At a time when bands, indie and otherwise, are clamoring for a licensing deal to get their songs played on iPod and Cadillac commercials, it's nice to know that there are a few bands and labels out there that still adhere to the notion that getting your music heard one room at a time, by an audience that is specifically in attendance to hear it, at a venue that is more focused on you hearing it than selling you drinks, is the most important thing of all. At this point in the game that idea may be a somewhat antiquated notion, but it's also something to be respected. (And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the indie music scene as we know it would surely be a different beast entirely were it not for the early efforts of K Records founder and owner Calvin Johnson. If you haven't already, go read Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad and git yerself ejamucated.)
And so, this week we're treated to a free all-ages show featuring two young new K acts, both from Olympia, Wash., and both with new albums.
Desolation Wilderness is a trio that trades in ambient, pastoral pop tunes with reverb-heavy vocals that drift along pleasantly. Its new album, White Light Strobing, will be released on Nov. 4 (hmm ... seems like something else is happening that day, too, but I can't seem to remember what it is at the moment), and it's full of songs that aren't all that dynamic, nor very immediately catchy, but they are awfully darn purty, and in this case that's enough.
If it's catchy and charming you're looking for, you could do a whole lot worse than D-Dubs' tourmate, LAKE. (While I'm usually reticent to succumb to that whole "our name is in all caps" thing, in this case it's to distinguish itself from a bunch of other acts called "Lake," so I'll play along.) The co-ed quintet's third album, and its first for K, Oh, the Places We'll Go (a Dr. Seuss reference), was released on Oct. 21, and the two songs I've heard from it are fantastic. The opening track, "Oh, the Places," is a breezy, twee (though not annoyingly so) pop song that approaches a bossa nova rhythm and sounds something like what Burt Bacharach might come up with on a shoestring budget. "Blue Ocean Blue" is similar in feel but adds a plethora of instruments--vintage keyboards, horn sounds, handclaps--to arrive at something that resembles, say, Call and Response. Though you won't hear it on either of these tracks, the songs I've heard from previous releases were pretty darn psychedelic--"Higher Than Mary," for example, is true-blue bossa nova that sounds like Os Mutantes if they had recorded for Elephant 6. Really good, interesting stuff, this.
LAKE and Desolation Wilderness perform, along with local singer-songwriter Amy Rude, at the Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St., next Thursday, Oct. 30. Things should get rolling around 9 p.m. and admission is free--though you're always encouraged to toss some gas money into that proverbial hat. For more information call 623-7621.
To start, Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., has got a double bill of Dar Williams and Shawn Mullins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24.
Williams is touring to support Promised Land (Razor and Tie, 2008), her first album of original material in more than three years. Produced by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins), the collection demonstrates a conscious decision to further bust out of the folk ghetto, as it features decidedly more fleshed-out arrangements than Williams' early albums and strikes a balance between the folky stuff and AAA pop. The album features guest spots from Suzanne Vega, Marshall Crenshaw and the Jayhawks' Gary Louris, among others.
Mullins is, of course, best known for his 1998 smash hit "Lullaby." That song appeared on the platinum-selling Soul's Core, his first album for Sony after four smaller releases; when its follow-up tanked, the label dropped him (let's hear it for artist development!). Six years later, in 2006, he emerged with the hugely acclaimed 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor, on Vanguard. In March he released the similarly praised Honeydew, which is chock-full of the folk-pop character sketches he's made his calling card.
Tickets to this early show are $25, and you can call 622-8848 with questions.
Meanwhile, Javalina's Coffee and Friends, 9136 E. Valencia Road, which focuses primarily on singer-songwriters, will branch out a bit this week when it hosts an unusually heavy schedule of three shows in three days. Weather permitting, all three will take place in the parking lot outside the venue proper, so don't forget those lawn chairs. (In an e-mail sent to the Soundbites desk, Javalina's proprietor, Bonnie Vining, wrote: "I always schedule our biggest shows of the year in May and October when the weather is likely to be cooperative so we can set the shows up outside, and this October is our best lineup ever.") Here's what they've got brewing:
6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23: American Indian violinist and flute player Arvel Bird took home the Native American Music Awards' Artist of the Year award last year. Bird, who imbues his traditional Indian style with Celtic and bluegrass elements, will be accompanied by Tucson percussionist Will Clipman. Minimum suggested donation is $10.
7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24: Nathan McEuen, who has previously performed his bluegrass-tinged folk tunes three times at Javalina's--by himself, with his father (the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's John McEuen) and with his band--this time makes a return appearance with full band in tow. Minimum suggested donation is $5.
7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25: Boulder singer-songwriter Pete Kartsounes' storytelling songs merge components of soul, folk, blues and bluegrass with his gritty, soulful voice. His latest album is 2007's self-released Out of Nowhere, which features guest spots from members of Leftover Salmon and Yonder String Band. And if it's been a while since he's put out a new one, you'll have to forgive him: Kartsounes recently completed a 504-mile walk on the Colorado Trail to benefit kids with cancer. Minimum suggested donation is $5.
For further information about any of these shows call 663-5282 or head to javalinas.com.
Also, please note that the Blind Melon show scheduled for The Rock on Monday, Oct. 27 has been postponed, and the Pines show scheduled for the Stock Exchange Saloon in Bisbee, on Saturday, Oct. 25, has been canceled due to a family emergency.