musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: March 2018

Maxwell Bailey — Love and Music in the Face of Hate

Maxwell Bailey

photo by Brandon Keith

Think of Maxwell Bailey’s smooth-as-silk falsetto vocals and gentle, loving guitar picking as a soothing balm against all the hate and sadness of today’s world. In “Melody,” a song from his soon-to-be-released In Between Live EP, he contemplates what can be done to fight against the endless waves of violence, hatred and intolerance. He finds his answer in his music, which he sees as an expression of his love that he tries to send out into the world.

“What type of melody can encapsulate the enmity, pity and pain we feel? How can a word be sung and spoken in love translate to medicate our wounds?”
— Melody

I wrote this song in response to America’s issue with hate. After dozens of mass shootings, incidents of police brutality, terrorist attacks and the general negligence of the less fortunate that we’ve all seen in this country, it can be hard to feel like anything an individual can say or do will have any sort of lasting positive effect. I’m a songwriter, but what good is a song in the face such tragedies? After months of writer’s block at the time, I penned these lyrics in search for an answer to this question. Through the songwriting process, the answer I came up with was, of course, in the form of more questions: ‘When we wave our lights and sway, what does it fix today? Does it make us feel inside? Help us feel alive?’ Life is a complicated web of cyclical emotions. Some good. Some bad. Many indifferent. What I found out from writing this song is that there’s good and bad in all of us. Every perspective sheds unique light on situations. Perhaps, that’s something we all can rally around. Sometimes, at least for me, confusion is comforting. We don’t know the answers, but pushing love out into the world can’t hurt.

Bailey is a Boston-based artist who sees himself as more of a communicator than just a musician, with songwriting as an outlet and a way to connect with other people. His EP was filmed live at an AirBnB in Roxbury. It’s folky, jazzy and soulful, with articulate lyrics, in search of some answers for life’s most difficult problems. Above all, how do we stay in a place of serenity, with chaos all around us, so that we can radiate positive feelings out into the world?

In addition to being a singer songwriter and guitarist, Bailey is also an MC and music promoter. He hosts weekly open mic nights every Sunday at 6B Lounge on Beacon Street in Boston, and the Noise Floor Sessions concert series at various Boston area venues. Focused on showcasing local musicians, Noise Floor Sessions has a six-month residency at Aeronaut Allston (and various pop-up Allston locations).

On June 20, they’ll be hosting Jakals, Caleb Gore and Maxwell Bailey’s EP release party. To keep apprised of future sessions, sign up to be put on the mailing list.

The In Between Live EP will be released on Spotify on June 15.

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Towers and Trees on thinking too much

TowersAndTrees

I’ll be perfectly honest. These guys are way too “peppy” for me. Even their Twitter description as an “earnest indie rock from Victoria B.C.” scares me a little. Earnest? Not first thing in the morning, thank you. But this new song they’ve released, after almost a year’s hiatus, well — let’s just say I can appreciate the sentiment. Especially at this particular moment in my life. I can almost even forgive them for their nauseatingly upbeat and colorful video.

“Head Down / Heart Up” is an anthem for the overthinkers of the world; a reminder and challenge to turn the volume knob in your head down, and let your heart take the wheel every once in a while because it almost always knows where to go.

Overthinker? Me? Ok, maybe that moniker does fit rather snugly. I consider, I analyze, I fret, I second guess — in short, I thoroughly examine just about everything I do. It’s exhausting.

There’s so much noise these days, and so much information coming from every direction, that I think a lot of people identify with this anxiety and ‘analysis paralysis’ from our minds working overtime to try and take everything in and make sense of it all.

Analysis paralysis. Nice. There are certain things that I’ve now accepted I’ll never be able to make sense of, like our current political climate. No, I’m not going there. Take a deep breath, and OMMMMM.

Despite this, almost all of the things that truly matter — family, community, helping others, self-love — these are products of the heart that can be easily drowned out by the excess noise.

I’ll try to remember this before I spend an hour going through political tweets or Facebook posts, only to come away feeling soggy, stiff-necked and unenlightened.

Head Down, Heart Up!

Listen to “Head Down / Heart Up” on Spotify. And treat your poor head to a well-deserved vacation, at least for a little while.

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The Division Men (and friends) turn up the romance and mystery on Niños Del Sol

Photo by Casey Chumbley

Photo by Casey Chumbley

Our favorite desert noir duo, The Division Men is on the cusp of an exciting new album, their third full-length release. Titled Niños Del Sol, it’s a deliciously romantic stew of acoustic and electric guitars, sensuous saxophone, delicately played piano and touches of percussion that lace in and out while J. Spencer Portillo and wife Caroline Rippy Portillo spin their vocal magic. The result is breathtaking. The music strongly conjures heady, exotic desert evenings along the Southern border. Each song moves seamlessly into the next like a lush and inviting soundtrack, but particular standouts include “Heaven Knows Why”, “Fall,” “Marionette” and the title track “Niños Del Sol,” which is spectacularly beautiful.

At ‘Musings,’ we first discovered Austin-based The Division Men in January 2015. As a quick reminder, they first came together in Berlin in 2008, and are strongly influenced by their El Paso and San Antonio roots. Words used to describe their music include “romantic,” “haunting,” “dark” and “ethereal.” I’ll add intoxicating to the mix.

Niños Del Sol, two and a half years in the making, was a collaborative effort, created with the musical contributions of several close friends, who also happen to be distinguished artists. Guest musicians include Rafael Gayol (Leonard Cohen), Jake Garcia (The Black Angels), Steven Hufsteter (Del Shannon, Tito and Tarantula), Jay Reynolds (Asleep at the Wheel) and Javier Escovedo (The Zeros). Half of the tracks are re-imagined songs from Live at Clap of Thunder, their first live album.

This new album will be released April 20th, and hopefully will soon be followed by some live dates!

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Dreamily soulful Deanna Petcoff and her trust issues

DeannaPetcoff

Relationships can be tricky and emotionally uncomfortable, but that’s no reason not to immerse your dissatisfaction in some honey-smooth ’60s style soul. Deanna Petcoff, former guitarist and singer in Pins & Needles, is embarking on a solo career, and is out of the gate in a strong way with her first single, “Terribly True.”

Petcoff has a rich and sensuous voice that, along with a glass of bourbon, would nicely soothe any heartache. Musically, what starts out sounding wistful gradually transforms into a more upbeat mood, as she calmly assesses the ruins.

I’m not calling you a liar, but I’ll never believe you
It’s a manefestation of trust issues
I’m not saying I could treat you better
but I’ll never put in the effort. – “Terribly True”

Based in Toronto, Deanna Petcoff’s personal muse is to think “what would a 1960s soul singer do?” She embodies this kind of spirit in addressing a timeless concern — how to be honest with oneself and come to terms with a relationship gone sour. As she explains it, “I realized that it wasn’t the person I was seeing who I was in love with — it was the idea of being in love itself. I was trying so hard to make them happy that I forgot to check in with myself and my truth.”

The song was produced by Alex Stavropoulos-Laurie and recorded at Dream House Studios in Toronto. Petcoff will be performing on April 2 at The Smiling Buddha in Toronto.

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