Live Footage: Minus the Bear Covers Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” on A.V. Undercover

Going back to their print days, I’ve long been a fan of  The Onion AV Club, as they’ve consistently offered some of the smartest, most incisive, funniest criticism of movies, music and pop culture around. Since moving exclusively to the web, the folks behind The Onion AV Club created the Undercover video series.  The concept behind the video series is pretty interesting — every season, the website’s writers and editors devise a list of songs that they would love to have contemporary artists cover. The website’s staff then invites a bunch of artists and bands to stop by their Chicago studio, where they have the invited band choose a song from the AV Club’s list for that season — and then they record it in a live session. Now, here’s where things get really interesting: Once a song is chosen and then covered, it’s crossed off their list, reducing the number of songs anyone else can cover that season, so if an artist or band is invited later on in their season, their choices may be much more limited than a band that was invited earlier. By doing that, it prevents having several invited artists or bands from covering the same sets of songs over and and over and over again. And while revealing the influences and tastes of many contemporary acts, it also forces artists out of their confront zones, sometimes to a gloriously weird result — such as  They Might Be Giants’ boisterous  cover of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” and Screaming Females’ feral, punk rock cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Gwar’s thrash punk covers of Billy Ocean’s “Get Out of My Dreams (And Into My Car),”  and  Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls,” which are so fucking awesome, that you need to check them out below) or to the “oh shit, I never thought that artist could pull that song,” like  Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater’s collaborative cover of Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” And as you can imagine, sometimes the covers are straightforward — and other times, the band or artist brings a unique, never thought of take. Adding to the unpredictability of the series, they’ve had Shearwater cover Bowie’s Lodger. 

To start off the eighth season of Undercover, the A.V. Club invited the Seattle, WA-based indie rock blogosphere darlings Minus the Bear to their newly redesigned Chicago studio, where they played a forceful and lovingly straightforward cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” 

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With the release of “Blue Hell,” the lead single and album opener off their full-length debut effort, Uncontrollable Salvation, the San Francisco, CA-based punk rock/indie rock quartet Pardoner quickly received attention for angst-filled, power chord-based, mosh pit-friendly rock. And unsurprisingly, Uncontrollable Salvation‘s second and latest single, album title track “Uncontrollable Salvation” will further cement their reputation for crafting 90s, inspired slacker rock full of buzzing power chords and rousingly anthemic hooks, and while the song has garnered comparisons to Polvo and Dinosaur, Jr., which are fair, I also hear elements of the beloved, Seattle grunge sound.

The Jack Shirley-produced Uncontrollable Salvation is slated for a September 8, 2017 release through Father/Daughter Records. And to build up buzz for the album, the band has two Bay Area shows in August. Check out live dates below.

Live Dates

August 5 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe du Nord (w/ Alex Napping)
August 30 – Oakland, CA @ Starline Social Club (w/ Froth)

 

 

 

Perhaps best known as a founding member, vocalist, pianist and primary songwriter of Los Angeles, CA-based indie quintet Local Natives, an act that’s received attention nationally for a sound that has been compared favorably to the likes Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear, Kelcey Ayer steps out from behind the auspices of a band for his solo side project, Jaws of Love. Unsurprisingly, Ayer’s new project reportedly sees Ayer honing in on what he’s best known for — sparse yet emotive piano ballads, as highlighted on his primary gig’s critically applauded sophomore effort Hummingbird.

 

Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, Ayer’s Jews of Love. debut takes was named by Ayer’s wife, who named the album after the their dog, Tasha — and the album is slated for a September 22, 2017 release through House Arrest Records, and Ayer’s Jaws of Love. debut single, the eponymous “Jaws of Love,” begins with a spectral arrangement in which he accompanies his plaintive and aching vocals with a gorgeous and mournful pianos before turing into a moody, and ambient synth pop track seemingly inspired by Narrow Stairs-era Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service and Brian Eno; but at its core is a sweetly swooning love song that reveals a visceral vulnerability as the song, much like the rest of the album’s material, focuses on love’s trials and tribulations, with the recognition that love may arguably be one of the more difficult, insane and absolutely necessary things in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: The Texas Gentlemen Return with Slasher Flick-Inspired Visuals for New Single “Pain”

Earlier this month, I wrote about  The Texas Gentlemen, an act comprised of a core group of bandleader and founding member Beau Bedford, Nik Lee, Daniel Creamer, Matt McDonald, Ryan Ake and a constantly evolving and rotating cast of collaborators and friends, that was initially assembled as an all-purpose backing band for an eclectic array of singer/songwriters including Leon Bridges, Nikki Lane, Shakey Graves, Delta Spirit’s Matthew Logan Vasquez, Jack Ingram, Terry Allen, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ray Benson, Joe Ely and many others — and in a similar fashion to The Wrecking Crew, The Muscle Shoals Swampers (who once backed Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and a lengthy list of soul legends), Booker T. and The M.G.’s and The Band. Now as you may recall, the members of The Texas Gentlemen backed the legendary Kris Kristofferson at this first Newport Folk Festival appearance in more than 45 years, and the set lead to a series of critically applauded shows across Texas.

Building on their growing reputation as a go-to backing band, the band signed to New West Records, who will release their full-length debut effort TX Jelly on September 15, 2017. Recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, the album, which was produced by the band’s Beau Bedford was recorded live to tape over four days in a raucous recording session and features material that touches on the blues, soul, folk, country rock, gospel and Southern rock. As Bedford described the recording sessions to the folks at Paste, “We set up our own version of Rock ‘n’ Roll Summer camp and invited our friends down to FAME studios. We figured at worst, we would have a great time as friends hanging out in one of the most historic studios in America. There was so much mojo once we turned all of the gear on, sounds just started popping out of the speakers, and the songwriters couldn’t help but feed off the energy. TX Jelly is the fruition of years of kinship and a deep hunger by our collective group for American roots music.”

TX Jelly’s first single “Habbie Doobie” was a sweaty, funky and hook-driven bit of down home, Southern rock that sounded as though it drew from The Allman Brothers, The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Black Crowes but with the free-flowing improvised feel of a bunch of old friends jamming and hitting upon a groove, with each individual musician knowing where the other was going next. And while easily displaying the cool, self-assuredness of old pros, the song is a decidedly bold introduction to the band as an independent unit. Fittingly enough, TX Jelly’s second single “Pain” is a jangling and old-timey boogie that touches upon The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “What’s Your Name,” Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You” and naturally, much of the sounds of the early 1970s — but much like the preceding single, they do so with the soulful and swaggering self-assuredness of old studio hands. 

Directed by Horatio Baltz, the recently released video for “Pain” is inspired by 70s and 80s slasher flicks and features a gorgeous femme fatale, who causes a hell of a lot of pain for her victims  — victims, who look quite a bit like members of the band. There’s sure to be pain in their lives, and a few bloody deaths, too. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past two years or so of its seven year history, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts on the Grand Rapids, MI-based psych rock quartet HEATERS. Formed back in 2014, the Grand Rapids-based quartet began to make a name for themselves with the release of a handful of homemade EPs, a couple of split records and an attention grabbing appearance on Stolen Body‘s Vegetarian Meat psych rock compilation. Building upon a growing profile, the band’s Solstice EP was released through Dizzybird Records and they quickly followed that up within the following year with the “Mean Green” 7 inch and their full-length debut Holy Water Pool both of which were released through renowned, Brooklyn-based indie label Beyond Is Beyond Records.  And with each of those efforts, the band receive greater and greater acclaim — as well as a growing international profile — for a spacey, motorik-like take on West Coast, 60s psych rock and garage rock.

After the release of their sophomore full-length release Baptistina the band went through a massive lineup change in which the band’s founding members Nolan Krebs and Joshua Korf are paired with newest recruits Ryan Hagan and Ben Taber. And you’ll hear on “Seance,” the first single off the band’s forthcoming, third full-length Matterhornthe band retains the gorgeous and shimmering guitar lines and propulsive, motorik-like groove and enveloping sound that first caught the attention of the this site and the rest of the blogosphere; however, there’s a noticeably different energy and vibe to the material: a swaggering self-assuredness rooted behind an even larger, oceanic-like sound within expansive and ambitious songwriting.

 

 

 

New Audio: Ice Balloons Return with Doom-Laden Animated Visuals for New Track

Over the past month or so I’ve written a couple of posts on the All-Star, no-wave, noise-punk act  Ice Balloons, an act comprised of a who’s who of contemporary indie rock as the band’s lineup features  TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, Samiam’s Sean Kennerly, Fuckemos’ and Surfbort’s Sean Powell, Midnight Masses’ Giselle Reiber, Wild Yaks’ Dan Scinta and B.A. Miele. The project finds each member bringing disparate elements from their various primary gigs and creative pasts into their creative process but in a rather unique fashion. 

“Calypso Heartworm,” the first single off the band’s full-length debut Fiesta was a fuzzy and dissonant song with a rather untraditional and indiscernible song structure and while there are hints at familiar elements as there’s sort of a bridge and something that resembles a bridge and a hook, all held together by a propulsive and angular bass line, buzzing guitar chords and a trippy, kaleidoscopic vibe. The album’s second single “The Wasp” featured scorching guitar work, sizzling electronic laser blasts and distorted, howled vocals in an anthemic and blistering punk anthem from a broken and failing spaceship sent from a dystopian planet, much like our own. However, the album’s third and latest single “Fallen Family” is a hellish and doom-laden dirge, complete with down-tuned, rumbling bass, thunderous drumming and heavily distorted vocals. 

Featuring animation by Chicago, IL-based director Jim Trainor, the recently released visuals for the song are reminiscent of Matt Groening’s Life in Hell and Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto as it possesses a real dark irony. 

As a mixed-race daughter in middle America — small town Ohio to be precise — the Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter Becca Richardson has always lived with the surrounding questions of what it means to belong and connect with others, and because she grew up with the constant reminder of being different than her counterparts, she found an immediate connection through music; in fact, she grew up in a rather musical home in which Fleetwood Mac, Phoebe Snow and Cat Stevens were on heavy rotation in her home.  After learning piano, guitar and to sing, she discovered a deep passion for songwriting, which still manages to be a powerful tool for discovering herself and carving out a space in the world.

As a young adult, Richardson went to study at Stanford University while honing her overall sound and songwriting approach. After spending a few years playing and hustling in the Bay Area music scene, Richardson relocated to Nashville, where she began work on her Roger Moutenot and Courtney Little-produced full-length debut We Are Gathered Here. “Wanted,” the album’s lead single, thematically explores womanhood, otherness and autonomy — but in a way that captures the innermost thoughts and desires of a modern woman; the sort of woman you’ve befriended, dated or even gone to work with. Sonically speaking, the song paris Richardson’s coolly self-assured and sultry vocals with an slick and ambient-leaning production consisting of blasts of bluesy guitar chords, a sinuous bass line, gentle layers of shimmering and undulating synths and soaring yet tight hook to create an overall sound that’s incredibly crafted and thoughtful while being rather radio friendly.

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Blood Cultures is a rather mysterious New Jersey-based electro pop act that has begun to receive attention for a hazy and summery sound that nods at Washed Out and Neon Indian — and to some degree, the Cascine Records roster as you’ll hear on “Scenes From A Midnight Movie,” the opening track to the act’s soon-to-be released full-length debut Happy Birthday; but Blood Cultures sets themselves apart from a crowded field of contemporary purveyors of hazy, wistful and carefully crafted synth pop confections with an incredibly subtle touch — a regal yet mournful horn arrangement towards the song’s coda that reminds me of Tears For Fears‘ “Break It Down Again.”

Blood Cultures will be making their live debut at Rough Trade on August 9, 2017.

 

Now known as the Federal Republic of Somalia, most Westerners view the country as being a lawless, dysfunctional and broken country, split and reeling from a brutal and bloody civil war between two or three different factions — and while that has been true over the past 25-30 years, what Westerners and others have sadly forgotten is that because of its location,the Eastern African nation for known for more than a millennium for being a major trading post, with several powerful Somali empires dominating regional trade, including the Ajuran Empire, the Adal Sultanate, the Warsangali Sultanate, and the Geledi Sultanate. And as one of antiquity’s major trade posts, the cultures and peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, Persia, India, Southeast Asian and China found a way to influence and slowly work their way into the region’s unique musical culture and sound.

In the late 19th century, the British and Italian empires through a series of treaties with Somalia’s historical empires and sultanates gained greater control of parts of the country’s coastline, establishing the colonies of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland while Mohammed Abdullah Hassan’s Dervish State fought and defeated the British four times before a crushing defeat by the British in 1920. Italy, then acquired full control of the northeastern, central and southern parts of the country after defeating the Majerteen Sultanate and the Sultanate of Hobyo — and their occupation of the country lasted until 1941 when the British took over with a military administration. British Somaliland would remain a protectorate of the British while Italian Somaliland became a United Nations Trusteeship under Italian administration, the Trust Territory of Somaliland.

Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, independence movements across Africa helped to redefine the map; in fact, by 1960 Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland united in 1960 to form the Somali Republic under a civilian and democratic based government. Sadly, democratic government didn’t last long; by 1969, the Supreme Revolutionary Council led by authoritarian Mohamed Siad Barre seized power and established the Somali Democratic Republic.

Now that I’ve gone through roughly 1000 years or so of Somali history in a couple of hundred words, things musically for us begin in more contemporary times — 1988. You see, back in 1988 on the eve of a bloody, two-decade civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern region, known known as Somaliland in an attempt to smash a growing independence movement within that region of the country.

Musically speaking things for us begin in relatively contemporary times — 1988. On the eve of a bloody, two decade plus civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern section, now known as Somaliland in an attempt to squash a rumbling independence movement within the region. Unsurprisingly, one of the targets Said Barre targeted for airstrikes was the regional radio station Radio Hargeisa, as a way to prevent the organization of further resistance. Knowing that an attack on their radio station and their hometown was imminent, a handful of radio operators, tastemakers and historians recognized that they needed to preserve more than 50 years of modern Somali music as quickly as possible — and it meant finding a way to remove thousands upon thousands of cassette tapes, records and master reels and then dispersing them to neighboring countries like Djibouti and Ethiopia — or in many instances, burying the tapes deep underground to protect them from theft, airstrikes, fire and so on.

The Somali Civil War broke out in 1991 and it resulted both the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s government and a number of armed factions fighting for influence and control throughout the country’s southern region. With the absence of a central government, Somalia quickly began to known as a failed state with residents returning to customary and religious law in most regions, along with a couple of autonomous regions — namely Somaliland and Puntland. But interestingly, the early part of the millennium saw the creation of several fledgling and sputtering federal administrations, including the Transitional Federal Government, which in 2004 reestablished national institutions such as the military. And with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, the Transitional Federal Government assumed control of the country’s southern conflict zones, beating back the Islamic Courts Union, which eventually splintered into a several radical Islamicist groups, including Al-Shabaab, a group that continued an ongoing battle with the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for control of the region and its territory.

By 2012, insurgent groups had lost most of the territory they had seized, and a political process that provided benchmarks for the establishment of a permanent democracy  — and it included the drafting of a provisional constitution, which reformed Somalia as a federation. At the end of that lengthy process was the creation of the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent government in the country in well over 20 years, followed by a period of necessary and hopeful reconstruction in Mogadishu.

Remember those audio recordings that the engineers, programmers, historians and tastemakers dispatched to Djibouti and Ethopia and buried in various locations across the region? Interestingly enough, those recordings were recently excavated from their shelters with some of those recordings being kept in the 10,000 cassette tape archives of the Red Sea Foundation, the largest known collection of Somali music and cassettes, located in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa. (Yes, things do and can come full circle.)

Ostinato Records, best known for the preservation, digitalization, and distribution of obscure world music was able to digitized a significantly large portion of the Red Sea Foundation’s archives, choosing 15 songs as part of their latest compilation of African music Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa. And while revealing the diversity of styles and sounds of Somali musicianship, the compilation also provides a glimpse of life in Mogadishu in the 1970s and 1980s, when the coastal capital was referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” At the time bands like Iftiin, Sharero and Dur Dur played at some of East Africa’s glitziest nightclubs, while Waaberi Band played packed to the rafter sets at the national theater.  Nightlife, music, culture and art were enormous — and interestingly while there were renowned male vocalists like Mahmud “Jerry” Hussen, Somali music of the 70s and 80s were best known for beloved female vocalists Faadumo Qaasim, Hibo Nuura, Sahra Dawo and a collection of truly empowered, prolific women; in fact, half of the compilation features songs sung by and written by women.

This cultural and musical golden age occurred under a socialist, military dictatorship, which effectively nationalized the country’s music industry. The state owned a thriving scene and essentially music was recorded for and by national radio stations, and it was distributed and disseminated through public broadcasts or live performances. Privately owned labels were non-existent and the work of a generation of artists was never made available for mass release in the way it is elsewhere — and until recently, hadn’t been heard outside of Somalia or its immediate neighbors. Most of that period, Somali music was largely influenced by the cultures and people who traveled to the region throughout its history as a major trade port; however, during the height of the Cold War, Somalia had periods of financial and logistical support by both the Soviets and the US in the Ethio-Somali War — and with about a decade of US backing, American soul, funk and hip-hop captured the imaginations of Somali youth, adding to a unique element to the country’s musical culture and sound.

While compiling the tracks on Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa, members of the Ostinato Records team spent the better part of a year traveling back and forth between Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Djibouti and across the Somali Diaspora in parts of Europe, the US and the Middle East to track down the musicians, songwriters, composers, government officials, scenesters, radio personalities and other folks, who had played a role during the 1970s and 1980s and got their stories down in a detailed, 15,000 word liner note booklet.

 

As the folks at Obstinato Records explain in press notes “Along side the story of Somalia’s music before the civil war, the selection is also focused on the pan-Somali sound. Spread over much of the Horn of Africa, Somali language and culture transcend arbitrary borders. Somali singers from Djibouti were at home in Mogadishu.” They add that “this compilation  seeks to revive the rightful image, history, and identity of the Somali people, detached from war, violence, piracy, and the specter of a persistent threat.”

Now, as you may recall, the compilations’ first single Danan Hargeysa’s “Uur Hooyo (Mother’s Womb)” feat. Mohamed “Huro” Abdihashi was recorded and released back in 1987 and the breezy confection nods at the trippy psychedelia of dub and dubstep as the collaborators pair a shuffling, two-step-like rhythm with explosive blasts of horn, shimmering synths, Nile Rodgers-like guitar and a strutting bass line, and while revealing an obvious reggae and calypso influence, the song possesses an undeniably sunny and funky vibe. Recently, the folks at Ostinato Records released two more singles from the compilation, Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” and Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan in anticipation of its official release on August 25, 2017.

Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” is an achingly gorgeous and slow-burning lament of a song that pairs Camaari’s ethereal and plaintive vocals with a lush and soaring Middle Eastern and Indian-inspired string arrangement and percussion and Casio synthesizer-like beats that dimly reminds a bit of Omar Souleyman, The Bombay Royale and JOVM mainstays Tinariwen while being absolutely unlike anything I can quite describe; but at its core is an an ancient and timeless ache. Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan is a swaggering and funky track that manages to sound as though it drew influence from Afrobeat and American soul and funk; but much like the preceding single, it features the ethereal and plaintive vocals of Xawaoo Hirraan, which give the song a similar ache.

Certainly, all three tracks from the forthcoming compilation evoke a far simpler time full of laughter, flowing beer and wine, of dancing until the sun came up and walking home in a drunken and elated shuffle, with arms draped over the shoulders of a companion or two, softly singing — and of sad love songs that speak directly to the lonely heart. No matter the language, it’s the sound of fleeting youth and swooning hearts before life’s ambiguities and horrors.