Thursday, January 28, 2010

Giant Squid - The Ichthyologist

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Giant Squid - The Ichthyologist
Giant Squid is a rather difficult band to describe. Their music is heavy, yet not over bearing the way most metal music makes people feel. It is also very gentle and atmospheric at times, with strings, horns, keyboards, etc. The main vocalists voice is haunting most times, visceral others. Rarely does he scream, but instead uses his brooding voice to convey his message amongst the heaviness of the instruments. Also, the cello player does a wonderful job on back-up vocals, and even takes the lead for some songs.

If nothing else, this is one of the most original pieces of music I have ever heard. I have heard many genres, many styles of music, but never have I been able to not be able to describe what it is I am hearing. If you are into listening to something other than what you usually hear, this is something that will knock you out.

THE VERY FOUNDATION - a very cool & funky Portland band

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Very Foundation: Live @ Langano Lounge (12/4) + Music Millenium (12/6)

THE VERY FOUNDATION - a very cool & funky Portland band will be releasing their new album this week & have 2 appearances in Portland @ Langano Lounge (12/4) + Music Millenium (12/6). The title of the new CD is, This Restless Enterprise. It was Produced, Engineered and Mixed by the one & only Pat Kearns.

A sordidly detailed account of the pleasures and pitfalls of a year of wandering when, after a decade, she gives back the ring, marries an unknown soldier and moves to the town you grew up in.

The Very Foundation is: Bevan (Actual & Virtual Percussion, Backing Vocals, Keyboards) and Michael Lewis (Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Organ). The core band is joined by Kristie Rethlefsen (Sestina) on vocals, as well as This Restless Orchestra, featuring notable local musicians:

Nate Query (Decemberists); Jenny Conlee (Decemberists); Kristie Rethlefsen (Sestina); Chris Chard; Dave Jorgenson (Blind Pilot, Kieskagato); Kelly Simmons (Blue Skies For Black Hearts); Pat Kearns (Blue Skies For Black Hearts); Jasmine Ash (Oh Darling); Andrew Stern (Future Historians, Blue Horns, Fast Computers); Caroline Buchalter (the Upsidedown, Larry Yes); Jesse Kinder; Robyn Freatman; Paul Noel (Blue Skies For Black Hearts); and Donna Ramsey

Additional Engineering by Mark Brachmann

"The band has a constant energy that spans all of its experiments in rock song structure." - The Oregonian

" . . . a rock band with clear creative ability, and the future looks bright." - Portland Mercury

"Through all stages, the band is impressively solid and confident." - Willamette Week

fantastic plate The Family Curse has committed

The Family Curse: White Medicine
Of Jesper G. Kaufholz | 07.12.09 | No Comments

The Family Curse: White Medicine (2009)
Fainting Room / XO Publicity
Musical relatives: Melt Banana, Melvins, Butthole Surfers, Järbo, Peaches
Tags: artrock, experimental, lo-fi, noise rock, post punk, post rock, noise, The Family Curse

Whew, it is severe, it here. Not so much to write about, because it is a fantastic plate The Family Curse has committed. Equal parts Järbo, Melt Banana and The Melvins, spiced with a little Sonic Youth and a penchant for drum machines. Yes, this is about as strange as it sounds.

White Medicine is The Family Curses second album, which places hard hit with tear-rocker "Teen Challenge" where the guitars howl about race with Megan Tweed vibrating primalhyl. Another number hoe passed before one is recovered from the first, and then they throw themselves assiduously over a quarter long, drone meditation on "Back in the Water". It's hard cases. But infinitely fascinating.

After this game goes to electric rock in it, and The Family Curse gives it as an intersection of Peaches and Babes in Toyland on the next two tracks, "Big Black Mark" and "Like Lightning". Wow. It moves, hard but good enough not for the faint hearted.

But they are not finished with that step-dancing in the listener's ears yet, completely unexpected screws The Family Curse down the guitars on the soul driver (if one can call it that) "Sewing Box" and it is actually very beautiful instrumental "Exodus from the Birds of the Night ". And then it all nicely bound together in the closing number, which will be concluded on the album, at least in the sense that both the beautiful, the scratch and completely insane are assembled in "Bodies in rooms."

The whole album is recorded with drum machines, which can easily give a very flat and dull sound, but The Family Curses ferocity more than weighs up for it. White Medicine is a very interesting and varied album, and quality all the way down. These are all delicious screwed together and clearly advisable for anyone who likes to clean the ears with dynamite.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Very Foundation raises the stakes

The Very Foundation
This Restless Enterprise
Release Date: Dec. 2 (Unsigned)
For its third effort, Portland-based The Very Foundation raises the stakes with This Restless Enterprise. The sound achieved through the adroit hand of producer Pat Kearns (Guitar Romantic, Rise or Fall) has a mixed medium sensibility that pulls from all directions making for a dauntless rock album full of confidence, pipe organs, synths and snares. Sure there are traces of Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert, Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen, but trade in your detective kit and monocle for a good pair of headphones. This album was designed so one can get lost in between the spaces of what sounds like inspiration and what sounds like magic. ¬- S.A. Díaz

Rating: ***
Key Tracks: "My Sweetest Defeat," "Runaway to Tokyo,"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Blue Skies for Black Hearts "Siouxsie Please Come Home"

Celluloid Bachelor #10: Blue Skies for Black Hearts "Siouxsie Please Come Home"
OK, I admit it: I'm a bit of a mean-spirited contrarian. I give a hard time to all those folks out there that want to move out of touch cities like Cleveland and to hip meccas like Portland, calling the place the Wal-Mart of cool. I mean, cool is wherever you want it to be - who needs to move across the country to have a ready-made scene created for you. Get all DIY on it and make that shit yourself, yo. Right?

Anyway, in my more honest/less confrontational moments, I'll admit it: these hipster Wal-Mart cities are popular for a reason. Just like people go to Wal-Mart because it has just about everything you need and the price is right (even if the consequences of shopping there, however indirect, are terrible), Portland has a lot going for it, too (though such moves contribute to nefarious outcomes like brain-drain and developmental decline). Portland seems to have it all - cool nature, cool beer, cool coffee, cool art, cool bands. Especially cool bands. There are so many bands to talk about from Portland, I almost hesitate to even start the conversation.

But I will, because I just got turned on to yet another cool Portland band. This time it is the retro indie popsters Blue Skies for Black Hearts. Think a little something like Elvis Costello meets Teenage Fanclub and you have a good idea of the sound and the sense of humor. Not so much quirk, though. For influences like those, they play it sorta straight. Which is cool. I can dig it. So will you. Check it out below.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Album Review: The Very Foundation Is Very Good

Album Review: The Very Foundation Is Very Good

The Very Foundation

This Restless Enterprise

It's easy to label The Very Foundation's latest release, This Restless Enterprise, as a break-up album. Each song is intricately laced with an intimate and brutal honesty about the destruction of a relationship, while at the same time giving voice to the binge-fueled return to the land of the non-monogamous.

It would be easy to call it a break-up album, but it's not. It's 10 times more than that.

This Restless Empire is the type of album that makes you want to drink one beer too many and say something you might regret. From brassy anthems of one night stands (“Runaway to Tokyo”) to blistering anti-ballads (“Feel Anything,” with one of the best opening riffs of the year), The Very Foundation has it, gritted teeth and all.

Oh, and they go all super group on us with appearances from members of The Decemberists, Blind Pilot, Oh Darling, Blue Horns, The Spooky Dance Band and Blue Skies For Black Hearts.

The band celebrates their album release on December 1st. You can check them out live at Langano Lounge on December 4th at 9:30 p.m. (21 and over...and FREE), or at the always dependable Music Millennium on December 6th at 5:00 p.m.

- Pat Moran

Buy The Family Curse - White Medicine

The Family Curse - White Medicine [Album]
Fainting Room Collective Records

Buy The Family Curse - White Medicine

Every once in a while a band will come along that seems to step away from the traditions of the music that is already out there and decides to take everything into a direction that is completely unexpected. Often, this can be quite a good thing. Other times, not so much. The Family Curse would appear to be a prime example of the latter with sprinklings of the former..

