Wednesday, December 23, 2020

 The Junior League

Fall Back + Summer Of Lies bonus disc

Kool Kat Musik

Originally released in 2010 as a Joe Adragna solo album, and mostly a one man band effort, with contributions from people like Peter Buck and Susan Cowsill, Fall Back is charming and good in a mid-60's way; think Byrds, Beach Boys, and Buffalo Springfield. The lyrics are about life, and on “Sad America,” the US. The album has been remixed, remastered, resequenced, and in some cases rerecorded. And it comes with a bonus disc.

The Summer Of Flies EP was once only available as a download. It features Adragna with Scott McCaughey. It's even better and more charming, more up-to-date, and the Beach Boys cover “Till I Die,” a bonus song not on the original EP, sounds timeless.

Taken together, this album and EP are two very good efforts, and very winning.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Big Stir Singles: The Yuletide Wave

Big Stir

This comp is mostly original Christmas songs, one exception being Dolph Chaney's “Jingle Bells” set to Van Halen's “Panama,” making it a tribute. Another is “Angels We Have Heard on High” merged with “Gloria” by Them.

The songs on this comp are fun, and even if one is, say, Jewish like me, it will get you in the right mood for the holiday, which is why I like Alison Faith Levy's “All I Want For Chanukah Is A Ukulele” so much. It's one of the most fun and happy, and makes things inclusive.

Other highlights include “Wash Your Hands of Christmas” by Nick Frater, "Utah Winter" by Addison Love, and “Revels Without A Claus” by Spygenius. 

Yet another great comp from a label that knows how to compile them.

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, December 17, 2020

 Big Stir Singles: The Eighth Wave

Big Stir Records

The latest singles comp from this label is chock full of would-be hits--really every single one of the songs, A and B sides--and it's tempting to play “what if?”

If the playing field were more open and equal, if this music could find a home beyond the modern guitar pop community, what then? Could any of these songs, for instance, The Brothers Steve with “Carry Me” or Leslie Pereira and the Lazy Heroes with “Good Karma,” be top 40 hits? The answer is emphatically "yes," and to take it to it's logical conclusion, what if this did what Nevermind did for grunge?

Everyone should know what to do here; scarf this up, as you'll hear every kind of modern guitar pop here. Spygenius brings college rock with “Cafe Emery Hill.” Librarians With Hickeys' “That Time Is Now” is mellow. “Janey” from mylittlebrother is folkish guitar pop. Jason Berk does a terrific version, even a little better than the original, of “End Of The Line”, my favorite Traveling Wilburys song. “Bird” from EZ Tiger is hard guitar pop. Another wonderful comp from a great label.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

 Jim Basnight

Jokers, Idols, and Misfits


This covers album, which features songs by everyone from The Who to The Sonics, is also an answer to a question: where did punk rock go?

These covers are classic punk rock--snarling guitars, vocals with attitude, well-played but loose--and are much more enjoyable than, say, mainstream alt, which is too dancy and soft rock to really be an alternative like this album is.

Every cover has something to recommend it, and here are the ones I like the most: the jazz take on the Turtles, and also inspired by The Byrds, “You Showed Me;” my all-time favorite Who song, “I Can See For Miles;” the funky, almost rap version of Stories' “Brother Louie,” also inspired by the Left Banke (the two bands had the same lead singer, Michael Brown); and a great version of the Beatles' “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.”

So if you want to hear some good covers and are in the mood for punk rock, this is the album to get.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, November 22, 2020


This Wicked Pantomime

Kool Kat Musik

Power pop as hard rock is what Fitzsimon and Brogan (FaB) make on this album, and it's wonderful.

There are decadent tales of love and heartbreak, and Bee Brogan's voice is very trans--she sings from a man's perspective just as well from a woman's. She plays the drums and keyboards. Her engineering of the album is good too. Neil Fitzsimon plays the guitars, and sings backing vocals.

The bonus tracks are bit less terrific than the album itself, but are very winning in the end.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, November 21, 2020

 Small Reactions

Police State video

Sofaburn Records

The first single from the upcoming album New Age Soul is set to a video of singer Scotty Hoffman driving down a city highway, graffiti in the background, which morphs into a performance in a vacant lot by the Atlanta band.

