Friday, July 31, 2015

Sweet Baboo - "You Got Me Time Keeping"

Photo Credit: Kirsten McTernan
I've had to come to terms with liking Sweet Baboo. His music is a little too polished and pop for what I normally like, and, quite frankly, I normally hate typical pop music. But Sweet Baboo is just a little different. Somehow the Brits have this ability to make straightforward pop that's just quirky and odd enough that it can still be interesting. "You Got Me Time Keeping" starts off super sunny and sweet, almost a 60s pop throwback. It changes into this heavily orchestral track, which keeps changing to the point where I lost track of how many different songs it could have been. By the end, it's back to the original sunny pop song. It's one of the most brilliant pop songs I've heard in years.

You can watch the video for "You Got Me Time Keeping" below. Sweet Baboo's new album, The Boombox Ballads, is due out August 14 on Moshi Moshi. Of course, he has a website and a Facebook that you should check out.

Sealings - "White Devil"

Sealings hail from Brighton in the UK. They have their debut album, I'm a Bastard, coming out on September 18th. The first song they've released from it, "White Devil," is a forward looking throwback to the glory days of the 80s indie scene.

"White Devil" reminds me a lot of Sonic Youth's "Death Valley 69," particularly the guitars and intensely methodical drumming. It also has some of the pop elements of The Strokes, but only when The Strokes are aping Sonic Youth. You'll also hear some of The Jesus and Mary Chain's drone behind the whole thing. And somehow they pack all of this epic sound into a compact 2 minute song.

I'm a Bastard will be released September 18 on Faux Discx and Italian Beach Babes. You can listen to "White Devil" below. Faux Discx has the album available for pre-order, and check out the label's website for more information.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Needy Sons - "The Swimmer"/"Superficial Kid"

The Needy Sons are the latest project from Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom) and a collaboration with Mike Gent of The Figgs. They've been playing the occasional show around the Boston area, with a good chunk taking place in Janovitz's current town of Lexington, MA. The band has functioned mostly as a bar band, playing a ton of covers and songs from both Janovitz's and Gent's back catalog.

Now, we get the first original songs from The Needy Sons. "The Swimmer" is Janovitz's song, much funkier than his previous work. The song seems to be an ode to carefree summers of his youth, and seems like a natural extension from 2013's Walt Whitman Mall. Gent's contribution, "Superficial Kid," almost sounds like a lost Rollings Stones track mixed with Tom Petty.

To listen to/purchase "The Swimmer"/"Superficial Kid," check out Bill Janovitz's Bandcamp. If you'd like to follow The Needy Sons specifically, they have a Facebook page.

Mark Lanegan & Beth Orton - "Your Kisses Burn"

Photo by Steve Gullick
In one of the more interesting collaborations I've heard lately, Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) has teamed up with Beth Orton to cover Marc Almond's "Your Kisses Burn," which was a duet with Nico in 1988. It also happens to be Nico's last recording. The track is undeniably haunting, with Lanegan's gruff vocals mixing with Orton's softer, more traditionally pleasing voice, much like his frequent collaborations with Isobel Campbell. Musically, it's very orchestral and electronic sounding, more on the lines with Orton's 90s work than her more recent folky side. It's definitely an interesting mix and a must listen for fans of either.

You can listen to Mark Lanegan and Beth Orton's cover of "Your Kisses Burn" below. The track is part of Heavenly Recordings 25th anniversary releases. You can download it on their website. For more information on Mark lanegan, check out his website, and for Beth Orton, head over to hers.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ultimate Painting - "(I've Got the) Sanctioned Blues"

The latest single from the UK's Ultimate Painting presents this bizarre dichotomy. It's pure indie pop with sunny, jangly guitars, but all it makes me think of is folk and Pavement at the same time. To make it even more fun, the song is uptempo and light sounding  while in reality it's about the government taking away the unemployed's jobseeker allowance for minor infractions. The entire song is a great bridge between 90s Brit-pop and the current neo-folk movement going on right now.

Ultimate Painting's upcoming album, Green Lanes, is due out on August 7 on Trouble in Mind. You can pre-order the album here, and check out Ultimate Painting on Tumblr. Listen to "(I've Got the) Sanctioned Blues" below, and below that are the band's current tour dates.

