Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Field Report Release "Marigolden"

Wisconsin bands have been in the spotlight for some time now with up and coming bands such as PHOX, Blessed Feathers and Field Report among others. In 2012 frontman Chris Porterfield found himself in the studio recording what was to become the debut self titled Field Report album. After a support tour in 2013, the quartet took a large batch of songs and retreated to Ontario to record their followup album Marigolden.

Marigolden starts with the acoustic driven ballad, “Decision Day”, described as a “sunrise”, ending full circle with the album's closing track “Enchantment,” which bring a sense of balance to the various themes throughout. The album deals with life on the road and what was left back home, which can be heard on pop esque single “Home.” The piano inspired “Ambrosia,” addresses Porterfield's relationship with alcohol (a reoccurring topic heard throughout), while “Wings,” widens the range within the genre sounding a bit more electronic, yet fiting within the album as a whole without exceeding its boundaries.

In the never ending Ontario blizzard, Field report built the songs up only to strip them down and rebuilt them “using only their essential elements,” breaking only to feed logs to the fire, which reflect upon the intimacy heard on Marigolden. Regardless of the themes, the album is arranged in a way that speaks to everyone, leaving the listener with distinct and familiar feeling.

Marigolden is out now, purchase the album on the Field Report Website where you can find more info on the band along with tour dates, videos, etc. You can catch them live at The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, on October 22nd along with a list of dates seen below.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

10/7: The Bishop // Bloomington, IN
10/8: Zanzabar // Louisville, KY
10/9: Mercy Lounge (High Watt) // Nashville, TN
10/11: Hootenanny Harvest Festival // Hannibal, MO
10/12: Indie On Main // Kansas City, MO
10/14: The Varsity Theater // Minneapolis, MN
10/15: The Frequency // Madison, WI
10/17: Daytrotter @ Codfish Hollow // Maquoketa, IA
11/6: Meyer Theater // Green Bay, WI
11/7: House of Rock // Eau Claire, WI 
11/8: Schubas // Chicago, IL 
11/11: Hi-Dive // Denver, CO
11/13: The Satellite // Los Angeles, CA
11/15: The Crepe Place // Santa Cruz, CA
11/16: Brick & Mortar // San Francisco, CA
11/18: Bunk Bar // Portland, OR
11/19: Sunset Tavern // Seattle, WA

Visit www.fieldreportmusic.com/tour for more information on tickets and dates.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LISTEN: New Track from Kendrick Lamar - "i"

The world is abuzz today, and two words (one man) are being said by many, many people today: Kendrick Lamar.

Perhaps the world's best hip hop artist currently, Kendrick released his new track "i" today, which was produced by Rakhi (sampling a song by The Isley Brothers) is streaming below. To say it's really good would be an understatement; listen to it today, and be ready to listen to the uplifting track many, many (many...many...many) times in days to come.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

CONCERT PREVIEW: Spoon w/ EMA at Riverside Theater, Milwaukee 9/17

It's concert season in the Milwaukee. No more festivals. We now get to huddle around each other in the warmth of the best theaters in the Midwest. Fall brings in tons of fantastic shows, and Wednesday, September 17th starts the beginning of a fantastic month and a half of shows, as Milwaukee brings in indie rock group Spoon with special guest EMA.

Erika M Anderson, or EMA as she's known in the music world, is a singer-songwriter from South Dakota (yes... South Dakota), who got her start in drone rock outfit Gowns. She's been heavily talked about since her debut solo album, "Past Life Martyred Saints" was released in 2011, gaining notoriety with tracks like "California" and rave reviews from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and the like.

Her follow up "The Future's Void" is straddling the fine line between electronic and organic rock music, with heavy amounts of noise and even more heavy lyrics that provide dark, startling imagery, focusing on technology while not succumbing to stereotypical uses of electronics in music. EMA feeds off of improvisation, and that will typically give way to a fantastic live show. For a taste of the live goods, check out her recent network television debut, performing "Neuromancer" on Late Show w/ David Letterman.

EMA will provide a fine opening set for indie rockers Spoon, who dabble in experimentation on stage themselves.

Recently releasing their eighth studio album, They Want My Soul, Spoon is back on the road, trying to showcase new tricks, after releasing two of the best albums of the last ten years with Gimme Fiction in 2005, and following up with Ga Ga Ga Ga in 2007. Their following, self-produced album Transference, fell a little short but nevertheless still provided enough solid music to keep Spoon in listeners hearts. And, let's be honest, it was going to be difficult to follow up two of the most popular rock albums of the times.

They Want My Soul picks up where Transference left off, with plenty of electronic drum beats, keys, guitar riffs, and Britt Daniel's raspy, growling voice. I was pleasantly surprised by their latest album, going in to my first listen not expecting too much. But tracks like "Do You", "Rent I Pay" and "Inside Out" will fit right in to a Spoon live set next Wednesday.

Check out their full performance from KEXP below, and purchase your tickets for the show here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Hideout Block Party & The Onion A.V. Fest Preview | Chicago - Sept. 5-6

Ah yes, the Summer festival season is coming to an end here in the Midwest. Chicago plays host to a seemingly unending list of music festivals, from Lollapalooza to Pitchfork, Spring Awakening to Taste of Randolph, the festivals and events range from annoyingly large to ideally undersized.

Smack dab between North Coast and Riot Fest lies one of Chicago's hidden gems: The Hideout Block Party/ The Onion A.V. Fest, put on by local venue & bar, The Hideout and The Onion's entertainment partner A.V. Club.

Last year's Hideout/AV Fest featured Neko Case, The Walkmen, Young the Giant, The Hold Steady and other notable acts as the festival continues to grow, and this year shows the festival's growth even more clearly.

What makes this year so special? Well on the surface, headlining acts like Death Cab for Cutie and The War on Drugs are big enough to draw a sizable crowd, and undercards like Hamilton Leithauser (of The Walkmen), Mac DeMarco, Sylvan Esso and The Dismemberment Plan and others will provide entertainment throughout the two-day festival.

First, the big draw is Friday's headliner, and there's an extra, bittersweet bonus in play. Death Cab for Cutie has been one of my favorite bands since high school, (pre-Seth Cohen/The O.C. influence) and although their albums have decreased in overall quality over the years, that doesn't change my desire to hear their songs live, new and old.

The bittersweet lies within the band's guitarist/keyboards/production-extraordinaire Chris Walla, who announced last month that he would be leaving the band after the group's September shows. This means that Friday night will mark the last Chicago appearance for Walla as a member of DCFC. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, and will probably become a little emotional as one of my favorite musicians in one of my all-time favorite bands steps away. It's like Derek Jeter retiring from The New York Yankees: the Yankees will still be there, but Jeter's iconic #2 won't be; Death Cab will still make music, but their most talented musician won't be with them.

Also with an O.C. tie-in, Hamilton Leithauser will take the stage before DCFC on Friday, and alright, fine The O.C. thing is a bit of a stretch (The Walkmen played the series' staple-venue The Bait Shop in its opening season). Although I've come on record as saying Hamilton's solo material is second-tier to former Walkmen member, Peter Matthew Bauer's Liberation!, his album Black Hours is very good and I look forward to watching the crooner's new material live. I just pray no one yells, "THE RAT!"

Saturday brings in one of my new favorite acts, Sylvan Esso. With some hometown (Milwaukee) ties, Sylvan Esso features former Decibully/Megafaun member Nick Sanborn, and singer Amelia Meath performing some sneaky-good electropop. Comparable to groups like the xx, Feist, The Blow, and CHVRCHES, Sylvan Esso is likely to overcome many of these comparisons in 2014 and move forward into the new year. Ambient structures paired with abrupt, heavy synths and bass, all while Meath's sparkling vocals win over any listeners in earshot.

Also on Saturday is one of indie rock's most spirited live acts, Mac DeMarco. I was blown away at Mac's performance last year at Pitchfork Music Festival, playing feel-good summery songs like "Cookin' Up Somethin' Good" and "Ode to Viceroy". But it's DeMarco's voice that can really turn heads, ranging between a deep growl to a stonery, laid-back smoker's buzz.

Saturday's weather is supposed to be ideal in Chicago, and there couldn't be a better soundtrack than Mac DeMarco. Keep your eyes and ears open for a surprise cover or two from Mac, and make sure to watch him shred his makeshift guitar.

Saturday night will belong to The War on Drugs. Their latest album, Lost in the Dream is a heavy contender for 2014 Album of the Year, and for good reason. Its sound is epic, and true to the times its released in, yet is undeniably timeless. To further prove that 2014 belongs to The War on Drugs, the group performed a buzzworthy rendition of single "Red Eyes" for The Late Show With David Letterman (second only in buzz to the indescribable Future Islands). Check out that performance below, and get your asses to Chicago to catch one of the most mind-blowing live rock acts of our time.

Hideout Fest promises to be one of the best festival experiences of the summer. Is it packed with hundreds of acts, from 10am-10pm for three days? No. But along with that come many benefits: less neon attire (your retinas will thank you), less drugged-out frat/sorority parties, no VIP access passes for $1000+, accessible lines to food and drink, and the best thing of all - elbow room.

Single Day and Two-Day Tickets are available here: http://ticketf.ly/1qA8ACu //
// Check out my Instagram Feed for up-to-the-minute photo updates here // 
// Photo Uploads will be available at Stage Right Photo //

Friday, August 15, 2014

WATCH: Ty Segall Performs "Feel" Live on Conan

Indie Garage-rock staple Ty Segall is well on his way to making his name known throughout the country as one of the genre's best. With performances like last night's take on "Feel" from Conan O'Brien, it's not going to take very long.

Segall comes out dressed like some sort of sci-fi warlock, but mid-way through the song, the magic is shown in Ty's guitar play. Alongside longtime collaborator, Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall gives a performance that needs to be seen to be believed.

Be on the lookout for Ty Segall's seventh (yes SEVENTH) studio album, Manipulator, due out later this month.

Friday, July 25, 2014

FESTIVAL RECAP - Best of Pitchfork Festival 2014 - Twin Peaks

Cadien Lake James of Twin Peaks

Gonna switch gears here... the first day was great, sure, but over the course of the next two days of the festival, I was blown away by the amazingness lined up before me.

Saturday's lineup began with Twin Peaks at 1pm, a Chicago-native band I've been tracking silently for the last few months. I made sure to bring my group of friends to check out their set on Saturday, hoping they wouldn't disappoint, as I'd never seen them perform live before, not to mention the group doesn't even have a full-length album under their belts (the group released an EP, Sunken, last year).

Clay Frankel of Twin Peaks
And they did everything but disappoint. The guys were incredibly entertaining, and made the most of the exciting opportunity that was placed before them, even noting the fact that they could see themselves on the giant screens throughout the park.

Three of the four members do a fair amount of singing, with each member bringing an undeniable amount of character to their parts of each song. The track "Making Breakfast" perfectly highlighted the group's strongpoints, with frontman Cadien Lake James (seen in the picture at the top of this article, who was wheelchair-bound until the last song of their set, which he played his last chords from his knees) howling with a gritty and caustic vocal tone in between shaking his head back and forth or sticking his tongue out.

Meanwhile, bassist Jack Dolan and guitarist Clay Frankel bounced around stage, smiling, at one point, Frankel stepped off stage towards the crowd onto a piece of the enormous sound system, performed some riffs
there, and later, smashed the guitar in frustration. It shattered into two separate pieces, both of which Frankel hurled into the crowd, something I can't say I've ever seen done before.

Clay ensured everyone was okay after the hilarity, making sure he wasn't going to be sued, as of course he "...ain't got no moneyyyy..."

Overall, their entire set was one of the best of the weekend. Even without knowing many of the songs, it was a spectacular glimpse into their upcoming album, Wild Onion, which is due out on August 5. The band played incredibly well together, all bringing their own undeniable charm and style to the stage, and proved to be one of the best acts we'd see during the festival.

I'll be looking to pick up one of their 'Chicago Bulls Mascot Smoking A J' t-shirts when they come back through the midwest as part of their headlining tour this fall.

UPDATE: The group's forthcoming album, Wild Onion, is available for stream courtesy of Pitchfork Advance here. I highly suggest you check it out.

PREVIEW: Panama at Urban Island Beach Party - 08/01/14

Photo: Maclean Stephenson

There's seemingly a never ending slew of things to do in Milwaukee in the Summer. There's literally a festival every weekend, outdoor movies accompanied by fish fries, bike marathons, jazz in parks... you get the picture.

Friday, August 1 marks another busy day on the MKE Calendar, with the annual Urban Island Beach Party at Lakeshore State Park glistening near the top of any young adult's to-do list.

The event is hosted by Newaukee, and as nauseating as some of their events can be (this particular party will feature Mayor Tom Barrett and Alderman Bauman smashing PINEAPPLES... yay), the event is free, and open to the public and will feature a lot of decent food trucks, a pig roast and plenty of beverages our city is known so well for. The party will benefit the Friends of Lakeshore Park, a group looking to further the development of the venue hosting the party, a gorgeous isthmus on the coast of Lake Michigan.

There are numerous reasons to check out the party, and if the title of the event alone doesn't draw some form of intrigue, the main act, Australian-natives Panama, should. Their track, "Always" has been lighting up independent radio stations, blogs and online streaming services, with over 2 million plays on the band's Soundcloud.

Frontman and songwriter Jarrah McCleary is a classically trained pianist (since the age of six), and the group has been working alongside some of the indie dance music business' top names; their latest work, Always EP, was produced in Los Angeles by Eric Broucek, who has worked with FPT-favorites Holy Ghost!, Classixx, !!!, and Chet Faker. The EP features three tracks as well as a few remixes (that Classixx remix is amazing), all of which match the title track's exciting, paradise-now, nature.

The three-piece group has been honing in their live sets over the course of 2014, receiving rave reviews at SXSW this year, and continuing to get the US all worked up over their fantastic summery dance tracks.

The group will go on at around 8:30pm, the perfect time for a band such as Panama. Grab some friends and dance the night away, Panama will take you to that amazingly euphoric place, one in which the sun is setting and epically blissful live music can be heard all around you. The night will be one to remember, and an undoubted highlight to your summer.

Stream Panama's Always EP below, courtesy of Future Classic's Soundcloud page.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

FESTIVAL RECAP - Pitchfork Music Festival - Part One

Beck Performs at Pitchfork Festival 2014
Photo by Matt Lief Anderson

What a weekend. Pitchfork Music Festival never disappoints, and 2014's edition of PMF was no different.

We'll begin with day one, and I'll start with the not-so-good before getting to the greatness.


We'll begin with what turned out to be my biggest letdown of the weekend, Beck's sound issues.

I had very high expectations for Beck's set, one that ended up being stacked with some of my favorite songs over the singer/songwriter's illustrious career, one that has spanned almost my entire life. However, sound issues seemed to plague the almost-20-song list he had stacked up, starting right away with "Devil's Haircut". Even Beck seemed frustrated, and although it did get better, I couldn't help but to come away unimpressed. Maybe it was my own fault, building up such high expectations in anticipation for an artist that molded my musical tastes, or maybe it was the fault of some of the fantastic undercard performers I caught earlier in the day (more on them, later).

One positive I did take away from the show, was a remembrance of just how great Beck is. Ever the showman, donning that second-most famous hat in music, Beck rattled through some amazing songs, and almost surprised me at just how many of them I knew and loved at some point in my life. I was instantly taken back to a more troublesome and confusing part of my life when "Lost Cause" was played, and then in an instant, I got all alternative again as he transitioned into his breakout song, "Loser".

He closed the set with an encore of "Sexx Laws", fan-favorite "Debra", and finished with "Where It's At" - which spun into an interesting medley (and a brief homage to Chicago and Chicago's-own R. Kelly) before returning to form again. I wanted so hard to be excited as I left the festival grounds on the opening night, but all I could leave saying was an astounding, "meh..."

Giorgio Moroder

An important thing to remember during festivals that feature aging musicians looking to capitalize on recent acknowledgement to their greatness, is never to ask "Why is this happening?" and to sit there and enjoy it.

I will more than likely never get another chance to enjoy a Giorgio Moroder-curated set of disco and dance music. The 70-something-year-old Italian "Father of Disco" played his hour-long set with such passion and joy that you could basically see it beaming from his smile beneath his mustache, glistening from his fingers and hands as he waved them back and forth, begging the crowd to go along with him on a musical journey that stretched back to a time long before many of the patrons had been born.

Much like Beck, Moroder reminded us of how long he's been at it, playing tracks from his soundtrack glory days, like "Take My Breath Away" while scenes from the prolific 1986 film were played on the jumbotrons throughout the Green/Red stage area on the grounds. In fact, half of the glory of watching Giorgio play, after exiting the photo pit, were the visuals on either side of him, images of Donna Summer and

Laughter could be heard throughout the crowd as Giovanni Moroder (who insisted on us calling him Giorgio) played that night. But I never once got the vibe that those watching were laughing at him, rather they were simply laughing with him, enjoying themselves, and living in the spectacle of watching the legend perform.

Sharon Van Etten / Factory Floor / Hundred Waters

The triple header of acts that I caught in the early parts of the day on Friday are truly what makes Pitchfork Music Festival so enjoyable.

Hundred Waters were moved to the Red Stage, and pushed back in a time slot, after Death Grips pulled a Death Grips and broke up a couple weeks prior to the festival. And although a lot of the crowd could be heard/seen expressing their disappointment in the Death Grips fallout, Hundred Waters made the most of the situation.

The group will tour later this year with Interpol, and the festival was a great introduction to a band I had only heard a couple of tracks prior to seeing them take the Red Stage on Friday, I was sincerely impressed at the sound and dynamic they offered. Lead singer Nicole Miglis stated the fact that their Friday set was their first festival appearance, and tracks like "Show Me Love", "Cavity", and "Down From the Rafters" really gave a fantastic glimpse of what's to come from the group, and showcased Miglis' entrancingly beautiful voice, reminding listeners of last year's Friday headliner, Björk.

Switching gears completely, Factory Floor was next on the day's task list, and ended up being one of my top surprises of the festival that weekend. I knew their set would be heavy, but I had no idea it would be that heavy.

The crowd ate it up, as if the group was feeding them their next round of amphetamines, and as I continuously checked the crowd behind me, the nodding heads turned into a mass of bodies jumping up and down, turning into a swarm of accelerated heart rates.

For the first time in my life, I saw body passing at an electronic show. I'm positive it's happened before, but I've never seen so many people get that involved in a set that took place mid-afternoon.

Sharon Van Etten is one of the most underrated folk singers of recent memory. Her beautiful voice is matched by her grace and talent on stage, and she is always so charming and kind as she stares out into a sea of thousands of people. She smiles, waves, and mouths "Hello" to possibly familiar faces in the front row.

Her onstage banter and charisma was perfect, as she says "Hello, from over here now" after playing her first song on guitar, and switching to a keyboard/beat machine on the left side of the stage. Playing songs new and old throughout, but it was the new tracks that really glistened and showcased her dynamic, something that it's hard for me to believe wasn't planned.

Opening with "Afraid of Nothing" and closing with "Every Time The Sun Comes Up" was a carefully crafted move. Both tracks off of her latest album, Are We There, served as perfect bookends to one of Friday's more flawless sets.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Electric Forest '14 - Post-Festival Wrap-Up

All photos & coverage by Anders Seefeldt

At one time they seemed infinite. The technicolored lights and beating tones dancing through the trees alongside the tens of thousands of restless Foresters. Then, at the end of the last night of Electric Forest, Moby took off his headphones and stepped out from behind the podium. With the reverb from the last track melting into the roar of the crowd, he approached the very edge of the stage, stopped, and perched there for several moments. Without saying a word, he peered out over everyone as if completely humbled by the site of it all - right where he was meant to be.

It is impossible not to be in awe of Electric Forest. Even though I had been here before, it was as surreal as ever. The giant new Forester statue and redesigned Tripolee stage were spectacular new sights, but they were small compared to all I would discover.

I arrived at the four day camping festival Thursday afternoon with a great deal of uncertainty. My good friend and fellow Forester had a family emergency the day before (all is well now thankfully) and couldnt attend, so I decided to join up with a friend of a friend and a couple others. Not overly outgoing or a camping expert by any stretch of the imagination, I was well out of my comfort zone as we began to pitch our tents under the sweltering sun in the thick of the action. But I had to keep moving... There were shows to catch.
On the surface, Electric Forest appears to be largely an EDM festival. But as soon as you arrive you realize how broad the spectrum of music really is. Cut Copy threw down a silhouetted multicolored dance party Sunday night, Umphreys McGee jammed away on consecutive occasions and Steve Angello turned up the heat with a fire breathing set so scorching the fire department was in attendance in case things got real.

Austrailian house producer Anna Lunoe joined in the fun, dancing along with the audience, and Ms. Lauryn Hill even joined up with The String Cheese Incident during one of their three mesmerizing shows. Aloe Blacc, Matt & Kim, St. Lucia, Classixx, Poolside, and Tycho were all in the mix as well.

To escape the heat Sunday afternoon, I trekked towards the Forest stage to catch some cool house vibes from Kygo, a Norwegian dj, playing at the stage. But as so often the case here, I was sidetracked. Standing in the middle of the open plaines was Kansas Bass. Two guys with a bass and a fiddle, beard and suspenders. Their bare feet caked with dirt from kicking up a good ol fashioned barn dance. I stayed for a few steps which was enough time for a small group to jump in. A short walk later and I had arrived at my intended destination in the Forest, flooded with people swaying to Kygos digitized dance.

As fascinating and diverse as these shows were, they were only a small part of the festival. And this is what makes Electric Forest so special. There is so much to see and do; it is a foregone conclusion that you will become lost in the energy of the place. From silent discos to psychedelic bingo to a meditative gong hut (you really have to see this for yourself), the more we wandered the forest the more we discovered, and the closer my makeshift group of friends and I became.

Late Saturday night after STS9 and Art Department unplugged, we ventured out into the Sherwood Forest to see what kind of nocturnal commotion we could drum up. Sure enough, we found a small band wailing away at The Grand Artique, a wooded turn-of-the-century bungalow and trading post burrowed deep beneath the trees. The cozy spot was so intimate that Francisco Fernandezs mic was hardly needed as he poured out his emotions with the Ferocious Few under an American flag scrawled with the note Victory today or tomorrow. Liberty forever.

One of the greatest discoveries however was Emerson Jay. The indie dance group was performing only their fifth show ever and threw an energizing party one afternoon with synths that seemed to ride in on sunbeams. Even their tropical and native patterned clothes seemed to fit in perfectly with the spirit of the festival. And when I asked them about their colorful attire, it all made sense. Another buddy that we met here, he was like I make clothes and I heard you playing. Would you guys be interested in wearing my clothing when you perform? And we were like, Oh, yea, of course. Please!’”

Mother nature joined in on the fun too. As soon as the sun went down, Mars and Venus glowed red and yellow in the starlit sky, adding to the festivals already amazing production. At one point, a shooting star blazed overhead as if it were a wink from the heavens.

Anna Lunoe
On the last day, my new friends and I took shelter from the sun under the shade of a wooden hut. On the underside of the roof we discovered a trove of hand-drawn art, and it reminded us of all the discoveries wed made, and the memories wed created. Talking as if wed been friends for years, it seemed completely foreign to think that just days earlier I was uncomfortable at all. From strangers to artists to nature - everyone was part of everything.

Its the energy of the place, Anna Lunoe said to us in quiet amazement after her set, Its the whole community that has a certain outlook on life. Adorned with kandi bracelets and a dreamcatcher necklace given to her by fans she added This festival is incredible and so different to so many other festivals that Ive been to.

As I walked backed to my tent after Mobys closing set, I noticed an illuminated message pieced together in multicolored glow sticks. Not all who wander are lost it read. I couldnt help but think of all the unique pieces that came together to create such a spectacular and unified experience. I also thought of Carl, the long lost legend of the festival, and I knew that wherever he is, he couldnt really be lost. For I too wandered through the Forest, lost in the majesty of it all, and I never felt more at home. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Interview: Peter Matthew Bauer Embraces Chaos After The Walkmen

Peter Matthew Bauer
Photo Credit: Matt Barrick

Last November, long-time favorites The Walkmen announced their indefinite hiatus, leaving behind 13 years of some of the greatest modern American rock music.

When the news struck, I can't say I wasn't surprised, but that doesn't mean it had no affect. The group's 2011 album, Lisbon, is one of my favorites of all time, not to mention the previous albums all shaped my perspective of music; the band released their first album alongside the arrival of great NYC bands like The Strokes and Interpol, but managed to hold their grounds as one of the city's finest (despite hailing from Philadelphia).

But in 2012, with the release of Heaven, the "human" side of the group really started to take form. Family members made their way onto the album art, and the songs began to feel more interpersonal. Thus, when the "hiatus" was announced, it seemed that the band was ready to step aside from music, and focus on relishing in this "human" side a little more.

But that wasn't necessarily the case. This year, three members of The Walkmen have released solo projects. Frontman Hamilton Leithauser released Black Hours, an album that contains some of the same character as The Walkmen's previous two albums, and echoes what the group was trying to
accomplish, but instead with more jazzy vocal pop and old folk influences, noting heavy influences of Frank Sinatra, Randy Newman and Bob Dylan, amongst others.

Multi-instrumentalist Walter Martin released a more family-oriented album, We're All Young Together earlier this year as well. Martin stated that he created the album with his daughter in mind - he began writing the album while his wife was pregnant with their first child, and the results clearly reflect this. There's even room for a novelty song, which features The National's Matt Berninger, called "We Like The Zoo ('Cause We're Animals Too)".

Where these two albums falter, it's The Walkmen's former bassist and multi-instrumentalist Peter Matthew Bauer who picks up the slack. His album, entitled Liberation!, focuses heavily on Bauer's religious experiences growing up, and translating them into brilliant, light-hearted pop-folk songs. I recently had the chance to speak with Peter about his album, and the transition to becoming a solo artist.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I made sure to tread lightly, when talking about The Walkmen with Peter Matthew Bauer, the band's former bassist & organist - although, as they progressed as musicians, the members all became multi-instrumentalists. This may be a sign of the growth of the band members over their 13-plus-year career, or it may have been a sign of the quintet grasping for thrill in a project that could have become trite and arbitrary. In an interview with Noisey, Bauer said, "My hope is that by the end of the year I won't remember being in The Walkmen." So I did my best to avoid the subject.

But I had to get one question in...

"It seemed like people cared," Bauer says when addressing my only inquiry that mentioned the words "The Walkmen," about how he viewed the fans' reaction to the hiatus, "but it was kind of fun breaking up the band.

"When you're in a group, you're constantly trying to play certain roles. Whoever is in the group, no matter the dynamic," he says speaking generally, "you're constantly compromising, which can be a good thing when you're young, or in certain scenarios. But in other scenarios it can be a really bad thing. It's not like groups don't work, because obviously they do, but leaving the group - leaving that dynamic is a very... very interesting thing.

"It's certainly [emancipating], but you're looking for life in whatever you're doing, that's the point of this stuff: you look for this raw energy to things. And... everything dies, y'know? That moment in time-- it dies off, and that's the case.

"I was talking about this to someone else, too. Where, you know those guys that have been in bands for like, 50 years - you know, those kind of "old-timer" bands? And you can see the physical deterioration in people who have been a proper band member for that long. They just look terrible. Like something has just gone haywire, physically; versus, you know, there's plenty of lifer [solo] musicians who kind of keep it together and things get better. So it's an unhealthy thing, really. A band is basically an art project- it's a project. You can't consume your life to it forever. And as soon as it stops being an art project, and starts being more of an organization, it loses the basic reason to exist that it once had, and it becomes more about feeding people... it has a time limit."

Bauer maintained a very light-hearted tone throughout our chat. He may have sensed my nervousness, talking to a key member in one of my favorite bands. But then again, it seems like that's just his personality... his album is filled with charm and humor, despite its overtones of religion and spirituality.

"I would hope most people on earth think about that sort of thing," he says laughing, speaking of the themes of Liberation!, "It's sort of a basic human idea, as people say 'Write what you know' -- you know that old hogwash thing? But it ends up being true, when you're trying to find a way to express something sort of universal to people. 

"This is obviously what I care and think about, the books I read, and things that matter to me. Those are my experiences."

But Bauer never admits to being as wise as he comes across, another reason I went in to the interview cautious to not get over my head. The opening track on Liberation!, "I Was Born In An Ashram" is actually written based around his life, as is most of the album. Raised by his family visiting various Hindu places of worship and study, Peter spent a lot of his "formative" years studying under gurus and an Indian astrologer, learning intricacies within the Hindu religion.

"Those are my experiences, [but] it's not like I'm trying to solve anything, or tell anyone anything, because I don't have any resolutions to anything that arises from it. But I do feel a lot better doing it, and a lot less angry about things of that nature.

"I've been really lucky, being able to meet sort of 'walking saints' and healers and all these people that, in a very strange manner, most people don't get to relate to. It's very [important] to who I am, I studied with these people that spend their whole lives trying to get to be, without feeling like a sort of disciple to anybody."

In Liberation!, Peter Matthew Bauer's lyrics reflect not only his beliefs and personality, but his process of writing as well. One of my favorite tracks of the album, "You Are The Chapel", Bauer plays up the charm and humor, singing, "I see you lookin' like Oasis / Why does anyone wanna look like Oasis?!". But in the same song, he sings "You are the chapel / and everything is wonder" after the chorus "Here comes the mystery of love / Yeah, I see the mystery / Here comes the mystery of everything".

"... 'You Are The Chapel' [is a] song that is supposed to be trying to haul as much information as I could come up with about disparate situations and trying to get at a very basic expression of something.

"It was just a different way [of writing], y'know, I'm not Hamilton [Leithauser], and he writes songs his way. In a band, you're in a support role to the voice; really, that's the idea, and that's what you should be doing - I think, anyway. This is a different thing, it's a different type of music, it's about something different. And I think what was frustrating to me is I like music that's about something specific, and it's very hard to pull it off without sounding kind of -- silly. It was important that everything was kind of trying to be funny even if it came off as something self-serious, or at least at the time it felt funny for a second [laughs]

"Mysticism and spirituality -- certainly not religion -- but that kind of idea is inherently a really ridiculous thing... and so is rock and roll - so is all music. And that's the most important thing to get to, y'know you think about some of the greatest writers who think about that stuff. Kafka is seen as this very self-serious guy, but when he was reading his stories out loud to his friends, they were all laughing. That stuff is supposed to be funny, all that shit is supposed to be funny; it's absurd. That's what you're aiming for, you don't know what you're gonna get out of it.

"In a sense I was brought up, and this is what I arrived at: you usually kind of go through a lot of things when you're frustrated with hierarchies and intricacies in cultures surrounding religion. But I do feel like my parents were bright people and I was brought up to try not to believe anything - to go past belief at all times. And that's basically the idea behind the record too: any belief you have, if you keep breaking it down, you get to something real. You get to experiences as opposed to beliefs. And it's a process of doing that over and over and over again, and one part of beliefs that I have - the sort of frustration and youthful antagonism towards spirituality. And that in itself is a belief structure, so you have to find a methodology to get your experience and your consciousness.

