Friday, April 28, 2006

The Honored Guests: New Record, New Sound

The Honored Guests: "Say You Will"
"Sharpened Tooth"
(from Tastes Change 2006. Buy it here.)
Schooner: "Indian Sunburn"
(from 3X4 2006. Buy it here.)
Joe Romeo: "Cat Glasses" (grab it here)
(don't think he has anything to sell just yet...)

The Honored Guests play a show at Local 506 on Saturday for the release of their second album, Tastes Change. Whatever else the title signifies, it hints at a change in sound on the new release. I really enjoyed their previous effort, the enigmatically titled Iawokeinacityasleep, so the change in direction threw me for a loop at first. Where Iawoke... had a thick, fuzzy sound, on Tastes Change, everything is more distinct -- clearer and higher. There are a lot of interesting things going on in the mix, and in some ways the eclectic production reminds me of Wilco's sonic experiments on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

In part, this shifting sound is due to the addition of Patrick O'Neill on keyboards and guitar, but also flows from a conscious effort on the part of the band to make a record that was "a little more powerful and a little more weird," according to guitarist Russ Baggett. Deliberately, then, they are moving away from some of the more overtly pop moments on Iawoke... I have to confess that I miss that a bit, but now that I've had the chance to mull over Tastes Change and appreciate it in its own right, I find quite a lot to like. The band draws influences from all across the rock spectrum and timeline, from the energetic blast of "Say You Will" to the drugged-out langour of "Grown Up Clothes." "Sharpened Tooth" is a favorite for the build of chiming guitars, and for the unorthdox drumming and percussion. There's a thoughtful review of Tastes Change in this week's Independent that doesn't seem to be online yet, but I'll come back and link it later here. It ends up about where I do: "A solid second."

Unlike the Cities release show that I mentioned last week, I think the lineup for Saturday makes a lot of sense as a group. Raleigh's Schooner [previous post] has plenty of low-fi quirks but is keeping the pop core that the Honored Guests are moving away from. "Indian Sunburn/Summer" is a track from a great local collaboration that also includes music from the lovely Erie Choir [previously], the soon-to-be defunct (no!) Sames [previous 1 2], and Wilmington's Summer Set. Joe Romeo used to be in a band called Fake Swedish, which I never got around to mentioning before they broke up. Apparently he's got several new songs in the can, and "Cat Glasses" is a sweet, piano-driven pop song.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Cities: dark post-punk

Cities: "A Theme"
"Lounge Act"
(from Cities 2006. Buy or download.)

I don't suppose the world really needs another post-punk revival band, but it's hard to object to Cities when they do it so well. Personally, I'm happy to adopt these local college kids over their comparable, if better-established peers in New York and London. I actually learned about Cities more than a year ago, after guitarist Robbie Mackey wrote an article in the Daily Tar Heel about music blogs, so it's exciting for me to see these guys starting to break big.

Their self-titled debut album was released on Yep Roc this week -- it's all dark, chimey guitars, churning rhythms and theatrical vocals. "A Theme" is the track they seem to be promoting, and it's the most classically post-punk (as I understand it) with the disco hi-hat running throughout. "Capitol" is similar, with a more foreboding edge. "Lounge Act" is another favorite of mine -- I love the guitar harmonics (or whatever the term is -- I'm a drummer) and the vaguely Bloc Party-ish sound.

Their album release show is next Friday at Local 506 with kind of a mixed bag of other local bands that I don't know well. Fin Fang Foom comes across at first glance as heavy post rock -- they've apparently added a cellist, which is generally a plus in my book. Idea of Beauty alternates between indie rock and something much heavier -- you know I don't mind the heavy, but the vocals are a deal-breaker here. Heads Down Thumbs Up are an instrumental quartet that aren't as heavy as the other two. All in all, not what I would have expected as support for Cities, but maybe there's a certain dark drama that ties them all together.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Live Rosebuds

The Rosebuds: "My Downtown Friends"
"Boys Who Love Girls"
"I'd Feel Better"
"Everybody Disco"
(live, Kings Barcade, Raleigh NC, 11/20/2004. Buy or download Rosebuds stuff.)

I've long been a fan of the Rosebuds' retro pop. Here are a couple of tracks from a live performance in Raleigh from a few years ago. It doesn't include any songs from their stellar recent release, Birds Make Good Neighbors, but it's a solid selection from their first two albums. I made a point of including "Everybody Disco," since I don't think they've recorded that one. It's no earth-shaking addition to their repertoire, but a solid slice of Rosebud energy. Ivan Howard's voice is a little rough in spots during this set, but I've seen them live myself (yes, every now and then I get out to a show...) and he is a star -- super charismatic and a marvelous songwriter.

Five Year Plan has a selection of other live recordings from International Orange (previously) and Nathan Asher and the Infantry, who recently topped the Independent's poll for Best Triangle Rock Band. (I'll have to work up a post on them soon.) It's a great idea, and they're off to a good start. Keep it up, guys!

PS: Hey to Best Week Ever!


Friday, April 07, 2006

Colossus brings the Rock! (Wooo!)

Colossus: "Kolossus"
(live in Asheville)

Well, this is too much of a concidence to pass up. Given my comment in my previous post about taking a break from the pretty, I sat up and took notice when I came across Colossus, playing tonight at King's Barcade in Raleigh.

Buried deep in my musical history is an intense high school love of heavy metal, and Colossus hits that spot hard. I have no idea if they're taking this seriously -- their myspace page has no real information -- but they do a good job with it anyhow. "Kolossus" is basically an instrumental, but you can also download some other stuff including a dead ringer for early Iron Maiden ("Ghostfucker") and a Judas Priest cover ("The Ripper").

Seriously, if we can have this big post-punk revival all over the place, why can't we have a NWOBHM revival too?

Work Clothes: hushed, atmospheric pop

Work Clothes: "Fort Bragg Summers"
"Over The Moon"
(from These Are The Shoes We Wear 2005. Buy it.)

"Turn The AC On High"
(from Work Clothes 2001. Buy it.)

Earlier this week, I was thinking about taking a break from the pretty music I've been posting about lately, and putting together a block of full-out rawk for the sake of variety. Then I remembered Work Clothes, and decided to stick with the pretty.

The core of Work Clothes is the husband-and-wife team of Jenny and Lee Waters and their gorgeous voices. (Lee also played drums on another married duo's album last year, the Rosebuds' Birds Make Good Neighbors.) The pair recorded an EP back in 2001 that was mostly just them and guitars. Several of the songs on that EP are listed as "demo", but it was several years before they ever got around to making the follow-up.

These Are The Shoes We Wear actually doesn't revisit any of that earlier material, but it does flesh out the sound with keyboards, drums, and other instruments judiciously added. It's a lovely, quiet record -- not as hushed as say, Iron and Wine, but with something of that feel to it. In a very impressionistic sense, it makes me think of lying on a blanket at the beach or a park on a sunny day with my eyes closed, listening to the distant sounds of the world. Here's a nice article about Jenny and Lee and the album.

Check out Craig's take onWork Clothes from Songs:Illinois here.