a game or a burden

Geographer – The Guest

Where the songs on Geographer‘s 2012 release Myths had a swinging angularity, new single “The Guest” has a pillowy build. Strings and horns crescendo in a way that makes the track worthy of an end-credits roll on a movie where you were actually rooting for the happy ending instead of rolling your eyes at its predictability.

Geographer’s third LP Ghost Modern drops today.

focus your audio: for nancy (‘cos it already is)

In M|H’s weekend feature, focus your audio, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Pete Yorn – For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)

Pete Yorn hit the scene at the end of my junior year of high school with his debut musicforthemorningafter and lead single “Life on a Chain“. I loved it upon hearing it with its bluesy base, but my favorite song from the album has always been “For Nancy”. I listened to this album throughout the rest of high school and got to see Pete Yorn play at  the 2002 Y100 FEZtival on the main stage. He played in the afternoon so I was able to get close and he was an amazing performer.

As the years went on, musicforthemorningafter fell out of my regular rotation, but when I was living in San Francisco in 2009 I rediscovered it while using the mp3 player I had bought and loaded up during my sophomore year of college. I’d had it on shuffle and “For Nancy” came on while I was on the bus in the Marina headed to work at the Exploratorium. After listening through the song I took my player off shuffle and listened to the entire album, remembering why I’d loved it in the first place.

songbook: little secrets

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Passion Pit – Little Secrets

In late 2009 I lived in San Francisco and interned for 826 Valencia – non-profit writing and tutoring center fronted by the Pirate Supply Store that brought in money for the center. In the bay is Treasure Island, former home to a World’s Fair exhibit and a naval base. Once a year the island plays home to the Treasure Island Music Festival, and while I worked for 826 we set up a booth and hawked our wares (eye patches, pirate flags, what have you). I worked the night shift, so during the day I was free to roam and enjoy the bands. One of those bands was Passion Pit.

The first time I heard Passion Pit had been a few months earlier at a friend’s house, soundtracking his post-breakup beard removal. I loved Manners, and was excited to see Passion Pit play. While I knew they were fun and made generally happy music, I had no idea that they’d be able to move the crowd as much as they did. It was a perfect sunny day on the island, and the crowd was cheerful and engaged. When “Little Secrets” came on, though, the whole festival exploded. Even in the best of circumstances, there’s always that smattering of people in the crowd who are just too cool or too afraid to dance and sing along. However, for a few minutes, I literally could not find a single person who wasn’t smiling, swaying, singing. Hands were in the air, getting higher and higher. I’m sure someone, somewhere was standing arms crossed, but not anywhere near me. It’s incredibly rare to see a thousands of people transform for a common purpose in a matter of seconds. Hearing “Little Secrets” live that day is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

i want you to come back around

San Francisco band Swells has put out an unofficial EP of tracks they’ve been working on and I wanted to share it. I lived in San Francisco briefly in 2009 and I spent every Friday at the beach. These songs make me miss my temporary home. First track “Lost at Sea” kind of sounds like The Walkmen took a tropical vacation – click the link beneath the player to download the track courtesy of Swells. – stacey. // M|H

Swells – Lost at Sea

so young at love and life

On their debut EP, Young at Love and Life, San Francisco duo Dominant Legs encapsulates the sound of the city, mixing danceable synths and a folky earthiness to pleasing effect.

Ryan Lynch heads up lead vocals on the four-song set, while Hannah Hunt provides dreamy backing vocals that are as integral to the sound structure as the synthesizers and guitars. The self-titled opening track hints at being reared on the Beach Boys and teenage experimentation with psychedelia, while the equally synth-heavy “About My Girls” trends toward funk and Prince.

“Clawing Out at the Walls” simplifies things, employing bongos and acoustic guitar. There’s a sense of earnestness about the song, Lynch questioning, “don’t you think that we’re hard enough on ourselves? / We believe that we do it all on our own.” Dominant Legs brings the EP to a close by infusing electronic elements into the acoustic setup on “Run Like Hell for Leather”, letting a beautiful acoustic guitar riff shine where synthesizers blast away on other tracks.

