screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: December 2015 Page 1 of 3

Introducing… VenueIQ

Have you ever purchased tickets to a show in a town you’ve never been to and wondered what the venue was like? How’s the parking? What type of seating is there? Is the sound any good?

VenueIQ has been created as “a Yelp for event venues” (sports, concerts or live theater). This is a great site where users can sign up and write reviews about their favorite venues. You can also contact them to suggest venues that should be added.

In the Boston/Cambridge area, for example, I see several key venues that aren’t yet listed, such as Brighton Music Hall, Cafe 939, Great Scott, The Middle East, Berklee Performance Center, Somerville Theater and Club Passim.

I’m not sure if there’s a “cutoff” in terms of size, but of course there are others like Arts at the Armory, the Lizard Lounge, Midway Cafe, Cantab Lounge, O’Brien’s Pub, P.A.’s Lounge and Precinct. Anyway, register with the site, log in and weigh in on your favorite places to see live music! (and, of course, your least favorite ones).

While I’m here, if you’re a musician interested in playing somewhere and are wondering about capacity and contact information, visit our Band Resources page. It’s a tough world out there if you’re a struggling indie band and information is vital. Which leads us nicely into a little advance promotion for our final post of 2015, which will be a ‘State of the Music Industry’ diatribe. Be on the lookout, and buckle up. It’s bound to be a bumpy ride.

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Division Men (and other artists) Cover Eagles of Death Metal for Play It Forward Paris Benefit

This has been one seriously intense year. In our final band posting of 2015 (save for some commentary about the music biz – coming soon), we’re remembering the horrific attacks in Paris and letting everyone know about the Eagles of Death Metal’s Play It Forward campaign. They have asked musicians in all genres of music to cover their song “I Love You All The Time.” For every cover version that is sold, EODM have pledged to donate 100% of publishing royalties to the The Sweet Stuff Foundation. This organization, run by Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme, has been donating funds to families affected by the Paris attacks. Artists taking part include Ed Harcourt, Jimmy Eat World, My Morning Jacket, Alain Johannes, Florence + the Machine (featuring the Maccabees), Kings of Leon, Imagine Dragons, Mini Mansions,The New Pacific, r00ms, Savages, Sinner Sinners and the Dean Ween Group. Another band that has recorded a version of the song for this great charity is Texan duo Division Men. The video was filmed in Paris on December 2nd while the band was on tour, and the song was recorded on December 19 in Austin, Texas. All proceeds from the song go directly to victims of the November 13 Paris attacks.

Covers are available from Prime Music, iTunes and Spotify, and you can also donate directly by visiting their Play It Forward campaign page.

“I made a plea to artists and business people alike to come together to use our solidarity as proof that we are stronger together, and that we can make a difference.”

– Josh Homme

play it forward charity | the sweet stuff foundation | division men
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Introducing… Oktoba

Good morning, Happy Kwanzaa, Boxing Day and whatever else you may be celebrating today (even if it’s just sleeping in late). Here’s some easygoing, introspective tunes from Oktoba, the solo project of Chris Athorne. He’s from Brighton, England, creating his warm, personable sound from folk, Americana and pop traditions. He just released Smoke Signals, his debut album, back in October. Enjoy the first single from it, “Tongue Tied,” performed Live at The Clockwork Owl Studio.

Athorne’s contemplative storytelling goes well with a warm cup of tea on a weekend morning. Lyrically, I wouldn’t say it’s Shakespeare, but rather candid reflections told in plain language of complex human emotions, relationships and life journeys.

Oktoba’s debut EP was Tales and Shadows, released in 2014. It garnered airplay on BBC Radio, and he has followed that up with shows all around the U.K. (including The Great Escape and Together The People Festival) and in the U.S. (Sofar Sounds in Chicago, Rockwood Music Hall in NYC). With this type of music, delicately played and straight from the heart, it’s obviously at its best when performed in front of an audience. As Chris explains, “As songwriters we are given the intimate platform to describe our lives. It’s an amazing feeling when you perform away from home and your music is accepted by new audiences. I really try when writing, to write honestly, giving the listener something that feels familiar and something that they can relate to, no matter who they are or where they’re from.”

Smoke Signals was recorded with producer Tim Bidwell (Kate Walsh, Jack Watts, Fink) at his Clockwork Owl Studio in Brighton. It is a major departure from his debut EP, with guest vocalists and musicians for a more expansive sound.

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Introducing… MONEY

Feeling emotional on this full moon Christmas night? Here’s the perfect soundtrack. “I’ll Be The Night” is the lead single from Manchester band MONEY’s sophomore album, the cheerily titled Suicide Songs (coming out on Bella Union on January 29th). It’s all about sad, wistful strings, brass and acoustic guitar with yearning yet hopeful vocals. This is heart-opening stuff, folks, so it’s ok if you need to shed a few tears into your adult beverage. Don’t despair, though; there’s always hope.

“When I was a child, I made a deal against the sun/ That if it died out that I would carry on.” – I’ll Be The Night

Songs on the forthcoming album are multi-layered with piano, guitars, strings, percussion, lofty vocals and gospel backing vocals. There’s an expansive feel with orchestral, psychedelic and Indian flavorings throughout that blend beautifully to breathtaking effect.

If that first single isn’t depressing enough, they’ve released a live version of another song from the album, a charming little viola and piano dirge that builds into a defiant celebration called “A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year,” just in time for the already emotionally treacherous holiday season.

“The people are talking like they’re winning
like the world starts spinning
like they’re in control
like they’re Marilyn Monroe at a cocktail party
I’m somewhat ugly like Jean Genet
and I’ve wasted all my time on cocaine at Christmas and bottles of wine
and I was happy as a child
’cause you don’t have to ask me why.”

Sweet jesus. Thanks, guys. Just kidding; it’s magnificent. ::: Download it for FREE ::: and Happy Christmas.

The band formed in 2011 and after putting out four singles, released their debut album The Shadow Of Heaven in 2013 (on Bella Union). They’ve performed at several U.K. and European festivals and set out on their own headlining tours. They played a few U.S. shows (NYC and LA) in the fall of 2014. Here’s hoping for a wider U.S. tour next year.

For now though, you can pre-order Suicide Songs as a standard CD or LP album or a special bundle with screen prints. MONEY will be embarking on a European tour to support the new album, beginning on February 1 at Rough Trade in London. From there they hit other parts of the U.K., France, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. No word on the U.S. as of yet.

And what of the mournful sentiments and depressing album title? Frontman, singer and songwriter Jamie Lee explains his muse as such:

“Above all else, I’m just trying to project and portray a poetic truth. Suicide is about anonymity, to the point where you don’t exist, which I definitely feel in my songwriting and as a person. But rather than writing myself out of anonymity, I want to remain there, in this record at least. It’s recognizing a kind of sacrificial nature, in making artistic choices. By rummaging around in your feelings and trying to make sense of life, to the detriment of your health, there might be some poetic value to what you have created.”

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Introducing… Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister, a rambunctious folk with punk attitude sextet, really brings the party. So it makes perfect sense to feature this U.K. band tonight, on Christmas Eve. Happy holidays for those who are celebrating. And a very Merry Festivus for the rest of us. In honor then, here’s “Trouble On Oxford Street” from their latest album, Down on Deptford Broadway.

Singer and mandolin player Max Thomas and his sister Lorna came from a folk music family (their dad was a radio DJ) and they began performing reels and gigs at pubs once they were old enough to get in. They even formed an Americana bluegrass band with the rest of their family, playing pubs and Christmas festivals. Dan Heptinstall, Sam Brace and Dan Grey were previously members of The Alps. Their sound takes from the Irish and Celtic folk tradition and a bit of Scottish, but is infused with their own English heritage and sensibilities. They perform their own original songs and occasionally mix in some traditional shanties and such.

Since their inception in 2009, they’ve released several singles and EPs, with two full-length albums. Forge and Flagon came out in 2013 and Down on Deptford Broadway was released back in April. Through the years, they’ve performed at many festivals and in support of bands like Flogging Molly, Boy George, Dropkick Murphys and most recently, Frank Turner. In fact, the new year begins with a run of dates with him in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. After that, the band will be back in the U.S., performing during Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog cruise and in other places (including The Middle East in Cambridge on April 2). For full details, see their official site.

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Introducing… Vandaveer

photo by Sarah Law

photo by Sarah Law

Insightful observations about life and irresistible folksy and closely knit male-female harmonies. That’s the strong pull of Vandaveer. Their latest single, “But Enough Of That For Now” is from their upcoming album The Wild Mercury, which is set for release on WhiteSpace Records on February 19, to be distributed by MRi / Sony RED.

“Life is such a temporary thing, it is absolutely cruel and beautiful.”
– But Enough Of That For Now

The Wild Mercury will be the band’s fifth full-length release. So where has Vandaveer been all my life? Or the better question to ask is, “where have I been all their life?” But never mind that now. Singer-songwriter Mark Charles Heidinger and vocalist Rose Guerin create some aural magic when their voices wind together. Their music is very much in the Americana vein but with a pop sensibility and smooth production values. On this latest effort, they’re joined by long-time collaborator, producer Duane Lundy, and a few of their friends who worked with them to develop the music and explore the possibilities.

They began in 2007 with debut album Grace and Speed, and from the very start, their strength was in expressive personal storytelling. Divide & Conquer followed in 2009, with A Minor Spell in 2010, Dig Down Deep in 2011 and Oh Willie Please in 2013. The songwriting and those delicious vocal harmonies stayed true throughout, though their sound was more “stripped down” on these earlier recordings. Their latest incarnation brings in that larger musical palette and a fuller, more accessible sound, though they retain the magic of the duo.

A description of the subject matter follows: “These are songs from a father to a child, a musician to his muse, a bandmate to a brother–songs of parting and return, of joy and melancholy, of life with all its paradoxes, of beauty, both indelible and ephemeral.”

There will no doubt be touring in the band’s future when the album is released, so follow them and keep an eye out.

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Introducing… The Holy Tongue

On this holy day of pagan holidays, the Winter Solstice, we have for you — wait for it — The Holy Tongue. Yes, I’m afraid that’s the best you’re going to get from me today. I’m really liking the latest song and video from this Norwegian band. It’s called “Downward Collider” and the power and fury of this heart-pounding psychedelic journey is well-illustrated by the visuals. We’re taken on an exhilarating journey through highways, tunnels, country roads, and a mysterious woman invites

us to join her in a luxurious dip in a beckoning ocean, while a friendly duel plays itself out in the foreground. As we look through artistically filmed Venetian blinds, a maelstrom of electric guitar mayhem is delightfully unleashed, further heightening the hypnotic trance, before the sounds and visuals fade out. At the risk of being presumptuous (and because I can’t quite make out the lyrics), I’ll take this to be overflowing with metaphor relating to our life’s journey.

“Downward Collider” was produced by Bjarne Stensli in Oslo Klang Studio. The video was filmed by Espen Glomsvoll, edited by David Børke and produced by David Børke and Kenneth Andersen.

Hailing from Oslo, Norway, The Holy Tongue began as the duo of David Børke and Svein Are Brekke, releasing their debut album in April 2013. This new single is their first after becoming a quartet, with the addition of Kenneth Andersen and Magnus Lie on drums and bass. I’ve seen their music referred to as “psychedelic industrial blues” and that seems an apt description. An explanation of their new sound as “the band has replaced the typical wind queer organs from the first album with ’80s synths to better underpin the soundscape they wish to convey” got me bristling with curiosity. My research paid off big.

Whether cheesy organs or more sophisticated synths, the music of The Holy Tongue is fabulously foreboding, mysterious and intriguing. We’ll look forward to that forthcoming album!

