Meniskus ‘Partier’ Coming

Last night my wife and I went with a friend to the Draft House in Boulder (great chocolate stout and “pork roll” sandwich!) to see Meniskus, a band that I am becoming increasingly impressed with.

Do yourself a favor and go to iTunes to download at least “Letters” and “Overbearing (Part 2),” both available on the Foreign Beyond album. If you like these tracks, then you’ll like Meniskus, and you’ll become excited to learn…

Meniskus is recording their third album, and it will include “Partier.” (I don’t know if that’s the song’s official name, but everybody’s going to call it “Partier” anyway.) It seems to me that, if Meniskus is going to have a breakthrough hit, it’s going to be “Partier.” Then, I hope that a lot of people drawn to that popish, rhythmic party song look into the previous albums.

We’re blessed with some very good music in Colorado. DeVotchKa is one of my favorite groups of all time. Meniskus is working up the list, and I really wish these guys success.

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In other music news, I was excited to see that Depeche Mode has a new album out that Amazon is selling for $3.99 for today only. The first track was bizarre and off-putting in the preview, but the other tracks sound interesting. I figured that for four bucks it’s hard to go wrong. Unfortunately, after buying the album and downloading Amazon’s mp3 downloader, I got nothing. But I called Amazon on the phone, and they solved the problem very quickly. So, yea for real customer service.

Meniskus

Last night I saw Meniskus at Nissis. Thanks to a friend who has dragged me to several shows, I’ve finally become a fan. While I was underwhelmed at an early show, I think because the band wasn’t taking the venue seriously, last night the group was completely on its game, and its members did full justice to their compositional prowess.

Meniskus consists of a violinist who also sings am amazingly wide range, an acoustic guitarist who also picks up an electric bass, and a fabulous drummer who backs up vocals and plays a keyboard on the side. They’re very good musicians, and they’ve written several great songs. I hope that brings them success.

Meniskus has a couple albums out, and I think Foreign Beyond is the one to pick up. (ITunes has it.) They have a video out on YouTube for “Letters.”

This is a Colorado band that deserves a listen.

Enya’s Winter Night

Enya’s new album, And Winter Came, contains several tracks that rank among her best work (with her collaborators, the Ryans.) It’s a great Christmas album, and obviously marketed for that, but it’s a great album period.

Listening to one of the online mini-documentaries, I learned that Enya writes the music first, then Roma Ryan works up the lyrics. The lyrics read by themselves don’t always seem especially impressive. “Have you seen the mistletoe? / It fills the night with kisses.” But, from the same song, these lines, though equally obvious, seem poignant:

Green is in the mistletoe
and red is in the holly…
Gold is in the candlelight and
crimson in the embers.
White is in the winter night…

But when Enya sings it, everything seems lovely and meaningful. Of course it fills the night with kisses!

I think the entire album is worth your collection. However, if you’re picking out tracks from iTunes, here are my recommendations, in the order they appear on the album:

1. “White Is In the Winter Night” — The lyrics above are from this song. As Roma Ryan suggests, you could sing this one around the fire with your family.
2. “Trains and Winter Rains” — This song, set in winter but not about the holidays, is musically the most interesting of the album, I think. You can watch the video on Enya’s web page.
3. “Last Time By Moonlight” — A lovely and lyrical piece.
4. “One Toy Soldier” — As we might expect, the song has a great rhythm. It’s about Christmas, but more deeply it’s about the worry of disappointing oneself and others, then overcoming that by finding the right beat.
5. “My! My! Time Flies” — This is Enya’s swingingest song, and playful, and I quite like it. Be sure to read the fun lyrics. It’s a song about reflection, and moving forward.

DeVotchKa’s Faithful

This Halloween I saw what must be among the greatest shows of the evening worldwide: DeVotchKa’s performance. (The crowd’s costuming was a performance in itself.) The production was not nearly as extravagant as it was last year, as two nights at the Boulder Theater replaced one large performance in Denver last year. But this is not a band that needs props, given Nick Urata’s sonorous energy, Tom Hagerman’s virtuoso musicianship (he is a symphony-caliber violinist), Shawn King’s intricate and precise percussion, and Jeanie Schroder’s steady bass and tuba lines. (Actually it’s a sousaphone.)

I don’t know who does the heavy writing — I suppose Urata and Hagerman — but this band has created some very fine music. I recall going to see another local band some years ago and seeing DeVotchKa in the lineup by accident; it’s the only group of the evening that I remember. Then came “How It Ends” and the film “Little Miss Sunshine,” for which the band provided the music. And this local band has made it big, perhaps surprising given its eccentricity.

I wasn’t sure I’d like the band’s new album quite as well, based on my iTunes sampling of “A Mad and Faithful Telling.” But I picked up a copy at the concert (for a mere $10 — modern technology is extraordinary), and so far I’ve listened to it a half dozen times or so. It is a great album. I don’t recognize singles as rousing as the older songs “Death By Blonde” or “The Enemy Guns” — there seems to be less raucous guitar — but the album is marked by sophisticated and heartfelt music. I like DeVotchKa’s first album, and the other three studios are favorites of my collection.

On stage, Urata said he wished the audience could see the world through his eyes. At least we can hear the world as he hears it.

New Hard Rock

Hurrah! From the local rock station The Fox I learned of new music from AC/DC and Metallica. This follows the release of Rush’s “Snakes and Arrows” last year; I regard those three bands as the greatest of hard rock. So far I’ve spent only a few minutes listening, but I’m excited so far. Metallica’s “The Day That Never Comes” indicates the band has gotten comfortable again with subtle composition; the group’s best songs are very well written. And piano on “Unforgiven III?” Take that, genre zealots. It’s a good song. And nothing else matters.

Rush at Red Rocks

This Wednesday I caught Rush at Red Rocks, in my experience the absolute best place to see any band perform. It was as good of a performance as I’ve ever seen the band offer (and Rush is the best live band I’ve seen).

The northern lightning storm beyond Denver provided the perfect backdrop for the evening. Dark clouds sprinkled lightly till around 9:30, then the stars poked through. The breeze was noticeable but not annoying. Rush’s web page even offers photos of the event.

As I’ve noted, I count the new Snakes and Arrows album as among the band’s best work. My appreciation for it continues to grow. Peart’s famous drum solo was particularly breathtaking on Wednesday. In general, the band was in top form. I didn’t love the new short films for this leg of the tour, but I understand the need to break thinks up a bit for a 3.5 hour performance.

As I was driving down the road from the theater, I happened across a couple of hitch hikers looking for a ride to their hotel. It turned out that the guy was from LA, his girlfriend from Austin. They’ve met in different cities to see Rush several times. They even came to Denver earlier in the month, when Rush’s earlier date was cancelled due to weather. (I’m not sure they loved my ancient, rattling vehicle, but it got them to where they were going.)

Before I knew what he was doing, the guy handed me a $20 bill, and then he obstinately refused to take it back. I was strapped into my vehicle, so I said weakly, “If you leave that in here, I’ll have to give it to charity.”

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that (given the band’s history) donating it to cancer research was the way to go. After poking around a little on the advice of a friend, I ran across the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation, which gets a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. That’s where I’ll send the check.

According to the band’s web page, the tour will continue as follows:

June 2008

28th-St Louis, MO
30th-Cincinnati, OH

July 2008

2nd-Pittsburgh, PA
4th-Atlantic City, NJ
5th-Saratoga, NY
7th-Uncasville, CT
9th-Toronto, ON
11th-Manchester, NH
12th-Holmdel, NJ
14th-Wantagh, NY
17th-Hershey, PA
19th-Washington, DC
20th-Charlotte, NC
22nd-Atlanta, GA
24th-Indianapolis, IN

The fact is that Rush isn’t going to tour forever. Now’s an excellent time to catch them at the height of their powers.

DeVotchKa!

On Saturday night, my wife and I went with some friends to DeVotchka’s Halloween concert in Denver. Amazing. The show opened with a Day of the Dead procession. After some opening music, giant ribbons descended from the ceiling, and three women climbed them to perform acrobatic dance routines. Most people were dressed in stylish costumes. And the music was up to DeVotchKa’s usual standards. The band, filled out by three extra strings and another trumpet player, in addition to the four core members, alternated between the group’s sorrowful tunes and heavier beats. They started playing around 10:00 p.m., and the next thing I knew it was after midnight.

We became fans with the album SuperMelodrama, though I like the next albums, Una Volta and How it Ends, even more. You can sample the band’s music at its web page or through iTunes. One of my personal favorites is “The enemy guns” from How it Ends.