Sat. July 25 - Sheffield, UK @ Tramlines Festival
Wed. Aug. 5 - Southsea, UK @ Pie & Vinyl (In-store)
Fri. Aug. 7 - Oxford, UK @ Truck Records (In-store)
Fri. Aug. 14 - London, UK @ Power Lunches
Sat. Aug. 15 - London, UK @ Power Lunches
Sun. Aug. 23 - Brecon, UK @ Green Man Festival
Fri. Sept. 5 - Lancaster, UK @ The Library
Sat. Sept. 6 - Wiltshire, UK @ End Of The Road Festival
Tue. Sept. 15 - Toronto, ON @ Adelaide Hall

Fri. Sept. 18 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
Sat. Sept. 19 - Cambridge, MA @ Middle East (Upstairs)
Sun. Sept. 20 - Bearsville, NY @ Bearsville Theatre (w/ Mikal Cronin)
Sat. Sept. 26 - Memphis, TN @ Gonerfest
Sun. Sept. 27 - Dallas, TX @ Double Wide
Sat. Oct. 3 - San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
Sat. Oct. 10 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Diabolical Records
Sat. Oct. 24 - Oviedo, ES @ Lata de Zinc
Tue. Oct. 27 - Madrid, ES @ Sala Sol
Fri. Oct. 30 - St. Gallen, CH @ Kilbi dankt Allen
Wed. Nov. 4 - Sheffield, UK @ Bungalow & Bears
Thu. Nov. 5 - Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
Fri. Nov. 6 - Glasgow, UK @ Old Hairdressers
Sat. Nov. 7 - Leeds, UK @ Beacons Metro Festival
Sun. Nov. 8 - Cardiff, UK @ SWN Festival
Thu. Nov. 12 - Bristol, UK @ Start The Bus
Sat. Nov. 14 - Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie
Tue. Nov. 17 - Leipzig, DE @ Ilses Erika
Wed. Nov. 18 - Berlin, DE @ Acud
Thu. Nov. 19 - Hamburg, DE @ Wildmax
Sun. Nov. 22 - Eindhoven, NL @ Alstadt
Mon. Nov. 23 - Rotterdam, NL @ V11

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Listen: New Releases for July 24

A slower release week than what we've been used to.

Album of the Week

Artist: Watkins Family Hour
Album: Watkins Family Hour
Quick Description: Roots-infused staples and originals from the longtime Largo residency led by Sara Watkins.
Why You Should Listen: You like the associated acts (Nickel Creek, Fiona Apple); you think Prairie Home Companion would be great if it were only the music.
Overall Thoughts: Album of the week because of the stature and music here, this forges no new ground but is a nice, pleasant, enjoyable musical diversion. As someone who hasn't listened to the show, I don't know how it adds up, but it's definitely a good time.
Recommendation: In a short week, it's great. In a busier week, it might slip through the cracks, but it's worth your time no matter what.

Artist: L'Orange, Kool Keith
Album: Time? Astonishing!
Quick Description: Project between the classic rapper and the well-regarded hip-hop producer.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy either of these artists and can stomach some experimentation.
Overall Thoughts: This is kind of a miss for me. I'm not a Kool Keith fan, per se, and I don't know a lot about L'Orange, so this kind of sailed over my head and I didn't find it too enjoyable. Plenty of other things like it came out recently that are more worth the time.
Recommendation: A fans-only affair.

Artist: The Acorn
Album: Vieux Loup
Quick Description: Challenging indie rock from an act that got some mainstream success a few years ago.
Why You Should Listen: You don't mind being challenged; you liked that song from Crazy Stupid Love a few years ago.
Overall Thoughts: This wasn't an easy listen, and I can't say I enjoyed it on first listen, but it's a musically ambitious and interesting affair that I do hope to spend a lot more time with in the coming weeks.
Recommendation: Worth a listen to see if it's for you.

Artist: Kasey Chambers
Album: Bittersweet
Quick Description: American release of the latest album from the Australian country artist.
Why You Should Listen: Kasey Chambers has an underrated body of work; the new album is a shift in prodcution.
Overall Thoughts: This isn't her best album, for sure, but in terms of it being a bit of a shift in tone and production from her previous works gives this a little extra reason to listen. As with all Kasey Chambers albums, there's a lot here to like and a number of solid songs like "Stalker" to keep you coming back.
Recommendation: Worth a listen, and it should be something readers of this blog will like. If it gets you looking into her back catalog, all the better.

Artist: Pearl and the Beard
Album: Beast
Quick Description: The final album from the roots-inspired indie rock act.
Why You Should Listen: You like interesting indie rock/folk; a preference for interesting vocals and instrumentation.
Overall Thoughts: I've always found Pearl and the Beard to be difficult to categorize, and I have certain songs and sounds I hear when I think of them that I don't think others do. Still, the fact that they're breaking up following this album is unfortunate, and this is a pretty solid last hurrah. Worth a listen and worth exploring their back catalog.
Recommendation: Give this a shot.

Artist: Jess Penner
Album: Good Times
Quick Description: The new EP from the indie folk singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You like happy poppy songs; quick hit EPs of radio-friendly tunes is up your alley.
Overall Thoughts: I've been a fan of Jess Penner for a while, and this new EP has a lot to love, and the slower spots are over quick enough where the highlights shine through. She's not forging any new paths, but that's okay, it's still worth some time.
Recommendation: Given its short length and the good individual songs, this should hit your rotation.

