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2009 Year To Date Music Review

In 2009, so far at least, the Marlboro Marathon Runners have gone to festivals including Wakarusa and Bonnaroo, we’ve been to shows on rivers, shows in theaters, we’ve seen girls kissing girls (and liking it). 2009 (so far) has arguably been our best year for music yet. Since we took an extended hiatus from this venue, we’re giving you a review of what we’ve had our hands in so far.

FESTIVALS

Wakarusa – Our first festival of the year, Wakarusa was a welcome warmup and break from the overall intensity that Bonnaroo has come to mean for us. With the much more moderate climate, going to the outdoor stages was not quite the hassle it has meant for marathon runners at past festivals, which enabled us to catch some of the best shows of the festival, including Les Claypoon, Joe Purdy, Matisyahu, The Black Crowes and Porter Batiste Stoltz. Other than these less than blistering temperature wise shows, some of the highlights of the festival were Joe Purdy’s first performance under the tent, where he proclaimed his love for the beautiful Arkansas girls. When a man in the crowd doubted him he just said “clearly you are not from Arkansas”. Other highlights included the two nights of Yonder Mountain String Band, with blistering performances both under the tent and on the main stage, and surprisingly spectacular performances from The Hood Internet and previously unknown (to us at least) My Dear Disco, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Public Property and Northern Lights. From what I gather, Wakarusa’s move from Kansas to Arkansas was an all around plus for the fans and the festival. Certainly this year at least.

Bonnaroo – Truth be told, I was not overly excited for Bonnaroo this year other than the phenomenal lineup (at least for me and fellow marathon runner Kyle). Add a particularly rainy forecast to the mix, and I was downright not very excited. Until the music hit. Passion Pit, arguably the most hyped and loved new band of 2009, kicked the festival off from the headlining slot Thursday with what I contend was the show of the festival. On a night when festival goers were downtrodden with the realization that Bonnaroo was to be a mud pit for the next four days, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos and crew made people forget that for about an hour and just want to dance like it was the 1980’s again. Friday there was no more rain, but instead a giant 700 mud pit, which was easy to forget with electrifying performances from The Reverend Al Green, who just wanted to dance with the crowd and be united with his fans, The Beastie Boys, who acted as the catalyst for the party that was about to begin, with fan favorites Phish’s first ever appearance at the world’s arguably most jam band friendly festival. And what a party it was. Openig up with Chalk Dust Torture, Trey and company launched into a 3 hour party on the main stage with the best set I’ve ever seen on the main stage at a music festival. Weaving Phish classics in with stellar material off of their upcoming album, Joy (out September 8th), Phish set the stage for the most anticipated Sunday set in the history of Bonnaroo. But before that, it was Boss Time. Bruce Springsteen, my personal music hero, showed the crowd that someone nearing 60 could still take a crowd of tens of thousands captive. While his setlist didn’t start out quite the way I would have recommended for a festival show, he rebounded during the semi-request portion of the show with theri slightly out of place, yet well received version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town all the way through the electrifying encore with classics like Rosalita, Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark. Before them though, Jenny Lewis, Elvis Costello and Wilco rocked the festival through dusk, with the former two duetting on Lewis’ Carpetbaggers off of her 2008 release, Acid Tongue and Wilco warming up the crowd on the mainstage, with Jeff Tweedy letting everyone know it was quite alright for them to boo today, because they weren’t really booing, but instead yelling “Bruuuuuuuuce”. Sunday rounded up the festival with festival friendly artist Andrew Bird playing at his self proclaimed favorite festival, Erykah Badu and Snoop Dogg working the crowd up to a soul filled frenzy before the Vermont quartet that is Phish took the stage again to end the festival. While this show was not as solid to me as the late night Friday venture, but made up for it, in my eyes at least, when Trey’s (and my, for that matter) boyhood hero, Bruce Springsteen came out to end the first set with Mustang Sally, Bobby Jean and Glory Days. The second set ended with fan favorite Tweezer Reprise and predictably, left the crowd wanting more, but content with what they’d just witnessed. While the weather didn’t quite appease me (or the masses for that matter), the music more than made up for it, which in past years may not have been the case.

The Marathon Runners plan to end the year covering ACL, Phish’s Festival 8 and Voodoo. Stay tuned for reviews of those and various other shows.

MEMORABLE 2009 CONCERTS

Old Crow Medicine Show – On my first day back in the state of Texas after an extended hiatus, me and two of my buddies drove to the capital for a bluegrass show that we anticipated would get put the 2008-2009 school year to rest in the best way possible, and it succeeded. With their unique fast paced, high intensity, drug referencing brand of bluegrass in hand, Old Crow delivered on a hot May night in a way that sent the packed crowd at Stubb’s in Austin into a frenzy. Overall, the night would be remembered for the high octane parts of the show, but my favorite songs included Old Crow’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lady and Humdinger, a groover and a mover off of their 2008 release, Tennessee Pusher.

Ghostland Observatory – If you’re familiar with us here at MMR, you know we love Ghostland Observatory and their shows as well. In accordance with this, their second annual performance at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels was no exception to their repertoire of phenomenal live shows. This show was particularly memorable for the exceptional crowd that surrounded us and Ghostland’s newest foray into the visual stimulants – blindingly bright background lights that, when mixed with smoke and their trademark lasers, enhance the light show to a level I would have never expected for an outdoor show. Mix this show in with Aaron Behren’s solo effort at a benefit at the Beauty Bar in Austin three nights later, and I’m lead to believe that these guys are about to bust through whatever ceiling we might have thought there was for them.

Jenny Lewis – After skipping out of her set early (just before Elvis Costello came out to duet on Carpetbaggers) to claim a solid spot for Wilco and Bruce, I knew I couldn’t pass up an opp with a night of Jenny Lewis. While the crowd was abysmal, interrupting multiple quiet songs and causing Jenny to abort one song prematurely while struggling with the crowd for control during her in crowd encore, they could not completely overshadow the Rilo Kiley frontwoman and former child actress. With songs like Silver Lining and Jack Killed Mom, Lewis wrangled the crowds attention away from chatterboxing and took hold of the venue, and kept control for most of the night (Houston concertgoers are relentlessly terrible for the most part). However, she persevered with a show that I don’t see being beat as one of my favorite club shows I’ve been to.

The Old 97’s – As good as some of the show’s I’ve been to this year were, The Old 97’s were above and beyond anything that those shows meant to me. This may have something to do with the fact that they are now neck and neck with Bruce atop the charts for me personally, but irregardless of that, they put on a phenomenal show near where it all began for them in Fort Worth. Their show at Bass Hall weaved through a catalog that includes songs that are twangy country and songs that are Belle and Sebastian inspired twee pop. The one constant was the quality of the music, which, in my opinion, has the same quality, if not better as any of their studio material.  Lead by the ageless faux teenager Rhett Miller, the Old 97’s worked through songs from their first album all the way up to their most recent effort, 2008’s Blame It On Gravity as well as a track off of Miller’s most recent, self titled album. Topping it off for me was an in song, in crowd proposal during the undeniably heart melting “Question”. The other stand out track (if a stand out was possible) for me this night was Won’t be Home, off of their 2004 album Drag It Up. On the hole, this show left me going away a bigger 97’s fan than I was before, and I think that’s saying something. In general, I think that’s the goal of a show, and it obviously doesn’t always happen. But for me, for that to happen with a band I love as much as the Old 97’s it was truly a spectacular thing.
Look out for more to come from us here at MMR, as we hope and strive to be posting more regularly.
Caleb

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Far – Regina Spektor

Artist:  Regina Spektor

Album:  Far (2009)

Rating:  6

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Regina’s much anticipated new album Far, just came out last week, and by now it has had time to fully sink in for me.  While Far is certainly far from Spektor’s 2006 release Begin To Hope, it is by no means a shabby album.  Even through the layers upon layers of studio sheen put on by the impessive team of producers including David Kahne, Jeff Lynne, Mike Elizondo (of Eminem and Dr. Dre fame), and Jacknife Lee (famous for his work with U2 and R.E.M.), Spektor finds a way to let her creative songwriting and original approach shine through (most of the time).

The album starts out with The Calculation, an upbeat song with lyrics about creating a computer out of macaroni.  As if that wasnt fun and silly enough, through the rest of the album there is plenty of strange vocal inflecitons, a song with a chorus consisting of just the nonsense word “eet,” and a dolphin noise solo.  Once again however, Regina mixes in some more serious and introspective songs.  This time, unfortunately, all of the production covers up the emotions Spektor is trying to convey in these songs.  Songs like Human of the Year, and Blue Lips just down have the same effect as songs like the Flowers and Field Below from previous albums.  Wallet and Human of the Year with thier similar building up of orchestral elements just doesnt blow you away like Begin to Hope’s Apres Moi did.  However Spektor is able to make Genius Next Door work with a slow beautiful rolling piano backdrop behind well-thought out lyrics.  And, once again, Spektor is at home making catchy poppy vocal melodies blend seamlessly with her gorgeous voice on the stand out tracks of the album: Dance Anthem of the 80s and Two Birds.

Overall, Far is a great album to add to Spektors impressive resume, garnering an impressive 6 on the Kyle Scale of Rating.

Wakarusa Updates Coming Soon

Be on the lookout for some reviews from wakarusa from marathon runners in the near future.

The Top 13 Albums of 2008!!! – Joey

13.)  The Dandy Warhols – …Earth to the Dandy Warhols… [Beat the World Records] Release Date 8/18/08

dandy-warhols The Dandy Warhols certainly left the world wanting more in 2005 with their sub-par release Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, and finally, they return in much finer form.  It’s certainly no Thirteen Tales but it shows that they’re really trying again, and that’s enough for a solid album if you’re The Dandy Warhols.

12.)  Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours [Modular] Release Date 4/8/08

cut-copy-in-ghost-colours It took me a long time to listen to this album all the way through for two reasons.  First, I hated their first album Bright Like Neon Love, and the first song off the album that I heard was the brilliant “Lights and Music”.  When the rest of the album wasn’t exactly like that song, I was put off.  After a few listens, this album really shines in an 80s new-wave sort of way.

11.)  The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely [Warner Bros.] Release Date 3/25/2008

consolers-of-the-lonely1 I had low expectations for The Raconteurs after their debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, but luckily the band has gotten much tighter.  Fortunately, Jack White also takes more from The White Stripes’ latest album than the previous Raconteurs album when it comes to his guitar sound.  He mixes an obvious mastery of the instrument with strange experimentation with effects.  Altogether, The Raconteurs managed to make a really solid rock album.

10.)  The Kooks – Konk [Virgin Records] Release Date 4/15/08

the-kooks-konk The Kooks’ sophomore release takes its name from Ray Davies’ London recording studio, and the similarities between The Kinks and The Kooks are impossible to miss.  Songs such as “Mr. Maker” are increbibly similar in musicality and lyricism.  However, overall, The Kooks have a much more danceable beat.  The production on the album, from sweeping string to sharp guitar tones, help create dense and rich soundscape.

9.)  The Faint – Fasciinatiion [blank.wav] Release Date 8/5/08

faint-fasciinatiion I have no idea how music this nuts came out of Nebraska!  Having said that, The Faint’s new record feels like a much more complete album than their last, Wet From Birth.  This album may not have gems like the former, but it also has much less filler.  The whole albums works together to make a real glitchy work of art.

8.)  MGMT – Oracular Spectacular [Sony] Release Date 1/22/08

oracular-spectacular I don’t feel like much needs to be said about this album.  MGMT crafted a spectacularly popular album and still managed to lace the whole thing with LSD.  Many songs are reminiscent of 60s psychedelia, especially The Doors, but  a few songs, like “Kids” or “Electric Feel”, make the album a huge hit at parties.

7. )  Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles [Last Gang Records] Release Date 3/18/08

crystal-castles1 Canadian electronic duo, Crystal Castles’ debut album feels like plugging your brain into a possessed Gameboy.  Ethan Kath fires short bursts of synth over the muffled vocals of the incredibly versatile Alice Glass (my personal celebrity crush) who changes over the album from brutal screeching to moaning and crying softly.  The album maintains an emotional sensitivity through the wide variance in vocals, while creating a flowing concept with its instrumental similarities.

6.)  Ratatat – LP3 [XL Recordings] Release Date 7/8/08

lp3 Ratatat’s third studio album, appropriately named LP3, shows the band truly maturing and experimenting with many styles of music from around the globe.  At the same time, the new album maintains that fantastic danceability their first two efforts provided.

5.)  Girl Talk – Feed the Animals [Illegal Art] Release Date 6/19/08

feed-the-animals I had high expectations for Gregg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) after his last album, Night Ripper, and they were all surpassed by his follow-up.  Girl Talk’s special brand of mash-up-based music blends together samples from artists ranging from The Velvet Underground to Lil Wayne to Hot Chip and mixes with Gillis’ own fast-paced drum beats to create a cohesive, yet psychotic product.

4.)  CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy) – Donkey [Sub Pop] Release Date 7/21/08

donkey-css I personally feel like CSS conceived their second album when they realized that there was a huge shortage of good music to get really wasted to in the world.  Every song makes you feel like downing a fifth of vodka and making an ass of yourself in a public area.  The album is much more polished than the first, but Lovefoxxx’s screaming is a constant reminder of just how wild these Brazilians can get.

3.)  Ladytron – Velocifero [Nettwerk] Release Date 6/2/08

velocifero-ladytron Ladytron’s fourth studio effort picks up where their third, Witching Hour, left off.  Dismissing the glitchy electro-clash of their first two albums for a denser and darker sound, Velocifero has both heavy-hitting synth-rock tunes and hauntingly eerie ballads.  Mira Aroyo and Helen Marnie are both at their best.  Whether singing solo or duet, these two frontwomen can’t be matched in my book.  The first six tracks will blow you away, but don’t let this frontloaded album discourage you from finishing the album.

2.)  Be Your Own Pet – Get Awkward [XL Recordings] Release Date 3/18/08

be-your-own-pet-get-awkward2“Breaking glass bottles is oh so fun.  Let’s go and kill someone.”  What can you say about this band?  Their raw intensity captures you early on.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but its the perfect soundtrack for running over pedestrians or starting riots.  The riffs in the album are not always as punk-inspired as one would think.  In fact, the main guitar line in “Becky” is actually the melody of “The Loco-Motion”, but Jemina Pearl manages to make the whole song hardcore shrieking about teenage homicide.

1.)  Does It Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into [Virgin Records] Release Date 3/24/08

does-it-offend-you-yeah Take a little bit of Death From Above 1979, a little bit of Bloc Party, and a little bit of Justice and put it all in a garbage disposal.  That’s probably the best way I can find to describe this British dance-punk band’s debut record.  Three of the albums ten songs are simply instrumental electro-jams, while the rest alternate between majestic rock numbers and apocalyptic future-disco.  Since hearing this album, I have been eagerly anticipating an opportunity to see the band live because their songs sound like they would transfer well into a concert setting and because I’ve been told they frequently cover “Beat It” live.

Ghostland Observatory – 11/9/08 – Page Auditorium, Durham, NC.

This past Sunday, I had the great fortune of catching of catching the greatest band in all of the (Ghost)land for a live show, in my opinion. The concert was at Duke University, which, visually, is the perfect college campus for this marathon runner. Anyways, the show was at the Page Auditorium and was opened up by Chicago based remix DJ’s Flosstradamus. They got the crowd pumped up in the way an opener should for Ghostland, and were, in my opinion, the best opener to date for Ghostland. A strong point of this show was that everything was on time, no waiting for an extra hour for bands to come out or any of that drama we’ve all experienced before. This show was lacking a little in the crowd experience I am used to when it comes to Ghostland, but this can assuredly be attributed to a conservative approach to crowd control, as well as the fact that this was the first time for Ghostland to venture into Tarheel country. Afterwards, however, I got to go talk with the guys for a little while in their dressing room about various things, including possible new material, to which I was told I could probably have the pleasure of introducing the radiowaves to via my show on campus radio at West Virginia University, U92, so keep your eyes and ears peeled kids!

Obama!

This has absolutely nothing to do with music, but Obama won! Let’s celebrate!

MSTRKRFT – MaxxCo

Attention bloggers, Attention bloggers:

If you have yet to witness a live MSTRKRFT concert, i am sorry to say you have a hole in your experience the size of the greatest state in the America. That would of course be Texas. As i arrive back to my house, the ringing in my ears is as loud as when i left the holiness that is a MSTRKRFT concert. Do I regret being so close? Hell no. I usually don’t say this, but the concert I have just witnessed is as amazing as the Paul Van Dyk show I saw earlier this summer. Very, very few live shows have yet to come close to the awesomeness that was the Paul Van Dyk show, or should i say the Paul Van Dyk/MSTRKRFT shows.

Felix Cartal was hands down the best opening act at any concert ever seen by these eyes. and these eyes have seen alot of opening bands; all of which were terrible except for two: Shy Child and Felix Cartal.

As MSTRKRFT approached the stage, the feelings I felt were equivalent to when i was a little schoolboy staring at my first love. Needless to say, my knees were shaking and I felt utter confusion yet pure excitement. This feeling will not be matched again until I meet eye to eye with my future wife. Honestly, who can mix Justice’s D.A.N.C.E. and Daft Punk’s Da Funk and other spectacular songs all in an hour and a half? The answer is MSTRKRFT, my dear readers.

I urge everyone out there in this vast planet known as earth to drive any distance imaginable to go see MSTRKRFT, and if you swear it is not worth your time, I personally will give you a full refund of your ticket.

Peace and Much Love,

Maxx