Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark

The Drive-By Truckers have been a favorite band of mine for some time. They are included on the list of what I think is the top tier of American rock bands (live and in-studio) working today which include Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ween. The Trucker's accomplished a rarity in music today by creating three near-perfect rock albums in a row (2001's Southern Rock Opera, 2003's Decoration Day and 2004's The Dirty South). With the departure of Jason Isbell it would be difficult to replicate the quality of those records, even though Isbell was only present for the last two. Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley appear to have a few tricks still left up their sleeves, including having bassist (and Isbell's ex-wife) Shonna Tucker write and sing a few songs.

The Drive-By Truckers have always played Southern Rock but not until Brighter Than Creation's Dark have they sounded so Country. It's not just the consistency of pedal steel that gives this album the Country & Western vibe but all three songwriters seem to take the songs in that direction more lyrically. The Truckers have always had the honest, storytelling type songs reminiscent of C&W but here their much more obvious about it. Songs like Cooley's 'Lisa's Birthday' and the sweet harmonies of Hood and Tucker on 'The Opening Act' are straight off AM country radio.

Thankfully, there is still plenty of good ole Rock 'N Roll to satisfy longtime Trucker fans. Songs like '3 Dimes Down' and 'The Man I Shot' show they haven't changed too much. Patterson Hood really has the best batch of songs on the album, with Cooley and Tucker not far behind. One of the biggest complaints is at 19 songs it's a bit long and there are a few songs that probably could have been cut. Eitther way the Truckers continue to be one of the most consistent rock bands around, with another great studio album and one of the best live shows in the business.

Drive-By Truckers Myspace


New Music: Vampire Weekend, Cool Kids and MGMT

Vampire Weekend are already receiving a ton of press and there's quite a lot of anticipation already for their debut which comes out on 1/29. They may be the first and only indie band I've ever heard compared to Graceland-era Paul Simon.

Vampire Weekend - 'Mansford Roof'

Vampire Weekend Myspace

Although The Cool Kids sound can come off as some sort of gimmicky, there is some fun stuff going on here if you can get into it. You may recognize this song already from a Rhapsody commercial last year:

The Cool Kids - 'Black Mags'

The Cool Kids Myspace

MGMT is another band that is gaining a good amount of publicity right now with help from an appearance on Letterman and an opening slot for an Of Montreal tour. Their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, is out now.

MGMT - 'Time to Pretend'

MGMT Myspace


Black Mountain - In the Future

There is always a little bit of question of how things will turn out when a band attempts to follow up a pretty great debut album (2005's Black Mountain). Vancouver's Black Mountain decided to release a sprawling rock (near) masterpiece with In The Future. There is always going to be the lingering Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath comparisons. The third and possibly best track on the album, the 8-minute epic 'Tyrants', begins with a chugging Sabbath-esque riff that after a minute settles down into something that sounds like it could have been on Houses of the Holy. Amber Webber's vocals with the keyboards halfway through the song are absolutely haunting before the guitars thunder back towards the end. 'Tyrants' final moments are the sweet duet of Webber and Stephen MacBean and encapsulates everything great about this band. The addition of keyboards on this record really stand out, especially on tracks like like 'Tyrants' and 'Wucan'. Even a track like 'Stay Free', which is almost pretty at times, can sound dark with McBean's lyrics. Unlike thier first album, In The Future doesn't really have any lulls or any places that let you come up for air. They have proven themselves to not only be a pretty great band, but show signs that there is much more to come.

Black Mountain Emusic
Black Mountain Myspace

Concert Announcement: Tom Petty

07/22/08 The Sprint Center, Kansas City

This is only the second concert announcement for the Sprint Center I have been remotely excited about .The first was Van Halen and if I would have ended up going I would have seen VH live will all 3 singers, something I might end up regretting (even more than seeing them with Gary Cherone). I also sort-of regret not seeing Tom Petty at ACL when I was there and he was one of the headliners. I ended up seeing TV on the Radio and What Made Milwaukee Famous an aftershow instead, which was a great show. Either way, Tom Petty will be making it through Kansas City on July 22nd with Steve Winwood opening. If Winwood plays a lot of Traffic and Blind Faith stuff and decided to skip his embarrassing 80's material, that would be alright with me as well.

Additional Wakarusa Acts Announced

SpaceThe now 5th Annual Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival announced it's first batch of heady bands to play at Clinton Lake State Park on June 5th - 8th. Not too surprisingly, I've never been before as there has never been more than a few bands i've wanted to see each year(2004: Drive By Truckers, Lucero, Guided By Voices, Spoon; 2005: Son Volt, Neko Case, Calexico, Wilco; 2006: The Flaming Lips, Andrew Bird, William Elliott Whitemore; 2007: The Slip, Son Volt, The Nightwatchmen). I figure there has to be at least a dozen bands that I would pay to see by themselves if it's really worth my money. The initial announcement so far isn't too bad....they clearly are not trying to deviate from the jam band heavy line-ups of previous years. Well see how the rest of the festival line-up shakes down.

Here is the second announcement of bands for Wakarusa 2008:

Zappa Plays Zappa, Mickey Hart Band featuring Steve Kimock & George Porter Jr., Everyone Orchestra, Porter, Batiste & Stoltz, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Ivan Neveille's Dumpstaphunk, Pangea featuring Chris Berry and Michael Kang, EOTO featuring Michael Travis and Jason Hann, Arrested Development, Tilly and the Wall, Pete Francis of Dispatch, DVJ Mike Relm, Apollo Sunshine, The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker, Donna the Buffalo, Limbeck, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Delta Nove, Ryan Bingham, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Truckstop Honeymoon, South Austin Jug Band, Backdoor Slam, Macpodz and Bump.

Here is the initial announcement for Wakarusa 2008:

The Flaming Lips, Keller Williams, Leftover Salmon, Cake, Galactic, Buckethead, Lotus, David Grisman Quintet, Old 97's, Alejandro Escovedo, Tea Leaf Green, Ozric Tentacles, Brett Dennen, Blackalicious, Dr Dog, State Radio, Betty LaVette, Split Lip Rayfield, The Avett Brothers, Yard Dog's Road Show, The Gourds, Steel Train, Trombone Shorty, Chicago Afrobeat Project, Heavy Pets


Random Youtube's: Hot Chip

Here is the video for their first single ('Ready For The Floor') off their new album, Made In The Dark which comes out February 5th.

Next is the excellent video for 'Over & Over' from 2006's The Warning

Last is 'And I Was A Boy From School' also from The Warning


Concert Announcement: RJD2

04/16/08 The Record Bar, Kansas City

Normally I would be absolutely thrilled about RJD2 coming in concert, especially because the last time I saw him was at The Granada a few years back and this time he is playing the more intimate Record Bar. Unfortunately I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one yet. If RJ is playing the stuff of his first two fabulous records, I would say don't miss this show. 2002's Deadringer and 2004's Since We Last Spoke are some of the best Trip(Hip)-Hop this side of DJ Shadow. Unfortunately with his newest release, last year's The Third Hand, RJ decided he was done with what he was excellent at and needed to make below-average pop records (see it on my list of most disappointing albums of last year, HERE). Now, I don't want to be that guy that hates on the fact that someone wants to expand their sound, but what RJ is doing is pretty mediocre. So, basically if he is still touring in support of The Third Hand, skip it, but, if he is actually DJing again, don't miss it.


Local Music: Minus Story - My Ion Truss

spaceIn the next feature of a local band and/or album I chose the one that might end up being the most successful bands of the area. Minus Story are originally from Boonville, Mo but have been adopted by Lawrence, KS. I have mentioned them before here when they opened for Midlake at the Jackpot and here when they were my #43 on my Best 50 Albums of '07 list. I have to admit, this is another band I am pretty late on. Last year's My Ion Truss is the only album of theirs I own so far but I am planning on checking the previous stuff out. It's their 3rd full length album for the label Jagjaguwar on which they are a member of a pretty impressive roster including Black Mountain, Sunset Rubdown, Okkervil River, Bon Iver, Pink Mountaintops, The Besnard Lakes, Swan Lake, Wilderness and more.

