Saturday, August 27, 2011

Local music notes, September 2011: New Shouts, Neighbours, Host Skull, Donora, The Ceiling Stares, Draw Us Lines

It's impossible to stay in tune with all of the goings-on of the Pgh music scene, I gotta say, but when I find some good and/or interesting stuff, I like to share it with you. So here are some good and/or interesting songs, albums, events, etc. from the very recent past and the very near future.

  • New Shouts / Sing New Shouts EP / Release Show at Thunderbird Café on 09.24

    Pittsburgh's best retro soul rock band finally have an official release! They put out a couple of singles on their Bandcamp page many months ago when they started playing shows around town to drum up interest, and it definitely worked, at least for me. I've seen them a few times (at the Brillobox and The Shop) and their onstage energy is addictive. They also did an acoustic session for Draw Us Lines' Echo Chamber series and it turned out fantastically. (By the way, you can buy those Echo Chamber recordings on Bandcamp; more about that below!) But now they have a batch of seven new songs and they really capture their live energy, with catchy guitar melodies and upbeat percussion and soulful vocals (that almost sound British to me …?) that make you wanna sing along. It's part Kinks, part Beatles, part Motown, and all fun and danceable. You'll be able to buy the album digitally on 09.13, and they're having a release show at the Thundebird on Saturday 09.24 with Mariage Blanc and DJ Jordan K. In the meantime, you can still download those digital singles for free, and the teaser video below features a clip from my favorite song on the new EP, "Dollybird". Check it:

    New Shouts on the web: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Tumblr

  • Neighbours / Neighbours EP / Release Show at the Friday Nite Club on 09.02

    Whaddyaknow, another retro rock band has an EP coming out soon! Neighbours (now with a Britishized "u") have that Kinks/Animals/Small Faces vibe goin' on and it works really well. The couple of shows of theirs that I've seen have been great, with the singer sitting up front with his keyboard and then getting up and dancing around sometimes, singing his heart out and Andy's arms flailing all over the place behind the drumkit. The five songs on the EP are some of their best work, too, right from the keys riff and forceful vocals that kick off the energetic "Real Talk", to the Motown-inspired lament in "Fun", to the soft and slow and pretty "Without You" (with some great reverb on the vocals, nice recording there, fellas), to the punchy percussion that carries "Popgirls" through to the end. My only critique is that it's too damn short! They also have a couple of "name your price" singles here and here, and they'll have an official release party at the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh's Friday Nite Club party, on 09.02. DJ Jordan K and The Mt. McKinleys will also be playing, and you can pick up a CD there for just $5. In the meantime, stream some tracks here:

    Neighbours: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

  • Host Skull / Totally Fatalist LP / Release Show at Brillobox on 09.22

    I am always amazed by what David Bernabo accomplishes. (When do you sleep, Dave?) His latest project is Host Skull, a collaboration with Will Dyar and a host of other Pittsburgh musicians: saxophonists, singers, bassists, drummers, dancers, flautists, etc. The story is that Will is based in Santa Fe and the band will have a dual existence, with Dave and friends performing shows here while Will and friends perform out there. Now, after seeing a recent performance of some of these songs, and knowing that Dave is an interesting dude, I'm not sure how much of the band story is rooted in truth, but that just adds to the mystique and intrigue. They have an LP coming out very soon on Chicago's Contraphonic label, and it is an amazingly broad yet cohesive album. The songs themselves span a wide array of influences—from Wilco-esque country folk to Grizzly Bear-ish baroque pop to some kind of soulful funk rock, and lead single "Totally Fatalist" (see video below) is the kind of jazzy avant-rock you might find with Dave's Assembly project—yet it all feels … right. It's born from some talented musicians and their powerful, united vision, and it shows. They'll play these songs, and more, at the Brillobox on Friday 09.22 with Raw Blow. You definitely want to see this show; I promise it will be good. In the meantime, check out the fascinating and humorous stop-motion video that Dave and pals put together for the title track, with direction by the one and only Hugh Twyman.

