Amoeblog

Under the Influence: The Dry Spells offer a heady debut

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 31, 2009 08:00am | Post a Comment
dry spells too soon for flowers lp on empty nest records san francisco psych folk rock band
Too often it seems those who write about music resort to whittling albums, by means of record reviews, into a pronged rod of divination in an attempt to dowse the well from which the music-makers' inspirations originated. For San Francisco folk-rock locals The Dry Spells, reviews of their debut LP Too Soon For Flowers (Empty Cellar Records) read alike in that the word "witchy" is summarily mentioned in almost every critique and comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, Espers, Citay, Fairport Convention and even Loreena McKennitt drop in abundance like heavy fruit from a burdened bough. It's easy to see the common understanding, as the Dry Spells are comprised of Citay's one-time and sometime players, though they've been at it since before Citay's inception and their esteem for rocking on traditional folk-ballads perceptibly deals in some of the same magic conjured by Espers, sure, not to mention that both bands share a cover of "Black is the Color" between them (Espers play it like a heart-sick maid pining over a years-dead lover, whereas the Dry Spells almost flaunt the tune, fleshing out into a verdant composition worthy of Willow the inkeeper's daughter on Summerisle). They also lend their trademark harmonies to a beguiling cover of "Rhiannon," arguably Fleetwood Mac's most enchanted mom-rock tune (I fancy many a mother-to-be has considered naming a girl-child after such a spirited strain as this), and I have to applaud the effort, as the Dry Spells manage to leave Stevie Nicks' leather and lace leanings intact despite weaving in their own fibrous skeins of alternating folk, rock and light-in-the-dye psyche threads; indeed, the Dry Spells craft complex song compositions not unlike heavy tapestries laden with meaning, tradition and more than a hearts-worth of woeful devotion.
Dry Spells, band, San Francisco, folk, rock, too soon for flowers, Tahlia Harbour, April Hayley, Andria Otte, Diego Gonzales
I could go on along these lines of correlation, offering more aural comparisons to the Dry Spells "witchy" ways (imagine Dolores O'Riordan kidnapped by the Deal Sisters meeting a wayward Meriel Barham altogether singing Steeleye Span and the Trees while on a backwoods journey to liberate the hidden mythology of the lost city of Ys via melody and romantic lyricism), but I'll let it be in favor of the band for who they really are: Thalia Harbour (vocals/guitar/melodica/glockenspiel), April Hayley (vocals/violin/melodica), Adria Otte (guitar/vocals/violin) and Diego Gonzalez (bass/oud/viola). However, I would like to take the focus away from the more obvious sounds-likes to indulge in a little examination of what makes this record great under an entirely different lens. The perspective being that their record is, for me, almost the equivalent of a very good read of high fantasy, or at least as good as any old anthologized, oft-told yarn.olive fairy book, andrew lang, henry ford, h.j. ford, fairy tales, victorian era, book

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Todd is Godd: Rundgren tours his legendary album A Wizard, A True Star.

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 5, 2009 08:30am | Post a Comment
 todd rundgren a wizard a true star album cover tour 2009 san francisco live futurist rock concert
I have only ever twice before been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a live performance of an entire album from beginning to end. I'll never forget the dorky glee I felt once upon a time in 1990 hearing Geoff Tate of Queensryche ask his band mates a few songs into their show in support of their album Empire, "guys, shall we do Mindcrime?," only then to crush non-stop through their hour-long progressive rock-opera Operation: Mindcrime. Then there was the surprise and delight of hearing Joanna Newsom say during her show a couple of Christmases ago, "I'd like to perform my new album for you now," and just like that, her nearly hour long Ys magically unfurled its sails with everyone in attendance on board. However, Todd Rundgren's performance last Tuesday night of his stellar album A Wizard, A True Star at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco was a mess of fandom-fueled joy that I knew I was getting into and, to a certain extent, almost dreaded.
todd rundgren a wizard a true star awats tour fan art jacket embroidery needle craft
I mean, compared to the prior two experiences where my "being there when they unexpectedly played the album" aspect of the live performance became a highlight of each show, I wondered how will I look back on this --- a show where I know not only the set list beforehand, but also already anticipate the overall feeling that I get when listening to the album on my own terms. In other words, how could this show present anything but the record I love as a less-than-perfect rendition with low-lights glaring where the highlights would be (a lot like Todd's white-on-black hairdo actually). Maybe I was a little concerned as to Todd's ability to deliver, at age 61, his genre-smearing, progressive futuristic rock magnum opus of 1973 in a live, staged setting --- an album that has aged so well that Todd admits to caving in to fan demands for a tour when asked, "why this album," and "why now?" C'mon, who would go through all the trouble to embroider the back of their jacket with album art from a record that wasn't sent from Utopia itself? If the exemplary piece of fan craftage above (as seen at the show last Tuesday night) gives any indication, Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star must be nothing less than the shit, impervious to crumbling under the constraints of staged presentation! Still there's more...
todd rundgren rocker style icon 1970's guitar god a wizard a true star tour 2009
I know now that I was wrong to doubt Rundgren's ability, regardless of age, to deliver anything but a jaw-dropping display of pure showmanship and theatricality. And I was wrong to expect the expected too. For one thing, I had no idea Todd was to be his own opening band. To everyone's surprise, Todd, flanked by three other dudes similarly clad in black on black and wearing black shades, took to the stage and, after announcing the world premiere of "Todd Rundgren's Johnson," played a robust set of Robert Johnson covers. Todd explained at one point that this particular cover band thing had something to do with either business or karmic obligations, probably both. In any case the set provided a means for a world class shredder like Rundgren to really strut his stuff and look effortlessly cool doing so. But that didn't last long, as Todd's taste for rotating guises in the second act, or rather the show we all came to see, had me wondering if Rundgren's "style icon" status has rendered him immune to aesthetic criticism or has been downright revoked.

