musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

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LegPuppy and their Nasty Masterpiece: Selfie Stick – Narcissistic Prick

LegPuppy

Selfie Stick — Narcissistic Prick. Well, isn’t this a timely piece of social commentary. And, much like the object of their vilification, the ubiquitous selfie stick, their deeply disturbing video for this scathing assessment of our narcissistic national pastime is something you can’t seem to turn away from, despite your better judgement.

LegPuppy is an electro punk quartet from South London. To get the inevitable “how did they get that name name” question out of the way, it was at a house party in Wales, with attendees name-dropping band monikers. Darren Laurence (songwriter, synths, drum machines, sampler and vocalist) tossed out “Leg” and Claire Jones (songwriter, vocalist, keyboards and acoustic guitar) fired back with “Puppy.” Fortunately, an equally acerbic band followed.

Claire is a classically trained guitarist, published author and solo artist. Oh, and she has a doctorate degree. Darren, no slouch himself, is a freelance designer with a radio show on Artefakto Radio and DJing experience for some of London’s premiere clubs. The other two band members? A former touring artist and label executive and a trainee actor and performance artist.

Traveling around London and looking to give your twisted inner child a well-deserved night out? LegPuppy has some shows coming up in the U.K., so follow them on Facebook for more information. Word has it that they’re an amazing live band, and how could they not be?

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Introducing… Minor Birds

Minor Birds

To give yourself over to the music of Minor Birds is to feel yourself in graceful flight across a wide expanse of open sky. Make that a sky under the cool, watchful eye of a full moon, with a crisp autumn breeze. Their Alchemist EP is a hypnotic weave of baroque-style classical piano, mournful cello, minimalist percussion and soaring, supple vocals that beckon you to follow them into a magical soundscape.

Minor Birds, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the artistic project of singer-songwriter/pianist/multi-instrumentalist Chelsea Wilde. This classically trained pianist is self-taught in other instruments such as guitar, banjo and accordion. Since childhood, she has composed and performed music. Tragic life events in 2008 was the catalyst by which Minor Birds was hatched, exploring life’s darkness and myticism. Her music spans various genres, including baroque pop, folk rock, electronica and even grunge. Her expressive voice can be sultry, theatrical and explosive, refined and sophisticated, dreamy and solemn.

Earlier Minor Birds releases include Live at Metate Hill Lounge, Light as a Feather/Straight as an Arrow and Hold Back All My Dark.

The Alchemist can be purchased on Bandcamp, either as a digital file or as a 3-song EP CD, with 3-D glasses (a digital download is included). It is also available on iTunes. As we enter into the darker half of the year, stretch out and luxuriate in Minor Birds’ haunting, mesmerizing music, and enjoy a most delightful journey.

As hypnotic and otherworldly as “The Alchemist” is, Wilde says of the title track, “When I wrote this song… I had come to this conclusion that ‘magic’ is a thing we grow out of. I didn’t want to be looked at like magic anymore,” Wilde explains. “I wanted to be looked at like a person with faults. Not some mystical entity.”

Minor Birds will be performing at the Ivy Room in Albany California (near Berkeley) on November 11, and at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles on November 27.

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Introducing… Winter Witches

Winter Witches

Photography by Zac Svendsen

As we enter the darker half of the year in the northern hemisphere and the trees, once full of life and bird nests, strike forth with one final brief burst of energy and then dissolve into the stillness of winter, it is time to explore the more thoughtful, withdrawn and melancholy side of human existence. But then again, when isn’t that the case here at Musings from Boston? Winter Witches provides the perfect soundtrack for this time — quiet, thoughtful and reverent.

This South Australian band beautifully brings forth authentic sounds of orchestral, medieval and electronica traditions. Their just-released single, “Train/Water” (Observable Universe) are two stunning compositions of somber piano, strings and soft percussion, with stately, haunting vocals. This duo refers to itself as “a queer conjuring of electronica, melancholia and experimental sound,” and it’s simply breathtaking.

Winter Witches is described as “a creative and life partnership” between Sweeney and Em. Though Australian borne, ancestrally speaking they hail from Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Holland. And for this artistic soul partnership, ancestry is important. It informs their music and their being.

Winter Witches has enjoyed airplay on stations around the world, including Radio Adelaide and 3MDR in Australia, Radio Deepland (Brazil), JXFM Radio Tokyo and Independent Radio Berlin. They have performed around Australia at such events as the 2016 Adelaide Vegan Festival, queer club nights Bona Drag and Wild Style and at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. They’ll be performing in their homeland in December. Although, of course, since this is Australia in the southern hemisphere, it will be at the height of their summer season. One hopes to one day listen to this gorgeous music against a peaceful, solemn backdrop of falling snow.

If you like what you hear, “Train/Water” can be purchased on Bandcamp. These songs were written, recorded, produced and mixed by Winter Witches at Observable Universe Studios, Adelaide, Kaurna Land. The Kaurna are an indigenous people whose ancestral lands include the Adelaide Plains of South Australia.

