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Posts Tagged ‘Neko Case’

By Joel Francis

Metric – Fantasies
Indie synth band shines
on fourth album. Smart dance-pop
bests Metric, Phoenix.

Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
Fun from start to end,
Brit blends hip hop, jazz and soul,
wins Mercury Prize.

Bela Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3
Mismatch on paper
Banjo goes to Africa?
A joyous result.

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Red-head continues
streak of amazing albums.
Doubtless to persist.

Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi
NOLA pianist
and songwriter honors roots
with great jazz album.

Me’Shell Ndegeocello – Devil’s Halo
Poetry, jazz, soul –
Don’t try to classify this.
Bass phenom triumphs.

Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar – One Fast Move or I’m Gone
Voices of Death Cab
and Son Volt pay homage to
poet Kerouac.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!
Southern soul throwbacks
bridge JB, Otis.
For fans of Daptone.

Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
Indie sensation
examines life via Bible.
(Isn’t Christian rock.)

Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Fourth LP finds MC
back on game. Fans rejoice. More
rhymes, less acting, please.

Honorable mention:
Maxwell – BLACKsummer’snight
Eight years, a long time.
Welcome back, neo-soul man.
Slow jams worth the wait.

Keep Reading:

Top 10 Albums of 2008 (haiku remix)

Top 10 concerts of 2008

Review: Son Volt (2005)

Review: Neko Case, Son Volt and more at Wakarusa 2005

Green Ribbon Haikus (2008)

Feature: Hail Death Cab

Review: Bela Fleck’s Africa Project

Top 10 Albums of 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2006

Review: Mos Def, Kweli, others at Rock the Bells (2007)

Top 10 albums of 2005

Top 10 Albums of 2004

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55

By Joel Francis

From “Brand New Cadillac” to “Little Red Corvette,” no art form has had a love affair with the automobile quite like rock and roll. So while the subject matter for Andrew W.K.’s fourth album, “55 Cadillac,” is well-trod, his approach is surprising and fresh.

W.K. appeared on the scene in 2001 sporting a bloody nose on his album cover and urging hard rock fans to “Party Hard.” In the years since opened a New York night club, penned an advice column that was compiled into a book, produced an album by reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry, hosted a show on Cartoon Network and continued to turn out big dumb anthems like “Make Sex.” That said, few could have seen the side of Andrew W.K. he reveals on “55 Cadillac.”

Comprised of eight “spontaneous solo piano improvisations,” the album finds W.K. expressing himself on the 88 keys he started learning at age 4.

“55 Cadillac” opens where Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone” – which features our heroine on the hood of a 1968 Mercury Cougar  – left off, with the sound of crickets and frogs. Like a drag race, W.K.’s prize auto doesn’t start, but “begin.” Appropriately, we can hear the motor thrust and idle as pistons warm up on the first cut, “Begin the Engine.”

Though the performances are spontaneous, W.K. obviously put a lot of thought into tone and texture. “Seeing the Car” is suitably elegant, while “Night Driver” features an upbeat, galloping melody. The stately ballad “5” is the album’s most tuneful moment and “City Time” is choppy, reflecting urban stop-and-go traffic.

The tracks are joined by the sound of a car racing past and the album works as one long piece. The songs flow well, sustaining the mood without becoming stale, but despite the solid pacing it can easily become background music.

W.K.’s party rock persona doesn’t emerge until the opus’ closing minutes. When the flood of electric guitars enter on “Cadillac,” the closing track,” it sounds like a lost snippet of musical dialogue between Queen’s Brian May and Freddy Mercury.

Co-released on the Sonic Youth guitarist’s Ecstatic Peace! Label, “55 Cadillac” is the rare album that can be enjoyed by both Thurston Moore and Thurston Howell, III.

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wakarusa_05_c.sized

By Joel Francis

This weekend marks the first time Wakarusa will not be held at Clinton Lake near Lawrence, Kan. After establishing itself as a second-tier destination festival in 2004, Wakarusa has moved to Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Ark.

The Daily Record covered the previous four incarnations of Wakarusa. Join us now in a look back at the festival.

