Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Assorted: Amiina, Tom Brosseau, Inspector Owl, Kid You'll Move Mountains, Ladyhawk

I done tried to write real durn good all week... so here's a half-assed rundown of stuff that's caught my attention lately. Want better writing? Well, make an offer and we'll talk. It's the fucking weekend, after all.

Amiina and Tom Brosseau, 3/21

Why, gee golly shucks, folks, Tom Brosseau's 'bout the kindliest guitar-picker this side of the... No, no, it doesn't actually matter that much, but that is almost how he talks between songs, in the voice of a nervous 12-year-old. He sings that way, too, with a high voice that cracks and might even make you think he's a bit shy. Even if this is some kind of persona he puts on--and that actually seemed more and more doubtful as his set went on--it's an ideal fit for his constantly disarming songs. His new Grand Forks centers on the 1997 flood that wrecked his hometown, but starts with an optimistic lift, "I Fly Wherever I Go." And with that optimism, close to childlike innocence, he inhabits a tough and dark world. The stage at the rather small Café Montmartre in Madison was packed with Amiina's equipment, so Brosseau played his set standing in front of the stage, at floor level with the audience, just the right height for playing songs like "Plaid Lined Jacket." The song's about being homeless, and he played it right after telling us about the shitty rental car he had to drive after his flight got diverted to Milwaukee... Yes, apparently the man lives in a universe of picturesque, hopeful screwiness. He makes it sound like the most natural place to be.

Brosseau and Amiina are an unlikely match for a tour, but it works--perhaps because Brosseau puts people in docile, friendly listening mode for the delicate spectacle that is Amiina's live set. It's difficult to tell someone the facts about Amiina without making the group sound scary and bizarre and messy--it's four women in color-coordinated dresses, they're from Iceland, they play strings, glockenspiel, wine glasses, a laptop, musical saws, and on and on--and maybe people came to gawk, but this was one of the quietest and most patient audiences I've seen in a long time. And at a venue that often draws the talky-est crowd in town, no less. For the encore, all four played saw. And it was beautiful.

Inspector Owl and Kid, You'll Move Mountains
I can't talk about one of these bands without talking about the other. They share one member, and though they certainly don't sound exactly alike, they've got similar approaches--a luscious, dark, and danceable mish-mash.... Inspector Owl just put out a new EP called Life Finds A Way, and some of it is streaming here. Kid, You'll Move Mountain's just been selling a CD of a radio performance (complete with hysterical between-song banter) at their shows, and it's actually pretty good, some tracks here. They've been selling each copy with a unique Polaroid taken near the location of the sale. Both are swell live bands. At KYMM's show here, lead singer Jim Hanke talked about The Office, and at Inspector Owl's show, lead singer Corey Wills talked about Battlestar Galactica. Good form!

I was looking forward to Ladyhawk's show here as, well, the only decent option on Monday night during a slow week. A decent guitar-rock band from Vancouver? Meh, why not? And I'm still kind of on the fence about their album, even though it's decent. As a live band, Ladyhawk's much louder and a lot more fun, with a tight-yet-rugged sound--basically, a damn good road band's sound--the album doesn't really capture. So, hooray.

I have nothing to say about this person's music, but is this not the worst use of cleavage on an album cover ever?

In your best Terry-Jones-as-female voice: "'Ello, love! 'Ave a look at me milky pillas!"