The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
The Pop Group,
Cabinet of Curiosities

The Pop Group stands as one of our persistently vital and truly prescient post-punk units. This week their slim discography increases by one full-length release, specifically a collection of alternate, live, and unreleased material titled Cabinet of Curiosities. Offered in multiple formats by the Freaks R Us label (as is the smoking 1980 comp We Are Time), it’s not the best destination for a newbie, though fans of the outfit will definitely want to investigate.

Every listener has their own barometer when approaching the intersection (some would say the minefield) of the musical and the political. The yardstick of this writer is to proceed with caution while keeping cynicism at arm’s distance, prudence being necessary because, simply through the laws of qualitative averages, most political music is to varying degrees subpar.

Just as important is to not succumb to the bugaboo of sarcastic pessimism. This can be problematic since the majority of the politico-musical discourse is devoted to the lofty yet weak efforts of pop/rock stars. This isn’t to suggest the status of these individuals somehow denies them the right to have a voice in such matters, but rather that a confluence of factors regularly softens or negates the message.

Beyond the basic need to walk it like one talks it, those earning a substantial living through music frequently either purposefully or sub-consciously finesse their messages to avoid alienating all but the most egregious members of the audience, this reasoning likely selfish (don’t want to turn off those buyers) but also conceivably and wrong-headedly intended to just reach as many people as possible. This is of course a generalization, but the result reliably finds the pleas and protestations of the pop/rock star becoming as ineffectual as those of punks in a suburban garage ranting about the obvious.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: J Mascis at
the Black Cat, 10/16

Sometimes it truly is an honor to see a great act in a very intimate, and personal setting. Thursday night at the Black Cat’s backstage proved to be one of those nights as indie-rock legend, J Mascis performed to a small audience lucky enough to have a ticket to his sold out appearance.

J Mascis needs no introduction. He could easily be labeled an indie-rock guitar god and the master-musician and guitar virtuoso behind indie pioneers, Dinosaur Jr., not discounting the incredible talents of Mr. Lou Barlow. Mascis has also been associated with acts like The Fog, Witch, and Deep Wound, and over the past 25 years Mascis has displayed his talents was a writer, performer, studio musician, and producer, and has even scored and has been featured on multiple soundtracks, notably 1992’s Gas Food Lodging.

Besides his work on his own material, Mascis has been involved with the countless projects of other musicians including Sonic Youth, the late, but intrepid GG Allin, The Hold Steady, Mike Watt, and Firehose.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: The Nearly Deads at the Treehouse Lounge, 10/15

Somewhere in the world there lies a perfect balance between pop and punk music. The Nearly Deads seem to have found this perfect mix and are taking it on the road to share it with the world, along with a splash of their own personalized zombie culture.

Two weeks into their current tour to support their recent album, Invisible Tonight, Nashville’s The Nearly Deads had a surprise stop in Washington, DC for a show at The Treehouse Lounge. It’s a real treat for me to get to see a band like The Nearly Deads at a smaller place like this one—it doesn’t get more intimate than watching a band perform their set five feet in front of you. You get to take in all the little nuances that you normally don’t get to experience on larger stages. Stuff like their whispers to each other in between songs as well as the breaths they take in-between vocal runs…really cool stuff, I love it.

With her bright, smooth voice and good looks, Theresa Jeane fronts this band with style and with ease. She certainly has all the necessary charisma and her amazing vocal range cut right to the top of the mix during Wednesday night’s performance. She has somewhat of this grungy-grit to her obviously trained voice that is really mesmerizing. As a band, The Nearly Deads fall comparatively somewhere in the realm of acts like The Distillers and Paramore, but with a fresh twist—a perfect mix of progressive pop and zombie-punk.

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The TVD Storefront

The Nearly Deads,
The TVD First Date

“I’ll be honest…I don’t even own a record player. I’ve been asking for one for Christmas for a few years now…”

“Years and years ago, everyone had a record player. Nowadays, not only are they hard to find, but they are kind of expensive for a starving artist like myself. I get most of my music on Spotify or iTunes. However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to experience music on vinyl. I say ‘experience’ because that’s truly what it is. Listening to a record start to finish on vinyl is something you take time to do, to truly savor the sounds and warmth of the tones. It’s on my agenda to one day have my own player. I actually only own one record personally, an Original Soundtrack recording from Singin’ in The Rain!

