Blog Posts by David Marchese

  • Florence And The Machine Get To Work In New York City

    Last Thursday night I was washing in my hands in the bathroom at Manhattan's Le Poisson Rouge when a skinny guy who looked like Noel and Liam Gallagher's secret brother asked me about the act we were both there to see. "Is Florence And The Machine popular here?" he wondered.

    I told him that Florence Welch (the Machine refers to whichever musicians happen to be backing her at any given time), isn't really a household name. But after watching her show, I would've added, "She's on her way, though."

    Dressed in a puffy Victorian-style white dress and shawl and playing songs from her debut album, Lungs, released last year, Welch, ghostly pale and gifted with fiery red hair, come off like a Tim Burtonized version of Stevie Nicks. She's got some of the same witchy charisma as the Fleetwood Mac singer, but her boisterous physicality made her seem less remote, as if she'd braid her friends' hair after they all finished with the Ouija board.    

    On record, Lungs tracks like "Kiss With A Fist" and

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  • The Japandroids Will Improve Your Life

    Over the last year or so, I've been on a bit of a mission to spread the word about Japandroids. I thought the Vancouver duo's debut, Post-Nothing, was one of last year's best albums--a riotous and romantic blast of post-adolescent angst and alcohol-induced revelry. I listened to it on the subway ride to work in the morning and before going out at night; on short walks to the corner store for beer and long bike rides through the park near my apartment; and I've used this space to tell you about it before.

    But I can't help repeating myself--a year after its release, the album still thrills me. The glorious, life-affirming desperation with which guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse bash away at their instruments while shouting lines like "I don't want to worry about dying / I just want to worry about sunshine girls," (from "Young Hearts Spark Fire") pretty much exactly mirrors my emotional state from ages, oh, 16 to 24.

    Sometimes, though, what soars on record sinks onstage.

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  • Rockers Hit The Books

    At New York City's sold out Bowery Ballroom recently, indie-rock quintet Titus Andronicus played rousing, ramshackle epics about Civil War battles, broken hearts, and New Jersey.

    The band's simultaneously gritty and bookish aesthetic--showcased beautifully on The Monitor, out March 9--may at first glance appear unique. (Rock n' roll, especially the varieties that sprang from punk, has long had an uneasy relationship with book learnin'.) But oddly enough there are a couple groups going right now who seem as if they'd be equally comfortable downing shots at a bar or browsing the stacks at a library.

    To wit: You've got the Gaslight Anthem, also from Jersey, whose soulful 2008 album The '59 Sound featured references to Miles Davis, Tom Robbins, and won the band a fan in Bruce Springsteen, who eventually shared a couple stages with his fellow Garden Staters. Then there's Brooklyn-by-way-of-Minneapolis's the Hold Steady and its lovably logorrheic frontman Craig Finn, who crams each of the

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  • Discovering Japan’s Secret Stars

    Before I headed off to Austin, Texas, for SXSW a little while back, I wrote that I was eager to check out a set from Japanese pop-rock trio Chatmonchy. A co-worker at SPIN had tipped me off to the act, who, as far as I can tell, have released two albums in their native land--which they're set to re-release in the U.S.A.

    But don't quote me on any of that--official English language information on the band is surprisingly difficult to find. I can't even track down English song titles, let alone a useful biography or discographical information. I wasn't even sure what the band looked like, since the cover of their albums shows the members in sort of stylized cartoon form. Down in Austin, when a girl came up to me, handed me a Chatmonchy flier, and told me in broken English that I should go see the band play, I had no idea until later that she was the trio's drummer, Kumiko Takahashi.

    Kumiko gave me the right advice. The band's set was tight and bubbly. They nailed the swooning harmonies.

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  • The Lowdown On South By Southwest

    I'm flying out to Austin, Texas, on Thursday morning for this year's South By Southwest music festival. I can't wait. I've never been before and everyone I know who's gone has said it's a blast. While I'm certainly looking forward to escaping New York City's wet, dreary late winter/early spring weather and chowing down on some serious BBQ, I'm most excited about being able to check out bands that I haven't yet seen perform live. Below are the five bands playing SXSW that I'm most eager to see. If any of you are going, let me know which bands you've circled on your schedules. And if any of you have visited Austin I'd love to hear your recommendations for what to do, see, and eat there.

    1. The Constellations--This Atlanta eight-piece's "Love Is A Murder," from their upcoming debut Southern Gothic, is a minor masterpiece of melodic modern rock. But it's a detailed, intricate recording that could prove difficult to do justice to live.

    2. Foxy Shazam--By most accounts, Eric Nally is a

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  • Hit Somebody! The Best Songs About Hockey

    I gotta say, sitting in a Brooklyn bar watching team U.S.A.'s victory over Canada in men's hockey last Sunday was one of the bigger sports-related bummers I've ever experienced. As a Canadian, being subjected to chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" while my team got beat--on home ice, no less--well, it was tough.

    But even if Canadians can be bested at our national game, I take solace in the fact that we still--with very few exceptions--write the best songs about hockey. Below is my list of the top five.

    1. The Tragically Hip, "Fifty Mission Cap"--Written and recorded by a band that's huge in Canada but ignored everywhere else, this chugging rocker is about ex-Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko, who in 1951 scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal against the mighty Montreal Canadiens only to die in a plane crash four months later.

    2. The Rheostatics, "The Ballad Of Wendel Clark"--Some people have called the Rheostatics the "most Canadian band ever," and this goofily emotional folk-rock number about

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  • The Musical Moments That Made A Difference

    It doesn't take much to be flung back into a musical memory. In fact, it happened to me just the other day.

    As I was going through my CD stacks, I saw Three Kings, a live CD/DVD from stoner rock trio Dead Meadow that's due out March 23. Even though the trio, which is well-known in heavy music circles, has been a consistently active unit, releasing five studio albums since 2000, I'd pretty much forgotten it existed until Kings showed up on my desk. And as soon as I registered what I was looking at, I flashed back to the moment (which became a turning point), seven or so years ago, when I was first made aware of the band.

    I was at small record store near my home in Toronto. I brought a Black Sabbath album or something similarly metallic up to the cash register, which was manned by a dude with long greasy hair and dull eyes. He made a dismissive comment about Sabbath. I asked him what I should be listening to instead. He immediately named Dead Meadow, and made a point of praising the

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  • Synth And Sensibility–The 5 Best Synthpop Songs

    I'm thinking of styling my hair into a gravity-defying Flock of Seagulls double halfpipe swoop. Not because the Winter Olympics are upon us, but because I'd like to pay tonsorial tribute to our current golden age of synthpop.

    Off the top of my head: Hot Chip; Miike Snow; Ladyhawke; Neon Indian; Fan Death; Nite Jewel; Yeasayer; MGMT; Cold Cave; La Roux; Passion Pit; Junior Boys; Fever Ray--they're all offering catchy, creative new takes on synthpop and they all do it in distinctive ways. MGMT surrounds their childlike hooks in a psychedelic soundscape. Junior Boys slink forth with a gorgeously melancholy awake-and-alone-at-3:00 a.m. vibe. La Roux is imperiously modern. Yeasayer mixes impressionistic washes with worldbeat rhythms and chest-rattling bass. You get the idea.

    Why these bands have sprung up, I can't say for sure. Maybe it's a delayed reaction to the garage rock revival that dominated headlines back in the early oughts. Or perhaps it's due to the fact that synths are more

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  • This Week’s Best Band In The World

    New Brunswick, New Jersey's Screaming Females have a terrible band name. I feel vaguely embarrassed whenever I say it out loud, as if I'm talking about a raunchy exploitation flick or something. But a band's name never matters if the music is good enough, and on every track of the rambunctious trio's Singles (Don Giovanni), due February 9, guitarist-singer Marissa Paternoster, drummer Jarrett Dougherty, and bassist King Mike whip up a giddy punk rock frenzy.

    Paternoster's guitar playing is the first thing you'll notice. On tracks like the choogling "Arm Over Arm" and head-bobbingly insolent "I Do" she churns out thick chord riffs that nod at classic punk but add a bouncy rhythmic flair. Then she'll stop and pick out a chiming single note passage or spiraling solo. She plays like she's listened to all the best garage rock singles, half-forgotten what she heard, and came up with better stuff when she tried to play the songs back from memory.

    Her singing is good too: Strident, with a

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  • Dawn Landes Will Charm You

    Last Friday night at the Mercury Lounge in New York City, country-rock chanteuse Dawn Landes displayed as purely charming a stage presence as I've seen in some time. Dressed in a lacy black dress, the Kentucky-born, Brooklyn-based singer, touring behind her recently-released Sweetheart Rodeo (Cooking Vinyl), riffed in-between songs about the kind of Broadway musical she'd like her band to be in, cracked jokes about Tinker Bell, pondered the nature of electricity, and drew laughs by saying, "And she's single!" about a friend of hers who she'd invited on-stage for an impromptu hula hoop demonstration. At one point, the audience member standing beside me said, "I just want to hang out with her!"

    And did I mention she had a great smile?

    The slightly confusing thing, though, was that Landes-as-a-person was more winning than Landes-as-a-musician. In her songs, which are often very good--and sometimes better than that--there's too much that feels readymade. Lyrical tropes (cowboys figure

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