2005 – Wakarusa grows in its second year, offering what may be its greatest lineup to date, including Son Volt, Wilco, Neko Case, Calexico, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, String Cheese Incident and a then-unknown Matisyahu. Promoters are rewarded with a turnout of about 15,000 fans each day, doubling the inaugural turnout. Read more Wakarusa 2005 festival coverage.

2006 – The third annual Wakarusa Music Festival gets off to a sour start when music fans are greeted with highway patrol drug checks near Clinton Lake. “Narcarusa” is further sullied when it is revealed police strategically placed infrared cameras around the festival grounds to catch drug activity. Despite these setbacks, the festival once again reaches its 15,000-fan daily capacity and features the Flaming Lips, Les Claypool, P-Funk sideman Bernie Worrell, Gov’t Mule, Robert Randolph and the Family Band and back-to-back sets by Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Read more Wakarusa 2006 festival coverage.

2007 – Security is toned-down, but Mother Nature rages with hard winds on Friday and Sunday rain during the fourth Wakarusa. Crowds are down to 12,000 fans each day, which might be a reflection of the festival’s most mediocre lineup. Michael Franti and Spearhead close out the festival and the lineup also includes Be Good Tanyas, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Widespread Panic and Ben Harper. Read more Wakarusa 2007 festival coverage.

2008 – Heavy rains capsize Wakarusa’s final festival to date at Clinton Lake. The downpour ends Friday’s sets prematurely and the swamp left inside most concert tents force fans to abandon shoes at the perimeter or in the muck. Further disappointment hits when Bettye LaVette, Dweezil Zappa and Emmylou Harris cancel performances. An return engagement with the Flaming Lips in addition to sets by Old 97s, Ben Folds, Alejandro Escovedo, members of the Meters, Ozomatli and a Friday afternoon infusion of hip hop from Blackalicious and Arrested Development still leave fans with plenty to love. Read more Wakarusa 2008 festival coverage.

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Above: The Flaming Lips “Race for the Prize” at Wakarusa 2008.

By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

Arrested Development – Friday afternoon, Revival Tent

The sound of Arrested Development warming up was funky enough to send a crowd scrambling to the Revival Tent and its ankle-deep mud, but the group had trouble keeping them there.

The group’s Afrocentric rap harks back to De La Soul’s daisy age and capped a three-act run of hip hop in the Revival Tent, including Blackalicous and Del tha Funky Homosapien. Their low-key approach had difficulty translating to the half-populated tent, but part of the problem could have been the 15-plus years since the band last hit the area.

Flanked by two vocalists and backed by a guitarist, DJ and rhythm section, MC Speech warmed the crowd up on a couple newer numbers before heating the crowd up with “Fishin’ 4 Religion” and a spirited gospel arrangement of “Tennessee.”

Fans who weathered the bass solo were treated to a karaoke romp through “Billie Jean” and a full-band cover of “Redemption Song.”

Although the set’s energy lagged at times, the greatest hits still sounded, well, great. “Mr. Wendall” is still as fun and timely as it was nearly 20 years ago. The closing one-two of “Mama’s Always Onstage” and “People Everyday” had a sea of smiling faces hoping it wouldn’t be another half-generation until the next show.

Flaming Lips – Friday night, Sun Down Stage

The Flaming Lips performed nearly the same show at their Wakarusa debut two years ago. Damn if it didn’t work just as well the second time.

Flanked by a horde of Teletubbies, the band took the stage as front man Wayne Coyne rolled over the crowd in a giant hamster ball. “Race for the Prize” kicked off the night as confetti, streamers and smoke snowed over the crowd.

It would be easy to get lost in the spectacle of a Flaming Lips concert and forget about the band onstage if the music wasn’t so good. “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” rocked so hard that Coyne himself called it “glorious.” The group funneled their anger and passion for a better America after the November elections into a devastating version of “The W.A.N.D.” that was prefaced by an anti-war airing of “Taps.”

The quartet also got some help from their fans. Coyne encouraged the crowd to get naked during their cover of “The Song Remains the Same” and a half dozen women jumped onstage and took him up on the offer. Spontaneous fireworks from the back of the lawn punctuated the trippy “Pompeii am Gotterdamerung” and heightened the atmosphere of “Vein of Stars.”

The night ended with “Do You Realize.” A million pieces of yellow and orange confetti falling from the sky created a nice cinematic moment that made the song sound even more majestic than usual.