    Host Skull: Website / Facebook
    David Bernabo: Website / Twitter

  • Donora / Boyfriends, Girlfriends LP / "The World Is Ours" music video / CD Release Show at Rex Theater on 09.16

    I am so excited that Donora has a new album coming out. I remember buying their self-titled debut on the now defunct site Amie Street, a couple years ago when I first found out about them as I explored the local music scene, and then saw them play a couple live shows. I immediately loved their catchy indie pop songs and their live shows are always a lot of fun. They've played several new songs at shows over the past year and have been working hard on the recordings, and they're finally ready to share them with the waiting world. Boyfriends, Girlfriends will be officially released on 09.27 on Rostrum Records, and they're playing a show on 09.16 to celebrate (and give some of us a chance to buy it early, of course, and hey look at that, New Shouts are playing at that show, too!). Also, a month or so ago I hitched a ride to the suburbs of Pittsburgh to help the band film a video for the song "The World Is Ours" from the new album, and that video premiered on a couple weeks ago. I had no idea what I was getting into, and it ended up being a fun day of sitting around and pretending to play cards with an older gentleman on the porch of somebody's super nice guest house. The video is one continuous shot, so we did about five full takes, plus a bunch of practice ones, and each one required a lot of cleanup afterwards, as you'll see after watching the end result. Hugh also shared some photos from the video shoot. Enjoy the video, and see yinz at the show!

    Donora: Facebook / Twitter / Rostrum Records

  • The Ceiling Stares / new split 7" single with The Super Vacations on Velocity of Sound / 7" Release Show at The Shop on 10.01

    Pittsburgh-based record label Velocity of Sound releases 7" vinyl records of local underground artists, and for their latest single, they've hooked up with the Sweaters & Pearls label to feature two bands. The Super Vacations are from Viriginia and have a deliciously scuzzy and fast-paced psychedelic punk sound. Their side of this single has two 2-minute jams, "Hexing" and "Controller", and they are catchy as hell and, unfortunately, over before you know it. I've definitely played this side like three times in a row back to back. Great stuff. The Ceiling Stares are from Pittsburgh and used their side of the record to stretch out with a 5 minute psych-rock jam entitled "A Tunnel Through The Air". I saw this band play at Howlers last year and noted in a review that their sound is kind of a Jefferson Airplane/Sonic Youth/Pink Floyd hybrid, and I stand by that, and I particularly like this song of theirs. The guitars swirl, the vocals are impassioned, the keys drone, the drums drive, it's all perfect. You can stream the three tracks below, and head over to the Velocity of Sound site to buy them on cool green vinyl! Check out this nice feature in last week's Pgh City Paper, as well. The Ceiling Stares will be playing at The Shop on 10.01 to officially celebrate the vinyl release and, alas, The Super Vacations can't make it then, but locals Flesh Vehicle (who also have a Velocity of Sound release coming out soon) and Holy Daze will play in their stead. Should be a fun night of excellent rock music!
    Controller - The Super Vacations by Velocity of Sound
    Hexing - The Super Vacations by Velocity of Sound
    A Tunnel Through The Air - The Ceiling Stares by Velocity of Sound
    The Ceiling Stares: Website / Facebook / Bandcamp
    The Super Vacations: Blog / Facebook / Tumblr
    Velocity of Sound: Website / Twitter / Soundcloud
    Sweaters & Pearls: Website / Facebook

  • Draw Us Lines / Echo Chamber Recordings

    Last, and certainly not least, I'd like to point out that we've put a lot of work into the Echo Chamber series over on Draw Us Lines (and by "we" I mean Jim, he's the fucking man) and have released the audio recordings from those video shoots as buyable CDs/mp3s! We gave out some download codes to folks who came to our birthday show in July, but you, my friend, can go to our Bandcamp page and buy the whole collection for just $5. These are all local bands playing acoustic versions of their songs, and some of these songs are not available anywhere else! Want to hear an awesome, stripped-down version of New Shouts' jam "Gotta Get Along"? We've got it. Want to hear that lovely Meeting Of Important People song "Oh, Will You Finally Go?"? We've got it. Want to hear indie rock legend Karl Hendricks playing solo in the Children's Museum? We've got that. Stream the whole thing below and you'll see that it's worth it. And head over to Draw Us Lines and watch the videos and read the stories behind them, too, because they're all great. There are plenty more to come, so stay tuned, too.

So that's what I've found lately. Have any other interesting local songs, albums, events, etc. to share? Let me know about 'em!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jam of the day: "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore"

Artist: The Velvet Underground
Album: Live At The Gymnasium 1967 (live bootleg)
Song: "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore"

There is no other band for which I will so fervently track down bootlegs than The Velvet Underground. I was super late to the party on The VU (my friend introduced them to me in college—sophomore year, I think) but I was really drawn to them and scoured the web for anything I could find. I got ripped CD copies of their studio LPs from said friend, including a version of the Live 1969 album that has a 30-second long skipping section during "New Age" that is, at this point, so much a part of the song for me that when I played that version on vinyl when that friend visited me last month we both thought it sounded really odd for some reason. Yeah, we listened to it that much. I remember finding some freakin' .ra files or something crazy of some live show in Cleveland, I think, from 1969 that included a sweet jam of "Can't Stand It". See, I still remember this, even though I've long since lost track of the file itself, let alone the source. I bought the CD box set version of The Bootleg Series, Volume 1: The Quine Tapes when it came out, and that may very well be the last CD I bought. I really can't remember, but that was also at a time in my life when I hardly ever spent money on music. Obviously, things have changed greatly since then.

So, a couple years ago, a bootleg surfaced of recordings of The VU from early 1967 at The Gymnasium, a NYC venue. I somehow missed out on that hot news item until like 4 months ago, when I spotted the album on some blog post about the best internet bootlegs of all time, when I downloaded it and listened. It's the grungiest, garage-iest, and rocking-est that The VU can possibly be, really, and featues early versions of three album cuts ("I'm Waiting For The Man" and "Run, Run, Run" and "Sister Ray") and a previously-released B-side ("Guess I'm Falling In Love", an instrumental version of which appears on Another View, and a regular version of which appears on the Peel Slowly and See box set) and … the topic of discussion: "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore", a track that appears nowhere else in The VU's vast canon! Hot diggity doggety dag! I've jammed that album a number of times in the last few months after downloading it (which you can download here or here) and they are all awesome versions of these songs. But that is the only reason I would know the song "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore".

Imagine my surprise, then, when I'm sitting at Jitters, in Shadyside, just three or four days ago, when this very song comes on over the house speakers, on the barista's playlist! I started humming/singing along, and I really wasn't quite sure why. I knew instantly it was a VU song, but I couldn't even remember that it was from this bootleg. Imagine my even further surprise, then, when I'm at a concert earlier this evening (to see The Black Lips at Mr. Small's) and the opening band, Night Beats, announces, "This one's a cover song …" and launches right into a heady jam of this very song! I never even knew about this song until a few short months ago, then totally forgot about it, then was reminded of it twice within a week. That is coincidental, my friends (not ironic, mind you).

So in any event, behold, below, in static video but impressively plastic audio formats, The Velvet Underground's song, "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore".

Bonus! Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, as Dean & Britta, covered this song for their album 13 Most Beautiful … Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests, which soundtrack a series of short films made by Andy Warhol consisting of closeup footage of some of the characters that hung around his "factory" back in the day, of which Lou Reed was a prominent member. For Lou's closeup footage, D & B cover this very tune. Check out that version below.

Oh, FWIW, the Night Beats version was all well and good, great for the live setting in which we were in, but for the most part a more "faithful" cover than D & B's version, which made me like it way more at the time, but slightly less now, in just-a-few-hours-even retrospect. So there's that.