Thursday, October 29, 2009

Photos / Review: Dustin Wong,
Avocado Happy Hour, and Bethany Dinsick at Soft Fest

Avocado Happy Hour
Saturday night was yet another clusterfuck of shows in the city that reads, but those who chose Soft Fest were not disappointed. Of the handful of acts I was able to catch, Avocado Happy Hour, were just another exemplary showcase of Baltimore's more quiet tunes. The duo began their set playing a pair of large xylophones in the back of the space, setting the tone for their dynamic ambient pop sound.

A full range of hypnotizing electronic and organic keys painted the background of their pieces. Amanda's voice chimed in and mesmerized, creating mystery with simple melodic notes. A very peaceful and fulfilling set, and not the only of the night.

Dustin Wong
Dustin Wong's LP Seasons exemplifies what can be accomplished with multiple layers of guitar. Pulling this off on an album that spanned years of home sessions is one thing, but creating a live show based off these ideas is entirely different.

Armed with an arsenal of pedals and an electric guitar, Dustin Wong coated sheet upon sheet of looping melodies, all seamlessly interwoven with one another. This was an incredibly beautiful set, as Dustin dropped the jaws of onlookers within the entire space.

Bethany Dinsick played Sunday night, a folk singer with a stunningly luminous voice. The obvious comparison might be Joanna Newsom, but Bethany's voice is far less erratic and alien-like (in a good way). She painted pictures of tornadoes attacking hospitals and trees that can heal wrong with the aid of a bottle, and did so pretty freaking elegantly.

The use of hushed and hypnotic background noise tied things together, particularly with the application of a baby's white noise machine. I picked up copy of Bottle Tree from Miss Dinsick, an album that I look forward to indulging in quite a bit more. She described it to me as "meditational R&B", and I look forward to featuring more of Bethany Dinsick here in the near future.

Photos by Valerie

Live MP3s / Photos: Andy Abelow at Soft Fest

Andy Abelow

More live sets and photos from Soft Fest, as the multi-faceted Abelow showed off Sunday night with Sianna Plavin. The set featured some of the area's finest folk pop ditties, songs accented with choice Americana and careful detail.

You can take a gander for yourself, and peep some video from the set after the click.

Andy Abelow has a show November 12 at the Zodiac with Lizz King and Golden Ghost. Until then, take a listen to his set as Soft Fest.

Andy Abelow (with Sianna Plavin)
Taped by David Carter
Lineage: AGK 414s > Zoom h4n 48/24 > Cubase 5 > flac/mp3
Soft Fest 10/25/09
Baltimore, Maryland


Ease On Out Now
Old Willow Blues
Playin' the Fool
Soft Song of the Sun
The Birds (a Sianna Plavin song)
Sky of Blue

Photos by Valerie

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Photos / Review: Snoop Dogg at Rams Head Live

Snoop Dogg at Rams Head Live
Snoop Dogg, Method Man and Redman, and Devin the Dude began their tour in Baltimore last night at Rams Head. Bmore Musically Informed's resident hip hop source Jason Tomassini joined me for Snoop's first show in Baltimore ever, and his detailed take on the event is below. All photos were taken by our always on-point, Chrissy Abbott. Enjoy:

Even with, Jay-Z, one of the few names in hip hop bigger than he, playing just a few blocks away Tuesday night, Snoop Dogg, playing his first Baltimore show ever, didn't walk onto the Ram's Head Live stage trying to prove anyone to anything. It sort of makes sense; at this point, Snoop really has nothing left to prove. He has classic albums, films (both mainstream and pornographic), community activism, a family and, oh yeah, millions upon millions of dollars.

But you sort of hoped that playing second banana to HOV would motivate Snoop to put on a party that his brand of gangsta rap often soundtracks, as opposed to the type of party Jay-Z might throw, which at this point is closer to a corporate cocktail party than a Henny-and-Chronic-filled backyard BBQ.

But the first half of Snoop's show was pretty lackluster, running through classic's like Dr. Dre's "The Next Episode" and a decent version of "Gin and Juice" that came alive only because of the backing band, The Snoopadelics.

It was sharp contrast to openers Method Man and Redman, who swiftly ran through their brand of high-energy boom-bap, nailing their choicest collaborative cuts (Blackout's "Da Rockwilder" is always a fan favorite; new track "A-Yo," off 2009's Blackout 2, came off just as well). And they also hit some of their best solo cuts and a couple of Wu Tang joints that have become an obligation for its former members' solo sets. Meth and Red, who are among the few emcees smoother on the mic than Snoop, ran and jumped like mad men around stage, but always in sync, two-stepping in unison without it seeming choreographed. Red has embraced being a sort of master of ceremonies, taking on the sometimes arduous hip hop task of involving the crowd and keeping the set from growing dull (he introduced many songs with some kind of weed-related call and response; rap fans never pass on an opportunity to let everyone know they smoke weed). While on a smaller scale, they too have a sort of empire, with stoner movies (they say "How High 2" is coming soon), a shortlived sitcom and plenty of acting. But as they reminded us, this is "real hip-hop" and they treated it as such.

That dynamic was absent from most of Snoop Dogg's set as he slightly swayed in the midde of the stage, hitting all his lines like it was more of a chore than a privilege. He involved the crowd but basically asked some varied version of "have you been abusing chemicals this evening?" to which everyone of course said yes.

But with about 25 minutes left in his set he turned on some sort of rock star switch. It started with some voice coming over the PA, feigning a Baltimore Police Officer saying "put the weed down or we will stop the show." Playing up the joke, the lights went dim and Snoop and his band hid and at least a few people in the audience got scared as shit because they thought it was real. This led into a massive version of "Fuck Tha Police" and we officially had a party as Snoop bounded around on stage and nearly yelled his lines.

From that point on until he closed with a triumphant version of "What's My Name" it became clear what Snoop is all about. He's made his whole reputation on the laid-back weed-addled rapper and he's not about to change that. And at times this makes for a boring performance but you can't forget that he became Snoop Dogg for a reason. He can act like a bad motherfucker without trying to sound like one and he can start a party the same way.

Photos by Chrissy

Live MP3s / Photos: Happy Family at Soft Fest

Happy Family

One of Baltimore's newer projects, Happy Family was just another extremely talented artist slotted to play Soft Fest last weekend. He played a set that promised a lot more good things to come, as the entire performance was new material.

Compliments of David Carter, the audio is available to download in MP3 and FLAC form after the click. Along with the rest of our photo coverage of Soft Fest, Valerie is responsible for all of the fantastic shots.

Happy Family's set was one of the more upbeat moments of Sunday night's lineup. His take on sample-based pop music makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, much like the genre's best, Panda Bear. Hear and see for yourself below.

Happy Family
Taped by David Carter
Lineage: AGK 414s > Zoom h4n 48/24 > Cubase 5 > flac/mp3
Soft Fest 10/25/09
Baltimore, Maryland


1. peeks (not on the recording)
2. going to
3. babies (extended mix)
4. free samples

Photos by Valerie

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Live MP3s / Photos:
Lands and Peoples at Soft Fest

Lands and Peoples

This weekend a space in Baltimore now known as Afghanistan hosted a pretty incredible event. Soft Fest was a huge success, and featured some pretty amazing sets. I will be posting photos from both nights, and audio from Sunday night as they become available to me in the next couple days.

For now, I have the privilege of offering Lands and Peoples' set in MP3 and FLAC form free to download. Their set featured two new tracks, and was one of the many highlights of Soft Fest.

Lands and Peoples began with some pleasant looping, and quickly dove right into the new stuff. "Wait and See" was an absolutely stunning track, only properly appreciated when looking at in its entirety. The song starts out as a pristine folk pop ballad, but a little after halfway through the guitars segway into where it really takes off. Amanda's vocal cries ascend with the accompanying harmonies, as the track's melodic outro was epically beautiful Sunday night. Hear for yourself...

The set also featured another new track called "Ukulele", and a cover of the American standard "Tonight You Belong to Me". You can download the entire set below, courtesy of David Carter. Also look for more photos and audio from Soft Fest to come soon.

Lands and Peoples
Taped by David Carter
Lineage: AGK 414s > Zoom h4n 48/24 > Cubase 5 > flac/mp3
Soft Fest 10/25/09
Baltimore, Maryland

(loop improvisation)
1. Wait and See
2. Tonight You Belong to Me (cover)
3. Ukulele
4. Isabella

Photos by

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tonight: Kría Brekkan / Jason Urick /
Eric Copeland / Dj Dogdick @ Floristree

Floristree is jam-packed with some stellar talent tonight. Madeline Maulding, a local musician and recently introduced Bmore Musically Informed contributor, is particularly excited about an avant folk artist on the bill. Iceland's Kría Brekkan will grace the H&H's presence, and here's Madeline Maulding's take on her:

Tonight at the Floristree space, Kría Brekkan brings her avant-electro-folk music to Baltimore, along with Blak Dice's Eric Copeland, DJ Dogdick, and resident ambient drone master Jason Urick.

Born Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir and once a driving force behind Iceland's Múm, Brekkan began her solo career in 2006, collaborating notably with her husband David Portner--otherwise known as Avey Tare of Animal Collective.

Last year's brief but magical Apotropaíosong Armor has some qualities about it which are reminiscent of some of the artists on the Fonal lable, particularly Islaja and Lau Nau. (Is it a Nordic faux pas to compare Icelandic folks with Finish folks? Hopefully not.)

I say this not only because Kría Brekkan's album is less concerned with discernable songs and more concerned with displaying multi-instrumental capabilities and tonal prowess, but because all of these ladies suffuse their music with a deceptively-childlike female energy which is simultaneously unsettling and alluring.

Apotropaíosong Armor contains a menagerie of animal-like sounds, haunting woodland sprites calling through vaulted sylvan archways of delay and tremolo. On "Armor," recorders whistle, a stringed instrument bellows warm pizzicato notes. A Piano--the instrument upon which Brekkan considers herself the most skillful--drops in here and there, most beautifully on "Biboni." Periodically, soft voices loop in and out of the mix in hushed, innocent tones . . . the whole album a wonderful lullaby to nascent sirens.

This music is new to me and I am excited to see how it translates in a live performance. The Floristree is the perfect space, and she will be in good company this evening.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bring Pillows: Soft Fest

Another weekend in Baltimore, and yet another heap of shows to choose from. One event certainly stands out, spanning both Saturday and Sunday. Soft Fest features some of the areas finer mellifluous tunes.

Both days get going at 6 PM and run until midnight, with over ten acts each night all worth checking out. Organizers promise other activities of a more humbled variety, including chess tournaments, silent films, and Tom Selleck. Yup.

I was even told that the entire space would be lined with blankets. All mellow vibes aside, there's some pretty extraordinary talent lined up. Start clicking below:

6:45: Run DMT
7:00: Semya
7:20: Holy Ghost Party
8:00: Each Others
8:20: The Bow Legged Gorilla
9:00: Turquoise Cats
9:20: Soft Cat
10:00: Poor Mouth
10:20: Avocado Happy Hour
11:00: Dustin Wong
11:20: M.C. Schmidt

7:00: Daytime
7:20: Comeback Ranch
8:00: Bethany Dinsick
8:20: Happy Family
9:00: Andy Abelow
9:20: Lands and Peoples
10:00: Pilar Diaz and Lindsay Rowzinski
10:20: Secret Mountains
11:00: John Somers and Liz Meredith
11:20: Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez

I've highlighted a bunch of these artists before, as a lot have contributed some of the more beautiful tracks from within 695. Dustin Wong's magnificent Seasons has found its way to my turntable often, an LP drenched in unique textures and layers.

Avocado Happy Hour are currently working on their next album, with much to look forward to. They kindly sent me over a couple live tracks from an acoustic set they did at Sonic Circuits. Below is "Sitting Down", performed with a vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, and Amanda singing through a megaphone.

Happy Family had an EP titled Sound Farm that had me pretty excited s few months back, with one of the catchier floaty bedroom pop jams I've heard. Check out "Cups" below.

And Lands and Peoples have shown much promise, as their hand-sewn sleeved EP is lush with dreamy folk pop sure to have you thinking of some of the better acts possessing similar sounds. Check out EP standout "Bad Habits".

There are others playing that I've pointed out before, and many of which I hope to recommend in the future. Stop by and stay awhile on Saturday or Sunday, or both. I've been asked to provide you with this email address, in case you need to know the location of said gathering. With a flyer like the one below, and Tom Selleck promised to be in attendance, showing up is a no brainer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ticket Giveaway: Snoop Dogg at Rams Head

Next Tuesday night, Snoop Dogg will bring his live show to Baltimore for the first time ever. Throughout his questionably prolific career, Snoop has not once lit up Charm City. Next week is his first crack at Bmore, and he's bringing with him some friends.

Devin the Dude
, Method Man, and Redman will all be opening the affair. Bringing together what might possibly be the most TV/movie friendly cast Rams Head has ever seen. I'm guessing a god-awful reality show is already in the works... Rupert Murdoch where are you on that bud? Remember this monstrosity folks?

Terrible TV shows or not, this lineup is responsible for some of the biggest hip hop albums of our time. I can imagine this show will be anything but boring, and you can get more deets on the show and how you can possibly get in for free after the click.

The show is part of the Wonderland High School Tour, a seven date stint that starts right here in Baltimore. It is also in support of his next album, which drops in December. I've never seen Snoop Dogg live, but I can imagine its anything but boring. I've heard stories involving paraphernalia type props, giant green leaves, and all the accompanying antics. I don't expect the music to be mind blowing, probably more the opposite, but I can imagine it will be quite the spectacle.

I've got a pair of passes to give away to this one. Just send an email sharing your favorite movie with either Snoop Dogg or Method Man in it to, and I'll pick a winner the day before the show. Peep more details on the flyer below, good luck!

Live Review: Dirty Projectors at the Ottobar

This review comes compliments of Jason Tomassini, a like-minded musically obsessed local journalist. Jay has typically covered some hip hop for us in the past, but wanted to throw in his input on Tuesday night's packed Dirty Projectors show at the Ottobar.

A lot has been made of the “genius” of Dave Longstreth, showcased on the several weird and complicated albums and EPs he’s recorded over the past decade as Dirty Projectors.

And while those albums were very good in their own right -- as exercises in great technical skill, taking a background in music composition and applying it to rock music and some level of batshit craziness (2005’s The Getty Address was a concept album about Don Henley; 2007’s Rise Above an indie rock album of Black Flag covers) -- it wasn’t exactly the most accessible brand of indie rock.

With the odd time signatures, the seemingly random application of bongos, cowbells and woodwind instruments and the abrupt undulations of Longstreth's voice, it's just difficult music, and that's probably the best way to describe DPs overall musical aesthetic. But there was still something that kept bringing fans back. You could tell there were pop songs somewhere in there, it was just really difficult to find them.

There was nothing difficult about enjoying Dirty Projectors’s Tuesday night show at Ottobar however, mainly because the majority of the set came from DPs latest album Bitte Orca, a truly great pop album that finds the catchy gems deep within DPs back catalogue, combines with aspects of their trademark weirdness, and runs with it. The result is something accessible to those outside academia and to bearded 20-something hipsters who don't necessarily have a working knowledge of West African guitarists. As a six-piece with three female vocalists, Dirty Projectors look and perform like a real rock band now, even if their musical skill makes them overqualified to do so. And while they have embraced Bitte Orca’s pop sentiments, it’s still a spectacle really unlike any other in indie rock to watch DPs perform.

Longstreth and his three female vocalists interchange their parts seamlessly, an effort in four-part vocal harmony that seems implausible to pull of live when you hear it on record, but is done with ease. The precise jamouts that are more prevalent on early DPs records are lively on stage, with the painfully timid Longstreth and the slightly-less-shy female vocalists losing themselves during brief interludes of headbanging and shredding. (I've never given props to a sound crew before, but Ottobar stepped up their game last night).

Epic Bitte Orca centerpiece "Useful Chamber" sort of mashed all of this together, as DPs slowed and sped up the tempo -- over two distinct halves of the nearly 7-minute track -- with ease and the quasi-beat-boxing of two female vocalists sounded nearly identical to the album version; that the crowd anticipated every twist and turn is a testament to how tight the musicians are live. But it was still the songs that made Bitte Orca an authentic pop record gave the crowd the biggest rise. Standouts "Temecula Sunrise" and "No Intentions" -- radiant pop songs not out of place on even the catchiest, sunniest summer playlists – had the crowd bobbing up and down, essentially the closest thing you can do to dancing at a DPs show.

Bitte Orca's first single "Stillness Is the Move" -- which wouldn't be out of place on a really ambitious Mariah Carey album – stumbled off the bat as Longstreth and the band’s bassist couldn’t quite get on the same page when creating the beat to the song, which sounds like something Timbaland might make on his weirdest days. But eventually they go in synch and Amber Coffman eventually hit her stride on lead vocals and the crowd tried in vain to sing along to notes that really no one in the room besides Coffman was capable of hitting.

And by that point, about halfway through the set, what was most surprising wasn’t that Dirty Projectors pulled off an R&B song with a West African-sounding rhythm section and indie-rock chicks hitting Whitney Houston notes, it was that it took them a minute to perfect it.

