In the recent months of posting one song that stood out to me was The Mynabirds’ first single from their upcoming sophomore album, the title track, “GENERALS.” So, with some spare time in the afternoon I thought I’d head down to The Jackalope and check them out. Amidst walls bedecked with paintings of topless women and jammed onto a small stage in a corner of the bar, the quintet classed up the place a little with their stylish rousing barroom country rock. The band mixed songs both old and new, with the new songs definitely seeming like a step up from their older material, with more intricacies, and more superior writing all along with fantastic three-part harmonies that were the real treat of the performance. If they’ve managed to transfer the power of their live performance to tape, then GENERALS should be in all our earbuds come this June.
– Rob Hakimian
This year at The Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel they’re giving away free Taco Bell all day, something which Trevor Powers made sure to note before starting his performance. I’m not sure if it was due to him being fueled by the new Doritos Tacos Locos (can I get some kind of paycheck for that name drop?) or just his natural enjoyment in performing, but he was much more active on stage than the delicate tracks that make up his album The Year Of Hibernation would suggest. Pressing the keys with as much purpose, and singing with as much passion as he probably did the day the songs were written, Powers showed that Youth Lagoon has come a long way since the early sketches he had in his bedroom. He even has an accompanying guitarist too, who watched on intently, seemingly as wrapped up in the performance as the audience.
– Rob Hakimian
Around the time Field Mouse took to the stage at the Small Plates showcase there were plenty of other bigger names I could have been seeing, but purely based on the strength of their utterly magical single “You Guys Are Gonna Wake My Mom,” there was no other band I’d rather have seen at that point. The fact that they started with it had me slightly worried that the set would be all downhill from there, but the rest of Field Mouse’s set maintained the same high quality and infectious joy. Singer Rachel Browne had a magnetism to her; whether she was singing sweetly along with Andrew Futral’s dream pop guitar, or rocking out jumping up and down playing her own, it was hard to take your eyes off her. Field Mouse managed to turn a somewhat gruesome bar into what felt like a small, warm gathering of friends, which was quite a feat indeed, and one I hope to see them perform again some day.
– Rob Hakimian
Thursday at SXSW is nightmare day. It’s far and away the busiest of the week and the festival’s logistical end becomes a little overwhelming. My intention was to get downtown to catch the Friends of Friends showcase at Barcelona around 5pm, but, being three miles out, my mode of transportation (or lack thereof) delayed me by about two hours. I did manage to catch Shlohmo who closed the set with a few remixes and cuts off his most recent releases. The fantastic, recently buzzed about remix of Drake’s “Crew Love” feat. The Weeknd got a spin and the last minute of Burial’s “Shell of Light” (my personal favorite moment on Untrue) got a big cheer as Shlohmo poured his runny-faucet synths and plopping snares all over the devastating vocal melodies. “Seriously” off of Bad Vibes closed out the set, the last wallop of synth the first real huge moment from a dude who knows a thing a two about huge moments. Then it was over. SXSW sets are too short, I’ve decided.
My aim next had been to get in line for Pitchfork’s showcase at the Central Presbytarian Church, but as I approached the line was colossal. Just as I set myself to go join in, a friend of mine came down the street, called out to me and told me he had a spare pass to a special Spotify party where Grimes was playing. Seeing as Grimes has been the artist I most wanted to check out at Pitchfork’s show, this seemed ideal. He then proceeded to lead me up five storeys through a parking garage to a stage on a roof with an open bar. Ideal became perfect.
Grimes’ set drew all the best songs from her latest release, Visions. Without multi-tracking her voice as she does on record it seemed a little flimsy and at times I thought it might get caught on the breeze and just float away before it reached our ears, but anchored by the music it worked nicely. To bring her alt-pop soundscapes to life Grimes was joined onstage by a rather flamboyant gentleman who wore a police hat and nothing on his upper torso but a faux-fur scarf. He seemed relaxed as he played on the drum pads, which made an interesting contrast with Grimes herself who was simultaneously trying to play, dance and interact with the crowd, leaving her looking like she was awkwardly trying to dance along to some kind of work out video, even jamming the microphone between her shoulder and neck whenever she needed the use of both of her hands. The obvious numbers were the clear highlights, with “Oblivion” getting a big cheer early in the set, and “Genesis” being saved for near the end, while the rest of the set was dedicated to her more sprawling songs, which the crowd were more than happy to lap up in the early evening glow.
– Rob Hakimian
I headed over to the Mexican Summer showcase at Red 7 around 8pm and managed to see the tail end of Brooklyn artist Mike Wexler’s set. The four-piece was playing a sort of metallic, rythmic slow burner like Swans at their most gentle. Wexler was wielding an acoustic guitar despite the quieted tension of the band’s industrial kraut rock undertones. The set prior to my arrival could have been speed metal for all I know, but the band was one of the more compelling quieter acts I’d seen all week.
Part Time are a San Francisco-based new age band, which is about as much as I can say about them. Red 7 was starting to fill up by the time the quartet went on, but the set – full of flanged guitars and sparkling synths – delivered the lull and daze treatment. One of the more interesting occurrences at SXSW is the front row of a show being full of onlookers, content to simply stand and stare at the band on stage as if they’re witnessing a museum exhibit rather than a unit of people doing their damnedest to make a show out of music a few minutes at a time. I only really snapped out my own trance when something sung on about the singer jacking off to his mom rolled out of the speakers. This was after hatefully banging his Stratocaster around the stage as it had brutally betrayed him by going unexpectedly out of tune. So lyrics may have been altered. I can’t be sure. The musicianship was perhaps more than adequate for your average synth-melodies-for-days band. A couple songs got the instrumental treatment, guitar solos and all. But all said and done, Red 7’s suffocating heat probably wasn’t the right atmosphere for Part Time’s breezy wash of cascading guitar.
Mexican Summer has the benefit of a diverse roster and that Boston trio Quilt’s jangling psychedelic garage rock was part of the showcase’s lineup made a certain amount of asymmetrical sense. The group straddle a middle ground between Piper at the Gates-esque psych pop and something more akin to Thee Oh Sees. The group goes without a bassist, instead opting for two guitars, one of which is often exchanged for an unruly organ. It works though. There’s definitely a negative space the group makes use of, filling it with their mediative boy-girl vocal harmonies and creating a finely gleamed layer of psych formaldehyde beneath the clanging guitars. If anything, the trio cooled the blisteringly hot showcase down a bit, guitarist Shane Butler creeping around the stage like a hoofed trickster.
Peaking Lights’ set (if you can even call it that) was a bit of a disaster. By the time the set’s scheduled start rolled around the duo had gotten to know the stage crew pretty well, and when the dub rhythms finally stepped out behind the speakers, Aaron Coyes was still scrambling to connect all the dots of his setup. Long, long, story short Indra Dunis had to forego her keyboard, the duo abandoning the first song, and going over their time with only two cuts played. Disappointing to say the least, but to be fair, those two songs were pretty awesome. The subtle layers of gooey, wavering organs and pulsing, fattened rhythmic loops have a psychedelic disembodying quality that works in front of a room and even with all the grating gear hiccups still fresh in the air, it was hard not to got lost in the spiraling, blanketing sounds even if it was only for five minutes.
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
We talk with Israeli rockers Vaadat Charigim about some of their favorite records.
We talk with Yvonne Ambree and Jesse Barnes of Take Berlin about some of the records which influenced the recording of their debut EP, Lionize.
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