Posts Tagged ‘Ben Folds’

Looking Back at 2011

December 19, 2011

It’s been a good year for listening to music.  I felt like I listened to a lot more new artists (at least to me) this year than I have since I was a teenager.  I also rediscovered a lot of old albums that I hadn’t heard in awhile.

Best (and worst) music platform – Since it came to our shores earlier this year, I’ve been a big fan of Spotify.  One of my recurring posts this year revolved around recounting what I’d been listening to on Spotify.  Easy to use with a huge library, it was a great way to listen to new albums in their entirety as well as catch up on old albums I haven’t heard since I had a cassette player.  So why’s it also get a worst nod.  A few weeks ago, it started crashing my computer any time I tried to run it.  Like total freeze-up crash, have to manually power down and restart the machine crashes.  In trying to find an answer, I’ve uncovered a wealth of problems others have with the app.  I also found that customer support is spotty (sorry).  I finally found a customer support email; I did finally get a response after two weeks, asking me what version of Spotify I was running.  We’ll see if they can come up with a solution.  Wonder if the expansion to the US has overextended the service and its employees?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I’m going to be checking out turntable.fm and rdio to see what they have to offer in 2012.

Best Concert – Ben Folds at The Wiltern.  I loved the stage banter, the energy, and the music was phenomenal.  I went in with only a little bit of knowledge about his music, but I left wanting to hear more and learn more about him.  That’s the mark of a good concert.  Honorable mention to Portishead and to John Vanderslice.  I didn’t write about the Vanderslice show, but I’ve seen him three times now and each show has been distinctly different.  And his drummer, Jason, was amazing to watch.  I ended up missing the Bon Iver show, but Sarah told me that it was very good (I believe her).

Favorite Album – Rome by DangerMouse and Daniele Luppi.  I feel like a lot of year-end lists become top heavy with material released toward the end of the year, which I understand since the songs are fresh in reviewer’s mind.  Rome came out in May, which is a long time ago in today’s millisecond attention-span world.  I also am also only basing my choice on albums I actually listened to in their entirety, which I admit isn’t a lot.  But, I come back to this one because, like his collaboration last year as Broken Bells, as an entire album, the songs meld into a cohesive unit and he can just really create a vibe.  Here, he’s wisking you away to the set of spaghetti westerns with a tribute to the soundtrack sound of that era (most notably Ennio Morricone).  Honorable mention to Little Dragon’s Ritual Union, for the same reason basically.  A lovely arrangement of electronic music that makes you stop thinking of individual songs (much better than the sprawling and Pitchfork-loved M83 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming).

Biggest Surprise – The Whole Love by Wilco.  After Sky Blue Sky, I kind of lost interest in Wilco and didn’t even bother to listen to their next album.  They seemed to have lost a lot of their bite, both lyrically and musically, from previous records.  I had heard nothing of their new album, but decided to give it a listen when NPR was doing a free preview of the album.  To my amazement, I heard the rockin’ Wilco from Summerteeth days.  I’ve seen Wilco twice, now I have a new reason to go see them a third time other than Jeff Tweedy’s amusing stage talk.  Honorable mention to the Beastie Boy’s new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2.  Another group that I had just lost some interest in, but this re-ignited interest.

Best Music Book – Read the super comprehensive history of the Velvet Underground put out by Rough Trade.  Not knowing much about the band other than the songs on their greatest hits albums, this was a good and thorough introduction to the band, as well as the solo careers of all its members.  Can be a bit overwhelming, but overall a good read.

I’ll try and come back with a few more year end thoughts before the year actually ends, but if not, have a great new year filled with good tunes and good times.

Ben Folds – Wiltern, LA

July 26, 2011

Keeping my word from my last post, here’s a short review of the first of several concerts we have going on this summer/fall.  I had mentioned that I thought that Ben Folds would be a quiet affair, and I guess that was based on my limited experience with his discography.  While there was a lull during the middle of the set when his band left him to play some of his softer numbers like The Luckiest, the majority of the show was rockin’ as Ben banged on his piano and his band, flush with two drummers (0ne who doubled as a guitarist), a bassist, and a keyboardist/french horn player, also added a good bit of sound.  His band complemented him well, and all got shout outs at various points in the show from Ben.  I was amazed by his piano playing, he spent most of the concert playing the piano in a half-stand, half crouch, and sometimes had one hand on the piano while the other was working a keyboard at his side.

I did know that Ben Folds was a witty lyricist, and that translated into some great between-song banter.  Before playing a cover of a Ke$ha song, he told a funny story about the night before the show involving his cell phone, a pool, and a surprise appearance by Ke$ha saving the day (diving into the pool fully clothed to retrieve Ben’s cell phone from the deep end).  He also had some great monologues about some of the new songs he had written with Nick Hornby.  His stage presence reminded me of John Darnielle.

Two favorite moments from the show.  When the group came out for their encore, the drummers came out first and Ben joined them in creating some juicy beats.  Then Ben took a turn on the bass and did some funky slap bass as the drummers shifted into funk mode.  Really cool.  Even better, when Folds was introducing his cover of Dr. Dre’s Bitches Ain’t Shit, he announced that he had trouble remembering the lyrics and a roadie brought a microphone to the center of the stage.  Oh crap, I thought, he’s going to bring Snoop out to rap.  Wrong.  After going through the first verse, who comes out but Bob Sagat.  Yeah, that Bob Sagat.  It was definitely the craziest concert moment I can remember.  He was pretty terrible as a rapper, but he hung in there and even came back out to help the band finish up the extended outro.

This was a show that had the best element that makes a great live show in spades.  Spontaneity.  I would definitely go see Ben Folds again just to see what he has in store for his audience.

Concert Binge

July 19, 2011

Sarah and I went on a tear lately buying concert tickets to a bunch of shows we wanted to go to.  It’s been a little while since our last show, which was the Raveonettes at the Trobadour.  That was a super loud show, and quite different than when I saw them three years ago in DC.  I expect a much quieter affair when we go to see Ben Folds next Thursday at the Wiltern.  I’ll admit I’m pretty new to Ben Folds, thanks to Sarah.  I’m looking forward to the show, and to a new venue for me in LA.

We also got tickets to Lykke Li at the Greek over in Griffith Park.  I saw her several years ago at a venue suited for her musical style, the Sixth and I Synagogue in DC.  The Greek is an outdoor amphitheater, I’ve never been so I don’t know exactly how big it is, but I think it will be interesting to see how the experience compares to the previous time I saw her.  I’ve enjoyed the few tracks from her latest album that I’ve heard on XM and her webpage.

In September, we’ll be seeing Bon Iver, who has become very popular in indie circles these days.  After a critically acclaimed debut, his followup just hit shelves (servers is probably more apropos).  Haven’t gotten around to buying it yet, but have liked what I’ve heard.  Being a native of Sarah’s college town of Eau Claire, she’s enthusiastic about him and apparently saw him play in college while he was with one of his earlier bands.  I saw him two years ago at the Black Cat in DC.  It was a great show, and one of the only shows I’ve ever been where the entire audience was completely quiet while he played by himself on an acoustic guitar.  We were surprised we got tickets, because we totally forgot about the ticket sale date.  We checked the next day expecting disappointment, and amazingly found two decent tickets.  Maybe he’s too “small town” for LA?

And then the coup de grace for me came this Friday, when I secured tickets to see Portishead in late October.  They don’t put out albums often, and tour here in the U.S. even less.  They were on a short list of bands I wanted to see very badly but thought I’d never get to see in my lifetime.  So I was psyched when I heard they were touring the U.S., even more so when I saw L.A. on the list, and ecstatic when I got through to buy tickets on the first try last Friday.  Hopefully the show will live up to my expectations, but what I have heard on PYNC a few other recordings, I’m thinking I’ll enjoy it.

Also going to go to at least one day of the Sunset Junction festival in August, which is right in our hood and is going to boast a pretty good lineup of bands.  And at $15, a great value especially since outdoor festivals are usually a lot of fun.  Which reminds me, i forgot the actual last show we saw was the end of the Morning Benders set and Best Coast in Pasadena at the Make Music festival.  They were good sets, though obviously not the most memorable.  Will try and update the blog with reviews of the show, assuming I can remember them all.