If one thing becomes clear in November, it is that the winter is not too far away. The trees have lost most (if not all) of their leaves. The days have become shorter while the nights have gotten colder. The natural reflex is to stay at home, watch movies and wear sweatpants. While that is fine, contemplate taking those sweatpants off—I’m talking to you, undergrad who think it’s appropriate to traipse around in them all day—and coming out to a show or two. There are plenty of shows happening that are worth putting on your calendar.
Although they have only recently come to gain more attention thanks to their switch to Sub Pop from Cavity Search, The Helio Sequence have been a band for over a decade now. When they started in 1999, the duo of Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel started off writing pop songs that swirled through seas of reverb and echo in the vein of My Bloody Valentine and Mercury Rev. When they made their switch to Sub Pop, they switched into a folksier mode and pushed Summers’ vocals to the forefront. This led to Summers damaging his vocal chords and the band producing Love and Distance, a thoroughly disappointing album. After that experience, Summers and Weikel got back on track.
Their newest release, Negotiations, is a full re- turn to the form shown on Com Plex and Young Effectuals. While the album lacks the sonic fury of those albums, the band has figured out its own sound, building upon past elements like the swirling keyboards and folksy lyrics while add-ing new, subtle details to the mix. Negotiations
has the sound of a band that has both matured and found its stride. I have seen The Helio Sequence before, and they put on a very good live show. It’s intriguing to see the two of them make their very complicated sounding songs come to life in a live space.
Speaking of complicated, Stillwater, Oklahoma’s Other Lives are a band that puzzles people who write about music like myself. Their music has a cinematic presence yet does not have quite the grandeur that such language would suggest. On the contrary, their music is very intimate, inviting the listener into its space. You could say Other Lives is Americana, but to stop there would fail to ac- knowledge its baroque pop tendencies. Leader Jesse Tabish writes music that is both imme- diate and so detailed that multiple listens will reveal new things each time.
While they are hard to write about, the talent of the band is plain for all to see, especially on record. The strength of their 2011 album Tamer Animals is that it is fully absorbing. It holds the listener in its grasp and transports them to another world of Tabish’s creation. This album is as absorbing as Low’s Things We Lost in the Fire, another beautifully subdued album. I’ve heard Low live before, and it was one of the most beautiful, hypnotic shows that I have ever attended. I would expect similar from Other Lives.
When searching for Minneapolis-based emcee Profon Youtube, the first images that one sees are him fondling the breasts of a video dancer, wearing a yellow hoodie at a party, and escorting a pregnant lady in a bi- kini into somewhere. Being the person that I am, I clicked on the last image. What I found was a video of the rapper spitting in front of a Minneapolis Planned Parenthood, destroying an office, and punching out dudes while a bass heavy
Southern-style beat plays in the back- ground. To explain the pregnant bikini lady, Prof was dropping off a trio of pregnant ladies at a hospital in a Mustang 5.0 while drinking Jameson straight out the bottle. Obviously, this dude is totally normal.
The first person who comes to mind when seeing such shocking, outlandish, and plainly random visuals is Kool Keith a/k/a Keith Thornton. Much like Mr. Thornton, Prof’s lyrical content can be unsavory—Prof does rap about getting sodomized by a water slide on one of his tracks. If one looks past the filth, Prof’s sheer talent comes to the fore. He possesses a massive vocabulary, has an excellent ear for production and frequently varies his delivery up. While he does share some of the overly emotional tendencies of his Minneapolis brethren, he also has considerable swagger and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Most importantly, Prof gained his devoted following through crazy live shows where he only goes varying levels of hard.
The alt-country trio The Be Good Tanyas started modestly, playing in front of a Lilith
Fair concert in their hometown of Vancouver, BC. At that point in time, they were a quartet featuring Jolie Holland, Sam Parton, Frazey Ford and Trish Klein. After recording their first album, Blue Horse, Holland moved to San Francisco to start her solo career. Since her departure, the rest of The Be Good Tanyas have developed an international reputation on their own, applying pop sensibility to their reverence for folk, country, bluegrass and Americana.
The addition of pop influences adds a bit of pep as well as a personal touch to old tradi- tional songs. While the music still maintains the darker edges that surround all of the afore- mentioned genres of music, Parton, Ford and Klein’s harmonies and gently beautiful voices bring a lightness to the affair. Given that they have kept the traditional sounds at the core through their intricate musicianship, The Be Good Tanyas appeal to those who long for an old-time sound as well as those who came to Americana from the alt-country road.
A.C. Hawley has been listening to inordinate amounts of rap from the Gulf and West Coasts. He believes the best DJ working right now is Swisha House’s DJ Michael ‘5000’ Watts.