Posts Tagged ‘a sunny day in glasgow’

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Three DC Concerts: Beach House, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Gang Gang Dance

April 2, 2010

DC just had its arguably busiest week in concerts of the season. The city had shows from the likes of Beach House, Dum Dum Girls, Real Estate, Deerhunter, Spoon, Gang Gang Dance, The xx, A Sunny Day in Glasgow and jj. I personally hit up three shows in a five day period: Beach House, A Sunny Day in Glasgow and Gang Gang Dance.

Beach House at the Black Cat on Friday might have been the most hyped concert of the week for one of the most hyped bands of the year. They quite easily sold out the Black Cat and packed the Main Stage room full of eager fans. The precious Bachelorette opened, who got a fair bit of audience response, probably due in part to her quiet, cutesy New Zealandic accent. Her set mostly consisted of cleverly looped vocals, guitar strums, and drum machines that made for a well received whole. When Beach House stormed the stage, the crowd couldn’t have been happier, frequently letting loose “we love you Victoria!”s and other such words of praise. The band’s set was decent sized and was delivered as well as received with great enthusiasm. Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scalley actually move around on stage and have more energy than their slow, syrupy music might suggest. They played all but one song from their new album Teen Dream (sadly giving arguably the album’s best song, “Real Love,” the shaft) as well as a couple older numbers, even stretching back to their 2006 self-titled debut for “Master of None.” The encore was just perfect. They first played a crowd favorite from 2008’s sophomore album Devotion, “Astronaut,” and clinched the show with a spirited rendition of “10 Mile Stereo.” Although seeing Beach House live doesn’t differ much fromĀ  hearing them on an album, it stands that doing both is a breathtaking emotional experience, and I would say that just about everyone at the Black Cat on Friday had a great time.

Beach House

A Sunny Day in Glasgow played on Sunday at DC9, which might take the cake as DC’s smallest regular concert venue, but it is also one of its most rewarding. Its acoustics are nice and its setup puts the audience just feet away from the performers. We walked in a little late to just catch Phil and the Osophers play an enjoyable, playful pop set that felt similar to the likes of Vampire Weekend. Although it was a fairly innocuous set, I admit to wanting to hear more from the band, and I hope they had a good time at SXSW where they played just last week. When A Sunny Day in Glasgow got started, their set was unstoppable. Their live presence is something to be reckoned with, six band members on stage all doing different things for every song (a favorite moment was when Ben Daniels broke out an electric mandolin). The group focuses their powers around vocalists Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma, who harmonize the songs’ airy vocals to lovely effect. Most of the songs they played sounded better than the studio versions, which were already superb (recall my naming Ashes Grammar one of the best albums of this past decade). They played through new favorites like “White Witch,” “Failure” and “Passionate Introverts” with lovely vitality. The biggest disappointment of the show was the lack of an encore; they played through a rather short set and could have easily extended it to better please the crowd, but that was about their only shortcoming. They will surely have my ticket sale the next time they come to town.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow

The wait for Gang Gang Dance at the Rock ‘n Roll Hotel on Tuesday was long, and opening act High Life only made it feel longer. His high pitched squeals over noisy effects loops were maybe an appropriate way to ease the audience into Gang Gang Dance’s set, but it was still hardly appreciated except by a select few near the stage. He later made up for the set by acting as Gang Gang Dance’s much needed bass player, who gave the main band’s music the strong under-melody it needed. This was particularly important because Gang Gang Dance played so loud that it was sometimes difficult to hear what one was hearing, and a strong sense of melody as well as rhythm was needed to make sense of the raucous din. This situation could have been disastrous if the acoustics were different and the sound was too noisy, but Gang Gang narrowly hit a bullseye mark that got most of the audience nodding and bobbing in a narcotic haze. All of the songs they played were new, some melodic and most all featuring beats and melodies that sound like they come straight from Saudi Arabia or India. The only tune I recognized was the shimmering “Crystals,” which featured steel drum sound effects and twinkling synthesizers. We can hope that this song, as well as the others we heard that night, will make it onto Gang Gang’s next proper studio LP. Overall I’d say the venue housed a great amount of satisfied customers, considering the band surprisingly almost packed the house. But we need to remember that Gang Gang are a noise band, and though their noise is beautiful, it is still willfully cacophonous, and should be judged appropriately.

Gang Gang Dance

Overall, I had a really awesome time at all of these shows. Conclusion: DC has a lot of great shows, some of which are highly attended and some that aren’t, and if you pick and choose well enough, you can get more than your money’s worth for a night, or week, of fun.

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Off This Century – My Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

December 25, 2009
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A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Scribble Mural Comic Journal

May 19, 2007

In a genre driven by individual songs rather than albums or artists, it is very difficult to distinguish oneself ten years after the genre hit it’s peak. Shoegaze just has a hard time producing truly wonderful albums. Asobi Seksu’s release last year, Citrus, was the first in years to justify that the genre isn’t complete bullshit. And I don’t think it would be completely unreasonable to say that it is at this point, because so few bands in the business have kept up the pace and consistently released good material. The obvious come to mind, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. But the lions share of shoegaze bands are the type that released one really good album and a few good singles and couldn’t make a sizable career out of it. Ride, Chapterhouse, Catherine Wheel, Lush…All bands that befell this fate of scattered brilliance, and really none of them made any truly important albums. For that reason, at any new shoegaze release, fans of the genre jump to call them unique or “the best since Loveless” or just downright brilliant. Someone called this album all three, so I foolishly got it.

It’s not that this album is horrible or anything, because it definitely has it’s moments, but the problem is that it should have had many more moments. In fact, most of the album feels like it has really good ideas going on that sadly just get botched and not given the correct treatment. It starts off on a shockingly good foot though. The first track, Wake Up Pretty, is a lovely little hypnotic intro into the rest of the album, with off beat glowing synthesizer loops and a very soft beat. This, and the following song No. 6 Von Karman Street sort of represent what this album should have been. Both songs are very hypnotic, almost delusionally sweet swirls of shoegaze. The twins voices echo and harmonize softly in the background throughout, and the beat is driving enough to make it exciting.

The problem with the album I have is that there are lots of really good melodies that are simply not treated with enough care. There are some simply bad moments though, namely Lists Plans and C’mon, both of which are horribly annoying. But at times this album can reach considerable heights and do some very enjoyable things. To say that the album is unique would be wrong though, because this kind of angelic trance has been done before and has been done well. But then again, there have been plenty of great dreampop and shoegaze records that ripped on others of the genre. Scribble Mural Comic Journal at times makes music that is so flowing and natural that it is relaxing to the effect of a druggy haze or half-asleep dreaming. That may sound a bit pretentious, but nothing is perfect. The style of Scribble Mural gets old fast and many times the songs run themselves out before they actually end. And the fact that most songs melodies have no real structure hurts the style as much as it helps, making the record sound like a pleasant atmosphere while simultaneously being a cluttered mess. But with all this said, the effect of the album is exponentially augmented when cranked to high volumes, like most shoegaze records. The more immersed in the sound one is, the better.

To be honest it’s really not that great unless you are a huge shoegaze fanatic, in which case there is surely something fresh and lovely here that you will thoroughly enjoy. But if you aren’t, and I’d only really consider myself a casual shoegaze fan who dabbles here and there, this is a confusing, mediocre set. There are some really lovely ones that might be highlights in the shoegazing community this year, namely 5:15 Train, Watery, and No. 6 Von Karman Street. Proceed with caution, but it should be pretty obvious whether or not you want this anyway.