New Peter Bjorn and John | “Inland Empire”

Probably not Peter, Bjorn or John. But you'll have to ask David Lynch.

A nice bonus of attending the Pianos show tonight with Sky Larkin and Passion Pit — the free Wichita Recordings sampler CDs stacked all over the room. Usually these type of label samplers are straight-to-the-bins type things but this one has all sorts of goodies from upcoming releases, including new music from Euros Childs, The Bronx, Her Space Holiday and the new all-instrumental album from Peter Bjorn and John.

Titled Seaside Rock, it may not be the obvious follow-up to the big-selling 2006 album that had everybody whistling along with "Young Folks" but if this track, "Inland Empire," is any indication it'll be worth hearing. (And, anyway, they've already completed their proper vocal-infused follow-up to Writers Block which is due out in early '09.) Not sure whether it's named after David Lynch's 2007 cinematic methodical mindfuck or not. Reminds me a little of Vanishing Point-era Primal Scream. (Bjorn produced some of the 'Scream's new album, actually.) You be the judge:

: Peter Bjorn and John – Inland Empire (Buy PB&J stuff)

Between this, Peter Moren's solo album, and the bevy of records Bjorn has produced (Primal Scream, Lykke Li, Shout Out Louds), these Swedes haven't been resting on a whistle.

Peter Moren + Tobias Froberg | Mercury Lounge | 4.21.2008

"Don’t worry, I’m Swedish." Tobias Froberg was learning the problems of playing with a laptop as backing band — namely if you flub an intro you have to restart the equipment. Which meant running around the amplifiers and such, over to his macbook.

It was early in his set — second song — but it could’ve been said at any point during the evening, a laid back, fun show featuring a couple Swedes and an American named Doug. Froberg was opening for old pal Peter Moren, who was taking a break from being in Peter, Bjorn & John to play some shows in support of his first solo album, The Last Tycoon, which Froberg plays on. Froberg was supporting his second album, Turn Heads, which Moren plays on. So not surprisingly they were both out there for each other’s sets. They’d just come straight from a European tour together, they played Dublin last night. But for the US dates, they’ve got Dirty on Purpose drummer Doug Marvin as a third — you might recall he played bongos for Peter Bjorn and John on some American dates last year.

Froberg not you typical Swedish indie rocker. His songs have more of a ’70s feel, more emotional, many being piano driven. "Just Behind a Brickwall" has an undeniable Elton John feel. But not cheesy. He seemed excited to be playing to a semi-full room, making jokes inbetween songs, mainly of the "Thank you America!" variety. He was good, even though he didn’t play "When the Night Turns Cold" off his first album which is my favorite.

MP3: Tobias Froberg – Slipping Under the Radar
(buy it)

Moren’s set was equally loosey-goosey. Though Doug — whose name sounds like "dog" when spoken with a Swedish accent — had played with Moren at Joe’s Pub for a couple shows a few months back, Moren and Froberg kept throwing him curve balls, but he’s a good musician and held his own, though when they put him on piano for one song, it was entertaining to watch him craning his neck to try and figure out what chords Moren was playing. He finally gave up and switched to tambourine.

Moren’s solo album is pretty different from the pop he writes for PB&J. The songs are more obtuse, less obviously hooky, the lyrics much more personal. But he was much more a showman here than I remembered him being at either of the shows with Bjorn and John I caught last year. He was a real Chatty Cathy, and a charming one at that, with lots of stories about his songs, from his time in mandatory military training ("Reel to Reel") and as a teacher ( "Social Competence"). There was also a string section for three songs. In addition to most of The Last Tycoon, we also got two PB&J songs ("Sunday Morning," "Goodbye, Again Or") and a couple covers: A Ha’s "Take on Me" (which had all the ladies in the crowd singing along) and Buddy Holly’s "Oh Boy." Everybody was clearly having a good time.

