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


Friday, June 16, 2017

GT 2 Steps in full

Game Theory
2 Steps From The Middle Ages
Omnivore Recordings

This album is the final one in Omnivore’s reissue series. Originally released in 1988, it was an album that the late Scott Miller said he wanted to tear up the Billboard charts, and if not, to be let out of his contract. It didn't, and the band broke up after this album was released.

If this album had come out in, say, 1993, it might have hit. Alt was sort of the mainstream then, and to give two good examples of the kinds of songs that hit, think Bob Mould’s "If I Can’t Change Your Mind," or "Cannonball" by The Breeders. But there weren’t so many charts and formats as there are now, so here are some hypotheticals if it were a brand new album being released today.

While this album is too indie to fit into the “mainstream alternative” radio format, I can see this hitting on non com AAA radio, like NPR and its offshoots, listener supported stations, and so on. It’s streamlined enough, catchy, accessible, with all the right quirks. There are straightforward lyrics about good times, romance on the rocks, and being nonconformist. It rocks when it wants to, but can be quiet enough to pack a stealth punch, like on “Initiations Week.” One of Donnette Thayer’s best songs is her duet with Scott on the gentle “Wyoming,” another great song on a great album.


This reissue is also chock full of bonus material, demos, live tracks, and rough mixes. My favorites are the demo for a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s "America," which is as lovely as the original, and the live version of "Waist And The Knees," especially since it features backing vocals by the late, great Gil Ray.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, June 4, 2017

GT Preview - 2 Steps

Game Theory
Room For One More, Honey
Omnivore  Recordings

As there is a pre-sale for the reissue of 2 Steps From The Middle Ages, I took it as a cue to review the single/ emphasis track, Room For One More, Honey.  The album will be released Friday June 9th. And if this any indication of how great it is, with remastering like this, what a way to send the reissue series of the late Scott Miller’s band off in sttyle.


While Mitch Easter’s production made everything sound very crisp and clear, the remaster is more so. It’s pitch perfect now, a good balance of bright, shiny, rich and solid. I remeber a few reviews back in the day saying this song was about an airline distaster, and in one interview Scott somewhat confirmed it. But decide for yourselves, my memory might be hazy. But what isn’t is that I still love this track, the way Scott and Donnette Thayer sing on it, and haven’t forgotten hearing it on the radio, how good it sounded there. You may feel the same when you hear it on your media player device of choice. 
(I find the pre-sale on Amazon easier than iTunes.)
Andrea Weiss

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chris Cornell


And Now He's Gone
A Tribute to Chris Cornell

I never thought I’d be writing a tribute to Chris Cornell, not just for the usual reasons, but because of how I became a fan of Soundgarden in the first place. As for the usual reasons why one writes a tribute, it makes me shudder, not just that this wonderful musician is gone, but that so many are: Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Stefanie Sargent, Scott Weiland, Mike Starr, John Baker Saunders. Let the next one added be when everyone is, say, 90. Only Eddie Vedder, Mark Arm, and Mark Lanegan are now alive of the more famous grunge band leaders. What must they be thinking? The Space Needle went dark for an hour Thursday night, so everyone is grieving. Chris’ family and the rest of Soundgarden are also in my thoughts.

I will be honest; at the time, I hated grunge, and a lot of early 90s alternative music, and, again, it wasn’t for the usual reasons. I despise the term “sell out.” There's nothing wrong with making money from your art, and as my career involves various types of creative writing, I admit that sometimes my attitude is “screw art, give me the money.” Not that making art for art's sake is bad, but doing it for pay is the greatest job in the world. But I don't like it when people make a certain kind of art just for the money. The music magazines I was reading at the time said grunge bands were sell-outs, doing just that, so that put me off.

Also, I have a learning disability severe enough that I'm unable to work a straight job, or drive, hence my writing career, as writing is what I do best. I have struggled all my life to make a good life for myself. Only those who have everything mentally together would act like it’s cool to be disabled or mentally ill, and that is the way I perceived grunge and most alt-rock at the time. I didn't think their expressions of pain and dysfunction were honest or real, and I didn't want all that negativity, particularly if it wasn't sincere.

I was still very much following punk’s credo of thinking for yourself. The elementary school in Hightstown, NJ put on folk concerts during the school year, and there was a local folk song society who brought in musicians. It was very popular, and Dar Williams sold the place out more than once. I began going to those shows and joined that local scene. In addition to Dar, I got into the Nields, Richard Shindell, the late Dave Carter and his partner Tracy Grammer. Jill Sobule of I Kissed A Girl fame was also a part of the scene, and so was Ani DiFranco. And there was plenty of alt rock outside the lines to get into: Fugazi, Pavement, The Breeders, the Loud Family, Sugar, Mudhoney, the Posies, Liz Phair, Sleater-Kinny. Those were my favorites. I didn’t think of Mudhoney as grunge, but rather punk.

