Here’s a few things that I’ve been listening to lately.
Fictionist are a band from Provo, UT. I saw them first in 2010 when they came and played in Rexburg, Idaho (where I grew up). I’ve seen them a few times since, and they are incredible live. Harmonized slide electric guitar solos? Who does that? Their sense of rhythm is rock solid, and always have surprises up their sleeves. They did a cover of Helter Skelter the first time I saw them and nailed it. The next time they came to town, they played “Baba O’Reilly” by the Who, and the lead singer / bassist pulled out a violin and did a crazy solo in the middle of the tune. Fictionist’s first two albums, Invisible Hand and Lasting Echo, are alternative rock with heavy Beatles and Pink Floyd influences. The track above, which is from their self-titled newest album and has been stuck in my head for weeks, is representative of the newer, more danceable direction they’re taking their music. I suggest looking up the story about them getting signed by Atlantic Records and leaving the label after releasing one EP. Also, I love the otherworldly sounds they throw in for the guitar solo.
Punch Brother’s new album “The Phosphorescent Blues” is a concept album about the effect of technology on human relationships (although only about a third of the songs really talk about it). I consider it a modern classic. I’ve seen them twice now, once in Salt Lake City and once in Philadelphia, and they are just as tight rhythmically and harmonically live as they are in the studio. Virtuoso musicians with a sense of adventure and a sense of humor, they mix together classical music, bluegrass, and rock-and-roll for a sound unlike any other band I’ve heard. Also check out their cover of Kid A (Radiohead).
I first bought a Wilco album – A Ghost Is Born – around 5 years ago. I thought it was cool, but it didn’t stay in my rotation very long. Recently I’ve repented and started listening to them more, and the more that I hear their music the more perfect and rich and powerful it seems to be. I love the mixture of dissonance and harmony in their music. Just a few months ago, I happened onto their website and found that they had just barely released a new album, called Star Wars (with a picture of a cat, of all things, on the front), and were offering it for a free download. I was hooked. There are so many layers of wonderful sounds on the album, ranging from the Bob Dylan-esque “The Joke Explained” to the fuzzed-out guitars of “Pickled Ginger”. The next happy coincidence was finding out that Wilco was playing in Bend, Oregon the same weekend I was planning on going camping there. So of course I went, and of course it was wonderful. The sound quality was fantastic – exactly loud enough volume so it was rock-and-roll but quiet enough that you could still hear everything.
Suzanne discovered Courtney Barnett via a Philadelphia alternative rock station, 104.5 I think. She heard the song “Avant Gardener”, which is an amazing song about having an asthma attack and has a gorgeous video as well. I love the mundane details she puts into the lyrics, and the deadpan delivery is spot on. The lyrics remind me of one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins, in that she makes deep observations about life experiences through stories of things like staring at watermarks in the ceiling, going house shopping, and watching vegetable trucks go by on the Australian highway. I haven’t caught her live show yet, but I really hope I get a chance soon.
That’s all for now.