Low - “Plastic Cup”
“Plastic Cup” is the first single to drop from Low’s forthcoming (hint: already leaked) 10th full length album The Invisible Way, which was recorded and produced last year with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy’s back-to-basics, rootsy recording approach definitely seems to have influenced the aesthetic of this track, along with the rest of the album. Gentle acoustic guitars contrast with heavy pianos keys and the band’s distinctively slow, understated percussion, which benefits from a natural reverb sound that harks back to the days when Low made records with renowned analog naturalist Steve Albini.
One would be remiss to simply call “Plastic Cup” a retread, but its warm, dynamic aesthetic should be welcome and familiar to any longtime low fans. Meanwhile, as per his signature style, frontman Alan Sparhawk’s dark, rough-hewn lyrics create a powerful contrast between the complacent beauty of the sounds underneath, including his own voice, and the soothing harmonies of his wife Mimi Parker. The lyrics speak of aging and disillusionment through some bitterly hilarious lines, but this band has demonstrated with their past two albums that aging can actually be a benefit to a group’s artistic output.
Stream “Plastic Cup” above. The Invisible Way will be out March 19th on Sub Pop Records.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 11/30/12
Thanks to everybody who tuned in to my broadcast of Left of the Dial on WNHU last night. I won’t be on the air next week, but I will return on the 14th to start playing some of my favorite songs of the past year in a three part radio series that will take place over the next three Fridays.
The full playlist from last night’s show is below,
along with a Spotify link to stream the available songs at the bottom*. Thanks again for listening!
*Edit: Spotify’s embed code doesn’t seem to be working with tumblr today. I will update this if it starts working again in the near future. Until then, I’m afraid you won’t be able to stream this playlist. Oh well! Enjoy it anyway.
- 1. Bomb The Music Industry! - “25!”
- 2. Sufjan Stevens - “Alphabet St.” (Prince cover)
- 3. Anamanaguchi - “Overarrow”
- 4. Parquet Courts - “Borrowed Time”
- 5. Title Fight - “Numb, But I Still Feel It”
- 6. Title Fight - “Head In The Ceiling Fan”
- 7. Title Fight - “Sympathy”
- 8. Tigers Jaw - “Between Your Band And The Other Band”
- 9. The Guru - “Cow”
- 10. Yo La Tengo - “Avalon Or Someone Very Similar”
- 11. Red House Painters - “Lord Kill The Pain”
- 12. Low - “Words” (Live, feat. Benjamin Gibbard)
- 13. Elliott Smith - “Waltz #2 (XO)”
- 14. Snowing - “Pump Fake (Demo)”
- 15. My Heart To Joy - “That Ungodly Arch-Villain Voltaire Is Dead”
- 16. Joie De Vivre - “Sundays”
- 17. Koji - “Matches”
- 18. WHY? - “Gnashville”
- 19. Radiohead - “These Are My Twisted Words”
- 20. Elvis Depressedly - “A Bible In A Bath of Bleach”
- 21. Paul Baribeau - “How Could That Be True”
- 22. Cat Power - “Empty Shell”
- 23. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - “Love Letter”
- 24. Carissa’s Wierd - “Low Budget Slow Motion Soundtrack Song For The Leaving Scene”
- 25. Sharon Van Etten - “Tornado”
- 26. Waxahatchee - “Bathtub” (Requested by firewalkwithmel)
Stream/Download: Low - Plays Nice Places EP (2012)
Slow-burning indie rockers Low just announced that they will follow up their excellent 2011 LP C’mon with a new full length record in 2013 entitled The Invisible Way, which is being produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. That announcement was made all the more sweet by the additional immediate release of a new live EP called Low Plays Nice Places, which was recorded on their recent tour with Death Cab For Cutie.
The EP includes live versions of some of the best songs in Low’s extensive catalog, including the delicate, beautiful “Sunflower” from Things We Lost In The Fire and the heavy, dirge-like “Witches.” The real reason to grab this EP is for the rare performance of “Words,” a track from Low’s first full length, which features Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard on backing vocals. It’s a pretty spectacular performance, especially considering that they almost never play material from their first two albums.
- 1. “Words” [ft. Benjamin Gibbard]
- 2. “Waiting”
- 3. “Sunflower”
- 4. “Witches”
- 5. “Pissing”
- 6. “Murderer”
Stream the live EP above and download it for free at the embedded link. The Invisible Way is out March 19th on Sub Pop.
Anonymous asked: 2 questions. 1. Do you like David Bowie? 2. Is there a Connecticut band/artist that is similar? I also voted for you in that contest. Good luck!
