POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: BROTHERS PRINCE, “Sun To Rise”

Brothers Prince upcoming self-titled debut E.P. is the creation of Oakland-raised identical twin brothers, Ambrose and Austin Prince. The songs were written and arranged in the East Bay and came together after a week-long recording session with Grammy-nominated producer James Krausse in Burbank, CA. With a couple of early morning surf sessions and a smattering of ping-pong breaks mixed in, the group recorded up to 10 hours a day to bring the project to life. Hand-clapped rhythms and group vocal parts that were created on the spot complement catchy melodies and playful, yet vulnerable lyrics on each of the E.P.’s three songs. The result is the organic soulful sound that their dedicated fan base has come to expect from Brothers Prince.

The EP is set to be released in August 2017 and the song “So Musical” will be featured in the film “Unleashed”, starring Kate Micucci and Sean Astin, coming out later this year.  So here now is the exclusive Popdose premiere of “Sun To Rise”.  This is a a truly perfect piece for the oncoming summer months.  Let yourself be lost in the groove.

http://brothersprince.com/#intro-section

 

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Fifteen

Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross:  The 15th!

Settle in for comfort while listening as Jon and Rob take you through all that’s going on in the world around us.  The boys begin with the latest political round-up; breakdowns of the new albums from Anton Barbeau, Kim Rancourt and The Pinkerton Raid; D.W. Dunphy’s interview with Levi Thomas on the eve of his debut album plus Mr. Dunphy’s remarkable piece of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese founder Nolan Bushnell, the favorite “In Our Heads” segment and so much more!

Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross:  Episode 15


The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

CD Review: Julian Velard, ‘Fancy Words for Failure’

For every musician who has achieved stardom, there are thousands of anonymous ones grinding out a living by running from gig to gig. Julian Velard has given up his dreams of the former in favor of the latter on his fantastic new album, Fancy Words for Failure, which comes out June 16.

Working with longtime collaborator Grant Black on six songs, much of the material on the new record takes a cue from a track from its predecessor, “Jimmy Young,” where he saw a parallel between himself and a piano player his father used to see in Greenwich Village in the late ‘60s. The result is his most personal effort to date, and possibly his best.

The reason he’s made this switch in his life is simple: He got married shortly after the release of 2014’s If You Don’t Like It, You Can Leave, and he and his wife recently welcomed their first child into the world.

I’m ready to take a real chance / Explore the mysteries of derivative finance / Face the fate unknown / Make monthly payments on a 10-year adjustable loan,” he sings on the second-to-last song, “Goodbye Hollywood, Hello Adulthood,” which could also have served as the title for the album. In finding domestic bliss, he’s discovered the joys of being able to just be himself with his wife (the lead single, “Sweatpants on the Living Room Floor”) and can project a time when they’re looking back on their life together (“Glad I Wasted All My Time With You,” the latest in a long line of excellent Velard ballads).

But he’s also negotiating the landmines involved with a lifetime commitment, whether stopping off at an all-night bodega to make amends for something he did (“24-Hour Flower Boy”) or living with the fear that all this happiness could come crashing down at any moment (“Something’s Gotta Be Wrong”).

Still, professional jealousy can’t help but creep in. “Trust Is a Four-Letter Word” acknowledges some friends who have shot past him and he remembers a real-life evening from his days in London where he gave a struggling young musician a place to crash with “The Night Ed Sheeran Slept on My Couch.” And he opens up the record by dismissing the hottest show to hit Broadway in years, “Don’t Ask Me About Hamilton (Anymore),” where he doesn’t see what everybody else does in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s creation (he’s wrong, of course).

Ironically, this comes at a time where his profile has never been higher. He plays regularly at popular New York karaoke bar Sid Gold’s Request Room, has a monthly slot writing songs for Howard Stern’s wrap-up show (one of which went viral) and occasionally provides musical accompaniment on NPR’s Ask Me Another.

For the second album in a row, Velard closes with a cover, this time of “The Rainbow Connection.” His reading of the lyric, complete with a darker musical arrangement, suggests a degree of cynicism in the lyrics that Kermit the Frog never found, particularly in the second verse.

And yet, the album never comes across as self-pity because there’s a genuine sense that he’s realized this is where he’s supposed to be. It helps that his back-up band is so strong to give him the support that he needs. For the first time in his career, he’s given up the piano stool (except on “Glad I Wasted All My Time With You”) to keyboardist Frank LoCrasto, who also served as arranger and co-producer. Ryan Bull (guitars), Adam Chilenski (bass) and Bill Campbell (drums) provide versatility and textures.

Although Fancy Words for Failure won’t be released until June 16, those who pre-order physical copies at PledgeMusic between now and then will be able to immediately download it.

TV Review: “The Leftovers” Series Finale

When a TV series based on a novel gets liberated from its source material, it often means more interesting things happen.  That was the case of season two of “Man From The High Castle,” and it’s most certainly the case for seasons two and three of “The Leftovers.” Based on the acclaimed novel by Tom Perrotta, “The Leftovers” is about the sudden departure of 140-million people in the blink of an eye. In Christian mythology it’s “The Rapture,” and in “The Leftovers” there’s certainly more than a few mentions of the event through the lens of “The Rapture.  However, the show is really about the aftermath of the event, and the way in which people adapt (or don’t) to their new found reality. There’s more than a bit of nihilism, more than a dash of grief, and more than pinch of “What does it all mean?” throughout the series. Oh, and because the series is produced by Damon Lindelof (“LOST”), there’s a deep undercurrent of wanting to find answers to paranormal events that, like “LOST,” has kind of a mystical quality to it.

Season one of “The Leftovers” was too wedded to the novel that it had trouble finding its footing — though not for lack of trying. The story in the novel had a subtlety to it that really sidelined the action. But Lindelof and company (and by “company” Tom Perrotta is lumped into that group since he’s involved in the series as an executive producer) pulled old tricks out from their hats to gin up the action (unnecessarily at times) and create tension and conflict where there was very little in the novel.  

Season two was so much better.  As I wrote here on Popdose, the series shifted location and tone.  Lindelof’s fingerprints were more evident in the premiere episode, with heavy symbolism, locating the action in an earlier part of human evolution, and then lurching forward to the present to set the series in Jarden, Texas (also known as “Miracle” because no one from that town “departed”). Season two was much more compelling because Lindelof and Perrotta rightly ditched major themes that weighed down the first season and created plotlines that were more tailored for this particular genre of television:  a paranormal event changes society and the way people react in the aftermath.

Season three concluded on HBO on Sunday night and Damon Lindelof has redeemed himself from the ending of “LOST.”  I bring up that show in relation to “The Leftovers” because there are many similarities between the two stories. While none of the characters are marooned on a mysterious island where all sorts of strange things happen, in “The Leftovers” the world is the island, and those humans who didn’t “depart” are the ones still experiencing strange things — especially the lead character Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux).  In this season, three years have passed since Kevin returned from an alternate reality that may or may not be a kind of purgatory.  He’s back to being a cop, is living with Nora (Carrie Coon), and his ex-wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) is now with one of the main characters from season two, John Murphy (Kevin Carroll).  A lot relationship musical chairs have happened, but what’s clear is that Kevin and Nora represent those who are very much non-believers about the meaning of the sudden departure.  An odd thing for two people to cling to — especially when both have been so deeply affected by the event.  Kevin is being elevated to messiah status by Nora’s brother, Matt (Christopher Eccleston) through a book he’s writing (in a kind of old school biblical style) of Kevin’s experiences with dying, traveling to another realm, and returning to tell people about it. But all through the paranormal, religious, and cynical views expressed in the series, there was an undercurrent of science.  As in, there’s a scientific explanation for the sudden departure.  As it turns out, the explanation leads to answers that are more about the power of our ability to love one another. In a sense, Lindelof and Perrotta leave viewers with a very humanistic message of “What if this is all we’ve got?”  How do we live our lives?  Do we manufacture an apocalyptic end to our existence?  Do we find comfort in a higher power who is guiding all events?  Or do we find comfort and security in the deep bond of love we can forge with one another?  The series kinda sorta gives answers, but it also finds a way to wrap up the story on a satisfying note — something Lindelof was not able to do with “LOST.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote “There are no second acts in American lives.”  However, Lindelof and company have shown that in Hollywood that’s not always the case.  And for those who have put off watching “The Leftovers,” you now have an opportunity to binge watch it (as all three seasons are available to stream on the HBO Go app).  Doing so might be a better experience than watching it on the old “appointment viewing” model because the journey that these characters go on seem like it would be more compelling if watched in a compressed way.  Whatever you choose, don’t pass up an opportunity to watch “The Leftovers.”  The darker side of humanity is explored without pulling punches, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The SLVR Tongues Bring Country to the Masses With ‘S-Class’

All you need to know about the SLVR Tongues‘ approach to country music lies in the subject matter of their new track, “S-Class.” Where most contemporary country artists (and those of yore) romanticize gritty, down ‘n’ dirty pickup trucks, this guy-and-gal duo elevate their vehicle of choice: a Mercedes, to be precise.

It’s a small detail, but one that’s indicative of what listeners can expect from this accessible take on country. Sure, pop-fueled stompers with a Western twang are saturating radio airwaves as “new country” becomes the norm, but this is something entirely different. This is a brand of rock that tips its cowboy hat but never feels anything less than authentic.

“S-Class” unpacks the story of a lusty tryst — you can probably guess where based on its title. The back-and-forth banter between singers Hannah Huntley and James Lynch is complemented (and given a statement-making twang) by bandmate Peter Erik on banjo.

Though the song’s delivery does feel a bit messy at times, it lends itself to the chaos of its subject matter. Exes, backseats… when has this whole thing ever been easy? “Love in the moment, strangers tomorrow,” sing the SLVR Tongues. Fortunately, even after the blissful moments have faded into the rearview, songs like this forever immortalize them.

POPDOSE PREMIERE: MAIAH MANSER, “Sweet Hell”

Noir-pop songstress Maiah Manser dissolves differences and builds bridges between the worlds of automation and nature. The grit and the raw in her lyrics, combined with her hauntingly powerful vocals all come together to create a chilling sensation that is concrete and abstract, both in sound and in concept.

Ms. Manser discovered her love of music at the age of four, while attending preschool in Bend, Oregon, where she was raised by her grandmother and single mother, who had escaped her father. With a fierce independence that stemmed from the energy she was surrounded by, Ms. Manser taught herself to play the piano and violin and eventually fled Oregon for Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. As a student, she met Mary Lambert; that chance meeting opened the door for an opportunity to tour with Lambert as a backing vocalist and then opening for artists like Sam Smith, Ariana Grande and Pharrell Williams. At 20 years old, she started her professional career as a solo artist. Using analog synths, connecting soundscapes and live samples – from Native American chanting to the sound of a tree being cut down, Ms. Manser’s Second Skin E.P. aims to fuse the digital and the organic, illustrating the merge of the two types of worlds we live in today.

Popdose is pleased to not only introduce you to this very interesting artist but to premiere for you one of the tracks from her newly-released debut E.P., Second Skin, “Sweet Hell”.  Listen to this; it’s guaranteed you’ll find it both hypnotic and enchanting.

Second Skin is currently available

http://www.maiahmanser.com/

Finding Rachel’s Halo: A Christian Frederickson Profile

It is May 25, 2006. You are sitting in a capacity crowd at Kaufman Center’s intimate Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, listening to Rachel’s perform their last show as an ensemble – though nobody knows that just yet. WNYC 90.3 FM, an NPR affiliate, is broadcasting and Greg King’s scene-setting film is being projected on a giant screen stage-center, its Structuralist pseudo-narratives providing a foundation for the magic unfolding below it.

There is an eerie double awareness – the band both performing for an audience and being taped for a later radio broadcast – as Christian Frederickson, a founding member of the group, steps to center stage.

He says nothing, merely raising his bow. And then the weeping begins as he starts to saw away on his viola, the intimacy of the night captured in each sweet, lulling note.

“The thing that’s outstanding about Christian is that he’s so keyed into his tone and sound.”

That’s Ryan Rumery, the composer/musician who created The Painted Bird/Amidst, a production-accompanying CD carefully self-released earlier this year, with Frederickson and the late Jason Noble.

“I feel so many musicians now lose perspective on that. But, the beautiful simplicity that Max Richter has? Christian’s work has that, too,” Rumery told me recently, when we talked about the record. “It’s about the tone of it.”

Christian Frederickson started playing viola in the fourth grade while going to public school in Port Townsend, Wash. – 2014 population 9,255, some 55 miles northwest of Seattle, right near the Canadian border.

“I chose the viola and orchestra almost at random,” he remembered. “And I found I had an aptitude for it.”

The viola took him to The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, the United States’ oldest conservatory, where, in 1989, riding a bus decked out like a streetcar, he met Jason Noble and everything changed.
Frederickson had interpreted masterworks and canonical performances extensively, even exhaustively, but soon, with Noble’s urging, he would craft his own.

“Jason later came to see a recital I played and we were hanging out after the recital and he mentioned he had this idea for a song that would sound good with strings on it,” Frederickson said.

The song became “Saccharine,” off Rachel’s 1995 debut, Handwriting. Their initial collaboration was recorded by Tony French at Hat Factory and later mixed by Noble and Jeff Mueller, who had played together in the avant-rap group King G and the J Crew. A year later, Frederickson came to Louisville – his first visit to the musically inclined Kentucky city – to continue working with Noble on what became their first demo, Rachel’s Halo.

“We started writing it out, kind of transcribing it and we just arranged it for string quartet,” said Frederickson, characteristically modest. “At that time, Jason had these ideas and I was helping him realize them for strings and providing support.”

Frederickson trained at Juilliard, went to Switzerland and spent six months in Europe, later meeting pianist Rachel Grimes – with whom he and Noble would form the nucleus of Rachel’s. By 1994, their recordings fell into the hands of Touch and Go Records label-head Corey Rusk, who knew Noble through post-rock giants Rodan, another Noble/Mueller collaboration of note.

“It started with the initial run of Handwriting, which sold out to distributors well before the release date,” Frederickson told me. “We didn’t expect it. We thought we were going to have a lot of gray paper in our basements for the rest of our lives. It was a welcomed surprise, for sure.”

Handwriting went on to sell 30,000 copies – big numbers for an indie band, in a pre-download era nonetheless — before Rachel’s even announced its sophomore release, according to Billboard magazine. In the years that followed, the band expanded its discography, toured extensively, and became nationally and internationally known for its intimate brand of avant-classical chamber music.

Systems/Layers, out in 2003, was their final full-length and their largest statement of purpose.

“In the thirteen years that have passed since that record came out, the little nook of a genre which Rachel’s helped birth—classical sounds with indie sensibilities, film-music moodiness and digital experimentation—has grown,” Benjamin Scheim wrote for Pitchfork when Rusk reissued Systems/Layers last year. “Promoted by labels like 130701 and Erased Tapes and typified by the commercially successful and recognized soundtrack work of Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, and Ólafur Arnalds, as well as up-and-coming artists like Resina or Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, post-classical is now a small but thriving world. And Systems/Layers’ status as a godfather record to the nascent genre is undeniable.”

Also undeniable is Frederickson’s importance to Rachel’s. While Noble lent them their indie-rock sensibility and unbridled experimentation, and Grimes offered a kind of compositional Romanticism, Frederickson was the emotional center, the sound of the viola always tugging at heartstrings and softly caressing your ears and brain tissue.

“There was something about the music of Rachel’s that created space, an environment for thought and emotion, inspiration and beauty that just spoke to EVERYONE in the room. It still does that even though Rachel’s is not together anymore. Their music is STILL doing the same thing: moving people deeply,” said Barney Hanlon of SITI Company, which created the dance/theatre piece Systems/Layers scores. “There is something about their music that is profoundly human. And I love that it’s unclassifiable. Is it classical? Contemporary? Rock? ‘Yes’ is the answer to all of those questions. And while the original band Rachel’s is not together officially, they are each still making amazing music and moving people to a degree that is astonishing.”

Frederickson never stopped moving people, though, due to his tendency to shy away from self-promotion, it’s difficult to track his CV.