"It's kind of a normal thing, you know: "Heaven is a far away place" - but it's right here, right now. Liberation is not something that takes a million years, or all your life; it's not a goal it's a basic idea...

"But [the album] is also trying to make fun of that," Bauer says laughing.

When I spoke with Peter, he was on his way to Seattle, playing a show at The Barbosa with Japanese Guy. He'll play Chicago at Lincoln Hall on Saturday, July 19, as part of a Pitchfork Festival Aftershow, and a piece of their new live concert series Nightcap.

I asked him how the shows had been going, something I was honestly interested in: it's not every day you get to relate and talk with someone in Bauer's shoes.

"Good!" he responds emphatically, "you know, you definitely start from scratch, and it's a tough, tough, tough, road. We're driving endlessly, and just throwing money out the window. It's crazy... but a lot more fun. A lot more fun than something where you know what's going to happen -- you basically don't know what's going to happen next, which is a great feeling."

Peter now thrives in a state of chaos, embracing it almost as if he was meant to live in it.

"When we were touring with The Walkmen, you knew you'd get paid and you'd get a hotel room. Now I'm sleeping on an ant hill in like a desert [laughs] it's terrible. I wake up in the morning, basically wondering how I'll make it to the end of the day. But it's a lot of fun.

"With The Walkmen it was very boring: you knew what you were gonna do, you knew who was going to be in the crowd, you knew what people were gonna look like, you knew some guy was gonna yell 'THE RAT!!!" then you'd play 'The Rat' and the guy would still yell 'THE RAT!!!!!' and then you'd go home. It wasn't a lot of fun. But this is a lot of fun, it's a very different thing. All that stuff is a kind of formative experience, being in a group -- and then you don't want to go back."

Peter Matthew Bauer tours with a 7-piece band, which is made up of several friends, including his wife. The group still needs a name or a title, which Bauer admits:

"My wife and another girl sing with me. I think we're on the edge -- we've only played 15 shows or something -- but I think we're on the edge of having a really great band. The people in it, the whole thing, it feels like a band in a different sense. We're not a band, we're not all 20-year-olds trying to start a gang, but instead it's kind of cool: it has its own structures; there's a sort of anarchy to it that I like, politically, where everyone is there and trying to have a good time and enjoy themselves. It's a great group of characters. And I know it's my name but we also need to come up with some sort of backing band name, because they definitely have a vibe -- they're definitely not hired guns by no regard. We're really getting something going, and it's starting to be its own, high-energy thing. I'm excited about it.

"A lot of them are old friends. Some guys, Mickey Walker, a Philadelphia guy, I've been on tour with him since 2001 or 2002. Another guy Matt Oliver, one of our guitar players is from Austin, TX. We toured with [Matt] years ago, and kind of lost touch until making this record. And he ended up mixing a lot of this record. And Sky [Skyler Skjelset] is from Fleet Foxes, and I've known him a couple years and we've become really good friends."

Liberation! is the strongest of any member from The Walkmen's solo endeavors. It's filled with fantastic lyrics that achieve exactly what their author intended, and Bauer surprises you with a voice that pays homage to some of the great solo vocalists who only need one name; Reed, Dylan, Springsteen, et al. Somehow, Bauer has kept all of this a secret for almost 14 years, and if nothing else comes from the void left by The Walkmen's split, Bauer's Liberation! at least makes the absence much smaller. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Festival Preview: Pitchfork Music Festival 2014 - Sunday, July 20

With Pitchfork Fest rapidly approaching, it's time to preview the last day... the big payoff of the festival. Much like last year's fest, the daily lineup for Sunday is packed with tough decisions. In hopes of making these a little easier for you, I've laid out some key time slot battles that you'll come across during Sunday's festivities, and did my best to make the choice for you. And as always, we have a Spotify Playlist for you to preview every artist playing the Fest on Sunday.

Speedy Ortiz (1pm @ Blue Stage) -vs- Mutual Benefit (1pm @ Green Stage)

Your first choice of the day basically comes down to two genres, so pick your poison. Speedy Ortiz is an indie-grunge quartet based out of Massachusetts, and coming off of a very well received LP, Major Arcana including receiving "Best New Music" from Pitchfork upon it's release last year.

Mutual Benefit fits into multiple genres, but they play heavily off of electronic and folk music. The band has no concrete lineup of members, but rather is an amalgam of musicians gathered by frontman Jordan Lee. Like Speedy Ortiz, their latest album, Love's Crushing Diamond received Pitchfork's "Best New Music" label, and sounds somewhat like a cross between Lord Huron, Phosphorescent, Conor Oberst and a touch of Bon Iver.

Verdict: Can't go wrong here, I might float between the stages, but will probably start with Mutual Benefit... if I get bored, I'm heading to the Blue stage for some female-led grunge.

DIIV (1:45 @ Red Stage) -vs- Perfect Pussy (1:55 @ Blue Stage)

One of the toughest decisions of the day, and probably the weekend.

I enjoy DIIV's sound, as I'm a sucker for the late 80s punk-slash-new wave revival that is taking the scene by storm lately. I love Beach Fossils (DIIV's lead singer Cole was a founding member of the group) and DIIV's sound isn't too far off.

