Feb 022010

A. A. Bondy @ the Blvd., 2010.1.25

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First of all, I’d like to go on record as saying that I really like the new Blvd. While it may not be a return to the glory days of the B-Side or the old Fat Tuesdays, it is a great addition to the Spokane music scene.  It’s also a damn sight better than the old Blvd, which was basically a lame dive bar that just happened to have bands most weekends.

The new Blvd is a fairly nice, professional, all-ages venue in the old B-Side building (230 W Riverside).  It’s got good acoustics and professional, friendly staff.  It’s also got a good sound system, and a clear floor that runs right up to the stage.  The show last Monday was a fairly low-key affair.  The turn out was decent, though hardly the sold out crowd I was expecting.

The opener, a local folk artist named Karli Fairbanks (MySpace, web site), was a pleasant surprise.  Her guitar work was much better than most folk artists.  It clean and strong, with unique melodic voicing and worked well with her singing.  Her vocals were also excellent, if stylistically unoriginal (she used the soft, light-vibrato voice that’s been used by so many female folk artists that it’s hard to recall who first pioneered it).  All in all, I’d be very inclined to see her again.  If you’re a Spokane folk-fan, definitely make an effort to get out and see her.

The next act was a country artist named Willy Mason (MySpace).  How he managed to fly under my radar for so long is unclear to me, but I was very impressed with his set.  He’s got a much more classic, folk-influenced voice than most modern country artists.  Put a drum kit and some synthesizers behind him and some Pitchfork twerp would be claiming that “he’s no Jeff Tweedy”.  Which is fair insofar that he does sound much more like a stripped down Uncle Tupelo than he does a stripped down Toby Keith.

A. A. Bondy (MySpace) and his band were, of course, phenomenal.  The trio included Bondy, a drummer/slide guitar player, and a bassist/keyboardist.  They were professional almost to a fault (other than thanking the crowd for applause, they didn’t seem interested in interacting with the audience.)  They played a solid set of material taken from both of Bondy’s albums.  They played with a great deal of energy, and played enough with the form of the songs that they seemed both fresh and familiar at the same time.  Highlights of the set included great versions of “O The Vampyre” and “A Slow Parade”.  The only tunes they didn’t play that I wished they had were “How Will You Meet Your End”, “American Hearts”, and Bondy’s cover of “John the Revelator.”

The show was truly an excellent one.  A great venue hosting some amazing talent.  The openers were amazing, and I will be definitely purchasing their albums as soon as I can lay my hot little hands on them.  Bondy continues to impress and I look forward both to seeing him in concert again and to whatever new music he turns out next.

Dec 312009

1. Bad Veins, “Gold and Warm”
2. Them Crooked Vultures, “Caligulove”
3. The Avett Brothers, “Kick Drum Heart”
4. A.A. Bondy, “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing”
5. Monsters Of Folk, “The Sandman, the Brakeman and Me”
6. Silversun Pickups, “Catch & Release”
7. Morrissey, “Something Is Squeezing My Skull”
8. Franz Ferdinand, “Ulysses”
9. Wilco, “Country Disappeared”
10. A.A. Bondy, “Oh the Vampyre”
11. Third Eye Blind, “Bonfire”
12. Jarvis Cocker, “I Never Said I Was Deep”
13. Neko Case, “This Tornado Loves You”
14. Silversun Pickups, “It’s Nice To Know You Work Alone”
15. The Dead Weather, “Hang You From The Heavens”
16. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, “Air Mattress”
17. Wilco, “Bull Black Nova”
18. Neko Case, “Magpie To The Morning”
19. Molly Lewis, “Poker Face (Lady GaGa cover)”

This was an incredibly hard year to narrow down to just one album. Also, this was the first year that I have had more than one artist with more than one track on my “Best Of” mix. (I’ve been doing these since 2005 so they predate the blog by a few years.)

Any songs not on my mix that are on your person Best Of list? Any songs I included that should be relegated without comment to the dustbin of musical history? As always, commentary and recrimination can be directed through the comments section.

