a heart that won’t burst

Champions of the slow and deliberate, Duluth, Minnesota’s Low are back with their ninth studio album, C’mon. A fairly straightforward effort, Low employs dreamy buildups grounded in country twang. Opening track “Try to Sleep” has the sweet gauziness of a dream. Mimi Parker’s vocals float in an ethereal unconsciousness, tethered to waking life by husband Alan Sparhawk’s earthy wakefulness. Parker takes the lead on “You See Everything”, a supremely calming track despite the undercurrent of naivety and false security. Things take a bit of a dive at the end of the album, but “Nothing But Heart” is so good that it almost wipes one’s memory of the acme-less songs that precede it.

click to see more photos from the show

“Nothing But Heart” was a high point of Low’s set at the Majestic Theater in Madison, WI on April 20, 2011 as well. A bulk of the song is Sparhawk repeating the phrase “I’m nothing but heart” over and over, but instead of being monotonous the tune adds layer after layer with each invocation. When the song finally breaks, there’s a sudden awareness of lushness as Sparhawk soldiers on as Parker skims the top with a lovely counter-melody. Low’s set was primarily cuts from C’mon with a sprinkling of favorites to mix it up – “Breaker” to start and “When I Go Deaf” to end. Regardless of what era they were culling from, the most remarkable thing was almost always in the vocal interplay between Sparhawk and Parker. While their physical interaction was nearly non-existent – Parker stood several feet behind and to the side of her husband, and eye contact consisted of a single fleeting glance at best – their vocals had an intimacy that most can’t achieve.

click to see more photos from the show

C’mon dropped 04.12.11.
Click to download “Try to Sleep” and “Especially Me“.

Breaker, Try to Sleep, You See Everything, Monkey, Silver Rider, Witches, Especially Me, Done, Sunflower, $20, Majesty/Magic, Nightingale, Nothing But Heart, Something’s Taking Over
ENCORE ?, Murderer, When I Go Deaf

i keel here this evening

Outside it was snowing, but inside the High Noon Saloon in Madison, Wisconsin on February 21, 2011 it could have been a beach-party-movie-themed prom. Tennis‘s mix of surf- and retro-influenced rock & roll and seaworthy lyrics, coupled with the utterly adorable story of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley falling in love and taking to sea made for a cozy night of adoration.

Kicking off with the sublime tune “Seafarer”, Tennis played a good chunk of their debut album Cape Dory as well as introduced a surprising number of new songs for having just put out their album a month ago. The new music was as chipper as ever and made it evident that a second album is something to look forward to.

While guitarist Riley was mostly in his own world, Moore seemed to feed off him while simultaneously connecting with the crowd. Her most endearing moment came late in the set when she danced the Pony, her tiny frame floating on the beat.

Though their set was on the predictably short side (their only album clocks in at around 30 minutes), Tennis was able to make everyone forget it was winter, if only for a little while.

For more photos from the show, click here.

i can’t get enough, oh-oh

Rooney is the perfect summer band, a fact they proved on August 11, 2010 at Madison, WI’s High Noon Saloon. In a state where winter is by far the longest season, Rooney’s love letters to the California sound best during the few short months where the sun’s warm rays reign supreme.

Led by the indomitable Robert Schwartzman (aka Robert Carmine, aka Jason Schwartzman‘s brother), Rooney is, as one concert-goer put it, a band that is “easy to listen to.” This shouldn’t be taken as an insult; rather, Rooney has figured out the alchemy behind great pop songs. Catchy choruses, nods to the early days of rock & roll, and a healthy dose of glossy shimmer pervade their music and identify their roots and influences.

In addition to their songwriting abilities, Rooney has a fairly well-honed live show. Kicking off the set was fan-favorite “Shakin'”, and tunes from their self-titled debut made up a little more than a third of their set. The lead single off  Eureka, “I Can’t Get Enough” was an excellent introduction to their new material, and for the most part the other new songs proved successful as well. The show had two hiccups, however: “Stars and Stripes” lacks the musical backbone to hold up the hokey lyrics, and drummer Ned Brower’s vocals trend chipmunk-like when taking lead. Overall, though, Rooney is a sure thing for a great show filled with songs that you’ll be humming for days after.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
A glorified slideshow of Rooney’s set.

SET LIST: Shakin’, Stay Away, Calling the World, Holdin’ On, Daisy Duke, Suckceed, I Can’t Get Enough, If It Were Up to Me, The Hunch, Blueside, Stars and Stripes, Sorry Sorry, I Should’ve Been After You
ENCORE: Not In My House, When Did Your Heart Go Missing?