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Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Clear And True

I’d like to think I adequately previewed last night’s Rainer Maria/Ambulette show at the Horseshoe last month, so let’s just get into it.

Rainer Maria have been through town a few times since I saw them last here in July 2003, but usually with some really dubious emo-punk bill that I couldn’t bring myself to see. I still hadn’t gotten my copy of Catastrophe Keeps Us Together yet (damn you post office) so aside from the few preview tracks I’d heard and the SxSW showcase, I was going in a little blind. But what I did knew for certain was that RM are one of the most energetic live acts I’ve seen, especially guitarist Kyle Fischer who spends most of the show flailing around the stage somehow without missing a note. Caithlin De Marrais wasn’t as karate-kicking animated as last time, but still kept up her end of the energy level while handling lead vocals loudly, clearly and passionately. Fischer occasionally doubled vox on older material in a new hoarse scream. It’s not often that the drummer is the most restrained member of the band, but William Kuehn really was, at least relatively speaking.

Again, I haven’t heard the new record in its entirety but do know that it’s a more… mature affair? Polished? But either way, the new stuff works quite well live – there’s maybe a little more crackle to it in that context but put against the more frantic older material it also provides a good dynamic counterpoint. The set, short as it was at an hour including encore, had a really good tempo and pacing and the crowd, smallish as it was, was completely into it. The band didn’t have quite the defiant “something to prove” attitude that I picked up on in Austin, but still gave a fine performance.

Ambulette also seemed to have a different attitude than in Austin, but it was a positive change. They had a friendlier vibe than last time I saw them and were also playing and sounding a lot better. Maura Davis’ voice was in fine form, still huge and dramatic, but there seemed to be some more real emotion behind it rather than just mechanics. The band played much of the material from the The Lottery EP but the songs that really caught my ear were (presumably) the new ones not on the recording – some of it sounded really good. At a high level, it’s likely that Ambulette are simply operating in a genre a little outside of what I’m usually into, but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep paying attention.

Gig photos hopefully tomorrow though maybe not till Wednesday. In the meantime, there’s a video available for the title track of the new Rainer Maria album and you can hear more from both RM and Ambulette at their MySpace pages. And City On A Hill Press has posted an piece on the band with some quotes from RM’s Kuehn. Update: Photos are done!

MP3: Rainer Maria – “Burn”
Video: Rainer Maria – “Catastrophe” (MP4)

Though their new one, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass isn’t out till September 12, there’s already new Yo La Tengo to hear! Why, it’s positively JAUNTY. Happy day.

MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Beanbag Chair”

The AV Club talks to Neko Case about geography. And if you haven’t seen it, there’s a video for “Maybe Sparrow”.

Video: Neko Case – “Maybe Sparrow” (Flash)

Toronto’s Diableros have put together a video for “Sugar Laced Soul” and have made another song available for download via MySpace. VUE Weekly talked to the band about playing larger venues thanks to the success of You Can’t Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts. They’ll be playing a loaded non-NxNE show at Sneaky Dee’s on June 9 with The Paper Cranes.

MP3: The Diableros – “Working Out Words”
Video: The Diableros – “Sugar Laced Soul” (MOV)

The powers that be have unearthed a slew of videos from Soul Asylum’s heyday. Take a stroll down memory lane and marvel at Dave Pirner’s hair here.

Harp has some behind the scenes video footage from the making of Drive-By Truckers’ A Blessing And A Curse, out in Canada next Tuesday.

The Boston Globe Q&A’s Stuart Brathwaite of Mogwai. They’re in town at the Phoenix tonight.

AOL continues to be a surprisingly cool resource for complete streaming albums – this week, have a listen to the new Doves live EP Some Cities Live and two new Dinosaur Jr reissues for Green Mind and Where You Been. The links may not go to the correct default album, so use the scrolly menu at the top.

I’m proud to have been asked to contribute to Goodhodgkins.com’s list of “Visceral Song Moments”. My pick? Okkervil River’s “For Real”.

Penultimate 24 commentary tomorrow or Wednesday or whenever. I’m busy these nights.

np – Sufjan Stevens / The Avalanche: Outtakes And Extras From The Illinois Album

By : Frank Yang at 8:41 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Jack Baur Never Sleeps says:

    Wednesday? You’ve teased me way too much this season of 24 Sir Frank.

  2. Frank says:

    keep your pants on, Jack. It’ll be tomorrow almost certainly.

  3. Karl says:

    I’m thinking that the real hidden uber-villain will be revealed to be the Burger King.

    http://www.eonline.com/News

  4. Thierry says:

    Hurry up! I need the recap to make sense of those 15 minutes that I saw – I missed the start of the episode because Global showed 24 an hour early, and then missed the ending because Fox showed it between 9:20 and 10:20pm. Some weird scheduling…

  5. Frank says:

    sense? Geez, Thierry – I gave up trying to make sense of anything around hour 15.

  6. Duce says:

    you missed the Phoenix firewall dialogue… Ha!

  7. Karl says:

    To tide people over, Dave Barry has commentary and liveblogging of the episode:

    http://blogs.herald.com/dav

  8. thomaus says:

    I’ve finally just started getting into Okkervil River. It took quite a few listens to warm up to Black Sheep Boy. My problem? I think I was playing it too quietly. Lately, I turned it up, and I finally am starting to get the dynamics and power that is in the disc. When it’s too soft, the only thing that gets through is the vocal. And Will Sheff’s vocals are not to be taken lightly.

    But I’m still not grasping why the record rocked your world so much. Soon, the blogosphere will know.

  9. hanson says:

    how many people were at the rainer maria show in t.o.? in vancouver, they got about 30-40 people out, and about half of them left before the encore. ridiculous.

    i like their new album. it’s a more controlled, mature disc with more straightforward pop songs than their previous work. i really dig the title track, probably as much as i’ve dug anything else they’ve done (except for maybe "artifical light").

  10. Frank says:

    Okkervil rule. That is all.

    Hanson – I’m not sure how big the crowd was, hard to gauge from up front, but I’d guess there were at least 100-150 people? Maybe? A decent crowd for a rainy Monday night, either way, and an enthusiastic one.