Light of the Stereo

Light of the Stereo

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Double Shot: Lana Del Rey - "Born To Die" (2012) & "Paradise"(2013)

Lana Del Rey

Born To Die / Paradise

Polydor / Interscope

Lusciously meticulous, Lana Del Rey's Born To Die is a hypnotic masterpiece. Ripe with silky vocals and a boldly symphonic instrumentation that seductively caresses the songs' raw subject matter like a high-class escort in a dive bar bathroom. Populated with songs that saunter with back ally magic and sexual energy that borders on crass. Del Rey has given a musical voice to the muses of Bukowski poems and David Lynch films. It's been years since an album has made me ache this bad.

Peppered with stylistic elements that range from vocal jazz to the slightest smatterings of hip hop rhythm this album is able to keep your attention with a sweet auditor diversity. Revealing a richly talented artist who has a wide range of weapons in her arsenal. Through darkly seductive tracks like "Blue Jeans" and "Born to Die" her hauntingly smoky sirens call is arresting.

Unfortunately the follow up album, Paradise, pales in comparison to it's predecessor. Still retaining some of the crowning elements of Born To Die including the haunting vocal lament found in the opening track "Ride".This CD is certainly a lesser product.  Lacking the ground breaking awe factor of her first album. With songs that seem like the BTD studio session leftovers that had potential yet didn’t quite make the final cut. Ultimately rushing  these tracks to market might have robbed them of their greatness.

Also missing from this album is the subtle raw sexual sophistication of its predecessor. Exchanging it for a cheaper crassness that’s only worth seemed to be shock, epitomized in the opening line of “Coke.”

Comparably Born To Die is clearly a more sound collection of material, but I would be remissed if I didn't point out that both albums are clearly the work of an amazing artist and are both worth a listen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday Double Feature: Ed Sheeran "Give Me Love" & The Back Keys "Tighten Up"

"I have, he went on, betrayed myself with belief, deluded myself with love tricked myself with sex." - Charles Bukowski - 5 dollars.

You have to wonder if Chuck was right, have we all got it messed up in our heads what love is really about. Maybe after years of listening to heartbreak on the radio and our stereos we don't know anymore. Either way this week's Tuesday Double Feature is all about the wonderful and maddening mess that love can be.

Ed Sheeran - "Give Me Love"

Personally I have to admit that, Uk based singer songwriter Ed Sheeran, has a few strikes against him. Having worked with Taylor Swift and written songs for One Direction, normally I wouldn't give him a second glance. Thankfully, I can look past most things if the music is good and there is no denying the true mastery of this young man's craft. June will see him playing a few select dates in US and Canada supporting Taylor Swift so unfortunately if you don't have tickets your out of luck but I'm hoping that sometime soon we'll catch hime playing some smaller venues on his own.

The Black Keys - "Tighten Up"

I know The Black Keys are now all over the radio but some of us have loved the band since their first release in 2002. If anything their success, gives me hope that so many other great independent bands will find their place among the mainstream. If those bands are smart, they should take notes from The Black Keys, and work hard and stay hungry because for all their fame and fortune you don't want to become out of touch like U2.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cure for the Mondays: The Sheepdogs - "Feeling Good"

The Sheepdogs - "Feeling Good"

Ninjas, action figures and great music, what more can you ask for?

The crunchy guitar blues-rock of Canada's The Sheepdogs has the lost lovely sound of  60's and 70's groups like The Band. Having earned many honors and awards including 3 Juno Awards in 2012 (Canada's equivalent to the Grammy) and the rare opportunity of being the only unsigned band ever to grace the cover of Rollingstone Magazine these boys are on the fast-track to stardom. Having singed to Atlantic Records  the band released their self-titled album in September of last year. In doing so the band continues their momentous climb to greatness.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

About Last Night: Thundering Asteroids @ Katie O'Brein's 05/24

Last Night’s show at Katie O’Brien’s is a bit of a blur as I roll into work at 5:45 this morning. I’m pretty sure there was a wookiee there, maybe even a slave girl. But to be honest, in my current state of sleep deprivation the only thing I am certain of, is that the music was phenomenal.

Opening the night was the speed and aggression of the Vacillators. A little like angry sex this band’s set was fast, raw and mind blowing fun. Boldly gritty Camille leads this band with a street wise playfulness that’s both refreshing and seductive. Punching through their set with unrelenting focus her band mate were unstoppable work horses. Kids, this is what punk looks like beyond adolescent angst and man is it beautiful. Tempered and honed, the power of this band was undeniable. To all you youngsters out there, you can only hope that your band will grow up to be this good.

Playing next was the always awesome Pitchfork Motorway and if the Vacillators’ set was like going 65 in a 35 then watching these boys was like one of those car chases you see on CNN. As always the boys attacked their songs with a wild abandon without regards to the innocent bystanders in the audience and as one of them I can’t tell you how great that is. Dangerously fun you feel like the worlds going to hop the track at any second and at these speeds who knows what crazy damage might be done. This band knows how to play a boldly tight rock n roll that’s amazing to behold. The two guitar attack of Barry and Shiggy is bold and diverse while the rhythm section of Doug and The Swede impishly play like madmen with explosives. Hands down this band plays faster, harder and with a true grasp of punk rocks emotional fury.

Finally, the Thundering Asteroids! took the mic and went to town. What they lacked in speed they make up in fun. Always to bell of the ball this band played their nerdcore tunes with a playful joy that is highly intoxicating to an audience. Celebrating the addition of their latest drummer (a resource they seem to burn through faster than quarter in an arcade) this band had an amazing set. Playing all the favorites and a few new tracks, the band got us singing along and pumping our fists to all the nostalgia inducing pop references in punk form. Clearly one of my own personal favorite bands currently playing Portland, I was not disappointed. Wild, fun and able to make you feel that all that useless pop knowledge crammed in your head isn’t worthless; I hope this drummer sticks around a while so we can get a few more great shows out of this band this summer.

I’m telling you if your not currently supporting local music, you don’t know what you’re missing because they are the most loyal and appreciative group of people you’ll ever meet. So for those of you that didn’t make it to this show, remember there’s bands playing somewhere in town every night of the week. You just have to pick a show and go.

Friday, May 24, 2013

From the Shelf: Birds of Chicago: Birds of Chicago (2013)

Birds of Chicago
Birds of Chicago
Self Released

The soulful urban-folk of Birds of Chicago's self-titled debut album is as energetic and vibrant as spring.  Lively and danceable, the music of J.T. Nero and Allison Russel is honest and optimistic in a heartfelt manner. Mixing a richly natural feel with a street wise sensibility this album is filled with highly approachable songs.
Built from Nero's urban white-man's blues and finished with Russel's soulful crooning these songs will wash over you like a warm spring breeze. Its sound musical landscapes weaved from organically paired instrumentation giving this duo a comforting aura that's a joy to listen to.  From the playful "Trampoline" to the reflective wail of "The Wide Sea" this record is filled with one wonderful song after another. A personal favorite is the soulful folk of "The Moonglow / Tapeworm" with its laid back tempo and lyrical play. Even the French of "San Souci" seems at perfect harmony amongst the rest of the songs on the album.
Like a sweet dream, this record has been forming in the ether for sometime now, as the occasional collaborations between these two artists developed into something more permanent. With fruit like this we can only hope that this musical marriage has a long and bountiful future ahead of it.     

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Living Room Performance: Sirsy - "Revolution"

Sirsy - "Revolution"

Revolution Hall

Troy, NY


The guitar and drum duo of Sirsy have been rocking their powerful but minimalistic rock n roll for over a decade. Based out of Albany New York this band has extensively toured clubs and venues throughout the Midwest and East Coast and also held opening slots for numerous big name acts.  Awash with their signature two part rock, their latest album Coming Into Frame is finding acclaim and praise. This spring you can catch them touring the West Coast with dates in California, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas.  Unfortunately, we won't be seeing them this far north but there's always hope for their next time around.

From the Shelf: Bleached - Ride Your Heart (2013)

Ride Your Heart
Dead Oceans

The sun baked surf garage of Bleached’s album Ride Your Heart is filled with ruckus summer fun songs. The dream like vocals of Jennifer Calvin floats through these grunge lovely garage tunes like the refreshing breezes through car windows on a night drive. Paired with crunchy phase jangled guitars and tightly precise bare bones percussion these tunes are lighthearted masterpieces.
Energetically fun and danceably pervasive the album effortlessly combines the endless summer carefree nature of California surf with the DYI attitude of an East Coast garage band. Like early Go Go’s, this album might not start an intellectual or emotional revolution but sometimes you need an album that’s just fun, and this one has it in spades. Noteworthy tracks include the driving guitar energy of “Waiting By The Telephone” and "Searching Through The Past”.
Made for house parties or road trips to the coast Ride Your Heart is the perfect soundtrack for the summer of 2013.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday Double Feature: Mandinga "Zaleilah" & Alexandra Stran "Lemonade"

In this week's Tuesday Double Feature we look at pop music as a communicable disease. Like the British invasion and the Beatles lasting effect on American pop music we have had our own effects upon the world's musical landscape. Particular these two Romanian acts who's music and visual styling have clear influences from the likes of Madonna and Janet Jackson. 

Mandinga - "Zaleilah"

Hailing from Bucharest the Romanian pop band Mandinga have been creating their uniqe style of pop since 2002.  With a bold inturmental pallet and wonderfully dancable elements this band takes Madonna like influence to an internationally and more ethnically rich place.On the same note their video for "Zaleilah" has the same stylistic elements of luxury found in "Material Girl".

Alexandra Stran - "Lemonade"

New comer to the scene, Romanian singer Alexandra Stran has been creating sexy pop jewels since 2009. Highly energetic her songs are perfect for the dancefloor with infectiouse rhythyms that will not be denied. Her "Lemonade" video has stylistic elements that clearly pay omage  to Janet Jacksons "Escapade."

