Tags: Anika, Beak, Geoff Barrow, Stones Throw
Anika played the Crocodile Sunday night. She looked and sounded like Nico fronting Metal Box era Public Image Limited. Actually she was fronting BEAK>,Geoff Barrow of Portishead‘s other band. His body double was behind the drums somehow making them sound as if they were being recorded by Martin Hannett.
Anika has the stage presence of an icicle, but it works. The songs have a steely isolating feel to them and her icy demeanor perfectly compliments them. When listening to desolate, dark dub music, I don’t want jokes and “Hello Seattle” in between songs. I want to feel on edge and slightly uncomfortable and that is what I felt as she awkwardly looked at the floor and moved her mic stand from one side of the stage to the other between songs, not speaking a word.
The set was heavy on the covers, but with a band that has such a strong aesthetic, they could cover just about anything and make it interesting and their own. The set included covers of Twinkle‘s Terry, Dylan‘s Masters of War, the Kinks‘ I Go To Sleep, and Yoko Ono‘s Yang Yang all of which appeared on the Stones Throw album. There were new ones too. The Crystals‘ He Hit Me and the Chromatics‘ In the City were both highlights. The set ended with a version of the Talking Heads‘ Once In a Lifetime which seemed so new to them that Anika pulled out a little black book for the lyrics. The setlist had one more song on it that they didn’t play, another cover, He Needs Me from the Popeye soundtrack. I’m sure it would have been sublimely weird, but Anika turned and left the stage after Once In a Lifetime with nary a goodbye.
Tags: Anika, Beak, Geoff Barrow, Stones Throw
One record that would have made my list for last year had I heard it prior to the last week of December is Anika‘s self-titled debut on Stones Throw. Bill over at Sound Bites was more astute than I and smartly included it on his list which is how I found out about it. Anika was a political journalist who somehow met former Portishead maestro Geoff Barrow in Berlin and bonded over dub, punk and girl groups. That sounds like a match made in heaven if you ask me. Barrow was actually looking for a singer for his new band Beak>, somehow over recording the record live, raw and strictly no over dubs in a mere twelve days it no longer was a Beak record but an Anika one.
Anika sounds more than a little like Nico. She sings a little flat and off key and with little emotion. On paper this shouldn’t work, but oh how it does. Barrow and Beak create a sparse dub soundtrack and while the majority of the nine songs on the record are covers they sound so different from the originals that you easily forget about them being covers. The record starts out with a cover of Twinkle‘s Terry (You may remember Twinkle’s Golden Lights as covered by the Smiths). Terry has similarities to the Shangri-Las‘ Leader of the Pack, and this rendition with its Speak and Spell synths and grand piano makes it sound so desolate, bleak and weird. It’s delivered as if by the Grim Reaper herself, and you know Terry is doomed. From there the bombs drop and this dub record sounds like a war zone. The air raid sirens sound and Yoko Ono‘s Yang Yang hits and soon thereafter a reinvention of Dylan‘s Masters of War and the Kinks‘ I Go To Sleep which takes on an Eno-esque quality. There are two originals Officer Officer and No One’s There both with big Jah Wobble bass lines that hold their own. This is one stark record and some amazing slight of hand by all involved making this record sound as cohesive as it does from it’s seemingly incompatible pieces to create an uncomfortable warmth that makes it impossible to put down.
Tags: Mayer Hawthorne, Stones Throw
photo from Foto Schiko
Late last year the excellent blog Fire Escape Talking wrote about this heart shaped record by Mayer Hawthorne that harked back to the days of Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. The record came out on the venerable Stones Throw, so you kinda knew that it wasn’t a fluke. The first pressing quickly sold out for good reason, a red heart-shaped record with a killer A and B side was a no-brainer to get rid of ten hard earned dollars.
That record has been on my turntable quit a bit the last six months as a welcome respite from all the garage, punk and indie records that seem to monopolize my listening most of time. So Mr. Hawthorne, to prove that that beautiful red piece of wax wasn’t a fluke, has an entire record in the offing, hard proof this guy is no one hit wonder. Peanut Butter Wolf, Stones Throw mogul signed him to his label after hearing only two songs, and his gamble apparently is now paying off. The record is twelve songs that will take you back to a different time when you called your girl baby, there was slow dancing without any grinding and the bridges of songs always required hand claps. Mayer Hawthorne’s A Strange Arrangement comes out 8 September, so line up and get ready to get transported back to a different time, from which you probably won’t want to leave. Oh, and if you can’t believe that a 29 year old white guy from Ann Arbor, Michigan is the man behind this soul revival then catch him on tour this fall to become a believer, dates below.
mp3: Mayer Hawthorn -The Ills
Sep 05: Seattle, WA at Bumbershoot Festival
Sep 10: Los Angeles at The Roxy
Sep 13: San Luis Obispo at Downtown Brew
Sep 15: San Francisco at Rickshaw Stop
Sep 16: Santa Cruz at Catalyst (Atrium)
Sep 18: Portland at MusicFest NW
Sep 19: Eugene at WOW Hall
Sep 21: Salt Lake City at Kilby Court
Sep 23: Denver at Larimer Lounge
Sep 24: Omaha at The Waiting Room
Sep 25: Chicago at Dark Room
Sep 26: Ann Arbor at Blind Pig
Sep 27: Toronto at Drake Hotel
Sep 29: Boston at Great Scott
Sep 30: Philadelphia at Johnny Brendas
Oct 01: Brooklyn at The Knitting Factory
Oct 02: New York at Mercury Lounge
Oct 04: Washington DC at DC9
Oct 05: Chapel Hill at Local 506
Oct 06: Atlanta at Druken Unicorn
Oct 07: Orlando at The Social
Oct 09: New Orleans at Parish, HOB
Oct 10: Austin at Red 7
Oct 14: Scottsdale, AZ at Chasers
Oct 15: San Diego at Canes