When I met Jen Grover in the very early 00’s, I told her all of this. Around that time she was a moderator for SOMMS, the original Soundgarden online fan list, and had the now defunct Unofficial Ben Shepherd Website. She urged me to give Soundgarden another chance, and after thinking about it a bit, I did. And I liked what I heard. They were more punky than I realized, and after hearing Seasons, I realized Chris could be folk. Euphoria Morning proved that even more, and that sealed the deal. Eventually I got into more grunge, and as for alt, a new way of looking at it.

My favorite Soundgarden song is the one I first heard, and at the time of its release somewhat tolerated, as I liked the ruefulness of it--Outshined. By default, Badmotorfinger was my favorite Soundgarden album. The others are great too, but BMF was my first.

I hope everyone takes this tribute the right way, and not as a snide slam. My journey to the band was roundabout, but eventually I made it home. I came to realize how much of that music really was honest and why it meant so much to so many people. Long live Chris,long live Soundgarden, and, yes, alt.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hearing And Seeing Is Believing: An Interview With Amanda Thompson


Amanda Thompson leads the UK band The Big Believe, a band I got into through the song Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. I was a huge fan of Let’s Active, and when the late Faye Hunter worked with The Big Believe, I was hooked. Illuminate, their latest album, is very good. If you are a fan of college rock and bands that have their roots in that genre, like the New Pornographers, you’ll love The Big Believe.


Andrea Weiss: Let’s Active is such a cool and unjustly forgotten band. How did you find out about them?

Amanda Thompson: I agree. My boyfriend Keith used to own a second hand record shop and would often bring albums 'round that he thought I'd like. It must have been about 1988 when he stuck Big Plans For Everybody on my turntable and it changed my life. I was instantly a fan, and found LP's of everything else they'd released, and never stopped listening to them.

AW: And combining that style with that of the New Pornographers is great. How did you get into them?

AT: Thank you, although I don't do that intentionally, but I guess snippets of those bands' influence are bound to seep through. Keith was to thank for this discovery too. He would play anything that MOJO magazine had given four or five stars to-- stream it, I mean. Shortly after Twin Cinema was released, he stuck it on. The title track blew me away. The rest of the album was less instant, but I fell in complete love with it gradually, often the best way. As with Let's Active, I then got my hands on everything else they'd released and went to every UK show they played. Funnily enough, I remember thinking, "I have never liked a band this much since Let's Active".

AW: I like your lyrics. Where do you get your ideas for them?

AT: Thanks again. I have one rule: never write about yourself! I hate "I feel this, I feel that", "this happened to me, he hurt me", etc. As I'm sure all songwriters do, I make notes in my phone whenever anything inspires me. That could be a scene in a film, a vibe from a book, something someone said, or simply stuff that happens out there! I remember my guitarist friend Simon Ruckes saying to me, "Paint a picture in people's heads". That was partly why I used lines like "all the little bugs 'round the street light" and "our hands behind our heads as we watch the stars", because everyone can picture those images. I like the science of things. There's a new track in early stages called The Motorway Effect, which is how if one person brakes on the motorway it has a knock on effect for miles and hours on everybody else on the same road. I like relating that to how our actions as humans affect things and we have to take responsibility for that. It's OK to sneak personal stuff into the lyrics, as long as it's disguised.

AW: Besides Let’s Active and TNP, who are your influences?

AT: I could write a very long list answer to that, but will condense it down to Led Zeppelin (there is no other rock band to touch them, they are so interesting, and anyway, so much more than rock), Arthur Lee and Love, early R.E.M., John Cale.

AW: How did your band form?

AT: I was always in other people's bands, co-writing, up until about 2006, when I started writing songs I actually liked! So I recorded them, stuck them on the internet as a kind of "fake band". People seemed to like it, so I gathered musicians together to play that music live, and that became the band Ozone Baby, which later became The Big Believe.

AW: Would you want to tour the US?

AT: Yes, that is something that would seem appropriate, as we have more fans there than here! There have been a couple of times where that has been on the horizon and then fallen through for logistical reasons. Never say never, though.

AW: You worked with the late Faye Hunter of Let’s Active fame on Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. What was that like, working with her?

