Archive for October, 2009

The Ferocious Few: “Lord, Save My Soul”

October 28, 2009

the_ferocious_fewThe Ferocious Few are only two dudes from Oakland with a fetish for fedoras I spotted playing as a rogue (read: non-billed) band between stages at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. (You remember, Jake Brill.) Unlike the other pop-up acts, however, I was actually compelled to stop and listen to these guys—and, based on the crowd gathered and the glowing “I was just walking by and these guys, out of nowhere, knocked my socks off” style reviews abounding on iTunes, I’m not the only one who took the time to Google them after the effects of the whiskey wore off.

These boys—comprised of Francisco Fernandez on songwriting duties, vocals, and guitar and Daniel Aguilar on percussion—have taken busking to a whole new level, bringing their stripped-down sound all over the streets of San Francisco with a portable PA, giving go-to blues-rock duo The Black Keys a run for their money in the process. “Our music is based on struggle, and that’s what I think people can relate to,” Fernandez says. “I want to create something that’s relevant to our culture, not alienated by it.” Word on the street is they’re releasing a full-length album this fall. In the meantime, see them open for William Elliot Whitmore and Hoots & The Hellmouth at Bottom of the Hill tonight.

The Ferocious Few – Lord, Save My Soul

Who: The Ferocious Few

What: From the Streets to Your Heart (EP)

When: 8.31.2007

Where: San Francisco, California

Why: “Darkness setting in / Living this life of sin.”

How: Indie/Birdman

Noah and the Whale: “My Broken Heart”

October 22, 2009

noahandthewhaleBreaking up, they say, is hard to do. So every time a relationship ends (and there are many times, since they never last long with me), I go searching for the perfect soundtrack to my sadness. You know, so I can eke something cathartically beautiful and painful out of an experience that would, otherwise, be purely painful. And, as much as I enjoy poring over my music collection so I can concoct the perfect self-indulgent brew of misery-specific songs, I can’t truly express how excited I was that Noah and the Whale’s second full-length, The First Days of Spring, serves as the ultimate lick-your-wounds breakup album, unraveling every stage of love gone awry. Sharing the same name as a Dali painting, you know it’s going to be seeped in anguish.

From the initial, in-denial optimism of the first and title track (“I’m still here hoping / That one day you may come back”) to the feeling that things can’t get any worse (“You can break my broken heart”) and there’s nothing left to live for (“Everything I love has gone away”) to a glimmer of hope that, even though the symptoms point to imminent death, this heartbreak might not actually be fatal (“You know in a year it’s gonna be better / You know in a year I’m gonna be happy”), and, finally, life goes on (“Blue skies are coming / but I know that it’s hard”) and, finally, I will be better off without you (“Your love is like a knife to the back / I was stabbed and bleeding but begging for attack”) and you will be better off without me (“I will only let you down”) but maybe we can be friends (“My door is always open”)? Live vicariously through this particularly excruciating parting of ways at the Swedish American Hall tonight.

Noah and the Whale – My Broken Heart

Who: Noah and the Whale

What: The First Days of Spring

When: 10.6.2009

Where: Twickenham, London, England

Why: “Broken hearts are a fickle thing and complicated too / I thought I believed in love but I’ve never seen it through.”

How: Cherry Tree

the-first-days-of-spring

Kings of Convenience: “24-25”

October 21, 2009

kingsofconvenienceThis indie folk-pop duo is neither as royal nor as convenient as their moniker would imply, given that they are two boys—Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe—hailing from Bergen, Norway, whose band hasn’t released a record since 2004, and Feist, who contributed to a couple of tracks on their last album, often gets more attention than they do. Today all of that changes as their fourth studio album, Declaration of Dependence, drops. Whether or not these kids have imperial blood pulsing through their veins, the new one once again proves that they are kings of acoustics. And just because the pair has not been the most prolific group to date doesn’t make their work any less enjoyable. Remember ye olde “quality not quantity” adage.

Having fallen fast and hard for “Homesick” off of Riot on an Empty Street—a song whose lyrics, “two soft voices blended in perfection,” describes their sound to a T—I found myself craving more of their delicate harmonies and intricate guitar melodies. After five long, lonely years marked by an absence of fresh soft-voiced tunes, I can once again envelop myself in the quiet sea of whispered words. So “I lose some sales / And my boss won’t be happy / But I can’t stop listening to the sound.” In other Nordic news today, Copenhagen’s Choir of Young Believers play at The Rickshaw Stop this evening. But be forewarned: those guys are less Sam Beam and more Thom Yorke meets Fleet Foxes.

Kings of Convenience – 24-25

Who: Kings of Convenience

What: Declaration of Dependence

When: 10.20.2009

Where: Bergen, Norway

Why: “24 and blooming like the fields of May / 25 and yearning for a ticket out.”

How: EMI

declarationofdependence

Beach House: “Wedding Bell”

October 19, 2009

beach-houseHaving just returned from a wedding this weekend, I couldn’t help but choose this tune by Baltimore’s Beach House. (Don’t worry; this post will probably sound less pathetic than Friday’s self-deriding, I-will-be-alone-forever entry on Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.) The duo, comprised of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, is especially relevant right now because not only is it bringing its ghostly brand of dream pop to Bottom of the Hill tonight (with SF’s Papercuts), but rumor has it that Legrand (niece of French film composer Michel Legrand and singer Chistiane Legrand) lent her vocals to Grizzly Bear yesterday during the band’s set at Treasure Island (like she did on Veckatimest track “Two Weeks”).   

Not surprising, considering she does the same on the new Twilight: New Moon song, “Slow Life.” If there’s anything sexier than vampires, it’s Grizzly Bear and Mazzy Star- and Nico-approximating Legrand contributing to the soundtrack for a movie about vampires. Back to the non-dead subject at hand, Beach House’s 2008 Devotion has received just as much praise—if not more—than their eponymous 2006 debut. While I wanted to include Beach House‘s “Apple Orchard” in honor of the current season, the irony of pining for a New England fall of foliage while stuck amongst the stagnant trees of Northern California hits just too close to home.

Beach House – Wedding Bell

Who: Beach House

What: Devotion

When: 2.26.2008

Where: Baltimore, Maryland

Why: “You’re ringing the only wedding bell / And we’re swimming the seas we know so well.”

How: Carpark

devotion

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: “Carries On”

October 15, 2009

edward-sharpe-and-the-magnetic-zeros1A vicious case of swine flu (suspected but not confirmed) prevented me from seeing the highly acclaimed live show masters Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros at The Independent on September 15, but no pandemic can stop me from listening to their debut album, Up from Below, on repeat. As someone that generally prefers a sad, slow, soundtrack-to-a-breakup type of music, I was surprised to find myself so attached this record, but hey, even the most masochistic, misery-loving person isn’t immune to catchy sometimes.

And listening to Edward Sharpe (Alex Ebert’s stage name/alter ego) and Jade Castrinos sing to each other about their unparalleled, enduring love doesn’t even make me bitter. Except when I see pictures like this:

edward_and_jade2 edward_and_jade1

and then I feel like I will never be in a relationship like theirs, in which I could write love songs, tour around the country, and frolic in fields with my soul mate for the rest of my life, so why should I even try? Either way, the clamoring 10-piece caravan of a band’s music is undeniably infectious, and by listening I can live their mutual adoration vicariously, especially with lyrics like “Home is wherever I’m with you.” In a simple twist of irony, as I head down to LA (where the band lives and frequently performs) for a wedding this weekend, they will be coming up to San Francisco, playing at Mezzanine on Saturday night and at the Treasure Island Music Festival on Sunday. Life isn’t fair.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Carries On

Who: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

What: Up from Below

When: 5.21.2009

Where: Los Angeles, California

Why: “Our love carries on.”

How: Vagrant Records

up_from_below

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down: “Know Better Learn Faster”

October 13, 2009

thaoHere’s something to make all you triskaidekaphobes (read: those that fear or a have a phobia concerning the number 13) smile. Or not, depending on how you look at it. The good news is, Thao Nguyen and her band released their second full-length today, called Know Better Learn Faster. The bad news is, according to Thao, it’s nearly impossible to actually do what the title of the record commands. Because, by the time you know, it’s too late, and the lesson has been learned. Love, people, is a battlefield. And if you’re unlucky in love, well…I doubt you’ll find solace in this ominous release date. At least it’s not Friday.

