26 May 2009

POPFEST! day three: eux autres, the secret history, pants yell!, and the radio dept.

The Secret History with The Radio Dept., Pants Yell!, and Eux Autres @ The Bell House, New York (May 16, 2009)

I used to keep a blog about live music, but the problem was always that I was months and months late with reviews. That seems to be happening here, too.

But, there also isn’t much to report about the third day of Popfest.

Eux Autres delivered a particularly sad performance, even though I am really fond of their music. Having added Yoshi from The Aislers Set, I was excited to hear some of their new material. The result was their usual brand of frantic jangly Pacific Northwest pop with boy-girl vocals, but there just wasn’t much exciting about the performance. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and attribute it to the fact that The Bell House was just too big of a venue for them. I am still excited to hear their new single, which you can order from their website.

Eux Autres

I was a little excited to see The Secret History, if only because Michael Grace, Jr. was so brilliant with My Favorite. But what happens when self-proclaimed indie pop stars get too full of themselves? Only bad things. Grace came off as an aged, pretentious idol, past his prime in more ways than one, but still living in his imagined glory days. (My Favorite wasn’t even all that popular!) Their Myspace even says that to snag their new singer, Lisa Ronson, they published a classified ad looking for “Female Voice/Tragic Cult Figure.” Please. At least their cover of The Smiths' "Reel Around the Fountain" was appropriate.

Pants Yell!, a band who delivered a really excellent debut EP, but whose previous effort, Alison Statton, was just bad, continued such a trend, giving an uninspired, completely bland performance. They come off as kind of whiny indie rock boys, not particularly endearing with pretty mediocre music.

There was no reason to stick around. My apologies to The Radio Dept., who I heard were a little better tonight from Kristine of Very Truly Yours, but there was no way it could have been worth the pain.

22 May 2009

POPFEST! day two: cats on fire, liechtenstein, the radio dept., and the tartans

Cats on Fire with Liechtenstein, The Radio Dept., and The Tartans @ Don Hill's, New York (May 15, 2009)

Late again, I walked as fast as I could across town to get to Don Hill’s (the lol home of all those infamous Misshapes parties), hoping I wouldn’t miss The Tartans. Luckily, they were just setting up when I arrived.

Hailing from LA, The Tartans have released some of my favorite songs of the past year. Outside of their hits, though, their other songs seem to fall a bit flat, but I hope that will change as they write more. “My Baby Doesn’t Care for You,” “Cats of Camerford,” and “1939” are all great songs, and all of which were played during their short set. I was glad not to have missed them, and look forward to more of their classic pop-tinged lo-fi twee, somewhere along the lines of California friends like The Aislers Set.

The Tartans

The Radio Dept. was definitely the most highly anticipated band for Popfest as far as I could tell. They sold out the Saturday show and were billed as a “secret band” for Friday’s show. Now, I’m not a HUGE Radio Dept. fan, but I was excited to see them. Sadly, I was sorely disappointed. The usually lush instrumentation seemed muddled, and they seemed to avoid any of their real sensational songs: a total letdown.

My low spirits were made lower with the over-priced spirits at the bar ($7 for a watered-down gin and tonic? a $4 PBR? I just can’t get used to those NYC prices…). Luckily, Liechtenstein was phenomenal and made me forget all my other troubles (like really sore feet). A little less fuzzed out than they sound on their recordings, they made up for it with perfect harmonies and a great preview of the new album (which I scored a copy of already!).


And then, perhaps the reason I most wanted to come to Popfest: Cats on Fire. The Province Complains was one of my favorite albums of 2006, and three years later, Our Temperance Movement did not disappoint. Unsurprisingly, Cats on Fire’s live performance was just as flawless as their recordings. Mattias seems like the perfect frontman: reserved but fascinating, delivering the most masterful set of Popfest. I am pretty sure I could be happy listening to these Fins forever, so I just hope they keep making music forever.

Left in a near euphoria, I crawled back up 8th Avenue, looking forward to yet another day of pop.

The Tartans - "The Cats of Camerford"
The Tartans - "My Baby Doesn't Care for You"

The Radio Dept. - "Freddie and the Trojan Horse"

Liechtenstein - "Postcard"

Cats on Fire - "Horoscope"

21 May 2009

POPFEST! day one: the ballet, my teenage stride, the metric mile, dream bitches, the soft city, and knight school

NYC POPFEST 2009! The Ballet @ the Cake Shop, New York (May 14, 2009)

(This is the first in a series of week-late Popfest reviews. I will try to keep them short, but it is so hard when I had such a great weekend!)

Somewhere between Chicago and New York, it was raining, delaying our flight before take-off for more than an hour. Luckily, I made it to the Cake Shop in plenty of time to catch Knight School kick-off NYC Popfest 2009! Filled with NYC bands, the first night proved to be a great start to a wonderful weekend of music.

I have long been charmed by the cover (featuring many cats) of Knight School’s CDR The Poor and Needy Need to Party released on LostMusic, but I finally ordered it a few months ago and have kept it on frequent rotation since. Buzzy and loud but full of hooks, Knight School certainly fits in with the rest of the NYC pop scene, but there is something uniquely appealing about them. They played a loud and fast set that left my ears ringing for the rest of the night.

The Soft City played a nice set, too, even if it was their first show! They just have one tiny single out on Cloudberry, so I am interested in hearing more. Some videos of their set from Popfest are up now on their Myspace, and I am really enjoying “Capital Soul,” even a week later.

The crowd was definitely into the four heavily tattooed and bobbed girls in Dream Bitches, but something about their style of pop music is a little too much for me. Snotty 90s girl pop is all well and good, but sometimes it just seems so contrived. They sounded and played great, though, so I have no complaints. And it may just have been their last show, which is too bad!

Appropriately, someone called out “The Field Mice!” during The Metric Mile’s set. Certainly, the band sounds very much like The Field Mice, but only in the best ways possible. Soft synth with lush orchestration, they may have been the band I was most pleasantly surprised by for the evening.

That would be, of course, until My Teenage Stride played. I’ve had their album forever, but I don’t listen to it that frequently. What a mistake that is!! They played an energetic set with fantastic pop songs. I guess they’ve been releasing a song a month lately, so that is something I need to check out.

And, finally, The Ballet. I think I am a relatively latecomer to this NYC band, but god knows why—a gay pop band (and there are so few!) with perfectly crafted songs should have found me immediately. They did a really great job of translating their songs live, and it’s always nice to not hear the album replayed for you. They did a great cover of “Take Ecstasy with Me,” appropriate for the NYC-themed evening, and played all of the songs I have come to love over the past few months, “Personal,” “In My Head,” and “Cheating on Your Boyfriend.” They said they are working on a new album now, which is very exciting. They didn’t have the live cello player as has surfaced during previous performances, but that was perfectly fine. They were an absolutely perfect finish to a wonderful first night of pop music.

Knight School - "Pregnant Again"
Knight School - "Crybaby"

The Soft City - The Soft City
The Soft City - "Wallflower"

The Metric Mile - "Amateurs"
The Metric Mile - "In Praise of Ski Jumpers"

My Teenage Stride - "Ears Like Golden Bats"

The Ballet - "Personal"
The Ballet - "Cheating on Your Boyfriend"