The Well-Played List, 10-30-2013: The Stepkids, Pearl Jam, The Dismemberment Plan, Minor Alps, Sharks & more

Music we're jamming this week; audio, video & Spotify playlist included.

The ongoing listening series (FKA MusicMonday) features the most listened-to, jammed-out songs, albums and artists of the week as submitted by the CL Music Team along with a rotating crew of tastemakers — local music promoters, record store and venue owners, music fans and scenesters, DJs, musicians, and a radio personality or two; check previous week’s here. Audio and video included, along with any applicable show information. And on that note, what are you jamming this week? Tell us in the comments…


The Stepkids, Troubadour (2013) This Connecticut trio brews up the sort of music that makes you stop what you're doing, laugh out loud, then wonder, just what the fuck am I listening to, again? I'm suprised I haven't stumbled upon the band sooner. I'm hearing Frank Zappa and Steely Dan influences — weirdo fun prog-jazz clashing and intermingling with 1970s-style soft-and-pretty prog rock aesthetics, disco funkiness, light soul and experimental pop out-thereness, all treated with modern technology tricks and quirks (synth effects, bass pedals, multi-tracked vocal). It has an overall none-too-serious vibe, especially with lines like "Give it all my boy, it’ll be incredible / dreams make the waking life bearable" and other lyrics discussing Google analytics and quantum physics in the same breath via falsetto vocals that are sometimes layered and sampled into broken fragments. This album is all over the place, in a way that I can totally get behind. For fans of Thundercat, Alt-J, and of Montreal - if all three were on one album together.

Blitzen Trapper, VII (2013) Nothing like a fresh Blitzen Trapper album to make the year seem more sunny and mellow. The Portland roots rock band delivers another strong one in their seventh full-length - replete with catchy ambling tunes, well-managed production, fine use of banjo and harmonica, and keyboard and bass grooves that make you want to shake your ass like it's nobody's business. I'm a particular fan of "Shine On" but pretty much the whole album is grade A drawling alt country. Check the track after the jump along with the rest of this week's entries...

The Dismemberment Plan, Uncanney Valley (2013) A void was left in my heart when Dismemberment Plan played their last official tour in 2003. Live, the D.C. band was more fun, spirited and sonically intriguing than anything I'd heard since the early '80s, when raw post-punk power and danceable rhythms weren't mutually exclusive virtues. After dabbling in brainy, non-music careers, Travis Morrison and Co. have reunited for their first studio album in more than a decade. I have to admit, I wasn't immediately overtaken, but after repeated listens, Uncanney Valley has grown on me. At first I yearned for that epic "Time Bomb"/"You Are Invited"/"The Ice of Boston" anthem, and none of the singles grabbed me with the same ferocity. Morrison is a great storyteller, and his articulate vocal delivery reminds me of 1970's kid show fare — like he should be teaching us about fractions or tying our shoes. Instead he opts for the intimate exchanges of modern men and women. Each of his tunes has a special amalgam of styles even if one doesn't smack you upside the head. Longtime fans should dig "Mexico City Christmas," which has the manic urgency of early DP tunes with a crush-velvet trim of old disco tacked on, and the contemplative "Lookin'" is a little gut-wrenching with its almost-redeeming bittersweetness.

Jamison, Re-Souled (2013) If, like me, you've pined for a bona fide soul artist to break out of Tampa Bay, then your prayers have been answered. Witness, ladies and gentlemen, the blessed arrival of Jamison Drew, a Tampa-by-way-of-Cleveland artist who took some of Tampa's smartest musicians and arrangers out of their game plan while crooning into the mics over at Seminole Heights' Short Circuit Studio. Songwriter/producer Troy Cedeno started a project with Jamison as a lark, but once he realized the talent he was dealing with, went full tilt on a new LP. Re-Souled (released on Oct. 25) offers a not-too-smooth, not-too-raspy heartfelt vocal, seductive vintage keys and a mesmerizing ebb and flow that goes from slinky to upbeat. Mischievous enough to include a tune called "Lipstick & Titties," white-dude Jamison doesn't look anything like he sounds and should appeal to fans of Aloe Blacc and Anthony Hamilton. Praise to Re-Souled for ushering a new era of Tampa indie soul. Can I get an Amen!

Levels, "Regret" (2013)
I love, love, love this new gem by Levels, a trio that has spun off from Clearwater's Tres Bien and features Cody Wilson (guitar and vocals), Roxor Evensen (bass and vocals) and Mikey Bostinto (drums, vocals). The video for their new single (directed by Eric Ekman) should be on your regular rotation of Halloween entertainments. Expertly edited and gory as hell, it finds the musicians reborn as the undead in a dive bar with an appropriately zombie-like audience. Realistic makeup and effects replete with icky closeups elicit both shudders and chuckles. My favorite sight gag is when Bostinto loses his hand, casually jabs a drumstick into his stump and keeps on playing. The tune is an instant classic — melodically infectious, ass-kicking power pop with a ghostly background vocal — hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo — and other deft touches that will haunt you for days.

