Todd Lavoie

The Explorers Club

Charleston septet channel the Beach Boys' "teenage symphonies to God"
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REVIEW There have been a fair number of artists over the years who have tried to channel the classic Wall of Sound orchestral-pop of mid-1960s Beach Boys recordings, but the number of success stories is considerably shorter. Far too often, imitators have sacrificed songwriting in their fixation to replicate the Pet Sounds vibe. Read more »

Los Campesinos!

Candy-covered glockenspiel overdrive
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PREVIEW Let's get vibrating — and who better to send us a-twitter than the seven-headed, clattering, splattering whirlwind known as Los Campesinos! The Welsh rapscallions — faces streaked with cheeky grins, arms and legs blurred in ecstatic zigs and zags — sparked their own revolution against indie-rock sterility last year with a flurry of exuberant, xylophone-battering singles and live performances that deftly juggled sweetness and chaos. Read more »

The Long Blondes

Lusty glam rock
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PREVIEW When the Long Blondes arrived in November 2006 in fits of preening twirls and smoldering pouts with the decadent disco/new wave revamps of Someone to Drive You Home (Rough Trade), we'd at last found worthy successors to Pulp's lip-gloss-and-sweat–smeared velvet crown. Read more »

Unlock your Sons and Daughters

Nothing but broken bottles and dark-corner encounters to be regretted the morning after with this foursome
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Raw, skin-glistening sensuality and brooding, lip-curled menace — ah, what a combination at the club. There's something to be said for straddling the edge of a knife like that, simultaneously titilutf8g and unsettling those witnessing the spectacle onstage. When my partner and I first caught the fearsomely hot 'n' bothered Scottish quartet Sons and Daughters at a music-shop appearance in their hometown of Glasgow back in 2005, we were spellbound, rendered immobile in a mighty glue of arousal and trepidation. Read more »

Talking 'bout pop

Berkeley's Morning Benders hark back to the glory of '60s songwriting
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Ah, to be young and in love. Or out of love, for that matter. Or maybe even charting the leaps and wobbles of the heart up and down the romantic continuum, wondering all the while if this romance thing ever gets any easier. The drama, the pure blazing surge and spark of it all. Read more »

One ear to the ground

Yousef Al-Mohaimeed's storytelling transcends bans
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REVIEW Ah, the morality police — you've gotta love 'em. At least artists who get free publicity from the overzealous watchdogs should. Read more »

Noise Pop: Up from under

The Gutter Twins recast grunge
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Salvation can come to us in the strangest of places, but it takes a special person to search it out in the sordid, cigarette butt-cluttered back alleys where the daylight never creeps in. While most of us might cower in the darkness, vocalists Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan have each built careers from reveling in it, offering contrasting - but curiously compatible - dissections of life in the shadows. As frontman for the Afghan Whigs and the Twilight Singers, Dulli has waxed romantic about tortured love and shady midnight dealings. Read more »

Your cassette pet

Rob Sheffield writes the book of mixtape love
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REVIEW How's this for a universal truth: if you've ever given a good goddamn about music and you've ever been touched by someone in your life (or wanted to be touched, as the case may be), you've surely sat yourself down and made a mixtape to put all of those feelings into 90 minutes or less. Read more »

Nailed

The Pine Box Boys revive the murder ballad for horrorbilly heads
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The name should tip you off right from the get-go: the Pine Box Boys. Now, I don't want to venture any guesses about your mama, but my mama didn't raise any fools, so when I hear the words pine box, I see the words dead body. Then I shudder: caskets creep me out.

Not so for the San Francisco foursome. These long-haired death defiers give the Grim Reaper a nipple twist or two with their waggishly pitch-black tales of murder, misery, and mayhem, and we shouldn't want it any other way. Read more »

Adrift and lovin' it

Castanets' Ray Raposa is caught rambling
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It couldn't have happened any other way, really: Ray Raposa, the wise-beyond-his-years voice behind the Castanets moniker, is chatting with me by phone from a motel room. As a chronicler of the wandering spirit and a champion of the blue highways who has spent many of his days on the road — ever since completing high school at 15 in order to roam the country by bus — Raposa is entirely qualified to discuss his latest disc, In the Vines (Asthmatic Kitty), from such familiar turf. Read more »