Thursday, November 28, 2013

Medals - Disguises

Something in the water 
A 1000 mysteries below 
Time keeps no secrets 
Don't you know? 
(Tastes Like Glass)

You guys, do you know who will be in terrible trouble very soon? The guys from SAY Award (Scottish Album Of The Year)!
When they'll come together to name the Album Of The Year 2013 they will have among others (including artists like Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, Primal Scream, The Fratellis) these incredible releases on the list:
  • Biffy Clyro - Opposites
  • Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse
  • CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe
and now also:
  • Medals - Disguises
There will be some public voting as well - one vote per participant. That basically means I'll need to make a choice I cannot make. Don't tell the SAY Award people, but I might just cheat and vote for each of those. BUT if I would really, really need to make that decision it would look like that:

Biffy Clyro - nope
Surprised, huh? There is so much written on this blog, lyric pieces integrated into tattoos, miles traveled and EUR spent that there is more than enough evidence for what this band means to me, that it does not need this one click. The boys also won and keep winning - well deserved - all the awards anyway. "Opposites" is fantastic and the stubborn bravery to blast a double album into this short attention span driven world makes it an even more worthy candidat.

Frightened Rabbit - nope
To be honest I have no rational reason to say no except for the simple reason that I love another record on this list a bit more. I could fake to be offended by them cancelling my show here in Munich, but I know the reason and I am just sad and sorry, but not angry. 

This band is conquering the WORLD in such an incredible whirlwind that it takes your breath away by only watching. It is amazing and if you know a bit about the people in CHVRCHES and that the success did by far not come as "out of the blue" as it seems it's even better. The album is just a bit too electronic to make the Album Of The Year for this guitar loving lady here. 

Medals - YES - that's the one. Album of the Year 2013!

Medals is the new project of Sucioperro's JP Reid and Sucioperro is one of my very favorite bands. I will never ever understand why these guys are not outrageously famous and stinking rich, because that is how good they are. But oh well .. I used to work in music business for some years and had to learn that producing awesome music is guarantee for ... nothing. Market analysis, repertoire strategy and marketing budget drive to quite some extend the decision which band gets the support needed and which not. If you do not fit in there, it's not gonna happen. Kind of sad but true. But before we get lost in philosophical thoughts about the sense and nonsense in entertainment industry let's talk actual MUSIC!

I clearly remember the day when I heard the first song of the album - the title track "Disguises" - for the first time. I was at the train station in Landshut on the way back to Munich from visiting friends. I was also a bit tired and annoyed by all the already drunk people on the platform heading for Oktoberfest.
Then I caught a tweet from JP introducing "Disguises" and was like "Coooooool - new music from the Sucio camp.", put in the BEATS (headphones) and totally expected guitars when I got ... BEATS. 

I listened once, I listened twice, I could not stand still. Just .. dancing around to music only you can hear (yay to inears) is a tiny big awkward. But then most people around me had beer bottles in their hands and were wearing lederhosen - the awkwardness was very relative and who would care anyway? But before you now picture a break out of a Glee like singing and dancing routine on open scene ...  stop it. No singing was involved and for the dancing you should more consider a nice mixture of rhythmic foot tapping and The Ministry of Silly Walks on the edge of a train platform. Good enough I guess ;)
Fact is: Although the song was not at all what I had expected I LOVED IT, was in the need for more and could not wait for the full album release on November 11. 

Loyal readers of this blog may remember when I guest blogged for the SAY Award website reflecting my thoughts on "the album" and wrote a long post how I hate it when a record is new to me and how much time it needs to get familiar to the songs and to start really loving them. Yes?
Screw it.  Well, not totally of course. It is indeed how I feel often when I have a brand new record and fight myself through the first few rounds of listening. But just like every valid rule this one has exceptions, too and "Disguises" is one. The record did not feel like a stranger for a second. It was fun to listen to right from the first moment and it has a very natural flow. The effort JP put into finding the ideal order of songs was definitely worth it.
The songwriting is amazing and JP supported by the extended Sucioperro family created some very fine tunes (and yes - there are guitars and lots of amazing real drums, too) that keep you company like your best buddies.

