If you're unfamiliar with the town, perhaps you've already made your assumptions about the music of Athens, Georgia. Two of the most indelible marks in pop-rock music have been made by Athenians: R.E.M. and the B-52's. Then again, college-rock fossil, a new era is upon us, and we are subjected to sounds that barely hint of Athens' past glory. The unique quintet Of Montreal and its chief songsmith, Kevin Barnes, have instead resurrected the lost art of fairy tales, translating these intricate sagas through genre-hopping delivery. Not what you'd expect from this neighborhood. But since the mid-1990s, Of Montreal and the rest of the member-swapping Elephant 6 collective have been a relentless carnival of quietly mythic proportions.
Prolific might be understating Barnes' output, from his days as a bedroom-based musician producing songs on four-track to the orchestra-like band he leads today. Regardless of the advances in gadgetry, Barnes' knack for creating tapestries of psychedelia without losing sight of the simplicity of the pop-music aesthetic has never changed. With albums such as Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies and Aldhil's Arboretum under its belt, Of Montreal's penchant for revealing fables through artful and playfully absurd story lines remains the main reason it's so unique to the musical landscape.
From vaudeville to 1960s pop nuances to free-jazz mischief, Of Montreal, which also features bassist Derek Almstead, violinist Andy Gonzalez, drummer Jamie Huggins, and organist Dottie Alexander, changes tunes like a schizophrenic DJ. On recent releases, including Arboretum, the band's seventh in seven years, Barnes provides a visual narrative to aid the listener through the sometimes confounding track listing. Despite each album's increasingly wondrous, ethereal nature, don't assume that these songs are pretentious. Witness the whimsical Of Montreal and Elephant 6 cohorts Great Lakes when they play at Respectable Street Café, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-9999. -- Kiran Aditham
THU 6/5Rock and Ray
You Will Dance, Heathens!
Scorching a trail of rock 'n' roll excess through the bowels of the United States is Viva L' American Deathray Music. If garage-rock legends the Seeds and the Rolling Stones had a small skirmish with, say, the Velvet Underground, the ensuing cacophony would amply describe Deathray Music's sound. It's manic garage rock mixed with Memphis soul and a penchant for reckless abandon. Its performances have been known to inspire even the most conservative shoegazers with a need to cut loose and boogie, often leaving the dance floor scuffed with the mere remnants of squareness. These veterans of the vibrant Memphis, Tennessee, music scene exported their riffs and chops from bands such as '68 Comeback, Compulsive Gamblers, the Retards, Royal Dragons, and the Lost Sounds. Incidentally, the last band came to town not so long ago, leaving one hard-pressed to find a toe untapped and a hip unshaken. Witness the debauchery of Viva L'American Deathray Music, with the Heatseekers and Trapped by Mormons, at Churchill's, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. Show starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-757-1807 -- Tim Moffatt
Former smack addict and mental patient James Taylor was the archetypal burnt-out folkie decades before A Mighty Wind mockumented the persona. Perhaps Taylor has what some people call "an old soul" -- that would explain why he penned gut-wrenchingly sappy ballads while still in his early 20s. At a time, it should be noted, when Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were releasing their debut albums. Taylor almost single-handedly turned the folk boom of the 1960s, with all of its righteous political activism and seething hatred for the Man, into the 1970s singer/songwriter genre, with all of its self-congratulatory mush. And then he did "Steamroller Blues" and sucked the soul out of blues, despite claims that such a feat was impossible. Thanks, James. Anyone who is convinced this song is a good example of standard 12-bar blues needs a John Lee Hooker album, stat! The troubadour performs at Sound Advice Amphitheatre (601-7 Sansbury Way, West Palm Beach) at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20 to $39.75. Call 561-793-0445. -- Dan Sweeney
The Jazz and Miss Jones
The word chanteuse may simply mean a female singer, but it carries a certain air of class and sophistication with it. And the word chanteuse fits like a glove on the dainty hand of singer and pianist Norah Jones. She began playing piano at age 7, branching out into jazz piano while studying at the University of North Texas. A summer trip to New York City found Jones emerged in a whole new music culture. She played in bands such as Laszlo and Wax Poetic before jumping on the solo path. Taking cues from the revered chanteuse school of Carole King, Patsy Cline, and Billie Holiday, her debut album, Come Away with Me, covers jazz, soul, folk, and classical-music styles with the velvety blanket of her voice. She's even won eight Grammys, and she's only 24! Norah Jones plays with special guest Gillian Welch at Mizner Park Amphitheatre, 407 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $32.50 to $45. Call 561-447-8144. -- Audra Schroeder