Friday, October 27, 2017

On SCF, Kristine


I first met Kristine when she put me in touch with the late Scott Miller, as she is his wife, for an an interview with him in 2011 for Music:What Happened, his book of music criticism.





When Scott passed away in 2013, I and every other Scott fan reached out to her, and she to us. Out of shared grief there was a real community, one I’m proud to belong to.

I am also very happy that she accepted my request for an interview about "SuperCaliFragile," the posthumous Game Theory album Scott was working on at the time of his death. Her answers are below.


Andrea Weiss: I love the title of the album. Where did Scott come up with it?

Kristine Chambers: The title is very Scott-like, isn't it? Certainly he pulled it from the term "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from the movie "Mary Poppins," which he likely watched as a boy and definitely watched with our two daughters here at home.  Most people know he was always interested in words and their root meanings, and that he liked to use language in creative ways.

Once I had a foot injury and had trouble releasing the car's parking brake after he would drive it, because he used to push it down so far with his foot.  It took a lot of pressure to push it further to release it. I asked him if he could be careful of this for me. We came home one day in the car and as he applied the parking brake on the incline of our driveway he said sweetly, "I'm just going to pussyfoot the brake..." as he gently pushed it with his foot just enough to hold the car in place, and easy enough for me to release it the next day. It was a completely new and unique use of the term "pussyfoot," and it made perfect comical sense. He likely heard the first part "super-cali-fragil" as a description of some state of being he could relate to on some level. He did a few times over-enunciate the "e" he put on the end to sound like the father in "A Christmas Story," who misreads the English word "FRAGILE" as "Fra-gee-lay" and says, "It must be Italian!" Scott referencing that movie was always funny.

I suspect as Scott was in his 50s he was beginning to feel his own mortality as well as the fragility of human life in general. Perhaps the reference to "California" easily drawn from "calif" and the qualifier "super" made "Supercalifragile" such a perfect title. These were the concepts, along with an idea to include some code representing fragility, that I discussed with B.J. West, in the hopes that B.J. would design an album cover as amazing as he did.


AW: Scott never lost it, vocally, lyrically, or his guitar playing. Was he worried that he might have?

KC: I don't think Scott was worried his talent had wavered vocally, lyrically, or by his guitar playing. I know he was critical of his vocal performances, but he was also appreciative of the many that I did point out to him as being very strong in my opinion for whatever reasons. He was set on making sure he developed those strengths more and more. About a week or two before he died, Scott and I went out to dinner and while we were talking about the record he asked me if I would listen to all his vocal performances to make sure they were as good as I thought they could be. Of course I said I would. He mainly seemed to value my opinion as a thoughtful and discerning listener, and I appreciated the chance to be involved however I could help.

After Scott died, the late Gil Ray told me that Scott was a little nervous to play him some demos of the songs slated for this album. Apparently Scott said something like, "You probably won't like them; they're probably not that good." But again, I don't think that was so much a worry Scott had about losing his ability to write songs. I think it was just a bit of insecurity stemming from a desire to please. It had certainly been years since Gil drummed for Game Theory. Even The Loud Family days, where Gil had joined again as drummer, had long passed. Gil had continued to grow as a musical artist, releasing his own solo album, "I Am Atomic Man." He even wrote Scott a song in honor of Scott's 50th birthday. Gil and Scott were great friends and exchanged suggestions for new music to check out. Since it had been 13 years since the last Loud Family album and 7 years since the Loud Family and Anton Barbeau record, I think Scott was just hoping his songs seemed as good to Gil at that later date as they had when they were playing and touring together years earlier. I got the sense that Scott was just hoping he still impressed his good friend Gil, whose opinions he greatly admired.

