Archive for April, 2010

Album Review: MGMT’s “Congratulations”

April 20, 2010

Now this album is a very pleasant surprise. A pleasant surprise, indeed! I thought Oracular Spectacular was okay. Songs like “Electric Feel” and “Time to Pretend” (my personal album favorite) certainly made MGMT not only a recognizable brand, but offered a defined and recognizable sound. But, despite a few indelible singles, something was always really fucking irritating about the band and the album. I don’t know about you, reader, but this dirty fucking hipster always found something terribly inorganic about OS. So, as a result, I never bought the record, never attended an MGMT show (which I had heard were awful, anyway) and never gave a thought to keeping up with their goings on. Fortunately for the band, they might have achieved the ultimate conversion: this stubborn, music-righteous dirty hipster just might be a fan now. Boy, I hope Titus Andronicus is reading this right now.

<i>Congratulations</i> from MGMT

'Congratulations' from MGMT

Congratulations starts out with a song, “It’s Working,” that had me hitting ‘pause’ and calling my friend to rave about how impressed I was; and to ask if what I was listening to was really MGMT. It certainly wasn’t the MGMT I remember hearing buzz by in every third car going down Metropolitan in the fall of 2007. It is rather off that a band who had built up so much support with their debut release decided to completely, and I mean completely, redefine their sound. And it is rather astounding that they were able to do so with such deft facility. It’s a whole new sound MGMT have cultivated, and it’s far superior to the old sound.

Stereogum cited a slew of influences that were apparent in the record, from David Bowie to The Beatles, The Kinks to Pink Floyd (and, to be honest, none of these comparisons are all that off-base, especially The Kinks comparison). Positing the band in such rarified air one would thing that Stereogum were sold hook, line and sinker on Congratulations, but, for some reason, they maintain that the jury is still out on the album’s merits. Well, this dirty hipster knows good music when he hears it and he’s not afraid to jump the fence and take a stand. This is a great, great album.

MGMT’s “Flash Delirium”

I suppose I’ve been getting a series of good recommendations because it’s been a while since I didn’t rave about a release. (She & Him didn’t release anything, I just happened to find and immediately hate them.) I’m going to leave lengthy description and summary aside on this one – as I suppose I seem to do anyway. Go into this one fresh. This is a different band. It’s corny, but I have to say, Congratulations deserves one gigantic cheer of “congratulations!” It’s musical, it’s brave and creative, and catchy as all hell. Certainly a lot of serious borrowing here, but that’s for another post. (And, it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. Zeppelin ! was, after all, more or less a series of borrowed blues progressions and lyrics.)

There will be another article on this album soon. There is something iconically Hipster about it and I’m looking forward to getting a little theoretical and writing a proper essay. Stay tuned, reader. In the meantime, either get on MGMT’s website to stream the album, or hop on iTunes and pay for a copy. -DFH

Live Review: Lights Resolve, Black Taxi, Blackbells, Deadbeat Darling

April 18, 2010

The Easter Bunny’s Early Arrival

Before I begin my tirade of praise for my music-filled weekend, I would like to thank The Dirty Fucking Hipster for inviting my writing into his space. I thought about the nom de plume “The Damn Sexy Scenester,” but I am far from that confident; and there are plenty who would disagree with the alias. Alas, I am simply me. Please enjoy my attempts to “dig deep” into the NYC music scene…

For the sake of story-telling, let’s assume the infamous Easter Bunny is real (spoiler alert!). The spring figure was good to me last weekend, bringing six of my favorite New York artists, Outernational, The London Souls, Lights Resolve, Black Taxi, Blackbells, and Deadbeat Darling, and a newbie, Uzuhi, over two days and three shows to the Tri-state area.

Outernational take over Santos

Outernational take over Santos

Santo’s Party House became a Friday night sweat-fest when Outernational returned, after five weeks on the road, to their home territory for the band’s only East coast show and before hitting the road again. Accompanying the Brooklyn-based rebel-rockers for the “One Way Finale” were New York’s Japanese punk crowd-pleasers and hosts, Uzuhi, and sultry, blues-rock trio, The London Souls. An ideal match for Outernational, Uzuhi (translates to “the Sun”) advocate music with no borders, a message preached with fervor in their inter-song patter. Fans melted at the touch of Uzuhi’s front man, Gosha, who shouted and perspired along with Dr. Tsu’s aggressive drums, Tsubasa’s elegant keyboard and back-up vocal melodies, and Katsuragi’s frantic guitar riffs. Audience participation was essential as Uzuhi commanded fans to sit down, guided one listener by the hand on stage for a serenade, and squished everyone into a group photo at the end of the set. A change in demeanor and style probably surprised the kiddies when The London Souls hit the stage.

