Monday, September 24, 2018

Black Irish - Maybe...Tomorrow



There are still souls out there devoted to the might and magnificence of rock. Black Irish are a six-piece local outfit with some quintessentially fiery guitar flourishes and impassioned vocals, hard-hitting drums rhythms and a certain swagger that comes along with inherently lively fusions of a southern-tinged rock and post-grunge blues. They weave melodic and tuneful verses with rich arrangements of keys, tambourines, effusive guitars and soulful vocals into cathartic crescendos where the fire roils up and each instrument accentuates its own expressive phrase--particularly the guitar!



I've been following this band for nearly 10 years, and its gone through some changes--but its dedication to the blues, and a blend of a rock/gospel/Americana vibe has continued to be honed. They had a debut EP out several years back but have been on a bit of a sabbatical recently. Suffice it to say - they're back, voluminously-so! Their new album Maybe...Tomorrow comes out Sept 28 (with a party at the Magic Bag). Longtime members Paul Barning (vocals) and Elliott Moses (lead guitar/vocals) are joined by Matt LaPinta on bass/keyboards, Matt Hamann on guitar, Steve Nowicki on percussion and Dylan McCarty (who also produced the new record) on drums.

Joining their release party at the Magic Bag (9/28) are The Black Drops and DUDE. Doors are at 8--click here for more info.



Monday, September 17, 2018

Gold Crayon - 'Please Make Out'

photo by Tim Meeks




Gold Crayon color in the perfectly balanced shades of psychedelia, glam-rock and power-pop on their debut album Please Make Out. The Detroit-based outfit have dropped a handful of singles over the last three years, as well as made sporadic appearances at well-known festivals and the regular rock clubs, but now we have a proper full length out online (and eventually coming on vinyl).

Gold Crayon make the kind of aerodynamic rock tunes that are so sleek, unruffled and collected that you just wanna step out of the way and not muss it up with overly intellectualized adjectives or hyperbole. While their primary influence-stew would ladle you an ultraviolet-glowing dish of T. Rex, The Strokes, and garnishes of Ty Segall and Aladdin-Sane-era Bowie, I'm inclined to liken them to bands like Spoon, Yo La Tengo, or Guided By Voices (have I dropped enough names, here, sheesh...), in that there's something consistent, undeniable, instantaneous, compelling, fowrad-thinking-yet-classic-feeling...about what they do!


The drums can be as big as arena rock, the vocals can be as ethereal as the spaceist-space-ballad, the bass gets to explore some interesting and funky phrases, and the keys/guitars interweave their dazzling jet streams in pretty melodic trajectories. You're picked up with a Krautrock-esque motorik beat on "Green Eyes" and it evokes a sense of ascension/propulsion. "Part of the Scene" brings it down to a foot-stomper of a blues/punk riff for the growly verses only to expand and blossom for a flourishing chorus that lets those vaguely 70's sounding tone from the keys as they curl you through to a bridge; by the time the song ends, it's a full on sludgy rock ballad.

The rhythms go post-punk on "You're A Ghost," with flexed drums fills and the bass kinda pulling everything with it as the guitar knows just where to put the right amount of riffy embellishment and when it should pull back for something more ambient, while the vocals literally sound like they're emanating from someone mid-descent down a swirly slide. (Oh, but I guess they could be mimicking a ghostly wail too...but my simile's a testament to the kinetic nature of their arrangements.)

I know I've been riffing on how they're a "consistent" band that fits into a few quadrants of the rock realm, but they're a refreshing amount of variety on here. "Please Make Out" is a post-rock nocturne with ethereal buzzy bursts from the bass and the drums spreading things out through the verses only to explode on the cymbals through the chorus. It has an ominous feeling that wouldn't have been out of place on Bowie's Blackstar, but that's the last time I'll drop a name. Things brighten up immediately with the "I Need You's" wavy-scaled guitar line supported by yet another intricate tempo formation from the bass and drums. "The Drone" is a perfect closer because it feels intent on getting every last ounce of energy out before a show ends, before a door closes, before a sunsets--there's classic rock 'n' roll everything-or-nothing urgency here. But it's a perfect place to end on the vocals - which, at that point, have proven an ability to just soar with grace and theatricality over each track with dynamic control to wail or whisper, draw taut or tenderly unfurl.

