musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: March 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Introducing… Grand Cousin

Here’s some pretty psychedelic indie pop exuberance to propel you into your spring (though at 47 degrees, I can’t say I’m quite there yet). Grand Cousin hails from New York and Connecticut, where they attend Wesleyan University. Yes, they’re young, but they’re already jaded and cynical. Good job, boys. Their most recent singles are “Let Me Know” and “Camera,” they’ve opened for Twin Shadow and Wild Flag and they’ve been featured in Huff Post. This is a tight 3-piece machine with driving percussion and some stunning percolating and ringing guitar who describe themselves thusly: “A fledgling Buddhist, an Upper-East-Sider-Gone-Rogue, and the sensitive son of a sitcom legend.” That would be Robbby Caplan on bass, Evan Low on drums and Henry Hall (son of Julia Louis Dreyfus) on guitar and vocals. They’ll be releasing their debut EP this spring.

“I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you
that’s why I’m gonna put a camera in your room.”
– Camera

Typically I don’t much care for straight falsetto singing, but Henry’s vocals are so damaged and twisted as to be completely endearing, so I’ll let him slide. He really takes off and flies to some curious places. Henry credits his lyrical inspiration as “insecurity, euphoria, anxiety and nostalgia.” Their 4-song demo, released two years ago, has tracks entitled “I Hate People” and “I Wanna Know You.” Clearly this band has some issues, so check them out when you can and give them all a big hug.

[They’ll be performing in Hamden, Connecticut at The Space on April 10.]

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Casper & The Cookies: Dingbats

credit: Casper & The Cookies

credit: Casper & The Cookies

In their fourth album Dingbats, released back in February (on Wild Kindness and Stuff Records), Casper & The Cookies (from Athens, Georgia) seem to be assessing the passage of time and their own history, looking back over a particular course of events both musically and lyrically. Could the title be self-criticism at a lifetime of poor choices? Or an assessment of others? Whatever, it’s a wild ride of musical styles, from jaded pop intelligentsia (“Improvvisamente Ardito”) to a glam-goth cabaret ditty about popping speed (“Amphetamines”) to a sweet psychotic tale about a love obsession (“Omni”) to a lovely English folk ballad about a murder (“White Noise”).

Jason NeSmith (vocals/guitar/keys), Kay Stanton (bass/vocals/keys), AJ Griffin (vocals/keys) and Gregory Sanders (drums) are currently in and/or have traveled through an impressive lineage — Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control, The New Sound of Numbers and Supercluster. They’ve toured with The Apples in Stereo, were Daniel Johnson’s backing band and opened for the B-52s’ 34th anniversary show in Athens.

Their eerie contemplation about touring life, “Lemon Horses,” reads like a hazy, confusing dream, at some uneasy place between wakefulness and sleep. They filmed what I can only call a concept video, and one that gave me a Twin Peaks queasiness, I might add.

The story ends with as much uncertainty as it begins. No answers, only inquiry. Lusciously orchestrated piano and strings makes the journey a good deal more pleasant.

“I want to make a jumbo sign
I want to take that sign downtown
I want to shake my sign around
It says: NO ONE KNOWS
NO ONE REALLY KNOWS ANYTHING.”
– When the Moon Was in Command

Upcoming Shows

4/3 – Carrboro, NC – The Station
4/4 – Rehoboth Beach, DE – Dogfish Head Brewpub
4/5 – New York, NY – Cake Shop
4/8 – Allston, MA – O’Brien’s Pub
4/10 – Philadelphia, PA – The Overlook (at 3rd & Girard)
4/12 – Roanoke, VA – 501 speakeasy

web | facebook | twitter | bandcamp | Wild Kindness Records | wikipedia

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Emmaar, Tinariwen’s Return to the Desert

[For the abridged version of this article, see Ryan’s Smashing Life]

The past few years have been difficult for the people of Mali. There was a devastating drought and armed conflicts which made the country unsettled for the long-suffering population. There were military coups, people were out of work and farmers were unable to plant their crops and raise livestock. Poor harvests continued into 2013, while road conditions and security issues hindered relief efforts. Aid groups warned of a serious food crisis with as many as three million people at risk. There continues to be political instability, even after French troops successfully ousted Islamic jihadists who had taken over Northern Mali and were trying to impose sharia law.

That isn’t your typical album review introduction, but then again, North African Tuareg band Tinariwen isn’t your typical band. They were founded in the Tuareg camps in Libya in the 1980s, where these nomadic people had relocated. They were looking for work and to rebuild their lives after fleeing their Saharan homeland. Truth is, the Tuareg have been continuously moved from places they tried to call home since the late 1960s. They traveled through Mali, Algeria, Libya, Chad, Mauritania and Niger. In all of these regions, they were considered refugees. They were (and continue to be) a people without a home. It is a complicated story.

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Radars To The Sky and a temporary hiatus

Well, I’m certainly glad I pop onto the dreaded Facebook every now and again. I was originally going to report with a sad heart that after nine years, Radars To The Sky would be calling it quits with one final performance on Saturday, March 22 at El Cid. However, it now appears to be only a 3-month hiatus. Great, great news. They’ll be performing with The Californian and The World Record (and recent RTTS members Ceeca and Malcolm Sosa will be playing with them). Late breaking news: their long-time bandmate, “saxophone maestro and new father-to-be-any-minute Matt Kozlov” will be joining them. After that, Kenny Kupers will be moving to New York to open a bar (yes, apparently true) and Kate and Andrew will be living in Washington D.C. for a year. I’ll keep an eye out for any offshoot projects, and it seems now that we will see the band together again eventually. For the record, I first profiled them here in 2009 and included them in my infamous “Eastside L.A. Roundups.” I haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing them in person, so I’m glad to hear they’re still alive and kicking. In the meantime, can someone who’s going to be at El Cid do me a favor and film a few songs? Thanks.

As for their recorded legacy to date, there are the three EPs— the aptly titled EP, The Big Bang EP, the Detritus EP—and their brilliant full length album, Supra/Infra. And unless I have this wrong, it seems like they’ve been working on some new material? The show preview states that they’re preparing their second full length album.

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Introducing… Emily Danger

For some impossibly beautiful strings and stunning, soaring vocals, have a listen to Brooklyn band Emily Danger. They began in 2011 with music written by vocalist Emily Nicholas and drummer Ryan Nearhoff. Cameron Orr joined them on virtuoso violin. From conservatory backgrounds and originally immersed in folk rock, Emily Danger is now delving into some gorgeous dark orchestral rock ‘n’ roll cabaret. On their newly reworked song, “Easy Remix” (originally a folk ballad called “Easy”), they begin with minimalist percussion, plucked strings and a soft sensuous jazz vocal, which then slowly unfurls into soaring voice and that breathtaking violin in full flight. There’s also the shiver-inducing video that turns the hunter and prey fable on its head.

Their lyrical content addresses political, feminist and other social issues, and judging from their video for “Shed My Skin” (from their Paintings EP), this stuff ain’t for lightweights. Or as they say themselves, “we make pretty music about ugly things.” Nice.

“Easy Remix” is a single from their upcoming album Peace Arch, coming out later this year.

Upcoming Shows

Mar 20 Muchmore’s – Brooklyn, NY
Mar 21 The Legendary Dobbs – Philadelphia, PA
Mar 23 Rockwood Music Hall – New York, NY Tickets RSVP
Mar 28 Hat City Kitchen – Orange, NJ
Apr 04 Extreme Pizza – Wilmington, DE
Apr 16 The Way Station – Brooklyn, NY
Apr 18 The PIT – New York, NY

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A Taste Of Iceland 2014 ~ the music, the art, the culture, the food, the vodka…

It’s time again to celebrate the arts, culture, food (and vodka) of Iceland! Presented by Iceland Naturally, this annual mini-festival is called A Taste Of Iceland—and it is, quite literally. From today through Tuesday, there’s an epicurean Icelandic feast prepared by chef Hákon Már Örvarsson at Rialto in Harvard Square. On Saturday from 5-7pm, there’s an Icelandic Photography Reception with a talk by Boston photographer Neal Rantoul at 555 Gallery. The FREE CONCERT, Reykjavik Calling, with Icelandic (and Boston) musicians is on Saturday night at The Middle East (downstairs) in Central Square (RSVP; first come, first serve). On Sunday, things wind down with a Reyka Vodka Craft Cocktail Class at The Liberty Hotel in Boston (RSVP HERE; limited to 50 people).

Read more about this weekend’s activities and learn how you can win an Icelandic prize pack in a special “Iceland scavanger hunt.”

We’ll focus on the music, which you can get a taste of below in a terrific little sampler. This is your chance to experience these Icelandic musicians live, without the long flight. You’ll also get to hear some unique collaborations with local artists. I attended one of these special events a few years ago, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. Mark my words; you’ll make some amazing discoveries.

Keep reading for some information about the show and some samples from the featured artists.

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This Much shows their “Disdain” for this Boston winter (or maybe it’s just me?)

(left to right): John Stricker, bass; Denny Kennedy, drums; Terrence Mulhern, vocals, guitar, keyboards

(left to right): John Stricker, bass; Denny Kennedy, drums; Terrence Mulhern, vocals, guitar, keyboards

For their fifth song, just released along with an official video and perfect for the season, is This Much’s aptly titled “Disdain.” A full-length album is apparently forthcoming. You may think these snowy scenes of Boston are pretty, but as far as I’m concerned, never was there a more effective public service announcement for moving to Southern California. There. I said it.

I intend to post this on Wednesday, when we’re due to have yet another Nor’easter. True to form, even when I try to be clever and make the most of things, the weather doesn’t cooperate with me. I see it’s now going to rain. Figures.

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Faces on Film Poised to release their new album, Elite Lines

Courtesy of Crash Avenue // Credit: Michael Basu

Courtesy of Crash Avenue // Credit: Michael Basu

Boston singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mike Fiore, whose musical persona is known as Faces on Film, will be releasing a new album on March 25. Its title, Elite Lines, is a brief but beautiful track on the new album, a delicately finger-picked, mysterious and personal instrumental piece (which came to him in a dream), that serves as an important focal point. Though the remaining seven songs are varied musically—a wistful piano and organ ballad, dreamy Big Star-esque pieces, bluesy R&B, Eastern flavorings and languid indie pop, it is all underpinned by the intimacy of a bedroom recording. It’s about quiet introspection. As Fiore explains his middle-of-the-night muse visitation, “When that happens, when you’ve got something good,” he says, “you gotta hold up your end of the bargain and go wake up and at least capture it.”

Elite Lines is Faces on Film’s third album since their 2008 debut, The Troubles, which was followed up in 2011 with Some Weather. Fiore has said that this album is less opaque and more obviously personal than his previous releases. He’s also been open about his creative inspiration, citing Neil Young’s “I Believe You,” Harry Nilsson’s “Many Rivers to Cross” and Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good.”

Two songs have been released so far, a gorgeous and haunting guitar and piano lament called “The Rule” and the soulful yearning of “Heartspeed.” Elite Lines can be preordered on Esty and presumably will also be available from the usual iTunes and Amazon sources.

There will be two album release shows in Boston and NYC:

3/24 – T.T. the Bear’s, Cambridge, MA – buy tickets
3/25 – Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY – buy tickets

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Introducing… YouYourself&i

Here’s something from Montreal-based singer songwriter YouYourself&i (a.k.a. Daniel Gélinas). His most recent release was in February, Seasons Inside EP (August). His style is intimate, sometimes edgy, hyperliterate experimental minimalist folk. No, I don’t think that’s a wikipedia genre, but maybe it should be. He has several recordings available via Bandcamp, the first of which is Hole In Net, from 2009.

YouYourself&i will be performing in Buffalo New York at Ashker’s Juice Bar on Thursday, March 13 at 9pm. If you’re in the area… (you know the drill).

bandcamp | EP review

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Lorde: The Pure Heroine?

I ask a lot from my music. A strong beat, something tuneful or catchy, isn’t enough for me. It’s not enough to hold my attention, and it’s not enough to inspire me to write. There has to be philosophical inquiry, social observation, searching, or struggling, scathing commentary, yearning, mourning, hunger. If it doesn’t provide me with answers, at the very least it has to ask the right questions. Whether it does this in words, in music, or both, I really don’t care. But it has to do something.

I don’t know if Lorde can be trusted. Is she the youngest philosopher of our time, or a savvy business woman light-years beyond her earthling age? In either scenario, if she indeed is the author of these coming of awareness tales, precociously making her social observations and spewing her venom towards mainstream culture while starkly framed by the skeletal remains of modern tribal electronica, then she’s a genius.

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