This Little Underground 

Bao Le-Huu takes on A Classic Education, Company, Floor, Blind Pilot and more

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I dunno how much of the NBA All-Star weekend glitter you were able to soak in, brush up against or just gawk at from a roped distance. I myself braved downtown a couple times during the temporary insanity but wasn’t exactly cruising to mingle with the fly-in weirdness that basically invaded our city for the weekend. But with all those insanely inflated prices around town, I hope some of my locals out there were at least able to cash in on the deep-pocketed craziness.

Still, I do wish I could’ve crossed paths with Knicks guard and sports Cinderella story du jour Jeremy Lin just to high-five the dude. It’s about time some other Asian dude was making some waves, am I right? Seriously though, big ups to this kid. To take a sport like b-ball by storm, where my people are so genetically disadvantaged,well, that fucking rules. Damn, what next, porn? Believe it.

The beat

By disposition and job description, I’m always looking for the new. But this week was a refreshing return to simple, straightforward goodness, and I couldn’t be more refreshed by it.

Italy’s A Classic Education (Feb. 20, Will’s Pub) were a bracing study in basic quality. Their lovely, layered sound is rooted in elegant ’80s guitar pop, and their sonic profile was thoughtfully rendered in textures kissed with just enough gorgeous haze. But at their cozy core is an unassuming but unfailingly bright perfection of melody. If all indie rock could be done with this much precision and fundamentals instead of trend and posture, this would be a much more satisfying world.

Not nearly as conventional but also effective were Telethon. With a sound that’s always straddled art school and funhouse, the freak rock of Orlando’s leading dealers of odd is seldom boring. But the newest moon of their modern indie psychedelia has taken some dancey, electronic turns that are working really well.

Although I don’t love their new album at all, Cleveland headliner Cloud Nothings were notably more impressive in person with a live sound that’s more revved and incisive. It’s undeniably fresh-faced, but it’s the kind of pop-punk that you don’t have to be ashamed to listen to past your teen years.

Another outstanding case of incredibly solid indie rock was South Carolina’s Company (Feb. 26, Peacock Room). Again, nothing flashy, just high quality. And though that equation’s simple enough, achieving it is neither easy nor typical, it seems. Their outstanding songwriting comes in ringing, crystalline melodies that glow and warm like shimmering embers that occasionally rise into voluminous flames. Judging from their basic craftsmanship, Company seems to come from indie rock’s timeless side. I just love it when anything is done well, and these guys are poster boys for plain old quality. And when all scores are tallied, quality is always classic. Something this constant online reality of ours is making glaringly clear to any thinking person is that we’d all be much better off if we got back to focusing on what’s good instead of just what’s next.

Later down the street was one of the highly anticipated performances on the reunion run of Miami alternative metal band Floor (Will’s Pub). However retroactive their current celebrated status is due to the subsequent success of Torche, they are now basking in their revised status as legendary underground heroes of the Florida heavy music pantheon. Between that sweet, scalp-tingling midrange roar and an expansive, sky-streaking approach to the heavy, the seeds of Torche’s defining sound could definitely be heard on an exhilarating scale. More than anything though, this set was total validation of all of the plaudits that are now being heaped upon them. Just ask the crowd that packed out the house and went completely coconuts. Awesome.

This week’s final exemplar of the simple triumph of good songwriting is Portland’s Blind Pilot (Feb. 24, the Social). Their pop music speaks a florid folk dialect through a virtual orchestra expansive enough to encompass guitars, drums, horns, organs, bells, banjo, upright bass – the whole nine. It’s a sound that’s pleasing and supremely lush with layer upon layer of vibe. But, again, what drives all the grand pageantry is an essence of strong, sharply etched songwriting that’s likeably accessible with a Shins-esque buoyancy.


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