05.05.06 @ Avalon, Boston, MA
In the past, a Taking Back Sunday show sounded so god-awful that it had to be judged on the full experience. Crowd bonding, scream-a-longs and mic-swinging theatrics covered up Adam Lazzara’s notoriously off-key caterwauling quite nicely, and as long as a concertgoer didn’t close his or her eyes and listen to the distortion and yelps coming from the speaker, the show was thoroughly enjoyable. But that era appears to be history. On the Boston stop of the band’s first tour in support of Louder Now, Lazzara’s vocals sounded clear and on key. He had a happier, decidedly less emo presence onstage, strutting, swinging and occasionally even smiling. What the hell happened?
Simple- Lazzara and his bandmates grew up.
After four years of scenester drama and broken hearts, Taking Back Sunday have aged from an emo band into a more mature, well-rounded rock band. The Louder Now tour reflected a band that has transitioned smoothly into the mainstream and developed a new focus on musicianship. Old favorites like “Great Romances of the 20th Century” were fine-tuned and turned-up; new songs like “What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost” were appropriately focused and played to the band’s strengths. Breakthrough single “A Decade Under the Influence” slowly built up to an exhilarating finale and “Timberwolves At New Jersey” plunged into beautifully orchestrated chaos.
An acoustic, mellowed out intro to “You Know How I Do,” however, wasn’t as well received. The opening track to 2002’s Tell All Your Friends proved to be untouchable, and the crowd released a collective sigh of relief as the band launched into the rousing, angsty anthem the way it’s meant to be played: loudly, authoritatively, and manically.
And while guitarists Fred Mascherino and Eddie Reyes packed a punch and Lazzara even practiced a bit of restraint, it was Matt Rubano’s thundering bass that stole the show. Underutilized on 2004’s Where You Want to Be, the Grammy-winning bassist has emerged as the band’s driving force by adding dimension to tracks like “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” The crowd couldn’t just hear him play- they could feel it.
As the show came to a close, the crowd surged once more as the familiar chord progression to “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” resonated throughout the club. Years after its release, the scene classic still hasn’t lost its edge. Its biting lyrics and seesawing vocals, along with Lazzara’s embittered delivery, maintain the song’s ageless quality. Polished, tightened and yes, louder, the band has become arena-worthy.
Photo by Ashley Megan
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.