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Live Friday: 12-3-10

The final Live Friday of 2010 comes from a band that played a big role in the establishment of indie rock in the early 90s. Superchunk is a band that can be called classic in many ways, and as time has passed their profile has only risen. Their progress though, has slowed significantly thanks to the establishment of Merge Records, which band members Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance co-own. They’re busy putting out other peoples’ records and making their own stuff has kind of taken a back seat. So after a 9 year break between records, “Majesty Shredding” brings Superchunk back and touring again. The album is great, a return to form if you will, akin to a lot of their classic records. Speaking of classics, in this session, which they did for Minnesota Public Radio, they do an old school cut plus two ones from the new record. It’s good stuff, and if you listen to the interview, which is streamable below, there’s talk about Merge and what the creative process is like for Superchunk and the like. Great to have Superchunk back. Now Live Friday goes on hiatus through the end of 2010, to return in January.

Superchunk, Live on MPR 12-2-10:
Superchunk – Learned to Surf (Live on MPR)
Superchunk – Digging for Something (Live on MPR)
Superchunk – Tie A Rope to the Back of the Bus (Live on MPR)

Stream the full session/interview

Buy “Majesty Shredding” from Merge Records

Live Friday: 11-19-10

In a Live Friday that’s sure to get all kinds of people all kinds of excited, today’s session is with Mumford and Sons. The band has gotten HUGE in the last 6 months or so, while at the same time surviving what some might regard as a critical snubbing. Okay, so they’re not the most brilliant band in the world, but they can write a catchy song and that’s half the battle right there. Digging back deep into the archives for this one, as I do try and keep the sessions featured on here pretty current, this set comes from that crazy time known as 2009. Back then, Mumford and Sons were just some young group of guys from overseas preparing for their first album to be released in America, where nobody had heard of them yet. Perhaps due to censorship issues, they avoid doing the hit single “Little Lion Man”, but happily throw four other songs our way. In the interview, which you can stream via the link below, they talk about how the band started, what their sonic influences are, and why Mumford is the “band dad” and the other guys are only “sons”. It’s kinda fun. So are the songs.

Mumford and Sons, Live on WXPN in 2009:
Mumford and Sons – White Blank Page (Live on WXPN)
Mumford and Sons – Timshel (Live on WXPN)
Mumford and Sons – Winter Winds (Live on WXPN)
Mumford and Sons – Sister (Live on WXPN)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Sigh No More” from Amazon

Live Friday: 11-12-10

Straight from their name, hopefully you can tell that Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is a fun band. They’re a pretty wacky group of guys and their music is bouncy, whipsmart pop. They’re on their third album now, titled “Let It Sway”, and it’s a nice sort of evolution from their previous efforts. They were also fortunate enough to have Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla producing it for them, and that’s one of the things extensively discussed in the interview portion of this Live Friday session. You can stream that below, but the songs are up for download (as they typically are). And while the performances of these three songs are very strong, hearing it doesn’t quite compare to the visual energy the band displays on stage. Take this as an invitation to get to know SSLYBY a little better in anticipation of hopefully seeing them next time they roll through your town.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Sink/Let It Sway (Live on MPR)
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – All Hail Dracula! (Live on MPR)
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Made to Last (Live on MPR)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Let It Sway” from Amazon

Live Friday: 11-5-10

Today’s Live Friday session is with trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack. They put out a new album this year titled “Heligoland”, and it was their first in quite awhile. You might expect that coming off such a long break they’d have perfected every little nook and cranny of such a record, but the end product is more on a level of “very good” compared to “mindblowing”. Still, that doesn’t make this session any less exciting or intense, and they do concede by playing a couple of their more classic tracks in addition to the new ones. The song “Teardrop” is probably their biggest hit to date, though you might only recognize it as the opening credits song to the excellent medical drama “House”. Thankfully they perform that, along with some of the stronger material on “Heligoland” (with special guest Martina Topley-Bird). There’s also a pretty great interview with Daddy G and 3D as they talk about their creative process, how they work with so many guest vocalists, and the challenges of recreating their records in a live setting. Very informative, especially since I’ve never heard an interview with the guys before. You can stream that below, but the downloadable songs are the real treat. By the way, apologies but I’m unable to host “Atlas Air” directly, so you’ll have to go to Zshare if you’d like to download it. The 8+ minutes it lumbers on is pure excellence though, and worth hearing.

Massive Attack, Live on WXPN 10-14-10:
Massive Attack – Psyche (Live on WXPN)
Massive Attack – Teardrop (Live on WXPN)
Massive Attack – Atlas Air [Zshare]
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Live on WXPN)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Heligoland” from Amazon

Live Friday: 10-29-10

Largely in honor of the stellar double billed show of LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip I was able to catch on Monday (show review), I thought now was as good of a time as any to feature Hot Chip in a Live Friday session. A couple days before their Chicago show, the band spent a little time at Minnesota Public Radio to do an interview and play a couple songs. Not only is Hot Chip pretty excellent in a live setting, but they’re also pretty hilarious in interviews. So the guys played three songs off their latest record “One Life Stand” and then chatted about their current tour, how some of their new material is more designed for a non-club environment, and whether or not they’re secretly making pop culture references in their lyrics. Everything is handled with smart, self-effacing humor. You can stream the interview by clicking the link below, and of course the tracks are fully downloadable which is something I encourage you to do.

Hot Chip, Live on MPR 10-21-10:
Hot Chip – Take It In (Live on MPR)
Hot Chip – Alley Cats (Live on MPR)
Hot Chip – Hand Me Down Your Love (Live on MPR)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “One Life Stand” from Amazon

Live Friday: 10-22-10

My personal opinion of MGMT has been very low for quite awhile, stemming from a pretty bad show I saw them play in 2005 before anybody had heard of them. It was that show, and their subsequent rise to fame in the last couple years that really upset me, especially as they were riding on the coattails of old songs they “re-released” as a “debut” album. Still, I won’t deny that songs like “Kids” and “Electric Feel” and “Time to Pretend” are really catchy, and I expected the band to make a bunch of similar-sounding songs for their sophmore record. When that second album “Congratulations” came out and it was filled with anti-pop psychedelic insanity, my opnion of the band changed dramatically. For once, being signed to a major record label, they made something uncompromising and difficult. Good for them. So I do like their latest album, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m featuring the band on today’s Live Friday. They stopped by the WXPN studios about a week ago and played a couple tunes, including the 12.5 minute “Siberian Breaks”, which is a whole mountain to climb unto itself. (P.S. – I apologize, but hosting/bandwith issues prevent me from uploading that song directly, so you’ll need to follow the link to zShare if you want to download the 18MB file…the other two tracks are simple Right click, Save As) Anyways, the band sounds pretty good, almost the complete antithesis of how they were 5 years back, though it helps there are some more members to help flesh out the sound just right. You can also stream the interview with the band by clicking the link below. They talk a little about why they didn’t just write a bunch of hits for the new album, and a number of other things they’ve learned while rising to the eschelons of indie stardom.

MGMT, Live on WXPN 10-15-10:
MGMT – It’s Working (Live on WXPN)
MGMT – Congratulations (Live on WXPN)
MGMT – Siberian Breaks (Live on WXPN) [zShare; follow link]

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Congratulations” from Amazon

Live Friday: 10-15-10

Checking back through my personal, handwritten archives of this here website (see: Google currently is disabling my access to 3+ years of online archives), it looks like I featured The Walkmen on a Live Friday session back in May of 2009. They were still out supporting their last album “You & Me”, and put up a great set of material from that excellent record. Well, here we are a year and a half later and they’ve got a brand new album out ,”Lisbon”, and it’s one of 2010’s best. I’m pleased to share this session with you from the band as they do 4 songs from that record, recorded just over a week ago. There’s also an interview you can stream below, where the band talks about the origins of the “Lisbon” title, and whether or not each new album is a response to the one before it. Enjoy.

