Saturday, December 31, 2011

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: The Loom

Y'all know I have a major case of the warm fuzzies for The Loom. I also happen to have a major soft spot for that old New Year's classic "Auld Lang Syne," dating back even before the magical New Year's Eve I spent down the pub in snowy, small-town Scotland many years ago. So put those two together, and you've got the absolute perfect way to say a fond farewell to 2011 and usher in the promise of another year.

The rustic folk charm of The Loom breathes new life into the old Scots traditional, with kisses of thoughtful wistfulness and remembered moments. Their rendition is as beautiful as a winter's sky just before a snowfall, when the clouds glow pink and the air is crisp and clear and expectant.

If the song wasn't enough to love, the band has compiled a list of favorite memories of 2011, which is really a sweet thing indeed to read.

Happy New Year, one and all!

mp3: Auld Lang Syne (The Loom - more here)

Live Review: Rock Paper Zombies @ Strathmore Mansion, 10/28/2011

I'd like to begin by stating that after Rock Paper Zombies!, I'm inclined to think that all shows from here on out should a) be performed in costume and b) happen at Strathmore Mansion. However, seeing as that's probably too much to ask, I'll just gush a little about what made Rock, Paper, Zombies! such a daggum good time.

Billed as "an evening of art, music, and costumes," Rock Paper Zombies! was the brainchild of the one and only artiste extraordinaire Rich Bernett. On the night in question Bernett wandered the halls of the Strathmore Mansion clad in a lab coat and looking more than a little like a mad scientist keeping tabs on his creation, which seemed somehow fitting given the evening's happenings. Walking into the ever so stately Strathmore Mansion in costume (Little Red Riding Hood, for the record) and seeing just about everyone else in attendance in costume felt like a decadent, rather posh thrill, and it only got better from there.

Naturally, my main mission in attending the festivities (other than the whole costume thing) was to take in some great local music, and Bernett put together a pretty fine three-band bill. Fuzzy favorites Mittenfields started the party decked out in their Big Lebowski-themed finest. The grand scale of the wood-paneled ballroom seemed just perfect for the show, and had the bonus attribute of some mighty nice acoustics. The room also made me think of Mr. Boddy's abode in the classic flick Clue, which made me smile quite a bit (Colonel Mustard in the bar with a corkscrew, perhaps). Musically, Mittenfields was on point, loud and scuzzy and loud and wonderful as ever. Oh, and loud.

Once Mittenfields was done, I took up my merch-selling/people-watching post. In truth, there were a few other Red Riding Hoods running around the place, but I espied a pair of Oompa Loompas that knocked my knee socks off. Overall, the costumes were nothing short of impressive at RPZ. I didn't actually see Devin Ocampo's set, but I occasionally found myself getting caught up in some sludgy, bluesy rock that I at times found rather enjoyable.

Bellflur wrapped up the evening's festivities in style, all decked out in costumed splendor (among the band costumes: Bruce Springsteen and Edgar Winter Jr.) and doing their best Flaming Lips impression with a cacophony of ballooned shenanigans, as well as a few Lips covers. It was my third time seeing Bellflur, and they impressed me once again with their evolving, cinematic sound. The mix of Flaming Lips songs with Bellflur songs was a great call for the madcap experiment that was Rock Paper Zombies!. Someone deserves a gold star for this ridiculously awesome idea.

Post-RPZ, I've decided that I'm very much in favor of events, not just shows. Give me relatively opulent surroundings, art, costumes, and great music, and we're cooking with gas. Rock Paper Zombies! was one heck of an event, and everything about the evening made me wish for many, many more in the future.

mp3: Cascades (Mittenfields from the Fresh Sum EP)

Free For All: Jupiter

Times are tough out there, and for many of us buying music has become quite an indulgence (albeit a necessary one). Happily, there are some lovely musician folk out there that have offered up some fruits of their labors to the masses, free of charge. Free For All celebrates these wonderful people, and you, dear reader types.

I'm a sucker for a good back story, and Jupiter certainly has just that. The Paris-based pair first met in the Great Smoke of London, "on an empty dancefloor, cleared by a slightly too retro hit." One can only imagine the song that would clear a London dance party, but it's the sort of planets-aligned, universe-sanctioned fated meeting that could only end up working out rather well for all parties involved.

And speaking of parties, in the spirit of the season, the synth-retro-dance loving duo is offering up a little holiday mix they made to add a little holly jolly to your party. And to make things even better, the mix is free. I'd imagine this is a limited time offer kinda thing, so make sure you snap this fabulous little retro fever firecracker mix up sharpish.

Jupiter's Christmas Carols by wearejupiter

Singles Club: Baby Baby

Ladies and gentlemen, I have had the pleasure of seeing Atlanta's dirty rotten scoundrels Baby Baby live, and know the kind of throw-down shit they can throw down when they get plugged in and on a stage. Seeing as it is New Year's Eve and all, I thought it would be fitting somehow to share this little ditty with you to get you in the mood for a night of debauchus festivus.

Let the bad boys of Baby Baby inspire you, friends, with their penchant for gettin' up to no good, nekkidness and gettin' good and sweaty. "We Do This All Night Long (Shake That Ass Girl)" is a party song if ever a party song there was, full of driving, rollicking Southern punkishness and a Pied Party Piper vibe. They call it "Fun Rock," and that's about what it is. Throw this on your stereo tonight and sit back as the good times get goin'.

mp3: We Do This All Night Long (Shake That Ass Girl) (Baby Baby from Money)

Live Review: Dawes @ Black Cat, 10/24/2011

Upon seeing them in person, it is immediately clear to me why The Band's Robbie Robertson hearts Dawes, those boys of Los Angeles with the many golden melodies and the richness of layer upon layer of beautiful sound. It's as though they have taken up the mantle for Band-loving bands, and must be doing something more than right of a member of said Band digs them. When the gents came through DC on a typically mundane Monday with the equally great Blitzen Trapper, they were certainly doing everything within their considerable powers to show us patrons a dang good time.

Over the course of the year Dawes has been garnering a certain amount of buzz, which probably accounted somewhat for the packed house at the Black Cat. It struck me pretty early on that Dawes seems to be a band of another time and place, a band that (almost) isn't made for these times. But they sure do sound good in the here and now, I must say. They do, as most folks would opine, have a certain something of that legendary Laurel Canyon sound of yore, but to me it's mostly about The Band when I hear Dawes. And, ok, maybe a dash of those dashing Flying Burrito Brothers (the Gram Parsons years, of course) when they're really gettin' down up on the stage.

Included in their set was an appearance from the one and only Johnny Corndog, lending his vocal talents to an already vocally-gifted outfit. Some pretty piano was a feature in "A Little Bit of Everything," and by that point in the set I was already writing in my notes that I was good and sold on Dawes. Their songs were lovely - warm, idyllic, and steeped in 70s-tinged earnestness. It seemed that the crowd as a whole all sorts of loved them some Dawes, with singalongs and hootin' and hollerin' running rampant. The Dawes fellas, too, seemed to be having a right good time, giving DC their blood, sweat, and tears and then some.

Between Dawes and Blitzen Trapper it was one hell of a night, but I was well and truly blown away by Dawes, y'all. This is a band that will give you all they've got, so I recommend you go forth and see them whenever you can to return that love.

mp3: Million Dollar Bill (Dawes from Nothing Is Wrong)

[photo courtesy official Dawes site]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Singles Club: Sea of Bees

Crossbill Records is home to good Fuzzy friends The Loom, but it's also home to some other pretty amazing folks. One such amazing folk is Jules Bee, otherwise known as Sea of Bees. This California girl makes songs full of milk and honey and does so in a way that is nothing short of hypnotic.

"Marmalade," from the 2010 Sea of Bees release Songs For The Ravens, is effortlessly glorious, powerful yet extremely lovely. Miss Jules has her a voice that could lure a thousand sailors to their untimely deaths on the rocks, so make sure to catch her siren song for yourself. There's a softness to her voice, to be sure, but along with that pretty racket backing her, there's nothing here for the meek or mild.

Crossbill, in their infinite goodness, is running a buy one get one FREE deal until the New Year, so perhaps you'll find yourself taking advantage of that rather awesome deal.

mp3: Marmalade (Sea of Bees from Songs For The Ravens)

Album Review: Gringo Star - Count Yer Lucky Stars

When it comes to Gringo Star, I came for the name but stayed for the tunes. After the Kinksian clamor and Woggles-influenced racket of their delightful All Y'All record, I was all sorts of ready for more. Thankfully, los Gringos don't disappoint with this latest endeavor, and I'm happy to report that Count Yer Lucky Stars is another smoky, jangly romp from the ATL's favorite Brit Invasion acolytes.

One of the best things about Gringo Star is their obvious need to have a good time, and their desire that others should share in this good time is clear, especially when you have the good fortune to see the band live. There's plenty about Count Yer Lucky Stars to encourage les bon temps to get their roll on, as it happens. "You Want It" is damn near one of the catchiest, most irresistible ditties I've heard all year, with the jangle building and crashing into just over two minutes of vibrant, rakish irrepressibility.

The band steps a bit outside their penchant for rejigging those Kinks and Zombies sounds of the early 60s quite often on Count Yer Lucky Stars, a move that usually ends rather well on this here record. Much as when the Beatles discovered psychedelic drugs, the Gringos too have expanded and grown their sound, at times into cloudy, kaleidoscopic swirls built on the more traditional noises they've trended towards. Opening track "Shadow" feels almost slow-motion at times, and adds a softer, whiter shade of pale to their 60s racket. "Esmerelda" dances its way into Walkmen territory (a slower "Louisiana," perhaps), drenched in the strains of a last sad, seductive tango.

It's a step in the right evolutionary direction, surely, but in the end, what the boys do best is taking up the mantle for catchy as hell, well-played rock. "Beatnik Angel Georgie" could very well sit right alongside "Victoria" on Arthur and sound not a note out of place, in my humble opinion, with its' Davies-ian guitar and slightly sarcastic vocal delivery. "Jessica" is full of the staccato, so very danceable rhythms the Gringos are quickly making their own. They nod and sassily wink to the 60s at every turn, but this is unmistakably a Gringo Star moment.

Count Yer Lucky Stars is full of good time songs made by good time gents for good time guys and gals. And as a good time gal, I certainly appreciate the effort. Friends, get your mitts on this here record and have yourselves a dang good time.

mp3: Shadow (Gringo Star from Count Yer Lucky Stars)

Our Daily Vinyl #10: Willie Nelson

It is a sad but true fact of life that I once derisively mocked anyone who opined how amazing vinyl was and how music just sounded better when played on a turntable. Now, in a somewhat ironic twist of fate, I’ve come to realize, well, it’s true.

When it comes to The Diamond Center, I've always got the time, even if you don't got the money, honey. And both of us have the time for the one and only Willie Nelson. The red-headed stranger has worked his charms on the themselves charming lead duo of Brandi Price and Kyle Harris, and here's why the pair chose to include Willie when I rummaged through their records a few months back:

"Willie Nelson -
Phases and Stages - This record is SO good. It was his pre Red Headed Stranger concept album about a dissolving marriage, one side is from the female's point of view, male's on the other."

I don't have this one myself, but it's on my (mile-and-a-half) long list of records I need. Which, incidentally, seems to get bigger each and every day.

m4a: Forget My Name (The Diamond Center from My Only Companion)

[Logo by the fantastic Bill Taylor; Photo of Brandi Price by Megan Petty]

Live Review: Jeff Mangum/A Hawk and A Hacksaw @ 2640, 9/27/2011

Don't judge me, y'all, but Neutral Milk Hotel is another one of those bands I just never wrapped my head around enough to truly appreciate. Hey, it happens. This doesn't mean, of course, that when a dear friend suggested we venture up to Baltimore to go see the wizard of Neutral Milk Hotel, Mister Jeff Mangum himself perform one of two special shows up in Baltimore that I didn't jump at the chance. And I have to say, I've rarely been so glad that I ventured into sonic lands unfamiliar to me, because this show has turned out to be one of my favorites of the entire year.

The thing is, I wasn't actually intending to write about the show. It was, for all intents and purposes, an off-night for me, a night to just enjoy live music for the sake of enjoying live music. But it was too good a night not to tell y'all about it, and this is one of the only times I've ever attempted to review a show without having taken any notes whatsoever. Bear with me, y'all.

As soon as we got our IDs checked and stepped inside 2640, I was aware of feeling that the night would indeed be a special one. 2640, a cavernous, beautifully shabby space in the shell of an old church, was absolutely the perfect place for the show. Even with the stifling, muggy atmosphere inside (air-conditioning, you were missed), something was hanging in the air. Sweat, secrecy (no photos/cell phones allowed, as per Mangum’s personal request), and much anticipation were the pervasive vibes going around 2640. And then A Hawk and A Hacksaw began to play.

Neutral Milk Hotel roots of their own (former NMH drummer Jeremy Barnes being a member), A Hawk and A Hacksaw was a little bit gypsy, a little bit folksy, and a whole lot otherworldly. Their music, steeped in traditions centuries old, combined with the enchantment of 2640's slightly frayed loveliness and pretty well done lighting effects created quite a mood indeed. I could almost imagine being in another time and place, which isn't a feeling all that many bands can elicit. I totally and completely loved them.

