Monthly Archives: September 2015

Review: “Swirled World” – Church of Betty

 

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Church of Betty’s latest album, Swirled World is equal parts Power-Pop, World Music and Radiohead detours in adventurous musical endeavors. Those descriptions might seem a little ridiculous until you actually listen to the record, which is filled with shimmering melodies, and odd-time signatures. The use of the Sitar as the main melodic instrument on the melodic “I Remember You” is particularly riveting.

Too often, bands use a collage of sounds as a crutch, leaning on sounds to make their music sound interesting at the expense of, things called actual songs. Not so on Swirled World. Church of Betty mastermind Chris Rael’s songs are laser-sharp in execution and performance, particularly on the folk-pop gem “Beautiful Vessel”, the psychedelic touches of opener “Wake Up” and the amusing  “Brooklyn Soul”, which is a love-letter to the borough  in the vein of Walt Whitman.

Like Sufjan Stevens Rael layers even his straight-ahead songs with sonic details that come in and out like violins, horns and various instruments. Like a good painter, these are just extra colors made with broad strokes that add to the over-all experience. The title track and “Brooklyn Soul” particularly benefit from such an approach.

At times it seems like Rael spent a great amount of time listening to latter day Talking Heads records (which isn’t surprisingly since he has worked with David Byrne) trying to emulate the famed band’s explorations into world-pop. Not that that’s a bad thing: who wouldn’t want to try and sound like the Talking Heads?

Check out the video for “Brooklyn Soul” below.

For more information on Chris Rael and Church of Betty, check out his web-site.

 

New Music: “Electric Parlor” – Electric Parlor

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“Don’t you know I’m a whiskey mama,” Electric Parlour lead singer Monique Alvarez wails in the first few seconds of the band’s eponymous new album.  From the sound of the crunching guitars, boogie rhythms and 70’s rock vibe, it’s not hard to think that whiskey must have been flowing when Electric Parlour cut this album.

Electric Parlour’s music – fat riffs, bluesy vocals and tight rhythms – harken back to the late ’60’s and early ’70s. Even the band’s imagery – psychedelic fonts and shades of purple – recall the heydays of Height Ashbury. But Electric Parlour are louder than say, the Grateful Dead, but their approach recalls the wild abandon of Big Brother and the Holding Company. It’s easy to suggest that Alvarez recalls Joplin – and that’s certainly an influence – but it also does her a disservice. She can more than hold her own, and she’s in full force on such tracks as the riff-heavy “Frisco High Line”, the epic “Freedom Ride” and the slow-burn of “Bitter”.

Electric Parlor’s music can be taken a couple of different ways: are they merely re-treading old-school rock and roll?  Or, has this type of style become so passé among indie bands, that it now seems fresh and invigorating? That, of course remains to be seen, but it’s still nice to hear a band that isn’t bucking any tread and releasing some music with some grit, and maybe some shots of whiskey in the process.

Take a listen to “Frisco High Line” below:

For more info on Electric Parlor, check out their web-site.

New Music: “Moondance” (Van Morrison Cover) – Deaf Rhino

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New Jersey rock band Deaf Rhino have taken on a monumental task: covering Van Morrison’s classic “Moondance”. Where Morrison’s original is Jazzy and soulful, Deaf Rhino takes an entirely different approach: loud and gritty. Deaf Rhino replace the pianos and saxophones, with walls of distorted guitars and thunderous drums, all while retaining the song’s original melody. Morrison’s romantic lyrics are still the same, but there seems to be a sinister intent when lead singer Adam Schlett sings the famous lines, “every time I touch you, you just tremble inside.” Morrison-obsessives may balk at this, but isn’t the point of a cover to breath new life into a song?

In addition to the Morrison cover, Deaf Rhino recently released their latest album, Dirt Rust Chaos. For more information on the band, check out their web-site here.

Take a listen to “Moondance” below:

New Music: “Dancing with the Devil” – Sarah Petrella

 

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“Spin me around and around,” Sarah Petrella commands during the bridge of her bluesy new single, “Dancing with the Devil”. It’s not only a command, but a sort of dare.  The tension builds as she repeats the line, and it’s only released when a biting guitar solo cuts loose.

