Banana Blueberry Bread + Maritime, A New Found Appreciation

This is banana blueberry bread.

And this is Maritime

After the last week I have a greater appreciation for both. Maritime is a band I have known about for a while and enjoyed but my real true love of them was borne last Thursday when I got to see them live. It was from the stage at Johnny Brendas that the waves of their midwestern bred indie rock emanated and the full weight of their greatness hit. The group initially sprouted from the remnants of The Promise Ring and Dismemberment Plan and the post punk pop sound has definitely stuck with them but they’ve developed their own sound over the years. Continue Reading →

The Head & The Heart In Philly

The Head & The Heart have been a slight obsession as of late. I initially heard them earlier this summer but it wasn’t until these last few months, as I have fallen back into my rabid music listening ways, that TH&TH began to resonate with me. So, I was delighted to find out they were coming through Philly as part of the Philly Film and Music Festival. 

It seemed fitting to be seeing the Seattle six piece on an outdoor stage in the backyard of the Ukrainian Club – which I must say is a secret treasure tucked away in Northern Liberties – amongst food trucks and folks lounging on blankets. From the very top of their set it was apparent the group is at it’s core a jam band with the taut vocal harmonies of a folk group and the stage sensibilities of a indie rock group. Each of the ten tracks off of their recent self-titled release has a strong draw but when performed live you get a true grasp on the group’s soul as it’s infuses the performance. These six clearly enjoy the pieces crafted for them by Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russel and the energy this releases was palpable from the audience.  ”Ghosts” rolled out with a jazzy bounce with Kenny Hensley’s keys pushing it right along and Tyler Williams’ drums popped in the back. In fact, I admit that I hadn’t really noted the percussion from listening to the album but seeing them highlighted what the plucky and on point drummer brings tot he group.

The lone lady, Charity Rose Thielan  was a real delight on the stage – her violin lines added a brilliance to songs like “Sounds Like Hallelujah” and were particularly awesome when she played them almost as vocal lines and not instrumental, standing toe-to-toe with Johnson and Russell’s lead vox. But it is when she takes to the mic for the leads as on “Rivers & Roads,” and her distinct voice is given room to shine, that you realize she is no one trick pony. I’d love to see her sing more lead in the future.

There were a few moments when I felt they got a little too comfortable with the harmonies and lost the depth and dynamism becoming slightly muddled. It was mostly during the start of the set but as they continued they kept picking up steam and the richness of their offerings were readily apparent. This is one group I will happily see again.

[MP3] Lost In My Mind

Dawes + Cory Chisel At Johnny Brenda’s

It is usually about this time of year I need guitar playing that carries some heft, lyrics that are revelatory and visceral, bass lines that offer more than a steady beat; basically I need good soul nourishing rock and roll to shake off the cold and fortify me until spring finally sets in. I found everything I needed and then some last week at the Dawes + Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons show.

Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons

Cory Chisel isn’t challenging any well established classic rock traditions with his music. He isn’t simply mimicking them either. What Cory Chisel and his Wandering Sons is doing is refining the nuances and incidentals often found in the songs from rock’s halcyon days. The skill used to create these beautiful arrangements is taut. Pulling some influence from southern rock, as well as, a bit of bluegrass the Wandering Sons do a great job grounding Chisel’s rock solid vocals.

I would say Chisel’s lyrical deftness is finest when strutted live. The raspy strain countered so delicately by the wonderful Adriel Harris who remains just shy of the lead as though nipping at the heels of his words to keep him going. During their duet on Tennessee Chisel professes his longing for a place and with Harris’ sweet thread weaving through his lyrics it came off almost as a longing for a lover.

At times,  during Born Again in particular, there is a vibe of catharsis about Chisel’s songs. As though by getting this out of his system he is putting aside some baggage and working towards something greater. The set offered up way more than I was expecting and I certainly could’ve listened a lot longer. I suspect there will be future spins through Philly for this group and most likely in the headline role.


Dawes’ album “North Hills” has been in consistent rotation these last few weeks. Like a good cup of cocoa their music is familiar and comforting this time of year (well, any time of year really). So, needless to say, I was almost yearning for this show. While they took a song and a half to really find their comfort on stage once they hit their stride they busted out the kind of set that completely restored my energy and enthusiasm for live shows.

