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Archive for the ‘Built to Spill’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-“Bloody Rainbow” (2020).

What happens when one of your favorite bands releases an album of covers of an artist that you think is so outrageously overrated that you pretty much hate him?

Yep, I’m the indie poster boy who cannot stand Daniel Johnston.  Everyone that I like and listen to seems to believe that his music is a gift direct from god.

I have heard some of his earlier songs when he could actually sing and I found them to be okay.  But most of my exposure to him is his later work when he couldn’t.  And I can’t help but think there’s some element of exploitation involved as well.

But whatever, his songs are simple an fairly catchy even if lyrically they are questionable.

I had no idea that Johnston had recruited Built to Spill to be his backing band for some of his final shows in 2017.  This album comes from the rehearsals for the tour.

This is the first song I’ve heard from the album and here’s what I learned.

I could listen to Doug Martsch sing anything.  This helps a lot.

Musically the song is exceptionally simplistic.  No problem there, lots of songs are simple.

The Built to Spill band sounds fantastic.  This is the trio format of Martsch, Steve Gere on drums and Jason Albertini on bass.

So basically, if the whole album sounds like this, I could absolutely see me enjoying it quite a lot.  Simple fun weird songs, sung by someone who can sing.  What’s not to like?

Just as long as I don’t have to listen to the originals.

[READ: February 3, 2020] Space Battle Lunchtime Vol. 1

I’m always intrigued by Oni Press books that look kind if un-professional. I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that, but many of their books, this one included, don’t look like they are “proper” graphic novels.  I think that’s what first attracted me to the press, that these stories looked like something I could do.  The artwork is good and most of the artists have their own style, but they look more homemade than studio produced.

Space Battle Lunchtime epitomizes that to me.   It feels warm and loved and personalized.  A story that Riess had to tell and enjoyed telling.

We open in a small bakery as Peony is putting the finishing touches on some pastries.  A frog-like creature walks in (on two legs) and asks for some Coo-fee lattes.  Then she notices the cakes and remarks about how cute they are.  While she is talking to them she gets a phone call.  Then she asks Peony if she has what it takes to be The Greatest Chef in the Galaxy.  After a second Peony says Absolutely.

Seconds later, Penny is at an alien television studio.  She says she thought Galaxy was the theme…not the location.  But she has very little time to settle in before it’s show time.

The rules are simple–impress the judges and win a 20,000 solarbuck prize.  Oh and if Peony loses, the frog-creature will lose her job (because she has screwed up too many times before). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 12, 2019] Built to Spill

After the last time I saw Built to Spill (which was amazing), I felt like I didn’t really need to see them again.  The show was excellent and I was right in front of Doug–an amazing vantage point.

Then he announced he was touring the Keep It Like a Secret album.  This is the album that introduced me to the band 20 years earlier and it has some of my favorite songs on it.  So yes, of course I was going to go see that.  It turned out that the Philly show was on a night I was busy (but I did get a ticket just in case–turns out my plans changed but then Babymetal announced a show for that night so I sold my BtS ticket for and went to Babymetal instead).  But this show at Starland Ballroom was going to happen the night before my plans anyway, so I grabbed a ticket for this show.

I have mixed feeling about Starland.  If you get there late–and it’s a popular show–forget about it.  When we saw Death Cab for Cutie, we were lucky to get in the door.  So for BtS I left really early and got there really early and was about the 17th person in the building.  So I had my pick of where to stand.

Last time I saw BtS, I was right in front of Doug Marstch, like right on the stage.  It was incredible watching him from so close.  And yet, due to acoustics, I could barely hear him at all.  So I told myself that this time I would stand back and enjoy the whole experience.  But things got the best of me.  First off, there was a gate, so I wasn’t going to be right up against the stage.  But more importantly as I stood back in a sweet spot, I watch all these tall people push past me and I couldn’t help myself, I had to grab a railing spot.  So once again I was right in front of Doug and his massive amplifier.  I could hear the vocals a little bit better than last time, but again, it wasn’t the same as hearing the full band.  And, honestly I could barely hear the second guitarist.  So, I have really learned my lesson for next time.  But again, it was so cool seeing him work his magic up close that I’m willing to overlook some things.

But NEXT TIME, for sure I will stand back.

