“Deux jours, une nuit” – Cannes Film Festival 2014 [Review]

two-days-one-night-french-poster

Scott Foundas

The Dardenne brothers take on a movie star and lose none of their beautifully observed verisimilitude in another powerhouse slice of working-class Belgian life.

As much as she stood out from the crowd in her Oscar-winning turn as Edith Piaf, that’s how much Marion Cotillard blends into the unfettered working-class environs of “Two Days, One Night,” a typically superb social drama from directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. Rich in the Dardennes’ favored themes of work, family and the value of money, and infused with the suspense of a ticking-clock thriller, “Two Days” may be dismissed by some as more of the same from the Belgian siblings who rarely stray far from the industrial port town of Seraing. Yet within their circumscribed world, the Dardennes once again find a richness of human experience that dwarfs most movies made on an epic canvas. Cotillard’s presence will assure the widest exposure to date of any Dardenne effort, particularly in the U.S., where IFC will distribute later this year.

Always masters of narrative economy, the Dardennes kick off “Two Days” with a ringing phone that brings Cotillard’s Sandra the news that her job at a local solar-panel factory is due to be eliminated as part of a downsizing initiative. The decision was made by a vote of Sandra’s 16 co-workers, who were forced to choose between saving her job or their own €1,000 annual bonuses. Only two voted in Sandra’s favor. Now her only recourse is to organize a second vote by secret ballot and hope for a different outcome. It is already Friday afternoon, and Sandra has until Monday morning to rally the seven additional votes she needs.

The Sandra we meet in these early scenes is a woman visibly on the edge. She, her kitchen-worker husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) and their two children have only recently climbed their way out of public housing and off welfare, and the loss of Sandra’s job will surely set them back. What’s more, Sandra is at the end of her recovery from a bout of depression that has kept her away from work for an unspecified period of time — a fact used as ammunition by the factory foreman, Jean-Marc, who looms for most of “Two Days” as Sandra’s unseen antagonist.

Norma Rae she isn’t, just as the film is anything but a heavy-handed “issue” movie, right up to a deftly orchestrated conclusion that manages to affirm the Dardennes’ fundamental belief in the goodness of people while suggesting that the struggle of the working class is never over. Indeed, Sandra doesn’t want to start a workers’ revolt but rather to maintain the status quo, and as she journeys door-to-door to seek her colleagues’ help, her argument is simple: “Don’t pity me. Just put yourself in my shoes.”

The responses run the gamut from the cruel to the compassionate, from those who won’t even give Sandra the time of day to those who beg her forgiveness and cry on her shoulder. At every step, the Dardennes, who patently refuse to pass moral judgments on their characters, evoke Jean Renoir’s famous maxim that “Everyone has his reasons.” One says he needs the bonus in order to pay for his daughter’s tuition; another that she’d love to help but has recently left her husband and so money is tight; still another that she’s building a new patio out back. And some say yes, of course, we’ll vote for you.

Although Sandra isn’t slowly being poisoned to death like the doomed protagonist of the noir classic “D.O.A.” or facing a looming gunfight in the center of town like the beleaguered sheriff of “High Noon,” the Dardennes couch her struggle in the same desperate, high-stakes terms, and the closer Monday morning comes, the thicker the movie’s air grows with a queasy anxiety. As it was in the similarly nail-biting “The Son” and “L’Enfant,” that mood is inexorably enhanced by the Dardennes’ favored shooting style of long handheld tracking shots in which the camera hovers relentlessly around the main character as though attached by a tether.

In most Dardenne films, those roles have been played by Bressonian nonprofessionals or local character actors (like the excellent Rongione, who made his debut in “Rosetta” and has since made four additional films for the brothers) whose unfamiliarity to the audience made them that much more credible as ordinary working stiffs. But Cotillard, who is only the second established star the Dardennes have cast (after Cecile De France in their previous “The Kid with a Bike”), disappears so fully into Sandra that she becomes inseparable from the rest of the company.

Outfitted in jeans and a series of brightly colored tank tops, her matted hair pulled back with a scrunchie, the actress is onscreen in every scene of “Two Days,” and yet the role never feels remotely like a star turn as she hustles to and fro, pleading her case, her wide, expressive eyes registering every quicksilver flash of doubt, fear and self-loathing. Cotillard plays Sandra as a woman who has always struggled to feel that her life has value, and little by little over the course of the “Two Days, One Night,” in the most remarkably subtle of ways, she shows her coming into a new sense of self.

