This afternoon, big-time Indiana indie label Jagjaguwar finally dropped the official word on Gayngs, the psychedelic soul collaboration between all of Megafaun, Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds, Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce of Bon Iver and a slew of Minnesota and Wisconsin musicians culled from bands like P.O.S., Solid Gold and Andrew Bird's touring unit. And that was a long sentence. We mentioned the project last summer, and Megafaun and Howard even unveiled the album's sublime, surreal closer, "The Last Prom on Earth," at last year's TRKFest. But the band's debut LP, Relayted, now has a release date of May 11 and a cover of, uhh, an intertwined pot leaf and vagina.
Helmed by Twin Cities beat man Ryan Olson, Relayted's 11 tracks—all set at 69 beats per minute—cum flooded with stacked keyboards, thick bass and at least one shocking sax solo. There's soul-singing, spectral harmonies and a Bone Thugs rap from Vernon. Meanwhile, the interludes that link the tracks lift all of it to a sort of rarefied Miles Davis Get Up With It space. It's a project without a lot of precedents, especially given the music on which most of those involved have built their reputations. And as silly and preposterous as it might sound, it somehow works, thanks in large part to the excellent playing and surprising singing and its consistent, slowly unfurling aesthetic.
At any rate, it should be interesting to see the public's response to Gayngs: Can what began mostly as a joke become one of the weird successes of music this year? Maybe.
Since American Aquarium’s 2006 debut Antique Hearts, the Raleigh roots rockers have garnered plenty of (deserved) Whiskeytown comparisons. With rollicking E Street-flavored heartland rock like "Mary, Mary" and "Ain't Going to the Bar Tonight," last year’s Dances for the Lonely brought Bruce Springsteen references into the fold. Not that American Aquarium shied away from them, as they took on The Boss for this year’s Raleigh Undercover.
Recorded last November while holed up in Oxford, Miss., Smalltown Hymns—American Aquarium's fourth—won't do much to shake either of those associations, though Hymns has more in common with Nebraska and Heartbreaker than Born to Run and Faithless Street. Frontman B.J. Barham sent The Independent five tracks from the upcoming record, which was produced and engineered by Andrew Ratcliffe (Will Hoge, The Damnwells) and will be the band's second for Last Chance Records.
Over the years, we’ve relied on The Foreign Exchange’s lead singer and one-half of Little Brother, Phonte Coleman, to offer helpful anecdotes on the casualties and celebrations of love and relationships. So, who better to provide us with five songs that would surely get us dumped on Valentine’s Day than Coleman himself? After the jump, he provides the tracks, and I provide the commentary.
Disclaimer, though: Neither of us accept responsibility for any of your V-Day disasters. And, if you need a quick fix, The Foreign Exchange plays tonight at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro.
It was a good year for the future Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson. Yup, in 1952, still in her early teens, she won a talent contest, which led to her own radio show on a local station and, subsequently, an offer from bandleader Hank Thompson to perform with his Brazos Valley Boys.
And 2009 was none too shabby either. Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Rosanne Cash handling the induction speech honors. She had a street named after her in her home city, and she was the subject of a documentary, which is currently airing only on the Smithsonian Channel. And she finished recording an album, produced by Jack White, which is set to drop toward the end of 2010.
Of course, the nearly 60 years in between were hardly idle. There were shared bills with Elvis Presley, a couple decades’ worth of memorable rockabilly and country sides recorded for Capitol (including her signature song, “Let’s Have a Party”), some national hits, and countless tour miles. Her focus shifted to gospel music in the ’70s, and she did inspirational concerts with her husband and manager, Wendell Goodman. But a tour with Rosie Flores in the mid ’90s found Jackson rockin’ in the U.S. again.
As Jackson talks from her home in Oklahoma City, she’s excited about the release of a 7” featuring two songs from the upcoming record (an atmospheric, horn-dotted take on Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” and a right-in-her-wheelhouse version of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates’ enduring “Shakin’ All Over”), and she’s preparing to leave for a brief tour that will finish in Raleigh on Valentine’s Day. But the Independent got to talk to her before she got out of town.
WKNC Double Barrel Benefit
The Pour House, Raleigh
Friday, Feb. 5 & Saturday, Feb. 6
As I bemoan yet another Wolfpack men’s basketball loss (don't laugh, Tar Heels), I’ve come to the regretful conclusion that WKNC—N.C. State’s student-run radio station—may be all that’s left to be proud of regarding my alma mater. Of course, that assumption may be colored by new memories of this weekend's seventh annual Double Barrel Benefit, which starts another year of KNC-championed local music events: Besides blasting a heavy rotation of Triangle tunes on the airwaves, the station also backs sporadic on-campus shows and a Thursday night Local Beer/Local Band series at Tir Na Nog that offers fine bills for free on a weekly basis.
Making up for a lack of variety and marquee value, the eight-band line-up—while noticeably lacking any hometown representation—offered a solid mix of the area's rising stars and established vets. Kicking off the festivities on Friday night, fledgling Chapel Hill outfit The Light Pines shared members (but less these days than in their previous gigs) and a sense of pop classicism with sister project The Love Language, though its songs seemed to take on a much darker tone than I remembered from the group's brief set at the Drughorse Christmas show. Fronted by sometimes Love Language bassist Josh Pope, it should be no surprise that the Pines—which, like Stu McLamb’s aforementioned project, was birthed shortly after the demise of Strokes-soundalikes The Capulets—leans heavily on rhythm, too. I had a tough time grabbing good video, but fortunately Karen Mann pulled through. I did manage to catch some from the Christmas show, for comparison’s sake.
Up next, Carrboro duo Veelee added a surprising amount of energy to what I had previously considered to be gentle bedroom pop tunes. Vocalist Matt Park ripped jagged, crunchy riffs from his guitar—flashing some serious ’90s indie rock influence in the process—and craftily used his headstock and some well-placed duct tape to give himself an extra hand for keyboard flourishes. Alongside Ginger Wagg's rudimentary drumming, the pair harmonized with a detached coolness through catchy choruses.
Bellafea—who had a relatively quiet 2009 while Heather McEntire and Eddie Sanchez worked on albums with Mount Moriah and Fin Fang Foom, respectively—followed. McEntire's battle cry led the menacing trio through the sharp turns and tense twists of its tough, shifty tunes. During one particularly intense instrumental passage, McEntire faced her amp and unleashed a throat-shredding scream that seemed to hurl the band forward.
There were warning signs from the start. The first two Web sites encountered during a little table-setting—the Vapor Records site and Richman’s MySpace page—delivered direct hits to my optimism. “Please note that Jonathan Richman does not have any direct involvement with the Vapor Records Web site and does not participate in the Internet on any level,” offered the former in polite parentheses. And the latter helpfully (and equally as politely, although the host did raise his or her voice twice) pointed out, “Please be aware that I am NOT Jonathan Richman nor has he anything to do with this here site—it's strictly unofficial and fan run. Just as—to my knowledge—EVERY internet site dedicated to Mr. Richman is.”
Thus, I wasn’t surprised when his manager told me that Richman hasn’t done print interviews for years, engaging in only the occasional TV or radio spot. And with that, a rather crucial component of “Five Words with Jonathan Richman” went missing. But the show must go on though.
Please be aware that I am NOT Jonathan Richman nor did he have anything to do with these here responses.
I climbed in the car, turned on the radio and headed to a meeting across town. Sirius XMU, billed as being "like hearing college radio but never having to go to class," was spinning Hot Chip's "One Life Stand," a college station standard of late. But when the DJ followed with "Lazy Lessons," a track from the not-yet-released The Limbs EP by Chapel Hill's Organos, I wondered if I'd actually switched the dial to WKNC 88.1 FM. After all, bandleader Maria Albani did all the press and radio mailing for her solo project's new EP, and unlike Hot Chip or the next band, The National, an act like Organos and a label like Pox World Empire don't have sizable PR budgets to pursue national DJs.
But it was indeed Sirius XMU, and, indeed, the non-traditional charms of the songwriting on The Limbs EP, described here, seem to be sticking. Pox officially releases the EP Tuesday, Feb. 23, though you can pick it up at the band's CD release party tomorrow night at The Pinhook. To hear the song, and read the story behind the set, see this week's newspaper.
Since forming in 1968, the Tannahill Weavers have grown into one of the world's premier conduits for traditional Scottish music. On the road six months of the year, an active touring schedule lets the band spread the sounds of Scotland—and often puts them in interesting, unexpected situations. While preparing for another U.S. tour at his home in the Netherlands, guitarist and singer Roy Gullane recalled two of those most interesting times.
For one show,the band
decided to drive from the north of Scotland all the way to Vienna. But a planned rest stop in Stuttgart, Germany turned into an all night party when they happened into Scottish folk singer Hamish Imlach.
“By the time we got to Vienna, we were shattered.” Tired and with little time before the show, Gullane couldn’t find any sort of dressing room. “I found a room somewhere behind the stage to change my clothes, but couldn't find the light switch. Undeterred, I carried on with the task, and had just wrestled my pants off when a door burst open, the lights went on, and hundreds of people started pouring past me. I was in the foyer.”
And then there was the festival in Germany with the 7:30 a.m. sound check.
Given our (sometimes controversial) familiarity with Phonte Coleman and Nicolay Rook’s run over the past year as they supported their second LP as The Foreign Exchange, Leave It All Behind, we’re, of course, a tad disappointed that North Carolina’s newest R&B resource didn’t walk away with this year’s Grammy in the Urban/Alternative Performance category for the song “Daykeeper," a joint effort with D.C. vocalist Muhsinah. Rather, neo-soul benefeciary India.Arie won the award for a song called “Pearls"—a tougher-than-tofu number dedicated to caring about people and the rainbow and stuff, which doesn’t sound too different from the other 30 songs she’s made over the years about such ethical quandaries. Oh, well...
Sure, while the Grammy Award remains the highest mark of musical achievement in the land, listeners should at least take comfort in the fact that you can't put much stock in a process that can nominate a sketch from Saturday Night Live (“I’m on a Boat”) as Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. So, what have we learned from tonight’s events other than the fact that Quentin Tarantino snorts 5 Hour Energy Drinks? Even if FE didn’t walk away with the award, they did walk away with some awesome memories and photos with some of their musical heroes—Quincy Jones, Charlie Wilson, Ludacris, Roberta Flack and, of course, Bishop Don Magic Juan. With a third Foreign Exchange album coming out later this year, the FE “Grammy Family” pledges that they’ll be returning to the Staples Center for another go. Sounds like a plan.