Tuesday 31 December 2013

Top 10 Albums 2013

What a great music year 2013 turned out to be. This year we saw wonderful albums coming out and the level was very high. Still the top of my list was crystal clear and I didn't have to go through a lot of trouble to be coming up with the top half.

1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
Nick Cave and his The Bad Seeds simply made a gem of a record. Push The Sky Away is a highlight in his catalogue. Does he ever make a bad record?
Play in Spotify

2. Arctic Monkeys - AM
Arctic Monkeys announced their new record would be a mix of Dr. Dre and Black Sabbath. That sounds pretty bad, but turns out to be a brilliant combination.
Play in Spotify

3. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
There was no way around Arcade Fire this year, so much is clear. With a thought-through pr-campaign they drew everyone's attention. And then that record. Pretentious? For sure. Bombastic? Absolutely. But also very good and surprising.
Play in Spotify

4. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Of absolute beauty is The National's album. It is full of gems, that make you listen breathlessly.
Play in Spotify

5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II
UMO made an impression with their second record, simply titled II. It is a nice combination of psychedelics and nice guitar playing.
Play in Spotify

6. White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade
White Denim show what they're made of again on Corsicana Lemonade. It's full of virtuous rock songs played by great musicians.
Play in Spotify

7. Jacco Gardner - Cabinet of Curiosities
There were also many nice Dutch productions again this year. Our own Jacco Gardner even drew attention across the border. His psychedelic baroque pop record Cabinet of Curiosities is an atmospheric album filled with beautiful songs and sounds.
Play in Spotify

8. Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
Josh Homme looked death into the eyes and this eventually resulted in ...Like Clockwork. A nice and varied record that not only has pounding rock songs but also leaves room for reflection.
Play in Spotify

9. Mikal Cronin - MCII
Mikal Cronin no longer stands in Ty Segall's shadow after releasing MCII, that has nice fuzzy pop songs on it.
Play in Spotify

10. Automatic Sam - Sonic Whip
Dutch rock band Automatic Sam shows with Sonic Whip why they are one of the most interesting rock bands in this country. And also one of the most underrated ones if you ask me.
Play in Spotify

The bottom half of this list was a lot more difficult. That's why I also want to mention De Staat's I_CON, Floating Coffin by Thee Oh Sees and Parquet Courts' Light Up Gold. They missed this list only by an inch. Looking forward to a new year of releases. Happy New Year!

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Monday 30 December 2013

New Cool Collective Celebrate 20th Anniversary

I've written about New Cool Collective several times and have been following the jazz collective for more than ten years. But the band formed years before that, twenty years ago to be precise. They have been playing some shows to celebrate this milestone and end with a big celebration in the Melkweg. Needless to say I had to join in on the celebrations.

New Cool Collective at Melkweg Amsterdam, December 23 2013

When we arrive at the venue, the doors are still closed and a long line is waiting. I still have no idea what this was about, but we decide to go for a beer first. When we return there's still a line and by the time we make it in, second support act Typhoon is about to wrap it up. Fortunately he will return later as a guest. The big hall is completely packed when the birthday boys take the stage. They start out as the "standard" jazz combo, which is the line-up they play the most in. Everyone is in a festive mood, also because it's Christmas in a few days, and positive vibes fill the hall right from the start.

New Cool Collective show why they are the best jazz combo around at the moment and what makes them into a one of a kind band. Jazz combo is not even the right term to describe them, since the band has mixed styles like jazz, latin and afro-beat into a unique genre. It usually results in swinging music that bring cinematic images to mind. Saxophone player Benjamin Herman acts as the front man, occasionally addressing the audience. As usual his enthusiasm is hard to ignore and catches on quickly. The band is playing in a relaxed fashion and every member gets a moment in the spot light.

After a first warm up set, there's a break to set up for the next part of the show: time to bring in the big band. This is the line-up you won't see them use that often. A lot of horn players are added and the band transforms into a show band counting almost twenty members. The songs sound more full this way, but still unmistakably carry the New Cool Collective signature. There's no celebration without guests, so Queax Queax Joans, Ruben Hein, Hans Dulfer, Typhoon and comedian Hans Teeuwen all join in. It results into a colourful celebration with Christmas songs and plenty of laughter. In the final encore everyone returns to the stage for a cheerful version of Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody'. And so we raise our glass to this magnificent band for a toast. Let's hope they will be around for at least another twenty more years.

