I've gotta give it up to Colin Hickey this week. The booking manager at the Badlander and Palace has strung together a pretty amazing run of shows in the coming days, featuring some of the most justly buzzed-about bands on today's indie circuit.
First up, tonight, comes Texas-based act Midlake, a downtempo quintet that plies the misty waters between 70s soft-rock and modern indie folk.
Soaring on the heart-bare vocals of Tim Smith, the band recently released its third album, "The Courage of Others," which earned props from the likes of NPR and Allmusic. Built on a foundation of acoustic guitars, softly thumped drums, and tight vocal harmonies, the album at once reflects and rejects its overt 70s soft-rock influences. In the song, "Children of the Grounds," the band echoes the harmonic turns and moody vibe of Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon," before stabbing the whole thing through with a wailing, overdriven and monotonous guitar "solo."
"The songs have the hypnotic glow of a home fire glimpsed from a distance," noted the New York Daily News. "No current work better reflects the austerity, gravity and secret beauty of this cold season."
If that's not enough to lure you to tonight's show, perhaps the opener - the opener! - will provide due inducement.
His name is Jason Lytle; if that name doesn't sound familiar, maybe you'll recognize him by his old band name, Grandaddy. That five-piece band from Modesto, Calif., fronted by Lytle, produced several acclaimed albums in the 1990s and early 2000s before breaking up in 2006. Thereafter, Lytle moved to Bozeman, where he produced a solo record, "Yours Truly, the Commuter," described by Pitchfork as sounding "an awful lot like a Grandaddy album - not just another Grandaddy album, though, but a really good one."
And now, he's coming to the Badlander to perform a solo show. That's gotta be worth your $10, right?
Oh, but there's more! The show also features opener John Grant, the former lead singer with the Czars, whose recent solo debut, "Queen of Denmark," was dubbed an "Instant Classic" by Mojo Magazine - an honor shared in recent years only by Joanna Newsom's "Have One On Me" and Fleet Foxes' debut.
Like Midlake, Grant draws on 70s influences such as Supertramp and Randy Newman in creating his introspective and sometimes brutally honest tunes. The BBC called the album "one of the most deeply satisfying debut albums of recent times."
All that, in one show, tonight at the Palace.
Still not satisfied? Just wait 'til next Thursday, June 3, when the Palace hosts Portland's Blitzen Trapper, a genre-busting band that hardly even counts as an indie secret anymore, having now been trumpeted by the likes of Rolling Stone (which devoted a two-page spread to the band, and also named its 2008 album, "Furr," the 13th best record of that year), Billboard Magazine, and even Nick Jr.'s curiously popular children's show, "Yo Gabba Gabba."
Working with celebrated engineer Mike Coykendall (of Bright Eyes, M Ward and She & Him fame), Blitzen Trapper captures at once the sludgy, laid-back rock vibe of early 70s Grateful Dead and Warren Zevon, and the layered complexity of modern acts like Beck and Of Montreal. The result is a stoner's delight of self-contradictory, short-attention-span rock, all tied together neatly by singer Eric Earley's sunny voice.
For their local show, Blitzen Trapper is joined by Seattle band The Moondoggies, who happen to be on their way to a little festival called Bonnaroo. Maybe you've heard of it?
But of course, who needs Bonnarroo - or, for that matter, Sasquatch - when you can see all this in a small basement barroom right here at home? (And let's not forget next Saturday's show by the Mountain Goats, whose album, "We Shall All Be Healed," ranked among my 20 best of the past decade. Check next week's Entertainer for a preview of that show.)