Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Past Blast: Kerbdog

A lost classic that I still revisit - and adore - every few months, Kerbdog's 1997 effort On The Turn is chock full of heavy rock tunes with elephantine riffs and hooks that could captain a fleet of pirate ships. Sally was just one of many and certainly one of the finest from these Kilkenny boys, as I hope you'll agree.
As a testament to their effect on the rock scenes of the UK and Ireland, a tribute to the band called Pledge was recently released. Featuring H-T-A favourite Frank Turner, plus other class acts such as Left Side Brain and Jamie Lenman, it's a timely reminder of just what excellence a band can achieve without having so much as a shred of commercial recognition. 
Current artists recalling some halcyon days of yore, when major record labels profited to finance long music careers, may do well to remember that stories such as that of Kerbdog were more the rule than the exception. However criminally overlooked, though, we'll always have On The Turn.

Monday, 29 March 2010

#MusicMonday: Songs In 140 Characters (Or Less)

"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences; what others  say in a whole book."
- Friedrich Nietzsche 

More concise nuggets of sonic judgment, against my natural tendencies to ramble like a grandfather on the sherry in his favourite rocking chair at Christmas (see what I mean?).......

Slightly more eccentric slant on the minimal indie popness of previous outings, this has a pleasant spring in its step & an assured, undulating melody.

Stream Link (at NY Mag's Vulture): The Hold Steady - Rock Problems
More like it after an uncertain feel to first new tune Hurricane J, this swaggers to a bar rock riff & the Craig Finn-isms we know & love.

Accompanied by a gorgeous video, this enigmatic & elegantly orchestrated track highlights Clark's calming voice over some quite delicious keys.

Soaring, soulful Moreno vocals, ominous Carpenter riffs, backed by the powerful rhythm & effects expected of deftones. This album is going to be masterful.

Didn't hit upon first video view but pumped through headphones this sounds reassuringly emotive. Even *gasp* upbeat? Prob not but excites for new album. 

Sunday, 28 March 2010

REVIEW: Uniform Motion - Life

A couple of months back I showed some love to the soothing delights of Uniform Motion. With delicate acoustic guitars, hushed vocals, and subtle harmonies, the band's newest album Life has proven a tranquil island of sanity on busy days spent zipping around at the relentless Manhattan pace.

Well for a limited time (like, very soon, I believe) this gem is available gratis. Libre. Tres, tres free. So be sure to snap it up here and have others do the same if you enjoy it. 

MP3: Uniform Motion - Roll Over
Taken from the new album Life, out now - BUY (CD pack)

The songs here are elegant and feel optimistic in their own charming, understated manner. Jauntier efforts such as Saving Up For Sundays and Roll Over nestle satisfyingly alongside less assuming numbers like Dry Eyes and Oskar, offering slight variations on a familiar sound. Favouring the ever-so-slight plucking of Jose Gonzalez and a floaty light vocal that recalls a number of singers without being derivative, the end result is a blissful, relaxing listen across the album's 8 tracks.

<a href="http://uniformmotion.bandcamp.com/album/life-2010-cd-download">Saving up for Sundays by Uniform Motion</a>

With album highlight Back Up Your Soul, Uniform Motion successfully showcase everything attractive about their sound early into Life, in just a few short minutes. An intricate, quietly confident tune, the guitar playing is skilled yet modest, as gorgeous vocal harmonies waft through the air above the music. If your day has been one of stress and strain, this track provides the aural massage your brain has been crying out for throughout. 

As always, supporting the artist is greatly encouraged in these parts, so if you dig the freebies and can spare some dough, why not order the pretty CD package or, even better, head out to see these fellas live (at some point....Europeans right now, for the most part). Your senses will feel all the better for it as they're caressed by the undulating tones, I'm certain of it.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Blogger added some pretty extensive template tools this past week, so H-T-A will look pretty funky all weekend. Do come back, though. Much as with Batman films, it will all be worth it by the umpteenth attempt......

Thursday, 25 March 2010

New Olney Clark Video - Josefin The Writer

Moody, grainy new video to go along with the subtle beauty of this blissed out song from Scotland's Olney Clark. Produced with Tokyo director Hanae Seida, we'll have a bit more on this and the MP3 for the track over the weekend. Until then, kick back and sound track your (hopefully) sunny afternoon with this lovely song.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More Buzz From The National

Continuing to build the fervent anticipation for their new album High Violet - due in May - The National have now posted a tantalising new track up on the album's mini site. This follows the band unveiling the opening track of the new outing, Terrible Love, live on Jimmy Fallon a few weeks back.

MP3: The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio 
(high quality version available upon e-mail sign up here)

Buy it at Insound!

A logical progression from the silky smooth flow of Boxer, Bloodbuzz Ohio offers something of a more upbeat air. The percussion pushes this element, with a greater spring in its step than the inward focus of previous material, ably assisted by a variety of subtle backing instrumentation conveying the same atmosphere. Matt Berninger's immediately recognisable croon is as sweetly alluring as ever and covers subject matter that appears to deal with roots, home, and the changing relationship when one ups sticks to a new location. 

All in all this is another excellent move to whet the appetite for the new full length. The pre-order is available in various forms here at Insound, although that date feels further away rather than closer upon now having an MP3 to listen to repeatedly. It also makes the summer show at Prospect Park in Brooklyn look like a must attend....subject to holiday plans, of course.

Thoughts on the new material thus far? 

Which of their albums wins your heart, when all's said and done?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

SXSW Report: Saturday

H-T-A is lucky enough to be receiving the inside scoop on the Austin shenanigans courtesy of music lover/writer/glutton for chaos Darci Spiker

With final day emotion and fatigue setting in, is there any enthusiasm or energy remaining for yet more music? With the aid of Mexican martini the answer is, thankfully for us, yes indeedy.....

The final day of SXSW 2010 has arrived.  There is a sense of urgency in the air between my ears, which is causing me to wish I were moving much more quickly than is actually possible at this moment.  With three, 4 am nights under my belt, I’m batting about 100…wait…that’s bad, right?  To bat 1000 is good, so 100 must be pretty bad. You know, just to be safe, let’s say I’m batting 1. However, no matter how tired I feel, the desire to pack as much as humanly possible into my last day is fairly strong and will prevail (I hope)

As previously mentioned, I have had extraordinary luck this year with friends and acquaintances who helped me get into shows that otherwise would have been accessible to only the chosen few-thousand.  Today was no different in that the very talented Bob Schneider recently offered to put me on his guest list for the Rachael Rae Saturday party at Stubb’s. Thank you, Bob!  With that on my immediate horizon, I made my way to the throw-down, which boasted an enviable band lineup, including Bob Schneider, Dr. Dog, School of Seven Bells, Local Natives, Street Sweeper Social Club, Justin Townes Earl, She & Him and Jacob Dylan with Neko Case.

Though it was nearly freezing outside, this party was absolutely incredible with bands killing it at every blink and the best food I’d had all week, which was made even better by the fact that I was ready to chew off my arm due to hunger.  With this many amazing bands, I will just comment on a few.  School of Seven Bells played a great show with an astringent, almost shoe-gaze effect that included plenty of beats.  A picturesque setting, flush with smoke-machine-fluff-backlit-in-blue was a perfect backdrop for the statuesque Deheza twins, who book ended the stage and produced ghostly vocals that took me to a non-catatonic, trance-like state.  I’m certainly going to check out some of their music next week when I return home with my mile-long list of records to buy.

Taken from the debut album Alpinisms - BUY

My favorite show on Saturday (day) was Justin Townes Earl, who put on a perfectly polished, quirky show that made me feel like I was having the same experience as many did in the 1950s era of the Grand Ole Opry, when music was pure and June Carter performed a hilariously naïve comedy routine.  His show was balmy, as was his dimpled smile, and I felt like he was singing every word, especially those about fried chicken, right to me.  Justin Townes Earl may have put on the most genuine, non-contrived, non-begging-to-be-noticed show I have seen thus far at SX.  His confidence and obvious love for his place in life reminded me that he really is like a jawbreaker, in that every layer of him reveals an expertise and love for music and performance.  Well-done, good sir!

The final band at Rachael Rae’s party was She & Him.  On my list from day one, I was thrilled to finally catch Zooey Deschanel and Portland singer-songwriter M. Ward, who were maybe not at their best on this entirely freezing day.  I wanted them to catapult me to great places, but instead my experience was more like shopping at Anthropologie or Pottery Barn.  For the gentlemen readers who don’t shop at Anthropologie: the show was kind of lacking in luster.

After running home in 50 mph winds to put on more clothes, I was ready for my final night at SXSW.  To kick off the evening, I chose to see Lynhurst at The Parish.  This three-sibling band from Minneapolis gets better (both musically and physically) every time I see them and now has the stunning 19-year-old, Mari, fronting the band with breathy, but powerful vocals and drums. The three have a similarly captivating stage presence, which sucked all of the young women in the audience to front and center stage before the end of the first song.  Experts at eye contact and communication with the crowd, Lynhurst bestows upon their audience a feeling of sheer appreciation.  The pop tunes were romantically sweet, yet crafted with just enough edge.  I’m guessing that this is a band from which we will hear more in the near future.  Maybe Disney will swoop them up for another hit show on their network.

Following the Lynhurst set, I went to the Iron Cactus for a bite to eat and a Mexican martini.  Though my plans were to next see Titus Andronicus, the line made the execution of this impossible.  Fortunately, I met someone who offered to take me into the VIP section for the Surfer Blood show, which was an excellent ‘Plan B’.  From the top perch, we had a perfect view of the band, which played with almost shocking confidence to a completely packed house at Mohawk Patio.  The vocals of John Paul Pitts stood up well to the raucous feedback that guitarist Tom Fekete piled on like a nice lunch lady serving mashed potatoes.  Surfer Blood, with a squeaky clean appearance that recalled The Beach Boys, most certainly played a wildly powerful show, which surpassed my expectations of both sound quality and, quite honestly, fun.   Admit it, oh, austere hipsters (who I love), the show was fun!

I left the Surfer Blood show in time to catch The Ugly Suit one more time at Soho Lounge before seeing my final show of SXSW: Stars of Track and Field.  This Portland, Oregon band was successfully rallying for a sprint finish, which buoyed me from a teetering state of exhaustion. In a phenomenal final performance, filled with strength and angst, SOTF squeezed out of me the last bit of ecstatic appreciation that I had.  In all, it was a moving end to SXSW 2010, an unbelievably emotionally and physically affecting five days.

These final hours of SX gave rise to some thoughts about the mental state that ensues after being continuously, musically stimulated.  In day-to-day life, I use music as either a backdrop, or an inspiration for my proceedings.  In a five-day immersion of non-stop music, however, there is a risk of becoming numb to the resonating phrases whose voraciousness would normally set the scene to an important life event; it becomes “just more music”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love (LOVE!) the SXSW scene and I hope to be sprinting around with my camo pants when I’m 127 seeing the latest bands, but there is certainly something to be said for the idea that music can be very supplemental in people’s lives; perhaps it is not meant to be the main event for days on end.  Obviously, there are many who would argue this, possibly including me on a different day.  

That said, the musical inundation has now given me a giant list of bands to explore.  It will be interesting to see who shakes out as the “scene-setters” to my daily life.

Thus ends the SXSW adventure. Thanks SO much to Darci for walking the tight rope over entertainment and exhaustion to bring us these impassioned reports. Here's to SXSW 2011! (Oh, and a bonus Titus Andronicus MP3 for anyone wishing they had got into that packed show.....)

MP3: Titus Andronicus - Four Score and Seven Part I (via Insound)  
Taken from the new album The Monitor- BUY

Monday, 22 March 2010

#MusicMonday: Songs In 140 Characters (Or Less)

"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences; what others say in a whole book."
- Friedrich Nietzsche 

Because I'm feeling all A.D.D. tonight, here are the twittering briefs of some tunes that have recently fallen into my aural cavities........

