SXSW Wrap: The Music, Part 2

March 27, 2009
4-string Precision bass
Image via Wikipedia

For all the amazing music on show at SXSW, Real-world rules apply here, too, though. You’ll run the whole gamut of god-awful bands right up to the life changing ones. And you’ll get about 10 “meh” or “get me out of here” experiences for every 1 “where am I? What is that heavenly sound?” experiences.

But that’s what we’re here for! Below are some more of my”where am I?” bliss outs from this year’s 4-day debacle in the Texas State Capitol.

Denis Jones

I’d missed Denis‘ show at UnConvention Manchester last year but by all accounts it was amazing. Still, the idea of basically a singer/songwriter using loop pedal wizardry wasn’t that appealling. How wrong I was.

Denis has a dazzling array of analog and digital gadgets on stage for his show and it’s more like an art / jazz improv set than a singer/songwriter show – and it’s certainly not some chancer looping a bass line then playing his song over the top of it.

He literally BUILDS the song on stage, sometimes with so many layers, twists and turns you feel he could lose it any time, but he never does – like the best jazz improvisers, the show is a true journey in experimentation with a close eye on melody & narrative. Has to be seen to be believed – thankfully, we have YouTube

The Wrens

I’d heard of The Wrens. The kind of band spoken of in hushed tones, the kind of band who played random shows in random places that when you walked into the venue your friend would nudge you and say “Dude, The Wrens played here”.

I was a little skeptical, being that I was completely unfamiliar with their recorded output, but what a show. They may be in their mid-forties but they played with more energy than many of the wannabes out on 6th St. Bass guitars flung into the crowd, ear-ache performance, blood, sweat and tears. Just what you need, really. I wouldn’t call my impression of the Wrens “hype”, but whatever it was it was wiped away on Friday night.

I’ll wrap up the panels and sessions from SXSW tomorrow for yiz…

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SXSW Wrap: The Music, Part 1

March 26, 2009
Cover of "Tripper"
Cover of Tripper

SXSW music is the best music festival out there, but it’s especially great if you want to catch new bands – either ones who’ve been on your radar or completely new sweetness. Sure, the big names play there too (Metallica & PJ Harvey to name a couple who reared their heads this last week in Austin, TX) but to us, it’s about finding new music, the next White Denim for you to completely flip your lid over.

That’s what drags me into the hot-boxes and sweaty corners of Austin in mid-March every year – that thirst for the true live music experience.

Two Sheds:

OK, I had to start with this one because it hurts the most. I’ve been rocking their debut EP since the kind folks at the Bay Bridged spun their feature podcast last year. Caitlin Gutenberger is simply an amazing songwriter and the songs are exquistely executed – a less pretentious Feist with subtle arrangements would sum them up.

But of course I had to go and miss BOTH of their SXSW performances – d’oh! – but my compadres who were there were suitably blown away. It still stings as I’ll likely never see them perform given I’m rarely in San Francisco. But still – Two Sheds. Ace.


I’d be turned on by SF’s own Gabe Leis about 18 months ago – Efterklang’s “Tripper” is both operatic, experimental and will soothe you like Calpol at the same time. The live show was unexpectedly upbeat but so, so spiky. Not to mention their super-Danish accents and accompanying mustaches. Good show!


As I’d tweeted at the time, Copenhagen must be the new Belfast. A community centre about 10 blocks north of 6 street was the scene for HomeTapes’ “Friend Island” event – a truly intimate affair and was my first taste of Efterklang tour-mates Slareffenland.

Sweeping songs, brass, an amazing drummer and yes, more moustaches, were Slareffenland. Highlight of the festival by a mile – although what was with that gigantic beer keg/truck with no beer? Clearly, the Danish are big teases too…

More to come tomorrow!

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The Final Cut -The SXSW Torrents…

March 13, 2009

OK – I’ll admit I only got through about 850 of the 1035 tracks that make up the SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists torrents. But below is what I consider to be the cream of that crop – 87 tracks spanning rock, hiphop, funk and jazz from artists I’ll be hoping to see at this year’s festival (this one supercedes the link I put in my last post).

Highlights range from the spinetingling (Efterklang, Loquat, Alessi’s Ark) to the downright strange (check “Crank Bang” by Gaybomb.) Happily making the cut are acts from both of my favourite places in the world – San Francisco, CA (Bart Davenport, The Heavenly States) & Belfast, Northern Ireland (In Case of Fire, Fighting with Wire)

Oh and check out my unrealistically packed schedule for SXSW at I’m in Austin from Tues-Sun next week – we should meet up and have a beer! Drop me an email 🙂

SXSW – The Best of Torrent 1

March 8, 2009
SVG-ified version of a photo of the iPod Class...
Image via Wikipedia

A few too many things in the pipe for SXSW so this’ll be a short one – I ran through the first of the SXSW Torrents and narrowed it down to 75 tracks contained in this link.

Also, a few tips if it’s your first time at SXSW courtesy of @rustysoma – served me well last year 🙂

1. Make sure you have a bunch of water at your hotel room.

2. If you’re there for the whole week, and you stay some place that has a kitchen (like the Residence Inn), go to Whole Foods, and stock up on healthy food for the week. At a minimum get some fruit and veggies, and maybe some breakfast cereal.

3. Take Vitamin B before going out! It really helps.

4. Bring Ibuprofen for the hangovers that will occur.

5. Bring some music on your iPod that’s completely unlike the music you’ll be seeing the most… it clears the aural palette.

6. Be careful not to overdo it early in the week if you’re going to be there the whole week.

7. Don’t miss those morning conference sessions, there are some great ones.

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Albums of the Decade – You Forgot It In People by Broken Social Scene

March 2, 2009

I’m not much of a believer in The Binary Theory espoused after the launch of In Rainbows last year. The idea was:

“Ten years after OK Computer shocked the world, Radiohead released In Rainbows on October 10 (10/10). It had 10 tracks. Consider that In Rainbows was meant to complement OK Computer, musically, lyrically, and in structure. We found that the two albums can be knit together beautifully. By combining the tracks to form one playlist, 01 and 10, we have a remarkable listening experience. The transitions between the songs are astounding, and it appears that this was done purposefully.”

It’s a fun puzzle/conspiracy that may or may not be true but check out Flick’s great take on it all over at Puddlegum

In a remarkably tenuous connection, and in keeping with the 10 theme: There are 10 months left in the 10th year of the new century. It’s been a truly remarkable decade for music (in both music and business). I’ve listened to more music in the past 10 years than I had in the previous 20. So I have one question:

What are the 10 Best Albums you’ve heard in the last 10 years and why?

There’s only one rule – the album has to have been released between Jan 1st 2000 & Jan 31st 2009. I’ll be posting about one of mine, in no particular order, every month until the big ’10. Feel free to do that same – breaking it up into manageable chunks is a great way to make sure you make the right choices.

At least it’ll get the jump on the deluge of “best of decade” lists that’ll be hitting the interwebs around October-time 🙂

1. You Forgot It In People by Broken Social Scene

(All Links Are For Spotify – Just Click To Listen)

Music isn’t owned by the creators of it. Jeff Tweedy once said “There’s no way Elvis could’ve known what effect “Heartbreak Hotel” would have on people – that it would become the soundtrack to weddings, breakups, car crashes, births and deaths”. Music is owned by fans and fans alone – musicians write and record and the listener applies the context – how that album will affect his/her life in the years to come and what memories, bitter or sweet, it will reconjure.

YFIIP marks a lot of firsts for me – my first years in California, my first days in the music business, my first, honest-to-goodness feeling of discovering music so earth-shatteringly amazing that I had to tell each and everyone of my friends, and my first experience of each and everyone of them thanking me for telling them about Broken Social Scene’s best album to date. A review of the album was also the first thing I read on a then-little-known website called Pitchfork.

And although it wasn’t the first time I’d seen a fantastic live show, Broken Social Scene at Bimbo’s 365 in San Francisco in 2004 drew a line in the sand, a high-water mark for shows that the hundreds of shows since have come close to but never surpassed.

When additional members of the already 7-strong band casually strolled on stage with trumpet, trombone and sax in hand, mid way through “Pacific Theme”, and calmly raised their horns to their lips for the song’s climax, nothing was the same for me in music ever again. It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s the gods-honest-truth.

Where to start with an album this good? The delicious crunch and swirl and Pavement-esque noise of KC Accidental? The going-nowhere Rio sway of Looks Just Like The Sun? How about the deliciously unexpected, effeminate tones of Emily Haynes in Anthem for a 17 Year Old Girl, which is almost a lullaby until she swoons “bleaching your teeth/smiling flash/talking trash/under my window” like some twisted Juliet.

And YFIIP was also my first introduction to one Leslie Feist: beginning a love affair with her “Let It Die” album. It wasn’t till years later that I heard the song that would come to define the band and Feist for me – the “Redux” of Lover’s Spit that appeared on 2008’s “The Reminder”.

It’s a simple question – What’s the best album you’ve heard in the last 10 years and why? Simple for me because this album is head-and-shoulders above just about everything else.

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