Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lucero / Catfish Haven / American Princes - Triple Bill

Great shows seem to come to DC in waves, and this spring appears to be no exception. We've all got our own pet bands -- for example, Rob is excited about Field Music's show on 3/31 and G.L. is anxiously awaiting Peter Bjorn and John at the 9:30 on 4/30 -- and so I'm particularly geeked about the dynamite roots-rock triple bill of Lucero, Catfish Haven, and American Princes coming to the Black Cat on April 6. Get their full tour dates here.

We'll start with first opener American Princes, whose Yep Roc release Less and Less made Magnet's Best of 2006 list. I've been playing it a lot lately, and I'm impressed. The Little Rock, AR band appear to be the most punk of the three, but songs like "Never Grow Old" have the sort of rollicking vocal lines (Spoon, maybe?) that help them retain their pop sensibilities. And is that Elvis Costello I hear in the exasperated heartbreak of "Copper in Sand"?

American Princes - "Stolen Blues"

Catfish Haven are a lean, mean three-piece out of Chicago. They've gotten their fair share of press - Pitchfork, Spin, CMJ - and it appears well-deserved. They have a real nice feel, sort of opposite side of the bar-band coin from the Hold Steady where you can actually see yourself dancing to it. Lead singer George Hunter has a strong voice too, gravelly and strained but still a little sweet. Their latest, Tell Me, came out last September.

Catfish Haven - "Crazy for Leaving"

Finally, frequent-DBT supporting act Lucero round out the bill. The most-rough hewn, down-home of the three, they've also got the fullest sound and -- to my ear -- the sharpest chops. "What Else Would You Have Me Be?" has tinkling-but-epic (think "Layla") piano behind typically buzzing alt. country guitars, with a young, drunk Bob Seger at the helm. Some will say the Truckers influence is there too, but Memphis's Lucero are just another fine, road-tested Southern band very much in touch with their roots. Get their latest, Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers, here.

*American Princes photo by Matthew Martin, courtesy of Yep Roc presskit.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This Week in Video

Apparently Yep Roc is re-releasing a Sloan song a day (for 30 days) as a countdown to SXSW. We caught this a little late, but 21 is a much better number than 1, don't you think?

"Last Time"

Again proving the title of this post wrong, Memphis Industries posted this video by our favorite Kiwis, Ruby Suns, two weeks ago. Kind of makes us hungry...

"Sleep in the Garden"

If you haven't seen the video of Arcade Fire's appearance on SNL this past weekend, you may be retarded. Just in case...

Watch it fast, though. We suspect NBC's hunters have this one in their scope for deletion.

We guess we should post a US band. Again, not released this week, but The Broken West did start their tour on Saturday. Be sure to check out their shows with The Walkmen on 3/23 and with The Long Winters on 4/3, both at the Rock and Roll Hotel.

"Down in the Valley"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Five to Download

Compiled especially for a fine Thursday afternoon, just as we climb out of the mid-winter doldrums, here are five sweet tunes you didn't even know you wanted to download this afternoon:

1. The Telepathic Butterflies - "All Very Hoopla!" Winnipeg Rainbow Quartz band steals the opening lick from Moby Grape's "Omaha" (how very rockist of them?), then reels off three and a half goofy minutes of neo-psych, complete with faux-Brit accents and lyrics about "head space."
2. Portastatic - "I Wanna Know Girls". Sort of like a fraternal twin of Spoon's "Sister Jack", if that means anything to you.
3. Mazarin - "Louise". If you were within earshot of me during the latter half of last year, you probably got an earful about this album from the now-defunct Philly band. But Louise was sort of atypical. Strumming, nearly monotone guitar with Quentin Stoltzfus singing about the girl that appears destined to get away.
4. Cabinessence - "One Way (Or Another)". Folks are calling this band "Glam Parsons." I'll take it. This here's just an ordinary pop song until the falsetto, driving chorus hook "Can't you see you got me down on my knees / Trying to be the man that you want me to be". You'll know it when you hear it.
5. The Eames Era - "When You Were a Millionaire". Reminds me of the Delgado's sort of restrained enthusiasm, but really this is just one in a batch of terrific songs by these Baton Rouge up-and-comers.

