Let’s face it. Canada has invaded the U.S. — and we didn’t even see it coming. With only a few guitars, synthesizers, drums and shaky-voiced singers with penchants for clever, introspective wandering, Canada has usurped this nation’s indie rock scene and set up shop in the hearts of our American Apparel-clad hipsters. But honestly, I welcome their arrival. Think of what our friends to the north have yielded thus far: Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Tokyo Police Club, The New Pornographers, et. al. That being said, let’s welcome this recent influx of alt-imports with open ears — among them Wolf Parade, the co-op creation of Spencer Krug (Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown) and Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs) in 2003. Drummer Arlen Thompson and synth/sound man Hadji Bakara have since joined the Parade along with former Hot Hot Heat flame Dante Decaro. Wolf pack intact, the band signed to Sub Pop Records in 2005 with the help of Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, who backed the band’s debut effort, Apologies to the Queen Mary.
As a vocalist, Krug is a commanding presence on Apologies. His ephemeral yelps and naturally quivering melisma propel the anthemic refrains of “Shine a Light” and “I’ll Believe in Anything,” key tracks alongside “It’s a Curse.” Thompson’s dynamic percussion will give you a beating throughout — a solid backdrop to Bakara’s vintage synth sounds, which shine through layered guitar and key fuzz. It’s a beautiful prog/rock mess to be certain, but one that’s not without its accolades. Time picked Wolf Parade’s album as one of “Canada’s Most Anticipated Indie Albums of the Year,” and the band earned a Polaris Music Prize nomination in 2006. Wolf Parade plays with openers Holy Fuck and The June Umbrella at 8 pm Monday, Sept. 10, at the WOW Hall. $18 adv., $20 door. — Zach Klassen
Big Voice, Bigger Vision
For a guy with a Wilco-ish, Shawn Mullins-y, Ryan Adams-esque kind of thing going on, Kasey Anderson has managed to stand out in a genre bursting at the seams with poetic, alt country crooner types. His first album, Dead Roses, piqued the interest of critics who heard something both boldly original and sweetly honest in the thump and twang of Anderson’s songs. With The Reckoning, he pushes on to the next level, collecting stories of hope and disaster that weave through 10 tracks of eclectic arrangements and production effects, building a non-linear, impressionistic vision of lives engaged in the restless struggle to find quiet in the storm.
The Reckoning opens with its title song, a disturbing, distorted, spoken word gut-grabber that makes no effort to hide Anderson’s contempt for the country’s current political atmosphere. It is a striking choice for an album opener, especially since many of the tracks that follow carry similarly dark themes but considerably more cheerful melodies. One of Anderson’s gifts, however, seems to be treating each composition as a unique entity while tugging at the threads that bind each character to his overarching version of American life. Starting out with a hushed and creepy snarl-fest and then launching into a Mellencamp-inspired toe-tapper makes perfect sense in the world of Kasey Anderson. In his America, the cowboys, drunks and aging beauties are the kings and queens of a funhouse kingdom that warps and changes depending on where you stand.
Kasey Anderson plays at 9 pm Monday, Sept. 10, at Cozmic Pizza. $3-5. — Adrienne van der Valk
Two Guys and A Girl
When I was 19, two friends and I attempted to start an all-girl rock band. The Backstreet Boys were big then, and we thought it would be funny to mock them by naming ourselves The Crotch Street Girls. We did mostly covers, mixing our own lyrics with the original band’s music, but our songs never made it past my living room floor. The singer/guitarist went on to form a band in Portland called the Atomic Housewives; the bassist moved to the country and birthed two kids; and the drummer, well, she’s an intern at Eugene Weekly.
Where my story ends, Grayceon‘s begins — with three friends deciding to form a band. “We are very fortunate to have known each other for many years before Grayceon became a band. Max and I have been playing music together for almost seven years, and he and I were always big fans of Jackie’s work,” explains drummer Zack Farwell.
Farwell and guitarist/vocalist Max Doyle still actively play in the band Walken, and in between practices for Grayceon, electric celloist/vocalist Jackie Perez Gratz manages to squeeze in sets with her other two bands, AmberAsylum and Giant Squid.
The members’ different musical tastes and talents shine through in Grayceon’s songs. Hints of classical music, opera, metal, jazz and folk emerge from each song and create a surprisingly pleasant harmony, like mixing dark chocolate with habanero peppers: They are amazing separately and can stand on their own, but once you combine them, the concoction becomes an exotic delicacy that supersedes the original. That’s Grayceon — a mixture of sweet lyrics and spicy metal riffs.
“Max, Zack and I have a magical chemistry in both the studio and practice space, and I can only hope we bring that to the stage as well,” says Gratz. “We can really inspire each other and riff off each other, which is totally essential for bands in order to ‘make it work.’ “
Grayceon performs with Soul Scythe at 9 pm Thursday, Sept. 13, at Samurai Duck. 21+ show. $6. (If the band needs an opener, perhaps The Crotch Street Girls could come out of retirement. What do you think, girls, should we get the band back together?) — Deanna Uutela