Archive for the ‘Lower Dens’ Category

[ATTENDED: September 10, 2019] Lower Dens

Back in 2010, Lower Dens did a Tiny Desk Concert.  I watched it in 2015 and really liked them.  Everything that I liked about them involved the interplay of singer Jana Hunter’s guitar with either the vocals or the bass.   So I was pretty happy to see that they were going to open for Of Monsters and Men.

A few days ago I listened to the new Lower Dens album and really didn’t like it all that much.  It’s more synthy, but that’s not why I didn’t like it.  I certainly liked the lyrics, but I just didn’t like the whole delivery.

I didn’t really know what to expect when the band came on stage.

Front and center was Jana Hunter.  Hunter looked very masculine (I loved the shirt Hunter was wearing), but that was rather puzzling because I thought the singer was a woman.  Plus the whole set was very synthy and didn’t sound like those early songs at all.  I genuinely wondered if I had the wrong band in my head.

I have since read that Hunter is gender fluid, so that’s cool.  Hunter’s voice really does run the gamut from low to high, so Hunter’s gender doesn’t make any difference to the voice.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that I was really bored by the set. (more…)

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acSOUNDTRACK: LOWER DENS-Tiny Desk Concert #84 (October 10 2010).

lowerLower Dens are a band from Baltimore who I’ve heard of but who I didn’t really know.  And after hearing this Tiny Desk, I immediately fell in love with their peculiar song structure and wonderfully expansive sound.

The set opens with “Two Cocks Waving Wildly At Each Other Across A Vast Open Space, A Dark Icy Tundra” which has a long (nearly 2 minutes) instrumental opening.  And then the song proper changes style completely.  It has great interplay of guitar and bass and gentle vocals.  And amazingly the song is only 4 minutes long, even with all that build up.

“I Get Nervous” is slower with waves of guitar washes.  It builds and ends quite suddenly.

Just before the third song, “Rosie” you can hear singer/guitarist Jana Hunter whisper “This is fun.”  She busts out an old beat up acoustic guitar on which she plays a slow 90 second guitar pattern before the chords kick in and then seconds later the vocals come along.  I love the soaring electric guitar over the top.  And again it is over before you suspect (the song is only 3 minutes).

The final song, “What Isn’t Nature” is moody and minor key.  It goes on for longer than the other songs and is just as good.

I have to check out more from this band who totally fell under my radar.

[READ: July 12, 2015] Who is AC?

I really like Hope Larson’s books and I especially like her drawing style.  So I was a little bummed to see that she didn’t draw this one.  Tintin Pantoja’s art style is very different and it was easy for me to forget this was a Larson story.  I liked Pantoja’s style but not as much as Larson’s–it’s just very different.

At the same time I didn’t really like this story that much.  There were some very cool elements but whether it was poorly explained by Larson or if the illustrations didn’t quite convey what was meant to be there, I’m not sure.

The book starts with Lin on a plane writing her zine, Rhea Ironheart.  She is flying to a new city and misses her friends already.  But mid-flight she receives a strange phone call from a number that is all binary.  She answers the phone and blacks out, but what could it mean? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: All Songs Considered Year End Music Roundup (2010).

Every year, I like to check various sources to see if there were any albums that I missed.  My definition of good resources: allmusic, amazon, pitchfork.  (There’s another fascinating list available here at Best Albums Ever, a site I’ve never seen before, and I have a large portion of the Top 50 albums.  I didn’t buy a lot of music this year, but evidently I chose wisely!).  I don’t necessarily agree with these lists, but if I see the same album on a few lists, I know it’s worth at least listening to.

This year, since I spent so much time on All Songs Considered, I thought I’d see their Best of Lists.  What’s awesome about the site is that you can hear not only selected songs in their entirety, you can also download the audio of the original show…where the DJs talk about their selections and play excerpts from them.   There are many different lists to investigate.

The most obvious one to star with is 50 Favorite Albums of 2010.  This shows the staff’s 50 favorite albums in all genres.  I admit that there’s going to be a lot on this list that I won’t bother exploring (I’m not really that interested in new classical or jazz and I’m not too excited by most pop music, although I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Kanye West songs here).

But some albums did stand out that I hadn’t heard, and I will investigate them further in 2011:

Buke And Gass, ‘Riposte’
Deerhunter, ‘Halcyon Digest’ (I know, this is on many best of lists)
The National, ‘High Violet’ (This is also on everyone’s list)

Bob Boilen, All Songs Considered’s most awesome host, picks his Top 9 of the year.  I’m on board with about 1/2 of his list (haven’t heard the other half).  Sufjan Stevens is his #1.

Robin Hilton, Boilen’s partner in crime, has a Top Ten which is remarkably similar to Boilen’s.  It has most of the same albums just appearing in a slightly different order.  Lower Dens is #1. (I’ve never heard of them).

Carrie Brownstein (of beloved Sleater-Kinney and now evidently a permanent member of the NPR team) has a Top Ten (Plus One)–funny that she liked more than ten when Boilen liked less than ten.  I’m really surprised by her selection of albums because her own music is so punk and abrasive, but her top ten features R&B and some folky bands.  Her top album is by Royal Baths, a band I’ve never heard of.

Stephen Thompson also picked his Top Ten.  He has an interesting mix of alt rock and jazz.  His number one is by Jonsi from Sigur Rós. (A great album).

Perhaps the best list comes from 5 Artists You Should Have Known in 2010.  I didn’t know any of the 5.  Sarah bought me two CDs for Christmas (and she was pleased to have gotten me good music that I hadn’t heard of!).  The Head and the Heart hasn’t arrived yet, but The Capstan Shafts is great.  I’m also really excited by Tame Impala.

Another great list is Viking’s Choice: Best Metal and Outer Sound (stay tuned for much more from this list).  It is dominated by black metal, but there are a few surprises in there as well.

Even the All Songs Considered Top 25 Listener’s List was great.  I had most of the list (except for The Black Keys who I simply cannot get into).

Although I enjoyed a lot of new music this year, it’s always nice to see that there is some new (to me) stuff to investigate.  Who knows maybe some day I’ll even have listened to enough new music in a year to make my own Top Ten.

[READ: December 31, 2010] McSweeney’s #36

With McSweeney’s #36, it’s like they made my conceptual ideal.  Its weird packaging is fantastic and the contents are simply wonderful.  But let’s start with the obvious: this issue comes in a box.  And the box is drawn to look like a head.  You open up the man’s head to get to the contents.  Brilliant.  The head is drawn by Matt Furie (with interior from Jules de Balincourt’s Power Flower.

Inside the box are eleven items.  The largest are smallish books (postcard sized) running between 32 and 144 pages.  The smaller items are a 12 page comic strip, a nineteenth century mediation (8 pages) and 4 postcards that create a whole picture.  The final item is a scroll of fortune cookie papers.   The scroll is forty inches long with cut lines for inserting them into your own fortunes (I wonder if they will sell this item separately?)

Aside from the bizarre head/box gimmick (and the fact that there is ample room in the box for more items), the contents are really top-notch.  For while many of the books included are individual titles, there is also an actual “issue” of McSweeney’s (with letter column and shorter stories) as well.  So let’s begin there

ISSUE #36: New Stories and Letters.  The resurrected letters page continues with more nonsense.  I’ve often wondered if these are really written like letters or if they are just short pieces that have no other place to reside.  (Oh, and the back of this booklet contains the bios for everyone in here as well as assorted other folks who don’t have room for a bio on their items).

LETTERS (more…)

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