July 11, Hopscotch Music Festival released its entire schedule featuring over 15 venues and 175 bands in downtown Raleigh. In light of the announcement, Adam Kincaid, host of the Local Beat, and Michael Jones sat down to discuss the schedule, band conflicts, festival expectations, and their general excitement at what the festival has to offer this year. To view the entire lineup check out it out here.
Lower Dens have had a good year. With the release of “Nootropics” in early May and overwhelmingly positive reviews afterwards, they have had one of the greatest stretches in their still young career. On top of this recent success recording, I took the trip to see how it would translate live at Kings during their show on Thursday June 21.
The evening kicked off with a non-musical act, something not expected and pretty entertaining. Alan Resnick took the stage as a man who has created the perfect digital copy of himself. His set continued as the comfortably awkward, passive-aggressive comedian interacted with his computer generated likeness albeit somewhat unsuccessfully, all as a part of the joke. It was a new and pleasing experience, as his set was fast enough to keep things moving and different and entertaining enough to keep the experience fresh.
Next it was time for No Joy to shine, a band I had only the minimal amount of experience with before. Their mid-tempo rock could range everywhere from slower hazy surfer rock to faster paced, mid-tempo Yuck-esque drone. If anything, their show demonstrated the growing sense of potential that the band has moving forward, something altogether exciting to look forward to.
However, the highlight of the night was clearly to be expected in Lower Dens’ performance. It was a fairly even mixture of tracks from their new album “Nootropics” and “Twin-Hand Movements.” The sound, which was once again excellent in Kings, proved to be one of the key factors in the success of the show. Their tracks came across as clearly as the record would have intended, and their precision was so spot on that you could tell there was a real sense of chemistry between each of the members. There was a consistently dreamy atmosphere surrounding Kings, as constantly changing patterns reflected on the band and the back of the stage complimented the beautiful shoe-gaze tracks that Lower Dens played. For a show that was not particularly long, it felt as if the show had been going on for days. However, this was the kind of show where you would not mind. One beautiful track after another accumulated for a hypnotizing performance and an amazing night for music in downtown Raleigh.
While performing an incomplete version of what would become “Eyeoneye,” Andrew Bird remarked to the TED audience, “Songwriters can sort of get away with murder. You can throw out crazy theories and not have to back it up with data or graphs or research.” Although Bird only occasionally touches in the theories of the absurd, he would not need an alibi to get away with his sixth studio album Break it Yourself.
In the TED speech and in music as well Bird has become a master of addressing his audience. Much of the power within Break it Yourself is based on how he speaks to the listener, and the message that he delivers is made all the more significant because he knows how to take the listener wherever he would like.
What makes Break it Yourself so powerful is the strength in making music that feels personal. This is not simply an interaction between the musician and some far off idea or some other individual; throughout the album, you feel as if you are the agent around which his songs revolve. Through making an album that feels to its very core personal, Bird can make the most relatable of human emotions more significant and engaging for the listener.
The agent of the nostalgia that Bird will reflect on in songs like “Danse Caribe” exemplifies how he can turn the metaphorical camera on the audience away from him. When singing, “You were a shameless child…” he clearly focuses on the listener as the agent, not himself. In doing this early in the album there is always this feeling of intimacy in the songs. Although he does not intend to tell the story of the listener, it is hard to come away from the song without having recalled your own childhood.
This is accompanied by the fact that Bird has become an expert at the craft of conveying emotion through instrumentals. Controlling tones, pace, and precise layers of construction, Bird is able to guide the song exactly where he always intended. This on top of his prowess as a personal yet fictional storyteller makes the message of the songs take on more meaning.
It is the realm of relationships where this craft of making songs feel personal and sincere shines the brightest. In “Eyeoneye” Bird says that when we try to get back to the realm of fixation on oneself we become the agents of our own destruction. And although this does seem a bit hokey in many respects, Bird makes it feel natural. He takes the listener through this journey that describes “you” as someone who has become intensely fixated on attempting to fix “yourself” that it took “you” way too long to eventually recognize that “you” need help. It is the most personal of relationships: the relationship we have with ourselves.
Bird moves this focus onto the relationships people have with one another, onto the “you and I” aspect. This makes you feel as if you are the agent in the song with Bird and reemphasizes the personal nature of the entire album.
In “Lazy Projector” Bird shows how this feeling can be grounded in the reality of relationships, particularly their sometimes-ugly aftermath. The theme of the song revolving around how we become the editors of our own stories, especially in hindsight of what happened. As a coping mechanism we skew the sense of what actually happened with our own story, and in frustration Bird sings, “I can’t see the sense in us breaking up at all.”
“Sifters” provides one of the most powerful moments in the entire album when Bird takes this personal interaction between two individuals and speculates, “What if?” Bird sings, “What if we hadn’t been born at the same time? Would you tell me all the stories from when you were young and in your prime?” This scratches the surface of what becomes a beautiful and touching moment in the record and certainly not one to be forgotten.
