Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Singles Club: The Cinnamon Band

Lord knows I like covers. I also like The Cinnamon Band. Coincidentally, the Charlottesvilleish duo just announced their plans to undertake a little series they're calling 12x12, otherwise known as their "attempt to get busy and stir the pot in 2012 by releasing a free cover song download approximately every month." A rather admirable undertaking, if you ask me. Especially since they're giving each and every cover away free of charge.

The first installment in this series of a dozen delightful covers is the band's treatment of "The Hammond Song," as originally done by The Roches. The simplicity and the earnestness with which The Cinnamon Band recorded the song makes it a must-have. To me, it's ever so slightly reminiscent of early 80s Bruce, with that warm, enveloping ease to it. I predict, friends, that the more you listen to "The Hammond Song," the more you're going to love it.

Free For All: Grammar

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.

Thursday is the sort of officially unofficial start to the weekend, and this coming Thursday happens to be making a pretty hefty effort towards making sure the DC weekend begins with a bang. Detroiters Prussia come a-calling at DC9, and joining them are local impish indie dance-party-pop-rock types Grammar. To get everyone good and in the mood for Thursday night's party times, Grammar has offered up their Are We Having Fun Yet? EP, six songs of cheeky, good time hijinks. So why not get a jump on the weekend and give Grammar some headphone love?

mp3: Kelsey (Grammar from the Are We Having Fun Yet? EP)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Frame-Worthy #1: The Diamond Center/White Laces/Super Vacations/The Snowy Owls 1/20/12

I don't know about y'all, but I'm a sucker for a good piece of show posterage. The medium really took off in the 60s, when those incredible psychedelically-influenced posters began to grace the music-loving world with their brilliant colors and wonderfully maddening swirls. These days, poster art is alive and well. Naturally, I've decided it's a subject worth paying attention to.

It's fitting that the first poster I'm going to bring to your attention was designed by Matt Klimas, seeing as he did design the FL logo. Not only is Matt a rather intrepid designer, he's also a musical multi-tasker (example a: The Snowy Owls, who played a killer set at this very show). I love pretty much everything about this poster, from the simplicity of the color palette to the giggle-worthy kitties at the bottom. It's great, in my humble opinion.

Crossing The Pond: The Creeping Ivies

Ivy, in plant form, can creep, crawl, or occasionally cover entire buildings. The Creeping Ivies of Dundee, Scotland, do a whole lot of rockin' and rollin'.

Dastardly duo Becca Bomb and Duncan Destruction list influences ranging from The Stooges to The Cramps to The Ramones, and imagining those three engaged in scandalous sonic behavior isn't a bad place to start when pinpointing the modus operandi of The Creeping Ivies. The twosome specialize in stripped-down, taut as fuck, rough rock and roll, with Becca's voice taking on an almost guttural, deep growl as Duncan maniacally, mechanically inflicts some pain on his drums.

They're a bit spooky, these Ivies, a bit ghastly in their audacious, no-frills noise. And I do believe I rather like them, oh yes indeed.

mp3: Head To Tail (The Creeping Ivies from the Rock'n'Roll Party EP)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Meet The Missionaries

You might recall, dear friendlings, that upon recapping my first MaCRoCk experience from this past April, I commented on how verily much I had enjoyed watching the expansive, enchanting Roanoke outfit The Missionaries. What started off as a solo project for Seanmichael Poff (member of those magical Young Sinclairs) grew and grew and grew until heaven knows how many folks meander in and out of the music-making.

The number of Missionaries is of little concern, really. What matters here is how lovely the music being made is. And The Missionaries, friends, make some awful pretty music. It's a little like taking the beautiful 60s-slanted psych trips of The Young Sinclairs to foggy mountain mornings, branches dropping leaves on a gentle breeze and elfin voices bouncing from hill to hill as mist undulates and pulses through the trees. Indeed, the band says it themselves. "Let's take to the hills," they say in the triumphant "What Cannot Be Broken."

