Monday, February 28, 2011

Touring Schedule (saturdays) (sundays) Mondays

As previous posts have hinted, this space will now include a weekly compilation of the current dates for previous New Music Tuesdays profilees, just as a friendly aide to our faithful readers to keep tabs on where our selected artists will be appearing soon, as well as a handy reference for previous reviews.

And even though today is Monday – and a brand new NMT review will be appearing as soon as tomorrow! – the intent here is to post this run-down every Saturday. This initial version is appearing on a Monday, basically because the initial matrix took longer to compile than anticipated, the 1st annual Mad Fox Barleywine Festival intervened and other distractions ensued. But now with the basic format established, subsequent iterations should require much less effort.

Provided below are listings of our past profilees, a link to their NMT review, their current touring schedule – which will include either all the concert dates until the next Touring Schedules Saturdays (basically, a Saturday-to-Friday run-down), or the next 5 upcoming dates, whichever is more timely – and links to their respective websites and twitter accounts. When a group or artist has appeared more than once, they'll appear at their original date.

Enjoy, and see you when the lights go down...

The Low Anthem
Charleston, WV (2/27); Chicago, Ill. (2/28); Toronto, Ont. (3/2); Montreal, Que. (3/3); Boston, Mass (3/4); North Adams, Mass. (3/4)

Norman, Okla (2/28); Omaha, Neb. (3/1); Minneapolis, Minn (3/2); Chicago, Ill. (3/4); Detroit, Mich. (3/5)

The Civil Wars
Oklahoma City, Okla (3/9); Abilene, Tex. (3/10); Dallas, Tex. (3/11-12); Denton, Tex. (3/13)

Oh No! Oh My!
Lund, Sweden (2/27); Stockholm, Sweeden (3/2); Oslo, Norway (3/3); Copenhagen, Denmark (3/4); Namur, Belgium (3/5)

San Francisco, Calif. (3/9); Santa Cruz, Calif. (3/10); Los Angeles, Calif (3/11); Santa Barbara, Calif. (3/12); San Diego, Calif. (3/13)

Northampton, Mass. (2/27); Boston, Mass. (2/28); New York, NY (3/2); Brookly, NY (3/3); Philadelphia, Penn. (3/4); Washington, DC (3/5)

The Decemberists
Dublin, Ireland (3/3); Glasgow, UK (3/5); Birmingham, UK (3/7); Bristol, UK (3/8); Manchester, UK (3/10)

April Smith & the Great Picture Show
New York, NY (3/2)

Rural Alberta Advantage
Cambridge, Mass. (3/9); New York, NY ( 3/10); Philadelphia, Pa. (3/11); Brooklyn, NY (3/12)

Lost in the Trees
Denton, Tex. (3/11); Hot Springs, Ark. (3/21)

Johnny Poe & the Salvation Circus

Gold Motel
San Francisco, Calif. (2/28); Anaheim, Calif. (3/2); Tempe, Ariz. (3/14); St. Lois, Mo. (4/7); Hopewell, Mich. (4/29)

Alphabet Backwards
London, UK (4/21)

Hamilton, Ont. (3/9); Toronto, Ont. (3/10); New York, MY (3/11); Toronto, Ont. (3/12); Oshawa, Ont (3/25)

Quiet Company
Bryan, Tex. (3/4); Houston, Tex. (3/11); Dallas, Tex. (3/12); Austin, Tex. (3/13,15)


Steven Page
Calgary, Alb. (2/28); Vancouver, BC (3/2); Portland, Ore. (3/3); Seattle, Wash. (3/4)

Tired Pony

Ben Folds
Hamburg, Germany (2/28); Copenhagen, Denmark (3/1); Berlin, Germany (3/3); Munich, Germany (3/4); Vienna, Austria (3/5)

Tokyo, Japan (3/3); Osaka, Japan (3/4); Adelaide, Austrialia (3/6); Brisbane, Australia (3/8); Sidney, Australia (3/9)

Dallas, Tex. (4/30); Atlantic City, NJ (5/27); Knebworth Park, UK (7/9); Balado, UK (7/10)

Ra Ra Riot
Baltimore, Md. (3/3); Charlottesville, Va. (3/4); Jacksonville, Fla. (3/6); Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (3/7); Orlando, Fla. (3/8)

Sufjan Stevens
Bergen, Norway (4/29); Oslo, Norway (4/30); Copenhagen, Denmark (5/1); Stockholm, Sweden (5/3); Warsaw, Poland (5/5)

