I take Dive Party personally. For each of our two local music showcases this year, I put in an incredibly large amount of work.
I won’t rehash the blood, sweat and tears for you, but, suffice it to say, it hasn’t done me any favors in my classes.
Somewhere in the evolution of popular music culture, the term “mainstream” became a dirty word. In a realm ruled by rebels and visionaries, a sound with obvious mass appeal is seen as sacrilege.
But despite the terrible music that can come from trying to reach large numbers of people, there are artists who genuinely are good at making approachable music.
So, get this! This duo from Winston-Salem plays indie rock with only guitar and upright bass. And the guitar dude also does drum buttons with his feet.
Knee jerk reaction: This is probably going to suck.
Reality: It’s pretty kick-ass.
It’s fitting that members of Red Collar, Midtown Dickens and other local bands would choose to tribute Nebraska. There is no record in all of Bruce Springsteen’s illustrious catalog so ready-made for homage.
The 10 haunting folk treatments on this 1982 essential are nothing but the raw essence of The Boss.
Patrick Stickles has an interesting world view. Well-versed in rock ‘n’ roll, pop culture, literature and history, the leader of New Jersey band Titus Andronicus shouts hyper-intelligent barbs over the group’s roaring brand of E Street punk. APR 14
Many of the best new acts to step out on the local scene recently have started as one or two-man bands. The Love Language and Max are shining examples.
Autumn Ehinger’s Cassis Orange might soon join the list. The new EP she’s crafted under that name is promising, if not fully pleasing.
It’s easy to forget, but at the end of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers,” the titular members of the king’s guard actually add a fourth member.
Coming from different social circumstances but believing in a common cause, the four heroes create a support system. “All for one, one for all,” they’ve always got each other’s backs despite their differences.
UNC squeaked by the Bulldogs of Mississippi State 76-74 Saturday March 20 in Starkville, Miss.MAR 21
I can’t tell you if New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus has a truly broad appeal. I just know that it does a doozy on me.
I love the statement of naming your band after Shakespeare’s goriest play. Titus Andronicus is out for blood, and every English nerd out there will know it from the start.
I love Bruce Springsteen, and this band’s every move careens down the melodramatic E Street turnpikes paved by The Boss.
The loyal couriers of the U.S. Postal Service are duty-bound to deliver in times of rain, snow, sleet or hail. I guess the same can be said of jazz musicians.
In talking about Horsefly, the finally released 1996 album that was set to make the career of Chapel Hill’s Capsize 7 until the band was dropped from Caroline Records, former front man Joe Taylor told me that parts of the record sound dated to him.FEB 24
Thirty-eight and 28. It’s a wide age gap — a monumental difference for rockers. It’s these two ages that mark Chapel Hill duo Blag’ard.
Singer and guitarist Joe Taylor is a local veteran whose band Capsize 7 had a great chance at making it big. Signed to Sony Publishing and Caroline Records, the group was poised for stardom until it was dropped from the deal.FEB 24
Carrboro’s Felix Obelix has a few road blocks on its way to accessibility. Musically, the band relies on such odd instruments as a vibraphone and a glockenspiel. Thematically, it probes such dense topics as death and passing time.FEB 24
It’s easy to miss. Just a dingy old drumhead staked into the ground on the side of a curvy road in rural Mebane.
But the small house that resides at 3907 Mebane Oaks Road is home to one of the Triangle’s longest-standing and most respected producers.
Dive Verdict: 2.5 of 5 StarsFEB 10
Dive Verdict: 3 of 5 Stars
Hard rock and getting fired — it’s an obvious combination.
Few things accompany the “stick-it-to-the-Man” fury that often follows a dismissal better than a tortuously distorted guitar and a well-timed kick drum.
But for Chapel Hill’s Eric Wallen blasting riffs is more than just hard-edged therapy. It’s the next step.
Take a powerful hook, drench it in some distortion and effects, and you can come up with something that’s as catchy as it is powerful.
