Tuesday, June 26, 2007
What's so bad about cookie-cutter mall punk anyway? Consider the bouncy haircut-rock of Tennessee punters and Warped Tour upstarts Paramore a gateway drug of sorts before kids get crazy into the heavy stuff like Yellowcard. "It just feels so good," sings the spunky Hayley Williams. She's mostly right.Hear it at myspace.com/paramore.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Originally Published in the Boston Globe.
Having learned an extremely valuable lesson last week at Z Square — don’t try to sample an entire drink list on your own! — we enlisted the help of friends to tackle the creative cocktail and sake menu at the hip South End restaurant Pho Republique (1415 Washington St., 617-262-0005, phorepublique.net). We were immediately greeted with a gorgeous and crisp Japanese sangria made of Japanese plum wine, Chambord, lychee juice, and soda ($9 a glass, $20 a carafe) that bartender Sara Sweet had invented minutes before we arrived. Sometimes timing is everything.
Our next selection, the Tokyo Rose Martini ($10) offered quite a contrast. The thick cocktail — made with sake, pomegranate concentrate, and mango puree — has a bold, dark fruit taste. ‘‘Pomegranate is happening all over,’’ Sweet said, ‘‘but with the mango puree this makes it almost like a smoothie ..... but for alcoholics.’’ Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. It’s not cheap, but the rich flavors and heavy fragrance (‘‘I’d bottle this and wear it as a perfume,’’ said a companion) make for slow, contemplative sipping. Take your time with this one.
Afraid of sake? Well you’re in luck. Manager Leah Ikeda’s broad sake list offers a few good choices for beginners such as the ‘‘Honjozo’’ Funaguchi Kikusui ($12), enthusiastically described as ‘‘unpasteurized sake in a can!’’ ‘‘For people that like vodka or distilled beverages, this fermented beverage will please their palate,’’ Ikeda said. ‘‘Plus it comes in a fun can that you can take home and use for knickknacks or flowers.’’ (Ours is on the kitchen counter right now).All that drinking barely gave us time to savor our Cherry Blossom Sake Mojito ($10) with mint and cherry essence, or the Nagarawa Sparkling sake ($33 a bottle) — ‘‘it tastes like liquid crème brulee,’’ says bartender Sweet. But with so many unique options, we’ll be back again soon.
Originally published in the Boston Globe.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Do You Trust Your Friends?
Remix Mix Up
Quick, name a remix in the history of music that was better than the original? Didn’t think so. Outside of dance music -- which is basically a scam anyway -- remix albums are like watching yourself jerk off in the mirror. Interesting in theory, but keep the end product to yourself. On Friends… Stars have enlisted the likes of Metric, Junior Boys, The Stills and more to put the knife to their pretty little orchestra pop. And yet there’s almost nothing here that improves upon their beloved 2004 release Set Yourself On Fire, although The Dears, in particular, do great work on “What I’m Trying to Say,” an imaginative and propulsive blast. Ultimately, remixing works best with beat-heavy tracks, or songs draped with wide open chords like low-hanging fruit, not so for the intimate, bed-sit mess-about that Stars are known for. If it aint broke... (Arts and Crafts; www.artsandcraftsrecords.com)
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Minimal Instruments, Maximal Melodies
It’s easy to forget how exciting Spoon’s 2001 masterpiece Girls Can Tell was at the time. The subsequent regularity of songwriter Britt Daniel’s originality has spoiled us. But listen afresh to Spoon now hitting all their marks: the poignancy of such instrumental minimalism, the emotional weight of Daniel’s odd phrasings, the seeming nonchalance. Only the best can make it seem this easy. Opening track “Don’t Make Me A Target” is a case in point. Its incremental tension comes in its repetitiveness, the looping piano punches and the echoing refrain of the title. “The Ghost of You Lingers” continues apace with Daniel’s signature percussive keyboards and indie piano man rhyme spitting, but the reverb-heavy vocal places him at an uncomfortable remove. New and familiar at once. Evidence enough that Spoon is capable of evoking nostalgia in both the past and future tense.
Outside Are The Vultures
On their last album, Calico System took some flack for treading into cookie-cutter screamo waters. Vultures counters that aesthetic with a mostly indistinguishable batch of brutal, riff-focused metal-core. It’s too bad, because now Mark Owens’ singing voice is mostly absent. User friendly tracks like “Running With Scissors” from They Live or “Love Will Kill All” from The Duplicated Memory (both worthy purchases) are sorely missed. Still, fans of the heavy stuff will find something to like here. “Anorsexia”, goofy title aside, is one standout, with its murderous stabs of razor sharp guitar and drums that thud like falling gallows. The band works up another good, sweaty groove on “Lick The Sun,” but it’s a rare song like “Unlocking the Maverick” or “Deceiver” where they find their memorable hooks. Those two help shape a pleasing form from the album’s mostly punishing granite heft. (Eulogy Recordings; www.eulogyrecordings.com)
Originally published in Alternative Press.