And that's really what made the show so memorable: Dirty Projectors make difficult songs look and sound easy on stage, removing all that pesky close listening and giving us no alternative but to dance and sing along like we expected nothing less than perfection.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Live MP3s / Photos: Celebration at Load of Fun


I am very excited to present you with some pretty extensive coverage of what was one of the best sets I've witnessed all year. Celebration headlined Load of Fun last Thursday night, capping off a ridiculously enjoyable evening that included a great set from Videohippos and a hauntingly awesome performance by Indian Jewelery.

Celebration's Electric Tarot concept has been an ongoing success, and based off the new material played last week, it's only going to get better. With much thanks to David Carter, you can hear the new and yet-to-be recorded material along with the rest of the entire set after the click.

With only a handful of tracks played off their two proper LPs, the Earth installment of the series truly highlighted the direction the band is heading in. There were four brand new songs played, none of which are even posted to their site as of yet. All four were absolutely stunning in their own right, drawing from a variety of past journey's that have aided in cementing their sound.

I've always thought of Celebration to possess some sort of atmospheric quality, and playing inside of a white cave with projections of galaxies and planets brought these opinions to life. Katrina Ford's voice bellowed illustriously, seeming to be calling mother nature to descend upon North Avenue. This was a feel-good affair all around, and my only complaint was that not enough people answered Katrina's cries to start dancing. However, I'm quite certain that everyone in attendance was dancing on the inside.

New local taper, David Carter, was kind enough to pass along the audio for this show in both MP3 and FLAC form. Valerie also took a fantastic set of photos, which can be seen on our Flikr page or in the flash gallery below. I've also included the setlist, however it was created by my listening and does not include names of the new tracks. As soon as I learn these names, I'll go ahead and update it. Have at it folks:


Lineage: AGK 414s > Zoom h4n 48/24 > Cubase 5 > flac/mp3

1. Whats This Magical
2. Pressure
3. Untitled (new song)
4. I Will Not Fall
5. Shelter
6. Untitled (new song)
7. Untitled (new song)
8. Untitled (new song)
9. Heartbreak
10. Pony (encore)

Photos by Valerie

Live MP3s / Photos: Videohippos at Load of Fun

Video Hippos

Last Thursday night, Load of Fun featured one of the better shows I've seen this year. Videohippos opened up the affair, the perfect jump start to any evening. You can see above that the usual visuals were blasting in the background, however Thursday they lit up the giant ice cave that the stage was turned into. You know when I start bringing up stages transformed into ice caves, that this one was a must see.

Luckily for those that didn't make it, you're just a click away from peeping Valerie's photo set and downloading the audio compliments of David Carter.

The projections were most certainly not the only highlight of this Videohippos set. The band performed as a new found four piece, with Benny Boeldt aka Adventure (who's birthday it happened to be) contributing his electronic wizardry and Jared Paolini on bass. The addition of these two talented musicians shined through in the spaced out electro pop jams, that frequently make it impossible to stand still to.

These guys made their sound far more organic, and beefed up the complexity and layering of their tracks. They all seemed pretty tight for their first show together as the new lineup, a sign of only moving upward as they get more reps with one another. Look for nothing but good things to come from these guys.

With much thanks to new local taper enthusiast David Carter, the full set is available sans one track due to battery issues. It sounds pretty great, and makes a good soundtrack to checking out the photo set Valerie put together below it. Have at 'em:


Lineage: AGK 414s > Zoom h4n 48/24 > Cubase 5 > flac/mp3

1. The Fourth (missing from audio download)
2. Shadow Pups (Track 01 on download)
3. Sea Skulls (Track 02 on download)
4. Say It's Now (Track 03 on download)
5. Rifle Range (Track 04 in download)
6. Down Your Spine (Track 05 on download)

Photos by Valerie

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Details: Beach House - Teen Dreams

Sub Pop just spilled the beans on some key details to Beach House's third full length. Teen Dreams will hit us in Spring 2010, and will be accompanied by a DVD with a video for each and every track. Be excited. Straight from the source, here are the available details right after the click below:

Recorded in upstate New York, in a converted church called Dreamland with producer/engineer Chris Coady (who has worked with TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blonde Redhead, and a bunch of others) Teen Dream is the third album from the Baltimore-based duo Beach House, and their Sub Pop debut. The new album gives voice to a full universe of unbridled imagination, and the manifestation of Teen Dream has been a welcomed and all-consuming obsession for Beach House the past 9-12 months. Teen Dream will arrive packaged with a companion DVD featuring a video for each song on the album, each by a different director.

Looks like our fine city's once-hushed duo is ready to make the leap, as they have been steadily climbing to do so over the past year. Look for an album release party in Baltimore next spring, and be upset that it's still only October. For now:

Photos: Height with Friends / AK Slaughter

Height w/Friends stormed the Windup Space last Friday, joined by the likes of Ak Slaughter, Lizz King, and Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez. We made it in time for the final three acts, along with Valerie who snapped some excellent photos that are all below.

This was the album release party for Height w/Friends' Baltimore Highlands remix album, but AK Slaughter also just dropped some love. Aran and Emily's mixtape, which you can grab here for free, is pretty stacked with all kinds of fun cuts from the duo. They killed it yet again live on Friday, and appeared to be having a grand old time doing it. They've got another show this Friday at Sonar.

Height w/Friends featured Mickey Free and Emily Slaughter backing up Height vocally, and they did a damn fine job doing so. The beats hit loud, Height was as amped as always, and Mickey and Emily were essential in weaving it all together. Look for more to come from all three MCs, including a new full length on the way soon from Emily's AK Slaugter. Peep the rest of the photo set below, or click here for the set on our Flikr.

Photos by Valerie

Monday, October 19, 2009

Free Album Download:
Rapdragons - Ten Stories High

Baltimore has been brewin with tons of choice off-kilter hip hop as of late, with a beat and rhyme suited for every type of party. Rapdragons began schilling their variety back in May, and are now in full effect having just dropped their first full length.

