Monday, January 24, 2011

Ticket Stub: White Lies @ Neumos 1/22/11

Photo courtesy of official White Lies concert page.

We had the pleasure of seeing UK band White Lies perform a ton of stuff, both old and new, this past Saturday at Neumos. What I like about that venue is that it's a)centrally located to a ton of other things to do, which made it easy to have drinks at Lobby Bar beforehand and b)it actually has a great layout for the over 21 crowd where they can still see the action of the show yet maintain a safe distance and enjoy a beverage or some snacks. There's a balcony that overlooks the first floor, all-ages/main stage area so we got to enjoy big ol' bottles of Red Stripe while seeing opening band SHiPS perform.

SHiPS are a delightful local indie-pop group that remind me a lot of acts like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Yellowwolf. The drummer used to do his thing in Gatsby's American Dream and Acceptance, so there's tremendous talent backing them. They were warm and friendly to the crowd and had the perfect match up of silly and energetic. While the mostly underage crowd down below were doing the whole Arcade Fire "kids are still standin' with their arms folded tight" thing, the big kids upstairs seemed to really enjoy it. I saw plenty of head bobbing and foot tapping rather than shoe gazing and texting in the over 21 crowd.

White Lies put on a damn fine show. It was one of those rare moments where the live version sounded 97% like the recorded version, which really is saying something in the age of digital refinement and auto-tune. Plenty of tracks old and new were covered (including their most well-known track "Death") and they did a signing of the new album afterward. Harry McVeigh was like a more exciting Brandon Flowers; he engaged the crowd often and really concentrated on giving the most stellar vocal performance he could. Tommy Bowen's keyboards and synths are a HUGE part of the band's sound, and they didn't disappoint, either. He even got to go all wall-of-sound for a bit at the end, with only rhythmic bass to accompany his playing. The venue wasn't over-crowded but wasn't empty, so it definitely felt like a more intimate setting despite the high energy music, which was a good thing. The band really made the experience worth more than the cheap-ass ticket price.

And luckily there were veggie dogs shortly thereafter, as I was ready to maim for something to maw on after all that beer and good tunes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hey! Come to this show! #2

Sure, you could save your pennies and go see Ra Ra Riot in 3 days, OR you could go see a band with a bit more talent . . .


Photo courtesy of the band's official page.

White Lies will be performing TONIGHT at Neumos! Doors open at 7ish, show starts at 8! $10 in advance (which you can actually buy up until 5pm today or until they sell out, which ever comes first), $12 at the door, and I myself will be there. How could you NOT enjoy yourself?

I don't know who the opener is because I can't find it anywhere online, but I'm sure it'll be semi-rad at the very least. Neumos has a pretty good rep. at picking diverse lineups for shows and covering a wide range of music (Twista and Deerhoof in the same month, even!).

Never heard of White Lies? The quick stats are that they're British and sometimes sound a bit like The Cure, but dancier. So I guess then that makes them sound like an early The Killers; before the self indulgence kicked in but witht he same hip swinging alt-pop dance moves!

Go Download: "Death," "Is Love"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Music I've Listened To: "From Light to Dark," by Oriya

One of the funniest/awesomest things about googling a band you know is seeing their Internet personas when you do a Google search and getting to know that said personas are about 60% true. Yes, my buddy Ryan is a great drummer whose musical sensitivities and talent are, in a word, epic--But then there's the fact that this is a guy who I get sloshed with on a regular basis, so it's hard to take the super-cool-rockstar-guy Google Image Search Results of he and the other guys in Oriya seriously. When we've fallen down in front of each other and he's seen me puke out of a cab on 6th, it's hard for either of us to still be the super-cool-rockstar-guy in the room without giggling like little girls.

Before we begin, I want to put out there that I'm going to be as objective as possible given that I know this band and have been drunk/stoned/hanging out and being all domestic with them in the past. And given that the lead singer's girlfriend might be making one of my wedding cakes.

I know the dangerous place that objectivity can go to when you review something a friend creates, be it music or writing or art or whatever. So I do ask, gentle and mostly anonymous readers, that if it feels as though my objectivity has strayed form the path and is somewhere over in Narnia with Mint Berry Crunch where it's being silly and nonexistently fictional, that you leave me a comment and let me know that I'm totally full of shit.

Now, on to the music at hand.

With roots firmly planted in mid-to-late nineties prog. rock, Oriya's first full-length release feels a bit like the soundtrack to an indie action flick from said era. There are intense highs, mellow lows, and a steady pulsing theme of struggle beneath every song. Maena's voice is strained on some tracks, and not because he's vocally at a loss, but because the mood is one of fighting to be heard. The ominous bass, slowly building drums, and melodic synth effects add to this sense of faith through hopelessness. Think of some of the Smahsing Pumpkin's earlier, more intense tracks like "Rhino" and you'll find an apt comparison.

Musically it's nothing that we haven't heard before, but it doesn't feel tired or played out in the slightest. Even though these are emotions that have been discussed musically and lyrically before, it's the pairing of matching vocals and instrumentals creating that moody effect that give you the sense that the band is one hundred percent sincere in their efforts. Tracks begin slowly with tortured sounding vocals and build and build until a tremendous crescendo where the drum lines sort of take over and smash everything to bits. In this way it's reminiscent of some of the bro rock that we were all subjected to in the early 2000s, where usually stoic and serious guys just wanted to be mad about stuff and sometimes scream their feelings. This, however, is much more enjoyable to listen to for the simple fact that the tracks have actually been composed musically first, lyrically second. There's a real caring touch to each verse in each song; you can tell that nothing has been thrown together for the sake of filling the record.

Standout tracks on the album are most definitely "Never" and "For a Day," which is interesting as they represent two opposing sides of the same idea. "Never" is an anger-laden, volatile, throw-yourself-against-the-guy-standing-next-to-you track that showcases some impressive guitar skills on Aris and Maena's part as well as the length and breadth of the band's vocals. That sense of struggle is no more so evident than on this track. There's a sense of giving in; or perhaps wanting to give in and let your troubles turn you into that emotional wreck if only so that you can have that sense of release.

"For a Day" is the polar opposite. It's the optimistic version of this idea; the whole "it's always darkest before dawn" thing. The drums are muted, the melody is softer, and the sense of anguish is replaced by a sense of peace. "I still believe we've been through it all/but it hurts to breathe/it never seems so small," is the repetitive, stand-out line in the chorus. That sense of struggle ever present in all of the band's lyrics is still there, but this track is the pick-yourself-up moment on the album. It fades out beautifully, releasing the listener with some truly harmonious string plucking and synth.

What Oriya has done with their full-length shows remarkable skill and promise. Some of the content feels old-hat, but the way the album in its entirety has been put together shows a band really trying to give its all and show that while some of the music might seem moshy, it's moshy with a conscience, damn it! Either way, it's a refreshing take on a genre filled with a lot of repeats and do-overs.

Go Download: "Intruder," "Never," "For a Day"

3.5/5 starxx

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nerdy Things I'm Stoked About: 'Age of X'

So for most of my childhood/adolescence, I was enamored with all things X-Men. Hell, I can still rattle off trivia about the universe and the characters like you wouldn't believe, and have to often suppress myself from going all Comic Book Guy when one of the movies or cartoons gets some aspect of their canon incorrect.

Like most kids, though, my passions were fleeting or sporadic. I was really into archaeology once. And rocks. And baseball. And dinosaurs. And marine biology. And . . .

. . . But the X-Men comic books were something that I would keep coming back to. Maybe it was the characters, or their long history, or the stories, or just the fact that cool people beating people up and looking cool while doing it appeals to 12 year olds.

At one point, the line of books sporting an X decided to boost sales and gain more interest/readers by doing a whitewash. of everything. They started this ad campaign that would totally not work in the digital age that "Hey, by the way you guys, in like a month we're just not going to publish these anymore. It's done. We're done. Everything you love is done."

So that happened. And what did they do? They let it sit for about half a month and then republished every book with a new title, new creative team, new look, and in an entirely different universe!A universe where villains were heroes, heroes were villains, the human race was damn near extinct, and Wolverine had one hand. They called it 'Age of Apocalypse.'

Sweet facial tattoos and shoulder pads, you guys! Yeah . . .

It's ballsy as hell from a publishing standpoint. From a writing standpoint, it toes the line between creative and cop-out. Of course in about 5 months everything was back to normal, and the alternate universe they'd created had the big ol' Reset Button hit on it. At the time, though, I as a 13 year old was freaking floored. I mean, Cyclops had one eye. One eye! And he was a total badass working for the villains of the story. Magneto and Rogue had gotten married and had a kid. And Kitty Pryde chain smoked! Actually Gambit, Dazzler, and Banshee all chain smoked, too. Life was hard in that universe and pretty much everyone was homeless, but luckily cigarettes were still available somehow.