Nov 162009

“Oh he’s just like the rest / she’s just like the rest”

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Doing some research on A. A. Bondy’s old band Verbena turned up this little gem.  It features a young, grunged-out Bondy, some surreal videography, and an awesome little rock tune called “Baby Got Shot”:

Update: Apparently my friend Mike sent me this video ages ago and I totally missed it.  Props to him for trying to expand my musical horizons despite the best efforts of my absent-mindedness.

Nov 162009

A. A. Bondy, When the Devil’s Loose

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Artist: A. A. Bondy

Album: When the Devil’s Loose

Label: Fat Possum

Release Date: Tuesday, 2009.9.1

Score: 10/10

I’ve often ranted on this blog about the importance of the sophomore album.  While debut albums are, undoubtedly, critical, the second release from an artist serves as a predictor of possible staying power and is a better indication of an artist’s potential than any other album.  A lot of bands have great debuts.  Very few have great follow ups.  Those than have a good second release usually have a bright musical career ahead of them.

My fetishism for second albums, then, means that I’m often nervous to hear those produced by artists whose debuts I fell in love with.  In the case of A. A. Bondy, I really needn’t have worried, though.  Bondy’s sophomore effort, When the Devil’s Loose is a beautiful, well-crafted folk album, which does a great job of showcasing Bondy’s deft compositional talent and evocative lyrics.  From start to finish, it is cohesive, well-written, and masterfully performed.

The album’s thematic elements are established well by the opening track, “The Mightiest of Guns”.  This is true both of the songs complex, guitar-centered musical qualities, as well as its lyrical focus on chance and the inescapable nature of fate.  These lyrical images, especially those of fate, occur throughout the album, deftly woven into many of the songs, without ever feeling forced.

As with his last album, Bondy’s guitar work forms the musical backbone of the album.  And while When the Devil’s Loose features a more lush, layered sound than his first album, the guitar-centered aesthetic is still very much there.  This is probably best heard on the stripped-down, solemn tune “Oh the Vampyre”.  The solo, finger-picked guitar provides a bitter-sweet melody to support Bondy’s sad, self-effacing lyrics.

The somber solo guitar work of “Oh the Vampyre” is, however, the exception rather than the rule.  Probably the major musical innovation that Bondy displays on When the Devil’s Loose is his embracing of a full four-piece backing band.  This lends some much-needed depth to songs like the rambling, swaying “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing”, which benefits greatly from the musical layers that a full band provides.

The album closes on “The Coal Hits the Fire”, which is the slowest, most somber song on the disc.  While I wasn’t initially a fan of the track, it’s definitely grown on me.  Its slow, melancholy plod seems a strange choice to end the album, but after a few listens through, it does make a strange sort of musical sense.  Its evocative descriptions of departure and its lackadaisical pacing make a nice, fitting closer.

When the Devil’s Loose is a fantastic album that, along with its predecessor American Hearts, establish A. A. Bondy as one of the most promising voices of contemporary American folk music.  I highly recommend it, with no reservations whatsoever.  It’s a must-have for anyone who likes modern folk music, and definitely an album that everyone should consider adding to their collection.

Nov 032009

“These are the stars raining down from the sky.”

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This is one of my favorite tunes off the new A. A. Bondy album (review coming soon, I promise!)  It’s called “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing”.  I really think that this is a great example of what establishes Bondy as one of the most important voices in modern American folk.  The lyrical flow is perfect and the imagery in the song is amazing.  The guitar counter-melodies are slick and subtle.  And even while the song is simple in construction, it’s inspired in execution.

May 182009

Sasquatch Preview: A. A. Bondy

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Well, I’m getting these previews started later than I wanted to this year, but better late than never, I suppose.

I first encountered A. A. Bondy when my friend Mike sent me a copy of his song “How Will You Meet Your End”. I immediately ran out and grabbed a copy of his debut LP, American Hearts.

