Saturday, July 25, 2009

Passion Pit mind their Manners with debut full-length

[Frenchkiss, 2009]
Passion Pit started out as a one-man side project of Michael Angelekos. He recorded his debut EP “Chunk Of Change” in his bedroom for his girlfriend making beats and playing hook-filled synth lines. Buzz began to start around the mega catchy song “Sleepyhead.” Then he put together a band and they started touring. “Manners” is their debut full length full of fun, catchy and danceable tunes. It starts off with “Make Light” a bass-driven mid tempo tune that isn’t too catchy or good at all. Then it jumps into a very 80’s sounding “Little Secrets” which features a children’s choir singing the chorus (higher and higher and higher), You’ll probably find yourself singing along. In the first single “The Reeling” Angelakos brings back the choir again which makes the song even more memorable and fun than it is to begin with. “Eyes As Candles” is another memorable tune full of na’s and hey’s (which makes up the chorus) “Swimming In The Flood” is one of the weakest tracks on the album and features a totally out of place hip hop sounding beat. On “To Kingdom Come” we finally hear some guitar even though it is mostly a synth driven tune. The video is a good laugh when it portrays all the band members as 19th century scientists who make an amazing discovery and begin hopping around with excitement. “Sleepyhead” follows and sounds as good as ever. (For those wondering it’s the exact same version as on the EP.) “Let Your Love Grow Tall” is a standard song about love but does not disappoint with the children’s choir singing Let your love grow tall! The album closes with the very average (and not that impressive) “Seaweed Song.” Angelekos’ voice never changes from his normal super-high falsetto which may be why I’m only impressed with 7 of the 11 of Tracks. Overall “Manners” is a nice collection of pop tunes, one of the best in 2009 so far. I can’t wait to hear what they do next with their sophomore release.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Holding Steady.

Yesterday I went to see Tapes n’ Tapes and The Hold Steady at the Basilica Block Party. Cities 97 sponsored it. I would of much rather attend an 89.3 The Current sponsored Tapes and Hold Steady show. When I originally heard that The Hold Steady was playing at the Block Party along with TNT I thought it weird that 2 hugely popular indie rock bands were playing at the same festival alongside Cities 97 bands Matt Kearney and The Black and Counting Crow(e)s. Regardless of the lineup the part of the block party I saw was very good.

Tapes n’ Tapes were one of my favorite groups back a few years ago. I went to see them at The Taste Of Minnesota in 2007. They put on a great show and played a bunch of new songs that made me very excited for a new album. When it finally did arrive in April of 2008 I was very disappointed with the results. Every song seemed distorted in every way possible and the vocals got more and more annoying. Not every song on the album was awful but for the most part it wasn’t that great. This time when I saw them live I had similar feelings as I did about their 2nd album. As soon as I saw them I immediately thought of Josh Grier who has grown out his hair to a fairly long length. He looked like he belonged in a 70’s classic rock band. On most of the songs he head banged, or tried to. As usual he was playing his red Fender Stratocaster. Bassist Erik Applewick grown some glasses since I had last seen him and he hat cut his hair shorter. And it was LOUD! The mix was on the side of awful as the guitar and vocals were a lot higher than the bass and the drums. Matt’s keyboard was barely heard, when there was a keyboard part to be heard. As on the most recent record everything was distorted. Even the drums; Jeremy Hanson is probably the most talented musician in the band didn’t shine half as much as he did the last time I saw them live. One of their most popular songs and one of my favorites “Cowbell” with a driving bass line, was totally re-done with a lot more guitar and less bass. The Dirty Dirty, the 5-minute closer to Walk It Off (and the highlight) was one of the best songs of their set. The show ended on a good note when they closed with the mostly instrumental “Jakov’s Suite” from the 2005 debut “The Loon” was surprisingly good. At the end I found myself clapping for them and enjoying the show very much. After The Hold Steady I walked up to Josh and Jeremy and had them sign my ticket. As people they hadn’t changed at all since the last time I met them and were very nice. Hopefully the next Tapes n’ Tapes will be better than the last one.

As for The Hold Steady, they were amazing. I think they are a lot better live than on record. RT Rybak the mayor of Minneapolis came on the stage before the show with a Hold Steady shirt and said nice things praising the block party, the fans and the “best city in America, Minneapolis” Mayor Rybak, I agree with you. I think that pumped everyone up and he went off saying that they would be on in a few minutes. About 10 to 15 minutes later Craig Finn and the gang took the stage. As soon as Tab Kuebler played the first few chords of “Constructive Summer” I immediately grinned. This was going to be a great show. Ever since Stay Positive came out I have never gotten tired of that song. When the “Raise a toast to saint Joe Strummer” part was said, everyone raised their drinks, which was such as nice thing to see. Hopefully those people all know who Joe Strummer is. Everyone at the show seemed to know all the words to all of the songs. They played everyone favorites “Massive Nights,” “Chips Ahoy!,” “Southtown Girls,” and of course “Stay Positive.” When “Party Pit” started (My fav HS song) there was some sort of feeling of happiness that I don’t often have when listening to music. When the song came to the part where Craig yells “we walked across that Grain Belt Bridge into BRAND NEW MINNEAPOLIS!” It made me think about how much they love playing music and singing about their favorite city it made me so thankful that we have a band like this from my hometown. When “Lord, I’m Discouraged” was played It was a nice song to be played at festival at a house of worship. Tad played his double neck SG, and did some amazing shredding during the solo, which made them seem like a classic rock band. Maybe in 35 years that’s what they will be called. They played other songs from older albums that I wasn’t too familiar with but they were still great. They left the stage at 9:56 only to return 5 minutes later and play a 4 or 5 song encore. They started off with the acoustic ode to beer “Citrus” which is as much of a laugh as is a song. Then they launched into the half acoustic “First Night” and then “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” which is the first song I heard by the Hold Steady which actually didn’t make me a fan. In between songs or during some low part to the song with some quiet drum and bass Craig praised the crowd and Minneapolis and thanked his family, which was in the crowd. He also thanked the bands’ other kind of family, the road crew. At one point he said the two greatest places of worship in Minneapolis were the Basilica and First Avenue, which put a smile on my face and most likely everyone else’s in the crowd. They also played the amazing Stay Positive closer “Slapped Actress” which included keyboardist Franz Nicolay (the only person in the band that doesn’t have a Minneapolis connection) putting his hand over his heart when Craig Finn mentioned Ybor City Franz’s hometown. The second to last song was “Stuck Between Stations.” That was quite possibly the highlight of the show and possibly the best Hold Steady song ever. They ended with “Killer Parties.” Every so often I would stop listening to the music and look over around me and see all these happy people around me and the wonderful city around me. It sorta made me feel grateful about everything I have in life and I’m not sure why. Minneapolis is a wonderful city and when people like Mr. Finn sing about it with such a passion it brings a smile to my face. At one point in the show he said, “there is so much joy put into what we do up here.” (here being the stage) I agree with Craig and RT, Minneapolis is a wonderful city. May the Hold Steady live on forever in the hearts of music fans all around. For people that understand what my closing statement is: The Hold Steady almost killed me last night.

-Eliot Larson, June 12th, 2009