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Yuck's Max Bloom faced down new songwriting challenges on his band's second album by concentrating on making Glow & Behold a more cohesive, concise whole.
The London band's 2011 self-titled debut drew widespread praise on both sides of the Atlantic for its invigorating take on 1990s alternative rock. For Yuck's follow-up, the band absorbed the departure of frontman Daniel Blumberg by tightening its circle of influences and bringing in a new producer to hone the sound.
"The preparation was quite exciting, thinking more in terms of an album and which track would go where," Bloom says.
Moving from a songwriting partnership with Blumberg that predated Yuck (the duo previously played in Cajun Dance Party) to one that featured him at the forefront allowed him to stick to his initial vision, he says, working to contain the energy from Yuck and pouring it into a new record. -- Eric Swedlund
Chicagoan Evan Weiss is far from a fresh-faced dabbler in the genre, having spent the better part of the past 15 years cranking out angular angst with myriad bands. But now he's a key player of the current "emo revival" following last year's Intersections LP by his one-man band, Into It. Over It.
While previous releases were endearing enough on their own modest terms, Intersections is the real deal, proof that "adult" lyrical content and sophisticated production can be powerfully paired with Braid-styled riffs.
Weiss will visit Pub Rock in Scottsdale for a mid-week performance by Into It. Over It. Also scheduled to appear is fellow indie/emo act The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (a.k.a. the music world's latest candidate for the "Most Unique Band Name" award), as well as A Great Big Pile of Leaves and Merit. -- Rob Van Alstyne
Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys combined the au courant hot jazz with the fiddle music of their Southwestern upbringings and invented Western Swing in the early 20th century. Similar influences and instincts led to something called rock 'n' roll a couple of decades later, yet Western Swing remains a classic American dance music that never sounds dated.
Asleep at the Wheel revived it 40 years ago (and are still swinging full-speed ahead) and the Hot Club of Cowtown are damn fine 21st-century practitioners. Fiddler and smooth singer Elana James and Djangoe-sque guitarist Whit Smith met through a 1996 Village Voice ad seeking compatible pickers and realized their blend was a match -- the kind that starts a fire. Add one upright bassist (currently Jake Erwin) and they had themselves a combustible trio that nailed Bob Wills' tunes ("Ida Red"), Hoagy Carmichael ("Stardust") and original compositions. -- Michael Simmons
Three chords good, two chords better, one chord best -- Spacemen 3's psychonaut Sonic Boom said it, and Orange County's Cosmonauts live it. They'll take the simplest things you can build a band out of -- amps ratcheted up high enough the vacuum tubes start to sizzle, tangled-up melodies that could go on forever -- and ride them to the horizon line, chasing the purity of sound and intent that fans of 13th Floor Elevators liner notes know well. No gimmicks, no tricks, not even any shortcut pedals.
"I hate when bands use pedals or other types of equipment as a fallback," says guitarist/vocalist Alex Ahmadi. "So many bands just hit a delay pedal, and -- boom! -- it becomes some psych bullshit."
So Cosmonauts eradicate the bullshit. Ahmadi started the band two years ago with fellow guitarist/vocalist Derek Cowart, pursuing a rumor that Cowart liked the Brian Jonestown Massacre. With their only shared musical experience together totaling out to the time Ahmadi saw Cowart play acoustic guitar at a house party, they decided to make a band -- and a pretty loud one at that. Their first show was on Halloween, and they showed up with incomplete costumes. "I was supposed to be a bandito, but I didn't have a sombrero," says Ahmadi. "Derek was a Beatle. Our costumes sucked."
Happily, the actual band didn't suck at all. Their 2010 tape on Burger Records (with the elephant on it!) reverberates at the slightest touch, but beneath all the exhilarating clatter is the same sense for a catchy hook the Reid brothers in the Jesus and Mary Chain used so well. That tape's vinyl rerelease on esteemed semi-local label Permanent underscored the point: Cosmonauts are a pop band at heart, but a psychedelic band by sound. -- Chris Ziegler
Everyone has ways they prefer to be perceived or depicted. For Kristian Dunn of L.A. duo El Ten Eleven, avoiding at least one genre is crucial to properly pitching his band. "I really hope people don't say that we are a math rock band," the bassist/guitarist said in a quote captured as the first line of a press release for 2012's Transitions, the group's fifth record.
Formed in 2002, the combo of Dunn and drummer/keyboardist Tim Fogarty crafts nimble, labyrinthine instrumentals in the post-rock/math rock mold and then releases them into the wild in a low-key, un-intimidating package. The self-proclaimed "power duo" relies on Dunn using strings and a heap of pedals to build layers of sound that are temporarily stored in a looper pedal and re-utilized to generate a full song. In concert, the images produced by a small camera trained on Dunn's pedals are projected on a screen so that audiences can get an idea of how the magic is made.
This emphasis on approachability also means El Ten often give its tunes memorably off-the-wall titles such as "I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool." In a 2011 interview, Dunn tossed up an alternate stylistic lens through which to see his group, saying, "People don't think of us this way, but we're kind of a pop band, really." -- Reyan Ali
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