Friday, February 27, 2009

Tokyo Police Club, Born Ruffians, and The Harlem Shakes @ The Black Cat

Jeff M. here. Last night I went to see a killer three-band bill at the Black Cat -- Tokyo Police Club, Born Ruffians, and The Harlem Shakes. The band of the night were Born Ruffians, who managed to upstage headliner Tokyo Police Club in the most humble manner possible. Van Halen upstaging the Nuge this was not.

The Harlem Shakes got things started with an energetic set of pop anthems, fleshing out the standard guitar/bass/drums/vocals formula with plenty of auxiliary percussion and electro flourishes. You see, when your band has six members onstage, like the Shakes did, you can indulge in the occasional baritone sax part or allow one to two members to wander around the stage during any given song like utility infielders, alternately shaking tambourines and smacking floor toms. I was in awe of the drummer's full command of his set, which included a drum on the floor, a trigger pad of electronic drum sounds straight out of the 1980s, and a sampler/drum machine gadget positioned on top of his kick drum (right next to the cowbell, of course). As I remarked to my friend Kevin, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?" Between him and the Al-Franken-at-16-only-with-white-jeans bass player bounding around the stage, I didn't know where to focus my attention.

Next up were the Born Ruffians, the aforementioned band of the night. My buddy Kevin loves these guys to death and seeing them live, it's not hard to see why. I slept on Red, Yellow, and Blue when it came out last spring, letting it collect dust in my CD inbox as I danced along to Hot Chip's Made in the Dark or some album of guitar feedback, but now I have seen the error of my ways. Live, the Ruffians reminded me so much of early Talking Heads, my all-time favorites. BR's songs (like those of the Heads) are danceable, bouncy, heavy on rhythm, and feature such eager, shouted lyrics that you feel like you're best friends with the singer. How could you not be? He's pouring his heart out to you! The Ruffians romped through most of Red, Yellow, and Blue, including standouts Barnacle Goose, Hedonistic Me, and I Need a Life (which they closed with). BR's drummer was either a new addition or a fill-in -- he was getting wide-eyed, head-nodding cues from the bass player throughout the set, giving me the impression he'd only been playing these songs a short while. It didn't show musically, though -- he played fantastically, laying down monster beats for the band to follow. During the opening song, BR's singer/guitarist betrayed a smile that said "Jesus Christ, I can't believe you're hitting the drums that hard!" As if I hadn't been already convinced by their performance, singer/guitarist Luke left us with this: "D.C. ya later."

After a 20-minute set change of almost rock-star proportions, Tokyo Police Club hit the stage, thankfully leaving their seizure-inducing lightshow from last year back home in Toronto. TPC has gotten much love from this blog: Master Shake, Zak C., and me all put Elephant Shell in our top 10 of 2008, and Georgy claimed it among her most underlistened albums of last year. The band played for about 75 minutes, including the encore, which means they had plenty of time to blow through their entire catalog (get it, their songs are short!). Elephant Shell and their 2 EPs were well-represented. EP songs like Nature of the Experiment, Your English is Good, and Citizens of Tomorrow (replete with astonishing audience handclap precision - way to keep a beat, D.C.!) were played with HI-NRG and in my estimation were the highlights of their set. I was a bit underwhelmed by the songs from Elephant Shell, like In A Cave and Tessellate, two of my favorites from that album. On record, those songs are so taut, they're almost airtight -- the least bit of sloppiness muddled the effect. TPC also road-tested some new songs which were slower and possibly longer than 3 minutes (one even featured an acoustic guitar). OMG, could Tokyo Police Club lengthen their albums simply by playing slower???

For TPC's encore, they invited the gents of Born Ruffians onstage to play a collabo song that, according to Kevin, sounded decidedly more Ruffian than Police-y. Then they brought the Harlem Shakes back onstage for a 13-man "encore extravaganza," gleefully bashing their way though The Clash's Train in Vain. Yes, that's right: the singer from Tokyo Police Club's voice is a dead ringer for Mick Jones! A floor tom smackdown begun by the Ruffians' bassist and Tokyo Police Club's keyboardist/tambourine extraordinaire crowded out the Shakes' Teenage-Al-Franken-in-White-Denim, who searched the stage frantically for a makeshift percussion instrument he could hit with a drumstick (full bottle of Red Stripe, not a good idea, abandoned after two hits; a pipe connected to the roof of the stage, much better choice). Born Ruffians' drummer, not to be left out, dragged his kick drum, snare, and hi-hats (!!!) out from backstage to beef up the throwdown's percussion section.

