Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Live Review: Darker My Love @ DC9, October 5, 2009

Fact: Darker My Love is one of LET's pet bands (see here, here, and here). Not only is this one hell of a band, they're also one hell of a bunch of nice dudes. Sure, I'd still love their music if they were assholes, they're just that good. Digressions aside, Darker My Love is a band worth checking out, and keep those feelers up because I've been assured a new record is in the works (the sooner the better, my loves). Also, they're pretty killer when it comes to the whole playing live thing, as I have been fortunate to learn not once but twice, most recently last month at the delightfully cozy DC9. They were one piece of a rather excellent bill, sandwiched between All The Saints and A Place To Bury Strangers (note to bands: extra points for using dry ice). Darker My Love doesn't go for dry ice, but it's of no consequence.

The last time I saw these Los Angelinos live, they were seriously stealing The Dandy Warhol's psych-addled thunder at the 9:30 Club. While they certainly did well on such a large stage, I'd been dying to see them somewhere like DC9, all up close and personal like. I knew it would be special, and lo and behold, I was right. It's a miracle the five of them and all their gear fit on the stage, but despite the cramped quarters it was rock'n'roll from the word go. They overcame some initial soundboard difficulties and played a solid, saucy little set. It felt much more rock, somehow, than my first Darker My Love experience. Perhaps it was the lack of that wacky gooey projection or something, but the slightly more stripped-down sound was incredible, and really demonstrated how great a band this really is. Sure, they left "Two Ways Out" off the setlist, but I'll forgive them. The set was heavy with new songs, heightening expectations for a quick release (please?) of even more retrodelica. Happily, a couple songs from their debut made it onto the setlist, too. Sometimes you have to see a band live to really appreciate the sounds they make, and a live Darker My Love show proves just how gifted these guys are as musicians. They are simply compelling live, and command your attention. Which, of course, you'll readily oblige them with.

All in all, I left DC9 feeling totally impressed by the entire show, but especially by Darker My Love. This is a band that not only can wow you on record, but also knows how to put on a live show.

Setlist above written out by DMLer Will Canzoneri, who has so much musical knowledge it will knock your socks off. "Talking Words" is below for your enjoyment. And believe you me, you will enjoy it. For all you Euro kids out there, make sure you keep a close eye on DML, as they are on your side of the Atlantic as we speak.

mp3: Talking Words (Buy: Darker My Love)

Album Review: The Phantom Band - Checkmate Savage

Ok, so The Phantom Band is Scottish, thereby giving them an unfair edge for earning my undying love and affection. But before you start worrying that my vision is blurred by saltires and sporrans, fear not. I love The Phantom Band for a whole lot more than the mere accident of nationality.

For instance, earlier this year the band happened to put out on a record, Checkmate Savage, on the most excellent label Chemikal Underground (home to various other excellent bands of the past and current day such as Arab Strap, Mogwai, and Sluts of Trust). As a general point of reference, I like to think of The Phantom Band as being a sort of British Sea Power with a brogue, adding a little bith more northerly darkness to an already heavy and intellectual brand of music. I for one would maim to see those two bands share a stage (BSP + TPB = Happy Megan).

But what makes the record so good, you might ask? The easy answer is everything, of course, but I'll expand a little. As with British Sea Power, The Phantom Band just exudes more intelligence than most bands out there. Clinic, too, shares this smartypants, highly-educated and infinitely quirky sound. Looking at the album cover, it makes me think that maybe there's some deep symbolism behind the Shaker chairs and upside down doorways. Perhaps it's the unconventional lyrics that go well beyond the lovelorn moping or angst of many a band. And, of course, they've got fantastic lyrics. "Leave my spirit/cuz lust and sin/is all that I want" might just be my new (unofficial) motto.
The first song on the album, "The Howling," the song from whence the aforementioned lyric comes, was my introduction to the album. When I first heard it, I stopped what I was doing and just sat still. It's such a curious song, layered with unexpected sounds and ghostly choruses and driven by a very distinct, powerful voice. It's just over six minutes long and it feels like an odyssey, so much musical ground does it cover. So too can be said of the entire album. It's a mish-mash of so much that it nearly bursts at the seams. My absolute favorite track on the album is "Halfhound, " posted below for your listening pleasure (you're welcome). It's several songs in one, as with just about every song on Checkmate Savage. I love the taut riff that serves as the spine of parts of the song, bordering as it does on sounding slightly sinister. But damned if I don't adore each and every one of the nine songs on this disc. Another one to pay close personal attention to is "Island," a slower, gentler (longer) number than most of the others. But again, this is a fantastic record. Buy it now.

If the above hadn't already convinced you of the fact, you can consider it a safe bet that Checkmate Savage will be in my top ten albums of this great year 2009. Give it a few listens, and it just might make its way into yours.

mp3: Halfhound (Buy: The Phantom Band)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Newsflash: Jerry Fuchs Dead at 34

Perhaps it's an occupational hazard when you're a musician. But it just seems like far too many bright, bright lights of music leave this world far too soon, before they've contributed nearly as much as they might have done.

Sadly, add drummer Jerry (Gerhardt) Fuchs, member of !!!, The Juan McLean, LCD Soundsystem and Maserati to name a few to this tragic list. According to multiple reports, Fuchs was killed early Sunday morning in the elevator shaft of a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he was attending a benefit party. He and a friend got stuck in an elevator, and tried to jump to the landing, which is where things went horribly wrong. Fuchs' jacket got stuck, and instead of leaping to safety, he fell down the shaft, and was pronounced dead soon after. He was 34.

I'm just so saddened by this. It breaks my heart to hear about such tragic accidents. Fuchs will be missed by many. Rest in peace, dear sir.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Myspace or Yours #1: The Sumner Brothers

While a good many of us have moved on from Myspace for our social networking needs, I still pay attention to the bands that frequent that site. You never know where and when your new favorite band will come from, and I've found enough quality bands via Myspace that I felt the site warranted closer examination. I've been toying with the idea of doing a Myspace-based feature for quite some time now, but wanted to wait until I had the right band to kick things off with. And then, one day, my wish was granted when a friend request from the British Columbia-based Sumner Brothers popped up in my inbox.

The Sumner Brothers, Brian and Bob, along with their friends Michael and Mike, sound like remnants of a time long since turned to dust, a sepia-hued time when music was simple and soulful and made by friends gathered in whatever space they could find, and not touched by computer enhancements and fancy effect pedals and studio magic. Not only that, but the foursome sounds like they should be sitting on the front porch of an ancient, rickety wooden farmouse nestled in the spectacular, magical valleys of the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia. If you've never been there, well, it's the perfect place for a band like the Sumner Brothers. There's a hint of fall to their songs, traces of burning fires in the hearth, and a stark, austere beauty the likes of which you won't hear very often. The Sumner Brothers are as precious and rare as can be, so dang good you almost can't believe it.

The band is working their way through a small West Coast tour, so all you Washington Staters and British Columbians, get yourselves to these shows. More details on the band's Myspace page, naturally.

mp3: Pain (Buy: The Sumner Brothers)

Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ Black Cat, September 30, 2009

Little-known fact about me: I love perfect pop songs. Perhaps it's a little-known fact because there are so few perfect pop songs in this world, and the bands that can craft such poppy perfection are few and far between. But one of the best, and perhaps even THE best at churning out piles of such concoctions, in my humble opinion, is the bunch of young NYC scamps known as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. And finally, finally, finally, I managed to see this delightful band live, at DC's venerable Black Cat. It was nigh on magnificent.

After ambling onstage, singer/guitarist/nice guy Kip opens with the greeting "Hey, what's up, we gonna fall in love tonight?" before launching into "This Love is Fucking Right!" The song set the tone for the evening, pulsating powerpop with less of an emphasis on fuzz and feedback than you'll hear on POBPAH records. In my notes I wrote "so so cute this band is," and it's just so true. They're so, dare I say, pure. They seem to just emit kittens and hearts and flowers wherever they go. "It's great to be back in DC," they opine, and DC seems to agree with this sentiment. Everyone is either bobbing their head, tapping their leg, or just flat out making out with their neighbor.

Songs that I already loved, like "The Tenure Itch" and "Stay Alive," sound crisp and clear, minus the fuzz the utter poppiness really shines through. Sweetly feisty, the band powers through song after song, like the jingle jangle of "Teenager in Love." Quite simply, and pardon me if I've said this before, but it's music to pinch cheeks to. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. This band is a ray of sunshine, that's for damn sure. Happily, the encore includes "Gentle Sons," quite possibly my favorite of all POBPAH songs. Sweet, sweet heaven do I love this song. When it's all said and done, I feel quite confident being able to state as fact that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a sensational live band, and that you should absolutely, definitely, positively go and see them live whenever possible.

mp3: Gentle Sons (Buy: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart)