Tag Archives: music blogs

New Music: “Everyone’s Talking” – Night Owl

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“Everyone’s Talking” the latest song from Los Angeles indie rock outfit contains elements of garage rock, psychedelia and contemporary indie rock. The sparse but cutting chords provide a harsher contrast to the moody vocals and rhythm section.

Take a listen to “Everyone’s Talking” over at Wolf in a Suit and follow the band on Facebook and Twitter.

 

New Music: “Alpha & Omega” – Vivid Dreams

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New York rockers Vivid Dreams have recently released their latest single, “Alpha & Omega”.  The post-punk inspired track precedes the release of the band’s upcoming EP, Terror in the Rays.

With nods to Shoe-gaze and 90’s Alternative, “Alpha & Omega” is as energetic as it is hazy. Over an energetic rhythm section, the moody guitars and off-kilter vocals give the song a nice contrast. It’s the sonic equivalent of a night winding down but still going strong: the remaining guests still want to party even though everybody knows they should probably go to sleep.

If “Alpha & Omega” is any indication, Terror in the Rays should be an intriguing listen.

Check it out below:

For more info on Vivid Dreams, check out their web-site.

 

Review: “Watch it Sparkle” – dsfečo

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The spacey and futuristic sounds found on dsfečo’s Watch It Sparkle seem like they could be  perfect accompaniment soundtrack to soma, the fictional hallucinogenic found in Brave New World. It’s unsettling and jarring; purposefully so. As the tracks unfold, a certain paranoia takes hold of the listener.

The Brave New World comparison is even more apt, when you listen carefully to the apocalyptic visions found in the lyrics. The world found in Watch It Sparkle is one where laws are strictly enforced, and mankind seems to have undone much of what is good.  In this society, to “keep moving at all costs” is the law, make-believe futures are dissolved and  the “colonizers of your soul, are trying to seize control.” Watch It Sparkle seems to suggest (much like Brave New World) that if we’re not careful we could end becoming mindless entities of a warped regime.

It should come as no surprise then, that as a listening experience, Watch It Sparkle can be quite difficult. There are no formal song structures, chord progressions or hooks to lure the listener in. The mostly ambient music hangs like a dark cloud in the speakers with various sounds coming in and out at seemingly random moments. dsfečo’s voice is distant and cold, like the breath of a ghost in a haunted mansion.  While that effect perfectly captures the mood and intent of the EP, it also makes it hard to actually decipher the lyrics.

At its best, Watch It Sparkle recalls the For Your Pleasure era of Roxy Music (i.e. – when Eno was still in charge of the band.) The boundary pushing music is noteworthy and can be intriguing, but whether it lingers solely depends on whether ambient music is your speed or you’re willing to dive into something as unconventional as this.

Visit dsfečo’s Facebook page for more info on Watch It Sparkle and take a listen to “Not Again” below:

Review: “Delta Deep” – Delta Deep

 

 

10321045_1581720182079895_1102858770077223036_oThe debut album from blues-rock supergroup Delta Deep is full of greasy licks, whiskey-soaked rock ‘n roll and soulful vocals. Imagine a smoking-hot bar blues-bar band playing the best straight-ahead rock and roll you’ve heard with the likes of Aretha Franklin or Darlene Love belting over some furious riffs and you’ve got an idea of what Delta Deep sounds like.

Founded by Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, Delta Deep consists of established and esteemed musicians as guitarist Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), drummer Forrest Robinson (India.Arie/TLC) and singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook (former background singer for Michael Buble and Luther Vandross.)

Supergroups often have a reputation of being a vanity project: they’re fun for the musicians, but for listeners the results can be cumbersome and underwhelming. Too often, supergroups from different genres have trouble gelling and creating their own sound. You only need to look at Audioslave or Mick Jagger’s ill-fated Super Heavy project for proof.

For Delta Deep, the opposite is true. From the very start, this is a band that seems to be completely in sync with each other, even as their individual parts are readily apparent. DeLeo and Collen provide Delta Deep with their muscular riffs reminiscent or early Led Zeppelin. The solos are white-hot and fiery, but never excessive or overblown. Robinson’s drumming past in R&B gives the album its sense of groove (which is sorely lacking in a lot of retro-blues rockers).

