Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kasabian ‘Velociraptor!’

Turns out that defiant swagger, festival-filling anthems, and snarling melodicism aren’t the only things that Kasabian learned from Oasis. The British rockers have also got the melody-borrowing bug. Listening to “Velociraptor!,’’ Kasabian’s fourth album, you’ll spend half the time trying to figure out the melodic quotation. Sometimes it’s easy, like the breezy ’60s psychedelic tones of “Le Fee Verte,’’ where the band sings about “Lucy in the sky.’’ “Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To’’ lifts the melody from 1980s dance pop hit “Let the Music Play’’ or whatever mystical Eastern musical mode it came from originally. “Switchblade Smiles’’ has pounding hip-hop beats under triumphant cinematic strings, like the soundtrack to a Hong Kong martial arts blockbuster. “Days Are Forgotten’’ churns on threatening bass loops that open up to expansive choruses before tightening on a hairpin turn. “Goodbye Kiss’’ is the rare acoustic, relatively slower, “sensitive’’ number that crests on a simplistic retro-girl band romance vibe. Brain tickling aside, this is a supremely enjoyable, stylish, and modern-sounding record, which isn’t easy to pull off for a guitar band with a tendency to look backward. (Out today) ESSENTIAL “Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To’’

The timely pop return of Emergency Music

The music industry as we once knew it is dead and buried, and the pre- and post-Internet eras seem like two entirely distinct periods now. But there exists an entire generation of bands who had the unenviable fortune of forming during the uncertain limbo years, still tethered to the swiftly expiring traditions, but without clearly delineated paths through the tangled electronic future. Around the turn of the millennium most of us were online, but compared to the way we consume music now, with constantly updated music blogs, SoundCloud, and Spotify streaming an infinite supply of newness nonstop, that approach — a mix of rudimentary online services mixed with actual trips to the record store — seems positively archaic.

I bring this up in relation to Emergency Music, a longtime Boston favorite, because they came along at what may have been exactly the wrong time.

Ladytron’s ‘Gravity the Seducer’

This is “our most coher­ent work, in terms of moods and themes,’’ Daniel Hunt of the venerable British electro-pop act La­dytron has said of his group’s fifth album. That’s an under­state­ment. There’s lit­tle variation at play here in an album whose creeping, somber tone re­mains largely stat­ic. Mis­s­ing are hints of the more epic, gui­tar-forward forebod­ing of their album “Witch­ing Hour.’’ “White Ele­phant’’ chases a baroque harpsichord fig­ure over horn synths that spread out and dark­en like spilled ink; it’s a chamber dance with a beautiful ghost bride who turns to tendrils of mist in your embrace. “Mirage’’ is a punchy dark-wave track whose hook hints at pop po­tential and serves as a touch­stone for the mildly repet­itive album. The occa­sion­al live drums, as on the in­stru­mental “Rit­ual,’’ pop out amidst the typically flat, programmed af­fect. Strangely, one of the only songs with­out a human voice here somehow seems the most organ­ic. With La­dytron, the aloofness is the appeal, but sometimes it would be nice to be invited in. (Out today) 

ESSENTIAL “White Ele­phant’ 

Boston Globe

Motion City Soundtrack dig through their past to bring fans tour

When’s the ideal time to become a fan of a band? Right from the start? Perhaps, but then you’re inevitably going to reach a day when they stop playing your favorite songs live. Show up to the party late and you may miss the good old days. The idea behind Minneapolis’ favorites Motion City Soundtrack’s “4 Albums. 2 Nights. 7 Cities.” tour is to make everyone happy. Over the course of two nights, they’ll play their four records in their entirety, reaching back to 2003’s debut “I Am the Movie,” where the band established their Moog-heavy pop-punk sound.

Thursty: Abigail’s nails it


Another month, another new Kendall Square restaurant. Forget technology, this is the new dining hub of Cambridge. The most promising of the lot, so far, is Abigail’s, a craft beer and cocktail gastropub from co-owner and chef Jason Ludwig, formerly of East Coast Grill (my favorite restaurant, by the way).

Like many of the other spots in the area, there’s a certain minimal, science lab aesthetic at work here, but it’s tempered by organic touches. The long wooden bar made from English elm rescued from a barn in Western, Mass., takes in tons of light from big windows that span the length of the space.

Getting an alt rock buzz cut with Yuck

DINOSAUR JR, JR “It’s quite nice, the bands that we’re compared to are good and stuff,” says Yuck’s Daniel Blumberg. “I love those bands.”

Somewhere along the line in the history of music journalism, writing about the way a record sounds turned into drawing up a laundry list of predecessor comparisons. Roughly around the time the second rock and roll record was made, I'd guess. It's a problem that's become further convoluted in recent years as the vast well of influence-bait has grown deeper, and we've entrenched ourselves in a postmodern retro morass of referential one-upmanship. The ever-shortening recovery period between the reemergence of music past has led to hash-tag (and headline) criticism. Yuck: LOL via @DinoJr #grunge

That might not be fair. The extremely young, extremely hyped UK indie guitar band Yuck aren't merely grunge revivalists after all. They also seem like they're into shoegaze too.

Liquid: Cordially Yours

photo: joel veak

The laws regarding drinking in Massachusetts are a bit complicated. In fact, they're so Byzantine that many bars, particularly those without full liquor licenses, have a hard time understanding what they can and cannot serve. This summer, the Boston Licensing Board dropped the hammer on two such spots, Cafe Meridian in Eastie and Vlora in the Back Bay, inspecting stock that had been seized by police to determine whether it complied with the specifications of their limited licenses. The board ultimately ruled that Meridian's infused vodkas and tequilas could be categorized as cordials; much of Vlora's product, on the other hand, was essentially hard liquor. 

The Rapture, ‘In the Grace of Your Love’

New York’s post-punk-electro pioneers the Rapture invigorated the indie-rock world with their chaotic rhythms, disco beats, and tattered guitars melded with electronics. A decade of imitators later and you might not fault them for meandering further afield with “In the Grace of Your Love.’’ The expansive “How Deep Is Your Love?’’ revolves around a looping house-style piano riff, saxophone, and layers of dense percussion that build toward a spiritual righteousness you’d expect from a preacher on the saving-souls circuit. “It Takes Time to Be a Man’’ is a soulful slow jam over what sounds like a pensive hip-hop piano sample. “Come Back to Me,’’ on the other hand, features a disposable vocal from the campiest gay club in town, and the title track is a sodden heap of wailing. Opener “Sail Away’’ is a better execution of that same approach. With its meat-and-potatoes disco-punk beat and rousing keys, it feels like it’s reaching beyond the known universe of the typical club scene. (Out tomorrow)

Shaking his way to the top

Tyler Wang
The 24-year-old San Diego transplant and Somerville resident is a rising star in Boston’s cocktail scene. After graduating from the New England Culinary Institute, Wang spent a year and a half as an apprentice, then bartender, at Barbara Lynch’s Drink, one of the best cocktail bars in the city, under the tutelage of renowned bar whiz John Gertsen. He’ll soon begin a new job at No. 9 Park, where he hopes to help revitalize the bar that was instrumental in elevating the art of the cocktail.

Q. How did you get started in the industry?
A. The last thing you need to do at culinary school is an apprentice program. I started off externing at Drink in March of 2010, and I was doing that under the auspices of the school for about six months. After that, no way I could leave, so I stuck on board. I wanted to learn about the ground rules of a really great restaurant and I worked alongside some really amazing bartenders. About four months ago I started bartending, real bartender shifts, taking care of people myself. It was a big step.

Liquid: Glam glasses

If there's one thing I've learned from heroic TV marathons spent on the couch, it's that in fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out. Sure, certain classics stay with us: the little black dress, say, or the sleeveless T-shirt silk-screened with an image of wolves fighting dragons with American flags. But other trends change quickly - a truth that applies whether you're dressing up yourself or a drink. And though they may not parade their libations down a runway for Heidi Klum's yea or nay, locals know that when it comes to cocktails, you still need to turn heads. 

Privateer practice: Meet a new rum distiller with very old roots


In talking about rum, we're talking about Massachusetts history. In fact, we're talking about our country's history. (Does that mean downing a Hemingway Daiquiri is a show of patriotism? Go America!) Back in colonial days, rum production was a hugely important industry in Massachusetts, one that played a key role in its prosperity and development. Our thirst for the sweet nectar of the sugarcane was great. So we were not pleased when the British starting levying sugar taxes and screwing with the "triangle trade" system that ran between the Caribbean (where sugarcane was grown), the colonies (where the byproducts were turned into rum), and Africa (the source of slaves who were shipped to the Caribbean to harvest the cane). In fact, that interference helped get the American Revolution rolling. It's like they say in the history books: "Give me liberty or give me death. And don't get in the way of my rum business."

The Yanks Lost? Sell! Sell! Sell!

James Yang for The Wall Street Journal

A new online game combines fantasy sports and investment strategy, letting you build a portfolio of teams as you would stocks

Playing the stock market and being a sports fan are similar beasts—and not just because they're the biggest reasons you keep checking your phone for updates. The overlap is at the heart of a new online game called SportsGunner (sportsgunner.com), which is slated to launch this weekend. In a hybrid of fantasy sports and stock market strategizing, players use their sports acumen to predict the movement of teams in a virtual marketplace. As teams win and lose, their SportsGunner values rise and fall. Your job, just as it is in a real market, is to correctly predict which way they'll go.

Bully Boy Distillers: The spirits of Massachusetts

Craft breweries have been the big story in the drinking world  for the past couple of  years, but more and more small-batch distilleries are cropping up throughout New England. The recently launched Bully Boy Distillers is the first distillery in Boston in at least 20 years, says Dave Willis, who along with his brother Will turned a hobby of distilling at home (learned on their family’s farm in Sherborn) into a burgeoning company.

“It’s a fourth-generation working farm where we grew up making craft products, like ciders and jams,” says Willis. “We learned to distill on a small, two-gallon stove top still.”

Thursty: Brahmin

After a series of violent crimes, 33 Res-taurant closed with a bad reputation, but it should’ve been better known for serving some top-notch cocktails.

The Brahmin American Cuisine & Cocktails, the new tenants in the space on the suddenly-crowded Stanhope Street, hope to pick up with they left off in the latter regard.

The owners — also behind Red Sky Restaurant & Lounge — say the idea is to pay homage to the old-monied Boston culture the name evokes. That shows up in touches like antique cabinets, tufted couches and old-timey knickknacks strewn throughout the dark brown, candle- and chandelier-lit interior.

Hot Water Music | The Fire, The Steel, The Tread/Adds Up to Nothing

It's been seven long years since Gainesville, Florida's Hot Water Music have released any new music. Together, that is. Frontman Chuck Ragan took a turn into folkier landscapes with his solo records, including a punk-troubadour turn in Feast or Famine in 2007, while the balance of the four-piece maintained a similar, gravelly, shouted-punk style with their offshoot band, the Draft. This two-track 7-inch and digital release is an arbiter of things to come from the newly reformed outfit. As one might expect, returning to the fold for a punk band with some miles on the tires brings with it a certain amount of veteran introspection. "Up to Nothing" chugs along with the band's memorable push and eminently shoutable chorus: "Somehow it all adds up to nothing," Chris Wollard sings, with a gritty defiance. But it's an edge tempered by time. "The Fire, The Steel, The Tread" seems like it may have initially been a Ragan solo song, with its dusty countrified edge and love-at-the-bottom-of-a-whiskey-bottle tone, but here it's charged with the full band's instrumentation and invigorating spirit.

Identity Festival rocks out the dance party

MASS APPEAL “Electronic dance music is such an important part of music culture in general,” says White Shadow. “It has been for the last 30 years.”

Genre predictions are dumb, but there is one thing absolutely certain in music: rock music is dead, and the era of electronic dominance is finally here. Look no further than last week's Hard Summer Music Festival at the Paradise or this week's Identity Festival, making a stop on a national tour at the Comcast Center with Steve Aoki, Avicii, Booka Shade, Rusko, DJ Shadow, the Crystal Method, Datsik, Data Romance, Holy Ghost!, White Shadow, Afrobeta, and others in tow.

Electronic beats on ‘Blue Songs’ by Hercules & Love Affair

The trend in electronic music has been to mix the hedonistic rhythms and neon beat of classic disco with a detached, indie aesthetic. Hercules & Love Affair mostly skip the postmodern irony here, sounding sincerely dorky enough to have arrived straight from the disco era. That’s both good and bad. “My House,’’ somehow already an international club hit, has a barely there beat and a boring soul-lite vocal line that devolves into annoying scatting. “Painted Eyes’’ fares better, with dramatic synth strings and a pleadingly romantic vocal. “Answers Come in Dreams’’ dirties up a club comedown reflection with biting funk. “Leonora’’ strikes a languid pose, conjuring a hazy summer block party circa 1982 New York. Meanwhile, Bloc Party’s Kele Orekeke stops by on “Step Up’’ to drag the effort further into the ’80s with a new wave disco effort. “I Can’t Wait,’’ with its glitchy cutups and ice-princess coo, brings the group into the current moment. (Out today)