Despite the humorous cynicism of the title and sad lyrics, the album refuses to wallow in the traditional sense. Heartbreak never sounded so sweet—even if, on the album cover, Thao is poised to hit a piñata shaped like a broken heart, the air is full of celebratory confetti. If, on the other hand, you want to wade in the depths of depression until your tear ducts run dry, check out her work with the Portland Cello Project. Misery loves melancholy string accompaniment. See Thao’s happy-in-the-face-of-sadness approach at The Crepe Place in Santa Cruz this Saturday night, or at the Treasure Island Music Festival in SF on Sunday morning.

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – Know Better Learn Faster

Who: Thao with the Get Down Stay Down

What: Know Better Learn Faster

When: 10.13.09

Where: San Francisco, California

Why: “But I need you to be better than me / And you need me to do better than you.”

How: Kill Rock Stars

know-better-learn-faster

The Cave Singers: “At the Cut”

October 6, 2009

Cave SingersAs far as album titles go, I think it’s safe to say that, on the surface, The Cave Singer’s latest LP is a bit of a misnomer. Not that Welcome Joy will make you want to slit your wrists, but originally I thought that Welcome Joy Occasionally, Waiting for Joy, or simply Welcome Joy and Sadness Equally may have been more appropriate than a synonym for Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. That is, until my research revealed that the name was actually derived from John Keats’ poem “A Song of Opposites,” which encourages the reader to love the good and the bad together, and explains the co-existence of tracks both optimistic and fatalistic under the same umbrella. How endearingly erudite of the indie folk trio.

That said, this sophomore effort is indeed lighter than the band’s 2007 debut, Invitation Songs, largely due to the fact that, according to lead singer Pete Quirk, much of it was recorded during the summer months rather than the dreary Seattle winter. And Quirk’s husky, androgynous, and often lachrymose vocals effectively span the record’s dueling “fair and foul” (that’s Keats again) themes. This fall they’re touring with Canadian buddies Lightning Dust, two of whose members, Amber and Ashley Webber, contributed vocals to Welcome Joy. Catch both bands tonight at The Independent.

The Cave Singers – At the Cut 

Who: The Cave Singers

What: Welcome Joy

When: 8.18.2009

Where: Seattle, Washington

Why: “Down at the cut the children they stock up / They wait for me like birds in a row.”

How: Matador

welcome-joy

Elvis Perkins in Dearland: “Chains, Chains, Chains”

October 5, 2009

elvisperkinsindearlandI have now seen Elvis Perkins—with or without Dearland—on exactly four separate occasions. The first time was at The Paradise, one of my favorite little Beantown venues, and after witnessing a particularly heart-wrenching, tear-inducing rendition of “Ash Wednesday” (a haunting, elegiac tune about 9/11, which took the life of Perkins’ mother), Amy—my date to the show and the one that passionately introduced me to Perkins’ music back in early 2007—and I collectively called the performance transcendental and Elvis a long-suffering musical God and lyrical genius. (Note: Neither Amy nor I is prone to hyperbole.) He wasn’t joking when he told Pitchfork “I will fuck your shit up.” He did, and he’ll do it again.

And yesterday, as I sat within spitting distance of Elvis and co., where they played a very early (read: 11:40 am) set to which I had to run my hungover ass through Golden Gate, still reeking of whiskey, wine, and beer from the previous day’s Hardly Strictly festivities, with the sun shining and the breeze blowing through the eucalyptus and Wyndham’s trombone mournfully cutting through the cool air during “Chains, Chains, Chains,” I thought that there really was no place I’d rather be at that moment, and certainly no band I’d rather see. This is my ode to Elvis Perkins in Dearland: boys, I’d follow you anywhere.      

Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Chains, Chains, Chains

Who: Elvis Perkins in Dearland

What: Elvis Perkins in Dearland

When: 3.10.2009

Where: Hudson River Valley, NY

Why: “What thing is this at my feet at my heart at my wrists / If you know anything I’ll have to insist that you explain / Chains chains chains.”

How: XL Recordings

elvis-perkins-in-dearland