Bucket List Bands

Here’s a new challenge.  List ten bands that you have never seen in concert but, given the chance, you would go see in a heartbeat.  A few ground rules:

  • You have never seen the band (or artist) live in concert before, not even as an act opening for someone else.
  • The band (or artist) has to be touring semi-regularly, so defunct bands like R.E.M. don’t count (that’s a different challenge).
  • The band (or artist) has to be alive, so the Jimi Hendrix Experience doesn’t qualify (that’s a different challenge).

I’ve had the good fortune to see a lot of great bands over the years, so I don’t have to put legendary acts like R.E.M., Radiohead, Wilco, Muse, Arcade Fire, Pink Floyd, The Police, Rush, Smashing Pumpkins, Neil Young, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen or Eric Clapton on my list.  However, there are still dozens of acts that I would love to see in concert for the first time.

Here’s my ‘bucket list’ of acts I’d like to see at least once in my lifetime, in alphabetical order:

  1. Beck
  2. The Decemberists
  3. Eels
  4. Fleet Foxes
  5. Fountains of Wayne
  6. Peter Gabriel
  7. Guster
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. My Morning Jacket
  10. Secret Machines
  11. The Soundtrack Of Our Lives
  12. Spoon
  13. The Stone Roses
  14. Teenage Fanclub
  15. The Zombies

Okay, so I couldn’t whittle it down to ten bands.  I would go see any act on this list if they played anywhere near my hometown.  A few of them I’d even cross the country to check out.  Road trips rock.

I would love to see The National headline their own show, but I saw them open for R.E.M. in Burnaby a few years ago so they aren’t eligible for this challenge.  Still, I wish I’d noticed The National were playing the Orpheum in Vancouver last November a little sooner, because I would have jumped on a plane for sure.  Maybe later we’ll do an Opening Acts You’d Like To See As Headliners challenge.  Today’s challenge is all about bands you’ve never seen.

Surely you have your own bucket list of bands – just click “Reply” to post them!

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Fond But Not In Love (part two)

Good practice, kids. Now it’s time for the easiest part of any coach’s job.  The cuts.  Although I wasn’t able to cut everyone I wanted to, I have cut a lot of you. Wendell is cut. Rudy is cut. Janey, you’re gone. Steven, I like your hustle. That’s why it was so hard to cut you. Congratulations, the rest of you made the team! Except you, you and you.

– Homer Simpson, pre-eminent football coach (“Bart Star” episode 5F03).

Here’s a few more albums that I really liked in 2011 but didn’t make the final cut:

Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!

The band Elbow has become a UK rock institution.  Their previous album, The Seldom Seen Kid, won the Mercury Prize as critic’s choice for album of the year in Britain.  This year, Build A Rocket Boys! was released to similar levels of acclaim.  Elbow has leveraged their talent for crafting ‘everyman’ anthems to maximum effect.  Lead-off track “The Birds” chugs along with electronic precision, while “Lippy Kids” wistfully gives the album its title.  “With Love” is the most engaging single here, using multi-layered vocals to carry the gorgeous melody.  The only problem with Build A Rocket Boys! is that it never quite captures the epic widescreen grandeur of previous works like The Seldom Seen Kid or Cast of Thousands. One or two more memorable tunes would have helped.

Fountains of Wayne – Sky Full of Holes

New England band Fountains of Wayne (the normally reliable power-popsters who creepily brought you the “Stacy’s Mom” video in which 12-year-old boys wanted to get busy with MILF Rachel Hunter) returned in 2011 with a new album of modern life pastiches.  The songs are enjoyable enough, particularly on the first half of the record.  “Richie and Ruben” is a clever mini-documentary about a duo of entrepreneurs without a clue, while “Action Hero” is a wonderful pencil sketch of a prototypical suburban father that’s come face-to-face with the inevitable before his time.  Unfortunately, Sky Full of Holes runs out of steam on Side ‘B’ and the songs become a little too power-pop-by-numbers.

Peter Gabriel – New Blood

The only thing keeping this album off of my Top 10 list was the caveat that the songs had to be new.  New Blood is a contemporary reworking of classic Peter Gabriel songs; this time instead of relying on traditional instrumentation (bass, guitars, keyboards and drum kit) the presentation is symphonic.  Recast in this new environment, “San Jacinto” feels re-inspired, and the lost classic “Wallflower” is injected with new life.  “Mercy Street”, already a tender ballad in its original form, fares well with the orchestral treatment, as does “Red Rain” and Gabriel’s biggest hit, “Solsbury Hill”.  The best re-working here is “In Your Eyes”, which cleverly substitutes cellos for guitar and bass to carry the melody and rhythm.  This album is yet more evidence that great songs will always be great songs regardless of sonic presentation.

M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

This album re-interprets all the best bits of 1980’s synth rock in a modern alternative rock context.  Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is chock full of musical ideas, splashed over two discs.  Thankfully the album is more about looking forward than reveling in nostalgia, and the tunes have more hooks than a tackle box.  Singles like “Midnight City” and “Steve McQueen” are synth-pop masterpieces.  The only thing holding it back is its length; one gets the sense that it would have made a brilliant seventy-minute single album, rather than an overly optimistic double-album.  Mind you, that’s what cranky critics always say about double albums.

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

After going over-the-top urban with previous release Evil Urges, Jim James and co. return with a more groove-oriented album.  Circuital features epic, widescreen rock songs (notably the title track), balanced by pretty acoustic ballads like “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”“Victory Dance” gamely balances the constraints of modern alternative music with the conventions of 20th century Neil Young inspired country rock.  But overall, Circuital seems like a step back from the deliberate, tightly-wound claustrophobia of Evil Urges and the brilliant melodicism of Z.  But at least we were spared the indignity of another song like “Highly Suspicious”.

Music Challenge Day 3 – A Song That Makes You Happy

I defy anyone to not feel happy after enjoying the smart power-pop genius of Fountains of Wayne.

A dozen FoW songs would fit this category, but one in particular comes to mind.  “Red Dragon Tattoo” is the second song on 1999’s Utopia Parkway.  All of the classic Fountains of Wayne calling cards are present – bright guitars, swooshy synths, stomping drums, handclaps, unison vocals on the choruses, and a brilliant middle eight.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hHazHKChRs

The subject matter is wonderful, too.  Imagine a first-person tale of a young buck who decides to get a red dragon tattoo so that a girl he fancies will take him seriously.  To a nineteen year old with raging hormones, this undoubtedly sounds like a foolproof plan.  Our protagonist imbibes in some ‘liquid courage’, then brings a variety of artifacts with him to the parlour so that he doesn’t chicken out.  In hand is a .38 Special CD collection, some Bactine (to prevent infection) and a photo of Easy Rider.  And the middle eight?

Will you stop pretending I’ve never been born
Now I look a little more like that guy from Korn
If you came a little bit closer you’d see it isn’t painted on

If that doesn’t make you happy, then I guess you’ve never been nineteen and stupid 🙂