Friday, June 19, 2009

Middle East Rubdown

Sunset Rubdown has always been my favorite of all the projects involving Spencer Krug. This is saying quite a bit seeing as he has consistently released amazing albums with Wolf Parade and Swan Lake as well. In fact, Swan Lake which also features Dan Bejar (Destroyer) and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes) have released a highly underappreciated album, Enemy Mine, earlier this year. However, it is easily outshadowed by the incredible new Sunset Rubdown record, Dragonslayer, which is vying for a place as album of the year.

On June 11, 2009, I got to see Spencer and his collective of extremely talented musicians perform at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA. It was the first night of a month long tour and the band seemed very excited to be there. I often think that when a band says they love playing Boston, it is simple pandering but Sunset Rubdown seemed genuinely ecstatic about performing that night. The set stated with "The Empty Threats of Little Lord" played directly into "Idiot Heart" which are two of their more electric songs and a fitting way to kick off the night. What makes Sunset Rubdown standout is the intriguing lyrics and the passionate manner in which they are delivered. This coupled with creative and experimental songwriting makes for a winning combination. Their signature style really shines when performed live. It is easy to see that there is a lot of meaning to the words sung and dedication poured into the performance.

Every member of the band managed to impress me throughout the show. I've always liked Camilla Wynne Ingr's keys and vocal harmonies and felt that they were a perfect complement to Spencer's voice. The combination sounded excellent on songs like "Paper Lace" which is also featured in a different form on Swan Lake's Enemy Mine. New songs such as "You Go on Ahead" fit perfectly alongside classics such as "Winged/Wicked Things" making for a very cohesive performance. I was disappointed with the lack of material from Shut Up I Am Dreaming but I don't know how upset I could be with such an incredible set. I guess I'm just not used to seeing them perform without playing "Us Ones In Between". Though it was great to hear them play "Snakes Got A Leg" which is one of their oldest songs.

The drumming really blew me away at times while carrying the music effortlessly. It really added to songs such as the epic "Dragon's Lair" which clocks in at over 10 minutes. The set ended with "Nightingale/December Song" which was apparently the first time they played it live but you couldn't tell by the flawless performance. Before calling it a night, the band came out to play an encore which consisted of "Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!" and "The Mending of the Gown". The latter served as a nice closer with its squealing guitar lick and fast key pounding. Below is a video of their performance of "Nightingale/December Song" from the show.

Elfin Saddle opened the show and definitely impressed those in attendance. I was not aware of their material until the show but I certainly enjoyed their unique style. Their spirited mix of indie rock, folk, and world music was quite captivating. Watching bassist Nathan Gage rock out an upright while singer Emi Honda delivered high pitched atmospheric vocals was quite a treat. They kept things fresh with interesting instrumentation including xylophones, accordions, and a singing saw. The group had a lot of interesting things going for them and they are definitely a band I will be looking out for in the future.

Sunset Rubdown:
The Empty Threats Of Little Lord
Idiot Heart
Black Swan
The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life
Silver Moons
Coming To At Dawn
You Go On Ahead
Paper Lace
Winged/Wicked Things
Snakes Got A Leg
Dragon's Lair
Nightingale/December Song
Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!
The Mending of the Gown

I am posting the rare 7" released just before Dragonslayer entitled Introducing Moonface. It has been ripped from vinyl in high quality 320 kbit/s mp3 format. I encourage everyone to purchase albums and concert tickets from Sunset Rubdown because they are truly one of the best groups around. I am including this download in the post because not everyone has access to this release and I believe every fan should listen to these tracks. The release only features two songs, "Coming to at Dawn" and "Insane Love is Awakening", but they easily rank among the band's best material.


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