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Entries in New Music (7)

REVIEW - Widower - Fool Moon

And she and I would sleep on a boat

And swim in the sea without clothes

With rain falling fast on the sea

While she was swimming away, she'd be winking at me

Telling me it would all be okay

Out on the horizon and fading away

And I'd swim to the boat and I'd laugh

I gotta get me a Sylvia Plath

--Ryan Adams (“Sylvia Plath”)

TSE has been decidedly on a Ryan Adams kick over the last week and change (This was written a month ago. Whoops.). Therefore, I found it appropriate to frame this next new band, Widower, a folk band from Seattle, with a tip of the hat to poets. The great thing about this set of stanzas, to me, is that it’s not totally out of character for Adams’ writing, but it definitely forces some Plath celestial and Earthy imagery, giving it a Bell Jar scent, but doesn’t stray TOO FAR away from the songwriters wheelhouse. Much like what he did with Oasis’ “Wonderwall” philosophically. He made it his own, in a tributary sense, while creating something unique and unusual that could easily stand-alone.

The writing found on the Widower’s Fool Moon embraces this concept convincingly. There is a bit of songwriter introspective matter-of-fact searing the lyrics with a “this is real and off the cuff” sentiment, but mixing in some truly splendid alliteration, rhyming and flow—found mostly in renascence poetry. This brand of writing stuck out to me considerably, because, well, it’s exactly how I try to write. There were a number of moments when I would find myself aggravated that I didn’t write what I was reading/listening to. This happens all the time, but it doesn’t always feel organically like Spy vs. Spy or in this case Ryan C. Zerfas vs. Why isn’t this Ryan C. Zerfas!? That’s when the true frustration rolls itself out into admiration. 

I’m typically a lyric after sonically driven mood music-goer, but in Widowers case, I think it’s proper to let the lyrics take the forefront and let the music come in and move your emotions around, much like a movie soundtrack. Most of the songs on Fool Moon have attention grabbing starting points, right away, granting immediate urgency, thusly, the heart grab hinges on the words themselves.

The opening cut, “Jumper Cables” might be the greatest poetic masterpiece of our time. It’s a song that makes me say, “awwww” and instantly want to text the lyrics to my current crush. This time around, I was able to stop myself, mostly because I’m trying to concentrate on this piece of writing…

“Sometimes your heart's as shaky as a shopping cart

it's seen it's share of parking lots, it's been around the block

you're in the market for a marksman cause cupid's missed too often

the concern it must be causin', all the fools you had to fuck

and you're wrestling reality, it's a ferris wheel of feelings

it's the wings under your shirt you weren't aware of

and I'll play the patient Plymouth rock

to your pilgrimage, a thickened plot

and I'll take it upon myself to pick the lock, love”

--“Jumper Cables” 

SHOCK. AND. AWE. Is anyone else blown away by this? Are you seeing what I’m seeing here? 

Sonically, this song reminds me of “Harry and Bess” by Ferraby Lionheart, only the lyrics grip me in the same way that song’s melody did. When I first heard “Jumper Cables,” I found it to be pleasing, but not striking. After going back and reading the lyrics, everything was viewed under new eyes. Suddenly the pianos seem prettier. The guitar gently wept. The poet needs a beer and I’ll be damned if anyone in this dive bar will beat me to it. The blues chops hit the heart, and the percussion became a rowdy swarm of bees. Yes, it could happen to you.

I think “ferris wheel of feelings” will now be in my everyday vernacular. In fact, my Twitter currently, has a cover image of the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island, for basically the same linear thinking, but I didn’t have the words until now. I also love the alliteration on the opening “shaky as a shopping cart” and later on “in the market for a marksman, because cupid’s missed too often.” Just brilliant. I have a lock to pick, and when I get done with this piece, I’m(ah) gonna grab my tools and break it open on all them fools.

The Ryan Adams moment on this album (there is probably one on every album I review, no reason to avoid it) is “Thoroughbred.” It opens lyrically, with that matter-of-fact shucks, I’m going to shoot this straight—warts, vulgarities and all, “She’s given me hell, so eloquently/she resembles the devil, god dammit, so delicately/but this mess was effortless, it’s second nature, I guess/a dresser drawer of regrets, and the rest is history.”

Damn. 

There’s another quality line later on…

“oh how i long to be, sound asleep with you still next to me

you brilliantly breathe, your cherry-red cheeks and pillow marks

i was born, fragile and forlorn

i was tattered and torn, but that doesn't matter anymore”

 

Lyrically, it reminds me of “Wish You Were Here” with the sound of Cardinalogy, not a bad pedigree if you ask me.

I want to be a woman so a man can say this to me. Ok, that didn’t come out right, but seriously, how do you not melt when you read this? Hopeless romantics have a new lyrical standard, folks (though I am kind of using this chunk out of context). That third stanza is like a tight sleeping hug. Is there a better feeling? I like how the guitar and piano kind of trade the spotlight. The heavy guitar hand gives it this winding emotional grace and when the guitar quiets, the piano lends its own heavy hand, kind of like a camp “lean on me” game. Cross your arms and fall back into this song, it’ll be ok, I promise.

The depressing guitar of “Almost, Always, All Yours,” is reminiscent of Mark Kozelek in a punchier; it’s time to put this album to bed kind of way. The outro kicks in for the last minute or so of the song and just seems to gain volume like a set of late-night, out-of-place commercials. You go to turn the music down and realize it’s just a grand finale and you need to soak it all up. It’s not the guy in the question mark jacket showing you how to save your money, it’s Kevin Large & Co., trying to save your soul. It also, has a slight resemblance to The Wonder Years theme song. If there were a moment in all of music, to kind of sample something (I’m not saying they did), this would be the exact time and place. That mood grab is so clutch I can hardly stand it.

Fool Moon is an album (full of songs) precisely punctuated for a reason. I’m not sure I’ve seen an album with so many commas in the song titles, but when you read the lyrics, you realize you’re on a very specific, yet outwardly ostentatious journey of a piping hot wordsmith. Grow a beard like Walt Whitman shucking corn under a harvest moon. Cry in the rainy streets of New York like a depressed Ester Greenwood. Grab a beer at the Whitehorse Tavern with the ghosts of Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac. Somewhere the soul of Edgar Allen Poe is fist pumping Bon Jovi’s “In and Out of Love” with reckless reverse-remembrance. It’s ok, friends.

For every little bit love, and love-lost, borrowed from our sorrowful soul, deemed to be missing forever, buried in a hole. Our good friends music and poetry steal the sun, spin the Earth, give you rebirth and regenerate it right back. So, go on ahead, sit on a boat and laugh, someday, there will be, another Sylvia Plath.  

 

Fool Moon is available NOW! You'd be a fool not to get it, but I won't judge. It's your loss. Poetic bliss awaits and in a world where poetry is on Kindles, why not put some on your flippin' iPod, or whatever magical device that brings you your introspective music goodness. 

 

Widower Facebook – Bandcamp

Hopeless romantism isn't dead. If there's anything more romantic than reading Ryan C. Zerfas' blog of cataclysmic drivel, he will buy you dinner. Just put your favorite line in the e-mail title. Also, follow him on Twitter. He's quite sick of having less than 100 followers.

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REVIEW - Day Joy - Go To Sleep, Mess

Day Joy is plucking at my heartstrings. The Orlando, Florida band known for their brand of dreamy folk-pop with comparisons to The Decemberists, Radiohead and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (in the same sentence) has roped me in. Dave Grohl once said, “Give me some rope I’m coming loose,” and then one day my editor sent me an album with an elephant parading over some sort of volcanic structure with a rocketing moon exploding over the proceedings.

We all love the moon. I don’t know if I’ve seen it quite in the way Jim Carrey tries to pull it down from the sky in Bruce Almighty until the Day Joy album art brought it directly to my heart. Then, the majestic touch of the elephant (my favorite animal, soon to be yours?) making the cerebral Earth its own catwalk just makes me warm and tingly.   

Perhaps I’m coming loose, unraveling at the seams, but this is my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Much like the Earth, the creative warmth of the band starts with an inner core of two University of Central Florida students bonding over music in Spanish class. Peter Michael Perceval, a critic and music enthusiast in his own right (founder of culture blog the Dropp) and Michael Serrin, an Orlando singer/songwriter from locally renowned band An Introduction to Sunshine. Serrin has a classical background writing chamber pieces for recitals and working as a paid pianist, with a tortured indie folk demon nipping away at his soul.

Exactly as the album sounds, the correlation is parallel to the causation of the album art, with the catalyst for creation coming from a rooftop – a folk porch in the sky – the dynamic duo would literally step out a window, free themselves in the vast “sky is the limit” atmosphere, get lost, and find themselves into the genesis of what you hear today.

In the words of the band themselves, on Bandcamp…

Day Joy's music began from friendship and humble beginnings writing on the porch late at night in dreamy Orlando FL. It moved into the living room where it has developed into the lush and layered recordings you hear now with the help of some modest recording equipment and a little bit of liquor.”

They flushed out their sound by pilfering some bandmates from a Daytona Beach, FL band called Loud Valley (self proclaimed Panda Bear of Florida) and the bassist and studio owner from another Orlando band, friends of Loud Valley, Saskatchewan. Now a five-piece grounded in their Floridian roots, it all assembles an ensemble of all-star local musicians ready to devour a flight of “next steps.”

Go To Sleep, Mess is dreary, yet crisp, allowing itself to exist in a cleansing, cohesive dark cloud. There is typically a great deal going on in each song, whether it’s nature sounds, time changes, harmony shifts and/or complicated melodies, but within all of that, is an incredibly simple presentation. Much like the intricate dishes of Iron Chef once plated, seem like nothing at all, but the layers will unfold with effervescent grace on your palate, bubbling away like burning butter in a skillet. I liked the music right away, but it certainly gets better and more addicting with every listen.

My favorite song on the album is the sixth track “CCD,” which makes a classic “Band on the Run” triple transformation, without repeating onto itself. It opens addicting and similar to Love is Hell Ryan Adams’ “Afraid, Not Scared” (any TSE readers sick of me referencing this album?) and seamlessly shifts into a Pink Floyd layered vocal harmony in an echo chamber meets “Wordless Chorus,” finally culminating with a “Layla” piano-outro style carousel ride. Whew. That’s an exhausting sentence and an even more draining ride. The lyrics are dark and enchanting, reminding me of one of my least favorite, yet fondly suffering, memories as a blonde Catholic schoolboy going to CCD. I know for a fact there exists a harem of nuns (tasteless choice in words, but I love it…) in West Michigan that HATED ME. I did not take that shit seriously. Anyway…

The exhausting nature of “CCD” subsides, when it transitions into a surprisingly sexy and clear sounding “little pieces of your hair/on the edges of my bed...” from the most accessible song on the album, “Melting.” The chorus hook has a catchy “oooOOOooooOOO” cadence sounding tortured, but in an attractive way. The blend on the vocals is crisp like freshly sliced pears and just as sweet. It’s very sexy, like hooking up with someone you’re not supposed to, but you enjoyed it, thoroughly even though it was oh, so, wrong. So, the hint of regret is taken away by the magic and fun. I think it’s the moment on the album where the Orlandian (a word?) sun peaks through the dreary songwriter smog. From there, the rest of the album decisively decrescendos, taking advice from the title and “goes to bed, mess.” You’re at the apex of the 10-song daytime joy ride, and meanwhile, the next three songs will sheep their way over your dreamy fence.

Moving back up to the third track “Talks of Terror,” an interesting number that sort of channels a nature bound folk band I enjoy, Austin, TX’s, Shearwater. After a outdoor choir intro song “Animal Noise” (might as well be called Animal Joy) and a slow churning Neil Young-esque harmonica ballad, “Bone and Bloody” a slow snare beat flips into an angry wordless chorus, striking terror and putting the listener back on his/her respective heels. True to the name of the song, it’s a bit terrifying, but it lets you know to expect the unexpected. There is a great deal of range throughout the well-scripted chaotic journey of Go To Sleep, Mess.

It’s a tightly scripted masterpiece with a clear introduction, thick meaty body and a lazy river baby carriage resolution, rocking you to sleep in the warm Florida sun—putting those weary thoughts to bed.

If I had a pet elephant, once a day I would let it fill its trunk with 101-degree Epsom salt water and shower my mind, body and soul. That’s honestly the EXACT reason I’ve always wanted a pet elephant. Due to expense, nature, upkeep, the fact that my apartment isn’t big enough to house a runt-of-the-litter kitten…Go To Sleep, Mess will have to sustain me until my elephant dream allows itself to come to fruition.

As messy as my life is, as it is, I can live with that.

 

Go To Sleep, Mess is available NOW! Buy it or forever suffer from sleep depravation. No elephants were harmed in this creation, execution or future duration of the ideas presented in this piece. 

 

Day Joy Official – Facebook – Bandcamp - TwitterInsoundiTunes

Elephants are the best, right? So is sleeping and taking naps in the sun. Ryan C. Zerfas writes about all these amazing entities (along with music and sports) in his blog and on his Twitter. Now, grab a lemonade and read up! 

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REVIEW - Josh Kaufman - American So and So EP

The holidays are over. If you live in the north it’s bitter cold and football season has wound its way out like a broken watch. Springs fly out and crackle in the icy vein of frozen tears. Helpless kittens are purcharsing coats at Goodwill. Mice are asking the kittens for a loan. Cheese stock is at an all-time low. We all have to work together, people. 

If you’re a hopeless romantic like me, you’re on a constant quest of low-key music to cuddle to. Hypothetically you want a fireplace, but a candle will do. Believe it or not, I find this slice of majesty directly correlates with how depressing the music is. Hey, it’s a tough time of year, and snuggling is always better with an “Us Against the World” mentality of tenderness simmering into tight spooning. In the past, Ryan Adams and Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon) have been the staples of this vision, but today brings us a new offering…

Josh Kaufman’s American So and So.

In Kaufman’s own words, kicking off his Kickstarter, which was recently named one of St. Louis’ (where the album was recorded) “Top 10 Kickstarter projects of 2012” he has been “writing and recording music for years, but on this project I decided to go all in.” He later cited that he had sunk a great deal of his own cash (assurance to the donor of self belief in his proprietorship) as well, and was looking to garner $2,500 to pay session musicians and studio fees. He did so by collecting as little as $5 for a sticker or a package for $1,000 dollars including the sticker, the album on a personal “Josh Kaufman” flash drive with music and photos, a shirt, a recorded cover song of your choice, a personal show anywhere in the United States and an Executive Producer credit on the album—to which Kaufman referred (jokingly) “if you’re insane.”

And so brings us American So and So, a six-song EP that is focused, easy-going, candle-lit and really quite depressing.  In the past, I’ve thought of Kaufman’s music ranging between (Link: Bottom paragraphs) Love is Hell era Ryan Adams; Illinois and Michigan era Sufjan Stevens; with a pinch of a modern era Midwestern Beach Boy. For this album, he seems to have tuned into his inner Elliott Smith with the backing sound of a suicidal John Mellencamp. If you think this facetious description is insulting, you’ve clearly misunderstood me. If I could take XO and give it a poppy production and Americana bath of, say, Mellencamp’s “Cherry Bomb,” it would be like discovering bacon flavored Budweiser existed…and was AWESOME. 

If you listen to this kind of music, the Elliott Smith comparison isn’t a stretch, but you might be scratching your head as to why I’d bring up John Mellencamp. First and foremost, the title of the album, American So and So sounds like the title of a Mellencamp blues album (He chose “No Better Than This,” obviously straying from his tactical roots). Secondly, according to Kaufman’s Kickstarter, the album was recorded to 16 analog tape, mostly live, giving it a “classic sound.” Color me convinced.

The album plays full and rich, but the most notable thing about anything Kaufman records is his knack for melody. All the greats have it. He really knows how to boil anything (and everything) into something that's catchy and digestible for the listener, even amidst a plethora of instrumental intricacies he may or may not have going on in a song. It’s light on its feet, but it also packs a punch with depth of lyrics and field of folk-y, not folksy, goodness. Kaufman’s voice correlates well with the music, remaining calm, silky smooth, and able to convey cartloads of emotion with minimal strain. This quality reminds me specifically of Kozelek’s work.

The album opens with a nod to HEALTHY alcoholism, “Stick With This Disease” a song that could be the angel of alcoholism to Less Than Jake’s “Malt Liquor Tastes Better When You’ve Got Problems” devil of (alcoholic) despair. I relate to both. I’m literally involved in the former, writing this piece (only) a couple Blue Moon’s in at a local pub. That’s the way it should be. 

I love Kaufman’s line here…

It’s getting so much easier to find reason to give in

This street is littered with opportunity

I’ll be better later but lets celebrate relief

Oh Lord, I guess I’ll stick with this disease”

Living in a thriving neighborhood in NYC, I can certainly relate to the calling of bright lights and visions of possible debauchery and grandeur floating through my all too visual mind.

I also dig…

Oh I’ve said some things I shouldn’t have, wild and absurd

I’ve disappointed more than I can see

Oh it’s not a blaze of glory it’s a constant burn for me

If you’ve been drinking with me, you know why I relate to this so much. That feeling when you wake up and retrace all the stupid things you said. That lingering burn haunts you and can only be winced away, but, oh man, the fun probably out weighed the wincing, and that’s a nod to Kaufman’s self proclaimed loyalty to “setting the world on fire after two or three.” Well said.

The next song, “Novelty” is an ode to 2005 era Ben Folds’ Songs for Silverman, a slow piano ballad with a beautiful Pink Floyd vocal crescendo. Contemporary blues number in the style of John Mayer, “Starting at One,” could easily find its way onto a promo video for 2013’s Blues on the Mall lineup, a weekly blues festival in Grand Rapids, MI, where Kaufman is from.

“The Actor” is a literal answering bell for Ryan Adams’ early solo work with a painfully slow pace, epic lyrical beat down to the occasional uplifting up-chug dusting one off for the next challenge ahead. Smiles and cries, smiles and cries.   

Call me a raging fan of the big rocker on the album, “Talk About Love,” which again, channels Adams’ classic Love is Hell as a dark, dreary EP with a track #4 rocker, about the pitfalls of love. I feel sorry for whoever made the author of said sad-song essentially say, “Babe, you’re the reason I don’t want to talk about love.” We’ve all been there, but when it happens to me, I’m not able to lay it down with “Jack and Diane” soul-crushing candidness and a swingy backbeat.

Oh yeah, love goes on, long after the thrill is gone.

American So and So might make you want to slit your wrists, but like any good antifogmatic, it just might make you stronger—enough to brave the brisk winter chills of life, love and that frosty northern climate. In this painstaking season between the Super Bowl and March Madness, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Gulp. 

 

 

American So and So is available (on Bandcamp) right this nanosecond! Cuddle bliss awaits! Kaufman is touring the album starting in late February, just after Valentines Day. Check out his website (listed below) for more details.  

 

Josh Kaufman Official – Facebook – Bandcamp

If you want to snuggle up to Ryan C. Zerfas, the best way to start, is to read his blog and follow him on Twitter. If you do these two things, his confidence will swell and you'll be looking like a delcious snack, edible only by...SPOON! 

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REVIEW - Roadkill Ghost Choir - Quiet Light EP

I’m not entirely sure what a Roadkill Ghost Choir is? The picture in my head nods to a number of raccoons, rabbits, skunks (this was VERY bad), squirrels, a deer or two and a shit-ton of assorted bugs I’ve slain with various automobiles over the years. I know what it sounded like at the point of contact and of course my own cackling, fear (this was definitely the skunk), anguish or sheer terror depending on my mood. What I didn’t know is someday they would all band together and construct a beautiful orchestra of awesome for my headphones. 

That day is TODAY.

Welcome to Deland, Florida’s own Roadkill Ghost Choir. A band that’s manned half by a family of Shepard brothers: Andrew (vocals, guitar), Maxx (drums) and Zach (bass). Kiffy Meyers (banjo, pedal steel), Joey Davoli (keys, trumpet) and Stephen Garza (lead guitar) fulfill the remaining members of the indie-folk six-piece that cites Wilco, Gram Parsons and Fleetwood Mac as their biggest influences.

The vocals of Andrew Shepard sound eerily like that of Jim James and many of their vocal arraignments channel the omnipresent orchestra of Fleet Foxes. Fantastically founded in the forest, yet clouded in the gun smoke of a wanted outlaw. These scofflaws sing in tune, with the poetry of a fleeing renascence man.

The opening cut off their EP The Quiet Light released earlier in the Fall (9.24.12) is titled “Beggars Guild” and channels that fleeing outlaw spirit. It’s a hot-blooded folk stomper that runs with the devil, or in this case flubs with the Beezlebub. 

The song starts quickly and keeps a torrid pace, never really stopping for a chorus. It keeps the listener on their toes, like how No Country for Old Men sparked tension by not using a soundtrack for grotesquely long periods of time. It’s not necessarily a narrative in the way that “Devil Went Down to Georgia” is, but it certainly is a tale full of unbridled spirit and relentless energy.

My favorite part…

I'll burn my clothes and I'll gut my soul

 and pretend that I was never born (ayyyyah yeah). 

 Oh my oh my, look what you have done

 Split your head out on the floor like you’re the chosen one.

I gave her my heart but she wanted no part

so I sold it to an antique store.” 

At the sound of the scream, the horn section blares in and you’re just hooked. You can’t help but tap your toes a tad and think about simpler times of life, love, loss and of course, tumultuous tumbleweeds. The “choir” comes in to give the song a close (the omnipresent orchestra) and it seems cryptically like the devil is playing a harp and laughing in your face. Nonetheless, the hootenanny has been had, and everyone can go home happy.

The second jam, “Drifter” keeps with the outlaw spirit, but the MO is totally different. It’s more of a Neil Young & Crazy Horse long form rock song that could easily follow “Remnants” on Evil Urges. It makes me want to grab a tambourine and shake-shake-shake right along. The vocal crescendo is stunning. I really wouldn’t be able to tell you this isn’t a MMJ song blindly.

The backing choir chorus to “Devout” is chilling and reminds me of a polished Fleet Foxes, while “Tarot Youth” winds and dines like a late-era Wilco song. The EP closes with everyone around the fire for a stripped down “Bird in my Window.” Gram Parsons crackers, chocolate and marshmallows abound!

Basically, a plethora of song styles come full-circle in a short period of time. This band shows so much promise it’s sickening. If you like MMJ (solid bet on this site, ha), Fleet Foxes, Wilco, etc, etc, Roadkill Ghost Choir is a band to put a pin in. Keep a close eye. At this time I’m unaware of plans to record an LP (I would imagine they exist in the sand or stone somewhere) and right now they’re touring steadily throughout the Southeast. Somebody please go to one of these shows and tell me how it IS!?  

Screeching down the road in an F-150, yellow lines whizzing by like flashes of rubbing-eye pixilation, the future is so bright, the little helpless fawn I just ran over…was wearing shades.  

 

 

The Quiet Light EP is available TODAY. What in the WORLD are you waiting for? 

 

Roadkill Ghost Choir Official – Facebook – Twitter – Bandcamp – iTunes

Boy, that Ryan C. Zerfas is witty, and always leaves me wanting more? Where can I get more of this sexy, sexy man? More tales of road rage, music rage, Red Bull rage and other non-corporate sponsored drivel can be found on his blog. Of course you should also follow him on his Twitter.  

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REVIEW - Fall Classic - Nerves

Cinnamon is falling from the skies! The sound of crunching leaves cannot distract the pulsating feeling of cider through my veins. Yes, it’s the best season in the world. Not everyone has a “fall” per se, but for those kids in the Midwest it’s a crispy celebration of the effervescent wind chill off the Great Lakes. It’s not smog, folks, but more of a distinct haze that hugs you with hydration and cleanses the senses with apples falling off trees and college football marching bands. The drum major has the high step from right to left across your periphery, meanwhile, your lambs wool sweater is actually clean, stripped, and basking for the flirtation of changing leaves.

When I think of the phrase Fall Classic, I think of one thing: Football. The taste of my boiled to mold mouthpiece as a kid in pee wee football, while my plastic pads would clink like tin cans running along a frosty tipped field, brittle blades screaming in terror, waiting in anticipation of the citrus chill of half time oranges. There was nothing more delicious than those oranges, man. To this day, I continually try to slice up oranges and recreate the magic, to no avail. Delicious? Yes. The same? No.

I guess it never is.

Fall Classic, a five-piece rock outfit from Chicago, has tapped into that magic orange spirit. Listening to their album Nerves feels like an episode of “Gather Around” as the curly bearded man continues to unveil new trees, bees, shrubberies and countless other Earthy delights with a paintbrush. The soothing whispery vocals lead you down a gravel road to a log cabin that manufactures strawberry pancakes and toasted almonds. It feels relaxing, but I also feel the need to chop some wood for the fire while wearing a puffy brown vest and bright flannel.

