Monday, October 15, 2018

Theatre Bizarre Orchestra & Satori Circus - 'These Are My Friends'



The Theatre Bizarre Orchestra are a lively bunch that shine brightest around this time of year. The masterful ensemble of jazz specialists formed several years ago as the house band for the famous Masquerade that gave them their name, combining their talents in and proclivities toward big-band, swing, and Dixieland with a bit of a mabacre charm. Their latest album was released this past Friday, when they assembled for the astonishingly sleek and sublime Gala party to kick off the Theatre Bizarre festival of performances.



I'm sharing a sample of my personal favorite song, here. These Are My Friends unites the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra with another mainstay of this year's Halloween mega party, the inimitable performance artist (and singer) Satori Circus. The multifaceted Satori came from the worlds of rock, glam, punk and new-wave, but donned some provocative face makeup and several costumes in the 90s and again in the 2000s to transform into a bit of a neo-operatic vaudeville persona. The level of his theatricality fits perfectly with the atmospheric arrangements of TBO. It's a fantastic collaboration that springs from and flourishes out the potential of a previous recording (the title track) and slides into the vim and vigor of curly-swirly new material with a wow and a flutter.

They've chosen a few jazz covers for this album (Sheik of Araby, Let's Misbehave) that perfectly fit the red-eye-winking, slight-mustache-twirling character of the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra - a bit exotic, a bit dreamlike, a bit naughty, but ever eloquent in execution. Toe tappers, hip-shakers, head-swivelers and maybe even a bit of jumping, jiving and basket-whipping dance moves for good measure - this album awakens your fun loving spirit as well as tugging on your heartstrings for a few vocal ballads.

The album is available on CD as well as a digital download through iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. The Theatre Bizarre Orchestra will be back at the Theatre Bizarre Gala for weekend # 2--where you'll also likely encounter Satori!


Friday, October 12, 2018

Undefined: Libby DeCamp & The Deluxe Country Music Band w/DJ Craig Brown - Nov 8 @ Willis

Each month I tell myself I should slow down, take a break... Maybe even put this ol' blog on hiatus.

And yet, next month, things get even busier... I'll be hosting a monthly event at Willis Show Bar.




Undefined
Hosted by ....me
November 8th
Libby DeCamp & The Deluxe Country Music Band
with DJ Craig Brown
at Willis Show Bar

Why "undefined...?" ....Because "defy description" was too clunky and "beyond words" sounded too Hallmark. I have spent nearly 15 of the last years of my life describing music. And I didn't want the artists to be featured in this series of performances to be reduced. They're just words.  When I listen as closely as I do, when I sit down and talk to these artists for as long and as often as I do, I get to hear and learn several nuances about them that defy easy definition. My naive hope is that people can start coming to these Thursday evening performances at Willis Show Bar with an open mind - or just a desire to hear good music! It's undefined.






Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Podcast - Episode 27 - TART

Dig the latest episode of the podcast...hosted by Jeff Milo & Chad Stocker. This week's guest is guitarist Adam Padden of TART. 
https://www.facebook.com/tartband/