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Tuesday 24 December 2013

Forty Years With Los Lobos

The hard thing about making a live album is to transfer the energy of a venue and band onto the record. Los Lobos have a strong live reputation and try to catch it on Disconnected In New York City. The band has been around for a grand forty years. With this release they are celebrating that milestone. They have released live albums before in their long and impressive career. Last year a live CD and DVD came out together with the special twentieth anniversary edition of the highly acclaimed Kiko.

Los Lobos - Disconnected in New York City (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)

Maybe that's the reason no songs of that record can be found on this thirteen track album. The deluxe version has four more tracks and a DVD. They clearly chose for the biggest hits of their career. An overview that contains both 'Gotta Let You Know' of their 1984 major label debut How Will The Wolf Survive, and the title track 'Tin Can Trust' of their last album from 2010. All of the songs sound great. The sound is crystal clear and it is as if the band is playing in your living room. There's a nice balance between the band sound and the response of the crowd.

Los Lobos are showing what a great musicians they are and what good songs they have written. The nice mix of blues, latin and rock is always tasteful. It is moving between swinging cumbia and sensitive ballads. Because of the "greatest hits" approach many well known songs are passing by of course. But it also made it less exciting. The band give a nice overview of their catalogue but are not really showing what they are capable of. Because of the selection of these songs from two intimate concerts in the City Winery in New York, it somewhat lacks coherence. Therefore it feels more like a collection of snapshots instead of the experience a Los Lobos concert can be.

Of course the versions of 'The Neighbourhood', 'Tears Of God' and 'Little Things' are beautiful, but it never really takes off. They are closing with that one big hit we all know. 'La Bamba' is mixed with 'Good Lovin'' into a medley. We all know Los Lobos is so much more than that one smash hit that made them famous around the globe. But you can't really hear that on this album. We will have to go see them in the flesh to hear that.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to Disconnected In New York City on Spotify.

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Wednesday 18 December 2013

Monster Magnet Unleash The Mighty Beast Again

Things didn't look good for a while for Dave Wyndorf, singer and the only remaining original member of US band Monster Magnet. In 2007 he almost overdosed on drugs. Wyndorf barely dodged the reapers scythe. It saved his life but also gave him excess body weight. The once muscular noodle had transformed in an old overweight rocker, hardly looking anything like the person he used to be. Music wise the band wasn't the relentless monster of before either.

Monster Magnet - Last Patrol (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

Earlier this year however Wyndorf proved with a tight rock show in Tilburg's 013 that he found the old magic back. Now there's a new album Last Patrol that is showing the same. The beast is back and is hurtling over you like in the old days with pounding rock songs. The guitar riffs are violent and convincing, supported by the familiar heavy grooves. The songs also have the usual quiet moments, where tension is building up to eventually erupt relentlessly. The long title track 'Last Patrol' takes the cake as it develops into a kind of spacy rock anthem.

But it's not just violence that is thrown at us. There are the usual moments where the band is showing its psychedelic side, like in 'Stay Tuned', and where it's slowing down. The group even dares to cover Donovan's 'Three King Fishers' and add add their own signature to it. And are we hearing bongos in 'The Duke Of Supernature'? In 'End Of Time' the Apocalypse seams near with roaring guitars and rolling fills. Ruthlessly the beast is racing along as if it awoke in a rude way. This is clear in the threatening 'Paradise'. The monster lays his anger upon us in 'Hallelujah' to eventually seal our fate in the feedback dredged 'Mindless Ones'.

Monster Magnet is playing with renewed energy. Even the nice art work of the cover is showing a powerful and aggravated demon that is up to no good. Hopefully Last Patrol is not living up to its name and turns out to be their last exercise, since in this shape Monster Magnet can go on for years.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to Last Patrol on Spotify.

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Tuesday 10 December 2013

Flying High On The Sitar With Elephant Stone

At the last edition of the Into The Great Wide Open festival an intriguing instrument is set up on the stage in the woods. On a low plateau the sitar is waiting until someone is going to play it. The man behind Canadian band Elephant Stone, Rishi Dhir, will only play it once during their successful performance at the festival. The sounds of the instrument are spreading throughout the trees and enchant its listeners. On their second album, simply titled Elephant Stone, you can hear it more often.

