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SLCene Suggests: Zola Jesus at the Urban Lounge


ZOLA JESUS, THE URBAN LOUNGE, Monday, Jan. 12, 9 p.m., $15

A woman named Nika is the creative force behind Zola Jesus, and she is one bold, imaginative musician. While earlier records relied heavily on big beats and synthesizers, she started work on her latest release, TAIGA, but stripping her sound down to its core before building it up in new ways. She moved from LA to an island in the Puget Sound with an aim toward immersing herself in the natural world. Then she wrote songs completely acapella instead of building up the instrumental tracks first. Then she went to visit her old opera instructor and regained some of the power in her voice, and the renewed confidence allowed her to put her vocals front and center on her new music, rather than buried in layers of noise and reverb. All the effort proved worth her time when TAIGA landed on a number of year-end “best of 2014” lists. Deradoorian opens her show in Salt Lake City.


SLCene Suggests: Max Pain and the Groovies CD release party at Kilby Court



Salt Lake City quintet Max Pain and the Groovies burst onto the scene about five years ago, playing a New Year’s Eve show in 2009 that introduced the local scene to five guys who can absolutely deliver a worthy brand of psych-rock for a whole new generation. Their stage shows are something to behold–don’t get too close, there is occasional fire up front–and they quickly built a following both in town and on the road, picking up accolades along the way like City Weekly’s best band recognition in 2012. They released a four-song EP in 2013, and now they have a full-length set ready for public consumption.

SLCene Suggests: The Mother Hips at The State Room


THE MOTHER HIPS, THE STATE ROOM, Saturday, Jan. 10, 9 p.m., $21

Long-time faves in Salt Lake City for about two decades now, Northern Cal boys The Mother Hips probably know the long-lost venues of Utah like the Zephyr Club and Dead Goat Saloon as well as any older local. And after taking a pause for a few years, they’re back to being regular visitors to Zion, and getting to know our newer venues. On their coming trip to town, they’ll hit The State Room (Saturday) and the brand new O.P. Rockwell in Park City (Friday) on their tour supporting Chronicle Man, a collection of older songs originally recorded by the band in the mid-’90s before being rediscovered in a Los Angeles basement five years and cleaned up as part of a massive archiving effort. Expect to hear some of that “new” old material along with old classics during the band’s two shows in Utah.

SLCene Suggests: Chris Robinson Brotherhood at Park City’s Main Street


CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD, LOWER MAIN STREET, Park City, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m., free

Even if you’re not the type to go watch the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup races at Deer Valley this week, you can still take advantage of their annual trip to Utah via the free concert on Lower Main Street Wednesday night by the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. The Black Crowes leader has fronted this side project for several years as a means to stretch his songwriting chops and scratch his jam-band itch during periods when his main band is between tours or he and his brother Rich aren’t getting along. The Brotherhood’s latest album, Phosphorescent Harvest, is a strong collection of classic-sounding rock, and Robinson is definitely one of the best frontmen of the past quarter-century or so among American rock bands. And did I mention it’s free? You have no good excuse to miss this one.

SLCene Suggests: Reckless Kelly at The Depot


RECKLESS KELLY, THE DEPOT, Saturday, Jan. 3, 8 p.m., $25

Talk about a family affair–this show has two bands led by by a duo of brothers, and ALL the brother involved happen to be from the same family. Reckless Kelly is an Austin-based alt-country outfit led by Willy and Cody Braun that’s been knocking out rock-solid albums since their 1997 debut, Millican, a collection that started a streak of excellent work that landed them on noteworthy roots label Sugar Hill Records and made a fan of  Texas legend Joe Ely.  Younger Braun brothers Mickey and Gary are leaders of the opening band Mickey and the Motorcars, who have become hard-touring favorities, and have six albums to their credit, in addition to a live release. Both bands have roots in Idaho and have long histories in Salt Lake City.

