Lolla in Brief: Day 3


(Above: The Chicago skyline from the centre of Grant Park).

Today was a day full of sonic jams. Most of which was harder rocking, but to start was the folky Mumford and Sons-esque Strumbellas. 

(Above: Strumbellas performing their final song on the Lake Shore stage).

Strumbellas drew a decent crowd considering their “early” time slot (12 p.m.). They’re simple happy summer music, which gives them their wide appeal. What stuck out the most to me was their grim lyrics that feature a definite optimism and hope for the future, friendly stage presence and some good strings.

And then came the act I’ve been waiting four years for, The Joy Formidable. And I must say, it was worth the wait. I was in the second row from the gate separating the stage from the crowd. This show was incredibly loud and despite just being three people, the band created a powerful fusion of bass, guitar and drum. There was so much energy in every member’s performance. You could tell they were losing themselves in the music.


(Above: Only two rows back from the three-person Joy Formidable, performing on the Bud Light stage).

Next was Lollapalooza’s own Perry Farrell in Jane’s Addiction. First of all, seeing the perpetually smiling creator of such a great fest taking control of the stage was an experience in itself. And this show will be something I remember for a long time. It was basically like listening to your closest friends jam out on their guitars in their garage while acrobats performed and fireworks went off in the background. And that is met as an extremely high compliment.


(Above: Perry playing with a speaker during Jane’s Addiction on the Samsung stage).

Closing the night was the one and only Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their set was primarily their hits, which I thought was perfect. It was a solid festival set and watching so many RHCP fans singing along and dancing to the songs made the entire day worth it. Their light show and screen display (a semicircle screen surrounded by four smaller circles that showed the same image) was also entertaining to watch. And of course Flea’s onstage antics (like doing handstands) got the crowd fired up.


(Above: Red Hot Chili Pepper’s screen display from the middle of the audience).

Thanks for reading! Time to get excited for the final day of Lollapalooza, friends.

As always, God bless.

-A.L.D.

Lolla in Brief: Day 2

Today was a day full of music discovery, so this post will mostly be focused on the bands I wasn’t expecting to find today. I’ll touch on a few I’d planned on seeing, too.

To start is the band Con Brio, a seven-strong lineup of extremely talented musicianship. Brass solos, guitar solos and vocal improvisation created a show full of funk, soul, blues and rock influences. I’d love to see these guys get a later time slot eventually. Their friendly stage persona and high energy will take them places.

Following these guys were the spacy surf-rock outfit Daywave, known most for their single “Drag.” These guys follow in that West Coast vein of Best Coast and Real Estate with a subtle New Order influence as well. In fact, they ended up covering “Ceremony” (one of my favourite NO tunes) in the set. I’d say this makes them slightly more mature than your basic “surf rock” band and elevates the group to the level of other NO-inspired acts like Beach Fossils.

St. Motel proved to be a real suprise for me. I’m not a fan of their big single “My Type,” but I was wrong to write them off based on that sound. It’s fun, accessible alt rock with a solid brass section and a talented keyboardist. And I must say the ceramic tiger attached to the keyboard was a great touch.

And speaking of fun alt rock, I’d go see The Struts in their own show in a heartbeat. It’s less of a concert and more of a performance with these guys, complete with a mini costume change and interactive singing/dancing with the crowd. A 45-minute Lolla slot just didn’t seem enough for the antics of the frontman (who, I’m pretty sure, is Freddie Mercury reincarnated).

Foals did live up to expectations, but played a few too many mellow songs for my liking. Their studio sound transferred well to the stage, but I would’ve liked them in a smaller indoor venue so I could appreciate each nuance. However, their ending with “Inhaler” and “What Went Down” back to back was brilliant.

Following this was Frightened Rabbit, who played almost every song I was hoping for (“The Oil Slick” would’ve been great). Every guy in the band looks like a middle-aged dad, but they know how to switch from an acoustic folk song about being nostalgic for the good old days to a blistering rock jam about holy rollers. A solid mix of slower songs, new songs and singalongs.

And I have to give a shoutout to Wolf Alice, who completely destroyed the Pepsi stage. This band isn’t afraid to be loud and their frontwoman stagediving into the audience while screaming the lyrics to the closing song proves as such. Guitar solos reminiscent of Sonic Youth and a driving beat made for an excellent show. And to the gentleman who was dancing with his small son on his shoulders the whole time, you win Dad of the Year.

Stay tuned for more fun tomorrow. Enjoy your Lolla and God bless.

-A.L.D.

Lolla in Brief: Day 1

What an excellent start to the weekend. Lolla on a Thusday was great: crowded, but not too crowded and we were able to get fairly close to the stage for each act.

I was pleasantly surprised by almost all acts I saw yesterday. To start the day was Autolux, a band I’ve never listened to prior to the show yesterday but who made quite the impression on me. The distortion on each instrument was absolutely insane. I can imagine this is a type of band whose studio sound translates well to the main stage, despite so much production. It was like a mixture of Sonic Youth and a heavy dose of My Bloody Valentine, with a few touches of Smashing Pumpkins in there. Additionally, the band’s stage presence was crazy chill for how loud they were.

Another gem was Bob Moses. I’ll be honest, I hated this group’s breakout single “Tearing Me Up,” so my expectations were low. This show, however, was 45 minutes of my expectations being completely shattered. Bob Moses is like the baby version of Hot Chip, with a fantastic blend of “real” instrumentation and synths and drum machines. I think they’re one of those bands who’s just better live. It was impossible to not dance to what these guys were cranking out. I was even singing along to “Tearing Me Up” by the end of the show. I just wish it’d been longer.

Then came some good clean fun with The Arkells, a Canadian alt rock band who had great stage presence. I’d missed a bit of their show, but upon arrival was instantly caught up in the fun. Some highlights of audience interaction featured the frontman dedicating a song to his newly engaged friends and having them come on stage to dance, a few impromptu Elton John covers from the keyboard player and call-and-response singing between the frontman and audience.

The big disappointment, at least for me, was unfortunately Bastille. I don’t doubt that the band sounded good and I really do enjoy moments of their first record (as well as their new single “Good Grief”). But their  soundsystem  was majorly glitchy and all I could hear from where I was in the crowd was the bass. The singer’s voice was completely drowned out and the instruments were muffled.

But, thankfully, Kurt Vile and the Violators delivered an hour of great jams. It wasn’t nearly as mellow as I thought, and Vile’s voice had that perfect laid back slacker vibe I’ve come to love. The studio sound from “Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze” and “b’live im goin down…” carried so well to the main stage. I especially liked the layered guitars and touches of saxophone. And of course I was amazed at how relaxed and at home Kurt and his band seemed on the stage. I may’ve even liked it a bit more than The War on Drugs last year, but that’s debatable.

Probably the most surprising of the bands yesterday was The Arcs, the side project of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. I consider myself a casual Black Keys fan, and I enjoyed a bit of what’s come off “Brothers,” “El Camino” and “Turn Blue” (while also thinking it does have a very similar, formulaic sound). I went to see The Arcs because a.) I’m not a 1975 fan and they were playing around the same time and b.) I had to pass on seeing The Black Keys in 2013 because of school. I was expecting a watered down Black Keys show but instead was blown away by all the blues influence in each song. I especially loved how the brass instrumentation and backup singers (who all played different instruments, too) complimented Auerbach’s guitar solos and gravelly voice. The band’s stage presence was a combination of both untouchably cool and wonderfully friendly. They seemed genuinely happy to be performing and their audience was going nuts. 

Thanks for reading! Hope you’re enjoying Lolla as much as I am. Stay tuned for more updates and God bless.

-A.L.D.

Last Post ’till Lolla

The 25th anniversary of bringing quality tunes to life is almost upon us, my friends. And in the midst of watching South Park and doing things I was too irresponsible to do earlier this week, like laundry and grocery shopping, I figured I’d better publish a quick post before leaving for Lolla.

I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon for Chicago, so I’ll be right in the city when the festivities kick off Thursday afternoon.

I’ll be posting pictures of my Lolla experience on Instagram if you’d like to follow along; my username is aldaviez7 (there’s a link to my account under my About page).

I hope everyone has safe travels and a wonderful time celebrating four days of great independent and alternative rock music! Can’t wait to be blogging about all the swell times that are to come this weekend.

