Monthly Archives: December 2011

Adam Turla on the progress of Murder By Death’s latest album

Sarah Balliet of Murder By Death

Sarah Balliet, cellist of Murder By Death. Johnny Brenda's 3/2/11.

I had heard of Murder By Death before, but I never listened to them until I saw them in 2009.  That changed everything.  They were opening for the Gaslight Anthem, and I remember that before they even started their set I was intrigued by the fact they had a cello player.  Sometimes, a band pops into your life at the perfect moment; there’s something you’ve been missing out on, and you don’t realize until you first hear it.  That’s what happened with me and Murder By Death that night.  As they played their set, the only way I could think of describing them was like this: they were like Johnny Cash meets Cursive.  Take the subtle country twang and the deep booming voice of lead singer Adam Turla, add some indie and alternative rock influences, and throw in that gorgeous cello, and voila: you have something that’s pretty hard to describe; you have Murder By Death.  There’s something about them, something cinematic that sets them apart from other bands.  Needless to say, I was totally hooked by the end of the set.  I needed to hear everything they’d made, from the concept album about the Devil waging war against a southwestern town, Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? to the very different, but equally epic Red of Tooth And Claw.  The more I heard, the more I liked them, and I jumped at the chance to see them live earlier this year at Johnny Brenda’s.  Currently, Murder By Death are gearing up to record the follow-up to 2010’s Good Morning, Magpie.  I had the opportunity to ask Adam Turla a few questions about the new album, and you can check out his answers here:


Farewell Post: the end is the beginning

This semester at Rowan has drawn to a close, and so the impetus for the creation of this blog is also over.  This blog was for my Online Journalism class at Rowan, and it’s been a huge learning experience for me.  It’s important to note that although this blog was for class, I never looked at it that way.  I looked at the class as the reason to finally do something I had wanted to do for years: write about music.  I never imagined the success I would have with this blog when I first started.  I expected to be shot down or ignored by the bands I wanted to talk to.  That happened sometimes, but I had far more success than I imagined.  I expected to have to resort to writing about about bands I didn’t actually like or care about.  That didn’t happen at all.  I’ve genuinely enjoyed everything I’ve done for this.  Everything I’ve written here has been honest and true.  I don’t mind that focusing on only bands I actually like makes the blog less accessible to the public. When I get beyond the realm of things I want to write about, I don’t write as well.  I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer form this blog.

That being said, this isn’t the end of this blog by any stretch.  I’ve enjoyed it so much, I can’t imagine just stopping like that.  If anything, now I’ll have even more freedom with the blog–no deadlines, no specific assignments.  I’m going to continue to review every show I go to, and take as many pictures and videos as I possibly can.  I’m going to keep writing about bands I love, and bands I think are worth listening to.  As long as bands are willing to talk to me, I’m going to keep doing interviews, Q&As, and maybe even some new features with bands.  My next post will most likely be my top albums of 2011.

And now, the part where this becomes an awards show speech: I would like to thank each and everyone of you, my readers, whether you’re friends, family, acquaintances, or strangers.  Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for sharing.  I’d also like to thank the bands I’ve written about for producing awesome music–I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for your music and the inspiration it gives me.  Specifically, thank you to Michael Martens of O’Brother, Kevin Devine, Johnny Mick, and Christain Bitto for talking with me about their music and music in general for this blog.  Also thanks to Sibyl Kemp, Matt Hovern, Kimberly Southwick, Debbie Stevenson, and Eugene Kim of Invisible Children for talking to me and giving me some other perspectives.  Thank you to my friends for going to shows with me and putting up with me taking pictures and talking about my blog all the time.

Whether you’re an old or new reader, here are my five favorite posts.  I think they demonstrate my best work, and were all important to me for various other reasons.

1. Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum: Indie Rock Legend Returns

2. Q&A with Michael Martens, drummer or O’Brother

3. Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band put on a damn good show at the North Star Bar

4. Frank Turner proves that rock and roll really can save us all

5. My first living room show with David Bazan


Thank you for reading, and keep reading!

Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum: an indie rock legend returns

Jeff Mangum, source unknown.

Jeff Mangum, lead singer and songwriter for the 90s indie rock band, Neutral Milk Hotel, is quite an enigmatic figure.  He hasn’t released any new music under the Neutral Milk Hotel moniker since 1998.   No one knows if he’s written anything since that point, that he’s like the Salinger of indie rock, leading a quiet life writing music only for himself, or if he’s totally dried up and incapable of writing anything.  It’s likely somewhere in between–in a 2002 interview with Pitchfork, Mangum said he hadn’t written in a while, but also said he writes songs and being unsatisfied with them, throws them out.  With his recent triumphant return to the music scene years after that interview, perhaps new material will be released at some point.  Mangum is a man shrouded in mystery to most.  For the decade since his band Neutral Milk Hotel’s critically acclaimed album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was released, little is publicly known about Mangum’s life. Forget what he’s been doing with his time, few sources agree on where he’s been for the bulk of the past 13 years.  Some say he’s been living quietly in Athens, Georgia, others that he’s traveled all over, hopping from friend’s house to friend’s house.  It’s a mystery created out of hearsay and the rampant curiosity of fans and journalists who starve for answers.  The truth is, it doesn’t really matter where Mangum’s been–what matters is that Mangum’s returned.