As for his guitar playing, I know he was proud of it. He would have to practice to work back up to being able to play an entire set on the 12-string if he wanted, but that was normal and he'd done it so many times. About two months before he died, I was confiding in Scott about some things that were bringing me down. He was supportive, and I told him I was going to get ready for bed. I went into the bathroom attached to our bedroom and closed the door. Just as I was finishing brushing my teeth, I heard Scott playing Tom Petty's "American Girl" on the 12-string. I could tell he was sitting on the trunk in front of our bed and facing the bathroom door. He knew "American Girl" was my favorite song, and he was a Tom Petty fan, too. He must have been practicing this song on various occasions when I wasn't home, and knowing I was a bit "glum," as he would put it, decided it was a good time to play it in an effort to cheer me up. I stopped brushing my teeth and stared at the closed bathroom door listening. I didn't dare open the door, because I would miss some of his playing, and I didn't want to disturb the vibe or something. He played and sang the entire song. It was amazing and wonderful. When he was done, I opened the door, looked at him sitting on that trunk, and smiled. Before I could say anything, he grinned and said proudly, "And I even played the entire guitar solo!" Yes, he did!


AW: How did Ken Stringfellow assemble the musicians? Was it just as much people asking to be included as Ken reaching out to them?

KC: After Scott died, I immediately clung to this record.  I knew Scott wanted to do it. I knew which ideas he had for it that excited him and which alternatives stressed him out or made him feel a loss of control over the process. Since it was still so close and it was all I could hang onto and attempt to keep or at least not lose with him, I almost immediately began asking a few of the artists if they would be interested in participating. This was partly due to the fact that Scott and I already had tickets to see Peter Buck in May of 2013, only a month after Scott died. We had tickets to see Robyn Hitchcock, too, but I couldn't get to that show, and as far as I knew Scott had not contacted him about "Supercalifragile." I took my friend Leslie with me to see Peter Buck, knowing Scott had already asked him if he'd play mandolin on the record. I had met him before, and he was very sensitive talking to me, due to Scott's very recent passing. When I brought up the possibility of finishing Scott's record because I had material, and I knew many of Scott's hopes and plans for the record, Peter said yes. He said Scott had contacted him and he had told Scott he'd be happy to play on the record. He told me to let him know whatever I needed.

I then spoke to Aimee Mann, who was also considerably supportive and more than willing to help with all of her resources. I had found in Scott's music files a version of "No Love" that the two of them were working on together. I did not know Scott had a completed demo of the song with him singing. I don't think Aimee knew the song was that far along either. Then I spoke to Ken Stringfellow. I said something like, "Remember when Scott was talking to you about helping him produce a new record? Let me tell you what I've got..."

After talking to Ken about Aimee and Peter and discussing in detail with him all of the music, notes, lyrics, track listings, and sound files I had which made up the songs in various forms of completion, Ken said he thought the record could be done. I organized all of Scott's handwritten notes, lyrics, and sound memos by song title with accompanying spreadsheets. Ken and I discussed the musicians in Scott's world, to see who we might bring on board. I knew of a few very specific people Scott wanted to perform, and in which capacities. Ken and I worked together to contact people, but other than Scott's specific requests, it was ultimately Ken's decision who would perform on the record and where their contributions would work best. I did request Ken, who has a daughter himself, finish Scott's songs for our daughters. A couple of artists who admired Scott or had worked with him before did contact Ken with generous offers and were able to contribute. Some others that were hoping to participate ended up unavailable due to various logistical reasons. That was unfortunate, but I could not be more pleased with the artists on board who generously donated their time, talents, and often their own recording studios. I am grateful to all of them for making this amazing record possible.

AW: With those who sang lead, other than Scott, or co-wrote a song, how did they approach the subject?

KC: That was really up to each individual artist. For each song, Ken or I gave the artists Scott's sound files or demos, his lyrics, and his notes on the lyrics or various parts of the songs, like ideas for bridges or riffs, etc., and let the artists continue to collaborate with Scott without Scott's further input. I think that was a unique process to each artist. Of course I deferred to Ken to handle the musical and recording questions and to give the artists any information they might need as to how the album might be taking shape sonically. I think the artists all knew Scott and/or his music in their own way and took their connections to him and his music as starting points for their collaborations.

AW: Were you worried that people would misinterpret the lyrics, with “Oh, Death” as an example?

KC: No, not at all. The track listing for this record does sound a bit dark here and there, but as one fan pointed out there are also themes of love and hope playing throughout the record. When I met Scott in 1996, I had only really heard "Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things" by The Loud Family. I had gone out looking for Game Theory and Loud Family records after a friend of mine played me Game Theory's "Lolita Nation" and "Plants and Birds" was the record I found in my local Tower Records Store. Then I was fortunate enough to meet Scott in the summer of 1996 as a new fan of his music. While we were dating, there was no easy way to search lyrics to songs online. I did listen to Scott's entire catalogue when he wasn't around (because naturally, he didn't feel comfortable having me play his music with him in the room!). I got a sense of the darker lyrics from careful listening, but most artists are self-reflective, and I myself had written and choreographed creative things based on darker thoughts. But Scott's music didn't really come across as dark to me. Many of his songs came across as upbeat by the quicker tempos and the catchy choruses and lyric couplets, like "Bad Year at U.C.L.A."  Or at least that's how they always seemed to me. And other songs had such beauty to them that the overwhelming messages I got were not of hopelessness, but of persevering through hard times and coming out on the other side relatively okay once again, like "Regenisraen." The songs he wrote seemed a sort of recollection of a trying time from a later perspective of resignation and healing. I always felt his music was very honest in that way. And spending time with him, he just wasn't a depressing person to be around. He had great survival skills and usually a very rational way of looking at life, often with a bit of humor. He didn't repeat himself much, but he did on several occasions say, "Not everything is bad news" as a way to be supportive about something not going as planned for me or for our daughters. There were certainly many times when Scott kept things to himself. He would be quiet as if not to trouble anyone with his thoughts. You couldn't get him to talk about them, and if you tried he'd often feel a bit attacked and would become more guarded and defensive. It seems his music was his outlet for his feelings and darker thoughts. But they were his to express however he wanted to.

I also know that Scott felt that once his songs were presented to the public they sort of belonged to the fans in some sense. It didn't really matter how the fans interpreted them. And I understood this due to my own experiences in dance with choreography. If you move people in some way or get them to think about something, your work is a success. What they get from it or take from it doesn't really matter. If it's what you were communicating, that's certainly great, but it's not necessary to make your work valid.

When I first heard Scott working on "Oh, Death," I was at home doing household chores in the kitchen. He was in the living room playing the guitar. When he stopped I asked, "Which song is that?" He said, "It's a new one I'm writing." I said, "It's the best one; what's it called?" He said, "Oh, Death." I said, "Oh...well, that's interesting, What inspired it?" He said, "Your heart surgery and Valerie's seizure." Many of those lines of lyrics are exactly as he wrote them, inspired by the four days inside the hospital getting the diagnosis of my bacterial endocarditis. I don't recall him being late or chided, so I'm not sure what inspired those lines, but about the first half of the song is exactly as Scott had left it. When Ted Leo was asked to finish the song, he was given the available lyrics and sound files for the chorus, verses, etc. He finished writing the song by using what Scott had left, and adding his own perspective on the subject, which seems to incorporate a bit of the truth of today. I didn't feel Ted needed to know Scott's inspiration for the song, and it never came up before he finished writing it. I think that this way it's a perfect collaboration on the subject. So there are some uplifting moments in a song about the fragility of life and the inevitable.

AW: Will Sheff did an excellent job with "Kristine." How do you feel about it?

KC: When I first heard Will's completed recording of "Kristine," I cried. I felt like I had heard the song before even though I had not. I had heard sections while Scott worked on it at home. Many fragments were fortunately recorded, but there was one I heard that never was. One night in February of 2013, Scott called me into the bedroom to hear one of the couplets he had just written. He was extremely proud and excited about it and was eager for me to hear it as he said he had been working to find a beautiful melody for a song about me. He sat on my side of the bed and played the guitar and sang, "the road to here was hard to miss, I drove it like a long summer kiss." I had no idea Scott would write a lyric so creative and beautiful like that, but I was not at all surprised that he did.

One thing I loved about Scott was how unpredictable he was when expressing himself. Since he died, I've often found myself thinking at times, "I wonder what Scott would say about this." I usually know the general sentiment, but I have little inklings as to how he would verbalize it. He was very funny, but he didn't have catchphrases or make the same joke twice. And when he told stories, he usually told them differently each time. He didn't change the facts, and I knew this because he'd tell stories about events we experienced together, but his commentary about the facts would be unique each time.  A light joke might occur in a different place in the story reflecting his perspective previously not revealed in another version of the story. Yet each time, the comments were, of course, very believable as being drawn from Scott's own thoughts. That's how I think all of us close to him knew him. We knew generally how he'd feel about things, but not always how he would talk about them or describe them or his thoughts about them.

When I heard "Kristine," I cried because I thought, "Yes, that's Scott. And that's how he felt about us and our relationship and our journey in this life together." I had known the sentiment, but now it was put into beautiful words. I had heard many of those words in the sound memos he left behind, but some were recorded so quietly it was difficult for me to hear them clearly. Scott had privacy when he worked on music, but he rarely locked himself in a room. I just went about my own business and let him be. Many of the sound memos for "Kristine" were recorded very softly, as if they were a secret. Will, of course, used better listening equipment than I did when I organized all of the material for the record. I wrote down the lyrics I could hear in one of the spreadsheets I had made and gave it to Will. As one example, I remember writing "being with you is..." and I couldn't hear the last word. Later after Will completed the song, I listened to the sound files with Scott's headphones and heard what Will heard: "being with you is asylum."

Among his many musical talents, Will Sheff seems to have a special ability to empathize with characters or people he presents in his own songs. He writes and performs the songs from the emotional perspectives of those characters. Will heard all the lyrics Scott was quietly singing or almost whispering in the sound memos, and he also called me to talk about Scott, his creative process, and our life together. From this information and Scott's handwritten notes on the sound memos, Will seemed to be able to discover Scott's perspective and where he was going with the song and what he wanted to say. I get very emotional every time I hear it. Those are Scott's feelings, finally put together using his own words. I am forever grateful to Will Sheff for such a gift. It's my favorite song on the record.

AW: Are there plans for maybe a label picking up "Supercalifragile?"

KC: None that I am aware of, but I'm open to the idea.

AW: What’s your favorite song on the album?

KC: I guess I answered that already: "Kristine." But I would say a close second is "All You Need Is White." I remember Scott excited about that song and making tweaks on it now and then here at the house. I love his vocal performance, the rhyming sequences, and the overall energy of the song. It's so great!


AW: How did Valerie and Julianne feel about the songs their dad wrote, and about "Supercalifragile" in general?

KC: Both girls love their songs and are flattered by the sentiments expressed. I take a small amount of credit as I used to tell Scott that one of them is my heart and the other my light. I always said that I know I'm not supposed to attach labels to my children, so I made it clear to him and to the girls that they both share both of those roles, but that's how their initial personalities presented themselves to me when they were born. This was a bit of an inspiration for Scott's songwriting process.

As for the record in general, we've been talking about it or working on it for about the past 4 years. That's nearly as long as Scott has been gone, and it's a major amount of time in the lives of girls who are only 11 and 15. They understand the process and why it's important to me. It's important to them, too, but mostly to them this record represents the smallest fraction of the person they knew mostly as their dad, and it's taken center stage much of the time. I think finishing this record and getting to a point where I won't be shipping out records will be a healthy place for all of us to be. I would certainly like to remember Scott and his music and share that with the girls on our own terms, when we feel it is a good time. Right now, this record keeps us in a certain space. It has its comforts, certainly, but it can in some ways keep us from moving forward. But the music is really good, and the girls are proud of it and the work we've all done. I think one day, they'll be glad I saw it through.

AW:Who is Mrs. Mills?

KC: Mrs. Mills listed in the credits for the song, "I Still Dream of Getting Back to Paris," refers to an upright Steinway Vertegrand piano at Abbey Road Studios in London. It's been slightly modified to give it a unique sound. The Beatles recorded several songs with this piano including, "Penny Lane." The piano got its name from Gladys Mills, also known as "Mrs. Mills," who was an English pianist in the 60s and 70s. She recorded many songs using this piano at Abbey Road, and so now the piano is referred to as "Mrs. Mills."


AW: Is there anything else you'd like to say about the album?

