November 30, 2011

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #9 :: These United States

Watching the five guys in These United States make music has always reminded me of a river. There is something serpentine, endless, and powerful that torrents out of the mouth of Jesse Elliott and through the arms and legs of all five of them. It rambles. It breathes. They also tour so freaking much that you would think that they’d lose those potent abilities and stray from the source in favor of rote and rockin’ performances, at some point. Yet for the handful of years I’ve known them, that has never happened. Every performance, even small ones, are infused with their trademark literacy, urgency, with dust-and-sweat notes and slide guitar quaver hanging in the air.

We recorded this chapel session back in late July when the nights were so blissfully long, and the air in the church was uncharacteristically sticky and close. We’ve never done a session with this many people in the band before, and we tried to capture more of a field-recording feel to what was happening that day. I love the way the lone central mic picks up the echo of Jesse’s voice, the cadence of the piano chords, the loose rattle of bang as Robby thumped on a few pieces of my drumkit (in its debut recording appearance).

The band is in the studio at this moment working on their fifth record.


The Angels’ Share
This is a brand new song, and the one that first made me start thinking in the aforementioned metaphors of rivers. When I asked Jesse if the title was plural or singular, he thought about it for a minute and pensively nodded as he answered: “It’s gotta be multiple angels. One angel couldn’t catch all that.”


What Do You Want With My Heart?
A song that’s been around for a handful of years, but just made its recorded appearance on their last album, 2010′s What Lasts. J Tom shines on the big, old, beautiful grand piano that sits in the corner of the church and occasionally gets discovered during one of these sessions. It’s a stripped song of honesty, asking a question that many of us would be well-served to listen to the answer to. I remember reading something a long time ago on Daytrotter in 2007, when Jesse spoke about the “most honest particle.” This band digs that out over and over again, and is relentless in the scouring.

Hit The Ground Running (Smog/Bill Callahan cover)
A concession to my always-kindly-suggested mantra of “you know –I mean– I love cover songs. If you wanted to maybe do one in your chapel session? Or whatever. I mean, anything is wonderful.” This one is a live end-of-the-night favorite for these guys, and more than anything for me evokes the feel of their half-Kentucky heritage (equally split with Washington, D.C.), teasing out all the rootsiness from this 1999 Bill Callahan song.


[most photos by Sarah Law, who I appreciate.]

July 30, 2011

Fuel/Friends Summer BBQ house concert!

Tomorrow, friends, These United States are playing my grand hurrah mid-summer BBQ fiesta with The Lumineers. Both bands are, quite simply — amazing, and really you should come. Details about Sunday are here. Bring something to cook up and let’s celebrate the radiant heat and summer thunderstorms before they’re gone.

September 24, 2010

I can hear that old brass band playing our song down the hill


Today feels like one of those dulcet, lucky days of indian summer reprieve before the air turns crisp and cold around all the edges. As I sat on a front porch this morning with my coffee, looking at the mountains, I took note of the slightest suggestion of autumn coming. I can feel it waiting for me. Hence I am cramming my days and nights full with as many warm-weather things as I can before the seriousness (and wildness) of Colorado autumn wrestles me into sweaters and rainboots.

I think I’ve said this ten thousand times before in this forum, but I really do love my summer nights (minus mosquitoes). The sitting in a lawn chair at nine thirty, the sky still echoing with sunlight like a colossal glow-worm being held just beyond the horizon. The midnight bike rides, campfires, drinks like mint juleps and Pimm’s cups….

My pal J Tom Hnatow, pedal steel/electric guitarist for These United States, put together a whiz-bang mix this summer for that time of day when the twilight is deepening and the air is cooling. Of all the excellent tracks he picked, I’ve fallen for this Jayhawks song the hardest. It’s one of those terrific songs that sounds like you already know it as soon as it cues up for the first time.

Haywire – Jayhawks

Tom explains:

A friend of ours from the band Revival once told me that he always forced himself to be doing something, anything, at twilight — the longest, loneliest, heaviest time of day for him to get through, when all your thoughts and memories seep hazily in at the edges, darkness creeps inevitably on.

This is a mix for driving west, the sun setting red through the clouds, watching the world fade away until there’s nothing left but the glowing instrument panel and the lonely headlights of fellow travelers.”

As for me, I am heading to a little cabin the mountains of Colorado this weekend and I’ll be waiting for the light to change, as the aspen leaves flutter yellow for probably just these next few days, and then they’ll be gone.

[photo by Thierry Lombry from The Venus Transit 2004]

August 14, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 shines


Lollapalooza took over the massive lakeside green of Grant Park last weekend for its sixth year as a stationary festival in Chicago. I was unable to get myself to The Prairie State, and sent two talented writer-photographers to cover it for Fuel/Friends: Dainon and Kathleen. I ached with jealousy at their text and cell-phone pic updates all weekend long since it sounded like an incredible lineup.

Let them tell you about what rocked at this year’s Lollapalooza.


Dainon: The sunshine and subsequent sunburn was as inescapable as the flip flop abrasions, the beer tents at every turn and enough music-filled stages to satisfy the most ADHD-addled music listener, but Lollapalooza delivered on its promises. It was about as sold out as festivals come (to the tune of 80,000 happy faces, by some estimates) and every band these eyes saw actually started on time, and everyone who offered, “Hello, Lollapalooza!” into a microphone was cheered and celebrated like crazy. It may as well have been its own hometown city, true enough. That’s the kind of pride that came along with its mention.

Kathleen: Friday dawned steamy and warm, but not overbearingly hot – which was incredible, given the fact that I naturally associate summer music with blinding melanoma-inducing heat. Instead I trekked over to my very first show, which was the Washington D.C based group, These United States. I have seen this band many times before, and yet my dancing feet don’t seem to remember to get tired of them. Their thumping, surging, pedal steel laced rock and roll created an optimism for the rest of the day in the committed crowd (commitment at a festival means getting out of bed before the headliner).

These United States

I wish I’d caught their whole set, but one of the issues I have with new places is my complete lack of direction. I circumnavigated Grant Park (approximately the size of the Earth) completely before finding my entrance. I actually felt myself perk up when I got to the These United States show, and I’m pretty sure I owe my consciousness and perkiness to those gents and their predilection for expansive, raucous rock.

D: Jeff Tweedy showed up during Mavis Staples’ set on Friday (something I’d sorta banked on possibly happening, considering he’s producing her next album), playing acoustic guitar for a couple songs while she sang lines only she could get away with in that setting, ones like “Only the Lord knows and He ain’t you” and “I’m gettin’ too close to heaven to turn back now.” I think Tweedy grinned wider and more than I’ve seen him do in the three full Wilco concerts.

The Walkmen

K: The Walkmen seemed like such a throwback to me. Wearing nice slacks and ties, I almost thought they’d launch into some 1950s era doo-wop. Instead, I was met with a howl so full of conviction, I turned to the people next to me to see if anyone else was surprised. Instead, most people seemed to be expecting it, craving it. The Walkmen made a show out of rambling and reverb, out of bare-bones music that the band members seem to get lost in. I felt a mystery in their show, a depth like if they kept playing for five more hours it would end up in a place totally foreign to where it started.

The Strokes
strokes 2


K: Closing the night Friday with their first show on American soil in four years, The Strokes seemed to be a last vestige of true, epic rock and roll. Julian Casablancas entered, five minutes late, wearing sunglasses and a studded leather jacket. He put his foot possessively on a front speaker and launched into the fiery guitar licks with a coolness that make the Strokes what they are. Their show was incendiary. I actually felt a fire in my belly that held in a tight little ball, expanding to a blaze whenever the poised melodies would break out into all hell, filling the night with revolutionary, explosive sound. The cheering blended right in to each song, people chanting along to Casablancas’ droning voice (myself included). It was anthemic, a show that somehow reflected and validated all the passionate air guitar that I’ve been perfecting since childhood, just for moments like this.

strokes 3

D: When The Strokes took the stage, Lady Gaga was doing her thing way over on the other end of beautiful Grant Park. While a quick two or three glances in her direction revealed that people were determined to take in her set, even if they were a mile away and stepping on tiptoes to see the big screens, The Strokes forced us to look back fondly at the early 2000s, when their promise was far greater than their outcome. It didn’t rock us as hard as it felt absolutely comfortable to hear song after familiar song. Hearing the line “I want to be forgotten, and I don’t want to be reminded” sounded boozy and smirky and blurry, as it should have. It seems they’ve gotten over the whole buzz-band notion and allowed themselves to settle into their black leather and sunglasses and skin some more. This is a good— and maybe even great—thing.



K: Skybox is a boatload of local Chicago fun. It’s like they captured the essence of what makes me dance in front of people and put it in Tim Ellis’ voice. From the very get-go of their early Saturday set, I was smiling and jumping and making a general fool of myself to their complex, rich pop songs. It definitely helped that all four of them were dancing too, bouncing around stage and beaming in the same key as their relentlessly catchy tunes.


D: Once upon a time, I only knew one song by Austin’s Harlem. That song was “Friendly Ghost” and, every time it poked its head out of my shuffling jukebox of a laptop, it pounded itself on the chest like Tarzan and stomped on a bass drum pedal, and forced dancing feet. Their 35-minute set was one of the only ones I lasted all the way through for, partly because I thought I’d see a fistfight break out before it ended (sadly, it didn’t). It was all filled up with raw, short blasts of that unfiltered, unpolished, sweaty energy stuff. I’d venture they put more power into that single show than most bands do in a career. And you can take that nugget of truth to the bank and scrawl it on an album sticker. It’s deserved high praise, too. They may not be able to keep that going and they may burn out quick as they came, but at least they burned bright on that Saturday morning.

K: Harlem does not come from Harlem, I found out. It actually surprised me, what with the gritty, dirty rock they pump out, and their lack of conventional on stage niceties. These guys didn’t bother tuning in the beginning, argued with each other at the end of every final guitar lick, and yet…they were electric. It was a strange, sort of surreal experience to hear this teetering, crazed garage rock, the kind where the drumming sounds manic and the bass thumps unapologetically underneath spontaneous-sounding riffs that take over even a wide open festival ground. They absolutely commanded my attention, and drew me in as I thrummed from song to song with them, painfully aware of how straight-edge I am in the face of real rock and roll attitude. If they had been selling leather jackets anywhere near there, I would have bought one immediately.


K: I had been waiting see Warpaint since my braggart friends returned with tales of psychedelic girl rock from SXSW this spring. I was not disappointed. Looking like kids playing dress up in Mardi Gras masks and tie dye shirts, these four women launched themselves into their set with a level of commitment that made me feel as though I was sucked into a vortex of melting, earthy music. Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman have these liberated vocals that just wrangle audiences. What shocked me was their floating, ethereal sound was still full of sharp edges, spikes, and dips. It was anything but just a pretty face. They also skipped right over their single from their debut album Exquisite Corpse, “Billie Holiday.” You know it’s a great show when they blow by the song everyone knows and no one seems to miss it.

The National

K: I hadn’t seen The National before Lollapalooza. I hadn’t seen them, but the number of times I’ve listened to, cried to, felt to The National far outstrips almost all other bands for me. So I practically launched myself across Grant Park to be one of the first people in front of the Playstation stage. Matt Berninger already had a green bottle of white wine chilling in a big plastic bowl on the stage, and the setlist taped where my zoom lens could find it. And just like it told me, when the guys strolled out, they launched into “Runaway.” Berninger has a baritone that socks me in the windpipe with its haunted depths every time. Live it was even better. I was rooted to my spot, blown away by the shifting, glowing soundscapes they were able to use to fill the enormous Grant Park.

national wine

Berninger carried himself with the grace of someone from faraway and long ago, like he should have a maroon leather wingback chair and a roaring fire at all times. They completely flattened me with their devastating performance, both tight and yet not the same as listening to the record. It was real and tangible, and offered a jagged edge that made the dangerous, sometimes downright mean, themes of their songs come to living, breathing life. I have to say, as I pulled myself away from the emptied stage, I felt sad and satisfied at the same time – as though I could not have handled more soul stretching, but that I hungered for more, like a musical masochism. Extreme? Possibly. Don’t psychoanalyze me, I didn’t write the music.

national 2

[Dainon’s take on The National is here. It was so good he needed an entire post. And this happened to a friend of mine and his kiddo – pretty rad.]


