There’s no question that Liverpool quartet Go Fiasco have a definite Jim Morrison and The Doors thing going on. It’s not just in their sound, which is richly ornate, moody, intense and powerful, or the lusciously rich baritone of singer/guitarist Daniel Duggan. It’s also apparent in their considerable musical prowess and overall vibe. This is huge, absorbing, all-enveloping music that you (very happily) drown in.
Duggan is joined by guitarist Jamie Roberts, bassist Ben Murphy, drummer Liam Gardner and synth player Conor Jones. All share in vocal duties, but without question, it’s Duggan’s bluesy and sometimes barking howl that creates a special air of mystery which is heightened by their stunning majestic soundscape. It’s extremely difficult to believe that this extremely seasoned-sounding ensemble only released their debut single, “Heaven,” about a year ago, but that seems to be the case. “Meet My Mystery” followed, with the most recent back in July, “Master Crime.” We’ll definitely be paying close attention to see what these boys do next!
There’s a galloping new duo in town. Multi-instrumentalist Anna Bulbrook and guitarist/bassist Marc Sallis have joined forces to form The Bulls, and they’re set to release their debut EP, Small Problems, on August 28 (on Diet Pink Records).
Bulls have a rich symbolism dating back to ancient times. A bull epitomizes power and strength, both physically and spiritually. Other bullish traits include confidence, unpredictability, perseverance, fertility and of course, aggression. While their music is not aggressive in the traditional sense (actually, it’s quite dreamy), it is a bold direction for Bulbrook and Sallis, being quite different in style and sound from their primary bands (though inevitably informed by both). Reverb-infused guitar fury, synthesizers, percussion and soaring strings swirl around Anna’s haunting vocals. Think dream pop and new wave with a little goth and a touch of grunge in the form of Marc’s dirty/pretty lead guitar. They creatively roam far beyond their previous roles to explore exciting new breeding grounds.
The two first met during various criss-crossings of their respective bands’ tours (New York City, London, Paris). They bonded over a love of ’80s and ’90s shoegaze and dream pop artists like Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Nico. Finally, while out in the Mohave Desert of Indio, California, they decided to hook up and hit the studio.
Since their debut song “Come Unwound” was released last November, accompanied by its hypnotic kinbaku video, The Bulls have bolted out of the gate (so to speak), collecting praise from The Los Angeles Times, Consequence of Sound, LA Weekly and Diffuser. They were Alt 98.7’s featured “Artist in Residence” in March and have been featured on KROQ’s Locals Only show. KROQ is currently sponsoring their Monday night August residency at The Satellite in Los Angeles, which they’ve dubbed #GIRLSCHOOL, as it’s the club’s first-ever 100% female-fronted residency.
Their Small Problems EP begins with the title track and the directive, “you’ve got to change your heart.” It’s a cool assessment of a selfish and detached lover (“Heart, untried, city of one, beating for none”) that’s countered by driving percussion and passionate guitar. Starting quietly, it builds into a fury and drops back down beautifully to where it began. “Rumors” has an irresistible new wave feel with fuzzy guitars, while “Truly,” a stunning stand-out track with brightly ringing guitars and sweeping strings, uses repetitive lyrics to entrancing effect —
“So come and take it from me, from me, from me
I will tell you truly, truly, truly
I don’t care what’s coming, coming, coming
I’m gonna stay alone.”
“Come Unwound” was the duo’s shocker of a first single. I say shocking, because this solemn beauty comes riding in as a pair of noble white horses (trust me, I see it) and slowly unfurls into a breathtaking orchestral masterpiece (“Don’t make me turn this car around / Hope’s not lost, it’s just unfound”). If comparisons are made to Arcade Fire, this is obviously the song that brought that about.
The EP closes with an interesting and unique remix of “Come Unwound” by Morgan Kibby (M83 / White Sea). One’s take on this remix will depend upon one’s electro-percussive sensibilities, but there’s no denying the beauty of the vocal harmonies.
