Off the Shelf–WIDE AWAKE! by Parquet Courts

A quick preface from the editor:

At WKDU we receive new music every week from a huge variety of labels. We keep all of our new releases in our main control room (the room out of which our DJs do their thing) on our “New Music Shelf”.  Our DJs pull from this shelf quite often, because our goal is to serve you the freshest underground cuts–FDA certified 100% organic, grass-fed, farm to table, FRESH. With “Off the Shelf”, our goal is to dive deeper than ever into our “New Music Shelf” favorites, and to share our thoughts with our community. Here’s hoping we inspire you to check out something NEW.

Wide Awake

By Matt Squires

Parquet Courts’ new album, Wide Awake!, is a diverse collection of raw rock and rolls sounds, familiar to the American ear, yet unique and refreshing. The production is minimalistic, to focus the listener on the melodic and rhythmic aspects of the songs, which are undeniably catchy. The vocals are raw with minor imperfections as if performed in a live setting.

“Total Football” kicks off the album with a classic rock style sharp slow chord progression. Soon the beat speeds up and the bass riff kicks, forcing the listener to bounce back and forth, a feeling used many times on this album including, “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience” and “Extinction”. Growly vocals are introduced, seemingly untrained and raw, their voices fit the aesthetic perfectly. This riveting intro song ends like the streets of Philadelphia after the 2018 super bowl, “F___ Tom Brady!!”.

“Violence” shows the more serious side of this album. Smooth groovy rhythms and catchy riffs over a yelling monologue until coming in with the chorus “violence is daily life.” Parquet Courts makes their way around the genre spectrum while maintaining the same production aesthetic with the slowed jam, “before the water gets too high”.  The repeating riff is memorizing and the organ-sounding synth chords hold the song together.

Next stop on this journey is a flashback to 90s alternative rock. Sounding like Pavements “Range Life”, “Mardi Gras Beads” takes the album to very familiar place. The smooth lush reverb-filled verse contrasts with the rigid power chords that come in the chorus creating a rich texture. “Almost had to start a fight” channels the bands Proto-Punk aesthetic with riffs sounding like MC5, the vocals match the rhythm to create a concrete, energetic jam. Merging into “In and out of Patience” with the phrase “If it stops i’m having a bad dream”, the pattern changes, putting another involuntary step in the foot of the listener.

The aptly named, “Freebird 2”, lives up to its name talking about drugs and getting older with pentatonic blues scales. The title song, “Wide Awake” combines a groovy bass riff with a dance party vibe. The use of Auxiliary percussion on this track makes it stand out from the others. A straight rhythm blues jam ends the album out with a piano melody doubling the vocals, making for an upbeat vibe. The chord progression is a mixture of simple chords and unusually dissonant chords that give an excellent texture to this familiar groove.

Parquet Courts have maintained their progressive classic rock style. Innovative yet so familiar and easy to latch on to, this album is an instant classic filled with songs that capture the last 50 years of rock music. 

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Concert Review: Cibo Matto @ The Boot and Saddle (2/11/14)

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By Kirsten Becker

Japanese expatriates Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori are the creative minds behind Cibo Matto (Italian for “crazy food”). The group received heavy praise for their first two albums, Viva! La Woman and  Stereo Type A in the 90s before they went on hiatus for the new millenium. Honda and Hatori still remained very active, doing collaborations with Yoko Ono, The Gorillaz, and Beck as well as solo gigs during those years. In 2011, Cibo Matto announced they were back together and were recording new music, much to the excitement of diehard fans everywhere.

Cibo Matto’s earlier music mostly consisted of songs about food, yet they gradually expanded their subject matter over the years. Hotel Valentine, which is officially released today, is their most mature album to date. Appearances from Nels Cline (Wilco) and Mauro Refosco (Atoms For Peace) are included with Cibo Matto’s signature mix of trip-hop, pop, and funk tunes. To add to the Valentine’s Day theme, Hatori and Honda have also handwritten Valentine’s cards for those who pre-ordered the album. The record is also released on Sean Lennon’s label Chimera Music.

After 15 years of hiatus, Cibo Matto has returned to tour the country to mostly sold out dates. I was beyond excited to get a chance to catch them at The Boot and Saddle on February 11. I pretty much counted out the idea of ever getting to see them live, never thinking they would record a follow up to Stereo Type A. They started off the night with just the two main members playing. Classic “Sugar Water” started off the set, which featured Hatori’s soft whispered vocals and mysterious backing beats. Later on, the two ladies were joined by Yuko and Jared Samuels for a full band to play new songs from Hotel Valentine. “Moonchild,” “Deja Vu” and “MFN” were all highs of the night. Cibo Matto graciously thanked the crowd for their support at the end of the set, but very quickly came back to entertain the fans with an encore, including the song “Happy Birthday.”

Cibo Matto continue their reunion tour through March. Check out Hotel Valentine as well as the rest of the band’s impressive catalog.

Concert Review: Dr. Dog at Eletric Factory 2/1/14

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There really is nothing quite like a Dr. Dog performance. If there’s any band that can instantly turn my mood around, it’s them. I was lucky enough to catch the band for my fifth time at the Electric Factory. February 1st’s show was their second of two sold out shows in Philly and the energy from the night before carried into this show as well. The Pennsylvania locals played a high octane set that lasted almost two hours. The entire range of their albums were covered, including “Say Ahhh” from their 2002 album Toothbrush to singles from their latest release entitled B-Room.

Crowd favorites like their Architecture in Helsinki cover of “Heart it Races” and “Lonesome” had the entire room singing along. Vocalists Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken took turns with belting out their respective songs as well as joking around in between tunes. They also expressed their gratitude for Philly’s overwhelming support of the band through the years. During their encore they had the Philly Phanatic join the stage during “Oh No.” Steve Marion from the opener Saint Rich joined the band as well to solo on “Easy Beat.” Marion is also the mastermind behind the band Delicate Steve.

Overall, Dr. Dog did not disappoint the sold out crowd at the Factory. They will continue their extensive tour that goes well into March in support of B-Room.

Concert Review: Phantogram at Union Transfer 12/6/13

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by Kirsten Becker

Phantogram’s sold ­out stop at the Union Transfer on December 6th was part of their highly anticipated tour in support of their latest album, Voices, which is also their first album in four years.

I was pleasantly surprised by opener Until the Ribbon Breaks, the relatively new project of Welshman Pete Lawrie. The act blends electronic elements seen in recent dance music as well as plain old rock influences. At various points during the set Lawrie showed off his talents on the trumpet as well as other instruments, and displayed his versatility in his unique style of music. Welsh’s distorted vocals also added an interesting addition to his somber lyrics. Songs like “2025,” “Romeo,” and “Pressure” won the crowd over. Until the Ribbon Breaks is definitely a band to look out for in 2014, and you should expect to see more news from Lawrie’s project in the future.

Phantogram came on around 11:00 p.m. to an ecstatic crowd. Singer Sarah Barthel’s powerful voice cut through the band’s shoegaze vibes. A chilling rendition of “Mouthful of Diamonds” captivated the audience as well as fan­favorite “When I’m Small”. The quirky “Running From the Cops” featured guitarist Josh Carter taking over vocal duties.

Their latest single, “Black Out Days” showed a different side of the band. The high energy song accompanied by an incredible light show brought the performance up another notch. Barthel took the time between songs to thank the crowd and Philadelphia for consistently being a great place to play. It was visible she and Carter were feeding off the crowd’s energy and were having a great time on stage.

Phantogram played a couple more new songs from Voices including “Never Going Home” and “The Day You Died” before finally ending the set just around midnight.