2015 Live Shows: Courtney Barnett, B&S, NMH

Courtney Barnett B&S-StevieJackon

This here is a wrap-up of concerts I’ve seen recently, and what that means for you, dear reader. First, Courtney Barnett. She is at Pitchfork this weekend! She reminds me of a cross between Lou Reed and Pavement. We drove up to Milwaukee a while back to see her open for Belle and Sebastian.

Honestly we just saw B&S at the Riv in April, and I was thinking that I probably would not have hauled up to Milwaukee just to see B&S. That would have been a mistake because the B&S show was fantastic and I would have been an idiot to miss it. Stevie Jackson, in particular, seemed amused to be in Milwaukee – a fan of “The Fonz” from way back, perhaps?

But back to Courtney Barnett, I got the strong sense that many in crowd at the Pabst, like me, were really there at out of excitement for her opening set, which was quite brief but awesome, more impressive than either of Barnett’s albums that I own on vinyl (Sometimes I Sits and The Double EP) which are both already super impressive.

We have been going to Milwaukee for shows a lot lately, we went to see Neutral Milk Hotel towards the end of April, and I tried to write about them but I couldn’t write anything that didn’t seem horrible. Don’t get me wrong, the musicality was totally THERE, and the songs still inspire. I read once that NMH thought they were out to change the world and thought they failed. I don’t know about that. When I saw Neutral Milk Hotel in the late 90’s (twice, at Lounge Ax – first opening for Superchunk, and then as headliners), I was on track to a corporate career and suburban motherhood. Now years later, after listing to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea maybe several thousand times, I am a corporate careerist and a suburban mom whose inner life is profoundly influenced by Neutral Milk Hotel. Now that’s a world of difference.

When I heard they were coming back after all this time, I was skeptical. I found the experience of seeing them live very uncomfortable. Lounge Ax was a small venue, and I was close enough to see everyone in the band’s nose hair. My first instinct was to excuse myself and go stand in the corner of the ladies room. Like the club, the ladies room was also really small, and no corners to stand in. So I came upstairs and watched the show. Those guys were weird, weirdly intense, weirdly authentic and weirdly driven. Earth-shaking, but not exactly cool. I wondered if the current audience who mostly missed them the first time around would be put off. But no, the audience seemed more concerned about reassuring and supporting Jeff Mangum and the band–one guy from the audience yelled our “we love you” early in the show–than making any judgments, or even being entertained. The Riverside is a big venue, but I could see the band, The weird intensity was gone, they just seemed happy, with Jeff Mangum often rocking back and forth on his heels like a little kid.

Anyway, the moral of the story is GO SEE COURTNEY BARNETT. And write back and tell me about it, ‘cause Pitchfork ain’t in the cards for me this year.
If you want to learn more about this bands read up on them with my Pinterest Pages: Courtney Barnett, Belle and Sebastian, and Neutral Milk Hotel.

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The Muse Reviews: Youth Lagoon

True confession: I am more than a little ambivalent about living in the now. I’m nostalgic for old times, even though I was just as disapproving of those bygone eras back in the day as I am with this one now…character flaw, I know, one of many…so, I’m reading my accursed Facebook news feed (it’s 2014 after all) and some kind soul turns me on to Youth Lagoon. THANK YOU. Along comes some random kid from Boise, and all of a sudden I’m sold on 2014. Cheered up, glad to be alive, and looking forward to 2015.

Trevor Powers has said his music is about mental distress. Maybe, but it’s soothing and fun as heck. He has two albums. They are both great. You can order The Year Of Hibernation and Wondrous Bughouse from Amazon.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song, I really like all of them. Maybe Mute17, or Afternoon are good starting points. Through Mind and Back starts out like the Twilight Zone. And..my fave…music about outer space!

Glad to know you @youthlagoon!

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The Muse Reviews: It Might Get Loud (2008)

It Might Get Loud

Three generations of rock guitarists: Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. Davis Guggenheim’s 2008 film is one of the most engrossing documentaries I’ve seen. It’s beautiful to watch and hear. I did feel that I was getting to know guys as human beings, not rock stars. Last night we had really nice dinner and a nostalgic bottle of wine and watched this film. It was a perfect, low key evening at home. If you have kids, there is some language, but we got them in their pajamas and settled in in front of the TV. They were asleep within the first 10-15 minutes; and that, my friends, is the magic of documentaries. On Amazon

Here’s the trailer ….

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The Muse Reviews: Fever Ray

These recordings were released in 2009, but Fever Ray–a solo project of swede Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson–wasn’t on my radar until I started watching Vikings on the History Channel. If I Had a Heart plays during the opening credits creating an eerie, otherworldly feeling that really works for imagining the frightening and magnificent world of Scandinavia before Christianity.

Like the opening track, the rest of the album has an appropriately Nordic feel – a bleak, solitary elegance that that feels both modern and primal at the same time. It’s a good listen at bedtime, or any time you want to chill out and clear your head.

By the way, the series is completely fascinating and enthralling. You have time to catch up on the first two seasons before the Season Three starts next year.

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The Muse Reviews: Alvvays

This album comes in a gorgeous blue vinyl, and it’s been on heavy rotation at our house. Alvvays manages to be both upbeat and relaxing, and very, very pretty at the same time. The album is definitely worth repeated beginning-to-end listens, but my favorite tracks are the hit Archie, Marry Me which is just a fun commentary on modern love. I also really adore the last track Red Planet which is a great contribution to the genre of rock songs about life in space. Brilliant.

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What’s Up And Warpaint

Two weeks since my last post — lots of travel and assorted craziness. Music-wise, we did catch the Warpaint in Milwaukee at The Pabst Theater. It was good, very enjoyable, very tranc-y and atmospheric. I hesitate to call it a show, exactly — it was more like the band was sort of letting you watch them jam, rather than that they were actually performing. I have to say that it was my first time at The Pabst, and I loved it. The crowd was smallish, and friendly. Beautiful theatre, comfortable, and very intimate.

Here’s a video of my favorite Warpaint song.

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The Muse Reviews: Brill Bruisers by The New Pornographers


This is a cool looking album, for sure, and I have to say the music does not disappoint. Brill Bruisers is fun, loud, celebratory and triumphant. Champions of Red Wine is a great song—Neko Case’s voice sounds so sweet and pure here—but, really it’s all amazing. Backstairs is party music. Dance Hall Domine could be an inspiring track for your workout playlist. But maybe the best use for this album would be to save it for after a moment of personal triumph, settle in with some head phones and a glass of red wine, and just savor the feeling of victory. Super happy with this album, and counting the days until the live show.


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The Muse Reviews: Benjamin Booker


Wow. Wow. Wow.

There is a whole lot of Checkerboard Lounge here, plus the earnestness of Billy Bragg and the raw energy of the Replacements and an antique patina reminiscent of the “O Brother Where Art Thou.” Good for drinking coffee and psyching myself up for daunting tasks like cleaning the house or talking to people, that type of thing. Screw that. I am listening to this over and over again. For everything. At parties. In the car. Before bed. Whatever.

Benjamin Booker is playing in Chicago, on Saturday, at Schuba’s. The show sold out early plus it’s past my bedtime. If you got a ticket, or managed to see the guy open for Jack White, I am officially jealous of you.

Check out http://www.benjaminbookermusic.com and buy this album! There’s a lot here beyond the single “Violent Shiver”

@benjamin booker – so impressed and rooting for you (along with everyone else and their brother). Keep it coming!




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