Tag Archives: Jeff Mangum

Show Review: Neutral Milk Hotel at the Ithaca State Theatre

The scene at Ithaca State Theatre after the show.
The scene at Ithaca State Theatre after the show.

A few of us from the radio station took the three-plus hour drive yesterday in order to see Neutral Milk Hotel play their first show for their global reunion tour in none other than Ithaca, New York.

Before covering the show itself I’d like to say that this was my first trip to Ithaca and I walked away very impressed by the city. There seemed to be a plethora of places to hang out, and the less-urban surrounding neighborhoods didn’t seem to be overly effected by the social scene which the city could boast for the night. Bonus points for having a cool pizza place which offered irregular toppings and friendly costumer service (I was owed $11.93 in change and they gave me $12, things like that are incredibly appreciated in my eyes).

The theatre itself had a large orchestra setting and a balcony raised above it, and although the show was seemingly sold out it wasn’t to difficult to maneuver around, get to the bathroom, or buy a beer when we first walked in towards the beginning of Elf Power’s opening set. The staff at the theatre weren’t numerous but they were well placed and helpful, and I was surprised by how efficiently they worked their way through the beer line where they didn’t charge outrageous prices.

Neutral Milk Hotel probably took the stage around the 9:30 mark (sorry for the lack of covering Elf Power, I enjoyed their set but I don’t have to much to say about it as I was pretty much just waiting for the headliner). The first thing that Mangum said to the crowd was to ask them if they’d like to stand, which was responded to by every single person on the ground level raising to their feet and crowding the available space both in front of the stage and in the aisles. Once again this could have been disastrous for an affair which was supposed to be seating required, but the fans were awesomely respectful of each other and their surroundings so that I didn’t see anybody who was annoyed by this turn in events. It led to many there having a more enjoyable experience, and the security staff deserves a lot of credit in my eyes for allowing the crowd to go through this experience as they could have easily stepped in to shut it down.

Someone next to me got their hands on Scott Spillane's setlist from the show.
Someone next to me got their hands on Scott Spillane’s setlist from the show.

The full ensemble of the band included guitars, saws, horns, drums, and I’m sure many other instruments as there was a plethora of interchanging musicians taking the stage for the different songs, although for the more intimate tracks such as the first 2/3 of “Oh Comely” it was only Mangum on the stage with his guitar. It was obvious that the group had spent a lot of time rehearsing their set as every movement seemed perfectly calculated and in time, with numerous members joining the stage mid-song in order to make their instrument’s entry point without there ever being a miscue (at least none that I heard, I might have been to busy screaming with my eyes closed though). Scott Spilane was singing along with Mangum without a mic throughout the entirety of the show if there was no horn part, which I enjoyed  watching immensely, and Julian Koster would often have to frantically switch instruments mid-song but wore an immense smile through the entire affair. Koster also told the crowd that the band genuinely loved the town of Ithaca and their local record store Angry Mom records, which I’ve been told is a fantastic store but I can’t speak for personally.

The show was a truly great experience and the band still looked very capable of playing their material, to be honest I expected them to be more rusty than they were but the show felt like I was seeing them in 2002 in a world where they never went on hiatus. Post-show Scott Spillane was a very friendly man and an incredibly easy autograph to get, it was very appreciated by me to be able to walk away from the show with a crumpled up memento.

Yay for legible signatures!
Yay for legible signatures!

Arriving back in Albany at 3 A.M. and waking up at 8 for the work day was a hassle, but one that I and everybody else in the car were more than willing to accept in order to see this show. It was awesome, and the added energy and complexity of the full band made the show much better than a show which I’d already enjoyed immensely last year when we saw Mangum play solo at Mass MoCa. If you get a chance to see them on this tour I’d highly recommend it, just don’t be afraid to sing along! (I was surprised how many in the crowd wouldn’t dance or sing even during songs like “Holland, 1945″ and “Song Against Sex”)

P.S. If you were at the show and disappointed by the lack of closure on Julian’s joke, I’m pretty sure I know it because I tell a similar joke that I learned online. There’s a man with an orange for a head at a bar, and another man sees him and asks bartender how it happened. The bartender tells him that it’s a good story, and the man will probably tell it to him if he offers to buy him a beer.

He does and the man with the orange-head thanks him, and begins to tell this story

I was walking on the beach one day and I saw this lamp. I picked it up and rubbed it to see a genie come out and appear right before my eyes, and the genie proceeded to tell me that I had freed him from his trap, and thus he would grant me three wishes.

First, I wished for all of the money I would ever need, and poof, I looked down at my wallet and it was full of cash, jewelry, and deeds to houses.

I was glad to have all this money, but I decided that it wouldn’t be worth much if I didn’t have anyone to share it with, so second I wished for the love of my life. Not a few seconds passed and out of the sea walked the most beautiful woman I’d ever met laid eyes on, and the genie proceeded to marry us right on the spot.

At this point the man pauses and takes a sip from his drink and says

You know, I’ve been thinking this over and over in my head, and I’m pretty sure that this is where it all went wrong for me.

For my third wish, I wished I had a big orange head.

Thanks for reading everybody!

Kyle’s Best of 2013

2013 wasn’t an amazing year for music, but a lot of cool things did happen. There were artists who re-emerged on the scene in Daft Punk, My Bloody Valentine, Boards of Canada, and The Pixies, and then there was a movement headed by Daft Punk and Arcade Fire to try and revive disco in a modernized way. The reason for my semi-disappointment is that a lot of the artist’s efforts this year to set a new standard for their peers failed in my eyes to create something overly significant and lasting (with one exception). Motives aside, and favoritism thrown out the window, here are my top 25 albums to get released in 2013

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25. Of Montreal- Lousy With Sylvianbriar

Release Date: October 08, 2013

Grade: B

I’m really interested to know if this album’s stripped down and more accessible approach was a choice made by Barnes or his management. A part of me hates it because I view him as one of the most fascinating artists out there and really enjoy hearing what he creates when he tries to make electronic masterpieces, but Lousy With Sylvianbriar serves as a reminder to earlier Of Montreal days when he made his living off making pretty pop songs and displayed his thoughts in a less bizarre way.

