A glimpse into Capitol Hill Block Party

Hey party people! Wowza. This blog has not been at the forefront of my attention and I want to change that. This past weekend, I saw a collection of really great shows at Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle. This three day festival took place in one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, where everyone, even the high school kids, were much cooler than me. I attended on Sunday, the final day. Ratatat, TV on the Radio and the Kills were among the festival headliners, but the lineup overall was an impressive mix of indie regulars, smaller bands from the Northwest and new artists.

The first group I saw, Diiv, was like the Seattle weather that day: gray and moody. Washed out effects they used combined with echo-y vocals added to their dark, mystical vibe. While the bass was the most significant foundation, the vocals acted more as a supplement than a focus. By the time the set was wrapping up, I must admit that because many of their songs lacked direction, I was growing a little bored. However, the last song they played, “Doused,” made up for this shortcoming and received many head nods of approval. Perhaps the most valuable takeaway I had was learning the correct pronunciation of “Diiv,” which turns out to be exactly how it’s spelled, while I was walking around like a douche for months saying it like, “dee-two-vee.”

One of the gifts of a festival is having the chance to discover new artists by stumbling upon their shows. This was my experience with Lower Dens, an edgy band originating from Baltimore. Jana Hunter, the lead singer, was truly the focus for me. Hunter’s flowing, deep voice was reminiscent of 1970s and 80s rock ‘n’ roll female powerhouses. This was the point in the afternoon when the downpour began, and makeshift shelters made of trash bags and tarp were all they had to protect all the equipment, but Lower Dens didn’t miss a beat.

The highlight of Capitol Hill Block Party was the smooth, expressive Father John Misty. J. Tillman has quite the resume, including membership in Fleet Foxes and Saxon Shore, but his solo work shines the most. The return of the sunshine that evening gave him the excuse to sport old-school round sunglasses, but I’m sure he would have worn them regardless of the weather. Tillman was full of charisma, jokes, and poignant honesty.

Capitol Hill Block Party overall was relatively inexpensive and a manageable size, making me definitely want to return for the full three days next time. Even though my experience was only a small piece of the bigger picture, it was enough of a peek to make me excited for July of 2016.

x.

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Odesza at the Boulder Theater: “All the pretty people are here.”

photo (10)

The young, beautiful sold out-sized crowd at the Boulder Theater last Sunday night was filled with more x’s on hands than those without. Odesza, the indie electronic powerhouse duo from Seattle consisting of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, embraced that youthful energy from the crowd to create a show that was exciting, stimulating and aesthetically interesting.

The first time I heard Odesza was at a small theater in Spokane, WA about a year ago when they opened for Pretty Lights. Since then, their latest album, In Return, has gained widespread attention, especially drawing radio play to the single, “Say My Name,” featuring Zyra. Since that show last Spring, Odesza has, by far, become one of my favorite groups to listen to. Coming full circle, by seeing them perform this incredible new album live, only made my enthusiasm grow.photo (11)

Mills and Knight both carry themselves confidently, but not don’t act cocky like many other artists in their genre. Instead, the two are precise and focused when it comes to their music, ensuring precision and perfection instead of a simple dance floor party. Not only are they talented musicians, but possess the unique quality of remaining really, really good-looking despite soaking sweat towels with their faces.

“IPlayYouListen,” began the set with starry-eyed drops and beautiful samples from Local Natives’ “Airplanes.” The bass line was accentuated by the use of live drums, bringing a more powerful effect on the foundations of each song. The lights were explosive, always returning to a pink and purple color scheme, matching both of their albums’ artwork. The two DJ’s flowed perfectly between songs from both the old and new albums, stopping only a few times throughout the set for breaks. Otherwise, the music ran in one fluid, continuous line.

Apart from their original songs, Odesza remixes also contributed greatly to their set, including “Faded,” and “Waited 4 U,” which were played during the encore alongside the expected, “Say My Name.”

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Standing in the front row wouldn’t count if I didn’t have this selfie

Finally, some shout outs: to the couple that stood behind me, wow! Do you have a kid in the band or something? Good for you for maintaining a sex drive like that at your age, and for not getting discouraged that everyone was forty years younger than you.  Secondly, to the girl who jumped on stage during the encore, thanks for continuing to dance in the grip of the security guard as he dragged you off stage. You encourage me to be a better version of myself.

– ms

SURPRISE: A review of Drake’s recently dropped album, If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
It’s Drake with seventeen new songs!

No, we didn’t see the release of If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late coming. That’s what happens when an artist doesn’t tell anybody that they’re going to drop an album. However, while it’s arrival was unexpected, what surprises more is the absence of a catchy hit. Instead, If You’re Reading This is slow-paced, dark, minimalistic and flow-y.

With the rumors about Drake putting this album out as a business move, one that would get him out of his record deal with Cash Money, If You’re Reading This has risen to a sudden level of popularity, charting #1 on the Billboard 200.

There’s nothing sing-song-y about it. The more purebred rap fans will take special preference of this album over Drake’s past four. However, the integrity of his flow remains and has a chance to shine in places that used to be filled with catchy hooks and R&B vocals.

When it comes to themes and messages, Drake’s lyrics couldn’t be more straightforward. At the first listen, one might ask themselves, “Is he even talking about anything? Am I supposed to be reading some pretentious subtext?” The answer is no; nothing is hidden. If You’re Reading This serves as a proclamation of his identity and image, frustrations and enemies.

I got rap n***** that I gotta act like I like / But my acting days are over, f*** them n***** for life, he says in the second track, “Energy.” Well, that was a little loaded. Nobody’s doubting these are daggers thrown in the direction of Tyga, the Lil’ Wayne/Birdman conflict and Cash Money. Not a lot of room for ambiguity in a comment like that. Also, thanks again for the reminder of the Degrassi days. #neverforget

If You’re Reading This is worth the hype. I’m giving it an 8/10.

Here’s Drake’s new short film titled Jungle, since apparently his acting days are not really over. A home video of Drake as a little kid rapping and singing is included, so you don’t want to pass this one up.

Guster with Kishi Bashi at the Ogden Theater

A sold out crowd with a median age of thirty or so sang and bopped along to the music by Guster they remember from high school in the 90s, but also show intrigue and enthusiasm for the songs off their newest album, Evermotion, which came out last Tuesday. Guster’s show at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Saturday kicked off their ongoing winter tour.

Opener Kishi Bashi, who also plays for Of Montreal and Regina Spektor, played a solo set

Kishi Bashi

            Kishi Bashi

with not much more than a violin, his voice and some programming. Despite the limitations of playing by oneself, Kishi Bashi’s multifaceted sound was like that of a full band. A background in classical violin experience was clear by his advanced talent, and by beatboxing and using other percussive noises with his mouth, he made the most of his resources. While his vocal range was wide and his tone was pretty, the way Kishi Bashi sang set off some of my pet peeves, including K-pop-esque cutesy style and using the lyrics “like a movie” not only once, but twice. Toward the beginning of the set, audience members were distracted and buzzing. In his first song, “It All Began With a Burst,” Kishi Bashi motioned for audience participation that was hardly fulfilled. In an attempt to focus the crowd’s attention during a more acoustic song, his shushing made things more awkward instead of better. However, later on in the set, people began clapping along and singing during “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!” without being told. Though Kishi Bashi’s dance moves and stage presence were less than suave, his more dancey-pop songs were best received by the crowd and were more funky and complex than those that approached the singer/songwriter realm.

