Sunday, September 23, 2012


As a preface, I’d like to point my dear readers to this post, written nearly three years ago, just after these records had been released. It’s been fun to listen to them all again and see how much my opinions have changed. One and two remain the same but there’s been a slight change in the number three slot.

Gold Medal: Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear may be the most exciting band in existence today. At this moment, I’m reveling in their newest release, but Veckatimest remains the band’s turning point. It was here that the Brooklyn foursome really defined their musical language, with its incredible depth and maturity. “Two Weeks” remains one of the great songs of the last decade for me and I still remember the exact spot I was when I heard it, walking my dog, thinking "WHOAH THIS IS GOOD." The band writes incredible songs and ornaments them with fireworks of harmonic glory, both in the vocals and the instrumental work. What will they think of next??

Silver Medal: Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle by Bill Callahan

When I acquired this album, I had no idea who Bill Callahan was. But after a friend’s recommendation, I got this record and instantly loved it. The voice was the first thing to strike me. A rich bass is a rare thing in pop music and it fits these songs so well. After the initial satisfaction with the timbre of Callahan's pipes, you realize how enigmatic the songs are. Are they metaphors? Weird tales of fantasy? Nonsense? I still remember the first time I heard, “If you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat.” I’d never heard someone do that with lyrics before, and probably never will again. So strange, so smart.

Bronze Medal: Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective

Until this album, I’d never been able to enjoy an AC release from start to finish. They have their moments, but the weirdness just lasts too long and I would lose focus. But this is a bit more accessible and united. The album cover is such a perfect visual representation of this music. It makes you a bit dizzy, but it’s attractive and after a while, you’re really a fan. On Merriweather, the strange sounds and atmospheres are just the style of the cinematography. The substance of this album is just pure the maniacal creativity that reaches its glorious climax on the final track, “Brother Sport.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summer Concerts

As I'd hoped and planned, I attended a number of various concerts this summer. Despite being busy in a city that doesn't exactly churn out exciting new music, I continue to believe that live music is an essential part of existence.

First, I went to see the album premiere show of a band called Shaolin Fez. Shaolin Fez is the brainchild of my acquaintance, American Sam Ferrer, who plays double bass in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The music he makes with SF is a unique blend of jazz, funk, rock and world music led by talented singer Jennifer Palor and accompanied by dozens of multi-talented musicians. This was the first real “gig” I’ve attended in Hong Kong and it happened in a place called the Fringe Club. I liked the Fringe Club, with its intimate setting and well-balanced sound. Overall, this concert was great fun, and gave me hope that there are some, not many but some, unique acts coming right from Hong Kong-based pop musicians.

The next three concerts I attended were all in the Hong Kong City Hall, a well-sized concert hall in downtown HK. The first was Chu Yi-Bing and his Cello Quintet. Cellist Chu Yi-Bing is a monster, as was another performer at that concert, violinist Lu Siqing. They performed a pleasant program of classical music from various eras, and the sound of the cello is always glorious, especially five of them. It’s nice to see that classical music is alive and well on the other side of the world. All the musicians in this concert were from mainland China.

Next was “The Sound of Bamboo Music.” This was essentially twenty-odd musicians playing instruments made almost entirely out of bamboo. It’s always fun to see and hear people performing on instruments I’d never heard of before. For example, there was one that looked like a giant panpipe laid flat on a stand like a marimba. But the way to play it was to clap directly in front of the different bamboo chutes, creating distinct bass pitches. The concert was very creative and enjoyable, particularly in the fact that it was brand new, entirely Chinese and preached sustainability. They group called themselves Beijing’s Green Bamboo Orchestra.  The only downside was that the director explained everything about the group and its selections in Mandarin. I went alone so I could only guess what he was saying. Fortunately, the program had an English section so I was able to follow along to some extent.

Last, I attended the Hong Kong Bach Choir’s concert devoted to modern English composers. It was excellent, and hearing a choir brought me back to my PLU days and got me all excited about choral music again. In fact, I decided to audition for this group for the upcoming season. I made it into the Bass I section and will be a part of the group’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony come December. I look forward to performing with an ensemble again and writing more about my first participation in the HK live music scene right here on this blog at a later date!