The Family Curse's sound is so unusual that it doesn’t really fit into any genre at all! Believe it or not, it is true. Instead, The Family Curse have created music that I can only attempt to describe as a collection of eerie sounds and screeching vocals that can't help but make you think you're in an old black and white horror movie of some kind. Not making much sense? Like I already warned you, The Family Curse are not easy to define.

"White Medicine" is a very interesting album to say the least. The vocals sound like they are being catapulted through a megaphone to ensure maximum distortion. The results of which is enough to make half of us hit the stop button and the other half turn it up to ensure you don’t miss a moment. "White Medicine" is a bizarre collection of tracks. The Family Curse are definitely a Marmite band and are not going to be everyone’s idea of good music, that being said they will appeal to a large group of people who appreciate the darker side that the sound spectrum has to offer - and people that like new music that can't be labeled.

The Family Curse have a sound that will intrigue you, even if you don’t necessarily enjoy it, you will definitely appreciate it for it's experimental value and sheer originality. At least someone is pushing things forward.

The Very Foundation talks about sex, baby—about all the good things and the bad things it could be.

The Very Foundation

The Very Foundation talks about sex, baby—about all the good things and the bad things it could be.

IMAGE: Justin Dylan Renney

[SEXUAL HEALING] Michael Lewis wants to have a conversation with you about sex. And not in the shallow, aggrandizing way of so many other pop artists. He wants to give you a direct, honest look at what it’s like to plunge headlong into self-destructive promiscuity—with the, ahem, warts and all. And on This Restless Enterprise, the new album by his band the Very Foundation, that’s exactly what he does.

“It’s about hangovers and disease and accidents and screw-ups,” the 34-year-old Portland native says. “There’s a lot of brutality when you lead that kind of lifestyle, and nobody talks about it.”

As detailed across the record’s dozen tracks, Lewis knows the lifestyle he speaks of—the drug-driven hook-ups, the affairs with married women—but he isn’t bragging. He is, instead, compensating: In 2007, he and his girlfriend of 10 years broke off their engagement. Depressed, Lewis holed up in his apartment and began writing the songs that would compose This Restless Enterprise. But he wasn’t necessarily reflecting on the past. “It’s probably a slight misnomer to call it a breakup record,” he says. “What it’s really about is what happens after.”

The turmoil surrounding the album’s production wasn’t limited to Lewis’ life, either. At the same time he was coping with the end of his decade-long relationship, drummer Bevan Hurd—the only other official member of the Very Foundation—was distracted by family issues, putting the band on an indefinite hiatus for six months. “At a point,” says Hurd, 39, “I didn’t know if we were ever going to play again.”

Eventually, Hurd joined Lewis (who was going to put out his new songs as a solo project) in the studio. He had to learn the songs as they recorded them, and that unpreparedness lent a looseness to their sound, which was previously defined by tight, jagged aggression. It also allowed the duo to experiment with other instrumentation, recruiting members of the Decemberists and Blind Pilot for string and horn sections. The result is a classic-sounding pop album, intimate enough for the kind of frank discussions Lewis wants to have, but packed with buoyant hooks. Its creation turned out to be cathartic for both Hurd and Lewis.

Says Lewis, “The shittiest of years turned out to be the most fabulous of records.”

No Go Know – Time Has Nothing To Do With It (Union)

No Go Know – Time Has Nothing To Do With It (Union)

Well, Sir, at two discs and eight seven minutes, I’d say time has everything to... sorry, suddenly thought I was some pithy broadsheet reviewer. My apologies, dear reader.

Anyway, No Go Know, any good? Yes, as it goes, they’re... well, let me explain.

No Go Know have taken it upon themselves to record a double album and, by the fact that disc one starts with the same song disc two ends with and vice versa, you get the strangest feeling that this is a (sshhh) concept album. What’s the concept? Hmm, well, possibly it’s a matter of scale, how three people can draw your attention to the most delicate pin drop, as well as play like a musician of the year competition gone to riot, but then that’s possibly a bit too conceptual.

