Impressionists of Experimental Folk
North Carolina based Megafaun — comprised of brothers Brad and Phil Cook along with fellow Eau Claire, Wis., native Joe Westerlund — is still soaring on the momentum of their 2009 critically acclaimed second album, Gather, Form & Fly.
With all of its divergent musical colors, Gather, Form and Fly (on Portland’s Hometapes label) is a vividly tighter step up from Megafaun’s 2008 debut Bury the Square. They take their traditional musical roots and brilliantly set them askew. Their palette — time-honored but occasionally psychedelic folk instrumentation, abstract sound collages and influences that hint of The Byrds and Smile-era Brian Wilson — is used more deftly than before, as is evident in the restless, shape-changing “Impressions of the Past.” It’s splattered with a mixture of audible textures and vocally finalized by “When all the colors keep on shifting / The truth is not found in the hue / It’s in my perspective anew.”
Coming off of a successful European tour at the end of 2009, the band found themselves with a couple of free months before hitting the road on their first headlining U.S. tour. That wasn’t a long enough break to get real jobs, so they wrote and recorded every day, treating their music like a 9 to 5 job. They ended up with 13 songs, five of which rose to the top, destined to become the EP Heretofore, out this summer. Those songs and others can be heard when they stop at Sam Bond’s this Sunday. Megafaun and Breathe Owl Breathe play at 8:30 pm Sunday, April 18, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Blake Phillips
Somewhere Gone Record Shopping
No matter what Exene Cervenka is singing, her steely voice is a knife’s edge. Whether it’s punk harmonies with John Doe in X, acoustic folk with the Knitters or over beautiful string arrangements as she does on her latest solo release, she incisively cuts through the crap. Now, she has focused her unflinching gaze on the plight of independent record stores just in time for Record Store Day, April 17. Established in 2007, Record Store Day seeks to celebrate the unique — and regrettably shrinking — culture of independently owned record stores.
I spoke to Cervenka by phone from San Luis Obispo, the third stop on her tour playing only record stores in support of Somewhere Gone, which was released last fall. “I thought of record stores because they need the help,” she says. In Eugene circa the early ’90s, small mom-and-pop record stores dotted the landscape; we’ve lost nearly a dozen over the years, as the digital world has shaped music into an intangible non-commodity that people balk at paying for.
“I have nothing against playing clubs,” Cervenka says, “but I didn’t want to do a tour where I was excluding people under 21 and I wanted to do it … in the afternoon, evening, so that everyone could go.” And they are.
“People are bringing their X records and their kids,” Cervenka says. “They’re listening and they’re having a good time. So what I’m telling people is, go ahead and buy something! It doesn’t have to be my record. Just pick up whatever you’ve been wanting to get and support the store that day.” Exene Cervenka plays at 5 pm Sunday, April 18, at CD World. Free. — Vanessa Salvia
Unkle Nancy Drops Off The Map
Most 30-year milestones reached by people around me these days are of the birthday sort. But for Joey Stewart, aka Unkle Nancy, Off The Map is his 30th album, and the latest with his band the Family Jewels. And a good one it is, too.
The opening song, “Hello,” draws you in like a pretty, shiny thing and then turns on you. With laughter and crashing surf in the background, behind a plucky banjo and flute, it’s like you’re overhearing the tropical soundtrack to a beachside barbecue. Then Stewart starts singing. The first line is about drugged-out cynics standing in line at abortion clinics.
The next song, “Just a Boy,” tells us he’s just a boy with a bad attitude. Easy enough to believe, after hearing that whiskey made him pawn all of his clothes in “Whiskey and the Devil.” If bad attitude was all there was to it, though, Stewart wouldn’t be able to create — with astonishing prolificacy — his junk-shop-beautiful poetry and music. His now consistent recipe combines Tom Waits-ian carnival waltz beauty with his own singularly twisted world view.
After the Family Jewels’ last show at August’s Whiteaker Block Party, Stewart slowed down a bit due to health problems and focused on his solo material, releasing Dancing With the Devil in October — he’s been releasing a solo EP once a month for five months now.
Off the Map was recorded over one week — with some new players — in a house overlooking Pirates Cove in Depoe Bay, where Stewart grew up. Though all of his music is available for free at unklenancy.com, he is releasing a limited edition CD at this show. Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels and Rick Bartow play at 9 pm Saturday, April 17, at The Muse Lounge. 21+. Free. — Vanessa Salvia