30 April, 2008

Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun Announce Album Release and Release Party

Atlanta's own Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun have announced that their very first EP, Hurry Up and Wait, will be released at the end of May. The band will also perform and host an album release party on May 31st at Vinyl in the CW Midtown Music Complex with Disappointed By Candy and another band to be announced.

TTM,TTS is comprised of two members apiece from former Atlanta heavyweights Linger and Avenge Vegas. The band blends heartfelt and intelligent indie pop with experimental noise guitar and a variety of additional electronic elements. The result gives them their reputation of being one of Atlanta's most progressive bands and best live acts.

Tickets are on sale now at http://www.vinylatlanta.com/index.asp?showID=1223 through TicketAlternative and are only $6 in advance ($8 the night of the show, if you can get in). This is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED show, as this band's live performance consistently rates as a 4.5 or higher on a scale of 5.

To hear a few of their songs and fall in love with this band, visit http://www.myspace.com/todaythemoontomorrowthesun.

29 April, 2008

Five Eight, The Young Antiques, Big Fish Ensemble @ Lenny's

Lenny's was jumping once again Saturday night as three more Atlanta bands took the stage for a good, old fashioned rock show. But this was not your average all local line-up; Big Fish Ensemble, The Young Antiques, and Five Eight all boast many years of performing around Atlanta and the Southeastern US. Five Eight and BFE have been active since the early 90's, and The 'Tiques have been at it for most of this decade. Five Eight and The Young Antiques have also enjoyed relative success despite their unwillingness to conform to the "sound" of both the 80's Athens scene and the present Atlanta scene.

Big Fish Ensemble were the first act to perform. BFE are an interesting band. They sport the traditional guitar, bass, and drums, but they also have a dedicated violinist band member. The band has also incorporated trumpet, baritone, and trombone into the mix as well. The resulting sound is a mixture of generic rock, jazz, funk, and country. Lyrically, the band aims to please with off-kilter comedy, as song titles "Dog-Faced Boy" and "I Know I Drank Too Much Last Night" suggest. While the diversity of instruments and musical ability of all four members is admirable, the final product falls short of its lofty goals. The songs tend to drag on as the chorus is repeated again and again, the music itself ceases to be enticing once all of the instruments have been introduced, and the comedic value is mildly amusing at best. Even the crowd drawn by BFE became a disappointment. The number of people attending was an average Lenny's turnout (40-50), but the age range trended to the elder levels of live rock patron. I also found it interesting that 90% of these fans left immediately following BFE's performance. To judge for yourself, visit http://www.bigfishensemble.com/ for a taste of the band's comedic style and a few posted songs (MP3 links are found in the body of posts and play through Internet Explorer using QuickTime).

Big Fish Ensemble performance rating (out of 5): 1.0

Next up were The Young Antiques. YA is an exclusively post-punk style band, evoking memories of Husker Du, The Replacements, Gin Blossoms, and Soul Asylum. The band's attire also sets the tone, as it borrows heavily from style popular in the Minneapolis scene of the early 90's. The three piece outfit is comprised of Blake Rainey (guitar, vocals), Blake Parris (bass, backing vocals), and Kevin Charney (drums). The music is loud, satisfying, and thunderously propelled forward by the drums. Blake Rainey's voice and delivery often reminds the listener of early Elvis Costello, and the lyrical content aspires to the same high levels Mr. Costello has consistently achieved throughout his career. Blake Parris is a sufficient bassist and serves as a superb companion voice on stage. By this point in the evening the previously emptied stage room was once again filled, this time by a more traditional twentysomethings set. The resulting swell in atmosphere made The 'Tiques performance even more electric and memorable. To hear more, hopefully buy some of their music, and check out their show schedule, visit http://www.myspace.com/youngantiquesrock.

