I spent this past weekend making a whirlwind road trip to Troy, a small town in northwestern Montana (population: 1,000). Traveling through the monochromatic, desolate landscape of Eastern Washington, the spooky, rural stretches of northern Idaho and the humbling beauty of Montana's cinematic vistas created the perfect backdrop for absorbing two new records from two very different bands.

Mogwai's fifth studio record, Mr. Beast (out this week on Matador), initially struck me as strange, simply because of its un-Mogwai-like brevity (10 songs in 35 minutes), but after repeated listens, I'm sold. While heading east on I-90, the more plaintive, piano-laced passages merged beautifully with the crushing, majestic crescendos the Scots are known for. Mr. Beast actually sounds more like a live Mogwai show than any of their previous records—a pleasant surprise. My full review can be found as a web exclusive at

Crossing the Idaho border around midnight was an appropriately eerie context for being seduced by the ghostly, country-punk shamble that is the Fever's sophomore effort. A gutsy departure from their well-received 2003 Red Room debut, In the City of Sleep (due April 28 on Kemado Records) is already a contender for one of my favorite records of the year. Mixing creepy, wheezy carnival dirges and cautionary country-noir fables with girl group melodies makes for vivid, unsettling listening. Some of the most intriguing aspects are the roles of multi-instrumentalist J. Ruggiero and percussionist Achilles. Ruggiero provides a lot of the haunting atmospherics with pump organ, marimba, xylophone, and theremin, while Achilles contributes a fair amount of chaos via his junkyard percussion (think Bone Machine–era Tom Waits), created from homemade instruments he fashioned out of old brake pads, discarded sheet metal, and spare gears. I hope the Fever book a date with Seattle soon.

The endlessly evolving picture of Seattle nightclub ownership is mutating once again. Among the rumors about the soon-to-be-sold Comet Tavern and the impending demolition of Hana's downtown, clear evidence presented itself that the Mirabeau Room is up for sale when this listing was posted online last week:

Regardless of what venues open and close in this city, there's always a cluster of talented new bands taking shape underground. Each year we give a helping hand to the most deserving new acts, nominating our favorites and leaving it to Stranger readers to determine the winner. This year's Big Shot recipient will be announced at our free blowout at Neumo's on Saturday, March 11. Check out the four top nominees (the Emergency, Romance, Speaker Speaker, and Tennis Pro) and watch as someone goes home with a windfall of cash and prizes.

Lastly, belated congratulations to Billions booking baroness Ali Giampino and Triple Door booker Scott Giampino, who welcomed their second son, Calvin James, on Friday, February 24.