Ween Paints The Cap Brown (Concert Review)

Paintin’ The Cap Brown

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If you’ve used Vine at all (Or are a SpongeBob obsessed stoner) you’ve probably hearda song called “Ocean Man.” It’s catchy, it’s weird, and it’s got a great guitar sound. I doubt though, you know who recorded that song. Even if you knew of them, you may not be aware of their importance to music history. Their name is Ween, they’ve been at it since 1984 and up until 2012 had been one America’s most eccentric jam bands. Ween reformed this year to play a handful of shows, including some festival all over the United States.

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To cap the first year of touring Ween, performed a three night stand at Port Chester’s Capitol Theater. Performing a total of 82 different songs among the three sets. Each one a distinct affair that both showcased obscure gems and crowd favorites.

Not only was the November 25th show the band’s debut at the Cap. It was my first time seeing the legendary New Hope band. For reference, I do like Ween quite a lot, but I am by no means a die hard. I have my personal favorites and I’ll shout them out. However if none of those songs are played it wouldn’t be an issue.

Ween is band that has a wealth of non-album tracks and can play a 2 minute song for 30 plus minutes live. So for the amount of song I know by the band there is an almost equal amount of material I don’t know. That’s never been a issue before, because as much Ween isn’t the jam band Phish is they’re still a jam band.

Maybe they just gives more of a shit than others because every time a song was called out, it was played. No exception. Now perhaps this is just some fabled hippie dream. But for a band to bring out a song they’ve only played 13 times in almost 10 years that has to go beyond just being on a setlist. It’s the band’s energy, they want to be there as much if not more than every diehard there. 

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Some Historical Context

The band’s mix of sounds is distinctly an American affair. Their catalog puts both the Dead’s and Phish’s field of works to shame in terms of variety. That doesn’t even account for the band’s stones, which Ween has wheelbarrows full of. Think of band who’d record a country album, with only sessions who’ve played with people like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and George Jones? Does that same band write songs called “Piss Up A Rope” or call their touring band for that album, “The Shit Creek Boys”? There’s only band like that for my knowledge and it’s Ween.

Almost Weens

In 2014 I went to the Lockn’ Music Festival in Virginia for a day, it was supposed to a weekend but things didn’t work out. I got to the festival somewhat late and the band playing sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew the music from. The singer was agitated as he announced himself as “Freeman” and I knew he was singer when he went into their next song, “Freedom Of ’76.” My next run in with Ween, was again not Ween itself. In 2015 I saw Modest Mouse play Brooklyn with the Gene Ween Group (I believe a separate from Freeman.) Yet I feel like I’ve been aware of Ween all my life and seeing them live only confirms that. They’re still not my favorite band, but they’re a great band.

The Verdict

Ween is perhaps in the truest sense of the word, the coolest band on the planet. They may be getting older, but hey they’ve been at it since Reagan’s second term. There is still no better singer for Ween than Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman.) Nor a better guitarist for Ween than Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo). Sure they performed with the same set of instruments throughout their set creating high potential for bum notes, they did so in stride. Ween is one of the only bands to accept their brown notes not in jest, but with pride. So much so that they put out a live album with the title, “Paintin’ The Town Brown.” To one up that, during their shows this year the band sold shirts that said “Make America Brown Again.” 

A fine way to end a year of music. If you don’t know this band already, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The setlist was varied, but the energy consistent. An on point display of ragged power. Oh yeah and they played for almost 3 hours, with one short break and no opener.

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Setlist For 11/25/2016

  1. Exactly Where I’m At
  2. Flutes of the Chi
  3. Spinal Meningitis
  4. Happy Colored Marbles
  5. Nan
  6. Take Me Away
  7. Object
  8. Tick
  9. My Own Bare Hands
  10. Sorry Charlie
  11. Roses Are Free
  12. Now I’m Freaking Out
  13. Gabrielle
  14. Tender Situation
  15. Push th’ Little Daisies
  16. What Deaner Was Talkin’ About
  17. Pandy Fackler
    (Deaner Intros Band)
  18. I’ll Be Your Jonny on the Spot
  19. Laura
    (Without Glenn)
  20. Demon Sweat
    (Gener plays Keyboards & Glenn on Tamborine)
  21. Encore:
  22. I’m Dancing in the Show Tonight
  23. Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)

[Review] Hamilton Mixtape

Note: This review goes fairly in depth of the Hamilton Mixtape, and for the most part, song by song. I encourage you to gather your own opinions before reading mine. For a tl;dr scroll to the bottom

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I’m going to start by saying I am fairly biased with this review because I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, and both of his major works(being Hamilton and In The Heights). However I think we can all agree that the Hamilton Mixtape was highly anticipated. So does it live up to expectations?

Absolutely.

At first I thought that I would only like the rap songs, being more of a Hip-Hop fan than anything else(which is apparent with my other reviews and posts). I can safely say that for the most part the album as a whole was great, even the songs with just singing.

The mixtape starts with an intro by Black Thought, telling you this masterpiece is No John Trumbull(the artist who has painted works such as the well known painting of the Declaration of Independence signing). And then goes right into possibly the most played single(at the very least, I played it the most).

My Shot really sets the mood for the whole mixtape. A rap song with an East Coast sound(as most of the rap songs on the mixtape have), the song is easily one of my favorites, especially when you hear Busta Rhymes come in for his verse, the first verse he had done in a while(granted now he has been featured a lot on the newest Tribe Called Quest album). I also think most people had not heard of Joell Ortiz prior to this song, as I had not, and I was pleasantly surprised by his verse. His line “Must admit, i’m feelin, um, kinda, um lighter as a writer” was my favorite in that song.

One single followed by another great single, Wrote My Way Out is equally as amazing, and features a Nas comeback, his first feature in a while as well. Aloe Blacc comes out killing it (a phrase I will use often in this review) on his hooks, and Dave East, another fairly unknown rapper, surprised me as well. However, for me, Lin-Manuel stole the song. Maybe because it’s weird to hear him curse like that, even though it shouldn’t be, it took me off guard. Or maybe it’s the line I can’t get through without tearing up a little bit, “I know Abuela’s never really gonna win the lottery” which is a reference to Miranda’s first musical, In The Heights. My second favorite reference he made has to be “My mind is where the wild things are, Maurice Sendak”.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear Usher on the next song, Wait For It,  and he has a fitting vocal range for this song. He has the ability to stay true to the original song, while making it his own, which is fairly common throughout the mixtape with different artists. The song starts out on the blander side, however it did on the original cast recording too. It definitely picks up near the end.

An Open Letter, the interlude with Watsky and Shockwave, I didn’t have high hopes for. I haven’t really ever been a Watsky fan. I’m happy to admit I was wrong in thinking it wouldn’t be good. It’s a weird song, but it’s cool, putting more story behind the line in The Adams Administration, “Sit down John, you fat Mother *expletive*”. A really cool concept, and a nice backing beatbox by Shockwave.

Satisfied was another single that I highly enjoyed, and it was the first one I enjoyed with minimal rapping, however I must say I am a big fan of Sia, and all that she does. She makes this song her own, and there is a great chemistry between her and Miguel on the song, which leads into a Queen Latifah return, which is as great as you would imagine. And Sia follows it up with a style she has mastered in songs like “Chandelier”, showing her raw passion in her voice.

The first Dear Theodosia song is great in it’s own way. I’ve always been a huge fan of the piano on this song in the original cast recording. Regina Spektor feels a little flat compared to the original, but she definitely makes it her own, which reminds the listeners they are listening to a mixtape, not a cover album. I like the song a lot more when Ben Folds comes in.

 

I’ll some up the demos in one paragraph, instead of going into each one. They show Lin-Manuel Miranda’s planned songs that may not have made the cut. Valley Forge is cool, because it has some lines that were used elsewhere in the musical, such as “They only take British money, so sing a song of sixpence” and the whole second half of the song was used in “Stay Alive”. I love Miranda’s style on Valley Forge. And in Cabinet Battle 3, Lin decided to cut it because it didn’t make sense to spend any amount of time covering a topic that wouldn’t be resolved for another 100 years.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Kelly Clarkson’s It’s Quiet Uptown when I first listened. I think it’s the synths in the beginning of the song that kind of kill the vibe for me. After a few listens, I started to really love the song, and what Clarkson brought to it. She really brought some passion towards the end that felt lacking in the beginning of the song.

Alicia Keys version of That Would Be Enough left me wanting more. It could be because I am just not a fan of her style. She’s very talented, and the song is definitely worth listening to, I just expected more.

Immigrants(We Get The Job Done) was released at a perfect time for our nation, with the election of Donald Trump into office. All of the artists on this song have a very unique style and I enjoyed all of them. I love the parts where they rap in spanish, despite not speaking spanish myself. Residente’s verse has a powerful meaning on it’s own. “Half of gringolandia is really Mexican terrain”, speaking about how the United States annexed parts of Mexico during the Mexican-American war. That line and it’s meaning are hit home with “here we come to look for the gold that was stolen”.

You’ll Be Back had me confused at first. I was in the car and didn’t hear it was Jimmy Fallon. So when he started with his joke of breathing techniques in his singing, I was confused. Now knowing what was going on, I think it’s hilarious, and he goes to prove himself after the intro. People can crap on Jimmy Fallon’s comedic style all they want, but he has serious singing skills.

Helpless is one of my top favorites from the album. Ashanti’s voice is beautiful, and her part of the track built up the anticipation for Ja Rule’s verse. She held you over well though, like chips and salsa at Buffalo Wild Wings before the wings come out. And Ja Rule is very much like the wings, amazing.

I’ve been a fan of !llmind since his work on Andy Mineo’s Uncomfortable. His work is equally as great on Take a Break, a fantastic interlude, with a nice remix of the original song, and a really sick drum beat.

Jill Scott really nails her part in Say Yes To This. The song, a twist on the original song Say No To This, putting the point of view on Maria Reynolds, is absolutely fantastic. Her lines are along the lines of “How you gonna say no to this?” where the original was “Lord, show me how to say no this.” (Spoilers: he says yes to that).

One thing that lacked in the musical was Angelica’s response to Hamilton royally screwing things up by screwing Maria Reynolds. Something Lin-Manuel had planned, but cut. However it shows light in Congratulations, featuring the lovely Dessa. Dessa has this amazing ability to rap and sing, and it really shows on this track. I love the style throughout this song, and is one of my favorites on this album.

My all time favorite track on the album however, is Burn, sung by Andra Day. Her voice is something magical. Something that makes you think you’ve heard this sound before, but at that same time, leaving you knowing you have not heard that sound before. I absolutely adore that style. I can’t place who she sounds like still, and I think that’s really cool. Definitely a must-listen.

The only interlude I thought didn’t belong was Stay Alive, with J. Period and Stro Elliot, it was very brief, didn’t really fit with the songs around it, and just didn’t feel needed.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Wiz Khalifa, but I enjoyed his style on Washingtons By Your Side. It did however feel like the only song that didn’t much relate to the musical. The only line that was similar was “It must be nice, to have washingtons on your side” but that extra S adds a whole knew meaning to the line, that doesn’t relate to the musical. Still a cool song, and a nice change from that classic East Coast sound that was apparent on the other rap songs.

History Has It’s Eyes On You has that feeling of starting to end the mixtape. John Legend has that very nice, slow, style and it is followed nicely by Who Tells your Story. Common sounds a bit like Nas on this track, and brings back that East Coast sound. Ingrid Michaelson has a very strong hook. Black Thought’s verse compliments Commons very well.

Dear Theodosia – Reprise with Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights is the perfect album closer. The music really has that Francis and the Lights feel. This song was one of the ones I was most excited for because I love Chance, and I have recently fell in love with Francis and the Lights(further referred to as just Francis). The song is definitely fitting for Chance because he just had a daughter, and you can tell this is personal for him. I like that Chance sings the song, instead of rapping. He doesn’t have the best voice, but it fits him and his style. Francis sounds a bit like Lin-Manuel at times, but you can tell on some notes it’s definitely Francis.  Overall, a great end to the mixtape.

 

So TL;DR?

I would rate this an 8/10. Some of the songs aren’t exactly skippable, as much as they are a “one time listen” for me. For the most part though, the mixtape is solid. The album is available on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and other music platforms. Interested readers can listen to the embedded Spotify link below.

[Album Review]Act V: Hymns With The Devil in Confessional

Act V
Act V cover

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a giant The Dear Hunter fan. And should start that if you haven’t heard of them, go check them out. If you have heard of them, hear of them more.