The Young Antiques performance rating (out of 5): 3.0

Last, but by no means least, were Five Eight (pictured above). At this point in their long and storied career, Mike Mantione (guitar, vocals), Dan Horowitz (bass, backing vocals), and Mike Rizzi (drums) have become legends in their hometown of Athens, GA, and wildly popular in Atlanta (thanks in part to 99X's [R.I.P.] regular rotation play of their 2004 single "Square Peg" and several stints at the now-defunct Music Midtown Festival). But despite glowing reviews of their 2004 self-titled release and a spot on R.E.M.'s tour that year, Five Eight has not reached nearly the level of success they deserve nationally. Their songs are witty, sad, happy, funny, and brutally honest. They craft beautiful melodies to accompany Mike Mantione's strained and tinged-with-visceral-pain vocals, but are never afraid to let it all hang out and break out into a fast and furious guitar solo. And these guys are absolutely hilarious on stage. You can really tell that the three of them are very comfortable with one another, even after the trials and tribulations they have faced over the years. The band played mostly older material, with only two songs included from their 2004 release ("Criminal" and "The Liquor Song"). And even though the vast majority of the crowd were too young to be well-acquainted with the songs, Five Eight's massive stage presence drove home the point that we were all privileged to witness this performance. If you are not familiar with Five Eight, shame on you. But you can get on your way to catching up by visiting http://www.fiveeight.com/fiveeight/ and http://www.myspace.com/fiveeight.

Five Eight performance rating (out of 5): 4.5

27 April, 2008

Album Review: "Attack & Release" by The Black Keys

Release Date: April 1, 2008
Label: Nonesuch Records
No. of Tracks: 11

Have you ever found yourself lying in bed at night trying to go to sleep but can't, because you cannot stop wondering what would happen if a two-man blues band teamed up with a premier hip-hop producer to record an album? Well, this album is your answer.

Composed of guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, Akron's The Black Keys are that two-man blues band. The band's three previous full-length studio albums have exhibited a notoriously minimalistic and rough sound. Much like the early White Stripes' albums, the band had opted to record using old-fashioned tape reels instead of modern day digital mixing equipment. This technique lent a "dirty" sound to their previous albums, enchancing the band's simple guitar-and-drums approach.

Enter Atlanta native Danger Mouse, famous for his controversial "Grey Album" and one-half of the hip-hop/rock crossover group Gnarls Barkley. This is not the first time Danger Mouse has worked on a rock album (he also produced The Rapture's fantastic 2006 release "Pieces of the People We Love"), but it is certainly the first time he has dabbled in the realm of blues. Danger Mouse's influence on this album is very subtle. Don't expect any heavy basslines or added electronic elements. Instead, Danger Mouse seems to have coaxed an even more soulful sound from TBK, even some funk, accompanying the band with more traditional background instruments such as flute, piano, and steel guitar. And this album, also like the newest White Stripes' release, is heavily produced and has a crisp, clean sound to it. This allows the album to have a more upbeat feel while maintaining the ever-present bittersweet blues undertones.

The album begins with the track "All You Ever Wanted", a plodding ballad which eventually explodes into an organ-driven jam. "I Got Mine" is the band's first single from this release, and it is a straight-ahead rocker. "Strange Times" is the first track where Danger Mouse's influence can be clearly detected. This song exhibits a much different drumming style than previously heard from Mr. Carney. The next track, "Psychotic Girl", continues this trend with a cymbal-heavy drumbeat and ghostly backing vocals. "Remember When" is a perfect example of the range this band displays in their music. The track is split into two parts: Side A and Side B. Side A is a melancholy, almost gospel-sounding track, with lightly plucked guitars and a haunting steel guitar accompaniment. Side B, on the other hand, returns the band to a hard rocker which would easily fit into any of their previous releases. This nostalgia is short-lived as "Same Old Thing" continues Danger Mouse's influence, with a flute sample (possibly from Jethro Tull) leading the song in and sending the song out. "So He Won't Break" is all blues lyrically, but musically shows a bit of a hipster, surf rock side. The last track, "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be", is the most poignant track and a perfect choice for a send off offering. It gently releases the listener, and allows the band, not the producer, to have the last word.

Special Note: The iTunes version of this album has an additional track titled "Mr. Dibbs' 'Fight for Air' Mash-Up". It is basically a remix with small samples from most of the album's tracks thrown in with heavy bass, beat drops, and the tried-and-true "instructional narrator" voice sample.

Overall, this has to be considered TBK's best release to date. Some long-time fans may miss the stripped-down sound and strictly blues approach, but this album is a huge step forward for the band. It exhibits a wide range of emotions and challenges the listener to keep up. It also escapes the band's previous tendency to be a bit redundant over the course of an album.