Not many people know this, but my background is in music theatre, opera, and classical music. Whenever I’m sifting through old records at McKay’s in Nashville, TN, I’m ALWAYS hoping for a Bernstein conducted piece. Or a Puccini opera. Or some rare original performance of a Stravinsky piece, like The Rite of Spring. There’s absolutely something amazing about hearing these classical performances on vinyl, because back then, they had no choice but to record them to vinyl. And every performance is different. So I love that McKay’s has tons of classical records. You NEVER know what you’re going to find. And there are some rare performances floating around out there.

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The TVD Storefront

Brant Bjork:
The TVD Interview

If someone told you to make a list of the best drummers in stoner rock, it’s a guarantee that Brant Bjork would be at the top. As the drummer of stoner pioneers Kyuss, Brant helped bring the sounds of the hot Palm desert to the world. Post-Kyuss, Brant would go on to play for Fu Manchu and release some surprisingly prolific solo albums.

After a stint with the mostly-reunited Kyuss which morphed into Vista Chino and released an album, Peace in 2013, Brant is back in a big way. With a new band, the Low Desert Punks behind him, Brant has a brilliant new album on the way. Black Flower Power is a heavy, grooving chunk of rock—a step away from the soulful, funky jams of his previous solo albums.

We talked to Brant as he was preparing to depart for a European tour to support the new album, talking a bit of vinyl, and even a bit of Kyuss.

Hi Brant! How are things going?

Things are going well. We’re just getting ready to leave for Europe tomorrow.

Leaving for the European tour?

Yeah, we’ve got like five weeks over in Europe, so we’re all geared up, ready, and excited.

Are there any U.S. tour plans after that?

We don’t have any U.S. dates planned as of now, but we’ve been talking about it. We definitely are going to pursue some U.S. dates, probably sometime next year.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Premiere:
Wild Arrows, “Ariel”

“Ariel” by Wild Arrows is the kind of huge and soaring rock you just don’t hear too much of these days.

How the band managed to obtain such a monstrous sound without a bass guitar is beyond me. It was one of the many things lost in the twelve-hour tide of Hurricane Sandy which also destroyed the band’s studio and their entire full length debut. Faced with the immediate problem of having no instruments, money to record, or even a place to play, band practices became discussions of how they wanted the songs to sound and what the ideas of the songs were—rather than simply developing riffs, rhythms, melodies and chords.

Based on the organ tinged sound of “Ariel,” I think these band discussions might have centered on the swirling psychedelic influences of the ’60s that have since been filtered into the millennium via Oasis and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Wild Arrows makes a convincing bid for the same sonic territory in their own authentic style with Drummer Shiori Takenoshita, a native of Japan, providing a stunning rhythm track and guitarist and singer Mike Law piercing the mix with his reverb rich vocal.

Though the lyrics often sound like some forlorn plea to the heavens, there is a pervasive uplifting quality to the track that takes hold of the emotions—the palpable feeling of two people making some long-awaited music.

Wild Arrows Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Various Artists,
5 Years of Bedroom
Suck Records

Down Aussie way there’s a record label, and its name is Bedroom Suck. Small but diligent, the imprint has been in operation now for half a decade; to celebrate, a 2LP compilation has appeared sporting a plain but aptly descriptive title. Collecting rare and exclusive tracks from a wide spectrum of acts, 5 Years of Bedroom Suck Records is available worldwide this week through the label’s fruitful partnership with Fire Records of the United Kingdom.

Whenever an independent label withstands the frictions and complications (the arguments, eccentricities, mishaps, disappointments, etc.) that will inevitably arise upon conspiring to add an indeterminate number of releases to an already huge and ceaselessly accumulating mountain of sound, the endeavor deserves a tip of the cap.

In this case “independent label” refers to the grassroots kind; those started by one, two or a handful of individuals and run, at least initially, out of apartments, dorms, garages, or yes indeed, even bedrooms. As these ventures manage more than mere survival, prospering far beyond expectations and immediate geography (though it’s difficult to think of a substantial independent success story that didn’t begin with a predominant or partial regional emphasis), upon attainment of a milestone a little festive commemoration is surely appropriate.