Fans of rambling, spellbinding earthen folk loveliness should most certainly not miss out on The Missionaries.

mp3: USO (The Missionaries, free for a limited time - more here)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Top 20 Shows Of 2011

Yes, little rock'n'roll lambs, it's about that time. Well, it's probably technically past that time, but my friends all know I'm always fashionably late, and the same principle applies to my year-end review. Unlike 2010, when I went to 100 shows (which sure felt like a lot), I wasn't on a forced march. And while I took in fewer shows, the quality of these didn't decrease in the slightest.

You see, I had originally intended this list to be just 11 shows long, but so difficult was my decision that I did the only rational thing and expanded my list to the 20 most favorite shows of all of annum 2011. I hope you'll enjoy this little list, and heck, maybe you were at one or two of these shows with me. It's a list definitely heavy with the usual suspects, but I suspect that just means those bands are pretty amazing live and in person. So thanks to all the bands, for being wonderful, and to the folks who might have happened to go to these shows with me.

I couldn't possibly dream of ranking these shows, they're all rather near to my heart. Instead, let's take a romp chronological style, shall we?

1. The Moondoggies @ Iota - 1/28/11

2. Gang Of Four @ 9:30 Club - 2/9/11

3. A Place To Bury Strangers/Hooray For Earth @ Motorco - 3/11/11

4. MaCRoCk 2011, Harrisonburg, VA - 4/1/11-4/3/11

5. The Black Angels @ 9:30 Club - 4/3/11

6. Wire/Weekend @ Black Cat - 4/7/11

7. The Fresh & Onlys/Crocodiles/Young Prisms @ Black Cat - 4/25/11

8. Generationals/Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. @ Iota - 5/17/11

9. Tallahassee @ Bella - 7/2/11

10. Ringo Deathstarr @ Golden West - 7/4/11; @ Sprout, Richmond - 7/5/11

11. Bad Behaviour starring White Laces, The Late Virginia Summers, Canary Oh Canary @ Bella - 8/18/11

12. Weekend @ DC9 - 9/7/11

13. Hopscotch 2011, Raleigh, NC - 9/9/11-9/11/11

14. The Zombies @ Montgomery College - 9/16/11

15. Instant Pleasure Fest @ Strange Matter, Richmond - 9/24/11

16. Jeff Mangum/A Hawk & A Hacksaw @ 2640 - 9/27/11

17. STPP Fest (Fuzzy Logic Showcase) @ The Islander - 10/8/11-10/9/11

18. The Black Angels/Dead Meadow/Spindrift @ Ottobar - 11/1/11

19. Gringo Star @ Black Cat - 11/13/11

20. The Snowy Owls/Mittenfields @ Republic, Richmond - 12/1/11

m4a: Top Twenty (The Undertones from The Undertones)

[photo by Megan Petty]

Free For All: East Ghost

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.

It pleases me greatly to be able to share this next little burst of music with you, fair folks. East Ghost not only hails from the East Coast (naturally), but right here in this very metropolis. They've also got one heck of an adorable little ghostie mascot, which certainly adds to their appeal.

The local quartet bleeds all sorts of pretty emotiveness, very much in a vein reminiscent of the dramatically divine Editors. Their five-song EP St. Elizabeth's is full of sweeping, earthily ethereal soundscapes and haunting melodies, proving DC can indeed put out some lovely tunes (and not just the loud stuff). Theirs is the stuff of misty mornings and mutedly glowing sunsets, slow burning all the while.

mp3: Godspeed (East Ghost from the St. Elizabeth's EP)

LP Lust: Mild Winter Edition

I've realized that it's been almost two months since I last shared the fruits of some record-buying spoils with you my darlings. My apologies. I've also realized that I haven't done enough record shopping lately, so ready yourselves for more frequent posts about how I've spent my hard-earned cash.

