Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Beths Cover Death Cab for Cutie

Photo by Mason Fairey
Death Cab for Cutie are just one of those bands I've never quite gotten into. I can appreciate them, but only for a song or two. One of those few songs I actually truly enjoy is "Soul Meets Body," which I know, I know, it's the most obvious one. When I heard that one of our favorites, The Beths, had covered that particular song, I knew I simply had to hear it. The cover was recorded in the SiriusXMU studios. It's one of those stripped down acoustic covers that were all the rage in radio back in the 90's but have pretty much disappeared now that radio no longer exists. It's, obviously, fantastic, and it hits the nostalgia button for so many reasons.

You can listen to The Beths's version of "Soul Meets Body" below. For more on The Beths, check out their website.

Quelle Chris - "Obamacare"

Now this is what I want from hip hop. "Obamacare," the latest track from Quelle Chris's upcoming album Guns, starts off with a burst of bizarre almost industrial sounding noise that would sound more at home in a Sonic Youth song than your average hip hop song. From there the song gets a bit more tuneful, but there is this odd quality to the beat that isn't completely comfortable. As someone who's favorite rap group is Public Enemy, this is a type of sound I've missed for far too long.

You can watch the video for "Obamacare" below. And you really should watch it. Chris says about the video: 

“Like most of my visuals I try to find the place where proper pairing and a good excuse to try my hand at something I always loved as a kid meet. The video for Obamacare is an homage to many of my favorite PBS, Sesame Street shorts with a touch of Terry Gilliam (and I mean a drip. Trust me I know my place. Lol). It’s one of my favorite songs on the album so I figured doing collage work in the style of my favorite era of animation was fitting. About 95% of the video was taken from the pages of archived magazines. Next video will likely be animatronics if this trend continues.” 

Guns, the new album from Quelle Chris, will be out March 29 on Mello Music Group. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Quelle Chris, check out his Twitter.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

John Shakespear - "Spend Your Youth"

Photo by VQnC
Although he started off in Boston, John Shakespear is now located in Nashville. You can hear both cities in his newest single, "Spend Your Youth." The song has a strong Americana feel that you can pretty much only get in a city like Nashville, but it's not all twang. "Spend Your Youth" still has a bit of the Boston DIY/indie feel to it. It's a brilliant and mesmerizing song, more on the indie folk side of things than the alt-country of the previous single, "Swinging for the Fences."

You can listen to "Spend Your Youth" below. Spend Your Youth, John Shakespear's debut album, will be out May 10. For more on John Shakespear, check out his website. Current tour dates are below the song.

5/2 - Nashville, TN - The East Room 
5/8 - Washington, DC - Electric Maid 
5/9 - Harrisburg, PA - Little Amps 
5/10 - NYC - Pete’s Candy Store 
5/11 - Baltimore, MD - The Four-Hour Day Lutherie 
5/22 - Boston, MA - Sofar Sounds 
6/6 - Boston, MA - The Burren Backroom 

The Get Ahead - "Deepest Light"

Hailing from Portland, OR, The Get Ahead have combined a few roots-based genres into a cohesive sound. "Deepest Light" is a very groovy, dance friendly Americana/folk/soul song. Just for good measure, they also packed some R&B and maybe even some disco in there. This could be a mess, but The Get Ahead pull it off impeccably. "Deepest Light" is the rare dance track that stays organic and doesn't sound even remotely top 40. The Get Ahead have also become a family band. They are comprised of two married couples (one of whom recently had a baby) and a longtime friend. You can sense that level of closeness and community in their music.

You can listen to "Deepest Light" below. Deepest Light is also the name of their upcoming album, which will be out April 26 on Jullian Records. For more on The Get Ahead, check out their website.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Live Shows: Gogol Bordello and Nu Folk Rebel Alliance, The Strand Ballroom, Providence, RI 3/16/19

Last weekend was St. Patrick's Day weekend, and typically everybody in New England clings to their Irish roots, no matter how small, and goes out to see any band that also has any Irish roots they can cling to. It was refreshing to see how many people went out to The Strand Ballroom on Saturday night to take in the gypsy/Latin punk hybrid of Gogol Bordello. Those that did were treated to one of the best shows I've seen in years.

I had been trying to get out to see Gogol Bordello for years, ever since their stripped down performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 2011. I've wanted to see a full band set from them, but it just never has worked out for me. This week I had a close friend in from out of town which inspired me to finally pull the trigger and do it. I couldn't be happier that I did. I had ridiculously high expectations, since Gogol Bordello was one of the highlights of that year's NFF, a year that included The Decemberists, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Wanda Jackson, Mavis Staples, Tegan & Sara, Justin Townes Earle, David Wax Museum, etc. It's hard to stand out on a bill that stacked, but Gogol Bordello shined.

Saturday night was a truly epic performance. Playing for two hours, Gogol Bordello played literally every song we could have possibly wanted. They broke out "Not a Crime" and "Immigrant Punk" early in their set, and even played their most popular song, "Start Wearing Purple," much earlier than I would have expected. They also broke out covers of The Cramps and Iggy Pop halfway through the set. It's rare that a punk show is fueled with as much joy as a Gogol Bordello show is, but that's one of the things that separates them from the rest. That joy extended to the crowd, which was rowdy but never crossed the line into violence (except for one guy who was kicked out for fighting). Given the current political climate, and the fact that the band waves their immigrant status quite proudly, there weren't any political statements between songs. Instead, the band let their music do the talking for them. 

Nu Folk Rebel Alliance opened the show. They were a duo performing mostly Clash covers in a Latin/hip hop/folk style with pre-recorded drums. It might sound like an odd choice, but then you must have never listened to Sandinista! It was a perfect choice, and I'm hoping to stumble across them again soon.

First Listen: New Releases for 15 March

Album of the Week:

Artist: Stephen Malkmus
Album: Groove Denied
Quick Description: New album from the Pavement frontman.
Why You Should Listen: Stephen Malkmus has earned the right to do what he wants at this point.
Overall Thoughts: At least when Radiohead went weird, they didn’t try to alienate most listers right out of the gate. If you can get past the first track of Groove Denied, however, you’re in for a real treat. Malkmus’s output over the decades has always been a strange mixed bag even if it’s perpetually compelling, and this album is the vision of a man just spreading his wings as much as he wants and presenting the results. Sort of a Kraftwerk via the American West Coast amalgam of ideas and concepts through much-to-most of the affair, this is not going to have the sort of wide appeal of his early solo work or the indie smart takes of the most hardcore of Pavement enthusiasts. This is a bizarre record, but it’s also kind of brilliant and really works as long as you’re willing to go along with the ride. There is always the risk with a musician like Malkmus that this isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but whether it’s a serious undertaking or the first real musical trollery of 2019, it’s my favorite of the week and should be a topic of conversation for some time to come.
Recommendation: I love what is going to be one of the more divisive listens of the year.

Artist: Danger Mouse and Karen O
Album: Lux Prima
Quick Description: Frontwoman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the awesome producer do a teamup.
Why You Should Listen: I guess if Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells had a baby, it would be this?
Overall Thoughts: Danger Mouse knows what he's doing, for sure, because his collaborations over the last decade have been top-notch. This one, with Karen O? Just as good as everything else. If a song like "Turn the Light" doesn't grab you, perhaps "Woman" (which really brings what Karen O does best to the forefront) might do it instead. While there are likely many people who would prefer to see both of these acts on their main gigs, this is going to be one of the more underrated treasures of 2019.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: Over the Rhine
Album: Love & Revelation
Quick Description: First album in four years from the folk act.
Why You Should Listen: Over the Rhine is consistently great and consistently underrated.
Overall Thoughts: I was turned onto Over the Rhine when they shared a bill with Hem way, way back, and I became an instant fan. In an era where Hem is basically gone, the band carries that mantle of lush, orchestral folk forward, and this album provides even more of what I’m looking for from this act. There are some truly beautiful songs here, some familiar-sounding choices, and overall a really nice and pleasant listen that’s unlike a lot of the folk stuff out there.
Recommendation: A must-hear this week.

Artist: The Lasso
Album: The Sound of Lasso
Quick Description: R&B/electronic producer with a solid instrumental listen.
Why You Should Listen: If you liked Elaquent but wanted more adventure...
Overall Thoughts: I talked about how much I enjoyed Elaquent a few weeks back, and The Lasso is along the same lines – R&B-infused trip-hop, instrumental-style. I’ll be honest - this is different and perhaps more ambitious than the Elaquent effort (which is not a condemnation of Elaquent’s excellent album at all), but is interesting enough where I am pretty sure there’s a whole genre of artists and albums that I’ve been unaware of until this time. This is a great listen, and maybe this might be the gateway to exploring this area of music more the way it has been for me.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Betty Who
Album: Betty
Quick Description: Smart pop music.
Why You Should Listen: You yearn for your 2am club days.
Overall Thoughts: As the person on the pop beat in these parts, Betty Who is someone who should invariably be more famous than she is. Still, she’s a hit in the clubs and has broken through in more dance-friendly markets, so it isn’t shocking that she comes across as more of an outsider in the US. This album has a lot of really infectious stuff going on, and a few solidly earwormy songs throughout. If Ariana is more your taste, this might be a little too odd, but if your taste in dance pop trends more toward the club bangers, this might work for you.
Recommendation: Great for pop fans.

Artist: Sanna Hannson and the Swatchmen
Album: For the Cheap Seats in the Back
Quick Description: Caberet rock from an act fast becoming a favorite.
Why You Should Listen: You yearn for your vaudeville days.
Overall Thoughts: I loved their EP from a few years back, and this is the first full-length from this act. I wish they came out 20 years ago, as this sort of indie-cabaret-rock would have probably fit right in with the Squirrel Nut Zippers/swing revival set. This is really fun, and even with some production choices I don’t love, this is a really fun record that should get more attention.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, as you'll know quickly whether it's for you.

Artist: Five Letter Word
Album: Siren
Quick Description: Great, offbeat bluegrass.
Why You Should Listen: This is a fun bluegrassy listen.
Overall Thoughts: After falling for Clara Baker’s album, I went looking for more and found her roots trio’s album that debuted in January. This bluegrassy effort is not world-changing (and is not trying to be), but there is a slightly skewed approach to the songwriting and presentation that sets it apart from the traditional aspects. The lead track, “Cast Iron Skillet,” chugs right along, the second song offers some great vocal efforts, and the rest of the album throws a number of curveballs along the way that keep things interesting and different. This is a roots-heavy week for us in some regards, but this is absolutely worth checking out.
Recommendation: Give it a shot.

Artist: Huntly
Album: Low Grade Buzz
Quick Description: Weird, electronic-based indie music.
Why You Should Listen: You wish the XX didn't take off the way they did.
Overall Thoughts: A late find for me was this debut album from an act I didn't know anything about or from. There's a lot of interesting and strange things going on with this record, all of which I loved, and the title track is both incredibly representative and yet totally different. Which, really, seems to describe this perfectly. I loved loved loved this and want to take a lot more time with it, and perhaps you will, too.
Recommendation: A great, ambitious listen.

Of note:

* The Faint - Egowerk (Never been a huge fan, but this was a fun, synthy listen.)
* The Brian Jonestown Massacre - The Brian Jonestown Massacre (Still the best Dandys-adjacent band out there.)
* CHAI - PUNK (If Puffy Amiyumi liked the Ramones more?)
* Dis Fig - PURGE (Great electronic music along the lines of Ben Frost.)
* Matmos - Plastic Anniversary (Weird electronica from the legends of the craft.)
* Keren Ann - Bleue
* Porteaeu - Water's Gate


* Bouncing Souls - Crucial Moment

Also out:

* UB40 - For the Many

Monday, March 18, 2019

Wet Dreams - "Bad Boy"

A great way to get our attention is to include the phrase "Like Motorhead Covering The Hives" in your email subject line. That quote comes from NME, and it's about Norway's Wet Dreams.

Wet Dreams is made up of members of FOAMMM, Warp Riders, De Marvells, and Death By Unga Bunga. When you see a band is named Wet Dreams, and they're being compared to Motorhead and The Hives, you pretty much know what you're going to get. "Bad Boy" is a big, loud rock song. It's a thrashy, distorted power punk song that leans a little more towards The Hives than Motorhead, but it's not quite as polished as The Hives. It's as if the polish has been worn off a little by excess use. Basically, it's impossible to not love this song.

You can watch the video for "Bad Boy" below. The debut self-titled album from Wet Dreams will be out on March 29 on Black Pop Records. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Wet Dreams, check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Freebie: Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys - Hexphones

One of the great joys March brings are RPM Challenge albums, specifically the annual one released by Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. This year brings us Hexphones. Based on a Facebook post, this is a love letter to Sickert's teenage infleunces. Here is what they had to say about it:

"HEXPHONES is my ether-trip-glitched-out-memory of being a kid listening to my headphones on the long dark bus ride to school. I was the first kid on the bus in the morning. I’d wait on the side of a highway at 6am shrouded in the cloak of music created by my headphones. The long ride would be filled with music pumped directly into my DNA; a portal to safe place inside my head.
Chaos at home and hassled at school; that long drive was freedom from everyone that saw me as something that needed to be controlled, or fixed, or disciplined for being different.

Those moments of peace and inspiration were some of the earliest sparks that set my life on fire for art.
HEXPHONES is a chance to experiment, written and recorded in the 28 days of February. That long bus ride and early inspiration was the experimental pool I dipped into to create this album. Mixing and mashing all sorts of colors and flavors into a nostalgic elixir that mirrors the frenetic feelings of discovery I had listening to Digital Underground, Marilyn Manson, Violent Femmes, PJ Harvey, Salt-N-Pepa, Radiohead, Nirvana, Cypress Hill, The Smashing Pumpkins, Onyx, Hole, Snoop, The Dead Milkmen, Bjork, Rasputina, Mudhoney, B-52’s, The Cure, NIN, Sonic Youth and a million more all swirling and exploding into hot melting stains of memory and emotion.
HEXPHONES Is dedicated to all of you on that bus with me, holding on in the darkness with art, music, and love."

First of all, that may be the greatest collection of artists ever to draw inspiration from. Secondly, their RPM Challenge releases are always great, but they typically don't feel like produced studio albums. It's almost like little practices before the "real" albums come out, like Sonic Youth's SYR series. Hexphones is a full album, and celebrates Sickert's teenage influences. "Doomsday Disco" let's their love of bands like The B-52's and hip hop fly. "Non-Binary Death Star" sounds like a more organic Nine Inch Nails album. "666" and "Siren Street" dabble in the electronic world Radiohead have lived in this century. "Twisted (They Eat the Weak)" is pure thrashy punk glory.

You can listen to "Doomsday Disco" below. Hexphones is now available for the "name your price option" over at Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys's Bandcamp. If you download for free, be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Nots - "Half Painted House"

Photo via Facebook
With Alexandra Eastburn leaving the band last year, Memphis's Nots decided to not replace her and stay a three-piece. They've also taken on a slightly new sound with the personnel change. While "Half Painted House" is still a noisy punk-ish song, it takes on this weird almost trippy feel. While Nots always have had a synth, post punk feel, this new song leans a bit more heavily in that direction. It's less aggressive, but still completely a Nots song. Not many bands can mellow out their sound a little and still be bad ass. Nots are one of the rare ones that can.

You can listen to "Half Painted House" below. 3, the new album from Nots, will be out May 10 on Goner Records. You can pre-order the album here. For more on Nots, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Saint Lo. - "Blueberry Fields"

Montreal's Saint Lo. have this amazingly epic indie folk sound. Their new single, "Blueberry Fields," sounds like a warm mix of Neutral Milk Hotel and The Decemberists. According to the band, the song "... is that feeling of nostalgia, like the exhale of a sigh. the constant feeling of shifting away from the past, but keeping it close as you move forward." It's beyond gorgeous, with this hazy feel that stops just short of being twee. Despite having four members, the song sounds like it uses at least a dozen instruments that come in and out as necessary. "Blueberry Fields" comes highly recommended.

You can watch the video for "Blueberry Fields" below. We Could Be, the debut album from Saint Lo., will be available on April 15. For more on Saint Lo, check them out on Facebook and Twitter. Their current tour dates are below the video.

March 11 - 17, 2019: SXSW

April 23, 2019: Toronto, Horseshoe Tavern
April 24, 2019: Kitchener, The Boathouse
April 25: Toronto, Handlebar
April 26: Windsor, Phog Lounge
April 27: Hamilton, Mills Hardware
April 28, Ottawa, Pressed
May 4th: Montreal, The Diving Bell Social Club