Most of the mail I got this week attacked my grammar. I will do my best to make sure that this week—and every week thereafter—is grammartastic.
Coachella is 5 days away. I began this column almost 2 months ago. That’s around 60 days worth of hype. For sticking with me through the largest published project I’ve ever written, thanks. I hope you’ve enjoyed this experience as much as I have. I hope you’ve learned something. I hope you have several new bands in your top 10’s. I hope you have a computer full of free, legal mp3s of these amazing artists. I hope to see you in the desert in 5 days.
If you’re new to this whole experience, feel free to peruse the archives.
Part 1 previewed Aesop Rock, Ambulance LTD, Amp Fiddler, Armin Van Burren, Autolux, Bauhaus, Beans, Black Star (Talib Kweli & Mos Def), and Bloc Party.
Part 2 previewed Boom Bip, Bright Eyes, British Sea Power, Buck 65, Cafe Tacuba, Cocteau Twins (who afterwards pulled out), Coldplay, Diplo, and DJ Peretz (Perry Farrell).
Part 3 previewed DJ Marky, DJ Krush, Doves, Donavon Frankenreiter, Eisley, Fantomas, Four Tet, Gang of Four, and Gang Rabbit.
Part 4 previewed Hernan Cattaneo, Immortal Technique, Jaime Cullum, Jean Grae, Jem, Josh Wink, Junkie XL, Kasabian, Katie Melua, and KEANE.
Part 5 was a special double edition, previewing K-OS, M83, Matmos, Matthew Dear, Mercury Rev, MIA, Miss Kitten, MF Doom, New Order, Nine Inch Nails, Prodigy, Radio 4, Razorlight, Rilo Kiley, Roni Size, Roots Manuva, and Sage Francis.
Part 6 previewed Sixtoo, Shout Out Louds, Sloan, Smokestacks, Goodbye Radar, Snow Patrol, Spoon, Stereophonics, Subtle, and Swayzak.
Part 7 previewed Tegan & Sara, Tiga, The Arcade Fire, The Bravery, The Blood Brothers, The Chemical Brothers, The Dresden Dolls, The Faint, and the Fiery Furnaces.
Part 8 previewed The Futureheads, THe Kills, The Perceptionists, The Raveonettes, The Secret Machines, The Sexy Magazines, Thrice, and Weezer.
Phew. That’s a lot of bands.
COACHELLA A-Z PART 9
Ah, Wilco. I have such a love/hate relationship with the man, you wouldn’t believe. I first heard Jeff Tweedy around 7 years ago. I’m not sure what song it was, but I hated it. It was sad. It was melodramatic. It had sweeping melodies and crooning vocals. Jeff sounded like he was in tremendous pain, but it wasn’t the kind of pain, say, Korn was in. Wilco was not angry in an obnoxious, faux-goth way, and therefore he was useless to me. This is when I would not have been able to write a music column all that well.
I listened to ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’, Wilco’s opus of 2001, two years following its release. I gave it a chance because everyone and their brother told me that Jeff Tweedy would save my life. The album, to me, was just not that great. Pitchforkmedia, those know-everything indie snobs, gave it a 10/10, something I’ve never seen before with them, but I didn’t see it. My opinion of him was getting better—I know longer thought it was simply drivel—but his stock was still pretty low on my scale.
His last album came out early last year, entitled ‘A Ghost is Born’. I read a SPIN article about how he came back from near death to make the album. A Documentary, ‘I am Trying To Break Your Heart’ was in the works, detailing all the hardships. Suddenly, Wilco had a context to me. He was still a swooning balladeer in terms of sad sack songs, but those sad sack songs had a real life tie-in that gave them all an extra dearth.
And then, I began thinking about all the sad sack stuff that I went through, and that my friends went through, and that my family went through. Immediately, Wilco stopped sucking and became something that might just, in time, save my life. It was extremely weird how it happened. It’s rare that a musical epiphany will happen so fast and so clear, but Wilco gave that to me.
