Friday, September 29, 2017

Live Shows: Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action, The Met Cafe, Pawtucket, RI 9/27/17

Despite Dinosaur Jr being one of my favorite bands, I don't think I've seen them since 2009 when they played Club Hell in Providence. When I saw that they were playing The Met Cafe, one of my favorite clubs, I knew I had to go. I mean, how could this go wrong? Well...

I do have to briefly mention Easy Action who opened the show. I knew nothing about them when I walked in during their set, but holy Jesus, were they amazing. They're too straight forward rock to be noise punk, and they're way too loud and noisy to be hard rock. They occupy some bizarre territory in between the two. It was just loud, artsy rock that was far too rock to be smart, but too interesting to be dumb. I will have to get them on my radar ASAP!

Now for Dinosaur Jr's set. Easy Action sounded great. I'm not sure what happened in between sets, but something was just wrong during their set. They opened with "Thumb" from Green Mind. The only reason I knew they opened with "Thumb" is because I could read it on the set list. Maybe it was because I was standing in front of Lou Barlow, but I could barely make out anything J Mascis was doing. Both his vocals and guitar were barely audible. The main reason you go to see Dinosaur Jr is for J's incredible, mind melting guitar playing, and that was pretty much useless. 

I toughed it out from that vantage point for a few more songs before moving towards the back. It sounded better from back there, but still not great. Plus, for those of us that love to watch Mascis play guitar and silently curse ourselves for never learning and end up wandering into a guitar shop the next day dreaming about learning, the back isn't where we want to go. I kept trying to find a better area where I could see and hear the way I wanted to, but I just couldn't. The best I could find was an area to the left of the stage where I could see Mascis (when he wasn't in front of the microphone, at least) and hear ok, but Barlow and Murph were completely obscured by a pole and amplifier. I saw "Feel the Pain" and "Little Fury Things" from this vantage point, but during either "Knocked Around" or "Lose," I ended up taking off for the night. 

It's weird, because I've seen both Dinosaur Jr multiple times, and I've been to The Met Cafe twice just this year, and all have been great experiences. Hopefully this was just a one off bad experience. One great thing from the night was during "Left/Right," Barlow played guitar while Mascis played bass in a very Sebadoh move. Plus, leaving meant that I missed "Forget the Swan," which is quite possibly my favorite Dino Jr song, and a cover of The Stooges "T.V. Eye." Maybe next time...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Kindling - "Destroy Yrself"

Photo by Reid Haithcock
For the life of me I can't figure out how I started paying attention to Easthampton, MA's Kindling, but their newest song makes me thrilled I stumbled onto them at some point in the past. "Destroy Yrself" is an absolutely epic shoegazey song. The track starts off with this furious, bouncy, swirling fury, and just goes from there for about two minutes. There's an epic false start, where the song trails off. It will actually make you angry that you began to love it so much, just to have it end. And then the song takes back off, only to begin trailing off again. Finally it just erupts back in full force as what is almost a full fledged arena anthem. Of course, then it abruptly ends, crashing you back down into reality and desperate for more. 

You can listen to "Destroy Yrself" below. Kindling's latest album, Hush, will be out November 10. You can pre-order it via Bandcamp, with $1.00 of all pre-order sales going to Partners in Health. For more on Kindling, check out their website.

Shopping - "The Hype"

Photo by Matthew Williams
Despite releasing two full albums back in 2015 (A Melvins-esque feat!), Shopping has been quiet the past two years. Luckily, they are back with a brand new single. (We'd prefer a full length, but certainly won't complain too loudly!) "The Hype" is exactly what we want from Shopping: It borrows quite heavily from bands like Gang of Four, which I'm always 100% behind. "The Hype" does bring this new funk style with it.The track even breaks down into what's almost a jam band finish. A funky/post punk/jam song might sound fairly terrible, but it shakes their sound up just enough to help keep them evolving without abandoning why we love them. 

You can listen to "The Hype" below. It will be available as a single on November 17 via FatCat Records. For more on Shopping, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

First Listen, Part Two: More New Releases for September 22

Artist: The Blow
Album: Brand New Abyss
Quick Description: Latest from the popular indie act.
Why You Should Listen: They're very buzzworthy.
Overall Thoughts: This is a higher-profile indie release this week, and I’m not afraid to say I’ve never quite gotten The Blow. For me, they seem like a poppier version of The xx in a lot of ways, except that the sparse nature of what they do never fully connects. On the other hand, I know a handful of people who are pretty big fans, so this might more be an issue of my not getting it than anything else. You might love this, so give it a chance and you’ll know pretty fast if it’s for you.
Recommendation: Worth some time

Artist: Tricky
Album: ununiform
Quick Description: Latest from the trip-hop legend.
Why You Should Listen: It's the most interesting release of the week musically.
Overall Thoughts: Tricky sounded unlike anything else in the mainstream during his peak, and, honestly, he sounds unlike anything else in the electronic space even now. This album is surprising and great in how it approaches itself, and I really enjoyed this and look to spend more time with it as soon as I can. This is sneaky great, and might end up growing on me more than it already has.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Lights
Album: Skin&Earth
Quick Description: New album from the Canadian popster.
Why You Should Listen: Lights is the best pop musician you're not listening to.
Overall Thoughts: Ah, Lights. I’ve been hoping that she would take the leap into the pop stratosphere ever since Siberia, and while this album is pretty great even by her standards, I don’t know if this is the leap album we’re waiting on (even though “Giants” comes really, really close). Then again, on the other hand, there was one song on here that spoke to my four year old in a way few songs do, so maybe I’m wrong on this? Even still, Lights knows really well how to take the current sound and not only make it her own, but improve upon it. This feels modern and forward-thinking, and in an era of pop royalty taking chances left and right, it’s good to see one of my favorites keeping up.
Recommendation: A must listen this week.

Artist: Hiss Golden Messenger
Album: Hallelujah Anyhow
Quick Description: Indie folky takes a leap.
Why You Should Listen: You're into the sort of off-center folk that's been the rage as of late.
Overall Thoughts: Hiss Golden Messenger has been an act that has never fully connected with me for whatever reason. This latest album? Something clicked, because I really liked it. Feels like it hit that sweet spot between folky stuff and a more twangy bent, and it gave me some solid Father John Misty Debut Album vibes throughout. If you haven’t jumped on board yet, this might be the album to do so, but if you’ve been a fan for some time...
Recommendation: ...I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed.

Artist: The Horrors
Album: V
Quick Description: New music from the indie act.
Why You Should Listen: Their sound doesn't match their name.
Overall Thoughts: Some slightly more aggressive indie power pop on display here by a band that doesn’t really match its name. That’s all well and good, though – Horrors makes some catchy music here that is worth your time even in a busy week, and I suspect there will be some parts here that you’ll like no matter what kind of music you enjoy.
Recommendation: If you have time, give it a shot.

Artist: Cut Copy
Album: Haiku From Zero
Quick Description: Indie electro goodness.
Why You Should Listen: You're looking for something a little more danceable this week.
Overall Thoughts: Cut Copy occupies the same space for me as Hot Chip for no real good reason, but this album has a lot of electronic pop elements that just further muddy the waters in my brain. The result, though, is a nice little indie electro album that might be more the speed of listeners who are turned off by the more poppier stuff that I tend to like around these parts. Give it a shot.
Recommendation: Worth your time.

Artist: Metz
Album: Strange Peace
Quick Description: The noisy indie act is back with a buzzworthy listen.
Why You Should Listen: You'll be hearing a lot about this.
Overall Thoughts: We like Metz here, and people are generally into what they’re doing. This has gotten a fair amount of buzz, and for good reason – this is likely an improvement over their previous efforts, and this might be the breakthrough they need on a whole. This is often loud, requires some attention, and is one of the top listens of the week, so be sure to give it a spin.
Recommendation: You should probably give this some time.

Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Album: Luciferian Towers
Quick Description: A band that defies description with an album that does the same.
Why You Should Listen: GYBE is a legendary act for those who know about them.
Overall Thoughts: GYBE is back with a new album of epic modern orchestral prog rock, and I’m generally ill-equipped to talk about this band on a whole. I thoroughly enjoy what this act does even if they’re often incomprehensible in a lot of ways, and this album is unlikely to change many, if any, minds. A good listen nonetheless, but that doesn’t mean newcomers shouldn’t still start with Lift Yr Skinny Fists.
Recommendation: I liked this a lot, but it's not for everyone.

Artist: Chelsea Wolfe
Album: Hiss Spun
Quick Description: Latest from the dark, brooding queen of gothic rock.
Why You Should Listen: Chelsea Wolfe is amazing and this is an excellent place to jump onto the bandwagon.
Overall Thoughts: If the new season of Twin Peaks missed on any level, it was by failing to have Chelsea Wolfe perform at The Roadhouse. The latest album might not be my favorite that she’s done, but it’s arguably the best. The dark, brooding formula that sets Wolfe apart in so many ways is nearly perfected here, and the end result of this listen is just something I wanted to repeat once again. Another well-done effort in what is quickly becoming the norm for an underrated artist.
Recommendation: A great listen this week.

Artist: Prom Queen
Album: Doom-Wop
Quick Description: New album from a band that does some great retro stuff.
Why You Should Listen: The title of this album is actually fairly descriptive.
Overall Thoughts: I learned of Prom Queen through The Disappearance Podcast, and the new album doesn't sound like their old stuff, but is still a really fun listen. It has a retro-modern feel, like a lot of acts, but the album title really shines through. A closer of Guns N' Roses's "November Rain" is a perfect finale as well. A lot of good music this week, but...
Recommendation: ...this should find room in your rotation.

