Wednesday, June 30, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #39: The Constellations/J-Roddy Walston & The Business @ Rock’n’Roll Hotel, 6/18/10

Birthday week was already plenty damn fine. But then, my little sweeties, it got even finer. I must credit this outpouring of super fineness to the terrific tandem of J-Roddy Walston & The Business and The (mighty fine) Constellations. The Baltimoreans and the Atlantanians came together for what was a one-two punch of sweaty, dancey, nasty rock’n’roll, with varying degrees of funk and soul and groovability thrown in for good measure. They both did it up somethin’ fierce, and it was one heck of a good time.

MINI RECAP: The Constellations = Supercalifragilistic! J-Roddy Walston & The Business = Expialidocious! Overall score: A-.

I already knew what to expect from J-Roddy Walston & The Business, having had the pleasure of seeing them once before down in Richmond a little while back. I thought I’d missed their set, but thankfully traffic and the hunt for parking didn’t band black me. The show ran way behind schedule, which turned out to be a good thing. As soon as they stepped onstage, it was pure, ballsy rock. The band doesn’t go for nuance as much as straightforward, balls-to-the-wall rock’n’roll, and it’s part of what makes them so charming. Walston himself has a perfect, bluesy howl that’s spot on for their brand of slightly raunchy rock. The entire band gets top marks for their showmanship, with their writhing around and frequent tossing of the hair (Walston especially, with those curls of his) adding emphasis to that big, bulky sound. They’re showy (just this side of being hams), they’re loud, they’re more than a little bit bad (and ladies: they’re all pretty worth lookin’ at). In short, they’re pure rock’n’roll.

After that, the crowd was good and ready for even more musical chaos. Lucky for us, The Constellations had ventured up from their lair of funk down in Atlanta to show us how to really have a good time. “We’re just gonna roll with it and see what happens,” they opined, before working their magic. Eight folks strong, the band laid down a set of delicious little groove-heavy songs, funky and sassy as all get out. I loved them from the word go, what with the be-fro’d bassist and the two ladies shimmying all 60s girl group style as they got their tambourine and maraca action on. Their songs had a curious effect on me, making me feel good but very, very bad at the same time. They got the herd dancin’, and they too looked like they were having more fun than a barrel of monkeys. And really, any band that covers Bowie (in this case, the way appropriate “Let’s Dance”) is ahead of the game in my book. With a bongo breakdown in the middle, no less. The Constellations are up to no good, and I certainly appreciate, enjoy, and encourage their sauciness. “We take no prisoners,” said they, and that’s not just whistlin’ Dixie. They came, they saw, and they kicked out the jams good and proper.

Brothers and sisters, I’m gonna tell you a little something. A little friendly advice from me to you. You need to go see both of these bands. You really do. If you’re itchin’ to dance, they’ve got you covered. They showed yours truly one hell of a good time, and they’ll do the same for you, no doubt.

mp3: Felicia (The Constellations from Southern Gothic)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Untitled Interview #45: Starring Patrick Park

I’m gonna go ahead and say that I don’t think I’ve been getting enough troubadourian goodness in my diet these days. Fortunately, there’s always Patrick Park to come to the rescue in just this kind of situation. The good Mister Park follows in the footsteps of many a singer-songwriter before him, and not just when it comes to moving out to LA for inspirational-type purposes. Give the man a guitar and beautiful things just seem to happen.

And give the man some questions, and pretty good answers will be returned. Check out the musings of Mister Park below, and of course, make sure you listen to any and all of his music you can get your little paws on. Oh, and should you even run into him, you might wanna challenge him to a game of chess. Just sayin'.

Les Enfants Terribles: How the hell are you?
Patrick Park: I'm really good. A bit tired, I just got back from tour last night so now I'm trying to figure out what to do with myself. It always seems like it takes me a week or so to get back into the swing of being at home again.

LET: What was the last song you listened to?
PP: Uh, well the last song I listened to was “Barracuda”, that's what was on the radio when I went to get coffee.

LET: Playing music is:
PP: Absolutely necessary.

LET: What album most made you realize you wanted to make music?
PP: God there's been a lot, but I guess maybe the two that stand out in my mind are The Zombies' Odyssey And Oracle and Bob Dylan's Time's They Are A Changing.

LET: Beatles or Stones?
PP: Beatles all the way.

LET: Top 5 albums (of now, of this month, or of ever):
PP: Top 5 albums of the moment in no particular order:

John Lee Hooker - Real Folk Blues
Mississippi John Hurt - Live Vol. 1
My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
Elliott Smith - Either/Or
Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary

LET: Favorite music-related movie?
PP: Don't Look Back, Gimme Shelter, or The Last Waltz.

LET: Half full or half empty?
PP: Definitely half full.

LET: Which of your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
PP: There's a lot of great music out there right now. Some of the many bands I like are Wolf Parade, Beach House, Warpaint, Sera Cahoone, Seawolf, Gregory Alan Isakov, Animal Collective, and AA Bondy.

LET: Little-known Patrick Park fact?
PP: I'm a fanatical chess dork. I probably play at least 10 games a day, and spend free time on tour working out problems. Sad really.

LET: What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
PP: Uh…Where am I?

LET: The greatest record store in the world is:
PP: It's a toss up between Amoeba in LA or Twist and Shout in Denver.

LET: Shaken or stirred?
PP: Neat.

LET: You've been in LA for a little while now. Do you ever miss all the snow of Colorado?
PP: I definitely do. I still consider Colorado my home even though I've been living in LA for some time now. I've come to really like a lot of things about LA, but I miss seasons. It can be a little like Groundhog Day here.

LET: If you weren't a musician you'd be:
PP: God, I have no idea honestly. I hope that I never have to figure that one out.

LET: What music most makes you think of Colorado? Of LA?
PP: Of Colorado, pine trees, mountains, indian paint brush, rattle snakes. Of LA, traffic, burritos, sunburns.

LET: If you were so inclined, whom would you form a tribute band in honor of?
PP: Maybe Wire. Those songs are super fun to play.

LET: Best song ever written?
PP: I have no idea. If I had to choose one I would say maybe, “The Times They Are A Changin” by Bob Dylan.

mp3: Blackbird Through the Dark (Patrick Park from Come What Will)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #38: Ceremony @ U Street Music Hall, 6/17/10

Though of course I could never ever be accused of rashness, it would appear, my dears, that I might have been a wee bit too hasty in proclaiming anyone the Best Band in Virginia before I had properly given due attention to Fredericksburg nouveau gazers Ceremony. In the span of just one live set, they totally turned my world upside down, inside out, and sideways, and in doing so might very well have snatched the Best Band in Virginia title for themselves. Those naughty boys.

MINI RECAP: Ceremony = Hallefuckinglujah! Overall score: A.

The dark, industrial hole of the U Street Music Hall was the perfect backdrop for the tandem of Paul Baker and John Fedowitz and their glorious creations. “Can you turn the lights down,” they asked, “we’re ready to go.” And ready to go they were. This pair make heavenly nouveau gaze music that’s about as good as you’re going to get these days, hands down. They’ve got the wall of noise and blissful distortion down to a science, and it’s fucking gorgeous. Their set made me question not only what year it was, but also where exactly this set was taking place. It could just as easily have been 1980s Scotland instead of DC, circa 2010. In addition to their blistering cacophany of scorching noise, they can also add just a touch of pop, as with the amazing “Stars Fall”, adding another dimension to an already layered sound.

Working with a drum machine and sharing vocal duties, Paul (guitar) and John (bass) worked their magic, weaving webs of fuzzy disorientation and shambolic wave upon wave of distortion. They effortlessly harness the sound of vintage My Bloody Valentine and early Jesus & Mary Chain, but leave some of the bite out for a kinder, gentler ‘gaze. The power and intensity is still very much present, however, as is the need for earplugs, and to quote my friend Laura, to whom I owe much love for introducing me to Ceremony’s music, they straight up “melted my face off.” Trite though it may sound, this band is so good that it hurts. I’m pretty sure that’s as close to a religious experience as I’ve had in quite some time. I do believe I just stumbled upon one of the best live bands within 100 miles, if not more. They were absolutely stunning.

To put it to you this way, the only other bands who come close to this level of amazingness with the nouveau gazing are Ringo Deathstarr and A Place To Bury Strangers (who, wouldn’t you know it, have ties to Ceremony). But in Virginia, at this moment, Ceremony stands alone. I was well and truly blown away by this band, and would recommend them about as highly as I’ve ever recommended anything before.

mp3: Marianne (Ceremony from Rocket Fire)

100 Shows of 2010 - #37: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart/Surfer Blood/Hooray For Earth @ Black Cat, 6/16/10

Once more during birthday week, I found myself at the Black Cat for another fabulous night of live music. This time, the shindig was totally sold out for LET faves The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, joined this time through by Surfer Blood and Hooray For Earth. It proved to be a night of very good vibrations, and was further sugary sweet icing on this girl’s birthday cake.

MINI RECAP: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart = Pop Perfection! Surfer Blood = Worth Hypery! Hooray For Earth = Scandalously Shimmery! Overall score: A-.

Ridiculous traffic and even more ridiculous misadventures in street parking conspired against me when it came to seeing first band Hooray For Earth. I was only able to catch a couple songs, regretfully. However, what I did manage to see was pretty darned wonderful. The (large, large) band cranks out a really cute, really sweet synthy pop sound. I was a big fan of their forays into boy-girl vocals, along with the peppy percussion and the sassy, shimmery synths. And bless their hearts, they all looked so happy up there on the stage! I do so love a band that looks like they’re having themselves a mighty fine time. I can definitely say that Hooray For Earth warrant further observation, and hopefully they’ll swing back around this way soon.

Blog darlings Surfer Blood were up next in the sandwich, and while not quite totally in love with them after seeing them live, I found their set rather enjoyable. They piqued my interest with the interesting drummer tactics, one standing and one seated. I do love my drummers, especially when they exhibit a little attitude behind their respective kit. The band as a whole came across as a little sassy, and I liked it. I was definitely into their feisty guitar riffage and danceable licks, along with their overall straightforward powerpoppage. And they slightly melted my icy heart a wee bit when they proclaimed, “Let’s Do Hugs Onstage!” and started hugging each other in the middle of their set. Aww. Band love makes me feel all squishy inside. All told, I can kinda see what all the kerfuffle is about when it comes to Surfer Blood. However, as a friend (who was once in a Weezer cover band) and I agreed, their cover of the Weezer classic “Undone (The Sweater Song)” was a tad anticlimactic and not quite full of enough gusto.

And then, it was time for one of my very favorite live bands, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Right away the New Yorkers were dazzling. “Contender” was up first, with Kip Berman's voice sounding even sweeter than I remembered. Seeing this band live just automatically puts a big smile on my face. The fantastic “Come Saturday” came next, all cuteness and fluffiness and inescapable catchiness. “Young Adult Friction” seems to be one of their strongest live songs, and I feel like I love it even more when it’s live. It’s got that extra saccharine bounce to it, without being cloying of course. More pop perfection followed, including the incomparable “A Teenager In Love”, showing off Kip’s breathy, excited vocals and their taut percussion. Something about this band captures the electric breathlessness of youth, and it’s so very beautiful to hear. “This is a song about love,” Kips muses, before launching into an utterly slaying version of “This Love Is Fucking Right” (my probable favorite TPOBPAH song, for right now anyway). It all sounded so very right, from older favorites “Stay Alive” and “Everything With You” to new songs (yay!) “The Heart In Your Heartbreak” and “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now”. In my humble opinion, this band can do no wrong. They closed it all out with an unspeakably fabulous cover of “Be My Little Baby” with special guests from the two opening bands helping out. It was a total lovefest.

I’ve gotta give my local crowd a thumbs up for this show, because as the bands brought to our attention, this was the only sold out show of the entire tour (way to go, DC). Everyone left the show with smiles on their faces (because really, if you didn’t, you have no soul. It’s as simple as that). Friends, don’t hesitate to see any and all of these bands live when you can.

mp3: Come Saturday (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #36: Dead Meadow @ Black Cat, 6/15/10

I knew weeks ago that this show would be killer. I mean, Dead Meadow playing my favorite bar on my birthday night, how could it possibly be anything other than amazing? But oh, sweet friends. I was just not prepared at all for how very much I would be rendered speechless by the sheer fucking fantasticness of it all. Dead Meadow took all of my lofty expectations for my first time seeing them live and absolutely shattered the hell out of them. Happy goddam birthday to me, indeed.

MINI RECAP: Dead Meadow = Have Mercy on Me! Overall score: A-.

The band was raucously wonderful from the get go, and I’m not just talkin’ about that moustache sported by drummer Stephen McCarty, either. The backstage at the Black Cat was pretty full to witness the former locals in their return to the city. “It’s good to be back here in DC, our hometown,” said Jason Simon, in between waves of killing me with that guitar of his, a feat that happened all night long. Showing serious axe skills and shredding and careening all over the place, he won a place in my cold, black heart. Simon can wail for days, my loves. For days. Throughout the set, the Dead Meadow sound was absolutely mammoth, colossal even. Song after song was heady and loud and totally transfixing.

Also transfixing was the dude in a brightly-colored mu-mu wandering around at the show. Gotta love a guy with the cajones enough to go out decked out like a lost member of The Polyphonic Spree. Simon’s insane guitar skills snapped me out of my mu-mu gazing right quick, and I was once more drawn in like a kid listening to the Pied Piper. It was a lusciously loud set, just how I like things. Dead Meadow may or may not be classified as stoner rock, but there sure were some folks in the crowd who looked a little on the stoned side. For their part, the trio comprising Dead Meadow looks a little throwback, and they sound a whole lotta throwback. And again, for me it all goes back to Simon’s guitar. The guitar, oh have mercy that guitar. Jason Simon, you officially killed me not-so-softly with your songs.