As undeniably influential as David Bowie has been over the past five decades, there really aren’t any artists that actually sound like him, or that I would suggest as a recommendation to someone who just “likes” David Bowie. Throughout his career, he has taken on so many different musical styles and personas that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is distinctive about his music other than the simple fact that he’s made a lot of it. There are artists who have been influenced by certain phases of Bowie (the Ziggy Stardust-era glam rock thing, the late-70s Berlin post-punk thing, the glitzy 1980s new wave thing, etc.), but nobody has managed (or, to my knowledge, even tried) to take Bowie’s full oeuvre as influence.
Anyway, to speak to your first question, I do like David Bowie. My two favorite Bowie records appeared just four years apart, and yet sound nothing alike. Aladdin Sane is a melody-conscious, rollicking glam rock record from 1973 that contains maybe my favorite Bowie song “Drive In Saturday.” Meanwhile, my number 1 favorite Bowie record is Lowfrom 1977. The first half is engaging, glittery post-punk with an edge, and the second half is challenging ambient electronic music. It was produced with help from Brian Eno during Bowie’s “Berlin” period. He was doing a lot of cocaine then.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 1/27/12
I have been absolutely exhausted this entire week, and I think that last night’s Left of the Dial radio playlist reflected that, at least towards the second half. Thanks to the people who called in and placed requests, and thanks to everybody who tuned in on that bizarre, foggy night in New Haven, Connecticut.
- 1. Rites of Spring - “Deeper Than Inside”
- 2. Refused - “Liberation Frequency”
- 3. Nana Grizol - “Tambourine-N-Thyme”
- 4. Conor Oberst - “Sausalito”
- 5. Laura Stevenson and the Cans - “The Healthy One”
- 6. Craig Finn - “No Future”
- 7. Low - “Dinosaur Act”
- 8. Paul Baribeau - “When You Go Back To College”
- 9. Cursive - “The Recluse”
- 10. Codeine - “D”
- 11. Belle and Sebastian - “Electronic Renaissance”
- 12. The Postal Service - “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”
- 13. Balam Acab - “Welcome”
- 14. James Blake - “Why Don’t You Call Me?”
- 15. Perfume Genius - “Dark Parts”
- 16. Boards of Canada - “Dayvan Cowboy”
- 17. Grouper - “Come Softly”
- 18. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - “The Dead Flag Blues”
- 19. Desertshore - “Diana”
- 20. peaer - “blood”
- 21. The Microphones - “Headless Horseman”
- 22. Perfume Genius - “Hood”
- 23. Co-Pilots - “Rooms Are Empty Things”
- 24. Sufjan Stevens - “Romulus”
- 25. Weekend - “Coma Summer” (Requested by Jill)
Also, this is somewhat unrelated, but last night while I was doing my show, I was thinking about how I’m kind of getting bored with the music that I’ve been listening to for a long time, or how it sometimes makes me upset to listen to because of the people and events that I associate it with. I’m sort of entertaining the idea of just taking everything that I’ve listened to already in my itunes library and putting it on an external hard drive and just getting it off my computer. This will give me the freedom to explore all of the new music that I have in my overstuffed downloads folder too. Does anyone have any thoughts about this?
Giles Corey - “Just Like Christmas” (Low cover)
Who needs Christmas cheer when there’s Giles Corey? Now that the winter frost has set in, the doom folk project’s new self titled album (my favorite record of 2011) has never sounded better. In order to celebrate that record, along with the amazing year that Enemies List Home Recordings has had in 2011, the Connecticut-based record label is releasing a Christmas album on January 7th featuring a number of Enemies List artists performing covers and winter/Christmas themed songs.
Here’s Giles Corey himself performing a cover of Low’s “Just Like Christmas,” one of my favorite original Christmas songs. His cover is lonely, spacious, and achingly slow, like much of his own music. Ultimately, it’s somehow even more depressing than most of Low’s catalogue, in which the originally upbeat “Just Like Christmas” is something of an anomaly. Giles Corey makes it sound like an actual Low song, or at least he makes it feel like it.
Stream the track above and feel free to download it HERE. Also, it’s worth noting that the Enemies List Christmas album will feature the amazing cover art above, which is a parody of The Louvin Brothers’ Satan Is Real. There are no words to describe my joy.
Left of the Dial “A Very Indie Rock Christmas” Playlist - 12/23/11
Last night’s special Christmas broadcast of Left of the Dial on WNHU definitely got me in the Christmas spirit. A big thanks to everyone who suggested Christmas-themed or seasonal songs, and thanks to everyone who listened in. The playlist from last night’s show is below, complete with youtube links when I could find them. Merry Christmas!
