Monday, December 30, 2013

The Bottom String's Top 10 North Carolina Albums of 2013

10. Magpie Feast - Out of the Womb
While Magpie Feast has long flown under the radar, albums like Out of the Womb do their damndest to make sure that that doesn't last much longer. Out of the Womb is by far Magpie Feast's most polished and fully realized effort to date, it's filled with rich contemporary explorations of traditional music staples.

Each song fits comfortably within the leak between your standard folk rock and old-time blues, providing a foot-stomping rhythm to drive these tightly packed songs. Luscious viola lines flesh out Matthew Southern's simplistic melodies, weaving together a deftly painted picture of vibrant images. With equal parts Devendra Banhart and Jack White, Magpie Feast combines two age-old genres to make for a fresh and invigorating sound. Out of the Womb provides a brief glimpse at the potential this band contains.

9. Gross Ghost - Public Housing
With a new label and a new line-up, Gross Ghost came out of the gate strong with the lead-up to Public Housing. A spot at Hopscotch's main stage thrust the band into the local limelight and their stellar sophomore release cemented their spot there. Public Housing feels like a natural extension on Gross Ghost's previous work, it explores all of the pitfalls of your mid-twenties ranging from love and loss to the constant sting of uncertainty.

However, Mike Dillon and company approach the unknown with a steady garage rock swagger, bringing memorable hooks and headstrong rhythms that nestle snugly in the listener's head. Public Housing is one of those records that beckons a repeat listen, the minute that "Hair of the Dog" fades out you find yourself jumping right back to "Seeds," struggling to pull yourself from the infinite loop of heartache and redemption.

8. Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple
Mount Moriah has long been a staple of the North Carolina music scene, but their Merge Records debut thrust the band to new heights. Miracle Temple finds the band brimming with a steady sense of personality and determination. Few things have changed sonically since their self-titled release, but from the opening notes of "Younger Days" it's clear that Heather McEntire is one of those musicians that lives with songs in her heart.

Every track on Miracle Temple seems to have a stamp of unfiltered personality hidden within the lyricism. Whether you're bouncing and singing along to tracks like "Bright Lights" and "Rosemary" or taking in the slow-build of tracks like "Swannanoa" and "Telling the Hour," you're most certainly soaking in the gorgeous intricacies that line this record. Between McEntire's sultry vocals and Jenks Miller's meticulously crafted guitar work, it's hard not to fall in love with a record like Miracle Temple.

7. Peter Lamb and The Wolves - Humble Pie
Peter Lamb and The Wolves opened up the doors to North Carolina jazz music for this unenlightened music journalist. A few years ago I caught the band at Shakori after heavy recommendations, but the release of their sophomore album Humble Pie turned me into a die-hard fan. Humble Pie is filled with both standards and originals, but each track feels remarkably fresh. Peter Lamb and The Wolves take New Orleans style swing-jazz to a new level, bringing some of the areas finest musicians together for a raucous take on one of the most vibrant genres.

Tracks on Humble Pie toe the line between exploratory jams and intricately structured songs. Top all of that off with Mark Wells' guttural and soulful vocal stylings and you've got an all-star jazz group that knows how to get folks moving. Whether it be stand-out classics like "That Mellow Saxophone" (which is anything but mellow) or zany originals like "Mixing in My Bowl," it's hard not to move and groove to the fine sounds of Peter Lamb and The Wolves.

6. Mipso - Dark Holler Pop
Mipso began as a group of college students moonlighting as musicians, but with the release of Dark Holler Pop marks the first full-time effort from this young band. The difference that a bit of time makes is astounding, as Dark Holler Pop feels like the beginning of something truly special.

While Mipso's previous release Long, Long Gone was an impressive debut, Dark Holler Pop seamlessly combines elements of classic bluegrass with contemporary folk-rock to create an infectious sound that caters to both traditionalists and young fans of acoustic music. Tracks like "A Couple Acres Greener" display this sentiment perfectly, the structure follows that of your standard bluegrass tune while the content finds the narrator torn between Sunday mornings and Friday nights. Dark Holler Pop explores mortality, religion and Southern aesthetics with an acoustic pop sheen that makes even the darkest of thoughts a palatable, downright enjoyable listen.

5. Bombadil - Metrics of Affection
I'll never forget the moment I fell in love with Bombadil, as the band took the stage at Fletcher Opera Hall at Hopscotch 2011 I knew that they would immediately become one of my favorite acts in the state. Since their valiant return to the scene they've proved that their untimely hiatus served as a stepping stone for the band, pushing them forward to unimaginable musical territories like those found on Metrics of Affection.

Through pseudo-rap verses/spoken word pieces and fanciful pop gems, Bombadil touches upon the importance of friends and family, the struggle of letting go of lost love and everything that makes up your day-to-day routine. Metrics of Affection serves as a brilliant soundtrack for your days, as Bombadil's lyrical excellence digs deep into the listener and makes you question the way you're living your life. But it's not all weighty songs of introspective self-reflection, tracks like "Angeline" bring along infectious melodies and vibrant harmonies to lose yourself in. Through quirky word play and fantastic instrumentation, Bombadil has crafted yet another whimsical album that fans to fall in love with them all over again.

4. Hiss Golden Messenger - Haw
M.C. Taylor has swiftly become one of North Carolina's finest songwriters, receiving as much acclaim from international outlets as he does local. When listening to Haw there's little room to speculate why that happens, Hiss Golden Messenger is quite frankly one of the best acts to call North Carolina home in recent memory. On Haw, Taylor meshes the political and the personal into one amorphous entity that shouts of creatures with forked-tongue and local landmarks with equal amounts of passion and sincerity.

Haw is a trip into the very fiber of Southern living, through the rich imagery and mystical instrumentation Taylor has crafted an album that emits images of front porch swings and backyard bonfires. "I've Got A Name for the Newborn Child," bounces along with nonchalance but underneath its simplicity lies a song that's oozing with personality and purpose. Haw takes me back to an afternoon in spring, soaking in the mild sun rays and brisk breeze without a care in the world but the tender tones that fill my eardrums. M.C. Taylor has the ability to silence a room with the pluck of a string, and when you listen to Haw you immediately know why.

3. The Dead Tongues - Desert
The return of Ryan Gustafson is arguably my favorite part of 2013. The standout songwriter may only have two full-lengths under his belt as a solo artist, but they're both some of the finest albums crafted by a North Carolina songwriter since I've began following the scene. Gustafson garnered heavy praise with his debut album Donkey back in 2009, so when he made his return with The Dead Tongues this year the fans and critics lined up with unbridled anticipation.

Somehow Gustafson lived up to all of those lofty expectations with Desert, an album that tackles lofty topics like depression and unrest with a hopeful sense of determination. From the opening lines of "Call Out To Me" it's clear that the four years in between albums was well worth the wait, as every track on Desert is a crucial piece of the larger scheme afoot. Whether it be a three-minute pop song or an expansive track like "Milestone," Desert has the ability to speak to the listener through Gustafson's unabashed honesty and sincerity. Desert marks the welcomed return of one of the area's most talented songwriters, let's just hope we don't have to wait four more years for another release.

2. Ryan Sheffield and the Highhills - Telescope
Albums like Telescope are what keep me interested in the ever-changing local music scene. Everyone goes into an album with some sort of expectation crafted, whether it be from the artwork or the band name, there's a certain image in your mind of what this art is going to be. I'm not quite sure what I expected from Ryan Sheffield and the Highhills, perhaps it was another notch in the increasing indie-folk belt. But what I got was far from that. The minute that "The Waves" took over my stereo I was overcome with a sense of excitement that I've not had in a long time when it comes to local music. There's no front when it comes to Sheffield lyrics and that's what makes it all so fantastic.

Telescopes takes a microscopic look at some of life's most ambitious aspects and gives it a playful, yet powerful spin. Whether Sheffield is singing of our relative unimportance in "Infinitesimal," the woes of touring in "Road to Montreal" or the folk-rock standard of lost love in "Postcards," the listener is guaranteed to receive an inimitable take on life's ups and downs. While Sheffield's lyrical excellence is enough to draw you in, the robust instrumentation is what keeps you hooked. Soaring horns perfectly compliment the simplistic acoustic foundation of these songs, and as Sheffield's voice slowly rises to a shout it's enough to send shivers down your spine. Telescope is one of those rare albums that draws you in to the very core of a songwriter while not being the sad-sack trope that many songwriters lean on. Telescope is a mesmerizing debut from a band that I'm incredibly excited to see more of in the future. Let's just hope that they make it out to the Triangle soon.

1. Virgins Family Band - Honeylion
The minute I heard Honeylion I knew that it was likely to take the spot as my favorite album of the year. Few bands have left me as breathless as Virgins Family Band upon first listen, they're one of the most unique bands to have come upon the North Carolina scene in years. Combining elements of grandiose indie folk, subdued psychedelic rock and breathy jazz vocals, Virgins Family Band are an amalgamation of contemporary and classic rock. With awe-inspiring harmonies and rattling percussion, Virgins Family Band has plenty to love, but their excellence lies in their restraint. It'd be easy to come out strong from the gate with barn-burning tracks like "Lily Molusco," but throughout the entirety of Honeylion the band follows a natural ebb and flow that draws the listener in to focus on the intricacies that make up these brilliant songs.

The slow build of album opener "Moon Breath" gives a good idea as to the pacing of the album, it begins with hushed tones and gradually builds to explosive percussion and rambling guitar lines before slowly settling back into a soft close. Tracks seamlessly flow together to craft a lush piece of work in which individual tracks serve as both a crucial piece to the puzzle and a stellar piece of standalone work. Honeylion is at once smooth and immense, perfectly straddling the line between calming and invigorating. Since the release of Honeylion Virgins Family Band has continued trucking along, dealing with lineup changes along the way and rolling with everything that comes their way. 2014 holds nothing but promise for this young group, and I for one can't wait to see where the band goes from here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Chic and More Set for Moogfest 2014

Moogfest 2014 will take place from April 23-27 of 2014
throughout 10 venues
Up until 2013, Moogfest had become a bit of a staple for downtown Asheville. For three years the electronic based festival brought a wide variety of acts to the town under the Moog banner, but when it was announced that AC Entertainment's contract with the festival wasn't renewed the festival's future was in doubt. Shortly after details of AC Entertainment's new festival, Mountain Oasis, came about, the Moog family reassured folks that Moogfest wasn't going anywhere. After a bit of restructuring, it was announced that Moogfest would be returning to Asheville for the week of April 23-27. The now five-day event has blossomed to massive proportions that include some of the most influential names in electronic music history. This morning Moogfest announced the initial lineup for their 2014 festival, including some of the pioneers of dance music like Kraftwerk (performing 3 separate 3-D sets throughout the fest), Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers' Chic.

While this eclectic array of dance icons head up the lineup, some of the most exciting parts of this lineup are buried within the details. Not only will Avey Tare (of Animal Collective)'s Slasher Flicks be performing, but so will Chaz Bundick's Les Sins, RJD2, Gaslamp Killer, Dan Deacon, Darkstar, Laurie Anderson, Wolf Eyes and much more. While the initial lineup alone is enough to warrant the $200 ticket for the week's musical festivities, there's still over 70 bands left to be announced.

Each night will also feature showcases from a wide variety of labels and curators like DFA Recods, Fool's Gold, Warp Records and even Hopscotch Music Festival. But music isn't the only thing that this promising new installment of Moogfest has going for it. Throughout the days there will be immersive conversation, exhibitions, film screenings and even engineering sessions for those with enough cash. Visionaries like Giorgio Moroder, Laurie Anderson and Cliff Martinez will join others for panels, discussions and presentations throughout the days.

The set-up of Moogfest allows for folks to choose between just seeing the panels and conferences, checking out the music, or both for separate ticket packages. For a full week pass (day + night) admission is $299 while you can check out the day's festivities for $249 or the night for $199. Those with larger pockets also may be interested in the slew of VIP packages that the festival offers, including a standard VIP deal ($499), an Engineer VIP deal (you can build your own synth and get all of the VIP offerings for $1,000) or a Legacy VIP deal ($10,000 for your own Moog Voyager XL, transportation to and from the airport, dinner with Keith Emerson, hotel accommodations AND the previous package offers). However, those without buckets of cash to spend on festivals will be able to partake in the free street festival or the Tech Expo and Job Fair and visit an electronic instrument pop-up shop.

Tickets for Moogfest can be purchased at the festival's website, where you can check out the full lineup thus far. Check below for the initial lineup announcement:


Friday, December 13, 2013

Show Preview: Brazos w/ Ski Lodge & Cat Be Damned

Brazos performs at Local 506 on Saturday, Dec. 14
w/ Ski Lodge and Cat Be Damned
Another week, another internal struggle of "how the hell do I go to see all of these shows?" It's become a bit of a regular strife here in the Triangle, especially when you've got to choose between stellar locals and a regularly rotating cast of touring acts. One of this weekend's standout shows combines a bit of both, bringing Austin, Tex. based Brazos to the Local 506 along with Ski Lodge and local indie folk-rockers Cat Be Damned.

Brazos' most recent full-length Salt Water was one of the sleeper albums of the year. You may not find it on a slew of year-end lists, but it's a damn shame that you won't. Salt Water was released back in May on Dead Oceans and is washed in moments of blissful musical release. Songwriter Martin Crane crafts immersive art-pop album that feels like an enriching journey through one man's innermost thoughts. Pulsing guitar riffs are countered brilliantly by wispy, slow-brooding ballads that bounce along with a steady determination.

Ski Lodge brings along bright, cheerful indie pop as well, but strays further away from the melodic tendencies that Brazos does. Ski Lodge is the rhythmically focused counterpoint to Brazos, while Martin Crane builds his intricate tracks around his lush melodies, Ski Lodge's tracks are all abound with toe-tapping and head-bobbing rhythms that beckons for a sun-soaked summer day. Shimmering guitar lines and simplistic drum beats may define the vibes of these tracks, but songwriter Andrew Marr fills these songs with darker, introspective lyrics to make for an interesting dichotomy between the elements that make up these songs. Half of you wants to unwaveringly bounce along to the cheerful rhythms, but your head gets lost in the deeply personal lyricism.

Opening up the evening will be local act Cat Be Damned, well sort of local. Though the members are split throughout Virginia and North Carolina, Cat Be Damned has found quite the niche for themselves within the area. Lately the band has been frequenting house shows throughout the Triangle, but their first show at the Local 506 hopes to give the band a bit more acclaim. Songwriter Erik Phillips draws melodic tendencies from acts like Modest Mouse and Built To Spill, eliciting reminders of early-90s indie rock under the veil of dynamic folk-rock sounds. These jangly tunes fit quaintly in between the lines of lyrically focused folk rock and aggressive college rock. Cat Be Damned is an excellent reason to make it out to the 506 early for this fantastic night of music.

Tickets for the show are available at Local 506's website. The doors open at 8:30 pm and the show starts at 9:00 pm. Admission is $8 in advance, $9 at the door.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ghostt Bllonde Signs to Negative Fun Records

Ghostt Bllonde at WKNC's DBB 10 Day Party
Since around this time last year I've been touting the word of Ghostt Bllonde. What was once the project that rose from the ashes of Coastal Vision has swiftly snowballed into one of the region's most exciting new acts. Marc Kuzio's frantic, angst-ridden lyrics have resonated with countless listeners across the state, turning Ghostt Bllonde's shows into sing-along laden outings that are liable to get crazy quick. It's hard to imagine how a band can keep gathering so much steam, but Ghostt Bllonde is clearly determined to do just that. Earlier this morning it was announced that Ghostt Bllonde would be joining the Negative Fun roster in 2014 for multiple releases with the Raleigh/New Hampshire based label.

Negative Fun garnered a lot of local attention after their Hopscotch Day Party at Legends this year, and since then they've been following a similar trajectory to Ghostt Bllonde by putting on free First Friday events at Legends to help gain local visibility. The opening installment of their Let Feedback Ring series actually featured Ghostt Bllonde as the headliner, which should have been the first indication that something special could come to fruition between the two parties.

Throughout 2014 Ghostt Bllonde will release a handful of singles and demos which will lead up to their second full-length, currently slated for a late 2014 release. However, the footwork leading up to this full-length sounds equally enthralling, releases include a 7" split for a part of Negative Fun's Home and Home series (one side from North Carolina, one from New Hampshire) and an EP of demos on Negative Fun's new tape label imprint Antiquated Technology (run by Negative Fun's Chris DeFusco and local journalist/musician Corbie Hill).

To celebrate this slew of good news, Ghostt Bllonde will be headlining a stellar night at Kings Barcade on Friday, Jan. 3 with Hammer No More The Fingers and Museum Mouth. This three act lineup serves as an excellent start to the new year, giving local fans an even mix of one of the areas most revered local indie-rock acts and two quickly rising newcomers. It's hard to believe that a year ago the band was debuting their staple track "Love is Loathing"on The Bottom String and now they're already prepping for their second full-length, but when you're filled with that much unbridled energy it's gotta go somewhere!

Show Review: The Love Language and Sylan Esso

The two-night winter formal at Kings Barcade featured two very loved Triangle bands, The Love Language of Merge Records and Trekky Records artist Sylvan Esso. Both nights sold out, with only a handful released at the door night-of that went well before doors opened. I went out Friday night, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and First Friday activities beforehand. Making my way to Kings, I saw dapper men on bicycles headed the same direction alongside women in party dresses. Although not required, formal wear was encouraged for the show. And, let's be honest, it made the prom photo booth that much more fun, and drinking champagne a little more appropriate. 

Sylvan Esso kicked things off with instant energy. Balloons bounced around the heads of the audience, everyone bumping them around trying not to let them hit the ground. So, there was the occasional dive to save one. Adorable, fun and easy to dance to, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd showed the band a ton of love. With only two songs available on hard copy, I was glad to see more of Sylvan Esso's repertoire. And while I enjoyed some songs more than others, there were not "filler" tracks or ones that were by any means subpar. Vocalist Amelia Meath, wearing an all-black pantsuit with a cropped black and gold jacket, led the crowd in arm pumps and dance moves, all while showcasing her vocal range and fluidity between styles. Nick Sanborn backed her up with beats, loops and other effects. Sanborn's exaggerated twists and turns made the layering fun to watch. They've got a solid, consistent sound and clearly have a good time doing it. 

In between sets I made the customary run down to Neptunes, where an additional dance party was inevitably going on. We also had our prom photo taken at the door of Kings. The photographer positioned us in the corny, wonderfully awkward traditional prom poses that I'm sure will all give us a good laugh to go through. 

The Love Language took the stage, and it was definitely the most intense Love Language show I've ever been to. The band performed strong with genuine excitement for the night, and the crowd jumped, danced, moshed (what?!) and crowd surfed (semi-successfully). The new songs took off like wildfire to those who were and weren't familiar with them. They sprinkled in some slow songs, because what would prom be without some swaying around and twirling? But of course, the old sing-a-longs are always the most fun. Everyone was hype on the music, each other, the general prom night contagion of excitement and Stu McLamb's "Spring Break Forever!" shouts between songs. After an incredible encore featuring “Blue Angel,” a favorite off of 2010’s “Libraries,” that isn’t often played live, the sweaty crowd dispersed outside to cool off before heading back in for Trekky’s DJ Sweet William.

As is essential to any good party, Kings was a great host with festive décor and endless PBR. The energy was palpitating all night, and made for the best prom.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Show Preview: The Love Language and Sylvan Esso

Kings Barcade is hosting a Winter Formal presented by Trekky Records on Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7, featuring local artists The Love Language and Sylvan Esso. If you head out for either night, make sure to dress up and wear your fanciest dancing shoes – there will be an official Winter Formal photo booth and dance party following the show with DJ Sweet William (OG Trekky Will Hackney) spinning some tunes.

Sylvan Esso is a Durham two-piece made up of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn. Meath’s feminine voice dances over pulsing electronic beats and bass lines, all of which are looped and layered throughout the songs. Sanborn is also the bassist of Megafaun, so seeing the genre differences and what he's capable of in both is an interesting thing to keep in mind when listening. Their debut 12” was released in July on Trekky Records, featuring “Hey Mami” and “Play it Right.” Since, they’ve played Hopscotch, have been remixed by Broken Social Scene’s Charles Spearin, and have toured with the likes of Volcano Choir, Man Man and Minor Alps. 

The Love Language is another Triangle favorite. The band had their second Merge Records release in July with Ruby Red, a strong follow-up to 2010’s Libraries, that includes just as many catchy tracks as before.  Tight as ever, they’re known for putting on fun shows with rich harmonies among each instrument. The live show translates their rock side much more explicitly than the album, so look forward to a slight twist to what you’ve been playing on your stereo.

Doors open at 9:00pm and the music starts at 10:00pm. The show is $12 in advance and $14 at the door. Tickets and more information is available at kingsbarcade.com

Friday, November 29, 2013

Show Review: Gross Ghost w/ Last Year’s Men, Schooner

In celebration of Gross Ghost’s newest release, Public Housing, they threw a party with a solid lineup on Friday, November 22. The show was at Cat’s Cradle’s newly opened “back room,” located in the same building as the Cradle in Carrboro but a separate space entirely. This was my first time there and I really enjoyed the set up. You can find it by walking behind the Arts Center or the Cradle depending on where you parked. Pro tip: there’s a new parking deck that’s usable for show overflow parking, which came in handy considering the main room also had a show going on that night. Immediately when you walk in you have the bar to your left and the stage on the right. I watched the show from the upstairs area, a bit compact but great vantage point with both seated and standing room available without feeling a disconnect from the downstairs crowd.

Simply put, Schooner gets you pumped. They were a great choice to kick off the night. Bouncing around and switching off instruments between members depending on the song, they played old and new tunes. Juan Huevos joined them on stage to rap during “Still in Love,” a pretty chill track off of their newest album Neighborhood Veins. It added a different flavor from the album version and really complimented the vibe of the song.  The new songs translated well to a live performance, and as usual, the band didn’t disappoint.

Last Year’s Men followed, rocking out with a few scattered dance moves and head bangs.  It’s absolutely impossible to stand still during their shows. Within a few strums you’re inevitably going to be tapping your foot, drumming on your bottle with your free hand or dancing. A vivacious band with fast guitar riffs, they cracked some jokes between songs and easily impressed the people in the crowd who were unfamiliar with them before.


Gross Ghost, hosting the night, looked overjoyed to hop onstage and share their new songs. While most of the show focused on Public Housing tracks, they still hit all the favorites from Brer Rabbit, including “Leslie” and “Architect.” The new songs were equally as catchy, offering stomps and hooks that became earworms. Some of my favorites of the night were “You Will” and “Seeds.” The album as a whole has been getting significant play on the local college radio stations and good reviews across the board. The band brought the energy that solidified this. Vocals followed the guitar melody that came to life with Mike Dillon’s stage presence. Thankful and appreciative of the crowd, they had a hell of a set, including cameo appearances from local artists, too. Christy Smith of the Tender Fruit joined for supplementary vocals on “They Say,” and Stu McLamb of The Love Language took over bass at the end of the night. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Album Review: "Public Housing" by Gross Ghost

"Public Housing" was released on Oct. 29 on
Odessa Records. Gross Ghost will be celebrating
their album release this Friday, Nov. 22 at Cat's Cradle's
new Back Room w/ Last Year's Men and Schooner.
“It starts this way/nothing to do nothing to say,” Mike Dillon desperately sings out as the opening track to Gross Ghost’s latest full-length Public Housing kicks in. A brisk drum beat and bouncing bass line drive along until the electric guitar frenetically bursts through the mix, setting the tone for what’s to come on this enthralling sophomore release from Gross Ghost.

While their debut Brer Rabbit relished in playful poignancy, Dillon and company go straight for the throat on Public Housing, an album the chronicles a hectic period of couch surfing during the post-break up wake. Tracks like the album’s opener “Seeds” display a lot of the sentiments that can be found on Public Housing, Dillon wears his emotions on his sleeve as he runs the gamut of reactionary tales. While the overarching themes delve into looking back on loves lost, their sonic foundation is strongly geared towards the future.

Public Housing is a crisp record that was recorded at The Pinhook in Durham, one of the attributing factors to the unequivocal energy that oozes out of these tracks. The addition of longtime collaborator Christopher Hutcherson-Riddle has allowed the drums to serve as a powerful driving force for these rhythmically focused songs. Vocal melodies will frequently mirror the guitar riffs, making for wonderful interplay between all of the various textures in place. Public Housing finds Gross Ghost putting together all of the pieces that make for a tight, cohesive band with a strong drive to succeed.

Whether it be the unforgettable hooks on tracks like “You Will” or the unshakeable grooves on “Howlin,” Dillon’s songwriting is the strongest it’s been to date on Public Housing. While Brer Rabbit was a wonderful album that I still find myself drawn to, it very much just tackled the surface of this band’s potential. Public Housing plunges deeper into the rabbit hole, allowing for intimate connections with these tracks. The album’s lone acoustic excursion, “Dissolve” is filled with insatiable longings of “wanting it all,” and manages to fit in perfectly with the distorted anthems it’s surrounded by. This can easily be attributed to that constant sense of connectivity with these songs, Dillon has poured himself into these tracks and it’s paid off immensely.


Whether you’re hulled up in the house or barreling down the interstate, Public Housing’s versatility lends itself to plenty of listening situations. The introspection allows for listeners to entrench themselves in these tunes while the upbeat, jangling instrumentation makes these songs capable of filling you with uncontainable energy, driving you to shake, sway and shout along to these infectious songs. Public Housing gives Gross Ghost a powerful foundation to build upon, with two fantastic releases behind them there’s an undeniable spotlight shone upon this group. It’s clear that Public Housing is only the beginning for this newly cemented lineup of Gross Ghost, and there’s nowhere but up to go from here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Show Preview: Gross Ghost w/ Last Year’s Men, Schooner

Gross Ghost at Kings Barcade at Hopscotch 2013
Gross Ghost are having their record release party at Cat’s Cradle’s newly constructed back room on Friday, November 22. The night will be stacked with local rockers Last Year’s Men and Schooner opening.

Schooner celebrated their much awaited first national release Neighborhood Veins (PotLuck, 2013) at the end of September.  The album got high reviews from outlets such as Pop Matters and BLURT magazine, which isn’t surprising considering the local love they’ve seen over the years. It showcases a good balance between fast and slow paced “pop-indie-psych-soul” with echoing low vocals from Reid Johnson. A good handful of the songs you’ll find yourself not being able to get out of your head, or at the least get caught dancing to at stop lights in the car.

Chapel Hill’s Last Year’s Men are some of the most fun guys to watch or just have general banter with. Expect garage rock reminiscent of The Stooges and Spider Bags with the energy of someone who just shotgunned a PBR then set the can on fire. Currently on Churchkey Records, the band has one full length out, Sunny Down Snuff that’s packed full of solid tracks that translate well to a live show.

Gross Ghost’s second full length LP Public Housing came on Odessa Records on October 29. This record marks a follow up to their debut Brer Rabbit (Grip Tapes, 2012), that was so well-received that the band snagged a main stage slot at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival, opening for Future Islands, Holy Ghost!, and A-Trak. Public Housing follows the Gross Ghost sound consistently accomplished on the first album, and continues with ten tracks of fuzz, hooks, and catchy melodies. Seeing the band perform is always a treat, and with new material to share it will have a fresh spin of energy.

Doors are at 8:30 pm and the show starts at 9:30 pm. Tickets are $8.00 in advance and $10.00 day-of. Gross Ghost is also offering half off the price of CD or vinyl purchases with admission. For more information about the show, visit www.catscradle.com.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Art of Cool Festival Announces Lineup

The Art of Cool Festival will take place in Durham, NC
on April 25 & 26. Tickets are available now at $120 for a
2-day pass or $275 for VIP
Earlier this year The Art of Cool popped up on my radar due to an incredibly promising Kickstarter campaign. The project, led by Cicely Mitchell and Al Strong has been helping to increase the presence of our local jazz scene throughout the past few years. The local non-profit has been organizing events that showcase local artists along with internationally acclaimed acts at a variety of high-profile and low-key venues throughout the area.

The project got its starts at the LabourLove Gallery in Durham when trumpeter Al Strong was looking for a low-pressure, intimate venue to perform at. However, throughout the past two years it has blossomed into something that's capable of re-igniting the once vibrant North Carolina jazz scene.

While there's always been handfuls of dedicated jazz listeners and performers in the area, Art of Cool is helping to bring the rich local scene back to life with their massive festival set to take place next April in Durham. Their aforementioned Kickstarter campaign raised over $25,000 and this past Friday the festival announced their long-awaited lineup. With high hopes set, Cicely and Al certainly didn't disappoint, combining some of the most revered local acts with a Grammy Award-winning artists and internationally acclaimed icons. The festival's marquee headliner, Maceo Parker (saxophonist for James Brown and Parliament) just so happens to hail from Kinston while the five-time Grammy nominee Nnena Freelon (mother of The Beast's Pierce Freelon), has called Durham home for decades.

While acts like Nnena and Maceo feel like givens for a high-profile jazz festival, the standouts amongst the lineup are those that provide the biggest surprises. Seeing acts like Thundercat and Cody Chesnutt on the lineup beside names like Robert Glasper, The Foreign Exchange and a special arrangement by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. Though the Atwood-Ferguson piece has been public knowledge since this summer, it doesn't make it any less exciting. For those that aren't aware, Atwood-Ferguson is a widely renown multi-instrumentalist/composer who has worked with a breathtaking lineup of musicians ranging from Ray Charles to Dr. Dre to Hall and Oates and pretty much everywhere in between. For the Art of Cool festival, Atwood-Ferguson has been commissioned to create a staggering tribute to North Carolina's most renown jazz musicians. An 11-person ensemble will perform Atwood-Ferguson's composition paying tribute to John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Thelonius Monk and Roberta Flack with promised special guests to join the already staggering array of musicians on stage.

For jazz aficionados this is an absolute dream come true. It's a Hopscotch-level festival that touches on an entirely different area of our state's great scene. On April 25 and 26, Durham will be filled with the entrancing sounds of some of the world's most talented musicians. The festival's headliners will perform at the gorgeous Carolina Theater while the other acts will perform amongst some of Durham's finest venues like Motorco Music Hall, The Pinhook, Beyu Cafe, Heyti Heritage Center and the Durham Arts Council. Among all of the awe-inspiring jazz, soul and experimental music on display, artists will be taking part in panel discussions and master classes throughout the area, making for a unique and immersive experience for everyone involved. Check out the full lineup below:

Art of Cool Lineup:
Maceo Parker | Robert Glasper Experiment | Miguel Atwood-Ferguson | Cody ChesnuTT | Amel Lerriux | Alice Smith | The Clayton Brothers | The Foreign Exchange | Thundercat | Mark de Clive-Lowe | Revive Big Band | Russel Gunn | The Beast | Kneebody | Nnena Freelon & Maya Freelon Asante | Lois Deloatch-Gomes | NCCU Big Band | Rafiq Bhatia | Butcher Brown | NCCU Jazz Vocal Ensemble | The Hot at Nights | Kate McGarry & Keith Ganz | Shana Tucker | Akua Alrich & Kris Funn

Friday, November 15, 2013

Show Preview: Os Mutantes w/ Capsula

I have seen amazing things in the Triangle. I've seen Beach House open for Vampire Weekend, Akron/Family bring their sense of weird to the Oak City, The Flaming Lips shoot lasers at the capital building; hell, man, I've seen our state's capital grind to a halt and erupt into a blocks wide and miles long music festival (on more than one occasion). That being said, I am always flabbergasted by the things that happen here. A close friend mentioned Os Mutantes were going to be at the Pour House and I thought that, for sure, he must have read something wrong. I had to check the Pour House's schedule AND the Stagger to be absolutely certain. Yes, Os Mutantes will actually be at the Pour House on November 22nd.

Os Mutantes, 2013.
Denise Truscello/NPR First Listen
Being active for 50 years, give or take a few hiatuses, Os Mutantes have had plenty of time to gather around themselves a pretty large following. Beck, Flea, and Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes all count Os Mutantes among their influences. The Talking Heads' David Byrne and his world music label Luaka Bop have made a career-cum-hobby of preserving and re-releasing their music.

Os Mutantes emerged at an interesting point in Brazilian history, to be certain. As the world became hip to Brazilian bossa novas and its antecedent sambas, Brazil became hip to the psychedelia and avant-gardism that was gaining popularity the world over. Thus, the tropicália movement was born, a fusion of the external influences and traditional Brazilian culture. Squarely in the middle of the movement, nearly from its onset, Os Mutantes stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Now, the sole consistent member of the band, Sérgio Dias, brings Os Mutantes to the Triangle after the April release of Fool Metal Jacket. Jacket is first Mutantes release since 2006's Haih Or Amortecedor, which signaled the end of a 35-year absence from the studio and the second album with the new lineup. NPR's Jasmine Garsd voiced her hesitance, "Like many fans, I braced myself for Mutantes 2.0, but was pleasantly surprised to see their madness has aged well. These are the weirdos who survived every Latin American apocalypse..."

Capsula in a press photo.
The Mutants (as we'd say in 'Merica) bring with them Capsula, also hailing from Brazil. To purport myself as a Capsula scholar and profess fanaticism would be disingenuous, to say the least. However, in doing research about them for this very article (yes, the one you're reading (wow such meta)), I have become intrigued by their music and excited to see them perform. Described as garage-glam, the band took their indie credibility and released a song-for-song cover of Bowie's seminal Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, aptly named Ziggy Stardust, in 2012. Crushing through classic tunes with steady beats, fuzzy guitar, and an attitude reminiscent of the Thin White Duke himself, the band proves their point fairly early on. They're good, they're really good, and certainly deserving of your attention.

Rolling Stone magazine's senior editor David Fricke chose to highlight Capsula's latest release Solar Secrets in his "Fricke's Picks" column. Calling it a "dynamic compression of the Who, the Cramps and Sonic Youth in a high tide of psychedelia" seems to cement them as an obvious choice to open for Os Mutantes, as they've done on many dates of their latest tour.

With tickets going for $20 pre-sale and $25 at the door, you'd be remiss, even with all of the other opportunities in the Triangle, to neglect attending this performance. How often does the good fortune of seeing a legendary Brazilian psychedelic band and their glam-rock progeny inside our very own beltline for a mere Andy Jackson turn its head? Exactly. I will see you there.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Show Review: Manchester Orchestra w/ The Front Bottoms and O'Brother

Manchester Orchestra
As I've grown older and older, I kind of come to dread sold out shows. There's bound to be a lot of densely packed people, probably acting like assholes, elbowing and excusing their way through the crowd to fit into a minuscule spot that's physically impossible for one person to fill. However, despite the shoulder to shoulder standing room and gawking pre-teens definitely breaking the rules of their after-9, Saturday's show at Cat's Cradle was a warmly welcomed trip down Nostalgia Blvd. This marked the sixth time I've seen Manchester Orchestra live, I've got lyrics from the band tattooed on my chest and they pretty much got me through my formative high school years. Plus, I've booked numerous shows for O'Brother back in my hometown and have shared late nights eating day old donuts and pizza that a friend acquired from a Dunkin Donuts and Little Caesers dumpster. Needless to say, these bands have a very special place in my heart.

O'Brother
As O'Brother took the stage and Cat's Cradle began to gradually fill in, I was filled with a sense of elation...followed by a bit of laughter. While I love O'Brother, the way they've grown as a band couldn't be further from what a Manchester Orchestra crowd would expect from an opening act. Those that were privy to these ambient metal upstarts were head banging and mouthing the words to O'Brothers standout track "Lo." However, lots of the fans seemed a bit perplexed by the swiftly gathering fog and moody lights that turned O'Bro into a group of hair swinging silhouettes. It seemed like right as the crowd was really warming up to O'Brother's industrial brand of post-rock, they were announcing their last song. It was a treat to hear some of the new songs from Disillusion, an album I've yet to dig into at this point. However, judging by the intensity of this live show the band has delved deeper into riff-driven amped up stoner metal while retaining all of their gripping melodic nuances that drove me to the band in the first place.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Album Review: You're On The Wrong Drugs by The Lollipops

“I’m over the bah bah bahs,” Iggy Cosky says. And the gritty garage of October’s You’re On The Wrong Drugs demos has his band, The Lollipops, pushing in different directions for sure. Since The Lollipops broke into the Triangle music scene last year, they’ve been known for their melodramatic pop dazzlers with catchy choruses about love.

But on the opening track “Call the Doctor,” Cosky proves that The Lollipops are capable of so much more. “Call the Doctor” is a fuzzed out, frantic two minute rager. There’s a dizzy guitar riff that holds down the track while Cosky screams over it. This is not a dreamy love song. “Some people might think I’m losing it,” Cosky says. But he insists that You’re On The Wrong Drugs shows a natural evolution into something that he says is “not as polite or tame” as the old Lollipops.

This past summer Cosky listened to a lot of Jay Retard and Fela Kuti, with the former influence showing up in the demo’s interludes. The terse interludes are Cosky’s interpretation of what he calls “sex funk.” “I took an Afro-beat approach,” Cosky explains, “The grooves are syncopated. The bass is locked in with the drums.” “There’s a riot going on” is just shy of a minute, closing out the demo, lingering with the listener, leaving them wanting more.

And more is to be expected with the ever prolific Cosky. He’s already in the works on a side project called Julius Ransome, which he self describes as “RnB/Funk that may take a Kraut Rock/Jazz direction.” More Lollipops demos will be released soon as well, one will be folky and the other will be more electronic. But if You’re On The Wrong Drugs is a preview of the new Lollipops, where ever Cosky leads them next will be exciting to see. 

Listen to You're On The Wrong Drugs here.

Listen to new music from Julius Ransome below:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Show Review: King Khan and the Shrines w/ Hellshovel & Black Zinfadel


Hellshovel
As a first time passenger of the Bridge Bus, a bus that runs between Durham and Raleigh at night on the weekends, I wasn’t entirely sure if I would make it to the show. My bus anxieties were dissipated very quickly and I made it to Durham just in time to catch Hellshovel play.

Although I missed Black Zinfandel, I can tell you that they are a band not to be missed even though I did just that...They blend conventional punk stylings with psych-rock recklessness to create a crass, yet refined style. Regardless, Black Zinfandel gives me hope that the punk scene in Raleigh will eventually become much more visible.

When Hellshovel began to play all I could think about is how much better their shoes were than any of the shoes I own. That's actually not all I thought about but these dudes had some good shoes and very mod style that fit well with their rockabilly psych rock that was a lot more jam-band than a typical garage band, but it was refreshing to hear. Hellshovel played mellow garage tunes that still had energy infused into them to keep the crowd going until King Khan hit the stage. 

King Khan and the Shrines
King Khan's specialty lies in his live performances that tend to be over the top and exposed. Literally exposed, as most of the time, he sings in a cape and nothing else but his underwear. Because this is not what immediately happened, I was a bit surprised and maybe even disappointed to see him in a dapper suit, however the show proved to be nothing but a riot.

A moshpit formed very quickly and everyone in it seemed to be convulsing to the soulful sounds the band created. With a live band consisting of eight people, it was surprisingly tame until the encore when Khan finally came out dressed as I would have expected him, commando, with a cape. This show was first of hopefully many shows where I witnessed the span of fifteen to fifty years of age all together in the same moshpit, having a blast. And when an artist can elicit that big of a response from that wide of an array of people, there's obviously something fantastic happening.






Show Review: And So I Watch You From Afar, TTNG, Mylets

TTNG
LA record label Sargent House put together a solid bill that flaunted some great rock at Kings Barcade on Tuesday, November 5.

Mylets, putting out his first full-length Sargent House album next year, plays mostly instrumental music. Written and performed by himself, Henry Kohen utilized numerous pedals and samplers to play his songs. At times, he’d yell over the aggressive loop-based songs. He had a knack for making loops on the fly, a difficult task not many can do, especially impulsively to a high tier quality. His guitar riffs were layered, also taking time with the synth bass and percussion pads to build a full sound.

TTNG (This Town Needs Guns) was first of the two headliners, both of whom played full sets. The guys chatted between songs, commenting on the tour, sharing some stories and trying to pump up the audience. Given it was a Tuesday night, there was a decent crowd, but it took a while for the majority to really wake up. As you would expect from the music, a large amount of the songs were constructed with taps, pull offs and harmonics – always fun to watch this guitar style being created feet from your face. Henry Tremain, lead vocalist, guitarist and bassist, had a creative setup. He played a good bit with two guitars stacked on each other, hanging from different lengths. The top, tuned “normally,” the bottom Squire tuned an octave lower to emulate a bass guitar sound.

The band invited Mylets on stage to play a song with them, and he looked stoked, getting into the half-screaming vocals with one arm cemented behind his back as he danced around a bit. At the end of their set, they did something else pretty special. Introducing “26 Is Dancier Than 4,” the first track off of their self-titled 2008 album, they got a great response, pegging it as a crowd favorite. Tremain asked who knew the song, who knew the words, and then after a wave of cheers, who wanted to come up and sing it with him. A younger guy named Casey jumped up on stage and melted right in. Harmonizing wonderfully with Tremain throughout the set, he had no shyness getting behind the mic. At the end of the song, he respectfully and nervously thanked each of the members, shaking their hand, and accidentally interrupting a guitar riff to do so – but it’s cool, he rocked.


And So I Watch You From Afar
And So I Watch You From Afar came on a little after 10:15. They opened with songs off their newest album, All Hail Bright Futures, including “Ambulance,” a track that builds up upon a single riff with powerful beats, breaks, and shouts. Inevitably, a small pit soon formed a few people back from the front. After a few songs, I looked at the friend I was standing next to who hadn’t seen them before. When I could see her face between hair-flying head banging, she was grinning ear to ear. That pretty much reflected my experience. ASIWYFA plays very tight with palpitating energy that mirrors their music in a physical and visual way.

With instrumental shows, there are different approaches the performer-audience connection can take. From an audience perspective, it often feels like you’re sitting in on a practice and watching through a glass window, or at a theatre watching a hi-brow performance. Then, you have ones like this that play to the audience and bounce energies back and forth, transforming it to an emotive rock show. They, too, invited Mylets on stage for a song. Their tour manager also joined for a song and the group just looked like they were having a blast, and the crowd was responsive. I was incredibly happy with the set list’s flow, and they hit all my favorites, including “7 Billion People All At Once,” “Set Guitars to Kill,” and an extended version of “The Voiceless” as their final song.

The bands share the same label and are working closely doing the whole tour together. There is an undeniable level of support and camaraderie between them that made the experience interconnected, rather than seeing three individual bands at face value. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Show Preview: Manchester Orchestra w/ The Front Bottoms & O'Brother

Manchester Orchestra will perform at Cat's Cradle
on Saturday, Nov. 9 with The Front Bottoms & O'Brother
Rarely does a band strike me the way that Manchester Orchestra does, so needless to say anytime I get the chance to see these guys display their poignant brand of indie rock I jump all over it. They've come a long way from touring the southeast with former local standouts like The Never and Annuals, now they're performing at House of Blues' and hosting their own festival in Atlanta, but whenever they stop through at Cat's Cradle it's always a momentous affair. Manchester Orchestra has been off the road for some time now, working on new music for a forthcoming album and generally catching up on some presumably much needed rest from a constantly hectic tour schedule. However, this Saturday is going to be one of those truly special nights that acts like Manchester Orchestra are only capable of. Joined by former labelmates O'Brother and The Front Bottoms, Cat's Cradle is slated for a night filled with aggressively emotive rock ranging from head-banging ambient heavy rock to introspective indie rock anthems.

O'Brother will start off the evening with the equivalent of a musical kick in the teeth. These guys started out as an experimental indie rock outfit from Atlanta and have gradually morphed into an ambient take on hard-rock that still harkens back to their ethereal beginnings. This Sriracha loving band of musicians knows how to play into the ebb and flow of dynamics, one minute vocalist Tanner Merritt is crooning over a gently picked guitar line and the next you've got the Dang brothers flinging their long black hair around as your eardrums begin screaming out in sweet, sweet pain. They take the heavy-quiet-heavy dynamic and run it over with their barreling wall of sound, choosing to craft their own sense of sonic structure rather than fill in pre-determined molds.

If you're not already plagued with a bang-over from the guttural rock sounds of O'Brother then you'll probably find yourself bouncing and bobbing to the infectious sounds of The Front Bottoms. While many may label the band as a pop-punk leaning outfit, there's much more sincerity and diversity within this group to write them off as such. While some songs may follow simplistic structures, it doesn't take long to realize that The Front Bottoms are about as gritty and inclusive as one could hope for. "Who am I kidding, I can't get past you" belts vocalist Brian Sella on "Skeleton," a track from their latest album Talon of the Hawk. "You are the cops, you are my student loans." There's no filter here, just unapologetic indie rock with punk leanings. So frankly they'll serve as a perfect opener for a band as sincere and boisterous as Manchester Orchestra.

Manchester will surely expend every fiber of energy possible for this set, hell I've seen the band play for nearly two hours before at the Cradle. Their shows are communal in every since of the word, much like The Front Bottoms' and O'Brothers' shows. Fans aren't just fans, they're die hards. Words are shouted back, emotions are palpable. These songs are more than just words for these fans, they're places in time that can't be replaced. I'll never forget shouting along to "Golden Ticket" at the now defunct Soapbox in Wilmington, clasped to a railing whilst silently praying that the buckling floor doesn't break beneath the weight of hundreds of Manchester die hards. Now the band will surely fill out the bulk of Cat's Cradle, much like they have in previous years. But this renovated Cat's Cradle hasn't seen Manchester before, much like we've all yet to see what sort of new songs Manchester has in store for us. It's going to be an incredible night of music punctuated by powerful performances from every act on the bill. It's hard to recall when I was this excited for a single bill, but all I know is that Saturday night will surely be one of the standout shows of the year for me.




Doors will open at 7:30 and the show will begin at 8:30. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door. Tickets are available at CatsCradle.com

Show Preview: And So I Watch You From Afar, TTNG, Mylets

And So I Watched You From Afar will perform at
Kings Barcade on Nov. 5
Sargent House, a Los Angeles-based management company and record label, is hosting a tour coming to Kings on Tuesday night showcasing three of their artists. And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) will co-headline this show with TTNG (formerly This Town Needs Guns), each playing full sets, with Mylets opening. The label is also known for artists such as Russian Circles, Tera Melos, Red Sparrowes, Boris and Bosnian Rainbows.

Mylets is Henry Kohen’s one-man project, self-described as loop rock. Aggressive vocals lay over mixtures of acoustic and electric drums and guitar. Chances are, if you’re a fan of either of the headliners, you’ll dig Mylets. He’s orchestrated a full rock band sound, and watching him create it live should be interesting. Mylets will record and release his Sargent House debut full length next year.
Math/prog-rock trio TTNG hails from the United Kingdom, which translates to they don’t come through the area very often. They released their sophomore album 13.0.0.0.0 in January of this year, and received solid reviews from music critics at Consequence of Sound and Sputnikmusic. It also marked the transition to officially being called by their acronym, TTNG. If you haven’t checked them out yet, the sound is reminiscent of Minus the Bear and label mates Maps & Atlases, with nontraditional time signatures and impressive rhythm sections.

Irish instrumental rockers ASIWYFA return to the Triangle for another sure to be high-energy show. They also released an album this spring, All Hail Bright Futures, which strays slightly from the sans-lyric form the band has historically done, and delved a bit deeper into experimenting with new sounds and ways to achieve those sounds. While a lot of the set is likely to be drawn from this, expect to hear some old favorites, too, that the band may expand on live. Riff-driven, loud and experimental (one of All Hail’s songs features a strong guitar riff sung rather than played), the band is a fine-tuned machine that puts on a seamless and powerful show.



Doors open at 7:00 pm and the show will begin at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $13 in advance, available online at kingsbarcade.com, and $15 day-of at the door.