The album is short (10 tracks / 32.36 min) and while I personally would have been happy about more I understand that it was conscious decision and the result really is the essence of the creative process. I  have seldom listened to an album that felt more like one piece, more dense than this one. In that context it does not even make too much sense to list single favorite tracks, but I will point you anyway to two songs I love in particular:

"Made Up Of All The People" is cowritten by my favorite "wall art supplier" and former Sucioperro member, Mike Logg, and also features one of my favorite people on Twitter and fellow blogger, David Rossi, on backing vocals. It also has a totally insane rhythm section set up with three drummers and two more people on percussion. It is far more "handmade" as it may sound in the first moment. 

"Tastes Like Glass"
is probably my very favorite song on the record. I give it usually a double run when I listen to the album. It is a slightly disturbing mixture of all kinds of music and drifts from a joyous soul pop chorus through some serious beats to a "Sucioperro / Fused" like guitar finish  - and makes sense anyway. 

"Joyous Odd Soul Pop"  - just like JP said when asked how he would describe the Medals sound.
I usually do not beg for RTs on Twitter or ask people to share my blog, because if they like it they will do it anyway and if  they do not like it ... well then not. 
This time it's a bit of a different story. You remember what I said about record label repertoire strategy and marketing budgets? Nothing like this applies here because since the release of "Fused" the members of Sucioperro run their own label called Medals For Everyone that also released "Disguises". That means that there is no politics to deal with but it also means that there is no big marketing budget to promote the record nor a big and powerful distribution chain (yet).
The marketing budget for "Disguises" is US - the people who love the music, share it and spread the word. So if you like what you hear - let your friends know! No better way to show your love than sharing some awesome vibes, right? Right! 
Now I am off writing my Christmas / birthday wish list and put  "Medals Glasgow Live Show" on top of it, because traveling to Scotland in the midst of winter is a totally awesome idea, right? Right!

Update July 2015: 

After being unavailable for some time the album is now re-released:

Click here to buy on: Bandcamp
Click here to buy on: iTunes

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Queens Of The Stone Age in Munich


Josh Homme ... We "met" the second time that night. The second time in two decades, because the last time I saw him play his band was named KYUSS, he entered the stage with his band mates, all lowered their heads, the light dimmed down to a red flickering and they blasted the KYUSS sound into our faces. That dark and earthy sound no other band had. They did not say a word except a final "Thank you" but they were AMAZING. I really loved it. 

20 years later the band is named Queens Of The Stone Age, the hair is short and although Josh did not exactly turn into a wordy storyteller between songs he definitely said a bit more than just "Thank you". The music changed as well although not THAT much, because what is still the same is the incredible humming feeling it puts into your solarplexus. It is dark and heavy and cuts straight through your skin and bones reaching for your soul.

But let's go back to the beginning of this memorable night. I was shocked when I read that doors would open at the Zenith at 5.30 pm. I mean ... I am a grown up person with a job. 5.30 pm doors would mean taking half the day off to make it in time and that was not possible. To save time I was working from home that day and was rushing out of the house at 6.15 pm even taking a cap to make it over as fast as possible. 

The venue is fairly big (about 6,000 people) and I knew I would likely still get a somewhat decent spot, but I had no hope for more. BUT one more time I was benefiting from the fact that Munich people at shows are late and lazy. When I arrived one hour after doors the venue was not even 1/3 filled up and for a reason I do not get the majority of people was hovering behind the first wavebreaker between the stage and the soundboard (middle of venue) and not in front of the stage. I looked left, I looked right, I went to the stage - 2 rows of fans and that was it. I was seriously confused, went to the bar, bought a drink, emptied the mug, returned the mug, went back to the stage. Same scenario. I was like "Okay, if you do not want that front of stage slot, all you people, I certainly do." I chose the right wing, perfect view on the stage as well as the entrance of the backstage area and the workplace of the guitar tech. The venue filled up behind me, but nobody even tried to push me away. Perfect.