Forgetting the concept for a moment, I’ve long since been a Akron/Family advocate, forcing people recently to buy Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free at gunpoint. I can honestly say that Time Has Nothing to Do with It gives the Family a run for their money at every turn.

I actually stopped reviewing for a while because I was sick of being the ‘it’s all a load of shit’ guy. It’s not a load of shit, please believe me. I’m listening to the album now and it’s hard to concentrate on what I want to say. I’m listening.

Yes, it’s classic rock with punk edge and contemporary blah, blah, blah, let’s leave that to metacritic. Just stop what you’re doing, stop reading this and only return once you’ve got this album (download it from and listened to it all.

Back? Yeah? I know, I know, me too. So, what is the concept?

I think I know. No really, I do. The concept is that bands can still and should still reach beyond the ceiling, beyond the sky, even. An album should sound like it’s struggling to stay on the disc, as though it might crack and breakout, bursting from its cell. Maybe the concept is if you give everything you have people will love you and, hopefully as this is the obvious next step, renounce all those pale, make do, fly by night acts that operate as mere lifeboats to keep afloat a failing music industry. To hell with the concept. Let’s just bask in what must be contender for album of the year.

Sean Gregson

The Very Foundation – This Restless Enterprise

The Very Foundation – This Restless Enterprise

Okay, okay... I admit it, I never got the Stone Roses (and me a Manc), never understood Beck, didn’t really like the Pixies all that much and, although Neil Young is to me like God is to the Catholics, I’ve never been keen on Crosby, Stills, Nash, with or without Young. All these I tend to keep quiet, mainly because people attempt to convert you. Yes, I can tell they are all very good at what they do and I should like it, but I don’t. Sorry Jeeee-sus.

However, Belle and Sebastian are a band I vehemently hate. Hate. And still people try to convert me. Yes, I can tell they’re very good at what they do and I should like it, but I hate it. So when the first thing that came to mind when listening to The Very Foundation was ‘hmmm, it’s a bit like the guy from Silver Jews fronting Belle and Sebastian’, you may be left thinking I hate The Very Foundation (what a wonderful sentence). Well I don’t. I very much like The Very Foundation.

They’re cute these lot. It starts off all brass and joy; you can imagine them in the recording studio on trampolines, hitting each other with feather filled pillows. After that we get a few sombre moments but generally there’s a kind of flamenco flick that keeps everything from being all too obvious.

The best way to listen to This Restless Enterprise is to play a sort of guessing game as the songs go along. How is this one going to pick me up, make me smile a bit? Maybe it’ll be hand claps, possibly a trumpet solo, who knows... it might be a song about pornography induced insomnia. Sometimes the guessing game turns into ‘why haven’t you done justice to this’, as in the case with Signs & Wonders which starts like it’s going to break your heart and leaves you feeling depressingly unchanged. In fact, the latter moments of the album seem to consist of The Very Foundation arranging their fantastic pop songs in such a way that it’s hard to fight through the bullshit. It is, however, worth the fight.

Sean Gregson


I aired the interview this past Thursday here is the link to the podcast

Prize Country - ...With Love

Prize Country - ...With Love

Prize Country were a nice discovery last year when I came across their album Lottery of Recognition, combining a bit of the meaty riff-centric style of some of the more Midwestern flavored rock that tends to find itself on this blog with the twist and turns of something along the lines of Drive Like Jehu, Garden Variety, or Bluetip. After touring relentlessly for the past year or so, it’s actually quite impressive that they’ve found the time to get another record out along with forming a label (Failed Scene) for more one off releases that the band plans to utilize for themselves and friends. The new album however is titled …With Love and was just recently released on Hex records on both CD and vinyl (with high quality digital download). The album definitely picks up right where they left off on Lottery of Recognition, with maybe even more of an emphasis on their bay area post-hardcore influences of old this time around. No matter, it definitely accomplishes in rocking even if it does occasionally run together a bit. Not much of a breather to be had here when the band is moving so quickly from one thing to another.

Prize Country – Gamble [MP3]

If you’re enjoying what you hear, then head on over to Hex Records to pick this one up. It’s pretty safe to say that the rest of the album will be to your liking.

Celluloid Bachelor #6: Jonesin' "Rollerskates"

Celluloid Bachelor #6: Jonesin' "Rollerskates"
I don't think I'll be surprising very many of you by admitting there is a very special place in my heart for bubblegum pop. Sure, I prefer my guitar loud and fuzzy, but I'll just as easily take it jangly - as long as there is a side of keyboard and some cute vocals served on the side.

San Francisco's Jonesin' does it just right for me, goofy and hook-laden. Check out the video for one of the tracks from the duo's debut, Hi, We're Jonesin'.

Check it out - and keep a look out for their next national tour, some time in 2010. By that time, bandmates Matt and Jenny will also have added "husband and wife" to their one-sheet.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Giant Squid on NOISE CREEP

Giant Squid Taking a Breather This Fall, Vinyl Forthcoming
Posted on Nov 20th 2009 9:00PM by Amy Sciarretto 0 Comments

"The elusive beast known as Giant Squid is taking a little breather after an exhausting national tour last August in support of 'The Ichthyologist,'" singer/guitarist Aaron Gregory told Noisecreep. Gregory also said the band will be playing some local shows in their native California around the holidays over the next few months.

Also, Gregory is actually a student at the Joe Kubert School of Graphic Art, which he described as a "three-year boot camp for comic book artists" located in Dover, N.J. "Since I've arrived, I've been piecing together parts of 'Cenotes,' the near-20-minute-long, Middle Eastern and Spanish sounding epic that will accompany our sister band, Grayceon, on a split 12-inch coming out in the summer." The split will be released via Translation Loss, which also issued 'The Ichthyologist.'

"It will continue on with the 'The Ichthyologist' mythos," Gregory said about the split. "We're all waiting anxiously for the vinyl double LP version of 'The Ichthyologist' to land any day now from Vega Vinyl. Copies are going fast, so order now if you want one. They're incredible looking."

Download Giant Squid Songs

The Unit Breed’s Joseph Demaree

“There is a head that is inside of another head and we all walk outside of a pair of eyes that is the backdrop to a theater’s stage…”

POSTED BY Jay Babcock
A press release from The Unit Breed’s Joseph Demaree that we thought merited posting:

I paint things –
I make music –
I myspace –
I like to share – /

Top 3 dreams this month
1. Swimming with my dad while he explains how he will be island-hopping by holding onto a rope tied to a cruse ship. While he starts his journey I float off in my sleeping bag across the water to a suburban island. A friend of mine joins me and breaks into a house where two little kids live. Their father comes out and thinks I’m there to purchase porn. The real porn buyer shows up behind me and I back away and join the blacks down by the docks where we dance and drink while a live band plays the blues.

2. While walking along the sidewalk of a large city, possibly New York, I am with three beautiful women. A carnival is passing by. The carnival consists mostly of rocker kids in punk get-ups on top of burned-out cars playing trashy music and showing off their peacock feathers. One of the cars makes a harsh turn and the band on the roof falls to the street but continue to play.

3. There is a head that is inside of another head and we all walk outside of a pair of eyes that is the backdrop to a theater’s stage. The audience are in penguin suits. Everything empties out and I am standing alone in what once was an active beautiful theater but now looks as if it has burned down in the 1920s.

Top 3 brain foods
1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! – 2008
2. Terry Gilliam – Brazil – 1985
3. Carlos Castaneda – The Art of Dreaming – 1993

Top 3 life-changing experiences
1. Smoking DMT
2. The death of my father
3. Losing the hearing in my right ear

Top 3 recent visions
1. There is a man who is following me. He is not part of this world. I’ve most recently seen him in my basement, at a close friend’s house in Portland, and the most pronounced appearance was at 4 am at the Gingerbread House in San Jose CA the day after Halloween where he walked up to me and vanished.

2. There is a doorway inside of my basement. I’ve only seen it once. It opened in the center of my room and someone’s shadow closed it.

3. The week following my DMT experience a white-haired goat creature began peeking into my window. He has not been seen since I spoke about him.

Top 3 stupid tricks imagination drugs lights shadows and mirrors can play on you
1. Dimensional non-understanding
2. The beginning and end of all things
3. Perfection’s simple wonder

some radical jammy, mathy, post-punk style, rock-out-with-your-cock-out music.

Prize Country CD Release Show TONIGHT at Satyricon

Today would be a delightful day to check out some radical jammy, mathy, post-punk style, rock-out-with-your-cock-out music.

Prize Country's new songs have some great arrangements, dope guitar tone and layered ax melodies that are of the same quality as the late Botch. Despite the nauseating (and annoying) visuals in the music video for "Regular Nights," the song gives a quality perception of the band's energy and interesting songwriting.

Their new album, ...With Love will be celebrated with a CD release show tonight at Satyricon! SLC's Loom, and San Diego's Rats Eyes open.

$6 cover with doors at 8:00 p.m.

- Joel Sommer

The Backslider’s – Best of 2009

Here you go!

The Backslider’s – Best of 2009
Posted on20 November 2009. Tags: Best of '09, Kim Bonner, THe BAcksliders

Kim Bonner of The Backslider’s
“Best of 2009 in Music”
Best Tours:
KISS, Paul McCartney, AC/DC
As long as you like big concert rock and roll, you can’t walk away from these shows disappointed. You laugh, you cry, you pump your fist in the air wether you’re 9 or 90.

Best Album:
THe BAcksliders “Thank You”
We are ‘The Beatles’ of rock and roll and this album proves it. Pompous, arrogant beyond belief you say? That’s just the way we roll…shut up and become a believer.

Best Scandal:
The Death of Michael Jackson
Shocking and yet there’s no question this guy was on another planet, like, from maybe as far back as when he was a child, however, most of us started noticing some unraveling around the thriller period, if you happen to be old enough to remember. The surgeries, bubbles, little kids and lightening skin. We suppose it could all be chalked up to fame, money and pressure until you throw in the molestation charges which baffled the last of us searching for some kind of psycological comprehension of the poor bastard. You know, on the one hand he was so polite, kind and generous BUT… One could easily compare the excess to Elvis up until that point, especially the hangers on and heavy prescription addiction(from a “non-drug abuser”), but that’s where it ends. To find out he ended like he did was not a mystery but his personality, almost as much as his music which touched just about every human on the planet from the sixties on, will confound us forever.

Best Music Documentary:
Anvil “The Story of Anvil”
Despite the fact that this documentary is very critically admired for it’s different documentary type facets, if you’re in a band or have ever been in one for any length of time, what really gets you is it’s like looking in a mirror. Don’t be scared. It’s a great ’story’ with a great ending.

Get their latest album, Thank You, by clicking HERE.

Get to know this awesome quartet from Texas by checking them out at the following:

market for smart '90s nostalgia PRIZE COUNTRY


(Satyricon, 125 NW 6th) Judging by the crowd at the Crystal for a reunited Jesus Lizard, there clearly is a market for smart '90s nostalgia (a glorious time when words like "Killdozer" and "Unsane" made sense), which is good news for the boys of Prize Country. ...With Love might be an album with a cuddly title, but as singer Aaron Blanchard ferociously screeches "You're my girl, my girl tonight" (from "Regular Nights"), you get the feeling that's more a threat than an invitation to future romance. Schooled on the Albini sound and attitude, ...With Love stomps along mercilessly, a volume-swelling mass of pounding drums, rolling bass, and hissing guitars for days. If this is the sound of love, I'd be curious to hear what Prize Country's idea of hate sounds like. EAC

Jessie Torrisi – brûler brûler – Album Review
November 19th, 2009 by justin | Print
Jessie Torrisi - brûler brûler - Album Review9.0101
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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

What exactly does it mean to say a particular musician is indie? Any reasonably comprehensive definition of that word is going to be necessarily complex, but if you let me get parsimonious on your asses for a second, I’ll say the indie tag employs a combination of (a) financial integrity and (b) a songcrafting/recording/producing style that is, in one way or another, somewhat fucked up, quirky, unique, or just plain different enough to void any chance of mainstream radio play.

The professor in me automatically thinks of such definitional situations in terms of matrices, in this case a 2×2 matrix. Two characteristics, each dichotomous. Financial Integrity? Yes or no. Fucked upness? Yes or no. Depending on the answers to the two questions, you can characterize the band of your choice as indie or something else. For example, if both answers are yes (i.e., the band under analysis possesses both financial integrity and non-mainstream music), they are clearly indie. Conversely, if both answers are no (i.e., neither financial integrity or radio unfriendliness conditions are present), they are certainly not indie. The 1 yes, 1 no answers pose occasional problems – Bono may make a solo drone project or St Vincent might sell out to Twilight and Hot Topic (oh wait …) – but since the former is a rich motherfucker doing weird music and the latter is doing credible art but getting paid by mega-corporations, neither would qualify as indie in my world. Simple, really.

Or so it was until I heard Jessie Torrisi’s new record. An Austinite by way of Brooklyn and New Orleans, Torrisi’s debut solo effort, brûler brûler, plays national-style country as straight as anything you’ve heard since the mid 1980s. Thing is, she does it really, really well. While the weirdness might not be apparent on the surface level, the financial integrity is certainly there. At least, from this post on her blog, I think it is safe to say she hasn’t been doing any Hot Topic meet and greets like some of the regular Pitchfork heroes have been/will be. And just because Torrisi is apparently playing the country old school and not gussied up with affectatious irony doesn’t mean she’s lacking cred; her session musicians in the studio came from hipster-certified acts like French Kicks and Antony and the Johnsons, and Torrisi herself has been around the underground New York circuit as a sought-after drummer, playing in bands as diverse as Unisex Salon, Laptop, The Fleurs Tragiques, and the C.U.N.T. Rock Revolution.

This album begins with a contrast, one that will be with the listener throughout brûler brûler: delicate strumming paired with a heavy “come hither, you fool” vibe. The sly confidence isn’t always on the surface – some of the album’s songs are quite vulnerable and tender – but “Hungry Like Me” carries an elephant’s dose of oomph and mmmm. It also makes me think, directing those thoughts to whatever dummy this song is about, “how on Earth did you screw this up? I mean, all she needs is somebody hungry! You know what that means, right?” Maybe the person responsible for inspiring this song was just afraid, worrying about being overwhelmed by the proverbial tidal wave. Torrisi dispatches with that nonsense post haste: “Baby, get your hair wet.”

This is a woman, I’m ashamed to say, I’d likely struggle to maintain eye contact with. And I love it.

Just as you are settling in for something slinky, though, Torrisi changes direction entirely on “X in teXas.” The song starts with something that sounds like a washtub bass and trombone duet, before Torrisi weighs in on the subject of love in her newly adopted state. The title is fitting, as the song is replete with Texas fashion metaphors and slogans, and is as much about the futility of moving on from a relationship (in it, she goes so far as to give up wearing cowboy boots to forget about the lost love) as it is about the desperate need to get a move on. The song benefits remarkably from a tremendous arrangement, and Torrisi is not afraid to be as lyrically vulnerable as her narrative’s character is, with the song’s do-do-dos and phrases like “you put the low in low life.” What I particularly love here is the light lyrical scat at the 2:30 mark, which itself leads up to a whispered Mahalia warming up moment, as Torrisi informs the subject, finally, “we’re through.”

Like the change from siren to saddened songbird in the transition from Track 1 to Track 2, Torrisi does another attitudinal 180 as she begins “Cannonball,” a torchy sway of a song. Perhaps the album’s strongest tune, “Cannonball” finds the tomcat back in Torrisi as you first found her on the album opener. In the song, her plea to turn the lights down is as sexy and plaintive as Teddy P. screamed to turn them off back in ‘79. Another emotional u-turn greets the listener in “Breeze in Carolina,” where Torris’s vocals and instrumentals return to vulnerability, but not too much so. There’s resignation in this song, wistfulness, regret, and a pinch of self-indulgent jealousy as she ponders why a lover is leaving her in New York for the Carolina coast, but she’s also going back to bed when the truck finally pulls away, not staying up and crying over cold coffee or the veritable spilled milk. And once she’s up and has her shit back together, you better believe she’s gonna be back to the form we’ve already come to expect thanks to songs like “Hungry Like Me” and “Cannonball.” Yeah, she’ll miss your tenderness, but there are others out there. Say what you want, but this gal is a perfect match for the hero of any old Marshall Tucker Band song.

The rest of the record is filled with mirth and delight. At least a couple of the remaining tracks bring to mind The Pretenders, “Runaway Train” and “The Brighter Side,” with the former notable for the great line about cupid somewhere trying to even the score and the latter for the sophisticated yet simplistic arrangement of the instrumentals. Marshall Tucker Band also returns to mind in “So Many Miles,” though Torrisi seems far more comfortable in her skin than Toy Caldwell ever was.

All this is great, but “Storm Clouds” might be the most noteworthy dimension of brûler brûler, with a chorus that is arguably the most resplendent moment on the entire album. Further, the strings just kill it on this song, providing a perfect example of how Torrisi’s biggest talent may not be her tremendous voice or her solid guitar work, but rather her ability to lead a band and put together a complete song. As a nice side note to conclude on, I have it on good authority that the lady responsible for orchestral contribution also once played for Beyonce – let’s hope Jay-Z never hears “”Hungry Like Me.

Jessie Torrisi’s self-released debut solo album, brûler brûler, dropped on October 27th. You can snag your own copy here.

Jessie Torrisi – Cannonball

Jessie Torrisi – Hungry Like Me

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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

The Family Curse: White Medicine [Album Review]

The Family Curse: White Medicine [Album Review]
18 November 2009 Written by Grant Purdum No Comment Tags: seattle, the family curse

The Family Curse … good god. When people tell me a band is “crazy” I usually chuckle to myself heartily and think about Edward Ka-Spel. That makes me feel better, usually …

But in this case “crazy” is actually a fairly apt descriptor (hear it for yourself; listen to all 6 minutes of “Bodies in Rooms” for free down below). The Family Curse are dollars-to-donuts one of the kookiest combos around, dealing in an unseemly din of death loops, car-crashing crescendos and hyper-banshee shrieks.

Roll Karen O and Get Hustle into a nice little spliff and you have the right idea, but that’s only the beginning. Sprinkle in a liberal dose of Albini (song title “Big Black Mark” is a dead giveaway), along with some PRE, Jesus Lizard, Death Sentence: Panda, Blood Brothers, San Francisco’s Pigeon, AIDS Wolf and maybe even some Sneaker Pimps every so often.

You’re getting close but you’re still not there. Thirteen-minute mega-jaunt “Back in the Water”, in all its fireworks-in-your-face fury, is redolent of none of these bands, nor is “Exodus from the Birds in the Night”, a picturesque drone with pics and hum-bars all over the place.

And Megan Tweed; a lot of times front-women of her stripe end up doing more harm than good, but she is an exception. There are times when the Groove calls for more room, room Tweed isn’t willing to give, yet she never ceases to pull new rabbit tricks from her gorilla larynx.

Same goes for her band. All told, The Family Curse should probably tour with Gay Beast if they haven’t already. There’s a lot of creative synchronicity going on here. Not that they sound alike at all, more that they’re both heavy without being metal, hardcore, punk or noise.

Let’s call it post-junk.

Check out more from Grant over at The Gumshoe Grove.

Family Curse: Bodies In Rooms [mp3]

Fainting Room Collective [CD, 2009]

1. Teen Challenge
2. Laughing My Way To The Bank
3. Back In The Water
4. Big Black Mark
5. Like Lightning
6. Sewing Box
7. Exodus From Birds In The Night