Yo La Tengo
31 January, 2011, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Music

Until three days ago, I would’ve called myself a casual Yo La Tengo fan. No longer. On Friday night, my girlfriend Samantha and I saw the band perform at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. I think it’s a sign of a great show when you’re still thinking about it three days later. And so… I think I’m developing a serious crush on Yo La Tengo.

In their over-25-year career, the band always seems to have such a passion for their craft in addition to a reverence for the music that has preceded them. If not releasing albums full of covers they also seem to throw in subtle winks and nudges at rock ‘n’ roll’s history within their own material. In turn, they’ve probably inspired countless other musical acts themselves. The fact that they’re still cranking out quality records is quite impressive.

In regards to Friday night’s show, it’s even more impressive how easily they can cull from their immense discography. For this tour the band decided to let their first set of each night’s performance be decided by the spin of a wheel, a la Wheel of Fortune (the tv show’s theme music played as the band took the stage). There were several categories that would establish the direction of that first set. One being “S Songs” – songs from the band’s oeuvre that started with the letter “S”, to which the band claims could easily amount to over 45 minutes of music. We got “Sounds Of Science, Part 2” (the second half of the band’s score for filmmaker Jean Painleve’s underwater documentaries and shorts. A bit meandering and abstract for some, but it really showcased the band’s ability to do more than just write great pop songs or scorching rockers.

For the second set we were treated to a slew of gems from the YLT pantheon. Starting with “Autumn Sweater” and running through personal faves like “Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1),” “Today is the Day (EP Version)” and “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind.” This was followed by an encore featuring “We’re An American Band” (their own composition), followed appropriately by a cover of GFR’s “We’re An American Band” and ending with a mellow reading of “Big Day Coming.”

I was in awe of the band’s musicianship, their energy and their connection to their audience. It was loud, it was delicate and it was beautiful. It was a perfect show. It made me reminisce about playing music myself. Ultimately, I think that’s why the showed impressed me so much and why I’m such a huge fan now. Yo La Tengo remind me of why I love music.

Bonus points, because the band were selling coffee mugs at their merch table.


ATL Collective identity
14 January, 2011, 8:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s been some time since I posted some work that I’ve actually done. I recently completed an identity for my friends in the ATL Collective. According to their mission statement, “ATL Collective was established to foster the Atlanta music scene, encourage collaborations and cross-pollination and to create happenings that will inspire and entertain.” These happenings often include the selection of a record to cover from start to finish. The musicians take their turns interpreting each successive track on said record. December’s event saw them tackling Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. Next month, they’ll be putting their spin on Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen.

As a music lover and a friend to several of the members of ATL Collective, this was not only a fun project but a “must-do” project. I’ve often attributed any interest in design at all to growing up with my father’s record collection. Many of the record’s covered at their events are records I heard skipping on the turntable as I would run rambunctiously past the stereo and promptly (and rightfully) be scolded by my father for making the records skip. It’s exciting to hear the Collective’s take on these records, and in a way, discover them again. I’m happy to do a poster for these events when asked, so naturally the choice to help them brand their mission was an equally fun endeavor. The mark will be featured on posters, a new website and any collateral produced in the future. Stay tuned for future events, now being held at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta.

Best of 2010
8 January, 2011, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Music

Like the list I did in 2008 (‘totally slept on a 2009 list…), I make no claim to having any critical acumen when it comes to talking about the “BEST” records of the year. What follows is a conversation about the albums that I enjoyed the most this year.

Eluvium - Similies

10. Eluvium – Similies
Master instrumental composer Matthew Cooper mixes things up a bit and releases a record of songs that prominently feature vocals. The gamble turns out to be some of his most beautiful and haunting work. The vocal performances become another layer of his compositions and in no way subtract from the atmosphere he so excellently crafts.

Balmorhea - Constellations

9. Balmorhea – Constellations
A bit more of a hushed affair compared to their previous release, “All is Wild, All is Silent”, but just as equally captivating – if not more. Using strings, banjos, pianos and stomping percussion, the band creates fantastic passages of contemplative beauty. Not necessarily an immediate listen… but careful attention will reward the listener. Catching the band live this year was an added bonus.

8. Aloha – Home Acres
After the excellent “Light Works” EP, fans of Aloha became very eager for the full length that was rumored to follow. Three years later proved to be well worth the wait. Possibly Aloha’s finest moment in their 13 year career. All enclosed in beautiful artwork by Daniel Danger.

7. Kenseth Thibideau – Repetition
Pinback/ Sleeping People/ Tarentel/ etc member Kenseth Thibideau releases his first solo album of summertime krautrock-inspired jams. Half the disc is peppered with breezy vocals that lend a carefree 60/70’s pop vibe to the record. Put this in your car stereo and cruise around as summer days turn into night.

6. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
Superchunk is easily a band I should have been listening to a long time ago. I have no idea why I didn’t listen to them before they broke their 9-year silence and released this gem. Immediately catchy rock and roll songs that just get better with every listen. As a bonus, go here and check out this excellent cover of The Cure’s “In Between Days.”

5. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I think this is another choice influenced by seeing the band live this year. I also think it’s pretty freaking awesome that an independent band topped the Billboard charts. Oh yeah, the record’s about growing up in the suburbs and stuff.

4. The Octopus Project – Hexadecagon
Intended as a document of shows the band played earlier in the year, where the band played in the round and the audience was then surrounded by speakers and video screens. Naturally, the listening experience wouldn’t be the same on a conventional stereo… but still, at the heart of listening is what’s being listened to (i.e. the content). TOP get their Steve Reich on and compose 8 pieces of swirling melodic gorgeousness. You’ll be a better person for just having listened to the third and fourth tracks.

3. Pomegranates – One Of Us
For such a young band, Poms show a lot of growth on their third full length. One of Us is choc full of catchy, dreamy anthems. The contrast between the tenor of one vocalist to the deeper voice of another broadens the pallet with which this band paints its songs that seem to incorporate many influences. Yet, this record marks their most cohesive statement.

2. Shipping News – One Less Heartless To Fear
This was a strong contender for number one. Shipping News have been a favorite for some time. Born out of other faves, June of 44 and Rodan, this band is equally essential. A couple of factors make this album so compelling. 1. The band have traded in their usual long, slower-paced songs for short bursts of controlled chaos. 2. This is a live recording. An illness in the band forced plans for a studio album to be scrapped. This in no way detracts from the quality of One Less Heartless… If anything, it speaks to the band’s strength as a tight, cohesive unit. The energy contained within the recording is invigorating and only serves to compliment the shift in sound.

1. The Besnard Lakes – Are The Roaring Night
Most pleasant surprise of 2010. Yes, their last record was good, but this one is GREAT. Song for song, listen for listen, this record just kept finding its way into the speakers at work, in the car and on the home stereo. Not a weak moment. Each listen revealed more. Songs would mysteriously appear, lodged in my brain, when not actually listening to the record. Mixing elements of shoegaze, Beach Boys-inspired melodies and straight up rock-and-roll, Are The Roaring Night is quite something to behold. The opening two tracks alone are worthy of a record called “The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night.” Lyrics about trains to Chicago don’t hurt either.


Parlour – Simulacrenfield – Awesome jams by Louisville instrumental vets.
Les Savy Fav – Root For Ruin – Another “come back” record that sounds like the band’s best.
Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself – No, not the baseball player.
Medications – Completely Removed – DC band changes it up a bit and writes their best record.

Arcade Fire at Verizon Amphitheater
Tortoise at The Earl
Balmorhea at The Earl
All Tiny Creatures at 529

Collections of Colonies of Bees
All Tiny Creatures
Rival Schools (yup… been waiting since my 2008 list for this)
The Appleseed Cast

Click HERE to download a .zip file containing a mix of songs from this list.