musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

The Greying’s Cognitive Dissonance: Bipolar Disorder Meets its Match

TheGreying

While metal/hardcore isn’t usually my preferred musical genre, I honestly can’t think of a more apt way to address (stalk, do battle with, and eviscerate) the horrors and confusion of bipolar disorder. Listening to The Greying, a Cape Cod/South Shore-based metal/hardcore band (imagine that), is a visceral experience. But these guys are no literary slouches. They just know their subject matter, and this isn’t the kind of shit that can be properly expressed in a polite pop song. And that is why they’ve blessed us with their Cognitive Dissonance EP. It was written by singer/songwriter Ryan Meehan, as a way to cope with his bipolar diagnosis.

Each of the five tracks focuses on a particular aspect of this bone-crippling, soul-destroying illness. The desperate rantings of singer Ryan Meehan’s exquisite suffering is driven hard by a raucous racket courtesy of Robert Carlson (guitars), Derrick Darmody (bass) and Noah deVeer (drums).

“Panic” starts out slow and menacing, snarling and grinding its teeth.

Panic comes in droves and circles ’round the carrion
memories that fester in the background.
Suffocate on words I should have spoken.
Sadness turns to rage.
I am broken.

“Regenerate” speaks (screams) of the difficult process of working through the pain in search of healing, and choosing life, however excruciating, over suicide.

Shed your skin
Destroy what’s underneath
Regenerate
Kill what you can’t create
Separate reality from fate
I must learn to settle for myself

“I must learn to settle for myself.” Amazing. It’s all about self-acceptance, which seems like such an easy, straightforward thing, but lordy, it’s not.

“Demons Run” is a charming little ditty about confronting the devil within and the demons without, while one questions/confronts God. Nathan Calcagno of Regime lends his bone-chilling growl for multi-dimensional effect.

No promises of damnation
Wretched hearts go screaming toward the void regardless
Watch the world fall through the hour glass
Demons run when you relinquish hell

Lord forgive me. I’ve done nothing.
Lived a life in fear your hand would come to strike me down.
Felt the fault break with shepards spewing hate
Left the herd before the sickness caught me.

There’s something in there as well about our current political climate, but I won’t go there. Nope.

“Dissociate” is about running away from reality and not confronting your fears, while “Paranoia” is about how one tries to cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. One is left wondering if, at times, the “cure” might be just as bad as the illness. “Dissociate” closes with a harrowing scream that ends in a sardonic chuckle. If that isn’t the perfect metaphor for living with bipolar disorder, whether it’s your own or a loved one’s, I don’t know what is.

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Learn more about bipolar disorder, and if you’re struggling, check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

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The Making of a Malignant Narcissist: Danny Ross’s “The Son”

DannyRoss

As Donald Trump protest songs go (surprisingly, there really aren’t that many of them), Danny Ross’s “The Son” is in a class by itself. It tells the childhood story of our 45th President in a manner that turns Dickens’ Oliver Twist on its head. Instead of the formative years of a band of poor street urchins, this dark tale is about a young boy born into privilege. It attempts to explain the grown man’s depraved ways by examining his upbringing and his relationship with his domineering father — all in charming musical theater style with clever animation by Elvie Mae Parian.

The stories are true, inspired by a 2016 Washington Post article, “Confident. Incorrigible. Bully: Little Donny was a lot like candidate Donald Trump.” Written more than 4 months before the election, it’s likely that if more people had read this article, they might have been sufficiently concerned enough not to vote for him. Even as a teenager, he refused to acknowledge mistakes, threatened his classmates, frequently lashed out in violent actions and was widely known as “a loudmouth bully.” He spent his young life trying to prove himself to an elusive and disapproving father.

Ross makes a powerful statement about Trump’s presidency merely by sharing these anecdotes from his childhood. Presented as it is, you could almost feel sorry for the guy. I did say ALMOST. Suffice it to say, this deceptively cheery little ditty and its accompanying video is eerie as hell.

