Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Anyway you slice it, Jade is no longer a Magnetic Zero

Jade Castrinos, the forefront female in Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros, seems to have her summer freed up. Last night she wasn't onstage for a show in Atlanta and quickly after there was a brief "she said/they said" over Instagram and Twitter. Jade posted on Instagram that the break up was over email a week before their tour kicked off; the remaining Zeros posted on facebook that to believe it was that simple and quick is to "have no idea who we are."

When we covered them live last fall, we gushed about Jade. There is no doubt that whatever the reason(s) for her departure, Jade will land on her feet. She has a great voice and looks like a little cherub I'd like to put on my mantle. It should be noted that Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros will also be just fine. To think that a band of any size doesn't have turmoil is naive. The magic is when they stay together and are able to make awesome music for as long as they can. While I don't see Jade becoming an alt-metal icon, it will be interesting to see where she chooses to go from here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Owls - Two

Polyvinyl Records
March 25, 2013


Owls (not to be mistaken with Owl, from LA) was first formed during 2001 in Chicago out of a former project named Cap'n Jazz. Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella, Victor Villarreal, and Sam Zurick promptly released one album and broke up after a year to pursue other music. They only just now reformed, coinciding with the return of Zurick to Chicago, to capitalize on the incredibly deep and abiding love people had for Owls, after their self-titled debut in 2001. Apparently unsatisfied with the high level of thought involved in releasing a self-titled album, they decided to name this attempt Two.

Don't bother remembering any of this, unless you're boning up for a trivia night, because this album isn't going to be remembered. While the somewhat breathless press release goes to GREAT LENGTHS to convey just how many artistic disputes and the great amount drama (18 months! CANCELLED PRACTICES! COLLABORATING CIVILLY... wait) the band somehow overcame in the process of writing and recording Two, the actual delivered product is lacking emotional core and completely fails to deliver anything memorable (except the remarkably under-delivered and painfully compressed line "Oh No, Don't smash the bag of pretzels". Because that is funny). Don't expect this reunion to last long -- reading between the lines of the album announcement, it's pretty clear these guys can't stand each other.

Okay, so now we're reviewing Two, from Owls. Their second album in thirteen years, this is going to be a great band for hipsters. Perfectly obscure, with entirely forgettable music and incomprehensible lyrics guarantees that nobody else will ever have heard of them in a year's time. There are promising elements here -- some good hooks, some interesting melodies, and even the occasional meaningful, funny, or interesting lyric. Unfortunately, Owls never manages to combine those at any point -- if the lyrics are interesting, the song will have wandered off into a bland musical prairie. By the time the music finds itself again, the lyrics are back to pretzels.

The album starts off with promise, which is almost immediately taken out back of the shed and shot. An interesting intro proves to simply be the entirety of the track. The cover pretty much establishes the trend of the rest of the album -- tiny, tasty bits that are left uncooked.

Owls sound will be familiar to anybody who listened to alternative/emo/whatthehellever from the early-mid 90s to the early-mid 2000s. Likely because their other album came out right around then. These tracks could be cleaned up and sit comfortably next to the forgettable tracks on a Stroke 9 album, or the Urge, or any number of other bands of the day.

Lyrically, Two doesn't have much consistency. Singer Kinsella (not to be confused with his brother, Not Singer Kinsella) (aka Tim) often seems unaware of the song he's singing along to, happily smashing together syllables and mangling pace to "fit" long phrases to the music. This is perhaps most apparent on "Oh No, Don't...", which also illustrates Kisella's unwillingness to convey emotion in his singing. The flat delivery saps any emotional impact the music and lyrics would otherwise demand.

The listening experience is vastly improved by imaginging that this is in fact Derek Zoolander's Band for Kids Who Don't Music Good and Want to do Other Stuff Good Too. At least that way the pointless and grasping lyrics acquire a certain poignancy. Owls urgently wants you to feel the noise, but the images evoked throughout Two are laughably pointless and uninspired. Kinsella's flat delivery and seeming need to cram in extra syllables squeezes out what little emotion may have been found, leaving nothing behind but a mental image of Blue Steel... or perhaps MAGNUM.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Beck - Morning Phase


Morning Phase


Release Date: February 25, 2014

Rating 7.2

The cover of Beck’s new album, Morning Phase, should tell you everything you need to know: this is “Sea Change 2: Sea Change Harder”. A headshot of Beck with colors smeared over and across it, the cover deliberately evokes his 2002 album, whether as warning or enticement is up to you. Every time I listen to this new effort I get a sad, and I miss the energetic, rebellious Beck that produces infectious, kicking hits like “Black Tambourine” or “Sexx Laws”. Introspective, thoughtful Beck makes me mourn the puckish humor and impish energy he can bring to an album or performance, and the songs frequently fade into the background even as I’m trying to engage with them.

