Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson brings final ‘Pet Sounds’ tour to Kirby Center
Fifty years after the release of “Pet Sounds,” the album’s composer and primary vocalist treats fans to a tour full of good vibrations before muting the record.
Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson kicked off an international tour of the 1966 album at the beginning of last year, only to extend the tour for an additional 37 shows this year.
And Wilkes-Barre made the cut.
Wilson brings his “Pet Sounds: The Final Performances” tour to the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday, May 2, at 8 p.m. as a part of the venue’s PNC Celebrity Series.
“We do it on stage exactly like the record,” Wilson said in a recent phone interview. “We duplicate it.”
For longtime Beach Boys fans, this concert will be one for the ages, as Wilson said this is the last tour he will perform “Pet Sounds” in full. Joining him on the tour are former Beach Boys members Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin.
Although the tour marks the 50th anniversary of the album, Wilson said it feels like just yesterday when it was released.
“I think the harmonies and the melodies are what people like most,” he said.
According to the California native, the trio performs “Pet Sounds” in full during each show, while also highlighting a number of other Beach Boys favorites, including favorites such as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows” and “Caroline, No.”
Due to his unique approach to song composition, Wilson is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential figures in popular music. He co-wrote, arranged, produced and performed more than two dozen Top 40 hits with the Beach Boys. “Pet Sounds” was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, along with the singles “I Get Around” in 2017, “California Girls” in 2011, “In My Room” in 1999 and “Good Vibrations” in 1994.
“The day we recorded ‘Good Vibrations’ was the highlight of my life,” Wilson said. “The guys said, ‘Hey Brian, this is going to be a No. 1 record.’”
Wilson’s life was recently documented in the critically-acclaimed 2014 film, “Love & Mercy,” starring Paul Dano and John Cusack. The 74-year-old also released his second book in October, “I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir.”
He said he still pulls inspiration from people and music around him, including his wife, Paul McCartney and the late Chuck Berry. Even though this tour marks the final one for “Pet Sounds,” Wilson said he is nowhere near ready to retire from performing.
“Well I have to do something to look good,” he joked. “I might record a record later on this year. I haven’t written for a few years, but I’m going to be getting back into it soon.”
— charlotte l. jacobson
If you go
What: Pet Sounds: The Final Performances featuring Brian Wilson
When: Tuesday, May 2;
doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $59.50 to $125, available through the box office, 570-826-1100 or
kirbycenter.org. For more information,
LOS CAMPESINOS — “Sick Scenes”
THE GOOD: Welsh indie rockers Los Campesinos regroup and release their sixth.
THE BAD: No Los album is a masterpiece. Every collection comes with both violent bits of youthful exuberance and misguided self-indulgent passages. Recorded in Portugal with long-time collaborator John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Blonde Redhead), “Sick Scenes” follows that pattern.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Fans also have to come to grips with the fact that lyricist Gareth David and all the wild kids next door are getting older and their songs are maturing. The contemplative “The Fall of Home,” with its bouts of insecurity and loneliness, would have felt out of place on 2008’s blistering “Hold on Now, Youngster.”
Thankfully, “Scenes” is not an entirely calm affair — far from it. Tracks such as the stomping “Sad Suppers” and the jittery “5 Flucloxacillin” still rip up the room while David spits out his usual lyrical vitriol. Just be prepared for some more ambitious arrangements and experimentation across the album’s second half. You have to at least pretend to grow up sometime.
BUY IT?: Yeah.
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH — “The Tourist”
THE GOOD: Philadelphia-based indie rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (now a “brand” as opposed to an actual band) come back with a focused fifth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After years of members jumping ship, the only man left standing is singer/songwriter/brains-behind-the-operation Alec Ounsworth. But that’s not a bad thing, for “Tourist” is easily his most satisfying set of songs in a decade.
Producing music light years away from the disco-fied goofiness of “Satan Said Dance,” Ounsworth now brings a new intensity to the table by injecting some personal trauma into the work. The drama adds danger, yet “Tourist” finds the man coming out the other end relatively unscathed.
Long-time collaborator Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) adds some sonic meat to the mix as well. The end result is rich and serious with solid melodies to boot, thanks to tracks such as “Better Off” and “The Vanity of Trying” even resembling some of Radiohead’s more infectious moments.
BUY IT?: Yes.
COLD WAR KIDS — “L.A. Divine”
THE GOOD: California indie rockers Cold War Kids come back with their sixth.
THE BAD: Same as above
THE NITTY GRITTY: It’s easy to write reviews about records that are either amazing or dreadful. The toughest reviews are ones about records that are just “there.” That mundane description pretty much sums up the entire CWK catalog. None of their albums are outright terrible. The band’s jittery mix of rock and indie pop with a smattering of soul isn’t all that disagreeable.
Frontman Nathan Willett and his crew have even come up with a few semi-cool gems along the way. There was the group’s debut underground hit “Hang Me Out To Dry,” followed by all those variations of … “Hang Me Out To Dry.”
“L.A. Divine” is the boys’ sixth set, but it may as well be their second or their fourth. If you like these guys, by all means, indulge. If you don’t, the new album won’t change any established opinions.
BUY IT?: Whatever. I’m bored.
Record Store Day enters its 10th year on Saturday, April 22, as music lovers throughout Northeast Pennsylvania engage in the worldwide celebration by gathering at participating local record stores to buy and listen to music.
Joe Nardone Jr., co-owner of Gallery of Sound — which has locations in the Fashion Mall in Dickson City, Laurel Mall Strip Center in Hazleton and at 186 Mundy St. in Wilkes-Barre — has participated in the event since its inception and witnessed it change and grow over the years.
“The first year we only had a few (special releases). … It’s blown up into a 300-release day for all different types of music,” Nardone said. “Some people find different things on the list and try to get a copy for themselves. It’s kind of evolved into a treasure hunt kind of day.”
Nardone believes there’s something for everybody. He noted that most of the day’s special releases are vinyls, but there also are a few CD and cassette releases. In addition to free items at stores, the day features merchandise releases, such as a “Star Wars”-themed turntable, while Record Store Day’s official beer, Dogfish Head, puts out a special compilation album.
“There’s a few things from the Cure, there’s a Grateful Dead release that’s never been out before, (and) there’s a Smiths special single that hasn’t been around in a long time,” Nardone said.
Additionally, from 2 to 7 p.m. at Gallery of Sound’s Mundy Street location, audiences can hear live music from Aaron Fink, Death Valley Dreams, Charles Havira, Rockology All Stars and Inner Temple. The morning and night feature vinyl DJs.
R.J. Harrington, owner of Embassy Vinyl, 352 Adams Ave., Scranton, also has participated in Record Store Day for the past decade. He said the event always creates a great atmosphere in the store. People go to record stores to see free live music and end up making purchases, or they go to buy something and listen to bands they might not have otherwise heard.
“It’s a door that opens both ways, in a good way,” Harrington said. “You go out to it with the right attitude, to support small business … and you also go out and support local musicians.”
Embassy Vinyl plans to pack the store with new vinyl releases and eclectic live music from Westpoint, Poison Thorn (a DJ set), Spur, Rest, University Drive, Gold Gauze, Old Charades and Worn.
“We’re going to be having live bands here pretty much all day, from noon till when we close,” Harrington said.
Jay Notartomaso, owner of Musical Energi, 24 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, said the store is excited about this year’s Record Store Day releases.
“There’s a lot of good stuff this year,” Notartomaso said. “It’s a lot better than the last two years.”
Musical Energi, which has existed for roughly 30 years and began celebrating Record Store Day years ago after transitioning from selling used to new and used items, opens early on Saturday and features live music later in the day. Notartomaso plans to raffle off gift certificates and merchandise, and customers also can expect to find giveaways and discounts on certain items.
Notartomaso urged music fans to “come out and hang out in the record store for a while.”
Nardone stressed the significance of the day, which has turned into a celebration of independent record stores and local music.
“When this started 10 years ago, the number of record stores was in huge decline, and since that time the decline sort of stopped and more shops opened,” Nardone said.
— peter shaver
The Claypool Lennon Delirium, “Lime and Limpid Green”
“I like this title because the group featuring Sean Lennon and Les Claypool has already released some pretty interesting music so far. The release is special because these songs are cover songs put together specifically for Record Store Day on a green 10-inch vinyl record.”
— Joe Nardone Jr., owner of the Gallery of Sound
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Hammersmith Odeon London ‘75”
“It doesn’t get any better than Bruce and the band live. Following the release of the classic ‘Born To Run’ album, this was the band’s first concert appearance outside of the United States. Recorded Nov. 18, 1975, this album roars with ‘Thunder Road,’ ‘Backstreets,’ ‘Kitty’s Back,’ ‘Detroit Medley’ and more.”
— Jim Reeser, The Citizens’ Voice sports editor
“I’m a sucker for picture discs, and this 12-inch includes two of the bands greatest hits — ‘Africa’ and ‘Rosanna.’ This limited edition, special release also marks the band’s 40th anniversary, and with their 40th anniversary tour coming to the F.M. Kirby Center on June 18, I suggest scooping this one up and trying to get it signed at the concert.”
— Will Beekman, executive director of the F.M. Kirby Center
Jason Isbell, “Welcome To 1979”
“As much as I love Jason Isbell’s original work, I’m very excited about this vinyl-only, live covers album he’s releasing for RSD. It features covers of John Prine, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and others. It also features a live version of ‘Never Gonna Change,’ an Isbell original which he wrote when he was with the Drive-By Truckers. This is a must-have for any Jason Isbell fan. Hey, Joe Nardone, help a brother out!”
— Will Beekman
The Claypool Lennon Delirium, “Lime and Limpid Green”
“So many to choose from, but I’m really looking forward to the Claypool Lennon Delirium’s 10-inch EP, mostly because their release last year was one of my favorites and I can’t wait to hear more from them.”
— Jay Notartomaso, owner of Musical Energi
“Dr. Who and the Pescatons”
“This vinyl reissue of the soundtrack makes a great addition to any Whovian’s collection, and I hope to secure it on Record Store Day.”
— Kristen Gaydos, The Citizens’ Voice assistant city editor
JENS LEKMAN — “Life Will See You Now”
THE GOOD: Swedish indie pop singer/songwriter Jens Lekman returns with a bold, colorful fourth full-length album.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Lekman diligently polished his songwriting craft over the past two years. After scrapping a potential follow-up to 2012’s “I Know What Love Isn’t,” the man embarked on the “Postcards” project that found him writing and releasing a new song each week for an entire year. In the end, that’s a LOT of practice, and that practice has paid off.
The new record is a luminous, layered pop triumph, boasting 10 tracks that find the man expanding his musical palette and embracing folk-pop, twee, disco and bossa-nova. This also is the first time Lekman worked with an outside producer, collaborating with Ewan Pearson (The Rapture, Ladytron). Again, fresh ears mean fresh sounds that encompass everything from Kings of Convenience to vintage Everything But the Girl. Tracey Thorn even shows up for a cameo on the charming “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel.”
BUY IT?: Yes.
TENNIS — “Yours Conditionally”
THE GOOD: Colorado indie rock duo Tennis (husband-and-wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore) come back with a breezy fourth.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The pair’s sparkling debut, 2010’s “Cape Dory,” was inspired by an extended sailing trip the two took after graduating from college. For “Yours Conditionally,” the couple got back on the boat for some sunny rejuvenation.
It must have worked. The new record is another divine collection of classic pop melodies combined with Moore’s slightly sardonic lyrical observations. You have to love the over the-top character plowing through “My Emotions Are Blinding” or the sarcasm permeating “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar.”
Musically, there’s a certain timelessness to these songs. One could accuse Tennis of being stuck in the land of “Pet Sounds” or “Odessey and Oracle,” yet the duo’s tunes retain an amazing freshness grounded in our current culture. Moore’s strong feminine vocals always lead us through tracks both precious and elegant. So even when some lyrics don’t “play nice,” the entire set remains graceful.
BUY IT?: Definitely.
GRANDADDY — “Last Place”
THE GOOD: Late ’90s/early 2000s indie rockers Grandaddy reform for album five.
THE BAD: Sequencing is a slight issue. “Last Place” is comprised of two distinct halves — the sunny, poppy beginning and the somber conclusion. MOST of the record’s best moments occur during the first half.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Considering what he was going through at the time of the recording process though, it’s amazing that songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jason Lytle churned out ANYTHING decidedly cheerful. After moving to Portland, Oregon, from rural Montana in order to save his marriage, the guy ended up getting divorced anyway.
But even the creeping depression and mundane days of middle age can bring about excellent pop tunes. Tracks like “Way We Won’t” and “Brush with the Wild” are further shimmering examples of the infectious stuff that held us captivated 15 years ago. And when the man slows down matters to a crawl, tunes such as the gorgeous “That’s What You Get for Gettin’ Outta Bed” keep us glued to lilting bits of melancholy.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Roll all night
As revelers heading to the 37th annual Rock 107 Birthday Bash gear up for the concert blowout tonight at the Woodlands Inn & Resort, Plains Twp., perhaps no one is more excited than Foghat’s Roger Earl.
“I love a party,” the drummer and sole remaining founding band member said.
Foghat hits the stage at approximately 10:30 p.m., and doors open at 7. Entertainment before the main act includes sets by Flaxy Morgan, 7800° Fahrenheit — A Tribute To Bon Jovi and Facing the Giants. The traditional giant birthday cake, door prizes and a cash bar also will be back for the 21-or-older event.
Earl spoke recently by phone from outside his sunny Florida studio, where the English group — known for the classic blues-rock hits “Slow Ride,” “Fool for the City” and “Drivin’ Wheel” plus a standout cover of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” — practices and records. He promised Birthday Bash guests a mixed bag of all the recognizable singles as well as a taste of his band’s newest album, “Under the Influence,” which continues Foghat’s signature catalog of funk-, blues- and R&B-infused rock music.
Citing artists like the late Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, he explained that his music endures because its predecessors are rooted in rock history.
“It was always about the music with Foghat. Our biggest influence is blues music. … We altered it a bit to suit us. That music’s been here since the ’40s — if you count jazz and bebop in that heritage — and it’s still here,” Earl said. “Rock ‘n’ roll endured as part of an American tradition. I don’t think (it’s) a fad. (Late Foghat frontman) Lonesome Dave said it once: asked why he likes blues and rock, he said it has an honesty about it.
“It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but we like it,” he added, joking, “That wasn’t our song, was it?”
Earl splits his time between homes in Florida and Long Island, New York, and several family members will travel to Northeast Pennsylvania for tonight’s show. Audiences at Foghat concerts have grown more multi-generational over the years, he noted, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have some fans with us for many years we’ve been doing this, but I’m really excited turning younger folks and new fans on. We have a lot of young people turned on by grandparents and siblings. That’s what’s enabled the band to keep playing on,” Earl explained. “I feel very fortunate at this time in life that I can earn a decent living doing 60 or 70 shows a year.”
The band will mix up the setlist to keep longtime listeners and show-goers happy, and though the musicians might dance a little less on stage these days, Earl quipped, guests can expect an energetic show full of music they love.
“The selfish part of being a musician is we do it because we love doing it,” he said. “(But) I’m very grateful being able to do this. Life is real good.”
— patrice wilding
If you go
What: 37th annual Rock 107 Birthday Bash featuring Foghat
When: Tonight; doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: Woodlands Inn & Resort, 1073 Route 315, Plains Twp.
Details: Tickets are free through the Rock 107 mobile app, text and email club plus online at rock107.com. Guests also can buy tickets at the door for $15.
Behind the Grey is coming back strong Friday at the Other Side, Wilkes-Barre, with a new lineup and fresh music down the pipe. The metal band consists of, from left: Grant Williams, bass; Mike Boniewicz, drums; Dom Vito, vocals; Will Perna, guitar; and Daniel McDonald, guitar.
Nothing can stop Behind the Grey from doing what it loves — making music and performing for its fans.
And after a year of ups and downs for the band, both personally and professionally, the group is coming back strong with a new lineup and fresh music down the pipe.
The lineup consists of original members Will Perna on guitar, Mike Boniewicz on drums and Daniel McDonald on guitar plus new vocalist Dom Vito and new bassist Grant Williams. The group also recently signed with the Inner Light Agency and manager Damon Moreno to help with its development and to rebrand the band after the recent changes. According to Perna, the management agency will help with the release of Behind the Grey’s next album by helping it get its music out to labels, booking agencies and other media.
Behind the Grey went On the Record to discuss the new lineup, upcoming music and more.
How did you each find your way to music?
Will Perna: I got into music later in my teens. I didn’t start playing guitar till I was 16 or 17 years old. A friend of mine introduced me to a band called Deftones, and I was hooked. Once I saw them, I said, “I want to do that for the rest of my life.”
Grant Williams: Dad was a guitar player, but I was never interested. When he died, I picked up music almost as a way to repay some kind of debt I owed him. Trying instruments led me to bass, and I knew it was where I belonged almost instantly.
Dom Vito: My great-grandfather was a vocalist and a guitar player. He inspired me at a young age and was my motivation to initially become a musician.
Daniel McDonald: Seeing a cover band in the ’90s got me into wanting to play, and around that time my oldest brother started playing in a band. I was bit by the music bug.
Mike Boniewicz: I was a drum tech/roadie for a cover band when I was 13. It pushed me to want to play.
How are you feeling about your first performance together as a full band?
WP: We’ve all played together for years, but this will be the first time we’ve been in a collective project together. We’re very excited to get out and play for everyone. We’re going to come out swinging!
DV: (Friday) will be our first time performing alongside of Grant on stage. It’s a very exciting feeling to have such a great and reputable musician in this group. Also very excited to showcase some of the new music we’ve been working on.
Is your next album going to be very similar musically to “Through the Grip of Tyrants,” or are you taking it in a new direction?
WP: The new material still has “our sound,” but it has grown. Personally, I really wanted to push the envelop with the new material. I wanted the heavy to be heavier and the big choruses to be bigger. We don’t have a title or release date yet. We’re very much in the beginning stages, so we’re just not there yet.
DV: The writing process has been going very smoothly with the new lineup. Our music isn’t changing; however, we have been experimenting with a slightly different feel for the new material as well as trying to progress and mature as musicians in the process. We’re trying to simply present a new flavor to our music while keeping our original sound as the foundation.
How have you changed as a musician over the years?
WP: I’d like to think I’ve grown as a songwriter. Being able to “cut the fate” out of a song and make it as strong as it can be. I’ve been trying my best to look at our music and songs as a whole rather then just sections and take the listener into account more.
GW: I’ve exposed myself to more genres of music. You’ve gotta get out of your comfort zone to do any kind of growing. Music is certainly no exception.
DV: I’ve progressed as a musician more then I ever have over the past few years. On my down time, I’ve been recording my own solo album while also writing/recording various songs and experimenting with different genres of music for the sake of becoming a better writer and a solid player of the instruments I do play. Music is my life. It’s all I ever do with myself.
DM: I started as a blues-style guitarist to a more hard rock/metal guy. Then I stopped for five years. When I started back up, I was trying to learn all the stuff I never learned. I am now where I want to be.
MB: I’m definitely open to more styles of music and trying anything to learn more about any of these to help grow.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?
WP: Money and time will always be against you as a musician, no matter where you’re from. It feels like you have your whole life to write your first album, then the pressure comes and feels like you have just a small window of time to write the follow-up and make it better then the first. Plus, recording and releasing albums is expensive.
DM: Meeting people that understand what that means and what it takes to be (a musician). … It usually means working a full-time job and practicing three time a week, plus shows. Everything else is family. I’m not a slacker like others like to think.
MB: Money, places to play and finding people worth playing with.
DV: Confidence was always my biggest issue. I went through stages of doubting myself, whether or not I was cut out for doing this. However, the more I beat myself up, the harder I worked.
What are your future goals for your music? Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about the band?
WP: We have plans to release new music in the near future, just to give a taste of what the new album will hold.
DV: I can only hope to someday make a living off of doing what I love to do most, which is indeed music. I want to tour and write/record as much as possible, and I’m hoping to do so alongside my brothers in this band.
DM: I just want to be able to keep playing until I die. If I can make a living, that is a plus. My band is the greatest group of friends; we always have each other’s backs.
MB: Make and release new music, get on the road and see where it goes from there.
— charlotte l. jacobson
Meet the band
Genre: Hard rock/Metal
Based out of: Scranton
Members: Dom Vito, vocals; Mike Boniewicz, drums; Daniel McDonald, guitar; Will Perna, guitar; and Grant Williams, bass
For fans of: Deftones, Sevendust and Killswitch Engage
Online: behindthegreymusic.com, Behind the Grey on Facebook
Up next: Friday, 7 p.m., the Other Side, Wilkes-Barre
April 22, 1 to 5 p.m., Misericordia Spring Jam,
Wells Fargo Amphitheater, Dallas; May 6, 9 p.m., The V-Spot, Scranton
OLD 97’S — “Graveyard Whistling”
THE GOOD: Texas alt-country and roots-rock band Old 97’s is still roaring on its 10th studio outing.
THE BAD: No.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Some of its records are better than others, but the band has NEVER made a BAD album. And after almost a quarter-century of churning out authentic honky-tonk tinged rock ‘n’ roll, “Graveyard” proves frontman Rhett Miller and his boys aren’t slowing down anytime soon. The band doesn’t alter its formula one bit, but why would it? “Graveyard” is the usual mix of rousing drunken sing-alongs (“Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls”), introspective and moody down-tempo bits (“All Who Wander”) and a couple of tracks where Miller once again plays the boyfriend who can’t catch a break (“Jesus Loves You”).
Extremely tight without a bad track, “Graveyard Whistling” will satisfy long-time fans while giving newbies a decent set with which to discover Texas’ greatest bar band.
BUY IT?: Yep.
SON VOLT — “Notes of Blue”
THE GOOD: Alt-country and roots rock mainstays Son Volt return with a concise eighth.
THE BAD: No gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Last time, frontman and guiding spirit Jay Farrar led his crew through a laid-back set of rockabilly and country swagger (2013’s “Honky Tonk”). Four years later, the band leaves behind the Buck Owens “Bakersfield” influences and moves toward the Deep South.
Despite some quieter moments, such as the swaying opener “Promise the World” and the solemn “The Storm,” “Notes of Blue” is a much more plugged-in affair. Son Volt has never shied away from sheer volume and fuzzy distortion, and those elements certainly are present here. Stomping rhythms and crackling electric guitars carry tracks such as “Cherokee St” and “Lost Souls” — a little less Nashville, a little more swamp rock.
Yet Farrar paints “Notes” with many different SHADES of blue, lending his down-home drawl to all of the extremes while coating each moment with the right amount of mud and grit.
BUY IT?: Sure.
THE SHINS – “Heartworms”
THE GOOD: Pacific Northwest indie rockers the Shins return with an accomplished fifth after a five-year hiatus.
THE BAD: Nah.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The Shins is essentially singer/songwriter/producer/instrumentalist James Mercer and a small studio/touring band. Whether the other people are official members of the group probably changes daily. It’s been that way since 2012’s “Port of Morrow.” Mercer likes to call the shots. This is NOT a democracy.
Yet the guy has the songwriting chops it takes in order to call those shots. Band or not, the Shins concoct succinct catchy tracks boasting memorable tunes and semi-intricate yet uncluttered arrangements. Mercer possesses some progressive tendencies, but he never lets them overshadow a fantastic hook breaking out atop a live or even slightly synthetic backbeat (“Painting a Hole” is even more spacey than Mercer’s Danger Mouse collaboration Broken Bells).
Those craving the more down-home tones of 2001’s “Oh, Inverted World” will devour the semi-autobiographical “Mildenhall” or the rambling and rolling “The Fear.”
BUY IT?: Yes.
THIEVERY CORPORATION — “The Temple of I & I”
THE GOOD: Still held together by founders Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, Washington, D.C., DJ/producer/instrumentalist collective Thievery Corporation comes back with its ninth.
THE BAD: Like past releases, “Temple” is slick and addictive enough. However, is it wholly authentic? Dub, reggae, house, acid jazz, bossa nova — of course they’re all here. But is every individual genre the real deal or a semi-pale imitation? That determination is purely subjective.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Don’t strain yourself thinking about it too much, and “Temple” is still quite enjoyable. From Lou Lou Ghelichkhani’s charming warbling spread over the bouncy reggae punch of “Time and Space” to Elin Melgarejo’s more seductive delivery atop the spacey dub echoes of “Lose to Find,” bits of this record are downright dreamy.
And for those craving something more aggressive or politically charged, the thudding rhythms and cries for justice carrying “Ghetto Matrix” and “Fight To Survive” (both featuring vocals by long-time collaborator Mr. Lif) will suffice.
BUY IT?: Your call.
KID KOALA featuring EMILIANA TORRINI — “Music To Draw To: Satellite”
THE GOOD: Canadian DJ/producer/multi-instrumentalist Kid Koala (born Eric San) moves in a quieter direction.
THE BAD: Those hoping for another big dose of the guy’s mad turntable skills and banging beats won’t find it here.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Koala doesn’t even use his decks much, choosing instead to focus on cozy piano, warm synths, a dash of strings and only the sparsest beats. And then there’s Icelandic nymph Emeliana Torrini adding her soft melodic chirp to half the tracks; it’s the first time Koala worked extensively with any vocal collaborator. So if you were clamoring for HER next outing, “Satellite” should tide you over.
It’s a relaxing set eliciting a haunting yet pleasant atmosphere as opposed to something that demands your attention. Koala excels in these new surroundings, displaying yet another side to his (mostly) instrumental talents. Torrini’s voice also is the perfect, gentle complement to the man’s fragile underpinnings. It’s a musical match made in heaven … or deep space.
BUY IT?: Surely.
XIU XIU — “Forget”
THE GOOD: California indie experimental collective Xiu Xiu (still the brainchild of singer/songwriter Jamie Stewart) unleashes a dissonant 13th.