The Walkmen – Blue As Your Blood (Live on WXPN)
The Walkmen – Angela Surf City (Live on WXPN)
The Walkmen – Juveniles (Live on WXPN)
The Walkmen – Woe Is Me (Live on WXPN)

Stream the entire interview/session 

Buy “Lisbon” from Amazon

Live Friday: 10-8-10

Best Coast

Here in Chicago, this weekend is shaping up to be our last fling for summer-like weather. Highs in the mid-to-upper 70s and not a single chance for rain. It should be a delight before temperatures go down the crapper. It’s important on a weekend such as this one to get out as much as possible and enjoy it, because who knows how long it’ll be until the next time. All of this makes me look back at the summer of 2010 and the great things it brought. Perhaps my favorite musical treat and the perfect soundtrack to the days of fun in the sun was Best Coast’s debut record “Crazy For You”. In honor of those memories and the last nice weekend for awhile, Live Friday this weeks is a session with Best Coast. Bethany, Bobb and Ali stopped by Minnesota Public Radio a couple weeks ago while on tour and played a couple tracks. They all sound great, as they also did when I saw Best Coast back in July. The band also does an interview where they discuss things like Bill Murray being a fan, the rumors that Bobb used to babysit Bethany back in the day, and the Mall of America. I also can’t forget to mention cats. There’s more cat talk. It’s all good, and even if you’re someplace where the weather isn’t so nice this weekend, I hope you’ll find these songs a lot of fun anyways.

Best Coast, Live on MPR 9-28-10:
Best Coast – The End (Live on MPR)
Best Coast – Boyfriend (Live on MPR)
Best Coast – Summer Mood (Live on MPR)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Crazy For You” from Amazon

Live Friday: 10-1-10

Welcome to October, or as some like to call it, Rocktober. It’s a fun month for music, what with a wide array of great shows as part of the fall concert season, along with the last real month of great album releases as the year winds down. Looking back with fondness on some of the excellent records already released in 2010, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti finally struck it (indie) big with their new record “Before Today”. The whole thing is a fascinating pastiche of lo-fi aesthetics and David Bowie-esque mania, and it’s relatively easy to understand why many have latched onto it. That same impression is just a little bit lost in translation when it comes to this week’s Live Friday session. There’s no auto-lo-fi filter attached to these in-studio recordings, so they’re a bit clearer here than on record. And while Ariel is there with a couple of his bandmates, they’re not able to bring everyone in with every instrument, meaning this is just a little “stripped down” from the norm for them. Perhaps that’s only why they performed two songs, both of which can be classified as good but not quite as amazing as they should be. My impression might just be a little bit skewed though upon having listened to these songs surrounded by an interview with Ariel. Most of the indie community comes off as relatively good and humble people, but Ariel Rosenberg in this situation does not seem like one of them. Pompous and pretentious asshole is one way of describing his behavior when talking about his “process” and how his main goal is to make as much money as possible with his music. Apparently he more than believes his own hype, though the prospect that he’s going to make much if any money with the band almost seems silly given the state of the music industry today. Ah well, he certainly does stand out from the crowd with both his music and his personality, so you can’t really fault him for that even if it is very off-putting. This session is at the very least interesting to hear both on the good and bad sides of things, so if you’re at all intrigued, you may want to download these couple tracks.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Live on WXPN 9-22-10:
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Every Night I Die At Miyagi’s (Live on WXPN)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Bright Lit Blue Skies (Live on WXPN)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Before Today” from Amazon

