The Kooks – Konk

If you were impressed with The Kooks‘ stellar debut Inside In/Inside Out, be prepared to be pleased once again with their sophomore album Konk, set to be released April 14, 2008. Singer Luke Pritchard said in an interview, “I want this album to be big. I’ve got an ego, I want the album to do well. I want our singles to come on the radio and for people to literally have their heads blown off by them.” this album is aiming to accomplish just that. The indie rock band from Brighton still maintains their catchiness, but now with a little more heart and soul.

After working on what was said to be eighty or ninety songs for the album, it was whittled down to twelve tracks. Kicking off the album is “See The Sun,” which starts off with a tease of bluesy guitar riffs and Pitchard sweetly crooning the first verse before switching things up to their signature upbeat tempo. Followed by their first single “Always Where I Need To Be,” which is one of quite a few stand out tracks on the album. The line “I always thought I would end up with you eventually” captures the hopeful and bittersweet tone of the song and most of the album. The heartfelt track “Gap” spites Pritchard’s claim on his ego; in a striking chorus he sings, “Don’t heed this praise on me / I know I don’t deserve it.” “Sway” emerges as the most powerful track from the devastatingly earnest lyrics to the music that backs it.
Even with the added depth of this album they still manage to capture the feel good essence of their previous album with “Mr. Maker,” “Love It All,” and “Down The Market.” Then club worthy tracks “Do You Wanna” and “Stormy Weather” produce irresistible hooks and melodies. They slow down with “Shine On,” which in the opening verse the line, “You look beautiful all of the time” can’t help but win you over with its sweetness. “One Last Time” continues to slow things with it’s sad and reminiscent focus on a failed relationship. The album ends perfectly with “Tick Of Time,” an acoustic, reggae-tinged track which will, if nothing else, leave you tapping your feet to it’s light and peppy beat.
The Kooks have defied the greatly feared sophomore slump with this album and proven themselves to be a strong and solid band even with the recent departure of their former bassist Max Rafferty. If you want to hear even more from them, a special edition version of Konk will be released with a second disc named RAK including seven songs that didn’t make it onto the album, an alternate version of “See The Sun,” and the home demo “Brooklyn”.

The Kooks website
The Kooks myspace



The Whigs: Granada Theatre, Lawrence Kansas

At twenty-seven, I basically had the misfortune of missing the better half of the grunge movement. I mean sure, I can vaguely remember sitting in my 8th grade keyboarding class, reading an article in Rolling Stone surrounding Kurt Cobain‘s suicide. I can also recall seeing Kurt Loder acting like his death was a really big deal. But honestly, it meant very little to me. I was just too young to care.

I can’t really remember what I was listening to in the eighth grade, but I know that it wasn’t Nirvana, Soundgarden, or anything else hailing from Seattle. Sure, I guess Pearl Jam stuck around for a while, but by the time my musical tastes became honed enough to discover bands like Mudhoney and alternative bands like The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. Eddie Vedder and company were already well past their prime. Growing up, I always felt a touch of regret towards my inability to catch the grunge movement in a live venue. Yet, watching The Whigs play at the Granada Theater in Lawrence, Ks., I honestly assume that the movement wasn’t all that different from this.

In a set that mixes both old and new material, this Athens, Georgia garage band features a three-piece lineup, with a sound that could give most four member groups a run for their money. The full and flowing bass lines of their album Mission Control carry over flawlessly into their live show. The bands bassist, Tim Deaux highlights his half of the groups outstandingly tight rhythm section, racing through his riffs and busy structures, soloing at several points throughout the evening, including on the song “Hot Bed.” Set up behind, drummer Julian Dorio keeps time in an effective yet highly powerful manner. He uses the song “Already Young” to show off the reasons why Esquire magazine named him “Drummer of the Year” for 2007. His complicated and quick beats stand out on their own. This differs from most band in the fact that the drums are used as a riff rather than simply remaining a tool to keep time with. Hell, I’m pretty sure that I would happily pay the cost of admission to watch him play a solo set.

Claiming those parts Deaux and Dorio don’t already have covered, Parker Gispert claims the duties of playing the groups keyboard, as well as being guitarist and lead vocalist. His mixes of pop hooks and crunchy guitar riffs make for a sound that will appeal to fans of the toadies. Their first single “Right Hand On My Heart,” and “Technology” are a prime example of that, featuring a dramatic live energy and a garage rock style that reminds me greatly of the 1990s. Furthermore, Gispert’s stage banter is both entertaining and charming. Between asking about the local sport scene, and playing “name that Georgian city” with a semi-empty room, he wins over those who did attend the show. Rather than heckle him, the crowd cheers him along, screaming “USE IT!” in response to Gispert finding Deaux’s chapstick on his keyboard. Of course, he humors the crowd. The Whigs one, crowd zero.

