Tag: Elliott Smith

ØZWALD is a Nashville-based Americana act, featuring Jason Wade and Steve Stout, two old pros, who have had lengthy stints as touring musicians in Lifehouse and Blondfire respectively. The project can trace its origins back to about five years ago when Stout was recruited to play on a Lifehouse world tour that would eventually be canceled; however, Stout and Wade developed a bond — and when Wade returned to California, he needed an engineer to work on some material, so he asked Stout, who had started working in production.

“What if we both sing?” Wade and Stout asked themselves. Instead of artist to engineer, their relationship quickly became artist to artist. Inspired by the prospect of creating something new, the duo set a goal of completing three songs in two weeks. The end result was the duo’s full-length debut Sweet Delirium, which was heavily influenced by the sounds and albums of the late 60s and the songwriting of Elliott Smith and Paul Simon. Since the release of Sweet Delirium, the duo relocated from Los Angeles to Nashville, where almost naturally, they wound up changing their songwriting approach — with their surroundings finding a way to bleed into the material they were writing.  As a result, the band’s forthcoming Born In A State EP, which is slated for a December release, is a major sonic departure and thematic influenced by the likes of Wilco, Foxwarren and Nashville that finds the duo in a contemplative and nostalgic mood.

Adding to the overall contemplative mood, while working on the material, which would comprise the Born In A State EP, Stout and his longtime girlfriend broke up. Crashing on Wade’s couch, the two wrote two songs a day, amassing twelve songs in two weeks. The duo recruited fellow musician and engineer Max Allyn, who helped fleshed out the material by directly contributing on the tracks, turning the duo into a trio.

The EP’s second and latest track “Worth The Wait” is a shimmering 70s AM rock-like track with a buoyant melody — but at its core is an awareness of the passing of time, of dreams unfulfilled and subverted, of the inevitable compromises of adulthood. But there are the small victories of love and family, of simply just being here another day — and those are things to celebrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Live Footage: the bird and the bee Cover Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with Dave Grohl on “The Late Late Show with James Corden”

Comprised of singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia,Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney, the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee can trace their origins to when they met  while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. As the story goes back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show, during the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim(drums), who has worked with the David Bowie and Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played The Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” Kurstin recalls.

Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen‘s album’s second single “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” is a slinky New Wave-like take on the original, centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, atmospheric electronics, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to New Order and It’s Blitz!-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the track is imbued with a feverish quality.

While much of Van Halen’s material, whether it was David Lee Roth-era or Sammy Hagar-era is seemingly familiar to the point of well-worn, the first two singles off Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen finds the duo crafting a loving and thoughtful take on beloved material. And they manage to do so in a way that retains familiar elements but within a playful, post-modern, decidedly feminist fashion. 

The duo were recently on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where they performed their sultry rendition of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with a special guest — Dave Grohl, who played drums. 

New Audio: the bird and the bee’s Jazz-like Take on Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”

Last month, I wrote about the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee — singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia, Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney — and as you may recall, the act can trace their origins to when the duo met while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. Back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show — and it was the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim (drums), who has worked with the David Bowieand Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played The Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” Kurstin recalls.

The album’s two singles found the members of the bird and the bee taking on Van Halen’s “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” The duo turned “Panama” from a power chord-based arena rock anthem into a sultry club banger, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, bright blasts of twinkling piano and cowbell, a wobbling Bootsy Collins-like bass line and George’s sensual vocal delivery. Their cover of”Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” was a slinky and shimmering New Wave-like take that recalled New Order and It’s Blitz-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs while imbued with a feverish quality.  The album’s third latest single finds the band taking on “Hot For Teacher,” the last official single that band released with their original lineup.  Featuring drummer Omar Hakim, who has worked with David Bowie, Sting, Daft Punk, Weather Report, Madonna, Kate Bush and others and a spoken word cameo from Beck, the bird and the bee deliver a swinging bop jazz-inspired take that actually pulls, tugs and teases out the jazziness of the original — particularly within Eddie Van Halen’s dexterous guitar solo-ing. Interestingly, much like Easy Star All-Stars take on Dark Side of the Moon, the bird and the bee version of “Hot For Teacher” isn’t a purely straightforward cover — rather, it’s a subtle and mischievous modernization that retains the spirit and intent of the song in a thoughtful and loving way. 

