screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: August 2014

Introducing… The Zilis

The Zilis are a Canadian trio of musicians who specialize in rootsy, bluesy Americana. But this isn’t just straight-ahead traditional music. There’s also a rock ‘n’ roll urgency in their sound with screaming guitar lines thrown for good measure.

Check out this video by Mitch Fillion, filmed for Southern Souls, and listen to “On The West Side Of Town” from their latest album Sketches II, released back in February.

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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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Arcade Fire at Xfinity Center, Mansfield MA 8/19/14

To commemorate Arcade Fire’s amazing performance at the Xfinity Center (formerly Great Woods), I offer a few brief thoughts and a scrapbook worth of photos. This was my first time seeing them, definitely a band that had been on my “bucket list.” I knew it would be something grand and theatrical, but what I experienced went far beyond my expectations. The intensity of their music in that acoustically ideal amphitheater and the awe-inspiring stage show combined to create a breathtaking evening.

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Introducing… Kerretta (from New Zealand)

Hailing from Kingsland, New Zealand, Kerretta is described as “a thinking metaller’s rock band.” In listening to their strong new release Pirohia (out 9/5 on Midium Records), to think of them as just a metal band is a great disservice. To my ears, there is a strong prog rock foundation upon which everything is built. While I’m not a fan of comparing bands to other bands (as I believe that to be insulting and creatively limiting) those who enjoy the complex musical layers and textures of a band like King Crimson would do well to give Kerretta a listen.

Though they’re mostly instrumental, on the rare tracks with vocals, such as the Maori-inspired Kawea Tātou Ki Ngā Hiwi, the result is otherworldly and haunting. Even in the instrumental track “Sister, Come Home” there is a subtle traditional element mixed in. The combined effect of the sophisticated musicianship — moving effortlessly from full-on assault to more intricately woven melodies — and occasional infiltration of their rich cultural history is mesmerizing.

The core band is William Waters (bass), H. Walker (drums) and David Holmes (guitar). They formed in 2005, with their Antient EP released in 2008, Vilayer in 2009 and Saansilo in 2011. In addition to performing in Australasia, Kerretta has toured in North America and Europe, performing with Explosions In The Sky, The Breeders, Trail of Dead, God Is An Astronaut and others.

Their European tour begins September 11 at The Good Ship in London and includes Germany, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, with an Australasia tour to follow in the Spring. No word on the U.S., but we’ll keep an eye out.


1. Ossein Trail
2. The Roar
3. Warnlands
4. His Streets Of Honey, Her Mouth Of Gold
5. Iron Hail
6. Kawea Tātou Ki Ngā Hiwi
7. Sister, Come Home
8. The Last Rivers

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Introducing… Rapoon, and Cultural Forgeries

After thrashy punk and wacky showmanship, let’s take a quiet moment now, shall we? From U.K. experimental label Alrealon Musique, here’s an upcoming release that offers something wonderfully organic, luxuriously rich, starkly elegant and quite stunning. At certain moments, it’s deliciously meditative; at other times, it’s startling and provocative. Rapoon is Robin Storey, who has been creating music for more than 30 years. He was a founding member of Zoviet France, to which he contributed music and art from 1980 to 1992. Since then, he’s been recording as Rapoon, with more than 50 albums released. Storey also contributes to film soundtracks, has had his music used in commercials and he’s also a painter and visual artist.

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The Grand Undoing: White Space Flavors and Parties on TV

photo by Steven Duarte 2014

photo by Steven Duarte 2014

Here’s a quirky guy that has kind of a Bowie and early Sparks vibe. Yes, that’s correct, I said Sparks. Not so much in vocal style, but most definitely cut from the same acerbic cloth. This is fun “marching band for the apocalypse” music whose message is to not take yourself or life in general too seriously. But that’s only part of the story. On a song like “Song In B,” there’s dramatically stated wistful regret (“There was a time when I had it all”), and if you’re thinking, “jeez, break out the violins,” well, that’s exactly what he does. And to great effect.

White Space Flavors and Parties on TV, out last month, is the second release from Boston-based The Grand Undoing (a.k.a. Seth Goodman). His debut album was Appeasing The Sick. The Grand Undoing’s stated dual missions in life are to “drink sparkling wine and record quirky, yet accessible, rock records about alienation and mortality.” His influences include Boston college radio, the city’s many clubs and classic country music. It all makes perfect sense.

[From the press release: “The term ‘White space flavors’ is used by professional tasters to describe manufactured flavors that don’t exist in nature. ‘Parties on TV’ is an expression of how the artificiality of our culture distances us from ourselves making the modern human experience vacuous.”]

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Agree To Disagree: If You Think We Suck Now, Just Wait Til We Sellout

If You Think We Suck Now, Just Wait Til We Sellout. With a lead-in like that, you know it’s going to be good. Released back in July, this is the debut album from Agree To Disagree, a “melodic-hardcore-pop-punk” quartet from the South Shore of our fine state of Massachusetts. Yes, that’s right, melodic hardcore. Sounds bizarre, but it works. Extremely well. The album packs in an ambitious 16 songs, and amazingly, all of them are quite good. This is a musical account of their progression as a band since 2009-2010. It was recorded by Matt Withrow of MGW Audio and mastered by Mike Abiuso (SwitchBitch Records, The Venetia Fair).

There are guitar melodies and pop vocals in here that are downright pretty (but maybe you shouldn’t tell them that, at least not to their faces). There is also some damned impressive guitar playing as well. The band features Zachary St. Paul and Matt Magnell on vocals/guitar, Bobby Magnell playing bass/vocals and Steven Kunevich on drums/vocals. Their debut EP was “I Like It Better In My Basement” (Oct 2011).

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Jesse Marchant’s Forthcoming New Album and Tour

photo: Darek Dziong

photo: Darek Dziong

Jesse Marchant isn’t new to this blog, though he was known as JBM when I first came upon him, back in 2010. He’s now going by his full name (probably a good call), and has a tour and new album coming up. His self-titled album is due out September 9 (No Other), and it can be preordered on iTunes. The vinyl version can be preordered from Insound.

A quick catching up is in order. Originally from Montreal, in the past few years Jesse’s lived in Brooklyn, for a while in Los Angeles, and then in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. When I last wrote about him, he had just released his Not Even in July album, on Partisan Records. That album was recorded in 2008 in a church studio in Hudson, New York, and it was a quiet, introspective masterpiece. In live performance I found him to be warm, engaging and deeply personal. It was a far cry from your usual “rock acts,” and he was one of the small handful of artists who rekindled my love of singer songwriters presenting their compositions simply and starkly with acoustic guitar and vocals. He released Stray Ashes in 2012, and has toured with such artists as Nathaniel Rateliff, Sondre Lerche, Avi Buffalo, Rogue Wave, St. Vincent, Elvis Perkins and The Tallest Man on Earth.

His recent biography speaks of a difficult period of time while living in Brooklyn, New York, and subsequent travel across the U.S., ending up in the desert near 29 Palms, California, as apt a place for quiet reflection if there ever was one. What came out of those times is this new album, which has an introspective sadness and a mournful quality about it. Isn’t simple teenage angst, but rather a view from afar with hard-earned maturity. Ok, maybe there’s a little angst in there, but when it is, it’s existential angst, the serious stuff, and not youthful passing fancy. Mostly this very personal album is bathed in quiet beauty, thoughtfulness and humility. His vocals? Like thickly poured honey over acoustic guitar and meandering piano, with synthesizers and orchestration simmering gently in the background. Quite lovely. Personal favorites: Reminders, Defeats; In The Sand/Amelia; The Road Is Dark and Snowed; Stay On Your Knees.

“I just wanna feel at ease / And that for once I do belong.” – Snow Chicago

East Coast Tour Dates

8/20 Cambridge, MA (w/ Bishop Allen) at The Middle East
8/21 Brooklyn, NY (w/ Bishop Allen) at Glasslands Gallery
8/22 Philadelphia, PA (w/ Bishop Allen) at Johnny Brenda’s
8/23 Washington, D.C. (w/ Bishop Allen) at Black Cat
9/24 Brooklyn, NY (w/ Milagres) at Rough Trade

He’ll also be in the South, Texas and the Midwest. See the complete tour schedule.

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Introducing… Hozier

This isn’t an introduction of someone completely unknown, as Andrew Hozier-Byrne (better known as Hozier) is currently ripping up the U.S. radio and Billboard charts with his song, “Take Me To Church,” is poised to release his debut album and is about to embark on a mostly sold out U.S. tour. I was captivated by the power and beauty of that song, pulled up the lyrics and was complelete knocked out, but what really did it for me, and for a lot of other people, was watching the deeply moving video.

The story follows two young lovers and the resulting hostility and violence of neighbors turned into rabid mongrels, fueled by fear and intolerance. It is a poignant indictment of the homophobia rampant in Russia right now, and of the government’s unwillingness to do anything about it. It is also something of an indictment of the intolerance, hypocrisy and religious dogma of the Catholic church, which unfortunately is worldwide.

Hozier is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Amazingly, he’s just 24 years old, born on St. Patrick’s day in 1990, in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland. I say “amazingly” because of the depth, poetry and wisdom of his lyrics. He has the kind of stark clarity that comes with many years of living, the little bugger. An old soul, to be sure.

He was born to a blues musician and was exposed at an early age to the music of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, and then to Delta blues, Motown, gospel and jazz. Other influences include Leonard Cohen (no question), community choral singing, and author James Joyce, especially “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.” He spent a little time at Trinity College in Dublin, studying music, until he left to record demos and pursue a music career full time. He sang and toured with the Irish choral group Anúna, performed with the Dublin group Nova Collective and released his solo EP, Take Me To Church, in 2013. His second EP, From Eden, was released this past spring. His debut album is due out in October, and can be pre-ordered here.

My lover’s got humor
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval

I should’ve worshiped her sooner
If the Heavens ever did speak
She’s the last true mouth piece

Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
We were born sick, you heard them say it
My church offers no absolution
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to

Is when I’m alone with you
I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well

Amen (x3)

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good god, let me give you my life
– Take Me To Church

If you’d like to see Hozier, you may be out of luck this time around, as nearly everything is already sold out. But here are the East Coast dates anyway, and if you’re feeling especially lucky, go to his web site and enter to win tickets. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye and ear out for his debut album.

East Coast Shows
10/31 Paradise Rock Club, Boston
11/1 Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia
11/4 9:30 Club, Washington D.C.
11/5 & 11/6 Irving Plaza, NYC
* all shows sold out *

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