20 February 2010

Somebody to Love: Brakes (or BrakesBrakesBrakes)

Brakes is another band I became familiar with through searching the end of year lists in 2009. Brakes latest album "Touchdown" was featured in the top 20 of Spin Magazine's final list and after just one listen on iTunes, I took the plunge and purchased their entire album, a rare occurence these days. I didn't make a mistake.

Due to another band already claiming the title "Brakes" in the U.S., this British band goes by the moniker "BrakesBrakesBrakes" professionally here so don't be confused by the mention of both names in interviews and magazine articles.

This is definitely one of those bands that has a sound difficult to explain but based in their touring with acts like Belle & Sebastian, Editors, and The Killers, you get an idea of at least the genre they belong to. To me, they have a sort of country vibe mixed with something similar to the Kinks, if that makes sense to anyone. These songs are so catchy, it's impossible to forget them. This is the kind of band that makes so-called "catchy" pop songs that are hits on the radio today seem like the ultimate impostors.

I was once told by an old friend that the kind of music I like falls into the category of "defensible pop music" and while I was offended by the generalization at the time, I have to say BrakesBrakesBrakes is the perfect example of that made-up genre. This is inexcusably catchy, fun music that is made so well the "defensible" part speaks for itself.

Take a listen. You will not be disappointed!

Music Video to Love: Whataya Want From Me - Adam Lambert

I'm a big Adam Lambert fan. I'm not a fan of this style of music typically but this is a case of the artist (and the massive talent) surpassing the quality of the song. I will listen to Adam sing anything he wants to - he's vocal perfection to me.

This video is really subtle for him and I appreciate how the music is allowed to take center stage. He's mentioned in interviews that this is the kind of song he likes to step back from and allow the words to take shape in the listener's mind and I feel like he really achieved that - a kind of achievement that's rare for such a newcomer.

Of course, Mr. Lambert is quite different from everyone on all levels.


19 February 2010

Wonderful New Concerts on the Horizon!

John Mayer - Thursday, February 25 - Madison Square Garden
John Mayer - Friday, February 26 - Madison Square Garden
Mayer Hawthorne - Thursday, March 4 - Webster Hall
Julian Casablancas - Tuesday, March 30 - Starland Ballroom
The National - AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! Radio City/Brooklyn/Electric Factory

How did Radio City Music Hall sell out so quickly? Where was I when The National became a huge band? I couldn't be happier but I need a seat!

Also, if some stranger is offering to tag along with a lost soul to see The National one of the two days in Philadelphia, let me know! I'm a great concert companion: I don't talk too much, I applaude at the appropriate times, and I know a lot about the band.

I would follow The National's entire tour if I could.

I've seen them a lot, heard every recorded song, and I feel I can safely say they are the greatest band in the world. Not to be taken lightly.

Stunning photo courtesy of the very interesting site Fuck Yeah, The National

18 February 2010

Somebody to Love: Miike Snow

This is not a solo singer/songwriter as the name suggest and as the iTunes review of their debut album points out, there is not even a "Mike" in the band, it is just one silly name for some absolutely phenomenal music.

I first found out about this band near the end of last year when all the top 2009 lists were coming out and I was using the best of them (Spin, Rolling Stone, Stereogum) to find some new music to fill my 2010. Now, three months later, I don't even remember what list I first saw Miike Snow on but I am definitely in debt to it.

This Swedish band, consisting of members Andrew Wyatt, and the producing team of Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, formed in 2007 but have been making music with artists like Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Britney Spears for years.

To say they sound like Passion Pit is probably an easy comparison but it's Passion Pit mixed with addicting Pharrell-like beats with a slight dash of something else, like a John Mayer-ish sound in the vocals (which is a big compliment coming from me but probably an insult for others). Mayer himself is a big fan of the band using their song "Animal" in some of his radio/podcast gigs.

I love this album and I am in love with their sound. While I've been having some pretty gloomy days in the past month, I continue to look forward to hearing Miike Snow's "Cult Logic" on my iPod or blasting "Black & Blue" on the car stereo.

