First, the young upstarts known as Banditos lit up the club with raw, bluesy, punkified, tambourine-shaking, banjo-laced rock. Then the Old 97’s — venerated statesmen of the Republic of Alt-Country Meets Punk Rock — took us hip-shaking, innuendo-slinging, windmill-strumming into the wee hours of morning.
Wide-eyed, white lines On down the road I slide God willing and the creek don’t rise Well, I won’t be home tonight …
First, the young upstarts known as Banditos lit up the club with raw, bluesy, tambourine-jangling southern rock. Then Old 97’s — the venerated statesmen of the Republic of Alt-Country Meets Punk — took us hip-shaking, innuendo-slinging, and windmill-strumming into the wee hours. It was one of those nights when you wanna say, “oh, to hell with it,” pack a bag, and follow the bands on down the road.
The six-member Banditos hail from Birmingham and operate out of Nashville. If you’re looking for new songs to play between cuts of Alabama Shakes and Drive-By Truckers, look no further — all that well-muscled, gritty, soulful goodness is right here.
This playlist is born of hazy treks under desert sun and misty climbs to mountaintops. Hope you enjoy.
Summer — oh, summer. I am gripped in your sweaty, sordid embrace and seek escape in travels and tunes. This playlist is born of hazy treks under desert sun and misty climbs to mountaintops. Hope you enjoy.
Lord Huron ✦ Horse Feathers ✦ Joe Pug ✦ Elephant Revival ✦ River Whyless
The Mynabirds ✦ Belle and Sebastian ✦ Glass Animals ✦ Hannah Peel
Vetiver ✦ The Airborne Toxic Event ✦ Jay Troop ✦ Jesse Terry ✦ Ben Howard
1. Lord Huron — World Ender
I’ve been a bit obsessed with Lord Huron’s second album, Strange Trails. The band is alternately labeled folk and rock. It’s both, and more — with reverb-laden vocals and swingy, hard-charging rhythms, we alternately meander and ride at an urgent canter through moonlit landscapes filled with ghosts, lovers, and fellow travelers.
Frontman Ben Schneider’s time in Indonesia lends an eastern vibe to some of the songs (though it’s more apparent in debut album Lonesome Dreams, with its gamelan-esque chimes). Lord Huron’s live shows are cinematic, with moody lights and transitions narrated via a voice that seems to emerge through an old wireless that sits on stage. The band’s show attire seems to be an extension of the “movie trailer” teasers for the album (a sort of Tarantino aesthetic, with pulp-novel-jagged typeface and Japanese subtitles) — tastes of spaghetti western in bolo ties, of ’50s greasers in leather jackets and slicked-back hair.
The lyrics here feel tailor-made for the adventuring spirit (I borrowed a phrase for the title of this mix): Lord knows I should be pushing daisies / I was 6 feet down, but something raised me up / Sent back for to lift my curse / Gonna get me a taste of some chaos first.
Lord Huron started as a solo visual and musical project inspired by the adventure novels of George Ranger Johnson (b. 1946). The thing is, George Ranger Johnson doesn’t exist, except in the imaginings of Ben Schneider — and what a richly and meticulously imagined world it is.
In the video for “Fool for Love,” our protagonist convinces a motorcycle gang to take on a musclehead who is his rival in love. In the ensuing bar brawl and chase scene, the characters run past a billboard that reads: “Feeling Lost? 1-800-774-1372.” Dial that number and you’ll enter a choose-your-own-adventure story.
The alternate reality created by Lord Huron is alluring because of the sense of disorientation that it fosters. If we take apart the word “sublime” and look at the root, limens — lintel, threshold — it becomes so very appropriate here. Lord Huron evokes the in-between territory of dreams and memories, dislocation and discovery. It’s a strange trail that you should follow.
This is my day with Vandaveer, a music-making, life-observing, heartstring-bending group that I’ve followed since my first days in D.C. I join them for a jaunt up to New York City — my old hometown, the city of concrete and steel, where dreams are swallowed whole and dreams are set free, where restlessness is the only constant.
Take notes, take photos, repeat to yourself: assemble, testify, preserve. But it’s not possible to be a detached observer. A single show is not a standalone thing but part of an organic whole. It necessarily embraces you. You feel like you’re moving through someone else’s strange, beautiful, ambiguous dream. The present is the past devouring the future.
Music writers often describe songs as “evocative.” It’s a convenient shorthand – if a song doesn’t make your feel something, you probably won’t return to it. But it begs the question: evocative of what, exactly?
For River Whyless’s music, I could go on for pages in response. The Asheville quartet is astonishingly adept at drawing you in through images of home – a woodshed, an attic, the skyline – all while unraveling the duality of wistfulness and sorrow that animates much of our storytelling: a yearning for the simple certainties of the past, tempered by melancholia over days gone by and days yet to come. That dialectic is expressed both lyrically and in the layers of polyrhythmic instrumentation and interwoven harmonies. The effect is simultaneously familiar and fresh, comforting and haunting.
River Whyless is composed of Ryan O’Keefe (guitars, vocals), Halli Anderson (violin, vocals), Alex McWalters (drums, percussion) and Daniel Shearin (bass, vocals, harmonium, cello, banjo). If pressed to make comparisons, I’d say that their ethereal harmonies, delicately layered strings, and nimble, dynamic percussion remind me of Lord Huron, Fleet Foxes, and The Head and the Heart. And while their songs contain the appealing folk elements of those bands, River Whyless has found a musical identity that is wholly their own – baroque, folk, rock, global – shifting effortlessly from soft, shimmering ballads to spirited numbers built around handclaps and bass riffs. Listening to their eponymous new album, I am reminded of the first time I watched a campfire being built – glowing embers coaxed into dancing flames – alive, alight.
Take “Miles of Skyline,” for instance. It opens with crisp, syncopated percussion that displays a technician’s precision without feeling cold or studied – it sounds tight, yet feels liberating. (As an aside, I would be happy just listening to an evening of Alex doing drum solos.) The violin flits in and out like an eastern songbird, with choice chirps played pizzicato. Though Ryan and Halli usually alternate lead on vocals, here, Daniel takes over, evoking in a bright and earnest tone the vistas that lend their name to the song.
The Devil Makes Three’s music is garage-y ragtime, punkified blues, old n’ new timey without settling upon a particular era, and inspired as much by mountain music as by Preservation Hall jazz. Here’s your chance to win free tickets to a TDM3 show in your town. Update: Scroll down to hear the new, acoustic version of Hand Back Down. I love this stripped-down rendition. It’s as if you’re in the room with the trio and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to do whiskey shots together after the song.
The Devil Makes Three draws from the storytelling traditions and acoustic string-band sound of old-time music and injects sardonic lyrics and an exuberant intensity that propels crowds to their feet to clap, stomp, and dance along. Their style cannot be cabined in a single genre and their lightning energy can hardly be contained within the bounds of a record. You really have to see them live to appreciate their magic — the finger-picked strings and surging harmonies wrapped around the drive of acoustic guitar and bass.