If you’ve been reading this here blog for a while, you may have seen me mention my friend, the musical sherpa, Clay. Well last August, Clay gave me one of the best birthday presents I’ve gotten in my entire life: a generous starter collection of 45′s, cradled by a 7-inch Peaches record crate. This is a short video of my reaction upon being given this gift. There was tons of great stuff in there — everything from Queen to Radiohead and back again — and in the nine months since, I’ve had lots of fun exploring and expanding this collection (probably too much fun on the expansion front, but WHATEVER). So for Clay’s birthday, I’ve done the only reasonable thing — I’ve assembled a tactical playlist from my seed set of 7-inch records entitled “H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y” (you’ll see why), accompanied by a quick, solo game of Adjective Battleship for each one. Let’s do dis!
I knew I loved Sleigh Bells instantly. Not knowing much about the band, I clicked on the NPR First Listen of their debut album Treats, and the first few moments of the opening track “Tell Em” produced such an immediate and adrenaline-heavy reaction, that I’m surprised seeing them live turned out to be more thought provoking than visceral. The group is a duo, comprised of Derek Miller, a guitarist with a heavy metal pedigree, and Alexis Krauss, a former teen pop singer. Together they make gripping, danceable, sample-driven music that’s the closest thing I can imagine to a musical 5-Hour Energy. But the fact that guitar and vocals were the only live instrumentation (with a backing track providing the rest) during their show at the National this past Friday gave me a lot to think about … What happens when you make inventive music that you can’t stage? Do you hire a random backing band to learn the other parts? How do you capitalize on what you’ve created, other than licensing and record sales? I’m still not sure what the answers are, but I do know that I enjoyed the show, I love the album, and I want one of these so bad I can’t put it into words. Check out their performance of “Crown on the Ground” above and see what you think.