Friday, November 25, 2011

Great Scott! Ivan and Alyosha and Hey Rosetta in Allston!

(L to R, copyright Jose Mandojana: Tim Wilson, Ryan Carbary, Tim Kim, Pete Wilson) It's all acoustic. And with Ivan and Alyosha, that's all they need: the foursome from Seattle take wing upon crisp guitars, soulful harmonies, and general good feeling. With some good press on their side, we're feeling that their current Fathers Be Kind EP portends a similarly stunning debut full-length, due out early next year. Be sure to catch them in Allston, MA at Great Scott (11-30-11, doors at 9p), as it seems likely they'll need to try their new material on the crowd. Tim Wilson and co. trek through the rugged Montana terrain, traversing mountains, braving snow, and suffering dropped calls to give us updates on their nascent tour.

Matt Keefer: Your band name comes from a scene in Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov." [Obvious question:] Who is your favorite Russian author?
Tim Wilson: My favorite Russian author? I can honestly say I don't have one. It would have to be Dostoevsky by default.

MK: Fair enough. Where are you guys at right now? Your next concert's in Chicago, right?
TW: We're in Montana right now, we're driving to Chicago.

MK: How's the tour been so far?
TW: You know, this is the first day on the road. So: so far, so good. We've hit two snowstorms so far in about eight hours.

MK: That's impressive. Two snowstorms and you haven't played a gig yet? Awesome.
TW: Exactly.

MK: Who are your influences; who informs your sound?
TW: I mean, we're talking musically, right?

MK: Yeah. Well, you can talk any way about it, I guess, if you think there's another particular novel that struck you and influenced your music.
TW: I would say, musically, it's just whatever I've had on vinyl. Just, like, Elvis, Sinatra, Nat King Cole...
*static and dropped call*

TW: I'm sorry [about the dropped call].
MK: It's okay. You can't help that. Unless you put the satellites and the [cell] towers up. Then you could help it. We left off in the horrible, epic snowstorm, and you were describing your influences.
TW: Elvis, Sinatra, Nat King Cole. Harry Belafonte. As for new stuff, we love a band called Delta Spirit from Long Beach. Richard Swift has always been kind of a big influence. At the end of the day, I think everything goes back to the Beatles for us.

MK: Do you mind if I make a vinyl suggestion: do you have Stevie Wonder? I'm going on a Stevie Wonder binge right now
TW: Stevie Wonder: huge influence. I remember actually playing Stevie Wonder for the first time for my one-and-a-half year old, and he just kind of stood in front of the record player and just stared at it. It was pretty incredible. We took a picture of it. He just kind of stood in awe.

MK: One of my questions that I have written down is "do you have good tour stories," but I guess I would have to change that to "do you have good driving-in-the-car stories?"
TW: We've been on the road off and on for the last eight or nine months. But we don't do anything too crazy. We try to keep it pretty simple.

MK: I was hoping for something completely out of the ordinary. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips has a crazy story about a rotund, sweaty guy attacking another band. I was hoping you'd match up to that, but you just kinda let me down.
TW: Sorry man. In order to stay sane on the road, we try to keep it pretty boring.

MK: Could you fill me in on your upcoming full-length?
TW: The new record we're still currently working on, and we've released an acoustic demo of a new song or two. The new record should be done by the end of January. And then will hopefully come out in the Spring.

MK: The next question I'd like to ask is a very easy one: how do you write your songs?
TW: [Laughs] Ummm... so... me in particular, it takes me a while because I develop either lyrical ideas... I kind of develop ideas in my head or things that I hear that I really like, and I want to try to capture a similar vibe. It usually starts with a song I'm inspired by, and you just want to try to write something in a similar vein.

MK: But make it your own.
TW: Yeah, exactly. So I feel like I kind of mull over stuff in my head a lot, and then, when I feel like there's something really good and interesting, then I'll sit down with a guitar and almost let it write itself a little bit. Very rarely do I sit down and write a song and just say "okay, I'm going to write a song now." It has to be something brewing.

MK: How do you start: with a riff, with the story of the song?
TW: I think it all starts with the melody. There will always be a lyric tied to the initial melody for the song. I feel that always has to happen first. Whatever happens underneath that is kind of secondary to whatever happens lyrically.
*dropped call*

TW: Sorry. Once again.
MK: Oh, you don't have to apologize. Unless you actually make the snow, in which case you would have to apologize for bad timing. Leaving off where we were at.
TW: I'm always looking for a good song and looking to write a good song...

*2 dropped calls later*
MK: Hello again, how's it going?
TW: It's good. We're gonna get through this.
MK: What should people expect from your Boston...
*another dropped call*

MK: You know, Tim, you have a very soothing [voice] message. Your voicemail is incredibly calming, even though I'm getting frustrated with the calls dropping all the time; I just listen to that voice, and it just soothes my soul.
TK: Dude, I'm glad. Okay, here's what people should expect. It's nerve wracking, but we try to go up there and have a lot of fun. You kind of have two choices: to go up there and be self-conscious, or just go up there and make an idiot out of yourself. Which is what we try to do; have fun, have a drink and play our songs.

MK: Good, spirited, clean fun. As opposed to Guns N' Roses kind of fun, where you brawl with people in the audience.
TW: And no brawling, you know. Although Pete almost fought a guy who was trying to get into our RV one time, which was pretty funny.

MK: Was he out of his mind or something?
TW: This guy names Sean in Dallas, TX - oh no, it was Shane - he had a little too much to drink, he was kind of a local. It was three in the morning, and he was trying to take some guitar pedals and run off with them. He was trying to get into the RV.

MK: You want to be careful with drinkers. My roommate in college got drunk once and urinated all over everything in the room. I had to clean up afterwards, too.
TW: That is horrible.

MK: Be thankful the guy didn't make it in and start urinating on various things in the RV.
TW: I'm really OCD, so that would've really pissed me off. I hope you got a new college roommate after that.
MK: [Pause] Eventually.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hubbard reaches heights on "Pinnacle"

Freddie Hubbard - "Pinnacle: from Keystone Korner"
Resonance Records
-out now
4.5 / 5

Wow. Let's just say that first. One of the most blazing jazz trumpeters in the history of the music comes back from the vaults with this posthumous live release from San Fran. Next, let's get this out of the way: the sound quality is maybe 3.5/5. It's recorded live, some 30 years old. Get over it. Now, onto the juice of the matter: Pinnacle is pure gold. We don't feature jazz often enough, and Hubbard blasts through with "The Intrepid Fox," tearing a veritable hole in our eardrums - in a good, earth-shattering way - and simply does not relent. The weakest one here is probably "First Light," which is our favorite studio Hubbard release, and we'd probably put it at a mere four stars, mostly because the album version is still favored. But enough nitpicking: if you're looking to get into some serious jazz trumpetition, this is an excellent album to get you started on the Hubbard discography. More importantly, this concert MUST be in your Hubbard collection, and we're not kidding; it's no watered-down sad handful of songs. Get it, enjoy it, grow to love it more than your significant other. Highly recommended

Monday, November 14, 2011

White Denim D-livers in Boston

One of our favorite (relative) unknowns, Austin, Texans White Denim took the part of first opener to Manchester Orchestra. The rock quartet - that's how you know they're tough to describe, basically 'rock' must suffice - pounded out a graceful act, starting in on "Street of Joy," with vocalist James Petralli pulling from the mic, filling the air with the color in his voice. (Check out that awesome blur effect in the pic c/o Matt Lacorazza; L to R - Austin Jenkins, Josh Block, Steve Terebecki, James Petralli) The foursome cut a clean, gorgeous performance on this one, and drummer Josh Block enjoyed the heck out of bashing through "Bess St." And when Petralli gets down and dirty on a solo during "River to Consider," then we know we're in love. The brief set - a bit less than 30 minutes total - was certainly worth the catching, and included mostly songs from their new album D, as well as their older "Shake Shake Shake." We've got to be honest here: 30 minutes is not quite enough for these guys. We're hoping their upcoming tour will find a better audience than they found in the Manchester Orchestrites; the headliner, in our opinion, doesn't seem the most natural pairing in band dynamics and philosophies. And another moment of honesty: the dead serious MO (and The Dear Hunter, too) don't get our rocks off quite as the energetic, chameleon Denim does. Our verdict? If you appreciate dynamic songwriting that flits to-and-fro, and don't want another drummer banging on the beat, catch them with Wilco in the SW (wait, they're touring with Wilco?? holy cripes, time to relocate). Wonderful set, with our only regret being that they certainly needed more room to flesh out their solos. Oh, and hopefully they'll have time for some pieces from Fits.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Cate Le Bon/ St. Vincent @ Royale (Boston, MA)