A post on the band's Facebook page explains, "I wrote this song in July 2017. I suppose it is a bit of a dystopian future kind of thing about creeping police presence in our lives, how some folks don’t realize until it’s too late and others folks have always been aware. How it’s physical and violent."

The music is halfway between jangle pop and shoegaze. The song is great, and the video adds to its dreaminess. While the band has been around since 2011 and recorded three previous albums, New Age Soul is their debut for Sofaburn.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, November 15, 2020

 I'd heard of Allyson Seconds in 2016 when NPR lauded her second album, Little World, but I never could find either album, so when Bag Of Kittens got reissued, I jumped at it and was rewarded with something great. I'd also heard her husband Kevin Seconds of 7 Seconds fame. I always liked that band, too.

Allyson, and Anton Barbeau, the album's producer and collaborator, were kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: This album is a reissue. Could you say a little on how it came to be re-released?

Allyson Seconds: We were hoping to reissue Bag Of Kittens because it simply didn’t get its due! It was my first real album singing lead vocals and we created it without much fanfare or forethought as to how we’d get it out into the world. There were rumblings of record label support, but nothing materialized. Honestly, at the time I was just thrilled to have made an album. I had zero expectations after that. But when our second CD together, Little World, garnered some truly positive press, it just made us want to get the first baby out there too!

Anton Barbeau: For various “biz” reasons, it never got much attention first time around. I thought the gang at Big Stir, whom I’d already worked with, could give it a loving home as a reissue and here we are!

AWWho are your influences?

AS: My influences were initially The Beatles pretty much 24/7 as a little kid. The first album I remember holding in my tiny hands and memorizing everything about was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I didn’t understand anything they were talking about but I knew all the lyrics and, maybe more importantly, all the backing vocals and harmonies and ooh’s and aaaah’s. I sang harmony before I ever sang the straight line (the lead). In high school you’d find me harmonizing to both XTC and the punk band X, and everything Elvis Costello. Any and everything I could sing harmony to. As for female singers, I loved women who simply sang with their own authentic voice, no put ons, not trying to be anybody else. The first female voice that made me truly want to be in a band was Christie Hynde--and have bangs, which I did and still do.

AB: I know Al and I share certain core influences, like the Beatles and XTC, but I can say--in hindsight--that Allyson was one of my influences on the two albums I’ve written for her. Knowing her as a person and knowing how she sings and what she wants to reach for affected my writing.

AW: “Dig My Pig” and “Bag Of Kittens” are great, and sound like anthems. Are they meant to be?

AS: Wow, I don’t know about anthems, except for those out there like us who love cats and pigs, and cats named Pig.

AB: I suppose sounding like an anthem and being an anthem are different things. I’ve yet to hear stadia full of football fans singing either song into the night, but I’m glad you like them!

AW: How did all the guests, like Kimberly Rew and Stornoway, a great band, come to help out?

AS: Most of the musicians on the album from England were friends of Anton’s, as he was living there at the time we recorded Bag, and they were kind enough to contribute. I was so happy to meet many of them when I traveled over to record the rest of the CD at Ant’s home in Cambridge and play some gigs in different towns from Oxford to Brighton. The folks from Sacramento on the album--Gabe and Vince from Cake, Larry Tagg from Bourgeois Tagg, etc.--are all mutual friends of ours. It really felt right to have all these fine friends, new and old, helping flesh out the sound and the CD.

AB: Both Kim and the Storns are people I’ve known and worked with in my time living in England. I asked them to play on the album and they said yes. We almost had Kim sit in with us at a festival gig in Cambridge, and the Stornoway lads sang along with us from the crowd during our Oxford gig!

AW: I think the bouncy music is wonderfully happy, but the dark lyrics add a nice contrast. Did it just happen that way?

AS: Anton was writing that way for me, and for reasons too complex to go into here, it really fit what I was going through then. It was also what I gravitated towards when helping choose which other songs of his I’d hoped to sing lead for the album. I think Anton and I may have that in common in our personal lives and musical tastes, that penchant for darkness contrasted by light--or lyrics about murder and the end of the world set to melodies you can bob your head to.

AB: Yes, it’s pretty typical of my songwriting in general. Neither Al nor I knew what the term “bag of kittens” meant when I came up with the song!

