Foraging // Nik Freitas // Saturday Night Underwater

Nik Freitas plays Brighton Music Hall on Monday

After quietly building up a very strong back catalog of solo records since 2002, Los Angeles singer and songwriter Nik Freitas spent the last couple of years as part of Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band and backing James Mercer and Danger Mouse in the Broken Bells live band. As 2011 presses on, he’s turning the spotlight back on himself.

MP3 // Nik Freitas // Saturday Night Underwater

On June 6, Freitas releases Saturday Night Underwater, the follow-up to Sun Down, FiTi’s favorite album of 2008. Check out the title track from the album above, and catch Freitas live when he opens for the Submarines at Brighton Music Hall on Monday (tickets here). Apollo Sunshine offshoot Yellowbirds is also on the bill.

Nik Freitas // Website // Facebook

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Debrief // Iron and Wine & the Low Anthem at the House of Blues, Boston // April 19, 2011

Iron and Wine at the House of Blues, Boston

For those who have followed Sam Beam since his earliest days as Iron and Wine, the 10-piece band that backed the bearded singer-songwriter shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Beam’s sound has expanded steadily since the release of his hushed, understated debut The Creek Drank the Cradle in 2002, culminating in his first major-label release, Kiss Each Other Clean, early this year.

What may have been eye opening – or, at the very least, ear-opening – to those soaking in the sold-out Iron and Wine show at the House of Blues last night was the changes many of their favorite songs have undergone. Beam’s catalog has been re-imagined to incorporate the talents of his entire band (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion, a 3-piece horn section and two backup singers, including Markéta Irglová of the Swell Season), the members of which backed Beam for his entire 90-minute main set. Though the results were a somewhat mixed bag, it was a daring move that kept the audience on its toes throughout.

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Debrief // Pete Yorn & Ben Kweller at the House of Blues, Boston // March 8, 2011

Pete Yorn at the House of Blues, Boston

Pete Yorn anxiously waited two long, super-prolific years to release the album he recorded with Frank Black. As good as that 2010 self-titled release was, it didn’t take long for it to get pushed to the back burner.

Ten years ago this month, Yorn released musicforthemorningafter, a standout album that still stands as one of the decade’s most stunning debuts. The Los Angeles native and his no-frills band opened his show at the House of Blues last night with a pair of tracks from his most recent effort, but it was his earliest material that really ruled the night.

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Debrief // Wild Flag at Brighton Music Hall // March 7, 2011

Wild Flag at the Brighton Music Hall, Boston

From the day that Carrie Brownstein announced last fall that she had teamed up with Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole and Janet Weiss to form Wild Flag, the quartet has done its best to dampen the hype that was sure to accompany a project involving so many significant female indie rock personalities. The band resisted letting any studio tracks see the light of day until “Glass Tambourine” surfaced on NPR last week (stream the track here), and it’s played very small venues on its initial headlining tours.

Wild Flag played one of its largest headlining gigs to date at the Brighton Music Hall last night, and though the sold-out crowd could have only guessed at the sonic onslaught that awaited – Merge described the band’s sound as “an avalanche taking out a dolphin” in its introduction back in September – expectations were palpably high. And the group did not disappoint.

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Debrief // Southeast Engine at TT’s // Feb. 26, 2011

Southeast Engine at TT the Bear's Place - Cambridge, MA

An early start time, small crowd, rough-around-the-edges performance and unfamiliar setlist made Southeast Engine’s show at TT’s on Saturday feel more like an intimate rehearsal in the company of friends than a full-fledged rock concert for public consumption.

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Foraging // Southeast Engine // New Growth

Southeast Engine

From the Forest to the Sea – the fourth album from criminally underrated Ohio quartet Southeast Engine – was FiTi’s favorite album of 2009, so we’ve been anxiously awaiting its follow-up. Canary finally arrives on March 29 via Misra, and it’s a compelling step forward for the band, introducing an element of traditional Appalachian music to SEE’s rustic, rootsy sound. Check out the teaser track “New Growth” below, and be sure to catch the band at TT’s on Saturday. Warning: it’s an early show, but it might just be the best 8 bucks you spend this month. Tix here.

MP3 // Southeast Engine // “New Growth”

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Debrief // Gregory Alan Isakov at Johnny D’s // Feb. 17, 2011

Gregory Alan Isakov at Johnny D's, Boston

At most concerts, the encore is a scripted part of the show, taken for granted by both performer and audience. At Johnny D’s last night, Gregory Alan Isakov and his band earned every minute of theirs, and an appreciative crowd made sure they knew it with rousing ovations that quickly pulled the humble Colorado singer-songwriter back to center stage. Twice.

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Riffing // Gregory Alan Isakov

Interview with Gregory Alan Isakov

Every year, I seem to discover at least one great album that I had somehow overlooked the previous. In 2010, that album was Gregory Alan Isakov’s This Empty Northern Hemisphere, an engaging collection of impeccably arranged tunes. On the album, the nomadic singer-songwriter – born in South Africa, raised around Philadelphia and now finally settled in Colorado – gets a vocal assist from Brandi Carlisle on several tracks, including a set-closing cover of Leonard Cohen’s “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong.”

MP3 // Gregory Alan Isakov // “Evelyn”

Isakov kicks off a full-band East Coast tour at Johnny D’s on Thursday night. In this Q&A, we talk about his name, his garden and the soundtrack to his afternoons on the road.

This Empty Northern Hemisphere has been out for nearly two years. Catch us up on what’s next for you. Any new recordings on the horizon?

I’ve been working on a new record for the past year, mostly in between tours, recording at my house with the band. We are really excited about it so far. We thought it would be out by now, but I’m finding you have to follow where the record wants to go and let it take its time.

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Riffing // Tyler Williams of The Head and the Heart

The Head and the Heart

Harmony-heavy Seattle sextet The Head and the Heart was one of the West Coast’s most unexpected breakout bands of 2010, and after signing with Sub Pop the group is poised to break out across the country this year. In the Northeast, that all starts this week as THATH tours the region for the first time – including shows at the Paradise on Saturday and Sunday – with Philadelphia indie favorites Dr. Dog. FiTi got up to speed with drummer Tyler Williams who, from the sounds of it, could use some ideas for killing time when the band gets to Boston. Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments area below.

Your signing with Sub Pop was perhaps one of the worst-kept industry secrets of late 2010. What made that such a great fit for you guys, as opposed to the bigger labels who may have come calling as well?

Our goal is always to grow the band very organically, through word of mouth. A lot of the other labels said they wouldn’t go to radio right away, but their successes seem to depend heavily on large-scale radio pushes. We felt like Sub Pop was the most straightforward in what we could expect. Plus, they’re in Seattle so we can drop by and get a good amount of work done without confusing long-distance communication.

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Debrief // Josh Ritter & Scott Hutchison at the House of Blues // Feb. 11, 2011

Josh Ritter at the House of Blues, Boston

Josh Ritter held court over what may have been the most jovial brawl anyone has ever seen Friday night at the House of Blues.

The one-time Somerville native had dubbed the night’s festivities a Valentine’s Day Brawl, but from the second he took the stage to the time the house lights came on more than two hours later a glorious grin was plastered to his face, and a wave of communal joy likewise cascaded over the packed house. The easy-going vibe was to be expected from Ritter, who likely packs the sunniest disposition of any artist on the road today, yet the evening packed plenty of surprises to keep even the singer’s most devout, longtime fans on their toes.

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