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Kings of Leon

Hood with Culture Queer and Audible

Wednesday · Southgate House

There's a tendency of music critics (present company included) to make pronouncements about a band's latest recording based on previous output. And the pronouncements can be unnervingly inconsistent and downright contradictory at times. "So-and-so is simply making the same record over and over again; it's time for them to try something new" or "Such-and-such should stick to what they know best and quit trying to jump all over the place." Call it whim-driven critical mood swinging. Music fans can be just as fickle: Neil Young no doubt had some of his followers scratching their heads with albums like Trans and Everybody's Rockin'. But with Young and more recent artists like Radiohead and Wilco, die-hard enthusiasts and originality-starved critics appreciate, respect and ultimately love the adventurousness. Then there are bands like the U.K.'s Hood, who, right out of the gate, have put to tape whatever they damn well felt like at any given time. Following their muse with seemingly no self-consciousness or concern for outside expectations, Hood have seamlessly rolled through a variety of aesthetics (Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, glitchy, abstract Electronica, crafty Hip Hop) in their 15-year career. Hood's followers have no choice but to wait and hear where the group is going next; saying "I liked them when they were ..." limits them to a scant speck on Hood's discography, and that's not really a "fan" anyway, is it? On the band's most recent effort, Outside Closer, the evolution continues, bringing together various elements of their past for yet another sonic facelift.

Uniting sprawling guitars and dreamy, often glacial song structures with muted but lingering melodies and a textured, electronic anchor, Outside Closer's idyllic, expansive sound is hypnotically compelling, the kind of album you'd put on at a party and halfway through all of your guests are scribbling down the name of it on the back of a beer-bottle label. There is a stoic, cold feel to the album, but it's more a result the somber tone of the music and composition than the band's use of electronic components, which are actually quite warm and pillowy. Hood is the underground's answer to a "career artist," creating a body of work that will dazzle anyone interested in backtracking. The band's constants (brothers Richard and Chris Adams and drummer/cellist Stephen Royle) are in the midst of a rare, extensive world tour, with a five-member lineup that constantly stage-jumps from instrument to instrument throughout a single performance. Even in show mode, it seems the members of Hood can't sit still in one place for too long. (Mike Breen)

Kings of Leon with The Features

Tuesday · Bogart's

The ink about Kings of Leon's humble background and recent fame-induced excesses has flowed like cheap swill at a house party. Preacher's kids gallivanting with groupies does move copy, especially in the tabloid-driven UK where the boys are bone fide superstars. But the band has had a hard time making it past gossip columns and fashion spreads. It wasn't going to happen on the strength of their first album, 2003's Youth and Young Manhood, a mainly forgettable collection of Southern-fried Garage Rock. But their sophomore effort succeeds where their debut went flat. On Aha Shake Heartbreak, singer/guitarist Caleb Followill sounds like he's lived three lifetimes in a few years, spitting out cryptic and self-effacing vitriol like the spawn of Bon Scott and Bob Dylan. The rest of the Followills follow suit, replacing their spastic, aggressive style with more reserved and tasteful treatments. Plaintive and intimate tracks like "Day Old Blues," "Milk" and "Rememo" recount the band's rocket ride from the perspective of the next day's hangover. Most songs are more energetic than these, but no less complex. And although you can't get any more genuine than these mountain-bred troubadours, their take on Blues continues to sound more informed by Brits than their Deep South forefathers. Even an Appalachian stomp like "Velvet Snow" comes off like they learned the tradition from Supergrass. This might be the reason for (or the product of) their popularity across the pond. Either way, KoL is about to get a heaping plate of American audience as they hit the road supporting U2 after their current club tour. A slightly odd pairing, but I can't think of a better group of guys to carry Adam Clayton's weed for him. (Ezra Waller)

Magnapop with Caterpillar Tracks

Tuesday · alchemize

Magnapop's Linda Hopper is considerably lesser known than her ridiculously influential peer group from the early '80s Athens, Ga., scene. Hopper's Oh-OK was an integral part of the Athens music community and was often cited at the time in the same breath as other Rock primitivists like Athens contemporaries Pylon and internationally renowned bands like the Bush Tetras and Young Marble Giants. Although Oh-OK eventually became known for superficial reasons — Pop sensation Matthew Sweet joined the band when he was fresh out of high school and Lynda Stipe, sister of R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe, was their bassist — the fact remains that they were relatively lauded for their cultish appeal. When Oh-OK broke up in the mid-'80s, Hopper moved to Washington, D.C., then to Atlanta in 1988 where she met guitarist Ruthie Morris. The pair began to write songs together and decided to form a band, first called Homemade Sister, then Swell (which was already being used), then Swell Dopa; they finally settled on Magnapop. The band offered a more jangly and melodic Pop sensibility than Oh-OK but retained a certain degree of minimalism that distinguished them from garden variety Roots Rock. Magnapop's eponymous debut album came in 1991, which led to their signing with Priority and their next two albums, 1994's Hot Boxing and 1996's Rubbing Doesn't Help, all of which found a similar measure of critical success as Hopper's earlier band efforts. Magnapop found peer support from Bob Mould (who booked them to open for Sugar's American and European tours in '92/'93) and Juliana Hatfield (who was so impressed when they opened for her in 1992 she secured them as openers for her '93 tour and wrote a song about Morris called "Ruthless") and continued to receive major props from Michael Stipe. Magnapop's lineup has constantly shifted since the band's inception, while Hopper and Morris have remained the creative core. After a brief hiatus, Magnapop added bassist Scott Rowe and drummer Chad Williams, signed with Indigo Girl Amy Ray's Daemon label and released a new album, Mouthfeel, back in January. It's another terrific milestone for Linda Hopper, one of the original architects of the Athens sound. (Brian Baker)

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