This is probably as close to a no-brainer as you get for me. I don’t really expect Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears to just utterly blow me away or anything.
Well, no. I guess I kinda do.
Loud blues with a horn section and a smattering of funky licks are the quickest path to my heart. With tunes like “Sugarfoot” and “Boogie”, these guys have no excuse not to have a hugely fun live set. One thing I’ve noticed while listening through Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! is that there aren’t really any solos of note. I guess they’re trying to keep the tunes accessible but I hope the ACL venue gives them an opportunity to go crazy. Just a thought.
THE VERDICT: Duh.
As I listened through the first few tracks of To Lose My Life…, the debut album from White Lies, I was readying a favorable post. I was gonna talk about how I didn’t understand what everybody’s problem was with this post-punk sound — example: Pitchfork thinks the entire Killers catalogue is mediocre and they generally didn’t like this record. It seemed fun enough to me and I really kinda dug the grandiose tunes.
Then, around track five, it started to hit me. They all just sound the same. I get tired of hearing myself say that but it’s just so true. “Death”, the opener, is totally not a bad song at all. In fact, if I’d heard it on the radio, I’d probably have thought to myself, “wow, that Killers song was actually pretty good!”
Hm, yeah, now I’m starting to understand.
THE VERDICT: Eh, I’d still kinda like to stop by. What can I say?
I don’t especially care for The Black Keys and that one song they copy and paste eleven times on each album. I stayed for one tune at their ACL set last year and I still wonder why. Apparently, though, none of what I dislike about them carries over to Dan Auerbach‘s solo album Keep It Hid. I’m as surprised as anyone but the record is hip and fun and, for lord’s sake, not boring at all.
It’s impressive. It’s freely streamable, too (for the moment). I’ll even recommend some tracks: “Trouble Weighs a Ton”, “Mean Monsoon”, “The Prowl”, and “My Last Mistake” should all get you riled up. Most importantly, though, I’ll be checking out this set with my head held high.
THE VERDICT: You betcha.
So here’s the deal. Alela Diane is obviously a talented musician. The world can only handle so many Fairport Conventions, though, and I don’t see myself stopping by this set even to confirm my doubts. Considering how low-key To Be Still is, I find it hard to believe that she’ll be tearing the house down. I’m skeptical that she’ll even have a backing band.
Even as a recording, though, this just isn’t my thing. “The Alder Trees” is okay, “My Brambles” is somewhat good, but directionless stuff like “White as Diamonds” and “To Be Still” does numbers on my attention span.
All that said, I’m sure there will be a ton of loyal high school girls who will have inexplicably obsessed over her entire catalogue. Come to think of it, maybe I do wanna catch that set after all.
THE VERDICT: It won’t end well so let’s not start it.
In a way, Brett Dennen is a perfect act for ACL. His songs are shockingly reminiscent of Paul Simon. Calm and easy-going, it’s just the thing that the dad-rock aficionados can chill out to in their University of Kentucky fold-out chairs and 20-ounce Coors Lights.
I’m not knocking the guy, though. His tunes are pleasant and he takes himself only as seriously as a folk-pop artist should. “San Francisco” gives us an alternative Frommer’s Guide for the Bay Area (and, disappointingly, is not a cover song) and sets a fun tone for Hope for the Hopeless. I could see Dennen being one of those sets I stop at for a minute and end up staying at for a while.
Also, knowing the way they give out Grammy awards these days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this guy nominated for one soon. Just saying.
THE VERDICT: Why not? Maybe he’ll even be on the BMI stage and I can sit on that little hill and cool off.
I guess I’m one of the last aboard the Passion Pit train with the Valentine’s Day Chunk of Change EP and all. For what it’s worth, the EP isn’t bad but the full-length, Manners is a bit better. Both have a pretty decent dreamy electropop sound, sort of like a combination of The Postal Service and Daft Punk, but suffer from acute monotony. You never really feel like the records are going anywhere but, at the same time, you don’t care all that much.
This translates into me being willing to pay my indie hipster respects at ACL and hoping that their live show happens as the sun goes down. I’m not gonna hold my breath for a sunset show, though — they’re a Sunday act and aren’t that big of a deal just yet. Then again, Ghostland Observatory did that very thing two years ago. Then again, Ghostland Observatory are from Austin. Then again, Boston rhymes with Austin..
THE VERDICT: Cautiously optimistic.
I caught some of the Heartless Bastards set at ACL in 2007 and, if memory serves, they were kinda boring. Their latest album, The Mountain, has an opening track which pretty much confirms that sentiment. Ultra-traditional blues-rock is fine and good but it sure does get tedious after a while. Most of the tracks have a one- or two-bar progression played repeatedly with no real mode to speak of. You might say it’s a bit like having a turkey sandwich with no mayonnaise for lunch every single day of the week.
It’s not that there’s no place for this stuff. I’m just skeptical that it can keep my attention when it’s 98 degrees outside. In a vacuum, “Nothing Seems the Same” and “Early in the Morning” are really pretty good tunes; in the context of the album, though, they’re dragged down by tracks like “The Mountain” and “Had to Go”. Pacing is the main issue here and that makes me ambivalent, at best, about sticking around for a live set.
THE VERDICT: Maybe I’ll stop by. Probably not.