Ever notice how different sets of ears hear things, well, differently? Take Oakland, Calif., quartet Everything is Dirty. Peruse online reviews and you’ll find numerous references to grunge, art rock and psychedelic. The meaning of pigeonholing tags—which all us music scribblers adore—shift over time as music changes. For instance, “soul” used to mean cornbread vocals by Sam & Dave backed by plenty of horns. These days, soul means (ugh) Robin Thicke or (less ugh) Duffy. That '90s catchall phrase “alternative rock” referred to the watered-down but occasionally worthy successor to '80s “indie rock” on labels like Merge and 4AD but ultimately degenerated into describing knuckleheads like Fred Durst.
If Everyone Is Dirty is grunge, then so is Weezer. Art noise? Sure, there’s some droning here and there, but I guess anything vaguely atonal is “noise” to masses who nowadays prefer songs that are more beat than melody or harmony or anything else that was once the hallmark of popular (pop) music. Live, the band does tend to venture heavily into “improv” and “jam”—two words that always fill me with dread. Singer Sivan Gur-Arieh takes her electric violin into Jean-Luc Ponty territory, while Christopher Daddio's guitar solos are sometimes longer than necessary but not by much; that's good for a guy like me whose attention wanders when soloists noodle around above the fifth or sixth fret. Psychedelic? Please. Only people who have never taken drugs use that word.
Here’s my take: Everything is Dirty's recorded output is post-Breeders, post post-Pixies, texture-rich and crunchy with vocals reminiscent of Louise Post (Veruca Salt), Chrissy Amphlett (Divinyls) and Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses). (And if three “posts” in one sentence isn’t enough, I don’t know what is.) Of course, I think I’m correct, but see for yourself at Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) on Monday, July 14, at 9pm. Cover is $5. Low Spirits • Mon Jul 14 • 9pm • $5 • 21+ • View on Alibi calendar
Ex-Albuquerqueño Sam Miller—who's actually from the Northwest—returns from Seattle for his first solo release, You Need To Hear It, which was ably mastered by Sean McCullough of Sad Baby Wolf. When last we saw him, Miller was fronting the pleasantly uncategorizable Jenny Invert, a band that spun off from the somewhat categorizable (ersatz-Americana?) Grand Canyon. If this sounds somewhat equivocal, it’s not intentional.
While listening, I jotted down some notes: pseudo-Slavic mariachi country and Western piano party-pop wrapped in a game show-theme with Sam as dashing host—“Come on down!”—but deadly earnest. It’s a shame this description comes off so damn messy. Although his sound comes from incredibly disparate sources, Miller makes it blend like a chef adding just the right dash of thickener to a sauce that could otherwise be a lumpy mess. Rather than the pedestrian cornstarch an amateur might use, Miller employs a grand beurre manié, which is really just butter and flour but oh so elegant. Much of this album shouldn’t mesh, but it does. You Need To Hear It is a heroic dish anchored by compelling piano work, handsome voice and clever—never stupid—songwriting with sweeping but tasteful Queen-like production. Hear it at Burt's Tiki Lounge (313 Gold SW) tomorrow night at 9pm. $5 gets you in. Burt's Tiki Lounge • Sat Jun 28 • 9pm • $5 • 21+ • View on Alibi calendar
Think for a moment about the word “entrance,” as both a verb and a noun: to captivate or fill with wonder, and a place of entering. In the case of Lady Uranium aka Mauro Woody, her self-released CD Vulpes Vulpes serves as an entrance into her charming synth-pop realm. Okay, that sounds a bit cheesy. No, she isn’t some Belladonna-like enchantress, just a very talented individual who has lent her distinctive stamp to other local outfits like Animals In The Dark, The Glass Menageries and 5 Star Motelles.
But there is a feeling here of being escorted to a private place, not dark or brooding—which has been in vogue for too long now—but sweetly contemplative, inviting you to have conversations with the self. This is no surprise since there are echoes of Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush beneath quietly impassioned vocals, simultaneously robust and fragile. And yes, there are some great pop hooks, too. Vulpes Vulpes is a strong first solo release. As an EP, these five songs feel way too short, but it bears repeated listening; and you will be doing quite a bit of that while awaiting her next release. Perhaps she’s first luring us in with this teaser CD. A cunning strategy. Get captivated tomorrow night at 9pm at Sister (407 Central NW) when Lady U looses her hounds of love. Show is $3. Sister • Sat May 3 • 9pm • $3 • View on Alibi calendar
Blackbird Buvette serves up an inaugural springtime rock and roll bash on its tiny back porch. It’s pretty cramped, but it’s as close to a DIY basement show as you can get … while having drinks served. This show is a who’s-who of the best garage rockers still standing (no overdoses or wheelchairs). Drum legend Joe Bolt debuts The Blackout Disciples' dark and dirty rock sans evil posturing. Other Dirty Novels alums—Dandee Fleming and Brian Keith—and Demarcus Sumter (St. Petersburg), Billy Miles Brooke (Pan!c) and Ben Woods (Porter Draw) make up the group. Punk and roll outfit Get Action (formerly Riley Switch) features bad boy Bill Bunting (Ten Seconds to Liftoff), Scott Brown (Song Thing) and Ashley Floyd and Jeff Jones (both ex-Gracchi). Newcomers Hoverbourd tag themselves as surf-indie-dance-rock, and that works for me, especially with a horn thrown into the mix. Despite bountiful local talent, I’m most excited about Schwervon! from Shawnee, Kan., by way of New York City. Now in their 13th year, guitarist Major Matt Mason and drummer Nan Turner’s music ranges from sweet jangle-pop to ear-shattering racket. Keep a few bucks stashed in your wallet to score Schwervon! merch, including the brilliant, new Courage and '09’s sweet and lilting Low Blow. Blackbird Buvette • Wed May 15 • 10 pm • free • View on Alibi calendar
The classic date of yore? A cozy supper place featuring a floor show. This Friday Rebekkah Dreskin invites you to a similarly catered affair. Dine on platters from Panda Express (served at 6 pm) followed promptly by her quirky (“Love Is A Stolen Bowling Ball”) and playful (“Dim Sum In Albuquerque”) songs. Picture Jill Sobule moving between keyboards and a programmed synth beats while throwing down rhymes about hooking up with pretty boys and girls or aspiring to be like Liz Phair and Chrissie Hynde (“Girls With Guitarz”). Her latest, sunny self-release, Blame It On Rebekkah, sits in stark contrast to earlier CDs of piano-based love and loss in a low-key Tori Amos vein. But just because Dreskin’s a bit more lighthearted this time around doesn’t mean she’s not putting all of her singular self into the work. Ten bucks gets you dinner and a show while a fiver is good for admission only. Low Spirits • Rebekkah Dreskin CD release • Fri Mar 29 • 6 pm • $5-$10 • 21+ • lowspiritslive.com
The Saltine Ramblers can tear off hoedowns, but that’s not the proof of their mettle. On their latest album, a fine version of Blue Grass Boys’ upbeat “Southern Flavor” is propelled by David Ivey’s double-tracked fiddle and mandolin in the style of Chubby Wise and Bill Monroe. Cory Minefee’s muted electric guitar answers proficiently, suggestive of classic country / western pickers like Smitty Smith. A cover of Joe West’s heartrending “Human Cannonball” stands in low-key counterpoint. As music boundaries crumble, decidedly un-country instruments like tubas or congas are awkwardly shoehorned into Americana. But here, Dave Payne’s squeezebox slides in effortlessly. Kevin Strange’s vocals aren’t typical country-croon smooth but possess an appealing matter-of-fact quality. Saltine's original “Y” kicks off as an upbeat stomper but effortlessly de-escalates into a soulful memory of lost love. Come on out to the release party for the barn dance, and stick around for downtempo numbers with depth and delicacy that may surprise you. Low Spirits • Sat Nov 3 • 9 pm • $8 • View on Alibi calendar
Aimee Mann's story is familiar: ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” was a new wave hit in '85. Years of limited critical success won vague recognition for the independently minded singer-songwriter until 1999, when her substantial Magnolia soundtrack was publicly embraced. In the intervening 14 years, her outstanding solo work found a narrow audience. She dropped off the radar when inept labels didn’t smell top-10 hits by a woman who wouldn’t play the pretty-girl-makes-records game. It’s not too late to witness Mann’s musical beauty, accomplished melodies riddled with biting lyrics attacking superficiality in all its forms. Spare me the hype that, at age 52, her work has come into its maturity. She's been delivering mature music for a couple decades now. Tickets for tonight's show go for between $25 and $42. tinyurl.com/manninthefe Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe • 7:30 pm • $25-$42 • ALL-AGES! • lensic.com
For the last year, Kenta Henmi (Suicide Lanes, Teenage Werewolves, High Iron, The Scrams) has been in and out of hospital beds. Considering the decade and a half (and then some) of superior guitar rock Henmi has contributed to the New Mexico music scene, it’s our turn to repay the man. A last-minute benefit show at the Launchpad tonight will donate the proceeds to help defray their outlandish medical expenses. Find out more here.
Kate Mann celebrates her one-year repatriation to our state with a mini tour of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. On the itinerary are cafés, coffeehouses, saloons and, um, a wellness and healing center, The Source (3538 Anderson Ave SE). That’s not as odd as it might sound. Mann has a strong spiritual side but she’s no stranger to cold cowboy hearts and lukewarm whiskey. Against a vivid Western setting of blistering sun, dangerous rivers and deadly snake bites (from reptiles or humans), her work is all about redemption, whether freely granted or hard-won—as long as it helps you through one more long night. Joining Mann from her old Portland, Ore. stomping grounds is friend Matt Meighan, a finger-picking, storytelling political poet with a message as upbeat as his voice is down low.
The Handsome Family is a local band. Of sorts. Based in Albuquerque, Brett and Rennie Sparks don’t often gig here, treating the hometown as another stop on tour, making you feel like your favorite band is passing through town again and you’d better get over to the show. With an Americana twang and morbid sense of humor, the duo are a macabre but lighthearted George Burns and Gracie Allen, their act honed sharp after years of working some gothic vaudeville circuit. Opening is the busking, raga-folk-rocking Fast Heart Mart, taking pointed jabs at a piggish society while gleefully waiting for Rome to fall. A $9 cover gets you a night of songs about insects, sad milkmen and lonesome death in the Wal-Mart parking lot.