Fresh Tunes – The Beast is Back

Afghan+Whigs (1)

The Afghan Whigs were one of the first hard rocking alt-bands to join Sub Pop’s increasingly popular lineup of successful grunge artists, including Mudhoney, Soundgarden and of course Nirvana. Their career was rocky at times, but the band managed to make a dent in the explosion of scummy alt-rock, that dominated the 90′s rock radio scene. The Afghan Whigs style was not quite marketable enough to explode into superstardom like their labelmates: Afghan Whigs had a significant following, but their lack of a decidable radio hit kept them just under the radar for most people. Their biggest claim to fame was their 1993 album Gentlemen, which saw the band moving away from their harder grunge roots with a grander guitar sound, higher clarity and more insightful lyrics. Whigs made a name for themselves by combining hard rocking guitar with the vulnerability of a flawed frontman. On Gentlemen‘s “Debonair,” singer Greg Dulli hints at his personal downfall:

“Hear me now and don’t forget
I’m not the man my actions would suggest
This ain’t about regret
My conscious can’t be found.”

Much like Kurt Cobain, Dulli’s lyrics have a certain broken sadness that, while lacking some of Cobain’s sincerity and tragic frailty, still manage to be compelling. Yet after fifteen years of moderate success, Afghan Whigs called it quits in 2001.

The-Afghan-Whigs-Do-To-The-Beast-608x608Afghan Whigs surprised the music scene with a reunion tour in 2012 (though with bigger acts like Slowdive, Neutral Milk Hotel and My Bloody Valentine following suit, you’d be forgiven for not paying much attention). More shocking though was their announcement to release their first album in sixteen years. Do To The Beast contains much of what fans fell in love with in the grunge era: jangly guitars with a sleek crunch, Dulli’s signature smooth croon, and some precise drum work (a hard rock band that doesn’t drown out the chorus with smashing cymbals? Sign me up!). Dulli may be at a career best for vocals, sounding revitalized, vulnerable and a little gravelly (think more Future Islands than Nicklederp).Nickelderp_a2b906_746023

Do To The Beast avoids being a period piece by making bolder statements and amping up the band’s songwriting, offering a variety of styles that place these guys in between modern hard-rock and Mogwai-esque post-rock. “Parked Outside” kicks off the album with a guttural guitar explosion, proving that these guys have not lost any sense of grandeur. Dulli swoons in a chorus of “you’re gonna make me break down and cry,” delivered with so much conviction it avoids any potentially cheesy melodrama. “Algiers” is like a 90′s alt ballad played from a mountain top, chugging in with a crystal clear acoustic jam before the guitars bust in with unhinged glee. One thing is for sure: Afghan Whigs worship their guitars, and every crunchy lick and devastating minor progression sounds full of a fighting spirit. Afghan Whigs have the kind of confidence and precision of a band twenty years their junior, and it comes through clearly on Do to the Beast.

This album was recorded loud, because it was meant to be played very loud. Much like the new Pixies material, I get the sense that Do To The Beast is strictly a road record; these are songs meant to be played live, and the recordings follow suit with a faithful interpretation. This is by no means a lazy record, but it does detract from any cohesive themes tying it together. Then again, this is an alt band from the 90′s; you’d be hard pressed to find any “cohesive themes” on a Stone Temple Pilots album. These guys take their rock and roll seriously, and their brazen methods of versatility expand upon this in unexpected ways. “Can Rova” touches on the pop-folk appeal of Mumford or perhaps even The Head and the Heart, but the four-on-the-floor EDM finale is just subtle and fleeting enough to catch you off guard. “The Lottery” largely treads through previously conquered territory, but a cascading waterfall chorus casts off any doubts of redundancy. Nearly every song showcases the revamped guitar work of bassist John Curley and returning guitarist Mark Lanegan. Herein lies the record’s strengths: keeping the Whigs core sound intact while exploring new sonic possibilities, innovating in all of the right areas to keep the sound fresh and newly revealing. A few songs are merely passable, but Dulli’s tragically heroic vocals ensure this album’s relevance in the modern rock scene.

