My latest obsession is with a brand new, one album old band that I must confess I could have missed totally because of the genre that it has been classified in by many smart-alecky critics. I’m not a huge fan of electro-pop and definitely not a lover of gratuitous use of synthesizers and that other abomination, the drum machine, which belts out meticulous artificially put together beats, with little or no human touch. I mean how can you substitute the thwack of wooden sticks on skin or hand-wielded strikes on cymbals with something that a machine vomits out with irritating precision? Read more
There are some things that immediately come to mind when you think of Milan. Fashion is one—everyone appears to be better dressed than you. Everyone. Food is another—if you’ve eaten Milanese risotto cooked with saffron and beef marrow or the cotoletta alla Milanese or just tasted the gorgeous gorgonzola cheese that the city boasts of, you’ll know what I mean. There are some things that probably never come to mind when you think of Milan. A blues band would be one of them. So, while listening to a recent episode of the Bandana Blues podcast, put out weekly by a maverick duo, Beardo and Spinner, I heard a great blues song that was attributed to Family Style, an Italian blues band based near Milan. I was surprised. Read more
I have had an album, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog, by Sweden’s Jens Lekman for a number of years. But I never did really listen to it much. True, he is easily one of the more prominent members of a growing bunch of contemporary Swedish pop musicians (think of Peter Bjorn and John, The Radio Dept., Tallest Man on Earth and so on) and his songs are often romantic and have wit, self-deprecation and interesting lyrics, albeit with quirky twists, but for a while it was as if I’d rather listen to Scotland’s Belle & Sebastian or even Morrissey for that kind of stuff than the Lekman album. Read more
Alright, I’ll get straight to the point. Here’s a shameless plug for the plush, quarterly version of this magazine. If you haven’t seen Brunch Quarterly, I’d urge you to pick up its second issue, which came out last week and may still be on the stands (if, and I am sure I am wrong, it hasn’t sold out). When you get hold of your copy, flip quickly to a story on new fitness techniques and you’ll encounter three fellows who specialise in instructing three new regimens—CrossFit, TRX and Muay Thai. Instructing is the wrong word. Punishing is more like it. Here’s a disclaimer: I know two of these fellows a bit more intimately than I should have. They trained (or, rather, punished me) and one of them continues to do so, for at least four times a week. After every session, I am nearly dead, wrung out and, sometimes, close to tears. But I go back for more. It’s a strange addiction. Read more
It is likely you may not have even heard of S Carey, leave alone heard his music. I hadn’t a clue who this guy was till I accidentally caught a set by him and his band at a free live gig in Brooklyn recently. Carey (whose real name is Sean Carey) plays the drums with a flair that shows his influences – shades of percussive jazz. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Carey has been surrounded by music all his life (he’s probably still in his twenties) as a son of a music teacher in Wisconsin. His set was full of brooding, inward-looking tracks, made all the more deep by his bandmate Mike Noyce who adds layers of low-frequency string sounds on an upright viola. Carey, who self-released his debut album, All We Grow, this year, plays what you could call chamber pop with a touch of folk music and a non-intrusive, ambient nature. Read more
If there is one band that has steadfastly stuck to its indie-ness, despite huge success and critical acclaim, it is The National. Till last week, the Brooklyn-based band of some 10 years or so had four full-length albums out, two of them – Alligator and Boxer – catapulting them to popularity (make that popularity in indie terms and not multi-platinum sales). Read more
I have gushed before about The National’s Matt Berninger and his deep baritone voice and their songs with highly literate and intimate, if a bit self-absorbed, lyrics. The two albums of the Brooklyn-based band that I like—Alligator and Boxer—do routine overtime on my playlists. I like the sad (yet not soppy) undertone in many of their songs and the nice dose of intellectualism and wit. It would be fair enough to say The National is among my favourite bands.
I don’t know how many people read this column regularly (four, perhaps?) but ever since Download Central began a little over a year back, I’ve heard one common response: “Why do you write about bands that we’ve never heard of?” This has become such a refrain that I’ve often felt a twinge of self-doubt. Am I really writing about completely obscure bands that no one knows or cares about? If that was indeed true, what was the point of writing the column?
A friend called up the other day to say he remembered me because he was in London and had just gone for a concert where Seun Kuti and his Egypt 80 band had played. “You wrote about Seun, remember? I just caught his concert and it was fabulous.”
I’m sure it was, I thought to myself, sitting here in the sweltering heat of Delhi where the mercury routinely hovers above the 40-degree mark during summer. Read more