AW: How did the collaboration between you and Allyson happen?

AS: Anton and I met each other in the early 90’s, both playing gigs in our small town Sacramento’s music scene. I honestly can’t remember how we actually first started singing together, but truly, it’s what I did back then. I was singing harmony with most of the talented songwriters in the scene and there were many! But Ant stood out to me-- possibly our Beatle-esque sensibilities. His melodies fit me like a glove and if I wasn’t on stage singing with him, my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I were out in the audience harmonizing along with him. For whatever reason around 2008 I decided I’d better explore my solo voice to push myself into semi-unfamiliar territory. I’d been in a band where I sang out front briefly in the 90’s and occasionally would sing lead doing a cover in between singing harmony with my husband, but I really felt a need to push and to grow. I figured I’d ask several local songwriters I knew to write a song for me to sing. I asked Anton first. He obliged and wrote what I can’t imagine could be a more fitting song for me then, "I Used To Say Your Name." I think we both were kind of astonished--we didn’t know Ant could get out of his head enough to get into mine and create what felt like the beginning of a great collaboration. And so he wrote more. And I also plucked some songs of his that I simply loved and wanted to sing lead on. Thankfully he said yes, and that rounded out Bag Of Kittens, a CD that felt truly organically grown.

AB: We’ve been friends forever, and our friendship has always been based around singing together. Al asked me to write her a song and next you know, it's three presidents later!

AW: Yours and Anton's songs are nicely psychedelic. Was he the one that brought that to your duets?

AS: That psychedelic vibe, although most definitely Anton through and through, lives in me too. As much as I love loud, melodic punk rock (I’ve sung and played guitar in such bands), that Beatles foundation feels like the core of me. It’s why XTC struck such a chord in me growing up as well, and what a thrill to have Colin Moulding sing harmony to my voice on the title track for my second CD, Little World. That psychedelic-pop thing hooks us both and is definitely a shared commonality.

AB: I’m guessing it’s safe to say yes to that.

AW: What would you tell someone just starting out in music?

AS: I would say do whatever it takes to do what you love with that burning desire to create music. Don’t sit on it. Do it. Make it happen. Musicians and artists aren’t valued the way they should be in this world but there is a sect of the population that values it, and those are your people. Oh yeah, and don’t be a dick. That’s good advice for a musician, actually. Love and cultivate your craft, don’t get walked on, but don’t let your ego out of its cage too often. That thing will grow and it won’t fit back in.

AB: Always work with people who are better than you. Listen to everything, even music you don’t care for. Find out what you love most and always move towards that, but then move towards things that confuse you as well!

 Allyson Seconds

Bag Of Kittens

Big Stir

Originally released in 2009, it just now is getting reissued. It's produced byAnton Barbeau, whose new album Manbirdis terrific; he shines here, too, with his clear and direct production.

The music is college rock, and singer/songwriter reminiscent of Amy Rigby, but it sounds fresh and new. There isn't a hint of retro, as in the original era of college rock, the 80s. The lyrics, about relationships, are smart, wise, and mature.

The standout tracks are anthem-like--not so much fist pumpers as joyous statements of purpose. One is “Dig My Pig,” with its invitation to follow her. Another is the title song, where playing with kittens is a metaphor for big decisions and the passage of time. The four new tracks with Anton are wonderful, especially the psychedelic “Octagon” and “Neil Young Song.”

This album deserves to be heard by everyone. This kind of music isn't made much anymore, and it should be. If you want something fresh, different, and great, this is the album to get.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, November 8, 2020

 Amy Ray Band

Tear It Down Single

This very Ferron-like song about tearing down Confederate monuments is very good, and says a lot about the modern South. It was inspired by a rally where the Indigo Girls played a set, Project Say Something, an organization to get rid of or move Confederate monuments to more appropriate places.

Ray has had a good solo career when she's not with the Indigo Girls, and this is one more great song in a whole line of them. If you want to hear what she's like on her own, this single is great place to start.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, November 7, 2020


Live At The Grotto

November 6, 2020

I reviewed Lung's album for Sofaburn last year, All The Kings's Horses, and really liked it, so when I had the chance to tune into this live concert stream, I did.

