Thursday, June 16, 2011

Two dreamy indie-pop Iron Horse shows: Wye Oak, Yellowbirds on 7/16 and Cass McCombs Band, Lower Dens on 7/19

 Wye Oak - Saturday, July 16th - 10PM at the Iron Horse
Wye Oak is Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack. Civilian (Merge Records), the third album from the Baltimore duo, is a kind of 21st-century folk music, imbued with dense shoe-gaze guitars, nearly melodic rhythms, and impeccable splashes of electronic color. Without leaning on conventional structure, the songs beguile with fascinating chords and melodies, Jenn's voice and riveting lyrics, mesmerizing rhythms, and an intoxicating aural landscape. Just as good writing has meaning between the lines, Civilian has meaning between the sounds: the combinations of harmonies, timbres, and words summon vivid and ineffable associations just beyond reach. Jenn sums up the meaning of the album saying, "this collection of songs is called Civilian because I believe everyone wants to be normal, but no one truly is." Wye Oak’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert
 Yellowbirds is the moniker for the musical exploits of Sam Cohen, guitarist/songwriter/singer of the psychedelic collective Apollo Sunshine. With timeless inspirations like Charles Mingus and The Velvet Underground in mind,  Cohen created “The Color” by Yellowbirds, his "solo" debut. Double-speed auto-harp glissandos, glowing backwards pedal-steel, bubbling echo and fuzz guitars coalesce into a warm wall of sound. As existential lyrical themes emerge, delivered nonchalantly over psyched-out aural landscapes, the picture emerges of a dust-blown, 4th dimensional Future West. This is Cohen's quixotic world where "only the purist tones can be heard".
Cass McCombs Band, Lower Dens - Tuesday, July 19th - 7pm at the Iron Horse

  Baltimore's indie heartthrob Cass McCombs (above) is a crooner in the purest sense. A singer/songwriter with a slurring and swooping register, McCombs mixes dark humor, surrealism, and a hint of tenderness into his work to create songs that manage to be quirky while retaining focus and clarity.  Over the course of his previous four albums, McCombs fashioned himself an enigmatic vagabond in the classic Dylan mold, yet it wasn't until 2009's Catacombs that his enigma started to feel more like a complement than a crutch. While he may have let his wit get the better of him before through knowingly obtuse lyrics and showy arrangements, his newest album, the double entendred Wit’s End (one of Pitchfork’s Best New Music picks) fittingly leaves those days behind. This is a gorgeous album of despair, the most believable evidence yet that McCombs is living up to his own legend. Cass McCombs “County Line” video.

 Texas-born Jana Hunter (above with Lower Dens), the talented freak-folk guitarist and singer, was the first artist to release an album on Devendra Banhart and Vetiver frontman Andy Cabic's label Gnomonsong. She’s also made contributions to music by Phosphorescent and CocoRosie. Recently Jana joined Baltimore’s Lower Dens with whom she immerses her elastic alto tone in a colorful mix of electric guitar, bass, and drums, yielding unhinged, dreamy rock with just the right mix of flourish and understatement. This is very much Hunter's band; anyone familiar with her work will hear the parallels between the two acts. The biggest difference between Twin-Hand Movement and Hunter's solo albums is the instrumentation: This album is more about her guitar than her voice, which is absent from a few of the songs. Both projects let their guitars go off and wander, but the lilting country twang seems to have been left behind. Lower Dens NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Tickets for these shows are available at Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686 and online at

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