Tonight @ Black Cat: Chin Up Chin Up and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Indulge your indie-pop sweet tooth tonight with Chicago's Chin Up Chin Up and Springfield, Missouri's Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin at the Backstage at the Black Cat. This is the last night of their joint tour, so come on down for a double shot of Midwestern goodness. CUCU and SSLYBY (total abbrev. alert!) have each been praised on various blogs and online publications and are touring in support of recently released (or reissued, in the case of SSLYBY) albums.

CUCU and label mates Bound Stems are doing their part to reinvigorate a Chicago music scene that seemingly lies dormant between Wilco records. Their songs are detail oriented, tightly-wound affairs that, along with singer Jeremy Bolen's Robert Smith impersonations, sound somewhat like the Cure.

While The Rockists have yet to see CUCU in concert, Rob and I did happen to catch SSLYBY with WTF-ers/retards Harry and the Potters at the IOTA last month. I thoroughly enjoyed their opening set and I'll be damned if their cover of "Crazy" wasn't one of the better ones I've heard. Yeah, they sound kinda like the Shins and, no, they probably won't change your life, but they are not to be missed. And if that wasn't enought, they're also playing an acoustic set tonight at 5:30pm at Olsson's Books and Records in Dupont Circle.

Tonight 2/22: Chin Up Chin Up w/Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin @ Black Cat, doors at 8pm

Chin Up Chin Up - This Harness Can't Ride Anything
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Oregon Girl

* photo courtesy of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's myspace page

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Let's Get Out in the Country - Shows outside DC

With the rise of the Atlas District, it seems the number of music joints in DC is ballooning. But if you've got the means, there are a handful of venues and shows outside the District (and Arlington for that matter) that just might be worth an hour or so drive. Here's what's coming up soon:

Tuesday 3/6 - The Hold Steady @ Ottobar in Baltimore.
Tuesday 3/6 - Of Montreal @ State Theatre in Falls Church, VA.
Thursday 3/8 - The Whigs w/ Wax Fang @ Fletcher's in Baltimore.
Saturday 3/10 - Gomez / Ben Kweller @ Sonar in Baltimore.
Thursday 3/15 - The Autumn Defense @ Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA.
Monday 3/19 - The Bad Plus @ Univ. of Richmond, VA.
Sunday 3/25 - Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 @ Ram's Head in Annapolis, MD.
Monday 4/2 - Crosby and Nash @ American Music Theatre in Lancaster, PA.

*photo courtesy of the Whigs' myspace page.

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

Thank God the second coming of Springsteen, sponsored by the Church of Finn, has ascended into heaven. It's about time we get someone else seated at the right hand of the Father. If anyone would have requested a requiem by Bruce on his deathbed, Neon Bible would be it. After a solid trip pop opener with "Black Mirror," "Keep the Car Running"'s two chord mandolin opener, driving 2/4 drum beat bring you back to the days when Reagan was seeking reelection and this blogger was one and a half.

Arcade Fire slows it down a little with the title track and immediately brings us to the cathedral with huge organs and a call and response between Win and an impressive string section in "Intervention." After moving through the half 80s pop hit, half AF classic "Black Wave / Bad Vibrations" and dipping (ahem!) in the "Ocean of Noise," "(Antichrist Television Blues)" is literally a (successful) melding of "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road."

While most Springsteen references coin bands as the Boss of a new generation, this reference isn't anything like that. Neon Bible is literally the Boss v2.0. Maybe I'm wrong in this comparison, but before you dismiss this as amateurish, make a playlist with Neon Bible, Born to Run and "Dancing in the Dark," set it on shuffle and just listen...

I'm not saying Arcade Fire is the next Great American Rock Band (mainly because they're from north of the border). Let's just say they've made a Great American Rock Album.