AT: It was delightful and so easy. I should mention that we sadly never met in person. She wanted me to go over to Mitch Easter's studio when she was recording the vocals for Spies, and I did too, but Mitch's free studio time came suddenly and I couldn't get a visa in time. Faye learned the song in an instant and nailed it without many takes in the studio. She was full of enthusiasm and praise, and humble throughout. I was incredibly excited about the whole thing, and so grateful for her interest and the time she gave it. Still am.

AW: You also worked with Todd Fancey of the New Pornographers. How did that come about?

AT: I believe it came about because of cigarettes and the smoking ban, i.e. one time I was in Bristol to see The New Pornographers play an unlikely venue that was pretty much a huge church hall. Afterwards I went out the back for a cigarette, and so did one of the band members. We ended up having a smoke and a chat together, later joined by other members of the band. Eventually I let it pop out that I was in a band and they asked for a link to the music. I was excited again when they liked the material and passed the link around. Guitarist Todd got in touch, saying he was into the material, and an online friendship followed where we discussed my stuff and his solo stuff a lot. In the end I popped the question, "Would you like to do a solo on one of our tracks?" and he said, "Sure".

AW: Is there anyone else you’d want to work with?

AT: Well, yes and no. After Todd had collaborated and Faye had agreed to, the idea was to make a whole album of collaborations, yet I couldn't help feeling that after working with members of my two favourite bands, that anything else was a step downwards. Also, Todd and Faye were such sweet people, we never had talk of contracts or money, and they were so easy to work with, I had a feeling the other people I had in mind would maybe be less accommodating. Having said that, I wouldn't have turned down working with Arthur Lee in an ideal world!

https://www.facebook.com/amanda.thompson.908132?fref=nf&pnref=story

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Big Believe


The Big Believe
Illuminate
self-released

Amanda Thompson leads this wonderful UK band, who sound like equal parts Let's Active and The New Pornographers, but with enough of themselves thrown in to make the music, and the lyrics, their own. Their influences are just a starting point.

They write quirky lyrics about relationships, much like Mitch Easter, leader of the now defunct Let's Active, would write, not to mention the late, great Faye Hunter, who collaborated with the Big Believe on the wonderful song Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. Faye was the bass player in the first lineup of Let's Active, and was a mainstay of the Hoboken, NJ music scene, as well. The Big Believe's skewed take on relationships makes them sound refreshing, and there is no irony in the quirkiness.

In general, it is downright refreshing to hear a band update 80s college rock, rather than ape the 70s or 90s. For that alone, I strongly recommend Illuminate, and check out Let's Active, as well. Both bands will delight you to no end. https://www.facebook.com/amanda.thompson.908132?fref=nf&pnref=story
Andrea Weiss

Monday, May 1, 2017

TNP


Waxahatchee/The New Pornographers
Union Transfer
Philadelphia, PA, 4-27-17

I’d never been to Union Transfer, but I’d heard nothing but good things about it. Since I love The New Pornographers' new record so much, the time was ripe to go.

It’s a great place: clean, comfortable, neat. I need handicapped seating, as i can’t stand for long periods of time anymore, and the staff provided me with a chair, with excellent sight lines. I had a nice conversation with a woman with a similar condition sitting next to me.

Waxahatchee is Katie Crutchfield, joined by a bass player. I have her last two albums and really like them. Katie didn’t disappoint with her noisy, electric folk/rock and good lyrics, and sang very winningly. A perfect opening act.

TNP also didn’t disappoint. I’d wondered how they’d sound live, and how slick. As great as Whiteout Conditions is, it’s also the closest to the mainstream, at least the AAA radio mainstream, which has embraced the single High Ticket Attractions.

With the addition of new member Simi, who plays the violin very well, the band is now a seven piece, with Carl Newman and Todd Fancey on guitars, Blaine Thurier and Kathryn Calder on  keyboards, John Collins on bass, Joe Seiders on drums, and Neko Case on percussion. Carl, Neko, Kathryn, and Simi sing four-part harmony. And wow, what harmonies! Just terrific. Blaine Thurier played harmonica on one song, and Kathryn played accordion. I loved everything they played. The energy didn’t let up for a moment. High spirited fun all around.

They played songs from every album, even one of Dan Bejar’s, Testament To Youth In Verse, though he is on hiatus from TNP. Neko, who was really someone to behold, put the crowd under her spell, with her sparkly blouse causing Carl to remark at one point that it was reflecting off the walls of the bar. During the encore they were funny as anything. Somehow Neko’s and Carl’s banter evolved from Neko saying they reminded her of Donnie and Marie Osmond on their TV show, to Neko joking that she lost her virginity to Carl after 46 years.