In addition to Ten Stories High, their debut album, Rapdragons have something else in the works to be pretty stoked for. The duo will soon also release a project called Featuring Baltimore, a mixtape that samples a different local band on each track.

But right now, you can download Ten Stories High for free at the bottom of this post. For whatever reason, this one had me reminiscing of the careless days of high school revelry. It's a feel good affair all around, and deserves to be thrown in your rotation.

The highlight for me was "Bigwams", Greg Ward and Nick Often's take on Bob Dylan's "Wigwam". The duo sports their signature party-themed flow, all layered over snazzy drums and paired with the original Dylan track's horns.

The opener "Moon Rocks" feature's a hook courtesy of Reading Rainbow's theme song, a beat using David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream", and some pretty anthemic vocals. Other samples throughout the album derive anywhere from Edwin Starr to the Electric Light Orchestra, to even Disney's Out of the Box TV series.

These guys are a ton of fun, and as mentioned above, have some other excitement in the works. Featuring Baltimore is being finished up now, and two tracks are already available. "Camp Everywhere" re-works "Camp Nowhere", the last track on Weekends' stellar debut disc. You can stream "Camp Everywhere" in all its glory over on their site. Until the rest of that mix drops, snag their promising debut below.

Full Album Download: Rapdragons - Ten Stories High

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jason Urick: Husbands

I am extremely excited to present you with our first piece from James MacMillan. Jimmy is a friend, musical mentor, and record junky that has inspired me aurally in many ways. If he's not working at Soundgarden gushing over a hundred different records you must buy, he's at home tending to his ridiculous collection of vinyl. His first review is about a local icon's recent solo affair, and is one that hit him very close to home. You can catch Jason Urick at the Hexagon tonight, with Zomes, Dustin Wong, and Vows. (photo by Josh Sisk)

Husbands, which hits us via Thrill Jockey, is the debut solo LP from former WZT Hearts wizard Jason Urick. Consisting of four tracks that break the 44 minute marker, one thing is very clear early on in this record: this is not a WZT Hearts record. Gone is the overwhelming confusion and disorienting chaos. What remains is a masterful piece that moves gracefully from beginning to end. Urick operates with such precision and grace you would think that the album was an effortless creation. You would be wrong. Intricate and highly detailed, the textures on this record shine with various elements that all culminate in what could be one of the best records of the year.

Album opener "Strides" is a slow builder that sets the tone for the whole record. Gently rolling back and forth while an ever present and foreboding tone builds from underneath until it is bubbling over the top by the end of the song. The song evokes intimate images and quickly transforms the listener to the dream like state that they will remain in until the end of the album.

"Let There Be Love" drifts along with the promise of something bigger for all of its 10 minutes. Being the only track to feature some sort of a vocal melody it feels like it is constantly building up to become a huge, bright and stunning anthem of a song. However the song ends as competently as it begins. Leaving "what could be" to the imagination of the listener may be where this album succeeds the most.

The epic "National Treasure" is the highlight of the record for me. For over 17 minutes this track hypnotically reveals itself, twisting along through multiple rhythms, it never really settles in one particular landscape. After many many listens, I still get something unique and fresh out of this song every time i hear it.

Closer "The Eternal Return" opens up the floodgates and Jason Urick finally seems to make good on the promises that the album seem to make with each of its previous songs. It opens with a collection of samples featuring children speaking. About a minute into this a fuzzed-out buzz saw of a tone seems to cut through the whole thing with deliberate attack and the song has begun. Just as delicately timed in the swaying tempo of the previous 3 tracks, this one veers off course and suddenly the safe dreamscape is gone. It is loud and obtrusive and it demands your attention.

Urick has made one of my favorite records of the year and it will find its way onto my turntable for a long time to come. He seems to have everything exactly where he wants it and it is dispatched exactly when he wants. However, "Husbands" is the kind of album that I would never trust a review of. The whole record is left up to the interpretation of the listener. This collection of songs inspires heavy doses of imagery, those mental pictures are often very personal and up to the individual listening to the record. If you are in a happy place this album will often sound shiny and promising with each new sound. If you are in the midst of a dark point, the album can seem very gloomy and apocalyptic.

This is the kind of album that should not be read about, it should just be listened to and experienced for what it is worth. Nobody should give you any expectations about what you should feel when you listen to this record, as it is a very personal and intimate experience for both you and Jason Urick. Be sure to pick up a copy of this vinyl only release as it is limited to just 800 copies.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tonight: Celebration at Load of Fun

In a week packed with not-miss shows, this one stands above the rest. If you've caught any of Celebration's amazing local performances this year, you'd understand.

Celebration have been churning out their Baltimore Elemental Series all year long, with each show being pretty special in its own right. The series started with Fire at the Windup Space, then Whartscape was the Water installment, their outdoor show with Beach House was Wind, and tonight at Load of Fun is Earth.

This isn't just a big show for Celebration, as Videohippos have something new in store. Premiering tonight with two new members, the band is working to become more live with no prerecorded beat or melodies. Videohippos now also feature Jared Paolini, and Benny Boeldt AKA Adventure. Both new members rock pretty fantastic solo efforts, and should certainly aid in Videohippos becoming even more of a force.

The show tonight also features the psych drones of Indian Jewelery, rounding out a pretty stacked bill all around. This one will run you just $10, and doors are at 8:30.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Photo Review: Le Loup at the Ottbar

Photos by Valerie

If you missed out on Le Loup's dense melodic folk last Friday you weren't alone. The show had a pretty lackluster turnout, which was a shame. But man, if I knew the secret lineup down at CCAS that night for their 1000th show included Double Dagger and Sick Weapons, I would probably have been gettin' sweaty in a basement instead too.

The mediocre attendance, and just generally odd crowd (I swear I saw some drunk jerk break dancing at one point), had no effect whatsoever to the level at which Le Loup performed. This force of an ensemble not only recreated some of Family's gems, they built them from the ground up all over again at the Ottobar Friday.

