Tag Archives: New York

Coldplay Colors the IZOD Center – August 3, 2012

6 Aug

The Glow at the IZOD Center

Every concert emits a certain aura, whether it is a laid-back coffe-shop jazz quartet or a head-banging arena show. For more than a decade, Coldplay has colored crowds with concerts that near reckless joy, leaving sold-out audiences with permanent grin marks. The current Mylo Xyloto tour is more of the same, and for a Coldplay concert virgin, I must say I wasn’t wrong in my effusive confidence that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

I was blown away by Coldplay’s ability to perform a concert with tremendous production value that does not take away from the music (but rather adds to the songs). In calculated moments, props were added to songs (beach balls, glowing blown-up shapes, confetti), and these elements added color to the rainbow rays of laser light that shot around the IZOD center in New Jersey on Friday. The true bulk of the entire production was colored remote-controlled bracelets that were electronically lit up at certain points of the show, creating a multi-colored graffiti of light that brightened the dark and flashed collectively as the sold out arena aided lead singer Chris Martin with every lyric.

Graffiti, the theme of Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto and their current tour, is generally considered disorganized and splotchy. But when you look through the lines of sprayed color and chalky pictures, it is not difficult to see a hint of togetherness in the art. This is what was perhaps most striking about the concert. There was an incredible element of family and togetherness, and the band played to this successfully.

It is Coldplay’s comfort on the stage that has most likely influenced their staying power. While they may not be flawless performers, they are damn near close. Martin’s voice is unchanged from recordings to stage, and I always respect a vocalist who is actually a damn good vocalist. The music was tremendous throughout the 21-song set. The acoustics of the IZOD center are a little better than decent. The sound can get a little absorbed by the stadium creating a slight echo that drowns out some of the bass. It was obviously best when, in the encore, the band, who had now moved to a mock side stage in the right stands (lucky people who had seats there), slowly added instruments.

Of the entire set, “The Scientist” stood out to me. It was not only because of my absolute enjoyment of that song, but also the loud sing-along that overcame Martin at times. But, who am I kidding, the entire show was pretty much a joint sing-along. “The Scientist” was followed by an acoustic performance of “Yellow.” Did you know “Yellow” is more than a decade old. Wow. I realized that during the show as I sang it with reckless abandon of my vocal chords. My chops took further shots during “Clocks” and “Fix You,” and, heck, I’ll admit it, “Viva La Vida” and the concert finale “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.”  

Say what you want. Say the band sold out from its Brit-piano-pop roots. I wouldn’t call what Coldplay did selling out. They evolved. And this was quite evident by the diverse crowd at the show. 30-40-year-olds mixed with 14-15-year-olds singing past and present songs like they were part of a church choir. Coldplay’s electro-pop Mylo Xyloto was just one more notch in Coldplay’s belt. The next album and tour will certainly be even more creative, and I am looking forward to attending.

Back of My Neck Getting Dirty and Gritty

29 Jun

Is there a song that screams summer more than “Summer in the City” by New York natives The Lovin’ Spoonful? Today, as I walked through the blistering summer heat and bathed myself in the hot sun that baked the sidewalk, I immediately thought of the ode to a hot and sticky New York City summer day and smiled. The song is a true classic. Everything from John Sebastian’s excellent voice, to the background city noises, to the repetitive guitar riff that seeps into your head as sweat pours out, meshes perfectly to form a less-than-3-minute gem. It’s a fun song and it’s great to sing along with…especially when you are sweating and burning walking on the same streets that Mark Sebastian was writing about when he penned the song.

And, what’s better on a sunny summer day than a little trivia. Hear the electric piano in the song? The individual who played the electric piano on the Spoonful record is a musician/composer who has done some pretty famous arrangements in his career. Can you name that person? Also, for bonus points, what famous Frankie Valli song did he arrange? Have a good weekend everyone!

Beaming with The Widest Smiling Faces

25 Jan

Aviv Cohen

Aviv Cohen is a throwback. He is a consummate musician with a keen ear, laid-back skill, and an innate knowledge of what makes good music. It is always so refreshing being introduced to a musician who knows what they are doing and Aviv – who is the sole employee of the band The Widest Smiling Faces – has good reason to grin.

Aviv, who is based in Brooklyn, NY, has just released his second album Me and My Ribcage, and it features 12 tracks of ambient folk with a hint of medieval sampling and excellent guitar work. Most importantly, the music is light and breezy – like the sunny, cool New York afternoon that is just outside my window as I type this. It is a pleasure to listen to Aviv’s graceful melodies and you can tell that he – and Chris Wojdak, who added textures and assisted with arrangement, on the album – took care to make sure that the layers and sounds remained smooth.

The title track, “Me and My Ribcage” is the opening song on the album.The first minute of the song sends you soaring through light, immaculate clouds, into a denseless, gravity-less atmosphere. The weightless guitar sings a peaceful melody which at the one-minute marks pauses and leads into a soft acoustic guitar and Aviv’s low-fi, tender vocal. His vocal is actually a bit abstruse. I don’t know what to make of his calm vocal. It’s as if he is living in a different time, as if he recorded this back in 1930 – every word vibrates – similar to the way that John Darnielle plays with his voice even thought it is quite different. I actually do get a bit of the Elephant Six feeling as well.

British Progressive Folk groups like The Amazing Blondel played medieval-esque music back in the late 60s and early 70s, and the beginning riff of “Two Lips” followed by the multi-layered, accented vocal feels like this. I catch a little of Syd Barrett in the vocal. I also absolutely love the feeling I get when I listen to this. It is eccentric music – almost psychedelic (more in the Elephant Six way than the late 60’s way). Aviv is also a proficient lyricist and I would like to highlight the ending of the song:

“And two words sting my eyes with doubt brushed under skin and out of mouth (and down) he lied to feel our beating hearts it pulled us back to where we started.
In a way I had to grin we cut the hands from off of it and all his fingers red with stain will lead us to a house unfaded on the reeds.”

Poetic and well done

I am including “Lazy Boy” as my last sampling of Aviv’s music. I love the fullness of this song. Aviv’s music is relaxing and an absolute pleasure to explore. I suggest you take a listen to the entire album which is available here.

Top 10 Songs of 2011 – #8: “High Hawk Season” by The Mountain Goats

22 Dec

John Darnielle wrote the most prescient and topical song of the year. He totally predicted Occupy Wall Street. Those are two weighty comments. Don’t worry, I’ll explain this odd coincidence. I will also profile the number eight song on our countdown, “High Hawk Season,” which appears on The Mountain Goats’ like 400th album (13th studio album) All Eternals Deck which was released in late March.

I do seem to favor the work of John Darnielle and The Mountain Goats on this blog. I will not deny my bias. But can you blame me? Darnielle seems to release an album every month and every single album demonstrates musical maturity, lyrical precision, passion, and pure awesomeness. “High Hawk Season,” my favorite song on the new album, exemplifies all of these outlined attributes. Darnielle, as I’ve said many times before, is one of the greatest artists in the last 20 years. And while crowning a singer/songwriter with a cult-like following may seem baseless, well, why don’t you listen to his music.

These are what Mountain Goats look like when domesticated.

The Mountain Goats are John Darnielle, Peter Hughes (bass), and Jon Wurster (drums). Throughout the 90s, Darnielle released a lot of low-fi recordings and his music grew from there. Darnielle is consummate lyricist and this is his most noticeable strength. He also plays a mean acoustic guitar and has a distinctive nasally croon.

All Eternals Deck, was the Mountain Goats’ follow-up to one of their best albums (in my opinion) The Life of the World to Come, which featured twelve tracks, each one inspired by (and titled after) a single verse of the Christian bible. All Eternals Deck is a solid effort as a whole. It’s title refers to a set of fictional tarot cards (keep this in mind). But “High Hawk Season” elevates beyond its supporting tracks.

Now I say this prediction stuff in jest…mostly. The coincidence is pretty odd and humorous. “High Hawk Season,” as you will see by the lyrics, is a plea for a youth uprising. Darnielle beckons his listener to “rise if your sleeping” and “stay awake” because the “heat’s about to break.” As you know, the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t begin until September. The album with the title referring to tarot cards was released in March. Okay, you say, so what. He didn’t mention New York, right? Actually, he did. This is the last verse of the song (in case you missed it):

Who will rise and who will sing?
Who’s going to stand his ground and who’s going to blink?
Surge forward from Van Cortlandt Park like frightened sheep
Spirit throngs that hoist us high, three thousand warriors deep
Spray our dreams on any surface where the paint will stick
Try to time the rhythm, listen for the click

Van Cortlandt Park is a park in the Bronx. He was off by 16 miles. That’s not too shabby. Take a look at that powerful lyric as well. Darnielle talks of a “throng” of “warriors” standing their ground and “spray(ing)” dreams on surfaces that will stick. Now if I was going to over-analyze this like a good English major, I would say that the spraying of the dreams and paint represents the signs and words and ideas (because a painting truly is at first an idea like all things), and the sticky surface would be the media that lapped up the coverage like a thirsty dog. The lyric is humorously on target. And, yes, you can say he was inspired by the Middle Eastern civilian rebellions, but, come on, he mentions New York.

The song itself is also memorable. It features barbershop quartet/monk-like background singers that provide this religiously lachrymose backdrop. Darnielle sings the verse in a very observational tone, as if he is simply explaining what is going on. The call-and-response chorus is a treat. I feel as if I can imagine Darnielle singing this in some tenebrous dystopia where, I don’t know, “the heat’s about it break.” The song remains entertaining but somewhat complacent until after the two minute mark where a light shines on Darnielle and he belts out the chorus like a call to action.

“Rise if your sleeping, stay awake. We are young supernovas and the heat’s about to break.”

A Quick Hello and Preview and A Salty Dog to Ease the Nerves

3 Oct

Did you enjoy the waving pencil? I thought the black-and-white image was fitting. Hope all is well. I know the new posting schedule that I posted back in August does not see me posting on Mondays, but I felt the necessity to catch up on a few things. I feel like I haven’t posted in forever, and I am definitely going through music withdrawal. I have been busy, both with work and a pesky sinus infection that I am just getting over.

I did want to post today to preview two new sections that I will be adding to the blog in anticipation of the New York autumn. The Manic Monday Music Machine, along with being a terribly forced example of alliteration, will see me returning to Mondays every-other-week to preview some songs that I just happen to think you should check out that week. So, you will have two posts on some Mondays! By the way, hasn’t Aaron (peepirate) done a great job thus far. I hope everyone is enjoying his music selections and words as much as I am. Also, like always, I do want to give credit to our psychedelic savant, Okocim, for blowing our minds every Sunday with his kaleidoscopic adventures.

Every Tuesday throughout the Fall (unless I encouter a significantly busy day) will feature the new category Obscure Classic Rock. This is a bit of a spin-off of the 60’s Band of the Week. At my astute father’s request, I will focus my attention every Tuesday on my true music love, 60s/70s rock oddities. There are hidden gems and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Now, because I cannot possibly leave you all without providing some goodbye music, here is a song that popped on my iPod today while I took a walk around New York City during my lunch break. Not unknown, but still incredible. Here is “A Salty Dog” by Procol Harum. Enjoy.

%d bloggers like this: