Aliens will suck out our brains

Record labels may be dying, but the people who do make a go of it usually do what they do for reasons of love. I’m guessing that’s what motivates Eric Fate and his Are You Alive Records (, a local indie label that has two quite wonderful new releases.

This column has sung the praises of Jay Shaner in the past, and Shaner’s new album, Best Laid Plans, gives reason for more kudos. The dozen songs on the disc—a stripped-down singer-songwriter record, he warned—actually are fleshed out nicely, from conventional songwriter rock to a brass band on “The Banana and Wine Song” to piano and guitar on the sweet waltz “Second Hand Heart.” There’s a lot of depth here, along with a recurring outer-space motif that’s quite wistful.

For example: “Aliens will destroy the Earth and everything that’s on it / With laser beams they will burn down all of our beautiful buildings / And orange tubes will suck out all our brains and turn us into zombies / But I will still think of you.” How can you hate a tune like that?

Still it’s the kind of song that could grow to haunt Shaner. On a recent Wednesday night bill at Luna’s Café & Juice Bar, booked by Agent Ribbons singer Natalie Gordon, he was sandwiched between opener Jake Mann, the one-time Davis resident and Zim-Zims frontman who’s been living in San Francisco for a few years now, and headliner Christopher Fairman, whose top-notch disc Born Broken has already been discussed in this space. A guy walked in the door, headed back to order a drink and at the first silent opportunity wheeled and shouted, “Play the ‘Aliens’ song.” Shaner’s “Free Bird”? Time will tell (

I’d gone down to Luna’s to meet Evan Palmer, who’d promised to bring an advance of his band All on Seven’s debut, Just a Rose, also on Are You Alive, which turned out to be a real surprise. After the opening track, “Yet Another Traveling Song,” it seemed like we were in for the straight coffeehouse ticket. But the following song, “We’d Never Met,” with its evocation of death, both defied and exceeded expectations, and the album got better from there.

All on Seven is Palmer on guitars, keys and vocals, with Kayla Schureman on drums and Chris Vogel on bass. Shaner is listed as guitarist, and there are tons of sweet textures all over the record, which was produced by Shaner’s Ghosts of California bandmate Scott McChane (

Speaking of blues, yours truly recently stepped into a cow pie of apparently Brobdingnagian proportions when he mentioned Jeff Watson in this space a few weeks ago. Watson was good-natured about the mistake, but a person representing herself as his manager was not. So here’s the deal: The Jeff Watson who plays in the Jeff Watson Blues Band ( is not the same local Jeff Watson who played in Night Ranger years ago, even though both are from Sacramento. Trust Your Ears regrets the mistake; it was a dumb one and we knew better. The blues-singing Jeff Watson does play out quite a bit, and his quartet serves up a kick-ass brand of chrome-plated Texas-style blues rock, the kind the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan excelled at. You can catch the band on an upcoming bill with Tower of Power at the Radisson Hotel on Friday the 13th, definitely a blues holiday of sorts.

The following night, at the Vox Gallery (19th and X streets), there’s a nice evening of electronic music (Dusty Brown, Assistant Green, Two Playa Game, Cenobites, Doctor Echo) and lots of art, including fine works by Iguanadon frontman Skinner. Bring a can of food and you’re in for $5; otherwise it’s $8.