A long-haired brunette came on stage, dressed in a black, short-sleeved shirt, black tights. The stage lights accented her high cheekbones, cut softly, feminine yet harsh. A crowd of St. Vincent fans, ranging in their early 20s to 30s, seemed intent on the headliner, whose distinctive angular songcraft and wild rockstar attitude would  woo the crowd already desperate for her. But Le Bon, a relative unknown to the Boston crowd (already they were chatting, perhaps wondering who this woman was; when was Annie Clark's act to come on?) strummed the first few notes on her wood-grained electric guitar, strange, out-of-place notes except for their distinct sense of intention. And when she took the mic (perhaps a soft French accent, more pronounced in her casual speech), the audience had already judged: she was no St. Vincent, could we have the real thing?
And so it would have been, a nervousness behind the woman's singing, an almost alien, art-pop sense of songwriting, had not the wind shifted a few songs in, had she not relaxed after finishing the single she'd been promoting, "Puts Me to Work," and the crowd turned their ear and hushed - briefly - to hear her voice finally soar. "These are hard times to fall in love," she crooned, knocking its truth into the ticket-holders, and they responded, becoming, if only for a few more songs, her congregation. She pushes hair aside.
"I know you don't know who I am," she said. "This is my last song," she tells them, "and I'd appreciate if you could cheer for it." She starts again. "So, this is my last song - " hootings and enthusiasm overtaking her timid voice " - don't cheer for that!" She laughed and introduced her final song, and as quietly as she came left.
(Apologies for the lack of pictures - so we thought we'd try to paint one for all you out there. New album coming out early next year; and if you missed St. Vincent's enchanting performance, well, next time don't.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Takes place in our living space

Basically, we like these guys. "Fits" was all over the place, just wild and cuh-razy; "D" was more melodic, less psychotic. And their latest EP from last month, "Takes Place in Your Work Space," is a shining example of what a reckless and crazy band can do with pop (shirts or no). Yes, the name of the game is White Denim, and they're coming to - of all places - Boston. The city that practically invented the six-way intersection. Reckless, indeed, and we think they'll fit right in.
This crew is opening (along with Dear Hunters) for the Manchester Orchestra at the House of Blues Friday, Nov. 12 (tics start at $16.25). We're going to go out of our way and say Manchester must have some musical taste to them; after all, Denim just announced dates opening for Wilco in the Southeast. Dying for a ticket? Thought so. Get your best freak-out on and rock out like a madman because, from what we heard, these guys put on a show a la nuts. Now get out there already!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Slow Club finds bliss in "Paradise"

Slow Club - "Paradise"
Moshi Moshi
-out now
3.5 / 5

We admit, we're a little slow to get onto this train, but we'll admit our shortcomings: Slow Club has a good thing going. Yes, we're still a fan of those slower ditties, "You, Earth or Ash" and "Gold Mountain," but on this release (the UK duo's sophomore) we think they hit upon a winning combination of rock, Rebecca Taylor's strong vocals, and Charles Watson's bangin' guitar (he also vocalizes a bit, too). The songs on Paradise run a strong gamut of rockers and ballads, just steaming on the kinda sexist "Where I'm Waking," ("I can see you staring at me/ You've got the brains, I've got the body," Taylor affirms), but heck, it's still good fun. There's nary a track here we don't like, and though we don't love-love to-have-and-to-hold this album, we suspect their next one will show a similar artistic growth. But for now, this one will most definitely do, and comes recommended.

Check out that kinda sexist video.