July 14, 2017

Wolf Alice live in Pittsburgh

After discovering Wolf Alice in June of 2015, they have been my favorite band of the last two years. Ellie Rowsell (lead vocals, guitar), Joff Oddie (guitar, synths, vocals), Theo Ellis (bass, vocals), and
Joel Amey (drums, vocals) create the perfect example of what I am looking for in music these days: creativity, diversity, intensity, and originality.

I have come ever so close to seeing them twice, once in London a week after I was there, and then last fall in Zurich (1.5 hour drive from my home in Germany), only to miss out because of a work conflict. When I planned my month-long trip to the States this summer, I was thrilled to discover their U.S. tour coincided with my visit to Pittsburgh.


Created with flickr slideshow.


To sum it up, Wolf Alice put on the best live show I have seen in years. Specifically, their show was the best concert I have been to since the Sunny Day Real Estate reunion tour in 2009. That is saying a lot, because I have seen many of my favorite bands in that 8-year span (Thrice thrice, mewithoutYou, Mineral, etc.).

I can't remember the last time I have been to a concert in which the live versions of the songs were radically better than the studio versions. Wolf Alice's debut LP, My Love is Cool, is my #1 album of 2015. I have listened to that album countless times, and yet the live performances of the songs I thought I knew inside and out revealed new layers and energy.

Not only did the show feature the best songs from My Love is Cool, this tour is especially unique because Wolf Alice is debuting songs from their upcoming second album. Visions of a Life releases on Sept. 29 and you can pre-order it here.

Sadly, I was not allowed to bring my SLR into the venue, so my iPhone 5 photos leave much to be desired. I shot one video of a new song, embedded below, and a few photos. My only other complaint about the show were the few and poor merch options. Both shirts were fairly hideous, and I had planned to buy one. I also would have loved to have a poster for the tour, but none existed. The only other thing for sale was the debut album which I already own in multiple versions.


The band opened up with new single, "Don't Delete The Kisses", which was the most mellow song of the night. (I shared this song in my previous blog post.) They transitioned into "Bros", which is in the bottom third of Wolf Alice songs, but was much heavier and interesting live.

The most exciting, energetic, and chaotic (controlled chaos) part of the set came next, with "You're a Germ" and the first single off Visions of a Life, "Yuk Foo." Both of these songs were made for live performance, as they are sing-a-longs and intense. Here is a performance of "You're a Germ" from 2016 that gives one an idea about how the crowd reacted last night:



"Lisbon" was 5th, and since first hearing it a couple years ago, I knew it would be a strong live track with its dynamics. I had researched setlists before attending, so I knew the title track from Visions of a Life would probably be next, and I was prepared to film it (below). As you will see, it is long, epic, and has the band branching into even newer, heavier territory.

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My favorite Wolf Alice song, "Your Loves Whore" followed, and it gave me chills. I wasn't sure they would play it as they have only done so at about half their tour dates this summer. "Blush" followed, the lone inclusion from their older EP's. More fans filmed this song than any other last night, and I have always thought that this song would be a better opener on My Love is Cool than "Turn to Dust" is. Edit: found a video of "Blush" filmed from another fan at the Pittsburgh show (below)



The ninth and tenth songs in the set were two more new tracks, and had the band branching out into even broader territory. The strength of this band has been variety since the beginning, and as the band matures they are somehow even becoming more diverse. Both of these new songs are fairly brief, and "Beautifully Unconventional" sounded so much different than most of the bands songs that in my notes I wrote "cover song?" (It isn't.) I didn't know the name of "Formidable Cool" until this morning when I Googled the lyric that Ellie repeated, "I knew it was all an act!"

"Silk" is one of the most unique songs the band has recorded, mostly quiet, but builds to an explosion of sound and gorgeous harmony. The final third of this song is my favorite one minute of music the band has released. "Fluffy" followed, another one of my least favorite songs from the band, but is far better in the live setting as it is another sing-a-long and really gets the crowd moving.

Besides the new songs, the song that most impressed me from the show was "Giant Peach", the final song in the set before the encore. The song was radically better live, and was so freaking heavy! I forget about the song when listening to the album, but if I am fortunate enough to see Wolf Alice play again, it is probably the song I will look forward to the most; it shook my bones! Here is a great performance of it I found on YouTube, but every time I see music live I remember one of the most important parts of the experience: not only do I hear the music, I feel the music.



The band returned to the stage for a one-song encore, "Moaning Lisa Smile". This was the band's primary single from their debut album, and once again not my favorite, but once again translated well to the live setting. The band interacted with the crowd more on this song, and it was a ton of fun:


July 12, 2017

New music to listen to this week: Lo Tom, Waxahatchee, Wolf Alice, Jeremy Enigk & more

2017 continues to be a surreal year in music for me. At this point there might already be 10 albums that have been released that surpass my favorite from 2016. I hope to write more in-depth analysis at some point, but for now I'll just continue to share...

Lo Tom (Bazan/Martin/Walsh/Many) officially releases this Friday, but vinyl has already arrived and the LP is streaming in full on Stereogum:



Waxahatchee's new album also drops on Friday, and is streaming in full on NPR. I can't embed it here, but here are the couple songs that are on Bandcamp right now, and the rest will show up on Friday. This could end up being my #1 of the year depending on what Wolf Alice does...


The second single off Wolf Alice's September album was released last week, and it is phenomenal. The first two tracks couldn't be more different. I am seeing them play tomorrow in Pittsburgh, the most excited I have been for a show in years...


The third and final single from the new Manchester Orchestra album, which comes out later this month; it is more rock than the first two, but all three show tremendous maturity:


Another second track off a September album, Mogwai debuted a new song:


Soccer Mommy was a random discovery a couple months ago and the first couple of tracks from the August album are streaming on Bandcamp and fun:


Jeremy Enigk has a new album Ghosts coming in August, and while no studio tracks have been released yet,  this live performance for KEXP last week includes the new song "Ancient Road". The new song is the last one (starts about 16:00), following four songs from Return of the Frog Queen:


The new HAIM album is out! So good, and perfect for the summer. Here is a live song from SNL: