Titus Andronicus to rock the record store.

April 22, 2009

I missed Record Store Day last Saturday — I had to travel down to a friend’s Patoka Lake cabin to help him celebrate his final week of bachelorhood. I wouldn’t trade the beer-sippin’, gun-shootin’, meat-eatin’ weekend for anything, but I regret missing out on the special releases, in-store performances and other trappings of this nascent (and most excellent) holiday.

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If you missed Record Store Day (or even if you didn’t) make up for it by checking out Titus Andronicus’ in-store performance at my favorite Indianapolis record store, Luna Music, this coming Friday (April 24).

Titus Andronicus is in town for a Radio Radio gig with the southern rock outfit Lucero (a really excellent double bill, and quite the sleeper since no one is talking much about it), and in what has become a regular trend, Luna snagged them for a show-before-the-show.

It’s no stretch to say Luna’s in-store gigs are among the best music events that happen locally during any given year — especially if you’re a fan of Pitchfork-endorsed rock. Sometimes, the gigs are well-attended (Bill Callahan’s recent Easter evening performance packed the place) and other times you wonder why more people didn’t get the memo (when certifiably legendary British popster Robyn Hitchcock stopped by a couple of years ago, I was shocked when only about 25 people showed up). Other recent national touring artists who have dropped in to play at Luna include Nada Surf, Camper Van Beethoven, Asobi Seksu, John Vanderslice…the list goes on.

Here’s the kicker: These performances are free. You come, you listen to great music in an incredibly intimate setting in one of the city’s best neighborhoods, and then you leave, with exactly as much money you arrived with.

Titus Andronicus should be an exceptionally interesting spectacle. The young New Jersey quintet generally plays explosive, distorted, garage rock anthems that sound like the Replacements-meet-Springsteen-meet-Bright Eyes. The CD racks in Luna are sure to be shaking. See what I mean:

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Primitive radio gods.

April 6, 2009
John Darnielle and John Vanderslice. Photo by Swatson Images.

John Darnielle and John Vanderslice. Photo by Swatson Images.

Tonight I’ll go to Bloomington, Ind., to see the final date of John Vanderslice and John Darnielle’s (of the Mountain Goats) “Gone Primitive” tour, where the pair will perform individual acoustic sets at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

According to my Last.fm stats, Vanderslice and the Mountain Goats are among the five artists I listen to most on my computer, so this billing is a match made in heaven. I’ve long counted Darnielle among my favorite songwriters, but in the past couple of years I’ve grown increasingly fond of Mr. Vanderslice and his crystalline, heartrending recordings.

Vanderslice will release his first full-length album in two years, Romanian Names, on Bloomington’s Dead Oceans label on May 19. The label has posted a preview MP3, “Fetal Horses,” which you can download here.

Among those familiar with his work, Vanderslice is known for his studio chops — a not altogether surprising fact when you learn Vanderslice owns a highly regarded recording facility, Tiny Telephone, in San Francisco. Vanderslice has recorded albums for a number of household-name indie artists, including the Moutain Goats, Spoon, Death Cab For Cutie and others. Along the way he pioneered a signature style using all-analog equipment that either he or somebody else coined “sloppy high-fi.” Vanderslice’s own recordings have grown increasingly less sloppy over the years, culminating with his 2007 release “Emerald City,” which sounds downright pristine, almost as if it was dipped in chrome.

According to Dead Oceans, Romanian Names marks a new direction for Vanderslice, who wrote all of the songs on piano or guitar in a makeshift basement studio prior to even setting foot in Tiny Telepone. The result, Dead Oceans says, is a Vanderslice album that’s unusually light on knob-twiddling-as-songwriting and features a renewed “emphasis on melody and structure.”

To these ears, “Fetal Horses” doesn’t sound appreciably different from prior Vanderslice recordings — and that’s cool with me. I’ll buy it regardless, as Vanderslice is one of only three or four artists whose new releases inspire me to head to the record store on release day. In the meantime, I’ll continue promoting him to anyone who will listen (or read). He’s an underappreciated talent whose songs — narratively compelling, beautifully sung and, more often than not, uncommonly moving — burrow into your brain like poetry.


Consumme 4.2.09

April 2, 2009

par196006Americomedy. Slate offers up an elegant, suprisingly affecting 25-frame picture gallery of American comics, including portraits of everyone from Lucile Ball and Lenny Bruce to Woody Allen and John Stewart.

Duke boys. In the 1980s, British popsmiths XTC pretended to be psyschedelic dandies with names like Sir Johns Johns and Red Curtain, and released two amazing recordings under the name Dukes of Stratosphear. Pitchfork gives the new reissues their due.

Message placement? The New York Times writes about how the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation is using its money to influence storylines in popular shows in an effort to push healthy choices and education.

Everything’s dead but the Internet. The Ad Contrarian — funny, scathing and smart, like always.