Bondy’s folk has the sort of dark, Gothic feel to it that I’ve been addicted to ever since I heard Iron & Wine’s Shepherd’s Dog album.  He shares this niche of “American Gothic Folks” (for lack of a better arbitrary label) with artists like Josh Ritter and the aforementioned Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.

Here’s Bondy playing the old folk tune “John the Revelator” at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock in June of last year:

A. A. Bondy will be playing the Yeti Stage at 1:05 PM on Saturday, May 23rd.

Feb 172009

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.2.17

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Intro: This week’s column may be a bit monotonic since the music part of my brain is completely stuffed full of a potent combination of Power+Light and Sasquatch! Festival excitement.  That being said, I’ll probably also mention the new Morrissey album, though only in passing.

But enough of the preview…

Listening: So, I got the new Morrissey album, Years of Refusal in .mp3 download format.  (Which, BTW, is on sale today at Amazon.com for just $4.  Helluva deal, that.)  It came out a day later than the CD, so I only just got it today and haven’t had much of a chance to listen to it yet.  What I’ve heard, though, I like a great deal.

Other than that, I’ve still been totally digging on Power+Light.  It’s embarrassing how addicted I am to it.  I listen to music about eight to ten hours a day, and for the past two weeks not a day has gone by where half of that time or more is devoted to that EP.  It’s crazy good.  If you haven’t heard it yet, PLEASE go give it a listen.

Oh, and I also grabbed the new M. Ward album today, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet.

Upcoming: As mentioned above, Morrissey and M Ward have new albums out today.  In the next few weeks, look forward to new material from JJ Cale, Hatebreed, U2, and Neko Case.  (Random aside: the Neko Case, Middle Cyclone, sports some of my favorite album art in a long time.)

Thinking: 1.) In bands whose name is [Definite Article] [Noun], should the definite article be capitalized?  Should it be (e.g.) the Rakes or The Rakes?

2.) Sasquatch Festival!  As I’ll expound below, the lineup’s been announced and I am crazy stoked.  I’ve already started plotting with my good friend and long-time Sasquatch ally Mike, and the concensus is that this year’s festival is going to be a month’s worth of awesome crammed into a 3-day weekend.

News: The Sasquatch! Festival lineup has been announced!  Or at least according to the super-awesome unofficial Sasquatch Festival blog.  The main Sasquatch site for 2009 isn’t up yet, but I imagine it will be within the next day or two.  I’m extremely stoked about the fact that this year will see the return of Nine Inch Nails, The Decemberists, TV on the Radio, Calexico, and others.  Among the fresh new faces that I’m happy to see are A. A. Bondy, Silversun Pickups, Gogol Bordello, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

It should be noted that every place carrying the lineup also carries the wording “…and more to come” or equivalent, so there’s strong potential for even more awesome.  (Rumors abound that Sasquatch veterans Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins might added to the lineup.)

Tickets will be sold in the tiered pricing scheme of previous years, with cheap (~$155) 3-day passes going on sale the weekend of the 28th and prices going up from there.  It should be noted that these cheapest tickets will be on sale for ONE WEEKEND ONLY.  So if you want to save at least $40 on three days of Sasquatch awesomeness, then I strongly encourage you to get them then.

If anyone’s planning to attend and wants to meet up, drop me a line in comments.

Song of the Week: One of the many Josh Ritter songs I discovered a few weeks ago during my binge was this off of his album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.  It’s called “Mind’s Eye” and I think it’s crazy awesome.

Nov 162008

“With a crimson moon a-shinin’ down upon my devil’s wings.”

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Courtesy of my good friend Mike, here’s a great video of A. A. Bondy (one of the best things to happen to Folk in the past decade) performing his song “O The Vampyre”.

Mar 192008

"They say I must be the devil’s child"

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The inimitable and always-awesome Mike sent my this A. A. Bondy track a few weeks ago and I’ve been pretty obsessed with it ever since. I think that all of you should be, as well.

A. A. Bondy, “How Will You Meet Your End” off of American Hearts

UPDATE: Okay, so the original thing I embedded turned out to only be a low-quality 30 second sample. Fortunately NPR is streaming the whole thing.