If there’s a sense of danger here, it’s because the devil isn’t the demonic character of old. He’s the one with the burning smile, watching “you in the darkness of your slumber.” Petralla’s in full command of her voice here, that’s part country, part blues, but mostly it’s just confident and soaring.

The radio-friendly sheen slightly of underscores the dark-blues vibe, but that’s only a minor quibble. Most listeners will find “Dancing with the Devil” to be a raucous slice of old school rock and roll.

Take a listen to “Dancing with the Devil” below:

For more information on Sarah, check out her web-site here.

Review: “Love, Lust and Genocide” – Samuel Claiborne

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“Soldiers and police, I can’t tell them apart,” Samuel Claiborne laments at the beginning of “Say Goodbye to America” the first track off his latest album Love, Lust and Genocide. Over a bluesy-psychedelic vibe, Claiborne lays out how he thinks America has gone down hill: war in the streets, freedom has been sold and silence is complicity. Most startling is Claiborne’s voice: he’s not spitting venom or foaming at the mouth. His low-register and apathetic tone seems to acknowledge that the fact that these things have already happened, and we’ve let it happen to ourselves.

With a title like Love, Lust and Genocide, it should come as no surprise that there would be some confrontational material here. Claiborne himself describes the album as “passionate, controversial, noisy, experimental, [and] exuberant.”  Certainly, the album will get no love from conservatives: unjust wars are taken to task, both moral and real. “21st Century War” questions the price we’ve paid for such endeavors.  He doesn’t mince words, noting that “curious children” in the Middle East are blown apart like “torn flower petals.”

On “Lion and the Lamb” , he’s kicked out of his parent’s house “for loving another man” and then calls out so-called “Christians” wondering “why could your God be so cold?”  Pushing the knife even further, he points out that “their twisted faith and bigotry have killed their only son.”  But Claiborne has the last laugh, concluding that his God, “made me just as I am.”

Musically, the album is just as adventurous. Claiborne’s early career in the No-Wave scene with the seminal Things Fall Apart are clearly are an influence here. There are noise-freak outs (“Hurt”), avant-garde/spoken-word experimentations (“21st Century War”, “Succulence (Blasphemy)”) and folk “Broken”.  Even the straight ahead moments are littered with odd detours like “Say Goodbye to America” with its mix of grunge, reggae horns and psychedelic guitars.

Love, Lust and Genocide is the kind of album that could have only been made by a man who’s experience and  seen a lot and doesn’t like where the world is going. But there are also moments of hope and beauty to be found too. The best kind of art reveals both and that’s exactly what Claiborne attempts to do on Love, Lust and Genocide.

 

http://www.samuelclaiborne.com

Review: “City Blog” – Gideon King & City Blog

 

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City Blog from Gideon King & City Blog is a mixture of Adult Contemporary Rock, Jazz and a little bit of funk. It’s mostly an easy-going record, filled with piano fills, soft drums and smooth saxophone solos that make for a perfect soundtrack to a small gathering or dinner party.

City Blog is the first record under the moniker Gideon King & City Blog. It’s a bit of a passion project for King who wants to create the “world’s best studio band.” The musicians making up City Blog include Herbie Hancock, Daft Punk and Saturday Night Live band bassist James Genus; Matt Penman a familiar name on the Jazz scene; as well as drummers Willard Dyson and Donald Edwards. The band is rounded out by keyboard player Kevin Hays, and saxophonist Donny Mccaslin.

Being consummate professionals, it’s no surprise that these musicians really gel well together. There’s one star here, no one voice is trying to down out the other.  Though if I had to name the MVP here, it would mostly certainly be Hay’s whose soulful keyboards add a certain resonance to the improvised sound that’s found here.

Highlights from City Blog include “New York” with its jazzy guitar solo interlude, the acoustic-guitar driven “Glide” featuring sublime vocals and the upbeat jazz exploration title track.

City Blog exists at a kind of cross-roads between old and new. There’s enough tradition found in the rhythms and song structures to satisfy the purists, but it also look forward as well. Sometimes you wish the record would push a bit to the extreme either way, but overall City Blog is a really good listen and if nothing else you can marvel at the musical interplay.

 

For more info on Gideon King & City Blog, check out their web-site, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.