musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: May 2018

Places Erupt Lampoon Online Trolling in “Bloggers”

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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

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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

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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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The Dollhouse

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In the 1950s, it was a home of the future. There were shiny linoleum floors and wall-to-wall carpeting, with gleaming appliances and a neat lawn. The child’s dollhouse, much the same, designed to make a little girl’s dreams come true. She imagined it as her own private place — just the same as the home she grew up in.

In her land of make-believe, the rooms were handsomely appointed, neat and tidy. The master bedroom had as a regal, golden bed and elegant headboard, with a baby sleeping in a wooden cradle. A gleaming tile bathroom was right next door. There was a child’s festive bedroom, with a circus elephant, various plush toys and clowns waiting patiently for children to play with. The home, though it was modern and pristine, seemed sad and empty.

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The living room, too, awaited inhabitants. A comfy red armchair, upholstered in a rich Asian fabric, kept company with a sparkly blue-black chair and round, low black marble coffee table. A white silk divan stretched out luxuriously, all under the watchful eye of a stately white marble grandfather clock, which presided over the glamorous décor with a sense of haughty importance.

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This was a room imagined for gracious dinner parties, and a cocktail trolley stood waiting to entice guests with refreshments. Upon more careful inspection, there was one single child, who sat alone on a red leather sofa.
But where were the parents? In the kitchen, there was no one, and the table, sink and counter were oddly free of plates and dishes.

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The little girl who was busy playing with her imaginary family wondered this also. Would the children be left unattended in such a well-appointed home? Surely not?

Her young, innocent gaze pulled back from the individual rooms to take in the entire structure. And it was then that she saw her. The woman of the house was harried and staring off into space. She sat slumped in a chair against the outside wall of the small patio on the second floor, with a look of distress on her movie starlet’s face. Her hair was untidy, and she wore a dirty dress that had a blue and white blouse and white skirt. Her bright red shoes were the only indication that she was once a great beauty who lit up dance floors and loved to spend the evening sashaying to big band music. This was when her life was more carefree and the world, a simpler place, was filled with limitless possibilities.

I can tell you that her husband was busy at work, researching and designing medical equipment that would one day save many lives. He loved his wife and their children, of course, but he was so involved in his work, it was so all-consuming, that it might have, at times, seemed like he suddenly awoke and found himself in a family unit not of his own choosing.

It is now that fantasy and reality merge, as the young girl, playing with the dollhouse, wonders about her own parents and her upbringing. Pictures of the dollhouse, being sold in an estate sale, stir something undefinable deep inside her. She allows herself to feel the grief of her recent loss, pushed out of the way to make room for endless probate papers, settling of bills, clearing of family possessions and all the other hard work that accompanies grief.

She asks herself these questions:

  1. Why was mom so sad? (it was likely related to the physical abuse she suffered as a young child)
  2. What could she have done differently to make mom happier?
  3. What questions could she have asked to show dad that she was interested in his work?
  4. Was she really uninterested in his medical research, or did it just seem too far over her head for her to comprehend? (she probably felt intimidated by his superior intelligence)
  5. Why did dad feel at a loss in relating to his young daughter until much later in life?
  6. What was it exactly that made dad so mistrustful of people? (very likely the knowledge that he was a “mistake,” an unwanted child)
  7. Did she do enough to support them?
  8. What can she do, now that they’re gone, to properly honor their memory?
  9. What would they have wanted the most? (for her to be happy, as they often said, but how does one achieve that?)

She is left gazing at the dollhouse, surrounding by sadness and unanswered questions. But a small voice inside implores her to continue, to push on, to work through it — and to write it all down.

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A Lovely Bit of Psychedelia from Over-Thinker Mute Choir

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As a fellow over-thinker, I know this problem all too well. We become so overly sensitized to other people’s ideas and opinions, to that clamoring of outside voices, that we can no longer hear the quiet but essential inner voice. Decisions are mulled over for far too long, we begin to second-guess ourselves, we hold others’ opinions in far greater esteem than our own, and before we know it, we’re lost and without a clear sense of direction.

Set against a backdrop of ’80s synth-pop that wobbles around and then happily veers off into a dreamy psychedelic excursion with string quartet interlude, “Election Season” is an exploration of ignoring all the outside voices and listening to your heart to show the way.

Election season is a song that came as a sort of emotional response to a time in my life where I had a lot of different voices around me telling me the versions of myself that I should be, and that really messed with my head for a while. It left me in a place in my music and in my life where I felt very indecisive, like I didn’t have an objective view of who I was or what I wanted. The song came as a sort of response to that feeling. The music was a result of me rejecting that notion and not really thinking too much of what the song was supposed to be, but just letting it come out naturally..”

Mute Choir is the brainchild of Sam Arion, who was born in Iran and raised in suburban Toronto. He’s a man of many moods, from the alt-pop of “The Pedestrian” to the thoughtful introspection of “Behind the Bars” to the dancy indie rock of “Minefield” to the expansive “Election Season.” This promises to be a wide-ranging and eclectic first album.

“Election Season” is the second single from Mute Choir’s debut album Behind the Bars, which will be released on June 8. Until then, stream “Election Season”, immerse yourself in its depths and listen to yourself. You have a lot to say.

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