Live Friday: 9-24-10

Earlier this week, I reviewed the new of Montreal album “False Priest”. I wouldn’t say I was unkind towards the band, but the review wasn’t completely positive. Die hard fans might not like what I had to say, but I stand by what I think are fair words. That being said, I’m white hot about this session the “band” did on Minnesota Public Radio just yesterday. The reason I put “band” in quotes is because Kevin Barnes performs solo, with just him and a piano. The results are remarkably awesome. Stripping back all the layers that make up each of Montreal song and taking it to such a minimal level actually works wonders. Barnes does “Flunkt Sass vs. The Rute Plume” to start and there’s something so emotionally satisfying about the rendition. At many of their live shows recently, the band has also been performing the song “Tonight” by the obscure folk artist Sibylle Baier, which Barnes does here as well. Finally, Janelle Monae (who’s currently on tour with of Montreal) steps up and does her part on the “False Priest” cut “Enemy Gene”, and the piano only version is once again pretty jaw-droppingly great. For the interview portion, should you want to hear it, Barnes talks a little about his dislike of discussing the meaning of lyrics and the importance of having a strong visual element within live performances. It’s good, and not what I expected to hear from him. So you could say this is one great session on the whole, and it’s actually served a good point in getting me to develop a new found appreciation for of Montreal. Also, if Kevin Barnes released an album of solo piano songs, I’d buy it in an instant.

Of Montreal – Flunkt Sass Vs. The Rute Plume (Live on MPR)
Of Montreal – Tonight (Sibylle Baier cover, Live on MPR)
Of Montreal – Enemy Gene ft. Janelle Monae (Live on MPR)

Stream the entire interview/performance

Buy “False Priest” from Amazon

Live Friday: 9-17-10

A couple weeks back Jenny Lewis and her boyfriend Johnathan Rice released their first album as a duo known as Jenny and Johnny. Lewis you may know from Rilo Kiley or her own solo work, and Rice has had his own solo project for awhile as well. In my review of their record “I’m Having Fun Now”, I wasn’t overly kind to Rice, basically saying he was the weak link in an otherwise lovely album from Jenny Lewis. Well, having heard this interview and live session with the both of them, I stand by that claim. Still, this session is interesting, with simple acoustic guitars and the two voices it works surprisingly well. There’s a small touch of piano as well on “Switchblade”. In the interview, the pair talked about how the project came into existence, why the album title is what it is, and doing some work with Elvis Costello. It’s one of the better artist interviews I’ve heard recently, though things do get a bit awkward when the interviewer goes off on his love for Costello’s TV series “Spectacle”. Good stuff to start your weekend with though, and I hope you enjoy it thoroughly.

Jenny and Johnny, Live on Minnesota Public Radio, 9-12-10:
Jenny and Johnny – Big Wave (Acoustic Live on MPR)
Jenny and Johnny – Animal (Acoustic Live on MPR)
Jenny and Johnny – Switchblade (Acoustic Live on MPR)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “I’m Having Fun Now” from Amazon

Live Friday: 9-10-10

This week’s edition of Live Friday is proud to feature a session from Akron, Ohio’s own Black Keys. The band released their sixth and newest album “Brothers” back in May to what’s ultimately continued critical acclaim. Sure, it may not be the greatest Black Keys record, but it does feel like a return to their bluesy form after the much more psychedelic turn they took on 2008’s “Attack and Release”. The album was recorded at a few studios around the country, including the legendary Muscle Shoals in Alabama and The Bunker in Brooklyn. The band talks a little bit about that during the interview portion of the session, which is available to stream via the link below. But one of the more recent developments in The Black Keys’ camp is that singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach had built his own studio in their hometown of Akron. Ostensibly the band no longer needs to use any other studio when making albums, and they have the convenience of being able to use it 24/7 free of charge. Of course that doesn’t mean they’re going to always use the new studio, and they can also have a little fun with it by inviting people over to hang out while they play some songs. That’s what much of this session is. Recorded the week that “Brothers” was released to stores, the band plays four songs from the album at the unofficially titled “Auerbach Studios”. The Black Keys are known to be a vibrant and exciting live act, and touring around this record they’ve gone from a duo to a foursome just to help flesh out the song arrangements a little bit more. It shows in this session, which is nothing short of excellent. Download the songs, stream the interview, and have a great weekend.

