Category Archives: 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival

October 28, 2016 — “Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield

Allison Crutchfield

Allison Crutchfield

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield (2017, from the forthcoming album Tourist in This Town).

Allison Crutchfield is a Philadelphia-based indie rock/punk singer/songwriter. You probably know her twin sister Katie as the frontwoman of the amazing Waxahatchee. The most recent Waxahatchee record —Ivy Tripp was my third favourite record of 2015. When Katie had to pinch hit for Owen Pallett at the 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival, her hastily planned set was far and away my favourite thing of that year’s festival, and is among the top three things I’ve ever seen at Hopscotch. Read about that here.

You might also remember that the Alabama native twin sisters were in a band called P.S. Eliot. Both Crutchfield girls played the 2013 Hopscotch festival with their respective bands, but circumstances prevented me from seeing Swearin’. I was only able to see a few songs of the Waxahatchee set that year.

You may also remember that Allison was the front of a band called Swearin’. She’s stepped away from that band, at least for a moment. She’s on Merge Records now (same as her sister), and she’s set to release her solo debut early next year. Last week, Merge shared one of the songs from that album. This is that song:
“Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield

It’s a little punky, a little poppy, and even a little gothy. And it has enormous hooks. After the drum-heavy, fuzzy intro, the particular way the keyboards mix with the guitars and bass reminds me of Disintegration. Specifically, I’m reminded of “Fascination Street”. The chorus is big and bright with vocals way up front. All of that sets this apart from “Fascination Street”, but during the bridge, if you can ignore the drums, it sounds a lot like something that might have been on Disintegration.

I don’t know how the rest of the album sounds, but this is big and fun. Allison says that she went through a lot of life changes in the last two years. She says that big changes will often trigger a panic button, but that in the end, most people will emerge triumphant on the other side. That, apparently, is what her record is about.

Tourist in This Town will come out on January 27, 2017 via Merge Records. You can pre-order it here. The first 150 vinyl orders will come on opaque lavender vinyl.

In case you’re wondering, Katie did some vocals on three songs from this album, but not on this one.

For good measure, there’s also a video for the song:
“Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield

Recapping Hopscotch 15 Day Three

Saturday was the final day of the sixth annual Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh. I had a great time, and at the end of it all, I had a mixed bag of emotions. I was completely exhausted, but I was really happy. The last performance I saw ended up being my favorite thing from the whole festival.

I got my day off to a bit of a late start. The initial plan was to wake up at 8, have some breakfast, do some writing, call my friend Amanda, make it to downtown by 12, start the day party action at 12:30, meet Amanda at some point, and enjoy some daytime music with her before going to the official festival things.

I didn’t wake up until almost 10, skipped breakfast, rushed my writing, texted (instead of called) Amanda, and I didn’t make it downtown until about 1. In my haste, I ended up leaving my memory card back at the hotel, so I was limited as to what kinds of photos I could get. My camera has only a tiny bit of on-board memory, and I ended up not using it at all.

On the outdoor stage right next to the deck where I always park, Jenny Besetzt was playing. I saw them at the 2012 festival, and I liked them a lot. They list my home of Greensboro as their hometown, but they’re sort of from “all over”. I watched them and really enjoyed their set. I didn’t have much on my schedule, so I made it my plan to just wander around.

Amanda met me sometime around 2, we had some coffee, then we walked into and out of a few sets. Nothing notable. Eventually, we had some food at Beasley’s (for the second time in as many days), where I ended up running into some friends. Amanda considered buying a City Plaza ticket so she could see Dwight Yoakam, but in the end, she couldn’t justify the ticket price.

I knew that my night was set because I wouldn’t have to do very much walking. I was going to the City Plaza for X and Dwight Yoakam, then my plan was to spend the majority of the evening right behind the Plaza at Fletcher.

X was scheduled to start at 7:15, but they actually started at 7. There was a forecast for rain, and the skies were threatening. They said they were going to play as many songs as they could as fast as they could so Dwight Yoakam could get out there before the rain. They were great. I’m not a big X fan, and I don’t even know their stuff, but they played well, and the crowd loved it. They finished at about 8, and I assumed that Dwight Yoakam’s crew would rush things along. I went to grab a sandwich, and waited. And waited. And waited. Dwight and his band were scheduled at 8:45, but they didn’t hit the stage until almost 9.

I had already made up my mind that I was going to bail on Dwight Yoakam no matter what, because I wanted to see Ian William Craig, Elsa Ambrogio, and most importantly, Katie Crutchfield. They were playing back-to-back-to-back sets in Fletcher. If time permitted, I also wanted to see some of the Chelsea Wolfe set at Lincoln, but I really my plan was to stay put at the seated, quiet venue. And that’s exactly what I did.

Ian William Craig’s set was exactly what I thought it would be, but it was a little too sleepy for some of the audience. Vocal loops, tape loops, clicks and pops. After his set was over, he sat in the theatre for a bit with a drink, and I went over to say hello. As it turns out, he’s an Oilers fan. He told me that although he’d never played anywhere in the United States, he already knew about Raleigh because of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals. I knew that he was a native Edmontonian, but there was no reason to assume that he liked the Oil. That just made him a little cooler.

Elisa Ambrogio was next. I’d heard a few songs, but I didn’t know anything about her. I wasn’t even entirely sure what to expect. I knew that her music was sort of indie rock, sort of punk, sort of “experimental”, sort of weird. I always think of Julie Doiron as a reference marker. I saw her play a day party collaboration with Tashi Dorji, and it was, in a word, weird. So I had no idea what to expect. What we got was the “this is sort of like Julie Doiron” thing, and I really loved it. Her band played for about 45 minutes, but I would have loved to have seen another 45 minutes.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say again. Fletcher is a great venue, and there’s always an atmosphere of respect. It’s dead quiet in there except for applause. There’s no conversations in the audience, not really even any whispering. Except for the photographers who are working the event, very few people use any devices during the performance. No cell phones, no cameras. Nothing. This isn’t because the artist or the venue requests this. It’s just what happens organically at Fletcher. Two years ago, I made a pretty great video of Angel Olsen playing “Creator Destroyer” at her solo performance in Fletcher, but since then, I haven’t dared do anything like that. I see lots of great stuff at Fletcher every Hopscotch, but I’ve kept my phone and my camera in my pocket. Out of respect for the audience.

Katie Crutchfield wasn’t even on the original Hopscotch lineup. That Saturday midnight set was supposed to belong to Owen Pallett. He was also supposed to be the “improviser in residence” all weekend long. Unfortunately, he had a family emergency and had to back out at the last minute. Greg Fox stepped in as “improviser in residence” and Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) stepped in to fill Pallett’s Saturday night shift. The festival announced this on Wednesday, but I didn’t catch wind of it until Thursday night. Katie joked that she didn’t even know about until Friday.

Two years ago, when Waxahatchee played Hopscotch, I was delayed getting to that set, and I was only able to catch two songs. They were great, but I was really disappointed. This set was something special. It wasn’t the full Waxahatchee band. It was just Katie and an acoustic guitar. Because of the very late change to the schedule, I think a lot of people who would have loved this show didn’t know about it. Either way, it wasn’t as crowded in there as I thought it might be. However, as soon as Katie got started, I knew that we were in for something really special. She played for a little over an hour, and a nice mix of songs from each of her three albums, plus a breathtaking cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Greenville”.

The first Waxahatchee album —American Weekend(2012) is mostly solo, and the songs are great, but the production quality is pretty bad. On the 2013 album Cerulean Salt, the songs were bigger and a little less dark. And played with a full band. And the sound quality was exponentially better. That trajectory continued through this year’s Ivy Tripp. The new songs are big and loud. As big and loud as they are, though, when they’re stripped down to an acoustic guitar and Katie’s voice, they’re really beautiful. And all those older songs that are dark and sad are much more dark and much sadder. What’s even better is Katie’s voice. When she’s singing with full band, she howls and growls with a raspy voice. Solo, she doesn’t have to strain, and her voice is much prettier. I got caught up in the beauty of the songs, and I got a little teary-eyed. Okay. More than “a little” teary-eyed.

Over the last couple of years of Hopscotch, I’ve seen some really great things at Fletcher. Angel Olsen, Low, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. This Katie Crutchfield set topped all of those. In fact, it was my favorite thing of the whole festival. Waxahatchee (full band) will be touring soon, and I really want to see them, but this was a very special experience.

Although I could have headed over to catch the tail end of Jessica Pratt just around the corner at Kennedy, I decided to let the festival end on a perfect note. I couldn’t imagine anything putting me in a better place than that Katie Crutchfield set.

For the third night in a row, I walked over to the Pie Pushers pizza truck and got a slice before going back to the hotel. This morning I woke up to find myself back in the real world. 52 more weeks until Hopscotch 16.

Recapping Hopscotch 15 Day Two

Friday was the second day of Hopscotch, and it was filled with lots of great music, lots of great food, some surprises and a couple of disappointments.