Artist: Emily Hall
Album: Folie a Deux
Quick Description: Experimental folk music.
Why You Should Listen: You like challenging and The Acorn didn't challenge you enough.
Overall Thoughts: Objectively, this is an interesting, difficult record. Subjectively, it's impossible to truly give the sort of look to it that you'd want to, so I don't even want to try. It worked for me in some places, though.
Recommendation: If you want a challenge, you'll know really quick if it works for you.

Artist: Ducktails
Album: St. Catherine
Quick Description: Quiet, melodic indie rock from the guitarist from Real Estate.
Why You Should Listen: You're a fan of Real Estate; you like things like Craft Spells.
Overall Thoughts: A quiet, interesting album on a whole. The artist name doesn't really give you an idea as to what it sounds like, but the entire point seems to be the sort of quiet, unassuming indie rock that has some jangle-pop influences sprinkled throughout. This isn't going to get you out of your seat dancing, but it is likely to be a pleasant background piece for your workday.
Recommendation: I definitely liked it, and you might like it too if it meets your expectations.

Artist: The Dustbowl Revival
Album: With a Lampshade On
Quick Description: Squirrel Nut Zippers with cowboy hats on.
Why You Should Listen: You love older throwback music; the Squirrel Nut Zippers were your jam 20 years ago.
Overall Thoughts: This is really, really great and I can't say enough good things about this album. They're hot jazz, swing, bluegrass/roots, and they slip on two or three of those genres with ease. Polished musicians (and much of the album is recorded live and you'd never know it) doing fun music, you really can't go wrong with this. How flawless this is might actually be a turnoff for some, but I really love this.
Recommendation: Fire this one up unless having a good time is something you prefer to avoid.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ganser - "Smelling Salts"

Ganser are a Chicago three piece that released their debut EP (Less) back in January, and already have a follow up single. "Smelling Salts" is a continuation of the post-punk Gang of Four sound that we've been covering a lot lately, with it's almost minimalist sound that has just enough of a groove that you can dance to. Except Ganser have added a brand new element: Sonic Youth Daydream Nation-era guitars plastered all over the track. This adds a whole new sound and a brand new level of foreboding that you will love. This isn't music that is meant to make you feel nice, and that's perfect.

You can watch the video for "Smelling Salts" below. To get your copy of the song, head over to Ganser's Bandcamp. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Spotify's Brand New Feature is the New Best Thing About Spotify

We're definitely Spotify partisans here at If It's Too Loud. I know I was one of the earliest American adopters, and it's easily some of the most valuable $10 in entertainment I spend a month. Spotify, however, has had one critical flaw, and that's in the music discovery area. Even to this day, I still find a lot of my new music the same way I did ten years ago - new release newsletters, music blogs, and poking around Amazon. The Spotify radio thing is nice when you're just looking to cruise around a bit, but part of the appeal of Spotify for me was the control.

Enter Discover Weekly.

Last week, Spotify users got a new playlist, which was basically a 90-120 minute long curated playlist based on past listens. Usually, the whole curation thing is a bit much for me musically, as I tend to be all over the place with my listening and the fact that I'll try anything for the blog doesn't help. But Discover Weekly knows something I don't. I don't know what it is about the metrics they're using, but, more often than not, it's spot on. A lot of new music to me, some old stuff I've been meaning to go back to, and not a ton of misses. It's pretty great.

By my calculations, of the 30 or so songs in last week's playlist, I found 5 or 6 things that I've explored more in depth, and found a few lasting songs. I'm halfway through this week's playlist and, while the hits aren't as apparent, the misses are fewer as well.

Do I wish "Discover" meant "don't post things I've already listened to" in this context? Absolutely. It's probably the only flaw. But as a tool for finding new music (both new to you and new to the world), this is a playlist that's worth your time. If you haven't tried Spotify yet, this might be a reason to give it a shot, and if you have this playlist, put it in your rotation. You might find something great.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Live Shows: Evan Dando & Willy Mason, TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA 7/21/15

Even though there were six total acts playing this night for TT the Bear's final blowout week of shows, I'm going to focus on Willy Mason and Evan Dando. The Grown Up Noise started playing maybe five minutes after the doors opened and stopped with maybe 50 people in the venue total, The Dazies played a solo four song acoustic set, and I left before Runner & The Thermodynamics because they went on at 11:30, and I'm a grumpy old man with work the next day. The Thalia Zedek band was great, but I just never can connect with her music. I know it's great and I know I'm losing out, but it just doesn't grab me.

