Parcels ~ Anotherclock Live @ Lollapalooza Afterparty, Berlin

Tiny Desk concerts give us a rare, unfiltered experience of an artists capabilities. Sitting just a few feet away, we’re keenly aware of imperfections, or more simply put, eager to point out what parts of a song don’t sound like the studio version. We lock onto what’s missing.

But sometimes, a good live performance reveals more than it entertains. As is the case with T-Pain’s Tiny Desk show, which shows that in the absence of autotune Buy U A Drank can be a luscious, tender melody. All that empty space, intimate and oxygen rich, brings the song to life.

Parcels, an Australian band living in Berlin, thrives at this sonic trick. With some dexterous hands on the keyboard, a steady rhythm section, and a groove that fuses Fleetwood Mac with Daft Punk, Parcel’s glittery synth-pop is hypnotizing. There’s no clutter, despite having five band members, Instead they’re slick, minimalistic, and brash – characteristics that are only amplified in a live setting.

Be sure to follow Parcels closely. Especially when they make their return to the U.S. And who knows… maybe a Tiny Desk concert is in their future.

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A Deeper Understanding of Who I Am

‘More of the same’ is a common musical chirp wielded by “the internet’s busiest music nerd,” Anthony Fantano. Eyes rolling, hands in the air, he’s used the label to dull releases from Future Islands and ODESZA, and despite the initial urge to rush to their defense, it’s hard to counter.

New Future Islands sounds like old Future Islands. ODESZA will always sound like metal clattering through a rain storm. The alternative, and what Fantano must be looking for, is musical reinvention, exemplified best by Childish Gambino, who with his most recent album, Awaken My Love, vaulted himself from nasally rapper to bonafide soul-king.

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The War on Drugs’ latest release, A Deeper Understanding (2017) is no sonic revolution. We hear the familiar sounds of dad rock – delay pedals, fuzzy guitars and Adam Granduciel’s crooning voice. Unsurprisingly, Fantano isn’t having it.  But having induced a nostalgic fervor with their last album, Lost In The Dream (2014), it’s possible that when it comes to The War on Drugs, more of the same is exactly what we want.

On A Deeper Understanding, frontman, Adam Granduciel, takes more musical risks and we travel further into the band’s sonic headspace, a place mired by pain.

“I met a man with a broken back / he had a fear in his eyes I could understand.”

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Many tracks surpass the six minute mark, a holy metric for classic rock songs with dizzying solos, easy to fill, but difficult to pull off.  Nonetheless, Granduciel goes for greater heights, unafraid to scrape the zenith of his guitar playing abilities.

But the true potential of A Deeper Understanding may be in its reception. Just warranting a review on The Needle Drop is an odd form of recognition – whether the review is good or bad, people notice. So much so that The War on Drugs are launching into the mainstream, inhabiting places like 107.7 “The Bone” and 98.9 WCLZ, where Granduciel will continue tapping into their main source of power – nostalgia.

Surf Pop – Jadu Heart, Mike Edge and Ralphswrld

Leave behind the more refined areas of San Francisco, havens for food bloggers and Instagram influencers, and you find Ocean Beach, a gritty slab of sand with graffiti-stained concrete. Located at the Western-most part of San Francisco, the drive is fifteen miles from the Fillmore McDonalds, and despite endless stop signs, it’s a joy to watch the city shed its formal, tech-centric self, for a more gritty visage. There are colorful houses, rundown cinemas, cheap Bun-Mi sandwiches and vintage stores like Gus’ Discount Fishing Tackle.

Even at the crack of dawn there are usually a handful of cars parked at Ocean Beach. A dusty Camaro, a rundown hybrid, and a gutted van sit with t-shirts strung up to the windows concealing something shuffling inside. Out in the water, a riptide hums, edging unsuspecting surfers towards tankers heading for Japan.

The community around Ocean Beach is strong. Cafe owners call you by name and Bob Wise, a feature in William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days, is eager to talk while he stacks boxes of five millimeter booties. Fishermen set up at the water’s edge, waders hiked up to their chest and a cooler of bait waiting patiently. Their translucent lines disappear into the surf, tugging at invisible fish.

OB is my anecdote to a long work week, or another news story about nuclear war and hell-fire. And for any drive you need a playlist. Some might expect Bangers and Mash (if coffee was a playlist, here’s how it would sound…), but with the windows down and a runway of stop signs, I don’t want fist pumping. I need guitar drenched in sun – apathetic surf tune-age that boils and pops, invoking the psychedelic and the free-wheeling.

Cautious Clay & Bonobo

To focus is to settle. To arrange experience into molecular parts, packable, like boxes arranged in a closet. To focus is to let go. To release arbitrary details and clip onto a steady perch, in tune with the unshakeable light at the end of an unbreakable tunnel.

Unsure what the hell I’m talking about? Let music be your guide. Listen to Cautious Clay, who deftly points out that it’s, “matter over mind if we’re being honest.”

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And of course there’s Bonobo, whose new remix personifies the hair raising moment of awareness, the tactile sensation of zeroing in on a target.

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Glass Animals – Cane Suga

The last four seats in The Greek were to the far left of the stage, fifty yards up past the pit. After a quick-spot, we climbed the amphitheater stairs, shuffled past a couple dressed in all-black, and staked our claim. Below, a seething crowd suddenly came to life, incensed by the feral, weaving drumbeat of Glass Animals’ opener, Life Itself.

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We quickly established good community relations with our neighbors, offering what little supplies we had – a green tea bottle with clear tequila, two limes and a pinch of the devil’s lettuce. In return we received cigarettes and more space, a rare commodity that night.

All of us were eager for a familiar groove that would validate our ticket expense, a reenactment of countless private interactions. But that night the unexpected ruled, most notably, Cane Suga, an outburst of boot-stomping trap that liquefied body parts and set in motion a series of amphitheater antics.

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Quarter Life Crisis’ Rundown of Sylvan Esso #LiveatLagunitas

We’re known for being a bit long winded in our write ups of live shows. To give us an unfiltered, top line breakdown of the Sylvan Esso show at Lagunitas Brewery, we turned to one of our musical correspondents, QuarterLifeCrisis, to give us his thoughts.

Eclipse Monday
First day of school year
No plan, left two behind
No traffic
Pre food beers
Tiny venue w no stage
Local vibe/ split audience
Asian girl culk shirt possibly rolling
Drunk in and out puke
Order more
Maggie +odesza
A lot of knob twisting outta that guy, she’s got a killer voice
Are they in love
Drunk texting