Hands in Magic

I like a lot of bands. I even love a lot of bands. However, there still remain a select few that I really connect with on a more intimate level. I can’t explain why, but something about their music grabs my attention and could easily hold it ransom if it wanted to. Here We Go Magic is one of those bands.I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them twice in two different parts of the country; each performance greater than the last. Their second album, last year’s Pigeons, absolutely blew me away. Since then, I’ve been very much looking forward to the next thing to come out of the creative conscious of Luke Temple and co. Luckily, that next thing is on its way in the form of an EP. Its called The January EP, so I’m going to assume it was written this past January after the band had some time off from touring. I’ve had a chance to listen to this EP and I definitely think it’s a step-up from Pigeons in the best way possible. It was produced by the band’s bassist, Jen Turner, and recorded to tape so expect a bit more warmth in the production.

Check out the haunting single, “Hands In The Sky”, below.

Here We Go Magic – Hands In The Sky

The January EP is out May 10th on Secretly Canadian.

The Photon God’s 2010: LPs & EPs

It’s often that you don’t get the same experience from listening to a single song that you do when you listen to an entire album. There’s a story being told that you miss out on when you listen to one or two random songs. If I like an album, I listen to it over and over until I digest it as best as I can. Each of these albums was there for me through thick and thin, through any kind of weather, through road trips, through heartbreak, through life, death, what have you. However, I’m tired of putting things in a numbered order. It doesn’t matter. Each of these records is amazing. I thought “this is the best record I’ve ever heard” while listening to each one of these albums. Putting them in a numbered list seems fucking ridiculous now. In no particular order:

The Photon God’s Top 50 Albums of 2010

Beach HouseTeen Dream
Arcade FireThe Suburbs
Ariel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiBefore Today
Les Savy FavRoot For Ruin
Here We Go MagicPigeons
The Flaming LipsEmbryonic
DeerhunterHalcyon Digest
Magic KidsMemphis
Las RobertasLas Robertas
Dum Dum GirlsI Will Be
Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinLet It Sway
Janelle MonaeThe ArchAndroid
Owen PallettHeartland
Julian LynchMare
Surfer BloodAstro Coast
Lower DensTwin-Hand Movement
No AgeEverything In Between
The Soft PackThe Soft Pack
Twin ShadowForget
MedicationsCompletely Removed
Dr. DogShame, Shame
EmeraldsDoes It Look Like I’m Here?
Best CoastCrazy For You
EelsEnd Times
We Are ScientistsBarbara
Vampire WeekendContra
WomenPublic Strain (Get back together, assholes)
The BooksThe Way Out
Beach FossilsBeach Fossils
WavvesKing of the Beach
DevoSomething For Everybody
Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Xiu XiuDear God, I Hate Myself
Coma CinemaStoned Alone
The WalkmenLisbon
El GuinchoPop Negro
WoodsAt Echo Lake
The NationalHigh Violet
Frankie Rose & The OutsFrankie Rose & The Outs
Thee Oh SeesWarm Slime
Jeff The BrotherhoodHeavy Days
Lord HuronMighty
Foxes In FictionAlberto (Really recent, but really good)
GirlsBroken Dreams Club
Twin SisterColor Your Life
WarpaintThe Fool

This is my last list for LISTS WEEK. I am announcing here and now that I will be taking a break from the blog to regain whatever hours I’ve managed to shave off of my life from not sleeping. Call it a period of hibernation. I will be back sometime in January. Until then, if I don’t see you tonight or tomorrow, Happy Holidays!


The Photon God’s 2010: Songs

I listened to a lot of songs this year. I’m talking A LOT. A few stuck with me, a few didn’t. This list was hard to pin down. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked each and every one of my friends’ heads off about at least one of the songs on this list. I have a habit of going “HEY EVERYBODY, LISTEN TO THIS” when I hear something I really like. Sometimes my exclamations are met with indifference, sometimes they’re met with “Yeah, we know”s. Other times they’re met with “QUIT YELLING”s. Just the same, I love these songs. Feast your ears on

The Photon God’s Top 50 Songs of 2010

50. The BabiesMeet Me In The City
49. La SeraNever Come Around
48. Kanye WestMonster [feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver]
47. Ba BabesHoly Ghost
46. The Soft PackAnswer To Yourself
45. Panda BearYou Can Count On Me
44. Owen PallettLewis Takes Off His Shirt
43. Lower DensCompletely Golden
42. Cee Lo GreenFuck You
41. Magic KidsSuperball
40. GirlsHeartbreaker
39. Big SurrAlright
38. El GuinchoBombay
37. Les Savy FavLet’s Get Out Of Here
36. Janelle MonaeTightrope [Feat. Big Boi]
35. The BooksThe Story Of Hip-Hop
34. WomenEyesore
33. DevoFresh
32. Jeff the BrotherhoodU Got The Look
31. Xiu XiuChocolate Makes You Happy
30. Surfer BloodFast Jabroni
29. Active ChildI’m In Your Church at Night
28. WeekendComa Summer
27. Perfume GeniusMr Petersen
26. WavvesGreen Eyes
25. VulpesGhost Dance
24. WoodsSuffering Season
23. No AgeFever Dreaming
22. The Young MathsHospitals
21. MedicationsLong Day
20. Dr. DogShadow People
19. Arcade FireEmpty Room
18. The YoungBird in the Bush
17. Best CoastWhen I’m With You
16. DeerhunterDesire Lines
15. Twin ShadowI Can’t Wait
14. Las RobertasGhost Lover
13. Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinSink/Let it Sway
12. The Tallest Man On EarthLove Is All
11. Local NativesCamera Talk
10. Twin SisterMilk & Honey9. Reading RainbowWasting Time8. Dum Dum GirlsJail La La7. Beach FossilsYouth6. The VaccinesIf You Wanna5. Here We Go MagicCollector4. Beach House10 Mile Stereo3. The Morning BendersExcuses2. Ariel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiRound and Round1. Thee Oh SeesI Was Denied

O, the sunlight! O, the music!: Pitchfork Music Festival Review

Music-lovers are fascinating creatures; they are willing to put themselves well past their limits of endurance for even the slightest chance at seeing a song they’ve come to know and love recreated before their very eyes. Case in point: music festivals. The amount of dedication—no, unfettered loyalty that fans exhibit at a music festival is absolutely incredible.

Photo: pcurtner on Flickr
This year’s Pitchfork Music Festival brought many great bands together; most of which had either released some new music this year or are going to at some point. Originally, I was only going to attend the final day of the festival, Sunday. However, during a healthy visit to Reckless Records on Saturday, a rather generous punker kid offered me his ticket to that day of the festival stating that he could not attend and didn’t want to see it “go to waste”. Deciding not to waste my time being thankful for fate and becoming a believer in destiny, I made my way to the nearest Blue Line stop, left my bag full of new records at the place I was staying at and hopped my way through Chicago’s incredibly-confusing railway system until I finally arrived at Union Park. Given that I didn’t acquire a means to attend the festival until the afternoon, I arrived rather late in the day and missed a few bands I would have liked to see, Real Estate, The Smith Westerns, WHY?, Sonny & The Sunsets, Titus Andronicus—the list goes on. However, I did arrive just in time to catch Panda Bear’s performance. This being the first time I ever see him perform live, I walked up to the large mass of swaying people surrounding the stage with a slight bit of apprehension. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Panda Bear’s music; his last album, 2007’s Person Pitch, was a beautiful record. However, I’ve seen many similar electronic artists suffer the same infuriating stigma when translating the delicate intricacies of their music to a live setting; some things don’t always make the cut and you begin to hear the songs for the faintly synchronized streams of looped noises that they are and the experience is ultimately relegated to the back part of one’s brain where it will hang out with other mildly interesting memories that have already started a game of Risk: Universe Edition and don’t feel like resetting all of the purple pieces just so the ‘newbie’ can have something to do.

Photo: Jason Stoff on Flickr
Luckily, Panda Bear’s performance didn’t suffer this bland fate and instead, fell flat on repetition. His set was full of new material for the most part, and I being the lazy blogger that I am, am still not familiar with any of this new stuff aside from the b-side off of his new single, TOMBOY, “Slow Motion”. Therefore, I wasn’t able to really get into his new songs and ended up standing in the audience waiting for the pleasant patterns of unfamiliar noises made by the scrawny man on stage to end. However, I still picked up the then-unreleased 7” single. I didn’t stay to watch LCD Soundsystem out of personal preference but from what I heard on my way out of the festival from across the park, it’s safe to assume that James Murphy and co. had a great time. I wasn’t too worried about missing their set considering I was on my way to catch Here We Go Magic play Schubas Tavern that night; a performance that, and I’m only using a slight amount of hyperbole, absolutely blew my mind.

So come Sunday, I arrive to the festival a bit behind schedule due to some brief but heavy rain and immediately make a beeline to the press tent to attempt to get an interview with Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic despite my lack of punctuality (it was arranged for 1:30, I arrived at 2:15). Luckily, he was kind enough to stick around for a bit to chat. You can read that interview in the post preceding this one or if you’re lazy, here’s a link. Now, the first band I set out to see was Girls. I had missed several opportunities to see them closer to home (keep in mind, I’m from Texas) and already had the pleasure of experiencing Best Coast, who was also playing at the time, twice at South by Southwest this past year. So, naturally, I made my way to the main stage just as the band began playing “Laura”, the first single from their debut album, last year’s Album.

Photo: Robert Loerzel on Flickr
For being so early in the day, the band had quite a large audience; several hundred festival-goers were obediently bobbing their heads and either humming or singing along to the infectious pop ditties that the band was almost effortlessly playing through. It was also a pleasure to hear the band play their new song, “Lysandre” with my own ears. Final thoughts on this performance: I think that everyone should refer to Christopher Owens’ leg-lift move as the ‘flamingo leg’. It might become the next ‘duck walk’.

I noticed early on that in order to get as close to a band as possible, I would need to sacrifice a song or two from a previous performance to get an early spot and ‘camp out’ at another stage until that band started playing. So, wiggling my way out of the audience, I begin the 30-40 ft pilgrimage in the blistering hot sun toward the C stage and plant myself between two now either very startled or very uncomfortable people and wait for Beach House to finish setting up while softly singing along with the chorus to Girls’ last song.

I had the pleasure of watching Beach House play Emo’s in Austin a couple of months ago and was quite impressed with their set. Sunday’s performance received no different a reaction. The band seemed unaffected by the weather in the comfortable shade provided onstage and after greeting the crowd as heartily as a band like Beach House can, they started their set.

The band played a majority of the songs off of their latest album, Teen Dream, stopping in Devotion territory for a few memorable tunes but ending with arguably their best song yet, and my personal favorite, “10 Mile Stereo”. There’s something really incredible about this band’s ability to make such mellow music feel so intense. Final thoughts on this performance: Alex Scally is a goofball, there’s a good chance that I have a crush on Victoria Legrand, and had it been later in the evening once the sun had set, the rotating diamonds the band had onstage would have had a better effect on the performance.

Quickly following Beach House’s set, I made my way back to the main stage and dug myself well into the audience that now reeks of armpit; bracing myself for the mighty noise rock duo from Rhode Island, Lightning Bolt. I overheard members of the audience talking about how they were ready to start ‘going crazy’ and how others were “on like, a lot of drugs, dude”. Needless to say, I began to regret my rather impulsive decision to get as close to the stage as possible. This meant I had injected myself straight into the beating heart of an audience that was going to become very violent very quickly.

Not to toot my own horn, but I was right. The minute both Brians (Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson) took the stage and began testing their instruments, a collective roar arose from the audience, myself included with camera in hand. Arms with clenched fists at the end of them rose into the sky as others gave out cheers of the band’s name. “Light-ning Bolt! Light-ning Bolt!” Almost as if in response to this ‘call to arms’, Brian Gibson begins making a bunch of fuzzy noise with his bass and the audience’s cheers multiply. Following suit, Brian Chippendale begins banging the crap out of his drum set as sporadically as possible which turns the excited crowd of stiffs into a torrent of arms and elbows going every which possible direction and at that point, I decide that ‘journalistic integrity is for the birds, I’m never going to get this footage, I. must. survive.’ and, after putting away my camera, I join the mob in violent catharsis for what seemed like forever but turned out to be two and a half minutes before I nearly lost my footing and felt that I would prefer to not die at the boot-heels of Lightning Bolt fans with the band’s performance of “2 Morro Morro Land” being my death’s soundtrack.

