Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bury Him Far From His Reconstruction Era Sadness

Jason Killingsworth, the deputy editor at Paste Magazine, is quoted in a praising review of Joe Pug's talent to say, "Twenty years from now, lazy journalists will compare every halfway decent songwriter to Joe Pug. Mark my words." Listening to Messenger, Pug's debut LP, it's hard not to feel the resonance. One of the more stunning and original tracks from Joe Pug's debut is the harrowing and stunning Bury Me Far (From My Uniform):

"Just bury me far from my uniform / so God might remember my face / From the iron cross medal I would have worn / From the statues that sisters and widows mourn / From the newspaper clipings and microform / From Geneva to Hague and Nuremburg / From the sex of this world that I'll no longer taste"

Like the majority of the album, it's played naked and acoustic. His voice seems almost coated with the depression of the characters he sings. I'm sure other tracks will become radio popular on college indie stations around the country (as he is getting big in the ol' blog hemisphere), and Dylan-esque adjectives will be applied, as they should, but I'm stuck on the power of Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)--a single track on a great album.

Thanks Pug's digital ingénue, you can stream Messenger (out now) below.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hey Stop By

Many folk-rock bands, that have considerable "Indie" strength, skip the DFW area for reasons unknown to me. Please come by The Morning Benders. We would like to see you. This heartwarming, Phil Specter-esque video of the Benders with John Vanderslice, and some dudes from Girls is proof in the pudding that they should come.

The Benders just released a healthy tour (here), and are stopping plentifully in SXSW--but alas not Dallas.

Review: Nick Oliveri (Acoustic), Aquaholics, Pure Luck @ Doublewide

Three facts from the other night--
1) A Yukon Trail bearded man sang into the microphone, while simultaneously smoked cigarette
2) Nick Oliveri fan confronted insanely loud woman, "Hey how about watching the show?" to which she replied, "No! I'm going to talk to my friend Dana!" (Or Dianne? not sure)
3) Jeff Pinkus was wasted

A hairy evening, for sure. Because it was a packed show, and there were so many moments of musical force, head splitting loudness and tech screw-ups, I'm going to break the evening down into a series of short phrases:

Talking. Bad sound. Shiner Bock in can. Pure Luck is hard as nails, cocaine country. Jagermeister shots in plastic cups, thrown down vigorously when done. Story about a cool fight John Iskander got in. Crazy women pets friend's dreadlocks. Weirded out. Aquaholics are smoking, Dick Dale rock. Fun. Another beer? More shots for band. Sweaty forehead and pits. That guys shirt says "Fuck" on it, a lot. Nick Oliveri is screaming and bald. It takes hefty courage to play acoustic metal (oxymoron?) solo. Long set. Breaks string. Takes requests. Three fans sing "Cocaine Rodeo" to close the show, one is a friend. Me excited for friend. Poster signing. Afraid to to talk to Nick Oliveri in fear of being eaten from the eyeballs down. Bartender screams, everyone out.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Somebody's Darlin' at Good Records, Willie Nelson's Ghost

Somewhere in between brisket and brain melting Texas heat, there's the familiarity of Somebody's Darlin'. For example, the cover of their S/T debut album is a black and white candid of the band chillin' at a bar, whiskey and beer in ready reach. I have the taste of 'tabbecer' brewin' in my lip already. Oh, the thing is: they can really play. Last week, SD celebrated the national release of their S/T album at Good Records, and it couldn't have been stronger. Minus the criminality of bad volume control lessening the impact of Amber Farris's voice, the band as a whole was spot on. "Horses," the opening track to the debut, was as good as any Cardinals / Ryan Adams hybrid out there. "Chug Chuggin'" was heartwarming and showcases Darlin's softer side. "Penny of Thoughts" was through-and-through country (the good kind) that a pair of boots suddenly appeared in my hand, and the ghost of Willie Nelson gently pushed me through the saloon doors of a Austin bar, where country musicians turned and smiled in a grand ballroom like the final scene in Titanic. Oh Willie Nelson's ghost (not dead), take me into the abyssal deep. Lead me by your wrinkly hand. The lights are growing dim. It's really heaven. Look! There's Bocephus by the keg! Wait, he wrote that Monday Night Football thing get him outta' here. I welcome ya'll, Somebody's Darlin'. For your wicked country rock warms our whiskey ready hearts.

Somebody's Darlin' S/T debut is out now via Palo Duro Records.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review: Jeff the Brotherhood & Screaming Females @ The Lounge Dallas

For a one-and-a-half person band, Jeff the Brotherhood is loud. Half because the guitarist played with only three strings. I don't mean "they broke mid-way through the set"--I'm talking the strings were patiently removed beforehand so that power chords would be the only thing you would hear. Which I noticed when guitarist, Jeff Orrall, took his extra long XLR cable for a heavy metal ride down the hallway all the way to the bar. That's about the time everyone at the bar turned their heads and shut the hell up.