Don’t believe it? Meet Raleigh’s Whatever Brains. Melding a well crafted wall of fuzz to traditionally sweeter structures, the Brains have a striking sound.JAN 21
Dive verdict: 4 of 5 stars
The difference between Transference and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon’s 2007 top-ten charting smash, can be summed up with a look at each album’s piano-driven number.JAN 20
Jason Kutchma certainly lives up to the definition of “road warrior.” From Durham to St. Louis, Kutchma’s band, Red Collar, has toured tirelessly over the years, with him going so far as to quit his job at UNC’s School of Pharmacy to pursue his musical dreams.JAN 13
Steampunk is not a mainstream thing. A cultural movement that involves art and music made in the way they would have been during the era of steam power, it's a left-field venture, most often seen in small bohemian sort of places. But Saturday at Morehead Planetarium, the music of this movement will be on proud display. Jay Cartwright, a great local steampunk musician, will deliver his product alongside art and science exhibits. The free event starts at 11 p.m. and will show the ways steampunk and science intersect. Looking forward to the event, Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence caught up with Cartwright for a short chat about his unusual style.
Diversions: You're doing the steampunk event at Morehead this weekend. Why did you want to take part in this?
The reason I was asked is just that I've been involved in the steampunk community in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, mostly through the rock band I used to play in Lemming Malloy, which was a steampunk band. The planners of this steampunk event had talked to some of my friends, and then it got back to me that they were looking for some folks. And I just thought it sounded like a lot of fun.
Roman Candle - Cat's Cradle - April 14
Call them proof that Pitchfork doesn't quite rule all of the music world. Call them proof that Southern charm doesn't necissarily have to be stupid or redneck. If you must, call them a Dixie Wilco, though I don't believe that even comes close to covering it. Call them what you will, but I personally call Roman Candle one of the very best things to come out of a very good area.
The Chapel-Hill-turned-Nashville group of outsized pop-rockers played a homecoming concert to their old stomping grounds at Cat's Cradle last night. And though openers The Parson Redheads were great, a warm bath of lush harmonies, it was Roman Candle who owned the night.
In a polo and jeans, lead-singer Skp Matheny didn't look to have an aged a day since his days pounding out jams in town, and his powerful attack hasn't wained either. He attacked the mic and his guitar with a bemused smile, barking out lines with incredible charisma. His backing wrapped his wonderful perforance in agressive rock, organs and keys underpinning electric guitar licks.
Simply put it was great. In fact, about the only bad thing I can say about it is I don't know when I'll get to see the band again. Because even though the band's outsourced to Nashville, they'll always be Chapel Hill to me. Come back soon.
Animal Collective's "visual album" "Oddsac" has been a long time coming. Four years in the making with whispers of what it might be like accompanying it the entire way, the fact that it's actually coming out is exciting enough.
It's getting even more exciting for Triangle residents. "Oddsac" will have two screenings at Franklin Street's Varsity Theater on April 23. Members of the band will be on hand as will director Danny Perez. As you'll see by the trailer below, it should prove for one extremely psychedelic affair.
Tickets are $15 and can be aquired in advance here.
It's our quest to make each Dive Party, the celebration of local music we put on once a semester, more special than the last. Well, if an absolutely stacked bill wasn't enough to make our quickly approaching shindig seem out of the ordinary, we're about to sweeten the deal.
The April 9 party at Local 506 will also be an official listening event for Congratulations, the new album from hot shot electro-pop outfit MGMT. The new LP will be playing between sets, and we'll be raffling off lithographs and advance copies of the album before it drops on April 12. The album is currently streaming in its entirety at whoismgmt.com.
Also on tap for next Friday's show are sets from Luego, The Beast, The Dirty Little Heaters and a solo performance by Red Collar's Jason Kutchma. Show starts at 9:30 p.m., so make sure you get out early to avoid missing any of the great music and goodies we have in store.
Nine days and counting.
Wilco - Durham Performing Arts Center - Mar. 26
That's right. Dive got to go shoot some photos at the Wilco show last night. Check out the slideshow from Tweedy and Co.'s Durham stop and check the DTH tomorrow for a full review of the performance.
Shearwater - Local 506 - Mar. 15
Jonathan Meiburg's Shearwater works in broad, big strokes. Soaring landscapes light by, belted out by Meiburg's rich, insistent baritone. It's an amalgamation of woodwinds, strings, big melodies and even bigger ideas. So how does all this come off when the Austin band rolls through town with only five people? The answer Thursday night was shown to be very well. Trading the clean sound of the records for a more fuzzed out indie rock, the band kept its music huge while tearing into it with added urgency. Meiburg's voice was the star of the show. Expressive and versatile, it allowed him to deliver lofty messages with arresting charisma. Whether in expansive records or in small rock clubs, Shearwater moves audiences with surging anthems that land with visceral impact.
