Sometimes it feels like some friend has a birthday every week, but it is the perfect excuse to gather ‘round in one big, shared experience that alternately warms the heart and slakes the sober tongue.
This week just happens to be my birthday, though, and in honor of this, I’ve compiled some songs that can either set the perfect tone for a birthday or destroy it completely.
“Birthday Gal” – The Replacements
I’m always game to plug The ‘Mats whenever I can, but this song is truly the perfect way to cap off a birthday fated to be like all the others that aren’t your twenty-first or eighteenth. Singing with the shaky confidence of a man who’s seen a few too many birthdays himself, Paul Westerberg croons excellent, scene-setting lyrics like “Wax is dripping from the frosting of the cake / We sang off key, and now this is turning blue.”
Throw in a perfectly ramshackle guitar solo and some world-weary contemplation about growing up, and you’ve got yourself the perfect birthday song for me.
“Birthday” – The Sugarcubes
Or is this the perfect birthday song? I guess it all depends on how deep one is into their celebrating, as Bjork’s elastic vocal performance and the wonderfully Cure-like composition serves as an inspiring sing-along for everyone.
Of course it might be difficult to hit the notes she’s hitting, but who needs notes when you’ve got birthday sentiments as maudlin or cathartic as “They saw a big raven, it glided down the sky, she touched it. / Today’s a birthday, they’re smoking cigar”? Just … amazing. Explicit birthday wishes be damned.
Now, the worst:
“Birthday Sex” – Jeremih
Admittedly one has to admire a song that unabashedly celebrates a uniquely specific part of the best birthdays around. By delivering such an oddly sincere ode to an experience no one else would ever write a song about, Jeremih has ensured that his auto-tuned washed “Birthday Sex” will forever remain in some sad, lonely crevice of the birthday-having public.
Unfortunately Jeremih’s unnervingly melancholy delivery of lines like “Don’t need candles or cake / Just need your body to make” and “We grinding with passion cause it’s yo birthday” do little to capture the rock n roll birthday we all deserve.
“Birthday Song” – 2 Chainz feat. Kanye West
The only thing worse than a birthday song that completely misses the joyous beauty of birthdays is one that further aggravates Kanye West’s astounding slump of half-assed guest verses and lame G.O.O.D. Music collaborations.
2 Chainz is up front about his desire for “a big booty ho” to make his birthday dreams come true, but Kanye is frustratingly elusive about what exactly anybody’s birthday truly means to him. Tossing off a line like “Last birthday she got you a new sweater / Put it on, give her a kiss, and tell her to do better” is hardly what I had in mind when I heard you were releasing a birthday song, Yeezy!
“Happy Birthday”-Stevie Wonder
That damn tropical synthesizer. It takes Stevie Wonder all of five seconds to ruin birthdays forever, but with this song he reveals the true sadism behind his 40 year career. What other explanation could there possibly be for making this song just shy of six minutes long?
This was the song that started it all, folks. The one that made me wonder what birthday songs could possibly be worse than this one. The answer? None. Not one of them. Congratulations, Stevie: this is already the worst year of my life.
On Monday night Cup Cafe and Club Congress were visited by a band from a combination of cities, such as Chicago and Minneapolis. Waiting for their time to come, their performance would show Tucson that such raw and recent talent can be sporadically created yet still sound amazing.
ON AN ON’s live act opened with a blend of electronic tones and loud but pure bass notes while a finger print projection danced around the stage. The music grew and was instantly contagious, impossible to not rock out to.
The band, who is best known for their single, “Ghosts,” has only been together since April 2012. The group has already opened for the likes of Geographer.
Two of the bandmates, Nate Eiesland, the lead singer and guitarist, and Alissa Ricci, the keyboardist and back-up vocalist, have been playing music together since a young age.
“I picked up the guitar when I was about 14, and as I was not the most astute student, I poured all my energy into learning the art of music, so it was really convenient to know exactly what I wanted to do when I got out of school,” Eiesland said.
The band’s third member is a recent addition. Bassist Ryne Estwing went to college and classically trained in guitar and jazz.
“I chose to study music because when I went to attend shows that I truly enjoyed, I genuinely wanted to give back that same positive energy to others as well,” Estwing said.
The combination of the three musicians coming together in such a short amount of time has created a sound that is hard to classify into one specific genre, considering all the different elements that can be heard in every song.
“We’ve come to realize that it is really difficult to describe our sound and influences”, Ricci said.
All three members join on a common front. Their collaborative writing has one purpose: the production of sincere and honest music.
