Archive for the ‘Hozier’ Category

[ATTENDED: May 9, 2023] Hozier

Hozier announced a headline tour this year (first tour in several years) and I knew I had to get tickets.  My son is a big fan and the rest of us like him quite a lot.  We saw him at Newport Folk Festival a few years ago (although my son chose to skip that day) and he was amazing live.

The tickets went on sale mid March and I got 100% shut out from the Mann Center.  I probably could have gotten lawn seats, but that would have been decidedly uncool.  And by the time I decided whether or not to get lawn seats, they were all gone too (sold out the 14,000 capacity venue, no bad).

And then in mid April he announced he’d be playing some “pop up” shows.  Including one at World Cafe Live.

I never thought I’d get tickets, but somehow I managed to get two.  So my son and I went to Philly to see him.  And, without even talking about the show I can attest that it was 100% better than seeing him at the Mann Center and 1000% better than seeing him from the lawn at the Mann Center.

We arrived early in hopes of getting pretty close to the stage (WCL is quite small with great sightlines.  I didn’t think we’d get up front–and my son was fine with that–but I didn’t want to be too close to the noisy bar either).  We passed by the venue at 6:30 and saw a relatively small line.  But we had plans for Federal Donuts and fried chicken.  Only to discover after the three or four block walk that this location closed at 3 (two blocks from 2 colleges and you close at 3PM?).  That threw off all the plans, so we wound up going to an amazing Halal food truck.  I couldn’t walk and eat, so I stuff my gyro into my pocket and we headed into the venue (thank goodness they didn’t search for food).

We got down there and my son was delighted with how tiny the place was.  I didn’t want to stand right where people come in so we squeezed  to the other side.  Which was pretty good, although there were a couple of tall people who I knew would block our view from time to time.  So he sneaked around to the side.  I thought it might be a little far to the side (and in fairness, I couldn’t see all of the band), but the sightline for Hozier himself were perfect.  And that’s what we were there for.

Hozier and his large band (nine people in total) came out to much applause. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 9, 2023] Julia Pratt

I was so excited to get tickets to this Hozier pop up show.  I actually assumed there would not be an opening act.  Although with the show slated to start at  7:30, surely they must have someone first.

And indeed, a few days ago they announced it would be Julia Pratt, a young Philly musician who will also be playing Philly Music Fest this year.

Julia has a powerful voice and seems like the nicest person in the world.  She was really sweet on stage and was genuinely delighted when people made heart signs back to her.

Her songs were simple (she told us which ones had been released or not) but catchy.

However, she did the thing that I hate the most in singers.  She turned one syllable words into seventeen syllable words by hitting every note on the entire scale.  It sets me on edge when singers do this and she did it constantly.  To me it sounds like compensating for a weak voice or someone who can’t hit a note.  But her voice was really nice when she sang normally.

But the crowd seemed to really enjoy the acrobatics so she kept doing it.  And she seemed really nice so I hope she gets lots of success.

But for me, it was an unpleasant 30 minutes, but also because there were drunken women next to me who almost got in a fight when one tried to sneak past the other.  Good grief.


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[ATTENDED: September 10, 2019] Of Monsters and Men

Back at Christmas 2011, S. bought me the debut albums by Of Monsters and Men and The Head and the Heart.  I instantly fell in love with both bands (and sometimes can’t tell who is who when I hear one of their songs).  This concert might help me distinguish but we’re also seeing The Head and the Heart in the same venue in a month.

But maybe the spectacle of this show will help me distinguish them.

Because it was a wonderful spectacle.

I love thinking about how this band of six or seven musicians from Iceland somehow conquered the world with their singalong anthems.  It’s also fascinating to me that they only released their third album this year.

I really like the new album.  It sounds a bit different (more synthy, poppy) but it remains very OMAM.

They played a lot from the new album which was fine. In fact, they played 19 songs in total, spanning all of their records, but focusing mainly on their first and third releases. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 28, 2019] Hozier @ Newport Folk Festival

Ever since I learned that Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power” featured Mavis Staples who knew Nina Simone, I was more blown away by the song.

From Billboard:

it was important to me to have Mavis involved. She was kind of there at the beginning of the song. Even when the song was in its embryonic state and the idea of it was forming, I wanted to credit the legacy of the artists in that song and the names were kind of popping into my head, [and] I knew it needed Mavis. I just felt incredibly fortunate and honored that she got where the song was coming from and vibed with it and was up for being a part of the song.

I’d already been impressed by “Take Me to Church” and “Jackie & Wilson,” so I knew I’d want to see him live. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DERMOT KENNEDY-Tiny Desk Concert #779 (August 24, 2018).

NPR likes Dermot Kennedy (they made him one of their Slingshot artists for 2018).  The thing that they seem to like about him is what I didn’t.

He has a powerful raspy voice–he could sing for miles.  A voice that works wonderfully with a style of music (folk or rock, primarily).  But the songs I’d heard from him were tinged with hip-hop.  And, frankly, it’s hard to work a powerful singing voice and hip-hop into the same verse.  So to me, it didn’t work, it was like the worst of both worlds.

But at the Tiny Desk, he removes all of that with a live band and, as the blurb says, a gospel choir.

Kennedy took this assignment seriously. The Dublin singer-songwriter wasn’t content with merely re-creating his songs as they sound in the studio, or stripping lavish productions down to simple acoustic arrangements. So he got himself a gospel choir.

More specifically, Kennedy and his band flew in from Ireland a day ahead of time to meet and rehearse with members of Washington, D.C.’s Howard Gospel Choir (Keila Mumphord, Taylor Nevels, Chamille Boyd, Jazmine Thomas). Every arrangement was painstakingly plotted ahead of time, so that every note would be perfect.

Two of the songs Kennedy performs here (“Moments Passed” and “An Evening I Will Not Forget”) pop up on an EP he released this year with hip-hop producer Mike Dean, and both sound radically different in this performance. They’re still forceful — and still centered on the singer’s elastic, bombastic voice — but also looser, warmer, more open.

And I suspect that’s why I like them much more.   Without all of that trapping, he sounds, yes, like Hozier or Glen Hansard.  And of course he was a busker.

They open with “Moments Passed.”  It was weird that the song and concert opens the way it does with the choir and Kennedy singing at the same time.  His voice is the centerpiece of the music and it was obscured not only by four other voices but also but a disconcerting echo effect (from Kieran Jones on keys).  But as soon as that ends, his voice works very well with the piano (Jonny Coote) and drums (Micheál Quinn).

And so when the chorus comes in and he songs his only lines while the choir sings, it works very well.  You can also hear his accent a lot more than other Irish singers, it seems.

“An Evening I Will Not Forget” has more of a hip hop delivery style, at least the way he sings, but he doesn’t try to cram it all in, he lets his voice and melody flow over the dense lyrics.  The song is one of regret and it works perfectly as just piano and his powerful voice.

After the song he jokingly asks for a towel and he laughs when he gets one (and gives it to Jones, “you;re a sweaty guy”).

For the final song, “Glory” he plays guitar on this it’s a pretty melody.  The drums are weirdly electronic and big and I like the big boom but not the ticky ticky electronics.  However, the high female voice in the chorus more than makes up for it.  The way all of the music swells together on this track is really terrific.

Sometimes you need to hear a musician live to really appreciate him.

[READ: January 3, 2017] “Gender Studies”

Sarah loves Curtis Sittenfeld, although I had never read her work before this.

I really enjoyed this short story both for its story and for its politics.

The plot is quite simple.  Nell is an almost divorced woman (she was with Henry for years with the intention of getting married, then he up and left her for a younger woman).  I really enjoyed this self-description of her and Henry “because of the kind of people they were (insufferable people, Nell thinks now).”  She is a professor of gender studies and is going to a convention in Kansas City.  Though she lives in Wisconsin, she has never been to Kansas City or even to Missouri.

The shuttle driver starts talking to her about donald trump.  He says “He’s not afraid to speak his mind, huh?”  And I love this description of her reply:

Nell makes a nonverbal sound to acknowledge that, in the most literal sense, she heard the comment.

Despite her obvious discomfort talking to him (when he calls Hillary “Shrillary” you know she is fuming), she can’t be bothered to say anything more than “There’s no way that donald trump will be the Republican nominee for President” (this was written after he was, of course). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALBIN LEE MELDAU-Tiny Desk Concert #638 (July 20, 2017).

I’d never heard of Albin Lee Meldau.  His style reminds me of a number of gruff powerful-voiced singers.

So who is he?

Meldau grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden the son of musical parents. His mother is a music teacher and jazz singer, while Meldau says his father is a “punk rocker.” (Both write and record their own songs.) As a kid, Meldau originally played trumpet but mostly dreamed of being a professional soccer player.

The blurb notes:

When I [Robin] first saw him perform, at a church in Austin … it felt like the entire audience was on the edge of its seat, hanging on every twisted word. His voice is breathtaking, soulful, thunderous and impossible to ignore.

Watching Meldau in this Tiny Desk set, the first thing you’ll notice, apart from that voice, is how possessed he is by the music. The words and melodies seem to take hold of him while at the same time offering a release, if only for a moment, from the knot of emotions he’s carrying inside. It’s in no small part because Meldau’s music is so personal, centered on desperate souls in deeply troubled times.

He sings for songs and his voice is powerful, loud, aggressive and emotive.  He is hard to ignore, for sure.  His band consists of Simon Andermo (bass) and Simon Söfelde (guitar).  For the first two songs Kalle Stenbäcken plays piano, but on the third song he switches to drums.