This last week of shows at TT the Bear's has been absolutely packed, with insane bills every night. Since the shows were booked last minute, and since Willy Mason isn't in the middle of a tour, I assumed it would just be him with a guitar. Instead he had four other musicians with him, because who could miss TT's last week of shows? They played three songs, including "Riptide," when Evan Dando joined them for the rest of the set on guitar and some backing vocals. The remainder of the set felt like The Band's The Last Waltz after that, with Evan Dando, viola player Nina Violet, and guitarist Marciana Jones (I believe that's her name after some rudimentary Googling; If I'm wrong, I apologize) all taking over lead vocals for songs. I'm pretty sure they even played a number of The Band's songs.

From there it transitioned into Dando's set without stopping, with Willy Mason and his band backing him for songs like "In the Grass All Wine Colored," "Losing Your Mind," and "Hard Drive." It also featured a ton of covers like The 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me" and The Velvet Underground's "I'll Be Your Mirror." At one point the the band left, except for Marciana Jones who played a few songs with Dando, including "My Drug Buddy," the only song played from It's a Shame About Ray. As with all the best Dando shows, this show felt completely loose without a certain list of songs he felt he needed to play, and just played what he felt like. It was also a bit of a glorious trainwreck because of this, but that is the Dando charm. He did a couple songs solo and continued the covers with The Frogs' "Homos." The end of the set saw original Lemonhead Ben Deily join him for four songs of Taaang! Records era classics like "Uhh" and "Amazing Grace."

It was a fantastic night of music that never would have happened if it wasn't for TT's closing. It was very bittersweet, but a great way to say goodbye to one of my favorite rock clubs. Farewell, TT's.

TT the Bear's Memory: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, 2/22/13

Photo by Shervin Lainez
With TT the Bear's closing forever this Saturday, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the iconic Cambridge rock club. Some of my most cherished musical memories took place within its walls. It is going to be missed greatly.

I almost didn't go to this show. It was on a Friday the same week I started a new job after a couple months of unemployment. I really shouldn't have been spending the extra money on a concert. But then I heard Ripely Pine, which came out the same week. I hadn't had such a strong reaction to a brand new album in years. I was completely blown away by how unique it all sounded, and how every song veered off in completely unexpected directions. I knew I had to finally get out and see her live.

And what a show. The show opened in complete darkness, with her opening with "Up in the Rafters," an a cappella song first heard on Mammoth Swoon. The few people in the audience that were still chattering away immediately stopped and the entire venue gave her voice their full attention. The band (and lights) came on as soon as "Up in the Rafters" was over and started a thunderous version of "Bird Balloons." I always hear people talk about getting goosebumps when listening to certain music, especially at live shows. That had never happened at a show before, but it happened that night, and never since.

The show was also particularly fantastic since she had members of her opening bands (Xenia Rubinos and Cuddle Magic) join her for songs, giving her more complex compositions a complete feeling you can't get with her current three piece configuration. Also, her dad flew up from Texas to join her for a few songs. She mentioned that was the first time they ever played music on stage together. It got a little dusty in there for the next song. After "Crane Your Neck" she commented that she's never had so much fun playing that song and was glad it's now a song you can dance to.

There was a problem with the show that is unique to TT's. Another club, The Middle East, is directly downstairs, and the sound can bleed through pretty heavily during quieter moments. That night there was a Wu-Tang Clan affiliated rapper playing downstairs during Lady Lamb's solo banjo songs, to the point that you could recognize the sample (The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army). That's derailed many shows here, but she joked that her next song's opening line was rather fitting. It was "Regarding Ascending the Stairs" which opens with "I can not think of that song with this music on." It ended up adding to a perfect night of music.

To see the remaining shows on TT's calendar, check out their website. There are only two shows left.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

TT the Bear's Memory: Ocean Colour Scene, 11/23/96

With TT the Bear's closing forever this Saturday, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the iconic Cambridge rock club. Some of my most cherished musical memories took place within its walls. It is going to be missed greatly.

If memory serves me correctly, this was the very first show I saw at TT's. It was dirty, set up poorly, cramped, hot... I immediately loved it.

One of the truly great things about going to shows in the Boston area is how many Brits live in the city. You'll get bands that play arenas and stadiums in England, but when they come to the US they play tiny clubs. Fans that are used to seeing them as little dots from the cheap seats can now see them from mere feet away. The energy at one of these shows is simply epic. There were maybe a handful of Americans just discovering the band at the show, and the rest were die hard Brits. Ocean Colour Scene had just come off a tour opening for The Who, so they brought their arena rock show to TT's tiny, tiny stage.

After the show, a small group of us ended up wandering onto the tour bus. What can I say, the door was open and we were young enough to think it was a good idea. Ocean Colour Scene welcomed us all in and offered us beers. They were very confused when they found out the drinking age in America is 21, and we got the typical "You can fight in a war but you can't have a bloody drink?" response.

