Sunday, July 24, 2016

Super Furry Animals - Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band-- 9:30 Club - Jul 23 2016

by John Miller

Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band - This band are supporting headliners Super Furry Animals this evening and for a couple of other shows in the northeast. A four piece hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, they have just released their third effort, Rarity of Experience. Much like Thursday's Holy Fuck show, their compositions are largely absent of vocals. Leaning on some serious 70s rock, this is far more traditional than Thursday’s show but there is still some ample room for plenty of experimentation. One might think jam band, but I hear something far more concrete. Even though their compositions tend to last well over five minutes, every riff, note, and fill has a purpose. There isn't noise for noise's sake, noodling, or extensive use of delay. No filler, just solid songs.

Super Furry Animals - Super Furry Animals have been somewhat silent for almost a decade. The last album. Dark Days/Light Years, was released all the way back in 2009. This newly reunited Welsh outfit, has been out just playing shows and not really supporting anything particular. I know David has had some issues seeing some reunited acts that fail to deliver; thankfully I have yet to run into anything truly deplorable (Ed-I think a majority end up with successful new life, thankfully). Though they didn't walk on stage to it, an extra long version of the theme to Hawaii Five-O played just before the theatrics began. A note; if you want to get a crowd pumped, play Hawaii Five-O before doing anything.  Clad in white jumpsuits, the five members come out to thumping bass and a frantic video backing piece that shakes with each image. There are helmets and signs too; one simply says "Ape Shit". The audience complies. Super Furry run through some of their more popular songs to begin with. It's a fun set. The psych-pop begins easy enough but each song grows, expands, and bursts. Stopping half way into "Hello Sunshine" just to have a chat, Rhys goes for a bit before holding up another sign; "Louder". The audience complies. Super Furry Animals even had some time for some newer pieces. Inspired by the Welsh National Soccer team qualifying for the Euro this year, Bing Bong their newest piece, is a fun sing a long that could easily fit aside anything from the earlier catalog. But perhaps the biggest response came from The Man Don't Give A Fuck; the audience  quickly joins in a hearty sing-along with more fucks than one could possibly count.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trixie Whitley - Indigo Street -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 22 2016

Indigo Street - Indigo Street is a woman, not a band, but she has a strong band locked in behind her. She brings the lead vocals and electric guitar, while the band provides 12-string acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, and drums. It is an intriguing combination as she provides the intensity in the music, while the band adds subtle intricate backing. It is a fabulous sound that takes its cue from the the old European psyche folk scene with progressive elements, rock moments, even a touch of jazz. I hear elements of a smoother Elyse Weinberg along with someone like Mariza Koch and the band, Emma Myldenberger. Considering this is their second show together, it is amazingly accomplished. But these are fine experienced musicians that know how to create a unique atmosphere. The songs are strong and there is nothing not to like here, especially for an old psyche-folker like me.
photo: Rock'n'Roll Hotel
Trixie Whitley - If the opening band was edgy, Trixie Whitley and her band are even edgier. She sings and plays guitar most, but not all of the time. She is backed with drums, electric bass, and keyboards. Although there is a singer songwriter approach, it veers more towards rock than folk. The vocals are intense and expressive and create the edginess, but the keyboards counter that with a spooky backing that you don't think about often, but feel every step of the way. Her songs are strong and her personality is fun especially as she embraces a rather small crowd tonight. But that made for an even better show as I rarely see a Friday night crowd enraptured by the music and staying so quietly focused. And there was much to focus on as Whitley changed the arrangements from sparse solo outings to full band outings that varied in volume and depth. When you see a relatively small show filled with serious fans, you know there will be bigger shows in the future as the music gets discovered.

Video grab of the Night: Speaking of spooky...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Caustic Casanova - The Ravenna Arsenal - Horseburner - Matter of Planets - Borracho -- The Pinch - Jul 21 2016

Borracho - 5 bands? The real review will be of my back at the end of the night and tomorrow morning. But if the middle batch is as good as the bookends, it will be worth it. We start with a Power with a capital P trio that has always done a great job around town. They have such a tough sound, but don't let it overshadow their fine songs that could probably work in more than a few offshoot genres, as long as it still rocks. I had not been to the Pinch in a while and the sound seemed to be a bit better tonight with better equipment. The vocals are still a bit buried, but the clarity of the instrumentation is solid. Their drummer is off for South America soon and is the second DC area musician to head to that continent that I know of. Hope he has a blast and hope the remaining duo continue to offer great music to this area. This was a fine final set for me that I really enjoyed.

Matter of Planets - From Columbus, Ohio, a former home town of mine and also home of Lo-Pan, a really fine band I have seen on this very stage, comes this powerful quartet. They can easily work on any metal stage with Lo-Pan or all of the bands tonight, but they quickly set course for the stars. They have two guitars soaring, but keep it tough along the way. They create some nice shifts in course to keep the journey interesting, which is important as this is a fully instrumental set. Good solos and rhythmic shifts kept things interesting as well. Ultimately, this band proved to have a different sound from the rest, but still connected well with the others as they could match the strength of the metal offered up tonight.

Horseburner - I am not sure what a horseburner is, but I also don't think I want to know. But for the band behind the name, we have a West Virginia quartet that knows how to kick up some serious sludge metal. They have enough shifts in tone and pace to not stay too much in drone trappings. In fact, they added more than one double lead moment, as well as some post Metallica metal offerings. This may be a bit too much genre (or sub genre perhaps) jumping for some, but bring it on. It works ok for me and did for the modest crowd out on this hot night.

The Ravenna Arsenal - I learned from the hard working photographer behind Roxplosion that one of this Ohio band's guitarists is a luthier who has built the guitars they were using tonight and has a very small line of guitars he has crafted. While not an expert in gear, I can safely say they delivered the crunch, power, and tone that a fine metal band requires. They often had some grungy gooey slow parts in their overall sound, but there were some fascinating high tones fighting to come through the muck that offered a ghostly melody to the mix. This is another strangely likable band in what is turning out to be a successful evening with nary a note out of place.
Caustic Casanova - I just saw this trio, long one of my favorites, less than two months ago, so nothing changed too much from that review. A bit of tinkering with the set list as we began with the opening riffs courtesy of Mr. Nugent (he won't notice, he's busy this week) that work into one of their newer metallic crunching songs with the usual artistry within (something Ted could not touch with a ten foot bow). They keep the sonics coming with all the creative flourish that you come to expect and the crowd is enjoying it all. They unify all the elements previously heard tonight and add a few spices of their own to what is now a long but fulfilling night. Another cut reminded me of Budgie jamming with Led Zeppelin until some how a Rush song emerged. There is plenty of psychedelic intensity as well, as this trio knows how to play with all forms of metal and beyond to concoct something unique. And they continue to work hard and tour frequently. And next week they are off for TEN WEEKS. So if they come your way, do check them out. You will not be sorry.

Cartoon Grab of the Night: I dedicate this On the Fastrack cartoon to Mugger, Gibby Haynes, and Duff McKagan, and accountants everywhere.


