A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Earlove!

Filed Under: Live Shows, Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Monday June 28, 2010

earloveI’ve been a pretty off-and-on earplug user for concerts over the years. Generally if I’ve expected a show to be loud (a few recent ones that come to mind are The Hold Steady, Metric and Drink Up Buttercup), I bring earplugs. Though admittedly, even the shows that I don’t consider to be “loud” often leave my ears ringing for a good 24 hours. But the sound quality of the earplugs I’ve been using for years (Mack’s, the kind you can get at any drug store) is horrendous. There is a huge loss at either end of the spectrum, and generally I felt like the earplugs were really taking away from my enjoyment of the music, even if they were prolonging my ability to hear the music at all.

So lately, I’d been on the lookout for a higher quality brand of earplugs. I wasn’t sure where they were sold, or how they’d be different, but I was sure there was something out there that would allow me to protect my hearing without compromising the sound quality at concerts.

Imagine my excitement when I got an Facebook invitation to a group called Earlove from August Forte, a Chicago-based music label rep. who introduced me to JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound. Earlove sells “Hi-Fi Earplugs” with about 20 decibels of sound reduction (though the government only allows them to claim 12dB). Unfortunately I couldn’t find them for sale anywhere around here, so I ordered a few pairs online. The actual manufacturer is Etymotic Research, and they are less expensive if purchased directly through them, but with the shipping costs included, I got a better deal by buying a 3-pack from Earlove.

I finally got to test them out last week at the Fiery Furnaces/Vacant Lots show, and I have only wonderful things to report. First and foremost, no ringing ears the next day! The Vacant Lots definitely put the noise reduction capabilities to the test, and Earlove passed with flying colors. What was even more exciting was that there truly was no muffling, no dampening, no bass overload and no muted vocals.

I highly, highly recommend Earlove Hi-Fi Earplugs to anyone looking to protect their hearing without compromising sound quality. My only complaint is that although I ordered 3 pairs with 2 cords, only 1 cord was sent. It turns out that I don’t really need the cord anyhow, as they fit perfectly snugly in my ear and come with their own carrying case, but it’s always frustrating to pay for something (even if it’s only $1) that you don’t receive.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Fiery Furnaces & Vacant Lots @ Higher Ground 6/23/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Friday June 25, 2010

When this show was first announced, I briefly pondered going, but I’ve never particularly cared for Fiery Furnaces sound. Call me simple, but whatever they are going for has generally been a bit too complex for my head. On the urging of a friend (who ended up not showing…weak), I decided to give it a shot. I’d tried to catch The Vacant Lots last week at Metronome, but their website said doors at 9 and when I showed up at 9:30 they still weren’t open, so I took the old man route and left in favor of bed.

Needless to say I loved The Vacant Lots. Rachel had forgotten her new earplugs at home, and not being a fan of psych-rock to begin with, she had a hard time with it. But I thought they were excellent, and definitely had the talent to bring to mind some of my favorite psych-blues-rock bands like The Black Angels, Wolfmother and even The Black Keys. I look forward to seeing this local drum and guitar duo again soon. They looped a video composition during the show, which at times was cool, at times was distracting, and by the end was just old. I dig the idea, but I think it could be taken one step further by making it as long as a set, with no looping. I remember who I believe was Sound Team doing something similar at a show in the back stage of The Black Cat 5 or 6 years ago.

Fiery Furnaces @ Higher Ground Showcase Lounge 6/23/2010

Fiery Furnaces quietly took the stage and the scattered crowd did a little shimmy forward 10 or 20 feet, which still left another 20 between the stage and the closest audience member. They did very little throughout the show to encourage any further movement. They literally didn’t speak to the crowd once. The only non-lyric I heard come out of Eleanor Friedberger’s mouth was after the first song, when she told her brother Matthew and the other two band members that they had messed up and ended the song too early. That led to an awkward sibling exchange, with her not wanting to repeat herself and him aggressively prompting “what did you say? what did you say?”

With Eleanor staring out from behind her bushy bangs, almost still besides a tapping foot, it was tough to form any real connection with the band or the music. There was barely a pause between any of the songs, one kind of bleeding into the next. I did think that a few of the individual songs were entertaining, and it gave me the chance to try out my new EarLove hi-fi earplugs (more on those at some point soon), but the performance itself was so lackluster that I had to leave early because I couldn’t stop yawning.