SLCene Suggests: Jane Lynch at the Eccles Center


JANE LYNCH, ECCLES CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, Park City, Wed., Dec. 31, 8 p.m., $40-$165

After years of stand-out performances in indie flicks like Best in Show and genuine blockbusters like The 40-Year-Old  Virgin, people finally started figuring out that Jane Lynch is a name that needed to be remembered among America’s great comedic actresses. Most of the credit goes to her role as the acerbic Sue Sylvester on the saccharine teen-soap Glee, which gave Lynch an outlet to bring a delightful nastiness to the proceedings–while also showing some genuine warmth at (very) select moments. The show also gave Lynch an outlet for her considerable singing chops, which makes her one-woman show The Anti-Cabaret Cabaret Show appearing at Park City’s Eccles Center on New Year’s Eve a must-see. How often does a comedy show give you a chance to sing along to some classic American standards, or does a concert give you genuine reason to laugh out loud?


My favorite 10 albums of 2014


There have been several times when I found myself struggling to come up with 10 albums for a year-end list, even when these sorts of lists are basically meaningless. But in 2014, I’m happy to report it was a genuine challenge to whittle down the list of releases I liked to just 10. As always, these are merely the 10 albums I listened to the most while I drove around, or toiled at work, or simply sat and wallowed in glorious sounds and lyrics. Lots of old favorites hitting new career peaks, along with a couple of relative newbies who I’m excited to follow as they mature.

Here ya go:

10. Ex Hex, RipsThis band seems genetically engineered for my personal enjoyment. A power-pop trio with punky riffs and attitude led by former Helium and Wild Flag singer/guitarist Mary Timony, this album blows by in a blink, in a most enjoyable way.

9. The New Pornographers, Brill BruisersI had lost a little of my enthusiasm for New Pornographers a bit over their past couple albums, preferring the solo work of members Neko Case, AC Newman and Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer). Brill Bruisers got me right back to the obsession I had when I heard their debut.

8. Spoon, They Want My SoulThese guys are 20+ years into their career, and I still feel like they Austin crew’s brand of groovy rock is underappreciated. Like New Pornographers, I’d cooled a bit on Britt Daniel and Co., but came back around with this album, one that’s solid top to bottom.

7. Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels 2. For the second year in a row, Killer Mike and El-P put out my favorite hip-hop album of the year (and via free download again, too!). The real-world racial strife that overcame the American news this year only emphasized their socially conscious lyrics all the more, and the slammin’ fun tracks just rule.

6. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Hypnotic EyeI hadn’t really been sucked in to a new Tom Petty album since Wildflowers, but this collection recorded with the Heartbreakers touches on everything he and the band do well, from garage-rock stompers to some beautiful balladry.

5. Afghan Whigs, Do The Beast. This album was probably the most pleasant surprise of the year for me. Long ago disbanded and left for dead as singer/lyricist extraordinaire Greg Dulli moved on with Twilight Singers, the Afghan Whigs returned with a vibrant set of songs just a bit more complex than their early-years work, both musically and emotionally.

4. St. Vincent, St. VincentA jaw-dropping evolution from someone who was already pretty great. St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) turned into an art-rock force in 2014 with songs that pulsed with life–and Clark’s jarringly shred-friendly guitar work.

3. Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans. More Cooley! That’s something a lot of us Truckers fans have wanted for a long time–more songs from guitarist Mike Cooley in the mix alongside acknowledged workhorse Patterson Hood. English Oceans is split about evenly between the two writers, and that makes for the best Truckers’ album since A Blessing and a Curse.

2. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere ElseThe third album from the Ohio-based Loveless scratched my roots-rock itch in all the right ways. Only 23 when she wrote and recorded these songs, Loveless created a collection of country and rock that marks her as a natural progression from folks like Lucinda Williams while still boasting a youthful edge that makes me excited to see what she does next.

1. Jenny Lewis: The Voyager. Lewis’ music lands at the nexus of indie-rock, classic country and sunny retro-pop, and she easily avoids the danger of coming off too precious with biting lyrics that are set in a darker, uneasy present than her rainbow suits and glammy L.A. background might suggest. Her third solo album comes on sonically like an easy-listening soundtrack to a summer convertible cruise (Beck and Ryan Adams are both on board as producers), but Lewis is excavating deep feelings about old breakups, family deaths and the reality of facing down 40 — issues that make it easy for young and old, male and female, to relate to where she’s coming from.

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