As Anna said in her Consequence of Sound interview regarding the music’s subject matter —
“I suppose you could say that the EP looks at the life-cycle of love — potential love, self-love (or lack of it), conflicted love, loneliness, the end of love. Everything except for the ‘happily ever after’ part.”
Oh well, maybe we can have our happy ending when their full-length album comes along. Here’s hoping.
Just in time for summer’s last blast is the decidedly sunny and upbeat (with maybe a touch of sly irony) sophisticated pop from New York’s aptly named Gladshot. If you’re looking for an antidote to over-processed, icy electronica, you’ve found it. Their sound has an honest folkiness about it, but at the same time, it’s pleasantly thrashy garage rock, with warm vocals and some feel-good harmonies from Debbie Andrews and Mike Blaxill. When you look at some of their faves and influences — Joni Mitchell, Small Faces, Big Star, Neil Finn, Beatles, Teenage Fanclub — you can understand where they’re coming from, yet their music is a fresh-sounding synthesis of many top-shelf sounds and sensibilities. And that’s a very good thing indeed. Maxwell’s Cool Demon was released last year, produced by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth, Okkervil River) and named “Best Rock Record of the Year” at WHFR in Detroit. It’s surprising to see that it was just their second release after debut album Burn Up and Shine .
There’s some very strong musicianship here, with noisy guitars, Hammond organ, Farfisa (yes, I had to look that one up), Wurlitzer, piano and percussion. Needless to say, they really do get seriously jamming. As for future projects, word has it they’re developing “a dystopian, futuristic rock ‘n’ roll musical” called “Barcode,” written with ‘Hair’ co-creator Jim Rado. I’m not quite sure what to make of that — I assume that’s for real?
Here’s their video for “Fabulous Friends,” a fun look at late-night television advertising, a bit of an impulse buying addiction and more packaging peanuts than you can shake a stick at.
I suppose what threw me off was the billing. The advertisements said “solo performance by Andrew W.K.” rather than his full band. But leave it to Mr. W.K. to require nothing more than a Roland keyboard, a few microphones and a straight man in the form of someone known only as “Krenshaw” to bring the party.
Clearly this was going to be a very different affair from the last time I saw him — a collaborative performance at a civilized Brookline theater with the uber-classy Calder Quartet. Though the headbangers were in full attendance that evening, they were joined by an equal portion of genuinely baffled symphony subscribers, in unfamiliar if not hostile territory. Tonight, I was on their turf.
In addition to being somewhat of an Andrew W.K. virgin, it was also my first time at Cuisine en Locale, a Somerville-based caterer specializing in (quite delicious) locally sourced foods. As it happens they’re also a bar, restaurant and concert venue. At first, I thought the show was to be upstairs in their cozy ONCE Lounge, but was confused by the solitary drum set on the small dance floor. As it happened, the show was downstairs in the ballroom. In retrospect, it was an incongruous sort of venue for what was to transpire, amidst its elegant carpet, dance floor and chandeliers. But for this unique triple-band lineup, presented by the Keynote Company, it felt just like home.
Mike Woo’s Raging Bone was virile and relentless, pounding away hard and keeping it up through a panting and breathless set. This exceptionally hard-rocking hardcore quintet is paradoxically from the North Shore, but don’t let that fool you. And don’t think that they’re all muscle and no method. Beneath that hard, brute force exterior is some mighty fine skill.
After the furious pace of the Raging Bone, CMB (Casey Desmond’s latest project) felt like an exotic hand-rolled smoke in a silver and tortoise shell cigarette holder, savored while lounging on a red velvet divan. She was exquisite. Well-known among the Boston music community and progeny of local music legends Bill and Katherine Desmond, Desmond is a real life goddess. She took us all on a magic carpet ride to distant galaxies. A woman armed with an ethereal voice, a Mac laptop and a bunch of twiddly knobs is a dangerous weapon indeed.
