musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: June 2014

Introducing… Cashew & Cleary

photo by Rhea Harding

photo by Rhea Harding

As luck would have it, the music of Cashew & Cleary is the perfect soundtrack for summer backyard barbecues, lazy days with the family on the front porch and well, good ol’ American 4th of July celebrations. Their 4-track EP, Husbands Vol. 1, features gentle harmonies, orchestral moments with plenty of strings, and even horns and a tuba! As the title suggests, this is just the first in a series. Various sun-drenched California influences are heard here, from folky 1960s Laurel Canyon, to West Coast artists like Love, The Byrds and Beck, to the spacier psychedelic desert cowboy vibe of Joshua Tree, to the modern day artsiness of Echo Park. It’s a quirky combination that blends together just beautifully.

The duo of Cashew & Cleary consists of Los Angeles musicians Eric “Cashew” Harding and Patrick Cleary. Cashew’s musical lineage includes psych folk band Eagle Winged Palace and garage band The Prix. Cleary was guitarist and lead vocalist for the Americana band The Digs and prog rock band Silver Phial. Listening to each other’s bands let to songwriting sessions, which has happily culminated in recordings and occasional live shows.

Here’s the inspiration behind one of the tracks — “‘I’m an Illusion’ was a magical poem that Patrick wrote to a waltz,” says Cashew, “We experimented with it and found a way to bridge the gap between Americana and full-blown Ranchero. A welding job like that can only be produced in a taqueria and coyote town like LA.”

The EP was created in DIY style, with family and friends taking part, including Scott Bassman on bass, Cheryl Lynn Caddick (Cleary’s wife) on drums and percussion, Curt Harding on bass, James Arellano on horns, Darryl Brown on violin and Robert F. Datta on tuba. It was recorded with Rob Campanella (Beachwood Sparks, Brian Jonestown Massacre), and it’s available through the usual digital means and also on cassette. Yup, that’s what I said — cassette.

Says Cleary, “Our playing and singing is often cited as being of another era, and I’m proud of that. We’re an anachronism, but in these times, that seems like a good thing.”

They have a FREE SHOW scheduled at the Echo in Los Angeles, for Sunday, July 6. It’s the Grand Ole Echo with Rose’s Pawn Shop (country music and Sunday BBQ), which is “patrolled by Radar, Cashew & Cleary, Creekwood and Kip Boardman.” Sounds like a great time.

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Special thanks to Joe Fielder, formerly of Radio Free Silver Lake and now a defector living in the city of Boston, for turning me on to this fine band.

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Kan Wakan’s hypnotic and sensuous debut album, Moving On

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander for TriggerChrome

Photo by Louis C. Oberlander for TriggerChrome

Soulful and sultry is just one of Kan Wakan’s many calling cards. Based in Los Angeles, their music takes in electronica, psychedelia, pop, soul and dark jazz, bringing to mind lush retro orchestrated soundtracks and smoky cabarets. I had the great pleasure of seeing them at the Echoplex in Los Angeles during Echo Park Rising last year. Live they were a pleasant hallucinatory trip. Their debut full-length album, Moving On, was released earlier this month, and it’s just gorgeous.

To give you all something marvelously incongruous for a hot summer’s day at the beach (and yet perfectly aligned to the murky and mysterious musical tones), here’s the video for “Like I Need You.” It’s a charming story about the seedy underground black market of hallucinogenic fish eggs (and the slimy fishery business – sorry, I couldn’t resist), and let’s just say that our hero of the story in this delightful slice of film noir, is not having a good day. The video was directed by Young Replicant (The XX, Lorde, Purity Ring).

Upcoming Shows

7/25 Underground Music Showcase – Denver, CO
9/13 The Getty Center – Los Angeles, CA

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Matthew Szlachetka Waits for a Storm to Find

For some gentle, easy-going summer listening, check out the warm, heartfelt music of Matthew Szlachetka. His solo debut album is Waits For A Storm To Find. He’s accompanied by acoustic guitar, percussion, tasteful electric guitar licks, tinkling piano and little bursts of horns, but the focus stays firmly on his smooth vocals. These peaceful front porch sounds belie the melancholy lyrical content in songs like the piano-driven “Come Home for December”:

“Nobody told you right from wrong
you left early, and I wish I tagged along
we’ve grown divided
how time is strange
I’m wondering where you are.”
“Come home for December, we can put your reggae on
come home for December, we can sing a song.”
– Come Home For December

There’s the bluesy lament of “I Can’t Look At Your Face” that brings out some vocal grit, the introspective and quiet folkiness of “Carry Me Home” and the driving rock insistence of “I Keep Telling Myself It’s Fine.” In “Threw You Away In Los Angeles,” one of the album’s strongest tracks, he moves from wistful sorrow to inner strength and determination, from mournful blues to celebratory rootsy rock with soul-fortifying backing vocals. For those who love traditional heart-on-your-sleeve music, there’s a lot of different moods to enjoy here.

Szlachetka was previously the lead singer for the Los Angeles roots/rock band The Northstar Session, which saw a good deal of success, performing with bands like John Waite, Camper Van Beethoven, Chris Isaak, Fishbone and The English Beat. They even appeared on the hit TV show “Parenthood.” Despite all that, he felt there was something missing artistically, which led to his decision to strike out on his own. This debut solo album is obviously very personal for him. As he says, “I think it’s my most honest work to date. These songs are coming from a darker place in my life that I wasn’t necessarily as comfortable talking about or letting people in on.”

“The question of love sits on the table
A love that brings you home every night
that cripples your senses
harmony is tough
Sometimes love ain’t enough.
– Waits For A Storm To Find

He has quite a few shows scheduled from the start of next month through mid-September, mostly around the Northeast and the West Coast. This includes gigs in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Washington state. Locally, he’s at The Lobster Shanty in Salem on July 17 and is performing at the Northampton Concert Series on July 18. See his complete tour schedule.

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Introducing… We Will Be Lions (San Francisco psychedelic glam rock)

Here’s some fun summer musical fare for you. We Will Be Lions are not exactly entirely new, as they had two previous EPs out in 2012 (We Will Be Lions) and 2013 (You Will Be Heroes). However, their new single, “Burn Me Like A Disco” and upcoming album are being billed as a transition from their prior “celebratory rock” to something with a more psychedelic, R&B feel. They’ve been dancing slinkily around early Bowie-esque glam and the delicious weirdness of The Flaming Lips since their beginnings. Hence their own tagline, “San Francisco Psychedelic Glam Rock.” It’s a great seductive sound befitting their Northern Cali home. In fact, the single was recorded in SF’s Mission District at Tiny Telephone Studios, an analog recording studio owned by John Vanderslice that has hosted Death Cab for Cutie, Deerhoof and Mike Watt.

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Seasons release two songs from their forthcoming album, “Everything Changes”

Damn, looks like I missed this. One of my favorite L.A. bands, Seasons, sent two brand new songs from their forthcoming album “Everything Changes” three weeks ago. No matter, I also forgot to post anything three weeks ago. So it all makes sense now, in some alternate universe. I’ll post it now and it’ll look like I had my shit together. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

As for the music, no surprise, it’s starkly beautiful. Moody, psychedelic, forbidding, tribal and celebratory, with hypnotic vocals and Kaitlin Wolfberg’s gypsy violin spinning some serious magic. So cuddle up with a soft blanket and a tasty beverage of your choice, and enjoy “I Used To Be Alive” and “Fossils” (ha, nice pairing, guys). And you know something? I know the feeling.

“Everything Changes” was engineered and produced by Scott Colburn (engineer for Animal Collective and Arcade Fire), it was recorded in Seattle, Washington and mastered by Dave Cooley (Light In The Attic, M83) in Mt. Washington, CA. Be on the lookout for the full album, due out in the fall.

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Introducing… Desert

Photo: Las Coleccionistas

Photo: Las Coleccionistas

Cristina Checa and Eloi Caballé, performing as Desert, are from Barcelona, Spain. They’ve just released their first EP, Envalira (on Minty Fresh/Buenritmo), and already there’s a lot of buzz about them. Their first two songs, “Camins” and “Desert,” garnered a pile of blog reviews, comparisons to Cocteau Twins and Catalan folk songwriter Maria Del Mar Bonet and a series of remixes from such notable Spanish DJs as Aster, Marc Piñol, Lasers and Afika Pseudobruitisimus. But never mind about all that. Their music is dreamy, hypnotic, ethereal and to my ears, surprisingly warm sounding for, well, electronic music. Put it this way: it’s damned pretty. Incidentally, “Envalira” is made up from two Catalan verbs “embadalir” (to spellbind) and “delirar” (to be delirious). Nice touch.

They’re working on their first album, but for now, we have the 4-track Envalira to enjoy. Listen to “Saps Prou Be” (“you know well enough”) from the new release. A limited edition 12″ vinyl release (500 copies) will be out next month, and can be preordered here (U.S.) or elsewhere from here.

As for live shows, I’m afraid if you’re not in Spain, you’re out of luck (for now, anyway). They’ll be in Capellades on July 5 and Madrid on July 20.

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This Wild Life: Punk, Pop, Acoustic, Good Music

Pop-punk rockers Kevin Jordan and Anthony Del Grosso record and perform as This Wild Life, they’ve just released their debut full-length album, Clouded (on Epitaph) and they’ve proudly said a big F*CK YOU to musical genres by releasing a melodic acoustic album with thoughtful lyrics, pianos and a full string section. Kevin Jordan’s vocal inspiration isn’t Joey Ramone or Henry Rollins — it’s pop songstress Sara Bareilles. As a perfect example of the old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” have a look at these guys and then have a listen. Their video for “History” is a great little road warrior story as well. As someone who hates to see creative people pigeonholed into a particular style or genre, I love these guys on principle alone. The fact that they’re great musicians with well-crafted, heartfelt songs doesn’t hurt one bit.

Oh, and they’ll be performing on the Warped Tour that begins in Houston on June 13. Even better.

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Introducing: Darren Rose Radio: Inside Radio & Records (it’s a podcast)

For those of you who enjoy a behind-the-curtains look at today’s music business, there’s a new podcast you should know about. Darren Rose, best known for his previous on-air gig on Alt 98.7 KYSR in Los Angeles, has just inaugurated Darren Rose Radio – Inside Radio & Records. It’s an unedited and uncensored series of conversations with people from every corner of the music business — artists, managers, DJs, producers, label executives and others.


In these hour-whatever conversations, it’s no-holds-barred discourse about people’s careers, world views and insights into this sketchy sophisticated industry. Darren has a great resume for doing a show like this, as he’s interviewed many people in the biz at 98.7 and enjoys a casual rapport with them, which always makes for great conversation. Judging from his first four podcasts, this is going to be a real eye-opener, a rare look at how the music business operates today.

Thus far, he has featured Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event, Pete Galli of The MGMT Company (who manages Airborne, Andrew W.K., The Bravery and others), his friend Josh Venable, Radio Programmer and DJ at Z104.5 in Tulsa (and formerly with Alt 98.7 and 102.1 The Edge in Dallas) and producer Andy Rosen (a.k.a. Dr. Rosen Rosen). Here are my initial thoughts.

His friendly chat with Mikel – This 75 minutes is like a rushing river of information after a particularly long dry spell for Airborne news. Mikel has a tendency toward major snarkiness if an interviewer 1) doesn’t know anything about the band and clearly hasn’t done their research or 2) asks the stock questions (“So tell us about the name”). This was a casual chat between friends, unguarded to the point where Mikel spoke about what he’s been doing the past six months, his home studio, what his plans are for the next Airborne album, how he and the band work together, his writing process, his thoughts on radio singles, his favorite artists, his health and workout regimen, his lifestyle, marital status, personal introspection, the music industry, you name it. For the Airborne fan, it’s an exhausting, exhilarating, gluttonous feast.

Music Business 101 with Pete – It’s a 30 minute crash course on today’s music industry and what a band has to do to get noticed, from one of the most savvy people currently in the business. Pete shares his four steps for breaking an artist (great songs and recordings, a good story, band identity, live show). He talks about the importance of blogs, radio, major labels and gives an extremely valuable insider’s perspective. It’s also heartwarming to hear him get totally geeked about Airborne and their huge hit, “Sometime Around Midnight.” After many years in the business, he still has that youthful passion and enthusiasm and isn’t completely jaded. Great stuff.

His two-hour gabfest with Josh Venable – This one’s an extremely interesting and thoroughly depressing look inside today’s commercial ‘alternative’ radio station travesty industry. It takes some effort to get beyond their gushing over Coldplay and their defense of Clear Channel (I suppose it’s understandable for a pair of working DJs, as CC has absconded with the bulk of U.S. radio stations). But there’s some really funny shit here. Their conversation veers recklessly from an extremely precise look at DJing as a career, ratings mechanisms and the inner workings of a rock station to behind-the-scenes gossip and endless stories from two chummy radio DJs who are survivors of the industry’s implosion and almost complete annihilation of independent stations by corporate giants. As the “interview” winds on, things eventually disintegrate into a gloriously unedited drunken frat party.

His tête-à-tête with Dr. Rosen Rosen – The conversation veers from home renovations and parenting to his remixes, recent production work with Meg Myers, what it takes for a band to be successful, the role of radio, the importance of artist interviews, live shows and stage production, his process of becoming a producer and his favorite artists. Timbaland? Uh, no thanks. Hearing about his experience as a songwriter and producer in the music biz? Yes, please.

Damn, this is going to be good. Best of all? The podcasts are free to stream or download from his site. Here’s to many happy podcasts, Mr. Rose.

As he says himself, “Over the last 15 years, the music industry has seen more changes than any other time in history. One of those changes in recent years has been the near extinction of the long form interview. Enter Darren Rose Radio, a chance to connect and understand the business from artists and industry insiders far beyond their social networks.”

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