Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.12.09

Organic Americana… from Canada

Many early fans of Po’ Girl, myself included, came to know the band because of their association with Be Good Tanyas singer Trish Klein, who was a member of the first Po’ Girl incarnation. But with six albums, Canada’s Po’ Girl long ago shed the mistaken notion that it was a Be Good Tanyas side project. 

Po’ Girl has two recent releases, Deer in the Night, the latest studio album, and Po’ Girl Live, an album that features songs from the back catalog, recorded at a series of shows in the Southwest. “The songs sort of grew up as we grew up,” says singer and multi-instrumentalist Allison Russell, who formed the band in 2003. “We wanted to capture some of that live energy and also showcase some of the collaborations we’ve done with wonderful friends of ours.” Po’ Girl will be recording a new album in Chicago in January. Russell promises to preview “a lot of the new tunes” at their Sam Bond’s show. 

Po’ Girl’s rootsy sound draws inspiration from traditional American musical forms. Possibly a dozen instruments surround the band’s four members on stage. But with sweet-and-salty harmonies, soulful bluesiness, and unexpected instrumental accompaniment, it’s more organic than revivalist. 

“People often ask us to describe our sound,” says Russell, “and we’re always at a little bit of a loss because we all bring so many different subtleties to the music, but I would say that ‘unexpected’ is often a good word to sum it up.” Po’ Girl plays at 8:30 pm Sunday, Nov. 15, at Sam Bond’s. 21+. $10. — Vanessa Salvia

Music for Art’s Sake

There’s a lot of joy in Feral Harmonic, the second album from Old Canes, the mostly solo project of Appleseed Cast frontman Chris Crisci. It’s not the first emotion you might expect from a multi-intrumental folkish album with song titles like “Stuck” and “Under,” but there it is, rummaging through verses and choruses and leaving a giddy mark on Crisci’s melodies. Feral Harmonic was years in the making, but it doesn’t sound like Crisci ever got tired of his rambunctious, layered songs, which sometimes resemble the anthemic, heart-swelling bombast of the Arcade Fire recast and molded into a more down-home shape. “Next Flood” begins like a National song, with a tentative, simple guitar and spare, snappy drum part;  “Little Bird Courage” swells anxiously, joyously, up to the point when Crisci repeats, confidently, “When I’m thirsty / You are the fountain / In the face of danger / I am unafraid.” It’s a love song that replaces yearning with certainty. The following song, “Trust,” has a lonesome-dusty-West vibe that it shakes off with a tinny piano that comes and goes — and with a chorus full of backing vocals. There are nine other musicians credited on Feral Harmonic, and as the album carries on, it begins to feel like the product of a group of friends, holed up in the cold and making music for fun, for art, for the way it makes them feel. Pushing play is like opening the door. Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons and Old Canes play at 9 pm Thursday, Nov. 19, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Molly Templeton 

Electric Six Set to Kill

Hailing from Detroit as they do, it’s no surprise that Electric Six makes rock plus — rock and roll plus garage, punk and New Wave all rolled into a dirty disco ball. Their sixth album, Kill, is easily the most aggressive output from this band, the ones who gained a bit of fame with the 2003 hits “Gay Bar” and “Danger! (High Voltage).” Who could have predicted that their star would still be bright, six albums and seven years after their formation?

Their songs are (still) about nothing substantial — dancing, machismo, drinking, sex. Sex, mostly. But in addition to that, the Electric Six M.O. seems to be to have as much fun as possible while crashing the dance floor. Just listen to the lyrics: “It doesn’t matter how you sing along, just sing along!” (from “The Newark Airport Boogie). It’s tempting to simply let their lyrics tell the story of Electric Six, but that would be like only reading one chapter (of a cheap, short, pulpy novelette, but still). The band gloms every genre of music from Kiss to Fountains of Wayne into each song. With Kill, they have taken the production a step beyond their past efforts, with thicker, heavier and darker swirls of electronica and disco rock beats. Everything has a punch line; every gesture is timed for comic effect and maximum swagger. Kill is obnoxious, preposterous and never lets up for a moment. Electric Six, The Gay Blades, Millions of Brazilians and On the Tundra play at 9 pm Saturday, Nov. 14, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. — Vanessa Salvia

Old Stories Retold

Faun Fables are the quintessential acquired taste, a band that lands someplace between traditional folk music, ambient weirdness and neo-folk, a genre classified by its weird preoccupation with medieval sounds and mythology. And there is a medieval element to this music. Part madrigal, part Gregorian chant, part ’60s protest folk à la Joni Mitchell, Faun Fables’ sound combines acoustic plucking and sweet soprano harmonies with eerie bouts of chanting, singing saw, xylophone, wooden flutes and a myriad of ambient sounds as well: someone knocking at the door, say, or water being poured into a glass. Simultaneously ethereal and earthy, grounded and whimsical, founder and frontwoman Dawn McCarthy’s surreal manner of storytelling feels like listening to a series of re-imagined Grimm fairy tales. The theatrical element to McCarthy’s music is not just conjecture: Her 2006 album, The Transit Rider, is a concept album based on a play of the same name. Collaborating with Will Oldham, the brains behind Bonnie Prince Billy, raised McCarthy’s profile considerably, but at the moment, she’s working with longtime collaborator Nils Frykdahl (of co-headliner Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) and Matt Waldron (Nurse With Wound) to write a series of EPs about tending to the home. Traditional folk song fodder, sure, but after hearing 2008’s A Table Forgotten, the first EP in the series, it’s safe to say that McCarthy’s take on homemaking is a decidedly modern one. Faun Fables and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum play at 9 pm Friday, Nov. 13, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. —Sara Brickner