Fiery Furnaces put on a show much like I envision creating were I in a band with my sister. Not fun for me, not fun for you, and certainly not worth paying to watch. I think I’ll pass on their next trip through the area.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

7 Questions for Bear in Heaven

Filed Under: 7 Questions, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Wednesday June 23, 2010

Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth MouthBear in Heaven will be performing at the Monkey House in Winooski this Friday night, June 25. I’m pissed that I have to miss it for a prior engagement, and I highly recommend you check it out if you’re in the area. These Brooklyn rockers are said to put on one hell of a show.

Bear in Heaven frontman Jon Philpot was kind enough to answer seven questions for me, posted below for your reading enjoyment. Also, if you’re ever bored, check out some of the videos Bear in Heaven have posted on their blog. I’m not normally one to watch random web videos, but I found these to be really entertaining.

BB: Besides the bands you’ve been touring with, what have you been listening to lately?

JP: Gene Clark – White Light, Sibylle Baier – Clour Green, Vangelis – Earth

BB: There’s a lot of social networking “ghost writing” going on for bands these days, but it seems like you guys are actually using Facebook and Twitter yourselves to connect with your fans. Does that connection further your experience as a band, or are you doing it purely for our sake?

JP: It’d be weird for someone else to do our writing… they wouldn’t know what we’re doing/feeling. Only we do. Plus, it’s pretty fun to say something and have a bunch of people read it. Jokes! Good and bad.

BB: The energy created at a show is a two way street, with the band and the audience feeding off each other. Do you ever find it difficult to come up with the necessary intensity night after night?

JP: Our energy level doesn’t pose too many problems. There have been a few shows where we had intense amounts of travel before a show. But, really, if we can’t be semi-alert for 50-60 mins of a show then we have a problem… It’s totally true that we feed off the audience. But, we’re somewhere in between a party band and a space out band. I don’t fault people for not freaking out and just staring at us. Tho, I do enjoy when people lose there minds and go for it.

BB: Do you ever wish you could be in the audience at a Bear in Heaven show?

JP: No, I’d be too critical.

BB: Receiving Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” for Beast Rest Forth Mouth is a pretty big deal. Has that created any pressure on you, or was it all pretty much profit?

JP: It opened doors for us. There is additional pressure, but it’s pressure to be better. That’s not a bad thing.

BB: Is there any one show that stands out as the best from the past few months of touring?

JP: We had a great time in St Paul. Played the Turf Club when we were touring with Cymbals Eat Guitars and Freelance Whales. There wasn’t a ton of people there… but damn… the people that were there were incredible! Now the competition is on when we go back on tour this summer. Who’s gonna win? St Paul? Pitchfork Festival? Fargo?!

BB: How many of you are currently sporting the straight ‘stache? Any plans to go full ‘stache as a band?

JP: So far just two of us. No plans just yet. If we planned it, it would suck out all the stachexcitement.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Vampire Blues: reprise

Filed Under: Album Reviews, New Releases, Old Music
Written by Brendan
Monday June 21, 2010

Earlier this month, my friend and musical mentor Aaron wrote about the relevancy of Neil Young’s timeless album On The Beach. I want to both acknowledge that post, as well as pay the album, and particularly the song “Vampire Blues” some respect.

Since I purchased their 2010 release Vol. 2 earlier this year, I’ve been incredibly impressed with Wooden Shjips. And they certainly give a strong tip of the cap to Mr. Young in their cover of “Vampire Blues.” Amidst the throbbing rhythms and pulsating beats of this, Wooden Shjips’ second album of b-sides and singles, comes a tale foretold so long ago by one of America’s rock greats.

“I’m a vampire baby, sucking blood from the earth” opens the song.

“I’m a vampire baby, I’ll sell you twenty barrels worth.”

I find it hard to even discuss the catastrophe that is the Gulf oil spill right now. It’s too hard to comprehend the emotions that I’m feeling. But I feel like if I could possibly turn up Wooden Shjips cover of “Vampire Blues” to the point where every oil man and politician in this country’s ears were bleeding, it still wouldn’t be enough.

If you haven’t, pick up their album today.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Quick thought: Stars release new album, EP

Filed Under: New Releases
Written by Brendan
Monday June 21, 2010

Stars - Five GhostsLast week I pre-ordered the new Stars album The Five Ghosts on iTunes, and either by some iTunes mistake or a nice little “thank you” to those who pre-ordered, I was able to download the album – and accompanying EP The Seance – today instead of tomorrow. [Just checked their website and found this: "Due to demand of retailers in both Canada and the USA, the new street date for The Five Ghosts will be JUNE 21, 2010 - both physically and digitally."]

Upon first listen, the EP is outstanding and way outshines the LP. Though I really wanted to order the limited edition 7″ box set, I think now I’m probably glad I didn’t drop that $100. But I am definitely looking forward to spending some more time with this album today and in the coming weeks as I gear up to see Stars at Osheaga.

Late Update: I changed my mind, at least in terms of the LP. Damnit I love Stars. Call them — or me — what you will, but Stars are definitely top 10 favorite bands of the 2000s for me, and this album only cements that status. It’s time to make an interview with these folks a serious goal of mine.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Standout Albums: “A Balloon Called Moaning” by The Joy Formidable

Filed Under: Album Reviews
Written by Brendan
Wednesday June 16, 2010

The Joy Formidable - A Balloon Called MoaningDuring my weekly music search, I’m often annoyed at the amount of Arcade Fire references used to describe bands. Having had my mind (and ears) blown by the muscular, triumphant sounds and crushing decrescendos of The Arcade Fire at The Orpheum Theatre in May of ’07, I have no tolerance for it. It’s just not possible to make as much noise as them and still make it sound beautiful.

So I’m going to try my hardest not to be that cheap with my descriptions of The Joy Formidable‘s A Balloon Called Moaning, despite the obvious ease of such a comparison (see how I worked that in there, while at the same point dismissing it?). I’ll also try not to draw any simplistic connection between this album and Metric’s latest release, Fantasies, but know that I’m trying really hard.

The Joy Formidable are Ritzy Brian on vocals/guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on vocals/bass and Matt Thomas on drums – a London-based rock trio with serious sound. They’ve filled A Balloon Called Moaning with thrashing drums, driving guitar riffs and haunting vocals. I’m a sucker for accents – any accent will do, really – and The Joy Formidable don’t disappoint. Ritzy’s voice manages to shine through all of the sound, and on some songs – notably “The Last Drop” – almost serves as a sedative to offset the gushing energy of the music.

“9669″ is fairly stripped down compared to the other songs, and shows shades of a the theatrical male-female duet mastered by Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan of Stars. But you could almost miss the song entirely with such rich, powerful and emotionally charged music surrounding it.

It is definitely impossible to sit still while listening to this album. And I don’t run, but Rachel swears by A Balloon Called Moaning as a motivational jogging (soft j) companion. I guess my twitching, tapping feet and nodding head would tend to agree with the sentiment.

I highly recommend this album, and think you’ll find yourself turning it up and bobbing along with me in no time.

Check out the official video for their tune “Austere” from A Balloon Called Moaning:

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Of Montreal to play in Burlington – while I’m in Montreal, where they are not from

Filed Under: Live Shows, Standout Albums
Written by Brendan
Friday June 11, 2010

What a cruel twist of fate. I just learned – via Angioplasty Media – that Of Montreal will be playing the Higher Ground on Saturday, July 31. That, as you may be aware, is the first day of Osheaga. I guess there is a small comfort in knowing that I’ll be immersed in an Arcade Fire show at the same time, but seriously, Higher Ground booking folks, I’d appreciate it if you’d cater to my personal calendar a little better ;-)

For those of you unfamiliar with an Of Montreal show – I’ve been lucky enough to catch a couple in the past two years, and they are quite a treat. Kevin Barnes, the lead singer, was gradually de-robed until he ended up in essentially a golden codpiece, wherein he was hand-painted by some sort of demons until he was completely red-as-the-devil. And that was about 1/100th of the insanity.

This video, of their song “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse” from 2007′s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (my favorite album of theirs) should give you a better glimpse into the parallel dimension that you might get to be a part of:

p.s. tickets here.

Late Update (6/14/2010): Because one kick in the pants isn’t enough, Osheaga just announced that Of Montreal will be playing at Metropolis on Friday, July 30, while I’ll still be in Burlington. Argh!


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

This (& last) week’s new music

Filed Under: New Releases
Written by Brendan
Thursday June 10, 2010

I’ve been wishing I had some more time to write here. It’s been incredibly fun so far, and really allowed me another outlet for my musical addiction. Alas, I do not make any money doing it. In fact, I definitely lose money — between tickets, t-shirts, albums and trips to Montreal, I’ve been spending what one might consider a ridiculous amount of money. So the job takes precedent when things get busy, and I’m stuck posting two weeks worth of music purchases instead of something more interesting to me. Soon enough…

Last week, I picked up Summer House from Gold Motel (a recommendation from Aaron, who was kind enough to post here last week), Treats from Sleigh Bells, and Doug Keith’s The Lucky Ones. I continue to distrust people with two first names, but if you’re into singer/songwriters (aka man-and-his-guitar), his album is worth a listen.

The Gold Motel album is a tasty pop treat – catchy and crisp and calling for a drive to the beach. Lead singer Greta Morgan has an impressive vocal range, and goes from sweet to syrupy with ease. As for Treats, the Sleigh Bells release, I’m actually quite speechless. It’s sincerely a natural amphetamine, and deserves a good week’s worth of heavy rotation before I can fully wrap my head around it. If you’re in the mood for something to share the room with and need a pick-me-up, get it. Might want to warn your neighbors before putting it on though, as it’s best experienced LOUD.

This week, I bought Champ from Tokyo Police Club and Before Today from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Champ is an an interesting take on Tokyo Police Club’s unique sound. It’s definitely a bit more refined, but I do find myself missing the edge of songs like Citizens of Tomorrow from their 2006 EP A Lesson in Crime. I suppose bands have the right to grow up too, though, and I plan on spending some more time with Champ summer.

Gold Motel - Summer House Sleigh Bells - Treats Doug Keith - The Lucky Ones Tokyo Police Club - Champ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today

p.s. I’m skipping tonight’s Sharon Jones show on the waterfront in Burlington. Seems sacrilegious, but I’ve got a few excuses.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals free show tonight

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday June 8, 2010

Just back from a brief vacation and trying to catch up on a pile of work…but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention tonight’s free show by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals at the top of Church St. at 5:30 p.m.

I made the last minute decision this past New Years’ Eve to go to the Grace Potter show, and their ode to Top Gun (not pictured because I recently upgraded my HTC Hero to Android 2.1 and as a result wiped out all my data…d’oh) definitely won me over.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Old Music: Neil Young’s “On The Beach” (1974) is an album for our times

Filed Under: Album Reviews, Guest Post, Old Music
Written by Aaron
Friday June 4, 2010

Ed. Note: Brendan asked me to fill in for a few a few days. I’m happy to oblige.

Neil Young promo photo for On The Beach

Promotional photo for On The Beach.

With summer approaching and oil gushing from the sea floor, I’ve been thinking this week about a classic record.  Neil Young’s dark, introspective On The Beach is a reminder that things can get messy.

Darkness abounds.  In “Vampire Blues,” Young sings about the thirsty oil industry.  Organs back his slow, hopeless romp.  The words are prescient given our current catastrophe:

I’m a vampire, babe, suckin’ blood from the earth …
Well, I’m a vampire, babe, I’ll sell you twenty barrels worth…
I’m a black bat, babe, I need my high octane…
Good times are comin’, I hear it everywhere I go.
Good times are comin’, but they sure are comin’ slow.

Have a listen:

In spite of the doom and gloom, there are plenty of reasons to love this album.

The track you may know best, “Walk On,” kicks off the record with guitars moving from bright to chunky to whiny.  And back again.  It’s a pleasant-sounding recollection of good times with good friends.  But the good times don’t last.  Some friendships crumble and our protagonist sings that, “sooner or later it all gets real.”  He looks back fondly but he knows when it’s time to move along.

The messy, sad beauty continues in other songs.  “Revolution Blues” follows a paranoid militiaman or perhaps a cult leader.  “For The Turnstiles” ends with the image of perpetually unsuccessful baseball players.

Neil Young, On The Beach, Front cover photo.But summer brings an escape.  In the album’s title song, Young reminds his audience that road trips can solve problems:

Get out of town, think I’ll get out of town. I head for the sticks with my bus and friends, I follow the road, though I don’t know where it ends. Get out of town, get out of town, think I’ll get out of town. ‘Cause the world is turnin’, I don’t want to see it turn away.

On The Beach is a beautiful record — recalling the politics and paranoia of a not-much-simpler era.  It’s a solid classic for your collection.

It’s worth noting that this was a tough album to find a few years back.  On The Beach and a few other Young records fell prey to the artist’s distrust of compact discs’ audio quality.  An online campaign a decade ago called “Release On The Beach” sought to change that.  You could illicitly download a set of scratchy MP3s from that early petition site (and I did).  In 2003, On The Beach was among the first batch of Young’s older albums remastered to CD (and I was eager to buy it).


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.