now the lightbulb’s gone off

Absolutely no one will be surprised that Spoon put out another fantastic album. No one. So we’ll just get that out of the way right now: the album is great, go listen to it now, please. Now, a bit more analysis for those who are interested in more than the bottom line.

Where Spoon’s last release, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, was ebullient with its horns and straight-up soul, Transference is stifled and intimate and doesn’t show its hand. Opening track “Before Destruction” is almost more of an impression than a song proper, piquing the listener’s curiosity as to where the album is going. The album fleshes out with hypnotic basslines and dance-ready drums, with ebbing guitar and relaxed vocals giving the songs shape.

The album blends both dug-in-the-ground, shit-kicking, Austin pride (“Written in Reverse”, “Trouble”) with outside influences like the harnessed energy of the early-90s alt-rock charts (“Got Nuffin”) and Duran Duran, if they’d been darker club kids instead of Miami Vice extras (“Nobody Gets Me But You”). Though these things may seem disparate, they all come together for a remarkably coherent release.

Transference dropped 01/19/10.
Listen to the album here.

no need for reminding, you’re still all that matters to me

One lovely August day, an unsolicited package arrived on my doorstep from Vagrant. Having not the slightest clue as to what it could be, I was ecstatic to find it was The Get Up KidsSomething to Write Home About reissue. When I saw that the enclosed note included tour dates, I was over the moon. In 2005, I drove seven hours to see their June 9th stop at the Metro in Chicago for their farewell tour. That night they ended their set on “Long Goodnight” and I stood by the sound booth, tears streaming down my face as I listened to the band deliver heartfelt thank-yous while they vamped. First seeing them on December 11,  2001, they’d quickly become one of my favorite bands to see live and I was devastated that I’d never get to see them play again. I’m glad to say that last night, September 21, 2009, that wrong was righted at the Fillmore in San Francisco, CA.

Opening the evening were Pretty and Nice and Youth Group. While both bands had their merits (Youth Group’s cover of “Forever Young” by Alphaville was wonderfully dark), neither was stylistically what I wanted to hear. In all honestly, the only thing I would have found acceptable is Saves the Day playing Through Being Cool in its entirety (please get on that, STD).  By the time Youth Group had finished and the waiting began, I was anxious and antsy. After what seemed like a ridiculous and masochistic wait following the changeover, the lights dimmed and The Get Up Kids took the stage.

Kicking off with “Holiday“, Something to Write Home About‘s opener, the band was immediately greeted with a massive and enthusiastic sing-along. I was pleased to find that the lyrics came flooding back to me, and was surprised by the accompanying emotions. Throughout the show, there were several times I felt myself on the verge of tears – partially from the surge of memories (my friends Jon and Danielle explaining that it was crucial I download “Anne Arbour” and “Red Letter Day” one day while waiting for our English class to start, late-night dance parties to “Close to Me”), and partially from the sheer joy and gratitude at being able to hear these songs live and sing them aloud with a thousand of my closest new friends, transient though they may be.

Perhaps most important was that seeing The Get Up Kids again reminded me why I love music, and why it continues to be so central to my daily existence. The Get Up Kids and Saves the Day were among the first shows I went to that were not in a big arena. They were small, sweaty, and personal. For the first time, I could see the faces of the performers without the aid of a Jumbotron. The crowds were populated by other people my age, and I didn’t feel self-concious singing, laughing, or screaming with glee because I had a parent sitting next to me. Crushes were born over the exchange of mixtapes featuring newly discovered bands, and friendships were solidified while we pointed at the stage, locking eyes with the person next to us as we both yelled our favorite line of the whole album.

Before the show last night, I had no idea that seeing The Get Up Kids again would affect me so deeply. I was wildly excited to see a band I’d been missing, but had not realized how deeply rooted they were in my identity. Upon reflection, I’m not particularly surprised, but I am heartened to know that music really does matter; it really does change lives (if only my own).

PARTIAL SET LIST: Holiday, Don’t Hate Me, Action & Action, Valentine, Close to Home, Mass Pike, Woodson, Overdue, Walking On a Wire, Campfire Kansas ENCORE: Close to Me, Beer For Breakfast, I’ll Catch You, Ten Minutes

we speak and spell and make each other’s children

Telekinesis! by Seattle’s Telekinesis (aka Michael Benjamin Lerner) is essentially a collection of audio Polaroids – captured and created in a short time. Together, Lerner and Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla set out to track and mix each song in a single day, putting it on analog tape. The lack of digital gloss gives Telekinesis! a warmer, accessible feeling befitting of the album’s character.

Opener “Rust” immediately endears the listener, as Lerner sings of a broken heart in a way that’s not sappy or conducive to eye-rolling. “Tokyo” and it’s fuzz nods to the earlier sound of the Pacific Northwest,  “Great Lakes” captures some of the Midwest’s gloom, and the keys and choir-esque backing on “Look to the East” round out Telekinesis’s sound. “Coast of Carolina” is blissful, evoking summer and all it has to offer.

Unfortunately, the end of the album is not as engaging as the beginning – “Imaginary Friend” and “All of a Sudden” are just standard indie fare, while a certain progression in “Calling All Doctors” confoundingly calls to mind “Shine” by Collective Soul (the brain works in mysterious ways).

Lucky for all of us, Lerner ends the album on the redeeming acoustic track “I Saw Lightning”. He suggests ‘let’s be in love’ – my rusty heart happily obliges.

Telekinesis! dropped 04/07/09.
Click to download “Coast of Carolina“.