Knock Knock

                   

Sacramento pop band Knock Knock was recently awarded a Sammie to honor their second CD Girls on the Run (2008), but as superb as that release is, I feel their debut was even more deserving of recognition. Warm Fronts, Cold Shoulders (2004) is comprised of such an abundant range of intriguing textures and indelible melodies that it would inevitably be a tough act to follow. It's remarkable that punchy uptempo tunes like "I've Been a Drag" and "Dan Can You Stand" can occupy the same space with the languid beauty of "Oceanography" and "Levee," but Knock Knock seems to have a knack for mixing things up without having to struggle to do so. "Eye of the Storm" finds a nice balance between the two extremes and is perhaps the best representation of their work as a whole, but you certainly wouldn't want to miss out on other catchy numbers like "Jorge" and "Rotten Dogs." Think of a poppier version of Yo La Tengo and you might have an idea of what to expect. Frontman Allen Maxwell's feathery-but-urgent vocals compare favorably to Ira Kaplan's while Heather Conway adds an even lighter touch to a pair of songs a la Georgia Hubley.  Tasty stuff indeed, and when you're finished with this one, you should be more than ready to take in the gorgeous harmonies and sugar-rush momentum of Girls on the Run.

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You can find Knock Knock's Warm Fronts, Cold Shoulders for sale here.

Anton Barbeau

                     

 Anton Barbeau has been Sacramento's resident pop genius since the late '80s, and there just seems to be no stopping him some 20 years into his prolific career. Anton has been blessed with that rare gift for being able to compose melodies that sound like they’ve always been with us. If songs like “Octagon,” “Leave It With Me, I’m Always Gentle,” and “Creepy Tray” don’t end up lodged in your brain after a few spins, then catchy Beatlesque pop clearly isn’t your cup of tea. I get the feeling that even a few of Anton’s heroes like Paul McCartney and Andy Partridge would be singing along with those and many others should they be lucky enough to encounter them at some point during their lives. Granted, an unfiltered talent like Anton’s should be expected to be a little erratic at times. It’s surprising how a musician who can be so crafty at writing such perfectly enjoyable songs can rarely put together an album without tacking on a meandering track at the end. His live performances tend to ramble on as well with stream-of-consciousness monologues that don’t always connect with his audiences, but catch him on a good night with the right crowd and you’re sure to have a few good laughs while keeping your toes tapping along to his tunes. Any of the following CDs listed below will guarantee a pretty good time, although The Horse’s Tongue is currently out of print, and The Golden Boot was haphazardly thrown together rather than given the special attention deserving of the tracks contained within. A Splendid Tray, which features “The Banana Song” (Anton’s personal favorite and a highlight of his live shows), would be a good place to start.

The Horse's Tongue  (1993)

Waterbugs and Beetles  (1995/2006)

Antology V.1  (1999)

A Splendid Tray  (1999)

17th Century Fuzzbox Blues  (2000)

The Golden Boot: Antology V.2  (2001)

Will Ant for Frond  (2002; Limited Edition) 

King of Missouri  (2003/2005)

Guladong  (2003)

What If It Works?  (2006; w/The Loud Family)

In the Village of the Apple Sun  (2006)

Drug Free  (2006)

The Automatic Door  (2007)

Running Without Scissors  (2009; cassette) 

Plastic Guitar  (2009)

Bag of Kittens  (2009; This is credited to Allyson Seconds, but Anton wrote and produced the whole album as well as provided intstrumental and vocal support, so I consider this to be part of his catalog as well.)

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You can find Anton Barbeau's A Splendid Tray for sale here.