Todd Lavoie

Sweet symphony

Parenthetical Girls tap into the tingle of Entanglements
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Has the Parenthetical Girls' extreme makeover reached completion, or are their collective sleeves still hoarding hidden tricks to be revealed in future remakes/remodels?

The Portland, Ore., avant-popsters — formed in 2002 and originally calling themselves Swastika Girls after a Brian Eno/Robert Fripp song — first grabbed the ears of the listening public three years ago with a double-dose of fractured melodies and droning lo-fi noise. Read more »

Feel-good sounds

Noise Pop 09: Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele and A.C. Newman make a plea for pop
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DENT MAY AND HIS MAGNIFICENT UKULELE What we have here, to get right down to it, is a perfect case of truth in advertising. The cover of The Good Feeling Music of Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele (Paw Tracks) — the just-released debut from the eponymous uke-strumming, street-corner-serenading smooth operator — spells out its primary objective in impish scrawl, rainbow-and-curlicue-festooned illustrations, and a photo of the showman getting swanky in tuxedo finery. Read more »

Hungry for Lee Hazlewood

The Year in Music 2008: You didn't have to dig deep to find the canonical figure this year
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Imposing baritones, orchestral sweeps, and curious couplings of drama and whimsy — honestly, could we ask for better components to soundtrack a year of such 11th-hour intensity, a year of struggle and strife and the unspeakably surreal, mercifully offset by glimmers of giddiness at the prospect of something altogether new? The gift of hope delivered to us on Nov. 4 was a lovely early Christmas treat, but let's face it: all of that waiting made 2008 a year of epic proportions. Read more »

Child's play

Hauschka toys with our emotions
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It can't be easy, capturing the spirit of childhood and distilling all that wondrous essence into effective, life-affirming art. First, there's the pile-up of cynicism we tend to amass over the years. Sure, we grown-ups might call this protective shield "realism," but it doesn't exactly lend itself to fostering the same wide-eyed exuberance we felt as youngsters. On the opposite end of the spectrum: over-sentimentality. Simply put, schmaltz can kill a mood in no time — so let's keep it away from the kiddies, shall we? Read more »

Warming to cold fact

Sixto Rodriquez, sumptuously rediscovered
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Now that we're deep into November, I can safely announce my choice for 2008's top reissue: Sixto Rodriguez's scrumptiously echo-rippled psychedelic folk-soul delight Cold Fact (Sussex/Light in the Attic). Originally released in 1970 by Sussex, the album never made a big dent in the American countercultural consciousness. Though it feels like an underground classic on par with the finest from such visionaries as Love, relatively few got a chance to hear it when it first emerged. Read more »

Welcome to my dreamscape

Michael Zapruder taps into sleepy-time riches
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Here's the curse of deep sleepers: they never remembers their dreams. As someone who snaps out of bed in the morning without one recollection of what happened behind shut eyes, I've always been envious of folks who can recount the vivid details of their dreams. Instead, I've taken to filling my awake time with art that sends my neurons firing in similarly seemingly random configurations. If I can't do it myself, I might as well find people who can help do it for me.

This is where local singer-songwriter Michael Zapruder comes in. Read more »

High Places

Jungle music from the heart of hipsterland
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New York — you never cease to surprise me. For all these years, I've been completely convinced that Brooklyn was a continuous swath of pavement, brownstones, and ironic T-shirts. Apparently there's an altogether different, little-known ecosystem hiding in Hipster's Paradise. Tucked in the darkest pocket of the borough sits a teeming rainforest, a sea of green in which rainbow-bedazzled birds shake their hot pink plumage while chattering monkeys swing through the lush canopy.

Or so Brooklyn electro-primitives High Places would have us believe. Read more »

Horn dogs unite

Hornucopia Festival brings together lovers of that bold and brassy sound
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Lately I've been thinking about buying a trumpet. I had one once, though my mom sold it back to an instrument shop years ago — long after I'd ditched it and jumped the fence to a cappella choir about midway through high school. By that point I couldn't have cared less, but more recently I've found myself daydreaming about it, its gleaming shine, its sleek curves. Mostly, though, I reminisce about its power — roaring and robust and showy as hell, that trumpet gave my mild-mannered little self a shot at being loud and free. Read more »

No borders!

Singer-songwriter Rupa Marya leads the charge toward boundary-busting pop
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For all the criticism we could justifiably plop down on the mighty feet of globalization, perhaps one of the few upsides worth positing as the world keeps shrinking is that cross-cultural exchange in the arts is at an all-time high. Purists can grumble at the arrival of the "world music" phenomenon and even accuse some of its Western practitioners of engaging in Colonialism 2.0, but how about a counter-argument: hasn't the rise of the global groove fostered a greater understanding between cultures? Read more »

Back to the land

Fleet Foxes tear back the centuries, fusing pre-rock 'n roll sounds with indie sensibility
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I hold no truck with keeping too firmly tethered to the here and now. A little let-go does the soul a world of good, and nothing beats floating off on a cloud of question marks as time and place melt from view. Read more »