The Black Keys, Live at Dan Auerbach’s studio, 5-20-10:
The Black Keys – Too Afraid To Love (Live at Auerbach Studios)
The Black Keys – Tighten Up (Live at Auerbach Studios)
The Black Keys – Everlasting Light (Live at Auerbach Studios)
The Black Keys – Howlin’ For You (Live at Auerbach Studios)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Brothers” from Amazon

Live Friday: 9-3-10

Oh what a great Live Friday this is set to be. Let’s kick off your Labor Day weekend right with a great set of jams from LCD Soundsystem. This is practically appropriate for the holiday weekend given that once he’s done supporting the latest LCD record James Murphy says he’s going to pretty much retire from music. Actually, he does clear that up a little bit in the interview (which is you can stream via the link below). Essentially he doesn’t want to feel that cyclical pressure that comes from making an album, touring around it, then doing the whole thing over again. Expectations keep rising with each new album and he’d rather go out on top than on the decline. Murphy also says that while he plans to stop touring completely, there may be more LCD Soundsystem music in the future, such as some singles or even another album – just don’t expect it soon or under any sort of timetable. He wants to work at his own pace.

So, about the music. The band plays 3 songs off the new album “This Is Happening”, and one classic otherwise known as “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”. The session was recorded in a London studio while the band had a little down time this past June, and in most cases these versions of the songs sound as good or better than they do on the album. “I Can Change” is just a little disappointing to me, mostly because there’s an echo vocal effect applied to James Murphy’s voice that I find off-putting. Otherwise though, everything is fantastic and more than worth a download.

(Note: Due to some bandwith issues, I had to downsample aka lower the quality of a couple of the mp3s in this session. The original, higher quality versions are available via the alternate links below. Sorry if that’s an inconvenience.)

LCD Soundsystem, Live in London, 6-29-10:
LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change (Live in London) [Higher quality: ZShare]
LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls (Live in London)
LCD Soundsystem – All I Want (Live in London) [Higher quality: ZShare]
LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk Is Playing At My House (Live in London)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “This Is Happening” from Amazon

Album Review: Mogwai – Special Moves [Rock Action]

For Live Friday this week, considering that Mogwai coincidentally also released their first live CD/DVD on Tuesday, this is going to serve as something of a 2 birds, one stone type of situation. If you’ve never heard a Mogwai record before, that’s something you need to experience sooner rather than later. The band’s largely instrumental compositions are post-rock of the most epic sort, often slowly building in ferocity until peaks are reached and there’s a cathartic release of skull-pounding noise. It’s something they’ve been doing for over 13 years and 6+ studio albums, and though the sentiment tends to be that they’ve started to get stale and have been treading water the last couple albums, there are still clear highlights on each to make everything in their catalogue worthwhile. Yes, albums like their debut “Young Team” and “Rock Action” will always hold a revered place amongst Mogwai fans, but scorched Earth later period songs like “Glasgow Mega-Snake” and “Batcat” will be there too, mostly because they’re so damn good.

New York’s Music Hall of Williamsburg isn’t exactly the most thrilling venue to create a live CD/DVD, that is compared to other bands who choose to make their live recordings at special anniversary shows or at a highly unique location or something similar. The combination package, the CD portion of which is titled “Special Moves” and the DVD portion titled “Burning” was recorded in total over 3 nights at MHOW, but constitute what might be considered a very accurate portrayal of what you’d see and hear at your average Mogwai show. It’s also a very well balanced collection of songs, selecting songs from each of Mogwai’s albums and not displaying any particular favoritism towards any period of their careers. And while requisite mind-exploders like “Mogwai Fear Satan” and “Like Herod” are staples of virtually any Mogwai show, they also dive a little deeper beyond the flagrantly fantastic for a subdued moment like “Cody” or the not-quite-obvious choice of “I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School”. What really stands as a testament to how amazing Mogwai are live is how well they’re able to take these career-spanning songs of various quality and seamlessly blend them together to the point where everything sounds mindblowing. Sure, there are some epic standouts, but despite this not being a greatest hits record it can often feel like one, with just a tiny amount of crowd noise in between to remind you that it’s live.

