If as an audience we are sparked by our curiosity for behind the scenes, then the story of Tennis could not have provided a more cinematic romance. Legend has it that the singer Alaina Moore and guitarist Patrick Riley graduated university, sold all their possessions and bought a boat. They then spent 8 months traversing the Eastern seaboard together. So moved by their experience, the came back to shore and recorded songs based on their travels, eventually culminating in their debut, beach-pop album “Cape Dory”. Adding, almost unfairly at this point, to their paramount fable was the fact that they claim to not have known the extent of each other’s musical capabilities prior to their voyage. Their boat trip wasn’t a retreat to write music, but rather became a perfect storm of inspiration that allowed their music to come forth. And so, riding on the wave of press from monogamy-curious writers and the more prevalent surf-rock resurgence, Tennis’ storybook tale led them to DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel.
The night began with La Sera, the newest project from Vivian Girl’s bassist Katy Goodman (Katy Kickball). While the band has yet to report any inter-group romance, they did show a playful relationship amongst the dream-pop quartet. Carrying on stage a dozen bottles of water and towels to match, a jug of Carlo Rossi and a stack of 6 books ranging from Lord of the Rings to Catch 22, Goodman proudly proclaimed, “This is the night of excess!” In this case it also meant an excess of the flu, which had stricken all the bands on tour. Goodman wittily vented, “This song is called ‘Hold’. It’s about dying, which is how I feel right now.” Even so, Goodman was an enamoring personality, and songs like ‘Never Come Around” showcased her seamless transition from bass player to front woman.
Once Tennis appeared on stage, Moore was quick to apologize as she too was rather sick, but refused to cancel for a sold-out show. She easily swooned through tropical inspired pop songs like “Seafarer” and “Cape Dory”, although after “Pigeon”, a self-proclaimed favorite of Moore’s, the pace definitely picked up. She even engaged in a bit of skipping and frolicking behind her keyboard.
Tennis also tested a few newer tunes. “This is a song called ‘Robin’. It’s about a bird we saved. It was cute.” Moore recalled without any sort of irony or awareness to the saccharine persona already associated with the duo. However, much of the personality fell to Moore, as Riley and drummer James Barone remained silent throughout the set. By the 30-minute mark Moore had lost her voice so she invited two members of the audience up on stage to sing the chorus of “Marathon”. Moore would come to end the show early, but no one seemed too devastated. Here is where a limited discography and a distinct, albeit repetitive sound, works in a band’s favor. With songs hardly passing the 3-minute mark and having touched upon all the obligatory mentions, it didn’t feel as if cutting the night short lessened Tennis’ impact. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your point of view, but for now the risk worked.
Tennis are certainly riding along on the wave of trendy lo-fi, beach-pop, although they bring a maturity that differs slightly from their uber-hip peers. While their story may be timeless, the same can hardly be said for the public’s attention span. Will Tennis survive if their backstory no longer inspires curiosity? Will they be able to update their music that is so seemingly steeped in the past, both in concept and sound? The answers remain unclear. But for now it is safe to say that with performances like their DC act they won’t be sailing off into the sunset just quite yet
With security guards taking residence around the stage, DC’s Rock ‘n Roll Hotel braced itself for an unlikely pairing of punk-rock-pop-party debauchery. “WARNING: guaranteed shit show tonight! Hope you are all ready to party….hard!” the venue wrote before the show. They weren’t kidding.
Openers Free Energy may soon have another deal to add under their belt, besides just being produced by the legendary James Murphy. Given the unadulterated rock and roll lovefest they brought to the stage, their hometown of Philadelphia may soon be seeking them as spokespeople for the city of brotherly love. The 70s loving, long-haired quintent, were unapologetic in their references to Cheap Trick and Phil Lynott, without feeling anything like a cover band. Lead singer Paul Sprangers got on stage with gangly-limbed dance moves and Johansen-esque microphone caresses. His bandmates joined in on the action, with guitarist Scott Wells parading around on stage smiling and whipping his hair, walking over to his actual brother, bassist Evan Wells, as they jammed in all their classic rock glory. Even the punk-rocker headliners Titus Andronicus couldn’t resist, joining FE on stage for a duet of Springsteen’s ‘I’m Going Down.” As Sprangers and Patrick Stickles embraced, somewhere in Philadelphia the mayor picked up the phone.
When Titus Andronicus took the stage and Stickles sounded the first chords of “A More Perfect Union’ the audience rumbled forward. Within seconds both the stage and the mosh pit-once-floor were drenched in sweat. Strickles may seem like the unlikely leader, but it is a position he doesn’t simply assume, but commands both with his intelligence and brute force. He knows his musical back-story (Well, almost. He taunted with a few chords of ‘Waiting Room’ before admitting he didn’t know the rest), his historical context (a band named after Shakespeare and a concept album using the Civil War as social commentary) and he understands how to fill the left over cracks of a disillusioned generation. Sure, there are other bands that tackle the millennial generation promised everything which then added up to nothing. But TA do it will a nihilistic this-ship-is-going-down-and-we’re-going-with-you guttural yell.
While much credit is given to Strickles, the contributions of Amy Klein should not go unnoticed. In a seeming boys-club she stomps on stage and beats them at their own game. She screams, she yells, she plays classical violin. Klein’s talents, which expand far beyond a concert hall, easily nominate her as a voice of this age in the same way Kathleen Hanna stormed the 90s. After joining in for one of Free Energy’s songs, a band member said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the remarkable Amy Klein.” Such a phrase was perhaps the only understated thing about the night. While the night certainly produced a few bruises, one simply could not shake the feeling of one big happy anarchist-punk-pop-screw the titles-family amongst all the musicians. Throughout TA’s set, Free Energy eagerly waited in the wings, bobbing their heads and heckling from the sidelines. It would hardly be a surprise if tour dates were soon released for “The Titus Andronicus Free Energy Family Band.” (Free T&A is also in the running). Yet despite any potential title changes perhaps the best note can be taken from the headliner’s namesake: “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet”; regardless of any formalities, these guys would still rock.
Leave it to Richard Branson to disprove economic theory. Using the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland to host his free carnival cavalcade of fun, the Virgin Free Fest(ival) boasted booths ranging from creating your own scarves, yoga mats, and Converse shoes to making your own photographic flip book, a high stakes game of Plinko, outdoor beds, tepees, tents, a Ferris Wheel, circus act and a skateboard park. Oh and did we mention the music? With a lineup ranging from Jimmy Eat World to Neon Trees, the VFF proved that there are such things as a free lunch (and clothing, and food, and music, and…)
THE TEMPER TRAP
The day began at the West Stage with The Temper Trap. Starting with an epic drum laden song, the Australian boys solidified their capture of the audience’s attention when lead singer Dougy Mandagi’s debuted his falsetto range. Bassist Johnathan Aherne swung his body fluidly in line with the dreamy layered guitar sound and while Mandagi lead the vocals, all the members participated, occasionally stepping into the spotlight. Sweeping crescendos, delayed guitar rifts and bouts with synth-pop, songs like “Down River”, ‘Fadar” and the commercial hit “Sweet Disposition” started the day off right.
JIMMY EAT WORLD
There is a Jimmy Eat World phenomenon and it goes like this: Every Jimmy Eat World song transports you to your old room at your parent’s house, which is undoubtedly bedecked with a poster from at least one of the following bands: Nirvana, Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin. You’re 15 years old, you throw Bleed American onto that old CD player and wait for Jim Adkins’ familiar soothing whine that tells you everything is going to be alright, it just takes some time. Apparently, even a decade later, you never really do grow up because the crowd that packed the Pavilion was nothing short of a mob. In the pit, fans screamed and surfed as Adkins dismantled angsty adolescence through catchy rock-rift haikus with songs like “Futures” and ‘Big Casinos.” People went wild for “For Me this is Heaven”, “Work”, and “The Middle” dancing around like a 90s rave. Occasionally a few stopped to take a breath, probably taking a second to ponder, ‘Did my voice just crack?’
EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROES
With Jimmy crooning the last ‘ohs’ of ‘Sweetness” somewhere outside the Pavilion a big VW van pulled up and out hopped the 10 members of music’s latest gypsy brigade, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. For those who liked IMA Robot, its fun and somewhat mystifying to see Alex Ebert, a leader of the early millennial hipster movement transform into the image of 1960s shaman.
While the messages extolled speak peace, love and happiness, they don’t forget a bit of tongue-and-cheek humor. “Let’s not make this awkward,” says Ebert strolling out on stage in a white pants, blazer and bare chest. And thus began an hour of intoxicating joyousness, hand holding (mostly pre-empted by Ebert grabbing onto different fans) and constant jumping. Jade Castrinos played a perfect counterpart to Ebert, providing a sweet voice and humorous banter on the song “Home.” Closing with “40 Day Dream” it was clear that the captivated audience would follow wherever Alex and the rest of the gypsy caravan lead them.
MATT & KIM
Matt & Kim’s party-harder, smile-wider attitude attracted the thousands for one of the most packed shows of the festival at the Pavilion. Sitting in on an interview with the super-sweet couple earlier in the day, they mocked their own hipster-ness (‘Yeah, we’re from Williamsburg”), humbly preached their thankfulness of their ‘job’ (air quotes added by Matt) and even spoke on why despite it’s upcoming release they don’t play much off their new album, Sidewalks. “You know, you’re like ‘Hey wanna hear a new song?’ and they’re (the fans) like ‘Ehhh, not really. We kind of just want to hear something we know and can sing along to.” And so they did exactly that, they put on a show that played not just for, but to the crowd. Kim, who never stopped smiling once during the set, took off her bra when it bothered her, threw balloons into the crowd and literally stood on top of the audience as they held her feet and she did her infamous booty dance. Matt even added his own thoughts on VVF’s policy of selling tickets for the best seats and the pit. “Now I know I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for saying this but…free the Freefest!” He then encouraged brave rabble-rousers to try and sneak into the center stage area drawing quite the audience cheer. They finished with their commercial hit ‘Daylight” which evoked screams and somersaults down the aisles. It wasn’t necessarily a show to tell the grandchildren about, but who cares about the future when MK can give instant gratification?
“We’re Pavement. For those of you who don’t know, we’re like an old band that broke up a long time ago,” said Steven Malkmus. There’s actually a lot to know about Pavement who have been characterized by strange, erratic antics, depression, pot-smoking, breakups and yet still are credited as one of the preeminent forces that shaped the 90s lo-fi music scene. While their audience was slightly sparse (albeit they were competing with Ludacris and ‘slightly sparse’ in the Pavilion is nothing to snuff at), their show brought out the diehards. Everyone in the crowd gleefully watched Malkmus flimsily throw about his guitar while they mouthed every word they’d been memorizing for the past 10 years to songs like “Date with Ikea”, “Summer Babe”, “In the Mouth of the Desert”, “Perfume V”, “Heaven is a Truck” and of course, “Cut your Hair”. With the sole stage spotlight on Malkmus illuminating his long, un-chopped locks, it seems that even 20 years later he’s still as intelligent, woeful, charming and disagreeable as ever, even if it’s to his own song’s advice.
MIA’s late night West Stage set won for the most onstage antics. Starting noticeably late, her stage was complete with singers in full burqa, politically charged videos, back-up dancers and lasers. MIA came out in a metallic jacket that she dramatically ripped off to reveal short-shorts and a long-sleeve satin print outfit and preceded to gyrate against the speakers and booty dance in the lenses of the photographers. She made no excuses, “You know how it was all confusing-like in the beginning? It still is that way,” she laughed. She sang songs like “Bucky Done Gun” and “Paper Planes” where she crowd-surfed, came out for an encore and then sent the raving dance crowd home sweaty and likely needing a cold shower.
The light ended on the field listening to LCD Soundsystem gazing at the stars and the sky illuminated by hundreds of (free) glowsticks. Thousands stood pulsing with the beat of funk-fused jams like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” or swaying to the melancholy longing of “I Can Change’. Interspersed with fireworks, the moment felt magical, one that will hold even more precious if this is truly LCD’s last album and tour. As James Murphy pressed his lips against the microphone with the words, “That’s how it starts…” one girl yelled, “I don’t want this to end!” Looking around, her sentiment seemingly rang true. No line had formed for the exit, no one moved from their spot. No one seemed ready for the end of the festival, the end of summer or to leave the music just yet. And they didn’t have to; it was only 10:00pm. Freedom never tasted so good.
Two up-and-coming bands burning up the indie rock stratosphere rocked out an energetic show last night in downtown DC. Surfer Blood, an indie rock band from West Palm Beach, Florida, and The Drums, an indie pop band from Brooklyn, New York. Both acts are part of a “surf-rock” resurgence gaining momentum throughout the indie community.