EPs of note:

* The Neighborhood - Hard
* Luna - A Place of Greater Safety

Also out this week:

* Midland - On the Rocks

Haley Heynderickx - "Oom Sha La La"

Photo by Evan James Atwood
One of my favorite musical styles I'll always have a fondness for is early 60's doo wop. I grew up an odd kid, choosing a lot of my parent's music instead of my own generation until I was about 12. Because of this, I've listened to way more classic doo wop than New Wave.

Doo wop is one of those genres that doesn't really get the throwback love that it deserves. Haley Heynderickx is here to help remedy that. With a song title like "Oom Sha La La," her classic doo wop influence is right out there. The song is a true mix of Americana and the aforementioned doo wop, so there are some similarities to Molly Burch, another of our favorites from earlier this year. But there's just something about Heynderickx's singing style that just feels raw. Her voice goes from light and vulnerable to a feeling of joy (accentuated by the hints of a chuckle on some lines) and back again. And then there's the repeated near screaming of the line "I need to start a garden." "Oom Sha La La" is the very first hint of what could very well be our favorite album of 2018.

You can listen to "Oom Sha La La" below. Haley Hyderickx's debut album, I Need to Start a Garden, will be out in early 2018 on Mama Bird Recording Co. For more on Heynderickx, check out her Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for September 22

Another busy week, so let's play two!

Album of the Week:

Artist: Phoebe Bridgers
Album: Stranger in the Alps
Quick Description: Debut album from a buzzy singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: You will love her. No question.
Overall Thoughts: I’ll be honest: I only added this to my playlist rotation for this week because the title of the album made me laugh out loud. Ken had the same reaction to it when I told him to listen to it, and if a good album title gets this into a few more hands, all the better, because this is a GREAT folk album. Easily the best release of the week, Phoebe Bridgers successfully balances an often-sparse instrumentation effort with some really melodic stuff and interesting… well, everything. It’s a hard space to innovate in, and Bridgers is making a definite effort in modernizing a genre that is very rooted in its past. She’s a little profane, a little fun, and ridiculously talented...
Recommendation: make this a priority listen this week.

Artist: Cold Specks
Album: Fool's Paradise
Quick Description: New album from a favorite here goes a little more R&B.
Why You Should Listen: Cold Specks is always great, and the shift in sound is good.
Overall Thoughts: We really love Cold Specks here, and her third album continues the trajectory we’ve probably expected up to now. This is not a bad thing – she’s expanded her sound and instrumentation, and thus the complexity of her songs, but has not sacrificed the sparse structure that sets her apart. There’s definitely a smoothness to this album that is a contrast from the more jagged edges of some of her previous work, but don’t let that get in the way if that’s what draws you in for this.
Recommendation: It’s an excellent album, and certainly one of the best of the week.

Artist: Eilen Jewell
Album: Down Hearted Blues
Quick Description: Latest from the rootsy singer-songwriter.
Why You Should Listen: She's been putting out essential stuff since Queen of the Minor Key
Overall Thoughts: I feel like it’s been a really long time since we had new music from Jewell. This is a great, fun, rootsy record, and I can’t honestly place what it is about this that makes me so much more enthusiastic about it than other rootsy efforts or even her past albums, but there’s definitely a share of fun aspects to this album that I was into.
Recommendation: It’s just a good listen, and you should give it some time this week.

Artist: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers
Album: "The Long-Awaited Album"
Quick Description: Latest bluegrass effort from the comedy legend and his band.
Why You Should Listen: It's the perfect mix of fun and funny.
Overall Thoughts: Steve Martin’s work in the bluegrass space over the last decade or so is infuriating if only because it’s just another thing he’s too good at. The latest album with the Steep Canyon Rangers continues along the line of great bluegrass music with a little bit of humor and a lot of musicianship. If you’ve liked their previous efforts, this will continue to impress you.
Recommendation: A must-listen this week.

Artist: Billy Strings
Album: Turmoil and Tinfoil
Quick Description: A near-perfect traditional bluegrass effort.
Why You Should Listen: If you like the roots stuff we feature here, you'll love this.
Overall Thoughts: Coming up behind Steve Martin is Billy Strings, who has a very traditional bluegrass record out this week, twang and all. This is very purist and I loved it. Really exactly what I was looking for out of a bluegrass record and really one of the better ones of recent memory. If you like this style of music and you don’t want a lot of frills, you need to check this one out.
Recommendation: Everything about it is nearly perfect.