Despite the following of devoted fans, and the accolades from publications, musicians, and Stephen Colbert, you may not know who Jeff Mangum even is.  You may have never heard of Neutral Milk Hotel, so back to the beginning, back to the roots of what made Mangum the icon he is today.  Neutral Milk Hotel was the name Mangum began using for his recordings in the early 1990’s.  For years, Neutral Milk Hotel wasn’t really a band as much as simply Mangum and whoever felt like playing with him at any given moment.  After releasing his first full-length album as Neutral Milk Hotel in 1996, On Avery Island, Mangum was joined by Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes, and Scott Spillane for touring, and Neutral Milk Hotel as it is commonly viewed was formed.  Two years later, Neutral Milk Hotel released their second and final album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, an album that continues to sell and gain the band new fans today.  Listed as one of the greatest albums of all time by more than one source, it’s now heralded as genius and revolutionary by many.  Less than a year after its release, after Neutral Milk Hotel started to create some buzz in the indie rock scene, they disappeared.  The band broke up, went on hiatus, whatever you want to call it.  Mangum disappeared, popping up here and there, but only playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs a few times over the next decade.  Recently though, Mangum has returned to playing shows and playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs.  After all these years, why is Mangum still relevant, and not just relevant, but able to sell out shows in seconds?  How did In the Aeroplane Over the Sea manage to be the sixth best-selling vinyl in 2008, when it was 10 years old and still rather obscure? Continue reading

2011 in Review: Looking Back at an Awesome Year of Shows

As the year draws to an end, blogs and magazines all over the internet are naming their best albums of the year.  I am going to do a post with my favorite albums of the year, but for now, I’m going to try something different.  It’s been an amazing year for music for me, both with albums releases from my favorite bands and live shows.  For this post, I’m going to go through my ticket stub diary and talk about some of those amazing concerts. Continue reading

Concert Review: Brand New at the House of Blues, Atlantic City

Let me briefly discuss my love affair with Brand New before I get down to talking about the show I went to on November 26.  I started listening to Brand New when I was in 8th grade.  Their album Deja Entendu blew my little 14-year-old mind.  I anxiously awaited its follow-up, an effort that took three years to complete.  It wasn’t until this time, in the fall of 2006 that I first got to experience Brand New live.  It was an acoustic in-store performance at the now defunct Mars Red Records in Haddonfield, NJ.  It was amazing, and they lived up to all my expectations.  Then, their album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me dropped shortly after and completely changed everything about my relationship to music.  I talked about that album briefly before, and I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but that album is still one of my favorite records of all time.  It’s very special to me, and it’s perfect in my eyes.  The years haven’t changed that like they have my opinions about other albums.  Deja Entendu lost some of its magic for me, but I don’t think the Devil and God ever will.  It was on one of the Devil and God tours in the spring of 2007 that I first saw Brand New at a proper gig, and it set the bar unbelievably high.  That tour featured Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra as support, and it was just perfect.  I honestly can say it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.  It might even be the best.  In the four times I’ve seen Brand New since then, I’ve never had as amazing an experience.  They’re always good, and I always love their shows, but that show was the peak for me.  Nothing has been quite as good, and I don’t know that anything else will ever reach that level of brilliance, of perfection, of love.  Brand New released another album in 2009 which I also deeply love, Daisy.  It’s visceral and raw and heavy, but so beautiful in it’s anger and anguish.  They haven’t released any new music since then, but the few strings of shows they’ve played this year seem promising.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get something new in 2012.

Now, let’s get to the show I went to last week.  The House of Blues show was announced over the summer, and I immediately got tickets (it was a small miracle, since the pre-sale sold out in about ten seconds).  No support was announced for the show until very recently.  If you read this blog regularly, I think you know I like this band, O’Brother, from Atlanta, Georgia.  I think they’re fantastic, and I’ve written quite a lot about them these last few months.  They announced they would be opening for Brand New on this Atlantic City date.  My jaw literally dropped when I read that tweet.  I mean literally.  I couldn’t believe that the little band that I’d essentially watched grow up would be opening for Brand New.  A week or so before the show, mewithoutYou announced that they would also be opening. Continue reading