Soul and Fire: Arresting Live Recordings

Cloud Nothings at WBEZ

Two themes have recurred in my life of late, lots of live music and lots of public radio.  Last Monday those two came together in a perfect symbosis when I saw Cloud Nothings perform at the local NPR radio affiliate WBEZ at a private taping.  An intimate and cozy studio that sat stood about 100 people was blown to smithereens (figuratively speaking) by the intensity of the band’s searing 30 minute set of songs from their 2012 excellent release Attack On Memory.  The sheer volume, energy and power were awesome.  It was loud, garage, grunge rock with the bittersweet and nihilistic lyrics of young adult life.  “Stay Useless” is still one of my repeated go to songs for energy and replenishment.

who needs earplugs? not I

With this little adrenaline boost of “live public radio”, I started working my way through some of the recent NPR archives of live in studio performance.  Let me tell you what a treasure chest it is.  Below are the songs that really wowed me with some brief descriptors and thoughts.  Also a number of these songs take place outside with some stunning back drops that just fill me with wanderlust. For the most part these are pensive folk and heart-wrenching soul numbers; what can I say I’m in a very impassioned and intense state of late, raw emotion seems a good thing.

Bomba De Luz “Howl at the Moon”

Breathtaking guttural, world-weary, blue-eyed soul from a seventeen year old?  Absolutely, breathtaking, possibly the best thing I’ve heard all week.  For Fans of Fiona Apple, the Alabama Shakes, Joss Stone.

Of Monsters and Men “Mountain Sound”

A gorgeous acoustic rendition of this beautiful baroque folk hymn from my new favorite Icelanders (who are touring the US again!!!; one of the best  2012 shows to date).  Love how the sun comes out mid song almost as though the heavens and earth were rejoicing at the jubilant sound of OMAM with as much fervor as their fans.  The trumpet in this songs just brings a childish grin to my face.

Husky “History’s Door”

Upbeat, full orchestration folk rock.  For fans of the Fleet Foxes and Midlake.

Cloud Cult “That Man Jumped Out the Window”

A mini-folk symphony on windy, treeless plain?  Isn’t this the stuff that Shakespeare is made of?  No, it’s Cloud Cult a band whose musical diversity, creativity, and proficiency is nothing short of inspiring.  For Fans of Mumford and Sons.

We Are Augustines “New Drink for the Old Drink”

Yet another folk number but of the more country variety, the campfire and life-affirming melodies conceal a darker story underneath.  Listen to what i believe is My Morning Jacket playing in the background at the edge.  For Fans of Uncle Tupelo, early Old 97s, Drive by Truckers.

Lee Fields “I’m Still Hanging On”

I saw Lee perform at the Hideout Block Party this past weekend and he and his band were every bit as wonderful as billed.  Listen to him just wail to his lover and perhaps to the rest of us that he is not going away.   We’ve all been there.   For Lovers and Fighters Lovers.

Now, Now “But I Do”

This Minnesota trio has been pleasing my ears with their dreamy melodies and songs of pining. Favorite line:  “I am what you want, when you don’t want anything else.” Love the keyboardist’s statement that “this is my workout for the year.” 

Metric “Synthetica”

Two thoughts: (1) I live in the wrong part of this country and (2) I love to see artists strip down their material and display the simplicity and ingenuity in their work in acoustic set. “No drug is stronger than me.”  Note:  this takes some time to start, but enough time to take in the majesty and immensity of the unbelievable backdrop.

Alt-J “Breezeblocks”

Still abuzz about this band that I’m going to see tonight.  Sold out show in Chicago.  This is just the beginning for them.

Dosh “Golden Silver”

…it is truly amazing what one musician can do these days.  Fans of Andrew Bird are familiar with (Martin) Dosh as a musical genius that helped expand A.Bird’s sound.  Here listen to him solo. Creating, conducting and manipulating a  serene, multi-layered instrumental mix of minimalist loops, cool jazz rhythms and peaceful percussion.  It’s the perfect coda to end the day.  For fans of Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Pat Metheny Group and Steely Dan.

Coming soon, lots of new albums that are crowding my record player!

Happy Friday and a merry weekend.


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