Friday, April 29, 2011

James Murphy: Greenberg Soundtrack

If you're anything like us, the weeks following LCD Soundsystem's final shows have left you a tad bereft about the band's demise. In search of solutions, we stumbled upon last year's Greenberg soundtrack, which not only features a new LCD track, but original music by James Murphy.

"Original music" more often than not indicates instrumental work (see: Britt Daniel's work on Stranger Than Fiction), but Murphy's tracks almost all feature vocals, and have a nice unified feel. Murphy has noted that the tracks sound "nothing like LCD", but we'd have to disagree. While much of the electronica and carefully crafted beats are absent, it's impossible for Murphy to remove his fingerprints from the project.

His plaintive vocals are so distinctive, that hearing them anywhere immediately gives the music a certain flavor and direction. What's more, Murphy's love of asynchronous beats is evident throughout, and his penchant for droning piano riffs makes an appearance more than once on the tracks. Granted, much of the instrumentation is more organic and acoustic, but the writing is unquestionably Murphy's.

While the Greenberg soundtrack isn't a new LCD record, it's certainly worth your while. Not only does it give fresh perspective on James Murphy's songwriting, but it also lends new perspective on all the individual elements that he manages to combine in his architecting of LCD's distinctive sound. Long story short: if you're in LCD withdrawal, we may have found you some methadone.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jason Forrest - "Raunchy"

Jason Forrest had fallen off of our radar over the past couple of years. Not for any particular reason, but fallen off nonetheless. Maybe it's the fact that we had never caught his live set, or maybe it's just that we had felt a bit weighed down by the DJ/dance scene. Regardless of the reason, our interest was peaked when we heard Forrest had a new record entitled The Everything on the way, and that there was a track out there to be had.

"Raunchy" clocks in at about 4 minutes, and every moment of it is fantastic. In his trademark style, Forrest has juxtaposed samples with killer beats and woven it all together to yield a mix that is at once chaotic and straight ahead, with an even dose of edginess and pop sensibility. With hints of 50's surf music, and visceral keyboards and guitars ricocheting through the track, "Raunchy" is enough to get us to give Forrest's latest a good solid listen.

The Everything is available now.

mp3: Jason Forrest - Raunchy

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Music: Inzinzac

On Thursday night, we naively plodded our way into Kenny's Castaways expecting to stumble over a karaoke night gone wrong, or some open-mic level local band. Instead, we encountered a killer set from Philadelphia's Inzinzac.

The band, whose self-titled debut is due next month, are a trio that could carelessly be described as "jazz". However, that term is far too loose to describe what the guitar/sax/drum combo delivers, and as such, is insufficient.

Part indie rock, part avant garde jazz, and part experimental mayhem, Inzinzac deliver a performance that is not only challenging, but richly entertaining as well. Composer Alban Bailly tore up the guitar royally, while the killer work of saxophonist Dan Scofield left us unsurprised that he had worked with such heavyweights as RJD2 and The Dirty Projectors. Drummer Eli Litwin skillfully held the whole thing together, managing to keep the chaos reigned in to the perfect level.

In short, we loved the show, and we've tried to capture a bit of it for you below, with a video of the track "Otis". We've also hooked up an mp3 of the studio version for you to enjoy. Hopefully it's enough of a taste to get you to snag the full length when it drops next month. Trust us: it's stellar.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sharon Van Etten and Megafaun Played Music Hall Of Williamsburg - Pictures, Review

It was a soggy night of April showers – not to mention Tax Day – last Saturday, but we were excited enough to climb out of bed, pull on the rain boots, and slog over to Music Hall of Williamsburg to check out Sharon Van Etten. We first heard Sharon’s haunting backup vocals on The National’s latest song “Think You Can Wait,” which they wrote for the movie WIN WIN. Our reaction was: “Who the hell is that!?!” So we had to check out this show and find out more.

First up, though, was Megafaun and we were lucky to arrive early enough to catch their whole set. These three North Carolinians (two brothers and a high school best friend) are former band mates of Justin Vernon and they share some of Bon Iver’s folksiness. But what makes Megafaun stand out is their energy and sense of humor. These guys simply know how to have fun on stage. When drummer Joe Westerlund – looking like a Tolkien character after a week at Burning Man – took over lead vocals for a song, he delivered a theatrical performance that almost channeled Freddie Mercury. It was surprising and pretty hilarious – and the crowd ate it up.

Megafaun’s admiration for Sharon Van Etten seemed more heartfelt than most opening bands, and by the time she came on stage and opened with two solo acoustic songs, we could see why. She has a no frills performance style. She lets her voice do all the work. But she’s the type of singer that causes everyone in the room to freeze in their tracks and hang on every single word. Her backup band eventually filled out her sound, but the crowd remained motionless and pretty much in awe throughout the show.

Things seemed to build up to the final song in the set, which happens to be our favorite. When Sharon walked over to the harmonium and squeezed out the first notes of “Love More” from her second album “Epic,” we knew it had become a special night. This slow-burning, sad, and ultimately soaring track showcases Sharon’s talents better than any other so far. We have a feeling “Love More” is just the beginning. Sharon Van Etten is clearly someone to watch out for in the future. We walked out into the rain with that great feeling only music can give you when it moves you.

Pictures and Text by Chris Goldberg
More pictures in the HAD Archive

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Foo Fighters - "Best Of You"

Yeah, we know this track is close to five years old, and that the Foos have a newer, shinier album on the market. That doesn't change the fact that we saw this awesome video of the band playing a garage at a fan's house, and they opened with this killer song.

We'll be honest: sometimes Foo Fighters can be a little anthemic for us, so we're not always right on top of their output. That being said, they've also put out some fucking awesome songs over the past 15 years, and that's nothing to ignore.

Case in point, "Best Of You" features about 3 chords and a chorus that pummels you over and over, and we mean that in the best way possible. Culled from their record In Your Honor, it is part balls to the wall rocker, part love song, and part anthem. In other words, totally fucking great.

We've been listening to it for the past two days on repeat. Maybe you've already heard it, maybe you haven't. Either way, time to hit play.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Supergrass: Road To Rouen

Every now and again, a record comes along that defies the catalog of its creator. It presents a new sound, or an old sound in a new light. Most importantly, it takes that artist to a new level, because it exposes depth in their work that had previously been absent or unknown. When we were driving from Dallas to New Orleans with an old friend, Road To Rouen was dropped in the CD player, and that's exactly what happened. The record takes the rock and roll prowess of Supergrass, and veils it a completely new feel for the band. Loaded with orchestration, acoustic guitars, and subtle production choices, the record truly opened our eyes to another side of the British three-piece.

From the opening salvos of the record, it's clear that the band is on a new track: "Tales Of Endurance (Parts 4,5 & 6) opens with a loan acoustic guitar, and builds around waves of orchestration. It's only at the three and a half minute mark that the band finally kicks into their experienced rock groove. When they finally do, it's built upon a much stronger sonic foundation that leads to an unexpected complexity. In other words: awesome.

From there, the band falls into an easy groove, with tracks that focus more on a restrained groove than on balls-to-the wall rock. "St. Petersberg" and "Sad Girl" are both keyboard driven sonic candy, and they lead easily into the record's next true rock and roll moment with "Roxy". Even at it's most rocking, the track still rests more upon orchestration and space than it does on edgy guitars.

The second half of the record opens with the campy "Coffee In The Pot", sounding like it could have easily drifted out of 1950's LA, and definitely in a good way. Ironically, the record's title track is perhaps its most rocking moment, with riffs that recall Zeppelin, and a vibe that is as straight ahead as can be. Fittingly, the next track is titled "Kick In The Teeth", and continues "Rouen"'s rocking vibe with a lead guitar line reminiscent of The Beatles' "Day Tripper" and a bridge with vocal harmonies to match.

From there the record reenters its world of self-restraint, and "Low C" and "Fin" wrap things up by returning to the album's centering sonic subtleties. It takes a great deal of talent to slow things down and still keep them interesting. Moreover, leaving behind a tried and true sonic formula is not always an effort that pays off in full. Thankfully, on Road To Rouen, it does so and then some. Supergrass manage to leave behind their aping of early 70's glam, and instead use that (along with some 60's underpinnings) as fuel for a creative fire that is clearly their own.

For many Supergrass fans, Road To Rouen was a bit of a departure, and not necessarily welcome one. The band would return to form with Diamond Hoo Ha, and later break up, never to venture into the sonic realms of Rouen again. To our ears, that's an unfortunate misstep. The record has become a regular on our playlist, and if we had a follow up, we're pretty sure it might get just as much attention. For now, we'll have to be happy with what we've got, and sit down for another listen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Record Store Day: Hippies Are Dead Roundup

What's that? You're just as stoked as we are that tomorrow's Record Store Day!?!? Glad to hear it! As you may know, this lovely blog has spun itself off into a record label, and as such, we're heavily involved in tomorrow's festivities.

To start things off the latest from The Heavenly States, Oui Camera Oui, will be available in advance of it's release date. The record will be available exclusively in its vinyl format on Saturday, with digital and CD dropping on the regular release date this coming Tuesday. The record features a guest appearance from Eugene Mirman, as well as guest vocals from Spoon's Britt Daniel on "Berlin Wall".

Next up is a record store day exclusive, created with our distributor, Burnside Distribution. They've pulled together an awesome compilation of Burnside artists, and we're happy to say HAD Records is well represented. Not only does the compilation feature the only physical release from Grand Lake's latest Leaves Ellipse with "Christmas, California", but it also features an exclusive outtake from the Oui Camera Oui sessions with Ted singing the vocals on "Berlin Wall". The compilation is available for free at West Coast retailers, when purchased with a Burnside release.

Finally, what would Record Store day be without some awesome performances? HAD Records' bands are representing, with both playing dates in California. Grand Lake will be playing an in-store at Boo Boo Records in San Luis Obispo, while The Heavenly States will be playing an evening show at Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco. Tickets to The States' gig can be purchased here. Alternatively, coupons will be handed out with Oui Camera Oui purchases at Amoeba Records: the first 100 coupon holders at the gig get in for free!

So there you have it: Record Store Day is serious business, and we here at Hippies Are Dead are more than happy to deliver! Happy shopping!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sondre Lerche Played Daytrotter

Sondre Lerche at Mercury Lounge, from the HAD Archive

It's no secret that we love Sondre Lerche around these parts. Moreover, the Norwegian-turned-New-Yorker is more than able to hold his own when performing solo. That's exactly how he turned up in Daytrotter's studio, armed with a guitar and a few pedals, and ready to deliver a killer performance. Hopefully the sessions will be enough to tide you over until Lerche's self titled record drops on May 30th. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Archers Of Loaf Playing New York In June

Well, this is awesome: it looks like January's impromptu reunion was more than a one-off for the Archers Of Loaf. Word has just come over the wire that the band will play two New York shows in June.

On June 25th and 26th , the band will play the Music Hall of Williamsburg and Webster Hall, respectively. While this doesn't have the media hype of, say, last year's Pavement reunion, we have to say, we're just as psyched. While Eric Bachmann's solo work is totally killer, we are definitely down to hear AOL rock out. See you there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Handsome Furs Preview New Record On Eve Of Tour

We already mentioned that Handsome Furs had a new record and tour on tap for the spring, and the shows kick off tomorrow night. If you happen to be wondering what the band will have in store for you, look no further: the track "What About Us" (below) has been released as the lead single from Sound Kapital, which is set to be released June 28th on Sub Pop. The tune is pretty standard Furs material, which is to say: slightly synthy, some nice drum machine action, and some bold rock and roll vibe. In short, right up our alley.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Features Mount Spring Tour

We've long been admirers of The Features: their throwback sound is energetic, raucus, and everything we love about rock and roll. Given that, we were psyched to see that the band has decided to mount a spring tour, and find their way up the east coast from Tennessee. In addition to a May 2nd date at Brooklyn Bowl mentioned on their website, the band will also be playing at May 9th gig at Mercury Lounge. These guys can seriously deliver in a live room, and in a nice small space like Mercury Lounge, well, let's just say it's worth your while.

Phoenix - New and Old

Phoenix @ Rumsey Playfield in 2009, from the HAD Archive

This week we've stumbled into some treats from Phoenix, and being that we're patently obsessed, we figured we'd share. The first tidbit appears on the band's website: they're in the studio recording, and apparently decided to offer up a (semi) live feed of what's going on. On the front page of the band's web site, a security cam graphic appears to be updating, at least semi regularly. Regardless, we're more that a little excited that they're back at work!

In the meantime, we managed to snag two other sonic treats to tide us over until the new stuff arrives. The first is an apparently little-known track that was released as a single in 1999. Entitled "Heatwave", it's absent of vocals, and makes some definite aural nods to Daft Punk. That being said, all sources on line attribute it to Phoenix, so we'll just have to call it an interesting history piece.

The second item is a "third part" to "Love Like A Sunset". Apparently officially offered up by the band to promote last fall's Madison Square Garden show, the track is a remix of the album track, and so perhaps a "part three" in name only. Nonetheless, Phoenix remixes tend to hold water pretty well, and this one is no different. Check them both out below!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Sea And Cake Drop New EP In May, Album On The Way

The Sea And Cake at Great American Music Hall, from the HAD Archive

Want to hear something so totally rad that it will make your night? The Sea And Cake have a new EP on the way! But wait! There's more! They're also in the studio working on another reocord! And they've released a free EP entitled "Up On The Northshore"! Yes. We agree, very, very good news.

The Moonlight Butterfly drops on 5/10. The cover art and free track are below. Win!

Ryan Adams - Side 4

Given that Ryan Adams is one of the most prolific songwriters around, it can be difficult to pare down his catalog for the "best of the best". So, then, it's surprising that one of the very best tidbits of Adams' songwriting in existence is not only officially released, but almost perfect exactly as it was delivered: as a five track bonus EP of pure songwriting goodness.

Originally intended as the end quarter of Gold, and culled from the same sessions, Side 4 consists of five tracks. It was originally released as a bonus disc with the first pressing of Gold, and appears (as intended) as the fourth side of the album's vinyl incarnation. What's so fascinating about this record being the "redheaded stepchild" of the Gold sessions is that it might very well have been the key to winning over Gold's naysayers who longed for the "authenticity" of Heartbreaker.

Side 4 begins with Adams aping the Rolling Stones for all their worth, and he does a fine job of it. "Rosalie Come Go" is a simple three chord affair that tells the story of a drug addled protagonist and his girlfriend . What makes it truly magic are the ultra crunchy guitars and the swooning harmonica. It's short and sweet enough that at the conclusion you just want to hear it again.

"The Fools We Are As Men" follows soon thereafter, and couldn't take things in a more different direction. The track is a guitar and mandolin arrangement, and with its dark vocals and sonic simplicity it would have been right at home on Heartbreaker. More importantly, it offers a side of "Ryan Adams being Ryan Adams" that is largely absent elsewhere in the Gold sessions.

Next up, we find Adams embracing his country side perhaps more than any ever time since his Whiskeytown days. "Sweet Black Magic" is a straight up bluegrass jam, and manages to deliver on all fronts. Loaded with awesome vocal harmonies, a great nostalgic lyrics, and plunky banjo from Adams, it's as endearing as it is enjoyable.

If "sad bastard" Ryan Adams is your style, then "The Bar Is A Beautiful Place" will be more than your cup of tea. Taking cues from "Goodnight Hollywood Boulevard", but with bars being the muse instead of LA, the song is a lament of the lonely existence of a drunk. Unlike many of Adams piano ballads, however, the track never lands in self indulgence. It helps that it has a fantastic melody, a great key change, and some simple horns for backing.

The final track, "Cannonball Days", is just about as good as it gets. It manages to have the gusto of "Firecracker", the lament of "Come Pick Me Up", and one of the best damn melodies Adams has ever laid down. Moreover, it features a massive organ solo worthy of the best in rock and roll. It closes out Side 4 in top form.

While it's easy to throw up one's hands at the vastness of Ryan Adams' catalog, and lament the artist's own self indulgence, there are many facets to explore that are well worth your while. In our opinion, Side 4 is one of the best, and you need to dig it up and give a listen.

mp3: Ryan Adams - Cannonball Days

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Few Thoughts On David Bowie's Toy

A few weeks back, David Bowie's "lost" 2001 album Toy found its way to the internets. After an initial bout of excitement and hype, the critics seemed to fade in their fascination. The record was quickly deemed a throwaway, subpar, or even just mediocre. Maybe some of these things are true, but before one jumps to such conclusions, it's worth investigating where Toy came from, and what its context is in the larger context of Bowie's career. Here are a few of the points that made us here at HAD decide that the record should not be so quickly written off.

It's not a finished record.

This is the first, and perhaps most relevant point. No one knows where this leak of Toy came from, or how "done" it truly was. Sure, Bowie claimed at the time that the record was "done", but there's no telling how far along in the process these tapes are: have they been mixed? mastered? had final overdubs? Granted, they may give some insight as to the state of the final record, but there's no way of knowing just how this record might have sounded should it have seen the light of day.

It's a record by a touring band.

Much like Reality, which was recorded by the Heathen touring band, Toy is the product of living on the road. By all accounts, Toy was recorded by the band that toured with Bowie in 1999/2000 after the release of hours... Unlike many Bowie affairs, these songs were created by a band that was experienced not only in playing with Bowie, but interacting with him on a daily basis. Videos released at the time showed Bowie writing songs ("Afraid", in particular) with bandleader Mark Plati in a way that, while not crazy, certainly seemed to deviate from process Bowie had followed in the studio previously.

Who produced this record?

While we have no idea of the answer to this question, it is a worthy one. Almost all of Bowie's records are heavily influenced by their producers, even when that producer was Bowie himself. Who was leading the creative push here, and what does that mean for the record? It doesn't make up for the record's mainstream sound, but it might help to explain it. Moreover, if you took the important chunks of this record and put them in the hands of an able bodied producer, might you wind up with, oh, say, Heathen?

It marks his departure from Reeves Gabrels.

For the ~10 years prior to this record, Bowie had been heavily collaborating with avant garde guitarist Reeves Gabrels. Gabrels left halfway through recording hours..., but this is the first record where Bowie was truly free of Gabrels' input. It's worth considering that Bowie may have been somewhat adrift with the departure of his longtime collaborator. Moreover, it may explain why the record leans so heavily on Mike Garson and Gail Ann Dorsey, while Bowie contributes textural snippets of stylophone, piano and sax.

It marks Bowie's return to form.

Toy is loaded with Bowie tracks from the 60's. This had begun with his live band's playing of "Can't Help Thinking About Me" on the 1999 tour. While that track (live version below) isn't included on the record - a travesty if you ask us - it was the beginning of the project that would become Toy. By most accounts it was Mark Plati that started encouraging Bowie to embrace his former self. Although Plati would get the axe soon after Toy failed to go to market, the effect of this influence can't be minimized. After dipping his toe in the 60's, Bowie went whole hog and staged a comeback of massive proportions. Kicking off with shows at the Roseland and Glastonbury that were much lauded "greatest hits" sets, the change of direction then sent Bowie back into the studio and subsequently on two world tours that were his most solid in years.

It is the foundation for Heathen.

What emerged from the wreckage of Toy was arguably the best record of the second half of Bowie's career. Produced by Tony Visconti and with Bowie in top form, Heathen brought Bowie back to the world as an artist of note, and truly comfortable in his own skin. Not only does Toy feature a host of b-sides from Heathen, but it also features two tracks that would wind up on the record. However, the connection runs even deeper than that. Listening to Toy, the sonic palette for Heathen is already falling into place, with the return of true orchestration, Bowie testing his vocal bounds, and atmospheric textures being used sparingly, rather than as a focal point. The fact that Bowie felt comfortable embracing his roots on Heathen was undoubtedly related to the fact that he had tested them on Toy, and things had turned out just fine indeed.

And so.

Just to be clear: we're not saying that Toy is the best record Bowie ever recorded. However, to miss its context is to miss much of what the record has to offer. Getting to hear Toy is like getting a private view into Bowie's process, and seeing what carried him from the blandness of hours... into the amazingness of Heathen. You can dismiss it if you like, but for us Toy seeing the light of day has been very enlightening indeed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kurt Vile Drops Video Homage To Philly With "Jesus Fever"

We've been on a bit of a Kurt Vile kick lately, and it continues this morning: KV has just dropped the video for "Jesus Fever". It's a simple affair, with some locational nods to Philly, and a subtle dose of Vile's underlying psychedelica. All in all, worth a watch on this cloudy Monday afternoon.