Let there be rock, said Ronnie James Dio from atop his gnarled throne in metal heaven last week. And lo, did Dio send a monsoon of rock 'n' roll on Phoenix, from KISS/Def Leppard to Mayhem Festival. Someone prayed to a different god this week, because this week is (almost) all about mellow, indie rock. So check out our concert recommendations, and browse our comprehensive concert listings if you want any more options.
When when they're about massive celestial objects like moons and stars, many of Yellow Ostrich's songs are introverted and deal with the small, inner emotions of someone who both longs for human connection and wishes to hide from it. "Neon Fists" discusses world weariness and social anxiety. "Stay at Home," off 2012's Strange Land, begins with choppy drums and punk-ish riffs, but despite its upbeat charms, it wants to push you away. On "My Moons," Schaaf asks, "Don't you love when you can't be found?" but soon notes that once you "Find a cave . . . They'll flush you out." --Troy Farah
The '90s bares its slap bracelet-adorned fists for the Summerland Tour, which brings four bands that got so much radio play in the '90s that Monica Lewinsky probably rocked out to "Inside Out" on the way home from the White House. Yes, these bands mastered the four-chord pop-rock that defined "alternative" radio in the closing years of the 20th century, but that's not to entirely dismiss them. Mark Prindle, crotchety Internet critic, nailed it in his review of Everclear's 1994 album, World of Noise, "If you've ever thought to yourself, 'Hey! I'd like to have a band! But all I can play on the guitar are barre chords and single notes! And most of the melodies I write are pretty basic! And my voice sounds like a pothead that works at McDonald's!,' Everclear is here to prove that none of these deterrents need deter you from your dreams." That is to say, not all that glitters is gold. But shiny things are fun, regardless. --David Accomazzo
I've been watching Gemini Syndrome for the past few years, and it's clear that the band's popularity is growing at a rapid rate. Not only is this band one of the most unique I've interviewed (the albino singer is the former guitarist for OTEP, and the guitarist would easily fit in with the cast of Underworld), but they offer up a great blend of theatrics, heavy hitting beats and commercial longevity. And locally loved Element A440 is a perfect opener for this band. --Lauren Wise
William Gibson called them "the most genuinely subversive" band in late-20th Century pop. Bryan Cranston sneaks winking references to them into Malcolm In The Middle and Breaking Bad episodes. Ice Cube sampled them and The Roots play them on Jimmy Fallon. Who are they? The gold standard in rock and roll pretentiousness, Steely Dan.
What I have in common with all of these guys is that I, too, have a fanatical love of The Dan. We call ourselves "Danfans" -- amazing, right? -- and we'll quickly kill half an hour jawing your ear off about the virtues of this act, primarily a two-person collaboration between Walter Becker and Donald Fagen with a rotating cast of session musicians. The Dan formed when Denny Dias, founder of The Dan, placed an ad seeking bass and keys, admonishing "no assholes need apply." Thankfully Becker and Fagen ignored the warning. In a few years they had ousted Dias from his own band. What a couple of pricks.
Danfans are the silently hip minority of rock fandom. We don't hang out in the parking lot and drop acid before a show. We gather over fair trade coffee and artisan beers at the local brew pub to discuss interpretations of song lyrics.
Let us tell you: Listening to the Dan is akin to reading novel. You need a liberal arts degree to get it. Trust me, kids, it's not that you don't like Steely Dan, it's that you don't get it. It requires some formal humanities training to truly grasp the brilliance of a mellotron solo in the middle of a song about nuclear genocide. The lyrical nuances of a song like "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" are easily lost when you haven't spent four years critically analyzing texts. Yep, Katy Lied is a lot closer to Ulysses than Exile On Main Street. --Nicholas Pell
It's been a few years since Kam Mohager (aka the Chain Gang of 1974) has called Denver home, but if cellphone area codes are any sign of geographical allegiance, then he still keeps a little bit of Colorado close to his heart. Busy touring far and wide following the success of his 2011 "debut" Wayward Fire, Mohager created his latest effort, Daydream Forever, during a month spent living in a swinging pad in the hills overlooking Malibu and surfing every day. --Backbeat
Turn the question of what's familiar around and it becomes an examination of what's different. For the Antlers' fifth album, vocalist-guitarist Peter Silberman found himself writing in the middle ground, searching for what's changed and what's stayed the same in his own life -- and in the band's sound -- and what that means. Sonically, the Antlers have crafted a more open, organic sound on Familiars, with Darby Cicci's trumpet serving as a frequent counterpoint to Silberman's vocals but still within the realm of what longtime listeners of Hospice, Burst Apart, and Undersea have come to expect. Lyrically, Silberman looks both outward and inward, centering on the particular moments and emotions in people's lives that are weighted with meaning. "Over time, you develop a relationship with yourself and that relationship changes," Silberman says. "I was trying to explore a lot of that throughout the songs. It's kind of a tricky subject to write about. It's putting a mirror up to yourself and describing what you see and what you feel." Silberman says he kept the themes of the Antlers' past records -- lost love, fear, and doubt -- in mind as he wrote for the new one, almost as if he was looking at a map of where past emotions stand in his life and the distance he's come. "With Familiars, sometimes I'm approaching things I've written a long time ago, from a different perspective," he says. "I'm circling back to some things I've thought a long time ago to see if I still feel that way." --Eric Swedlund
"I feel like the world right now needs poets and philosophers and magicians and maybe people who are willing to strongly argue that the world is flat -- or maybe some new shape," says A Sunny a Day in Glasgow frontman Ben Daniels during a recent e-mail interview. Maybe his multinational band fills that gap, at least partially. The six-piece band, with members based in Australia, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia, generates heady music for people wanting something deeper than what's created by the average pop band. Built upon catchy hooks and driving beats, ASDiG's mixture of atmospheric lift, driving spacey guitar, tasty synths, and general swirl supports transcendent lyrics that shift from confrontational to questioning to deeply personal. The band has steadily grown from Daniels' initial inception, with his sisters singing background to a full-fledged outfit committed to limitless musical truth. Successive albums have seen Daniels' vision grow and expand with the sonic wallop and larger band, yet the early ambient essence remains on the group's latest release, Sea When Absent. "We know what we do well," he writes in support. Poets, philosophers and magicians? To some degree, sure, but definitely musicians creating something worth discovering. --Glenn BurnSilver
There's no sweating the technique: Rakim's among the finest to rock the mic. Eric B. & Rakim's 1987 debut, Paid in Full, is one of the finest albums of rap's golden age. Unflappable like 007, Rakim's effortless, mesmerizing flow skates on Teflon fueled by lyrical triple-axels and canny interior rhymes ("make you choke, you can't provoke, you can't cope" off "I Ain't No Joke"). Three albums and five years later, the duo broke up. The attendant legal spat delayed Rakim's solo career almost five years. He released two good albums -- his 1996 debut, The 18th Letter, and the 1999 follow-up, The Master -- but signed with Dr. Dre's label in 2000 and wasted three years on music shelved by creative differences. Rakim retreated from the spotlight for a few years, then returned in 2009 with his third solo album, The Seventh Seal. He's recently been promising a new album featuring productions by DJ Premier and Pharrell. Last month Linkin Park released a regrettable Rakim collaboration, "Guilty All the Same." Though his skills haven't diminished and ageism's declined in hip-hop (thanks, Jay Z!), Rakim's had trouble sustaining his momentum. But he still possesses the peerless unaffected delivery and whip-snap lyricism that helped him craft masterpieces. --Chris Parker
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