Friday, July 30, 2010
MINI RECAP: Bryan Elijah Smith & The Wild Hearts = Better Then The Average Bear! Overall score: A.
Bryan and Jeff sat themselves on the stage and proceeded to play over two hours’ worth of a mix of wonderful original material and wonderful cover songs. Let’s face it, any song that starts off with a cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” is gonna be a good one. The two of them made one heck of a pair; Bryan with his acoustic guitar and harmonica, and Jeff with his banjo. It was a simple, classic sound they made, stripped down and pure. And Bryan’s voice, well, that’s something else altogether. You know me, I’m sometimes easily impressed, but this boy has one hell of a voice on him. It’s breathy and rich, a little reminiscent of Ryan Adams and those sensational Love Is Hell EPs, along with shades of the great Joseph Arthur, but with the honesty and purity of the mountains coursing through it. Very salt of the earth, you might say. The timbre of his voice backed by the genuine simplicity of the acoustic and Jeff’s banjo was nothing short of beautiful.
Among the set were excellent covers of Creedence’s “Fortunate Son”, more Cash (“Ring of Fire”), a jaw-dropping rendition of “Wonderwall” that rivaled the Oasis original, and “Blowin’ In the Wind”, to name but a few. And I’ll just go ahead and blaspheme, but this version of “Wonderwall” eclipsed the Ryan Adams cover, in my humble opinion. Each song, cover or no, was given special care, and was played with attention to detail. Towards the end of their set, the boys took requests from the persons in attendance, and my request for the Rolling Stones was kindly granted by covers of “Wild Horses” (gorgeous) and “Dead Flowers”, which sounded a wee bit like that amazing Townes Van Zandt cover.
When it was all over, and Bryan and Jeff packed up and headed off into the night, I was left feeling totally impressed, and rather proud. Hearing a voice like Bryan’s is rare indeed, and I can’t encourage you enough to go see the guys if you happen to get the chance. Fellow Virginians, the trio has dates all over scheduled for this summer, so make sure you don’t miss ‘em.
mp3: Other Side Of Town (Bryan Elijah Smith from Forever On My Mind)
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
MINI RECAP: Wye Oak = Shiver Me Timbers! Overall score: A.
There I was, sulking away in the corner as Wye Oak set up. And then they started to play, and my little black cloud of a mood was instantly mollified. They totally caught me off guard with the sheer awesome of their live sound. Starting off with a big, beefy swell of noise, they kept things turned to 11 for the vast majority of their set. Jenn Wasner’s voice absolutely blew me away, steamy and smoky and alternately sultry and slightly snarling. The driving beat of the drum and that voice together made for quite a pairing, this is a band with big time bite. At times the band veered wildly between ethereal beauty and threatening darkness, and lord knows I love a little dark/light juxtaposition. The noise was extreme, and I loved just about everything about it. Wye Oak, on this night, was a lot more raw than the recorded material I’ve heard of theirs, and the ferocity of the set sounded some kinda wonderful to me.
I must confess, as bummed as I initially was, if I had to miss Gamble House, Wye Oak was certainly more than ample as a runner-up prize. I’d never been much of a fan, but after seeing this set, I might be more inclined to pay due diligence to Wye Oak from now on. You might should do the same.
mp3: My Neighbor (Wye Oak from My Neighbor/My Creator)
They really hit the ground running straight away this time. Volume Two seems more polished than the volume that preceded it. It’s shinier, newer, and even sleeker. “In The Sun” shimmies along with that big symphonic sweep of the golden olden days, full of Zooey’s inherent quirkiness and undeniable catchiness. “Don’t Look Back” calls to mind both early Beach Boys and classic Motown, with “doo doo doos” aplenty and a ravishing retro wash to the song’s production. “Ridin’ In My Car” is impeccable in its throwback sound, with Zooey and M. showing off fantastic boy-girl vocals and the whole shebang sounding like a soda fountain classic.
I love the mix of British Invasion sounds and that twangin’ guitar of M.’s on “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”, which also lets Zooey unleash some of that Baby Patsy Cline she’s got in that voice of her. “Gonna find somebody that’s twice as cute/cuz I didn’t like you anyhow,” she prettily pouts, as M. strums along. The acoustic guitar intro to “Sing” is pretty special, and the song itself is just another gem. “Over It Over Again” is one of my favorites, a classic She & Him song with girl group sashaying alongside country and pop to dazzling effect. O, how I love it.
