Sugar Brown’s, Lubbock, TX
Friday, May 18, 2007
I bet that there are at least 100,000 guys trying to cut it in the acoustic-folk world – maybe even more. Thus, to stand out in this extremely crowded field, you have to have something to offer that not everyone else does. Be it showmanship, technical prowess, charm or something else, there just has to be something that sets a man and his guitar apart from all the other “man and his guitar” acts.
The interesting thing about Jacob Furr is that I can’t really pinpoint what it exactly is about him that makes him stand out. He has a winning smile and a quick humor that make him easy to like, but there’s just something about his music that is electrifying in a way I can’t explain. Take “Redemption,” for example. A simple, beautiful little fingerpicked song with a slightly syncopated, wide-eyed vocal line above it. Even though that’s a good description of the song, it doesn’t convey the quiet sense of awe that each and every member of the filled coffeehouse watching. They lightly talked through much of the set, but “Redemption” made their voices (and their jaws) drop.
His songwriting is pretty much as I described “Redemption”: simple, beautiful, wide-eyed, a little bit world-weary. His vocals are a perfect compliment to the sound – soft yet insistent, they push songs along when things start to drag, and the melodies are always solid.
His set seemed to fly by, and that was the only disappointing part about his set. Like I said, it’s hard to put to paper what made Jacob Furr so good; his music just drew me in.
Lafayette’s set also seemed to fly by, but in a much different way. After setting up an army of effects pedals and digital equipment, the duo proceeded to churn out upbeat, melodic, occasionally optimistic post-rock epics. There were so many sounds and different parts going on at once that it was best to just take the whole sound in at once – let the entire slab of music just wash over your ears. They never let the set get repetitive, even though they played for a long time – they continually mixed it up by having guitar-based pieces next to keyboards-based pieces next to effects-based pieces. This continuous shifting of emphasis was handled really well, as their sound didn’t suffer in any of the various settings.
Lafayette’s set was so well-received by the coffeehouse patrons that they were asked to keep playing, and they performed an improv set after their original set that I wasn’t able to stay for. I, like the rest of the patrons, was truly thrilled by Lafayette’s music – it was so extremely refined and talented that I don’t think a CD could have sounded any more precise or well-organized. And yet, even though they retained recording-like precision, there was an energy to their sound that completely made seeing them live worth it. They knew what they were doing, and they were having fun with it. As a result, the audience did too.
There’s not much more you can ask for at a coffeeshop show – some excellent folk and some amazing nearly-soundtrack post-rock back-to-back. I highly recommend checking out both bands….you won’t be disappointed.
King of Clubs, Claremore, OK
Thursday, May 17, 2007
So, I went to the King of Clubs expecting an indie-rock show with two local standbys that I’ve reviewed several times in Independent Clauses (Scales of Motion and the Programme). I got an unexpected blast of unique when the Non took the stage to open the show, though.
The Non, as odd as this sounds, play instrumental funk-rock with artistic indie-rock and even post-rock influences. I’d never heard this fusion before, and after the initial shock of “oh, that bassist is totally playing slap-bass with an indie-rock riff” wore off, I started to get seriously into it.
The Non made their set easy to get into, as their technical skill was astounding, their melodic ideas were exciting and their stage presence was mesmerizing. You don’t see many guitargasm faces anymore – they seem to have been lost after the fall of hair metal. But both guitarists for the Non were extremely in touch with their guitar playing, making grimaces, grins, and all sorts of facial expressions that were nearly as expressive and interesting as any vocals could have been. The bassist was simply astounding – whether laying down a low-end, a heavy riff or some lightning-speed slapping, he knew when to show up and when to show off. It takes a very humble bassist to get out of the way of the melody when the bassist can hold their own with the melody. But the bassist never intruded on the sound – he only enhanced it.
The drummer held the whole thing together, transitioning from upbeat funk sections to driving, moody indie-rock sections with ease. He abused his cymbals (everyone’s ears were ringing by the end of the Non’s set), but he was good nonetheless.
But the Non’s songwriting is much more than the sum of its parts – dramatic, pensive, tension-filled and often fist-pumping, the songs were genuinely fun to listen to. I mentioned to a friend standing near me during one of the funkier sections that the Non sounds like what RHCP must have sounded like at the beginning of their career. I felt like retracting that by the end of the set, though – although there is a starting point of RHCP, the Non take that influence and use it as a springboard to create a sound that is entirely their own. I have never heard anything quite like the Non, and that’s a great thing. Definitely a fantastic set.
If I ever tell you that I don’t like an album, you, as a good person have a responsibility: you have to ask me why. If I say “because I didn’t like it as much as their other stuff,” you have another responsibility: call me out on my BS.
