Bombast can be beautiful. Just ask any fan of the sense-jolting musical conglomeration known as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The holiday season is when TSO hits the road for its mega-successful, all-ages yuletide salute - a mix of head-banging arena-rock, storytelling, and dazzling effects that include elaborate stage sets, strobe lights, fog, flames, and lasers.
Since mid-November, two separate TSO touring companies have been crisscrossing the United States to play more than 100 shows in 67 cities before things wind down this month. Fans, take note: The 2013 tour marks the retirement of TSO's signature holiday spectacle The Lost Christmas Eve, a Dickens-inspired rock opera featuring a young princess, a New York businessman, and an angel sent to Earth on a mission. It's loud, it's fun, and it has helped TSO become one of Billboard's Top 25 touring acts of this decade.
The brainchild of TSO creator/producer Paul O'Neill, The Lost Christmas Eve takes up a good portion of the proceedings, with the show's second half featuring an over-the-top extravaganza of guitar heroics on classics like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and TSO's own breakout 1996 hit "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo."
- Nicole Pensiero
On their second EP, the new Analog Weekend, Their/They're/There show there's still life in emo and post-punk. The Chicago trio is a supergroup of sorts, combining the forces of Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It., Mike Kinsella of Owen, Cap'n Jazz, and Joan of Arc (among others), and Matthew Frank of Loose Lips Sink Ships. Their songs are full of complex musicianship that still rocks out, strained vocals that are still eminently melodic, and earnest, personal lyrics that can soar into communal anthems. Their/They're/There will rock the basement of the First Unitarian Church, home to many a sweaty emo show over the decades, with openers Mansions, Birthmark (the solo project of Nate Kinsella, Mike's cousin and Joan of Arc bandmate), and Marge, a local all-female quartet.
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Suzie Brown and Scot Sax
Singing and songwriting Philadelphia couple Suzie Brown and Scot Sax are moving to Nashville, and playing a last hometown show before they go. Both Brown, who's a cardiologist as well as a musician, and Sax, whose career on the local scene includes days with top-shelf power-pop band Wanderlust and a collaboration with singer Sharon Little, have new music out this year.
Brown's CD Almost There, which alternates between upbeat tracks like a cover of Fats Domino's "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday" and sorrowful tunes such as "Fallen Down," about last December's Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, is the fuller production, recorded in Music City with Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers.
Sax's I'm in a Mood, by contrast, is more uniformly dark-hued, an Americana outing produced by Cliff Hillis that leans on the blues before shaking them off with pop craftsman skills that are Sax's calling card.
- Dan DeLuca