On the Beat: Great things, small packages

Architecture in Helsinki’s brilliant 2003 debut album, Fingers Crossed, kicks off with a short, Casio and drum machine instrumental called “One Heavy February.” Unlike so many ultimately forgettable album intros (noise pulses, voice mails, carnival barking, string quartets, what have you), the song is a deliciously melodic twee dance number, and at just under a minute long, it’s length seemed reflective of the month that appeared in its title.

Flash forward five years to the band’s little-discussed Like It Or Not EP (worth seeking out for a Max Tundra remix alone), where the song has been expanded into a 3-minute club track, appropriately titled “One Heavy February 2008.” Complete with a break lifted from Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison,” the track is a hilarious, rollicking (mis)adventure that includes band members shouting the name of each month. I bring this all up as a long way of saying the month of February is just like this song; it starts small and gets stuck in your head until you find yourself returning to it, turning it over, wondering what you can do to make it better, more interesting, less sad and cold and dark. The answer, I’m afraid, is nothing. Except to have some fun with it. Oh, and see live music. Here are my picks for this month’s shows.

One of the more interesting developments in the music scene in this young year has been KRUI’s foray into live music promotion. This month they’re putting on no less than 3 shows and the first is with Fitz & the Tantrums, a retro, blue-eyed soul group from sunny Los Angeles who play the Blue Moose on Feb. 8. I was first turned onto them through one of the FutureSounds compilations a few years ago (#33, to be exact), and last year they got themselves signed to Dangerbird Records. They’re great if you can handle the L.A.-ness of it all, but the show is only $3 so no excuses there.

The second KRUI bill is for their website re-launch on the 12th at Gabe’s. (Do people really still have website launch parties?) Baltimore’s Dan Deacon, who I’ve heard described as an “absurdist electronic musician,” will be there with vintage instruments, some new ones, and flashing lights. If you are into electronics, noise, dance and the confluence of all three, I would highly recommend it. The first time I saw Deacon was pretty revelatory and, while I’ve been less of a fan of his more recent recorded output, there is no denying that his shows are a party. Expect him to coerce you into crowd participation-type things (conga lines, etc.). Locals Wet Hair and Fairfield natives Utopia Park will open.

Finally, on Feb. 23 at Gabe’s, KRUI will host Baths along with opening acts Braids and Star Slinger. Baths is the project of Will Wiesenfeld, who broke through with 2010’s Cerulean, a funky and beautiful electronic record that manages to cohesively incorporate a range of influences (people have cited Beck, Bjork, Aphex Twin). Pitchfork has described his live show as “genre-bucking garrulousness” (whoops, just threw up a little bit), so that’s promising (right?). Also on this bill is Braids, a Canadian band who will likely have a hard time escaping Animal Collective comparisons with their recent debut record, Native Speaker. Still, it’s an interesting, solid outing, and when you put it all together this is my most highly anticipated show of the month.

Outside of these KRUI events, the clubs are offering some equally noteworthy stuff. First among them is San Francisco’s Deerhoof, who are an experimental/indie/art rock institution. They’ll play the Blue Moose on Feb. 18. Their career includes 10 albums stretching back to 1997’s The Man, The King, The Girl, though I was turned onto them during their critically-acclaimed period starting with Apple O’ (2003) and continuing with The Runners Four (2005) and Friend Opportunity (2007). As a band their music has become slightly more “song-oriented” in recent years, though their tendency for noisy guitars and the always-interesting vocal stylings of Satomi Matsuzaki means they will never quite be a “normal” band. This band falls under the “even if it’s not really your thing you owe it to yourself to see them once” category. Then check it off your list, or, just maybe, you might get hooked. Personally, I think they’re terrific.

Retribution Gospel Choir plays the Mill on Feb. 2 and, while they famously include members of Low, the bands couldn’t be more different–in fact, in some ways they could be understood as opposites. Where Low is an exercise in minimalism and slow, pretty songs, RGC leans on pretty traditional rock elements: big guitars, even bigger choruses, multi-tracked vocals and drums. I didn’t listen to last year’s 2 enough to say more, but I think fans of Band of Horses, among others, should check this one out.

A lot of people in Des Moines have been hyping the hell out of Cashes Rivers, a singer-songwriter whose voice and delivery reminds me slightly of Colin Meloy (without the annoying antiquated language) or Conor Oberst (with less vibrato). Fans of either–and fans of solid acoustic guitar songwriting in general–should go see what all the talk is about. He tours with a backing band and they play the Mill on Feb. 25 with the always awesome Christopher the Conquered.

Lastly, for aspiring local jammers and their fans, the annual Summercamp Battle of the Bands is coming to the Yacht Club on Feb. 25. As per this annual tradition, a handful of local bands will duke it out, musical-style, for a shot at making the summer fest.

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