Tuesday, May 17, 2022

First Listen: New Releases for 13 May

Artist: Tray Wellington
Album: Black Banjo
Quick Thoughts: Every once in a while you trip up on an album that you didn't expect, and find it to be an absolute gem. That's what happened with Black Banjo, a roots record with such a great mix of music and musical styles that it just kept me in awe through its runtime. Great, great tunes throughout and one I'm really looking forward to getting back to.
Songs of Note: "Crooked Mind," "Saw a Little Boat," "Wasted Time"

Artist: Elephant Gym
Album: Dreams
Quick Thoughts: Another band I didn't know before Ken sent this over, and holy crap is this good. Elephant Gym makes some progressive-leaning stuff with excellent musicianship and a sound unlike anything else I've heard. It absolutely wowed me in a week with a lot of wow power, and if a song like "Deities' Party" doesn't absolutely nail it for you, I don't know what else to say. One of the best of the week.
Songs of Note: "Witches," "Deities' Party"

Artist: Say Sue Me
Album: The Last Thing Left
Quick Thoughts: Say Sue Me feels like they've been bubbling under for ages, and The Last Thing Left really feels like it could potentially be a breakout effort. Very Beths-esque at times, it's a perfect indie rock record in a lot of ways. If you haven't gotten on board yet, you have no excuse.
Songs of Note: "Still Here," "Around You, "No Real Place," "The Last Thing Left"

Artist: The Smile
Album: A Light for Attracting Attention
Quick Thoughts: In terms of Radiohead side projects, this is probably my favorite one in a while, and is probably my favorite Radiohead-related effort in over a decade. The Smile is Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and UK percussion stalwart Tom Skinner, and it truly does feel like Radiohead's natural extension from A Moon Shaped Pool in many regards. Still, it is its own thing - songs like "A Hairdryer" and "Free In the Knowledge" are both challenging in all the right ways. Still, this isn't like Yorke's solo work or Atoms for Peace, either. It's a middle ground of sorts, and it's great.
Songs of Note: "The Same," "Pana-vision," "The Opposite," "Free in the Knowledge," "A Hairdryer," "We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings"

Of note:

* 49 Winchester - Fortune Favors the Bold (Solid country/roots music.)
* Norma - HELL.O.V.E. (Solid pop.)
* Mandy Moore - In Real Life (Reminiscent of her Amanda Leigh record.)
* Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (While this didn't connect with me, people love this.)
* Leikeli47 - Shape Up
* Tank and the Bangas - Red Balloon
* Florence + The Machine - Dance Fever
* Mallrat - Butterfly Blue
* Mama's Broke - Narrow Line
* The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie
* Dorsal Fins - Star of the Show
* Kevin Morby - This is a Photograph
* 3lh - Silver Dream Road
* Donna Blue - Dark Roses
* Quelle Chris - Deathfame


* The Girls - Tea Party
* Onyx - Onyx Versus Everybody
* TOPS - Empty Seats
* Deep Tan - Diamond Horsetail
* The Corps - From Oblivion
* Justin Martin - Let's EP Remixes
* Winona Fighter - Father Figure
* Erica Mantone - I May Have Asked for This

Live albums/Compilations/Reissues:

* La Femme - Levitation Sessions (Live)
* Flat Worms - Live in Los Angeles
* Karen Elson - Green (Deluxe)

Rainn Byrns - "Never Ending Story"

Photo via Facebook

Rainn Byrns was born in Texas and now lives in South London, and his latest single embodies his odd geography. "Never Ending Story" is going to remind you of artists like The Kinks. It has that distinctly British feel and is just dripping with 1960's groovy cool. But it also shows off his Jonathan Richman influence with a bit of Richman's charm and easygoing confidence. But, being as Byrns is from Texas, there are the hints of a drawl and some country ramble thrown in here. It's an interesting mix of sounds Byrns is borrowing from that is going to be easy to love.

Rainn Byrns says of his new single:

“It’s the embodiment of giving up, but then there’s a freedom to that, when all is said and done. When you relinquish any expectations you can sometimes surprise yourself!

You can watch the video for "Never Ending Story" below. For more on Rainn Byrns, check out the artist on Facebook and Twitter.

Mountain Time - "Meet the Kid"

Photo via Facebook

Mountain Time is a project of Chris Simpson of Mineral and The Gloria Record. As with many solo-ish projects, this one goes a little folkier than Simpson's other projects. "Meet the Kid" is the latest single, and it's solidly a folk rock song. There isn't much of Mineral's emo sound on this one. "Meet the Kid" is a little ramblin', but it rocks just a little too hard to truly be that kind of folk song. It's a gorgeous, lush, and heartfelt song that includes some interesting little flourishes you don't normally get in the world of folk rock or even indie folk. 

