musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: November 2014

Introducing… The Outdoor Type

A down-homey vibe with guitars, harmonica and sweet pop vocals combine with a little edginess in the way of analog synths on this debut song called “Are You Happy” from The Outdoor Type. It’s the project of Melbourne, Australia-based singer and songwriter Zach Buchanan, and it has a nice little ’80s retro sound going for it. In a mere hundred words, he paints a complete portrait of suburban life — laziness, craziness, Diazepam, instant coffee, breakfast TV, the 9-5 rat race, store-brand foods, cheap red wine, regrets, the works.

“Wait here.
Don’t go home,
Nothing easy,
Nothing grows,
I gave you all I own,
For your tired weary soul.”

Are you happy? If not, try listening to this upbeat little gem with the wistful undercurrent.

The song was produced and mixed by Colin Leadbetter. The Outdoor Type will be releasing their debut EP in early 2015, followed by a full-length album.

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Introducing… Macombee & The Absolute Truth

I think it must be living on one of two relatively small islands in the middle of a vast ocean that produces a special kind of quirkiness and fertile ground for artistic expression outside the norm. Macombee & The Absolute Truth are inhabitants of their own unique reality. Their music is grand and theatrical, with equal parts horn-driven spy movie soundtrack and pretty orchestral piano balladry. It all centers around band leader Sarah Macombee’s Broadway musical vocals. There’s the delightfully adrift and off-kilter “Floatsam and Jetsam” and the expansive (and well-named) “Epic.” Quieter contemplations such as the very sweet “Limbo” and the choral celebration of “Ripples” (that includes her vocal students) give way to full-on productions like “No Man’s Land” and “The Absolute Truth” (which begins and ends this ambitious debut release). Their first release? really??

Originally from England, the Macombees (technically the McCombies) emigrated to New Zealand, and Sarah has been singing in choirs and in bands for many years. Macombee & The Absolute Truth features several Macombee family members and their friends. Up to a dozen or so people were involved in the production of No Man’s Land. It was an album that took 5 or 6 years to make, through trials and tribulations that included a relapse of MS for their bandleader and the unexpected passing of their first producer, Ben Stockwell. All this only added to their determination, which perhaps is what explains the tremendous confidence and polish of this intriguing album. You can hear them discuss the coming together of the band and the making of the album, in addition to three songs performed live, on Radio New Zealand.

My personal favorite is the first single, “Floatsam and Jetsam,” and the quirky video of a pleasant little tea party that goes awry. It was filmed and directed by Immi Paterson-Harkness, edited by Darryn Paterson-Harkness, and features a truly wonderful performance by actor David Thiele. For me, this perfectly captures the amazingly inventive and slightly crazy and surreal Kiwi personality. I look forward to having the Macombees on our shores one day soon.

No Man’s Land can be purchased on iTunes or in its physical form from STORENVY.

Upcoming New Zealand Shows
1/23 – Lucha Lounge, York Street, Newmarket
2/13 – Hauraki House Theatre, Coromandel Town (vocal workshop and show)
2/14 – Kauaeranga Hall, Coromandel (vocal workshop and show)
3/29 – Titirangi Festival of Music, Titirangi Theatre, Lopdell House (vocal workshop and show)

For more information, see their site.

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Introducing… The Bulls (as they Come Unwound)

Photo by Josh Giroux

Photo by Josh Giroux

Just one song so far, and it’s a shimmering beauty. The Bulls is multi-instrumentalist Anna Bulbrook (The Airborne Toxic Event) and guitarist Marc Sallis (The Duke Spirit). In early October, they unveiled their first song, “Come Unwound,” which begins as a reverent and breathy Nico-esque sad prayer to an unraveling relationship. The minimalist music slowly builds into a dramatic orchestral production with soaring strings and reverb-soaked guitars, dropping back down for each verse. Stunning.

After hearing Anna’s beautiful voice slowly taking on a more prominent role in her outings with Airborne, it’s a real treat to enjoy it full-strength, front and center stage. And likewise, as her “day job band” embraces synthesizers on their next release, it’s a pleasure to know that her stellar violin/viola skills will enjoy free rein here. With influences ranging from late ’80s/early ’90s dream-pop and shoegaze, The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, bits of new wave and guitar grunge, luscious strings and ethereal vocals, The Bulls promise to give us some pleasant daydreams to float off and away in.

To accompany these aural delights, The Bulls released equally compelling visuals in the form of a provacative video, directed by Evan Mathis, that features Kinbaku model Stacy Lewis. Anna and Marc talk about the video and the formation of The Bulls in an interview with L.A. Weekly.