Elephant Stone - Elephant Stone (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

Dhir is an established sitar player who already worked with bands like The Horrors and The Black Angels. Dhir, whose roots obviously lie in India, is mixing his background into his music in several ways. We can hear the tabla and other Hindu influences. According to Dhir he was inspired by Bollywood movies as well. Especially in 'A Silent Moment' you can here these influences including nice oriental singing.

The result is a spicy and tasteful mix that is lightly digestible. The psychedelic songs are easy on the ears and are never too heavy. The sitar is mostly used in a subtle way and only now and then acts as the main attraction, like in 'The Sea Of Your Mind'. This song really is one big jam that eventually ends in a delightful apotheosis with a repeating sitar and fireworks by the guitars. It's the highlight of the record. The sitar proves to be the ultimate psychedelic instrument. Everything is floating on the remarkable and almost spiritual sounds. No wonder George Harrison was studying the sitar later on in The Beatles era.

But the other songs are worth it as well. Because the rest of the album is full of fine songs. Sometimes they are Beatlesque tunes like 'Hold Onto Yr Soul' and 'Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin'. They are almost light easy listening pop songs. Others are explosive guitar jams, performed with a lot of heart. Rishi Dhir understands well how to attract attention by being different. His musical talents combined with his background are a smart move which results in a wonderful record.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Listen to Elephant Stone on Spotify.

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Friday 6 December 2013

Savages Are Unstoppable

It's been quite a year for Savages. They released one of the finest records of 2013 and have been touring extensively. The four women leave a real impression with their intense live shows. Tonight is their last show of the year and singer Jehnny Beth says she's glad to be playing that one in Paradiso.

Savages at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 3 2013

Beth left her high heels at home tonight. It doesn't really make a difference for her performance. While she's standing in the middle of only a few spot lights, her piercing eyes are going around the hall. It is as if she's trying to take in every one of us. The dark show together with the fierce and sometimes hypnotizing music still hasn't lost any of its impact.

A large part of the powerful music comes from the strong rhythm section. Drum player Fay Milton is confidently pounding out the solid grooves. Bass player Ayse Hassan adds great bass lines that give the songs an unstoppable drive. It sounds as if the band is playing even tighter than the last time I saw them. 'Shut Up', 'Husbands' and 'No Face' sound incredible that way. The mix of dark new wave, punk and noise music is contagious. In the more quiet songs like 'Waiting For A Sign', everyone is so quiet that you can even hear the amps buzz.

Even though the four have been on the road for quite a while, they are not showing any signs of exhaustion. The set list is slowly building up to a climax with faster songs at the end of the set. Of course the show isn't really long, since they don't have enough material yet for a two hour show. It doesn't really matter when a performance is this intense. Especially not when they end with an inspired version of 'Fuckers', which they stretch out to a seemingly endless version. The repeating grooves put you right into a trance. It's the perfect close of a still impressive and at some points even astonishing show.

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01. I Am Here
02. Shut Up
03. City's Full
04. I Need Something New
05. Strife
06. Waiting for a Sign
07. Another War
08. She Will
09. No Face
10. Hit Me
11. Husbands
12. Dream Baby Dream (Suicide cover)
13. Fuckers

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Tuesday 3 December 2013

Rock Is Dead? Not with Navarone and Guild Of Stags

Over a year ago I heard some music from Navarone for the first time. I was completely blown away by the strong rock songs and how well it all sounded. It didn't take long for me to buy their record A Darker Shade Of White and couldn't wait to see them live. I had to wait for quite a long time but finally I was able to catch them at the last show of their tour around the country. As a bonus Guild Of Stags, another rock band I wanted to see, was the support act.

Navarone at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 30 2013

It's a nice story how Guild of Stags found their singer Michael Devlin. The Brit was visiting a beach club where the rest of the band was jamming to some classic rock tunes, which he happened to love himself. By chance he got on stage with them singing Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' and turned out to be the missing piece of the puzzle. And truly they are a great match. Their seventies style classic rock combines perfectly with his voice and appearance. And yes, the way he looks and sounds reminds strongly of Robert Plant and their music definitely is heavily inspired by Led Zeppelin. But when it sounds this good who am I to complain about that? It's hard to believe this group of musicians found each other by chance. In the end they do a great job in warming us up for the main act.

One by one the members of Navarone take the dark stage where only a few lights are lit. The silhouettes start playing their parts and build up to the first song. When Merijn van Haren starts singing I'm blown away once again. His voice is incredible. But besides good musicians you also need good songs. And that's exactly why Navarone caught my attention. Their songs are of high quality. Mostly they are rooted in classic hard rock but they touch upon prog-rock from time to time as well. Songs like 'The Red Queen Effect' and 'December' sound even better than on the album.

The band makes great use of dynamics in their music. Guitarist Kees Lewiszong is playing quiet tingling guitar melodies before he's making his guitar scream in the louder parts. It makes the songs really stick out. Especially because they are patiently building up their songs and steer them into the direction they want. 'Sage' is a great example of this. It also helps that the band is playing very tight. They even get away with an awesome version of Deep Purple's 'Child In Time' without the use of an organ.

There's a beautiful and intimate acoustic moment when van Haren sings 'Devil's Ferry' without microphone. Guitar player Roman Huijbreghs is joining him on acoustic guitar and vocals while drummer Robin Assen adds some harmonies at the end. It's not hard for the band to convince everyone of their skills in the nicely filled venue tonight. At the end of their set it doesn't take much for them to return to the stage for one more glorious encore. The band will start working on their second album now. I can't wait to hear it and see them again.

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1. Quarter Rest
2. December
3. On My Knees
4. My Favorite Sin
5. Kickin' My Can
6. Highland Bull
7. Sage
8. Devil's Ferry
9. Child in Time (Deep Purple cover)
10. The Red Queen Effect
11. Dawn
12. The Wander

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Thursday 28 November 2013

Queens Of The Stone Age Are Playing In The Big Leagues Now

For the third time this year Queens of the Stone Age are visiting The Netherlands. After their smashing and solid rock show on the Pinkpop Festival and their epic and intimate club performance earlier this month, they are now playing the big Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. What will they have up their sleeves for us tonight?

Queens of the Stone Age at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam November 26 2013

Amsterdam soccer club Ajax are playing Barcelona in the Arena stadium next to the Ziggo Dome tonight. Some metros are packed and we enter the venue later than planned. We are able to catch only a couple of songs by support act Band of Skulls. Judging from these songs and the big round of applause they receive, they did a good job at warming us up. Although it's not a sold out house, the big hall is filled up for the largest part.

When Queens of the Stone Age take the stage they don't waste any time. The set opens explosively with 'You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire' and big hit 'No One knows' both from their most successful Songs For The Deaf. Everyone is alert right from the start. From there on hits and new songs alternate. Since the latest album ...Like Clockwork has been out for a while, everyone has heard it by now. Songs like 'Smooth Sailing' and 'If I Had A Tail' fit right in with the older songs.

The album made clear the band have changed and are more than just a rock machine that is solely running on testosterone. 'Kalopsia', 'Fairweather Friends' and '...Like Clockwork' show a different side of the band and sound just as convincing as the up tempo songs. They also show how much Josh Homme's vocals have improved. His voice is clear and strong, even on higher notes. The new slower songs are more or less together in the middle of the set. This is a bit risky and breaks the high tempo. Not everyone is able to keep their attention during these slower songs. However the fans that can appreciate these songs get treated to honest and sincere versions of them.

Of course this show is different from the small club show in Tivoli a few weeks back. The group was there to have a fun night with a small bunch of fans. Tonight it's serious business. Now the band has to please almost 15.000 people and they don't take that task lightly. Josh Homme is less chatty tonight and only addresses us just a few times. It's not easy to make close contact in a big venue where the distance to your fans is huge. So the band is letting the music speak for itself. One of their most popular songs 'Go With The Flow' ends the regular set. It's definitely an interesting set list, not one that is going for the easy road.

For the encore Homme sits down behind the piano for 'The Vampyre of Time and Memory' and one last quiet moment. After that a bomb drops when they are playing 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' and 'First It Giveth' in a row. Pits are forming, beer is flying. The venue explodes for one last time during a ferocious and wonderfully stretched 'A Song For The Dead'. Queens of the Stone Age are now playing in the big leagues of bands, that are able to fill large venues. Tonight they proved they belong there.

