It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached the midway point of 2015, but besides being a flat circle (obvs) time, the great equalizer, ever marches on. This week on the podcast, guests Marcus Dowling and Quinn Myers join Kevin and Paul as they dig deep into some of the year’s best music that slipped through our cracks/might not have received the attention it deserved down in the basement. It’s the end of the “list", Taylor, Kendrick, shaolin monks and more on Episode 122 of ChunkyGlasses: The Podcast!
Murder ballads, fiddle tunes, and a poem about Jimi Hendrix selling salmon…
A Sam Amidon show is a surreal mash-up of the old-fashioned and the hyper-modern. Touring for the recent release of his sixth album, Lily-O, Amidon brought all of these elements and more to the stage at Jammin’ Java last Monday night.
In a set which consisted, like his albums, primarily of re-workings of traditional songs (the notable exceptions being covers of Tim McGraw’s “My Old Friend,” which Amidon recorded on his 2013 album Bright Sunny South, and “Your Lone Journey” written by Rosa Lee Watson, wife of bluegrass legend Doc Watson, recorded by Amidon on Lily-O), Amidon provided his own unique take on the folk music genre. Throughout, he seemed like someone transported from another time – yet whether that time was the 18th century or the 23rd century might, at any moment, have been up for debate.
Normally we shy away from JUST posting photos from a show, but given the soulafunkarolladelic throwdown that took place at the Fillmore last night here in DC, it's going to take a few days to gather any sort of cohesive thoughts together to do the set that D'Angelo and his Vanguard delivered any justice.
So if you're looking for a review, then hang tight till Monday morning. In the meantime here's what is probably the best show you're gonna see this year (or ever?) looked like here in Washington, DC Thursday night.
As half of the duo at the core of indie rock band Girls, Christopher Owens found himself at the center of one of the most hyped acts of the early years of this decade – a band that you either loved for their patchwork pastiche of influences ranging from the 60s pop of the Beach Boys to the post-punk swagger of The Replacements, or rolled your eyes at because of the sheer amount of praise the music press seemed determined to lay on them at every turn. After two albums and an EP, just as the band seemed about to truly break out, Owens announced that he was leaving the group to go solo.
Soon after, he released Lysandre, an orchestrated acoustic album that seemed to mark a significant shift in musical direction. He cleaned himself up from a heavy opiate addiction, and last September released his second solo effort, A New Testament, which marked yet another sonic shift, this time towards a more country-tinged sound. Not to be outdone (by himself) Owens startled fans again eight months later when he put out his third album Chrissybaby Forever, which sounded like a return to form, with the indie pop that had made Girls famous front-and-center.
Richard Thompson has been performing for nearly 50 years now, first as a member of pioneering British folk-rock collective Fairport Convention, then as a duo with his then-wife Linda Thompson, and, since the early 80s, as a solo artist. His 16th solo studio album, Still, was released this week, and in advance of its release he came to The Birchmere for a two-night stand with his “electric trio,” consisting of Thompson, bassist Taras Prodaniuk, and drummer Michael Jerome – both virtuosos in their own right – and proved to be a performer still at the top of his game even after all of these years.
This week on the podcast, Kevin and Paul are talkin’ METALLLL! Melding medieval instrumentation with the blackest and loudest sounds found in rock, Tanner Anderson’s Obsequiae project leans hard into the dungeons of old to create ear-quaking cacophonies of doom…but does it satisfy his dark lords? Meanwhile, somewhere in outer space, Boston’s ELDER hurls towards our home. Their new album Lore promises sweet, sweet oblivion with a side of Yes-worthy prog, but does it rain hellfire supreme from the heaven’s below or does this trio still have a ways to go before their Charisma points are as maxed out as their Strength?
Plus! MORE Apple Music talk, SoundCloud might be breaking the blogosphere , Skyrim addictions and much, much more on Episode 121 of ChunkyGlasses: The Podcast! This one goes to 11.
Portland, Oregon’s The Helio Sequence, the duo of Brandon Summers on guitar and vocals and Benjamin Weikel on drums, have been making music together for 17 years now, and recently released their self-titled sixth album on Sub Pop. Without straying too far from the formula of atmospheric indie rock that has given them their distinctive sound, the pair have managed to record an album that sounds fresh and ranks among some of their best work so far. On Tuesday night, they came to the Black Cat to perform tracks from their new album as well as a number of favorites from their back catalog.
To say that Courtney Barnett’s star is rising might be an understatement. Only a year ago, the now 26-year old singer and guitarist from Melbourne, Australia was playing DC9 when she came to Washington, DC – a venue that, even packed, only holds a couple hundred people. In October, she sold out the Black Cat (capacity 700), but as a co-headliner with the also popular San Fermin. This past weekend, though, she and her band (which she refers to as CB3, for the trio of Barnett, Bones Sloane on bass, and Dave Mudie on drums) played back-to-back sold out nights at the 9:30 Club (capacity 1,200) to a crowd that was there all for her. Her audience in DC has grown by a factor of at least twelve in just over a year’s time (and that’s not counting those who were shut out after the last tickets were sold).
On this week’s podcast, Apple music finally jumps into the streaming music pool, but is it too little too late? Does the hardware giant have what it takes to deliver a “revolutionary” product that will save the music industry, or is this just a warmed over Beats destined to go the way of the Ping.
PLUS! Kevin and Patrick talk bad practices in music journalism (we’re looking at you Pitchfork), unleash a new track from Dale Watson, and review the latest album from dream-punkers Eternal Summers. It’s all high speculation and old-school vibes on Episode 120 of ChunkyGlasses: The Podcast!
Formative post-punk band Wire has been active for nearly 40 years now, but their music was often ahead of its time, and has influenced numerous bands that have come after. Having released their self-titled 14th album back in April, the band – consisting of original members Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, and Robert Grey, along with more recent addition Matthew Simms on guitar – has proven once again that they are still capable of producing new material that stands up to anything they’ve done in the past. Thus when they came to the Black Cat on June 6th, it wasn’t the dated nostalgia trip that so many bands of their era are these days.
A band that has always preferred to look forward rather than back, the core of their 20-track set consisted of the entirety of the new album (11 songs, not in order, though every track was represented) and one song (“Wolf Boar”) so new that it had only been played live for the first time a week earlier.
Calexico has been making their brand of Latin American-inflected indie rock for 20 years now. The Tuscon, AZ-based group, consisting of core the duo of Joey Burns and John Convertino along with a rotating cast of contributors, released their eighth studio album, Edge of the Sun, earlier this year. On Friday last week they came to the 9:30 Club, filling the stage as a seven-piece band.
As a songwriter, Burns is an expert at evoking the sense of another time and place, whether it be the otherworldly desertscapes of “Miles From the Sea” or the street party atmosphere of “Cumbia de Donde” and “Guero Canelo.” And so for an hour and a half, the audience was transported, from the deserts of Arizona to the streets of Mexico and everywhere in between. On “Esparanza,” one of the bonus tracks from the deluxe edition of the new album, Burns ceded the vocals to trumpet-player Jacob Valenzuea, and on several other songs including “Moon Never Rises” and “Beneath the City of Dreams” he was joined by Guatemalan-born singer Gaby Moreno (who also served as the opening act for the show).
English folk and folk rock music has been seeing a new revival of late, with artists such as Alasdair Roberts, Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn, and Sam Lee bringing new take to a genre which has seen several incarnations since artists such as Shirley Collins and Martin Carthy, and bands such as Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, and Pentangle melded it into the modern world in the 1960s. One of the latest artists to stake her spot in the genre, Olivia Chaney, released her debut album The Longest River at the end of April. She came to Jammin’ Java on Thursday night, bringing her own mix of traditional, original, and cover songs.
When music historians look back on the 2010’s, will they see it as the decade of unlikely reunions? It seems like nearly every week another band that had their heyday – and their dissolution – in the 80s or 90s is announcing a return. Some, like Sleater-Kinney, come back with new material as strong as their classic releases, while others like The Pixies seem to have lost their magic. Some last for a single tour and then fizzle back out, as seems to have happened with the much-touted return of The Replacements. Many seem to be testing the waters, seeing if the band, older and wiser, can put their past reasons for splitting behind them and make things work, and if they still have an audience. For some, it seems to have clicked – after a successful run of touring last year, Slowdive has been hinting at new material in the works since the beginning of this year – while others seem ready to fade back into the past – Neutral Milk Hotel is about to play their last shows “for the foreseeable future.” And of course the first question that the fans have to ask is always “Have they still got it?”
Over the years, NYC Popfest has become one of the premiere festivals to focus on a genre of music that can trace its roots back to Britain in the early 80’s. Born on labels like Sarah Records, Creation Records, Postcard Records, and NME’s now famous C86 compilation, indie pop covers a wide swath of sounds that range from early jangle pop that came out of those labels, to the shoegaze, power pop, twee, and indie rock that followed.
For 2015, its ninth year running, the world-renowned festival continued the tradition of bringing up-and-coming bands (including Baltimore’s own Expert Alterations and Wildhoney, Roanoke’s Eternal Summers, and NYC’s Beverly); bands from all over the world who would likely never get the opportunity to play in the US otherwise (including Spain’s Jessica and the Fletchers, The Just Joans from Scotland, and the band who travelled the farthest to play this year, Wallflower from Japan); and classic bands reunited (including Michigan’s Veronica Lake, playing their first show together in 17 years, and a return from indefinite hiatus of California’s #Poundsign#).
Last week the Howard Theatre saw one DC-based musician reaching the end of his long road while two other groups began their own journeys.
Fellow Creatures kicked off the night with their hypnotizing mix of electronica, prog and pristine harmonies. While the duo (expanded to a four piece live) of Sam McCormally and Will McKinley-Ward has yet to put out an album proper (their upcoming debut album is being co-produced by none other than Louis Weeks himself), they’ve amassed an impressive collection of songs that continue to morph and mutate when performed live. Where those songs finally end up remains to be seen, but seeing them worked through in front of a live audience provides a wealth of thrilling, unexpected moments.
DC’s best/worst kept “secret” band, The El Mansouris took the stage next. An unexpected supergroup of DC-area musicians (including Fiona Kohrman, Margot MacDonald, Alex Braden from Young Rapids, Sam Raymond, formerly of Rival Skies, and Drew Hagelin of Cigarette), The El Mansouris have only a few performances under their belt. But if the highly polished set they delivered is any indication, they’re already a tight unit with a clear identity. Just like Fellow Creatures, harmonies play a large role in The El Mansouri’s Music, but the group steers clear of any technical fireworks in favor of a more populist blending of indie rock and folk that charms one minute and provides sonic pyrotechnics the next. This was the largest stage on which the group had performed to date, and they took full advantage of the space, surrounding themselves in glowing orbs of canvas-dimmed light, providing a simple yet effective ambiance that underlined one of the few things we know about the band at this point: They mean business.
Also in the “means business” column: Louis Weeks.
Sometimes it’s the happy accidents that make being a music fan oh-so-exciting.
Back in 2012, one such accident was going to see Great Lake Swimmers open for the reasonably hyped Patrick Watson – the show was actually broadcast/archived on NPR – without knowing a thing about the man, his music, or what was about to happen. And what happened was revelatory, awe inspiring -- in short, MAGIC. The eschewing of traditional lighting in favor of a more personal approach – tiny tealight-like devices were mounted on guitars, fingers, wherever they could be fit – amplified the angelic weirdness of Watson’s music, pitching the audience into an almost dream-state euphoria, where magic and whimsy and wonder were all real and happening right now in front of you.
That show set a bar, not just for what Patrick Watson, the band (the band is the man is the band…it’s metaphysically weird but just roll with it) was capable of, but legitimately, what we should expect from ALL live shows going forward from this melodious singularity. So to say expectations were high for Watson and his band’s most recent stop in Washington, D.C. would be putting it lightly. Throw in the fact that their new album, Love Songs For Robots, is one of the best releases of 2015 to date (we reviewed it on the podcast here), and really, there’s no way for anything to live up to the hype.
And yet…Patrick Watson found a way.
This week on the podcast, we’re back from vacation just in time for Kevin and Paul to team up with the unstoppable Marcus Dowling to talk one of 2015’s most anticipated releases, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surf. The unofficial follow up to Chance The Rapper’s 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, Surf smashes genres, destroys expectations, and elevates the hip hop game in ways that only Chance and his crew could do. Jazz, Hip Hop, Pop, Rock – Surf celebrates an entire history of music, while pulling it gleefully into the future with youthful abandon and surprising sophistication that belies this young crew's years.
PLUS! Record Store Day every week? A Netflix for Vinyl? The details of Spotify’s deal with Sony leaked? A new track off of Louis Weeks’ outstanding new record haha (OUT NOW!!)? We’re talking all of this and more on the podcast you’ve been waiting for all your life, it’s Episode 118 of ChunkyGlasses: The Podcast!
More than any other artist, Steven Wilson has been at the forefront of modern prog rock for the last 20 years, first as the leader of the band Porcupine Tree and more recently as a solo artist, and remixer of classic genre albums (his work on releases by artists such as King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Yes is famous in its own right). Though he has tried to eschew the prog label, preferring the term “conceptual music,” it’s hard to deny his roots – long, multi-part songs; complicated time and key signatures and changes; concepts and stories which span entire albums. His latest solo release, Hand. Cannot. Erase., based on the story of a woman in New York City who died in her apartment and went unnoticed for three years, came out in February, and on Tuesday night he brought it to the 9:30 Club in all of its bombastic, mind-blowing glory.
Bruce Cockburn is a legend, though it’s entirely possible that you’ve never heard of him. An active recording artist for 45 years now (his first, self-titled album was released in 1970); he has had copious hits and sold millions of records in his native Canada. Yet despite sharing largest border with them, he, like many other Canadian artists, has found little more than cult status here in the US. His only song to break the top 40 in the US, “Wondering Where the Lions Are” off of his album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, went to number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979, but he has seen only limited mainstream attention here otherwise
The start of the Major League Baseball season means the beginning of spring, the crack of the bat, the call of the announcer, and, for the last few seasons at least, time for another tour from The Baseball Project. The band, started by Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5, The Young Fresh Fellows) and Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate) as a one-off side project celebrating their mutual love of the sport, has taken on a life of its own, appearing on ESPN and even, last Saturday, playing a show at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The day before that, on Friday, they played a show in Harrisburg, PA at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center. The roster for the band was rounded out with Mike Mills (R.E.M.) on bass, Linda Pitmon on drums, and Josh Kantor (organist at Fenway Stadium) on keyboards.