When: Fri., July 27, 8 p.m. 2012
For the recent Dream Seeds (Northern Spy), the third album from the wonderfully twisted Extra Life, singer and guitarist Charlie Looker wrote songs inspired by troubling dreams. The manic narrator of "Discipline for Edwin" scrambles for something to use to beat the titular child ("Discipline discipline / I'll shut you up, boy, I'll put you down / Discipline discipline / I'll break your arm, boy, your mother's not around"), only to end up pleading for forgiveness. And on the distended, tortured ballad "Little One," built from a delicate piano phrase and gliding strings, Looker confronts his own penchant for evil. The album's flirtations with overwrought psychodrama remind me of Jamie Stewart's Xiu Xiu—like Extra Life's earlier records, this is hardly easy listening—but as dark as the songs get, Looker never wallows or indulges in histrionics, instead delivering his swooping, madrigalesque melodies with craftsmanlike precision. He's backed by a pair of nimble multi-instrumentalists— Nick Podgurski on drums and synth and Caley Monahon-Ward on electric guitar, synthesizer, and violin—whose lean, proggy art-rock is agile enough to keep up with the album's zigzagging melodies and abrupt shifts in mood and density. Looker's billowing vocal style takes some getting used to, but the efficiency and power of the music—and his admirable willingness to wrestle publicly with his demons, especially in such eccentric settings—make it worth the trouble. —Peter Margasak Joan of Arc headlines; Extra Life, Cool Memories, and Oshwa open.