Archive by Author

Off to the Races Wins Triple Crown – Jukebox the Ghost

5 Apr

I’ve written about Jukebox the Ghost before back in 2012, and since then the band has matured their unique brand of anthemic pop and have built a sound that can only be called the “Jukebox” sound. The D.C.-spawned trio of Ben Thornewill (vocals & piano), Tommy Siegel (vocals & guitar) and Jesse Kristin (drums) are now on their fifth studio album, and, despite my overplaying of the infectious earworm Everything Under the Sun (2010)Off to the Races, which was just released in late March, may be the band’s best release yet.

The album brings Jukebox back to its creative roots, calling back to the first two releases (my two favorites) and creating more tracks aligned with this theatrical pop/rock sentiment. The band’s last few releases had a few tracks that worked under this lens, but Off to the Races fits it more as a complete piece. The album also features one of the band’s most ambitious pieces, “Jumpstarted,” which introduces the album and certainly sets the tone. The piece begins with a Queen-like layered vocal harmony and rapidly tickled ivories and transforms into a percussion-fueled, toe-tapping carnival of sounds – the song is a cavalcade of music (fit with creative vocals, call-backs, guitar solos, and electronic interludes) that even progresses into some a cappella. It is an immediate party and a bit risky – thankfully, the song delivers and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“Fred Astaire” is classic Jukebox. It is a drenched guitar riff mixed with a strong vocal and consequent percussion. The song fits together like a Jukebox puzzle – it is catchy pop but done to absolute perfection. It goes down smooth.

“Everybody’s Lonely,” while different in tone, also demonstrates Jukebox’s grasp over pop tunes. The song starts as a call-back to something I can only term 1950’s diner piano and then progresses into a more traditional pop piece with crashing percussion and a swooning vocal. Thornewill’s piano diversifies this pop; he often demonstrates classical chops and this adds to the song’s success.

Another successful release for Jukebox The Ghost – perhaps their best album in years. Maybe this time I will actually see them when they come to NY; I tried several years ago but the concern was snowed out and I could not go to the make-up date. I need to see this band in concert!

Advertisements

Riding a Moon Taxi Two High

14 Jan
unnamed (5)

Photo Credit: Harper Smith From L to R: Tyler Ritter, Tommy Putnam, Wes Bailey, Trevor Terndrup, and Spencer Thomson

In the category of bands that finally got their due in 2017 is Moon Taxi, a band that existed prior to the original iPhone but has just now signed on with RCA Records. On the heels of the band’s fifth album (and first on RCA) which will be dropped in less than a week, I figure now, albeit a bit late, is the best time to introduce this five-piece Alt/Indie outfit to a growing world of listeners.

Moon Taxi follows a classic band tale, a piecemeal collection of bandmates through high school, college, and the local music scene. Stationed in music hotbed Nashville, Moon Taxi originally played a variety of music closer to jam rock, and this is where they cut their teeth with their first few releases – hence their casting as opening acts for bands like Gov’t Mule and Umphrey’s McGee. The band transformed with the times, taking on a style emulating the trend in alt/rock, a sound most similar to infectious riffs and creative instrumentation. This is where Moon Taxi found a true comfort zone, and this is reflective of the tracks that one will hear when listening to the new album – Let The Record Play. Already festival darlings, Moon Taxi is soaring to the, well, moon, and perhaps the greatest indication of this meteoric rise is “Two High,” a track that reaches the stars with its optimistic lyric and uplifting sound (count the space references in the previous sentence).

First released back in May, “Two High” has amassed more than 70 million streams on Spotify, which is most certainly in the not too shabby category. It’s success is for good reason also. The song begins with a saturated guitar riff – think brighter X Ambassadors. The vocal features that twangy southern charm that one expects from a Nashville band. The song has a couple of stand-out components that have helped propel it to popularity – one the horn fill in the chorus because everyone likes horns in Alt/Rock music (I’m surprised they are not used more) and second the slowed bridge with drowned percussion. Towards the end there is even some subtle Spanish guitar. It’s a strong track from what will most likely be a strong album.

Moon Taxi is a band you want to keep an eye on in 2018 – it’s time for them to touch the sky.

Content Updates and Reflection

7 Jan

When I started The Music Court nine years ago one of my first content-related posts was a “Song of the Day” – the one above, albeit a version from nine years ago and not from the summer of 2017. At that point I did not have a firm direction for the blog; I just wanted a space to demonstrate my absolute love of music; the Music Court has twisted and turned since then, seeing the creation of several new categories and writing of more than 10 authors, some of whom are still with us (Toria Munoz has done an excellent job, hasn’t she?)

It is rather apt that Colin Hay’s “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” was one of my first posts because at that point in my life, a college student, I was literally waiting for my “real life” to begin. Nine years later, real life has gotten in the way of this blog so many times; however, it has persisted, because the love for music is still potent. And it will continue on; I want to use this post to just acknowledge that I am still here – even though I have not posted in a while, and I am going to try to do a better job to post more consistently.

The Music Court will focus more now on new artist profiles and the occasional concert review. Yes, I will, when inspired, still post about classics, but I plan on mainly profiling one new band a week. I will take on more alternative rock and singer-songwriters, while Toria will focus on EDM, eclectic rock, and other genres. Together, we will keep you updated and informed of some of the excellent sounds emerging in the music world today.

Stick with us; nine years and going strong – The Music Court perseveres into 2018.

Review: Arcade Fire at MSG

22 Sep
Arcade Fire In Concert - New York City

Credit: Billboard

When I attend a concert I intend on reviewing I take a series of mental notes to add content and spice to the review. Generally, the notes are brief and dull, a collection of tracks the band performed well and perhaps some words on the audience. However, Arcade Fire’s Sept. 12 performance at Madison Square Garden garnered an eclectic series of notes, perhaps most akin to that of a tropical birthday party of an eccentric retired boxer.

  • Boxing ring for a stage. Seriously, not just a box stage. There are ropes. The band enters through the crowd on the floor while mock boxing statistics are projected onto the board.
  • The board features some jerky animated individual with a western drawl and TV static for a face. It’s mighty odd. That is replaced with alien advertisements for products during songs from the Everything Now album – the band is on point with its social commetary
  • Haitian dancers for “Haiti.” That makes sense. Nice touch
  • Great moment for Hurricane Harvey relief – Win Butler plays The Suburbs in honor of the city of Houston and urges individuals to donate to a charity that is projected on all of the screens
  • The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the opening act, comes back for the final tracks during the encore – the sound is electric.

Pair those notes with a sold out MSG crowd with a crowded dance floor and perpetual sing-alongs, especially with “Wake Up” – which was practically yelled by the crowd – at the end of the concert, and you have a vibrant, eccentric concert. Like anyone would expect anything less from the Indie Rock superstars. Since released Funeral in 2004, Arcade Fire has blended creative Indie Rock with mainstream sing-alongs and accessible tracks – always balancing aberrant, polarizing sounds with catchy melodies. That is Arcade Fire’s charm, and a big reason why they were able to sell out MSG with an unsurprisingly engaged collection of fans spanning the band’s history.

I saw the band once before during their Reflektor Tour, but this go-around seemed more electric and inspired. The band seemed more confident. They sprawled around their boxing ring stage like predators, playing each track with an effervescence engendered by the raucous crowd. You could sense just how much the band enjoys what they do and there appreciation that people like the product. This vivacity never faded throughout the concert and the band practically had to be forced off the floor, playing an amalgamation of the chorus of “Wake Up” and “Stand By Me” as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band buttressed the performers as they walked toward the side entrance, Win Butler, the lead singer of Arcade Fire, singing until he finally got to the tunnel. A fitting end to a unique concert by a skilled band at the prime of its career.

This Train is Bound for Glory

13 Aug

Woody_Guthrie_NYWTS-1140x1433

It is times like these I like to turn to the Dust Bowl Troubadour Woody Guthrie for hope. Guthrie, the son of a KKK member, made his crusade that of freedom and social justice. He is the encapsulation of an individual who fought against an upbringing of hatred to create a life of truth and acceptance. His main opponent was fascism. As he came to prominence during World War II, he despised Hitler, of whom he said anyone human is against. His slogan, “this machine kills fascists” was spawned from an anti-Hitler song he wrote in 1941. Perhaps his thoughts on fascism were made most clear in his song “What Are We Waiting On,” where he urged the United States to enter the war effort against Hitler and the Nazi Party. He wrote:

There’s a great and a bloody fight ’round this whole world tonight 
And the battle, the bombs and shrapnel reign 
Hitler told the world around he would tear our union down 
But our union’s gonna break them slavery chains 
Our union’s gonna break them slavery chains

I walked up on a mountain in the middle of the sky 
Could see every farm and every town 
I could see all the people in this whole wide world 
That’s the union that’ll tear old Hitler down
That’s the union that’ll tear the fascists down

Our union will “tear old Hitler down.” Our union will “tear the fascists down.” That is America, according to Woody Guthrie. His classic “This Land is Your Land” further cements his views on America, a unique country that continues to fight its demons but represents the unbridled hope of all. America is multifaceted. America is diverse. It’s a social experiment with bruises and wounds, but, like a prize fighter, it perseveres, because it “tear[s] the fascists down.” If only Woody Guthrie were alive today.

Music, like most art, is a response to the times. Inspiration comes from experience. Woody Guthrie wrote out of necessity – his songs engendered nationalism at a time where democracy was threatened, and he preached acceptance for the entire country, not just a portion. Musicians today have the same responsibility to speak out. Protest music is not what it was in the 1960s, but it still exists, albeit too taciturn and encumbered by the glut of music today. So, we turn to Guthrie and Ochs and Lennon and Baez, because, according to Baez, we have not seen an anthemic protest song released today. That said, we can look to Green Day, Bruce Springsteen, Kendrick Lamar, Kodak Black, and even Beyonce for pieces of social protest – they are, in a way, carrying the torch of Woody Guthrie – however, I for one would like to see the torch brighter.

Speaking of torches – tiki torches to be exact – a group of white nationalists came together for a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. The empowered group chanted anti-Semitic epithets while many proudly waved the Nazi salute as they marched with tiki torches on the campus of Virginia. Let’s look beyond the hilarious irony of white supremacists using a Polynesian product to declare their inherent hatred of immigration and longing for racial purity. Such a display could and should be laughed at because of its inanity and racism, but I do not want to discount the danger of these groups thinking they are powerful. Also, the events of this weekend led to the deaths of three individuals, one of whom was run over by a lunatic domestic terrorist. We are supposed to be the union that tears the fascists down, not the union the excuses blatant Nazism. Remember before when I mentioned the bumps and bruises of American – one of those gashes is the seedy undercurrent of misguided nationalism that spawns in Nazi sympathizers. I’d be ignorant in saying that this can ever be removed from society. It won’t be; however, one cannot provide these individuals with power. It’s simple. We want to respect the views of all people in America – however, if one’s view is obdurate hatred for people “not like you” with appreciation of the Nazis, those views are dangerous, inappropriate, and vile. Such an individual should be required to get out of his/her bubble, so he/she can recognize that people are people. Those individuals cannot gain credence or any form of acceptance. And, that’s where music can have a role. Music has served a tremendous role in our country, providing a conduit for social change and shifting perspectives of many. It can once again open the eyes of those who are blinded by ignorance and fear. It’s time to hear more from musicians.

All this said, I am confident that the despicable underside of hatred that marred the news this weekend will be conquered. Woody Guthrie was correct that the machine of music kills fascists. It’s an unstoppable force. Just take one listen to the American gospel classic “This Train,” that Guthrie adapted and played. “This train is bound for glory” – no liars or con men allowed – only the righteous and the holy can get on this train. America may not be perfect, but, throughout its history and the tireless work of fighters for social justice, it has kicked liars and con men off the train bound for glory, and I am confident that they will be kicked off again, because this train is bound for glory and it’s not going to be stopped.

Here is a lively version of the tune from Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe, and The Old Crow Medicine Show. That’s right, a few Brits, a wacky Californian, and a string band from Tennessee singing a gospel song with joyous effervescence. That’s America at its finest.

 

%d bloggers like this: