musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

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Examining the Mind Debris (and discovering a new band)

Photo Credit: Alejandro Avila Gasperin

Photo Credit: Alejandro Avila Gasperin

“Mind Debris” would be a good way to describe the state of my mental health after the past few years of world events. But Mind Debris is also the name of a pleasantly dreamy Boston-based indie rock band who creates an airy and mind-expanding atmosphere that’s laced with psychodelia and inspired by bands lke Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, UK band Temples and Houstin 3-piece Khruangbin. Mind Debris’ latest release is the Endless single, featuring the lovely compositions “Eons” and “Echoes.” Lyrically, they tackle some deep topics, and musically, it’s pretty and seemingly smooth on the surface, though upon further listening, more complex, layered and nuanced. Much like life itself.


Endless single (Eons / Echoes)

Endless is about the intangibility of knowledge inside and outside of oneself, although it’s overwhelming to be standing in a cloud and not ever be able to fully hold it, nor understand what stands outside of it, it’s completely harmless. – Mind Debris

Mind Debris is the songwriting and production duo of keyboardist Diego Valencia and guitarist Michael Beckhart. They met as students in Boston, bonding over their shared Mexican roots. Their debut EP album, Towards the Sun was released in April of 2018, and is a concept album that examines the philosophy of stoicism, with themes of introspection, duality, and the conscious and unconscious self, explored through metaphors found in nature.

He’s gone and found himself astray
Chasing melancholic dreams
Trapped but flowing in a scheme
– This is Water

Have you ever felt like that? I know I have. This is the sort of music that can be enjoyed and appreciated on various levels — as a gentle and relaxing soundtrack to unwind with after a stress-filled day with an endless barrage of stimuli, or as a deeper contemplation of life’s meaning and value. It’s a way to realign with that which is at our core.

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EllaHarp’s Crazy Blues Harp Skills (and it’s not what you think)

photo: Coen Rees Photography

photo: Coen Rees Photography

When you’re in the mood for some low-down, toe-tapping blues with a solid walking bass line, I’ll bet the first instrument that comes to mind isn’t a harp. EllaHarp a.k.a. Ella Dawn Jenkins, is about to change that. She’s a San Francisco based singer-songwriter and blues harpist extraordinaire. And by “blues harpist,” I don’t mean Paul Butterfield or Sonny Boy Williamson. I mean that ancient instrument you might hear on a new age recording. On “It Ain’t Working,” EllaHarp’s supple, seductive voice slithers its way through and around her exquisite mad harp skills to brew up some serious voodoo magic.

If you think that glorious instrument is unlike any angelic and pristine harp you’ve ever come across, you’d be right. She designed it specifically for the purpose of bringing the music in her head and heart to life. In so doing, she’s pushed the medieval, stately harp into places it has never been before — to stunning effect.

Since independently releasing her debut album, Who Asked You Back just last year, EllaHarp has performed more than 100 live shows, including Bay Area festivals and radio, The Bitter End in New York City and an opening spot for Grammy Award singer Mye at Music Box in San Diego.

This amazing debut album is the culmination of 10 years of songwriting both in Scotland and Los Angeles. You can stream her album on Spotify or Bandcamp.

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Germination

Starting from a seed, carefully (obsessively) tended.
Can a new plant die from over care?

Suffocation; not allowed to grow by itself.

No trust in the natural order of things.

Fretting and worrying
stunts natural growth.

And yet, I am so halting —
and feel so very fragile.

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AKUA makes an ‘Offering’ in loving memory of her father

AKUA

AKUA (Akua Carson), a Canadian artist of Ghanaian descent, occupies the space between grief and sacredness in her quietly stunning album Them Spirits, a loving tribute to her late father. In “Offering,” she tries to make sense of the loss, and through the drifting music and her ethereal voice, the song becomes a chanted prayer.

my grief is seeping like sap
watch as my heart it falls in my lap
like some ugly offering
though it don’t make sense an once to me.
– Offering

Just months after losing her father, AKUA was asked to tour with Solange. After years of performing on some of the largest stages in the world, it became apparent that she had not faced her grief. She returned to writing songs and producing music to process this profound loss. What came from her period of self-(re)discovery has been captured on this intimate and reverent debut album.

The music was recorded in various places in Canada and Los Angeles, and the album was written, recorded and produced by AKUA. A self release, the album features musical contributions from Daniel Aged, Sam Wilkes and Mocky. AKUA is currently based in L.A.

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Rob Harris Examines an Old Wound in “Face of a Cherokee”

RobHarris

The plight of the indigenous people is an old story, part of the sad fabric of American history. And unfortunately, it is a story that continues on underprivileged reservations — rampant poverty, lack of opportunity, opioid addition and everything else that comes with a general feeling of hopelessness. UK singer songwriter Rob Harris tells this classic tale of persecution in artistically designed and deeply affecting animated video for his song, “Face of a Cherokee.” The animation is by Ashley Miles of Hot Frog Animations.

With echoes of her pain
cries out to the valley below,
what is to become of us?
– Face of a Cherokee

This song is the first single from his upcoming album, Blue Sky Morning. The song itself, while specifically about the Cherokee Indian tribe, is a strong statement against prejudices and hostile actions against all minorities. In the video’s notes, Harris describes the underlying motive behind the persecution as being “To unite a larger dominant group in their hatred of a minority and provide the opportunity to steal their possessions and land, and at same time deprive the minority group of the freedom to practice their religion or culture.” Hm, quite a lot of that going around today.

Harris envisioned that this song, with its simple and straightforward lyrics, could be sung by school children, which of course is the time when prejudices first become woven into a person’s character. His awareness of prejudice towards minorities (religious and racial) began an a young age. What he learned from history mirrored the real-life experience of his ancesters in Europe.

Musically speaking, the native drumming and backing vocals, the sound of horses’ hooves, gentle acoustic guitar and compassionate singing and powerful electric guitar — it all contributes to the raw emotion of the storytelling and is very effective.

Harris has been writing lyrics and playing guitar and drums since his early teens. In college, he studied anthropology, sociology and the history of modern art, leading him to where he finds himself today. It all makes sense. Today, he runs a video and visual communications company, and when his son started playing guitar, Rob found his interest in music rekindled.

One major theme of his new album is how people draw on their inner strength to cope with various mental challenges they face in their lives. He supports UK Charity Young Minds, an organization that helps kids with mental health issues. He’ll be donating 50% of proceeds from the album to this worthwhile charity.

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The Frustration of Groundhogs

As things become unsettled

As things become unsettled

Digging through from his underground lair early in the spring,
tired and hungry,
only to find a new structure in place,
and nothing as he remembers it.

Working hard, trying to dig through the clutter in her life
and the messy knots of dissatisfaction,
trying to find optimism, enthusiasm and light,
only to find herself at a dead end.

They must both go back underground and seek out a new direction.

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Why Another Asks Why (the answer is complicated)

Uncertainty, impermanence and the oppressive passage of time — a hungry wolf that chases us down like prey, always vicious and never relenting. Or maybe it’s just me.

Boston’s Why Another takes us down a winding road of wistful inquiry and existential angst with their recent single “Why,” from their ambitious self-titled debut album.

So pretty, so sad. The album begins with somber piano, spirits drifting on the winds and quiet contemplation. As the pace picks up anxiously with visits from electronic demons, the band addresses some of those topics that we’re not supposed to obsess over. You know, like death, anxiety, depression, getting lost (either in a physical or spiritual sense). I often dream that I can’t remember where I parked my car, so I can completely relate to “Only at Night.”

The song “Why” ask those difficult questions and doesn’t really leave us with any definitive answer. As frontman and lead singer Adi Malka explains, “‘Why’ was written about a former band member who made me ask myself questions I’ve never asked myself before in my life.”

The mood ebbs and flows, from serene and melancholy to emotionally distraught, taking the listener through the human plight of chasing after peace and well-being, flailing from the inside, trying to get out of our own heads.

There are no more questions
No one knows what to ask
It feels far, we’re so behind
The answer’s already passed
— I Don’t Mind

“Of Forests and Seas” is a welcome respite from the restless overthinking, and it settles peacefully in the mind like a soothing balm.

The album stretches out luxuriously with gorgeous string arrangements, snippets of screaming or scurrying or dreaming guitars, ambient atmospherics and swirling percussion (such as on the stunning “The Secret” and the complex, overarching and beautifully untamed “The Air”) — it’s quite an adventure.

My street at night
Is full of animals
I clearly
I clearly don’t know how to appreciate what we have
— Here They Are

Why Another’s members are from around the world, though they’re currently based in Boston. They combine a searing rock energy with ethereal electronics and sophisticated composition. The band features Malka on drums, guitar, piano and vocals; Jordan Kerr on guitar and background vocals; Pietro Gennenzi on bass and Armando González Sosto on guitar, keyboards and computers. On this album, they’re joined by a very classy string quartet, and it all works beautifully.

You can purchase the ditital album (name your own price) on Bandcamp or stream it on Spotify.

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Who Was Kyle Yorlets? A Sad Tale from a Dysfunctional America

Kyle Yorlets

Kyle Yorlets

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, when I came across this news headling — “Teens Charged in Shooting Death of Nashville Musician.” Sadly, people are murdered all the time in the U.S., and typically it doesn’t go beyond a local news story. This time, however, the story was so sad and so shocking that it was picked up by national news outlets.