It would not be surprising if the latest tabloid were to reveal that The Drums lead singer, Johnathan Pierce, was the secret love child of a Jagger-Bowie affair or that the quartet met while rehearsing for a musical adaption of Hamlet. What was astonishing about their performance was that they managed to keep up the energy and theatricality throughout the show without coming off as kitschy or, even worse, boring. Much of this was due to Pierce, who twirled onstage like a matador, whipping the microphone around as his incendiary red flag. The audience, who paced like captured bulls before the band even took the stage, eagerly responded. Accompanying Pierce was Jacob Graham (Guitar), Adam Kessler (Guitar) and Connor Hanwick (Drums), as they began with the song, “Best Friend” and then having captured the audience appropriately dove into “Submarine.” While their heritage is a bit jumbled, with starts in Florida but claims to New York City, their influences are surely almost all overseas. In a game of Sounds Like, one would quickly produce The Field Mice, The Smiths, with a helping of New Order and the aforementioned Jagger-Swagger. When Pierce sang, “If you fall asleep down by the water, baby I’ll carry you all the way home“ and then emphatically threw his mic, it was clear that Morrissey may have taught him a thing or two, both about lyrics and social graces. And like Steven the Great, it worked.
Despite an epic entrance to the anthem of Jurassic Park, the start of Surfer Blood’s set began with a bit of a fumble. “We got the song right, ” guitarist Thomas Fekete laughed, “We just fucking forgot to set up.” Brief tension circulated, but it all was forgiven when the band, consisting of John Paul Pitts, Tyler Schwarz, Brian Black, Thomas Fekete, and Marcos Marchesani, began to strum their familiar guitar stronghold. More likely a musical shift, rather than just stress from the night, lead singer Pitts traded in his usual vocals for a more ragged, almost screaming sound, displayed on songs like “Take It Easy.” It worked well.
Keyboardist Marchesan was quite the attraction; his billowy afro bouncing as he slammed the drums, shook the maracas and pounded the keyboard proving himself to be quite the renaissance man. Surfer Blood did deliver as expected, with more than a dose of Rivers Cuomo, Pavement and some Beach Boys-ian guitar rifts. Surfer Bloods’ prowess, however, is their ability to make many references, David Lynch included, and be slave to none. In one moment, Pitts is pulling out hazy synths and dance-punk on “Fast Jabroni” and in the next breath the afro-beats take over in “Take it Easy.” Just when you think you’ve pinpointed their sound, they spin you in a new direction. Towards the end of the set and with a hint of a smile, Pitts turned and walked over to Fekete and they pressed their heads together while playing complimentary guitars, seemingly gleeful. With an audience unwilling to let them go without a double encore and the ink still wet on their Warner Brothers contract, it seems like SB has a lot to smile about. And if they continue to ride this wave, so do we.
Two blocks down from New York City’s Terminal Five, a little old woman stood on the corner handing out pamphlets praising “The Messiah is coming.” Despite her Victorian-era appearance, she obviously was not out of the loop. Perhaps she realized that the pilgrimage of paisley-clad, hippie children journeying past her could not be a coincidence. They were, after all, going to see him; Devendra Banhart, savior of the new-weird-folk movement. Who else?
Opening act Adam Green came packing his usual insanity dressed like Captain Hook from the childhood story whose title character he so emulates. Partaking in general shenanigans, it’s hard to believe Green was old enough in 1994 to form the quintessential anti-folk band, The Moldy Peaches. He howled about Jessica Simpson. He moaned about tassels, castles and…backsides. He tried to prove that the fourth-times-a-charm with his stage-diving antics. No matter, it’s all in a day’s work for Green. A persona in his own right, Green provides, for better or for worse, opposition against the current movement of bearded musicians armed with kooky instruments, thesauruses and eclectic tastes in plaids. Enter one of said bearded musicians. While he abstained from his predecessor’s costume choice, headliner Devendra Banhart’s close-cut crop and fitted suit proved even more shocking. Departing from his long locks and layered scarves, Banhart was almost unrecognizable as the once barefooted, flower child who at times played shows with a pair of underwear atop his head. As if to assure he was not an impostor, Banhart opened with the appropriately titled, “Long Haired Child.” The familiarity continued throughout the night with Banhart playing many of his hits such as “Shabop Shalom” and “Little Yellow Spider.” While the show seemed to drag in the beginning, one could say it’s merely his nature. His 16-track album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon ran a mere 66 minutes. However, to categorize Banhart’s performance in that way, or in any single way, would be a mistake. He jumps across genres, styles and tempos and as quickly as you might think he’s crooning out a lullaby, he’s on stage shaking his hips and doing the chicken dance.
Antics aside, Banhart’s voice is simply his most powerful instrument. Utilizing a full range from yodels to yells, each tonal rise and fall crafted beautiful arrangements. Second to that instrument, however, was the Grogs, the band mates whose refined rock melodies and demeanor seemed to personify the hippie-love so closely associated with the frontman. Collected from established groups such as Preistbird and Little Joy, each member added their own touch to the show, literally. Banhart, ever the gentleman, gladly took a backseat, along with a fan’s pair of sunglasses, and allowed his friends each a turn at the mic. When he returned to the front, together they performed a rousing cover of Dana Taylor’s “Tell It To My Heart” as well as an epic jam of his own song, “Seahorse”, proving that whatever Banhart’s latest reincarnation, it was certainly a success.
With the bass blaring and the drums a-flame, perhaps the sound traveled two blocks down to that little old lady who heard it…and smiled.
Devendra Banhart Set List
Long Haired Child
The Body Breaks
Little Yellow Spider
A Sight to Behold
First Song for B
The Charles C. Leary
You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Johnny Thunders cover song)
Hows About Tellin A Story
To Be Alone
16th & Valencia Roxy Music
Tell It To My Heart
This Beard is For Siobhun
Outside of Virginia’s State Theatre, the playlist of the passing cars hummed tunes that signaled a departure from the big city. Pick-up trucks with rolled down windows blasted the melodies of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Echoing against the classic structure of the 1930s theatre, with it’s large marquee and traditional ticket booth, the nostalgic feel seemed perfect to host the sounds of Rooney, a band who seeks to breath new live into the pop-sound of a bygone era.
The night began with Cobra Collective, a punk-pop foursome whose catchy hooks were second only to lead singer Scott Westfall’s fancy footwork. Stealthily subversive, much of the band’s antics may have gone unnoticed by the younger audience. “This is a new one, but I guess they’re all new to you,” Westfall said with a cheeky smile. CC’s raw sound proved a good balance against the often patronizingly sweet Rooney, replacing what they lacked in originality with guns-blazing, 80s-punk throwbacks. Westfall slyly managed to get in his final word, placing his band pass sticker not so subtly directly at his crotch. CC seemed to be laughing at the crowd as well as themselves, letting people in on the joke if they were willing to listen.
When Rooney took the stage they were met by deafening shrieks and a fan-made flag, which front man Robert Schwartzman quickly snatched and paraded about on stage. While Schwartzman makes for an impressive game of 6-degrees (he’s a Hollywood child of the Coppola dynasty), his efforts to set himself apart with Rooney have not gone unnoticed. After a brief stint in the early millennium pop-culture mainstream, they’re looking for a comeback with their album “Eureka!” The 12-song LP does live up to the exclamation in that they seem to have discovered the often-illusive formula of how to mature with their sound. That being said, it isn’t a musical breakthrough, although that doesn’t seem to be something to which Rooney aspires.
Schwartzman needed no ‘aha moment’ to play to the crowd, something he already does quite well. Only guitarist Taylor Locke, who was prone to throw out a few casual winks to the young schoolgirls, seemed to match his antics. Credit must be given to their mastery of their instruments, and Schwartzman, aside from any bravado, did graciously take a back seat at the drums to allow Ned Brower to step in on vocals.
Declaring their roots in Americana, many of their songs reflect that image with titles like “Daisy Duke”, “Freedom Fighters”, and they also took a turn at covering Neil Young’s classic, “Rocking in the Free World.” Not unlike their openers, Rooney has the penchant for penning covertly rebellious tunes. When the band got up to play “I Should’ve Been After You” girls swooned to a perceived love song, the lyrics reveal what could only be described as the sexual conquests of an egomaniac. “I know it looks bad ’cause I kissed all your girlfriends/ But that’s what you get when you live in a small world.” Rooney is completely unapologetic in their musical throwback style, their double-entendre-drenched lyrics, and the very personas they inhabit once taking the stage.