Whenever I say “I didn’t like it as much as their other stuff,” that’s almost always Stephen-code for “I haven’t heard it.” Example: We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes by Death Cab. Truthfully, I’ve never heard the thing. I’ve heard fragments of “Something About Airplanes” and “The Photo Album” – not enough to pass judgment on them, though. But I couldn’t even tell you the title of one song on We Have the Facts. Yet, I’ve often stacked it under Transatlanticism as Death Cab’s best album. I do that ‘cause I’ve read it in lots of places. But do I know? Sure don’t. I could like We Have the Facts more than Transatlanticism if I tried it, but I just haven’t.
Another example: I often claim that MeWithoutYou is one of my favorite loud bands, and when I review post-hardcore I often name-check them. I know their sound well enough that I can tell when someone’s trying to yank their shtick. Honestly, I haven’t heard a full album by them. This would be somewhat acceptable if I were just a casual listener, as it is out of style to listen to entire albums, but as a critic I feel I should hear whole albums.
This need to hear whole albums often kills my attempts to listen to a band – I’m not content to just hear a song or two by a band, and thus reserve listening to anything (except possibly radio singles) until I can hear the entire album. This is why I haven’t heard the new Modest Mouse album yet. This is why I haven’t checked out The Fratellis yet. This is why I don’t know much of anything about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, except Californication and radio singles (which some people say is enough, but hey, that’s a different column).
That’s one of the reasons that I don’t check out bands. But the reason I occasionally obscure the truth around how much music I’ve heard is due to this whole critic ego thing I’ve got going on. When someone asks if I’ve heard “debut album” by x band, I get miffed if I have to say, “No, I haven’t ever thought to check it out.” It’s silly, for sure, but I’m a critic – I’m supposed to know what’s going on in the music world. It hurts people’s opinions of how good a critic I am when I say “nope, never checked ‘em out.” That’s the downside of working in such a huge field as popular music.
So yes, feel free to call me out if you hear me waffling over whether I’ve heard an album or not. I probably just haven’t, and you should tell me that I’m a poser for lying about it. I need that every now and then.
Drew Pilgram-Magnetic Sideways Pull
Drew Pilgram is a true musician through and through. On Magnetic Sideways Pull, she pulls from a diverse background of musical genres to create a crisp, clean, unique sound that is pleasant and soothing. Coupled with incredible songwriting, this is a CD not to be missed.
One song which exemplifies Drew’s clean, crisp sound is “Shades of Grey,” showcasing beautiful vocals that are harmonized with a group of background singers, punctuated by what sounds like a cymbal or tambourine. Both musically and lyrically, the song encompasses a mixture of sadness and hope, a very moving technique.
Another song that shows off Drew’s lyrical ability is “You’ll Be Free,” which opens with the line “My knees got sore from that unforgiving floor/dreading the day you would leave” and continues to weave intricately through the thoughts and emotions you would expect to go through as you watch someone who is sick deteriorating until their freedom comes in the form of death. She does this, though, in a poetic fashion without being over the top. She has done an excellent job in this song of conveying the thought without being dark and gloomy. And the mood of the song is set to match, much like in “Shades of Grey,” with a feeling of sadness, but also of hope.
In fact, many of Drew’s songs are like this. She borrows from blues, folk rock, country and R&B, all genres that are emotional in nature, to get her musical message across. From start to finish, every track is beautiful, thought provoking and evokes emotion.
In many ways, Drew Pilgram’s Magnetic Sideways Pull is more of an emotional experience than a listening experience, and she should be commended for its maturity and diversity of style, as well as exceptional and poetic lyrics.
What Have I Discovered Recently?
I’ve been in a bit of music rut. Recently, my iPod shows the same 10 bands getting played over and over again recently. Now that’s not to say I haven’t been listening to good music. Among those bands are Thursday, SleepBellumSonno, The Felix Culpa, Brand New, The Blood Brothers but there hasn’t been anything new for a while. Part of that was I’m a poor student; the other problem was I couldn’t find anything impressive to buy. (Yes, I still buy all my music…next month’s column?) But in the past seven days I’ve found two amazing albums; one from a band I know and love and another from a band that I had never heard of. The first was Poison the Well’s Ferret Records debut, Versions; the second, Damiera’s M(US)IC.
Poison the Well is one of my favorite bands and after waiting four years for a new album Versions not only did not disappoint but blew away everything PTW has done before. The album, which contains a number of political undertones, is the work a slimmed down, three-person version of PTW. Since the 2003 release of You Come Before You, PTW (or PT-dub, as the internet just told me they are sometimes called) spilt from Atlantic Records, dropped two members and revised their sound. The resulting album is a blend of PTW’s intense introspective lyrics, hardcore vocals and music that are well known from their previous albums, plus a new electronic sound that enhances the mellow side of PTW. Honestly, this is the first album this year that has made me sit back and concentrate completely on the music.
