Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Live and Direct: Jim Gaffigan at the DC Improv, 6-27-10 OR The Trainwreck NOT Taken

First off, Jim Gaffigan put on a typically great show of mostly new material, though he did pull out some Doing My Time stuff towards the end. He played to his usual strengths, riffing on today's fast food culture and its inherent laziness. He did a particularly funny bit on McDonald's, and closed with one of the funnier updates on Hot Pockets i've heard in a while. As a pale, beefy Midwesterner myself, the man speaks my language. And since he cursed i think once the entire time, bringing Ma was not an issue. There is no question it was a good show. i even took my mother and sister, along with The Missus, and a good time was had by all, no doubt.


You may recall, i opined that picking up those JG tickets was going to kick me in the ass, based entirely on the fact that i later learned Courtney Love was playing the 9:30 Club that same night. Though i thought it seemed unlikely since she's allegedly clean and sober for her comeback, i knew deep in my heart of hearts that there was as good a chance as not that the one-time skank princess of my dreams would have a surefire meltdown on stage. i zigged when i should have zagged, however, and Court Court held court without me in attendance.

There's nothing like a full-blown artist meltdown on stage. The closest i ever came was watching Shane MacGowan get so drunk on-stage with the Pogues he almost fell into the crowd on multiple occasions, but that's nothing compared TO GETTING TOPLESS NOT ONCE, BUT TWICE, DURING THE SHOW!!! My old man watched Joe Cocker fall offstage twice during one show, so i feel like this one could have been my chance to compete.

Oh well. At least, Gaffigan had us laughing out loud. Still not the same thing, though.

Pauvre, pauvre pussycat.

mp3: Hooooot Pocket! (Jim Gaffigan from Doing My Time)

mp3: Dear Prudence (Hole, some live show from Courtney's old website)

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

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

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

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

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

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

mp3: Felicia (The Constellations from Southern Gothic)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Return of the Minneapolis Funk!

From time to time, there will be a rumor about Prince putting together one of his old bands again. If recent interviews and His Royal Badness' continuous descent into shithouse rat crazy are to be believed, however, there's little point in holding one's breath waiting for that to actually happen. As luck would have it, however, members of The Family (the group formed following the departure of Morris Day from The Time and the first to perform "Nothing Compares 2 U," amongst other bits of trivia) have reunited under the moniker of Fdeluxe, and it looks like they're getting ready to drop a new CD in the coming months.

i first ran across the band some months ago, i believe following a link from Wendy & Lisa's website, if memory serves. Theirs or Shelia E.'s, probably. (You bet your ass i can name drop Revolution types with the best of them, thank you very much). Fdeluxe was offering up a free single at the time, and just today i received an update from their email list informing me of a new rough mix track.

The band currently consists of St. Paul Peterson, Susannah Melvoin, Eric Leeds and Jellybean Johnson. Newer track "Gaslight" is a funk workout. Melvoin's vocals are a bit more weathered, but no less sultry. When Leeds' horns drop in, well, it's a party, 'nuff said. Johnson and Peterson provide a backbone groove you just can't find anymore these days, it sadly seems.

i suppose that's all about to change, though, isn't it? Let the Funkolution proceed!

mp3: Gaslight (Fdeluxe from Upcoming TBA CD)

Monday, June 28, 2010

At The Cinema: Breakdancing as Far as the Eye Can See

In addition to a whole mess of anime and Katt Williams specials, i somehow found myself watching the original Breakin' movie about three times whilst resting up the past couple of weeks. OK, i feel asleep while it was on more than actually, intently watching it, but it's really only about three or four dance scenes anyway, right? And while the cable channels apparently think it's fine to taunt viewers with Epi One, only to NOT show Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo, i personally find it borderline criminal. And while i'm not going to be hosting the entirety of either flick here at LET, that doesn't mean i can't post a few tracks for the community's enjoyment.

Essentially, it's the story of a couple of street dancers hooking up with a rich, white chick who helps the troubled, inner city youth take their moves to the next level of acceptance in the dance community. No, there's no confusion over Oscar overlooking any Thesbian talent here, but there are some dope moves, so you take the cheesey acting as the price of admission. Of particular interest to me is the fact that there's virtually no hip hop at all on either of these soundtracks, just a lot of dance heavy R&B. It's all good, though, because the movie does mark the first appearance of one Mr. Ice-T, so it's not all goofy BS. Which is nice.

Incidentally, i also caught Planet B-Boy this past weekend on a friend's recommendation. Whereas the Breakin' franchise was pure fiction (though we all wanna be Turbo, Ozone or Special K), Planet B-Boy was a documentary about the annual Battle of the Year breakdance dance-off held in Germany. At least according to this movie, it's the high water mark for breakdancers the world over. And get this, the U.S. isn't even a top three contender in these things. Anyway, not a bad look at the contest and the teams that made up that particular year, but it suffered badly from the whole reality TV phenomena wherein more focus is given to the teams than the actual dancing. i'd have preferred to see a lot more locking and popping and a lot less talking and jiving about living in South Korea, but to each, their own, i suppose. Unfortunately, i do not have any music to share from Planet B-Boy, but you inquisitive minds can find something, i'm sure.