While Rooney hasn’t found a sound that will catapult them into the realm of those to whom they aspire, they managed to play a solid, complete set and even stayed to greet fans, and their mothers, afterward. If that doesn’t say good ol’ American boys, what does?
While perhaps a forgotten memory to many Americans, our friendly nation to the north, Canada, once burned down our White House. Proving history can repeat itself, a mostly Canadian line-up (Arkells, Tokyo Police Club), and some Brooklynites (Freelance Whales), stormed the nation’s capital once again at the Black Cat Club in downtown DC. While the torch-fire was ostensibly missing, the amazing light show and raw energy made sure that sparks were flying.
In looking for a solid opener, Tokyo Police Club could not have done better with their gem of a find, Arkells. While the band may not yet have garnished their much-deserved recognition in the states, with sets like this it shouldn’t be long. Their songs invoke tales of working-class heroes, so titles such as “John Lennon” come as no surprise along with “Oh, the Boss is Coming!”, “No Champagne Socialist” and “The Ballad of Huge Chavez.” Yet, they displayed no disruptive balance of power, instead providing a glimpse of refreshing band camaraderie, with guitarist Mike DeAngelis often roaming the stage to confront others in playful on-stage duels. After closing the set, it was apparent it would be a battle for those who were to follow.
Freelance Whales took to the stage next, playing a solid set comprised of a literal musical chairs, as they constantly switched amongst their armory of instruments. The band did have one thing missing, the musical apparatus that has attained a cult-like status amongst fans: a silver tin watering can. FW sound similar to many bands you’ve already heard, often drawing comparisons to Passion Pit or the Postal Service, an appropriate evaluation as they could deviate to either fates: current sensation or one-record wonders. FW plays to the present phenomenon of artsy-folk-instrumental-synthetic-pop-rock and it seems what will come to be their greatest hurdle is not just being a great copy of all the Sufjans and Gibbards before them, but a new reinvention that seems relevant not just reformed.
As the lights exploded color and outlined shadows of the four-some appeared, pandemonium erupted. For the band that promised “a way to celebrate”, Tokyo Police Club did not disappoint. They tore onto the stage with ‘Favourite Colour’ followed by ‘Nature of the Experiment’ and ‘Not Sick’. TPC is a band made to be seen live and they truly did what they know best. Allowing for little chatter between songs, the Canadian rockers ripped through years of our collective memories at breakneck speed. For those younger in the audience, TPC’s lyrics read like an unrealized cautionary tale; for others it serves as a memoir. Backed by a stellar band and a magnetic front man, TPC’s performance shows why they are one of the best reads out on the market. While it has yet to be seen if their relevance can withstand the years, TPC are happy where they are now, ‘happy to be back’, and it’s a happiness that can’t help but be contagious. And as the crowd left etched with smiles, one thing was clear. History can repeat itself, even with the absence of fire and a building colored black, Canadians most certainly can still bring down the house.
Tokyo Police Club Set List:
Nature of the Experiment
End of a Spark
In a Cave
Citizens of Tomorrow
Wait up (Boots of Danger)
Your English is Good
Writer: Olivia Harrington
July 14th marks a special day in France, Bastille Day. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille, an iconic moment in the French Revolution. So here across the pond we’ve decided to list our top 10 French musicians who have managed to storm America’s musical landscape. Watch each artists’ video below or scroll to the bottom for a complete streaming playlist.
Staying true to their name, AIR produces ambient electronica showcasing ballads with synth-soaked rifts. While sometimes met with criticism, AIR has managed to find their niche in the form of film scores.
#9 Noir Desir
Moody, dark and depressing, Noir Desir’s music reflects a past of drugs, depressions and even manslaughter. Their songs possess a painful, raw intensity often drifting from dreamy to destitute.
#8 Manu Cao
Activist, poet, intellectual, rebel. Manu Chao fuses music with a message together with punk rock, spoken word, reggae and folk. Singing in over 7 languages, Manu Chao is truly a global force.
The band Revolver is may seem like one long homage with their name is accredited to the Beatles and the title of their album “Music for a While” to Henry Purcell. Even their sound seems like a borrowed mix of Beatles/Beach Boy/Kinks tracks. Yet their appreciation for all things past shines through with whimsical, catchy tracks, allowing them to create an endearing pop-rock album.
Justice burst onto the scene as crazy, drug-fueled, electro-pop in the late 2000s with their hit. D.A.N.C.E. It has yet to be seen if their second album will be able to produce the same raw frenzy.