Whenever I would argue how much Wilco just absolutely sucked (before said epiphany) they would tell me to see him live. They would say “Kyle, you are an idiot that should not leave the comfort of his sheepy little room if you think you can base the quality of Wilco on a few listens of his albums. You have to see him live. You will shut up about all this then.” This is what they would tell me, and now I get the chance to listen.
You can check out a select couple live performances here.
Wolf Eyes is on SubPop records, home of the Shins, Iron & Wine, The Elected, and The Postal Service. Given that list of bands, it would be perfectly rational to think that Wolf Eyes would be comprised of several short, thin guys from Wisconsin who owned nice guitars and played beautiful, tragic songs about love, nature, and science. This assumption could not be farther from the truth.
Wolf Eyes scare the crap out of me. Their music is scarier than any horror movie I have ever seen. Scarier than any nightmare.
Take the song ‘Stabbed in the face’, for example. The first 20 seconds or so sound like ripped cassette tape slowly skimmed over plastic wrap. Then, the singer starts up, sounding like he’s not only right behind you but holding something jagged, something evil. Then, this beat starts. It splits the tape thing and the singers’ sharp-yet-quiet screeching and gives it a pulse.
Here’s a quick paragraph from Pitchfork: “Songs like this might make some want to harm themselves, but can for others offer a quick syringe of adrenaline, or provoke a meditative look inward at a dark stratum of emotions, chief among them frustration, anger, and an overwhelming sense of imminent peril. In fact, much of Burned Mind sounds as if it were scored for a late-21st century update of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the villain is actually an indefatigable android gone haywire.”
You can download this track here.
Hip Hop. Some of it’s awesome. Some of it makes you want to take that boombox and feed it to the ligers. Zion L fits somewhere in between, sometimes inching toward ‘awesome’ but never fully losing the typical and formulaic rut that mainstream hip hop is stuck in right now.
I know it’s unfair to say that simply because Zion I takes the same formula for hip hop as just about everyone else on BET that they are less entertaining solely based on that fact, but it’s true. I feel like I’ve seen this act thirty times this year alone, and I’m getting sick of it. Guys like K-Os and Buck 65 (both at Coachella this year) show that hip hop can be more than grandstanding, showboating and telling people to ‘keep it real’ while spinning diamonds, so it’s not a lack of options. Hip hop CAN be fun, and it CAN be unique and entertaining and meaningful. However, when Zion I talks about those ‘sucka MC’s’ I feel like I’m trapped in a continuous cycle of bad stereotypes and derivitive waste.
You can stream half-versions of their songs, as well as their videos, directly off the main website.
Coachella is not only a concert where, for 24 hours, a bunch of bands will play music. It can be a spiritual experience. Not only will the 100+ degree sun scorch your senses, but the masses of ecstatic concert goes create such an aura of amazing creative energy that you can’t help but feel higher. Zap Mama’s MO is to make each concert feel like this, as if you’ve been through a change in perception to see the world in a more harmonious fashion. She is a student of polyphonic music, which means ‘many sounds’, and you can tell that in her songs there are dozens of ideas flowing through the many voices. To hear her describe her technique is comforting and illuminating. I hope that I run into her during the weekend. I’d love to have a drink with this woman.
The music itself is very chill, but also quite busy. The African influences are apparent in each second, but as well you can hear an artist that is well traveled. She truly sounds wise.
It’s cheesy, but in my mind she’s sort of an African verson of Marie Desall from High Fidelity. She’s calm, cool, and impossible not to fall in love with her voice.
I found this awesome 10 minute radio clip of her talking about her music while clips flow in and out. I wish every artist had one of these. You can listen to it here.
And that’s the entire original lineup. However, since I began this project, several more artists have been added to the lineup. These bands are:
Gratitude exemplify the term ‘filler’. The songs aren’t insulting in any fathomable way. In fact, they’re sort of nice in a safe, ‘Default’ sort of way. But at the same time there is absolutely nothing memorable about them. The lead singers’ tinge of an Irish accent is kind of cute, but they’re just another wailing rock band completely suited for todays mainstream rock radio. I’m not really sure what they’re doing at this show. Just about every band has something unique to offer (even the bands that I’ve ripped have something to them…even the Bravery, who are at least a copy of a copy of a copy in an energetic way).
