Live: Dirty Projectors Celebrate New Sonic Territories At Prospect Park

Dirty Projectors w/Wye Oak, Purity Ring
Celebrate Brooklyn! Prospect Park Bandshell
Tuesday, July 10

Better than: An album listening party.

There's a general struggle for artists with new records when playing a live show, especially before or on the day of the album release. In today's age of leaks and early preview streams, bands have to assume that some people will hear their newest release before coming to see them live. Similarly, they have to appreciate the fact that not everyone will be super familiar with their new material, and pepper in some old classics. Finding that balance can be tricky and it can take bands a couple of album cycles to get it right so that everyone has a great time with songs they love and songs that they will grow to embrace.

Or... you could go the Dirty Projectors route and just play your entire new album (minus one song) and pepper in only your most popular old cuts. At last night's Prospect Park Bandshell show, this strategy paid off royally for one very key reason: the band's newest album, Swing Lo Magellan, is their best release front-to-back, balancing their catchiest tracks with the type of tricky material that the band is known for (at least by those who listened to Bitte Orca past "Stillness is the Move"). Also helping matters is that the band is tight live; there was not a missed moment or note, and lead singer/mastermind Dave Longstreth kept the pace moving with some light banter. It left a lot of room in the brisk 16-song set (how often do you get to say that?) for tracks to move around as necessary.

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Pazz & Jop 2011: Michael Tedder On Fucked Up's Majesty, Danny Brown's Cunning Skills, And The Joy Formidable's Outro Power

To supplement this year's Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. Here, Michael Tedder breaks down his entire ballot, and along the way he talks about about the operatic heights of Fucked Up, the shredding ability of Annie Clark and Ritzy Bryan, and the power of the "boof."

Fucked Up, David Comes to Life (30 points): I was starting to get a sense of the way the wind was blowing for this year's roundup, and I'm generally aware that aggressive music, no matter how smart and inventive, has a ceiling for critical support. (I should point out that I submitted my ballot before the Spin endorsement.) So, just like I did last year with Titus Andronicus' The Monitor (I will not accept the idea that anyone this decade wrote a better album about America now, or a better album period than that), I went all in, points wise, to try to get my favorite album in to the top ten. Like last year, I failed, and I regret nothing. Anyway, people focusing on the intentionally confusing plot of this rock opera are not paying enough attention to the operatic arrangements (that term is not used as loosely as you imagine) Mike Haliechuk and company are offering up here, like some bizarre amalgam of Crass, Queen and Chavez. Also, I still don't know how Veronica died, and I'm surprised that in these #OWS days no one is discussing the working-class fatigue subtext ("those better days have passed us by") on display here.

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Q&A: Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner And Andy Stack On The Hype Machine, Touring For Almost An Entire Year, And Feeling Unworthy

A year ago this month, Wye Oak kicked off their 2011 with an opening slot for The Decemberists at Beacon Theatre. There was a snowstorm, and it was a pain in the ass to get home, but their set was a great kickoff to what's been, for the Baltimore duo, a great year. Their third album Civilian, a slowly revealing mix of slanted arrangements, dream-pop melodies and guitar riffs that sound like pixies getting sucked into jet engines, won them the best reviews of their career, and they've been touring nonstop. They've been around the world, covered Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana for the Our Band Could Be Your Life tribute show, and wrapped up the year with another Beacon opening set, this time with The National.

Singer/guitarist/songwriter Jenn Wasner has a complicated relationship with the hype machine. When I met with her and drummer/keyboardist Andy Stack for dinner at the end of December, the two were clearly wiped from a long year of taking advantage of their increased exposure. Still, they were very open with Sound Of The City about the toll this year has taken, the making of one of the year's breakthrough releases and their plans for the future—which include a solo set by Wasner, performing as Flock of Dimes, tonight at Shea Stadium.

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part V: Who Is Bon Iver, Again?

D.L. Anderson
That's ee-vayr to you, Nicki Minaj.
Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Greetings to you four from Bloomington, Indiana, a happening college town perhaps one or more of you have flown over at some point. It's the birthplace of Hoagy Carmichael and David Lee Roth, and the home of John Mellencamp and Jagjaguwar Records, a label which this year released an album called Bon Iver, Bon Iver that you may have heard of. Most critics liked it, some liked it a lot, Rosie O'Donnell wanted more, pop lovers and rockists alike united to sneer at the smoothness of his album's textures and its ostensibly outré signifiers (I prefer the first album, but am a sucker for the Bruce Hornsby vibes of "Beth/Rest"). At the time of writing, 317,375 music fans have purchased it—40,000 more than Fleet Foxes, 40,000 less than LMFAO. Yet once the album was nominated for several Grammys last month, lots of people microcasted their ignorance of this album on Twitter. Quickly, another person culled this proudly professed ignorance into a Tumblr called "Who Is Bon Iver?" A member of a long-dormant Australian DJ concern accused him of "selling out" for lending his increased profile to something so horrifying as a whiskey concern, even though the accuser's own group hypocritically endorses deadly mountain calamities.

