Tag Archives: Neko Case

Top 20 Concerts Part 2

I should note that some of these artists I have seen multiple times, so I will only list my favorite concert from each particular artist.  Otherwise the top 10 could easily include multiple repeats.

Pearl Jam (May 2006 – Camden, New Jersey)

I’ve seen Pearl Jam a total of three times over the past few years, and I have yet to see a bad show by them.  Pearl Jam treat their shows like every single one is a special event.  Eddie Vedder is the Pete Townshend of lead singers – jumping across the stage and doing guitar acrobatics that lesser men would like downright silly even to attempt.   The last time I saw them in DC in 2008, they only made it about a minute into “Evacuation” before the band stumbled.  In the old days, Vedder might have walked off screaming.  Instead the band laughed it off, and went on to the next show like nothing happened.

I realize that I probably might get shit on for including Pearl Jam on this list by some people I know.  I still think that the lady at the concession lying when she said that drinks were no longer being served at the “artists’ request”.

 

The New Pornographers (October 2007 – 930 Club, Washington DC)

Twin Cinema is easily one of the best rock-pop records of the 2000s.   On record The New Pornographers have a lot of energy, but live they are well-oiled machine.   Neko Case and Carl Newman remain the band’s not-so secret weapon united in harmony, but it’s amazing to see them pull it off so effortlessly on songs like “All The Things That Go Make Heaven and Earth”, and “Use It”.  And when the coda for “The Bleeding Heart Show” kicks in, you wish it would go on forever.

 

Kings of Leon (October 2005 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)

In 2005, Kings of Leon were down right sleazy.  Not like the pretty boys and rock- pop cons you know today.  If the whiskey soaked songs, and dank of Sonar weren’t enough, the show included girls dancing on poles between sets and a magic show.  You could feel the sweat flying from the Followills foreheads as they blazed through countrified-punk versions of “The Bucket” and “Slow Night So Slow”.  Appropriately enough, they closed with the aptly titled, “Trani”.

The concert was awesome, but things turned sour later on, including being stuck in a traffic jam with the gas-tank on empty, and a fall down a flight of stairs.  (Both incidents turned out to be ok, but the gas tank was a close-call.)

 

The Black Crowes (August 2007 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)

Another show at Sonar. This is not really a criticism, but The Black Crowes are the best Rolling Stones cover band with original songs.  It was an old-fashioned rock and roll show at its best.  I distinctly remember it being the hottest night of the year – it was so fucking hot, and the compressed venue of Sonar only made it worse.  But somehow, it only seemed fitting to see the Crowes that way.

The Pixies (December 2009 – Constitution Hall, Washington DC)

I ended up going to this show at the last minute.  I got a phone-call in the afternoon from a friend telling me that an extra ticket was available.  So off I drove to DC during rush-hour to go see The Pixies.  I was almost late because I got lost to my friends house on the way – even though I had driven there at least 5 times prior.

This show was part of The Pixies “Doolittle Tour”. Prior to this show, I had never seen a whole album show, and was curious about how it come off.  The songs off of Doolittle are short and concise, so even the duds (there are really only about 3 off of an otherwise great album) are over before you know it.  The big songs – “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man” got the most response, but it was on “There Goes My Gun” and “Vamos” The Pixies really came alive.  The former proved that even in his mid 40s, Frank Black can still scream like a motherfucker, and the latter included an extended feedback solo that peeled the paint off of the otherwise stale Constitution Hall.

 

 

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Anniversary Week – Tuesday: “Your Hands (Together)” – The New Pornographers

I’ve been a fan of the New Pornographers since 2005/2006.  One of my friends was playing them while we were hung over and driving to get some greasy food.  Perhaps I was just in a certain frame of mind at the time, but the power-pop bliss of “Use It” stayed in my head for weeks.  And it’s never really gone away either – it’s my second most played song on Itunes.

I was disappointed with 2007’s Challengers because it seemed like the New Pornographers finally admitted that they were just a side band for almost every single member.  Only a couple of songs stood out in an otherwise lackluster album.  Luckily they bounced back with this year’s Together. They realized that they might all be in different groups and have different musical outlets, but together they create some pretty kick-ass music.

“Your Hands (Together)” is the New Pornographers at their best – it somehow manages to blend both Cheap Trick (an average band who sounds awesome when you’re drunk enough to do karaoke) and Black Sabbath.  It begins with a chunky power chord that’s ripped right out of “War Pigs” – there’s even breathing room for the cymbals to heard without headphones on.  The star of the show here is Neko Case, who once again proves why she is a star in her own right.  The way she harmonizes with Carl (aka AC) Newman is nothing short of amazing.

The song rocks, but for The New Pornographers it’s the closest they’ll get to Led Zeppelin or Sabbath.  Newman describes the genesis of the song here.

“Your Hands (Together)”:

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Stream The New Pornographers’ New Album “Together”

NPR is streaming The New Pornographers’ latest album Together (due May 4).  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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Repetition in Music

Repetition in modern is one of the most under-rated yet effective songwriting devices.  I’m referring to a chord progression or a chorus that repeats constantly for a bigger emotional pull than a song would have otherwise.  Early R.E.M. songs would often repeat the final chorus twice (sometimes three) for added special effect.

So here are so my favorite of said repetition, in no particular order.