Winter Witches acknowledges the Kaurna people as the traditional and prevailing custodians of the lands on which this music was created.
— Winter Witches

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Introducing… Brenda

Brenda

Frightened of clowns? If so, you might want to view this video from Brenda, for their song “Children,” with a companion. At first glance, it’s an innocent home movie by artist Sarah Ann Watson, filmed at an annual church service in East London to honor Joseph Grimaldi, the father of modern clowing. However, when paired with the song, this friendly gathering takes on more sinister undertones, and as it builds, the viewer is half-expecting this inoccuous scene to turn into some sort of B-grade slasher film. Which it never does, or at least, not that we know about.

On the surface, the song is about friendships, but it’s also about people losing their childlike innocence. It examines the idea of wanting to escape from reality and “run away to a place where it seems as if time doesn’t exist and age doesn’t matter” (such as the circus, perhaps?). As Brenda explains further, it’s a song “about manipulation and the inevitability of growing up.”

Musically, the song starts out childlike, with sweet little girl vocals, which then morphs into something twisted and demented, accompanied by heavy guitar riffs and driving percussion. It goes on to veer dangerously back and forth, creating a stimulating aural experience with a vaguely unsettled feeling. Think of it as psychedelic garage rock with a neurological disorder. It’s captivating, while at the same time unnerving. Much like the vision of people past their prime in white face, round red noses and floppy clown shoes.

Based in Toronto, Brenda has been part of the city’s punk scene since 2015. “Children” is from their upcoming aptly titled EP Creeper, to be released later this year.

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My First Screenplay

MyFirstScreenplay1_1000

I was in a theater, and first recall walking into it. It was nearly empty, with very few people in there, and I think there was a good deal of time before the show or film was to begin.

The theater seemed large, modern and glamorous, with wide, shallow steps leading down. It had many seats and different levels.

I walked down toward the screen and then realized it was a little too close, so I walked back up a few steps. Looking at the screen for reference, I chose a seat in the middle of one of the aisles, changing seats a few times to get myself perfectly situated in the middle. I finally sat down in front of some people, but they didn’t seem to mind.

Soon after I sat down, a young man came over to me with a set of papers, which he handed to me. He started explaining some changes he had made to the screenplay, pointing to some written changes on the paper as he talked. I was confused about this, but it seemed like I had written the screenplay (or a book it was based on), and I had something to do with the film. It’s possible that I was the writer and he was the director, but I didn’t have a clear memory of having done this.

I played along, though, saying, “ah yes, thank you,” and then I shook his hand and congratulated him for his success. He seemed pleased with that and walked away, leaving me with the papers. I felt privileged and special, though a bit bewildered.

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From Fenway Park, Under Construction, to a Small Exotic Island

FenwayParkToExoticIsland_1000

I was with my friend Victor, and we were, for some reason, trying to get to Fenway Park. I’m not sure if we were going to a game or a show there. A large group of people were walking in the same direction, so we followed them, thinking that they were probably going there also. But we kept going the wrong way somehow, ending up in various dead ends.

It was quite convoluted, like a surreal sort of obstacle course. At one point, he led me down a metal ladder structure. It didn’t make sense to me that this should be so difficult. We were then in a large building that was under construction, with sections blocked off. I thought we were very close, but we kept winding up in dead ends that didn’t go anywhere. Finally, I just made a concerted effort to get out of there with him, and then we were outside, but suddenly we were in a completely different part of the city.

We walked down this long tunnel in what seemed like a train station. That didn’t make any sense either, though Victor seemed to know where he was going. But it felt like it was taking us further away from our destination.

When we came out of there and went up to the surface, we were by the ocean, and off at a distance was a small island with houses piled on the hillside. It was kind of like Nahant, but not Nahant. In fact, it wasn’t like any part of Boston or Massachusetts that I was familiar with.

I wasn’t sure where we were now, but it was a great distance away, perhaps even in a different country altogether.

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Italian Delicacies

ItalianDelicacies1_1000

I was in one of the Cambridge, Massachusetts squares (Harvard, Central, Porter or Davis), alone and looking for a place to eat. I wanted something delicious and healthy, and I guess I was hesitating and indecisive, because most places were fast food or something else I wasn’t entirely sure about.

I may have asked someone for a recommendation, because suddenly I found myself going into this small Italian deli and market. This wasn’t the usual Italian place with pizza, pasta and calzones. There was a counter with many delicacies in a case — various kinds of vegetable mixtures, filled pastries and such. It was like Italian countryside food or something like that. It seemed great, but I had no idea what to get.

There was an older woman at the counter, and she was telling me that several things had different vegetables in them (I told her I didn’t want anything with meat). I remember she said “spinach” in addition to many other vegetables. I told her to “surprise me” and select some items. I did tell her it was just for me, and I didn’t need “$100 worth of food.”

I was a little concerned that I would end up with way too much and it would be very expensive. I had no idea what anything cost. But then after I said that, I decided to just trust her, and I watched as she started selecting certain items, putting them in various containers.

I woke up feeling rather strange, and in a “different place.” It was unusual, but very good, I think. Something different. There was a feeling of excitement and adventure, in trying something new.

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Introducing… Sarah Cripps

Photo by Ryan Nolan

Photo by Ryan Nolan

Penetrating and haunting, Sarah Cripps’ new song, “Leave Behind,” seduces and intoxicates with its eerie and mournful guitar and the deep shadows in Cripps’ voice. It is the lead single from her upcoming album.

During the making of this album, I was going through a turbulent transition in my life. I was struggling with the perception of who I thought I was supposed to be, and who I truly am. It left me feeling pretty dark at times. It was making this record that helped me decide I would embrace the darkness and the weirdness. – Sarah Cripes

Based in Brigton, Ontatio, Cripps is a Toronto Independent Music Award winner and a powerful new talent in the mainstream country music realm. However, country music is only part of her story, and you can hear the richness of her musical vision in this one song. As she herself describes the search of her strength as an artist, “I pulled myself out of the perfect box I thought I had to fit into. I found a way to create my own narrative and not subscribe to the one that is often forced on young women. Although “Leave Behind” is a reflection of losing myself and some of my lowest moments, ultimately, it’s the turning point that gave me the guts to just embrace the weirdness.”

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Introducing… Andi

AndiMusic

Ah, the optimism and fortitude of youth! And yet, Toronto-based Andi, in her most recent new song “Half Home,” sounds lonely and not so certain about her chosen life as a musician. She also sounds not so certain about her own abilities and none too excited by her current lifestyle of traveling between recording sessions and rehearsals, alternating between sleeping on friends’ couches and crashing in her car. “Half Home” suggests a state of flux, a sort of earth plane “bardo,” where you don’t really belong anywhere. Meanwhile, there’s change in the personality and progress is being made, but it’s not always perceptible. For an impatient youth, the clock might not seem to be moving at all.

“I call on the phone just to reach a busy tone
I call on the phone just to feel like I’m not alone.

I’m calling just a little bit older, a little bit bolder
and still I’ve got nothing to say
I’m calling just a little bit older, a little bit bolder
and still I’ve got nothing to say
I’ve gotten just a little bit colder
I needed a shoulder to help get me through the day.
I’m afraid, I’m afraid
I’m the same girl as yesterday.”

– Half Home

Andi’s Sketches EP, released just last year, was her debut. It made the top 4 in Canada’s national CBC Searchlight competition. She describes the inspiration behind the new single as “being young and in a transitionary stage of life.” The song has a pop feel, but with touches of other genres that include an R&B swagger that adds dimension and gives Andi her own unique sound. In her early 20s, Andi writes and produces her own music. Along with supple, smoothly sliding vocals, the instrumentation, with its neat, tasty guitar and bass lines, raise the level beyond the average pop song to something more progressive.

Andi is currently working on her full-length debut, inspired by weighty world issues and her personal connection with them. She tackles subjects such as women’s empowerment and autonomy, sociey’s ideas about masculinity, LGBTQ+ issues and her life experience as a bisexual woman. She observes and writes about the human condition, including emotional struggles, self-conflict and love, while championing the individual’s quest for empowerment and acceptance.

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Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos introduces new album and becomes an advocate for mental health

Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit; photo by Jean Claude B

Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit; photo by Jean Claude B

It’s brave to write from the heart and let strangers learn about your inner thoughts and insecurities. It’s braver still to openly discuss your life honestly, in an effort to help others. Michael Angelakos has “come out” (so to speak), shedding his front man role in Passion Pit and his focus on being a commercial artist to become a highly visible advocate for those with mental health issues. To coincide with the release of Tremendous Sea of Love, he has founded The Wishart Group, an artist-driven organization focused on developing “programs and services that better serve and promote the mental, physical, financial, and creative well-being of artists.”

The group will be bringing together professionals from all disciplines, from researchers and scientists to lobbyists and advocates, to generate funding for mental health research, develop healthcare for artists, support new therapeutic treatments for mental illness and more. To introduce this campaign, he has been sharing his personal struggles with bipolar disorder, including this interview with NPR.

Angelakos is putting his money where his mouth is. Royalties from the sales of the new album are being donated to the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From first creating Passion Pit in his Emerson College dorm room 10 years ago to realizing considerable success with their unique brand of romantically-tinged synth-pop (thanks in no small part to Angelakos’ dreamy falsetto), the band has come a long way, giving him a strong platform of support from which to champion mental health awareness. And that’s a very good thing indeed.

And the music? It’s classic Passion Pit, steeped in their distinctive sound that has won them an army of fans, from Boston to far beyond. It can be streamed via Apple Music and on Spotify, and is available on Amazon. This is the band’s fourth album.

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