A Super Critical Review of The Ting Tings’ Super Critical Tour

The Ting Tings brought their Super Critical Tour to Houston on April 21st, just three years and a day after their last Houston show (fun fact!) in support of their latest album Super Critical. For anyone who doesn’t know The Ting Tings, were you even alive during 2008? Where were you the year when “That’s Not My Name” became pervasive and we were haunted with a list of names that weren’t, lead singer, Katie White’s? Where were you when White used the magic of repetition on “Great DJ” by repeating “drums” thirty-seven times over with bandmate Jules De Martino over  beats that seemed to have been a preset on GarageBand? Preset or not, we still kept them on repeat.

With a triumphant return to the scene (using their sophomore album as the point of comparison, ok?), the British duo embarked on a tour to promote it. Promotion (prəˈmōSH(ə)n) n. activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of a cause, venture, or aim. Now that we have the definition, let’s use it to talk about the lack thereof . Tuesday’s gig either showed a lack of promotion for the tour, it being low in sales because it was a Tuesday, or maybe the band is not what it used to be. The Ting Tings packed Fitzgerald’s upstairs room when they came three years ago, but that wasn’t the case this time around. The balcony was closed to the public at this show, and when that happens at a Fitzgerald’s gig, it can be assumed that not enough tickets were sold to fill the balcony. Did Houston get the short end of the stick when it came to The Ting Tings’ label promotions team? Is Houston not a profitable Ting Tings market? We need answers.

Doors opened 15 minutes late at 7:15 P.M., and even with 15 minutes of extra time, only about 25 people were in the venue. The first band was up to take stage at 8:00 P.M., and as 7 got closer to 8, I became nervous about the show knowing that this opening act was about to play to an empty room. I let my worries subside as more people showed, and KANEHOLLER took stage 7 minutes late at 8:07 P.M. KANEHOLLER is made of Jon Foster on drum pads and synths and Chelsea Tyler on vocals. Their roles switched twice during the set, so maybe I shouldn’t label their roles with such permanency. The band started off with a bang by opening up with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” The duo made Simone’s iconic song into an indie-electronic sensual opening song that captivated the audience, but maybe this was detrimental; maybe shows shouldn’t be opened with covers–leave them for the middle or the end. With such a great way to start the set, I wanted something to match the greatness that they delivered with the song, but they never got close to it. Everything that followed only made me less excited about the set.

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The set went on for 35 minutes and miraculously reached a second high point when Foster took the microphone to land some verses in a sultry, deep voice and weird hip-hop-y hand movements, but he had a dominating bro stage presence that was almost enough for me to wear a backwards cap and read through a badly-scripted scene where it makes me call him bro or dad. The rest of the set plateaued after that and continued with the same airy vocals backed by not-so-spectacular beats. Throughout the set I kept thinking, “God, this is like a cheap version of AlunaGeorge. This is sad.” To be fair, I listened to their studio-recorded stuff, and it’s better than how they presented it onstage. I still hella criticize it, but I at least like one song (check it out down below). It is still filled with lazy lyrics and production. I mean, really? You’re going to make the bridge to your song just the chorus but without the synth layers? They should have saved “Sinnerman” for last–their fault. Also, fun fact (I guess?), Chelsea Tyler is Steven Tyler’s daughter. Do you think the set would have gone better if Liv was in the band instead?

At 9:00 was when The Ting Tings were slated to appear, but they appeared at 9:10. Not sure if time discrepancies are worth noting, but I see that a lot on concert reviews, so why not do it too, right? The Ting Tings hit the stage and started the set with their latest single “Do It Again.” The duo was backed by a DJ who played any beats and spun their instrumentals on vinyl to really set the ’80s-’90s mood the band’s latest record vibes on.

The floor decently filled to see the show, but the balcony still remained closed to the public, so disappointed still remained that this show wasn’t sold out. Regardless, the crowd that did come to the show, showed immense love and appreciation for the British duo by welcoming them back to Houston with roaring cheers. It’s also good to note that the crowd was particularly young. There was a little kid on the front row that couldn’t have been older than 12. A lot of high school students and some who looked younger who were, I guess, middle school kids also filled the room. The remainder were people in their twenties coming back to see a band that shaped their high school and middle school days.

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The band’s first song showcased Katie’s effortless guitar playing and playful jumping that set a fun mood on a Tuesday night. The ending of “Do It Again” perfectly and beautifully transitioned into “Shut Up and Let Me Go” and had the crowd screaming in adoration. The remainder of the night followed the pattern of new song-old song with two discrepancies where they decided to go old-old-new and new-new-old. The set only had 13 songs, so you can try and SAT-reason (or MCAT-reason? I don’t know. I don’t want to grow up.) your way through this one to find out the final pattern of the setlist.

The show went through the hits and new songs every time delivering an amazing performance showcasing Jules’ drumming and bass skills and Katie’s guitar shredding. The energy was truly built up for the performance of “That’s Not My Name” where Katie White delivered a cathartic rendition that sent chills down my spine and had me thinking, “how pissed is she that we are getting her name wrong?” As she sang the wrong names people have called her, my question began being answered by her only growing deeper in angst. “They call me Hell!” she screamed as she clutched the mic stand. “They call me Stacy! They call me her! They call me Jane!” she recited as her grip tightened around the metal base. “That’s not my name! That’s not my name! That’s not my *boop boop bad word* name!” she shrilled as she threw the mic stand and let it slam against the DJ table. “They call me quiet, but I’m a riot! Mary, Jo, Lisa–ALWAYS THE FU:):):):)NG SAME!!” she chanted atop the ledge of the stage to the crowd almost as if leading a revolution against people who forget names. The crowd sang along as she screamed. This wasn’t a performance; this was a therapy session.

After the song finished, the air was heavy with the anger Katie let out, but they didn’t let it dissapate and quickly began their encore set (which wasn’t announced at such. I only know it was the encore because it says so on the physical setlist.) The “encore” consisted of “Wrong Club,” “Green Poison,” “Hands,” and “Super Critical.” When they performed “Hands,” Katie sang, “Clap your Hands, if you’re working too hard,” and that’s when I began resonating with this concert on levels I never imagined. This show and I became one entity that had broken all time and space rules and formed a perfect mixture of sound and flesh. I began clapping my hands to let them know that I, indeed, have been working too hard. There I was at a concert on a Tuesday night before an organic chemistry lab final, but it suddenly didn’t matter with this song calling me out. “What are you supposed to do with two hands to get the life of the richest of man?,” Katie interrogatively sang. Girl, I don’t know, but I sure as heck know it’s not about to be these organic chemistry reactions at 11PM at a concert.

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It’s good to say now that the only thing that annoyed me up to this point was that Katie’s roadie/assistant/manager/I don’t know kept coming onstage to turn on her pedals, turn off her pedals, fix her mic stand, put the mic on the stand, etc. Can she not do it herself? Can she really not fix and tighten her own stand? It’s a minuscule detail, I know, but it just made it look like “DIVA” was oozing from every pore of her body, but whatever, who am I to judge? I don’t cook chicken because I don’t want to touch it raw; I understand the feeling of diva. 

They sang their final song and left the stage. What happened next was what made me realize that it doesn’t matter if a lot of people show up to a show because those that do are the ones who care enough and make it worth while. After the show ended, the crowd cheered for an encore (remember, they already played the encore, technically, but they didn’t advertise it as such), the house lights came on, and their roadies began dismantling their equipment. With drums and guitars already put up, the crowd still kept changing, “one more song! encore! one more song! one more song!” At this point, I just kept asking myself, what do they expect? An MTV-Unplugged-esque encore? A quick a cappella version of a song? What does the crowd want? I think that’s the same thing the band were asking themselves backstage. Ten minutes later, Katie and Jules emerged from backstage and descended to the floor and to the merch table. They didn’t say it was, but I think this was their alternative to an encore. They hadn’t met fans at the merch table on other dates, so I think this was their way of saying, “thank you Houston for cheering for 10 minutes even after our instruments were already packed up.”

