Friday, August 25, 2006

A Rooster for the Masses: dancy, policital post-punk

A Rooster for the Masses:

"Left Coast"
(from Gallo Rojo 2006. Buy it/download it)

I've really been enjoying Rojo Gallo, the debut EP from Raleigh's A Rooster for the Masses. I don't know a whole lot about them except that they like MySpace, and that their name derives from former Raleigh resident David Sedaris' brother, nicknamed the Rooster. (Though why, exactly, they were inspired by him, I do not know...)

In any case, they make dancy post-punk insipired music with keyboards, tight drumming, ringing guitars, and political lyrics. The last of these kind of snuck up on me -- I was enjoying the music and didn't really pay much attention to the words until recently. I guess the Donald Rumsfeld sound bite in "National" should have been a clue... But when you listen, "Left Coast" turns out to be a song of sympathy for illegal immigrants ("It's modern slavery/you do the dirty work") and "Code Red" is a pretty direct commentary on the Bush administration's Middle East policies:
Hey o Hey look over here
Real problem wasn’t there
Spreading their false fear
To keep us under control

When the Cities record came out a while ago, lots of commenters found something "British" about their sound, but there's something about A Rooster for the Masses that, to me, brings that to mind even more. I don't even really know what I mean by that, but there you go. Mainly the musicial influences they are drawing on, I suppose (Joy Division, Gang of Four, etc.) and perhaps something slightly reserved about the music, lyrics not withstanding.

Your next chance to see them is on Sept. 1 at Kings in Raleigh. Listen now, then go see them!


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New music from the Rosebuds

The Rosebuds:

"Hold On To This Coat"
(2006 demo. Buy previous albums here.)

Sneaky sneaky Rosebuds, hiding a link to a new demo in their MySpace blog! Per a blurb in today's Independent, they are beginning work with Brian Paulson (who produced Wilco's A.M.) on their new album. Although it's hard to tell much from one song, especially a demo, this seems to continue a move in a somewhat more moody direction from their more exuberant early tracks. They've always had both, it just seems to me that the balance has shifted from Make Out to Birds Make Good Neighbors. The drum machine gives a different flavor as well, though that could be just a demo thing. The album won't be out for a while, so it's nice to have something to tide us over (and a hint that there may be more previews later on).


Friday, August 18, 2006

Gerty's last hurrah


"Go Out Tonight"
(from 307 Knox Records Compliation 2006)

Short on time and energy these days, but here's an update for you. Local label 307 Knox (with a great new website design, by the way) recently put out a 2-CD compliation that I've been enjoying quite a bit. (Though it is, as these things often are, a bit hit-and-miss.) As I detailed previously, new-wave revivalists Gerty! morphed into a band called the Ex-Members and are waiting for drummer Melissa York (ex-Butchies) to get neck surgery. One highlight of the 307 Knox comp is what seems to be one of the last Gerty recordings, featuring (I'm assuming) a cameo from electro-rappers Robosapien.

I'll probably try to highlight some more stuff from these discs soon, but go pick one up for yourself at local shops -- I got mine at Chaz's.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Schooner demos: moody, lo-fi rock


"Ominous Bird"
(demos from forthcoming album)

Well, I started working on an elaborate post about something else, but that's not going to get done for a while, so here's something to tide you over. Schooner's moody, lo-fi rock is another one of my long-term favorites, so I was excited to see that ringleader Reid Johnson had put a couple of their demos up on the band's MySpace. (Though a little anxious, since he seems to be suggesting that the followup to You Forget About Your Heart is running into snags -- hope they're ones that can be overcome!) "Ominous Bird" is a somber, introspective waltz , while "Carrboro" (another song about Carrboro!) is a more upbeat number that seems to show a certain Rosebuds influence. They were tagged as "album teaser", and they're working for me -- looking forward to the real thing, guys!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Brent Gorton: twisted pop at the Cave on Saturday

Brent Gorton:
"Hit the Station"
"That Photograph"
(from Brent Gorton 2006. Buy it here.)

Although I tend to focus on musicians based in the Triangle, every now and then it's worth highlighting some of the folks who are passing through on tour. There's probably no need to point out the relatively big names at the Cat's Cradle and so forth, but here's one that might be overlooked: Albany, NY-based indie-pop songwriter Brent Gorton at the Cave on Saturday (8/12).

Gorton's self-titled CD was recorded in his home studio using second-hand gear, but damn if he didn't get a lot out of it. The songs are extremely catchy, and the production has all sorts of interesting touches. Listen to the percussion and electric piano on "That Photograph" or the radio transmissions in the background of "Hit the Station" for a sense of what I mean. This is probably not a comparison that will mean much to anyone but me, but Gorton's music seems like Justin Roberts without the kiddie topics. Maybe a slightly more folky Matthew Sweet? (By they way, if you have kids, Justin Roberts is a must-have in their music collection. He will keep you sane.)

His touring band consists of his girlfriend and her best friend (collectively given the unfortunate title "the Tender Breasts"), so I don't know how the tunes will come across live. It seems to me that the songwriting is strong enough that the bare bones of the songs will support less-elaborate arrangments, but I really love the way the recorded versions sound. We'll see.

For the record, I learned about Gorton in an e-mail from his PR guy, but the songs hooked me right away. Memo to promoters: I pay a lot more attention when you've figured out that I'm primarily going to be interested in bands that are a) from around here, b) playing around here, or c) both. Still e-mails and free stuff are welcome, so bring it on...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hearts & Daggers: punked up outlaw country

Hearts & Daggers:
"Desperados Lullabye"
(from A Home for My Lonely Tears 2006. Buy it here.)
"High Noon"
(from 2004 demos)

I have come across some great music simply by keeping track of who's playing with bands that I already know and like, and that's pretty much the case with Hearts & Daggers. It was exciting enough to note that the Two Dollar Pistols were playing at the Pour House tonight (8/4) -- after their site got taken over by a porn site, and a number of John Howie solo performances, I was beginning to wonder if they were still a going concern. (Though they did have that excellent Superchunk cover on Songs for Sixty-five Roses, which was a good sign.) When I saw that Hearts & Daggers was playing as well, I vaguely remembered coming across them sometime before and filing them away under "look more closely later". I don't know why it took me so long to get back to them, but I'm really glad I did.

If the Two Dollar Pistols are mostly crying into their beers, Hearts & Daggers have had a few too many and are out to kick somebody's ass. My sense of country music history is way too vague to know if there's a more traditional precedent for their aggressive twang, but they fit right in with a lot of the Bloodshot Records crew (and their site picks up a lot of the visual aesthetic from Bloodshot, too.) Paired with the Two Dollar Pistols honky tonk, this should be a fine show for folks who like some heartfelt, unpolished country.

Karen went to the show and has some pictures and video -- check it out!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

North Elementary: shimmery lo-fi goodness

North Elementary:

"Super Girl"
(live at the Cat's Cradle, 17 March 2006)
"Golden Tigers"
(from Jane Magazine February 2006 CD[!])
Buy North Elementary stuff here.

North Elementary has undergone quite a few changes since I first wrote about them way back when. Pretty much the only constant is John Harrison, who founded the band after leaving the Comas. Since John and other members of North Elementary are also making music in various other places, you might wonder about the future of North Elementary proper. But, per John, they have been making demos and working towards a new N. Elem. recording, so that's something to look forward to.

He actually shared a few demos with me, and -- though it's hard to know what the final product will be like -- they don't seem like a tremendous departure from the North Elementary of old. If anything, they may show a bit more energy than the old material, much of which was hazily languid (and pretty gorgeous too). That's actually suggested by this recording of "Golden Tigers", which was the final recording with the old lineup -- it's no "Walking on Sunshine" but by N. Elem. lights, it's a pretty peppy song.

Back in March, John opened for Matt Pond PA and Youth Group, accompanied by North Elementary guitarist Ryan Lee Dunlap and compatriot Betty Rupp. A recording of the show is on the band's web site. It's a wonderful, intimate performance -- I think "shimmering" may be the best word to describe it. I always enjoy live performances that involve significant recasting of the songs to shows that mostly recreate the recorded versions. In that light, I am especially crazy about this version of "Super Girl", from 2004's Lose Your Favorite Things. It's absolutely lovely.

(If anyone's interested, I'll chop up the rest of the show into individual song files -- just let me know!)

Harrison plays tonight at the Cave with Rob from Spider Bags, who I've mentioned before. They open for the Lesser Birds of Paradise. [Edit: Apparently Rob's out, due to a busted slide guitar. A shame -- that duo sounded really appealing! But John solo should still be good.]