Category Archives: 30Hz Music

The 30Hz music-related ramblings

30Hz Recommended: 40 Best Albums of 2012

With excessively arbitrary panache we decide that, ever year, December 31st is the end cut off for our scourge of “Best Of” lists. I’m guilty for creating. You’re guilty for reading (and maybe creating, as well). We’re all in this together. And we’ll wallow in these lists for the next few months like pigs in shit. Nevermind the industry hurtles round and round. The industry, the artists, they don’t care about December 31st. Maybe they do. But music isn’t like the movie industry. The Academy Awards have the power to fuel box office and drive profits. Your blog, my bl-g, we have nothing but our own narcissism to offer these bands that probably won’t be up for a Grammy or an AMA or (god forbid) a CMA because of our recommendations. Maybe I sell one more record for a few of these bands. If I do, I’m ecstatic for promoting, what I consider, excellence in the vapidly expansive music biz.

30Hz Best Albums of 2012

With any of my year end music lists, remember I am just one guy. I cannot possibly listen and consider every record evenly. Every year a few records slip in under the wire and forge an immediate connection. But, by and large, these records are the ones that stuck with me, demanded repeat listens and engaged me on some superficial fun time vibe (Poolside, Fanfarlo), ethereal (John Talabot, How to Dress Well), primordial (METZ, Quakers) level. I’m not going to pretend that these picks are going to change the world; we all know that Wyld Stallyns are destined for that job. Some of these records received harsh, hate-mongering from various review sites. I particular enjoy loving a record that Pitchfork lambastes without remorse or scruples (Yeasayer, Alt-J). So here they are, the 30Hz Recommended: Top 40 Records for 2012. And, yes, I am allowed to change these picks should I find another record that grips me by the balls and won’t let go. Even with 40 those last few decisions are heartbreaking (sincere apologies to Lau, Bat for Lashes, Crybaby, El-P, The Lumineers and Freelance Whales). I throw you some videos for 1-15 and hopefully fill in some more later.

 

1. The Chromatics, Kill for Love

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSycSBYHitc[/tube]

2. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave


3. John Talabot, Fin

 

4. Allo Darlin’, Europe

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUxWuAbclzU[/tube]

5. Perfume Genus, Put Your Back 2 N It


6. Keaton Henson, Dear

[soundcloud id=’25782521′]


7. Poolside, Pacific Standard Time

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayuG8mpgISg[/tube]

8. Django Django, Django Django

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDjpOrlfh0Y[/tube]

9. Quakers, Quakers

[soundcloud id=’36487914′]


10. Yeasayer, Fragrant World

[soundcloud id=’56373248′]


11. Twin Shadow, Confess

[soundcloud id=’51888563′]

 

12. Lampchop, Mr. M


13. Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal

14. Grimes, Visions

15. DIIV, Oshin

[soundcloud id=’44950822′]

16. How to Dress Well, Total Loss

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tKyMDwWNnA[/tube]

17. Beach House, Bloom

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfzFVbkutFE[/tube]

18. Fanfarlo, Rooms Filled With Light

19. METZ, Metz

20. First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar


21. Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7lbY-THNHc[/tube]

22. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music

23. Two Wounded Birds, Two Wounded Birds

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbnVw1RemZE[/tube]

24. The Pass, Melt

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5myYJM8T95Q[/tube]

25. Friends, Manifest!

26. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Here

[soundcloud id=’3508022′]

27. Tennis, Young & Old

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY5kKn24qvs[/tube]

28. Hospitality, Hospitality

29. Hip Hatchet, Joy and Better Days

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImvWDhYZxc4[/tube]

30. Daughn Gibson, All Hell

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Og1e97QKg0M[/tube]

31. Port St. Willow, Holiday

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQtyG25xN2k[/tube]

32. Dry the River, Shallow Bed

33. The Walkmen, Heaven

[soundcloud id=’43420973′]

34. Stealing Sheep, Into the Diamond Sun

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APmkliiXIXQ[/tube]

35. Bear in Heaven, I Love You, It’s Cool

36. Damien Jurado, Maraqopa

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCcAKNSJ3Ac[/tube]

37. Woods, Bend Beyond

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9s8R7VM9HU[/tube]

