Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Not a top 10: Albums and shows that were important to me this year

Note: This post has taken a lot longer to complete than I planned. This was the first year that my mom came to visit me in Raleigh for Christmas, and it involved more work and more socializing than I anticipated! I imagine I'll be back at the beach next year!

Despite what I wrote in a contentious Facebook discussion on the subject, I am not going to make Liturgy's Aesthetica my album of the year, even though I can see how it would be totally warranted.   For one reason, I haven't even listened to the album, but their music is really beside the point to the discussions they've sparked about metal and who should make it.

I'm also not going to call this a top 10 or top whatever, even though the albums and shows I'm going to list are kind of loosely in order of meaningfulness to me. And that's really what this entry is: A list of albums and shows that I personally enjoyed and that meant something to me in 2011. Nothing more and nothing less. In the past year I made a conscious shift in my blog coverage away from local music in general toward heavier music. This is what is exciting me now, and it's what I prefer to cover. But that doesn't mean you won't find some local music, or music that's not heavy, on this list.

I also want to say that, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, I don't know everything. Many times recently I've had friends try to talk to me about certain bands, only to be surprised that I don't know about them. If you know of a band you think I would like, please tell me about them. I always appreciate hearing about new music, especially heavy music.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Graveyard - Hisingen Blues
Upon hearing this album of well-crafted heavy blues back in March, I was convinced it would be my album of the year. This was definitely the album that got the most plays on my iPod. But then September came, and I heard an amazing number of releases  -- including Rwake's Rest, which was No. 1 in my mind for a while -- that seemed to shove this one aside. In contemplating this list I went back and listened to some of my favorites from earlier in the year, and concluded that none had the same emotional impact on me. Hear "No Good Mr. Holden."

Feist - Metals
Up until hearing Metals the only two songs guaranteed to make me cry on command were Imogene Heap's "Hide and Seek" and Lucinda Williams' "Sweet Old World." You can now add Feist's "Graveyard" to that list. This is truly a great album.

The Atlas Moth - An Ache for the Distance
I really liked The Atlas Moth's first release, A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, but I honestly thought Stavros Giannopoulos' death metal vocals didn't really work well with Dave Kush's clean vocals. On Ache, the vocal interplay works much better and the album as a whole is musically more cohesive. The band also earns my vote for Song of the Year with "Holes in the Desert."

Rwake - Rest
"It Was Beautiful but Now It's Sour" will be the soundtrack when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come riding across the earth.

Orchid - Capricorn
I really struggled with putting this one on the list. Orchid is derivative to the point of almost being a tribute band. They're basically 99 percent Black Sabbath with 1 percent Deep Purple mixed in. But that mix works, and I played this album almost non-stop this year. Hear "Down into the Earth."

Yob - Atma
This one really took a while to grow on me. At first I found it repetitive and boring, but then I started appreciating its trance-inducing qualities. Hear "Adrift in the Ocean."

Warpaint - The Fool
Haunting, jangly girl rock from LA. Heard this the first time at Poole's Diner on the night of April 15, after going to see Neil Young at DPAC. The next day, it should be noted, was the Great Raleigh Tornado. All that day, while I was stuck waiting out the storm with a hundred other people in the basement of Dorton Arena and later at Slim's, which was operating with candles and warm beer, the song "Undertow" kept replaying in my mind. (Yes, I know this was released in 2010, but it came to my attention this year.)

Black Skies - On the Wings of Time
Crushing and heavy, and yet delicate and exotic. Black Skies outdid themselves with this release, and became the best band in this area's thriving heavy music community.  Hear "The Sleeping Prophet."

Royal Thunder - Royal Thunder
These guys were the best surprise of the Bull City Metal Fest, even though they sound more like a super heavy Fleetwood Mac than anything that could remotely be called metal. Hear "Low."

U.S. Christmas - The Valley Path
I listened to this album while ripping up a bunch of nasty carpet in a spare bedroom. Have you ever ripped up carpet? Pulling it up is the easy part. Yanking up hundreds of tiny nails and staples is the thankless part. But when I was done, I had a beautiful hardwood floor, that was almost pristine because it had been covered by that nasty carpet for nearly 40 years.  I'd wanted to refinish that floor since moving into my house almost 11 years ago, but I kept the carpet because my dog liked laying on it. As you probably know, my dog died  at 15 and 1/2 earlier this year, and his death was very hard on me. Listening to The Valley Path during that process summed up the psychological journey of loss, of throwing away, and of finding something beautiful underneath. U.S. Christmas Facebook page.