These songs are meant to be heard on full tilt, growing each and every melody with organic wonder and deep spirit. The new record has a very natural feeling to it, and it comes to life in their performance. Even the tracks off the debut were given new meaning, and hopefully more will take notice next time these guys come around.

Don't sleep on my interview with Sam Simkoff, once Baltimore resident and current Le Loup brainchild. Peep Valerie's excellent photo set from the evening here and below, which includes shots of Nurses, Eureka Birds, and We Read Minds. I didn't catch the first half the show, so hum to yourself what you think the openers sounded like while you look at their pictures in the set.

Photos by Valerie

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview / Mixtape / Photos: AK Slaughter

I recently had the privilege of putting together a photo shoot with local hip hop duo AK Slaughter, as their A Personal Matter's choice cuts continue to infiltrate my playlists. The new mixtape is also absurdly good, and you can download it here for free, or stream it at the very bottom of this post.

This photo shoot/interview sesh involved Valerie's super fun light writing photography, and was a whole mess of fun to help out with. No photoshop necessary, all light effects in the photos were "written" live at the shoot by Emily, Aran, Joe, and me.

I also asked Emily Slaughter and Aran Keating about the mixtape, the new album they are working on, the show on Friday at the Windup Space, and hypothetical photo shoot-based scenarios. Read on to peep the interview, pics, and mixtape.

You just dropped a free mixtape, what went into putting this together?

Aran: It's a DJ mix that I have wanted to do for a while. It is basically a vehicle for a bunch of tracks that we don't really think of as fullly-produced "songs." So we took all these tracks that we have been doing live for a long time, where the beat is really just a loop of a song we liked and I linked em all together with other tracks, acapellas, instrumentals and live stuff that we wanted to use. It is especially fun to take other people's acapellas and hear what, say, Yung Joc sounds like on an AK Slaughter beat. Then I did some new mixes of our tracks and made it all do the mashed potato and I'm pretty happy with the result.

Your mixtape ranges from sampling Elvis to Cutty Ranks to the Cardigans... who are your biggest influences and in what way have you incorporated them with AK Slaughter's music?

Emily: Aran and I both listen to a bunch of different music, I think that shows in our own music... especially our super sample heavy beats. He listens to way more rap than I ever have and I would say is more lyrically influenced by rap music than I am (is that true Aran?). When I listen to rap, I mostly listen to the old school girls having fun stuff like Roxanne Shante, her rivals JJ Fad and Salt n' Pepa. If I could write lyrics like Kool Keith I would die like a thousand times. Country ballads like The Carter Family's "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes", Tammy Wynette's "The Ways to Love a Man" and "Apartment Number 9" have a big influence on me lyrically. Any music about shit going bad basically rules and serves as fodder for my songs, like Joy Division for example. We're working on a new song that samples Bananarama, oh yes.

Aran: We are always gonna pull samples from everywhere that we can think of: if we dig it we'll sample it. So, I like to think that we are more influenced by this old-school mid 80s mindset of artists like Rick Rubin or Prince Paul who would sample a Doobie Brothers or some obscure garage rock song as easily as a james brown drum break or a rap song that was just released. I think what's great about hip-hop is that you can be really shameless about where your samples are coming long as you are flipping a track in a new way, you can jack an entire song (like we've done with out Hall and Oates jams) or you can pull small bits of samples from all over the place and compose something from the ground up.

I had fun attempting to draw upside down crosses over your heads. You both dig pentagrams, apparently. Emily tells me you guys are working on your next album, are you moving in a more black metal direction with your stuff? Do you have some dark metal party jams in store for us?

Aran: Yes and yes.

Emily: I only got into black metal like a year ago. I've always listened to the more mainstream stuff, like Metallica and whatnot, but I kept hearing about these insane Nordic guys and I had to check them out. My adventures in the realm of darkness have been kind of half-assed: I read Lords of Chaos and got a friend to give me copies of Mayhem, Celtic Frost albums... etc. I really really like the way it sounds, it is exciting and kind of exhilarating, I need to make more of an effort to expand my library. I'm also really into the imagery and the history of the movement. The album and t-shirt art is amazing, we actually based our own t-shirts on that aesthetic. The contemporary history of the genre is pretty ridiculous (with the church burnings and murders and all) but the I think Norse history and folklore is very interesting.... I've been researching the pagan rituals and the gods associated with them for various projects.

As for AK Slaughter, I'd say the t-shirts and the casual use of pentagrams and upside down crosses will be about as far as we go into the dark world. I think a black metal/rap hybrid would end up sounding like rap rock and no one wants to hear that.

Yeah, probably a terrible awesome idea anyways. What was the best place you ever vomited?

Aran: I loved it when Emily vomited into my mouth. It was a happy accident.

Emily: The Roman Colosseum. It sucked. I writhed in the grass for several hours while my friend toured the ruins with his parents.

If you were climbing out of an abyss and only one of you could make it out alive, who wouldn't get sucked into the theoretical neon chasm?

Emily: Aran and I are a team. We would help each other out of this hypothetical abyss and then high five in the air.

Aran: Em and I are tighter than C3PO's underoos. We would tunnel out of that bitch with our bare hands.

You guys have a pretty rad show this Friday night at the Windup Space, whats your favorite Height w/Friends jam? Lizz King jaunt? Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez song?

Emily: Picking a favorite Height track is hard... narrowing it down to just Height with Friends songs makes it a bit easier, because there are less of them. When I listen to Mike Stone, I can't help but stomp and shake, it is totally cool in every way. I'll say Mike Stone for now (check out the video!) but tomorrow I'll probably have another favorite. Lizz King is the bomb.

Aran: I feel that AK Slaughter has a lot in common with Lizz King. Her music is part weird, part dance, part theatrics, part rock, part trad...I dig her stuff a lot. I also really can't wait to hear the new Height record. That song Link Wray and the one called Something Lagoon I've heard live a few times and are blowin my brain.