Kate Wakefield on electric cello and Daisy Caplan on drums are a unique type of duo--almost hard rock, very experimental, symphonic in their own way, and great. There are no flashy moves, and they don't need them. They just play.

Some songs were from Kings, and they all sounded fine live; they do unease very well. Their anti-rape song “Brock” is bracing and powerful. Others were new, and fit right in.

Daisy opened one with a short drum solo, and a good one. I like the way Kate sings--she reminds me of Kristin Hersh--and her cello looks a lot like an electric guitar, but one that's white and open.

Kate used some vocal loops, as well, for an operatic effect, adding to the hard rock as classical music vibe, which was very likable.

The show ended with a heartfelt round of thanks to everyone involved with putting Lung on, and I liked how understated the ending was, partly because of that, and also that this is unpretentious experimental music, the best kind.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, October 31, 2020

 I'm enough of a Beach Boys fan to know a good update of them when I hear it. mylittlebrother is one of them, and Howl backs up the good things I'd read about them. There never can be enough Beach Boys updates, especially when filtered through The Wedding Present.

Will Harris, the leader of mylittlebrother, was kind enough to answer a few interview questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: For those who don't know the band, could you give a short history?

Will Harris: We began as a solo project. I was touring a lot, playing piano for a singer-songwriter called Aaron Wright. At that point we were touring for months on end and playing festivals every weekend. In a rare gap after a tour, my girlfriend said "Right, it's a good opportunity to do your own stuff now," so I recorded the Nosedive EP in my bedroom. Nosedive ended up being played on BBC Radio 6 Music and Radio 1, and getting great reviews, and I started getting gig and festival offers. I had known Dan for years and always wanted to be in a band with him, and we built a band around that. And the rest, as they say, is history.

AW: Who are your influences?

WH: We have a huge range of influences. For the songwriting, I'm a huge Brian Wilson fan, and I'm also influenced by the bittersweet writing of The Wedding Present and John Grant. To be honest, pretty much everything I hear seeps in and can influence me sometimes.

AW: I hear college rock, especially REM, in your sound. Would you say that's right?

WH: Yeah, I certainly wouldn't argue with that. It's not really a conscious decision, but I grew up on REM as my brother was a huge fan. They were also one of the first bands I saw live in my teens. So I think they have inevitably influenced me quite a lot, and I am still a big fan.

AW: This album was recorded in 2019. Do you think the lyrics mean even more now than they did then?

WH: Some of them certainly do. The anger on "Chicago" has a whole new level now when I shout "I'm stuck in little England and I'm ill, annoyed and down." Lots of the other lyrics on the album also seem eerily prescient of 2020.

AW: To me, the lyrics seem gentle and subtle, even when it's a put-down, like on “Responsibility” and “Janey.” Would you say that's so?

WH: Definitely. I have always been a fan of pairing dark lyrics with a catchy melody, and I also like to leave a level of subtly or a slight ambiguity to my lyrics, even when they are immensely personal to me. Howl has taken my lyrics to quite an angry place in parts, but equally I'm quite a friendly person, and I think that this juxtaposition shows a lot in the new songs.

AW: “Falling” and “Regional Saint” are good change-of-pace songs. Were they meant to be that way, or just as fun?

WH: Both, really. We recorded "Regional Saint" purely, as we were really happy with the sound we had, so we just improvised it out. We discovered "Falling" when we were producing the album. But when it came to putting the album together, we knew that we needed those changes of pace. We had other options, but those two tracks worked perfectly with the flow of the album.

WH: In “Chicago” you talk directly and clearly about how you feel about being stuck in England, unable to get back to Chicago, which makes me curious. Why can't you get back to Chicago?

It's not actually about me trying to get to Chicago, it's more a howl of "I don't want you to go home to Chicago" whilst being "stuck in little England". It's about losing someone.

AW: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in music?

WH: Keep going. You'll release things that you'll look back on and cringe at, but if you love it, keep at it.



Big Stir Records

There is a lot of Brian Wilson in the songwriting here, not so much his epic scale, but his directness and clarity, that he means what he says. That also goes for The Wedding Present as an influence, and it's a very good combination.

So, say, the song “Chicago,” which is a plea to the singer's girlfriend not to go there, is emotional, but not overly emotional, just the right amount.