This quartet from LA reaches back to the essence of early 70′s folk rock when rich harmonies told simple stories over complex instrumentals. Throughout the entire set the group never once faltered in their connectivity. While the majority of the elaborate riffs were carried by lead Taylor Goldsmith and bassist Wylie Gelber – who’ve been playing together since the band’s previous iteration Simon Dawes- each member contributed to an impressive whole. Taylor’s younger brother Griffin’s percussive touch suggested the modest jangle of classic rock and brought an energy only matched by the intensity of Taylor’s vocals.

The really mesmerizing element of the show was the Gelber’s work on the bass. Rarely do you see someone so entirely in their own world yet still tethered acutely to the rest of the band. Never showy, his bass lines had intention and character that went way beyond the usual plodding note picking. There was a soulfulness that belies what you hear on the album, perhaps emphasized by not only hearing but seeing him play.

Taylor’s vocals also gained an edge that isn’t as apparent on the record. Depending on the emotion the song dictated his voice would reach a raw pitch or strick a genuine twang never loosing its musicality. The volley between each of the band’s members was so organic and smooth the whole set ran like buttah. They tied it up with When My Time Comes and feeding off their energy the packed house was happy to oblige their requests to sing along.

This show was a awesome reminder that while albums can be great absolutely nothing replaces a phenomenal live show. See them.


Tennessee – Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons (Daytrotter Session)

When My Time Comes- Dawes (Daytrotter Session)

Making Time with Neon Indian + Memory Tapes

Neon Indian
Last weekend brought two hot acts to the stage for Philly dance party institution Making Time. After missing Neon Indian’s set at the Barbary a few months ago there was no way I was going to miss them again. Alan Palomo brought his full crew with him and let loose their space pop synth navigated jams. Neon Indian’s album Psychic Chasm is the ideal fodder for your home dance party needs but when they bring it to the stage they push and pull at their tracks in just the right ways to create a unique experience that truly rowdies up the crowd. They kept it short, hitting all the popular points like Deadbeat Summer, but promised to come back again soon since they’re making the obligatory indie band move to Brooklyn. Judging from their presence on the Late Night TV circuit I’d venture a guess that the next time they come through town it’ll be at a larger venue. Glad I saw them when I did.

Memory Tapes
Memory Tapes quickly made their way to the stage after Neon Indian and soon held the attention of all  in the room. I was expecting a simple replay of what you get from their recorded stuff – this wouldn’t have been bad at all since Making Time is, at its core, a dance party and Memory Tapes have mastered a real nice funky smooth dance vibe – but I was elated to find a far more dynamic set. New Jersey native Davey Hawk, while backed by a good bit of electronic instrumental support, also had a tight live drum accompanying his guitar lead. The nuance of Memory Tapes’ arrangements really popped in the live delivery. They satisfied the movers in the crowd by remaining incredibly danceable while those there to watch got plenty to enjoy. It was a very satiating performance and perfect for the Making Time standard.

Neon Indian – Deadbeat Summer (Daytrotter Session)
Memory Tapes – Bicycle

Freelance Whales + Animal Tropical @ Kungfu Necktie

Last week brought Animal Tropical & Freelance Whales, two very fresh groups, to Kungfu Necktie for a rollicking good time. Going in I knew very little about Animal Tropical – for example, that it’s Ah-nee-Mal Tro-pee-Kal - so I was unprepared for the frenzied punkish energy this Miami quartet unleashes during their set. The abstract psych vibe of the music was punctuated by the most fabulous hand gestures by any performer I’ve seen, quite possibly ever. Despite a broken keyboard the lead singer kept the show going; delivering a unique vocal style I can only describe as a mix of scat and slam poetry. While that description denotes a degree of chaos Animal Tropical’s brilliance lies is in their ability to put it out there and still maintain a sense of control. The full package melds a lot of influences and techniques together to create a very distinct sound and an incredibly pleasing live show. I’m eager for them to return so I can get another Tropical fix.

20 Miles

Freelance Whales, one of the rapidly trending bands on the east coast indie scene, brought their plucky troupe to the stage next. Playing pretty much anything they can get their hands on to create a hodgepodge symphony that, when layered under their dexterous lyrical stylings puts forth on hell of a mesmerizing show. As the groups members float around the numerous instruments on stage – changing location with every song – they maintained a consistant thread of tautly harmonized vocals. Hearing Freelance Whales perform live really brought a new weight to their stellar lyrics. While the music doddles between sweet and romantic to playful they manage to steer clear of the precious “twee” territory by keeping things simple and grounded. All five group members were having a good time with each other, which quickly spread into the crowd loosening a few hip shakes from the packed house. Working through most of the tracks on the new album Weathervane during their set Freelance Whales proved they are worth every bit of their buzz. They will be back on March 5th with Cymbals Eat Guitars and Bear In Heaven, get your tickets now.

Savoir Adore + Circadian Rhythms At Kung Fu Necktie

Savoir Adore & Circadian Rhythms took the stage at Kung Fu Necktie this week to mark and early start to my weekend. Circadian Rhythms has been on my list for some time now so I was pleased to finally be able to catch them. Unfortunately, their set left me a little underwhelmed. While I definitely heard the potential for greater things down the road they are still in need of a little refinement. Each song dabbled in a new genre from blues tinged alt country to psych pop and each had its strengths – a brave approach to percussive rhythms that would really shine if played with a little more confidence, for example; however, there lack a cohesiveness that suggests a sense of direction. Their instrumentals were complex and well thought out which made heavy leaning on Beach Boys phrasing and Ary Barroso’s Brazil a little disappointing. CR certainly has the musical ability to create something distinct but they need to sit down and decide what that “sound” should be then build their music around that. With a little more focus and work I can see Circadian Rhythms really carving out their spot but right now they are in need of some tightening

Savoir Adore, a band that has received much love from TWIAPC, took the stage next and put on what was probably the best show I’ve seen them do. Playing songs primarily from their fall release In The Wooded Forest, they won over the crowd and pulled folks in from the bar. Sav Adore’s fronters Paul & Deirdre have undeniable sonic chemistry. Her smokey vocals play well with his plaintive indie tuned croon, providing an allure to their pairing that is particularly noticeable in the live show. Their orchestral pop sound is built of deliberately placed synth effects and tight instrumentals. Hearing it live really makes the arrangements pop and the playfulness of the group’s stage presence adds a true sheen to the full package. In the previous shows I’ve seen their only stumble was the flow of their set choices. On Thursday night each song melded well with the next and by the time they reached their final song, an extended version of Bodies, it seemed as if they had just begun. They’re going to be out on the road quite a bit in the next few months please do make an effort to see them. Both live and recorded they are a superb use of your hard earned dollar.

We Talk Like Machines

Chris Garneau in The Chapel of The Church

In the midst of a very busy Euro/Asia touring schedule Chris Garneau made a stop in Philly last Friday. Oh, what a stop it was. He came to the tiny chapel at First Unitarian Church with a modest ensemble, just a cellist and drummer, and proceeded to play a delightful set of new and old tunes. Garneau is himself a tiny fella so the intimacy of the surroundings only served the warmth of his performance. 
The brand of music captured on his 2009 album El Radio is piano plotted pop lushly accompanied by multiple vocalists, strings and dodah but when conveyed live there is much more palpable sense of immediacy. Neither album nor performance is superior; both are spectacular.
Live, his staccato vocals are crisply propelled by alternating high-lo chords on the key while the music was kept from floating away by the languid cello lines and taut pace of the drummer. Garneau has an astounding skill for enunciation which is the key to bringing his at times pithy and at others heartbreakingly succinct lyrics. On Over & Over for example he slowly drew us through the frustration and sadness of the song’s story and the measure provided by the drummer was the foil to the simplicity of the vocals. His performance on Friday made it very clear he is uniquely attuned to potential weight of instrumentals and words combined.
Amongst the known fair were a few new tracks (one they even strayed from the set list to give its public debut). Preceded by the usual “the arrangement still being sorted out” these songs were still fine examples of Garneau’s talent for musical creation. The highlight of these baby songs was the first of a collection he is building from memories of winter he has “stolen” from friends and family. Its a collection I am now anxious to hear completed.
I have been a fan of Garneau’s lyrics for a while and hearing them live introduced a new element of theatricality. It would be wonderful to see him with fuller accompaniment but, without a doubt, the 50 or so folks who were lucky to bare witness to this concert (myself included) won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.

