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Freaks and Geeks

Soundbites: These United States, Paleo, Pretty and Nice, Brett Hughes

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Second Floor in Burlington is best known for college-oriented DJ dance parties, but on Sunday, April 8, the venue will host a handful of indie acts, local and otherwise.

Headlining the show are These United States, a Washington D.C.-based pop band that makes inventive and highly tuneful music. The group’s sound harkens back to the days before rock became straitjacketed by commercial concerns. Some of their tunes remind me of The Kinks, albeit with heavier psychedelic overtones. Anyway, they’re quite good. Have a listen at http://www.MySpace.com/TheseUnited.

Paleo is a one-man alt-folkie from Brooklyn, who, like a handful of other young troubadours, has taken it upon himself to compose and record a song a day. You’d think with that kind of output, some of the tunes would kind of, well, suck. That’s thankfully not the case here. I know — I’m as surprised as you are.

Paleo’s music, while proudly scruffy, is anything but throwaway. You could definitely put him in the “New Weird America” category — his stuff combines old-time and indie-folk with just a pinch of quasi-cryptic prose. It’s as if Bringing It All Back Home-era Bob Dylan hooked up with Joanna Newsom at some sketchy crash pad. You can listen to an entire year’s worth of recordings at http://www.paleo.ws.

Rounding out the bill are locals Pretty & Nice and Anna Pardenik. The former have been kicking ass and breaking hearts from town to town since the release of their pop-spackled post-punk debut, Pink & Blue. Pardenik, the queen of the coffeehouse scene, sings jazz-inflected torch songs perfect for red wine and sharing secrets.

In other words, it should be a great show. Start time is 8 p.m.; tickets are $5 for those old enough to buy booze, $8 for the young ’uns. For more info, visit http://www.TickTick.org.

KEEPING IT REAL . . . OLD

The Vermont Folklife Center, a Middlebury-based organization dedicated to preserving Green Mountain musical culture, recently received a grant from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — the folks behind the Grammys.

The grant, which has been described as “major” by its issuant, will go towards VFC’s Vermont Traditional Music Preservation and Access Project, which will digitize and preserve archival collections of area music, as well as providie new ways for the general public to experience it.

Some of the stuff to be preserved includes the Northeast Fiddlers’ Collection, which features more than 23 years’ worth of music from the Traditional/ Northeast Regional Old-Time Fiddlers’ Contest held annually in Barre, as well as the Beaudoin Family Collection, the Steven E. Berry Collection and the Martha Pellerin Collection.

The project is set to run a two-year course, with work beginning this July. By the time of its completion, the material will be available at both the VFC’s physical location and online. For further info, visit http://www.VermontFolklifeCenter.org.

FRONT TO BACK

Local country-rock journeyman Brett Hughes recently did a little harmonizin’ with ex-Phish keys man Page McConnell at a live session in Philadelphia. The performance, which took place on World Café Live on March 30, was broadcast on Philly’s WXPN.

Hughes sent a curious email to friends and fans the day before the event. “That’s right, I said backing vocals, kids,” he wrote. “As in castrati-high harmonies . . . but no tambourine, no shaker or matching outfits. I might clap my hands now and again while doing a kung-fu kick, Elvis-style.” Note to self: Check YouTube to see if there are any bootleg videos of the set.

If you weren’t already aware, McConnell is gearing up for the release of a new self-titled solo album on April 17. No word yet whether Hughes will join the touring band full-time. I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty to do around here. Example: Hughes plays the next couple Mondays at the Lincoln Inn in Essex Junction. From there, who knows? Have Elvis cape, will travel, I guess.

BIZ WHIZ

Montpelier-based label Halogen Records recently filled me in on some goings-on that should help win more attention for at least a couple of area acts.

Dark hip-hop/indie-jam hybrid Manifest Nexto Me, who not long ago signed a distribution/development deal with Halogen, will soon have their music featured as part of the online marketing campaign for Nokia’s latest all-in-one handheld device, the N80. According to Halogen head Justin Hoy, a tune from each of MNM’s two albums will be featured from April 1 through July 31. That’s what they call “development” these days.

Halogen has also started working with singer-songwriter Aaron Flinn on the distribution and promotion of his latest CD, Giving Up the Ghost. Flinn is used to going it alone, publicity-wise, so he’s probably looking forward to the extra help.

Hoy has also been instrumental in Lyndon State College’s new Bachelor of Science in Music Business and Industry Degree. “LSC is indebted to Halogen Records for the inspiration and impetus for the MBI degree program,” says Assistant Professor of Fine and Performing Arts Elizabeth Norris. Learning, like, totally rocks.

JIVE TALKIN’

Well, it was bound to happen: James Kochalka has a podcast. Please don’t make me explain what that is. Just know that it’s a newfangled way to get your gab on.

Here’s the official description from Kochalka’s, um, people: “Indy superstar James Kochalka and his band mates . . . answer your questions about Kochalka’s music and comics, delving especially deeply into the question, ‘Does Jason have a crush on James’ wife Amy?’ They also perform a whole bunch of new and original songs, including ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on the Dead,’ ‘Dragon Puncher,’ and a made-up-off-the-top-of-their-heads song about the Nintendo Wii . . .”

If that piques your interest — and how could it not, really? — head to http://www.talkaboutcomics.com/blog/?p=888 and have a listen.

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