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Posts Tagged ‘The Shins’

(Above: Mount Righteous play in the street back in 2008 when they had a guitarist in the lineup.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

There must be something in the water down in Dallas/Fort Worth. After spawning the uber-upbeat indie rock choir the Polyphonic Spree and singer-songwriter St. Vincent the town presents yet another indie band from the fringes: Mount Righteous.

The exuberant nine-piece collective sounds like a cross between John Phillips Sousa and the Shins. The unique sound is intentional, said founder and drummer Joey Kendall.

“We knew since we were such a big band, we wanted to be able to play without a PA,” Kendall said. “Since we weren’t going to be using mics and amps, we got a hold of brass instruments.”

The normal lineup of bass/guitar/drum was thrown overboard for brass, woodwinds, accordion, melodica and bells. Adding further distinction to their sound, everyone in the band sings in unison.

“We do that so we don’t have to use mics, but everyone can still hear us,” Kendall said. “That said, we just wrapped up recording our second album and there are some solo vocals on there. In concert we’ll use megaphones for that part.”

Mount Righteous’ off-the-grid approach means the band can literally play at the drop of a hat. Since forming in 2007, they’ve crashed SXSW by parading in the street, played in a D/FW metroplex, and marched just outside of Mexico at Borderfest.

“We want to be prepared to rely only on ourselves,” Kendall said. “There’s a feeling of freedom that comes with knowing we can play whenever and wherever.”

On Saturday, Mount Righteous will bring their show to The Brick in Kansas City.

“This is our second visit to Kansa City,” Kendall said recalling the band’s May, 2008, performance. “There’s a good vibe to the Brick. Since we book our own tours, we look to places that have already booked us. We met some cool people there last time and are looking forward to seeing them again and hopefully make some more friends.”

When Kendall started corralling members for his new project several years ago everyone had standing obligations to their own bands. Eventually, though, Mount Righteous started taking priority.

“I’ve always viewed this as my main focus,” Kendall said. “But it took several years of work for the band to be worth doing full-time for everyone anyway. You need a lot of shows and a couple records under your belt before you know what you’ve got.”

Unlike the Polyphonic Spree, Mount Righteous is a true collective, with everyone in the band contributing lyric and song ideas. Although some musicians might feel constrained with such an unusual array of instruments, Kendall feels relieved.

“I think if we used the standard, traditional guitar lineup it would be overwhelming. There are so many ways you can write a song on guitar,” Kendall said. “Whereas there are hardly any pop songs written with these instruments.”

Kendall concedes that its unusual that so many unconventional bands have come from his neck of the woods, but doesn’t think Mount Righteous isn’t doing anything others aren’t.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people in community collective bands,” Kendall said. “There were bands like that in Grapevine (Texas, the band’s hometown) even before Polyphonic Spree. What we’re doing isn’t that new of an idea. We just might be better at getting things organized and going on tour.”

The show: Mount Righteous go onstage at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21 at The Brick, 1727 McGee. Visit http://www.thebrickkcmo.com/ for ticket prices and further information.

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(Above: The title song from Naomi Shelton’s debut album.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

The first month of 2010 is almost in the history books. Fortunately, there’s still time to take one last look at some overlooked releases from the final quarter of 2009.

The Dodos – “Time to Die”

The Dodos third album isn’t a major departure from 2007’s “Visiter.” Several subtle elements, however, make “Time to Die” an improvement. First off, the San Francisco-based indie duo has added vibraphonist Keaton Snyder to their ranks. His playing adds new textures and new rhythms to the songs. Like Vampire Weekend, the Dodos add elements of African music to their arrangements. Unlike Vampire Weekend, though, the Dodos don’t use world music as a template. They incorporate its ingredient into already solid songs. At times the album recalls a more sophisticated Shins. “Time To Die” is filled with a high sense of melody and smart indie rock songwriting bolstered by intricate arrangements that serve the song.

Blakroc – “Blakroc”

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been making great garage blues albums for nearly a decade as the Black Keys. After about five albums, however, some staleness started to creep into the formula. After recruiting Danger Mouse to produce their 2008 release, and Auerbach’s early ’09 solo album, the pair dropped their biggest transformation. “Blakroc” pairs the Keys with former Roc-a-fella co-owner Damon Dash and a host of MCs, including Mos Def, Ludacris, Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch and members of the Wu Tang Clan. The result is the expected mash-up of rap vocals and raw gutbucket rock that exceeds expectations. Auerbach’s dirty, fuzzy guitars and Carney’s drums add an urgency often lacking in the urban world of sampling. In turn, the MCs feed off the vibe, responding with more bounce and personality in their delivery. More, please.

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens – “What Have You Done, My Brother?”

Naomi Shelton’s back story should sound familiar to fans of Bettye LaVette. Shelton palled around with pre-fame Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Lou Rawls. Despite their encouragement, success eluded Shelton, who played regular gigs around New York City. Thirty years later, Shelton became part of the “Daptone Super-Soul Revue,” but it took another decade for her debut album to emerge. “What Have You Done, My Brother?” is a classic gospel album that sounds like it could have been cut 50 years ago. Despite its traditional arrangements, the album finds contemporary resonance in the title song, which questions the war in Iraq. Shelton’s cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is especially poignant. A survivor of the civil rights movement, Shelton combines the longing of Cooke’s vision with the optimism of the Obama-era.

Various Artists – “Daptone Gold”

Daptone Records found fame with the diminutive dynamite Sharon Jones, but the entire stable should appeal to Jones’ fans. “Daptone Gold” is a 22-track sampler of the Daptone roster. While Jones is appropriately represented (sometimes through non-album tracks), there are no bum cuts. The old school gospel of Naomi Shelton sets nicely next to Antibalas’ political Afrobeat and the instrumental soul of the Budos Band. Other artists include Stax throwbacks Lee Fields and Charles Bradley. Hip hop fans will recognize “Make the Road By Walking,” the Menahan Street Band track Jay-Z smartly sampled for his own “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is).” At 78 minutes, this generous sampler will certainly send newcomers diving into the back catalog for more.

Rakim – “The Seventh Seal”

Rakim made his name as one of rap’s premier MCs with his groundbreaking albums with Eric B in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It’s been 10 years since the world has heard anything from Rakim. During that decade he toured sporadically and signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label. The prospect of Dre making beats for Rakim made fans salivate, but unfortunately “The Seventh Seal” is not that long-awaited album. It’s difficult to forget about that hypothetical masterpiece with all the b-list production that plagues “The Seventh Seal.” Rakim sports enough killer flow to justify his reputation, but tracks like “Won’t Be Long” and album opener “How To Emcee” are more stilted and dated than anything on “Paid in Full” or “Follow the Leader.” While there are enough moments on “The Seventh Seal” to make it a must-have for old school fans, casual listeners should probably just ask the devoted to cull a few cuts from this for a killer Rakim mixtape.

(Below: “Holy Are You,” one of the better cuts off Rakim’s “The Seventh Seal.”)

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More album reviews from The Daily Record.

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The Kansas City Star’s Back To Rockville blog

By Joel Francis

The major labels may be lumbering in the past, but Sub Pop is starting to show hints of recognizing the digital revolution.

Starting this week with “Wincing the Night Away,” The Shins’ highly anticipated third release, fans who order any LP from the Sub Pop catalog will receive a coupon for a digital copy of the album. Simply go online, enter the coupon information and start legitimately downloading the files.

Or, as the statement on the Sub Pop Web site puts it: “The idea here is that people who buy records on vinyl should be afforded the same access to the digital files as those who buy records on CD, without having to consult some audiophile/computer expert/person working at Radio Shack.”

This is a great idea that also highlights the CD gradual slide into obsolescence. The first thing I do when I get a CD is rip it to my computer so I can put it on my iPod. There’s no point in gathering armfuls of plastic discs for road trips or worrying about if they might get scratched: the music is all safe on iPod, which can hold more than I could dream (or dare) to take anyway.

But for all their handiness, digital files don’t quite scratch the musical itch. There’s nothing to have or hold in a file that suddenly appears on a hard drive. Vinyl, the Shins and Sub Pop have realized, is the perfect remedy. Fans get big artwork, lyric sheets with type large enough to be read, and extreme gratification from the scratchiness that pops from the speakers when the needle is dropped.

If listeners don’t yet have record players, they’ve at least got a cool oversized souvenir of their direct support of a band. Hey, it doesn’t cost much more than iTunes and you get more, both physically and emotionally. Hopefully more bands will follow suit in the future, but for now, it will be fun to watch where this experiment goes.

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