Thursday, December 30, 2010

best of 2010... now, what's next?

Since many of my most-prized local memories of 2010 (Y La Bamba, Pickathon, Tu Fawning, Billygoat, PCP, and more) are so well documented by a slew of OMN staffers with (dare I say?) impeccable taste, I give you 6 non-local shows that blew my mind in ’10:

1. Sufjan Stevens at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Friday, October 29th.

2. Jónsi (of Sigur Rós) at the Roseland Theater on Tuesday, April 13th.

3. Major Lazer and Big Freedia at the Roseland Theater during MFNW on Thursday, September 9th followed by Big Freedia live at Sassy’s (the strip club).

4. Janelle Monáe wowing a sold-out (for of Montreal) Roseland Theater on Thursday, October 28th.

5. Peter Hook & Friends at the Doug Fir Lounge playing Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures in its entirety on Thursday, December 9th.

6. The Flaming Lips at Eugene’s McDonald Theatre on Wednesday, September 29th.

Followed by epic festival coverage at PDX Pop Now!, MFNW, and Sasquatch. And since I just can’t resist… here are some locals who deserve love from the last year: Climber, Reporter, Soft Metals, Remix Artist Collective, The Angry Orts, The Ascetic Junkies, Strength, Pegasus Dream, Menomena, and Seattle’s Brent Amaker & The Rodeo and Hey Marseilles. I mourn the end of Explode Into Colors but look forward to more creative and bombastic incarnations. To anyone I’ve forgotten, I apologize but I hope to see plenty more of you in 2011.

But why look back when you should be looking forward? Here are the best, local musics that you’ve likely enjoyed this past year but I am anticipating even brighter futures (and fresh, alphabetically organized, full-length albums) in 2011:

1. AgesandAges’ debut album Alright You Restless due February 15th, 2011 (via Knitting Factory Records).

2. The Blow returns to the NW with new material and eventually a new album.

3. Deelay Ceelay took the last half of the year off to hit the studio and are now mixing things.

4. Red Fang’s Relaspe Records debut due in early 2011.

5. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside have kept us waiting for a better part of the last year but their debut album is coming.

6. Starfucker’s second album (performed and recorded under the name Starfucker and no other name, abbreviation or derivative) out March-ish (via Polyvinyl).

7. Lastly, Vanimal has only a demo EP thus far but we’re excited to hear what’s next.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the world’s only asian-american dance rockers : q/a with the slants

Self-dubbed as “Chinatown dance rock,” Portland’s The Slants consider themselves “the first and only all Asian-American dance rock band in the world,” according to bassist Simon Young. Twenty-ten saw the quartet, composed of Asian Americans from different parts of the country, unveil their third self-produced, recorded and released album in Pageantry, following hot on the heels of their 2009 remix album, Slants! Slants! Revolution, which remixed tracks from their 2007 debut Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts. Plus Young adds, “We’re currently working on a new release.”

The Slants features vocalist Aron Moxley, a Vietnamese refugee who grew up in Astoria, Oregon; bassist Simon Young, a Chinese-Taiwanese from San Diego; guitarist Johnny Fontanilla, Filipino-Mexican also from San Diego; and drummer/vocalist Tyler Chen, a Chinese-German who has lived throughout the Northwest.

With ’80s influences like The Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order, and Joy Division plus a background in punk rock, The Slants’ third release has shifted a bit of focus away from the synth-driven sounds of their earlier work. But Young assures fans that “the electronic elements are always going to be a part of this band” as The Slants “find a way to balance between electro, dance rock, and synth-pop in a style that is still ‘Slants.’”

Celebrating the release of their first-ever music video at Dante’s on Saturday, January 8th, OMN caught up with bassist Simon Young.

You consider yourselves “one of the only, if not only, all-Asian dance rock bands in the country.” Is this true? Who else is out there?

To our knowledge, we are the first and only all Asian-American dance rock band in the world. There’s a few other acts out there doing the dance rock/synth-pop sound that have a token Asian player (such as VHS or Beta) but no one that we’re aware of that is doing something quite the same as us.

Pageantry has been said to be “harder-hitting,” “guitar fueled” and “a slight deviation from the synthesizer-driven” debut. Tell us how you have changed and grown.

Unlike most bands, we started recording our first album (Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts) even before our first show. As we progressed and brought in more musicians, it started leaning towards a more energetic live show. The singer, Aron, and I both come from punk rock backgrounds so we always leaned towards a heavier sound. So after our first album was completed and released, we knew we wanted something a little more rock-driven. But with so many lineup changes (11 different members in the first 3 years), it was tough to begin work on a new release.

Read the rest on OMN.