Young at Love and Life EP dropped 08.17.10.
You can listen to most of the EP at the Dominant Legs MySpace page.
You can download “Clawing Out at the Walls” here.

i’m bound to your bedside, your eulogy singer

Last July I was lucky enough to catch the last two minutes or so of The Antlers‘ Madfork 2.0 set. I was also unlucky in only catching the last two minutes of their set. Shortly thereafter, I listened to everything they had posted on their site, and just wasn’t as impressed as I had been a few days before. Yesterday, October 30th, 2009, Daytrotter posted their session with The Antlers, so I gave it a listen. Hooray for Daytrotter, because they managed to capture much of the magic I was witness to last summer. Being reassured that The Antlers were as amazing as I remembered, I looked up tour dates and discovered the band was in town that very night. The good people at Tell All Your Friends PR responded to my last-minute request, and I had the pleasure of attending The Antlers’ opening set at the Independent in San Francisco, CA.

Though the Daytrotter set is superb, nothing compares to seeing The Antlers play live. Peter Silberman (vocals/guitar), Darby Cicci (keys), and Michael Lerner (percussion) play off each other to create ever-expanding landscapes, filling every available space with sound. Silberman stands to the side, his vocals mixed down in the wash of sound, giving the impression of drowning or speaking from beyond. Lerner’s precision tows Silberman along, and Cicci attacks his instruments as though they need to be powered by his touch.

The songs in The Antlers’ set range from catchy and misleadingly upbeat (“Two”) to hopelessly beautiful (“Atrophy”), commonly employing the struggle of triumph and hope against a nagging sense of despair and defeat. What The Antlers syphon out of the room emotionally in the course of a set may never be replaced, but we must do our best to stanch the flow with tourniquets and transfusions.

(PARTIAL?) SET LIST: Bear, Sylvia, Atrophy, Two, Wake

i never thought i’d yell ‘i get wet’ in the presence of a string quartet

Prior to arriving at San Francisco’s Swedish American Hall on October 7, 2009, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Andrew WK, guru of partying hard, was on tour with the Calder Quartet. Would it be a night of tracks off AWK’s new piano album, 55 Cadillac? A strings-enhanced rendition of “Party ‘Til You Puke?” My guess was closer to the latter, but nothing I’d imagined prepared me for the majesty of the evening ahead.

As I entered the venue, I was handed a print-out for the evening’s program. I walked upstairs to the performance space and discovered it was set up recital-style – neat rows of chairs with a center aisle, leading to a small stage backed by a red velvet curtain. After taking my seat on the aisle, near the back, I read over the program. Alongside Andrew WK classics such as “I Get Wet” and “Party Hard”, there were songs by Bach, Philip Glass, and John Cage’s infamous “4’33″”. Excellent.

After a faux-rocky start (AWK approached the stage looking tense and nervous, “messing up” his first piece as a segue into the conversational  “Friendly Gestures #4 and #3”), things hit their stride with the Calder Quartet’s performance of “Interface” –  amazing and a touch avant-garde. As the CQ played, AWK often sat listening with eyes closed, appearing genuinely moved by what was happening. AWK’s odyssey into spontaneous solo improv was up next, and incorporated coughs, sniffles, and the sounds of scooting the piano bench around and rubbing the mic on the ground. Though the performance elicited giggles from many, I’m certain Andrew WK was quite serious about what he was sharing with the room. Rounding out the first half of the program was the intense and captivating “Honey Flyers” – a three-movement piece that reminded me a bit of the Kronos Quartet’s collaborations with Clint Mansell.

The second half included an understated Philip Glass piece and another improvisation by Andrew WK. The program then took a more raucous turn with the Calder Quartet helping Andrew WK rocket through a sing- and clap-along medley of hits. It was hilarious hearing a roomful of people yell out “I get wet” while being accompanied by violin, viola, cello, and piano, and exciting to see people celebrate classical form with whoops and smiles as opposed to the staid golf-clap so commonly heard in symphony halls.

The night’s final piece was John Cage’s “4’33″”. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a song that consists of nothing but silence. Many in the crowd thought it was a joke, many were confused, and many laughed, coughed, or shifted uncomfortably in their seats, unconsciously contributing the piece. Those who knew what was happening insistently shushed those who were making noise, making their own contribution.

For me it was thrilling to see the worlds of rock and classical unite. The crowd comprised members of both worlds, and likely exposed each to something outside their respective spheres. It was clear that both Andrew WK and the Calder Quartet do what the like (and like what they do), and from the amount of applause it appeared the crowd concurred.

SET LIST: Prelude in C Major/Ave Maria (JS Bach), Friendly Gestures #4 and #3 (Fred Frith), Interface (Tristan Perich), Spontaneous Solo Piano Improvisation, Honey Flyers (Christine Southworth), Company (Philip Glass), Spontaneous Solo Piano Improvisation, I Get Wet, Party Hard, I Love New York City (redone as I Love San Francisco), Dance Party, 4’33” (John Cage)