But it’s Blackwell-Cook who really sets things on fire throughout Delta Deep. Her soaring voice gives these songs an extra rush. The loose songs structures give her plenty of room to work her magic as she weaves in and out of the music behind her. Her ability to not only be heard over these heavy riffs, but command the chaos is a thing to behold. Blackwell’s voice ensures an aura of authenticity that they may or not may have already have earned without her.

The best thing about Delta Deep is that it sounds so effortless. There’s no pretense of trying to be cool; just a some musicians conjuring up the ghosts of legends past and presenting them in a light and exciting light.

Check out the video for “Down in the Delta” below:

Delta Deep is available now and you can follow the band on Facebook or check out their web-site.

Review: “Don’t Cross Myrtle” – Big Lazy

 

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Some records automatically make you feel cooler just by listening to them. Instrumental rock-trio Big Lazy’s latest release, Don’t Cross Myrtle is one of those records. With dark, jazzy rhythms  and fluid, yet fiery guitar work from leader Stephen Ulrich, Don’t Cross Big Myrtle offers a soundtrack for the seedy American underbelly.

The music doesn’t wallop or stray into wild abandon, but you can still feel the heat. This is a heat that is humid where the only solution is to cool off into a dimly lit bar with a shot of Jameson at your fingers. The instrumental tracks present themselves as slightly nerve-wracking: as in you’d better watch your back because you don’t know what’s around the corner or who’s behind you.

The rhythm section from rock veterans drummer Yuval Lion and Andrew Hall provide a steady yet swinging back beat that leaves plenty of room for Ulrich to texture his songs with sounds that range from elements of Calypso, Blues and pre-Beatles Rock and Roll.  On “Low Way” he toggles between a dirty and clean rhythm that hangs warmly over the air. The surf-rock inspired “Human Sacrifice” lives up to its name as Ulrich offers some his most impressive playing, soaked in distortion and blues-rock.

Like most of Big Lazy’s discography, Don’t Cross Myrtle is an ideal candidate for television soundtracks. In fact, the band got one of their first breaks when their debut album Amnesia was used in its entirety on Homicide: Life on the Street in 1996. With that in mind, I’m openly suggesting that Don’t Cross Myrtle be used in some capacity for Netflix’s 1920’s British Gangster drama, Peaky Blinders.

Make no mistake though, Big Lazy aren’t ambient music and shouldn’t be classified simply background music. These are fully formed songs and ideas with rich textures that are worth devoting time to sit and digest. Here’s hoping that Big Lazy don’t go another five years in between albums again.

Check out the video for “Avenue X” below:

RIP BB KING

 

BB King’s Live at the Regal is one of my all-time favorite albums for a lot of reasons. If you’ve never really listened to BB King, Live at the Regal is a great place to start. It’s got all of his hallmarks: bent strings and fluid notes, a loose but tight performance and King’s entertaining stage banter. It’s also one of the rare live releases where you actually feel as if you’re in the room: check out the crowd going crazy at the very beginning of “Sweet Little Angel”.

For many, BB King was the Blues. Casual music fans might not know Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf but they certainly know BB King. His playing style is so recognizable that even if you don’t know the particular song, you know it’s him. There’s not a lot of artists you can say that about.

I always loved the fact that BB King was playing hundreds of shows a year until late last year. Besides the fact that this meant that anybody who wanted to see him could still see a legend, it was a testament to the fact that he loved and lived the Blues even in his old age. (For what’s it’s worth, King’s performance schedule is a reason why I don’t think the Rolling Stones touring into their ’70s is that ridiculous.)

I was lucky enough to see him several years ago on a bill that included Little Richard and Al Green, each a master in their respective genre and could easily. Green strutted like the ’70s never ended while old ladies thrown roses gleefully at his feet. And Little Richard rocked the joint, over the top as ever. But it was King who stole the show, even as he was confined to a seat due to his diabetes. His sparse and tasteful playing filled the summer evening sky with more emotion than most people can dream of.

And that’s really the heart of King’s playing style. He could channel more feeling into one single note than most guitar players could in an entire song. He wouldn’t need to sing on “The Thrill Is Gone” and you’d still sense his loss.  Similarly, there’s dirt and grit in his breaks on “Ghetto Woman”.  His playing oozes of sex on “Sweet Little Angel” from Live at the Regal giving “I love the way she spreads her wings” even more resonance. No wonder the women were screaming at the beginning of this song.

I first heard BB King through U2’s “When Loves Come to Town” as a little kid. I had no clue who he was, but I was enthralled at the contrast between his playing and the Edge’s trade-mark textured tone. It’s slightly ironic that it took a band virtually ignorant of the Blues to introduce me to the King of the Blues. I loved the song as a kid, but as I got older I realized the only thing that’s actually good about the song is his performance.

That’s how good he was: he could make a mediocre song into something memorable and infectious.

 

My Life in 33 Songs: #18: “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes (Or Going to a Ravens Game on Thanksgiving Night With My Father)

 

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On Thanksgiving night in 2013, a little bit before dinner my brother made my wife and I offer that  was too good to refuse: his tickets to that night’s Ravens game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has season tickets but because of the holiday did not want to go. Naturally, I immediately jumped at the chance. My wife, despite loving football was a little more hesitant because it was supposed to be a really chilly night. But knowing how much I wanted to go, she still would have gone with me. After a little while, she suggested that I go with my father instead.

As soon as I told him, my father starting rummaging around my brother’s house looking for warmer clothes. I could immediately tell that it made him happy to go with me. There was an unspoken acknowledge between us: years earlier the thought of the two of us attending a football game together seemed ridiculous.

It’s not like I didn’t like spending time with my father. On the contrary. Yet football was an entirely different matter. As a kid, I hated football and couldn’t understand why he would spend Sunday afternoons watching it. The games seemed to go on forever without anything actually happening. I couldn’t relate to his anger and frustration at seeing the his favorite team, Washington Redskins lose time after time. Why would anyone want to put themselves through that?

It wasn’t until six or seven years ago that I finally came around to football due in large part to spending Saturday afternoons drinking and watching Notre Dame games with two of my closest friends. At first I just used the games as an excuse to drink on Saturday afternoons, but eventually I found myself not only enjoying the games but becoming a fan of the Irish as well. It also helped that my wife is a big supporter of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and we have since attended several games together.  Living in Baltimore has given me little choice but to be a Ravens fan.

As we made our way to the stadium through the large crowd, it felt good to be with my dad. There seemed to be an openness to our conversations that is not always there. I could tell he felt similarly. His mood was so jovial that he even joked around with the people around us.

Mid-way through the game, the familiar boom of “Seven Nation Army” blasted through the  stadium loudspeakers. Almost immediately, the crowd began to chant the song’s famous guitar riff. “What is this song?” My dad asked, not being too familiar with popular music. “I hear it all the time in English Soccer games.”  I explained to him that it was a song by the White Stripes and wasn’t originally intended to be a sports anthem. For someone who didn’t particularly like rock music or why I love it so much, he seemed genuinely interested and even got caught up in the crowd’s chant.

When “Seven Nation Army” debuted in 2003 on The White Stripes’ Elephant album, I could not have predicted that it would become such a world-wide phenomenon at sporting events, let alone that my father would know the melody and chant it.  And I’m not even sure Jack White could have predicted its popularity.

Though it might seem normal now (and maybe even cliche) now, in all honesty, “Seven Nation Army” is a fucking weird song to be a hit outside of the rock world. It’s fueled in part by paranoia and a massive yet repetitive guitar riff that never wavers but only changes in octaves. The guitar solo contains the same chords as the main riff. And to top it all off, there’s no chorus. Like The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, the main riff is one that you can’t get out of your head no matter how much you try. The riff (sometimes mistaken as a bass guitar due its deep, thick sound) is the melody that drives the song. If the song is stuck in your head, you hum the riff, not Jack White’s vocals.

Though he can sometimes come off as cantankerous, Jack White seems humbled and bemused by the whole thing. As he related to Conan O’Brien last summer, “People come up to me all the time, and they think it makes me mad for some reason. I don’t know why they think it upsets me. As a songwriter, that’s the greatest thing that could ever happen. It becomes folk music.”

It’s hasn’t quite become reached that level, but it’s not far off. Watch any football game and you’ll hear marching bands play the song in the background. Many teams use the song to entice crowds who chant the song with glee. It’s on its way to becoming the “We Will Rock You” of the 2000s.