Danny Ross is one interesting guy. His CV reads like a strange ‘mash-up’ — songwriter and producer, music columnist at Forbes, husband at Babetown (it’s a surf-rock duo with his wife), press secretary at the New York State Senate, chief of staff at the New York State Assembly and scheduler for the U.S. Congress. Ross and his wife are currently based in Brooklyn.

In his Forbes article, “3 Modern Protest Songs in the Trump Era,” Ross marvels at the dearth of Trump protest songs and discusses the difficulty of creating satire about Trump without sinking to his level. He discovered an elegant and effective way to do it, through delving into Donald’s past.

While you’re perusing Ross’s other Forbes articles about music and entertainment, be sure to read his latest piece about the Music Modernization Act (MMA), which seeks to bring antiquated and wildly unfair songwriter royalties into the 21st century.

forbes articles | facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp | babetown

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David Bowie’s Never Let Me Down album is reborn as part of the upcoming Loving The Alien (1983-1988) box set

Bowie_LovingTheAlienBoxSet

David Bowie’s Never Let Me Down album, while frequently panned, then and now, by the musical elite (and by some fans) for not being his best work, holds a special place in my heart. It was at the time of this record’s release and subsequent world tour that I was most deeply immersed in my Bowie fandom. I had just begun publishing a David Bowie newsletter with legendary fan Rose Winters called ‘Bowie Bits’ (her name, not mine! It would soon be changed to ‘Sound & Vision’), and I followed the European and U.S. legs of that tour, reporting on the highly ambitious and wildly extravagant Glass Spider Tour shows. So now, 31 years later (egads!), the much-maligned Never Let Me Down album has been not just re-recorded but remade by former Bowie collaborators Reeves Gabrels, Mario McNulty and others, as part of an eye-popping 11-CD, 15-record box set called Loving The Alien (Warner Music/Parlophone), which will see its release on October 12.

Before I launch into all the info., which is head-spinning, have a listen to “Zeroes,” the first single from the collection.

Gone is the overbearing, leaden ’80s production, and in its place, a sleek, clean acoustic guitar centered mix that puts Bowie’s vocals up front and center, where they belong. From the original, they kept the best parts — David’s acoustic guitar and vocals, and Peter Frampton’s classy sitar lines, which come along like a delicate string of pearls to beautifully offset the otherwise sparse and understated instrumentation. The old version now sounds quite dated, but this sparkles brightly and sounds timeless. It’s exquisite.

As Reeves reveals in a recent BBC Radio 6 interview, David was not happy with the NLMD album. The year after it came out in 1987, he was already voicing his disappointment with the production. In 2008, he remixed “Time Will Crawl” with McNulty, recording new strings and new drums (courtesy of Bowie’s drummer from 1991-2004, Sterling Campbell, who is also on this upcoming release). In the album notes, Bowie wrote, “Oh, to redo the rest of the album.” He has now gotten his wish.

Other musicians featured on the reimagined Never Let Me Down album include David Torn on guitar and Tim Lefebvre on bass, who played on ★ (Blackstar). Also part of Never Let Me Down (2018) is a string quartet with arrangements by Nico Muhly and a special guest cameo by Laurie Anderson on Shining Star (Makin’ My Love).

The set includes newly remastered versions of Let’s Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down (original and 2018 versions), Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87), the previously unreleased Serious Moonlight live album, Dance (a collection of original remixes) and Re:Call 4, a non-album, alternate version, b-sides and soundtrack music compilation.

Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988) was clearly designed with the fan in mind. NLMD’s new artwork features previously unpublished images from Greg Gorman’s original cover photo session. The 128-page booklet has rare images from many Bowie photographers of the time, including Gorman, Herb Ritts and Denis O’Regan; historical press reviews and album technical notes from producers/engineers Nile Rodgers, Hugh Padgham, Mario McNulty and Justin Shirley-Smith.

Read all the details and see the full track listing for the Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988) box set — and Pre-Order It On Amazon!