And now, my friends, I am quite worn out from a long day of work. May you have sweet dreams and be well rested for a weekend of righteous tuneage. Get ready!

As always, thanks for reading, and God bless.

-A.L.D.

Track Review: Zipper Club’s “Going the Distance”

Let’s face it, a lot of today’s alt rock/alterna-pop wants to ride on the coattails of arena-filling acts like Bastille, The 1975, Imagine Dragons and Mumford and Sons. And why? Because it’s accessible. It appeals to the “younger generation.” Casual fans of contemporary alternative rock and pop rock can both find enjoyment in their music. It’s something they can play for their friends without being ridiculed for listening to “weird music.”

I’m not trying to mock these acts (and, for the record, I enjoy a good bit of what Bastille has done musically and I’ve seen Mumford and Sons live. It was incredible), but this just seems to be a big trend in the music world nowadays. Sometimes the results are alright, sometimes they’re actually pretty good, sometimes they’re such an obvious knockoff it’s painful, but sometimes it just creates a slew of tracks that are overwhelmingly “meh.”

Thankfully, this new single from Zipper Club borrows its cues from a bit further back in the music world than the modern-day chart toppers. And the result is quite satisfying.

Zipper Club’s “Going the Distance” world premiered a few weeks ago on the Alt Nation (channel 36 for Sirius XMU satellite radio subscribers) Advanced Placement playlist. It is a delightful homage to 80’s college rock, with a bouncy recurring synth hook and an upbeat chorus of layered harmonies reminiscent of Flesh for Lulu’s “I Go Crazy.”

I especially love the switch-off between Mason James and Lissy Trullie in the lead vocal, a style that reminds me of something The Human League would do during the early 80’s or, for a more modern comparison, an early 2000’s single from New Order.

The straightforward drumming (which, by the way, comes from TV on the Radio drummer Jahphet Landis) and chord structure of the song, while simple, give a feeling of growing anticipation for good things to come. This is a prominent theme on the track with lyrics like “The best part of growing old/Is knowing that your story is about to unfold.”

Lyrically, this is a fun little track about trying to carve out a name for yourself in the big wide world (much like Zipper Club themselves in today’s alt rock scene) with a few cute hints towards yearning for an emotional connection with someone just as driven as you.

Musically, it makes you want to jump to your feet, get out there and check that tough item off your to-do list. Get that promotion. Talk to that special someone you keep seeing around town with impeccable music taste. Ace that economics final (sorry, that’s the student in me). Go the distance.

Like the song’s hope for good things yet to come, I hope that Zipper Club is more than just a passing single in a forever-enlarging alt rock world. Looking forward to what this band creates in the future.

Be sure to check out the band’s profile on Soundcloud here and listen to the track on YouTube right yonder.

Thanks for reading, and as always, God bless.

-A.L.D.

 

Track Review: Dent May’s “Face Down In The Gutter Of Your Love”

Rejoice, friends! The endearingly nerdy and painfully honest Dent May is back with a single that sports a title only he could come up with, “Face Down In The Gutter Of Your Love.” And from the opening sunshiny piano chords, it is a simply delightful summer stroll down musical memory lane.

The track officially went live on Wednesday, July 20 and is currently streaming across the internet. I first heard it this past weekend after work when it world premiered on Sirius XMU’s (channel 35 on Sirius XM satellite radio) Download 15 playlist.

On the surface, Dent May’s new tune is a poppy track about unrequited love (a topic his lyrics are certainly no stranger to); a plea to that one special someone to stop hanging you out to dry by being oblivious to your advances.

What makes the track so compelling are the layers on layers of nostalgic musical elements, from the chord progressions, to the guitar flourishes over top of the piano, to the chorus which is so singsongy with its repetition of the song’s title.

Additionally, Dent May does a great job of borrowing elements of 60’s and 70’s pop rock tunes on this single, which is especially evident while he is hitting the high notes in a very Brian Wilson-esque way throughout the track (but especially on the chorus). He also features a great vocoder bit during the back of the track and some string touches that would fit fantastically on Electric Light Orchestra’s 1977 magnum opus “Out of the Blue.”

