Once upon a time, there were three young adults who worked at a pizza joint on Speedway Boulevard. Their names were Mat Brooke, Ben Bridwell and Jenn Ghetto. But even as they were tossing and delivering pies--which were quite tasty--they knew there was more out there for them than feeding college students and record-store employees. (The restaurant where they worked was just a couple of doors down from a record store, which was pretty convenient, because they all loved music.) So, they decided to head up the West Coast to follow their dreams, and they all eventually settled in Washington state--Seattle, to be exact.
While living there and trying to make ends meet, Mat and Jenn decided to start a band. They called it Carissa's Wierd. People told them all the time that they had spelled "wierd" wrong, but they didn't care. They started playing shows around Seattle, and more and more people started coming. Ben started a record label, Brown Records, to release their albums, which were very, very popular in the Pacific Northwest. So popular, in fact, that they regularly outsold albums by much bigger bands on much bigger labels. Ben even eventually became a member of the band, and everyone seemed to think that Carissa's Wierd was going to be the Next Big Thing--but then they decided to break up the band.
Jenn, who had started recording her own songs under the name S, continued doing so. Ben decided he wanted to learn to play guitar better and write songs, so Mat taught him what he knew. They formed a band together, with Ben at the helm this time, called Horses, which they later changed to Band of Horses. That band signed to a big-time label called Sub Pop and released an album, which was very popular.
But not too long after that, Mat left the band. Why? Nobody seems to know, although Sub Pop told music journalists at the time that it was because Mat wanted to open a sports bar.
But Mat, it seems, has music in his blood, so he decided to form his own band, a quintet called Archives, which he later changed to Grand Archives. They signed a deal with Sub Pop, too, and released their first album, The Grand Archives, about a week ago. (In yet another twist, former Carissa's Wierd and Band of Horses member Sera Cahoone will release her Sub Pop debut next month.)
Grand Archives are somewhat of a departure for Mat. Carissa's Wierd were kind of gloomy, and Band of Horses have their whole reverb-y thing going on, but Grand Archives are largely a pastoral pop band. When "Torn Blue Foam Couch" starts, it's so quiet that it's almost not there. However, a gorgeous melody picks up instruments (drums, horns) and volume as the song goes, and by the end, it's become positively uplifting. "Miniature Birds," with its frills-laden arrangement (whistling!) and unexpected changes on the chorus and bridge, sounds like what might have happened if Burt Bacharach dabbled in country. The languid and pretty ballad "Swan Matches" finds Jenn guesting to sing with Mat, "How we stayed awake all night long / We flew over fences / We dodged all the moving cars / and the dry Arizona faces." Elsewhere, "A Setting Sun" is sun-kissed California pop with soaring harmonies (the album is filled with lovely harmonies--all five members sing) and a whimsically jaunty setup for the chorus; the instrumental "Breezy No Breezy" may just be the first song ever to merge banjo and melodica with jazz and dub; and "Sleepdriving" reminds of another Pacific Northwesterner, the late Elliott Smith.
So, kids, to sum it up, The Grand Archives is fantastic.
The end. Or, more accurately, the beginning.
Grand Archives perform at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 2, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission to the all-ages show is $8. For more information, call 884-0874.
Headlining the gig are Toronto "blip-hoppers" Holy Fuck, who use live drums, analog synths and whatever the hell else they can get their hands on to create groove-heavy dance tunes. Clearly, their star is rising: Exactly one month and a day before this week's show, they opened for Super Furry Animals at Congress.
Led by singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann, A Place to Bury Strangers have garnered a reputation over the last few years as "the loudest band in New York." On their 2007 self-titled debut album, released on Killer Pimp, the group's sound is overdriven to the point of fuzz that could compete with Psychocandy-era Jesus and Mary Chain, though stylistically, I have to hand it to Spin magazine, which said the group "sounds like Kevin Shields bitch-slapping Al Jourgensen. With a purpose." Call it electro-shoegaze.
Opening the show are El Ten Eleven, who you can read all about in Gene Armstrong's review of their latest album in this issue.
Holy Fuck, A Place to Bury Strangers and El Ten Eleven perform at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4. Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St. Advance tickets are available for $8 at ticketweb.com; they'll be $10 on the day of the show. For further details, call 798-1298.
Whole Lotta Zep perform at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 1, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $5. Call 622-8848 for more info. The band's final show with Connolly will take place at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 15, at O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave. Call 623-8600 for further details.
INSERT YOUR OWN REFERENCE TO GREEN HERE St. Patrick's Day is coming a bit early to the Auld Pueblo this year. The Second Annual Gala Irish Music Concert will feature performances from the straight-outta-Ireland David Munnelly Band, TAMMIES-winning locals Round the House and dancers from the Maguire Academy of Irish Dance. Get yer Irish on at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 5, at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. Tickets are $15 and $18 (or $36 for a loveseat, which seats two) and are available by calling 547-3040 or visiting the Fox Web site.
Finally, all you Esteban fans out there will have to make do with those ubiquitous late-night infomercials for now. His March 1 show at the Rialto Theatre has been cancelled.
Happy leap year, everybody!