Farewell Drifters
Philadelphia, Penn. (3/16); New York, NY (3/17); Earlville, NY (3/18); Rosendale, NY (19); Erie, Pa. (3/20)

The Arcade Fire
Broomfield, Colo. (4/9); Orem, Utah (4/11); Phoenix, Ariz. (4/13); Las Vegas, Nev. (4/14); Indio, Calif. (4/16)

Tokyo Police Club
Toronto, Ont. (3/1); Los Angeles, Calif. (3/25); Kingston, Ont. (3/30); Hamilton, Ont. (3/31); London, Ont. (4/2)

Kathryn Calder

Great Big Sea
Kelowna, BC (3/11); Seattle, Wash. (3/12); Bend, Ore. (3/13); Petaluma, Calif. (3/15); Redding, Calif. (3/16)

Telegraph Canyon
Fort Worth, Tex. (3/9); Denton, Tex. (3/11); New Orleans, La. (3/12); Dallas, Tex. (3/15); Austin, Tex. (3/16)

Ottawa, Ont. (5/4); Toronto, Ont. (5/5); Waterloo, Ont. (5/6); Hamilton, Ont. (5/7); London, Ont. (5/8)


Regina Spektor

The Hold Steady
Sydney, Australia (3/8); Brisbane, Australia (3/9); Melbourne, Australia (3/11); Merideth, Australia (3/12); Cleveland, Ohio (4/2)

The New Pornographers
Boulder, Colo. (4/13); Albuquerque, NM (4/14); Tempe, Ariz (4/15); Indio, Calif. (4/16); Santa Cruz, Calif. (4/17)

The 1900s

Titus Andronicus
Chicago, Ill. (3/3); Royal Oak, Mich. (3/4); Baltimore, Md. (3/7); Washington, DC (3/8); Boston, Mass. (3/11)

Butch Walker

Valery Gore

Indio, Calif. (4/17); Pomona, Calif. (4/21); San Francisco, Calif. (4/22)

Southeast Engine
Philadelphia, Pa. (2/27); Lexington, Ky. (3/23); Cincinnati, Ohio (3/24); DeKalb, Ill. (3/25); Minneapolis, Minn (3/26)

We Were Promised Jetpacks

The Overmountain Men
Dallas, NC (3/11); Charlotte, NC (3/19); Pomeroy, Ohio (5/7); Saluda, NC (6/4); Cleveland, Ohio (10/14)

Dear Leader
Allston, Mass. (3/5-6)

Jukebox Serenade

Van Ghost
Chillicothe, Ill. (5/26-28); Geneva, Minn. (5/29)

Gaslight Anthem
Adelaide, Australia (3/4); Melbourne, Australia (3/5); Perth, Australia (3/7); Osaka, japan (3/10); Tokyo, Japan (3/11)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Low Anthem

In his trademark "American Pie," Don McLean described Bob Dylan – the iconic jester in his long-winded narrative – as possessing a "voice that came from you and me." The same is true of his fellow folk-rock trendsetter, Neil Young. There just seems to be something inherent in folk-rock that welcomes – if not demands – a vocal pitch just slightly askew. The nasal wail of Dylan and Young – a trait likewise found in their contemporaries of today, such as The Avett Brothers, past (and future) reviewees the Rural Alberta Advantage, or today's profilees, The Low Anthem – suggests an authenticity and kinship with their audience, as if a more beautiful rendering would somehow push their work towards the brie-and-Chablis set. Whether that is or isn't the case, it's nonetheless a trend that continues with The Low Anthem and their frontman, Ben Knox Miller, on Smart Flesh – released today on Nonesuch Records (a deluxe 16-track version is also available).

The credits page of Smart Flesh reads like a recipe card. But here, instead of carrots, shallots or beef stock, the recipe calls for ingredients ranging from the clarinet and jaw harp to a tenor banjo and "croatles with sizzling coins." And instead of preparing the dish via a stovetop fry pan or pre-heated oven, the quartet substitutes a pair of recording locations for the 11-track collection in the group's native Rhode Island: the abandoned Porino’s pasta sauce factory in Central Falls or 891 N. Main St. in Providence.

For a release containing as much unique material that's presented as the record unfurls, it's interesting the first offering is a cover: George Carter's 1929 ballad, "Ghost Woman Blues." The piano-driven number is filled-out by multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams' beautifully low-register clarinet solo, and references to hardscrabble Americana, including the "L&N" (the Louisville and Nashville to railfans) and "that lonesome graveyard." The selection makes for an fitting transition to its original follow-up, "Apothecary Love." Sounding as if it could as easily spilled from the same 1920s songbook as its predecessor, the rusty harmonica, steel guitars and single-mic group harmonies present a comfortable backdrop for Miller's folksy narrative.

