Lana Del Rey is basking in all her sweet sun-kissed glory in her new video for “West Coast” from the upcoming album Ultraviolence and everything is picture perfect. She frolics on the beach with her lover to the swaying melody but there has to be some sort of unbecoming disruption to it all that mirrors the track’s bluesy undertones, and there is. Watch Lana’s fiery fate below and get tickets to her show at The Mann this Sunday here.
Icelandic ethereal rock group Sigur Rós paid a visit to Philadelphia’s Mann Center this past Friday in support of their most recent record, Kveikur. Fans were treated to a beautiful evening, and more importantly, an incredible musical experience. Sigur Rós is unique in countless ways; the lyrics are (mostly) in Icelandic, they have complete brass and string sections, and their frontman, Jónsi Birgisson bows a guitar on nearly every one of their songs. What struck me about their live performance was the dichotomous nature of their music rhythmically, harmonically, vocally and compositionally. It is not often that I enter a concert with a simple interest in an artist’s work and leave craving more, though this was the case with Sigur Rós.
The band opened their set with the atmospheric “Yfirborð”, a song which, at its beginning, seems to burrow its way through a sonic underground before reaching its cadenced and rhythmic coda, all the while retaining the modulated timbre of a telephone call. They moved on to what might have been the most powerful song of the evening, “Brennisteinn.” This track, if none other, best captures the more driving and forceful sound they’ve introduced with their most recent record, Kveikur, and hit all the right notes in the live environment. The aforementioned multi-faceted nature of their music couldn’t have been more present; dissonance met melodiousness and dynamic rhythms were juxtaposed to moments of serene string interludes.
Another song that stood out was “Olsen Olsen”, a tune that appears on their first record, and whose string/brass refrain evoked an uncanny feeling of gratification. A couple songs later, I was delighted to hear “Stormur”, another track off Kveikur that exemplifies Birgisson’s ability to use his voice as no less than an instrument; perhaps it is that I, being an English speaker, take lyricism out of the equation, or that the instrumentality of his voice is somewhat of a mission statement of his. I couldn’t help but appreciate even Birgisson’s inward breaths as being of a deliberate musical essence.
Immediately following “Stormur” was “Sæglópur”, a song so formidable that I was convinced we were underwater, and appropriately so, the song’s title being Icelandic for “seafarer”. It was this power to instill emotion and feeling by which I was captivated listening to Sigur Rós’s music. It was their dynamic and compelling sound, Birgisson’s beautiful and mellifluous voice and bowed guitar that acted as a distinct yet completely organic sounding tie-in between songs that have won me over.
Opening for Sigur Rós was Julianna Barwick, whose avant-garde chordal arrangements were, at the very least, interesting. However, the ubiquity and lack of dimension in her music ended up being a real downfall, as a lot of the crowd seemed to lose interest relatively quickly. That is not to say, however, that I did not have an incredible time. In a mere few hours, my perception of a band was changed entirely for the better. Sigur Rós, you’re doing it right!
Keeping true to her meditative sound of layered voices and atmospheric acoustics, Julianna Barwick”s video for “One Half,” a song from her upcoming album, Nepenthe, finds her other half in an illusory state enhanced by her whispering vocals. Close ups of Barwick’s hand holding an elegantly decorative knife, eyes, and a Victorian dress are cut in between shots of her demolishing a small tower of flowers on top of fruit and drizzling icing. Barwick will be touring with Iceland’s ethereal post rock outfit, Sigur Ros, and will be opening for them at their Mann Center show, September 20th. Find more information and tickets for the September show here.
Watch the video for “One Half” below.
Listen to Barwick’s album, (out 8/20), in its entirety here via NPR Music.
While you’re hypnotized by that amazing animated GIF above, we’d like to invite you not to miss Breakwater, performing at the World Cafe Live tonight. When Daft Punk sampled their song “Release the Beast” in the 2005 hit “Robot Rock”, the 70s Philly funk band was put back on the map. See what our Bruce Warren has to say about the rediscovered band here. Find more information and tickets for tonight’s show here. Below, watch Breakwater’s performance of “Work It Out” at The Savory this past June.
American indie duo She & Him made a stop at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts as a part of their tour supporting their 4th studio album, Volume 3, released this past May. The unlikely duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward was accompanied by a full live band, and performed not only songs from their 3 volumes of original music, but covers of a variety of artists including Frank Sinatra, Sonny West and Chuck Berry, as well as some of M. Ward’s own music. The fusion of Deschanel’s rich vocals and Ward’s airy guitar embellishments come together rather nicely onstage, possibly even more so than on their recordings.
Notably off their new record, fans enjoyed tracks such as “I’ve Got Your Number, Son”, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” (Mel Carter cover), “Never Wanted Your Love” and “I Could’ve Been Your Girl”. These more recognizable tunes (“This is Not a Test” included) certainly made for the show’s highlights, but the group struggled to sound quite as poised on their more obscure songs. This, in large part, explained the seeming trend of fans leaving not midway into their performance, diminishing an already small crowd.
Zooey Deschanel’s songwriting combines well with a voice that is, at times, truly excellent, and M. Ward’s knack for arranging and producing a song. It makes for an interesting pitch, but was ultimately a tough sell. The ability to captivate an audience was certainly there, yet fleeting, begging the question of whether or not She & Him can consistently deliver the results one would expect given their collective talent.
Joining She & Him was Scottish indie pop band, Camera Obscura who, in my book, stole the show. Not only was their mix better, but their sound was altogether tighter and more self-assured. Coincidentally, Camera Obscura has been produced by fellow Glaswegian Stuart Murdoch, a founding member of Belle & Sebastian, who you can catch performing at the Skyline Stage at The Mann this evening.
Vampire Weekend recently released Modern Vampires of the City and have been on an extensive tour ever since. After an exciting appearance at Firefly Music Festival last night, the group announced they’d be adding a stop in Philadelphia at The Mann Center September 19th with Sky Ferreira opening. With such an impressive new album and a great reputation for their live shows, this is one concert you’re not gonna want to pass up. Tickets go on sale this Friday, June 28th, at 10 a.m. via Ticketmaster, but in the meantime you can check out their performance of “Unbelievers” from earlier this year at the Public Radio Rocks showcase at SXSW, and new the lyric video for “Ya Hey.”
They may not have played together since 2003, but this year The Postal Service – the one-off project of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello – have reunited for a large tour, including a stop at The Mann Center. Tonight, you can hear the stunning electronic pop group play songs from their amazing (and only) album Give Up. With such a great headliner and Ra Ra Riot as the opening band, this is a show you really don’t want to miss. Click here for more information and tickets.