Anyway, my inner child is stoked because this month the current line of X-Men books is sort of pseudo-revisiting this concept with a story line tagged 'Age of X.'

I'm not sure how they're going to get to it or steer the story universe of the titles in that direction or what the inciting event for moving everything to a new universe is. In 'Age of Apocalypse,' a time traveling baddie named Legion went back in time to off Magneto seeing him as a "major threat" to the X-Men's goals (he thought he was doing them a favor, I suppose) and accidentally murdered Professor X, which altered reality and made everything go to shit, genocide, and tattoos on your face.

Most things about the story other than concept art and random back-story tid-bits that the writers are calling "communiques" over at ComicBookResources are being kept very hush-hush. Like a fool, I've fallen for the hype. It's Cloverfield, the re-opening of Seattle's club The Pony, and new Facebook Privacy Settings all over again.

We'll see if the story lives up to the hype, and if my inner child/outer nerd is satiated!

"Danger inside;
Nowhere to hide.
Why don't you build,
A temple tonight?"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quick Hits

A few things I'm really digging right now:

1) My new gray cotton pullover hoody from H&M. It's simple, it's comfy, and it's become a staple layering piece.

2) The Raveonettes' cover of "I Wanna Be Adored." Yes yes, I know that it's been out since August-ish, but I've just now had a chance to formally add it to my collection of their music. Sharon's voice is haunting and seductive, as always.

3) This lovely blog called It's My Darlin, which is the home of Ms. Dana London's inspiring street fashion, musings, and bitchin' recipes. If you're into all things Seattle, this is a great place to start! Plus she updates often, which is nice (and something I should aspire to a bit more).

4) This posting on blog Squarehippies, which made me die inside out of sheer joy. NSFW, but it's got disturbingly sexy, scruffy Australian dudes. And sheep! How could you not take a peak?

Review of Oriya's new album is on the way!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ticket Stub: Oriya CD Release Party @ Studio 7 1/7/11

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Weekly's online archives.

Last night a bunch of us went to see our friends in Oriya and support them for the release of their new CD, "Light to Dark."

Photo courtesy of the Oriya official Facebook page.

It was a really great show. Studio 7 is a funny venue; it reminds me of Fuel in terms of the crowd, but in a much better space with a much better bar. That, and for once there wasn't anyone trying to sell me Malibu Rum or Jameson by way of trivia. I really like that there's plenty of room for a good-sized crowd yet the 21+ area is both separated and opened up over the general space. Because sometimes I just want a beer and don't want to mosh, you know? 17 year old me is laughing right now.

Great turnout, and all of the bands played beautifully. Big props to Orison for putting on a damn fine show despite the crowd at that moment being sort of "in and out" in terms of traffic. Their surging guitars and swift drum lines compliment Oriya's sound nicely, so good on whomever added them to the bill. And damn if that lead singer Jacob isn't a total cutie!

Photo courtesy of Orison's official Myspace page.

I missed Burning of I play because we got there too late (a long story involving a shitty Spanish restaurant in the U District), but I'm sure they were fine. I'd seen Vibrant Society before so I knew what to expect, and what I expected was epicness--Which was what they delivered with their signature brand of hair metal meets prog. Head banging ensued, and you know that the crowd is digging it when everyone's heads seem to bobble in exact motion.

Lots of people showed up including the guys from Future Fossils and a ton of people I hadn't seen in forever because, simply put, the holidays become a time of joy yet social obligation as we get older, so there's little time for the usual skullduggery. The general feeling amongst everyone I caught up with was that we were all relieved and exhausted, and excited to get back to the normal work-and-play routine.

The new CD is pretty damn good, incidentally. The tracks are polished up nicely and put together in a way that feels natural. Nothing feels out of place, and Maena's voice sounds crisp as hell in a way I hadn't heard on the demo tracks (sorry that Josh and I didn't get to say goodbye to you and Pearl, by the way!). Everyone in the band was just on, and that came from a mix of the crowd's positive energy and the general feeling of accomplishment you could tell that they all feel. Julie's design for the album art and the banner looks classy as always. By the by, since I'm always hyping up her work, you can see some of her commerical samplings right ovah myeh.

I hope you'll all seek out "Light to Dark" to bulk up your Seattleite Winter to Spring music collection! My review of the whole thing is pending, but rest assured I'll be posting it later this week after I've had time to listen to it obsessively.

"I walk among the ghosts
Of all my former loves,
And all my future selves.
This is the final straw:
I'll take you by the throat,
I'll shake you like a doll;
Just feed my starving heart."