When mp3 Saved The Day



Last weekend, I did something that is totally at odds with what Download Central is supposed to do. Instead of sitting at my computer and scouring the Internet for downloads or streams of new music, I actually went out and watched a rock band performing live. The gig was at Delhi’s kitschy Hard Rock Café (but then aren’t all HRCs meant to be kitschy?) and the band was Hurricane Bells who hail from Brooklyn, New York.

SOUND CHECK New York-based band Hurricane Bells played at The Hard Rock Cafe in Delhi last week

SOUND CHECK New York-based band Hurricane Bells played at The Hard Rock Cafe in Delhi last week

It was a big mistake going for the show. No, I don’t mean the band play bad music. They don’t. In fact, they’re quite good. Before going I’d heard five tracks from their only album, Tonight Is The Ghost, and had particularly liked a couple of them, notably, The Cold Has Killed Us, and was looking forward to seeing them. As it happened, the band played several songs, including The Cold Has Killed Us, which frontman Steve Schiltz even said was one of his favourites.

Then why did I regret going for the show? It was because the acoustics at the venue were abysmal. I don’t know who did the sound but standing there with a gaggle of people, the music sounded unsharp and muddy. Schiltz plays a mean guitar and switches quickly back and forth between songs from his electric one to an amped-up acoustic; the band’s drummer is obviously talented; and so is the bassist. Yet, their sound came through as blurred and underwhelming.

I left the concert and heard Tonight Is the Ghost on my iPod. The mp3s sounded many times better than the live sound at the Hard Rock Café. Pity, because Hurricane Bells are a band that’s fun. It’s actually a new project from Steve Schiltz, frontman, guitarist and singer of the indie rock band, Longwave, a heavy guitar-based outfit that has been around for more than a decade.

SCREAMING GUITARS Indie rock band Longwave deliver an enticing brand of no-nonsense rock

SCREAMING GUITARS Indie rock band Longwave deliver an enticing brand of no-nonsense rock

Hurricane Bells have a much mellower, moody sound and remind me of albums by The National. Schiltz’s guitar on the album is more muted but live at the HRC, despite the disastrous acoustics, you could get a sense of his screaming potential.

The Hurricane Bells also played at another venue in Delhi. I’m not sure how it went there as I couldn’t risk wasting another night listening to good music slaughtered by bad audio arrangement. Instead, I spent that evening listening to Longwave’s 2008 album, Secrets Are Sinister. I’d read mixed reviews for this album. PopMatters had praised their robust sound but the ultra hip Pitchfork had called it a lame album, virtually saying that it aped super-rockers, U2, and gave it a miserly 4.8 (on 10). After listening to the album, I have my own take on Longwave. I think they deliver an enticing brand of no-nonsense rock with solid bass-lines, screaming guitars and nice vocals. You can check them out at their website. Sure, the guitars are mixed a bit high and you can hear a bit of U2, a bit of The Killers and some other familiar influences, but what’s bad about that?

I do like experimenting with new music (if you happen to have read this column before that is no secret!) but sometimes you need familiar stuff to ease you through certain activities such as exercising. Unlike many other fortunate people, I cannot run without listening to music and, I’ve noticed, my run is as good as the music I’m listening to is. So getting the ideal playlist is often the key to a good run.

FAMILIAR TERRAIN Morrissey’s albums never fail to keep me going

FAMILIAR TERRAIN Morrissey’s albums never fail to keep me going

I’ve tried using the shuffle function on my iPod so that songs are delivered in random order while you run but it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve had Pearl Jam followed by Cat Power followed by The Divine Comedy and my run has gone all awry. I mean I have nothing against any of these musicians but Eddie Vedder’s Gonna See My Friend, followed by Cat Power’s brilliant but (‘Satisfaction’-less) rendition of the Rolling Stones’ classic, closely pursued by The Divine Comedy’s Generation Sex can be great to listen to while doing nothing much more than sitting back and relaxing with a drink or three but running? Sorry, it doesn’t work.

So I’ve discovered a three-band formula for my running playlist: any album by The Kings of Leon, any album by The Hold Steady and/or anything by Morrissey or The Smiths. It never fails to keep me going. Does anyone else have favourite running playlists? I’d be glad to hear about them.

THREE TO TANGO

  1. Talking Heads Live, 1983: You may or may not love them but this is a great full-length concert from the band at its peak.
  2. Which One of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer: by Blockhead, a NYC hip-hop producer from his latest album. Try it.
  3. Nummer 3: Truth be told, I liked this song because of the name of the band: Kiss The Anus of A Black Cat. Folk music with a twist.?

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