Arcade Fire - No Cars Go
Arcade Fire - The Well and the Lighthouse

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Explorers Club - new tunes and tour

And here you thought the Elephant 6 were ripping off Brian Wilson? The Explorers Club, out of Charleston, SC, are not in the business of doing Beach Boys pastiche, covering Pet Sounds in its entirety, or serving as Mike Love's backing band. No, these guys want to be the Beach Boys, in the worst way, or the best way, depending on your perspective. I (predictably) choose the latter, and, frankly, am racking my brain to think of a band that has pulled off the Wilsonian harmonies, melodies, and even the dynamic rhythm section so capably.

They're also hitting the road soon, and while they seem to stay farther down South, maybe they'll get up this way sometime soon. Can't really imagine what they sound like live though. The Wondermints, maybe?

The Explorers Club - Forever
The Explorers Club - I Lost My Head

*Also, it's worth mentioning that allmusic's Album of the Day is the Lovin' Spoonful's Do You Believe In Magic? I once saw the lyrics from this song scrawled on some kind of wrapper at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the coolest things I've ever seen in person. Also one of the finest tunes ever -- it would definitely crack my all-time Top 25. Check out the outro, with the backup vocals "Do you believe like I believe?" running behind John Sebastian's "Please believe".

Happy Mardi Gras

Friday, February 16, 2007

Unbuckled: 2/15/07

Well, the DCist had their Unbuckled show last night. After downing a few Sparks Plus on the walk over, my fellow Rockists and I grabbed some cool, refreshing cans of Schlitz and settled in for a quaint evening of music. Did I say quaint? I meant to say "a soul-soothing set of songs" followed by a face melting rock show. We really didn't know what to expect but if we would have expected anything, those expectations would have been exceeded.

Rob: Jesse Elliot (These United States) reminded me of a new age crooner; a young, indie Sinatra. Every girl in the audience was fixated on him as he stared above the crowd . I have to admit, there were probably some guys who were smitten with him too. If you've heard the music on their myspace page, you weren't surprised by their sound. It seem as though they didn't diverge from their recorded versions. (My grammar is very much lacking right now, mainly because it hurts to think. My apologies.)

Um, Pela rocked. Lead man Billy McCarthy exhumed all emotions while belting out his self-proclaimed "pastoral punk" songs. After playing for what seemed to be hours while only feeling like minutes, they were even nice enough to play a couple extra songs after their set. I really enjoyed them. I can't speak for the rest of TRS, but I will be first in line when their album comes out April 24. Oh, and the crowd was far better than the Apples show.

GH: Rob, a "young, indie Sinatra"? Maybe Sparks Light for you next time (sidenote: I had no idea the Sparks Plus was supposed to be a different flavor -- grape -- than the regular stuff. I guess I just figured it tasted different because of the Plus). These United States were decent, had some good tunes, played well together. I kinda didn't go for Elliot's constant affectation. Having read the gospel of Craig Finn, I get kind of annoyed with singers that don't use voices or accents that come naturally (as I say this, I think of roughly 20 bands I like that stand as exceptions). The lap steel was nice though, and towards the end the cold-blooded bassist started adding some harmony parts that changed things up a little.

As for Pela, really good performance. Genuinely affable guys who worked hard, were happy to be there, and show a lot of promise. They seemed to be sorta in to the Arcade Fire, too. I was waiting for some random dude wearing a bike helmet to start hacking away on a Pringles can like the world depended on it. I must admit: a lot of the songs ran together, though this may or may not be any fault of the band. I did really like the slower tune about his cop friend. GL, are you in any condition to make quality-based judgements on last night's performances?