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01. You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
02. No One Knows
03. My God Is the Sun
04. Burn the Witch
05. Smooth Sailing
06. Monsters in the Parasol
07. I Sat by the Ocean
08. ...Like Clockwork
09. I Never Came
10. Fairweather Friends
11. If I Had a Tail
12. Kalopsia
13. Little Sister
14. Make It Wit Chu
15. The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
16. Sick, Sick, Sick
17. Better Living Through Chemistry
18. Go With the Flow
19. The Vampyre of Time and Memory
20. Feel Good Hit of the Summer
21. First It Giveth
22. A Song for the Dead

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Monday 25 November 2013

White Denim Explore New Grounds

It is a remarkable growth White Denim have displayed in their career. They developed from a garage band to one that can showcase a wide spectrum, from prog rock to jazz and classic rock to latin. Especially after guitarist Austin Jenkins joined in they started exploring new grounds. For their new album Corsicana Lemonade they got help from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.

White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

Tweedy brought new elements into their sound and mixed in Americana and country, areas where he is the expert. White Denim make songs like 'Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)' and 'Cheer Up/ Blues Ending' sound just as convincing as anything else they play. Tweedy has made the songs more structured and more accessible. It did go at the expense of some of the raw edge that we could hear on the previous album "D".

However White Denim show they still are a band with a rare quality. Every song is of a high level and has that little extra sparkle the band adds to their music. Just listen to tracks like 'Distant Relative Salute' and title track 'Corsicana Lemonade' Even a song like 'Come Back', which would normally be just a classic rock song, turns into a little party with a twist around every corner.

Corsicana Lemonade is a delight to listen to like any album in the White Denim catalogue. However this time it is spinning less out of control. It makes me miss the crazy roller-coaster ride a bit that "D" was. But it's still a hell of a ride with one of the most exciting bands currently around.

Listen to 'Corsicana Lemonade' on Spotify

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Thursday 21 November 2013

New Sounds: Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Cologne

Do you like Cologne? Because desert rockers Queens of the Stone Age have cooked something up. The ...Like Cologne EP features three acoustic tracks of their latest LP ...Like Clockwork. The tracks were recorded in Cologne for radio station WDR1Live. You can listen to the EP exclusively on Spotify.

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Wednesday 20 November 2013

New Sounds: Thee Oh Sees - Singles Collection Volume 3

Garage rockers Thee Oh Sees are a very productive bunch of people. They keep knocking out new songs the same way Santa is handing out candy. But you know even though the quantity is high so is the quality. They will release Singles Collection Volume Three on November 26. It has some pretty rare material on it and is a must-have for any fan. The vinyl version will get three colours: Pepto pink/coke bottle green, grape soda/French vanilla, electric blue with strawberry haze. That's right. Pre-order apparently are ongoing but I can't out find where. I will add a link over here when I do. In the meantime stream the LP down below.

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Tuesday 19 November 2013

Words Fail To Describe Nick Cave

For the second time in two weeks Australian musician Nick Cave is visiting the Amsterdam Heineken Music Hall with his The Bad Seeds. This is the original first show, but since it sold out so quickly the show on November 4 was added later. This year he released one of the best records of this year and is playing sold out shows that receive the highest praise, something he also proved at Lowlands earlier in August. Could he live up to these high expectations?

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 17 2013

Cave himself is answering that question in the first song right away. 'We No Who U R' from his last album Push The Sky Away sets the tone for the night. The slow song has exactly the right amount of tension. 'Jubilee Street' follows which makes clear that the fans have embraced the new songs. Although it is a relatively quiet start, there's no way Cave will let us sit back and get too comfortable. 'Tupelo' is showing Cave in his best way: his piercing eyes scouting the crowd, spitting out his words with great determination. Once again the man is in great shape. Every night the set list differs only for a small bit, so any one who has seen a show or has looked at an earlier set list knows what songs can be expected.

But that doesn't mean the music is predictable. Far from it. Cave moves across the stage restlessly, seeking contact with the audience like we saw before: his hand supported by a fan's hand. At the same time he's singing his poetic lyrics with so much fire, as if he wants to convince us all personally. At points he's crying it out. During the quiet songs, the more than 5000 fans don't make a sound. The big hall is completely silent. It gives a song like 'God Is In The House' even more impact while every single one of us is holding their breath. Cave turns 'Higgs Boson Blues', one of those gems of the new record, into a an intense experience. Eventually whispering the words "Can you feel my heartbeat?" while supported by his fans who are holding him firmly. He breaks the almost tangible tension himself by whispering "You can let go now".

Cave is in total control and The Bad Seeds will always have his back. The fine musicians know exactly what the songs need. Their use of dynamics in the songs is invaluable and is the finishing touch. Laid back and patiently the band is playing the slow songs while Cave is massaging our souls, only throwing tiny accents around. Brutal and aggressive eruptions sound right when Cave is spitting fire. Warren Ellis dances around like a mad scientist with his heavy beard and violin play, tossing his bow around stage when he's done. I don't know how many bows he is breaking during this tour. He is an attraction himself and is giving, like all the others, the perfect backup for Cave.

The gloomy sounding 'Push The Sky Away' ends the regular set before the encore starts with 'Abattoir Blues', a song you won't hear often in a live set. Cave already warns they will probably screw it up and he admits "that was fucked up on every level" at the end of it. Was it really? The gorgeous 'Into My Arms' ends this more than brilliant show in a perfect way. The past thirty years seem to have been just a warm up for Nick Cave. I don't think he ever wrote a bad song, but it feels as if the best is yet to come. Imagine what he will come up with in the years to come. Once again Cave proves to be an extraordinary and gifted artist who will never disappoint. All these words simply aren't enough to describe him. Superb, magnificent, grand! They simply don't do him right.

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01. We No Who U R
02. Jubilee Street
03. Tupelo
04. Red Right Hand
05. Mermaids
06. The Weeping Song
07. From Her to Eternity
08. West Country Girl
09. Sad Waters
10. God Is in the House
11. Wide Lovely Eyes
12. Higgs Boson Blues
13. The Mercy Seat
14. Stagger Lee
15. Push the Sky Away
16. Abattoir Blues
17. We Real Cool
18. Do You Love Me?
19. Into My Arms

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Wednesday 13 November 2013

New Sounds: Ghost EP 'If You Have Ghost'

Swedish metal band Ghost have a famous friend: Dave Grohl. He produced their new album If You Have Ghost. It's less metal and more Abba and includes a cover of Army of Lover's 'Crucified'. Say what!? What do you think? Listen to it on SoundCloud below.

You can pre-order the EP on iTunes and on their website.

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Tuesday 12 November 2013

Memorable Night With Queens Of The Stone Age

Desert rockers Queens of The Stone Age will be playing for over 15000 people when they are performing at the Ziggo Dome at the end of the month. They decided to treat the Dutch fans that bought tickets to that show, to a small club show a few weeks ahead of it. Needless to say the 1000 tickets sold out in no time. Fortunately I didn't luck out and managed to get tickets to this one time opportunity.

Queens of the Stone Age at Tivoli Utrecht, November 9 2013

According to some it wasn't just about having a good time for Josh Homme and his QotSA friends, but also a publicity stunt to try to sell out the Ziggo Dome. Whether that is the case I'm not sure. It still felt like being one of the chosen ones. You can feel the venue trembling with anticipation when entering it. Slowly it is filling up and everyone is impatiently awaiting the stoner rock band from Palm Desert. A big roar fills the hall when the band enters the stage in the dark.

What follows is nothing less than an epic show, the best I've ever seen them play. The band is so tight and new drummer Jon Theodore has a big part in it. He's playing thee heavy songs so convincingly and with so much energy, it's hard to believe he hasn't been playing with them for years. Many songs of their last album make it into the set and sound even better live. Tonight new and old songs go down with the crowd equally well. Every single one of them is greeted with great enthusiasm. The near death experience Homme had, has changed be band and their music so it seems. They are playing as if this show could be their last one. Homme himself looks more relaxed than ever but also more determined. It leaves no doubt about what they are doing here. They are here to have a lot of fun with their fans and rock this place apart.

There's even time for requests when some people in the crowd unfold a small banner with the song title 'Tangled Up in Plaid'. Homme laughs and agrees to play it. The songs starts but then Homme changes his mind and promises to play it later on. It's characteristic for the night. The band totally connects with the crowd and are enjoying themselves a lot as well. Later on they play the song as promised. The fun just doesn't stop. While introducing the band, he says it's bass player Michael Shuman's birthday. Some people start singing a doubtful version of 'Happy Birthday'. "Leave the singing to us" Homme responds while laughing. And no, it wasn't even Shuman's birthday.

But music wise the band doesn't fool around. The songs sound solid as a rock and make Tivoli shake. Of course the big hits are not forgotten. 'Go With The Flow', 'Little Sister' and 'No One Knows' never sounded better. 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' is almost knocking our lights out. All the time the front half of the venue is jumping continuously as one big pit. The set list I see hanging at the mixing console reveals they made some spontaneous changes to it. The band leaves the stage, but it doesn't take much to bring them back for the final blow. The three song encore ends with a mind blowing long version of 'A Song For The Dead'. It's the end of a two hour show we will all remember years after. This was Queens of the Stone Age in optima forma. The group leaves with big smiles on their faces. And so do we, the chosen ones.

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01. Medication
02. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
03. You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
04. No One Knows
05. Avon
06. MyGod Is the Sun
07. Turnin' on the Screw
08. …Like Clockwork
09. In the Fade
10. Misfit Love
11. If I Had a Tail
12. Kalopsia
13. Little Sister
14. Smooth Sailing
15. Fairweather Friends
16. Mexicola
17. Tangled Up in Plaid
18. Better Living Through Chemistry
19. Go With the Flow
20. Feel Good Hit of the Summer
21. Make It Wit Chu
22. A Song for the Dead

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Sunday 10 November 2013

Intense Performance By Impressive The National

The big Heineken Music Hall doesn't sound like an ideal place to see a band like The National. But ever since releasing High Violet a few years back things went fast for the Brooklyn based band. This year's Trouble Will Find Me established their newly achieved position as a high profile group. It also means shows in small clubs are something of the past.

The National at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 7 2013

The band doesn't forget that they owe their success mainly to the last two albums. Their set list is focusing mainly on them. Their self titled debut album is even completely ignored. With ten songs from the latest album it means they're playing almost the entire album. Although it is their newest album of course, you don't see many bands doing that. It proves how confident they are about the new songs, but also that they recognize the fact that a large part of the audience probably isn't that familiar with their older work.

That older work has some gems of its own of course. A true fan wouldn't accept a set list without a vicious 'Abel' and the beautiful 'Fake Empire'. However the last two records are simply of such rare high standard that it would be a crime not to play songs like 'Anyone's Ghost', 'Demons' or 'Sea Of Love'.

Singer Matt Berninger has to warm up in the beginning before he's relaxed. He's moving around in his usual fashion like a caged tiger, continuously sipping wine. It never gets old watching his emotional performance. There's no other artist who can sing with so much intensity and emotion like him. His warm baritone is massaging your soul until the tension has build up inside him and just bursts out with huge outcries. Later on in the set everything falls into place. The crowd is quiet and is listening breathlessly to beautiful versions of 'Hard To Find' and 'Pink Rabbits'. By the time they play the gorgeous 'I Need My Girl' they have resized the big Music Hall to a tiny intimate club and I'm completely lost in the music.

The guitars played by the twin Dessner brothers Aaron and Bryce sound great and big in the climax parts, but they are ringing modestly in the subtle picking parts. The horns add precisely enough melancholy to the music. Bryan Devendorf's creative grooves are pushing a song like 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' forward. At the end audience and band connect literally when Berninger is taking his usual plunge into the crowd during an always thundering 'Mr. November' and again in 'Terrible Love' that closes the set. A truly magical performance we don't see very often in this place.

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01. I Should Live in Salt
02. Don't Swallow the Cap
03. Anyone's Ghost
04. Bloodbuzz Ohio
05. Demons
06. Sea of Love
07. Hard to Find
08. Afraid of Everyone
09. Conversation 16
10. Available
11. Cardinal Song
12. I Need My Girl
13. This Is the Last Time
14. All the Wine
15. Abel
16. Slow Show
17. Sorrow
18. Pink Rabbits
19. England
20. Graceless
21. Fake Empire
22. About Today
23. Humiliation
24. Mr. November
25. Terrible Love

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