Hey everyone, how’s it going? How did you like the first column? You did read the first column, right? The one where I explain what this whole she-bang is, right? If you didn’t, that’s cool. You can read up on it right here.
Just in case you didn’t click on the link, here’s the ground rules. I’m going to go over a handful of bands, artists, and DJ’s each week that will be performing at the Coachella music and arts festival, slated for April 30th and May 1st. I’m hoping to get every act reviewed before the show, so that gives me roughly 10 weeks. I’ll give a short (and biased) review of each act, give you the link to their official (and maybe a few unnofficial) websites, and maybe, if you’re lucky, throw a free mp3 your way, so you can judge the band on their music, which is how it should be. Sound good? Killer. Lets get to the next nine acts.
Oh, one thing before I jump in. Not only is www.coachella.com an amazing site on it’s own, but the official Forums are excellent places to find absolutely any piece of information you want on the festival. Check them out if you have a minute. Ok, On with the show.
COACHELLA A-Z, PART 2
Boom Bip recently released his newest album this month called Circle. According to his website, “the album is largely instrumental / voiceless music and contains no samples, only instrumentation recorded for the record”. I don’t know a terribly large amount about this guy, but I can tell you that the stuff he makes would make a good explanation of the word chill. Using light percussion, tuba, saxaphone, and xylaphone as the main intstruments in his sound give it a real after-hours feel. This is 4am music; less pounding, but still flowing. You can hear hip hop elements as well as contemporary jazz all over the place. There’s also little bits of rock and country.
If this sounds like Boom Bip might be a scattershot DJ, well, he sort of is. From a recent interview with Pitchfork, he says “I was just frustrated with structured hip-hop and how it always sounded the same. And I was thinking that if we touched on every genre that we could possibly think of, it would force us to make something different. Maybe a rap-based country song, or a rap-based classical song.”
As for his name, his biography says it pretty well. “This term was taken from the terminology of an early jazz vocalist for the sound of the drums. Ella, Joe, Duke and Miles had also used this term in describing the sound of the kick drum and the snare. These are the two drums essential in nearly every rock, jazz or hip-hop song.”
You can listen to two tracks from the album “Blue Eyed In The Red Room” at his Myspace account here.
You can download an mp3 of Boom Bip working with DJ Osiris here.
There’s a lot of press on Bright Eyes right now, and I imagine it would be difficult to escape the truncheon of articles, interviews, and press releases on this guy in the last year or so. You could say it began at last year’s Coachella. Last year, they were halfway down the bill. Soon after the show, they co-headlined a summer-wide tour of America along with REM and Bruce Springsteen in a not-so-subtle political escapade against the Republican party. Then, a month ago, they released their fifth and sixth albums simultaneously, both with incredibly different sounds. Coner Oberst, frontman and band leader, was on an epic rise to fame. He was on the cover of Magnet. He was on the cover of Exclaim. He wasn’t on the cover of Rolling Stone, but that could more than likely be because he doesn’t want to be. This big rise to fame? It’s not something he or his bandmates particularly want. They belong to the record label they created when they were all in high school. Coner doesn’t want to be played on the radio. He doesn’t want to be played on television. He wants to be completely independent of media influence or the scourge of MTV and media monster Clear Channel.
Least of all, he doesn’t want any of this hype. But he’s getting it from everywhere. That’s because he’s the next Bob Dylan. He’s one of the headliners this year. That should say something. He’s written and recorded over 250 songs as part of four bands and several side projects, and he’s only 24 years old. Okay, so he’s prophetic. Is Bright Eyes any good though? That’s always the deciding factor. You either like Bright Eyes or you don’t. I guess it’s the same with Bob Dylan, or REM, or Bruce Springsteen. You either like them or you don’t. You ever been curious about him? Here’s your chance to listen to almost an entire album’s worth of music.
Click on the official site. Choose “Bright Eyes” out of the list of (amazing) bands on the label. Click on ‘downloads’. There’s almost an hour’s worth of music there to sink your teeth into. It consists of one or two songs from each album, so you can not only see how he’s grown as an artist, you can also see your own bouyancy level with the work (some people really like his older stuff more than the newer for instance. Also, some people really like one of the new albums but not the other one. I’ll let you guess which one is which). And for those who have access to Itunes America, I highly suggest downloading “when the president talks to God”. I’ve only heard it live, but it’s pretty chilling.
