Archive for May, 2010

The National: “Sorrow”

May 27, 2010


It was Sasquatch 2008, my first time in Washington State and the second large music festival I had attended since Bonnaroo 2006. We were waiting for The National to take the main stage, framed by the majestic views of the Columbia River that so defines that particular amphitheater, and we had been waiting for quite some time when Rainn Wilson delivered the news: the band’s bus had broken down somewhere on the road down from Vancouver—and, in so doing, broken my spirit and stomped on my dreams. They would not be making that set, we learned with heavy hearts; instead, they would be playing a smaller stage later in the day, and therefore removed from the splendor of the Gorge. One would think, then, that the band they had selected to fill in for The National would be blessed to have the opportunity to play before such a crowd, fortune smiling upon their bearded faces, but I would disagree. Nothing was going to sate this audience save those two sets of brothers and Matt Berninger’s voice, which rolls all the suffering of the world into one erotic baritone as he sings his poignant, though sometimes nonsensical, lyrics. Not even Fleet Foxes, who admittedly put on an amazing show.

The National’s fans are as hard-core as they come, and for good reason. Since Boxer, the band’s fourth album and masterpiece that launched them into the stratosphere of indie stardom, I can’t remember a record that affected me so deeply, and for so long. So there was a lot riding on High Violet. Namely, Brooklyn’s crown of indie royalty, especially since the borough’s aesthetic has since been shaped by experimental newcomers like Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, TV on the Radio, and Dirty Projectors. Take lyrics crooned by Magnetic Fields in an almost ecstatically in-denial Stephin Merritt (“I don’t want to get over you”) throughout the eponymous track off of 69 Love Songs, and then compare that to Berninger’s abysmally lachrymose rendition of the same in “Sorrow.” We never said it was going to be uplifting. But melancholy is what this band does best, and I would hop on their train to Depressionville in a heartbeat. Happily. And I’ll be doing exactly that tonight at the Fox.

The National – Sorrow

Who: The National

What: High Violet

When: 5.11.2010

Where: Brooklyn, NY

Why: “Don’t leave my half a heart alone / On the water / Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy / Cause I don’t wanna get over you”

How: Beggars Banquet Records

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Sonny & the Sunsets: “Too Young to Burn”

May 22, 2010

As I submit my résumé to increasingly dubious baristas in this city’s many no-nonsense coffee shops and face the fact that my health care will, inevitably, run out at the end of the month, I begin to question my decision to quit my unflaggingly stable 9-5 at which I was able to do absolutely nothing on any given day and still collect a steady paycheck—especially when it seems that the plan I’d so brilliantly hatched to “get away from the computer screen” by acquiring a job at a serious coffeehouse has, thus far, resoundingly failed. And, in the meantime, copy-editing mind-blowingly boring material to pay the rent simply isn’t as glamorous as I had imagined, flexible schedule or no. Thankfully, even if life is handing me lemons as I stand at a career crossroads, San Francisco’s Sonny Smith has crafted an album so inherently sun-drenched, I can close my eyes and put it on, along with my retro bikini and oversize shades, lie back in my beach chair, and let all my troubles fade away. It’s a different decade anyway.

Originally released exclusively on vinyl, the album is like jobs at SF gourmet cafés—hard to come by. Maybe that’s because they only made 500 copies. (Don’t worry; if you’re not a vinyl purist, you can still get it digitally.) And if there’s anything this Bay Area denizen can teach me, it’s that hard work pays off. After all, he did spawn an insanely ambitious art project involving 100 records by fictional bands for each of which he 1) commissioned artists to create covers and 2) went ahead and wrote the songs, which resulted in 200 total tunes. Could his artistic accomplishment/omnipresence have contributed to the Sunsets’ invitation to the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival? (That, or a warm critical reception of damn good debut record.) If you’re too impatient or poor to make it to Chicago this summer, Sonny & the Sunsets are playing at Thee Parkside tonight with Jacuzzi Boys, The Fresh & Only’s, and Art Museums. At $8 a head, even the un (or under) employed can afford to attend. Hey, maybe tomorrow is alright.

Sonny & the Sunsets – Too Young to Burn

Who: Sonny & the Sunsets

What: Tomorrow Is Alright

When: 11.3.2009

Where: San Francisco, CA

Why: “Every tear rolling down is a lesson learned / Are you too old to turn? / Are you too young to burn?”

How: Soft Abuse