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Alt-J Kick Off New Tour Monday at Madison Square Garden

March 27th, 2015

Joe Newman (vocals and guitar), Thom Green (drums), Gwil Sainsbury (guitar and bass) and Gus Unger-Hamilton (keys and vocals) met in 2007 while attending Leeds University and began making music together. Upon graduation, the foursome settled into Cambridge as Alt-J in 2011. Their debut full-length, An Awesome Wave (stream it below), filled with soaring folk-influenced dub music, came out in 2012. And not only did it rocket the band to stardom, earning comparisons to Radiohead and Coldplay along the way, but it also won them the prestigious Mercury Prize. After playing big festivals like Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and Lollapalooza in 2013, the quartet became a trio when Sainsbury departed the following year. (Cameron Knight has since replaced him for live shows, on guitar, bass and sampler.) But the beat goes on for Alt-J (above, doing “Every Other Freckle” for Jimmy Kimmel Live!): Their second full-length, This Is All Yours (stream it below), arrived last September. And it’s safe to say there’s no sophomore slump here. According to Rolling Stone, “It’s an ambling, entrancing listen—full of songs that blur weird folk and electronic zonkiness, classical filigree and straight-up rock, scrambling in all directions…. These guys know that alienation works best when it’s a little bit of fun.” Fresh off playing Lollapalooza in Brazil, Alt-J kick off their American tour on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. And as an added bonus, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., electronic-rock duo Phantogram open the show.

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Foo Fighters’ Nate Mendel Brings Lieutenant to Mercury Lounge

March 26th, 2015

Nate Mendel is undoubtedly best known as the bassist in Foo Fighters (and for holding down the low end for Sunny Day Real Estate prior to that), but just like Dave Grohl went from being just the drummer in some band to becoming the driving force—as singer, songwriter and (rhythm) guitarist—behind his own group, Mendel is fronting his own new project, Lieutenant. “I’m not an enthusiast of solo projects,” says the new frontman. “Bands are bands for a reason and it seems that once the celery is out of the soup, you’re just left holding a stringy, watery vegetable. However, I knew there was more I wanted to do in music.” So he entered the studio, and with the help of a variety of musicians and producer Toshi Kasai, Mendel ended up with his very own new album, the recently released If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat for a Week (stream it below). NME declared, “The record is no vanity project, but a serious passion project,” and, furthermore, it’s an “impressive marriage of Sunny Day’s intimate soul purging and Foos’ powerful guitar heft, it’s a masterstroke of understated college rock.” Armed with a backing band, Lieutenant (above, performing “Belle Epoque”) are currently making their way up the East Coast, and you can catch them live on Saturday at Mercury Lounge. Vancouver, B.C., rock quartet Yukon Blonde open the show.

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Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders Play Rough Trade NYC Tomorrow

March 25th, 2015

Known for his low voice and a dark sense of humor, Australian singer-songwriter-guitarist Tim Rogers has been winning over fans—and earning comparisons to Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan—for a decade under the name Jack Ladder. He began making acoustic music prior to turning toward New Wave and then ultimately deciding to go in a bolder, more cinematic direction with the help of a new backing band, the Dreamlanders: Donny Benét (bass), Kirin Callinan (guitar), Laurenz Pike (drums) and Frank Sutherland (synths). Their latest effort, Playmates (stream it below), featuring Sharon Van Etten, came out in the States on Fat Possum Records last month. Rolling Stone gave the album four stars and mentioned “Ladder’s dark baritone sounds freshly liberated and focused.” Fresh off this year’s SXSW, Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders (above, performing “Hurtsville” live in concert for MoshCam) play Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. Brooklyn psych-pop trio Invisible Familiars and talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Cohen, also of Kings County (and Yellowbirds fame), open the show.

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Hear Some of the Bands You Can See This Week

March 23rd, 2015

Hear some of the bands you can see this week.

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George Maple Brings New Music to Rough Trade NYC Next Tuesday

March 20th, 2015

Jess Higgs has been doing business as the Australian pop-soul singer-songwriter George Maple since late 2012. “Between building that character and now, I feel like there’s been a fast progression of development as an artist,” Maple tells the New York Times. “I’m saying what I want to say now, as opposed to when I was a little bit more timid at the beginning.” Her second EP, Vacant Space (stream it below), filled with dance-ready electronic music, came out last December. “The songs were born out of a sense of loneliness and a sense of introspection,” she says. And while there’s plenty of electronic-influenced music these days, Maple’s vocals are the most notable aspect of her material. Maple (above, performing “On & On” for BBC Radio 1) is out on the road now, and you can catch her last U.S. date next Tuesday at Rough Trade NYC. Another Australian, rapper-singer Tkay Maidza, opens.

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The Bowery Presents: Saturn, a New Venue in Birmingham, Ala.

March 18th, 2015

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Saturn is a new live-music facility in Birmingham, Ala., that also has a bar and coffee shop serving Stumptown Coffee. Named after local legendary jazz guru Sun Ra, the project is a joint venture between Birmingham musician Brian Teasley and The Bowery Presents. Saturn also includes the Living Venue Audio Project, a multisensory reactive sound medium where various devices installed in the venue (stimulated by sound, light, motion, weather, etc.) trigger random ambient sounds, a sort-of symphony of sonic activity. Shows begin on 5/1 and they go on sale this Friday.

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Sundy Best Play Mercury Lounge Tonight

March 18th, 2015

Childhood friends Kris Bentley (vocals and cajón) and Nick Jamerson (vocals and guitar) have been mashing together bluegrass, folk, R&B, rock and soul into their own foot-stomping take on Americana with a back-porch vibe since forming Sundy Best in 2010. The two began making music together at church while seniors in high school, and the band name comes from their Kentucky pronunciation of what they wore while doing so: their Sunday best. The band’s debut album, Door Without a Screen (stream it below), arrived in 2012. And thanks to their smart use of social media and energetic live shows, Sundy Best (above, performing “Southern Boy” for Made In) began to make a name for themselves. A second full-length, Bring Up the Sun (stream it below), out about a year ago, contains some rerecorded versions of Door Without a Screen songs plus new tunes. And while they could’ve been content to just ride out 2014, instead, the Lexington, Ky., duo put out a third full-length, Salvation City (stream it below), last December, impressing the folks at Rolling Stone: “The group took leaps forward on its new album…. Salvation City is a sonic ride, 10 songs that range from down-home hootenannies to soulful ballads.” And after spending some time at home preparing a new live show, Sundy Best play Mercury Lounge tonight. Chattanooga, Tenn., four-piece Hans Chew open the show.

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Hear Some of the Bands You Can See This Week

March 16th, 2015

Hear some of the bands you can see this week.

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Lo-Fi Four-Piece Twerps Play a Pair of Local Shows This Weekend

March 13th, 2015

Singer-guitarist Marty Frawley and bassist Rick Milovanovic founded the lo-fi band Twerps in Melbourne, Australia, seven years ago. Eventually Milovanovic left the group and Frawley settled in with bassist Gus Lord, drummer Alex MacFarlane and guitarist-vocalist Jules McFarlane. Their noisy pop and ’80s-influenced college rock (reminiscent of music released by the New Zealand label Flying Nun Records) became the band’s calling card, and the foursome has steadily put out new music followed by some considerable touring ever since. Their second full-length, Range Anxiety (stream it below), came out on Merge Records this past January. And it’s safe to say people were impressed. “Pretty much all the best rock bands in the world today come from Melbourne, Australia,” wrote Paste magazine, “and Twerps are at the top of that list.” Additionally: “Even at their most technically complex, Twerps still maintain a low-key, laid-back, indie-rock appeal. They pull off charming pop that sounds tender and thrilling at the same time.” See how it all sounds performed live when Twerps (above, doing “Dreamin’” live to air for Triple R Melbourne) play Rough Trade NYC tonight and Mercury Lounge tomorrow. London duo Ultimate Painting opens both shows.

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Still Going Strong, the Church Return to NYC for a Pair of Shows

March 12th, 2015

Over the course of a career that’s now spanned four decades, Sydney space rockers the Church—currently Steve Kilbey (vocals and bass), Ian Haug (guitar and vocals), Peter Koppes (guitar, vocals and keys) and Tim Powles (drums)—have been known for their heady guitar work and instrumental jams, not to mention their 1988 smash, “Under the Milky Way,” the lead single off Starfish (stream it below), out that same year. The band’s 21st, and most recent, studio full-length, Further/Deeper (stream it below), came out toward the end of 2014, impressing critics across the world. “This is not background music—it demands your attention. Along with the oft-surreal lyrics, there’s a lot of care put into the sonic details,” opined PopMatters. It’s “an album that moves onward and upward, further and deeper—a journey begun a long time ago in a 1980s galaxy far, far away.” Currently touring North America in support of their LP, the Church (above, performing “Reptile” for Moshcam) play The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow and Rough Trade NYC on Saturday. Brooklyn chamber-pop collective the Sharp Things open both shows.