Band Of Skulls

The first band entering the stage was Band Of Skulls from England. I had heard a couple of songs before that night but honestly never listened closely, but the trio played a very solid and fun support show.  
I have seen way too many bad and boring support acts, but this was definitely not one of them. It was a perfect little set to get in the mood for more live music. If they come to a small club near you, check them out - worth it! 

Between Band Of Skulls and QOTSA something truely unbelievable happened: the dude standing in front me at the barrier left. I mean ... WHAT THE HELL? Who leaves a spot like that right before the main band starts to play? I am guessing his girlfriend forced him because he later fought his way back to her with two drinks in his hands, but by his return I had already easily moved myself into the wide open spot, grabbed the barrier and never moved an inch away again before the last note was not played. Before you feel bad for the guy: He was more than a head taller than me and his girlfriend and had a perfect view from his new slot right behind his lady. He did not exactly suffer. 

Then it started and it felt like a transatlantic jumbo jet getting airborn. It is big and kind of comfy but you feel the enormous energy in your guts. WOAH!

I will not go through the show song by song (or play by play like we hockey fans say). The set list (see at the bottom of this posting) was wonderful. I personally had no wish open at the end. I absolutely loved the blues touch in the show with some serious jams and solos. Although I am not exactly the ballad type of person I enjoyed very much when QOTSA slowed down and made room for some almost fragile melodies. The title song of the recent album "... Like Clockwork" was especially awesome. 

I also need to tip my hat for the the person(s) who developed the stage and light concept. I am not fan of explosions, fancy laser shows, strobo light (minus "Glitter and Trauma" by Biffy Clyro - obviously) or glitter bombs and the QOTSA show was perfect. The visuals at the back of the stage were impressive and fit perfectly to the set list referring to the lyrics of the songs or the record they were taken from. They did not take away the attention from the music but underlined and intensified it - just like it should be. 

The sound was great as well for the Zenith. That venue is a tin can and sounds like one, but the QOTSA soundguys made the best out of it and my LugPlugs helped one more time to reduce distortion and helped to improve the experience. Stating the obvious here: QOTSA are very, very loud. Even with my hearing protection I felt the pressure on my ears, but luckily came out of the show without buzz or other problems. 

If I would try to describe and summarize the show in one word, I think it would be "majestic". It was HUGE without being ostentatious or pretentious. It felt like sinking to the bottom of the sea, getting down to the roots of things. It was a kick in the guts. A very enjoyable kick in the guts.

I used my fab spot at the barrier to take some pictures, too: 

Setlist Munich:

You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire 
No One Knows 
First It Giveth 
Burn the Witch 
My God Is the Sun 
I Sat by the Ocean 
…Like Clockwork 
If I Had a Tail 
In the Fade 
Misfit Love 
Little Sister 
Fairweather Friends 
Smooth Sailing 
Make It Wit Chu 
Sick, Sick, Sick 
Better Living Through Chemistry 
Go With the Flow 

The Vampyre of Time and Memory 
I Appear Missing 
A Song for the Dead 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pittsburgh - Carnegie International 2013/2014

Pedro Reyes - Disarm

At first I have to apologize that this comes so late - weeks after my return from Pittsburgh - but the full Christmas season stress at work set in as every year and time for blogging is very short. I still definitely wanted to do this posting, because I LOVED my day at the Carnegie Museum of Art.  

This is also a perfect example how I knock out all the people who raise an eyebrow every time I pack my suitcase for Pittsburgh and ask: "Again? Isn't that BORING?"  or "You must have seen it all like ten times already. What the hell are you doing there?" At first it is never boring, because Pittsburgh is beautiful and the time I can spend with my friends there is short and precious. Also: NO, I did not see it all yet. I still don't! There is enough to do in this city for many, many visits and it indeed was my 5th trip before I FINALLY made to the CMOA.