You can listen to "Meet the Kid" below. The song is available as a single via Spartan Records with a full length coming in 2023. For more on Mountain Time, check out the artist's website.

Hellrazor - "Jello Stars"

New Haven, CT based Hellrazor started off as a songwriting and cassette recording project back in 2006. Michael Falcone (Speedy Ortiz, Ovlov) posted demos on MySpace and passed around CDRs and cassettes to friends. Now a full fledged band with bassist Kate Meizner and drummer Michael Henss, the band is set to release a new album this summer. "Jello Stars" is their new single, and if you have a certain fondness for the kind of heavy but tuneful alt-rock that came out of Massachusetts in the 90's, this one is going to appeal to you. The song is heavy with that post grunge sound that still has a foot in grunge. But, it's insanely poppy at the same time. It's reminding me a lot of a mixture of bands like Dinosaur Jr, The Lemonheads, Tugboat Annie, and with maybe just a little early emo thrown in there. This is a massive song that a lot of us are going to get really into.

Hellrazor says of their new song:

"We've played "Jello Stars" in our live set since 5 years ago, and most of the song was tracked around then. We recently added more guitars and re-tracked the vocals. Some of the lyrics were revised to align with the dystopian themes on the next record. Most of the song is about ghosts in the machine and paranoia over potentially uncontrollable A.I."

You can listen to "Jello Stars" below. Heaven's Gate is due out sometime this summer. For more on Hellrazor, check out the band on Twitter and Bandcamp.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Spring Summer - "Mountaineer"

Photo by Mia Kirby

Spring Summer is the musical project of San Francisco based artist Jennifer Furches, who you might know from films like The Darjeeling Limited and Fasntastic Mr. Fox, as well as her time in Coconut Records. Her latest single, "Mountaineer," is that kind of alt-rock singer/songwriter sound we got in the mid-90's if musicians then embraced synths. It's a mid-tempo rock song that feels like it's going to erupt at any moment but never quite does. By defying that expectation, "Mountaineer" remains a completely lovely and personal song you won't be able to resist.

Jennifer Furches says of the new song:

“There’s a running theme on the album of losing yourself in another person, and this song is about the push-and-pull between the feeling of ‘I would do anything for you’ and ‘I can’t do anything for you, I need to be strong and do things for me.'"

You can watch the video for "Mountaineer" below. T.E.A.R.S is due out July 15. For more on Spring Summer, check out the artist's website. Upcoming tour dates are below the video.

7/19 - Los Angeles, CA - The Airliner
7/20 - San Francisco, CA - Amado
7/26 - New York, NY - Berlin
7/28 - Chapel Hill, NC - Cat’s Cradle Back Room

Ex-Hyena - "Fractured"

Boston dark electronic duo Ex-Hyena just released "Fractured," a song that amplifies the dark side of their sound. It's a slow song that is just dripping with a sense of dread. If this was being played in the chill out room of a rave back in the day, it would be an ominous hint that it was time to leave. That's not to say that "Fractured" is a negative listen. What truly keeps the song sounding unique is how often the song morphs into a completely different sound while keeping it a cohesive unit. It builds by adding layers and removing layers with the listener hardly noticing. Ex-Hyena have their own sound, especially in the realm of the Boston music scene.

You can listen to "Fractured" below. Moon Reflections is due out June 24 on Hush Club Ltd. and Brutal Resonance Records. For more on Ex-Hyena, check out the artist on Facebook and Instagram.

Winter Wolf - "Blue Lights"

New York/New Jersey's Winter Wolf list their influences as Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Motorhead, and Biohazard. (It's rare that I know I'll like a band just based on influences, but...) The trio's latest single, "Blue Lights," is about police brutality, summer protests, and the riots during the 2020 pandemic. It's a heavy and loud perfect mixture of punk and metal (they nail that middle ground like no other band since Motorhead), but add a surprisingly strong groove to the song as well. There is an unexpected soul influence in the song while still being hard as hell. Jehiel Winters (bass/vocals" calls their sound Harlem Rhythm Punk. "Blue Lights" is the kind of song that is going to have you leaping to get on the Winter Wolf bandwagon sooner than later

You can listen to "Blue Lights" below. Winter Wolf's debut EP is due out July 2 on Academic Punk Records. For more on Winter Wolf, check out the band's Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, May 13, 2022

An Interview with Tysk Tysk Task

Photo via Tysk Tysk Task

I've been a huge fan of Tysk Tysk Task ever since I stumbled on their music a little over two years ago. Their music has this amazing blend of completely raw emotion and noise mixed with an unexpected beauty that connects with me on a deep level. Last month the duo released "Colors," which has become one of my favorite songs of the year. They've also launched a Kickstarter to fund their next album (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tysktysktask/tysk-tysk-tasks-sophomore-album-youre-sorry-more?ref=project_build
). You can pre-order the album, get some original artwork from Samantha Hartsel, and even hang out with the band at their practice space. I took this as a chance to reach out to Samantha and Danni Gannon via email to ask some questions about their upcoming album!

Q: At one point, it looked like Tysk Tysk Task might be done as a band. Obviously, we're thrilled you're still around. What made you revisit making music as Tysk Tysk Task?

S: I wouldn’t say I revisited it - Tysk Tysk Task’s music never stopped. There were some personal issues that developed between myself and my co-songwriter Kyle Cuneo. He had taken over for our previous drummer after she opted for a more corporate path and wanted to focus on a new job. When he stopped coming to practices, myself and friends continued to practice the songs with the hope that, if there would ever come a time for a post-pandemic world, we’d be ready to play out again. We auditioned some new players but the band really picked up steam again last summer when a mutual friend connected me with Danni. 

D: For me, the last few years have been tough personally, but I always knew I would get back out to doing what I love. I actually sustained an injury to my thumb while skiing and I could not play for many months. I thought I would never play again. It healed though, and my partner at the time sent me a link to an Insta ad from Samantha seeking a percussionist. I took a listen to a couple of songs and then responded right back. The rest is history.

S: Thankful always to Penelope (Alizarin), fabulous frontwoman of the one-woman project Stems in Worcester, for connecting us. Danni was really the one who made me realize the songs could continue, and should continue, maybe with a shift in vibe. She brought new perspective and focus to the project, while still loving the spooky woodland slumber horrorshow vibe I cultivated in TTT previously, with members rocking antlers during shows and creating shrine-like merch box set ups. I’m forever grateful for Danni’s enthusiasm and feel like I found a true sister. 

Q: Your latest single, "Colors," has a much heavier/grungier sound than your previous releases. What inspired that change, and is that the direction of the upcoming album?

S: Absolutely, that’s the direction of the next album and of the band going forward. Clearly, there’s been a lot of personal upheaval in the band and that’s absolutely related to the times we’re living in. I don’t think you can make happy music in a worldwide pandemic, especially with a tyrant like Trump at the helm to kick it all off. It didn’t feel right to craft soft love ballads like Lovers’ Covers or even lighter songs like Men of the Century from the first record in this time period. Instead, we started working on songs like “Pounding Sand” and “Flies,” coming out soon, based on that thing that happens when flies fill your house because you’re too depressed amid a Covid lockdown to take your garbage out. You know, stuff we can all related to now, hahaha.

S (continued): I’ll also say that I’ve always loved grunge rock bands and adore especially early PJ Harvey, early Yeah Yeah Yeahs’, thrashing Steve Albini drums and soul-crushing growls into a microphone; Danni is an amazing force who helped bring that out with the power she brings to her drumming.

D: I've been getting more into the heavy side of punk, for sure. This is the direction of the next album, but we have some things in the works too that will bring even more of a slightly different sound. 

Q: You're playing a ton of shows this summer. I think the current total is seven? Who are you really looking forward to playing with, and who are you hoping to play with in the New England area?

D: We do have a bunch of shows booked but we are being mindful also of where we are at in this world - there's an airborne virus to be cognizant of, and at least Samantha and I test frequently, isolate to really only hang with each other and our family members, and put our masks back on as soon as we get off stage. So as long as we are healthy, unexposed, and these shows go on, I am looking forward to playing with Eye Witness (7/15 at Hotel Vernon in Worcester). That show is going to be intimate and fun - we love that storied space. 

S: It's historic, too. So glad it didn’t close amid Covid and I believe it’s still the only place in Mass where you can get beers for $1? Babe Ruth used to party there and if you know the right bartender, you can get down to the basement to see the old speakeasy, and spot even the same urinal Babe pissed in. 

D: I mean, I definitely want to see that. And, I really want to play with more of our friends' bands who help us continue to all grow. Ellis (Roundy) has been a big part of our development, too. 