Honorable mentions
Saviours - Earthen Dagger
Opeth - Heritage
Skeletonwitch - Of Ash and Torment
Black Tusk - Set the Dial
Blood Ceremony - Living with the Ancients
Seidr - For Winter Fire


Inquisition at Six Forks Pub
I'm sure you  know some old timers who talk about that awesome COC show back in the day in the basement of St. Joseph's AME Church (now Hayti Heritage Center). 20 years from now middle aged Raleigh punks will be talking about that Inquisition show with the same reverence.

Agalloch at Kings
I wrote the following for the Indy: The memory that will stick with me from 2011 is the atmosphere, particularly the scent, of Agalloch’s show at Kings on a misty evening in March. Before playing, the band lit two little cauldrons of what looked like wood blocks, giving the air a dim, smoky feel and heady aroma. Recently I asked drummer Aesop Dekker on Facebook what the incense was, and he said it might have been actual agalloch wood. I felt like I had stumbled upon a pagan ritual in the middle of a burning maritime forest. Read original post.

Oxbow at Berkeley Cafe during Hopscotch
The menacing, tightly wound Eugene Robinson is probably the only man in the world who can out-David Yow David Yow. Read original post.

Scratch Acid at Cat's Cradle
... but I don't want to count the original out so quickly. I've seen The Jesus Lizard many times over the years, but I never saw the band that led me to that band. Just like with the Jesus Lizard reunion show a few years ago, Scratch Acid proved that they had lost nothing over the years. This show brought out the local old-timers, but sadly wasn't as full as I would have expected. I left my camera at home for this one, but Jodi Donkel posted some great shots on Facebook.

Shit Horse at Slim's during Hopscotch
Danny Mason is the consumate showman. When Shit Horse ran into technical difficulties before their insanely overpacked Hopscotch show at Slim's, Mason kept the crowd entertained by dancing, clapping and tossing a seemingly endless supply of beef jerky into the crowd. Then when the PA was fixed, the band tore it up with the best show of the entire weekend.  Read post. 

Bull City Metal Fest at Casbah
Steve Gardner of Casbah deserves major kudos for scheduling a two-day festival that celebrated a wide variety of heavy music, not just metal. The weekend included incredible performances by Horseback (which was the subject of a post on Invisible Oranges), Royal Thunder, Colossus (above) and Music Hates You. I'm seriously looking forward to next year's festival.
Post from night onePost from night two.

The Atlas Moth and Ken Mode (pictured) at Nightlight
The only other time I saw The Atlas Moth, the band suffered through sound problems and was hampered by a too-early time slot at Kings. I honestly think I was the only paying customer in the club when they went on. The Nighlight show sounded much better, featured a trippy light show, and was witnessed by a good-sized crowd. I knew almost nothing about Ken Mode before the show, but ended up being impressed with them too.
Read original post.

OCOAI at Dive Bar
By far the loudest show I saw all year. Crazy Appalachian space metal melting the walls of the Dive Bar on a really hot summer night. Looking forward to seeing them on Jan. 6 with Generation of Vipers (from Knoxville) at the same venue. Read original post.

Mann's World Show at Dive Bar during Hopscotch
During this year's Hopscotch, I moved my day show to Dive Bar, and I can't thank Robby, Steven and Dave from Big Boss enough for all their hard work. Dive Bar has steadily become my favorite place in the Triangle to see metal shows, mainly because they truly love heavy music, support the local community, and in turn have earned the support and loyalty of the community itself. Lurch, Black Thai and Righteous Fool all put on killer performances. Unfortunately I didn't follow my own Hopscotch advice (no drinking during the day shows) and I ended up missing Krallice later that night.
Read post.

Guitartown Party at Sadlack's during Hopscotch
A great event kicked into legendary status when the cops shut it down for being too loud. This show is also where I saw Debonzo Brothers for the first (and so far only) time. They'll be at Tir na Nog this Thursday (Dec. 29).

Read original post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This week's cool shows: Organos, Birds and Arrows, Rock and Shop Market and more!