Act V is the finale in the 5 act story about the boy. And those who have listened from Acts I to now should know the story well. If you don’t, or just want to catch up without listening(bad move) here is a broken down synopsis of the Acts up until Act IV.

All of the acts have had their ‘meh’ songs. I can safely say Act V has no such song. The whole album from front to back is actually the best thing I have ever heard. Each song is beautiful in it’s own way, and the next song more beautiful than the last.

Lyrically Casey Crescenzo has always been a mastermind, and he’s somehow found a way to top himself with this album. With lyrics such as “I’d bare you my heart if I knew it was still there” “I keep looking for a quicker fix, but I’m afraid to find out what it is.” and “I’m a killer, I’m a killer, I’m a killer. But I’ve been killing myself all along”. Overall, the album has a very dark theme, and it’s amazing.

Instrumentally, the album has it’s own feel. One of the worries of fans was that because Act IV and Act V were recorded at the same time, that they’d sound too similar. That is so not the case, and this Act has a much more theatrical feel. Casey has stepped up his game and made this feel like it was a play for once. Not to mention Act V has some of the best orchestrations of all of the albums, each melody is so amazingly beautiful.

By far the most stand out song is The Have Have Naughts. It features a duet with Gavin Castleton(now a member of the Dear Hunter) and is so incredibly well done, it actually brought tears to my eyes. Lyrically and musically it is the best song on the album in my opinion, however every other song is a close second.

This is an album I can see myself listening to un-shuffled and uninterrupted for months to come, and I really look forward to seeing them live at the Union Transfer on September 30th. This is an album I can never see myself shuffling with other songs even from the Dear Hunter, and an album I can never see myself getting tired of.

Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional comes out Friday September 9th, available on all major streaming services and wherever you can buy music.

Roseanne Cash Rocks Carnegie Hall (Concert Review)

If you want to know what American music is, part of the answer is Johnny Cash. February 20th, 2016 I had the chance to see Roseanne Cash, one of the daughters from Cash’s first marriage. I can’t say, I’ve been the greatest fan of Roseanne Cash’s output, though she has killer albums. Her latest album, “The River And the Thread,” is an exploration of the south. Yet, the album will be two years old any day now.

Besides from working on an unannounced play, her last musical activity has been her Perspectives series for Carnegie Hall. The series she curated was also centered on the south and featured concerts by Ry Cooder and St Paul and the Broken Bones. The series culminated, any guesses (huh? huh?), February 20th. To close out her series, Cash gave a performance that was just about the greatest damn thing I’ve in recent years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqUbX8KHgQc

(Here is brief video of Roseanne Cash explaining the intentions of her CH Perspectives series.)

The first half of the show was dedicated to “The River And The Thread.” Rightfully, playing the album from start to finish, adding to the experience was her introductions for the songs and the collections of photos projected onto the wall of the stage to set the mood. Above all, what made the album and more so the performance exciting was the level of earnest in Cash’s performance.

There was no opener and an intermission, two blocks of solid music reaching the blues, rock, folk, gospel, and of course country. All of it Roseanne Cash music, all of it played with passion. To add onto the greatness, Cash even brought a special guest into the mix. The great Jeff Tweedy of the legendary Chicago band, Wilco, played 7 songs during the set. The stand-out of his contributions and the night being his rendition of the Golden Smog track, “Please, Tell My Brother” which he played solo with minor assistance from Cash’s husband, John Leventhal.

The only disappointing part of the show was the new song Cash performed, “Everyday Feels Like A New Goodbye.” The song is or at least may be part of a play Cash and her husband are working on currently. The song while touching, was just a bit too much on the nose.

Important Reminder: Music Without Words Can Be Just As Powerful

I’ve grown up surrounded by all genres of a different music. My dad is the reason I am a fan of a lot of musical groups ranging from Chicago to Mancini to most importantly the Beatles. My brother is the reason I like rap, while his influence was small, simply playing me a few Eminem and KJ-52 songs here and there. I grew tastes on my own, and honestly don’t really dislike any kind of music.

I don’t think anyone can argue music isn’t powerful. But I think far too often we think music is only powerful if it has words in it. While this is a fair thought, and totally understandable, it’s still wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I love powerful lyrics in a song. For the sake of this article, when I say powerful I mean able to draw out emotions. Whether those emotions be happy or sad is up to the song creator and you.