Will Harris, the leader of mylittlebrother, writes very gentle songs, even when he's chiding someone, as in “Responsibility” or “Janey.”

The music is college rock, and special, because it's memorable, like all good music is. You'll remember these songs happily, long after they're over.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

 Joe Giddings

Better From Here

Kool Kat Musik

Giddings' power pop is reminiscent of Fountains of Wayne, especially on the song that's something of a tribute, “Amity Horror.”

FoW were trailblazers, and Giddings breaks more ground just by presenting and sometimes ribbing himself as an ordinary person, like on the song “Irrelevant.”

All of these songs nicely rock, even the quiet ones. They're melodic, and more complex lyrically than their directness would indicate. This album is clearly a winner.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, October 24, 2020



Kool Kat Musik

The new album by SLD, or Sounds Like Digging, is a lot of fun--catchy, mid 60s vibe, mostly Beatles based, and all about troubled romantic relationships.

Musically and lyrically it's clear and direct, with a winning simplicity. There are still so many ways to update the Beatles and the 60s. In this case it's loose enough to not be too formal or retro about everything.

So if you're looking for music that isn't too heavy, or lyrics that never say more than they need to about relationships, this is a good album to get, and one that holds up to repeated listening.

Andrea  Weiss

Sunday, October 11, 2020

 Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes


While this band is new to me, I had heard Leslie's 90’s band, It’s Me Margaret, and liked them. The Lazy Heroes is a great band, as well, one of the best I’ve heard this year.


Leslie was kind enough to answer a few interview questions for me, and I thank her. And I echo her message here to vote, and to respect older people who marched before for today's equality.



Andrea Weiss: How did the band form?


Leslie Pereira: Jeff Page (drums), Paula Venise (backing vocals), and myself were in a band together in the 90’s. I put together a garage band to work over a new sound I was channeling. I had about 12 songs I wanted to record with legendary producer Earl Mankey. When it came time to record, I decided that Jeff would be a better fit for the drumming parts. He thought his buddy Rob Lontok would be a better fit for the bass parts. We sounded so good together that the rest is history.



AW: Who are your influences?


LP: Rock, hard rock, '90s rock, country, pop, surf, and punk. Anything guitar driven!



AW: Your sound is very '90s alt-rock (say, Sleater-Kinney) mixed with the early Go-Gos and the Pandoras. Would you say you also mix in today’s music?


LP: Yes, I love the single-string guitar sound with Rob’s driving bass tone. Jeff seems to always find ways of doing something different in every song. Three piece bands are very hip and today, very now.



AW: Some of your lyrics are about same-sex relationships. As someone who’s out, it is always great to hear lyrics like that. Would you say that’s the case for you, too?


LP: I like hearing the truth, it’s very attractive. I’m not into “tricking” people anymore for the sake of a old-school record label's wishes. Paula and I know that all too well – of course. It’s offensive, not attractive, to lie to your audience. Writing UNI-Sex lyrics is sexy. I like that. Doesn't everyone? And of course Big Stir wouldn't ask us to change a thing about who we are and what we sing!



AW: Who are the other two vocalists?


LP: Leslie is the main vocalist (that's me)! Paula is the female backing vocalist, featured on “So Hard” (and my wife). Jeff sings lead on “Slip” and backing vocals on everything else. Rob sings harmonies as well!



AW: Your literature says you are out, which is wonderful. Do you want to say anything to the LBGTQA community? 


LP: VOTE! Be nice to the oldies that marched the streets ahead of you for equality.



AW: If you could tour with anyone, when concerts resume, who would it be?


LP: Anyone from Big Stir Records. They have really good taste! I have my favorites, but I think it would be really fun to do a whole lineup together.



AW: What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out in music?


LP: Listen to music, learn your instrument, take a songwriting course, go out and support local live music, play in front of people, and rehearse your butt off.

 Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes

Good Karma

Big Stir Records


This LA punk/hard rock band 's second album, their first for Big Stir, is equal parts Sleater-Kinney, the Go-Gos, rockabilly, and the Pandoras, with Karen Basset from the Pandoras as engineer. They combine all these influences very well.


