Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Buchers Boy - Skin and Bones

Country music is frequently filled with themes of sorrow, coffins, shotguns, and dogs. This album may not have those last three. As far as sorrow, it goes one step farther. Rage. This is country music that definitely seems to be more anger-fueled than woe-fueled.
Butchers Boy is a country-rock band with an emphasis on 'rock.' The vocals sound tortured at some points. I can't always understand them which makes me want to listen to them over and over again until I can understand the entire message.
The drums provide very innovative takes on well-known rhythms. Some of the guitar solos are especially mean.
Highlight tracks include the title track, "Skin and Bones," with a slightly sinister mood and brilliant guitar. On top of it all, my favorite part is the xylophone solo at the end. "Put On Your Jacket" starts out slow and then builds with tumultuous drums and some awesome breaks. The organ on "Wicked On Broadway" makes the song sound like a great party.
Possibly the coolest thing about this album is that all twelve tracks were recorded live in the studio and in only two days in August of 2007. That's a pretty difficult task to accomplish but it sure makes for a fun album.
"Skin and Bones" is out now on Grape Juice Records but it may be a little hard to find, especially for anyone outside of Chicago. That said, if you ever come across a copy of it, buy it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday - LouFest 2011

Ume rocking very hard
The retro rock of Old Lights started out the day. Their set reminded me of early Elvis Costello, definitely not a bad thing. Although their lead guitarist broke a few strings and experienced other difficulties, there was always another spare and the set continued just fine.
Jumbling Towers had a chaotic, unique keyboard based sound that my friends and I all enjoyed. The drummer was very talented and the singer looked like David Byrne of Talking Heads if you squinted. Definitely one of my favorites from sunday, I was disappointed to find a different sound on the free sampler they gave me. A drum machine? Where's that awesome guy? That said, I look forward to future releases from them.
Ume was the heaviest band of the weekend in my opinion. Their hardcore songs paired with Lauren's sometimes sweet vocals made a great combination. Her outfit was actually a great representation of the band's sound. A little black dress and combat boots. Also, she's the best headbanger I've ever seen.
Next up was the band I was most excited for, Lost In The Trees. Their set did not disappoint. The soft orchestral folk music was a stark contrast to Ume. The audience seemed quiet and respectful of their delicate sound. The set included brand new songs, a skeleton horse puppet being paraded through the audience, and a personal story about delivering pizza to the wealthy while on narcotics. Awesome.
The Low Anthem followed, being the only other folk band on the bill. The singer's voice sounded a whole lot like more recent Bob Dylan tunes.
Das Racist was definitely the wild card of sunday. The three maniac rappers took the stage and played much of the material from their forthcoming album, "Relax." Never taking themselves seriously, they told us how they planned to "do a couple more blues songs, some classic rock songs." They showed a lot of energy and I swear there must have been at least one of them talking at all times. They played Metallica on their laptop, air-guitaring heavily as they walked out.
!!! was one of the most entertaining bands of the weekend. How could you not enjoy watching the singer dance, dance with the audience, dance with a man in a wheelchair, dance on top of the speakers, and knock a row of lights right off the speaker while dancing? It was incredibly entertaining and created a great environment to hold an impromptu dance party with strangers. It started to drizzle a little bit near the end but that didn't stop anyone from grooving.
Cat Power doesn't play many live shows but for St. Louis, an exception. Her vocals sounded just as good, if not better, than they do on the album (which is pretty great.) The entire band experienced some issues with their monitors but it still sounded great from the audience. True to her discography, Cat Power played at least a few covers. In the middle of the set, an amazing sunset and a rainbow appeared. This would have been cool with any of the bands but it was an absolutely perfect visual for Cat Power's stunning set.
TV On The Radio had a noisy and rocking sound that has become their signature. Keeping with the theme of their new album (Nine Types Of Light) they had a great light show to go with the music. In my opinion, they could have mixed the audio a little better. It didn't ruin such a moving set however. I was particularly excited when they played my two favorites, "Repetition" and "Wolf Like Me," in a row. Dealing with the death of their bass player, Gerard Smith, this could be TV On The Radio's last tour. Whatever they do, I'm sure it will be in everyone's best interest. This set was really powerful and loud and a great way to end a great weekend in St. Louis.

Saturday - LouFest 2011

Kings Go Forth
The weekend began with Jon Hardy and the Public. I heard a rumor that they practiced the entire set fifteen times including turning off the AC at Jon Hardy's house to experience the predicted heat. It paid off because they sounded great. Near the end of the set, one of their guitarists had to quickly change clothes and go get ready for a set with his other band, Troubadour Dali.
Troubadour Dali rocked the house (err... lawn) with their psychedelic music. They definitely helped prove that St. Louis does in fact have great local music, something that everyone in this area should recognize.
Sleepy Sun played some of their heavy, long jams. The best way to describe this is 'epic.'
All nine members of Kings Go Forth appeared clad in white uniforms. Their funky soul music was a great contrast to Sleepy Sun, pouring out love and sunshine. It was incredibly danceable, as I quickly found out.
Dom was, although limited, very cool including a special cover of The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry." Not that it matters in the long run, but the singer totally looks like a girl. Girl hair, pants, and voice. It was a little awkward but contributed to the absurdity of their music.
Surfer Blood played a good combination of fun and dark songs including some new tracks that have yet to be released. The frontman needs to learn to not talk quite so much but still a very fun set.
Due to hurricane Irene, The Roots could not make it. However, ?uestlove graced us with his DJ set of awesomeness. Boasting that it covered 85 years worth of music, this was a great big dance party at LouFest.
Deerhunter appeared calm and cool on stage while they played many fan favorites. The bass player looked pretty stoned to me but it certainly didn't prohibit him from playing some amazing bass lines. After announcing to the audience that this would be the last song they played on tour for a long time, the singer realized they still had thirty minutes left in their set. This mistake caused some people to leave that area but didn't take away from a great set.
To end saturday, The Hold Steady took over the blue stage. The sun had gone down at this point, making the stage even more of a focus. Belting out lyrics like a dictator giving a speech, singer Craig Finn was full of energy, frequently repeating lines away from the microphone and moving his limbs around. They played a wonderful set despite last year's departure of their keyboard player. It featured a great combination of old and new material.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

...soihadto... - Adventure Stories (Not Based On Fact?)

...soihadto... (that's their actual name) has created the soundtrack for an incredibly epic science fiction movie. Don't look for the movie online; it hasn't even been conceived yet. But I have confidence that it's a movie I will eventually take my grandkids to go see in the distant future.
This is made of songs that start out simple and then build until it's the most rocking thing you can possibly imagine. Until you go to the next track.
The drums are a fantastic foundation for epic guitar solos without being excessive. It never reaches that moment of "too much." The guitars have some pretty cool effects that are used sparingly and frequently in the background. I'm also pretty curious about the backwards voices on "Searching For The Cure" (I wonder who's dead this time?)
 I would call this a progressive album because of the long length of the tracks and the way that the songs can change within one of those tracks. On the other hand, some of the shorter songs have the raw energy of a punk band. Progressive punk? Is that a thing? Maybe it is now. Whatever it is, I like it.
Something that's fun to do, especially with instrumental music, is to close your eyes and visualize an imaginary movie that would go with the music. I do this at concerts sometimes. In my head this album is full of alien assassinations, cool cars, a lot of running, and shifty government contracts. I can't wait for it to be in theaters. What do you see when you listen to it? One could write a whole trilogy of films while you listen to this album.
"Adventure Stories (Not Based On Fact?)" is out now on Grape Juice Records.

Wilco - I Might

An acoustic guitar and a growling bass start off this single from Wilco's forthcoming album. The drum's create a real great stomp beat and the organ in the background makes me think of Elvis Costello's "My Aim is True" album. The lyrics on this song are abstract and beautiful in a style that is pretty signature Tweedy. This song makes me happy despite hearing Jeff sing "It's alright. You won't set the kids on fire. But I might." But, whatever, it's alright.
The B-side is a cover of Nick Lowe's "I Love My Label." This song is a new recording but if you close your eyes it just might take you back to 1977. This song is of course a tongue-in-cheek joke for Wilco. Having gone through much label trouble with the release of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," Wilco is finally on their own and Jeff Tweedy is his own boss. "We're one big happy family," he sings.
"I Might" is out now on dBpm Records and their new album "The Whole Love" is out on September 27th.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lower 48 - Everywhere To Go

The opening track to this folk-rock EP, "Transmisson Pt. 1," begins with a single acoustic guitar. It slowly builds adding two vocalists, a second guitar, a little piano and violin before breaking back down again. "Sunshine on the moon makes me wonder what it's like back home." This song is the perfect start to an EP about traveling.
"Mama's Eye" showcases Sarah Parson's cool, calm style of singing as she tells a story of dreaming to leave home and fly away. The viola is dramatic in a way that only classical instruments can be. 
There are more wonderful vocals on "Bedroom," a bit of a downer about the sorrowful thoughts that can be had while lying awake in bed.  
"Miles From Minnesota" is one of my favorite songs right now and definitely the highlight of the album. It's a fast-talking duet about a couple planning the trip of their dreams. It's also the title track to this fine disc. The two singers, although very different in style, sound very awesome next to each other. They don't have to be the same to be a great match (kind of like relationships, the subject of the song.) 
This seamlessly transitions into "Transmission Pt. 2" which contains the lyric "Don't stop the car." I don't know if that car actually stopped but I know my CD did, against my will. This came out in 2009 but I want to hear some more NOW. According to their facebook page, a new album is in the works. Until then, "Everywhere To Go" is out now on Grape Juice Records. A great road trip album, you can listen to it everywhere you go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Musikanto - Sky of Dresses

This is a wonderfully genuine americana album that covers many genres. The first song, "Blues for Momma," is a blues tune that makes me think of childhood. The classic blues style of repeating lyrics only makes them more powerful. 
"Every Which Way" is about love, the most classic theme, and it is definitely one of the stand out tracks. "I want your love right in front of me, I want it every which way. I need not know where you come from my darling just that you wanna stay," he sings. The simplicity of love is a curious thing. We spend all of this time trying to figure out who it is and what it means but it's really simple at the core. I like you a whole lot and I wanna be around you, right? That's what I get from this song. The dreamy guitar tone comes to a halt just before the chorus which creates a really cool effect.
The fourth track, "Ballad of Two Vultures," beautifully transitions into "Awful Mind" which has a western-like organ. The "oh my my's" in this song fit perfectly with the organ's tone.
The title track is an abstract collection of memories followed by "False Wind" with a whimsical violin intro.
The very last song is "The Waiting Room." In my interpretation of this one, it's about having a baby. "I don't see much of me in you but I want to." The female vocalist Sarah Holtschlag takes over during the chorus which sounds fantastic. The song moves along and the acoustic guitar sounds like it's over-flowing with doubt. Until, from out of nowhere, an electric guitar bursts in and the song builds into something else completely! Musikanto repeats the phrase "in the waiting room the walls are cold" until the song finally settles down. A very fine way to end a great album. 
I can't wait to hear more from Musikanto and I hope he makes his way to St. Louis sometime soon. Until then, "Sky of Dresses" is out now on Grape Juice Records.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Curtis Evans and Our Friends Electric - Life With The Buffalo

This is an album for people who like little surprises. The first track I heard from this album was "You and Me." Judging by the title, I thought it was going to be a love song. "You and me and the devil make three." It's quite dark. Despite the depressing lyrics, it still carries a beautiful duet. 
I was surprised again when I listened to the album. The second track, "Baltimore," repeats the lyric "In Baltimore there are mothers pleading / All our babies have x's on their eyes." Whoa. I knew this was dark but that is some heavy stuff. Then I got to the seventh track, "Mark of the Beast." It really grooves and the guitar is pretty ripping. It's not the kind of song I would expect to hear when there's nature photography on the cover sleeve and the first half is mostly acoustic. And I REALLY didn't expect the next song, "Sister." It's got a guitar riff that reminds me a little of Black Sabbath! "What if I can't wake up, sister?" And then on the track after, it's another slow song. "Won't Serve in Heaven" is a beautiful song that questions what qualifies us into heaven. "The Good Life" is a bitter song about being paranoid. "Will she kill me in the night?"
This showed me just how versatile Curtis Evans can be. The entire album features songs of different styles but they all seem to make sense next to each other. This is definitely a unique album and I hate to try and categorize into just one genre. "Life With The Buffalo" is out now on Grape Juice Records.