Wednesday, June 10, 2009

LIVE: Passion Pit w/ The Harlem Shakes @ Black Cat, 6/9

When this show ended last night at 11:25, less than an hour after Passion Pit started playing, I felt both awesome and sort of bad.

First the awesome parts…

I missed Cale Parks, but I saw a bunch of people buying his merch, so I’ll assume he was awesome. Go Cale Parks!

Next were the Harlem Shakes, who were fantastic and wonderful and adorable. Their music is so fun and bouncy, it was a great way to not only kick off the show, but to kick off the summer (I’m officially done with junior year! Yeah!). The crowd was sort of chatty during their set, but the band played loud enough that it didn’t matter. Plus, enough people there were clearly fans. This one guy next to me knew every word and danced like a maniac the whole time. Another awesome thing about the band is that they had a guy play the flute. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people dance to a song with flute in it. The Shakes played cuts off of their EP, “Burning Birthdays,” as well as their new album “Technicolor Health.” If you don’t already own “Technicolor Health” you are a huge fool. It a perfect summer album and it’s pretty much all I’ve listened to for the past week and a half.

Of course, the band that everybody came to see was Passion Pit. The second the group walked out on stage, everybody in the Cat went nuts. People were pogo-ing and dancing like crazy to every song. If you had never heard them before, it would appear that every song was a single because every time PP launched into a new track the crowd went berserk as if the four minutes of this song would be the best four minutes of their life. Before the show I’d heard that PP was pretty weak live but after this show I COMPLETELY disagree. They sounded great and they brought more energy into the show than a lot of bands I’ve seen.

Now for the bad parts…

I missed Cale Parks, but I saw a bunch of people buying his merch, so I’ll assume he was awesome. Wish I could have heard his set.

The Harlem Shakes were robbed that morning in Richmond (”The most annoying thing that could happen ever,” according to one of the members after the show), so they had to play a few songs acoustic. While they definitely sounded better electric, they never let the acoustic-ness bring the energy level down. This doesn’t really qualify as a “bad part,” it was just sort of a bummer. I still love them.

The most disappointing part of the show, however, came when Passion Pit ended their set at 11:25, less than an hour after they began playing. In fact, I think they played closer to about 40 minutes. So yeah, they packed an insane amount of energy into those 40 minutes, but when you’re the headlining act at a sold out show, don’t you think you should play longer than the opener? And at least have an encore longer than just one song? I enjoyed their set so much, but the fact that it was so short put a bit of a damper on it. I mean seriously, I saw Bruce Springsteen a few weeks ago and he’s more than twice as old as these guys, but he played for THREE HOURS without stopping. Granted, he has a lot more material, but between “Chunk of Change” and “Manners,” these guys easily could have added five or six more songs to the set. At the end of the show I heard a lot of people saying great things about the band, but I also heard a lot of people griping that the played for such a short amount of time (One guy was hanging around the stage so he could ask the band why they never played “Seaweed Song.” He was all fired up. “They never played Seaweed Song, did you notice that?? Why didn’t they play it?! It’s only 11:25, why did they stop?!”)

Thoughts? Should they have played longer? Is such a short set to be expected from a band with only one full-length and one EP?

Overall I really enjoyed the show. Fun and high-energy. I just wish that Passion Pit had kept going a little longer.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Mandy Moore Makes a Comeback

In her teen-pop heyday, I was never a big Mandy Moore fan. To me, she was just a more boring Jessica Simpson. She sang songs really dull love songs and her voice wasn't anything spectacular. However, I did like a lot of the movies she was in (A Walk to Remember, The Princess Diaries, Saved...)

But then something changed. A few years ago, Moore started dating Zach Braff, and then singer-songwriter Greg Laswell. At about this time, she released a covers album called "Coverage." I don't own it, but based on what I've heard, it's not bad. She chose smart songs to sing, from artists such as Elton John, Carole King, Cat Stevens, and Blondie. Obviously, her versions aren't better than the originals, but the album at least showed her good taste, which I am sure is partially due to her relationships with men who have good taste.

Next, Moore recorded an album called "Wild Hope." It was her most original album to date, but still a little bland. It was just very polished contemporary pop with a singer-songwriter edge, especially on songs like "Gardenia." Here, Moore enlisted songwriters like Rachel Yamagata for help. Their influence is very apparent, but nothing on the album reaches the heights that Yamagata's music frequently does.

A few months ago, Moore released a new album, "Amanda Leigh." This album is another step in the right direction. It's jazzy and poppy on songs like "Pocket Philosopher" and "I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week," but quieter tunes such as "Bug" and "Merrimack River" balance the mood. There is a distinct 70's singer-songwriter influence on the album; it's almost as though all Moore listened to while recording it was Carole King's "Tapestry." Some tracks also seem to be directly influenced by her prolific singer-songwriter husband Ryan Adams, but none match his in terms of quality.

"Amanda Leigh" is not a fantastic album by any means, but it is definitely a solid effort. It's nice to see Moore moving in a new direction, and she definitely knows what kind of music she wants to make. I don't know if I'll continue to buy her albums, but I'll definitely give them a listen or two when they come out.