JERRY DUFRAIN | DJ Lazy, Orpheum co-owner
Frontier Ruckus, Deadmalls & Nightfalls (2010) Some of the best folk/singer-songwriter music I’ve heard in the last five years. Also, always reminds me of my friend J. Rumsfeld III (Jeremy Rowland).

Timeflies — An electronic hip-pop duo from NY coming to the Orpheum November 4.

Mares of Thrace, The Pilgrimage (2012) Female extreme metal makes me smile.

KEITH ULREY | Microgroove, New Granada Records
This week sees the release of Get There by Minor Alps, an unlikely duo featuring Juliana Hatfield and Mathew Caws (of Nada Surf). I am 100% loving this record. I've continued to follow JH through every release, including some ups and downs. Get There is a MAJOR up in my book. Like Jenny & Johnny without the fluff. Official Video for "I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands" below...

RAY ROA | founder, Suburban Apologist; freelance local music correspondent, CL & TBT.
The Snails, "Call On Me" (2013) It's always cool when music comes out of a city that is kind of juxtaposed to the sound coming out of the speakers. It's double good when the deliverers of said noise look nothing like they should, either. That's the case with Philadelphia-based outfit The Snails. I saw that they'd been booked to play a January 2014 show with The Duppies from Orlando, and hearing the five, nerdy white dudes (that's discrimination if I've ever written it) who make up The Snails makes me smile. "Call On Me" is from a split with King Django, and is easy-going, sunny, and will surely be welcome when the band comes to New World Brewery on January 10.

Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt (2013) Still standing. After two decades, still rocking and relevant. Lightning Bolt strikes a deft balance of ferocity and introspection. Buoyed by focused songwriting, Vedder is again a rock sage with a fire in his gut. A marked return to form when compared to 2009's soft, fuzzy Backspacer. "Sirens" video below.

ANTHONY ATEEK | Local musician, writer for Tampa Bay Rays blog, X-Rays Spex
Radioactivity, Radioactivity (2013 Dirtnap Records) I know what you may be asking, “Who in the world is Radioactivity, and why should I care?” Well, my friend, Radioactivity is a band from Denton, Texas, formed by Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan of The Marked Men — arguably one of the best bands of the 2000’s. If that’s not enough to make you salivate, Radioactivity picks up right where The Marked Men left off, cramming 13 lo-fi pop gems on to one petroleum based — pleasure filled — slab of vinyl. It’s good... Strike that, it’s outstanding! Do yourself a favor; listen to "World of Pleasure" then purchase a copy of what promises to be declared one of the year's best.

Sharks, Selfhood (2013) My heart broke a little when, on July 4, UK outfit Sharks announced they’d be calling it a day after six years, a couple of excellent long players, and a handful of EPs. Gone forever are one of my favorite punk-filtered-through-90’s-Brit-pop bands. Looking for a point of reference? Think the Clash meets Blur, and you’d be in the ballpark. Thankfully their music is still available, including their most recent offering Selfhood.

Los Campesinos!, No Blues (Wichita Recordings) I must admit, I'm a glutton for the juxtaposition of gleeful pop music and macabre lyrics. I’d lump a band like Veronica Falls in that category. I’m also a huge fan of 1990’s influenced indie rock, ala Superchunk or Archers of Loaf. Put those influences together, and you’ll get No Blues, the most recent offering by the Welsh indie-pop band Los Campesinos!. Perhaps you’re fan of their other releases? Fear not, this one will find a comfortable home nestled among their previous four. Then again, maybe you’re a newcomer? Well, join us while we scream along to the lyrics from first single "What Death Leaves Behind": "They say you and me are tautology / What grows from the seeds / Can you quite believe? / Through cracks come the weeds / Long time listener, first time caller / No need to remind me / What death leaves behind me." Listen below.

TONY RIFUGIATO | No Clubs Entertainment
Omar Souleyman, Wenu Wenu (2013) A Syrian cult hero who is known in his homeland as a wedding singer and due to the war, he is a refugee. He has 500 albums to his credit, however this album — which is made up of traditional courtship songs — is produced by Four Tet. He’s big in the middle east.

SARAH GECAN | Daddy Kool Records and No Clubs Entertainment
Best Coast, Fade Away (2013) Best Coast's newest album has a way of making the existential crises of being in your 20s sound so poppy and pretty. A great juxtaposition of sounding happy when feeling utterly lost. It has all the charm of a Best Coast album with that West Coast, feel-good, Beach Boys-esque sound, but with lyrics that clearly reveal just how baffled with life leading lady Bethany Cosentino is. My personal favorite song on the album is "Who have I Become?".