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Triple Crown: 05/20 - 06/02

This installment of the Triple Crown has a little bit country and a little bit rock n roll, but is all soul. Filled with some amazing acts this Triple Crown also has a the added bonus of being kind to the billfold. So take your pick or see them all, either way it's a great selection of music to choose from.
Tuesday, May 21st
The Detroit Cobras
Pangea / No Good Lovers
350 W Burnside St
Doors: 8PM / Show: 9:30PM
Adv.: $13 / Day of: $13
21 & Over

If you love music but don't know about The Detroit Cobras, something is drastically wrong. Having spent nearly the last two decades dusting off forgotten soul gems and revitalizing them with a rock perfection only they are capable of, The Detroit Cobras have earned their place as queens and kings of the musical underground.  Rachel Nagy and her band of merry men and women truly do create some of the greatest soul rockin' music around. Live, the band has few equals, bursting with an energy that attacks with the speed and force of a Bruce Lee movie.
Sharing the night is the garage magnificence of Pangea from LA and Portland's own freak rockers the No Good Lovers.Together this show should be a must, and as for the next morning. The week's already half over, why not make the hump worth getting over.       

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Friday, May 24th
Thundering Asteroids!
Pitchfork Motorway / The Vacillators
Katie O'Brien's
2809 NE Sandy Blvd
Show: 9PM
Donation of $3 - $5
21 & Over

Like a good meal, rock shows are always better when bands are perfectly paired. Such is the case with this punk rock show at Katie O'Brien's. The triple threat of these top tier Portland punk bands should make this night memorable. Headlining the festivities is the fabulously fun nerd-core of the Thundering Asteroids!. Righteously energetic their set is always a riot, with songs so drenched in pop culture reference that it's know to cause bouts of 80's retrograde flashbacks. Also on the bill is the all-power, no mess of  Pitchfork Motorway. Their high octane speed rock will red-line your senses and will make you beg for more . While opening the night is the garage tease of The Vacillators with their crunchy guitars and front woman Camille's sultry vocals. If you're looking for good thrills to fill your Friday night I can't think of anything better and the price line is unbeatable.     

Friday, May 31st
Patterson Hood
Mississippi Studios
3939 N Mississippi
Doors: 8PM /Show: 9PM
Adv.: $14 / Day Of: $15
21 & Over

All the best song writers are story tellers at their core. Van Morrison, Ronnie Van Zant, Springsteen and certainly Patterson Hood. As one of the front men for the Drive-By Truckers Hood has brought dignity to character back to Southern Rock. As a solo artist Hood reveals a deeper side with songs that are filled with honest stories that are revealing of the wonderful and at times heartbreaking nature of the human experience. Touring in support of this years earlier release of Heat Lighting Rumbles in the Distance, Hood will be bringing his solo act to the warm environs of our own Mississippi Studios. This rare opportunity should not be missed and with tickets still available you should move fast. Make sure you take a second and check out the interview and review of Heat Lighting Rumbles in the Distance we did earlier this year, and I hope to see you at the show.

Cure for the Mondays: Ripynt - "To The Top"

Ripynt - "To The Top"

I don't know about you but too many Monday morning start like this.

Hailing from Evert Washington, underground hip hop artist Ripynt is a master of rhythm and rhyme. With authentic themes and an approachable deliverance his music can find appeal even is the stanchest of non-rap fans. I recently caught him live and was blown away by his stage presence and energy.Check him out, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Living Room Performance: Fort Frances "How to Turn Back Again"

Fort Frances - "How to Turn Back Again"

Abandoned Grain Silo

Chicago's South Side


Chicago based Fort Frances plays a sun kissed country-folk that swims in a cocktail of breathtaking vocals and warm autumn instrumentation. Well known for their 2011 debut album The Atlas, Fort Frances have been awarded some wonderful opportunists over the last 2 years. Their latest release is last month's Harbour EP which is filled with more their signature musical perfection. Enjoy this unique performance recorded as part of Robert Stockwell's SiLo SiLO web series, that catches bands in the acoustically rich confines of an abandoned grain silo on Chicago's South-side.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Strumophile: ODD Guitars

Based out of Auckland, New Zealand, Odd Guitars is the brainchild of Olaf Diegel, a long-standing Design Engineer with a passion for 3D printing and other state of the art manufacturing technologies.
His line of highly personalize and customizable guitars uses the 3D printing technology of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). SLS is a process that can be used to create highly detailed 3D objects by layering nylon powder that is fused to create the desired shape. Due to it;s creation as a single piece, these guitars have extremely intricate details incorporated into them without the hassle of assembly. Featuring an inner wooden core that links the neck to the bridge. With the choice of Maple and Mahogany  and several hardware options that allows the musician the ability to customize the tone and sustain to suit their desired sound.
With a price tag ranging between $3000 to $4000 (US) these guitars are certainly at the higher end and most likely out of the price range of your typical musician. But their mix of unique art and comparable sound makes this modern masterpieces the dream of any guitar lover.       

Olaf Diegel was kind enough to take the time and talk to BLS about his amazing guitars.

BLS: So why did you choose guitars to use the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology?

OD: I suppose it came about through my life-long interest in music, and the interest I have developed in additive manufacturing over the past 15 years. I was looking for a fun project, just to see if laser sintering had evolved to the level where it could make a real product that needed to withstand quite a bit of force, form the string tension, and would probably lead a relatively rough life on the road. It just seemed a natural link to use a guitar to test the technology, and that worked so well that it spun out into a little side-business.

