WATERS

Spring 2010 saw the demise of Port O’Brien, and founding member/front man Van Pierszalowski needed a break from the hectic, wonderful mess that is touring. He stumbled into respite in Oslo, Norway, and spent some time away from making music. Van explored the new city, swam in the Norwegian fjords, enjoyed the weather and the experience of seasons changing. He found his bearings and fell in love again.

Inspiration arrived and as he wrote, Van was compelled to fuel the process further by changing his environment once more. He spent most of the next year traveling: to Alaska, where he’d spent summers working on his father’s commercial salmon fishing boat; to California, where he’d grown up in a seaside town off Highway 1; and eventually to New York, where in Brooklyn he endured relentless blizzards and a cold nearly reminiscent of Oslo.

Van gave his new project a name: WATERS. These new songs he wrote veered away from the frequently loose, punchy anthems of Port O’Brien, and as he intensively pieced each one together, he sought a bigger sound – something louder than he could play on his own. So Van returned to Oslo, where his new journey had begun. He put together a band of fine Norwegian gentlemen and spent every day of the next two months rehearsing in a small practice space outside of the city.

This band went with Van to Dallas, Texas, to record with producer John Congleton. Over a brief 10-day recording session in April, Congleton – who has worked on some of Van’s favorite albums (by artists including St. Vincent, Bill Callahan, and yes, R. Kelly) – kept the production stark, maintaining the songs’ intimacy and emotional intensity. Out In The Light has a louder, fuller, more aggressive and raw sound than any of Van’s earlier works. It’s a mix of fuzzy, pealing guitars and crashing drums, and easy, alternately soaring and languid, indelible melodies.

According to Van, “The record is about waking up. It is about getting out of a situation that seems endless, and realizing you’re not too old to make dramatic and sudden changes in your life. It is about starting over.”

Naming their sophomore album Developer is a bold move for the still-young band Social Studies. But it is as apt a descriptor as you're likely to find for how the sound of this San Francisco-based five-piece has flourished, matured, and, yes, developed over the past two years.

The band - led by Natalia Rogovin (vocals, keys) and Michael Jirkovsky (drums), who were joined in 2009 by bassist Jesse Hudson and guitarist Tom Smith and this year by second guitarist Ben McClintock - has already won a loyal fan base thanks to their arch take on modernist pop as heard on 2010 release Wind Up Wooden Heart. Social Studies has become a force to be reckoned with in concert as well, transfixing audiences at the CMJ Music Festival, SXSW, and Noise Pop, and bringing their unique energy and spirit to stages shared with TuneYards, Wye Oak, Lotus Plaza, Thee Oh Sees, Dodos, Ramona Falls and many more.

Now, on their new album, the goal was to strip things down to the basics, straighten out some of the more jagged lines of their previous work, and put the focus more on texture and mood. "Before, we were rebellious. We fucked with things just because we wanted to push limits and boundaries," says Rogovin. "Developer is a more adult record. We tried to explore sounds and draw out parts to write more moving and focused songs."

They enlisted the able ears and hands of engineer and co-producer Eli Crews (Tune-Yards, Deerhoof, Thao & Mirah) who helped hone this new barebones attack as well as reflecting the excitement of their stage show. On Developer, all the pieces have come together perfectly. The clear-eyed production helps bring out the dark, sexy heart of these ruminations on life, love, pain, and pleasure. The themes of the album are as complex as the songs are streamlined. "The album is about art, but it's also a cinematic exploration of those turning points in life that you didn't see coming and didn't realize were important until much later," says Rogovin.

Lead single "Terracur" calls the bluff of a headstrong friend threatening to leave, while "Away For the Weekend" turns the tables to justify a departure: “Ever discover another that makes you feel good, you always feel right/ the notion of fleeing the corporeal being/Just run to your other life.”

In Developer, Social Studies has succeeded in evoking a set of feelings and emotions that will linger with listeners long after the last notes have faded away. Warm, cold, or downright chilling, there is a connection between the personal and universal that the band taps into through a set of fearless and gripping songs.

French Cassettes

French Cassettes are a four-piece indie pop band whose recent release, "Summer Darling", is not only easy on the ears but also serves as a clear statement of their upbeat intentions. In the few years that French Cassettes have been together, they have made a significant impact on both the local and national scene. With their roots in Ripon, California, a small central valley town, and currently based in San Francisco, French Cassettes have won numerous area music awards and competitions including the famed Hayward Battle of the Bands. They were also voted into the final four of a nation-wide Myspace contest competing against thousands of bands. With a fun and energetic live show, don’t let the danceable pop sound fool you, these boys take their craft seriously and are ready to prove their commitment to both causal and dedicated listeners.

$6.00

Tickets

Under 21 must buy $5 drink ticket at the door.

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Brick & Mortar Music Hall

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WATERS with Social Studies, French Cassettes

Monday, February 3 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Brick & Mortar Music Hall