screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: April 2016 Page 1 of 2

Jaggery Takes Us to the Crux of the Matter

CREDIT: Matt Samolis

CREDIT: Matt Samolis

It’s a last-gasp attempt to be timely, to be sure, but I feel I must mark the occasion. A favorite Boston band — no, let’s call them a musical art ensemble — by the name of Jaggery is officially releasing a new album today. It’s called Crux. This evening, they’ll be hosting their record release party at ONCE Ballroom at Cuisine en Locale, with what will most certainly be a stunning performance by this wonderful group of musicians. Because, truth be told, I have yet to see a performance by them that isn’t stunning. And that includes the one at the dearly departed Church, which was done in darkness with people shining their smartphones onto the stage when the club suddenly lost power.

I’m listening to Crux as I write this. Beginning with Singer Mali’s ‘War Cry,’ like an eagle warning the planet of imminent catastrophe, the album embarks on a mysterious journey through jungles and tropical rain forests, deserts and savannas, open tundra and grasslands. Such is the breadth and depth of these musical passages, like unique, self-contained acts of a life-long, epic musical. I’m quite used to Mali’s playful, threatening, taunting and soaring vocals being jaw-dropping, but she has reached new heights (and depths) here. It’s the voice of a million colors.

The musical accompaniment provided by Mali’s exquisite piano and her insanely talented mini-orchestra — Daniel Schubmehl (drums, percussion), Tony Leva (upright bass), Rachel Jayson (viola), Dylan Jack (drums, percussion) and Petaluma Vale (harp, vocals) — is downright kaleidoscopic, begging for a thousand dancers to be flinging themselves around, under and over each other on a vast Broadway stage.

In this incomprehensible world we now find ourselves in, with so much discordant noise and nonsense all around, there are thankfully those extremely rare occasions of brilliance. Think of it as a tiny glistening diamond in a sea of shit. A sensible and sophisticated environment in endless rows of tacky used car lots and strip malls. And for that moment, as we behold that impossibly perfect gemstone forged from the chaos that surrounds it, against all odds, we are simultaneously taken out of ourselves and back into our center.

And that’s the crux of the matter.

video filmed by SKMDC777

Tour Dates

04/29 Somerville, MA — ONCE Ballroom — album release party
06/21 Kingston, NY — BSP Lounge
06/22 Philadelphia, PA — TBA
06/23 Baltimore, MD — The Crown
06/24 Washington, DC — 16th Street House
06/25 Reidsville, NC — Brad & Tammy’s Listening Loft
06/27 Indianapolis, IN — 10 Johnson Avenue
06/28 Chicago, IL — Martyr’s
06/29 Detroit, MI — TBA
06/30 Toronto, ON — Transaz Club, Southern Cross Room
07/01 Buffalo, NY — Hickory Sanctuary
07/02 TBA
07/03 New York, NY — TBA

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Introducing… Canadian punk band NO//LIARS

Have you ever wanted to thrash around a fancy mansion? If so, you’ll probably enjoy the video for ‘Catalyst,’ the featured track off the debut EP from Canadian punk band NO//LIARS. I’m not quite sure if their name implies an upstanding group of honest young lads or if it’s emphatic social commentary (which could understandly apply to the current state of the American political environment). Whichever it is, these guys let loose in a classy establishment replete with stained glass, works of art, tiffany lamps, marble fireplaces, wood paneling and what appears to be a turret.

And why not? These are classy guys. They’re Canadian, after all, and their head-banging, vocal cord shredding mayhem does incorporate some downright melodic moments and, dare I say it, actual soft harmonies and maybe even a bit of heartache. That’s because it’s a song about betrayal, and about ‘all the things that go through your head when you realize you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes by someone you trusted.’ But don’t you dare call them emo.

This powerful video was directed by Mike Morash, and NO//LIARS features Morley Grass (vocals), Noah Edwards (vocals, guitar), Eric Paone (guitar), Jonathan Graves (bass) and Mike Battle (drums). You can download the NO//LIARS EP on iTunes or stream it on Spotify.

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Introducing… Miner

It’s not always the best idea to go into business with relatives. However, in the case of Silver Lake, Los Angeles indie-folk band Miner, all that familial familiarity is put to good use in the form of tight, tuneful melodies and closely knit harmonies.

Miner began with husband and wife Justin and Kate Miner and Justin’s brother Jeremy Miner, joined by drummer Tobias Urbanczyk, who may or may not be an actual family member but probably feels like one by this point. Their debut album ‘Into The Morning’ (2014), which was self-released, led to a big national tour where they performed with bands like Sir Sly, Lord Huron, The Eels, Cayucas and Typhoon.

On their new album, Tunaki (released in February), they worked with Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, The Shins) in Seattle. The album sounds adventurous and expansive, with breathless melodies and those exuberant vocal harmonies that propel the songs to soaring heights. And as there’s nothing like a bit of family drama to provide added impetus to a creative project, during the recording process Kate was awaiting results from a blood test that would tell her if she was a carrier of Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic condition. The good news is that she’s fine and tested negative, and the sense of urgency and focus shows in this finely honed, lush music that blends the vigor and ‘citizen of the world’ quality of Local Natives with the traditionally-minded warm indie folk of The Lumineers.

They’re currently touring, and will be hitting the East Coast toward the end of May. Catch them if you can! In the meantime, you can purchase Tunaki on iTunes.

Spring 2016 Touring/Festival Dates

May 15: Austin, TX @ Empire Control Room
May 17: Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey
May 18: Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
May 19: Louisville, KY @ The New Vintage
May 20: Asheville,NC @ Sol Bar at New Mountain
May 22: Washington, DC @ Black Cat
May 23: New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
May 24: Boston, MA @ Great Scott
May 25: Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
May 26: Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo
May 27: Muncie, IN @ Be Here Now
May 28: Chillicothe, IL @ Summer Camp Music Festival
May 31: Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
June 1: Madison, WI @ The Frequency
June 3: Milwaukee, WI @ Club Garibaldi
June 5: Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center
June 9: Reno, NV @ Peppermill Casino
June 10: Reno, NV @ Peppermill Casino
June 11: Reno, NV @ Peppermill Casino
June 18: Davis, CA @ Davis Music Festival
June 24-26: Rothbury, MI @ Electric Forest Festival

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Introducing… The Relevant Elephants

If you’re looking for deep revelations and the answer to life, you likely won’t find it in the music of Boston-based The Relevant Elephants. But that’s OK sometimes. If you’re looking for an entertaining diversion or you’ve got an itch that can only be satisfyingly scratched by some loud, raucous screaming guitar and pounding bass and drums, part alt-rock ’90s and part classic Led Zeppelin, then these guys can help you out. Lyrically (because we’re all about that here), there are definitely some tongue-in-cheek Weezer moments here (“Allston and Brighton are for Drinkin’ and Fightin’,” “Starving Artist,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band”), but it’s cleverly done and the the highly evolved and sophisticated gonzo musicianship brings the proceedings to a higher level than just throwaway novelty songs. These guys are reverent in their irreverence.

The Relevant Elephants came on the scene with their debut EP back in the spring of 2015, hitting places like New York, Detroit and Chicago with live shows, in addition of course to the Boston area. They released their debut album, Paper Walls last month, and it certainly didn’t hurt that Stephen Colbert name-dropped the band at a Q&A session. The band features Zack Hankins on vocals and guitar, Adam Khalil on bass, Mack Suhre on drums and Drew Lucas on lead guitar and vocals. They’re currently collaborating with visual artists from TV shows “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Archer” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” so keep a lookout for plenty more to come.

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Introducing… Le Riche

I find this song from Newfoundland-based LeRiche somewhat sad in its quiet resignation — but perhaps I shouldn’t. ‘Bury Me’ is an introspective ode from the musican to his lover, or so it seems. It starts out deceptively simple, a softly strummed acoustic guitar accompanying a wistful voice, but it soon swells in full orchestration. The more instruments that join in, the more hopeful and joyous the tidings. And that’s despite the musician gives his lover instructions to dress him in some nice clothes for his last show. Wow, bittersweet.

“Bury me with my guitar
I may never become a star
but it’s all that I know, all that I know.”

This newly-released song is from LeRiche’s forthcoming EP called ‘Quiet Steady,’ which is due out in the summer. The artist calls it ‘a song of self-sacrifice.’ The cover art of the EP, plus footage and images from the video, feature his home town, Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. The meaning behind the confusing EP image of the town and its water reflection, inverted, is that ‘sometimes beauty is beneath the surface’ and ‘we need to look beyond our reflections to see that.’

The 22-year-old started playing around with a guitar as early as the age of one, and has also tried his hand at piano, bass and drum, settling into singing and songwriting as his passion. After performing in local venues around Newfoundland, representing Canada at Global Village 2012 in Qatar and working in summer repertoire theatre, Theatre Newfoundland and in Labrador with The Gros Morn Theatre Festival, LeRiche put out his first release, ‘Rain.’ It includes accompaniment from a string quartet, percussion and the sound of falling rain through the open window of his Toronto recording studio.

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Introducing… Hanna Bech

photo by Michael Canton

photo by Michael Canton

At first blush, the upbeat quirkiness of Canadian Hanna Bech and her personable brand of pop music is somewhat reminiscent of Ingrid Michaelson, even down to the ukulele. In addition to the irressistable charm of the uke, Bech’s new video for “ABCs” features sign language, lips singing, a Sesame Street nursery rhyme delivery and plenty of whimsy.

This song is off Bech’s debut EP, Naked Bones, which is set for release on May 13. Other songs on the upcoming release (such as the title track and the very intriguing “Tidal Wave”) have a darker undercurrent and a more complex weave. There are also some lovely strings that make an appearance, and she delves into darker and deeper waters as it goes along. Overall, the EP feels like musical theater, with some dramatic moments. She describes her debut as “a quirky album that is serious about playfully exploring the darkness and hope we have within us.” Creating fun, lighthearted music is her way of dealing with her own anxieties and other health issues, and it’s her hope that it will help others as well.

Her instruments of choice include vocals, piano, trumpet and ukulele and quite likely, anything else that crosses her path, such as tables, chairs and her own body percussion.

Follow Hanna Bech and be on the lookout for her debut!

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Introducing… Meeka Kates

Meeka Kates’ latest single, “Wild,” tells the story of, in his words, “a rather ill-fated romance and a girl looking for an escape, perhaps willing to let herself be deceived in the hopes of finding one.” It’s catchy and danceable in a minimalist way, but with a smarmy sort of undercurrent in the lyrics, sung with a smooth-as-silk delivery that effectively puts across the slickness of a fast-talking hustler.

“Empire (Feat. Allen Ginsberg),” released earlier this year, is quite an inspired collaboration and very nicely put together. It’s the sparse bass and percussive instrumentation plus his smooth vocals and savvy harmonies that makes this music hypnotic and irresistable.

He seems to be based in Melbourne now, though he gives his hometown as “New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Lyon” as well. He has two more EPs scheduled for release in the next few months, plus a few features, so follow him to keep up with what he’s doing.

And here’s something really cool that I came across, where Kates gives Ol’ Blue Eyes a run for his money, with the help of a loop pedal. Nice.

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Introducing… Russell Morgan

Smooth and gentle on the ears, the music of Russell Morgan is the perfect way to slide into your morning or as the soundtrack for relaxed weekend lounging. This sophisticated musical fare merges acoustic folk guitar and piano with sleek, soulful singing and subtle electronic touches that add texture to his sound.

This song is from Morgan’s new album, Begin Simple, which is due out on May 13 on Ray Recordings. His songs and his style of singing are genuine and straight from the heart. Collaborator Filippo Gaetani was responsible for introducing new rhythmical and electronic elements to Morgan’s folk roots, and the video was recorded and filmed live at Wilddog Studio in Vienna during the album’s production.

Based in Cheshire, UK, Morgan’s first album was Surrender (released in 2011). He explains the inspiration behind “You Don’t Feel”:

“Sometimes I can struggle with my writing process, I have to be sincere to myself. You don’t feel represents being true to that ideal. Without a passion you don’t feel.”

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Introducing… Asaf Avidan

Currently on tour in the U.S., Israeli singer songwriter Asaf Avidan is a revelation. With his astonishing voice, he conjures legends like Dylan, Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday. Truly mindblowing. I’ll let the music speak for itself.

His most recent album is Gold Shadow.

US Into The Labyrinth Tour

4/17 Sun – ICA Theater, Boston MA
4/19 Tues – Lincoln Hall, Chicago IL
4/20 Wed – Bimbo’s 365 Club, San Francisco CA
4/22 Fri – Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles CA
4/24 Sun – Rough Trade, Brooklyn NY

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Matthew Logan Vasquez – Solicitor Returns

Something ominous advances from just over the ridge. It’s a steady, persistent piece of machinery that’s demanding to be heard. Vasquez describes the 1:38 prelude of the title track of his new album, “a sonic palate cleanser.” And it’s immediately clear why we needed that forceful call to attention–and why Vasquez needed the full cleansing that came along with moving his family back to his early stomping grounds of Austin, Texas, (and ultimately perhaps) why has has embarked on his first ever solo album, Solicitor Returns.

Throughout this intensely personal and muscular record, you’re struck by both its brazen ferocity and its delicate intimacy. I wouldn’t call it a complete departure from his work with Delta Spirit. It’s more emphatic and gentler; both grittier and dreamier and all the while, with the poetic poignancy of a classic troubadour that has always been Vasquez’s calling card. This introspective album is like his musical diary for the past several years, and it barrels out like hot lava flow that has been building up, craving release.

For the full article and interview, see Ryan’s Smashing Life.

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