The Antlers

K: It was raining on Sunday morning, but that didn’t stop my determination to see The Antlers perform in muddy Grant Park. So I slapped a plastic bag over my camera and secretly wished the park was connected by a network of Slip ‘N Slides. Though that wish wasn’t granted, I did get to witness the painfully beautiful Antlers set. Antlers deliver the same shiver and ache on stage that they do on their records. Their sparse presence on the massive stage lent itself well to their songs, which talk about death and loneliness and layers in life. Granted, not the usual festival fare, but it was so fitting to be standing in the silver drizzle listening to songs about real things sung with such passion. It was grounding, and a fantastic breath before diving into what would end up being a hot, humid day.

The Ike Reilly Assassination
ike reilly

K: The Ike Reilly Assassination is a band I first heard about through this same blog, and I was so excited to go see the Chicago group tear my socks off and incite me to jump up and down. And sonically, they did just that. Unafraid to be loud, and delighting in having the whole audience sing along to “Valentine’s Day in Juarez,” I felt like the stage was filled with my crazy uncles at Thanksgiving dinner. Not the annoying crazy ones that pinch you, but the fun ones that you know might be a little drug addled from younger days with unforgettable stories that they just might tell you if you keep the brandy coming. The Ike Reilly Assassination put so much energy into their rollicking show, I would be surprised if they could walk afterward. It was the kind of performance where drum sticks crack and guitar strings snap, crackle, pop, and everyone’s smiling about all the fun coming out of it.

Mumford and Sons

mumford 3

mumford 2

K: I’ve wanted to see Mumford and Sons ever since their release of Sigh No More last year. I’ve yearned to see them. While I was waiting, along with the rest of the people in attendance at Lollapalooza it seemed, I was already getting a little giddy thinking of their joyful harmonies and liberated banjo rolls. A moment after Marcus Mumford (and people who are not, technically, his sons) took the stage, they swept me away immediately with the title track off the aforementioned album.

mumford 4

Their music builds, it swells, and it takes me along until it all crashes into runaway melodies that seem composed of innocent wildness. Even better was watching their faces, because they mirrored ours. They had a shining newness on stage that showed no hint of the pretension that could come along with such success. Their sound filled me up from the inside instead of sweeping around me; it held me and moved me, and yes, I did get tears in my eyes. There is such a fearlessness in Mumford and Sons. When they perform it is intimate and real and consuming. It left me breathless.

Frightened Rabbit
frightened rabbit 2

frightened rabbit

K: Frightened Rabbit is an eviscerating experience. Hailing from the gray moors of Scotland, Scott Hutchison’s lonely wail can transform into a heartwrenching, cracking scream in a single turn of phrase. Standing amidst a huge crowd of people who knew the words to all their songs, just as I did, was comforting but strange. For such cry-into-your-whiskey music, it seemed I had a lot of comrades who related. I loved when Hutchison would abandon words all together and throw in extra howls and punctuated with guttural “oh”s, like the cracks went too deep to express with simple human language. And yet, people danced. That’s the amazing thing about Frightened Rabbit for me, they revel in the muck of life. They yell and scream about the things that go the deepest, and do so in a way that makes you throw out your limbs and give yourself to the simple act of moving. Not forward, not backward, just moving so you know you’re not a bag of sand.

Arcade Fire
arcade fire

arcade fire 2

K: Closing the festival, Arcade Fire was a massive conglomeration of complete mayhem on stage – people switching instruments, lights flashing, sensory overload. And yet it all coalesces into a technicolor sort of sonic boom. I was amid the tens of thousands of people yelling along to the lines as we were all pulled into the strange video projected on the high stage. They were passion personified, their energy never flagging, their voices always threatening to bust at the seams and spill out into chaos. It felt like being part of a rock opera, especially when they moved to songs from their newest release The Suburbs. It was a whirling two hours of exhausting their musical library, satisfying people who came for old and new.

arcade fire 3

Everyone in Arcade Fire is a star, which completely surprised me. No one seemed to outshine the other, which made it a white hot spectacle that required a lot of time to let it sink in. I couldn’t help but get a buzz off everyone listening; from right up front to the street people gathered and singing, the music not losing any of its power with distance. There could not have been a better closer. Arcade Fire has never been one of my favorite recorded bands, but after experiencing them in the heavy Chicago night air, I don’t think I can forget the way I felt a part of that celebration onstage and off, a culmination of musical experience and community – with a light show.

arcade fire 4

Dainon: Maybe what I’ll most remember of Lollapalooza this year will be showing up an hour before The National started, while MGMT sang softly at my back. But that’s only the beginning.

When Matt Berninger came out and sang what amount to sad, twisted love songs, holding no emotion back, when he rushed forward to the spot I was and I reached out and touched him on the hand and microphone and looked into what amounted to being very sad, dark eyes, that was the unexpected middle.

As for the end? It came with dragonflies overhead and Arcade Fire singing “No Cars Go” as my legs very nearly buckled and I sat on an offered chair instead of a mound of cool grass. That long moment, the one that lasted for a number of hours, I like that I will never be able to unforget it. What’s more, it’s a movie that comes with a soundtrack, an impossibly, gorgeous summertime one.

Thanks, Chicago. Thanks, Perry. I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to do another one of these, but, as a first and last time, it was a success all over the place.

PS – Best overheard quote during the very crowded xx set: “Whoa! This is like the real version of Facebook! Hey, are you my friend?!”


Grizzly Bear
grizzly bear

The Black Keys
black keys

The Big Pink
big pink 2

A big, pink fan at The Big Pink

the xx
the xx

See you in 2011?

[all of Kathleen’s pictures from all three days can be seen here]

April 5, 2010

These United States house show


Come on, come on.

The Business (demo) – Jesse Elliott of These United States

January 7, 2010

I don’t wanna stop I wanna go, go, go

the apparitions

In 2007, one of my top twenty favorite songs of the whole year was a tune called “Electricity + Drums” from a Kentucky band named The Apparitions. I think a random reader recommendation pointed me over to their website, and within the first second of that song, I was snagged, and couldn’t wait to gushingly tell you all about it. My iTunes player currently advises that I have listened to it 186 times since then, partly because it is on both my favorite running mix, as well as my favorite party mix. Here’s why:

Electricity + Drums – The Apparitions

Right?! It really is a whiz-bang, whirling dervish of fun and handclaps that I’m still enjoying regularly.

The second part of the story (it all connects in wondrous fashion, just watch): On Tuesday night, I trekked through snow and fog to get up into the ski country of Colorado and see These United States. They were the last show I saw in the waning minutes of 2009, and I decided to bookend this year nicely with them being the first of 2010.

I was talking to These United States drummer Robby Cosenza about how joyously he drums, and he mentioned another musical project of his, Fanged Robot. When I googled up some Fanged Robot music yesterday, I was absolutely floored (nearly fell off my couch) to hear Robby doing an acoustic version of “Electricity + Drums” halfway through an old Band in Boston podcast. Turns out, Robby is also the drummer for The Apparitions, and he wrote that very song that I’ve been loving all these 186 unrestrained times. Full circle, pass go, collect $200! These United States guitarist Justin Craig is also in The Apparitions. Oh how I love it when good music all connects so randomly and seamlessly.

This acoustic version doesn’t have the handclaps (except the ones I add), but it makes my ears incredibly happy, as do the rest of the songs on that podcast. The way Robby does it here reminds me of Deer Tick meeting Ryan Adams, and his yowl also does the favor of letting me finally understand more of these superb lyrics that I’ve always just mumbled through, like “this town’s boasting some kind of warning, there’s no glow from the bulbs for the moths to get drawn in, you’re far away but I still hear you callin’…”:

Electricity + Drums – Fanged Robot

Fanged Robot has a show coming up in Lexington, Kentucky on the 22nd of this month.

1285These United States just finished a string of tour dates, and they are currently holed up in Boulder for a few weeks, working pre-production on their fourth studio album.

It will be the follow-up to their scorching, intelligent Everything Touches Everything, from which this barn-burner comes:

I Want You To Keep Everything – These United States


June 30, 2009

These United States cover this Bob Dylan :: “To Ramona”


The marvelously raw and literate These United States recently recorded a cover for a French compilation called Dylan Mania (which also features Magnet’s version of “Lay Lady Lay,” and Antony and the Johnsons knocking on heaven’s door alongside many French bands).

