Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bonnaroo 2014: Thursday had a couple of cool moments but ehh

I thought the Thursday lineup was weak compared to previous years. Last year we had Haim, Alt-J and Father John Misty, and Thursdays past have had Vampire Weekend, Kendrick Lamar, and Zac Brown Band (all before they became big). I'm not sure we'll be seeing that much out of anyone this year. I didn't have much interest in anyone playing during the early part of the day so I just wandered around seeing if anything would stick.

The Preatures stood out more than anyone else. They weave a compelling blend of Britishy pop/rock, but lean more on the pop side than rock. It's fun, sunny, feel good music. Jonathan Wilson had some great guitar solos, but I didn't care for him much beyond that. He had a mellowed out, hippie vibe and looked like a homeless person. All La Lahs presented 60s beach rock. I sat on the grass for a song or two and then went elsewhere. It wasn't until after that that I caught my first full set of the weekend.


They were okay, but nothing special. It's like really chilled out guitar rock, is the best way to describe it I guess. The singer said they were all drunk, and then asked someone to toss one of the beach volleyballs onto the stage that people had been batting around. He smacked it with a pair of drumsticks and knocked it out of the park like a baseball. This was the best part of the show.


I only saw Caveman though to get a good spot for this band, who were one of my favorite post-lineup discoveries. If you know me you know I love my synth pop bands, so the moment I found out that's what they were I had to check 'em out. They're more about vocals/hooks as opposed to electronics/production, which has its pros and cons. On stage though, the band is far too infectious to deny.

Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow ripped their way through most of the cuts from their debut, Secondhand Rapture, and tossed in covers of the Arctic Monkeys' "Do I Wanna Know" and LCD Soundsystem's "Dance Yrself Clean" for good measure. This was the first band of the weekend I saw people seriously getting hype over, and it looked like the band themselves were blown away by the reception they were getting. They were eating out of our hand as much as we were eating out of theirs.

Cloud Nothings

As much as I was digging MS MR, this was the band I truly wanted to rage to so I bolted for This Tent as quickly as possible. That one two punch was one of the greatest of the weekend.

The departure of guitarist Joe Boyer didn't seem to slow them in the slightest. This set was a pure unleashing of energy and emotion. It was great getting to catch these guys in such an intense environment, being one of the more recent appointments to the ranks of my favorite bands. There were many cathartic moments: the shrieking of "Psychic Trauma," the colossal build up and release of "Wasted Days", straight up to the eerie parting drone of "No Future No Past." Apparently it was too much for some of the crowd, as people were leaving the show in droves, 

Omar Souleyman

Getting to see him was cool. He's a dance music artist from Syria who weaves in traditional sounds of the Middle East into modern dance music. He doesn't play stateside much and when he does he's pretty much exclusively a festival act. That said, I wasn't really feeling this set for whatever reason. I was already tired and felt bad, so I was just sort of there for this set. But it was the first show I caught with my entire crew so that was cool.

After that I decided to book it back to camp. In retrospect, I wish I had gone to Ty Segall's set. Having seen him once before, I'm sure I would have loved it. It might have picked up my mood and provided a nice capper to my night but I decided it would be better to pace myself and conserve energy for the weekend.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Alt-J emerges from its coccoon with moodier, electronic slow jam

All the hipsters and NPR people went nuts over An Awesome Wave, the debut album from downtempo British indie rockers Alt-J. Meanwhile, I was just chilling out over here in a corner not really understanding what the big deal was about. I respect their uniqueness but not even attending a packed to the rafters Bonnaroo set of theirs last year was able to totally sway me.

Now we have "Hunger of the Pine," the lead single from their sophomore LP This is All Yours, due Sept. 22. The electronics here are definitely thicker and it's more sample based, containing a Miley Cyrus sample (which sounds awful, but it works well in the context of the song). It has a Radiohead/Atoms for Peace type vibe going on, while still capturing the chilled out nature of their earlier work. I like it, and will give the upcoming album a chance for sure.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rise Against doesn't want to be here anymore. It totally sounds like it.

The last couple of albums from Rise Against may not have been their best but in spite of that the Chicago punk rockers have remained on my watch list. Their new single "I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore" isn't a bad song necessarily; it just doesn't do anything to convince me they're righting the ship. It is a bland and unspectacular lead single that sounds like the same warmed over affair they've been pumping out for years. This includes literally everything, from the intro riffs and melody to the vague spirit of rebellion, and all the way down to inevitable slower part that comes right before the oh so passe final fist pumping chorus. We'll see if the guys have anything better in store when The Black Market drops in full next month.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Prog metal stalwarts Opeth break out new single Cusp of Eternity

Opeth was one of my favorite bands in high school. Blackwater Park and Deliverance made them one of the first metal bands I became a big fan of. Their latest album, 2011's Heritage wasn't bad, but in order to get the most out of it you pretty much had to have at least the same amount of enthusiasm the band had for progressive/folk rock of the 1970s. Not much of their fanbase did, and the album struck a dull note for many. The good news is that "Cusp of Eternity," the lead single from their forthcoming 11th album Pale Communion sounds like a step in the right direction. Carried by gothic tinged vocals from Mikael Akerfeldt, the song delivers a good metal crunch while also being equal parts airy and atmospheric. My hopes for this album are piqued exponentially.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mastodon unveils another new song, "Chimes at Midnight"

Atlanta prog metallers Mastodon are releasing a flood of new material from their upcoming album, Once More Round the Sun. In addition to a new trailer hyping the album, they've also released a new single. "Chimes at Midnight," boasts heavy, driving riffs but is also big on atmospherics. The guitar intro is reminiscent of something Opeth would do around the era of Blackwater Park, though not coming close to capturing the majesty they had there.

Bran Dailor's drumming doesn't seem nearly as propulsive as it did on previous records, but he still provides some great fills and great moments. "Chimes at Midnight" is better than the first single, "High Road" but still not amazing. This seems to be pointing that we will get an album at least on par with The Hunter, maybe better, but likely not up with their first three records.