The Afghan Whigs are happy to just be playing shows again, and their critically acclaimed Coachella performance is a testament to their staying power. If Do to the Beast is simply a road record, then it sounds best blasting in a car stereo down the highway. For all the 90′s era reunions going on recently, the Afghan Whigs stare down their past demons with a grace and tact that puts them a neck above their competition. When Queens and Pixies rule today’s rock stages, the Whigs still prove themselves a fiercely capable dark horse.


Shows of Note – The Root/Fruit of Life


Stephen “Ragga” Marley, second son of Bob Marley was born April 20, 1972. Stephen started following in his father’s footsteps early in his life. As a matter of fact, When Bob closed out his shows, he would have Stephen and Ziggy Marley join him onstage. By the time Stephen was a teenager, he had acquired some studio skills from his father and assisted in the production of a handful of Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers albums, including Conscious Party (1989), One Bright Day (1990), and Fallen is Babylon (1998), all three albums won Grammys for “Best Reggae Album.”

Stephen’s first solo album, Mind Controlcame along in March 2007. The album was well balanced between some old school (roots) reggae, some modern (contemporary) reggae and also a little bit of hip-hop. This mixture was melted into one solid project and the outcome was nothing less than a successful debut solo album. Mind Control has some well known hits such as “Hey Baby” ft Mos Def, “Mind Control“, and “The Traffic Jam” ft Damian and Julian Marley. What made Mind Control reach number one on the Billboard Reggae Album chart was its delicate balance between issues surrounding love and social justice.

Stephen "Ragga" Marley

Stephen “Ragga” Marley

Stephen’s sophomore album, Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life was released in 2011 and it went on to win a Grammy for best Reggae album. The Root of Life (TRL) was different than the first album as it had more collaborations and the overall sound of the album was more various. Mellow at times, and in various instances, Stephen would up the ante, throwing in some dancehall, just when you thought you understood the album’s theme. Some popular songs from TRL included “No Cigarette Smoking” ft Melanie Fiona and “Jah Army” ft Damian Marley and Buju Banton.

Its 2014 and Stephen is back! After missing his music for three years, Stephen is raising the bar high by going a different route with his upcoming album, Revelation Pt. 2: The Fruit of Life.

“The concept of the [new] album means merging my music with hip-hop and anything else I feel like,” Stephen told Rolling Stone Magazine. “Every aspect from the songwriting to the production, even the way I sing certain parts of a song, has to return to that concept.”

Apparently, part of what he feels like is incorporating some dubstep into his music, as is the case with single “Rock Stone.” The song kicks off with a typical reggae beat and it builds up to dubstep, the transition is smooth and finds Stephen in his own, creative zone.

Stephen Marley will be performing in the Pacific Northwest May 6 at The Showbox in Seattle and on May 7 he will be at Wonder Ballroom in Portland. Tune-in to “Reggae Lovers,” this Sunday, April 20 from 12 to 2 p.m. with Selecta Steppa for a chance to win tickets to see Stephen “Ragga” Marley in Seattle!


Shows of Note – Age is a State of Mind

Danny Brown


Danny Brown

Danny Brown

Danny Brown, formally known as Daniel Dewan Sewell, is straight out of Detroit, Michigan. Making the leap from an internet cult-favorite mixtape rapper to mainstream success, MTV called him “one of rap’s most unique figures in recent memory.”

Even though the rapper is just now hitting his stride at 32 in an industry where rap years are equal to dog years, Brown claimed in an interview with NPR that age is a state of mind. Brown’s 2013 release of his third full-length studio, Old features A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, ScHoolboy Q and a handful of other artists. Sputnik Music had this to say about the album:

“Even though the emphasis of the record is on its expansive production, the lyrics are more telling than they’ve ever been. While each song has a solid musical backbone, it’s Brown’s narratives that make the most profound impact, and move the album forward.”

If you want the chance to see Danny Brown perform, he’ll be in the northwest May 9 at Wow Hall in Eugene, May 10 at The Showbox in Seattle and May 11 at the Roseland Theater in Portland. We’ll be giving away tickets to the Seattle show tomorrow (4/17) between 1 and 3 p.m. so be sure to tune-in for your chance to win!