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Replay: Thanksgiving's Thanksgiving (on Thanksgiving...)

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 26, 2009 06:30am | Post a Comment
pie thanksgiving morning peaches iron skillet pies
 
Happy
Thanksgiving everyone! It's early (just after six am) and I'm baking apple-cranberry-pecan pie while Thanksgiving's self-titled collection of home recordings emanates quietly from the little boom-box on the kitchen table. Good thing they thought to include a CD inside the oh-so-pretty triple gatefold packaging that houses the gorge three LP set on red, white and blue vinyl that is Thanksgiving's Thanksgiving; for this I give thanks. I can't imagine managing three records and a turntable while trimming pie crust and chopping nuts --- I can't go for that, no, no can do. Still, I count myself grateful for having made an impulse purchase of this gem of an album a few years back, for it has become precious to me. 
thanksgiving self-titled triple lp marriage records phil elverum
I remember picking up my copy at Amoeba San Francisco on something of a whim and a whiff: obviously tangibly beautiful, it was in my hands and pricey but not too much so. The promise of lovely colored wax teased me into buying, along with the notion that I fancied the thing smelling of Elverum, for I was enjoying an all things Phil Elverum boom at the time (it's never really gone away, it ebbs and flows...). I would be a fool to pass it up, or so I thought. Though this crazed logic that plays the feeble minds of those swayed to swooning for pretty records and limited pressings once again held me rapt, I brook no regrets regarding this purchase because the songs are as excellent as the artwork they come packaged with. For this, again, I give thanks.

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Armonico Hewa says what? ask OOIOO...

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 18, 2009 11:34pm | Post a Comment
 ooioo new album armonico hewa on thrill jockey yoshimi p-we

It must be good being Yoshimi P-We. It seems to me that she's had a pretty great year, what with her Boredoms gig at All Tomorrow's Parties in New York, her ambitious sounding project aboard a Russian ferry, soundtracking this past summer's solar eclipse off the southernyoshimi p-we ooioo boredoms free kitten live japanese underground experimental rock band girl group coast of Japan, two releases on the side: Bar-Cozmik (as Yoshimio) and Tingaruda (as OLAibi), not to mention the big fat recent new release from my favorite branch of the Yoshimi tree -- the all-girl, always exciting OOIOO. Amidst all this artistic activity, Yoshimi also gave birth to her second child this year. No wonder Wayne Coyne named a record after her

When OOIOO released Taiga a few years back I fancied that listening to it was a lot like journeying into an hour long, aural tour de la nature -- a sonogram for one of those excellent macrocosmic David Attenborough documentaries where frozen, aurora-enshrouded forests of the North exist minutes from warmer climes where glacier-fueled rivers rush chuckling over rock and mud towards temperate seas. What stellar programming like Planet Earth does for your eyes in the comfort of your home, extraordinary sounds like that of OOIOO do for your ears within the infinite expanse of your mind. This may come across as cheesy (only the easiest cheese, please), but it reminds me of something Obi-Wan Kenobi explained to Luke as he struggled to find his bearings with the Force: "your eyes can deceive you; don't trust them...stretch out with your feelings." Listening to OOIOO, for me, is like star wars twin sunset two suns on tatooine luke skywalker episode four a new hopeletting the Force flow through you, no blast shield required.

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Tricked Out and Fully Treated: Rocktober is over but the Halloween high remains...

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 6, 2009 01:31am | Post a Comment
dennis miller dana carvey saturday night live snl weekend update late night tv

When I was in fifth grade staying up late enough to catch Dave Letterman's Top Ten was a personal goal of mine every weeknight (on Saturday nights it was staying up late enough to make it through Saturday Night Live in its entirety, but I always conked out right about the time Dennis Miller wrapped up his Weekend Update). I like to think that I became a lover of lists and listing things because of that after-hours fixation of mine, but who cares? The fact is that I do love a list and this year's Halloween happenings were so fabulously choice that I've got to work it out herein, Late Night Top Ten style:
graveyard gravestones san francisco state university education budget cut protest dios de los muertos
10: Students of San Francisco State University protesting budget cuts on Monday by turning the quad into a graveyard for courses felled by a lack of state education funds. The many headstones featured names of "dead" classes and mourners honored them dutifully in Dios de los Muertos style with candles, flowers and gorgeous little treats. A very clever and seasonally satisfying display of discontent!

9: Rammstein's timely release of their new album Liebe Ist Für Alle Da. Now, I count myself as an accidental Rammstein fan (and there's a good lengthy yarn I could spin about the who, what and why-fors about it), but a fan I am nonetheless ---especially as their machismo-soaked yet obviously Depeche Mode influenced electro-opera-industrial rock always seems to find a place on my annual Halloween mixtape! Not to mention that these German rockers consistently crank out quality music videos that remind us that there once was a time when the medium was viewed as an elevated art-form. Their video for the 1995 single Du Riechst So Gut is perhaps their most romantic (despite the fact that the imagery delves into bestiality, transvestitism and baroque dance routines) and very Halloween appropriate (despite the fact that nearly all their videos could be specified as "Halloween appropriate"). Oh Rammstein, why must thy art be so misunderstood? Maybe it's a European thing...

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