Like a sequel to Hitchcock’s The Birds, suddenly the Duhks are everywhere. NPR, The Washington Post, No Depression mag, KPFT’s World Cafe...It seems the media can’t get enough of these five Winnepegians. Twentysomethings with oodles of music schooling, the Duhks play roots music, twisting it up with nods to other genres.

The band recently was signed by Sugar Hill Records, so comparisons to the label’s flagship act Nickel Creek immediately spring to mind, but the song “Mists of Down Below” reminds us of another Sugar Hill act — namely, the brainy Northeast roots-jam band Railroad Earth. Produced by Bela Fleck and Gary Paczosa, the self-titled album might be a little too clean and often proceeds at a measured, restrained pace, although occasionally the pickers loosen their grip on the reins with jammy instrumentals like “Gene’s Machine.” I suspect their live shows have more verve than their recording.

While the band anchors itself in old-timey music (most of the cuts are new arrangements of traditionals), it has a distinct New Age aura. Lead singer Jessica Havey (there’s never an article that doesn’t prominently mention her prominent tattoos, so there!) has a smooth, bluesy, quite dramatic voice that on the surface wouldn’t seem to mate well with the Duhks’ Celtic and Appalachian musical explorations. But it’s exactly this dissonance that makes the package work on tracks like “Four Blue Walls” or “Death Came A Knockin’,” whose Latin drumming and percussive banjo sound like Odetta in a session with Arthur Fielder’s Delta blues symphonic minions. Ringer guests like Fleck, Irish songwriting legend Paul Brady, and top-of-the-line bassists Victor Wooten and Edgar Meyer add priceless embellishments. — William Michael Smith

Electric Eel Shock
Electric Eel Shock
The Bravery
The Bravery

Wednesday, March 16, at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999.

Hot Hot Heat with Louis XIV

A major-label band touring an album before it’s released? And it’s not due to “packaging technologies” à la Spinal Tap? Can it be? Crazy as it sounds, Hot Hot Heat has decided to tour the States for the month before the release of their major-label debut, Elevators. It could all be a ploy to maintain indie cred in the face of Sire Records’ big bucks, but odds are it’s just to warm up new guitarist Luke Paquin. While they’ve officially offered only a few clues to the new full-length (the single “Goodnight, Goodnight” and some studio video clips on their Web site), it would seem the band has kept on with its garage/new-wave stylings. So those who want to know what the new album is gonna sound like better get to the show.

Tagging along on this rock and roll revival are San Diego’s own rock and roll revivalists, Louis XIV. These new pretenders to the throne don’t take much thought; they’re in it for the rock and roll. They walk the line of classic garage rockers and able balladeers without too much difficulty. For a new band, they’ve certainly got the formula, right down to the heavy use of naked females in their cover art. All in all, the bands are a good match, so muss up your hair and get ready. — Chris True

Wednesday, March 16, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

Xiu Xiu

San Jose queer-centric soft rockers Xiu Xiu have been able to successfully weave a plush down comforter of unidentifiable influences — a you-can’t-peg-us factor to the nth degree. At times, Jamie Stewart’s voice quivers and rattles over straight, angular post-punk; at others, it aches over syrupy, rich acoustic guitars; and occasionally, it soars above an electronic orchestra. An unrepentant current of sexuality pulses throughout — swimming just below the surface but ever-present, like a great white’s dorsal fin. Stewart’s gargantuan, longing lust has trapped him in a prison of his own desire. Think that’s “gay,” in the junior high sense? Well, dig these lyrics: “Cremate me after you cum on my lips / Honey boy / Place my ashes in a vase beneath your workout bench.” — Brian McManus

Saturday, March 12, at Mary Jane’s Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.


It’s tough to figure out Vice Records. On the one hand, they employ the smart, Brit-proud, smoked-out rap clique the Streets, who — while devoid of the flow American audiences are accustomed to — are cool and risky in their own right. The label also snorts pulverizing disco power duo Death from Above 1979 and hotly hyped dance-music makers Bloc Party, while at the same time taking long tokes on serious downers Panthers, whose tambourine-laden hand claps gently cup the balls of pompadoured rock revivalists, and whose political bent has been lifted directly from the plate of Nation of Ulysses. Sometimes shaking the musical snow globe can be a beautiful thing, but such you-dropped-your-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate moments are rare. More often than not, mixing the quick with the slow is a surefire recipe for a messy coronary collapse. With a sister magazine that’s been covering the culture of drug debauchery for over a decade, seems like Vice should know this. — Brian McManus

Early show, Wednesday, March 16, at the Proletariat, 903 Richmond, 713-523-1199.

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