Where Dylan’s original of “To Ramona” waltzed and lilted in courteous measured style, These United States keel off into the hayloft as we hasten the jamboree. The thrumming and playfully creative drumbeat (courtesy of mohawked Robby) builds and drives the song along, while Jesse’s voice earnestly cracks exactly where you hope it will. There’s also some pedal steel bringin’ the lonesome, and a particularly nice clattery-taptastic breakdown towards the end.

Ramona come closer, shut softly your watery eyes
The pangs of your sadness will pass as your senses will rise
For the flowers of the city though breathlike get deathlike sometime
And there’s no use in trying to deal with the dying
Though I cannot explain that in lines.

To Ramona (Dylan cover) – These United States

One reviewer said that TUS plays their folk “the way it was meant to be played: hard, fast, big, slow, long, loud, loose, and at last unburdened. They play it like they mean it.” Personally they describe their music as cumulonimbus wordpop for the jangly railyard dreamer — I really like that.

tus-coverTheir 3rd full-length release in 18 months Everything Touches Everything (oooh!) is out September 1st; I think last year’s excellent Crimes was underrated and overlooked.

They have more live shows than anyone you’ve ever met, so go see ‘em. They put on one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a long time; we adored them at SXSW and our Hillbilly Prom they played.

For completists, here’s the original and a cover that David Gray did on his 2007 cover album A Thousand Miles Behind. And as David says at the beginning of the recording, “I absolutely loved this one from the first time I heard it…”

Oh, me too.

To Ramona – Bob Dylan
To Ramona (Dylan cover) – David Gray

I’d forever talk to you but soon my words
would turn into a meaningless ring
for deep in my heart I know there’s no help I can bring
Everything passes, everything changes
just do what you think you should do
And someday maybe, who knows baby
I’ll come and be crying to you

[photo taken in a sweaty bar at SXSW by one Todd Roeth]

March 25, 2009

Hillbilly Prom this Friday with These United States!


I saw These United States twice in Austin and their live set absolutely crackled with rough and rowdy energy. They are the perfect headliners for our First Annual Denver Hillbilly Prom this Friday night at the Hi-Dive. I am wearing a peach and white striped Gunne Sax/Jessica McClintock dress from the early ’80s and –of course– my cowboy boots.

Get Yourself Home (In Search of The Mistress Whose Kisses Are Famous) – These United States

Y’all come out, and for those of you who can’t, check out this fabulous (deafening) performance from the Hype Machine/Music Slut SXSW Party last week:

Catch These United States on the road if you can, because their sets were packed full at SXSW:

Mar 25 @ The Sub (College of Santa Fe) Santa Fe, NM
Mar 26 @ Sundown Saloon Boulder, CO
Mar 27 @ Hi-Dive, w/ Lurleens Denver, CO
Mar 28 @ Pioneer Inn Nederland, CO
Mar 29 @ The Dusty Bookshelf Manhattan, KS
Mar 30 @ Slowdown Omaha, NE
Mar 31 @ The Nomad Minneapolis, MN
Apr 2 @ KRUI Live In-Studio Iowa City, IA
Apr 2 @ The Mill Iowa City, IA
Apr 3 @ The Hideout Chicago, IL
Apr 4 @ Founders Grand Rapids, MI
Apr 5 @ P.J.’s Lager House Detroit, MI
Apr 5 @ House Ann Arbor, MI
Apr 6 @ Village Idiot Maumee, OH
Apr 7 @ Scene Metrospace East Lansing, MI
Apr 8 @ Canal Street Tavern Dayton, OH
Apr 9 @ My Old Kentucky Blog live session Indianapolis, IN
Apr 9 @ Locals Only Indianapolis, IN
Apr 10 @ The Comet Cincinnati, OH
Apr 11 @ Transylvania University Lexington, KY
Apr 11 @ Al’s Bar Lexington, KY
Oct 20-24 @ CMJ Music Marathon New York, NY

[our fine poster designed by the fearsome Todd Roeth, in the back of our car somewhere between Texas and New Mexico last night. True story.]

September 22, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

So I finally, finally saw No Country For Old Men this weekend (I know, right?!) and thought it was a near flawless film. As I’ve mentioned before, Cormac McCarthy has been one of my favorite authors from the first time I read All The Pretty Horses in high school. I’ve been mesmerized by his austere, profound, unadorned writing ever since.