Pic benefits greatly from the expert lensing of regular Dardenne d.p. Alain Marcoen, the crisp editing of Marie-Helene Dozo, and the lived-in production designs of Igor Gabriel. After experimenting with brief snatches of classical music as underscore in both “Lorna’s Silence” and “The Kid with a Bike,” the brothers return to a music-free milieu here, save for Petula Clark’s 1970 hit “La nuit n’en finit plus” emanating from a radio and, in one joyous scene, Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”

Cannes Film Review: ‘Two Days, One Night’
Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 20, 2014. Running time: 95 MIN.
Production

(Belgium-France-Italy) A Diaphana (in France)/IFC Films (in U.S.) release of a Les Films du Fleuve and Archipel 35 presentation of a Les Films du Fleuve/Archipel 35/Bim Distribuzione/Eyeworks/France 2 Cinema/RTBF (Belgian Television)/Belgacom production, with the help of the Centre du Cinema et de l’Audiovisuel de la Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles, VOO, Flanders Audiovisual Fund and Eurimages, with the participation of Canal +, Cine +, France Televisions, Wallonia, the Tax Shelter of the Federal Government of Belgium, Casa Kafka Pictures, Casa Kafka Pictures Movie Tax Shelter empowered by Belfius, Cinefinance Tax Shelter and Eyeworks, in association with Wild Bunch, Diaphana and Cineart, with the support of the European Union MEDIA Program. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd. Executive producer, Delphine Tomson. Co-producers, Valerio De Paolis, Peter Bouckaert.
Crew
Directed, written by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne. Camera (Eclair color), Alain Marcoen; editor, Marie-Helene Dozo; production designer, Igor Gabriel; costume designer, Maira Ramedhan-Levi; sound (Dolby), Jean-Pierre Duret; supervising sound editor, Benoit De Clerck; re-recording mixer, Thomas Gauder; associate producer, Arlette Zylberberg; assistant director, Caroline Tambour.
With
Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Catherine Salee, Baptiste Sornin, Alain Eloy, Myriem Akheddiou, Fabienne Sciascia, Timur Magomedgadzhiev. Hicham Slaoui, Philippe Jeusette, Yoann Zimmer, Christelle Cornil, Laurent Caron, Franck Laisne, Serge Koto, Morgan Marinne, Gianni La Rocca, Ben Hamidou, Carl Jadot, Olivier Gourmet, Sabine Raskin. (Arabic, French dialogue)

St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.

Annie Clark at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.

St. Vincent at 9:30 Club, March 1 & 2

Oh my! These two shows are among the top five best I’ve seen in my concert-going life! So good I went to see it twice! St. Vincent’ show is marriage of great songs played brilliantly and amazing visuals. You won’t see projections or pyrotechnics, simply Annie Clark in performance with simple lights, choreography and a single prop — a small set of stairs for Annie to climb and later slink down. Her movements were well thought out and didn’t feel superfluous, as a lot of choreography can feel. It was stunning and any moment could have been a fabulous still frame (I know, I took a few pictures, one of which you can see above). In the end it was the songs, the words, the guitar, the sounds and the place that made this ingrained forever as a truly memorable show.

Dawes Brings Laurel Canyon Vibe to the Wiltern with Laid-Back Homecoming Gig: Concert Review

Dawes

Dawes

The Bottom Line
L.A.’s favored sons deliver a show that straddles the line between indie acoustics and amphitheater-ready anthems.

“I think that love is so much easier than you realize,” sings Taylor Goldsmith in the climactic moment of “A Little Bit of Everything,” a signature song for the band Dawes, ’“If you can give yourself to someone, then you should.” Maybe that boldly romantic advice goes for love of music, too, and if there’s any band worth giving yourself to at the moment, it’s Dawes, whose homecoming show at the Wiltern Friday night gave Angelenos a chance to renew vows with the city’s most crush-worthy current export.