I guess my indifference toward them has more to do with the fact that they’re playing at the same show as the rest of the lineup. If they were playing, say, edgefest in Toronto, I’d be at least half interested. Or even on their own, at some small, $5 venue, I might be impressed. But I’m sorry, I can’t be impressed by these guys when I get to see Weezer, Bloc Party, Raveonettes, Doves, and the Sexy Magazines on the same day. Call it ‘suck by association.’
If it so happens that I feel the need to float on air, or fly above the clouds, or if I suddenly need to feel like everything in the world is going to be okay, I know that Midlake will be there for me. There are bands that are angry, and there are bands that are at peace. Guys like Wilco sound like they will never quite be at peace. Guys like Midlake sound like they went out to define the term. It sounds like their main instruments are snare drum, horn, and the soft pedal of balloons landing on piano keys. You can sing along to the lyrics because it makes you feel good. You can like Midlake because they will put you in a better place.
And since they’re such nice guys, they’ll let you download seven of their tracks right on the website.
Nic Armstrong & the Thieves
Nic is on the same record label as Ben Lee, and they sort of have the same thing going – infectious power pop that never seems to leave the back of your head. But while Ben Lee seems happy singing sweetly and timidly, Nic Armstrong takes the more dance-rock route, cranking up the hooks to 11 and making even basic chords and scales sound new. Some songs have that alt-country beginnings, and sometimes he sings like he’s the smilingest fellow at the local fair, but other times, like on ‘If We can’t escape, my pretty’ he sounds like a wide-awake Brian Eno and cranking out the reverb like the MC5.
You can download 2 tracks free from his unnoficial website.
Everyone has their unwritten rules as to what they like to hear when they confront a new band. Mine are threefold: 1) They can’t take themselves too seriously. 2) There has to be a level of melody and understanding of the lyrics, even if the understanding is that the lyrics are meant to be just another instrument (for a band such as Sigur Ros, for example). 3) The music has to make me want to do something in life where it can be used as a proper soundtrack, whether that be cleaning or dancing or making love or walking the dog or being a hero. If I own a CD by an artist, then they fulfill all these criteria. It’s not difficult. Pinback is certainly in there.
I’m still figuring out their new album, Summer in Abaddon, because I feel like there’s something in there to figure out. That doesn’t happen with most albums. Just casually listening to a few tracks make you want to sit down and figure out just what exactly is going on. In a way I’m worried for the live show. The thing that Pinback makes me want to do specifically is analyze, and that trait doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a field of 200,000 crazed concert goers. I’m still planning on seeing them, though, if only in hopes of figuring out exactly what the album is trying to tell me.
In terms of what they sound like, well, it’s sort of a slow-build kind of thing. They start out with nothing, almost a whisper, and through each song build the sound to more and more complex levels. They start over with each song, and some reach higher than others, but they all have that inclination of rising action. Okay, yes, I realize I just described the basic structure of every song ever written, but it’s extremely literal with Pinback. You actually pay attention to the build because it seems to mean something more than just a reason to be louder and crash the timpani.
You can download 2 tracks right off their main website.
Remember those three rules of goodness I apply to every new band I hear? I know that those rules are different for everyone, and in the case of the Locust, I sure hope they fit for some people, but they don’t exactly go through all three of mine. I’ve heard people call The Locust ‘Hardcore’, ‘Elecronic Punk’, ‘Noise Excellence’, and I suppose they got it right. I’m not not a fan of most genres, but I can safely call ‘noise’ a genre in which I don’t subscribe to.
Not that The Locust are without a beat. In a lot of ways they’re like a darker version of The Prodigy, or a much, much, much darker version of The Faint. I’ve little doubt that their set will be all about the dancing.
But the gasmasks? Seriously. Gasmasks are so 2003.
