MGMT shocked the world with the release of Oracular Spectacular in 2008. The album’s most popular tracks, “Time to Pretend,” “Kids,” and “Electric Feel” became commonly known among music lovers of all ages and every genre. These three singles generated a massive fan base for the band with their catchy melodies, use of synthesizers, and fascinating electronic rock blend. Those who cared enough to check out the band’s other songs were not in any way disappointed either by the stylistically different rest of the album that may not have received as much attention, but were certainly just as good (or even better).

Oracular Spectacular had something to offer for everyone, whether it was music to dance to, intriguing sounds to analyze, or just purely enjoyable, mood brightening songs. While many were unsure of what to think of MGMT at first, it was certain that they were a band to watch; Rolling Stone felt the same way, as did many other major music publications. As the group quickly became one of the most talked about bands in the industry, more and more heads began to turn, and most of those heads seemed to be nodding. However, once the whole world was watching, the question was, how would Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser handle all of the hype, and would the two be able to satisfy the ears of listeners in the future who now had such high expectations of them?

Questions were answered this year on April 13th with MGMT’s release of Congratulations, their sophomore album, though answers varied. Opinions of the album are as drastically different as they are due to the fact that every fan is looking for something different in MGMT’s music. While some still just want to dance, others needed mind-blowing change, and change is what they got.

From listening to any track off of the psychedelic trip of an album, Congratulations, it’s clear that Andrew and Ben were not trying to re-create Oracular Spectacular. Radio hits will not be found on this new album because there was no attempt to make them. Though the urge to sing along may not be as great as it once was, Congratulations offers something to listeners who chose to love Oracular for its obscurities. It’s an album that must be devoured in one sitting in order to experience its intended effects.

The first sounds off the album are a fast-paced guitar scale, mirrored by the same scale on bass in “It’s Working.” The vocals are relaxed and sink into pockets of blissful perfection, comparable only to the feelings described by the lyrics. Instrumental pauses, sporadic cosmic effects, and extreme changes in pace also fit the lyrics well.

After an ode to Dan Treacy of Television Personalities on track two comes “Someone’s Missing.” Starting off slow as a spacey ballad with echoey falsetto vocals, the song builds up and spirals into a disco jam, fading out before the sudden change is even close to being done digested.

However, the track that has received the most attention by far is “Flash Delirium,” the first song to be released for download before Congratulations came out. “Flash Delirium” is perhaps the greatest combination of genres and styles packed into one song that most have heard in a while, making it instantly despised by any who see it as forced and easily loved by those who appreciate the band’s effort to incorporate sounds that most groups would never risk putting together in one song. Featuring the already introduced synthesized euphoria found throughout the beginning of the album, some doo-wop, and even a surprising flute solo, “Flash Delirium” manages to climax within its chaotic last 20 seconds.

Responding to the confused reactions of MGMT fans to the song, Goldwasser proceeded to apologize in an interview by Spinner Magazine. “When we first wrote that song, we were laughing so hard… we thought it was the funniest thing we’d ever heard. And then we got used to it, it started to sound more normal. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think it’s completely weird and not what they were expecting. I’m sorry,” were Goldwasser’s exact words. It was almost appalling to hear an actual apology for the song, but when MGMT later released a short video that showed they were taking people’s reactions very lightly and laughing about it, it seemed more likely that their label had strongly encouraged them to provide an “explanation” to their fans even if they themselves hadn’t seen it as necessary.

Though it does take time to absorb most of Congratulations, – especially the 12 minute long “Siberian Breaks” – its more focused tracks like “Congratulations” and “I Found A Whistle” provide stability and normality where little is found elsewhere. The album is most solid with its beginning and end, thus many listeners may get lost in their own thoughts throughout the middle (which may be exactly how the band wanted it to be).

Many listeners feel that Congratulations is more an album of scattered thoughts than a cohesive work. However, it’s certain that VanWyngarden and Goldwasser were able to successfully create a record that truly represents who they are as people. In the position the two were in after Oracular Spectacular was so well-received by the public, many bands would have stayed in their safety zone and stuck to what they knew people loved. Most of the album has a lot to do with how they feel about their growing popularity, and how sometimes it doesn’t exactly feel right to them. Therefore it makes sense in many ways that Congratulations was as drastic of a change in direction as it was. MGMT took risks in releasing it, which is highly admirable and says a lot about them as musicians. It’s clear that they care more about being true to themselves musically than pleasing the public. VanWyngarden and Goldwasser know that those who understand the album are the kind of fans they want to keep around.