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Girl Band Arrive in NYC to Make Some Noise at Mercury Lounge

March 12th, 2015

Influenced by the likes of Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age and the Scottish post-hardcore trio Mclusky, four guys—Dara Kiely (vocals), Alan Duggan (guitar), Adam Faulkner (drums) and Daniel Fox (bass)—formed Girl Band more than three years ago in Dublin. Their debut EP, the noise rock–filled France 98 (stream it below), arrived in 2012, which Pitchfork said, “could’ve passed for a product of Sub Pop circa 1988.” Since then, the quartet has become known for energetic live shows. Recently signed to Rough Trade Records, there’s talk of new music, but ahead of that, Girl Band (above, doing “Lawman” for KEXP FM) have booked their first U.S. tour dates, and you can see them at the late show on Friday at Mercury Lounge. Brooklyn psych-pop outfit Monograms opens.

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Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Honor Elliott Smith at Town Hall

March 11th, 2015

Folk-influenced singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Seth Avett, one of the lead singers and founding members of the North Carolina folk four-piece the Avett Brothers, to pay tribute to the beloved, departed Elliott Smith’s work with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, due out next week. NPR calls Smith “the most erudite, sophisticated songwriter of his generation.” And furthermore, “Though the accompaniment is sparse, each of these 12 covers dwells in an atmosphere that’s somehow linked to (or at least glances in the direction of) the Smith original. Mayfield and Avett didn’t seek to reinvent Smith’s songs. They simply want to honor them, and this collection is governed, from one whispered note to the next, by humility.” “Everyone who’s an Elliott Smith fan takes the lyrics and relates them to themselves,” says Mayfield. “When Seth is singing, I forget for a moment that they’re Elliott Smith songs, and when I’m singing them it’s the same thing. I’m singing the lyrics as if it were my own song.” See Mayfield and Avett performing together—playing highlights from their joint album and their individual catalogs—tomorrow at Town Hall.

 

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Hear Some of the Bands You Can See This Week

March 9th, 2015

Hear some of the bands you can see this week.

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Three Nights of Gov’t Mule with John Scofield Coming Our Way

March 6th, 2015

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Warren Haynes is one of the hardest working musicians in show business. He’s been a solo performer in addition to his work with a variety of groups, including the Dickey Betts Band, the Allman Brothers Band, the Dead and, of course, Gov’t Mule, the blues-rock power trio he founded with bassist Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts back in 1994. Following Woody’s tragic death in 2000, the band used a rotating group of bassists (including Andy Hess for five years) before settling in as a four-piece with keyboardist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson. In 2014, Gov’t Mule kicked off a 20th-anniversary celebration with a series of live recordings highlighting their impressive two decades of work. The most recent archival release, the stellar Sco-Mule (stream it above), out earlier this year, was recorded at two 1999 shows in Atlanta that featured dazzling jazz-rock guitarist John Scofield. And while the album is terrific, Scofield and the Mule have hit the road together bringing their cool, unique live sound to the masses. Their tour is now winding down, but you can still catch them on Sunday at the Space at Westbury and then their two final shows, next Friday and Saturday at the Capitol Theatre.

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Dry the River Kick Off Tour Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg

March 5th, 2015

Peter Liddle (guitar and vocals) began Dry the River as a solo project. But wanting a bigger sound, he invited Will Harvey (violin and keys)—who has since left the band—Scott Miller (bass and vocals), Matt Taylor (guitar, keys and vocals) and Jon Warren (drums and percussion) to join him in making what he calls “folkie gospel music played by a post-punk band.” Early appearances at Glastonbury and SXSW earned Dry the River (above, doing “Alarms in the Heart” for Amazing Radio) comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons. Their second full-length, Alarms in the Heart (stream it below), came out last year, winning over critics and fans alike in the process. According to AllMusic, the album offers “ten lush slabs of audio finery that blend the bucolic art-pop of Stornoway with the ceiling-peeling arena rock of the Killers” and it “always feels like it’s coming directly from the heart, even as it’s set to explode.” The London four-piece kicks off a new U.S. tour on Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and Oklahoma City five-piece Horse Thief and local quartet Regret the Hour open the show.