It was a great ending to a great show. I left all smiles. Go buy all these bands' albums, like right now.


Monday, February 23, 2009

New Baby

As Zak eluded to in his comment disparaging my musical tastes (this guy is the godfather to my children mind you), I have a new baby.

Please welcome to this rock party my son, Ezra Daniel Pittman. He joined us on Feb 13, and he's my second special little guy (can't tell a hero by his size...).

Anyways, if any of you would like to get him a gift, please feel free to pool your moneies together and buy this.

I promise, I won't play No Doubt on it... maybe...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What I'm Listening To - No Doubt's The Singles Collection

I will, without a doubt, catch unholy hell for this.

But I've had this thing on repeat since I snagged it from Amazon's Daily Deals a few days ago.

First off, it was $1.99. Which is the equivalent of two songs. Seeing as I have zero No Doubt in my iTunes, I figured this was worth it.1

Second, don't pass up cheap collections on Amazon mp3. You will always like at least 3 songs, and if it's less than $2, then get it.

Third, No Doubt has sold 27 million records and had a bajillion hit singles. You probably own Tragic Kingdom. You know all the words to Don't Speak. And though you might hate on ska, you like the horns in Spiderwebs.

No Doubt, despite whatever artistic criticisms you might have, make pop music. Well received pop music. They've endured over two decades of a shifting music industry. You've gotta reward and champion a band like that.

It's still on sale at Amazon. Stop whistling "I'm Just a Girl" and go get it now.

1Upon further review, it appears I do have a No Doubt song in my library. It's was from KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas, and it's a live version of Spiderwebs. And it is AWESOME.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What I'm Listening To - Friendly Fires and Wale

Hello, faithful Shimmy Shake reader. It's Jeff M, the Human 808. The proprietor of The Shimmy Shake (herein Master Shake) invited me to contribute to this blog a while back, rambling on about getting more people involved, opening it up to new ideas. Frankly, he sounded like Ralph Nader, with all that "voices and choices" nonsense.

But I'm not here just to razz Master Shake – instead, my purpose today is to tell you I can't stop listening to Friendly Fires' self-titled debut album. And for as much new music as I listen to, I only found out about this album after it popped up on a couple Best of 2008 lists.

Friendly Fires are a loveable band of Brits doing their level best to get your butt on the dance floor. According to their wikipedia page, their principal influences are Prince and the German techno label Kompakt, which might give you a hint about their sound. On tracks like "In the Hospital," FF summon the bouncy percussion of Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless" (I'm going with homage over out-and-out ripoff), adding an edgy Gang of Four-ish guitar and an infectious vocal performance that keeps bringing me (sexily) back to Justin Timberlake. And when that funky "Superstitious" keyboard figure introduces the second verse, well, you're a goner. Stop fighting and dance already!

Another album on endless repeat on my iPod is Wale's Mixtape About Nothing. Yes, I only found out about Wale a month ago. Yes, I saw he got written up in Wired Magazine. And YES, I know that discovering new music in Wired means your techno-geek Dad has been bored with it for 6 months. BUT I DON'T CARE, this mixtape is too good for me to be worrying about being last to the party. And what a party it is – wicked freestyles, Seinfeld samples, a really hilarious skit ("The Untz Untz"), and oh yeah, production by so-hot-right-now Mark Ronson. Throughout, Wale straddles D.C. and Maryland (Largo, represent) with touches of both Go-Go (see: every other track) and Baltimore Club ("The Bmore Club Slam"). This is a guy to watch out for in 2009. Or so I read in Entertainment Weekly.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

What I'm Listening To - Griffin House "Fly Upside Down" (and a contest!!!)

Have I told you about Shifted Sound, the best damn indie music podcast on the planet?

I'm sure I have. This past week's episode (No. 142 for you people keeping count), brought some really solid music. Sweet Water, Tiny Animals, Now Now Every Children. Really good stuff.

But he also had an in studio guest, singer/songwriter Griffin House. And wow. This is the first time I had ever heard Griffin's music (I know, I've been under a rock), but I was floored. He has a few albums out, but his latest "Flying Upside Down" is a real winner.

