Tag Archives: Houston

For Your Ears: My Top 10 favorite tracks from Tegan and Sara’s discography

15 Mar

Although Tegan and Sara have surpassed a decade in their career as working musicians, things are starting to take off for the two.

But though they’ve toured with the likes of Neil Young, Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers, Weezer and Paramore, their upcoming tour with fun. might skyrocket them into an arena that they’ve been working towards since they first started out. Well, there’s that, and the fact that their latest single, “Closer,” was covered on last night’s episode of Glee, the same hit TV series that helped make fun.’s second album, Some Nights, a breakthrough album.

Right now, the twins are on tour support of their newest album, Heartthrob, and I was lucky enough to score tickets. So, what better way to celebrate than to compile a list of my favorite Tegan and Sara songs?

10. I’m Not Your Hero (Heartthrob)
I’ve only had this track to listen to since January, but it has already become one of my favorite songs of theirs. I love the optimism of the second verse, when Sara says, “Learning all I know now/losing all I did/I never used to feel like I’d be standing so far ahead.” Though I’ve always loved the darkness and uncertainty that can sometimes come from the twins, this is truly a breath of fresh air, and a reminder that sometimes you just have to live in the light and enjoy life.

9. Living Room (If It Was You)
“Living Room” has a voyeuristic feel to it that will always remind me of photographers who photograph other tenants from their apartment window. It’s easy to close your eyes and imagine having an all-access view into the apartment of someone you desire. Is it creepy? Maybe a little bit. But it’s human, and it’s also an old track. Either way, there’s something endearing about it.

8. Feel It In My Bones (feat. Tegan and Sara, from Tiesto’s Kaleidoscope)
This track was the first time, to my knowledge, that most people heard Tegan and Sara dapple in electro/dance/house music. It was a breath of fresh air, and a reminder that the best dance tracks often feature artists with unique and unsuspecting voices.

7. Dark Come Soon (The Con)
I’ve always said that if you can understand and relate to The Con in a personal way, you’re in a dark place. This song only reiterates that. It’s different for everyone, but in the end, we all just need a little darkness to wallow in our sorrows.

6. On Directing (Sainthood)
This song is so sexy. Sainthood was pretty sexy, but this track has always knocked me on my back. Musically, it’s equivalent to the feeling you get when you meet someone who just steals you away. But this song is coy, it’s unsuspecting, and it leaves the listener with a lot of questions. Perhaps its mystery is what keeps bringing me back. That, or it reminds me so much of myself.

5. Nineteen (Get Along)
I fell in love with an acoustic version of Nineteen that Tegan and Sara did in Paris before a show. Unfortunately, it was an mp3 that had been ripped from a video, so I could never quite hear it. That, and Tegan accidentally repeated the first verse twice. Good thing they played it acoustic in their DVD, because this one is a keeper.

4. Someday (Sainthood)
This will forever feel like an anthem for anyone who feels like they’ve been put down. It’s so easy for the world to tell you no, when your heart and soul tell you yes. Luckily, Tegan and Sara face their  fair share of hardships and know that even when things get good, someone will still need their encouragement. That’s why one of my favorite lines they’ve ever written will always be, “Mark my words, I might be something some day.”

3. I Won’t Be Left (So Jealous)
Relationships can be frightening, for one or both partners. Sometimes you just need that verbal reminder that running away from your problems won’t solve a damn thing.

2. Burn Your Life Down (The Con)
I’d heard this song so many times, but it wasn’t until I was going through some really terrible shit that I came to appreciate it. I don’t know how, or why. But something about hearing Sara’s voice saying, “Keep on fighting to remember that nothing is lost in the end,” really just kept me grounded and made me struggle through it.

1. Night Watch (Sainthood)
When I heard this song, the push and pull of the layered instruments really messed with my head. It was heartbreaking, truthful, self-deprecating and firm at the same time. Sometimes, doing what’s right isn’t easy, and doing what’s easy isn’t right. Needless to say, Sainthood was a work of art that Tegan and Sara labored over, and the picture that the music paints deserves to be hanging next to the damn Mona Lisa.

I hope you enjoy this list of songs I’ve compiled, but I’ve got a letter to write and a concert to get to.

Live Review: Jeff Mangum at Wortham Center

22 Jan

When you hear Jeff Mangum’s name, it’s hard to think of him as anything other than the “reclusive” persona writers have pegged him as. The truth is, I’ve seen Mangum first hand, and he’s nothing of the sort.

Last night, Mangum brought his highly exclusive, extremely anticipated tour to Houston’s Wortham Center in Downtown, and the place was sold out. It might go down as one of the most surreal, genuinely touching concerts I’ve experienced as of yet.