Boston‘s favorite co-ed six-piece never really belonged in the silly new-new-wave scene they were originally lumped into. There’s always been a surprising explosive rock edge under their surface. This Paul Kolderie-produced EP continues apace with five dark bangers riddled with tension between the blazing guitars, jittery keyboards and a reluctant vocal melancholy.
Listen at www.myspace.com/411
Originally published in the Weekly Dig.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Putting your own spin on an established drink trend is the hard part, but sometimes inspiration strikes when you least expect it. Consider the Mo-Tea-To ($9) at Z Square (14 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-576-0101. z-square.com) a case in point. Slipping into a bit of generic PR-speak, general manager Dan McGuire calls his original creation (made with fresh lemon, sugar, and mint muddled and mixed with Barcardi Limon and Twisted Tea) ‘‘a mojito martini with a kick — refreshing enough to be sipped in the sun but bold enough to be savored with dinner.’’He’s right. Probably the worst part about a regular mojito — aside from the latecomer to the bandwagon aspect of ordering one — is the presentation: the unappealing highball glass, with clumps of sugar and mint clogging up the straw. It makes for unpredictable sipping: one strawful of sugar, one strawful of booze. Problem solved at Z Square, where bartenders blend their ingredients seamlessly in a martini glass. But the real treat comes with the switch from soda to tea, a slight but game-changing alteration. It’s a melancholoy martini, sweet and bitter at once. If it were a song, I’d say people are going to have it caught in their heads all summer.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Waiting. In many ways, it’s the natural state of a rock band. The chatter of the press and the roar of the blogosphere might make bands like
The concept of waiting colors the Pickups’ music thoroughly. Take their breakout single, "Lazy Eye": "I’ve been waiting," sings guitarist Brian Aubert, "I’ve been waiting for this moment, all my life …" Like the best songs on the band’s debut album, Carnavas, there is always present a sense of delayed gratification, with slow builds to climaxes and entropy in the form of noisy denouements. It’s an album characterized by the comings and goings of its various layers, particularly Monninger’s bass. There’s a moment in the first few bars where she withholds her entrance until the absolute breaking point, and when it all comes together it’s … well, it’s what music is supposed to feel like: all of the parts clicking together at once into a fulfilled whole.
"I think a lot of our songs are built around highs and lows," Monninger says, dodging traffic. "Building to a greater high, then coming back. It keeps driving and cutting back, and you’re waiting for the climax, then it erupts into chaos." That pervasive sense of chaos is well matched to the simplistic tunefulness of Monninger’s bass, a grounding amidst the reaching of Aubert’s guitars and screams and the squiggly dissonance of keyboardist Joe Lester’s twiddling.
With record sales approaching 160,000—no small feat for an "overnight" success on the rising-but-tiny indie Dangerbird—and increasingly higher-profile gigs, like their recent appearance at Coachella, it seems the very thing the band has been anticipating for seven years has finally arrived. It certainly helps that their honchos at Dangerbird have so willingly given things time to develop.
"I’ve worked at bigger labels," Monninger says. "[For] so many bands, their record gets put aside after a few months. Our album has been out in the States for a year now, and Dangerbird has taken the time to stick with us." The only pity is how little time they have to enjoy it.
Originally published in the Weekly Dig.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Comes a week each year when the smell of lilacs colors the air, the sun shines warm, and a cool breeze comes off the ocean. It's earth's poetry, really. But believe me, the whole routine gets old real fast when the humidity sets in. The only reason there are so many classic poems about sitting beneath a tree in the summer or whatever is because no one had invented air conditioning yet (I suspect in a hundred years students will be memorizing "Shall I Compare Thee to a 8,000-BTU Window Unit on a Humid Day"). This whole heat thing is just really out of line. So starting today I'm putting in the AC. Call me crazy, but I actually prefer the feeling of cold air more than rolling through puddles of my own sweat at night. I crank that machine up to 11 and put another fan on while I sleep. I like to blast it with the windows down in the car, too. The beach? No thanks, too hot. The park? Maybe for 10 minutes, but then we're heading to the mall. As for sitting outside at a restaurant, that's some insane masochism. Give me a table inside, preferably in the walk-in freezer. I'd fasten shoulder straps to my AC and wear it around like a jet pack if I could. Outside and I have had our brief little romance. It was nice while it lasted, but I'll smell you next year, nature. Don't wait by the phone. Now it's time to start shooting chlorofluorocarbons back into the atmosphere where they belong.
Originally published in the Boston Globe.