To see the remaining shows on TT's calendar, check out their website. There are only three shows left.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TT the Bear's Memory: Letters to Cleo and Sloan, September 18, 1998

With TT the Bear's closing forever this Saturday, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the iconic Cambridge rock club. Some of my most cherished musical memories took place within its walls. It is going to be missed greatly.

This was one of those stacked bills that can only happen at a TT the Bear's benefit show. It also included local heroes The Gravel Pit along with The Sterlings and Boy Wonder, who were both great forgotten late 90s Boston bands. Happening back in my college radio days, I mentioned I was going to see Sloan to my contact at whatever company was promoting them back in 1998. He told me he was going to put me on the list, and I said I didn't mind paying since it was a benefit. He insisted, so I figured I'd do the free show thing, which is really what college radio is about.

After driving an hour into Cambridge, I got to TT's to find out there wasn't a list since it was a benefit show. I pleaded my case obnoxiously for at least 15 minutes. It didn't work (TT's was famous for not cutting anyone slack with guestlists and IDs), and I started dejectedly walking back towards the car. Letters to Cleo were one of my favorite live bands in the late 90s, and I hated missing any of their local shows. As we walked by Sloan's tour bus (no other band on the bill could have had a bus in that bill), we saw a crew member getting some equipment. We started talking to him, and told him of our bad luck. He walked us to the door, and successfully argued our way in. Pretty sure Sloan's album Navy Blues shot up to #1 on my old radio station's charts after that one.

One of the most fun things about seeing Sloan in New England is because of the proximity to Canada, a ton of Canadians make the drive down to the show. That same year they were playing venues named Frank Clair Stadium and Niagara Dome back in Canada. For the cost of a 6-8 hour drive, a Canadian fan can see them play the 320 capacity TT the Bear's. That leads to some pretty energetic and thrilled crowds at their shows.

I can't remember anything specific about the Letters to Cleo set that night. I saw them at the same venue roughly 5-8 times in a few years, and more than 20 total. Sets tend to bleed together with that much frequency. I'm more than a little bummed they're not scheduled in this week's round of farewell shows. This one stands out more because I shouldn't have gotten in, and that makes it that much of a better show.

To see the remaining shows on TT's calendar, check out their website. There are only four shows left.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ransom Pier - "Turn Your Head"

While writing about music, you want that great band backstory of how a band formed years ago, and has been playing shitty gig after shitty gig, and now after years and years of hard work are finally getting their big break. Well, welcome to the digital age and discovering great bands five months after they form.

Hailing from Queens, NY, Ransom Pier formed in February of this year and already have an absurdly good single out. "Turn Your Head" is the tale of randomly spotting an ex at a bar and wanting them to notice you. It reminds me a bit of Treat Her Right's "I Think She Likes Me." Singer Hayley Harrington's voice gives this great bluesy touch over a sparse but still rocking roots track. It's perfect for fans of Lake Street Dive that want a little more grit in their music.

Listen to "Turn Your Head" below. You can also check out Ransom Pier on Facebook, Twitter, and their own website. Their debut EP is due in August. You'll find some Northeast live dates below.

August 13 - Arlene's Grocery, NYC w/Psychobaby
August 18 - Wellfleet Harbor Actor's Theater, Wellfleet, MA w/Eleanor Dubinsky
September 26 - The Bitter End, NYC

TT the Bear's Memory: Those Darlins and Deer Tick, February 4, 2010

With TT the Bear's closing forever this Saturday, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the iconic Cambridge rock club. Some of my most cherished musical memories took place within its walls. It is going to be missed greatly.

This was by far the craziest show I attended at TT's. Those Darlins were headlining, and for a while leading up to the show it was advertised that they'd have a "special guest." An hour before the show, they finally announced the special guest was Deer Tick, who had just outgrown the small confines of TT's. Since John McCauley and Nikki Darlin were engaged at the time, and Deer Tick are based less than an hour from Boston, this was kind of a no brainer.

Deer Tick only played an 8-song, 30 minute set, but it really sticks out. First, they came on stage wearing dresses procured from Those Darlins. I believe the drummer, Dennis Ryan, was wearing a ladybug print dress. After a song or two, McCauley announced that the band had bought everyone in the club that night a beer. It took a while for anyone to believe him, but it was true: There were 300 prepaid beers at the bar waiting. That pretty much set the tone for the entire evening. A definite highlight of Deer Tick's set was a duet with Nikki Darlin.

Those Darlins came next and brought the rawk. Live they have much more power than on their albums, and they held their own following a band with a bigger fanbase on their home away from home. Towards the end, during a cover of "Shakin' All Over," Deer Tick returned to sing, crowd surf, and drink some more. McCauley in particular was wearing a flannel shirt tied to his waist, and soon revealed that was his only attire while crowdsurfing. 

