Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Today, Maxwell's is closing and the interwebs weep

Today is the last day of July.
Today is also the day Maxwell's is closing.
Today is a sad day.

I posted my feelings after the initial announcement so I really don't have anything else to say. But I wanted to share some links I've come across in the past couple of days about the closing. has written a few pieces about the closing. Here is one.

BrooklynVegan posted a 20 minute documentary about the historic venue, including interviews with a lot of the key people.

Here is an article from Bloomberg that I first saw on Facebook. It categorizes the "rift" between "Maxwell's Rock Fans" and "Hoboken Moms."

New York Magazine published an oral history of the venue in their most recent issue.

Here is a post from Stereogum that made me very sad. Especially this quote:
Abramson has made it clear the issue isn’t monetary, but a wrong place, wrong time sort of deal. Hoboken has changed. “You wanna be the town with Cake Boss or you wanna be the town with Maxwell’s?” says McCall. “Ultimately the town made the decision that Cake Boss outweighed Maxwell’s.”

Gothamist posted The Best Bands Played At Maxwell's (live videos of Nirvana, Replacements, Bob Mould, Black Keys, and others playing in the back room).

Hopefully the Maxwell's spirit will live on forever...even if the Washington Street location is turned into some kind of generic sports bar or something.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, July 30: T. Hardy Morris, Backstreet Boys, Michael Franti

Again, there were not many notable releases this week but that didn't stop me from listening to some of them.

T. Hardy Morris Audition Tape
Backstreet Boys In a World Like This
Michael Franti & Spearhead All People

Although I lack the background to compare this release with Dead Confederate albums, I was charmed by the vocals and melodies found on T. Hardy Morris's Audition Tape.  The vocals remind me of Kurt Vile (who released a rather enjoyable album called Wakin' on a Pretty Daze this year).

As I listened through the tracks, the tempo gets a bit tired.  The album would benefit from one or two more faster tracks, like "Share the Needle" But as a solo release, it does the job of highlighting Morris as an artist independent of the band.  So I'd say give this release a listen. If you enjoy mellowed-out, post-grunge vocals and twangy guitars, you  may enjoy this release.  It definitely made me want to check out Dead Confederate.

When I realized there was a new album by the Backstreet Boys this week, I started thinking about who actually IS their target audience for new stuff?

  • Is it today's tweens who are fans of One Direction and other current boy bands? 
  • Is it 20 somethings like me who grew up listening to boy bands and enjoys a throwback once in while?  
  • Or is it older moms who listen to adult contemporary radio? 

After listening to the album, I will guess the third one. The classic harmonies are there.  The melodies are great. Each song feels like it would fit well after Train's "Hey Soul Sister" or "Drive By."  The programmers (and listeners) of 95.5 WPLJ probably love these songs. Tracks are very catchy but does not even compete with "I Want It That Way" and "Quit Playing Games."

Michael Franti &; Spearhead's All People is probably the strongest release of the week.  It has the rapping vocals and the sing-along vocals. The tempo and tone feels like summer. "11:59" is extremely catchy. "I'm Alive" is another one of those "songs with whistling" (like Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks"). The lyrics of this song throws back to current songs (specifically "Hey Soul Sister") and pop culture (Ice and Coco, John and Yoko).

With releases like this, I am also weary of if its a gimmick or a real thing.  But some of the songs were toned down (like "Life is Better With You"), showing that Michael Franti & Spearhead can do mellow but chooses to record outdoor party songs.  

I just wonder why this album wasn't released earlier in the summer. Multiple songs would have fit perfectly on 4th of July playlists, right next to the catchiest song of 2009 "Say Hey".

[Ed. note: I can't believe I mentioned "Hey Soul Sister" twice in this post.]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Does It Hold Up?: The Format's Intervention and Lullabies (2003)

From TV to radio, people are raving about this band called fun.  Moms, grandmas, tweens, Lena Dunham, everyone seems to be talking about this band. That "We are Young" song is inescapable. My Facebook Newsfeed blew up during their two night stint at Hudson River Park (where they were supported by Tegan & Sara, who I adore). 

(Note: I happen to enjoy Aim and Ignite. I have not heard this latest album.)

Every time I hear a fun. song I think of The Format - a little band from the early 2000s fronted by Nate Ruess (currently lead singer of fun.).  In 2003, Ruess and Sam Means released Intervention and Lullabies.  I fell in love with this album during 2004's Skate and Surf Fest, in Asbury Park, NJ.  I remember a diminutive Ruess singing without his shoes on, while Means backed him out on acoustic guitar. It was very memorable as a 17 year old.  

So I thought in honor of fun's recent success, I'd do a re-listen of Interventions and Lullabies and share my thoughts. 

Here we go! Time to press play! 

Ok. This is already 10x better than "We are Young." The thing I always liked about The Format was their album to fuse bouncy melodies with largely depressing song lyrics. The melodies, harmonies, and light drum beats are coupled with lyrics about alienation, friendship, and family. Its bitter without being cynical.  

Lyrics like "When I'm with you/ there's no point in breathing" (from "Tie the Rope") sum-up the "I love you" and then "I hate you" sentiment (Only now am I reminded of that "When I'm with you/ I feel like I could die/ and that would be all right" lyric from 3EB's "Semi-Charmed Life").  

Every song is about the tension of relationships (romantic, friendship, family). "Tune Out" seems to be about problem avoidance. "A Mess to be Made" was always a stand-out track.  It really highlights the struggles of being a youth who cannot seem to do anything right. It has tint of banjo twang, a very popular device these days. 

"On Your Porch" is an epicly-slow and heartbreaking song about family struggles and your past. It starts out quiet, like an Iron & Wine song, and then builds. Vocally, Ruess starts out alone and then is joined by Means; Means' guitar is the common thread. It still kills me. 

As this song ends, its hard not to feel like an emotional wreck.  But then, joy comes back for "Sore Thumb," another bouncy song about failed relationships. 

Why is Ruess so angry!   Why has every girl (or friend) been a total disappointment! I feel like a teenage fan-girl who just wants answers! 

Conclusion: This album absolutely holds up.  There are many different types of songs on the album and each of them seamlessly blend into one another. There are slow ballads ("On Your Porch" and "A Save Situation") and clap-along singles ("The First Single" and "Wait Wait Wait").  All 12 songs are pretty great.  Many albums of the 2000s featured those in-between chorus breakdowns.  This album is no different. The lyrical themes still resonate. 

Maybe not much has changed since 2002. And maybe I'm OK with that. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, July 23: Mountain Goats, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Love Language

This week's new releases are a little anemic this week but there are some of note.

I listened to:

The Mountain Goats All Hail West Texas (reissue with bonus tracks)
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros self titled
The Love Language Ruby Red 

The Goats' All Hail West Texas was released in 2002 and is one of their more low-fi albums.  I never listened to it before this reissue (mostly because Spotify took it down recently) but it is a great album.  If you like acoustic songs that feel like diary entries, this album is for you.  John Darnielle has always been very confessional in his lyrics and this group of songs seems like a biography of life in West Texas, complete with metal bands, stories of high school football players, and teenage love. Even though I know Friday Night Lights took place in East Texas, I imagine this album is basically a soundtrack to their lives. I bet Julie Taylor and Matt Saracen would love it.

I always have such high expectations for Edward Sharpe. I loved the first album so much. And then I heard the first single off the second album, "Man on Fire." I was so excited!  But then when Here came out, I found it sort of lackluster as a whole.  Then I heard they were releasing a new album and I was excited. But again, I am underwhelmed. Maybe that whole "massive collective baroque pop band" thing is just overdone. Maybe this album will grow on me.

I listened to The Love Language's first album when it came out in 2009. I remember liking it at first but it didn't stick. I think I just wasn't ready for their sound (I was listening to a lot of wimpy indie back then).  But now I think I am a ready.  This new album, Ruby Red is fantastic. It is lush and melodic with several edgy elements. I knew I was going to like it as the first track, "Calm Down."  "Golden Age" utilizes those synths that I enjoy so much right now. Their previous albums, 2010's Libraries and 2009's self titled, also had that lush sound but this latest album seemed to refine their concept. This is definitely the stand-out of the week.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Check it out: The Chris Gethard Show, bringing laughs and quirk to public access

A week or so ago, I received a message from a college friend, Kevin Feldman, who now lives in Austin, TX. He said he would be in town and that I should join him for a filming of The Chris Gethard Show. I was a bit familiar with Gethard (a 30-something comedian originally from Jersey) but I was not familiar with his show (which started at UCB and then moved to the Manhattan Neighborhood Network).

I looked through the archived hour-long variety shows, complete with call-ins, characters, and musical guests. I was instantly drawn in to this offbeat sort of humor. I contacted the audience list email and was signed up.  Awesome.

Walking into the MNN (where the show films from 11-12 on Wednesdays) was a bit jarring as it seemed though everyone knew each other and I was just a first timer. But that is just the kind of community that the show (and to my understanding, Gethard) has. 