It was a good night all around, a band I’m so glad I finally got to see, and a club that I’ll be going  back to. https://twitter.com/TheNewPornos/with_replies

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, April 30, 2017

R. Ring Live


R. Ring
Everybody Hits
Philadelphia, PA, 4-24-17

Everybody Hits is a small batting cage facility that also puts on concerts. Nice staff, and a good turnout for such a small, out-of-the-way place. There were four bands on the bill. R. Ring headlined. I hadn't seen them for 2 1/2 years, so I was really looking forward to this.

Swanning, three women with a male drummer, were up first, playing good, modern indie rock.

Joe Jack Talcum, from one of Philly’s best known punk bands, the Dead Milkman, played a solo set of good, quirky folk/punk. If you ever wondered what Jonathan Richman would sound like if he grew up, it’s Joe Jack.

The Chicago three-piece band Split Single was next, led by Jason Narducy. I’d heard of him, as one of the bands he’s in is Bob Mould’s touring band. I liked his music very much--rip roaring indie rock, very melodic. His CD Metal Frames, is a great way to introduce yourself to his music.

R. Ring’s van had broken down, and it was a wonder they even got to Philly. But they made it, a little after eleven, set up as quick as they could, and played a wonderful set, featuring most of their upcoming album, Ignite The Rest. The versions here were looser and sparer than on the album. R. Ring, the duo of Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery, play electric experimental folk and stripped-down indie rock. Their drummer on this tour, Laura King from Chapel Hill, is excellent. She played just a snare, not a full kit.

The crowd seemed into all the bands. For me, it was a very good night out, and a show that was worth the wait. And if you like what you read here, they’re doing some dates in Ohio, Kentucky, and live on the station WYSO on May 17. 


Andrea Weiss

Thursday, April 20, 2017

R. Ring


R.Ring
Ignite The Rest
SofaBurn

It’s funny how things work out. I get to see two favorite bands in one week. It will be my first time ever seeing The New Pornographers. R.Ring is the other band I’m seeing, on Monday. TNP is that Thursday.

Since I already waxed thrilled on TNP in my review of their album, I wanted to do the same for R.Ring, since their album is just as great, in its own way. Two very different types of music, so there’s no comparison. To do further justice, it’s track by track for R. Ring. Full disclosure: I own all their singles, their Daytrotter session, and the Rise EP. Most of what’s on this album is more or less untouched from the original versions, not that I would’ve indulged in which is the better version. It’s all good.

Kelley Deal sings the songs, unless otherwise noted.

Cutter: It’s the single, and sounds like one, with extra guitars from the original. First up like this, it's a good lead in, and I'm really happy that it's getting some airplay.

Loud Underneath: When I first heard this in 2015, one thing I liked about it was that it was sly fun about finding a good guy to get loud underneath with. But the serious meaning is the moment of truth--finding love, sex, or not--and here it’s a good one. I also like the buzzsaw guitars.

Singing Tower: This is one of Mike Montgomery’s songs. It’s about an uncle of his. Sad, quiet, understated and wonderful. Mike’s songs on this album tend to be surreal and dreamy; Kelley’s are more straightforward.

$100 Heat: Kelley writes some very good songs about heartbreak and loneliness, and this is one of them. I’d like to think the Bandit did go away. Spare guitars for the right touch.

Unwinds: As angry as Cutter, and rougher. Thankfully the album includes lyrics, as I never was able to make out many of the words. And I like these words, and the booming drums.

Files: One of a few songs about darkness, losing everything, and so on. One line says it all, well sung, too. "All I set aside. All I lost. Files."

Salt: I like the grinding guitars, and that it’s not a sad breakup song. She’s free, and it suits her.

Fallout And Fire: Three lines that say more about loneliness, heartbreak, and wanting something, anything to happen, than some whole albums I’ve heard. The music is bittersweet folk rock.

Elder Orphans In Heavy Chop (AKA Rumine from the Rise EP). Very interesting lyrics, with echoing guitars. "I am cruel, I don't care. You could be my harbor wife If I could cut your hair. "

This was always my fave song from the EP, retitled here.

You Will Be Buried Here: The most folklike of these songs, and a good way to honor the dead.

Steam: Mike sings this one, sad and warm. Kelley’s backing vocals, with echo, sound like a voice rising from steam. It’s cool. A friend consoles a friend about his wife leaving him and going home to Germany. My take, anyway. Kelley and Mike have some good podcasts out, where they explain things, like this song.

SEE: The most surreal song on the album, and the closer. Mike again, singing on a rave-up.

For me, an early contender for album of the year, just as much as TNP. And I’d like to think that R.Ring could suddenly get as popular as TNP did. So give this album a try. I think you'll love it.



Andrea Weiss


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