So what happened? Did the Bro From Eau Claire break through, or is he still a secret? If you follow music on the internet with any regularity, you couldn't go a day without hearing about him, but if you don't, there's a good chance you don't have any idea how to pronounce the name, and wait, the white guy from Kanye's album made his own album and everyone loves it apparently? To Twitter! It's clear why Bon Iver in 2011, just like Arcade Fire in 2010, made ripples critically, popularly, and awardishly—they fit long-established rock tropes into a modern, gently hip, and well-executed form. And it's also clear that this is happening at a point when with very few exceptions, good weird rock music is the last thing you expect to hear released by a music label owned by a multinational corporation.

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part I: Was 2011 The Worst Year For Music Ever?

A number one song from 2011. Not really helping the year's case, this.
Welcome to the 2011 edition of the Sound of the City Year-End Critic Roundtable, an epistolary back-and-forth about the year in music between five observers of the medium: Tom Ewing; Eric Harvey; Nick Murray; Katherine St. Asaph, also of Popdust; and me. We'll be discussing the year in pop over the course of the next few days, in hopes that a few healthy arguments (nothing too knock-down, drag-out) ensue, and that even if we don't figure out any answers, we'll pose a couple of new questions as the calendar flips to 2012. As was the case last year, when music editor emeritus Rob Harvilla launched this initiative, we are totally ripping off Slate's Music Club, which is currently ensuing with five different music smarties. (Read 'em all!)

To start things off, I'll pose the question in the title, which spins off the query Rob posed at the close of 2010. That is to say: Was 2011 the worst year for music ever?

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The 10 Best Cover Songs Of 2011

Tell your children not to walk Wye Oak's way.
2011 was a year of looking back relentlessly, whether you were awash in Remember The '90s nostalgia or getting down at a New Kids On The Block show or watching Lady Gaga try to bring back the variety-hour era with her whacked-out Thanksgiving special. So it's not too surprising that there was a bounty of covers—whether as part of all-tribute-set live shows or attempts to goose sites' online traffic or just for, you know, fun—for the Sound of the City braintrust to choose from when putting together this list. Pop on pop, country on Gaga, and reggae on Seattle below.

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A Bunch Of Bands, Including The Incredible Wye Oak, Are Playing At The U.S. Open

Those of you who've decided to take in some Grand Slam tennis in Queens over the coming weeks might be surprised by the fact that at certain times during the U.S. Open you can catch musicians and other artists performing on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Highlights include the stellar Baltimore duo Wye Oak, which performs on the grounds this Thursday at 6 p.m., former Railroad Jerk/White Hassle frontman Marcellus Hall, who takes the stage on Labor Day, and the soulful Yes In My Backyard alums Ava Luna. (Full schedule here.) After the jump, a video of the "living statues" who will also be walking around the grounds in their bronzed/1930s-styled glory for your picture-taking convenience, provided that the weather doesn't get so hot again that their body paint won't melt off.

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Watch Videos From Last Night's Our Band Could Be Your Concert

Above, the ever-fierce Merrill Garbus (dba tUnE-yArDs) takes on Sonic Youth's "The Burning Spear" at last night's Our Band Could Be Your Concert, the multi-act musical tribute to the bridge between the DIY pioneers chronicled in Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life and indie acts of today. A few other clips from the evening--including a couple of Nirvana covers, in a nod to Azerrad's bio of the band--after the jump.

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Q&A: Ted Leo, Dan Deacon And Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner On Our Band Could Be Your Life, Bus Tours And Cherished Cassettes

Ted Leo; Dan Deacon; Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.
Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life is one of the definite accounts of the 1980's independent rock scene and the rise of alternative culture. But unlike many cultural historians, Azerrad has little use for nostalgia. When the Voice talked to him about the Our Band Could Be Your Concert--the 10th-anniversary celebration of the book, which takes place tomorrow--he was just as excited about the young bands playing on the bill as the icons getting honored. This concert isn't just about the past to Azerrad; it's about showing where indie rock came from and where it's going.

Expect the Bowery's green room at Bowery to be a bit of a mutual appreciation society, then, because many of the younger bands on the bill have credited Band with either exposing them to favorite acts or detailing the do-it-yourself, "anyone can be in a band" practical ethics of Black Flag, Fugazi and The Minutemen.

For our story on the concert, we talked to a few of the bill's most exciting young artists: electronic composer/dance machine Dan Deacon (who is covering The Butthole Surfers); Jenn Wasner of Baltimore quiet-loud duo Wye Oak (who are covering Dinosaur Jr.); and Voice favorite, era link and DIY veteran Ted Leo (who is covering Minor Threat). Of course, there was only so much room for their insights in the print edition. So for your reading pleasure, we have edited together, from three separate interviews, the artists' thoughts about finding inspiration and linking the past to the future.

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Wye Oak Kills Danzig's "Mother"

The Baltimore duo Wye Oak is one of this writer's favorite new bands of the past few years, thanks to sterling songcraft and the smoky, gorgeous voice of vocalist/guitarist Jenn Wasner. So it shouldn't be too surprising that when they covered Danzig's "Mother" for the AV Club's "Undercover" series, they absolutely nailed it, with Wasner's delivery giving the track just the right amount of menace. "Mother" has become something of a new standard, and with good reason; it's ominous and gurgly and, you know, fun to sing along with, especially if you keep in the freak-out at the end. A couple of other versions of the track, after the jump.

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