Holy Fuck - Doomsquad -- DC9 - Jul 21 2016

by John Miller

Doomsquad - It's getting late. Doomsquad, supporting their latest effort, Total Time, are in the 28th minute of what appears to be a 30 minute delay. Shit happens, I get it. There are lots of moving parts, so perhaps the delay was inevitable. It's interesting, the drums, rather percussion is spot on. In addition to the traditional, there looks to be some triggers activating a pre-recorded beat and there is definitely something else but it has gotten so crowded, the mystery instrument, remains just that, a mystery. The keyboards (of which I count three) keep this progressive techno grounded. With the amount of rhythmic gymnastics happening, they provide an exceptional base. If I get lost, I'll just listen for the keys. Considering Doomsquad began as a joke; a riff on the classic family outfits of the sixties and seventies, they did a good job of subverting those tropes on their collective heads. Far from saccharine, they are aggressive and at points almost confrontational. Very impressive.

Holy Fuck - Let's count how many times I can write fuck or a derivative of fuck. DC9 has some pretty amazing food and some pretty amazing booths. Super comfortable. Generally I'll take a seat before a show, slide as far as I can to the left, and rest against the wall. An older gentleman sat down across from me tonight with the drummer from Holy Fuck. While I didn't add much of anything to the conversation, I was able to confirm the suggestion of local mainstays Tone as someone Holy Fuck should get into. Moral of the story; talk to strangers

Holy Fuck has an interesting approach to their brand of electronic music; they use non-traditional instruments to approximate the sound of modern electronic music. That's not to say they don't use electronic instruments, Holy Fuck aren't using the typical tools. Though I don't see any laser guns yet, it’s early, so there is still hope. Holy Fuck is much more traditional than I could have imagined. There is a constant thumping base and looping keyboard patterns that are unmistakably dance; Fuck isn't exactly clean either. There’s film of dirt that envelops their compositions. I imagine a lot of that has to do with the fuzz coming off the bass. Lots and lots of fuzz, low ends, distortion, effect games with the keyboards. Vocally there isn't much to speak of; any additions from the band are usually in the form of atmospheric noise. The drums are on point all night; through it all they are crisp and varied. Matt keeps it interesting with his choice of time signatures. It reminds me of Battles. I almost feel as if there is too much noise. It can be overbearing at times and take away from the cleaner, quieter moments. And too be honest the quiet moments aren't even that quiet. This isn't manic, swinging violently from volume to volume, it’s excessive. And with a name like Holy Fuck, who can blame them?

Total fuck count: 9

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Amanda + Jack Palmer - Thor & Friends -- 9:30 Club - Jul 16 2016

Thor & Friends - Thor is Thor Harris and not the Norse God (nor the old Max's KC performer). If you are like me, you know him from his run with the Swans, who you can see at this same club in about ten days. But before he gears up with the guitar power of the Swans, he has consciously put together a guitar, bass, and drumless outfit to open up tonight (and also back up some of Amanda Palmer's songs). He has a synth player mostly handling the bottom sounds and a viola handling the drone. That leaves himself and two other vibes players to move around to various xylophones. Thor adds a bit of clarinet as well to this intriguing sound. Amanda Palmer even grabs a pair of mallets and joins in. The band began with rhythmic droning pieces, but work in more melodic works. There was quite a bit of complexity here and the band handles it well as a serene ambiance prevailed. Yet it is a setting that kept you quite alert and mentally active with all that was coming out of this band. The Swans unplugged? Not really, but this was an imaginative spin on that concept. Ultimately this was a fine set that would be even more successful in a smaller room.

Noah Britton - In an uncredited appearance, the writer of one of the songs on the new Jack + Amanda Palmer LP made an appearance here to do a couple of songs. Britton's comdey troupe, Aspergers are Us, is appearing at the Kennedy Center tonight. Britton played a deep voiced folk cut that was quite original and then a singalong that showed decent finger style guitar and a nice melody. Sometimes these little interludes are a distraction, but not tonight. This was a fun surprise that went over well.
Jack and Amanda Palmer - I have not seen Amanda Palmer since the Dresden dolls were here many years ago and I was looking forward to something different tonight. She played hostess the whole way through by introducing and playing with Thor early on. She explained the evening and took questions from the audience reminding me of a funny personable Carol Burnett show opening. When her set began, she played a few tunes with Thor & Friends to start things off. Although the crowd was stoked, the tone was set early on with maybe a bit too much repartee with the audience as the first song was stopped four times. It was hard to find too much fault as the set was loose and fun. Then Amanda's Dad comes out with acoustic guitar as they sang duets from their latest album where they chose cover songs from the last 50 years to play together. The voices worked well as Jack seemed like an old folkie and Amanda has a profoundly excellent voice. Still, I would have rather heard more songs and less talking where my brain was led to debate what I was hearing...

"Love is not about perfection, it is fucked up. We are all fucked up, right?" Well no, that sort of generalization for billions of people is as meaningless as saying that it is all about perfection.

paraphrasing... 'This is a Phil Ochs song from 1964 and sadly is still going on today'. Agreed, but again awfully general, since if you talked to anyone who was there, things are radically different. If you expect major problems and bad attitudes to become extinct, well good luck. It is like expecting to win a 'war on drugs' or expecting sin to be eradicated. But hey, a Phil Ochs song is welcome and will be for centuries to come.

I know I am getting picky here, because the atmosphere was fun, but the songs can speak to the big issues better than the performer most times. And yes these are troubling times, but any sort of reading of history should remind you of why people have always been using creative means to get through it all. So long may Amanda Palmer continue with the creative songs she writes and the covers she interprets so well.

Quote of the Night: From Noah Britton in the middle of his successful sing along...
"That's it, make Minor Threat proud."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS

The heat is in. If I can brave the walk to the clubs, these are some of the shows I will be attending:

Amanda Palmer with Thor & Friends will be at the 9:30 Club this Saturday night, July 16th. The last time I saw Amanda at the Club was when she played for the first Obama inauguration. What a radical choice we had for that election. Can't get any more radical than that.



Doomsquad opens for Holy Expletive (I use expletives like a sailor, but I just hate them in band names) at the DC9 on Thursday, July 21st.



Trixie Whitley joins us at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday the 22nd.


Super Furry Animals bring their super furry fun across the ocean to play for us at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, July 23rd.


The Defibulators will keep your heart pumping at Gypsy Sally's on Tuesday, July 26th.


The mighty Swans will be playing their last show on Thursday the 28th at the 9:30 Club. Let's call it their... oh, go watch Rocky & Bullwinkle if you don't know what comes next.