Posted originally for a cover & criminally overlooked since, Brit Alessi's enigmatic voice powers this reflective track quite wonderfully.

Brand new w/ album upcoming, starts off almost pop-punk-esque but builds to more familiar THS. Gets better as goes on but hope it's a grower.

Folk in the true sense of the the word w/ a real sense of lifelong reflection in the vocal, supported by warm guitars & soft keys. Promising.

Optimistic slice of languid Americana...half content, half melancholy...with a simple melody & Bob Mould-esque, husky singing. Most pleasant.

Delightfully bright blend of pop melody against offbeat indie-rock rhythm, their newie Big Echo needs to be sought out on the back of this.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

SXSW Report: Friday

H-T-A is lucky enough to be receiving the inside scoop on the Austin shenanigans courtesy of music lover/writer/glutton for chaos Darci Spiker

Be it industry showcase week or weekend summer event, the third day of any music extravaganza is often when fatigue starts to set in. However, with the aid of some big names, social media, and, of course, a spiffy new pair of keks, anything is possible. Yes. We. Can.......

Day 3 of SXSW started…well…actually, in the afternoon.  The 4am bedtime of Wednesday and Thursday took a bit of a toll, causing me to sleep in and then move with the speed of honey in winter for my first few waking hours.  Let it be said that Twitter was my Great Motivator for this festival.  As soon as I peeled myself out of bed and began the teapot for my French press, I tuned in on Tweetie for the ‘what’s up’.  Within seconds of reading that people were already downtown “about to see ‘so and so’ hit the stage”, I had both a heartbeat and a pen with which to make a list of plans, presumably so that I’d later have something from which to stray.

First on my list: the Spin day party at Stubb’s. As luck often has it with me, Mr. Paul Sprangers, the lead singer of Free Energy, was gracious enough to ensure that I had a pass to the Spin party, featuring Free Energy, Harlem, Rogue Wave, F*cked Up, Miike Snow, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and HOLE, among others.  After chatting with Free Energy’s (very nice) management for a while, I was able to catch their show, as well as Hole’s first U.S. performance in quite some time.  The fist-pumping crowd loved Free Energy (who are aptly named, by the way), and I’m sure their new record, Stuck On Nothing, will find its way to the ears of many summer revelers.  These guys have such a good time on stage, one can’t help but be sucked in by their adorable excitement.

Check out Free Energy's Insound Session+ snag a free MP3 here

Hole was Hole.  I’m not even going there, because if you’ve had your finger on the pulse of SXSW 2010, you’ve read all the hype you care to about this band.  Until they come up with more words in English, I don’t think I can add anything new.

Before both Free Energy and Hole, I had the sheer pleasure of watching Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings take hold of the crowd with funk and fusion that made me want to ease on down the road and back again.  Not a soul was standing still as Sharon Jones shook her yellow dress hither and fro and sold us on her ability to do the mashed potato in .0002 milliseconds.  If you ever have the opportunity to see them, I say get your moneymaker in gear and go for it.

Friday night had me sans plans, due to a technical error: I left my wadded up schedule in the wrong pants.  Oh! Speaking of pants, ladies, here’s a tip:  run, don’t walk, to Forever 21 and buy a pair of shredded camo pants, but only if you want people to compliment you on your fashion prowess ALL NIGHT.  Look, I’m not really one to pat myself on the back (ok, I am), but these pants are the best $16.99 I’ve spent (maybe ever), and I’m going to wear them every day until the end of time.  In fact, they may soon have their own blog. Stay tuned.

As my pants and I began to hunt bands on 6th street without a beacon/schedule, I remembered the Great Motivator: Twitter! Of course!  Within seconds, I saw @popcandy write that YACHT (the ‘A’ in their name is replaced by a triangle in their logo – FYI) was about to go on in the Billboard.com Bungalow. If you like synchronized swimming, but have always wanted to see it performed OUT of the water, this is the band for you.  I ran!  For a $10 cover, I saw one of the most enjoyable, guilty-pleasure-esque shows of SXSW. My perch was on the back stairs, where I had a PERFECT view of the band, which with YACHT, is absolutely crucial.  In addition to a grand view, I had a whole space to myself in which to dance like what’s-her-name in Flashdance, and so I did.  I was awesome!  Um. I mean THEY were awesome, and I loved it!  

The choreography and costuming alone made YACHT’s show worth seeing, but with Claire Evans IN the costume, EXECUTING the choreography, the show goes from “worth seeing” to “you’re crazy if you don’t at least once witness this damn sexy display”.  Oh yes, there was music as well, which was tight, unique and, though not laden with deep lyrics or intensely technical chord progressions, provided a completely triumphant entry into Friday night at SX.

After YACHT, I remembered one of the main things that I have learned at SX - aside from the fact that one really can survive on coffee, water, booze and adrenaline for a few days - which is that finding one venue featuring several good bands is more fruitful than running around like a Wildman.  Thus, my zone for the night was The Galaxy Room and Galaxy Backyard, where I saw The Antlers and Jupiter One, thankfully in that order, or I may have experienced a mood-killing downward spiral.  That’s not to say The Antlers weren’t great.  In fact, their live show was wonderfully in alliance with their highly acclaimed record, Hospice.  

With intense synths, strong guitar and calling vocals, The Antlers produced an ethereal sound which was cathartic and somehow hopeful, kind of like when you’re throwing up at the end of a night of drinking and though it sucks, you know you’re going to feel much better for it in the morning. I jest. That was an inappropriate analogy to use with this band.  I’m sorry. Actually, listening caused me to recall a wintery night in Missouri, driving through a snowstorm where car headlights provided just enough hope to keep me moving forward, though branches and monsters clutched at my ankles and ripped my nerves to shreds.  True to character, The Antlers played a heavy, gorgeous show.

A perfect way to end my night was with Jupiter One in the Galaxy Room, where the crowd, including some of the band members from Midlake, was out of the snowstorm and in to the sun, dancing (not just head-bobbing!) to the expertly woven, sophisticated pop-rock tunes of four painfully hot men.  The show was filled with tight harmonies, interesting instrumentation (read: neither boring, nor cliché), ass-shaking rhythms and infectious melodies, which are perfectly represented on their latest record, SunshowerOwn it.

And so, with a nice plate of music in my tummy, I poured myself out on to 6th street, be-decked with one more little secret that I’ve learned at SX:  if you walk to the corner of 8th and Red River and try your best not to act like a jack-ass, you will get a cab in less time than it takes Milli Vanilli to perform sound check. I was in bed by 3:30am, ready for a few hours of rest before my last day of SXSW when my phone chimed with a text message:  “Those pants were hot. See you tomorrow?”  Mm –nope.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

SXSW Report: Thursday

H-T-A is lucky enough to be receiving the inside scoop on the Austin shenanigans courtesy of music lover/writer/glutton for chaos Darci Spiker

Day 1 was a frantic rush from the plane into Texas, so how did a full day for Thursday go off? There's only one way to find out: 

Day 2 at SXSW starts with a confession, once again, of tossing aside my day-show plans, which were, if you recall, to see Liars, Small Black and Surfer Blood, or be damned.  I really need to watch what I commit to in writing!  That said, I’m glad that my eager and predictably non-committal behavior led me to meet up with friends who kindly turned me into a +1 for the Levi’s Fader Fort day show, which included (but was not limited to – in case any lawyers are reading this) Neon Indian and Local Natives.

So look, I hate to sound at all critical because I really have great respect for artists of all types, but after listening to Neon Indian, my friends and I had a bit of a discussion about knowing your limits, or less negatively, knowing your strengths and playing to those.  The sound quality at Levi’s Fader Fort was really quite bothersome and brittle (as spoken by one friend) to begin with, and Neon Indian’s style didn’t lend well to that backdrop.  The vocals were nearly completely lost in the dense lot of background, pre-recorded loops, which came off almost as white noise.  

