screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: October 2014

Attention all dreamers: Pisces releases their debut album!

Sarah Negahdari presents us with a magical gift.

Sarah Negahdari presents us with a magical gift.

It’s been a little while since we last checked in with Miss Sarah Negahdari, shamanic banshee of Happy Hollows, rockin’ pop-up bassist extraordinaire for Silversun Pickups and musical sorceress for her own incredibly amazing and breathtaking side project, Pisces. This elfin fairy princess of the Silverlake/Echo Park musical kingdom possesses a giant’s treasure trove of talent.

The long-anticipated debut album from Pisces is a masterpiece. It’s bursting with all the pixie dust otherworldly beauty, gentle pastel swirls of painted horses, unfurled psychedelic fury, acoustic and electric guitar magic and ethereal, angelic voices that define its creator. The first video, “Being With You,” flows as beautifully and dives as deeply as the song that inspired it. Sarah, the woodland creature, kiddie pool princess, conjurer, seashell collector, daydreamer, city dweller, painted unicorn, keeper of the colored orbs, folksinger, whirling dervish, mermaid.

Immerse yourself in the deep, mysterious waters of Pisces and support this fine, fine artist.

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Introducing… The Isan Project

There may be nothing more effective in bridging the gap between vastly different cultures, in in highlighting our unique qualities and those characteristics we share, than an artistic endeavor. It’s exciting to see the results of a cross-cultural collaboration, especially when one is surprised by similarities in style and sensibility among seemingly diverse art forms in lands separated by thousands of miles.

The Isan Project is one such collaboration. It started when producer Will Robinson visited Thailand on holiday. He discovered an Isan band on the Sukhumvit road in Bangkok. They were performing and busking for money. Isan is a province in Northeast Thailand, poor in wealth but rich in musical history. He was introduced to the Phin guitar and then heard a Mor lam singer from a taxi. He was fascinated and began his research into Isan music. He met Thai musicians Fatboyz Ford and Koh Saxman and went a pilgrimmage to Isan to experience the music for himself, with camera crew in tow. This experience and a subsequent video blog inspired him to fuse the music of Isan with contemporary sounds from New York and London.

The Isan Project’s first single “Forever (Dance Remix)” is based on a lovely ballad written on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok and performed by UK artist Richie Dews and Thai soul singer Mariam of B5. The two remixes of the single have been played in more than half the U.K. clubs. The song is available on iTunes.

What blew me away was seeing the video. It was filmed in New York, Bankok and Wat Muang, a monastery in the Ang Thong province which is home to the Great Buddha of Thailand. Musically and stylistically, it fuses Isan sounds and dance with western music and dance. Even more startling than the differences in locations, from Udon Thani to the streets of New York City, are the similarities in style and well, heart. The video was produced in Thailand, U.S., U.K. and Denmark by Will Robinson and Michael Graves.

Stay tuned for more from this international collaboration of Thai and Western music, The Isan Project.

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James Roseman releases his debut demo tape

I was first knocked sideways by James Roseman’s music back in the summer of 2012. He had just released his debut album, Words and Tricks, where he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, saxophone and drums. In it, I found a wise and sly old soul trapped inside an 18-year-old body. Wiser and slyer and a few years later, today James releases The Demo Tape, which can be listened to on iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp.

This is billed as his “debut 3-song demo” and indeed, it’s a stylistic departure from his earlier work. With the same wry, sophisticated lyrics, the music is far more developed and professional. He might call it a demo, but clearly a lot of attention was paid to production values this time around. Fortunately, his warm, intimate and insanely charming style is left beautifully intact. “Wasting My Time” is a pretty, haunting reflection about a one-sided relationship that’s far too jaded and insightful for a 21-year-old. In addition to his spare, sharp and sparkling musicianship, Roseman has a gift for storytelling, as is evident in “Jack Rose.” He uses acoustic guitar melodies, a touch of bass and handclaps to great effect, perfectly highlighting his vocals and harmonies. I’m still working out the deeper meaning of “Croesus Curse” but there seems to be a central theme running through these songs that has to do with what one does in one’s life and the regret of wasted time. “Croesus Curse” uses the same minimalist percussive sounds and handclaps with haunting guitar melodies. Brilliant.

I’ll be on the lookout for any live appearances and will list them here. Meanwhile, James is attending Tufts University in pursuit of a Computer Science degree and continues to explore his creative side, actively looking for gigs in the greater Boston area. Musicians and promoters, take note!

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Introducing… Esthema

If you’re a sucker for strings (and organic percussion) like I am, you should be listening to Boston-based instrumental ensemble Esthema. Theirs is a Middle Eastern, Near Eastern and Balkan sound, steeped in tradition but with jazz fusion, progressive rock and at times even classical sensibilities. The result is sophisticated, exotic, exhuberant and mesmerizing. This past summer, they released their third album, Long Goodbye, and on November 20, they will be having a celebration of this release at the esteemed Cambridge jazz club, Ryles. They’ll also be at Lilypad on November 2. The new recording is an introspective concept album that features Andy Milas (guitar), Onur Dilisen (violin), Naseem Alatrash (cello), Mac Ritchey (oud & bouzouki), Tom Martin (bass) and George Lernis (drums & percussion). You can learn more about everyone’s impressive backgrounds and musical prowess on their official site. For now, listen below to a live version of “Three Sides To Every Story.”

Esthema dates back to 2006. In the summer of 2007, they released their debut, Apart From The Rest. That was followed by The Hearness and Nowness of Things in 2009. Their music was named in the Top 25 independent recordings of 2008 at, and these first two CDs have been in the weekly Top 20 at Latch Fusion Radio alongside such artists as Herbie Hancock, Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. They’ve gotten radio airplay in the U.S., Europe and Turkey, and in 2010, the International Association of Independent Recording Artists (IAIRA) certified Esthema’s “Eastern Dance” as an International Top 10.

But never mind all that. The proof of truly great music is what happens between a person’s ears when they listen to it. Here is “Without A Moment’s Notice”:

And here’s some visual proof that these guys are really as amazing as they sound.

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Introducing… In The Valley Below

At the Boston House of Blues

At the Boston House of Blues

An opening band can often be a dicey proposition, both for the audience waiting for their favorites and for the band themselves, the big unknown being whether or not that headliner’s fans will appreciate what you’re doing — or if they’ll even arrive early enough to find out. Joining The Airborne Toxic Event on their current two month U.S. and Canadian tour is a fellow Eastside L.A. band, In The Valley Below.

They met while in a “fuzz-box rock band.” Guitarist Jeffrey Jacob is originally from Memphis and is quite the guitar wailer, as he amply demonstrated at the shows I attended. Angela Gail, from Michigan, is an ethereal figure who apparently found her muse while on a sailboat in the West Indies. They both have smooth-as-silk vocals that exquisitely weave together. Their musical moods range from Americana folk with a tinge of country to artsy pop to gritty Memphis guitar jams. Oh yes, they also have a kind of Southern Gothic thing going on as well.

A year ago, The Guardian described them as an “LA mixed-sex duo who dress like Quakers and sound like an electropop Buckingham-Nicks.” Hilarious and actually, not that far off the mark.

Terminal 5, New York City

Their debut album, The Belt, came out last year. They wrote, produced and recorded in a home studio. They also mixed two of the tracks, while the others were overseen by a handful of different producers — John Congleton (David Byrne, St. Vincent), Dave Sardy (Band of Horses, Oasis), Lasse Marten (Lykke Li, Peter, Bjorn & John) and Pete Min. It’s slickly put together, bold and expansive, with Jacob’s and Gail’s vocals interweaving and engaged in a stunning dance. They complement each other beautifully, and the album’s production brings out their dramatic presentation, particularly on songs like “Hymnal” and “Searching for a Devil.” Other standout tracks for me are “Dove Season” and “Lover,” although “Peaches” (which has a more pop-ish, radio-friendly sound) is the first single and it seems to be gaining in popularity.

Having said all that, I find that in live performance, they’re far more effective. The chemistry of the couple doesn’t come across anywhere near as strongly as when you’re witnessing it in concert. They present a stunning visual portrait and I can’t imagine it would be possible to fully reproduce the sensuous interactions, subtle flirtations and furtive glances that bring their music fully to life and create an absolutely hypnotic performance. Unencumbered by all the studio production, their music truly soars. Everything feels closer and more immediate.

