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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 17th September 2009 at 6:00 pm
Pearl Jam may not be in your lexicon, especially if you weren’t old enough to have witnessed the ’90s Seattle grunge scene firsthand, you weren’t born yet, or maybe you just decided that grunge, accompanied by its dingy plaid shirts and scary looking dudes with long, unwashed hair, was a passing phase. (I own up to doing the third option when I was in grade school.) Pearl Jam, one of the acknowledged heavy hitters of that era, are now back with a new single, ‘The Fixer’.
As described above, I’m not a Pearl Jam fan from way back. But even I got into the excitement when frontman Eddie Vedder got interviewed on Zane Lowe’s Radio1 evening programme a couple weeks ago. Whenever a band comes back from years of hiatus or they’ve been around and not making hit records, people get apprehensive because they want to know, will the new material ever live up to their glory days? Will they ever get the magic back again? I don’t have “memories” to look back on like other grungeheads, so I don’t have any reference points to compare back to – but I have to say, I do like this song an awful lot. Regardless of whether you were a grunge fan back in the day or not, I say give them a chance on this go-around.
The new promo video for ‘The Fixer’ has been getting steady airplay on the video channels here in America. Watch it by going to the video’s youtube page – sadly their record company has decided not only to only provide a low quality version of the video, but also prevent embedding the video. Their loss.
‘The Fixer’ single was released on 24 August. ‘Backspacer’, Pearl Jam’s new album-length offering, will be released on 20 September via Universal Music Group.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 17th September 2009 at 5:00 pm
Just like you can’t keep a good man down, you can’t keep a good band down either. Brooklyn-based Appomattox, fine purveyors of what I would call exciting indie rock, made a fine showing in a short 40-minute set played at the Red and Black Bar in Washington last night.
This is one animated band. Singer/guitarist Nick Gaynier shreds like a man possessed and somehow (I really don’t know how he does it) delivers the lyrics to the band’s songs with similar gusto. The songs are largely upbeat in rhythm, and it’s James Mello‘s expert drumming and Dave Nurmi‘s sultry bass lines that provides the bedrock for the strength of Appomattox’s songs. Frenetic, fast-paced, and in your face – this is what I love most about this band. You can’t sit still watching them and you shouldn’t, because the songs are fun and memorable.
Gaynier told me before their set, “we write songs about chicks“. But you know what? I’m fine with that premise if they can keep churning out engaging rock songs like these. ‘Too Slow’ and ‘Either Way’, two of my many favourites from their album ‘A O’, were pure bliss live, the latter sporting a wicked, wicked instrumental bridge that showed off Gaynier’s and Nurmi’s talents on the guitar. These and many other great songs can be found on ‘A O’ so I urge you to visit their MySpace page and check out their sound. You won’t be disappointed.
Stay tuned for my interview with the band coming soon!
After the jump: photos. Note: Appomattox is currently touring with San Francisco band Low Red Land; journalistically, I didn’t feel it right to write a review about their set considering I know little about their music. But I did photograph them, so photos of their set are included as well.
Continue reading Live Review: Appomattox at Red and Black Bar, Washington DC – 16 September 2009
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 17th September 2009 at 12:00 pm
Perez Hilton is known in America (and maybe all over the world too?) as a gossip monger of the highest degree. That is, he can find the dirt about just about anyone famous and no one can hide from him.
That’s why it was humorous to me to say the least – I think I choked with surprise – when I read on Ladyhawke‘s MySpace blog last month that he had decided to organise a North American tour featuring some of his favourite musical acts, the acts being Frankmusik (from London), Semi Precious Weapons (from New York City), Ida Maria (from Norway), and Ladyhawke (from New Zealand). “What does he know about music anyway?” was the collective response. Well, I can tell you after attending the Perez Hilton Presents tour at its spot here in Washington last Saturday, Mr. Hilton does know a thing or two about putting together a good tour line-up, and even managed emcee duties in D.C. as well.
Frankmusik was the first act up. Hilton quipped that this was the first-ever American show for Vincent Frank, which of course made the crowd go wild. He appeared in leather jacket and sunglasses, the coolest of the cool cats. Full of energy, he pogo-ed up and down all night, leading us on a bouncy, electropoppy voyage down Lovers’ Lane. He clearly enjoyed himself, saying how wonderful we were and how he felt so great after his first show in America (awww). And just as clear was the audience’s reception of him, based on the glow sticks and a pair of lacy, hot pink knickers that were chucked onto the stage during his set (::chuckle::) to which Frank replied, “I like!” He prefaced ‘Confusion Girl’ with “this is a slow one. You’ve gotta have a slow one. I dedicate this to a girl called Olivia” before taking to the piano. Singles ‘3 Little Words’ and his set-ender ‘Better Off as 2′ made girls and guys alike swoon in delight.
