Holly Miranda, The xx, and Friendly Fires @ The Henry Fonda

Last night I headed over to the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood to check out Holly Miranda, The xx, and Friendly Fires. I’d seen Friendly Fires before at Coachella, and I’ve been in love for The xx since seeing their Basic Space video. Here’s a rundown of the night:

the Holly Miranda half of Holly Miranda (there's also a guy who plays guitar)
Holly Miranda playing her guitar

Holly Miranda

Before last night, I had never heard of Holly Miranda, but I can definitely see her name popping up more and more now that she has an EP coming out soon. Miranda plays a guitar along side a guy named Timmy. The slow pace of her songs and the ambient textures they create float along with her voice perfectly. Here’s my quick summary of what you can expect from Holly Miranda: slow, two guitars, harmonizng, Sigur ros vocal style, pretty, spacious.

Romy Madley Croft of The xx
Romy Madley Croft of The xx

The xx

As I said, The xx has been on my radar since I saw their music video for Basic Space on Pitchfork a few months ago. The trio (that was a quartet just a month ago) has this unique quality about themselves and their music in the same way that Ratatat does. Both bands have a sound that doesn’t seem to be like anything else out there.

Most of what I’ve read or heard about The xx’s live show is that they play their record note for note standing still like statues. I’m happy to report that this isn’t entirely true. Yes, they do just stand there intently focused on playing their songs, but they didn’t quite play exact replicas of what’s on their album. Maybe they just started doing this, but “Basic Space” had an extended remixed ending as did Infinity, and “Crystalized” had some new drums thrown in there. Because Jamie Smith plays their drums live on finger drum pads, it’s probably very difficult to improvise much of anything as far as percussion goes. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised when they went into the new sections of the songs.

I’ve also heard that the bass in the live show drowns out the vocals. Not true. If anything, I would have liked for the bass to be a bit more present in the mix. I know that The xx wasn’t headlining the show, so it might be expecting too much for the audio to be perfect. All in all, The xx gave me pretty much everything I wanted out of their live show.


  1. Intro
  2. VCR
  3. Basic Space
  4. Shelter
  5. Crystalized
  6. Islands
  7. Night Time
  8. Infinity
Ed Macfarlane of the Friendly Fires
Ed Macfarlane of the Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires

The last time I saw the Friendly Fires I had to squeeze my way in to the back of the Mojave tent at Coachella because I got there after the first song had started. Last time I had tried that (w/ MGMT) I hated the sound so much I left after the next song and just laid down on the grass. Not so with Friendly Fires. I stayed the whole time and enjoyed one of my favorite pre-sunset shows of the weekend.

The Friendly Fires’ music is so danceable and upbeat, it still amazes me that they are signed to XL Recordings and not to DFA. This brings me to one problem I have with LA audiences: no one moves. Everyone is so worried about their dresses/shoes/shirts/hats that they’re paranoid that something is going to spill on them if they move any part of their body. It drives me insane. At Coachella everyone is dripping sweat dancing/jumping/moshing and you can do whatever you want because everyone else is too. But I digress.

Last night, aside from the dead audience, was a great night for the Friendly Fires. They played through their entire debut album, and thew their more recent single off of the reissue “Kiss of Life” in for size. What I really commend the band for is recreating the joy of the record onstage. They had two guys as a brass section last night, and those two guys did wonders for the sound. So many of the elements in the Friendly Fires’ songs are sparkling and fighting for your attention that the sound of them live is sensory overload. The drums are less a drum kit and more of a percussion lineup, the bass pounds songs like “White Diamonds” and “Lovesick” forward, and Ed Macfarlane’s voice tops it all off jumping back and forth from belting out power notes to sliding out his falsetto every once in a while.

I think I’m almost ready to put Friendly Fires up there with Hot Chip as one of my favorite upbeat poppy bands to see live. Both groups know exactly what to do with their songs in a live setting and walk the line separating funk, electro, and rock very well.


  1. Lovesick
  2. Jump in the Pool
  3. Skeleton Boy
  4. In the Hospital
  5. White Diamonds
  6. Strobe
  7. Kiss of Life
  8. Photobooth
  9. On Board
  10. Paris
  11. Encore: Ex Lover

Thanks to flickr users jcbehm and Kmeron for their photos.

Commercials With Great Songs #1

I’ve picked out a few commercials that aren’t half bad and have great music accompanying them. In this first installation, we have songs by Phoenix, New Young Pony Club, and Nina Simone remixed by Felix Da Housecat.

Phoenix – 1901 in Cadillac’s SRX Commercial

Phoenix’s latest album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has received quite a bit of critical acclaim since it’s release about six months ago. The entire album is great, but I really love the groove this song has. The simple drums, prancing guitars, and striking synth stabs all fit together perfectly. Not that I’ll be buying a Cadillac anytime soon, but the ad uses this song effectively with the lighting flares and mechanical movement of the car parts. Just as a visual, I basically start dancing every time this commercial comes on TV.

New Young Pony Club – The Bomb in AT&T’s SlideIt Commercial

This commercial isn’t exactly new, and neither is the song (it came out in 2007), but it stuck in my head because it’s so catchy. The pulsating beat with the arped synth seem to get me everytime (probably why I also like CSS). Aside from the fact that the song is great, it doesn’t hurt that it says “you really have to display information,” which is essentially what AT&T wants you to hear. The commercial is pretty cool too. I think more could have been done with the moving-parts-of-the-city idea, but 30 seconds isn’t a lot of time to work with.

Nina Simone – Sinnerman (Felix Da Housecat’s Heavenly House Mix) in HTC’s You Commerical

What I really appreciate about this commerical is that it puts the song to perfect use when it says

“And then you realize, you don’t need to get a phone. You need a phone that gets you, and you, and you.”

At this point, the sample of the song is played repeatedly with the “and you” bits. It’s a simple trick, but it works so well. I think the impact comes from the repetition of the shorter sample even when the whole song is a repetition of a sample. Felix Da Housecat has been around for a while, and has never really been someone I listen to. Regardless, he is a force in the house music scene, and this remix is quite a gem. HTC makes great phones from what I read, but they aren’t well known (like Samsung, Sony, and LG are). It’s good to see a great ad to be coupled with a great company.