For now, I've got a few titles to share with you, gathered from hither and thither (or pretty much from a recent Richmond jaunt and from a very recent rummage in the most excellent stacks at Som). This batch has a decidedly retro country feel, and I went out on a major limb buying a few of these and not knowing a thing about them.

However, as you know, I'm a proponent of buying records one knows nothing about. 99% of the time I find myself pleasantly surprised by such purchases. And that's my message of the day to you, friends. Go forth and buy spontaneously!

* Various - Golden Country Hits Million Sellers

* Tex Ritter/Bob Jones - 12" split

* Tammy Wynette - Another Lonely Song

* Emmylou Harris - Evangeline

* Mariachi Miguel Dias - Mexico!

* Various - This Is Russia

* Dukes Of Dixieland - Up The Mississippi with The Dukes Of Dixieland, Vol. 9

* Lee "Scratch" Perry - Satan Kicked The Bucket

* East Village - Circles

* The Hassles - Hour Of The Wolf

* Wire - A Bell Is A Cup

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Singles Club: Tiny Victories

I think the beginning of the year is the absolute best time of year to post this particular song by Brooklyn transplants Tiny Victories. There's just something about this song that holds the promise of the new, the unfamiliar, and the exhilarating.

"Lost Weekend" is big, complex, and plenty interesting, with a heady ambrosia of bleeps and the wonderful, masterfully authoritative vocals of Greg Walters. Walters, a former foreign correspondent, and his partner in Tiny Victories crime Cason Kelly, have been joined up since 2010. Their debut EP, Those Of Us Still Alive, will be self-released on the band's own BirdDog Records. I don't know about y'all, but I for one am pretty dang excited to hear the rest of what Tiny Victories hath created.

mp3: Lost Weekend (Tiny Victories from the forthcoming Those Of Us Still Alive EP)

Free For All: The Bats Pajamas

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.

Oh, Canada. Our Northerly neighbor types have given us plenty of good tunes to make up for those questionable imports (Baywatch babes, certain comedians, and a Celine). I'd like to bring to your collective attention, friends, another Canadian band I'm definitely going to keep an eye on: The Bats Pajamas. This trio of Toronto-ans plays a gritty, almost campy style of garage, a sound they describe as a "mix between The Cramps, Nirvana, and The Stooges." All told, that's not a bad way to think of The Bats Pajamas. They've got a spare, yet rather noisy instrumentation thing going, and vocals that get a little Queens Of The Stone Age kooky one minute and all serious the next.

The band is currently putting the finishing touches on their sophomore effort, but in the meantime, they're offering up their debut, self-titled record completely free of charge. Yes, that's right. An entire album for no dollars. And no cents. That's one heck of a deal, friends. I'm listening to it right this minute, and it's rather enjoyable.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Good Ship Rediscovery: The Five Americans – The Best Of The Five Americans

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?

We're gonna go a ways back today, my loves, all the way back to the golden, glorious 60s. The Five Americans were totally off my radar for a long, long time, and then one day I took a chance and just happened to get the Best Of you see pictured here. It's a thing I often do, get my hands on a recording by a band I know nothing about, and this time it ended well. The wandering gents of The Five Americans ended up in Dallas, and over their brief lifespan (5 years at most) churned out some interesting pop rock.

The Best Of offers up a crash course on The Five Americans, going for the win right off the bat by installing the chugging, dang catchy "I See The Light" as first song. You can hear the mid-60s all over the place, from the slightly tinny, metronomic drums to the organ to the nice echo of the guitars (a sound that reminds me almost of what bands like The Strange Boys are getting up to today). "Western Union" trends more towards the poppy end of the spectrum, with smoother, more polished vocals and more of a storyline for lyrical content. The songs, when compared, really show the duality of the band over its' recording life. But be they poppier or more aggressive, the songs are all good.

"The Losing Game" reminds me, instrumentally, of some madcap mix of a Leonard Cohen and Burt Bacharach song, melancholy but so very gently played. As I listen, I see a sun-drenched band of five, playing wistfully and looking moody in the middle of a ghost town. On "Good Times," the yelping, rougher vocals return, and so does the tougher attitude ("I don't need you/cuz I need my good times"). The keys are worked to a maddening froth, and the song is most certainly in a tizzy.