The tag “Americana-folk” still sticks to Dawes like a Minnie Pearl price tag, and they certainly did enough to deserve it on their first two albums, which mesmerized unwitting indie-rock fans with classic virtues that were invariably described as “CSNY-like” because, well, that’s the only band that ever had vocal harmonies, right? Dawes’ acoustic leanings made for a halfway novel calling card on the L.A. scene — presaging a “back to Laurel Canyon” movement that may have been reality or hype — but those initial recordings wore their demo-ey gentleness like a badge that was meant to deflect against any charges of commercial ambition. But with their third album, this year’s Stories Don’t End, they’ve grown into their skin as an unabashedly electric, ready-for-the majors band, ready to trade Laurel Canyon for Red Rocks, if there’s even still a market for superior mainstream rock anymore.

Is there? Hard to tell from the evidence, as Dawes struggles to fill small clubs in some markets, while being hailed as conquering heroes in others, like Nashville, where they recently sold out the Ryman Auditorium well in advance. The Wiltern was a few rows shy of a sellout but still marked the largest hometown show to date for a group that, even locally, doesn’t have an obvious niche to fit into. (Tellingly, the show was sponsored not by too-cool-for-school KCRW but the upstart KCSN, a station that sort of sells neo-mainstream as the new indie.) If you squinted really hard, they were actually playing the Fabulous Forum. And forget the ‘70s, the era Dawes is most frequently — and maybe fairly — tied to. If this were a time when, say, Gin Blossoms still walked the earth, songs like “From the Right Angle,” “Most People,” and the studio version of “Hey Lover” would be huge.

But frontman Goldsmith’s singer/songwriter sensibilities are less Gin Blossoms than Jimmy Webb, with alternating currents of poetic opacity and pure, unbridled emotion that have been the twin hallmark of many a classicist rocker before him. On Dawes’ early records, Goldsmith sounded so smoothed out and unruffled that he bordered on coming off twee, but the latest album’s production lets him sound less bridled. And in person, any milquetoast qualities that you might have taken from the old albums’ meekness disappear. “If I Wanted Something,” which sounded like a folky trifle on 2011’s Nothing is Wrong, comes off as a hard-edged rock classic in the flesh now, with Goldsmith singing “If I wanted someone to clean me up, I’d find myself a maid” like somebody who’s listened to Blood on the Tracks and delivering stinging guitar solos like someone who’s spent a lot of recent time in the company of Crazy Horse.

There is a Bonnaroo-friendly aspect to Dawes, as they stretch out the albums’ fairly compact gems and let Goldsmith prove a capability for soloing you could only guess at from the recordings, even bounding around a bit — though he hardly otherwise looks the guitar hero, with his Everyman look and sleeves-rolled-up-for-work dress shirt.

Any jam-band tendencies may have been accentuated a bit Friday by the set-long presence of a guest second guitarist, Blake Mills, who was a co-founding member when the band was formerly known as Simon Dawes back in the mid-2000s. Mills has gone on to stints like being Fiona Apple’s very featured guest on her most recent tour (and has a solo project due in the spring), and he’s just notorious enough that his return to the Dawes fold was a little like Jay Farrar sitting in for an entire Wilco show. If you’ve seen any of Dawes’ other recent shows, you’d have to say that Mills’ presence slowed the set’s momentum, as the handful of contributions the band had him sing tended to be of a slower, rootsier, and less immediately compelling bent. But it did offer a fascinating look at what Dawes might be today if they’d carried on with two frontmen instead of one. Although the sharing led to some dilution of energy, there were surely benefits to having two capable but stylistically distinct lead guitarists trading riifs, as the encore’s lovely closing interplay indicated.

In the end, you don’t really want Goldsmith trading his way out of the spotlight for long. He’s gotten better at bringing out his acerbic side in once-sweet post-breakup ballads like “Coming Back to a Man,” but the singer also has a greater idealism that makes the audience sing-along section of the anthem “When My Time Comes” feel honestly earned. Smart enough to be a cynic but soulful enough to reach for something higher and more elusive — that’s tough to find these days, so no wonder the band is a favorite of Jackson Browne (who was in the house) and gets called out to open for Dylan. The on-point musicianship of the rest of the crew, including drummer/harmony vocalist/MVP/brother Griffin Goldsmith, seals the deal.

When Goldsmith sings “I think there are a few of us that still belong out on the road,” it’s not meant to be as much of a meta boast as it sounds, coming in the context of a song (“From the Right Angle”) that’s about valuing touring as an escape from relationships. But to the extent that the audience does cheer like it’s intended that way, it’s a deserved brag. When Dawes are out on the road, they’re about the best musical advertisement their hometown currently has for “Time Spent in Los Angeles.”

