Todd Lavoie

Year in Music: Bling

Frenzied xylophones in 2007
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There's no getting around it: for me, 2007 was the year of the vibes, case closed. But before anyone gets the wrong idea and paints me as a hacky sack–thwacking trustafarian slathered in sandalwood oil and picking chunks of crusted hummus from my beard, let me qualify: those ain't the kind of vibes I'm a-grooving on. Nah, we're talking vibraphones here. You know, aluminum bars, mallets, the whole bit, just like Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, and Cal Tjader used to rock. And while we're at it, let's throw in xylophones, glockenspiels, and marimbas too. Read more »

Take Dap

Sharon Jones and the Dap-kings get their due
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Take it from me: with our purist hearts and crate-digging proclivities, we true-blue soul believers and bright-eyed funk freaks tend to be a pretty devoted lot, but Brooklyn Stax-Motown revivalists Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings inspire a level of commitment that would make even Dr. Phil blush. A friend of mine loves to tell me about the time she spent her last $15 to get into their show in Austin, Texas. There she was, penniless, thirsty, and without a paycheck in sight for another week, and none of it mattered. Read more »

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: The Mekons

The love of The Mekons
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I used to think this was such a self-deprecating title — The Curse of The Mekons — but over the years I've come to a much different conclusion about the declaration being made by these punk–post-punk–posteverything spark plugs on their landmark 1991 Blast First album. Now celebrating their third decade together as a band, the Mekons do indeed suffer from a curse: their ability to switch effortlessly from style to style, sometimes even within the same song, without a single slip. Oh, affliction of afflictions! Read more »

Moving out ...

... and making music with White Williams
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Imagine this: You're enrolled in an educational program that requires you to move around from city to city, taking short-term jobs related to your field. Within a span of two years, you bump around between New York, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and San Francisco, subletting rooms and taking on bizarro living arrangements, never staying in one place long enough ever to feel settled in. Due to these circumstances, you rarely have a moment's peace. Amid all the bustling, your number-one goal remains the same: record an entire album by yourself at home — wherever that may be. Read more »

Ride the dark horse

The graceful fury of the Besnard Lakes
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Is there a single animal on God's once-green Earth that is as closely equated with drama and pageantry as the mighty horse? Powerful, elegant, showy as all hell — it's no wonder we've cultivated such a fascination for them, particularly when it comes to using them as signifiers. Equus, anyone? Or how about Patti Smith? When she torched the rock 'n' roll playbook with her revolution more than 30 years ago, which animals did she pick to lead the charge? Lions? Bears? Squirrels? Read more »

Class of 2007: Kira Lynn Cain

Film Appreciation Society, art club, Existential Smokers Alliance
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CLUBS Film Appreciation Society, art club, Existential Smokers Alliance

QUOTE "It won't be honest if I decide from the beginning what the song's going to be about."

"Growing up, I was never really exposed to much pop culture that came out after the '60s," haunted-dream singer-songwriter Kira Lynn Cain reveals as an explanation of her elegant — and occasionally sinister — torch songs from bygone black-and-white eras. Read more »

Mates of down-home states

Riding a wave of love for Or, the Whale
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I might as well just fess up and own it: as much as I love the concrete and anonymity of the city, I'll always remain a country boy at heart. I grew up in a town of 2,000 people, where everyone knew one another's business. Intimately. Moose in the backyard were a regular occurrence. Country music was everywhere. Potato-sack racing and the 4-H club played an integral part of my childhood, as odd as it is to contemplate such things over the din of traffic outside. Read more »

Local Live

Karpov at Great American Music Hall, July 13
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LOCAL LIVE "I think we might have chosen the wrong drinks for tonight," my friend Damian remarked at the start of an inspiring set by local Appalachian-Gypsy-klezmer folk fusionists Karpov. As they transported us to the unmapped intersection where Kentucky and Romania meet, I could see my buddy's point. There they were — mountain men spinning tar-black tales of loneliness and love run afoul over clarinet twists and robust churns of the accordion. And here we were — sipping away on cocktails! Read more »

L.A.'s dark side

Midnight Movies bare the grit of the Sunset Strip
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Just as many Angelenos surely paint San Francisco as a fog-ridden vortex crawling with hippies, a lot of folks here in the Bay Area remain convinced that Los Angeles means little more than sunshine, surfers, and superficiality. So who's right? Neither, to be fair. Take LA: insist that it's all shiny and sparkly, and you're skipping over the seedy and sordid bits of the city's history (also known as "the good stuff"). What about James Ellroy, Raymond Chandler, film noir? And what of the darkness and disillusionment of the Doors and Love? Read more »

I just wanna testify

The Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club preach the gospel
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In high school I was a band geek. OK, not quite: I was never cool enough to make it into the inner circle of the Blackbirds Marching Band, and so — odd duck that I was — I'd be left flapping around on the outer margins of the football stadium bleachers while all the hilarity and revelry that a pack of gangly teenagers in polyester and feathery headgear can muster would carry on without notice of me and my forlorn little trumpet. Read more »