Comprised of singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia, Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney, the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee can trace their origins to when they met  while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.

The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.

Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. As the story goes back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show, during the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future“We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”

Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim (drums), who has worked with the David Bowie and Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.

Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut. 

While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played The Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” Kurstin recalls.

Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen‘s first single is the duo’s  “Panama,” which finds the them turning the beloved, power chord-based arena rock anthem into a sultry club banger, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, bright blasts of twinkling piano and cowbell, a wobbling Bootsy Collins-like bass line and George’s sensual vocal delivery. The album’s second single “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” is a slinky New Wave-like take on the original, centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, atmospheric electronics, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to New Order and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the track is imbued with a feverish quality.

While much of Van Halen’s material, whether it was David Lee Roth-era or Sammy Hagar-era is seemingly familiar to the point of well-worn, the first two singles off Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen finds the duo crafting a loving and thoughtful take on beloved material. And they manage to do so in a way that retains familiar elements but within a playful, post-modern, decidedly feminist fashion.

 

 

The bird and the bee will be embarking on a 15 date North American tour throughout the summer, and the tour will include an August 17, 2019 stop at Elsewhere. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

Tour Dates
08/02/19 – Los Angeles, CA @ John Anson Ford Theater # – TICKETS
08/11/19 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club * – TICKETS
08/12/19 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village * – TICKETS
08/14/19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls Theatre * – TICKETS
08/15/19 – Providence, RI @ Columbus Theatre * – TICKETS
08/16/19 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live * – TICKETS
08/17/19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere * –TICKETS
08/20/19 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle * – TICKETS
08/21/19 – Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5 * – TICKETS
08/22/19 – Birmingham, AL @ The Saturn * – TICKETS
08/24/19 – Dallas, TX @ Trees * – TICKETS
08/25/19 – Austin, TX @ Parish * – TICKETS
08/28/19 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom * – TICKETS
08/29/19 – San Diego, CA  @ Casbah * – TICKETS
08/30/19 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop * ^ – TICKETS
# = featuring Dave Grohl on drums and Justin Meldel-Johnsen on bass
* = support from Samantha Sidley and Alex Lilly
^ = additional support from DJ Aaron Exelson

New Video: Don Vail’s Lo-Fi Classic MTV-Inspired Visual for Anthemic “On The Wire”

Mitch Bowden is the founder of Mechanical Noise Studio, a recording studio that reportedly sits at the en dog a quiet, winding country road in Dunnville, Ontario, Canada; the sort of road frequently hared with foxes, windmills and little else. He’s also the founding member and creative mastermind behind indie rock act Don Vail — and over the past decade, all of those different identities have blurred into something synonymous for him. 

Bowden emerged into the Canadian indie rock scene with the release of his 2009 Jordon Zadorozny-produced, self-titled debut, an effort that deftly paired harmonic warmth and dispassionate math rock riffs. And instead of serving as a launching pad for Bowden’s career and rising profile, he spent the better part of close to a decade, releasing eight songs and playing two shows.  2016’s self-recorded, self-performed effort Fades managed to be a carefully crafted effort that on a certain level revealed the effect that isolation can have on an artist — way too much personal control, mastery of their craft countered by crippling perfectionism and a lack of urgency. 

Interestingly, during the spring of 2017, Bowden (and in turn, Don Vail) received a rather fortuitous invitation as a result of the previous year’s Fades — an invitation to record material at Grouse Lodge Studios in Ireland. Of course, there was a major catch: the window to show up and record wasn’t open indefinitely; in fact, Bowden only had a matter of a few weeks to turn sketches and pieces of ideas into fully fleshed songs. And at the time, Bowden realized that the band needed to be more than just him. So he enlisted the assistance of longtime drummer Victor Malang, guitarist Matthew Fleming and keyboardist/vocalist Kori Pop for the recording sessions for the act’s forthcoming third full-length album That Stand of Tide. 