Track Pick: “Triumph of Disintegration

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24. Thee Oh Sees- Floating Coffin

Release Date: April 16, 2013

Grade: B

One of the better noisy rock albums that came out this year, Thee Oh Sees is a band that must be an absolute blast to see live and tries to capture that energy on the album. When that does happen it’s an awesome thing to hear, but it happens inconsistently as interest tends to fade during the second half of the album, but there are some gems on it like the one suggested below in “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”.

Track Pick: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster

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Afraid of Heights

23. Wavves- Afraid of Heights

Release Date: March 16, 2013

Grade: B

I like listening to Wavves because their music is fun, and that’s why Afraid of Heights gets mentioned here despite it’s struggle to be substantial. They can do much better than this and have shown potential to write interesting songs, but they haven’t quite gotten to their peak yet in my opinion and I’m hopeful that they do soon.

Track Pick: “Cop

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22. The National- Trouble Will Find Me

Release Date: May 17, 2013
Grade: B

The product was still good on Trouble Will Find Me, but it’s a difficult one to get inspired by because it sounds uninspired in comparison to the previous three releases. I do enjoy Berninger’s delivery and cadence in their music a lot though, and it appears that even a sub-par record by The National is a quality album when you compare it to it’s peers.

Track Pick: “Don’t Swallow the Cap

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peace-in-love-album-leak21. Peace- In Love

Release Date: March 25, 2013

Grade: B+

This was the debut album for the group and it was a great success by a lot of standards. Their sound has evolved already from their first EP, and In Love is a more consistent album than most bands will achieve in their entire discography, let alone on their debut. This group has a ton of potential but I still have some questions about which genre they ultimately gravitate towards, because they’re stuck in between pop and rock right now and that’s not a good place for them to be because they’re completely different approaches.

Track Pick: “California Daze

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Continue reading Kyle’s Best of 2013

Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 10-1

Here’s the finale: songs ten through one on my 100 favorite songs countdown.

10. Bob Dylan- Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind/ You coulda done better, but, I don’t mind/ You just kinda wasted my precious time/ But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

I adore Dylan as an influence, how could you not when so many of your favorite artists view him as an inspiration, but there’s only one song of his which actually stops me in my tracks. “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright” captures Dylan telling his girl that he’s leaving, and that he is doing it because of her. It’s the chance of getting hurt in the relationship that scares everyone, and Dylan goes through a bad one here where the girl “Just wasted [his] precious time”, and Dylan blames her for it because she didn’t do enough to try and make it work. Still, he makes sure to let her know that she doesn’t need to worry about what she’s done to him, because this is a risk that he knew about going in. He’s going to be able to get over this. There’s no desire to see her again, and he knows that she never really had the intention of hurting him in the first place, it just didn’t work out, and that’s alright.

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9. The Velvet Underground- Heroin

“Oh, and I guess that I just don’t know.

This list was made before the death of Lou Reed, but it’s difficult to not take that route while writing about it now. When Reed passed I had to learn about it through social media posts which took an overly symbolic approach to the subject, and as people re-explored his catalog they searched for the lyrics which suddenly looked more meaningful than previously thought. It’s cool that people found these connections, but I hated it because that overly-symbolic look wasn’t what Reed was about at all in my eyes. This wasn’t the man who tried to hide anything in his music, he was the guy who’d actually done it and wanted to let you how what it was. On “Heroin” we get a look at the the hope in the music alongside the gradual buildup and rush of the instruments which ultimately leads to the song’s ‘high’, but it never fails to fall back with what is in my opinion the best lyric that Reed ever wrote: “And I guess, that I just don’t know”.

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8. Animal Collective- Fireworks

“They’ve got two flashing eyes and they’re colored why/ They make me, feel, that I’m only all I see sometimes.”

There’s so much joy in “Fireworks” once you learn what to appreciate in it. The narrator is an observant and self-aware man who dreams one day of having a family he can take to the beach, to watch the fireworks. In his current life though he’s dealing with the same monotony as the rest of us and  he’s learned the routine of how to ignore the repeated questions and tasks he encounters every day. Instead he gets lost in thought about what he hopes for, he thinks about what his kid will think the first time that he sees the fireworks, and all the wonder that will be in his eyes at that point. But what if the child was color blind and just wasn’t able to comprehend what he witnessed? This view on experiential learning reminds him that what he views in the world is completely shaped by how he happened to view it when he was growing up, and leads him to think that “I’m only all I see sometimes”.

Continue reading Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 10-1

The Return of Neutral Milk Hotel

Yesterday, a little bit after noon, news started to spread that Neutral Milk Hotel had reformed and announced a tour. Neutral Milk Hotel is a band based out of the Athens, Georgia music scene that have released two albums: On Avery Island in 1996 and an album which is viewed as the best of all time by a few of us including myself at CDB, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in 1998. This album has a huge place in the alternative music scene as it both influenced the sound of some of the most successful alternative bands today and defined the genre from that point on for some of its listeners. Unfortunately Jeff Mangum, the vocalist for Neutral Milk Hotel, wasn’t quite ready for this to happen. He had to leave and break up the band, a situation that gets well described in this article by Slate Magazine from 2008.

Continue reading The Return of Neutral Milk Hotel