Music for a Hot July


From The National to Lyle Lovett, this is a great month for music.

by John D

The album you should be listening to right now? The National’s Trouble Will Find Me. The National, hailing from Brooklyn by way of Ohio, are six albums past their self titled 2001 debut. If you don’t recognize the name, most people know them as the band with the talking lead singer. Actually, most know that he is singing, but his even baritone comes across as someone just speaking in a deep voice. The album was released in May with the lead single “Don’t Swallow the Cap” being pushed heavily in many radio markets. The single is good, but not great, which made listening to the album a pleasant surprise. The track “Graceless” should have been the single, but who knows what evil lurks in the mind of record company executives? Give the album a quick listen and “Sea of Love,” “This Is The Last Time,” and “Humiliation” stand out. Give the album a thorough listen and the whole thing comes together. A fair amount of critics have said that the album is formulaic and too much like the previous album. There is a little truth to that but I would say that the National  has just really come together as a band and that they are just continuing to grow. If you can make either drive, The National will be playing Nashville and Atlanta in early September and it would be well worth the trip.

Now on to shows in the Birmingham area where the drive is a little bit shorter. In the mood for some bright indie pop? Then head over to Bottletree on 7/10 to see Cayucas. The Santa Monica band, known for their single “High School Lover,” has been around for a few years (previously known as Oregon Bike Trails) but just released Bigfoot, their debut album. You can definitely hear the surf influences of Santa Monica in their lo–fi pop sound, but the one thing you won’t hear is melancholy. It is like the band is always smiling.

The  Art on The Rocks series at the Birmingham  Museum of Art is back, and the folks booking it are being a little more adventurous with this year’s line up (Birmingham’s own St. Paul and The Broken Bones played in June). On 7/19 The BMA welcomes The Weeks, a band that formed in 2006 (when the members were in their early teens). The Weeks have had plenty of time to grow into their sound, and their most recent album Dear Bo Jackson is a solid effort–a mix of southern rock meets indie rock. Throw in a keyboard player who is just at home playing the melodica (that is the keyboard flute instrument) and a healthy dash of banjo, and you have a good time in the making.

Are you feeling a bit nostalgic? There are plenty of tours with bands from the mid 90s hitting the road this summer. Expect high ticket prices, bands that were not really that good back then (Sugar Ray anyone?), standing outside in the heat, and buyer’s remorse about halfway through a show that is too long. How about something even more nostalgic, but with none of the negatives, like the Psychedelic Furs? Yep, the Psychedelic Furs are stopping by WorkPlay on 7/22. Yes, you can hear “Pretty In Pink” in person. Reasonably priced tickets, air conditioning, and a band that actually had a career? Sounds like a way to get your 80’s fix this month.

The incredibly prolific Lyle Lovett plays the Alys Stephens Center on 7/24. A common misconception is that Lovett is country (hailing from Texas solidified this notion in many people’s minds), but what Lovett really is is Americana. A singer-songwriter at heart with four Grammys to prove it, Lovett (along with his Acoustic Group) will be performing songs from his 14th album Release Me along with some of his classics. A great venue, a great musician, and what will be a great show.

Iron City welcomes the Drive By Truckers on 8/1. The last time the Truckers played Birmingham, they sold out The Soundstage at WorkPlay for two nights. Granted, this was fueled by rumors the band would be breaking up, but the Drive By Truckers are the quintessential southern rock story tellers. The band did take a hiatus while co-founder Patterson Hood released and toured a solo album (opening for one of the Alabama Shakes shows in June), but they are back–and this show is going to sell out–so buy your tickets now.

On Sale Now

•Phosporescent: Huntsville native Matthew Houck brings his full band sound and new critically acclaimed album Muchacho to Iron City on 9/19

•Revival Music Festival: The first big music festival for Railroad Park (8/24) with Jason Isbell headlining, with 6 other acts (including Leagues, Drew Holcombe and the Neighbors)

•Man Or Astro-man? Although they say they are from space (by way of Auburn, Alabama), the supposed extra-terrestrials of Man Or Astro-Man? bring their surf rock (and the first new full album in 12 years) to the final Art On The Rocks of the 2013 season. High energy, and sometimes outright bizarre, shows are their hallmark it is quite a surprising (yet welcome) choice for Art On The Rocks.

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