Now, if you’ve been a good reader of the WOBC music blog, you know I love St. Vincent. Like “actually-kinda-border-line-obsessed-this-is-an-embarrassing-thing-to-talk-about-type-deal” love. In other words, my love is true and unwavering. And after seeing St. Vincent live at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, that love has only strengthened.
Ok, let me put my St. Vincent boner away for a minute. I’m going to be straight with you. I am not easily impressed by live music. Or let me rephrase that– I am not easily impressed by the “lo- fi blah blah drone-core blah blah chill-wave” sound that typifies the live music scene today. It’s a thing for bands that act like that don’t give a shit, but in doing that, they make me, the listener, really not give a shit. Thus forth, no shits are given and not much fun is had– just the look of slouchy, stewing over post-adolescent ennui not unlike as seen in an American Apparel ad staring back at me from across the stage. I like musicians who care. I want upwards of five shits to be given about the music I listen to. St. Vincent cares. St. Vincent gives shits.
Walking into the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew what I was about to see was going to be FREAKING AWESOME, but the long road trip had addled my brain and for some reason, I just really wanted a milkshake. So while I went outside and did my meditation exercises to try to calm down, which involve me imagining that my whole body is slowly melting into butter or that I am on a nice beach somewhere (note: this didn’t actually happen), I tried to remind myself of what I was about to witness– a true goddess by the name of Annie Clark. I shuffled back inside and the show shortly began.
First off, let me say: WHOA. WHOA. SV, you got chops. Starting off with the unmistakable synth intro of “Marrow,” a track from the 2009 album Actor, the show commenced in a fit of bursts and stomps in the form of the song’s scattershot chorus of “H-E-L-P! Help me! Help me!” From there, St. Vincent moved onto the head-banging standout “Cheerleader.” It was only roughly six minutes into the show and already Ms. Clark had the audience in the palm of her stand. Standing up on stage, her curly halo backlight by a cool glow of white light, St. Vincent was the gospel, and the audience, piously staring back up at her, enraptured. Read More →
Tucked away in the far corner of WOBC’s music library lies the hallowed WOBC Jazz Vault, a sprawling history of 80s bebop revival, commercial blues, Count Basie’s entire career, explicit photos of Herbie Mann, and a few rare gems. The WOBC Jazz Work Group, a spritely group of young Oberlin jazzheads, dove headfirst into the vault to seek out the dustiest of the dusty, the rarest of the rare. Here’s what we came up with:
Oliver Nelson, Blues and the Abstract Truth
Released in 1961 on Impulse! records, this record is an absolute classic. Nelson’s lush horn arrangements are in a league of their own on this hard-swinging collection of entirely blues compositions. The lineup on this date is unbeatable: Paul Chambers, bass; Eric Dolphy, sax, flute; Bill Evans, piano; Roy Hanes, drums; Freddie Hubbard, Trumpet; George Barrow, sax.
Keith Jarrett, The Koln Concert
It is rare that commercial success aligns itself with the highest artistry, but the recording of Keith Jarrett’s legendary concert of solo improvisations in Koln, Germany is a standout exception. It’s one of the highest-selling jazz records of all time, and for good reason: Jarrett’s uninhibited emotion and limitless outpour of ideas on this record is simply stunning.
Jimmy Heath, Love and Understanding
Tenor sax man and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Heath was at the forefront of the movement towards a new funkified spirituality in early 70s jazz. Love and Understanding is a classic example of Heath’s compositional style during this period, not to mention a killer band backing him up: Curtis Fuller, trombone; Bernard Fennell, cello; Stanley Cowell (Oberlin alum), piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.
Yusef Lateef, The Diverse Yusef Lateef
Brother Yusef Lateef: woodwind virtuoso, master composer, spiritual guru. This album is a great summary of Lateef’s style: it’s got swing, funk, free improv, and some deep spirituality. Yusef plays a menagerie of instruments on this date: tenor sax, flute, bamboo flute, Chinese globular flute, Buddhist flute, tamboura, Chinese cymbals, and other percussion instruments. In the depth of his influences and originality, Lateef is virtually unmatched, especially on this Atlantic recording from 1970.
Roland Kirk, Funk Underneath
This is the beloved, playful, seriously swinging sax man Rahsaan Roland Kirk at his best. This record features the masterful hammond organ playing of Jack McDuff, supported by Art Taylor on drums and Joe Benjamin and bass. Most of the tracks on the record are Kirk originals, showcasing the soulful and bluesy tendencies of both his solos and his compositional style. Recorded in 1961, Funk Underneath is a surprisingly progressive and groove-oriented release from Prestige Records, and a rare pull from the cavernous depths of the vault.
If you’re in the station anytime soon, look in the jazz bin to check out all of the above records and more rare vinyl finds. In this digging session, we only scratched the surface of WOBC’s jazz collection. If you want constant access to all this tasty wax, you should apply for a jazz show in the fall and sign up for the workgroup!
Jimmy Heath, Keith Jarrett, Oliver Nelson, Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef
Oberlin students Nathan Swedlow (bass), Matt Gold (guitar), Saul Alpert-Abrams (guitar) & Julian Cartwright (violin)
Sporting the playful moniker Beards and Bass, this Oberlin quartet has been seen and heard playing hot club jazz (or gypsy jazz) tunes on a regular basis around campus and in town, including at the twice-monthly Observatory Open House events on the rooftop deck of Peters (pictured above).
On April 9th, WOBC jazz director Adam Hirsch invited the group into Studio B to play live on his show, Shades of Blue. You can listen to the three classic standards they played below. Fans of Django Reinhardt will be right at home.
Daniel Rossen, the guitarist/composer of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles acclaim, has been relatively inactive in the record world in recent years. Since the release of Grizzly Bear’s electrified masterstroke Veckatimest in 2009, Rossen has released a collection of old Department of Eagles demos and contributed a cover to Crayon Angel, a Judee Sill tribute album. After a three-year drought of new material, Rossen has finally released his long-awaited debut release as a solo artist on Warp Records: Silent Hour/Golden Mile, a five-track EP of all-new Rossen originals.
One of the most refreshing aspects of this release is that Warp gave Rossen free reign over the creation of the music; besides the help of some brass players, a lap-steel guitarist, a drummer on one track, and the masterful mixing of Nicholas Vehrnes at the Rare Book Room in New York, Rossen played almost every role on the record: composer, producer, performer, and engineer. The result is a personal, intimate product of Rossen’s solitary creative process.
“Up on High” kicks off the EP in classic Rossen style: soft acoustic guitar and vocals reverberate with huge force, painting a wide-open soundscape filled with fresh air and soothing chords. Other instruments are gradually brought in and out of the mix: tom-toms pound, a bowed upright bass moans, cymbals sizzle and fade away, all suddenly filling up the space and clearing away like waves on a shore. The whole situation seems like an expression of Rossen’s new freedom to create holistically, without any pressure from producers or collaborators; he seems to be talking to himself when sings, “In this big, empty room / Finally feel free / To sing for me”.
The whole EP really sticks to this idea of the music being a kind of emancipation for Rossen. Compared to the earlier music of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles—in which Rossen’s vocals are double-tracked and muddled beneath electronics and his own slippery articulation—Silent Hour/Golden Mile is a crisp, clean statement of his lyrical and musical ideas. The record tables a lot of the more abstract sounds heard on previous Rossen releases and adheres to a stripped-down, acoustic presentation of his songs. You can really hear this restrained economy of ideas on “Saint Nothing”, the fourth track on the EP: the slow, steady pulse of three simple piano chords recalls “Herring Bone” from Department of Eagles’ In Ear Park, while a gorgeous array of french horns, trombones, and trumpets meander softly in the background, confirming and responding to Rossen’s solemn vocals. The music is infinitely spacious and reposed, breathing in the fresh air of the blue desert twilight pictured in the EP’s cover.
Although Rossen has been hard at work developing his solo material, he is still keeping busy with his other projects. He has commented that some of the music on the EP was originally supposed to be on the new Grizzly Bear record (which is currently in the works), so we may expect the band’s new music to be influenced by Silent Hour/Golden Mile’s stripped-down vibe. The new EP, while showcasing a newfound spaciousness in Rossen’s sound, is also a great example of his development as a producer and engineer. With this release, Rossen is joining the ranks of people like Sufjan Stevens and Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi), who play the solo musician-as-producer role better than most. With Rossen’s growing versatility as not only a musician but a creator of records, we can only expect his other projects to become more diverse and independent as a result.
You know the financial crisis has been going on for too long when bands as generally uplifting as Passion Pit can’t help but write songs about it. That’s not to say Passion Pit, founded and lead-singered by Michael Angelakos, did not just release a soundly uplifting and catchy new single. “Take a Walk” continues to perfect the upbeat, unabashed pop sound of the band’s music but is captured through a wounded and more personal filter.
The song opens with a sober introduction of flutes, accordions, and bells, that together sound sorrowful but are almost immediately replaced by a loud driving kick, happy organs and synths, and toy pianos. The song is not disjointed. It’s well-written, well-arranged pop, that leaves room for dancing, singing, reflecting, and most of all listening. In my opinion one of the best aspects of Passion Pit’s debut EP, was that it interested me as a student of music theory and player of music and as a dude in car with loud speakers. In an interview with Pitchfork, Angelakos mentions his love of trying to craft perfectly written songs, cited his major influences as Irving Berlin and Harold Arlen, among others, and mentioned his love of honesty, which apparently he claims is more and more absent from indie music nowadays.
Angelakos writes from the point of certain players in the recent financial meltdown, singing of ‘cowards’ blaming ‘socialist pigs’ for not ‘[admitting] they’re in need.’ It may sound contrived but he pulls it off simply through honesty in his lyrics. He’s telling the story of which we’ve been all been a part over the last few years and manages to convince us we might be okay, though times are still pretty shitty.