The London Souls also rock Santos

The London Souls also rock Santos

Nothing short of soulful, the trio showcased their vintage vibe, intricate instrumental interplay, call and response vocal interchange, three-part harmony, and solid, intertwining solos. “Under Control,” “Stand Up,” and “I Think I Like It” happen to make me swoon; and throughout the venue, people agreed: the Souls’ bona fide rock ‘n roll brought on dancing, head-banging, or both, satisfying a wide spectrum of tastes. At this point, the antiperspirant levels were low but quickly plunged to zero as Outernational brought the heat. Never a disappointment, the quintet hit the stage running, cramming sixteen riotous rock-reggae-punk-world fusion songs into their stage time. Moshing and less belligerent activities accompanied highlights, such as “Future Rock,” “Sir No Sir,” “Que Queremos,” “Deportees,” an acoustic cover of a Woody Guthrie tune that brought the entire band stage front, and my new personal favorite, “Outernational.” Mid-set, members of Uzuhi paraded around the stage, while lead vocalist of Anti Flag, Justin Sane, joined the politically charged line-up. The evening’s intent of uniting people with music was evidently successful; everyone left with tinnitus and a piece of political shake-up.

Saturday afternoon, I suffered through hours of intense popcorn odor and equally stinky acoustic sets by innumerable Warped Tour-esque bands at Angels and Kings for a quarter-day, all ages “AKoustics” event. Relief finally arrived with Lights Resolve who, sadly, were having their final live show before escaping to the studio. Shockingly, Matt Reich (vocals/guitar), Luke Daniels (bass/vocals), and Neal Saini (drums/percussion) have not released a full album yet, together or individually, marking the upcoming studio stint as particularly historic. They plan to reemerge with new material, just in time for a summer tour. Joined by their previous bassist (who now plays in The Veronicas), LR debuted a few unrecorded songs, recently released tunes, the hit RockBand download, “Dreaming of Love,” and familiar tracks from the band’s EP’s, Currency and Prelude. In acoustic form, the vocal nuances, angst-ridden lyrics, and anthemic modulations stood out, demonstrating why LR’s music might outlast the rest and continue making Jersey Shore a bit more tolerable.

Black Taxi take the show on the road

Black Taxi take the show on the road

That same evening, I made the “trek” to New Jersey for an NYC invasion of Hoboken. The cream of the crop, Black Taxi, Blackbells, and Deadbeat Darling, played Maxwell’s for their first time. I have not found a single person that sits still during a Black Taxi show or leaves unsatisfied; and consistent with my field observations, this crowd had no exceptions. Mixing and matching their “grit-pop,” dance-rock tunes from Things of That Nature, a new favorite, disco-infused “Be My Friend,” and a cover of a golden oldie, “Miserlou,” Black Taxi made the evening worth a thousand Path train trips. Blackbells went west for their fifth show as a band and showcased material from the quartet's recently available self-titled EP. “High Healer” and “Young Again” have been ringing in my head for days. A consummate blend of rock ‘n roll and psychedelia with a touch of new wave and soul, Blackbells transported a classic but/yet refreshing sound to Jersey ears. Speaking of Blackbells, they will be playing Wednesday, April 14 at Mercury Lounge. It’s an early show, beginning at 7:30PM, so you won’t miss your bedtime. Deadbeat Darling completed the boast of the best from across the river with selections from Weight of Wandering and some unreleased compositions, “Broken Down Kiss” and “Insomnia Salvation.” DBD is not about showiness; instead, they channel a soft reggae-electronic rock ambiance that enchants listeners.

Deadbeat Darling bring a taste of NYC to Jersey

Deadbeat Darling bring a taste of NYC to Jersey

A triumphant NJ cherry pop, each band’s Garden State debut was well-received, reaffirming NYC band camaraderie and guaranteeing a holler back to Hoboken some time soon.

-Meijin Bruttomesso

She & Him: Indie Darlings or A Joke on the World?