Jeff the Brotherhood is, yes, two brothers: Jeff and Jake Orrall in vintage tees, smokers thin jeans and long 70's haircuts. For a heavy rock-punk band, the kind with metaphors of graveyards and smoke, they were surprisingly focused. Drummer Jake seemed to be on some sort of mega rhythm drug, keeping karate-punch fast drum beats in perfect pace. Jeff's voice live, however, is not the greatest thing you've ever heard, but with songs like "I'm a Freak" and "Screaming Banshee," what's the difference? That said, you have to hear their sound. My first blush impression was "Eh, I've heard this before in another bar," but their focus and timing were so strong it held attention. It was so strong that the audience wasn't really sure when they finished songs (it didn't help they actually had music playing when Jeff tuned his guitar): the songs rang out to the vibrant sound of not-clapping. In this setting, they were a perfect opening band. Granite freaking hard, loud and just...awesome.

Before the Screaming Females (pictured above) came on, a tiny woman in a Norman Bates floral print dress was drifting through the audience. I noticed her because she was so damn small (belly button high to the dude next to me), and her dress was something from Grandma's closet. This is lead singer Marissa Paternoster. Next, let me pause any sense of journalistic language and grammar here, they annihilated my face with rock and bone. Dude, Marissa Paternoster can wail! Jarret Dougherty and "King Mike" on drums and bass, respectively, can wail too! "Bell," from their LP Power Move, was a near perfect Dinosaur Jr. guitar homage, and some leopard scream rock howls from Paternoster; "Baby Teeth" was just as fast and completely furious, with catchy lyrics:

"i am tired of your mouth/ when you're talking about/ the injustice of speech/ on a bus to the beach"

Honestly, I liked every minute. The thrashing drums, the syrup heavy bass, and the god the solos. They were melting the corduroy off every single hipster jacket. Marissa Paternoster is a force of freaky nature on stage, with seemingly endless larynx wind speeds. Without her, the band becomes another hard punk cog in the machine, though a damn good one. Take a look at some of her lyrics (from "What if Someone is Watching Their T.V.?"):

"this a nice place that you've been living in/ all processed in cans / tricking black ponies into a crippled dance/ buried in the sand"

So, she takes it to new levels of scream vision. Luckily, The Females are on tour in the near future with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Here's a straight rule: I like any band that makes their guitars sound like harmonizing puma screams.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rock Me Like a ______________ Austin Band

In an interview from 2009, Trey Pool, guitarist of THE GARY, told Madeloud that they would be doing a record around the theme of hurricanes and hailstorms. The album turned out to be exactly that: the sound of a hurricane. Logan, which was digitally released in 2009 and set to be physically released next month, has enough thrashing guitars to blow your curtains off the pole.

I like tracks like “Ancient Music” and “Don’t Send Me There” that sound rough and powerful, as though they sweated the making of it. The opening verse from the 7th track, “Hurricane Radio” slows the rock down:
 “Hurricane radio 1,2,3 / I detect my memory trying to out run me …is this a vague broadcast / do you read me?”

It's the gruff, last broadcast of a dying relationship. This is the metaphor of Logan, and the musical elements used are earthen and gruff. There’s no ease in this album. The bass is fiery and the guitar has that ragged, fevered sound that you can hear in good garage bands from Texas. I agree with Austin Sound’s analysis (here) that these guys are more than a one-noter, and like Ryan Adam's fertility- drugged-birthing of multiple country-blues records (or, really, Whiskeytown's rose metaphors), there is room to grow.

The Gary's Logan is available now in print and mp3.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Low Anthem in a Rail Car (and then at the Granada)

Low Anthem - This God Damned House - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

If you were at the Granada around Halloween of last year, you might have caught The Dallas Family Band outside, in their wicked high school band uniforms, thumping drums and piccolo-ing. If you were there around October 28th, and had eagle-keen eyes, you might have noticed that members of the Low Anthem had donned dorky band jackets and joined the fun.

The Low Anthem is an unsuspecting band. Their Steinbeckian folk rock is studded with poetic images of loneliness, empty rooms, American horizons, and of course, birds. The above is one of their best examples, "This God Damn House" (beautifully lit and filmed by La Blogetheque in a railway car outside New York City). Even better news is the glorious, undeterred by SXSW show they have at the The Granada, March 17th. Make sure you catch it, or it will flutter away. Ok that was dramatic, but you should go because they play clarinets, clavinets, and a big harpsichord.