Congratulations is flawless when it comes to quality of sound, having been produced and engineered beautifully. Though it may take a few listens for many to start to like it, once listeners move beyond the fact that it’s incredibly different from Oracular, it’ll be much easier to appreciate it for what it is and look forward to the exciting changes VanWyngarden and Goldwasser have in store for us all in the future.

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Beach House’s Teen Dream was a pleasant surprise and is an all around ethereal album. On track one, harmonies coalesce with guitar and soft use of the hi-hat to begin the album. “Zebra” builds up as the bass drum comes in softly, and lyrics begin to form. The harmonies fade into the background, as the instruments used so delicately at first start to be utilized for harder sound and finer details can be noticed. The same guitar melody stays throughout the song, with an underlying bass ride.

Track two, “Silver Soul,” begins with more melancholy harmonies, and a simple tambourine makes an appearance as vocalist Victoria Legrand hits the high notes.

“Norway” comes next and is even more pleasant than the first two tracks, with sweet “ah, ah, ah’s” complimenting the dominant vocals. Guitars murmur and percussion whispers back, making you wish the song would never end.

However, it does, as all songs must, and “Walk in the Park” commences, introducing the use of a drum machine that could only be made to work as well as it does by a band like Beach House. One’s ears capture the importance of the chorus upon first listen, but it’s not until you listen to the song through a couple times that it really begins to impact you. “In a matter of time, it would slip from my mind / In and out of my life, you would slip from my mind” unites listeners whether they realize it or not, the thoughts of all hearing the words simultaneously traveling to a common place for different reasons. It’s a song that’s hard not to start over right away once it ends.

Keyboards compete in “Used to Be,” making the off-beat of this one the most interesting. As the song progresses, the melody grows more and more beautiful, providing instant happiness upon listening.

Guitars match synthesizers and everything about “Lover of Mine” seems constant, making one of the most peaceful tracks on the album.

Elements of previous songs on the album reappear on “Better Times” at first, making it sound like the song’s already been heard. However, a unique guitar riff finally kicks in and allows Beach House to enter a new plane of existence. Climaxing rhythms take away the relaxation of the song for just a moment before returning to peaceful regularity, but further surprises lie just around the corner with enthralling vocals and a fast fade.

“10 Mile Stereo” is an airy number that would be best perceived while flying on an airplane in the midst of clouds. Its dreamy synthesizers make it one of the best tracks on the album.

Delightful piano parts make up “Real Love” and the gentle vocals augment the song further, leading into the final track ten, “Take Care.” It’s no different from any other song on the album in the way that it allows your thoughts to swirl around you as you take the music in.

Teen Dream is a release that most will find hard to take off repeat. Beach House may not create the most exciting albums, necessarily, but this one is sure to clear your mind and take you to a better place when you need it.

Most important tracks to check out: Walk in the Park, 10 Mile Stereo, Zebra

It’s a strong belief of mine that Portugal. The Man is one of the most under-appreciated bands out there today. Having already released five full-length albums along with a number of EPs, the band is known for their ever-evolving sound and fast writing of quality songs. New concepts are brought to the table with every release and Portugal. The Man never fails to disappoint fans. While one can hear a single song by them for the first time and fall in love immediately, most find that it’s easier to fully appreciate them as musicians once you’ve heard all of their work.

American Ghetto is the Portugal. The Man’s most recent album, having been released digitally on March 2nd by the band without the distribution of any advanced copies for usual pre-album reviews. It doesn’t come as a surprise that it has introduced listeners to yet another new side of them, being a more electronically based record.

It’s a tornado of emotions, beginning with “The Dead Dog.” The track is unlike any other ever created by Portugal. The Man, particularly through the sole use of a drum machine, keeping a steady, more contained beat throughout. It provides a very appropriate for the feel for the song, or better yet, for the entire album.

“Break” is a 58 second transition song, being short but necessary in the evident change in mood between tracks one and three. With scattered synthesizers, unconventional beats, and unidentifiable sounds, it brings the album straight into “60 Years,” a song that concerns the oppression encountered once in a while in life.

The drum machine continues to be utilized, though a full electronic sound is not by any means achieved, nor is it meant to be. The same clever guitar riffs that Portugal. The Man has always came up with exist just as much on American Ghetto as they do on any of their other previous releases. What has changed is that they are no longer the main component of the music. The combination of previously touched upon genres makes the album so diverse and appealing.

“All My People” is a catchy number with haunting background vocals throughout the verses that are not showcased until the song’s end, joined by garbled spoken word transitions and harder, guitar oriented choruses. Even catchier is “1000 Years,” due to its choppy chord repetition and edgy vocals, with a chorus impossible to not sing along to.

The album’s mood swings continue with the more solemn “Fantastic Pace,” written in a minor key and given lyrics that taunt. With only 30 seconds to go in the song, it enters a soulful interlude. Its placement would not make sense if tackled by any other band, but Portugal. The Man is known for their flawless execution of sudden song transitions that shouldn’t make sense but do.

“The Pushers Party” maintains the funk rock fusion, with a few surprises of its own found in the midst of pockets of resonating bass, intriguing guitar patterns, and even great harmonies.

American Ghetto moves right along and continues with yet another soulful track, “Do What We Do.” It’s truly mesmerizing with a perfect combination of percussion, bass, and vocals.

“Just A Fool” is the most melancholy track on the album, but the mood gradually lightens with “Some Men” and becomes completely uplifting with the last song, “When The War Ends.”

“When The War Ends” is the most pop influenced song the band has created, even if it was not intended to be. Though it’s the most upbeat on the album, incidentally, it deals with some of the most painful experiences members of the band have dealt with in their lives.

American Ghetto is as fascinating an album as it is mainly because of the double meanings that can be found in nearly every song that take some time to decipher. While John Gourley wrote the songs based on personal experiences and his childhood in Alaska, each song also talks about the state of the world today and how most people have chosen to ignore all that has gone downhill over the years.

Those who are already fans of Portugal. The Man will most likely appreciate the album more than those who are new to the music, but it is certainly a release that deserves to be heard by all.

Most important tracks to check out: 1000 Years, The Pushers Party, 60 Years

Vampire Weekend – Contra

January 31, 2010

A band’s sophomore album is extremely important – listeners always hope to hear development in a group since their first release and hopefully not familiar sounding songs. While a killer first album is what gets people interested at first, a band’s second album is what really determines their future.

Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut was clean, refreshing, and successful. It wasn’t a life changing album for most, but the Afro-beat influence and use of strings, along with respectable song structure, and most of all, catchiness, attracted many. That being said, it seemed as if they were holding back at times, making a great but safe album with few risks – which is acceptable for a new band. The question was would they be able to top the pleasant album that won over so many?

Contra, Vampire Weekend’s highly anticipated follow-up record, introduces listeners to a completely new side of them. There’s more to this one than a purely enjoyable sound, as the band took a lot of risks and improved upon their song writing abilities tremendously with this ten track album. Processed sounds meet genuine sounds and the contrast between them is what makes Contra so interesting, along with the combination of various genres that could not possibly be blended together as effectively by any other band. Koenig’s vocals are far more passionate than ever, and their lyrics force listeners to view them as people with typical and relatable problems. “I Think Ur A Contra” ends the album and stands out as the most soulful track the band has ever released, with lyrics such as, “Never pick sides, never choose between two, but I just wanted you, I just wanted you.”

Contra hit number one on Billboard’s 200 within the first week of its release, being the 12th independently distributed album ever to do so since 1991. Listeners who tried so hard to find flaws in Vampire Weekend the first time around will have a much more difficult time doing so with Contra.

Hot Chip – One Life Stand

January 25, 2010

One Life Stand is a surprising release from Hot Chip after their last record – 2008’s Made in the Dark. While it was easy to love songs off of Made in the Dark as separate works, as an album, it was all over the place; they were trying to include far too many ideas in an hour’s worth of material. However, with One Life Stand, Hot Chip has created a cohesive album and experimented with a completely new sound. A proper metaphor for this record would be an astronaut’s course through outer space – a journey met with excitement beyond comprehension, fear, sadness, disbelief, and realization.

“Thieves in the Night” is the take off and eventual trip through the atmosphere, the hard bass drum fueling the listener’s growing anticipation. With sweet vocals, kind synthesized sounds, and partially distorted guitar, it sounds like polished 80s electronic pop, which can be said about most of the other songs, too.
This goes straight into the more confident “Hand Me Down Your Love.” We all knew there would be a good amount of piano on this Hot Chip album and get our first taste of it on track two. What’s even more shocking is the strings that come in, hardly noticeable at first, but eventually so evident, with beautiful melody and rich vibrato. For once, synthesized sounds do not play the main role in the music, as if you’re listening to a completely different band.

