Molly Hamilton and her songwriting partner Robert Earl Thomas of Widowspeak spent a lot of time on the road after releasing the critically acclaimed Almanac earlier this year. “We were stuck in a car a lot,” Hamilton says. “I was mostly writing down lyrics and ideas for new things, just to get them out of my system.”
Some folks might expect to find Starfucker under glass in Portland’s electro-pop history museum these days, but the band is still bopping along as though that whole Pyramiddd thing (their old moniker) never happened. Four albums after their eponymous debut’s single, “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second,” skyrocketed them to indie stardom.
Hank Williams III — better known as Hank 3 — is a maverick. If you want proof, consider the fact that he just released a double country album (Brothers of the 4x4) and a punk album (A Fiendish Threat), and did so on the same day. But that’s not even a record for him.
Consider for a moment the acoustics of a cave: vast and echoing but also claustrophobic and airless — a small drip of water reverberating to the ceiling and from the walls. Now, consider the acoustics of the band Cave and you have the latter. The Chicago-based, frequently instrumental group is celebrating the release of Threace, outOct. 15 on uber-hip record label Drag City.
Composer Steven Mackey was honored by the commission to write a new work for his longtime collaborators, the celebrated Brentano Quartet, but daunted by the subject matter: a quartet that commemorated one of the most tragic days in American history, the assassination of President John Kennedy half a century ago. How could he write music that was true to what happened that terrible day, without reproducing its ugliness and thereby distressing listeners? What could instrumental music add to our understanding of, or feeling about, that dark day in Dallas?
Veteran songwriter Sean Scolnick, aka Langhorne Slim, says people are looking to get messy. “People want to dance,” he says. “People want to be freaks.” The Nashville-based musician feels this goes a long way to explain the recent chart-topping revival of “roots” music like The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. “People want to strip things back,” Slim concludes.
In between the breakout 2012 album Look Out Mama and an upcoming release, the New Orleans-based Hurray for the Riff Raff took a nice, long pit stop in covers country. My Dearest Darkest Neighbor (2013), a beautiful and mellow collection, hosts songs by a motley crew of musicians: Lead Belly, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday and George Harrison to name a few.
“I like to paint a picture of a modern woman who’s sexual and who can do the same things as a man,” Sallie Ford tells me over the phone. Sift through her lyrics, her throaty rock vocals or the imagery in her band’s music videos, and it becomes clear that Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside is not just paying lip service.
Of all the white-hot techno DJs and producers, few are more molten right now than Anton Zaslavski, better known as Zedd. Zedd’s single “Clarity” (featuring London-based female vocalist Foxes) is arguably the “it” single of 2013: a big, weepy ballad mixed with epic, fist-pumping, club-thumping beats.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you have certainly heard the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies’ popular Zoot Suit Riot album enough to have an opinion about the band. But stardom — and the backlash that came with it — was never something they expected to achieve when they formed in the late ’80s.
Austin, Texas, folk artist Matt the Electrician sports a mighty fine full beard. A possible allegory for his style of music, his beard is inviting and warm while his voice sounds weathered and prickly. “You know, sadly, I’m just lazy,” he says. “The beard is much easier to manage than no beard because I don’t really have to do anything to it. Like once every three months I take some scissors and cut it back a little bit so it doesn’t take over any nearby villages.”
After a decade exploring the classic, Sonny Rollins-style sax-bass-drums ensemble (and other trio configurations including piano, guitar and even electric bass) Eugene sax master Joe Manis has ventured into another classic jazz assemblage: the organ trio, featuring recent NYC-to-Portland transplant George Colligan at the keyboard. Todd Strait will man the drum kit for this show 9:30 pm Friday, Sept. 27, at Sam Bond’s.
Don’t call The Evens a side project. “It’s a band,” insists Ian MacKaye, the musician behind some of the most iconic projects in American punk and hardcore music: Minor Threat, Fugazi and founding Dischord Records. After over three decades in the business, the reluctant legend’s passion for music hasn’t waned a bit. “Music is holy,” MacKaye says. Over the years MacKaye has championed a DIY ethos. “I’ve become a poster child,” he says, “but I just did my work.”
When Gold Panda’s down-tempo electronica seeps into your ears, it can resurrect the feelings of being a small child sitting in the backseat during a road trip where your only possessions are a pair of headphones and the window-framed view of the world as it passes by in a whirl.
Over the past half decade or so, singer-songwriter Halie Loren has built an international reputation as a top-notch jazz chanteuse — an expert vocalist who is as comfortable sinking into the sultry croon of a classic like “My Funny Valentine” as she is reinterpreting a ’60s pop ditty like “Happy Together.”
Picture Los Angeles. Highways, rolling hills, scatterings of high rises poking through the smog and a candy-cane striped Big Top tent coloring the skyline? The indie-folkstars Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are joining the circus.
Twenty-five years ago Bruce Springsteen was king of classic rock. Now, there seems to be a whole generation of young punk bands that claim The Boss as their own. And in hindsight, they just might be right. Brooklyn’s The So So Glos share Springsteen’s meat ‘n’ potatoes sound while remaining steeped in punk rock’s golden age.
Of all the serendipitous moments in music history, Rob Garza wandering into Eric Hilton’s Eighteenth Street Lounge in 1995 is one that should not be overlooked. The happenstance meeting in Washington, D.C., propelled the two producer-musicians into an expansive Grammy-nominated career as globetrotting downtempo duo Thievery Corporation.
In a post-Miley Cyrus world, people of a certain vintage are (again) all twerked-up over young people and their pop culture landscape. It was in this context I checked out the video for “Coming Down” by L.A. nu-metal outfit Five Finger Death Punch.