MP3: Neon Indian - Should Have Taken Acid With You (via Insound)
Taken from the debut album Psychic Chasms - BUY

Having written that, a huge crowd was hopping in sync with the adorable hipster nymph in the red dress on stage, so all was definitely not lost.  Speaking of stage presence, Alan Palomo absolutely owns his space.  Rumor has it that he is 21 years old, but he takes control of a scene as well as anyone.  Though this live show was not stellar, I should mention that the recordings I’ve heard of Neon Indian, including a Daytrotter session among many other listening points, are quite decent and include melodies, if somewhat frenetic.  To give perspective, when played on stage yesterday, I didn’t even recognize the (quite diggable) song “Should Have Taken Acid With You” until almost the end.  In all, I would say that Neon Indian is a great, hipster crowd-pleaser, but one to be seen in perhaps a smaller venue with better sound balance.

At the same Levi’s Fader Fort day party, where by the way, I lost my Budweiser virginity, Local Natives completely tore it up, down and sideways.  These guys put on such a polished, potent show that I actually saw them again later in the evening.

After a day in the sun, and 7 miles of walking (so far), I made a pilgrimage to Guero’s on South Congress for a quick bite.  On the way, a band called Fictionist, who filled the entirety of Cissi’s Market with a sweet sound, distracted me.  Their musicality, look and harmonies reminded me a bit of Hellogoodbye. Alas, it was about 6pm and I was ready to pass out from hunger and dehydration, so I moved on after three songs.  
MP3: Fictionist - Invisible Hand

Wednesday night at SXSW blew my mind (which is why it is 1:37 pm and I’m still coming around).  I decided to camp in a few venues to maximize my music time and minimize the darting from place to place in hopes of catching someone good.  Thus, Emo’s Main Room and Buffalo Billiards were my posts.  Prior to Rogue Wave’s set at Emo’s, I caught Miles Kurosky (Ex-Beulah), who was not my favorite artist of the night.   

When Rogue Wave took the stage, life became very, very good.  The band was absolutely stunning with glorious, rhythmic loops upon which they built majestic melodies.  Zach Rogue's lyrics have depth, but not so much to cause the lilt to decay. I can’t wait to buy their latest record at my local, independent record store.  

MP3: Rogue Wave - Lake Michigan (via Insound)
Taken from the album Asleep at Heaven's Gate- BUY

After Rogue Wave, I saw Local Natives for the second time.  Again, the band was full of drive and power, even more so than on stage at the Fader Fort.  When Kelcey Ayer holds his guitar, one would swear that it’s shocking him with 10 carillion gigahertz (my Physics friends will not be proud of this measurement) while he holds on for dear life.  I found myself watching carefully to see if he was really ok, and oh…he was REALLY ok if you know what I mean.  I don’t know if this band made Spin’s top 51 picks for SXSW, but they should have.

MP3: Local Natives - Sun Hands (via Insound)
Taken from the debut album Gorilla Manor - BUY

To end my night, I made my way up a few blocks to Buffalo Billiards to see Broken Records and, finally (!!), Midlake.  Broken Records lit up the place with such brilliance that I’m pretty sure something cosmic sucked me right up to front and center stage.  The band produced wonderful folk-rock with strings, which made me do a mental wild-woman jig.  They were fun, solid and quite accomplished at not only their music, but also putting on a show to which no one could remain still.   Although Midlake was following them, the crowd groaned at the announcement of Broken Record’s last song.  That’s saying something, isn’t it?

And….finally….the best show of the day: Midlake.  I’ll start with the end: I had tears in my eyes.  They were either that good, or something about a flute makes me really emotional. Mid-show, I had the absolute luck of running into my friend, Dave Heilman, of the very awesome Jupiter One, whom I have never met live, but who has become a BFBF (Best Facebook Friend) over the past few months. What are the chances that someone you know (kind of) walks into a bar and stands right in front of you in the middle of SXSW?  Slim.  