For fans of the Ravens, the song has a particular resonance. As the “pump up” song for thee crowd, it’s played at virtually every home game the Ravens play and it ignites the crowd in a way that nothing else does. Even some of the players have taken note of its power. Following the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory in 2013, former safety Ed Reed led the faithful through a chant of the song at a victory parade in MT&T Bank Stadium.

Interestingly, “Enter Sandman”, Joe Satriani’s “Crowd” and Shinedown’s “Diamond Eyes” along with “Seven Nation Army” were all original contenders for the “pump song”.  A few years ago, the Raven’s web-site called for song submissions and hundreds of requests were received. Coach John Harbaugh was then given the task of breaking the submissions the down to five. It wasn’t a landslide, but “Seven Nation Army” was clearly the winner. Ever since then, the song has become a regular part of Ravens home games.

I wish I could have explained all that to my dad. As it was, spending Thanksgiving night in the cold watching a Ravens victory over the Steelers was more than enough. As we left the stadium, I remember thinking that I wanted to make a tradition of going to a game with him every year. Just last month, we did exactly that. I hope we can go sometime next year too. Maybe I’ll make a Ravens fan out of him yet.

 

 

Outkast’s Legacy Is Secure Thankyouverymuch

 

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Is Outkast’s legacy secure now that they gave a lukewarm performance at Coachella this past weekend? I’d say that their legacy was pretty sure from the very moment they released Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik back in 1994 and changed the course of hip-hop. They practically invented an entire genre of their own, made it acceptable for the South to  have a voice in hip-hop. Without Outkast paving the way, there would be no Lil Jon, Ludacris or Lil Wayne.

With each subsequent release, Outkast continually expanded what a hip-hop group can do. ATLiens took the aesthetic of their debut even further drawing upon soul and gospel influences.  “Extraterrestial” further pushes the boundaries with the absence of a drum-beat. It’s akin to “When Doves Cry” – stripping a genre of its foundation and signature sound and creating something new in the process.  Aquemini contains “Rosa Parks” which is still probably the only hip-hop song to contain a Harmonica breakdown.  Then of course there’s Stankonia which propelled the group to the mainstream.  That all came before SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below which solidified their place among musical royalty.

But of course you wouldn’t know that based on any headlines from their performance this past weekend at Coachella.  Social media cried foul at the group’s first “reunion” performance and almost every News Organization ran with the story. The crowd wasn’t into it!  (Oh no! A crowd that wasn’t their core audience is disinterested – shocker!) Andre 3000 turned his back on the audience! (The horror!) They didn’t open with a “hit”! (What the fuck?  “B.O.B.” was a pretty huge song in 2000.  I remember it playing on virtually every single radio station, thanks.)

Unfortunately for Outkast, they probably should have seen this coming. Reunion shows can be tricky, especially at a place like Coachella where music is secondary to being seen there. Unlike say Bonnaroo or Lollapolooza, every year it seems that Coachella has turned into a gathering place for the rich and famous. Almost all of the headlines that weren’t dealing with the so-called backlash focused on which celebrities were in attendance. If Outkast had opened with “Hey Ya!” I’m willing to bet there would be an entirely different narrative to this whole thing.

From the videos I’ve seen  of the performance – Big Boi and Andre 3000 mostly nailed it.  It may have been a bit spotty in places – the setlist seemed to lag in the middle – but they managed to keep their lyrical dexterity in spot. Big Boi was especially tight.  I’d hardly call that embarrassing or a detriment to their legacy. (Let’s be honest – Idlewild is way more tarnishing to their legacy than any bad performance.)

Instead of griping about their performance, we should be celebrating the fact that one of the greatest hip-hop groups is together again. Hip-hop hasn’t been as imaginative, creative or weird without them.  Welcome back guys.

Artists I Used To Be Obsessed With, But No Longer Listen To

 

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Blues Traveler

This an interesting one, considering I really don’t like jam-bands. But in high school, for whatever reason, I thought that Blues Traveler was one of the greatest bands around. Like most people, I bought Four based on the singles “Hook” and “Run Around”.  I quickly fell in love with that album, and bought their live album Live Fall From the Fall not too long after.