Friday, December 17, 2010

direct brevity : on his ninth album, tricky knows what he wants to do now

After releasing one of his most critically lauded albums in years with 2008′s Knowle West Boy, Tricky came back in late 2010 with what has been called one of his most accessible and trivial albums to date, receiving very mediocre reviews across the board. With seven of the ten tracks clocking in under three minutes for a total run time of less than a half hour, Mixed Race lacks cohesiveness and the experimental depth seen on previous Tricky releases. As his ninth studio album, it’s a mixed bag of what’s been viewed as skin-deep experimentation from one of trip-hop’s founders and innovators–a variety that moves from jazz to hip-hop to the Middle East without the singular touch of his previous work.

But for Tricky, he’s never been so sure of his work.

“Some of my early albums sound like a mess to me… too cluttered. I don’t understand them anymore.” He continues, “I know what I want to do now. Mixed Race is deliberately direct and in-your-face. It’s the easiest album to make that I’ve ever done.”

Basically, it’s been a disappointment for many die-hards and critics. In the past, no one has known where Tricky’s intentions lied or where they were going. Now, it may finally seem as though his “mind isn’t cloudy” or “muddled-up or as confused” as it once was.

But was the muddle what created unprecedented releases like 1995′s Maxinquaye? Is Mixed Race Tricky’s (conscious or unconscious) attempt to acquire new Tricky fans–a clubbing crowd?!

“This is also the most uptempo album I’ve done,” says the 42-year-old, Bristol-born producer. “I wanted something that could be played in a club… maybe! Which is unusual for me. Because I don’t give a shit about clubs.”

Although it’s hardly “clubby” by European standards (or anyone else’s for that matter), the actual quality of the music remains strong throughout and hints at telling some more of Tricky’s personal story. (Tricky may be trying to squeeze his way into the clubs as a guest on INXS’ new Original Sin album, reimagining the track “Mediate.”) As a “gangster album” there are some tense, introspective gangster moments, like the nursery music box to 007-tinged first single “Murder Weapon,” the tender thump and twang of “UK Jamaican,” or the silky smooth single number 2, “Ghetto Stars.”

“I can’t do gangsta rap. That’s not me. I can’t talk about being a bad boy, ‘cos I’m not. But I’ve been around that. So this is the closest I can get to a gangsta album. It’s very gully, as Jamaicans call it… very dark. Tense, street and urban. It’s like a movie, almost.”

Due to planes and trains and traveling from Paris before beginning his 11-date, North American tour in New York on December 9th, OMN’s scheduled phone interview with Tricky was not able to be realized. But in lieu of that interview, we do have this detailed track-by-track breakdown of his latest album for you reading pleasure.

Tricky hits the Doug Fir Lounge on Sunday, December 19th with his Irish-Italian female vocalist Franky Riley, who is featured on much of the new album including “Murder Weapon,” which is a reworking of a classic dancehall hit originally done by the Jamaican-born Echo Minott.

Read the rest on OMN.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

peter hook deservedly revives joy division

For most, on stage and off, Thursday, December 9th at the Doug Fir was and forever will be the most Joy Division songs one will ever experience at a live performance, in the United States or abroad. When lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide on the eve of Joy Division’s departure for the States in May of 1980, he may have dashed the band’s immediate dreams but he didn’t stop their aspirations and future success. Indelibly writing their name in every musical history book, Joy Division became New Order and turned the ’80s upside down.

After decades as their own entity, New Order finally came to terms with the music of Joy Division in the early 2000s and began performing a select few tracks during their live sets, notably “Atmosphere” but also four of the bigger hits on 2008′s Live in Glasgow DVD.

So when Peter Hook, the founding bassist of Joy Division, announced he’d be touring, playing Joy Division’s 1979 debut Unknown Pleasures in its entirety 30 years after the death of Ian Curtis, there was excitement but also suspicion and criticism. Three of Joy Division’s original members are still alive, yet the post-Joy Division band they formed together, New Order which lasted for 20+ years, has since split. It seems as though his intentions were pure and Hooky simply wanted to give Americans fans, all of whom never had the opportunity to see Joy Division live, an opportunity to experience the passionate energy of that influential music live, even if it be just a shred.

The idea for the tour, which included just nine North American dates (all in the US), was spawned out of fan enthusiasm for the now-classic material when Hook and his band The Light played Unknown Pleasures in honor of the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death.

Billed as “Peter Hook Presents Unknown Pleasures,” or Peter Hook and Friends, Hooky and Co. played a set which delivered exactly what was advertised. After warming up with four non-debut album Joy Division tracks, the band kicked into Unknown Pleasures, moving from start to finish, ending their set with “I Remember Nothing.”

Read the rest on OMN.

Friday, December 10, 2010

q/a : where has the blow been?

A gig by The Blow is never just a musical endeavor. Rather, the show’s of Khaela Maricich blur the line between concert and monologue. From irresistible, lo-fi, laptop dance-pop to laugh out loud or awkward encounters, she is a true performing artist; one who can control the stage with no more than a mic and a MacBook.

So what happens when she adds a visual partner to the mix?

In the past we saw how a musical partner in Jona Bechtolt (YACHT) propelled The Blow to new heights, and now The Blow is collaborating in a visual manner with installation and conceptual artist Melissa Dyne who will be “working with lighting and sound to manipulate the environment and to kind of play with the possibilities of whatever space we are performing in,” says Maricich.

That means a unique experience in every venue, every night. As her on stage narrative develops so will the visuals; at least that’s what we’re led to believe. But we honestly won’t know until we get the chance to see The Blow in concert. And Portland will finally have the opportunity to do so when The Blow returns home for the first time in more than two and half years performing the Doug Fir on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011.

By keeping a low profile online, The Blow has only allowed access to her new material at her live gigs, and as the girl of NW origins but residing in NYC since 2008 gives OMN the run around, she’s enjoying the “chaos” of a city of 7 million, being inspired by Joan Rivers, Tina Fey and Beyoncé, and “getting pregnant” (?!), yet still misses a Portland full of friends, Powell’s, river swimming, and The Asian Reporter.

You’ve been working with Melissa Dyne, what’s her role?

Melissa Dyne is an installation and conceptual artist, and she is collaborating with The Blow. We are working together on the live performance; she is treating the venue each night as one would treat an installation, working with lighting and sound to manipulate the environment and to kind of play with the possibilities of whatever space we are performing in. We have been touring a fair amount this past year, so there has been time for our collaboration to grow and develop over time, and as we keep touring, it keeps growing. We’re also working on other elements of the greater performance project together...

Read the rest on OMN.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the dandys still rule, ok?

After more than 15 steady years in the music biz, it may seem like The Dandy Warhols have been pushed by the wayside of the fickle frontal lobe of our pop-culture memories. It’s been a decade since their biggest and most commercially successful hits, plucked from the highly publicized, most accessible, critically lauded, and ubiquitously heard worldwide (due to use of “Bohemian Like You” in major TV commercials at home and abroad) third album, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.

Propelled to the forefront, The Dandys have not held the same high profile over the years, but, nevertheless, they’ve maintained and lost little of what they initially worked so hard to gain. The band has been dependably releasing music (new and old) under their own imprint Beat The World Records and recording themselves and friends in their home studio, The Odditorium, which occupies a quarter of a city block in NW Portland. A private club of sorts, The Dandys are known to not just rehearse in the space but also throw parties and host bands that come through town.

The Dandy Warhols have been a staple of Portland’s indie rock scene since the early ’90s frequently filling the stages of small rock clubs like Slabtown and the now gone-for-good Satyricon, where lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor performed his first show at age 14. And The Dandys’ guitarist Peter Holmström too played his first gig there as a member of a goth act. Who was in the audience? Only Taylor-Taylor.

After saying farewell to Satyricon in October by reuniting with original drummer Eric Hedford for a one-off gig, The Dandys are back for their annual Christmas show on Sunday, December 12th at the Crystal Ballroom (with Blue Giant opening) in the midst of a national tour hyping their latest release, a greatest hits compilation of sorts that highlights the singles from their Capitol Years plus adds one new cut, “This Is The Tide.”

Even though The Dandys’ last PDX show saw them performing only material from their first two albums (and before) and even incorporated only vintage gear (all the gear on stage was from their early days) and garb (like Taylor-Taylor in his worse-for-wear, red Enjoy Weed tee and Holmström in the jean jacket from the cover of Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia), this time around fans can expect a much more “greatest hits” approach and something “a little bit looser,” says drummer Brent DeBoer, compared to the rest of the stops on their current tour.

One quick listen to The Capitol Years 1995-2007 proves why The Dandys have been able to stay around; the mid-90s static-y, swirling, psychedelic haze that they helped make popular has sticking power. The only reason why you’ve maybe heard less of their distorted fuzz recently is because they did what every anti-establishment band wants to do: They dropped their label. And without the direction of a major resource like Capitol Records The Dandys have struggled navigating the modern music world. Even if record labels themselves have hit hard times, they still staff professionals who have networks and whose job it is to get a band’s music in the hands of as many people as possible. Thus, as The Dandys work on their seventh “official” studio album–”We’re recording every day that we’re not on tour,” says DeBoer–they’re also thinking about how to get it into your hands.

So, even as rock stars struggle with a changing music industry, The Dandy Warhols’ drummer Brent DeBoer, who recently moved to Melbourne but is back stateside for the tour, took some time out to dispel any myths that remain about The Dandys and The Brian Jonestown Massacre being nemeses. DeBoer simply wants to clarify that “I wish that people knew that Courtney doesn’t only talk about the music business and Anton doesn’t only kick people.”

Read the rest on OMN.