Infinite Shuffle

September 27, 2011

84 – Wye Oak

Filed under: Baltimore, W — assman41 @ 4:43 pm

When I first saw Wye Oak perform at SXSW earlier this year, I described their style as something along the lines of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. — even though I’ve never really listened to a ton of stuff from either band.

Apparently, I must not have been too far off, since they played the songs of Dinosaur Jr. during a special tribute show a few months ago.

But after finally listening to all of their albums several times through, I realize Wye Oak’s sound is much deeper and more complex. Mike Powell of Pitchfork described it best in his review of the band’s debut release, If Children …

“… earnest folk-influenced indie rock with touches of noise and dream-pop.”

Wye Oak – I Don\’t Feel Young

Named after the former state tree of Maryland, Wye Oak is the Baltimore duo of Andy Stack (drums, keyboards, backup vocals) and Jenn Wasner (vocals, guitars).

The formed in 2006 under the name Monarch before eventually changing their moniker. The released their debut independently in 2007 and re-released it a year later after signing with Merge Records. Their second release, The Knot, came out in 2009, followed by an EP, My Neighbor/My Creator, in 2010 and a third full-length album, Civilian, earlier this year.

There really aren’t any bad tracks on any of Wye Oak’s albums, but the latest release might be the most solid all the way through. My favorite tracks include “The Alter”, “Holy Holy”, “Dogs’ Eyes” and “Fish”.

Wye Oak – Holy Holy

I just discovered that the band will be in Chicago on Dec. 6 as a supporting act — along with Local Natives — for The National, one of my favorite bands. I very much want to go to this show.

For now, go listen to some tunes at their MySpace page.

September 20, 2011

83 – The Cave Singers

Filed under: C, Seattle — assman41 @ 5:49 pm

Considering the long odds, most musicians would consider themselves extremely lucky if they ever reach a national level of acclaim.

More rare is the artist who can build an audience with multiple bands. That’s what makes the career of Derek Fudesco so impressive.

Beginning in the mid-’90s with Murder City Devils, then with Pretty Girls Make Graves and now with The Cave Singers, the Seattle-based musician has helped put three separate and disparate bands on the map.

While Devils (garage rock) and Pretty Girls (art rock) are/were solid in their own right, The Cave Singers are the group that most tickles my fancy. I’d heard of them before, but didn’t give them a second thought until a friend recently suggested I listen to them.

From the first song, “Seeds of Night”, the opener on 2007’s Invitation Songs, I knew I was gonna like these guys.

The Cave Singers – Seeds of Night

In addition to Fudesco, the indie folk-rock trio includes Pete Quirk and Marty Lund. Forming in 2007, they’ve put out three albums — including 2009’s Welcome Joy and this year’s No Witch.

The Cave Singers – Hen of the Wounds

While everyone in the group sings, Quirk is the main vocalist. His influences are hard to pinpoint, but at times he sounds like Billy Corgan trying to sing folk-rock.

The Cave Singers – Gifts and the Raft

According to their record label website, the band will be in Chicago on Oct. 1 — at a pretty sweet-looking free festival, no less. Alas, I’ll be working that day. Perhaps next time.

September 8, 2011

82 – Portugal. The Man

Filed under: P, Portland — assman41 @ 4:08 pm

Usually, by the time I sit down to write about a band, I’ve formed some sort of opinion about it, one way or another.

But after multiple listens to several albums by Portugal. The Man, I’m still not sure where I stand on the group. The four-piece from Portland puts out some quality music, but it doesn’t exactly grab me like I wish it would.

The difficulty in embracing the group’s sound is that it fluctuates through different genres while being rooted in progressive, psychedelic rock.

As I typed those words, I was listening to a song that perfectly encapsulated that ethos — “My Mind”, from the 2007 album, Church Mouth.

Portugal. The Man – My Mind

Portugal. The Man formed in 2002 in Wasilla, Alaska. They moved to Portland to be a part of the burgeoning music scene there — and presumably to get far away from the Palin family.

They put out their debut full-length disc, Waiter: “You Vultures!”, in 2006 and have released at least one album each year since.

“Ever since we first started, this is exactly what we wanted to do,” said lead singer John Baldwin Gourley, according to the band bio on Amazon. “An album a year, tour, and always challenge ourselves by pushing in different directions and trying to do things we haven’t done before.”

In 2009, they had a pair of releases on the same day — The Satanic Satanist and The Majestic Majesty. The former includes the single, “People Say”, which I heard for the first time earlier this year. The first couple of listens, I thought maybe Oasis had reunited.

Portugal. The Man – People Say

This past July, the group put out its seventh full-length disc, In the Mountain in the Cloud. I picked it up at a record store during a recent trip to St. Louis, and, having listened to four of the band’s albums, I can say it’s definitely the best and most accessible to date.

Judging by the band’s name and album artwork, it’s clear the members are a little off the beaten path. And that shows up in the rather lengthy titles given to many of the tracks on the latest album.

The strongest songs include “Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujahs)”, “Floating (Time Isn’t Working My Side)”, “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” and “Share With Me the Sun”.

But it’s the opening track that grabbed my attention immediately while hearing it at a listening station. “So American” sounds like something straight out of ’70s prog-rock — maybe similar to Rush, but probably more like some other band I can’t think of.

Portugal. The Man – So American

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