PUT IT AT 11: Somewhere in my email inbox, there’s a message floating around from ¡La Vasa! band member Travis Carnal. It showed up a few days after he sent me the band’s just-finished (and about-to-be-released) album, Quest. “Are your ears bleeding?” he implored. I held my tongue, thinking it was probably best not to send back a snarky response, followed by a bunch of links to the ear-splitting music I associate (mostly) with my late teen years. (I’m trying to get better about picking my battles.) Anyway, my point is not to take the wind out of ¡La Vasa!’s sails. (Sorry for not answering your email, Travis!) In truth, Quest is loud and fast and filled with loads of gruff, scrappy punk-rock aggression. It’s the kind of record that makes me nostalgic for dirty venues filled with sweaty drunk people smashing into each other repeatedly. Did I mention there are horns? The big, screamy ska ones? And that only one of the album’s 10 tracks clocks in at more than three minutes? (“Mama Tried” is an epic three-minute-and-three-second thank you to their parents. Awww.)
All of this said, my biggest takeaway from Quest was just how good the album sounds. The drums are downright brutal, but they don’t overpower the mix. The guitars are driving, but they take a backseat (sonically speaking) to the vocals. And taken all together, there’s a heft to the thing that totally works. On an equally important, though slightly more personal, note, Quest served as a not-so-subtle reminder to turn off my “mature,” “refined,” art writer brain every once in awhile. Because sometimes you just need a song about circle pits.
¡La Vasa! play a CD-release party for Quest this Saturday, March 14, at Velvet Jones at 8 p.m. Petmedz and Stop Breathing open. The show is 21+. Visit velvet-jones.com for tickets and info.
SWEET, SWEET HARMONIES: For those of you who don’t get nostalgic about scream-singing in a puddle of stale Budweiser while some guy elbows you in the head, that’s okay, too! This week has plenty of mellow music offerings on the big and small scale. On Saturday, March 14, Muddy Waters Café plays host to Joseph, a trio of sisters from Portland, Oregon, that are currently making their way to the mother of all music festivals, Austin’s South By Southwest. The siblings of Joseph make the kind of dirge-like folk music that is haunting and dreamy, reminiscent of contemporaries like Other Lives, Y La Bamba, and Laura Marling. That all three members share bloodlines doesn’t hurt, either — their harmonies are complimentary in the way only siblings’ can be. They’ll play Santa Barbara with hometown buddies Ghost Tiger. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is all-ages. For info, call (805) 966-9328 or visit the event’s Facebook page.
And on Tuesday, March 17, the mother of all easy-listening artists returns to town for a headlining show at the Arlington Theatre. No, no, not Jack Johnson. St. Paddy’s Day 2015 marks the return of Jason Mraz. Want mellower? No problem: The show is solo and acoustic. Raining Jane opens the night at 8 p.m. Call (805) 963-4408 or visit for tickets and info.