I know for a fact I can’t give the sound of Bright Eyes justice, but for those of you who don’t want to download his stuff (for free! it’s free!) or can’t, here goes nothing. Coner’s voice is cracked and broken, nothing like anything on the radio. He sounds like every song is a challenge to get through. He has almost no range, but that’s fine. His songs are mostly about yearning, really, and the cracked voice becomes a positive because of the mood. His strength comes naturally through a desire to have strength. When he sings in Road To Joy “Nobody means to sleep in the Gutter/sometimes it’s just the most comfortable place” you know he means it, and that goes for every lyric in every song. It’s all so genuine and honest you can’t help but fall in love with him, or at least, his plight.
The sound itself fires back and forth from country, to hard rock, to symphonic baroque, to acoustic balladry. Sometimes there are background singers, sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes there are trumpets and violins, sometimes there aren’t. You never really see anything coming with Bright Eyes. He’s an enigma that works both on wax and live, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing him at Coachella probably more than any other act.
British Sea Power
I own a copy of “The Decline of British Sea Power” but have never seen this band live. Apparently, I’m missing a whole hell of a lot. Take this quip from Pitchfork; “Rock and roll has always offered its harbingers an array of delivery methods. Brighton’s British Sea Power consistently opt for prickly juxtapositions: they like their club stages littered with stuffed birds and bits of foliage, and their rock songs peppered with obtuse allusions and highbrow polemics. And the tension doesn’t end there: BSP might sport World War I military uniforms for their notoriously weird live sets, but The Decline of British Sea Power, the band’s proper full-length debut, is deliberately contemporary, a confident synthesis of punk, post-punk, and new-wave, the perfect fusion of contrived aesthetics (if you’re not convinced, check the band members’ curt, one-word names– Yan, Hamilton, Noble, Wood– or the fact that they periodically pipe in pre-recorded woodland sounds during their shows) and gut-borne energy. Much like countrymen Clinic, the onstage gimmicks aren’t intended to transcend the songs; rather, they comprise an equally compelling sideshow that seems, somehow, entirely appropriate to the music.”
Wow. If that’s not reason enough to check out British Sea Power, then there’s always the fact that they’re an excellent rock band as well. Though they do nothing out of the ordinary with their glam/punk chords, they do it extremely well and most songs are intensively catchy and sing-song that probably justifies the amount of effort they put into a live show. Sometimes, like on ‘remember me’, they get a little too-sing songy for me, and actually end up sounding a little bit like Kiss during the chorus. It only happens once during the entire album, but I thought I’d keep you properly warned.
Here’s the bad about Buck 65: his website takes way, way too long to load up. Maybe it’s my Canadian bias and love for all his inspirations, but I don’t really find any other faults in Buck 65. He, to me, is everything a proper musical artist should be. He’s jagged and puts you off center. At first, you’re not sure what to think of a white rapper from the Maritimes, and then he really throws you off by being an excellent lyricist. The second thing that does it is his voice. Truth be told, he sounds more like Tom Waits than anyone else. He’s not the fastest rapper, but that’s not his point. He’s telling actual stories about regular people (songs like The Centaur excluded) and tells them with extremely good clarity. With him, I feel like I actually know what the hell he’s talking about, unlike most folks in the hip-hop scene. His beats are totally oddball; sometimes they sound like trashcans, sometimes like broken pianos, sometimes like an out of tune guitar with two strings missing. The Beauty of Buck 65 is in the purposeful rough edges.
You can listen to streamed tracks from Buck 65 right here.
Check out the media section of the official site and check out the video of Cafe Tabuba playing at Coachella last year. The entire video consists of a single camera panning the crowd, who spends most of their time dancing to the awesome, awesome sounds that Cafe Tacuba offer. Also, check out the video for ‘Eres’, one of the best Latin songs I’ve ever heard.
I have to plead the fifth on Latin music; I really don’t know much about it. I know even less Spanish, which means I have no idea what Cafe Tacuba are singing about. Whatever it is though, I sort of dig it. I hear them played on WOXY all the time (www.woxy.com) so they’ve got at least some credibility as indie rockers, so points with that. All I can really tell you is that they do the latin music thing really well, and to check out the tunes on their website and see if you dig it too.
From the front page of their site – “Reunion Concert – Cocteau Twins have officially announced that they will be performing live for the first time since 1996–their first collaborative effort since disbanding in 1998–at the upcoming Coachella Music Festival”
Clearly, Coachella isn’t just a big deal for the fans. The band is just as excited to be playing again as anyone, it seems. Cocteau Twins in the same basket as Bauhaus – they used to a huge, and then they broke up and nobody except their dearest fans talked about them anymore.