If you're into this new wave of indie electro-pop (Passion Pit, Phoenix, even Of Montreal..), I HIGHLY suggest Miike Snow.

I'm so glad I found them.

13 February 2010

He'd Probably Laugh but I Don't Care

About four weeks ago one of my closest friends, Chris Joyce, suffered a massive stroke that sent shock waves through many people's lives and left Chris in a devastating situation.

Thankfully, Chris is currently recuperating from this trauma at a rehabilitation center fighting to get better every second but the damages left by this horrific tragedy are hard to cope with.

While you may not know Chris personally, everyone knows that one person in their group of friends that is somehow more lovable and more sensitive than anyone else and can somehow always find the right thing to say in any situation - and that person for me over the past three years has been Chris.

Although I had known him since high school through mutual friends, it wasn't until I moved back home from West Virginia after a pretty rough break-up that we became close. Specifically, I recall chatting with him online one night when we were just getting to know each other and later that evening writing in my "thankful journal" that I was most thankful for Chris telling me that "it was a pleasure" talking to me.

From there, we would meet up at the local Dunkin' Donuts and have two hour conversations over extra large coffees about our families, friends, relationships, the world - anything we could think of. There is never a dull moment with Chris and his ability to listen and recall facts is almost inhuman. I would tell him something small about my mother's best friend from twenty years ago and he'd bring it up in a conversation months later. These small gestures always catch me off guard and make me love him even more.

Although it might have been a short amount of time in comparison to other friendships, my three years with Chris were all absorbing. All or nothing sort of deal. We were together almost every day of the week and spoke on the phone at least three times a day. It wasn't really about being friends, it was a lot more natural than most friendships you come across in life. And I can't take any credit for that - it was all him and his natural conversational skills and pure desire for affection and companionship.

Chris is the kind of person you want to spend hours drinking wine with and laughing with about how absurd everyone else is. If I had his level of intellect and humor I would be a much happier person. Chris could make any situation into something comical and lighthearted - and he was always ready with a hug or some offbeat compliment that always made me happy in a way no one else can.

This is not to say he didn't have downfalls. I would be remiss to not mention that everyone has flaws and it's not always possible to show your best side to everyone all the time. Chris was occassionally a cheap jerk that could make me cry like a maniac sometimes - with people watching - but I'm definitely not the first to say that without the bad you don't have the good. The good times with Chris were made that much better because you knew he wasn't the kind of guy to smile or laugh for the hell of it. You had to earn your laugh from Chris and that made it a lot more gratifying in the end.

If I hung up on Chris because he made one too many remarks about my high heels, I had the assurance that he was going to call me back two seconds later and be laughing on the other end, getting a kick out of my annoyance. Teasing me to no end about not wearing sneakers, not cutting my hair when he thought I should, listening to too much John Mayer and not enough David Bowie, and any other thing he could think of to get me frustrated. Then we'd say I love you and hang out later in the night.

Seeing Chris now is very difficult for everyone who loves him and for his family, particularly his incredible mom, but I do believe things will get better. Currently he's paralyzed on his right side and not able to speak too well but all of that could change in the coming months. He's only 24 years old. I believe it's very possible that his strength will be enough to get him through this.

On a general note, I have to say that it's always the biggest compliment when someone wants to be your friend but with Chris, I felt especially honored. He is one of the most eccentric, secretly brilliant, openly judgemental people I've ever met and our connection was completely random. Although we were complete opposites on so many fronts, we shared identical values on things that mattered and shared a very strong mutual love of mirrors, dress-up, cats, coffee, laughter, and honesty. He's one half of my entire heart and without him I'm just one half of everything I was before.

To everyone reading this, please pray for my amazing Chris to get better and get back to his usual, kooky self as quick as possible. And although I might be pushing the corny limit, I sincerely ask that next time you see your dearest friends please hug them as tight as possible and don't let go until they know deep inside of them how much you love them. It's one of the only things on this earth I can find a meaning for.

My love, respect and admiration for Chris goes beyond anything I can formulate properly and although a stuffed animal at the hospital might not get the point across, I hope he knows that I'll be there for him always and our friendship is too strong to ever be changed, even by this.