Comprised of Duncan Rich (drums), Justin Forrest (bass) and Will Benoit (guitar, synth, vocals), the post-metal shoegaze trio SOM may arguably be one of the most accomplished bands in the contemporary post-metal and shoegaze scenes, as the band features founding members of Boston space rock act Constants, and former touring members and full-time members of acts like Adai, Junius, Rosetta, and Caspian. Interestingly, the members of SOM along with engineer Daryl Rabidoux, who has worked with Doomsday Student and Drowningman recorded their forthcoming full-length debut The Fall on November 9. 2018 and the album’s first single “Open Wounds” is centered by thunderous drumming, w all of sound, fuzzy and distortion pedal-fed guitars, Benoit’s plaintive and yearning vocals and arena rock friendly hooks — and they do so in a way that recalls Silversun Pickups, Thrice and others but with an aching and bitter lament at its core.
Earlier this year, I wrote about Pink Skies, the solo recording project of Arieh Berl, an Oakland, CA-born and raised singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, and as you may recall, Berl has a lengthy history playing in a number of Bay Area-based indie rock and punk bands. While in one of those bands, it became clear to the Oakland-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer that the material he had been writing was meant for a completely different project, as the songs drew from psych rock, pop, R&B, 70s AM rock and chillwave in what Berl described in press notes, as “Escapism Pop.” Interestingly, Berl didn’t intend on releasing those initial home recordings — recorded during stints living in Oakland, Boston and Los Angeles — but, as the story goes he was encouraged to release them, after attending a creative retreat near Berkeley.
Last year was something of a breakthrough year for the Oakland-based artist: he released his first Pink Skies single “Start.End,” played guitar on BOSCO‘s b and released a re-interpreation of 6LACK‘s “Gettin’ Old.” Berl also signed to Huh What & Where Recordings, the label home of KAYTRANADA, Fwdslxsh, Pomo and others; however, Berl has spent the past year building upon a growing direction — first with the Tame Impala-like “Just To Get By,” a song that he wrote while he was living in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles, and feeling lost and alone. Bert’s latest Pink Skies single, the mid-tempo and hook-driven “Portland” reveals a subtle expansion upon his sound but without seemingly like a wild departure — while still sounding like it were influenced by Tame Impala, there’s a hint of Quiet Storm-era R&B and synth funk that manages to be familiar as it’s a winning and beloved formula after all; but with a contemporary take.
Throughout the course of this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brooklyn dance pop act and JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket. Although the band has gone through a number of lineup changes and iterations, there’s one thing that’s been consistent — founding duo and primary songwriters Alex Toth (trumpet, vocals, percussion) and Kalmia Traver (lead vocals, tenor sax and baritone sax). Toth and Traver can trace the origins of their collaboration to when they met while playing in Burlington, VT-based Latin jazz act. Quickly bonding over being horn players, a love of Afrobeat and Afro pop, and their preternatural connection, the duo relocated to Boston in 2006, where they did fairly respectable things to survive — Traver spent time as a nude model for art classes, while Toth spent time hustling $50 a performance marching band gigs. And while being completely broke in Boston, the duo began Rubblebucket.
Relocating to Brooklyn some years later, Toth and Traver, along with a fully-fleshed out band emerged on to the national scene with the release of 2011’s critically applauded sophomore album Omega La La, and an already established reputation for a relentless touring schedule full of ecstatic, energetic and mischievous, dance party-like live sets. Since Omega La La, Rubblebucket’s recorded output has revealed a band that has graduated crafted, then cemented a signature sound — and with their most recent releases, subtly expanding upon it. Simultaneously, Traver fully stepped into the role of the band’s frontperson with a growing self-assuredness.
Slated for an August 24, 2018 release through Grand Jury Music, Sun Machine, Rubblebucket’s fifth full-length album may arguably be among the most personal that Traver and Toth have ever written as the album’s material is largely inspired by the end of the duo’s longterm romantic relationship and the duo’s deep and lasting connection both personally and creatively but the album also draws from a number of major life-changing events over the past few years — namely Kalmia Traver’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer back in 2013, followed by rounds of surges and chemotherapy treatments; Alex Toth’s decision to get sober after a long struggle with alcoholism; and the couple’s three-year-long attempt at maintaining an open relationship. Reportedly, the end result is something strange, complex and beautiful in its own right, as the material still finds the duo crafting ebullient party jams rooted in a radical mindfulness while also an aching breakup album, imbued not with bitterness and accusation, but with a palpable love, making it the rare album with a truly kind and adult sensibility. Musically and sonically speaking, the album reportedly finds Rubblebucket’s duo tapping back into their jazz training with many moments throughout the album completely driven by improvisation. “There’s a lot of moments on this album that happened from us being in a trance-like zone, and coming up with weird sounds in the middle of recording, sometimes by accident,” Alex Toth says in press notes. But at its core, the duo hope that the album will encourage listeners and fans to see the possibility of transformation in painful experiences. ” When I got cancer and Alex quit drinking, that was the beginning of a huge journey for both of us,” Kalmia Traver says. “So much of that journey has been about giving myself the freedom to exist on my own terms, believing in my ideas instead of self-editing. I think this album represents both of us allowing ourselves that freedom in a totally new way, and hopefully it’ll give people inspiration to be creative in their own lives, and to just soften up a bit too.”
The album’s second single “Lemonade,” was written by Toth, who notes, “As the lyrics came together I realized I was kind of writing the song from Kal’s perspective, singing to me. I didn’t know what project the song was for (my solo record, a friend’s band, a pop star?) but when Kal and I realized Rubblebucket wasn’t ending with our breakup, but gaining new life, this song made perfect sense.” As a result, the song manages to convey a confusing array of emotions — wistful and bittersweet reminiscing over what once was and will never be again; the joy of knowing rare, sweet, frustrating and profound love and always having that connection with someone, even if they may have been an asshole at some point; the realization that the closure that everyone talks about is utterly impossible in this life; and the hope of maybe one day stumbling upon that sort of love again. Sonically, the song meshes swinging jazz, thumping and breezy pop with an aching, old school ballad in a way that’s vivacious and life affirming in a necessary way. We all know that life can be wondrous and heartbreaking — sometimes simultaneously, sometimes independently; but love and music make it all easier in the end.
Traver and Toth are in the middle of a tour to build up buzz, and then to support their new album. Check out the remaining tour dates below.
7/5: Burlington, VT @ Battery Park (The Point Summer Series)
7/7: Portland, ME @ Thompson’s Point^
7/13: Canandaigua NY @ Lincoln Hill Farms#
8/1: Troy, NY @ WEQX Riverfront Event+
8/2: Dennis, MA @ Cape Cinema+
8/3: Westerly, RI @ Paddy’s Beach Club
8/4: Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Lanes+
9/8: Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts
10/6: Arrington, VA @ The Festy
10/25: Fairfield, CT @ Warehouse
10/26: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
10/27: Washington, DC @ Black Cat
10/29: Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle
10/30: Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
10/31: Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
11/2: Burnett, TX @ Utopia Fest
11/4: Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
11/6: Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom
11/7: San Francisco, CA @ August Hall
11/9: Seattle, WA @ Neumos
11/10: Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
11/12: Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory
11/13: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
11/14: Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre
11/17: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
^ w/ Lake Street Dive
# Star Rover supports
+ And the Kids supports
Initially formed back in 2013 in Boston, the Los Angeles-based rock duo Migrant Motel, comprised of Peruvian-born David Stewart, Jr. (vocals, bass, guitar) and Mexican-born Chava (drums and live loops) have developed a reputation for a power chord-based arena rock friendly sound, largely influenced by the likes of Royal Blood, MUSE, The Struts, Grandson, Foals and Foo Fighters. So far, 2018 has been a breakthrough year for the band, as “New Religion,” off their Peder Etholm Idsoe-produced full-length debut Album One has received over 350,000 Spotify streams — and building upon the growing buzz, the band released the album’s second single “Blue,” a swaggering and self-assured track that that will further cement the duo’s growing reputation for crafting an enormous, arena rock sound centered around the blues, rock and metal.
The recently released video for “Blue” is comprised of live footage shot while the band was relentlessly touring the country — and it gives you a sense of the up-and-coming band’s live set.
Formed by founding members Barrance Whitfield, Peter Greenberg, who has also played with Lyres and DMZ and Phil Lenker in the mid 80s, the Boston-based blues and soul act Barrence Whitfield and The Savages quickly developed a reputation for crafting primal and soulful blues, centered around Whitfield’s full-throttle soul screaming (in the spirit of Little Richard, Solomon Burke, and others), and for sweaty, dance party-like live shows. With their original lineup, the band released several attention grabbing records through Rounder Records, and as a result they toured with Bo Diddley, Tina Turner and George Thorogood, were a favorite of BBC DJ Andy Kershaw and won seven Boston Music Awards. The band reunited in 2011 with a new lineup that features Whitfield, along with Andy Jody (drums) and Tom Quartulli (sax), which has released three albums Savage Kings, Dig Thy Savage Soul and Under the Savage Sky and building upon their long held reputation, the band has toured with The Sonics, played at SXSW and have played on the BBC’s Later . . . with Jools Holland.
Released earlier this year, Soul Flowers of Titan is Barrence Whitfield and The Savages fourth full-length album since reforming after a 25 year hiatus, and the album, which derives its name from the largest moon of Saturn, a planet which astrologically symbolizes pain and struggle was recorded in Ultrasuede Studio in Cincinnati, a town that was home to a number of classic and somewhat unknown independent labels, including King Records and Federal Records that were best known for a fostering a frayed and raucous sound during the 50s and 60s. Of course, knowing that history, the band couldn’t resist the urge to celebrate and expand on that legacy — with the album finding the band sonically meshing blues, punk, rock, garage rock and soul while thematically, the album’s material focuses on people shooting guns, separating, coming home (someday), falling in love, running around, leaving earth in search of someplace better, going crazy, drinking way too much coffee and thinking about the legendary Sun Ra. As a result, the material features a much heavier sound, B3 and Rheem organ playing from the band’s newest member Brian Olive and a live-in-the-studio urgency.
Soul Flowers of Titan’s latest single “Let’s Go To Mars” is centered around a boozy, and shuffling power chord riff that brings Howlin’ Wolf and George Thorogood to mind but paired with lyrics inspired by an early 70s documentary on Sun Ra that its songwriters Peter Greenberg and Phil Lenker saw multiple times, and as a result there’s a mischievous yet plaintive ache to go off someplace that may be better than Earth — or least someplace, where you can live freely and not be bothered by the cruelty and viciousness of humanity. Directed by Eric Baconstrip, the recently released, animated video further emphasizes the song’s mischievous vibes while nodding at classic, silent films.
Arieh Berl is an Oakland, CA-born and raised singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind behind psych pop act Pink Skies. Interestingly, Berl has a lengthy history playing in a number of Bay Area-based punk and indie rock bands and while writing for one of those bands, it became clear to him that the material he had been writing were meant for a completely different project, as he began writing songs that drew from psych rock, pop, R&B, 70s AM rock and chillwave — or as Berl describes his sound in press notes, “Escapism Pop.” Although he initially didn’t intend on releasing his personal, home recordings made in Oakland, Boston and Los Angeles, Berl decided to release the material after attending a creative retreat in the Berkley Hills.
Last year was a big year for Berl as he released his first Pink Skies single “Start.End,” played guitar on BOSCO‘s b and released a re-interpreation of 6LACK‘s “Gettin’ Old.” Adding to a growing profile. Berl signed to Huh What & Where Recordings, the label home of KAYTRANADA, Fwdslxsh, Pomo and others. Building upon his big 2017, Berl’s latest Pink Skies single is the decidedly Tame Impala-like “Just To Get By,” a song that Berl recall was written “when I had been in Silver Lake for a little bit, and was feeling pretty lost. I was kind of in a zone where every time I tried to take a step forward, I fell two steps back. I was feeling like an outsider, being in a new place with no real direction to go. I just eventually holed away in my room for a couple months, and really isolated myself unintentionally. This song really consumed me in an obsessive and passionate way. Sometimes the pain comes from life, and music is the place to exercise that out of your body. That’s what I did with this song.”
Grant Goldsworthy is a Central Pennsylvania-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who over the past 15 years has played with a number of bands across Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Boston and New York — and with his latest project, Snow Villain, which he started in 2015, Goldsworthy began collaborating with a rotating cast of musicians from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, PA and NYC. Although some have said that Snow Villain’s sound nods at Death Cab for Cutie, Smashing Pumpkins, St. Vincent, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Ween and Beck, the project’s latest single “Torches.” off the forthcoming EP 1 strikes me as nodding heavily at early Rage Against the Machine, as the song is centered around enormous power chords, rousingly anthemic hooks, and politically-charged lyrics delivered with a swaggering, hip-hop like flow.