So, after shoving my way out of the mosh mob’s strong current, I watched the rest of the band’s loud, noisy set wondering if anyone else finds it weird that they’re not on the ground with everyone else. Final thoughts on this performance: my head hurts, I would have preferred if they had been on the ground.

So, following that exciting experience, I meandered back to the C stage and began a very, very hot wait for St. Vincent to play. Annie Clark is one of my favorite musicians in the entire world; her technical prowess and songwriting abilities never cease to amaze me so I went into their performance with high expectations. When the band opened with “The Strangers”, in my opinion one of the weaker songs on the band’s latest album, last year’s Actor, I don’t see it as the best first impression. On top of that, the volume levels on some of the instruments were too low. I don’t know if the sound man was having a nap or something but two very crucial elements to St. Vincent’s songs–hell, any songs–are the bass and guitar. Having these at lower levels robbed the songs of the intimidating presence they have on the records; especially songs off of Actor. However, and call this a primal impulse, but I was absolutely floored by the performance.

Photo: Jeremy M Farmer on Flickr
Hearing Annie Clark’s voice coating the festival chatter in a wave of tranquility that was subsequently torn asunder by her abrasive guitar work made me teary-eyed. The minute her set began, I forgot that my feet were on fire, I forgot that I was probably dehydrated, all I knew was me…and her. It was magical. Ahem. Final thoughts on this performance: despite some lasting sound issues, the band played their heart out and won mine in the process.

Following St. Vincent’s performance, I wasn’t in any real rush to see anyone else play. Sleigh Bells seemed like they would be uninteresting live and I had to pass on Neon Indian’s set so that I could get a good spot when I camp out at the main stage for Pavement’s performance. I would estimate that I ended up standing about 30 or so feet from the stage, which certainly beats watching from across the park.

Now, in a move that makes me think Ryan Schreiber felt like putting Pavement fans flocking to his festival through one final trial before they see the band, Major Lazer was placed on the bill right before them. I could go on about how I’m ‘impressed that I made it through the entire show’ but honestly, it wasn’t that difficult to watch. With DJ Diplo behind his table overseeing all, MC, funnyman, and apparently trained stuntman Skerrit Bwoy! held sway over the stage as well as the entire audience. Every time he screamed at the top of his lungs about ‘getting crazy’, and he did it often, the audience roared back in agreement. The general consensus seemed to be ‘yes, we want to be crazy with you. Let’s get crazy.’ The stage performers, varying from ballerinas to Chinese dragon dancers, only added to the overall air of insanity that this performance gave off. Honestly, this performance was very entertaining.

Having seen the amazing music video for “Pon de Floor” several times, I can hardly begin to explain the combination of both excitement and utter dread that I felt when I saw one of the main dancers bring out a ladder. If you’ve seen the music video, let me tell you right now, they did it. They actually did it. Several times! Final thoughts on this performance: I have never felt so bad for a crotch that was not mine in my entire life.

Following Major Lazer’s performance, I did my best to wiggle and waddle my way through the crowd to get as close to the stage as possible. I still had an hour to wait and if I was going to be on my feet the entire time, I might as well make it worth the wait. As the moment we were all waiting for drew nearer, a man named ‘Rockin’ Ryan Murphy walked out and talked all sorts of ‘shit’ about the festival and Pavement themselves for about seven minutes; this is what people who spend their lives online refer to as ‘trolling’. He got what he wanted though, plenty of ‘fuck yous’ were sent his way.