If you don't make it to the Swans, by all means head over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel to see Quilt and Big Thief. My theoretical clone will be there.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Steve Gunn - Spacin -- Black Cat - Jul 10 2016

by John Miller

Spacin - Spacin meander on stage about ten after eight. The crowd follows, slowly making their way into the Back Room. It's quiet but to be honest, I expected as much. Spacin have to compete with uncharacteristically nice weather. Beer in hand, Jason Killinger introduces his four piece as they stumble into their first piece. It's decidedly lo-fi fuzz that begins quietly enough before morphing into a four minute riff. Hailing from Philadelphia, Spacin is supporting their latest, 'Total Freedom', and if it's anything like this set, it is probably well worth the listen. Jason keeps it light, asking for a bottle opener during an impromptu intermission. The drums thud while the bass follows along. Jason fiddles with his beverage. For such a laid back set there is a lot of shredding tonight. The lead guitarist is doing a killer job of keeping things exciting. Structurally the songs are interesting; big hooks followed by sludge, that find their way back to the hooks. Really solid. The room has filled out nicely as the back half of the set begins. Things slow down and take on a more psychedelic bent, before the three piece drum set begins. And seemingly out of nowhere another endless hook. Great set.
 photo: Geoff Tischman

Steve Gunn - Formally of Kurt Vile's backing band, The Violaters, Brooklyn based Steve Gunn is supporting his latest album Eyes on the Lines (his seventh release since 2013). I don't know if it is because I have read so many reviews of David's but I feel like I have seen Kurt Vile multiple times. So I am excited to see what Steve Gunn is all about. I wasn't expecting so much twang; the first piece has a lot of slide guitar that plays well with Steve's voice. It's a nice complement before the two guitarists battle it out. With the reviews read about his most recent release, I expected something a lot slower. I kept seeing words like contemplative, journey, direction and expected a slow trek out west; taking in each landscape with a cool, measured thought. The bass is good; not quite mid range, not quite low end, not exactly emphasizing every bump in the road but rather letting the shocks do their job. At times the guitars move at a blistering pace, shredding in between Steve and the drums. And considering how measured he is, I am surprised how loud they get. The earlier reviews also misled me as well. Kurt Vile's sets reminded David of early Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground. That’s not to say they were wrong, I just assumed Gunn might follow suit.  His pieces are much more up tempo. As if he were on a mission; racing through the south. While it isn't quite a madcap race to the end, it is certainly at least 10 to 15 miles above the speed limit; like an old pickup rumbling down dirt country road.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Split Seconds - Wild Love - More AM than FM -- Black Cat - Jul 7 2016

More AM than FM -- I last saw this Maryland trio 3 1/2 years ago and they offer the same powerful punk sound, but have even a bit more skill and confidence now. Instead of radio bands, I think 'More Agrro-Music than Finesse Music' is appropriate here. The throaty guitar licks on top of a strong rhythm section lays the table with classic punk rock meets blues rock sounds. The guitarist's voice can stay with it all with a ferocious edge that keeps everyone on their toes. The tunecraft is decent and again, it is the confidence to push the music to the edge that has these ladies at the top of their game. What is not to like about a band like this?

Wild Love - This local outfit has an Irish singer, noticeable more in the stage patter than his lead vocals or the musical style. They also feature a big strong sound, but unlike the first band, there is more a move to shoegaze, post-Radiohead rock, and older big rock sounds. I find it works best for me when they cut loose a little bit and inject some fun into their songs. The more introspective ones drift away from me some. But there is enough spirit and energy to make for a decent set. They cut a fine presence in the scene and should work well on many a bill around town.

The Split Seconds - This local twin guitar quartet is celebrating their album release with this show tonight. There is a sizable crowd here to join in on the fun, and the band delivers them everything they expected and then some. They describe themselves as classic pop punk band, which is exactly as they were for me. I kept trying to find the band that they have grown out of and came up with Generation X, which I see they indeed list as an influence. That seemed closest as the vocals had that melodic energy of early Gen X songs. But they add some bombs away abandon from even heavier later day punk bands, while never losing sight of good melodies. They even add some classic moves like instrumental surf songs and reggae-meets-punk rock combination cuts. And they are yet another band to cover 'Kick Out the Jams' with a guest vocalist even. Although I have seen the MC5 play this, I never get tired of the many cover versions that come my way. Although there were some heavy hitter national bands to consider tonight, I am glad I went with the locals as they had the energy and sense of fun that makes for a great summer night.

Cartoon grab of the Night:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Prism Tats -- Jammin Java - Jul 2 2016

Prism Tats - We begin the holiday weekend festivities amid a big crowd with an LA trio that I am guessing many have not heard of. I hadn't, so it started a little slow for me, but their sound was very curious. They combined smooth pop melodic moves with a wide vocal range and some vocal/synth effects on top of a grinding and simple rhythm section. The guitarist invokes some alternate pop moves or joins in with a menacing attack. Yet the vocals never attack. It is like Kirk Brandon playing with Hawkwind's rhythm section, covering some Nerves songs. This really gets quite good by set's end and I sense the crowd is experiencing it like I am, taking a bit to get used to the style and really enjoying what these guys come up with. It is always a pleasure hearing such familiar and catchy sounds integrated in unique ways.
We Were Promised Jetpacks - This Scottish band has a strong fanbase here due no doubt to all the classic reasons, writing really good songs, releasing albums regularly, and touring hard. The room is stoked even after a bit too long a delay (for me anyway) and the crowd is excited with every song and just about every move. The band does its usual subtle shifting around between pop, rock, postpunk, and shoegaze with a firm hand at the wheel to keep everything sounding rather majestic. These guys have that knack for making big sounds sound intimate, with dynamic shifts from loud to quiet that seem completely within nature. This is about the third maybe fourth time I have seen them, which is about the time I feel I have had enough of a band. But their fresh approach and strong songwriting has not tired me the slightest and I will quite possibly see them again on their next visit across the Atlantic.

Quote of the Night: Actually, a week ago or more, rather stating the obvious:

James Williamson - "Everybody's dead except for Iggy and I, so it would be sort of ludicrous... with only one Stooge in the band"

Thursday, June 30, 2016

RECORD REVIEWS - June 2016

BLUE ORCHIDS “AWEFULL”
When Martin Bramah left the Fall after the great ‘Live at the Witch Trials’, he formed this excellent post punk band. The direction is given extra pizzazz with a cheesy psyche organ that perfectly merges the 60s with the 80s. The guitars are fierce and the rhythm section is high in the mix, so it has all the great post punk sounds that you expect. The songs are generally quite good as well and there are some demos amidst the better known songs. These songs are rarities and singles and such, but come together to form a great album.

Songs to start with:

The Flood - The opener has that modern audacious garage feeling.

Work - One of John Peel’s favorites and that is all you need to know.

Conscience - Slower, moodier, but lots of twisted counter guitar moves.

BLUE ORCHIDS “THE ONCE AND FUTURE THING”
This is the new material and although not as steady as “Awefull”, the highlights on this are well worth a listen. This takes a turn to the more slacker oddball music, which was hinted at in the solo album more than the Blue Orchids material. There are a lot of interesting moments here, it only requires an appreciation of a more laid back approach. If you have that, there are creative songs to be heard. If not, well, be sure to check out ‘Feather from the Sun’. That is a major highlight.