The band will be touring the Northeastern US in mid-May before heading off to Europe and Australia (no Atlanta show has been announced yet). They are also confirmed to play several festivals across the US later this summer (including Lollapalooza and The Austin City Limits Festival). The band does have four weeks in July for which no shows have been announced, so keep checking their official website (http://theblackkeys.com/category/tour/) for more possible summer dates.

Essential Tracks: "I Got Mine", "Strange Times", "Remember When (Side A & B)", "So He Won't Break"

Rating (out of 5): 4.0

24 April, 2008

The Selmanaires, The Coathangers, Sleep Therapy @ Lenny's

Last Friday night, Lenny's Bar hosted an all Atlanta bands lineup. The show was sponsored by SESAC, a performing rights organization that helps musicians receive proper compensation for the use of their music on radio or TV as well as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, etc. All three performances were also accompanied by hilarious random video clips projected onto a screen behind the performers courtesy of Video Bean, a noted local visual jockey and employee of Lenny's.

Sleep Therapy opened the evening with their brand of ambient guitar rock. The band's sound is still a work in process, but don't let that fool you on their ability to deliver a quality show. The lead singer has a good voice and can play some mean pedal-driven guitar riffs. The drummer and bassist are adequate for their style, but the keyboardist adds the extra dimension needed for this band to deliver on their goals. Check out their MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/sleeptherapyatl) to hear a few of their recorded tracks.

Sleep Therapy performance rating (out of 5): 2.25

Next up were The Coathangers. The CH are as hot a band as Atlanta can claim at the moment. They are an all female lineup that fuses 80's pop, punk rock, and a whole lot of attitude into some of the most fun music you will hear. Their musical talents aren't the best (at least not yet), but that's not really the point of their music. The CH played all their crowd favourites, including "Parcheezzi", "Wreckless Boy", and "Don't Touch My Shit!". Another crowd favourite and the band's most notable song to date, "Nestle in My Boobies", was performed with a twist as "Nestle in My Pubies" with the chorus and a few of the lyrics altered to fit the content. As a final measure to ensure the night was a success, the band also played a few new songs which were all great and show that the gals are moving in the right direction as they continue to grow in popularity. To get more info on The Coathangers, and to hear recorded tracks, visit their MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/fuckthecoathangers). I highly recommend catching one of their shows, not just because they are a great live act, but because all the girls seem to be losing weight. They were all thin beforehand, so show some love!

The Coathangers performance rating (out of 5): 3.5

The headlining act needs no introduction here in Atlanta. The Selmanaires (pictured above) are a band well recognized for their funky style of Southern-flavoured surf rock. Led by frontman and bassist Tommy Chung, this band continues to show itself as an emerging force of the Atlanta music scene. The Selmanaires played mostly songs from their most recent album The Air Salesman, but did find room for their trademark single "Selmanaire Rock", a song driven by bass, a repeating country-blues guitar riff, and whispered vocals. In traditional fashion, this song was played after a seamlessly meandering transition. Other notable songs performed included "Nite Beat", "Broken Mirrors in the Mud", and "GMAFB". While the basslines do tend to drive this band forward, enough cannot be said for what Mathis Hunter and Jason Harris do for the overall sound of this band. Mathis plays percussion and guitar, and Jason plays percussion and keyboards. Actually, all four members are multi-instrumentalists, but Mathis and Jason are the two who constantly change instruments throughout a performance, sometimes playing drums at the same time, and provide much of the funky side this band displays. Herb Harris, the lead vocalist and guitarist, has a great stage presence and a fantastic lyric delivery to round out the band's sound. Visit The Selmanaires' MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/theselmanaires) for more info, songs, and show listings.

The Selmanaires performance rating (out of 5): 3.75

This show was one of the better offerings Atlanta has had so far this year. The performances for all three bands were excellent, and the video backdrop was great for a locals only show, although I must admit it was a bit distracting. How can you not pay attention to video clips of Manute Bol teaching kids to play basketball, O.J. Simpson movie roles, Madonna music videos, or "World's Most Daring ..." montages? In my opinion, Lenny's always gets an "A" in atmosphere (one stage, two bars, four pool tables, and all kinds of stuff painted and hung on the walls), and it doesn't hurt to have the stage room nearly filled to capacity. My best regards to all three bands, as I look forward to seeing them many more times.

Overall concert rating (out of 5): 4.0