Friday, December 9, 2022

Blues Lawyer - "Chance Encounter"

Oakland's Blues Lawyer have a very specific 90's throwback sound. Their latest single, "Chance Encounter," lies in that time period between heavier grunge bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden but before the alternative rock airwaves were overtaken by more pop focused bands like Spin Doctors and Gin Blossoms. "Chance Encounter" is along the lines of Teenage Fanclub or The Lemonheads. Blues Lawyer still have that great indie rock edge, but the song is insanely poppy at the same time. It's fuzzy guitars and killer harmonies between Rob I. Miller and Elyse Schrock. This one is a ton of fun while still maintaining an indie rock edge.

You can watch the video for "Chance Encounter" below. All in Good Time is due out February 17 on Dark Entries. The album can be pre-ordered through Bandcamp. For more on Blues Lawyer, check out the band on Twitter and Instagram.

Live Shows: Butcher Brown, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 12/7/22

There's a lot of talk about rock being dead. The kids aren't listening to rock any more in favor of hip hop and electronic music. Since rock is supposedly dead, you'd expect jazz to be even more dead since they've been saying jazz is dead for decades longer. Apparently no one told that to the kids in attendance for Butcher Brown's show at The Sinclair in Cambridge.

That was truly what was so shocking about Butcher Brown's show. The crowd was mostly people in their twenties with just a few of the typical, older jazz crowd speckled throughout. Sure, Butcher Brown aren't entirely a classic jazz band as they heavily use hip hop, funk, and soul, but they are jazz. Still, they had an audience filled with indie hipsters, hippies, ad hip hop heads.

They pulled this off just by being great. Hip hop seems to be the gateway for a lot of their appeal. While Marcus Tenney stuck with playing trumpet and saxophone more than he did rapping, they used hip hop samples throughout along with some sampled drums, which just added to Corey Fonville's live drums. The Richmond, VA quintet seemed to stick more to their instrumental jazz songs than to their more rap based songs, but even though that's how I got into them, I didn't miss the vocals and found myself enjoying the jazz instrumentals more than I expected. Although "#KingButch" was a lot of fun live.

Despite considering myself a fan of jazz, actually getting out to see live jazz is a rare event for me, but if Butcher Brown's show was any indication, I really need to do it more often.

Ken's Best of 2022 - #8: The Bobby Lees - Bellevue

I first discovered The Bobby Lees since Jon Spencer produced their 2020 album Skin Suit. For Bellevue, the signed to Ipecac Recordings. As you might expect, the album loses a little bit of the blues based punk you'll get with Spencer producing, but the noise and aggression has increased with the move to Ipecac. Bellevue is a gloriously loud and fast blues/punk record. Guitarist/vocalist Sam Quartin is just spewing venom and sounding impossibly cool while doing it. Despite just being filled with great songs, one of the appeals of The Bobby Lees is just how cool they seem to be. It's been a long, long time since a band sounded this raw and just seemed cool doing it. They even pull off a punk rock diss track with "Greta Van Fake," proving it's not just middle aged rockers that don't get the appeal of that band. My only regret with my two plus years of Bobby Lees fandom is that I discovered them the day after they played Boston in 2020, and they haven't been back since.

Songs of note: "Hollywood Junkyard," "Ma Likes to Drink," "Dig Your Hips," and "Bellevue"

Jeff's Best of 2022 - #8: Ash and Eric - Sure

I fully admit to having a bit of hometown bias here, because I've gotten to know Ash and Eric through mutual friends over the last 18 months or so and "Church of the Concrete Wave" is about a location in my hometown of Millbury, but put my biases aside for a moment and consider that Ash and Eric should be one of the more massive folk acts in the country, and Sure is as good a demonstration of that as anything.

Sure finds the duo navigating being professional musicians, seeking and recalling inspirational moments and ideals, considering humanity in all its forms. It's expert folk-driven storytelling, to be sure (no pun intended), but it's just as much gorgeous songwriting and hook-laden melodies that win you over from the first notes. Whether somber and serious like "Autumn Hymn," or the faux Carter-Cash rockabilly feel of "Never Walking Out," it all works in unexpected and beautiful ways.

In a year with a lot of really solid folk albums, and when we're still trying to get back to some sense of post-COVID normalcy, it's great when albums like Sure come along to keep us grounded.

Songs of note: "Autumn Hymn," "Simon, Taylor, Denver, Cash," "Never Walking Out," "Church of the Concrete Wave"

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Jay Royale featuring Havoc - "The Wise & Lakid"

For his latest single, Jay Royale has teamed with Havoc of the legendary Mobb Deep. "The Wise & Lakid" is as old school as it could possibly be. Sure, the production has a the modern slick sound, but this sounds like it could have been released anytime between 1991 and 1996. The track has a sense of depth to it despite it consisting of just beats and piano. Hip hop doesn't typically have this sense of darkness to it these days, but "The Wise & Lakid" brings that back heavily. This is perfect for those of us who grew up on rap in the 80's and 90's.