To see the remaining shows on TT's calendar, check out their website. There are only five shows left.

First Listen: New Releases for July 17

Filled with surprises and whimsy!

Album of the Week

Artist: Jason Isbell
Album: Something More Than Free
Quick Description: Jason Isbell's (formerly of the Drive-By Truckers) latest solo offering
Why You Should Listen: Jason Isbell has a modern alt-country/roots sound with a classic country sensibility, and the two match up better on this album than anything he's worked on previously.
Overall Thoughts: This is my album of the week for a reason. It's a little less polished, a little more raw, and it just works. Feels like an important, killer album by someone who is really hitting his stride musically.
Recommendation: A wholehearted required listen this week.

Artist: Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell
Album: Sing Into My Mouth
Quick Description: An album of covers from Iron & Wine and Band of Horses's Ben Bridwell.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy cover songs and softly-sung folk music; you think the world needs more Talking Heads covers.
Overall Thoughts: It takes a lot for me to dislike cover albums, so with that in mind this is a good-to-sometimes-great album of covers by two people who have a lot of reverence both for each other and the source material.
Recommendation: Worth a listen for sure, you'll know if it will work for you very quickly.

Artist: Samantha Crain
Album: Under Branch & Thorn & Tree
Quick Description: Another excellent folkish record from Samantha Crain, who has yet to release anything underwhelming.
Why You Should Listen: Crain is an underrated folk/roots talent; you have a thing for musicians with arresting vocal talents.
Overall Thoughts: Crain hasn't done me wrong yet, and the downside to Crain is that she's not doing dark folk or wearing her sexuality on her sleeve or doing anything significant to get noticed beyond letting the music speak for itself. That's worth noting in and of itself, but it means you might miss this one.
Recommendation: Don't miss this one, plain and simple.

Artist: The Bird & The Bee
Album: Recreational Love
Quick Description: An airy retro-pop album by a band that hasn't released original material in six years.
Why You Should Listen: You enjoy retro-pop; Inara George hasn't faulted you yet; production values matter to you.
Overall Thoughts: I'm a big fan of this group, and, on first listen, Recreational Love feels like a misstep. It's almost as if they're too caught up in their own thing at this point, and that perhaps the six year lapse is reflective of too much tinkering. I reserve the right to change my mind, but I wanted to love this and it didn't work.
Recommendation: Be careful, but this might just be for super-fans.

Artist: The Chemical Brothers
Album: Born in the Echoes
Quick Description: Leading electronic act releases their eighth album.
Why You Should Listen: You have kept up with The Chemical Brothers but wish their pre-Dig Your Own Hole stuff was still the rage (the rave?).
Overall Thoughts: A massive step back. Not only does this not sound modern, but it sounds like early Chemical Brothers through a distorted lens, and it just doesn't seem to work. A total slog.
Recommendation: Skip this one.

Artist: Wilco
Album: Star Wars
Quick Description: Wilco's surprise free album.
Why You Should Listen: You like Wilco and free things. You like free things but don't always like Wilco. You don't like free things or Wilco, but like good alt-rock.
Overall Thoughts: This is the most un-Wilco record in a long time, and that is almost a welcome thing. It seems like the band decided to just have a little fun, and it really shows. A solid album.
Recommendation: A worthy listen and, even if you're not a Spotify user, the album is free so it's worth a shot.

Artist: Ratatat
Album: Magnifique
Quick Description: Instrumental rock you can groove to.
Why You Should Listen: You like instrumental indie rock that isn't metal or dark; you've liked previous Ratatat efforts.
Overall Thoughts: I get that this isn't for everyone, but it's actually a fairly high quality listen on a whole. I remember when "Wildcat" was all over Sirius radio, and I didn't care much for it, but this album was a very pleasant surprise.
Recommendation: Worth a shot. You'll know by the second song whether this is something you'd enjoy.

Artist: Tame Impala
Album: Currents
Quick Description: Latest, buzzed-about album from the indie psych-rock artist.
Why You Should Listen: You like old psych-rock with a modern twist; you miss The Elephant Six Collective but also wished they took themselves more seriously.
Overall Thoughts: Tame Impala is difficult for me because I want to love what happens here and it always feels a little too much. Tame Impala shows real talent and serious songwriting chops, but you have to have a tolerance for what is being done here, and I know I don't always have it.
Recommendation: Listen, but be wary. This is probably the most buzzworthy album of the month of July.

Artist: White Reaper
Album: White Reaper Does it Again
Quick Description: Debut album by punk rockers on Polyvinyl.
Why You Should Listen: You don't think this week's new release slate is loud enough; you can't get enough of punk music that you aren't sure as to its place on the irony scale; you wish you were 10 years younger than you are.
Overall Thoughts: This is a weird album for me, and I guess I liked it? It's just a strange listen in the context of this week as well as the post-punk that's been around lately and the stuff I've loved recently (like Chumped). It's also somewhat weird that this is on Polyvinyl, but I suppose that lends it some extra cred? I don't know.
Recommendation: Man, I don't know. It's good, it's worth a listen, but you might not even want it this week.

Artist: Public Enemy
Album: Man Plans God Laughs
Quick Description: Legendary rap group Public Enemy is back with their first album in seemingly forever.
Why You Should Listen: Because it's Public Enemy.
Overall Thoughts: Arguably, Public Enemy should be more relevant than ever, and yet this album doesn't come across as urgent or modern, and I think that's ultimately a shame. Especially in an era where Wu Tang is tearing it up, this album just feels really out of place regardless of any messages that may exist within. A misstep I honestly didn't expect.
Recommendation: In a week without a key rap/hip-hop release, and given that it's Public Enemy, give it a listen, but don't stay with it longer than you think you should.

Artist: Kingsley Flood
Album: To the Wolves
Quick Description: Blog favorite band with another quick-hit EP.
Why You Should Listen: You like what we post here; you like music local to the Boston area
Overall Thoughts: Kingsley Flood is increasingly bringing it on every release. They're quickly becoming one of those underrated gems that people aren't discovering fast enough. While this EP doesn't have anything quite as catchy as "Set Me Off," you're still looking at four really well-crafted, roots-tinged songs.
Recommendation: Even if you haven't liked what they've put out so far, this is a quick hit of an EP that's worth a few minutes of your time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

TT the Bear's Memory: Rivers Cuomo, January 14, 1998

With TT the Bear's closing forever this Saturday, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the iconic Cambridge rock club. Some of my most cherished musical memories took place within its walls. It is going to be missed greatly.

Back in 1997-1998, Rivers Cuomo played some small, side project shows in the Boston area. The band had a rotating line-up, but this one in particular stands out. Weezer drummer Pat Wilson came out to join the band for this show, and it also included soon to be Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh. To show how far Weezer had fallen out of the mainstream post-Pinkerton, tickets were available to see half of Weezer at a 300 person club. By this point the casual fans had strayed off (an earlier show at TT's in October had some fratty guys asking where the mosh pit was before the band started) and this was just filled with die hards. It was a short eight song setlist, and of course it consisted of Weezer favorites such as "Getchoo," "No One Else," "Say It Ain't So," and "Undone - The Sweater Song." It also closed with "Only In Dreams," which at the time was rarely done live. We were also treated to possible future Weezer songs such as "Rosemary," "Baby," and "The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World" (not officially released until 2008).

After the show, my friend and I wandered into the unguarded backstage area (Oh, my 20s...). There, I bumped into Pat and got him to do a station ID for my college station, which of course I messed up the recording for completely, making it unusable. Back in the main area of the club, I started talking to Rivers while he was packing up equipment. Somehow I mentioned the upcoming album and Matt Sharp, when Rivers said "Matt's not going to be on this album." Upon getting home, I immediately emailed the Rebel Weezer Alliance to tell them. (Back in 1998, Weezer barely had an official web presence, so that void was filled by fan sites. Rebel Weezer Alliance eventually became the official Weezer webpage). It was reported on the next day, and a month later Sharp officially left Weezer.

To see the remaining shows on TT's calendar, check out their website. There are only six shows left.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Live Shows: Lydia Loveless, 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, NH 7/12/15

Photo by Ken Sears
Usually, I wouldn't go see the same band two days in a row. That might have worked ten years ago, but not at this point in my life. However, I knew that Lydia Loveless playing in the afternoon in the bright sunlight of the Green River Festival was not an ideal environment, so I had to make it to their headlining set the next night.

I was a bit concerned when I walked in as the show was starting. 3S Artspace tends to have an employee come out before the show and talk about the venue, their mission statement, and upcoming events. The crowd for the show skewed shockingly older, and most of the crowd was sitting in the few chairs lining the back walls of the room. Seeing as the show was sparsely attended (maybe 50 people in a 400 person venue), he encouraged everyone to move the seats to wherever they wanted. This made for a weird mix of people standing next to people in chairs throughout the show. Plus, I've been to poorly attended shows in the past, and it can really cause the artist to sleepwalk through the show until they can get offstage and still get paid. I remember one Matthew Sweet show at Axis where the guitarist was openly checking his watch during the third song. 

