The Sheer Spirit of Split Single
Jason Narducy’s single project has resulted in a ton of sparkling songs; he plays (with Wilco’s bassist) at Cactus Club.
Top Show: Split Single at Cactus Club, Friday, May 29
Jason Narducy, as lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for Split Single, has applied nearly a lifetime of musical know-how to pop-rock songs that sparkle as if written and played by guys who are not through discovering, or being excited by, the range of their abilities.
Fragmented World, the debut Split Single LP, came out over a year ago; its ten songs have held up so well that at least one or two of them ought to, but do not, remain in heavy rotation on one or two rock stations in every American city.
Narducy needn’t rely on Split Single airplay: his aforementioned know-how keeps him supplied with goods and services. He’s the go-to bassist for Bob Mould and Superchunk—in the latter case, as a live fill-in for Laura Ballance, who suffers from hyperacusis— and has hit the road with Telekinesis and with Guided By Voices overseer Robert Pollard.
Narducy was also an important part of Chicago rock bands like Verböten and Verbow, although when he began penning what would eventually become Split Single material, he hadn’t written anything new for eight years. He’s claimed he subsequently wrote 40 songs, suggesting a suddenly uncorked flow.
His accompanists on the four-day Fragmented World sessions roughly match his proficiency: Jon Wurster, the drummer, knows Narducy very well from playing near him, mainly behind Mould, and has set up his kit for myriad others; Britt Daniel, the bassist, normally stays up front in the thoroughly excellent band Spoon.
Without those two, Narducy has maintained some version of Split Single for concert stages, and the present lineup includes Wilco bassist John Stirratt on guitar. Narducy has promised to reveal a lot of new songs during the current tour; fans hope he can keep Split Single’s experienced innocence intact.
Wednesday, May 27: David Torn at Jazz Estate
A musician whose resume includes work for and with K.D. Lang, Tori Amos, David Bowie, the jazz-reconfiguring trio the Bad Plus, and Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto… might sound like but is not too avant-garde for any room. However, he need not be avant-garde in order to challenge.
David Torn, with his new album Only Sky, is challenging. As much a “texturalist” (his word) as a guitarist, oud player, and implementer of sonic manipulations (including looping), Torn unaccompanied is a fervent ruminator, channeling the most inward thoughts into external patterns at which ears, if they were eyes, would stare with feline fascination.
This Milwaukee appearance is part of Torn’s first solo tour in the U.S. since the mid-1990s.
Sunday, May 31: Father John Misty at Pabst Theater
It’s all very well to play the part of an ennui-soaked intellectual libertine a la Serge Gainsbourg or Lee Hazlewood, but Joshua Tillman, the real guy beneath the pseudonym and character of Father John Misty, apparently knows that the music suffers when the face takes on too many contours of the mask.
On his second FJM album, this year’s I Love You, Honeybear, he therefore balances skeptical, cynical, acerbic, knowingly clever lyrics with orchestral-pop manifestations laid across indie-folk basics. The bad Father rarely missteps, resulting in songs that bundle together the thorns and roses of what passes for modern life and love.
Sunday, May 31: Sebadoh at Cactus Club
Between 20 and 25 years ago, when Sebadoh was arguably at its best and undeniably at its most prolific, terms like “lo-fi” and “indie” had sharp definitions that could represent statements both for the value of a rough cut and against the professional-production coating that formed an impenetrable shell over the era’s pop music.
Lou Barlow started the band back when he felt stymied in the group Dinosaur Jr., and Sebadoh has now issued Defend Yourself, its first new album since 1999. (There was considerable reunion touring before then.) By then, or by now, “indie” and “lo-fi” have fuzzier definitions, and the statements Sebadoh seems to be making now are that it still exists and it can still rock.
Sunday, May 31
Hot Chip at Turner Hall Ballroom
There are many electronic-dance-music (EDM) artistes whose idea of “live performance” consists of standing behind a table upon which are arrayed the appropriate tools—sequencers, turntables, a laptop that is just about always a MacBook—and occasionally flipping switches and pushing buttons between bouts of fisting the air.
Hot Chip is, by wonderful contrast, an EDM band that has stayed creative in the constantly shifting and trend-seeking EDM locus of London. That continued creativity goes into its shows, too, which tend to turn selections from studio albums—including the cumulatively catchy Why Make Sense?, out a couple weeks ago—into improvisations. To which, of course, you can dance.