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The Ting Tings delivered a show that allowed people to let go of their life inhibitions and worries for at least 90 minutes and bring late 2000’s nostalgia to their modern sound. The career of The Ting Tings was declining for a while, but with a new sound on the rise and high-energy shows to deliver their discography, their career seems to be blossoming again. The Ting Tings conquered 2007 and 2008 with their first album, and they have the potential to be the band they once were and not become a “nostalgic act” or dwell in has-been territory. The band has shown a maturation in song-writing and song composition that shines light to a new side of them. They are showing that they are more than just an indie pop band. They are a name that cannot be easily forgotten and won’t be easily forgotten; they’re here to stay and make a mark with different approaches to their music, and, honestly, I’m ready for that level of slayage. I’m living for it. Let’s bring back The Ting Tings to the popularity they deserve. Let’s ting their tings.

Closing comment: I’m going to need 2 years of therapy to get me through the emotional turmoil that they put me through by not performing “We Walk.”

Setlist:

Posted in Concerts, Music, Reviews

Hozier Shows Houston a Great Night at Bayou Music Center

All photos by Sarah Hoffman

All photos by Sarah Hoffman

After his EP “Take Me To Church” conquered the airwaves, Hozier became a household name. The musician from Wicklow County in Ireland has been in demand everywhere. He has since performed on Saturday Night Live, at the Victoria’s Secret fashion Show 2014, Coachella and even sang a brilliant duet with Annie Lennox at the 57th Grammys. Last Wednesday night, Houston was lucky enough to be a stop on his latest US tour.

Photo by Sarah Hoffman

The sold out show started  with the almost haunting tunes of the opening act, Low Roar, after which Hozier came on stage with “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene.” Despite the title and dark lyrics, the music is almost uplifting. All I can say is, give it a listen. He continued on with “From Eden” and “Jackie and Wilson,” before stopping to chat with the cheering crowd. After explaining that the next song was appropriately co-written with an ex-girlfriend, he launched into “Someone New” (The music video of the song features the beautiful Natalie Dormer, so definitely go check that out!).

Photo by Sarah Hoffman

Hozier and his band followed up with “To Be Alone” and “It Will Come Back,” after which he took a moment to introduce his cellist, Alana Henderson, also a singer and songwriter from Ireland. He explained how the name Wicklow County is almost always preceded by the phrase, “body found in.” After this short anecdote, they performed a duet of “In a Week,” which seems to be written in the point of view of the “bodies” found in Wicklow County. Yes, it sounds terrible but if you focus on how beautiful the pair’s vocals are you can almost ignore the lyrics. Almost.

Alana Henderson, Photo by Sarah Hoffman

Alana Henderson

Next, Hozier explained his love for the bluesy music and performed a cover of Skip James’ “Illinois Blues.” This was followed by “Like Real People Do,” “Arsonist’s Lullabye,” “Foreigner’s God” and “Sedated.” It was clear by the screams that went through the Bayou that the crowd was waiting on the song of the night. Hozier gave the audience what they had been waiting on all night when he started singing “Take Me To Church,” the song that put him on the map.

Photo by Sarah Hoffman

Houston wouldn’t let him leave that easily, however. After cheers for an encore, Hozier came back on stage, hair untied and guitar in hand to give an acoustic performance of “Cherry Wine.” Couples in the audience took advantage of the fact that Hozier was serenading them with a beautiful song, and slow danced in the middle of the crowd. That wasn’t the end of the encore, though. Hozier didn’t give us one, or even two songs, but FOUR! He followed up with “Run,” a cover of Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” and ended the night with the audience clapping along to my new personal favorite, “Work Song.”

The show was all that I expected and more! Not only was it a showcase of a brilliant vocalist, but also the lighting which was on point. Every turn the music took, the light design was perfectly in sync with it giving the show an extra touch of awesome.

Photo by Sarah Hoffman

Hozier definitely left Houston on a high note, and I thank him for it. If you’ve only ever heard “Take Me To Church” on the radio, I strongly suggest you give his other songs a listen and try and catch a live show. I promise, it only gets better!

Posted in Concerts, Reviews

Mac Demarco Announces Mini-LP

On Thursday, Mac Demarco announced the release of a new Mini-LP entitled Another One to be released August 7th via Captured Tracks. Along with the announcement a short promo video shot by Mac’s girlfriend was also released, featured below. You can pre-order the new LP, which features the instrumentals of all 8 tracks, here.

Mac Demarco will be performing at Austin Psych Fest Sunday, May 10 and will surely be playing a few of these tracks pre-release. You can purchase tickets to Austin Psych fest here.

Posted in Music, New Releases

Fave Cover Friday: Earned It

This week’s Fave Cover Friday is from one of my favorite YouTubers, Travis Garland, whose man-bun is almost as angelic as his vocals. Recently, he covered “Earned It” by The Weeknd, and I knew that I had to share this. If you’ve turned on any TV or radio for the past couple of months, I’m sure you’ve heard “Earned It”, but if you need a refresher, here is the original.

While it’s hard to even come close to The Weeknd’s vocals’ , Garland does an amazing job. He hits high notes with precision and adds some really nice runs as well.

If you like what you heard, don’t be afraid to check out Garland’s YouTube channel. While he posts a lot of covers, there’s also some original songs on there that are amazing. One of my favorite songs of his is “From Adam“, which samples Coldplay’s “Charlie Brown”.

Stay tuned in 2 weeks for the next FCF!

Posted in Artists, Fave Cover Fridays, Music, Music Videos

Review: Alabama Shakes’ “Sound & Color”

We’ve been holding on, patiently waiting for new music from Alabama Shakes for three years and finally the new album is here to shake things up! Their debut album Boys & Girls won them Grammys such as Best New Artist, which if you haven’t listened to it, please do yourself a favor and jam it on a sunny day.

Alabama Shakes has matured over the years and the album Sound & Color reflects such growth in their sound. Boys & Girls has an innocent touch, with flirty guitar strumming and energetic rhythm, it’s more funky and playful. Sound & Color has more depth through it’s deeper blues, lyrical introspection and overall burning passion. Either way, Alabama Shakes’ soulful blues-rock sound fills one’s heart with lead singer Brittany Howard’s dynamic voice, reaching high and bringing back down heavenly music.

The first track “Sound & Color” is a soft introduction to the album as you hear tapping of a xylophone until Brittany lightly stirs us with her first appearance as she sings the words “love is sound & color”. From the get-go, this album exuded a much deeper message, so I mentally prepared myself. “Don’t Wanna Fight” kicks in next with powerful guitar plucking that you can’t help but sway your hips to and raw emotion is felt from Brittany’s crooning about her exhaustion of fighting with a lover. Drums beat into “Dunes” as Brittany sings that she’s losing it from being overwhelmed by the desert, a metaphor for her problems probably. The album continues this calmer, blues sound with “Future People” but with an extrospective message of hope for the future generation.

We then enter the heart-wrenching ballad, “Gimme All Your Love”, that makes you ache for love, as the guitar tries to hold back from falling apart as it narrates this emotion and expertly drops into the chorus with intensity as much as it contains it until the song picks up with a guitar solo. This is the second single from the album, performed on SNL, and is by far the most powerful when it comes to bearing one’s soul. The acoustic guitar calms things back down with “This Feeling”, a song made perfectly for lounging in the sun to appreciate momentarily that “it feels so nice to know I’m gonna be alright.”

A touch of soul is heard in “Guess Who” with soft, guitar strumming to match Brittany’s softer singing as she questions why do things have to be complicated, she just wants a piece of mind. “The Greatest” is the first in the album to have a much heavier garage rock merged with a slight punk touch that just pumps you up, here you have to stomp your feet. “Shoegaze” returns us to a calmer yet still magnifying sound, slightly psychedelic when it comes to the guitar strumming but overall it continues that energy seen throughout the album. “Miss You” brought back that old blues feel that women such as Etta James sang so well. The song starts out ever so sweetly as Brittany speaks out to her love who is leaving, probably due to a break up.In the song, she suddenly explodes into a declaration of  “maybe I’m yours!” once she realizes she will probably miss him. We’ve all been there, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

We near the end with the second to last song “Gemini” with a heavier atmosphere as drums slowly pound along with Brittany’s deeper singing, bass guitar comes in to help weigh down the electric guitar’s dragging of this heavy feeling carried by the band. I melted into this song, as I listened to every instruments description of the weight on their shoulders. “Over My Head” wraps up the album, resonating the album’s heart aching message of the trials of love and life, it says its goodbye as Brittany says “loving so deeply I’m in over my head”.

A beautiful love letter to love itself, this album shows maturity as one would mature in a relationship–you realize love and life is not perfect or simple, but it sure is wonderful. Compared to the first album, it is deeper, fired up with passion and raw emotion that moves your soul. At times, it explores frustration and sadness of why things just can’t be easy but at other times it lifts you up reminding that life wouldn’t be as exciting if it was all rainbows and unicorns. It is what makes you feel alive and this album does a great job of replicating that. We started with love understood by Boys & Girls but have added depth and shape to love with Sound & Color. 

Rate: 4.8/5 

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Posted in Albums, Bands, Music, Reviews

Review: Audio Push’s “The Good Vibe Tribe”

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Like so many other artists on Monday, 4/20 did not go unnoticed by Audio Push. The duo from Inland Empire, Calif. released a thematic 14-track project called The Good Vibe Tribe, complete with weed-strewn artwork. Artist features include Vince Staples, Casey Veggies, Isaiah Rashad and G-Eazy, among others. Audio Push members Oktane and Pricetag love connecting with their fans on social media and showed them all the love when they announced the mixtape’s release via Twitter on Monday afternoon.

The mixtape includes four previously released singles (“Reppin”, “Heavy”, “Reset”, “Normally”) along with 10 brand new tracks. The duo kicks off the project with “Refugeenius” and the line “good vibes to the sky,” playing on the title of the mixtape and their aspiration to always spread positive energy through their music. As an added bonus, random cyphers strategically placed as outros on some tracks add to a more intimate feel that only mixtapes can give off.

With features from artists like Vince Staples and Isaiah Rashad, the West Coast duo compliments each featured artist with style and great Hit-Boy production. I know my fellow readers have heard OG Maco’s viral hit “U Guessed It.” Well, watch out! The rapper stops in on the Fugee’s “Fu-Gee-La” influenced track “Heavy” and leaves you thinking “OG Mac can rap? I hardly knew it!” The most stand-out track on the tape is “Mary Jane/SixtyOneImpala” where Okatane and Price refer to their one true love Mary Jane (if you catch their drift) in a R&B-styled first half that continues into a jazzy-funk feel at the halfway mark. My personal favorite off the project is Audio Push’s collaboration with rapper G-Eazy in the track titled “Bonfire.” The three artists switch off verses in a song that fans of slow jam J. Cole or Kendrick fans would drool over.

Overall, this project shows the duo’s diversity and ability to creatively weave in features from various West Coast rappers to create a melting pot of good vibes in an 14-track tape. With a mix of chill tracks with smooth bars to bangers with mastermind features, Audio Push shows the hip-hop game that they are only getting bigger and better.

Check out the full mixtape below and follow Audio Push on Twitter and Instagram!

Rating: 4/5

Posted in Albums, Artists, Music, New Releases, Reviews

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