The last time I saw the New Pornographers live was in 2007 at Chicago’s Metro. Lead singer Carl Newman commented during the show about a strong thunderstorm happening outside during the gig, and you could hear thunder between songs now and then. It was a great show, and my wife and got back to our hotel room still buzzing from it. I noticed I had a voicemail from work, so I listened. The storm that had rolled through Chicago during the show had become a tornado by the time it reached our hometown. Nearly every home on the southeast side of town had either been destroyed or damaged. A factory and a convenience store were wiped off the face of the Earth. Amazingly, no one was injured. Our house was fine, but we returned home early the next day to help with the rebuilding and cleaning efforts.
Thankfully, the only thing dire that happened during my second time seeing the New Pornographers was that the brewery in which they played, Bell’s in Kalamazoo, didn’t serve cider, radlers, or even their own root beer.
Unfortunately, I missed nearly all of opening band Ought‘s set. I walked in during their last song (Thanks, Google Maps, for directions that were fine until the last two steps of the journey.), which sounded like some good shoegaze. I need to check out their material.
The New Pornographers came out sharp and quick with crowd favorites like “High Ticket Attractions,” “The Laws Have Changed,” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” They sounded great. They haven’t lost anything in ten years. In fact, the additions of more electro touches from keyboardist Blaine Thurier and keyboardist / co-vocalist Kathryn Calder and violin and vocals from Simi Stone bring the band a new brightness.
“Whiteout Conditions,” the title track of their new record, sounds even better live, and I was delighted to hear “Dancehall Domine” from Brill Bruisers live for the first time (They nailed it, by the way.). The show cruised along well until a string broke on John Collins‘ bass and the band had a brief on-stage break while Mr. Collins worked some magic and had his axe swinging again in moments. They were soon they were back to a fine rendition of “Adventures in Solitude.”
The encore included “Challengers,” “Brill Bruisers,” “The Slow Descent in Alcoholism” (which I found funny considering they were playing in a brewery), and a rousing version of “The Bleeding Heart Show” that had us all cheering.
It was a fun night, and much needed by all. It’s no secret that depression and the 2016 presidential election fueled much of Newman’s songwriting for Whiteout Conditions, so the crisp sound, fun vibe, and power pop the New Pornographers brought were, for one night at least, an escape from the miasma of news, Tweets, rumors, and anger.
Keep your mind open.
Willowbank Out October 6th On Cascine
Catch Them On Tour This October;
European Dates Added
“it’s Perfect Pop” – NPR Music
Charlie Ryder from the band comments, “‘Depths’ is a song about life, love and temporary loss, and all the little moments in between that drag us to the edge of our existences. The people that take your crazy and run with it, turning life upside down in the process, with no regard for the consequences when they forget about you for the day. In parallel, the song explores the ways that we hopelessly fight against this process, as we try to cling onto reality and our sense of self, when really, we should all be letting go before it’s too late.”
For the making of Willowbank, the members of Yumi Zouma settled on a plan to head home for the New Zealand summer. To complete what would become their first significant work written and recorded entirely in their home country, they rented a studio in Christchurch’s semi-demolished CBD, on one of the few remaining blocks that still characterizes the city from before it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes.
Guitarist, keyboard player and vocalist Josh Burgess says, “It was as though there was a brief pause in all of our lives and we finally felt like a band from New Zealand. We were on home turf and creating from a place that felt fundamentally natural.” That sensation was further underscored by Willowbank’s recording sessions falling over the cherished holiday season, during which the Yumis were surrounded by family. Burgess credits some of the small, often mundane Kiwi traditions of the time for influencing their mindset. “New Zealand has a distinct feel from Christmas to the end of January. Things shut down. It has a calming presence, it’s very peaceful.” That sense of holiday can be heard on lead single “December” where the melodies float and stir themselves into a series of swelling refrains that culminate in horns and handclaps.
When you know it’s there, the feeling of rootedness is undeniable on Willowbank. Being connected to their origins on the bottom of the earth allowed the band’s members, Charlie Ryder, Josh Burgess, Christie Simpson and Sam Perry to craft another essential chapter in the Yumi Zouma storybook.
Listen To “December”:
Yumi Zouma Tour Dates:
Fri. Oct. 6 – London, UK @ Omeara
Sun. Oct. 8 – Brighton, UK @ The Joker
Mon. Oct. 9 – Paris, FR @ L’Espace B
Wed. Oct. 11 – Copenhagen, DK @ VEGA Musikkens Hus – Ideal Bar
Thu. Oct. 12 – Stockholm, SE @ Debaser
Sun. Oct. 15 – Amsterdam, NL @ Sugarfactory
Wed. Oct. 18 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater*
Thu. Oct. 19 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop*
Fri. Oct. 20 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios*
Sat. Oct. 21 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza*
Mon. Oct. 23 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Tue. Oct. 24 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
Wed. Oct. 25 – New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge
Thu. Oct. 26 – Boston, MA @ Lilypad
Fri. Oct. 27 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz
Sat. Oct. 28 – Toronto, ON @ Smiling Buddha
*w/ Chad Valley
iTunes – http://bit.ly/willowbank-
Cascine – http://bit.ly/willowbank-vinyl
Bandcamp – https://yumizouma.bandcamp.
Linkfire – https://lnk.to/willowbank
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS DEBUT NEW VIDEO FOR “WHITEOUT CONDITIONS”
NEW RECORD WHITEOUT CONDITIONS OUT NOW ON COLLECTED WORKS RECORDS
WORLD TOUR CONTINUES THROUGH FALL
Critically acclaimed supergroup The New Pornographers debut a new video for the track “Whiteout Conditions” from their critically acclaimed album of the same name; watch/share the video at https://youtu.be/v2XvW38UKEI. Of the video, director Kevan Funk explains, “I wanted to tell a set of stories featuring characters who could act as conduits to explore that tension, each of them repressing some sort of tormenting emotion (guilt, shame, self-loathing) that they haven’t been able to reconcile internally. The facade of the mall, with its surreal fantasy elements, provided an effective metaphorical backdrop.”
Earlier this summer the band performed the song on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Whiteout Conditions— the first release on the band’s own Collected Works Records imprint in partnership with Concord Records— continues to receive critical praise:
“Pure, blissfully irresistible power pop…the band would be forgiven for receding into legacy-act status at some point. Instead, its catalog just gets more formidable: now seven albums strong, with as little patience for filler as ever.’” –NPR Music
“The New Pornographers’ seventh album is a peppy team effort, rich with new wave synths and closely blended harmonies…this, plus a singularly bright and skipping tempo, creates an almost forcibly energetic mix.” –Pitchfork
“…uplifting three-to-four-minute indie-pop numbers, imbued with lush vocals.” –Rolling Stone
“A.C. Newman and Neko Case don’t miss a beat; Whiteout Conditions provides another dose of power-pop with quirky synth accents from a collective that hasn’t faltered yet this century.” –New York Magazine
“Expect flawless harmonies, precisely arranged power pop, and more Neko Case vocal wizardry than any mere human deserves to hear in one lifetime.” –Cosmopolitan
“A parade of hook-laden songs.”
“Whiteout Conditions [is] a characteristically punchy and catchy LP with more than a few jams set to become worthy contenders in the New Pornos’ canon.” –Stereogum
“loud, infectious, and energetic—classic New Pornographers” –Entertainment Weekly
“power-pop phenoms” –Vice Noisey
“Whiteout Conditions contains some of The New Pornographers’ most interesting musical ideas.” –The Onion’s A.V. Club
“It is Newman’s steady creative hand and brilliant understanding of pop music’s beating human heart that once again win the day on Whiteout Conditions…a typically neat package that sits comfortably and appropriately in one of rock’s greatest band catalogs. 9 (out of 10)” – Magnet
“More than ever before, the Pornos feel like a legitimate band rather than an all-star union.” –Relix
“Finest yet from Carl Newman, Neko Case et al. 4 stars (out of 5)” –MoJo
Whiteout Conditions made its Billboard debut at #2 on the Alternative Albums Chart, #13 on the Current Album Chart and #35 on the Top 200. Additionally, the album hit #6 on Billboard’s AAA Radio Chart. The band’s world tour in support of the new album continues this summer and fall, including shows with Born Ruffians in select cities. Tickets for all headlining U.S. shows include a free download of the new album; see below for a list of dates.
Of writing the new record, founder and frontman A.C. Newman notes that, “At the beginning of this record, there was some thinking that we wanted it to be like a Krautrock Fifth Dimension. Of course, our mutated idea of what Krautrock is probably doesn’t sound like Krautrock at all. But we were thinking: Let’s try and rock in a different way.” Newman recently discussed the new record and the band’s 18-year career in a pair of Salon Talks here, here and here.
Since their debut in 2000, The New Pornographers have released six studio albums including their most recent, Brill Bruisers, hailed as an “exuberant, synthpop-infused set” by Rolling Stone, “infectious” by Harper’s Bazaar and “the grand and purposeful hookfest that you would hope these guys would come back with” by Stereogum. Pitchfork went on to note that “with the futurist sound of Brill Bruisers, the whole band embraces a more electric version of itself—bulked-up in chrome-plated armor, firing on all cylinders, and ready to steamroll anything in its path.” The band celebrated the release with a special NPR Music “First Listen Live” concert at the legendary Brill Building, and performed songs from the album on both “Conan” and the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, WHITEOUT CONDITIONS
1. Play Money
2. Whiteout Conditions
3. High Ticket Attractions
4. This is the World of the Theater
5. Darling Shade
6. Second Sleep
8. We’ve Been Here Before
11. Avalanche Alley
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS LIVE
†with Born Ruffians
August 17 /// Kalamazoo, MI /// Bell’s Beer Garden
August 18 /// Madison, WI /// Majestic Theater
August 19 /// Omaha, NE /// MAHA Music Festival
August 25 /// Mexico City, MX /// Pabellon Cuervo
September 23 /// Cincinnati, OH /// Midpoint Music Festival
September 28 /// Victoria, BC /// Sugar Nightclub†
September 29 /// Vancouver, BC /// Commodore Ballroom†
September 30 /// Kelowna, BC /// Kelowna Community Theatre†
October 1 /// Nelson, BC /// Spiritbar at the Hume Hotel†
October 2 /// Calgary, AB /// MacEwan Hall†
October 4 /// Edmonton, AB /// Winspear Centre†
October 5 /// Saskatoon, SK /// O’Brians Event Centre†
October 6 /// Regina, SK /// The Exchange†
October 7 /// Winnipeg, MB /// Burton Cummings Theatre†
October 9 /// Detroit, MI /// Crofoot Ballroom†
October 10 /// Cleveland, OH /// Beachland Ballroom
October 11 /// London, ON /// London Music Hall†
October 12 /// Ottawa, ON /// Bronson Centre Theatre†
October 13 /// Montreal, QC /// Corona Theatre†
October 14 /// Toronto, ON /// Massey Hall†
Keep your mind open.
TV on the Radio returned in 2014 after taking time to mourn the loss of their bass player, Gerard Smith, who lost his battle with lung cancer in 2011. The album they released, Seeds, is a bright affair that not only pays tribute to Smith, but also embraces life and love after loss.
The first four lines of the opener, “Quartz,” are “How much do I love you? I’ll tell you no lie. How deep is the ocean? How high the sky?” It is a beautiful track with wicked beats that get your feet tapping within seconds.
“Careful You” (a play on “care for you”) is the most direct tribute to Smith barely hidden within a love song. The opening verse, “Oui, je t’aime, oui je ta’ime, a demain, ala prochaine (Yes, I love you, yes, I love you, tomorrow, and the next), I know it’s best to say goodbye, but I can’t seem to move away.” is both heartbreaking and tender. The throbbing synths drive the song through any fog that may be surrounding your head and bring you to out of your reality, at least momentarily.
“Could You,” with its big brass horns, has lead singer Tunde Adebimpe pleading for love (“Could you love somebody? Could you strip the ego bare and let love take flight? Could you open up your heart?”). The first single, “Happy Idiot,” is a sizzler with hot drums and lyrics about a man preferring ignorance and losing his mind to thinking of a life without his former lover. “Test Pilot” is another song about lost love and heartbreak, although by the end it seems the lovers involved may be willing to work through the rough skies and come in for a safe landing after all.
“Love Stained” is an epic song with lovely lyrics about a man terrified by his feelings and seemingly the world at large, but whose lover is always there for him (“In the middle of the night, when fear comes calling singing it all dies, always scared, alone, I’m looking into your eyes to feel the call, pretty thing that catches me so strong when I fall.”). The synths in this rise and fall like waves and eventually drift out like the tide. It’s almost as haunting as opening to the follow-up track, “Ride,” in which the piano and violins sound like a funeral dirge until the drums kick in and the song bursts open to become an affirmation of moving beyond grief and embracing the future. It’s a telling statement from the band considering the loss of Smith.