“What we noticed in the studio was that we wanted to hone in these moments of vulnerability and capture that,” Nate said, “That is just more interesting to listen to, so we prioritized that over perfection. It was about how the music made you feel and not how it sounded.”
ON AN ON was also given the opportunity to be produced by such a talent as Dave Newfeld, a member of the successful indie post-rock band Broken Social Scene.
“A common saying we used a lot in the studio was ‘good vibes’, we were really looking for that saying to apply to this album,” Ricci said, further explaining their recording process. The result, of these “good vibes” has been their album Give In, released on Jan. 29.
Their tour for their first album has taken the band to places such as Austin and Seattle, but Ricci said Tucson has to be up there on the list of interesting stops.
“Hotel Congress is pretty kickass,” she laughed. While it may be a great location, it’s nowhere near a wonderful as the feelings ON AN ON’s music evokes in the listener, and the truly memorable show they deliver.
Whoever it was that first said hipsters don’t dance had obviously never been to a Generationals show at Club Congress. The Generationals’ funky bass lines got an exceptionally large portion of a pretty hip crowd dancing, and that is no easy feat. Not only did the Generationals get the hip dancing, they also attracted the elderly, as one particularly youthful senior danced and clapped the entirety of the opener Races and the Generationals sets.
This show was a blast. I had never been to Club Congress before tonight or heard of the band RACES. Both were awesome. Club Congress offers a really intimate experience as the inside stage is a pretty cozy space. At one point during the Generationals encore Ted Joyer, singer and guitarist, walked amongst the crowd as he played. The energy of the crowd probably would have been even higher, had the show not been on a Sunday night. Unfortunately this meant a more sober crowd and little less jumping.
But lets talk about RACES for a minute. This five-piece band from LA reminded me a lot of the band Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos. They performed songs from their album Year of the Witch. The drumming was great. It wasn’t just your run of the mill indie band overworking the crash-symbol-crescendo nonsense — it was more complex than that. You could tell RACES isn’t a band that is too concerned about image to have fun on stage. They all looked like they were having a blast, and that really lent itself to the crowd as a whole having a great time — the lead guitarist even soloed while on the ground. It was a really great performance and the crowd even chanted for an encore, which is rare for opening bands.
The Generationals were, simply put, fucking rad. They featured the aforementioned crowd interaction as well as climbing up amps and tons of jumping about. There is nothing worse than a dead stage performance, but the Generationals featured anything but that. They played songs from their first album Con Law and their new album Actor-Castor and their ever so popular EP When They Fight They Fight. They saved their smash hit for the encore when they gave the crowd what a large majority had been waiting for, and it went over insanely well. The songs from Actor-Castor featured a much more electric sound, and when coupled with what looked like a flashing triforce light show and a third eye behind the stage it was an intense experience.
Both bands performed excellently live and are worth seeing. If you haven’t yet, see a show at Club Congress — it’s quite the venue.
For anyone familiar with how bumping Club Congress can get on any given party night, it’s fair to say that Congress was something of an odd choice to play for a DIY-leaning indie punk band like Cult of Youth.
Taking the stage after a few solid hours of automatic DJs, at first it looked like the Brooklyn band was going to have no one watching them despite the plethora of people and costumes all around the property. Yet the band looked ready to rock. Every member except frontman Sean Ragon showed up with white and black facepaint, as if getting into the spirit of All Souls a few days early. As for Ragon, he strolled up to the microphone unassumingly with acoustic in hand, proceeding to light off the first song of the night despite only myself and a handful of other people in front of the stage.
Awash in red light Cult of Youth as a band sounded good and dangerous. The drums thudded away with a thunderous boom and the fuzzed-out bass plodded overtop Ragon’s fierce strumming like an aural pickaxe. By the time Ragon was starting their second song, Love Will Prevail’s fantastic “Golden Age,” the indoor audience area had already begun to fill up, soon reaching near-maximum capacity midway through the band’s ten song set. With every subsequent song it seemed that Ragon became more and more invested in the performance, which is to say he got wonderfully crazier as the night went on. For single “Garden of Delights” he bugged his eyes out at the audience and shook his head over his shoulder as if a dog ridding itself of water. In a leather jacket and the fastest acoustic strumming in punk rock, Ragon commanded the stage with a charisma rooted in DIY punk tradition than any kind of indie posturing, at times losing himself in the moment but never for a second seeming ungrateful or annoyed by the rowdy party atmosphere. Surprisingly enough, the ever-growing crowd responded quite well to Ragon’s guttural howls and emotive flailing, cheering and walloping along with the band in a way that seemed to feed the energy of their performance.
The sound itself was quite excellent as well, with “Garden of Delights” transforming into an apocalyptic death march that far outdid the more methodical approach on 2012’s Love Will Prevail. The points at which Ragon was joined by his fellow guitarists on gang vocals were particularly affecting and well-mixed, the “Love will prevail” cry of “Garden of Delights” or the backing chants on “New Old Ways” all making for great sing-along moments for anyone who happened to know the words. Perhaps the most breathtaking performance of the night, however, was an instrumental jam for which Ragon put down the acoustic guitar and wielded his trumpet like a maniac. I didn’t recognize the music from any track on their albums, so it could have been some kind of improvisational jam or new track, but wherever it came from the band played with a ferocity unmatched by any other song in the set. Jumping about like a shaman, Ragon leaned back and forced the trumpet into the microphone, his infectious movement threatening to knock the stand over for the entirety of the song as he squeaked and squealed scales of notes to the audience. Merely describing it as “avant-garde” or “free jazz” might do injustice to both the performance and the terms, but truly the bursts of sound Ragon coerced from the trumpet were astounding. Topping it all off, Ragon ran the entire trumpet part through a loop pedal which he proceeded to play and feedback through while still playing his main part, creating a wonderful cacophony quite alarming to anyone hoping for a relaxed Halloween jam.
Nonetheless Cult of Youth won over the crowd, and as Ragon told me after the show, “We’re just glad to be able to get paid to travel, play music, and party!” In true punk fashion, it was the people and the music that mattered tonight.
Steff Koeppen and The Articles will be plaything this Saturday, October 27 at Plush located on the southwest corner of 4th Ave. and 6th St. Enjoy your Saturday night out and celebrate after the Wildcats take down the USC’s Trojans during the afternoon game (fingers crossed).
If you haven’t heard this band before, come out and enjoy their unique sound of “raging jazz/pop.” The lead singer, Steff Koeppen and violinist, Alexandra Tuggle are both seniors at the U of A.
To learn more about the band and listen to some of their music, take a look at their website, steffkoeppen.com. Check out their new music video that just came out, entitled “Finding,” a single from their most recent album, “Stories You Can’t Tell.”
They will be going on at 9:30 pm followed by Roll Acosta at 10:30 pm and Kaia Chesney at 11:30 pm. For more information about Plush and their upcoming shows, visit plushtucson.com.
Hello all, Alex again. I first heard this record about forty minutes ago and immediately rushed to write this up so that I could share the beauty with all-“It Is Rain In My Face” by It Is Rain In My Face. Aside from having probably the best band name I’ve encountered all year, this is a fantastic record that somehow merges acoustic folk music, chillwave, and often club music to incredible effect. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly gets me about this record. Is it the dream-pop of “Pagaul” that singer/songwriter Mat Jones inexplicably sings with a Southern twang? Is it the wild acoustic samples of “Moor As Uncle” and “Seven Eight Eight” that seamlessly fuse Delta lo-fi and dance beats? Or perhaps it’s the psych-rock guitar solo that spills out over glitchy hip hop drums in “Fighter Pilot In a War”?
It’s hard to say, of course, because it’s all that interesting. This album just sounds damn good. It’s very much a DIY affair, with the instrumental tones (particularly those of the acoustic guitars) often covered in a kind of murky haze that perfectly complements the backwoods harmonies that Jones puts together. There’s such a plethora of ideas going on in every one of these songs that at times it can seem like a few of the songs are half-finished, sketches of several songs that Jones smashed together for whatever reason. Yet even in the cases where this is true, this aesthetic never takes away from how excitingly diverse it is.
It’s available on bandcamp in the link below, either for a $7 digital copy or you can evidently purchase a cassette version too. Check it out! I guarantee It Is Rain In My Face has something for everyone.
Hello all in Blogland. I’m here to inform you of a sweet band called Races so that I might push the video for their single “Big Broom” on you. If you’re into dream pop soundscapes and old-fashioned male/female vocal pairings, “Big Broom” is the track for you. The video’s got some great moments as well, most of which involve one of the more creative uses of balloons I’ve encountered in a while.
The song itself opens with the lines, “When that big broom comes / for its final sweep” which actually give a great indication of how the track sounds. The vocals swirl about the distorted guitar lick, and the drums and bass guitar stomp with a glammy swagger that sweep with a grandiosity not far removed from that of an orchestra. It’s an excellent piece of music, so check out the video. You can also stream and purchase their entire album Year of the Witch on their site racestheband.com, so give that a listen as well!
Be sure to brush up on your Races before they hit Club Congress on November 18th. Should be a great time.
Until next time, Alex
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