In terms of the “Burning” live DVD that you can get as part of the live package, it’s a black-and-white affair directed by the great Vincent Moon along with Nathanaël Le Scouarnec. The “Special Moves” CD might be a great audio representation of Mogwai’s music in a live setting, but to capture the full effect you absolutely need to see what’s happening on stage. From the smart lighting work to Martin Bulloch’s shockingly effective drum work, those are just two big positives among a wealth of them proving that this band is best when they’re both seen and heard. There’s not a ton of overlap between the CD and DVD tracklistings, and the DVD-exclusive renditions of “The Precipice” and “Batcat” are pretty jaw-dropping in their own right amongst heavy-hitters like “Hunted By A Freak” and “Like Herod”. And while the DVD may show you what a completely enthralling experience Mogwai’s live show is, unless you’ve got a gigantic TV with an extreme number of speakers you’ll never be able to fully recreate what it’s like to be in the same room as the band mows down a large crowd with an intense amount of noise. Your entire body vibrates, your hair stands on end, and more than likely you’ll have some hearing damage to contend with. For those who aren’t going to be able to catch a Mogwai live performance anytime soon, or simply just want to have a recorded show at their beck and call, “Special Moves” and “Burning” are your two grand companions for that. They also serve as a fantastic introduction to the band if they’re new to you.

While I am unable to offer you some mp3s from “Special Moves” for your downloading pleasure, thankfully I do have a relatively large archive of Mogwai live bootlegs I can choose from. So what you’ll find below is a session the band did on BBC Radio 1 back in 2006 around the release of their album “Mr. Beast”. Naturally then, most of the tracks pull from that album, but it still gives a pretty strong impression of what Mogwai sounds like live, even if it’s not quite the quality “Special Moves” and “Burning” have to offer.

Mogwai – Friend of the Night (Live on BBC1)
Mogwai – Glasgow Mega-Snake (Live on BBC1)
Mogwai – Summer (Live on BBC1)
Mogwai – Acid Food (Live on BBC1)
Mogwai – Folk Death 95 (Live on BBC1)
Mogwai – Travel Is Dangerous (Live on BBC1)
Mogwai – We’re No Here (Live on BBC1)

Buy “Special Moves” and “Burning” in various packages from Rock Action

Live Friday: 8-20-10

Don’t ask me where the momentum came from, because quite frankly I don’t really know, but Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are pretty huge by indie standards today. I can’t recall a whole lot of blog love for them when their “Up From Below” album came out, but people have caught on to the band, either via the use of their songs in commercials or on the radio. They were a hot attraction at this year’s Lollapalooza, so much so that when I tried to go see them the crowd on the side stage was so big I left after 5 minutes of not being able to see anything. But this live session from them is good enough that no visual assistance is needed to fully enjoy it. The band plays a few songs from their album, including a reworked version of “40 Day Dream” that’s still pretty damn good. In some respects you could also call this an acoustic session, so if that intrigues you even more then please download away. There is a brief interview to go along with these songs, and that’s up for streaming via the link below. They talk about the film project they’re working on, how they survive life on the road in a bus, and a number of other things. Pretty solid on the whole.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Live on MPR 8-13-10:
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – 40 Day Dream (Live on MPR)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Home (Live on MPR)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Fiya Wata (Live on MPR)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Up From Below (Live on MPR)

Stream the entire interview/session

Buy “Up From Below” from Amazon

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