February 17, 2009

Delicious! Thao Nguyen on tour with Samantha Crain


One of my absolute favorite albums lately (like, front to back, over and over, in the car, trying to keep it down for my co-workers, air drumming in my kitchen) is Thao Nguyen‘s We Brave Bee Stings And All (2008, Kill Rock Stars).

It’s been a long time since I’ve found an artist that strikes as perfect a blend of fearless female honesty, introspectively clever lyrics, winsome melodies, and thoroughly interesting and unexpected percussion. I’m a sucker for the cool drumbeats, the ones that make me wanna clap my hands and tap along on my laptop (even as I try to write this post).

This might be my favorite song on the album, mostly because of the awesome way the drums edge their way into the room at 0:28, and then proceed to own the whole tune:

Fear & Convenience – Thao Nguyen

While Thao will be at SXSW (which I just registered for today) I also have good news! Thao’s back on tour with her band, The Get Down Stay Down, and (and!) Samantha Crain (artist behind one of my favorite EPs last year).

Come el Seis de Mayo, I might die a tiny death of happiness.

Feb 26 – Noise Pop – Swedish American Music Hall (solo) San Francisco, CA
Feb 27 – The Coffee House (solo) Davis, CA
Mar 18 – SXSW KRS Day Party-Club DeVille Austin, TX
Mar 19 – NPR Day Show -The Parish Austin, TX
Mar 19 – Hotel Café Showcase – The Parish Austin, TX
Mar 20 – KUT Showcase – Momo’s Austin, TX
Apr 17 – Black Cat Washington DC
Apr 18 – Duke Coffee House Durham, NC #
Apr 19 – Village Tavern Mt. Pleasant, SC #
Apr 20 – EARL Atlanta, GA #
Apr 21 – Club Downunder-Florida State Tallahassee, FL #
Apr 23 – The Parish Austin, TX #
Apr 24 – Lola’s Ft. Worth, TX #
Apr 25 – The Foundation Lubbock, TX #
Apr 26 – The Sub-College of Santa Fe Santa Fe, NM #
Apr 28 – The Loft-UCSD San Diego, CA #
Apr 29 – The Hotel Cafe Los Angeles, CA #
Apr 30 – Independent San Francisco, CA #
May 1 – Mississippi Studios Portland, OR #
May 2 – Chop Suey Seattle, WA #
May 4 – Neurolux Boise, ID #
May 5 – Kilby Court Salt Lake City, UT #
May 6 – Hi Dive Denver, CO #
May 9 – Empty Bottle Chicago, IL #
May 10 – Beachland Tavern Cleveland, OH #
May 12 – Iron Horse Northampton, MA #
May 14 – Bowery Ballroom New York, NY #
May 15 – First Unitarian Church Philadelphia, PA #
May 16 – The Boot Norfolk, VA #

# with Samantha Crain

PS – How do you say Thao’s name, you ask?

[top image credit Sarah Cass]

December 14, 2008

Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers get the fever out

Oklahoma native Samantha Crain released one of my favorite EPs of 2008 on the Ramseur Records label, and will be back in 2009 with The Midnight Shivers (great band name) for her debut full-length.

Called her “account of excavation,” the new album was recorded in five days at the gorgeous Echo Mountain Studios with producer Danny Kadar (Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, The Avett Brothers). Surrounding by a setting like the one pictured above, it’s no wonder such sweeping, amazing recordings have been made there. This first single is more vibrant and less lushly meandering than her previous EP, with a full band and a choir of background harmonies from the Midnight Shivers:

Get The Fever Out – Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers

Songs In The Night is out April 28, 2009 on Ramseur Records. The spectacular album art by artist Chad Mount was just unveiled today, and looks like this:

[top photo of album recording session, credit Samantha Lamb]

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September 6, 2008

Sate my craving: A live session with Samantha Crain

Lately I am completely enamored with the music of Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers and their Confiscation EP (out now on Ramseur Records).

I’d written about it a few weeks ago but since then have continued to reach for the CD over and over again, immersing myself into her introspective storytelling and her gorgeously husky and unvarnished voice. When I first wrote about Crain, I quoted a reviewer who said she evokes “Judy Garland singing Neutral Milk Hotel songs,” and the more I listen, the more I think that may be the most perfect comparison a music writer has ever scrobbled together.

The Chicago music blog Hear Ya recently featured Crain & Co. on an acoustic session of five songs, including several not on the Confiscation EP. Here are two songs from the session; you can get the rest here.