We go back to the pop side in "Now That It's Over," a song that reminds me of an American, more laid-back version of The Zombie's "I Love You." It's less frantic and less forceful, but has some sonic similarities to be sure. "Evol - Not Love" got my attention for the name, but I'm also a fan of the slightly saccharine song as a whole. It's a good 60s pop song, this one. "Don't Blame Me" goes back to the huffing and puffing and darker side of The Five Americans. For some reason, at times the vocals almost remind me of the MC5, though certainly much tamer. As for the song "Virginia Girl," it gets bonus points for the name alone, and is 60s sweetness personified.

There are 25 songs on this Best Of, which ought to be plenty of time in which to win you over. The split personalities of the band's recordings make for an interesting listen, and if you've not yet met The Five Americans, I hope you'll enjoy your introduction to them.

m4a: I See The Light (The Five Americans from The Best Of The Five Americans)

Live Review: Gringo Star @ Black Cat, 11/13/2011

I love seeing Gringo Star. I love going to shows at the Black Cat. So guess what happened when those darling Atlantans Gringo Star played the Black Cat once again? I'll give you a hint: yours truly was a very happy little lady. It was quite a different experience, this show, given what happened the last time I saw my favorite Gringos (which, sadly, did not end well at all). And that, friends, is a very good thing.

When the first filmy fingers of fog began seeping into the Black Cat's backstage, I couldn't help but start flashing back to Macrock 2011, when Gringo Star's set met an untimely end thanks to an overly sensitive sprinkler system and an agitated Harrisonburg Fire Department. It was a curious, though in truth very rock'n'roll ending to a festival that had been otherwise excellent. Happily, the Black Cat's fire prevention seems to be more used to smoke machines, and a repeat premature shutdown was avoided.

Good thing, too, because those four Gringos were in pretty rare form. As I discovered when I first listened to newest record Count Yer Lucky Stars, their penchant for paying homage to early Kinks and Hollies and Zombies had been allowed to expand into the fringes of psychedelia, mirroring somewhat the path charted by their forefathers. And I have to say that as verily as I enjoy the recorded works of Gringo Star, there's nothing quite like seeing them ripping through their rockness in the flesh.

The set was a great mix of old and new, demonstrating how comfortably their songs can rub shoulders while gettin' the heck down. Old favorite "All Y'all" was dandy, all sass and swagger and good, good times. "Count Yer Lucky Stars" was also sensational, with extra kudos to the ridiculously rip-roaring drummery. I'd say the band sounded rougher around the edges than recorded, as they had the first few times I'd seen them, and the extra attitude definitely became them. "I Will Not Follow" had a palpable pluckiness, the jangle of Gringo Star sneering just a touch as they galavanted across the stage.

The fog machine eventually coated the Black Cat with a feeling somewhat akin to summertime; air hung with moisture and that haunting mist of fake fog. By the time the Gringos got around to "Ask Me Why," probably my favorite song of the set, I was already counting my lucky stars that lightning hadn't struck twice and they had made it past their third song without getting shut down. As for "Ask Me Why," it had some extra spice in there with all that rollicking rocking and rolling.

"Shadow," first song off Count Yer Lucky Stars, was an instant new favorite. Very, very big, and is one of those songs that sees the gents moving into richer, more expansive sonic territory. I fell in smit with "Make You Mine" as well, a sweet little ditty that came across as altogether disalarmingly charming. Now there's a song with one heck of a good little shimmy that just aches to be danced to. The Gringos closed with a fiery "Holding Onto Hate," all wailing guitars and undeniable, tuneful noise.