Finally, it was time for the main attraction. The festivities began with a motivational warm-up, a sort of rock ‘n’ roll party pep rally. A siren wails and the police are called in to investigate. A party is about to begin, and we’re all invited.
“Tonight is about all of the positive feelings. Tonight, all of the people here are all friends. Tonight is about having the best night of your life.”
When Andrew bounces in, all enthusiasm and smiles and biceps, dressed head to toe in white like a maniacal Mr. Clean, delirium ensues and all bets are off. From the opening notes of “It’s Time To Party,” we all become a violently churning singular living organism, throbbing and pulsating with life force. W.K. and his wing-man Krenshaw, more an insane asylum court jester than a backup singer, roughhouse their way through classics and massive audience favorites from I Get Wet.
It was an exhilarating, exhausting and life-affirming aerobic exercise — a full mind, body, soul and ears workout. The sound system, suitable for a room ten times the size of this 300 capacity ballroom, bellowed out W.K. and Krenshaw’s athletic antics while the crowd barked, brayed and cheered in appreciative response.
Three or four songs in, it was fast becoming too much of a good thing, and my eyes darted madly around me, wondering if anyone knew the safeword.
I decided to move — no, actually I physically hurled myself to the left, letting the circular motion of the human whirlpool eventually deposit me at a breathable distance. Photographic evidence proved difficult if not impossible under such circumstances, but video footage tells the story. Mixed into the breathless collection of powerful party anthems was their cover of his friend Aleister X’s “Bangers and Beans.”
Andrew W.K. is one of a kind, a genuinely unique entertainer (and some might even say educator). One third hardcore headbanger, one third motivational speaker (brilliantly demonstrated in this recent article of his Village Voice column) and, though it’s not heralded as it should be, one third extremely accomplished and classically trained pianist.
Indeed, I could have quite happily listened to Mr. W.K.’s mad scientist ministrations on that Roland synth for hours. Now that’s a party.
And just in case there was any confusion about where they were performing this evening, W.K. altered the lyrics to “I Love NYC” in loving tribute to this special occasion, to the delight of everyone in attendance.
It was a crazy and rambunctious scene, but a supportive one. When one of the many crowd surfers had a rough landing near me, everyone rushed to his aid. He was fine. Adrenaline and endorphins, raucousness and rock ‘n’ roll — the perfect, maybe even the only, way to spend a Friday night.
If all this sounds like your idea of a good time, I have great news for you. Andrew W.K. is about to embark on a big tour which will comprise solo appearances like Somerville, full band extravaganzas at festivals and even a few lectures.
Check it out! And Party Hard!
Andrew W.K. Tour
8/30 Denver, CO – National Western Complex – Riot Fest (full band)
9/2 Fargo, ND – The Aquarium (Dempseys Upstairs) (solo)
9/3 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club (solo)
9/5 Kalamazoo, MI – Audiotree Music Festival (full band)
9/6 New Albany, IN – The Rustic Frog, Befuddled Festival (solo)
9/7 Columbia, MO – Rose Music Hall (solo)
9/9 Nashville, TN – Exit In (solo)
9/10 Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theater (solo)
9/11 Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar (solo)
9/13 Chicago, IL – Douglas Park – Riot Fest (full band)
9/15 Birmingham, AL – Saturn (solo)
9/16 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West (solo)
9/18 Toledo, OH – Frankies (solo)
9/20 Toronto, ONT, Canada – Downsview Park – Riot Fest (full band)
10/10 Los Angeles, CA – Shrine Expo Hall & Grounds (solo)
10/12 Edmonton, AB, Canada – The Starlite Room (solo)
10/13 Calgary, AB, Canada – Nite Owl (solo)
10/15 Winnipeg, MB, Canada – Pyramid Cabaret (solo)
10/17 Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews (solo)
10/17 Des Moines, IA – Iowa Historical Building (lecture)
11/1 Gainesville, FL – Lot 10 – FEST 14 (full band)
11/8 Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest (lecture)