I’m looking forward to their debut EP, hopefully out early next year. In the meantime, you can purchase “Come Unwound” on iTunes.

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Introducing… The Midnight Hollow

Photo by Evan McKnight

Photo by Evan McKnight

Ah, these guys warm my ’80s goth heart. Brooklyn-based The Midnight Hollow will bring a smile of recognition to fans of bands like Simple Minds and Echo and the Bunnymen, but they also have psychedelic and experimental moments that combine to create something you can get quite lost in. They’ll be releasing their debut full-length album, The People Inside, next year. For now, have a listen to the first single, “Forward.”

The Midnight Hollow is singer and multi instrumentalist Spencer Draeger and Andrew Segreti on drums. Matt Liebowitz (bass), Vahak “V” Janbazian (percussion)
and Katie Lee Campo (keyboards) join them for live performances. Their first song, “Downstairs,” came out in 2013, as part of a compilation album on Zappruder Records. Back in the summer, they released a video for “Her Morning Glow,” which they modeled on psychedlic cult classics of the 1960s. Their debut EP included the spacy, hypnotic “Rabbit Talk.”

That should be more than enough to whet your appetite until next year’s new music, which will hopefully include some touring. If you’re in New York, they’ll be playing with Motel Pools on January 3 at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn.

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Introducing… Bat Manors

They describe themselves as “Halloween pop” and their debut album, due out January 27 on Bleed101 Records, is Literally Weird. Don’t let that scare you, though. Bat Manors, hailing from Provo, Utah, is a perfectly lovely and quite dreamy chamber pop and folk ensemble consisting of several dozen musicians. Ok, maybe not quite that many, but at least a sextet, with others popping in and out. It begins with singer-songwriter Adam Klopp, joined by his many friends (up to a dozen at their live shows). Oh, the softly strummed acoustic guitar, the lap steel, the pretty strings! The gently harmonizing vocals! Their debut covers such heady topics as “love, sexual discovery, and losing your faith in one of the most faith-driven communities in the world.” The first single is “Manifest Destiny.”

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon!


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Midnight Cities’ debut EP, Ignite!

Photo Credit: Elton Anderson

Photo Credit: Elton Anderson

I had the pleasure of seeing Los Angeles trio Midnight Cities last year during a cosmic whirlwind and existential crisis of a West Coast holiday. Midnight Cities features Simon Cardoza on guitar, piano and vocals; Martin Avelar on bass and Nick Roumeliotis on drums. They’ve just released their debut Ignite EP, on which they can be found bolting straight out of the gate on the powerful opener, “Collide.” On “Slow Down Girl,” the first single, the frenetic, driving pace continues. Things go off the rails a bit, musically and lyrically, on the last two tracks, “Meds” (with the delightfully off-balance refrain “TAKE YOUR MEEDDDDS! TAKE YOUR MEEDDDDS!”) and “Losing All My Friends,” which is first infused with sadness and then neurosis (“I’m only alone… in my mind”). In the midst of the emotional maelstrom is a dreamy and rather romantic interlude, due in no so part to Simon Cardoza’s passionate vocals. As unsettling as the other tracks are, “Soon We’ll All Be Shown” and “So Far” are quite pretty and peaceful. The latter also features lovely piano at the start and some luxuriously free-flowing lead guitar toward the end. Personal favorites: “So Far” and “Losing All My Friends.”

The EP was produced by Simon and Sean Tallman (Lilly Allen, Miley Cyrus, Ne-Yo, Deftones, Outcast, Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson – that’s quite a combo). The video for “Slow Down Girl” features actress Megan Duffy. They’ll be releasing more videos soon, and are already working on another EP, Starlight, which is due out early next year.

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The Busker Diaries

Back in September, I heard about a music documentary miniseries from Berlin, Germany called the Busker Diaries. This is to be an ongoing series to promote and support the street performance culture. Living in the Boston area, I’ve always been amazed at the courage and commitment it takes to play your music on the city streets (and sometimes underneath the city streets, on noisy train platforms). To believe in yourself and your art that much is an inspiration. The next time you see a street musician pouring their heart out, stop and show your support. Listen for a few moments and give a little donation, even if it’s just a bit of spare change.

The Busker Diaries don’t seem to have a site, but they’ve released the first installment, featuring Katie O’Connor from Galway, Ireland, with her song “City Blue.” She also talks about her life in Berlin as a street musician (or in European lingo, busker).

The Busker Sessions are going to be featuring buskers from around the world, with a new artist every month. If you’re a street performer, email them for a chance to be featured. They plan to show not only the performance side of musicians, but their private side as well, at home and around the city where they live and work. They’ll talk about what it’s like to play on the street as opposed to a proper venue, what it takes to survive and other aspects of their unique way of life.

The Busker Diaries are the creative project of producer Julian Krohn (ex-A&R at Universal Music, freelance artist developer and music consultant) and director/cinematographer Fabian Frost (photographer and director).

“I think it is good to throw yourself back into the deep end when the pool starts to get shallow or you grow longer legs or whatever happens and sometimes it’s just good to go and try something new and be challenged and be in a place that makes you less comfortable than where you are…” – Katie O’ Connor

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Good Night, Sweet Prince

KITT, 1993-2014

KITT, 1993-2014

It was ironic that it should happen on Halloween, the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain. For some, it is a day that honors those who have departed the world of the living; for others, it is a night of horrors. How wonderfully and horribly appropriate that I should realize, on this fateful day, that it was over and you were gone. I was always the one who wanted more, who tried to stretch things out past their logical expiration date — whether it was a dead-end or even non-paying job, an unhappy or even soul-killing relationship, an outmoded ideal or a package of wilting salad greens. I suppose it was the desire to stick with it, to not give up, to be loyal, to be thrifty. But sometimes loss is inevitable. Death certainly is inevitable. That spinach is well past its prime and should be thrown out. A long-held belief about oneself that makes no sense anymore must be disposed of. A long-term relationship that is no longer healthy or beneficial must end. It was time to let go.

It was an accident that you came into my life. I was driving to work, a 40 minute trip out to Framingham to a new job I was excited about. I had made the decision to pursue my dream to work in the music business, no matter what it took. I accepted an internship at an indie label called Northeastern Records, a position that would soon lead to a full time yet low paying career, and one of the most personally satisfying and fun jobs I ever had. It was a rainy morning, and I was driving down a side street near our tiny office. A woman on a perpendicular side street, stopped at a sign, either didn’t see me or misjudged my distance and darted out in front of me. I was fine, but my Nissan Sentra was totaled. Truth be told, I hated that car. It had all the exuberance of a drugged turtle and the physique of a tin can.

If you’ll recall, KITT, we first met at a Toyota dealer in Brighton, where we were both living at the time. It was love at first sight. I’d like to think you felt the same. After a failed relationship, it is difficult to trust again, but you made it easy. Serene, proud and blue, you calmed my frazzled nerves, uplifted my spirits and assured me that it would be alright. You would keep me safe. You would keep me going.

My god, all the times we shared! There were those heady early days of our life together, when the third person at the indie label quit and I was subsequently promoted to promotions director. There we were, blazing down route 9 back to Boston, my head filled with pride at having seen my name listed in Billboard’s directory of music professionals. This was it, my dear friend, we had arrived! We moved out of the dirty city to the (still rather dirty) quasi-suburbs of Somerville, where you finally had your very own driveway to sleep in. Better still when we moved to our little island, though I know the salt air (and Boston’s salted winter roads) did not agree with your metal constitution.

I always enjoyed you, whether it was during our frequent trips down to Connecticut to see my parents, or up to Newburyport and on other nature sojourns and quaint festivals all across New England. All those precious times that we had to ourselves, to discuss the events of the day and relax in private contemplation. There were our summer trips to North Truro, when that part of Cape Cod was still secluded and bohemian, our whirlwind escapades to New York City and our many trips into Boston to attend concerts and special events and meet up with friends. I remember it all so clearly as if it were yesterday!

Oh KITT, you were a steady partner and a bold adventurer, whether cruising along on a sunny and beautiful day or struggling through a near hurricane or an icy frozen blizzard. The years and hard times took its toll on you and me both, but you never let me down. Even just recently, though I could sense that you were tired, so tired, you and I took little road trips to Manhattan, upstate New York, New Jersey, Providence (and Pawtucket — what a strange little town!), Hartford, Burlington and even up to Montreal! Sharing our love for good music, what a special time we had…

So it saddens me to see you now, resting peacefully in the driveway of our seaside home, leaking enough gasoline to asphyxiate a small town, but loss and change is as inevitable as the ebbing and flowing tides of the ocean. These beautiful memories are what will endure as I say goodbye. My dear friend, my companion, your spirit lives on forever, and may your rusted and dented metal exterior rise again in its new form to begin again. I will remember you always.

“Good night, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”
— William Shakespeare

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