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Interview Peter Bjorn and John

Imaginary Interview: Peter Moren of Peter Bjorn and John

Peter Bjorn & John’s Writer’s Block was my favorite album of 2006, and is still one of my all-time favorites.  Lead singer Peter Moren was good enough to answer a few questions about the band’s latest synth-infused effort, Living Thing, and what it’s like to rub elbows with the likes of Dave Gahan and Depeche Mode…

 

Sonically, Living Thing is completely different from Writer’s Block. It’s less guitar-heavy, and there’s so much more space in the arrangements, seems like the songs are breathing freer and there’s less melancholy. How did you decide to go in such a dancey, synth-based, almost pop direction?

Peter Moren: To us Living Thing is a natural progression from an arrangement style that we started on Writers Block but that we know have taken to an extremer degree. Songs like “Young Folks,” “The Chills” and “Amsterdam” are also lacking a lot of guitar and have a lot of air and a less-is-more approach. So it’s kind of more of the same. We did listen to a lot of 80’s pop from our childhood this time around as inspiration, a bit more glossy synthy reverby pop like OMD, Depeche Mode, “Tango In The Night” by Fleetwood Mac, etc. We wanted the retrofuturistic, scifi sound dreams are made of. We did use some synths but hardly any drum machines at all. Just beating up natural objects. And African music, funk, hip-hop and soul informed the dancier arrangements. At the same time, Living Thing is the PBJ record so far with the most guitar solos!!

How has the songwriting process changed, if at all, now that the music is less guitar or melody-focused?

Not at all. We write exactly the same way, we just arrange differently. Some of the songs are old and were written around [the same time as] Writer’s Block.

Did you have any apprehensions about how people would receive the experimental turn you’ve taken, or that they might be expecting a sequel to “Young Folks”?

According to what I answered earlier we think we did a sequel to “Young Folks.” Especially “It Don’t Move Me” has a very similar form and arrangement — it’s just sadder, more of a break-up song then a getting-together song. To do something very different would have been to go very guitar-indie-rock, cause that is exactly what “Young Folks” isn’t and what made it stand out a bit on Writer’s Block.

I’ve read reviews that say the new album is darker than Writer’s Block, but I think there’s a lighter and more playful feeling. What are your thoughts on that? Did you draw inspiration for the lyrics from a different place?

The lyrics are, percentage-wise, darker than on Writer’s Block, but WB had some really dark songs too. We try to keep a balance. We also work with contrasts. “Living Thing” sounds upbeat but has a dark lyric; “Last Night” has a happy lyric but sounds downbeat. Maybe Writer’s Block was more straightforward in that sense. Our darkest album lyric-wise so far is still the second, Falling Out. So if that was dark and WB a bit more happy and light, Living Thing is somewhere in the middle.

What was the most exciting thing about recording Living Thing?

For me, hearing Bjorn and John do the backup vocals to “Stay This Way.” It’s so vulnerable and lovely. I got goosebumps!

How do you decide who sings lead on the tracks?

I sing lead on most songs, even songs that Bjorn and John have written the most of. But sometimes their voices are more suitable to a certain feeling or style. Like “4 out of 5” – that just has to be Bjorn! He has a drone-like voice that suits these types of songs.

What’s your favorite song off the new album?

Again I would say “Stay This Way.” It’s very emotional for me and I think we nailed it! I also love John’s “I Want You!” Those are the 2 I would like hearing any time. Of the singles, “It Don’t Move Me” is the best I think, so far.

What was the inspiration behind “Lay It Down”? Ever been in a real barroom brawl?

It’s an interior monologue, so it never became a real barroom brawl, just in the song – which makes it sadder. It’s about being disappointed in a good friend acting stupid.

As the first single off Living Thing, “Nothing To Worry About” is a far cry from “Young Folks” — how’d that song come about?

It was the last song we made for the album cause we needed a catchy single. The children’s chorus came about cause it lacked something in the refrains and that made it even catchier. It’s got a great hip-hoppy beat and it’s fun playing live.

Your tour with Depeche Mode just started at the end of July — what are you most looking forward to? Are you big fans of the band? How’d that pairing come about?

We just played Hollywood Bowl and that was what I looked forward to most. And it was great. Bjorn is a big [Depeche Mode] fan. I like some of the songs a lot, especially the older ones like “Stripped” and “Everything Counts.” Some of the newer songs sound like Kent, a Swedish stadium rock band, but with better vocals. But I’m a bigger fan of the Beatles, that’s why I wanted to play the Bowl. They asked us to come along and we said yes! Depeche not the Beatles…

How’s the tour going so far? How have the fans received the show, and hearing all the new songs live?

It’s been great! People seem to be really into it, especially the new songs! I think Depeche fans can relate to songs like “It Don’t Move Me” and “Just The Past” cause they sound Depeche-y.

What’s in store for PBJ after the tour ends in October?

Another tour in November. Also check out our great new mixtape assembled by producer Mick Boogie, where hip-hoppers do their versions of the whole Living Thing album. It features legends like GZA and Jazzy Jeff. It’s great, and it’s called Re-Living Thing.

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Almost Gold Peter Bjorn and John Record Review

Living Thing

A word of caution for anyone looking for “Young Folks” pt. 2: you won’t find it here. With Living Thing, Swedish rockers Peter Bjorn & John are playing a whole new ballgame — trading in the tightly wound, guitar-based indie rock of 2006’s Writer’s Block for minimalistic tunes heavy on the electro dance beats, synthesizers, and with plenty of open space for the sound to run around.

And unlike with Writer’s Block, the best songs on the album are hidden in pockets of 2 or 3 at a time, rather than a clear slew of songs you can listen to straight through without pressing the Forward button. Skipping over album opener “The Feeling,” which is more filler than anything, it’s best to just pretend that things begin with #2 — the high energy, danceable “It Don’t Move Me.” The beat draws you right into its synthesized arms, and the way the drums and keys play off each other is a decent preview of the sparse feeling that can be found in the rest of the album. Then comes the cool, 5-minute love song “Just The Past,” which trots along slowly and lazily and works as a balanced backdrop for Peter to sing his measured lines of unrequited love: “tell me, how do I get to know you?/you untie me as if I were a shoelace.”

After “Just The Past,” there’s a block of 4 songs that I always skip over, including first single “Nothing To Worry About.” The choir of kids singing the chorus is a nice touch, but the song gets repetitive quickly and pales in comparison to the album’s second single, “Lay It Down.” The problem of repetition stays with “I’m Losing My Mind,” “Living Thing,” and “I Want You!,” none of which I was able to sit through more than a couple times because they just don’t seem to go anywhere in their 3 1/2 – 4 minute lifespans.

Luckily things start to look up with the aforementioned “Lay It Down.” This is one of PB&J’s best, the album’s standout track, and with the right amount of publicity, destined to become one of the top indie singles of 2009. The premise is simple enough — an ode to drunken douchebags in the club who like to guzzle beer and hit on your girlfriend — but the delivery is perfect. Fans of uber-erudite lyrics might shy away from this one, but the rest of us can just bask in the singalong chorus of “hey, shut the fuck up, boy/you are starting to piss me off/take your hands off that girl/you have already had enough.” Here, the old melancholy urgency that was found in songs like “Objects Of My Affection” and “Up Against The Wall” is back again, and the verse-chorus-verse format is hardly noticeable.

After getting riled up for a barroom brawl, the band settles down for best-song-runner-up, “Stay This Way.” It’s 4 minutes of deciding to be happy with stagnation, not really wanting to move forward or even go back to the way things were. The music apes the idea of the lyrics like an endless carousel, with various instruments sinking in and out of the picture to mimic the vocal melody — but it’s more a moment of introspection and “psychoanalysis of yourself,” as Peter puts it at one point, and the song stays very far away from becoming trite and repetitive.

The album starts to wind down with “Blue Period Picasso,” with lyrics sung from the point of view of a painting hoping to get stolen from the museum, a metaphor for wanting Mr. or Ms. Right to come sweep you off your feet and save you from yourself. I usually skip over the final two songs — “4 Out Of 5” (for some reason it always reminds me of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs”) and “Last Night,” but they’re worth an initial listen if you’re curious.

Living Thing is an entirely different undertaking for PB&J, and it’s admirable that they changed their approach so much when most fans were probably just waiting to whistle along with “Young Folks” v2.0. It definitely takes repeat listens and a little bit of digging to find the nuggets, but you’ll find yourself coming back to at least a few of the songs, and appreciating those ones that much more.

Categories
Band of Horses Beach House Big Business Blonde Redhead Handsome Furs Imaginary Scoop Lavender Diamond Matthew Dear Peter Bjorn and John Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings Siberian Spoon The Arcade Fire The Future of the Left

Another Best of '07 list: Chop Suey booker Pete Greenberg's favorite albums

I’m a huge nerd when it comes to pouring over annual, best of lists (I’m still biting my nails in anticipation of the Idolator critic’s poll that should be out soon), and I’m always intrigued by what the favorites of people who work in the business of music but aren’t (necessarily) critics or reviewers. So, I asked Chop Suey’s brand new booker Pete Greenberg to submit his list of favorite albums with the promise of posting them here – to which he happily complied.

Here’s what made his list:

1. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)

2. Future of The Left – Curses (Too Pure)

3. Handsome Furs – Plague Park (Sub Pop)

4. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights (Daptone Records)

5. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (Merge)

6. Big Business – Here Come The Waterworks (Hydra Head Records)

7. Beach House – Beach House (Carpark Records)

8. Blonde Redhead – 23 (4AD)

9. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (Sub Pop)

10. Siberian – With Me (Sonic Boom Recordings)

11. Matthew Dear – Asa Breed (Ghostly International)

12. Lavender Diamond – Imagine Our Love (Matador Records)

13. Peter Bjorn & John – Writer’s Block (Almost Gold)

Categories
Chemical Brothers Digitalism Imaginary Scoop LCD Soundsystem Menomena Peter Bjorn and John Radiohead The Arcade Fire Wilco

Best of 2007: Tim Hanken's picks

After much deliberation, here’s my top ten for 2007.

  1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
    After all this time the new record arrives with out a hint of disappointment. They are the best band on the planet right now. Their catalog of work hurts this record in some ways i.e., “it’s not as good as OK Computer” or “I like The Bends better”, that’s fine but In Rainbows was still the best record of 2007.
  2. Menomena – Friend and Foe
    I couldn’t really get into this record until I saw them live and then it all came together. Musicianship, harmony AND whistling; ain’t nothing wrong with that.
  3. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
    This album got bagged on all over the place (Sky Boring Sky, dad-rock, classic rock, radio rock, etc.) but I thought it was an interesting example of what sobriety can do for a band. I love all the Wilco records and enjoy the eccentricities of their previous releases, but Sky Blue Sky was the first one that seemed like a complete and coherent thought. Plus I love classic rock so that probably helped.
  4. !!! – Myth Takes
    I played this album to death when it first came out. “Heart of Hearts” and “Bend Over Beethoven” are two of the best tracks of the year in my book.
  5. Peter, Bjorn and John – Writers Block
    I’m not sure if this is 2006 or 2007 or both, but whatever it’s a great record. I’m still not tired of “Young Folks” and the rest of the album is damn catchy as well.
  6. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
    I’m guilty of judging this record against their previous (yes, I know this makes me a hypocrite considering my remarks about Radiohead above) which really isn’t fair. It took me a while to appreciate this record on its own, once I stopped looking for Funeral part II; I was able to enjoy Neon Bible.
  7. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
    For me, this isn’t a record that I can sit down and listen to front to back, but it’s a great singles record. Just this week I heard a track on a video game and then heard another song on KEXP. I like every song on this record, but for some reason the parts are much greater than the whole for me.
  8. Chemical Brothers – We Are The Night
    There are a bunch of good songs on this record. I love “The Salmon Dance,” I can’t help it, every time I hear it I smile and my day gets a little brighter.
  9. Digitalism – Idealism
    Nothing like a little German electronica to get you going.
  10. Cave Singers – Invitation Songs
    I saw them play at Easy Street for their CD release and didn’t dig it. A few weeks went by and I ended up with Invitation Songs somehow or another and couldn’t believe it was the same band. Love the record, didn’t dig the show, I’ll see them again to try and solve this conundrum. On a side note, can you believe these guys don’t have a Wikipedia page?

Honorable Mention:

  • Burial – Untrue
  • Jonny Greenwood – There Will Be Blood Soundtrack

    Both of these records sound amazing. Perfectly arranged and composed. That being said the times when I come home and thrown on either of these will be few and far between.

Bands with Deer in their names that almost made the list:

  • Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
  • Deerhunter – Cryptograms

Bands with Bear in their names that almost made the list:

  • Grizzly Bear – Friend
  • Panda Bear

Categories
A Paper Cup Band Amy Winehouse Antiques Black Kids Connan and the Mockasins Drug Rug Eagle*Seagull Elk City Great Northern Imaginary Scoop Lavender Diamond Les Breastfeeders Lost in the Trees Menomena Nicole Atkins and the Sea Peter Bjorn and John Sleeping in the Aviary The Fratellis The Motion Sick The Saps Tiger Saw Township Vinyl Skyway Wild Light

igAsh's favorite songs of 2007, with {some} free downloads!

I made a ‘Best of ’07’ compilation for coworkers and thought I’d share my picks with you, in no particular order. Hope you’ve got a little time to spare!

All downloads have been posted with permission from the bands themselves. Thanks bands!

 

1. Nicole Atkins and the Sea: “The Way It Is”

I think this is my favorite song of the year. Here’s the clip from Letterman.

 

 

2. Peter Bjorn and John: “Young Folks”

I’m such a sucker for whistling. And isn’t this the most visually satisfying video ever.

 

3. The Fratellis: “Whistle for the Choir”

I told you. Whistling = Love.

 

4. Eagle*Seagull: “I’m Sorry But I’m Beginning to Hate Your Face

This is one of my CMJ discoveries and I’m in love with the groove!

Eagle*Seagull by Denny Schmickle

5. A Paper Cup Band: “(Note to Self)

This CD got ripped to my iTunes and then met its fate in the large pile of CDs on my desk, but the songs on the iTunes caught my ear, especially this one, with a vibe a little Violent Femmes-like, sans Gano.

A Paper Cup Band, probably

 

 

6. The Vinyl Skyway: “Where?

I’m all sappy in love with these guys and their lovely harmony-driven sound. Guitarist Andy Santospago just released his own solo debut so check that out too.

 

The Vinyl Skyway

 

7. Amy Winehouse: “Some Unholy War”

Trainwreck what? Not a video for the song, just a funny YouTube clip I found called “Amy Winehouse taking a line.” Because really, who doesn’t love a trainwreck.

 

8. Les Breastfeeders: “Viens Avec Moi”

Total sucker for songs in French.

 

9. Elk City: “Totally Free

I really really really really love this whole album. P.S. Elk City singer Renee Lobue sends big holiday cheer to the imaginary world. We *heart* you back, Renee!

 

10. Lavender Diamond: “Open Your Heart”

It’s weird: I love this song, but just didn’t dig the rest of the album. Too many religious overtones, maybe. Oh well. This video is bliss.

 

11. Antiques: “These Things

Steven and Tim, who call themselves Antiques, are a couple of the finest people I know, and they make songs that warm your heart. Lots and lots of em! “These Things” is off their latest, Floodlight.

 

Antiques

 

12. Drug Rug: “For the Rest of Your Life”

This Boston duo & co. had a great 2007, releasing their debut on Black & Greene records (label of Apollo Sunshine drummer Jeremy Greene) and supporting the Fiery Furnaces on a brief tour. Their hometown shows are consistently packed.

Here they are playing this song at PA’s Lounge in May.

 

13. Sleeping In the Aviary: “Gloworm”

Another reason I *heart* Madison. This video features “Gloworm” and “Maureen.”

 

14. Connan and the Mockasins: “Sneaky Sneaky Dogfriend”

I caught these guys at CMJ and fell for their quirky charm. This songs completely delights me. Know how I feel about whistling? I’m equally taken by handclaps.

 

15. Township: “Give It To It

I’ve been telling you about these guys for as long as I’ve been writing for TIG. They won the WBCN Rock ‘N’ Roll Rumble (a battle of the bands whose claim to fame is crowning ‘Til Tuesday in the early ’80s) and they’re really incredible. Pure straight up rock ‘n’ roll here.

(And, odd little snippet: The photo on the cover of Performer, below, was taken in my Grandmother’s bathroom. True story.)

 

Township cover

 

16. Menomena: “Rotten Hell”

 

17. Tiger Saw: “Kick and Snare

A Boston-area collective with a revolving roster of members, led by Dylan Metrano. This song features crooning vocals by Sam Rosen on the lead-in. Yum.

 

Tiger Saw by Lara Woolfson

 

18. Black Kids: “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)”

A recent discovery for me, this Florida band is riding a wave of indie buzz. This song is pop gold.

 

19. Great Northern: “The Middle”

 

20. Lost In the Trees: “If You’re Afraid of the Dark

Someone wrote about this band here on TIG earlier this year, so I checked them out and am particularly crazy about this song for its lush vocal harmonies.

Lost In the Trees

 

21. The Saps: “Broke My Spine”

Chicago band whose album I reviewed months ago. This song stuck with me and I really adore it.

The Saps

 

22. Wild Light: “California On My Mind

Fresh off opening for Arcade Fire in the US and Europe, and with only an EP release so far (but a full length coming soon), these guys are briefly back home in Boston preparing their world domination. Seriously, don’t resist, just fall in love with them now.

 

23. The Motion Sick:30 Lives

Good peeps, good hooks, and an especially awesome bridge. Brilliant video too. Will be submitting a review of their new record The Truth Will Catch You, Just Wait…, which features this song, very soon!

 

 

 

Categories
Arctic Monkeys Broken Social Scene Imaginary Scoop Maximo Park Menomena Minus the Bear Peter Bjorn and John Radiohead Spoon St. Vincent The Arcade Fire

Best of 2007: Imaginary Chona's picks!

This was ridiculously hard to do! Without further ado, I present my top ten picks for 2007 releases (in no particular order):

  • Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew – Spirit If…
  • Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice
  • Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
  • Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
  • Maximo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures
  • Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
  • Radiohead – In Rainbows
  • Menomena – Friend and Foe
  • St. Vincent – Marry Me

Categories
Imaginary Scoop Paul Simon Peter Bjorn and John

The Paul Simon Revival

Well, Paul Simon is getting some big love these days. We've had the recent cover of "You Can Call Me Al" by Jens Lekman, and now the Brooklyn Vegan as a cover of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" as done by Peter Bjorn and John.

The article goes on to mention that PB and J has been recently performing sans John, and Peter has been performing sans Bjorn and John, so who knows what combinations they take … I suppose they're like a Scandinavian Voltron in that respect.

(Sorry, I couldn't help it.)

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Imaginary Scoop Peter Bjorn and John Sonic Boom Records

Pizza, beer, and juice with Peter, Bjorn, and John

Tonight, Peter Bjorn and John will be hanging out at the Sonic Boom General Store in Fremont as guest cashiers, and you can like, have a snack with them, or buy some good from the store from them. I had to read this announcement twice before I really believed it was true… I never imagined I could buy a magazine or a pack of gum from a genuine Swedish pop supastar!!

Join us this Thursday Sept. 20 from 7:30-8:30pm. Peter Bjorn and John will help celebrate Sonic Boom's 10-year anniversary by guest cashiering at the Sonic Boom General Store (3416 Fremont Ave. N). We'll have plenty of copies of their fantastic album "Writer's Block" in stock on CD and LP and if we're lucky they might play a song or two.

Peter Bjorn and John at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.

The band is also playing an all-ages show at the Showbox later tonight, with the Clientele and Marisa Nadler. Peter Bjorn and John were a highlight of my SXSW trip earlier this year, so have a blast!!

Categories
Amy Winehouse Avril Lavigne Beyonce Fall Out Boy Green Day Imaginary Scoop Jay-Z Justice Justin Timberlake Kanye West Lily Allen Peter Bjorn and John Plain White T's Rihanna The White Stripes U2

MTV continues to scare me

I know you've all been waiting for it and here it is: MTV has announced the nominees for its annual suck-up-fest, the Video Music Awards! Rather than post them all here, I'll let you visit the slick MTV website that caused my browser to be unhappy, but I'll make a few comments for my… er… your amusement.

Best Group Video: All hacks except the White Stripes.

Best New Artist: AKA, the kiss of death award (see careers of past winners like Jesus Jones, Michael Penn, and a-Ha). The list includes Lily Allen (please win so you'll go away!), Amy Winehouse, and … Peter Bjorn and John?!

Female Artist: Amy Winehouse in a pile of rubbish like Nelly Frittata.

Male Artist: Alan Thicke's son is nominated. That's all I'll say.

"Monster Single": No idea what this award means, but I did discover that Fall Out Boy recorded a song this year called "Thanks for the Mummers." I didn't realize they enjoyed the Philly parade folks that much! Other nominees include abominations like Avril and Plain White T's.

"Earth Shattering Collaboration": Yeah, whatever. Another excuse to nominate JT, Beyonce, and others – including U2 and Green Day!

"Quadruple Threat": OK, I really have no idea what this means except that Bono and Beyonce, Jay-Z, JT, and Kanye are the nominees.

Video of the Year: Amy Winehouse got a nod, along with the TRL tripe like Kanye, JT, Beyonce, Rihanna and … wait for it … "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice! Yes, you read right.

Editing: Who cares.

Director: All hacks except maybe Samuel Bayer. Where is Chris Cunningham or Michel Gondry to kick their collective asses?

 

Categories
Amy Sedaris Bright Eyes Grizzly Bear Imaginary Scoop Patrick Wolf Peter Bjorn and John

As Seen On TV: Bright Eyes, Amy Sedaris, PB&J, Patrick Wolf and more!

Bright Eyes Photo by Ryan SchierlingThis is the kind of week of late night TV I can get behind. Bright Eyes will be performing TWICE!

I know, I know… there's tons of SIFF, fashion and music stuff going on this week as well. Program thine VCR!

***Monday, June 4***

Bright Eyes on LETTERMAN

***Wednesday, June 6***
Bright Eyes on CRAIG FERGUSON
Patrick Wolf on JIMMY KIMMEL
Peter Bjorn & John on CARSON DALY

***Thursday, June 7***
Amy Sedaris on LETTERMAN
(embracey can attest… Amy on Dave, not to be missed)
Grizzly Bear on CARSON DALY

***Friday, June 8***
Steve Carell on LENO
Brian Regan on LETTERMAN
(Brian Regan is one of my favorite comedians… he's SO funny!)