G.L. Naut: I'm not sure if it was the Sparks, the Schlitz, or the Ben's Chilli Bowl (interesting tidbit: I learned today that Bill Cosby may have met his wife at Ben's, or at least took her on dates there...either way, pertty sweet deal), but SeƱor Naut is feeling it this morning. That's not to say it wasn't worth it, 'cuz it certainly was. As Rob mentioned, we didn't really know what to expect other than overpriced Schlitz ($3.50/can), but I was pleasantly surprised with the lineup that the DCist put together. Local band These United States were up first and, like I somewhat drunkenly told Rob and GH, I like anything with a lap/pedal steel. I'm probably not going to run out and buy their record or add them to my Myspace friends, but they were fun and had some decent songs. The singer could stand to lose the Fidel hat and the stupid vocal accent, but the lead guitarist was good. I'd see them again.

Pela were really fun, I found myself rockin' out pretty hard throughout their set. I thought they sounded like a subdued Wolf, yeah, pretty much like Arcade Fire. Their brand of pop-punk was a nice change of pace from These United States' more laid-back performance. I wish I could say more about them, but as we've all mentioned, the Rosckists were out to party...and party they did.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Introducing the Broadfield Marchers

All of us at the Rockist Society hold a tremendous amount of pride in where we're from, so each time a band from our home state starts making even the most minor waves, we tend to take an inordinate amount of interest. While the other Rockists have a fair claim to their home state being the (indie) rock capital of the country (not to mention blues, jazz, polka...), I can't quite claim the same wealth of resources. But Kentucky -- where I was born and raised -- has its share of groundbreaking country artists, is the birthplace of bluegrass, and also still has its share of quality of rock bands: Slint, My Morning Jacket, the Apples in Stereo (sorta), to name a few. You can now add the Broadfield Marchers to the list. Like a lo-fi version of the Who -- in other words, Guided by Voices, but with better harmonies -- they've just put out a new album on Secretly Canadian, When the Lifted Connive, and picked up a nice little review in the latest issue of Magnet. There's not much out there to read on these guys, so you'd be best served to go check out the Keith Moon drum swells that introduce "Kingdom of Lions" and the wistful, nearly ethereal "Harriet Nice", which sounds like the early Byrds sans 12-string jangle.

The Broadfield Marchers - Various tracks (stream)
*photo courtesy of band's myspace page.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dispatches from the District: Apples in Stereo 2.13.2007

The braintrust here at Rockist all went down to the Black Cat last night to check out the TRS-certified Apples in Stereo. We've decided to do a collective post about it, so you can follow our conversation here:

GH: I'll get us started by talking about the sound system down at the Black Cat. Maybe good enough for two distorted guitars and a bass, but the keyboards were always too low and you could barely hear Robert Schneider's solos. But maybe I'm just being surly because the door staff -- I exclude the bar staff -- are some of the most unfriendly folks I've come across in DC. None of that has to do with the Apples though, who I thought were pretty good and energetic. Sometimes they seem so excited to play that sonic quality (let's call it) is sacrificed -- see "Do You Understand?" and "Can You Feel It?". However, I'll go so far as to say "Strawberryfire" will go down as one of the best psychedelic moments DC sees all year. That song just has this addictive drone -- I'd be okay with them stretching it out over ten minutes. Rob, Mr. Naut, what do you think? Favorite song? Black Cat ticket takers just unpaid interns on the Fugazi road crew?

Rob: I thoroughly enjoyed "7 Stars" and was quite pleasantly surprised to hear "Strawberryfire." What was missing from the show, however, was the early, bouncy pop songs that made me fall in love with Apples. Songs like "Try to Remember," "Tin Pan Alley," and "You Said That Last Night." Well, I guess I just wanted to hear Tone Soul songs. Hell, they could have played a couple for all I know, but with the crappy sound and my beer goggles, if it didn't punch me in the face, I didn't notice it.

Speaking of punching in the face: what's with the crowd at the show? Other than the one short kid in front who kept throwing his hands up (which I appreciate. It helped me know he was still alive) there weren't any signs of life in the audience. I almost felt bad for the Apples. During the encore things seemed to liven up, but not much. Even during "Can You Feel It?" the crowd stood still. Most of the mop head, tight jean and Chuck wearing kids stood with their arms crossed. Jesus...