KC: Not long after Scott died, Stéphane Schuck, a longtime friend of Scott's contacted me from his home in Paris to express his sorrow and condolences. He also made sure I knew that the songs he and Scott were working on were available to me for whatever purpose I thought would be best for our daughters and me. When I told Stéphane I wanted to finish Scott's album and release those songs, Stéphane generously donated the session at Abbey Road Studios in London to complete another song he and Scott had been working on together. Stéphane and Scott had discussed ideas and chords for "I Still Dream of Getting Back to Paris," but because nothing was recorded and the song existed mainly in concept only, this is the one song where Scott did not receive a co-writing credit. In the last email Scott wrote to Stephane, he signed it "I still dream of getting back to Paris, --Scott" Stéphane said those words fit the melody line that he and Scott had in mind, and so that became the title and starting point for the lyrics to the song. It was a bit heartbreaking seeing Stéphane and his wonderful family again in Europe at the Abbey Road Sessions for the first time without Scott, and two years after Scott had left us, but one of the most heartwarming positives was that I was able to bring three areas of Scott's musical world together: Anton Barbeau, Ken Stringfellow, and Stéphane Schuck all met each other for the first time for the recording of that song. The three of them have since worked together on another project. Jozef Becker, Scott's best friend since childhood and one of Scott's drummers, joined us at Abbey Road to meet Stéphane and play drums for the "Paris" song. So it was emotional yet wonderful and somewhat magical, too. After the sessions, Stéphane and his family took great care of me during a short visit to Paris where I stayed in their flat. I had to get back to Paris for Scott. Scott and I traveled to Paris on our honeymoon and had been there two additional times together. It was sad to be there without him, but I had a lot of love from Stéphane and his family. I am so thankful Scott had these wonderful people in his life, and I appreciate all their love, generosity, and ongoing support. They are loved.

Many thanks and appreciation go to Ken Stringfellow for overseeing every musical aspect of this record and for being emotionally supportive along the way. He was also always open to any of my requests and ideas, like opening with a sound collage, which Dan Vallor did an amazing job of creating. Dan had the same idea I did for the opening guitar and keyboard part, a signature of every other Game Theory record in the series. Of all the 258 sound files Dan was given to choose from for the collage, he happened to find and use some of the very files I was going to suggest, before I could even suggest them. And then he created this incredible collage. I couldn't be happier with his wonderful contribution.

And Chris Xefos, who mixed "Time Warner" had an idea to put some samples of Scott speaking in the instrumental section. He asked me to send him some home videos from which he could pull sound. At his request, I went through every video on Scott's phone that he had taken. There were some funny and some beautiful moments Scott had captured from his perspective on the world as a family man. I am thankful Chris put many of Scott's "at home or out with the daughters" voice samples in Time Warner for posterity.

I am forever grateful to all the musical talent who worked on this record. The songs and the production are amazing, and I think Scott would be honored and quite proud. I thank everyone who helped me to help Scott finish the record he wanted to make. I told Scott I would support him however he needed in order for him to make this record. Thank you everyone for helping me keep my promise to him. Making his final words to all of us available to everyone is the last gift I can give him. And to make it all the more beautiful, this record completely exceeded my very high expectations.

Thank you, all.

Love,
Kristine


(Link to my interview with Scott, BandCamp for the album.)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Take A Trip

More details to follow, but I launched a kicksrtarter campaign for a sizzle reel for my web series Take A Trip today, and it can be found here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1377049809/take-a-trip

Andrea Weiss

Monday, October 9, 2017

NSW


New Sincerity Works
Wonder Lust
Butter Records

This melodic, adult indie rock band from Cincinnati are excellent. The lineup are all veteran musicians who have played in other bands, including the late Scott Miller’s band the Loud Family, and Adrian Belew of King Crimson fame.

Every track has something to recommend it, and the ones I like the best are the ultra-melodic "Love To Love The Love," "Midwest Reverie," about living in the Midwest, and the quirky "The Company You Keep." All three give a very good idea of what the album is like as a whole. So if you like what you read here, pick up the album, and be rewarded with a very good band who make very engaging music.

https://www.facebook.com/newsincerityworks/

Andrea Weiss

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Blackbirds soar: An interivew with Bradley Skaught


I first heard Bradley Skaught (foreground with guitar) when the late Scott Miller contributed to Bradley’s project Belle De Gama. It was wonderful. The next time I heard him, it was his band The Bye Bye Blackbirds, as great as Belle De Gama and still rock and roll. I would love to see them live someday, if I ever make to Oakland, California.