Many of the songs on Nerves work just like that. They begin understated and downright drowsy and pick their moment to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The percussion is precise, patient and at times echoes like sound beams ricocheting off many different brands of tree bark. Ping-pong-ping. Airy and delicious like spreading apple butter with a whisk.

I feel this album was done so well, I want to take a “no leaf unturned” approach to sifting through it. It’s not too cold, yet. Grab a Woodchuck Fall Cider, take a load off and I’ll break this MONSTER down song-by-song. I may just knit you a blanket too!

 

Song by Song Breakdown

1.  I Built a Shell I

Classic Fall intro. It’s low-fi. Begins with a gentle guitar strum and a harmonizing “la-la-la” and remains eerily basic merging into the second movement.

 2.  I Built a Shell II 

The bass really kicks in hard and the intro teaser was a success. The full sound comes together and you realize fully that, for real, a shell has been built. La-la-la. The tone has been set and you begin to fathom what you’re in fore—something special. The credits have been forecasted and the show is ready to begin.

 3.  Stay

Starts slow, with a basic quasi-blues guitar riff for about 40 seconds. The first thing vocal you hear is background vocals, and finally a plain-stated, “Drink up dear/you know that I need this/I’ll speak until I’m speechless/tonight.” It leads me to believe this album experience is going to be open, honest, ever-flowing and in dire need of a gut check. About half way through the song, I’m sensing strong hints of Low Anthem with the worldliness soul of TV on the Radio.

 4.  Hearth

True to the namesake of this song, Hearth provides molten metal flooring giving a nice base to things to come. It’s a sexy, fiery-hot riff that eventually whimpers and croons, “oooooh, God, the things I do for you.” Then rollicks like a rubber boat in rapids through a big rock finish with swirling, frantic drumming and soaring vocals, adding a decrescendo to ice the wounds. It’s a tune that reminds me of the Head and the Heart, especially the use of background vocals.

 5.  A Sort of Satisfied

This song intros painfully slow and bluesy, like a Chicago version of Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker evening maintaining the PAIN. Adams is the master of making a song so slow, you want to hit fast forward, but you don’t, because the upcoming reward is immense. To the victor come the spoils. The song, true to my intro, builds into a fierce psychotic lick, chanting cryptically, “maybe I wasn’t enough for you/maybe love isn’t enough.” The background vocals almost seem snarky when hitting your ears with an, “ahhhhh” in a tone that says, “oh snap...no e-he-ee did-nnn-tt” I’m kinda-sorta in love with the diversity of the drumming throughout this song. They certainly explored the studio space.

 6.  Nerves

This is the first song that begins urgently on the album. It’s pretty intense. Spitting alliteration with rheumatic ease, before delving into a psychedelic sphere flipping the song upside down with a fist in the air, “when the Earth turns ugly/I need a drug to take hold of me.” I think most of us know that feeling. The song continues and builds in the mold of a Pink Floyd with more thrashing guitars and evocative primitive percussion. It’s probably the most marketable song on the album. 

 

 

7.  The Boy Who Wouldn’t Speak

All the sudden you find yourself in a carnival. I’m enjoying this trend in music to transporting the listener to the Scream Zone. All I can picture is that creepy circa 1900’s smiling face with the greasy salesman hair laughing at me. Mixing evil carnival with psychedelic folk and a ska up chugging is a ride I can always find a few nickels for.

 8.  The Last Word a Man Wants to Use

What a lovely love sonnet this is. I’m fanatical about the tone used emoting “desperate for YOU-OOO-UUU.” Succinct, not overdone, but it conveys the desperation intended. Again, the off-the-cuff style of the lyrics to state things in a stoic, matter of fact manner makes me smile. GD-it man, I’m desperate for more songs like this. As a man of many maudlin moments, pining, sulking, celebrating that…crave. It eats you up in a wonderfully ambitious matter of fact manner.

 9.  Brothers

This song EXPLODES off the page. This is a moment when you realize how fucking good this band is. I didn’t think they had this song in them, but it blows me away. My sailboat is in the air from the swirling wind. By far my favorite! The patience throughout the album erodes into this trial and tribulation rocker. The handclaps and thunderous drumming give the song real crick in my neck. It cycles and revolves around my headphones before tightening into a turrets wallop on the kit. It’s just a complete rock song through and through. Love, love, love.  

 

 

10.  Fear

Fear brings the tempo and excitement back down, with an echo-y blues groove. It’s simple and just what the doctor ordered to signal the falling action of the album. If “Brothers” was the charcoal lighter, “Fear” is the sound of the charcoals’ gray-ready-to-cook-ness. Hold your fist in the air soul brothers.

11.  Victim

“So I dance and sing like a GD fool!” This song creates a real distant soul. The vocals are soulful and urgent, while the guitar feels like it’s a 100-yards away as other sights and sounds combine to fill the room. Clinking bells, tumbleweeds and the occasional loon stop by to give it an Earthy texture. This song makes me want to leave my apartment immediately and grab a beer. Alone. I say that in the most awesome way possible. Grab the black button up, it’s slimming. 

12.  No No No

The closer. Another painfully slow build. The piano and occasional clinking bells build into a falsetto crescendo with soul by the boatload. Like Stevie Wonder meeting the elegant key plucking of Norah Jones. It’s beautiful, it’s classy, but, it’s not going to cost you a lot of money. It’s right here. You can’t make sangria with a glass of wine and a few sliced lemons. Go to the store and get yourself some fruit. Show some class. Let the dinner party commence. Game on!

 

Fall Classics’ debut album “Nerves” was released April 17th.

Fall Classic Facebook – Bandcamp

Ryan C. Zerfas sure loves his superlatives. Fall is the freekin' best. He'll be tweeting all season spilling ciderific propoganda about loud music, football and everything else that is GOLDEN. Seriously. 

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REVIEW - The Congress - Whatever You Want

When I started writing for TSE I was basically given a free-for-all creatively, but, with one little caveat—no politics. None. No exceptions. How I feel about it isn’t important, because I can’t comment on it anyway. This is about the music.

So, when my editor graciously pointed me in the direction of a Denver, CO band called The Congress, I couldn’t help but think of a Matisyahu rant from “Refuge” on Live at Stubbs, “we live in a world of fragmentation where the majority of the people don't appreciate or care about so much the person that’s running things, you know, at that time the king was the people, the king was the people, meaning that all the people were a part of the king, the king loved the people with his whole heart he would do anything for them, he was not just a politician you know, he was a warrior, you know, a general on the front lines, he would die for his people, he was a singer, a writer, a poet, you know, a real person."

Without any political connotations whatsoever, it’s easy to catch a grip on this message and seek refuge in things that are spiritually holy, without declaring any begrudging affiliation. Art. Music. Poetry. Story telling. Love making. Head banging, toe tapping and cleansing your soul through the necessary urges of mystic rhythms. It’s a tribal passion that everyone has a right to pursue with happiness.

Originally spawned from open mic nights in Richmond, Virginia, The Congress made a western shift to Denver, Colorado with a mission in mind. In an interview with TSE, bassist/poet/rocker/King Jonathan Meadows described it as, “the lost and dying art of owning your craft…touching your instruments…having a conversation with your audience.” Or, as Jack Black says via poetic transcendence in “Kickapoo” on Tenacious D’s Pick of Destiny, “a vision he did see-th, fuckin’ rockin’ all the time, he wrote a tasty jam and all the planets did align.”

Self described as a “power trio” bassist/singer Jonathan Meadows, guitarist Scott Lane and drummer Mark Levy are hitting the road, embarking on what Meadows termed facetiously, “the last American Adventure…everyday.” These guys will pound the pavement and make the American frontier their own, or die trying, and it’s tough not to circle the wagons around a spiritual mission of such an accord when the music is so earnest and sincere. In “Oh Babe” a schizophrenic apology ballad that shifts tempo’s from acoustic to doo wop to Pink Floydian right-to-left across your headphones big rock finish—with the kinetic jumble of shaking of a magic 8-ball (toy, not drugs…although…). Meadows muses, about such pavement, “hear me, darling please, I don’t want to do wrong have patience, sometimes I can’t lie I drink and act like a vagrant, yes I drink ‘til I meet the pavement.” The song sounds eerily like a mix of Pavement, At Dawn MMJ and the swinging evil carnival keys of Luna Park in 1907 just before the place burst into flames and the lion escaped from the pen.

Their debut LP Whatever You Want has been branded by the band as, “first and foremost a rock ‘n roll record” and hints at further elements of southern hospitality, outlaw country, soul, jazz, African-style American folk. It’s simple without being simplistic, yet layered without having to pay the stylist. This style of music fuses the relative ease of chewing Layers gum and with the greasy face of eating top-shelf fried chicken at the same time. 

Several times during the listening to Whatever You Want that I’m struck with that nostalgic bliss feeling I get from watching the Wonder Years. I’m not saying the songs sound like Joe Cocker, but some of the freewheeling guitar will take you place, a window, and/or a crevasse that will allow you to view that portal. It’s up to you if you choose to accept it, that mentality that says to me, “you know, find your space…and jam.”

 

Speaking of getting jammed, there is a song “Walls” which I can only imagine was written to be the lovemaking soul cry for the late summer season. Heck, use it in the fall. It’s sexy and thematic. Quintessential blues number “Impatiently” takes a slow methodical blues riff and rides it through an entire sunset walk on a long dusty road. I think I even found some gravel in my shoes. And in tone-setting track #2 (remember when #2 meant something?) rocker “Reason” the guitar solo is released like a jail break reminiscent of any Wilco live show, when the band just hands the show over to jazz sensation Nels Cline.  

My favorite song on the album is a bar storytelling anthem in the wake of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimmie Three Steps” affectionately titled “Jonah Gideon.” Though it has the southern flavor you’ve come to expect from The Congress, it sounds a great deal like Ryan Adams drank too much Red Bull and was then shot with a whale harpoon on the docks of the Carolina coast. And, while the “old house burns to the ground” you find yourself craving the soothing sea salts of the Atlantic Ocean. Then, you’ll dry off, roast marshmallows over the house and wash it down with an ice cold Harpoon IPA in a white Styrofoam cozy, which for the sake of this piece, represents the icy jams they’re laying down nation wide via a white road beaten van.  