I woke up to finish some writing, had some shitty complimentary breakfast at the hotel, then went to watch the Carolina Hurricanes have an informal practice. I always do this during Hopscotch. Then back to the hotel for a shower and a bunch of prep.

I’ve been wanting to check out Oak City Meatball Shoppe, which is only a block or so outside the Hopscotch footprint. Before I got started with my day party stuff, I had some lunch there, and it was good.

As is the case with every music festival, there were a few lineup changes, and some of them took place at the last minute. One of those changes was that Owen Pallett had a family emergency and had to cancel his appearance here. He was going to be the “improviser in residence” which means that in addition to a normal show, he was going to do a bunch of collaborative and improvisational sets with other scheduled artists. Most of that stuff takes place during the day party stuff. In Pallett’s place, the festival got drummer Greg Fox to step in. He’s from the black metal band Liturgy. I really don’t like black metal, but this guy is good.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Greg Fox

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Greg Fox

The first thing I saw was a collaboration between Fox and the ambient/dream/electronic musician Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. They played just one “song”, which was a 20 minute piece in which Fox just annihilated his kit while Cantu-Ledesma provided some fuzz, squeaks and white noise. It was pretty amazing.

Mamiffer day party show

Mamiffer day party show

The next day party show that I went to was another performance by Mamiffer. I liked their set so much on Thursday night that I wanted to take in another. It was as good, or maybe better the second time around. Same thing. Deep, dark noise. You feel it in your eyes. If you’re not ready for it, you’re probably offended and annoyed. A couple of people had wandered in there not knowing what to expect, and that was quite a shock to them.

Tashi Dorji playing with Elisa Ambrogio

Tashi Dorji playing with Elisa Ambrogio

Next up was Elisa Ambrogio, who was doing a collaborative set with Tashi Dorji. Again, it was improvisational. Creative and weird. I had no predictions about how that set was going to go. I’ve never heard Tashi Dorji, and only a little bit of Elisa Ambrogio. Still, this was different from anything I might have expected. “Acidjack” from NYCTaper was there to capature the performance. Those are his mics in my picture. Go here to hear the recording.

By this time it was about 4, and I had some plans to see a couple of other day party things, but I ended up not doing any of them. Just a lot of walking around, a few beers, and a lot of water.

In the dead time between the end of the day parties and the start of the City Plaza show, I went to Beasley’s for some food. The chicken is great and the mac and cheese is completely amazing.

After some more time-killing, I finally headed over to City Plaza. I had no interest in the first band, Tycho wasn’t on my radar, but I just wanted to get in there early to secure an excellent spot for TV on The Radio. The local band played a set that I didn’t pay much attention to. They were sort of a soul/funk type thing. If they played a couple of songs at your friend’s wedding, you might think they’re pretty good. Not my cup of tea, though.



Next up was Tycho. Again, they weren’t on my radar. Their blend of really accessible indie rock and electronics makes nice music for the masses. As one guy put it on Twitter, “One day, Tycho is gonna soundtrack one hell of a Diet Coke ad”. Or Bud Light. Whatever. They’re not offensive, they’re not bad. They just don’t excite me. During their set, they kept overloading the circuits, and they lost power two separate times. Which means that TVOTR got delayed a bit.

Kyp Malone of TVOTR

Kyp Malone of TVOTR

Finally, TVOTR came on. I’d never seen them before. I have a few of their records, and while I’m not a die-hard fan, I was looking forward to this more than anything else on the Friday roster. They’ve got much more stage presence than I was anticipating. Tunde and Kyp both bounced all over the place. I wouldn’t say that either of them is a phenomenal singer, but they hold their own, and what they may lack in pure skill, Tunde makes up for with charisma and Kyp makes up for with his guitar. I really enjoyed their set, and they really enjoyed the audience. Plus it’s been cool that those guys have been walking around downtown Raleigh all weekend long, taking in what the festival has to offer. Every time I turn around, I see one of them crossing the street.

Things kind of went pear-shaped after the City Plaza show. But it wasn’t a total loss.

I headed over to The Hive because I wanted to catch some part of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s set. I got there a little early to find that Greg Fox was playing. That wasn’t on the original schedule, but since I saw him earlier in the day, I knew that he was going to do something special. And he did. All he had with him was a snare drum, and somehow, he was putting on a badass show with just that. After a bit, he started doing something that completely had me in awe. He rigged his drum to trigger electronic sounds. Different sounds from different parts of the drum. It was really wild, and I loved it. As is always the case with the super-narrow The Hive, if you aren’t at the very front, you can’t see a thing. Luckily, they have a video monitor behind the bar. So I watched the set that way.

That ran a little long, and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma was supposed to start at 11, but didn’t start until about 11:15. He had some bassist with him who I feel like I should have recognized, but I didn’t. I watched the first song, which sounded a lot like something that would have been on Disintegration. I liked it a lot, but I had to go because I really wanted to see Mitski at 11:30 at Tir Na Nog. I walked over there, and it was already at capacity with both VIP and normal person lines stretching 20 deep. I knew there was no way I was going to get in there.

I could either go back to The Hive and not be able to see, or I could go to Fletcher, where I could sit in a comfy chair and catch the end of harpist Zeena Parkins’ set. Unfortunately, by the time I got to Fletcher, she was done. Natalie Prass was up next, and I watched a couple of songs, but I wasn’t into it.

It was getting late, and Roky Erickson was the only thing that I was even remotely interested in seeing. Unfortunately, it was way over at CAM, which is a venue that I hate. Also, it was about 8 blocks away from where I was and from where I needed to be at the end of the night. So I decided to pack it in. In what’s become an “end of every night at Hopscotch” tradition, I got a slice from the pizza truck parked outside Lincoln and went back to my hotel.

Although things fell apart at the end of the night, it was still a great day.

Recapping Hopscotch 15 Day One

It’s Hopscotch weekend again. My favourite weekend of every year. The only “vacation” that I take every year. It’s filled with tons of good music, a lot of beer, and seeing friends. This year, life is happening to a bunch of the guys who I normally hang out with all weekend long, and none of them were able to make it. This means that I’m flying solo for the weekend. So I’m much less likely to get talked into (or out of) seeing certain bands.

As is usual, I made a “perfect world” list of the bands that I want to see this weekend, and some of them involve scheduling conflicts. Some necessitate leaving sets early or staying put in a venue to ensure that I can get a spot. I did well this Thursday.

I had grand plans to arrive in Raleigh early today and partake of some of the day party stuff. I wasn’t early enough for that, but I was here well before the real festival started.

I started with a couple of fancy beers at Busy Bee while I waited for things to get going. A brief but heavy rain came through, which delayed the first show of the night over at the City Plaza main stage. The doors opened late for Ought/Godspeed. They got started about 20 minutes late, but it didn’t cause any problems.

Tim Beeler Darcy of Ought

Tim Beeler Darcy of Ought

Ought was a substitution for Deerhunter, who canceled a whole slew of late summer shows. The truth is that I wasn’t all that excited about Deerhunter anyway, and before I headed in, I thought that Ought was an upgrade. They played a good, energetic set, and they actually exceeded my expectations. Mostly stuff from the new record, which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit.



Next up in the outdoor City Plaza main stage was Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The Canadian post-rock icons have been going strong for more than 20 years,and they keep putting out great records. I’ve seen them three times before, and on a different blog I wrote very elaborate posts about the time I saw them in Chapel Hill back in 1999, and also the time in 2003 when I drove to Athens, Georgia to see them with a girl I met on the internet. Those are both some pretty crazy stories. If you have a few extra minutes, I invite you to read them. I saw Godspeed again in the autumn of 2012, and it was, as the other two times were, amazing.
Since Ought started late, Godspeed also started late. Not long after they started, another rainstorm rolled in. They had to move a bunch of their gear from the front of the stage further back, and that caused a small delay. They sounded good, but I was short on time, and I had to leave after they’d been on stage for only about 45 minutes.



I stopped on my way out of the Plaza and got something to eat and made it over to King’s just in time for Wildhoney. Their album is locked into a year-end top five position at my house, and they were one of my highest priorities for the weekend. When I arrived, King’s was packed, but the crowd started to thin out, and I got a great spot. The band scorched their way through an incredible 25-minute set, taking no prisoners. They played well, and they owned the stage with their bouncy energy. As happy as I was to see them, I was a bit disappointed when they said goodnight at 10:25. Disappointed and confused. And it left me with a bunch of extra time on my hands, and I didn’t have anything circled until the Mamiffer set at 11:30. I had a bit of serendipity though, when I headed on over to Kennedy early.


Alexandra Drewchin (Eartheater)

I arrived there at about 10:50 during what was supposed to be a set by John Chantler. He wasn’t on my radar at all, but when I got there, it was obvious that the person on stage wasn’t John Chantler. He had a travel visa issue, and was replaced by New York experimental/synth-dream pop artist Eartheater. I still don’t know anything about her, and it wasn’t until her set was over that I even learned who she was. I loved her set, but I was confused the whole time. That was the bit of serendipity.



Next up was Mamiffer. This was one that I was really looking forward to, and there was no disappointment there. It was much louder than I thought it would be. Not super-noisy, but the sound was really deep. The kind of low-end loud that makes the whole room vibrate, and you feel it in your teeth and bones. Although I had high expectations, I liked it even more than I thought I would. And now I’m much more keen on taking in their day party set Friday afternoon at King’s. There’s a bunch of cool stuff going on at King’s, as there always is.

I ditched the initial plan, which was to see 25 minutes of Mamiffer and leave early so I could see 15 minutes of Jenny Hval. I was enjoying it so much, I stayed for almost the entire Mamiffer set. I left just a little bit early because I wanted to give myself time to get to Bully. That was another one that was a very high priority for me, and since the venue is small and narrow, I wanted to get there early. It didn’t matter. I was there early, but the venue was at capacity. One in-one out. The VIP line was about 12 deep, and the “regular person” line was about 20 deep, but it wasn’t moving at all. It wasn’t going to happen with or without a VIP wristband.

Battles drummer John Stanier

Battles drummer John Stanier

With great disappointment, I moved on to plan B, which was to see Battles at Lincoln. My friend Bill, who couldn’t make it this year, had been urging me to see Battles instead of Bully anyway. Lincoln was also at capacity, but the line moved quickly, and I was inside before their set started. I’m not a Battles fan, but my friend Bill is a huge fan, so I was really there for his sake, and to satisfy my curiosity about their drummer. John Stanier played drums for Helmet from 1989 to 1998. His trademark is that when he plays with Battles, his ride cymbal is about 6 feet off the ground. I didn’t believe it when I heard about it, but it’s really something to watch him play that kit. Unfortunately, about three or four songs in, I started to feel weak and a little light-headed. Instead of trying to fight through it like I did two years ago during Spiritualized, I heeded my body’s warning signals, and I got out of there, got some food, got some Gatorade from my car, and called it a night.

It was a long day and a very good day. I’m upset that I didn’t get to see Bully, and I was disappointed that the Wildhoney set was so short, but a couple of sets surpassed my expectation of them, and Eartheater was a surprise that came out of nowhere. Today will be full of day party action, but the night schedule isn’t as packed for me as it was last night.

At the end of the day, my favorite thing so far has been Mamiffer.

09.09.2015 — “Either Or” by Ian William Craig

Ian William Craig

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Either Or” by Ian William Craig (2014, from the album A Turn of Breath).

Ian William Craig is an ambient/experimental singer and visual artist from Vancouver. The 35-year old was born in Edmonton and is a classically trained opera singer. He’s not making opera records though. He makes stuff that’s in the same vein as Julianna Barwick. Lots of vocal tracks piled on top of each other and looped and manipulated. There’s some guitar, and some other custom-built instruments, but it’s mostly vocal loops. In the end, there’s a surreal soundscape that mimics a state of semi-consciousness. Confusion. Placidity. Am I in a dream?

Last year, Mr. Craig released an album called A Turn of Breath via Recital. A lot of people are mistakenly referring to A Turn of Breath as Craig’s first album. In fact, he’s self-released four other albums, and one release which could only fairly be called an EP. Two of those albums — Heretic Surface and Cloudmarks— are considered to be “sister albums”. They were recorded during the same sessions and were both released on the same September day in 2012. Special custom instruments were built and manipulated expressly for those albums, and this is how he describes the process:

The finished pieces were constructed out of improvised recordings using these instruments and layered live deteriorations of the resulting sessions over great stretches of gloam and blown-out headphones. During this process they were put down to quarter-inch tape on top of themselves a few too many times and came spiralling out…

I had never heard of this guy until the 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival lineup was announced back in the spring. When I started my festival homework, I quickly got captivated by the couple of dizzying songs that I heard. He’s playing on Saturday night, the last night of the festival. His 10:00 pm set is in the Fletcher Opera Theater, sandwiched in-between a set by Prurient and a set by Elisa Ambrogio.

Craig had some visa issues, and had to cancel a gig in Los Angeles back in August and another show in Seattle last Saturday. There was some talk that he might have to cancel his Hopscotch appearance too, but apparently those visa issues have been sorted, and Hopscotch will mark Craig’s US debut.

Here’s a song that I hope I get to hear:
“Either Or” by Ian William Craig

Sitting through that set in Fletcher, which is often kept a little too cool for my liking, I’ll most certainly be in a very relaxed state. I’ll stay put for the Elisa Ambrogio set, then head a couple of blocks down to Lincoln for the Chelsea Wolfe set. Then I’ll most likely end the festival at Neptune’s for the Flock of Dimes set.

The weather forecast has changed from “80% chance of rain” and “Thunderstorms” to “20% chance of rain” and “partly cloudy”. Although most of the Hopscotch stuff is indoors, there’s a lot of walking around from venue to venue, and rain makes that no fun.

You can see all of the ticketing options here. Remember, the day party stuff is free, and some of the same bands from the main festival will play smaller shows during those parties. See the day party lineup, which is totally subject to change here. I’ll be roaming around all day and all night all weekend. Find me somewhere, and make me buy you a beer.

09.08.2015 — “Alive in Dying History” by Lilac Shadows

Lilac Shadows

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Alive in Dying History” by Lilac Shadows (2015, from the album Brutalism).

Lilac Shadows is a post-punk quartet from Durham, North Carolina. I first learned about them three years ago when they played during the 2012 Hopscotch Music Festival. They’ll be playing again at this year’s Hopscotch. Every year, roughly 40% of the Hopscotch lineup is bands with local/North Carolina connections. This year, they’re playing Thursday night, which is the opening night of the festival. Their set starts at 9:00 over at King’s Barcade. At the same time, Godspeed You! Black Emperor will be in the middle of their headlining set on the outdoor main stage. The weather is supposed to be rotten this weekend, with thunderstorms predicted each night. That might make it much easier to decide whether to leave the City Plaza show in favor of the indoor stuff.

Lilac Shadows has released a couple of EPs, a split single with the Greensboro band Jenny Besetzt, and two albums. I don’t have any of these, but their new album Brutalism came out in February and has gotten a lot of praise locally. When I stumbled upon their Hopscotch show in 2012, I was blown away, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them again at this year’s festival. Even if I have to skip the second half of Godspeed.

“Alive in Dying History” by Lilac Shadows

Even though the drums are busy and decidedly NOT krautrock, there’s something about the driving, repetitive guitar lines that scream “motorik”. Other songs on the album have a different sound and feel, but this one is cold and dark. And I love it.

You can buy Brutalism via bandcamp here. Unfortunately, the limited edition vinyl is sold out, but of course you can still buy it in digital format.

For all of the different Hopscotch ticketing options, go here. Find me at some point over the weekend, and I’ll buy you a beer.

09.07.2015 — “Superstitious” by Elisa Ambrogio

Elisa Ambrogio

Elisa Ambrogio

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Superstitious” by Elisa Ambrogio (2014, from the album The Immoralist).

Elisa Ambrogio is an indie-pop/experimental singer/songwriter from Holyoke, Massachusetts. I only know a little bit about her:

(1)She used to be in a Hartford, Connecticut-based noise rock band called Magik Markers. I don’t know anything about that band, but they were/are on Drag City. Noise rock? On Drag City Records? I probably like them a lot. .

(2)She’s left-handed. Or at the very least, she plays her guitar left-handed.

(3)The Immoralist was her solo debut

(4)There isn’t much on the interwebs about her

Elisa Ambrogio is on the Hopscotch Music Festival roster, and when I started doing my homework a few months ago, I really liked this song, but I wanted to find out more about her before I wrote something. I haven’t been able to find anything out, but as I said, I really like this song and I’m very much looking forward to seeing her play.

“Superstitious” by Elisa Ambrogio

I like how dreamy and mysterious the song is, especially at the beginning. I like the very subdued drums. Towards the middle of the song, it starts to pick up a little bit of momentum, and way underneath the ethereal guitar loop sound, there’s just a faint hint of some serious noise. A little bit of feedback squall, but it’s quiet. You might not even notice it. Her vocals are nice, too. There’s a loop that’s used as the backing vocal, and then there’s her main vocal, which is her listing off a bunch of common superstitious things. Broken mirrors, the number thirteen, astrology, etc. She’s not worried about any of those things, but when it comes to keeping her lover close at hand, she’ll do whatever it takes.

I don’t see ghosts
I don’t believe in thirteen
I don’t throw the tarot
I don’t follow astrology
But I get superstitious
When i it comes to you and me
I cross my fingers baby
I touch every tree
I block the paths of black cats
To keep you loving me
Coz I get superstitious
When it comes to you and me

I could listen to this all day long.

The festival kicks off this Thursday night, and Elisa Ambrogio will be playing Saturday night at 11:00 in the Fletcher Opera Theater. I think this one is going to fly under a the radar for most people. Over the years, I’ve seen a couple of my favorite Hopscotch sets there (Angel Olsen in 2013, Low in 2013, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig last year), and it looks like I’ll be there a lot this year. Zeena Parkins and Natalie Prass both play there on Friday night, and a couple of other Saturday night options. You can still get tickets for the whole festival or for single days, or for single night “main stage only” shows. Details here.

The official video for “Superstitious” was directed by Naomi Yang of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi fame. Here that is:

You can buy The Immoralist via Drag City here.

09.06.2015 — “Endless” by White Cascade

White Cascade — Endless

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Endless” by White Cascade (2015, from the forthcoming album Endless).

White Cascade is a shoegaze trio from Raleigh, North Carolina. I wrote a post about them a year and a half ago after I saw them open for Ringo Deathstarr. The guys told me that night that they wouldn’t be playing shows for a while because they wanted to focus on making their debut album. That album is set to be released digitally tomorrow via Deep Space Recordings, with physical formats to follow. That label is a small North Carolina label with a lot of focus on vinyl issues of shoegaze and dream pop. Their roster includes LSD And The Search For God and Tears Run Rings, and they’re the US home for The Fauns. They also do distribution for some other things that are on other US labels. Check out their store, and see for yourself.

I got an email last night promoting the forthcoming White Cascade album, and also to announce that they’re a part of the Hopscotch Music Festival day party roster. The festival opens next Thursday and goes until Saturday night. 140 bands on the official roster, plus a bunch more playing day parties. The day party stuff is free. No wristband or ticket required. Those parties offer festival goers a chance to see bands who they might not be able to see at night because of scheduling conflicts. They also offer some bands who aren’t on the official roster. I’ve really enjoyed the day parties in years past, and I will again this year.

Today’s song is obviously the title track from the album, and it was released as a single a couple of months ago, backed with a remix of the song done by Bloody Knives

“Endless” by White Cascade

I love that it starts off dreamy and wispy, but by the middle of the song, there’s a whole lot of noise, and specifically a whole lot of low-end noise. As is usual, they completely wash Matt Guess’ (guitar/vocals) vocals in a ton of effects, so it’s nearly impossible to tell what he’s singing. At the end of the day, they’re not really focused on the vocals. It’s about the guitar noises. And it’s pretty magnificent.

White Cascade’s day party set will be at Legends Night Club at 4:35 on Saturday September 12. That’s a couple of blocks outside the footprint of the festival, but still walkable. Remember, all of the day party stuff is free, but festival tickets are still available here.

08.25.2015 — “Beautiful Blue Sky” by Ought


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Beautiful Blue Sky” by Ought (2015, from the forthcoming album Sun Coming Down).

Ought is a mathy post-punk quartet from Montréal, but not one of its members is even Canadian. They formed in 2012 when singer/guitarist Tim Beeler Darcy, (New Hampshire) joined forces with keyboardist Matt May (New Jersey) and drummer/violinist Tim Keen (Australia). They shared a living space and a rehearsal space together and were later joined by bassist Ben Stidworthy (Oregon). Inspired by the likes of Chicago emo/math/punk band Cap’n Jazz and its many derivations (Joan of Arc, Owls, American Football, Owen), the four guys played a show and recorded their first EP in their space.

They quickly gained some popularity in the Montréal DIY scene, got involved in some music collectives, and were eventually signed to the venerable Montréal label Constellation Records, which is anchored by post-rock stalwarts Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Ought’s first record More Than Any Other Day came out in the spring of 2014 and was met with critical acclaim. They quickly followed that with the Once More With Feeling EP in the autumn. They hardly wasted any time getting their sophomore long-player done, and it’s set to be released via Constellation on September 18.

When Deerhunter canceled all of their summer dates including the 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival, the Hopscotch organizers quickly got Ought to fill the hole in the lineup. And it works perfectly since that time slot was on the first night of the festival, opening for their labelmates Godspeed on the main stage. More on this in a bit.

A couple of the songs on the forthcoming album have been kicking around for a while, and this is one of them:

“Beautiful Blue Sky” by Ought

Right away, they take a chapter from a page from The Cure’s book. It’s probably not a deliberate homage, but the fact that there’s just over a minute of instrumental intro before the vocals kick in makes me think of nearly every song by The Cure. Ought doesn’t sound very much like The Cure, but I can’t help but think of them there.

Later in the song, I’m reminded of another band that Ought doesn’t sound like. I’m reminded of Slanted and Enchanted-era Pavement. In the chorus, Tim Peeler Darcy quickly repeats a few phrases several times. Maniacally, almost.

I feel alright (x8)
How’s the family (x4)
How’s your health been (x4)
Fancy seeing you here (x4)
Time and off again (x4)
Beautiful weather today (x4)

It continues on, and at some points, it kind of sounds like the rapidly repeated phrases are melding into something different. In that way, I’m reminded of “Conduit for Sale” by Pavement, in which Stephen Malkmus repeats “I’m tryin'” 16 times each time through the chorus after each rapid-fire, almost spoken-word verse. It’s a little nerve-wracking, and I can see why it would put people off. Even some Pavement fans are annoyed by that bit. At some point, though, it’s hard to tell whether Malkmus is screaming “I’m trying” or “I’m sorry”. And I’m certain that there’s an intentional blur there. We’re not here to talk about Pavement, though.

The song closes with the lyric

I’m no longer afraid to die
Coz that is all that I have left
I’m no longer afraid to dance tonight
Coz that is all that I have left

… which is at once hopeful and hopeless.

After that, there’s more than two minutes of instrumental outro, which takes a little bit of the edge off. In the end, it’s a really fantastic song from a great album.

Watch this video, which picks up this song as the last song of their set at the Paris Pitchfork Festival last year

You can pre-order Sun Coming Down via Constellation here.

With the lineup change, Ought will kick off the Hopscotch Festival, which is now just a little more than two weeks away. See the lineup here, the full schedule (subject to some last-minute changes) here, and get full ticketing info here.

08.13.2015 — “Lazerray” by TV On The Radio


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Lazzeray” by TV On The Radio (2015, from the album Seeds).
TV On The Radio is an indie rock quartet from Brooklyn. They formed in 2001 and have recorded five proper albums since then. Nine days after the release of their critically acclaimed 2011 album Nine Types of Light, their longtime bassist/keyboardist Gerard Smith passed away after a long battle with lung cancer. Understandably, the band took a break before getting back to work. In the autumn of 2014, they released their fifth album Seeds, which mysteriously fell under my radar.

I was really late to the TVOTR game, and Nine Types of Light was the first of their records that I got. Long before that, I had the chance to see them once, but I opted out when they played the now legendary tour with NIN and Bauhaus back in 2006. That’s one that I’d really like to have back. I’ll probably never get another chance to check Bauhaus off my bucket list.

Since I was so late to the game, I didn’t even know about their 2011 record until that year was over, so Nine Types of Light didn’t make my 2011 list. And because I let it fall under my radar, I didn’t know about Seeds until this year, which means that it didn’t make my 2014 list. It’s a great record, though.

Today’s song is my favorite song from that album:

“Lazerray” by TV On The Radio

I love its high energy, and its punky, grungy flavour. Kyp Malone’s falsetto backing vocals at just the right spots, Dave Sitek’s blazing guitar, and Tunde Adebimpe’s lead vocals all combine to make this an amazing head-bobbing, pogoing song.

For a lot of fun, check out the official video for the song. Note that this is the second time this week and the third time this summer that I’ve shared a music video with a lot of skateboarding in it.

I think it’s kinda brilliant that the skateboard party/TVOTR show was all in the kid’s head. It’s even more brilliant that his daydream begins when he takes his earbuds out. Not when he puts them in.

TVOTR was announced as one of the main stage headlining acts at the 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival, which takes place next month in downtown Raleigh. This means that for the first time ever, I really want to see all three of the main stage headliners. Actually, this is only the second year that they’ve had a main stage show on Thursday night, but my point remains that every year I’ve had interest in one night’s headliner show, but not the rest. TVOTR will be holding it down on Friday night, Godspeed You! Black Emperor will headline the main stage on Thursday, and Dwight Yoakam will have it on Saturday. I’ve seen Godspeed three times before, and they’re one of my very favorite bands. It’s always a great show. I’ve never seen TVOTR or the country legend Dwight Yoakam, and I’m excited that I’ll get to see both.
All-show and single day wristbands are still available. You can also buy tickets that only get you into the City Plaza (main stage) shows. See all the ticketing options here. See the Hopscotch schedule here. You can peruse the lineup here.

Out of curiosity, I looked for videos from that 2006 NIN/TVOTR/Bauhaus tour, and found this:

Peter Murphy clearly was not giving a damn. Doing nothing but smoking cigarettes and throwing rose petals. It seems like he couldn’t even be bothered to remember the words to his most popular song. Trent Reznor made some effort, but didn’t put much into it. TVOTR is doing a great job of playing the song, but for some reason, the whole thing falls terribly flat.

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