G.L. Naut: I agree with both of you - the door staff at the Black Cat are assholes and the crowd last night sucked. Though to be honest with you, I've often noticed DC concert-goers as being rather apathetic. Why this is, I have no idea.

But back to the Apples. I think one of my favorite things about them is the stark difference between their albums and their live shows. Where their albums tend to be heavily produced, their songs sound very lo-fi live. Where each song on the album is carefully placed, their live setlist seems farily loose - they're open to requests and start and stop songs at their leisure. This for me is really the best combination. An album should be labored over and each detail should be perfect, but a live show should be a chance to let loose and really let the songs shine without all the trappings of the studio. Luckily for the Apples, they've got some pretty good songs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dispatches from the District

This is the first post in what will hopefully be a regular feature here at the RS. In Dispatches from the District we'll provide an insider's perspective into the Washington DC music scene. Expected topics: concert recaps, reviews of albums by local artists, and pretty much anything else pertaining to music in DC. In the first installment we'll take a look at Benjy Ferree's Leaving the Nest.

While my fellow Rockists and I feel blessed by the plethora of shows that come through our nation's capital, we've noticed that the local music scene leaves much to be desired. Unable - or perhaps unwilling - to give up on a punk past, DC is still home to a number of Minor Threat wannabes and third-rate indie bands. There are some exceptions, to be sure, but it's generally been our experience that you're better off skipping the opening band on the bill and pounding an extra Pabst or two at home.

So imagine our surprise when we found local boy Benjy Ferree's EP* Leaving the Nest - a solid offering of folksy-Americana. Though it's a sound we've heard from M. Ward, Iron and Wine, Beachwood Sparks and even the White Stripes, Ferree has got the back porch honky tonk down pat. Album opener "In the Countryside" is the clear cut single and rightfully so. It starts off with a stabby electric guitar line that eventually gives way to a playful romp replete with bells, chimes, and a whistle interlude (seriously, what's the deal with whistling these days?).

All in all a very strong debut from a man that apparently never would have released an album were it not for his friends pressuring him to do so - Brendan Canty of Fugazi being one of them (go figure). Well, let me be the first to say thank you, Benjy. And DC thanks you as well.

*Leaving the Nest was originally released by Box Theory in August, but has since been picked up by Domino and re-released with a couple of additional tracks.

Various tracks (stream)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Pela and These United States

Here in our nation's capital, the DCist is sponsoring another show in their Unbuckled series next week, on Thursday February 16. It's down at DC9, everyone's favorite Schlitz emporium, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Pela are coming all the way down from New York City. Can you believe that? What a huge and great city! Don't we all wish DC could be more like New York? Think about how much better off we'd all be. I hear their pizza is really excellent up there. But back to the topic at hand: they're a promising bunch, that Pela, cranking out passionate post-rockers, not unlike the rousing yelps of the Arcade Fire.

When you hear the name These United States, it sounds like a cheesy ploy to get some Google hits... and it probably is. But this DC band goes way beyond that. Reminding us of a more upbeat M. Ward, front man Jesse Elliot weaves us through jangle pop tunes with a slight alt-country feel. Get ready to tap your toes.

Pela - Stream Various Songs
These United States - The Business

The Rockist Society writer Rob contributed to this post.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Pop Nostalgia: The Mayflies USA and The Situation

Back in the days where I spent hours combing through the third, fourth, fifth tiers of allmusic's Power Pop category for the next Big Star, I "discovered" the Mayflies USA, Chapel Hill's answer to Teenage Fanclub. As you may have guessed, I found them a couple years too late. It's not surprising that bands that emulate Big Star -- the archetype for perfect guitar pop that sounds perfect but ain't so popular -- would themselves be overlooked. So while Big Star's relative anonymity (outside our personal social circle) is actually somewhat tragic, watching bands like the Mayflies USA vanish without a trace is really just a little unfortunate and even kind of expected. But either way, they did put together one damn fine album, Walking in a Straight Line, full of bright harmonies and ringing chords. Plus, they were the kind of band that would steer an interview towards "their influences" (including all the usual suspects), which is an undeniably Rockist move.

