Listening to the BoxBerrys’ new EP, Maria For The Last Time, one might find it hard to believe that they’re a current band. That they’re a current Boston-based band is even harder to believe. Let’s face it — Boston isn’t exactly known for its gentle, sunny pop music (unless, of course, your idea of gentle sunny pop music is Pixies, Gang Green or Mission of Burma). But the BoxBerrys, with a nod to The Beatles and Elton John (and, on “Holly Rollers In The Sky,” Chuck Berry, Little Richard and those ’50s doo-woppers), are bringing their upbeat, retro-sounding pop to Boston’s mean streets.
The trio started in 2012 with their Sleepy Jesus EP, and this latest EP is the follow-up. Bits of wistful melancholy and sweet heartache keeps things from getting sappy, and the gentle harmonies and soft strumming is a nice way to wind down from a stressful day. Check ’em out!
Holy crap, it’s the end of the year already!? If you’re like me and the closing of this crazy year has caught you flat-footed, you might appreciate a few suggestions of how to regain your equilibrium and get 2016 started off in grand style. We’re taking a little break from introducing you to new bands to check in with a few old friends and see what they’re up to on New Year’s Eve.
First Night Boston is alive and well, and though stripped down from its former self, it’s now completely free! This family-friendly event actually begins at noon on New Year’s Eve and runs through the next day. Check out the schedule. Even if you have NYE plans, you still have time to catch the annual “People’s Procession” that moves from Copley Square to Boston Common, culminating in everyone’s favorite early-bird “Family Fireworks” right on the Common.
Cuisine en Local, if you haven’t been there, is an extremely cool caterers featuring locally sourced food. In addition to top-notch catering and meal delivery, they also opened their ONCE ballroom, which is a really nice function hall with a lounge upstairs that overlooks it. This is a prime location for concerts, and they’ll be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a huge blow out on New Year’s Eve. It’s a tremendous lineup featuring Eastern European Gypsy Party Punk band Somerville Symphony Orkestar, Ruby Rose Fox, Cask Mouse and Cactus Attack. I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing the Orkestar and Cask Mouse over the years, and I can attest to the fact that these are top tier bands. The others sound great as well, so if you’re a local music aficionado, this looks like the place to be.
If that’s not enough to entice you, ONCE will be designing a special menu of munchies centered around “traditional local foods” and tickets will include a complimentary champagne toast at midnight. So ::: purchase tickets now ::: and you’ll have a warm, cozy and fiddling place to ring in the New Year with great, festive music!
Do you miss good old-fashioned storytelling and gentle Americana, folk, rootsy country-rock melodies? If so, feast your eyes and ears on Martin England & The Reconstructed. Their songs are soothing to the soul. I would say that these are songs of love, but they’re not love songs. Not quite. They’re more the ruminations of relationships come and gone yet still lingering, remembered as if it were yesterday yet viewed from a distance of both time and place. There’s gentleness and gratitude mixed with disquieting feelings, nighttime anxieties and wistful regrets. These are personal stories, emotionally charged yet with a mature insightful wisdom.
“All through the haunting hours,
My mind is filled and fraught with danger
Talk to myself in the light of the TV stations,
How is it when the morning comes,
everything feels stronger to me?
The panic of the night subsides
When you’re lying next to me”
– Stronger In The Morning
Martin England has a rich songwriting history that started when he was 13, growing up in New Hampshire. His lifelong love of songwriting spawned more than 350 songs. As a member of Pondering Judd for 17 years, England write and recorded six albums, went on a national tour and achieved critical acclaim. After being offered a contract with Lost Sailor Records as a solo artist, he found new confidence in his writing. His solo debut was Razed and Reconstructed, with guest musicians Jason Cohen of the Ryan Montbleau Band on keyboards, guitarist Adam Terrell (Assembly of Dust) and Jesse Brock (2009 International Bluegrass Music Association Mandolin Player of the Year).
The current band features Martin England (acoustic & electric guitars, lead vocals), Courtney Brocks (Acoustic guitar, banjo, vocals), Sean Daniels (drums), Jesse Dold (Electric guitar, vocals) and Andrew Russell (bass). Their playing styles complement each other so nicely and naturally, it feels like an extended family.
If you like what you hear, the album has its own mini-site, where you can download two free tracks and peruse all the lyrics and some photos. Nice touch. And once you’ve had a goood listen, support the musicians and buy a digital download. Or if you prefer something you can have and hold, you can order a CD.
England’s approach to music is a good way to end this, as its a worldview that’s tightly woven into this warm, personable music. “I want people to engage with the messages and melodies in my songs. If someone can hum a melody or recall a lyric from one of my songs three hours after a performance, it’s nirvana. But it’s not just what you take, it’s what you do with it. If one person feels like they’ve truly connected with my songs, I feel like it’s an unmitigated success.”
