Results filed under: “music”
Gotta eat some crow here. After what was perceived by the crowds last year to be an incredibly successful lineup, I thought the festival bookers would stick with what worked: slow indie music and old white guy rock, since they were pretty much the only options last year short of earpslitting MIA screeches.
But props all around for a much more balanced lineup, by which I mostly mean Kanye, but you've got significant strides in various genres from hip hop to electronic and a surprisingly deep lineup. The change has angered a lot of people on the ACL facebook page though so don't go there for your own sanity.
A shockingly strong lineup for a day that a lot of people skip. In addition to hip-hop heavyweights Kanye, Big Boi, and Nas, you've got Party Lights and Santigold making a rare festival appearance to keep things lively, Sara Bereilles to cover pop, and Mavis Staples doing her thing.
And if you are grumbling at that, they've got you covered, with snoozeworthy rock well provided by Coldplay, Cold War Kids, and Foster the People. I had the misfortune of catching part of Cold War Kids set last time they played at ACL and was knocked to the floor by the blandness of their sound.
And of course for indie you have Bright Eyes, Kurt Vile, Ray LaMontaigne, and pitchfork boycrush James Blake. Friday looks to be the strongest from top to bottom.
If there's a day to skip, it'd probably be here, and that's weird considering that it contains Stevie Wonder, TV on the Radio, Cee Lo, the Antlers and beardmasters Iron & Wine! The schedule isn't out yet, but it has a disturbing feeling of lots of good stuff in the evening scheduled against each other and a light afternoon.
But that does give a chance to take in some of the stuff that I would normally express interest in and then skip, like Aloe Blacc, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Gillian Welch, and Twin Shadow.
Arcade Fire tore it up headlining Saturday after the release of Neon Bible, and it's no surprise to see them grab the promotion to closers, especially after their masterpiece The Suburbs. Kind of disappointing for me since I just saw them two weeks ago, but it happens. Highlights include elder statesmen of punk Social Distortion, a reunited Death From Above 1979 (the reunion that caused the riot at SXSW this year), Broken Social Scene, Airborne Toxic Event for Suzi, and Elbow. I'm actually unfamiliar with almost everyone below that on the bill, so hopefully there will be some good discoveries.
Late additions: They just added Manu Chao and Kurt Vile. Kurt Vile is a pretty great get, his latest album is stellar. Manu Chao returns, I skipped him last time and probably will again, but in trying to remember what he sounded like, I remember "Me Gustas Tu" and now it won't leave my head. Where did you go Rebecca Black I've never missed you before now?!!?
OK, we're back in the game. Pretend that the Eagles are going to forget they're performing (because they're so old they have alzheimers) and that instead the headliner is an empty stage. Sunday now looks pretty good!
The first morning that's going to be packed, expert picks are:
Warpaint - One of the more exciting early acts, they got recognized after a great set at CMJ and should kick the day off nicely with desert rock. Plus they're three beautiful ladies, which will be a welcome respite from all the beards.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - A veteran group with a great DIY rock sound and a knack for songwriting. The Mighty Sparrow is the catchiest opening track of an album this year, and this is the best music video I've seen in forever. It has John Hodgeman and copious Green Day bashing, two great tastes that go great together. The only disappointment with their ACL slot is that it's only a 45 minute set.
I'll also be checking out Blind Pilot, Portugal. The Man, Gayngs, and Trombone Shorty.
Rebelution - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes - Eat dinner and stake out a spot for the Flaming Lips. This is an easy choice. Check out the tail end of the Henry Clay People maybe too.
The Flaming Lips - Band of Horses. I like Band of Horses, but their quiet understated songs can't really compete with the crazy shit you might see at the Flaming Lips.
The National - Cage the Elephant - Norah Jones. Norah Jones is a respectable choice, and if that's your thing, go for it. Cage the Elephant on the other hand, have apparently proven that the radio altrock scene is so utterly dead that one catchy song (Ain't No Rest For The Wicked, which you may know from a bunch of annoying commercials) is actually enough to both regularly chart on Billboard and earn a pre-headliner festival slot.
