Last updated by at .

Feb 252010

Rogue Wave_PermalightI expected Rogue Wave’s next album would be the one that broke them into the “big time.” With songs like the sweet “Eyes” on the Just Friends Soundtrack to “Lake Michigan” and the sublime “Chicago X 12″ on 2007′s Asleep at Heaven’s Gate it was obvious they were poised for success – just not the way it comes across on the new Permalight. Their sound is more polished and leans toward sensitive emo-pop. In fact, it is scary how much they sound like Death Cab for Cutie – I mean JUST like them. This isn’t necessarily bad because it isn’t a slavish knock-off, but I expected an evolution closer to the sound they already established.

The album starts with a gentle, whimpering vocal and acoustic guitar that feels like The Beatles, then the song, “Solitary Gun,” breaks out with a catchy, upbeat rhythm and the Death Cab vocals. The first single is “Good Morning (The Future)” and adds an electronic edge with synth and a backbeat that again harkens DCFC or the Postal Service. With every listen, the aforementioned resemblances melt away to expose a new sound and direction for Rogue Wave.

Tracks like “Sleepwalker,” “Fear Itself,” and especially “We Will Make a Song Destroy” hit hard. For me, these exemplify the sound I felt RW was crafting – taking their approach of simple, well constructed rock with a touch of melancholy and amplifying it. Permalight is an album that deserves more listens to breakthrough its initial impressions. The best albums always take awhile to sink in, right?

On another note, fans of the band, rockumentaries, or overall storytelling must check out D-Tour. What starts out as a chronicle of Rogue Wave and drummer, Pat Spurgeon’s battle with kidney disease and the trials of patients on the human donor list evolves into a poignant and humbling story that Hollywood wishes it could write. Rogue Wave was always on my radar, but this film was able to endear them to me.

Originally written for
REAX Online, February 25, 2010

Feb 232010

There is a fuckload (one word)* of awesome shows heading to town from now through April:

Looking to rock?!

All dressed up with nowhere to rock?

Keller William
s – 2/25, The Social: meh

Manchester Orchestra – 2/26, HOB: See this show

The Indigo Girls – 2/27, HOB: Ugh.

Thomas Wynn and The Believers – 2/28, The Social: If you’ve already seen them, see them again

Prong and Soulfly – 3/7, Firestone: They will: Prove you!/ Prove you wrong!

Dropkick Murphys – 3/7, HOB: Fun as long as you’re not a “Skinhead on the NBTA”

Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt – 3/7, BackBooth: The fun, crazy part of the Flaming Lips minus the good music

Michael Buble – 3/10, Amway Arena: Your mom will want to go

Deicide – 3/12, Firestone: Holy inverted cross burned into your forehead! Deicide! Your mom will NOT want to go

Rogue Wave and Avi Buffalo – 3/13, The Social: You better buy tickets now

AIR – 3/14, Hard Rock Live: This will be a great show from a French band that doesn’t come here often

Ben Folds – 3/16, HOB: Meh

Rodrigo y Gabriela – 3/18, HOB: Really good stuffs

Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band – 3/20, HOB: Really?

Alkaline Trio and Cursive – 3/22, HOB: Cursive is good

Dillinger Escape Plan – 3/23, The Social: 2 words, math. rock.

Nashville Pussy – 3/25, The Social: Cray-zay

G. Love and Special Sauce – 3/27, HOB

Kreator – 3/30, Firestone: Firestone is definitely making a statement with the line-up of classic death / thrash metal

The Thermals – 4/7, The Social: Annoying buzz band that could put on a good show, especially at The Social

White Rabbits – 4/9, The Social: Buzz band that is worth the buzz

Of Montreal – 4/10, Firestone: Catchy, androgynous alt-pop with lots of costume changes. It’s like hipster cabaret!

The Black Keys – 4/19, HOB: Garage rock

Porcupine Tree – 4/23, HOB: Not sure what these guys are doing now

My Morning Jacket - 4/24, St. Augustine Amphitheater: Buy your tickets. Go! Go Now!

Band of Horses – 4/29, HOB: I’d be surprised if there were tickets still available. If Fleet Foxes could come to town we could complete the Beard Trinity – MMJ, BoH, FF – and an era of peace and prosperity will be ushered in.

If you feel like heading to Hotlanta, there are some amazing shows headed there that won’t make it here:

The Tres Anastasio Band - 2/23, The Taberncle: Phun!

Muse and Silversun Pickups – 2/23, Gwinnett Arena: Muse + Silversun = Smashing Pumpkins

Spoon with Deerhunter – 3/20, The Tabernacle: My hipster radar is going crazy¬†…

Major Lazer and Sleigh Bells – 3/28, Masquerade: The hipster radar is starting to smoke … She can’t take much more captain!

Phoenix – 4/24, The Tabernacle: OK, the hipster radar just exploded!

*A take on copywriter, Jessica’s Gilston’s, modern syntax theory and persistent grammatical assertion that cocksucker is “cock sucker – two words, not one.”
Feb 122010

Smashing_pumpkins_2000_promoAlthough radio singles like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” are not my favorite live Pumpkins songs, this is a thundering version from the 2000 Sacred and Profane Tour. It’s angry and fast and the tension within the band is palpable. The Atlanta stop was near the end of what was to be their final tour. “BWBW” is a crowd pleaser, but delivered in such an aggressive manner that it alienates strict radio fans. On this leg of the tour, the song was melded with The Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime.”¬† This wasn’t so much a cover as a launching pad for improvisational shredding and Billy’s maniacal free-form poetry. In Orlando at The Hard Rock Live, he stopped the show and ended a meandering 10 minute conversation with fans by making the crowd chant, “What the fuck is going on! What the fuck is going on!”

At The Tabernacle, there was a crazy vibe. I think a good portion of the audience was on ecstasy, making James Iha comment at one point, “I see a lot of people have their eyes closed.” The crowd was surging with misguided energy. In this version of “BWBW” in Atlanta, the music stopped at the same point, then Billy begins the poetic ramblings then James Iha revs up the crowd in a sarcastic arena chant. Billy brings the music back around by screaming “YES” until the walls shook and the hair on my arm stood up.

[media id=29]


  • Pale Scales
  • The Everlasting Gaze
  • Heavy Metal Machine
  • Blue Skies Bring Tears
  • Blew Away
  • Stand Inside Your Love
  • Glass and the Ghost Children
  • I of the Mourning
  • To Sheila
  • Raindrops + Sunshowers
  • Disarm
  • Jellybelly (tease)
  • Try, Try, Try
  • Rock On [Essex]
  • Zero
  • Today
  • Perfect
  • Bullet with Butterfly Wings
    > Once in a Lifetime [Talking Heads]

Encore 1:

  • Blank Page
  • Cherub Rock

Encore 2:

  • Transmission [Joy Division] (tease)
  • Drown
Feb 092010

article_image.phpThe Southern- tinged psychedelic, shoegazer band from Quebec – The Besnard Lakes – are back with their third album, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. The husband and wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas develop their expansive Beach Boys in Space sound with an enchanting mix of pre-97 Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, and early Broken Social Scene or even My Bloody Valentine. The pair’s dueling voices are equally beautiful and haunting while adding a certain melancholy to the layers of ambient guitar and synthesizer. The second song is the epic “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent pt. 1: the Innocent.” It grows and swells from a murky synth and piano intro into Lasek’s spectral Brian Wilson; with each verse the song builds into the soaring vocal harmony of the chorus. “Like the Ocean” clocks in at around 7 and a half minutes and may be a severely grandiose gesture for an album that refines, but fails to eclipse, the sound and feeling achieved in their previous The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse.

Olga sings on their first single, “Albatross.” It is another powerful and atmospheric twist on indie rock with her Brill Building vocals leading a churning haze of rock sounds. The layered backing vocals lend a feel of sweeping greatness while the fuzzy, echoing walls of guitar try to drown them in dream pop. The epic feel they display early seems present throughout the entire album, making it sound large and important. The album does sort of maintain the same tempo and feeling for the duration with only “And This is What We Call Progress‚” adding an uptempo rocker. The albums atmospheric production keeps the pace from being plodding or dull while their powerful voices and the songs’ strength and construction elevate Roaring Night to a higher realm.

Originally appeared on REAX Online, February 9, 2010

Feb 052010

sleigh452Brooklyn by way of Florida band, Sleigh Bells, is a two-person “noise pop” act. This song, “Crown on the Ground,” pretty much sums up noise pop with its catchy melodies drowning in piles of distorted music and modulated vocals. They are a 2-person guy/ girl act – a less musical, more experimental White Stripes with Derek Miller (Miami’s Poison the Well) on guitar and the ferociously energetic Alexis Krauss doing the vocal work. They crushed audiences and critics during their 2009 CMJ performances and were hailed as one of the “undeniable breakouts” by Stereogum and Pitchfork among many others. It was recently announced in a Tweet by Diplo that Sleigh Bells are in the studio working with M.I.A on her next album.
[media id=28]

Feb 042010

mailPerennial purveyors of the rock ‘n roll rhythm and blues review, The Legendary Joint Chiefs will be playing the BackBooth this Saturday, February 6th. Eugene and the rotating cast of Chiefs bring their Stax Records meets James Brown brand of fun, funk, and soul – not a crappy nostalgia band, but a living, breathing, dancing, singing tribute to the glory of the Memphis early to mid 60′s sound – along with axeman Kevin Maines to the party. The Kevin Maines Band was overhauled with the addition of new members to add some funk, blues, and thunder to their southern jam sound. This is a can’t miss local event.

Feb 022010


I’ve always had a hard time identifying with Vampire Weekend. Maybe it’s because I didn’t go to an Ivy League college or that I don’t understand the desperate pleas to “Get out of Cape Cod,” but whatever it is, it irks me on some level. From a certain perspective it seems sniveling, egalitarian, and condescending. Take “Horchata” – the first song from the new album Contra ‚it’s like a chai’s and latte’s are just too bourgeois to sing about.

From another vantage, minus the snooty, loafer wearing, sweater-over-the-shoulder New England elitist perspective, VW is a fresh, clever, and slightly innovative take on pop rock. The comparisons to Paul Simon are all valid, but they deliver their Graceland meets The Talking Heads sound with a four-piece band.

Contra delivers the Vampire Weekend sound we recognize from their debut without sounding retread. To the contrary, it sounds fresher, tighter, and more mature. Their influences broaden, but they incorporate them more seamlessly and inventive than before. “Horchata” with its vocal, xylophone intro that sweeps into a large pounding rhythm section with synthesizers and back again starts the album off in familiar fashion, but subtle twists are added to reveal influences. VW sites Paul’s Boutique, Brazilian Baile Funk, dancehall, Bollywood, and 1983 NYC among many others as inspiration on Contra and they’re felt.

A recent live, acoustic performance of  “Cousins,” a kinetic, fun, and catchy single that sounds like it could be from the chase scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, shows the band to be precise and polished. They’ve stepped up the musicality as they move through the rapid pace and frenetic changes. This allegro delivery, also evident in “Holiday” and “California English” almost serves to make VW harder. Not really heavy, but a little more “edge” while preserving the playful poppy-ness that people hold dear. Despite the quickened pace “California English” still manages to used layered backing vocals – almost like a string section, then, bring in some real strings for the bridge to smooth out the tune.

“Run” implements a clever percussion pattern, building up to a ska infused horn part and bursting into a chorus of 80′s electro pop. “Giving up the Gun” continues the reliance on nifty drum beats but leans more heavily on the electronic influence of loops and synth parts twisting around driving bass lines to deliver. Love ‘em or hate ‘em Contra further establishes Vampire Weekend as a serious contender in defining their sound and soul.

Originally appeared in REAX Online, February 2, 2010

Feb 012010

The Black Crowes

The Black Crowes released Before the Frost in September of 2009. They took this opportunity to do something rather novel. Before the Frost was recorded live (before a studio audience) at The Barn on Levon Helm’s Woodstock, N.Y farm. The Barn was host to Helm’s Midnight Rambles, private concerts held by Levon with assorted musicians like Elvis Costello, Steely Dan, Norah Jones, and Dr. John among many to jam and raise money for Helm’s cancer treatment. Rich and Chris Robinson, who were both guests of the Rambles, seemed to like the atmosphere enough to record an album here. Before the Frost … Until the Freeze are two albums of mostly brand new music recorded where the Crowe’s feel their strongest – in the live setting. … Until the Freeze is a follow-up, 2nd disc available for download after purchasing Before the Frost … The first release from this collection is the flexing, groovy, disco rock song “I Ain’t Hiding” and it’s the Coolest Song Ever! … Right Now.

[media id=27]