I loved the big, bad bastard wolf rockness of it all, the sweet mercy drone and murky hum and pressing weight of it all, and how it felt as though we had all time-warped back to the mid-70s for a brief, beautiful time. I love me some Dead Meadow, I can tell you that much for damn sure. It’s music to take a slow ride to, or take a magic carpet ride to, or to be dazed and confused by. Spending my birthday with Dead Meadow turned out to be one hell of a present.

mp3: Such Hawks Such Hounds (unreleased Dead Meadow from Three Kings sessions)

100 Shows of 2010 - #35: Neon Indian/Wild Nothing @ Sonar, 6/13/10

As some of you already know, it was my birthday last week. And naturally, it’s a big enough birthday that I deemed it only right to go to as many shows as possible during birthday week to properly celebrate another year on this lovely planet of ours. So when my bestest friend Laura invited me up to her neck of the woods (AKA Baltimore) for the Neon Indian and Wild Nothing show, I decided an evening of ridiculously bitchin’ dancefloor action was just what the kickoff to birthday week should be.

MINI RECAP: Neon Indian = Neonically Neato! Wild Nothing = Synthily Sassy! Overall score: B+.

One thing I hadn’t realized before this show (shame on me) is the fact that Wild Nothing hails from my very own Commonwealth of Virginia. Another excellent band doin’ the state proud, it sure does warm the cockles of my little heart. Also warming the cockles of my little heart was Wild Nothing’s sound, which could have been coming out of early 1980s Britain. Heavy in slinky synths and kicky little riffs, the band had a consistently good dance beat and a little attitude. At times I heard varying shades of A Flock of Seagulls (minus the ridiculous haircuts, of course), Psychedelic Furs, and New Order. The packed house and I really kinda dug on this band. Their songs were sweet, yet glamorous at the same time, making for a really charming vibe. And who doesn’t love a synthed-up Fleetwood Mac cover? I’m so very pleased to have seen them do their first Baltimore show.

Neon Indian was also in Baltimore for the very first time. They got the party started right away, with their sensational little beats and buoyant stage presence. Visual stimulation was provided in the guise of garishly neon patterns projected on screens on the sides of the stage, giving an apt visual representation of the band’s music. The kids were definitely down with Neon Indian, and at times the dancefloor was heaving with motion, as the crowd worked up a sweat to the endless beats. The Neon Indian sound is a danceable dream, and it’s just such happy music (musically speaking, that is, not necessarily lyrically!). I’d liken it to super rad, candy-coated rave pop, totally perfect for inciting crazy dance moves, and though there was some fluorescent jewelry the kids thankfully left the pacifiers at home. I was a little perplexed by the dude walking around with duct tape all over his head, but to each their own I suppose. The “really enthusiastic” crowd got the band back for an encore, which just meant more dancing and more sweating.

It was a divine evening, my dears, and a perfect way to kick off birthday week. These two bands were tailor made to tour together. Somewhat fittingly, I suppose, a darling young thing sidled up to me during Wild Nothing’s set to attempt to sweet-talk me into buying him ciggies, which I gently refused (we don’t encourage underage naughtiness here, after all).

mp3: Terminally Chill (Neon Indian from Psychic Chasms)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ray

Where o where would we be without Ray Davies? Without him, there would be no Village Green Preservation Society, no Muswell Hillbillies, no Lola…there would be entirely less biting musical social commentary from Engerland, and that would be an utter and total shame.

From the early days of The Kinks, Davies had that band doing very, very special things indeed. You can bet your sweet bippy that there’s thousands of young musician pups who wish they were Ray Davies at any given moment. Hell, as I sit here listening to “All Day and All of The Night”, even I wanna be Ray. He’s one heck of a songwriter, that Davies, and his voice ain’t too shabby, either.

So many happy returns to Mister Ray Davies, CBE!

mp3: Lola (The Kinks from Lola Versus The Powerman & The Money-Go-Round Pt. 1)

Album Review: Valentiger – Power Lines to Electric Times

I’ve got to admit, I was initially drawn to Valentiger because, well, let’s face it. They’ve pretty much got the cutest, warmest fuzzy of a band name ever. That may or may not be what they were going for, but being a sucker for a good band name, I appreciate the effort. Having been so drawn in, it really would have been quite heartbreaking had their album been horrible. As luck would have it, though, not only do they have a great name, they’ve got a great little album here, too.

Power Lines to Electric Times is, among other things, what I like to call a good Sunday afternoon record. It’s got both the lovely mellowness required for relaxing, but also a good bit of kick that helps really make the most of those last few waning hours of the weekend. It starts with the fantastic “Aboveboard”, a lightly jangling song with a hearty dose of down home warmth. “Leaving Town” is one of my favorites, heavy on the jangle and full of honest, frank vocals. Oh, and it’s got some serious mouth organ goin’ on, and that wins me over every time. The song shows off the subtle influence of a range of folks, from the candid earnestness of The Boss to the tight angularity of Brit bands like The Jam.

“Never Ready” is another of my favorites, the delicate strumming of the guitar working like a lullaby, soothing and peaceful. The dancing piano and softly-hit drums add to a tranquility that’s nigh on magical. “Bosses In Their Offices” is a delight, full of front porch attitude and an overall liveliness. The instrumentation at the end of “Under The Gun” is the musical equivalent of a glorious sunset over a Northern lake, surrounded by pines and clutching a beer while sitting in an Adirondack chair watching the fireflies. “The Girl That Everyone Forget” is a yet another favorite, a rollicking little firecracker, big on harmony and simple, heartfelt sounds.

Remember the name Valentiger, my loves. They’re one of those bands that takes inspiration the everyday banalities of life and crafts them into splendid little songs, full of honesty and without a whiff of pretension. Power Lines to Electric Times is a rustic, pastoral folk rock-with-a-dash-of-pop record. Well-played, well-written, and well done. It won my heart, and I’m pretty sure it’ll do the same to you.

mp3: Never Ready (Valentiger from Power Lines to Electric Times)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #34: This Will Destroy You/Light Pollution/Slow Six @ DC9, 6/10/10

What better way to recover after two utterly insane nights with The Brian Jonestown Massacre than with a trio of monumentally loud, breathtakingly noisy bands? There’s no other way, there’s no other way. All I could do was watch them play, and man alive it was one heck of a show. The newly-revamped DC9 floorplan took a backseat to all the sonic mayhem on the stage, and it was painfully spectacular.

MINI RECAP: This Will Destroy You = Beautifully Loudest! Light Pollution = Beautifully Louder! Slow Six = Beautifully Loud! Overall score: B+.

Up first was Brooklyn’s Slow Six. They emitted a very dreamy, very layered sound, reminiscent of England’s Yndi Halda. I definitely dug their dual-threat violin angle, probably the first time I’ve come across that in a non-orchestral setting. “Cloud Cover” was noise on a grand scale, with a misty swirl of an intro and miles and miles of glorious drone. Something dark simmers under the surface of this band, a little bit threatening and very much appealing. All the looping and swirling gave their music an ethereal quality, as it traversed all sorts of interesting places. I heard someone say “ambience” at one point in the set, and they weren’t just whistlin’ Dixie. Slow Six does indeed knock out some very ambient noise. Both welcoming and off-putting, at times the band was rather disquieting. All in all, Slow Six really impressed me. If you’re in the market for some eerie, hauntingly lovely and really loud music, you might wanna check these folks out.

Occupying the bill’s sandwich spot was Chicago’s Light Pollution, a band I’ve seen recently and was totally excited to see once more. Once again, they were totally fantastic, even from the few notes of “Cinnamon Girl” someone snuck in during their soundcheck. Their delightful mix of pop, indie rock, and knob-twiddling just makes me so very happy. They opened with a very bouncy, perky version of “All Night Outside”, which was absolutely adorable. They really started to hit their stride with “Bad Vibes”, with the swelling buzz of the keys and a feeling of being sonically all over the place yet totally in command. The awesome drum explosion in the middle of the song was incredible. “This song’s call ‘Good Feelings’. It’s about feeling good,” was our intro to the most excellent “Good Feelings”. The bass was deep and rich, and the band continued to hit all the right notes. They were totally on point, and my only complaint about the set was that it was too short! I wanted more, dangit.

As if the first two bands weren’t good enough, on came This Will Destroy You, the Texans with a penchant for seriously amazing noise. I was in the mood for inordinately, ungodly loud music, and TWDY didn’t disappoint. In a way, their music lives up to their name, because it can pretty much liquefy your brain. The music of This Will Destroy You makes me think of an inky black, cloud-heavy night where you can’t see a star through all the weight of the clouds, except on the occasion of the moon poking through for just a brief instance. It’s a little chilling, a little heavy, and exceedingly beautiful. They play lovely, delicate parts against crunchy, super loud bits and it creates a brilliantly gigantic wall of sound. The merciless pounding of the drums was incredible, and the songs were so delightfully dark. It’s a full frontal aural assault, melodic and lovely and crushing all at once. The band seemed almost methodical, working carefully to make sure every note was precise and perfect. At one point I saw a few dudes trying to block their ears with their hands against the onslaught of magnificent noise, but I can’t imagine it worked very well. Even with my earplugs in I could feel the noise seeping into my skull. Their set was so very good, it was have mercy on me good. This is a band that could soundtrack both oblivion and salvation. They’d make a great tour pairing with Mono, and I’d be at that show in a heartbeat.

In conclusion, I can but urge you to go see each of these three bands whenever you get the chance. Just make sure you bring your earplugs.

mp3: Cloud Cover (part 1) (Slow Six from Tomorrow Becomes You)

Newsflash: Win Tickets to Northside Festival 2010!

Hey you. Yes, you. Got plans for June 24-27? No? Great. Yeah? Change 'em! You'll wanna be headed to NYC for the Northside Festival, believe you me. Put down whatever it is you think you have to do next Thursday through next Sunday, because it can't possibly be as exciting as the goodness the folks at The L have cooked up. An entire weekend of band after band after band after band...what could be better?

Oh yeah. Maybe getting to go for free, VIP-style! You got it, friends. You and your bff or bf/gf could be headed the Northside for some major VIP action (grand prize winner gets 2 VIP badges, plus a tee shirt, AND a 3G iPad!). There are other prizes to be had as well, including regular festival access badges. Check out all the details here.

To whet your appetite, here's just a small smattering of the bands who will be performing at this year's Northside: Wavves, Reading Rainbow, Jucifer, Violens, Au Revoir Simone, Young Mammals, Cat Martino, The Fresh & Onlys, Woods, Hooray for Earth, Class Actress, Fang Island, The So So Glos, Takka Takka, Elvis Perkins In Dearland, Sondre Lerche, Les Savy Fav, The Golden Filter, Liars, Thieving Irons, Fucked Up, Real Estate, Islands, Grooms, AND LET faves These United States, Harper Blynn, The Black Hollies, Vandaveer, and La Strada. And that, my loves, is just the tip of the icerberg. So what are you waiting for??? Go get yourself entered! Good luck and godspeed.

mp3: Julia (La Strada from New Home)

mp3: Get Yourself Home (These United States from Crimes)

mp3: Invisible Forces (The Fresh & Onlys from Grey-Eyed Girls)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Album Review: Blue Giant – Blue Giant

The tango. Doubles tennis. Making a thing go right. Two can be just about perfect for any number of things. For instance, as dastardly duo Viva Voce, Kevin & Anita Robinson proved you only need two to make some pretty fantastic music. But the Alabama transplants aren’t resting on their twosome laurels. Oh no. They’ve decided to try expansion on for size, in their new band Blue Giant. And I think you’ll find, as I did, that sometimes, in music as in other things, bigger can sometimes be pretty darn good.

In Viva Voce, Mr. & Mrs. Robinson created gorgeously sung, gorgeously played songs. In Blue Giant, guess what? There’s more of the same. However, the songs feel fuller, more expansive, and just plain bigger than you might have expected. The overall feel is much the same, country meets folk meets sunshiney West Coast pop, but it’s not merely Viva Voce with extra members.

There’s a whole lot to love about the self-titled Blue Giant release. “Blue Sunshine” is a perfect summer song, banjo playing backup to a fantastic guitar and giving Kevin a chance to show off his full-bodied vocal tones. “Target Heart” is a perfect little honky-tong lovesick song, with beautifully lovelorn lyrics and what sounds like an old-time player piano adding to the song’s charm.

“When Will The Sun Shine” sounds a lot like a Viva Voce song, with Kevin & Anita sharing much of the vocal duties and featuring strong guitar play. And Anita’s voice is positively haunting in the stark, slowed down mid-section of the song. “Run Rabbit Run” is another one that got my attention. It’s got more banjo, which is never a bad thing if you ask me. The lively tambourine adds that extra jangle that gets my blood really pumping. The mournfulness of “Gone For Good” is aided by the strong, winsome vocals of Corin Tucker, and the wail of the steel gives the song added heartbreak.

Fellow fans of Viva Voce, rejoice. If you’ve been missing the family Robinson, this is your lucky day. I probably still lean a bit more towards Viva Voce, but Blue Giant is a welcome addition to the Robinsonian oeuvre.

mp3: Blue Sunshine (Blue Giant from Blue Giant)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Untitled Interview #44: Starring Barry Hyde (The Futureheads)

The Futureheads have shown themselves to be amongst the cream of the import bin over the last decade, so says I. Their angular, comical, unquestionably English punk is full of cheeky charm, boatloads of subtle (and, well, obvious) humor, and is technically impressive to boot. Throw in Barry Hyde’s droll yet oft-excitable vocals and you’ve got a sure winner.

Speaking of Barry Hyde, he gamely answered the call of the Untitled Interview challenge. Read on to see just why Hyde doesn’t exactly heart the “Modfather,” what inspired him to become a musician, and just what he’d be if he wasn’t making that seriously fantastic music. Not only does Hyde get serious love from me for that Beatles/Stones answer, his cool points for using the tragically underappreciated “uncouth” are now immeasurable.

The Futureheads also happen to still be in the midst of a tour in the US of A, so get out there and see ‘em if you find yourself in the path of the tour. I promise you, my dears, you’ll be glad you did.

Les Enfants Terribles: How the hell are you?
Barry Hyde: Very well thank you. As fit as a fiddle.

LET: What was the last song you listened to?
BH: “The Batalon” by Max Tundra. It's a winner.

LET: Playing music is: __________
BH: Impossible for us not to do.

LET: What album most made you realize you wanted to make music?
BH: Tough question. “Sunshine of your Love” by Cream made me want to play the guitar. Heard it in an American Diner in Newcastle and thought “if I could play that then I would be 'cool'". Positively ice box baby. Berlin by Lou Reed has to get a mention. I have heard it more than any other album I think. That and the Lost Boys soundtrack. Of course.

LET: Beatles or Stones?
BH: Well, The Beatles appeal to my mind. And The Stones appeal to what's in my boxer shorts! Depends what I fancy.

LET: Top 5 albums (of now, of this month, or of ever):
BH: You are killing me! Impossible to answer that question “correctly.” Berlin for sure. The Well Tempered Clavier by some wig wearing loon called Bach or something?!? Point by Japenese wizard Cornelius. Cut by The Slits. Sexy sexy girls. And the soundtrack to Cabaret. Massive fan of that one. Again it's SO sexy. Especially "Mein Here" if that's how you spell it. The one Liza sings whilst doing her incredible chair straddling. Gosh. Woof woof. Ding dong.

LET: Favorite music-related movie?
BH: Too many but Amadeus is very very very special to me. Simply wonderful. Deserved all the awards for sure.

LET: Half-full or half-empty?
BH: Full for sure. But empty and full are the same thing, just both at different points on the scale of 'being'. I'll shut up with my wisdom loving now! Know thyself.

LET: Which of your peers do you think is making the best music these days?
BH: I like Brighton Pier. We have a nice Pier in Sunderland. The Futureheads are PEERLESS. Alone in the Universe. I love Foals, Maccabees, Dutch Uncle, Crystal Castles, Maximo Park to name but a few bands. Great bands but peers they are NOT!

LET: Little-known Futureheads fact?
BH: We are aliens from the Ganimede.

LET: What’s the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
BH: I kiss my wife then put the Kettle on, that's of I don't feel like wearing the light switch or the toaster. Obviously.

LET: The greatest record store in the world is:
BH: Hot Rats in Sunderland, it's run by a punk rocker who used to be in the Toy Dolls. He lets me go in the secret cupboard, where he keeps all the real goooood shit. Like the illuminous DEVO vinyl I had and lost. Still hurts.

LET: Shaken or stirred?
BH: What time does Sean Connery like to play his favourite sport?..............,,, Tenish! Shaken and stirred pleased. Why not Mish Moneypenny. Kinky shit Bond like.

LET: Why don’t The Futureheads like Paul Weller?
BH: Because he's unfriendly and he walks around like a fucking peacock. Also he is known as the Mod Father, and he's not. The Jam, who KICK ASS, were a Mod Revival band. A fact that to my knowledge he has never admitted. Mods were around in the 60's not the 70's. DUH! Good song writer though. Love his solo on “Champagne Supernova”! Wicked. He's alright really. That guy in DC was very uncouth. Something had to be said to pacify his drunk ass.

LET: If you weren’t in a band you’d be:
BH: A chef/barber/virgin.

LET: I know it’s like making someone choose a favorite child, but which of your records are you most proud of, and why?
BH: Edward. He's an excellent poet you know.

LET: If you were so inclined, whom would you form a tribute band in honor of?
BH: Queen. Done that. Seriously.

LET: Best song ever written?
BH: No such thing I'm afraid. You are asking the wrong humaniod. Ok Ok Ok. “Slave” by Britney Spears. Leave her alone by the way.

Meantime (The Futureheads from The Futureheads)

Album Review: Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils

It’s been unseasonably hot here in the greater DC metro so far this June, and this early summer has made me hanker for some appropriate tunes. Something that’s perfect for the dusk, as the sun sets in the hot, sticky horizon and the lightning bugs flitter around in the humid darkness. And lo and behold, I stumbled upon Beach Fossils. Their self-titled record fits the bill for the endless summer nights, and beyond that is a damn fine collection of songs for any season.

Beach Fossils has a lo-fi feel to the production, reminding me a little of those great albums that came out of New Zealand and the UK in the early 80s. In fact, Beach Fossils at times remind me just a touch of The Clean, seminal Kiwi indie popsters. At times there’s a whole lotta Flying Nun coursing through this record. The guitar on opening track “Sometimes” is drenched in retro, slightly reminiscent of a less brutal Beat Happening, and sets the stage for just how impossible it’ll be to resist the onslaught of shimmery, twinkling noise to come. “I don’t know just what I feel but I feel it all tonight,” goes second track “Youth”, a wonderfully sweet little song with a kicky bassline and drum-machine taut drums.

I’m absolutely in smit with “Vacation”. It’s a song just crying out for a road trip on which to blast its’ anti-city lyrics and punchy riffs. “Lazy today/lazy tonight/and later on,” goes the song “Lazy Day”, the perfect mindset for stifling summer days. Even the music idles along, clearly in no hurry. “Twelve Roses” is glorious, jangly and washed in gentle fuzz. Consider it a favorite. Same goes for the song right after it, the equally killer “Daydream”. There’s something so optimistic about this music, it puts me in a good mood no matter what. And the guitar gets me every single damn time. Hang on, I’m gonna listen to it again right quick.

“Golden Age” has summer flowing through it, dewey with a slight glimmer of sweat, and with something almost innocent about it. “Ain’t tryin’ to do more than just sit here,” they say, gettin’ that summer vibe down pat. “The Horse” sounds like it would be right at home at an indie dance night near you, and very well might be in the near future. “Wide Awake” sounds like taking a midnight drive into the country, gazing up at stars glistening against an impossibly inky velvet sky.

I absolutely, positively, unequivocally love this record. It’s almost too good to be true. From start to finish, it’s divine. To drive the point home here, my darlings, you’re probably, nay just about definitely, gonna see Beach Fossils pop up on my Best of 2010 list. Why not go ahead and get ready to add it to yours, too?

mp3: Daydream (Beach Fossils from Beach Fossils)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #33: The Brian Jonestown Massacre/The Young Sinclairs @ 9:30 Club, 6/9/10

Now this, this is what I’m talkin’ about right here. Take one of my favorite bands of all-time, in this case The Brian Jonestown Massacre, throw in those darling upstarts/reigning Best Band In The Commonwealth of Virginia, in this case The Young Sinclairs, and have them play together at the best club in, well, anywhere, in this case the 9:30 Club, and amazingness will undoubtedly ensue. And sure enough, ensue it did.

MINI RECAP: The Brian Jonestown Massacre = Too Good! The Young Sinclairs = Too Good! Overall score: A.

By now, I’ve lost count of just how many times I’ve seen The Young Sinclairs (otherwise known as the pride of Roanoke) over the past couple of years. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but this band just gets better and better with each and every live outing. Having seen them handle themselves so well here with such legendary heavyweights, I think it’s safe to say these boys are destined for success. It made me more than a little proud to see them pass their 9:30 Club test with such flying colors. Their psych revivalism is the perfect fit for an opening slot with The BJM, and their pitch-perfect harmonies and overall lush sound filled the club beautifully. They jingled and jangled and popped all over the place, and frankly that Sam has gotten pretty precociously sassy up there in his frontman duties. Cor, blimey! They left it all on the stage, from their idyllic dreamscapes to their more British Invasion tunes. They’re all grown up, and they were sensational. Watch this space, that’s for damn sure.

And then it was time, for the second glorious time in two glorious days, for more of my beloved Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their set was very much like the Philadelphian set of the night before, which surprised me just a little, as I was expecting a whole different set. But I suppose when what you’re doing is so good, well, there’s no reason to change it. It could just be because I love the 9:30 and do not love the TLA, but I got the sense the band was a little more into the show on this night. Anton was just as withdrawn to start, and by the time second song “Vacuum Boots” had finished I’m pretty sure he still had yet to even glance at the crowd. But genius can be peculiar.

During a rather fabulous version of “Wasted” off the fabulous Methodrone record, Joel totally made me love him even more by rocking not two, not even three, but four maracas (two in each hand, of course). “Servo” was amazing, and got the kids shakin’ and shimmyin’ in the audience. “Anemone” was utterly transcendent, giving me chills and goosebumps and a tingly spine all at the same time. That has to be one of the most perfectly seductive songs, musically-speaking, of all-time. “Jennifer” was great once again, Anton still an island over on the left of the stage, but the band totally in top form all around him. “Wisdom” just about brought me to tears with that powerful psychgaze swirl. The Matt Hollywood classic “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth” was perfect as usual, “Who?” was perfect as usual, and “That Girl Suicide”, well, that too was perfect as usual. The band finished strong with “Oh Lord” and “Satellite”, and then they were gone, having so successfully given the people what we so lustily clamored for.

Dear friends, I must say, it was one of my top shows of the year thus far. Seeing this show at this club is a special thing indeed. If you’re not already on The Young Sinclairs’ bandwagon, get right to it, and if you haven’t yet seen the BJM yet (or even if you have), make sure to get out there and experience them for yourselves. These bands are musical salvation. Let the good times roll, indeed.

mp3: Oh Lord (The Brian Jonestown Massacre from Take It From The Man!)

Album Review: Sleigh Bells – Treats

Sleigh Bells, Sleigh Bells everywhere. I’ve been seeing that name just about everywhere these days, so naturally curiosity got the best of me. Thankfully, instead of killing me, it led me to some seriously bitchin’ summer music: retrofabulous beats and icy cool chick vocals, a veritable snow cone of tastiness. Treats is full of, well, treats. These songs are slammin’, straight up, a wild mix of 80s and the future.

I was already kinda diggin’ on this record, when second track “Kids” started up. It’s slick, Miami Vice-ian sound has a distinctly naughty vibe (yes, despite the presence of kiddie voices), and made me start dancing around my house in about no seconds flat. It’s a song awash with the feel of garish pastels and palm trees and shiny yachts, and it’s fantastic. “Infinity Guitars” is another one I love like crazy, loud and full of chugging, almost hair metal guitar riffs and those almost impossibly adorable chick vocals. It’s addictive as all get out, and probably just about sweet enough to send you into a sugar coma.

“Rill Rill” was made for kickin’ it on the front stoop, watching the kids with their Double Dutch and the boys do some breakin’ (all in slow-mo, natch). Another favorite of mine is the way short “Straight A’s” with its’ vicious, slashing guitars, and though brief it’s still one of the best songs on Treats. Bands have been throwing titular tracks out left and right lately, and Sleigh Bells adds another one. “Treats” glamourously shimmies along, trashy yet almost posh at the same time. The vocals are at their most ultra glam, and it’s a great way to bring things to a close.

Overall, Treats is a solid record. There’s some seriously killer songs on here, and as a whole it’s a perfect soundtrack for whiling away the muggy, stifling hours of summer. Crank up the AC, pour yourself a girly cocktail or five, and turn this shit up to 11. And let whatever hijinks ensue.

mp3: Kids (Sleigh Bells from Treats)
(song removed by request, sorry friends)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me: The Best Damn 1979 Mix Of The Day

Well, my little lovvies, yours truly is another year older (though definitely, positively, without question none the wiser) as of the wee small hours of today. I’ve got no bones about admitting when I was born, partially because I look young (or so people tell me, and they can’t all be lying) and partially because with age (supposedly) comes a certain modicum of wisdom (though, as I said above, I don’t feel all that wise), of being above being concerned about one’s age. Now, when the carding stops, then perhaps I’ll start celebrating the same birthday year after year. But for now, well, I’m in my Terrible 30s. And I’m rather happy to have made it this far.

But I’m not the only one, oh no. There were some monumentally good records born along with me in 1979, and I’d like to celebrate them today. Here’s my favorite song from some of the most noteworthy of 1979 releases. We’re not getting older, just better.

mp3: Rock Lobster (The B-52s from The B-52s)

mp3: Disorder (Joy Division from Unknown Pleasures)

mp3: Metal (Gary Numan from The Pleasure Principle)

mp3: Damaged Goods (Gang of Four from Entertainment!)

mp3: Get Over You (The Undertones from The Undertones)

mp3: Wrong ‘Em Boyo (The Clash from London Calling)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Album Review: Haunted Stereo – Cross The Sea EP

It’s funny how things work sometimes. I first came across Lewis Ford while he was a member of the lovely Little Green, an English band I once featured in a column I wrote for the excellent, dearly departed Loose Record blog. Happily, he’s branched out into making more wonderful music, this time at the helm of Haunted Stereo. It’s somewhat interesting that Ford should now be playing in a band called Haunted Stereo, because the music on the Cross The Sea EP is nothing if not a little haunting.

From the first note, I was utterly transfixed. “Cross The Sea” is a great first impression, eerie and warm and nostalgic all at once. The boy-girl harmonies are poignantly impassioned, and the overall pastoral feel of the accompanying instrumentation captivates. Perhaps it’s the power of suggestion at work, but the song reminds me of a cold, grey day at the shore, wind whipping and steely blue waves churning and foaming and a gentle mist filling the air with tears. And somehow, that’s incomparably beautiful.

“I tried so hard to be good,” Ford proclaims, almost defeated, in the almost forlorn “To Be Good”, and there are many of us who can relate to that line that’s for damn sure. I adore the ebullient “There’s No-one Colder Than a Good Drunk, Benjamin”, given added bounce with delightful fiddle and bouncy drums. It’s eccentric and delightful, just as is the entire EP. “Shore Of Sorts” has a lovely lilt to it, as well as some well-played dissonance. It’s sort of a tale of two songs, the calmer, Jekyll side and the clanging discordance of the Hyde side. But once again, it works beautifully. “Ivory” is an absolutely gorgeous song, piano lulling and an overall dreamscape painted.

If this EP is anything to go by, there are bright days ahead for Haunted Stereo. Cross The Sea is an enchanting listen, full of a uniquely English, off-kilter yet bucolic countryside (or perhaps, more appropriately, seaside) folk. Its’ multitudinous idiosyncrasies are rather endearing, and expecting the unexpected has rarely sounded so charming.

mp3: Cross The Sea (Haunted Stereo from Cross The Sea EP)

100 Shows of 2010 - #32: The Brian Jonestown Massacre @ Theatre of Living Arts, 6/8/10

I can’t lie about it, my little darlings, the Theatre of Living Arts isn’t one of my favorite venues. It’s the only place I’ve ever almost been ticketed for loitering, and something about the place itself just doesn’t work for me. But be that as it may, when my beloved Brian Jonestown Massacre announced their 2010 tour, I knew I had no choice but to suck it up and head to the TLA for the show. And of course, I’m so very glad I did. Any chance to see the BJM is a chance worth taking.

MINI RECAP: The Brian Jonestown Massacre = Still Better Than Just About Everyone! Overall score: A-.

Truth be told, it kinda felt like an off-night for the BJM. Not musically, just in terms of energy levels. That being said, even on an off-night, this is a band that is miles and miles better than the vast majority of bands out there. They could have played two songs and it probably would have been worth the four hour drive. Thankfully, I got the added bonus of quite a few songs more than just two. And they were all pretty darned well played. But of course, I’m preprogrammed to love this band. And not just because of my little crush on Matt Hollywood, mind you. But also because to my mind, as a collective they’ve got more talent onstage together than should be legal. And don’t get me started on the awesomeness that is Joel Gion.

Things got going with a really, really fine version of the most excellent “Super-Sonic”, off the most excellent album Give It Back!. The layers of sound in that one song…incredible. Most of the set, to my delight, was comprised of favorite Brian Jonestown Massacre songs, which given the size of the band’s back catalog is a pretty impressive thing to accomplish. “Vacuum Boots”, one of my all-time favorites, was second in the set, and was simply gorgeous. It nearly took my breath away. Not quite as much, though, as did “Got My Eye On You”, quite possibly my favorite BJM song, with that kicky, sassy little beat and the adorable, bespectacled Hollywood taking lead vocal duties. I dare anyone to listen to that song and not become immediately infatuated with its creators.

The fantastic “Here It Comes” was also included in the set, after some in-set tuning. Gion, ever the source of amusement, advised the crowd to “say hi to your neighbor,” while the strings were tweaked. The song itself was full and haunting, as one might expect. “Anemone”, another of my most favorite of the BJM catalog, added to my joy. The seductiveness of that song cannot be underestimated. It was one of the finest moments of the entire night, hands down. After steamrolling through a snappy little version of “Jennifer”, the band began breaking the rules by lighting up some smokes onstage. O, those naughty boys.

Still more favorites were to come, not least of which was “Wisdom”, which was so bloody good I wrote it in my notes as “WIS FUCKING DOM”. Methodrone is at the moment my favorite BJM record, so hearing this beautiful piece of psychgaze made me quite possibly the happiest girl in the room. They could have ended it there and I would have driven home with a huge smile on my face, but the set just kept going. “Going To Hell”, “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth”, “That Girl Suicide”, “Whoever You Are”, “This Is Why You Love Me”, “Oh Lord”, and “Satellite” all were played, and all were varying degrees of goodness and greatness.

The Philly crowd was actually rather receptive and appreciative, and though the band themselves seemed at times not completely tuned in, the show was pretty amazing. It’s always a treat to get to see this band live, and my third time was about as much as I could have hoped for. I might not love the TLA, but if the BJM goes back there next year, I’ll be at that show in a hot second. If you’re anything like me, you feel the exact same way.

mp3: Wisdom (The Brian Jonestown Massacre from Methodrone)

Album Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and I go back quite a long way. I’ve been a fangirl since the early days, swooning initially over their deliciously droning nouveau gaze and then embracing each subsequent incarnation with open arms (I’m particularly fond of the Howl era, as well). As far as I’m concerned, BRMC has been one of the most consistently great bands of the past decade, and with newest release Beat The Devil’s Tattoo they prove they’ve still got it. I’ll admit, I’m probably predisposed to love any record they release, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find that this album is worth all the gushing I’m about to do.

Beat The Devil’s Tattoo makes me a one heck of a happy gal, because it’s a return to both the sensational southern-fried, gospel-tinged honey blues that were so prevalent on the glorious Howl record, and the black-clad distortion and drone of their debut. Peter, Robert, and new girl Leah are spot on from the word go, with title track “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo” proving to be the first of many hallelujahs. The guitar work would do the Delta proud, the vocals are magnificently muddled, and the drums are pounded mercilessly. The surging guitar intro of “Bad Blood” makes my day, and Peter’s signature vocals make me swoon. The song picks up a bit on the sound of “Not What You Wanted”, from the excellent Baby 81, but seems even more intoxicating to me somehow. It’s a little more rough around the edges, perhaps.

Ferocious fuzz leads the way into the sexy instrumentation of “War Machine”. It’s got the feel of their first record, with the wash of noise thickened by muddy distortion. “I’m waiting for you to say/the words to make me stay,” foxily go the boys in the song “Evol”, with a hypnotic backdrop of wailing guitars and the anchor of steady, solid drums. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the album. “Sure feels like love again,” the boys croon, and I’d have to concur. Some of you might recognize “River Styx”, a product of the Howl sessions that happily made it onto this record. It’s gone through quite a change, sounding much less stripped down but no less seductively sinister. “Long Way Down” is gorgeous, with piano adding delicacy to the sweeping sound, tinged as so many BRMC songs are with wonderfully woeful melancholy.

The whole record absolutely crackles with electricity, and it’s charged with this energy that not many bands can match. Even though I expected to adore Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, I was a little taken aback at just how much I ended up loving it. If you’ve not yet fallen in love with BRMC, this album might just do the trick. They’ve got their mojo workin’, and it sure is workin’ on me.

mp3: Beat The Devil’s Tattoo (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club from Beat The Devil’s Tattoo)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #31: Native/This Town Needs Guns/Octaves @ Black Cat, 6/7/10

I’ve often found it to be the case that the best way to deal with that onslaught of The Mondays is by soothing your soul with some seriously loud music. And as luck would have it, a triple bill of loudness rolled into DC on a Monday night, providing a great antidote to the Monday night blues. Co-headliners and labelmates Native (hailing from the Midwest) and This Town Needs Guns (popping over to our side of the pond to tour newest release Animals) were joined by Baltimoreans Octaves for what ended up being a darned good threesome.

MINI RECAP: Native = Rock! This Town Needs Guns = Rock! Octaves = Rock! Overall score: B+.

I didn’t catch their entire set, but I was pretty impressed by the very, very loud antics of Octaves. A fiery, excitable group, they proved that badasses can have a softer side, dedicating their set to the recent loss of drummer Shane’s beloved feline friend Tigger. Crushingly loud, shouty metal seems to be really starting my engine these days, and Octaves certainly fit the bill. Dynamic and energetic, they were a perfect start to the night.

Going into the show, I hadn’t been totally sold on This Town Needs Guns. Being cute and English does earn a band plenty of points in my book, however, so they had a head start before even taking the stage. Bountiful banter ensued over the course of their set, and I have to say they come off as a very likeable bunch. Their sound also seems to suit live shows well, the lively clatter appealing to me much more than on record. “Baboon” sounded really good, with lots of intricate guitar strumming and off-kilter, off-balance bits adding extra interest. Slightly jerky, the song had a hint of aggrevation, which I found most agreeable. The drum intro on “Rabbit” reminded me just a touch of Clinic’s “Walking With Thee”, but the ensuing racket ended the comparison soon after. I’m still not totally convinced, but I must say I liked them live a lot more than I was prepared to.

Finishing off the night was Native, my band of the night. Even their soundcheck was lustily loud, and got me even more excited for their set. “Let’s have some fun, let’s get crazy,” they said, beginning to play. The buzzing drone and frenetic drums, not to mention their total rocking out onstage, won me over almost instantly. Shouty vocals and a good moustache will get my every time. There’s something rather special about their towering soundscapes of glorious doom. It’s a winning mix of snarling shouts, angular guitars, and hellaciously hellion drums. Their songs were somewhat shambolic, somewhat chaotic, and they were fantastic. I like me a band that comes across as somewhat schizophrenic. “This is the coolest venue we’ve been at all tour,” said they, and I’ve been hearing that about my beloved Black Cat a whole bunch this year. As it turns out, I actually like Native live even more than on record. They’re a lot more raw, a lot more unhinged. My one complaint about their set was that it wasn’t long enough, and was over way too soon. I could have listened to their chunky, thunderous noise for hours.

Not a bad way to spend a Monday night, all told. I’d have to say, these bands all make for rather good entertainment. So get out there and give ‘em a try, won’t you?

mp3: Ponyboy (Native from Wrestling Moves)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Album Review: The Ferocious Few – Juices

How long has it been since you last listened to a good goddam, Sweet Jesus, Lord have mercy on my soul rock & roll record? A record so filthy you need a shower after it’s done? A record so badass it leaves you breathless and exhausted at the same time? Can’t remember? It had been quite a while for me, and then I found The Ferocious Few and their record Juices, and surrendered myself to the raw, unholy, heavenly pure rock & roll therein.

The Ferocious Few is but two: Francisco Fernandez who supplies the guitars and vocals, and Daniel Aguilar who bangs the drums. These two can make a magnificent mess on their own, thank you very much extraneous band members. Juices is one hell of a rock record, coated in nasty, raunchy blues and pulsating with reckless abandon at every turn. “Gasoline & Cocaine” offers just a taste of what Fernandez and Aguilar have to offer, that being drums hell-bent on destruction and explosive guitar providing the backdrop for Fernandez’s snarling, sneeringly sullied voice.

“Me And The Devil” is one of my favorites, Fernandez’s voice reaching ungodly levels of unrepentant wickedness and his guitar not far behind. When Aguilar chimes in with his brash drum bashing, it all comes together with perfect hail and brimstone. Fernandez’s voice sounds coated with cheap whiskey and expensive regret on “Cryin Shame”, one of several slow-motion songs among the many hellraisers to be found on Juices. Another of my favorites, “Lord Oh Lord”, is absolutely exquisite, dusty and world-weary and reminding me ever so slightly of Skynyrd, with Fernandez channeling the late great Ronnie Van Zant vocally and lyrically.

It sounds like absolute chaos is but a note or two away, and yet The Ferocious Few keeps themselves on just the right side of oblivion. This is the good stuff, kids. These boys aren’t just whistlin’ Dixie. They’re as real as the day is long, and the days they’re getting pretty goddam long.

mp3: Lord Oh Lord (The Ferocious Few from Juices)

100 Shows of 2010 - #30: Cuff The Duke @ Iota, 6/5/10

We’ve already established that I love Canada, and that I love a good twang. And Cuff The Duke, well, they manage to marry those two loves of mine in a sweetly holy little matrimony. When the chance arose to go see the country popsters, I jumped about a country mile. Their new album, Way Down Here, continues to rock my little socks off and float my boat, so I was so curious to see just how good the band could be in person. The answer, not all that surprisingly, was pretty damn good.

MINI RECAP: Cuff The Duke = Impressively impressive! Overall score: A-.

Weekends always bring the crowds down to Iota, nestled as it is in the burgeoning, upwardly mobile part of Arlington frequented by the be-khakied masses. Sometimes I fear the Iota crowds aren’t always there to really take in the good music before them, though I’d like to think the crowd on this night was paying attention. If they weren’t, they missed a mighty fine little set from the newest Neighbors to the North to win my heart.

Cuff The Duke started their set with the wonderful “Listen To Your Heart”, full of good-time jangle and an incredibly balanced sound, a sound that hallmarks all Cuff The Duke songs. Also immediately evident was their disarming, down-home stage presence. “The banter gets better as the show goes on,” we were told, after the band noted they had played Iota virtually exactly two years earlier. The banter might have required a warm-up, but the songs, the songs were something else. “It’s All a Blur” was tight, snappy, and had a great little guitar lick towards the midway point. As good as their record is, by this point in the set I was beginning to think Cuff The Duke is even better outside the studio than in it.

Mike from headliners Blue Rodeo joined the band for some piano duty on a couple of songs, one of which was the stunning “Follow Me”. It’s such a pretty little song, that one, and I closed my eyes to visions of a room full of people swinging their partners around the dancefloor. And oh, those harmonies…absolutely killed me. That song was more than likely my favorite of the set. “Rockin Chair” was next, and further allowed the band to show off their polished, technically perfect sound. Which, naturally, sounded effortless. Also included were rousing renditions of “Promises” and “Another Day in Purgatory”, and they closed out the set with a stunner. They asked for quiet (“Just shut the fuck up for a couple minutes”), which sadly wasn’t totally granted by the beer-swilling folks in attendance. But it was no matter, as they launched into a beautiful, totally acoustic version of “You Were Right” more and more people shut their mouths and stood at attention. The harmonies were magic, and they totally blew my mind with that song.

To put it mildly, friends, get thee to a Cuff The Duke show post haste. They’re more than worth your while.

mp3: Follow Me (Cuff The Duke from Way Down Here)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Album Review: Patrick Park – Come What Will

I first accidentally discovered troubadour Patrick Park many a long year ago, playing at Iota in Arlington, Virginia with another band I’ve long since forgotten. Something about his voice, so very pure and clear and somewhat rustic, struck a chord with me, and still does. Now, years later, Patrick has released another record, the fantastic effort Come What Will. And friends, it’s mighty, mighty fine.

From the very start I loved Come What Will. The Neil Young-ian sound (it’s very much in the vein of “Out On The Weekend”) to the guitar on opening track “You’ll Get Over” compliments Park’s tinkling timbre to perfection. There’s an honesty to it, and to the entire record, that you don’t come across all that much. “You don’t listen much,” Park laments, “to what goes on inside,” as he laments a love lost. And yes, I do very much love that little harmonica break towards the end of the song. Bonus points for sure.

“Blackbird Through The Dark” is one of my favorites on the record, heavily retro in its heady folk sound, with Park’s voice sounding particularly poignant and bright. “Silence and Storm” is another gem, full of that effervescent Park-ian sound and plenty of well-played guitars. “You Were Always The One” is simply breathtaking, earnest and burdened with the weight of a heavy heart. “You were always the one I was lookin’ for, babe/it just took time to realize,” Park proclaims in his appealingly unpretentious tone.

Amiable and frank, Park has a gift for crafting a down-home, spare sound that will utterly capture your heart. Though the album is perfectly produced, there’s a casual geniality to each and every song, as though the album, and Park, are holding out open arms, ready to envelop you in a heartfelt embrace. Come What Will is such a welcoming record, and feels instantly familiar and comfortable. Could it be a classic in the making? Only time will tell, but right about now it sure does sound that way to me.

mp3: You’ll Get Over (Patrick Park from Come What Will)