Oh and check out this cool poster for the tour.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 12, 2019] Prism Bitch

I hadn’t heard of Prism Bitch before this tour.  I looked them up and listened to their EPs on bandcamp and rather liked them.

They have great lyrics and a catchy punky style, including a song called “Tits Off” which I think they played but I’m not sure.  But mostly they have a lot of energy.

Before they went on, we could see their ankles and feet below the screen that was in front of the stage.  I was amused that they all seemed to be wearing different colors.  And indeed as the screen went up they were revealed to be all wearing matching Adidas tracksuits. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 12, 2019] And And And

When I saw the band that was opening for Built to Spill was called And And And, I knew it sounded familiar.  I knew it was from some work of fiction.  And then it finally came to me that it was from The Commitments. Roddy Doyle’s hilarious book that inspired the movie.

The band is mentioned here:

Jimmy Rabbitte: What do you call yourselves?
Derek: “And And And.”
Jimmy Rabbitte: “And And fuckin’ And?”
Derek: Well, Ray’s thinking of putting an exclamation mark after the second “and.” Says it’d look deadly on the posters.
Jimmy Rabbitte: Psshh…
Outspan Foster: You don’t like it? You think it should go at the end?
Jimmy Rabbitte: I think it should go up his arse.

Excellent.

I instantly loved this band from Portland who were so bold as to take this name (no exclamation points). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 26, 2018] Built to Spill

This was my third time seeing Built to Spill.  I had seen them as a five-piece and a three-piece.  And this show was another three-piece set up.

I thought it was strange that the drummer’s drums were set up off to the right of the stage instead of in the middle, but that was how they left them.  And, indeed, that’s how they played at Stone Pony with drummer Steve Gere off to the right and bassist Steve Albertini to the left.

The two guys don’t do a ton–that’s not their job.  They are there to anchor whatever Doug feels like doing.  And it’s amazing the way they can adjust to whatever he decides to do–jam, change tempo, whatever.  They’re an amazingly tight band,

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[ATTENDED: April 26, 2018] Overlake

My friend Al knows the members of Overlake and he thought he might be attending this show.  I was bummed he wasn’t there (and even moreso when I tried to text him to see if he was there and realized that I didn’t have his cell number, gah).

I wound up getting to the show really early and parked literally against the stage.  I was fascinated that at the start of the show all three drum sets were set up.  And how fascinating that Overlake (the opener) was right in the middle.

I looked up the band before the show and the description of the band sounded like I’d really like them:

Overlake is a three-piece band from Jersey City, comprised of Tom Barrett (voice, guitar), Lysa Opfer (Bass, voice), and Nick D’Amore (drums).  When they’re not incessantly waxing philosophical about the musical merits of both MBV and GBV … Overlake is busy honing their own unique brand of noisy dreampop, drawing from such stalwart influences as Dinosaur Jr, Slowdive, and Yo La Tengo.

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[ATTENDED: April 26, 2018] Rituals of Mine

Rituals of Mine was a band I hadn’t heard of.  They were opening on the co-headlining Afghan Whigs/Built To Spill tour.  I don’t know why Built to Spill played this one-off, solo headlining show in Asbury Park, but I was super thrilled to see them alone.  I do really like Afghan Whigs, but it didn’t seem like a double bill I wanted to attend.  Rituals of Mine came along with Built to Spill to Asbury Park.

I looked up Rituals of Mine and learned that they used to be called the worst band name ever: Sister Crayon.  They even released an album as Sister Crayon and have since re-released it as Rituals of Mine.

Before the band came out, the stage was covered with drums.  And Rituals of Mine’s drummer was off to the left.  When the lights dimmed, a strobe light started flashing in the bass drum, which was kind of cool. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIRVOIR-The Free-P (2016).

I got this Free Ep at a VoirVoir (not Voir Voir) show in Bethlehem.  This EP contains four songs.

Two of them are new and two are re-recordings of songs from their debut album.

“Quit It All” is a bit poppier than their debut album.  The 90s synth is a nice touch to this song which, make no mistake, still rocks.   The middle noise section (skronking guitar solo and great drums) is a highlight as are the catchy verses.  The band even submitted a video for the Tiny Desk Contest (I had no idea).

“Sides” is perhaps one of the best catchy alt rock songs I’ve heard in years and I am bummed that they didn’t get recognized for it.  It’s got a great 90s alt-rock sound and wonderful harmonies in the backing vocals.  There’s a video for this song as well.  You can also stream the song on bandcamp.