But the headliners this year ~in my heart~ are The National, easily the best 'indie' act they booked.
Sigh. This isn't even worth a full writeup. I guess in the morning see Balmorhea and Bear in Heaven? I got bored just typing that. Later definitely hit up Local Natives and LCD Soundsystem which are the closest things to expert picks today. Dodge The XX, their album is good but I have heard nothing but awful things about their snoozefest of a live show.
M.I.A. vs Muse? They both released garbage for their last album, so both sets could easily be awful. If you love Twilight, go for Muse, if you love silly political statements and Diplo, M.I.A.
Having finally gone through all five stages of grief about the poor lineup, I can finally provide the guidance to help you, the reader who also bought their three day pass before the artists were announced, make the most of it.
Friday morning is a time to enjoy the weather and the fact that the park isn't horrifically overcrowded. Also to quickly get loaded on your smuggled contraband before wandering the park in a daze checking out the range of local and small acts that start the fest off. Moving around is easy so you can mix and match without too much trouble.
I'll be checking out:
GIVERS - Do you like the Dirty Projecters? Then try this diet, easier to book alternative!
Vonnegutt - Easily the low point of the otherwise amazing Big Boi album was the token rock hook in "Follow Us", provided by none other than Vonnegutt. The producer of that track wisely drowned it in a sweet synth line, which salvaged it. Why would I see them? Morbid curiosity.
The Soft Pack- From their description on the ACL website "no-frills, back-to-basics rock". The only six words I can imagine being more boring under normal circumstances would be "twenty four hour cbs sitcom marathon" but their set comes at the point of the day when it starts to drag a bit and a faster paced set would be welcome.
The Verve Pipe (at Austin Kiddie Limits) - Don't worry Jesse, they're playing again a different day too. But looking at the schedule you can see that the number of people who are planning to see the groups immediately before and after them are '0' and '118' respectively. The Verve Pipe? 5540.
The Mountain Goats (ObscureCraft Expert Pick) - One of the most awesome and prolific lofi artists around today, John Darnielle has written more songs than the Eagles have forgotten.
And that's a lot, because the Eagles are old. Get it?
Now is the time when you start having to pick a spot since the crowds are packing in, and also make real decisions, my picks in bold.
Beach House - The Sword. Dreampop versus Austin metal. Unless you really need to headbang, grab a chair and relax to Victoria Legrand's beautiful, Twilight soundtrack-approved voice.
Spoon. I'm not sure if they intentionally stacked the deck for these Austin locals by providing pathetically weak competition, but unless you really need more C-list jam bands in a day packed with them, they're the only option. Alternately, grab dinner now since the stage will be completely packed.
Sonic Youth - Ryan Bingham - Vampire Weekend. Now here's an interesting choice. Sonic Youth are now almost as old as the Eagles, but their last album was pretty good, and they are still killer live. Ryan Bingham did write that song for Crazy Heart though, so he's a good backup choice.
The Strokes - Phish. I would've bolded 'stabbing yourself in the junk' but that joke's being saved for the Sunday picks because The Strokes have that one decent song that got radio play like a decade ago, and hey, there's always the chance that Julian Casablancas will go crazy and do something entertaining to scoff/tweet about
Andre who now?
I was as guilty of underrating Big Boi's contributions to Outkast as everyone else. Sure he dropped great verses, but their big singles often felt like Andre joints. This album may not end the debate, but it's a hell of a retort.
Recently he's been popping up on blogs, dropping ridiculously good tracks that sporadically promised to be on his long delayed solo album. 'Shine Blockas', with an always fun guest spot from Gucci Mane ("I make music/I make movies/I got Tyler Perry's cell") was the first one to catch my attention, but soon enough 'Shutterbugg''s goofy but awesome talkboxes and his verse on Janelle Monae's 'Tightrope' were enough to move it up to the top of the most anticipated albums of the summer.