“Right Now” is another song of renewal and embracing of life. It is a directive from TVOTR to live in this moment and the leave behind the “imaginary need for the silly little things.” “Winter” has blaring guitars that sound designed to reach the back of the concert hall; and, yes, it’s another love song. It has the sauciest lyrics on the album – “Can’t think of nothing better than a union in the afterglow. Let it go, all the thinking and the reason. Here we go, to the lovin’ and the pleasin’.” Meow.
If all the synths are too much for you and you’re whining about the album not having a “real” TVOTR song, don’t worry. “Lazerray” sounds like something the band might’ve put on Return to Cookie Mountain. It’s is the most straight-up rocker on the record and a strong message about the impermanence of everything (“Chop down your master plan in nanoseconds, man. I hope you understand that nothing living lasts forever.”). “Trouble” seems to be a song about a man realizing his lover’s going to break up with him and there’s nothing he can do about it, but I can’t help but think it’s also about the impending death of Smith, especially when the song ends with “Everything’s gonna be okay” repeated over and over. The title track closes out the record, bringing back the thick synths and TVOTR’s great layered vocals. It’s another beautiful love song about a man planting the seeds to build a relationship with a woman who’s been stung in the past.
Seeds might be the best collection of love songs released in 2014. It was a great return for a great band.
Keep your mind open.
[I’d be a happy idiot if you subscribed.]
ALEX LAHEY ANNOUNCES DEBUT ALBUM, I LOVE YOU LIKE A BROTHER,
OUT OCTOBER 6TH ON DEAD OCEANS
WATCH VIDEO FOR “EVERY DAY’S THE WEEKEND”
Elmhurt, Illinois’ the Orwells (Grant Binner – bass, Henry Binner – drums, Dominic Corso – guitar, Mario Cuomo – vocals, Matt O’Keefe – guitar) have this neat blend of Chicagoland grit, snotty punk, psychedelia, and Midwestern garage rock that is riff heavy and really catchy. Their newest album, Terrible Human Beings, is a great example of it.
The opener, and first single, “They Put the Body in the Bayou,” is a powerhouse of a tune and one of the best rock singles of 2017. It starts out slow at first, but then bursts out with psychedelic reverb and funky bass. The song is about the pitfalls of the music industry (“All right, make it quick. Good songs make you rich.”) and our culture’s love of sharing others’ misery with our friends (“I came by to see. I just had to know who put the body in the bayou.”).
“Fry” has sizzling guitar throughout it as Cuomo sings about people addiction to television and frying their minds on empty pop culture. “Creatures” depicts us as people “fading, creating, losing all control. Spinning and grinning, looking for a soul. Rollin’ and flowin’, tryin’ to find a role. Before you know it, you’re livin’ in a hole.” A “Vacation” should be a good time, but the Orwells know that often you need a vacation from your vacation.
I’m not sure if “Black Francis” is a takedown on the Pixies’ lead singer, or a what the Orwells think the Pixies (who do seem to be an influence) would think of them: “Have you heard that band? / Yeah, I think they’re shit. / And the way they dress? / Yeah, they think they’re hip. / And the things they say? / Yeah, it’s all a bluff. / And where they’re from? / Yeah, it ain’t that rough. / Black Franky’s got my world in his hands.” It’s really catchy and I’d love to know the story behind it. “M.A.D.” has a nice surf sound to it. The sharp bass of “Buddy” is some of Grant Binner’s best work on the record, and I like how the guitars soar around it at all times. “Hippie Soldier” and “Heavy Head” have great rock hooks throughout them. Both sing about different generations and the faults of each, with “Heavy Head” (a takedown of their own Millennial generation) being the most searing.
The guitars on “Ring Pop” shred as Cuomo sings about things in plain sight being “not quite right.” “Last Call (Go Home)” is a salute to barflies seeking romance. “Double Feature” has Cuomo singing about how he could’ve had any other career than a rock singer, but he “came from the wrong side of the tracks” and was doomed to a rock and roll life. It becomes a wild, cosmic freak-out by the end.
The running theme of Terrible Human Beings is that we are our own worst enemy. We constantly put limits on ourselves or continue behaviors we know are detrimental. We like to point the finger at anyone else, but we forget about all the other fingers pointing back at us. The Orwells’ new album is an examination of conscience, a Zen story, a therapy session, hidden in a smart, sharp rock record.
Keep your mind open.
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