m|h’s short and sweet guide to fmf09

Are you in Madison, WI this weekend? Then get yourself to Forward Music Fest. Buy tickets here, print out the schedule, and then check out a few of these performances (our top recommendations are linked to music, starred are the acts we’ve seen live before):


Blake Thomas*
Richard Buckner

Dan Wilson
Daniel and the Lion
El Valiente*
Archie Powell & The Exports
Daredevil Christopher Wright*
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s*

Crane Your Swan Neck*
Pale Young Gentlemen*
Maps & Atlases*
Andrew Bird*

If you’re only buying a single show ticket, and we had to pick just one thing to see, we’d say Cougar. They don’t play the midwest very often, and their shows have always delivered. They’re one of our favorite live acts, hands down.

To see our coverage of the inaugural FMF, check out our guide and review.

i need an infantry to get the symphony out of my head

Rilo Kiley. Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. Arcade Fire. Elliott Smith. Bright Eyes. These are the artists that come to mind when listening to John Ralston’s sophomore LP, Sorry Vampire.

Live, John Ralston and his band are straight rock and roll, an amped up singer/songwriter outfit. Though excellent, the live show doesn’t even begin to compare with the genius Ralston achieves on this release.

The laundry list of instruments appearing on the album are actually put to good use, contributing to the overall sound and feel of the album as opposed to merely lending themselves to spectacle.

Kicking off the album is “Fragile”, an excellent track featuring gritty electronics, strings, and fantastically catchy hand claps. Staccato strings help make “The Only Evidence” a memorable track. A clipped drum beat and angelic chorus spice up the generally sparse “I Guess I Wasted My Summer Now”, while “A Small Clearing” fluctuates between ascending video-game-like electropop and classic piano.

Also of note are Ralston’s colorful lyrics.  Whether straightforward (“if I lean in too close, it’s to kiss or confess”) or somewhat obscure (“Still, dead air in the pinwheel lungs / Baby birds are weak and dumb”), they provide unexpectedly vivid imagery.

Sorry Vampire is quite an impressive outing from this Florida native. Each track is complex and unique but come together to form a cohesive album. You can catch John Ralston on tour through mid-November.

Sorry Vampire dropped 10/02/07.

Check out John Ralston’s official site.