Set List:

Most People
If I Wanted Someone
Someone Will
Unworthy (Blake Mills song)
Fire Away
Just Beneath the Surface
Something in Common
Hey Lover (Mills)
Don’t Tell Your Friends About Me (Mills)
When My Time Comes
Coming Back to a Man
Curable Disease (Mills)
3 Weeks in Havana (Mills)
From a Window Seat
Bear Witness
It’ll All Work Out (Mills)
A Little Bit of Everything
From the Right Angle

Encore:

Time Spent in Los Angeles
Peace in the Valley

Jake Bugg, Shangri La – First Listen Track-By-Track

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Jake Bugg, Shangri La – First Listen Track-By-Track

Just 13 months after his hugely successful debut album was released, Jake Bugg returns with its follow up. ‘Shangri-La’ was recorded in Malibu with superproducer Rick Rubin, who’s worked with Beastie Boys, Run DMC and Kanye West to name a few. The resulting album is an energetic snapshot of a young songwriter buoyed with the sort of confidence you would expect from a teenager with the world at his feet.

There’s A Beast And We All Feed It
A brief intro for the album, this short skiffle sees Bugg worry to himself about living life to the max and having someone to hold close when times get tough. It also includes the line, “scared someone will tweet it”, a rare nod to the modern world from Bugg.

Slumville Sunrise
The song that comes complete with a video directed by the legendary Shane Meadows. The frantic caper caught on camera by the director of This Is England is matched by a jaunty tune, the second in a row on the album. Having toured his debut album relentlessly, including gigs with Noel Gallagher and The Stone Roses, ‘Shangri-La’ opens with the feel of an album Bugg will tear through on stage and have a bit of fun with.

What Doesn’t Kill You
Drummers on ‘Shangri-La’ include Red Hot Chili Peppers’ member and Will Ferrell lookalike Chad Smith as well as Pete Thomas, who recently worked with Arctic Monkeys on ‘AM’. As you would expect, there is a sharp energy that runs through the percussion of the album and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ is one of Bugg’s tightest songs to date as well as one of his catchiest. It seems hanging with the legends is rubbing off on the lad.

Me and You
“All the time people follow us where we go,” sings Bugg on this laid-back acoustic ode to a lovelorn relationship. Nods to “flashes” (camera?) as well as the lyric “all of these people want us to fail,” and celebrity gossipers suggest this song is about Bugg’s short relationship with top model Cara Delevingne.

Messed Up Kids
Bugg said in the lead up to making ‘Shangri-La’ that he wouldn’t be able to write about the council estates and characters of Nottingham any more now that he’s touring the world and selling thousands of albums. While this is true for the majority of the album, ‘Messed Up Kids’ is a return to the social realism that made Bugg’s name. Telling the story of drug dealing Johnny and homeless girl Jenny, this song is also a nod toward Bugg’s ability to write a crowd-rousing anthem, and suggest that he has been listening to more Oasis than Don McLean in recent months.

A Song About Love
Jake Bugg is arguably at his best when he’s rattling through a fast-paced scuttling song, densely packed with lyrics and melody. However ‘A Song About Love’ sees his progression as a big time balladeer. While his voice struggles to carry the demands of such a huge song, it’s comforting to see him tackle such an ambitious track.

All Your Reasons
Earlier this year, Bugg spoke of his disappointment at working with songwriters in Nashville and discovering they had become lazy. “They were presenting songs they’d already written, not caring what I wanted,” he said. “I had to say: ‘No mate, let’s get our guitars out and see what happens together.’ It was really disappointing.” Sadly, ‘All Your Reasons’ sounds like a song that was recorded before he built up the courage to make his voice heard. A largely forgettable blues number and the first time ‘Shangri-La’ dips in quality.

Kingpin
Channeling the same 60s icons as The Strypes mainline with every blues riff and R&B howl, ‘Kingpin’ is a vintage firecracker from the Bugg canon and one which will be a live favourite.

Kitchen Table
“We’ve not been together for some time now, after how I handled it you’re not to blame,” sings Bugg as he laments the end of a relationship and his own role in its downfall. “We just grew out of love,” he cries – sounding heartbroken and soulful.

Pine Trees
Brittle to the point of breaking, ‘Pine Trees’ is a lo-fi moment on an album which sounds thoroughly expensive throughout. Just Bugg and his guitar, it’s a timely reminder of the rough and ready charm which endeared us to the Nottingham teenager back in his early days.