Banner Pilot, Heart Beats Pacific (2011) Ladies and gentlemen, it that glorious time of year otherwise known as FEST and Banner Pilot is playing one again. They are easily one of my favorite bands. In preparation of the week full of music ahead, I've been listening to Heart Beats Pacific and singing along to the songs I love so dearly. They have that mid-west punk vibe and are similar to The Lawrence Arms. They perform this Wed., Oct. 30, at Pre-Fest, on The Ritz Ybor's side stage at 7:10 p.m. You just may see me there… Here's a video of them playing last year's Fest.

JESS GROOM | music fan with discerning taste
Metronomy, "Black Eye/ Burnt Thumb" (2009). For some eye candy, check out Tane (featuring a Metronomy remix). I'm super excited to see Ponderosa on Thursday night; Pool Party (pictured) is a classic. Check out "Never Come Back" here.

Pokey LaFarge, Pokey LaFarge (2013) You'd never guess that Pokey was 30 years old. Or that this album was recorded just recently and not many decades ago! Pokey LaFarge's new self-titled record is a loving and faithful tribute to the days of authentic country music and Texas swing. I wasn't surprised to read that Pokey's a big Bob Wills fan; you can hear his influence all over this fine, fun record. As Jack White's newest addition to his Third Man Records roster, LaFarge brings his own old timey spin to a stable that's brimming with diversity. Throw on this great record and be transported to another place and time in an instant.

DOUG RENCK | Mojo Books & Records
Lou Reed, Transformer (1972) The New York City of Reed's street-level classic is mostly gone today (as is the one he sang about in 1989's "New York"), but can be revisited any time. Just take Transformer off the shelf & give it a spin.

Reed's second solo effort plays like a day in the life of the NYC’s lovers, junkies, streetwalkers and dreamers, and sheds light on the world they live in. Reed's signature sing-speak vocal style provides the narration and places the listener right at the scene. On "Makeup," we're in the room with a drag queen getting dolled up for a night on the town. Herbie Flowers' famous bassline from "Walk On the Wild Side" takes us down the street while Ronnie Ross' saxophone howls. Is "Perfect Day" about two lovers having a wonderful time in the city, or about a junkie feeling like "someone else, someone good" after copping? Who knows? Maybe both. (The heroin addicts of Trainspotting seemed to choose the latter in one of that film’s most pivotal scenes.) Transformer was Reed's most commercially and critically successful post-Velvet Underground LP. Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, its guitar tones, vocal levels and overall feel are very similar to those of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. Both records are credited with ushering in the glam rock era. Transformer is an essential listen and a great way to honor the influence of the recently deceased Reed. You can listen here, but it's best heard on its original vinyl LP format; available at Mojo Books & Records.

Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt (2013) The solid and varied new album from Pearl Jam. Like its nine predecessors, it's a mixed bag of quasi- punk bombast ("Mind Your Manners," "Getaway"), introspective balladry ("Future Days"), classic rock influences ("Lightning Bolt," "Sirens") and Americana ("Sleeping By Myself," a full band re-recording of a track off singer Eddie Vedder's solo disc). Pearl Jam has always been an analog band that came of age in a digital world. They've released all of their albums on vinyl and wrote songs about records on two of them ("Spin The Black Circle" and "Let The Records Play"). A special edition pressing of Lightning Bolt, their first new studio release since 2009's "Backspacer and tenth overall, is available in at Mojo Books & Records.

Dr. John, The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971) There's never been an album quite like this one. Equal parts traditional, funky, psychedelic and spooky, the project was originally conceived as a three-record conceptual set. In his autobiography, Under A Hoodoo Moon, he explained: "The 'Sun' was the record you put on when you woke up in the morning; later, in the afternoon, you'd put on the 'Herbs' - the herbs you eat, the herbs you smoke, the herbs that heal you. And last would be the 'Moon' - night music, dedicated to the enchantment of the evening and the moon goddess. Real lunar-sea action."

Atlantic records whittled it down to one mixed-up, multi-flavored gumbo that still tastes fresh and good today. There's even a song called "Pots On Fiyo/File Gumbo," where the gumbo's ingredients talk to each other. "Craney Crow" and "Zu Zu Mamou" sound like something you'd hear after stumbling upon a voodoo ceremony held in the swamp under the light of a full moon (the former is included in the playlist below). On "Black John the Conqueror," he praises the healing properties of the all-powerful Conqueror root while sounding like he's leading a great parade procession. The whole crazy thing is great throughout, filled with horns, soulful back-up singers and the good Doctor's masterful piano playing. The Sun, Moon & Herbs is available in an audiophile LP edition at Mojo Books & Records.

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