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CRYPTS AND DREAMS

In this week's installment of "What's New on Local Merch Tables?" the short answer is new discs from Dead End Dragstrip and Namoli Brennet.

Let's start with Dead End Dragstrip, shall we? Unfortunately, the group didn't get a copy of its debut full-length, Quarter Mile to the Crypt, to Soundbites, so your guess is as good as ours whether it's any good. But we might as well tell you what you're in for, should you choose to attend the release party. The trio, which uses the standard guitar/standup bass/drums configuration, is regularly filed in the "psychobilly" section of your local record store. While the "psycho" part of that equation may be fitting—DED's songs are littered with ghouls and the ghastly things they do—there's a lot more old-school punk rock in the band's music than rockabilly. Any way you cut it, though, it's pretty fun stuff. Here's hoping that Quarter Mile to the Crypt is a decent representation of what the band does live.

Dead End Dragstrip perform at a CD-release party at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., on Friday, May 29. The show gets started around 9:30 p.m. with the Belfry Bats and Rogues Gallery. Questions? The number to call is 882-0009.

The following night, Namoli Brennet performs her first local gig in a while in celebration of her brand-new album, Until From This Dream I Wake. (It's so new that we were supplied with a digital copy without song titles, as Brennet was waiting to get the finished copies back from the manufacturer.) It is yet another feather in the cap of the veteran performer.

It would be easy to ghettoize Brennet as "the best transgendered singer-songwriter in Tucson"; sure, it would be an accurate tag, but that would be doing her and the rest of us a disservice. Brennet is, plain and simple, a songwriter who bounces easily from the slow-burning, bluesy opening track, whose high-and-dry narrator heads West in search of "the land of the blessed" (it also goes a long way in demonstrating the versatility of her voice, which runs from a sultry near-whisper to a bluesy belt), to the more standard folk and folk-pop that makes up the bulk of the disc. On this, her seventh album, she's once again got it down to a science.

Namoli Brennet celebrates the release of Until From This Dream I Wake at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 30, at Conrad Wilde Gallery, 210 N. Fourth Ave. Admission is $5. For more information, call 622-8997.


COLLECTIVELY POPULAR

Here's an odd bit of trivia for ya: The last time Namoli Brennet released a CD, in September 2007, Animal Collective performed at the Rialto Theatre the very same week. This week, the group returns to the Rialto the day after Brennet's CD-release show.

Coincidence? Well, yeah, probably.

Animal Collective represents one of the most surprising stories in music right now. For such an experimental act, their surge in popularity is surprising. Instead of traditional song structures, the group generally favors intricately woven vocal parts that at times resemble a song-in-round vibe or Beach Boy-esque harmonies, often with noisy, cluttered electronic arrangements backing them up.

When the band performs live, they often perform as many new, unreleased songs as those found on their albums—which was the case at that September 2007 show. Though they were ostensibly promoting the then-new Strawberry Jam (Domino, 2007), which was recorded at Tucson's Wavelab Studio, the tracks that really stood out were previously unheard ones. One in particular was especially captivating and, by Animal Collective's standards, positively catchy.

That song, "My Girls," appears on Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino, 2009), and it's just as infectious in recorded form as it was live, a hypnotic tangle of voices engaging in lovely melody and countermelody against a pulsing but still dreamy beat. "My Girls," as well as "Summertime Clothes," are probably the catchiest songs Animal Collective has ever recorded, and MPV is certainly the band's most accessible album yet. But as Michael Petitti so eloquently put it in his review of the album in these pages: "Accessible to whom? Looping beats and rhythms, lyrics repeated like mantras in low bellows and pixie chirps, and a layered electronic din smother this album. Granted, the overall result is an album more easily digestible than anything Animal Collective has done in the past, but still far wilder than any other 'accessible' pop album this year."

And therein lies the mystery of an already mysterious band. Like Wilco and Radiohead, Animal Collective has become immensely popular performing music that would be a stretch to call "popular music."

Animal Collective performs at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Sunday, May 31. Black Dice opens the all-ages show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21 in advance, and $23 on the day of the show. Call 740-1000 for further details.


SHORT TAKES

Like, say, Bob Dylan or Neil Young, Lucinda Williams doesn't possess a traditionally great voice, but it fits the songs she writes so perfectly that it's difficult to imagine anyone else singing them, although that hasn't stopped many from covering them; it was, after all, Mary Chapin Carpenter who had a hit with "Passionate Kisses." But that was back when Williams was a more of a traditional folk singer-songwriter. These days, she's just as revered for her swampy blues-rock grit.

Lucinda Williams returns to the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Friday, May 29. Buick 6 opens the all-ages show at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $28 for general admission floor, and $33 for reserved seats in the balcony. That number again is 740-1000.

Praised as much in recent years for her vocal and songwriting skills as she was at the start of her 30-plus-year career for her fiddle-playing, Laurie Lewis trades mostly in a modern bluegrass style, though there are certainly folk, jazz and country elements sprinkled throughout her work. She'll appear, accompanied by longtime collaborator Tom Rozum, at Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court. Ave., on Saturday, May 30. Peter McLaughlin and Earl Edmondson (the nephew of the recently departed Travis Edmondson, to whose family we pass along our condolences) open the show at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $20 at Antigone Books, Plaza Liquors, Enchanted Earthworks, rhythmandroots.org or by calling (800) 594-8499. They'll be $23 at the door. For more info, call 319-9966.


ON THE BANDWAGON

The High Strung, The Lemon Drop Gang and Big Daddy Bobby at Plush on Friday, May 29; Queensryche at the Rialto Theatre on Monday, June 1; Lady Dottie and the Diamonds and the Michael P. Big Band at Plush on Saturday, May 30; Bachelorette, Pikelet and ... music video? at Club Congress on Wednesday, June 3; Langhorne Slim, Samantha Crain and Sam Lowry at Plush on Monday, June 1; Thrones at Solar Culture Gallery on Monday, June 1; Von Iva, Gliss and Sick of Sarah at Plush on Wednesday, June 3; VAST at Club Congress on Tuesday, June 2; Basshaters and Peninsula Project at Solar Culture Gallery on Friday, May 29; Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta and Salvador Duran at Club Congress on Friday, May 29; the Carnivaleros' second CD-release party for Happy Homestead at Boondocks Lounge on Sunday, May 31; Sublime tribute band 40 Oz. to Freedom at The Rock on Saturday, May 30; 8 Minutes to Burn at Twelve Tribes Reggae Shop on Friday, May 29.

Please note that the Brandi Carlile show at the TCC Leo Rich Theatre this week is sold out.


R.I.P.

The world prematurely lost two great men last week.

Singer, songwriter, producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist and former Wilco member Jay Bennett died in his sleep on Sunday, May 24. Linda Ray wrote as great of a tribute to Bennett as any I've read; it can be found at TAMMIES.com.

On a far more personal note, my dear friend Stevhan Gobble died in a scooter accident in Chicago on Wednesday, May 20. While he played in a series of bands you've probably never heard of unless you lived in Illinois at some point in the last 20 years, he is better known as the face of John Constantine on a series of covers of the comic Hellblazer. If none of that means anything to you, let me assure you that for those of us who knew him—and, therefore, loved him—the loss is absolutely devastating. I'd like to offer my most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

Stevhan, you will always live on in our hearts and memories. Rest in peace, brother.

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