You've probably heard his music on various soundtracks or TV shows. "Better Than Love" might be the song your daughter gets married to. He's a storyteller at heart, writing really simple but lyrically strong stories woven into amazing melodies ("I Remember", "Hanging On"). The tempo never really changes, but it's perfect where it is. "Live to be Free" is like something off "Easy Tiger"The standout on this album without a doubt is "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind." You should get this album for that song alone.

If you like early Ryan Adams and if you like later Conor Oberst, but wish the both of them wrote more about love and less about, well, themselves, you will LOVE Griffin House and you will LOVE this album.

And since I know you like free stuff, Shifted Sound is giving away an autographed copy of Flying Upside Down. Email your name, address and phone to with Griffin House in the subject line. I believe the contest ends Feb 22, so hop to it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


So here we start another new feature, called Remainders, where I will attempt to place stuff that doesn't quite generate enough copy for a full post, but still needs to be written about.

Think of Remainders as a collection of Tweets, streamed all at once.

So. let's get our Remainding on!
  • I'm very sad I didn't give Hold Steady a fair try in 2008. Stay Positive is a great album. Jeff M, the Human 808, isn't a fan though. He writes that they sound like their previous incarnation, Lifter Puller, but "with more Budweiser."

  • Shifted Sound, the best damn indie rock podcast on the planet, has Griffin House live in studio this week (Episode 142). Check it out

  • NYC band The Dig has released a three-song demo at their website. A little more hard-rocking than what we normally listen to, it's good stuff. And it's free. And they will also be bringing their psychadelic rock to The Black Cat on Monday Feb 16.

  • Amazing Baby's new single Bayonets is alright too. Again, free at various sites around. I wonder how the rest of this album will sound when it comes out this summer. If they take it down on the earnestness level a few notches, it could be really good.

  • I am fascinated with this Chris Brown domestic abuse thing. I shouldn't be, but I really can't imagine Chris Brown hitting anyone. I also can't imagine anyone hitting Rhianna (that girl is fwine).
Please feel free to tell me you don't like this feature. We'll try and make it better in the future.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I'm Listening To - The Pains of Being Pure of Heart

We're not ones for long band names. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead? Great band, too long of a name. The Band? There's a name we can believe in.

That being said, I'm really pleased with the debut effort from The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (seriously, that name is just a bear to write).

The Pains eponomous album is fine work of shoegaze (or dream) pop (think Black Tambourine, Velocity Girl). It's all jangly guitars, fuzzed out sounds, whispering girl vocals, earnest dude singing. The music never moves beyond the super pleasant category, which is really nice. Some of the songs are reminiscent of early Pablo Honey-Radiohead ("The Tenure Itch"). But when they get a little too dark, there's another song to bring it right back up and around again.

It's good background music, probably better driving music when the springtime hits.

Don't get it

It might just be me, but I don't get Antony and the Johnsons.

I've listened to it, and for the life of me, I want to pull out my ear drums with rusty nails.

And I keep hearing that this is the first Best Album of 2009?

Seriously? I hope the year isn't that bad.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Grammys are for old people

SOme more thoughts on Grammy
  • There is no doubt in my mind that Alison Krauss and Robert Plant will win album of the year for "Raising Sand."

  • Amazon has Paul Simon's Graceland for $5. So for all you nerds who went stupid for Vampire Weekend, why don't you pick up a classic and see how South African ripoff music is done right

  • Who else is psyched to see Thom Yorke do his weird head wobble thing on national TV?

  • Lil Wayne will break the five second delay button
All in all, the Grammy's will be rocking.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Valentines Day

First off, have you entered to win a free CD from Kristin Andreassen yet?

It's pretty simple. Leave a comment at the above entry with some way to contact you, and we'll draw names this Friday.

Second, I put together a mix CD of some really nice songs for Valentines Day last year, and gave them out as presents. I updated it for this year, so if you're interested in having one, leave a comment or email me your address and I'll send them out at the end of the week. That's it. You want a CD, you get one.

Warning: I'm going to try and do my damnedest to send them out, but I'm A)sometimes horrible about these kind of things, and B) expecting a new baby in the next two weeks. So, I'm off Friday, if I have your request by then, I'll put them in the mail.