Honestly, the crowd was the real winner here, catching a band in a nearly empty venue, putting forth a show with the energy of an arena rock show. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to assume this band will fill venues in their future, selling them out as they go. The odds of this crowd catching this band in such an low key environment are slim to none. You however can catch them on the remainder of their current tour, or the following links:

The Whigs’ Homepage
The Whigs’ Myspace
ATO Records

Set List: Hot Carl Blues / Need You, Need You / Like a Vibration / Technology / Production City / I Never Want To Go Home / Violent Furs / Sleep Sunrise / Hot Bed / Right Hand on my Heart / Half the World Away

Ben’s Brother Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Connor of Syosset, NY
for winning the Ben’s Brother CD giveaway!!

Don’t miss your chance to enter the Kylie Minogue giveaway! Email jessica [at] popwreckoning [dot] com by 8PM this Tuesday, April 1st!

Xiu Xiu – First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia Pa.

I arrived at the First Unitarian Church to catch most of Thao Nguyen with the Get Down Stay Down‘s set and was nothing short of impressed by her peppy acoustic numbers, smoky voice and vibrant personality. A member of the audience requested a song and Thao laughed saying, “Don’t worry — we don’t have enough songs to leave that one out.” I was surprised to have walked in to an already full Church, but after hearing just one of Thao’s cute and plucky numbers, I no longer wondered why it was tough to maneuver my way to the stage.

Just before their set came to a close, Thao broke one of her guitar strings and discussed a solution with both her band and the audience until she was offered an electric guitar from one of the other bands on that night’s bill. She seemed only slightly uneasy to delve into “new territory” with the electric guitar she held and promised the crowd they’d “make this as worth your time as possible,” which is exactly what they did. The crowd loved Thao and anticipated just as wonderful a set from headliners Xiu Xiu (pronouned “shoe shoe,” for those not in the know).

San Francisco based Xiu Xiu is an experimental indie band started by singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart, the only steady member of the band. The rest of the line-up currently includes Caralee McElroy on keyboards, percussionist Ches Smith and bassist Devin Hoff. Xiu Xiu sings about morose topics and draws from different genres including punk, ambient, folk and modern classical and is heavily influenced by the British post-punk scene. The quartet began their dynamic set by all playing percussion as they launched into their first song, which heavily featured cowbell. The next song was just as hard and powerful, with an electric upright bass and Stewart yelling. The venue was packed to the gills and the crowd was loving Xiu Xiu.

Each song was hard, tight, ambient and melodic, but the lack of banter amongst the band between songs was unsettling and made the audience feel uncomfortable. Xiu Xiu nailed great beats and created driving rhythms, but the only word uttered by Stewart other than what he sang was a “thanks” halfway through the set. To make up for the awkward tone set by the performers, the audience became very vocal in between songs, shouting “Xiu Xiu!” in their best raspy death metal voices.

A blaring whistle and jingle bells kicked off the next song as Stewart sang with a great deal of melancholy in his voice. The remainder of the set was very haunting and sad as McElroy played a somber flute and Hoff plucked and strummed the upright bass. Xiu Xiu seems to be a classically tortured band striving to make great music, but falling short of that during their live show. The lack of communication and sound between songs seemed to alienate the audience, evident as the crowd slowly dispersed before Xiu Xiu’s set was finished.

In an effort to alleviate the tension radiating from the stage, someone in the back of the room played a few pulls on a slide whistle, but it only worked for the few seconds of laughter that followed. A violently sad tune, on which Smith wailed and Stewart warbled, brought the crowd right back to uneasy. The last song I stuck around for (the awkward atmosphere was just too much to take), Stewart played percussion, driving home dynamic beats with a fast tempo; the songs with Stewart banging on the drum kit were much more dynamic and enjoyable than when he was brooding over his guitar.

If you’re a huge Xiu Xiu fan, be sure to catch them live, but for anyone else, I wouldn’t bother. I’d like to give the band the benefit of the doubt – maybe they’d received some terrible news just before getting on stage, or maybe they’d had a falling out that day – but the tension on stage was far too distracting to create an enjoyable show. Stick to listening to Women As Lovers on your iPod. That’s something I can get behind.

more @ flickr

Xiu Xiu: website | myspace
Thao Nguyen: website | myspace

[where: 2125 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103]

A Fine Frenzy – World Café Live, Philadelphia Pa.