Artist: Prawn
Album: Run
Quick Description: New album from the modern emo act.
Why You Should Listen: Prawn is showing a lot of continued potential.
Overall Thoughts: The band is back after a while with an album that feels less aggressive than I expected, with results that are, frankly, a little hit or miss. On a whole, I probably liked more than I disliked here, but that might be due more to the genre as the post punk/rock thing is always a challenge for me. Prawn has their fans, though, and if you’re into what they do you’ll probably find something great to like here.
Recommendation: Might work for you.

Artist: Shout Out Louds
Album: Ease My Mind
Quick Description: Latest from the popular indie act.
Why You Should Listen: This band has always put out some interesting stuff.
Overall Thoughts: What’s interesting about the Shout Out Louds for me is that they do a lot of really good stuff, but their sound has just fallen completely out of sync with what’s typical these days. It’s sort of like a smooth indie rock all its own, and there’s a benefit to forging your own path, but the result is that it ends up being a little too out there. I know they have their boosters and I’m glad they have their fans, but the direction they’re going isn’t one I’m on board with.
Recommendation: You’ll know within the first song or two if this is for you.

Artist: Matt Cameron
Album: Cavedweller
Quick Description: Pearl Jam drummer's solo effort.
Why You Should Listen: I'd say it depends on your feeling on Pearl Jam, but it's better than that.
Overall Thoughts: When I saw this was from the Pearl Jam drummer (fast fact: Pearl Jam is one of my least favorite bands), I nearly binned it immediately, but then I remembered liking a PJ side project something like 15 years ago and gave this a shot. This is actually really solid alt-rock with a bit of an indie feel to it, and while it’s definitely not going to blow anyone’s mind, it’s a pretty great listen on a whole with some really good moments.
Recommendation: Worth your time even if you’re not a Pearl Jam fan.

Artist: Luna
Album: A Sentimental Education
Quick Description: Latest from the indie favorites.
Why You Should Listen: You're a big fan of what they offer.
Overall Thoughts: Luna has been around seemingly forever, and this new album? I dunno. It didn’t grab me, it didn’t excite me, and it didn’t come close to what I’ve liked about Luna. I don’t have much of anything to say about this, so I’ll leave it at that.
Recommendation: Skip this.

EPs of note:

* Sure Sure - Songs from 2014 (reminds me of Wheat)
* Jennie Vee - Suffer

Also out this week:

* The Clientele - Music for the Age of Miracles (I thought the Clientele was an electronic act, and this is not that. Didn’t really care for this.)
* The Bronx - (V)

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Plan - "Pier Party Nerves"

I use the term "post punk" here quite a bit, probably too much to be honest. But, in my defense, it typically let all of you know exactly what a band sounds like. Now that we have The Plan, that term has been thrown off completely.

"Pier Party Nerves" is definitely post punk. However, while post punk tends to be very serious, artistic music, The Plan have a sense of fun. I hesitate to call them quirky since that can imply that they're a novelty or cute, and The Plan certainly aren't either of those. I guess they're quirky the way Talking Heads are quirky, but much more organic than the Talking Heads are. "Pier Party Nerves" has an oddly danceable groove, if you don't mind dancing very awkwardly.

You can watch the video for "Pier Party Nerves" below. The Plan's debut album, Nervous Energy, will be out on October 13 on Southend Records. You can pre-order a copy through Bandcamp. For more on The Plan, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mill Pond Falls - "Gone" / "Everyday"

The latest single from Boston's Mill Pond Falls is nostalgic for a very specific retro 90's sound. Back in the early to mid 90's, I hated country. This was back in the days when "Achy Breaky Heart" in all of its terrible glory just couldn't be avoided, so I hated anything that even remotely like country. Or so I thought. As much as I loved bands like Buffalo Tom, The Lemonheads, and Matthew Sweet, my teenage and college self just couldn't pick up on the heavy country influence those bands had. Now I listen to a lot of those songs and all I can hear is country.

That's what "Gone," and its B-Side "Everyday" to a lesser extent, reminds me of. It's that glorious time back when all these alternative bands were playing their 120 Minutes buzz clips for kids that would never have admitted liking country even though their idols were just oozing Americana. Mills Pond Falls play this blend of catchy, post-grunge alternative that has just enough Americana influence to qualify them to be accepted by the Newport Folk Festival crowd.

You can listen to "Gone" below. You can get your own copy of the digital single over at Bandcamp. For more on Mill Pond Falls, check them out on Facebook.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Shame - "Concrete"

The latest single from the UK's Shame, "Concrete," is an intense one. "Concrete" is about being trapped in an emotionally and mentally draining relationship. It's contained in a fairly standard post punk guitar framework. As it starts, it feels familiar, especially if you've been following us for any length of time. And then the call and response verses start, bringing a sense of paranoia. Slowly, it breaks into a harder, more punk edge than you get with post punk. Plus, there's slightly more noise than you would have expected at the beginning. The whole thing is crammed tightly into this wound little ball of a song, feeling like it needs to explode and run free, but just not allowed to. Ever.

