Monday, December 9, 2019

Live Shows: Thurston Moore Group, ONCE Ballroom, Somerville, MA 12/4/19

Photo via Facebook
Wednesday December 4 was one of those crazy nights in the Boston area where there are more amazing shows than you could think possible in a single night. Lightning Bolt was in Cambridge playing The Sinclair. Lucy Dacus and Haley Heynderickx were at Royale. Up in Portsmouth, NH Mannequin Pussy were playing. On a normal night I wouldn't be hesitant at all about a Thurston Moore experimental noise show, but when there was this much competition it was hard not to have a bit of FOMO before the show even started.

The crowd knew we were in for a non traditional concert seeing as the set up didn't include a microphone. There was no need since this would be an instrumental performance. The rest of the band (which included Steve Shelley (also formerly of Sonic Youth) and Deb Googe (My Bloody Valentine)) were set up facing Moore, and he was set up facing them. Throughout the show Moore acted more as a conductor or bandleader than a traditional rock frontman, letting out a "1 2 3 4!" or a nod when it was time to switch into the next musical segment.

The set started out fairly rough. The first five minutes or so was just Shelley's odd, noisy drumming and some electronic noises from a not-quite keyboard player. As it went on, guitars were slowly added, but grew very, very, very repetitive.

But then just as I started thinking that I really, really made the wrong choice for my evening of entertainment, the music switched. I can't truly explain how, but it seemed to slowly morph into a trip through all sides of Thurston Moore's musical history. Sure, there was the nearly impossible to listen to chin stroking music, but there was also some darker post punk, some of Sonic Youth's later years near hippie jams, and even some black metal vibes. There was really something for every fan of Moore's. Slowly, without even realizing it was happening, I got completely and utterly sucked into the music. What started out as a night that I thought might have been a mistake ended up being a night of unique music I'll never forget. 

Ken's Best of 2019: #7: Mannequin Pussy - Patience

Being a dad in my forties, it's really hard to admit that I'm into a band called Mannequin Pussy, particularly when your tween daughter asks what you're listening to. But that's just how great Patience is. It makes me ignore how awkward their name can be in family situations.

Songs like "Drunk II" (which is the song of the year by far) may be more pop leaning than I normally enjoy, but there's just enough of an edge to suck me in completely. What is truly magical about Patience is that Mannequin Pussy pull off being pop and punk effortlessly. This is very different than being pop punk, which is a whole separate genre. The songs on Patience are edgy, noisy, and filled with heart and attitude while being incredibly accessible. Not many (or really any) other bands could pull that off.

Songs of note: "Drunk II," "Drunk I," "Who You Are," and "Clams"

Jeff's Best of 2019 - #7: Cherry Glazerr - Stuffed and Ready

Cherry Glazerr was one of my earliest favorites this year, with the only song I really and truly kept on repeat for much of the year in “Wasted Nun.” What made this better than their previous efforts? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but there was a polish here that was lacking before, the songwriting (which has always been the strength of this act) felt tighter, the themes more pronounced.

I truly couldn’t get enough of this. Loud and unapologetic without lacking something to say, it didn’t wear out its welcome for me and still hasn’t. I’m very glad this album exists, and I think CG has become one of my favorite current acts in the process.

Songs of note: “Wasted Nun,” “Ohio,” “Stupid Fish”

Friday, December 6, 2019

Shopping - "Initiative"

Photo by Matt Draper
Shopping are ridiculously prolific, but somehow it always seems like we've been waiting forever for new music from them. In February our long two year wait since 2018's The Official Body will end with a new album, but for now we have a new song, "Initiative." 

The three members of Shopping may live on different continents now (Rachel Aggs and Andrew Milk are in Glasgow while Billy Easter is in Los Angeles), but the band reconvened in London to record the new album in ten days. "Initiative" doesn't rewrite the band's musical formula: It's incredibly catchy and danceable post punk. According to the press release, the song is about "... governments who shirk responsibilities but place the blame on individuals." 

You can watch the video for "Initiative" below. All Or Nothing, the new album from Shopping, will be out February 7 on FatCat Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Shopping, check them out on Facebook and Twitter. Current tour dates are below the video.

Fri. Feb. 7 - London, UK @ Rough Trade East
Sun. Feb. 9 - Bristol, UK @ Rough Trade Bristol
Mon. Feb. 10 - Nottingham, UK @ Rough Trade Nottingham
Thu. March 5 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios *
Fri. March 6 - Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern *
Sat. March 7 - Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore *
Mon. March 9 - Reno, NV @ Holland Project * 
Tue. March 10 - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop *
Wed. March 11 - Los Angeles, CA @ 1720 *
Thu. March 12 - San Diego, CA @ UCSD *
Sat. March 14 - Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress (Spring Thing) *
Mon. March 16 - Sat. March 21 - Austin, TX @SXSW
Mon. March 23 - Tallahassee, FL @ The Bark *
Tue. March 24 - Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade - Purgatory *
Wed. March 25 - Durham, NC @ The Pinhook *
Thu. March 26 - Washington, DC @ DC9 *
Fri. March 27 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle *
Sat. March 28 - Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere *
Sun. March 29 - Portsmouth, NH @ The Press Room *
Tue. March 31 - Toronto, ON @ The Monarch *
Thu. April 2 - Detroit, MI @ Deluxx Fluxx *
Fri. April 3 - Fort Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail *
Sat. April 4 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean *
Sun. April 5 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry *
Tue. April 7 - St. Louis, MO @ Sinkhole *
Wed. April 8 - Lawrence, KS @ White Schoolhouse *
Thu. April 9 - Denver, CO @ Hi Dive *
Fri. April 10 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
Tue. May 5 - London, UK @ The Lexington
Wed. May 6 - Paris, FR @ Supersonic
Fri. May 8 - Utrecht, NL @ ACU
Sat. May 9 - Hamburg, DE @ Molotow (SkyBar)
Sun. May 10 - Copenhagen, DK @ VEGA Ideal Bar
Mon. May 11 - Berlin, DE @ Urban Spree
Thu. May 14 - Vienna, AT @ Fluc Café
Fri. May 15 - Prague, CZ @ Meetfactory
Sat. May 16 - Munich, DE @ Milla
Sun. May 17 - Bern, CH @ Reitschule/Rössli
Tue. May 19 - Winterhur, CH @ Albani
Thu. May 21 - Luxembourg, LU @ De Gudde Wellen
Sat. May 23 - Offenbach, DE @ Hafen 2

* = w/ Automatic

Ken's Best of 2019 - #8: Priests - The Seduction of Kansas

For their 2019 album The Seduction of Kansas, Priests toned down the noise from their 2017 album Nothing Feels Natural for a more dance leaning sound. That is typically the fastest way for me to lose interest, but considering I'm putting The Seduction of Kansas as my #8 album of 2019, it obviously didn't turn me off.

That's because The Seduction of Kansas doesn't lose any of Priests's edge despite having a more palatable sound. And it's still plenty edgy and weird: It doesn't take much to be more pleasant sounding than Nothing Feels Natural. "Jesus' Son" is still a guitar driven song, even if it's easy to dance to. The title track may be a straight up disco jam, but it's a dark, not exactly non-discordant one. Priests may be the only band to ever get more mainstream and weird at the same time.

Songs of note: "Jesus' Son," "The Seduction of Kansas," "I'm Clean," and "Good Time Charlie"

Jeff's Best of 2019 - #8: Marika Hackman - Any Human Friend

A sign of how great the best music of this year has been? At one point in my list, this was my #1.

Marika Hackman's third album definitely has a different feel than her first two. I went from a low-key fan to low-key obsessed thanks to this album, which is a cohesive and interesting listen that's equal parts sexual and sophisticated. There are layers here I didn't expect, songs here that lodged themselves in my head for weeks, and imagery that stuck with me long after I was finished listening. It's one of the albums I recommended more than any other this year, as well.

To Hackman's credit, this seemed to be a breakthrough release for her, with "Hand Solo" getting some radio attention and more people talking about her than I saw for her last album. Still, this is an album that feels isolated and personal even with such an expansive intent. I'm glad it exists, and every time I listen to it I'm reminded as to why it's a favorite.

Songs of Note: "Hand Solo," "I'm Not Where You Are," "All Night."

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Mountain Man Covers Wilco

Every so often Vermont's Mountain Man has been gifting us with cover songs, ranging from artists like John Denver, The Everly Brothers, Neil Young, and Fiona Apple. Their latest sees them take on Wilco's "You & I" from 2009's Wilco [The Album]. (I just realized that Wilco [The Album], one of Wilco's "new albums," is ten years old and I now feel ancient.) 

While their take on "You & I" may be less traditional than we typically hear from Mountain Man, it's still a very stripped down take, focusing on the band's three part harmonies with just the slightest bit of guitar holding it all together.

The band explains their decision to cover this particular Wilco song: “We have been band members, collaborators, friends and business partners for over 10 years now, so a song like ‘You and I,’ a celebration of creating a relationship that is totally unique and filled with mystery, seemed very appropriate.”

You can listen to Mountain Man's take on "You & I" below. The song is available now as a single via Nonesuch Records. You can get a copy here. For more on Mountain Man, check out their website.

Ken's Best of 2019 - #9: Stella Donnelly - Beware of the Dogs

We were both huge fans of Stella Donnelly's 2018 EP Thrush Metal, and her full length from earlier this year did not disappoint. Beware of the Dogs is an album of quiet but often angry songs decrying misogyny, middle aged men, and just men being scum in general. Jeff and I are definitely not the target audience for this, but Beware of the Dogs is such a great album that two middle aged music fans can't help but love it. Donnelly is part of a great Americana and alt-rock movement coming from Australia, and we simply can't wait to hear more from her.

Songs of note: "Old Man," "Allergies," "Tricks," and "Boys Will Be Boys"

Jeff's Best of 2019 - #9: Little Simz - GREY Area

I am personally particular about my rap music these days. Not really a fan of most of the really popular stuff these days, and, really, we're more of a Run the Jewels and STL GLD (the latter of which is likely my #11 this year) crew here for newer rap music.

Enter Little Simz. This album kind of blew my mind when it came out in the spring, I revisited it in the summer and fell in love all over again, and then realized that not only is it a solid album, but it's really one of my favorites this year. The title gets the mood of this perfectly: Simz's delivery matches perfectly with the sort of monotone, understated instrumentation, and the full result is something that just continually grabs my attention every time I hear it. It's a complete package that I don't want to miss a moment of instead of a series of moments, and I feel like this in particular has been criminally overlooked in a year with some decent rap releases on a whole.

Songs of Note: "Selfish," "Venom," "Pressure."

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Squirrel Flower - "Headlights"

Photo by Ally Schmaling
Next month's debut album from Squirrel Flower (aka Ella O'Connor Williams) is quickly becoming one of our most anticipated of 2020. The latest single from the album, "Headlights," is a quiet, gorgeous, ethereal song. It's as lush as it is minimal, creating a captivating sound that just draws you in and demands your attention.

Squirrel Flower says of "Headlights": "’Headlights’ takes place in a moment of solitary reflection; a glance back and a glance forward. I wrote it on tour driving through the pioneer valley in Massachusetts in some heavy fog. Suddenly I was aware of the space the car was plummeting through, both physical and temporal."

You can watch the video for "Headlights" below. I Was Born Swimming, the debut album from Squirrel Flower, will be out January 31 on Polyvinyl. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Squirrel Flower, check out her website. Current tour dates are below the video.

Tue. Jan. 28 - London, UK @ The Islington
Fri. Jan. 31 - Brighton, UK @ Resident Records
Sat. Feb. 1 - Bristol, UK @ Friendly Records
Sun. Feb. 2 - Leeds, UK @ Jumbo Records
Tue. Feb. 4 - Diksmuide, BE @ 4AD * [Sold Out]
Wed. Feb. 5 - Nijmegen, BL @ Doornroosje *
Thu. Feb. 6 - Brussels, BE @ AB *
Sat. Feb. 8 - Amsterdam, NL @ Bitterzoet * [Sold Out]
Thu. March 5 - Freeport, ME @ Cadenza
Fri. March 6 - Middletown, CT @ Mac 650 Art Gallery &
Sat. March 7  - Boston, MA @ Great Scott &
Wed. March 11 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade &
Thu. March 12 - Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits &
Sat. March 13 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd &
Mon. March 23 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge %
Wed. March 25 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo %
Thu. March 26 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill %
Sat. March 28 - Seattle, WA @ Barboza %
Sun. March 29 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge %
Tue. March 31 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court %
Thu. April 2 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge %
Mon. April 6 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry %
Tue. April 7 - Chicago, IL @ Schubas %
Wed. April 8 - Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s %
Fri. April 10 - Toronto, ON @ Drake Hotel &
Sat. April 11 - Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo &
% = w/ Why Bonnie
& = w/ Cedric Noel
* =w/ Strand of Oaks