Sunday, November 30, 2008

Live Review: These United States @ Black Cat, November 22

Alas and alack, it's the end of the line for These United States. After one tour after another, not to mention those two little albums they put out over the course of the year 2008, November 22nd marked the end of the performance portion of TUS's banner 365 days. And it is with a certain amount of shit-eating smugness, dear friends, that I relate to you just what a fine, fine specimen of a syonara show it was. I had been alight with anticipation to see just how the new songs from Crimes would sound live, and while I knew I wouldn't be disappointed, my expectations were exceeded song after song after song.

It was a cozy, celebratory set, full of glad tidings and giddy smiles. As previously documented, Jesse Elliott is far and away one of my favorite music-makers these days, and he demonstrated (as did everyone involved) just what it is that makes him such a rarity among his peers: the sheer joy that he gets from the music. All through the set he beamed with pride, laughed with abandon, and smiled a hundred humble smiles. While the band was rolling down the river of "Pleasure & Pain & Pride & Me", I thought to myself how wonderful it is to see a band enjoy themselves so much. The members of These United States love what they do, and gosh almighty does it show. The entire band, in this instance the band being comprised of Jesse, Robby, Tom, and Justin, knocked my socks off (tights, technically, as it was a rather chilly evening after all) musically.
What began with the mighty "Six Fast Bulets (Five Complaints) did not let up for an instant. They brought the rock, the folk, the country, the soul, and laid it all out there in their undeniable, effortless way. By the time they played "Get Yourself Home (In Search of the Mistress Whose Kisses Are Famous)", I scribbled that this was easily the best I've seen them play. The presence of my favorite TUS song, the delicately beatific (slightly less fragile when live) "Study the Moon", solidified the night as a winner.

In my notes I equated the rise of the band to one of those cartoon snowballs, such as you might see in an episode of Scooby Doo, for example, rolling down a mountain and growing larger and faster with each rotation and picking up any Fred, Shaggy, or Scooby (and any of a variety of nefarious villains) that happen to be in its way, arms and legs and skis sticking out all sorts of akimbo. The point of such an analogy is this: These United States is a very, very good band. Not only are they a good band, but they pretty much took my breath away at this show. I'm already looking forward to see just what 2009 holds for my favorite DC/Lexington hybrid (and I sure do hope it involves many, many more shows).

In closing, I've probably already said it before, but go ahead and jump on the TUS bandwagon now, while the getting's good. You can sit right next to me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gummy Awards 2008: Vote for Us!

Dearest, kindest, most wonderful friends. It is that time of year now when people start racking their brains for the best of the best of the year in every possible category, and blogs are no exception. The Grandaddy of Them All (no, not the Rose Bowl), Stereogum, is currently accepting votes for their 2008 Gummy Awards, and we'd like to shamelessly ask for your vote in the little category known as "Best Music Blog That Isn't Stereogum". We certainly hope you've enjoyed reading us over this past year, and if you have, well, please take a moment or two to vote for us, while you've voting for your "Indie Rock Crush" and the "Most Overrated Act", among other categories.

There is incentive, as well, apart from voting for us out of the goodness of your heart. A random voter will be chosen from the electorate, and will win the Top 50 CDs of the year (according to Stereogum) as well as a one-year Netflix subscription. Pretty nice, eh?

Voting ends 12/2 at 6 pm EST (5 pm CST, 4 pm MST, and 3 pm PST), so get cracking! And as always, your support warms the cockles of our little hearts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Gobble Gobble Day!

It’s once again the eve of that gluttonous festivus we Yanks like to call Thanksgiving. While the common (and incorrect) notion is to pay homage to the Pilgrims up north, the first Thanksgiving was technically here in Virginia, not too far from where yours truly rests her head here in Richmond. So in honor of those Virginians who have come before, I’d like to tick off a few things I’m thankful for, musically-related, of course.

I’m thankful for my DVD box set of My So-Called Life. Not only was this show on during the height of my coming of age (as they call it), the music in each episode totally encapsulates the time. Right this minute I’m considering reacquiring a Buffalo Tom CD, simply because of its inclusion in a riveting scene involving Angela (Claire Danes) and Jordan (Jared Leto).

As damning as this might sound, I’m thankful for Myspace. The amount of bands on that revoltingly addictive site increases daily, which means a nearly endless supply of new bands for we bloggers to write about.

