12 February 2009

LAST NIGHT: the pains of being pure at heart with very truly yours

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with the Depreciation Guild and Very Truly Yours at Schuba's, Chicago, IL (February 11, 2009)
(sorry for the iPhone photos)

It’s always sad when you look forward to seeing a band for months—keeping their album on repeat, watching their videos, blogging compulsively—but then, it’s over, just like that.

Of course I’m referring to last night’s magnificent show, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Surely anyone reading this blog has heard of the Pains by now from somewhere or another, and it was no question that they were the favorites of 2008. (Both in AND out of this tiny pop circle!) But a year and a half (really!) of hype later, I was finally able to confirm first hand that this band really is great.

Sure, I love fuzzed-out pop music, and this was certainly the year of its return, but something about the way the Pains do it is so inviting, warm, and fun. Opening with “Doing All the Things That Wouldn’t Make Your Parents Proud,” (dedicated to Kip’s family in the audience), I was reminded of first hearing this song back in July of 2007, and of being so impressed by the beautiful melodies, subtle wit, and that fantastic sound! I had so much fun swaying and singing along that I hardly could believe that “two songs left” really meant the Pains were down to their final few songs (in all their repertoire, that is). There wasn't a dull moment to their set, but that just speaks to the fact that they really haven’t released a bad song after a full-length, two (kinda) EPs and three wonderful 7-inches, but I was especially glad to hear “Everything With You” and “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan.” Closing with the aptly titled “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart,” it was nice to hear “we will never die,” chanted during their final moments on stage. The band was confident, smiling, and enthusiastic, and I couldn’t have asked for a better performance. Twenty-eight minutes and no encore later, two months of waiting came to a beautiful end in a sold-out Schuba's show, just like that.

I don’t have nearly as many favorable words to say about the Depreciation Guild. I found their set to be a little tedious. Their A/V component looked like an Intro to Flash version of an Ad Reinhardt painting supplemented by some strobe lights. Their music falls somewhere along the lines of a Nintendo-spiked My Bloody Valentine, without the subtlety or sonic swells. Their album is decent (and free on their site), but it’s not the kind of thing that really gets me going.

Very Truly Yours (who I blogged about yesterday), were absolutely charming and were a perfect opener to the evening. They reminded me that pop doesn’t always have to be perfect to be fun. Certain songs seemed better live—“1 2 3 4” and their closer, “Popsong ‘91” (both off of their Cloudberry EP) seemed more refined and a bit more sophisticated than their other material. But I enjoy that one-off charm, so whatever. I am excited for this band to take Chicago by the pop-reins so they can play more shows. (They’ll be opening for One Happy Island in March!)

All in all, a most wonderful evening of pop music.

11 February 2009

very truly yours

I am almost too excited to see the Pains of Being Pure at Heart tonight. I know at some point, I am going to have to stop listening to their album so I don't get too burned out before the show. And, while that time may not quite have come (I mean, the show's not until 9pm...), I can gear up in a different way—by listening to the wonderful openers, Very Truly Yours.

I don't know too much about the band, and what I do know is all second-hand from friends, including my best friend, the Internet. But Chicago pop is hard to come by, which is why I feel it is necessary to say some kind words. Very Truly Yours strike a pure pop beauty that isn't overly saccharine or precious. It is sincere and beautiful with just the right amount of distortion in the background to make it a little messy. I guess think of the Softies fronted by Amelia Fletcher, or Strawberry Story when Hayley Beckman is at her most calm. Made up from three-fourths of contributors to the Chicago band the Lorimer Sound, Very Truly Yours is the perfect simple pop band Chicago has never had.

They just released a great split EP on Cloudberry on January 1st with the Understudies from the UK. They were also just on a WeePOP! comp and are releasing a new song on an upcoming Series Two comp! Wow! Certainly a pop band to watch, and one of the few we've had from Chicago in a long time. And they're only a few months old!!

And don't forget to come to tonight's show! The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with the Depreciation Guild and Very Truly Yours @ Schuba's, 9pm. Tickets are only $8! The show will be put on by my good friends Colour Me Pop!

Very Truly Yours - "Popsong '91"

I would also like to take this time to ask: WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THE TWEE.NET POLL/SERIES TWO RECORDS DRAMA?! For a bit of background, Series Two swept the Best Record Label of 2008 category with around 60 more votes than any other record label, and about 60 more votes than were even present in any other category... Slumberland came in a far second, and I don't think anyone was arguing that the label that put out so many solid indie pop releases of 2008 deserved to be #1. But some are taking quite a bit of offense to this drama. Cloudberry went as far as saying that Series Two owner, Chris B, was causing "terrible damage" to the twee pop scene. His response? "Better luck next year!" Ouch!

09 February 2009


Lykke Li at the Metro, Chicago, IL (February 7, 2009)

It's a little hard for me to believe how quickly Lykke Li blew up, but maybe I just like to think that I can keep all the music I like to myself. I know that even with her roots singing on the streets in Södermalm with her toy piano, Lykke Li was always going to be a pop star. It’s just that now I just start to wonder if what I once saw as precious, well-produced, intelligent pop is meant to go the way of iPod commercials.

Lykke Li once felt intimate to me—the slight dirtiness of “Little Bit,” the heart wrenching power of “Tonight”—but I guess that is always how pop music is supposed to feel. I just can’t shake the feeling that I've been duped somehow. Maybe I am responding to the absolute pleasure seeing her open for El Perro Del Mar at Schuba’s last spring brought me, a show that no sold-out Metro show could ever live up to. Or maybe I am just being selfish. But maybe I've let my love of all things Swedish cloud my judgment…

That’s not to say there was anything disappointing about the show: she delivered in all ways expected of her. She danced, looked cute, and got us to dance sometimes by playing her hits like “Little Bit” and “I’m Good, I’m Gone” and even an extra klub version of “Complaint Department.” Then there were some incongruous moments: a cover of the Kings of Leon? I didn’t even know they were still making music. Her attempts at straddling a line closer to American R&B were hinted at throughout the night, but it became almost transparent in (an admittedly well-done) cover of A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?” And it was all well and good until Lykke Li started getting a little pissed off with the photographers in the front row, interjecting, "Why you gotta photo all the time?" into the song. At this point, Lykke Li threw the microphone across the stage and walked out.

I can’t say there’s anything precious about that.

I think maybe she just needs to start wearing that cute bun again.


Lykke Li - "Tonight" (live acoustic take)
via This Difficulty