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Play It by Ear Haiti Benefit Show @ Funk N’ Waffles by 20watts

Liz Lewis playing at Funk 'n' Waffles last night; larger photos below!

PREVIEW: LISTEN to Drink Up Buttercup, Liz Lewis and New Relic on MySpace
GIVE: DONATE a contribution to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

You walk into Funk N’ Waffles and the coffee shop is cramped past the legal limit. With hardly any standing room, much less an open seat, the bands that played at Funk last night did so to a packed show. Whether they were standing in the back or sitting close up front, concert-goers listened intently to the performers voices, guitar noodling, keyboard manipulation and other forms of music-making, whether it involved cellos or garbage cans. The eclectic acts and cozy atmosphere made the Haiti charity event a great success Friday night.

Erica Scarano, Sarah Detweiler, Aaron Gittleman, Liz Lewis, Keith Smith (with Stephen Babcock), One of Three, New Relic, Ryan Whitman and Drink Up Buttercup filled the elevated stage between the hours of 7 and 11:30 p.m. Each artist performed just a few songs, ranging in genres and message. Appropriate to the benefit show’s nature, the only consistent theme of the night was the universal camaraderie shared by the performers and the audience. Continue reading


Editor’s Pick #266: Embed with the Stars by Isabel Alcantara

PREVIEW: Watch Embedded’s latest segment on Imogen Heap.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to do two of my favorite things at the same time: watch TV and listen to music. While some of you might say, “Isabel, they play music during television shows,” I say, “I’m looking for something better.” As I flipped through the channels to my favorite unknown news source, I stumbled upon a perfect solution, the best of both worlds: music you can watch. More specifically, Embedded, a six part music special airing on Current TV. The mini-series features an artist per episode and follows them through the process of touring, mixing their latest tracks and the backstage view to most of the band happenings. Some featured artists include Mos Def, Cold War Kids, Silversun Pickups and Thievery Corporation, just to name a few. All of the segments are available for your viewing pleasure on their page on the Current website. The page also has related blog posts, and a catalogue of all the featured artists. So what are you waiting for? Get your ass on that couch and start watching some music.

— Isabel Alcantara, Photo Editor

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20 Watts Reviews Cold War Kids’ Behave Yourself by 20watts

Cold War Kids should take their own advice with their latest EP Behave Yourself

PREVIEW: VISIT Cold War Kids MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 8/20 Watts

It starts with a simple drum beat and Nathan Willett’s wailing voice coupled with a repeated piano line. Cold War Kids latest “soul/punk” offering Behave Yourself, released digitally towards the end of 2009 and largely overlooked, presents little in the way of soul and naught in the way of punk. Nonetheless, Cold War Kids have managed to slap together a stunning fifteen minutes of drivel in preparation for their third album, out later this year supposedly.

Much of it leads back to Nathan Willett’s voice, always trying to infuse soul and pizazz into lyrics like, “You came out from the country / Wearing momma’s clothes / You were born in the city / Daddy’s dominoes,” and typically coming up short (or, as the case may be, flat). A source of critical contention since their full-length debut, his wannabe-Jack-White drawl still provides as little satisfaction today as it did four years ago.

Not all of Cold War Kids’ problems can be blamed on their frontman though. Among the many issues Behave Yourself tackles, conservative song structure is the most prominent. Lead track “Audience of One” is piano rock at its most gratingly repetitive, less Cat Stevens and more Billy Joel. “Sermons,” an R&B disaster, soaked to the bone with religious pleading and slow instrumentation that might evoke an ominous atmosphere were it not for Willett’s overbearing words and Jonnie Russell’s heavy-handed crooning. They even ape The Beatles’ “Her Majesty” with the abruptly-ending bonus track “Baby Boy.”

If there exists one bearable song on this short record it would likely be “Santa Ana Winds.” While not strong enough to salvage the EP, it relegates Willett’s voice to the background more than the others on the record, instead allowing for crescendoing swells of percussion and crisp guitar and bass lines. Moreover Cold War Kids know not to outstay their welcome on it, dropping out at a lean 2:32.

Why are EPs released? Are they outlets for musicians to grow artistically? Can they represent more than the throwaway B-sides from an album of material? Years from now, when the tastemakers of the future visit their vintage record stores to compile some of the aughts’ great indie rock EPs — Fall Be Kind, Lon Gisland, Sun Giant, Rainwater Cassette Exchange, Friend and others — a tattered compact disc copy of Behave Yourself will undoubtedly lie at the bottom of the bin, forgotten and sold at a tenth of its original price.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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Editor’s Pick #121: Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah by tjwell01

clap-your-hands-say-yeahEvery once in a while it’s fun to reflect on special albums that stick with you forever. Mine is the Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah LP.

My freshman RA at SkyHall One introduced me to a lot of great bands and is responsible for my indie taste like: Cold War Kids, Ted Leo, Bloc Party, Ra Ra Riot, but CYHASY stuck out. This is mostly because I thought they were terrible and that the singer was painfully out of tune (which he is), so I quickly chucked the record under my bed.

Then one night while riding a Fung Wah bus from New York City to Boston, I found the record on my iPod from months ago, and decided to give it another chance since the bus was stuck in traffic and I had nothing else better to do. I listened to it again. Again. Again, and then something clicked. Alec Ounsworth’s voice suddenly started to sound like something musical. It still cracked, it still missed every note, but I was beginning to understand the genius of his voice.

From that point everything fell into place. I was in love. The tight bass lines gripped me by the shoulders, the crashing hooks shook me, and the weirdly enchanting choruses swayed me. Every track from soft-toned “Over and Over Again” to the rocking fast-paced “Heavy Metal” gave me goose-bumps. The first song that convinced me was “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth.” Listen to the opening synthesizer riff, and let it consume you.

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Editor’s Pick #61: Ra Ra Riot Making Moves by tjwell01
February 19, 2009, 1:41 am
Filed under: Editor Picks | Tags: , , , ,

It’s amazing how far Ra Ra Riot has come. I remember seeing them for the first time at Funk N’ Waffles during my freshman year when Vampire Weekend opened for them. Yes, you heard me right. Vampire Weekend opened up a show at Funk N’ Waffles at one point. Boy, times have changed.

Now, with Ra Ra Riot’s new video for “Can You Tell,” you start to wonder if these guys are really going to take a shot at this. They definitely need a new album. They’ve been playing these songs [yes, The Rhumb Line is not a new album—they’re all old songs] for the past three to four years.

Rumors are that the band only figures they’ll ride this thing out until it eventually dies. Who said it has to end? They’re opening up for Death Cab for Cutie and Cold War Kids these days! That’s nothing to sneeze at! They’re getting press up the ying-yang and they’re looking at this band as a temporary gig? That’s not the right attitude. Keep rocking hard, write new songs and let the good times roll.

Looking forward to the Wescott show coming up, along with opening act Passion Pit!!!!!

–Jett Wells, Co-Reviews Editor