Throwback Thursday – April 1980


At Zimbabwe’s Independence Day celebration on April 18, 1980, in the Rufaro Stadium, Bob Marley performed a concert which has come to be known as “The Riot Show”. Many mistake the April 18 performance to be the April 19 performance (which was recorded) when in fact, they were two separate shows. An internet search will show that there are many mislabeled bootlegs circulating claiming to be from the Independence Day celebrations but are actually from the second concert.

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

Accounts of the April 18 concert state that after the Zimbabwean flag had been raised, it was announced that Bob Marley & The Wailers would perform in front of a crowd made up of mostly dignitaries and the media, including Zimbabwe’s first Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, Britain’s Prince Charles and India’s Indira Gandhi. The band supposedly started off by performing the song “Positive Vibration” and went on to play “Roots, Rock, Reggae.” The Zimbabwean crowd outside of the stadium heard Marley singing and got angry. The enraged fans began pressing against the stadium’s gates and during the performance of “I Shot The Sheriff“, the Zimbabwean police answered the violence of the fans by firing tear teargas into the crowds. Marley and the band were quickly escorted to safety.

After a few minutes, Marley came back onstage and in true Bob Marley fashion shouted “Freedom!” almost immediately after a crisp English voice from the other end of the stadium announced: “Bob Marley, you have exactly two minutes left.” The band proceeded to play “War” which they would fade into into “No More Trouble.” Now running fifteen minutes over their scheduled “two minutes,” Marley performed to Zimbabwe, with the entire audience now joining in the chorus. It was then that the concert was finally cancelled and that was the end of the notorious “Riot Show.”


Shows of Note – Progressive Perfection


Although they haven’t produced a full length album since 2011 with The Hunter, Mastodon is still a popular favorite among sludge metal fans. While the word, “metal,” may seem intimidating to those who prefer softer sound, the great thing about Mastodon is that their alternative metal sound make them a great “segue band” for anyone interested in the metal genre.



What fans love about Mastodon, is their ability to move forward and constantly evolve but not in a way that makes them unrecognizable to fans that have been with them since their beginning. The Hunter, was more melodic then past work and rock, metal and even flavors of bluegrass mold to create quite a piece of art.

Mastodon got its start in 1999 and has since released five full length studio albums but they claim 2011′s The Hunter is their best work yet. Guitarist Bill Kelliher had this to say on the album:

“Our last album Crack The Skye, was such a deep, long record,” says Bill. “It was very heavy. We thought let’s make a spontaneous record based off music that comes off our fingertips in the moment. We didn’t over think it—like Hey, we gotta really dazzle the kids! It’s like let’s not over do it. Just let it fall naturally, and we did.”

You can be the judge as to whether Mastodon is performing at their best or not. The band will be in the pacific northwest April 28 at Showbox SoDo in Seattle and April 29 at he Roseland Theater in Portland. Listen tonight (4/16) between 10 and midnight for a chance to win tickets courtesy of Bill James on “Alternative Reality.”


Fresh Tunes – The People are Back


Foster the People’s new album Supermodel has a lot going for it. As a follow-up to the band’s 2011 breakout debut Torches, it inevitably tries to avoid being labeled a “sophomore slump” by deviating from what what earned the band such instant notoriety: quirky, memorable lyrics and electronic hooks that serve well as pop rock tunes with enough substance to be called indie. Songs like “Helena Beat,” “Houdini” and of course the acclaimed single “Pumped Up Kicks” forced their way into the mainstream consciousness by embracing what made MGMT’s first three singles such staples of the alternative radio scene: have an upbeat, electronic hook, a sing-a-long chorus, and just enough reverb to make the odd lyrics indecipherable to a general audience.

foster-the-people-supermodel-410On Supermodel, Mark Foster and crew attempt to branch out from that success by asking “Are You What You Want to Be?” Yes, FTP are already disillusioned with the fame that took them only three years to obtain. And yet, Supermodel does a decent job of exploring themes of interpersonal relations and consumerism in the modern world. If only it didn’t sound so “meh”.

Let’s start with what they get right. Mark Foster said that the new album would be heavily influenced by bands like The Kinks and The Clash, and it shows. Mostly gone are the heavy, warm synths found on Torches, replaced by a solid rock sound that still manages to sound substantial. There are even subtle African influences in places, which make the percussion stand out in particular. Mark Foster’s vocal abilities have also received a slight upgrade. He shows off a mellow croon on “Fire Escape,” and teases a welcome angst on “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon”. He even goes into full ballad mode on the short interlude “The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones”, which is nice but ultimately unnecessary. Foster limits himself too much to the typical falsetto “oohs” and “do do doos” to really call this record an evolution. More like a slow crawl in the right direction.

This is where the bulk of Supermodel’s issues arise. Rather than taking a step forward musically, Foster the People have simply shuffled to the side. Songs are often jumbled and overly busy, lacking the focus of their previous efforts. “Nevermind” and “Goats In Trees” are immediately forgettable, while others like “Pseudologia Fantastica” balance on the cusp of brilliance without ever taking the plunge. True to concept, Supermodel focuses largely on the pitfalls of fame and living the #selfie life. And yet, few songs actually succeed in being meaningful and interesting at the same time. Ideas of media consumption, bad acid trips and self-discovery are floating around here somewhere, but end up being too generic and preachy to be of much interest. These songs desperately crave to be the kind of social commentary that last year’s Arcade Fire and Lorde records were doing with relative ease. “Coming of Age” just doesn’t mean much coming from a guy who wrote commercial jingles just a few years ago.

There are some solid songs on Supermodel. Coming of Age” is a relatively tame alt-anthem, while “Pseudologia Fantastica” provides some decent thrills. The best song by far is “Best Friend,” which actually manages to groove pretty hard. One wonders what the album might have been if they had worked forward with that song’s charm in mind. Ultimately, Supermodel screams “rushed”. Few songs will have you coming back like “Pumped Up Kicks” did just two years ago. But really, the world is not lacking for bands like Foster the People. Empire of the Sun, Phoenix and Passion Pit would all gladly fill the hole left by MGMT’s early departure into psychedelic territory. In an age where fingers eagerly hover over the skip button, Foster the People could use some rest and a little peace of mind. And if you’re gonna pull a Kanye ego trip, you best have a Yeezus in your pocket.


Shows of Note – Drive-By Lovin

Drive-By Truckers

When it comes to alt-country, few bands are as seasoned, well respected and appreciated more than the Drive-By Truckers. The Georgia based band got its start in 1996 and while some of the members have changed throughout the years the band has remained as one of the best in its genre.

Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

The band consists of Patterson Hood (vocals, guitar), Mike Cooley (vocals, guitar), Matt Patton (bass), Jay Gonzalez (keyboards) and Brad Morgan (drums). Hood and Cooley are the only original members but have kept the band’s unique, three guitar sound alive.

Drive-By Truckers’ 12th studio album, English Oceans dropped March 3 of this year. Most of Drive-By Truckers‘ music is written by Hood, but this changed with English Oceans. Cooley wrote 6 of the 13 tracks for English Oceans creating a sort of dialogue between the band’s long-time members. Fans on iTunes have given English Oceans a four out of five star rating. One fan (Jason1225) wrote:

“This is Mike Cooley’s strongest and most consistent song writing in years. Not only is this true given he has more songs on this record, but the guitar solos he plays (not just in his songs mind you) are really strong. Usually I like Patterson’s stuff…but some of these feel like leftovers from Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. The song “Hanging On” is especially unfortunate. Otherwise, this is overall a pretty solid album. It dangles in the middle of country and rock territory, never really going too far into either. Honestly, that is their thing, and they deliver on it once again.” 

The truckers will be performing in the northwest April 23 in Seattle at Showbox SoDo and April 24 in Portland at Roseland Theater. The ‘Burg is giving away tickets to the Seattle show, this Sunday (4/13) between 4 and 6 p.m. on “The Big Show,” with Elliott the Engineer. Tune-in for a chance to win!


Shows of Note – Boy Bands Forever

The Wanted

Let’s be honest. Boy bands are your guilty pleasure. Children of the 90’s fondly remember Backstreet Boys, ‘N SYNC, 98 Degrees, Boyz II Men and even Hanson. It seemed that the boy band era had died, when a resurgence of boy bands rose to fame starting with the Jonas Brothers and now groups like Big Time Rush, One Direction and Mindless Behavior.

The Wanted

The Wanted

One of the catchiest boy band releases of recent years is The Wanted’sGlad You Came.” “Glad You Came” was on The Wanted’s 2012 self-titled EP after being released as a single in 2011. Last November, the boy band dropped their third studio album, Word of Mouth.  While fans of the group have shown nothing but love for the new album, Rolling Stone gave Word of Mouth 2 out of 5 stars. But let’s face it, the stuff of boy bands isn’t usually Rolling Stone’s cup of tea.

Rumor has it, The Wanted is breaking up after their current tour is over. According to TMZ, the band released a statement, saying, “This tour will be their last for a while as Tom, Max, Jay, Siva and Nathan have collectively decided to take time to pursue personal endeavors following the tour’s conclusion.”

If you want a shot at seeing the band for potentially their last tour ever, The Wanted will be in Seattle at the Showbox SoDo on April 26. The ‘Burg is giving away tickets, so tune-in tomorrow (4/10) to “Across the Board” between 10 and noon for a chance to win!


Shows of Note – Man or Band?


Kris Orlowski. Is that a person, name of a band? Is it a man? Is it a woman? These are questions a few of us have asked ourselves after seeing the name of this mystery artist. The answer is Kris Orlwoski is a band named after a man, a man who happens to be the lead singer and front man for the band.

Kris Orlowski

Kris Orlowski

We would like Kris Orlowski regardless of where the band’s roots lie, but it makes it all the more sweeter when they happen to be from Seattle. The five-piece band has been traipsing across the Pacific Northwest touching the souls of whoever they meet with their indie pop/rock sound. The band even performed at CWU last November.

The band has one album, three EPs and most recently a single titled “Believer” to their name. “Believer” was released earlier this month while the Pieces We Are EP is their other most recent works. Pieces We Are was done in collaboration with Andrew Joslyn. Joslyn is a local native who is a violinist and composer who contributed to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s Grammy Nominated The Heist. One fan called Pieces We Are “Folkestral,” and we think that’s a pretty good description.

Kris Orlowski will be performing in the PNW in Portland on March 22 and at The Showbox in Seattle on April 12. The ‘Burg is giving away tickets to the Seattle show so be sure to pay attention to our social media for a chance to win!


Shows of Note – Infected by Music


Infected Mushroom is in a league of their own. The Israeli music duo creates music described as psytrance, psychedelic and dance.  The group is known for their consistent sound evolution and are a huge cult favorite in the Middle East. The band’s live shows feature guitars, live drums, vocals and usually a multi-media backdrop.

Infected Mushroom

Infected Mushroom

Together since 1998, Erez Aizen and Amit Duvdevani  released their first album as Infected Mushroom in 1991. The album titled The Gathering, included one of their more popular songs “Release Me.” Infected mushroom’s most recent album is titled Army of Mushrooms. Some claim that the duo sold out their psy-trance soul to dubstep but critics like Consequence of Sound’s Alex Young disagree.  Young said this about the album:

“Granted, two tracks on their newest LP, Army of Mushrooms, feature the downtempo beats and signature womp-womp bass sounds that immediately suggest EDM’s red-headed stepchild of a genre. Yet Infected Mushroom, the Israeli-born duo of Amit “Duvdev” Duvdevani and Erez Aisen, infuse their dubstep experiments with plenty of psychedelic touches and unexpected twists.”

Since their most recent LP, Infected Mushroom has released the single “See Me Now,” “Never Mind,” and two EPs, Friends on Mushrooms, Vol. 1 and 2.

Infected Mushroom will be performing in Wash. April 11 at The Showbox. The ‘Burg will be giving away a pair of tickets to see the electronic duo via our social media. Keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter for a chance to win!