THE BAD: Xiu Xiu remains a polarizing act. You either embrace the insanity or you don’t. There’s no middle ground.
THE NITTY GRITTY: I tend to feel “unclean” after listening to a Xiu Xiu set. Stewart’s quivering vocals always sound like the man wants to stab you in the eye with a fork and he’s simply mustering up the courage to do so.
The backing tracks are either extremely loud and abrasive or very quiet and outright creepy. Electronic beats mix with live percussion, cold synths mesh with grinding strings, and bursts of noise break an uneasy tranquility. This is scary stuff.
However, some of “Forget” is also downright infectious. Tracks like “Wondering” and “Jenny GoGo” are some of the most melodic and danceable bits Stewart has produced in ages. A light at the end of the tunnel? Nah, he’s probably just drawing your attention away from that fork.
BUY IT?: Yep.
Kirby Center hosts performer to celebrate release of live album
Alexis P. Suter said she got her start in music in the womb.
“My mother was, and still is, a singer,” she said. “She sang all over the world. My mother sang; she taught me to sing. All of us just started from very young with recitals at church, and we blossomed from that.”
The blues singer brings her bass/baritone vocals to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Friday at 8 p.m. to celebrate the release of the “Alexis P. Suter Ministers of Sound — Live from the Briggs Farm Blues Festival” album.
Citing musical influences ranging from Barry White to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Suter said she listened to everything she could when she was younger, including the music forbidden in her strict, religious childhood home.
“Music back then was very different than what it is today,” she said. “It was more based on love and care, and it was very easy to grasp, to let it hold onto you. Those were the types of songs that motivated me.”
The live album
Not only does Suter return to the Briggs Farm festival in Nescopeck year after year to perform but it also is among her top five favorite festivals, partly because the Briggs family always has treated her like family.
“There are so many things to love about that place,” she said. “If I was just a regular camper coming to see that festival, I would probably feel the same way. It’s so electrifying and nuturing. … The land itself is so beautiful. I would advise anyone to put it on their bucket list.”
And although Suter recorded live albums before, she said she had a different feeling when recording at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival.
“The audience participated in making what it is, the whole atmosphere of it,” Suter said. “The love that is shown when you’re there, you cannot fail. The energy in the CD reflects everything about that farm. Everything about that energy and the people that go there. It was just a beautiful experience.”
For the Kirby Center concert, the gospel and blues singer said she certainly will attempt to recreate the vibe of the Sunday morning gospel set at the festival, and maybe add in a couple bonus songs.
“People that come to see me know that my message is love, unity, understanding, confidence,” Suter said. “We have to love each other. We have to build with each other. There is so much going on in the world right now. This message is more important than anything ever. I’m not going to stray away from it.”
— charlotte l. jacobson
If you go
What: Alexis P. Suter Ministers of Sound
When: Friday, 8 p.m.; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts,
71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show, avialable at the box office, 570-826-1100 and kirbycenter.org.
Surfer Blood —
THE GOOD: Indie rockers Surfer Blood regroup after one member dies and another bails. They then get ambitious on album four.
THE BAD: No issues.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Dedicated to original guitarist Thomas Fekete, who succumbed to cancer about a year ago, “Snowdonia” is a cool combination of the band’s overtly melodic roots (simple yet steady tracks such as “Matter of Time” and “Frozen”) and more “progressive” tendencies (the complex yet still infectious “Six Flags in F or G” and the epic title track).
Frontman John Paul Pitts and his crew prove themselves very competent in BOTH settings. The expected hook-heavy splendor is a welcome return to form while the more elaborate arrangements show the band comfortable with experimentation. And these new directions never feel self-indulgent; those effervescent melodies always take center stage.
So perhaps “Snowdonia” is the group’s fine transitional record (“Here’s the new line-up. Welcome to our new era.”). It certainly gets us excited for the next one.
BUY IT?: Yep.
Japandroids — “Near To the Wild
Heart of Life”
THE GOOD: Canadian indie rock duo Japandroids (vocalist/guitarist Brian King and vocalist/drummer David Prowse) comes back with a searing third.
THE BAD: “Heart of Life” is much more polished and layered than the band’s first two records. Could it be an issue with long-time fans? Be prepared.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Many “firsts” here. The pair handled the writing process while living in separate cities, expanded their basic instrumentation (some keyboards) and experimented with overdubs. Don’t panic though. “Heart of Life” is no bid for the mainstream, yet some of the urgency that made the guys’ first two records so enthralling is sadly missing.
You still can’t deny the melodic thrust of songs like the title cut and hyper travelogue “North East South West.” The pair might stumble a bit during the more intricate bits, as they do on the epic “Arc of Bar,” but even that cut shows a glimmer of what can be improved upon over future records.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Elbow — “Little Fictions”
THE GOOD: British indie rock outfit Elbow gives us a fine seventh.
THE BAD: Nothing bad, but not a lot of progression here either. At this point, however, there doesn’t need to be. Elbow is a band that knows its strengths and plays them well.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Frontman/lyricist/guitarist Guy Garvey leads his crew through 10 accomplished tracks boasting interesting rhythmic shuffles; reserved, calculated electric guitars; warm flourishes of piano and the occasional orchestral arrangement that enhances the proceedings as opposed to slathering on the musical syrup. “Fictions” also rides an inherent “even keel” that’s never disrupted. Yet, ever-so-slight changes in mood and tempo assure a compelling listening experience.
Lyrically, Garvey doesn’t stray far from relationships and bits of introspection. However, those somewhat predictable subjects work in these settings. Whether it’s the intimacy of the gently swaying “Head for Supplies,” the atmospheric grace coloring “All Disco” or even the slight bump-and-grind carrying “Firebrand & Angel,” the music and personal observations blend perfectly.
BUY IT?: Oh yes.
SAINT MOTEL — “Saintmotelevision”
THE GOOD: Following its commercial breakthrough, the 2014 EP “My Type,” Los Angeles
indie pop band Saint Motel comes back with a bright, tight, second full-length album.
THE BAD: “Saintmotelevision” isn’t a game changer. Don’t expect innovation, just solid pop songs. And there’s nothing necessarily “bad” about that.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Co-produced by Lars Stalfors (Cold War Kids, Matt & Kim, Mars Volta), the album is one punchy, infectious track after another. The band’s hooks dance over solid backbeats and backdrops that find keyboards and guitars meshing beautifully. It’s tough to resist sing-song stompers such as “Destroyer” and “You Can Be You.”
And before you think the group is completely one-dimensional, the guys combine clever wordplay and classical pieces during “For Elise” and toss in the delicate, emotional closer, “Happy Accidents.” “Saintmotelevision” requires no heavy thought, just the ability to sing along with frontman A.J. Jackson or clap your hands. And if you find a smile plastered across your face from time to time, that’s cool too.
BUY IT?: Why not?
AUSTRA — “Future Politics”
THE GOOD: Canadian electronic outfit Austra (on record that’s strictly singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Katie Stelmanis) comes back with a third record both dreamier and considerably more serious at the same time.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Musically, “Future Politics” has softened the edges and liquefied its seamless rhythms. Danceable synth-pop concoctions such as the title track and “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself” find Stelmanis’ rich vocals gracefully taking flight over whirling hypnotic backdrops; the overall effect is strong yet soothing.
Lyrically, Stelmanis was heavily influenced by the utopian possibilities found in science fiction while being confronted daily with the political mess gaining momentum just south of her border (our divided United States). It’s a juxtaposition that’s more harmonious than chaotic. Stelmanis discovers hope among the tension.
But with Austra, the MUSIC always is the focus. Stelmanis’ melodies and arrangements never lack elegance and an undeniable melodic thrust. You take the sweet right along with the powerful. “Politics” leaves this tradition wholly intact.
BUY IT?: Yes.
PORCELAIN RAFT — “Microclimate”
THE GOOD: Italian-born singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Mauro Remiddi comes back with his third full-length as Porcelain Raft.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After a huge burst of creativity earlier in the decade, Remiddi slowed down the creative process for the slightly more organic “Microclimate.” While the album is still based in the electronic, layered guitars and warm piano flourishes are much more prominent. Remiddi also seems more at ease showing off his songwriting chops; atmosphere no longer overpowers melodies.
Those craving another dose of dreamy indie pop need not panic though, for “Microclimate” is just as otherworldly as its predecessors. Only this time, it’s a little less Small Black and Tanlines and a little more “progressive,” as in spacey Sun Airway or even vintage Mercury Rev (dig the psychedelic overtones and grand melodies of “The Greatest View”). “Microclimate” may not be a BOLD step forward, but it’s a logical one; Remiddi refuses to stay in one place for very long.
BUY IT?: Surely.
FOXYGEN — “Hang”
THE GOOD: California duo Foxygen manages to stay together (the band thrives on inner turmoil) and releases an ambitious fifth.
THE BAD: With its elaborate arrangements and prog-rock throwbacks, “Hang” makes you work at times.
THE NITTY GRITTY: We get Philly soul (“Follow the Leader”). We look back at theatrical Elton John (“Avalon”). There’s glam-era Lou Reed (“Mrs. Adams”). How about some breezy A.M. radio country rock (“On Lankersham”)? You see where this is going.
Recorded with an honest-to-goodness orchestra, “Hang” takes us back about 45 years, to when albums were ambitious and singles were an afterthought. But just like many records from that era, this new album has moments of sheer brilliance AND bits that sound truly over-ambitious. For example, “America” is a bit of a slog at first. Spin it again, and you begin to appreciate the intricacies.
So you have to pay attention. Let “Hang” melt into the background, and the music begins to sound messy.
BUY IT?: Still…yeah.
THE FLAMING LIPS — “Oczy Mlody”
THE GOOD: Oklahoma indie rock legends Flaming Lips returns with a spacey 14th.
THE BAD: Like any other Lips experiment, “Oczy” requires a few spins before its subtleties fully sink in. Some patience please.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Oczy Mlody” is a Polish phrase meaning “eyes of the young.” Perhaps that’s why frontman Wayne Coyne is singing about wizards and unicorns. Or is it because the Lips are still hangin’ with Miley Cyrus?
Whatever the reasons, realize going in that “Oczy” is trippy, softer and very “otherworldly.” Kind of like 1999’s “Soft Bulletin” without the crashing drums and producer Dave Fridmann’s penchant for controlled distortion. Of course, Fridmann is here again. He simply keeps matters more “airy” this time.
The true beauty of “Oczy,” though, is that it works amazingly well as a whole. From the pastoral beauty of “The Castle” to the delicate pulsations carrying “One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards To Kill,” the record whisks us away on a cloud of pure fantasy.
BUY IT?: Yeah.
CLOUD NOTHINGS — “Life Without Sound”
THE GOOD: Ohio indie rockers Cloud Nothings comes back with an even fifth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Still the brainchild of singer/songwriter/guitarist Dylan Baldi (the full band was a Baldi solo undertaking first), Cloud Nothings continues to crank out loud but melodic songs that possess both sharp teeth and a more sensitive side.
“Life Without Sound” came out of some abandoned sessions and more than a few re-starts, hence the almost three-year gap since the group’s last outing, 2014’s “Here and Nowhere Else.” The end result isn’t necessarily more polished, just more in tune with some of Baldi’s past work.
Despite the usual change in the producer’s chair (Sleater-Kinney/Los Campesinos/Blonde Redhead assistant John Goodmanson is this year’s choice), Baldi doesn’t feel the need to reinvent this band’s proverbial wheel. He’s quite content to offer a basic collection big on bold melodies, chunky guitars, crashing drums and uncluttered arrangements. Good songs in standard electric settings — we’ll take it.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Chacko’s Memory Lane Lounge, 195 N. Wilkes-Barre Blvd., Wilkes-Barre: Kartune
Elixir Bistro Bar at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Gerard Demarco
Gin’s Tavern, Route 107, Factoryville: Q-Ball
J & J Deli, 659 Memorial Highway, Dallas:
Levels Bar & Grill, 519 Linden St., Scranton: DJ Fritz and DJ NRG
O’Leary’s Pub, 514 Ash St., Scranton: E57 and Days in Transit
OSE (Oak Street Express), 601 N. Main Ave., Taylor: DJ Famous
279 Bar & Grill, 279 S. River St., Wilkes-Barre: No Vacancy
The American Grille at Bomb Bay Cafe, 1044 Main St., Dickson City: Marilyn Kennedy and Jiggzy
Andy Gavin’s, 1892 N. Washington Ave., Scranton: Ron Schoonover
Augustine’s Club 17, 518 N. Main St., Old Forge: Two for the Road
Bar Louie at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Halfway To Hell
Bartolai Winery, Route 92 and Coolidge Avenue, Falls: amRadio
The Beaumont Inn, 4437 Route 309, Dallas: Steve Corcoran Duo
Blu Wasabi, 223 Northern Blvd., Clarks Summit: Jeffrey James Band
Cove Haven Resort, 194 Lakeview Drive, Lakeville: DJ Mike Philip, Mark DeMayo, Tom McTiernan and Kevin Downey Jr.
Creekside Inn, 406 Route 92, Tunkhannock:
Elixir Bistro Bar at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: John Strasburger
Franklin’s Bar & Grill, 53 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre: Zayre Mountain
Grotto Pizza, 36 Gateway Shopping Center, Edwardsville: Flatland Ruckus
Grotto Pizza/Grand Slam Sports Bar, RR 415, Harveys Lake: Shelly’s Underground
Grotto Pizza/Skybox Sports Bar, Wyoming Valley Mall, Wilkes-Barre Twp.: John Smith
JJ Bridjes Restaurant, 925 Northern Blvd., Clarks Summit: Erich & Tyler
O’Leary’s Pub, 514 Ash St., Scranton: Keet
OSE (Oak Street Express), 601 N. Main Ave., Taylor: Jeff Lewis
Paradise Stream Resort, 6213 Carlton Road, Mount Pocono: Somethin’ Else and J.J. Ramirez
Pocono Palace Resort, 5241 Milford Road, East Stroudsburg: DJ Chris, Pat O’Donnell, Chris Coccia
River Street Jazz Cafe, 665 N. River St., Plains Twp.: Stronger Than Dirt
Streamside Bandstand at the Woodlands, 1073 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Boomer Happy Hour with Frankie and Toby
Thirst T’s Bar & Grill, 120 Lincoln St., Olyphant: The Wanabees and Kevin Vest
The V-Spot Bar, 906 Providence Road, Scranton: Booze and Bruise Ball with Beyond Fallen, Royal Hell and the Aegean
Wellington’s Pub & Eatery, Routes 6 and 11, Clarks Summit: Jay Luke
Wise Crackers Comedy Club at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Mitch Fatel, Adam Lucidi and Scott Bruce
The Woodlands Inn & Resort, 1073 Route 315, Plains Twp.: The 25th Hour
279 Bar & Grill, 279 S. River St., Wilkes-Barre: J.P. Williams Blues Duo
Ale Mary’s at the Bittenbender, 126 Franklin Ave., Black Tie Stereo, Eric Rudy and Reach for the Sky
The American Grille at Bomb Bay Cafe, 1044 Main St., Dickson City: DJ Mark
Andy Gavin’s, 1392 N. Washington Ave., Scranton: TakenBack, Fab Three
Ariel View Inn, 1400 Lake Ariel Highway, Lake Ariel: Marilyn Kennedy
Arlo’s Tavern, 10340 Route 171, Union Dale: Dem Guyz
Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton: Ale House Funk Band, Bogyard Chugg Band, Light Weight, Mace in Dickson, Tom Graham
Bar Louie at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Dustin Douglas & the Electric Gentlemen
Bar Pazzo, 129 N. Washington Ave., Scranton:
The Beaumont Inn, 4437 Route 309, Dallas: Don Shapelle Duo
Benny’s Sports Bar, 1216 Main St., Peckville: FullCircle
The Bog, 341 Adams Ave., Scranton: Tom Graham, Indigo Moon Brass Band, Panked! and Saturbae Parade Bae
Boozer’s Sports Bar, 635 Main St., Avoca: Facing
Breakers at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Kartune
Bud’s Bar & Grill , 402 N. Main St., Archbald: DJ Dennis
Chet’s Place, 1778 E. Mountain Road, Union Dale: Wallace Brothers Band
The Colliery, 901 Meadow Ave, Scranton: Some Other Guy
Cooper’s Seafood House, 701 N. Washington Ave., Scranton: Jack Bordo, Jim Cullen, EJ the DJ,
Cove Haven Resort, 194 Lakeview Drive, Lakeville: Somethin’ Else, DJ Mike Philips, J.J. Ramirez
Elixir Bistro Bar at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Sugar Ray
Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub, 259 E. State St., Larksville: Pre-Paddy’s Day Show
Franklin’s Bar & Grill, 53 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre: Anthony Picataggio
Hilton Scranton and Conference Center, 100 Adams Ave., Scranton: Brian Dean Moore Band, M80
Honky Tonk Restaurant & Saloon, 763 E. Drinker St., Dunmore: Them Boys, Luke Caccetta
Kildare’s, 119 Jefferson Ave., Scranton: DJ Jay Velar and Rich Steele, Madison Avenue, Pink Slip, Jigsaw Johnny, Flaxy Morgan
The Leonard Theater, 335 Adams Ave., Scranton: Southside Bandits, DJ Jay Velar, Lost Dogs
Levels Bar & Grill, 519 Linden St., Scranton: DJ
McGrath’s Pub and Eatery, 112 E. Main St., Dalton: Jonny D, Erich Aten and Tyler Crawford, Mace in Dickson, Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Band
Mert’s Piano Bar, 302 Penn Ave., Scranton: Pat Finnerty, Pat Flynn, Mark Kessinger
O’Leary’s Pub, 514 Ash St., Scranton: BStreet Band, Giants of Science, the Third Nut
OSE (Oak Street Express), 601 N. Main Ave., Taylor: Ceol Pipe and Drum Band, DJ Devil Dog, DJ Famous
Par Glass House, 760 Ridge Road, Shickshinny: LMI, Vltrpk, I Trust You To Kill Me, Tusko
Paradise Stream Resort, 6213 Carlton Road, Mount Pocono: Cassandra, Soul City, DJ Chris, Mugga
Parker House Tavern, 12 E. Parker St., Scranton:
Pocono Palace Resort, 5241 Milford Road, East Stroudsburg: Pete Begley, Epic Soul, Kevin Downey Jr.