The newly-constituted quartet wrote and rehearsed material together — and they all treated the experience at Grouse Lodge as an opportunity not to be wasted. And although the album was finished back at Mechanical Noise Studios in a similar fashion to his previously released material, the trip to Ireland pushed Bowden to get his shit together and finish the album. Reportedly, the album’s 13 songs at points recall Guided by Voices, Jon Biron and Figure 8-era Elliott Smith. While that may be arguable, the album’s latest single “On The Wire is an anthemic bit of fuzzy power pop centered around big and seemingly effortless hooks, and a palpable anxiety and uncertainty; but at its core is an intentionally heartfelt earnestness. 

Directed by Mitch Barnes and the band’s Victor Malang, the recently released video for “On The Wire” follows a painfully awkward and incredibly sad sack man, desperately trying to figure himself out and forge his own identity. And as he does so, he fails miserably — at everything. If there’s one thing that he’s good at, it’s his own nerdy awkwardness. Interestingly, the visuals are purposefully lo-fi, and bring to mind classic MTV with a mischievous aplomb. 

 

Now, over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about Copenhagen, Denmark-based electro pop duo and JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, and the act, which features Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Caspar Hesselager can trace its origins to Coleman and Hesselager’s mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work in a number of different projects — and naturally, the duo were encouraged to collaborate together. 2015 saw the release of their debut single, but 2016 the duo saw critical praise from The Guardian, NME, The Line of Best Fit, and airplay from KCRWKEXPNorway’s P3, Denmark’s P6, as well as by BBC Radio personalities Guy Garvey, Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscroft with the release of the Medication EP and their full-length debut Waiting for the World to Turn.  Adding to a growing international profile, Coleman and Hesselager have a Hype Machine #1 single under their belts, have opened for Noel Gallagher, and have made appearances across the European festival circuit, including sets at Guy Garvey’s curated Meltdown FestivalRoskilde FestivalGreen Man FestivalSziget FestivalLatitude Festival and Secret Garden Party among others.

Nowadays, the Australian-Danish duo’s sophomore album was released earlier this year and from album singles “Empire,”  “Come Back (Left Behind),” “Baltimore,” and “Take Shelter,” their sophomore album reveals an act that has managed to expand upon their sound and songwriting approach in a subtle yet decided fashion as the material is centered around Coleman and Hasselager’s penchant for pairing at times breezy, melodic and downright radio friendly pop with dark and sobering thematic concerns — with Nowadays, their material focuses on the inevitable loss of innocence as one truly becomes an adult; the recognition of the fear, freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny; the tough and sometimes embittering life lessons that get thrown in your way; as well as the inconsolable grief and confusion of loss. Interestingly, the Australian-Danish duo’s latest single “Acting Like Lovers” may arguably be one of the upbeat songs on the album as its centered by a production that manages to be simultaneously cinematic and intimate as it features strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik-like groove and their uncanny ability to craft breezy, 70s AM rock-like melodies. The song hints at a sense of closure — but with the subtle recognition that in life there is no such thing as closure, that life inevitably shoves you forward while you make every attempt to pick up the pieces and have some semblance of normalcy.

The single features two covers — the duo’s breezy, Junip-like take on Elliott Smith’s “Christian Brothers,” that feels like a subtle departure from the original, and one of my favorite songs by The Cars, “Drive,'” which manages to maintain the song’s moody and contemplative air. As the duo’s Caspar Hesselager explains, Elliott is someone who has influenced both me and Carl profoundly, and for me personally (growing up mostly with classical music and jazz) he became the guy that got me into listening to songwriters. We’ve often jammed his songs in the studio for fun and our cover of his song ‘Christian Brothers’ has been a favourite encore of ours on many shows. It’s from his second album ‘Elliott Smith’ which along with the debut album is him at his most lo-fi and raw. It’s almost ‘anti-produced’ but as always you can’t keep those songs from burning right through all of that.” The duo’s Carl Coleman elaborates on their cover of The Cars’ “Drive,” “This was a song that always followed me around growing up in the 80s and 90s. I’m a sucker for sad pop songs. I’ve just always been attracted to melancholy stuff and this song has it all. All that drama and mystery plus a beautiful simple melody. Hell, we couldn’t help but have a crack at it.”

 

 

 

Initially formed in San Francisco, CA and now Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock quartet Jet Trash — currently comprised of Paul Kemp (vocals, rhythm guitar), Keith Shughrou (lead guitar), Marshall Fassino (bass, vocals) and their newest member Eric Peters (drums) — have a developed a reputation for crafting gritty, garage rock-inspired rock. And if you had been frequenting this site for the past couple of years, you may recall that I wrote about the blistering “Baby C’mon,” and the New Wave-leaning “Photography Is Over” off  2015’s self-titled EP.

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve personally heard about them; but as it turns out after touring to support their self-titled EP, the band relocated to Los Angeles and went through a lineup change before writing and recording their Alex Newport-produced follow-up Shake at Elliot Smith’s old studio, New Monkey Studio. Slated for a May 12, 2017 release, the EP’s first single, EP title track “Shake” is simply put, no frills, old fashioned, balls to the wall, power chord-based rock that nods at The Hives — i.e., “Hate to Say I Told You So” — as it possesses a feral, snarling explosiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

Initially started as a one-off vehicle to release a record for a friend, Portland, OR-based indie label Fluff and Gravy Records has established themselves as arguably one of the most unique and difficult to pigeonhole labels in the country as they’ve released  albums that have run the gamut from Americana, indie folk, punk rock, indie rock, garage punk, alt country and even British folk from a diverse and eclectic set of artists including JOVM mainstay Drunken Prayer, Hillstomp, Jeffrey Martin, Fernando Viciconte, The Evangenitals, Anna Tivel and several others. To celebrate their fifth anniversary, the Portland-based label is releasing the Five Years of Gravy compilation — and according to the folks at the label, the compilation isn’t a mere retrospective; in fact, it’s a compilation of new and unreleased tracks from 17 of the label’s artists that they feel offers a glimpse of where the label and its artists have been and where they all are going. But the label and its artists also see the compilation as a way of giving back as the proceeds from sales of the album will benefit The Jeremy Wilson Foundation, a musicians’ nonprofit health and services organization that assists individual musicians and their families throughout the Pacific Northwest during medical emergencies — and is supported by fans, musicians and friends. Certainly, the work of charitable organizations such as The Jeremy Wilson Foundation will see even greater importance in light of President-elect Donald Trump’s threatened plans to cut Obamacare and with most musicians being independent contractors, access to affordable healthcare for musicians and their families will be critical.

Now, earlier this year you may recall that I had written about the Argentina-born, Portland, OR-based singer/songwriter Fernando Viciconte, who performs under the mononym Fernando. Viciconte first came to attention as the frontman oft he Los Angeles-based rock band Monkey Paw, and when the band broke up, Viciconte relocated to Portland where he began to focus on a solo career that began in earnest with the 2006 release full-length debut Enter to Exit, an effort which was critically praised by a number of major media outlets including BillboardMagnet (which named Fernando, one of the best, new artists of 2006), PasteThe OregonianNo Depression and MSNBC.com, among a lengthy list of others. Just as Viciconte’s profile and career were  set to explode into the national scene, the Argentina-born, Portland-based singer/songwriter suffered through several major health issues, which nearly resulted in the permanent loss of his voce — and as you can imagine, his health issues prevented him from touring. Fortunately for Viciconte and for us, after going through a number of doctors, it was revealed that his illness was misdiagnosed and the root cause of his issues, a hiatal hernia that caused heartburn and acid reflux, which bathed his vocal vocal chords in his stomach acid, was fixed surgically.

Viciconte’s eighth full-length effort Leave the Radio On was released last year through Fluff and Gravy Records and although the album took three years to complete, the album has the Portland-based singer/songwriter backed by an all-star cast featuring R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, who has been an early champion of Viciconte’s work; Scott McCaughey as well as members of M.Ward and Elliott Smith‘s backing bands, Richmond Fontaine and The Delines. Of course, if you had been frequenting this site, you may recall act I wrote about Leave the Radio On‘s first single “Save Me,” a bitter and aching lament of a song that evoked the lingering ghosts of one’s life — the failed relationships, the misguided decisions and poor judgements and the crushing doubts that seem inescapable and yet, finding a way to move forward with your dignity, sanity and sense of self intact. His contribution to the compilation “No Regrets” continues in a similar vein to “Save Me” as it’s a mournful lament from a narrator, who looks back on his life with an uncommon clarity and honesty, with the song’s narrator sadly admitting that he may be at fault for the mistakes and poor decisions of his life. Sonically, Viciconte’s aching vocals are accompanied with a country-leaning arrangement of steel pedal guitar, acoustic guitar, gently padded drums and twinkling keyboards — and in some way pairing the song’s sentiment with its arrangement makes the song sound as though it could be the soundtrack of lonely men lost in thought and drinking their sorrows away. And much like “Save Me,” “No Regrets” evokes life’s lingering ghosts — but in this case with a weary sense of acceptance.

