Spoon Show Review: Taste of Chicago

Spoon, Houndmouth, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

July 11th, 2015

Taste of Chicago, Petrillo Music Shell

Chicago, IL

bonnaroo-2015_spoon

As I said last week, Taste of Chicago’s best gift to the city is its free live music. Spoon headlined the Saturday rock showcase from 93 XRT, the long-tenured Chicago FM station that has been bringing quality rock acts to Taste for 28 years. Spoon themselves have been at it for nearly 20 years, and all that time, delivering time and time again with all eight of their albums. Saturday, was by no means the best Spoon set I’ve seen (technical difficulties and minor gaffes wouldn’t allow for it), but still showed why they are a dominant force in rock today.

The mother-son duo of Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear (Madisen’s mother Ruth Ward) opened the showcase by playing some very tender, down-home roots music that’s hard not to get behind. Madisen’s quivering blues bellow is a lovely compliment to the low-key, nearly percussionless songs which could just as easily be sung around a campfire as in front of thousands in the heart of Chicago. The deep, sage harmonies of Ruth Ward definitely take the band beyond your ordinary folk act: a special connection formed over Madisen’s 26 years.

A shared love of rock ‘n’ roll is clearly what brings the second act Houndmouth together: a Louisville four-piece that share the stage equally. Houndmouth is much like Dawes in that they follow the collective spirit of the Band: all sharing vocal duties, spotlight, and creative input. The band really knew how to boogie down: wailing four-part harmonies, blazing guitar solos and big anthemic choruses. I was especially impressed by drummer Shane Cody who looked the part of Ringo Starr with his mustache and coke-bottle glasses and played with the joy and enthusiasm of him as well.

Finally, Britt Daniel and his fine Texas mates took the stage and got off to a pretty rough start. They opened with “Rainy Taxi”, the ominous piano-led track off of their latest album They Want My Soul, but with a poor mix that pretty much drowned out Britt’s lead guitar and most of his vocal, it made it pretty difficult to really sink into the show. More sound problems followed including a broken string on “Don’t Make Me A Target”, pretty much removing the last solo from the song.

As the set went on the sound did improve, and some surprises began. The band played “The Ghost of You Lingers”, one of, if not, my favorite song in all of Spoon’s catalog, and turned it from a haunting call to a past love made perfect for a set of headphones into an experimental, dance-able crowd-pleaser. The band then pulled out a new song called “Satellite”, a song that employed that spooky silent movie organ they started playing with on Transference to great effect.

Finally, Spoon encored with a cover of “TV Set” from the spooky garage punk of the Cramps. Britt ramped up the echo on his vocal and distortion on his guitar to make the cover into a rockabilly tune from your nightmares. Closing also with crowd-favorites “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and “The Underdog” aided the band on ending on a major note after what was a really tough start. Unlike others, Spoon didn’t let issues get the best of them, and instead chose gratitude for the incredible opportunity to play Taste of Chicago (Britt mentioned remembering his hero Paul Westerberg of the Replacements playing Taste when he lived in Chicago long ago). That sort of attitude and spirit is what keeps a band relevant and respected for 20 years.

LittlebyListen_Scores_7

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The 10 Best Bonnaroo Performances of 2015

bonnaroo 2015

Another summer, another June, another great festival of music, arts, and debauchery. As always, Bonnaroo proves to be one of my favorite weekends of the year, as well as a one of my favorite music festivals in the country. And what to do now? Compile a list of course. Of course, when compiling this list, problems arise. Mainly because I was the only member of LxL to attend Roo this year, and as one man, I cannot make it to every show. No matter how badly I would like to have seen Tears for Fears, scheduling conflicts are real conflicts. So the following is a list of my favorites acts out of all the ones in which I was able to attend. Let me know if any of you saw something better:

10. Billy Joel
billy joel bonnaroo
Forever an entertainer. No matter how old this man gets, and no matter how much he looks like Pat Johnson (our friend’s dad), he will forever have that spark of a 23-year-old boy from the Bronx. Having a song like “Piano Man” for +80,000 people to scream back to you has to be one helluva feeling too.
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LxL’s 20 Best Albums of 2014

best albums of the year 2014

Here it is. Arguably our favorite list every year. A year’s worth of listening all distilled into one list. 2014 was a surprisingly weak year for hip hop (minus the colossal RTJ2), a wonderful year for triumphant returns (Beck, Jenny Lewis, D’Angelo), and a showcase of how important honesty is in music with some beautifully vulnerable records (Perfume Genius, Sun Kil Moon, Damon Albarn). Who knows what 2015 holds, but for now we can reflect on all the greatness their was in 2014. Now onto the list.

 

20. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

sturgill

Sturgill Simpson is the 21st century country outlaw, with the same rebellion and classic sound of his country forefathers with a post-modern, existential spin to wrap your head around. Sturgill will have trouble beating his 2014 release, an instant country classic in Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.

19. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

first-aid-kit

The Soderberg sisters that make up First Aid Kit have some of the purest harmonies in years, and Stay Gold was a huge step forward for the Swedish duo that sounds like they are from the Carolinas.

18. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

burn-your-fire2

Angel Olsen’s 2012 debut Half Way Home was a beautifully promising first step, but Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a giant leap forward, thanks to 11 tightly written songs and some dynamic production from John Congleton, undoubtedly our producer of the year since he’s responsible for the new St. Vincent, Strand of Oaks, and Angel Olsen.

17. Strand of Oaks – HEAL

strand-of-oaks-heal

Goshen, Indiana’s own Timothy Showalter releases titanic rock songs as Strand of Oaks, and HEAL is the big ambitious rock album that was missing from mainstream rock this year. For more on Strand of Oaks, read my breakdown of his perfect tribute song in “JM”.

16. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Sun Kil Moon Benji album cover art

Like Perfume Genius, Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon releases music as brutally honest and open as a high school diary. While it may come out clumsy at times, after over 20 years of music, Benji is no doubt Kozelek’s masterpiece.

15. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

the voyager

Jenny Lewis releases music only every few years, but it’s an absolute treat when she does. The Voyager is her first album in six years and succeeds thanks to some surprisingly great production work from Ryan Adams and Beck.

14. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

Flying Lotus You're Dead album cover art

There are few artists as singular and sophisticated as Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus, making some truly one-of-a-kind electronic music. You’re Dead, a concept record about death and mortality, brings some heavy hitter guests like Herbie Hancock, Ennio Morricone, Kendrick Lamar, and Thundercat.

13. Ty Segall – Manipulator

Ty Segall Manipulator album cover art

Ty Segall is as prolific at releasing music as Taco Bell is at releasing new menu items, but Ty Segall is actually good. Manipulator might be the garage rock youngster’s best album yet, filled with monster riffs, tons of attitude, and even better melodies.

12. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

sylvan-esso

Sylvan Esso released musical Pop Rocks with their debut, a sparkling electro-pop album for the ages.

11. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

damon-albarn

Damon Albarn has headed up Blur, Gorillaz, and the Good, Bad, and the Queen, so it’s interesting that he finally releases an album under his own name over 20 years into his career. Everyday Robots is a dark-night-of-the-soul album for the 21st century, speaking to how we use technology to shield are loneliness.

10. TV On The Radio – Seeds

TV On The Radio album cover art

Coming off the death of their bassist Gerard Smith, TV On The Radio regroup and make their most immediate and catchy album in Seeds.

9. Courtney Barnett – The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas

barnett

Our favorite new artist of 2014 is witty Aussie Courtney Barnett, whose combined EPs from 2013 was released in 2014 as one of the best albums of the year. Her guitar work, sense of humor, and song craft has us excited for much more.

8. Jack White – Lazaretto

Jack_White_-_Lazaretto

Beyond releasing one of the greatest instrumental songs of all time in “High Ball Stepper” and putting on our favorite live show of 2014, there is nothing Mr. White can’t do. Lazaretto is yet another great release from a living legend.

7. Run the Jewels – RTJ2

Run-The-Jewels-RTJ2

Usually super groups never deliver on their promise, but El-P and Killer Mike are the undisputed rap champs of the year with RTJ2. Never has Killer Mike sounded so vicious, and never have El-P’s production sounded so urgent.

6. Beck – Morning Phase

beck-morning-phase-album cover, cover art

Beck’s long-awaited (and completely unexpected) sequel to his acoustic change-up Sea Change was a perfect record for the quietness of winter. Unfortunately as the year has went on, Morning Phase fell a little ways down on our list from it’s number #1 spot midway through the year, but still deserved to be up here with the best.

5. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

st-vincent

Guitar goddess St. Vincent has truly become fully formed on her self-titled fourth album, her most confident and unique album to date.

4. The Antlers – Familiars

The Antlers Familiars Review

Another one of our favorites just keeps churning out quiet but beautiful masterworks. Familiars is the trio’s third album, and while it’s their least immediate, it also blossoms more and more with each listen.

3. Spoon – They Want My Soul

spoon

Back from a minor hiatus and sounding as rejuvenated as ever thanks to the sonic stylings of producer Dave Fridmann, Texas indie giants Spoon prove why they are one of the ten best bands in the past ten years with They Want My Soul.

