The Brakes, The Mural and the Mint, Assembly of Dust, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Gogol Bordello, Anders Manl
It was a year of heartbreak and resilience for local outfit the Brakes. In May--right around the time the quintet released its critically acclaimed album Tale of Two Cities--drummer Josh Sack lost his battle with leukemia at the age of 22. Carrying on wasn't easy for the tight-knit band, but it was the only option: "That's what [Sack] would have wanted us to do--even when he was sick ... when you get thrown something that hard at you, you throw hard back," frontman Zach Djanikian told The Washington Post. Indeed, the Brakes continue to play out in support of Cities--an excellent slab of quirky, rollicking boogie-rock and blues-pop not entirely unlike Gomez--and create joy in the wake of tragedy.
Bring in da noise, bring in da funk--and bring your dancing shoes. Taking inspiration from funk bands of the 1970s like Sly & the Family Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire, Robert Randolph and his band incorporate those booty-shaking elements with the sacred sound of pedal steel guitar. The result sounds like a down-home dancehall boogie. It's lively, inviting and appealing, regardless of age, gender, race or creed. After all, the band has toured with acts ranging from Dave Matthews Band to Eric Clapton to the North Mississippi Allstars. Audiences dance onstage and band members rock out in the audience. Isn't that what a concert is supposed to be?
Not a person but a four-piece band, Anders Manly plays a strain of wordy, idiosyncratic pop typified by the lo-fi thrash and collegiate whimsy of "Tori the Tiger Lady." "Relative Revolt" starts with a more austere post-punk vibe but soon crashes the party with musical chaos, while the reverb-y, surf-tickled "Alexandra Tan Has Gone Away" rides high on an eel-like bass line and a seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrical flow. Things come together most winningly on the cleaner, leaner "SS Holiday," though it's still quirky enough to keep us listening. Tilting at the Khyber-Tritone axis and finding kindred spirits in West Philly's Saudi Arabia, Anders Manly is off to a running start.
One phrase I've seen and heard applied to a lot of groups lately: "They're the jam-band for people who hate jam-band music." As an admitted jam-band hater, that usually piques my interest (I'm always looking for something to sway my stubborn, hateful heart), and so I go listen, and lo and behold, they almost always sound like every other aimless, patchouli-scented, interminably boring jam band. I'm pleased to report on one exception to the rule: New York quintet Assembly of Dust. Bonnaroo pedigree and occasionally Grateful Dead-isms aside, AOD seems to draw more often from the likes of the Band, Traffic, and the Allmans--their lengthy guitar-centric excursions at least have some bite and allure. Hooray! I like a jam-band!
Are you looking for acrobats, scantily dressed dancers, men with gravity-defying mustaches and lively gypsy-cum-rock music for your New Year's Eve? Gogol Bordello delivers. If ever there were a New Year's event likely to incorporate fire eaters, snake charmers, voodoo practitioners and elephants, this would be it. The multimember ensemble (the current count is about 10) has made a name for both its unique combination of Eastern European gypsy music and punk rock and for its theatrical and outlandish live shows. These dudes put on a party on a regular Tuesday night. New Year's Eve will be an affair to remember ... or forget, depending upon the night's imbibing.
After Phil Collins quit Genesis in 1996, one of the leading candidates to replace him was Francis Dunnery, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the Englishman's vocal delivery (and maybe his male-pattern baldness too). Actually, Dunnery's quite pleasing voice sits almost exactly between Collins and Peter Gabriel, and since the early '90s--after years fronting the British prog-rock outfit It Bites and a stint as Robert Plant's touring guitarist--he's been deploying it in the service of acoustic, folk-pop singer-songwriter fare. And like Billy Bragg, Dunnery's known to serve up his keen wit and storytelling acumen between songs, which should make for a doubly entertaining evening.