The mildly weathered members of Guster took the stage with jokes about playing the new album six times in a row and including nothing old. Of course, in reality they played what lead vocalist and guitarist Ryan Miller called, “a mishmash of the whole thing.” Their humor and lightheartedness during performances had fans coming back for more, as seen by the majority of hands raised when asked if they’d seen Guster play before. Often, Miller and his cohort Adam Gardner sang in unison, as their similar voices complemented each other, but each member had their own opportunities to take solos. Drummer Brian Rosenworcel was manically quick and gifted, going back and forth between two different drum sets and playing largely with his hands instead of sticks. Each musician switched and swapped instruments throughout the set, showing their communal approach and experience in variety. A story time break about halfway through turned into a recollection of their oddly liberating experience in a Denver pot dispensary with ironic Eric Clapton jamming in the background.

Guster

                    Guster (sorry for low quality)

The hit “Satellite” gave an opportunity for Gardner to break out the trumpet, which gained wild approval from the crowd, and to wrap up the encore, they played “Demons,” a popular track off of the album Goldfly, the original springboard of Guster’s career.

By keeping most of their core members and creating timeless music, Guster manage to keep fans engaged throughout decades and by giving a them a good laugh, prove they’re still with it.

The Best of 2014

2014 was incredibly fun in my music sphere. I went to Bonnaroo for the first time, dove into experimental and electronic stuff, embraced the local music scene in Spokane and had the chance to write about a lot of amazing shows. Fresh artists like Sylvan Esso blew everyone away among some of my old favorites with brand new creations. Through all this, I’ve compiled what is, in my opinion, the best music of the past year.

Best New Artist of 2014:

1. Sylvan Esso
Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn make up this rapidly popular duo whose self-titled album, which released in May, propelled their widespread audience and successful international tour. The single, “Coffee,” caught on quick because of the way it showcases their minimalist electronics and delicate vocals.

2. Broods
3. Royal Blood
4. Wet
5. Parade of Lights

Best Album of 2014:

1. In Return by Odesza
Bridging the gap between EDM and shimmer pop, Odesza’s chilled-out mixes and starry-eyed drops can suit any occasion from dancing publicly to studying alone. Zyra is featured on a couple tracks as the quintessential sweet-sounding electronic female vocalist, and a similar contribution from Madelyn Grant makes the song “Sun Models” a catchy standalone single it is. From start to finish, In Return is smooth as butta.

2. Sylvan Esso by Sylvan Esso
3. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
4. Goddess by Banks
5. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
6. Mind Over Matter by Young the Giant
7. ZABA by Glass Animals
8. Talking is Hard by Walk the Moon
9. Wonder Where We Land by SBTRKT
10. Seeds by TV on the Radio
11. Breathing Statues by Young Magic
12. This is All Yours by alt-J

Best Song of 2014:

1. “Realla” by TOKiMONSTA and Anderson Paak
The combination of these two artists is genius. Anderson Paak’s groovy soul in addition to Tokimonsta’s washed out sound creates something of an R&B/hip hop miracle.

2. “Beggin for Thread” by Banks
3. “Rattlesnake” by St. Vincent
4. “Say My Name” by Odesza feat. Zyra
5. “Dress” by Sylvan Esso
6. “Happy Idiot” by TV on the Radio
7. “Push Pull” by Purity Ring
8. “Valhalla” by RL Grime feat. Djemba Djemba
9. “Don’t Wanna be Your Girl” by Wet
10. “Sea Bitch” by Tallows
11. “Be My Baby” by Ariana Grande and Cashmere Cat
12. “Timothy” by Tennis

 

 

What I’ve been writing

I’ve been absent a little from this blog, but it’s only because I’ve had the chance to write a lot of great stuff for the Gonzaga Bulletin and the Inlander. Here are some pieces I’ve written over the past few weeks that you should check out.

Wild Ones perform at Bartfest

Wild Ones perform at Bartfest

Atmosphere at the Knitting Factory in Spokane: Review

Bartfest Music Festival at the Bartlett in Spokane: Preview and Review

Gonzaga rapper K-Rad Drops new album called “Nerd Eyes”: Review

The top songs of the summer, according to Youtube and Google

A Thursday in music

And while you’re at it, check out the Inlander’s Fall Arts Preview. I’ve written little blurbs on a lot of super cool events going on in Spokane over the next few months.