So bust out your cardboard, load these tracks onto a cassette tape, blast the boom box, and let's get freaky, y'all.

mp3: Body Work (Hot Streak from Breakin' OST)

Well, shit, i guess we do have time for a couple of Breakin' moves.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Untitled Interview #45: Starring Patrick Park

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

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

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

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

LET: Playing music is:
PP: Absolutely necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LET: Shaken or stirred?
PP: Neat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FunJunkie's Summer Burn 2010, Part the Second

The Missus was more than kind enough to help me put together the covers for these mixtape masterpieces last night, so they're en route to recipients in far off lands even now. Part of the experience of FunJunkie's annual Summer Burn, you see, is the case itself.

Last year, i went shitty and just used iTunes auto-jewel-case-cover-program, which is pretty plebeian on its own. Of course, that was the year i exchanged with some graphic designer who sent me this lush, handmade piece with silk screening and the whole nine yards. So this year, i returned to my fourth grade collaging skills for the cover (pictured here) and even bought some nifty program at Best Buy that was supposed to be the shit's tits, but the paper fucked up my printer. Long story short if it's not too late already, The Missus came through like a champ, so they actually looked like they were made by more than a drunken goat herder.

If you enjoyed yesterday's foray into the mind of Uncle Terrible's summer mix mentality, here's some more of the same. Only infinitely different.

mp3: Exile (Enya from Watermark)

Friday, June 25, 2010

FunJunkie's 2010 Summer Burn!

For the fourth or fifth year in a row now, i'm participating in FunJunkie's annual Summer Burn. Essentially, the fine chaps over at the site host an annual "mix swap" with anyone who signs up to participate. To prove you're not a wanker who just wants free CDs for nothing, you have to sign up ahead of time and even send them a postcard to prove you are for reals, but other than that, it's just putting together a mix of just about anything one that you, the sender, feel is "summer-y" music. Pretty simple, eh?

In return for your efforts, you are supposed to receive two random mixes from two random folks who also are in the mix mastering mood. Unfortunately, i think i'm batting under .500 in the receipt department over the past few years, but i do it because i love making mixes. It's called the Summer Burn as CDs are due to be sent out on the actual summer solstice, but, as usual, i'm a couple of days behind. However, my mixes officially are done, i've spent all morning working on the covers, and they'll be in the mail first thing tomorrow (still need The Missus to help a bit with the covers, what with me having sausage fingers and all). But why should the fun stop with two random strangers when i can share the fruits of my loom with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of random strangers?

Now, i'm leaving a couple of tracks off these posts (Part II to follow shortly, but only allows for so many labels per post, so...) because A. i don't want to raise the ire of any lawyers bitching about recent releases and B. gotta have a lil' sumfin' special for the folks who actually signed up, right?

Many of these tracks already have been recommended here at LET, but when combined into one mix, well, they'll probably cause an aural orgasm the likes of which your undergarments may not survive, so consider yourself forewarned. For hot, sticky nights. Drugs not included, but certainly not discouraged, either.

Without further ado, Burn, Baby, Burn, Part the First.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What I Did on my Vicodin Fuelled Vacation

Did i use my recuperation time wisely, catching up on artist submissions, pontificating on the future of music distribution and determining if Gary Coleman would have fared better had he been an actual member of the Strokes, regardless of how diff'rent he might have been? Did i spend it reaching out to musicians to take their pulse on today's most riveting topics, such as who would win in a fist fight between the Black Keys and the White Stripes?

Hells no, i was flat on my back surfing a Vicodin wave and watching nothing but anime and Katt Williams specials. Life is good like that sometimes.

Return of the Lumpy One

Hello, children, i'm back from back surgery and the beautiful, wonderful wave that is doctor prescribed Vicodin. Did you miss me while i was gone? My favoritest writing partner in crime obviously did a more than splendid job during my convalescence, and hopefully i can return the favor while Meg is sojourning among the cheese eaters.

i've got a bunch of stuff to catch up on now that i have the conn temporarily, but i just wanted to put all your little minds at ease and assure you not to sweat any disruption in your daily servings of utter banality and odd ramblings that make up the posts of your Terrible Uncle Chris.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Update: Programmaticalness

It's hotter than Satan's underwear down here in the DC metro area, and as a delicate Southern belle I feel it imperative that I get the hell outta Dodge (or Hell) and escape to cooler, calmer climes. With way less humidity. So yours truly is headed to the shade of Wisconsin's North Woods for a few glorious, lake-filled days.

What all this means, little lights of my life, is that it's entirely possible I will not find internet in the wilds of the woods. And seeing as my erstwhile partner in crime is still deservedly recouping from going under the knife, well, things might be a little quiet for a few days.

But I promise, we still love you. Catch y'all on the flip side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

mp3: Marianne (Ceremony from Rocket Fire)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mp3: Terminally Chill (Neon Indian from Psychic Chasms)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ray

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

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

So many happy returns to Mister Ray Davies, CBE!

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

Album Review: Valentiger – Power Lines to Electric Times

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsflash: Win Tickets to Northside Festival 2010!

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

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

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

mp3: Julia (La Strada from New Home)

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

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

Friday, June 18, 2010

Album Review: Blue Giant – Blue Giant

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

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

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

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

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

mp3: Blue Sunshine (Blue Giant from Blue Giant)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meantime (The Futureheads from The Futureheads)

Album Review: Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils

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

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

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

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

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

mp3: Daydream (Beach Fossils from Beach Fossils)