Lyrically half it’s half relationship songs and half life songs, like the title track, “Time To Rock,” and one funny one, “Race Car” Relationship songs include “I’m Waiting,” “Coraline (Where Are You),” and “In My Backyard.” While these songs are same sex, they are meant for everyone.


This is a great album to rock out to, but also to think to. It’s a lot of fun, but also serious, always a great combination. You can't go wrong with an album this enjoyable.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, October 4, 2020

 Marshall Holland

Paper Airplane

Mystery Lawn Records


This very direct, clear, simple in the best sense of the word, power pop/indie rock album from Holland is a lot of fun.


There are relationships, romantic and otherwise, as in “When The Rain Comes,” politics, as in “Waiting For That Peace and Love,” and feminism, as in “She Buys A Dress

(To Match With Her Pink Belt)” in preparation for the woman in the song stepping out on her own.


Holland played all the instruments, and shows himself to be very nimble and light on his feet. So if you want something that goes down easy and yet has a lot of meaning to it, this is the album to get.

Andrea Weiss

 Marshall Holland is a new discovery for me, and a welcome one. Modern power pop is very expansive, one of many subcultures that thrive even more on the net, so there's a lot that's new to explore and like. This artist is one to like a lot.


Marshall was kind enough to answer a few questions.


Andrea Weiss: For those who dont know your work, could you give us a history?


Marshall Holland: I'm a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter based in the San Francisco Bay area. I've written and produced my own instrumentals and radio-friendly tunes; genres from classical, electronica to Americana and pop/rock, in which the latter I'm more known for.


Self-taught musician starting at the age of 2, starting writing songs at 9, and in high school and college I played various rhythm section instruments in the Jazz Band, mostly guitar, bass and drums. Was even awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and various soloist awards while playing in jazz festivals.


I have a new indie pop album, “Paper Airplane,” just released earlier this September, and it's my fifth full length that I wrote and recorded during the pandemic lockdown, and it has been said gives a nod to bands like The Monkees, America, The Left Banke, and even UK New Wave. My last album, “Marshall Holland and the Etceteras,” was an unexpected hit for me, as it reached the #2 spot on KALX and had heavy rotation on KZSU, as well as getting mass (underground) attention around the globe. I'm still not sure how it happened, as it did so very quickly and organically with very little promotion. I did, however, strategically name the album “and the Etceteras,” as I had a feeling people would pay more attention to a name that sounds like group than just a name of a solo artist, but the proof is in the pudding, as I got a large following from it.


Sadly, because I released that album while I was between jobs and also had the mental real estate available to give it my full attention, much of that fan base left somewhere, as I had been absent from it all for 6 years after acquiring full time employment as well as suffering from medical issues. I was still writing and recording music for myself during those years, but I just didn't have the mental energy to release music then, but I'm back now! Hello world!



AW: Who are your influences?


MH: Good question, and I don't know how to give a straight answer at this moment, as I have always had an eclectic taste in music and can gravitate, listen to, and absorb a genre for a few days or for months and then switch to something else as my mood sees fit. I'm a sponge with a short attention span (no relation to any cartoon characters). I grew up in a family of music lovers and musicians who also listened to and were open to all types of music.


There are artists and bands I admire and I could say they are my influences, but sometimes I think that can calcify an artist or band into being almost gimmicky, so I want to be careful admitting. I do admire the Beatles and Elvis Costello a ton, of course, but a band like the Beatles is just a default these days for most people in my genre. Before writing and recording this album I was in the mood for The Cowsills, Paul McCartney/Wings, Partridge Family, The Monkees, The Association, The Left Banke, Chamaeleon Church (a psychedelic band Chevy Chase plays drums in) and just a ton of 60s, 70s, even 80s New Wave playlists all on random. It just felt good to hear this music, especially during the depressing pandemic lockdown.



AW: Some of your songs, like She Buys a Dress,” are about empowerment, which is great. What is it about that subject that lends itself to songs? 


MH: If I feel subjects to a song can hold their own weight and energy, it sometimes triggers me and grabs my attention to motivate me to start writing and finishing the song. With this song I literally woke up one morning with the line in my head “She Buys a dress to match with her pink belt,” and it was because of that curious phrase I was inspired into making it a song.



