Tag Archives: The National

Get that Bloodbuzz

After posting Chris Lynch’s poem, Bloodbuzz Brisbane, I had a hankering for The National, so checked out their recent live performance as part of the Austin City Limits broadcast.

If you want that Bloodbuzz, sit yourself down, adjust your speakers to loud and let the band do the rest… here’s the link: http://video.pbs.org/video/1743785334/

I was carried, to Ohio in a swarm of bees…

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Bloodbuzz at The Enmore: The National Live January 7, 2011

It’s hardest to write about the things you love… the things that keep you buoyant when the waves are pullng you down. The music of The National is one of those things. Seeing the band play live is something I have been anticipating since I saw them light up The Zoo’s stage in early 2008. That night they felt like a band with a point to prove. There was a ferocity in their performance; Berninger lurching around the stage like a coiled spring, unleashing regular full-throated bursts of noise.

Since that time they have continued to move away from the more openly raucous moments of breakthrough album Alligator, choosing to push forward with the vulnerable grandeur started on album #4, Boxer. The spotlight on the band has has also brightened, with (album #5) High Violet making many critics 2010 album of the year lists, so I was interested to see how, or in fact if, their approach to the live arena had altered.

I want to say straight up, The Enmore was the perfect venue to enjoy the band. As the lights dimmed and the crowd hit fever pitch, the band took the stage, opening with one of High Violet’s quietest moments, Runaway. It was a masterful way of silencing the crowd and putting the music front and centre from the very beginning. Berninger’s lyric, ‘What makes you think I’m enjoying being led to the flood?’ takes on greater meaning tonight, with so much of our beautiful state under water and immediately they have me in that space of wonder, part of the moment rather than mere observer.

Not surprisingly, tonight’s setlist is made up primarily of songs from High Violet (in fact, Little Faith is the only song that is not played), with smatterings of Boxer and Alligator to flesh out the show. An early highlight for me is Squalor Victoria (from Boxer). It is immense; Bryan Devendorf’s drumming is urgent, distinctive as any guitar riff, paving the way for Berninger to give us that first glimpse of vocally letting go. And while I marvel throughout the night at (Bryan) Devendorf’s drumming, it is the other Devendorf, who for me, steals the show. His bass playing is so incredibly understated, but when the band soars, it is Scott’s bass that is the underlying force.

This was most apparent on what was one of the songs of the night (I just cannot settle on one…), Afraid of Everyone. This song took on a new life, crescendoing with the line ‘Yellow voices swallowing my soul’. Devendorf’s pulsing bass was thrilling as was the chainsaw buzz of the Dessner brothers guitars and Bryan’s lyrical drumming. The lighting was also a highlight here, strobing as the band peaked… for a moment, the whole venue seemed like it was about to split open.

This was not the only moment where things threatened to burst… set closer, Fake Empire captured the band’s dramatic intensity, their slightly menacing-late-night-mood. And as the Dessner twins stood side by side, guitars raised and chiming, I felt like I had been taken on a journey through a world of asymmetrical passageways… a journey that was yet to climax.

And climax it did, with the stunning encore of Mr November and Terrible Love. Like the room, Berninger had threatened to burst all night but on Mr November he let it all go and the crowd went with him… right until the final moment when the band lined the front of the stage, in pure acoustic mode, Berninger abandoning his microphone to deliver Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. It was an uplifting end, the crowd singing along emphatically as Berninger leaned into every word and the band played with spare beauty.

Runaway had taken us away from the light and into the band’s world, a world of lost sharks, love and other complications, and Vanderlyle placed us back on our own personal shore, flooded with emotion. The National are among those rare bands with the ability to create worlds… I can’t wait to see where they take us next.

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The Year (Ahead) In Music

I am too excited to look back at 2010, though there was much to revel in. Right now, the calendar is filling up with a cluster of concerts that are making 2011 look like an exceptional year for live music.

It all begins this Friday, Jan 4, with The National, live at The Enmore Theatre in Sydney. Their latest album, High Violet, is without doubt, a contender for the best release of 2010. It is a slow burner, muscular, yet introspective. The atmosphere is spacious and lush, the layers of instrumentation created by the band, build a solid foundation for Berninger to embellish with his haunting vocals. It is an album built to last and I am itching to see them take it to the stage. If this is any indication…

then this Lost Shark is going to be swimming in some sonically rich waters.

Then, later in January, I am off to see Swedish jazz innovators, The Thing. These guys are something else, a hybrid force of jazz, rock and experimentation. Check out this excerpt from a recent live performance…

even on screen, their energy is palpable. And to top it off, they are being supported by one of China’s young pioneers in the field of poetry and sonic art, Yan Jun. If you are interested in getting tickets for this event, head to The Judith Wright Centre’s website for all the details.

I do love the summer touring circuit…

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Saturday Afternoon Mix Tape – The New Folk XVII

Spring is well and truly here (well in Brisbane anyway)… the still crisp air prickles the skin while  the sun gently warms; and the sky’s endless acres of blue stretch out over lush green and vibrant azalea blossoms. And that’s just the view from my front window.

Afternoon’s like this pull you softly into the arms of evening… so as you go on your way, here’s a few songs that have been spinning rapidly in my world. I think they make pretty good company.

Clogs – Last Song

Clogs are a genre-defying blend of classical music and traditional / indie folk. Circling around the collaboration between Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner from The National, Clogs create profound, otherworldly music that has the strange ability to inhabit your being long after the album has ceased. Last Song comes from their epic 2010 release,  The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton and features The National’s Matt Berninger delivering a vocal that rival’s Cohen for melancholic minimalism.

 

Doveman – Breathing Out

Thomas Bartlett is the artistic vision behind Doveman and his latest opus, The Conformist, is a creative peak of sorts. It is a lush, quietly propulsive album featuring members of The National (all of them in fact at some stage) and while the surface may seem shiny, there are great depths to explore here. Bartlett’s melodic whisper of a voice slips takes you from one hushed moment to another, seducing you with lyrics that slip unknowingly into your mind to reveal a sharper edge. ‘The darkness tells me that I’ve waited long enough…’ Indeed!

 

Peter Wolf Crier – Hard as Nails

Peter Wolf Crier’s debut album Inter-Be has a peculiar urgency about it, each song stretching beyond the limits of guitars and percussion, to create some wide-open spaces. Pisano’s vocals loop, wail and crescendo in a gorgeous mess, as Hard as Nails comes to a close. There are definitely hints of Jagjaguar labelmate Bon Iver’s haunted balladry here, but Peter Wolf Crier manage to maintain a sense of exuberance throughout… even when the lyrics descend into bleaker, more visceral places.

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The National at Sunset Sounds

Tickets for Sunset Sounds go on sale tomorrow, and for me there are two standouts… The National and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

If, like me, seeing The National perform songs from their 2010 album, High Violet is making you sweat with anticipation, you can get a live fix on youtube as their recent gig (exclusive for VEVO/Youtube) is beautifully shot and recorded and totally worth checking out. I know I have spent many hours listening to it already and will most certainly spend many more…

You can check out the whole show here, but for those inquistive ones who don’t want to jump straight in, take a peek at this…

So damn good!

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I Was Afraid, I’d Eat Your Brains

Friday night is the perfect night for some Zombie-fuelled fun, and I am pleased to report I have had a second poem accepted as part of Cordite’s Zombie Renga…

My first verse was:

                                      new moon
                                      all this exposed flesh
                                      shivers my skin

and most recently:

                                      dreaming of pearls
                                      the old actress
                                      leaves her teeth out

If you have not already discovered the Zombie Renga at Cordite then be sure to head on over and join the fun.

With Zombies on the brain, I have been thrashing Conversation 16 (a cannabalistic love song) by The National, from their new album High Violet.  You won’t be able to resist singing along with the chorus, ‘I was afraid, I’d eat your brains.’ 

And speaking of coming back from the dead, check out this clip of the Bronte Sisters reimagined as Transformer-Style-Power-Dolls. Imagine one of those in your Christmas sack!

Gotta love Friday nights…

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Left to the Flood: The New Folk XII

There are albums that come into your life that you know will stay with you forever, that etch themselves somewhere deep and continue to reveal themselves with every listen… two such albums have come into my life in the last week: High VioletThe National & True Love Cast Out All EvilRoky Erickson with Okkervil River. Here’s a taste from each of these albums; these songs are sure to make that Autumn sun seem somehow warmer on the skin.

Runaway – The National

‘There’s no, saving anything, now you’re swallowing the shine of the sun…’ The opening line of Runaway is just one of the lines that has lodged its barb firmly in  my psyche. The rest of the lyric is just as unforgettable:

‘What makes you think I’m enjoying being left to the flood?/ We got another thing coming undone/ and it’s taking us over/ We don’t bleed, when we don’t fight/ go ahead, go ahead, throw your arms in the air tonight’

Runaway showcases Matt Berninger’s sweet baritone during one of the album’s softer moments.Throughout the album, Berninger moves from moments of personal catharsis to the blindingly surreal, while the band sound majestic, swooping divinely in and out of Berninger’s lyrical rabbit holes.

I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees – Bloodbuzz Ohio

I’m a confident liar, I put my head in the oven so you know where I’ve been – Conversation 16

Cover me in rag and bone/ and sympathy/ cause I don’t want to get over you – Sorrow

This album is going to be on super high rotation for some time… you can listen to the complete album here, prior to it’s official release on May 11.

True Love Cast Out All Evil – Roky Erickson with Okkervil River

When the sounds of crackling opener, Devotional Number One floated out of my speakers, my spinal fluid began to bubble. It reminded me of the time when I heard the first of the Cash/Rubin collaborations and how I knew then, that I had a lot of catching up to do… that I had somehow in my youth managed to overlook the genius of Johnny Cash. While I have long been a fan of Okkervil River, I have lived almost 39 years on this earth without any knowledge of Roky Erickson… thankfully that has all changed. This is a deeply spiritual album. Okkervil River frontman, Will Sheff’s liner notes (which are worth the price of the album alone) detail Erickson’s well-publicised demons, including a stint in a Texan Psychiatric Hospital and how the voices in his head, caged him for years. It is these experiences that Erickson has primarily drawn on during the writing of this album… but there is no wallowing here. This is an album of hope, redemption and the healing power of music and Will Sheff’s production is absolutely perfect. In the softer moments you can hear Roky’s lungs rattle as he draws breath and in the fuzzed up rocker, John Lawman, you can hear his spittle coat the mic. Albums like this don’t come around often…

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