MP3: Peter Moren – Social Competence
(buy it)

This was the first date on their tour, and I can only imagine it’s one that will be better at the end, when Moren and Froberg allow Marvin to get up to speed. Dates:

Apr 22     Middle East Upstairs, Boston, Massachusetts
Apr 23     Cabaret Musee Juste Pour Rire, Montreal, Quebec
Apr 24     464 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
Apr 25     Wexner Center, Columbus, Ohio
Apr 26     Schubas     Chicago, Illinois
Apr 28     Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, British Columbia
Apr 29     The Triple Door, Seattle, Washington
Apr 30     Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, Oregon
May 1     Swedish American Hall, San Francisco, California
May 2     Hotel CafĂ©, Los Angeles, California
May 3     Troubador, Los Angeles, California

Euros Childs + David Kilgour + Peter Moren + Pseudosix | Union Hall | 11.09.2007

"This next song is 16 minutes long… and about every two minutes it sounds like it’s ending. But it’s not, so please don’t clap. It kind of ruins the momentum." That was pretty much the only thing Euros Childs said all night I understood, apart from some of his lyrics, what with his thick Welsh accent.  Actually, for all I know he was speaking in Welsh some of those times. He has never shied away from his native tongue  — his former band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci sang more often than not in his native tongue and one of the two albums Childs released this year, Bore Da, is entirely in Welsh.

The last time I saw Childs was, I think, 1999 when Gorky’s was touring for Spanish Dance Troupe. Though I own every album he’s released — Gorky’s, solo, or otherwise — I would still call myself a casual fan. Watching his excellent set Friday night I realize I’ve been taking him for granted. Childs’ solo material may lack the inventiveness and manic energy that made early records like Bwyd Time fun, but it is also absent of the Renaissance Fair embellishments which made them annoying. He’s still a quirky songwriter (dig that 16-minute title-track to Miracle Inn, also released this year), but these days his songwriting abilities are given more of a spotlight, as are the harmonies and his mellow voice. Playing as a trio with Gorky’s drummer Peter Richardson and Radio Luxembourg’s Meilyr Jones on bass, those qualities were abundantly clear. Great set.

MP3: Euros Childs – Horse Riding
(Buy Miracle Inn)

What wasn’t clear is why he was headlining this show. This is not to knock Childs, it’s just obvious that everyone came to see David Kilgour with whom he’s been on tour. Half the room left after Kilgour’s set, which was too bad. But Kilgour is an indie legend of 30 years. His band, the Clean, which he started in 1978 in Dunedin, NZ with his brother Hamish and Robert Scott (who would form his own influential band, The Bats) have influenced  loads of bands, perhaps most notably Yo La Tengo, Pavement and Superchunk. (Of the latter, Mac McCaughan’s Merge label put out a Clean compilation, released Bats albums in the ’90s, and has been releasing Kilgour’s solo albums since 2002.) Ira and James of YLT (both of whom stuck around for Childs and were well into it) were in the audience, actually, as were Kilgour’s brother Hamish, and Carl Newman.

Kilgour, who must be nearing 50 but looked much younger than that with a green military cap pulled down over his curly hair, and still sounds great. His new album, The Far Now, is pretty mellow but live, with his band the Heavy 8’s, he’s much more in the Dean Wareham (or Yo La Tengo to mention them again)  school of droney, jangly, blissed-out, VU-inspired rock. Full admission: I am a sucker for this sort of thing when it’s done right, as it was Friday. I think it was the second guitarist playing a boxy-looking 12-string that really took it over the edge for me.

MP3: David Kilgour – BBC World
(Buy The Far Now)

Kilgour and Childs were the main draw but the rest of the bill were notable too. Portland’s Pseudosix opened, previously unfamiliar to me, but I left impressed. Breezy and just a touch country-ish in that early-’70s West Coast sort of way, they reminded me of druggy ’90s band Acetone but with more melody and less reverb.

MP3: Pseudosix – Under the Waves
(Buy it)

There was also a "special guest" on the bill, a badly-kept secret. (The real surprise came later that night.) Peter Moren of Peter Bjorn & John played a short impromptu set of songs he’s working on for an upcoming solo album, working out arrangements in advance of his "real" solo show at Joe’s Pub on November 19. Stress on "working them out." There were stops and starts, flubbed lyrics… but luckily Moren’s a real charmer so nobody seemed to mind. Actually, I would guess half the people there didn’t even realize this was the guy responsible for "Young Folks." Which is probably just how he wanted it, certainly different than his last appearance at Union Hall. He played maybe five originals plus a cover of Richard Hell’s "Time." I shot video of one of the new ones that Peter said was about his time as a music teacher in Sweden. I knew the name of the song but didn’t write it down and now don’t remember…

Pop Tarts Suck Toasted was there too, but left after Moren’s set, I think.