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The Morning Benders / June and July 2010 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 9th June 2010 at 11:00 am
 

The Morning Benders from Berkeley, California, will play a couple shows in the UK in June and one off in London in July. They will also appear on the Sunday of Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park (27 June). The band is currently on tour in America with Broken Bells; a review of their Washington DC show is forthcoming.

Saturday 26th June 2010 – Brighton Freebutt
Sunday 27th June 2010 – London Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park
Monday 28th June 2010 – Manchester Night and Day
Tuesday 29th June 2010 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Thursday 1st July 2010 – London Barfly

 

Preview: Glastonbury 2010

 
By on Friday, 23rd April 2010 at 12:00 pm
 

Surely I don’t need to explain to you what Glastonbury is – it’s simply LEGENDARY. Even as an American (though, admittedly, an Anglophile), every year I drool over the lineup, despair at not being able to attend and then scour the internet for pictures and videos when it’s over. Each summer, the enormous site at Worthy Farm (about a mile and a half in diameter) turns into a mini-city for the  largest greenfield festival in the world. Since the first Glasto was held 40 years ago in 1970, the festival has come to be known for its truly amazing lineup, and this year is no different.

One of the perks of being the biggest festival around is that you can get the biggest artists around. This year, the Pyramid Stage will be graced by some of the most recognizable names in music. On Friday night, Irish rockers U2 are headlining, with support from Dizzee Rascal, Vampire Weekend, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, and Corinne Bailey Rae. Saturday night sees headliner MUSE share the stage with the likes of Scissor Sisters, Shakira and Jackson Browne. And on the final night, legend Stevie Wonder tops the bill, closing out the festival after performances from Paloma Faith, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson and guitar legend Slash.

But it’s not only the main stage that’s worth visiting. Punters will get quite a workout running between that and the other 12 stages, of which the Other Stage, the John Peel Stage and the Park Stage look the most promising. Over the course of the weekend, the Other Stage lineup reads like the index page of NME: The Flaming Lips, Florence and the Machine, La Roux, Hot Chip, Phoenix, the Courteeners, the Cribs, Kate Nash, Editors, Two Door Cinema Club, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, We Are Scientists, Temper Trap, the Hold Steady and more.

Originally called the “New Bands Tent,” the John Peel Stage features a mix of old and new favourites. Friday night sees Groove Armada share the stage with the likes of Mumford & Sons, Ellie Goulding and Bombay Bicycle Club. Saturday night is jam-packed with bands we’ve featured here on TGTF, like the xx, Foals, Marina and the Diamonds, Delphic, Wild Beasts and Field Music. And Sunday night remains epic with sets by Ash, Julian Casablancas and the Drums.

All the way across the site, the Park Stage will play host to buzz bands like the xx, Broken Bells, the Big Pink, Midlake, Laura Marling, Stornoway, Beach House, Frankie & the Heartstrings and Dirty Projectors, ending with a headlining set by Australian electronic duo Empire of the Sun on Sunday night. And at the risk of making your heads explode by listing even more bands, at the other stages festival-goers will be treated to performances by Mos Def, Phenomenal Handclap Band, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Turin Brakes, Imelda May, DJ Fatboy Slim, Crystal Castles, Good Shoes, Fanfarlo and Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip.

If you’re not already overwhelmed by the sheer massiveness of the festival, then you can click here to view the complete lineup. But if you don’t already have tickets for the sold out spectacular, then be warned, it will turn you green with envy.

Glastonbury 2010 is completely SOLD OUT. It will be held from Wednesday, 23rd June to Sunday, 27th June 2010 at Worthy Farm, Pilton.

 

Album Review: Broken Bells – Broken Bells

 
By on Friday, 16th April 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Danger Mouse (real name Brian Burton) and James Mercer (of the Shins) are now on everyone’s lips as American psychedelic duo Broken Bells. In March they released their self-titled debut album and nearly sold 50,000 copies on its release week. After repeated listenings of the album during my downtime last month as a juror, I really enjoyed the mostly skillful renderings of the ten soundscapes that make up this album. The more I’ve listened to it, the more I’m convinced of an existentialist thread running throughout – meaning this isn’t just any plain pop record. I think Burton and Mercer thought long and hard how this album was going to go together, and I think this shows in the way it flows almost effortlessly from one track to another.