The victim was 24-year-old Kyle Yorlets, lead singer of Nashville pop/rock band Carverton. The group first formed in the summer of 2014, when Yorlets and Michael Curry, both from Pennsylvania, moved to Nashville to pursue their musical dreams. They hooked up with Michael Wiebell and Christian Ferguson, and created a sound that blended rock, indie pop, pop punk and hip hop. Releasing their debut EP in 2017, they would go on to perform at the Firefly Festival, open for various bands, and were starting to make a name for themselves.

Tragically (as if the rest of this story isn’t tragic enough), they had just finished the debut full-length album, Chasing Sounds, which is set for release on March 29. The official video for the single, “Wildside,” was just released a month ago. Yorlets said about the album, “We hope our music can be both relatable and encouraging to those who need it. Life is crazy and unpredictable, and we want to portray that in our music.”

Life got especially crazy and unpredictable last Thursday, when five kids, aged 12-16, robbed and then fatally shot Yorlets outside his Nashville home. They had stolen his wallet, and when he refused to hand over the keys to his vehicle, they shot him. They were apprehended at a Walmart with stolen guns and a stolen pickup truck.

The mother of one of the young perpetrators blamed the shooting on “a failure of the system.” She claims that her family reached out for help with their troubled teen, but didn’t get any. That may well be true, but what exactly happens to kids that young to make them so angry and so full of hate that they no longer value human life?

Robbing someone is one thing, as is the ridiculously easy access to guns (how simple is it for children to steal guns in Tennessee, I wonder?), but to shoot someone at close range is quite another. Blind violence such as that doesn’t occur until a person is past all hope and beyond all reason. Mental illness may account for a single person committing a senseless crime, but five people, and young kids at that, committing murder together? That can no longer be blamed on mental illness, unless the entire world has gone mad.

The crimes of a child should be blamed, at least partially, on poor parenting. But it has to be thrown at the feet of American society, as well — not just the gun culture, but widening income inequality, rampant poverty in a land of plenty (for some) and a sense of hopelessness among the disadvantaged. Until all of these issues are seriously addressed, I can see no hope for improvement, and I feel just as badly for those confused, angry kids as I do for Kyle, his friends, bandmates, fans and family.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched for Kyle’s parents, Pennsylvania dairy farmers, to help them with funeral and travel expenses. The money will also help keep their business running while they deal with the unpleasant task of burying their son and settling his affairs in Nashville. They have stated that any leftover funds will “go towards scholarship opportunities arranged by the Yorlets family in Kyle’s honor.”

Kyle’s band released this statement:

On February 7, 2019 we lost our brother, best friend, and bandmate Kyle Yorlets. We are in a state of shock and are having to grasp the reality that is now in front of us. We are heartbroken. Our condolences for his family and loved ones and all the lives that he touched. We will never forget Kyle, and though he is gone too soon his legacy is here to stay. We thank you for your support and will talk to you soon.
Love,
Michael, Christian, and Wiebell

Because this is a music blog, at least part of the time, it seems fitting to end with some more of the band’s music. May we all find a way out of this darkness.

Carverton: web | facebook | twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud | spotify | youtube | Listen To / Purchase Their Latest Single

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The Furry Climate Change Denier

Jason Cohn/REUTERS

Jason Cohn/REUTERS

After the Arctic warmed,
after the polar vortex lost its way,
after -30 degree temperatures in Chicago,
after three feet of snow in one day in upstate New York,
after 121 degrees of heat and wildfires in Southern Australia,
after torrential rain in Queensland, the Alps and the Himalayas —

Punxsutawney Phil came out of his hole
and proudly proclaimed
that there is no such thing as climate change.

Punxsutawney Phil is wrong
61% of the time.

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The Deep Philosophy of Bony Macaroni

BonyMacaroni

We’re just a month into this fresh new year, still ripe with promise! Do you already feel like putting on some emo music and curling up on the couch in a fetal position? Well, here ya go, then. It’s Bony Macaroni, an unlikely name of a self-loathing bummer band if I’ve ever heard one. They’re from Amsterdam, which seems like a pretty nice place to be so miserable, but that’s probably presumptuous on my part. We’re humans — we can be miserable anywhere.

And with that as an introduction, here’s their third single, “Bony The Philosopher.” The video is by Leon van Engelen.

what’s the commotion ’bout finding that ocean
i paddle along, but i don’t long for god
i don’t fear the water, i don’t fear the father
but, i hope there is meaning, i miss that a lot
– Bony The Philosopher

This cheery ditty, along with its close friends, the bouncy and forlorn “Piece of Shit” and “Doom,” can be heard and enjoyed on the trio’s bandcamp. Any band that names their debut single “Piece of Shit” deserves close listening. This triptych of musical delights forms their debut EP.

Bony Macaroni is Stefan Bonestroo on guitar and vocals, Rik van der Muelen on guitar/vocals and Jeroen Dammers on bass/vocals, with Job Zijlstra on drums/vocals. And if you plan on being in Amsterdam on February 22, you can attend their EP release party at Cinetol.

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