They are getting a good amount of press from magazines and blogs and bringing on producer John Congleton (member of The Paper Chase and producer for artists such as Explosions in the Sky and The Polyphonic Spree) certainly helped. My Ion Truss is a schizophrenic album, switching from rock to prog to punk to psychedelia, sometimes all in one song. Their label's website might say it best:

"Having a producer behind the controls for the first time allowed them to work more collectively as a band, giving them the freedom to record the primary tracks completely live. It is the closest thing to Minus Story's cathartic live show that they've put to tape to date. The result is an epic & anthemic cross between Pearl Jam, Queen, Brian Eno, and Roxy Music."

Minus Story on Emusic
Minus Story Myspace


Marah - Angels of Destruction!

I told my friends at the Austin City Limits festival two years ago that we had to get to the festival grounds early on Saturday to catch the first show of the day, Marah. Originally from Philadelphia, Marah is one of the best live bands touring today. In concert they remind me of what the Drive-By Truckers might sound like if they grew up on Springsteen instead of Skynyrd. Marah might be the greatest American rock band around and with fans such as Bruce Springsteen, Stephen King, Steve Earle and Nick Hornby (author of High Fidelity) they must be doing something right.

As far as Marah's previous efforts in the studio go they can be a little hit (Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight, Kids in Philly, If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry) or miss (Float Away With the Friday Night Gods and 20,000 Streets Under the Sky). Their newest record, Angels of Destruction!, however, is a consistently great album and it's a good sign that an album this good is the first album I buy this year. Dave Bielanko and his older brother Serge are both talented songwriters and although this is their most mature effort to date, don't expect it to be mellow. The last track on the album, 'Wilderness', may be their hardest song to date and would have worked great as the album opener. The lyrics, as always, tell vivid stories of life in the city in an honest and passionate way. The music is as eclectic as it's ever been with the use of bagpipes, horns and accordion throughout. Really, if you are a fan of Rock 'N Roll music of any type, you really need to check out Marah.

Marah Myspace


Concert Announcement: Radiohead

spaceThis is sort of a premature announcement. After all they haven't announced dates or venues...just cities. Unfortunately Kansas City did not make the list, but St. Louis did! I will update this once an actual date is set, but for now just anticipate a road trip to St. Louis this summer.


Anticipated Releases of 2008

Since there hasn't been a whole lot of shows recently and not too many notable album's to speak of (expect something on the new Marah album later this week) I though I would compile a list of albums you should be excited about coming out this year. Feel free to comment if I forgot anything.

1/22 Black Mountain - In The Future
1/22 Cat Power - Jukebox
1/22 Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
1/29 The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath
1/29 Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
1/29 Robert Pollard - Superman Was A Rocker
2/5 Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
2/5 Bob Mould - District Line
2/19 Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
2/19 Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
2/19 The Raveonettes - Lust, Lust, Lust
Del The Funky Homosapien - Eleventh Hour
2/26 Beach House - Devotion
2/26 Erykah Badu - New AmErykah
3/4 What Made Milwaukee Famous - What Doesn't Kill Us
3/4 Bauhaus - Going Away White
3/4 Gutter Twins (Mark Lanegan & Greg Dulli) - Saturnalia
3/4 The Black Crowes - Warpaint
3/4 Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
3/11 Destroyer - Trouble In
3/19 Devotchka - Spirit
4/1 Black Keys - Attach & Release
4/1 Sun Kil Moon - April
4/8 Colin Meloy - Skulls, Ship, Sheep
4/8 The Breeders - Mountain Battles
4/8 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Other bands that are allegedly putting out albums sometime in 2008: Antony & The Johnsons, The Avalanches, Basement Jaxx, Big Boi, Blur, Boris, Built to Spill, Cannibal Ox, Coldplay, The Constantines, The Cure, Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, Zach De La Rocha, The Divine Comedy, Doves, Eagles of Death Metal, Elbow, The Faint, Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads, Gnarls Barkley, The Hold Steady, Islands, Junior Boys, M83, Margot & The Nuclear So and So's, Massive Attack, Mates of State, Menomena, Mercury Rev, MF Doom & Ghostface, Muse, Murs, My Bloody Valentine, My Morning Jacket, Nas, N.E.R.D., Oasis, Of Montreal, Portishead, The Postal Service, The Raconteurs, REM, Roxy Music, Patti Smith, Spiritualized, Stereolab, Tapes N Tapes, U2, William Elliott Whitmore, Patrick Wolf, Wolf Parade, Wolfmother, The Wrens.