All in all, those boys of Gringo Star once again did right by DC somethin' proper. Yours truly was well pleased, y'all, well pleased indeed. Hot damn.

mp3: You Want It (Gringo Star from Count Yer Lucky Stars)

[photo courtesy the official Gringo Star Facebook]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Live Review: The Black Angels/Dead Meadow/Spindrift @ Ottobar, 11/1/2011

Even before it happened, I knew this show would end up being one of my absolute favorites of the entire year. I mean, let's think about this for a minute here. The Black Angels. Dead Meadow. AND Spindrift. On the same bill. For we fans of mind-bending, brain-crushing, good old fashioned psych'n'roll, it doesn't get much better, y'all. And so it was that on All Saint's Day, saints and sinners alike flocked to the Ottobar up Baltimore way for one hell of a night.

To begin with, y'all, there really is nothing quite like walking into a room and having the spooky, kooky, psycho Spaghetti Western-leaning strains of Californians Spindrift welcome you. Singer/axe-tamer Kirpatrick Thomas once again led a highly successful charge through the spacedust-covered annals of Spindriftian lore, full of drifters and desert freakouts and obscure 60s vibes woven through again and again with some witchy, wily hoodoo. Though it had been almost a year since my first live Spindrift experience, I was reminded straight away of the simple, self-evident truth that Spindrift is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting, most beautifully eccentric bands out there making music in the modern era. Strange fruits come out of their labors, and o how I love them for it. They tickled me cotton candy dogwood pink with the inclusion of "Indian Run" in the set, and as those wacky native American rhythms and psuedo-Morricone strains went on and on I heard a thousand sweet hallelujahs. Glory be to Spindrift, and to all their unbridled sonic peculiarities.

After the Ottobar caught its breath, it was time for the heavier than heavy psych soul of Dead Meadow. Whereas Spindrift takes me there with their quixotic quirkiness, Dead Meadow seeps under my skin with every note of those hefty, mammoth songs of theirs, all dreamland dark and spun with soul. They are as loud as the day is long, Dead Meadow, and full of all things noisy and wonderful. As the club filled with people, so too did it fill with the sound of the shadows, thick puffs of smoke, and deepest, blackest night laid on thicker than pure molasses, sticky sweet and potent as all get out. Dead Meadow and their relentless crush pulls together the 60s, the 70s, and the 90s into something pulsating with tonight, right now. At times, the blues crept in, in certain rhythms, certain notes, certain vibrations. The entire set was awesome, pounding my senses into a submissive daze.

And then, then it was time for The Black Angels. This, as you know, is a band that really sets me aflame from head to toe, and it's a foregone conclusion whenever I see them that they shall be all manner of spectacular. With those dang ocularly-disorienting red and blue waves behind them, the Austinian alchemists began. From pillar to post, they were as anticipated. A fiery, feisty "Haunting at 1300 McKinley," with that smoothly gruff vocal by Alex Maas was followed by a scintillating, sultry rendition of "The Sniper," bass tuned to ferocious. When Maas delivered the line, "Take me to that fire," during "Better Off Alone," I couldn't help but think that he is actually well aware of exactly where the fire in question burns. "Telephone" was triumphant, an exalting jingle jangle with a touch of the creeps stirred into the clamor. The ending of "Bad Vibrations" was nothing short of liquefying, with all that unexpected ferocity of the song's final minute reverberating through my bones. Yet again, my one and only bone of contention with the set was the omission of the end of "Yellow Elevator #2," some of my favorite ear ecstasy of the past few years. Maybe someday they'll play that song all the way through. An encore filled with the incredible "Bloodhounds On My Trail," a hot shit brilliant version of "The Sniper At The Gates Of Heaven," not to mention a verily dynamite drone-laden attack of "Surf City (Revisited)," left me in the throes of serious delight.

If you're expecting to see this show on my Best Of '11 stuffery, friends, you've got the right idea. I was expecting to be shown a good time, and I was not only entertained but taken to the other side more times than I can count. Mercy, mercy me.

mp3: Indian Run (Spindrift from The Legend of God's Gun)