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




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)
9. Ahead of the Curve
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)
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
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.

Monsters of Folk

September 14, 2009

When I heard Conor Oberst, Jim James, Mike Mogis, and M. Ward had formed a band together, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it at first. My initial assumption was that it would be the perfect collaboration, since Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and M. Ward have all created music that I love. However, then a friend got me thinking that maybe their music would be better kept separate; Maybe the end product of such different musicians teaming up wouldn’t be as incredible as we all anticipated?

After finally hearing the album today, I have to say that my first prediction was right on; I was wrong to ever doubt them. The vocal harmonies are some of the best I’ve heard since Fleet Foxes’ self-titled. Conor’s uniquely rough voice compliments the more gentle vocals of the others, creating an absolutely beautiful sound.

The album has no favored influence; You can hear elements of each musician’s other projects combined in every track.

Check them out.

Monsters of Folk – Temazcal
Monsters of Folk – Sandman, the Brakeman and Me


a weekend of oberst

July 6, 2009

Friday and Saturday were days/nights well spent, as I was finally able to see Conor Oberst, a musician whose work I have loved and respected since third grade, twice this weekend. Though it is not at all an exaggerated statement to say I have been a loyal listener for seven years of my life so far, until Friday night, I had never seen Conor perform, as Bright Eyes, or with the Mystic Valley Band.

Friday: Toad’s Place with Michael Runion and Deep Sea Diver.
The venue unfortunately reminded me of the Crazy Donkey in Long Island in more ways than I would have liked; brick walls, a sports game on a flat screen television near the stage, and sound quality far from impressive. It wasn’t horrible though; It was at least a nice size and in a great location. If the crowd had been more to my liking, the venue undoubtedly would have been as well.

I was rather bored during Michael Runion’s set, but was pretty impressed with Deep Sea Diver, a band with a fantastic female vocalist. An enjoyable set, but not mind blowing by any means.

Conor’s set with the Mystic Valley Band was of course the best of the night. Everyone was anxiously waiting to see him walk across the stage under the bright colored lights. When he finally did, it felt unreal to be only a few feet away. He wore a large black hat that covered his eyes most of the time and kept his dark hair plastered to his forehead. He provided a vague explanation for its existence, perched atop his head, but it was hard to comprehend with his mouth so close to the mic.

The first four or five songs were played with no pause in between, and I began to wonder if all the negative comments I had heard made about Conor’s personality- not having met the man myself, I can’t say whether or not anyone’s perceptions of him are true- meant he would not utter a single friendly word on stage to the crowd. Fortunately, I was mistaken, as he did begin to talk after each song, though it was evident he was shy.

I was not surprised to find that not a single Bright Eyes song was played, though admittedly I felt rather disappointed. It was still a fantastic set; The Mystic Valley Band is made up of a bunch of extremely talented musicians, and Conor’s voice was just as impressive in person as via mp3.

The only down sides were that most people in the front were just standing around in my area of the crowd, and many inebriated “fangirls” refused to stop screaming that Conor should take off his hat so that he could look sexy; even in the middle of Lenders in the Temple, an acoustic song, completely ruining the mood. Still a great show.

Saturday: Central Park Summerstage with Jenny Lewis.
A drastically different atmosphere than that of the show I had attended the previous night. I arrived an hour early, and immediately upon entering the appropriate section of the park, had to take careful steps in order to avoid disturbing the massive amount of people sprawled out on blankets with picnic food, books to read, and friends to share conversation with. It was difficult to navigate through the grass at times, for there really were a lot of people there.

I chose to sit down in the shade near the stage to watch Jenny Lewis perform. Having heard many of her songs before, it did not come as a shock to me that every single one was immensely better live; her vocals were exceptional, and she had a great group of musicians playing along side her. The set was an hour long and a perfect way to start the free show.

I walked around afterward and observed the diversity among the people, all there to enjoy the music amidst the beautiful breezy weather. The trees that surrounded and the blue of the sky helped to create a chill mood in the park, especially between sets. It felt so good to be there.

I thought Conor and the Mystic Valley Band had been great at Toad’s, but they were even better in the park. The sound was terrific and it was a much more relaxing show with a crowd I much preferred to that of New Haven’s.

The set list was as follows:
Souled Out
Air Mattress
Ten Women
Cape Canaveral
Big Black Nothing
One of My Kind
Reason #2
Lenders in the Temple
Difference Is Time
Danny Callahan
Roosevelt Room

(Photo Cred to Dylan)

Overall, it was a delightful weekend of music and I’m glad I was able to make it to two shows!