Disclosure‘s new album Caracal isn’t as fun as their debut but their massive sound and awesome lights made for quite a show at Madison Square Garden. While both Disclosure albums, Settle and Caracal feature a lot of big guest names (and the former allowed Sam Smith to break thru to big arenas himself), their MSG show didn’t pull out all stops and surprise with the biggest of names, Smith or The Weeknd though they did have Lion Babe (who also opened) on “Hourglass” and Brendan Reilly on “Moving Mountains” amongst a couple of others. The highlights from the brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence’s set were the soaring “Nocturnal” (even sans The Weeknd) and the older “When a Fire Starts to Burn” with its edgy pulse. Meanwhile “Holding On” (which featured Gregory Porter’s vocal) were reminiscent of a lighter Jazzanova track and it’s dark dub was another treat to hear in the massive arena. Fans were going wild as the general admission floor folks could be seen continual releasing bouts of energy in a dance frenzy. But Disclosure’s music, as the New York Times noted, “fills rooms, but it doesn’t move bodies in the interesting ways the duo’s early songs did, nor does it stimulate minds. At this lovely but largely tepid show, the brothers mainly performed behind semicircular banks of instruments: Guy, on the left, mostly on drum pads and keyboards; Howard, on the right, occasionally pulling out a bass for a taut, clever line.”
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The trio, John Stanier, Ian Williams and Dave Konopka, form Battles, who recently wrapped up the US leg of a world tour in support of their third album, La Di Da Di with a hometown show at Webster Hall in New York City. Brooklyn’s Xenia Rubinos built up the experimental vibe in the opening slot but it was Battles that really proved visionary with their repetitive melodic structures and blockbuster bass lines. Their broad sonic collage drew from all their albums and meshed seamlessly into an awe-inspiring aurally destructive show that proves their music is a force unto itself.
Listening to Josh Ritter‘s newest album Sermon on the Rocks repeatedly last month, I was struck by how different it was from his previous works. It possesses optimistic and upbeat feel, but still contains the strongly developed characters and stories Ritter is known for. Rolling Stone‘s recent review of the album really nailed my sentiments in their review when they said, “with his latest, Ritter has achieved the near impossible, fully reimagining his own art while still holding close to what’s always made him special”. I thoroughly enjoy his Sermon and, though I can’t tell yet if it one of the best albums of the year, I do know it has cemented Ritter’s spot as one of my favorite artists. Tracks like “Homecoming”, “A Big Enough Sky” and “Where the Night Goes” are immediate stand outs and, on stage at Rough Trade performing these (and other) songs, Ritter demonstrated more joy than I’d seen before. He always has the biggest of smiles but now he’s literally so overjoyed he’s leaping in the air. I was glad to see him in the smaller venue as his many theater shows in 2016 are not nearly as intimate. Tour dates are below.
The ATO Records showcase announcement of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard doing a show from her side project Thunderbitch was perhaps the biggest surprise of CMJ week. Almost every major music reporter, photographer, blogger or industry type was there. The immediate area around the stage was basically all photographers as this was one of the first shows from Howard (as Thunderbitch). And it rocked.
CMJ Music Marathon is an endurance test. You can collect as many bands as you want—on any given day you can catch way more than a dozen if you are willing to work for it. On the third (and on the fourth) nights, I wasn’t pushing myself. I wanted to see John Grant ‘s newly added set at Rough Trade since I couldn’t make his set at Le Poisson Rouge on the last day. And I wanted to catch up with Quilt who I hadn’t seen in a while. I also got to hang out at Baby’s where a team from Mute Records was on site giving out stickers and albums (I got myself ones from M83 and from The Knife).
// Notes from the Road
"Cage the Elephant rocked two sold-out nights at Summerstage and return to NYC for a free show May 29th. Info on that and a preview of the full Summerstage schedule is here.READ the article