What I love so much about Dent May is how realistic his songs are. They make you see and feel things from the perspective of the lyricist, and the accompanying music always corresponds to said emotions. He’s not afraid to be honest and write songs that make real people realize that it’s ok to love, it’s ok to be lonely, it’s ok to be discontent and wish for something more in life.

I think that’s why I enjoy this song so much. It brings back that musical era I was born too late to witness, with it’s harmonized love songs and psychedelic pop tunes. It gives me a glimpse into the emotion those songs evoked in the young adults of their day. It is a window to the past that fits snugly into the independent rock of today, and even more excitingly, Dent May’s discography. I look forward to hearing what else he’s going to release on Carpark Records.

As always, thanks for reading. Here’s a link to the song!

God bless.

-A.L.D.

Original vs. Stripped Back: EL VY’s “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo).”

The time has come on this blog to ask the age-old question of “Which version is better?” And today, we’re comparing the original album cut of EL VY’s single “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)” to the Sirius XMU Sessions version.

EL VY is the side project of Matt Berninger of The National and Brett Knopf of Ramona Falls and Menomena. Their first studio album, titled “Return to the Moon,” came out on October 30, 2015. Towards the end of 2015, the two performed a stripped back version of leading single “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)” for Sirius XMU, channel 35 on Sirius XM satellite radio.

(DISCLAIMER-Because I am a pretty big National fan, this post will feature a good bit of reference to Matt Berninger’s vocal style. But, since you’re here and reading this post, I’m assuming you’ll be fine with that).

Now that we’re done with formalities, on to the FUN!

The main difference between these two versions is the instruments which lead them along.The original album version features a funky, looping guitar riff and a climbing bass line that gives the song a catchy groove. I recall Berninger saying something during the interview accompanying the Session along the lines of, “The first time I heard Brett play that guitar riff, I thought, ‘Wow, I want to hear that for the rest of my life.'”

The Sessions version, however, is much more delicate than driving. In this version, a few simple piano notes pluck out a tender, heartbreakingly soft riff that matches PERFECTLY with Berninger’s quiet, raspy vocals. The vocals, while sung softly, are placed front and centre in this version. As the notes rise and fall, the piano accompaniment grows in urgency as well.

The percussion is also absent from the Sessions version. In the original, the drums add all sorts of fun flourishes, keeping the beat straightforward and adding just the right amount of syncopation to compliment the guitar. On the Sessions version, the beat is completely reliant on the progressions of the piano.

This gives the song an even more somber, resigned quality: something as small and as basic as a few piano notes and chords mimicking a guitar is what’s holding this song together. Berninger’s voice quavers as if he doesn’t want to step too heavily on the ice crystals holding the threads of his lyrics together as he pleads, “Did you really think I could go on without you?/I’m not a genius/I imagine myself being cool in the backseat of your car.”

And speaking of vocals, the backing vocals in the original, while subtle, offer a good amount of depth to Berninger’s warble and begin to tie the chorus together as the song builds to its final lines. There’s also some nice touches of strings/keyboards that add to the song’s growing momentum. In the Sessions version, Berninger is singing this stuff alone. And, my English student heart likes to think this is symbolic of the feeling of the utter loneliness reflected in the lyrics (Especially in the chorus as Berninger begs, “Return to the moon/I’m dying/Return to the moon/Please.”)

His voice even breaks a bit (in both versions) on the “Please” part, and it gives the listener a sense that he is realistically pleading with the unnamed somebody this song is written to. This is especially noticeable he climbs higher in his vocal range with the ending request of “Don’t make me wait for you at the corner of Eden Park/Don’t make me wait for you at the Serpentine Wall.”

So is one really better than the other? Spoiler alert: I can’t quite say. Both versions have their time and place, both versions are thought-provoking without smacking you hard in the face like a Thom Yorke climate change anthem, both versions offer something different to the metaphoric and eccentric lyrics.

The original is playful, yet moving. It proves its point without getting too morose or making you want to burst into tears. The Sessions version, meanwhile, strips back that feeling of fun by simplifying the tune to a man and a piano. It’s painful, it’s basic, it’s beautiful.

To put it simply, the original is a song you can run to on crisp end-of-autumn days, you can listen to with the windows down while pondering where the one who got away actually went, a fun jam you can put on when not in the mood for the weight of The National’s “Don’t Swallow the Cap” or Ramona Falls’ “Russia.”

The Sessions version is better suited for quiet rides around your small hometown, gray skies as far as the eye can see, fragile snowflakes cloaking the back roads in a misty silver-white, as you watch another Christmas fade away and a new year dawning on your mental line of vision.

For your listening pleasure, I’ve linked the original here and the sessions version right yonder. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading and God bless.

-A.L.D.

Morning Routine Playlist

Hello hello my friends. This summer I’ve been doing quite a bit of walking each morning in my neighborhood. Partially for fitness, partially to do some brainstorming for a few writing projects, partially to ponder my life decisions and other fun things of that nature, but (and let’s be honest here) mostly to listen to music. Obviously.

And, of course, certain songs are working their way into my usual lineup more than they usually do. Which got me thinking about creating a playlist specifically devoted to my morning stroll and all the fun sights I see (which is usually just a few squirrels and some landscapers and my neighbor’s Yorkie but still, lots of fun sights).

My lineup can be pretty eclectic given what mood I’m in, or what songs have similar tonality to other ones, or wanting to have a good mix of “sad” sounding songs with “happy” sounding songs. Additionally, (as you’ll see by the inclusion of Alex Chilton by The Replacements in my list) while most of the music comes from the past 10-ish years, I don’t generally try to focus on a particular time period. I also don’t try to keep it all “indie” or “alt-rock.” But, I think this makes the playlist I’ve created a unique mix of tunes to start the day with.

So, here it is, my Morning Routine playlist…

  1. Two Weeks-Grizzly Bear
  2. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales-Car Seat Headrest
  3. Ophelia-The Lumineers
  4. Something to Believe In-Young the Giant
  5. The Oil Slick-Frightened Rabbit
  6. Just One of the Guys-Jenny Lewis
  7. Wednesday Night Melody-Bleached
  8. The Last Thing on My Mind-The Joy Formidable
  9. Put Your Money on Me-The Struts
  10. You Only Live Once-The Strokes
  11. Your Best American Girl-Mitski
  12. Bury It-Chvrches
  13. Alex Chilton-The Replacements
  14. All I Know-Washed Out
  15. Good Grief-Bastille

 

Thanks for reading. God bless.

-A.L.D.

19 for 19 Playlist

Yesterday, I turned 19 years old.

While driving around town, “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire came on and it got me thinking of the emotional significance that song, and the entire record, has held for me over the years.

I started to think…what are some other songs that hold significant places in my life? Which bands correlate to certain points in time, and how is it that they still remain some of my favourites to this day?

Well, I may not have an answer for that. But, I can try to compile a list of 19 songs that have shaped my 19 years thus far.

Keep in mind, the “playlist of my life” is far from complete and I doubt it ever will be. I’m sure there are some fantastic songs I’ve loved at some far-off point in time that I’m accidentally excluding from this particular list (if this was a “20 for 20” playlist, “Under the Pressure” by the War on Drugs would surely fill the extra spot. But I have plans for that song on a playlist in the future). This is just my attempt to give a sort of order to some of the most memorable tunes.

And so, without further ado…

The 19 for 19 Playlist:

  1. Zooropa-U2
  2. Velouria-Pixies
  3. The Crane Wife 3-The Decemberists
  4. Ways to Go-Grouplove
  5. The Heinrich Maneuver-Interpol
  6. Class Clown Spots a UFO-Guided by Voices
  7. Austere-The Joy Formidable
  8. Right Before my Eyes-Cage the Elephant
  9. No New Tale to Tell-Love and Rockets
  10. Mistaken for Strangers-The National
  11. Just Another Day-Oingo Boingo
  12. The Perfect Kiss-New Order (Note-Specifically the eight minute version on the “Substance” compilation)
  13. Bigmouth Strikes Again-The Smiths
  14. Hey Bulldog-The Beatles
  15. Icky Thump-White Stripes
  16. Morning Glory-Oasis
  17. Can’t Hardly Wait-The Replacements (Note-Specifically the demo version because that’s the one I listen to the most, though I also quite enjoy the version found on “Pleased to Meet Me”)
  18. Madness-Muse
  19. My Body is a Cage-Arcade Fire

 

God bless.

-A.L.D.