The Mayflies USA - "Florida on the Radio"
The Mayflies USA - "123"(streaming)
*the Mayflies recently announced a few reunion dates opening for the dB's. Check their myspace for details.

The Situation, another great band to come out of Philly in the past few years, got my attention via a song review of "Pine Street" on Pitchfork last year. I managed to purchase online both their Reece Nasty EP and their self-titled for under 10 bucks total. Quite the coup, really. While "Pine Street" is a standout on the full-length, the real gem is "Best Prescription Pill Available" (off the EP), which jangles like even the drummer's got a Rickenbacker. Unfortunately, all great things must come to a premature end -- and apparently especially when it comes to gifted anglophile jangle-pop outfits -- but the band's myspace page is particularly cryptic and even kinda sad: "The band just split up. The album came out i don't [know] when. Not long ago. A few months. We worked on it for several years." And that's all it says. Hopefully lead singer and songwriter Christopher Tucker will surface somewhere soon.

The Situation - "Best Prescription Pill Available"

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday: Field Music - Tones of Town

The members of The Rockist Society meet at least once a month to listen to a new or generally unknown album to which none of said members have listened and drink genre/band fitting beverages.

I don't know if it was the strength of the G&Ts, anticipation for the Super Bowl or the company of my fellow Rockists, but good goddamn, I friggin love Tones of Town.

Ok, I have a confession to make. Before the listening, I actually had listened to the album no less than 7 times total. The first I had ever heard of Field Music was when the video to "A House is Not a Home" was released on youtube. I was hooked. I subsequently looked up anything I could find from this band and was not disappointed.

With it's seemingly manic drum beat and driving 12 beat guitar riff, "Give It Lose It Take It" opens the album with force. The album goes straight into "Sit Tight" with a Modest Mouse sort of feel developing into a breakdown of layered beat box, keys and their ever present "ooooooooo"s. Alternating from poppy licks to mellow harmonies, many songs on the album are supplemented with strings, which makes this amateur blogger wonder what the trio will do for their show at the Rock and Roll Hotel in March.

Tones of Town times in only 32 minutes and, much like a third of a gopher, it arouses your appetite without bedding it back down. No song is over 4 minutes, which leaves the listener wanting more. This is most true on "A Gap Has Appeared," whose powerful rhythmic composition section lasts for a meager 75 seconds.

The album isn't released in the States until 2/20, so if you want it now, you'll have to shell out a couple bucks to Mr. Jobs or send some quid over the pond. It's worth it.

Also, check out their earlier stuff. It's just as quality.

Field Music - Closer At Hand
Field Music - She Can Do What She Wants
Field Music - Tones Of Town

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The latest from Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder

Welcome folks. We're just getting this thing started, so bear with us for a little while.

In the meantime, the Apples in Stereo finally release their first long-player since 2002, New Magnetic Wonder. It's ostensibly on Elijah Wood's newly-formed Simian Records, but Yep Roc's also in on the act. We Rockists actually have had a sneak preview for a number of months now, and are genuinely geeked up about catching the band's live show next week at the Black Cat.

Also had a chance to chat with Apples' bassist Eric Allen last night who described it as sounding like "the kind of records we like to listen to, space out to". The term "head record" was thrown around, but I'm here to tell you with short attention spans that the pop-blitz of Velocity of Sound is still intact. Allen also told me the lead single(s) "Energy" and "Skyway" have really kicked ass in concert, and that the band has 4-5 other unreleased but finished tracks they'll be breaking out on tour.

More from Eric Allen next week, but pick up the album soon. "Play Tough" and "Beautiful Machine Parts 1-4" are my favorites so far. Also, PopMatters gave it a fine review today here.

Apples in Stereo - Energy
Apples in Stereo - Can You Feel It?