Sondre Lerche, and the Golden Republic, with Chris Sacco
Mixing two pre-existing products in an innovative way qualifies as inventive, regardless of how often they've been used in other combinations and contexts. When Reese's earned kudos (not the granola kind) for mixing peanut butter and chocolate, it didn't matter that peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches already existed or that George Washington Carver had paved the alternately creamy and chunky path.
In recent musical history, bands have revived '80s-era keyboards, '70s-style glam rock and '60s psychedelic garage, but few have attempted all at once. Kansas City's Golden Republic retains the essential ingredients of each period -- an arcadelike flurry of bleeps, a percussive pulse that occasionally slides into a discofied drumbeat, fuzzy feedback, cooing choruses -- while swirling them into an unrecognizable form. Listeners might not instantly identify the dish, but they'll taste familiar flavors.
People, the band's current CD, starts with a swaggering stomp and ends with an ethereal acoustic number. Though they share little in terms of mood or pace, these catchy tunes both highlight harmonic backing vocals. The Golden Republic establishes its distinct voice in these common threads between its stylistic experiments and the way it reinforces its melodies with the illusion of choral magnitude, keeping its riffs sharp and succinct.
Sondre Lerche possesses the type of adorable personality that makes Care Bears seem like juvenile delinquents. The Bergen, Norway, native's online journal expounds on the virtues of green papaya -- "Such a good fruit when eaten at the right time and place. Great for breakfast, maybe with a bagle [sic] and cream cheese" -- with the same enthusiasm he projects in a telephone interview. ("I asked you, 'How are you?' and then you asked me, 'How are you?' and I said, 'Good, how are you?' We could go on forever!" he exclaims after some particularly circuitous repartee.)
The troubadour backs up his sparkling disposition with a knack for equally lovely songwriting. After releasing 2001's Faces Down when he was merely a doe-eyed, mop-topped 18-year-old, Lerche returned this year with Two Way Monologue. A lush and fanciful album schooled in the orchestration of the Beatles and Burt Bacharach, Monologue is incredibly poised. "I wanted to make everything a bit more intimate, something that is a bit more homogenic in a way than the Faces Down record," he explains. "Where Faces Down was all kinds of colors, this is more different shades of one color." -- Andrew Miller and Annie Zaleski
Thursday, November 18, at the Rhythm Room, 1815 Washington Avenue, 713-863-0943.
Saul Williams is a busy man. He wrote and starred in the poetry film Slam. He has published three books of poetry, most recently Said the Shotgun to the Head. In 2001, he released his first spoken word album, Amethyst Rock Star, which he recited over hard-knocking hip-hop beats reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine.
For his latest, self-titled album, Williams says he "wanted something that was weird. And if it didn't sound weird, then I wanted my vocals to come off as unique. I was aiming for stuff I hadn't heard before." Which is, in this case, a melange of hip-hop, disco-punk dissonance and even gritty industrial tracks backing Williams's visceral, thought-provoking poetry, all of which Williams will present in a full-band setting for the first time in Houston. -- Travis Ritter
Wednesday, November 24, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
With vocals reminiscent of Elliott Smith (to whom new album Treble and Tremble is dedicated) and, at times, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Earlimart songs are mixtures of electronic noise, guitars, lush orchestrations and straight-ahead pop. This is a band of serious musicians that makes serious songs for serious music lovers, and there are definitely worse things than that.
With Treble and Tremble, Earlimart has crafted one of the most easily accessible indie rock records of 2004. Lead singer Aaron Espinoza writes great songs -- "Sounds" could be my choice for song of the year, and on Treble and Tremble, he and his fellow Californians manage to cross genres and finally clothe Earlimart in much fresher gear than the tired Pixies cast-offs they had long been wearing. -- David A. Cobb
Friday, November 19, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521.
Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys
Lightweight entertainers suffer from acid reflux (hey, Ashlee!), survive on a steady cocktail of water and lemon, and form far-too-dependent relationships with their personal trainers. Biggie-sized entertainers have more fun pound for pound. For this, the man at the center of Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys is in good company with other famous big guys (Big Bopper, Notorious B.I.G., etc.). Sandy has crooned on more than 11 albums with his boys and sung on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The band's sound is a buffet of genres, from rockabilly to country and western to swing, with all things Americana in between. What comes across is a sound all their own -- something that can be enjoyed equally by you and your parents. -- Terra Sullivan
Friday, November 19, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899.
When it comes to San Diego rock alumni, Hot Snakes has the pedigree of a prize-winning show dog. The band is a beast birthed from the loins of SD groups such as Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Tanner, Pitchfork and Clikitat Ikatowi. And whereas some of those bands are still kicking, Hot Snakes exists as the bastard child of a time when independent music was driving old Econoline vans, sleeping on floors and being pissed at the world but still optimistic enough to think a few chords and screams could make a difference. Deceptively simple, Hot Snakes is a chaotic mess of screaming and kicking, a punk-rock mash of piss and vitriol. -- Greg Franklin
Sunday, November 21, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-JANE.
Tegan & Sara, with Melissa Ferrick
The whole girl-with-a-guitar genre is like your first "A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle" bumper sticker: Its overt earnestness is initially very empowering and, subsequently, extremely embarrassing once you've moved out of the dorm and into the messy, "post-feminist" world full of things like strap-ons and Peaches (wait -- is that redundant?). So Jealous, the third album from twin Canadian girls-with-a-guitar Tegan and Sara, epitomizes coming to terms with that shift in perspective. The year 2000's This Business of Art was all coffee-shop confessionals for the baby dyke set, while 2003's If It Was You was a sort of indie rock rebellion against the DiFranco aesthetic. On So Jealous, the sisters' brittle little voices process relationships over catchy hooks and garage-rock grinding. The album is about finding a balance between the fervent girl power of one's youth and the tempering of that ardor by the big, bad world -- and ending up with a well-rounded, grown-up and, ultimately, pretty damn likable sound in the process. -- Rachel Devitt
Monday, November 22, at the Rhythm Room, 1815 Washington Avenue, 713-863-0943.
Vice Records Tour, featuring Panthers, Vietnam and Death from Above 1979
When Vice magazine launched about ten years ago, it was groundbreaking. It mixed its influences -- skateboarding, hip-hop, fashion, sleaze -- and expressed them in rare moments of poignancy and none-too-rare moments of we-don't-give-a-fuck. Its firebreathing chic caught on, and soon its ideas -- once a mere snowflake -- combined to form an apocalyptic avalanche that threatens to bury us all: Vice stores, Vice clothing, Vice books, Vice records and, now, a Vice tour. Three of the label's less visible acts are teaming up strength-in-numbers-style for a genre-unspecific tour. Radio-friendly fashion preeners Panther, scuzzed-out and fuzzed-out dance duo Death from Above 1979, and Lou Reed-tinged hippy blues ramblers Vietnam should prove to be a musically eclectic mind-humping. What's more, the tour is co-sponsored by the sweet and tart malt-liquor energy drink Sparks, which has taken the hipster scenes in both Austin and New York by storm. It will be available for purchase for the first time in Houston at the show. Even if you end up hating all three acts, you can walk out with a Sparks-orange tongue, a tummy full of pre-puke and a head full of fog. Just the way Vice would want it. -- Brian McManus
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Saturday, November 20, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.
Joe Gracey and Kimmie Rhodes
Joe Gracey's coming back to town this week. It's not just music that brings the legendary Austin disc jockey, music critic and killer country and Americana record producer our way this time -- it's mainly cooking, his other passion. For the last couple of years, Gracey has contributed numerous articles and recipes to Saveur magazine, and he and his wife, recording artist Kimmie Rhodes, have penned a cookbook. On November 20, Gracey and Rhodes will be at Central Market whipping up a menu of Hansruedi family salade from Switzerland; red pepper, mushroom and pork soup from Spain, polenta with porcini sauce from Italy, salsiccia nostrana (grilled sausage with cannellini) from Italy, and Spanish lemon crema. As always, Gracey and Rhodes will serve up their delectable comestibles with plenty of stories, songs and good times. Tickets are $50. -- John Nova Lomax
Saturday, November 20, Central Market, 3815 Westheimer, 713-386-1700.