Simple Pleasures
A slow-burning build up gives way to a rip-roaring chorus and ponderous, almost psychedelic guitars in a song that places Bugg close to Richard Ashcroft in the urban poet stakes. “Maybe it’s all that you’ve done wrong, so just bite your silver tongue that you lied with, lied to yourself,” he snarls, angrily as the atmosphere around him escalates to breaking point. A momentous release never quite arrives but ‘Simple Pleasures’ adds new textures to the album and feels more modern than a lot of the retro material found elsewhere.

Storm Passes Away
This final song brings the album to a close in intimate style with Bugg kicking back and delivering an effortlessly breezy goodbye kiss to ‘Shangri-La’. Similar to ‘Pine Trees’, this feels like a closer look into Bugg’s soul, as if we’re joining him in his bedroom as he knocks around ideas for songs and jots down notes for lyrics.

Does Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album live up to their own standards?

ArcticMonkeysAM600

 

Track-by-track review: Arctic Monkeys – AM

Agree, the wait for AM seems like it has taken an age. Dropping ‘R U Mine’ last year was the point when Arctic Monkeys got their heavy rock balls out and showed a spirit and attitude that we’ve never seen from them before.

The track was mostly adored, which is saying something when you consider that everything that they’ve released since Favorite Worst Nightmare has divided opinion among fans. Many were left pining for the short-sharp indie dancefloor anthems of their early work, while others hailed the expansion and evolution of Humbug and Suck It & See.

With a drip-release of new tracks and a pretty explosive headline set at Glastonbury 2013, the hunger for new Arctic Monkeys material has never been stronger. But has it been worth the wait? Where does AM take the Monkeys from here? Let’s have a listen and find out…

‘Do I Wanna Know?’
Ooops, here we go. With a curled-lip snarl and a flick of his quiff, Alex Turner kicks off AM with the flick-blade bravado that runs throughout the record. Continuing the hard-edged rockier sound of Suck It And See left off, ‘Do I Wanna Know’ simmers with a slow-burning groove reminiscent of the darker moments on Humbug. It’s a pretty mean album opener, and will sound pretty huge in those arenas this winter.

‘R U Mine?’
Ahead of their blistering performance at the London 2012 games last summer, the Sons of South Yorkshire blew fans with away with this fittingly Olympian track. Racing into a heavier psychedelic rock direction, R U Mine has quickly become a fan favourite. Why? Well, it’s a right little beast, laden with a righteous riff and sexy groove. This is exactly what we imagine blazing through the desert on a Harley with Josh Homme sounds like. Phwoar.

‘One For The Road’
Drummer Matt Helder’s high-pitched ‘woos’ introduce the track before a chunky riff and Turner croons with that Americana-tinged rockabilly twang that caught him so much controversy at Glasto: “From the bottom of your heart, the relegation zone – the song is coming from the start, shake rattle and roll.”
From there on, it’s a pretty standard chug-along bluesy affair, heavily steeped in the aesthetic of their past few records but showing a huge leap in evolution from the spiky dudes who brought us ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’.

‘Arabella’
A typically John Cooper Clarke wonder of wit and wordplay sees in track four with Turner spitting: “Arabella’s got some interstellar gator skin boots, and a helter skelter and a little finger and I ride it endlessly. From there, ‘Arabella’ takes on a meaty and lean classic rock rush with choppy guitar work and a chunky rhythm section that shows clear influence from their former touring buddies The Black Keys. A future Monkeys’ classic? Maybe, whatever, but it sounds bloody brilliant live.

‘I Want It All’
Kicking with the playful classic rock menace of The Beatles’ The White Album, ‘I Want It All’ is the sound of Turner raiding his parents’ record collection with an ode to the timeless classics of The Kinks et all – with a ‘shoo-wop’ or two thrown in for good measure. Keep that one – mark it ‘fab’.

‘No.1 Party Anthem’
Here we see the slow, swooning and contemplative Turner at his finest, in what feels like the sequel to ‘Cornerstone’, as he poetically pines over a rock n’ roll mistress as the end of another heady night: “You’re on prowl wondering if she left already or not, her leather jacket collar popped like an antenna and never knowing when to stop.” This will be one to wave those lighters to for years to come.