38. Tops, Tender Opposites

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ7SjnBVTNE[/tube]

39. Prinzhorn Dance School, Class Act

[soundcloud id=’40707634′]

40. Mount Eerie, Clear Moon

[tube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7ZWgFv0JDE[/tube]

 

Passion Pit @ Stage AE 11/6

Passion Pit

This is my first concert writeup in what feels like forever. I had a long break between shows and I neglected to write up the two shows prior to that. I feel refreshed, like I could spill words all over this page like my 3yo spills, well, everything. And they might make just as much sense. Or maybe I’m just here to let my bl-g know I’m still alive.

Champion Fist Pumper
Imagine this dude, the fist pump champion, in the first row at Passion Pit. And then multiply him by five dozen.

Passion Pit last night at Stage AE. As always my preoccupation with the chemical makeup of the crowd became a foremost concern. An oddity last night even as “dudes” fist-pumped gleefully to Passion Pit’s breed of bubbly-electro-pop ear candy. And by “dudes” I mean guys I would have placed more readily at an Arena Football League game. Stage AE crowds, in my experience, have been the most energetic of concert goers. By and large, they are barely old enough to drink and therefore hammered as a direct result. Hence the energy. This portion of the crowd mingled with the teetotaler portion of the crowd whose eyes shared time with the TVs above the bar, eagerly awaiting election results to come pouring in. It was a house divided. There was also a guy in grey suit wearing a massive cardboard Romney head. He appeared without a bighead Obama for equal representation. This solo appearance just made him seem desperate.  And then I, instead of tweeting about the show I was watching (at the time Youngblood Hawke), per my normal concert routine, became far too concerned about the Massachusetts Senate results and scrolling twitter for confirmation of the false confirmation results which then lead to confirmation of the official results. Or something. You know how Twitter goes.

Political map tapping set to Passion Pit just can’t be beat.

But I digress politico. And that’s not why anyone’s reading this shit.

I’ll skip discussing Youngblood Hawke in depth, except to mention that if I had been Tweeting last night I’d have gone overboard describing the lead singer’s plaid track suit. I couldn’t figure it out. Regarding the music, the set sounded disjointed. Their “radio hit” felt gleefully manufactured next to the freeform nonsense of the rest of their jams. In a word, frenetic and forgettable. They reminded me of The Format, without the fun. But not like the band fun. Because I don’t find fun. much fun at all. (Format’s lead singer is now the lead singer of fun. if you didn’t catch why I became obsessed with that nonsense just now.)

Youngblood Hawke’s “We Come Running”

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH1caVBApj4&feature=relmfu[/tube]

But Passion Pit surprised me. I have been wary of electro-based live acts for some time. I don’t want to denigrate electronic bands’ talent as musicians but something is often lost in translation. The artifice of the music undermines the guise of spontaneous creation. M83 dominated his/their show earlier this year. Yeasayer’s more-electro tracks from their latest album underwhelmed compared to their early jams. Michael Angelakos turned the stage into his own personal treadmill. And while he engaged in the typical histrionics of most voice-only frontmen, his particular and dynamic vocal range played like an instrument. The band had a live presence, driven by a tight band — perhaps most notable was the metronomic precision of Nate Donmoyer on drums that occasionally played cadence that was drum machine on the record. The instrumental accomplishment, perhaps, shouldn’t have been a surprise considering the Cambridge-born band (with the exception of Angelakos) attended the Berklee School of Music in Cambridge, MA.

The set began with the tub-thumper and current hit single “Take A Walk.” The near capacity crowd salivated, perhaps a Pavlov’s dog response, craving Taco Bell. (You know, because “Take A Walk” is featured prominently in a Taco Bell commercial.) Really, you know you’ve made it when your single’s selling grade-D taco beef on a Dorito shell. A true American success story. I thought it was an odd choice to lead with the song on everyone’s brain.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euDlcNQDUYw[/tube]

