Friday, April 20, 2018

Spritzer - "Little Mystery"

Photo via Facebook
Apparently nobody told Spritzer that indie rock isn't supposed to be fun. We know, we know. We're embarrassed for them, too. Their new single, "Little Mystery," is an absolute blast of a song, with bouncy guitars with just enough jangle but enough of a shimmer throughout the entire song to make it poppy. Everything in this song is catchy, from the verses, to the chorus, to the rhythm guitar, to the "woo-oo"s, to the guitar that infrequently pops in seemingly out of nowhere. Even if you demand that your indie rock be very serious and earnest, you're going to love this song.

You can listen to "Little Mystery" below. Spritzer's debut album, Love. Lies. Decay., will be out April 27. For more on Spritzer, check them out on Bandcamp and Facebook.

The Sheila Divine - "Time To Set It Off"

Last time we saw The Sheila Divine, they were performing an all improvised experimental rock set at Lilypad Inman. In case you thought they might be going in the art rock direction, they're back to the poppy alt rock that we've come to love for 20 years now with their latest single. "Time To Set It Off" has a slightly different sound than vintage Sheila Divine, maybe a little funkier than we're used to? It's still a Sheila Divine song with loud, driving and swirling guitars and Aaron Perrino's trademark just short of emo vocals, though, so we're 100% on board. 

You can listen to "Time To Set It Off" below, and get your own copy of the song at The Sheila Divine's Bandcamp. If you happen to be in Belgium, you're in luck since they'll be touring your country in May. For all things The Sheila Divine, be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Labor Hex - Lost In Calling

Boston's Labor Hex may be our spiritual brothers. According to their Bandcamp bio, "Labor Hex is four middle aged dudes still trying to figure out how to live their lives. Music helps." Same, guys. Same.

Their debut EP, Lost In Calling, is wonderfully loud and noisy, the kind of music we're supposed to have stopped listening to, let along making, at our age. Their main sound seems to combine Rites of Spring and Fugazi with Cave In and Converge. Like I said, this is far too loud for people our age to listen to, much less make, but that might be why I love this so much. The title track just grabs you the second it starts, and from there the only break you'll get is the few seconds between songs. Even "Valentine Coast," the closest thing to a ballad, is louder than most bands' heavy songs. Somehow, Labor Hex does keep it all under control with some semblance of song structure, and maybe even some melody, so Lost In Calling never devolves into a complete and utter trainwreck.

You can listen to "Lost In Calling" below. The EP Lost In Calling is available for a "name your price" option over on Bandcamp. If you choose $0.00, be sure to at least give Labor Hex a follow on their social media. You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Lotic - "Hunted"

I'm struggling to find ways to describe "Hunted," the latest single from Lotic, but I'll try my best. The Houston born and currently Berlin based artist has some ties to the trip hop world of Tricky. They share Tricky's groove and chill. But there is a strong sense of tension and noise throughout, reminding me a lot of Atari Teenage Riot. I never thought I'd be hearing a trip hop/digital hardcore hybrid, but I'm also not complaining. With the majority of the lyrics are the barely whispered "brown skin, masculine frame / head's a target / actin' real feminine / make 'em vomit" repeated throughout the song, I doubt there's little question to the subject matter.

You can listen to "Hunted" below. Lotic's debut album, Power, will be out on July 13 on Tri Angle Records. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Lotic, check out their Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Kitten Forever - "Hell Hole"

It's been well over three years since we brought you any new music from Kitten Forever. (Somehow we missed their 2016 album 7 Hearts. WHOOPS!) For a self-described "minimalist punk band," they are loud. The Minneapolis based trio play this incredibly fast brand of punk that owes a ton to riot grrrl bands of the past. "Hell Hole" is all driving guitars and bashing, cymbal heavy drums, and gang vocal choruses. The crazy thing is, as loud and noisy as I'm describing it, "Hell Hole" is fun and groovy. There's just enough of a pop hook in the song to make it danceable, which is a rare feat. 

You can listen to "Hell Hole" below. Kitten Forever's fourth album, Semi-Permanent, will be self-released on their own Rat Queen Records label on May 4. You can pre-order your copy via Bandcamp. For more on Kitten Forever, check out their website.

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases for 13 April

And the rest!

Artist: Bryde
Album: Like an Island
Quick Description: First proper album from half of Paper Airplanes.
Why You Should Listen: It's tricky indie rock with a folk bent.
Overall Thoughts: Nearly my album of the week, this is sneaky great. Bryde takes the quiet->loud dynamic and sits directly on the edges of both, providing a surprising style that feels unpredictable even as you hear certain songs multiple times. The entire approach here is familiar, yet has a unique enough spin that you won’t feel bored.
Recommendation: Really worth giving a shot.

Artist: Mr. Fingers
Album: Cerebral Hemispheres
Quick Description: The return of a house legend.
Why You Should Listen: It's like a time capsule of 1980s dance.
Overall Thoughts: It’s been 20-odd years since this important house music artist put anything new together, and this album feels like a dose of retro dance music from start to finish. The problem with it is the overall lack of evolution in the sound – I personally expected something a little more evolved, but I am also not completely up on the current house trends, so this may be fairly representative. So from my completely uninformed perspective, you may be bored if interesting electronic acts do it for you today, but may love it if house music is your thing.
Recommendation: Be wary, but worth a listen.

Artist: Wood and Wire
Album: North of Despair
Quick Description: Great bluegrass music.
Why You Should Listen: You like a well-polished roots act.
Overall Thoughts: I knew from the moment I saw this act that I would love it. Their label does a tremendous job of getting crisp, pure roots music out there for the masses, and this is the best I’ve heard as of late. Bump this to the top of your list.
Recommendation: A must listen.

Artist: War on Women
Album: Capture the Flag
Quick Description: Latest from the punk act.
Why You Should Listen: Resistance rock is somewhat lacking these days.
Overall Thoughts: On one hand, it's a solid record from a band known to make solid records. On the other? In a really busy week, however, not much here stands out.
Recommendation: There are better options, to be frank.

Artist: Manic Street Preachers
Album: Resistance is Futile
Quick Description: Latest from the legendary British rock act.
Why You Should Listen: It's the Manics. Come on.
Overall Thoughts: The Manic Street Preachers were the first live band I ever saw back when they opened for Oasis on the Morning Glory tour. They’ll always hold a spot in my heart, but they have been at this for a looooong time and this definitely feels like an album from an act that had its better days earlier on.
Recommendation: Good for fans, but not really worth the time otherwise.

Artist: Tinashe
Album: Joyride
Quick Description: New R&B album from a popular artist on the brink of taking off.
Why You Should Listen: Good R&B can sometimes be hard to find.
Overall Thoughts: Cardi B has sucked a lot of the air out of the room for rap/R&B, and what’s left is being grabbed by Janelle Monae, so Tinashe’s buzz-worthy release runs the risk of being overlooked because it doesn’t offer a ton to gain notice at the moment. Servicable feels like a bad word to use due to the implications, but without a specific stand-out moment or theme...
Recommendation: ...this just floats there under the radar for me.

Artist: John Prine
Album: The Tree of Forgiveness
Quick Description: New album from the longtime roots legend.
Why You Should Listen: John Prine should be an automatic for anyone who likes Americana.
Overall Thoughts: John Prine is one of the elder statesmen of the roots movement today, and his latest album isn’t afraid to put his age right on display for everyone to see. This sort of vulnerability doesn’t often come across in the roots music, but it does the trick here and creates an album that needs to be heard. Less a great roots record and more of a piece of art, everyone should hear it at least once.
Recommendation: Give this a spin.

Artist: Mouse on Mars
Album: Dimensional People
Quick Description: Latest from another legendary act, this time on the electronic side.
Why You Should Listen: Mouse on Mars revolutionized what electronic music can be.
Overall Thoughts: On one hand we had Mr Fingers this week. On the other, a new album from Mouse on Mars comes about, and a lot of the strangeness we come to expect from them feels similarly blunted when put up against acts like Ben Frost or Jenny Hval. This is excellent, don’t get me wrong, but if you were previously into Mouse on Mars for a weirdness quotient, you may find it wanting.
Recommendation: Try it out.



Also out:

* Derek Smalls - Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing) (no one was asking for a Spinal Tap solo album, but here we are)
* A Place to Bury Strangers - Pinned

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Live Shows: Amanda White Band and The James Rocket, Lilypad Inman, Cambridge, MA 4/14/18

After ten years of following the musical exploits of The James Rocket, one of their rare trips up to the Boston area finally worked out for my schedule. Not to mention that our new discovery Amanda White was also playing the show, and I knew I had to head out, despite unseasonably cold temperatures and showtime confusion made worse by whoever was working the door.

Amanda White started off the show with her backing band, which also includes Joe Elliott, drummer for The James Rocket. She had some sound issues for the first two songs, which is a little disappointing since her classically trained vocals are one of the main selling points. She stuck mostly to songs off her latest album, Kittens Give Zero Fucks, mostly so she could say "Kittens give zero fucks" as much as possible. (Her own admission, not my speculation.) As someone who tends to go to very earnest indie rock shows, sometimes it's just fun to see an artist that just rocks out and has fun with it. And live, the Amanda White Band shreds. There is more than a little of an 80's metal feel to it, but in the best possible way. They're like a less hokey Darkness or a Steel Panther without feeling dirty.

Next was The James Rocket's mixture of songs about frontman James William Roy being a "big, fat liar" and a "big, fat failure." (Once again, his words, not mine, but I suddenly get why I'm drawn to his music...) Live, The James Rocket come across as a mix of Elvis Costello and Superchunk, or like a fun loving Fugazi on other songs. A song like "Paper Valentines" is far better than I remember it, and "Derby Girl" was just a great, fun indie rock song. Seeing as Amanda White is local, she was the bigger draw , and it was a late, late night for us old timers, so the crowd slowly thinned out as The James Rocket's set went on. (Since most of the early leavers made sure to personally stop to say goodbye to Amanda White and wish her a happy birthday, I can't imagine it had anything to do with The James Rocket's performance.) The odd thing is, as the crowd got smaller, they got much more into it, until it was a small but enthusiastically dancing crowd. 

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for April 13

Nothing unlucky about 20 new releases to cover this week.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Many Rooms
Album: There Is a Presence Here
Quick Description: Dreamy folk-adjacent music.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something a little more meditative this week.
Overall Thoughts: Ethereal, deliberative tones, heavy on the reverb and vocal trickery. Feels like if Bon Iver and Band of Horses had a daughter, and that is not a bad thing at all. This will absolutely not be for everyone, but this is an album that demanded my attention by the third song, and I see myself going back to this a lot in the coming months.
Recommendation: Really made me sit up and take notice this week. A must listen.

Artist: Night Flowers
Album: Wild Notion
Quick Description: Retro-styled alt-pop.
Why You Should Listen: You've been looking for a continuation of sorts from the trend we saw last year.
Overall Thoughts: I loved this! A little alt-poppy, sometimes has that hazy quality to it, but in terms of some super-melodic stuff that’s happening here, this album rarely misses. If last year was the mid-1990s alt revival, this is trying to revive the time that followed, and it just might work.
Recommendation: Really solid listen.

Artist: Josh Rouse
Album: Love in the Modern Age
Quick Description: Rouse goes retro, sort of.
Why You Should Listen: Josh Rouse is consistently excellent.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of Rouse for close to 15 years now, and it is tempting to call this album another change in style for him, but the album title does reflect the attitude that it approaches even if the album feels decidedly Rousian in its execution. It’s definitely a good listen from an artist that rarely stumbles.
Recommendation: Give this a shot this week

Artist: Brazilian Girls
Album: Let's Make Love
Quick Description: An interesting, complicated record from a long-standing act.
Why You Should Listen: Brazilian Girls always keeps it fresh.
Overall Thoughts: This act is very, very different than what they were when I first got into them a decade-plus ago. What is interesting is that they are severely aping Talking Heads quite a bit on this effort, which was unexpected. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s a fun listen.
Recommendation: Worth a look.

Artist: Laura Veirs
Album: The Lookout
Quick Description: First solo record in years from the indie folkie.
Why You Should Listen: Laura Veirs has made some truly iconic songs over the years.
Overall Thoughts: It’s been a while since we got a proper Veirs solo album. Her songs on the case/lang/veirs project were the highlights, but the new solo album feels a little more contemplative and a little less adventurous. This isn’t a bad thing, but when the things that draw me to Veirs are more along the lines of “Rapture” and “The Cloud Room,” hearing a more traditional effort can be jarring. It’s still a welcome return, in any regard...
Recommendation: ...but just might not be what you were hoping for.

Artist: Sofi Tukker
Album: Treehouse
Quick Description: Modern pop.
Why You Should Listen: It's the only thing like it this week, and has a lot of pluses.
Overall Thoughts: This is a pretty modern dance/pop record, and I’ll admit – it’s a little hit-and-miss, but man, when it hits? Songs like “Best Friend” are a kicker and really make the lower parts of the record more tolerable. In a shorter week, this is likely worth the time if you’re interested in a more pop record. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, but the good far outweighs the bad.
Recommendation: Might be your thing.

Artist: A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Album: Forest Bathing
Quick Description: Elephant Six meets the Eastern Bloc.
Why You Should Listen: This is great, gorgeous instrumental stuff.
Overall Thoughts: The Eastern Europeanish branch of the Elephant Six collaborative, this is some really gorgeous and interesting stuff. I don’t pretend to know the first thing about this type of music, but I really enjoyed the experience and I’m glad to see we’re getting a proper album from this duo for the first time in a while.
Recommendation: Absolutely should find some time this week even if it's not your genre.

Artist: The Damned
Album: Evil Spirits
Quick Description: Hard rock for people who might not like hard rock.
Why You Should Listen: Steel Panther is too much for you.
Overall Thoughts: I really would have dug this a decade ago. As it stands, though, I didn’t care much for this effort, which is sort of like a more serious sounding Darkness or something. There’s too much good music out this week for this, so try something else.
Recommendation: In a busy week, skip this.

Artist: L. A. Salami
Album: The City of Bootmakers
Quick Description: Sometimes singer-songwritery, sometimes poppy, sometimes rocking.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something a little more unique this week.
Overall Thoughts: At times this reminds me of early Langhorne Slim, at others a fairly standard pop-leaning rock singer-songwriter effort. L.A.S has an interesting voice and makes a really solid effort here that I definitely liked. Give this a shot, you might find a lot here to love.
Recommendation: A good listen.

Artist: Juliana Hatfield
Album: Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John
Quick Description: Juliana Hatfield sings Olivia Newton-John.
Why You Should Listen: Juliana Hatfield sings Olivia Newton-John.
Overall Thoughts: This does exactly what it says on the package. It's fine. "Physical" is the obvious highlight. The more you love Olivia Newton-John, the more you'll love this.
Recommendation: Yeah.

EPs of note:

* Rachael Cantu - Love Rush
* The Longshot - The Longshot EP (Billie Joe Armstrong project)

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Fabulous Minx - "Party Till We're Dead"

Photo via Facebook
Sometimes you don't want a band to reinvent rock. Sometimes you just want a good, old fashioned, fun rock n' roll song. That's where the new single from Tulsa, OK's The Fabulous Minx comes in. "Party Till We're Dead" is a 94 second burst of rock n' roll fun. It definitely has more than a bit of a rockabilly throwback feel, but in the best possible way. You've definitely heard a band mix the Ramones's stripped down rock sound with punk sing-alongs in a rockabilly blend before, but it's still something you should love and listen to. Plus, the song is about being over thirty in a scene filled with youngsters in their early 20's, so we can most definitely relate.

You can listen to "Party Till We're Dead" below. While you're at it, you should also check out the b-side "Baby Baby Baby." For more on The Fabulous Minx, check out their website.

Friday, April 13, 2018

New Boston Based Music Podcast Worth Checking Out

As someone very active in the local Boston music scene in the late 90's (as an audience member, at least), I'm obviously very nostalgic for anything to do with that time/scene. That's why I've become enamored with Christian Campagna's new podcast, Talk About the Passion. It's only 23 episodes in, so now is a great time to get on board. According to the description, "Talk About the Passion is a podcast where I will be talking with friends and strangers about their passions in creativity. There’s a slight slant towards people from the punk and hardcore scenes, but of course I want to stretch way past those boundaries." He's not kidding about the slant towards punk and hardcore, as episodes have featured Scott Helland (Deep Wound), Nate Newton (Converge), Jonah Jenkins (Only Living Witness), etc. He does branch out from time to time, and has episodes with comedian Allison Dick, Kevin Patey (Raging Teens, Jittery Jack), and radio DJ Angie C. (The Angie C episode is highly recommended.) If you love hearing old friends hang out and reminisce about TT the Bear's, The Rat, and dozens of bands you forgot existed, check out Talk About the Passion.

You can find Talk About the Passion on your podcast app of choice. For more on the podcast, check them out on Podbean.