Mama, I'm Swollen
Author: Aarik Danielsen
Provided emotionally charged, guitar-driven soundscapes are your thing, tomorrow's concert calendar should offer something you can get behind. Separately, shows at Columbia's two most prominent venues offer very different but equally captivating sides of the pop-rock coin.Mojo's will be teeming with sweat, scorn and screaming guitars as petulant titans of the Omaha, Neb., indie-rock scene Cursive headline a triple bill. Long known for their ability to merge an insistent, even antagonistic, alt-rock approach ? which All Music Guide has described as merging "elements of indie rock and eclectic post-hardcore" ? with immediate, profound poetry, Cursive's last album, 2009's "Mama I'm Swollen," was the band at its most grown-up. The record set frontman Tim Kasher's tremulous lyrical and vocal dynamism to a more expanded yet modest sonic palette that caused AMG's Jason Lymangrover to term the disc "their lightest, earthiest release to date."Always a focal point, Kasher has been garnering attention of late for finding new contexts in which to showcase his creativity. His solo album, "The Game of Monogamy," was one of the most charismatic, cinematic records of last year. The album cast Kasher as a character not unlike the man-children of contemporary comedies helmed by Judd Apatow or Todd Phillips; yet the curiously compelling songwriter gamely and vulnerably tackled mature matters related to monogamy and the inability to commit. These very adult situations were presented in a song cycle that wed verdant orchestral textures and understated acoustic arrangements to garage rock and New Wave sounds.Having witnessed these brilliant wanderings into uncharted sonic territory, it will be fascinating to see where Kasher leads his Cursive mates from here. Perhaps tomorrow night's show will provide something of a clue.Over at The Blue Note, the scene and sounds will be quite different. Joshua Radin headlines another triple bill, this one of singer-songwriters who, paradoxically, have tasted mainstream success while remaining relatively underappreciated. The Ohio native's most sizable break came in 2004, when buddy/guru to sensitive indie rockers everywhere Zach Braff snagged a Radin song for his TV show "Scrubs." The exposure led to a major label deal and, ultimately, three albums worth of tenderly delivered, tuneful pop/rock ready-made for radio play.Radin's most recent, last year's "The Rock and the Tide," peeled back the layers and exposed a few added depths and dimensions to a musical persona All Music Guide's Andrew Leahey had rightly classified as "soft, understated folk-pop aimed squarely at the 'Grey's Anatomy' crowd." As a whole, the album is quite soulful, and its radiance comes in the ways Radin and company couch his typically gliding melodies and buoyant song structures; distinguishing them from those of his contemporaries more than on previous efforts, Radin employs everything from arena rock guitar licks to vibey synths, even the occasional, rambling banjo; folk-rock promenades, smoothly rocking blues and funk beats all feel at home here. By no means is Radin conducting experiments in rocket science ? or rock science, for that matter ? but "The Rock and the Tide" is a very pleasant, well-thought-out pop record.Of the two openers, L.A.'s Cary Brothers is the better known, with his own Braff connection: Brothers' "Blue Eyes" graced the "Garden State" soundtrack that nabbed Braff a Grammy for his curatorial efforts. Brothers has also landed songs on small-screen hits such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "Bones." Similarly styled, he holds a few more British influences and, thus, hews a little closer to the swirling sounds of Snow Patrol than Radin does. Dutch songwriter Laura Jansen possesses a sweetly yearning voice and sensitive touch at the piano, which she uses in service of original songs and surprising covers such as a recent, inspired conversion of Kings of Leon's arena anthem "Use Somebody" into a far more intimate, earnest expression.