Follow on Facebook for updates on their next show. The album you're hearing was recorded and mixed at Rustbelt Studios by Steve Lehane and mastered by Eric Hoegemeyer at Tree Laboratory (in Brooklyn). Gold Crayon are: Greg Beyer, Michael Krygier, Steve Lehane, Steve Stetson, and Taylor Pierson.

Friday, September 14, 2018

P8TIENCE - Good Karma



Good Karma is packed with hard-earned epiphanies. Detroit rapper P8TIENCE consistently lives up to that name with raps wrung with honest proclamations, sobering realizations and resolute declarations of intention. P8TIENCE pours out the puzzle pieces of his life and puts it all back together 16 bars at a time, distinctly determined to define his own bigger picture and defy any input or influence that could be misleading. Far from being the typical braggadocio that barbs the rhymes of some rappers, P8TIENCE is creating a memoir of achieving poise within a life where peril's always near. What you hear in these affirming and honest lyrics of faith through struggle boils down to fortitude. How else will you earn Good Karma...



It's worth noting that the two lions that sit as statues in front of the New York Public Library have names. One lion is named "Patience." The other...is fortitude. What I hear on this record is fortitude--fortitude and bravery and boldness and bluntness and a resisting of bellicosity or bitterness. His vocal performance and overall passion/energy basically surges off of the recording here, but's all of a piece with a drive to break through any kind of obstacle. That said, there's also a variety to the production, cinematic sounding gospel ballads ("God Forgives"), to bass-heavy club jams ("Wave"), to slower-grooved arrangements swooning with synths, chimes and pianos over cascading basslines ("I Am").

P8TIENCE was signed to Black Market Entertainment by Shady Records alumni Obie Trice in 2012. From there, he got his fotting in the music biz with national and international tours, garnering attention from the press and attuning himself to the work ethic required to build a career in the music industry. He's toured and performed internationally at this point, including trips to Australia, Canada, and then through Europe (with Obie Trice). He's released two beat-jacking mixtapes as well as two proper albums over the last two years. "8-Ball" was released previously but it's appearing here with a collection of comparably harrowing stories on Good Karma. 

Good Karma
Release Party - Sept 21
Bullfrog Bar & Grill
with Miz Korona
Gold Crown JB
Ideeyah
Chavis Chandler
& Pilotlife Ros
MORE INFO

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Betsy Soukup - This Disquiet

Betsy Soukup - This Disquiet - Release Party, Sept 20

Betsy Soukup's music is not immediate. It's something that blossoms and rewards those who can submit themselves to otherwise-unconventional percussive arrangements. What will be instantaneous is the mild bit of bemusement you'll feel when her ethereal voice bends and swoons into high arcing minor keys only to waft down with a suddenness into lower throaty baritones. Her bass can growl, purr, or become a drum. Her tremolos have profound emotional heft. A certain motif might hook your ear, and yet you'll realize you had to dig through two other instrumental layers to fully absorb that distinctive groove. Or, you might come under the spell of a song that's built out of a loop of four notes, craftily threaded into a minimalist melody, to support her enchanting vocals that seem to be addressing you, yes you, with the level of intimacy and intensity palpable in that voice.



You're entering a world, basically, made by someone seeking less-trodden roads of experimentation with musical form. Soukup is a visionary singer, instrumentalist, composer spreading her wings beyond the bounds of freeform jazz, contemporary classical and experimental balladry. Her charms would be opaque, at first, to any ears typically attuned to traditional forms of pop, rock, or jazz - but what's particularly captivating about her new album, This Disquiet, is how much she's able to unleash with alternating patterns on the bass, creating a sense of fullness with rhythms that can be frantic, urgent, languid or waltzing.

Soukup pairs this blend of unique bowing and expressive pizzicato with lyrics of longing, existential contemplation, dream-like diary entries and vulnerable confessions, coiled into poetic phrases billowing into alluring and ethereal melodies. It's an album that rewards the close-listen, those who surrender their otherwise preoccupied minds over to a music that can be literally and figuratively offbeat. There's something as precious and as powerful as an opera pulsating within the measures of this  music--as tranquil and as startling as a dream--and like the autumn--both stark and sublime.

Betsy Soukup
The Disquiet
Album Release Party
Sept 20
with Molly Jones
& Witchpucker
MORE INFO

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Peace to Mateo - Some Strange Reason

...the dream of peace seemed more distant than ever... 





We crave peace of mind. Sure, we'd all want world peace. But peace of mind requires mental gymnastics. But it can be attained at any time, in almost any location (provided the proper headphones), with Some Strange Reason. This is the fourth album by producer/lyricist/composer Matt Black, a.k.a. Peace To Mateo. And while opener "Dream of Peace" may emit a few samples from ghostly-sounding recordings that might suggest world peace..., I'm responding to the calm, or sense of calm, that's brought to me through immersion into arrangements of bass, chimes, subtle beats and saxophones. I believe that Peace To Mateo's blend of trip-hop, cinematic electronica and ambient hip-hop, achieves a higher degree of cerebral harmony than a majority of comparable composers inclined towards manifesting something that sounds "chill..."

These eight songs, especially the enveloping nature of the builds and bridges of "Splash Damage,"evoke both a sense of transport and of tranquility--these songs pull you into amorphous places and ignite active the imagination. And while I mentioned "samples" in the opening track, this album's noteworthy because it's the first batch of wholly-original compositions by Black, written and produced over the course of the last two years, diverting away from the predominantly sample-based assemblages of his previous three releases.

There's audible precision in the production, finding a uniform vibe in the warm, syrupy tones of the bass, guitar and synth elements, as well as the adorning saxophones. The percussive arrangements coolly convey you through the unfurling curtains of sounds, a composite of expressive phrases from each instrument dance in and out, like the steady transition of one thought to the next...And that fosters that quiet contemplation that I was getting at... This music has the power to influence an unflexing of your anxiety muscles--that everyday tension that each of our busy brains seem addicted to, like we can't let ourselves relax.

You could say that to "dream" is to attain a sort of "peace..." But the "dream of peace" is nearer than you could imagine when you give yourself over to music like Some Strange Reason. Peace To Mateo's measured, instrumental pieces contain rhythmic hooks that could suggest the subtlest of dance moves, but for the most part it's a subtle music that encourages activity--not any activity akin to singing along to catchy anthemic choruses or losing your shit to a sick beat... The activity, for me, is all in my mind--through the power of sonic suggestion. It simultaneously stimulates and stills the mind... You could say that instrumental trip-hop doesn't have as much to say as a folk song or a punk song or a rap song--but the conversation that's set off by it is, by design, in the mind of the listener.

More info: Young Heavy Souls

Monday, August 27, 2018

More Thoughts on My Dialogue with Music

I am older, but still young. Young enough. I am old enough, now, to be able to look back. And I'm still having the same conversations.

I can look back and realize that I've kept at something, kept at a vocation, of sorts, for a sizable amount of time. At least, that time is sizable when compared to how long I've been alive.

And I have never felt more alive than when I'm in the varying ecstasies of connecting to a piece of music.

I’m at least old enough now to be able to say that my life has become something; become about something... 

It’s become a series of interpretations. I don’t write to create—I write to interpret creations. I have come to appreciate the virtue or value of this work.

An artist can put themselves, their emotions, their disputations, their hopes, their dreams, their loves, their secrets, their pain, their truths... into a piece, like a song, and it can be forthright and candid and certain..., or it can be abstract—either way, there can still be ten or 50 or 100 other meanings that that music will manifest for each unique listener.

What I have always found to be so beautiful about music is not only its capacity as mood-enhancement, but as a supplement for processing emotion, for harvesting meaning out of our experiences, and as a catalyst for discovery, illumination, and enrichment.

Not all music achieves this. Or, not all music that we listen to is required to is required to achieve this. But that such a profound link can, at least, have the possibility to occur...is enough for me.

From one mind, the artist’s, discerning meaning from their own human experience and emotions, then to their pen, to their page, to their instrument, to their amp, to the studio, to the mixing, and then performed, and recited, and played for the ears of others, absorbed then, into their experience.

Music is here for you to get in touch with something. We are, as we age, locked in...to our job, our routine, our diets, our habits, our hobbies, and we are locked in to our sense of ourselves. Music, as however fleeting a reverie it can be, unlocks that sense of self. New-feeling muscles of compassion and contemplation can be awakened and stimulated.

Imagine a door at the end of a short, darkened hallway, and from behind, at the edges of the doors frame, light emits. The rectangle glows ever brighter. You can see it. You can almost hear it. That light is music—it can be music, or it can be other profound mediums of artistic expression. Can you say for certain that you always open that door, bathe in the light—to the point where you’re listening with your eyes closed?

It has been a rewarding “life” (or at least a chunk of this life, so far) to be someone who not only always opens that door, but wanders far inward, blinded at first, but attaining visibility...clarity, perspective, studying the light source, especially, and the ultraviolet varieties emanating from that source.    

Inspiration, raw inspiration, is channeled and translated into a piece of art—like music—attaining its own kind of luminescence. It’s the artist revealing themselves to you “in a language we all understand.”

It’s been my role, as interpreter, as interviewer, to find and define what might have been left unsaid. That’s the dialogue with music. It’s never a dull conversation.

And you don’t have to worry about what to say next. Listen.

Listen.

I never know how long or how much longer I’ll do this. It’s just that a new light always turns on—a new door can be opened. There’s something different to find, to hear, to think about, in each room.

So I’ll keep listening.


And since you visited and read all this, here's a quick playlist of songs I was listening to as I wrote this


Sunday, August 26, 2018

SLOB



An invigorating new strain of punk has surfaced over the last year and a half with SLOB. Punk, is of course, too reductive to fit most bands, and that's of course the case here: some distinctive qualities are quintessentially unapologetic, raw, confrontational and dissonant, but there is some subtly intricate basslines, nimble guitar phrases and precise percussion, albeit sped to blurring tempos to propel this rollicking war rig through these two minute collision-course songs. A less-eloquent way to put it would be that you feel like you just got your ass kicked after 95 seconds with SLOB.



Valerie Kraft is on drums, coming from the world of SWEAT (ambient metal and heavy rock). Shannon Barnes is on bass (primarily known as the lead singer/songwriter for soul-funk hybrid White Bee). And Taylor Saunders is on guitar/vocals, and when the band completes a song, however brief the seconds, she is breathless with the eyes of disorientation of sudden reentry from some kind of trance. And the magnificent (and almost freaky) thing about that breathlessness is that she's, for the most part, standing still on stage (whilst playing/singing), but what you hear her doing with her voice--able to go from gravelly/demonic, to tuneful/ballady, to deep heavy metal roar--all in one song, makes it feel like she (and you) just ran 12 flights of stairs.

0:53 seconds into "Bleed," the band cruises into a bridge that allows for breathing room and almost sounds like an alt-rock 90's song, slowed down and riffy, with emotional lyrics...until the narrator asks for a place where she can kick, cry,  scream "bitch," and moan as loud as she wants. Suddenly, the pedal is slammed and the song accelerates again until it's as if the gas tank explodes and it's all you can do but jump out of the car.  I don't know where the car metaphor came from--probably because like all great punk/metal bands, SLOB evokes a sense of being in the passenger seat, at the behest of a driver who's eager to find the adventure, the catharsis, the thrill, the defiance...in jerking the wheel one way..., and then the other. You just have to hold on.