In the interest of shameless self-promotion, I am happy to present the poster for Dive Party VIII.
This semester's posters were designed by Rat Jackson/Dry Heathens guitarist Steve Oliva, who also graced us with last semester's battle ready advertisements.
And if this epic design isn't enough to get you hungry for some awesome local music, the links below will let you sample the music of each of the party's participants.
15 days and counting.
Jonathan Meiburg works in large concepts. It’s this fact that shapes everything his band, the Austin, Texas-based, orchestrally minded Shearwater, does.
He describes the band’s new album The Golden Archipelago as the last piece in a triptych, the culmination of the themes and styles running through the band’s last two releases. For him, it’s the end of an artistic vision that has lasted almost five years.
Shearwater plays Local 506 tonight as part of its current world tour. Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence caught up with Meiburg for a long chat about his art, his politics and his plans for the future.
Diversions: How’s the tour going?
Jonathan Meiburg: Tour’s been great. We just got back from Europe the day before yesterday. We played 20 shows in a row. The audiences were bigger than we’d ever had over there. We were playing better and better, so I was really exciting like that.
I’m always looking forward to playing in the U.S. I don’t know why, but it feels a little less like being in a zoo exhibit.
Dive: You’re calling the new record the third panel in a triptych. What’s that about?
JM: I think this album and the two that preceded it have a common emotional thread running through them as well as some common themes — thinking about the natural world and the disappearance of the old version of the natural world and the replacement of it with something that’s been created by us. Us being human beings.
At the same time, I don’t like the idea of this being some kind of eco-rock band. I think it’s much more metaphysical than immediate, these concerns. I’m more concerned with what it means for the world to be changing in such tremendous ways with such speed.
Rejoice all ye fans of fiercely emotive power pop. Vancouver's famous group of lovesick indie rock punks The New Pornographers will be making a stop at UNC's Memorial Hall on June 25.
The group, led by the irrepressible A.C Newman, will be on tour this summer supporting their new album Together, which hits record store shelves on May 4.
This year Lewis Black's annual appearance won't be UNC's only high-profile comedy event. On April 27 the Bonnaroo College Comedy Tour will make a stop in the Great Hall of the Student Union.
The first-ever comedy road outing for the Manchester, T.N.-based festival will feature performances from Amy Schumer, Pete Holmes, Kumail Nanjian and Reggie Watts.
"They sent out a thing to me, and then I saw the list of comedians," said Sam Morgan, comedy chair of UNC's Carolina Union Activities Board, the group brining the festival to the University. "I said, 'That's a really good line-up. We should bring them here.'"
The tour will be swinging across the country, visiting various other campuses all through April and May, leading up to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which takes places from June 10 to 13 in Manchester.
In his own appearance on the stage, he quips that he's in "the right place, the wrong time." "That's how I feel everyday," he jokes with a laugh that's half amused, half bitter.
Jack White is as close as modern music comes to a true rock star. He's an immensely popular musician with the power to bestow hit records on three different bands while also getting raves from music critics all over the map. But he's still not The Beatles. He's still not Bob Dylan. The time he lives in just won't allow for it, yet "Under Great White Northern Lights" displays a rocker who yearns for that kind of renown.
In every shot, every performance, every brooding rock 'n' roll facial expression, this film and the 2007 Canadian tour it documents strive for the electric music environment of the '60s. It's so precise, so fully fleshed out that it strains the boundary between homage and posturing.
The tour itself is what allows the film to paint the Stripes as classic rock greats. On a tour that goes through each and every territory and provence in the country, Jack and Meg White perform in small towns where a moose being spotted on Main Street would make the front page of the newspaper. In this environment their stunts are met as amazing events. When they perform "Wheels on the Bus" on an actual city bus and play a short set in a harbor floating on a boat, the crowds go bananas, shocked that such things are happening where they live.
Schooner lead-singer Reid Johnson says that the Chapel Hill band's new Duck Key Sessions EP is a result of trying to achieve a brighter, cleaner pop style. "Feel Better," the opener from that album, lives up to that idea — well, it does sonically anyway. Light and frothy, it transitions from a washboard intro into a sunny melody and "Wooo-Oooo" backing vocals. In sound it's as bubbly as anything Schooner has created so far. But the lyrics reveal nervous uncertainty. Addressing a love interest, Johnson shyly wraps his luxurious croon around worries that she might not stick around. "If they sent you away, would you write home everyday with your list of complaints and the ghost that still remains? If they locked you up and threw away the key, would you be happy?" he queries with a jollity that gives way to passionate concern. With its catchy sound and poignant words, it hits at the heart of the unpredictable up and downs of a relationship.