Songs to start with:

A Feather from the Sun - Such exciting contrasts of guitar parts, keyboards, laconic vocals… a highly original song.

Jam Today - And still jamming decades later.

Road to Perilous - Poetic beginning to an odd little dittie.

MARTIN BRAMAH “THE BATTLE OF TWISTED HEEL”
If Syd Barrett could have organized his thoughts better for his solo career, his great songs could have had this sort of treatment. Blue Orchids front man Martin Bramah released this in 2008 and this is reissued in conjunction with the Blue Orchids releases reviewed above. It was a pretty obscure limited release to begin with, but is well worth the time and trouble to put it out in the world again. It has that outsider folk feeling that is a fraction in the know (nod and a wink). That is always worth at least one listen for those of us that think we’ve just about heard everything.

Songs to start with:

Coming Forth by Day - Charming cut where the Bramah style starts making sense.

It’ll Be Night Soon - Nice electric guitar line added on to the moderately quirky folk.

Strangely Lucid - Like a folk Doors song.

RAFI BOOKSTABER “LATE SUMMER”
Here is some lo-fi psychedelic music that should interest most psychedelic fans, especially those around DC. The artist was in a DC band called Death Chants back before my blog began and I never caught them. When band members scattered, Rafi stayed active and now has this album out on Woodsist (Label of the band Woods). He may be in Philadelphia now, which has some fine psychedelic sounds around town. This one fits right in as it is trippy from first not to last, with chants, drones, and a really low key psychedelic vibe prevalent through eight long songs. There is not much discernible difference in the songs, well there is always something, but the goal is to create an atmosphere that unfolds itself in an Escherian manner. I still prefer more song oriented psychedelic music (and there is a touch of this later on), but I always leave plenty of room for good mood pieces and this one deserves some further cosmic exploration.
CERISE “SMOKE SCREEN DREAMS”
This is definitely my type of modern pop-rock. Moody vocals and thick sounds work hand in hand to deliver straight forward melodies that kept me glued to this channel. Not quite chillwave, but cool and composed throughout, this delivers a good balanced sound for cross genre interests. It is mannered with the artists in control of the pace and sound. There is plenty to like here, maybe not a lot to love and get roused up off your couch, but it was highly effective to these ears.

Songs to start with:

Shades in Shade - Maybe the thickest sound underneath the chill vocals.

St. Nick - Lovely guitar and percussion shake-up with more lovely vocal work.

Lay Low - Good fade-out with old school guitar solo amidst the relaxing tones.

CONSILIENCE “UNDER OUR BEDS 2”
The music here is decent. The vocals offer an effective thoughtful pop approach. I could easily dismiss this as an average effort, but this Edmonton band manages to connect the music with the lyrics as well as you could want. If you don’t pay attention, you will find pleasant music going in one ear and out the other. But they have a way of making you listen and their subtle but dramatic sounds are a big part of that. I likely would not have spent time with this if I just heard a few seconds or heard it described, but it was well worth my time and will be again soon. Tricky, but inviting.

Songs to start with:

Grim - A rich opener, replete with grim music and cautiously optimistic music. Quite a mood here.

Sober - A classy song where the guitars communicate as well as the vocals.

The Only Time I Choose - Dreamy, but down to earth some how.

M. CRAFT “BLOOD MOON”
So a musician exiles himself to a remote cabin to write an album. Yes, Bon Iver has been mentioned several times in conjunction of this latest LP by M. Craft, but there are of course differences. I thought Bon Iver was ok, but overhyped. Hopefully this M. Craft album will steadily find its audience, but it could grow quite large based on what I am hearing. There is a delicacy to the songs, yet a good searching vibe going on that allows the music to flow out. Even on songs that are fleshed out more with a chorus of backing vocals, sharper guitar tones, drums, and piano, everything is so mannered and comfortably paced. Although this may turn off the rock heavy crowd, if you are willing to sit back and drift in the pool, M. Craft will provide the soundtrack.

Songs to start with:

Blood Moon - Spacey foray toward the blood moon, yet a quiet, delicate journey.

Chemical Trails - Another careful, quality song.

Love is the Devil - If you like a bigger, bolder arrangement, this one has plenty to offer.

DALE and the ZDUBS “TUNA”
Local dubsters are back with another 18 song album. With maturity comes some positives, and maybe a bit of a negative too. The arrangements are more involved with a variety of rock meets reggae moves done at various intensities and volumes and plenty of pop hooks scattered throughout. I enjoy the brass and occasional carnival organ sound, both of which expand the atmosphere considerably. Lyrically and melodically it is a little bit geared to youth, which has left me by some time ago. So I am not sure whether a more refined approach would work or whether they should just continue direct their energy as they are doing. Probably best to stick with what they know and if they can still bring it on stage as they have in the past, all appears to be well in the ZDub camp.

Songs to start with:

Find a Way - Good pop tune, sung with warmth and very balanced between smart and accessible.

You Know I’m With You - The rock guitars sound wonderful here.

Never Land - Punchy cut that balances heart and heft.

DOT DASH “SEARCHLIGHTS”
It is always a treat to have these veteran DC punk rockers play their brand of punk infused power pop music, whether on one of their many regular releases or live in the clubs. Now with a lead guitarist, Steve Hansgen, well entrenched after a period of changes, they are firing on all cylinders as this album proves. And they still have that little bit of extra hard rocking guitar sound added to their power (to the third power) pop. I hope no one reading this blog is hearing the name ‘Dot Dash’ for the first time (the Wire song doesn’t count), but if you are, climb aboard, while these guys still have this amazing drive and clarity.

They play around town regularly but have a good show coming to the Black Cat on Thursday, July 14th.

Songs to start with:

Dumb Entertainment - Catchy enough opener, but with a sharp creative break shows the special nature of Dot Dash.

10,000 Days - Crunching guitars, big drums, melodic bass line, and still room for pop oriented vocals.

Summer Lights - Try this one if you think these guys have only a couple of different speeds—the old fashioned rock vibe is unique here.

KYLE FOSBURGH “TWO NIGHT”
This is not the first Kyle Fosburgh acoustic guitar record I have heard, so I expected and received something excellent. Between his fine solo albums, he also works to reissue and unearth Robbie Basho material, so he is a serious minded musician that has great taste with unique historic talents. Fosburgh has a post-Basho feel, but is more delicate in the way of a Pierre Bensusan. There are seven lovely songs here, all with fine finger style guitar work and with vocals that are carefully worked into the song, some times sparingly, but effective in their quiet clarity. I always like a good finger style folk guitarist, but Kyle Fosburgh is one that is near the top of my list, at least here in the USA.

FREE PIZZA “BERLIN, DE”
This seven song EP has that classic post modern indie rock vibe… crisp guitar bits, a bass line that roams a couple of octaves, snare popping drums, and ironic vocals. Oh, and a pop sensibility is at the heart, although the music acts like it does not want to admit it. I find this all rather cute, but hard to fully embrace in 2016. It is still a fun listen and it blasts by pretty quickly. A cut like ‘The Fall’ is something I want more of. On the right bill, this could be a lot of fun live.

THE GALAXY ELECTRIC “EVERYTHING IS LIGHT AND SOUND”
My expectations were for something psychedelic based on band name and album title. Instead, we have oddball bubbly pop music. As this goes on a ways, there is a more murky mysterious element that brings in ancient sounds from the 1960s pop and lounge scenes that make this sound other worldly and intriguing. This album is proof of the concept of finishing what you start. After three or four cuts, I was ready to move on. But staying with it, I found the songs got longer, better, and there was more of an understanding of their approach. This is not for everyone, but if you wanted to challenge the pop side of your musical brain, here is a good test.

Songs to start with:

Luminosity - Haunting vocal and guitar with dubby bassline and rimshots. Oddly interesting.

Murder in the Garden - A fine vocal and a musical mystery of sorts - my personal favorite.

Nightmares - One of the more pleasant nightmares I have experienced, but quite quirky and dreamy.

LAURA GIBSON “EMPIRE BUILDER”
This is the kind of smart album I like. There is such care in the execution with songs that are smart and penetrating. The emotions are unveiled through careful musical and vocal construction and not pushed at you like more obvious musicians. So you have something accessible where your brain stays on (but not overworked). There are musicians from Neko Case and Death Cab for Cutie here, so it is a strong cast engaging in popcraft at work. Give this a spin.

And you can see Laura Gibson at the Black Cat on Saturday, July 9th.

Songs to start with:

The Cause - Her assured vocal style is established and there is some crazy music going on in the background.

Empire Builder - Maybe it is the title, but the music also reminds me of a Paul Simon type epic story.

Caldera, Oregon - Great phrasing and contrasting sounds. Delicate and ethereal.

JAMBINAI “A HERMITAGE”
I am hearing Big Black meets Chrome meets Death Metal. But this is no young hip college band, but a South Korean collective that manages to work in traditional songs into some of the wildest and intense arrangements that are likely to come out of your speakers for some time. There are many longs songs and while heavy and startling at times, they engage in spacey drones as well. They are not the first Asian band to embrace the krautrock sounds of Ash Ra Tempel or Amon Düül, but they take it up a notch or two. And they cover all the forms that work for me in psychedelic music, drones, folk moves, hard guitar moments, and loads of creative flourish that all come together in one unique atmosphere. Monster LP, here, dive in and float skyward.

Songs to start with:

Wardrobe - Nothing like a ferocious opener to wake you from your slumber.

Echo of Creation - Another fierce rocker keeps the momentum

The Mountain - This is the climb to spiritual enlightenment.

DURAND JONES and the INDICATIONS “NOW I’M GONE”
I had to make sure I was listening to a new record when I first put this on, as the organ sound and other musical moves took me back to the soul music scene from the late sixties. Durand Jones is from Bloomington, Indiana and has clearly made an effort to bring classic soul music into the present. There are others, but not as many as there were then and it is good to hear this lovely sound. He has the expressive voice and also the band that can thicken up the mix or allow more space depending on the mood they are after. And they play around with beats and forms just enough, but the lead vocals are assured and keep the soul at the heart, so to say.

Songs to start with:

Smile - Great combination of old time soul and reggae moves.

Groovy Babe - Funky guitar, big rock sound and a great title.

Now I’m Gone - There is an interesting bounce in this beat.

FEMI KUTI “NO PLACE FOR MY DREAM”
Fela Kuti is certainly known as an African legend, as his Nigerian afrobeat set a course for many musicians around the world. One of them was his son Femi who has now been active for 30 years (where has the time gone). I am less familiar with his music, but since he first played in his father’s band, I am sure many of the core traits will be there. He clearly has a fiery lyrical approach and a high energized beat to support the vocal lines. The guitars and brass are bright and quick to the note. You have to look hard to find anything not to like here. So if not to your taste, it could easily hit you in the right mood; and I like a good blast of this style of music from time to time.

You can see Femi Kuti live at the 9:30 Club on Friday, July 29th.

Songs to start with:

Nothing to Show for it - Lively opener, which is the way that openers should go.

No Work No Job No Money - Spritely rhythm, lots of space for the strong vocals, interesting sounds.

Wy Our Money -  A snappy funky number that will get everybody moving.

LETS EAT GRANDMA “I GEMINI”
They must be slow roasting Grandma, as this music takes its time unfolding its flavor. This is moody electronic music, although there are both pop vocals and some hybrid rap moments as well. ‘Sax in the City’ is a bit noisier in spots and with some decent drumming hits some rock buttons while doing some interesting electronic things, too. There is just enough creativity to keep me listening. It is not really my style, nor am I exactly sure whose style it might be (which is cool), but it ultimately pulled me just far enough into its enchanted world.

LONESOME SHACK “THE SWITCHER”
If you like gritty lo-fi rock band blues, you may want to hang out in this lonesome shack. Be forewarned, this is raw. It is not gnarly fast paced furious blues. It is steady riff oriented chunky blues with atmospheric vocals. It is a bit like a steady slower punk rock band playing the blues, raw and feral without flash. If this sounds exciting, well it might be, but it was not for me. There are some good songs, but too many other times it is just blues riffing until they decide to stop. It is refreshing to go primitive at times and this may fit the bill for a foray back in time, but it just was not fresh enough and vibrant enough to sustain going forward with.

Songs to start with:

Lonesome Shack - Good atmosphere created here with the riff and vocal line.

Dirty Traveller - Well titled traveling song.

Blood - A little bit beyond the usual guitar riff song here offers a needed change-up, although it comes late.

MANWOMANCHILD “AWKWARD ISLAND”
Pop music is not often this creative. One wonders if ‘pop’ is the right word. It describes the feeling of association for the listener, but you just wonder if the popularity will follow. Clearly, smart music lovers will enjoy the sly simplicity of this music that is sharp as a tack, but it may not be able to quite catch the masses. Too bad, as there are great feelings to be had in these somewhat varied, but all slightly quirky songs.

Songs to start with:

I Know a Man - Kind of a Ray Davies title and a tad of the songwriting style, too.

The Retreat - Delightful pop song with some rocking moves as well as some surprise shifts.

The Telepath Returns - Has a laid back American pop style.

MIMES OF WINE “LA MAISON VERTE”
The mileage between Bologna and Los Angeles is vast and filled with many cultural influences that this trio can cull from as they claim both cities as home. The core line-up is keyboards/female vocals, stand-up bass, and drums, but there are other instrumentalists adding touches that include brass and some guitar. But that is the clinical side of the sound—the real key is the air of mystery that they provide in both the drama of their songs as well as the intriguing blend of styles. There is rock, a touch of lounge jazz, some goth folk moves, and I am not sure what else. This is original, yet very comfortable as long as you don’t waste too much time trying to analyze it. And thus, I will just sit back, or rather lean forward, and listen again to this fine album—a very nice surprise.

Songs to start with:

Below a Fire - The opener is an intriguing song both in nature and it trying to figure out this band’s direction (that is a compliment).

Jai Singh - The mystery continues with a lovely song, a low center of gravity, and brass.

Shemkel - This reminds me of a John Cale-Nico collaboration, but less scary.

PAWS “NO GRACE”
I smiled before I heard a note as I just knew that Paws brand of hook oriented punk-pop-rock would likely make me happy. This Glaswegian band has an earnest energy that they keep in check and sincere, while not afraid of rocking out with plenty of fire. There are hints of Husker Du, Guided by Voices, and Naked Raygun in here, but Paws sound like themselves—a band following a long line of catchy hard rocking bands that can rattle off the songs and excite an audience. Yes, I am happy.

Songs to start with:

No Grace - Strong opener with loads of power, but great touch in emitting a hearty melody.

N A - This one cooks with plenty of heart.

Salt Lake - They gnarled up the amps for this sound. Twisted and wonderful.

QUILT “PLAZA”
I have seen Quilt live a couple of times and have enjoyed the experience quite a bit. They are a favorite here in DC and it is nice to hear a new album by this fine Americana tinged indie rock band. They may invoke thoughts of genres long played out, but one fair listen and you can hear the particular magic that they can produce. The guitars and rhythm section have that integrated sophistication that makes so much sense, whether it be a carefully planned song or an extended jam. They do a little bit of everything that you expect on this record and it is quite the pleasure.

And they head back to the Rock’n’Roll Hotel on Thursday July 28th. I would be there in a flash were it not for the chance to catch Swans on their last tour (keep reading). But you won’t go wrong here.

Songs to start with:

Passerby - The opener features those wonderful ringing guitars, cool female vocals, and steady rhythm—as expected and desired.

Searching For - Great hooks and guitar interplay.

Eliot St. - A lovely popsike cut that floats you back to the 1960s.

THE SCENICS “IN THE SUMMER”
This band takes me back to the days where punk rock and new wave coexisted with bands straddling both genres. These guys go quirky, but with a laconic attitude punctuated by guitar bursts. The vocals are an acquired taste and frankly have not aged as well, at least in my mind. Vocally, it is a bit in the direction of David Byrne/James Chance without the overdriven intensity. The uneven rhythms and dynamics tend to throw my mind and body off unlike when I was young and music needed jolts like this. But there is plenty of creativity here if you are looking for something different. What is really funny is that when I finished this album, i looked up the details of the release and found out that these are recordings from 1977-78! I was going to give this seminal Toronto band credit for  following a nearly overgrown path that just is not taken any more. But it seems maybe the path is overgrown since the days where the Scenics were trail blazing.

SHOPPING “WHY CHOOSE”
Ah, those wonderful days of punk rock with self starting female bands with players that had somewhere between 0 and 50% experience with an instrument, but still started highly interesting and creative bands. The Raincoats and Slits worked wonders by creating rhythmic blasts of intensity wandering strange untaken musical paths. The sound continued into post punk with intriguing space between staccato guitar runs and full bass lines like Gang of Four and even the B-52s. So if you like any or all of that, you should be listening to Shopping. They seem to have a carved out a nice little niche in the musical world of the 21st century.

And Shopping comes to the Comet Ping Pong on August 9th if you want to catch them live.

Songs to start with:

Straight Lines - Love the almost Thomas Mapfumo guitar lines.

Say it Once - Tempo and melodic shifts, synthesizer effects, really cool things combine in this song.

Sinking Feeling - Actually, this takes me out of my sinking feeling.

SPAIN “CAROLINA”
I had to make sure I had band, album, and song correct when I saw Spain, Carolina, and Tennessee come up for the first song on the playlist. And of course, the band is from Los Angeles and have been around for some time, although this is the first album I have sampled. And they do sound more Californian than any of the other locales mentioned above and I believe most people would pick California in a multiple choice test between the four. This ‘band’ is primarily the work of Josh Haden, son of jazz player Charlie Haden and brother of Petra Haden (who I favorably reviewed last month). He has a laid back approach, but it is smart with plenty going on, which is kind of the tradition of the fine folk-rock artist with that western style. The vocals will melt butter slowly and are the highlight of the many fine sounds that deliver these slow thoughtful songs.

Songs to start with:

Tennessee - The opener sets the tone and is a lovely song.

The Depression - Not too depressing, but emotional.

Lorelei - A fine subtle jangle in the electric guitar and soaring vocals.

STELLA DIANE “NITOCRIS”
I read Echo and the Bunnymen when I first read about the band. I hear Echo and the Bunnymen on this first lisen as well as a lot more. There definitely is that post punk, goth, shoegaze, stylistic rock approach that will take you back to the 1980s. When they succeed for me, they are able to combine a droning style with a powerful rock undercurrent, but still more toward the British scene of the 1980s than, say the Swans. Some songs are likable, but forgettable, but they occasionally nail it and are well worth paying attention to. And sign me up for a live show, because that is where this will really work best. The band is from Italy, so we will see how far around the globe they can carry their sound.

Songs to start with:

M9 - The grinding guitars are both droning and driving, atlhough the drums a bass keep things mobile and fresh.

Psychedelic Furs - I just like naming a song after a band, odd but atmospheric.

Dedu’n - Strong opening, powerful cut. Please, more like this.

STILL PARADE “CONCRETE VISION”

This pop music is light and airy, in fact it is downright breathy in the vocals. I struggled to wrap around the music with its light melodies, overly loud bass lines and simple beats. The vocals often can pull it together, but in this case while they had a reasonable amount of expression within, they just seemed a bit too basic and by the numbers for me. Everything is fairly routine here and I really don’t see anything I have not seen a hundred times before, many done much better.

THE SWANS “THE GLOWING MAN”
Well, this it, their swan song. All humor aside (what humor?), Michael Gira and cohorts are calling it quits a second time after this LP and an extensive world tour. And this likely will be it, at least for the Swans, as I am sure there will be some fascinating offshoot projects. But this second run culminates with another fine offering. Just nine songs, a few of epic proportion, yet a long Swans song still can manage to suspend time and keep me entranced in their romantic drone far better than any normal rock band. They know how to drone with subtle layers and movements that allows the listener to think, but very slowly and carefully. If anything, this album is not as ferociously guitar on top of guitar domination and has more subtle moments. The title track goes just under 29 minutes and has some moments of guitar domination along with a host of other tones and sounds. And then they appropriately close with the lighter ‘Finally Peace’ as there finally is. I normally recommend songs but it never makes sense with the Swans—just dive in at the beginning and listen to it all as the Swans create their musical world as profoundly as anyone.

And by all means, catch them live in DC for the final time at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, July 28th.