Live From the Fall consisted of several songs that stretched past the 10 minute mark. The band’s sweeping interplay blew my teenage mind. I loved the way guitarist Chan Kinchla’s bluesy guitar riffs interlocked with John Popper’s wild and manic harmonica playing. They could rock the house with a song like “NY Prophesie” or “Crash Burn” and bring it down with the slow-burn of the epic “Mountain Cry”.

My obsessions with Blues Traveler dissipated as quickly as it came. I have no memory of when I stopped liking them, but I quickly became bored with the same things that made me like the band in the first place. The 10-minute suites seemed tedious, tired and boring.

But if “Hook” comes on randomly at a bar I’ll still sing along to all the words in the bridge without missing a beat.

Led Zeppelin

Those who know me, know that I despise Led Zeppelin. But during my freshmen year of high school, like many teenagers I fell for their bluesy spell. They were unlike any other band I had heard. Jimmy Page’s crunching riffs combined with John Bonham’s pounding groove seemed like a gift from the musical heavens. Robert Plant oozed sex with his soaring vocals.  What wasn’t to like for a teenager?

I think it was the live versions of “Dazed and Confused” that turned me off to Led Zeppelin. Some people may have thought that when Jimmy Page broke out the violin bow, it was the epitome of sort of mystical musical power.  Not me.  I found the whole move to be pretentious and egotistical.  And that shit would last for a half hour!  Also, around the same time I discovered that much of the music on their first and second album was ripped off from the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon.

I don’t regret listening to Led Zeppelin, because they taught me what type of music I don’t  want to listen to.

System of a Down

Jesus, that was a weird period. I was really into System of a Down during my college years. Their unique brand of metal combined with Middle-Eastern flourishes really grabbed my attention.  They could be sophomoric and intelligent at the same time (as evident throughout much of Toxicity) which reflected much of the way I viewed life during college.

I liked them so much, that I even went to Ozzfest in 2002 just so I could see them live. And like jam-bands, I don’t particularly like metal.  They were pretty decent live, though I kept trying to convince myself even back then, that they were better than they actually were.  I kept that charade up for a few years until I came to the realization that their only truly good song was “Chop Suey!”

The Clash

I have mixed feelings about putting The Clash on this list, since they are a legitimately great band and I don’t despise them the way I do Led Zeppelin.  For years, I felt that they truly justified their calling card of “the only band that matters”.  Certainly, their self-titled album and London Calling are land-marks of punk.  And like The Beatles and The Stones they could take almost any style and make it their own.

But over the past few years, every time I listen to The Clash I just get an overwhelming feeling of “meh”.  They just don’t grab me.  It all sort of un-raveled when I read Chris Saleswic’s The Ballad of Joe Strummer.  The book didn’t hold back and it un-did the myth of “Saint Joe”.  I had no idea that Strummer was actually the son of a diplomat and born into a pretty privileged life.  Granted, revelations like these aren’t always deal breakers (see John Lennon), but with Strummer it seemed like not only a let down but a punch in the gut.

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Throwing Copper was the soundtrack of middle school years. I loved everything about it.  Those songs really spoke to me.  “Shit Towne” was about my hometown!  “Waitress” was social commentary at its best (complete with curse words!).  And I had no fucking idea (and still don’t) what “Pillar of Davidson” was about it, but it sounded philosophical and heavy.  They were like U2, but louder.

And of course, like almost everyone my love of Live ended when they released their follow-up Secret Samadhi.  Everyone knew that Ed Kowalczyk could be pretentious, but that album took it to a whole other level and the songs weren’t catchy or memorable.  There’s some justification that it really could be the worst follow-up album to a successful one ever recorded.

When they released The Distance to Here in 1999, it seemed like a return to form, but of course it wasn’t.  But hey at least that album gave us the phrase “rose garden of trust”.

 

 

New Music: “Pb (Lead)” – Dust Engineers

 

 

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About a year ago, I got a chance to interview Zachary Meyer from the terrific Dust Engineers. The group has returned with an eerie new song “Pb (Lead)” which will be included on their debut full-length next year.  The song conjures up sounds of the desert with its dark guitar strumming and haunting vocals by Sarah M.  It’s the type of spooky song that wouldn’t have fitted perfectly against the back-drop of Breaking Bad.

Check out “Pb (Lead)” below: