screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: October 2015

Introducing… The Boxcar Boys

Damn, these guys and gals are hellacious fun. Clarinet, accordion, harmonica, piano, violin, washboard, bass drum, banjo, trombone, jaw harp, sousaphone — it’s a crazy jambalaya of Klezmer, vintage Dixieland jazz, New Orleans blues, old timey folk and a healthy dose of hillbilly from various bygone eras. They released their third full-length album, Cicada Ball, back in September.

Based in Toronto, Canada, this sauce sextet plays beautifully together, weaving effortlessly in and out of each other’s sophisticated playing. They’re amazing — both incredibly accomplished and delightfully whimsical. In addition to their usual (unusual) instrumentation, the album features cello banjo (Sheesham and Lotus), Adrian Gross on mandolin (The Slocan Ramblers) and Michael Eckert on dobro (The Double Cuts).

If you happen to live in Toronto, you’re in luck. The Boxcar Boys (and girls) seem to have a residency going on at the wonderfully-named C’est What. They’re also playing at the Sharbot Lake Country Inn on November 28. My guess is that a lot of crazy unhinged dancing and general merriment and mayhem will ensue. Hmm, I wonder if these guys know about the Honk! Festival?


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Introducing… Debris of Titan

The subject matter of “Anime” by upstate New York duo Debris of Titan is a fantasy relationship with an anime lover, so it’s only right that the vibe is spacey, starry-eyed and psychedelic. Blending space music, psychedelia, freak folk, dream pop and hip-hop, this is pretty sophisticated music for a pair of multi-instrumentalists who aren’t yet old enough to get into the venues they would be playing in. So for now, they’re just writing, recording and releasing music, the latest of which was their second EP, On The Home Slope. Their first EP, released back in January, was Sappy Seasons. They’re gearing up for their debut album.

Winston Dunlop (Nova) and Michael Diaz (Fox) are actually seasoned veterans, having met in 5th grade and formed their first band, Retro Lake, when they were both 12. They released albums under that name in 2010 and 2012, and by the time they were 16, had already tired of their sound and name, changing both. Fans of bands like Joy Division and Animal Collective, they began experimenting with world music and other genres, adding different sounds to their dream pop and psychedelic palette. As the boys are now approaching legal drinking age, they’ll be able to support their debut album, when it comes out, with gigs at the clubs. Stay tuned!

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Avid Dancer at The Sinclair in Cambridge 10/20/15

Every once in a while, and it’s awkward to say the least, you show up to a heavily hyped and sold out show — to see the opener. Such was the case for me on Tuesday night when I arrived at The Sinclair to see Avid Dancer. I had heard about, listened to and really liked this Los Angeles band, and they were partway through a big national tour. They were the supporting band for BØRNS, an artist who currently has a HUGE buzz and a rabid growing audience which I completely respect but who, for me, is the sonic equivalent of eating too much candy corn in one sitting. So with profound apologies to his completely over-the-moon audience last night, I’ll move on to Avid Dancer, a band that quite simply stole my heart.

It actually helps to have the contrast with BØRNS to highlight just what it was that made Avid Dance so special for me. Music is terribly subjective, of course. This is why I never “review” bands, but I’m inspired to share those that touch and inspire me. For myself, when I listen to a piece of music, I’m always looking for a certain amount of gravitas, a sense of somber or at least serious reflection. In my humble opinion, joyous celebration loses some importance without also experiencing the flip-side of the coin. In terms of this deeper meaning, I seek it out in everything from folk music to hardcore, from singer-songwriter ballads to instrumentals. Introspection doesn’t even require lyrics; it can be heard within the music.

Avid Dancer’s music is solemn and sophisticated, but never grim. There’s a hopeful optimism born out of life’s trials and tribulations.

“Throw away all things not worth living
Open your eyes and start believing”

“Find your joy today // Don’t have to look so hard // Don’t have to look so far
Try to be one way // Just be who you are.”

– All Your Words Are Gone

Avid Dancer caresses the ears with joyous, melodic guitar and life-affirming rhythm, and the band overflows with sensuality and soul. You can hear it in their debut album 1st Bath, but it completely envelops you in their live show. Dreamy, slightly psychedelic and with Jacob Summer’s honey-smooth vocals, I would argue that they’re just as much the ideal “date night band” as the overtly romantic and sentimental BØRNS.

Summer’s down-to-earth banter was quite heartwarming as well and dovetailed nicely with the band’s genuine and passionate music. It sounds funny and maybe a little ridiculous to say this, but knowing his background as a Marine, I found his gentle demeanor and the vulnerability in his lyrics somewhat surprising. Hey, ex-marines can be sensitive guys, and why the hell not?

Avid Dancer will be continuing their tour with BØRNS on November 10, beginning in Canada and moving through the Midwest and West Coast. See their tour schedule for details. And go see them! You’ll be glad you did.

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Introducing… Smoke Season

I’d like to come clean on something. I don’t always get to things right away. And by “not right away,” I sometimes mean two months later. Smoke Season is the lovely Los Angeles duo of Gabrielle Wortman and Jason Rosen. They began their musical journey in 2013 with the release of debut EP Signals. Their new song “Bees” is a trance-inducing affair with mysterious lyrics about bees, honey, getting stung and being on the open sea. Yeah, it’s about a relationship.

Wortman’s hypnotic vocals weave effortlessly around percolating and swirling synth melodies, drifting ether of backing vocals and percussion.

Smoke Season has a sensuous psych-tinged Americana vibe, melding folk with subtle electronics and enticing, mystical vocal harmonies. That sounds pretty great, and indeed it is. After an Echoplex residency in Los Angeles in 2014 and subsequent raves in LA Weekly, Buzzbands, Radio Free Silver Lake and elsewhere, things took off. They’ve performed across the U.S. and have shared stages with Berlin, Elliot Moss, Geographer, Jesika Von Rabbit and others. With more than 3 million Spotify plays for their Hot Coals for Cold Souls EP and shows at CMJ, Sundance Film Festival, Noise Pop and San Diego CityFest, they’re definitely doing pretty well.

If you’re on the West Coast, you’ll be able to experience the spacey vibes of Smoke Season in person. They begin at The Casbah in San Diego on November 29, hitting Log Angeles (The Satellite), Fresno, San Francisco and Santa Cruz before drifting through Oregon (two stops), Seattle, Boise and Salt Lake City on December 10. See their Facebook for more info.

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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… Ought, from Montreal

Although I’m now listening to Montreal’s Ought late at night, you might want to check in with them first thing in the morning, along with your glass of orange juice, cup of black coffee or energy shake. These guys are interesting and edgy, something to get the blood circulating. They just released their sophomore album, Sun Coming Down (on Constellation, Sept. 18) with the noisy and rambunctious lead single “Men For Miles.”

A driving beat, alternately melodic then crazed guitars and an intense, slightly unhinged, expressive and poetic lead vocalist makes for a punk-inspired yet theatrical presentation. It’s a nice mix with unexpected depth and surprises in the lyrics. Damn, these guys are good.

This is their follow-up album to their debut More Than Any Other Day in 2014. At that time, Pitchfork awarded them with their ‘Best New Music’ blessing (but we won’t hold that against them). After touring most of 2014, the band wrote the new album at the beginning of the year and recorded at The Hotel2Tango in the spring. Ought is Tim Darcy (previously Tim Beeler) on vocals and guitar, Tim Keen on drums, Matt May on keyboards and Ben Stidworthy on bass.

They’re currently in the middle of their North American Fall Tour. Yes, I’m a bad blogger for missing their East Coast dates, but if you’re on the West Coast, check them out, and if you’re not, buy their music!

You really need to see the visuals to get the full appreciation of Ought, so here’s their official video for “New Calm, Pt. 2,” released about a year ago.

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Introducing… King Raam

Simply put, here’s a stunner of a video for a beautiful song by Iranan artist King Raam. It’s for “Closing Credits,” from his latest solo album A Day & A Year, just released in Iran on Noufe Records.

King Raam (a.k.a. Raam Emami) began as a singer-songwriter with his New York post-punk band Hypernova, which grew out of the underground Tehran music scene in the early 2000s. They played shows along with another Iranian band, The Yellow Dogs. King Raam’s solo career started with his 2011 release Songs of the Wolves. He has lived in NYC, LA and London, and went back to his homeland create this latest offering of incredibly powerful music. Described as “an Iranian Nick Cave,” Raam’s songs, sung in Arabic, are dramatic, mysterious and intense.

I can’t quite figure out where you can purchase this new album, so keep an eye out on his web site and social media places for more info.

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Introducing… Nadia Nair

Of both Swedish and Malaysian heritage, musician Nadia Nair explores territory that is all her own, though informed by European dance music, Asian melodies and a tribal intensity that has the feel of Indian mantras. In her music, there are hints of pop, electronica, psychedelic, world music. It’s soulful and hypnotic. She released the latest single, “Hardships,” back in the summer.

Nair’s influences include M.I.A., Björk and Ravi Shankar, and she’s been played on various UK stations such as Amazing Radio. Working with Turkish/German DJ and electronic dance music producer Deniz Koyu, her music was released on Swedish House Mafia member Axwell’s label, Axtone.

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