Bradley was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new Bye Bye Blackbirds album "Take Out The Poison." His answers are wonderful, so enjoy.

Andrea Weiss:  Power pop is such a catch-all term, but would you say your music is, or is it something else?

Bradley Skaught:  I try to remind myself that people are generally being complimentary when they’re looking for a genre to apply to a band or record. Personally, it’s hard for me to relate to, especially when there’s some kind of cultural or social baggage attached to it. I really like the term “rock and roll” because it feels like it encompasses the actual musical DNA of what we do and it’s not trying too hard to fence things off in order to reach a specific group of people. But I guess that’s the problem, right? Folks want things narrowed down. It starts to feel like market-driven behavior and it makes me itchy.

AW:  Your songs are really direct and honest about relationships. Are they about real people, or more about hypothetical situations?

BS:  All real people, although it’s more the feelings that are real than the specifics in the song, you know? I don’t feel like I’m necessarily telling the stories of my experiences, but the experiences are finding their way into songs via whatever images resonate with me when I’m writing.

AW:  There seem to be more happy songs on this album than on your previous albums. What brought about this change?

BS:  I don’t know if I feel like it’s a happier album, but I do think there’s more diversity of mood and subject matter – it covers the scale a little more. I think that’s mostly a reflection of the songs being written over a relatively longer period of time, and more in isolation from each other, than before.

AW: Where did the album title come from?

BS:  I really don’t know! I’m always jotting down phrases that strike me as good titles and I’ll usually have a big list to choose from while we’re working on an album. It could’ve been something I overheard or misheard or read. It was right in the middle of the list, but actually didn’t stand out as a good option until fairly late. But now it seems so appropriate it’s hard for me to remember why it didn’t stick right away! There’s always a real danger that my good phrase ideas come from Harry Potter, but I’m pretty sure this one didn’t.

AW:  Would you ever write anything political?

BS:  Maybe? I don’t generally write with a topic in mind or a specific meaning as a goal, so whatever is in the pipeline in my sub-conscious that wants to come out is what gets written. It’s hard for me to imagine looking at current events and deliberately putting my thoughts into words, and it’s not an exercise that I find too attractive. That said, I’ve got a new-ish one that clearly seems to have come out of the economic and social changes going on around here in the Bay Area. So if it’s in there and it wants to come out, I suppose it could happen.

AW:  You worked with the late Scott Miller. What was that like?

BS:  Really fun and a great education – he had brilliant and unique insights into songs and songwriting.

AW:  Are there any dream musicians you’d like to work with?

BS:  I already play with them! I look at the band and there’s nothing they can’t do, you know? It probably sounds cocky, but any songwriter would dream of having a band this good to work with. These guys are the dream musicians other songwriters would want to work with! I suppose there are times when I think about someone who could do string arrangements or something, but then I meet a guy like Mark Clifford (who did the arrangements on the new one) and, again, I’m working with someone who is bringing brilliant and accomplished work to the table that’s as good and cool as anything. I will say that I would love to know what it’d be like to play with the E Street Band or The Imposters or The Heartbreakers or any of those amazing groups that have spent decades behind a great songwriter, but, once again, I sort of feel like that’s what we are.

AW:  Any plans for a national tour, or at least the East Coast, or is that not something you want to do?

BS:  The logistics and economics are really against it, sadly, because I’d love to do it. Maybe an acoustic thing would work, but I’d rather do it with the band and it’s hard to imagine it happening without support of a label or someone.

AW:  If a well-established indie label wanted to sign you, say Merge or Sup Pop, would you?


BS:  I would, yeah. There’s a lot of pride in doing things in this DIY fashion, but, frankly, I’m not super good at it and it’s a weird burden that I don’t always weather that well. Having distribution and some press and the credibility that would come with that would be great. And, more than anything, just reaching more people. I think folks would dig it if they heard it, and my ability to get it heard all by myself is pretty limited.

https://www.facebook.com/The-Bye-Bye-Blackbirds-50108961316/

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

QOTSA

Queens Of The Stone Age
Villains
Matador

I’ve always liked this band, but never more than with this new album. I’d feared the worst when I found out Mark Ronson had produced it. I did not want Josh Homme turned into Bruno Mars, or the band aping Uptown Funk.

