Sunday, December 30, 2007

Joseph's Year-end Post

In the past, I have made it a point to be thorough in "music appreciation," taking on an aesthetic burden that was never really mine to carry. However, this year has been patently different. I found myself missing major releases [Jose Gonzalez, Akron/Family, Beirut, etc.] and falling deeply in love with a small portion of the musical releases of 2007. Hence, this list should not serve as any definitive judgement on the year in music. Rather, this should indicate what I have enjoyed throughout the year in ever-growing fondness.

N.B.: You might take issue with certain list-makers for not being albums proper or not being 2007 albums per se. However, they are 2007 releases, no more and no less.

10. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The single characteristic shared by all of these albums is honesty. This is manifestly so with Spoon's fifth full-length release. The songs still have the visceral rumbling intensity that laces each of the previous releases, yet it isn't grinding or monotonous. Rather, the songs have a crisp bite that piques curiosity unfailingly. The songs are pure and honest and the album has a nice unity. While the 45 minute album leaves me wanting more, I admire that statement as well. Not my favorite Spoon, but a strong addition to an historical legacy.

9. Battles - Mirrored.  I had an urge to put Explosions in the Sky's superb 2007 album up in this spot, but reconsidered as I began writing. What I enjoy in instrumental bands isn't as much the melody or even the transcendent sweeps of melodic manipulation. I like the power. I like the ballistic energy. Hence, Battles must oust Explosions [funny to you? It is to me.] This album is tremendous, massive, enigmatic. Math-rock is often the descriptor, and that might be similar to enigmatic. However, there's such a direct access through the percussion that softens the querulous melody[or lack thereof]. Makes good laundry music.

8. M.I.A. - Kala. This has been the most fun album of 2007. Yes, even moreso than Hissing Fauna. M.I.A.'s lyrics border on the absurd; she rhymes like we all want to rhyme and she gets away with it because, again, her honesty is so direct. Her pure voice and direct sensibilities [of what? the street? the burbs? Sri Lanka?] make her almost adorable until she starts pulling cash registers, clips and bustin' caps. This album is pure fun.

6. Tie: Joanna Newsom - Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band ep & Grizzly Bear - Friend EP. Joanna Newsom produced my favorite album of 2006 and she released a gripping recording of a private acoustic session with masterful instrumentalists accompanying her. This album is intimate and mature, rich with the subtle nuances that are present in the studio albums played to perfection with additional graces that enrich the songs tremendously. Tasteful in its simplicity.
The Friend EP is just what Grizzly Bear fans should want after 2006's Yellow House. They have expanded their views by looking introspectively, reviewing their history from their present standpoint and recycling it[the history] through their new development. Old songs, like Shift and Little Brother, gain new significance with these deliberate reinventions, the former becomes softened and sweetened like a bite of caramel in the mouth while the latter gains grandeur and is honed to become something incisive. I obsessed over the radio versions of Little Brother and He Hit Me and am blown away by these perfect studio productions.

5.  Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog. I was surprised by this album. Woman King EP remains my favorite Iron & Wine production and I was delighted to hear Sam Beam embrace that quality of mythic, true folk tradition instead of the singular and personal nature of the previous albums. Rather, this album feels inclusive of others in its production and subsequently includes the listener en masse, instead of isolating the listener, like before. This is a refreshing turn for Beam and it, too, remains honest in its execution and content.

4. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam. This album hasn't become stale or overplayed. I've had it since July. It is a testament to AC's relentless standards for honest songwriting. This album is almost flawless and translates perfectly to almost any disposition. Just listen to it, with the volume turned up.

3. Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall. This concert took place in 64, I think, but the recording was released this year. This concert is Neil and his guitar and sometimes his piano. It is unyielding in its honesty and the vulnerability is palpable, especially on songs like The Needle and the Damage Done. For a quiet evening indoors, perhaps with a crossword puzzle.

2. Panda Bear - Person Pitch. As I continue to my favorite albums of the year, the things I have to say grow less. I believe that's because these albums start to be more simply beautiful. They are summed up easier and with more precision in fewer words. This album is certainly of this sort. No album has produced a better atmosphere in which all things can fall away and a certain peace is established. Layers upon layers of ambient sounds slowly flood the heart and produce relaxation and calm. This album is good anytime and anywhere.

1. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky. This is my favorite Wilco album ever. Jeff Tweedy's songs gain relevance in their honesty, expressing community and individual difficulty[as well as victory] in plainest terms. He avoids the vague images that are most often standalone in his songs. This album is like a confession. The music gains new depth with its blatantly traditional approach. The simplicity of the songs along with the strength of their content establishes this as a truly timeless album.

Other items of note: We cannot turn our back against albums like "In Rainbows," which have significance not because of the songs or even the aggregate album, but rather because of the large step that was finally taken in favor of musical integrity.
The Arcade Fire established themselves as one of the most innovative and energetic artists in the past decade, releasing a prophetic and self-conscious album that confirmed their genius.
Deerhoof were the best Deerhoof yet.

That's my year. I'll add more as I remember more, but those are my thoughts for now. Thanks for taking the time. See you again next year.

Trent's Top Albums of 2007

With 2007 drawing to an end, it is time for our second annual reflection on everything that was good. So much went on this year that I was doubting if I would even be able to sum it all up into a nice, numerically ranked list, but the albums should prove to be the easiest of my lists (concerts being the most difficult), so here it goes! (Keep in mind that no, I did not listen to everything that came out this year. These are the albums that kept finding their way into my listening rotation, and I have ranked them accordingly)

1. Battles- Mirrored
2. Panda Bear- Person Pitch

3. Explosions in the Sky- All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
4. Animal Collective- Strawberry Jam
5. Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
6. Deerhoof- Friend Opportunity
7. Caribou- Andorra
8. M.I.A.- Kala
9. Of Montreal- Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
10. Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
11. Radiohead- In Rainbows
12. Wilco- Sky Blue Sky
13. St. Vincent- Marry Me

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Coming Soon!

Since all of us are here, together, in the same place for the first time since summer, we are working on our year end re-cap of all the good stuff that took place this year. Hopefully, we will all produce a Best Albums list. Individually, I will be compiling a list of the best shows this year and, since we've completed our first full year in action, I will be posting a "Year in Photos: Year One" with help from various folks who have had a hand in the site for the past year. 
Stay tuned folks! (I sure hope you can see that gif...)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happy Holidays from Super Furry Animals + Dallas Date with The Fiery Furnaces!

Now, I've never listened to Super Furry Animals, but their latest video for their song The Gift That Keeps On Giving from their 2007 LP Hey Venus! is in the spirit of the season, sort of, plus its relavent to their date in Dallas, but more on that in a sec. Stay around until the end... Trust me.

Like I said, I've never listened to SFA, but they will be bringing us a nice little treat in the form of an opening act. They will be bringing The Fiery Furnaces when they stop through Dallas at The Granada Theater on Friday, February 1 of next year. I'm already excited. Just for that. Here's the video for Ex-Guru a song off of their 2007 album Widow City.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mashups Galore!

I woke up this morning and checked Boing Boing, the self proclaimed "directory of wonderful things",  and found a post featuring a website that has some pretty great mashups. My favorites would have to be Immigrant Check (Led Zepplin vs. The Beastie Boys) and All is Full of America (Bjork vs. America). They come from a site called Nemozob. Good job folks!

              All is Full of America

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Destroyer is having Trouble in Dreams...

Destroyer is returning in 2008 (out March 18th on Merge Records specifically) with a new record entitled Trouble in Dreams. I am going to put it out there and say that this will be my favorite record of 2008. Dan Bejar and friends promise to bring a "lyrical and musical assault on all that is stagnant and stale in modern popular music" according to a press release. That sounds good to me... Destroyer will be touring in the Spring/Summer of '08 and you can be sure that we will bring you all of that news when it comes. After the track list, follow the link for the first single off the album, Foam Hands.

Track List:
Blue Flower/Blue Flame
Dark Leaves From A Thread
The State
Foam Hands
My Favorite Year
Shooting Rockets (From The Desk Of Night's Ape)
Introducing Angles
Leopard Of Honor
Plaza Trinidad
Libby's First Sunrise
Mp3: Foam Hands

(Polaroid of Dan Bejar @ Fun Fun Fun Fest by Trent Lesikar)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Things Are So Slow!

Too slow in fact! We're going crazy over here at The Grizzly Life, but there are several things to look forward to this holiday season. Besides your families, friends, the food, and long hours waiting in line for those minute little deals for your gifts, Dallas is getting a couple of good shows. 

This Saturday, November 24th, Peter Bjorn & John will be gracing Dallas with their presence. We've had the pleasure of covering them a couple of times this year, and their live show is worth catching. The show will be in The Loft and you can get tickets here. Also at the Palladium this holiday season, Mr. Sam Beam aka Iron and Wine will be gracing Dallas with his presence come Monday, December 10th. 
We forgot to let you know, but that Zach Galifianakis show at The Lakewood Theater was cancelled, but it has been rescheduled to Saturday, December 15th so you should really go. He doesn't come around that often and he is one of our favorites, so make sure you get a ticket in advance. 
As always, we will let you know when something good is coming your way, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fun Fun Fun Fest

Fun Fun Fun Fest could have been setting itself up for a great deal of criticism with a name like that, but the festival certainly lived up to it. It is well known that Austin harbors great music and holds amazing festivals. Each year, Austin City Limits and SXSW bring people to Austin from all over the world to the city, but Austin's best festival might just be its smallest. Sure, nothing can really live up to SXSW, but setting that aside, I think Fun Fun Fun Fest gives ACL a run for its money. FFFF is geared towards the fans, putting similar artists on the same stage, which means that fans will get to see more of what they like, and less filler. Sure, ACL brings in the bigger acts, but I would much rather see more quality bands than one or two bands with a bigger fan base.

Day 1's biggest surprise came when Final Fantasy was joined on stage by Cadence Weapon and Dan Bejar to sing An Actor's Revenge by Destroyer, after Final Fantasy had already played the song once through. Being a massive Destroyer/ Dan Bejar fan, it was one of the best moments of the weekend. Final Fantasy certainly made a fan out of me, seeing as how I had never taken the time to become familiar with his catalogue

Everyone who has ever seen an Of Montreal show knows that they don't really know what to expect until it happens. This was certainly the case for their FFFF performance. This time through, the band has ditched the ladder and multiple outfit changes, but came with a contortionist, a man in a tiger mask, and a new bass player. Since their show wasn't on such a huge stage, the band had to scrap its lit platforms that have been seen on this tour, but the band was still just the same minus some of their technical theatrics. They were still as tight as ever, even through a light outage on stage. They seemed a little confused, but played through it anyway. It seemed as if their set was being cut short, but they came back on stage to play a spectacular version of Prince's Purple Rain

I know that The New Pornographers are pseudo legends in the indie world, but I haven't gotten to know them at all. I've taken time to listen to off shoots of the band like Neko Case and Dan Bejar's Destroyer, but I've never listened to them as a whole. Despite not knowing them at all, I was pleased with their performance. However, the most engaging songs were those written by Bejar, that I knew by heart like Jackie Dressed in Cobras and The Spirit of Giving. I can't say that I was particularly pleased with the way those songs sounded with the full band, but they are still pretty damn good. 

If you've been a reader of the blog since the beginning, you know that Explosions in the Sky is one of our favorite live bands. We aren't keeping it a secret. Fans have such an admiration for the band because they give everything they have to their on stage performance. They woo the crowd with hypnotizing notes and their aggressive stage presence. Their hour long set at FFFF certainly made up for the 30 or so minute set at Wall of Sound a couple of months ago. 

Day 2 came to a pinnacle when Battles took the stage. The band came way out of the way to play their set and they did not disappoint. Their churning, mostly instrumental songs left the audience in a trance for the better part of an hour. The band played with mostly rented equipment since their stuff was waiting for them at their next stop on the tour and they had a tight schedule, but that didn't slow them down at all. When fans asked for a set list, they just pointed to their temples and said that they had been playing the same set for over a year now, but their songs still seemed as fresh as ever. Not only were they the best performance of the day, but they were also the nicest guys backstage.

Polaroids taken by Kayleigh will be up soon!

FFFF Day 1

Final Fantasy

Dan Bejar w/ Final Fantasy and Cadence Weapon

Okkervil River

Of Montreal

The New Pornographers

Explosions in the Sky

FFFF Day 2


Mates of State


(All photos by Trent Lesikar)