“Sea Change 2: Sea Change Boogaloo” sees Beck reunited with many of the same musicians that joined him on the first “Sea Change”, and that through-line is clear in tracks such as “Morning”, which really functions as more of a lullaby than a wake-up anthem. “Phase” is another such song, with long notes, stretched out sounds, and an overall gentle feel to the to the tracks that sounds like my phone’s “gentle-wake” alarm setting.  Perhaps the most direct connection to “Sea Change” comes on “Say Goodbye”, as Beck’s vocals directly hark back to his earlier work.

“Sea Change 2: The Squeakquel” will most likely bask in critical acclaim, and anybody who enjoyed “Sea Change” will find a lot to love on this album (though they may find it at times indistinguishable), but if you’re looking for a new “Hell Yes”, “Mixed Bizness”, or “Where It’s At”, you’ll leave disappointed.  Though the album doesn’t have much of anything new to offer, it is solidly constructed. The gentle, mellow emotional core does tie it together, and the twangy guitar of tracks such as “Blue Moon” and “Country Down” follows the recent trends of country-rock crossover hits. While “Sea Change: Part Deux” won’t blast your socks off, if you’re looking for a smooth listening experience there's nothing to complain about.

Friday, February 28, 2014

DJ 1000 Aces Playlist: The Rainy Season

Whether you're left coast, best coast or west coast, you're probably seeing precipitation. DJ 1000 Aces has some thematic tunes so you don't mind the puddles.

1. "Riders on the Storm," The Doors

2. "Raining Revolution," Arrested Development

3. "Rain," Madonna

4. "Rhythm of the Rain," The Cascades

5. "It Never Rains (In Southern California)," Tony! Toni! Tone!

6. "After the Rain," Little Dragon

7. "Naked in the Rain," Red Hot Chili Peppers

8. "Love Rain," Jill Scott

(These three were the rest of the staffs' picks.)

9. "The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly]," Missy Elliot

10. "Purple Rain," Prince

11. And the only song that matters, "November Rain," Guns'n'Roses

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

M.I.A's "Y.A.L.A." Video Is Kinda Awesome

She's an interesting gal, M.I.A. It would be easy to think she'd be on board with the YOLO craze, yet a track off her new album proclaims you can keep the party going....eternally. Samsara or no, "Y.A.L.A" (You Always Live Again) has her glammed up and rhyming 'contreau' with 'poncho'. It's just kitschy enough to make you cringe and just interesting enough to make you listen again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Atlas Genius + Family of the Year + Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon November 9th, 2013

The night was packed! Doors opened at 8 with openers stating at 9. I arrived downtown at around 7 to find parking and grab a bite to eat and there was already a sizeable line waiting outside. A little after 8 my friend Katie and I went to get in and the line was around the corner and they had been letting people in by this point. What a crowd to rush when doors opened!

The crowd was fairly mixed between under/over 21.

The concert started promptly at 9 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. playing for 30 minutes. Their sound was electronic-ish/head bopping rock with a mix of 80's synthesizer in there too.The crowd was really into this band, jumping to make that springy Crystal Ballroom floor shake! At one point one of the band members went into the all-ages section of the crowd while singing a song to the delight of the under 21 year olds. Daniel Zott, asked the crowd if "they could dance as much as they screamed, it would be great." Neither disappointed.

I caught up with Daniel Zott at the merchandise table and asked him a few questions. When asked what he thought of the Portland crowd, he replied that they were the most energetic crowd he had seen the whole tour. With the band being from Detroit, I asked if the tour was wrapping up there, he said, "no, but they were doing a show there in a few weeks."