They still have a handful of shows left with Airborne. After Denver’s Ogden Theatre on November 7, they have a few more scheduled on their own. They’ll be at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on December 3 with Caught A Ghost, and in Portland on December 4 for a sold out show with Kongos for 94.7 FM’s A December to Remember. See their tour schedule. And if you can’t catch them in concert this time around, you might be able to get a taste of another project they’ve been working on. In addition to their band duties, they brew their own beer at their home in Echo Park, which may be available to the public in the near future.

At the Fillmore in San Francisco

At the Fillmore in San Francisco

At Terminal 5 in New York City

At Terminal 5 in New York City

Photos are from The Fillmore in San Francisco (10/19), Boston House of Blues (10/4), Terminal 5 in New York City (10/7) and Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont (10/9)

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Introducing… Seaver’s Express

Here’s some fresh, upbeat music for you today. It’s Seaver’s Express, a Boston quintet with a light, bouncy indie rock style that’s nice to put on first thing in the morning to get you going, along with your orange juice.

The band came into being just last year, starting as a solo project from guitarist Sean Seaver (the name pays homage to his family’s trucking and shipping business). The first band members added were fellow BC sophomore Jacob Monk and Berklee College of Music student Chris Southiere. They released their first EP, Parachute, in September. The band now consists of Sean (guitar), Chris (drums), Brian Seaver (vocals and rhythm guitar), will Lyle (bass) and Zoe Ainsburg (keyboards and vocals). Musical influences include the Strokes and Vampire Weekend. They’ve performed at local clubs like the Middle East, Cantab and T.T. the Bear’s Place. “A Different Gravity” was released back in April, the first with all five band members. They also won Boston College’s annual “Battle of the Bands.” They’re on track to release their debut album by the end of the year. For now, have a listen to “2×2.” This track is also featured on Green Line Records’ 2014 September Singles Series.

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The Grownup Noise and their beautiful new album – Release Show Tonight! Somerville Armory!

The Grownup Noise
Album Release Party
Saturday, October 4 at 8 p.m.
at the Somerville Armory
with special guests Winterpills and pop up art show featuring the work of John Jorgenson (who’s featured on the cover of the new album)
::: Info & Tickets :::

Yes, it’s true, I haven’t posted anything for a month. It’s been a series of adventures and misadventures, but this morning I find myself getting a badly needed dose of beautiful musical medicine to sooth my weary soul. It’s the new baby album from proud parents The Grownup Noise, who have been featured and appreciated in this blog on several occasions, if feeble memory serves.

The Problem With Living In The Moment is a stunning album, with the swirling gypsy strings, rolling percussion, crazy accordion and banjo and god-knows-what-else cacophony twirling madly around sharply perceptive, thoughtful and mature lyrics that I’ve come to now expect from this fine, fine band. This is definitely feel-good music for grownups with a touch of wistfulness that one needs to tack a few years on to truly appreciate… But don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of rollicking good wholesome dancy jams to kick up your heels to.

Listen to a few of the songs from the new album below, and if you’re in the area, head on out to their party tonight – admission to the (dirt cheap) show includes the new album! You won’t find a better deal than that.

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Introducing… AJ Davila Y Terror Amor

If you think you know what Latin music is all about, think again. It’s not just Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Shakira and Enrique Inglesias. It’s also AJ Davila Y Terror Amor.

Previously the frontman for Davila 666, he released his debut solo album back in February. It combines 60s garage with 70s punk enthusiasm and 80s pop choruses. As you might imagine, it’s pretty damn festive. The album features collaborations with Cole Alexander (Black Lips), Alex Anwandter, Sergio Rotman (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) and more.

The band’s second album, Biebe, is set for release on November 4 on Burger Records. You can preorder it on Amazon. The band is part of Burger’s Caravan of Stars tour which also features Together Pangea and others. See the East Coast dates below.

Burger will also be releasing a compilation of Davila 666 singles to be called “Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos,” also out on November 4. Check out tracks from the upcoming new album and from the singles compilation.

Eastern U.S. and Canada Dates

Mon. Oct. 27 – Toronto, ON @ Virgin Mobile Mod Club
Tue. Oct. 28 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
Wed. Oct. 29 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
Thu. Oct. 30 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Fri. Oct. 31 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Sat. Nov. 1 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat

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