Artist: The Handsome Family Album: Honey Moon File Under: Alt -Country Featured Tracks: “When You Whispered”
Recent reviews of The Handsome Family’s 9th release, Honey Moon, seem to suggest this record is a refreshing collection of uplifting love songs. Having enjoyed the dark tones of the previous 8 wrist-slitters, I was worried. I put Honey Moon on for the first time expecting an utterly new Handsome Family, one I wasn’t sure my unmedicated mind could handle.
The opener, “Linger, Let me Linger” does indeed mention “hearts (drawn on a dusty window pane)” as well as “a love note (lying in the road)”. Is that a love song? I suppose it could be… I grabbed some old Prozac from the medicine cabinet and washed it down with cough syrup. “Little Sparrows” begs to “take me with you when you go”. That is romantic. I finished off a bottle of wine. “Were you with me then my friend, are you with me now?” How sweet!! I am uplifted! And darned if there weren’t some other new things here. The tinkling computer chirps on “Love is Like” evoke Grandaddy. I never saw that coming.
I understand this release coincides with the couples 20th wedding anniversary and all, but love fest this is not. Thank goodness! Brett Sparks’ deep voice, and his unique phrasings are dependably depressing. Rennie Sparks’ magical tragic lyrics would be otherwise unavailable except to the wallpaper in the office of a pricey psychoanalyst. There may be some more “love” songs here, but make no mistake these are not your mother’s love songs. These are songs of ACTUAL real-life love, 20 year love, crying on the phone love. There is a load of beauty but it’s in the dark shadows like the beauty on all previous Handsome Family albums. Enjoy this record with whisky, enjoy it with Zoloft, but whatever you do, go see them July 23rd at the Bottom of the Hill. I bet ya’ 2 drinks they are wearing black.
I had been hearing the hype on Grizzy Bear’s Veckatimest all year long. After being force fed tracks like ‘Cheerleader’ and ‘Two Weeks’ for months upon end, I wasn’t quite convinced of all the hullabaloo. Then I saw them perform at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX at SXSW this year and I became a believer. Having the foresight to arrive at the church a good three performances before the show, I was one of the lucky disciples to make it in. Inside this cozy little chapel, we all sat silently and squished in our pews anxiously awaiting what would be our first full drink of their forthcoming album, Veckatimest.
The band, and the setting, did not disappoint. Not by a long shot. Watching the band at the altar, with the setting sun glowing through the stained glass windows while the angelic harmonies of Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen floated up through the arches of the church was both heavenly and transcendental. I had goosebumps the entire time. I was especially moved during the track ‘Ready, Able’. Something about the haunting orchestral arrangement of that song just gets me every single time. It’s by far my favorite on the album and the refrain, “They go we go, I want you to know,what I did” has been permanently etched in my brain.
That performance was the highlight of SXSW and one of my most memorable so far this year. And hearing the album unfold in all of it’s haunting beauty, beyond the chamber pop appeal of tracks like ‘Two Weeks’, made me a convert. It is really that good and entirely worthy of the praise, and your attention.
Grizzly Bear will be performing two nights at The Fillmore in San Francisco this month, June 21 and 22, with Here We Go Magic. A great line up. Get tickets while they last.
Boy, catching up on the mountains of email in my mailbox really paid off this weekend. Namely in the discovery of this hot little London-based three piece calling themselves Band of Skulls and their debut album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. It’s been on heavy rotation ever since. Their sound smacks heavily of that stripped down garage rock sound, tinged with a little of that 70s inspired rock vibe I love so much. And the vocal play between Russell Marsden (guitar & vocals), Emma Richardson (bass & vocals) definitely evoke images of not only the White Stripes but also Jack White’s new venture, Dead Weather, featuring The Kills’ vocalist Allison Mosshart. Especially on tracks like ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls‘, ‘I Know What I Am’ and ‘Blood’.
Luckily for all of us San Franciscans, Band of Skulls will be performing at this week’s The Rumble on June 3 at Harlot. Oh, and did I mention it’s free? Just RSVP here.
Meet Obits, the latest musical incarnation for the creative force known as Rick Froberg (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes). I Blame You is the band’s first album and I have to say – I like this band, I really, really do. Even more so after seeing them live at SXSW. Their sound is raw and adrenaline inducing. It’s the kind of music you want to put on when you need a kick in the ass, or are getting ready to kick some. As of late it’s been my de facto wake up and go album. Better than two cups of coffee…and much healthier.
Do not miss them live. They are on tour supporting their new release now and will be playing San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill on May 20.
Have you met your musical soul mate yet? Karl Briedrick and Marie-Claire Balabanian of Speck Mountain have – each other. Self-described “musical soul mates,” Briedrick and Balabanian write as a team, communicating in intuitive, womb-curled melody, exploded texture and spiky rhythm.
Their new album, Some Sweet Relief, is atmospheric, sexy, headphone hypnotica – or ambient soul as the duo likes to classify it. A fitting sound for the theme of their latest effort, which is about desire and fidelity. Balabanian has a beautiful voice with a timbre very much like that of Neko Case – a sleepier, sexed up version of her. It’s a great late night listen, especially on such a sultry evening as tonight where ‘Some Sweet Relief’ from this heat would be nice. Time to check out and tune in.