Last night's show, which was the 100th, was a gratitude-fest from both the perspective of Gethard, his friends, and his fans.  People called into to express their appreciation for the show, what it represents and what Gethard as done. One of the people on stage said it best when she mentioned how the show was a place where people could actually be themselves. This resonated with the entire crowd and those listening, watching, or just thinking about the show.

Of course there was comedy and laughs as well. Each person who spoke on stage was forced to wear headphones attached to the Speech Jammer iPad app.

The thing that stood out to me, as a first timer, was how the show started.  Gethard began with a poignant monologue about how each person needs to find "their own Chris Gethard Show," meaning that if you have a dream, do it.  Even if it is weird and you don't think you can, you should.  People may laugh at your idea, whether to be a YouTube show, a comic book, a screenplay, or (in my case) a blog with an eventual podcast. But that is no reason not to try things.

The video for last night's broadcast isn't on the site yet. But for a little taste of the action, here is a video of episode 60, "Truth or Dare." This episode features a viewer submitted game of Truth or Dare and musical guest The Shivering Brigade (which just happens to be the band of my friend, Jonathan Zuckerman - who I saw at the filming yesterday [They currently have a Kickstarter to raise money for their new album. Here is their bandcamp site.]

So seriously. If you like funny, quirky comedy and just generally cool people, check out the show.  Check out Chris and his Weird NJ/ Weird US series and his collection of stories about his life called "A Bad Idea I'm About to Do" (which he was gracious enough to sign for my boyfriend).

Edit:  As promised, here is a link to the "Hundo" episode

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, July 16th: Matt Nathanson, Frank Black, New Order

Every Tuesday, I check LargeheartedBoy for one of their best features: Interesting Music Releases for the Week. And I queue up some albums on Spotify.  

Yesterday, I listened to: 

Matt Nathanson's Last of the Great Pretenders
Frank Black's Oddballs
New Order's Live at Bestival 2012

As far as the Matt Nathanson album, I was a little disappointed. But I often feel disappointed after his albums. I feel like his mesmerizing stage presence and hilarious live show banter does not translate on to his albums. It seems a bit overproduced (I enjoy his stripped down acoustic stuff - like 1998's Not Colored Too Perfect).  I do hope success for him. He deserves it. If you like pop songwriters, check this album out. Its alright. 

I found Frank Black's album rather enjoyable. His vocals and writing style really appeals to the 90s alt-rock fan within my soul. And as a fan of the Pixies, I am always interested in new material from the frontman. Many of the songs are fast. "Announcement" kind of reminds me of a J Mascis song. It kind of reminds me of a raw-er Silver Age by Bob Mould.  Yeah. I think I'll listen to some Bob Mould now.

New Order is one of those bands I want to get more into.  This is just a live album that features many of the few songs I already know, including "True Faith," "Bizarre Love Triangle," and, of course, "Love Will Tear Us Apart." But as with most live albums, I don't think I'd listen to it beyond this week. It did make me want to listen to more New Order though. Suggestions of which albums to start with, readers? 

We have over 10,000 hits! Wohoooo!

Hello loyal readers! Guess what?!!  

We hit over 10k views! 

Although me and Jenna aren't entirely sure how many of those views are actually us checking up on the content, this is quite a milestone in our tiny blog that was started in 2009. 

So much has happened since then and we thank you for sticking with us through the years of robust content and year long lulls.  

On a personal note, reaching this milestone has re-ignited my desire to blog (again).But now I am going to aim to have a weekly schedule of content (instead of just random updates whenever I come across a funny video on the internets). 

So stay tuned (again).  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Happy Summer! Here is a video of Mac from Superchunk covering Jonathan Richman for AV Club

AV Undercover is one of my favorite parts about Tuesday. At the beginning of each series, AV Club editors pick a bunch of songs and enlist bands to pick and perform the track however they please  The end products range from delightful to terrifying.  Sometimes bands put their own spin on classic songs and ther times they do not.  Filmed in their Chicago offices, there have been a lot of gems (including Frightened Rabbit performing "Confetti", The Swell Season performing "Two Headed Boy", and Young the Giant performing "Ignition (Remix)".

Each summer, AV Club takes a break from their initial list of covers and lets the band choose a song that fits in with the season (ie. summer).  Below is a video of Mac from Superchunk performing Jonathan Richman's "That Summer Feeling." He is joined by Kelly Hogan for this song that clocks in at over 6 minutes.

Mac McCaughan & Kelly Hogan cover Jonathan Richman

Also, check out the new Superchunk song "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" on Pitchfork. Their new album, "I Hate Music," will be out in August. If you don't already listen to Superchuck, they are definitely worth checking out.  They write some of the catchiest songs ever.