Now friends, with an album of this length, you might expect some throwaway songs. Well, there aren’t any. Each and every song is as good as the one before and after it. I wasn’t sure if lightning could strike twice for this unlikely dynamic duo, but strike it did. I might still be slightly partial to Volume One, but with enough listens to Volume Two I very likely could soon be singing another tune. Hot damn, these two have found musical soulmates in each other, and I’d say we’re all pretty lucky these kids got together to make music. Now, the big question is, are we gonna have to wait this long for Volume Three?
mp3: In The Sun (She & Him from Volume Two)
Monday, July 26, 2010
Turning another page in the goodness gracious great story that is the tall, tall These United States tale, Jesse Elliott and the fantastic four (aka Robby, Justin, Colin, and Tom) that have become permanent fellows of TUS exhibit nothing short of master class on What Lasts. The record itself feels more intimate, more personal than has any TUS record before it. At times it’s even rather stone cold sobering, the more winsome musical follies of, say, Crimes, a distant memory down a dusty road in the rearview mirror. What lies ahead is the wide open, big sky country sound of maturation, the sound of melancholy, and the sound of serious contemplative introspection.
But lest you think These United States has left the good jangle behind them, fret not. Songs like the splendid “The Great River” and “Water & Wheat” proudly fly that old faithful TUS jingle pop folk banner. It must be said that the bulk of What Lasts is indeed on the more serious side of the coin, though, which while initially disquieting becomes more and more appealing as the record goes on. “Life&Death She&I” is cause for both sadness and joy, regarding the subject matter and 70s-esque feel to the beat with that foxy steel, respectively. Title track “What Lasts” is music to mope to, with the haunting, shimmery steel and Elliott’s voice taking on particularly plaintive emotional tones. They often seem to tread water that greats like The Band might approve of, and that I most certainly do.
Sure, it’s the most serious These United States record to date. It made me furrow my brow just a touch. But What Lasts is a tremendously fantastic record. And hell, I’m still waiting for Jesse to put a foot wrong when it comes to his lyrics. He once more shows the kids how to write a record full of amazing songs. They’ve come such a very long way from the gate to the garden of Eden. And yet, perhaps they’ve just come full circle. When it comes to These United States, only the old devil moon really knows. And that’s the way it ought to be.
mp3: The Great River (These United States from What Lasts)
Yes, little lads and ladettes, today is the birthday of Mister Mick Jagger, otherwise known as The Voice (or The Lips). When it comes to frontmen, there is none better than this man. Nor, possibly, will there be better. Those pouty lips, those undulating hips…his primal persona behind the mic (and probably behind closed doors, too) means that the man is and forever shall be walking sex. And let’s face it. In the realms of rock, that’s exactly how it should be.
A very hearty, lusty, and enthusiastic birthday to Mick.
mp3: Dead Flowers (Townes Van Zandt from the Big Lebowski Soundtrack)
mp3: I'm A King Bee (The Rolling Stones from England's Newest Hitmakers)
Saturday, July 24, 2010
I couldn’t ask for a better band to start things off with, given my love of those bands from north of the Borders. Dante is a band of “Edinburghers and Shetlanders who make alt folk music,” but that’s just the very vaguest of overviews of what this band does. Yes, there is indeed folk in mass quantities in their music, no doubt about it. But these wonderful souls also incorporate hearty doses of traditional Scottish music into their fine, fine songs, mostly exhibited with that fantastic fiddle. It’s a delicate balance of old and new, and it works together seamlessly, beautifully. At times you might hear shades of my beloved Idlewild, be it in the dark contemplation of the lyrics to the building walls of instrumentation present in dante’s songs. And on certain occasions, you might just think you were dancing at a traditional ceilidh somewhere in the countryside as the fiddle does cartwheels all around.
Dante is a band not to be missed, ye lords and ladies. Whet your appetite with the pair of songs below, and prepare to fall in love.
mp3: Monochrome (dante from the Monochrome EP)
mp3: This Island (dante from the Monochrome EP)
“Get Up” is a slow, dreamsicle of a song, hithering and thithering along on a placid rhythm, as cool as the other side of the pillow. If possible, “New Theory” is even cooler, icy beats and presenting itself as a perfect party-by-the-beach-fire song. Or the perfect lounge-by-the-pool-while-double-fisting-frozen-drinks kinda song. You get the idea. It’s all things lovely and summerproof. Things keep drifting along gloriously with “Hold Out”, which at three and a half minutes clocks in as the EP’s longest song. “Feel It All Around” has an air of back in the day to it, a song that certainly lives quite a life of leisure. Yet again, the downtempo meander hits the spot. “Lately”, well, that’s another hotdiggitydog song. And “You’ll See It”, friends, if you haven’t already heard it, is nothing short of hypnotic. The liveliest of the songs, it is just about perfect in every way. It’s so good you just might end up listening to it for hours, over and over and over and over. And yes, I am speaking from personal experience.
Sweltering temps regardless, Washed Out has hereby produced one of the finest damn EPs of recent memory. It’s new and old and fresh and clean and hot to trot and ice cold. I suspect I’ll adore this collection of songs just as much in the dead of winter as I do today, in the midst of the sizzle of late July. I love it so, and you might just love it too.
mp3: New Theory (Washed Out from Life Of Leisure) (song removed by request, sorry kiddos. Don't blame us.)
Friday, July 23, 2010
Free Music Friday: The Fat Assed, Not Hard, Pot Surviving, Explosive, Prestidigitatious, Hearing Impaired Version
Thursday, July 22, 2010
MINI RECAP: The Capstan Shafts = Fuzzily Fab! Twins Of A Gazelle = Not-So-Secretly Canadian! Overall score: B.
Twins Of A Gazelle got going just a few minutes after I arrived at the Black Cat. I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen so many people crammed onto that stage before, and somehow, the masses of musicians made it work. Right off the bat, something inside me said, ”I’ve heard this one before.” The brain was racked, and landed upon those cheerfully dour Canadians of the beloved Arcade Fire. Something about the vocals and the lush landscapery of all those instruments together was very much in the vein of the AF. It must be noted that violins seem to be the new black, and quite a few bands I’ve seen lately have been utilizing them to great success. While certainly less gloomy than our Northerly neighbors, locals Twins Of A Gazelle didn’t veer all that much from their sound. “We sound a little bit like this band,” they said, as a cover of “Wake Up” was thrown into the set. Truth be told, I’m not sure how I feel about a cover that sounds kinda sorta like the original version. I really dug their new single, “Constellations,” which sounded the least like the Arcade Fire of any song in their set. It was jaunty and poppy and exuberant, and hopefully that’s the direction in which the bountiful band will move.
And then, it was time for something completely different. Dean Wells, otherwise known as The Capstan Shafts, creates pretty neato lo-fi nuggets that suggest those denizens of fuzz Guided By Voices, among others. Wells, adorable as he is, showed himself to be a true frontman, eschewing instruments to direct all his energy to the task of vocalizing his lyrics. Backed by his interesting assortment of friends, Wells and his voice endeared himself to me at once. Taking his songs out of the bedroom, Wells was charmingly affable and guardedly self-deprecating, saying “We’re open to criticism. Not terribly open to criticism, but open…” The songs benefited from the expanded instrumentation, particularly that drummer, who won serious points for his take-no-prisoners approach to hitting the skins on quite a few songs. Mixing it up sonically, at times the band shredded with rock and fury, while other times the songs took a gentler, quieter tone. The lo-fi approach wasn’t the vibe of the night, for sure. There was a slight air of discomfort onstage, which kept things feeling slightly off-kilter to me during the set. Whether or not Wells would rather be back in the bedroom studio he didn’t say, but somehow the awkwardness worked, for the most part. I was rather happy to have been around for the band’s “first second show somewhere.”
It was an unusual pairing, I think, but I was still rather entertained by the musical endeavors of the two. I’d reckon both bands would be worth seeing again, and you might just want to check ‘em out, dearies.
mp3: Middles Of June (The Capstan Shafts from Fixation Protocols)
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
While we've posted tracks sponsored by Red Bull before, clearly i was uninformed on just how into the music scene your favorite vodka mixer actually is. Seems that since 1998, they've been sponsoring a traveling music academy. Essentially, they set up an HQ for two fortnight-long terms in a different musical metropolis each year, pulling "together pioneers of days-gone-by and musical legends of tomorrow from all aspects of rhythm and sound." This years' 60 participants set up shop in London, resulting in a pretty damn kick ass 41-track mixtape, bringing together some of the biggest names in instrumental electronic music. Seriously, TokiMONSTA and Oddisee on the same track? Do not pass go without picking up this bad boy. Be forewarned, however, at least i had a bitch of a time extracting the files from the zip. With that in mind, here are a couple of tracks to prove it's worth the effort of figuring it out yourself.
i've inadvertently been sitting on a mixtape from Alex Ludovico for so long now that's he's since put out another one. You might recognize AL from various mixes we've put together ourselves, but his own stuff tends to be pretty damn good by itself. Homeboy spits fiyah and tends to kick it over dope beats. Expect to hear more about and from this up and comer.