The setlist choice paid off, however, in spades. I waited, perhaps too impatiently for “Sleepyhead” as we navigated a number of humdrum also-rans from the new record Gossamer . “Sleepyhead” is the beginning and end of the conversation about “Best Passion Pit track.” If you have another opinion, you’re probably wrong. I’m not being facetious. As the synth from the penultimate track bled into the immediately recognizable “Sleepyhead” synth, the members of both opening acts joined Passion Pit on stage. I hadn’t seen an on-stage clusterfuck as impressive since a Wu-Tang Clan show in 1997. When the beat dropped, on-stage performers showered streamers and confetti out over the crowd. The paper fireworks remained, suspended, overhead as the cacophony of performers burst to life. Many beating drums, some just dancing or singing along with Angelokos. On a night stepped with bi-partisan politics, the swollen collection of performers writhing among confetti created a hopeful parallel. It’s not really a reasonable connection to make. A bunch of like-minded musicians joining together on stage to play one killer song. …but consider this. Passion Pit shared the stage with Hollerado and Youngblood Hawke for the song everyone wanted to hear. It’s pretty common for bands to share the stage with other acts on the bill, but I can’t remember the last time I saw this brand of camaraderie during a band’s biggest song. The idealist in me wants to see this as something greater. I’m a writer. I like to draw parallels. So I choose to draw them here for a lack of anything else to discuss.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkBdJ728Sa8[/tube]

The act of sharing in the spotlight, fostering joy, just for the sake of it — is inspiring. It makes me want to believe that we can find inspiration in greater quantities moving forward. Even if it’s just a five-man band from Boston and their barely-known opening acts, there’s something to take away here. Music can and always will inspire hope. It is good. And it is natural, even if it’s largely false and misguided… and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have an NHL season this year if those bastards learn to share, like Passion Pit. Hrm? What’s that? Did you think I was talking about the deadlock in government caused by bi-partisan shenanigans and Republican held House of Reps? Pfft. I could see why you’d think I was going there with the whole election thread, but there’s no hope for any reconciliation there. Don’t be ridiculous.

NHL Lockout

The Dig @ the Garfield Artworks. Tonight!

If you’re in Pittsburgh and available on the evening of 10/10, go see the Dig, a NYC-based indie-rock outfit that Consequence of Sound likens to a cross between Vampire Weekend and the Antlers. Read the full review here. If you’re not in Pittsburgh, at least check them out because they’re definitely worth some ear-time.

“Sick Sad Morning” by The Dig @ Mercury Lounge NYC from Icon International on Vimeo.

The Dig – All Tied Up : Audiotree Live from Audiotree Live on Vimeo.

Imagine Dragons, it’s the bigass bass drum

I first heard Imagine Dragons in late January on XMU on XM Radio. “It’s Time” was introduced with a small warning by the DJ that the band was probably going to be a big deal at some point in 2012. It was a far better than average pop-friendly radio song with a great hook. At that time, the band hadn’t even released their Continued Silence EP. I downloaded the album as soon as it was released — I like to be ahead of the curve (read: I like to be the asshole telling you about this great new band of which you’ve never heard) – and shared it with my wife, who was smitten… if you couldn’t tell by her guest bl-ggery here.

Imagine Dragons big ass bass drum
Hmm. What’s interesting about this picture?

As time went on and my wife and I grew older and greyer (second children will do that. It’s an alarmingly accelerated decline), Imagine Dragons just kept popping up. She’d been pushing the album to any of her friends that would listen. It’s tremendous alt-pop music, but worthy bands just don’t necessarily get a fair shake. We expected very little out of their career trajectory. My three-year-old daughter could pretty much sing along with each of their six songs, for whatever that’s worth. (She’s actually a very good judge of the next big thing. She knew all the words to Gotye before he became big, too.) Anyway, I felt similarly about Remy Zero’s career trajectory. And whatever happened to Remy Zero? (Okay, so they provided the theme from Smallville, and appeared on a number of soundtracks, which is something, but did you honestly remember the name of the band that opened Smallville?) Their third album The Golden Hum was an alt-rock masterpiece and a highlight of that barren musical landscape immediately post-2K. The album was so well received that after that album they broke up.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-pldhJgMkg[/tube]

 

But back to Imagine Dragons… their songs started getting more and more airtime on XM after the release of the EP. And then the bomb drops. Their music starts showing up movie trailers for major release films like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Frankenweenie,” in commercials, American Idol promos. Glee just covered “It’s Time” in the season opener. This band was anonymous five months ago. But why the meteoric rise? What’s the secret? And why am I no longer special for knowing the band Imagine Dragons?

