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Music

The skies may have been sunny so far this month, but let’s face it: It’s been a dark and stormy year, and given our usual winter weather, the gloom is likely to remain with us for a while.

Todd Park Mohr, bandleader with Big Head Todd and The Monsters, tells me there’s one primary lyrical theme on his band’s latest release: “The heart is always wrong.” We’re talking about New World Arisin’, Big Head Todd’s 12th studio album, out now on Big Records. 

 I brought my second-grader, P, to the Tori Amos show at the Hult Center Nov. 25 (his first, my fifth) thinking that, as a budding performer himself, he might really be interested in her music, her performance, and all the other bits that go into a making a concert.

Musicals used to start on stage and then go to the big screen. But that’s been changing lately, and one of the most prominent early screen-to-stage musicals was the 1952 film classic Singin’ in the Rain, which creators Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted into a stage musical (with choreography by none other than Twyla Tharp) three decades later.

Here’s a quick rundown on Dave Grohl’s résumé: He was the drummer with Nirvana. That really ought to be enough, but Grohl also fronts the long-lasting and arguably more commercially successful Foo Fighters. This year the grunge-lite, neo-classic rock Foos released their ninth studio record Concrete and Gold

In 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” This evokes mysterious electronic musician Slow Magic (nobody’s sure who he really is), who performs behind a multi-colored animal mask, never revealing his true face. The popular producer stops in Eugene behind his latest release Float

Eugene artists Halie Loren, Bettreena “Betty” Jaeger and Amelia Reising will never forget the first time they heard the music of Tori Amos.

There are things both vintage and new in the plastic soul of Denver-based husband and wife duo Tennis. On the band’s latest release, Yours Conditionally, Helen Reddy meets the ’70s vibe of male/female duos like Buckingham Nicks, or the soulful disco shuffle of Minnie Riperton and the Commodores’ “Easy.”

“Sonder” is defined by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. Experimental indie musician Kishi Bashi  — that’s the performance name for Kaoru Ishibashi — creates a soundscape as dynamic as the lives of people buzzing around us with his vast array of instruments and meshing of genres. 

From Joseph Joachim to Jascha Heifetz to Itzhak Perlman to Joshua Bell and so many more, solo violinists have been the closest things to rock stars in classical music. Star pianists like Liszt and Glenn Gould and Van Cliburn might argue, but as even flamboyant rock pianists Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John discovered, it’s easier to flash your chops onstage when you can stand up and move around.

Ani DiFranco has had many labels — singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, poet, activist, feminist, businesswoman — but at the end of the day she’s just Ani. Unlike so many in her business, DiFranco has flourished by staying true to her character and forging her own path.

Pete Bernhard, guitarist with the Santa Cruz-based The Devil Makes Three, says you’ll hear all kinds of old-timey music on his band’s latest release, Redemption and Ruin.

Los Angeles songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is emailing me from Europe, riding in a van somewhere between Germany and the Netherlands. “I can see miles and miles of forest,” Bridgers writes, “and every once in a while a big open field.” It’s a lonely scene that sits nicely alongside Bridgers’ lonely music.

A recent University of Oregon grad, now teaching in Indiana, Krause just wrote a string quartet inspired by views of Oregon’s Cascade mountains (Jefferson, the Sisters, lava fields, lonely trees, etc.) from the Dee Wright Observatory. The terrain and the feelings evoked by the Cascades are audible in Krause’s music, commissioned and performed by Eugene’s Delgani String Quartet this Sunday (Nov. 5) afternoon and Tuesday (Nov. 7) night at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington Street.

David Pacheco, vocalist and guitarist with Thee Commons, discovered cumbia back in the 1980s, when the style took Los Angeles by storm.

“Cumbia music originated from Colombia,” Pacheco explains, “from areas of less affluence.” The kind of places where, a little like food, you can find world’s best music.

Portland indie act Reptaliens contains a lot of contradictions. The band’s central songwriting team, husband and wife Cole and Bambi Browning, share a love story. They came together because of music, and Bambi says she finds marriage not unlike being in a band.

Danny Kime of downtown Eugene music venue Hi-Fi Music Hall says everyone on his staff loves Halloween. “It’s such a big deal in Eugene,” Kime says. “People love to dress up.”

Mary Lambert’s perfected pop music is like the Powerpuff Girls meet Kate Nash (but from Seattle, not London). Her newfound hold on the genre is sugar, spice and a slew of self-growth stories told with quirky lyrics and contagious melodies. 

In November 2016, Eugene post-rock band Gazelle(s) were in Joshua Tree, California tracking their debut LP, There’s No One New Around You, at Rancho de La Luna. The legendary recording studio owned by Dave Catching, a touring member of Eagles of Death Metal. Well-known acts like Queens of the Stone Age and PJ Harvey have recorded at Rancho de La Luna, and Gazelle(s) bassist Neal Williams calls the opportunity for his band to record there “a gift from Ninkasi.”

Iron & Wine singer-songwriter Sam Beam is a breeze throughout the seasons. For more than a decade, his sound has wistfully danced through somber winters to the thawing afternoons of spring — at the core of his sound’s evolution lies the wind’s intrinsic trait: persistence.

October closes with a plenitude of pianistic delights for classical music fans, beginning with Thursday’s Eugene Symphony concert at the Hult Center featuring the rising young pianist Conrad Tao.

Thirty-two years ago next month, The Jesus and Mary Chain, a band created by Scottish songwriting brothers Jim and William Reid, released its debut album Psychocandy.

Detroit’s Protomartyr might be America’s greatest rock band. They also might not be. Either way, Protomartyr vocalist Joe Casey says he doesn’t really care.

“When we started this band,” Casey tells me over the phone, “we had no illusions we were going to be in the back of limousines and playing arenas and things like that. The bands that we like were never the most popular things on Earth.” 

Maybe Jimmy Buffett is just a guy living his best life. Maybe I’m just jealous. But there’s always been something about his leering, capitalist grin that makes me queasy.