Set List: Race for the Prize/Free Radicals/The Song Remains the Same/Fight Test/Mountain Side/Vein of Stars/Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (pt. 1)/Pompeii am Gotterdamerung/The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song/Taps->The WAND/She Don’t Use Jelly/(encore:) Do You Realize

“Christmas On Mars” – Friday night, the Flaming Lips tent

The chance to catch a band-hosted screening of the Flaming Lips’ seven-years-in-the-making movie “Christmas on Mars” overpowered the need for sleep for many Wakarusa campers.

Shortly after the Lips’ spectacular set on the Sun Down Stage, 200 fans lucky enough to snag a free ticket earlier in the evening were ushered into the band’s large “Eat Your Own Spaceship” tent. Inside, it felt a lot like summer camp. Everyone sat on long wooded benches and roadies handed out popcorn.

After a short personal introduction from lead Lip Wayne Coyne and a longer recorded interview, the film finally started around 1 a.m.

The movie follows the descent of paranoia and psychosis on a crew of astronauts in their Martian space station on Christmas Eve. Multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd plays the main astronaut while Coyne portrays an emerald-hued, antennae-sporting Martian who swallows an asteroid, is detained by the space crew and then forced into the role of Santa Claus.

The results are pretty much what you’d expect from a group with no acting or screenwriting background, paying for their production as they go. Fans started sneaking out almost as soon as the rock-show volume movie started. When I finally succumbed an hour into the movie a herd of fans were seated on the ground outside the tent for the next showing. Live and learn.

Ozomatli – Saturday afternoon, Sun Down Stage

Listening to Ozomatli is like flipping through a National Geographic. The L.A.-based band deftly mixes traditional South American music with African rhythms, hip hop, rock and a splash of Indian raga.

Opening with consecutive songs in Spanish could be an obstacle for some bands, but Ozomatli’s groove needs no translation. Although a moderate crowd had gathered on the lawn in anticipation of the set, each song saw more arms raised as the multitude grew.

The septet kept the energy high for all of its 90-minute set, from the Indian-influenced improvisation on “Believe” to the straight hip hop of “City of Angels” and vibrant African rhythms of “Como Ves.”

Ozomatli is not only proficient with different styles of music, but its members all play more than one instrument. This broadens their palate even further. The clarinet solo introducing gave “Cumbia de los Muertos” a Yiddish flavor, while the horns on “Magnolia Soul” added a New Orleans feel.

The appearance of Tre Hardson, aka Slimkid3 of the Pharcyde, who has been touring with the band since last winter, was an unexpected treat. He led the band through a great cover of “Passing Me By” that drew big cheers from the crowd.

Porter Batiste Stolze – Saturday afternoon, Sun Up Stage

Porter Batiste Stolze was more than 30 minutes into their set when Ozomatli wrapped up. I entered just in time to hear the band roll into a faithful cover of “Like A Rolling Stone” with a sidestepping backbeat that definitely gave the drummer some.

In front of me a father and son stood with their arms on each other’s shoulders, belting out every word with absolute delight. Proud mom looked on, her face radiant.

The Dylan cover gave way to the booty-shaking, Bo Diddley beat of “Not Fade Away,” which, in turn, fed into “Little Liza Jane.” No matter how many gnarled honky tonk guitar licks Brian Stolze threw at his band mates, George Porter, Jr.’s bass kept things funky while drummer Russell Batiste, Jr. shuffled the beat like a Vegas card dealer.

The New Orleans-based trio honed their chops together as in-demand session musicians, and worked Art Neville as three-fourths the Funky Meters until 2005. PBS’ three-part harmonies and musical sensibilities sounds like The Band filtered through Kool and the Gang and given a late-night run on Bourbon Street. They touched on nearly every style of American music in the half hour I heard, and could groove on them all.

Jennie Arnau – Sunday morning, Sun Up Stage

From a distance, Jennie Arnau sounds a lot like Kathleen Edwards. Both have mournful country vocals supported by muscular rock hooks. Up close, however, Arnau’s alt-country sound is less plaintive than Edwards and owes as much to Fleetwood Mac as it does to Emmylou Harris.

