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

Ignite The Rest

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

Monday, April 17, 2017


The New Pornographers
Whiteout Conditions
Collected Works

Everything's different now. The Pornographers have their own label, Collected Works, Dan Bejar is off doing his own thing, and their new sound, starting with 2014’s Brill Bruisers and now going off in many other directions, is unlike anything they’ve ever done. It’s also the best album they’ve made yet, better even than Mass Romantic.

Carl Newman has been saying “Krautrock bubblegum” in interviews to describe this new sound, and while I’ll take his word for it, I also hear the best updating of the late Scott Miller ever, as all of these songs could have come from Scott’s band Game Theory, especially 1984’s Real Nighttime. TNP had already paid tribute to Scott with You Take Me Where on Brill Bruisers. Here they double down on that.

The melodies are to die for. I love the synths, aided and abetted by Todd Fancy’s understated guitar, and not as understated new drummer Joe Seiders. Neko Case has never sounded better. Ditto for Kathryn Calder, touring member Simi Sernaker, and Seiders. Carl sounds great too. All join together for great harmonies, and check out Neko’s and Carl’s duet on the shimmering We’ve been Here Before.

Carl’s lyrics are so open-ended that beyond High Ticket Attractions being about Trump-induced panic, written before the election, and the title song being about depression, they’re anything you want them to be about. My take on them: music therapy for terrific and strange situations, wild and wonderful relationships. Between the great lyrics, fantastic new sound, and yes, maybe Dan will be back someday, as I say, this is their best yet. May it continue.
Andrea Weiss

Friday, April 7, 2017


R. Ring
Steam video

As much as I love Cutter and $100 Heat, Steam is where Mike Montgomery, the other half of R. Ring, shines. Between Lori Goldston’s understated, wonderful cello playing and Kelley Deal’s background vocals, it’s sad, beautiful, hushed, and great. In the April 4, 2017 interview for Glide magazine, Mike had this to say about the song: Steam is one of the first songs Kelley and I started playing together. She used to accompany my guitar and singing on keys. One night on a tour, her keyboard broke as we went to start the song and she ended up just singing her melody through some guitar pedals to get us through it. We’ve done it that way ever since. With the addition of Lori Goldston’s cello on this album version it’s really a nice setting for the narrative: subjects trapped in time ignoring the looming futility of stubborn adherence to an ideal. Chris Glass’ captivating slow motion video captures the mood perfectly.”

The song also could be about a friend consoling another friend about his/her wife leaving and going home to Germany. The video captures the loneliness of being in a crowd, at a very impersonal train station, and fits the song perfectly. Watch it here:

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, April 6, 2017


The New Pornographers
Whiteout Conditions
Collected Works

The long awaited new album from The New Pornographers will be released Friday, April 7, but if you haven’t heard the three singles that have already been released, here’s my take on them. While the whole album sounds like early Game Theory, the late Scott Miller’s band, these three songs also sound like a souped up/synthed up take on TNP's first two albums, while continuing the sound of their last album, Brill Brusiers. And they’re all terrific.

The first single, High Ticket Attractions, is the most rock. It's fast, with more guitars, and a lyric about Trump, the unease before he got elected. But it could also be about someone throwing you completely off balance for a really long time, and falling into a relationship where you know there’s always more to it than meets the eye, no matter how wonderful it is. Carl sings this one.

Neko sings This Is The World Of The Theater, and shows again how amazing her voice can be. The lyric could be a plea to someone not to go, or about knowing, or not knowing, where you stand with someone. This is more of a pop song, but the guitars at the start add a lot of grit.

Neko duets with Carl on the title track, Whiteout Conditions, which is the most subdued and synthed up musically, with a lyric straightforwardly about depression. The feel is somewhat dreamy.

Dan is not on the album, TNP’s first without him. While there are songs of Dan’s I like, in the end, I always prefer Carl’s.

TNP is on their own label now, Collected Works, and it’s freed them up to make some of their best music yet. I'll post the full album review later in the month, after a fun time listening to it.  (I don’t do well with streams, it’s the learning disability, so that’s why I’m not reviewing the stream on NPR or the CBC.)

Andrea Weiss


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