OH JOY: Two years ago, I never thought I’d put the words “Vivian Girls” and “polished” in the same sentence. But on the band’s third studio album, Share the Joy, our favorite Brooklyn lo-fiers are doing just that: cleaning up their act and finding solid footing in a sound that’s part messy garage-rock, part ’60s-inspired girl-group pop. Together with new drummer Fiona Campbell, guitarist Cassie Ramone and bassist Katy Goodman have penned what is undoubtedly the band’s most approachable record to date. Still, the off-kilter—and slightly off-key—elements remain; the tones are washed-out and pointedly unmixed, the high-hat hits are more pinging than twinkling, and the guitars are always cranked louder than the vocals.
The big difference here lies in the arrangements, which incorporate all manner of previously untouched Vivian Girls goods. Case in point: cut number three, “Dance (If You Wanna),” a boppy mix of tambourines, keyboards, and sweetly harmonized vocal parts. Elsewhere on the album (namely, opener “The Other Girls” and closer “Light in Your Eyes”), the Girls stretch their writing muscles and come away with lengthy (by their standards), building numbers that are bass-driven and sweetly restrained—before they explode into a melee of guitars and drums, of course.
For longtime fans and Vivian Girls newbies, there’s no doubt that the band’s Tuesday, May 3, show at Muddy Waters Café (508 E. Haley St.) will be one to catch. I’m expecting an equal ratio of head bopping and grand-scale rocking out. For tickets and info, call 966-9328 or visit clubmercy.com. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is all-ages.
DOUBLE THE FUN: Also this week, longtime Santa Barbara faves Agent Ribbons make a stopover at Goleta’s Mercury Lounge (5871 Hollister Ave.). The Sacramento-cum-Austin-based duo is perhaps one of my favorite eclectic musical projects out there nowadays. Cofounded (and fronted) by Natalie Gordon (guitar, vocals) and Lauren Hess (drums, vocals), the band mixes old-time country twang, sultry vintage-sounding pop rock, and a no-holds-barred element of femininity that’s as unique as it is refreshing.
And just in case you need another reason to catch these ladies live, word on the street is former Le Petit Protest frontman Randall Sena will be venturing down with his new band, Millions, to open the show. Agent Ribbons and Millions play the Merc this Sunday, May 1, at 9 p.m. The show is 21+. Call 967-0907 or visit kcsb.org for info.
LESS IS MORE: And while it may not boast the girl power of the rest of this week’s offerings, the Crystal Stilts Thursday, May 5, show at Muddy Waters Café is still destined to delight. Brooklyn-based and drenched in cool, these five shoegaze-inspired minimalists are all about playing it fast and loose. Thanks to a keen ear for hooks and a killer sense of timing, though, the band comes away sounding less like a sloppy lo-fi project and more like a washed-out, punk-inspired version of Interpol—thanks in large part to frontman Brad Hargett’s dark, booming baritone. The band is currently touring in support of their recently released second full-length, In Love with Oblivion (out now on Slumberland Records). Their all-ages S.B. show starts at 8 p.m. Visit clubmercy.com for info.
ALL THE REST: Still hankering for more? On Saturday, April 30, at 8 p.m., the Biko Co-op Garage (6112 Sueno Rd.) hosts electronic wizards Jamuel Saxon. If you’re in the mood for a dance party, this is the place to be. The two-piece, consisting of keyboardist/mix-master/lead vocalist Keith Milgaten and drummer Jayson Ehm, dishes out one of the most inventive takes on a deejay set I’ve seen in a long while. In short, it’s well worth a Google search, no doubt followed closely by a jaunt to Isla Vista. Visit sbdiy.org for event info.