Next up was New York band Semi Precious Weapons, the only American act of the night. Think New York Dolls but coarser and rowdier and David Johansen wearing more eye makeup, and you can get a good mental picture. I can’t really say I cared for their brand of glam rock; glam rock is, by nature, mostly about shock value and I couldn’t really get into them, though they definitely kept the energy of the night going. All the people around me lapped up the flamboyant frontman Justin Tranter‘s every comment and lyric. I give that he is fun to watch, strutting around in very tight leggings and stiletto boots that only a brave woman would dare wear. So are his bandmates, whose guitarists jump around on stage with reckless abandon and a drum who looked like he might take off to the air if he hits his skins with his sticks hard enough. If you like boldness and crassness with your music, they just might be for you.
Ida Maria came to my attention via the single ‘I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked’, which got a lot of video airplay on MTV here; inexplicably, this past spring MTV offered her the chance to host an hour of videos selected by her, usually an honour bestowed only on the biggest stars, not up-and-coming ones. From everything I’ve read, I knew that she was a tempermental artist – I guess I should be thankful that she actually completed a set, in contrast to the breakdown she had in Boston 2 nights later, leaving in the middle of the set with her band to carry on without her. She began with a song she introduced as “brand new, never heard before” called ‘Kitchen Floor’. The crowd appeared unfamiliar with her songs except for ‘I Like You…’ and ‘Oh My God’ but unlike with the other bands, the crowd was not engaged with her performance at all. This was really too bad, b/c her bandmates, especially guitarist Stefan Törnby, were really giving it their all, so the weakness of this performance could not be attributed to them but instead a generally lacklustre performance put in by their frontwoman.
Last but certainly not least was my absolute favourite of the night, the beautiful, talented creature that is Ladyhawke. I’d seen her perform at the Dot to Dot Festival in Nottingham on 24 May and was blown away. I am still in some disbelief and shock that less than 4 months later she was on a stage in my own hometown. But let me turn my attention back to her performance. After Ida Maria’s less than stellar performance, Ladyhawke knocked this one out of the park. Although soft-spoken and shy in between songs, she was able to command the entire audience at the 9:30 with her vocals and guitar-playing and my gosh, it was breathtaking. The obvious highlights were the singles ‘Paris is Burning’, ‘Dusk ‘Til Dawn’, and the set closer ‘My Delirium’. After Ladyhawke had left the stage, a very vocal crowd shouted long and loudly for a encore that never materialised. It’s a shame though – an encore to her adoring Washington fans would have really capped off a really great night for her in the Nation’s Capital.
After the jump: setlists and photos.
Continue reading Live Review: Perez Hilton Presents Tour Featuring Ladyhawke and Ida Maria at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 12 September 2009
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 17th September 2009 at 10:00 am
Okay, I admit it – I love remixes. I love how dance and non-dance songs alike can be retooled by a master producer’s able hands, fiddling with switches and dials in a darkened room with a mixing board to create anatmosphere usually completely different than what was intended in the original. Often times the remix is made longer than the original, drawn out by heavy beats and extended intros and outros. And just as often, the remix transforms the song into a tune perfect to get you pumped up for that evening jog. A plus!
Such is the case with the London act Jack Beats‘ Anger Management remix of Portland band Hockey‘s newest single “Song Away”. You may recall we featured the band and the promo video for the song last month. Put these two songs side by side and they’re completely different. But you just might be like me and love both of them. Have a listen.
MP3: Hockey – Song Away (Jack Beats Anger Management Remix)
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 16th September 2009 at 9:00 pm
Having seen the Phenomenal Handclap Band twice this past August, I can say without a doubt that their live shows are amazing affairs. Beyond making a performance video, I wondered how they could film an engaging promo film for a song of theirs that would be compelling, yet still involve all their major players. Tough task, given that they are eight members strong when they perform live.
And they come up with the fabulously retro video for ’15 to 20′, filmed as 8 separate mini-films merged together to make one video. Maybe the concept isn’t as funny to you as it was to me, but I had an “aha!” moment because it was only recently when I started hearing the song on heavy rotation on BBC 6music (it just made the station’s B list) that the lyrics mention the police and banks. I don’t want to give it all away, so just sit back, watch, and enjoy.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band’s debut album is available now through Friendly Fire Recordings and online everywhere.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 16th September 2009 at 6:00 pm
Editors have a very loyal following, which is interesting considering they have a track record of reinventing themselves constantly. Imaginative Brummies are they. This time, they come out with music laced with…wait for it…synths! This self-professed electropop lover couldn’t be happier. The video (and song) kicks like a sleep twitch. Really.
‘Papillon’, the first single from Editors’ forthcoming album ‘In This Light and On This Evening’ was released on 24 August. The album itself will drop on 12 October in the UK.