Schooner has a busy week lined up. Tomorrow the band plays Trekky Records' Carolina Jubilee at Austin's South by Southwest Festival, and on Sunday it's slated to open for Deerhunter at Cat's Cradle. So download the song, and get excited for Sunday. If you like what you hear, the whole EP is available at CyTunes.org.
In honor of the fact that "Under Great White Northern Lights," the new documentary chronicling The White Stripes epic 2007 trek through Canada, is showing at the Varsity tonight (9 p.m., $3), Dive is giving you some special coverage on the band's new CD/DVD. Today we review the live album. Tomorrow we'll take a look at the movie. The two are now available together at most any record store you can think of.
The White Stripes
Under Great White Northern Lights
Listening to The White Stripes' Under Great White Northern Lights there is one phrase that keeps leaping into my mind: "not for the faint of heart."
Though it's tracklist, a well-sequenced journey through the major highlights of the duo's career, might make it seem useful as an unofficial "Greatest Hits," the reality is far different. These 16 cuts, culled from various dates on the band's 2007 Canadian tour, are riled-up, raucous and blisteringly raw. Jack White's riffs are like exploding bombs, distorted into flaring sonic napalm, with Meg White's simple drumming keeping time amongst the melee.
The incendiary intensity of the Stripes' famous live show is there from the start. The opening version of "Let's Shake Hands" is about as frenetic as the band gets. Between solos that mimic the high-pitched wail of machine work, Jack screams out his come on with a nervously creepy passion. "Say my name! Baby, say my name!" he roars with a fury that suggests violent consequences should he not get his way. It's a charismatic, yet terrifying romp, and it sets the tone for an album that joyfully flaunts the Stripes' most unhinged side.
Vinyl Records, the student label which has been hard at work establishing its presence since its inception last school year, is preparing for the debut release from its fourth artist. My Boy Rascal, the folk-pop vehicle of UNC senior Colby Ramsay, will celebrate the release of The Study of Animal Magicality EP with a party Friday at 8 p.m. in the Student Union's Cabaret. Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence sat down with Colby Ramsay for five quick questions looking forward to the release.
Diversions: Music has always been a big part of your life. What's the first instance you can remember in which music made an impression on you?
Colby Ramsay: When I was maybe five or so, we had a friend who played piano. We were over at their house, and I got a chance to try it out. And after that I was really wanting to get one. So we went to this old piano dealership, and he had all these old pianos in the room, and the guy who was selling them could just play like anything. From that moment I just wanted to do what he did. It was really hard at first because neither of my parents knew how to play. They were like, "We can get you this piano, but we won't be able to teach you." But it was really neat as a little kid just figuring things out and just figuring out the instrument.
Dive: Your MySpace says that your music explores "the trials and tribulations of love and life's absurdity." How do you think your music lives up to that declaration?
CR: I think it's with the themes that the lyrics explore. A lot of the lyrics are relationship-based, and I think there are themes there that everyone can relate to. But there's also some other songs that maybe go a little bit further. There's one song, the song called "Bricks," the last song on the album. I wrote that one when I was in Ethiopia for a couple months. When I was over there, I had a lot of time to think about life and about what was important to me and just the differences between what life was like over there compared to over here in the Western World. A lot of things that seemed important over here were kind of trivial when I really thought about them, so I try to explore that with the lyrics of some of the songs.
Mountains - Nightlight - Feb. 6
Experimental shows don't come much better than Saturday's display at the Nightlight. First one-man group Ghost Hand treated the crowd to waves of ambient distortion. Then Swedish group Tape melded a blissful pop sentimentality to excellent electronic sounds and elongated melodies. Next up Chapel Hill's own ever-evolving Horseback took to the room's back corner. Main man Jenks Miller teamed with Megafaun's Brad Cook for a keyboard duo performance. The two constantly tweaked the effects on their hazy sound resulting in a short peaceful set. Last up, Brooklyn's Mountains lived up to its openers. Filtering acoustic guitar and other instruments through rich reverb, the duo filled the room with engrossing sound. Relaxing, yet mentally invigorating, it was a show best enjoyed lounging on one of Nightlight's many couches, sipping a fine brew or spirit.
