I’m not sure there is a bigger enigma in music right now than Sufjan Stevens. His music output has been incredibly sporadic, but when he does release music, it pours out of him. I have nearly everything Sufjan has put out, and of the 245 songs in my iTunes, 65 are about Midwestern states, 14 about the Chinese New Year, 13 about a bridge, and 98 about Christmas. That only leaves 55 songs about everything else. Yet, with as strange of a catalog as this, there is no doubt Sufjan is one of the most talented and simply brilliant creative minds around today. Sisyphus, his latest project with Son Lux and Serengeti , combines playful rap, glitchy electronics, and Sufjan’s brilliant composition. We will likely tackle this album as a review royale next week, but for now, here are our ten favorite Sufjan songs.
Editor’s Note: This list was originally published in early 2014.
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Performs Songs in the Key of Life Live
November 14th, 2014
United Center, Chicago, IL
There are few albums more ambitious than Stevie Wonder’s 1976 double-album Songs in the Key of Life. It’s as ambitious and ornate as Sgt. Pepper’s and as diverse and wide-ranging as the White Album. It’s exploration of life in the inner city and a divided, violent country and his idealist call for love to heal all divides transcends the period and is still relevant 38 years later. I saw Stevie Wonder perform this classic album and a sampling of his hits in a 3-hour set to remember.
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Arcade Fire, Dan Deacon, and Devo
August 30th, 2014
United Center, Chicago, IL
Groupon is best known in the concert world for getting you discounted tickets on bad 90’s acts like Scott Stapp or 80’s hair bands like Poison, but for once, it paid off in the world of indie rock. Arcade Fire, the overly-ambitious suckers they are, put on two nights at United Center, where the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks play which seats over 20,000, and since the band isn’t quite on that level, we landed Groupon tickets (and pretty good seats at that) for just $22. We’ve made our lack of love for Arcade Fire known over the years, but for $22, you get to at least see Funeral songs and Dan Deacon and Devo (who we love), so you can’t miss.
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In all of its infinite and pretentious wisdom, there is hardly any doubt that Pitchfork has become one of America’s leading sources for modern music recommendations and critiques. Love or hate their opinions, it is true. And regardless if they seem to leave a bitter taste in your mouth every once in a while, they do manage to do one thing very right: Pitchfork Music Festival. Three short-but-not-too-short days in the city of Chicago with a solid lineup of acts every year. Even with Death Grips canceling their performance this year, I along with fellow LxL’er Wes and a few friends still showed up for the party, and a glorious three days it was. Here is the one sentence (or more) breakdown of what we encountered:
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My Bloody Valentine
November 3rd, 2013
Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
Walking through the doors of Aragon Ballroom for Sunday’s My Bloody Valentine show, I knew I was in for a one-of-a-kind show. That’s because for the first time ever, I was actually handed earplugs by the staff at the door and was asked twice by security double-checking that I got my set of earplugs. The reason for this is My Bloody Valentine’s notoriously deafening shows, with the Irish shoegaze band building a sound so large it’s jarring every time it kicks in. The band released its third album earlier this year and its first in 22 years (a smash success by our estimation), and the band delivered cuts off all three albums with equal levels of success.
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Who: Pearl Jam
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago IL
When: July 19th (and 20th), 2013
It was a Friday evening, and despite not having tickets to the grossly over-priced (in terms of resale, anyways) Pearl Jam concert, I was still making my way over to Wrigley Field to meet up with some friends in an attempt to score a deal, when I noticed on my Yahoo weather app that Chicago could be in for some nasty storms that night. I didn’t really think anything of it, other than it could only better our chances at getting a cheaper ticket. Having seen Pearl Jam twice live previously, and the fact that it was 2013 and not 1998, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to pay the ticket broker the requested amount of $400 minimum for a ticket. Nonetheless, my brother and friends were already in the show, and a lifelong friend/total Pearl Jam junkie Jason was in town for Pitchfork Festival. So, why not see if the stars aligned and a ticket just happened to fall in our laps, right? Luckily, that is exactly what happened.
Continue reading “Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field and Why Eddie Vedder Still Matters To Rock and Roll”
Half Way Home
It’s usually pretty unlikely that video of a live show catches my eye online, as most video footage fails to capture the fullness of the live experience. But Angel Olsen has proved one of the exceptions, the St. Louis born but Chicago-based singer/songwriter has a voice and the songwriting chops to knock you out, even through the doldrums of Youtube. Not only that, but being associated with folk troubadour Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy) and sounding a bit like Joanna Newsom, Olsen sounds like she was pretty much made to make fellow LxLer Austin cry tears of joy. I went back this weekend to check out her 2012 sophomore album Half Way Home, and find it, and her, to be a clear, simple beautiful voice amidst a sea of gimmicks and irony that fill the current music scene.
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