Traipsing Through The Aisles (live) – Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers

Rising Sun (live) – Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers

I only wish for a live version of my favorite song off the album, the devastatingly gorgeous “In Smithereens, The Search For Affinity.” That cut alone is worth buying the EP for — the shimmery haze of melody that’s reminiscent of some of my favorite Mazzy Star, and breathtakingly stark and resonant lyrics like these simple ones:

I won’t say I’m needy
but I won’t say I’m fine

… Can’t we just be two troubled souls in need?
And nothing more to speak of?

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August 18, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

Recently I found myself outside the Sputnik in Denver staring down a double-edged challenge: one of my friends and his sister (close sibs) rode a vintage Schwinn tandem bike to the Langhorne Slim/Young Coyotes show [nice review here]. I’ve never rode a tandem anything before, and thought I’d give it a whirl.

Let. Me. Tell. You. That business is not as easy as it may look. Who invented that? Why did they think it would be a good idea to make two people balance in unison, and why did I think that it would be a good idea to try my maiden voyage at 2am? But I must say — should the opportunity ever present itself to you, I can recommend trying it simply for the fact that I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe and I haven’t done that in a while. And then I pretty much fell off.

Speaking of new experiences, here are a few that aren’t quite as fun but probably sound better (less grunting):

Traipsing Through The Aisles
Samantha Crain
I’ve recently become enamored with Samantha Crain, the newest signee to the Ramseur Records label (also home of the Avett Brothers who I plan to see tomorrow night for my birthday!). This Shawnee, Oklahoma native is a startling 21 years of age, and I was immediately curious to hear her music when I read that she conjures up “Judy Garland singing Neutral Milk Hotel songs.” And yes, amen exactly when you hear it. Her recent release The Confiscation: A Musical Novella is structured as a rich series of interconnected short stories. It’s backporch firefly music, or campfires and pine smoke, or pick your metaphor evoking a good and spreading warmth. Listen now.

Love Vigilantes (New Order cover)
While Ramesh Srivastava of Voxtrot has been holed up in Germany for the last year, decompressing and working on the follow-up to their 2007 debut full-length (after their string of fantastic EPs), he’s stayed in Das Loop of technology and is now podcasting. There are all kinds of great free audio and video gems in their shiny corner of iTunes — a 30-minute summer mix, Vincent Moon videos from La Blogotheque, and this poppy New Order cover. All handclappy and cheery, this is almost reminiscent of “Love Me Do” with that opening harmonica. Even the spontaneous crowd chatter over the opening fits perfectly, as if you just walked into the room where the party is happening and everyone is there. You’ve got a fresh mint mojito or something summery in your hand, and this is your soundtrack.

We Should Fight
Ezra Furman & The Harpoons

From the Jonathan Richmanesque spoken opening of “I wrote this song in a paper bag,” this song unleashes into punk and melody, retro and squak, Violent Femmes meet The Kinks with a dash of The Replacements’ sloppy joy. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons were signed by Minty Fresh Records while they were still in college at Tufts University, and are still evolving as a band. I like where they are heading. The best lines in this song are “I’m not a monster, I’m a human being / I’m not a monster, I’m a human being / And I’m the greatest thing you’ve ever seen.” All that college-guy confidence and tenderness and insecurity in one lyric that sounds great yelled loud. The Brian Deck-produced Inside The Human Body is due October 7th on Minty Fresh [thanks SVB!]. Also – side note, these kids have a charmingly humble song called “I Wanna Be Ignored.” Take that, Stone Roses.

I Said Alright (live on KEXP)
The Jet Age
I’ve been meaning to give these guys a mention for months, ever since a friend with exceptionally good ears sent me a handful of laudatory texts late one night while seeing The Jet Age in San Francisco. He spoke of their charisma, their irrepressibly catchy and rocking sound (but maybe not in precisely those words, since it was 1am). Their debut album What Did You Do During The War, Daddy? (Sonic Boomerang Records) garnered an 8.0 on Pitchfork, who called it a “heart-pounding rocker … all of the riffs are stellar.” This is lean, punky, melodic pop. The Jet Age is from Silver Spring, MD and they’ve got a handful of DC-area shows coming up. I hear you should go.

My Party
Chester French
This song mysteriously popped into my inbox with vague provenance. We’re supposing that it is some new music from those golden Harvard boys, Chester French, following close in the same retro vein as the songs that have leaked so far from their hotly anticipated debut. Rhyming champagne with chow mein is something that’s just been begging to be paired for a long time now, and no one has done it until this song — but the lyrics about having a gift certificate to the mall totally reminds me of this, somewhat unfortunately. This Pharrell-endorsed buzz band has been all over the news lately – one of NME’s 25 Bands Making America Cool Again, a Rolling Stone Artist To Watch, and now a spouse to Peaches Geldof. They play Monolith on Sunday, September 14th.

BONUS! The new David Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration album can be streamed here: www.everythingthathappens.com

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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