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=be8XMPitnmw[/tube]

 

I pondered these questions as I crammed into Altar Bar on Thursday to catch my first Imagine Dragons show. Imagine Dragons, who were opening for Awolnation, a band whose fame they’d eclipsed over the duration of one little tour. At the beginning, relatively unknown. At the end, the main attraction. And yes, we left after Imagine Dragons. I was hungry and wanted to go drink. It was my birthday after all. (Happy birthday to me.)

You’ll be happy to know that I’ve solved the success of Imagine Dragons.

Ready? It’s the bigass, motherflippin’ bass drum.

That’s it. Take a gander.

[tube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opyEWwnYH1E&feature=related[/tube]

 

If you’re familiar with the band you’ll know that Dan Reynolds, the lead singer, beats on a bass drum at the front of the stage while he’s singing. If you’re not familiar with the band, I just told you by not telling you. Nice, right? There’s been a swell of lead singers who are more than just frontmen, but most of these guys are firmly contained within the straightjacket genre label “indie-rock.” Rarely do they branch out into pop-music proper.

For pop-music Reynolds is a kind of novelty. He’s an affable, humble chap on stage. He (and the rest of the band) seemed positively overwhelmed by their rapid success. (They’re even still setting their own stage and doing soundchecks.) Reynolds comes off as a less-glam, more everyday Brandon Flowers (The Killers). That they’re both Mormon probably has much to do with the favorable comparison in presentation and personality. But all of this might be irrelevant if he didn’t beat a motherflippin’ bass drum. Singer-only frontmen maintain an air of otherworldliness. They must do this to justify the fact that they only sing and often barely do that. Their gift is their stage persona. See Bono, Mick Jagger, et al. Nobody cares that they don’t play an instrument. But these are the greats, the once-in-a-generation rock gods. Their bands, however, are just guys with instruments. Follow this logic with me. If you saw Bono and Larry Mullen walking down the street together, who would you be more comfortable chatting up? Larry Mullen, of course. He’s no god. He’s just a guy that plays in a band fronted by a crazytown rock god.

There are so many different bands and kinds of music and distractions that without something unique to call their own, a talented band will more toil in anonymity than reach any measure of commercial success. Critical success, perhaps, but not commercial. Reynolds’ drum breaks down the barrier between the singer and his fans. He’s a singer, but he’s also just a guy that intermittently gets taken up in the moment and decides to unleash fury on some mylar (the material of which drum heads are most likely made – the more you know, eh?). When he’s singing and suddenly takes up the mallet, there’s a swell of excitement among the crowd. The anticipation of the drum beating is unmistakable. For these songs he gets the loudest applause and the most crowd love. For someone first seeing or listening to Imagine Dragons, the communal adulation at these shows will sell records. It is a novelty, sure, but it is also greatly entertaining and displays the dude’s sincere passion for the music. Because nothing says sincere passion like a winded, sweaty human beating a bass drum with all the fiber in his being.

I have some reservations about the band growing too big for these more intimate live shows. Imagine Dragons doesn’t embrace arena-rock in the same way the Killers do. Their sound, while poppy, and occasional quite possibly rocking, might get swallowed up by larger crowds and venues. The bass drum might lose its prestige as the centerpiece of their show. In a small venue, the drum commands the room. And if the bass drum loses its prestige, it’s on Dan Reynolds to make up the distance.

Oh, and there’s also the music… because there’s probably (just maybe) people into Imagine Dragons that haven’t seen a live show. Valid argument. Again, the element that sets their music apart… the bass drum. Beating a bass drum with a mallet rather than using it in a drum kit creates such a distinctly different sound and cadence. Take the drum out of Imagine Dragons what do you have left? Solid pop-music but no live drama. And no drama means no trailer spots, no commercial gigs and no more meeting Hermoine at the VMAs.

http://hollywoodcrush.mtv.com/2012/09/07/emma-watson-imagine-dragons/

“It’s Time” kicks in at the 1:40 mark.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjplcD0dz_g[/tube]

The magical thing about “It’s Time” is that Reynolds’ beats nary a drum. But how many of these A+ pop songs can he write? The perfect pop soundbite. Maybe he only needs one to launch a career, but that won’t speak to the longevity of the band. It’s the B-sides where a band proves its worth. And, so far, it’s on the B-sides (being any song other than “It’s Time” at this point) that the drum carries its weight. See “Radioactive” or ‘Demons.”