The surprises keep coming, as “I Feel Better” starts off with vocals tweaked with Auto-Tune – not the kind of Auto-Tune that can easily make one cringe, used in “secret” to roll over the imperfections of a voice, but instead just used to produce a different kind of sound. Real vocals come in, challenging the enhanced ones, making for a very unique track three. The mood of the album starts to become darker, but the songs still maintain a beat that’s easy to dance to.

“One Life Stand,” the title track, comes next. A version had been streamed on MySpace in December to give fans a taste of what the album would be like, but this version exceeds the demo in every way possible. Resonant bass and even a hint of steel drum all lead up to a pre-chorus longer than the original version’s, thus sounding much less awkward than it once was. With the chorus, it becomes clear why this track deserves to share a title with the album, as it’s fantastic.
After Made in the Dark, it feels strange to hear lyrics as tame and relatable as those of track five, “Brothers.” A soft beat and pleasant harmony, but nothing stands out with this song. However, its place in the album is necessary.

“Slush” begins with an arpeggiated “humana humana humana,” which fades into the background, but softly carries throughout the rest of the song, matched with simple piano – A melancholy ballad.
The mood lightens instrumentally with “Alley Cats,” a song that radiates good vibes and gets better and better with every listen. However, one must listen closely to the lyrics to notice the sadness of the song – “There’s no pain I don’t know” repeats several times, and it becomes obvious that it’s actually a song about loss. It is perhaps the best song on the album.

“We Have Love” sounds more like the “old” Hot Chip, but still darker, with unidentifiable sounds right at the start, and a consistent dance beat. More strings are snuck into this number as well, with clean bow re-takes nearly hidden beneath the busy atmosphere of the track. There’s an anxiety causing build-up with this one, and there’s no way to predict which path the album will take with the following last two tracks.
The outer space imagery returns with “Keep Quiet,” beginning to wrap up the album. It’s easy for one to let their mind wander off during this slowed down number – as it is not one of the more remarkable tracks – and be reawakened when the last track – “Take It In” – begins, signifying the trip back to Earth in the previously used space metaphor. Mellow vocals during the chorus accompany the best beat found throughout the album – it will undoubtedly be one of the more fun songs to be heard live on Hot Chip’s upcoming tour. It feels like a resolution has been reached on the last note.

One Life Stand is the necessary change in direction that Hot Chip needed. While the band easily could have stayed in their comfort zone and still have been loved by their fans, they took a risk and tried something new. Some fans may be confused by this drastically different album at first, but most will be extremely impressed.

Best of 2009

January 1, 2010

My list ended up changing tremendously by the last day of the year, but here it is!

Best Albums

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
2. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
3. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
4. Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist
5. Telefon Tel Aviv – Immolate Yourself
6. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
7. The Antlers – Hospice
8. Jónsi & Alex – Rice Boy Sleeps
9. mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright
10. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
11. Mew – No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories the World is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away
12. Umphrey’s McGee – Mantis
13. Mumford & Songs – Sigh No More
14. Atlas Sound – Logos
15. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
16. Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs
17. Dan Deacon – Bromst
18. Rx Bandits – Mandala
19. Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing
20. M. Ward – Hold Time
21. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South
22. Dredg – The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion
23. Passion Pit – Manners
24. Taken By Trees – East Of Eden
25. Monsters of Folk – Self-Titled
26. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
27. The XX – XX
28. Boys Noize – Power
29. Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
30. Fanfarlo – Reservoir
31. Rodrigo y Gabriela – 11:11
32. Owen – New Leaves
33. Muse – The Resistance
34. Sonic Youth – The Eternal
35. Kevin Devine – Brother’s Blood
36. Person L – The Positives
37. St. Vincent – Actor
38. Volcano Choir – Unmap
39. Bowerbirds – Upper Air
40. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
41. Brand New – Daisy
42. The Mercury Program – Chez Viking
43. Noah and the Whale – The First Days of Spring
44. Regina Spektor – Far
45. Devendra Banhart – What Will We Be
46. Girls – Album
47. WHY? – Eskimo Snow
48. The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha
49. The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
50. Gomez – A New Tide

Best EPs

1. Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind [EP]
2. Andrew Bird – iTunes Session – EP
3. Good Old War/Cast Spells – Split EP
4. Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP
5. Modest Mouse – No One’s First, and You’re Next

Best Soundtracks

1. Where the Wild Things Are
2. Away We Go
3. (500) Days of Summer
4. New Moon
5. Taking Woodstock

Best Album Artwork

1. Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist
2. The Mars Volta – Octahedron
3. Muse – The Resistance
4. Dan Deacon – Bromst
5. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Overall, it was a fantastic year for music. Hardly any let downs among the releases that I paid attention to. 2010’s looking pretty good, too.