Thankfully that isn’t what happened. Instead, the production has an organic feel. Their angular, irregular hard rock packs a bigger punch than most, and when synths are used, it’s with a light touch. While I always loved their sense of melody, this album sounds even more melodic to me than their previous work. The songs flow both melodically and lyrically, not just within themselves, but over the album as a whole, pulling it all together as a unit.

The lyrics are dark, but done smartly, so they never go overboard. My favorite lyric on this album is "Hideaway," and anyone who has been in an unequal relationship will relate to this song. It's balanced by "Fortress," where Josh offers shelter and comfort to someone he loves, tells them to let their guard down, and be with him. In its own way, it’s sweet.


The moral of this review is never judge a book by its cover. Ignore Ronson’s pop work and approach this album with an open mind. If you’re a fan, though this is a little different, there is plenty for you to sink your teeth into. If you’re new to the band, let the guys take you on a ride, then go on into their past work from there.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, August 27, 2017

BBB

The Bye Bye Blackbirds
Take Out The Poison
Self-Released

The follow-up to 2013’s "We Need The Rain" is more shimmering power pop/college rock from this long-running Oakland band.

Every track has something to recommend it, but three songs that stand out without diminishing the rest are noted here: the anthemic “Let Your Hair Fall Down” and “Baby We’re Fine,” and the Elliott Smith-like “I Meant To Write.” All three can be the gateway to the album, and while I’ve already reviewed it separately, “Duet” is another standout track, with a very sweet video.


The wait for this album was worth it for music this great, so do your ears a favor.  


Andrea Weiss

Thursday, August 24, 2017

SCF

Game Theory
Supercalifragile
KCM Records

Where to start with a heartbreaking review like this? With the basic story? I can, but I know there’s more.

Scott Miller was working on this album, had the title for it, the first GT album since 1988, and then he died before he could finish it. His wife, Kristine, with a whole cast of people helping, finished the album. While it was first crowd-funded, demand is such that it now has a general release on Bandcamp.

There are so many what ifs here. Scott’s voice and writing hadn’t aged a bit; these songs could have been on most any Game Theory album, or maybe "Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things," the first album by the Loud Family, Scott’s band in the 90s. With this expanded posse the songs were finished in ways not anticipated, but as close to Scott's vision of it as possible. It’s heartbreaking that it has to be like this. He still had it, which is what makes this album so good. Everyone involved pays fine tribute with their playing, and in some cases singing (Scott had recorded some vocals), but I’m going to single out the late Gil Ray here, a member of both Game Theory and the Loud Family, who lost his battle with cancer before the album was released. His percussion tracks are great. After that, it’s all equal.

Most of those who played with Scott are on here, along with others who were influenced by him. Did you know Aimee Mann was a Scott fan? Ted Leo, Will Sheff from Okkervil River, the Posies, and Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices and Nada Surf? You’ll hear what they got from Scott here.

With the exception of a comp of demos from the final Game Theory lineup in the pipeline, this is it. There wasn’t anything else, which means this is good-bye. I know for me Scott’s songs will live forever, and this album now belongs to history, and eternity. Thanks, Scott, if you’re anywhere, for all the great music.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mark L.

Mark Lanegan Band
Underground Arts
Philadelphia, 8-17-17

I’d always liked Mark Lanegan, but I’d never seen him live, until now.

Duke Garwood and Lyenn were the two opening acts. Duke plays guitar in Lanegan’s band. He sounded like a good Chris Cornell emulator, circa Chris’s songs from the Singles soundtrack. Lyenn sounded like a more amplified Elliott Smith. They were good, but I wished they weren’t just solo guitarists, as the bare bones of their songs were good enough to make me wish for a full band. I liked their take on electric folk.

Lanegan and band hit the stage around 10:40. As dark as his songs are, there is also a lot of hope in them, and he seemed happy and to be having a good time onstage, which I found very likable. His voice has gotten better with age, a very rare thing, and his band is top notch.

The crowd, mostly 50-something’s like me or younger, seemed to be long-time fans. The venue can hold about 300 people. All hung on his every word, something I joined in on. And for the encore he played Joy Division’s "Love Will Tear Us Apart" very well.


