Colors, Shapes and Chills
I don’t know that I’ll ever listen to On the Tundra’s second album, Echolalia, without thinking of autumn in Oregon. The Eugene instrumental indie band’s follow-up to last year’s Electric Walls has a creeps-up-on-you quality — the kind of thing where I think I’ve just got it on as background music, only to realize it’s changing the rhythm of my thoughts and sentences. It’s sunk in, becoming a soundtrack to the changing leaves and shivering walks through town.
This time around, the band added vocals to one track, the closing “One Year After the War.” The result is unexpectedly reminiscent of early Built to Spill — and then the rest of the band breaks in on the chorus: “No pain, no more,” repeated like a plea. “One Year” is the record’s shortest song, at just under four and a half minutes, but even a listener more accustomed to short pop songs isn’t likely to complain or really even notice when a track like the rustling, swelling “Porpoises” stretches to almost seven minutes. On the Tundra has an impressive ability to convey yearning without sentiment, and to sweep between highs and lows without ever sounding overly dramatic. There’s certainly drama in songwriter/guitarist Mark Leahey’s songs, in the interplay between insistent drums and soaring guitars, or the energy of the dense, frenetic “Panda Bamboo,” but it’s sketched out precisely, tugging at heartstrings and triggering a joyful smile just when one needs to break through. On the Tundra, Adventure Galley, Slow Trucks and Ugly Winner play at 10 pm Friday, Oct. 29, at Luckey’s. 21+. $5. — Molly Templeton
Throwing Dr. Dog a Bone
Dr. Dog likes to stay busy. After touring in support of their Anti Records debut Shame Shame, the band found the time to write and record four new songs. These songs will be released as a double 7-inch package available only at Dr. Dog shows or as part of a deluxe edition of Shame Shame released digitally on Nov. 2. To support these releases, the band is going right back out on the road with a stop at the WOW Hall on Halloween.
Dr. Dog formed in Philadelphia and began playing experimental lo-fi psychedelic-rock similar to Guided By Voices and Pavement. In 2004 they gained a massive career boost when My Morning Jacket brought them out on tour. Since then, Dr. Dog has been touring relentlessly and building a sizable following. The band’s recent work shows them maturing and polishing their sound, with a strong ’60s rock influence from artists like the Beatles, the Band and the Grateful Dead.
Earlier this year, Dr. Dog released the critically acclaimed Shame Shame, which Pitchfork.com called “arguably the band’s finest moment.” Shame Shame finds the group pushing further into sunshiny AM radio harmonies, bouncing Beatles-esque backbeats and rootsy jamming. However, the psychedelics of the band’s early work haven’t been lost in tracks like “Shadow People,” which recalls the goofy anthems of the Flaming Lips.
In addition to their show at the WOW Hall, Dr. Dog will perform a free, short acoustic set and judge a Halloween costume contest at 3 pm Sunday, Oct. 31, at CD World. Dr. Dog and Good Old War play at 8 pm Sunday, Oct. 31, at the WOW Hall. $15 adv.,
$18 door. — William Kennedy
The Best Kind of Planet
Watch my stopwatch, people. Right now you’re melting into a river of calm hypnosis while waves of round bass and currents of soothing female vocals sweep you away in a magical whirlpool of color and sound. Now the whole thing explodes as a single crash cymbal blows up somewhere nearby, and you’re suddenly drifting at a much faster pace. Your heart’s probably pounding for a second, but then you realize there’s nothing to fear in this new world of Portishead-esque trip-hop, and you begin to enjoy the rapid-fire fills and spills of the entire experience. There’s a scratch in your ears that you didn’t even notice, but you go with it for lack of control; you’re entranced, under the spell of Cooper Gillespie’s breathy voice as it swells up from beneath like an undercurrent to slow your pulse. But before the calm can become too deeply ingrained, a rich downtempo hip-hop session led by Greg Gordon begins somewhere very close by, and the ride sets off again faster than ever. Beats, raps, keyboards and thick, hearty bass lines hook you in (no, that’s not a bass fishing pun), and then you’re dancing atop a gigantic, groovy wave of diamonds and lights.
Then, out of nowhere, a break. A sudden halt and the sea of sound flatlines, jolting you back to reality as you realize how ridiculously tripped out the last four minutes of your life have been. Holy shit, man, you’re not on a ride at all. You’re listening to Mad Planet, and it fucking rules.
Mad Planet plays at 10 pm Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Luckey’s. 21+. $3. — Andy Valentine
Doing It Right
Grady Champion is definitely doing something right. At 41 years of age and with four albums to his credit (his most recent being 2008’s Back in Mississippi Live), Champion is finally finding himself touring on a regular basis. This is due in large part to the fact that he won the 2010 International Blues Challenge, but more than that, his persistence is paying off, and his band’s fire affects more than just the judges of competitions. Champion’s work is a fine mix of the slow and smooth with the uptempo and high energy, giving blues fans an assortment of styles to enjoy depending on their mood.
Champion’s gravelly wails on tracks like “Sweet Little Angel” mix in an oddly pleasing manner with the slow, bluesy sound of that track. For an added bit of fun he goes to town on his harmonica, too. On “Dreaming of You,” he barely has time to get in his emphatic shouts of excitement between his guitarist’s show-stopping solos, and he and the band lay down unexpectedly smooth grooves on the decidedly serious “The Policeman Blues.”
Champion and his band pack a wallop, and their performances are nothing short of electric, playing with the sort of skill you would expect from them as seasoned musicians, and yet with all the verve of a high school rock band. Grady Champion plays at 8 pm Thursday, Nov. 4, at Mac’s at the Vets. 21+. $7 adv., $10 door. — Brian Palmer
Twelve Inches of Love
Some three years back, local musicians Dan Jones and Peter Wilde hatched the idea of making one of those 7-inch split singles just like the punks used to do. As Jones puts it, “I think, well, I’ll choose a song of mine, record it, he’ll record his, we’ll slap them together, and have awesome Christmas presents.” Alas, the Yuletide bells tolled, time rolled on and the quaint project grew ever more ambitious and collaborative. Bringing in Chris Funk from the Decemberists to produce at Type Foundry Studio in Portland, Wilde and Jones decided to record everything in one session with the same band. And once guitarist Lewi Longmire, bassist Adam East and drummer Jivan Valpey were hauled aboard, Jones thought, “Let’s do two songs each,” and put them out on a 12-inch, 45-rpm slice of clear vinyl. Hence was born My Name is John Smith, a big old bite of turntable nostalgia.
The music contained in the grooves of this four-song EP is driven by a throwback innocence and energy that rummages through the vintage closet of ’60s pop. Jones kicks off side one with “Don’t Be Afraid of Love,” a three-chord rocker that channels early Who, and Wilde’s flipside opener, “Two People in Love,” is a laid-back ballad that floats on a swell of Hammond organ and pedal steel. Long live DIY and the crackle of static. Dan Jones & Peter Wilde play with Yeltsin, Dan Jones & the Golden Motors at 9:30 pm Friday, Oct. 29, at Sam Bond’s. 21+. $5. — Rick Levin