It all comes together full circle. We have a band in The Congress that should play to TSE nation like a more grassroots, beer-swilling MMJ. You have a thirst for new music and more bands that are doing things for the right reasons. I’ve created the synergy, you further the buzz.

Come together now people—tell me this isn’t feather and ink iron-clad merrymaking?

Whatever You Want is available NOW. The Congress is currently on tour coming to a stage, bar, theater or any place that will has enough beer and a PA system, near you. Check ‘em out!

The Congress OfficialFacebook – Twitter – BandcampThe Congress

If you think Ryan C. Zerfas drinks too much Red Bull (like Ryan Adams?), jumping around to bouncy music, yet, you find yourself entertained by the writing, one can find more cataclysmic drivel on his blog

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REVIEW - Future History - Loss:/Self

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Politeness is a lost art, people don’t use it, they lose it, and then it flutters away by the wayside.  A trend Future History, a five-piece experimental rock band from Toronto, hopes to upend with their first full-length album, Loss:/Self. The first words uttered on the album are “Hello, welcome, what brings you here?” A noble question, welcomed by a thundering bass line sautéed over a driving six-minute intro song “Ornamental State” that finds vocalist Kevin Ker channeling the vocal whine of fellow Canadian Colin Meloy (Decemberists, Tarkio).

If Meloy were to ever join a Pink Floyd tribute band, you’d harness the sound of Future History. Self described as; “psychedelic love noise” wide assortments of arraignments are accompanied with urgent hooks and revolving percussion to capture a complete rock journey. This is not an album to buy in $1 dollar increments, song-by-song. That’d be like hiking the base of the Appalachians and looking at pictures from on goers taken from the apex. Poetry best digested in full, time and time again—a rare delight in the digital age.

Loss:/Self is a testament to pinpoint themes interwoven throughout an album that was intended to be a conceptual. It certainly digests that way. According to the band it, “eludes to the human relationship; technology, social or anti-social media, fear and the growth and dominance of the false ego over the true self.” That is certainly a relatable handful of quandaries to ponder in 2012.

My favorite part of this sound is the richness that unfolds from song to song. The album cover tells a tale of grayness, a road, and the inevitable country warm and tingly feeling you get by the sight of whizzing telephone poles. A feeling in the past perpetuated by Muse in Origins of Symmetry and this time around the Canadians aim for a plentiful bounty of emotional resonance. It’s deep, but accessible at the same time.

If you think I’m spouting grandiose drivel, let me back the sound up with impactful statistics. Loss:/Self was recorded over an eight-month span including stops in Montreal, New York City and other various locations in Ontario. The New York span was during (over-hyped?) hurricane Irene and the three-day weekend of chaos that ensued while the band was stuck in New York City. They used over 40 instruments and household items, including but not limited to a 35-person stomp/gang vocal/drum circle orchestra, and a sample of a whale, which consequently was on a wrong frequency ostracizing her from the other whales. A well documented story that seems too ridiculously progressive rock, not to be a fabrication.  

Sounds ponderous? Yes, but, in a good way. In a way that says to me, “these guys were on a mission to create something truly monumental.”

The true genius of any concept worthy, axle-to-axle album, is the placement of the singles. Future History marked tracks six and seven, or “(Don’t) Let This Go” and “Surrounded by Faces” as listening points to the curious listener (that’s how I define singles these days). This is directly in the middle of the album. Again, not meant to be single driven, but even Tommy had “Pinball Wizard!?”

“Surrounded by Faces” is a folk-less version of the Decemberists without a doubt. It reminds me of a game I used to play in college. Mind you, this was back around 2002, when everyone loved Weezer and downloading music was an everyday pastime, with the exuberance of anything technologically fresh. I would bring people into my room and tell them I had located some new Weezer cuts. I would play Ozma. People would get excited and ask me to send it to them. I laughed for hours and hours to myself. Ahhhhhh, those were the days.

“(Don’t) Let This Go” is a mid-tempo rock song that uses the effect of a slow roasting chorus. It reminds me of “Alice Childress” by Ben Folds Five with the deliciousness of that “tsss…ahh” sound Sussie Essman makes in Curb Your Enthusiasm when she takes a drink. It’s the kind of song I’d want to play at the end of a wine party, before going to play darts at a local pub. Something that kind of fades in the background, but holds a distinct, yet passive sonic fortitude.  

Loss:/Self is a remarkable statement for a band so early in their career. Bands typically attempt moves of similar grandiose nature when they get older, and bored, but for Future History it’s the start of something overwhelmingly beautiful. Adhere to my words: must have, must listen, must enjoy with a movie theater attention span. It’s a full multi-course meal amongst a sea of tapas.

Eat up, psychedelic rockers! 

Future History Official - Facebook - Twitter - BandcampFuture History

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