The Coen Brothers did something extremely rare by accurately capturing the mood and tone of the book in addition to just re-telling the story. If you’re even more behind than I am in this one, I won’t ruin the ending — but will say that it was one of the most perfect, piercing closing seconds to a film that I’ve seen in years.

This week is a busy one for me, holding 5 shows by my count. And I’ll be moving into a new place downtown in a few weeks. Wish me luck — heck, just wish that I survive. Here’s what I’ll be listening to amidst the madness:

The ’59 Sound
The Gaslight Anthem

This song is about death come too soon, but Gaslight Anthem‘s sound wraps up these themes of youth and death with a defiance that burns through in their music with resistant lines like “ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night.” Some say that these New Jersey fellows evoke a contemporary America in a Born to Run way, loose and raw [via]. Their song “High Lonesome” pays subtle tribute to a fantastic line from Counting Crows’ first album, and I hear the urgency I love about Roger Clyne in the vocals as well. So yeah, they’ve got my attention. Gaslight Anthem is out on tour with Against Me, which I don’t know much about but now see that they have an exclamation mark in their name – Against Me! So that might be too much excitement for me and I’ll wait to check these guys out when they circle back through on the club circuit. What a show that would be — I’d predict catharsis and the purity of rock n roll.

Oppressions Each
Brightblack Morning Light
New Mexico freakfolk collective Brightblack Morning Light is fun to read interviews with. Why? How about this gem: Singer Naybob Shineywater used to sing shows with an arrowhead in his mouth. Why? “To let his own sung words & breathe touch this stone before European ears could hear them.” Naybob says, “I was not singing for war, but to engage the spirit of the maker of the arrowhead itself, to offer up Peace, that his warrior effort find a new respect, and to help my own warrior spirit sing in Peace.” See? That’s crazy fun right there. But no seriously — if you’re not all hippy dippy you still absolutely can and should enjoy this extraordinary song off their new album Motion to Rejoin (out tomorrow on Matador Records). It’s incredible — all thickly woven with retro sounds that sound like they are coming through a steamy bathroom, down the hall, and through a layer of feathers to your head under the pillow on a Saturday morning.

Get Yourself Home (In Search Of The Mistress Whose Kisses Are Famous)
These United States

The most recent Colorado show that Washington D.C.’s These United States played was a few weeks ago at a farm party for Labor Day out near Nimbus Road and Diagonal Highway in Niwot. I hear the two things that existed in some abundance were farmland and alcohol. This sounds like the kind of band that you could have a lot of fun with in those doses. After getting positive reviews all over the place from folks like NPR, KEXP and Morning Becomes Eclectic, These United States are releasing their sophomore album Crimes tomorrow on United Interests. There’s a rustic folk charm here with a feisty and jittery thread weaving through this that would make M Ward proud.

Nice Train
The Donkeys
There’s a simple aura of palatable psychedelica that vibrates through this song from San Diego’s The Donkeys, along with a very basic rhyming scheme that reminds me in an odd way of “Girls” by the Beastie Boys. Don’t believe me? Listen to the “how/wow/cow” sequence and tell me it doesn’t echo “way/MCA/play/you may” bit. Or maybe it’s just me. It’s a unique blending of ’60s rock with modern day heroes, and I think they also might reveal a possible love of folks like Pavement. Living On The Other Side was out a few weeks ago on Dead Oceans (Bishop Allen, Bowerbirds).

Hold It In
Jukebox The Ghost

Despite the heartfelt personal invitation from these endearing fellows who were passing out hand-drawn flyers on Saturday at Monolith to encourage people to get there early Sunday to hear their set, I failed. I wanted to, especially after listening to the ebullient pop of their album Live And Let Ghosts, and especially because they stand out from the indie crowd with that fun dash of Freddie Mercury vocal drama. Aquarium Drunkard rubs salt in the wound of my tardiness by writing that Jukebox The Ghostset a high bar for the rest of the festival, cruising as they did through an infectious set of grandiose piano-driven pop — for a 1:00 crowd, it was a packed and energetic room.” They are on tour now across the country, ending in SF on October 18th.

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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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