Today I'm going to focus on one interesting release that hits close to home.
Rising Columbia, S.C. star Toro Y Moi will hit Durham's Duke Coffehouse on Friday for an impromptu show, only three days after the release of their debut full-length. That Causers of This arrives during a frenzy of such music. Animal Collective's last salvo was one of the most heralded releases of last year, and artists in the genre from Dan Deacon to MGMT continue to grow in popularity. But after my one free listen on Lala, Toro Y Moi stand out. This is because they are not limited by the confines of their genre. Staying true to its sweet pop roots, the outfit combines more popular electronic sounds with stop-and-go modulation of dub step, creating a sound that remains accessible while never ceasing to be sonically adventurous. So check out the songs the band has up on MySpace, and see them live Friday at Durham's Duke Coffeehouse. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and costs $5 for non-Duke students.
The big release for this week is Spoon's Transference. Returning after the biggest hit of its storied career, 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, the classically minded Austin rock outfit returns with a more subdued collection of laid-back jams. From the few listens I've given it so far, I can tell you it's filled with the kind of fuzzed-out, retro-tinged introspection that's perfectly accompanied by an arm chair, a late night and a glass of fine bourbon. It also finds Spoon flexing their muscles, expanding their sonic pallet and letting loose another incredibly nuanced rock salvo. Looks like Spoon may well extend their rock 'n' roll dominance to another decade. Check out a full review of Transference in Thursday's edition of Dive.
Actor/singer Charlotte Gainsborough's Beck-produced-and-written LP IRM promises to be an interesting little musical excursion. From the two tracks I've heard, the title track and "Heaven Can Wait," a duet with Beck, the release seems to be trying to expand upon the experimental macabre style that Beck put to the fore with help from Danger Mouse on 2007's Modern Guilt. On these two tracks, Gainsborough's piercing croon seems more than up to the style, melding with Beck's rhythmic dirges with a soft insecurity that draws real emotion from the music's kitschy-cool terror.
Norway's Lindstrom is one of the best electronic musicians in the world, and this time around he's going the more accessible rout, adding the sensual heat of singer Christabelle to his irresistible grooves. The resulting Real Life Is No Cool, as evidenced by singles "Lovesick" and "Baby Can't Stop," look to be amazing. "Lovesick" is a creeping bit of back-alley sexuality that rides a piercing whisper and a luscious groove to pop transcendence. "Baby Can't Stop" draws Quincy-Jones-style grooves into the electronic realm, producing an insanely hot gem that's one of the best modern updates on Thriller I've heard in a while. Get excited, this one should be pretty great.
Durham's Megafaun had one hell of a 2009. Releasing a great album in Gather, Form and Fly, garnering praise from respected media outlets such as Pitchfork.com and touring with acts such as Bon Iver, the experimental folkies made a splash in the minds of people outside the Tar Heel state. It makes good sense that the band would figure prominently in Dive's top ten lists for 2009, which you can all check out tomorrow in Dive's first issue of the new year. A great example of Megafaun's prowess is "The Process," a cut of of Gather. Rattling along on trash-can alley percussion, banjo and guitar, it combines the smooth side of country with the more aggressive edge of experimental folk with incredible dexterity. So, sit back, relax and enjoy a gem from one of North Carolina's rising stars.
Welcome back to Interesting CD Releases. I've got a big one for you this first week of the semester.
Faced with a clear choice between expanding their sonic pallet and being labeled as a "one-trick pony," New York's Vampire Weekend add more elements to the mix on sophomore effort Contra. Admittedly a lot of these tricks are borrowed from their indie pop peers, but Contra is still fun if not revelatory and packed with a bevy of incestuously catchy hooks that should allow Vampire Weekend to maintain their quickly gained popularity. Their afro beat influence still sounds fresh in such a pristine pop venue, and that's enough reason to at least give this one a listen. Plus all your hipster friends will probably laugh at you if you don't.
And unless you're interested in following the trajectory of falling stars such as Ringo Starr, I really don't see anything all that interesting left in this week's releases. But one release as anticipated as Contra is pretty good for this time of year, so I wouldn't complain too much.
In honor of today's Year In Review issue of the DTH, Dive has compiled a slideshow of photos to sum up the events and happenings in Triangle music this year. Take a look and enjoy.