Backed by a four-piece band, the blonde South Carolinian performed four songs from her latest album, “Mt. Pleasant,” and one song from each of her last three.

While Arnau’s “Float On” is not a Modest Mouse cover, its buoyant melody should please fans of Edwards, Neko Case and Caitlin Cary. Set closer “You’re Not Alone” is the type of song that Sheryl Crow should be doing. It ended the show on a strong note.

While late morning, closing day festival gigs are never coveted, the two dozen folks who showed up for Arnau’s set seemed genuinely appreciative of the music and pleased by the 45 minute performance that held nothing back. Hopefully Arnau will be invited back at a better time slot and in front of the bigger audience she deserves.

Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk – Sunday afternoon, Sun Down Stage

Dumpstaphunk know how to ride a groove and aren’t afraid to hop on at a moment’s notice with several hundred hip-shaking hitchhikers in tow.

Opening with the aptly titled instrumental “Stinky,” the band quickly drew a dancing crowd to the lawn in front of the stage. By the time their hour-long set reached its midpoint the congregation had easily doubled.

With staccato riffs from his Hammond organ, Ivan Neville led the quintet through songs like “Shake It Off” and “Ugly Truth” that sounded like a streamlined, less bizarre P-Funk.

While vocal responsibilities shifted, they were always soulful. Between songs, Tony Hall would sometimes abandon fellow guitarist and Ivan’s cousin Ian Neville, and drop one string and several octaves to add another bass guitar and even more bottom to the sound.

Dumpstaphunk aired their views on the handling of their native New Orleans in “Meanwhile.” Easily the most fun Hurricane Katrina protest song to date, the band’s philosophy was summarized with the chorus “might as well have a good time/it might be the last time.”

Although, many of its members have worked with Ivan Neville’s father Aaron and the Neville Brothers, Dumpstaphunk is firmly rooted on The Meters side of the family tree.

Keep Reading:

Wakarusa Music Festival (2007)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2006)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2005)

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Game Theory – The Roots
The Boxing Mirror – Alejandro Escovedo
The Obliterati – Mission of Burma
St. Elsewhere – Gnarls Barkley
Fox Brings the Confessor – Neko Case
Fishscales – Ghostface Killah
Return to Cookie Mountian – TV on the Radio
In the Pines – In the Pines
Begin to Hope – Regina Spektor
Modern Times – Bob Dylan

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Wilco

June 17-19, Clinton Lake, Lawrence (Kan.)

Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Son Volt – Friday afternoon, Sun Down Stage
Jay Farrar’s revamped Son Volt made their regional debut on Friday afternoon to a collective yawn. Maybe it was the early hour of the show – 3 p.m. – but more people were greeting each other than grooving to the music. Son Volt Version 2.0 leaned heavily on classic material from “Trace” and “Straightaways” in its hourlong set, but were not as country-leaning as the previous incarnation. Uncle Tupelo was no where to be found._The new lineup is rawer and plays up Farrar’s classic rock influences – a sound closer to Joe Walsh than Joe Ely.

Matisyahu – Friday afternoon, Campground Stage
Matisyahu’s novelty – a Hasidic Jew playing reggae music – may have drawn people to his tent, but his music made them stay.
Dressed in a white dress shirt and glasses and sporting a full black beard, he may have looked like a rabbi, but he sounded like Toots Hibbert. Matisyahu’s groove spread quicker than a flu bug in day care, and though the tent was too crowded to give the music the motion it deserved, no one seemed to mind, least of all Matisyahu, who had to rest a hand on his head to keep his yarmulke from flying off as he jumped up and down. After proving his reggae credibility, Matisyahu dismissed the band and began an a capella beatboxing, incorporating dub, hip-hop and techno rhythms culminating in a call-and-response with the drummer.

Ozomatli – Friday evening, Sun Up Stage
Ozomatli isn’t afraid to toss a rap into a Spanish melody. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything musically. The10-piece band blended Spanish, rock, African, Middle Eastern and hip hop into the most contagious and diverse groove of the day. The 75-minute set drew heavily from Ozomatli’s latest album, last year’s “Street Signs,” but the band worked in a new song, a rap driven by a Middle Eastern flute. The crowd thinned considerably when the String Cheese Incident took the adjacent stage, but there were enough hands raised in the air and bodies shaking to show that these folks weren’t just killing time.