The amazing thing is that less than a week later I found a second album that made me once again sit back and ignore everything but the music (the problem was my girlfriend was with me). Damiera’s M(US)IC put out a sound that can not be described in simple words. They also put out the most technical album released by a rock band since SleepBellumSonno’s Ascertain. I actually found this album while I was wondering around my local Borders. *Shocked Face*
“You buy your music at Borders?”
Yes, simply because Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has exactly one independent music store and it is open about 5 hours a week. As I was browsing Borders, I came across M(US)IC on a listening station and was simply blown away by the first song when the tempo switched from 7/8 to 4/4 to 5/8.
Away from the technical musicianship, the music is catchy but not annoying. It really reminds me of Northstar’s Is This Thing Loaded? Between the catchy nature of the first two songs and the technical aspects, I took a chance and bought the album…exactly three days after the band announced their permanent break up. So my timing isn’t great but the album is still worth ten bucks.
While the two albums I bought were vastly different in genre and style, both albums manage to make you forget everything around you and focus solely on the music. But warning, both albums also have songs that will never get out of your head.
Experimental Band Shakes up the Western NY Music Scene.
They call themselves Pegacide: the newest, and perhaps the most original, experimental/improv band to hit the western New York music scene. With their use of sound boards, hardwired keys and an enormous amount of distortion, Pegacide is a window into the experimental music era of the late 1960’s and early 70’s.
I was privileged enough to catch one of their extremely rare shows at a coffeehouse in downtown Rochester , NY, a few weeks back. I walked into the place and there, on either side of the door, the band members sprawled out at their various stations. They were hard at work creating a collage of sound.
The group has four unique members. Tom Lake holds the rhythm with his drum work while Phil Herford creates a unique pseudo-melodic quality using violins, looping, and lots and lots of distortion. His brother Brandon Herford spends most of his time on the floor with gadgets like old boom boxes, various pieces of electrical equipment and even an old black-and-white television set, complete with rabbit ears. Joel Dow, the fourth man of the group, produces unique multi-layered sound using a hard-wired keyboard, some old record players and several switchboards linked to his elaborate system of controls. These four young men take random, indistinct sounds and turn them into twisted, chaotic and beautiful pieces of art that last for an average of 20 minutes. A Pegacide show is an auditory experience one will not soon forget.
Each one of the members of Pegacide learned at a young age how to play music. Violinist Phil Herford was classically trained at the prestigious Hochstein School of Music for ten years prior to playing in any band.
Their future is unclear at this point. Pegacide has yet to make any plans to record and scheduling shows for them seems to be a sporadic occurrence. But that of course goes right along with their music.
“We’re just chaos set to a beat.” says Phil Herford.
I may just speak for all open minded music enthusiasts when I say that I hope the chaos grows.
– Stephen C. O’Riley
Weird, Weirder, Weirdest: Daniel Johnston Runs Through It
Weird: MUSIC TALKS SESSIONS Hosts Live Tele-Video “Online Gigs” Demonstration Session & “Marketing Madness” Panel
New York, April 10, 2007 — MUSIC TALKS SESSIONS (MTS), the New York City based educational forum focused on musical entrepreneurship and personal development for recording artists has expanded its services to Los Angeles, California.
Not gonna lie, when I read “Marketing Madness” I thought they were going to hit me with a Daniel Johnston parallel and teach us how to promote insane artists. Even more than that, that possibility piqued my interest. I am SO weird.
Weirder: Eyeball Records brings down music blog/pirating site, Kinixtion
In case you haven’t read/heard, this letter still gets me.
This was my first and still prevailing thought on the letter: OWNED.
Weirdest: Welcome to the first official mary-kateandashley.com Battle of the Bands!
The competition was fierce, but we’ve narrowed all of our entries down to ten gems. We’ve got acts from New York to California, and all places between. We’ve got everything from sub-par flirts, to strange animals, to sky guys, to desert dwellers, and all the meaty goodness in the middle. All independently made. All unsigned by major labels. All original material.
The BOTB is not the weird thing. Consider the oddities among the contestants: 2 mature singer/songwriters (Bethany Sharayah, Eric Sarmiento), 2 POST-ROCK BANDS (Cloud Archive, Phoenix and the Turtle), and a DANIEL JOHNSTON FOLLOWER (Lil’ Hospital). I cannot make this stuff up. Imagine all the 11-year-olds getting their brains toasted by 6-minute epics and joyfully off-key vocals…..it makes me laugh immensely. Who thought that was a good idea??
(in case you were wondering, female-led guitar-pop band Bad Flirt won; it’s called “know thine audience”).
Walter the Orange Ocean – Restless or Sleeping
I have known Daniel Burke, the lead singer of Walter the Orange Ocean, for some years now and had the privilege of working with him and his band mates in London in 2005.
Of all the artists I have heard in the last, say, five years, this Boston-based group is my favorite. This is partly because of their modest approach to their music – minimalist, tasteful musical moments – but also for their flawless performances of songs about the ‘everyday.’ For the craft of songwriting alone, this group deserves accolades.
To my ears, they have reached new heights with their recent self-produced album Restless or Sleeping, demonstrating a very clear and uncompromising vision of how they wish to be heard. Notice the laidback drum and vocal delivery in the song “Comic Book” or slightly ethereal feel to and scratchy vocal performance on “Different Ice Age.” Perhaps most notably, “A State Away” unravels a unique musical texture with excellent vocal harmonies and beautiful instrumental touches.
originally posted on theplugg.com
Top Ten Unsigned Chart
The Top Ten Unsigned Chart is editor-in-chief Stephen Carradini’s completely and totally subjective listing of the best bands he’s found on Purevolume.com. You can visit the ongoing experiment/project at Purevolume.com’s General Promotion message board. If you want to submit your band for the chart and see where you fall, do so at the homepage[url”>. Until then, enjoy the bands in this chart.
Top 10 4/20/07
1. Pioneer- Pioneer covers a wide range of earthy tones, from weary folk/pop drink-alongs to Bright Eyes-esque country-rock.
2. The Skies We Built – Riding the line between head-in-the-clouds dream pop and grounded indie-pop with a wonderful vocalist.
3. Philip Uster and the House Floor – Decemberists + Interpol + At the Drive-In = The House Floor. It’s quirky, unpredictable and exciting.
4. Shineola- Heavy, grungy guitars greet you, but it’s the strong rhythms and barely-contained vocals that will keep you listening.
5. ReedKD- The primarily acoustic singer/songwriter branches out in all directions of beauty– multi-instrumented folk, indie-pop, balladry, and more.
6. Detonate – Ska and screams have never met so perfectly and playfully as in Detonate’s exciting amalgam.
7. Revolution Love- The completely awesome second coming of Smashing Pumpkins, in all their nasal, garagey, grungy glory.
8. The Hit and Runs – Gleeful, cheeky ska-inflected pop/rock complete with audience-including group yells.
9. Daily Lyrical Product- The rhymes are solid and intelligent, the vocal flow is very smooth, and the beats are organic and innovative – I can’t ask for much more in a rap group.
10. The Reverent One- Pulse-pounding, moody, satisfying electronica.
Honorable Mentions: Red Sea Station (guitar-pop), The Canon Logic (pop), Peter (singer/songwriter), and Angel’s Mistake (Wide-eyed, romantic, melodic piano-pop with strong songwriting and decent recordings).
The Interest Kills – Capital Flight
Stem and Leaf Records
The Interest Kills has capitalized on the concept of writing music that actually says something to the world. Every since the sixties and seventies, songwriting has become a key emphasis fans look for in an artist. Fans of today are listening for not only good music but for a meaning to songs as well. In fact, sometimes fans are willing to sacrifice their ears to talentless musicians for the sake of a good message. Fortunately for fans of indie pop music, The Interest Kills offers both great melodies and that coveted meaningful message so many are looking for in their latest effort Capital Flight.
The album kicks off with “The In-Between Is Ending,” a track featuring melancholy guitars, beautifully melodic breakdowns and a walking beat. Singer Diego Garcia-Olano’s lyrics almost come off too serious for the peaceful pop song, but his insight is just the beginning of a slew of thought-provoking, ear-catching tunes.
“Pseudo-Narcoleptic” brings in an easy-going summer vibe, reinforcing Interest Kills’ pop influence. Before you can bust out the swim dance move, however, “In Truth” drags the listener into an entrancing blend of odd harmonies and rhythmic voodoo. The music of “We Kill Time” emulates its title with a crawling lead guitar and chill, laid-back sounds.
Arguably the best song on the disc, “Idealism for Cynics” kicks off with a high lead and allows the bass to introduce the rhythm. Flowing drums and a rushed countermelody enter until a guitar break explodes into a fun, hope-inspiring chord progression. The verse rhythm, distinct with a hint of anthem in it, roars throughout the song until Marq Schram’s lingering guitar brings it to a close and leaves you begging for more.
More comes in “A String of Distractions.” Via a swaying guitar melody and a toe-tapping beat, Garcia-Olano urges you to sing along with his catchy lyrics.
“Who knows? I do, I do,” declares Garcia-Olano. And when it all boils down, this is certain: in the world of indie pop, a genre that thrives upon delivering both music and a message that can feed off one another to create one stunningly good song, Garcia-Olano and the rest of The Interest Kills definitely do know what they’re talking about.