Bedroom Suck began in March of 2009 when Joe Alexander and Sam McCabe whipped-off a few cassette copies of their band’s demo and handed it out at an event that according to Alexander “might have been a fashion show.” That was BSR001; between it and BSR050 Bedroom Suck has taken the lead in documenting a reliably interesting Australian musical movement and in a manner fostering occasional comparisons to the Flying Nun label of neighboring New Zealand.

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TVD Chicago

TVD Live: Ani DiFranco at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 10/15

The Old Town School of Folk Music is a community staple and has been for over 55 years and counting. It’s an educational center, a performance space, and an all-around Chicago music fixture. It is also the city’s center for all things folk. It’s what the Green Mill is to jazz. It’s what Lounge Ax was and the Metro is to rock. It’s what the Empty Bottle and Schubas are to indie. It’s a sacred, special place to see a concert and it was especially so last Wednesday when Ani DiFranco took the stage for an intimate show, the proceeds of which benefited the school.

Given the history of the Old Town School, and given the history of folk, it’s no surprise that there’s an unspoken demand for respect during a live performance. The audiences at the Old Town School always seem to know this. They’re not there for the scene; they’re not there to socialize and throw back beers; they’re there—very clearly and whole-heartedly—for the music. So in other words, it’s basically the perfect location to see Ani DiFranco, who is arguably the modern queen of folk music and whose small stature nonetheless commands attention. She is a force. Everyone in the room knew even before the show started that something noteworthy was about to go down. And it did.

It all started with Jenny Scheinman. How the hell have I not heard of her before? Where have I been? Aside from being an accomplished solo musician, she’s also collaborated with the likes of Lou Reed, Aretha Franklin, and Nels Cline, to name a few. And while her musical range spans multiple genres, last Wednesday Scheinman was pure folk. “It wouldn’t be a folk show if you didn’t bring out a weird instrument and play a murder ballad,” she joked at one point while strapping her bouzouki on. During her 45-minute set, the audience learned that she was a genuine storyteller (“Thank you for listening to that little novel”) and a masterful violinist. For her final songs, Scheinman borrowed a couple of members of DiFranco’s band to help fill out her sound and by the time she left stage the crowd was audibly impressed.

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TVD San Francisco

TVD Live: Anberlin at the Regency Ballroom, 10/11

Earlier this year it was announced that Anberlin would be disbanding after recording their seventh and final studio album and embarking upon one final tour. Somehow I completely missed this band during their heyday, but I’m glad that I got to see them live before they call it quits. The show last week at the Regency Ballroom was beyond capacity and seemed to be a fitting way to close out an impressive 12 year run with 7 albums selling more than 400,000 records along the way.

These guys should have been on my radar though, as guitarist Christian McAlhaney was previously in the Columbia Records band Acceptance and released the brilliant but terribly under-celebrated masterpiece Phantoms back in 2005. Acceptance was another one of those bands that was “supposed to be a breakout,” but the major label system destroyed any chance of that happening, so I am thrilled to see McAlhaney found a home with Anberlin. After this final tour I would expect him to eventually do something equally as brilliant.

Even though I didn’t recognize many of the songs that night, the fans were going absolutely crazy over these guys. This band has some incredibly dedicated fans and the entire crowd was hanging on every last note as Anberlin played their swan song for the Bay Area.

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TVD Asbury Park

TVD’s Garden State Sound with Evan Toth

All jokes aside, New Jersey is a pretty great place. While it has a lot of offer as a state, it also has a rich musical history that many people remain unaware of. Everyone knows about Springsteen and Sinatra, but there’s more out there too, including a diverse current music scene.

Tune in to Garden State Sound with Evan Toth to explore music with connections to New Jersey. You will hear in-depth interviews with some of Jersey’s best music makers and have the opportunity win tickets to some of the best concerts in the state.

Garden State Sound is hosted by longtime NJ radio personality and musician Evan Toth on WFDU.FM.

“New York City is what comes to mind when people think of Paul Simon: Central Park, West Village bookstores, or poetry readings in bohemian downtown flats. The songwriter was, however, born in Newark, NJ, so he’s one of us, whether he likes it, or not.

This week, we celebrate the birthday of Paul Simon and think about what his life was like before his parents moved the family across the river to Kew Gardens where Paul was introduced to such NYC characters as the Queen of Corona. Tune in to hear an hours worth of material from one of the greatest—and occasionally extremely controversial—songwriters in American history.” —EZT

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