“Lou Lou,” the track he opens with and his most popular song, is a story of drug addiction and mental illness, inspired by a girl he knew while growing up in Sweden. It’s short and powerful, you can feel the anguish in his voice–he seems really transformed by it.

His other two songs, “Mayfly” and “Persistence,” are more about hanging on when it seems there’s nothing left to live for.

He says the “Mayfly,” she only lives for one day.  Like the first song, it’s barely 2 minutes long.

Before “Persistence” he says “give it up for My Beautiful Sweets (the backing band).  They don’t come cheap, do they?”  He’s going to play one more song with them and then he seems to jokingly say (but who can tell) “I wouldn’t dance with no other, baby.”  It starts slow, but the addition of he drums is a great kick in the pants.  The guitar and melody are pure Dire Straits, and the chorus is outstanding.

Before the final song he jokes, “It’s a deep honor to be here,” Meldau told the NPR audience. “I’ve been to the BBC and now I’ve been here, so now I can die.”   But he’s so deadpan it’s hard to know how much he’s joking.

He calls “Bloodshot,” the track he closes with, “dark and horrible,” about the wreckage of a tortured relationship and the crazed paranoia of jealousy.  He says “Let’s see if I can remember the chords.”  He does and he sounds great.  When his voice grows powerful and strained it’s really emotional.

If he can capture the same wave of love that people gave Hozier (with whom he has stylistic traits in common) I could see him going far.

[READ: July 20, 2017] “Because You Have To”

This is a rambling story inside a woman’s head.  There are many thoughts, but none are especially compelling. Things like:

If you stop answering the phone, eventually it stops ringing.

Essentially she misses someone.  When she hears her dog barking, she almost called out “your name.”  But it was actually Wayne who had found a loose dog and wondered if it was hers.  Which it obviously wasn’t, since her dog was right there.

I love the line that her grandmother was “the most beloved fascist in the family.”  She used to say “You have to count your blessings, and when the narrator dared to ask why, “she gave me a great smack to the ear: “Because you have to.” (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_03_17_14Liniers.inddSOUNDTRACK: HOZIER-Tiny Desk Concert #360 (May 27, 2014).

hozierI had been cataloging the Tiny Desk Concerts from the beginning, but in recent days they have had so many good bands that I didn’t want to wait until I caught up with them.  So, for the next few posts there will be current Concerts (I have no idea what number they are, but I hope to fix them retroactively).

Hozier is responsible for the insanely catchy song “Take Me to Church.”  WXPN plays this song all the time.  I didn’t like it at first but then when I really listened to it I was hooked.  Of course I had no idea that the guy who was singing this powerful soulful song was a soft-spoken Irishman.  Hozier is Andrew Hozier-Byrne, a 24 year old from County Wicklow.  And while he’s singing this song here he makes it seems so easy to belt out those big notes.

Although it doesn’t quite reach the gravitas of the recorded version in this stripped down live session, he sounds great and the keyboard, cello and drums (and backing vocals) really bring this song to life.

The next two songs Hozier plays by himself.  “To Be Alone” is a very old-sounding blues—the sound of his guitar and the way his plays combined with the way he sings really hearkens back to early blues.  Typically I don’t especially like early blues but I do like this song quite a bit.

The final song is an acoustic ballad.  (So he plays three different guitars in this set).  It has a kind of Richard Thompson guitar feel and is a rather touching ballad.

Hozier has only released two EPs thus far, but with this amount of diversity I am looking forward to lots of other things from him.

[READ: May 29, 2014] “The Relive Box”

This story made me think of what the “Entertainment” in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest might actually be like.  In Infinite Jest, the “Entertainment” is a video so intoxicating, you watch it–ignoring all other needs–until you die.  In this story, the “relive box” is a machine that plays back any memory that you have in full 3D. And people get so absorbed in their past that they forget about the present.

Specifically, the narrator is so intent on reliving that he ignores his daughter and his job.  As the story opens, the narrator’s daughter Katie says she wants to relive.  They just recently got this new relive box–it cost a fortune–and Katie wants to visit with her mother.  Her mother left them and Katie seems to have lost friends and impetus to do much else, so she would like to relive some good times.  But the narrator was planning on reliving for several hours that night, so he can’t have her hogging the machine.  So he sends her to bed, crying heavily, so he can have the machine to himself.

And what’s so important that the narrator has to relive?  After reliving his best sex moments, he goes back in time to the night he met Lisa, his first girlfriend.  She was a goth girl in a club and the narrator had the nerve to buy her a drink and ask her to dance.  Which ultimately let to sex and eventually to a relationship. And he relieves all of the highlights of their time together–something he has done several times this week already.  In fact, he has been doing this so much that he has been late for work twice and when he’s there he’s bleary-eyed and pretty much out of it.  So he says he’ll only do it once more this week.  And just for a few hours. (more…)

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