Friday, February 25, 2005

SXSW Profile: The Nein

I'll wrap up my series of NC bands playing at SXSW withDurham's The Nein. Their roots are in art punk, but they add a layer of synth and occasional sampling that mixes that up nicely. The Fall and Sonic Youth are frequent comparisons, as is Wire. This latter parallel is furthered by the cover of "Up to the Sun" featured below.

I like this kind of stuff when I hear it, but it's not really my...milieu, so I'll let someone else do the describing:
The Nein may very well be the coolest rock band in these parts, taking Gang of Four howl and The Cure catch and distilling it all into an angular head that comes complete with the danger that lesser rock mortals Franz Ferdinand promise but rarely deliver.

They signed last year with Canadian label Sonic Unyon, who released a cleaned up version of the self-titled EP [review 1, 2, 3], and have a new full-length, Wrath of Circuits, coming out this fall. They're playing at Swarthmore tonight (with Ratatat) and then making their way to Texas for their SXSW show.

ZIP/MP3: "War is on the Stereo" (for some perverse reason, the label made this a .zip file)
(from The Nein, Sonic Unyon 2004. Buy it here.)

MP3: "Up to the Sun" (Wire cover)


Thursday, February 24, 2005

SXSW Profile: Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops

Like the Avett Brothers, Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops aren't actually based in the Triangle (they're from Canton, up in the mountains), but there's no reason to stick to arbitrary rules when I like the music.

They're also like the Avett Brothers in that they play lovely folk/country/bluegrass music, though Jennie's voice really makes this something special. I was surprised to see that they had played on Neko Case's live album The Tigers Have Spoken -- I only knew that the Sadies were on it -- but it makes sense. They fit right in. After their SXSW show, they'll be playing in Europe, followed by an East Coast CD release tour.

MP3: "Mount St. Helens"
(from Roll On By, Bloodshot Records 2005. It's out in April, so I guess then you can buy it here.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

SXSW Profile: Hotel Lights

Former Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee launched the piano-heavy pop group Hotel Lights in 2002, though it took two more years to record and self-release their debut album. I don't know BFF very well, but Hotel Lights sounds more straight-ahead, less quirky than what I've heard from the older group. This is pretty, mellow pop with a folk tinge that won't rock your world but will make you feel good. (If very slightly drowsy.) [Review 1, 2; interview]

They've just finished a brief tour with Tift Merritt (including her post-Grammy ceremony return to the Cat's Cradle). Before their SXSW show, they play this Friday as part of an Elliott Smith tribute at the Cat's Cradle.

MP3: "You Come and I Go"
MP3: "Miles Behind Me"
MP3: "I Am a Train"
--oh, they do have electric guitars!
MP3: "Small Town Shit"
(from Hotel Lights, self-released 2004. Buy it here.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

NC Bands at SXSW

The web site for Austin's SXSW music festival lets you sort showcase artists by home town, so here's a list of the North Carolina bands that'll be playing. Loyal readers will recognize a number of Oak Room favorites, including the Rosebuds, the Comas, and the Moaners.

I think I'll spend the rest of the week checking out the bands I haven't heard yet and reporting back. In the meantime, here's some tidbits to get you started.

  • I wanted to link to Chris Stamey's "14 Shades of Green" a long time ago, but Yep Roc took it off their web site. Happily, SXSW has it up. This is far and away my favorite song from last year's Travels in the South -- just enough jangle to make dBs fans happy.
    MP3: "14 Shades of Green"
    (from Chris Stamey, Travels in the South, Yep Roc 2004. Buy it here or download it here.)
  • Here's a nice tune from Roman Candle, originally more of a shoegazer kind of band that's moving in an alt country direction, as I mentioned back here.
  • MP3: "The Wee Hours Review"
    (I guess this is from their forthcoming album, a redone version of 2002's Get Pop.)
  • Bluegrass band Chatham County Line has a new album out today. I'm looking forward to hearing it. SXSW features a track from their 2003 self-titled album.
    MP3: "Closing Town"
    (from Chatham County Line, Chatham County Line, Yep Roc 2003. Buy it here or download it here.)
  • I've never bothered to talk about Tift Merritt -- it's not like she needs the publicity; she was nominated for a Grammy, for crying out loud -- but her newest album Tamborine is great, adding some soul to her country/folk. You can stream some of her music at her web site.
  • No audio for this, but the SXSW shows and forthcoming album bringing together Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell couldn't be anything but incredible.
  • For a look at some of the other bands that will be playing at SXSW, check out the really well-done music blog See You In The Pit. They did the Comas just the other day.Great content and a slick design. Hey, ladies, if you haven't taken a look at the Rosebuds yet, give them a try!


Monday, February 21, 2005

Kapow!Music: "rustic pop intimacy"

Bu Hanan Records has about the best ratio of talent to roster possible: a pretty small group of bands and musicians, but I really like every last one of them. After talking about Go Machine and related projects and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers in recent weeks, it's time to complete the sweep with Kapow!Music.

Kapow is John Ribo, who recently moved from Austin to Chapel Hill, plus a cast of additional musicians, including many of the other Bu Hanan artists. Sort of a lo-fi travelogue, A Texan In Europe Revisited consists of songs written over the last six years in a variety of settings as Ribo "contemplates experiences wandering in and wondering at the strange world."

As with a number of other artists I've praised recently, Kapow!Music generates an intruiging mix of sounds by blending acousting guitar and other organic textures with a wide range of studio and electronic elaborations. I like this description from the Independent: "A solid, friendly album whose moods move like weather through gray skies, cloudy mornings, little rainbows and bursts of sunshine."

MP3: "The Day I Met You"
--this solo acoustic performance shows the strong foundation these songs are built on.
(Live on WKNC)

MP3: "Ma Tutrice"
--a mellow, springlike song. It'll make you feel good.
MP3: "Just There"
--a little darker and noisier, but that's all relative. If that was spring, this is fall, not the bleak midwinter.
(from A Texan in Europe Revisited, Bu Hanan 2004. Buy it here.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Something for everyone, for a good cause

There's a truly eclectic show at the Duke Coffeehouse tomorrow night, a tsunami benefit for SARID. Whether or not you can attend the show, consider making a donation here.

The lineup includes a full gamelan (Indonesian-style); a band that takes complex dissonance even further than yesterday's; a collective of contemporary music composers; a rock band doing great things with the '80s sound; and a jazz/jam trio. Lots of notes will be played, that's for sure! It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I think it looks fascinating. Here's a sampler:

UNC Gamelan Nyai Saraswati
MP3: "Gending Erang-Erang Bagelan" (recorded Dec 8, 2001. Many more recordings here.)

Cantwell, Gomez, & Jordan
MP3: "Infant of Prague" (from Cantwell Gomez & Jordan, Hypnovista 2003. E-mail to order.)

MP3: "Duos I/Chasers"
MP3: "'Stain"

Gerty (previously discussed here)
MP3: "Short Drive Home" (from Sweets from the Minibar, Eskimo Kiss 2002. Buy it here.)

The Pulsar Triyo
MP3: "C. briggsae"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Clearing the palate: Monsonia

After all the pretty music around here lately, here's a blast of complex, noisy rock from Monsonia. Since the name of the band is also the name of a plant, they are damn hard to Google, and their web site doesn't offer up a lot of detail. The Independent describes them like so:
Monsonia plays math rock that manages to be as fleet and able as it is sludgy and heavy, matching serpentine guitar lines with concomitant walls of overdriven, gargled distortion and one of the more dexterous rim shot 'n' high hat drum attacks that the Triangle currently claims.
Good enough for me. Hope you enjoy it too.

MP3: "Sober Up, Start Liftin' Weights"
MP3: "I've Been Practicing My Free Association"
(from forthcoming EP)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers: "homemade neo-folk indie-pop"

It's a good thing Perry Wright can write such gorgeous music and assemble such a stellar array of musician pals to record it, because it would be awfully easy to drown in the sheer verbiage that surrounds his projects. Consider that Wright's group/collective is called "The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers", and that their new album is The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia. [Review] Then throw in this kind of WTF description:
The album considers the serial nature of things as they move within the flux of time, ephemeral as they are. Taken from Galileo’s encoded dissolution of the Ptolemaic theory and announcement of the heliocentric nature of the solar system, the title suggests the seasonal movement of all things.
But none of that matters, because the music is so fine. Emerging from his bedroom, Wright enlists members of Go Machine (remember them from last week?), former Sixpence None the Richer drummer Dale Baker, and various others to bring his delicate songs to life. I don't suppose you can write about these guys at the present moment without some mention of Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, so consider him mentioned.

MP3: "Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens"
--a nice blend of organic (guitar, bells) and electronic (drum machine)
MP3: "Cannot Eat Better Not Sleep"
--starts quietly, crescendos nicely, then fades away in a wash of strings
(from The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia, Bu Hanan 2005. Released March 1, preorder here.)

MP3: "The Sun Fell on You"
--hushed guitar and vocals
(from Psalterie, Bu Hanan 2003 [?]. Sold out, sadly.)

MP3: "An Unexpected Song"
--this gets downright peppy.
MP3: "Billie Jean (Drunken Bombast One Take)"
--attention Copy, Right? ! Did you ever think this song could be a mournful ballad?
(unreleased tracks, more available here)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Monday Miscellany

Just a few odds and ends for a busy Monday morning:
  • Here's an unreleased track from the dB's 1987 album The Sound of Music. This was after Chris Stamey had moved on, but Peter Holsapple could still write a fine pop song. This one rocks a little harder than most dB's songs.
    MP3: "Rains Around Here" [128 kbps/2.2 MB]
    (from the Sound of Music sessions 1987)
    Buy some stuff here, and watch for a new dB's album sometime soon!
  • The Rosebuds have also been in the studio recording a new album, Unwind, which will be released in April. You can listen to a track called "I'd Feel Better at the Rosebud's MySpace site. (It says you can download it, but I keep getting an error message when I try.)
  • (The?) Maple Stave have their new EP out, and one track available on their web site. I seem to have been mistaken when I previously classified them as an "instrumental rock band" but this is still a nice, dark little song that gets nice and noisy by the end.
    MP3: "Demons"
    (from EP1, self-released 2005. Buy it here.)


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Heard Together

That Comas show that I mentioned in the previous post is part of the CD release party for a nice compliation called Heard Together: Sounds from Northern Carolina. The fact that I've already written about most of the bands on the comp makes me feel like I've been doing what I set out to do with this blog.

Sharing the bill with the Comas tonight are the Rosebuds (mentioned here), the Sames (mentioned here), and Superchunk side project Portastatic.

Schooner (mentioned here) and Gerty (mentioned here) play at Local 506 tomorrow night, along with Transportation and Leadfoot.

And on Saturday, the Honored Guests (mentioned here), Cub Country (mentioned here), and Evil Weiner's Billy Sugarfix play at the Cave.

Here's a little sampler of some of my favorite songs from these bands (all previously posted, but I think there are some new readers since then).

The Rosebuds: "Big Heartbreak (live on KVRX)"
The Sames: "I Wish That You'd Written This Song"
Schooner: "We Let the Cat Out"
Gerty: "Magnastar"
The Honored Guests: "iawokeinacityasleep"
Cub Country: "Missed the Train"

Labels: ,

The Comas

There are a number of other great bands that share the Bu Hanan label with Go Machine et al., which I've been writing about for the last few days. I'll get back to them, but this is my last chance to write about the Comas as a Triangle band -- after tonight's show at the Cat's Cradle, they're relocating to New York.

Apparently, the Comas started out as a joke-country band in the 1998, but they quickly moved on to making dreamy, somewhat psychedelic pop/rock. They're pretty squarely within the "indie" genre, but I think they do it very well, with a varied sonic palate that tends towards the dark end of the spectrum.

Their most recent album, Conductor, was written in the aftermath of frontman Andy Herod's breakup with Dawson's Creek's Michelle Williams. [Review 1, 2, 3] Somehow, that got sublimated into a loose concept album with a vaguely sci-fi theme. The CD comes with a bonus DVD of a movie to accompany the music:
In order to sequence the record, I hashed out this simple story about a cartoony, Mickey Mousey, little scientist-guy falling in love with the moon, and then having it turn into an obsession and having it kind of destroy his life. It wasn't really a concept record or anything to begin with, except for the broken relationship theme that runs throughout. I called my friend Brent, who had animated our song "Tiger in the Tower," and asked him if he would be into animating an entire record. He said, "I've always wanted to do that!"

Stills from the film are on the Comas' web site here. Good luck to 'em in NYC -- do North Carolina proud!

MP3: "The Science of Your Mind"
MP3: "The Last Transmission"
(from Conductor, Yep Roc 2004. Buy it here or download it here.)

At Amazon, you can also download "Tonight on the WB" from Conductor and "Tiger in a Tower" from 2000's A Def Needle in Tomorrow. (You'll have to be signed in for the download.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Physics of Meaning

Today, I'm focusing on Go Machine violinist/guitarist/bassist/etc. Daniel Hart. As I mentioned previously, he has played with the Polyphonic Spree (and still does sometimes). Of co-writing for Go Machine with David Karsten Daniels, Hart says, "David's songs are Wilco, mine are the Postal Service."

(no subject)His current project, The Physics of Meaning, doesn't have that electronic feel to it -- the samples on the web site are quirky pop songs with a fairly straight ahead guitar/bass/drums lineup, augmented by Hart's violin. Hart has pulled together a great collection of local musicians, including guys from Ticonderoga (previously mentioned here) and Utah! (whose Ann Polesnak adds her cello to the string section). Look for an album to be released this summer on Bu Hanan Records.

MP3: "Columbia and Cameron" [192 kbps/6.6 MB]
-- like the snaky, distorted guitar line about 3 minutes in
MP3: "The Fountain of Youth Dries Up In An Election Year" [192 kbps/6.2 MB]
-- more string-heavy
MP3: "Oregon" [192 kbps/5.1 MB]
-- sparse and delicate, but more fleshed-out than the live Go Machine version featured previously

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

David Karsten Daniels

David Karsten Daniels is/was one of the members of Go Machine, the subject of yesterday's post. When you listen to his solo music, it becomes pretty easy to pick out his contribution to Go Machine -- the sparse, delicate guitar and tenor voice that often convey an echo of Iron & Wine. (And his beard is nearly as impressive as Sam Beam's. He must hate that comparison -- sorry!)

He has recorded three solo albums, and there are selections from these below. He's also maintaining a blog and posting demos of music he's in the progress of writing. This is fascinating, as you can hear, for instance, the progression of a song from its bare bones to a more fully developed version.

MP3: "Twin Peaks II" [128 kbps/1.6MB]
-- piano and violin, very cinematic
MP3: "Jesus and the Devil" [128 kbps/3.8 MB]
MP3: "What the Bleep Do We Know" [128 kpbs/3.1 MB]

MP3: "Goodbye" [128 kbps/3.4 MB]
-- this is an album about a breakup, and this is the sound of heartbreak

MP3: "Siamese Hearts" [128 kbps/1.1 MB]
-- this is, maybe, some hope for the future

(from Angles, Bu Hanan 2004. Buy it here.)

MP3: "Honda '85" [128 kbps/6.8 MB]
-- still sparse, but sounds lush by comparison to the rest, with a wider instrumentation that includes strings and marimba

(from Out From Under Ligne 4, Bu Hanan 2001. Buy it here.)

MP3: "L'Evolution Rien" [128 kbps/4.9 MB]
-- very delicate guitar and vocals

(from The Mayflower, Bu Hanan 2000. Sold out.)

Tomorrow: another direction away from Go Machine.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Go Machine

Go Machine is three remarkable multi-instrumentalists making a fascinatingly beautiful blend of electronic and acoustic music. Their hybrid of laptop beats, Americana-inspired guitar, soaring violin, and the occasional theremin results in a wild range of comparisons, though Radiohead does seem to come up pretty often. I've also seen "Modest Mouse-meets-Air-remixed by Prefuse 73" (here), and "sad-eyed country-electro-rock fusion" (here).

Daniel Hart was a member of the Polyphonic Spree, and played violin on their recent tour. David Daniels plays guitar/bass/drums/keyboards and seems to be more responsible for the Americana strain of their music. Alex Lazara handles keyboards, programming, bass, and theremin.

Originally, this was a four-piece band, but drummer Jeremy Portwood left after recording 2003's look to the. The remaining members adjusted their performances to compensate, but apparently it hasn't been easy. They are currently on hiatus, while they figure out what their next step will be. In the meantime, there are some ongoing side projects, which I'll feature later this week.

MP3: "Many Times" [128 kbps/3.9 MB] -- dreamy pop song
MP3: "Doppelganger" [128 kbps/3.9 MB] -- here's where the electronic and the acoustic really come together to good effect
(from look to the, Bu Hanan 2003. Buy it here.)

MP3: "Oregon" [128 kbps/3.6 MB] -- simple guitar line; delicate vocals; aching, soaring violin
(live on WXYC 8/29/04.)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Jule Brown

Jule Brown is also known as Mark Holland, from now-defunct roots rock band Jennyanykind. On his own, he works an updated blues sound, both electric and acoustic, with some fine harmonica playing. He's working on a record for Enabler Records; some demos for this are featured below. Check him out in Chapel Hill next week at Fuse (2/10/05 at 100:00 p.m.).

"How Can the Free Defeat the Palace?" [128 kpbs/4.8MB]
"Evil is Coming" [128 kbps/2.6 MB]
"She Blows My Mind" [64 kbps/1.8 MB]
(demos for forthcoming album)

"It's All Good, It's Understood" [128 kbps/4.7 MB]
(live at Temple Ball; Carrboro, NC; 12/2/04)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Moaners

OK, I'm a little behind the curve on this one. Chapel Hill guitar/drums duo The Moaners released their debut album, Dark Snack, last week, and Honey, Where You Been So Long and Just for a Day already blogged it. Each of those posts has a song to download that's still available as of this writing, though it might not be for long. The Independent had a nice article last week previewing their CD release concert.

Melissa Swingle (guitar, harmonica, vocals, saw) was in Trailer Bride, a Chapel Hill band that worked the "Southern Gothic" thing to great effect. Laura King (drums, guitar, vocals) came from Grand National. Together, they make a swampy, bluesy, raucous noise that's pretty thrilling.

MP3: "Heart Attack"
MP3: "Terrier"
(from Dark Snack, Yep Roc 2005. Buy or download.)

MP3: "Everybody Wants My Baby"
(From Bandwidth: Celebrating 10 Years of Internet Radio on WXYC-Chapel Hill. Read about it here, and download more here.)

If you're curious about Swingle's other band...
MP3: "Hope is a Thing with Feathers"
(from Trailer Bride Hope Is a Thing With Feathers, Bloodshot 2003. Buy)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

North Elementary: Find a Favorite Thing

North Elementary is a Chapel Hill band that formed when John Harrison and Margaret White split off from the Comas. Their first album, 2002's Out of Phase, is fairly eclectic within a basically indie rock framework. [Review] There's some straight ahead guitar rock (the album opener "Best Things," for instance), some low-key shuffle mixed with electro weirdness ("C Around U"), a dreamy drum-machine lullaby ("Departure"), some lovely acoustic business with an aching violin ("Tonight")... It's all over the map in a good way.

By all accounts, the followup, Lose Your Favorite Things, is even more textured and varied. [Review 1, 2] It's hard to tell from the one track that I've heard, "Chemicals" -- you'd certainly never peg the overall sound of Out of Phase from a single song. It's on the gauzy/floaty end of the spectrum, with lush bed of "la"s and "ah"s to send you off. Lovely. I'm looking forward to hearing more.

It appears that Margaret White has decamped to NYC, leaving both North Elementary and Regina Hexaphone (a fine band that I'll get around to eventually -- wish they had some MP3s on line!). She has a fine voice and her violin added a distinctive texture to the mix, so I don't know what North Elementary will sound like without them. But I'll certainly be paying attention to find out.

MP3: "Best Things"
MP3: "C Around U"
MP3: "Departure"
MP3: "Tonight"
(from Out of Phase, Sit-N-Spin 2002. Download the whole thing for free or buy it here.)

MP3: "Chemicals"
(from Lose Your Favorite Things, Sit-N-Spin 2004. Buy it.)