Good Old War (12/3)

December 9, 2009

Thursday night was Good Old War’s first headlining show ever, at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. It was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve been to in months. Every band that played was fantastic in their own way.

Gabriel the Marine played first, and I was most impressed with their electric violinist, whose form was impeccable. It was truly inspiring to watch him switch from mellifluous legato to crisp staccato in every song, and his style was very creative. Hezekiah Jones had a violinist as well, but her style was completely different, to fit their folky sound. Though she sounded good, something went wrong with her instrument in the middle of their third song, making her unable to play for a good amount of the rest of their set. Nevertheless, the band sounded awesome, and had an upright bassist, which I loved. Cast Spells was next – the solo project of Maps & Atlases’ Dave Davison, joined by Good Old War as his band. There was no denying their chemistry together on stage, and the songs sounded great. I was excited to hear “Letters,” a song off the new Good Old War/Cast Spells split EP.

Finally came Good Old War to the stage, with a new confidence I have never before seen in them. It was a good kind of confidence, the type that makes you smile when you see it, and think about how far a band has come since they first started.

Setlist:
1. Tell Me
2. Window
3. Just Another Day
4. I’m Not For You
5. Maybe Mine
6. We’ve Come A Long Way
7. Get No Time
8. Texas Blues
9. Breaking Down
10. Looking for Shelter
11. Get Some
12. Weak Man
13. Coney Island

It was the longest set I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing them play, and the best, too; especially on Dan’s part. You can always tell how good a guitarist is based on not only their familiarity with scales and theory, but also their ability to take that knowledge and turn it into something different and creative that puts an audience in awe. Dan Schwartz is without a doubt that kind of guitarist, and it’s always amazing to watch him switch from playing acoustic to electric in the middle of songs. At the same time, he’s also one of the most modest musicians I’ve ever talked to. There’s nothing more refreshing than someone so talented being as down to earth as that man is.

Good Old War’s vocal harmonies sounded better than ever, and they changed up a lot of songs off of Only Way to be Alone to make the set a little bit different from past ones. The three new songs that they played (Texas Blues, Breaking Down, and Get Some) showed off a new side of the band, and made me appreciate them even more. Smooth tempo transitions, unique guitar licks, and quite a few genres thrown together.

I couldn’t be more satisfied with the way these guys continue to write music that I could never find unappealing.

Diplo Remixes

November 27, 2009

I love Diplo’s selection of songs to remix; the finished products are always impressive.

diplo1

Circles (Diplo Remix) – As Tall As Lions
Reckoner (Diplo Remix) – Radiohead
The Perfect Crime #2 (Diplo’s Doing Time Remix) – The Decemberists
Helicopter (Diplo Remix) – Bloc Party
Shake a Fist (Diplo’s Noise of Art Remix) – Hot Chip

My favorite time of the year

November 27, 2009

Who doesn’t love a good indie Christmas song?

1. Christmas Party – The Walkmen
2. It’s Only Christmas – As Tall As Lions
3. Happy Christmas (War is Over) – Damien Rice
4. Splitting up Christmas – Kevin Devine
5. Christmas Time is Here Again (Bring Out the Joy!) – My Morning Jacket
6. Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved it!) – Sufjan Stevens
7. Happy Christmas (War is Over) – Thrice
8. White Christmas – Bright Eyes
9. Jinglebell Rock – Arcade Fire
10. Happy Christmas (War is Over) – The Polyphonic Spree
11. It’s Christmas Time – Yo La Tengo
12. Holly Jolly Christmas – The Format
13. The First Noel – Bright Eyes
14. Get Behind Me, Santa! – Sufjan Stevens
15. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Death Cab for Cutie
16. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Daphne Loves Derby
17. The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
18. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Bright Eyes

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11/6 – Monsters of Folk

November 16, 2009

Last Friday, I attended what I do consider to be the best show I have been to thus far – Monsters of Folk at United Palace Theatre. It was a night of not only MOF songs, but those of My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Conor Oberst, and Yim Yames. The set looks unbelievable written down, but that’s of course nothing compared to being there to witness it. The show seemed to get better and better with each song, anticipating what would come next, and being very pleasantly surprised many times.

