Saturday, January 31, 2009

North Elementary: Not for Everyone, Just for You

North Elementary

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Having just recently and finally given up on trying to read, absorb and understand everyone's "best of 08" lists, listening to North Elementary’s Not for Everyone, Just for You, has provided me a much needed head start on the same lists for 09 as this album will likely be perched high upon many of them. There exists a unique character in the composition of this album that centers the arrangement of spongy synth sounds and grainy, biting, over-driven guitars while back staging vocals and lyrics. Leading with instruments and supporting with vocals defines a cultivated artistic style and back drops this album in it's own universe.

Half way through the first track I snapped to attention with realization that my ticket for a mind trip had just been punched. The radiant specter of grainy stretchy synth haunts the album with wailing sustains that bewitch awareness away from since of place and enrapture it in an untrained medium of its own creation. Like a good movie that journeys you somewhere, anywhere, apart from the commonplace, its mellow expansive night sky arrangements and out bound electric shrieks of guitars and keys introduce the mind to new and interesting surroundings.

Not for Everyone, Just for You is setting the bar high for local releases in 09. Cycling through sharp-edged rasp of a driven guitars and animalistic squelches of synth pulls and tugs listeners deeper into the album. Lyrically discrete and instrumentally emboldened, new meanings, feelings, and understandings of this album are found with each listen.

Enjoying the entire album, I do still find myself gravitating to a few in particular. The howling bellow of and eerily distant "Decade Styling" provides a signature for the album. The lo-fi alt country pull and urgent brit-pop push of "Golden Tigers" strikes an interesting contrast and grasps attention. The clean bouncy chord crunches on "I'm not foolin'" mark a cheerful and poppy 60's beach rock vibe before the lead riff interrupts the tea party by knocking the door down, kicking the tray through the window and eating all the cookies. These songs and the rest of the album are interesting because the arrangements strike hard opposing contrast and then in the same movement attract and solidify.

Not for Everyone, Just for You is further proof that one doesn't have to look beyond the three walls of our own town to find the best indie music being made today. I'm looking forward to a boon year for local bands gaining national attention and North Elementary is sounding the bugle and leading the charge.

Visit their profiles: North Elementary North Elementary

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Show Review: The Love Language

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The Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
January 24, 2009

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The Cradle was cooking expectations Saturday night and its allure drew cats by the droves. Stirring the pot was a double-take worthy line up of The Rosebuds, Megafaun, and The Love Language. Sipping the intoxicating brew were wall-to-wall wide eyes and hot white smiling teeth. The show marked the end-leg and home coming celebration for The Love Language's January road tripping jaunt alongside The Rosebuds where they took stages in exotic places and kept the hearts and minds that they found there.

The road led them through such venues as NYC's Bowery Ball room, Daytrotter studios, and DC's Bohemian Caverns before leading them back home to Carrboro's The Cat's Cradle on Saturday night. A solid half hour before The Love Language stepped on, room at the stage was already packed fifteen bodies deep and a dull roar of laughs and conversations illuminated the room. As their set began, I took my place center middle and starting ripping off pics as front man Stu McLamb ripped up the strings of is blood red hollow body guitar. The sure-footed cadence and parade of their performance was notably seasoned with the confidence of a meaningful tour. This was The Love Language enjoying the fruit of their three-year long laborious campaign to be heard and adored, and it was a heavy plate of adorers there to soak in the warm sound and hear it shine.

The merch stand peddled their first album which has a Feb 10 official release date but a the half-dozen pen-and-ink decorated home grown CR-r's I've collected at their shows over the past two years prove that this is a band that owns their art and practice it on their own terms. So many have tried pinning down their sound in effort to categorize it into a genre. The Beatles, Thin Lizzy, Guided by Voices, and Arcade Fire have been tossed on the table. How about Supergrass? Now we have a comparison from each of the last five decades of rock and roll. Instead of relating this music to another, I rather believe that what we heard last Saturday was originality in excess. This is a group of artists that are living their music and pumping it through the speakers exactly as they hear it in their head. From the liquid thought-from-concentrate writings of keyboardist Missy Thang's blogging to the kitchen tie-dyed shirt making factory in their house and the spray painted paper bag goodie bag they handed out when there were far less people in the audience, the creativity of this group expands beyond their music, and it contracts around your heart.

So with a roller-coaster road trip hanging from the belt, a March SXSW stage in their cross-hairs, and the local pubs and blogs buzzing, The Love Language just may well become the next bright shiny polished art-work delivered from the talent-rich Raleigh/Durham/ChCa (tm) music culture into the world's indie music galleria. You are welcome world, enjoy responsibly.

view their myspace profile: New Town Drunks

Since The Love Language's current distribution deal is exclusive with Samsonite, your options for attaining their self titled release is a) go to a show, or b) follow instructions found on New Raleigh.

myspace Love Language Frontman Stu McLamb on MyNC's "Sessions At Studio B"

Party pics from Saturday night:
The Love Language

Jordan McLamb
Jordan McLamb, left (acoustic guitar, percussion, vocals)

The Love Language
Junis Beefmonth (electric guitar, vocals) and front man Stuart McLamb on right.

The Love Language
the beauty behind The Love Language's dual keyboard attack, Kate Thompson (left) and Missy Thangs brightening up the merch booth.

Chad Oakley
Material proof that Chad Oakley is a robot, and that the robot is malfunctioning.

The Love Language
Stu McLamb and father

The Love Language
Missy Thangs!

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Andy Ball gaining a sweet autographed poster from Stu and trying desperately not to punch Chad.

The Love Language
Thomas Simpson (drums) with an obviously caught off-guard Chad Oakley

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Love Language fans

view the entire un-cut 167 image photo stream of party pics from Saturday night:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Songwriter's Open Mic with John Saylor

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The Cave, Chapel Hill
January 6, 2009

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One of the best kept secrets of folk and roots music in town happens the first Tuesday of every month at The Cave in Chapel Hill. With jangly acoustic guitars and a mixed-bag round-about of folk singers and their sorted influences, each month on this night The Cave plays host to a celebration of it's own roots at the songwriter's open mic.

Special not only because folk musicians are stepping onto a stage three songs at a time in a bar that has been baked into the history of the American folk music movement since the sixties, but also for the melange of styles played and stories told. Seldom will you see so many heart felt performances by such a varied cast of musicians in one night.

On Tuesday January 6 with my guitar in one hand and a camera in the other, I went to The Cave to sing my three songs and take pictures of everyone else's. Here is a quick run-up of the night.

John Fallon
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John has a poppy cadence to his songs. His smooth Irish dialect is wrapped in tight bouncy chord progressions. Its performances such as John's that deliver a melange of style and influence to the show. Every performance is different and intriguing and John's brings that concept home.

Ken Cleary
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Ken's set was the essence of roots folk music. He sang about his life. He sang how it was, how it is now and the mixed emotions that come with it. His cautionary tale of himself as a younger man discarding good advice in favor of hubris is a look into a mirror.

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Yes, that's a kilt. I left shortly after midnight and regrettably missed this gentleman's performance. Hopefully next time.

Blind Walter Titmous & Brooooose
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Blind Walter's voice and songs struck me as a cross between Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash. Gently plucking his acoustic with Brooooose backing on bass, Blind Walter's set was blues drenched and deep. Brooooose took the mic after backing Blind Walter for a set. Brooooose's voice reminded me of Neil Young. He is a white bearded fellow but his voice is ageless.

John Saylor
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John Saylor hosts the event and brought forth his posse to include Blind Walter, Brooooose, and Pete to sing a whimsical but talent soaked song. It's John's willingness to do more for others than he does for himself that makes this one of the most successful and meaningful open-mic events anywhere. Thank you John!

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Rua fronts Raleigh band Last Night in Glasgow, a three piece electronic indie pop band whom recently formed and is planning their first appearances. Last Night in Glasgow has a Morrissey essence but Ruas acoustic set reminded me of Billy Corgan and perhaps Art Alexakis.

Daniel Sean
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Daniel plays a gorgeous Martin D-48 and it sounded as good as it looks. I could hear Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson influences.

Steph Stewart
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With raspy twang and soul-filled delivery, Steph's voice holds a rustic and old-fashioned coal-miner's daughter authenticity. I can't help but draw a Tift Merritt or Lucinda Williams-like comparison.

Clare Means
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Clare stunned us all with a beautiful voice and expert finger style guitar picking. I should have known when I saw the CBGB sticker on her guitar case that we were in for a surprise. Clare, my favorite track on your CD is "Haunt You" and it's been spinning in my car CD player for a week. Nice song!

Jack E. Bananas
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Jack's songs were long on retrospective and and sang over soothing and somber guitar chords.

View a slideshow of the entire night including opening act Anis Hoffman below.