Most anticipated album revealed

Tonight was The Animators and Vienna Teng Quartet at The Montgomery Theater in San Jose.

We got there when everyone else got there. Vienna shuffled us in the stage entrance and a little while later we traded Alex a DVD and CD of The Animators Live at The Independent for a copy of “How We Fight”. We’re in the liner notes. This isn’t the first time it has happened, but I’m kind of concerned about why we deserve to be there. It is great to be respected as fans and all, but what meaningful contributions besides a milkshake, some cds and dvds, some gas money when they really needed it and showing up for shows did we give?

The Animators are one of my favorite bands. They have several different “sounds” and all of them are good. It isn’t often that you experience a band like that. Even at one of their worst shows (Red Devil Lounge a year and a half or so ago) they still impressed me enough to buy their first album.

Anyway, besides the liner notes thing, this was the album I named as most anticipated release of Year Two of this blog. There were a lot of reasons for that. The Animators made good on the expectations I set out for this album. The two men that were the band when Home By Now was recorded have been joined by an extremely talented rhythm section. Phil and Kevin add a lot into this album. The first album had a lot of loops and programming. This album has a bit of that, but a lot more real live instruments. A week or so ago when we were at G.A.M.E., my wife and I ran into a fellow VT/Animators fan. He mentioned that he really liked their first album for all of the slow and mellow tracks and wasn’t a big fan of the rock sound of their newer material. “How We Fight” has a wonderful mix of everything that the band is good at. Quiet songs, loud rock songs, pop songs, basically a twelve song disc where any one of the tracks could be a huge radio hit on a variety of different formats of radio station… if only the world knew who they were.

The Animators are always full of surprises. During soundcheck they kept mentioning that they just had one more instrument to check. Even when the show was going on, they still were “surprising” the sound and lighting guys. Well, the album is the same way. I’d heard many of the songs that are on this album live while they were being developed over the past year or so. The versions on the album are very different in some extents and all in good ways. Here’s a brief track by track breakdown of the new release:

“Good to Be Here” is pretty much in the same form as it was the first time we heard it live. There’s a new intro, but otherwise it is still the same track that was previously released on the Chamber Sessions EP. It is a “familiar” sounding opener and a great start to an album that keeps getting better and better.

“Die in L.A.” is where the rock n’ roll begins. We first heard the song at The Independent and it really hasn’t changed since that performance. The song’s got the “trademark” imagery evoking lyrics that almost every one of the Animators tracks has. Heck, most of the Pasties tracks (Devon Copley’s old band) had a similar image evoking nature to them too. It must just be the mark of a good group of songwriters.

“Late Night Show” has long been a staple of The Animators live show. The NBC tone on glockenspiel in the midst of the song is one of my favorite parts of this track.

“I Won’t Tell” debuted earlier on the band’s MySpace page. I haven’t listened to it enough yet to really do it justice in a review. It is yet another great Animators song.

“How Do I Get Over You” is again an old favorite from the live show. Having the whole band on a studio version is very cool.

“The Senator Goes to Hell” is a VERY political track. The description of Strom Thurmond’s funeral was so jarringly accurate that I recognized what it was about before they got to the Vice President delivering his eulogy. My first experience with this track was at this evening’s soundcheck. The album version includes a very cool Japanese verse at the end by Toshi Hirano that is credited as articles 4 through 6 of the 1948 States Rights Democrat Party platform, they who wanted to elect Strom Thurmond president, translated into Japanese by sachiko hirosue. Because I want you to actually go out and buy this album, I’m not including any lyrics or anything, but here’s the English version of those articles, for trivia purposes only:

We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to earn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.

We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal flatt, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.

We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.

And yes, those things alone would be reason enough for The Senator to go to hell.

“Good Day” has been Disneyland Electrical Parade-ified. This track is so different from the live version, but yet so friendly pop song at the same time. If it wasn’t so “different” from mainstream, I’d say this would be a wonderful single. Incidentally, this is another political song. It’s about homeland security.

“Buy Buy” is a song about Wal-Mart. I actually worked in a Wal-Mart store for four years. This song takes the Wal-Mart philosophy and commercializes it even more. I love the cash register effects on this one.

“Take It So Hard” is another song that is very similar to when we first heard it live at The Independent. I’ve spent a large amount of time working on that DVD this week. That meant this particular song was in my head. Again, it is catchy. One I can see myself singing along to subconsciously while bored at work or something. That typically means the song isn’t on at all anywhere, except in my head. This is a good thing. Well it would be, except it wouldn’t be exposing people to The Animators, just me mumbling words to a song they’ve never heard. Maybe I should rethink that one.

“How We Fight” is another “new to me” track. I’m still getting used to it and not qualified to really offer a review more than “Yep, another good song”, oh and its the title track.

“Ordinary Moment” is an extremely beautiful song. The band had some technical difficulties when they attempted to play it this evening. Something about a misplaced E-bow lead to its abortion from the setlist. I hope to hear this one performed live on Thursday night.

“The Golden Age” is the only exception on the album. I kinda don’t like this one. Remember how I said all twelve are good songs. I wasn’t lying. This one is a good song. I’m just not as fond of it as I am of the others. There are several other tracks that didn’t make the album that I like more than it. This happens with other artists all of the time. I have favorites. They choose other songs that are their favorites. I start out a bit disappointed that songs got orphaned. Eventually I get over it and learn to love the song that I didn’t necessarily like that did make the cut. Then the orphaned songs show up later and even better than before on some other release. In this case, the songs that I would have liked on the album instead of “The Golden Age” could be “Mercy”, which was never really slated to go on this release, “Right Here” which is strangely absent from this release, or that song that has an elephant in it that doesn’t really even exist. However, I will get used to “The Golden Age” and love it just as much as the rest… just not right now.

I like a lot of music. This album encompasses why I like a lot of music, in one nice accessible $15 package. I don’t care if you’ve heard of the band before. I don’t care if you don’t buy CDs and only download music illegally. This is a CD you MUST buy.

I don’t do reviews that often. That means this was worth my time to type all of this out.

Thank you to The Animators for being the awesome band that they are. Thank you to Devin Boddie for respecting my not so great videography and allowing me to videotape the band that he manages. Thank you to Devon Copley and Alex Wong for the creative genius that has made a “superfan” out of me. Thank you to Kevin Rice and Phil Galitzine for adding many new dimensions to a sound that I thought was pretty developed when I heard the first album. Thank you to Vienna Teng for introducing me to The Animators. Sadly, without being a Vienna fan, I would have probably never known The Animators existed. Which brings me to my last thank you, to Bich Ngoc Cao for giving my wife and I the tip to check out Vienna Teng, which as I mentioned got me to the point that I started writing huge paragraphs about The Animators.

Oh yeah… uh… there was a show tonight too. It was a very good show.

Nice Guy
Good to Be Here
Girl #3
The Drive
Girl Like You
The Senator Goes to Hell
If Only
Ordinary Moment (but not so ordinary really) (aborted due to lost E-Bow)
Help (Vienna Teng and The Animators version)

The Animators were joined onstage by Marika Hughes on cello for most of the set, and by Vienna Teng herself on Girl #3, The Drive, If Only, Ordinary Moment (though aborted, Vienna did get a few notes in on the piano) and Help is On The Way. Girl 3, The Senator Goes to Hell and Help is On The Way were the highlights of the show for me.

The Vienna Teng Quartet played afterward, also a good show. Lots of new songs, very few old ones. Methinks they might be preparing for a new album that needs to be recorded or something.

Feather Moon (with small technical difficulties by Dina)
My Medea
Hope on Fire
Blue Caravan
Love Turns 40
Boy at the Piano
Transcontinental 1:30AM
Atheist Christmas Carol
Now Three
I Don’t Feel So Well
1 BR/1 BA (w/Alex Wong of The Animators)
City Hall
Harbor (w/Devon Copley and Alex Wong of The Animators)
Soon Love Soon (w/Devon Copley and Alex Wong of The Animators, and a crowd of around 300)

Despite a REALLY crappy piano, and some small technical glitches, this show was really good. I really like what Shazad brings to the band. This was the first time I got to see the quartet together. It was also my first time hearing 1 BR/1 BA and City Hall. Alex Wong was great on 1 BR/1 BA and The Animators added a ton to Harbor and Soon Love Soon. Dina and Marika were great as always and Vienna sounded excellent. The energy was just a little low. I think we were all getting a bit tired as the night went on. Maybe that showed in the performance, or maybe I was just too tired to fully enjoy it. Thankfully I have video and audio to review at a later date. This may turn out to be one of my favorite Vienna shows, someday. Tonight, it was The Animators that stole the show in my eyes… again.

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