I'm not sure what the above graphic has to do with Organos, but it was on their Facebook page, and it looks similar to the symbol of my ancestral homeland, so I'm posting it. Another thing I don't quite understand, but find strangely compelling, is the band's (which is actually just Maria Albani) new video, which features close ups of people (including quite a few area musicians) smiling. Weirdly this reminded me of Godley and Creme's "Cry" video, but when I went back and looked, that video really didn't feature a whole lot of people crying. North Elementary's John Harrison directed the video.

At the End of the Ride from Organos on Vimeo.
The band will be at White Collar Crime this Friday (Dec. 16) with The Big Picture and Boykiller (Ginger from Veelee).

On Thursday, Dec. 15, Birds and Arrows will hold their Christmas party at Casbah with Small Ponds. This is an early (8 p.m.) seated show. And if you're still looking for a holiday present for your art-loving friend, you can purchase the above artwork (among other works of art) by band member Pete Connelly. There's a link for his art, but the images are broken for me. Andrea Connelly also makes guitar straps available on that site, or at Carrboro Music.

Finally, Small Ponds will also play the Rock and Shop Market, Saturday, Dec. 17, at Motorco, where you can find the foxy headgear pictured above. The concept of this event is simple. You rock to good local music and shop for cool, locally made items. The shop part will take place from noon- 6 p.m. at Motorco, Fullsteam and the nearby Trotter building. A fashion show, sponsored by Spoonflower, will begin at Trotter at 3 p.m. Phil Cook & His Feat will also play, and and sponsor Merge Records will be on hand with its catalog of music. Merge will reward donations of canned food with $2 off your total music purchase and a free Merge music sampler, with all proceeds benefiting the North Carolina Food Bank. There will also be several food trucks, including Only Burger, Chirba Chirba, Klausie’s Pizza, Olde North State BBQ, Will & Pop’s, Slippin’ Sliders, Monuts Donuts, bikeCoffee, Pie Pushers and KoKyu BBQ!

Also this week:

Wednesday, Dec. 14: Whatever Brains PC Worship Mutilation Logic Problem at Slim's
Wednesday, Dec. 14: Hog with Midnight Ghost Train and Church of Wolves at Chapel Hill Underground
Wednesday, Dec. 14: Chatham County Line at Pour House
Saturday, Dec. 17: The New Raleigh Christmas Party with Dynamite Brothers and Shirlette at Kings
Sunday, Dec. 18: Double Negative with Bukkake Boys, Manic and Atrophix at Kings

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Photos and video of Inquisition, -/- and Old Painless

I don't think I'm alone in saying that Monday's show by legendary black metallers Inquisition at a cramped sports bar in North Raleigh will go down as one of the weirdest, and most awesome, shows I've ever seen. It was a last minute show. Word went round on Facebook late last week that the band had an open date and wanted to play in the area. Ira Rogers, who books a lot of punk house shows in the area and who ended up putting the show together, told me the story:

 "I got a call on Thursday night from my friends from Richmond, Mark Osborn and Andy Horn; they also book shows/tours. Inquisition was planning out a tour, and their old tour manager flaked out in the middle of booking it, so basically, they had about 7 open days without shows, and this was one of them. They needed something between Richmond or Asheville, and told me they would be down to play a DIY show on their day off. At first I didn't know exactly what to do, but then slowed down and figured that I've done plenty of last minute shows before, and that surely if I call some others to work out some tweaks, that it should be fine. I called "partner in crime" Alex Taylor, because I knew he really liked Inquisition, and he freaked. He got all the bands together to play the show. I called Tyson Dale, to see if he had any ideas, and he usually pulls some tricks out of the hat.

We emailed several all age venues, and if that were to flop, called a friend to ask if we could use his garage JUST IN CASE nothing was open. Tyson had Six Forks agree to do the show within minutes, and Alex had the bands already, so essentially, we booked this show in just a couple of hours. We put up some homemade flyers the next day, just so it wouldn't be exclusive to the internet, and then waited it out.

Some people talked a lot of shit about how the show should have been at DiveBar or Slim's in downtown Raleigh. I think those places are fun and the people running those places are great, but half the people at Monday's show were underage. I only do all-ages shows, and I'm sticking to that.

 From what I gathered, Inquisition seemed excited to play with some hardcore bands, because it's out of the element and more creative, with multiple crowds of people as one. They were very nice guys and told me they'd love to hit me up again next year for if they set up a DIY gig tour. I'd definitely book them again. All the bands were KILLER last night!"