And finally, I’m thankful for all the great albums we’ve been lucky enough to hear this year, and all the amazing shows I’ve seen. You’ll hear much, much more about who Chris and I think made the best records of 2008, as well as the bands who put on the most important live performances, but to bands like the Black Angels and Dead Confederate, I’d like to say thanks for making such great albums, and kudos to Brian Wilson and Nine Inch Nails for being so spectacular in the flesh.

We here at Les Enfants Terribles would like to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, full of turkey (or turducken or vegan turkies), stuffing, cranberry sauce (canned or homemade), and whatever else is gonna be on your plate tomorrow. We’re also taking a few days off, so we’ll see you in December. Gobble gobble!

Album Review: I'll Stay 'Til After Christmas (On behalf of Amnesty International)

If you're anything like me (and you know you wish you were), you've got to have the right mixtape for everything. The holidays, of course, are no exception. (You should hear my Halloween Zombie Mix. Trust me, you'd be jealous.) Well, it's just about Xmas again, so what are you going to pop onto ye olde iPod? Nobody needs to hear that schmaltzy, traditional stuff because, let's be honest, Xmas hasn't been that money since you were 12 anyway. It's gone from waiting anxiously for Santa to getting into fist fights with your drunken relatives after your Dad yells at everyone. Sure, the latter scenario provides its' own memories, but the question remains, have you prepared the correct soundtrack for the occasion?

Fortunately for us, the good folks at Amnesty International have gathered all our favorite indie kids together to create, quite possibly, the perfect Christmas mix for today's discerning Gen Xers and Gen Yers. Mostly forgoing the traditional songs of yuletide, instead we've got Au Revoir Simone putting their spin on a Vince Guaraldi classic, Le Loup singing about Shenendoah and Blitzen Trapper making their own magic with "Christmas is Coming Soon." Sure, Bosque Brown does an almost creepy (though still quite tasty) version of "Silent Night," and Turk Dietrich (of Belong) performs an almost unrecognizable "Blue Christmas" (the vocals are nearly completely buried underneath layered tracks for a damn cool effect), but nothing here is your parents' holiday music. And that's what makes it pretty damn kick ass.

Plus, picking up a copy puts a few shekels into the bank of Amnesty International, and who doesn't want to do that? Nobody. Not even your grandfather.

Make sure to pick up your digital copy at iTunes, emusic, amazon digital, rhapsody, etc., to make it easier on Santa. The album will be available to the world on Dec. 2.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oooh Look! A Black Keys Song!

It's probably no secret that I lurvs me some Black Keys in the worst way. The only thing better than their CDs, in my humble opinion, is their live show. A studio setting can fix even the most glaring shortcomings, but a band has to let it all hang out when it's just them and an audience.

In an effort to hoc their latest wares, the Live at the Crystal Ballroom DVD, Patrick and Dan have offered up this tasty morsel from the show, a fiery version of "I Got Mine." Culled from the sold-out April 4, 2008 gig at Portland, Oregon's Crystal Ballroom, this track simply reaffirms how freaking kick ass these boys are. Hard to imagine it's just two cats up there, rocking out the way they do. That's the magic potion those two have concocted, I suppose.

Get your copy of the DVD here, friends, and be ready for something special.

mp3: I Got Mine (live @ the Crystal Ballroom)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Singles Club: Eels

So did you see that BBC special just recently about frontman Mark "E" Oliver Everett and his pops, the quantum physicist Hugh Everett III, the dude that created the parallel worlds theory? PBS ran it on Nova and, of course, I missed it. Not pleased about that one.

Not having anything whatsoever to do with that, Mr. E and his Eels just dropped some free mp3 love in the form of a few live tracks from a gig he did in Manchester back in '05. He did so in anticipation of the release of a deluxe, limited-edition, four vinyl version of Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. If you're quick about it, you can get one of 2,500 signed copies here.

If I'm not mistaken, this was taken during his "Strings" tour, where he played with damn near a full orchestral section. I caught half the show when it hit the 9:30 Club back then. I bounced early due to an unfortunate incident involving an undercooked steak, but, seriously, we don't need to discuss that.