This is Parlophone Records’ fourth box set in a series of special releases that pays tribute to Bowie’s career from 1969. The other critically acclaimed sets include Five Years (1969 – 1973), Who Can I Be Now? (1974 – 1976) and A New Career in a New Town (1977 – 1982).

For Gabrels, the re-recording of Never Let Me Down was an emotional undertaking. As he explains in the BBC Radio 6 interview,

The first song I worked on was Zeroes… One of the things that we used to do all the time was David and I would often record the acoustic guitars facing each other, both of us playing at the same time. It gave it a little more of a natural feel. So, we would record together. I had my headphones on, and I had my guitar that I was playing in my right ear, and David was in the left ear, and his vocal was in the center in the headphones. I had my eyes closed while I was tracking. And in my mind’s eye, I saw David sitting across from me, and the way his body language was, and the way his eyes would look while he was playing. Because he would get this faraway look, but he was looking at you at the same time. I recorded a pass of me playing acoustic guitar with David, and when I stopped, I opened my eyes, and I expected to see David sitting there. I got that feeling out of the way early, because I knew at some point I was going to hear his vocal or something was going to happen that would bring tears to my eyes… In my mind, he was there.

david bowie official site | reeves gabrels official site | BBC Radio 6 interview (starts 45:00 in) | David Bowie – Loving The Alien (1983 – 1988) press release

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Kevin Blake Goodwin’s Dissonance Sheds Light (and Hope) on Addiction

KevinBlakeGoodwin2

If this was just about a couple of amazing guitarists or a mind-melting sand animation artist, that would be enough inspiration for me. Add to the mix a mission to bring attention to the often taboo subject of drug and alcohol addiction, and it’s an unbeatable combination. Kevin Blake Goodwin (a.k.a. Blake Goodwin) is a “hybrid electric and acoustic guitar player” with fingerstyle and technical mad guitar skills. He performs what is known as Djent metal guitar, a rhythmic, progressive and technically complex style of playing. He is also a recovering addict, so this is personal. What he has done is to embark on a wildly ambitious project with some of the best musicians, artists and technical people in the business for an album, tour and 30-minute cinematic short film, raising $15,000+ (and counting) through his Kickstarter campaign.

It’s hard to know where to begin in describing this massive undertaking. Here’s a bit of an explanation, with a delicious taste of some of the musical delights in store.

After beating his addiction in 2014, Goodwin won the 2015 Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition, which brings together the best international acoustic guitar players. He’s gone on to advocate for worthy causes such as disabled veterans, addiction recovery and expanded opportunities for musicians. In 2016, he founded FRETMONKEY Records, an independent guitar record label that now boasts a roster of 23 guitar players from 10 different countries. But he isn’t just an outstanding guitar player who has a label — he’s also the audio engineer, videographer and producer.

Here’s a little more of his playing — a sneak peak at the Dissonance album.

And the world renowned sand animation artist, Joe Costello? You can see some of his previous work, for PlayStation’s “God of War”:

Costello’s incredible work will be featured in the Dissonance film as well as an art animation retelling of the story. This short film, with its accompanying soundtrack, addresses the “spiritual warfare of addiction” as well as offering hope for recovery. It chronicles Goodwin’s own harrowing journey through a dark and nightmarish setting, and he admits it’s not easy viewing. However, as he explains, it ends “with a strong message of hope, help, and redemption.”

The album features 8 highly complex guitar compositions, with collaborations from world-renowned guitarists Adrian Bellue, Jason Richardson and Felix Martin, plus metal vocalist Shayley Bourget and saxophonist Jameson Burton. The album is mixed and mastered by Arch Echo guitarist and engineer, Adam Bentley.

There are also plans to take this important message (and the music) on the road, with all sorts of special electronics, lighting, film and sound to be added as their budget allows. He has reached his initial goal of $15,000, but the more money they can raise, the more impressive the live show can be. So, donate to his Kickstarter campaign now! There are many great incentives, from MP4 digital copies and CD/DVD packages all the way up to private house concerts and high-end production of your own EP or music video.

web | facebook | twitter | instagram | soundcloud | youtube | fretmonkey records

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Lars Eriksson Conjures the Vitaliebröderna Pirate Gang of Gotland

photo by Adam Hultberg

photo by Adam Hultberg

To listen to the lush music of Lars Eriksson is to allow yourself to be transported to a distant shore. Recently released is the first single from his forthcoming 6-track EP. “I Love You Now” is a beautifully fluid piece that flows around a gypsy violin and Eriksson’s softly sensuous vocals.

Lars Eriksson is a Swedish-born musician who first came to public attention following appearances on the Swedish Idol TV show in 2008. By that time, in his late 20s, he had already written 200 songs. He played piano at age 5 and started writing music when he was 9, performing at his school. He took up guitar at 16 and played with friends under the band name “The Jisreels” at local shows and on tour.

His previous recordings, which can be listened to on Spotify, include Dictions and Contradictions (2012), Rust and Golden Dust (2011), two demo albums titled As It Were and If You Will, plus EPs Inconsequencia and Lonely Jim. Eriksson collaborated with Elin Sigvardsson on the single “Love,” which reached #5 on the Swedish singles chart, and also worked with Anders Bagge and Birger Pettersson (High Gear Music label).

The songs on the new EP were written on the Swedish island of Gotland, during a three-year period when Erikkson lived there. The mood of this special places infuses the songs, some of which incorporate mystic elements that conjure ancient times. The title, Guds vän och allas fiende (“Friend of God and enemy of all”), was the battle cry of the Vitaliebröderna pirate gang, who lived on the island of Gotland in the Middle Ages.

On the EP, Eriksson (who performs on acoustic guitar, vocals and pump organ), is joined by David Åhlén (studio technician Gotland, violin), Magnus Olsson (drums), Carl Ekerstam (electric guitar), Jonas Nilsson (double bass) and Elin Ivarsson (background vocals).

Artwork for the EP and singles are by the Spanish artist Lucía Espinós Bermejo The digital-only release of the EP is on September 15, preceded by the second single, “Breadcrumbs” (August 15).

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Erin Pellnat reminds us to pick up those pennies

Erin Pellnat

Erin Pellnat

There’s something delightfully nostalgic and soothing about Erin Pellnat’s vocals on her new song, “Pennies” that can calm even the most troubled mind that has been caught up in the rough tides of these disturbing times. I don’t know if it’s the gentle accordion and soft percussive shuffle or her 1950s Patsy Cline vibe, but this song takes me back to simpler days. As she and her band sweep us away into a more carefree life (or at least the wistful illusion of such a life), she reminds us that, despite the craziness encircling us, we can still find joy in our lives.

I know, I know that sometimes it seems
this nightmare is swallowing our dreams
But there is never ever a doubt
we’re gonna turn this nightmare inside out.

And I still bend down to pick up pennies
reasons to smile, you don’t need many
and I still skip stones,
still balance on the guardrail on that long walk home.

Pellnat is a singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to her solo work, she sings in the band Caretaker. “Pennies” was written by Christopher Pellnat, a fellow singer-songwriter and guitarist in The Warp/The Weft. He has a recent song of his own, titled “Ode to Olivia Rhodes,” inspired by a fictional character whom he “met” in the virtual reality game, Lone Echo. Erin sings backing vocals.

You can listen to “Pennies” on Spotify. “Ode to Olivia Rhodes” can be found on bandcamp.

Don’t forget to pick up those pennies — we need all the luck we can get!

Erin Pellnat: twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud | youtube

Caretaker: web | facebook

Christopher Pellnat: soundcloud | bandcamp

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Jason Ebbs Pays Homage to some Familiar Villains

Original photo by Ingrid Angulo

Original photo by Ingrid Angulo

Ah, the exuberance of youth! At the tender age of 20, Bostonian Jason Ebbs is already writing and singing rambunctious rock and cheery pop songs about feeling isolated and relationships gone wrong. On his debut EP, Familiar Villains, there’s a grungy garage tune with a bit of experimentation (“Stone in the Road”), dreamy indie-pop (“First Trip to the Ocean” and “Atlantic Pathfinder”) and charmingly folksy storytelling (“Average Joe”). But a standout track, in all its goofiness, is “Please Have a Seat (on a Cactus).” For a ‘she done me wrong’ song, it’s a pretty funny one.

You don’t have any moon rocks to hold yourself down
I’m hanging up on Mars but you’re stuck on the ground
I’m in the mountains of Saturn looking down at your face
While you’re crying in the desert cause you left me in space
I know it’s all an act
Cause you treat all our fights like it’s practice
So please, have a seat on a cactus

Ebbs is a Northeastern University student and independent artist who has been making music for more than 10 years (9 or 10 years old? not too shabby). He’s inspired by the classic rock and psychedelic music of the ’60s and ’70s, which he blends with modern styles and sensibilities. He started releasing music in November of last year and the EP came out in mid-May.

Familiar Villains (is this a pointed reference to old girlfriends? I wonder…) can be streamed on Spotify or listened to and purchased (name your own price) on bandcamp.

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Places Erupt Lampoon Online Trolling in “Bloggers”

PlacesErupt3

Well now, this is timely. Canadian orchestral pop sextet Places Erupt have beautifully orchestrated their own eruption on their upcoming 45 EP. It’s scathing commentary on the times we find ourselves living in, with the accompaniment of deliciously evil gypsy violins. The first single, “Bloggers,” is an acerbic treatise about online trolling, the political divisions in our country and the ability to use the internet as a cloak of anonymity that allows one to freely breed hate and poison ordinary discourse, with no personal responsibility. And it is spot on.

“Bloggers” was filmed by Pedja Milosavljevic of Balkanada, a Toronto-based independent production house. I’m tempted to say that this video is hilarious (and it is), but it’s also incredibly sad.

In the video, our defiant protagonist, firmly in the purple and orange camp, is surrounded by co-workers and strangers on the street who are yellow and blue button wearers. Meek and well-mannered, he undergoes a frightening transformation once he sits down at his computer. He’s a man “who shies away from expressing his extreme political beliefs face to face with people, just to go home and rant at nauseam online — unhinged and uninhibited.” Know anyone like that? The over-the-top exaggeration is what makes it so amusing, but it really isn’t an exaggeration at all, is it? The video purposely doesn’t name a specific issue, but rather “a polarity of political opinions that exist between him and everyone else.”

On their new EP, Places Erupt have chosen to focus on current events and topical issues on their new release. As they explain,

Our forthcoming 45 EP both lashes out and laughs at the terrifying times in which we are currently living in. Its lyrical content covers everything from Tinder to tourists to trolling, returning time and again to the villain at the centre of our current collective nightmare — the 45th president of the United States of America.

The band will be celebrating the release of “Bloggers” on June 9 at Junction City Music Hall in Toronto, and they’ll also be performing on June 15 at the Church of St. John the Evangelist (Cinquefoil Series) in Hamilton, Ontario.

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In “Defenseless,” Blackpaw Ponders The Importance of Connecting in a Disconnected World

Blackpaw

At some point in the future (perhaps in the very near future), we’ll remove all the risk and all the unknowns of meeting new people by choosing to socialize only in a virtual world. One might argue that with Facebook and Twitter and an infinite number of other social network platforms, we’re there already. But as far as I know, we can’t yet have a complete virtual experience that in any way rivals the full sensory adventure of really being there and interacting with others.

In their debut video for their song “Defenseless,” Blackpaw, the alter-ego and artistic project of Los Angeles songwriter and musician Adrian Rodriguez, considers this possibility. In doing so, he offers some poignant social observations about L.A.’s dating scene and our need to connect with someone on a deeper level. The song, as its title suggests, is about opening yourself up for whatever comes and taking a chance. What possibilities lie beyond your fear?

BLACKPAW – DEFENSELESS from BLACKPAW on Vimeo.

After watching this hypnotic and slightly sad video, with its surprise, goosebump-inducing ending, I found myself Googling “Connect” to reassure myself that this wasn’t actually a thing. Google Connect, anyone? But no, if you look carefully at the packaging in the video, you’ll see that the manufacturer is Blackpaw. Whew!

The film is cleverly crafted by Blackpaw and Mitchell deQuilettes. It’s an engaging story with subtitles, giving it a French New Wave film vibe, while the song is like a narrator’s commentary. It features the spellbinding couple Mani Yarosh and Quincy Banks as two people who are searching for connection and intimacy in the wilds of Los Angeles nightlife, from the safety and comfort of their own apartments. Is it worth taking a risk for a chance at love? We’re left with that lingering question.

The video was originally premiered by Live FAST Magazine. “Defenseless” is available on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.

This summer, there will be two more singles ahead of Blackpaw’s much anticipated debut EP. They have a few shows scheduled — June 15 at Moroccan Lounge in Los Angeles with Harley Cortez (for his release party), June 16 at the Supergloom Fest in Long Beach and June 29 at Zebulon in L.A. with The Big Pink and Marc Baker.

In an interview with Noisey, Rodriguez explained the inspiration behind the song:

‘Defenseless’ is the inner monologue to the idea of letting yourself feel something no matter what the outcome, good or bad. It’s about having your preconceived notions and having your guard up. Once you let it all go and get lost in it, you’re truly able to experience the moments that become memories. I think it’s important to cherish as well as let go. No matter how good it feels, or how much it hurts. These energies build us.

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Miele Explores the Human Condition and Offers Sweet, Flowing, Therapeutic Sustenance

Miele

Music, for me, has always been therapeutic, a way to cut through unpleasant, undefinable emotions to get at the underlying truth of a situation and be more in touch with myself. Boston’s Miele likely understands this on a deeper level than most, since the band is entirely made up of mental health and special education professionals. Their music focuses heavily on mental health themes, such as in “Anxious Ghost,” a single from their upcoming Kickstarter-funded debut full-length album, Transience (out June 22). The song was first premiered at Sound of Boston.

“Anxious Ghost” begins at a frenetic pace and varies between edgy nervous energy and slow yet tightly-wound moodiness. It is the perfect musical expression of an anxiety attack, and feels like both a raging battle and an exploration of the darker mysteries of human existence. The ghost is one’s anxiety that haunts the spirit and lingers inside.

Miele formed in 2014, when therapist, keyboardist and lead vocalist Melissa Lee Nilles met fellow therapist and guitarist Joseph Spilsbury in graduate school. Miele, Italian for honey, is an appropriate name for the band, both as an apt description for Nilles’ velvety, supple vocals — and because the band is known for drinking the yummy substance from the stage. Their fans even bring them treats.

Musically, the band is beholden to no singular style, but instead they honor wherever the personality of the song takes them. At times, it’s hard-driving rock with propulsive drums and electric guitar; at other times, the music is slow and dark, melodic and mysterious, with gently picked guitar and piano trickling like a meandering stream. Nilles’ vocals travel effortlessly through their many moods — frantic and biting, forceful and determined, melancholy and dreamy, exotic and magical. It is one wild ride through the ebbs and flows of human experience.

The complexity, depth and fast-changing moods of the songs on this ambitious first album makes perfect sense for people who work closely with human emotions. Besides which, any band that has a song titled “Klonopin Automatons” (a standout track in a sea of discoveries) instantly has my heart. They describes the inspiration behind their album thusly:

As a unifying artistic vision for the album, Transience aims to explore the passing of ephemeral experiences such as anxiety, dreams, love affairs, travel, connection, existence, and the creative process.

The band has played Boston-area venues such as the Middle East Downstairs, ONCE Lounge and The Plough and Stars, and they’ve received airplay on WMFO, WAAF, WEMF and elsewhere. They’ve also gotten some attention from WBUR, The Boston Globe and Cambridge Day, in their efforts to save Cambridge rehearsal space EMF from closure.

Miele celebrates the release of their debut album on June 22 at The Burren, along with other female-fronted bands Man Trouble and Boketto The Wolf.

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