Slint + PG Six - Irving Plaza

I was pretty excited to see Slint on Friday night at Irving Plaza, especially considering I only knew six of their songs well. Part of it was certainly the circumstances - their three NYC gigs came in the midst of Slint's reunion tour, their first in 14 years - and it helps that those six songs are the entirety of Spiderland, an album that gets more mentions than spins but still sounds fantastic whenever I play it. Best line from the surprisingly reserved (enraptured?) crowd on Friday - "You guys sound like Slint!"

Friday's show started off just as unassumingly as my first listen to Spiderland, when it took some work to figure out which side of the CD was the top. The band came out in the dark, and the lights didn't even go up for a couple minutes. When they did, there was a lone microphone in the center of the stage - and no one behind it. The band was standing as far back as I've ever seen and the mic went unused all night, save for "Don, Aman" near the end.

Slint were pretty much what I'd expected live, but to an extreme - tight and understated, able to explode at any moment but only occasionally doing so. Tight? They glided through one twist after another while almost never looking at each other. Understated? They barely moved all night, instead just standing in place at the back and on the edges of the stage. And as for being explosive, drummer Britt Walford epitomizes the word. His drums were high in the mix and owned so many of the songs - crazy changes and lots of stops and starts, earning the math rock moniker and then some. "Nosferatu Man" is an amazing tune and it IS Britt - he even speaks the vocals.

Unfortunately, the softly spoken vocals were mostly hard to hear and the bass was sometimes loud to the point of distortion. Slint's music thrives on subtle precision and the tension it creates, and it's tougher to appreciate that if the sound isn't perfect. Accordingly, Spiderland's rockers were my favorite songs on Friday - "Breadcrumb Trail," "Nosferatu Man," and "Good Morning, Captain." The latter had ended all the reunion shows I'd read about, so they surprised me by starting with it on Friday. I'd often thought about how the screaming "I MISS YOU!" ending would be live and, yeah, it was pretty awesome. Overall though, I wasn't as wowed as I'd hoped - their quieter material works better on Chaturbate album, and I was actually a bit underwhelmed. But perhaps that was the point.

NYC locals PG Six opened up and their quirky countrified indie/folk is very much worth mentioning. Between the creative songwriting and inventive instrumentation (washboard!), I'd see them again anytime. They reminded me of Neil Young with the guitar solos, early R.E.M. with the vocals, and Pavement (sort of) with the general aesthetic. The net effect was something pretty unique. Their quieter songs got lost in the big room, so I'd love to see them in a smaller place.

First Impressions...

On Everything Ecstatic, Four Tet mostly abandons his patented folktronica ethos for a darker, less human sound. It's a bold move and it works.

"I'd gone as far as I could with that," Keiran Hebden, aka Four Tet said recently. "The whole folktronica thing was kinda making me crazy." Indeed, the new album is heavier, faster, more rhythmic and loose than its predecessor, 2003's Rounds. Yet Everything Ecstatic still glistens with organic sounds that could only be Four Tet. It's another outstanding album from Four Tet.

Everything Ecstatic counterpoints the fragile beauty of its predecessor with deeper and more forceful tones. The penultimate and epic (nearly eight minutes in length) "Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions" best illustrates where Four Tet's sound now resides. The track opens with a muffled beat, glitchy beeps and eerie, "In Search of" synths that remind me most of Boards of Canada or early Aphex Twin. From there it progressively dissolves into a chaotic stew of noise, driven by hammering and overlapped beats. It sounds unlike anything Hebden has done before.

A Rant About Album Leaks

Unsurprisingly, Face the Truth, the new Stephen Malkmus album some 10 weeks away from its release date, has found its way onto the Internet. Lacking scruples in this area, I sought it out and have it on my iPod this morning. I haven't listened to it yet, but it will certainly get some play today.

I also noticed that Scenestars has made one of the tracks, "Pencil Rot", available for download. Not to burn bridges, but this troubles me. Without going into the can of worms that is debating the legality of MP3 Blogs, I feel a line must be drawn. In my opinion, sites should try to respect the artist's wishes for the revealing and distribution of their art. I haven't always felt this way and even did something similar when the new Beck album leaked, but my opinion has since changed.

Certainly, leaking one song is not going to take money out of Stephen Malkmus's pocket. Matador Records won't go bankrupt because of it. My concern is not about financial damages. But leaking a track is a middle finger directed right at the live sex shows artist. It's the equivalent of breaking into a painter's home, stealing his or her work (sometimes unfinished) and parading it around for your own gain.

I can't question Scenestars or any other sites love for Malkmus. I don't know their motives. But I would guess that a primary driver for any site to post pre-release tracks from well-known bands is self-promotion. Is it worth selling out your respect and loyalty to an artist for a few thousand extra unique visitors?

Though I can think of arguments to justify my own downloading of leaks, I know there's no real legitimate way to defend it. My own compunctions most likely won't stop me from seeking out pre-releases in the future. So you could say, "pot kettle black". Fair enough.

I do think there's a difference between downloading an album from a prominent artist like Stephen Malkmus for your own listening and leaking it all for a few hundred, a few thousand page hits. Post songs for unsigned bands. Do it for an artist needing the exposure. Stephen Malkmus doesn't need you to leak his album.

Red Wine Boys + Yo La Tengo - Pianos

Plus some exciting Belle and Sebastian news!

My Yo La Tengo fanaticism has been well-documented here before, so once I got wind of their "surprise" appearance with the Red Wine Boys at Pianos last night I knew I'd be there. Comedians Todd Barry and Jon Benjamin are the Red Wine Boys, and last night was their fourth and final show. Given how incestuous the NYC comedy scene seems to be, my guess is they'll be performing together again soon under some other name. I thought they were pretty funny last night, as was special guest Eugene Mirman. I'm pretty bad about keeping up with the local comedy scene, but every time I make it to an event like this or the UCB Theatre I always think I need to go more often.

I've barely mentioned YLT so far because their appearance was nothing major. Ira, Georgia, and James did two quick joke tribute songs, both with "Red Wine Boys" in the lyrics but actually just Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine" and the Batman theme. The blistering "Cherry Chapstick" got saved for another night, perhaps next Tuesday at the Tonic. It's still always fun to see them live, whatever the circumstances or songs. Brooklyn Vegan has some pictures.

Speaking of YLT, their greatest hits compilation Prisoners of Love is out today. I got the limited edition 3-disc version in the mail on Thursday via the Matador presale. A good best-of collection is one that you'll listen to even when you already own the albums and, thanks to the excellent sequencing and coverage of YLT's entire career (1985-2003), these three discs have yet to leave my CD player. The bonus disc of rarities is especially nice to have - my favorites right now are "Almost True," an And Then Nothing... outtake, and previously unreleased live favorite "Dreaming." There's also a cool new version of "Big Day Coming," the third they've released. This one sounds right in between the quiet and loud versions, both of which are on Painful.

And speaking of Matador anthologies, they will be releasing a new Belle and Sebastian compilation on May 24 entitled Push Barman To Open Old Wounds. The two CD set will collect all seven of the band's Jeepster EP's and singles - which means the excellent "Your Cover's Blown" will need to wait until the Rough Trade anthology. Still, there's lots to like on here - especially "This Is Just A Modern Rock Song," which will start disc 2 and is one of my absolute favorite B+S songs. All of disc 1 was previously collected on the Lazy Line Painter Jane boxset - perhaps we can trade in our UPC codes for a 50% discount? - but it'll be nice to have all this on just two CD's

New News from Environ

Much is happening over at Environ, Morgan Geist's record label. First and foremost, Geist and Darshan Jesrani have teamed back up for a new Metro Area single. Metro Area 6 is due out on April 25 and will have three new songs - "Honey Circuit," "Rhythm Reel #6," and "Things Fall." (Word is Darshan is already playing the white label in his live sets.) Metro Area's self-titled full-length (essential IMO) had songs from the first four singles at its core; with two new releases since, perhaps we're halfway to a follow-up? One can hope. In the meantime, we're told a new Morgan Geist album is in the works for winter 2006. (Yep, 2006.)

More immediately, the latest in Environ's series of Unclassics singles is out now. These have coincided with Geist's 2004 mix of the same name, and this 12" features Discotheque's "Disco Special," the fantastic first song on the mix. Here's some background from Environ's email

Discotheque's "Disco Special" immediately became one of Morgan Geist's favorite disco records when he dug it up in the used bin of a Boston record store in 1996. The track in question is a gorgeous musical masterpiece both in terms of composition and production. It seems to hit on every aspect of what we love about disco: the electronic synth patterns, the organic drums, piano and bass, and one of the fiercest and elegant percussion breaks put to wax.

It really is just wonderful. The other songs on the single are Zodiac's "Pacific," a "cross between electronic funk and the soundtrack to Spyhunter," and the "fun, campy romp" of Eurofunk's "Manshortage."

Finally, Daniel Wang's Idealism will be reissued on Environ in June. I don't really know Wang, but he comes highly recommended and I'm curious to hear this.

So much has already been said about Bloc Party, from the early clamor around "She's Hearing Voices" right up through today's release of Silent Alarm. All that hype is tough to live up to, but Silent Alarm definitely delivers. It's one of the best things we've heard this year, and we can't wait for Bloc Party's sold-out appearances at the Bowery Ballroom on April 7 and 8. Needless to say, we were pretty excited to sit down and chat with guitarist/lead singer Kele Obereke and drummer Matt Tong a few weeks ago. Fresh off of performing at the Motherf*cker party, they stepped away from VH1 Classic for a few minutes to talk to us.

A frenetically busy day here

so time will only permit a handful of short items. Maybe later I'll have more time to comment at length about the new Stephen Malkmus album that I listened to repeatedly over the weekend. I also played the new Four Tet, Caribou and Goldmund records several times so I hope to have a spare moment to talk them as well. Barely leaving your apartment all weekend allows for plenty of listening time. On to the shorts:

Continuing our (perhaps just my) Bloc Party fixation, it looks like Kele and the gang will be on The Late Show With David Letterman on Wednesday, April 6. BP are also on the cover of the April issue of the Fader magazine.

This almost sounds like divine intervention: Brooklyn Vegan reports that Webster Hall was evacuated Saturday evening during a New Found Glory performance. Seems there were fears the building was in danger of collapsing. Now if only it would be condemned so all the shows could be moved to better venues.

Pitchfork interviews Dungen.

Central Village and Tale of Two Cities recap the actions of some very over-zealous and self-important doormen at the Flaming Lips FDNY benefit last Thursday night. Central Village posts a message from Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock who was accosted while trying to re-enter the hall after a smoke. Tale of Two Cities posts an open letter to the door guy from a "mad white hipster".