Well, maybe not, but it is how they SHOULD have gotten their name.
The general reaction to this year's CMJ Music Marathon can be summed up in one paragraph from the review over at Idolator:
"...this kind of mass ennui over up and coming bands doesn't bode well for
an already ailing enterprise (i.e. the music industry), biz folks and
press alike treating the process of auditioning new bands as a business
obligation spiked with occasional cocktails. The "suffocatingly cool"
vibe talked up by some of the more delusional hypemongers out there was definitely not
in effect, though a certain exhaustion brought on by diminished
expecations was: Is it particularly surprising that most people merely
shrugged when they learned their new blog rock emperors had no
cardigans? If CMJ is the first warning shot that people are becoming
weary/wary of the empty praise heaped indiscriminately on one mediocre
band after another, in an ever-shortening press cycle, then maybe this
lackluster year was worth it."
Every year I set out with the intention of doing daily blogs from the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival and every year it doesn't happen. I promise I'll go with "talk to you in a week" in 2008.
I'll start this post with another yearly tradition, the near insistence that you block off 5 days in October next year and come to this festival. It is quite simply the most fun, interesting and dynamic festival I've ever had the pleasure of attending. When I wasn't busy filing reviews at the 2am deadline for the Reykjavik Grapevine myself and the other Grapevine writers could usually be found upstairs at the insane watering hole Kaffebarrinn watching various indie-rockers take public drunkenness to new heights until 6am every night. If you could crawl out of bed by 3pm or so you could stumble down the main street of Laugavegur and sample the various "off-venue" surprises.......Of Montreal playing at a bookstore over here.......Sam Amidon and Nico Muhly opening an informal party at the rehearsal space of the post-insanity rockers Reykjavik! over there.
After five days it all starts to blend together into one warm glow. I will post my daily reviews from the Grapevine later this week, but one new discovery stood out above all others, and quite honestly I'd be shocked if this band didn't have great things in store for them over the next year. I'll hold out on doing a full post until I receive the full record next week, especially since their myspace doesn't even begin to illuminate how great this band really is. But in the meanwhile, click over and take a listen to Montreal's Plants and Animals . If I were the sort that liked to gamble on semi-obscure Canadian awards I'd a wager a tall stack of chips on this band for next year's Polaris Music Prize.
Other highlights were a gorgeous late night set by New York's Sam Amidon at Idno, a gorgeous venue with great sound. Amidon previewed his new record, which is a collection of American folk songs, stripped to their bare essence and performed delicately with a 12 piece chamber ensemble. Anyone in to Iron and Wine or Bonnie Prince Billy should keep an eye for when that record lands stateside, as it is being put out by Iceland's iconic Bedroom Community Label .
Iceland's Lights On The Highway impressed as well during their show at NASA, splitting the difference between Bonnie Prince Billy and Son Volt. Germany electro-popsters Lali Puna were incredible, but that's hardly a surprise.
I was excited to see that both of my picks from last year have continued to improve and impress. I was assigned to cover different venues, but on both occasions took advantage of set breaks to sprint across downtown Reykjavik to catch a few songs by Mr. Silla and Mongoose (Mr. Silla is incidentally also now a singer in Mum) and Hjaltalin respectively. The two couldn't be more different, but both are creating some interesting stuff. Last year the two bands played together in the intimate confines of the National Theater Basement, but this year Silla was at NASA and Hjaltalin at the Art Museum, the two biggest venues of the festival.
Every time I hear someone moan about bands selling out by licensing their music to television shows (see the sellout calculator in the previous post) I think about Josh Ritter. Were it not for a chance placement in the closing credits of an episode of "Six Feet Under" I never would have heard his song "Come and Find Me". After hearing that frighteningly gorgeous tune, I picked up Ritter's debut record "The Golden Age of Radio" and figured out quickly that he was one of the most talented songwriters out there. The days of seeing Ritter in a blissfully uncrowded Schubas are long gone, but he has managed to translate his charismatic live show to a larger stage with little trouble.
But enough of that rambling, eh? Let's get down to business. Ghost Media has a pair of tickets to tomorrows show at Park West to give away. First person to email with the subject line "Josh Ritter Tickets" gets a plus one.
Before your band signs that contract to license a song for use in a SUV commercial, better click over to the Washington Post's interactive "Moby Quotient" sellout-meter .
By the end of the day the smart money was solidly on an Interpol appearance as the Empty Bottle's oft--discussed "special guest". However, in the woefully understaffed Ghost Media World Corporate HQ we have no confirmation of this. Normally we'd have erstwhile Chicago Innerview Editor/Publisher Jay Gentile tending to Carlos D's buttonflies.....but as it happens he was busy setting up the Rocky Mountain Bureau of the impending media empire. So.....anyone go?
The night I first watched the video for Grizzly Bear's song "The Knife" I vividly recall thinking that these gentlemen had most likely lost their minds. It was one of the most bizarrely fascinating videos I had ever seen, and I probably watched it 30 times. It was directed by Isaiah Saxon and Seah Hellfritsch of Encyclopedia Pictura . When I caught up with guitarist Daniel Rossen recently I asked him about the filmmakers, and how it all went down.
I was very skeptical of them when they first came around. The ideas that they had before that one were so much more insane. You have no idea. Fucking absurd. It was all this weird symbolism and a lot of really sexual stuff. Initially it was like Ed with a replica of himself on his back and out of the replica of himself is birthed this weird phantom beast that is some kind of monster version of himself. And he like makes out with the monster on the beach and the rest of us were like water nymphs screaming and swimming in circles. It was totally crazy.
And then we were like, “No we don’t want to do that. That’s too insane. I don’t really want to be a water nymph." So we said, “Hey can you tone it down?”, and he was like “Okay cool.” And the next idea was like we were feral children raised by some kind of primate in the forest an there was some kind of tree that we all lived around that was carved down into a phallic penis sort of symbol, and then one of us was forced to fellate the penile tree. It was insane. And I was like, “These guys are just crazy. We can’t do this.”
The desert idea was the most neutral one, where it was just weird and made no sense basically. And it actually turned out amazing. I mean they did it on such a small budget, which was amazing too. It was all green screen. It was so weird because as it ended up it almost looks like a really well done B-movie. Or like an instructional video. Something about it is so bizarre it’s creepy. Just the style of it. Something about the style of it is so bizarre that I can’t even really describe it. I love the way it turned out.
I don’t know if they are ever going to work with us again, b/c I think doing that video kind of launched them into a new realm. I think they're doing Bjork's next video. I’m really excited for them. Feature films are eventually what they want to do. They’re insane, but it could be great.
There is no credited writer on the story, so I don't know who at New York Magazine to send my outpouring of gratitude to, but this compilation of Bob Dylan interviews is about the greatest thing I've ever seen.