The crowd, which ranged from pre-teen to retired, dressed in their best “going out” clothes. There were no torn jeans, the tights weren’t ripped, and majority of the 21+ crowd was drinking wine or a cocktail versus beer. While it sounds like a strange way to gauge things, the same people sitting around me are the same ones that show up for $2 Lone Star nights and end up swinging their gorilla-sized hands in the air during a free show put on by the same production company, Pegstar. It was pretty nice to see everyone well-behaved at a venue that usually hosts events from orchestras and opera singers. Hell, one of the chandeliers probably costs more than my car.

The show started promptly at 8 p.m. when Tall Firs politely took the stage. The duo sat near one another in the middle of the stage, sharing a Fender Super Reverb and knocking out eight songs from their self-titled debut, 2008’s Too Old To Die Young and 2012’s Out of It and Into It.

In between tracks such as “Hairdo” and “So Messed Up,” band-mates David Mies and Aaron Mullan trade out guitars to get the right sound on each song while partaking in humorous banter. But among stories of stoned kids in OKC and prostitutes in St. Louis, Mies got the last laugh when he and Mullan snubbed Pitchfork’s Aaron Leitko for ripping apart Mies’ version of “I Couldn’t Say it to Your Face” by Arthur Russell.

Tall Firs have the airy, atmospheric chops of Explosions In The Sky, with more of a knack to sound like Sonic Youth or Pavement. Vocally, the two sound like they mastered the whiskey and cigarette routine while extensively studying every album in their personal collection. When stripped down, their songs left the crowd silent and transfixed in the dark of the room.

Following a brief intermission, Mangum took the stage wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and a hat while the house lights stayed on halfway – most likely at his request. But though he looked a bit more gray and grizzly when compared to the photos taken of him playing to Occupy Wall Street protestors a year ago, Mangum still looks relatively youthful.

As he sat in his chair aside four acoustic guitars, he dived straight into “Oh Comely,” sounding just as crisp and sincere as the recorded version we’ve all heard hundreds of times. After a long applause, Mangum prodded the audience to sing along with him to “The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1” and “The King Of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3,” which were played continuously.

Jeff Mangum at Wortham Center last night. Photo by Ed Abello (@sensitive_b)

Though backing instruments such as horns and accordions weren’t part of the set, Mangum’s voice left nothing to be desired. Instead, the crowd acted as an a cappella version of the track, singing back trumpet sections as the hall echoed with the intensity of the experience. And while Houston crowds are notorious for misbehaving, there were only a few that were unable to keep their composure or follow the rules. Some were seen running around the room back and fourth with friends they’d spotted, others forgot to take the flash off of their camera and could be seen by everyone going against his “no photography” rule.

Even so, Mangum took song requests with stride – either accepting them or politely explaining that he was without the proper pedal – and he even laughed at a man who shouted out “Keep Austin Weird!” after divulging that his family was from Texas. He could even be seen talking to people at the front of the house, and often asked the crowd the keep singing along with him or move forward if they felt the desire.

Throughout the hour-long set, Mangum pulled songs off both albums – On Avery Island and In An Aeroplane Over The Sea – and also found time to cover Roky Erikson’s “I Love The Living You.” Often times he stopped to use throat spray and guzzle down a bottle of water that required two hands. But aside from what looked like a minor cold, Mangum was in high spirits, often responding to a rogue “thank you!” or “I love you!”

“No, thank you,” Mangum mused as he placed his hand over his chest before diving into “Song About Sex.” “Thank you from the depths of my soul. I never expected this, I didn’t even think anyone would ever pay attention to me.”

At the end of his set, Mangum smiled and waved with sincerity as the crowd erupted in applause and gave him a standing ovation. And whether planned or not, Mangum came out one last time to finish the night with “Two Headed Boy Pt. 2.” That, of course, got another standing ovation.

And just like that, Jeff Mangum disappeared behind the curtains and the dream came to and end.

Set List
Oh Comely
King Of Carrot Flowers, Parts 1-3
Holland, 1945
Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone
Engine
Two Headed Boy, Part 1
I Love The Living You (Roky Erickson cover)
Song Against Sex
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Naomi
Ghost
Two Headed Boy, Part 2

Beyond Our Control: Why we’ll never avoid being cut by the double-edged sword of success in the music industry

26 Mar

The dust might finally be settling in Austin following its week-long occupation by SXSW-goers, but there’s still a buzz around what was seen there. And while Austin’s locals are still shaking their fists and telling us not to move there, I’m sure someone is currently roaming the “Help Wanted” ads hoping to high-tail it into the so-called Music Capitol of the World.