AW: “Waiting For That Peace & Love” is wonderful. Do you find that its needed even more now? 


MH: Thank you. I think peace and love is our forgotten default and it will always be there if we just learn to tap into it; however, it's because we fall into blinding ourselves and getting influenced by issues opposite of “peace and love.” Peace and love is not anything we have to acquire or strive for; we just need be aware of the negativity that we consume ourselves with and peace will fall back into place--mediation (and voting!) can help with that!



AW: Lets Active, in particular, seems to be a big influence. Is that so?


MH: Good question. Not specifically, but I'm very much moved by heavy melodies and songs with guitars. There's so much music that I love that it would be a crime to single them out, but I'm really drawn to catchy tunes like the ones Let's Active has.



AW: Some of the songs here, like Our Fate,” seem to be political. Do you find political songs are needed now?


MH: Indeed, these are heavy and powerful times, so having artwork or music that's inspired by our environment, social voices, or the energy of what's happening now is just too hard to avoid, especially today.



AW: I like your guitar playing. Its very much jangle pop, which so many experiment with. Do you like to experiment, or do you aim for something more straightforward with your music?


MH: Thank you! These are wonderful questions, by the way. I do like to experiment but I also try not to aim too hard to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, where no one can relate to it. I love improvising and getting inspired by what comes out of nowhere just for the sake that I felt like it. In fact, I think Brian Eno said something like, “Inspiration comes only while you're working.”


Although it's probably hard to hear it , but many parts recorded were improvised or just came out quickly and I kept it in. I like my “experimentations” to compliment the songs however, not the other way around, or it can make most people just go “huh?”. Some would argue, but I think experimentations are incidents that are somewhat forced; in other words, experimentations are made for the sake of being experimental, so are they genuine? It's not a bad thing, but in my mind it's a scientific approach to reach a destination, so to speak, but improvising comes from the soul I believe. For example, turning a knob or playing a note to reach a different outcome is an experimentation, but improvisation would be that you did it because you just felt like it at that moment and you have no idea where it's going to take you next and you go with the flow. I digress...I was “going with the flow” in my answer--Haha! To answer your question, both. :-)



AW: What advice would you give someone just starting out in music?


MH: Do it because it makes you feel good, and practice using your ear. Reading music is a good skill to have but the ear is an amazing tool that should not be ignored. Practice improvising. Learn songs by ear, and don't worry about being a master at an instrument, learn to play anything you can get your hands on (use your ear). Don't worry about doing it the proper way at first, but also learn from others more accomplished, if you can, and just have an open mind. Have fun at first and worry about being serious later. Learning while having fun is the best approach.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

 Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave

Big Stir Records


What’s striking about Big Stir’s latest singles compilation is how much meaning it has. Every band on here has something really good to say, with no irony, just sincerity.


There’s love, like Carol Pacey

& The Honey Shakers' “If Romance Is Dead Then I Want To Be Dead Too” and “Love Does,” or Kai Danzberg’s “Let Him Go” and “Let Her Go (2019 demo).”


But a lot of these songs are political, too, like Broken Arrows' Byrds-like “The Worst Of The Rest,” which is anti-Trump and a lament for the US.


Then there are songs that don’t fit into categories, such as The Forty Nineteens' “Late Night Radio” or The Corner Laughers' “The Calculating Boy.”


But listen to all of them. They all have something to say, whether going full tilt or quitter, whether psychedelic like Rick Hromada’s “Dreams Of A Hippy Summer” or quiet like Nick Frater’s “Intro.” They’re all great and deserve to be hits.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

 It’s Karma It’s Cool

The Battle Of Burnt Out Bliss Lyric Video

Kool Kat Musik


The latest single from It’s Karma It’s Cool’s album Woke Up In Hollywood is a lament for a relationship, but could also be about the political mood of the US.


There is only one image in this clip: a leather chair, a plant next to it, and a window looking out on a cityscape on fire. The room lurches from side to side, up and down, and soft focus spotlights sometimes shine.


All of this is meant to show things going terribly wrong, and it is powerful and effective. It’s a very good clip that shows how perilous a break up, and the US in crisis, is.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, September 19, 2020

 Nick Frater is another musician I discovered through Big Stir. I always liked power pop, and the modern guitar pop/rock that takes its cue from it makes me like it even more. The genre has expanded so that anything goes and everything works. Nick's music is creative, melodic, and experimental.