I have to echo Ira's sentiment that the band seemed really excited to be playing the show. They were extremely gracious to me, and from what I understand, everyone who talked to them. Dagon thanked the audience profusely many times, and mentioned at one point that we were getting the most stripped-down version of Inquisition ever because they were using absolutely no effects on stage.

But there was a totally surreal element to the whole experience. Six Forks Pub really is a sports bar. If I lived up that way It would probably be my venue of choice for watching the game. The decor consists of beer signs and posters of classic rockers like Hendrix and The Who (though, to be fair, do does the decor of most bars). Bryan Reed summed up the atmosphere with this photo. But my friend Keith basically said it best while watching the band set up: "It's so weird to see a guy in corpse paint set up his drums while Ke$ha plays in the background." But I think that surrealism is part of what made this show so great. Everyone who was there will be talking about this one when we're all trading stories in the rest home.

I wasn't terribly happy with my photos, but if you know Tara, who goes to all the metal shows, she has a GREAT set on Facebook. I was pretty happy with the video, not because it looked like much, but because it sounded a lot better than I expected it to, especially since I was standing in front of a screaming guitar amp the whole time.

Double Negative (above) and Old Painless (below), opened the show. It was my first time seeing them in a good while -- certainly since singer Cameron Craig and drummer Bobby Michaud joined the band. Unfortunately this video is a little blown out. Double Negative were a lot louder than Inquisition! See more photos.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Trousers and Corvette Summer at Sadlack's

My love of The Trousers, The T's and Cartridge Family has been well-documented here. Of the three, I'd have to say my favorite has always been The Trousers simply because this band played late-60s British blues and truly knew what they were doing.

Unfortunately this past weekend was the last for all three bands because Stephen Gardner (above, drummer for The Trousers and Cartridge Family; singer/guitarist for The T's) is moving to Louisiana. Sadlack's basically had a mini festival for all three bands, with The Trousers playing their last show on Saturday, and Cartridge Family and The T's playing their final shows on Sunday.  These photos are from Saturday's show, but all three bands will be missed around here.

I hadn't seen Corvette Summer in a while. I don't usually write about cover bands, but I just love the selection of deep cuts they choose when they pay. Seriously, hearing Judas Priest's "Rocka Rolla" live has pretty much made my month. I suggested that they really need to cover Riot's "Hard Lovin' Man." If they don't then certainly someone does! We'll see if they listen to my suggestion.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New music of the week: Bowerbirds and Thee Dirtybeats

Just got word today that Bowerbirds will release their third album, "The Clearing," on Dead Oceans March 6, and will open their tour at Cat's Cradle on March 17. Here's the full track listing:

01. Tuck the Darkness In
02. In the Yard
03. Walk the Furrows
04. Stitch the Hem
05. This Year
06. Brave World
07. Hush
08. Overcome with Light
09. Sweet Moment
10. Death Wish
11. Now We Hurry On

In the past couple of years the band has dealt with some seriously trying times. The press release pretty much sums it up:

The Clearing is more than a third record for the Bowerbirds. Between 2009’s Upper Air and this one, Beth nearly died after a mysterious illness that put her in the hospital. They rescued and adopted a dog that ran beneath their tour van’s tires. Beth and Phil even ended their long relationship but began it again after realizing that, despite their own shortcomings, they didn’t want to be with anyone else. Mostly, though, they returned to their cabin in the woods of North Carolina to nest—to make soup and walk dogs, to make art and write songs, to realize that this was their life and find contentment in it. For the Bowerbirds, The Clearing represents the perfect realization of a fresh, timely outlook. Here, there’s acceptance with ambition, patience with aspirations, understanding with intelligence. On The Clearing, Phil and Beth sing of the best and most important moments of their life and, in turn, create new ones.

I really can't top that. I'll just say that after hearing the hauntingly dramatic first track, I can't wait to hear the rest.

Bowerbirds - "Tuck the Darkness In"

Thee Dirtybeats have just released a debut album of fuzzy, Nuggets-style vintage rock, with equal references to The Yardbirds and The Plimsouls. They are taking a short break from playing for guitarist/vocalist Jamie McLendon and his wife, Maria Brubeck, to have a baby, but they should be playing again shortly afterward. EDIT: Jamie emailed me to let me know that Maria's band, Shipwrecker, will play Pinhook with Erie Choir and Wigg Report in early January.