Those familiar with the decades-spanning oeuvre of Bob Mould—from his pioneering early '80s work with Hüsker Dü to his solo work in singer-songwriter, electronic, and rock modes, to the deafening pop sparkle of Sugar—might expect a new album bearing the title Silver Age to be a somber and reflective set in the mode of his last album, 2009's Life and Times…and they'd be way off the mark.

Silver Age is an intense and concise ten song blast far more reminiscent of Bob's latter-day Hüsker Dü output—first marked by the monumental sprawl of 1984's Zen Arcade which then gave way to the short, sharp pop focus of 1985's New Day Rising—and his early '90s tenure with Sugar, whose classic debut Copper Blue marks its 20th anniversary this year. That said, Silver Age is no nostalgia trip. Aside from lyrical content that shows Bob as in-the-now as ever, Silver Age came together quickly and organically in the wake of a series of electric solo dates in 2011 supporting Foo Fighters (where he guested each night on "Dear Rosemary," the track from the Foos' Wasting Light on which Bob shares writing and vocal duties) as well as a solo acoustic/book tour around last summer's publication of See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, the autobiography Bob co-authored with Michael Azerrad (Come as You Are, Our Band Could Be Your Life). These events culminated in a tribute last November at Los Angeles' Disney Hall that featured the likes of Dave Grohl, Ryan Adams, Spoon's Britt Daniel, and Craig Finn and Tad Kubler of The Hold Steady celebrating the width and breadth of Bob's body of work.

"I'd been batting around the idea of another aggressive pop record for some time," Bob says, "especially as the 20th anniversary of Copper Blue kept getting closer. But it was really the shows with Foo Fighters that got me thinking when I started writing for this record: Did I just write a Sugar song? Or a Foo Fighters song? Or one of my own songs? And does it really matter? Once I got that out of the way, it freed me up to have some fun and set about making a simple rock record."

It's no surprise, then, that Silver Age careens out of the speakers with a sense of exhilaration that reflects the excitement with which Bob and his live band of bassist Jason Narducy (Split Single, Verbow) and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, the Mountain Goats) cranked out the record in a tight whirlwind of a window from in early 2012. But that's not to say that Silver Age is a lighthearted romp—as ever, there's plenty of dark matter at the center of these sweet melodic nuggets. First single "The Descent," for example, is one of those perfect moments that lands firmly in the Mould wheelhouse, with walls of luminescent guitars, phantom choruses, and infectious hooks all leading toward the concluding refrain of "My world, it is descending." The opening one-two of "Star Machine" and "Silver Age," on the other hand, pairs abrasive riffs with equally harsh meditations on fame, immaturity, and the lessons and consequences thereof. Other Silver Age highlights include the bittersweet romantic epic "Round the City Square" ("It feels like people always look to my songs to help define their own failed relationships," Bob laughs); the upbeat and earnest celebration of "First Time Joy"; and the unabashedly literal "Keep Believing," a rousing love letter to the records that shaped Bob's personal and professional life. Listen closely and see how many of the references you can pinpoint:

Bring me thoughts and words, pass me the revolver

I can see for miles, and everything's in color

Rock and roll all night until I feel the thunder

I got a handle on some complicated fun

We're all sniffing glue, pleasures so unknown

A circle drawn in blue, the murmur baritone

Picnic on a Pedro lawn, heaven took that monkey song

Never mind the battle won, could you be the loveless one?

"I don't know if there's an arc to this record," Bob says. "But if I had to boil it down to one core idea, it would be: I love music. I love my life. I love what I do for a living. It's right there on the lyric sheet; it references itself, really. More than any other record I've made, this one gives a real glimpse into how much making music means to me as a means of expression, as well as what music means to me as a fan."

And so has it always been the case for Bob Mould, the music he's created defining every phase of his life, both cataloging memories and propelling him ever forward: Hüsker Dü's formation in 1979 and the hardcore anthems, tight, melodic, hard-pop chestnuts, and sprawling double-vinyl conceptual opuses it churned out in equal measure up to its dramatic 1987 flameout; Bob's solo works ranging from his landmark 1989 debut Workbook to Black Sheets of Rain (1990), Body of Song (2005), District Line (2008), and Life and Times (2009); his forays into electronic music, including 2002's Modulate and his Blowoff collaboration with Richard Morel; and of course, the soon-to-be-reissued body of work that Sugar packed into its brief existence, featuring the 1992 debut Copper Blue which Bob and his band have been playing front to back at recent live shows. It seems to be Bob's summations and reflections on these major creative periods of his life and career that open up new wellsprings while coming to terms with the old works—a natural process that has produced winning results yet again in the form of Silver Age.

"It's no coincidence that this record came at this point," Bob says. "In 1991, closing the door on a run of all-acoustic shows led right into the beginning of Sugar and Copper Blue. So you could state a case that the solo shows accompanying the book readings through 2011—plus the Disney Hall show and knowing the 20th anniversary of Copper Blue was right around the corner—wrapping that all up led me right into Silver Age. I'm well aware that there's no way to get into a time machine and go back to being the person I was 20 years ago, but it is nice to get three musicians in the studio together and get back inside that three-minute pop song structure again."

John Vanderslice wrote the bulk of his new album while knee-deep in legal limbo after a visa application for his girlfriend, a French national he met in Paris, was rejected by US Immigration. The songs and themes in Emerald City are fueled by an era of deep insecurity and paranoia; they develop in front of a backdrop of ritualized and mythologized current events. Lyrically, JV's characters and storytellers track Manifest Destiny from burning wagon wheels to two-bedroom homes with full amenities in Bakersfield, California.

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Along that rough road, there are bewildered commemorations, peace-lovers and revenge-lusters, psychotic reactions to unnamed episodes, and the grief-stricken and the vengeance-hungry wrapped up in the same skin. Weaving throughout the entire album is the ever present danger of opposition. But at its simplest, and captured with straight autobiography in album closer "Central Booking", Emerald
City is made up of JV's love songs — confused and angry, afraid and defeated.

The red tape tie-up for JV and his girl remains unresolved. Emerald City was tracked quickly, and mostly live at Tiny Telephone in San Francisco. The album was performed by David Broecker, Dave Douglas, Ian Bjornstad, Scott Solter, and JV. The record's title refers to the Green Zone in
Baghdad.

Kris Orlowski

For Seattle-based Kris Orlowski and his band, making music is about more than fulfilling personal agendas; it’s about creating something that touches the soul. Through relatable storytelling, husky harmonies and Orlowski’s knack for creating emotional highs, the band has done just that: touched the souls of people across the Pacific Northwest – as well as across the country, since 2010. Now, in the wake of releasing three well-received EPs, touring the country and having songs featured on hit television series including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Tomorrow People,” the act has just released its first full-length album, Believer.

“The songs we’re writing now are evolving the same way our band is,” says Orlowski. “It’s not just one voice – but five voices. And yeah, it’s my vision, and I’m leading the charge. But in these songs, there is more than just one thing we’re trying to say.”
Having recently collaborated with a 17-piece orchestra for the Pieces We Are EP, Orlowski wanted to go in a new direction with the new material. That’s why, along with band mates Mark Isakson (guitar), Torry Anderson (keys/vocals), Greg Garcia (drums) Tyler Carroll (bass) and Jonathan Warman (bass), Orlowski sought out producer Martin Feveyear of Jupiter Studios in Seattle. Feveyear, who has worked with acts including Presidents of the United States of America, Queens Of The Stone Age, The Lumineers, and Death Cab for Cutie, gave new focus to the project.

“There are times when you’re too close to the songs, and having a producer like Feveyear there – who knew where we were going with this record – he was able to kind of get us there,” Orlowski says.

In the spirit of getting there, the songs that make-up Believer were woven together along the West Coast: from the salty shores of Seaside, Ore., and Orcas Island’s Doe Bay, to the corners of Orlowski’s Seattle apartment – and the practice spaces in between.

The result is more punch-y and experimental; a cinematic compilation, which echoes the band’s earlier folk-infused traditions while shedding the lush sounds of a full orchestra for more traditional rock and pop arrangements. Calling on personal experiences and thoughtful reflection, and inspired by the work of authors like Flannery O’Connor and Paulo Coehlo, Believer may be the band’s most honest, empowering and upbeat collection yet.

“I think the album will inspire some hope, but I also think it will go beyond that and give people a reason to act,” Orlowski says.
In other words, it might encourage finding something to believe in.



BIO EXCERPT (209):

For Seattle-based Kris Orlowski and his band, making music is about more than fulfilling personal agendas; it’s about creating something that touches the soul. Through relatable storytelling, husky harmonies and knack for hitting emotional highs, the band has touched the souls of people across the Pacific Northwest since 2010. In the wake of releasing three well-received EPs, touring the country and having songs featured on primetime television series, the act has just released its first full-length album, Believer. Produced by Martin Feveyear, of Jupiter Studios in Seattle, the songs that make-up Believer were woven together along the West Coast: from the salty shores of Seaside, Ore., and Orcas Island’s Doe Bay, to the corners of Orlowski’s Seattle apartment – as well as the practice spaces in between. And the collection, rich with personal experiences and thoughtful reflection, may prove the band’s most honest and empowering work yet. Shedding the lush sounds of a 17 piece orchestra for more traditional rock and pop arrangements, the cinematic record is more punch-y and experimental than their earlier folk-infused traditions. “I think the album will inspire some hope, but I also think it will go beyond that and give people a reason to act,” Orlowski says. In other words, it might encourage finding something to believe in.

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Bob Mould with John Vanderslice, Kris Orlowski

Thursday, September 5 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Doug Fir Lounge