Nick was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.



Andrea Weiss: For those who don’t know your work, could you give a short history of it?


Nick FraterFast & Loose is my fifth album, and the first out on Big Stir Records. It has been described as Brian Wilson meets Cheap Trick, which is probably pretty accurate!


My last album, Full Fathom Freight-Train, was warmly received by the power-pop world, including being voted Album of the Year 2019 by David Bash (Shindig!/IPO festival).


Having spent my early years playing in countless bands, and every bar in London, I decided that if I wanted something doing I should do it myself. So set up a label, Great Sheiks, and started producing and releasing my own music, and bands I was in or thought were good and wanted to help. With the help of Ray at Kool Kat my early albums came out on CD, and the Nick Frater cult following has been building ever since.



AW: Who are your influences?


NF: Beatles, Wondermints, and everything in between!


It’s a simple question, but very hard to answer! I have a huge love for music from the mid-60s to mid-70s, and many of those bands can be heard in my songwriting and production. But, I was lucky enough to have a very broad musical education. I am a classically trained pianist, though you wouldn’t know it if you heard me attempting to play Brahms these days. In school I was one of the few kids that played bass guitar, so got recruited by bands much older than I was. It was here I met Tom Shotton and Alex Lewis, who are probably my strongest influences, and I still make music with now. They’re on drums and backing vocals on Fast & Loose. I was maybe fourteen at the time, and listening to terrible bands, and writing terrible songs. Before joining their band practice I was given a mix tape that had Van Dyke Parks, Hatfield and The North, Professor Longhair, and all sorts of things that opened up my ears. I then heard their songs, insanely good, but also insanely complicated to learn. I’ve been trying to write songs as good as theirs ever since!



AW: I hear the Beach Boys the most in your sound, which is great. How did you draw on them?


NF: I acquired a bootleg of Smile and became obsessed with the music and the mystique around those tapes. It was at the peak of this obsession, that Brian Wilson finished it and debuted it in London. This remains one of the most incredible gigs I’ve been to, not just to hear it complete, but to see how some of those sounds had been made. To see and hear members of The Wondermints playing this music lifted the veil on what some of those sounds really were on my murky cassette bootleg.



AW: Your lyrics seems so happy and positive, which I like. Do you lean toward lyrics like that as a rule?


NF: Fast & Loose definitely has a few positive tracks. "Would You Like To Go?" for example, felt like a really fun bubblegum tune to write. Much of my music, though, is much darker lyrically, but within the context of melodic, upbeat music might not always sound that way. Writing lyrics is such an unusual part of songwriting; I tend to start with melody and some nonsense words, guided by how it sounds when sung. The meaning is often a surprise to read once it is done.



AW: “Cocaine Gurls” seems to be about sobriety. Or is that a mischaracterization?


NF: In someways I guess, not necessarily mine, though! This song was actually written for one of my old bands, back when we were young and playing sweaty dive bars late at night. I co-wrote the song with our band’s singer, who then decided it was too stupid to sing! This album felt like the right one to revisit it; I nearly called it "Croydon Gurls!"



AW: I read in the literature for your album that you’d recently become a dad. Congratulations! You said that singing to and rocking your newborn baby was a good way to write songs. Did it make recording them easier?


NF: Thanks! I mainly record in my home studio, so don’t have far to go when inspiration strikes. The biggest difference since becoming a dad is, obviously, having less uninterrupted time to spend making music. However, that limitation seems to have made me more productive. Thinking through in advance exactly what I want to do, and getting done in twenty minutes what I used to spend a whole evening on!



AW: A number of guests appear on the album. How was it working with them?


NF: For all its faults, social media has been a positive thing for bringing like-minded musicians and people together. The DIY music world is full of fantastic musicians who are often incredibly generous with their time and talents. I love collaborating with people, and sometimes the challenges of being located in different parts of the world can help take ideas in interesting directions. Whenever possible, I try to help out with other people’s music, too. Always say yes. You never know how things might turn out!



AW: What advice would you give to someone just starting in music?


NF: Being in bands should be fun. Enjoy it, and don’t try and be cool!


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