Mark doesn’t tour the East Coast that often, so I knew this was a treat, and a great one. I left that night very happy. I hope to get to see him again.

Andrea Weiss

Monday, July 24, 2017

BBB

The Bye-Bye Blackbirds
Duet Video

"Take Out The Poison," the upcoming BBB’s album, will be released August 25th, and this excellent clip is a great run up to it. In the clip, a man and woman walk separately through the streets of San Francisco. They could be the duet, but they don’t know it yet. The music is college rock on its jangly side, very sweet, very nice.


I got a real kick out of watching this, too, because it reminded me of the one time I visited San Fran and how much I liked it. City Lights Bookstore, the famous one, plays a prominent role in the video, and I have some hazy memories of being in there, and how much I liked it, too.




Andrea Weiss

Sunday, July 23, 2017

R. Ring 7-21-17

R. Ring
Everybody Hits, Philadelphia, PA
7-21-17

R. Ring’s return to Philly was wonderful, a show I’d been looking forward to. This time they got to Philly without a hitch. For their gig here back in April, their van had broken down, and other mishaps, so all of us were very thankful they arrived this time with no problems.

Everybody Hits is a batting cage facility that also books concerts, and while it’s tiny, the sightlines are good everywhere, and it’s very clean and comfortable. The audience ranged in age and gender and was a very good mix.

The two opening acts didn’t disappoint. Joe Jack Talcum, a member of Philly punk icons the Dead Milkmen, and a very nice guy, played the best set I’d seen from him yet, and he's always good. Straightforward indie folk.

Sam from Radiator Hospital was next. I’d not seen him with his band, but I’d heard enough on Philly’s indie rock internet radio station, Y-Not Rock, to know that I’d like him. Very soulful, great lyrics, very cool.

R. Ring, who are Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery, played most of the songs off their album from earlier this year, "Ignite The Rest," and were damn good on all of them. They had a new drummer, Roseanna Safos, from Cleveland band The Goldmines, and she was excellent. While I didn’t catch the title or lyrics, they played one new song, and it rocked. It’s amazing to hear the interplay between the guitars and drums; it's their own sound and style of experimental electric folk, no comparisons to anyone else.


After the show I said hello. They were happy to see me again. Kelley was thrilled I'd purchased Breeders tickets, another show I'm really looking forward to.  https://www.facebook.com/rringsings

Andrea Weiss


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jill

Jill Sobule
William Way LGBTQ Community Center Ballroom
Philadelphia, PA 7-7-17

I’ve been into Jill since 1995 and "I Kissed A Girl," which is not a cover of the Katy Perry song. I saw her for the first time at Lilith Fair, and have continued seeing her to this day. My fandom has stretched across three states, and many albums, all good. And she’s a blast to see live.

William Way, named after a 70s Philly LGBTQ rights activist, is a great place for everything LGBTQ, located in the heart of the “gayborhood,” Philly’s LGBTQ area. I was thrilled to find out Jill was playing there, and bought tickets immediately.

She was great, as usual, and played most of her best known songs plus a few new ones, just her and a modified backpacker guitar, which she’s been known to solo on like a guitar hero. She did play a short solo on it this night.

Her back stories were great, too, like how much flack she got for her song "America Back" (“When they say they want their America back, well what the fuck do they mean?”).  Another was about a troll, and getting that troll off her back with a new song. Other stories told of her teen years in Cinnamon Park, taking magic mushrooms to watch the Battle Of The Bands, with Chicago’s "Saturday In The Park" as a motif, and making sure everyone knew that the two woman in "I Kissed A Girl" did more than kiss (“They can have their diamonds, and we’ll  have our pearls”).


After the show I said hello to Tony, Jill’s longtime webmaster and moderator of her email discussion group Happytown, named for her song about the joys of Prozac. Tony's a really nice guy. Then I spoke to Jill, who I’ve known for twenty years. She loved my anti-Trump shirt. I had a fantastic evening.

The shirt in question. The feminist group Ultra Violet had a fund raiser with this shirt, and it was too good to pass up. More here: https://weareultraviolet.org
And Jill's site: http://www.jillsobule.com

Andrea Weiss


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