You can watch the video for "The Wise & Lakid" below. For more on Jay Royale, check out his Twitter and Instagram.

babybaby_explores - "Twiddle"

Photo by sam m-h

Seeing a band called babybaby_explores makes me feel like that Matt Damon/Saving Private Ryan gif, so you know if I can overcome that this is a great song. I first became aware of the band because they're opening up for Lightning Bolt's tour, and "Twiddle" sounds like a band that would open for Lightning Bolt without being exactly like what you would expect. "Twiddle" is definitely a strange, decidedly non-mainstream song, but it doesn't have that explosive and destructive noise associated with their tour mates. Instead, babybaby_explores is much more laid back and electronic sounding. It's more similar to an artist like Peaches in that dancey, electro-clash kind of way. As you would expect, "Twiddle" is definitely not for everyone, but if it works for you, this one will be adored for a long time.

babybaby_explores say that their new single is "... a first person narrative about being stuck talking to a stranger at a party. Your best friend has your back and helps end the conversation. It features a real-time burp and is an ode to the musical artist Peaches."

You can watch the video for "Twiddle" below. Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow is due out March 3 on No Gold. For more on babybaby_explores, check out the band's website.

Ken's Best of 2022 - #9: S.G. Goodman - Teeth Marks

Teeth Marks
came out of nowhere for me this year. S.G. Goodman's music combines so many elements that work spectacularly for me. The album opens with "Teeth Marks," which starts out as an Americana tinged singer/songwriter song. It's not quite perfectly mainstream, but close. And then the weird indie rock noise comes in, and the album becomes completely irresistible to me. "All My Love is Coming Back to Me" is one of my favorite songs of the year. It's this 90's style indie rocker mixed with garage rock and country twang. Back in April I said that it sounded like Drive-By Truckers decided to write a positive hit song, and I stand by that. Goodman moves between rockers and these ballads with ease. "You Were Someone I Loved" is an a capella song, and you really get a sense of Goodman's vocal powers. She can go from a 90's style slacker delivery with her Southern accent to a soulful, sometimes haunting, powerful delivery. S.G. Goodman is going to be one to watch for, because she has the potential to do huge things for a while to come.

Songs of note: "Teeth Marks," "All My Love is Coming Back to Me," "Heart Swell," and "Work Until I Die"

Jeff's Best of 2022 - #9: Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway - Crooked Tree

I feel like we've been watching Molly Tuttle since her first release back in 2017, and seeing her grow and improve as a performer is always a joy. With a backing band and some beautiful, pure roots songs, Crooked Tree feels like the sort of album you've been waiting for.

It's easy, in theory, to see this album more for its collaborations than its heart and soul, but even if she has A-list roots musicians guesting throughout (whether it be Billy Strings on "Dooley's Farm," or Gillian Welch on a favorite song of the year in "Side Saddle") the parts don't overshadow the whole. It's a cool, confident record that deserves any and all praise it gets and more.

Worth it if you love bluegrass, worth it if you don't. Either way, it's one of the best of the year.

Songs of note: "Side Saddle," "Crooked Tree," "She'll Change," "Dooley's Farm"

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Jeff's Best of 2022 - #10: Viagra Boys - Cave World

It's somewhat fitting that 2022 was the year that featured an album with a song from the perspective of every conspiracy nut you've encountered on Facebook, and it's both the most punk rock thing since Taylor Swift rerecording her old material to stick it to Scooter Braun and can't be quoted here without putting the blog in danger of being blacklisted. But here we are, "Creepy Crawlers" and all with the latest from Viagra Boys.

It was easy for me to sort of write off Viagra Boys as a mclusky-style post-punk act with a better sense of melody after 2019's Welfare Jazz, which was legitimately great but not trying to change the universe. Cave World, in comparison, has a lot to say and isn't trying to play nice while saying it. Whether ranting like Alex Jones in "Creepy Crawlers," describing insurrectionist types in "Troglodyte," or entertaining scientific hypotheses about the origin of man in "The Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis," it's music with a message that expertly balances the line between awareness and absurdity.

I didn't expect to go back to this album as much as I did this year, but listening again recently as I finalized my best-of this year, it reminded me of how great this was.

Songs of note: "The Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis," "Creepy Crawlers," "Baby Criminal," "Troglodyte"

Toeheads - "Told You Twice"

Detroit garage rock is some of the finest in the genre, and Toeheads are the latest garage rock band from that city you're going to need to know. Their latest single, "Told You Twice," is a completely unhinged version of garage rock that leaps into the territory of punk. This is a rough and fast song that reminds me of Minutemen meets The Stooges with maybe a little Lightning Bolt thrown in? This is loud and abrasive rock and roll that certainly won't be for everyone, but if it sounds like your kind of thing, buckle up and get ready to enjoy.

You can listen to "Told You Twice" below. A Cruel Winner's World is due out April 1 on Big Neck Records. The album can be pre-ordered through Bandcamp. For more on Toeheads, check out the band on Facebook and Instagram.