musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Tag: Brooklyn NY

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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Introducing… Lily Virginia

Lily Virginia

photo credit: Mark Jaworski

To immerse oneself in the music of Lily Virginia is to sink luxuriously into an aural hot bath, and then to be quickly dried off and taken on a breathless road trip. Her soft, supple vocals and symbiotic musical accompaniment slide expertly over, under, around and through each other. There are many moods here, from dreamy nostalgia to quick, astute assessment. Soulful vulnerability, proud self-assuredness, sharp and cynical street smarts, wistful nostalgia — all human emotions are on display here in this wide-reaching collection of songs and stories.

Brooklyn-based Lily Virginia’s Play Me Twice audiovisual album is an ambitious effort. It comprises nine songs, a series of in-studio music videos and an interactive Play Me Twice Podcast hosted by Lily Virginia and her producer, Alessio Romano. In each episode, they discuss the creative process behind a particular song on the album in addition to discussions with peers about what it’s like to be an indie musician in the current music biz environment. They also invite listeners to comment on what they hear. The podcast serves as “digital liner notes” that are ideal for our super-connected times. Fans are encouraged to ask questions via social media or texting as each song’s video is released, forging a strong connection between artist and audience.

Lily Virginia’s musical heroes are diverse, from St. Vincent and Bon Iver to Little Dragon, James Blake and Celia Cruz. Genres are seamlessly blended, including rock, folk, pop and world music touches. She and her band have performed around the U.S., including New York venues like Rockwood Music Hall, BAM and Highline Ballroom, and at special music events like SXSW, NOLA and Sofar Sounds.

Virginia’s inspiration for this album was to explore how vulnerable and intimate she could get. It’s clearly a personal album, confessional and poetic. It was inspired, as she says, by “wanting to write bluish purple songs with silver-gold shimmers.” Her live band, who can be seen in the in-studio videos, features Berklee alumni Alessio Romano (drummer and producer), Andre Vasconcelos (guitar) and Scott Kapelman (bass).

If you like what you see and hear, you can listen to Play Me Twice on Spotify or buy it on iTunes.

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Bridges and Powerlines’ National Fantasy

photo by Mara Abols

photo by Mara Abols

Brooklyn’s Bridges and Powerlines are releasing a new album in October called National Fantasy (Devise Records). This album was two years in the making. Kieran Kelly, who worked on Sufjan Stephen’s Illinoise, produced it, Mattie Safer (The Rapture) contributed backing vocals, and it’s a lovely thing indeed. In fact, there’s a positive, upbeat vibe here that’s not unwelcomed. A little vintage, easy-going, fuzzy and feel good — not to mention those pretty harmonies throughout.

National Fantasy is their third full-length album. Their debut, Ghost Types was released in 2007, followed by Eve in 2011. They’ve toured extensively with bands such as The Antlers, HEALTH, Chappo and Clues. More recently, while they were working on this new album, they were also building their own professional recording studio and, if that wasn’t enough to keep themselves busy, they opened a live music venue, Gold Sounds, in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn.

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Introducing… Idgy Dean

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Performing tomorrow October 16 at 9:00 p.m. at King’s County Saloon in Brooklyn

As the CMJ Music Marathon is currently in full swing in New York City, we’ll pay tribute to an innovative Brooklyn artist that goes by the name Idgy Dean. The solo music project of Lindsay Sanwald, this one-woman army combines earthy tribal percussion with experimental electronics and off-kilter vocals that sound modern in a psychedelic pop vein, but at times bring to mind 1980s envelope-pushing artists such as Toyah Wilcox and Kate Bush. It’s an intriguing combination.

Idgy Dean released her debut full-length album Ominous Harminus last month. It was engineered by Eli Crews, Spaceman Sound and Astrolith. This amazing musician does it all, performing solo by looping and creating a hypnotic soundscape. Watch her in action in this Wreckroom Records video for “Indian Squirrel Dance,” released in 2013.


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Introducing… Sky Picnic

Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to drift away on you there. I was enjoying a pleasant daydream in a vibrant summer meadow, with the soft rustle of leaves and the fragrant scent of an exotic substance in the air. No, it’s not a flashback to the 1960s, though one might think so with Brooklyn-based psychedelic wanderers Sky Picnic. This kaleidoscopic musical journey is brought to you courtesy of the third band in our Brooklyn trilogy. Their latest single “Upon Further Reflection” is from their third album, Her Dawn Wardrobe, which was released back in October on UK label Mega Dodo.

Since their first album, Farther In This Fairy Tale (originally self-released in 2010), Sky Picnic have captured the dreamy mood of 60s psychedelia with a modern sensibility (and no doubt better recording equipment). They go off on instrumental trips that have some jazz and experimental influences, which combine to fully envelop the listener. On Her Dawn Wardrobe, this interconnected album of songs flows from daytime into nighttime, and then back into dawn. If you order the limited edition gray vinyl version (which includes a digital download), the day-to-night journey is on side one and side two travels from night back into dawn.

Their live performances have included the Firefly Music Festival and Red Bull Sound Select series. Upcoming shows are Pianos in NYC on January 9; The Rock Shop in Brooklyn on January 28 and Bar Matchless in Brooklyn on February 14.