POSH at the Scranton Club, 404 N. Washington Ave., Scranton: DJ Matt Micaylo
Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton: DJ WD40, Tribes, Nowhere Slow
Renegades Saloon, 1058 Main St., Newfoundland: Pave the Way, uMan ERA
River Street Jazz Cafe, 665 N. River St., Plains Twp.: Divinity Roxx
Rocky’s Lounge, 141 Jefferson Ave., Scranton: DJ Jason Miller, DJ Nellz
Sidney’s Lounge, 820 Northern Blvd., Clarks Summit: Robbie Walsh, Jack Foley
Skytop Lodge, 1 Skytop Lodge Road, Skytop: Doug Smith Orchestra
Streamside Bandstand at the Woodlands, 1073 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Hoopla
The Tauras Club, 106 W. Market St., Scranton: Back Flash
The V-Spot Bar, 906 Providence Road, Scranton:
Waldorf Park Social Club, 13 Waldorf Lane, Scranton: DJ Pat Dougher
Wise Crackers Comedy Club at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Mitch Fatel, Adam Lucidi, Scott Bruce
Arlo’s Tavern, 10340 Route 171, Union Dale: The Soul Shakers
Bottlenecks Saloon & Eatery, 3 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre: Ostrich Hat
CrisNics Irish Pub, 189 Barney St., Wilkes-Barre: The Pickups Duo
Franklin’s Bar & Grill, 53 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre: Parade Day Celebration, Whiskey ‘n Woods Band, Mike Elward and Nick Pilski, Robb Brown
Heat Bar & Nightclub, 69-71 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre: Not Yo Granny’s Bingo
Omnia Bar Grill and Bottle Shop, 223 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre: DJ E Dub, DJ Rich Steele
Duffy’s Coffee House, 306 S. State St., Clarks Summit: Open jam session
Arlo’s Tavern, 10340 Route 171, Union Dale: Trivia Night
Streamside Bandstand at the Woodlands, 1073 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Streamside Karaoke
Bazil, 1101 Northern Blvd., Clarks Summit: Marko Marcinko Jazz Trio
The Crimson Lion Hookah Lounge, 37 E. South St., Wilkes-Barre: Trivia Night
Levels Bar & Grill, 519 Linden St., Scranton: Open mic with J.R. Huffsmith
Ole Tyme Charley’s Restaurant & Pub, 31 S. River St., Plains Twp.: Karaoke
O’Leary’s Pub, 514 Ash St., Scranton: Village Idiots
OSE (Oak Street Express), 601 N. Main Ave., Taylor: Speaker Jam Karaoke
River Street Jazz Cafe, 665 N. River St., Plains Twp.: Holly Bowling
Ruth’s Chris Steak House at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp.: Live Music Wednesdays
Stir Nightclub & Bar, 41 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre: Karaoke with Tony Piazza
Whiskey Dick’s, 308 N. Washington Ave., Scranton: Trivia Night
JUSTICE — “Woman”
THE GOOD: French electronic duo Justice comes back with its third.
THE BAD: As the catalog builds, the music becomes less intense and arresting.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Back in 2007, the pair’s banging synthetic debut gave us something to groove to between highly anticipated Daft Punk releases. Since then though, the electronics have been turned down in favor of more organic elements (live instrumentation, guest vocalists, sweeping string arrangements, etc.). And while the guys put these sounds to very good use, the end results always feel too safe, contrived or even slightly disappointing.
“Woman” ends up being the duo’s modern disco album, a retro-fitted dance collection that often embraces traditional song structures. Too bad much of it resembles an evening’s “warm-up” as opposed to the pounding hedonistic climax. It’s only when the electronics and old tricks return to the forefront (as they do on the extended cinematic “Chorus” and the throbbing yet melodic “Heavy Metal”) that this set really grabs the listener.
BUY IT?: Your call.
THE XX — “I See You”
THE GOOD: British indie pop band the XX reshapes its sound on album No. 3.
THE BAD: No.
THE NITTY GRITTY: There’s been a lot of progress since the release of the group’s sophomore effort “Coexist” (2012). Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim (the delicate male-female back-and-forth up front) have grown as both vocalists and songwriters. But the real breakout star is producer Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx).
After releasing his brilliant solo effort “In Colour” (one of 2015’s finest albums), the guy now makes his layered sounds much more prominent. Samples, beats and ambient synths play a much bigger role on the new record, giving the XX a slight makeover reminiscent of Everything but the Girl’s discovery of house rhythms back in the mid ’90s.
Tracks like the brightly colored, punchy opener “Dangerous” and the moody yet funky lead single “On Hold” pull us in with emotional vocals delivered over finely crafted and varied backdrops. The end results are simply dreamy.
BUY IT?: You must.
TYCHO — “Epoch”
THE GOOD: California electronic artist Tycho (visual artist/multi-instrumentalist Scott Hansen) releases his fourth.
THE BAD: Not “bad,” just somewhat nondescript after a while.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Tycho’s music blurs genres. Electronic at its core, the work also boasts live drums and electric guitars that are just as important to the overall mix as the swirling keyboards. Tracks like “Glider” (an appropriate title indeed) and the title cut are seamless, soaring pieces boasting airtight beats, wraparound basslines and pulsating yet fragile (dare I say “soothing”) melodies.
So there are times when “Epoch” comes off as a heavier, more rock-centric take on new age or even light jazz (yeah, I went there). Not displeasing in the least bit. However, the excitement level isn’t exactly high. And after about 20 minutes, “Epoch” simply melts into the background. Some of these tracks wouldn’t sound out of place echoing through the halls of any random day spa.
Go in with the right frame of mind though, and “Epoch” can be sweetly hypnotic.
BUY IT?: Why not?
Rat Pack Tribute Show pays homage to legends
Scranton receives a blast from the past Friday and Saturday as the music of the Rat Pack steps out of the ’60s and into Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave.
Organized by JZ Tours, the Rat Pack Tribute Show features Las Vegas-based trio Brian Duprey as Frank Sinatra, Kenny Jones as Sammy Davis Jr. and Mark Verabian as Dean Martin. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and doors open at 6 for cocktail hour followed by dinner of chicken portabella, short ribs or West Coast sole. Old Forge musician Nicole Rasmus, known for her performances of Patsy Cline songs and pop standards, will perform during cocktail hour. Tickets also are available for just the show.
Verabian, who also fronts the band Mark and His Martinis, decided to start his tribute to the Rat Pack about 15 years ago.
“I’m, by trade, a professional singer,” Verabian said. “And someone walked by one of my shows and said, ‘You know, you look like a young Dean Martin,’ and I said ‘Thank you,’ and that’s how it all got started.”
The tribute group tours worldwide with its live big band, often playing the same haunts as the original group of actors and performers.
Verabian enjoys makes a living playing some of his favorite classic tunes. He stressed the importance of authenticity in his performances.
“To deliver it right, you have to be a fan of the music,” Verabian said.
While members have left, been replaced and returned over the years, interplay and camaraderie between the trio is as important for the group as it was for the original Rat Pack.
“We try to stick together,” Verabian said. “Chemistry is very important for the show.”
The group played at Scranton Cultural
Center at The Masonic Temple about a decade ago, Verabian said, and he is excited to return
to “a great town” and visit friends in the area.
He expects those who come out will enjoy his band’s performance.
“I know there’s a lot of Italians out there, so the show’s gonna be well-received, I’m sure,” Verabian said.
— peter shaver
If you go
What: The Rat Pack Tribute Show
When: Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., and show at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave, Scranton.
Details: Tickets with dinner are $75 for general admission, $95 for the VIP package, $675 for a general admission table and $855 for a VIP table. Tickets for the show only are $39.95 for general admission and $59.95 VIP seats.