The Artists: No BS! Brass Band and Black Girls. The Album: No BS! Brass Band VS Black Girls. The Store: The Interweb. The Price: $6.
I have my friends Josh and Caitlin to thank for No BS! Brass Band. They’d seen No BS! perform a number of times, and it was clear when they talked about the group that something special was going on. Seeing that type of enthusiasm in friends is always a sign of good things to come, and when I finally got to see No BS! at the Camel this past winter, I had an incredible time. Their sound is big and inviting, and in between their powerful and intricately arranged original songs, they covered “Thriller” and “Take On Me,” both of which were ridiculously fun. Every time I’ve seen them since, I’ve felt that same sense of fun, so I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to either night of the two-part Balliceaux release party for the new split 7″ record they just released with fellow Richmond band Black Girls. When I found out about this limited-pressing record, entitled No BS! Brass Band VS Black Girls, I got really excited and bought a copy off the label’s website, thinking they might run out quickly, MAYBE EVEN DURING THE RELEASE PARTY (I do the same thing with movies I’m jazzed up about — I always think they’re going to be totally crowded, so I rush through the popcorn buying process to make sure I get connecting seats). My copy came in the mail this weekend, and I’d never heard Black Girls’ music, but their song “Broadway” gave an outstanding first impression, sounding sophisticated and full — the word “jaunty” also comes to mind, but do people really use that word? — with No BS! providing backup firepower. On the other side, No BS! contributes a fantastic new version of “Ain’t Even Gonna Call Ya,” one of my favorites to see live. Check out a live version of the song below, and if you’re vinyl-inclined, order your copy of the split 7” here.
Life Cycle Week, Stage 3: Wilco
(Check out Stage 1: Lianne La Havas here and Stage 2: Vampire Weekend here)
Is happiness a bad thing for music? Everyone knows the cliché of the prodigious musician who just isn’t as good after getting clean, and that some of rock & roll’s most venerated talents died young as a result of a mix of drugs and depression. So does that mean that successful, veteran rockers should pack up their Telecasters and bust out the shuffleboard? That seemed to be the sentiment when Death Cab for Cutie recently released Codes and Keys, a record that many people dismissed for not being melancholy enough. But I don’t buy it. Maybe it’s because I tend to get emotionally attached after following someone’s career, but I like when musicians seem happy, and that’s one of the reasons I’m digging Wilco’s cover of the Nick Lowe song, “I Love My Label.” Some context: Wilco just founded their own record label, dBpm Records, which is notable in part because Wilco’s dispute with Reprise Records over the label’s refusal to release the band’s breakthrough album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, made them poster children for sticking to one’s creative guns in the face of corporate pressure. That was 2001, and ten years later, it’s wonderful to hear the band relish their success as they begin this new chapter of their career with dBpm’s first release, a 7” single of new song “I Might,” with the delightfully ironic “I Love My Label” B-side. My copy came in the mail on Saturday, and I fell for both songs right away. “I Might” sounds like a band having fun — fun fuzzy bass, fun driving snare, fun everything; and “I Love My Label” is the cherry on top of an exciting moment in the band’s career. Founding dBpm Records means that no one can tell Wilco their music isn’t good enough to be released (except Jeff Tweedy). Check out both songs below, and if you’re a vinyl person, click here to buy the 7” single.
“I Love My Label”
Life Cycle Week, Stage 2: Vampire Weekend
So… you’re awesome. Everyone loves you. Pitchfork loves you. Peter Gabriel is covering the song you wrote that mentions… Peter Gabriel. Now what? For artists that score a hit with their debut album, the follow-up record must be daunting. The need to balance fans’ expectations, financial success (that gold-plated robot panini press isn’t going to pay for itself) and creative ambition makes this sophomore album a particularly interesting moment in the life cycle of a band, and Vampire Weekend nailed it. Their second album Contra is one of my favorites in recent memory — a work of both savvy continuation and bold departure. I’d heard “Horchata” on the Interweb, but the first time I listened to Contra all the way through, my friend Tex brought it to my house on his iPod. No Dropbox folders, no MediaFire links, he actually came over and played the album. I checked into it, and it looks like the last time someone did that was early on in the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BCE). The experience was memorable, not just because of the way I first heard the album, but because the songs take the band’s African-influenced chamber pop to a whole new level, and I got to hear their music evolve over the course of those 36 minutes. Keyboardist and songwriter Rostam Batmanglij’s electro-soul side project Discovery seems to have been a dry run for this album, as sequencing and sampling jump to the forefront. I could talk all day about Contra (and probably will end up writing 17 more posts about it), but I’ll stop here so you can check out “Diplomat’s Son,” a fine example of Rostam’s influence on the band. Listen below and grab the album here.
Life Cycle Week, Stage 1: Lianne La Havas
Over the weekend, I was thinking about how rewarding it is to follow musicians (and not just on Twitter … although that can be rewarding too, especially if you want to hear the lead singer of Weezer say things like, “Any other guys out there uncomfortable eating whole bananas?”). Watching talented people move through the life cycle of a career in music is fascinating, and I thought it would be fun this week to take a look at a few artists who are in different stages of this cycle, starting with a singer who is just embarking on what looks to be a very promising career. I stopped by the Black Cab Sessions website recently and came across London-based vocalist Lianne La Havas. With her guitar in hand and a charming smile on her face, she gracefully glides through a catchy song about dating an older man. The site doesn’t list the song’s name, and a search for key words came up dry (if anyone knows what it is, I’m dying to know! [UPDATE: The song is called “Age.” It was right in front of my face the whole time.]), but the ambivalent lyrics flow seamlessly, like an intimate conversation with a trusted friend, and Lianne’s impressive vocal control and effortless vibrato serve the song perfectly. I love the feeling of discovery that comes with hearing someone who seems to be fairly new, but who is so clearly bound for success. It’s like taking a different route to work or finding out you actually do like scallops (I thought I didn’t like the consistency) — the world feels new, if only for a short time. Immediately after watching, I went digging around YouTube, SoundCloud and iTunes for more, scarcity acting as both an obstacle and a thrill, finding a few videos on her website and an outstanding cover of the Everything Everything song “Final Form.” Check it out below, and her Black Cab Session above, and I dare you not to fall in love with her. Go on, try.
Filed under #features, #live