I Can Confirm: Jukebox the Ghost are AWESOME Live.

Last friday I had the immense pleasure of seeing Jukebox the Ghost in concert at the House of Blues. And can I just say: hot damn! They were awesome! I cannot really express how much enjoyed the concert.

The House of Blues, for those who are unfamiliar with it, has a number of smaller rooms with a club-like feel: stage up front, bar in the back, and an open floor in between. From the stage to the bar the room was probably only 30-40 feet long. And, because Jukebox the Ghost is not a hugely well-known band, there were probably only about 100 or so people attending. But I really loved the feel of the small venue, the intimacy of seeing the band even from the back, the sound of absolutely every single person in the audience singing along. I definitely love small venues.

Lighthouse and the Whaler

Lighthouse and the Whaler

There were two openers. Lighthouse and the Whaler and Matt Pond. Lighthouse and the Whaler has potential – some of their songs were definitely catchy – but they lack the musical depth of a really good folk band and the keyboard player was mediocre. It also didn’t help that the sound guy (who I think was provided by House of Blues) did not do a good job mixing for the openers AT ALL. The drums drowned out several parts, there was feedback from the mics a number of times, and a bad echo on more than one occasion.

Matt Pond

Matt Pond

Matt Pond, the second opener, I actually rather enjoyed. He and his band (I think he’s a solo artist with just a touring band, but I’m not sure) suffered from some of the same problems as the first band: the sound guy wasn’t great (though he was slowing getting a better balance), a keyboardist who seemed only half-there, and a lack of musicality. But the songs were well-written and Matt Pond himself was a strong performer with more energy than the lead singer of Lighthouse and the Whaler.

Jukebox the Ghost

Jukebox the Ghost

But of course things REALLY got moving when Jukebox the Ghost took the stage. By this point the sound guy had done a more careful sound check, and figured out what the hell he was doing. Ben Thornewill (vocals and piano), Tommy Seigel (vocals and guitar), and Jesse Kristin (drums) took the stage to the distorted sound of the MGM intro music, and the audience went wild: screaming, clapping, whistling, jumping up and down (myself included). And they were so full of energy, so personable, talking with the audience and sharing funny anecdotes between sets, and performing their asses off for an audience that some bands might have deemed to small to worry about. They sounded absolutely fantastic live, and everyone sang along so loudly you have to wonder if people outside could hear us.

Tommy Seigel

Tommy Seigel

Ben Thornewll

Ben Thornewll

And I’ll tell you what. I came into it knowing that Ben Thornewill was a good pianist – it’s obvious just from the piano parts in their songs. But MY GOD! He started playing a bit of classical music (I think I heard some Chopin but I’m not sure), and I was BLOWN AWAY. Ben Thornewill is a PHENOMENAL pianist. I already liked him. But now I think I’m a little in love.

Even though it was a small venue, I am short, and I was standing behind some pretty tall guys, so I didn’t get many photos (and the ones I did get are rather blurry, sorry) – I was also too busy dancing and jumping like an idiot to bother with the camera phone – but I did get a video of them doing a cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” which was a TON of fun. (This is also my first ever youtube upload! Amazing!)

For those who are curious, here’s the full set list – I thin I may have the order wrong in places, but I think I got all the songs anyway (based on memory and some comparable set lists from earlier shows).

Full Set List (House of Blues Houston, 22 Feb 2013):

  1. Oh, Emily
  2. At Last
  3. Say When
  4. Victoria
  5. Dead
  6. Empire
  7. Under My Skin
  8. A La La
  9. Man in the Moon
  10. Static to the Heart
  11. Don’t Let Me Fall Behind
  12. Schizophrenia
  13. Adulthood
  14. So Let Us Create
  15. Where Are All the Scientists Now?
  16. A Matter of Time
  17. Somebody to Love (Queen cover)
  18. My Heart’s the Same
  19. Lighting Myself on Fire
  20. Hold It In
  21. Somebody
  22. The Sun (Interlude)
  23. The Stars
  24. The Spiritual

Encore

  1. Summer Sun
  2. Good Day

Seriously, Folks. This concert kicked so much ass, and they are such an AWESOME band, and they really should be much more well-known than they are. Please look them up some time and spread the love!

Here’s their first album (but all three are easily found on Spotify):

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2012, Pt 2: #10-1

Alrighty, folks! Here is the second half of my Top 20 list. (If you missed the first half, it can be found here). Since yesterday I’ve been tinkering with it EVEN MORE. I just cannot decide where some of these albums should be. So again, if you disagree with the placement, I probably agree with you. Seriously, pretty much any of the top 10 (except #1-3) could be pretty much ANYWHERE before and after each other. *shrug*

In any case, please enjoy and please feel free to sound off in the comments. (At the end you will find a Spotify playlist with all the albums).

And off we go!

#10: Theatre is Evil – Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra

Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls, is an internet QUEEN. Last year she started a kickstarter project to fund her new studio album, and raised over a million dollars! I was one of the people who donated to that project, and received the really kick-ass special edition vinyl and the art book for the album. Coincidentally, the whole album kicks so much ASS. Amanda Palmer’s special brand of “punk cabaret” at its finest.

My favorite song: Oh lord, half the album… but if I’m pressed to choose, maybe “Killing Type” or “Trout Heart Replica” or “Bottomfeeder”

#9: Lonerism – Tame Impala
These guys are still pretty new. Their first album came out in 2010. They’re Australian. And they are SO TRIPPY. Tame Impala is psychedelic rock with a dream-pop twist, and they will make your head spin (in the best way possible). Every song on Lonerism is just pure groovy guitar goodness (trying saying that five times fast).

My favorite song: either “Elephant” or “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” (seriously, the whole second half of “Nothing…” is just MINDBLOWINGLY AWESOME)

#8: My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters and Men
Oh man. Part of me feels like this album should be higher up than this… Oh geez. This is so hard! My Head is an Animal is a BRILLIANT album. Period. End of discussion. No but really. This indie folk/pop band is from Iceland. They released an EP in 2011 that I absolutely FELL IN LOVE with and I waited with baited breath for this album to come out. And it did not disappoint. It is expressive, controlled, and beautiful.

My favorite song: God, I don’t even know! Maybe “King and Lionheart” or “Little Talks” or “Six Weeks”…? GAH! TOO MANY AWESOME SONGS TO CHOOSE FROM!

#7: Shields – Grizzly Bear
Okay, honestly, I’m still torn about this one. I keep going back and forth over whether Shields should maybe be behind My Head is an Animal. Even as I type this, I’m considering moving them around. UGH. Either way, this album is wonderful. What I love about this band is that they pull from so many different styles. They’re indie rock, but they mix in a lot of folk, psychedelic, lo-fi, and even some pop. Also, I seriously LOVE Edward Droste’s voice. Also, they’re from Marfa, Texas – so another local-ish band makes the mix. Yay!

My favorite song: “Speak in Rounds” (probably… or maybe “Yet Again”)

#6: Milk Famous – White Rabbits
Here’s another band you can thank (or blame) on my brother. He introduced me to White Rabbits a few years ago. Their first album, Fort Nightly, is also awesome. Just so you know. And I love Milk Famous so much. It’s opening song, ironically called Heavy Metal (and the whole album) is a bit more laid-back than some of their previous work. But it still makes me want to dance. It’s got a great groove to it. (And yes, this is yet another indie rock/psychedelic/lo-fi mash up – I listen to a lot of bands like that, okay?)

My favorite song: “Temporary” (at least for the moment)

#5: Neck of the Woods – Silversun Pickups
I cannot possibly oversell how much I love Silversun Pickups. I just can’t. Their 2009 album, Swoon, is one of my favorite albums EVER of everything ever. The only reason this album isn’t slightly higher up is because a) it doesn’t quite match up to the awesomeness of Swoon, and b) there were a TON of really fucking fantastic albums this year (and I’m still wondering if I should put it ahead of the next album…). Trust me though, this album still ROCKS.

My favorite song: possibly “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”

#4: Port of Morrow – The Shins
The Shins were here in Houston in OCTOBER and I didn’t get to see them and I am STILL SO UPSET OVER THIS! YOU HAVE NO IDEA! *flails* …ahem… anyway. Yes, The Shins… Port of Morrow is The Shins first new album in FIVE YEARS, so we had to wait awhile for this one. But it was WORTH it. Indie rock with a great dream-pop vibe (and its REALLY dreamy in parts), and James Mercer’s fantastic almost-wailing lead vocals. LOVE IT!!!!

My favorite song: definitely “The Rifle’s Spiral”

Okay, so. Before I proceed, let me just say this: #1-3 are all pretty much TIED. These are definitely my top three favorite albums of the year. This is based on the honestly shamelessly RIDICULOUS number of times I have listened to these three albums. Sometimes I would listen to just these three albums over and over again for a week at a time. Sometimes I would pick just ONE album and play it on repeat for four or five days straight. I’m not even kidding. I have these songs stuck in my head all the time. I dream them. I wake up with the on my tongue. SERIOUSLY. And, quite frankly, for those of you who are also on my Facebook or Tumblr… if you can’t guess what these three bands are, you haven’t been paying much attention to all my ranting…

So, without further ado, #1-3 of my Top 20 albums of 2012:

#3: Safe Travels – Jukebox the Ghost
Jukebox the Ghost. I once put all three of their albums on a playlist and let it play straight through on repeat for SEVEN DAYS. SEVEN. Yeah. They have this amazing ability to be really bouncy and pop-y and dance-y and fun, while still having this underlying melancholy over EVERYTHING (a lot like The Killers, actually) and I absolutely LOVE that.

My favorite song: definitely “Everybody Knows” – the number of times I’ve listened to this song is, frankly, gratuitous.

#2: Phoenix – The Classic Crime
I came to these guys late. Just found them about six months ago, and it was thanks entirely to recommendations from Spotify. Ironically, this album was also made possibly due to funding from Kickstarter (but I didn’t contribute because I hadn’t heard of them yet). This album just hits me in the gut. Maybe it’s just my hidden emo coming out to play, but GEEZ, these guys just do something to me.

My favorite song: uh… um… do I have to pick one? Uh… “Beautiful Darkside”? “The Precipice”? “City of Orphans”? Probably one of those… maybe…

#1: Shallow Bed – Dry the River

And here we are. Number 1. Dry the River is a English folk rock band from London, and this is their debut album. And I just… I cannot describe to you how much I love this album. The lyrics are delicate, full of biblical references, emotional, powerful… the instrumentation is layered and complex and perfectly balanced. Peter Liddle’s lead vocals are high and clear, able to carry both gentle ballad and roaring anthem. In fact, the whole band shifts so perfectly from delicate to intense it still sometimes takes me by surprise. Which is saying something when you consider that I have listened to this album upwards of 100 times already.

My favorite song: Did you really think I’d be able to pick one? Haha. I could no sooner pick a favorite star from the sky (yeah, I made that reference, deal with it). Seriously, there is no possible way to pick one, or even several. This album is PERFECTION. Just listen to it.

I plan to post my 10 honorable mentions separately some time tomorrow. I probably won’t take the time to find all the album covers (that took forever!) or give long descriptions, but I will probably still at least list a favorite song or two.

Now, as promised, here is my spotify playlist of all the albums in the Top 20. I hope you enjoy it and find a new band or two to fall in love with!