The other two songs, “Stupid for Now” and “There are No Good Goodbyes” were recorded at WDIY (Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station) in a stripped down format.  You can stream the songs here.  It’s interesting to hear them without the fuzz and drums.  The songs are solid and work very well although I do like the originals better.  The show also includes an interview with the three members who play the stripped down show.  The DJ asks their influences and while main singer guitarist Matt Molchany demurs,  April Smith says Built to Spill) and Josh Maskornick says Primus and Superchunk.

And if you can’t get enough (since they haven’t released that much) here’s a live show from Shards.

[READ: January 10, 2016 & January 10, 2018] Goldfish Memory

For some reason, I read this book back in 2016 and then didn’t post about it–I felt like I needed to read it again, and so I waited almost exactly two years and re-read it and enjoyed it even more this second time.  Almost like actual goldfish memory.

The back of this book made the stories sound really compelling:  “what does it mean to have a connection with someone? This is the question these brilliant short stories try to answer.”  The note said that this was the first translation of Monique Schwitter’s form-breaking work.  The translation was by Eluned Gramich.

I’m not sure how form-breaking these stories are, but they are certainly interesting.  They remind me in some ways of Julie Hecht–a narrator who is connected to people but very distantly.  But while Hecht’s narrators are critical and dismissive of everyone, Schwitter’s narrators just seem to be incapable of connecting properly.  You can feel the longing in the distance between them.  I also like how these missed connections cover all kinds of relationships–familial, sexual, friendship, professional, even passing acquaintances.

Few of the characters seem to be able to tell anyone else how they really feel–even when they are dying.  There is sadness at loss, but a kind of c’est la vie about it as well.  And all along, Schwitter’s writing is consistently excellent and the stories are really enjoyable. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2016] Built to Spill

2016-10-08-22-25-14Fifteen years ago I saw Sigur Rós.  A few days before that show I was supposed to see Built to Spill, but 9/11 happened and I skipped BtS.  So here it is fifteen years later and I get to see Sigur Rós and BtS a few days apart once again.  I also happened to see Built to Spill almost exactly one year ago today, so it was fun to do it all over again,.

This was my first time in the legendary Stone Pony.  I was shocked by how small it was and how strangely laid out it is (quite wide and not very deep).  I could have been within a few feet of the stage but when I varied I saw that even though the ticket said 7, BtS wasn’t going on until 10, so I scoured the venue and a saw a small riser to the back right.  I went up there and stood in the front of it, effectively three feet above everyone.  And I had a perfect view of the stage, so I stood there the whole time.

And boy am I glad.  The floor scene was a madhouse.  I was right above what was essentially the only way in and our once the club had gotten really packed.  People were squeezing past this small opening all night long.  And during the third song, a fight broke out–punches actually thrown!–because someone got in someone (both men of course) else’s way.  I even beer or something thrown in my face.  Stay classy, Asbury Park.

Unlike the previous show, BtS was only a three-piece.  Last show I marveled at Doug Martsch including two other guitarists to share lead duties, but I loved the fullness of the sound. I wasn’t sure what I would think of the band as a three-piece (my friend Jay informed me of the trio set up a few hours before they went on, so at least I was prepared–although I was bummed that Jay couldn’t make the show).

I was a little unconvinced about the sound of the three-piece when the band started.  But that turned out to be a mixing issue.  The drums were too loud, the bassist was inaudible and then Doug was himself.  But by the second song it was perfectly balanced and sounded amazing.

And once the sound was perfected, it came down to setlist.  And that was amazing–this setlist was almost entirely different from my previous show.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2016] Alex G

2016-10-08-21-01-11I hadn’t heard of Alex G before this tour.  He is apparently a prodigy of home recordings, starting his self-released oeuvre when he was 17.  (He’s now 23 and looks to be about 15).

For some reason I’d gotten the impression that he was a shredding guitar god type of prodigy.  But he is not.  He’s more of a pop/experimental/lo-fi song-writing-type prodigy.  He reminded me of Car Seat Headrest both in terms of self released prolific-ness and general style.

He counts Elliott Smith (who I don’t hear) and Doug Martsch of Built to Spill (whom I do hear) as influences. In fact during the set, he stated that Built to Spill was the best band alive today. (more…)

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