#5 Francoise Hardy
A career spanning four decades and a legend in her own right, she has collaborated with Iggy Pop, Blur and was immortalized in the poetry of Bob Dylan. Her enigmatic persona led the way for other contemporary French female musicians including Keren Ann.
#4 Pony Pony Run Run
Pony Pony Run Run seemingly have all the ingredients to success. A three member band consisting, in part, of two brothers (sound familiar? Oasis, The Kinks, The Stooges, Radiohead, etc…), catchy electro-pop anthems and a dash of confidence, seen in the title of their first album, “You need Pony Pony Run Run.” So, while they haven’t quite yet exploded in US, perhaps we should prepare for another Justice-esque phenomenon.
#3 MC Solar
A pioneer of French hip-hop, MC Solar combines jazz, hip-hop and intellectual prowess to create rhymes of indisputable power.
#2 Daft Punk
The Daft Punk duo of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is probably not classically the most talented of France’s exports. But they have accomplished something that few French musicians, let alone those in the house-music genre, have achieved. Despite shrouding their individual personas in mystery, they have created a cross-cultural identity, branching out across multiple mediums and a variety of collaborations, giving them international appeal.
It may seem audaciously American to champion a band that is the most recent, most current and indeed youngest. However, when looking at Phoenix through the lens of American appeal they have come best prepared. Phoenix has been genius in their marketing, but is ultimately their music, not their business plan, catapulting them to the top. They produced four solid albums and with new tracks like ‘Lisztomania’ and its reference to the legendary Daltry, it’s no wonder that frenzy has followed. While these Parisians may not yet have solidified themselves amongst rock and roll greats, in terms of storming American shores they certainly seem to be on the attack.
Guest Writer: Olivia Harrington
When Tokyo Police Club burst out onto the scene in 2005 their songs oozed adolescent angst and sex in the way only teenage boys could. On their first EP A Lesson In Crime tracks had little build-up coupled with self-conscious insecurity, marked by fast paced, jarring motions and a hint of false bravado. It was, nevertheless, a perfectly climaxing EP that left listeners begging for more.
Five years later, Tokyo Police Club’s newest foray, the 11-track sophomore LP Champ, shows signs of a maturity that begins to recover from the awkward phase of their first LP, Elephant Shell. While their earlier sounds marketed off the short attention span of modern culture, Champ has an assuredness that allows lead singer Dave Monks to take his time, lingering in the absolute absurdity and beauty of youth. One of the best songs on the album, ‘Favourite Food’ begins like a ballad of youth lost, wandering amongst a melodious disarray of electronic sounds. The vocals are soft, but halfway through TPC can’t resist bringing in the heavier instrumentals and upbeat tempo that made them famous. Tracks like ‘Bambi’ reveal a dichotomy TPC often explore. The lyrics juxtapose the childlike wonder of kites and castles against a slurred, cynical apology for coming home drunk the night before. Champ reads like a modern day bedtime story where each tale awakens you to some forgotten memory, holding you in the farthest thing from sleep. TPC transports listeners back to the nights they were tucked into bed or, more likely, tangled amongst another’s limbs in the backseat of the car.
If there is one complaint to be made on the album is that their longing for something past has stifled their ability to create something genuinely new. Monks’ romanticism of the past creates fuzzy tableaus, but that same blurriness carries on throughout their album. As Champ continues, songs begin to risk the predictability of heavy guitar rifts, highlighted vocals and snapshots of childhood attics covered in dust. Tokyo Police Club must be careful to save themselves from the fate of senile grandparents, constantly reminiscing about ‘back in the day’ to the point where you no longer wish to visit. In order to overcome the seeming curse of the mid-2000s indie band (The afflicted: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Cold War Kids and Bloc Party amongst others), TPC must continue to construct upon where Champ succeeds. They must emphasize their lyrical prowess, but explore different build and rifts, catapulting them from simply a catchy commercial band, to an indispensable voice of a generation. For these 20-somethings, they must consider how long and in what way they can continue manufacturing memories and reminiscing on teenage Americana. What Tokyo Police Club has is their age and the freedom it creates for them to form an identity and take unexpected leaps. Maybe it is time for some real rebellion, the kind to which their songs often allude. Perhaps they just may need to ask themselves, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”