On any other night, I would have been well and truly satisfied to have seen just A Hawk and A Hacksaw. But the star attraction was yet to take the stage, and by this point the anticipation of the large crowd had rubbed off on me and I was excited as can be to see Jeff Mangum. And finally, with a rather respectful roar from the crowd, he arrived, taking a seat with his guitar and getting down to business. And all he did, ladies and gentlemen, over the course of the evening, was blow me away. His manner, somewhat meek and mild and even perhaps more than a little fragile, belies a talent and a presence of considerable force. As soon as he began to sing, I was entranced. As, seemingly, was everyone else in attendance. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been to a show when all was that quiet and still. As I looked around, people were hanging on every note, gazing adoringly at Mangum as he worked through his back catalog. There was this sense of reverence from the crowd directed to the stage, and whether Mangum was cognizant of this he did nothing to dissuade the (well-deserved) adulation.

Even now, I'm finding it a little hard to describe what happened. It was just one of those nights. All I can tell you, friends, is that such nights are rare, and this gal is going to cherish this one for a long, long time.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: Candy Claws

Sometimes I just want a holiday song that's like a yum yummy world of marshmallowy goodness (think "Marshmallow World" as done by Sammy Davis Jr. for the ultimate example). Cute, frothy, poppy, and daggum catchy all make for a winning combination in a Christmas song, if you ask me.

And bearing that in mind, obviously I totally love the impossible to resist darlingness of this darling Candy Claws song, "Snow Face." It has that breathy sweetness of flushed cheeks and gently falling snow, not to mention an aura of vintage white trees decorated with pink and blue and silver blown glass ornaments and strung with endlessly sparkling tinsel. Oh yeah. Tinsel is where it's at, y'all. And so is this song. Too cute!

mp3: Snow Face (Candy Claws - more here)

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: The Sky Drops

Those of you who are less than pleased with the Christmas season at large, fear not. I've not left you out of this barrage of holiday music. I've got a pretty little ditty for you that snipes at the season and dares to get its Grinch on. All while sounding nothing but charming and beautiful, naturally.

The Sky Drops, that Delaware duo prone to the fabrication of luscious, fuzz-minded treats, has recently offered up their version of a holiday song, "Christmas Feels Like Halloween." They make no bones, surely, and the song is a gem no matter what your stance. Softly-strummed, the pair creates a feel of warmth through the derisive sentiment, their lovely harmonizing and glowing ember acoustic guitar serving as a nice departure from the grittier racket they tend to favor. It's almost reminiscent of the sound of early 90s Britain, somewhat idyllic but with something frustrated bubbling under the surface. I highly recommend the consumption of this song for Christmas friends and foes alike.

mp3: Christmas Feels Like Halloween (The Sky Drops - more here)

Free For All: Fay Wrays

Times are tough out there, and for many of us buying music has become quite an indulgence (albeit a necessary one). Happily, there are some lovely musician folk out there that have offered up some fruits of their labors to the masses, free of charge. Free For All celebrates these wonderful people, and you, dear reader types.

Perhaps the holidays have you feeling a little less than joyful. Instead of stuffing stockings, say, you feel more inclined to ram them down familial throats or pelt various family members with supersized lumps of coal. In this case, might I suggest checking out the delightful darkness of Fresno's Fay Wrays? Their (free free free) LP, Strange Confessor, is comprised of nine songs filled with grinding, volatile and visceral post-punk angst with an occasionally cheeky sense of humor (i.e. songs like "When We Storm The Gates We Sing This Song" and "San Francisco (in) General") and a whole lot of spite and malice. The more I listen to Fay Wrays, the more I think I like them. So give in to those mean holiday reds and and spend some quality time in the company of Fay Wrays.

mp3: When We Storm The Gates We Sing This Song (Fay Wrays from Strange Confessor)

Whither Festivus: Instant Pleasure 2011 Recap - Saturday

I've lost quite a lot this year, y'all. Over the past few months I've somehow managed to lose a couple notebooks full of notes (which, happily, I eventually found), a camera (which, unhappily, was never found), and my mind (on more than one occasion). Having finally found the notebook wherein my notes on Instant Pleasure were ensconced, we can now talk about that amazingly exceptional heck of a ride that was the first installment of Instant Pleasure. And o, what a pleasure it was, my little treasures.

As a reminder, Instant Pleasure was the kismet-ic, right time right place festival of (mostly) psych rock as envisioned by two of my absolute favorite Richmond squires - Ryan of the killer Revolt Of The Apes blog and Kyle of The Diamond Center. Having played this year's Austin Psych Fest, Kyle wanted to bring some of that back to Richmond to germinate a little in the River City. Originally envisioned as a one-day affair, the fest expanded into two days of the best, brightest, and noisiest psychedelic blues space rock bands in and around Richmond (and from half the world away as well). Yours truly was around for most of Day 2, and what I experienced was pretty fucking fantastic.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it down early enough to catch Palindrone, Mutwawa, or Ceremony, which made me plenty sad. But the six bands I did see (can't beat six hours of good live music) all blew me away something powerful. PBRs in hand, I took in a jaw-dropping set of scuzzy, sexy as hell blues psych from Baltimore's incredible dudes The Flying Eyes. Friends, I was just not at all prepared for what they were going to do to me. I glazed over amid a barrage of sweet, sweet sweaty noise, and I loved every minute. I had just caught my breath when Richmond legend of sorts Gull took the stage. His Hannibal Lecter meets the Beadazzler mask threw me, but my oh my did I dig his set. I'd never actually seen Gull indoors before, and the roof barely kept a lid on the insanity of his one-man guitar and drums onslaught.

Next came the lovely noise of The Sky Drops, and the Delaware duo fried my brain with their beautiful shades of smeared psych nouveau gazing. They were powerful yet gentle, somehow, and their set was entirely too short (or sure did feel that way) for my liking. Foxy Belgian duo Black Box Revelation set the stage on fire with their blues rock posturing, and I was well and truly into their howling and prancing and explosions. Belgians can throw it down, y'all. The festival kept it international with Australia's Morning After Girls going next, showing off some fancy Italian footwear and equally impressive stripey trousers. The music, too, was great, lots of noisy guitars and possessed of an overall ability to make me feel so warm and squishy inside. There was a hint of the 60s about them as well, which you know always goes down a treat with yours truly. The evening closed out with a stunning (as always) set by The Diamond Center. They were gloriously and expansively and expressively haunting and haunted in equal measure, and I enjoyed the slight change in their sound as they adjusted to life sans bass. A very, very wonderful way to end the festival indeed.

