Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Make me armored for the places I've been.

Scourge Of The Sea – Make Me Armored review
4 out of 5

Scourge of the Sea formed in 2004 and is comprised of Justin Craig, Andrew English and Robbie Cosenza. With their debut album, Make Me Armored, they single-handedly inspired the legendary Alias Records (American Music Club, Archers of Loaf, Yo La Tengo, etc) to awake from their slumber and release their first album in a decade.

Make Me Armored was released late last month and has since topped their local independent music stores’ bestseller lists week after week. I don’t know if it’s their modest, but not too precious pop songs, or the fact that they are very cute and charming fellows, but everyone loves to support these guys. The album features 10 finely tuned pop songs ranging from the slightly delicate “Waterwings”, the light and folky “Hookers”, to some harder fare with “Chocolate Chips”. “Chasing Roses” exemplifies English’s best vocal work and is one of the album’s most complex and intriguing songs, alternately hopeful and haunting. The vocal and guitar melodies contained within the song are perfectly complimentary and are so seamless that your ears will be smiling for days after listening to this song.

The songs are all arranged beautifully with complimenting tambourine hits and intriguing keyboard melodies in addition to the traditional drum, bass and guitars. The instrumentation on this album sounds so well put-together and the arrangements just make so much sense that it’s hard to believe these songs haven’t existed for thousands of years already. In addition, the lyrical abilities of these guys are infinite. What really catches my ear and warms my heart is when I hear English sing tender words like “I don’t need to smoke with a fix like you”, “…and I loved your lips on your overbite” or when Cosenza mentions his “waterwings and a cable knit sweater”.

With such striking imagery and coordinating harmonies, Scourge of the Sea may be putting bands like the Fruit Bats out of work.

English and Cosenza alternate writing credits and vocals, each singing lead on their own creations. English tends to take his listeners by the hand and sing in their ears while Cosenza seems as content standing in a corner yelling at the top of his lungs. Cosenza’s songs are not as intimate as English’s but certainly no less heartfelt. Showcasing two such different vocalists adds a layer of significance and versatility to the band as a whole; they aren’t limited one type of vocal. It’s almost as if they can be two bands in one, which only makes listening to them that much more interesting.

Scourge of the Sea - Out of the Trash
Scourge of the Sea - Smitten Kitten

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hooray for Sunday

The Minders and Marbles
The Dame in Lexington, KY

Robert Schneider has been releasing material under the Marbles moniker since 1992; this is hardly a new endeavor. Schneider’s last Marbles release, Expo, came out in March of 2005 after which he did a nationwide tour with Clem Snide showcasing his newest brand of Casio-infused, ELO-inspired, dancetastic music across the land. These shows were being played specifically in support of the new album and there was an entire choreographed stage show that included Schneider performing as a spaceman with a giant boombox and essentially karaoking to his own songs. However, the show at The Dame on Sunday night was different; there was no new album to perform and no expectations placed on Schneider apart from warming the audience and readying the stage for old friends The Minders.

Schneider played an acoustic set of songs that ranged from the Apples’ debut album Fun Trick Noisemaker, the only other Marbles album Pyramid Landing (And other favorites), to the upcoming and highly-anticipated Apples release New Magnetic Wonder. I’ve seen Schneider perform many times, with all of his various endeavors but I have never seen a more comprehensive set. It was a wonderful treat to hear “Tidal Wave” and “She’s Just Like Me” sung onstage; I’m impressed Schneider still remembers them. I imagine such a low-stress show really gave him the freedom to play whatever he wanted to. In fact, many of the songs he did play were requests or suggestions from the audience; Martyn Leaper himself requested “Pine Away”.

Schneider is indeed a true performer; he never fails to entertain, not even when he stops mid-set to check his text messages.

Headlining the show was the Denver, CO based band The Minders. The Minders are close friends of Robert Schneider and, in fact, Schneider was sort of a founding member of the band. He was there from the get go and has been involved with the band, producing albums/songs, and contributing musically since its creation. The Minders produce exactly the kind of sounds that pop into one’s head when they think of the Elephant 6 collective. Googley-woogely pop goodness, with an obvious 60’s psychadelia influence. Martyn Leaper, the band’s premiere singer songwriter, has a great sense of melody and structure. His songs flow perfectly, with a mysterious lead guitar tone or a piano integrated at just the perfect moment, just the right amount of flare. The Minders’ new album It’s a Bright, Guilty World finds the band at the closest they’ve ever come to living up to their seminal debut Hooray For Tuesday, the pop album that is so perfect that not even its creators can top it.

The band’s performance was a perfect representation of their sound altogether. High energy, bouncing around, and all the stuff that makes you want to dance it! The set primarily featured songs from the new album but also included some extra surprises like a cover of the Syd Barrett song “Lucifer Sam” (from Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn), “Now I Can Smile” and the show’s closer “Hooray For Tuesday”. The band itself is very tight and they seemed well rehearsed, which is pretty par for the course considering they’ve been touring with Of Montreal for the past month, playing in a new city every night. Leaper invited Robert Schneider onstage to play two songs with the band, the fuzz guitar track “357” and the classic “Hooray For Tuesday”. Both times Schneider was playing with the band it was evident how happy they all made each other; they seemed to be simply rejoicing in one another’s sheer presence. By the end of “Hooray For Tuesday”, on which Schneider assisted on tambourine and filling in the backing vocals, which he himself sang on the recording, it seemed that the band didn’t want to get off the stage any more than we wanted them to. It was an elating experience.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Arthur Lee

Love, Arthur is standing on the staircase in the glasses.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Return of Little Mac

This is so funny, I can't even see straight.