AM - Turner

AM – Turner

‘Mad Sounds’
Flowing with the same laissez-faire easy swagger of the previous song, this marks the point where you wonder if AM may indeed be lacking in ‘Mad Sounds’. It’s lovely and the gentle swaying of ‘ooh la la la’ will bring a warming unity at upcoming shows, but you feel yourself wanting something a little more dangerous by now.

‘Fireside’ A rich tapestry of 1960s thunder and a move towards more accomplished and classic songwriting, ‘Fireside’ wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Last Shadows Puppet’s album. So yeah, it’s nice enough, but recent b-sides ‘2013’ and ‘Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You’ were far more daring and would have given AM a much-needed rush around here.

‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’
A true highlight of AM, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’ is not only a devious little earworm, but sees the Monkeys exploring a more adventurous loose psychedelic direction, met with some of Turner’s finest kitchen sink melodrama lyrics of a night out turned sour.

‘Snap Out Of It’
One of the most pedestrian rock n’ roll by numbers moments on AM, Snap Out Of It is a pretty nondescript affair of easy rhythm, lacklustre melody and forgettable lyrics. “I get the feeling that I’ve left it too late, but snap out of it,” sings Turner. Our thoughts exactly.

‘Knee Socks’
Ooops! That’s more like it, dudes! A feisty firecracker of a riff sees in ‘Knee Socks’ before Turner wraps his tongue around the sound of the Monkeys at their darkest and most brooding: “You’ve got your lights on in the afternoon and the nights are drawn out long, and you’re kissing to cut through the gloom with a cough-drop-coloured tongue.”

‘I Wanna Be Yours’
“I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust – I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I won’t ever rust,” pines Turner over a cinematic Ennio Morricone guitar soundscape – shrugging off all suggestions that he’s forgotten his Yorkshire roots and gone too Yank on us. Ending AM with one of its more open and experimental moments, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ shows the Sheffield giants really exploring the refreshing space in their sound before an abrupt end.

Verdict:
While Humbug may have fallen a little flat with some fans, it did mark a clear shift and evolution for the band and contains some of their best songs as a result. Suck It & See truly upped the ante and saw the Monkeys race into a new gear. AM, sadly, smacks a little of a band just coasting. That’s not to say it’s a bad album – far from it. It’s a great album that’s lightyears ahead of all of their post-Libertine indie peers, it just doesn’t feel brave enough for a band with so much bravado. A decent-ish Arctic Monkeys album is far better than most LPs you’ll hear this year, but if D is Dangerous, then AM might be for ‘Ace (but) Mild’.

AM is already leaked in HQ: http://arcticmonkeysamleaked.blogspot.com/

AM is released via Domino on 9 September, 2013

Lollapalooza 2013 day 1 review (Nine Inch Nails, New Order, Father John Misty, Ghost B.C. & more)

Nine Inch Nails @ Lollapalooza 2013

Nine Inch Nails @ Lollapalooza 2013

And there goes Friday. Despite ominous reports all week, the torrential rain never came to Grant Park, only a smidgen in the afternoon, and yet that was just enough to turn the fields into a gushy mess. Sandals floated around like sunken wreckage, while free spirits walked to and from the stages barefoot; it was heavenly gross. But that scene is expected for any festival, no less the mile-long Lollapalooza, where 80,000 brave souls are nudged, pummeled, and cracked over three days. It’s some wild shit.

Gardening aside, Friday played out fairly straightforward. The heavies camped north, while the pop savvy holed up south, and those with a heart for adventure scattered about with ADHD — it wasn’t by choice. The BMI Stage went from Hey Marseilles to Chance the Rapper, while The Grove stitched Frightened Rabbit between Disclosure and Lana Del Rey. This scheduled eclecticism worked to everyone’s benefit (that is, if you’re a glass half full-type), offering a change of scenery and a wider opportunity to catch newer sounds.

There were probably more, but here are some of the best moments we caught on Day One.

Lollapalooza 2013 began on Friday (8/2) in Grant Park with performances by Nine Inch Nails, New Order, Queens of the Stone Age, Father John Misty, Ghost B.C., and many others. You’ve already seen one set of Day 1 pictures (more soon to come), and here’s our review…

Garage rock duo Deap Vally played a great set at the Petrillo Stage, rocking the early-afternoon crowd. All it took was a drum set and a single guitar; it goes to show you that sometimes less really is more. Their bluesy output was a nice kick-off to the day.

I had no idea what I was in for on the way to catch Ghost B.C. at the Northernmost side of the festival. I’d heard that they were a Swedish metal band that liked to wear costumes on stage and were secretive of their true identities, but my knowledge ended there. Once I got to their stage I was greeted by a group of hooded and masked musicians that looked more like members of a pagan cult than a band. If it wasn’t for the setting and the instruments in their hands I would have thought otherwise. The band played an intense set of Gothic doom metal that had fans nodding their heads vigorously. How they managed to keep playing in their costumes in the summer heat, however, was beyond me. Styled after what looked like an undead bishop priest, the Ghost B.C. frontman sauntered across the stage oozing confidence. His voice was equally as impressive as his costume. The band’s aesthetic may have been a little at odds with the bright sunshine (maybe give them an evening slot next year?) but it definitely helped them stand out, and on top of that they played an impressive set that won me over.

The next act I caught was the absolutely hilarious Father John Misty over at the Lake Shore Stage. Misty and co. ran through cuts from last year’s highly-enjoyable Fear Fun, when the frontman wasn’t busy telling the Platinum Pass holders they could eat sushi off of him later on. His banter wasn’t time wasted though and served to add some context to his somewhat bizarre lyrics (see “I’m Writing A Novel”).

The last time I saw Crystal Castles was at Lollapalooza 2010 which was right in between their first two albums. I was curious to see how the band had changed since then, especially now that they’ve got a third album under their belt. Alice Glass and co. appeared on stage right on schedule. Just like last time, Glass brought along a bottle of booze which she took a sip of before starting the show, but she didn’t share it with the audience this time around. The band played “Baptism” during their their set with strobe lights blaring and blue lights shooting beams through the smoke. Glass even crowd surfed a bit and got up close and personal with a few fans. Unfortunately her mic seemed to get tangled up and her vocals didn’t come through for the last bit of the song. This however didn’t stop her from screaming the lyrics to those around her. Ethan Kathe stuck with a large red synth while Alice messed around with a drum pad and microKORG, later hanging herself with her own mic cable like a human puppet. Never a dull moment with them.

Too good to be pigeonholed as EDM and be placed on Perry’s Stage, house music revivalists Disclosure were given the shaded Grove Stage instead. With only a handful of EPs and a brand new debut LP out they gathered one of the more sizable crowds of the day. Curious onlookers who had come for a song or two seemed to have a hard time leaving their fun set. I also left early to go catch New Order and nearly got tackled by the influx of folks running in to see these guys. That should tell you enough.

New Order did not disappoint. They played a solid set that went over their mandatory classics including the famous “Blue Monday,” which got people dancing arm in arm in a large mud pit on the right side of the stage. The band were tight and no one seemed to miss Peter Hook too much; his replacement filled in just fine. Frontman Bernard Sumner mentioned that Chicago was one of the few cities to remind him of his band’s beloved hometown Manchester, adding that the only noticeable difference was better weather. Those who stuck until the end of the set were in for a surprise. Having enough time to perform a few more songs, the band played a trio of Joy Division classics – “Transmission,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and the ode to Ian Curtis called “Atmosphere.”

It was tough, but I also managed to catch a bit of Queens of the Stone Age’s set on the very opposite side of the park. Josh Homme and co. kicked things off in a big way with Songs for the Deaf’s “Millionaire” and “No One Knows” into newer scorcher “My God is the Sun.” The group were polished to all hell and really got the crowd going. It was one of the most exciting sets of the day.

I had eagerly been awaiting Nine Inch Nails’ return for four years, and thought I had found the perfect vantage point to see the band, until a couple of tall middle aged fans came out of nowhere and completely blocked my line of site. Trent Reznor and co. hit the stage 8:15PM sharp backed by some high tech panels that digitally manipulated and projected their shadows. The band sounded astounding and followed their intro with a heavily redone version of “Sanctified.” Unfortunately I saw very little of the actual band for the first few songs due to the aforementioned tall fans. Luckily the crowd moved slightly during the set a giving me enough room to find a better spot where I could actually see them. Reznor played many of his hits including the sexually charged “Closer” which received a huge response from the crowd. Other singles followed including “March of the Pigs” (to which fans eagerly sang the refrain of). Reznor also mixed it up a bit by switching to piano for a few moody instrumental ballads. Exhausted and sunburned, I originally planned to leave the show at 9:30 to avoid the exit stampede, but the second half of the set ended up keeping me around until the very end .The last half included more recent tracks from the band’s discography including “Only,” “Hand That Feeds,” “Survivalism,” and a few tracks from Broken. The band also played a new song that will most likely be featured on the upcoming Hesitation Marks (Halo 28 for you longtime NIN fans). Reznor closed the show with the brutal and moving “Hurt” that sent chills through the crowd. He once said in an interview that the Johnny Cash cover was so good that he felt like the song wasn’t his anymore. Last night he reclaimed it as his own.

Day 2 of Lollapalooza 2013 is currently underway. Stay tuned for our reviews from the rest of the weekend.

The National – ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ / Album Review

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The National

Today, May 20th, the American indie rock band The National released Trouble Will Find Me, their much anticipated follow-up to our favorite album of 2010, High Violet. ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ is the sixth studio album by The National. The album was released digitally, on CD, 180gm vinyl, and in a limited edition deluxe boxed vinyl set. We have a single to share with you, see below.

Release Date: May 20, 2013
Producer: Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner
Label: 4AD
Fact: St Vincent and Sharon Van Etten both guest on the record

Album Review – ‘Trouble Will Find Me”

“When I walk into a room, I do not light it up. FUCK”. That’s Matt Berninger, The National’s lead singer, either mocking his reputation as spokesperson for the dark reality of modern life or, as he puts it on ‘Trouble Will Find Me’’s lead single ‘Demons’, going through another “awkward phase”. After five albums of angst, heartbreak and social inadequacy, The National are no closer to finding peace.

It’s understandable, given that 2010’s ‘High Violet’ launched them far away from cult heroes and closer to a band with arena-filling potential, that an uneasy sense of expectation runs through their sixth album. Their previous three – ‘Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers’, ‘Alligator’ and ‘Boxer’ – saw them reach a level of recognition that had seemed unimaginable at the time of 2001’s self-titled debut, which was a rudimentary mish-mash of folk balladry and unhinged rock.

But the quintet have grown out of Brooklyn’s back rooms – even catching the ear of Barack Obama, who invited them to play at rallies for both of his presidential campaigns – and the music has grown with them. ‘Trouble…’ is a collection of anthems, full of rich orchestral fanfares, bolstered by the cast and crew of New York’s finest. The highlights are St Vincent (on ‘Humiliation’) and Sharon Van Etten, whose velvet vocals counterbalance Berninger’s baritone throughout. Whereas The National’s previous work was a commentary on modern life, this is a soundtrack for the big screen.

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Album Cover

The increased spotlight has affected the lyrics too. Berninger’s poetic prose has always cast him as a latter-day Morrissey. But while the temptation might be to recoil into metaphor as the inner workings of your head are analysed by a mainstream audience, this is The National’s most emotionally open album yet. From ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’’s insomnia-induced paranoia about dying and leaving your children behind to being in a relationship with someone who’s emotionally ‘Fireproof’, at times it feels like voyeurism to listen to it. Buried at the end is ‘Pink Rabbits’, the band’s greatest love song to date, which sees Berninger’s vocals shifted higher and backed by an instrumental chorus that lilts from one morose thrum to another. “You didn’t see me I was falling apart”, he coos. “I was a television version of a person with a broken heart”. They’re love songs that revel in the beauty and banality of adult relationships.

Detractors will say making music about the minutiae of your own problems is dull or self-indulgent. But for The National’s devotees it’s the simple fact that their music evokes stories and scenarios that could happen to any of us that’s so seductive. They have pulled off another album for the modern age, and its stories live in all of us.

Listen to The National’s triumphant follow-up to High Violet in its entirety over at iTunes. Trouble Will Find Me is out May 21.

STREAM: THE NATIONAL – TROUBLE WILL FIND ME

TRACKLISTING

All songs written and composed by The National.

No.

Title

Length

1. “I Should Live in Salt” 4:08
2. “Demons” 3:32
3. “Don’t Swallow the Cap” 4:46
4. “Fireproof” 2:58
5. “Sea of Love” 3:41
6. “Heavenfaced” 4:23
7. “This Is the Last Time” 4:43
8. “Graceless” 4:35
9. “Slipped” 4:25
10. “I Need My Girl” 4:05
11. “Humiliation” 5:01
12. “Pink Rabbits” 4:36
13. “Hard to Find” 4:13