Interview with Extra Arms - Releasing Headacher Sat 13th @ Celllarmen's

photo by Jared Lew

This is from an article that appears in this week's Metro Times
Ryan Allen says that the idea of “Extra Arms” was that “…it was never ‘a band…,’ until it became a band.”
Sometime last year, the local singer/guitarist (and power-pop stalwart) shortened the band formerly ID’ed as “Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms.” What had once been a true solo project had transformed into the typical conception of a “band.” It was no longer a small revolving cast of live contributors around Allen’s first three batch of jangly indie-rock albums, but steadied, now, by permanent members: Sean Sommer on drums, Michael Gallacher on guitar, and Ryan Marshall on bass. Allen sketched out the lyrics and skeletons of the newest songs captured on the forthcoming LP Headacher (via Get Party Records) with each new member adding their own proverbial musical two cents.
“If you ask for my input,” Gallacher assures, “then I’m always going to default to bigger, louder music.” Headacher’s noticeable distinction is the sharper edges, its louder dynamics, its more aggressive riffs, and punchier drums. The vocals have more of a snarl and the lyrical substance moves from the personal to more of the political and ponderous. “I’m always going to default to bombastic shit,” Gallacher continued, looking back on the songs’ formation. “But I’m still down to play some sweet, softer ballads.”
“Our practice is the loudest band practice I’ve ever been part of,” said Marshall, one-half of local shoegaze duo Palaces. “I’ve typically never worn ear plugs, but after my first few practices (with Extra Arms) I was getting sick to my stomach an hour in, and didn’t realize it was just from the loudness. Every member’s kinda playing on 10 at all times.”
But Gallacher and Marshall both praise Allen’s efficient process. “(Allen)’s definitely prolific and when we rehearse—there’s no ‘jamming,’” said Marshall. “His music is cohesive” and “has a super-clear vision.” 
While each member has been playing music all their respective lives and tenured with previous bands, Allen’s been front (and mostly center) with bands that attained a high profile locally (and even made snagged the praise of national tastemakers like Pitchfork) like Thunderbirds Are Now, Friendly Foes, and Destroy This Place.
Destroy This Place still plans to churn out vigorous hybrids of indie/punk/metal, but Friendly Foes disbanded and Thunderbirds Are Now are essentially dormant. So ExtraArms, from 2014-2017, served as Allen’s outlet for something he’d never tried before: the memoir-esque, heart-on-the-sleeve musical blueprint of a solo singer/songwriter, albeit in the vein of the ruffled-up, post-hardcore troubadors like Ted Leo, Mac McCaughan or Bob Mould. It’s a new phase entirely now – Extra Arms is a band with a capital B. 
“My goal was to write a song that might be personal to me, but that the other guys could find at least something in it that they related to,” said Allen. “There are songs about addiction, or about how people don’t care as much about music, or just considering how fucked up the world is right now. I feel motivated to write these kind of songs, now, for our generation as we’re all going through this…” …at a point in our lives where “…we’re not old, we’re not young, but we’re in this limbo period.”
On that note, Allen’s been around the scene long enough (Thunderbirds formed in 2002) that we can call him a “fixture” or a “mainstay,” but he’s still too young, just yet, to indulge that loftier, age-suggestive ranking of “veteran.”  The weird thing about aging as a musician is “that in other vocations, the older you get—the better you get,” said Allen. “Yet there’s this notion that the older (musicians) get, the softer they get, or lamer, or shittier, but I don’t feel that way at all. I feel this is the best record I’ve been a part of. You just keep doing it, you figure out what you like and you hone that and then surround yourself with people who can challenge you and make you better.”
“I keep waiting to feel ‘embarrassed’ that I’m ‘in a band…,’” said Gallacher. “We’re part of a weird contingent of people that ‘still do this stuff.’ I’m waiting to feel like I’m over (playing music) but I never am. When you get older, if you’re not making a better record—than you’re not doing your job.”
Sommer said he also grapples with this, but he draws a more nuanced motivation than Gallacher or Marshall might, since he’s been the closest and most consistent collaborator of Allen’s these past few years. (Sommer was in Friendly Foes and is in Destroy This Place). “One reason I continue to want to be in a band and work with (Allen) is that it’s always just really good. The second we got bad I’d let (the band) know (that) we suck and we gotta stop. We all have a good internal gauge for that.”
Sommer than tosses a jibe over to Allen: “…we’re never afraid to tell you something sucks.” After a knowing grin recedes, Allen says “…and that’s the reason the record sounds the way it sounds! It’s a result of all four of us coming together! When I work on songs, I’m still alone at the beginning with melody and lyrics, but I’m now thinking of these guys and what each of them can do with their parts.”
One constant Headacher keeps with previous Extra Arms records are ruminative lyrics referencing the unique experience of being part of a band. “It’s fun to be in a band,” said Allen. “It’s also fun to make your own records, too. But when you’re working in a vacuum or a bubble, you don’t have anyone to give you direction. And (they) give me that direction, I can see where (a song) can go, knowing that these other guys are helping me get there.”
Extra Arms Release Party
with Touch The Clouds & Reuther
This Saturday, Oct 13th //  Cellarmen’s // 24310 John R. Road // 586-413-4206 // $5
extraarms.bandcamp.com