Since I wasn’t writing down the set as it went on, this setlist will not be completely accurate, but definitely close to the actual one:
1. Say Please
2. The Right Place
3. Soul Singer In A Session Band (BRIGHT EYES)
4. Slow Down Jo
5. Lime Tree (BRIGHT EYES)
6. Man Named Truth
7. Bermuda Highway (MY MORNING JACKET)
8. Look At You (MY MORNING JACKET)
9. Ahead of the Curve
10. Golden (MY MORNING JACKET)
11. Baby Boomer
12. Lullaby + Exile (M. WARD)
13. We Are Nowhere And It’s Now (BRIGHT EYES)
14. Lenders in the Temple (CONOR OBERST)
15. I Will Be There When You Die (MY MORNING JACKET)
16. Chinese Translation (M. WARD)
17. To Save Me (M. WARD)
18. Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)
19. Temazcal
20. Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (YIM YAMES)
21. One Life Away (M. WARD)
22. One Hundred Million Years (M. WARD)
23. At Dawn (MY MORNING JACKET)
24. Goodway
25. Kathy With A K’s Song (BRIGHT EYES)
26. Smokin’ From Shootin’ (MY MORNING JACKET)
27. The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me
28. Hit the Switch (BRIGHT EYES)
29. Losin’ Yo Head
3o. Map of the World
[ENCORE]
31. At the Bottom of Everything (BRIGHT EYES)
32. Whole Lotta Losin’
33. Another Travelin’ Song (BRIGHT EYES)
34. His Master’s Voice

I was brought to tears multiple times throughout the show, particularly during Golden, my absolute favorite song at this point in my life, as well as Lime Tree, a Bright Eyes song that never fails to make me tear up – especially with Jim James complimenting Oberst’s voice with a harmony three octaves higher.

In fact, every time James opened his mouth, it was impossible to keep my jaw from dropping. He delivered some of the best vocals I have ever heard during “At Dawn,” holding out notes that many vocalists could never imagine of hitting. He also had a tremendous amount of passion in his voice during “Smokin’ Without Shootin’,” which got every MMJ fan in the venue going crazy. As the lights on stage moved in all directions, shining upon expressions in the audience, I had never seen more soulful singing along in such a diverse group of concert go-ers; lovers intertwined in slow dance, friends swaying with arms linked, adults undoubtedly reminiscing, college kids throwing fists in the air – some grinning, some screaming, some sobbing. It was a fantastic thing to watch; only truly great songs evoke such great emotion.

It was also an extremely emotional experience to finally be able to hear a good amount of Bright Eyes songs live. I’ve been listening for seven years, yet missed my opportunity to see Bright Eyes live so many times. This show gave me the second chance I had been wanting so badly to hear the songs that define my childhood. I was not at all disappointed, as many of my favorites were played – I only wish I could have heard them at a more intimate venue. The encore was spectacular, and allowed everyone to rush up to the stage and dance and sing along to At the Bottom of Everything and Another Travelin’ Song. Probably the most fun of the night, for me at least.

One of the most impressive MOF number was one of their singles – “Dear God.” The most remarkable part of its live rendition was the constant flashing of different colored lights throughout the entire song – bright purple, electric blue, vivid green, deep red. It was one of the only points during the show where the lights were impressive, which bothered me a little bit, because they could have made the mood of each song significantly easier to establish if the light show had been given more thought. Not that it mattered too much to me – it was better than ones I’ve seen at most shows. Every other MOF song played was great, but The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me, and His Master’s Voice are two more that stand strong in my mind. The vocals were flawless and beautiful, just as I had expected they would be.

I was not completely familiar with much of M. Ward’s music, and was pleased to discover that it was incredibly easy to get into and appreciate. Staring intently at his fingers as he picked like a pro, I realized that it was some of the most impressive guitar playing I’ve ever seen live.

Conor Oberst’s lyrics and clearly evident song writing skills, the soaring vocals of Jim James, the guitar playing of M. Ward, Mike Mogis’s modest accompaniment of all three on multiple instruments, and most of all, their ability to combine several genres of many projects originally performed with completely different people, all on one stage in one set, made it a show to be remembered forever.