Perfect Pussy came away from this year's SXSW as one of the most talked about new artists. They feature a fairly heavy punk sound, led by singer Meredith Graves. The name itself is probably one of the most divisive names around, and those who haven't heard them before are either going to be drawn to the group's afternoon set, or turned off by it completely.

Verdict: Gonna stick with DIIV here. Cole has a habit of making his live performances pretty memorable and potentially very controversial. Either way, this time slot features two performers that have the potential to be huge conversation pieces post-festival.

Deafheaven (2:30pm @ Green Stage) -vs- Isaiah Rashad (2:50pm @ Blue Stage)

Again, if you know what kind of music you like, and stick to it, this decision will be easy for you. For people who are consistently on the fence and are just looking for a more memorable performance, this decision will be tough.

On one hand, you have Isaiah Rashad, an up-and-coming emcee who has collaborated with everyone from Schoolboy Q to SZA, who are also both appearing at Pitchfork Fest that weekend. For the sole reason alone of anticipating an onstage collaboration with EITHER of those artists, it makes the set worth checking out. Rashad comes from Kendrick Lamar's TDE, so you know there's some promise here.

On the other hand, you have Deafheaven, one of the most critically well-received post-metal bands of last year, if not ever. Their 2013 album Sunbather consistently found its way to Top 10 lists at the end of last year, and brought metal fans out of the woodwork.

Verdict: Can't turn down a chance to see a metal act at a festival like this, they usually show up. Not to mention, I'll be looking for some aggressiveness in the festival after Death Grips dropped out/ quit on everyone. But I may stray away towards the end of the set to check out some Top Dawg Entertainment.

Earl Sweatshirt (3:20 @ Red Stage) -vs- Dum Dum Girls (3:45 @ Blue Stage)

God damn this is another tough one. Earl has been my favorite member of Odd Future since they came upon the scene (well, famous rapping member... nothing tops Frank Ocean). Not only does he drop some of the best verses, he's also one of the most funny and controversial members - two things OFWGKTA does very well. Earl has recently stated that his Summer/Fall tour dates were going to be cancelled, due to exhaustion, but vowed to play Pitchfork that weekend, including an after show appearance at Metro on Saturday night.

Dum Dum Girls @ SXSW14 
Photo Credit: Kellen Nordstrom

Meanwhile, Dum Dum Girls boast a sound that is so "Summer" to me, I'm not going to be able to stay away from the set for long before my ears are magnetized by Dee Dee's voice and my body follows suit. I love west coast surf rock.

Verdict: Another split. I will probably start at Earl and meander my way over to Dum Dum Girls, there seems to be enough of a gap to be able to do so. Once again, not a loser in this bunch.

At this point in the day, we're getting to some pretty big names and there's a half hour between sets. I'll switch back to my usual format, and highlight some sets I'm not going to miss...

Schoolboy Q (4:15pm @ Green Stage)

One of the hottest hip hop artists around, coming from Kendrick Lamar's Top Dawg Entertainment label, who he also founded the group Black Hippy with, Q has had an incredible year. His debut album, Oxymoron debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 list, and features some of the best flow and hook talent of any hip-hop album I've heard this year.

I have high hopes for a Q/Kendrick collab of "Collard Greens" - one of my favorite songs this year - at some point on Sunday.

Real Estate (5:15pm @ Red Stage)

Not much else to say here aside from the fact that Real Estate's Atlas is one of my favorite albums that has come out this year; I'll also be watching them perform in a much smaller, more intimate setting, the night before as they play an after show gig at Lincoln Hall with Peter Matthew Bauer (of The Walkmen) for Pitchfork's Nightcap series... but more on that within the next couple of days.

Here's their video for "Talking Backwards" off of this year's LP, Atlas:

Grimes (7:25pm @ Red Stage) & Kendrick Lamar (Sunday's Headliner 8:30pm @ Green Stage)

No brainers here.

I've never seen Grimes live, and have had the biggest music crush on her since her last album Visions, which had her exploding onto the scene in 2012. I've heard really bad things about her sets before, but after hearing positive things from friends and colleagues who saw her new stuff in NYC at Governor's Ball last month, I'm convinced the bad sets are behind her.

I'm incredibly pumped to hear some of her new stuff as well; her latest single, "Go" is one of my favorite dance tracks this year, and seems to be a welcome change... despite what the hipsters say. I kind of like the trap elements in the chorus/breakdown.

Kendrick Lamar @ SXSW'13
Photo by Kellen Nordstrom
On the other hand, Kendrick is one of my perennial favorites. I've seen him 3 times since his insanely well-received album, good kid, m.A.A.d City came out, and I don't mean to say this as a bragging right. He's grown so much since the first time I saw him at SXSW '13, performing with just his DJ on stage, resulting in just a normal hip-hop set.

The last time I saw him, opening for Kanye West during his Yeezus tour (one of the best show's I have EVER seen, by the way), Kendrick was backed by a full band, and his set was incredible. I'm hoping he turns up to Pitchfork with that band, and some gnarly visuals, and puts a fantastic end cap to a weekend that's sure to be amazing.

Also performing on Sunday: Jon Hopkins (4:45pm @ Blue Stage); Majical Cloudz (5:45pm @ Blue Stage); Slowdive (6:15pm @ Green Stage); DJ Spinn (6:45pm @ Blue Stage); Hudson Mohawke (7:45pm @ Blue Stage) - Poor Hudson, scheduled two years in a row against Sunday's Headliner.