Three bands, two concerts, one week
DO MAKE SAY THINK
While waiting for the headliner of the evening to perform, concertgoers often encounter a particularly perplexing foe: the opening band. Making their way on stage by whatever artifice they can, these bastards seem to exist solely to increase the amount of time that fans must wait to see their favorite band. One can either venture into the crowd to secure a good spot for the top act — risking a close-up experience with a lesser-known, boring, and poorly received band — or play it safe and stay in the back to chat it up with fellow malcontents.
This Wednesday, when Broken Social Scene comes to Mr. Small’s, listening to the opening band will not be its usual loathsome experience. Wednesday’s concert will begin with a different sort of band — the phenomenal Do Make Say Think.
Do Make Say Think is an instrumental post-rock/experimental jazz band hailing from Toronto. Its sound is somewhat similar to those of Sigur Rós and Mogwai. Utilizing guitars, keyboards and oscillators, two drumsets (both in the studio and on tour), horns and winds, and the occasional string section, the group has produced four fantastic albums since its formation in 1995.
Do Make Say Think’s songs have been described as music to decompress to, a label undoubtedly referring to the band’s masterful use of tension and release to evoke a grand spectrum of emotions. Many songs center around a guitar melody repeating long enough to mesmerize the listener as the bass and drums creep in with perfectly complementing rhythms. Slowly, the instruments increase in volume and ferocity as a droning horn section is added to the woodwork.
After building unthinkable amounts of tension, the members of Do Make Say Think uniformly switch gears into a differently paced section, pleasantly surprising the listener with new melodies, often alluding to the beginning of the opus. In recordings, these grand progressions are complemented by their heavy production — reverb-laced guitars, reversed drum hits, filtered horns, etc. One can only imagine the power that the band will have on stage.
With overlapping band members, Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene are perfect tourmates. Do Make Say Think will surely set an excited mood before Broken Social Scene takes the stage to rock the evening to a close. So if you plan on checking out the concert, make sure you get there in time to see Do Make Say Think; maybe it will revive your faith in opening bands.
Suggested Listening: “Minmin” — Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord is Dead and “Ontario Plates” — Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE
Now, let’s not let Do Make Say Think steal all the thunder. Broken Social Scene itself is sure to pick up where its opening act leaves off. The 15-member indie “super group,” notorious for its energetic sets, will be headlining Wednesday night’s show, enlivening Pittsburgh listeners with its fresh, creative sound.
Broken Social Scene was formed in Toronto in 1999 and released its first album, Feel Good Lost. Yet it was not until its pop-infused sophomore release, You Forgot it in People, that the band was able to reach a more mainstream audience. For this second album, vocalists Leslie Fiest and Emily Haines joined to complement the mostly instrumental band. You Forgot it in People won a Juno Award (Canada’s equivalent to a Grammy) in 2003 for “Alternative Album of the Year,” and Broken Social Scene won the award again in 2006 for its self-titled album.
Broken Social Scene, the band’s newest release, revisits the catchy melodic riffs and pop vocals that made You Forgot it in People so immensely popular. On the disc the group also toys with a new, more experimental sound, which may seem a bit disjointed to listeners more accustomed to Broken Social Scene’s previous albums.
Take the song “Marketfresh,” which includes technical effects resembling the irritating high-pitched sound of microphone static. The use of such a technique is definitely a risk, but many argue that this out-of-the-box musicianship is what makes Broken Social Scene so appealing; the band is continually able to incorporate the most random elements into its creations, providing a sound that is always fresh.
Of course, the self-titled album also offers tracks capturing the sound of generic indie. The song “7/4 (Shoreline)” has a pop flavor reminiscent of the band’s earlier work, in addition to a newer, melodramatic edge, achieved through the combination of vocals by Leslie Fiest and lively guitar solos.
Broken Social Scene reaches beyond the mundane confines of any one genre to create an eclectic combination of instruments and vocals. Whether new or old, the sound of Broken Social Scene is sure to satisfy your indie appetite, or any musical appetite for that matter.
Suggesting Listening: “7/4 (Shoreline)” — Broken Social Scene
Have you ever heard of those groups with quirky and complex musical compositions, catchy vocal melodies, and bizarre song names like “Where There’s A Will There’s A Whalebone”? Of course you haven’t, unless you’ve heard of the Montreal-based indie-rock group Islands.
Although Wednesday night’s concert at Mr. Small’s will be the talk of the town, it will only be Pittsburgh’s second stellar concert of the week. Islands is performing tonight at the Lawrenceville Moose Lodge. The band, which formed after the breakup of cult-famous group The Unicorns, is touring extensively to promote its sole album, Return to Sea. Islands’ influences are many: The band features a poppy bounce close to The Beatles circa Rubber Soul, compositional complexity the likes of Sufjan Stevens, and a sound of electro arena-rock similar to that of The Killers.
Though the album lacks cohesion, the songwriting chops on Return to the Sea are fabulous. On “Volcanoes,” shuffling snare drum patterns and half-note acoustic bass lines bring back the days of Johnny Cash country-rock. Singer-keyboardist-guitarist Nick Diamonds sings, “Just hold on as long you as you can / I’m so afraid to die,” as the song creeps into an Arctic Monkeys Brit-rock refrain. “Rough Gem” calls for a pair of tight hipster jeans. It’s a bare-bones keyboard-driven song with simple but catchy synth lines, a warm vibe, and surprisingly depressing vocals: “Dig deep, but don’t dig too deep / You’ll see the hole is empty.”
The mood then shifts: Return to the Sea calls upon its listeners to trade in their pretentious vintage T-shirts for beach attire and Hawaiian leis. “Jogging Gorgeous Summer” is a beautiful, melodic number with a peppy island groove (cheesy pun intended), provided by the band’s smoking rhythm section of Aaron Holmes on drums and Patrice Agbokou on bass. After the jazzy “If” and the ambient experimentation of “Ones,” Islands closes out the record with “Renaud,” a song of user-friendly simplicity, stripped down to piano and vocals.
Although Islands is still developing its sound and style, the band’s gifted songwriting abilities outshine any problems on Return to the Sea, making it a promising first record. The album is an impressive start to Islands’ career, predicting a successful promotional tour; next stop: Pittsburgh.
Suggested Listening: “Jogging Gorgeous Summer” — Return to the Sea