 

Of course, if you’ve been frequenting this site, you’re probably well acquainted with Drunken Prayer, the recording project of Morgan Christopher Geer, who currently splits time between Portland, ORAsheville, NC and Louisville, KY — and is a touring member of renowned act Freakwater.  Into the Missionfield, Geer’s Drunken Prayer debut was released in 2012 to critical praise both locally and nationally — Portland’s Willamette Week describing Geer as a “barking ringleader with chops between Tom Waits and The Butthole Surfers‘ Gibby Haynes” and the Portland Mercury describing Geer as Warren Zevon’s medium, showing him the world from the great beyond.” Since then Geer has been rather prolific realizing several lyrically and sonically ambitious albums that have been praised for his signature sound — a sound that meshes elements of the blues, country, folk music, 60s psych and soul music and New Orleans-styled funeral dirges paired with lyrics that explore our existence through the prism of the tragicomic. In fact, Geer’s material suggests something that most of us loathe to admit — that life is often bitterly cruel and ironic. And in those moments, the only option you have is to do as the old song says “Laugh and never let the world know that deep down, you’re crying.”

 

2016 has been a very busy year as Geer released The Devil and the Blues. Featuring Lance Willie (drums) and David Wayne Gay (bass), his former bandmates in The Unholy Trio and former members of The Reigning Sound, as well as guest spots from The Sadies‘ Dallas Good (guitar), Aaron Price (organ, piano and engineering), Anna Trivel (fiddle) and a small horn and section, Geer’s latest effort was Geer’s “party album” — and by party, the material thematically covers and explores sadness, rebellion and redemption in Geer’s signature rowdy, riotous, loutish, proud and somewhat ridiculous fashion. His contribution to the compilation “I Feel Into The Sun,” is an atypical Geer song, as it’s a swooning and infectiously sweet love song with a wicked sense of humor. Yes, underneath all that loutishness and joke cracking is a sweet, aching heart desiring love and its redemption.

 

 

 

Comprised of founding members Kristian Bell (vocals) and Gianni Honey (drums) and featuring Daniel Rumsey (bass), along with newest member Mark Breed (keyboards, guitar), the now Brighton, UK-based quartet The Wytches can actually trace its origins to Bell’s and Honey’s previous band together, The Crooked Canes, a Peterborough, UK-based band that the duo have publicly dismissed as being “really adolescent and embarrassing.” After the founding duo played n a few other locally based bands, they moved to Brighton for school and posted an ad for a bassist. Daniel Rumsey, a Dorsey, UK-born singer/songwriter and frontman of Dan Rumsey and The Bitter End, Fall Victim and The Voyage Andromeda was the only person to respond to the ad.

Initially formed as The Witches, the trio changed their name to The Wytches to make the band more searchable on Google. The then trio’s 2014 debut effort Annabel Dream Record was release to critical praise across the blogosphere, and as a result the then trio embarked on a wild, whirlwind period of national and international touring, which helped influenced the newly constituted quartet’s highly-anticipated and recently released follow up, All Your Happy Life.

Reportedly, All Your Happy Life draws from the experiences the band had while touring — including reading a ton of Tolstoy on the tour bus, listening to Elliott Smith, tons of live, underground metal sets and observation small-town English life with completely new eyes. And as you’ll hear on the album’s second and latest single “Crest of Death,” is a furious, bilious and scathing track that’s split into two distinct parts — a screamo/hardcore intro in which Bell’s vocal are paired with dirge-like guitar chords and the song’s anthemic, shout to the rafters chorus and a down-tempo, fucked psychedelia. While evoking a desperate howl into an cold, indifferent void, the song manages to express a bored, nihilistic shrug.