Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Album Review: Seas – Now My Home Is A Beech Tree

Seas, or SEAS depending on your affinity for caps, is the embodiment of a gorgeous sonic wonderland put forth into the realms of reality by Ben Green. Green, a resident of the greater DC megalopolis, has made a record that sounds absolutely nothing like the hustle and bustle of the powerful environs in which he lives. Instead, Now My Home Is A Beech Tree, the debut Seas record, sounds more like a stunning collection of escapist treasures, songs full of mountain mists and shimmering sunsets and perennial falls and springs. It’s not all about the power of escaping reality, however, as Seas finds loveliness in the sentiments of everyday mortals.

The first time I heard the record all the way through, I loved it. The second time through, well, as you might have guessed, I loved it even more. It begins with the transcendent “Narrows”, swirling around as it does, placid and tranquil and effortlessly beautiful. The haunting creep of “The Integral Accident” is terribly appealing, with more of Green’s gentle strumming and calm, steady vocals. “I know/you know/our fate is sealed,” Green sings, wondering, “What will happen when we’re gone” as a wash of melancholia grows behind him.

It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite song from
Now My Home Is A Beech Tree, though with some pressurizing I’ll admit that I’m somewhat partial to the breathless, heady sound of “Cusseta”. Something about that slow-motion, dream-sequence intro makes me think of Doves, which is always a grand thing. The beat of the drum is hypnotic, and Green’s voice lulls one into all sorts of fantastical imaginings. But then again, there’s all sorts of allure all over “The Buried Ranges”, Seas taking a more uptempo route while bemoaning being a “victim of history”.

It’s a cold, black heart indeed that doesn’t warm to
Now My Home Is A Beech Tree, ladies and gentlemen. What Green has created let no killjoy or crankypants tear asunder. In other words, might I suggest you get your paws on a copy of this here record, pronto-like? And there’s never been a better time, as Decoration Day is having a sale. And you can't beat that with a stick.

mp3: Valley Of The Fevers (Alternate) (Seas from Now My Home Is A Beech Tree)

100 Shows of 2010 - #68: Blue Giant @ Iota, 9/23/10

It is perhaps one of the music fan's greatest fears. Band members of a band that you really, terribly love going off and getting all sideprojecty, with horrible results. However, not all sideprojects end in sonic catastrophe. Witnesseth one and all the glory of Blue Giant, the brainchild of Kevin & Anita Robinson, the purveyors of seriously splendid Left Coast tuneage in their vessel Viva Voce. But as we Geminis can attest, sometimes you just need a change. And the Robinsons branched out, opting for a bigger sound and a bigger band (hi, three extra members!). They landed at Iota one Thursday evening, sunshinery in tow as they opened for and then played backing band to Bobby Bare, Jr., and the whole thing was a delight from the word go.

MINI RECAP: Blue Giant = Blithely Great! Overall Score: B++

"Hi everybody," began Kevin Robinson, cheerful smile plastered under his beard, "we're Blue Giant from Portland, Oregon," proceeding thither to launch into the band's excellent set with the driving "Go On". Despite a slight imbalance in the sound (hello, slightly too much guitar), the song was mighty fine, in the vein of Viva Voce but with more emphasis on the song structure and the country meets pop of it all. The road-weary, boisterous stomp of "Wesley" was next, melodic and slightly torn and frayed.

"Target Heart" was a standout, lovely and dreamy with Kevin's voice emoting even more lovelorn plaintiveness than on record, and the lap steel adding immeasurable amounts of glorious wistfulness. For "Lonely Girl", Mrs. Robinson took her turn with lead vocals, singing with aplomb some modern day country gal blues. This is one impressive vocal couple, y'all. Quite possibly my favorite moment song-wise came when the band covered the classic Byrds song "I Wasn't Born To Follow". I thought instantly of Easy Rider, and motorcycle rides through a harsh, dusty desert. It got a little crazy up there with the rocking out, let me just say. O, the madcap instrumentalizationality of it!

And when I thought it couldn't get any better, they broke out with the irrepressible pair of "Run Rabbit Run" and "Blue Sunshine", the former jauntily hopping its way along the twangy path and the latter utterly impossible to ignore, what with all that mandolin madness going on. The set came to a close with the unexpectedly Beatles-esque "Clean The Clock", and I couldn't help but feel a little sad about the end of such a great set. Bobby Bare, Jr., was fantastic of course, but hells bells y'all. Blue Giant was nigh on stunning.

Sure, I was expecting nothing less than near-perfection, given how much I like Viva Voce and how good Viva Voce is live AND how good the Blue Giant record is (which, by the way, ought to be in your collection by now). But the band exceeded those lofty expectations of mine, bringing the mellowness of the West and some seriously sensational songs. It would behoove you, lovely loves of mine, to spend a little time warming your soul in front of the glowing embers of Blue Giant.

mp3: Blue Sunshine (Blue Giant from Blue Giant)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Zut Alors!: Deer Tick To Auction Bus For Flood Relief

It is an unfortunate thing about life that we live on a planet that is extremely dramatic and changeable when it comes to climate and weather. Sometimes, weather wreaks havoc on small clusters of the world's population, and other times, well, things reach truly horrific levels. Such is the case in Pakistan, where flooding has impacted potentially tens of millions of people. Just think about that for a minute. Pretty ghastly, right?

If you've been wondering what you can do to make a difference and help out, well, here's an option. The kind souls in Deer Tick are auctioning off The Flagship, their 2009 touring vehicle, to raise money for flood relief. Visit this here link for further information about the auction, which will be ongoing for three weeks. You can also donate to Oxfam at the merch booth at all dates on the upcoming Deer Tick tour. It's a long tour, so plenty of chances to open up the wallets. So go on. Do a little something good for those who need help in ways most of us couldn't even imagine.

mp3: Piece By Piece, Frame By Frame (Deer Tick from The Black Dirt Sessions)

100 Shows of 2010 - #67: Those Darlins/The Strange Boys/Gentleman Jesse & His Men @ Black Cat, 9/15/10

I'm nearing the last leg of this 100 gig odyssey, and as you know I've been lucky enough to witness quite a few totally radical shows. A few have even been downright stellar. Number sixty seven was rather special, even compared with the other special ones, my little lambs. Not only was I once more in the presence of my esteemed partner in blogging, but also in the presence of not one, not even two, but three killer bands. Oh yes. I said three. Atlanta types Gentleman Jesse & His Men, Texans The Strange Boys, and the totally girlcrush-worthy Nashvillians Those Darlins (and their token dudes, of course, who are also crush-worthy). This show was so splendiforous, so dang rockin', that not even the totally weird, awkward vibe in the crowd (and it was decidedly weird) could ruin the amount of severely fierce rock that those ladies and gents put out. It took me days to recover, frankly. I was rocked out.

MINI RECAP: Gentleman Jesse & His Men = Yabba! The Strange Boys = Dabba! Those Darlins = Do! Overall Score: A

I missed, sadly, virtually all of the set belonging to Gentleman Jesse & His Men. However, the scant few songs I saw served as a hint of the sheer balls-out, sexy rock that these young men can put forth. I'd liken them to Rick Springfield (think "Jesse's Girl" but actually cool), with a big, catchy sound and plenty of cheekiness. Further investigation is definitely needed, but I was well impressed with what I witnessed.

The Strange Boys
followed, and it was during their set that the weirdness in the club began in earnest. There was a little bit of a disconnect between the crowd and the bands, though with The Strange Boys it extended to the staff, too, as they were ignored after requesting more lights so they could see the crowd's purty faces. Lighting aside, my (impatient) wait to see the band was rewarded with a delicious dose of retro-fitted rock and roll purity. The shambolic edge was present in spades, but so too was the polish that sets The Strange Boys apart from plenty of other soundalikes. I'm still counting my lucky stars to have heard my beloved "Night Might" and "Poem Party", along with "Nights In Paris", "Be Brave", and a heaping helping of other goodies. Their remarkable nonchalance about playing wowed me, as I've said before it's like they don't even try, and yet they are so very, very good at what they do. It's effortless, but with a little sneer. They shimmied and shook and rocked and rolled and by the time they were done, I loved them more than ever.

And then, to top it all off, came Those Darlins. These little ladies have beguiled the both of us here at LET, and having never seen them live before I was beyond excited. And these hot mamas most certainly did not disappoint. Oh no. I mean, any band that literally has the lights turned on to get them off the stage is impossible not to love, right? These gals were intent on causing a ruckus, and they did their due diligence. The set was soaked in sex and booze and rabble-rousing, and lordy me it was sensational. Their rocky twang was in fine form, pitting their trio of come-hither vocals with down and dirty rock, filthy hints of the blues, and a bit of Nashville for good measure. "Wild One" was the highlight of a thoroughly bitchin' set for me, being as it is one of my favorite songs these days. And hell, just cuz they're sweet don't mean they're always nice, you know. Even if they did bring Nikki's mom up onstage for a little tambourine playing. These girls are definitely whisky rock-a-rollers, to quoth my dear Skynyrd, and they rock harder than most bands around. Can't say enough good things about 'em.

I'll keep it brief. Go see these bands. End of story. Oh, and you're welcome.

mp3: Who's That Knockin At My Window (Daytrotter) (Those Darlins from Those Darlins)

Monday, September 27, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #66: The Drums @ 9:30 Club, 9/12/10

We all know how much Sunday nights can totally suck. The weekend is inevitably coming to a close, the work week is about to Sunday evenings are oft spent on the couch, mourning the loss of two days of freedom while watching The Glades (hey, it works for me). But this particular Sunday, I decided it was time for some serious rock and roll. As luck would have it, The Drums was playing the 9:30 Club, and seemed well up to and equipped for the task of rocking me, baby. When I got home from their set it was a lot closer to Monday morning, but I was a whole lot less concerned. I went to sleep feeling totally and utterly rocked and rolled.

MINI RECAP: The Drums = Sasstacularly Spunky! Overall Score: B+++

I felt an instant affinity for these hyped-up New Yorkers, even before they played a note. Their look, and really, it is a pretty serious look, reeled me in. Think 1980s Smithsian, but whereas Morrissey and Marr wore their shades of gray on their sleeves, literally, The Drums opt for a bold and bright take on their retro love, which matches the overall vibe of their music. I was immediately aware of the serious stage presence of their frontman, the prancing and preening Jonathan Pierce, who sashayed splendidly around the stage for the duration of their set. Puritanical purists, avert thine eyes, but Pierce seems to me like some kinda Freddie Mercury/Ian Curtis hybrid, blending the peacock strut of Mercury with the empassioned twitching of Curtis. While the music of The Drums doesn't quite align with either band (especially the full-throttle bombastic operatics of Queen), the resemblance was, to me, uncanny. Throw in an ocassional vocal reference to Ian McCulloch, and you're getting warmer. And I found it all rather delightful, and impressive, when Pierce managed to wriggle out of his red satin bomber jacket without putting down the mic or even batting an eyelash.

Any band that cites Orange Juice as an influence wins favor from me, and the sound of the great Scots certainly permeates here (I'd also throw in a nod or two to that other band of amazing Scots, Josef K). The melodies and the arch poppiness of the rocking was drenched in Scottish (and English, too) shades, though Pierce's voice took things way over the top. In a good way, of course. The songs were hypnotic, and pretty much irresistible. Between Pierce's vocal antics and the lipstick gloss of the guitar to that machine gun drummery, it was a glorious little set. I'm not sure where this band has been all my life, but I'm glad they're here now.

I'd have to say my only real complaint about the set was that, well, it ended, and that at times the vocals seemed a wee bit muddy. But other than that, it just doesn't get much more entertaining, my little lovelies. Lucky for you, the band is still in the midst of a major US tour, and will be popping over to Europe in a few weeks to spread their love amongst the peoples of the EU. I seriously, forcefully, and earnestly encourage you to spend a night with The Drums. You won't be disappointed.

mp3: We Used To Wait (Arcade Fire Cover) (The Drums from BBC3 Session)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wish You Were Here #4: Blood Feathers

Those Blood Feathers boys sure do get around, don't they? I guess it's what happens when you're out on tour. In any event, looks like they've been getting up to no good. I for one am looking forward to their Daytrotter session, not to mention the debauchery next time they swing back around DC.

mp3: Sugar In Bed (Blood Feathers from Goodness Gracious)

Ramble On #1: Walker Howle (Dead Confederate)

When I first met Walker Howle, Dead Confederate's imposingly tall and bountifully bearded axeman, I was told as a preface to have him tell me a story, since few people around can spin a yarn quite like Walker can. So ask for a story I did, of course, and so well-told and fantastic it was that I decided there was none better for this here new feature than Mr. Howle.

And now, without further ado, I hand it over to Walker.


The moon cast a glow that was pure hell....Man nor beast could come to terms with such a horrendous episode of visual interlude. Denny ripped not only his own arms off, but also the arms of the beautiful Miss Chaucey. They sat motionless in the horrible moonlight while the wild-eyed prairie hyenas drank from their shoulder holes....Meanwhile, on the other side of earth, Moyikami was getting married for the first time. It was an arranged marriage, and Moyikami felt quite lucky, seeing as how his wife to be was not only beautiful - but also a calm, thoughtful lady as well....Frank Stallone was the Monk that was to do the hitching....and Hitching He Did!.....Boy Howdy!

As an aside, if you're not already aware, the boys of Dead Confederate are currently touring their (amazing) new record, Sugar. They're here in DC Wednesday, so see y'all over at the Hotel for what promises to be a killer evening.

mp3: Run From The Gun (Dead Confederate from Sugar)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #65: The Charlatans @ Black Cat, 9/9/10

Hello, my name is Megan, and I've been a Charlatans fan since 1996. For almost 15 long, happy years I have fiercely loved and been a staunch advocate for the five lovable Mancunians (ok, well, one of them is Irish, but that's splitting hairs, really), and their songs have meant more to me than most bands ever will. They are, realistically, as important to the annals of Britpop as any other band you can think of, if not moreso, because their songs still hold up well to this very day. If you're not already into them, I strongly suggest you stop reading this right now and go find an album to listen to. It's ok, I'll wait.

All set? Good. Now we can proceed. Despite my lengthy run of fangirlness, I'd only managed to see The Charlatans (or as they're sometimes called, The Charlies) twice, and neither time was here in DC. Go figure. My first Charlies show was in Atlanta, when I was 18. I borrowed a car and a friend and I drove from Tuscaloosa to Atlanta to see them (with The Dandy Warhols opening) at one hell of an amazing show. A couple of years later I had the chance to see the band in Newcastle (the one across the pond) with some friends, which was equally as amazing. But that was 2000, and it's now 2010. So you can imagine, friends, how very eager my eardrums were to once more hear the wonder that is The Charlatans. And the point of this rambling intro is that FINALLY they came back around for a show. And it was, you guessed it, amazing.

MINI RECAP: The Charlatans = Ageless Wonders! Overall Score: A

Ok, so perhaps I was gonna give my beloved Charlatans a top score regardless, but they really, really earned it, babies. They began with an incredible rendition of "Then", an oldie but most definitely a goodie. The jangle interspersed with a wee bit of darkness got the old blood pumping. And following it up with one of their biggest songs ever, "Weirdo", set the tone for an overall spectacular little set. I do have to make a confession, I haven't yet checked out the band's newest couple of records. I've been so enamored with their older stuff I just hadn't ventured over to their new stuff (I was fearing the Oasis problem, being older songs far trump newer songs). But based on what the boys stormed through at the show, I was just a little silly to have ignored their latest works. All the sound of The Charlatans is there, organ-infused with killer guitar and, of course, those Burgess-ian vocals. Oh, that voice.

The man behind the voice, Tim Burgess, was looking perhaps more like Mick Jagger than he ever has, lean and lanky and with a dark fringe that hid his intense eyes unless he brushed away the bangs. He shimmied and shuffled his way across the stage in his black wife-beater, eliciting coos from the ladies and shouts of encouragement from the lads. He looked, quite frankly, ageless. His interplay with the crowd and those impish grins did nothing to dispel the notion that he could be as young as you like. The band brought out some seriously big guns midway through the set, including a jaw-dropping version of "One To Another" (which, incidentally, includes another of my most favorite lyrics ever: "Be my Spiderwoman/I'll be your Spiderman"), "The Only One I Know", and "My Beautiful Friend", introduced charmingly by Tim as being "for our beautiful friends in DC."

More new songs filled the bulk of the set, it seemed, but we weren't deprived of the glory of older Charlatans for very long. Really old, really cheekily adorable "White Shirt" made an appearance, sounding as fresh as a daisy. "North Country Boy" really got the crowd's motor running, as it should, being such an anthem as it is. One of my favorite Charlies songs, the lazy daze of "Can't Get Out Of Bed", popped up in the encore, and the whole thing wound to a frenzy of a close with the classic "Sproston Green".

In closing, you might could say the third time was the charm. It was the smallest venue I'd ever seen The Charlatans in, and perhaps because it was ten years in the making, I found it the most enjoyable. The band looked beamingly happy to be playing for us, and we the crowd were as beamingly happy to have them play. It was a lovefest. I might be doing some major gushing here, but y'all, this is one of a handful of bands that has meant more to me than I can ever hope to express. If you don't ever listen to another word I say, well, I hope you'll make friends with The Charlatans. They're truly in a class by themselves.

mp3: Then (The Charlatans from Some Friendly)

mp3: Can't Get Out Of Bed (The Charlatans from Up To Our Hips)

(We also wish drummer Jon Brookes a speedy recovery from what ails him! Get well soon, JB)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wish You Were Here #3: Blood Feathers

Seriously, y'all, have you added a little Blood Feathers to your life yet???? Because, in addition to being seriously killer on record, and quite possibly even better in the flesh, they're super, super nice dudes. And who doesn't love nice dudes? Well, actually, some of us tend to run away from nice boys and go for the baddest of the bad boys, but that's neither here nor there. The point here is that Blood Feathers is a fantastic band. And you should obviously love them. That is all.

mp3: The Same Mad Part (Blood Feathers from Goodness Gracious)

100 Shows of 2010 - #64: Dreamend @ DC9, 9/9/10

Man alive, we Terribles sure have been hitting a lot of shows together lately. I assure you, friends, this doesn't usually happen, and I have rather enjoyed this spate of quality time with my dear better blogging half. On yet another of our evenings together, we found ourselves being Terrible at DC9 (well, before I had to split to head to another show!). I did, however, manage to enjoy quite a delightful set by Dreamend, otherwise known as the brainchild of Ryan from Graveface (and Black Moth Super Rainbow). I'd heard scant little of Dreamend before this show (and managed to miss Ryan when he blew threw town months back with The Appleseed Cast), but hot damn if I wasn't totally swept off my feet! The songs might not sound as they do on record, but being a Gemini I appreciate a little of the musical schizophrenia. And when it sounds this good, well, who cares if the vibe is totally different. I sure don't.

MINI RECAP: Dreamend = Sassily Schizo! Overall Score: B+

My enjoyment began pretty much right after the dynamic duo (much like myself and Chris, obviously) stepped onto the stage. I immediately fell in smit with the live incarnation of Dreamend, all gorgeously ethereal ramblings with guitar and drums. I got a kind of Mogwai vibe, when the noisy Scots tread more delicately and not so destructively (think "New Paths to Helicon 1" etc.). And just as with Mogwai, the boys of Dreamend can get pretty dang aggro in a snap. But how cute was that little cartoon of those be-toga'd Romans (or Greeks, it's all in the interpretation)? Ryan was almost hiding behind his oversized hoodie and some equipment, letting the fuzz (and sometimes his lovely voice) let his presence be known. Pavement also sprang to my mind on certain songs, and when you remind a gal of Pavement and Mogwai in one set, well, you're doing mighty fine. Even more amazing were the shades of my beloved, dearly departed Brits Six By Seven (if you don't know of them, well, check out the brilliant song "European Me", because I heard a lot of it sprinkled hither and thither in this set). It only took about two songs to make me verily distressed to have missed the set back in April. But better late than never, so the saying goes.

A lot of two-person bands tend to throw their hats into the garage ring, but Dreamend waves the flag for fuzzodistortonoisiness, and I find that incredibly fantastic. The band also racked up major points for penning one of my favorite lyrics of the year, with the assertion, "I know just who you think you are". Classic. Dreamend was solid from start to finish, creating a glorious, enchanting dreamscape only to have it grounded by Ryan's perfectly imperfect voice and a swell of gigantic waves of sound. Totally, utterly bitchin.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the set, but lo and behold, Dreamend sunk my battleship. If you get the chance, go check 'em out for damn sure. Don't sleep on this band, or you might just be sorry.

mp3: Magnesium Light (Dreamend from So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Leonard

There are few people in life who have true Voices. When they sing, they don't merely sing. Something happens when they open their mouths, not just song but experience. There will be those who say that Ole Blue Eyes had one great Voice (personally, I prefer Dino). Some might say Janis was one such Voice. For me, it's Mick Jagger. Well, and this man. Where Mick is the sound of hot, unadulterated sex, Leonard Cohen is the other end of the spectrum, the sound of pure, blissful, agony. His songs can pull you apart, so painfully honest and bare as they are. His are songs of Blake-ian innocence and experience, wry and world-weary, and yet effortlessly and unendingly beautiful. Many of them can and frequently do make me cry.

It just so happens to be the birthday of Mister Cohen. So sit yourself in a dimly-lit corner, pop open a bottle of your finest red, and take comfort in his woebegone splendor.

mp3: Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen from Songs Of Love And Hate)

100 Shows of 2010 - #63: Best Coast/Cults @ Rock'n'Roll Hotel, 9/8/10

In which your two favorite Terribles set out once more on a playdate, and end up witnessing an abundance of the following: LOTS of hair, lots of rock, and lots of sweltering heat. Undoubtedly, Cults and Best Coast brought most of the first two, and while they definitely brought a whole lotta hotness, I think the cramped quarters can be blamed on the latter. To quote my beloved partner, by the time the show was over, things were smelling a "little ripe" up in the Hotel. Chris has brought up the issues with this particular show already (bad lighting, bad smells, bad sound), so I'll nod in agreement and skip on over to the gushing. And...go!

MINI RECAP: Cults = Cultishly Captivating! Best Coast = Bestest Coastest! Overall Score: B+

I've decided that Cults, awesome band #1 of the evening, has more hair on their collective head than any band I've ever seen, outside of the Richmond metal scene, that is. I dug them lots and lots, finding their boy-girl vocals delightful, with the grounded boy balancing the spritely, somewhat ethereal lady. Very jaunty, very shimmering, with a hearty dose of lollipops and candy drops. Yes, I said it. "The Curse" was a favorite of mine, a spooky little song sung by a spooky little girl. 'Twas very nice indeed, as was their entire set. I found their sound to be very appealing, and when I heard a xylophone, well, be it programmed into the keys or no, it earned my eternal love and devotion for Cults. In the end, they left me wanting more, and I guess that's precisely what you're supposed to do, eh? Leave us starry-eyed and clamoring for more?

So then, after some pungent downtime, it was Best Coast's time to shine. Which I'm sure they did, we just couldn't see it thanks to the pretty bad lighting going on at the Hotel. But thankfully, Best Coast could be heard. And that was very, very good because I loved them. Loved, loved, loved. Basically, I'm already predisposed to like bands that do some serious California dreaming, and if you throw in that retro surf thing I'm yours for life. Bethany and Bobb totally rocked my world, with their combustion of lo-fi fuzziness swapping spit with upbeat jauntitude. Those are definitely some great tastes that taste great together! Bethany has quite a strong, sassy voice on her, though she keeps it sweet and girlie, too. The venue's sonic shortcomings somehow worked for the band, in my opinion, adding to their fuzztastic noisiness. Kinda like, at times, throwing girl group songs into a blender with My Bloody Valentine and a Beach Boy or two. Which, as I'm sure you'll agree, sounds pretty darned fantastic. I like to think of bands like Best Coast (and Cults) as a sort of popgaze, where you can close your eyes and see home movies of summertime picnics and afternoons in aging houses, soundtracked by this most splendid post-shoegaze poptasticness. Well, I thought it was poppy. My partner might disagree, but maybe he just couldn't hear it (wink wink nudge nudge).

In short, venue issues aside, this was another one of those well-planned bills. Cults and Best Coast were purrfect together. It was all sorts of ramalamadingdong, y'all. I look forward to seeing both of these bands again soon. Just perhaps not in summertime.

mp3: Boyfriend (Best Coast from Crazy For You)

Happy Birthday, Liam

So, back in the mid-90s, I wanted nothing more in life than to become Mrs. Liam Gallagher (don't judge). To me, there was no boy cuter than Our Kid, that brashest of swaggers blowing all other teenage crushes to smithereens. Not to mention those cheekbones! Those chops! No wonder I didn't like many dudes at my high school, I was too busy swooning over the musicians at such a tender age. But really, in 1996, was there any hotter frontman? Any saucier tambourine shaker? I think not.

And so it is that today, with all those old tender feelings in mind, I'd like to extend a warm birthday snog to Mister Liam Gallagher. Word on the street is that he's working on getting a new band together, in the wake of the latest (and perhaps final?) demise of Oasis. If so, well, best of luck. But for memories' sake, here's a little Oasis for all of my fellow Liam-ites.

mp3: Wonderwall (Oasis from (What's The Story) Morning Glory?)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #62: Voxhaul Broadcast @ Black Cat, 9/7/10

Another night, another show by a damned fine California band. I don't know what it is, my lovelies, but every dang time I see a band from the great state of California these days, I end up loving them to itty bitty bits and pieces. It's quite possible that there are more amazing bands out there per capita than in just about any location short of the United Kingdom. The latest example of this California love of mine? Voxhaul Broadcast, the band that always makes me think of Morrissey when I see their name (think Vauxhall & I). They didn't get much more Smiths than that, though certainly they didn't need to get their Moz on to make me fall in love with them. No, no, their sassy little Southern California sound was quite enough when it came to winning me over.

MINI RECAP: Voxhaul Broadcast = Verily Bitchin! Overall Score: B+

Voxhaul Broadcast is another one of those bands that, as much as I hate to say it, really DOES sound like California, what with their summery beats and totally tubular guitar playing. They struck me initially as sounding like a bouncier Broken West, another California band I get goosebumps for. The instrumentation has a lot in common with TBW, though vocally Voxhaul Broadcast's David Dennis gets a bit more raw than his TBW counterpart.

The lovely boys of Voxhaul Broadcast impressed me the whole evening long, with their noisy, poppy-meets-psychy-meets-rocky racket. They kept things fresh and interesting for their whole set, at times veering off into 70s rock homages, or plowing through solid harmonies and taut instrumentation. I also certainly enjoyed their penchant for good old fashioned wailing on the guitar, too. That sure does get a gal's heart beating a little faster. I wasn't sure what to expect from their set, but this band impressed the hell outta me from start to finish.

Suffice it to say, my little darlings, I really, really, really do wish they all could be California boys. Voxhaul Broadcast has a few more dates left on their current tour, and if you're in their path make sure you go check 'em out (I'm talkin' to y'all: Lincoln, NE 9/19, Denver, CO 9/20, Boise, ID 9/23, Fresno, CA 9/25, Venice, CA 9/26). As for me, well, I'm just gonna sit here and hope they get back East on the soonish tip.

mp3: Leaving On The 5th (Voxhaul Broadcast from the forthcoming Timing is Everything)

100 Shows of 2010 - #61: Hot Hot Heat/22-20s @ Rock'n'Roll Hotel, 9/3/10

Nothing says Friday night quite like a good rock and roll show. Well, unless perhaps you live in the state of Texas and are obsessed with high school football, that is. For the rest of us, there's good old fashioned rock. And that's exactly what I got when I witnessed the combined forces of the 22-20s and Hot Hot Heat. And while history will remember that we Yanks invented rock and roll, those Brits and Canadians can still give us quite a run for the ole money. Thanks to two seriously swaggering, thoroughly raging sets, this was one heck of a way to start off a long holiday weekend.