MP3: Midlake - Roscoe (via Insound)
Taken from the album The Trials of Van Occupanther - BUY 

So, together we marveled at Midlake, who brought on an elegant, polished, professional performance, which was helpful in re-setting my reference point after a day full of music.  In fact, I’m not even qualified to write about this band as per my not-so-eloquent ‘tweet’, which summed up my feeling at 1:00 am and again at 1:00 pm: Something about Midlake commands you to stop frittering and think with heft. --kinda like a musical Bitch Slap”

After waiting for a cab for exactly one hour and sixteen minutes, I slid in next to a nice Finnish man who paid for my fare in exchange for sharing a cab. Thank you, nice Finnish man. I was dropped off, and subsequently dropped into bed where I thought two things:  i) I won’t commit to anything in writing tomorrow and ii) I hope my ears don’t start bleeding. 

Feel tired just reading the massive effort that goes into a day down in Austin? Diddums. Then get some shut eye and come back tomorrow to see just what a Friday night in such an environment will bring......a dull ache envelops my liver just considering it.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

SXSW Report: Wednesday

And so it begins.....
H-T-A is lucky enough to be receiving the inside scoop on the Austin shenanigans courtesy of music lover/writer/glutton for chaos Darci Spiker

Checking into as many of the unofficial parties as humanly possible (once caffeine intake is sufficiently satisfied.....I empathise entirely) and, presumably, conjuring innovative ways to crash those high fallutin' official ones, her unique take will allow those of us languishing back here in NYC (and elsewhere) to feel at least some of the good times. Hey, at least we're getting the Texas sunshine back here. Enough blathering, over to Darci:

"The first night at SXSW was at once a total bust and totally glorious.  Plans schmans!  I had a list of all the bands I wanted to see and with said list, hit the ground running.  Without a wristband or badge, it was laughable that I actually thought I’d even get in to Stubb’s to see The Walkmen, Broken Bells and Spoon.  

As it goes with the SX mayhem, I was on my way to catch The Minutes, from Dublin, when I ran into friends from the industry.  What do you do when you run into friends at SX?  I’ll tell you what I did: I crumpled up my plans and stuffed them into my pocket (alongside the giant remote controlled gate-opener that my hosts gave me for the week – um, thanks.), kissed my friends, had vodka and flowed with their current for a while.  Thankfully, their current included some amazing bands, my favorite of which was The Ugly Suit from Oklahoma City.  

Holy F’ing Moly.  These guys are completely amazing. I don’t care what you think of the music on their MySpace page, if you miss an opportunity to see them live, you’re plain old silly. Not surprisingly, I recognized a few A&R guys in the crowd and spoke to one after who was kind of tittering and shaking with, I’m assuming, unabashed joy. 

Now completely derailed from my plan, pitching and lurching along 6th street, but somehow keeping it on the tracks, I pass the Wave Bar where I remembered that Brooklyn's La Strada was playing.  The show started quite late because sound check took forever.   As I wait, I’m thinking “Haven’t these guys done this before? Why does sound check look so hard every time?  Why does he keep staring at and then tapping the microphone?  It’s on! It sounds the same as it did the last 99 times you tapped it. Play already!” (Sorry for the ignorant aside.  It should be said that i) I do realize that I HAVE NO IDEA what these lovely artists are doing up there and ii) that it’s all very important and iii) I’m an idiot.  I’m just giving you a little insight as to what the ‘fans’ are thinking as we chew our straws to make the game of sucking vodka a little more challenging.)  


Once the band took the stage, they also took the audience.  With a cello, a violin, an accordion, synth, drums, guitar and bass, they created a sound almost as beautiful as the Daytrotter recording that caused me to put them on my list in the first place.  Maybe it would have been just as beautiful if they had spent more time on the sound check.  La Strada has beautiful songs that take one back to those olden days in a late-afternoon, sunlit foreign country, one that none of us has actually experienced outside of our own minds.

After La Strada, I made one more attempt to see Spoon at Stubb’s, mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment, but also as I mentioned above, I’m an idiot.  It didn’t work."

Thursday begins..... 

"Here’s the other thing about SXSW, you’re always missing something.  As I type from my rented studio apartment on Riverside drive, bands are giving it to the early birds downtown.  That said, the Insound party starts in 45 minutes and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna to miss Liars, Small Black and Surfer Blood.  I have time for a shower (maybe) and a coffee, and then I’m off for another adventure.  Maybe today I’ll stick to a plan, but probably not."

Eagerly (and, yep sure, enviously) awaiting the outcome of schedule vs instinct for today's activities. Follow your intrepid reporter on Twitter if you simply can't hang on.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Album Funding Is a Sinch

At a time when record labels have slashed budgets and are ever wary of investing in unproven acts (warning: there are only so many hoary old '80's hair metal acts that can be wheeled out of retirement before we need a new plan), artists are increasingly seeking innovative ways to fund albums. 

From cheap home recording to government grants and seeking venture capitalist investment, there have been a variety of takes on this new challenge, some more successful than others. One of the more heartening methods, however, is a band seeking advanced funds from their own fan base, returning them a completed album and various other stages of reward upon release. I was reminded of this in the latest newsletter from Philadelphia's visceral alternative rock band Sinch

MP3: Sinch - Tabula Rasa
Taken from the 2002 album Sinch - BUY

MP3: Sinch - Identity Theft
Taken from the 2005 album Clearing The Channel - BUY

Having been moved by the sounds - and visuals - of the band for almost 10 years, I've followed this project on and off since its inception. The band have already raised over $10,000, as shown by the widget below, which is no mean feat given the last release was 5 years ago. Of course, this means fans are eager to hear the new music, yet it can be hard for artists to continue engaging their audience over such a long period of time,  let alone convince them to shell out cash before those new tunes are ready to roll.

With various levels of reward dependent on the amount donated, Sinch offer some solid incentives for added generosity. Although it remains to be seen how sustainable such a model would be if taken up by a much larger number of musicians, as an exercise in fan engagement and DIY mentality this is something to be admired. 

And if it gets that new album out before the year is out, all the better.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Ready For SXSW?

All the talk this coming week will be about South by Southwest (SXSW)....already has been, in fact, if you follow technology news to any degree....as artists from around the world descend on Austin, Texas for their shot at the spotlight, however brief it may be.

 H-T-A will be keeping tabs on developments and, if you're very well behaved, dropping a few reports on the exciting sounds caught by friends in the sunny border state. In the meantime and to whet appetites, NPR has put together a rather spiffy sampler for the event. Granted, many of these artists (Spoon, Surfer Blood, Broken Bells) are already pretty well established, but my Gran says "never look a gift horse in the mouth", which is a bit strange but with age comes irrefutable senility wisdom, so get on the download already.

Elsewhere, Spinner (AOL) is offering a decent selection of free MP3's as well, so be sure to stop by and snag those that sound appealing.

Who are you looking forward to seeing or hearing more from as the week progresses? Know of any great parties/bands that MUST be seen? Shout up in the comments (or e-mail) and we'll see about delving further.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Dig For Victory: When Planets Align

For better or for worse, many (many) artists receiving blog coverage are Brooklyn-based. The sheer critical mass of creative types relocating to the borough makes this par for the course, yet it makes it all the more interesting for writers to check in on other scenes and locales to see what's going on. 

Los Angeles is one such spot; a location steeped in rock history but less influential in the current prime of indie-rock obsessions. One band bridging the gap, to an extent, is When Planets Align.

MP3: When Planets Align - General Santa Anna
Taken from debut EP Radio Silence, out now - BUY

With a melodic rock foundation that wouldn't have been out of place on mainstream rock radio so many years ago, the Californian quartet mix classic rock truisms with eclectic influences (check the flamenco intro on General Santa Anna), with memorable results. With modern twists to the sound, they avoid getting bogged down in the quicksand of classic rock influence and put out a sunshine vibe that marks out the myriad benefits of their chosen home. Writing this on a cold, foreboding Brooklyn day in the driving rain, it's a welcome aural contrast.

With an album due later this year, When Planets Align will build up with some dates around their way come Spring. Unfortunately nothing for the East coast at the moment, although when they do eventually turn up it's to be hoped they bring the sunshine, both in a musical and meteorological sense.