Music to Your Ears
Things are rolling along quite well for local bands these days. Nels Andrews and El Paso Eyepatch have struck a record deal with Bloodshot and Checkered Past Records founder Eric Babcock for the release of their latest record, Sunday Shoes, on Babcock's Catamount label, and they've been selected to appear at the Americana Music Awards Showcase in Nashville next month, Sept. 23-25. After their appearance at the AMA Showcase, they'll be back in town for their local CD release party at the Launchpad on Friday, Oct. 1. After that, it's off to Europe for a tour throughout Scotland, Ireland and England. ... As mentioned this week in Devin D. O'Leary's review of Garden State (page 61), the Sundance sensation starring Natalie Portman and Zach Braff, The Shins are featured prominently on the film's soundtrack. Braff, who wrote and directed the film, is a self-proclaimed Shins freak, and included “New Slang” and “Caring is Creepy”—both from The Shins' Sub Pop debut, Oh, Inverted World—in the film. Braff had originally approached lead Shin James Mercer about writing a song specifically for his movie, but touring and other commitments prevented it. Since the release of the movie, both Shins' Sub Pop releases, Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, have re-entered Amazon.com's Top 100 in sales. Mercer has also been asked to write and record a song for the upcoming SpongeBob SquarePants movie, due out later this year.
Think the expansive vision of Kronos, the freshness of youth, and an unusual complement of instruments. Note that their name derives from Wallace Stevens' enigmatic poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Add the specifics—Molly Alicia Barth, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Matt Albert, violin & viola; Nicholas Photinos, cello; Matthew Duvall, percussion; and Lisa Kaplan, piano—and you have Eighth Blackbird, one of the most exciting contemporary music ensembles on today's scene.
Random Access Memory
Thursday, Aug. 26; Pulse Nightclub (21 and over, 9 p.m.): DJ Kentifyr (a.k.a. Kent R. Wilhelmi) has been a staple at Pulse Nightclub for four years, during which he's served as a resident DJ and promoter—as founder and proprietor of Dark Beat Productions—of most of the gothic-industrial bands that have come through in that time.
Memorial Day Ceremony
Ben Kweller On My Way (ATO/RCA)
Once, playing the Velvet Underground's "After Hours," on my boom box, my uncle asked me if I had recorded myself singing. It wasn't a compliment: Mo Tucker sang so girlishly off-key that he simply thought I'd made a bad recording of my own bad voice. But I liked the way she sounded. The vulnerability in her voice matched the yearning of the song. In a similar way, there's something endearing about Ben Kweller's voice. He's got to be in his early 20s but he sounds like a teenager when he sings; his voice is tentative and almost cracking until he bursts into a shouting chorus. Especially on the title track, "On My Way," when Ben sings to his mom, "I'll kill him with karate that I learned in Japan," you picture a gawky kid something like the main character in Napoleon Dynamite. Pretty and simple, just Kweller and a guitar, could it have been recorded at a coffeehouse open mic night?
Kitka Wintersongs (Diaphonica)
Mesmerizing Eastern European vocal music from a Berkeley based ensemble? Absolutely. Kitka was founded in 1979 by women who wished to share their passion for the "stunning dissonances, asymmetric rhythms, intricate ornamentation, lush harmonies, and resonant strength of Eastern European women's vocal music." The ensemble has since become recognized as the foremost exponent of Balkan and Slavic choral repertoire in the U.S.
Morrissey You are the Quarry (Attack Records)
Morrissey's latest effort is a slap in the face for those with a utopian view of the world. The album combines beautiful melodies and dark lyrics. With songs like "America is not the World," "Irish Blood English Heart," and "I Have forgiven Jesus," Morrissey, formerly of the Smiths fame, proves his love and disdain for society. Longtime fans will love this album. Newcomers who are into political bands and Sylvia Plath poems, this one's for you. Gut wrenching and enjoyable at the same time, I can't stop listening to it.