ALSO, For those of you who may be interested, I’m going to be releasing a free Christmas single/EP tomorrow featuring a song from my forthcoming new album, a non-album b-side, and a cover song. It will be made available tomorrow on my bandcamp page. Feel free to check out my personal music blog HERE for more information about all of my own music. Thanks!
- 1. Titus Andronicus - “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”
- 2. The Flaming Lips - “Christmas At The Zoo”
- 3. Fleet Foxes - “White Winter Hymnal”
- 4. Real Estate - “Snow Days”
- 5. The Magnetic Fields - “Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree”
- 6. Sufjan Stevens - “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
- 7. Low - “Just Like Christmas”
- 8. Julian Koster - “Silent Night”
- 9. Bruce Springsteen - “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
- 10. Cap’n Jazz - “Winter Wonderland”
- 11. The Fall - “No Xmas For John Quays”
- 12. Grown Ups - “Six More Weeks Of Winter”
- 13. Titus Andronicus - “Christmas Calculator” (VCR cover)
- 14. Bright Eyes - “Blue Christmas”
- 15. By Surprise - “Battle of Snowmeng Mountain Pt 2”
- 16. Belle and Sebastian - “The Fox In The Snow”
- 17. Animal Collective - “Winters Love”
- 18. Iron & Wine - “Faded From The Winter”
- 19. Neutral Milk Hotel - “Snow Song, Pt 1”
- 20. Vince Guaraldi Trio - “Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)”
- 21. Parenthetical Girls - “Flowers For Albion” (Requested by christmasmello)
- 22. Galaxie 500 - “Snowstorm”
- 23. The Mountain Goats - “Snow Owl”
- 24. Sufjan Stevens - “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!”
- 25. Los Campesinos! - “The Holly And The Ivy” (Requested by christmasmello)
- 26. Nils Frahm - “Ambre”
- 27. The Beach Boys - “Fall Breaks and Back to Winter”
- 28. Elvis Presley - “White Christmas”
- 29. Tom Waits - “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis”
- 30. Eels - “Dead of Winter”
Top 10 Shows of 2011
Here we are at the very end of my extensive 2011 year end coverage. Among many other things, I saw more live shows in 2011 than ever before. Naming just ten of my favorites was painfully difficult for me, as I’ve seen so many fantastic shows this year, so I’ve included an honorable mention section at the bottom. The top ten are in descending order of preference. Special thanks to Manic Productions for making the majority of these shows possible. Connecticut wouldn’t be the same without them.
The original review for each of these shows is linked in each title, for the ones that I actually reviewed. I’ve also attached links to see more photos at the Lewis and his Blog facebook page when applicable.
WHY?’s show at The Wadsworth Atheneum happened only four days ago, well after I already started putting together my lists, but after I attended it I knew that it deserved a place here. The band debuted new material from their forthcoming record, which sounded great, and interspersed it with classics from their 2008 LP Alopecia and its followup Eskimo Snow. Recent Anticon-signee Serengeti opened, with help from WHY? multi-instrumentalist Doug McDiarmid.
View more photos HERE.
Low’s show back in April at Daniel Street was definitely one of the most surreal and eerie concerts I went to this year. The band played in almost total darkness, and the audience was seated in front, which was an unusual arrangement for the bar/venue. Low brought out songs from their 2011 LP C’mon, and also dug into their archives to play songs like “Sunflower” from Things We Lost In The Fire. The performance was heavy and emotional, but the band didn’t lose themselves for one moment. Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s distinctive harmonies never sounded better.
I’m not completely positive about this, but I’m pretty sure that I saw Okkervil River play in my hometown this Summer on the exact day that I got out from school. If that’s the case, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to kick off summer 2011. Although I love Okkervil River, I was just as excited to see opening band Titus Andronicus again, whom I had just seen exactly a week prior at B.O.M.B. Fest in Hartford. Titus ruled as usual, but Okkervil River tore the house down, playing for well over an hour and a half and performing many of my favorite songs of theirs.
View more photos HERE.
Sharon Van Etten’s free show at BAR was one of the first of a long-running series of Wednesday night shows that Manic Productions hosts at the downtown New Haven pizza joint, and also one of the first shows I saw in 2011. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it was also one of the very best. It’s amazing to me how vividly I remember it; the intimacy, the atmosphere, and especially Van Etten’s beautiful vocals resonate in my mind with just as much power as they did on that day almost a full year ago.
As I wrote in my original review, this was a show that I never would have predicted I’d be seeing if you asked me about it at the beginning of 2011. But with his accommodating demeanor and beautiful music, Jeff Mangum transported everyone in the New England Conservatory Jordan Hall in Boston that night back to 1998. Mangum may have gotten older, but you wouldn’t have noticed it if you had been there. Like his songs, it seems like Mangum will last forever.
View more photos HERE.
5. The Antlers live at The Space, Hamden CT - 6/17/11
I actually did take photos at this show, but through some mishap or another I lost the files on my camera’s SD card. In retrospect, I’m pretty upset about that, and definitely disappointed that I was too busy to review this show after I saw it. Anyway, someone recorded audio from the show and took the photo above. The entire show can be downloaded over at Connecticut Recordings. Oh look, there I am in the Sebadoh shirt right behind Peter Silberman. You can actually hear me singing during the “encore” performance of “Two.” Crazy. Immediately after the show, I caught Peter Silberman before he could bolt off the stage, and got a copy of the setlist, which is now hanging on my wall.
My last.fm charts inform me that after The Mountain Goats, Bright Eyes is my most listened-to artist of 2011. Could you have guessed? I’ve been a little obsessive over Conor Oberst in this past year, and that obsession came to a head at the end of the Summer, when I took the train down to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Waterfront to see Bright Eyes on The People’s Key Tour. Oberst and company did not disappoint, playing a lengthy set of songs culled from many of the band’s past albums. The highlight of the night came towards the end, when they played the epic closer to 2002’s Lifted, “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And To Be Loved).” Openers Real Estate and Dr. Dog were also stellar.
View more photos HERE.
3. My Heart To Joy live at Madison Arts Barn, Madison CT - 5/14/11
As sad as it may be to admit this, 2011 will probably go down as a year of breakups, both on local and national levels. On the local level, the year’s hardest breakup for me was that of My Heart To Joy, who announced their disbandment in February. Thankfully, they decided to go out with a bang, enlisting an army of the best bands in the Northeast and Midwest punk scenes and playing a generation-defining final show at the Madison Arts Barn in May. More than anything else I did this year, attending this show made me truly proud to be from Connecticut. I wore that orange wristband for months afterward.
2. LCD Soundsystem live at Madison Square Garden, New York City NY - 4/2/11
If My Heart To Joy’s breakup was the saddest local disbandment, LCD Soundsystem’s was the saddest national one. This was a band at the peak of their creative output and potentially on the verge of massive commercial success, and they gave it all up for reasons that are still unclear to me. Thankfully, I got the chance to see their last show at Madison Square Garden, which, if anything, showed exactly how much this band mattered. The show sold out months in advance, and was anticipated with bated breath as everyone waited to see if an independent band could pull something this extravagant off. LCD Soundsystem proved that this was absolutely possible, and if they needed to break up to show just what an indie rock band could do, perhaps it’s worth it after all.
Although it wasn’t as big or as extravagant as LCD Soundsystem’s final show, Sufjan Stevens’ two night run at Prospect Park in Brooklyn holds a place in my heart as undoubtedly the most personally significant live music event of the year for me. In many ways, the two shows (both of which I attended) felt like the culmination of all of Sufjan’s previous efforts. It was a cataclysmic declaration of his creative voice, and a stunning indication of his ability to exercise that voice, with well over a dozen musicians, electronic light displays, and a focus on music from the highly conceptual Age of Adz LP from 2010. And yet, perhaps because the show took place in a venue that Sufjan called “his backyard,” the shows also felt incredibly intimate and personal. Sufjan Stevens deserves the credit for being the first artist to “get me into” modern independent music, and with the Prospect Park shows in August, I felt like my musical interests had finally, truly been validated.
View more photos HERE.
The Guru live at The Space, Hamden CT - 6/11/11
Frank Turner live at Heirloom Arts Theater, Danbury CT - 9/20/11
Hostage Calm live at The Space, Hamden CT - 9/24/11
Thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed any of my 2011 lists. This has been a very enjoyable ordeal for me, and I’m really satisfied with how everything turned out. 2011 has treated me very well musically, and all I can do is attempt to give back in some way. Now that I’ve finished covering 2011, I’m going to set my sights on 2012 and hope for the best. Thanks for everything.
Song of the Day Number 184
Low - “Everybody’s Song”
If a Low fan from 1995 were transported ten years in the future to hear what his or her favorite band was doing, I doubt that he would recognize what he was hearing. In 2005, the Duluth slowcore pioneers, who were previously known for their slow tempos, spacious, empty recordings, and achingly gorgeous vocal harmonies, released The Great Destroyer, an art rock record that bears more resemblance to the work of Nine Inch Nails and other grungey 90s rock acts than their earlier work. The change is so jarring that it undoubtedly put a lot of listeners off when it was originally released, but in the hindsight of six years, The Great Destroyer’s undeniable quality has shown through. While there are some somber moments on the record, such as “Silver Rider”, which could have been on Things We Lost In the Fire, a distorted guitar rock sound dominates the majority of it.
In fact, there is no song on The Great Destroyer more destructive and heavy than “Everybody’s Song”, today’s song of the day. Singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawk seems to borrow his guitar tone on this song from Neil Young, and layers multiple tracks on top of one another to create a loud and disorienting wall of guitar noise. The song is so volatile that the only thing that seems to really keep it together is the percussion, which itself is distorted and hollow sounding, with a snare that sounds like someone banging on a metal trash can lid. The one thing about “Everybody’s Song” that recalls the earlier work of Low at all is the vocals, which harmonize beautifully somewhere underneath the squalls of noise.
Interestingly, the band would go on to follow up The Great Destroyer with an even weirder record, 2007’s political stomper Drums and Guns, which was comprised mostly of looped percussion and minimalist keyboard sounds. This band is clearly not afraid to try new things, but they know better than to scare their fans away… earlier this year, they released their new record C’mon, which features a much more traditional Low sound.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 6/24/11
I forgot to post this playlist from last friday’s Left of the Dial college radio show this weekend, so here it is a few days late. A youtube link to each song is provided when available. As always, this show’s playlist was comprised mostly of music that I had been listening to a lot in the past week, new and old alike. Remember to tune in this Friday from 6 to 8 PM on WNHU to hear the next Left of the Dial broadcast!
- 1. Okkervil River - “We Need A Myth”
- 2. Low - “Dinosaur Act”
- 3. R.E.M. - “E-Bow The Letter”
- 4. Sinforiano Diaz - “Congregation”
- 5. Real Estate - “Beach Comber”
- 6. Bon Iver - “Minnesota, WI”
- 7. WHY? - “Gnashville”
- 8. Madvillain - “Accordian”
- 9. Aesop Rock - “No Jumper Cables”
- 10. Crystal Castles - “Suffocation”
- 11. Weezer - “Blast Off!
- 12. Weezer - “Who You Callin’ Bitch?”
- 13. Pavement - “Date With IKEA”
- 14. By Surprise - “Mostly Harmless”
- 15. Defiance, Ohio - “Condition 11:11”
- 16. John Galm - “Kids in Catholic School”
- 17. Ramshackle Glory - “Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist”
- 18. The Flaming Lips - “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” (Demastered)
- 19. The Antlers - “Rolled Together”
- 20. Joan of Arc - “A Party Able Model Of”
- 21. David Bowie - “What In The World”
- 22. The Flaming Lips - “Fight Test” (*Request*)
- 23. The Mountain Goats - “No Children” (*Request*)
- 24. Weezer - “Butterfly”
- 25. Beck - “The Golden Age”
- 26. Pavement - “Transport Is Arranged”
- 27. Man Man - “Life Fantastic”
- 28. The Beach Boys - “I Know There’s An Answer” (*Request*)
- 29. Modest Mouse - “Cowboy Dan”
Song of the Day Number 179
Low - “Sunflower”
Lately, music in general has been quite hard for me to listen to. What’s wrong with me? I’m having trouble being fully engaged.
That’s why Low’s Things We Lost In The Fire has recently become one of my most played albums ever. Something about this album makes me not want to listen to anything else. It’s lazy, relaxing, and “easy” to listen to, but the emotional undercurrents present in the slow, droning guitars and the hypnotically harmonizing vocals of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are both urgent and arresting.
Stream the opening track “Sunflower” above, lie down, and drift off. Just don’t drift too far off.
Listen: Low - Tiny Desk Concert (Live at NPR Music)
In their latest act of promotion for their stunning new album C’mon, the Duluth, Minnesota slowcore act stopped by NPR Music yesterday to perform a Tiny Desk Concert in Bob Boilen’s office at the NPR Music headquarters. They performed three songs from the album, including the gorgeous opener “Try To Sleep.” The minimalist take that the band employs during their three-song set recalls the C’mon Acoustic EP, released as a Record Store Day bonus for free with copies of the full album. With just an airy acoustic guitar and the trademark vocal harmonies of singers Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, the group brings the magnificent sound of C’mon into a much more intimate setting. Listen to the audio-only version above, or click HERE to watch a video of the performance over at NPR Music.
- 1. “Try To Sleep”
- 2. “Nightingale”
- 3. “Something’s Turning Over”