I had to go an jinx myself. The very first time I’d announced an interview ahead of conducting it, it goes awry. I’d been told to show up at World Café Live at 6:30PM last night to meet up with Alison Sudol, or perhaps you know her as A Fine Frenzy. She’d been told to expect me at 5PM, wherein laid the problem. Needless to say I was bummed, and apologize if you are, too, but from here on out, I will not be announcing interviews ahead of time. They’ll just be presents that pop up randomly, so I don’t go jinxing myself, again. Interview or not, A Fine Frenzy put on a smashing show.

Sudol was joined on stage by Jesse Seibenberg on drums, guitar and glockenspiel and by Steven LeBlanc on keyboards, bass keyboards and acoustic guitar. The trio created seamless and beautiful melodies for a sold out crowd downstairs at World Café Live. A warbly echo sounded against a stage awash in the glow of purple spotlights as the audience waited in anticipation for Sudol to arrive on the stage. She walked out to a roar of cheers and simply sat at the bench of the white baby Grand piano and launched into the melodic first track on her debut Cd One Cell in the Sea, “Come On, Come Out.” Her beautiful alto voice resonates throughout the venue as she finishes her first song, grinning from ear to ear at the audience’s warm reception.

Sitting behind the piano in a dark blue, v-neck jersey dress, complimented beautifully by her radiant red locks, Sudol turns to the crowd and declares with a smile,” Hello, Philly! Oh, we’re going to have fun tonight!” She then goes straight into a strong and powerful ballad that displays her vocal range and ends with very sexy, breathy vocals, a style found throughout the set.

“Last of Days” receives happy cheers from the crowd and Sudol’s intense focus on her piano playing shows her unwaivering love for music. While Sudol’s skill as a pianist is unparalled (she’s self-taught), the synthesizer, played by Steven LeBlanc, didn’t always mesh well with the sounds being pounded out on the piano. The beauty of Sudol’s melodies was often fighting to be heard over ugly and nasally synth parts.

Sudol moves easily between happy pop songs and ballads filled with the melancholy of lost love, keeping the audience’s attention fixed solely on her. Halfway through the set, Sudol swaps out her piano for just a microphone and encourages the audience to be as loud as possible to keep her energy booming as she explains that she’d taken melanonin the night before, slept until 3PM and was still feeling the herbal supplement’s effects, even six hours later. The audience was happy to comply as Sudol began to shuffle around the stage dancing.

She tells the crowd that for this, her first headlining tour, she and her backing band decided to play some cover songs and had fans vote on what they should be. I am a huge sucker for cover songs to begin with, but as Sudol was explaining the Death Cab For Cutie song she was about to sing was a beautiful view of love, I waited with baited breath for her to sing what I knew had to be “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” my favorite Death Cab song. Sudol, accompanied by LeBlanc and Jesse Siebenberg, launched into a jazzy and fast-tempo version of the love song, which would have made Ben Gibbard more than proud, and probably humbled. As she finishes her gorgeous rendition of the song, she pauses before saying, “I love Death Cab, right?!” (watch it on YouTube, actually from the SanFran show, but just as gorgeous!)

A brand new instrumental track that has “never left my living room before this tour” followed. It was a soft and hopeful melody that left the audience in a silent awe. Sudol promises to “bojangle” the audience back to life before belting out the synth-laden “Liar Liar.” This hugely upbeat and rhythmically well-crafted tune made me understand why Virgin Records was so quick to snatch up the now 22 year-old Sudol. On the next song, Siebenberg produces heavy drum beats as Sudol sings as if she has marbles in her mouth over melodic keyboards. She follows with telling the audience to sing along with the beautiful and deeply emotional “Almost Lover,” a song she wrote at just 19. The set finishes with “Rangers,” featuring the mimicking of horse hooves by Siebenberg on the drums.

Sudol, LeBlanc and Siebenberg exit the stage upon completing “Rangers,” but wait no more than 45 seconds before coming back out as the crowd demands an encore. Sudol introduces LeBlanc and Siebenberg before dedicating the first song of the encore to friend and former tourmate Rufus Wainwright, who also covers the song she was about to sing. What follows is the most beautiful version of The Beatles‘ “Across the Universe” to have ever been sung. At the risk of having John Lennon roll over in his grave, Sudol belted out a gorgeous and amazing cover that blows the original away, entrancing the crowd until Sudol encourages her fans to sing along with the final chorus. (watch on YouTube, again from SanFran)

While I would have been delighted to have such a wonderful set end with such an amazing song, A Fine Frenzy treats her fans to three more songs. Sudol sits at her piano and explains that because loves playing in Philadelphia since the crowd is so wonderful, she and the band decided to add a song to their set. She then serenades the crowd with “Whisper,” a plucky acoustic number followed by “Near to You.” The final song of the evening was a brand new one titled “What I Wouldn’t Do,” which Sudol says will appear on the next record or will be released by itself. Sudol enters new territory with her new song, picking up an acoustic guitar to accompany Siebenberg on his guitar for the tune. “What I Wouldn’t Do” has a folky, almost country, feel to it as Sudol sings, “My heart was ticking like a bomb in a birdcage / And I left before anyone got hurt.”

Following the show, Sudol sat at her merch table to meet the audience, sign autographs and take pictures with fans. She was an absolute sweetheart and a pleasure to meet. A Fine Frenzy puts on an amazingly gorgeous show that you ought to make it your business to see. Three American dates remain before Sudol and co. head to Europe, check ’em out below!

Tour Dates:
Mar 31 – Bluebird Theatre/Denver Co.
Apr 01 – Avalon Theatre/Salt Lake City Ut.
Apr 03 – The Roxy Theater/West Hollywood Ca.
09 Apr – Point Ephemere/Paris FR
10 Apr – Botanique/Brussels BE
11 Apr – Motel Mozaique Festival/Rotterdam NL
13 Apr – Stage Club/Hamburg DE
14 Apr – Frannz Club/Berlin DE
15 Apr – Stadtgarten/Cologne DE
16 Apr – 59 to 1/Munich DE
18 Apr – Kaufleuten/Zurich CH
20 Apr – The Joiners/Southampton UK
21 Apr – Zodiac/Oxford UK
23 Apr – Komedia/Brighton UK
24 Apr – Carling Islington Academy/London UK

A Fine Frenzy: website | myspace | book club

[where: 3025 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104]

Ra Ra Apollo – Spring Mix

Mixtape for springtime!

Track List:

The Polyphonic Spree – Light and Day/Reach for the Sun
The Raconteurs – Yellow Sun
Rilo Kiley – Hail To Whatever you Found
Mike Doughty– Fort Hood
Tilly and the Wall – Love Song
Belle and Sebastian – Song for Sunshine
Matt Costa – Sunshine
The Elected – Sun Sun Sun
Great Lake Swimmers – I Will Never See the Sun
Super Furry Animals – Hello Sunshine
Iron & Wine – Sunset Soon Forgotten
The Polyphonic Spree – It’s the Sun

-Nick Davis

The Apples In Stereo – Electronic Projects for Musicians

“We are The Apples In Stereo you hear our records on the radio / We are The Apples In Stereo you hear up rockin’ out the rock and roll show.”

What you hear coming out of your speakers isn’t what you’d expect from The Apples In Stereo if you saw them walking down the street. No, if you saw this group of men walking down the street you’d be more likely to think they were in town for a teacher’s convention or maybe even a science fair! Instead, you get almost the opposite side of the spectrum: you get a band of guys making indie-pop music that many other bands in the genre should be quite jealous of. With catchy beats and even catchier lyrics they are definitely a band that is going to take you by surprise if you’ve never heard of them before, or most certainly not let you down with their newest venture Electronic Projects For Musicians if you’re a long-time fan.

A little back-story for you new fans, because I’m sure even if you weren’t one before, you’re going to be after listening to their latest album. The band has been around in two forms for the better part of sixteen years now, forming in 1992 in it’s first incarnation as simply The Apples. Around this time Robert Schneider, vocalist and guitarist of the band also helped to form The Elephant 6 Recording Copmany. In June 1993, The Apples had their first release, the EP Tidal Wave. Since their original forming as The Apples they’ve gone through some line-up changes. Co-founder Christ Parfitt left after Tidal Wave, and later, original drummer and now ex-wife of Schneider, Hilarie Sidney left to focus on family and her other music projects.

This in no way hindered the bands efforts. They eventually settled into the the name The Apples In Stereo. Jim McIntyre, the band’s sometimes bassist during 1992-1994, was quoted as saying “It’s cool the name changed cause The Apples and The Apples in Stereo were really two different entities.” The bands sixth studio release, New Magnetic Wonder, finished off their deal they’d signed with the now defunct spinART records and the LP was the primary release on Elijah Wood‘s record label Simian Records.

The lyrics are just as catchy as ever, including their own theme song and a little
snippet of a reference to Schneider’s show off with Chris Funk of The Decemberists. It’s an easy to listen to collection of music that ranges from upbeat songs you can laugh and have a good time with or just sit back and relax and enjoy listening to. The group of songs they choose to release is definitely not something to pass up listening to! “On Your Own” would make anyone want to dance around their living room, whether alone or with a best friend. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the aptly-titled “Dreams,” a slow-paced song that’ll make you feel like you’re simply floating through life, just like you’re in a dream.

Electronic Projects For Musicians is a collection of rarities and b-sides set to be released by The Apples In Stereo on April 1st, 2008 and I am 100% behind doing whatever you have to to acquire this record.

The Apples In Stereo: website | myspace

-Hanna Marie