musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Category: Indie Music (Page 1 of 70)

A Rasta Hanukkah – The Temple Rockers’ Festival of Lights

It seems like an unlikely pairing, yet when you first hear The Temple Rockers’ just-released Hanukkah album, Festival of Lights, you’ll be amazed at how seamlessly (and beautifully) they blend sleek reggae with jubilant, horn-laden traditional Jewish klezmer. The Temple Rockers celebrate Jewish and Rasta traditions, finding common ground for their deeply spiritual and heartwarming music.

The Temple Rockers, based in Ithaca, New York, features members of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant, John Brown’s Body and Big Man Sound Machine. Festival of Lights was produced by their bassist David Solid Gould and is the premiere release on his new label, Fresh Roots Records. On the album, the band is joined by legendary Jamaican singers Ansel “Meditations” Cridland, Wayne Jarrett and Linval Thompson. The album features songs commonly heard during Hanukkah. It’s tremendously uplifting and hopeful, at a time when we need it the most.

Discover the perfect soundtrack for the holiday season (and something to lift your spirits, anytime at all). Download the album from the band’s bandcamp. It can also be purchased on Amazon.

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Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys Get Cozy Under Your Covers

Having been released at the start of this fast-moving year, this one nearly got by me. I’d glad it didn’t. Boston’s own Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys has always been a personal favorite. This charming collection of cover tunes, appropriately (and somewhat menacingly) titled Under Your Covers, is a loving tribute to a diverse selection of fan favorites — from Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” to Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” to “The Toys Go Winding Down” by Primus. The choices were specially requested by the band’s Come Black Magic Kickstarter backers.

Having pulled up some of the originals to hear how the Broken Toys’ re-imagingings compare, I can happily report that these songs are performed with due reverence, yet with the Toys’ trademark Gothic elegance and ominous magnificence. It’s “all hands on deck,” with Mr. Sickert on vocals, piano, guitar, effects and programming; Edrie playing with her ‘broken toys’: Rachel Jayson wielding viola and melodica; jojo the Burlesque Poetess making magic on uke and flute; Matt Zappa on percussion; Brother Bones on guitar; Mike Leggio with both stand-up and electric bass; and the legendary Mary Widow lending her vocals and mandolin. It’s a potent witches’ brew.

The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” is given a harsher modern industrial makeover, with male and female warrior vocals making this 47-year-old song seem starkly relevant. Powerful vocals and strings plus driving percussion adds immense tension to the disturbing lyrics of “Chaos & Confusion.” In “Bills, Bills, Bills,” the Army conjures a completely different song and mood, threatening serious damage and retribution. One can hardly expect to improve on Iggy Pop’s masterpiece, “The Passenger,” and in fact, I would normally cringe at the very thought of a cover of one of my Top 10 songs EVER. However, Mr. Sickert and Company do this song justice and are very faithful to the original and respectful of the Master. Rachel’s mournful gypsy viola is a gorgeous addition that I’m sure Jim would highly approve of.

At the risk of insulting hardcore fans, I won’t say which cover versions are, in my humble opinion, far superior in style and depth to the original. Several of them are. Run, don’t walk, to their Bandcamp page, name your price and download this eye-opening yet nostalgic and loving tribute. And be sure to click into each song’s page, so you can enjoy Walter’s mind-melting original art. They’re the perfect visuals for this magical mystery tour through our musical past.

Track Listing

Who We Are, from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Original Motion Picture – Imagine Dragons (2013)

The Toys Go Winding Down, from Frizzle Fry – Primus (1990)

The New Zero, from How We Quit the Forest – Rasputina (1998)

Baba O’Riley, from The Kids Are Alright – The Who (1971)

10538 Overture, from The Electric Light Orchestra – Electric Light Orchestra (1971)

Chaos & Confusion, from Space Age Senior Prom – Zerobot

Bills, Bills, Bills, from The Writing’s on the Wall – Destiny’s Child (1999)

The Passenger, from Lust for Life – Iggy Pop (1977)

Trip, from Wake No More – Porcelain

Don’t Come Around Here No More, from Southern Accents – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1985)

Kingdoms & Castles, from The Triples – Abbie Barrett

Freaks, from Secret Samadhi – Live (1997)

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Seattle’s Becoming Bristol addresses suicide and promises brighter days

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Becoming Bristol gives us upbeat alternative pop songs that contain important messages. Their latest single, “Brighter Days,” was written by their singer/frontman Britt Espinosa, and is about an experience he had with a friend who was contemplating suicide (fortunately, they’re still with us). September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the band will be donating 100% of all sales and streaming proceeds during the month to Anthem of Hope, a non-profit that’s “dedicated to illuminating hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and addiction.”

“Brighter Days” is available for streaming and purchase. The song has a snappy beat that’s definitely danceable, and even more importantly, its lyrics are comforting and hopeful in times of great difficulty.

We all know what the poets say
Pain only ends when your dead
I don’t think it’s got to be that way
I think there’s brighter days ahead
I know life’s not okay
It aches beyond any words
But my friend this will only make it worse

It’s easy to throw away
A life riddled with cuts and scars
There’s something still left to save
It’s at the core of who you are
So push on to the brighter days
You don’t know what you’re worth
Oh my friend, you don’t know what you’re worth
– “Brighter Days”

The single was produced and mixed by Brooks Paschal at Mockingbird Studios.

Formerly known as The Exchange, Becoming Bristol is a pair of brothers (Britt and Jack), along with Tyler Mays and Manny Gounder. They began touring when Britt was 16, and the band is completely self-booked and self-managed. They’ve performed at more than 500 shows, with 8+ national tours.

Previous singles include “Sort Myself Out” (with producer AKA Wolves, released in June) and “Liars and Thieves” (released in July). The former is about taking responsibility for where you end up in life, rather than blaming someone or something else, and the latter addresses the idea that good and evil exists within all of us, and the need for empathy.Important messages for these perilous times.

The line between right and wrong cuts through all of us… the face of god is hiding inside

For the rest of 2018, the band will be releasing a new song each month.

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The Campaign Begins Now: Bees Deluxe and Flippin’ for the Blues

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Here’s a wonderfully cool idea. Boston-based acid-blues band Bees Deluxe is taking their deep bluesy groove on the road to get out the vote and support Democratic (blue) candidates in their attempt to flip political districts from red to blue. They’re calling this noble cause Flippin’ for the Blues (get it?).

These guys are extremely soulful and accomplished musicians. Check them out.

First up is an event for NH-1 candidate for congress, Maura Sullivan. She’s a former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs and senior Pentagon official in the Obama Administration, Marine Corps Veteran, and candidate for Congress in New Hampshire’s First District. This event takes place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Friday, August 31 at Cisco Brewery. From there, it’s Syracuse NY, Allentown PA, Harrisburg PA, Cleveland OH, Columbus OH and Albany NY for various local candidates. For more information and advance reservations, see the official website.

BeesDeluxe

Help support this great cause — Donate To Their Kickstarter Campaign!

At the Portsmouth event, Bees Deluxe will be supported by the Jugghead Band, and after a few words from the candidate, the band will perform. Their set will include original songs from their new CD, Voice of Dog, along with their own interpretations of the music of B.B. King, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, the Meters and other world class musicians. The band features Conrad Warre (lead guitar, vocals), Carol Band (keyboard), Allyn Dorr (bass) and Paul Giovine (drums).

If you like what you hear of Bees Deluxe, you can stream the new album on Spotify or purchase it from Amazon.

Flippin’ for the Blues: web | twitter | facebook | instagram
Bees Deluxe: web | facebook | twitter | soundcloud | youtube

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The Greying’s Cognitive Dissonance: Bipolar Disorder Meets its Match

TheGreying

While metal/hardcore isn’t usually my preferred musical genre, I honestly can’t think of a more apt way to address (stalk, do battle with, and eviscerate) the horrors and confusion of bipolar disorder. Listening to The Greying, a Cape Cod/South Shore-based metal/hardcore band (imagine that), is a visceral experience. But these guys are no literary slouches. They just know their subject matter, and this isn’t the kind of shit that can be properly expressed in a polite pop song. And that is why they’ve blessed us with their Cognitive Dissonance EP. It was written by singer/songwriter Ryan Meehan, as a way to cope with his bipolar diagnosis.