Benjy Ferree was one of my most anticipated shows of SXSW and my most disappointing. Imagine stumbling upon this track in the myriad of bands you’ve researched for SXSW, then arrive at an acoustic show. I was a disappointed, but not deterred.
After Austin, I dug into Ferree’s sophmore release Come Back to The Five & Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee. The track, “Pisstopher Crisstopher”, that led me to him has been on repeat since Austin and will definitely make my ‘Best Songs of 2009’ list. (Can you hear Jack White in there?) Expecting to hear more of this hard-driving rock, I was a bit thrown by the hodge podge of genres on the album – a little rockabilly one minute then some Americana, du wop and rock the next. Not that it was bad, it was just a little confusing.
Then I learned the story behind the album, Come Back to The Five & Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee, and it started to make a bit more sense. It’s a concept album inspired by the childhood actor, Bobby Driscoll, who from the age of 6 to 16 was the most acclaimed childhood actor of his time (’50s). Then he grew up, stopped being cute, and ultimately died alone at the age of 31 in his Manhattan apartment. His body went unidentified and was buried in an unmarked grave – so the story goes.
Ferree, himself a failed actor, used this story as inspiration for the album. Going so far as trying to recreate the appearance of Driscoll on the cover of his album. An interesting story, to say the least. Knowing this definitely gave more clarity to what I was listening to, especially the 50s du wop and rockabilly influence. I’m just not convinced he nailed the execution. There are, however, some real gems on the album that make we wonder what he can do when he’s not caught up in playing to a concept. I will be watching him, and waiting to find out.
Artist: Animal Collective Album: Merriweather Post Pavillion File Under: Experimental Recommended if You Like: Grizzly Bear, Beach Boys, Yeasayer Featured Track: ‘My Girls’
Listen up boys and girls, this is important. Animal Collective is releasing their much anticipated, acclaimed and uber-hyped Merriweather Post Pavillion next week on January 20th. (Well, technically it’s already out – make that sold out – on vinyl. But if you’re like me, you’re not hip enough to own a turntable.) So mark your calendars and get ready. Because if you want to be anyone in the music world, with any sort of indie music cred, you need to own this album and worship it like the second coming of Christ. Animal Collective, deliver us from indie rock evil!
Okay, all kidding aside, this is a damn good album. And you should own it. It’s just a little hard to swallow all of this hype. Pitchfork gave the album a 9.6 for christ sakes! I didn’t know that was even possible. Are they really reinventing rock? Is their sound truly that innovative and unlike anything out there in the rock landscape? I don’t think so. My best summary of their sound is classic prog rock syncopation mixed with a little techno and sprinkled with a heap of Beach Boys Pet Sounds all over it.
Perhaps what’s most innovative and unique about them is that they don’t conform to one particular genre, which is refreshing and inspiring. And their music has a joyful, playful and ecstatic quality that makes you want to grab your friends, drop some E, tune in and trip out. (Is that album art moving or is it just my imagination? Whoa.)
Artist: Ra Ra Riot Album: The Rhumb Line File Under: Indie Pop Recommended if You Like: Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend Featured Track: Under Ghost Rocks
The best way I can describe Syracuse-based Ra Ra Riot is Arcade Fire meets Vampire Weekend – upbeat rhythms layered over rich orchestral-based melodies. And their live shows, with their huge ensemble cast, are raucous and infectious – just like Arcade Fire. If you like either of those bands, it would be worth your while to give Ra Ra Riot a listen. They were the darlings of SXSW this year and are fast becoming a critics choice for 2008 as well.
‘The Rhumb Line’ is the band’s first LP and a tribute to the recent drowning of band member, drummer John Pike, who co-wrote most of the lyrics for their debut album. The title of the album, ‘The Rhumb Line’, is fitting in both its nautical theme and meaning – a term for the constant course a vessel takes in a give direction. Which is what the remaining band members have had to do.
See them live tomorrow, September 24, at The Rickshaw Stop or watch the video for, ‘Ghost Under Rocks’:
Artist: Elbow Album: The Seldom Seen Kid File Under: Brit Rock Recommended if You Like: Radiohead, Coldplay, Rob Dickinson, Peter Gabriel Featured Track: Grounds for Divorce; The Bones of You
“I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce…,” is the opening line from the rockin’ single, ‘Grounds for Divorce,’ off Elbow’s fourth and arguably best release to date, The Seldom Seen Kid. The song is immense, snarling with emotion and emblematic of the theme of the album – the joys and sorrows of everyday life.
I’ve been obsessing over this album since it’s release in April. Definitely one of my top albums for 2008. I’m in love with Guy Garvey’s voice, which reminds me of Peter Gabriel at times and Rob Dickinson at others. It’s beautiful and melodic, regardless. Especially the track, ‘The Fix’, in which Guy collaborates with another British crooner, Richard Hawley.
Elbow is one of those Radiohead-esque English bands that emerged from the wake of The Bends and OK Computer in the 90s. For whatever reason, Coldplay was the band the masses glommed onto while Elbow remained in relative obscurity, despite their abundance of critical accolades. Lucky for you, you now know better.