Laura Veirs at World Cafe Live

Laura Veirs has an incredibly honest voice, one that avoids the baby coo- slurred words trap that so many female singers fall into. Throughout her show last week at World Cafe Live I couldn’t help but be notice how striking, not to mention rare, it is to hear that level of vocal purity.Having originally come to music via Minneapolis’ mid 90′s punk scene it makes perfect sense that she has maintained a distinct level of straightforwardness even though her solo work is anything but punk. Paired with her nerd-tastic lyrics (she sings of constellations, politics and spelunking) there was really no other option but fall further in love with Ms. Veirs.

Laura and her musical menagerie played primarily from their new album due out in January. The songs from July Flame are a from a wiser place than her previous work and it’s sincerity is palpable in her live delivery. When washing through a beautiful track like When You Give Your Heart the group played it delicately yet when the flair of a song like Galaxies dictated it they stepped up the pace and got a little more rock ‘n roll. Regardless of the pace though Veirs voice was unchanging in its quality. Maintaining that degree of dynamic range is something those just beginning to explore their vocal potential should study and strive for. Meanwhile, Veirs continues to create one smart and delectable album after another each proving she is also considering her potential with each release.

Put July Flame on your list of albums to buy and try to catch Veirs on this lengthy stint on the road. She’s expecting a baby next spring so I’m guessing it will be a while before she is back out on the road. 

I Can See Your Tracks

J. Tillman in the Side Chapel at First Unitarian Church

It was a family affair Wednesday when J Tillman, his brother Zach and a trio of equally ripe musicians held court in the teeny tiny chapel at First Unitarian Church. Zach warmed the small but packed room with his brand of crisp conversational songwriting. A folkie who isn’t afraid of dabbling in the some Morricone like soundscapes. Playing his guitar solo Zach’s short set help both tender and slightly more raucous moments. It set a very relaxed vibe perfect for the lush set J had on deck.

 J is touring to support Year In The Kingdom a beautiful but solemn album of honest observations. A live rendition of the album would have suited me just fine. The cozy venue, early dusk and intense preceding days left me wanting to just sit and enjoy fantastic music. The moment J’s breathtaking pure raw voice began though I knew it was going to be far more nourishing show.

To start the set he kept to the path laid out by YITK except when played live by five folks (as opposed to the solo process Tillman used while recording of doing everything himself) the music is much richer and more dynamic. The high carved wooden walls shaped deep tones that Tillman’s voice smoothly threaded through. Broken only by a few moments of witty not-suitable-for-church banter the full hour and 25 minute set was intentionally crafted to build as Tillman and his crew pushed the borders of the songs becoming more and more lively.

Deep into the set the reserved nature Tillman et al. had begun with has been abandoned for a more classic rock energy. Never once challenging the skill of the other players this septet played so well together it left me free to watch the how they all fit in instead of being distracted by a solo riff. Tillman led his crew into quite the frenzy at one point kneeling on the ground and letting himself really feel the more vigorous jam and building up a pace that gave new breath to the recorded versions. Tossed in for good measure and  was a nice bit of hand clapping and key chain percussion. The music brought me to the edge of my seat more than once during the concert and truly took my breath away with a sparse rendition of Though I Have Wronged you to finish things.

I can safely say this is a show you should really really get yourself to if at all feasible although the perfect alignment of time, company and location will make this a difficult experience to replicate.

Though I Have Wronged You

Luke Doucet @ World Cafe Live

Luke Doucet swung through World Cafe Live last week, opening for Willy Porter. If you’re not already familiar with Mr Doucet, he is a Canadian troubadour straddling the line between classic rock and cat scratch country. His new album Blood’s Too Rich is loaded with stories set to twangy guitars and delivered with Doucet’s deceptively sweet voice. The tales he spins are drawn largely from his own observations from the road as seen though authentic balladeer’s lens; leaving you with a slightly dusty but mostly romantic view of the world.
As a Montana native it is always nice to get a dose of alt country every once in a while so I was looking forward to seeing Doucet do his thing live. The guitar lines were juicy, perhaps a little too much so as they tended to notably counter his smooth and calm vocals. Hearing him deliver his material live carries an air of sincerity that is muted in recording and would have been better accompanied by a gentler guitar line. That being said, he has a true entertainers stage presence; both his skill and easy banter made for a fine evening of music. Next time around I’d love to see him with a backing band to fully complement his vocal potential. If you get the chance to see him, it’s definitely worth it. But be sure you grab a copy of Blood’s To Rich to really hear Luke Doucet at his finest.