The album finishes with that feeling left over. This is simply not an album that will be forgotten. Its personal and relatable nature, masterful instruments, paces, and imagery makes Break it Yourself one of the best albums of the year.
Although the full lineup has yet to be revealed, the fine folks at Hopscotch Music Festival have announced two artists that will play in September. Danny Brown, coming off of the successful release of his 2011 album XXX was announced to play the festival March 29.
Two days earlier Sunn O))) were put on the bill. This will mark the first show for the doom metal rockers in North America since 2010. They will play Saturday, Sept. 8, in the Memorial Auditorium, showing how one of the festival’s latest venues will be put to work.
The full lineup will be announced April 18.
The excellent new album from Bowerbirds which is out March 6 via Dead Oceans now has a video to accompany one of the standout tracks, “Tuck the Darkness In.” The video for the track from The Clearing features an inquisitive child’s journey with fish. Although that sounds silly, the video might have you in tears by the end.
Joy Division‘s Unknown Pleasures has one of the most iconic album covers of all time, and throughout the years individuals of all merchandising types have been able to capitalize on Peter Saville’s design. However, with the release of the new Mickey Mouse shirt that takes inspiration from the iconic album cover, one can’t help but ask, “Why?”
Firstly, it’s easy to see why this is such a great idea. Working on the pure novelty of it, music nerds of all shapes and sizes might be brought into the idea of having the altered album cover on their chest. It’s subtle enough to show Mickey’s legendary profile yet still have the essence of that original cover. Combine the love of Joy Division with Mickey Mouse and it’s easy to see why one could fall for this in a heartbeat.
Indeed it might be the sheer impulse buy that Disney is seeking, however, from looking at such a limited market, production could be seen as incredibly confusing. The market necessary for Disney to see this as a worthwhile investment is incredibly limited. Your average Joe won’t be shelling out the money for such a silly purchase. This is also going on the assumption that people who like Joy Division are Disney shoppers or would be willing to pay for some Disney-based product. Personally I couldn’t see the two matching up in perfect harmony. That’s not to say it won’t work, but the odds that this thing is successful seems incredibly low. Like most things, it will be the dollar vote of the consumer that decides the ultimate failure or success of this perplexing item.
It hasn’t taken too long for the boys from England to start working on their next album. The follow-up to last year’s Pala has already begun, and the trio is looking for inspiration in different places.
Friendly Fires is channeling the atmosphere of Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining for their next album. In a recent interview with 6Music, guitarist Edd Gibson stated, “I think we are trying to force on an element of the film The Shining, or the book The Shining, as a cultured gentleman who reads and doesn’t just watch films… We’re trying to alienate ourselves into a world of music alone and see what we come up with.”
The group is changing their location to Sweden, where a log cabin will provide a setting all too familiar among the musicians. Although their time will be short-lived, as their stay will be under two weeks, the group is trying to make the most of their time in their frozen living quarters.
What could this all possibly mean for the group? They won’t be trying to pull off any Bon Iver tricks any time soon, and any attempts to do so will be interesting. Despite the implication of channeling The Shining I highly doubt their next release would be able to pull off a longer, slow-paced sound. Hopefully, the next album won’t leave us wanting to murder our families. Additionally, listening to it won’t be able to make us communicate with each other telepathically (unfortunately). If the band can develop the telepathy The Shining gives its name to, the band will be able to craft an album more refreshing than Pala and if lucky, one better than their debut as well.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, Arcade Fire has set out to help raise money for Kanpe, an organization helping to rebuild Haiti. The band has promised to match donations up to $300,000. Along with helping raise money for Haiti, band members Régine Chassagne and Win Butler have stated that they will send a personally signed postcard to each individual that donates.
On their website lead singer Butler wrote:
This is Win from Arcade Fire. If you are having a hard time deciding what to get your friends and family for gifts this year, give them our money! For any donation you make to Kanpe this holiday season, the band will match it. We will also send a nifty little post card, signed by Regine and I, to put under the tree, or wherever you put your gifts (it’s not our business). For any silicone valley jerks who might try to bankrupt us, let’s put the upper limit at 300,000$… Have a great holiday!
For those interested in donating you can visit Arcade Fire’s website here.
This year’s Grammy Award nominations have been announced, and among those in the independent circle, Bon Iver came away with four nominations: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Alternative Music Album. His song “Holocene” receives the nod for both record and song of the year.
A handful of nominations for other independent artists were also included in the list of Grammy candidates. Alongside Bon Iver, The Decemberists picked up nominations for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for their track “Down By the Water.” Wilco’s album The Whole Love was nominated for Best Rock Album.
To view the full list of nominees you can check out the entire shortlist here.
Sleigh Bells are scarce on details these days about the follow-up to their excellent 2010 album Treats. However, they recently announced that their new album will be titled Reign of Terror.
Although the date is not set in stone for the release of their sophomore album, they do have a trailer for it. You can watch it below.