Noise Pop 2011 highlights - Page 5

The annual indie-palooza takes over the city -- and Dâm-Funk, Peanut Butter Wolf, Dominant Legs, Admiral Radley, Geographer, and Psychic Friend are among the acts we're rarin' to see

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Now is a good time to button up your favorite white jacket and take some notes on the current environment in which you reside. Whether you're into earth science or not, Geographer is a swell listen that goes well with salty pretzels and an adventure around your own neighborhood. Animal Shapes on repeat will keep you in step with eyes and ears open. And listen carefully: there's good word on the street about these Geographer guys in the live form. (Amber Schadewald)

GEOGRAPHER

With Butterly Bones, K Flay, Funeral Party

Wed./23, 8 p.m., $13–$15

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421

www.theindependentsf.com

 

PSYCHIC FRIEND: PIANO POWER

Will Schwartz and the piano go way back, to when he was nine. "I've been attracted to the C chord and to A minor since I was a kid," he says from L.A., where he's living in Los Feliz. "I learned to play piano by ear, and it was always based on [starting with] a C major and going from there."

You could say Schwartz played his first gigs on the instrument. "We had this two-story living room in our house in New Jersey with a little balcony, and the piano was up on the balcony," he says with a laugh. "I would imagine I was playing for people down below. I would put on shows for the living room furniture."

In his new band Psychic Friend, Schwartz updates California chamber or piano pop for today's era, with contributions by Hole drummer Patty Schemel and instrumentalist-producer Bo Boddie. The result is a fresh chapter in Schwartz's musical story, one that has ranged from the guitar-rock of Imperial Teen to the D.I.Y. choreographed pop of Hey Willpower, which involved contributions from videomaker Justin Kelly, DJ Chelsea Starr, and musician Tomo Yasuda.

Crisp and clean, in a way Psychic Friend sounds like the moment Schwartz has found his voice, or unknown heights or depths of it. The pounding "Once a Servant" revives the spirit of Jobriath. "Water Sign" has a Serge Gainsbourg undercurrent. "Shouldn't Have Tried Again"'s rendering of the repeat failure of a relationship matches the plaintive sunshine-y yearning of Harry Nilsson's sublime covers of Randy Newman.

You could say Psychic Friend is new Californian pop. The piano-based melodic immediacy of the group's sound has a kinship to Carole King's solo work, or Burt Bacharach and some of his hits for psychic and other friends, yet both the sound and the lyrical content is very contemporary, not retro. It also isn't Rufus Wainwright showboating — tracks like "We Do Not Belong" allow Schwartz's voice a freedom and resonance it hasn't had before, but he doesn't run away with himself. "The nature of playing a piano and writing melodic songs, it almost brings you back to '70s songwriting," Schwartz observes.

"I just found this place in my voice that feels very connected, actually, that comes from playing the piano, and it feels good," he adds, simply.

Schemel's powerful drumming and Boddie's hit-making skills have a role in this shift. "It's like an Eddie and the Cruisers feeling," Schwartz says, "where you start to play something, and by the end it sounds like a finished song." (Huston)

PSYCHIC FRIEND

With The Concretes, Birds and Batteries, Magic Bullets

Fri./25, 8:30 p.m., $13–$15

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011

www.rickshawstop.com

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