Everything

Atlas Sound’s prolific Cox adds hooks to spacy beauty

With apologies to the memory of James Brown, Bradford Cox might be the hardest working man in showbiz (well, at least the indie music scene). Between his band Deerhunter, other side projects, and Atlas Sound, there’s never a shortage of his material to access. But the adage “quantity doesn’t equal equality” can frequently be applied. Though Cox can never be accused of putting out garbage, the sheer volume sometimes begs for some editing and consolidation.

So it is nice to see that Parallax, his latest Atlas Sound long player, seems to have been reigned in a bit – and has been invested with some solid melodic hooks. Where Parallax still has the bedroom-pop noodlings consistently found in Cox’s work, songs like “Shakes”, “Mona Lisa”, “Praying Man” (with a little harmonica) and “My Angel is Broken” all hint at Cox’s appreciation of 60’s girl group pop, and its inherent catchiness. There are still plenty of quieter moments, like the gorgeous (and appropriately titled) piano-meditation “Doldrums”, and the gentle guitar of “Terra Icognita”.

(ps: If you like to hear what may have influenced this, check out the recently released “The Smile Sessions” by The Beach Boys. Quite excellent)

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Real Estate & Clap Your Hands experience Portland’s enthusiastic crowds

Real Estate (Brooklyn via New Jersey) and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! (Brooklyn via outer space) recently graced the stages of performance spaces on the West Coast. Judging by their responses – especially here in Portland – they got back what they gave. Smells Like Pop’s Cory X and I went to both shows, and left feeling an appreciation for our hometown fans’ refreshing attitude. (editor’s note: we are both veterans of live shows in other cities – Cory having caught acts in NYC, Minneapolis, as well as legendary Portland venues; I’ve caught numerous shows while living in LA, NYC and the SF Bay Area).

Alec Ounsworth (main Clap-per, pictured above) stated part way through CYHSY’s set at Portland’s Hawthorne Theater that he was under the weather and fighting something off – and that that situation could get worse, or turn into a type of “euphoria”; fortunately for us, he said it was heading toward the latter, and proceeded to provide an energetic set, that the crowd responded to with appreciation and some frenetic dancing, to boot. The show surged on an upward arch, as the band and crowd seem to feed off of each other – and, as Cory X noticed, this was made all the more remarkable considering it was a Monday night. New numbers received a polite welcome, while old favorites (primarily from their debut) were greeted like the new classics they are seemingly becoming.

Though the world seems to be experiencing bad economic news in regards to real estate, the band Real Estate seems to be bucking that trend. Their new record, Days, is getting positive press, and their music is being utilized to accompany everything from NPR programming to TV and movie soundtracks. The band’s music – Cory X pointed to clear influences ranging from The Shins to The Feelies – is cheerful enough to begin with, the band seemed particularly receptive to the crowd – a packed Doug Fir Lounge clearly engaged by the atmospheric-bordering-on-psychedelic pop being provided. The strength of the band’s new record made its material stand out, though they wrapped things up with an encore of “Fake Blues” from their debut, dedicated to “our friends Das Rascist”- the fellow NYC artists, who apparently were in the crowd. The band encouraged the audience to join them at their hotel room for a party, somehow able to generate energy on perhaps the toughest night of the year (Sunday, evening after daylight savings). I suspect some folks actually made it…

Real Estate’s new album continues to channel waves via NYC

Days, the newest album by Brooklyn (via New Jersey) band Real Estate, sounds like an album by a band envisioning the experience of the surf from Tony Soprano’s hunting ground; it’s got the haze, the dreaminess – but still has the angsty feel of someone being prevented from “hanging ten” because of the loading docks and litter-strewn beaches. Much like their self-titled debut, the vocals are buried – intentionally it seems – allowing vocalist Alex Bleeker to be enveloped by foggy, Dick Dale-referencing guitars and some dreamy percussion. The melodies, and song writing, is stronger then their already solid first album. The band inhabits similar ground to potentially “herbally inspired” brethren Band of Horses.

Real Estate is currently touring in support of the record (at the Doug Fir Lounge November 6th)

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Strange Mercy, the latest effort from St. Vincent (ne, Annie Clark) is the payoff for years of hinting at a record like this. Her vocals – precious in the past -now reveal an artist who has literally and figuratively found her voice. The musicianship (her guitar work on “Cheerleader”) and compositions – once complex bordering on pretense – now nuanced and beautifully, sophisticatedly layered (the fantastic “Surgeon” a prime example).

Lastly, her lyrics – once clever-bordering-on-contrived, seem to reveal a poetic maturation. Great music from beginning to end; this album is an early frontrunner for record of the year.

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Upon repeated listenings to Hysterical, the latest from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy the album, and once again, the band. They seem to have melded the celebratory sound captured by their debut, while more successfully exploring the soaring sounds of their sophomore effort, Some Loud Thunder.

