Album Review: Death Cab For Cutie – The Open Door EP

Death Cab For Cutie
The Open Door EP

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The Open Door EP

The Open Door EP

A welcome treat to tide fans over until their next full length album, The Open Door EP is a collection of songs that didn’t quite make the cut for the runaway success that was Narrow Stairs. Described by bassist Nick Harmer as “part of the Narrow Stairs experience”, the EP holds its ground and manages to avoid sounding like the kind of castoffs usually reserved for rereleases and bonus CDs.

The EP opens with ‘Little Bribes’, an account of seedy casino culture.  Even an open door can harbour shadows:  “Pretend every slot machine is a robot amputee waving hello, the people stare into their eyes, and they feed them little bribes”.  Despite such subject matter, the melody is remarkably light and upbeat, demonstrating the slight lack of sync with Narrow Stairs.

‘My Mirror Speaks’ could well have been at home on Plans, the band’s 2005 release.  The most layered track, frontman Ben Gibbard sings of “A tangled thread inside his head, with nothing on either end”.  His trademark warbling is given depth by the steady percussion and looping guitar riffs that unfold.

The final track is a demo of ‘Talking Bird’ that features Gibbard with only his ukelele as accompaniment.  An intimate melody, it’s hard to imagine Gibbard playing this to any more than a handful of people, but could frame a perfect moment in your life, given the chance.

The Bellingham boys have booked sell-out shows in both Bellingham and Redmond, making Spokane your last chance to see them in Washington for a while.  For those of you not lucky enough to catch them this time around, I leave you with a studio recording of ‘Talking Bird’:

Death Cab For Cutie – Talking Bird (Live From Seattle)

The Open Door EP is out now on Atlantic records.
www.deathcabforcutie.com

Nicky Andrews

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Show preview: 2nd week of 75th Anniversary shows at the Blue Moon

Sound on the Sound presents another great night this Saturday at the 75-year-old Blue Moon with A Gun That Shoots Knives, We Wrote The Book On Connectors and Portland’s Junkface. This one’s a no-brainer – two of my favorite bands (plus Junkface, who promise to be amazing) at one of my favorite venues. If last weekend’s show was any indication, this will be a night to remember. Get there early – you won’t want to miss a minute of the celebration.

A few of my favorite moments from past A Gun That Shoots Knives shows:

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And (Hurray!) We Wrote The Book On Connectors:

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werobot

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Show Review & Photos: White Lies @ Neumos

“We’re White Lies, and this is Death,” that’s how singer/guitarist Harry McVeigh ended White Lies’ set last Tuesday at Neumos in Seattle. The stage was stark, black and white with bits of fog drifting in and out and I felt like this was a bit like what Ingmar Bergman would have done with a rock and roll stage set. There’s that moment in the Seventh Seal where Max von Sydow’s character encounters Death in the flesh – that’s what it reminded me of and I mean that as a high compliment. To end a show with the pounding and relentless horror of Death’s That’s why everything’s got to be love or death/Yes this fear’s got a hold of me is a significant farewell.


Harry McVeigh and Jack Brown – photo by Dagmar

It may seem strange to talk about how a show ended before I talk about how it began but keep in mind this is a band concerned with emotional catastrophe and pain. Angst. And I love every part of it. White Lies, comprised of McVeigh, Jack Brown (drums), and Charles Cave (bass/backup vocals), released their self-titled debut this year and it’s my favorite of the year. The band came out roaring with the contemplative and danceable Farewell to the Fairground and To Lose My Life. To Lose My Life, already a major hit in the UK is a Chameleons-esque beauty with an unfairly infectious lyric of Let’s grow old together/ and die at the same time. There is not a weak song in their live set or their CD – the alternating gentle and lusciously prominent bass, the strapping and elegant drumming, the rolling baritone, the swift guitar and provocative lyrics – it’s all here.


Charles Cave – photo by Dagmar


Jack Brown – photo by Dagmar

Unfinished Business was a highlight for me, it’s probably my favorite White Lies song. Its pace is so appealing and the lyrics so dramatic: You’ve got blood on your hands and I know it’s mine. I would type more but it would be the entire song. Just listen to it. Plus it’s got what I think must be a nod to Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill: A sight for sore eyes and with a view to kill. EST was also really amazing: I hope you remember me/ I hope you never pretend for me.

Each band member has a unique and intense presence that attracted my attention the entire show. You just need to see this band, trust me. Added bonus: these are all handsome guys. The live performance is different from the CD and that’s another bonus for me – White Lies is all that is glorious about music.


Harry McVeigh – photo by Dagmar

Check out more photos of the show in my gallery: Page 1 and Page 2.

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Show preview: Portugal. The Man & H is for Hellgate @ The Croc tomorrow

I know. Shows on weeknights are tough for us 9-to-5ers, but tomorrow’s offering at The Croc is too good to miss – buck up and come out. Portugal. The Man (from Portland via Wasilla, AK) will headline a great night which also includes incredible local band H is for Hellgate and unknown-to-me Alligators. Doors are at 8 – see you there!

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Album Review: Super Furry Animals – Dark Days/Light Years

Super Furry Animals
Dark Days/Light Years

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Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years

Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years

Dark Days/Light Years could well be considered the second coming for my favourite Welshmen, the Super Furry Animals.  Always innovative, the band performed the album in a live webcast to celebrate the digital release of the album in March, which was prefaced with a series of videos shot during each recording session.

After a choppy excerpt of such a session, the album launches into the fantastic with the unstoppable experimental force that is ‘Crazy Naked Girls’.  If you didn’t engage with previous releases Love Kraft or Hey, Venus!, fear not – the Furries will now have your full attention.

Built upon an infectious work of percussion, the song boasts not just the usual daft wordplay but also some impressive guitar riffs and solos, the likes of which have yet to grace a SFA record to date.  Perhaps someone spent the winter playing Guitar Hero:  World Tour?  ‘Crazy Naked Girls’ cascades into a mess of wah-wah guitars and grunge pedals – a bold move that pays off.

A diverse record, Dark Days/Light Years demonstrates the breadth of influences upon the band and their dedication to pushing the boundaries of their sound.  The juxtaposition of Gruff Rhys’ Welsh pop and Nick McCarthy’s (of Franz Ferdinand) German rapping in ‘Inaugural Trams’ makes for a very catchy monochrome beat reminiscent of Kraftwerk.

‘White Socks/Flip Flops’ sees the song material spill over into the ridiculous, but you’ll soon find yourself singing along and harvesting weirded-out stares on the monorail.  Guitarist Huw ‘Bunf’ Bunford takes on the mantle of vocalist with swaggering results.

Rhys’ vox are at their most mellowed out on ‘Where Do You Wanna Go?’, an earnest ditty spanning a sweet two and a half minutes.  Perfect to herald the coming of summer, this Beach Boys-esque track is sure to have you reaching for your beach towel.

The album closes with ‘Pric’, a gorgeous offering complete with melancholic warblings and repetitions.  A sitar-like riff drives the song, but the track houses so many other whistles, tinklings and video-game inspired bleepings that it cannot be described as dated, rather as an ‘episode’ of jamming at its finest.

The Furries leave their familiar stamp of psychedelic, pun-loving fun on Dark Days/Light Years, but have proven themselves open to taking chances and expanding their sound.  The results are invigorating for a band who have just released their ninth studio album; a joyful celebration of the absurd.

Dark Days/Light Years is out April 21 on Rough Trade Records.
www.superfurry.com

Nicky Andrews

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