MINI RECAP: Hot Hot Heat = Hotly Hot! 22-20s = Humidly Hot! Overall Score: B+

The absolutely adorable 22-20s were up first. Cute as can be and accented to boot (yes, yes, my Anglophilia is a well-established point), I immediately loved the band. They got me so very excited within a minute of their first song that I went and dropped my pen. A little old school in their sound, the 22-20s layed it on thick with the rough, filthy riffs and the blues overtones. I dug virtually everything about them, from their smoky, backroom vocals to the come-home-with-me slyness in the guitar. There was definite naughtiness in that scuzzy noise they were making. While not quite as blatant as the "Spit or Swallow" tee I caught a glimpse of in the crowd, the 22-20s are nearly as obviously rock. The band is currently promoting new record shake/shiver/moan, which I suspect I will soon get my hands on, and which perhaps might elicit all three of those titular sensations. Thumbs up for damn sure.

After a brief intermission, it was time for some Hot Hot Heat. It's been quite a few years since I last saw these neighbors from the north on a stage, and I was oh so happy to see them once again. "Hello, we are Hot Hot Heat," they began, before immediately launching into a set full of awesomeness. There are few bands I've seen with the energy level of HHH. Steve Bays, with that wonderfully big hair and his equally big, slightly nasal voice, proves quite the pied piper given an audience. I was pretty pleased with Hot Hot Heat's set, the newer stuff sounded just as vibrant and alive as did older material, just perhaps a bit more grown up. And it was one heck of a treat to hear "No, Not Now" live again, that's for sure. "I can already tell," Bays cooed, "this is a good fucking crowd!", a sentiment that caused a minor eruption amongst the happy persons down the front. The kids were going nuts for Hot Hot Heat and their feisty, kicky songs, and I have to say that I was, too. "Get In or Get Out" was another treat, reminding me of just how much I used to listen to the excellent record Make Up The Breakdown. When it comes to Hot Hot Heat, I'll quote those excellent Animals, and say that the boys can't help it, they were born to please.

What a night, what a night. Friends, make sure to add these two bands to your list of must-see bands. They took a regular ole Friday night and went and rock and rolled all over it. Hallelujah.

mp3: Bandages (Hot Hot Heat from Make Up The Breakdown)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wish You Were Here #2: Blood Feathers

I love me some Blood Feathers. I'm pretty sure they're my favorite group of Philadelphians, and they make some seriously funky/twangy/rockin/rollin/get down music. Luckily for you, they're fond of touring, so get ready for a few dates with The Walkmen next month. Fun will be had.

mp3: Don't Know You At All (Blood Feathers from Goodness Gracious)

100 Shows of 2010 - #60: Autolux @ Black Cat, 9/1/10

I'll let you in on a little something, friends. It's always a good time when you get the two of us Terribles in a room together, and when you throw in a fantastic band like Autolux, well, you get a damn fine evening. Thus was the case at the Black Cat, where I had the pleasure of not only Mr. Terrible's presence, but Autolux's presence for the third time, and it was, in fact, the charm. And for the record, Chris doesn't have the monopoly on gushing over Miss Carla Azar, otherwise known as Autolux's seriously fierce drummer. She was ridiculously awesome, but then, I'd say that sentiment pretty much applies to the entire set (excess reverb and all).

MINI RECAP: Autolux = Deliciously Dark! Overall Score: B+

Even before they played a note, I was impressed. Walking out to Brian Eno's "Here Come The Warm Jets" will win me over every single time. As for the band themselves, well, the three of them impressed the hell out of me, too, moreso than ever. Right from the start, Autolux showed off their big, dark, layered sound, so finely textured and so atmospheric and so full of reverb (to Chris's slight chagrin but my delight). This is a band that takes advantage of every note, cramming as much noise into each song as humanly possible. The power and aggression in the songs was accented by a slight hint of something wicked, something sinister, giving it a delicious feeling of almost devilish decadence.

The assualt on the eardrums was simply glorious. Chilling, brutal, but somehow lovely at the same time, especially when Miss Azar lent her voice as well as her sticks to the cause. Her sultry softness tempered the darkness, with beautiful effect. The songs tended to be severe and scathing, but not in a way that was at all off-putting. At times, it felt that the line between vitriolic and seductive had been muddied, with splendid results. Somehow, Autolux songs have always seemed almost catchy to me, and this night was no exception. Catchy though the songs were, all that wonderful reverb and distortion and fuzz is what tends to float my boat, and Autolux delivered and then some.

Another night, another great set by Autolux. I second my partner's notion that you should go see Autolux whenever the opportunity presents itself. You'll be so glad you did.

mp3: Supertoys (Autolux from Transit Transit)

Monday, September 13, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #59: Unnatural Helpers/Heavy Cream @ Black Cat, 8/31/10

Sometimes DC really, really pisses me off. Such times include when the parking gestepo gets a smidge overzealous, or when some event or other blocks off a bazillion blocks when you're late getting somewhere. But DC also vexes me when good bands come to town and few people venture out to see them. Sure, it's happened quite a bit this year, but this here show was SO FUCKING GOOD that it really bugged me more people weren't there to experience it. So, fellow denizens of the District and environs, I chide you if you were not there for the amazing Heavy Cream and the brilliant Unnatural Helpers. After all, this was without question one of my top shows of the year. And now you'll have to listen to my gloat gratuituously about having been there for it.

MINI RECAP: Heavy Cream = Howlingly Colossal! Unnatural Helpers = Unnervingly Neat! Overall Score: A.

It took me all of about three nanoseconds to decide that I loved Heavy Cream. Their songs were short and spiky, full of lady cajones and overflowing with sass. I loved their chunky, heavy riffage and driving drum beat. It was pure, simple rock and roll, in your face and unadulterated, which is pretty much all you could ever want or need as far as I'm concerned. Frontgrrl Jessica has stage presence in spades, hopping off the stage into the crowd, twisting and shouting her way through song after song in blissful, howling abandon. At times she seemed to sneer her way through the songs, which only added to their edgy appeal. This, my loves, is a goddam awesome band. They are magically, scuzzily delicious. I couldn't help but toy with the thought that Heavy Cream is what might have happened had the bratty gents of The Black Lips been mostly girls and living in Nashville instead of the Peach State. Their spitfire sound was a thing to behold, all that noisy goodness providing the perfect antidote to the mundanity of Tuesday night. Their set came and went far, far too quickly, and I'm already holding my breath for their next trip back.

After that performance, it was going to take a hell of a lot to impress yours truly. Heavy Cream set one heck of a high bar, but Seattle's Unnatural Helpers was not to be outdone by those upstart Nashvilleans. I mean, a red gentleman's romper? You sir, are my hero. It takes a real man to wear a romper, my friends. Put that with the fact that Dean Helper sings whilst playing drums (Holy Levon Helm, y'all!), and I was bound to like Unnatural Helpers a whole lot. And then they started to play, and within a few moments of that unholy wail I knew I was in love. Their set was insanity, loud and brash and totally irresistible. At times, the noise was overwhelming, so much rock and so many layers! Perhaps veering towards what the kids call artpunk, Unnatural Helpers took no prisoners. Ferocity was oozing out of ever pore up on that stage, and it was a beautiful, beautiful thing. My mind, well, I have to say it was pretty much blown.

While Unnatural Helpers were definitely a little more "out there" than Heavy Cream, this bill made total, perfect sense to me (the winning formula of noisy rock + noisy rock = bliss). All bills should be this great! I urge you, nay, implore you, nay, demand you to go immediately forth and procure all music by both bands that you can find, and to go and see them live whenever you can. I promise, you'll be so very glad you listened to me. DC folks, that goes double for you. You owe yourself one.

mp3: Watusi (Heavy Cream from Danny)

mp3: Girl In The Window (Unnatural Helpers from Cracked Love & Other Drugs)

100 Shows of 2010 - #58: Morphius Records & HotCarsKill & Churchkey Records Showcase, BiMA @ Wind-Up Space, 8/27/10

After a wee intermission (and speaking of intermissions, hey y'all! Hope you missed me, cuz I sure did miss your pretty faces), it was time for my second BiMA event of the night. Being as I was a little out of festival practice, this felt like a massive, yet awesome, undertaking. By this point in the evening I was serving as keeper of the spectacles for a friend, and I'd like to offer a word of warning, darlings: Don't attempt taking notes whilst wearing prescription specs that are not, in fact, prescribed for you. It makes deciphering them, well, interesting to say the least!

MINI RECAP: A whole lotta shakin goin' on! Overall Score: B+

The first band of round two to light my fire was Churchkey's Free Electric State, one of those daggum Research Triangle bands that you'll find being awesome just about wherever you look. Seriously. Those North Carolina bands are everywhere, and it's probably got something to do with how great they tend to be. FES was loud, loud, loud, and lordy me I love some loud. A little hint of distortion tends to go a long way when it comes to winning my affections. I liked this band a whole lot, with the hints of shoegazery that permeated into their big ole sound. They sounded dark and a little dangerous, and what gal doesn't like a little danger? Their energy was off the charts, and their intensity matched their musical radness note for note.

As impressed as I was by FES, I was possibly even more smitten with The Moaners. They were, for lack of a better term, badass. They even broke a string, and it really doesn't get much more badass than onstage string breaking. Ok, it does, but work with me. They made some ridiculously filthy, nasty, raunchy rock and roll, which is right up my alley. The rawness they conveyed was off the charts. I was reminded a little of first album Von Bondies, but this band took that Detroit dirtiness and made it sizzle even more, if possible. They were seriously, absolutely, majorly worth the drive up to Baltimore all by their lonesome, and I'm thrilled to have been able to see them.

Up next, new LET pets Hammer No More The Fingers, yet another one of those damned North Carolina bands. I actually wrote in my notes "Stop. Hammer Time", and I just had to share my scribble with you just because (boys, need a new tee idea?). Duncan got himself a haircut and looked eerily like Graham Coxon, so I was preoccupied by that for a while. They once again pulled heavily from their new, unreleased material (coming soon, I've been told). And once again, their big, bad, 90s college radio sound won me over. There's something so cheeky and fun about this band, I just can't help but like them to bits and pieces. They're violently enjoyable, with that kicky racket they make.

All in all, those three bands were all damned, damned fine. And I have to tip my hat to David Andler for his hard work getting BiMA up and running. I was nothing but impressed with my festival experience (well, except for the parking), and I really hope the festival will continue to grow and get even more wonderful year after year.

mp3: Mushrooms (Hammer No More The Fingers from Looking For Bruce)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Newsflash: Story/Stereo With John Davis Tonight!

Hey local kids! Are you hunting for something to do this evening, other than the oh-so predictable Friday night out binge drinking with the hugely regrettable Saturday hangover? Get yourself out of the gutter and up to Bethesda for some quality, wholesome entertainment at The Writer's Center. Story/Stereo is kicking off its second season with local music mainstay John Davis (Q & Not U, Georgie James, Title Tracks), who will do a short solo set as well as a set with bandmates after readings by two of the Writing Center's Emerging Writer Fellows. A night of smashing music and splendid literature is sure to ensue. If I wasn't already booked I'd be there in a heartbeat. So friends, the festivities get underway at 8 pm sharp. Get your skates on.

[photo by Shervin Lainez]

100 Shows of 2010 - #57: Birdnote Records Showcase, BiMA @ Wind-Up Space, 8/27/10

Y’all. I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve been in festival withdrawal something terrible over the past year and a half. But just when I was totally down in the festival-lacking dumps, up pops this great, great new festival, the Baltimore Independent Music & Arts Festival, better known (and heretofore known) as BiMA. Not only did BiMA manage to rope in over 100 artists from far and wide (i.e. Baltimore and beyond) to take part in the festivities, but it was localish (i.e. a mere 60-some miles), which was one of the best things about it. For a fledgling festival, it was pretty darned entertaining. My first taste of BiMA was the Birdnote Records showcase, and it was a rather fine time.

MINI RECAP: Well done, everyone! Overall score: B.

After circling around for what seemed like ages trying to park, I arrived at the Wind-Up Space just as DC’s own Bellflur was getting underway. Now, despite having wanted to see them live for quite some time now, it was a feat I hadn’t accomplished until BiMA. The venue appealed to me right away, as did the band. I definitely haven’t heard anything (at least, not that I can think of at the moment) come out of DC before, their sound being a very interesting mix of gentle rhythms with some subtle grooves and synthy goodness. In my notes I compared them sonically to a much, much less gloomy and non-Scottish Arab Strap. They used sound bytes in several songs, adding to the cinematic feel of the music. It was rather atmospheric and a touch dramatic, and I was pretty impressed with the boys of Bellflur. Their set was way too short for my liking, which I suppose just means I’ll have to work hard to make another Bellflur sighting happen. They were definitely my favorite band of this particular showcase.

Next up was Solar Temple Suicides. Their name made me think of a 60s stoner band, and their sound tended to trend that way. It’s perhaps what might happen had The Young Sinclairs been more into Phish than The Rolling Stones, in that their sound was very loud and very swirly and very expansive, with more straight-up noise than song structure. I preferred them sans vocals, but found their set to be rather entertaining. Stoner drone seems to be their forte, and the sound of the Wind-Up Space enhanced their vibe.

Milwaukeeans Brief Candles were the third band of the showcase, and I was curious to see what their sound would be like after the two vastly different preceding bands. They turned out to be a little dark and sinister, which I loved. They concocted a big ole wall of sound through the guitar and the bass, which made me quite happy. My only question about their set was the vocals. When Jen Boniger was doing vocal duty, I couldn’t ever quite tell how I felt about her voice, and preferred when guitarist Kevin Dixon took over. Their overall sound was pretty good, though, and I’m glad to have seen them, my reservations about vocals notwithstanding.

I paid a little more attention to the hot pink narwhal on the wall than I did to Baltimore’s Avec, which is probably not their fault. I just became fixated. However, the band was almost as awesome as that narwhal. They were super loud, and their boy-girl vocals worked really well off each other. They all had serious stage presence, which goes a long way in winning me over, and their sound was polished.

By the time Thrushes played I was well and truly distracted by the narwhal and friends that had rolled into town. But on the whole, I must say the showcase was fantastic. It got my BiMA experience off on the right foot, and proved that a newbie festival doesn’t have to suck while going through inevitable growing pains.

mp3: Insect Politics (Bellflur from asleep.asleep)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Crossing The Pond: Ice Black Birds

Our inbox is always runnething over here at Les Enfants Terribles. It’s terribly exciting to open up our inbox and see what goodies have been sent to us. Most of what we get is pretty good, but every now and again, my loves, every now and again we get a little something sent to us that really tickles our fancy. And Brighton’s Ice Black Birds, well, they tickle my fancy, float my boat, and shiver me timbers. And then some.

My love for Ice Black Birds was nearly instantaneous. From the sunshine-through-the-clouds, bluesy guitar riffs that serve as the introduction to the band to the slightly theatrical, insanely captivating vocals of “As Birds We’d Be Fine”, I couldn’t tear my eardrums away. It’s a song that feels nearly anthemic at times, so big and broad and bulky is the sound. “I love love love the things that you do,” sings, nay croons, Sam Denniston, and I boomerang that sentiment right back at them. “As Birds We’d Be Fine” is nothing short of fantastic, and could very easily turn into one of my favorite songs of the year. But they’re not done yet. “Doors” is a distinctly sassier, though equally catchy, little number, calling to mind shades of the naughty cheek of bands like Mott The Hoople and Slade (maybe it’s all that cheeky, bombastic falsetto in the middle of the song?), but without all that flouncing and glitter and with a whole lot more of the raunchy Northern Soul, underground kinda vibe. The gist is that they're fucking fantastic, and I was powerless to resist them.

Ice Black Birds has totally, utterly, and completely beguiled me. I’m a smitten kitten over them, and if they don’t somehow come over to the US of A in the near future I’ll be totally heartbroken. They’re definitely my newest objects of sonic affection, and I can’t recommend them enough.

mp3: As Birds We’d Be Fine (Ice Black Birds from As Birds We’d Be Fine)

mp3: Doors (Ice Black Birds from As Birds We’d Be Fine)