Ok, here’s the thing. We’re trying to get all caught up here at ‘musings,’ and sometimes we feel like hapless salmon swimming upstream. Too many bands, not enough time, yadda yadda. So here’s a quickie from Los Angeles’s The Rebel Light, whom we’ve written about before. This means we can just plunk down their cool and catchy new single “Strangers” and be done with it, right? Right.
Here’s something sweet and serene for you to begin your Monday with. Transistor Girl, musically speaking, is tender on the ears — acoustic guitar, soft percussion and silky smooth vocals with gentle harmonies. It’s when you start listening to the lyrics that you discover something deeper and more melancholy. It’s mild-mannered, but don’t mistake this for “easy listening.” This is thoughtful, introspective music with well-crafted lyrics that seems just right for a rainy day or a dark night with candles glowing.
This lovely duo (Christopher Drew and Christophe Bugnon) are from Geneva, Switzerland and they’ve only been around since 2013. Being so new, they only have two EPs released — Treading On Flames from January of 2014 and their latest, Glorious, released that November. This most recent one was recorded with Alberto Malo (Sophie Hunger) on drums and Mauro Maur (Ennio Morricone) on trumpet. They’re currently working on their debut full-length album, due for release early next year.
Not exactly. After all, we already know this guy as the hyper-literate frontman of the wonderful Delta Spirit and one third of the “supertrio” Middle Brother. But Mr. Vasquez is striking out on his own now and like a wild stallion, has bolted out the gate fiercely with his first single “Everything I Do Is Out.”
When the man goes solo, he doesn’t mess around. Not only does he play all the instruments on this song. He also hand-drew the animations, shot and edited the video himself — and yes, all of those band members you see are him in different outfits. Reclusivity at its finest! Though that isn’t the case at all in his personal life. When Delta Spirit went on break, he returned to his hometown of Austin, Texas and he and his wife Marthe had their first child, Thor (how awesome of a name is that?).
Vasquez explained to Paste Magazine about his inspiration for this song: “‘This song was the catalyst for the whole solo project,’ he says. ‘The song is about my disdain for certain parts of (the) music industry and what it does to people. It’s also about maintaining the mentality that made me love rock ‘n’ roll in the first place. My only intention with this music is to play it in bars with my friends. I want to care less about caring at all.'” Indeed, the song is bursting with unbridled angst, freedom and determination.
The Austin EP which includes this fine and ferocious song was released last month and then followed by a 10-show residency in California. Limited edition vinyl is available at his official site. His debut solo album, to be called Solicitor Returns, is due out February 9, which can be pre-ordered from Amazon below. He recorded the EP by himself, except for a drum contribution on “Halfcolt” by Matt Aveiro (ex-Cold War Kids). From what we hear, this debut outing begins with an 18-minute track that the press release describes as “a psychedelic autobiography of sorts.” We can’t wait. For now, if you’re a Mac user, you can also order the Austin & Solicitor Mixtape Flashdrive. This very cool thing is the Austin EP plus music that he does not plan to release elsewhere, which means it’s a definite “must” for fans. You know what’s even cooler? This direct relationship with his audience, sans music business bullshit. Good job, Matt.
We’ll also mention the release party on February 9 at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, where he’ll perform songs from the debut along with Delta Spirit and Middle Brother material, playing with a new live band. Leading up to that, he’ll be doing a month-long residency in Texas, and apparently he’ll also be at SXSW and additional places to be announced. See dates below. But before you do that, check out this lovely tribute to Steve Jobs, with Matthew’s trademark lyrical sophistication. Bravo!
Matthew Logan Vasquez 2016 Tour Dates:
01/05 â€“ Houston, TX @ The Raven Tower
01/07 â€“ San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
01/08 â€“ Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
01/12 â€“ Houston, TX @ The Raven Tower
01/13 â€“ Denton, TX @ Danâ€™s Silverleaf
01/19 â€“ Houston, TX @ The Raven Tower
01/20 â€“ Fort Worth, TX @ Lolaâ€™s Saloon
01/21 â€“ San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
01/26 â€“ Houston, TX @ The Raven Tower
01/27 â€“ Dallas, TX @ Three Links
02/09 â€“ Brooklyn, NY @ Babyâ€™s All Right
If running down a never-ending track, climbing ceaseless steps and making your way through wild prairie brush seems to perfectly describe your Saturday so far, you’re bound to enjoy this new video from Elephant Stone for their single, “The Devil’s Shelter.” It features Alex Maas from The Black Angels as a guest vocalist and is directed by Elba Berganza. We’re taken through a dizzying montage of train tracks, stark landscapes and mysterious shadowy creatures. Musically, it’s just as fascinating and cryptic — a pulsating beat, a little sitar and off we go into a psychedelic journey with exotic flavors and bellowing, luminous ghosts.
Montreal’s Elephant Stone began in 2009 with sitarist and bassist Rishi Dhir, who has played with many artists including Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Black Angels, the Horrors and Beck. Their debut, The Seven Seas, was released that year and was nominated for the highly regarded Polaris Music Prize. It was followed up with The Glass Box EP in 2010, Elephant Stone in 2013 and The Three Poisons in 2014. Their latest release was ES3PRMX, which is a creative remix by their friends of the Three Poisons album.
Ready for some feisty folk music? That might sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t at all for London quintet The Sticklers. There’s a spunky, defiant enthusiasm in the vocals of Gabi Garbutt, who is a guitarist and a published poet. Her fire is nimbly matched by Lee Milward’s spirited violin and Chris Brambley’s melodic guitar lines. Propelling it along is the rhythm section of Tom Newis and Lorenzo Levrini. While the music is decidedly upbeat, lyrically it’s a bit more complicated.
Garbutt’s inspiration comes from literary musicians such as Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith. To hear her gutsy British accent on “Down By The Waterside” (the B-side of the new single, inspired by Malcolm Lowry’s novella Lunar Caustic) is heartwarming and for me, it adds power to her storytelling prowess. According to the band, “Breakfast In Hell” is a “magical portrait of two lowers in a damned republic.” In the official video, they bring to life a mystical (and to my eyes, kinda creepy) puppet party in the woods in the dead of night.
It’s quite a cohesive, sophisticated sound for such a new band. The Sticklers came into being in 2013 with the release of their Hold It Up To The Light EP. A series of shows around London was followed by the single Mr Need Love, with accompanying video filmed on a barge. Back in August, they released the song “Unhappy Family” and here we are with Breakfast In Hell. Need love, unhappy family, breakfast in hell — sounds like a troubling theme, but if you end up feeling a little sad, just listen to that fiddle and kick up your heels! It’s early days yet, so unless you’re living in or around London, you might have to wait a little while to see these kids in action. Follow them on Facebook and keep an eye out!
Upon first listening to the latest song from Philadelphia-based Manwomanchild, “Return to Ithaca” (on West Cortez Records) one might have the initial impression of a pleasant but instantly fleeting lighthearted ’60s ditty. That is, until the storyline floats to the top, which seems to be about the gentrification of Cambridge, watching as a wrecking ball comes down on a childhood home. The charm of this poppy and at times psychedelic ’60s sound, bringing to mind bands like The Byrds and The Zombies, is thrown off-kilter with the deceptively cheery-sounding lyrics that are anything but. Yes, that’s right, a Pennsylvania band lamenting about today’s Cambridge, Massachusetts in a song called “Return to Ithaca.” I’m not quite sure about this either.
Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David Child drives this band’s creative output, which at this point, consists of an EP, debut album and several singles. Sometimes, as on “The Telepath Returns,” the vibe is more psychedelic like early Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett. The lyrical sophistication, sharp wit and unexpected little touches of cynicism remain intact.
Happily, the more I listen, the more there is, and nothing is as cheery as it first seems. Even in “Lover’s Anthem” from the debut album, there’s the line “I must confess, I have been dreaming / All of this time I have been scheming.” It’s edgy and mildly disturbing, so feel free to dive right in!
The band formed in Rhode Island in 2008, moved to Chicago and released their debut EP that was recorded in Pawtucket at Machines with Magnets. The line up through the debut album release in 2011 was Child on vocals, guitars and synthesizers, Craig Gifford on bass and Mason Neely on drums. They made another move in 2013 to Philadelphia, releasing several curious and quirky singles over the past few years. Explore and support!
This may well be the strangest video I’ve ever seen in my life. If that’s enough to entice you, by all means continue on. Part dizzying gypsy sea shanty, part spaghetti western on hallucinogens, Seas of Mirth are a nine-piece rollicking juggernaut of marauders out to pillage your soul. They’ll do so with a captivating burst of strings, exuberant percussion and completely crazed vocals. If you’re a fan of the irrepressible Gogol Bordello (or a Frank Zappa aficionado), know that Seas of Mirth are noble compatriots. This video brings to light “the adventures of Glen Fingle, a forlorn old sailor who goes through hell and back locating his unrequited love.”
The news that they put on theatrical live shows will come as no surprise. This lead single “Esmerelda” comes from their recently released 3-track EP (on I’m Not From London Records), dedicated to “the trembling torments of love life at sea.”
This is merely a small taste of deliciously subversive things to come, in the form of a full-length album Hark! The Headland Approacheth, which is due out early 2016. Their instrumentation is a barrel of insane fun — various guitars including a Greek bouzouki, violin and cello, retro organ and accordion, drums and various other percussion and whatnot. They cite sounds and influences as diverse as rock, folk, gypsy, pop, prog, psychedelic and afrobeat. They’ve performed at many festivals such as Glastonbury, Alchemy, Edinburgh Fringe and Secret Garden Party, and at countless venues, especially around their home base of the UK’s East Midlands region. Paradoxically, much of the area is not at all on the open seas. Perhaps that accounts for the sense of mad longing and desperation. Or maybe it’s just girl (or guy) problems.
If you’re in the area, they have a New Year’s Eve gig booked in Leeds, and will be playing in Cardiff, Wales on January 15. Follow them on Facebook for more info. Ahoy, matey!