Posts Tagged ‘Cody Chestnutt’

SXSW 2014 – Quick Thoughts

March 17, 2014

We had such a blast last year, we headed back to Austin in 2014 for the music portion of the SXSW festival.  Like last year, we got badges.  Unlike last year, we went a day earlier and got a full day of music on Wednesday.  Here’s some quick thoughts, and then I’ll get more into the 51 bands we saw last week.

1. Last year was the year of lead singers going out into the audience.  Not one lead singer we saw went into the crowd this year.  Instead, this was the year of choreographed dance moves by lead singers.  I’m sure there’s some great insight to make about that, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

2.  If you have a badge, take advantage of the “fast pass” option.  Each day, you can go up to the 4th floor near the Radio Day stage and get a pass to one venue that will get you to the front of the line.  We used them Thursday-Saturday for the venue we planned to stay for the night. We got to the front of the line right before they opened for the night and were the first in and got our spot or seat of choice.

3.  The other theme that I noticed this year was the long soundchecks and adjustments that needed to be made after sets started to get the sound right, or at least listenable.  They should have handed out foam fingers to bands because they were constantly pointing index fingers up to get more sound in their monitors.  This culminated in a horrible sound job all night at the Bungalow on Saturday.

4. Seeing new venues is a fun part of the experience.  We did revisit a few places like Mohawk and Stubbs, but hit new places like the aforementioned Bungalow (it’s a nice space but couldn’t recommend because of the bad sound), The North Door, Red7, Parish and Empire Garage.

5.  A few of the shows that I really liked: St. Vincent’s set at Stubbs was probably the best thing I saw over the four days; Little Dragon’s sunny afternoon set at Red7; Hold Steady’s rollicking set at the Radio Day Stage; Angel Olson’s hypnotic performance at the Central Presbyterian Church; Cody ChestnuTT battling through the terrible sound at Bungalow with a fierce performance.

6.  The accident that happened early Thursday morning definitely put a damper on moods on Friday and was the subject of conversation with anyone we talked to during the day.  We were down the block at Stubbs that night and the only inclination anything was wrong was a circling helicopter between sets.  3 people have now died from injuries and there are still several seriously injured.  There was a moment of silence during the show at Parish on Friday night that was repeated at venues throughout the city.  It was a nice gesture that paid respect to the victims as well as announcing a fund to raise money to the victims.

Note that Jenn Wasner read during moment of silence Friday night.

Note that Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak read during moment of silence Friday night.

Should You Follow?

July 25, 2013

Cody ChestnuTT – Don’t Follow Me from Landing On a Hundred

If you listen to Cody, the answer to that question is a definite NO. Nestled in the middle of his excellent second full length record, 10 years in the making, this is a sad but pretty song.

For a moment the drum beat, strings and organ that open the song mimic Portishead’s Numb, but that changes with a quick piano part and Cody’s voice, which is quite different than Beth Gibbons.

That voice has a nice range that he uses throughout the song to convey the strong emotions in his lyrics. The first verse makes it seem that the singer is requesting a former lover (“baby”) to follow any in a list of things, but “whatever you do, don’t follow me.” The feeling that he might be literal in his plea is strengthened by the echoing of the refrain “don’t you follow me”, as if he is literally running away and saying it over his shoulder.

However the second verse flips your thoughts as here he provides the same advice to his “son”. Now he seems to be warning his offspring to make different choices, any choice, but to follow in his father’s footsteps. It makes you revisit the first verse and wonder whether he is abandoning his lover and not being chased away. That feeling is strengthened by his singing about not knowing what he now knows in the third verse.

I’ll admit that you could make other interpretations (possibly he is also spurning the child he had with the subject of the first verse), but that’s part of what makes it an interesting song.

The “boom boom Bap” of the drums (I’m a sucker for that heavy smack of a loose snare drum) and the soulful strings and sax that permeate around that drum sound and keep the mournful tone of the song. The piano comes back for a short turn before ceding control back to the organ and drums. The drums quit a little before the end and the sax flutters and dies as the song ends.

You can listen to the song here.

Starting off 2013…

January 3, 2013

Neneh Cherry & Thing, The (2) - The Cherry Thing

By talking about 2012.  I didn’t get around to an end-of-year post last week so here’s a couple thoughts on what I liked this year and a couple observations about some of the other “best of” lists that were out over the past few weeks.

Some of my favorite 2012 albums:

  • Cody Chestnutt, Landing On a Hundred.  A throwback to the soul late 60s and 70s, he waited ten years between albums.  The glacial pace between albums doesn’t generate the masterpiece you might think, but a thoroughly listenable album.  “That’s Still Mama” is probably my favorite song.
  • Neneh Cherry and The Thing, The Cherry Thing.  I guess I liked artists this year that went on long hiatuses (I also enjoyed the Bobby Womack album), as this was Cherry’s first album in twelve years.  Paired here with a Swedish three piece jazz outfit doing mostly covers of the likes of Iggy Pop and MF Doom, her beautiful voice is a nice counterpoint to the manic sounds of The Thing in the background.
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss.  I felt like this was what the next Black Keys record should have sounded like instead of the unfortunate El Camino (probably the biggest disappointment of the year for me).  Great riffs and catchy rhythms and White’s got an under-rated “rock” voice.
  • Neil Young, Americana.  Young covering a bunch of American standards, back with his backing band Crazy Horse.  I didn’t think this one would stick with me but it’s solid from front to back.  He also released another album, Psychedelic Pill, which I haven’t gotten to yet though the one song I have heard, the sixteen minute long “Walk Like A Giant” is epic.

Landing on a HundredA lot of the magazine and blog lists had Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange either at the top or near it, and I can’t disagree.  His ability to switch from molasses slow (e.g., “Super Rich Kids) to uptempo R&B (without being the treacly slop of Top 40 R&B) and a great voice make this one a no-brainer.  A little more puzzling was the almost universal opinion that Kendrick Lamaar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a better album than Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music.  I understand why critics like Kendrick, and I’m not saying it’s not a good album, but Killer Mike and El-P bring so much damn energy.  It reminds me of classics from Public Enemy and Ice Cube with the ferocity and great rhymes not letting up throughout the album.  I was also surprised that Beach House’s Bloom didn’t fare better in these lists.  It’s a great atmosphere album, a perfect complement to a summer afternoon.

Last thing to comment on before I leave 2012 behind.  There were a couple powerhouse songs that dominated the airwaves this year.  I think you know which one’s I’m talking about: “Call Me Maybe” (a nice earworm), “Somebody That I Used to Know” (good Peter Gabriel impression), “Gangnam Style” (ingratiating after a few listens) and “We Are Young”.  The last one kind of got lost in a lot of the discussions that focused on the first three at the end of the year, but to me it’s by far the best of the bunch.  I’ll also admit it’s the only one of these groups that I’ve heard more than their one hit, and they actually have several other legitimate good songs on Some Nights.  It’s a soaring anthem that will be the current youngsters’ “Don’t Stop Believin'” in twenty years, which ain’t a bad thing.

Leave you with another song that I liked way better than any of those pop hits: