June, 2010 Archives

30
Jun

Prison Gray Soundtrack (Sick for the Big Sun)

by Lefort in Music

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A shocker.  Another drab, dreary day in Santa Barbara in June.  And so, naturally, we think of prison songs.  We remain under gray lock and key, and sick for the big sun.

Our first thoughts are of the Prisonaires, a group formed by five inmates at Tennessee State Penitentiary, and their song Just Walkin’ In the Rain.  They recorded the song for Sun Records in ’53 under armed guard following a special leave granted by their biggest fans, the Governor of Tennessee and the prison warden.  In this song the Prisonaires sing of those that skeptically eye them from “the window”:

“People come to windows
They always stare at me
Shaking their heads in sorrow
Saying, who can that fool be?”

The song captures well the longing for the prisoners’  lives and loves before the Big House:

“Just walkin’ in the rain
Getting soaking wet
Torturing my heart
By trying to forget”

Check it out.

The Prisonaires–Just Walkin’ In the Rain

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In a similar vein, David Ackles great inmate song, Down River, was given a stunning reading by Elton John and Elvis Costello two years ago on the first episode of Costello’s “Spectacle” show.   Elton covering Ackles’ might seem strange at first, but it turns out Ackles co-headlined with John at the Troubadour in 1973 in Elton’s debut American performance.    In Down River, Ackles wrote of the heartache of an ex-con confronting the loss of his love, Rosie.

Check the song’s grievous lyrics and the John/Costello killer cover below.

“Good to see you again, Rosie
I know I’ve changed a lot since then
You’re lookin’ fine, babe

Three years that ain’t long, Rosie
I still remember our song
When you were mine, babe

Times change, times change I know
But it sure moves slow
Down river when you’re locked away

Hey why didn’t you write, Rosie?
I stayed awake most every night
Countin’ my time babe

Oh no I ain’t mad Rosie
I know you had to mind your dad
But just a line babe

Oh sure I remember Ben
Why we went all through school
Is that right?
Well he ain’t no fool

He’s a good man Rosie
Hold him tight as you can
Don’t ask me why babe

Yeah nice seein’ you again Rosie
Me I got things to do
Well good-bye babe

Chorus”

And finally, we give you the more modern, deceptively upbeat (the lyrics mournfully  cross-cut the beat) Countdown (Sick for the Big Sun) by Phoenix.  Phoenix is coming soon to the SB Bowl and are avowed to be wowing live.   In Countdown, the band assays the inevitable loss of youth’s bright big sun.  We are sick for the big sun.

“Countdown unless you’re juvenile let’s go
God bless your miss somewhere
We’re sick for the big sun
It doesn’t matter what you did
and if you did it like you been told

True and everlasting that’s what you want
True and everlasting that’s what you want

Don’t say no your breakfast tears are gone
Resist or let go, you’re borderline withdrawn
Down, unlit from the bottom there is a misfit
Better than it looks, better than it looks
Better than it looks, better than it looks

We’re sick
We’re sick for the big sun
We rumble and trip
I realize that too

Hear the lonesome bell, is this knowledge?
Ask forgiveness you know somewhere
You’re fixed to an atom
It doesn’t matter what you did
And if you did it right let’s go

Cruel and everlasting that’s what you want
Cruel and everlasting that’s what you want

Don’t say no your breakfast tears are wrong
Do you remember when 21 years was old?
Down unlit does it matter that you care the less?
Better than it looks, better than it looks
Better than it looks, better than it looks

We’re sick
We’re sick for the big sun
We rumble and trip
I realize that too

True and everlasting, it didn’t last that long
We’re the lonesome, we’re the lonesome yell
True and everlasting, it didn’t last that long”

Phoenix–Countdown (Sick for the Big Sun)

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29
Jun

Soundtrack for Drizzle Day

by Lefort in Music

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Another day, another drizzle.  Must be June in Santa Barbara.

To match the mood, we give you Lorn’s Cherry Moon.

This month Lorn released his “Nothing Else” record on Flying Lotus’s newly-enabled label, Brainfeeder.  Highly recommended for the complexities and range of emotions captured in the electrons of Lorn’s electronica.

Set against this relentless grayness, Cherry Moon emotes “Blade Runner” with swelling string-synth melody and syncopated beats.  We hear breakbeat-techno apparitions yearning for something that just won’t come.  Perhaps the sun.  Perhaps a cherry moon.

Lorn–Cherry Moon

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25
Jun

First Song–Charlie Haden and Quartet West

by Lefort in Music

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As mentioned before, we love the jazz music.  And as you can hopefully also tell, we love songs.  Especially worthy “first songs.”

There are a few musical moments in one’s life that can stick with you forever and cling to your soul.

For us, we will confess that those moments are far fewer in strictly instrumental music.  Faure’s sweet  Pavane, Claudio Arrau’s heart-rending recording of Brahm’s posthumous Sonata in B-Flat Major, and portions of Keith Jarret’s “Koln Concert” come to mind (though there are others, our mind’s a bit foggy during the World Cup proceedings).

But the jazz song that is embedded forever in our list of favorite songs, and that has stuck with us since we first heard it twenty-some years ago, is Charlie Haden’s beautiful First Song (for Ruth) as recorded with Quartet West and featuring the soulful saxophone genius of Ernie Watts.

Charlie Haden wrote an enduring beauty which has been covered by Stan Getz, Abbey Lincoln and others since it first appeared on Quartet West’s 1988 “In Angel City.” It was the first song Charlie wrote for his  wife, Ruth Cameron, whom he married in 1989 and has acknowledged “saved my life” (from heroin addiction amongst other afflictions).   And so it sounds in First Song.  One hears a relatively simple, but haunting melody, that moves through many moods:  from heavyhearted torment, to anger, to soulful wonderment, perhaps, of a saving second chance.

And in the Quartet West recording heard below, Ernie Watts sees this song in all its beauty and raises it one (perhaps two).

Charlie Haden and Quartet West–First Song (for Ruth)

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22
Jun

The Second King Cole

by Lefort in Music

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First there was Nat.  And then there was Lloyd.  The Kings of Cole.

We have been huge fans of Lloyd Cole since his “Rattlesnakes” record first came out in the Darker Ages (1984 for you Orwell and Bowie fans).   Cole made quite a commotion back then and in the 90s with his jangle-pop, crafty songwriting and literate lyrics.  Since then, he has released additional great records, though arguably not at the level of his earlier years.

But never count out a great artist.  We were reminded of Lloyd recently when listening to Believer magazine’s annual music issue and Cole’s included one-off song, Coattails, came on. On first listen, you recognize the voice but aren’t drawn in completely by the song.  Repeated listens, however, leave you recognizing the brilliance, artistry and delivery of  Lloyd King Cole, who has been doing it on and off for 27 years.  For those who are Cole-savvy, Coattails is done more in the style of Cole’s under-appreciated “Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe” record, and in particular its croonier, cabaret-esque second side (though with less production).  We love the piano’s relaxed, eloquent intro to this song, followed by Cole’s lament for another soul, and his seeming gut-check of his prior offerings (of all sorts) and his resolve that “you have yet to read my defining works.”  This previously unreleased song is articulate and soulful and harkens back to another era.

So listen in below, and if you haven’t heard Lloyd Cole (gasp!), we include a couple of our favorites from his earlier discography.  We can’t wait for his “defining works” given what he’s already delivered.

“Couldn’t get arrested
So you went and stole a car
And now you say that it was me
Who drove you where you are

Got out of the city
Everyone agreed
The life that you were living
It wasn’t healthy

And now it’s
One more piece of paper
Flying through the air
Are these your waste paper basket diaries?
And you wont get to the future
In that old time machine
But if you climb in back
We could take you a little while

And then again

Written for kicks
Paid by the line
Straight from the sticks
To the beginning of Time
Who wouldn’t want to raise a glass to that?

And I may be drunk
But this is no church
And you have yet to read
My defining works
I’m getting close
I’m closing on the final scene

And now it’s
One more piece of paper
Flying through the air
Are these my waste paper basket diaries?
And I know that I wont get to the future
In thisold time machine
But if I climb in back
You could take me a little while

And then again
And then again”

Lloyd Cole–Coattails

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Lloyd Cole–Rattlesnakes

Pertinent lyrics:

“She is less than sure if her heart has come to stay in San Jose
And her neverborn child still haunts her
As she speeds down the freeway
As she tries her luck with the traffic police
out of boredom more than spite
She never finds no trouble she tries too hard
She’s obvious despite herself”

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Lloyd Cole–Forest Fire

Pertinent lyrics:

“She crossed herself as she put on her things
She has promised once before not to live this way
If she don’t calm down she will burn herself out
Like a forest fire well doesn’t that make you smile”

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Lloyd Cole–Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?

Well are ya?

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All lyrics written by Lloyd Cole and published by Chrysalis Music.


20
Jun

On Father’s Day

by Lefort in Poetry

Bob Hicok is one of America’s finest contemporary poets.  We have been drunk on his poetry of working folks, family, beauty and humankind.  He covers the entire emotional waterfront–from the sailor agonizingly missing the last saving line that would pull him to shore, to the Chaplin-esque figures tumbling humorously into life’s rich harbors, Hicok throws his net wide.

Elizabeth Gaffney, in the New York Times Book Review, described his skills as being “somewhere . . . between those of the surgeon and the gods of the foundry and convalescent home: seamlessly, miraculously, his judicious eye imbues even the dreadful with beauty and meaning.”

On this day, we read and re-read his hilarious and touching poem, Oh my pa-pa.

O my pa-pa

by Bob Hicok

Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop.
They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs
and wives. We thought they didn’t read our stuff,
whole anthologies of poems that begin, My father never,
or those that end, and he was silent as a carp,
or those with middles which, if you think
of the right side as a sketch, look like a paunch
of beer and worry, but secretly, with flashlights
in the woods, they’ve read every word and noticed
that our nine happy poems have balloons and sex
and giraffes inside, but not one dad waving hello
from the top of a hill at dusk. Theirs
is the revenge school of poetry, with titles like
“My Yellow Sheet Lad” and “Given Your Mother’s Taste
for Vodka, I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Mine.”
They’re not trying to make the poems better
so much as sharper or louder, more like a fishhook
or electrocution, as a group
they overcome their individual senilities,
their complete distaste for language, how cloying
it is, how like tears it can be, and remember
every mention of their long hours at the office
or how tired they were when they came home,
when they were dragged through the door
by their shadows. I don’t know why it’s so hard
to write a simple and kind poem to my father, who worked,
not like a dog, dogs sleep most of the day in a ball
of wanting to chase something, but like a man, a man
with seven kids and a house to feed, whose absence
was his presence, his present, the Cheerios,
the PF Flyers, who taught me things about trees,
that they’re the most intricate version of standing up,
who built a grandfather clock with me so I would know
that time is a constructed thing, a passing, ticking fancy.
A bomb. A bomb that’ll go off soon for him, for me,
and I notice in our fathers’ poems a reciprocal dwelling
on absence, that they wonder why we disappeared
as soon as we got our licenses, why we wanted
the rocket cars, as if running away from them
to kiss girls who looked like mirrors of our mothers
wasn’t fast enough, and it turns out they did
start to say something, to form the words hey
or stay, but we’d turned into a door full of sun,
into the burning leave, and were gone
before it came to them that it was all right
to shout, that they should have knocked us down
with a hand on our shoulders, that they too are mystified
by the distance men need in their love
Source:  Poetry (2007)
19
Jun

Parrot No More–Birds and Bands of Another Color

by Lefort in Music

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In recent posts, we have derided some young bands’ blatant copying of the sounds and styles of more artful artists, and failing to add to or alter such sounds to make them their own.

Listen below to a smattering of young bands who have bucked that trend. These bands have incorporated in their songs some of the sounds and motifs of The Arcade Fire, but haven’t just provided mere effluent effigies thereof.  Their songs are instructive as to how to properly borrow and how to do it well.

And while we’re on The Arcade Fire subject, give their new 12″ a spin (way below) before their new record, “The Suburbs,” is released on August 3rd.

But first listen to the bright promise and new fire heard in the young bands below.

We have seen The Middle East live twice, and each time their song, Blood, has been the highlight of the show. This Queensland, Australia band shows great promise.

The Middle East–Blood

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Next up are Givers and their song, Saw You First.. Givers hails from Francophonic Lafayette, Louisiana so their raising up of Montreal’s Arcade Fire is understandable.

Givers–Saw You First

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Comes now Typefighter (from Washington, DC) and their strong song, Ocean Floor.

Typefighter–Ocean Floor

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Brooklyn’s own Here We Go Magic bring their necromancy to their song, Collector.

Here We Go Magic–Collector

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And last, but certainly not least, is LA’s Local Natives’ and their worldly song, World News.

Local Natives–World News

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And now, from the source themselves, two great new songs from The Arcade Fire (click the arrow on left below 45 rpm):

18
Jun

Cover Your Tracks

by Lefort in Music

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We have always enjoyed cover songs.  Sometimes a cover has enthralled because of a great, altered delivery of a great song heard previously.  At other times a cover has entailed a known artist deftly divulging an unknown artist’s worthy song.  And sometimes a cover is simply a joyous homage to a great song.

One of our favorite bands (particularly live), Nada Surf, recently released a new studio record, “If I Had a Hi-fi” (a palindrome), consisting completely of cover songs.   Listen below to their ebullient delivery of one of our favorite Go-Betweens’ songs, Love Goes On, and then check out their cool cover of a Spoon song we had not heard, The Agony of Lafitte.

Nada Surf–Love Goes On

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Nada Surf–The Agony of Lafitte

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Amongst our other favorite covers, we have to mention Cat Power and her “The Covers Record” (which recently was sequeled by Ms. Marshall).  Listen below to Cat Power’s great re-invention of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction and then check out her beautiful rendering of a comparatively unheralded song, I Found a Reason, by Lou Reed while with the Velvet Underground.

Cat Power–Satisfaction

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Cat Power–I Found a Reason

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And finally, check out one of our favorite recorded songs of all time:  Andrew Bird’s haunting rendition of the somewhat obscure Handsome Family’s song, Don’t Be Scared.

We hear the mix of all human emotions in this song, from melancholia to joyous wonder.   We sense desultory solitude set against the calling from others and the birth of new days.  Were it not for the phone call, we might have inferred Paul in a Roman cell.   Bird has delivered one of the great covers of all time.  Check it out below.

“When
Whenever Paul
thinks of rain
swallows fall
in a wave
and tap
on his windows
with their beaks

And when Paul
thinks of snow
soft winds blow
’round his head
and the phone
rings just once
late at night
like a bird
calling out,
“Wake up, Paul.
Don’t be scared,
don’t believe you’re all alone.”

“Wake up, Paul,”
whisper clouds rolling by
and the seeds

falling from the branches
and they’re out from the branches
and they’re
falling from the branches of the trees

out from the branches
falling from the branches
and they’re
falling from the branches
of the trees”

Andrew Bird–Don’t Be Scared

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17
Jun

New Pornographer Destroyer

by Lefort in Music

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OK, now that we have your attention….

The New Pornographers recently released their fifth record, “Together,” and it is provocatively revealing (in a sub-pornographic way).  This “supergroup” consisting of Carl “A.C.” Newman, Dan Bejar and Neko Case has given us some of the best post-millennium pop records to date, and Together is no exception.  Despite the ridiculous group moniker (sidebar:  this is one of the dangers of jokingly adopting an asinine name and then being stuck with it as public awareness pigeonholes you), this is one of the most talented musical collectives currently extant.  And each of the NP’s solo members’ projects are well worth your effort as well.  A.C. Newman’s perfect, off-kilter, math-pop records, “The Slow Wonder” and “Get Guilty,” are wonders.  And Neko Case’s stellar reverb-enriched vocals and records are universally critically-acclaimed (our pick being her 2002 “Blacklisted” record, but every one worthy).

But the band’s new Together recording is somewhat unique in the band’s ouevre because some of the best moments on the record are not delivered by Newman or Case, but instead by Dan Bejar.  We have been huge fans of Dan Bejar and his Destroyer band since the beginning of this century.  Destroyer’s “This Night” and “Destroyer’s Rubies” records are amongst our favorites, consisting of Bejar’s usual cryptic-poetic lyrics, early-70’s Bowie stylistics and stunning melodies.

Check out Bejar on Together’s Daughters of Sorrow and on a few great Destroyer songs.

The New Pornographers–Daughters of Sorrow

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On Destroyer’s This Night the band is in melodious form and a perfect example of Bejar’s lyricism is laid out:

They led us on
They said it would be yours
Tear down the borders, stop patrolling the shores
Let us in

We wrote a winter song
Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on
Don’t shelve the opera
You’ve been working this long on it
Twelve years on the east side
And still so house proud

All the neighberhood angels
Are humming the songs [hum along]
To themselves again
Oh they seem to think that when you show up
You’d look good in somebody’s arms

Oh, you should have been a clerk
You should have stayed a stranger
You should have just done the work
But it’s too late now school’s out

Wildcats – you were supposed to go wild
Butchers – you shouldn’t be obsessed with a child
Now Diorama Pete thinks he just sunk the fleet
Much like him you know I live to be cornered
So come on

Hey, Easterner, open your mouth
Don’t speak in tones
I know there’s beauty in the bones of the dam that burst
I know you look good in the shadow of the diamond monger’s thirst
But get out

To the west there is an ocean
There is a mountain on the right
Now will you walk away
Or take the blame for the unfortunately named
Children of this day; children of this night”

Destroyer–This Night

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And on Destroyer’s Holly Going Lightly, we love how the song gets heavier and yet manages to lift off at second :19.  And the closing refrain and coda kill.  We also favor the first stanza’s obliquely brilliant lyrics (“I am ravening”!! and “Like deciphering what it means when the band goes “DooRah DooRah DooRah DooRah!”–pot-calling-the-kettle-black kinda thing).

Check out the full lyrics and enjoy below:

“I was stark… I was ravening…
I was idle in spring, and it felt good…
I was fashioned after something made of wood, that I shouldn’t have done…
Some girls got guns…
And some get into running favors for the Queen,
Like deciphering what it means when the band goes –
“DooRah DooRah DooRah DooRah!”

I was ‘bedsit’ and reviews were rave…
I dug your poetry a grave and it felt good…
I was modeled after something made of wood, that I shouldn’t have done…
Some boys build guns…
And some have built the running errands for the King
like making out the words when the band goes –
“DooRah DooRah DooRah DooRah!”

Hey there, pretty flower…
Get yourself together…
Mama’s been looking for you,
But mama should know better.

I was silver… I was gold…
I watched Holly going lightly down the road…”

Destroyer–Holly Going Lightly

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Oh and here’s the great Sweet Talk from Together featuring Newman and Case

The New Pornographers–Sweet Talk

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16
Jun

Real Vile Woods and Estates–The Woodsists

by Lefort in Music

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Comes now a rare, merciful Monday in Clubland, and mercifully close to our clubhouse. So we rambled down to Jensen’s Mainstage, sucked in by the musical black hole to the black box that is the Mainstage, for the Woodsist label’s grove of bands.

First up was Philly’s Kurt Vile, circa solo acoustic.  We’ve witnessed performers who can still pull this act off (Tom Brosseau, wherefore art thou?; and Eef Barzelay, we anxiously await your return with open arms), but after all that has passed in the solo acoustic millennia, you had better bring the creative forces of Genesis (not the band, even with Gabriel–sans horn) or we’ll be outside.  Mr. Vile had some clever wordplay and invoked some good guitar sounds, but only occasionally transcended the confines of the genre or space.  So off to the sidewalk we went to survey the saturnaliasts and constellations.

Next up was Woodsist’s Woods band.  We have heard Woods tracks intermittently over the years and, frankly, until now we have never really gotten lost in them.  But this night we found ourselves sucked in from the sidewalk for the white pop-noise of Woods.  Woods’ latest record, “At Echo Lake,” is their finest yet, with sparkling, dulcet songs aplenty.   The Woods’ sound combines a psych-folk gestalt (they played Big Sur ferheavensake), with jangly, fuzztone guitars and the fecund falsetto vocals of Jeremy Earl (think love-child born of Neil Young and Graham Nash genetics), and the floor-delivered knob-twiddling and vocoder overlays of wolfman G. Lucas Crane.  Tonight we favored the melodies and Earl’s falsetto flourishes, and didn’t mind a bit of Crane’s effects.  Next time around, we’ll hope the band sticks to its more-carefully constructed songs, manages to rein in some of Crane’s noise-for-noise’s-sake affectations and skips most of the jammy, instrumental meanderings.  Yes, life is too short, and we have avoided the drugs that would have made the repetitive bombast more meaningful (sadly).  If they can rein it in a bit, Woods could clear-cut its competition.

Check em:

Following Woods, headliners Real Estate took the stage.  Hailing from Jersey, the much-vaunted Real Estate brought their own brand of melodic pop to the stage.  Real Estate is lead by horn-rimmed Martin Courtenay and, combined with Mathew Mondanile, delivers looping, tuneful, twin-guitar songs of suburbia and surf. The band manages in its songs to deftly describe the sense and sensibilities of the suburbia state of mind (the “Suburban Dogs” refrain entices: “suburban dogs are in love with their chains”).  Having escaped Orcutt, we know from suburbia.  In addition to playing songs from its eponymously entitled debut record, Real Estate bore a batch of new numbers that matched or raised the debut’s ante.  We especially enjoyed the band’s live delivery this night on Fake Blue, Swimmers and Beach Comber.   We can’t say that the band matched the hype, and we hope they will develop more stage presence (Courtenay’s mid-set dispensing with his glasses ain’t gonna cut it), but Real Estate has a sweet pop sound with fine songs that bode well for the band’s future.

Check ’em out.

15
Jun

Chief Amongst Us–But Heading in Your Musical Direction

by Lefort in Music

After driving home from deep Los Angeles last night, we meandered down to Muddy Waters for the seemingly daily dosage of Club Mercy.  Have Mercy!

We were chiefly there to see Chief, the opener for Brooklyn-resident April Smith and the Great Picture Show.  Having seen Chief open for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in March (see March 14th post), we were clammoring to catch them again.  At Muddy Waters they confirmed that if musical justice can be found in this great land, they will be breaking onto iPods and airwaves everywhere this summer and after.

Comprised of singer/guitarist Evan Koga (above right), siblings Danny (2nd from right; guitar/vocals) and Michael Fujikawa (2nd from left; drums/vocals), and Mike Moonves (on left; bass/vocals), Chief took the floor at the Muddy and held sway for a stunning set of well-crafted and delivered songs.   What struck us for the second time were the four-part harmonies and forceful, driving sound of the cohesive ensemble that at times recalls (but updates and is distinguished from) The Band, CSN&Y, Love, and other great 70’s bands.  Koga sings lead vocals on a majority of the songs and his delivery laudably limns Dylan and Petty.  Danny is the other main voice of Chief and his comparatively understated, but choice vocals perfectly bookend Koga’s, while delivering chiming guitar flourishes via his ES-137 hollowbody Gibson.  Mike Moonves plays virtuosic bass and provides signature harmony vocals.  And Michael provides alternately driving and deft drums while supplying an emphatic fourth voice.   As always, a band’s songs are where the proverbial rubber meets the road, and Chief’s songs are multi-melodic, filled with passionate ensemble musicianship, with laden and lifting lyrics and tales worth telling.

We spoke with Danny and Michael before their set and were struck by their engaging intellect (they formed while all attending New York University) and graciousness.  They could not hide their excitement to be headlining the next night at the Troubadour and to head out on a summer tour of European festivals before returning to the States

Owing perhaps to the Lakers/Chowderheads game and the other pulls of Sunday, the Muddy housed a smaller, more intimate crowd on Sunday.  Despite its size, the audience was vocal and enraptured throughout Chief’s set and at end stomped, cheered and demanded an encore from these openers (a great song off of their phenomenal first EP, “The Castle is Gone”).

At the end, Chief proudly announced that their first longplayer, “Modern Rituals,” will be released by Domino Records on August 17th.  Be ready to buy it and enjoy.

We gave headliners, April Smith and the Great Picture Show a good listen, but they weren’t our cup of tea (we’ll give April her incredible vocals and the band its able accompaniment).  For the first time so far the Brooklyn spell was broken.

Once again we observed major headliner/opener dyslexia.   We predict Chief will be headlining to good crowds the next time they come to town.

Check ’em out.

Chief–Your Direction

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