Brazos

Martin McNulty Crane V comes from a long line of exceptional Martins. There's an orphan who became attorney general of Texas and fought the KKK, a lieutenant who fought in WWI, an airline pilot who raised his family in Iran, and a scientist. Our Martin Crane, who now records as Brazos, is on track to become a leading musical light, with a burning creative mind and a searching soul.

Brooklyn (by way of Austin) -based Brazos gained recognition in 2009 with Crane's self-released debut album, Phosphorescent Blues. The album was hewn around 'The Observer,' the 1969 Adrienne Rich poem Crane put to music. From the bouncy, free-formed vocal phrasing of that adaptation grew a style that combined raw energy and dance rhythms with the subtle intricacies of jazz and folk.

On Brazos' new album, Saltwater, Crane's acoustic guitar, Spencer Zahn's warm bass lines, and Ian Chang's frenetic, melodic drumming were all recorded live. Over several months, Crane added and refined layers of pianos, synths, guitars and production embellishment. The multi-talented Sandro Perri mixed the final arrangements into a quixotic melange that is both understated and startlingly honest.

Like a stunning spring morning, Saltwater is buoyant, expansive pop, with an astonishingly sure hand of craftsmanship. Gestated in an atmosphere of listening to "transcendent groove music" (Pharaoh Sanders, Can, Harmonia, Fela Kuti, among others) Crane brings a light and lilting poise and unique perspective, mixed with the emotional urgency of The Walkmen, a James Mercer timbre, and a wry, unencumbered sense of being, a la Deerhunter or Cass McCombs.

Opening track 'Always On' begins mid-synth swirl blast, plunging the listener into a dervish of melody and a frenetic beat. 'Charm' jumps down a notch to a loping, staccato groove and seeing-stars joie-de-vivre. By track three 'How the Ranks Was Won,' the cascades of melodic joy have been translated into a tale about the voyage of a ghost ship and its descendants. The title track 'Saltwater', inspired by Melville's Moby Dick, holds its tempo, just barely reined in, with spirals of guitar, swells of organ and explosions of percussion threatening to erupt, while Crane's salty caramel vocal is warm and emphatic.

This is our Martin Crane - the restless, yearning, young musical adventurer - balancing raging power, with a lovely articulation of deep feelings.

He has no tattoos.

Twenty-plus years of stories, twenty-plus years of perfecting music's craft, Ski Lodge's Big Heart is exactly what a debut record should be: the culmination of a creative force's life on this planet. Andrew Marr, the multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter behind Ski Lodge, has created a deeply personal record that overflows with lush melodies and insatiably catchy choruses. His songs occasionally deal with dark matters—infidelity, painful break-ups, loneliness, disjointed father-son dynamics—but Marr bathes them in a blissful light ripe for sing-alongs.

"I try to write songs honestly, and a lot of the things going on in my head that I struggle with might be deemed 'dark,' but I don't think that means I can't sing about them in a way that is musically upbeat or poppy," Marr says, from his home in New York City. It's a dichotomy that also translates to Marr's choice for musical moniker. He explains the name Ski Lodge "evoked an image of being warm by a fire, alone or with friends, while outside exists the cold and cruel winter."

Big Heart, Ski Lodge's debut full-length, out this summer on Dovecote Records, is Marr's fullest realization of this hot and cold split. Marr wrote all of the lyrics and music, and played nearly every sound that ended up on the record. However, this was the first time the 26-year-old worked in a professional studio with a producer, the indelible Lewis Pesacov (Best Coast, Fool's Gold), over several weeks in Los Angeles. The combination of Marr's intrinsic songwriting and Pesacov's LA-defining production skills resulted in music with fuller breadth and scope than Ski Lodge's previous release without losing any of the wry innocence that made 2011's self-titled debut EP so much fun.

The one exception is the lead single "Just To Be Like You," which was recorded with the full band in Upstate New York using producer Kevin McMahon (Walkmen, Real Estate). Prefix Mag called the track "sugary sweet pop," while Pitchfork warned its readers not to "be deceived by the energetic, hopscotching riff" before lauding the single's dark depths. The song and its accompanying video of cult imagery are an exploration of contrast that fits in perfectly with both the album and Ski Lodge as a whole: deeply affecting and unmistakably danceable.

The Droids We're Looking For

Folky rock mixed with a variety of tastes, influences, and beard sizes, DWLF is playing and recording music in a United States national capital near you.

$8.00 - $10.00

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DC9 Nightclub

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Brazos with Ski Lodge, The Droids We're Looking For

Sunday, December 15 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at DC9 Nightclub