2. D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

dangelo

After a 15 year hiatus following his R&B masterpiece Voodoo, D’Angelo proves some things are worth waiting for, releasing the perfect R&B album at the perfect time, looking to restore the racial divide that has torn apart the U.S. in 2014.

1. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Perfume Genius Too Bright Review

Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius releases nakedly honest ballads, but with his third album, he has combined beautiful vulnerability with creative ambition to make his best album yet and our best album of 2014. It’s a once of a lifetime album from Hadreas.

Just Missed:

Wes – Lykke Li – I Never Learn

i-never-learn

Power ballads are usually left to AM radio and bad 80’s rock compilations, but Lykke Li has mastered the art of them on I Never Learn: triumphant love songs you can reflect on quietly or belt out to the sky.

Todd – Sharon Van Etten – Are We There?

Sharon Van Etten Are We There Review

 

Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is undoubtedly beautiful and a real lift to Todd’s soul.

Austin – Taylor Swift – 1989

Taylor_Swift_-_1989

 

Some pop music just can’t be denied, as is the case with Taylor Swift’s 1989, her full-on conversion from pop and country darling to full-on pop superstar.

LxListening: Spoon-fed

best Spoon songs

Editor’s Note: This is a repost from two years ago, that highlights some of my favorite Spoon songs and why.

In the past, we have used these Friday playlists to highlight artists we love (the Beatles, Wu Tang Clan, Frank Ocean), and this week once again falls into that category. In getting an early First Listen of Britt Daniel of Spoon’s new side project Divine Fits (with Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade and Sam Brown from New Bomb Turks), it caused me to want to go back and immerse myself in Spoon’s catalogue, which is by all means consistently great for seven albums. I don’t think it can be overstated how difficult it is to make smart, well-crafted pop songs the way Britt Daniel has done consistently. Of course, this couldn’t be done without his tremendously capably band most notably with drummer/producer Jim Eno laying the base work for everything. So without further ado, lay back and get Spoon-fed.
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Spoon Review: They Want My Soul

spoon, they want my soul, album cover art, new album

In the four year gap between these Austin rockers’ last album Transference, a lot has seemed to have happened, but really, not much has seemed to change. Lead singer Britt Daniel formed supergroup Divine Fits in his time off, recording the new bands first album and taking them on tour along the way. Bassist Rob Pope toured with his other band The Get Up Kids, while multi-talent Eric Harvey recorded his first solo album. Finally, drummer/producer Jim Eno continued to build his producer resume, adding a handful of hot indie bands such as Wild Cub, Phosphorescent, Polica, !!!, and Tennis to his long list of production credits. They also left the infamous independent record label Merge to jump over to a Warner Bros. subsidiary Loma Vista (St. Vincent, Rhye, Cut Copy). They even added two new members to the team. Alex Fischel, who has officailly joined the band as another keyboardist/guitarist (he was in Divine Fits with Daniel), and they recruited legendary indie producer David Friedmann (Flaming Lips, Weezer, MGMT, Tame Impala) instead of producing the album themselves as they normally do. With every member of the band off doing non-Spoon related projects, as well as changing so much of the structure of how they have previously made recorded music for so many albums in a row, you would think there would be some sort of dramatic shift in sound, song, or quality. But luckily, no. Same great old Spoon!
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Weak List Wednesday: Five Songs From Upcoming Albums

new albums, new songs, grimes, fka twigs, spoon
Last week we talked a bit about our favorite albums of 2014 so far. With only half of the year under our belt, we still have a lot of new music to look forward to. Below are a few new tracks that have recently been released from artists with albums that are due out fairly soon. Listed in no particular order, here are five great new tracks from some highly anticipated upcoming albums set to be released this year.
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Top Ten Thursday: Most Anticipated Albums of 2014

Most anticipated music of 2014
Now that we are almost a month deep into 2014, and the dust has begun to settle on all the 2013 talk, we are ready to take a quick preview of things to come. All of these artists below are set to release albums in the upcoming year, and below are our most anticipated. As with all things in life, sometimes musical expectations just don’t meet reality. For instance, last year the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s were at #1 on the list. Then they also ended up #1 on our “Most Disappointing Albums of 2013” list as well. So as always, forgive us our blunders as they arise, and please feel free to let us know what you are excited about in 2014 as well. Onto the list:

10. Joanna Newsom
joanna newsom, new album, 2014
In 2014 Joanna will release her first album in 4 years. Now that she is married to Andy Samberg, I only hope to expect a mix of Joanna’s uniquely classical sounds blended with the nonsensical, over-produced gaudiness of The Lonely Island. Just kidding. Hopefully it is just classic, lovely Joanna.
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