Food poisoning notwithstanding, I have to admit it wasn't my favorite Eels show. E was a bit pissy with the crowd, and my crappy view from the back wall in the upper section did little to improve my opinion. Of course, this isn't that show, the Eels kick ass, and you can decide for yourself with the tracks below.

mp3: Feeling Fresh

mp3: Packing Blankets

mp3: Jeannie's Diary

mp3: Climbing to the Moon

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Video Vixens: Election Edition

My Fellow Interwebians,

Unless you live under a rock or are a cranky troll living under a bridge, you know that today is a marginally important day in America. It's Election Day here in the ole US of A, a day full of the promise of a clean slate (or the continuation of the status quo, if you're so inclined). If you're anything like me you're pretty darned happy about the terminus of the slinging of the mud and the obscene spending on television airtime and the kindergarten-esque pointing of the fingers. Oh, and the end of 8 miserable years is pretty exciting, too.

Polls are closed here in Virginia, though you've got a few hours to go in other parts of this fair land of ours. You're probably sitting in front of the TV hanging on every word on every news channel, but to give you something to do when listening to the multitudinous pundits getting their pundit on gets a little old, here's some political-ish videos to hunker down with. As to be expected, I was aiming for a theme here. It's all political, all the time. Well, except when it's not. But I tried.

We begin with this live version of the super fantastic OK Computer-era Radiohead, "Electioneering". Mr. Greenwood shows his ample qualifications on the guitar in this one.

No Election Day compendium would be complete without a little of the incendiary Public Enemy and the classic "Fight the Power".

Next up, straight outta 1968, is Cream's "Politician", as performed at their Farewell show at London's Royal Albert Hall.

Perhaps Sunset Rubdown is more your bag. This, my dear constituents, "They Took a Vote and Said No", is for you.

Thom Yorke makes another appearance on this ticket, this time sharing vocal obligations with Drugstore in the late 90s, sadly forgotten "El President."

I am a proponent of the Welsh party, that's for damn sure. Long-time favorites Super Furry Animals came up with "Presidential Suite", a lovely little number to honor the spirit of Bill and Monica, and it definitely makes me a little nostalgic for those budget surplus days.

And in closing, everyone's (least) favorite part of Presidential elections, the Electoral College, as explained by Schoolhouse Rocks.

And with that, friends, it's time to go join the masses in watching the results pour in.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Untitled Interview #15: Starring Jesse Elliott (These United States)

Some people are music personified, they embody musicality so much that all they can do is play and play and get their sonic innards outside into the world. Jesse Elliott is one of that rare breed of folks. He seems to eat, drink, and sleep, maybe even breathe music. And it's obvious he loves it. It's almost as if he's bemused when he sings, and you can almost see Elliott smiling when listening to a These United States album. Go see them live and you will see it. As I've said before, he's on a different page than most, and you know it immediately. Elliott is by far one of my most favorite souls in the DC music scene, and I'm fairly certain you'll feel the same once you meet him. These United States is becoming quite a band of road warriors, so I predict plenty of chances to take in the joyous spectacle that becomes a TUS gig. In the meantime, well, here's a few good words from the man himself.

Les Enfants Terribles
: How the hell are you?
Jesse Elliott: Yes!

LET: What was the last song you listened to?
JE: "Out at Sea" by Salt-Water-Shoes from Austin.

LET: Playing music is ___
JE: All that's left sometimes.

LET: What album most made you realize that you wanted to make music?
JE: Midnight Vultures.

LET: Beatles or Stones?
JE: Dylan.

LET: What're your top 5 albums?
JE: Right now, and in no particular order:
Slow Gems (Kitty Hawk)
Loaded (Velvet Underground)
Perseverance (Percee P)
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Neko Case)
Cheekbone Hollows (The Childballads)

LET: Favorite music-related movie?
JE: The Muppet Movie.

LET: What city or venue would you like to play, but haven't yet been to?
JE: Tokyo.

LET: Half-full or half-empty?
JE: Overflowing.

LET: Apart from your band, which of your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
JE: Cotton Jones.

LET: What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
JE: Where are we?

LET: The greatest record store in the world is:
JE: Spillers Records, Cardiff, Wales.

LET: What's the longest flight you've ever been on, and where were you going?
JE: Chicago to Copenhagen, delayed, 24 hours.

LET: Shaken or stirred?
JE: Splashed!

LET: If you weren't in a band, you'd be:
JE: On a Mountain.

LET: You just went on another gigantic tour. How do you get mentally prepared for such long spans of being in new places all the time?
JE: Maps!

LET: What color croquet mallet would you choose for playing with the Queen of Hearts?
JE: Black.

LET: Which feels better: leaving to go on tour, or coming home from a tour?
JE: Being there.

LET: Best song ever written?
JE: “A Change is Gonna Come”.