My timing could not have been better because I was right in town for the 2013/2014 Carnegie International (It ends not before March 16 2014 - so if you have a chance, go!).
The Carnegie International is the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art on North American grounds and was established in 1896 by the industrialist and philantropist Andrew Carnegie. Learn more about the history of the exhibition here.

I am personally a big fan of modern and contemporary art. While I of course neither like nor understand it all, I get REALLY excited when I run into stuff I like, because it usually touches me deeply. To go out and see new stuff in Pittsburgh is also extra fun because anyway if you are at the Warhol Museum, the wonderful Mattress Factory or at CMOA - everywhere is a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and enough space for you to let the impressions sink in. That probably is like this because the love for art has such a strong tradition in this city and is just part of regular life.

Documenting my visit was a bit complicated because some pieces you are allowed to photograph and some - on wish of the artist - not, but I think I managed to keep it clean although sometimes art with photo approval was hanging right next to other with none. 

Except for the first room, where I think some pieces were lacking space I loved how the art was presented in the building. Those two were some of my favorites: 

Joel Sternfeld's extended photo series "Sweet Earth - Experimental Utopias in America" had a perfect space on the gallery.

Right below you could find one of my absolute favorites - the Mexican artist's Pedro Reyes "Disarm" installation. You can also see a piece of it at the top of this post.

These are all self-playing instruments created from weapons. As you can imagine as the massive music lover I am, I find the idea to turn death bringing guns and other weapons into music instruments is right down my alley. I loved it and even the sound was okay. Too often installations with sound are nerv wrecking (the one I just saw the Fotografiska in Stockholm still gives me a migrane just thinking of it), but this one was quite nice and interesting. 

But it still gets better. I was almost ready to leave when I figured that I had left out a part of the building and this is where I found the amazing pieces of Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović. Funny enough even before I read the name of the artist next to his work or had seen the backside of installation with the Bag-People which is sporting pages out oft the Jutarnji List I was immediatly clear that this was the work of an artist coming from the former Yugoslavia. The "language" in his pieces was just so familiar. 

Mladen Stilinović - Artist at work

My highlight was the "Pain Dictionary" - all pages of an over 500 pages English dictionary ripped out and all definition of terms painted over and replaced by the hand written word "Pain". That sounds devasting and in a way it is, but it is also very thought provoking. I randomly stopped in front of a page when I was walking along and it was a "g" page. The word "growth" and the unavoidable "Pain" next to it burned itself straight into my memory. I mean ... how can you be more right? It is worth it but personal growth is with no doubt strongly connected to all kinds of pain. I spent a lot of  time with Mladen Stilinović's artwork and it is exactly why I love exploring exhibitions like this - they GET you when you last expect it.

Mladen Stilinović - Pain Dictionary

Mladen Stilinović - Pain Dictionary

Another wonderous place with in the museum is the Hall of Architecture. Especially for me as a European it is weird to look at these giant replica of whole church portals and other big structures. I did not really get why you would put this really wild combination of huge "things" into a room, when I found the explanation that was given by the museum: Andrew Carnegie decided to have the Hall of Architecture because the majority of Pittsburgh's citizens would never have the chance to travel to Europe and other far off places to see this with their own eyes. So he decided to build this to give people a chance to at least experience bits of it right there at home. That again makes A LOT of sense to me although it still looks strange. 

The next piece from the Hall of Architecture I had to picture because the dog reminded me so much Gabrijela's Whippets. So exactly at this point I especially thought of my dear friend who could this time not travel to Pittsburgh together with me.

Finally I of course took a small walk over to the dinosaurs, too:

This was my favorite. It is called megaloceros giganteus

Thank you Andy (and the other Andy for the painting) for the great day and sorry for the bad pic. I could not  make the reflections go away - to many sources of artifical light around in the museum shop.