In conclusion, and because I’m out of words for today, a picture of Emma Watson. Just because she’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Audrey Hepburn since Audrey Hepburn.

Emma Watson

 

Ghostland Observatory @ Mr. Smalls 8/12

I’d been a fan of G.O. since the days you could only order their music from their website. Hell, it might have even been a MySpace page. No guarantees on that. I knew nothing about the band other than that it was two dudes. One did the beats and one did everything else. I’d not seen them live, clearly, and thus had no idea what kind of crowd frequented a Ghostland Observatory performance. I didn’t know anyone else that listened to G.O. Do you know anyone that listens to G.O.? Probably not.

Ghostland Observatory
Ghostland Observatory, photo by Ben Rowland (www.benrowlandphotography.com)

So I’m hanging out in my usual place in the Mr. Small Booze Tank (just the back half of the venue) and I’m seeing people wandering around with glow-stick necklaces, glow stick bracelets and, yes, even old fashioned plain old glow sticks. So instead of a traditional boring recap, I will retell my experience through my Tweets.

 

 

 

 

…and occasionally my mind wandered over to the Olympic Closing Ceremonies which were on the television just over my shoulder to the right.

 

 

 

Now that you’ve read the tweets, I’ll present my pictorial recap that might help make sense of the sudden acceptance of the glowstick phenomenon.

 

Ghostland Observatory laser show @ Mr. Smalls 8/12

Ghostland Observatory laser show @ Mr. Smalls 8/12

Ghostland Observatory laser show @ Mr. Smalls 8/12

Ghostland Observatory laser show @ Mr. Smalls 8/12

Ghostland Observatory laser show @ Mr. Smalls 8/12

Ghostland Observatory laser show @ Mr. Smalls 8/12

 

But, yes, the show… Ghostland Observatory is comprised of the beats guy in the cape (Thomas Ross Turner) and the singer/guitar/frontman guy (Aaron Kyle Behrens). Their music has been described as “electro-dance soul rock.” Hence why I was confused about being at a rave. I’d always focused on the electro and rock part of the sound that didn’t necessarily require glow thingamabobs.

Here’s a video of a 2007 performance that gives you a good idea of the dynamic, laser show included.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ5xy62_qBU[/tube]

Aaron Kyle Behrens is a game frontman. He called out to the audience a couple times during the show, discussing how they were creating a shared energy. And truly it was an energetic crowd, one of the most lively I’ve seen at Mr. Smalls. Behrens encourages the give and take between performer and audience. As the only foregrounded member of the band, G.O. shows are a conversation between Behrens and the rave-like crowd. Rock the microphone and dance. Rock the microphone and hammer away on a guitar. Basically there’s a lot gyrating, like a street performer, begging for attention. But he doesn’t have to beg for the attention, there’s no competition and all eyes are already on him. Turner remains in the darkness behind his bandmate, surrounded by his wall of synths and computers. For much of the show, all you can see of Turner is his hands. It was hard to tell if this was an intended result or just a happy lighting coincidence (but considering the elaborately choreographed light and laser show, I’d guess the former). As a result Turner appeared to preside over the show like a god, pulling the strings, manipulating us all with his omnipresent powers of electrofunkery.

Ghostland put on a show that broke the barrier between crowd and performer. Ghostland not only hosted the party, they were the party. Before the show I couldn’t help but listen in on groups and their conversations. At the bar, flying solo, this is what you do. The dynamic of these groups followed similar patterns. One person knew Ghostland Observatory before the show and/or had seen them before and dragged a bunch of people along with the promise of a good time. So it seems that I wasn’t alone in not knowing anyone that listened to G.O. The stunning thing about this show was, in fact, that by the end you couldn’t tell the difference between the fans and the people that just got dragged along to enjoy the spectacle.