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Introducing… Eternals

photo by Liz McBride

photo by Liz McBride

Here are some pleasing melodies with a touch of dreaminess for your Monday morning. The music of Eternals is described as “atmospheric Americana,” and that’s not far off the mark. Bands like Wilco, Sparklehorse and Spoon are mentioned alongside Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and John Cale. On their latest song “Out of Context” (from their upcoming album Isn’t That Anyone (due out next spring) they meld early Eno-esque vocals and folksy acoustic guitar, piano and pedal steel with soft ambient synth sounds in the background. Lyrically, it’s introspective and thought-provoking. Very pretty!

After all of my making fun of Boston’s predominance of hardcore and punk bands, here’s another group of musicians that bucks the trend. Based in Somerville, Eternals members have a musical pedigree that includes collaborations with Boston musicians such as Passion Pit, Thalia Zedek, Titus Andronicus, Lucius and Marissa Nadler. They started working on original material in 2013, with their debut album released in May 2014 (recorded at the Soul Shop in Medford; truly a homegrown effort). They’ve toured regionally, opening for Bishop Allen, Caveman and Wild Nothing.

Their forthcoming album continues their exploration of their unique atmospheric Americana. “Out of Context” was co-produced with engineer Aaron Bastinelli, who has worked with many artists such as Bono, The Roots and The Hold Steady. It was recorded at Q Division Studios and Rubber Tracks. Yep, definitely homegrown.

Eternals features songwriter, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Konrads; bassist Wayne Whittaker; drummer Harrison Seiler and guitarist Eric Bolton. They’ll be following up their spring release with a summer tour, so be on the lookout for them!

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Introducing… asia mei

On her latest recording, singer-songwriter, composer, arranger and classically trained pianist asia mei takes her listeners “through thoughts of trauma, acceptance and solace.” Her music is introspective and melancholy, with delicate piano playing and expressive vocals woven beautifully through each other. She’s accompanied by her musician husband Andrew Wilson on guitar, cellist Jordan Proctor and drummer Robert Sherwoon.

Stylistically, it’s all over the place, from chamber music to a sort of experimental jazz to a shuffling blues-rock to minimalist classical, and it’s done in such a seamless way that you hardly notice the drifting in and out of genres. The songs become these individual character pieces, like moody children, and the EP is a constantly changing kaleidoscope of perfectly constructed musical tapestries.

Born in Russia, Asia (Mei) Meirovich grew up in Israel and moved between Boston, New York City and Western Massachusetts. She’s a classically trained pianist and choral singer (Rubin Conservatory in Jerusalem) and has a degree in contemporary writing and production from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her master’s degree in classical composition if from UMass Amherst, and she was the 2015 winner of the Ben Steinberg Young Composer Award for Jewish Choral Music. She performs as a rock musician, composes and works professionally as an arranger, studio assistant, musical director and educator. She refers to her sound as “moody piano rock.” Her debut album Shards was released in 2006. “Big Apple Tree” was released as a single in 2010, followed by her second album Introverse in 2011. This latest collection of emotionally sung, exquisitely composed songs, Trauma and Solace, was released last month.

I’m hoping asia won’t mind that I include this amazing cover of “Spoonful” that she recorded with her husband Andres. I guess this is what insanely talented musical scholars do on their semester break from graduate school. They “play around” with an old blues chestnut. Mind-blowing.

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Introducing… Aloric

It begins and soft, minimalist and ethereal and travels on a long journey, arriving at something driving, theatrical and epic. It seems this is just the second song from new London-based band, Aloric, which is really quite remarkable, given its sophistication. Apparently, this quiet, wistful song is a tribute to the late Jeff Buckley. It tells the story of his meeting with his estranged father, told from the artist’s perspective. “Grace” is available as a free download on Bandcamp.

Their debut track, released back in the summer, was titled “Who?” and it was completely different in style, moving from heavy industrial to sparsely beautiful piano ballad. I don’t whether or not to call their music “experimental,” “avant-garde classical” or what have you, but with the otherworldly free-spirit vocals and changing orchestration that combines acoustic and electronic, discordance and peace, it certainly is beautiful.

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