I was initially taken aback by the less than enthusiastic review provided them by Pitchfork – the site that was pretty over-the-top in their praise when this “cool new Brooklyn band” started, but which was now dismissing them. The review felt like reading the posting of a 17-year-old boy trashing the girlfriend that just dumped him on the internet….understood the sentiment, didn’t share the experience.

Catch them live if you can, as they are touring to support Hysterical, playing some smaller venues (including Portland’s tiny Hawthorne Theater, November 7th).

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We’ll have a full write-up of the Sunday MusicFest show at Pioneer Square featuring Band of Horses and Cass McCombs, but we’ve got to catch-up on all the work we missed while lolly-gagging at the festival! In the meantime, here are some photos we took at the show…

The daytime MusicFest NW shows broadcast live on KEXP have been great so far, and since I had my kids with me and the shows are all ages, I decided to bring ’em along. My son’s opening soccer game took precedence in the afternoon, so unfortunately we missed the Antlers noon-time set. Avi Buffalo was playing next, so after some cajoling, arm twisting and watching a couple of videos of the band, we hit the Doug Fir. I have to admit it was kind of fun showing the kids around the venue that I normally only visit late at night. We got some ice waters and settled into the lounge in back for the 30 minute set.

Avi Buffalo as a band are young, and really just kids themselves, but the songs written by Avi Zahner-Isenberg (many recorded in his home studio) have  traces and seedlings of many older artists carried within – musicians like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and even the Pixies (Avi was wearing a Pixies t-shirt). The “pop” songs were all very pleasant and sometimes more complex as both time and chord changes borrowed from jazz crept into the mix, especially on their final song.

All in all, the kids liked the show – my son even a little more than my daughter. I think she saw through my clumsy attempts at getting her to start music lessons again by pointing out the cool drummer and bassist, both girls. Not the kids first concert (that was X/Knitters when they were just wee-nippers) but a fun afternoon of music. Afterwards we walked across the driveway to the MFNW Poster Show where poster artists from all over were selling limited edition concert posters – groovy stuff, though some might have been rated PG-13.

Avi Buffalo’s debut, self-titled  album is out now on SubPop.

Actually, there was nothing horrible about the 30 minute mid-morning set by UK goth-synth-shoegaze-pop phenom, The Horrors. Except that it could have been a little longer and the drums could have been a little softer. The Horrors wear their myriad influences proudly on their stylish sleeves, often times sounding (add looking) like the more up-beat cousins of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. They combine vintage synths, throbbing bass and fuzzed-out wall-of-guitar in a style all their own, while still feeling like the latest band in an evolutionary progression of british rock. See them tonight at Midnight at Dante’s. Really. Go see them–they’re great live.

Smells Like Pop hit the sweltering hot (literally) scene at Branx on Thursday Night for the Suuns, Talkdemonic and Handsome Furs shows, and then raced over to the practically empty midnight performance by EMA at Holocene. Suuns played a loud and revved-up set that was all over the place (good thing) sounding at times like Clinic, Can, Stereolab and more (good thing, too). We’re looking forward to hearing how their sound may get distilled into something immediately identifiable as Suuns. But, just as happy if they keep going as they are now.

Talkdemonic played a nice set of experimental noise pop, but suffered from the laptop disease that many bands today are infected with–I kept thinking how much better they’d sound with a couple more musicians on stage instead of having everything pre-recorded on a computer. But, hooray for the Macbook–it played a great set! Handsome Furs came on last like the Tasmanian Devil couple from Looney Tunes. To say they were wound-up is an understatement. In other words, “I want what they’re having.” The crazy energy of husband and wife, Dan Boeckner (Vocals & Guitar) and Alexei Perry (Synths & Beats) was almost unbelievable at the start, but their attitude and live sound quickly grew on me–it was a fun, danceable show! Go see them if you can…

I think we were expecting a lot from EMA–there’s been a lot of hype swirling around Erika M. Anderson for her recent solo record. Elements of the show were great, some good and some (like the sound and tuning of the drums) were a little flat. Her backing band looked like they felt a bit awkward which clashed with Anderson’s seeming comfort on stage. Late shows can be great or tough-going–let’s call this one somewhere in the middle.

Little Dragon played a short, but sweet 30 minute set at Doug Fir this morning for the KEXP live broadcast shows from MusicFest NW. With all of the schedule conflicts of the ‘Fest, it was nice to get a chance to see this band (my first time). Morning is a bit of strange time to head into the dark subterranean lair that is Doug Fir, and the time slot seemed like it might have had an effect on the band who experienced a couple of false-starts and timing issues. These were quickly shrugged-off and they sounded great otherwise – the smallish audience was very enthusiastic throughout. I just wish they would have played my favorite song of theirs, Looking Glass. If you want to hear them, you still have a chance tonight at 11:00pm at the Hawthorne Theater.

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