Once his little spiel ended, the band finally walked out onstage. First Steven Malkmus, then Scott Kannberg, followed by Steve West, Mark Ibold, and finally, Bob Nastanovich. Watching this happen kind of made my heart flutter a little bit. I’m a big history buff, so if I see something or come into contact with something that is a big part of history, let alone music history, I have this rush of adrenaline go through my body. Watching these men pick up their instruments makes me wonder if that’s exactly how they picked up their instruments when they first started playing together all those years ago. Of course, I noticed that time has taken it’s toll on them, they’re no longer in their early 20s making a bunch of fucked up noise at shows. However, the minute they launched into “Cut Your Hair”, the entire audience went wild! Members of the audience young and old were singing that melody we all know and love. The band sounded fantastic, too. They were much louder and more in sync with each other than they sound on the albums.

Photo: dailybeatz on Flickr
Looking at the members during the show–seeing the looks on their faces as they hit parts of songs that the entire audience sang to–was like looking in a time machine. The band played 21 songs nearly spanning their entire discography that night. Here is a short video of them starting “Frontwards”. FYI, the audio kind of sucks and I decided that I would prefer to enjoy the song than film it, sorry.

I can easily say that this was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Final thoughts on this performance: I’m disappointed that they skipped We Dance, I would have liked to hear Box Elder, and I’m not entirely disappointed that I didn’t get to the very front of the stage because I’ll have another chance in September when they come to Austin.

Overall, the festival was a great experience. Yes, I felt like dying at some points because the sun was absolutely relentless, but like everyone else that was there at the end that felt the way I did, I’m glad I stayed. You may not be crazy like me and travel across the country for a band, but if you’re ever presented with an opportunity to do so, take it. I’m more than certain that it will be worth every single second.

Interview: Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic was one of the many bands taking the stage at the Pitchfork Music Festival this past Sunday. They just arrived stateside the previous afternoon following a tour through Europe supporting their new album, Pigeons, and I was actually able to catch their performance at Schubas Tavern later that night.

The following afternoon at the festival, despite my being very late, I was able to have a chat with the singer/guitarist from the band, Luke Temple. Check it out below.

The Photon God: First off, are you guys rested?

Luke Temple: That’s a relative thing, man; we’re never really rested. We never get our eight hours–but relative to yesterday, we’re pretty rested.

TPG: Fantastic. So, let’s get into the obvious. Pigeons was released this year; it’s a fantastic record.

Luke: Thank you.

TPG: The first album, [Here We Go Magic], was just you, right?

Luke: Right.

TPG: Oh, wait, Mike [guitarist Michael Bloch] played on it right?

Luke: No, well actually on the very last song, “Everything’s Big”, he played on that one.

TPG: Okay, so now this new record was done with a full band. Was it a different experience, recording-wise?

Luke: Oh, for sure, yeah. I mean, obviously, the first one was just me in my bedroom working from like, five to midnight every day and having to play really quiet because I have neighbors, you know? So, with Pigeons, we had rented a house in upstate New York and we could make as much noise as we wanted–and it was the communal thing so we kind of…lived, slept, ate, shit, fuckin’ showered—everything in the same place, and made our music so it was a very ‘holistic’ environment over there.

TPG: Inspiring, I’m sure.

Luke: Yeah, really great.

TPG: And Jen [bassist Jennifer Turner] produced it right?

Luke: Yup!

TPG: That’s awesome. So, how did everyone in the band meet?

Luke: Well, I had been playing with Mike, the guitar player, in a previous incarnation of a Luke Temple thing which something I had been putting out records with.

TPG: The singer-songwriter stuff?

Luke: Yeah, yeah. So he was in the last band that I had put together as Luke Temple and so after I recorded the Here We Go Magic record, we had shows booked pretty much immediately so he was a no-brainer because I knew him and how we played together and then Peter, the drummer, I had been jamming with a little bit just for fun and so that was kind of the most accessible thing in terms of finding a drummer; he was just the guy I was playing with and we had a really great rapport and we’d always wanted to work in some capacity with each other, and then we met Teeny, [synth/keyboard player Kristina Leiberson] through a friend of a friend because we wanted a synth player and someone recommended her and we knew she could sing really well because she also writes her own songs.

TPG: Oh yeah, she has a MySpace page for it right?

Luke: Yeah, yeah. She’s actually made a new record. She’s going under ‘Teen’ and it’s amazing. She’s made this totally beautiful record.

TPG: I’ll check that out.

Luke: Well, it’s not out yet. It’s still trying to find a home right now.

TPG: Oh, okay.

Luke: Yeah, and then Jen, she was kind of the last piece of the puzzle. We had a different bass player [at the time] and we’d only played a few shows and it wasn’t really working out for whatever reason and Jen had been to our first shows and really loved our band, so she approached us one night at a party and she said “I’m a big fan of you guys, if you ever want to just jam, I’m not asking to be in the band, it would just be my honor to play with you guys” so we said, “well, we just let go of our bass player, so you can come by tomorrow if you want to play with us” so the next day she came through and played and after about 10 seconds of playing with her, we were like, “okay, now we have our band.”

TPG: Yeah, she’s fucking great. I was watching you guys at the show last night and she had some really good riffs.

Luke: (laughs) Yeah, she’s like Geddy Lee.

TPG: Yeah, she didn’t even have to look at the fretboard! (awesome bass playing impression)

Luke: Heh, yeah.

TPG: So in mid-October, you’re touring with Dr. Dog?

Luke: Correct.

TPG: How did that happen? Do you know the band?

Luke: We played a show with them in Austin last South By Southwest…or-no no, it was during the ACL [Austin City Limits] festival; we played a show with them in town at this club, The Parish. We got along really well; they liked us and we liked them and so it just materialized about two months ago. They were doing a US tour in November and thought of us, so they just reached out.

TPG: That’s awesome, man! Okay, so a lot of people have been saying that both the self-titled record and Pigeons had a kraut-rock influence. Would you agree?

Luke: Yeah, that’s definitely music I listen to a lot.

TPG: Stuff like Popol Vuh?

Luke: Yeah, Popol Vuh, Can, Neu!, um, Amon Düül II, shit like that. I like the patience of that music and I like the repetitive nature of it, you know? The music’s not too confrontational, it allows a lot of space for the listener to inhabit it and sort of create their own world within it with that kind of consistent repetition. It’s sort of humble–there’s something humble about it that’s really nice. So, yeah, what we do naturally when we jam with each other, we tend to play really repetitively and just play the same thing over and over and over and there’s a certain satisfaction in it.

TPG: Yeah, I got a taste of that at the show last night. You guys drew out songs into these big, epic,–I don’t want to say ‘jams’, but—

Luke: Actually man, I’m kind of interested in the next—sort of, ‘new wave’ of redefining the ‘jam band’ thing because there’s something really great about the spirit of that; going to see bands and expecting them to do something completely different from show to show and it doesn’t necessarily have to be, you know, the way Phish does it or something with extended guitar solos and shit, you know? But, Can is fundamentally a jam band. Sonic Youth is fundamentally a jam band. If you see them, they’re going to be a different show every night and there’s always an element of improvisation. I also like the culture around the jam band scene because it’s people who follow those bands and trade bootlegs, you know? It’s a living thing, aside from just putting out a record every year or two years and doing your little tour and playing your little songs, it’s something that’s constantly growing, so that model is really interesting to me. But! I don’t necessarily want to be playing with Widespread Panic, you know?


Luke: Yeah, culturally, that shit is not that interesting to me. But the idea of a band that’s constantly changing and people expecting them to do that is really exciting.

TPG: Definitely, well, I’ll be looking forward to the next record, whenever it comes out.

Luke: Yeah, man. Well, we’re always working on something.

Pigeons is out now on Secretly Canadian.

@ Secretly Canadian

Here you go, magic

Early last year, Luke Temple (leftmost in photo) released the first Here We Go Magic LP. It was a self-titled collection of recordings he made on his own.

Since then, a band was formed and signed to Secretly Canadian and for the better part of last year they had been working hard on new ideas. Ideas which you will be able to experience in depth on their upcoming full-length, called Pidgeons, when it’s released on June 8th.

Hear one track off of the record, “Collector”, below. It’s sounds like the band is working on some more concise and straightforward tunes, which is great if you ask me. This poppier vibe might attract more listeners than the psych-fi sound of the self-titled record.
Here We Go Magic – Collector

The band has some European tour dates up on their MySpace with a couple of visits to the US. Might want to check those out.

Secretly Canadian