Have we ever stopped and listened to a instrumental song and obtained the emotion from it though? I was taught as a kid to do just that, my dad being both an audiophile and a music minor. He taught me to listen for emotions being conveyed by the composer. I, unknowingly, kept this lesson with me throughout life. Being able to get the emotions conveyed from a composer on a certain song.

My best friend recently showed me the following artist, and I have listened to this one song non-stop. The music video certainly helps us figure out what the artist means by the song, so, and this is on the honors system, close your eyes and listen once. Once you listen, and try and figure out what the composer was trying to convey, relisten, this time watching the video.

(warning: very mild nudity)

 

The rest of the article contains emotional spoilers in a sense. Proceed with caution.

 

So what the composer is trying to convey is sadness. You can tell straight from the title, “This Place Was A Shelter”. He’s writing a song about no longer having a safe place to go to. On first listen, without the video, you sense the sadness.

Now with the video, it’s easier to relate to. This old man, having just lost his wife, must have spent a lot of time at the beach. It was his shelter. Now with her gone, it’s no longer a shelter, he goes into the ocean one last time, and gets rid of the rings. This place was once a shelter……

 

Never take any music for granted. Lyrics or not, an artist or composer worked hard to convey a message, a sense of emotion. Never overlook that, because you will be overlooking the single greatest reason music of any kind exists in the first place.

 

Also, definitely check out Ólafur Arnolds on Spotify and iTunes.

Still A Critic, Denim Art

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Oh, hey they at the Record have recently posted my review of the latest Wilco review. The album came out in July, so it’s great to have the review out before the year ends. Anyway, I didn’t write anything until a month after the album came out and the review has been on the website since the 23rd. I don’t agree with a few points as much I previously did, but besides that this is shamefully the longest review I’ve done for the Record. Who cares? Yeah, me neither. Enjoy.

Here’s the link, not that it matters because what you have below is the review:

 

Critics have been known to judge a whole Wilco album by its first track, and if that road was taken on “Star Wars,” Wilco’s newest album, it would be described as short, slightly experimental and not entirely enjoyable. Yet, that road misses the larger picture of what “Star Wars” is.

Although “Star Wars” is Wilco’s shortest release, it features some of their most ventures into new ground. Despite the risks they took early on their career, since 2007 they never went too far out.

Some songs have a notion of incompleteness. Songs like “More…” use that to its advantage, giving a surreal experience. While no songs are underdeveloped, the filler songs damage the album greatly. The worst filler on the album, “Pickled Ginger,” features some interesting guitar tunes. Otherwise, the song is an annoyance.

In terms of mood, the album is hard to pin down. There is only one distinctly sad song, yet almost all the vocals have a somewhat detached quality, which singer Jeff Tweedy is known for.

The backing tracks are all fairly engaging. The production is crisp with some songs even using the “Wall of Sound.” Most of this is from guitar distortion and feedback. While the album has a lot of guitar feedback and distortion, a lot of the noise serves a background role, which is a shame because it’s some of the band’s best use of noise.

With that said, the album could’ve improved the transitions between songs. Besides for a link in rhythm in two songs, as soon as one song ends it jumps into the next, which can be jarring because the songs don’t have intros. A prime example is the song “You Satellite,” which starts just slightly after the first note is played. Yet, all things considered, the song is a solid place for Nels Cline (lead guitar) to actually play some blistering guitar, even if it’s put backseat for the song’s riff.

Speaking of Nels Cline, his role on the album is interesting, playing the normal lead guitar throughout, but seemingly playing more slide guitar than usual. To fill the void, it seems Pat Sansone (multi-instrumentalist) plays guitar in some form throughout the album, possibly adding some of the feedback.

While the music is “out there” at moments, overall it’s fairly tame. The “out there” elements come into play in the lyrics. Most of the lyrics are stuff of greatness, with the line “Why do our disasters creep so slowly into view” standing out every time I listen to the album.

It’s a record that seems like fun to make, but it’s not always a fun listen. Some songs fall flat, others rise. However, the album is free and by one of the better acts of the last two decades. So I’d say it’s one worth checking out and buying if you dig it.