Hungary, Hungry Huskies – St. Vincent Rocks a Boat (Show Review)

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Annie Clark and Toko Yosuda bow their heads to rock

I arrived with a throng of hip-dressed Hungarians, our eyes wide open as we entered the multicolored array of dance lights that can be seen all along the straight of the Danube. 7pm is, by far, the earliest many of us have ever been on the notorious party boat, who hosts concerts and events every couple of nights – a staple in Budapest’s night life. On October 18, as a part of cafe Budapest – a yearly autumn festival featuring contemporary art, music, and performances – St. Vincent graced the tiny venue with an electronic foray of musical magic.

As the lights dimmed, a robotic voice appeared through the haze. It called to us as fellow analog listeners and urged us to refrain from “digitally capturing our experience.” Luckily, I was able to meet a lovely Lithuanian before the performance to capture the moments I would have otherwise lost due to my phone’s presence in my pocket throughout the show.

The band came forth in tandem, the lights dark and dimmed by the fog-filled room. In a flash, St. Vincent began with “Rattlesnake” and “Digital Witness” – the lyrics of which matching perfectly with the earlier sentiment of experiencing the concert in person, rather than through the lens of a phone screen.

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A concentrated Clark focuses on the performance

After a brief pause, the soul-shaking guitar riff of “Cruel” rang through the air – its piercing alternations doubling that of the keyboard, just an octave below. During this song, the contrast between the natural and unnatural established itself as a main theme of St. Vincent’s performance. As each song built upon the last, Annie Clark and her band moved more and more robotically until we all could recognize the synchronized movements as an integral part of the show.

As the energy following “Cruel” faded (Clark waited patiently for our cheers to subside), Annie spoke of the things that “we had in common”. This song-break spoke like poetry, her words desperately pulling us towards what she wanted us to be: a child in an inescapable world. The break ended with an anecdote about us wanting to “jump from our beds” on a “parachute made of blankets.” And, even though we “landed on the carpet… on our knees, we never gave up hope!”

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St. Vincent tells us a story

Through our screams of consensus, the keyboard and drums spelled out the opening notes of “Marrow” whose chorus, “H. E. L.  P. Help Me. Help Me” rang through the mouths of two-thirds of the audience – demonstrating St. Vincent’s enormous following that must exist in Eastern Europe. After the show, I met with humans from all nationalities – Hungarian, Serbian, Lithuanian and the like. As we all intermixed within the 300 or so person crowd, we not only witnessed – but participated – in Annie Clark’s wildly orchestrated madness.

A director of the stage, Clark waltzed around through strobes and flares. The band’s movements lined up with every beat, flash of light, along with each other. When the moment came for her to remove her instrument, Annie approached the stage crew and they fluidly made the change in a coordinated measure. Every time the lights blacked out, the crowd would erupt in a thunderous boom – the noise of the audience multiplied by the ship’s steel enclosure.

As the lights came up onto the stage, the figure of St. Vincent stood asymmetrically in front of us. The music began to ebb and flow as “Jesus” began. The ballad broke the reoccurring pattern of digital imagery – the movements of the band and the lights behind them mimicking that of the wind or the ocean. The natural sounds became distorted in the crescendos of distorted guitar riffs that introduced “Chloe in the Afternoon” – the keyboardist, Toko Yasuda, joining Clark with her punching electric guitar. The song ended in a clustered mess of arpeggios and slammed strings, Annie approaching the edge of the stage multiple times to show off her ardent talents – playing the strings of the instrument like grass in a meadow.

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Yasuda leads the background vocals and harmony

After waiting again for the crowd to quiet, Clark continued her story about the times we had in common as a child. She spoke of a fire that we built when we were younger, and “as we watched it burn, we knew we were supposed to be scared but…” she inquired deeply, her words appearing naturally although they were obviously a perfectly practiced insight.

The set continued and, in-between the songs “Actor Out of Work” and “Birth in Reverse,” Annie Clark did nothing but amaze us with her skill and passion when the time came for her to play the guitar. The solos in “Surgeon” and “Prince Johnny” stood out as two the strongest instrumental moments I have ever heard. By the time “Birth in Reverse” tore through the speakers, the crowd was so riled up that the boat was literally shaking in time with the music. The band and the crowd sang in sync during ballads like “Cheerleader” – the natural colored lights blinding us until Clark had been reduced to nothing but a silhouette.

We became a part of the performance as the show evolved into what felt like a Black Sabbath concert on shrooms. Strobes flashed, heads banged, and – as the band shuffled and snapped – the worlds of modern art and classic rock collided in the storm that was “Bring Me Your Loves.”

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Powerful performers command the stage with their music and movements

Quicker than they came, the band snuck off the stage immediately after the final song. We chanted in a chorus for Annie yet their return to the stage only came after the audience dimmed its cheers in sadness that the show may already be over. Yasuda entered and smiled from behind a glass of water as Annie played from back stage. When Clark was finally illuminated by the light of the stage, she squinted over us into the back of the club’s smallest room before flying into the center of “Strange Mercy”’s complicated drum-line. At the end of it, she threw herself into the arms of the audience. Guitar in hand, Annie played above us. She passed off her guitar to the members of the front rows so that we could play for her as she held her head back in ecstasy.

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Photos by Vilius Kubekas – Facebook

When she returned to the stage, the leading women fell to her knees and crouched next to the beat-up Stratocaster. As she slowly lifted her head, a member of the stage crew adorned her shoulders with a new guitar, like a crown of thorns on a weary Jesus-like figure. She once again amazed us with her final solos strewn throughout the song, “Your Lips Are Red.” With the magic of the fourth wall already broken, nothing could stop us all from singing along and creating the music with the rest of the band. They soaked in our melodies and cheers as they held their heads high – taking a bow with smiles on their faces.

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DJ Desman

Outlander in the Emerald City: Lync – These Are Not Fall Colors (Flashback Album Review)

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Formed in 1992, Lync was one of the pioneers of the indie rock scene that grew out of Olympia and Seattle in the early- to mid-1990s.  Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Sam Jayne, bassist/vocalist James Bertram, and drummer Dave Schneider, Lync’s strengths encompass discordant riffs, intertwining guitar and bass melodies and a heavy, driving beat to keep the ground solid underneath.  Jayne’s vocals are beautifully indistinct while maintaining a screechiness that is bound to make your head ache delightfully.  With only one full album under their belt, These Are Not Fall Colors showcases the band in a head-bang worthy package, drawing comparisons to hardcore favorites such as Fugazi and Unwound.

Where to listen: The full album can be found on YouTube (streaming after the jump)

Where to buy: Check out Lync’s bandcamp (http://lync1994.bandcamp.com/album/these-are-not-fall-colors) if you like what you hear!

The album opens with “B”, beginning with a bombardment of feedback extending into a melodically brooding riff and rolling drumbeat, wasting no time in showcasing Lync’s talents in the post-hardcore vein.  The song takes off into a soaring barrage of distortion and chunky rhythms, with Jayne double-tracking his screaming vocals over the chorus.  Although the lyrics maintain an ambiguous quality throughout the song (and most of the album for that matter), a few profound lines shine through, including the repeated “You only need your own air to breathe.”  Lync’s influences can be easily traced back to classics like Pixies and Sonic Youth with their use of the (now almost-clichéd) alt-rock loud/soft dynamic; however, they implement it differently, often giving breathing room in the chorus while still never losing intensity in the verses.  “Silverspoon Glasses” is no exception to this rule, featuring swelling walls of distortion that collapse into haunting yet beautiful melodies.  The album continues with the supremely catchy “Cue Cards”, featuring the classic off-kilter arpeggio and rolling drumbeat combination, with a bass-line to guide the major melodies, a trick peers Modest Mouse picked up (and perfected) in their first few records.  The last track, “Uberrima Fides,” allows the album to close out with a bang, climaxing to a kick-ass buildup before the reverb-drenched outro jam (which takes its guitar effects from space-rock gods Caustic Resin and Built to Spill).  The feedback at the end of the track allows the album to fade out as it began, ready to be replayed and re-appreciated by its fans.  Although twenty years have passed since its release, These Are Not Fall Colors remains a highly influential record in the indie rock scene that has grown to such great heights in our alt-loving society of today

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Katie Hanford

Rad Report: Up and coming artist – Caroline Rose at The Vera Project

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I don’t usually follow country artists, but when I listened to Caroline Rose on her Soundcloud I was drawn to a vibe that her voice seemed to carry. Saturday, October 11th Caroline Rose walked into The Vera Project and onto the stage with a bang, wearing her head-to-toe red outfit as she swung her guitar over her shoulder. She puts her lips up to the microphone and softly spoke in her comforting and sparkling voice, “Thanks for not being at the Beyoncé concert tonight. There’s not actually a Beyoncé concert so don’t be alarmed.” The crowd laughed and started tapping their feet to her music as it began to fill the room. Despite the modest crowd, she started off by singing with the kind of voice that opens up a room to positive energy and good vibrations in a way that is impossible to not enjoy.

The liveliness didn’t stop with her music—her sarcastic and naturally hilarious nature continued to come out as she joked throughout the night. Though as the show proceeded, each song seemed to tell a different story of her personal journey. She paused from her innately jokey demeanor as she brought up her debut album I Will Not Be Afraid, which came out in August. This album—a culmination of six years of her work—contains some older songs from when she was only eighteen years old, and some newer ones that currently relate to her life as she pushes twenty-five (a birthday that she admitted to having mixed feelings on). But regardless of the extended period of time that it took to release this album, Caroline Rose has clearly made it a long way since she started in Vermont years ago!

Caroline Rose in America Religious

This shift in her music from older to newer was even apparent throughout her set Saturday night, as the genre of her music seemed to shift a bit. Her original sound of “vintage country” (a term she coined herself) began to transition into a somewhat southern blues with clear folk and rock influences. Now this was more my kind of music to jam to! Just after she leaned into the microphone one more time and whispered “it’s going to get loud in here” the energy was turned up to a whole new level. The rest of the night was full of even more dancing and excitement than it had been before as the crowd danced to Caroline Rose’s unique mix of music and verve that filled the room.

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Rad Rebs

Marina and the Diamonds – Froot

Welsh songstress Marina and the Diamonds has just graced us with a brand new gem to sink our teeth into. The disco-y “Froot”—stylized as “FROOT”—is the new title track from her upcoming album of the same name. Always the generous spirit, Marina, born Marina Diamandis, released the song 10 days ago, on her birthday, October 10th. “Froot” sees Marina comparing herself to a ripe fruit, ready to be picked by the man she’s been waiting for. The song’s organic and lush lyrical imagery is in sharp contrast to the shimmery, digitized synths washing in and out of the five and half minute-long track. With tongue-in-cheek rhymes, elastic vocal runs, and catchy hooks, Marina has struck a happy medium between her indie-pop debut LP from 2010, The Family Jewels, and 2012 electropop concept album, Electra Heart. Whether or not “Froot” has enough juice to propel itself into stateside radio, as her single “Primadonna” could only graze, is yet to be seen. Regardless, the song is gaining traction and hype in the blogosphere, and has certainly earned itself a cozy place on my regular rotation.

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Jamie Coughlin