Photos all by Valerie

Monday, October 12, 2009

Harlem: Free Drugs :-)

Austin by way of Tuscon garage rockers Harlem dropped an LP last year called Free Drugs. They'll be in Baltimore on Wednesday, with the local jangled pop of the Sugarplums and Philly's excellent psych scuzzed Junkers.

If you're a fan of a rowdy garage pop sing-alongs, these guys should certainly be in your repertoire. Free Drugs is packed with loads of fuzzy melodies and dirty riffs, and at times is a clear ode to some of the finer garage psych of the 60s.

"Red Herring" hits you at the end of side B with tighly coiled perfection, yet is rough on all the right edges. They most certainly haven't re-written the genre by any means, but their knack for clever chords and unfuckwithable melodies proves worthy. I dare you not to get "South of France" stuck in your head for the day.

These guys craft songs soaked in honesty, the way in which writing songs about drugs and girls probably should be. While the lyrics might be far from inspiring, there's always something to be said about a song called "Psychedelic Tits".

Harlem, with Junkers and Sugarplums, play the Golden West this Wednesday night, October 11. The show starts at 10 PM, and you can stream some choice cuts from Harlem's album below. Sign into Imeem for the full versions.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Clusterf*ck: Shows in Baltimore this Weekend

Another weekend in the city that reads, and another two nights packed to the brim with some serious decisions to be made. While all signs point to a concert overload, I'll try and provide you with some deets to help you make some calm and rational choices. Let's start with deciphering tonight's pair of options.

I myself am seriously conflicted with tonight's spread, as one of Baltimore's most storied venues is celebrating their 1000th show. Citypaper did a really nice piece on the Charm City Art Space this week, as CCAS is throwing a show tonight that features five secret bands that won't be named until this evening. Apparently the bands don't even know what other bands are playing, so roll the dice if you're feeling lucky tonight.

If gambling isn't your thing, the electro-melodic folk chant force that is Le Loup will be serenading the Ottobar.

Le Loup mastermind, and once Bmore resident, Sam Simkoff was kind enough to shed some light on their amazing new album by answering a handful of questions for me. However, I'm not entirely sure he understood what I meant by "impeccable" when I described the Ottobar's restrooms. Either way, this show get's a high recommendation.

Saturday's got two double header's going, but only one possess the local folk noise heroes Wye Oak. Andy and Jenn are playing the Ottobar again, the scene of their release party for the exceedingly beautiful LP The Knot. With them will be Blitzen Trapper, some west coast boys that sound increasingly like some Bob Dylan with each release. I prefer the spazzed out country rock of their earlier releases, but the new stuff on Sub Pop ain't too shabby either.

Sonar's also got one Saturday, with The Dodos and The Ruby Suns coming to town. I was a huge fan of the Ruby Sun's first release with Sub Pop, with it's swirling eccentric vibes that bubble along so smooth you might swear floating in a raft off the coast of their native New Zealand. The Dodos were pretty terrible last time they came around with one of the guys being sick, so lets hope they make up for it this time. However their new release is pretty poor, so I wouldn't bank on it.

And last but most certainly not least, the Hexagon's got a solid one, and it's free. Not only only will it cost you nothing, but one of Bmore's best new duos is headlining, Weekends. These guys have been incredibly busy this year pouring out a stellar full length, and an EP dubbed Suburban Dome. Certainly not an option to sleep on.

Choose wisely, folks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ticket Giveaway: Sunset Rubdown at Sonar

Indie rock workhorse Spencer Krug is bringing his most medieval project, Sunset Rubdown, to Sonar next weekend. Sunset Rubdown headline the club stage Saturday, October 17, with New Villager opening the night.

Since 2006's Shut Up I Am Dreaming, the project has been creating complex art rock compositions that dabble in varieties of fabled landscapes and characters. The group continued on with Random Spirit Lover and this years's Dragonslayer, the LP in which this tour is in support of.

The sound is unique, yet easily recognizable if you're familiar with Wolf Parade, Krug's guitar driven powerhouse of a band. Sunset Rubdown is steeped in fantastical chivalry, and find's Krug beckoning stories of surreal imagery and mythical spirits. The result, is often epic anthems that are intricately woven and delivered with heart.

I've got a pair of tickets to give away to this one, so go ahead and send an email to if you're interested. The show is October 17 at Sonar, and I'll pick a winner the day before for the two spots on the list. Peep the video for "Black Swan" below, off their most recent LP Dragonslayer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Photos: Future Islands / Lonnie Walker / Small Sur

Zodiac had a nice one last Thursday, with the very busy Future Islands headlining the affair. Some fellow Carolina boys dubbed Lonnie Walker performed, along with local talents Small Sur and Jared Paolini.

Chrissy captured the last three acts below, in what was an incredibly solid show. Bob Keal's Small Sur was yet again comfort music at it's best, painting tales of nature ideal for an early fall night. Andy Abelow's accompanying sax shined through quite a bit, and the new tracks played were certainly promising.

Having never heard these guys before, Lonnie Walker were a more than welcome surprise to the evening. They rocked country drenched Americana with a heavy guitar presence.

Aural States dug them too, and I couldn't help but notice the heavy Pavement influence in some of the songwriting and vocals. But, I guess not too many artists aren't influenced by Pavement these days. Look for more good stuff to come from these guys.

Another Future Islands show, and another hell of a good time. These guys continue to grow tighter as a three piece, and continue to be one of the more fun local bands to catch live. It's impossible to stand still as they pair their ridiculously catchy synth beats with Sam's totally theatrical vocals. Disco ball and all, this was just another stellar performance under their belt.

Look for a ton to come from Future Islands in the near future, some of which we're hoping to premiere right here. Dudes are working on a remix project, a split release with Lonnie Walker, and are right in the middle of churning out their next full length.

Photos by Chrissy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Photo Review:
Jay Reatard and No Bunny at the Ottobar

Photos by Chrissy

After a 2 hour power nap, the result of an all day free beer hook up at the Fells Point Festival, I stumbled on down to the Ottobar Saturday just in time to catch No Bunny and Jay Reatard. Immediately as I walked into the club, No Bunny's lead singer was dangling next to me only to have his red tighty whitey's pulled down in front of my face.

Now, I'll go ahead and say that I'm not the type of dude that enjoys male butts in my face. But, just two songs in and I was already sure I had a new favorite band for the evening. From here on out, their show provided me with exactly what I'd expect based off this totally NSFW arrival to the Ottobar. The photo set below is SFW, by the way.

No Bunny didn't invent the wheel in regard to any type of genre, but they sure as hell put on a full set of raunchy garage rock splendor. Think King Khan crossed with Nodzzz, and mash that up with some Replacements, and voila... you've got No Bunny. The band was awesomely rowdy, parading around the set in a sloppy yet effective manner. Their LP Love Visions is certainly worth your time, as is catching these guys next go around.

Jay Reatard took the stage to a properly prepped crowd, and quickly ripped through a set full of all the goods. Dude is a prolific songwriter, having already poured out a full on catalog of singles fit for those that have been in the business for decades. His live set lacked the bells and whistles of production and added glitz, but made up for it with pure guitar riff power. His songs sounded great as a three piece, and he was probably more deserving of playing an encore than the crowd made it sound with their weak and awkward concluding applause.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interview: Le Loup with Sam Simkoff

In 2007, an area project dubbed Le Loup churned out a pretty addicting record. Hardly Art has just dropped their follow up, one of the most naturally gorgeous albums I've heard all year.

Family builds on all the fantastic looping melodies and beautiful ideas of the first LP, a testament to the band's blossoming sound. I recently had the chance to pry the mind of the group's mastermind, and once Baltimore resident, Sam Simkoff.

We discussed the new record, Bmore, and the Ottobar's bathrooms. Le Loup are beginning their national tour with an album release party at the Ottobar this Friday, October 9th. Check out the interview after the click...

In addition to the name itself, Family has a far more cohesive feel than the debut. What connected?

it's funny, because we were concerned during recording about it not cohering in terms of some of the stylistic elements. the band had expanded from a two to a six person outfit, and that meant a lot of different musical opinions and outlooks thrown into the mix. it was something we'd gotten accustomed to for live performance, but not something we'd ever tried in terms of song-building and recording. so there was a sense during the creation of the album that we had to tread carefully to avoid things sounding like too much of a hodgepodge. i mean, a song like 'morning song' thrown into the same album as 'forgive me...' there was a lot of careful orchestration to make sure that'd work. at the same time, we knew we didn't just want to make a rehash of the first album. i'm still very proud of what i did with that stuff, but we didn't just want to sit on the older aesthetic. we'd gotten really used to the energy and dynamics of the live show, and we wanted to showcase all of it in some sort of meaningful, coherent way. i like to think we succeeded. i certainly think so when i listen to the album.

Nature is one of the many repeated themes throughout the LP, was this due to the studio environment in North Carolina?

i think the mountain cabin thing could be taken pretty lightly. we went there in the last two weeks of recording, and while we got a lot done there, the stark majority of the album was recorded in DC and mixed and messed with in our very own b'more. i don't live there anymore, can i still say 'our very own?' i loved it there. anyhow, a lot of those lyrics had been pretty much committed to paper by the time we got to NC, i don't think we wrote any that stuck when we were up there. i think the 'nature' lyrics are more just a weakness of mine- i love getting into nature, and living in a city makes you really pine for it. so a lot of the songs had to do with wishful thinking, i guess, or this notion of nature as it stands in your head when you can't get there yourself.

The sound itself is much bigger and warmer than your debut, was the recording process different?

yeah, it was completely different. for starters, the first album was recorded entirely through that little hole in your laptop where the mic is, and put together in garageband. the physical setup was a little more sophisticated this time (although not by much)- we'd invested in a couple condenser microphones, and an audio interface, and the cheapo version of protools, which one should never use, by the way. we actually had to find creative ways to inject warmth into it- fully digital recording has a tendency to kind of sap stuff of some of its humanity, and we had about as digital a setup as it got- digital preamp, digital effects plugins, digital EQ, digital mixing. so we had to be really careful about how we recorded things. we experimented with a lot of different mic setups, and running vocals through amps and then micing the amps rather than running them directly into the interface, or using a tube amp head as the preamp before running a mic into the computer.

i think a lot of that eventual warmth just came with five of us playing live as a group rather than just me overdubbing stuff on my lonely, lonely computer. there's a palpable difference (within the album, i mean) between the instances when we had to overdub a lot of stuff and when we could play the songs as a live setup and then work with the live takes.

I understand you've spent some time in Baltimore, what do you miss about the Charm City?

i miss a lot about baltimore. there was an amazing sense of neighborhood and community there. the street on which my wife and i lived, there was always somebody out on the stoop, ol' lloyd was always fixing something on the block and shooting the breeze, and by the time we had to leave, a lot of younger people had moved onto the street and we were having these amazing summer mini block parties every weekend. and i felt like that feeling permeated the entire city. wherever you went, there was this sense of everybody sharing some sort of similar experience. there was a weird sort of openness i don't think you'd get if you just visited the place, you know? also, i miss: matthew's pizzeria, the brewers art, the visionary art museum, and our friends mike and laine. god, what a city.

You chose the Ottobar for your tour-starting record release show, besides the impeccable bathrooms, any specific reason why?

you know, i've never actually been there? that's one thing i was really terrible about when we lived in baltimore, going to live shows. lame, yeah? but we hear great things about ottobar. never heard the bathroom thing, but i think i would have chosen it solely for that. an impeccable bathroom ought not be underrated.