You can watch the video for "Concrete" below. Shame's debut album will be released in early 2018. To keep up with Shame, check out their website, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Their tour dates are below the video.

Sat. Sep. 30 – Margate, UK @ By The Sea Festival
Mon. Oct. 9 – Bristol, UK @ Louisiana
Tue. Oct. 10 – Leeds, UK @ Lending Room
Wed. Oct. 11 – Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
Thu. Oct. 12 – Edinburgh, UK @ Sneaky Pete's
Fri. Oct. 13 – Liverpool, UK @ Buyers Club
Sat. Oct. 14 – Dublin, IE @ Workamn’s Club
Wed. Oct. 18 – London, UK @ Scala
Sat. Oct. 21 – Cardiff, UK @ Swn Festival
Tue. Oct. 24 – Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen
Wed. Oct. 25 – Groningen, NL @ Vera
Fri. Oct. 27 – Amsterdam, NL @ London Calling Festival
Thu. Nov. 2 – Reykjavik, IS @ Iceland Airwaves Festival
Fri. Nov. 10 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby's All Right
Sun. Nov. 12 – Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA
Mon-Nov-13 – Washington, DC @ DC9
Wed. Nov. 15 – New York, NY  @ Home Sweet Home
Thu. Nov. 16 – Allston, MA  @ The Great Scott
Fri. Nov. 17 – Montreal, QC  @ M for Montreal
Sat. Nov. 18 – Toronto, ON @ Hard Luck
Sun. Nov. 19 – Buffalo, NY  @ Mohawk Place
Mon. Nov. 20 – Arden, DE  @ Arden Gild Hall +

Fri. Dec. 1 – Paris, FR @ Point Ephemere
Sun. Dec. 3 – Frankfurt, DE @ Zoom 
Mon. Dec. 4 – Heidelburg, DE @ Halle O2 
Wed. Dec. 6 – Köln, DE @ Gebäude 9 
Thu. Dec. 7 – Munster, DE @ Gleis 22 
Fri. Dec. 8 – Essen, DE @ Hotel Shanghai 
Sat. Dec. 9 – Dresden, DE @ Groove Station 
Mon. Dec. 11 – Hannover, DE @ Bei Chez Heinz 
Tue. Dec. 12 – Bremen, DE @ Lagerhaus 
Wed. Dec. 13 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust 
Thu. Dec. 14 – Braunschweig, DE @ Eule 
Fri. Dec. 15 – Rostock, DE @ Helgas Stadtpalast 
Sat. Dec. 16 – Berlin @ Festaal Kreuzberg 
Fri. Feb. 2 – Adelaide, AU @ Laneway Festival
Sat. Feb. 3 – Melbourne, AU @ Laneway Festival
Sun. Feb. 4 – Sydney, AU @ Laneway Festival
Sat. Feb. 10 – Brisbane, AU @ Laneway Festival
Sun. Feb. 11 – Perth, AU @ Laneway Festival

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jennie Vee - "Hospital Bed"

Photo by Corinne Schiavone
Jennie Vee has one of the more unique musical backgrounds I've seen. She grew up in a small town in Ontario, which she left for England. After England, she moved to Nashville and then NYC, where she made her debut album. Back in 2015, she played bass for Courtney Love on the Endless Summer Tour. After that, she's played with Echo & The Bunnymen, Manic Street Preachers, and The Darkness. Currently she's living in LA and a member of Eagles of Death Metal. Somehow, even with all of that, she had the time to write and record an EP of her own music.

"Hospital Bed" doesn't sound like any of the bands Jennie Vee has played with. It's more along the lines of what is now called "dream pop." It has a dreamy, wistful feel, but with a biting guitar, and some of the best hooks you've heard in years. It's just shy of being true pop, with the slightest bit of edge holding it back.

You can listen to "Hospital Bed" below. Jennie Vee's new EP, Suffer, will be out September 22 on WaxRomantix Records. For more on Jennie Vee, check her out on Facebook and Twitter.

First Listen, Part 2: More New Releases for September 15

Artist: Foo Fighters
Album: Concrete and Gold
Quick Description: Latest from the alt-rock legends.
Why You Should Listen: I suppose it's not to the point where the Foos are a nostalgia act, right?
Overall Thoughts: Oh, Foo Fighters. On one hand, you have one of the premier alt-rock bands of the post-grunge era with a new album. On the other, I’m not sure they’ve had a truly great (or even good) album in well over a decade. This feels like a mess of rock excess that’s trying too hard, and that might be generous. It makes me wonder whether The Colour and the Shape is actually good at all, given the taste this left in my mouth.
Recommendation: Don’t make my mistake, just pretend this didn’t happen.

Artist: Angus and Julia Stone
Album: Snow
Quick Description: New album from the Aussie duo.
Why You Should Listen: These two continue to be some of the better mainstream acts running.
Overall Thoughts: A favorite of the coffee shop folk music set, this album is as rock-solid as the rest of their work. No, there’s probably no “Big Jet Plane” here, but it doesn’t need it – this duo continues to put out mainstream-friendly folk music that’s still appealing to those of us who rarely listen to the radio, and that’s a feat.
Recommendation: In a weird week, this is certainly deserving of your time.

Artist: Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton
Album: Choir of the Mind
Quick Description: First Emily Haines solo project in 10 years.
Why You Should Listen: Metric is so good that the side projects deserve notice.
Overall Thoughts: Her first album credited to The Soft Skeleton in a decade, the Metric frontwoman goes a little weird and a little repetitive here, and the result is a bit of a methodical affair that feels a lot longer than its overall runtime. As someone who is really a big fan of Metric, this was a major disappointment for me. I think there’s a class of people who will find a lot of this to be solid and deliberative, but for me? More of a drag than anything else.
Recommendation: Skip this.

Artist: Seth MacFarlane
Album: In Full Swing
Quick Description: Latest swing album from the Family Guy creator.
Why You Should Listen: He still has the right voice for this.
Overall Thoughts: Love him or hate him, his swing efforts have been solid, and Seth MacFarlane has such a reverence for this era of music that this is difficult to ignore. If you like the genre, listen to this. If you like MacFarlane, listen to this. If you can't stand him, you will be annoyed by this release. As for me? It works like all his others.
Recommendation: I enjoyed this!

Artist: Dee Dee Bridgewater
Album: Memphis... Yes, I'm Ready
Quick Description: Latest album of jazz music from the longtime singer.
Why You Should Listen: If MacFarlane is just playing at his stuff, this is much more pure.
Overall Thoughts: As someone who's not much of a jazz guy, I don't have a lot to say about this on a whole except that I did enjoy this listen. There are a lot of solid takes on this album, and it's a pleasant listen even if it's not really groundbreaking. It doesn't have to be, though - the quality in this is in the authenticity, and that's what you're getting here.
Recommendation: Great for jazz fans, good for those who aren't really into it.

EPs of note:

* Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions - Luck of a Lady

Also out:

* Philip Selway - Let Me Go soundtrack
* Lee Ranaldo - Electric Trim (legitimately the weirdest release of the year)
* Son Little - New Magic

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Torres - "Helen in the Woods"

Photo by Ashley Connor
This might be the song that makes me obsessed with Torres. "Helen in the Woods" isn't exactly a pleasant listen, but for those of us obsessed with bands like Sonic Youth, unpleasant isn't a bad thing. The song is very discordant and haunting. Mackenzie Scott's vocals are harsh and brash, oftentimes straining to get her emotion out. Listening to "Helen in the Woods" can be disturbing at times, like something is being done to you. Somehow, the instrumentation keeps it all centered. I wouldn't say the music is beautiful, but it comes oddly close to it at times. I never quite got when people compared Torres to PJ Harvey, but this song clears that up for me. "Helen in the Woods" won't be for everyone, but for those of us that it is for will end up loving it.

You can watch the video for "Helen in the Woods" below. The new album from Torres, Three Futures, will be available September 29 on 4AD. For more on Torres, check out her website.

First Listen, Part One: New Releases for September 15

Another busy week of releases, so this'll be a two-parter.

Album of the Week:

Artist: Lenore.
Album: Lenore.
Quick Description: Debut album from a new favorite duo here.
Why You Should Listen: You wish First Aid Kit was more musically adventurous.
Overall Thoughts: Easily my favorite of this week, and it doesn’t even come close. Sort of a more complex First Aid Kit, there’s gorgeous harmonies to go along with interesting songwriting and a haunted sort of feel. I was continually surprised by this throughout my listen, and I simply can’t wait until I get another opportunity to dive back in.
Recommendation: This is my favorite album of the week, and it should be yours, too.

Artist: Deer Tick
Album: Vol. 1/Vol. 2
Quick Description: Two releases from the somewhat twangy indie rockers.
Why You Should Listen: There's enough good here to give some time to it.
Overall Thoughts: Deer Tick is officially in “we’re releasing a double album” territory with an acoustic and electric set. Honestly, the acoustic is much more interesting with much better songwriting than the electric, but Deer Tick is very good at what they do and there’s enough good here in both releases to make the time investment worth it. “Card House” in particular feels like a song straight out of another era to the point where I was convinced it was a cover, and may be the best thing they’ve ever recorded.
Recommendation: Regardless, give this a shot.

Artist: The Huntress and Holder of Hands
Album: Avalon
Quick Description: Gorgeous, haunting post-Brown Bird project.
Why You Should Listen: It's Brown Bird associated, which should be enough.
Overall Thoughts: We loved Brown Bird here, just like everyone else who got a chance to listen to them, and this album from MorganEve Swain's new project is just wonderful. It is unique in and of itself, much like Brown Bird was, but doesn’t occupy the same space, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s an interesting, wonderful record that I think has a lot of layers left to uncover on future listens.
Recommendation: One of the best of the week, nearly my favorite of this week.

Artist: Open Mike Eagle
Album: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Quick Description: Rap music with some great backing music.
Why You Should Listen: You want something a little different in your rap music.
Overall Thoughts: The rap offering for the week, I don’t have a ton to say about this one. On one hand, his rapping is fine, with some pretty solid lines here and there but nothing that blew my mind. On the other, though, what he opts to sample throughout is some of the more interesting stuff I’ve heard in hip-hop/rap lately, and it makes it more than just a standard rap album as a result.
Recommendation: A listen that’s worth giving a shot, for sure.

Artist: The Lone Bellow
Album: Walk Into a Storm
Quick Description: Latest from the radio-friendly rootsy act.
Why You Should Listen: The Lone Bellow are probably at their best here.
Overall Thoughts: The Lone Bellow is near the top of the heap these days when it comes to pop Americana, and with good reason. The musicianship is solid, the songwriting tight, and the total package is really accessible. For us around here, it’s almost too perfectly constructed, but that’s also a weird criticism in a genre that often relies on sharp musicality. So the polish may be too much for some, but if it’s not, you’re in for a real treat on this one.
Recommendation: Definitely worth some time this week.

Artist: Prophets of Rage
Album: Prophets of Rage
Quick Description: A full-length from the Rage Against the Machine/Public Enemy crossover event.
Why You Should Listen: You're really, really angry about Trump and the only way you can express it is by listening to mediocre protest music.
Overall Thoughts: Considering how unfortunate their EP was last year and how generally terrible modern protest music is, I had extremely low standards for this. The good news is that the album cleared said standards with ease, and this is a pretty okay record. I mean, if you really liked Rage or Chuck D, there’s plenty of both that works here, but this also isn’t groundbreaking like either act was in their prime. It is what it is, and that’s fine – just temper your expectations and you should be fine.
Recommendation: Meh.

Artist: Rostam
Album: Half-Light
Quick Description: Debut solo album from a Vampire Weekend alum.
Why You Should Listen: Vampire Weekend is/was a good enough band where this should at least pique your interest.
Overall Thoughts: The proper solo debut of the former Vampire Weekend multinstrumentalist, it borrows from basically every influence he has gathered up over a lifetime and is bundled into a chaotic album that is absolutely going to speak to a number of listeners. Whether or not this is going to work for you may be a different story on a whole – as for me, this didn’t feel cohesive enough to match up with its ambition, and it’s not something I’m terribly excited about, but a lot of people are raving about it so I may be a minority here.
Recommendation: Your mileage ultimately may vary.

Artist: Black Kids
Album: Rookie
Quick Description: Second album from a band I assumed we had all completely forgotten.
Why You Should Listen: Their first album was a buzzworthy event.
Overall Thoughts: I don't know if people remember how crazy the whole thing with Black Kids was back in 2008 with "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You." They were doing Hefner covers at concerts, and then just... disappeared. And then all of the sudden songs started popping up and we have a new album. It's weird and feels a little out of sync, but if you can move outside of the context of where they came from and how they went away, this is actually a fairly solid record. I love "Obligatory Drugs," there are a lot of other fun songs here...
Recommendation: ...give this a shot. Really.

EPs of note:

* Antibalas - Where the Gods are in Peace
* Michael Nau - The Load EP

Also out this week:

* Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Vietnam War score
* The Texas Gentlemen - TX Jelly

Monday, September 18, 2017

Alex Lahey - "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself"

Photo by Giulia McGauran
We've been loving every track from Alex Lahey's upcoming debut full length album, and for good reason. The Australian singer/songwriter specializes in the type of pop rock that used to be called alternative back in the mid-90's. Her latest, "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself," is this pleasant happy medium between her previous two singles from I Love You Like a Brother. It's not quite as poppy as "Every Day's the Weekend" and it's not as grungey as "Lotto in Reverse." Instead, "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself" fits snugly in between both of the previous songs. It has the insanely catchy pop hooks and upbeat chorus along with fuzzed out guitars. It's reminds me a ton of Letters to Cleo's Go! Plus, there's Lahey's amazing lyrics. I'm not usually much of a lyrics guy at all, but hers always just suck me in. "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself" centers around a possibly obsessive relationship and poor lifestyle choices, both of which tend to go hand in hand. Despite the negative subject matter, the song doesn't dwell on the negative and seems to be a declaration to turn things around, much like Colleen Green's I Want to Grow Up.

You can watch the video for "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself" below. Alex Lahey's debut album, I Love You Like a Brother, will be out on October 6 on Dead Oceans. You can pre-order a copy here. For more on Lahey, check out her website. Her upcoming tour dates are below.

Tue. Oct. 26 - Brussels, BE @ Botanique Witloofbar
Fri. Oct. 27 - Rotterdam, NL @ V11

Mon. Oct. 30 - Cologne, DE @ Blue Shell

Tue. Oct. 31 - Hamburg, DE @ Molotow Musikclub

Wed. Nov. 1 - Berlin, DE @ Privat Club 

Wed. Nov. 3 - Munich, DE @ Kranhalle 

Sat. Nov. 4 - Stuttgart, DE @ Keller Klub 

Sun. Nov. 5 - Fribourg, DE @ Espace culturel Le Nouveau Monde 

Mon. Nov. 6 - Paris, FR @ La Mécanique Ondulatoire

Wed. Nov. 8 - London, UK @ Boston Music Room 

Tue. Nov. 9 - Bristol, UK @ The Louisiana 

Fri. Nov. 10 - Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club 

Sat. Nov. 11 - Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute 

Sun. Nov. 12 - Glasgow, UK @ King Tut's Wah Wah Hut 

Wed. Nov. 15 - Allston, MA @ Great Scott

Thu. Nov. 16 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Fri. Nov. 17 - Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live

Sun. Nov. 19 - Washington, DC @ DC9

Wed. Nov. 22 - Toronto, ON @ The Drake Hotel - Underground

Fri. Nov. 24 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean

Sat. Nov. 25th - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry

Wed. Nov. 29 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada

Thu. Nov. 30 - Austin, TX @ Barracuda

Sat. Dec. 2 - Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge

Sun. Dec. 3 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court

Tue. Dec. 5 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge

Wed. Dec. 6 - San Diego, CA @ The Casbah

Fri. Dec. 8 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo 

Sat.Dec. 9 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill

Mon. Dec. 11 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios

Tue. Dec. 12 - Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt

Wed. Dec. 13 - Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey

Monday Mix (and more!): The Roadhouse Is Proud to Welcome... Music and Twin Peaks!

The finale of Twin Peaks: The Return was two weeks ago and my brain is still busted wide open from the entire series. No television show has exercised my brain the way The Return did, and the mysteries that were solved during the season being replaced by new ones has just kept me so engaged in the entire mythology of the Peaks universe up to this point that I see no signs of stopping. I am looking for books that are like Twin Peaks, shows that will somehow fill the orb-shaped void inside of me.

While the music of the original series is iconic in its own right, The Return stepped up in an interesting and unexpected way. While the series itself played around considerably both with ethereal whooshing soundscapes and the use of silence, most episodes ended with a scene in the bar, where the music venue, "The Roadhouse," was hosting all sorts of indie artists. It was almost a game in and of itself to see who would be featured along the way.

Also related were some of the interesting musical discoveries that have come about from my immersion into the whole Twin Peaks thing. So our mix is 20 or so songs from the series, and some extras:

* The playlist. Included in this playlist are some highlights from the show and from semi-related acts...
** Julee Cruise - "Falling": The original theme song, just as strange and haunting today as it was when it was first used.
** (The) Nine Inch Nails - "She's Gone Away": Trent Reznor has noted that he wrote this song specifically for The Return
** Lissie - "Wild Wild West": One of a few "Roadhouse versions" released following the end of the show.
** "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima": One of the most striking moments of The Return was during the infamous episode 8, and was soundtracked by this modern classical masterpiece.
** Flesh World - "To Lose Me": A band we've highlighted here before, named after the adult publication from the original series.
** James Hurley - "Just You": Proved what many knew for 25 years - James was always cool.
** Sky Ferriera - "Night Time, My Time": Where I hope she cured that rash...

* I also recommend checking out the following:
** Chrysta Bell - We Dissolve: Bell played FBI Agent Tammy Preston on the show, and she's primarily a musician that David Lynch considers a muse. Her album is haunting and weird and wonderful - a lot like Twin Peaks is.
** Dean Hurley - Anthology Resource Vol. 1: The joke among Twin Peaks fans was the amount of "ethereal whooshing" throughout The Return, and the musician/sound designer who was responsible for much of it has released an ambient score from The Return that is worth your time if you're into it.
** Xiu Xiu - Plays the Music of Twin Peaks: The indie act here released this in 2015, but it's a fun little diversion that's also surprisingly true to the original music.