While the rest of us were cursing the endless snows of last winter, shoveling the never ending piles that towered overhead, our friends from The Grownup Noise were hard at work crafting a new album entitled Stewing. It had been less than a year since their previous release, The Problem with Living in the Moment. It’s hard to imagine such focused effort in the midst of Snowpocalypse 2015, but, as so often with sudden bursts of creativity, it came out of a sense of urgency. The band had learned that two beloved family members, Aine Fujioka (drums) and Todd Marston (keys, accordion), would be leaving in the autumn. They quickly realized that they had to release one more collection of songs to capture the band’s essence, such a special collection of musical talent and personalities that had sustained them since their debut album in 2007. As lead singer Paul Hansen explains it, “These songs came from slow, simmering anxiety mixed with apocalyptic snow storms. Maybe like food absorbing flavor in a hot kettle. Hence the title, ‘Stewing’. I like to think of this album as grouchy minimalism, compared to our previous 3 albums. It is good to know that something good can come from raw floundering.”
This beautifully composed and exquisitely performed album hardly sounds like “raw floundering.” It feels extremely well thought-out and captures their essence of sophisticated musical artistry mixed with shared intimacy. This album flows so smoothly with such joy and wistfulness, it’s unfathomable that it was written and recorded huddling by a radiator to stay warm or stuck in a vehicle outside in the frozen snow. The daydreamy thoughtfulness of this collection probably owes quite a bit to the strong emotions that birthed it. Everything I love about this fantastic band is here — the strings, the vulnerable vocals, the smart/sad lyrics, the acoustic guitars, the gentle percussion and bass that shuffles along, the festive accordion and tinkling keys. Beautiful.
There is so much to love here, but rather than discuss each song, I’ll just say that the album runs the gambit from gentle melodies, thoughtful lyrics and warm vocals with their trademark close harmonies to more cacophonous moments, courtesy of a very special guest, Mr. Dana Colley of Morphine fame. He’s on five of the songs with his extremely recognizable and quite glorious sax.
One of my favorite songs on the album, however, is a quieter thing called “The Storm I Love.” It begins with acapella harmonies, then continues with a languid and meandering piano and gentle percussion and bass. It’s sweet, minimalist and full of heart.
“Shake it off
the notion that we’re all just lost
and the bad guys have won
stay with me for just one more dream
I call on you
restore my faith in people.”
– The Storm I Love
Stewing was mixed by Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter, David Wax).
I would like to thank The Grownup Noise — Paul Hansen (vocals, guitar, keys), Adam Sankowski (bass, keys, vocals), Katie Franich (cello, keys, vocals), Aine Fujioka (drums, vocals) and Todd Marsten (accordion, keys) for their considerable contribution to the richness and beauty of Boston’s wildly creative and vibrant music scene. And also for the lovely live performances I’ve had the great pleasure to attend.
But this is no eulogy, because the band will, I’m sure, open its doors to new members, and Aine and Todd will further explore their creative paths elsewhere and with new collaborators. It’s not the end of the book, but merely one chapter finishing so another can begin.
To celebrate this stunning achievement and commemorate their time together as a musical family, The Grownup Noise will be performing two very special shows on Friday, August 14 and Saturday, August 15. These will be their final performances with Todd and Aine, so you won’t want to miss them! The first will be full-on and electric at the Davis Square Theater and, just announced, Dana Colley will be joining them! The second is a quieter and more intimate acoustic affair at the even teenier Lilypad in Inman Square, Cambridge. See details below and join them if you can to help them celebrate and wish everyone well. And pick up a copy of Stewing, which will presumably be available at both shows. Best of luck to everyone!
In The Valley Below is having a big year. This Echo Park, Los Angeles-based duo has amassed more than 6.6 million spins on iTunes Radio and Spotify and are in alternative radio’s Top 20 with their huge hit song “Peaches.” They recently filmed a live performance of that song on top of the renowned Capital Records building in Hollywood. And they’ve been touring like demons, collecting fans wherever they go.
Having first been introduced to their music by The Airborne Toxic Event, who invited them on their autumn 2014 tour, I instantly liked their artsy synth-pop take on Southern Gothic Americana. I’ve found their back and forth sharing of verses, close harmonies and entrancing stage presence to be quite mesmerizing. With their touring drummer Joshua Clair, they have a rich, full sound and pack a lot of punch. Plus it certainly doesn’t hurt that the core duo, Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob, are ridiculously elegant and, as they say, easy on the eyes. Gearing up for their first headlining tour this fall, they’ve been performing all summer long at various festivals and radio shows.
Their performance at WBRU’s Summer Concert Series at Waterfront Park in Providence, Rhode Island last night was nothing short of spectacular. I’d never been to one of these free summer concerts before, and I can wholeheartedly recommend them. It’s right downtown at the relaxing outdoor plaza alongside Woonasquatucket River, close to many shops, bars, restaurants and across from a large mall with ample parking. WBRU is extremely supportive of new and up-and-coming bands (both local and international), and they frequently put on free or quite inexpensive line-ups of some great bands. In addition to the evening show, they did an amusing interview with Jeffrey and Angela at the nearby Rebel Lounge.
The Rare Occasions, 2014’s WBRU Rock Hunt Champions, opened. Not only can’t I tell you what genre of music this band plays; I am also at a loss in even trying to describe it. Free-form jazz, ’70s progressive rock, heavy metal, quirky folk (in the form of a charming little xylophone and ukulele number), Frank Zappa-esque “freak out” and alternative rock (maybe) all come to mind, but a firm description remains elusive. They were… weird. Not unenjoyable, to be sure, just strange. I’m hoping that they’ll consider that a compliment.
The Rare Occasions
In The Valley Below were clearly in their element this evening, the rippling water and twinkling lights of downtown skyscrapers a perfect backdrop for their dramatic presentation. From the opening moments to the last song, the audience was transfixed, and that included those in the dozen or so kayaks in the water behind them. Jeffrey turned and played a few scorching guitar solos for them during their set. And speaking of scorching guitar solos, I had completely forgotten what an amazing guitarist he is. The sound was beautiful and he simply wailed. Joshua is a fantastic drummer, and between the huge sound, cat-and-mouse interplay of the vocals and the stark, beautiful visuals as Jeffrey and Angela interacted with each other, the end result was hypnotic.
Though I didn’t keep track, I believe they played all or most of their debut album, and we were treated to a brand new song. I don’t know the title, so I’ll just call it by the repeated refrain, “Oh My Fever.” Which also happens to be an accurate description of the general mood of the crowd.
Needless to say, the place exploded at the opening notes of “Peaches.” The band’s catchy melodies, sensuous vocals and dark lyrical subtexts have hit people just right, and this particular song is great example of that. There is that moment, in the throes of a powerful performance, full audience engagement and synchronistic symbiosis, that the boundary between performers and fans disappears and you enter into a special realm. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, it’s magic.
In The Valley Below’s U.S. autumn tour will begin on September 25 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is set to conclude in Las Vegas on November 13 for a whopping 33 shows.