Family of the Year is not the name of the latest new sitcom out there but of the second opener of the night. They went on at 10 with a sound was almost reggae/alternative/indie rock all meshed to create a unique sound. The male and female vocals united beautifully live. The crowd was equally as pumped for this opener and as they started later, there were even more people to get things lively! They played 45 minutes. I was not loving the reggae/indie personally, their quality live was great.

I must say - I have never seen a crowd so pumped for 1 opener – let alone 2 openers!

Atlas Genius.... ATLAS GENIUS! Need I say anything more? This band rocked it! I wanted to move around and get pictures from all angles, but the crowd was so dense, it was impossible! Their stage looked like a laser light show it was so lit up and awesome.
This is the only concert I have been to where all acts started promptly on time! Atlas Genius was to go on at 11:15 and on the dot, they started. Second song in was, “If So”, followed by he title track of their album, “When It was Now”. Lead singer, Keith Jeffery, kept cheers-ing the crowd with his Red Solo Cup (I fill you up!) and gave shout out to both opening bands. He also joked (or maybe true) that he had played in Portland more than any other stop and was happy to be back in our town and was happy to put on a good show!
The show was nonstop sound – even some musical interludes that I swear were right out of Nintendo! They took the shortest bow off stage and came right back to finish the night with “Trojans” and the audience (myself included) went NUTS! They left the stage right before 12:30.

I find it impossible not to mention in this article that my parents knew of Atlas Genius before I did. With their “If So” song on the advertisements for HGTV’s “Cousin’s Uncover” my parents found the song and told me about them. This band not only pulls in the young teens , it has also seduced a fair number of baby boomers. For a 4 year old band from Australia – this is impressive task. It helps, of course, that they put on wild and amazing shows.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros + Thievery Corporation September 18th, 2013, Cuthbert Amphitheater Eugene, Oregon

It was a time-warping evening as summer floated away in Eugene. Thievery Corporation feels like they have been around forever but keep coming up with new sounds. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are relatively new, but sound so timeless it could be hard to pinpoint in which decade they toured. Together, the unlikely duo made for billing with a richness that Eugene rarely sees.

Whether you know it or not, there's an 82% chance you've made out to the warm, spacey beats of Thievery Corporation. Most dedicated listeners will scoff at the mention of “Lebanese Blonde” becoming popular from Garden State and for that reason, I was glad to hear it played as the second song. One of the difficulties of putting on a live show with Thievery's repertoire is the the diversity of the musicians that have contributed. It was a special treat, then, to find that they had a number of vocalists and MCs tagging along to make the live versions just as good as the album versions. Two female singers joined in (most unofficially dubbed 'pink tights' and 'peacock pants') sounding more like fallen angels than humans. “La Femme Parallel” was gorgeous and sounded both foreign and safe. “Vampires” and “Radio Retaliation” reminded even the stoners on the grass that there was intelligence behind the sleekness. 

Once the sun had set, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros took the stage. If getting everyone together from Thievery Corporation on tour is akin to the logistic nightmare of taking the Brady Bunch on a road trip, getting the Zeros all in one spot is the ultimate hat trick. Jamming and hugging since 2007(ish), vocalist Alex Ebert created the alter-ego/persona of Edward Sharpe while in rehab. The revolving cast of a dozen musicians that make up the Zeros include “Crash” Richard, Christian Letts, Seth Ford-Young, Josh Collazo, Orpheo McCord and Nora Kirkpatrick (who, savvy culturalists will identify as Esther, Dwight's girlfriend on NBC's The Office). The voice that holds the show together, though, was Jade Castrinos. Bundled in an oversized, fuzzy jacket and a smile that wrinkles her nose, Castrinos's rich voice played duet with Ebert as easily as it joined the choir in backing up the others when it was their time to shine. Since Edward Sharpe is as fictional as Ebert's undershirt, it dawned on me as “frontman” Ebert humbly went to offer a verse of “I Don't Want to Pray” to the audience, a trumpet, a bass and other various Zeros, that maybe he only borrows the namesake attributed to him. Taking requests from the audience and trading smiles and high-fives across the stage, it seemed like anyone could take a turn wearing the name. The bright lights and psychadelic background of the show, the coeds and aging baby boomer hippies dancing together, the current in the air of fall, for a sweet moment, we were all Magnetic Zeros.