Nevertheless, Houston is only a stone’s throw from Austin, and our local music scene and city pride is just as strong – just without the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign featuring that eye-sore of a font.

So I wasn’t very surprised when Chris Gray, Editor of Houston Press’ music section, wrote an article reflecting on how the heart of SXSW Music has somehow become covered in Doritos cheese-flavored dust.

Now, more than ever, SXSW has become one big walking (or driving) advertisement. Nearly every surface in Downtown Austin is wrapped in saran wrap (to cut down on the time and cost of removing stickers and posters), while pretty much every official showcase is “hosted” by someone. And whether it’s Sony handing out free breath-mints and koozies, or Taco Bell hooking up with MTV, you’ll be hard-pressed to close your eyes and remember an object that wasn’t covered in ads.

And while Gray hit the nail on the head with that one, he got me thinking about how the music industry, not just SXSW, has changed in general.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to make it out to the entire festival this year, but I did get to go to the showcase that fun. played at Stubb’s on Friday night with Delta Spirit and The Drums. I saw crowds come and go for each band, but I distinctly remember getting irritated with the hundreds of people that cleared out as soon as their latest single, “We Are Young,” finished.

To some, the fickle crowd might have been caused by something many would call “selling out,” but in my eyes, it only furthered my growing resentment for those people who chew bands up and spit them out.

When “We Are Young” debuted in September 2011, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 53, but quickly became just another great song by fun. that I would appreciate alone in my car. However, the cast of Glee covered it on an episode in December, and people took notice of it – including Chevrolet, who used the track on their Superbowl commercial.

In 2008, fun. was formed by lead singer Nate Ruess due to the demise of his former band, The Format. He asked partners Jack Antonoff of Steel Train and Andrew Dost of Anathallo, two bands he’d toured with, to embark on the journey.

The group’s debut (and only other release), Aim and Ignite, featured “Walking the Dog” – which was later used in an Expedia commercial. For Ruess and Antonoff, it was the first time that a band they were part of had seen any kind of commercial success.

So while Gray might not have intentionally suggested this in his article, it got me thinking about how often the term “sellout” is thrown around by fans, critics and musicians alike. Perhaps it’s my inner-optimist, or the fact that I love to see people find success doing what they love, but I tend to avoid the word at all costs. More importantly, I would never say that a band like fun. wasn’t deserving of their single making it to #1 on the Billboard charts, no matter how it got there. Then again, I’m only one person.

So now I’m left wondering what exactly makes a band deserving or undeserving of their success. Is it simply because their music is played on the radio, or used by outside companies? Is it any group that signs a recording contract that will allow for their music to be licensed out, or is it something else entirely?

In recent years, I’ve noticed more and more indie bands being used for things like movie previews and promoting sales at Old Navy. Maybe it’s just a trend, but can we really get mad at a band if their record company requires bands to license their music in exchange for money to record their album? Or what about the fact that we’re in a recession, and indie artists might be cheaper than Top 40 artists? And have you ever stopped to consider that indie film-makers are more interested in bands from Barsuk or Saddle Creek than Warner Music Group?

The truth is that indie bands can license their catchiest tunes for years and go completely unnoticed. If you don’t believe me, you must not be a big Mates of State fan. They’ve been featured in commercials, movies and TV shows over the last ten years, yet they’re still only playing in small-to-medium sized venues.

Then there are bands like Matt & Kim. Six years ago I was telling everybody they would blow up (and getting laughed at in the process), but I won’t lie when I say that their success surprised even me when they won an MTV Woodie award for their “Lessons Learned” video in 2010. I’m just happy to admit that they’ve never changed, and I doubt they ever will.

Truth be told, they were the only reason I went to SXSW in the first place, and now I couldn’t get into their shows if I tried.

Sure, I could hang my head and mope about how I’ll never get to chance to see Matt & Kim play to 50 people the way I did in 2008, but I’d much rather see hundreds of people smiling and dancing then walking away shouting that they deserve more credit.

Music isn’t a selfish thing. And as both a journalist, fan, and rational person, I can’t find a better word to describe people that complain about “selling out” than “hypocrite.” If you like a band enough to support them, you obviously like them enough to tell people to listen to them. If you’re telling people to listen to them, you can’t really be surprised when word gets out and they’re climbing the charts and suddenly playing sold-out shows in Europe.