BLS: Odd Guitars are known for their customization of both design and hardware. Do you personally, have a favorite configuration?

OD: My personal favorite configuration is a pair of TV Jones Classic pickups, probably because of my liking for rockabilly music, and the slightly more aggressive sound they give. For the neck, I have always liked the feel of maple and, because I find you get the best sustain by keeping the neck wood and the body wood the same, I like a maple inner core to the guitar to join the bridge to the neck. There is such a huge range of excellent hardware out there that it’s hard to have a favorite, but I do like the consistent quality I get form Schaller bridges and tuners.
But, for a customer guitar, it’s pretty much whatever they want, as guitars are so individual. And that’s one of the advantages of 3D printing the bodies in that any changes we need to make are done in the digital world, so cost nothing extra,

BLS: What are some of the benefits form a manufacturers and player standpoint both aesthetically and functionally of the guitars built by the SLS process?

OD: The first, and probably biggest, advantage is definitely aesthetic. The more complex a shape, the more 3D printing loves it. Typically, if I was going to make a conventional looking guitar, then there are more cost-effective ways of making them than through 3D printing.
Another big advantage is the ease with which each instrument can be completely customized to the musician. Form the aesthetics, with their name printed into the back of the guitar, or extra scallops for comfort to being able to easily shift the centre of gravity of the guitar to give it the balance they like. So if they like a neck-heavy guitar like an SG, we can shift more weight to the front to give them that weight distribution.

BLS: With the unique design of your instruments how do they hold up to the abuses of playing and the typical physical stresses face by most guitars?

OD: The bodies are made out of nylon, which is about as tough a plastic as you can get. If the body was made out of solid nylon, it would be virtually unbreakable. Of course, in my designs, I include a lot if incredibly fine features and details in the guitar that would be somewhat more fragile but, as I make sure they are always well inside the guitar they are pretty well protected. I have travelled around the world several times with the guitars, just throwing them in a hard-case into the airplane hold and have not had a problem yet.

BLS: You launched Odd Guitar in 2011, what has been some of the highlights your company has experienced since it’s formation?

OD: Though I started the Odd Guitar project in around October 2011, my first big highlight was the first sales in July 2012. It took me over 8 months to get the designs right and I have nice little cemetery of early prototypes at home. But then sales took off and I was selling around 2 guitars a month, which was about as much as I could handle by myself,
So the next big breakthrough came when I partnered with 3D Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of 3D printers, in around November of 2012 for them to take over the manufacture and sales of the guitars through their Cubify network ( ). This will free me up to concentrate on the design of new models and some innovative new features. At this stage, I am still doing assembly of the guitars, but 3D Systems are training up to take over that side of things, which will give me more time to do the fun stuff.
Another highlight would have been winning a Best in Show award at the NAMM show in Anaheim in February 2013. This was a great recognition of the amazing stuff that 3D printing can achieve.

BLS: Where do you see Odd Guitars in the next 5 years?

OD: I’ll probably keep bringing out around 2 new designs a year. This year we’ve already had the Americana and, in a few weeks, I should have the first prototype of my new Steampunk guitar, a Telecaster inspired guitar full of moving gears and pistons.
But the big thing will be trying to develop Odd Guitars into a recognized brand for high-quality custom instruments

 BLS: Are there any artists currently playing Odd Guitars?

OD: The guitars have been played by a few well-known artists including several who used them in live shows at NAMM. These included the guys from great White, and the guys from Boston. They have also been played by Steve Stevens, the guitarist for Billy Idol, and I recently did a 5 string bass for Kenny Lee Lewis form the Steve Miller Band.

BLS: You also create bass guitars, are there additional design elements you have to take in account when dealing with the bass tones?

OD: The biggest challenge with a bass is the added tension of the bass strings and keeping everything rigid enough to not affect the basses sustain. But a nice maple or mahogany inner core takes care of that nicely.

BLS: Currently, the price tag of for one of your instruments runs around $3,000. This puts it out of the price range of the average player. As technology becomes more affordable do you foresee making a more economical model?

OD: It’s a bit of a catch 22… The price is largely driven by the high quality components that make it up. Typically, just a good quality neck and good hardware/pickups/etc. can cost anywhere between $1000 to $1500. Add to that the cost of the body, paint, assembly, etc. and it can add up to an instrument that is expensive to make. So, if we want the instruments to remain ‘high-quality’ then they are unlikely to ever be cheap. When thinking of fully custom instruments, tailor made to the musicians exact specifications, it’s actually not an unreasonable price.
But, technically, as prices of 3D printing technologies come down, there is no reason why we couldn’t make much more economical instruments by using lower cost hardware. But that will be a decision we need to make in terms of whether we are better of remaining a high-quality boutique brand, or a more mass-market brand (or both).

BLS: As a design engineer and professor of mechatronics, you are privy to innovative technologies like SLS. What developing technologies do you feel will be the next to directly affect the musical world?

OD: I think the metal 3D printing technologies have got the potential to make some incredible metal hardware for musical instruments. I also think some of the work going on with 3D printed electronics will also have some interesting musical applications.
But, to me, it’s less about the technologies than about new applications for the technologies. One idea I want to play with this year is for some innovative wind instruments. Because, with 3D printing, you can make shapes that wouldn’t have previously been possible, I want to try making a wind instrument in which I send the air over cavities of different shapes to create unique sounds, and even chords. My first iteration will probably be a flute that can play chords at the same time as the melody.

Letter From the Editor

Kate Nash - Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Dear Faithful follower and one time visitors,

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your support of By the Light of the Stereo. I might have the passion but if no ones reading the site, then it would be pointless. I want to thanks those who have provided posts for the site including my daughter, and long time friend Bob Bemrose. Even the occasional post that I don't have to worry about makes the difference in having the energy to keep this thing going. Finally,  I want to thank all the bands, artists and industry people that have been kind enough to respond to my inquires, provided me with review materials, put me on the list for their shows and have taken their precious time to answered my interview questions. I acknowledge the sacrifices and work that it can entail and I want you to know that I appreciate it.
Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
2013 has gotten off to an awesome start with an overall increase of both posted articles and traffic to the site. We have already surpassed the total number of post for 2011 and have Except for a few hicups we have been able to consistently bring you weekly installments of our Cure for the Mondays and the Tuesday Double Features. We have also had the opportunity to cover some great shows through our About Last Night feature. As the year continues I'm excited about the chances to build  on the great work we have already started.      
In addition to the features we are already running I'm proud to present the first installment of BLS's Strumophile column, a new feature that will profile some unique tools of the musical world. Starting with the amazing guitars created by Odd Guitars the winner of one of this years NAMM Best In Show Awards. Enjoy and I hope that it gets you excited for future installments of Sturmophile.
Thanks again and please continue to visit us at BLS and see all the great things ahead for us.


Mark Lawrence IV
BLS Creator and  Editor.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

About Last Night: Kate Nash @ Mississippi Studios 05/13

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Last night was the most fun I’ve ever had at Mississippi Studios, which is saying a lot for a Monday night show. It helped that it was sold out and the crowd was brimming with excitement at their chance to see Kate Nash, but it’s still a note worthy fact.

Opening the night was the feel good cotton candy guitar pop of Peach Kelli Pop. Their lighthearted garage romp was energetically upbeat and infectiously danceable. There was nothing weighty about this band; they were just having fun up there on stage, and all of us in the audience could tell. Like the sun baked surf rock of the sixties this optimistic set seemed to mimic the beautiful weather outside. Allie Hanlon and her band must dine on sun rays and rainbows because their playing lacked any form of pretention. I admit this music might not save the world but it sure makes you feel good while you’re in it. Peach Kelli Pop was a perfect compliment to the performance awaiting us in Kate Nash. So as an opening act, they did their job stunningly.
Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Now to say that Kate Nash was amazing would be a horrendous understatement, because she was so mush more than that. From the moment she took the stage Nash was an unstoppable ball of energy. Bounding across the stage with all the wonderful joy of a child in a bouncy house; at times you had to wonder if she might not be affected by gravity in the same manner as the rest of us. Projecting a powerful confidence that switched between a sensual punk rock mystic and the lovingly approachable girl next door, Nash filled the night with aggressively preformed songs and laughter inspiring stage banter.

Visually the show was uniquely compelling with the incorporation of a multimedia element that made it feel like a U2 concert, but without the pomp and high ticket prices. Not to be overlooked, Nash’s band was equally energetic throwing themselves into each song with a joyful abandonment. It was clear that they were having the time of their lives and they grew more and more excitable, feeding off the energy of the audience. 
Photo By Mark Lawrence IV

At the end of it all this show was overwhelming to the senses. Visually exciting, energetically tactile, and filled with some unforgettable musical performances, this concert will certainly rank high with all those lucky enough to have caught it. Having had little previous exposure to Kate Nash before the show I can tell you that without a doubt that next time she swings through town, I will certainly be one of the many tucked into the crowd anxious to see her again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Double Feature: James Blake "Retrograde" & First Aid Kit "Blue"

Ripe with a melancholy mystique, this week's Tuesday Double Feature is filled with songs that swim through mournfully organic music and weep beautifully produced melodies.Think the beauty of foreign films with out all the confusing plot twists.

James Blake - "Retrograde"

James Blake croons mournfully beautiful dirges that pull at the heart strings in a way that only marrow scraping pain can do. Blake, like Calvin Harris is one of the British electronic Maestros who has emerged the last few years that melds electronica with compelling songwriter lyrics to create songs with powerful depth and artistic complexity. He recently swung through town in support of his sophomore album Overgrown, released earlier this spring. If you weren't able to catch him, here's to hoping he'll find his way back soon.   

First Aid Kit - "Blue"

The sweetly organic folk harmonies of First Aid Kit are the loving fruit of Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg. Knitted together like ivy vines upon softly curved musical trellises, the complimenting harmonies of the Söderberg sisters make for lovely tunes. Still beaming from the success of last years release of  the The Lion's Roar album, the ladies will spend their summer seeing the UK and parts of Europe.

Monday, May 13, 2013

About Last Night: Saint Warhead @ Branx 05/10

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Last night I experienced my first underground hip hop show and I was fairly surprised by its similarities to your typical rock show. Like most shows the bands started late, the opening acts where equally amazing or mediocre, the mood of the show could have been managed to a more consistent effect by line up choices, and like most shows in Portland, the audience was fickle. Overall though, I had a blast and discovered that for me hip hop is a bit like baseball in the sense that as a recorded media I can take it or leave it but live it’s a uniquely different and captivating beast.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
First to the stage was Tawk Sicc, and though he had some decent beats I wasn’t overly impressed with his performance or energy. Even though it was a short set, he only performed what seemed like a total of 3 songs, spending the rest of his time shouting out the address to his twitter feed and website. Of the few songs he performed I felt all but one lacked any substance relying instead to on self boastful songs about parties with strippers and smoking weed. I know that might be what most main market rap consists of but that’s why it’s deemed soulless and immature. Unfortunately, his final song “Fallen Princess,” was the one that revealed the most of what Tawk Sicc could be. Though yet again about stripper it had the humanistic approach that reminded me of Biz Markie classic “She’s Not Just Another Woman (Monique).” Ultimately, I would have liked to have heard more of these kind of songs, and the truth be told you can tell me your web address a hundred times over but if you don’t blow me away with your music I won’t care enough to check it out.
Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Thankfully the hosting MC, Evert Washington’s, Ripynt must have sense the lack luster mood of the audience, because he rushed the stage and burst into his own little set. The high energy rhymes that assaulted us in the audience were like a cardiac thump direct to the center of our chests. Whimsical and yet honest the rapid fire delivery of his lines was like a pack of black cat fireworks thrown into a kennel of sleeping dogs. It rejuvenated the crowd, drawing them to the stage like moths happy for the warmth of the flames. Thank God for his quick actions. For without them I fear that we as an audience would not have been prepared for the aggressive assault that would follow in the form of Bad Habitat.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Recently I’ve been following Bad Habitat but until this show I hadn’t gotten the chance to see them perform. What a shame, because this band is amazing. A true show stopper, their three-front attack is unrelenting and was the perfect continuation to the building energy of Ripynt’s impromptu set. Driving with an unequaled momentum this band controlled the stage and had the house enthralled. To the fairness of the other bands on the bill they mostly had one poet to their credit while Bad Habitat had three master word smiths at the ready. Some might call that unfair, I just call it brilliant. Add to that the surgical precision of DJ Kut Throat on the turntables and no wonder it seemed like the band had the most numerous following of the night. If you haven’t checked out this band do yourself a favor and pop over to their website or better yet catch their next show with Pharohe Monch at the Hawthorne Theater on June 10th.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
As the show came to its midpoint Quiz Zilla took the stage. Clearly the favorite of ladies in the crowd, Quiz Zilla had the most polished persona of the acts. With a more mainstream than underground feel he certainly played the part of what most might picture as a typical rapper. Musically he was astute, energetic and could play the audience well. I could easily see that of all the bands that preformed Quiz Zilla has the pretence and luck to break into the mainstream market.

Following Quiz Zilla was the most accomplished act of the night, IAME of Portland’s Sandpeople. Tightly polished beats and powerful lines IAME’s set had a bit more mellow tempo and unfortunately due to its place on the bill the crowd was already waning. The music was wonderfully sound and the set performed with professional excellence but the audience was growing impatient for Saint Warhead to take the stage and didn’t give the set the focus that it deserved. I certainly look forward to catching IAME another time where I might see his skill shine a little brighter.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Finally, the time came for Saint Warhead to take the stage and the crowd swelled appropriately. Of all the acts to take the play, Saint Warhead was the most stylistically eclectic, strutting a punk rock aesthetic that was more than just the mohawk. Incorporating live instrumentation, sung vocals and the feats of acrobatic amazement by Soren High this performance was elementally unique and delivered with an energy that rolled over the audience pulling them into the revelry. Highlighting the new album for which we had come to celebrate, proved it was one to take home at all cost.

Overall, what little speed bumps the night had to overcome did not diminish the pure greatness of my first underground hip hop show. If this night is of any indication, Portland’s grassroots hip hop scene might be the most vibrant musical genera presently cultivating in the northwest. So get out of your comfort zone and check out a show or two. If you need some recommendations check out some of the bands I mentioned. You won’t be disappointed.

Cure for the Mondays: Vintage Trouble - "Nancy Lee"

Vintage Trouble - "Nancy Lee"

Vintage doesn't always mean old and dusty.

Like most people, my greatest source of new music is through word of mouth. So after hearing the band Vintage Trouble, I only wished someone had told me about them sooner. Based out of LA, this band is a soul-rock powerhouse that taps the depth of Otis Redding and serves it up with the raw electricity of James Brown. Having spent the better part of the last few years in constant touring, supporting the likes of Joss Stone and playing all the major late night shows the band has made themselves a name. This summer they'll be getting the amazing chance to support not only the Rollingstones but also the Who for a few select dates. If the British gods of rock'n'roll can find a place for this band on their stage, I'm sure that you can find them a place in your heart.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Quick Pick: Saint Warhead @ Branx 05/10

Friday, May 10th
Saint Warhead
IAME / Quiz Zilla / Bad Habitat/ Tawk Sicc
320 SE 2nd Ave
Doors: 8PM
Cover: $5 or $10 with CD
21 & Over

Hip Hop versus zombies, why wouldn't you go to this show? Admit it, you got a thing for the the undead, whether its World War Z, Romero's classic films, or you've just hopped on to the Walking Dead band wagon the mobs of shuffling corpses have your attention. Saint Warhead knows it's true, and with aggressive beats and lethal rhyme attacks he's going to take out as many of the rotting bastards that he can before becoming one himself or eating a bullet.

Celebrating the release of his latest album #Zombie Kisses, Saint Warhead has amassed some of the best hip hop in Portland for the occasion. This should be one of the record books. With a stage set for a  high caliber line-up that includes IAME of the Sandpeople, wise beyond his years Quiz Zilla, Portland's favored sons Bad Habitat, and the suave Tawk Sicc this night might in fact raise the dead. Just to warn you though, don't be surprised if you glimpse one of the cursed among the crowd. Word gets through the graveyard like guts spill through teeth and with no cover for zombie ladies and undead dancers, you might want to keep a tight hold on your brain pan. So take precautions, but don't miss this show and if tonight is the start of the zombie apocalypse make sure to go for the head.     

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

About Last Night: Hurry Up @ Mississippi Studios 05/05

Last night’s show at Mississippi Studios was a showcase of some of the amazing female musicians this city has to offer.

First on deck was the thunderous rock n roll of the Summer Cannibals. The newest group on the bill, this band is truly developing into a local powerhouse. Oozing a boldly aggressive sensuality Jessica Bourdreaux and the crew play their garage dirty tunes with a strutting confidence that builds with each song. Calculating and controlled their performance had a baser feel like a hunter stalking prey. Coordinated guitar attacks and uncanny stage awareness added to the visual aesthetic of their set. While forcefully dive into songs without losing control, proved them to be masters of their art. I swear this band gets better with each show and it’s getting me excited for the release of there debut album, rumored for this July. If you haven’t seen them yet, make it a priority.

Next to the stage were Kim Baxter and her band. Enjoyably confident they performed their dreamy mod rock with a polished crispness that spoke volumes of the experience of these musicians and the bond between them. Radiating a euphoric optimism, Baxter seemed at home on stage and the resulting effect it had on the music was apparent. Beautifully energetic, the clarity of the bands fuzz lovely songs spilled from the stage lightening hearts and limbs while leaving us all doe-eyed for the rock n roll sweetheart that is Kim Baxter. As an audience member it’s nice to see artists that are good at what they do and enjoy doing it. If you loved her in the All Girl Summer Fun Band then make sure you check out her solo material, you won’t be disappointed.

Last up was the local super group Hurry Up. Though the shortest set in the night it truly was the most energetically wild. True to their name, the Hurry Up played fast and furious songs, bringing the punk aesthetic to the night. Trading off vocals between Maggie Vail and Westin Glass gave a unique dynamic to the show making it truly feel like collaboration instead of the Thermals with a different bass player. Musically tight, this band had the work ethic of steam engine punching through one song after another. Ultimately I would have liked to a longer set, but I was happy with what I did see. Hopefully the band will be releasing some material soon, but until then I’ll settle for the occasional show.

Without a margarita or a cerveza I guess it wasn’t much of a Cinco Di Mayo, but with all this good music on stage made for a great Sunday night.

Tuesday Dould Feature: The Black Angels "Better Off Alone" & Cody Bebee &The Crooks " Hold The Line"

Since we focused on opening acts in The Triple Crown, this week's Tuesday double Feature has videos by two of the headlining acts.

The Black Angels - "Better Off Alone"

The murky dredge rock of the Black Angels is thickly atmospheric psychedelic layered on tightly woven fuzz guitars and top heavy rhythm. Touring in support of their latest album Indigo Meadow, the band will be headlining at the Wonder Ballroom with Wall of Death and Hanni El Khatib on Wednesday May 15th. You can find the details in our latest Installment of The Triple Crown.

Cody Bebee & The Crooks - "Hold The Line"

The working class rock n roll of Cody Bebee & The Crooks is thick with blood, sweat and unruly guitar. Built with root elements of blues and down home rock this is the music of the back breaking masses. These are the anthems of those with grease beneath their nails, whiskey in their veins and those who still believe in baseball, apple pie and the American dream. Beebe will be playing the Doug Fir Lounge this Saturday night celebrating the release of their latest album Out Here. Check out The Triple Crown for the details.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Triple Crown: 05/06 - 05/19

In this edition of The Triple Crown we're highlighting some of the amazing bands that are playing opening slots in the next two weeks. With richly vibrant music and top-notch live shows, these bands are worth the price of admission on their own. So get to the shows early because the you'll not want to miss a note. 

Saturday, May 11th
Super Water Sympathy
Redwood Son / Cody Beebe & The Crooks(Headliners)
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside St
Doors: 8PM / Show: 9PM
Adv.: $10 / Day Of: $12
21 & Over 

The dreamy self-styled water pop of the Louisiana based Super Water Sympathy is boldly ripe with emotions. With the ability to rage like flood waters or fall hapless like soft rain, the music of this band is a wonderfully malleable thing that has the beauty of a waterfall and the cleansing properties of a baptism. Fronting the band is the wonderfully fluid sirens call of Ansley Hughes whose luscious tones are unforgettable. Touring on the heals of their sophomore release Hydrogen Child the band will be opening for the roots-rock powerhouse of Cody Beebe & the Crooks. Known for their working class anthems and the lovely crunch of their blues guitar rock the band will be celebrating the release of their own latest album Out Here. Finishing out the lineup is the folk pop of Portland's own wonderfully talented  Redwood Son. With a pairing like this the night should be unforgettable.

Wednesday, May 15th
Hanni El Khatib
Wall of Death / The Black Angels(Headliners)
Wonder Ballroom
128 NE Russell St
Doors: 7:30PM / Show: 8PM
Adv.: $16 / Day Of: $18
21 & Over

The fuzzedelic garage rock of LA based Hanni El Khatib has all the guitar crunch and unabashed rhythm you want to in your music. Boldly aggressive and wildly energetic this is the soundtrack of crime sprees and dive bar brawls. Dirty in all the right ways the concussive power of Khatib will grab your attentions with an evil eye and an switch blade smile. A perfect compliment to the headlining act The Black Angels whose murky dredge rock holds all manner of hidden secrets and buried bodies.You might want to tuck a little money in the bottom of your shoe, cause with a show like this who knows where you'll wake up. While you're their make sure to pickup a copy of Hanni El Khatib's new album Head in the Dirt .
Make no mistake, the damage your going to sustain from this show will last for years but the stories will make you a legend. 

Friday, May 17th
World's Finest / The Quick & Easy Boys(Headliners)
Wonder Ballroom
128 NE Russell St
Doors: 8PM / Show: 9PM
Adv.: $11 / Day Of: $12
 21 & Over

If you haven't seen Sassparilla  live, it's a damn shame. Quite easily one of the best stage shows in Portland, this wild roots rocking jug band is unforgettable. Their sweet mix of juke-joint blues and prohibition jazz is fueled by authentically potent emotions. Armed with the instruments of a by gone era including a wash board, cigar box guitar and washtub bass, Sassparillia brings their classic sound to the modern day with clear and powerful amplification. Like a roving band of carpet-baggers Sassparillia, seems hellbent on finding some sort of salvation in the loving embrace of an audience.Their set, no matter how short should be a highlight of this uniquely eclectic show at the Wonder Ballroom. Also on the bill is fellow openers World's Finest with their broad musical influences and the wildly fun Quick & Easy Boys holding the headlining slot. This show is the perfect ending for an amazing Triple Crown so make sure you pace yourself so you can make it through three of these awesome shows.

Cure for the Mondays: Kate Nash - "Pumpkin Soup"

Kate Nash - "Pumpkin Soup"

A little bit of whimsey to get you through your Monday.

The amazingly unique song writing of Brittan's Kate Nash is both fun and honest. Having just self-released her third album Girl Talk in early March, Nash is touring in support. Lucky for us we won't have to wait long for our chance to see her as she'll be playing Mississippi Studios next Monday night. Don't miss your chance to see this award winning musician here in our own backyard.
Here are the show details:
Monday, May 13
Mississippi Studios
3939 N Mississippi
Doors:7PM / Show:8PM
Adv.:$15 / Day Of: $15
21 & Over

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Quick Pick: Hurry Up @ Mississippi Studio 05/05

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV

Sunday, May 5th
Hurry Up
Kim Baxter / Summer Cannibals
Mississippi Studios
3939 N Mississippi
Doors: 8PM / Show: 9PM
Adv.:$5 /Day Of:$5
21 & Over

For those of you that are in need of your weekly music fix but want to avoid the downtown madness of Cinco De Mayo, this cheap show at Mississippi Studios tomorrow night is perfect. With an amazing lineup of local acts, there might not be a better bang for your buck in town. Headlining the show is the fitful energy of Hurry Up. A dynamic three piece that plays a raw crunchy rock n roll made of tightly woven full throttle chaos. Consisting of Maggie Vail and Thermals' alum Kathy Foster and Westin Glass this threesome are known to make some ruckus.
Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Equally deserving of mention are the two opening acts of Kim Baxter and the Summer Cannibals. Long time Portland music staple Kim Baxter is well remembered as a member of the All Girl Summer Fun Band. Now a solo artist under her own monicker, Baxter is playing a boldly atmospheric electro-mod-rock. Finishing off the line up is the Summer Cannibals. The youngest group on the bill, this band of new comers to the Portland scene has some of the greatest potential I've seen in years. Having caught one of their recent shows I was blown away by the powerful nature of their crunchy fuzz rock and the Honestly raw sensuality of front woman Jessica Boudreaux. This is one of those show where you'll want to get there early to catch all the great music. So come on down and have dinner at one of the many amazing eateries lining Mississippi and make a night of it before you have to start another week of the grind.