As Rob Crow sang and they played/and you watched til the end of the summer in front of a packed house at The Paradise, he unofficially ushered in the coming of summer and the coming of summer music. Although May had just barely begun, Pinback filled the nightclub with shimmering and beautifully orchestrated pop that made it seem like the July sunset would greet concertgoers when they left the club. Although the band lacked some considerable stage presence, their music took command, as they rolled through tracks such as Syracuse, Penelope, and Microtronic Wave to the delight of the crowd. Pinback wrapped up their tour before recording their next album, their captivating set offerring only a taste of the musical experiences to come.
While Pinback offered sweet-tinged Indie pop to sold-out crowds, indie hip-hop took a leap into the world of sold-out musicians. While Crazy had been circulating around the internet for half a year, Gnarls Barkley managed to drive the world insane over the summer after an appearance dressed in Evil Empire garb. For the following months, the duo of super-producer Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo broke records and were praised for leaping genres and stunning millions. Yet, while St. Elsewhere is no less brilliant than it is made out to be, the most stunning aspect of the appeal of Gnarls Barkley isnt the number of genres that they manage to conquer, but the number of fans they win over. Genre hopping is nothing new;
Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo have done it separately in the past, and OutKast has provided a wealth of genre-defying albums. In that, its not that Gnarls Barkley does it better than anyone else, its just that everyone else has chosen to listen, and because of that St. Elsewhere has managed to become the one hip-hop album that lovers of rap, bluegrass, and classical can love equally.
It could be the touch of Danger Mouse;
since he revolutionized (for better or worse) the music scene with The Grey Album and the idea of the mash-up, the world has taken a listen to everything Danger Mouse has touched;
although his team up with Jemini on The Ghetto Pop Life has remained a high water mark, he managed to make Gorillaz a relevant group last summer, turned late-night cartoon watchers onto hip-hop with MF Doom (last years The Mouse and the Mask, a product of Adult Swim), and hes even lent a hand to The Raptures new album. Titled Pieces of the People We Love, the fall will mark The Raptures return to the world of music after three years ago providing awkward kids a reason to dance with Echos. Although a good portion of the tracks are produced by Danger Mouse, the single Get Myself Into It is one untouched by the Mouses golden hands, and its not a bad thing either. Get Myself Into It may not have the abrasive attack that House of Jealous Lovers contains, but it will be sure to provide hours of hip-shaking enjoyment if played multiple times that is.
Though their music may not get peoples hips shaking, it is sure to make anyones head bop and heart jump with glee;
Maritimes We, the Vehicles provided an excellent summer album that is sure to bring back happy memories of warm, wonderful days for any listener. Formed from the rubble of emo behemoths The Promise Ring and the Dismemberment Plan, We, the Vehicles brings a sense of maturity, pop-hooks, and intelligent songwriting that most bands wish they could find. Clocking in just over half an hour, the album shimmers with beautifully constructed tracks ranging from Tearing Up the Oxygen, Protein and Poison, and Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts.
It certainly was a parade of punk rock T-Shirts, as well as minivans, as the Vans Warped Tour stopped in Fitchburg on August 2nd. With the heat index clocking in at over a hundred and ten and the airfield at Fitchburg quickly turning to dust under an avalanche of Chuck Taylor-wearing teenagers, the concert may have well taken place in a sandstorm in the Middle East. Despite dust clouds rising from mosh-pits that would often consume the image of whatever band was onstage at the time, the day-long concert had a number of stand-out performances;
Gym Class Heroes, Pink Spiders, Less Than Jake, Saves the Day, and Thursday all put on excellent, if not completely engaging, sets. While NoFX managed to lose steam after an energizing performance of The Brews, Joan Jett managed to steal the bands steam, if only an hour later, with a performance that kept most of the crowds parents from keeping the usual concert carpool duty.
One show that kept the punk kids away, but brought out many thirty-something punks, Jeremy Enigks set at the Axis on August 9th was as electrifying as any he could have put on before commercialization seeped into punk culture. Touring in support of his upcoming album World Waits, his first since 1996s brilliant low-fi orchestral-punk album, Return of the Frog Queen, Enigk put on one of the most captivating performances. Although there was a noticeable lack of a twelve-person orchestra, Enigk did just fine with an array of talented musicians and his un-human falsetto. The same voice that screamed through Sunny Day Real Estates Diary is alive and well, as Enigk reached unparallel heights of vocal flexibility that fleshed out his emotionally raw and vulnerable lyrics. Enigk soared through new and old material alike, letting his voice guide the way with glimpses of the hardcore kid within him breaking through often;
as the show reached its climax with Shade and the Black Hat and Enigk repeatedly belted out wont you stay tonight against the clash of a chaotic musical menagerie, the entire band and crowd let loose, with Enigk setting the pace as he slammed his head repeatedly on his keyboard.
Although they derive some performance ideals from the word orchestral, Say Anything, Aerosmith, and My Morning Jacket each took those words to heart this summer. Say Anything managed to bring a confused crowd of faceless Dashboard fans to their feet at the Boston Opera house, touring in support of the re-released Is a Real Boy. While frontman Max Bemis cathartically pranced around stage, sweating up a storm and spitting as he belt out the very lyrics that drove him to an insane asylum, the rest of the band pushed forward, giving breadth and weight to a live performance of an already brilliant collection of songs. Still, its unfortunate to know that the brilliance of a song about the empowerment of love in the Holocaust will forever be lost on the gaggle of sixteen year-olds with front-row seats. The Boston Pops managed to delve into the world of rock, playing alongside Joe Perry and Steven Tyler on the 4th of July and My Morning Jacket in late June;
the Aerosmith set left the crowd wanting more after performing two and a half songs, and the pair of My Morning Jacket shows left many out of the crowd. With most people unable to find their way down to the symphony, David Letterman (and YouTube) offered the rest of the country a taste;
shortly before the Pops on the Edge Series took off, My Morning Jacket played an electrified rendition of Gideon with select members of the Pops. There was no more surreal event on television this summer than watching a band of scraggly Southern rockers head-banging in tuxedoes as the infectious melody merged beautifully with the orchestral majesty of the Pops performance.
The summer had more than its fair share of surreal musical highlights;
Zach Condon helped kick things off after releasing Gulag Orkestar under the name Beirut. With a blend of Eastern European instrumentals and haunting vocals, Condon captured the imagination of the indie music scene, NPR, and even helped many mp3 blogs gain national notoriety. In the same vein, Oh No! Oh My! showed the power of the blogosphere with their self-titled, self-release disc launching them into Lollapalooza after a wealth of attention from music lovers on the internet. Sound Team, Cold War Kids, and Midlake released excellent new material, were featured in blogs, and eventually landed some hefty musical gains;
NPR declared 2006 the summer of Sound Team, Midlake became the toast of indie pop with The Trials of Van Occupanther, and Cold War Kids outshone the former two groups on tour while gaining admiration from Rolling Stone. The more interesting events continued to happen on the stage;
Mike Skinner whipped out a band for The Streets set at Avalon for a riveting set, coupled with the brash set by opener Lady Sovereign made for a deliriously entreating show. Backstage, Skinner chose to sit in solitude rather than mingle with the lucky few whom he handed passes for the after-party, while a thoroughly inebriated Lady Sovereign DJ-ed to a mix of over-the-hill clubbers and awkward hipsters. Coney Island played host to a number of odd acts during the Siren Music Festival, which featured the good (the eclectic Man Man and the irresistible and humorous Art Brut), the pretty good (Tapes n Tapes, the Stills), and the disappointing (Dirty on Purpose). To cap off the day, Stars Torquil Campbell showed that mixing dream pop that could put anyone to sleep with the vocabulary of a drunk sailor can turn a reasonably mediocre set into an uncomfortable performance, for the band and crowd.
Showcasing their performance skill and overall comfort with songwriting were the Format and TV on the Radio;
the Format played an astounding set at Axis in support of Dog Problems, complete with a cast of dozens to play every instrument imaginable. The bands ability to craft intelligent, catchy, and often humorously self-deprecating music was only matched by their energetic set. TV on the Radio, preparing to take the America by storm with the domestic release of Return to Cookie Mountain in the fall, had a grand homecoming in Brooklyn at the end of June;
although the considerable lack of a surprise performance by David Bowie (who lends his vocals on the new single Province), TV on the Radio held a crowd of thousands in Prospect Park from the first notes of Wrong Way all the way through their 2nd encore. While there were more musical highlights, lowlights, and barely mentionable-lights, as well as an excellent season of music ahead with OutKasts new album (among various other releases), there are only so many songs, concerts, and interesting points that can be remembered after a summers worth of memories.