Wed, April 23, 2014
May 31, 2012

Pygmy Lush
Plenty of punks have tried to turn into Bruce Springsteen later in life, and probably wished they had the talent to turn into middling acts like Arcade Fire. Pygmy Lush has the talent—and maybe the desperation—to combine the two acts into a delicate country-Goth creation. There's nothing original about the sound, but Old Friends stands out as one of the best derivative albums of last year. The band also sounds experimental enough to suggest the members aren't going to settle for being derivative. (Monday, June 4, Bottletree)

Fitz and the Tantrums (click for larger version)

Fitz and the Tantrums/Royal Teeth
Fitz and the Tantrums are the new kings of blue-eyed soul, but they lack the inspiration to write anything as catchy as Daryl Hall & John Oates ever managed. Their songs are more like the sterile funk that new-wavers wandered into during the late '80s. That makes for a nice alternative to overwrought fake soulsters that think they can win over critics just by breaking a sweat. This band acts like they don't even want to rumple their jackets. It's sad to think of young people enjoying this kind of thing. Older fans will be happy to know that F.A.T.T. has finally gotten around to writing some new songs. Royal Teeth is kind of the same, but with the funky flair of Cyndi Lauper—which is pretty unusual for a band from Louisiana. (Tuesday, June 5, Workplay Soundstage)

Bass Drum of Death/DZ Deathrays
Bass Drum of Death is yet another guitar-and-drums duo. The Mississippi group has never had much interest in fleshing out their simplistic hard rock. They're happier as a minimalist stoner band, which makes them unique enough that people could immediately recognize them on the soundtrack of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

DZ Deathrays (click for larger version)

DZ Deathrays is an Australian duo just as disinterested in sounding like whatever duos are meant to sound like nowadays. The new Bloodstreams follows up this year's No Sleep as sharp psychedelia, but they can also get away with sensitive moments and even a nod to hip-hop. (Wednesday, June 6, Bottletree)

Orgone (click for larger version)
The very best bands combining disco, funk, and soul often end up sounding like generic acts for corporate events. Orgone—composed of Los Angeles session musicians—comes up with something much cleaner and reverent. Their horn-driven drama skirts the cusp of classic sounds while delivering riffs that have been sampled and remixed into rock, prog, and experimental music. They're no mere cover band, though. Orgone has evolved from a sultry start in 2007 to the epic dance rhythms of 2010's Cali Fever. It's scary to ponder why they remain less hip than better known cult acts; scary, but not particularly difficult. (Wednesday, June 6, Workplay Theatre)

Mikey Wax
He wrote the worst song ever about Birmingham, but that's just part of the endearing sappiness of Mikey Wax. He's pushing his luck with last year's Constant Motion, though. The Long Island native has finally given up his wimpy, '70s fern-bar soft rock for a try at danceable pop territory. A lot of authentic '70s fern-bar types tried that, too. The only one who could make it work was Randy Vanwarmer. Mikey Wax is no Randy Vanwarmer. He's come a lot closer to rocking out like Air Supply. (Thursday, June 7, Moonlight on the Mountain)

Bleu Edmondson
He's the most affably mainstream country rocker since the days of .38 Special, but Bleu Edmondson doesn't have the benefit of an audience from the MTV generation. He doesn't even have the fashion sense to package himself as a genius hillbilly. He looks more like a Texas gas station attendant who isn't nearly interesting enough to listen to Bleu Edmondson. The guy barely remembers to put out an album every few years. Edmondson gets too busy crafting his songs, and each album has a cast of unusually complex characters. He should at least have a dedicated following of Warren Zevon fans, even though Edmondson sounds more like Zevon as a young hippie. (Friday, June 8, Zydeco)

Xiu Xiu (click for larger version)
Xiu Xiu/ Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
It's been a busy decade for Jamie Stewart, whose work as Xiu Xiu covers plenty of albums, EPs, and collaborations. Now he's made his first attempt at selling out with the new Always. The result is the first really good Xiu Xiu album. It's typically schizoid, though, with only half the songs counting as elegantly trashy rock. The rest is shouted artsy weirdness—but at least it's good shouted artsy weirdness. The elegantly trashy rock is Stewart's best work yet. He's finally made his Prince album, but the Prince album turns out to be the bizarre contract-filling weirdness of Chaos and Disorder. That turned out to be Prince's best album, too.

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan (click for larger version)

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan open, and they'll hopefully take on the burden of putting on a theatrical live show. (Xiu Xiu has never quite figured out how to make that work.) The bizarre Canadian duo uses cosplay to flesh out their mix of ethereal beauty, prog rock, and primal noise. This year's YT//ST is a concept album, but the big idea is high concept enough to turn nightclubs into spiritual spaces. It works better than you'd think. (Friday, June 8, Bottletree)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (click for larger version)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
David Bowie pulled their name from a hat as a token Brooklyn band to admire back in 2005, putting Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on the fast path to becoming a big disappointment. The splashy 2005 debut was notable only as a triumph for bloggers showing they could equal print media in hyping a silly pop band. Then the critics got nervous about faking enthusiasm for 2007's Some Loud Thunder. The album bombed as badly as the first one should have. Frontman Alec Ounsworth responded by going to New Orleans to make a hippie album, Mo Beauty, that sounded like a Barenaked Ladies spin-off project. Last year's Hysterical had the Clapsters reuniting to compete with Panic! At The Disco to see who could make the most boring mainstream rock album. It was a tie. (Saturday, June 9, Bottletree)

Cosmic Suckerpunch
Rock 'n' roll can still be found on the Sunset Strip, but it's ambitious mainstream rock 'n' roll like Cosmic Suckerpunch. The band is essentially the face of modern rock, where it's considered weird to seriously aspire to Led Zeppelin. Cosmic Suckerpunch certainly looks more like an amiable jam-band—maybe even with some electro touches. Last year's Good Morning couldn't get any attention even as faceless classic rock, but that doesn't make the band's music any less classic. It's just not particularly cool. Lots of great hooks, though, so they're more Collective Soul than Candlebox. (Monday, June 11, Workplay Theatre)

Todd Snider/Lera Lynn
It's a good thing that Todd Snider adores himself so much, because a lot of his fans gave up on the guy after this year's Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables. He's more convinced than ever that his charming folksiness frees him from the pesky task of writing melodies or caring about regular people. Fortunately, he has a new album of Jerry Jeff Walker covers that might take up most of tonight's set. Snider's also smart enough to bring along Lera Lynn, whose Have You Met...? was last year's best collection of cocktail Americana. Or at least it was for half of her 30-minute album, which would make a fine EP. The other half was only okay as self-conscious cornpone country. That's still an improvement on the headliner. (Friday, June 15, Workplay Theatre) &

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