He designed the sound and performed live for SITI’s productions of Antigone and Trojan Women, and he is currently designing the sound and writing the music for their newest production, Hanjo, which is a modern Noh play by the Japanese author Yukio Mishima. He designed the sound for Charles Mee’s Glory of the World, which had its New York City premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He composed and performed music for a May dance production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and is writing new music and designing sound for a production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, which will be staged at Actors Theatre of Louisville in August and September.

Then, a trip to Bandcamp reveals more — records The Starving Season and Teratogeny, and the soundtrack to the film Death Metal Angola.

“I do work across a lot of different worlds,” Frederickson told me, “From a strictly classical music world growing up and in college, and also music, a completely different musical world with Rachel’s that was creative, where we were playing rock dives to concert halls, and then several years working more exclusively in theatre and dance.”

“I’ve been really fortunate to work with a lot of people who really inspire me and we are able to collaborate,” he added. “It helps provide me a palette of emotions to express myself.”

Then there’s The Painted Bird, a dance trilogy production loosely inspired by Jerzy Kosinski’s book of the same name. The piece has led to live productions and CD recordings, and marks the final collaboration between Frederickson and Noble, who died after a battle with cancer in 2012.

“When I started to think about the new trilogy production … I envision live music that would meet both poeticism and rawness/brutality of the source material,” said Pavel Zustiak, the choreographer/director behind The Painted Bird.

The production premiered as individual works – Bastard, Amidst and Strange Cargo – at Stanica, Slovakia and La MaMa in the US (2010), Baryshnikov Arts Center (2012), and Performance Space 122 at the Cathedral of St. John (2013), Pavel said. The work was presented as a five-hour cycle in its entirety at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2013 and at La MaMa in NYC in 2014. The individual works toured nationally and internationally.

“In my work I treat all elements as equal in its ability to push the ‘narrative’ of the work forward,” Pavel said. “In Bastard, in particular, Christian’s music spread across a wide spectrum of a sonic landscape – from poeticism of his viola, heart-wrenching in several moments of the production, beyond the rawness of his electric guitar and towards discomfort and other-worldliness that needles and leaves in awe. Amidst brought my work to a new territory where nostalgia meets with a rock band sound and sensibility. Christian together with Jason Noble and Ryan Rumery brought rapturous pulse and presence to this work.”

The rapture is apparent early on.

After the sweet drones of “Slide Show” comes “Corridor,” which is metronomic but utterly passionate beyond its paces. There are touches of Noble’s Shipping News (“The Displaced Body”) and pieces that tremble with sincerity and weeping strings (“To Be One of Them”). In short, it’s an astonishing accomplishment one can only imagine set to a live performance.

It also is stunning as a window onto the decades-long collaboration between Frederickson and Noble, who rehearsed and performed the production up to his death. Three different bass players filled in for Noble afterward but Frederickson said one memory singes his brain: a performance in Columbus, Ohio shortly after Jason’s passing.

“I remember being on-stage at the Wexner and just playing along with those tracks that Jason had made and just sobbing on stage,” he told me.

Kristin Furnish, who met Noble in 1991 and married him in 2006, was similarly touched.

“I can’t put into words what life was like with Jason,” Kristin said. “He brightened every day.”

Frederickson also recently was hit hard with another loss when Rachel’s member Edward Grimes died of a heart attack March 25. He was 43.

“I can’t believe that two of my bandmates are gone so young, it’s sort of inconceivable,” Christian said recently. “I played a piece from Amidst at the memorial – “Mirage” – which is basically a duet with Edward. The cymbal wash is a recording Jason and I made of Edward years and years ago, which I loved and always found places to use in composition and my sound design work. My music is becoming full of ghosts – so much of who I am as a musician and composer is influenced by my time with Jason and Edward … but it’s just so unfair that those two truly special humans aren’t around to keep moving forward with me.”

Frederickson, as ever, though, is moving forward and forward-moving.

“I feel like I’m emerging from a pretty crazy/busy season and starting to think about new projects and possibilities, which is exciting,” he told me.

“New music, live shows, The Painted Bird part three. It’s all swirling around and starting to get organized.”

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CONCERT REVIEW: Soda Club (Pittsburgh, PA)

The ascending Pittsburgh quartet Soda Club treated a hometown crowd to its lazy Sunday brand of guitar-driven indie-pop on a Saturday this month, peppering a highly danceable, hour-long set of originals with covers of 80s classics by The Violent Femmes, The Cure and, yes, Cyndi Lauper.

Dueling fronts Shay Park (on guitar and ukelele) and Jarrett Krause (on sax) stole the show with their playful vocal give-and-take; Park was particularly effective on songs like the set-closing “Republican Girl,” where she cooed the vocals and joined drummer Mason Jaynes for a stop-and-start that underlined Krause’s sax bridges.

“Stone Soup,” where ukulele took center stage, featured incredible give-and-take on lead vocals from Park and Krause, calling to mind a more nuanced Beat Happening. (The fact that bassist Tosh Chambers clearly is more trained in the four-string department than some of his lo-fi pop forebears surely lent some dimension to the proceedings.) The ukulele also was downright riveting on “Sleepwalking,” a Modest Mouse cover, where Park alternated between shuffling chords and carefully plucked notes, each stroke resonating more than the last.

Then there were the 80s covers. A funky bass line introduced “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” which drew quite a bit of dancing and lip-synching from the crowd, and the bright guitars on “Just Like Heaven” drained some of The Cure’s inherent moodiness. (The sax didn’t hurt that, either.) “Blister In The Sun” was a nice staple.

The real glow, though, was in the original material. On the enveloping “Welcome Home,” when Park softly intoned “I would go anywhere with you,” many in the audience probably wished she was talking to them; it was that enticing of a moment. And, contrary to its title, the drumline on “Punk Song” actually called to mind early-era Beatles, though Ringo’s tea-towel-wrapped snare was replaced Saturday on Jaynes’ kit by a Sonic Youth t-shirt, which did an effective job of dampening the pop and keeping most of his rhythms a kind of jazzy, slithery pulse-beat.

It’s not often crowds get to catch a young band in Pittsburgh that’s still in its nascent stages but is developed beyond its tenure. Soda Club are an act for which you should keep on the lookout and Saturday’s set, really, only begs one question: what can we do to get these four in the studio for their debut?

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REVIEW: Do Make Say Think – “Stubborn Persistent Illusions”

I’m now two weeks late in delivering my opening statements on Do Make Say Think’s Stubborn Persistent Illusions, out since May on Constellation Records and the instrumental giant’s first record proper in some eight years. Why? The thing will leave you that perplexed. Is it the group’s greatest offering, a worthy addition to the canon or simply a post-hiatus afterthought? Does it make you want to shake your head in wonder? Will it slink? Well, Your Honor, respectively: no, yes, no, yes and yes. These illusions are enveloping, wondrous things and, yes, sure, we’ve come to expect that from everyone’s favorite abstract verbs. But, while the new record doesn’t quite measure up to titans like Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn or & Yet & Yet, even when these guys are firing on three-quarters or four-fifths of their cylinders they blow away much of what lies in their wake.

So, here it is. Most likely would argue that Do Make Say Think is a wet dream, if not a vehicle, for four- and six-string aspirants. And, sure sure, it’s true, the guitar and bass work throughout the band’s catalogue – let it be read into the court record: the new record is definitely no exception – is mesmerizing, hyper-texturized stuff. But on the throttling album-opener “War on Torpor,” it’s drummers David Mitchell and James Payment who shine, adding a throbbing, bass-drum-kicking threnody to the song’s underbelly. It makes you want to shout about it. The guitars soar, yes, yes, but the drums punch you in the gut. Such is also the case with the duo “Bound” and “And Boundless,” which break between tracks at precisely the right point.

On tracks like the juicy, triumphant epic “Return, Return Again” – if these guys don’t close live sets with this rafter-shaker, I don’t know what they’re thinking – it’s the jazzy shuffle and steadfast plod of the drums that accents the guitar weaving so well. There’s not a moment on the disc where the percussion gets lazy or even mildly predictable. And that’s saying a lot – because not everyone can be Britt Walford or Damon Che or Zach Hill.