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Willis Show Bar's La Femme (Featuring Scarlet Lies & Kate Hinote)

photo by Sean Patrick

“We want (women’s) voices and their art to be heard,” said Willa Rae Adamo. The local singer/songwriter said she’s always prioritized efforts to expand representation on local stages. “That’s not always going to naturally happen as much for women in our society, or for people of color, or queer folks.” Adamo leads the gothic baroque-rock outfit The Minor Arcana, but her day job (or night job) has been booking shows for venues like the newly refurbished/reopened Willis Show Bar in the Cass Corridor.

Over the summer and continuing into the Autumn, Adamo and Willis Show Bar co-owner Sean Patrick have curated exceptional showcases for women artists. The La Femme music series features solo singer/songwriters or metro area bands led by women.

Making sure those voices are heard has been a theme throughout Adamo’s work in the Detroit music scene. Patrick, meanwhile, is part of a group of L.A.-based bar/restaurant-owners with lots of experience in the hospitality business; they partnered with Dave Kwiatkowski (of the Sugar House) and started to reenergize the classy space at Third & Willis late last year. The Willis doors reopened in the Spring. 

While their weekly programming includes jazz and live burlesque performers, Patrick and Adamo’s La Femme series can tap into talented women from all genres, including the cinematic and gothic-Americana vibes of singer/songwriter Kate Hinote, and the glam-rock/power-pop of Scarlet Lies (led by singer Tamara Marla Laflin).

Click here for info on the next La Femme show






La Femme kicked off May 23rd and has been featuring shining performances from top tier local talents like Musiquie Noire (led by Michelle May) and jazz balladeer Nicole New. Adamo performed her own sets of stripped down jazz-style ballads on July 18. Previously featured artists include Ann Arbor based neo-soul singer Dani Darling, jazz vocalist Hannah Baiardi and then, tonight (Oct 10), they'll feature Motown-inspired ensemble Virginia Violet &The Rays.

The mission of La Femme is to not only feature artists like Laflin (of Scarlet Lies) or Hinote (lead singer of The Blueflowers), but to also have a cohost each night, expanding the spotlight to include a female business owner.  “I’ve had a lot of friends from L.A. tell me, in conversation, that they’re seeing some really badass women getting it done here in Detroit,” Patrick said. “I mean, we’ve got Jackie (Victor) of Avalon Bakery, Rachel (Lutz) from the Peacock Room, and even just the last time we were at the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard, there were eight pop-ups there, seven of which were run by women.” 

Patrick said he had the idea and intention for a female-focused showcase of local musicians “since before (Willis) even opened.” Similar to Adamo, much of his life’s endeavors have involved allying with activist and advocacy efforts for inclusion and equality. “I know women haven’t been equally represented within the nightlife and entertainment industries, so it was important for me to see (La Femme) be part of our structure. And while it was my idea and I’m still involved, I’m now pulling back a bit to allow it space to grow and be driven by the female staff, artists and cohosts.”

“Even if women are the ones up front, like we have so many female pop stars, it’s still always typically been men who have been pulling the strings,” said Adamo. “But that’s changing here in Detroit. We have women behind the scenes, we have Virginia (Benson) at Party Store Productions booking these amazing shows, we have Augusta (Rose from Double Winter) with her (NeueHaus Detroit) booking agency. And that’s really important, because that’s really where a lot of the decisions are made—behind the scenes!”

Scarlet Lies photo by Erin Brott Holtzman
“I think it’s magnificent that Willis is spotlighting female artists,” said Laflin. “Probably every woman (in the music scene) can attest that bills are often loaded with male artists, while we find ourselves almost a novelty to many people when we take the stages. It’s not unusual for Noel (Marie-Rivard, drummer of Scarlet Lies) and I to be the only women performing at a given show—and it’s certainly not uncommon for people to comment on that fact. Noel and I have been in bands for several years and had many sexist encounters. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard ‘…you play (insert instrument) really well for a girl!’ It’s like, no! I just play it well! Period!”

Laflin said that, nevertheless, she’s encouraged by the support and camaraderie she’s found with other women in the local music scene—and La Femme, she said, is a great extension of that. Scarlet Lies, meanwhile, are in the studio working on their sophomore album. The Blueflowers (which features the voice and lyrics of Hinote), just wrapped up their next album and are planning to release it in November.

Kate Hinote / The Blueflowers
Hinote is a veteran singer/songwriter with a showstopping voice—she’ll be at Willis next Wednesday, along with a unique acoustic set by Scarlet Lies. Hinote also leads a trio known as The Disasters, and she often appraises her anecdotes of encountering blockheaded behavior from condescending males as just that: brief disasters to laugh at later. “Those incidents are aggravating in the moment, but I refuse to give my time or energy to that because I know what I’m offering, and people will either like it or not, regardless of my ladyness. That said, I’m most certainly grateful for this special opportunity to share space and time with fellow women bosses and perform for the people who support us.”



La Femme is an antidote to some ugly encounters that Laflin can recall--and these anecdotes will likely be familiar to fellow women artists... "...Once," said Laflin, "a male television host was interviewing Noel and I and essentially asked us how we were able to be musicians AND have a vagina. It was cringeworthy. It was so bad that the producers decided to just cut the segment entirely. I remember feeling really weird about the whole situation, but I was glad to have Noel by my side. She basically did most of the talking during that interview, and she’s very intelligent and can be a little intimidating. I think the host could just feel the hole he was digging getting deeper and deeper the more he spoke."

But Laflin says not to get her wrong--because the good encounters definitely out weigh the bad. "One of the most encouraging things that I find is the support that female musicians have for one another. More and more female artists are seeking out other female artists to fill out the bills they’re on, and Willa who put together our La Femme night bill is the perfect example of that."

The Bearded Lady Barber & Beauty Shop will be cohosting next Wednesday (10/17), and DJ Nouveau will be spinning between sets.

Meanwhile, Adamo and Patrick said they look forward to continuing to spotlight talented women—not just singers, but also DJs, as well as members from the local business community.

La Femme
Featuring Scarlet Lies & Kate Hinote
Wed., Oct 17
7pm
Willis Show Bar
4156 Third Ave., Detroit
$5
313-788-7469
For more information, follow the Willis Show Bar on Facebook or check in to their main site.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Vazum - "Eyes Out"

Vazum
photo by Colleen Conroy

You've likely seen Zach Pliska in the background of stages at several local rock shows. With Vazum, he steps out front as the main songwriter/vocalist and guitarist. He released a debut EP in the late winter of this year as a solo-project (with Zach Shipps recording), but now with Void, Vazum becomes a quaret, with Michael O'Connor on bass, Zachary Anderson on guitar, and Jake Woods on drums. Pliska's vocals, and his intense and precise drumming propel this lead single, "Eyes Out."



You can feel the energy on this track--as it was recorded live with his two collaborators. It digs into the angst, yearning and catharsis of post-grunge, Industrial, and an energetic strain of metal, and layers on the fuzz of shoegaze and ambient psychedlia. Maybe, considering its tempo as well as its decorous aesthetic, I'd say it fuses punk and shoegaze. But the album's lyrics touch on infatuation, rejection, and obsession, and distil those emotions into the kinetic energy of the drums and vocals, with frenetic bass and dazzlingly gnarly guitars.

Void, just like the previous EP, will be independently released by Pliska and the band--they're playing a release show on November 17th at Small's Bar.  For more info, follow Vazum on Facebook, and check out previous tunes via Bandcamp.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Drinkard Sisters' 'Enough Already' (Interview)

Drinkard Sisters - 'Enough Already' (on Tool & Die Records)

The thing about harmonizing is that it has a hint of the supernatural. Or that it might sound like a séance put to melody. I’m not saying it’s spooky—I’m saying it’s powerful! I’m saying it’s elemental! I’m saying that when the Drinkard Sisters perform, or if you’re even just listening to their songs via cassette—a luminescence manifests in whatever room you’re in…because fusing their two voices allows for an organic expansion and elevation of what was already a poignant arrangement. They have a new album out on Oct 12th—and it starts the conversation about exploring and utilizing genres beyond folk/bluegrass/roots as well as their potential for telepathic communication.

I first saw the Drinkard Sisters several years ago. The dynamics of their voices—this control of a tender, breathy lilt into a full-hearted flutter, the ability to create formidable ambiance with the minimalism of just their two voices—it was already there! 

I’m going to get into this later with their Q&A, so I’m not bashful or hesitant to say that their songs were like three-minute tickets to a happy place. These were affable, toe-tapping tunes to sway to, to swoon to, to smile upon crescendo…Or it was like I felt a burden lifted, some kind of burden, or that a general woe was diminished. I think that’s the true power of harmonization—a musical embodiment of an assurance that you’re never alone. Even you, listener, will have someone who can sing a similar life-song…but not with an empathy of limited dimensions but more of a restorative boost that gives you new buoyancy.

“…take me from this crowded street / in any direction / so I can hear your sweet voice when you / tell me / tell me a story / I long to be / caught inside the pretty whir of your mind…” This is from the title track, which you’ll be able to hear in a week, when they celebrate the new album Enough Already at the Outer LimitsLounge. That’s a powerful track about

Before I go on, I should say that The Drinkard Sisters are Caitlin and Bonnie. As a duo, they’ve been writing, performing and recording music over the last decade together around the local music scene—they’ve been sisters, of course, all their lives. Online, they’ve had singles, EPs, and even a delightful Christmas album. They also spent a good chunck of the last two years as part of the Craig Brown Band, singing on his album, hitting the road, and playing some seriously high profile venues.

But… their new album, Enough Already, essentially feels like a proper debut. Almost two years ago, they added Nick Landstrom on drums, Ryan Harroun on bass and Dan Clark on guitar—and that’s the ensemble you’ll hear on this album, recorded by Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive.
Let’s take a listen, and get in to some Q&A.




Let’s start with how a lot of these songs start to subtly steer away from impressions that listeners might have developed about you... that it was Folk/Americana/Roots-etc…. I just love how some of these tunes sound like weird rock or psychedelic or noisy! That's not a question, but maybe you could talk about what that was like to explore that and where you might go from here?
Caitlin: ...we became a rock band!! Playing with the band pushed us to play louder, sing louder, which is really fun. Who knew…?... deep down we love to rock! I love playing with this band so much. Warren's cache of fuzz pedals definitely added to the vibe on the record; when he would say ‘…what if we did this weird thing here…?’ … we were like YEAH MORE SPACESHIP SOUNDS! The new songs we have been working on are rockers; I think singing in the Craig Brown Band this long rubbed off on us.
Bonnie:


Majority of siblings don't grow up performing and writing music together. Usually it's sports or video games or whatever... What's it like to have grown up bonding over music? Do you think anything about it made it a unique coming-of-age experience compared to me & my brother and our video games? Are you able to attain a whole other level of kinship/communication when you harmonize your voices together so intensely?
     Caitlin: We grew up in a house full of music. Early on we both loved whatever my parents put on whether it was Motown or CCR or Amy Grant or you know, like Mannheim Steamroller. Did a lot of interpretive dancing to Mannheim Steamroller. So the early formative stuff was all shared and we still dig a lot of it. Once we were old enough to buy our own music, Bonnie was always more into pop music: I remember her being into ABBA, Belle & Sebastian, and The Seekers when she was in high school and I've always leaned more into folk and country. We didn't start really making music together until we were in our 20s and making music together allowed us to find out where all that stuff overlaps. I think that's why we aren't really a straight folk-country band or psychedelic-pop band, the magic is in the synthesis. 
           Bonnie: For most of our lives my sister and I have listened to different types of music. I've always been drawn to disco and pop where my sister prefers more acoustic, singer songwriter music. I find melody and beat more important where she focuses more on lyrics. But it's these differences that I think sets our sound apart. Singing together as often as we do has definitely enhanced our weird sibling wavelength. I've noticed we often say the same thing at the same time using the same inflection more often than ever before!