Junior Brown – Saturday evening, Revival Tent
Junior Brown took a mostly full and enthusiastic Revival Tent crowd honky tonkin’ early Saturday evening. Wearing an immaculate three-piece suit and backed by a three-piece band, including his wife Tanya Rae, Brown kept the stage banter to a minimum and kept his music plowing along like the Orange Blossom Special. His deep voice was cribbed in the same fertile tone as Johnny Cash’s and he deftly switched from traditional country melodies to a Spanish language song and even a surf guitar medley.
The highlights were all of Brown’s tasteful guitar solos, performed on his trademark “guit-steel,” a double-neck six-string and pedal steel guitar, and his drummer of 31 years, who was able to do more with his simple snare and cymbal set than most can from an entire trap kit.

Neko Case – Saturday night, Sun Down Stage
Despite having a large crowd assembled in anticipation of headliner Wilco, Neko Case did not go out of her way to win any new converts Saturday night. Case’s hourlong restrained set never moved above mid-tempo and failed to engage the patient crowd. Taken individually, each song was quite good, but together they became a long, lonesome lullaby. Like a mournful train whistle crying out late in the night, Case and her four-piece band wallowed in love gone wrong. The material was well-done, but best suited for an intimate club and Case looked a little overwhelmed by the crowd, which was polite in spite of the pacing problems and the fact that few of her subtleties transferred effectively to the lawn.

Wilco – Saturday night, Sun Down Stage
Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s frontman and songwriter, had the sold-out crowd eating out of his hand from the opening strains of the first number, “A Shot in the Arm.” The 90-minute show only got better from there. Wilco’s expanded six-piece line-up, including two keyboards and two guitars, fought like siblings in the sonic mélange. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did, creating the perfect atmosphere for each song. “Handshake Drugs” and “Kidsmoke (Spiders)” had thick walls of distortion that would have made Sonic Youth proud, while the folksier romps through the “Mermaid Ave.” material were warm and happy. If the audience participation bits failed, it was only because Wilco’s material isn’t really suited for it. Besides, Tweedy already had them at hello.

Proto-Kaw – Sunday afternoon, Sun Down Stage
Proto-Kaw will inevitably be compared to songwriter Kerry Livgren’s other band, Kansas, but the call-and-response in the opening number between Livgren’s guitar John Bolton’s flute should put those differences to rest. Formed in the early ‘70s, the band folded after failing to land a record contract and Livgren’s leap to a rival band and classic rock history. The septet belatedly reconvened when their archival demos were released to critical acclaim in 2002 and have since recorded an all-new album together. Proto-Kaw drew from both of those sources in their hour-long set that was enjoyed by the meager and decidedly older crowd that braved the mid-day sun for a set of progressive rock that somehow managed to replace arena-ready anthems with splashes of jazz and funk.

Jazz Mandolin Project – Sunday afternoon, Revival Tent
The Jazz Mandolin Project has more in common soncially with its good friends in Phish than it does the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, of which bandleader Jamie Masefield was once a member. Anyone expecting soothing acoustic jazz may have been pleased by the first number, but the songs grew more experimental and danceable as the set progressed. The quartet – mandolin, drums, upright bass and trumpet – is what the Flecktones would sound like if they were a jam band. The crowd was enthralled by the improvisation, but the bass and drums were sometimes so propulsive and funky one lost track of the mandolin. The 70-minute set culminated with the feel-good and danceable “Oh Yeah,” the best song of the night.

Old Crow Medicine Show – Sunday evening, Revival Tent
If, as the old saying goes, you can’t play sad music on a banjo, then Old Crow Medicine Show is the happiest band in the world. With half of the sextet on the jubilant drumhead five-string, the Crows threw a mighty hoedown as the sun set over the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival.
The Revival Tent was about half full at the start of the set, but by the end the tent was so full that people were dancing outside. The clappin’ and stompin’ were nonstop throughout the 70-minute set, which included classics like “CC Rider,” “Poor Man,” “Take ‘Em Away,” a cover of “Bluegrass Bob” Marley’s “Soul Rebel” and plenty of down-home stage banter.

Keep Reading:

Wakarusa Music Festival (2006)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2007)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2008)

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