Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Corner Laughers
Temescal Telegraph
Big Stir Records

The follow up to the excellent Matilda Effect is folk-rock/modern pop-rock so light and nimble on its feet that it carries you away. The music is expertly played, and lead singer/songwriter Karla Kane’s smooth, happy vocals are wonderful. Her ukulele is indispensable.

Most of these songs are feminist, such as “Sisters Of The Pollen” celebrating a sisterhood of bees, happily working together. There are two songs about life, death, and rebirth: “Wren In The Rain” is about winter, as death, turning to spring and rebirth, summer life, and fall, when it ends again. “Lord Richard” is a eulogy to a turkey vulture. Even as this is an American band, the songs feel very British, in a Fairport Convention sort of way, especially “Skylarks of Britain,” with lyrics like “Rosie Abbot has a rabbit in the library/cozy habits surround her.”

This is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, and a must-hear for those who love folk-rock, guitar pop, and modern pop-rock. Pick up Matilda Effect and Karla’s solo debut as well.

Andrea Weiss
Having a good laugh: an interview with Karla Kane of THE CORNER LAUGHERS

When I started listening to the Big Stir singles comps last year, I was thrilled to find good, new music to listen to. So I dove in, and everyone I’ve heard has been a winner, including The Corner Laughers. All of their albums are worth a listen.

Karla Kane, leader of the band, was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: How did the band form?

Karla Kane: Way back at the start, it was formed by me and my friend Angela, who’s since moved on from music (but not the friendship). Khoi joined us pretty early on and we eventually poached Charlie after admiring his drumming in a friend’s band. We’d all been big fans of KC Bowman for years, so it was very exciting that he somehow ended up one of us. We’re a quite tight-knit foursome now and have been for a good long while.

AW: Who are your influences?

KK: I always find this to be an impossible question. Too many to name, of course. But they would have to include the masters of musical theater, British folk and British Invasion, Kirsty MacColl, David Byrne… most of all, our various and very talented musician friends. We’re so lucky to have worked with some of our favorites, including Martin Newell, Mike Viola, Wesley Stace… and to be honest, all my band members are still my biggest idols!

AW: How do you think “Temescal Telegraph” compares to your last album, “Matilda Effect?”

KK: You’ll have to tell me how it compares. It’s the first record we’ve made that’s entirely self-produced and recorded (at KC’s Timber Trout studio in Temescal, Oakland) and we made it more quickly than past albums. We didn’t have a lot of guest cameos, although we did have a few. I think it has a nicely intimate, natural and immediate sound, or at least that’s the way it feels to me because of my memories of making it.

AW: I hope this isn’t a typical “women in rock” question. So few women play modern pop/rock (and the ones that do are wonderful). Why do you think that is?

KK: I’m not sure that it’s true that few women play it, but yeah, there are no doubt scenes where it’s still much more dude-dominated. Sexism and stereotypes, unfortunately, are still rampant in 2020. Happily, I know plenty of great musicians who identify as women. I know our label, Big Stir Records, feels strongly about diversity and representation.

AW: Your lyrics are very feminist, which is great. Do you think that would be another way for more women to participate in the genre?

KK: I can’t help writing songs that reflect me and my beliefs, at least to some extent. I would hope other women feel comfortable writing whatever lyrics they want in whatever genre they wish! But there’s always room for interesting lyrics, whatever the topic or message. Some people are able to separate the artist from the art but I’m not usually one of them.

AW: I like that your music is almost folk/rock. Is that also an influence?

KK: Oh yes! We love both traditional folk and folk rock. My 2017 solo album is even more folky, but “Temescal Telegraph” definitely has lots of folk-rock moments.

AW: I love your ukulele playing. It’s a good twist. Do you mean it that way, or as something else?

KK: I just happened to pick up a ukulele one day (many years ago now) and enjoyed playing it, so that became my instrument and I began using it while writing songs. As the band developed it just naturally stayed with me. There was no plan or agenda to it. I do like the unique sound and texture it gives our music, though, and maybe adds to the folky sound you mentioned above.

AW: “Wren In The Rain” is a great song about death being natural, inevitable, and a fact of life. Do you feel this song would make people think about it that way?

KK: The whole album has a sort of “life-death-life cycle” theme going on, and, yes, that song certainly has themes of nature and seasons. It was inspired by a real-life family of wrens who often nest in our yard, so I think of it more as a song about spring and new life in that sense, but of course it all goes together. “Lord Richard,” the final song on the album, is another bird-inspired one that very much takes that approach to thinking about death.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Big Stir Singles: The Sixth Wave
Big Stir Records

The newest singles comp from this wonderful label, a benefit for Sweet Relief, is dedicated to the late Matthew Seligman. Like the others in this series, it's great.

There is a little of everything here: anthems, contemplative relationship songs, Jim Basnight’s salute to mature women with “Big Bang,” the dance pop of Paula Carino’s “Welcome Spiders,” and the chilling “Home” from Joe Normal, in which a guy gets killed by his girlfriend and goes home.

But the overarching theme here is youthful adults rocking out. All these songs are sane, mature, without a shred of OK Boomer, and a delight to listen to from beginning to end.

This album is a must-hear. I hope it makes a lot of money for Sweet Relief, and may this series continue, as it gets better and better each time.
Andrea Weiss


Andrew Hibbard
Changes Video
Sofaburn Records

“Changes” is the first single from Hibbard’s self-titled album.

The video is great: black and white images of him playing, walking, and recording, all very contemplative, much like the song.

The song, which is alt-country, does remind me of Dylan, but Jerry Garcia’s songs with the Grateful Dead are more like it. “Changes” is nicely gentle, with an undercurrent of sadness. Recommended for those who want a song like this for quiet times, or just something good.

Andrea Weiss


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