend of the strings during "When You Call My Name"; teared up during "That Western Skyline"; swayed, head down, to "Love is All I Am." I'm not being rhetorical--I'm actually asking: is there a right way to hear music live?

Because to me, Dawes is a band you experience internally. Even their new songs, which, god help me, were so full of folk beauty I wanted to hug the lead singer Taylor Goldsmith, were rich with hurt. Obviously, there isn't a handbook. But it's important to find a band that can turn the bass down, and place you inside your head.

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