Monday, August 20, 2018

Live Shows: Mavis Staples, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Portsmouth, NH 8/16/18

Mavis Staples at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival
Photo by Ken Sears
I've seen Mavis Staples twice so far, but each time was at the Newport Folk Festival. Until this past Thursday, I had yet to see her own show, mainly since I'm fairly cheap when it comes to concert tickets. This is the beauty of the Prescott Park Arts Festival: You can see a legendary artist like Mavis Staples for $8.00.

The thing I noticed most about this particular Mavis Staples performance was that it was much more rockin' than I had expected. She chose to stick to much more upbeat and uplifting songs than previous times I had seen her. The quietest song she played was "You Are Not Alone," from her collaboration with Jeff Tweedy. A noteworthy song that was missing from the setlist was "The Weight," which I had assumed she always played. The evening of rock/soul/funk included three fantastic covers: Talking Head's "Slippery People," Funkadelic's "Can You Get to That," and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." Each of these covers were completely her own, and if you weren't heavily familiar with the originals, you'd never know they were covers. The gospel side of Staples was also missing, but her voice and music is a religious experience all their own.

Since Thursday was also the day the world lost Aretha Franklin, the performance also included a moment of silence for the lost artist. The majority of the set was made up of songs from The Staples Singers (five total). One of these songs brought the highlight and low point of the performance: During "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend," Staples walked out to the front of the stage to shake audience members' hands. While doing this, she met a baby named Mavis, which delighted her to no end, and was brought up many times for the rest of the set. But, this also led to a ridiculously long line of people waiting to shake Staples's hand and greet her. Literally dozens of people took this opportunity. I know that getting to shake a living legend's hand and telling her how much you enjoy her music is exciting, but this just went on for far too long, even after Staples mentioned that her back was hurting from bending over to greet fans. The woman is 79, maybe we shouldn't make her potentially injure herself for our own amusement. After the song was finally allowed to end, Staples sat down on a bench for a bit and then closed with "I'll Take You There." One of the finest nights I've spent in Prescott Park.

Salem Wolves - "Shake"

My fervor for Salem Wolves has been fairly well documented here at If It's Too Loud..., and based on their new single "Shake," that won't be abating any time soon. "Shake" takes their amped up almost ready for stadiums garage rock and cranks it up a few notches. It's loud, and starts off very reminiscent of MC5's "American Ruse." That quickly goes away, and it becomes a song all its own. "Shake" is a fast, loud rocker with tons of noise and some stutters while it plows forward, stopping for nothing. It's also somehow the most accessible thing Salem Wolves have released so far.

You can listen to "Shake" below. The new album from Salem Wolves, also called Shake, will be out August 25. You can pre-order your copy on Bandcamp. For more on Salem Wolves, check out their website. If you're in the Boston area, you can see them live on August 23 at O'Brien's Pub and September 15 at Brighton Music Hall.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Forgotten Fridays: Propellerheads - Decksanddrumsandrockandroll

I should preface this by saying that there are a handful of albums that kind of define my love for music, and this is one of them.

It's probably not entirely correct to call this album "forgotten," per se, since there are certain songs like "Bang On" that soundtracked movies for close to a decade after this album was released. But when it came out in 1998, it was the height of the whole "electronica" thing in the United States, and while acts like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were hitting it big, purer electronic acts like Orbital weren't getting quite a foothold and the sort of DJ/producer culture wasn't quite resonating the same way.

Then came this album. I'm sure it was "History Repeating" that got my attention, since I've always loved Bond themes and Shirley Bassey is a legend and this song is incredible in its own right. But what sets Decksanddrumsandrockandroll apart is just the whole package effortlessly jumps from breaks and big beat to big band to even a symphonic-electronic hybrid of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" toward the end.

A 20th anniversary version came out earlier this year and I only tripped up on it this week. It largely holds up, and I didn't realize how my knowledge of acts like De La Soul and The Jungle Brothers are rooted in their guest appearances on this album. The duo never did another album again - one of the two battled an illness shortly after the album came out and I guess they both kind of went their separate ways - but this is one of those acts that I really wish had done more together. It's such an iconic album for me, and you probably know more of it than you realize. If you're rediscovering it today, congratulations. If this is the first time you're hearing it, welcome aboard.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Goon Sax - "Make Time 4 Love"

Photo by Ben O'Connor
Despite breaking the internationally recognized rule that only Prince could use letters as words in song titles, Australia's The Goon Sax's new single is pretty great. "Make Time 4 Love" continues the new fangled Australian trend of throwing back to the 90's for inspiration. This time they go back to '97/'98 when bands were throwing back to the 60's and having a groovy/crooner feel to their songs. Singer Louis Forster (To make you feel old, he's the son of Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens) isn't exactly a crooner, but it gives the song a fun, indie vibe. The song is mostly a fairly sparse groovy indie song, except for the use of horns towards to end to help flesh out the song. It's a fun sound, bordering on quirky without quite going over the edge.

You can watch the video for "Make Time 4 Love" below. We're Not Talking, the new album from The Goon Sax, will be out September 14 on Wichita Recordings. You can pre-order it here. For more on The Goon Sax, check them out on Facebook.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Baeilou - "Mourning Mantra"

Photo by Cinque Mubarak
Hopefully you remember when we brought you the haunting, Poe inspired single from Baeilou, "Eleanora." Mia Pixley and her cello Baeilou are back with another single, "Mourning Mantra." The new single seems much more straightforward neo-Americana than the previous one. It's very minimal, and a cello is going to sound a bit out of place in any rock/folk song. But "Mourning Mantra," despite it's tempo changes, is a pretty upbeat pop cello song... for the first minute and a half. After that, the mood shifts dramatically. The song becomes more moody and beautiful, and even when the pace picks back up, it is much more classical than it was previously.

You can listen to "Mourning Mantra" below. Baeilou's upcoming EP, Inside Under, will be out August 24. For more on Baeilou, check out the artist's website and Facebook.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Town and The City Festival Will Be Your October Music Highlight

When I first heard about The Town & City Festival happening in Lowell, MA, I assumed it would be limited to local Lowell area bands, and maybe a Boston band or two with Lowell ties. "A Fall Celebration of Music and Art in Lowell" just gives off a local vibe. When the line up was announced yesterday, to say I was pleasantly surprised would be a huge understatement. There are some local artists playing (Arlen, D-Tension) but there are some huge favorites of ours, also. Playing are "new" favorites like Kingsley Flood and Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. But somehow the festival are legends Edo G, Damon and Naomi, and Kristin Hersh (!?!?!?!?!!!). And they are throwing in a bunch of artists that we always see listed and mean to check out but never quite get around to it (Abbie Barrett, Analog Heart, Frank Morey, Oldsoul). Of course, there are more to be announced, but you can check out the current line up on the poster to the left.

The Town and The City Festival will take place October 19 and 20 in various venues around Lowell, MA. Early bird two day passes for $35 will go on sale today at noon. For more information, check out the festival's website.

First Listen: New Releases for 10 August

Some great ones this week.

Album of the Week:


Artist: Bear Grass
Album: LEFT
Quick Description: Gorgeous and compelling indie folk.
Why You Should Listen: It's reminiscent of so many things, yet exists as its own unique album.
Overall Thoughts: Wow. I had never heard of this band coming in, but I was intrigued through song one and in love by the end of the second. This album is a weird hit of mid-2000s indie with some folk rock elements and a really fragile-sounding structure that I fell for over and over again. I told Ken how much I liked it early on, and he told me that he nearly presented it as “guaranteed to be in your 2018 top 10,” and… well, he might not be wrong.
Recommendation: An amazing album seemingly out of nowhere, and definitely one of the best of the year.


Artist: The Beths
Album: Future Me Hates Me
Quick Description: Debut album from a favorite here.
Why You Should Listen: This is probably the indie rock album of the summer.
Overall Thoughts: If it weren't for Bear Grass, this would be my favorite this week. I got turned onto this band years ago thanks to their EP, where album track "Whatever" first got released and my favorite Beths song, "Idea/Intent," didn't make the new album's cut. This is better produced, louder, more melodic, and just a realization of a band hitting their stride at just the right time. I fear that this isn't quite poppy enough to hook in enough people, which means that a LOT of people are going to miss out on one of the best albums of the summer.
Recommendation: Do not miss this.


Artist: Lola Kirke
Album: Heart Head West
Quick Description: Debut full-length from another folkie type.
Why You Should Listen: Some of her songs will blow your mind.
Overall Thoughts: I’ve been fairly obsessed with “Monster” since I first heard it, and the album largely met my heightened expectations. The album gives me a bit of an grittier version of early Tristen vibes in some regards, and songs like “Supposed To” really do a good job of keeping on board. If you like most of what we push here, this should be on your list.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.


Artist: Odetta Hartman
Album: Old Rockhounds Never Die
Quick Description: Follow-up to the solid 222
Why You Should Listen: Odetta Hartman is getting some solid buzz.
Overall Thoughts: I liked this well enough, but this was a much-anticipated release for me that I hoped to love. Instead, we have a rootsy album with a lot of solid moments and many unexpected twists and turns, but a first listen does not provide the sort of throughline I was ultimately hoping for.
Recommendation: Good, just not great.


Artist: Jake Shears
Album: Jake Shears
Quick Description: Solo debut from the Scissor Sisters frontman.
Why You Should Listen: It's solid cabaret-ish pop.
Overall Thoughts: The Scissor singer has a solo album which definitely has a mainstream cabaret feel to it that is fully and completely on-brand in one regard, but also would fit right in on a lot of pop radio stations. This really does not go too far off of the classic SS mold, and that’s perfectly fine.
Recommendation: Worth a listen if you're a fan.

Of note:

* Tomberlin i At Weddings (quiet, haunting folk stuff)
* Lights - Scorpion Side B (acoustic cover of a Drake album I’ve never heard)
* War and Treaty - Healing Tide (bluesy roots for people who might not like bluesy roots)
* The Coral - Move Through the Dawn (their best effort in years)
* Bird Streets - Bird Streets
* The Perceptionists - Low Resolution
* Kathryn Joseph - From When I Wake the Want Is
* Miles Kane - Coup de Grace
* Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis - Wild! Wild! Wild!

EPs:

* Tigerman Woah! - Do It All Again
* FOXTROTT - Meditations II
* Sammy Brue - Down With Desperation

Also out:

* Stella Sommer - 13 Kinds of Happiness
* Shooter Jennings - Shooter
* Liz Cooper and the Stampede - Window Flowers
* Foxing - Nearer My God

Monday, August 13, 2018

Jack Drag - "Hope Revisited"

Photo via Twitter
Last month we were thrilled to share a new single from the recently exhumed Jack Drag. "Little Lies" seemed to lean a bit more towards John Dragonetti's work with The Submarines than his earlier work with Jack Drag, but we were still thrilled to have Jack Drag back.

Now we have a second single, "Hope Revisited." The new single is still poppier than Jack Drag's 90's output, but considering a lot of that were four track home recordings, it's too be expected. "Hope Revisited" has some of the slightly off kilter arrangements I love about Jack Drag. Sure, it's a pop song, but just barely. The these odd driving verses with lines that seem to just run on into each other with virtually no breaks until you hit the chorus, which stops dead just as it starts. Even though it's largely electronic, something about the song feels organic, earning it the moniker "sci-fi folk."

You can listen to "Hope Revisited" below. Jack Drag's new album, 2018, will be out this fall on Burger Records. For more on Jack Drag, check out his Twitter.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Kings of Spade - "Way She Goes"

Kings of Spade will not sound the way you think they sound. First, look at the band picture to the left. Now, realize that they are from Hawaii. To make things even stranger, their upcoming album was produced by Dave Cobb, a well known Nashville producer.

I'm sure even though none of these things match up, you have a general idea of their sound, right? Did you picture a 70's soul fueled barrage of party ready funk with plenty of falsetto vocals? Nope, I didn't think so. I guess the singer has a mohawk and there are some elements of ska in the guitars sometimes? And it does have more of a rock element than top 40 or R&B. But that's about as close as you'll get to what you expected. The chorus is absurdly catchy, and could very well break out into a big enough hit that we're all embarrassed we ever liked it.

You can watch the video for "Way She Goes" below. Kings of Spade's self titled album will be out on October 19 on Soundly. For more on Kings of Spade, be sure to check out their website.


Adrianne Lenker - "cradle"

Photo by Shervin Lainez
We've both been huge fans of both of Big Thief's albums, so we're pretty excited that Adrianne Lenker is proving to be absurdly prolific and is releasing a solo album this year. "cradle" is the first single off of her solo album, and it's what I had expected in the best possible way. Big Thief's music isn't exactly hard rock, but it's definitely rock with some fantastic guitar flurries. "cradle" is decidedly more quiet and introspective. Lenker's vocals are barely a whisper above a barely plucked guitar. Harmonizing background vocalization fills out the song to give it not quite a lush sound, but definitely a fuller sound. 

You can listen to "cradle" below. abysskiss, the new solo album from Adrianne Lenker, will be out October 5 on Saddle Creek. You can pre-order your copy here. For more on Adrianne Lenker, check out her website.