Each of the five tracks focuses on a particular aspect of this bone-crippling, soul-destroying illness. The desperate rantings of singer Ryan Meehan’s exquisite suffering is driven hard by a raucous racket courtesy of Robert Carlson (guitars), Derrick Darmody (bass) and Noah deVeer (drums).

“Panic” starts out slow and menacing, snarling and grinding its teeth.

Panic comes in droves and circles ’round the carrion
memories that fester in the background.
Suffocate on words I should have spoken.
Sadness turns to rage.
I am broken.

“Regenerate” speaks (screams) of the difficult process of working through the pain in search of healing, and choosing life, however excruciating, over suicide.

Shed your skin
Destroy what’s underneath
Regenerate
Kill what you can’t create
Separate reality from fate
I must learn to settle for myself

“I must learn to settle for myself.” Amazing. It’s all about self-acceptance, which seems like such an easy, straightforward thing, but lordy, it’s not.

“Demons Run” is a charming little ditty about confronting the devil within and the demons without, while one questions/confronts God. Nathan Calcagno of Regime lends his bone-chilling growl for multi-dimensional effect.

No promises of damnation
Wretched hearts go screaming toward the void regardless
Watch the world fall through the hour glass
Demons run when you relinquish hell

Lord forgive me. I’ve done nothing.
Lived a life in fear your hand would come to strike me down.
Felt the fault break with shepards spewing hate
Left the herd before the sickness caught me.

There’s something in there as well about our current political climate, but I won’t go there. Nope.

“Dissociate” is about running away from reality and not confronting your fears, while “Paranoia” is about how one tries to cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. One is left wondering if, at times, the “cure” might be just as bad as the illness. “Dissociate” closes with a harrowing scream that ends in a sardonic chuckle. If that isn’t the perfect metaphor for living with bipolar disorder, whether it’s your own or a loved one’s, I don’t know what is.

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Learn more about bipolar disorder, and if you’re struggling, check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

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The Making of a Malignant Narcissist: Danny Ross’s “The Son”

DannyRoss

As Donald Trump protest songs go (surprisingly, there really aren’t that many of them), Danny Ross’s “The Son” is in a class by itself. It tells the childhood story of our 45th President in a manner that turns Dickens’ Oliver Twist on its head. Instead of the formative years of a band of poor street urchins, this dark tale is about a young boy born into privilege. It attempts to explain the grown man’s depraved ways by examining his upbringing and his relationship with his domineering father — all in charming musical theater style with clever animation by Elvie Mae Parian.

The stories are true, inspired by a 2016 Washington Post article, “Confident. Incorrigible. Bully: Little Donny was a lot like candidate Donald Trump.” Written more than 4 months before the election, it’s likely that if more people had read this article, they might have been sufficiently concerned enough not to vote for him. Even as a teenager, he refused to acknowledge mistakes, threatened his classmates, frequently lashed out in violent actions and was widely known as “a loudmouth bully.” He spent his young life trying to prove himself to an elusive and disapproving father.

Ross makes a powerful statement about Trump’s presidency merely by sharing these anecdotes from his childhood. Presented as it is, you could almost feel sorry for the guy. I did say ALMOST. Suffice it to say, this deceptively cheery little ditty and its accompanying video is eerie as hell.

Danny Ross is one interesting guy. His CV reads like a strange ‘mash-up’ — songwriter and producer, music columnist at Forbes, husband at Babetown (it’s a surf-rock duo with his wife), press secretary at the New York State Senate, chief of staff at the New York State Assembly and scheduler for the U.S. Congress. Ross and his wife are currently based in Brooklyn.