It seems bizarre to be reviewing two ‘psychedelic’ albums back to back (see MGMT‘s latest), but the one massive benefit is that I can draw some comparisons and contrasts between the two album-length efforts that I wouldn’t normally be able to do. Mercer (who is an unsettling dead ringer for Kevin Spacey) adopts a falsetto for some tracks on this album but unlike Andrew Wyngarden’s stab at it in ‘Congratulations’, Mercer seems more at home with crooning at high pitch. Somehow, Burton and Mercer have also managed to keep all 10 tracks on this debut well under the 5-minute mark: whether or not this was to retain single release possibilities remains to be seen.

‘The High Road’ begins the album with some video game blips and bleeps – a seemingly recurring theme in popular music today. In a sweet, loving voice, the duo warns ‘it’s too late to change your mind / you let laws be your guide’ that, in hindsight, could be interpreted two different ways. As if to give a nod to the whole dreamlike nature of this album, the promo video for the song is quite non sequitur:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWBG1j_flrg[/youtube]

This is swiftly followed by the more trancelike ‘Vaporize’, with lyrics of “It’s not too late / to feel a little more alive / make an escape / before we start to vaporize”. Liberal dashes of “la la las” stop this one from feeling too heavy. ‘Sailing to Nowhere’ sounds appropriately like a sea shanty. Oddly, they’ve chosen to purposely muffle the vocals, which is a shame because otherwise I really enjoy Mercer’s voice throughout the album. The vocals are also muffled on ‘Trap Doors’, but the melody and programming on this track will make you forgive them.

It’s nice to note that the piano and organ both play prominent roles in this album, with winning results. (See ‘October’, with its piano-driven melody.) The only instruments on the album not played by Burton or Mercer are the string parts (arranged by Daniele Luppi), which sound amazing on the surreal-named ‘Your Head is on Fire’. If my head is really on fire, I hope Mercer is next to me, singing me into oblivion.

The masterpiece of the album is ‘The Ghost Inside’, sporting a melody that doesn’t sound immediately poppy. But I dare anyone to listen to this track and not have its melody stuck in your head in short order. This is the track that I believe will convert falsetto haters into lovers.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNl0Jw9_Z5A[/youtube]

But don’t worry if you’re still not sold on falsettos: there is plenty to love on this album that isn’t sung in a pitch than is not normally accepted for male singers. Check out their parting shot with ‘The Mall & Misery’, which starts softly for the first minute before speeding up into a fantastic rock number. A great ending to a good album, and definitely one worth checking out.

8/10

Broken Bells’s self-titled debut album was released in March 2010 and is available now. The duo recently announced their first North American tour of significant length (beginning in mid-May in San Diego) and have confirmed their first UK appearance at London’s Meltdown Festival in June.

 

Video of the Moment #239: Broken Bells

 
By on Friday, 19th March 2010 at 6:00 pm
 

Broken Bells is the new alt-rock project of Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and James Mercer of the Shins. By now you’ve probably heard their single ‘The High Road’, taken from their self-titled debut album released in the UK last week (on 08 March).

I am totally digging their sound that recalls the expansiveness of the Eagles, psychedelia of the late ’60s, the great falsettos from ’70s disco, and even ’80s video game blips. The two met at Roskilde Festival in 2004 and discovered they were fans of each other’s work. They worked in secret on new music until September 2009, when they finally revealed their new project.

Here’s a live performance of their groovy ‘The Ghost Inside’ on American telly’s ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’ earlier this month. It even features trippy lighting!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkI8QQkFA2k[/youtube]

Broken Bells’s self-titled debut album is available now from Columbia Records.

 
 
 

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