The full thing, currently streaming from his MySpace or Some Kind of Awesome does not disappoint. It's consistently entertaining, creative, and fun while still being accessible. He wrings the most out of the guest spots, even the potential disasterpiece of the 'Follow Us' rock chorus gets used decently. But he never gets overshadowed, this is Big Boi's record and every track serves as a reminder of the insanity that he had trouble getting it published.
Think about that while you listen to it: he had to leave his label because they didn't have any interest in this. And people wonder why the recording industry's dead.
If I had more time I'd take the Pitchfork Presents logo then cross it out in Paint and scrawl ObscureCraft over it, but I don't so do it in the magical canvas of your imagination.
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
Do two great singles ("Heads Will Roll", "Zero") make up for an otherwise entirely forgettable album? This year, yes!
9. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
A Good Album. Nothing much to say, it's solid but not exactly worth writing essays on. I thought about swapping it out for one of the Runner Ups but that would mean googling album art again and I don't really feel like doing that.
8. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
Not a ridiculous fantasy black metal band, but actually an awesome, creative art rock band. That's what Wikipedia calls them at least, I'm not totally sure how you'd define 'art rock' as a genre. It's Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade's solo project, and while it's not his best album ever, it's perhaps the most accessible.
7. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
Kind of obligatory, but I need to bone up on my NPR rock cred. Also I'm a huge homosexual. It moved up a few spots from being a hell of a live performance.
6. Wax Tailor - In The Mood For Life
This French trip-hop producer has actually breathed life into a long dead genre. Mostly by making it less trip-hop and more instrumental hip-hop, but at least he's trying. As good as Tales of the Forgotten Melodies? Probably not, but great driving music.
5. The Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another
While we're on the subject of completely dead genres, the one decent straight up rock album of the year. But it's a good one: raw, unpolished and angry, exactly what Them Crooked Vultures aren't. "Arming Eritrea" is a hell of a track, although oddly less political than you'd expect.
4. Bon Iver - Blood Bank
Why the four song EP and not the full album? Well, the EP has four good songs, which you can't say about For Emma, Forever Ago. Burn on you, Bon Iver!
3. Swan Lake - Enemy Mine
A supergroup of Dan Bejar (Destroyer, The New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown), and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes). All the best of Canadian indie music! They trade off writing duties, so it's pretty much three songs from each of them, but since they're all vocalists, there are some crazy harmonies and backing vocals.
2. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. 2
This album will make you want to get Wu-Tang tattoos all over your body. Who knew they still had it? Highlights are "House of Flying Daggers (ft. Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, GZA, Method Man" and Ghostface Killah's mindblowingly filthy verse on "Gihad". It's the Wu-Tang's Abbey Road.
1. The Antlers - Hospice
While we're on classic rock comparisons that'll probably annoy Daytrader, this is The Wall of indie music. A heartbreaking concept album narrated by a hospital orderly who fall in love with an abused, abusive, terminally ill cancer patient. Spoiler alert: everyone lives happily ever after!
Runner Ups: Silversun Pickups - Swoon, Sonic Youth - The Eternal, Jay-Z - The Blueprint III
Dishonorable Mentions: Kanye West - 808's And Heartbreaks, Muse - The Resistance
2009: Year of the Concept Album?
...or "Yes, the Suze, finally some Airborne Toxic Event news".
On first glance I actually vomited a little in my mouth when I saw the headliners, the choice of which are unfortunate to say the least. But thankfully nearly everyone else on the top half of the list ranges from 'interesting' to 'awesome'. This year does a fantastic job of covering just about everything, and as a bonus, their website contains 3-5 streaming songs from every single artist, so you can find out for yourself.
For the token festival black people, John Legend, Mos Def, and K'Naan are a more awesome than usual group.