SLOB's new EP is out now. You can find it on Spotify.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Shadow Show



The curtain's rising on a cool new band of faces that will be familiar to fans of the Deadly Vipers. Ava East (guitar/vocals), Kate Derringer (bass/keys) and Kerrigan Pearce (drums) just put out their first single as Shadow Show. Their first show is Sept 15 at the Outer Limits Lounge with Krillin and Moonwalks.



The power trio is veering away from the heavier 70's rock/metal trip with the Vipers and heading into a trippy composite of a shoegazey, goth-rock haunted Desert Sessions inclined toward angular post-punk time signatures. What I always loved about what I've heard/seen from this trio in their previous band is that their arrangements always took things to another level...and then another level. Whether descending into darker spells, or just trudging even further into the fibrous fields of hard rock with surplus crescendos and snaky solos--that tactical and propulsive playing style carries over and then evolves with Shadow Show.

A twangy, reverb-splashed guitar ambles its way out of the introduction before its snatched by the talons of that rhythm section and ascending into a barrel roll. The hi-hats frantically pulse over that snare as the bass bends into expressive waves at high speeds; the guitars vary from fluid and expansive, to tautly reared riffs as the vocals continue that evocation of soaring through the verses, with notes so full and fiery they sound like their casting a spell, until they glide into the chorus and the cadence becomes as tight as the guitar hooks.

And after all of that, the song could easily fade away at the four minute mark and call it a day, but like I said, this trio have always found compelling ways to keep the excursion going, turning on a dime there and flying off to starboard to indulge in tones that feel just the right amount of sinister and dark, as the vocals start to sound like a robot, like... a "machine."

Eager to hear what comes next! Shadow Show will be putting out another single in September. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Radio Wire Empire - 'Lilac'



It's been five years since Radio Wire Empire released an album and seven since any of the works of songwriter/sound-creator Matthew Romanski appeared on this blog. In the interim, my ears were drawn to another band involving Romanski, Earth Engine, wherein he facilitates guitar and lead vocals. From 2010-2013, however, this psych-pop/space-jazz project was an industrious enterprise for Romanski, releasing singles, EPs and even a double-album that blended synths and sequenced beats effervescent enough to keep his finespun vocals afloat through evocative aural atmospheres where he would "let the stars bleed down...," so to speak, in his characteristic lyrical style of blending the tangible and the surreal.



With "Lilac," he embodies a smitten spirit poetically calling out to his love, audibly energized by the bliss that's manifested in their time together. Everything is urgent and adventure is everywhere when you feel that kind of love, which is why we launch and soar into such an ebullient chorus ("Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!") That said, everything coalesces into a splendid pop package: the impassioned intonations of his voice through that chorus, the surfy splach from the guitar pickups/pedals, the dreamy curlicues of the synth melodies and coaxing bass, and then that sweet swelling saxophone through the bridge...it's like you want it all to linger for two or three more minutes more...

A full album is on the way! Next Friday, Romanski releases the newest Radio Wire Empire--the first in five years. He's joined by Matthew Beyer (of Ancient Language), John Raleeh and Nik Landstrom (of Earth Engine). Beyer is also in a new band called Holiday Flower, and Romanski's on the drums for that project. With all this intermingling, it's only fitting that the August 31st release party is also the occasion to hear Holiday Flower's new album! Duchess, from Chicago, will be joining the lineup at the Outer Limits Lounge. CLICK HERE for more info.

Next Friday Aug 31 - Radio Wire Empire -with Holiday Flower (Dual Album Release Party)





Wednesday, August 22, 2018

True Blue - Solitary Queen



You can swap 'true blue' with synonyms like genuine, authentic, unvarnished, straightforward, candid... All of those fit this artist, but what's most endearing about her songs is that they're not preoccupied with trying to fit any specific descriptor, no matter how long you shuffle through your rock-music thesaurus. Singer/songwriter Alexandria Berry writes, records and performs under the moniker True Blue - and what I find so refreshing about the EP that she's releasing this Friday is threefold.



First, her songwriting: the propulsive arrangements of her expressive guitar combined with her melodic voice seem to pull everything with it, the bass, the drums, and you the listener. The harmonic progression of "Firestarter" all but lifts you into the air and flourishes around the tailing vibrato of her gliding vocal melody. 

Second, her rhythmic riffs and guitar fills. Berry's voice attains its own mellifluous elegance on songs like "Look What You've Done," but there's always something about it, maybe it's the mid-low intonations she's swooning into through the bridge, just this twinge of something guttral that calls back to a 90's kind of shambolic indie-rock...But I'm getting off topic, because I want to not only emphasize how she's able to sufficiently fill a soundscape with just her guitar playing, but I also want to indicate that their are some sweet, shreddy, psychedellic-sounding guitar solos coming your way (once you hear it...), giving extra luminescence to the bridge of each of the four songs.





And third, I just have to go back to being this pure, unadorned sound--something that is perfect..as is! True Blue. The single streaming above is from March, which doesn't appear on the EP, but nevertheless gives you an effective impression of what to expect on Solitary Queen. When she arcs up into the choruses of "Only If You Want To," she hits the kind of sweet, dulcet, vulnerable yet resolute tones that can make you close your eyes as you bend through them...presuming you've got headphones on and presuming you're listening as intently as I am....True Blue!

Alexandria Berry is a Detroit-based singer/songwriter and her debut EP, as True Blue, comes out this Friday, with a show at the Ghost Light in Hamtramck. 

Also at the Ghost Light, you'll see Fight, Dear Darkness, and Gala Delicious. CLICK HERE for more info.



Monday, August 20, 2018

Jenny & Jackie - Summer


After my first time hearing songs like "Apple Tree" and "Whomi Gonna Be," they wound up stuck in my head for a solid two weeks. Jen David and Jeffrey Thomas are Jenny & Jackie and the duo create effervescent pop songs that may be minimalist in instrumentation but maximize melody and groove. Absolutely a groove--even if their percussive element is a drum machine, there's still an expressive bass inviting you to loosen up and sway. Elements of early 60's rock, late 60's reggae, and 90's lo-fi ambient-pop swoon together on the songs making up their new 12" record, Summer. 



David's saxophone comes in for elegant and fluid accompaniments while Thomas' guitar takes a surfy-toned fender and slows it to a slick saunter, giving each of his notes a lot of space to breath and bend into a twangy vibrato. David's voice is something I encountered almost ten years ago in a beloved but bygone band called Illy Mack--it's got that special kind of subtle power, tuneful but radiant with raw emotion. Thomas takes the lead on songs like "Apple Tree," a lower register than David with a bit of a rasp, but still tuned in to a certain cadence in their vocal melodies that lends itself to complete and utter catchy-ness.

And I mentioned Illy Mack just now, but I could just as easily get nostalgic for Thomas' prior project, the garage-rock trio Gardens. But with Jenny & Jackie, they're moving things forward - distinct from either of their prior musical endeavors and creating not just indelible choruses and buoyant rhythms, but this endearing vibe. I hate to sound new-agey, but they do have a vibe, an aura maybe... And maybe it is that you can sense how in love with each other they are--and how that tenderness can unconsciously weave its way into the DNA of their recorded songs (and attain a luminescence in their live shows). Maybe that's too mushy for you? I still think you're going to love their music.

And even though I've heard some of the songs on Jenny & Jackie's forthcoming album (titled Summer) more than two years ago..., I have to remember that these two have been busy! Busy with life...like the one they're building together as a married couple. Busy as new homeowners! Busy as shop-owners...as the Third Wave Music store has made a cozy home just off the Wayne State campus on 2nd Avenue (in the Forest Arms apartments,) offering not just instruments, but lessons!

Anyway, it's exciting to see them ready to finally release Summer. 

They'll perform this Thursday, Aug 24, at the Outer Limits Lounge. CLICK HERE for more info.

Oh, and this photo?? < This is when Jenny & Jackie came on to the Milo Show to sing "Apple Tree," back in the spring of 2016, (where they effectively used the actual eating of an apple to augment the aural ambiance).