Before I get to the oversized lineups we have before us this week, and while I have a bit of residual Thanksgiving sentimentality, I want to say a thing about caring. Great art of any stripe is born of caring – caring that one’s own expression bleeds through the line between performer and audience, caring that the audience gets it, caring that the message transferred is worth the cost of transmission. It takes about 30 seconds to see that Cohen Hartman is a kid who cares. His album Paper Moon caught me off guard, that this kid actually cares about making good songs and does it. The idioms he mines are obvious—Dylan, Conor Oberst, musical theater –and they are ones who plenty of other folks dance around, but at his Cohen and the Ghost show at Chelsea’s, that earnestness took palpable form. I like it when bands are excited about making music, but it’s exciting to me when they do it with intelligence and care like this. The group will be appearing at Spanish Moon this Friday.
No band in recent years has captured the heart of its audience like Death Cab For Cutie – smart songwriting, unassuming demeanor, easy on the ear. They are what happens when hip kids finally get tired of looking in the mirror and get serious about their thing (their latest album Narrow Stairs made a surprising debut at the top of the usually indie-repellent Billboard Charts) They will be headlining 104 The X’s holiday bash Thursday night at the River Center along with Snow Patrol, Cold War Kids and others.
If you are one to dig a little deeper for inspiring music, two of the most exciting acts in recent years are at the Spanish Moon on Thursday. Deerhunter, fronted by the enigmatic Brandon Cox has garnered acclaim for their abrasive yet slyly engaging 2007 album Cryptograms and their dreamier 2008 follow-up Microcastle is already appearing on some of the early critics picks for 2008. Performing with them is Times New Viking, a group that two different friends in band-saturated cities have described as the most rapturous show they’ve seen in ages. On the rootsier end of the awesome spectrum, Tabby Thomas and his son Chris Thomas King will be gracing the Chelsea’s stage on Friday, and the infectious honeysuckle country charms of Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review will be at the Red Star. I caught one of her shows at the Ogden Museum a while back and got swept up in her pitch-perfect voice and musical acumen. It’s like finding a long, lost country station on the nether end of the AM dial, except without all the static.
A digital music service you should discover before it gets eaten up by the avarice of the music industry is lala.com. Their interesting theory of digital music is that everything in their copious catalog is available for streaming free off their servers, but only once giving you a real chance to hear anything you want in full rather than in 30-second snippets. If you like what you hear, you have options to buy a “Web album” (meaning you get to stream it forever) for just pennies a song, or you can purchase DRM-free mp3s for less than the more monolithic retailers, with which you can then burn CDs or cut wax cylinders to do whatever you people not tied to a computer all day do to listen to music. Who knows how long it will last, but for now, lala is one of the most interesting and immediately useful developments in the evolution of how we weave music into our lives.
Wednesday, Dec. 3
Mike Foster Project at Chelsea’s
Thursday, Dec. 4
Death Cab For Cutie, Snow Patrol, Jack’s Mannequin, Cold War Kids and Carolina Liar at the River Center
Deerhunter, Times New Viking, and Nite Jewel at Chelsea’s
Ingram Hill at The Varsity
High Top Kicks, Magnolia Sons, and Versanova at North Gate Tavern
Beau Young at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux
Friday, Dec. 5
Cohen & The Ghost, Levi Weaver at Spanish Moon
Chris Thomas King and Tabby Thomas at Chelsea’s
Acadien Cajun Band and Rusty Bonz at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux
Saturday, Dec. 6
Marvin Sease, Rude & Denise LaSalle at the River Center
Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review at Red Star
Lindsay Rae Spurlock at Spanish Moon
Streamline at Chelsea’s
Supervillain at North Gate Tavern