From the weird reunions/holy shit I didn't know they were still alive group, you've got Sonic Youth, the Toadies, and the B-52s.
Linking all of these is dumb since clicking any of them will take you to to the full list with their info and sample songs, so just do that.
Hilariously white people dancing makes a strong showing with Ghostland Observatory, Girl Talk, and !!!.
You've got the usual indie contingent, of course, with The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, and Andrew Bird.
It's also better rock than usual: Clutch, the aforementioned Suze-approved Airborne Toxic Event, and Coheed & Cambria. Also Pearl Jam if you're into that snorefest.
I'll also give a personal endorsement to Heartless Bastards, who I saw open for Andrew Bird and were amazing.
Anybody great from the bottom half of the list? The only glaring genre missing is dad-rock, which really only gets Levon Helm, a big drop from last year's John Fogerty and Robert Plant
You are panicked. There is only a week left to shop before Christmas, and none of our suggestions have been any good. The people on your list don't like media
. They are wild cards. How are you supposed to know what to get these people unless we help you?
Deep breath. Failure is not yet assured. You may have to dig a little deeper into your pocket, but that is the premium you must pay. Here are the gifts for the wild cards on your list - all for $300 or less.
The ObscureCraft holiday shopping guide is back for part 2. Clothing is, by far, the hardest type of gift to buy. Entirely apart from questions of taste is the fact that I can hardly buy clothes that fit myself. How in the world am I supposed to buy clothes for you? And with girls it is doubly hard: if you buy something too big, they think that you think that they are fat. And if you buy something to small, well... then they actually are fat.
Thankfully, clothing isn't just Gap sweaters and 7 different pairs of jeans on one Christmas anymore (thanks mom!). Here to help you out are your ever-vigilant ObscureCraft contributors, who are on the lookout for the gifts that will Save Christmas(tm). As with part one, all gifts are $50 or less
. (Surfing at work note: there is a picture of a sexy lady after the jump).
Apparently tired of using good music without permission, John McCain has lately taken to using the Foo Fighters' "My Hero" as his campaign theme. Aside from the unfortunate choice (even their spectacular live performance couldn't salvage this particular shitheap of a song), the band said that permission to use the song was not sought from them, their management, their label or their publisher.
"The saddest thing about this is that My Hero was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential," Dave Grohl wrote in a public statement. "To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song."
As an amusing sidenote, Matt Yglesias argues fairly convincingly that contemporary hiphop, where "conservative values like greed and violence are frequently lauded" might make a more appropriate soundtrack. And frankly, I'd rather listen to TI mangle the English language for hours than hear one more of the trainwrecks of faux-folksy dependant clauses that vomit themselves out every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth.
Do you love music? Do you love music enough to spend three days in the endless Texas sun?
If not, you have no soul and should seek help, perhaps from gypsies. But for those of us less humanity-challenged, every year there's the Austin City Limits music festival. Spun off the legendary 34 season TV program with the same title, it's a nonstop, genre-independent orgy of sweat, song, and insobriety. With eight stages, there's between two and four bands playing at any given time, and the real challenge is trying to squeeze in seeing everyone you already know you want to, to say nothing of the myriad new bands you'll fall in love with.
I'm not quite self-absorbed enough to think anyone actually cares to read about everyone who I saw or detailed reviews, so instead I'll just discuss one of the neater green ideas they had. In addition to the usual overpriced t-shirts, they had even more expensive 'green' shirts with unique designs. However, money wasn't the only way to get one. You could get one for free by redeeming a full trashbag full of recyclables from the festival grounds. The end result: for probably 150 dollars worth of shirts they had a huge team of volunteers circling the park like vultures, pouncing on litter the instant it hit the ground. It got annoying at times since holding a beer in your hand turns you into a magnet for collectors, but it kept the grounds staggeringly clean. Particularly important since there are really only a few hours of daylight in the morning to clean before the doors opened at 11.
Recommendations past the jump...