And yet, the Dylan influence barges through with gusto on the gnarly "Boeing 737." Somehow the foursome makes a tune about a modern jetliner blare through like Dylan and The Band unearthing some Woody Guthrie rarity. We hear about a Gatling gun and the prophets who "entered boldly into the bar." It might be a bit jarring after the more somber introductory numbers, but its as spirited and rocking as the outfit can offer.

Following a string of relatively uneventful selections – the pretty, but restrained vocal harmonics of "Love and Altar," the cello-and-harmonica "Matter of Time" and the instrumental "Wire," featuring another lovely clarinet part from Adams – more interesting fare returns in "Burn." Although not particularly rambunctious, Miller's songwriting is solid here, describing "black angels," and "your memory now is a shadow to my shadow; I wind in time like a player piano" on top of banjo and organ filament. But more captivating is another Dylan-esque call-out on, "Hey, All You Hippies!" Although the tempo is sliced in half from "Boeing 737," the same foundation supports the number, with a four-bar blues rhythm track and grainy electric guitars rounding out the performance. To the same measure, "I'll Take Out Your Ashes" is surprising in not only its simplicity in relation to the previous track, but the tenderness by which Miller conveys his love for the departed. Featuring front-porch banjo picking paired with Paul Simon-style wordsmithing, its one of the few slow tracks on the record that comes through as distinctive.

"Golden Cattle" features some outstanding harmonizing at the outset, but the title track isn't as enjoyable. I'd recommend investigating the five deluxe tracks, however – mostly for the fairly upbeat "Vines" and the quasi-spiritual "Daniel in the Lions' Den." Both sound as if they could benefit from a full treatment in the editing and mixing process, though, as the former abruptly cuts-off at the instrumental play-out (although it's Hammond B-3 part is excellent) and the latter sounds a bit muddled, which certainly could have been cleaned-up in mixing and mastering. I'd have preferred if these cuts had made their way onto the official product, rather than a few too many somber ballads.

Come for: "Ghost Woman Blues"
Stay for: "Boeing 737"
You'll be surprised by: "I'll Take Out Your Ashes"

P.S. The Low Anthem will appear this Thursday at the 6th & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C.

P.P.S. Touring Schedule Saturdays will debut this Saturday (hopefully), so stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


When a band is created to largely serve as a front for the artistic vision for a single individual, the results are often mixed. While a single source of content can produce a unified product in tone and intention, the approach can also be bereft of much-needed editing or outside perspective – to sift-out the composer's thoughts into a production that others can access. Despite these inherent risks, the sophomore effort of Telekinesis – itself a recording and performance moniker for Michael Benjamin Lerner – is at the same time clear in its vision but largely unmuddled by Lerner's execution of his ideas on 12 Desperate Straight Lines, released today on Merge Records.

Taking a page of the pop-rock crunch of mainstream acts like Weezer or the Fountains of Wayne, Lerner spins out a catchy and briskly-paced collection of a dozen tracks, lightly informed by 80's-sounding synth pop and hints of blues and grunge. With a vocal cadence suggesting a blend of Southeast Engine's Adam Remnant, The Arcade Fire's Winn Butler and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Lerner focuses on quick and enjoyable numbers – none spanning more than the 3:39 of the album's closer, the spirited blues romp, "Gotta Get It Right Now," while the mid-set "Palm of Your Hand" clocks in at just under 90 seconds. Opener "You Turn Clear in the Sun" sets the tone for the remainder of the proceedings, with flighty organs and fuzzy guitars pacing the track, which ultimately includes the same sort of telephone-ring keyboard riff as The Tragically Hip's "In View."

Like many releases reviewed here, the record's second number is its finest. "Please Ask for Help" bounds forth with classic rock-sounding drums and a sludgy bass line – the latter of which becomes a signature sound across several tracks – includes Lerner's best lyricism, such as "you wander downtown around a quarter to two" or "you gotta give me some time with these ones and twos," neatly matching the song's urgency on what amounts to the protagonist's desire to aid a friend. That nervous energy is contrasted its successor, "50 Ways," which borrows much of its structure from the heart of the Weezer catalog, and includes a respectful nod to Paul Simon's original using the same numerals. Its intro and chorus parts are classic Rivers Cuomo, with the gentler verses highlighting the loud/quiet approach so defining of 90's alternative.

Things lighten up with "Dirty Things," an easy stand-in for The English Beat, circa 1982, but stripped of much of the reggae foundation. It's simply rendered, but the style requires nothing more for listener enjoyment. The subsequent "Car Crash" features a bit more substance, but is pleasantly anchored by a less sludgy bass part and whoa-whoa gang choruses.

A number of straight-forward pop-rock gems round-out the effort. "I Got You" could easily have been tailored by Fountains of Wayne pop cuisinart Adam Schlesinger, while "Fever Chill" harks more to the Arcade Fire model of Neon Bible. At the same time, "Country Lane" serves as almost an-anti Theme-from-Cheers selection, complete with the line, "I wanna live on a country lane, some place where no one knows your name, and will forget you, too." And yet, if there's one that doesn't fit here, it's "Patterns" – far too ethereal and uncommitted to match the spirit of the rest of the record. Still, 11 out of 12 is perfectly acceptable for a one-man show.

Come for: "Please Ask for Help"
Stay for: "You Turn Clear in the Sun"
You'll be surprised by: "Dirty Thing"

P.S.: Telekinesis – Lerner is usually supported on the road by bassist Jason Narducy and guitarist Cody Votolato, while Lerner customarily mans the drum kit – will be appearing live on an extended North American tour this winter/spring, including a March 12th gig at the Red Palace on the H Street corridor in northwest Washington, D.C.

P.P.S.: You should definitely check out a great indie-rock blog called Indie Rock Kid. Why is it great? Cause this kid is 13, and is an excellent writer (for his age, and any age). I wish I would have had his writing talent and access to the internet when I was the same age. And he's also organizing a benefit show in the Bay Area tied to the It Gets Better project. So, well done.

P.P.P.S. (or is it P.P.S.S.?): I'm considering including a listing of the touring schedules of current and past NMT profilees, either at the end of each weekly post, or as a separate additional post (perhaps Touring Schedule Saturdays?), hopefully beginning next week. I'd be more than appreciative of your feedback on this.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Civil Wars

Transpose the setting of the Academy Award-winning work of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in the outstanding 2006 film, Once, and you'll arrive at the sound of the Nashville duo John Paul White and Joy Williams, who record and perform as The Civil Wars. While the former pair – who have since translated their film work into a successful recording and touring outfit, The Swell Season – positioned their material along the streets of Dublin, imagine the latter's Barton Hollow (released last Tuesday) residing in a more rural American enclave – perhaps Appomattox or Manassas, given the duo's moniker – and reflecting a touch more country and folk than The Swell Season's carefully-constructed numbers. Yet, the vocal phrasing and duo dynamics between the two groups are notably similar.

Largely comprised of harmonizing or trade-off vocals from Williams and White accompanied by White's acoustic guitar or piano parts, the dozen tracks are warm and earnest folk/country tunes. Opener "20 Years" is gentle and illustrative of forlorn love, pointing to a note under the front door, "secondhand alibis" and redemption. It leads in nicely to the collection's best product, the more jubilant "I've Got This Friend." The pair's full-throated choruses here contrast well with the more reserved tag-team verses, while White's guitar introduces some pluck to the affair.

Later on, "Poison & Wine," starts off slow, but is most indicative of Hansard and Irglová's precedent, with its tandem, soaring phrases recalling much of the anthemic appeal their predecessors were able to engender over the past half-decade. Meanwhile, "My Father's Father" is an ancient-sounding railroad folk ballad – always a favorite motif of this author – with solid railroading imagery such as "black smoke up around the bend" and "blood on the tracks" – indicating the approaching train as a vessel of remorse and regret.

Conversely, the record's title track is also its most distinctive, with a rusty-sounding rhythm and grainy electric guitars making an appearance for the first time. The blend of southern-fried soul – the stuff of "Alabama clay" and "washin' in the river" – with recurring hints of Zeppelin-style blues is well-executed by both Williams and White. Later still, "Forget Me Not" is the album's most direct country-flavored cut, with a lazy fiddle marking its direction. And while the track is predictable via some cliched stanzas, it's also quite sincere, largely making up for the lack of lyrical originality.

Come for: "I've Got This Friend"
Stay for: "Poison & Wine"
You'll be surprised by: "Barton Hollow"

P.S. The Civil Wars are performing tonight at Jammin Java in Vienna, Va.