UNKLE James Lavelle
‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’, UNKLE’s big hit song, was my first foray into indie/alternative stuff. It was beautiful in that way that made you actually stop thinking about all the little, stupid things you fill up your day worrying about. It made you see clearly. It took me some time to realize, but all of their stuff was like that. ‘Psychadelic Fiction’, their previous album, was a heralded masterpiece. If you haven’t heard it, it is your duty as a fan of music to turn off your computer, put on your pants, and run to your local music store (not that stupid chain in the mall, for pete’s sake) and pick up a copy. You can pet it if you want.
You can peruse through some cool stuff here
Ben Watt is a DJ, world renowned, had his own club in London until 2003, plays house music. Not bad, nothing spectacular. Run of the mill house/dance/uptempo lounge music. Moving right along…
Well, look at that. Z-Trip’s new single features Linkin Parks’ Chester Benington. Good to know he’s still being a ROLLA COASTA. Z-trip’s other stuff includes lyrics by Jurrasic 5, Luke Sick, Murs, and Supernatural. It’s all sort of dark, heavy sounding rock/hip hop mingling not unlike the wonderfully creative efforts of Linkin Park and their ilk.
However, that’s just the singles off the new disc. If you take a look through his archives, you’ll notice this DJ has some definite legs. He spins motown, house, and other fun novelties alongside the nurock, thus making it oddly bearable.
You can check out the new LP on his website, but the other stuff in a directory right here.
COACHELLA A-Z FILM FESTIVAL PART 2 – The Features
IT’S ALL GONE PETE TONG
DIRECTOR: Mike Dowse
MUSIC: Pete Tong, Loll Hammond
RUNNING TIME: 90 mins
Click here to see the trailer: http://www.itsallgonepetetong.com/iagpt/videos.html
It’s All Gone Pete Tong is a comedy following the tragic life of legendary DJ/ProducerFrankie Wilde. Taking the form of a bio-pic, the film weaves us through Frankie’s life from one of the best DJ’s alive, through a subsequent battle with a hearing disorder, and culminating in his mysterious disappearance from the scene.
A genius in his own right, he clawed his way to the top of the DJ ranks, now living the opulent life of a superstar, he resides in his trophy villa in Ibiza with his trophy wife. This is when tragedy hits.
Unknowingly born with a hearing disorder Frankie is rapidly going deaf with only one barely functioning ear to complete the new Ibiza season. How is he doing behind the decks? Horrible. How is he doing in the studio where he produces his remixes? Worse.
Frankie dives into a low period, struggling with deafness in utter depression. After a year of locking himself away he emerges on the other side with a fresh attitude towards his affliction. He accepts his deafness and learns to function without sound.
Will Frankie make it back to the DJ booth? Will his new single be any good? Will he get back his opulent old life or does he even want it back?
It’s All Gone Pete Tong shares some of the best elements of films such as Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap and Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People – a wonderfully irreverent, but affectionate, look at a scene and its music.
WE JAM ECONO – THE STORY OF THE MINUTEMEN
DIRECTOR: Tim Irwin
MUSIC: The Minutemen
RUNNING TIME: 90 mins
Click here to see the trailer: http://www.theminutemen.com/trailers.html
This feature length documentary chronicles the ground breaking, early 80’s punk rock band from their humble beginnings in the harbor town of San Pedro, CA to their tragic and untimely demise when lead singer and guitarist D. Boon was killed in a van accident in December of 1985.
Told by those who were there, “We Jam Econo – The Story Of The Minutemen” weaves in footage from over fifty newly shot interviews with archival interviews and live performances to capture the dynamic energy and do-it-yourself spirit of these punk rock pioneers.
The Minutemen may have ended that day twenty years ago, but their convictions and ethos still remain strong and can be heard and felt in the spirit and sound of new bands just starting out in their garages to mega selling artists playing arenas.
And that is IT, ladies and Gentlemen. The Coachella Arts and Music Festival, broken up over 9 weeks, and it’s all going to happen in 2 days this weekend. If you can’t be there, I hope you enjoyed these reviews, but more importantly enjoyed all the new music you now have. I’ve given you guys at least 10 full CD’s worth of free tunes. Use them well.
I will have a review of my experiences up sometime next week.
Party On, Garth.