THOSE PRETTY WRONGS “THOSE PRETTY WRONGS”
Initially this is one of those quiet albums that has enough quality that is hard to dislike, but you wonder how much you really like it. And like many of these types of albums, if you keep listening, it will carefully work its way into your system. There certainly is some background with this debut album as it comes from Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and his musical partner, Luther Russell. And the music here is a good follow up on the Big Star sound, although it is a little more relaxed and easy going with plenty of Byrds moves within. Big Star fans will definitely want to check this out—supposedly they recorded this in Memphis with some of Chris Bell’s guitars. So there is no trying to hide from the past, and that is as refreshing as these songs.

Songs to start with:

I’m For Love - I thought I was listening to a Byrds outtake when the harmonies kicked in.

Thrown - An nice shift in rhythm still retains the quiet ringing guitar for a great change up.

The Heart - A more acoustic take closes out the album in a lovely manner.

VARIOUS ARTISTS “SONGS FROM THE BLACK MEADOW”
The Black Meadow is a place of mystery located in the Yorkshire moors. A University Professor that collected folklore from that area went missing is the focal point of this release. Chris Lambert curated the artists here who contributed songs to help tell the tale of this mysterious locale (in addition to his book). It is a fine collection of psychedelic folk and goth tinged songs from several bands I know little of. I note that Mellow Candle’s Alison O’Donnell is on one track, which is a pleasure to see. This is a well done compilation, sort of a more modern Wicker Man soundtrack. It is not quite of that quality (few psyche-folk records are), but surprisingly not terribly far behind. There is just a more modern feeling that permeates some of these songs, which may or may not go over with each listener (Eastgreen’s rap moves don’t fit). But the sense of mystery and journey is present here and this a great pleasure to listen to.

WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS “UNRAVELLING”
The minute I heard the name, I loved this band. The minute I heard their live set, I loved this band. Now after hearing a few albums, I still love this band. They have always had a great touch with a balance between powerpop, punk, post punk, and just classic pop rock. But the real kicker is that this album also has overpowering breaks and sonic blasts that are nearly cinematic in their power and reach. This is an excellent record, whether you are already a fan of this Scottish ban or whether this is the first you have heard of them. I recommend it highly and also recommend the live show.

And don’t delay. They play the Jammin Java this Saturday, July 2nd.

Songs to start with:

Peaks and Troughs - A rather tender vocal line with all the ripping power pop hooks this band is capable of.

I Keep it Composed - There are absolutely majestic passages here.

Bright Minds - …think alike and this band must be quite bright as they all lock in and bring life to a fine song.

ZIEMBA “HOPE IS NEVER”
There is a great use of space in the arrangements of these sometimes droning pop songs. It reminds me of John Cale working with Nico, although there is much more optimism and brightness in the music of Ziemba. She has a voice that can go deep into thought or more out front in bright expression. She can turn it on as well, vocally and musically as it is not all sunshine, but a more balanced world.

Songs to start with:

Phantom See - Mysterious use of space, creating an intriguing room of quiet sound.

El Paso - A steadier pop song with careful touches of music and voice.

Tiger Woman - Here’s the fire and the darker bits of life.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - July 2016

The dog days of summer are here and air conditioned clubs are one place to park oneself. Here are but a few ideas...

One of Scotland's finest keeps reminding us that We Were Promised Jetpacks. Frankly, the band will do nicely until the days of the Jetsons are here. Join me at the Jammin Java on Saturday July 2nd to see this great band.


If there is nothing to do, then do Nothing. They play the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, July 7th.


Laura Gibson's album was impressive. For the live set, head over to the Black Cat on Saturday, July 9th.


Steve Gunn blazes into the Black Cat on Sunday the 10th.


You can catch local powerhouse Dot Dash with Wussy at the Black Cat on Thursday, July 14th. For Free Dot Dash music, click here. Also, if you buy their newest LP (review coming here tomorrow), you get all four albums via download files! Check this offer out!
 
Hey Mercedes either refers to hailing an auto or calling out to the actress voice of demonic Linda Blair in the Exorcist. Find out if either of those have anything to do with this band when they play the Black Cat on Friday, July 15th.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Broncho - Winter - Faron Young Cannibals -- DC9 - Jun 25 2016

by John Miller

Faron Young Cannibals - I am reminded immediately of one of David's recent reviews and how aggressive crowd work can sometimes have quite the negative effect as Faron Young Cannibals meanders through their first two songs. Pandering is best used on believers; you preach to the choir. Faron Young Cannibals are so far removed from any of that; laid back, much like their music. Their nonchalant attitude resonates with the crowd. Normally I might knit pick about small things; introductions, not knowing what or where the set is going, a lack of crowd work but it's as if I have somehow been infested with this even keeled demeanor through osmosis. Though there are times when it's too easy; some of the structures are obvious. Then Faron Young Cannibals begin to harmonize like The Beach Boys and those simple structures are quickly forgotten. There is twang here; they would fit well on an unofficial King of the Hill soundtrack. 
     
Winter - Winter begins and the floor begins to bounce in rhythm with the bass. The effect work by the guitars more than makes up for a lack of keyboards as those missing layers make their way through between the solos (to be honest they don't need them). There are elements of My Bloody Valentine though Winter reminds me more of both Moon King and Youth Lagoon; hazy, blue, and at times, surprisingly loud. The bass is exceptional; it's bright, lots of mid range. And as the bassist begins climbing about the PA like a jungle gym, it’s obvious where that energy comes from. After so many failed attempts, the bassist’s acrobatics finally elicits a response from the crowd.
Broncho - Broncho closes tonight. They have brought with them an interesting set up; full length mirrors and a smoke machine. It's like Enter the Dragon in here except without the whole kung-fu. Supporting their latest release Double Vanity, Broncho is an interesting mix previous two bands tonight; there are elements of Americana and significant effects. It's on the slower side, elements of prog; exploration. The second piece ends with the guitar working through this weird, cloudy mess and suddenly switches gears as the third piece begins; stuttering, strange and significantly faster. The vocals are something, Ryan Lindsey has this nasally, Midwest thing going on. It's as if Tom Haverford has somehow found his way from Pawnee Indiana to Washington DC by way of Broncho. I'm even hearing some Mark Knopfler too. The bass is fuzzy. It fits well with the smoke that has enveloped the front of the stage. Their compositions are duplicitous; they begin approachable but as the time passes the songs start to take shape, becoming these snake like beasts, sliding, slithering, exploring, and surprising. Even as the room goes dark, the crowd swells and the floors continue to bow.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Black Mountain - Majeure -- Black Cat - Jun 25 2016

Majeure - We begin with the drummer of Zombi, an interesting duo from Pittsburgh. He has electonica backing that is very rhythmic in composition and his drumming just pummels it deeper into powerful patterns. It is always a positive to have live drumming with electronica, although you don't often get drumming this good. Obviously it is important tonight as it is the lone focal point. The electronica is not terribly special beyond its intensity, but some of that is me as long time readers will know. But that last long song had more going on with lots of compositional dynamics. Good opening set, not too long, just a strong burst of energy to set you up for the main course.
photo - Geert Braekers