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Introducing… Echo Bloom

photo by John Whitlock

photo by John Whitlock

Exploding the concept that a band has to stay confined within a particular genre in order to appeal to their core audience, Brooklyn orchestral folk band Echo Bloom are currently on album #2 of a genre-conceptual trilogy (coincidentally, we’re currently on band #2 of a trilogy of Brooklyn-based bands; spooky!). The first album was Blue (chamber pop), a study of orchestral folk with acoustic guitar, piano, organ, banjo, mandolin, glockenspiel, autoharp, percussion, strings, French horn and beautiful harmonies. “Veins” is from that first release. The third album, Green, will be classic pop. Their second album, to be released early this year, is titled Red (country/shoegaze – or, as they say, bootgaze), and it will showcase a harder sound with guitar feedback and a driving beat along with their luscious 3-part harmonies. You can listen below to the first single, “Operator,” which begins slowly and then builds into a magnificent ship with sails unfurled.

The ensemble formed in 2009 (originally the Rosemont Family Reunion) and is led by vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kyle Evans. He conceived the idea of the genre concept trilogy while living in Berlin and discovering German culture. He put together his six piece band and worked on the albums back in the U.S., in Brooklyn.

Keep an eye out for Red, and in the meantime, you can purchase “Operator” on iTunes.

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Introducing… Howard

Funny how the universe works. Once I decided to re-examine my feelings about electronic music this year, my inbox began filling up with artists who have found a way to combine man and machine in a more emotionally satisfying way than what I’ve encountered in recent years. One such band is Brooklyn-based trio Howard. A new or maybe not-so-new but “new to me” genre has surfaced called folktronica. Pleasing beeps and boops are woven together with unadorned, quiet vocals, organic-sounding instrumentation and honest contemplations. Have a listen and see what you think.

Previously known as Orange Television (based in Massachusetts), Howard Feibusch (producer, guitar, vocals) and Myles Heff (bass) were joined by Chris Holdridge (drums). Howard is poised to release their debut album Religion with an album release show at Mercury Lounge in New York City on January 19. Their debut single was “Song About Something.” Indie Shuffle included their single “Money Can’t Buy” on its “Best Folk Music of 2014” list, but the term folk music is clearly a misnomer. Or perhaps it IS folk music for our complicated times. Maybe today’s folk music, just as the folk music of earlier centuries included “found” and “handmade” instruments, includes the instruments made by our species that we now find ourselves surrounded by. Though instead of letting technology rule us and dehumanize us, the new practice may be to weave it, dare I use the phrase more organically, into our fragile human experience.

In addition to their album release show on the 19th, Howard will be playing at Chelsea Nights in New York City tomorrow night (January 2). For those in Western Massachusetts, they’ll be opening for Brooklyn power-trio &Co at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Sunday (January 4).

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Introducing… Frogbelly and Symphony

(credit: Juha Hansen)

(credit: Juha Hansen)

Ohhh, they’re strange. Strange in a gloriously quirky, curious, hypnotic, mildly disturbing, ethereal and ultimately mind-expanding kind of way.

Coming together just last year, Frogbelly and Symphony is a melding of traditional folk and modern noise influences, filtered through consummate musicians with classical training who like to dabble in experimentation. There’s violinist and keyboardist Liz Hanley, who studied at NYU and frequently performs in traditional folk ensembles. Benn Trott studied jazz and classical guitar in the U.K., and is involved in the traditional folk music scene there. He blends traditional playing with jazz improvisations and rock influences. Ray Rizzo, their drummer, was co-founder of Louisville’s Motherlodge Festival. He’s drummed with artists such as Ben Folds and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Bassist Tom Hanley, who also handles composition and production for the group, collaborates with engineers and studios in Sheffield, UK and Brooklyn, NY. Philip Schewe, on guitar, keyboards and drums, provides additional tour support.

They played on the East Coast and throughout Europe early in 2013, and released their debut EP, the EYE (Labelship, UK). They just toured the East Coast and Midwest, after performing in Finland and Estonia. Not surprisingly, judging from their eclectic and sometimes wild sound (not to mention their curious name), Frogbelly and Symphony usually put on a theatrical live performance. Their shows are said to often involve the audience in improvised pieces. They also perform shows with all acoustic instruments in intimate environments to pay homage to their folk roots.

There are also literary influences that weave their way into the music. Some author’s works that have left their mark include Rumi’s Ache and Confusion, John Clare’s An Invite, To Eternity and Langston Hughes’ Vari-Colored Songs. Explains Tom Hanley, “Nowadays we’re blessed with the possibility to take the inspirational tint from centuries of musical and lyrical repertoires. You may describe our work as a subjective look on an inexhaustible miracle.”

Last summer, they recorded their forthcoming debut full-length album with esteemed producer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans, Dresden Dolls, Bill Laswell) at his legendary B.C. Studio in Brooklyn. It’s due out on Labelship Records at the end of the year.

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Introducing… Service (from Brooklyn, NY)

I feel bad that I missed a local show by Brooklyn-based Service, so the least I can do is post some of their music and say a few words. These guys have a rambunctious, exuberant sound. It’s garage pop/punk at its finest, but with prettily ringing, seriously jamming guitars. What’s not to love?

Service features Jeremy Skehan, Nate Long, Michael Guagno and Mario Santana. They released their single “A Few More Cans of Beer” in 2013. Flossed in Gowanus is their debut 5-track EP, released back in March.

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