Have You Seen the Mountain Man?

One day, stacks of books (or eBooks or laser books or something) in some faded library will point to the first half of the 2000's and the following decade as a folk revolution. In the meantime, all you have to do is search Myspace. Mountain Man has the sound you're looking for (if you're into hardcore, elvish folk)--soil and trees and elemental strings. They're bringing Appalachian sounds to SXSW in March, but in the meantime check out this video, by artist Yours Truly, which perfectly compliments their harmonies. Ironically, their songs rarely are about the machinations behind concrete or man-made tunnels.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: Menkena @ City Tavern in Dallas (Hey, it's shoegaze!) Feb 6th

Have you ever tried to run in a pool? There's a feeling of permanent slow motion, as though you're about to die in a Hollywood action sequence. If you add a heavy dose of stargaze & shoegaze, you have Menkena. Saturday at the City Tavern was all the shoegaze you could stand in one night, which required as much Shiner Bock as I could muster. Menkena is a synaesthesia of a lot of elements. Mollasses. Syrup. Cosmic bathtub. Rooftop winter smoking. I imagine if you had mind altering substances, or an overdose of insulin, it would feel like a trip to the Milky Way, but if you're a member of a half-drunk Texas audience it can lean towards melodrama.

Menkena consists of Jimmy Menkena (guitar, vocals), Mike Simmons, Nolan Thies (of Little Black Dress local Dallas fame), and Brent Elrod. If you haven't seen Jimmy, he's an easy man to spot in a honky tonk--he has a sleeve of tattoos up both arms and a big scoop of curly black hair and thick chops which gives him the Alan Palomo look. I would love to post which Menkena songs were best, and which ones had the most exciting lyrical storytelling, but I was lost in two sensations that made me forget to get a tracklist:

1) Each song made me think I was the Silver Surfer, riding comet speed past Jupiter.
2) Wouldn't if be funny if I were running in slow motion to these songs with my hand outstretched towards the ocean?

Honestly, most Menkena songs sound the same. It doesn't mean they don't make it work--"Red in the Morning" has cool, slowburn guitar that The Edge would be proud of; "I'm One" is a good love song fix. But shoegaze is a take it or leave it genre. You either want it, or you don't. Menkena takes it on the way the Bravo Channel likes to air Real Housewives of Whatever City. It's all over the place, man. It's plastered on the walls. Each song was a cosmic wave of sound, a scintillating reverb of guitar; a acoustic wonderwall. Personally, I find Menkena the kind of band you'd want to go to alone, to nurse a beer and discover new thoughts. For your next Menkena show, bring your Moleskin. You'll be happy you did.

Menkena is in the studio now, according to their Myspace, so look out for an album at your local hang soon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

More Ray at Your Church

Is there anything cooler than a experimental acoustic band from Austin playing in a church? Balmorhea, pronounced Bal-more-ray, is set to release their new LP 'Constellations' at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin on February 19th. Damien Jurado is on board to accompany, so it promises to be lush enough to shatter some stained glass.

The band is busy. Along with a fat US tour, the band has a Daytrotter session to be released Feb. 23rd, a SXSW stint for Western Vinyl in March, and then it's off to the Netherlands. If all that's boring to you, listen to the brooding song, "Bowsprit," from the new album. You can practically hear the ship's bow dipping into the silvery sea, or of a flag going up a post, or the Master and Commander crew drinking grog quietly in bed.

It's all very serious, but it's still very good. For your art kicks, check out Balmorhea's newly revamped website. It's possibly the most haunting band site ever.

Balmorhea - Bowsprit

No Electrocution this Time

In 2005, Lo-Fi Chorus frontman Erik Thompson was electrocuted, in a gentle reminder that sometimes machines rule us, by faulty equipment at the Cavern in Dallas. His drummer Erik Issacmen kicked a drum and split, but Chad Walls, as Noah Bailey at the Observer reported, put a sock over the microphone and kept the show going.

This is the tenacity of a good-times alt country band. They brought their act back to The Cavern last night, with no technical issues, and it couldn't have been more honest. An adjective I would pick is Kristoffersony. Or, Billy Bragg-esque. They had a Texas flag hastily clipped to the drum, and Erik Thompson had a beat up leather jacket under his harmonica holder. True to the name, some songs were simply Thompson's deep bass notes, and Chad Walls' iPhone synthesizer. Sound fun? It was. No frills. Just bar-country-rock. This was my first experience with Lo-Fi, so my reaction after a robust set was to ask for more band members--a fiddle player? Maybe a big guy with sunglasses and a sexy bass?

Thompson and the rest of the Chorus have a local reach right now (the above, lowlight Youtube video from 2008 is about the only online presence they have)...but that's because they're a local band. They don't have an annoying Twitter feed, and their website goes to a generic domain. Who cares when the music is as honest as a toothpick?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Best Post Punxatawny Phil Concert

Despite what the first verse of Yours Truly, The Commuter reports, Jason Lytle has not been left for dead. He's full of epinephrine; the same vinegar that got him through Grandaddy. His new project, Admiral Radley, is a collaboration between Jason Lytle, former Grandaddy frontman (and friend to the Big D), and Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza & Ariana Murray. It's difficult to pinpoint online -- they don't have a myspace page and the Google search goes about one page deep. So what do they sound like? To find out, you will have to attend the Best Under The Radar Show of the spring season in Dallas: The Low Anthem with Admiral Radley @ The Granada, March 17th.

If you don't know The Low Anthem, then you don't know one of the best folk albums of last year Oh My God Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch). Their particular brand of Steinbeckian Americana has been in Dallas before, but under the umbrella of Blind Pilot. This is their first headlining show. Listen to the minimalistic, soaring Charlie Darwin and the feral, sky melting "Champion Angel." It's poetry (is that too cliche? I don't care.)

There's lots of shows to attend post Punxatawny Phil in Dallas, but I assure you this will be one of the best.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Revenge on the Orange Bearded Man (Why Dallas Doesn't Suck)

A few months ago, The Soft Pack played at The Cavern in Dallas. There were maybe ninety people there, forty-five more than the "maximum occupancy" listed on the road sign near the swinging doors. It was loud and chowder-soup warm in the bar (so was the beer) and the lights were dim enough that you couldn't see the black x on your hand. Even louder were three guys next to me, who I tried to avoid by leaning coolly on the metal pole next to me. One of the guys had a thick orange beard and a big gut, and he drunkenly debated what he should drink at such a volume that anyone in the bar could have suggested "decaf" or sleepy time tea. These three dudes spent the first half of the show overcheering, projecting some weird, undeserved guilt that was later confirmed when the orange bearded guy yelled to the band,

"Sorry Dallas sucks man! Austin is way better."

The Soft Pack continued to play, uncaring and having a California blast. They rip-roared through their electric surf rock and macabre punk. The mood was high, so it makes sense that a few songs later the orange bearded guy bought the band apology shots. I guess for having to play in such a terrible place? He put the glasses on stage with a cocky grin showing beneath his nuclear beard.

So to prove that guy wrong, I want to post four musical based reasons why Dallas Doesn't Suck (in this first half of 2010):

1) Akron / Family with Warpaint @ The Granada, Feb. 25
2) Abe Vigoda (the band, not the man) with The Vivian Girls @ The Lounge, March 16th
3) BROFEST 2010 a festival of music including Dum Dum Girls, Slang Chickens, Those Darlins and a big heaping handful of other underground bands that will melt your teeth
4) Dawes with Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons @ The Cavern, March 4th

As a special bonus piece of news to Mr. Orange Bearded Man, The Soft Pack will be back for Bro Fest, as announced today by John Iskander over at Parade of Flesh. I will be there, along with several other great shows, watching and waiting for you, Mr. Beard Man: poised with verbal brass knuckles to show you why Dallas kicks butt musically.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dying Was Much Better (Odd Blood Album Review)

Melancholy dying is a common theme in modern blues inspired rock, but few have done it so thrillingly (or so happily) as Yeasayer's first album All Hour Cymbals. With a bell toll piano and a piercing baby scream, "Sunrise" began the album with a inspired new version of an over-used Carpe diem motif:

"The sky cracked a million ways making me blind / and as the trees grew higher and higher / and the fish began to fly/ I went and stole some wings / and thought why can't I"

Then, the album closed with the remarkable (if you have surround sound) funeral dirge "Red Cave": a mystical celebration at the swirling end. A musical heaven, equivalent to the Northern Lights:

"I went out past the willow and the well / caught my breath upon the hill / at the edge of the domain"

A well executed concept in a very over-used theme: dying, real good. Now we have Yeasayer's sophomore attempt, Odd Blood, to be released February 2nd via a shiny new label (Secretly Canadian). My first impression was the same thrill that opened All Hours--"Grizelda" is like a lost Paul McCartney track fronted by Anand Wilder's well seasoned voice. Grizelda is layered with programmed beats and a delicatessen of influences and world beats. Anand's harmonies are seamless and interesting. That's about the last inspiration I had. The rest of the album takes on the derivative shape of a worn nightclub. Alternate singer Chris Keating's fronted songs are hollowed out, 90's melodrama rock like "I Remember" and "Ambling Alp":

"I remember making out on the airplane / Still afraid of flying but with you I'd die today."
(more after the jump)

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