On “Horripilation,” though, the guitars steal all that percussive thunder, offering sleepy, half-tipped-hourglass measures and pulsing micro-crescendos accented, subliminally, by what sounds like horns. Riveting stuff. Or there’s the atmospheric “As Far As The Eye Can See,” which darts among gently gushing post-rock (serious Mogwai vibes here), a rocking, locked-groove drive and Spaghetti Western guitar-noodling.

All in all, Stubborn Persistent Illusions is a worthy addition to the canon of a band that’s been dormant for far too long. They might have clapped their loudest thunder in the 90s and aughts and this is not the group’s finest. But it’s certainly great stuff. And that’s enough for me. It should be for you, too. Verdict: guilty of being too damned engaging for its own good.

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Concert Review: Franz Ferdinand, House of Blues, Cleveland, OH, May 31, 2017

Near the end of Wednesday night’s show at the House of Blues Cleveland, Franz Ferdinand launched into its first big hit, “Take Me Out.” Two by two, the crowd seated in the upper balcony rose to its feet, as the song’s extended intro accumulated tension and volume. The band members themselves—vocalist/guitarist Alex Kapranos, bassist Bob Hardy, guitarist Dino Bardot, guitarist/keyboardist Julian Corrie—stood at the front of the stage, a unified front, and soaked up the buzzing anticipation.

The payoff was explosive once “Take Me Out” finally started: Throughout the venue, bodies writhed in ecstasy to the song’s pogo-punk beats and its lyrics about dramatic dalliances. Although the tune is 13 years old, its howling, petulant desire hasn’t aged a day.

Franz Ferdinand itself has experienced growing pains, however. Most notably, founding member/guitarist Nick McCarthy left the group in 2016, and this U.S. tour is the Scottish band’s first with new members Bardot (who was in fellow Scots the 1990s) and Corrie, who performs as Miaoux Miaoux. Their influence was both subtle and obvious, in the sense that Franz Ferdinand’s taut post-punk has morphed and expanded to include other prominent influences—making the band less of a tightly coiled, cloistered unit and one with more massive sonic reach.

This was a boon for “Do You Want To,” which was slower, and had a fuzzier, stoner rock sheen. “Darts Of Pleasure” built with its usual fury, but ended in a loud, punkish jam and the band yelling the song’s German-language ending in perfect harmony. Keyboards were more prominent on the wriggling “This Fire” and the dirty-disco jam “Ulysses.” Still, not everything was successful: The tempo lagged on “No, You Girls,” while the Bowie-esque piano croon “Walk Away” also felt off.

Franz Ferdinand also played a selection of new songs, highlighted by the danceable and enormously appealing “Always Ascending.” The towering electro-disco song boasted a propulsive, gouging groove that at times resembled Giorgio Moroder’s work. “Lazy Boy” was predicated on sinister-sounding, syncopated electro moodiness. “Huck & Jim,” meanwhile, was intriguing and complex: Its stuttering, pastiche-like arrangements featured boozy piano that resembled both David Bowie’s late ’70s work (c.f. “TVC15”) and Sparks’ fractured cabaret. Despite melodic needling that resembles the Cure’s “Lullaby,” “Paper Cages” was less engaging and memorable due to rougher, amorphous arrangements.

Throughout the set, Kapranos remained a commanding ringleader who would dart around the stage doing karate-like leg kicks and Who-style splits-jumps. His timing was often impeccable: “The Fallen” found him spitting lyrics like a hip-hop emcee, while at the end of “Love Illumination,” he kicked right in time with the song’s last words. Shouldering that charisma burden couldn’t have been easy—after “Lazy Boy,” he pointed out the ironic fact that the song is “the most exhausting song we’ve ever played”—but he was up to the task.

In fact, Franz Ferdinand’s energy seemed to increase as the show progressed. Encore opener “Stand On The Horizon” spun like a dizzy top, courtesy of drummer Paul Thomson’s tightly wound beat-keeping, while the exuberant “Michael” was a saucy, come-hither jam with shambling, raucous guitars. As the latter song underscored, Franz Ferdinand has always indulged in the many pleasures of the dancefloor—movement itself, of course, and the freedom intrinsic to these moves—and have never been ashamed to embrace the lust and romance that often goes hand-in-hand with a good groove. That stood out most of all at last night’s show—and explains why the band continues to remain such a beloved, must-see live act.