In his Forbes article, “3 Modern Protest Songs in the Trump Era,” Ross marvels at the dearth of Trump protest songs and discusses the difficulty of creating satire about Trump without sinking to his level. He discovered an elegant and effective way to do it, through delving into Donald’s past.

While you’re perusing Ross’s other Forbes articles about music and entertainment, be sure to read his latest piece about the Music Modernization Act (MMA), which seeks to bring antiquated and wildly unfair songwriter royalties into the 21st century.

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Kevin Blake Goodwin’s Dissonance Sheds Light (and Hope) on Addiction

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If this was just about a couple of amazing guitarists or a mind-melting sand animation artist, that would be enough inspiration for me. Add to the mix a mission to bring attention to the often taboo subject of drug and alcohol addiction, and it’s an unbeatable combination. Kevin Blake Goodwin (a.k.a. Blake Goodwin) is a “hybrid electric and acoustic guitar player” with fingerstyle and technical mad guitar skills. He performs what is known as Djent metal guitar, a rhythmic, progressive and technically complex style of playing. He is also a recovering addict, so this is personal. What he has done is to embark on a wildly ambitious project with some of the best musicians, artists and technical people in the business for an album, tour and 30-minute cinematic short film, raising $15,000+ (and counting) through his Kickstarter campaign.

It’s hard to know where to begin in describing this massive undertaking. Here’s a bit of an explanation, with a delicious taste of some of the musical delights in store.

After beating his addiction in 2014, Goodwin won the 2015 Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition, which brings together the best international acoustic guitar players. He’s gone on to advocate for worthy causes such as disabled veterans, addiction recovery and expanded opportunities for musicians. In 2016, he founded FRETMONKEY Records, an independent guitar record label that now boasts a roster of 23 guitar players from 10 different countries. But he isn’t just an outstanding guitar player who has a label — he’s also the audio engineer, videographer and producer.

Here’s a little more of his playing — a sneak peak at the Dissonance album.

And the world renowned sand animation artist, Joe Costello? You can see some of his previous work, for PlayStation’s “God of War”:

Costello’s incredible work will be featured in the Dissonance film as well as an art animation retelling of the story. This short film, with its accompanying soundtrack, addresses the “spiritual warfare of addiction” as well as offering hope for recovery. It chronicles Goodwin’s own harrowing journey through a dark and nightmarish setting, and he admits it’s not easy viewing. However, as he explains, it ends “with a strong message of hope, help, and redemption.”

The album features 8 highly complex guitar compositions, with collaborations from world-renowned guitarists Adrian Bellue, Jason Richardson and Felix Martin, plus metal vocalist Shayley Bourget and saxophonist Jameson Burton. The album is mixed and mastered by Arch Echo guitarist and engineer, Adam Bentley.

There are also plans to take this important message (and the music) on the road, with all sorts of special electronics, lighting, film and sound to be added as their budget allows. He has reached his initial goal of $15,000, but the more money they can raise, the more impressive the live show can be. So, donate to his Kickstarter campaign now! There are many great incentives, from MP4 digital copies and CD/DVD packages all the way up to private house concerts and high-end production of your own EP or music video.

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Lars Eriksson Conjures the Vitaliebröderna Pirate Gang of Gotland

photo by Adam Hultberg

photo by Adam Hultberg

To listen to the lush music of Lars Eriksson is to allow yourself to be transported to a distant shore. Recently released is the first single from his forthcoming 6-track EP. “I Love You Now” is a beautifully fluid piece that flows around a gypsy violin and Eriksson’s softly sensuous vocals.

Lars Eriksson is a Swedish-born musician who first came to public attention following appearances on the Swedish Idol TV show in 2008. By that time, in his late 20s, he had already written 200 songs. He played piano at age 5 and started writing music when he was 9, performing at his school. He took up guitar at 16 and played with friends under the band name “The Jisreels” at local shows and on tour.

His previous recordings, which can be listened to on Spotify, include Dictions and Contradictions (2012), Rust and Golden Dust (2011), two demo albums titled As It Were and If You Will, plus EPs Inconsequencia and Lonely Jim. Eriksson collaborated with Elin Sigvardsson on the single “Love,” which reached #5 on the Swedish singles chart, and also worked with Anders Bagge and Birger Pettersson (High Gear Music label).

The songs on the new EP were written on the Swedish island of Gotland, during a three-year period when Erikkson lived there. The mood of this special places infuses the songs, some of which incorporate mystic elements that conjure ancient times. The title, Guds vän och allas fiende (“Friend of God and enemy of all”), was the battle cry of the Vitaliebröderna pirate gang, who lived on the island of Gotland in the Middle Ages.

On the EP, Eriksson (who performs on acoustic guitar, vocals and pump organ), is joined by David Åhlén (studio technician Gotland, violin), Magnus Olsson (drums), Carl Ekerstam (electric guitar), Jonas Nilsson (double bass) and Elin Ivarsson (background vocals).

Artwork for the EP and singles are by the Spanish artist Lucía Espinós Bermejo The digital-only release of the EP is on September 15, preceded by the second single, “Breadcrumbs” (August 15).

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Erin Pellnat reminds us to pick up those pennies

Erin Pellnat

Erin Pellnat

There’s something delightfully nostalgic and soothing about Erin Pellnat’s vocals on her new song, “Pennies” that can calm even the most troubled mind that has been caught up in the rough tides of these disturbing times. I don’t know if it’s the gentle accordion and soft percussive shuffle or her 1950s Patsy Cline vibe, but this song takes me back to simpler days. As she and her band sweep us away into a more carefree life (or at least the wistful illusion of such a life), she reminds us that, despite the craziness encircling us, we can still find joy in our lives.

I know, I know that sometimes it seems
this nightmare is swallowing our dreams
But there is never ever a doubt
we’re gonna turn this nightmare inside out.

And I still bend down to pick up pennies
reasons to smile, you don’t need many
and I still skip stones,
still balance on the guardrail on that long walk home.

Pellnat is a singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to her solo work, she sings in the band Caretaker. “Pennies” was written by Christopher Pellnat, a fellow singer-songwriter and guitarist in The Warp/The Weft. He has a recent song of his own, titled “Ode to Olivia Rhodes,” inspired by a fictional character whom he “met” in the virtual reality game, Lone Echo. Erin sings backing vocals.

You can listen to “Pennies” on Spotify. “Ode to Olivia Rhodes” can be found on bandcamp.

Don’t forget to pick up those pennies — we need all the luck we can get!

Erin Pellnat: twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud | youtube

Caretaker: web | facebook

Christopher Pellnat: soundcloud | bandcamp

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Jason Ebbs Pays Homage to some Familiar Villains

Original photo by Ingrid Angulo

Original photo by Ingrid Angulo

Ah, the exuberance of youth! At the tender age of 20, Bostonian Jason Ebbs is already writing and singing rambunctious rock and cheery pop songs about feeling isolated and relationships gone wrong. On his debut EP, Familiar Villains, there’s a grungy garage tune with a bit of experimentation (“Stone in the Road”), dreamy indie-pop (“First Trip to the Ocean” and “Atlantic Pathfinder”) and charmingly folksy storytelling (“Average Joe”). But a standout track, in all its goofiness, is “Please Have a Seat (on a Cactus).” For a ‘she done me wrong’ song, it’s a pretty funny one.

You don’t have any moon rocks to hold yourself down
I’m hanging up on Mars but you’re stuck on the ground
I’m in the mountains of Saturn looking down at your face
While you’re crying in the desert cause you left me in space
I know it’s all an act
Cause you treat all our fights like it’s practice
So please, have a seat on a cactus

Ebbs is a Northeastern University student and independent artist who has been making music for more than 10 years (9 or 10 years old? not too shabby). He’s inspired by the classic rock and psychedelic music of the ’60s and ’70s, which he blends with modern styles and sensibilities. He started releasing music in November of last year and the EP came out in mid-May.

Familiar Villains (is this a pointed reference to old girlfriends? I wonder…) can be streamed on Spotify or listened to and purchased (name your own price) on bandcamp.

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