Overall, I was really pleased with my Instant Pleasure experience. The bands were excellent, the venue (Strange Matter, the perfect spot for the fest) was full of appreciative persons, and the mix between bands was full of goodies (thanks Ryan). It is my hope that Instant Pleasure becomes a regular thing, because based on what transpired this time that would be seven shades of spectacular.

mp3: Swimming With Fishes (The Sky Drops from Bourgeios Beat)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Xmas Gift Guide 2011: Recycled Record Bookends

I'm sure many of us are not just into music, but into the whole reading thing as well. For example, yours truly is reading Lick Me, Cherry Vanilla's fantastically raunchy autobiography, at the moment, and have tons of books waiting on me to hurry up and get done so I can get to them.

Anyway. Once more I digress. If you, like me, happen to have quite a few books and limited space, you'll probably have run into the problem of how to stylishly yet functionally display/store your reads. Happily, the most excellent Uncommon Goods has for sale a solution to this most vexing of problems: The recycled record bookends! These babies are perfect for propping up your copy of all manner of music bios and design tomes and whatever else happens to be lurking in your own personal library (or the library of someone on your Xmas list!). Thumbs up on these, y'all.

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: The Active Set

Sorry, y'all. I can't stop myself. I'm in the Christmas music zone right about now. But I'll switch it up a little, throw y'all a curveball if you will.

Los Angelinos The Active Set has entered the holiday music stakes with their original little indiepop ditty "Making Out (Is The Best Part of Christmas)," a sentiment I can certainly get behind. In fact, I would argue that making out is the best part of ANY holiday EVER. But back to the song.

The dudes, donning their best (or perhaps worst) holiday sweaters, are currently offering up a free download of this here slick, sassy, sweetly synthy indiepop ode to a little holiday fluid-swapping. And what's more Christmas-y than getting someone under the mistletoe?

mp3: Making Out (Is The Best Part of Christmas) (The Active Set - more here)

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: Diamond

I'm beginning to feel a little like Christmas, y'all, so I'm gonna keep this holiday music thing going. Diamond has roots in Chicago, Richmond, and Baltimore, and seeing as I've lived in one of those cities and frequently visit another, I feel it's time to give Diamond a little face time.

The band has joined the ranks of those that have officially covered "Christmas Time Is Here," and I have to say I'm finding a lot to like about their fairly classic, slightly lounge-esque treatment of the song. I'm all sorts of digging that slinky guitar, mistletoe magical vocals, and cool simplicity. Not bad, Diamond. Not bad indeed.

mp3: Christmas Time Is Here (Diamond - more here)

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: Parenthetical Girls

After listening to this here "Christmas-saving" holiday EP, I can safely say that I haven't been spending enough time with Parenthetical Girls. Any band that makes a habit out of putting together holiday EPs is more than ok in my book. Especially when the songs are really, really good.

Parenthetical Girls Save Christmas
is heavy on the jingle bells and heavy on the musical theatrics, and is full of the spirit of densely falling snow creating a landscape of beautiful, cold stillness.

Not only did the band give us three wonderful holiday songs, but they also announced a pretty hefty tour to kick off 2012. Mind you, I'm frowning at the lack of a DC date, but maybe Santa will work some magic and make that happen later in the year. Dates as follows:


* = w/ Los Campesinos!

mp3: Christmas Past (Parenthetical Girls from Parenthetical Girls Save Christmas)

Xmas Gift Guide 2011: Insound Tote Bag

Y'all. I know I tend to mention Insound a lot, but it's just because they're so dang awesome. Seeing as I suspect I'm far from the only person with this particular opinion, my next suggestion for a last-minute holiday gift is a piece of merch from this very place: An Insound tote bag.

There are several things to love about this here tote. Obviously, being a tote it's pretty great to start with. Lately I've been sporting totes more than handbags (let's face it, ladies, some of our handbags can be pretty heavy), so I personally attest to the awesomeness of totes.

Next reason to love this bag very much is that it was designed by a musician! Norwegian Kim Hiorth√ły made the logo magic happen, and I happen to think it's pretty foxy (so is he, but that's neither here nor there I suppose).

And finally, Insound is just all sorts of wonderful. Which should make shelling out ten bucks for this bag pretty darned easy. In fact, get a few! Give them to all your friends. Your coworkers. Your family. Your favorite blogger. Yourself...

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: Gringo Star

The (fake) tree is up in my house, so damned if it must not be just about Christmas. It still doesn't quite feel very holiday around DC to me, though, either from my general meh-ness or a general lack of holiday cheer in the greater Metro area, so I have to get my Xmas kicks from music.

Gringo Star, as you well know, is quite possibly my favorite group of good time, get down Atlantans, so it seems only natural for them to cover one of my favorite songs of the season, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." I have a vague memory of having to sing this song as part of some elementary school something-or-other, so it's fitting that the gentlemen sound like they've either been sucking some helium or sped themselves up Chipmunks style.

Along with all that trippy vocal weirdness is some pretty nifty retro-fitted music, true to Gringo form while indulging in some holiday silliness. It's pretty much cute as can be, this here cover, and should definitely help get y'all in the mood to stuff some stockings.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by GringoStar

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Good Ship Rediscovery: Delakota – One Love

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

On the heels of the passing fad of triphop and just before garagey The bands took over the world, back at the dawn of the 2000s, came something not quite Fatboy Slim DJ-ism and not quite pure band. Knob-twiddling dudes with a sense of song structure. Delakota was one of these such collectives (another favorite of mine, the Lo-Fidelity Allstars, being another example), some gents with a penchant for good samples and good beats which more often than not resulted in some pretty dang good songs.

One Love gets underway with the somewhat lazy "C'mon Cincinnati," a drowsy little song built around the soundtrack from the Steve McQueen classic The Cincinnati Kid. Right away, you get an idea of the Delakota ethos, a big buildup of beats and some vocals that were just this side of bratty, and in tone very Tim Burgess/Ian Brown-esque. I've always adored second track "I Thought I Caught," leisurely and measured in pace but full of little treats like soaring, high-pitched lady vocals and a few little astronaut samples thrown in for kicks. The ending gets a bit livelier, and the song is the better for it.

I listened to several of the songs on One Love more times than I'd ever venture to hazard a guess at. "555" is one of those songs, jaunty in its street sense jangle, vocals smooth and confident, and some brass thrown into the mix adds that extra something. I even forgive them their grammatical sins (for the line "Where you is is where you stand," among others) because the song is simply the business. "The Rock" is probably the most-listened to of all Delakota songs in my life, and it's a splendid little ditty. Warmed with beaty sunshine and one heck of a guitar riff, I can still remember closing my eyes and listening to this song for hours in my room. It used to mesmerize me, and that slow repetition can still reel me in. To me, that song alone was worth the cost of that there CD.

The Delakota team took a stab at abrasiveness with the jarring "Brothers," a song that I used to equally love and frown at. The dissonance and beatiness sometimes played nice, and the extra dose of sneer in the vocals added an extra jolt to the in-your-faceness. Whether or not it's aged well, I'm still not sure. Regardless, One Love has given me much joy over the years. I can only hope that some of those big beats and twiddling knobs will put a smile on your lovely faces.

m4a: The Rock (Delakota from One Love)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Singles Club - Holiday Edition: AM

We've reached that two week mark, my friends, until Christmas Day is upon us. I don't know about y'all, but one of my favorite things about this particular season is the music. I just simply love Christmas music (all-time favorite being the incredible Christmas With The Rat Pack), and I love to hear bands of today taking on popular holiday songs.

"Christmas Time Is Here" is one of those holiday standards most of us have been hearing since, well, birth. It's one of those songs, too, that can sound a little cloying, a little too much, so I get pretty excited when I see someone's gone and given it a facelift.

Especially when the someone in question is that delightful gent AM, purveyor of lovely vintage lounge pop sounds. AM's rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here" is almost calming, making it the perfect thing to pop on while recovering from an 11th-hour present shopping run. Accompanied by the sunshiney strums of an acoustic guitar and some subtle loungitude, AM's voice envelopes. It's a rather pretty treatment, and I highly recommend adding it to your Xmas music rota.

mp3: Christmas Time Is Here (AM - more here)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 8: Beady Eye Day

Fun factoid for you, friends: Oasis was my first live music experience, way way way back in the dark ages of 1996. Not only did those Mancunians blow my mind (and my eardrums, this being long before I realized the benefits of aural protection), but Liam Gallagher firmly cemented himself as my first official Band Crush.

True, my fangirl status gradually decreased as the years went by and I began to abandon my former Britpop obsessions, but I was pretty disheartened when Oasis finally called it a day (possibly for real this time).

Tonight, however, I'll be going to see Liam perform once again, this time under the Beady Eye moniker (along with former Oasis compadres Andy Bell and Gem Archer, and non-Oasisian Chris Sharrock). I'd be lying to you lovely people if I said I was anything other than giddy, because it's true. I'm excited. From what I've heard, the vintage-laden tunes will translate rather nicely to the stage, and the 9:30 Club is as good a place as any to see the gents do their thing.

And so it is, ladies and gentlemen, that I hereby decree today, December 8, 2011, to be Beady Eye Day, in honor of the return of the Prodigal Liam to the greater DC Metro area.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Through A Lens Fuzzily #10: National Championship Bear

For those of you who might not know this about me, I'm a little bit of a crazy college football fan. No, not quite crazy enough to go a-tree poisoning, but crazy enough that I briefly contemplated selling an organ in order to afford tickets to this season's national championship game. Why? Because this gal of yours bleeds crimson and white, y'all. As an alum of the wonderful University of Alabama, you can't really not love football. And by love, I mean be a little crazy about.

My cat, Bear Bryant (spoiler alert: that's a hint about my football fanaticism right there), is also a little bit crazy, though I suspect his to be more of a general insanity (see: photo). But you can bet Bear's as excited as I am about Bama's rematch with those Bayou Bengals of ole LSU on January 9, 2012. Which, by the way, I should mention, is a day during which I will be thinking of nothing but football.

There's no better song to include with all this football talk than the one I'm gonna give to y'all. And as a Bama fan, you get pretty familiar with this song, since it ends up getting played at every home game. Hot damn, it sure does sound pretty. Only a month and two days to go...

mp3: Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd) (Ryan Adams) (thanks to Cover Me!)

[photo by Megan Petty]

Meet The Fire Tapes

It might be a little silly, but whenever I am introduced to a new Virginia band that kicks all sorts of ass, it causes me to puff up with pride and marvel at the multitudinous talented folks that call the Old Dominion home. The latest batch of Virginians getting me hot and bothered come to us from Charlottesville, land of Jefferson and Wahoos, and go by the name The Fire Tapes. I find them to be very interesting, friends, and I anticipate you'll soon feel the same.

The Fire Tapes sound is a little hard to pin down, but incorporates bits and pieces of post punk, shoegaze, folk, and even pure country (yes, really). And sometimes all that happens in the same song. The songs are given voice beautifully, with a mouthpiece that could as easily be singing Dolly Parton-esque classics as post punk noise. They cite Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, and Brian Wilson as sonic influences, and you'll hear all of that in their songs. But they manage to manipulate and contort and tangle those sounds into something undeniable, something at times like a waking dream, and for being so new on the scene the band is well ahead of the curve. It's not hard to imagine my talking about them again, but go ahead and get to know them now, won't you?

m4a: Reprise (The Fire Tapes from Dream Travel)

Crossing The Pond: Shoogar

It's occasionally easy for me to venture an educated guess that I'll like a band, even before I listen to them. Such a happening occurred while I was feasting my eyes and ears upon Shoogar. If you're wondering why I knew I'd like them, friends, the answer is pretty simple. To my mind, it's hard to imagine a band that name checks The Band, Queens Of The Stone Age, The Black Keys, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club being anything other than awesome. And happily, with Shoogar this turned out to be rather sound reasoning.

The Scots boys do tend to resemble their elders somewhat in a variety of ways, bringing together the fiery crunch of QOTSA, the blue-eyed blues of The Black Keys, shades of that old-time relijun BRMC can sometimes harness, and the musicianship of The Band into quite a potent wallop of noise. They also have a tendency to sound a little boozed-up, which is really how it ought to be. For example, "Heartbeat" is on the heavier, more virile side of the spectrum, while "Cold" seeks to follow in the smoky, dynamic Black Keys mold. At times they come across a bit cock rockish, but then again, nothing wrong with that. My favorite of the tracks I've got my mitts on is the initially slow-burning and eventually barn-burning "Desert Song," all bombast and zealous rock and roll. All rather enjoyable, if you ask me.

mp3: Desert Song (live) (Shoogar - more here)

Singles Club: Bare Wires

Man alive, it's raining all sorts of cats and dogs and lions and tigers and bears out there. In other words, it's gloomy as hell. But ain't nothin' like a kicky little song to get yours truly thinkin' about things other than being water-logged. And as it would happen, my iPod decided to shuffle over to a little piece of sass as recorded by the delightful Bare Wires, and sure enough it did the trick.

"Don't Ever Change" sounds a smidge like a lost recording of a naughty little T. Rex song, all scuzz and grit and very much akin to "Bang A Gong." For a second I wondered how this long lost T. Rex number came to be, and then I realized what I was listening to. It's like Marc Bolan's less fond of eyeliner little brother just discovered rock'n'roll, and he's out of control (my apologies, Art Brut). Sounding a bit like a vintage anthem of sorts, it's a teensy bit glam and a whole lotta rough love, and it's a fucking fantastic song. Rainy days be damned.

mp3: Don't Ever Change (Bare Wires from Cheap Perfume)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Good Ship Rediscovery: The La's – The La's

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

Alright, my little darlings, here's a real oldie, goodie, and tragically underappreciated record. Scousers (that's Liverpudlians to y'all) The La's were The Next Big Thing for a minute or two in the late 80s/early 90s, yet for all the buzz and all the promise they had shown, the band released just one proper studio record. Much of the blame can be placed squarely on the butting-heads between central La's figures Lee Mavers and John Power, the pair essentially the strength and heart of the band and unable to see eye-to-eye. It's really a shame, because the songs on The La's are so jubilant, so fresh, and so daggum catchy.

Witness, if you will, the oh so very satisfying, crowing jangle of "I Can't Sleep," based heavily on Liverpool's musical past and adding some La's swagger. It's quite a proclamation. "Timeless Melody" was one of the band's biggest successes, the big booming vocals of Mavers accented with emphatic acoustic strumming and an overall feeling of unbridled assertion and confidence. And then there's the one you know. Even if you didn't know it was The La's, you know this song. "There She Goes" has been a much beloved song of mine for more years than I can remember. It's a song sung so sweetly it's almost hard to imagine that it could possibly (rumor has it) be about heroin.

"Feelin'" is a charmer, irrepressible and catchy as catchy can be. Between the rough acoustic intro, the inescapable bounce to the instrumentation, and the fallen angel voice of Mavers, the song is a class act. In songs like "Feelin'," "Way Out," and "I.O.U.," The La's proved their mettle at creating nearly perfect pop songs in under the accepted three-minute window (the longest of the three, "Way Out," clocks in at barely two and a half minutes). This was a band that didn't need much time to say what needed to be said. Inversely, the last song on the record seems excessively long when compared with all the others. "Looking Glass," not only a favorite La's song but an overall favorite song of mine, is just under eight minutes of beautiful, introspective self-indulgence, replete with swirling guitars and a sense of disoriented frenzy that somehow feels like the best way to bring the curtain down not only on the record but The La's themselves.

The La's is, you might could say, a fading postcard of a really special moment in music, representing those days when everything that came out of the North was as golden as lightning in a bottle, and when Scousers and Mancs were officially It in the UK music scene. It's also a reminder of how fragile musical life can be, and how rifts can ruin something that could have been greater than anyone can fathom.

m4a: There She Goes (The La's from The La's)

m4a: Looking Glass (The La's from The La's)

Xmas Gift Guide 2011: Waterloo Records Stuff

I've probably already gone and talked a whole bunch about how SXSW 2009 was one of my most favorite concert-going experiences of ever. So I shan't harp on that, not today. What I will instead foam at the mouth about is Waterloo Records, and the amazingness therein.

You see, darlings, when I was last in Austin I spent a couple happy hours (and, was my wallet not so strapped at the time, probably could have spent an entire happy day) perusing the rows and rows of glorious records that line those four glorious walls. I came home from Austin with lots of good music, and with a dandy of a Waterloo tote bag (you can still catch me sporting it out and about DC these days). It never fails to warm the cockles of my heart when a stranger stops me and comments on how awesome the bag/the record store is. Some people just get it.

I promise there's a point to my rambling. What I'm getting at, loves, is this. I have no doubt that each and every one of you know someone that would appreciate, nay, love, a piece of Waterloo merch. Or a Waterloo gift card. OR a record from the extensive, mind-blowing collection at Waterloo, perhaps even a staff fave. And all of the above would make a great gifting. So go check it out and make someone's holiday very happy indeed. We all know record stores are an endangered species these days, so we have to make sure to show the ones we still have that they are loved.

Free For All: Eastern Phoebes

Times are tough out there, and for many of us buying music has become quite an indulgence (albeit a necessary one). Happily, there are some lovely musician folk out there that have offered up some fruits of their labors to the masses, free of charge. Free For All celebrates these wonderful people, and you, dear reader types.

I don't know about y'all, but Long Island is not a place with which I associate dizzyingly cute, folksy twee indiepop. And yet, that's exactly where Eastern Phoebes, purveyors of just such music, calls home. Go figure. The dears of Eastern Phoebes create a sound that is at once pastoral, precious, lovely, early morning marsh stroll invigorating, fireside cozy, and more than a little feisty. Their songs are tinged with the familiarity of an old friend not seen in years, but also retaining an air of being rather special. They're kind enough to have released their Eggplant EP and offered it up to one and all for the special price of free. Do go have a taste, and make sure to go see them live when you can.

mp3: Big Thunder (Eastern Phoebes from the Eggplant EP)

Album Review: Cut Copy - Zonoscope

It didn't take me all that long to decide I loved the danceable excellence that was In Ghost Colours. But for some reason, my friends, it's taken me quite a little while longer to get all loved up on Cut Copy's latest effort, Zonoscope. However, after finally wrapping my head around it, I've succumbed to Cut Copy's warm, sparkly embrace. And I must say, it's a rather nice place to be.

Things get off on the right foot and then some on Zonoscope, that much I've known since the first time ever I did listen to it. "Need You Now" is a stunner, bringing an epic feel to the dancefloor with all sorts of synthy sensations, slinky yet emotive vocals, and a backbeat that just won't quit. When I think about it, really, I think that was initially part of the whole problem. I loved that one song so very much that it was hard to tear myself away long enough to listen to the rest of the record. Obviously, this is Cut Copy's fault for putting such a great song at the beginning of their album.

Once I moved on, "Take Me Over" won me over. It's a party song if ever there was a party song. The bass seems to fondly recall Big Country's "Down Under" jam, which is somewhat apros pos (if not a little startling). Aussies have to stick together, no? This song is the kind of song that just begs for a big night out (like, quite frankly, more than a few of those Cut Copy songs tend to do). The third nugget off Zonoscope, "Where I'm Going," has also been a favorite since my initial spins. The slowed-down yet steady groove propels the song sassily along, and I more than kinda dig it. "Pharoahs & Pyramids" makes me think a whole lot of mid-80s New Order, with the bleeping and the bounding bass. "This Is All We've Got" is a newer favorite, anthemic and sparkly and perhaps a touch romantic. Lovely.

All in all, I still don't know if I love this one quite as much as In Ghost Colours. Let's face it, that's a hard act to follow. But Zonoscope sees Cut Copy doing what they do so very well, and I think you'll find this a mighty fine listen.

mp3: Take Me Over (Cut Copy from Zonoscope)
(via the excellent Tell All Your Friends' Best of 2011 list! Go look!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Otherwise Engaged: Thrushes

It is an unfortunate reality for the serious concertgoer that on occasion, there will be more than one show on any given night that you really, really, REALLY wanna go to. Since the vast majority of us don't own a time machine, nor have the ability to either clone ourselves or split ourselves in half (or thirds or quarters, depending on the night in question), this tends to present a problem. Difficult decisions are made based on a multitude of variables (perhaps some of you even make lists of pros and cons), and ultimately, a show is chosen. But those other shows are still gonna be killer, and I'd like to give a little face time to the shows that, while I can't go myself, are highly recommended all the same.

I don't know what it is, y'all, but Thursday night has officially turned into One Of Those Nights. You know the kinda night to which I refer. The kind where every single band you want to see decides to play on the same night, and in this case in different cities. Not only are there good shows to be had in Richmond (i.e. my show with Mittenfields & The Snowy Owls) and DC (i.e. Hammer No More The Fingers, among others), but just up 95 in Charm City there's yet another show I'd give anything to be able to split atoms and go see. STPP Fest Fuzzy Logic Showcase alums Thrushes are taking on their hometown stage at the Ottobar, along with DC folks Office of Future Plans and Fuzzy favorites Caverns.

At this point I would just like to say, bands, that you must stop. I throw myself on your mercy. You're killing me. At least coordinate, so I don't have to miss the face-melting magical sparkling racket that happens when Thrushes plays. It's just not fair. So, Baltimoreans, please go to this show so I can live vicariously through your ears.

Xmas Gift Guide 2011: Stone Roses Stuff!

By now I'm sure you've all heard that the original members of legendary Mancunian Jackson Pollack worshipping Stone Roses are rejoining forces for an indeterminate amount of time. I'm still hoping this time will include some US dates, which, if so, would be the ultimate Xmas present.

In the meantime, yours truly (and probably just about anyone else who relishes the Roses) would settle for an official Stone Roses tee. I'm partial to the red "I Wanna Be Adored" shirt pictured here myself, seeing as that's one of my favorite Stone Roses songs. But as you'll see, there's quite a variety for you to choose from. Heck, why buy just one? I'm also eyeballing one of those "Waterfall" tees...

Well done, Roses, for not only getting back together but proffering such splendid merch. A comeback is even better when it's done with no shortage of style. So order to your heart's content, friends, and the Stone Roses fan in your life will most assuredly wear whatever you buy for them with pride.

The Good Ship Rediscovery: JJ72 – JJ72

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

It's funny, listening to music that I used to love, because a lot of said music illustrates that my tastes haven't changed all that much. In the 11 years that have passed since I first got my hands on JJ72's self-titled LP, my appreciation for a well-crafted, loud song has, if anything, grown. The band was only around for two albums, but they can certainly be proud of JJ72. It still sounds wonderful to my ears, and hopefully to yours as well.

In 2000, JJ72 was getting lots of buzz in the UK, and deservedly so. The trio of very young, very hot Irish upstarts made such a name for themselves while I was ensconced in the residence halls of Glasgow University that they opened for The Dandy Warhols at The Garage, which I must say was quite a show. JJ72's music is full of rather dramatic bits and pieces, at times making me think of them as a baby Muse, though they never get quite as rough as the lads of Muse are wont to do. I've always felt a delicacy to JJ72, it's as though just under the surface they're afraid of breaking something, or being broken themselves. Such moments really come to the fore in songs like "Willow," a song that glides and sways like the branches after which it takes its name. Singer/guitarist Mark Greaney offers up quite a vocal performance on the record, his voice mercurial in its ability to sound both little boy lost and devil in disguise, occasionally in the same song.

Opening track "October Swimmer" was big for the band, and is big as a song as well. Don't let that gentle bit of acoustic strumming and Greaney's shy cooing fool you. It won't take long before the pedals get stepped on and things get cranked up and Greaney does his best Matt Bellamy impression (testing his aggressive falsetto range, that is). "Oxygen" was another song that really got folks excited about JJ72, powerful and grasping and bursting with an unbridled need to be heard. It's a song that, with those added strings, shows off the band's need to get a little dramatic. "Long Way South" was, and is still, my favorite on the record. Its perky drum machine feel and bounding energy make it one hell of a catchy little tune.

Even now, this record sounds like a breath of fresh air to me. It's the sound of youthful exuberance recorded, and is one of those records that represents a rather special time in the life of yours truly. Definitely recommended if you've never given JJ72 a go.

m4a: Long Way South (JJ72 from JJ72)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Get Yer Pedals Out #9: Starring Allen Bergendahl (The Snowy Owls)

I couldn't quite tell you why, but for the longest time I've been somewhat moderately obsessed with pedals. Since I'm no guitarist I don't really have a valid reason for this, other than the fact that they both make pretty noises and are rather nice to look at. Much, really, like the folks who use them. I've decided to turn my inexplicable pedal fancy into Fuzzy Logic fodder, and I do hope you'll enjoy my foray into the ins and outs of pedal worship.

Bassists, I'm sorry. I've been neglecting you. And it's silly, because I love you all so very much, and you can make just as much noise as those guitarists. So let me begin to make amends by presenting to you the pedal musings of one heck of a bassist, Mister Allen Bergendahl of The Snowy Owls. Richmonders can check out Allen doing his thing with his band of Owls along with DC noisemakers Mittenfields this very Thursday at The Republic. But for now, check out what floats Allen's boat, including but not limited to Strymon Timeline.

Fuzzy Logic: Which pedal is your very favorite and why?
Allen Bergendahl: Big Muff for sure. It is super gnarly sounding and I pretty much leave it on all the time. Although stock Big Muffs have a pretty serious issue for bass which is they suck the low end out, big time. I found a fellow who was making a classic Big Muff circuit (civil war circuit, for the Big Muff fans) with a few key component changes to allow the low end through. Plus there are several other handy controls to tailor the gain and break up of the signal. BIG MUFF!

FL: Favorite chord?
AB: No chords, I only solo. Squiddly-wah!

FL: Who's your guitarist icon?
AB: Dave Fridmann. Bassist and Engineer, like myself. Although significantly more badass.

FL: With all the pedals out there, how do you decide which ones to procure?
AB: Pedals are relatively cheap, so sometimes you can just go for it. I also have the good fortune of being friends with Matt and get to try out all his pedals. I have a few other pedal junkie friends and so I've heard a bunch of em!

FL: What's your dream pedal?
AB: Recently, a friend got this crazy delay pedal. A Strymon Timeline. HOLY SHIT! It makes everything sound like it's from outer space! From thecoolestshitiveeverheard galaxy! I feel kind of like a shill saying that, but it's crazy super cool! Maybe they will send me one if I say nice things?

[photo by Matt Klimas]

First Timers: Mittenfields & Richmond

You know how it goes, there's a first time for everything. Some of my particular firsts involve bands: The first time a band plays a certain venue is a good one, but the first time a band plays a city is even more special. Such is the case for local District gents Mittenfields when they make their Richmond debut this very Thursday at The Republic.

I had a think about it, gave the situation a good mulling over, and came up with a shortlist of spots in Richmond where I think the pummeling roar of the Mittenfields shoegazing Pavement-ish noise would be well-served. Bear in mind, this is a wishlist more than anything. A girl can dream, after all.

* St. John's Episcopal Church (Church Hill) - What better venue that the intimate, historic place of worship that witnessed Patrick Henry's words for the ages about liberty and death? The acoustics are great, the church is on the small side, and the historical wow factor is tough to beat.

* Maymont Park - A wide open space large enough, perhaps, to accommodate the cavernous noise Mittenfields makes. A warm summer night out there in the grass would make for quite a moment.

* Old City Hall (Downtown) - I've got such a soft spot for this grand old dame, to go along with my soft spot for the dizzy drone of Mittenfields. The lobby, with that ornate, vibrantly-colored gingerbread trim would make for one heck of a visual juxtaposition with the jarring but lovely strains of songs like "Cascades."

* The Byrd Theatre (Carytown) - Who doesn't love The Byrd?! The movie palace not only shows cheap recent releases (and fun vintage flicks from time to time), but also houses a resident ghost. An almost formal setting would be a great backdrop for Mittenfields.

* The Diamond - Home to Richmond's latest attempt at a sort-of professional sports team (go Flying Squirrels!), the outfield of The Diamond would be a great place for Mittenfields to have a Beatles moment. Only, they would probably drown out any girlish shrieks with their endless waves of sheer volume.

In the meantime, Richmond loves, be sure to come check out some of DC's finest at The Republic. We're gonna have us a real good time.

mp3: Swim In A Tight Parallel (Mittenfields from The Fresh Sum EP)

100 Drummers #5: Starring Brandon Martin (The Snowy Owls)

Long have I had a thing for drummers. Something about the way they sit, mysterious and enigmatic, behind their varying configurations of drums and cymbals, keeping time in a myriad of drummerly ways. Oftentimes, too, it seems that drummers are the forgotten member of the band, garnering less press than perhaps their bandmates do. But those intrepid keepers of the beat need love, too. In this series I want to fix this egregious, yet probably accidental, oversight, and bring to your attention some of my favorite keepers of the beat. And so, inspired by a line in the Dylan classic “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” I present to you, friends, 100 Drummers.

Oh hey friends! Did you hear about this Fuzzily-sponsored show goin' on down in Richmond on Thursday? If you're within driving distance (let alone walking or biking distance), you should be there without a doubt. The Snowy Owls are representing Richmond in this DC/RVA double threat, and a great deal of that Snowy Owls sound can be credited to Mister Brandon Martin, better known as He Who Beats the Heck Out Of His Drums. Well, ok, perhaps not on the gentle-ish numbers, but when The Snowy Owls are in the midst of a full-tilt, fuzz-filled, careening sonic crash, there is some aggression being taken out on his skins. And it's splendid I say. Simply splendid. Below, Brandon talks timpani, Dave Grohl, and necessity being the mother of drumstick invention.

Fuzzy Logic: How old were you when you first picked up the drumsticks?
Brandon Martin: Drums were always my favorite part of a song to listen to. I remember, as a little kid, I'd play the radio in my room and I'd have a pair of chopsticks and I would set my pillows up as drums, and I'd play along to songs on the radio that I liked. I was probably 9 or 10. As for actually playing drums, that took a bit of time. I joined my first band when I was 13, but back then I played guitar and bass. I always watched the drummer though, and when there was a break in practice I'd jump behind the kit and try and replicate what I had seen him do. It was a perhaps tedious way to learn how to play, but it worked I suppose.

FL: Which drum is the best drum and why?
BM: I'm going to have to go with the kick drum. The kick drum is the thundering backbone of pretty much any song that utilizes a drum set. If we're talking non-standard drums, I might have to go and say the timpani drum is a personal favorite. They are so dramatic, it is insane.

FL: Who's your favorite drummer of all time?
BM: My favorite drummer of all time would have to be Mr. Dave Grohl. Probably not the most original answer to this question, but it is what it is. Listening to Dave Grohl play drums made me want to be a drummer, plain and simple. Matt Barrick os the Walkmen is another favorite.

FL: Singing drummers: On the cool side like Levon Helm or on the questionable side like Phil Collins?
BM: I find it a bit distracting when drummers sing, personally, just because I know that I can't do that, so I watch very intently trying to see if there is some trick to it. Haven't been able to find the trick yet though.

FL: Say you break a stick during a show and you have no spares. What do you do?
BM: Break the remaining stick in two and continue.

mp3: Actor Out of Work (St. Vincent Cover) (The Snowy Owls from Yr Eyes)

[photo by Matt Klimas]

Otherwise Engaged: Hammer No More The Fingers

It is an unfortunate reality for the serious concertgoer that on occasion, there will be more than one show on any given night that you really, really, REALLY wanna go to. Since the vast majority of us don't own a time machine, nor have the ability to either clone ourselves or split ourselves in half (or thirds or quarters, depending on the night in question), this tends to present a problem. Difficult decisions are made based on a multitude of variables (perhaps some of you even make lists of pros and cons), and ultimately, a show is chosen. But those other shows are still gonna be killer, and I'd like to give a little face time to the shows that, while I can't go myself, are highly recommended all the same.

Now all y'all DC friends, I certainly don't expect ALL of you to be driving down en masse to the fabulousness at Republic Thursday evening (i.e. Mittenfields & The Snowy Owls). So for those of you that aren't making the drive down to RVA, there's actually quite a bit for you to be getting up to. One of the most highly-recommended such outing is seeing my favorite Carolinian 90s college rock revivalists and all around awesome dudes Hammer No More The Fingers. I've been managed to miss them the past few times they've been in town, which I chalk up to cruel fate. HNMTF sandwiches The Sol Bandits and Make Love And War over at DC9 Thursday, so do plan accordingly.

mp3: It's About Caring (Hammer No More The Fingers from Black Shark)