They were together for about 15 years before they broke up, however, and had a fairly prolific career – 8 full albums, 10 EPs, and over a dozen singles. They also have a slew of rare stuff, which become less rare when they post free mp3’s of them right there in their media section.
Their sound is summed up in one of their premeire tracks “Song to the siren”. They sound very much like a siren, out there on the ocean, bellowing high pitches and long choruses. Their guitars sound more like harps and the drums sound like they’re hitting pads softened by water. They have a very ethereal feel, not pop at all, but at the same time keeping that definitive 80’s sound that could only come from a synthesizer.
This year, just like every year, Coachella boasts one of the best lineups of killer upstarts and solidified independent artists who have no intention of selling out to corporate radio. This year, slightly different than every other year however, there is a major, major band headlining the show. Yeah, The Pixies and the Flaming Lips were big acts last year, but they were big in the indie sense. They were big in the ‘respected’ sense. Coldplay is not respected in this sense. They are respected in the sense that they are one of the biggest bands in the world financially. They sell their records at Best Buy and Wal Mart and they sell them by the milliions. Why are they anywhere near the Coachella festival? From what I can tell, there are three reasons.
1) They have a new album due out next month, and want to kick off their (undoubtably) world wide tour with a big festival show, and they want to do it in America, where the majority of their records are sold.
2) Coldplay wanted a little of that oh-so lucrative ‘indie cred’, and thought that by playing a show stacked with indie-cred filled artists, a little of it would seep their way. This is purely speculative, and financially, Coldplay doesn’t need any sort of reputation. Their new record will sell a bazillion copies whether people respect them as artists or not. But maybe there’s a piece of Coldplay that wants to be respected as artists. Hell, maybe all they wanted to be was a kick ass indie band with all the cred in the world and no record deal. Who knows, but that’s where I would stand if I were them.
3) Coachella didn’t need a big mainstream headliner like Coldplay, but that’s not to say they wouldn’t mind the idea of selling out the desert this year by bringing them in. I know it doesn’t look like it from the message boards at Coachella’s site, but there are a hell of a lot of Coldplay fans out there, and they will come to see this show. They will also like what they hear by bands like Keane and Snow Patrol, because they all share that melodic British ballad sort of music that millions of folks love, and maybe they’ll buy those albums too. Hell, maybe they’ll like all the other forms of music while they’re there, and buy those CD’s. Maybe they’ll go home and tell all their friends about how much they know about music because they went to Coachella and saw all those bands. It’s a win/win situation. People who love Coldplay will come to the show who otherwise wouldn’t come, and people who hate Coldplay will listen to the Chemical Brothers over in the tent instead. I don’t think anyone with half a brain won’t go because Coldplay is going to be there. I’m also not saying that every Coldplay fan is someone from the mid-west who shops at Wal Mart. I’m just generalizing, which is something I have to do from time to time in order to get this column done on time.
You can stream some semi-rare acoustic and live Coldplay tracks right here.
Both Diplo and Boom Bip are on the cover of URB magazine this month, so that should give you a slight indication of where they’re coming from. The difference between the two as far as I can tell is in scope and grandeur. Where Boom Bip was more about creating a solid base to his songs and making sure that every piece fit together before growing the beat, Diplo sounds, to me, all about the crazy experimentation of where a cool idea might go. Like, for instance, taking Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, taking out the bass and replacing the vocals with someone with an octave three times higher than Ian Curtis. Or, how about taking “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and changing the guitar to sound like the soundtrack of “Days of Thunder”? Outside of some weird covers and samples, Diplo does do some awesome house and jazz stuff, and it’s all very danceable and feels like you already have at some point.
You can listen to a heck of a lot of Diplo’s tracks, ranging from hip hop to classic rock, right here.
DJ Peretz has no official website. That’s a shame, because there could be quite a bit to say about him. Better known as Perry Farrell, he’s been using the moniker DJ Peretz for quite a few years now, going back, I do believe, past his Porno for Pyros days. Former (are they still together after that last reunion? I don’t know) lead singer of Jane’s Addiction, I can only imagine his set lists as a DJ are enigmatic and as far reaching in the realms of music in general get. Oddly, I’ve only heard bad things about his spinning prowess, but I’m still curious to see how (or if) this ‘celebrity’ DJ can move a crowd.
And that’s it for this week. Hopefully you’re even more stoked for Coachella, and if not, hey, at least you’ve got a few more free MP3’s in your pocket, eh? Be sure to check out next week’s column, as I’ll be covering the music of DJ Marky, DJ Krush, The Doves, Donavon Frankenreiter, Eisley, Fantomas, Four Tet, Gang of Four, and Gram Rabbit.