Black Mountain - It has been a while since this strong psychedelic Vancouver band has graced a DC stage with its unique presence. But it took mere seconds before they grabbed command with an incredibly loud sound with full clarity showcasing the edgy dynamics of their sound. Kudos to their soundman who took this tough room and filled it with this powerful music, leaving no room for idle conversation. But that was not going to be a problem as the hardened fans were mesmerized by this performance. It was not a full house, as they only had a few more people than their large Rock'n'Roll Hotel crowd they previously had, but that was ok with me. It left a bit of space around me, which helps as you listen to music that launches you into space exploration. And that is what these guys do with a killer rhythm section setting a steel girded framework for loud guitars and clever keyboards to direct the journey. Add male psyche-hippie vocals to chilling female vocals, and you have the complete package. The set was well thought out with highlights from all of their four albums. And there is plenty of variety of song within their arsenal of sonic textures. You get some serious songwriting rulebreaking in 'Tyrants'. which still amazes me to this day. I expected a solid set tonight, but this band pushed it much further and delivered a real gem. Hope they don't wait so long until next they return.

Photo Grab of the Night - And early Syd Barrett photo of a painting I will assume he did and inspired him in writing 'Scream thy last Scream'.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mika Pohjola Trio - Sigmar Matthiasson's NYC Quartet -- Embassy of Finland - Jun 22 2016

Sigmar Matthiasson's NYC Quartet - Embassy events are the best for a variety of reasons and Embassy of Finland was nice enough to invite me a third time for a cultulral event as they had a private show that was part of Nordic Jazz Fest 2016. They worked with the Embassy of Iceland this year in getting this fine Icelandic bass player to open the show with his quartet featuring piano, drums, and electric guitar. Although over 8% of Iceland's entire population is in France to cheer on their amazing national football team, it is good to see a few of them here to support this fine musical act. Matthiasson has a smooth style as does his band, although I am not sure 'smooth' is the right adjective for a good jazz show. Basically the seams were not showing as they went through solos and melodic runs. They performed several of Matthiasson's songs along with some adapted Icleandic folk songs, which I really liked, including one that could have easily been reworked into a folk rock classic as these four showed a lot of teeth for this cut. I liked the structures of the songs and they had plenty of character developed by the fine touch of these four musicians. And they may have all met at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in NYC, but they are a four-continent band as they explain with members from Iceland, Tunisia, Venezuela, and Kosovo. This was a fine set that the rather large crowd quite enjoyed.
Mika Pohjola Trio - Finland's Mika Pohola is the son of a Jazz guitarist and has had a long musical education on violin, drums, and piano. All of that shows up here as he and his saxophonist, and drummer cook up a very rhythmic punchy set of songs that is a nice contrast to the first set. They had a playful quality as they worked through original songs and a version of Ornette Coleman's 'Humpty Dumpty' (in honor of his long career and recent passing). I also liked 'Kid's Song' which had that vibe of an exciting manic kid's playground backed by sharp exciting music. This set was also well received, deservedly so, and concluded a warm intimate night of music in the lovely big room at the Embassy of Finland. But now, it was back to the buffet table for a second round of the amazing culinary offerings.
photo-Vincent Gallegos

I want to thank the Embassy of Finland for their courtesy and their support of DC music blogs. I encourage everyone to visit them when you get a chance at Embassy Day or whenever you can. I have also enjoyed events at the Embassies of France, and Cote d'Ivoire. There are great things happening at embassies all over town and if you live in DC, you really should be experiencing them.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tancred - Otis Infrastructure -- Songbyrd - Jun 15 2016

Otis Infrastructure - Hmmm... one guy on vocals and electric guitar playing under what sounds like a band name. I sense a solo outing with songs that are probably written for and usually performed as a band. And that does look to be the case, and unfortunately sounds to be the case. There is nothing wrong here as the vocals are quite good, but it just does not escape the feeling of a missing band. The guitar work is set more to rock than folk, so unless guitarists can switch to acoustic guitar and have the chops to play solo folk or folk-rock, I wish they would refrain from taking band songs and performing them solo. I am being a little harsh here, as this is not as bad as I've seen, but it is lacking and there is no escaping it (he even alludes to this by saying that Tancred will be a full band). I will say more about Otis Infrastructure when I see the full band, but these songs certainly have potential under a full arrangement.
Tancred - We start solo again with a female guitarist/vocalist and I really like the serpentine guitar lines, which help carry the song. But when the second song begins, the bass player and drummer walk on stage to join in and we now have a full band attack. And they really push things along nicely as the full sound of a strong power pop/rock band emerges. They remind me a bit of Juliana Hatfield and a bit of my old favorites, LovelikeFire. The vocals are particularly great as she jumps quickly into upper octaves and back. It is very attractive, but you never lose sight of the great music going on underneath. They have a thick sludgy sound that never loses the precision of the melody. The hooks are really fine and the best songs are incredibly memorable. This is a band that makes me want to run home and listen to their studio output. A very fine set from a band I can highly recommend to a lost of different genre fans.

And this was my first time at the Songbyrd and it was impressive. It is a downstairs room with small slightly elevated stage. It looks like you could pack 150 people in there and there is a nice wooden floor, bar to the side and some seating in the back and along the sides. A good crowd tonight was enjoying the music, as they should with a great band and a solid sound system.

Cartoon Grab of the Night:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Beth Orton - Emmy the Great -- U Street Music Hall - Jun 11 2016

Emmy the Great - This talented performer from London via Hong Kong says she really likes DC and has backed it up with several fine performances in recent years. I saw her just this past February and enjoyed the set. This time around it was an opening gig, so it was handled solo. While I missed the trio, Emmy's music is stark with plenty of space for vocals to occupy beyond any instrumentation. She used both synth/keyboards and lightly spacey electric guitar strumming to create the atmosphere for her songs. She even included the first song she ever wrote, which had some laughs at the audacious in your face lyrical quality. She is a likable performer and a fine stylist and DC clearly likes her back.
Beth Orton - Completing the London show tonight is Beth Orton, a folktronica sort of artist that has done extremely well in Europe and commands a reasonably strong presence here in the US as well. Although not a huge crowd tonight, it is packed up front with some serious fans. Orton has two musicians that play a combination of drums, bass, and keyboards. She starts on electronic sounds and the first few songs are decent, but stray more to a mysterious pop rock sound. Her vocals are always compelling, so it is effective, but not drawing me in as much as her recent excellent album. Then she strapped on an acoustic guitar and the set became more magical. The folk element was there and the band assisted in going a bit folktronica here, a bit psychedelic there, or offering a steady folk rock foundation for Orton's dynamic lyrics and voice. She even played solo as well, so there was a lot of variety in this set. I can't complain about that, even if I have my favorite songs and styles. It was nice to finally catch a set from this talented artist.

Photo Grab of the Night: Since this is an English show, here's a photo of what an Oxfam Charity Donation Center did with the overrun of donated copies of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.