show previews: what a week

hopscotch music festival: san fermin

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a show — a combination of bad weather and laziness has compounded it. But hot damn if there isn’t an amazing four days in a row just in Chapel Hill (and Carrboro, mostly in Carrboro) where I can tell you go and watch some live music.

Tuesday 3/18: Typhoon w/ PHOX, Cat’s Cradle. Typhoon’s White Lighter was one of my favorite records of the year, and PHOX blew me away back in October when they opened for Blitzen Trapper. This is my birthday present to myself, and I am going to watch all six million people in Typhoon sing the chorus to “Young Fathers” and cry all over myself like a lunatic. But a happy one. Doors 7, show 8, $14 day of.

Wednesday 3/19: Reuben & the Dark w/ the Darcys, Cat’s Cradle Backroom. The Darcys’ Warring was a 2013 surprise that came to me in 2014; it’s heavy and pushed by the drums and the bass, layered over by echoing vocals and synthesizers, just like everything I love that I don’t pick out myself. (This was picked out for me by a publicist I absolutely trust.) It’s eerie and open and unexpectedly spring-like, and when I listened to it again today, writing about it, on a grey rainy Monday, it was the perfect music for that, too. It’s part the churning guitars that made the Fall Out Boy – Panic! at the Disco – My Chem scene so appealing to me, echoes of punk in everything they do, and loads of influence from New Age, and lots of sadness and desperation piled into it. It’s basically a gorgeous mess; this show will be phenomenal. Doors 7pm, show 8pm, day of $10.

Thursday 3/20: Tinawiren w/ the Melodic, Cat’s Cradle. Tinawiren and the Melodic are a pair of Anti- Records bands, and when did Anti- last sign a band that was less than stellar? Tinawiren hail from Northern Mali, and you can check out their stunning video for latest single “Islegh Taghram Tifhamam” — loosely translated “You’re Educated And You Know” — at the AV Club here; it’s a staggering piece of work, absolutely showcasing their superb brand of music and sounds native to their home country, fused with electric guitars and a fiercely compelling live performance. Doors 7, show 8, day of $25.

Thursday 3/20: Shearwater w/ Jesca Hoop, Cat’s Cradle Backroom. I’m never super compelled by former Okkervil River collaborator Shearwater’s records, but I’ve seen them twice live and they’re always enormous and wild, epic soundscapes that will definitely feud with the small, well-balanced space of the Backroom. I saw Jesca Hoop at a Yep Roc showcase at the Wine Bar in Chapel Hill a few years ago, and her enormous voice and looping talents are a perfect match for Shearwater’s sound. Doors 8, show 9, day of $12.

Thursday 3/20: La Femme w/ Wild Moccasins, Local 506. I mean, honestly, take your pick tonight: all three of these shows will be spectacular. But I’m going to be at this one, checking out second open, Houston quintet Wild Moccasins, who make this fabulously complex blend of pop music and orchestral showpieces. La Femme, the headliners, play equally compelling French surf-pop, which I didn’t know was my new favorite genre until I just typed that. Doors 8, show 9, day of $10.

Friday 3/21: Noah Gundersen w/ ARMON JAY, Cat’s Cradle Backroom. Noah Gundersen has closely edged Lydia Loveless for my favorite 2014 record to date, so, you know, is that enough? Go to this show, although it’s nearly sold out and you might miss it because you didn’t know. Now you know. Go. Go go go. Doors 7, show 8, day of $12.

Friday 3/21: San Fermin w/ Avers, Cat’s Cradle. Seeing as San Fermin’s self-titled was also one of my favorite records in 2013 — along with White Lighter — I’m definitely trying to figure out if I can sneak from Noah’s set to San Fermin’s via the back door on the smoking patio. The shows are set an hour apart, so timing wise it’s totally possible, but you didn’t hear this, Cradle staff, I’m totally not talking about it on the internet. If you aren’t into Gundersen’s clever and heartwrenching guitar pop, go see the incredibly masterful operatic pop of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, which totally boggled my mind when they played Fletcher Opera House during Hopscotch last year. Doors 8, show 9, $14 day of.

best of: top 25 albums of 2012

chatham county line electric holiday show @ haw river ballroom

I hate making these lists. Everything was good! If it was bad, I didn’t keep it, thus, all the albums in my iTunes from 2012 are excellent! Agggh. But anyway: I contributed to the Speakers In Code list, of course, but this one is mine and ended up getting a hefty end-of-the-list tweak from my SiC list.

  1. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten: This is probably too mainstream for music bloggers and too weird for normal people, but this album made me have more feelings, both joy and heartbreak, than anything else this year. Brian Fallon, leave your wife for meeeeeee.
  2. Micah Schnabel – I’m Dead, Serious: Micah’s songwriting always moves me, and I think this is his best yet – it’s one of the few albums in my iTunes, along with Handwritten, that is composed of entirely five-star songs.
  3. The Lumineers – The Lumineers: perfect roots-pop songwriting; “Ho Hey” got the most press, but “Classy Girls” makes me happy every time I hear it.
  4. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa: unbearably heartbreaking and intimate; “Working Titles” is my favorite song of the year.
  5. Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Going To Change The Way You Feel About Me Now: a perfect fusion of Memphis soul and JTE’s standard country songs; Justin was already an amazing songwriter, and this record pushes his musical boundaries in a fantastic way.
  6. Gross Ghost – Brer Rabbit: The best pop record in the Triangle, and maybe the country, this year. You probably haven’t heard it, and that’s a shame.
  7. Spider Bags – Shake My Head: This is a disgustingly close second for Triangle record of the year, all shake and shimmy and guitars and hooky choruses.
  8. Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes: Not everyone loved this one, but I think it’s among Finn’s finest songwriting and sharpest observations about fucked up people just trying to live their lives; it was gorgeous live.
  9. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar: “Emmylou” was one of the greatest songs of the year, one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard, and the rest of the album does that song justice in setting.
  10. Tift Merritt – Traveling Alone: probably wouldn’t have made my list, except for how it hits me right in the chest when it’s played live, and I got three sets to discover that punch of emotion and heartbreak this fall.
  11. The Orwells – Remember When: like the Smith Westerns a few years ago, this record is a bunch of Chicago teenagers leaning back to roots that are older than them and making a kickass retro record, except these guys are better than the Smith Westerns.
  12. Admiral Fallow – Tree Bursts In Snow: spend two days with these guys, learning the intimacies of their lyrics and their accents and their laughs, and this record will move your heart in wide open sky ways.
  13. Bob Mould – Silver Age: Bob called it a “big dumb rock” record, but if anybody gets to make a genius big dumb rock record, it’s Bob Mould, and this one is genius.
  14. Delicate Cutters – Ring: the best band from the South that you’ve never heard of; this record is creepy and gothic and gorgeous, and you will fall in love if you hear it, but I bet you haven’t heard it.
  15. The District Attorneys – Slowburner: smart, hooky, guitar-driven Southern rock – one of the best high-energy live shows I saw this year, and while the album really is more like its title, it’s well-worth it.
  16. Archie Powell & the Exports – Great Ideas In Actionperfect retro pop songwriting, some of my favorite guys to follow on Twitter, exactly amazing for a late night one person dance party, the best band from Chicago that you’ve never heard of. Listened to this one in the car like whoa.
  17. Heartless Bastards – Arrow: a slow burner for me, this one didn’t really take hold until I saw HBs play on Halloween, when I realized fully realized the morose and epic power of the songwriting and Erika Wennerstrom’s haunting, terrifying, gorgeous voice.
  18. Corb Lund – Cabin Fever: this is filthy in the same way that Black Keys records are filthy, country like only Alberta can be, and funny like you never expect your brilliant songwriters to be. “Cows Around” was one of my most-listened 2012 tracks.
  19. Dr. Dog – Be The Void: this spent, cumulatively in total, about six weeks of this year, 24/7, in my car stereo. I listened to “That Old Black Hole” 173 times. They were one of my favorite shows of the year.
  20. Corin Tucker Band – Kill My Blues: because fuck you, that’s why.
  21. Cory Branan – Mutt: Branan’s first Bloodshot Records release, and first full length LP in many years, this was a roots rock gem that really got overlooked in the glut of releases this year; Branan is a sharp, funny, irreverant, and moving songwriter, and the clean production doesn’t polish off the rough edges that make him a charming performer.
  22. Will Johnson – Scorpion: Will is one of the most talented songwriters and composers out there today, and Scorpion isn’t my favorite of his releases, but it’s delicate and sad and a lovely introduction to Will Johnson’s epic catalog, if you haven’t discovered him already.
  23. Japandroids – Celebration Rock: this is not the best rock album released this year, Stephen Thompson, but it was a good one; I have spent a concentrated amount of time with it in the last few weeks after it started turning up on lists, and it is solid and rocking and unique from start to finish. (Spider Bags made the best rock record of 2012.)
  24. Kelly Hogan – I Like To Keep Myself In Pain: this should probably be higher, but I just didn’t spend enough time with it; Hogan’s voice is unmatched, her own songwriting is great, and when you can line up a list of friends to write songs for you like Kelly Hogan can, it’s an amazing one from the start.
  25. Passion Pit – Gossamer: listen to this late one night, in the dark, on your headphones, when you’re feeling really sad; then go out and see Michael Angelakos and his masterful band absolutely control a crowd. The sold out show at Disco Rodeo this year, and my lovely Clea’s joy in them, sold me on the power and talent behind this album.

Honorable mentions go to The Menzingers; Wintersleep; Waxahatchee; the Avetts; and Black Prairie, whose records might have made the list if I’d spent more time with their records. (The lack of time I spent with The Carpenter is ridiculous.) Rayland Baxter’s Feathers & Fishhooks was the last one off, like Virginia Tech at tournament time only way way better than any of Seth Greenberg’s teams.

The Speakers in Code list is here, and contains our multitudinous opinions.

dr dog — be the void

bristol rhythm & roots: dr. dog

Dr Dog — Be The Void. Out 2/7, Anti- Records.

I spent most of the weekend thinking about what I wanted to say about Dr. Dog’s fifth full length LP, Be The Void. I have listened to it a dozen times since getting a copy for review, and I understand that I love it unconditionally, but I am still not quite sure why. It’s bits and pieces — the rough vocals, the cleverly evasive lyrics, the sound of the fuzzy guitars, the track that has nothing but cowbell as its percussion for at least the opening minute and a half — but it is, more so even than Shame, Shame, it is the whole.

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new track from lost in the trees

hopscotch music fest: lost in the trees

Yesterday NPR debuted the first track from Chapel Hill’s own Lost in the Trees, off their upcoming second album for Anti- Records, A Church That Fits Our Needs, due out 3/20. (Happy birthday to me.) The track is “Red”, and you can hear it here.

LITT has been gaining buzz and admirers since Anti- re-released All Alone In An Empty House in 2010, but I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and shooting them since early in 2009, when AAIAEH was just out on my beloved Trekky Records. Behind the jump, a retrospective, in reverse chronology; from now til then, one of my favorite bands, a band that I couldn’t be prouder of right now.

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locally grown: lost in the trees @ wallace plaza

locally grown: lost in the trees @ wallace plaza

If you’re lucky — if you have a good local scene — if you support that scene — if you get to be friends with people who are not just talented, but pretty close to genius — if all those things happen in a perfect confluence, sometimes you get to watch your friends get famous. Be raved about by NPR. (Even if those details aren’t quite right.) Get national press for an album that’s beyond deserving of it.

It’s weird and amazing. Mostly amazing.

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