April 8, 2010

As I sit around, bored, on a slow Brooklyn night – one that is somehow reminiscent of a scene from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – I scour the internet for something to occupy my time. Following a rather haphazard trail through scattered music blogs and YouTube videos, I come across some footage of She & Him – you know, that adorable duo fronted by Zooey Deschanel (sha-wing)? I had never listened to them so I decided to familiarize myself. I’ll let you watch this music video, then I will let you know what I think of this act.

I’ll begin my assessment by posing a question to you, reader: do you remember the line in Fight Club when the narrator (Ed Norton’s character) tells the audience that he and Tyler have been stealing old, rich women’s fat and were selling it back to them in the form of soap? I think hipster might be buying their own recycled fat.

Was I put off because Zooey Deschanel (hubba hubba) is simply too familiar to me. I mean, I have seen Elf like 20 times. but, after browsing through a batch of songs and performances, I began to notice that, no, this wasn’t the case. I was put off because of how extraordinarily obvious it is to see the manufacturing process that must have gone into this “band.” I also began to wonder if Zooey Deschanel (addi addi addi) has been channeling Andy Kaufman and has been screwing with her audience for the past for the last four-or-so years. The songs are completely devoid of any honesty or earnestness. I’m not alone in finding that these songs sound like something written for Music and Lyrics or Crossroads am I?

If the above music video isn’t evidence that Zooey Deschanel (boo!) is either playing an elaborate joke or is sucking the life and soul out of an already-shallow musical/cultural(?) movement, than my name isn’t Dirty Fucking Hipster! Wait…

If you watch any of the duo’s live performances you’ll witness all the obligatory pieces and requisite accouterment of the perfect Indie band. Let’s lay those pieces out:

1. Cute, presumably intriguing frontwoman with pretty voice;
2. Minimalist guitar play;
3. Two chicks in the background not really doing much with Nord at their fingertips;
4. Very busy pocket drumming with a lot of Ringo-esque fills, and a lot of open hi-hat.
5. A sound that is some charming amalgam of the modern and outdated.

Lump on top of that a music video that looks as though someone spent a million dollars trying to make a video that looks like he/she got a friend to do it for free, and you’ve got a load of bullshit called She & Him. I don’t particularly even want to write about this anymore, it’s getting me rather irritated. Needless to say, this dirty hipster is not a big fan. What’s more, Zooey is no longer the Baberham Lincoln she once was. -DFH

Album Review: “Big Echo” by The Morning Benders

April 3, 2010

“Big Echo” opens with the sound of an old record spinning beneath its needle before the melody of the single, “Excuses,” gracefully enters. A string section reminiscent of an old time ABC recording sweetly sweeps in, a poignant marker of what one can expect from the rest of this terrific album. Bearing the stylistic tendencies and now familiar techniques of producer Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear, Department of Eagles) “Big Echo” is making a big and deserved splash.

Songwriter and lead singer Chris Chu is a relic. Not physically, but philosophically. The ease of his delivery and his tasteful, earnest lyrics are something particularly rare. It would be a shame for someone like this dirty fucking hipster to claim that there is a dearth of honesty in today’s music, for that would be untrue, but Chu’s lyrics bear a tenderness, a boyish charm laden with wisdom and insight; and that’s pretty rare, no matter which era you’re talking about. “I put no one else above us / We’ll still be best friends when all turns to dust” he sings in the opening (brilliant) track, which is one of many possible examples of his endearing songwriting. His voice itself is also as pure and naturally gorgeous as, dare I say, a summer’s day? Perhaps a Shakespearean sonnet isn’t false praise for this young band from Berkeley, CA. There is something extraordinarily poetic about “Big Echo,” so a comparison to the father of the Modern English language resonates with some acuity.

This dirty hipster supposes that “Big Echo” can be categorized as this new-fangled type of surf rock that has emerged in the past six months or so, but it really is much more than that. It doesn’t rely on gimmick to sell itself, despite the obvious hand of Chris Taylor at work. Even still, such a hand, while remarkably noticeable, does little more than allow the songs and the arrangements to speak for themselves. And these are bold arrangements, not afraid to stop unexpectedly, not afraid to go on and on until a resolution appears (i.e. a 5 minute and 17 second single).

Fresh-faced, charming and rather brilliant, The Morning Benders are a band to fall in love with, and “Big Echo” is a must-buy. This dirty fucking hipster highly recommends it and promises that you will have spent your money well if you nab this off iTunes. -DFH