               Caitlin: And…we do have a fairly weird level of telepathic communication when we sing together, especially when working out harmonies for the first time on a song. Neither of us have any formal music education so we rely mostly on ESP and kind of staring at each other and pointing in the air at imaginary notes. Working out harmonies together is the most fun part of the process for me.   
 


Can you talk about the trio of instrumentalists who joined the band a little while ago?
     Caitlin:
Damn, it’s almost been two years! Mittenfest-2017, on New Year’s Day was our first gig with the band. Thought it would be a one-off thing, but it was so much fun that we could not stop! The lineup has changed a little since then. Dan Clark played guitar on this record and played with us for the first year; he's a long time friend of ours and helped push the songs into more of a psych-rock territory. Nick Landstrom has played the drums since day one and is one of the most talented and versatile musicians I know in Detroit. Ryan Harroun plays bass and is a really intuitive player, he really helps us find the groove, find where the song feels good, find the magic. This summer we played a show with the scrappers at the lager house and we were down a guitar player at that point and somehow convinced Warren Defever and Pete Ballard to play the rest of our summer shows with us. I admire them both so much. Warren produced the record and played guitar and organ on it. Pete plays pedal steel on the record. They make the songs sound bigger and better than ever. This is my total dream band.



Can you talk about how you work together -when it comes to working out a song? And what you appreciate about each player and what they bring to your songs?

     Bonnie: My sister and I rarely write songs together. Usually we'll help each other out if the other gets stuck somewhere but that's about it! When we bring it to band practice, we jam on it for a bit until the song starts having a unique shape. Ryan Harroun has a way of coming up with the grooviest, breeziest baselines and Nick Landstrom, our drummer, is so talented and always whips up the most perfectly complicated beats that give our songs so much flavor. We are so damn lucky to have welcomed Pete Ballard and Warren Defever into Drinkard Sisters this past summer. What Warren plays on guitar adds so much power to our songs, that's really the best way I can describe it. I've never closed my eyes during a set as much as I have since Pete Ballard joined the band. The sound of the pedal steel really elevates the songs and adds so much color and passion to our songs. I feel so blessed to be making music with these incredibly talented, quality humans. 



Speaking of Defever, what did you appreciate most, or find most interesting about working with him? 
     Bonnie: I still can't believe HE wanted to join OUR band! He is a wizard. I'm not kidding. 
          Caitlin:
Warren has been a big supporter of our music. He invited our first band, Golden, to open for His Name Is Alive at the Magic Stick in 2011, which was the biggest show we'd ever played. We had never done any professional recording before we worked with Warren so we were pretty nervous. We recorded the Craig Brown Band album at his studio about six months before we made this one so we knew what we were in for. He's an amazing musician, a very patient and encouraging producer., a great person to have in your corner. I love working with Warren because he's really smart and funny, though I can almost never tell if he's joking or not… But most importantly he gets what we are trying to do even when we don't know how to communicate it.



I want to talk about what seems to be a direction towards creating songs that can soothe, or brighten, or have just a tenderness to them… What school of thought do you subscribe to when it comes to ‘the power’ of music… If punks wanna tear down the system, or folkies wanna send a message of love, or metal heads wanna implode with loud catharsis…what have YOU been drawn to, most of all, when you recall your fondest memories of music?
Caitlin: It's true, we aim to soothe... When I write songs, I'm not writing them to make other people feel better, I’m generally writing them to make myself feel better. Bonnie and I have both done a lot of healing work in the last seven years. We lost a family member to murder in 2011 and we spent six months living in the house where it happened and went through a lot of darkness and pain and when we finally came out on the other side of it, I suppose we wanted to share what we had figured out, which was that you never really figure it out. Nobody does. And that's the most beautiful and freeing thing in the world. 
          Bonnie: I think we definitely have the intention of sending a message of love and kindness through our music. ...getting through (2011) was obviously life changing for both of us. It taught us the same lessons, which is why our music is cathartic in a way.
               Caitlin: A lot of the songs I write are about just getting outside the little boxes we create for ourselves, in our own minds and lives that keep us from being fully alive. Jonathan Richman is a performer who makes every single person in whatever room he's singing in feel better about everything, without being cheesy or overly inspirational. I've never seen a room of typically disgruntled/hard to impress adults become so perceptibly uplifted by a performer. I want to spread that kind of feeling.

Click here for more info on the release party at Outer Limits Lounge

Tool & Die Records

Drinkard Sisters
https://www.facebook.com/drinkardsisters/

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Double Winter's New Singles



There's always been a haunted vibe to Double Winter's first batch of tunes, like a sort of spell was being cast. The title of their debut EP Watching Eye might suggest a draw from the Tarot deck, but it's involves an augmentation of your own sense of self, in a way, as it refers to a psychological effect upon how you act differently when you're not in the sanctuary of privacy.  In this way, the spell is more like the unspoken thoughts that continue to swirl in your head... "You really WANT to..., but you're SCARED!"
....and the music, then, manifests that angst, beautifully. Minor keys, frenetic rhythms, spectral ambient violin saws, enchanting vocals, nimble and nervy guitar flourishes... "...you wouldn't DARE!"




Double Winter are Holly Johnson, Augusta Morrison, Morgan McPeak and Vittorio Vettraino. The flipside to their new 7" single, "Fall On Your Face," appeared as a slower, murkier demo back in late 2015. They've since been honing their sound into a sleek and agile miscellany of progressive post-punk...and it's perfect for accentuating the beautiful-eeriness awaiting in any gray autumn day or late night where the moon's glow burns through leaf-depleted branches.

Double Winter are releasing this new 7" on Crystal Palace Records
Don't miss their show, tonight, at the Marble Bar....

....but if you do (miss it), they'll be helping to celebrate the reopening of UFO Factory - Fri, Oct 27

Read more, via Metro Times....

Friday, September 28, 2018

Jack & The Bear - Gruesome Gruesome



The only thing I might love more than Halloween are the folks who love Halloween more than I already do......The freaky, fun-loving folks who preternaturally channel the spirit of the season, the theatricality of this end-of-harvest-holiday, the slimy-grimy kitsch, the eerie-foggy growls, the yowling-howling, cool-rambunctious, stylishly flamboyant essence of it all...

To tell you the truth, I knew Jack & The Bear could make a killer Halloween record long before they decided, this month, to indulge this specific thematic pageant. And before I share anything more, let's go ahead and listen to the first song from their Halloween EP, Gruesome Gruesome. 




Jack & The Bear are so possessed by Halloween on these five songs that it's hard not to get a contact-trance. But the reason they wear the mummy-bandages and vampire-capes so naturally is that it's almost akin to sliding down a hallway to an adjacent room for them...stylistically speaking. Their first two albums have been distinctly heavy on character, ambiance, and implicitly folklore-ish feeling tones--both instrumentally and lyrically. It sort of felt you were always a song or two away from a Halloween party, already.

Imagine Deer Tick, Tom Waits, Beirut, Nick Cave and The Cramps falling into a cauldron together and bring it to a boil and Jack & The Bear will be the stew that it simmers down into...Baroque-feeling arrangements that combine stand-up bass with pianos, trombones, banjos and factor in positively overactive imaginations (inside the heads of the two brothers leading the writing and recording process)--imaginations already inclined toward a sort of Edward Gorey-esque aesthetic of the surreal and the twee and the eerie and the eccentric--and you've got a band that's refreshingly game, by design, for being adventurous in their music and taking the risk to be...dramatic and different! Differently dramatic! Dramatically different! 

Now, that's my ear's summation of Jack & The Bear in a nutshell--but it's to prove my point that their donning of Halloween costumes is effortlessly natural. Yes, they do tap into some of the classic tropes of ghostly moans and other ambient sounds from bubbling laboratories, as well as layering on all the candied reverb that was signature to the boom-days of novelty Halloween records from '58-'63--but the majority of each song feels like another chapter in Jack & The Bear's inherently whimsical journey. It's whimsical, but also perilous..., it makes a stop near a haunted house or has to scurry past a graveyard, but the soul of these songs still feels like the J& B you've come to know on previous records...  


We'll all wear costumes this year--but Halloween is always in the heart of Jack & The Bear. And I love that. 

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.