Any new band in the music scene can testify that sophomore albums can be tricky. Add a death of a band member and you’ve got yourself a bit of a conundrum. The Syracuse-based indie rock band, Ra Ra Riot, can attest to these difficulties. After their successful first year in the business, the band’s drummer, John Pike, was found dead in Buzzards Bay, off the southeast coast of Massachusetts. While the rest of the band went on to release their debut album, “The Rhumb Line,” to considerable acclaim, it’s understood that the group went through some big changes before they released their second album, “The Orchard,” in late August.
I always find it a little nerve-racking to go to a concert and see nothing but two laptops and a drum set onstage. For some reason, I find it hard to believe that those are the only tools necessary to entertain an audience, least of all a sold-out crowd at Boston’s House of Blues. Pretty Lights, however, are masters of this art form and more than kept their fans happy at their show on November 5.
(Photo: Carolyne.b via Wikimedia Commons)
The central metaphor of Cloud Cult’s concept album “Light Chasers” is space exploration equals self exploration. For a band that’s never been light on symbolism, it breaks with previous albums with its optimism. This move is largely inspired by the birth of band members Craig and Connie Minowa’s son, and a some of the tracks can be thought of as addressing baby Nova. They manage to balance emotional variety, so you don’t get bored, and emotional cohesion, so you don’t get lost; it is, after all, a concept album.
The Sixties: big hair, free love, and protests – those were the good old days. Even if you didn’t live through them, there have been enough movies, music, and your parents’ stories; you get the idea by now.
Wake Up!, a collaborative album from John Legend and The Roots, attempts to channel the “Sixties” spirit of social activism through 10 soul covers. Legend reports that the presidential campaign of 2008 inspired him to create something reflecting the climate of the time. Black Thought is featured on several tracks, but it is possible to miss him. Hip hop-soul synergy sounds awesome in theory, as both genres draw from similar lyrical themes and African American blues tradition. However the collaboration is not completely realized. The MC’s lyrics and delivery don’t have enough spit to resonate over the melodies that pull you from song to song.
Thus, the instrumentals of The Roots carry you onward through your dream journey. But after several songs in this vein, you get to “Wholy Moly,” making you actually want to fall asleep. Legend’s vocals simply aren’t passionate enough to give the song any crescendo, so it just patters out, prompting you to just press the skip button. The same goes for “Shine”, the only original track recorded for Wake Up!.
Legend’s vocals remain problematic throughout the album, especially on “Ghetto Boy”, when Legend sings that he’s seen “such misery and pain.” Yet, the emotion is not believable. Though he has the technical ability to hit some very difficult notes, Legend’s voice lacks the rough edge necessary to give the lyrics any dimension. Original Recording of “Ghetto Boy.”
Ultimately, the lead singer doesn’t give enough to produce actual affect in the listener, so “Wake Up!” will fail to induce in listeners the change to which it aspires. That being said, greats like Marvin Gaye and Baby Huey are difficult acts to follow, so much so that perhaps this project was doomed to fail. The album leaves one question: why must we be so insistent on using the standards of the past to motivate change in the present?
Over the years, of Montreal has become notorious for its live performances. Kevin Barnes infamously stripped down to nothing but a red sash at a show in Las Vegas in 2007 and rode around on a white horse at the Roseland Ballroom in New York a year later. Given this raunchy reputation, I would say my excitement to see Barnes and his team in action was entirely justified. Add in the fact that they’ve been touring with Janelle Monaé, who is prominently featured on their newly released album “False Priest,” and it should come as no surprise that I purchased tickets for their September 16 show at Boston’s House of Blues in the middle of July. Going to a concert with expectations that high can backfire quickly, and although there was no full-frontal nudity and a noticeable dearth of live animals onstage, the nearly two-hour long show did not disappoint, from the music itself to the on-stage theatricality and constant barrage of colorful, stimulating visuals.
(From the Band’s Website, Arcadefire.com)
Sandwiched somewhere between flurries of haunting orchestral strings, jaunty guitar, piano strolls along picket fences with manicured lawns, and singer Win Butler’s theatrical falsettos, Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” finds new artistic territory for their signature intricately-sculpted-yet-melodically-quirky sound in a setting familiar to many; our own suburban back yards. Sure the album was released on August 3rd (which was over two months ago), but with the kind of splash it made on the world indie-rock stage, it is definitely worth a further mention.
As little as two years ago, if someone were to ask you who the Kings of Leon (KOL) were, you would likely be dumbstruck, soon to be creating Scrubs-esqe daydream of some weird country called Leon with some dudes with crowns on it. And then came their 4th Album, “Only By the Night”; “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” collectively sky-rocketed them into the arenas and airwaves. Although the new found fame was overwhelming, the KOL vowed to stay faithful to their roots. While some may find their past three albums a huge departure from their first two albums Kings of Leon’s 5th studio album, “Come Around Sundown,” is set to be released one painstakingly slow week away, on October 18th.
The story of Pink Floyd’s The Wall is well documented. For that reason, I won’t go into much detail about it. This has been my third time seeing Roger Waters in concert. I’ve also seen “Gilmour’s” Pink Floyd the same amount of times, but in comparison to Thursday’s show at the Garden, the latter shows were nearly forgettable. Then again, it could have been the shrooms, or whatever substance of the week I may have altered my mind with in the late 80′s and early 90′s. We sat in our loge seats with the stage not far left of us and a partially-built immense white wall. I noticed a near actual size World War II fighter plane hanging high up in the rafters in the back. The excitement was building. We introduced ourselves to our neighboring concert goers who were equally enthusiastic about the show. We then decided to load up on refreshments that would last until intermission, since no one wanted to get out of their seats during the show. We didn’t want to miss a thing.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to travel to New York City to see Noah Lennox a.k.a. Panda Bear perform at The Beach on Governor’s Island.
The overall atmosphere of the show was unique due to the date and location: the show was held in New York City on the 9th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. On a day of sorrow, plenty of people were able to transfer their emotions into excitement for the incredible display of music and visuals.
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