The Beatles – I Want You (She’s So Heavy)  – This song is full of repetition.  It contains only 14 words, six of which are in the title.  What makes it interesting is the way on which Lennon sings the lyrics.  He croons, he yells, he moans all to represent the way that he feels towards Yoko.  Rarely has so much been said with so much.  As if that wasn’t enough, the famous arpeggiated guitar chord continues constantly with synthesizers and white noise for about 3 minutes leaving the listener hypnotized, and perhaps somewhat uncomfortable.  It doesn’t end until it suddenly stops, due to Lennon’s insistence they cut the tape for added effect.

The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show. The song starts out as a ballad, but exploded into a chant of “hey la hey la hey hey la” for about two minutes over which Neko Case gives perhaps her best vocal performance singing, “We have arrived – too late for the bleeding heart show.”  Personally, as great as this song is live, they should have kept the momentum going for another few minutes.

The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket. Although it sounds like a Mick Jones song with its heartfelt lyrics and mellon-collie feel, Joe Strummer actually wrote the song with Jones in mind.  “I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily.  I can in here for the special offer, a guaranteed personality,” Jones sings sweetly in the chorus.  After the short guitar solo, the music softens with Jones repeating the chorus several times before Topper Headon kicks the beat back up as Strummer sings the chorus gruffly in the background as Jones admits, “I’m all lost.”  One of the best tracks from one of the best albums ever.

Van Morrison – Madame George. The music doesn’t really repeat, but this contains song of Morrison’s most famous lyrical and vocal repetitions.  And this is saying something for a man who is already known for emphasizing lyrical phrases.  If you were ever to put an Impressionist painting to music, it would be something like Madame George. It’s slow jazzy feel pulls you in and takes you along.  The last 4 minutes of the song contain Morrison repeating “the loves  to love, the loves to love, the loves to love,” several times.  After that, he sings “say goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to Madame George” like only Morrison can.  Whether or not Madame George is a drag queen or not, by the end of the song you feel like you’ve known him/her your whole life and you’re saying goodbye with Van Morrison.

Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer. Possibly Paul Simon’s greatest composition and an enduring favorite.  The verses contain some of Simon’s best lyrics about the narrator’s struggle to overcome poverty and his loneliness to make it in New York City.  This alone would make it a great song, but the repeated chorus of “lie la lie” makes it memorable and powerful.  Simon has stated about the song: “It’s not a failure of songwriting, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion, I guess, to make it go, so it’s all right. But for me, every time I sing that part… [softly], I’m a little embarrassed.”  Don’t be embarrassed, Paul for writing one of the best songs ever.

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Review: Jakob Dylan – Women + Country

Jakob Dylan planned the release date April 6th of his second solo album Women + Country well.  It’s a laid back, intimate set perfectly suited to a warm spring night.  Dylan seems perfectly comfortable in this setting – sparse acoustic guitars and harmonies from guests Neko Case and Kelly Hogan.  Whether intentional or not, Case is under-used.  She never flies to the front and completely takes over a song like she does in the New Pornographers.  

Case’s under-use illustrates part of the problem with Women + Country.  All of the songs are well constructed, but they tend to blend together with the exception of the Tom Waits inspired Lend a Hand.  It’s hard not to listen to the horns and shuffle and want to growl as you sing along.  Women + Country seems to want to say a lot and showcase Jakob as a song-writer in his own right.  And it does that, but it never seem to lift off and inspire.  Many of the songs seem too earnest and could do with an injection of humor and a change of pace throughout. This is something his idol Elvis Costello never lacked (and Women + Country tries to play like Costello’s King of America at points) or even his own father, Bob.

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Jakob Dylan

When the Wallflowers first came out, I didn’t particularly like them.  Girls I knew in high school fawned over Jakob Dylan’s dreamy eyes and they were everywhere.  My dislike for them, had absolutely nothing to do with Jakob’s dad.  In fact, I did not get into The Great Bob (as I sometimes refer to him) until some years later.  In retrospect, I actually think Bringing Down the Horse is a pretty good album – with one absolute masterpiece – “6th Avenue Heartache”.   When I went to New York last summer, I became obsessed with that song.   I noticed that it’s probably the closest thing he wrote in his mid 20’s to the career he has now.  It’s a country-folk song disguised as pop-rock song about New York – more akin to his father’s writing style than he probably realized (or wanted to acknowledge at the time).  

It’s no secret Jakob Dylan has been trying to forge his own career out of the lime-light of his father and has cited both Joe Strummer and Elvis Costello (two other major musical heroes of mine) as a major influence.   When he released his solo album Seeing Things – it was a departure from the Wallflowers brand of straight ahead rock.  It was a mix of Springsteen’s Nebraska and Elvis Costello’s King of America, and even his father’s own John Wesley Harding – yet it was his own.  It seemed that Jakob Dylan was finally creating a career for himself that would stand the test of time.  

And now he’s fully embraced the alt-country outfit he’s created for himself with his new album Women & Country.  If he couldn’t be validated enough – he’s got the queen of alt-country – Neko Case – singing on over half the album.  It’s not that he necessarily needs Case’s star power at this point his career-  he’s probably sold more albums than her.  But by adding Neko Case to the fold, no one can deny that Jakob Dylan is a great songwriter, and perhaps one day that will add him along with names of his heroes.  Even now, he is no longer an asterisk attached to Bob Dylan.

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Edit To The Last Post

Jakob Dylan is touring with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan?   Sign me up.  Baltimore friends – anyone interested?

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