Tag Archives: Neutral Milk Hotel

Review: Neutral Milk Hotel @ The Tower Theater (1/29/14)

Photo courtesy of peterhutchins.tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of peterhutchins.tumblr.com

By Nick Stropko

So, it has happened. Years of anticipation, speculation, and blind hope have culminated, and the day has gone and passed. I have seen Neutral Milk Hotel.

Naturally, I have rapturous praise for the concert. Of course Jeff Magnum’s voice has retained it’s power, its winding intensity, its ability to reach just a little higher than it probably should and sell it regardless (he did have the slightest of problems during “Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 1,” but it really just served to humanize what has become a deified figure). Of course it was gratifying in a way Jeff’s solo shows were not to see the whole band together–Julian Koster rotating in place with his bass and playing the singing saw, Scott Spillane working an array of brass instruments, and Jeremy Barnes frantically keeping everything together. They really nailed the eclectic instrumentation present in NMH records, with the singing saw, zanzithophone, and electronic bagpipe, among many more, making appearances. Of course standing in a room full of people singing along to “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” with Jeff Magnum is going to send chills down your spine. Of course, of course, of course.

However, rapturous praise is kind of boring. Pretty much every account of the show I have gotten has been overwhelmingly positive. Instead, I’d like to offer an array of stray thoughts I had during the show.

  • While Magnum’s voice has certainly not lessened in intensity, it seems like his range has become ever so slightly more limited. I think a few of the songs were played a few steps down, and he reaalllyyy had to strain to hit that note in “Two Headed Boy, Pt. 1.”
  • I can’t really tell if I like Jeremy Barnes’s drumming or not. Maybe I’m just being silly, but it seems like he has trouble maintaining the beat during fills. Is it possible that Jeremy Barnes is actually not a very good drummer at all? Is this just a weird stylistic thing that I’m not grasping? THIS IS OF GRAVE CONCERN.
  • I really enjoy the stage dynamic of Neutral Milk Hotel. Jeff was pretty much unrecognizable–he received no applause when he walked onstage, his mess of hair making him look like a roadie in a fantastic sweater. He spoke little but seemed gracious, maintaining his weird indie god aura while not coming off as too stuck-up.
  • Isn’t this whole tour kind of remarkable? Maybe this is well-tread ground, but I think it’s worth restating every now and again that a band can sell out major venues across the country largely based on the strength of a record they put out on an indie label in 1998.
  • The “Ghost”–>”[untitled]“–>”Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2″ combo during the encore was phenomenal. Phenomenal. When I saw them break out the electronic bagpipe, I kind of freaked out and definitely sang along to a bagpipe part. No shame.
  • Fuck it, I can’t think of anything else that’s negative. It was a really great show, and I’m thankful I got to see it.

If you missed out on Jeff and co. last week, fear not! They’re playing at The Mann on July 21st. I highly recommend you attend.

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Maeve’s Fave Songs!

By Maeve Walker

A list of DJ Maeve Walker’s favorite songs ever. Yep, it’s really that simple.

One of These Days – Owen
At Home With Owen, 2006

Oh Messy Life – Cap’n Jazz
Analphabetapolotology, 1998

Tin Foil – Rainer Maria
Past Worn Searching, 1997

Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2 – Neutral Milk Hotel
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea – 1998

Bloodgiver – Bear Vs. Shark
Right Now, You’re In The Best of Hands…, 2003

Devil in a New Dress – Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasty, 2010

Sad – Algernon Cadwallader
Parrot Flies, 2011

Not Good Enough Gary – Spraynard
Funtitled, 2011

Doomsday Celebration – The Danger O’s
Nineteen Ninety Four, 2009

So-and-So – Joan of Arc
Boo Human, 2008

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Concert Recommendations: Fall 2013

By Nick Stropko

Over the past few months, I’ve been watching an amazing slew local shows being announced for the fall with frustration. You see, dear reader, while Philadelphia is about to have one of the best concert seasons in recent memory, I will be in Istanbul, enjoying the requisite college rite of passage that is study abroad (please, shower me with pity). Despite my infuriating inability to attend any of the following concerts, I have compiled a personal list of must-see shows for this fall.

Kishi Bashi @ First Unitarian Church Sanctuary, September 14 ($15)

Truthfully, I haven’t really given a good listen to Kishi Bashi’s only album, 151a. However, I did have the opportunity to catch him at the Church Basement as part of a WKDU Presents event, and it was stellar. Kishi Bashi creates little string ensembles with a lone violin and a loop pedal, which are combined with soaring vocals and occasional beatboxed vocals (it’s way less obnoxious than it sounds, I promise) to great effect. Throw in some whimsical stage decorations and a charmingly intimate venue, and I expect this to be a great experience.

Vampire Weekend @ The Mann Skyline Stage, September 19 ($35)

Okay, confession: I’m a huge V-Dubs fanboy. Huge. I’ve seen them five or six times, and Modern Vampires of the City is my album of the year right now. This being said, they’re a very tight, consistent band, and I’m very curious to see how much of their new material translates live. There’s really no gimmick here—just excellent songcraft and musicianship (and a steadily increasing touring budget, I suppose).

flaminglips

The Flaming Lips & Tame Impala @ Festival Pier, October 3 ($50–eesh)

A fortuitous pairing, to say the least. I’ve never really associated the psych stalwarts with the fresh faced up-and-comers, but I think the two bands will complement each other quite nicely. While the legendary nature of the Lips’ shows is already well-documented (they do seem to be adding some strange, disturbing elements to go with their dark new album, The Terror), Tame Impala proved to be a pretty excellent live band at their recent Electric Factory gig. I’m already a huge fan of both bands’ material, but I can guarantee that this will be a very entertaining show.

Making Time w/ Fuck Buttons @ Voyeur Nightclub, October 19 ($10)

The new Fuck Buttons album, Slow Focus, is a slice of dark, menacing, bass-heavy goodness. I really want to hear this thing pouring out of some overpowered subwoofers. Paired with Voyeur (possibly the most worthwhile nightclub in Philadelphia) and the fine folks at Making Time, I expect this to be a very, very good time. Be prepared to move.

Animal Collective w/ Dan Deacon @ Union Transfer, October 28 (Sold Out :( )

This one’s already sold out, but it feels worth mentioning. Deacon’s manic energy, channeled through performing in the middle of the crowd, is not something to miss. I guarantee that you will dance, and you will love it. Animal Collective is notoriously spotty in their live performances, often receiving the complaint that their concerts are more about writing new songs live than performing old ones. That being said, apparently they’ve been playing more older stuff lately (they absolutely killed Peacebone when I saw them at the Mann a few months back), and I think the energy is going to be incredible. A second date has been announced sans Dan Deacon, which should also be cool, but if you can somehow manage to get into this show…do it.

Man Man @ Union Transfer, October 30-31 ($20)

Oh my god. Go to this. Go to this. I can only imagine what kind of hijinks Man Man have planned for back-to-back hometown Halloween shows. The band has put on some of the most entertaining live performances I have ever seen, and I fully expect this to surpass any previous shows of theirs. This one will be special.

Basia Bulat @ The Boot & Saddle, November 20 ($10)

I first encountered Basia as an opening act for Beirut at the Electric Factory last year. She’s an incredibly charming and talented folk artist who plays a variety of instruments, including a weird autoharp thing. It’s cool. Anyway, if you’re looking for an excuse to check out R5’s newest venue, this would definitely be it—warm music to provide respite from November’s cold.

All this being said, I’m just thankful that I’ll be here for Neutral Milk Hotel.

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