Luckily, Lydia Loveless is not the type of artist to half ass it. Coming onstage and announcing "We are Lydia Loveless," Loveless also told the crowd they wanted to start off with a bang. Their bang was "Out On Love," the band's most melancholy song to date. The set list in Portsmouth was wildly different from the day before, and they tore through their more well known songs like "Head" and "Wine Lips" in the first few songs. They included a version of "Hurts So Bad" that was virtually unrecognizable from the album version. This wasn't in a negative way at all, but the song seems to have evolved quite a bit from when it was recorded for Somewhere Else. At the end of the set, the rest of the band left the stage, leaving Loveless alone for a four song acoustic set that included "Back On the Bottle" and the previous day's set opener "Really Wanna See You." When they all came back for an encore, Loveless stated she wanted to play fun songs. They opened with the not quite finished "European" (which she claimed was about being a pervert) and "All I Know" from the Boy Crazy EP. All said, the band played for just over two hours, in a ramshackle set that saw them having a blast. Even if Loveless had a Spinal Tap moment and let out a "Yeah, Providence" before correcting herself with a more generic "Yeah, New England!"

Coming out and immediately announcing "We are Lydia Loveless" shows how tight this band truly is. Instead of being a solo act, they are truly a unit that would sound wildly different if they replaced any member. The band's bassist tears into both his standard bass and stand up bass with the ferocity of a member of Anthrax. Guitarist and back up singer Todd May plays noise punk throughout what would normally be outlaw country. Jay Gasper brings an emotional feel to every song with third guitar and steel guitar. George Hondroulis is tasked with holding all these bizarre forces together with drums. They laid everything on that stage for the 50 most fortunate people in New Hampshire that night.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Goddamn do I love the digital age. Wilco just released their 11th studio album as a free download on their website. We haven't listened to it yet, but it's free and it's Wilco. If that appeals to you, you've probably already clicked the link and aren't even reading this.

Get your free copy of the new Wilco album, Star Wars, here.

Normil Hawaiians - "Sianne Don't Work in a Factory"

Originally recorded in 1986, the final album from Normil Hawaiians was delayed, and then shelved, never having been released. This October will finally see the release of Return of the Ranters after nearly 30 years.

The first song off the album, "Sianne Don't Work in a Factory," is available to be listened to now. For the first two minutes it is pure noise rock, the kind of experimental noise you'd hear from an opener at a Thurston Moore show these days. After the first two minutes, it's transitions to some of the most minimalist post punk you will ever hear. It's almost as if Gang of Four recorded a ballad, but take out the funk and add noise. It's incredibly interesting stuff, especially considering it's almost three decades old. 

Return of the Ranters will finally be released on October 16 on Upset the Rhythm, who also plan on reissuing Normil Hawaiians' first two albums More Wealth Than Money and What's Going On? The band will be reforming to perform at the album's release party at The Lexington in London on October 24. For more information on anything Normil Hawaiians related, head over to their website, and listen to "Sianne Don't Work in a Factory" below.

Rayland Baxter - "Mr. Rodriguez"

I owe Rayland Baxter an apology. Back when I reviewed "Yellow Eyes," another song off his upcoming release Imaginary Man, I mentioned that I had dismissed his previous album. After hearing a second song off of Imaginary Man, I was damn wrong to do so.

"Mr. Rodriguez" was inspired by Sixto Rodriguez, the now legendary Detroit folk artist and the subject of the Academy Award winning documentary Searching for Sugarman. "Mr. Rodriguez" is everything I want in a modern country/folk song. While mainstream country isn't even recognizable as country, and alt-country tends to co-opt an old fashioned sound that borders on novelty, "Mr. Rodriguez" takes elements of both to bring you the rare modern folk/country sound. Baxter is a fantastic storyteller in this song, which is going to bring obvious comparisons to both Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. It's a lush sound that is laid back without ever being boring. This has all the makings of a career-defining album.

Imaginary Man is due out August 14 on ATO Records. You can listen to "Mr. Rodriguez" below. You can keep track of what Rayland Baxter is up to on his website, Facebook, and Twitter

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shopping - "Why Wait?"

Back in May, we reviewed the new album from Shopping and Jeff commented that he was "... looking forward to what comes next." Good news for Shopping fans: The band just announced their second album, just over a month after the release of their debut. Why Choose is scheduled for release on October 2 on FatCat Records. You can already listen to the first single, "Why Wait?" I was a little hesitant based on how quickly after the first album this one will be, but 'Why Wait?" is a killer post-punk song in the vein of Gang of Four. It recognizes that sometimes less is more and a backbeat can be more danceable. 

You can listen to "Why Wait?" below. Shopping have also recently announced some US dates to coincide with the release of Why Choose. Check those out below the song. For more information, check out their Facebook and Twitter.

October 16 - Music Hall of Williamsburg, New York, NY
October 19 - Great Scott, Allston, MA
October 20 - The Monkey House, Winoosk, VT
October 22 - The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, Canada
October 24 - Subterranean, Chicago, IL
October 28 - 7th St Entry, Minneapolis, MN