Wolf Parade's one of the hot new things this year, and it's not just hype. Comparisons with the Arcade Fire (fellow Montreal rockers) seem inevitable, and there are some similarities. Wolf Parade's not quite as manic or percussive onstage, but the band has a similar anything-goes and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vibe.
Seeing Wolf Parade in concert makes it clear how important keyboards and electronics are to the band's sound, with relatively old-fashioned electronic keyboards as well as theremin and other knob-twiddling noises. But the band's far away from pure electronica, with plenty of guitar and drums. not to mention wind chimes and tambourines (not a whole lot of bass, though).
The guys in Wolf Parade seemed almost apologetic at times, saying their music is "all smoke and mirrors." Perhaps there was a bit of sarcasm in their modesty, but there's certainly some substance in their songs. Their album is almost brand-new, but the gung-ho crowd already knew the tunes well and sang along at key moments.
Now, only if they had more songs...
Opening acts the King of France and Robbers on High Street were good as well. I'm not familiar with Robbers' repertoire, but seeing the band live, I can see why I've heard them described as a blatant ripoff of Spoon. That's not really fair, however. The spare piano chords and tight rhythms that Spoon is known for are in Robbers' music, too, though I think the band has a personality of its own.
If you haven't already seen this spoof trailer of "The Shining," check it out. It's a brilliant example of how you can change tone and mood through music and narration, while using clips from the original horror film. And it's darn funny.
Read my review for Pioneer Press.
If I had a chance to redo my list of 2004's best albums, The Living Road by Lhasa would move up from the honorable mentions into the top 10, maybe the top 5. This elegant, beautiful, haunting record has proved to have legs.
Lhasa did not disappoint in concert, commanding the attention of a crowded room of quiet listeners as she sang with just two musicians backing her up, mostly on guitar and cello. She told a few lengthy stories as introductions to her songs, giving the concert the feel of "VH1 Storytellers," which might have been annoying if she weren't such a heartfelt and compelling speaker.
I love the way she looks when she sings, raising her left hand next to her head, sometimes making a fist and scrunching up her eyes as if she were squeezing the notes out of her head. Simply amazing music.
Neither of Sharon Jones' albums includes a date anywhere on the cover, so it's easy to imagine someone picking up one of these discs and assuming it was recorded sometime in the '60s or early '70s. Talk about retro, these recordings authentically sound like they were made in that era. If you thought the "neo-soul" movement is a throwback to older styles of soul, funk and R&B, you have got to hear the music Jones is putting out, including her great 2005 album Naturally. This is James Brown and Motown-style soul put across with a great sense of fun and terrific musicianship and vocals.
The show, a "super soul revue," began with just the band playing a couple of instrumental songs. Then guitarist Binky Griptite came out to front the band for a good half-hour or more, showing his music to be almost as likable as Jones'. Then, after a dramatic buildup, Jones herself came onstage and held our attention for the rest of the night.
The only drawback was Jones complaining incessantly about the sound system during the early part of the show, though she turned even that into a funky performance of sorts as she sang about needing more vocals in the monitors. Once she got over those problems, she continued speaking her mind, very frankly, on topics such as President Bush's response to the flooding in New Orleans.
Jones pulled several audience members onto the stage to dance with her at various points, and the dance floor was filled with moving bodies all night long.
Sabina Sciubba of Brazilian Girls is probably the sexiest musical performer I've ever seen onstage, and not just because she has a great set of legs. Her entire act is a sexual tease, a seduction act directed at the entire audience (well, at least the male half, and at this concert with a big lesbian turnout, probably most of the crowd).
True to form, she had a bizarre outfit tonight that shielded her eyes. Wearing a one-piece swimsuit with tights (both flesh-colored), Sciubba had black cardboard rectangles stapled to her getup, strategically covering all the naughty-bit areas like censor bars, as well as a black bar attached to her glasses.
Halfway through the show, she ripped off the cardboard on her chest, revealing a knife and blood stain underneath. Despite wearing spiked heels, Sciubba somehow managed to dance, wiggle and writhe all night. She coyly extended her arms to the crowd many times, touching the hands of eager audience members (including me) or borrowing cigarettes for a drag. She waved a black towel like a matador's towel toward audience members who were no doubt feeling some urge to charge the stage. She urged audience members to chant "I want pussy" or "I have pussy" (depending on each audience member's gender), while invitingly pointing at her crotch.
Oh, yeah, what about the music? Believe me, despite all of the abovementioned visual distractions, I can honestly report that Brazilian Girls make some exceptionally catchy dance music, bossa nova and samba rhythms meeting up with techno, lounge and classic songs. The drummer (Aaron Johnston), playing a combo of acoustic drums and electronic pieces, pulls off some amazing rhythms, while the keyboard/computer (Did Gutman) and bass (Jess Murphy) guys fill out the mix with some very intelligent, catchy sounds.
The show started late (12:45) and ran for almost two hours. It was a long wait for Brazilian Girls at this Estrojam concert. The opening acts including the Breakbone Dance Company, who were pretty impressive if not exactly my thing; Anna Oxygen, who played fairly catchy dance music but had some trouble explaining the concept behind her concept music, which has something to do with petri dishes, unicorns and rainbows; and Scream Club, a dance duo singing about acne and such concepts as "socially awesome." Awesome, it was not.
© 2005 by the Underground Bee/Robert Loerzel.
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