Saturday, October 10, 2009

Album of the Week, 10/10/09--Alela Diane and Alina Hardin, "Alela and Alina," and a Decemberists' Review

It would be easy for me to choose the soon-to-be-released Flaming Lips' Embryonic as my album of the week, but as I sit here on the couch with flaming gums, I feel like digging a little deeper—much like the oral surgeon who just ripped out my molars. So don't miss Embryonic when it's released on October 13. Until then, join me in assuaging the pain with some sweet and soothing folk instead. Alela Diane has just released an EP (October 6) with fellow singer Alina Hardin, titled simply Alela and Alina.

This makes me smile all the way to the far-flung edges of my puffy cheeks.

This EP is simple stuff, but it's done so well. Consider it a balm for throbbin' gums or whatever else has you ailing.

"Bowling Green" by Alela and Alina

Diane has been singing with her father since the age of four. Here she is performing with him in February. While this song is off her solo album To Be Still (February 2009), it gives you some idea of what you'll hear on her new EP with Hardin.

"Dry Grass and Shadows"

As Diane says in the video above, she now resides in Portland, not unlike another band we know. Yes, Diane once opened for the Decemberists, which brings me to...

Why I Deserved to Be Kicked in the Head by a Crowd-Surfing Colin Meloy

I briefly apologized earlier this week for my half-assed remarks about the Decemberists. I didn't expect much from the concert, but how was I to know that the first half of the show would consist of dancing fairies and evil queens and the second half of crowd surfing and songs about killing people? Let me explain now just why this show blew me away.
  1. The vocals and instrumentation were perfect. These guys sound like a recording, and Meloy's voice is less whiny when it's filling the auditorium. In short, there's nothing but tremendous talent here. The stage was full of instruments, and they were all played to geeky perfection, from pedal steel guitar to accordion.
  2. I expected a staid show from a bunch of indie nerds, but what we got instead was a crazy rock opera reminiscent of the following scene from Spinal Tap:

No, there was no tiny Stonehenge.

  1. I was unfamiliar with most of the songs from The Hazards of Love, but it didn't matter. These guys sounded so good, they completely sucked me into the weird fairy tale of endangered love...or whatever was going on there. 
It also didn't hurt matters that my friend and I, after we missed Laura Veirs and came late (we ended up seeing Veirs, in a way, when we were leaving and she was sitting by the t-shirts for sale in the lobby), scored a comfy little section filled with puffy living room furniture in the upper balcony. Although we had our own private vantage point, we probably should have been on the main level for this show, seeing as how during the encore, Colin Meloy, as well as two other Decemberists, surfed the crowd during a rousing, klezmer-like number.

(Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond)

A word, too, on Shara Worden, who performs the role of the Queen in The Hazards of Love: Some might say she stole the show with her—in my friend's opinion and mine—Grace Slick wail. Of course, I also got a kick out of watching Becky Stark spin around like a woodland nymph on acid. So not what I expected to see! I mean, there was even a smoke machine. What the hell? It worked for me, though. These guys really, really impressed me and made me eat my uninformed little blogger nuggets of meanness from earlier in the week.

(Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond)

In addition to the powerful punch of "The Rake Song," I also loved the eerie red-light three-penny-opera performance of "The Shankill Butchers." Come on, a song about butchers sharpening their cleavers and knives and riding at night? Oh, yes, yes, yes. It was delightfully warped.

The Decemberists ended the show with "O Valencia" and a crowd sing-along to "Sons and Daughters," with its hug-inducing chorus of "Hear all the bombs, they fade away."

May my bombs of snark also fade away.

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