Tryptophantastic Week: Day 2 — Moon Hooch
(click here for Day 1 — Yellow Ostrich)
For Day 2 of Tryptophantastic Week, I’d like to flip Day 1 on its head. Remember how I talked about how special it is when you find a singer whose voice can double as an instrument? Well the opposite can be just as remarkable, as Moon Hooch exemplifies so resoundingly. The same fine folks who hosted my wife and I for the first night of our recent stay in New York City saw this big-apple-based trio open for former Soul Coughing singer Mike Doughty, and as our friends described their experience over some tasty desserts on Thanksgiving night, it was clear that they’d seen something singular and refreshing. They spoke of this unusual band that was comprised of two saxophones, drums, aaaaaand that’s it. So what can you do with a pair of saxes and some drums, not to mention a fantastic band name? A quick listen to Moon Hooch’s 13-track album proves that you can do a shit ton (which Urban Dictionary defines as “2000 assloads” or “The imperial equivalent to a metric buttload”) with just those 3 instruments when they’re in the right hands (or mouths, as the case may be). The first thing that jumped out as I listened was how they sounded like they were reading the imaginary sheet music to an extremely fun and energetic techno album. Songs build and release tension much like a house DJ might, taking a small sandbox, instrumentation-wise, and turning it into a crazy sandbox dance party. The second thing that stood out as I explored The Moon Hooch Album was a gradual realization that the two woodwinds were having a very animated, very fluid conversation with one another. And they’re not just chewing the cud about instrument cases and spit and stuff (I’m guessing that’s what woodwinds chat about over their tasty Thanksgiving desserts). Using voices that range from light and playful to Sam Elliott, speaking in staccato syllables, the two saxophones really engage one another, alternating between argument and agreement, putting ideas together, pulling them apart, all the while feeding off the furious energy generated by drums that are constantly shoveling more and more coals onto an ever-growing fire. I encourage you to join the — ahem [adjusts tie] — heated conversation by listening below to their song “#9,” which can be found and purchased on The Moon Hooch Album here.
Moon Hooch — “#9“
Tryptophantastic Week: Day 1 — Yellow Ostrich
I’ve had an incredible time sorting through the music I heard about from friends and family over the Thanksgiving break, and since I haven’t done a themed week in a while, I’d like to spend the next few days exploring some of the winners. Call it “Tryptophantastic Week.” The first of these winners, Yellow Ostrich, originally came to my attention courtesy of the fact that they’d been touring as one of the openers for Ra Ra Riot. Some of my Pennsylvania-based in-laws are planning on catching the tour’s rescheduled stop in Harrisburg tomorrow, so over the weekend I introduced them to the music of the other opener, the amazing Delicate Steve (“In-laws, meet Wondervisions; Wondervisions, in-laws”) and then spent some time introducing myself to Yellow Ostrich. As it turns out, it looks like YO won’t be playing in H-burg — the venue’s website says they are, the band’s site says they’re no longer with the tour. But for my folks’ sake, I sincerely hope I’m wrong, because Yellow Ostrich has something special going on that strikes me as a hallmark of seriously good musicianship. On occasion, you’ll come across a singer whose voice has an instrumental quality, where words seem to melt away and vocals fuse with the accompanying music in the same way that any single piece of a well-oiled orchestra blends in with its compatriots to create a cohesive musical expression. It’s extremely rare (Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós are two canonized practitioners), but Yellow Ostrich exhibits that same quality, and their song “Mary” takes this idea to another level. “Mary” is a gorgeous song that starts out with carefully layered vocals that build until they they sound almost exactly like an accordion that’s expanding and contracting. I can’t tell you how much I love that real voices, which are created by breath escaping human lungs and traveling over vocal chords, are being used to mimic an instrument that, itself, mimics the production of the human voice. The resulting effect forms a conceptual loop that’s cooler than I can possibly describe, so listen for yourself below and click here to buy Yellow Ostrich’s album, The Mistress.
Yellow Ostrich — “Mary“
Did everyone have a great Thanksgiving? Get enough gravy? Watch enough football? I managed to catch chunks of all 3 of Thursday’s games, but there was one thing I was determined not to miss: Nickelback’s appearance during halftime of the Lions/Packers game in Detroit. I was fascinated by the hullabaloo leading up to their performance — I can’t remember the last time mean-spirited-ness was so widely tolerated (especially of the musican-on-musician variety). Hating on Nickelback is fun and all, but the campaign to have them replaced seemed bizarre in its fervor, and I was curious to see how they would handle the adversity. The event itself was relatively uneventful, in a way that these performances must be in a post-Nipplegate world, but two things stuck out… 1. The lead singer got a long-overdue haircut, and 2. There was a drumline. Hmmm… Now, marching bands and football go together like Forrest and Jenny, but this seemed like an odd choice, given how little the corps was utilized and how little you could actually hear it. See what you think…
Still with me? What a trouper you are. Seemed kinda off, right? Well the drumline issue jumped right back to the front of my mind when Enrique Iglesias took the stage just a few hours later during halftime of the Cowboys/Dolphins game. Why? Because Mr. Iglesias, owner of the world’s tightest hoodie, was flanked not only by rapper and co-founder of Bad Boy Records subsidiary Bad Boy Latino, Pitbull (he knows you want him), but also by a sizable group of marching drummers. Have a look…
Seriously, if you’re still reading, you get a gold star for wading through this crap with me. Speaking of crap, if you’ve ever read a glossy gossip magazine, you may already be familiar with the commonplace feature where they place pictures of two celebrities wearing a similar outfit side-by-side and ask the question (we’ll go with US Weekly’s wording here), “Who wore it best?” So what do you think? Who wore the drumline best, Nickelback or Enrique? Feel free to comment below, or just click here to get both out of your head as soon as humanly possible by watching the University of Southern California’s marching band back up Radiohead in their performance of “15 Step” at the 2009 Grammys.
Quick word to the wise — just roast the damn turkey.
I was in New York City for a wedding this past (long) weekend, and had a super fun, action packed few days — I ate at some amazing restaurants, visited a museum exhibit that included a working slide from the 4th floor to the 2nd, conducted an unscientific study on regional differences in transactional conversation (saying “Thank you!” enthusiastically to store owners and waiters to see if they return a “You’re welcome” — they usually don’t, which I know isn’t considered to be rude, but it’s still fun to try) and saw an amazing band that I didn’t even know I’d be seeing. Saturday’s wedding reception was packed with great music, thanks in large part to the fact that the couple of the hour answered “Both” to that age old question, “Band or DJ?” The DJ provided an excellent chronological progression from Motown to “Otis,” deftly managing the inverse relationship between time and mean age, but it was the band, Brooklyn-based Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, that totally blew me away, playing a short set of dynamite soul songs that packed a serious punch. It can’t be easy to come into that environment and get people dancing with original music, but Sister Sparrow, fronted by Arleigh Kincheloe’s booming yet feminine voice and bolstered by a 4-man horn section (I think it was 4, but don’t hold me to that — the Brooklyn Lager was a-flowin’), did just that, playing tunes off their self-titled album alongside a few covers, and everything just worked. The horns were great, the vocals were great, the lead guitar was great, the harmonica was great — to paraphrase our good friend Thom Yorke, everything was in its right place, and I eagerly found the album on Spotify so I could preview it on the train ride back home to Richmond. Check out a full stream of their album below, and buy it on iTunes here.
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds – Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds