Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Return of the Pan Pan

Erie Choir: "Pan Pan, Where Did You Go?"
(from Rockin' the Blocks compilation 2005)

I've got no time for anything right now, but here's a quick update. Erie Choir posed the question "Pan Pan, Where Did You Go?" in a cute song on a Durham compliation called Rockin' The Blocks last year. (Still tracking down a copy, though these folks claim to still have some.) The answer can be found here. It looks like the new Erie Choir CD will be out soon, as they have a release show scheduled at Local 506 on Nov 11. (They don't seem entirely certain of that, though.) Looking forward to it!

Also, congrats to Cindy, who was the winner of the signed copy of Annuals' He Be Me. If you missed them last week, they're at Local 506 as well next Monday (10/30) with blog-beloved Tapes N Tapes.

More next week, I hope, when thing are a little calmer.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Troika Preview III

Friday night's Troika festival shows (schedule here) are pretty diverse, and I can't say that there's one that really stands out as clearly better than the rest. There are quite a few bands that are really great, but they're mixed in with others that I'm not at all familiar with (or, honestly, just aren't my thing). This is supposed to be structured so you can wander from one venue to another, and this looks like a good night to do just that. Here are some highlights:

305 South starts off the evening with two acts that are new to me, but impress me on a quick first listen. The Future Kings of Nowhere play a brand of acoustic punk they call "'acousticore,' music for people who are angrier than Peter, Paul or Mary, but nicer than Henry Rollins." Lots of energy here, which isn't terribly surprising given that half the band seems to be Midtown Dickens, who seem to be the living definition of "spunky". Shipwrecker is one of those bands that gives you nothing but a couple of songs on MySpace to go on, but the songs are good, so I guess that's all right. Another acoustic act, a bit more sedate and country-influenced. Something about the music reminds me of the vaguely anachronistic style of the Decemberists, though they are really not that much like them overall. Can I say "C&W sea chantys"?

The Future Kings of Nowhere: "Never"
(from EP 2006? Buy a recording here.)
Shipwrecker: "Dark Edge of the Da..."
(2006 demo. The last word of the title is a mystery -- tag your MP3s, people!)

The next two acts at 305 South are more than worthy -- I'm a long standing fan of the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, and the Mountain Goats are superb (plus we get to claim them as local talent). Man Man hasn't done much for me, though, and I'd be awfully tempted to head off to the Marvell Event Center to see the twisted country of Spider Bags and the lo-fi pop genius of Schooner.

Prayers and Tears: "Raining In Darling"
(from Redux EP 2006. Download that free here; buy other PTADS stuff here.)
The Mountain Goats: "The Coroner's Gambit (Original Take)"
(courtesy this fan site. Buy Mountain Goats stuff here.)
Spider Bags: "Waking Up Drunk"
(from A Celebration of Hunger 2006. Unreleased, apparently)
Schooner: "Make Me Mad"
(from Tour EP. Buy Schooner stuff here.)

But then I look at the lengthy list of bands at Ringside that night, and I don't know many of them that well, but the reliably beautiful North Elementary and the ass-kicking old school metal of Colossus make me wonder if I'm missing something over there as well. There's quite a lot of ground to cover between the two, so while some of the other shows are stylistically consistent, this one seems like a total grab bag. It's a moot point, since I won't be attending any of these shows (damn work), but it's a pleasant dilemma to consider...

North Elementary: "Ships as Friends"
(from Lose Your Favorite Things 2004. Buy it here.)
Colossus: "Bubba Zanetti"
(from 2006 demo. Maybe you can get it at the show?)

Previous Troika Posts:
Troika Preview: Okkervil, Elvis, and DKD
Troika Preview: Portapleasant O'Collar

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Troika Preview: Portapleasant O'Collar

Back to the insanely great lineup of the Troika Music Festival, which kicks off in Durham tomorrow night. Clearly, the notion of actually writing about each of the fourteen shows was utterly unrealistic. So let's try this: focus on one show each day of the festival, with maybe some other commentary thrown in.

Wednesday's already covered, but I'll note that the other show that night is the one I'm excited about and planning to attend. I've written about each of the bands on the bill previously (Bull City/the Balance here, Maple Stave here, A Rooster for the Masses here, and the Honored Guests here), and had at least some online communication with all of them. So I'm looking forward to seeing their shows, and saying hello as well.

So Thursday night, then. Many worthy candidates, but I'm going to focus on the lineup of Red Collar, Pleasant, Jennifer O'Connor, and Portastatic at the Duke Coffeehouse. Like the Okkervil River show on Wednesday, this is the "big-name" show, but I have been absorbing Portastatic's latest release, Be Still Please, over the past few days, and am generally in awe of the consistent quality of Mac McCaughan's output over such a long period of time. Either Merge Records or Superchunk by themselves would be a pretty impressive achievement, but Portastatic has really flourished as an outlet for his songwriting in a remarkable range of styles. Perhaps I'll come back to a full-blown review of Be Still Please, but in brief: striking a musical middle ground between the fairly rocking Bright Ideas and the string-laden soundtrack album Who Loves the Son, what really strikes me is the compelling package Mac makes by sinking sorrow and regret (and sometimes bitterness) amidst such pleasant music. "Song for a Clock" concludes the album with a welcome bit of everyday grace.
"Sour Shores"
"Song for a Clock"
(from Be Still Please 2006. Buy/download)

I've already written my magnum opus about Red Collar, so not a lot of new commentary now. It's great to see them on this bill -- go early to check them out. (They seem to be waffling over releasing a great EP or a good full-length. I say, "Let's hear some of these new songs already!)
"Used Guitars"
"Why You Knocking (live on WXDU)"

Pleasant is one of the longer-standing entries on my ever-growing list of "I really need to give them listen" bands. Launched in 2000, they are old-timers by most local standards. They strike me as very much a "Chapel Hill band," with a lot of the casual quirkiness that marked the big names of the 90s. In order to give them the fuller consideration they probably deserve, I'll have to actually pick up their album (rather than listen to samples on the website), but they're a nice addition to this bill.
"Welcome Come In"
"You There"
(from Awkward as a Beehive 2005. Buy it here.)

Jennifer O'Connor is new to me. I don't know if the acoustic singer-songwriter "Today" or the more aggressive electric "Exeter, Rhode Island" is more typical of her material. I favor the latter.
"Exeter, Rhode Island"
(from Over the Mountain... 2006. Buy/download)

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Annuals CD release show and contest

Photo by OldKing


"Dry Clothes"
(from He Be Me 2006. Buy it here.)

Way back in March, I was pretty excited about Raleigh's Annuals when they played at SxSW. Little did I know that they were on the cusp of a whole lot of attention. They signed to New York label Ace Fu, got a whole lot of love from bloggers (and Pitchfork), and -- after a CD release show tomorrow night (10/17) in Raleigh-- head out on the road with the likes of the equally blog-beloved Tapes 'N' Tapes, the up-and-coming Evangelicals, and the flat-out spectacular Calexico.

They garner lots of comparisons to the Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, which seems accurate in terms of the ambition of their music -- the songs have an epically expansive sonic palette, coupled with a yearning sincerity to the lyrics. I've only just gotten hold of He Be Me, their Ace Fu debut, so I can't say for sure what I think of Grayson Currin's suggestion here that its complexity and scope run a little wild at times. I suppose this sort of Romantic passion runs the risk of self-indulgence in some cases, but I admire Annuals for going all-out. In the doses I've heard so far, the results are compelling.

You can hear a few samples of what I'm talking about above. But suppose you'd like to hear the whole thing for yourself? You can buy it or download it, but (thanks to the kindness of the folks at Ace Fu), I actually have a signed copy of the CD to give away. Send me an e-mail (oakroom @ and mention the Annuals contest -- I'll pick the winner by the end of the week.

The CD release show is tomorrow night (10/17) at the Brewery in Raleigh. Also on the bill are the Never (previously), who may well be Annuals' equals in terms of drama and amibition (they made a concept album, for cryin' out loud!), and Tom Yoder, who's not from around here and I know nothing about. As the picture at the top of this post suggests, Annuals seem to pack as much dramatic stimulation into their stage show as they do their recorded music, so it should be a good time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Troika Preview: Okkervil, Elvis, and DKD

OK, after considerable throat-clearing, it's time for me to actually write something about next week's Troika Music Festival, held at various Durham sites on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. (Full schedule here.) But, boy, is it daunting. So much good music in such a short time -- lots of bands that I know and am fond of, quite a few that I've been meaning to pay more attention to, some that are brand new to me. If I had nothing to do for the next week, maybe I'd try to pull off a See You In The Pit-like look at every damn band...but that's not happening. Let's try a little show-by-show breakdown and see how far I can get.

I guess the Wednesday (10/18) show at the Duke Coffeehouse is the "headline" show of the night. (Though I'll be going to the other one...) It has the out-of-town guests of the night, anyway: Okkervil River and Elvis Perkins are joined by David Karsten Daniels, a member of the local Bu Hanan collective.

Daniels and his compatriots in the Physics of Meaning and the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers have made some fascinating music over the last couple of years (as well as the late Go Machine), so hopefully the release of his new album, Sharp Teeth, on Fat Cat Records next year doesn't result in any distance from that group. According to Daniels, the record features "a lot of singers, a lot of drummers, a lot of horn players, and a deep love of dynamics and repetition," though the two samples streaming at his MySpace don't sound quite that expansive. They seem to be a continuation the sparse, acoustic sound of his earlier work. In my previous post about Daniels, I made a vague Iron & Wine comparison, and although I admit it may have partly been the beard, the hushed vocals of a song like "Jesus and the Devil" had something to do with it as well. Since those aren't downloads, here's an older song that isn't all that far removed from them.
"Siamese Hearts"
(from Angles 2004. Buy it here.)

Although the three artists on the bill make a nicely complementary group, the evening does get louder as it goes on. Elvis Perkins is perhaps a more conventional singer-songwriter than DKD, his sonic world a little more forgiving and a little less harsh, but there is a certain bleakness that they share, for instance on Perkins' "Ash Wednesday", the standout track of the ones I've listened to in preparing this post.
"Ash Wednesday"
(I guess no album to buy? Download more here)

And then the much-blogged Okkervil River, who can be acoustic and folky at times, but also can rock out a little bit (albeit in a rootsy, folky way). Again, though, there's a thread of sadness (approaching desolation) that runs through the songs (at least on Black Sheep Boy, the only album of theirs that I've spent much time with). I just came across a new single while pulling links for this post, so let's point to that as well: "The President's Dead" is actually kind of peppy (hmm), starting as a folk song and bursting into a few seconds of pop towards the end. I like the way the verses just keep coming and coming, riding the rise and fall of the melody without pause.
"For Real"
(from Black Sheep Boy 2005. Buy/download)
"The President's Dead"
(from The President's Dead single 2006. Buy)

So, this all starts at 9:30 on Thursday. Good music, if not exactly uplifting. Bring your own beer to cry into.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Shakori Hills

Well, it really is festival season around here, no? I was all set to (finally) get around to talking about next week's Troika Music Festival, when I was prompted with the reminder that this week features the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, four days of assorted rootsy/folky/country/jammy music. It's worth a look.

There's a lot of good stuff here, and it would take a few days to really sort through everything. Instead, you'll get what you got for Sparklefest last week -- a fairly random sampling of some things that look and sound good at first glance, and a strong encouragment to go check it out for yourself. (Oct 5-8. See here for more info.)

Saludos Compay: I really enjoy Latin stuff like this in a Buena Vista Social Club vein. (A comparison I imagine they get sick of, but what are you gonna do? That's what it sounds like!)
"Pintate Los Labios"

The Biscuit Burners: a more-or-less bluegrass sound, but with a variety of contemporary influences. I love the silvery banjo tone on this song -- nothing like Bill Monroe!
"Cow and Sake"

DivineMAGgies: dunno about the typographical hijinx in their name, but they sound great. Two strong female vocalists, making music that ranges from the rockish end of the Indigo Girls spectrum to this, a lovely Celtic-inflected folk song.
"North Carolina"

Jennie Stearns: there's a good bit of singer-songwriter stuff on the bill here. This strikes me as a pretty good example of the form.
"Season of Dreams"

Luminecent Orchestrii: They've obviously put some work into this description, so it would be a shame not to quote it: "Romanian gypsy melodies, punk frenzy, salty tangos, hard-rocking klezmer, haunting Balkan harmony, hip-hop beats and Appalachian fiddle, all eaten and spit out by two violins, resophonic guitar, bullhorn harmonica and bass." This is cool stuff.
"Taraf Hijacked"

Quetzal: They don't even have anything available to download, but this is too good to leave out. Go to their MySpace and listen to this eclectic rock en Espanol. Such a party!

Finally, a selection of local folks I've written about before:

Bombadil (previously): Nice to see that my description of them as "a slightly less-redneck version of the Gourds" has gotten cleaned up a bit and put in their press material -- it was in an Independent article, and is on the Shakori Hill site!
"Jellybean Wine"

The Never (previously): Annuals, who might be blowing up, are taking the Never on tour, which can only be good. In addition the Shakori Hills performance, look out for a multimedia presentation of their ambitious concept album, Antarctica, on October 14 in Chapel Hill.

The Old Ceremony (previously): their "pop noir" seems to have a bit more of the former and a bit less of the latter on their new release, Our One Mistake.
"Papers In Order"

The Two Dollar Pistols (previously): one of the bands I was excited about way back when, and I still love their honky-tonk sound.
"Runnin With The Fools"