I stand with Gray when he openly expresses hope that bands aren’t writing songs with the intent of being featured on commercials, but in this day in age, bands are lucky to be heard at all. Sure, local music scenes will always support their own, but the truth is that attention spans have diminished to the point where listening to an album in its entirety is virtually unheard of. Instead, it’s cheaper and easier to consume one song via iTunes for .99 cents than it is to splurge for the entire album, that is, if you’re lucky enough to get people to pay for your music at all.

I’m glad that I’ve got men and women like Gray on my side who refuse to let the music industry fold to corporations looking to hawk off their latest inventions, but I will say that we need to re-evaluate how we view and value success.

The concept of being a rock-star isn’t new, but if bands are constantly waiting for daggers to be thrown at their backs every time they do something that gets even whisper of attention, what’s the point of making or listening to music? And conversely, if they’re expecting fans and critics to start name-calling at all, what’s stopping them from embracing that stigma and slapping their music to any and every ad they’re offered?

Sure, we can argue that art is made to allow the artist to express oneself, but like paintings and sculptures in museums, the best bands will find their way into the public’s eye whether they’re trying to or not. And if someone could tell me how a 30-second clip of a song is “less legitimate” than the entire track being played on a radio station, I’d love to hear it.

So here’s my advice: if you like the music someone’s making, then enjoy it, recommend it, sing and dance along to it. If you’re making music, take advice from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.

The duo, which also includes Patrick Carney, once turned down $130,000 that would have allowed for their song to be featured in a British mayonnaise commercial, and they say they’ll never turn down money again.

“That would have paid my rent for two years,” Auerbach told Spin. “It’s almost insulting to my mom, who works every day teaching kids and doesn’t get paid shit. As long as your art is pure, who cares where it is?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Live Review: Pains of Being Pure at Heart, 4/8 @ Fitzgerald’s

9 Apr

Source Unknown

With their second full-length album, Belong, released on March 29th, Pains of Being Pure at Heart have embarked on a full-US tour.

After much anticipation, and a canceled session at Cactus Records, Pains finally stopped by Houston for the first time on Friday to play on the same bill as Warpaint, who headlined the upstairs room while Pains topped the bill below.

The Watermarks opened for Pains, bringing energy to those who came early enough to catch them. The Houston-based band (who are giving their music away for free) have an electronic, pop-grunge sound. It’s hard to explain, but when hearing them live, you can hear remnants of The Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies, as well as bands like R.E.M. The band is set to play Free Press Summer Fest this June.

Twin Shadow, who is on tour and scheduled to open for Pains, had to cancel due to an illness.

At around 10:30, Pains finally took the stage. What first struck me is that the band had always performed as a quartet until this point. The group, which comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist, Kip Berman, keyboardist/vocalist, Peggy Wang, as well as drummer Kurt Feldman and bassist Alex Naidus, was quaint and minimal. However, Friday night they had Christopher Hochheim playing guitar.

I’m not sure if Hochheim, pictured above – far right, is a permanent fixture, but I will say that his additional guitar playing added to the aesthetic of the band more than took away from it.

In the crowded room, the sound came off of the stage in waves and proved to be more of an experience than I anticipated. The band was every bit as charming on stage as they are on record. Wang flirted innocently, peeking from behind her long hair with a smile that seemed to sum up the vibe of the band — blissfully shocked. Although I couldn’t hear the entirety of what he was saying, Berman spoke briefly between songs to mention their excitement to be there and how thankful they were that Houston came out for the show.

The band, who hail from New York City, brought an old-school feel to Fitz – a venue that has been around for more than 30 years. With walls that have heard their fair share of nu wave acts, Pains seemed as if they were paying homage to the history of the venue. Their flawless approach to the aging and increasingly hard-to-get-right genre made it all the more enjoyable. It was as if I were being time warped back to 1985, when hair was big and bands like The Talking Heads were dominating the airwaves.

For those who have yet to hear their latest album, it’s safe to say that the follow-up holds much more than a candle to their debut. As I said on Twitter, Belongs sounds more like The Cure and less like The Smiths. They’ve gone from a softer, more ethereal-sounding nu wave act to on that is teetering on the edge of the NYC punk-rock edge. The guitars are harder, but they’ve managed to keep their dreamy appeal and still manage to stay in tune with the band that so many have come to enjoy while taking great strides as musicians.

Perhaps I am a bit of a romantic, but being raised on Brat Pack flicks and my Dad’s flawless taste in music spoiled me to the point that I realized halfway through their set that Pains would be an excellent band to see on a first date. Without missing a beat, the band kept in tune with one another throughout the entire set, and it’s safe to say that they have an impeccable live show.

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