S: We are absolutely thrilled to have connected with The PAs, the Lowell-based psych rock noise band band formed out of the brilliant brain inside Ellis. He just graduated UML and he also runs the indie label Cursa Records. Ellis will serve as our engineer and producer of this next album, “You’re Sorry More,” based on a lyric from “Colors” that relates to my divorce. We met Ellis last fall when he  invited us to join a bill at Thirsty’s with the PA’s and The Freqs. It was our first show since the pandemic and it was an amazing night, first time Danni played with us publicly, too.

S (continued): Stoked that Ellis is going to be featured on the album as our bassist. We’re also actively auditioning bassists to join our fall tour and maybe the band full-time if the person is willing to make that commitment (so people can def contact us directly at tysktysktask@gmail.com to discuss). 

Q: Your band has a very specific vibe, from your album/single artwork to your practice space to your stage set up. How would you describe it?

D: We do have a pretty specific vibe, haha. I would describe it as nature meets grunge-meets-jazz-meets-shoe gaze-meets-rock? Kind of a lot going on but, that is the vibe and honestly, what brought me to start playing with Samantha and Tysk Tysk Task in the first place. 

D (continued): I’ll add that I am really looking forward to recording this entire album. We have put the work in and I feel we are bringing a new sound to the stage, the dynamics, the ebbs and flows of intensity on the whole. I am proud of this.

Q: Aside from music, what art has been inspiring you lately?

S: I have a couple of projects personally - composing music for my first-indie film project based out of Miami right now (“The Strawberry Jam,” written and directed by my cousin, Laura Lionetta of Lioness Films). I’ll be recording that with engineer Hadden Stemp, who is a lovely musician from the North Shore. My compositions for that film are piano-based so this summer, Hadden and I are going to record an EP of my piano songs. I started out in folk music initially in college as a one-woman show in the way of Amanda Palmer and Regina Spektor. Danni definitely helped me regain a lot of my confidence musically and her support means the world. I tell her all the time, she’s my muse now! And beyond that, I keep decorating our practice spaces like crazy because during the pandemic, I shifted my full-time work into slinging boho chic vintage furniture, peacock chairs and house plants and the like. If anyone’s interested in checking out my interior design curation, you can check out Bloom & Book (@bloomandbookma and www.bloomandbook.com). Our music inspires the artsy spaces and the spaces inspire the music. It’s sort of a symbiotic loop.

D: Samantha’s stuff is amazing and I love our studio because of the ambience she brings to it. From the lights to the rugs and the furniture, she makes our practice room a space you want to sit in for hours while writinfg some trippy tunes. Our new songs “Forest Down” and “I”m In Your Ocean Now” are more psychedelic definitely because of that. For me, I’m not only a drummer but also a photographer. I love to take pictures of nature and sunrise and sunsets. I am also a producer who likes to create hip hop beats, but that’s another story. 

Kid Gulliver - "Nothing But Trouble"

Photo via Facebook

In a city full of great garage rock and power pop, Kid Gulliver remain one of Boston's finest purveyors. Their latest single, "Nothing But Trouble," is a throwback to both the 60's and 90's. It has that upbeat and groovy vibe of the 60's (especially the drums on this one) but a little of that 90's crunch to it. This is reminding me a lot of a band like Cheap Trick, but more like all of those power pop bands of the 90's that led to a Cheap Trick revival. Plus, the guitar is just a little more ferocious than you might expect in a song like this!

You can listen to "Nothing But Trouble" below. The song is available as a single via Red On Red Records, and can be found on Bandcamp. For more on Kid Gulliver, check out the band's Facebook.

Aunt Kelly - "Nurturing"

Photo by Georgia Smith

Chicago based queer power pop/rock trio Aunt Kelly's previous single, "Billboard Lady," was a power pop song heavy on piano. With their latest, "Nurturing," they're ramping up the rock without losing any of the pop hooks. While this new song might be a little heavier, it's still insanely catchy. The previous one reminded me of Ben Folds, but this one is more reminiscent of mid 90's alt-power pop bands. This is making me think of the pop side of Letters to Cleo with the ramshackle feel of The Gits. This song is a lot of fun, and has us even more excited about Aunt Kelly's musical range!

Kelly Hannemann says of her band's new song:

“I was in my first serious long-term relationship, and I think a lot of people have this idea before they get into a serious relationship, that they’re going to be so good at it and be an ideal partner. But then you meet someone and fall in love and it’s a surprise how much harder it is to really be there for someone.”

You can listen to "Nurturing" below. Remember is due out June 10. For more on Aunt Kelly, check out their Facebook.