Thursday, April 28, 2011

Album Review: Once and Future Kings - Dead Lions

Once and Future Kings Dead Lions

Masked and just out of reach for visual recognition, the characters in this album recant the turbulence of a life spent with feelings pasted on sleeves and answers sought in extremes. Relaying their fractured stories across a seven track journey of darkened classical dramas, joys found in a vacuum, and life lessons painstakingly remembered...the bolder the story becomes, the more distant and unreachable our protagonists fade. We are made to feel the weight of their conscience and we find empathy in their struggle, but its difficult to place a thumb on just what is going wrong here, and to whom it has gone wrong.

Standing with chins up and hands down next to the piano ambitiously reciting the soaring harmonies in "Twenty Watts", we are first introduced to these doted genteels as they voraciously devour nods of approval and stares of jealousy as sustenance desperately fueling a heartbeat well in excess of what is needed to survive as contented and balanced. They exude both intimidation and vulnerability in the same expression, signals that are interpreted with fascination, sorrow, and pure attraction.

Their becoming smiles and able manners find you no reason to discount their nature, still an eye is kept keenly upon them rather than not. "Say Hello" follows along to the high school dance where our experience halts at the edge of the floor as theirs haphazardly closes eyes and careens into slow dance dreaminess chasing disco lights across the floor. Wildly belting choruses they claim to have known-it-all-along singing out a rebellious cautionary tale of memory distortion which wasn't found so fitting in the proper surrounds of the albums earlier tracks. The plot thickens.

Observations now lend to beliefs that our story is being colored with a brush filled on a palate different to the one used for the base coat, thusly we are readied for the melodrama heart ache of "Stick Together". The veil now lowered enough to see sparkling eyes and with the album at its midway point, the most profound electric guitar statement of the collection rips asunder the song's refrain and bleeds the poison from the story's long lost lovers. A quiet turning point in the story, a kink in the armor, their enemies rejoice as their admirers level expectations. Closely following is "Test the Waters" with an offer that it can be just as calm after the storm. Steps from here are taken on a slightly downgraded slope and trade an uneasy excitement of the unknown for gnawing realization that the only thing imperfect souls can do in an imperfect world is "put one foot in front of the other" ...and try not to look too far back. The aftermath was predictable from the beginning and solace is found in that not much has changed, they are still out of reach, and the heart beat of their ambition is still deafening.

Our next chapter begins the true tragedy of the tale, the beginning of the end, and the slow revelation of faces for our characters. "This Goes On" is the first itch under the eye, the first sniffle briskly smudged away with a blunt wipe from the back of a hand, the first finger jabbed deep in the corner of the eye vainly attempting to stifle welling tears. "This Goes On" begins the unwinding of these for whom we have followed and sorrowed. Fragile bones now showing through softened skin return that a life spent in turmoil takes a toll even upon the strong. And as the drum marches along with heavy hearted minor chords and the melody exhales toward finality, the procession parade of "I Drink From a Drip I.V." latches a ragged tether and pulls closed a tall curtain. Only in this final measure are we granted closure on whom we have watched and loved through this markedly troubled opera of emotions, as laying before us now unmasked and naked upon the cold ground of the final scene...are Dead Lions. --Carrboro Ninja

post script
Once and Future Kings' Dead Lions can be streamed and downloaded for free at the album bandcamp page. The official release of Dead Lions will be celebrated Saturday April 30 2011 at Slims in Raleigh. Pecosa supports. 10 pm.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SPARKcon 2011 Talent Mixer Next Wednesday

Last year's three day 100+ band downtown Raleigh mega bar crawl music festival whose name doesn't rhyme with smopscotch is clock-working itself back into shape and spinning gears en route to a 2011 edition slated for September 15-18. SPARKcon, offered by emerging-artist-loving not-for-profit Visual Art Exchange, transforms Fayetteville Street into a three day circus of mediums ranging from fashion to theater and crossing music and art along its voyage. The first musicSPARK meetings is being held this week and an open-to-all SPARKcon mixer is next Wednesday May 4th at Isaac Hunter's Tavern, 7:30 PM. Call it a pre-party for The Love Language's Slims residency day 2. Read the e-mail I just got from SPARKcon organizer Sarah Corpron:

SPARKcon 2011 mixer announcement

SPARKcon Talent Mixer

Date: Wednesday, May 4
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Isaac Hunter's Tavern
(112 Fayetteville Street)

Ever wanted a chance to just meet and mix ideas with some of the amazing artists, performers,
musicians and designers you have seen at SPARKcon? Then come to the SPARKcon Talent Mixer
next Wednesday at Isaac Hunter's Tavern!

Reasons you want to come hang out with us:

* You were part of the SPARKcon talent last year and/or you want to take part in 2011
* Like us, you enjoy being around amazingly creative people
* You think sharing your ideas and collaborating with other creative types sounds like a fun time
* You have some talented friends who you think should get involved (bring them with you!)
* Meeting new creative people + beer in downtown Raleigh is fun, and you know it.

Let's get SPARK organizers, past talent and future talent of SPARKcon together to share ideas and collaborateon events & projects for 2011!

Please pass along this info to anyone else you know who might be a good talent addition to SPARKcon 2011.

See you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Album Review: Birds and Arrows - We're Gonna Run

Birds and Arrows We're Gonna Run album art

Since the curtains were drawn and the stage lights illuminated on Chapel Hill trio Birds and Arrows, their audience has been stalked with dramatic moments within subtle deliveries. With a scaled down drum kit steadily strummed with brushes and thumping a soft beat behind a single yet brightly shining acoustic guitar and a low slung cello, Birds and Arrows' instrumentation is as minimalist in design as is the three piece arrangement of musicians whom take to them. Their trade-mark move has been the entrancing rhythm of this soft play jarred and pushed by the excitable drive of singer Andrea Connolly's powerful vocal and in their latest body of work We're Gonna Run, these elements harmony together once again for delicate yet defensible performances.

At full swing, this work is an articulated ballet of keen-edged acoustic strings lifting acute piano key taps in and around heart broken falsettos. Exploring their penchant for describing the longing side of love, We're Gonna Run finds Birds and Arrows explaining away the pains of falling in and falling out with softly whispered remedies mixed into their simple, catchy versus and soothing harmonies. The album's falling out tales are best characterized as Connolly chokes up and cries through the unlucky-in-love "Time Alone" ...a track haunted with hurting emotions and recaptured with brilliant rhythm. Pretty pop gems "Arrows in the Air" and "Another Life" are more steps in the albums intricate dance of folk confession and round the performance with a sense of satisfaction, for Birds and Arrows that they produced a beautiful album and for audience...that we got their best. --Carrboro Ninja

We're Gonna Run is out May 7th on 307 Knox with a release party at The Local 506 in Chapel Hill, but you can see them this weekend Saturday April 23rd on the patio at Sadlack's Heroes for a highly recommended show with the highly regarded Where the Buffalo Roamed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Prevue: "Sing For Your Meat" Record Store Day Release - Rich McLaughlin Bull City Records In-Store

Sing For Your Meat album art

Sitting in on a 2 AM passenger seat screening of sombody's pre-release copy of Sing for Your Meat in The Station's parking lot after the Mag Co set last night I came to the conclusion that this album will steal the show for me tomorrow. Holding the disk in my hand reveling its art and reading our local bests paired up with indie royalty such as Kelly Deal and The Flaming Lips was as sobering with the weight of sweat equity that producer Misty Dawn Briggs must have poured upon it as it was exhilarating to see such a stupendous dream project come true.

With my first listen I skipped right to our locals and first to The Pneurotics "I Am a Tree". Recognizing that signature crunch and squeal of Rich McLaughlin's boutique amp dialed to unreplicable frequencies had me blushing like proud dad excited with the knowledge that within a couple days the outside would learn what we've known on the inside for a long time, Rich's guitar playing just makes you feel good. I Was Totally Destroying It goes electronically wide open on "I Am Produced", Western Civ brings their signature layering applique of varied driving rock sounds and lofty vocals on "My Valuable Hunting Knife" and North Elementary appears to have gone the creative route by merging two songs together which will be a surprise for me tomorrow as I didn't spin that one last night.

The album is on sale tomorrow 4-16 for the galaxy wide Record Store Day and our local celebration for Sing For Your Meat will be hosted at Chaz's Bull City Records 1916 Perry Street Durham, NC as our own Rich McLaughlin plays his Guided By Voices cover at 3 PM.

Chaz' facebook event page: here

The Magnolia Collective images from last night 4/14. most featuring Mr. Rich McLaughlin.
Magnolia Collective
Magnolia Collective
Magnolia Collective
Magnolia Collective
Magnolia Collective
Magnolia Collective
Magnolia Collective
Magnolia Collective

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Show Review: The Huguenots, Album Release Party

Local 506, Chapel Hill
April 8, 2011

Stealing through the energy field of razor sharp smiles and angled bodies that made up the Local 506 bar room in the space between a cliff hanger opening set by The Tomahawks and the highly anticipated album release set by The Huguenots, I shuttered my camera rapidly catching revelers in high action. I took the door and and rounded the corner with my camera shouldered catching a half dozen smoke breakers off guard. Antagonizing a few group shots and handing out matches I swapped a few stories...only one of which was based on fact. That is...I'd seen The Huguenots perform on two occasions, once as an opener for The Love Language at Gerrard Hall hall on UNC campus and again as the opener for both Aminal and Ther Mercators at Motorco in Durham. These as well as many other times I'd seen them billed they were "also playing" ...a welcomed attraction for a night of local indy pop, but not quite the headliner. A hyped crowd awaiting their performance just in side the door hinted that The Huguenots will likely have their name in the bolder print at the top of many show posters in the near future.

I was interrupted just a few dramatic versus into a rant-observation in the direction of Tomahawks keyboard player Jeff Crawford about the paradoxical nature of "sounds like The Beatles" beatings and the degree of talent that it actually requires to "sound like The Beatles." About then the chiming bars of The Huguenots first song drifted from the open door. Ears perked up and then a loud voice from the group announced, "oh man, that's my jam!" ...The Huguenots were opening the set with the single worthy "I Would Say" and the out siders stamped cigs and rushed the door creating a slip stream clear to the front of the stage room.

I caught the wave and washed right to stage right where my shutter found a dazzling light show animating The Huguenots in a primal spectrum of darkened hues...emergency melt-down red, alien invasion green, dark side of the moon blue...for the attentionaly challenged this was better than methylphenidate, but for the music appreciative, it was just something interesting to accompany the already great sound. This was their album's release, a work they have been at for over four years and they grabbed the audience with it and pulled them through a high voltage set reproducing their time in the studio. Self titled The Huguenots is at its core, a fun album. Songs are written with memorable pop hooks in mind and rock instruments in hand. The runaway favorite "I Would Say" is a defining pop gem that introduces The Huguenots as a band capable of enrapturing their audience with dreamy arrangements, clever come-ons, and gleaming harmonies that shine through the mix with British age feel. This is an album offering dynamics well beyond the typical four-piece rock outfit and its arriving just in time for a summer season of fun on the local rock circuit. Keep and eye open for show posters with a scribed "The Huguenots" in bold at the top and go let them sharpen your smile. --Carrboro Ninja

The Huguenots

The Tomahawks

Missy Thangs, Matt, Lenny Kravitz

party supplies

DJ Craig Powell,
Patrick Phelan, Spike


sharpened and angled

caught off guard
left to right Jeff Crawford, Molly Ferguson, James Wallace, Mark Connor

Friday, April 8, 2011

Album Review: Slingshot Cash - From Aftermath to Exile

Slingshot Cash From Aftermath to Exile album cover

Country Music has it's own version of the runaway train that is today's pop music...and its called Country Music. Tilting and churning wildly with hype and fueled down the tracks by big business studios pushing garbage into the furnace and heralding the smoke that bellows from the stacks as worthy tenure for ten dollar festival beers and brokered ad revenue campaigns...long has it been since Country was ridden by the enlightened. Some time in the late eighties around the twilight albums of Country and Western greats like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, it happened quietly and soberingly in the darkness. Miles way from the glow of Austin and well before the deafening brightness of Nashville, the believers inconspicuously separated themselves from the crazed fakeblood hijackers gathering toward the few cars at the back of the train. With a collective nod they kicked loose the coupler and let the Country part of the train throttle toward oblivion, then switched the tracks and rode a coasting Western into a salvaging sunset. Slingshot Cash front man Jonathan Ackley stood on the deck of the caboose and with a harmonica in hand, softly played taps.

Now experienced with a lifetime of riding that Western train, Ackley identifies once again with the side he chose by releasing From Aftermath to Exile, an album that plants a boot heal in the dirt and drags a line between the normal understandings of modern burgeoning Country and gentleman's Western. Well slid slide guitar, haunting harmonica, and a galloping six string Gretsch electric demarcate the album's Western zip code while Ackley's stylized twangy crooning spot the album an unmistakable identity. The rhythm section behind the microphone has effortless and natural poise. Track three "Miss Singapore" is a Southern roots whip cracker that is bestowed with the most natural shine and it represents the honky-tonking half of the album well. Reminiscent of Stones country tracks like "Honky Tonk Women" it is a rollicking guitar song that out paces its own lyrics until the third or forth listen when your mind finally catches up and hears something other than the bounce and lift of a western tuned guitar.

There was a time when Country and Western music flowed from the AM radio on the nightstand as we drifted to sleep, those are called glory days. There are very few making modern independent rock who are old enough to remember it, and even fewer brave enough to recapture its spirit in new writings and recordings. Tip the hat to Slingshot Cash for the memories. --Carrboro Ninja

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Track Review: The Huguenots "I Would Say"

The Huguenots

If the bell like chiming of The Huguenots clean cut guitar strokes and bouncy vintage wrapped vocals aloft in "I Would Say" are chief to the look and feel of their ready and approaching self titled LP then the Spring is about to kick off with a fun album. "I Would Say" puts on a 1950's doo-wop-esque smile and swings for three and a half minutes of smart indie-pop guitar licks. Layers ranging from acoustic guitar to stomp-box drive give the track depths of creativity and maintain the flow of interest in and out of the songs changes as Sam Logan's toneful vocals turn the title chorus into a memorable hook.

We find out more on what this album is made of this Friday as The Huguenots is released on stage at The Local 506 in Chapel Hill. Always-favored-to-win The Tomahawks open. 10 PM, $6. --Carrboro Ninja