North American Tour
09/25 Grand Rapids MI @ Pyramid Scheme
09/27 Washington DC @ Landmark Festival
09/29 Nashville TN @ High Watt
09/30 Birmingham AL @ Saturn
10/01 Fayetteville AR @ George’s Majestic
10/02 Dallas TX @ Dada
10/03 Austin TX @ ACL Festival
10/04 Houston TX @ House of Blues
10/05 New Orleans LA @ HiHo Lounge
10/07 Tampa FL @ Crowbar
10/08 Atlanta GA @ Vinyl
10/09 Wilmington NC @ Ziggy’s by the Sea
10/10 Charlotte NC @ Visulite
10/11 Philadelphia PA @ Johnny Brenda
10/13 Hamden CT @ SPACE 10/14 Boston MA @ Brighton Music Hall
10/19 Albany NY @ The Hollow
10/22 Columbus OH @ Basement
10/23 St Louis MO @ Firebird
10/24 Chicago IL @ Lincoln Hall
10/25 Milwaukee WI @ Turner Hall
10/26 Minneapolis MN @ Triple Rock
10/27 Omaha NE @ Waiting Room
10/29 Colorado Springs CO @ Black Sheep
10/30 Denver CO @ Bluebird
10/31 Salt Lake City UT @ Kilby Court
11/03 Vancouver BC @ Electric Owl
11/04 Portland OR @ Mississippi Studios
11/06 San Francisco CA @ Great American
11/07 Fresno CA @ Strummer’s
11/10 Phoenix AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
11/11 Los Angeles CA @ The El Rey
11/13 Las Vegas NV @ Bunkhouse Saloon
Time to check in with SPT a.k.a. Stephen Paul Taylor. When we last saw him, he was featured in episode 3 of Busker Diaries, a cool Berlin-based group that makes documentaries of street performers. Since then, he’s been readying his EP, Single and Seventeen. It begins with “Everyone Knows Shit’s F*cked,” an in-your-face diatribe aimed squarely at the U.S. government and undoubtedly his claim to fame, but my favorite from the 5-track collection is “Graveyard Eyes,” which is at once hilarious and endearing, a cleverly written ode to a lost love, bursting with morose metaphors.
SPT’s style is camp but catchy with unexpectedly sophisticated lyrics that saves this from being a mere synth-pop novelty act. Visually as well as aurally, Taylor is compelling, drawing audiences to him and putting them firmly in his camp. He may well be a “love him or hate him” kind of artist, but aren’t those the ones who stir things up and get people thinking? His tagline is “Synthpop for the Masses,” and indeed, his flamboyant stage show and histrionics may be what reels them in, but his message, especially on a song like “Shit’s F*cked,” is politically relevant and confrontational, meant to elicit a reaction. And that’s what makes SPT truly interesting.
Single and Seventeen was released on August 1st and was commemorated by an EP Release Party in Berlin. He has shows in Berlin, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands throughout the summer. See his full schedule for more information.
Single and Seventeen – track listing
Everybody Knows Shit’s F*cked
Life is Life
Single and Seventeen
When we first introduced you to L.A.’s Ultra Violent Rays back in February, we reckoned that their dark gothic electro-pop felt just right on a snowy and bleak winter’s night, but might feel a tad out of place on a warm summer’s evening.
Some lucky Los Angeles clubbers will get to see if that prediction is correct when the darkwave duo joins The Bulls at The Satellite for the opening night of the latter’s August residency. This special series of FREE shows is hosted by KROQ’s Locals Only show and is being billed as “Girlschool” — the club’s first 100% female-fronted residency.
In addition to Ultra Violent Rays, the five shows on every Monday night (August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31) will feature bands such as White Sea, Gothic Tropic, Conway, Alex Lilly and Nightjacket. The festivities begin tonight with The Bulls, Nightjacket, NANCY and Ultra Violent Rays. Doors open at 8:30 and the show starts at 9pm.
We’ll be reviewing The Bulls’ debut EP soon (which I can tell you right now is stunning), so stay tuned. Meanwhile, we wish them a tremendously successful residency!
For those of you who can’t make it to The Satellite, you can at least sit back and enjoy this new video from Ultra Violent Rays for their single “Wish,” which is inspired by pop art legend Roy Lichtenstein. It was directed by Patrick Flaherty, with (amazing) makeup by Janica Polmanteer.