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Entries in Ryan C. Zerfas (7)

REVIEW - Fall Classic - Man/Other Beasts

Fall Classic had so much fun with their debut, Nerves, they’ve decided to return just a smidge beyond the calendar year for a wildly animalist follow up, Man/Other Beasts. Though released in April, I didn’t get my hands on Nerves until the apex of the fall season, and decidedly, wrote an overtly thematic review AS FOLLOWS. It came a bit of a surprise to me to receive a new album so soon, in that seasonal mindset, seemingly a tad early. Can you imagine if football season just decided to start mid-Summer, instead of waiting all the way until September?

People would lose their respective shit!

Man/Other Beasts deserves that kind of overwhelming pandemonium. What!? Another Fall Classic album? It’s too soon? Is it too soon? It’s been over a year? What about the sophomore slump? If they have the material, they should truck on, right? What more could one want from a young band. Take that honeymoon creativity…to the moon?

I think that’s what we have here.

The sexy, basking in the wilderness’ visceral glow, follow up to Nerves really builds off the kinetic energy of the Chicago quartets debut. Their sound seems whittled, concise and battle tested—sharp enough to kill. Schematically, the album breaks itself into it’s own double-edge sword, with each singer, Ryan Jeffrey and Andrew Fatato, taking half an album, with an outro to the albums self-proclaimed climax (“we’ll never survive on the fox’s share…”) thriving as the continental divide.

The divide works, as the singers have their own vibe and, of course, competing concurrent strengths, thinking well of Outkast’s Speakboxx/The Love Below’s dueling banjos. The first four songs feature Jeffrey’s kind of worldly sounding, raspy, sultry, vocals of cascading patience. Meanwhile tracks six through nine, feature Fatato’s more slicing with serrated sleekness crooning, in the vein of Blind Faith era Steve Winwood. His vocals are obviously not that high, but following the throaty ease of Jeffrey’s delivery, his songs tend to soar like they are pouncing their way out of the speakers, like salmon spawning downstream.

Much like its predecessor, Man/Other Beasts seems to stick with a theme and roll on through the safari. There is a palpable, animalistic rawness through all the songs, titles, themes and cover art that secludes the listening experience to a disclosed Fall Classic island. A portal you’re going to enjoy, because you’ve been transported away from all the trials and tribulations of modern life. Now, all you have to do is make some weapons for hunting, build a fire and construct shelter for the evening!?

This tone is set with the albums opening track, “Bones and Blood,” a song that harmonizes the self-aggrandizing image of cutting holes in the sun, while waxing the realist propaganda that we, as humans, are just bones and blood. It’s simple, but a prophetic tune that spins the flywheel enough to turnover the engine. At the very least, one finds their feet pattering against the wet sand pictured on the albums’ cover art. You might even be able to hear an Anthony Kiedis mirage caroling about how you don’t form in the wet sand, but he does. Man/Other Beasts sure as shit does. Well, It doesn’t matter, when you have a head that is half fox, half lion—the curtain on your deserted beach safari stage has risen, friends. 

The first single, and wedged anchor of the album, “The Lion” is the quintessential Fall Classic song. It opens sardonically, with a jabbing, “don’t dig your spade in me/shake the hope that I will be your foundation” before wallowing, “…and I will let you down/dooooooooown/I will let you down.” It has a troubling drum line, like there is a trial in the wild, and there is rope and a fire—somebody is going to roast, tonight!? The patience of the song is the patent of Fall Classic. About three-and-a-half minutes into the song, the chanting, yet marketable, “we’ll never survive on the fox’s share” presents itself, repeats itself, trademarks itself and then crescendos climatically on the strength of Christopher Grandberry’s whirlwind percussion. One might find themselves reflecting on the incredible journey they just took. It then forays further into an outro to the song titled simply, “/” the albums pivot point, and there is a beautiful acapella sequence, harmonizing Jeffrey’s fox’s share hook, with an undisclosed female vocal and eventually a third and maybe fourth vocal sequence. It’s a majestic blend signaling intermission.

My favorite song on the album is the following song, “Firebreaks” as it’s echoing guitars strike a tone with me, as the beat swirls around me like feverish strobe lighting, and the chord progression thumps in threes with tribal confidence, like many songs on the White Stripes album Icky Thump. Pow-pow-pow…rest…pow-pow-pow. Throughout the vocals are cutting and soulful, delivering a clean melody with very relatable lyrics to any victim of unrequited love. I almost want to cry as Fatato repeats, whines, repeats, “she’s never not alone/never, never not alone/never not alone/” before howling, “I’m giving you up!!!!” I love that lyrical pairing of taking time and giving you up, together, to me, signifies a great ying-yang concept as they inherently call for different actions. That’s really the way my mind works when I’ve been vanquished by passion and unrequited love. There’s that internal struggle where you want to give it up, but then, you tell yourself to settle down, take time, give it some space, which makes you more and more frustrated. I feel like that all the time. I live my life with this internal struggle and this song hits this notion on the head. I mean Dear God…can she PLEASE BE ALONE!? Sigh. (I must disclaimer, if you’ve never read me before, I’m not saying at ALL this is what this song is ACTUALLY about, this is simply what I would use it for and how I have related to it. I think it’s obvious, but I feel I must say it for the small chance my articulations get lost in translation.) 

If every good thing in marketing, in life, is a product of timing, for me, this album struck me right between the eyes. Sandwiched in a recent re-obsession with Fleet Foxes and a few stormy pre-Summer nights in NYC with Shearwater, the Earthy disposition of Man/Other Beasts has ground its foundation within my “anything but the concrete jungle right now” soul. When sweat seems like a non-stop problem, it’s nice to take a journey with a civilization that has less choices. Lions and foxes sweat but they don’t care. They eat, drink and fornicate. The Earth sweats itself all over, but hey, the Earth is just silly like that. Silly Earth. Stop sweating so much, you’re hurting people.

The spear cast in my heart from these Earthy jams was just wood, and sharpened, splintered wood. Sometimes, that’s all you need. Wood. And space, time and place, to throw wood.

 

Fall Classics’ second album “Man/Other Beasts” was released June 1st. If you read this and don't buy it a lion will eat you. Seriously.


Fall Classic Facebook – Bandcamp

Ryan C. Zerfas sure loves his nature as much as he loves his blog. He often writes his blogs at the beach, under the sweet serenade of birds. Tweet, Tweet. (Follow him on Twitter)

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REVIEW - The Bribes - The Man is Good and Fine

Am I the only one that gets really excited to hear verbosely dark blues-rock music? If we can agree that the music is BLUES, does it also necessitate such DARKNESS? My answer is a resounding “YESSIR.”  Perhaps a, “yes, please” or an even anti-upping, “I’d shake my ass to that” would be more appropriate. I realize this discussion gets all intertwined into bending everything into it’s own genre, but there is a finite bravado that comes with mixing the electrifying sadness of the blues rock ‘n roll essence, with the lurking skeevy creepiness of under the bridge darkness. This classic and rare, but seemingly on the rise, find, really puts my internal blender on a setting I title “puree bitch!”

The waters are as murky as the mudslide in my mug, man.

It really makes me giddy inside. To the point where I find myself questioning my own ethical predisposition. Perhaps that comes with becoming dirtier as you grow older, a mindset I’m apparently going to have to get used to, or I just want to listen to more music that makes me want to hang out at bars further into an evening and catalyze a culture of bad decisions. A self-fulfilling prophecy if you will. We're a quarter of the way through 2013 and I deserve happiness, even if it’s at the expense of my own ethos.

For this unrequited remedy, I bring The Bribes as a peace offering. They are a four piece band that’s been loitering around Chicago, for a few years now, in the most blue collar, “we’re all going to be wearing golden diapers, Bruce Dickinson magic’, mindset as possible. Their debut LP, The Man is Good and Fine is a culmination of the lo-fi darkness in the vein of shot glasses echoing in an empty bar blues-rock sound, with the rock sensibility you’d associate with Elvis. You’ll feel the need to move when you hear it, much like what Jay-Z was talking about in “Death of Auto-Tune.” The moment of silence has passed and it’s time to gyrate.

The Man is Good and Fine is nine-songs with a clear lens of focus, yet with the limited genre mobility comes a great deal of lateral dexterity. Because blue-rock is such a dignified antique, it allows minimal knob turns to create boundless pastures—bringing together the Moody Blues 60’s through the Black Keys ‘010’s and everything in-between. This album seems more modern than the Elvis and Moody Blues references would suggest, but it has to be said, because we are a people of nostalgic recollection. The most notable sounds that pop in my head are a bands from: NYC, John Spencer Blues Explosion; North Carolina, The Rosebuds; and a band I reviewed for TSE from Chicago, Fall Classic. I would put it all in a blues crock-pot with the billowing shadow of Nick Cave’s, “Red Right Hand.”



After a mood setting intro, the album opens with a dirty ditty, “3. 4. 5.” which plays out like an extremely angry Jeff Buckley blues jam avalanche of impending death. The vocals are howling and the song takes a few different shapes, twisting and turning, breaking it down into a big rock finish that’s just plain filthy. It features wonderful guitar noodling that progresses throughout the song path in a sleek, yet stylistic manner. The abrupt finish to the progressive build fuses quickly into “The Down and Ups,” the “single” of the album, which reminds me of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion style, as it’s drenched in intrinsic bravado. The opening guitar lick is a cocky “check me out” attention grabber. The gravely voice trembles in its own rasp like a tune-fork rippling through the stratosphere, and the guitar work is grandiosely 70’s. The song tends to give itself bookends and clearly segmented shifts, reminding me of the way casino shufflers make a deck, which is kind of neat. You’ll know what I mean when you listen to it. It’s clean, catchy rock fun. 21.

“Oh Mother” is a perplexing song that tips its hat to The Rosebuds, in the way the vocals kind of tease each other band and forth. Some throaty emotive crooning blends together with a fierce “la da da da OOOoooooOOOO” backing vocal, that makes the whole experience pleasant as listening to chirping birds in the springtime, when in fact there is some serious shit being conveyed, quite ostentatiously. The song hits the bridge and eventually begins to pick up speed like an evil log run. The whole thing crashes into the water and splashes the listener with a mist that is soothing and disturbing (what IS this water exactly? Why is it green?) at the same time.



The wavering vocals on “Here We Are” are a definitive nod to the confidence of early rock ‘n rollers, with the attitude of a Detroit Jack White stomping thrash. The mid-album intro and number “Old Man Trouble” has an up-chug blues beat with the overlaying hook and feel of the aforementioned Fall Classic. There is plenty of room in the two-and-a-half minutes to solo and just “let it run.” Perhaps this particular song has the ability to stop time, or maybe in my old age, time can actually slow down when you’re rocking. Either way, it’s a gift worth passing along.

Huge guitars. Dark corners. Filthy thoughts. Epic rock-downs. Thrashing up-chugs. Do we have enough whiskey in stock to fund this blues-rock jamboree?

If you marked yes at the end of your test, you sir or madam or madam-sir, will be good and fine, too.
 
The Man is Good and Fine was released April 11th. The moment you got clean, you started getting dirty again. Might as well purchase this album before hitting the showers for the evening. Filthy fun awaits you. You’re welcome.

The Bribes Facebook – Bandcamp

The Ryan C. Zerfas blog isn't normally this filthy and blues driven, but it does rock and it is recommended going there as well as visiting the short-hand version, Twitter.  

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REVIEW - The Congress - The Loft Tapes EP

If you’re just joining us, we’re The Steam Engine, and we like to jam. Believe it or not…I know what you’re thinking…you’re thinking…all this folk and rock and folk-rock music we talk about around here just doesn’t have enough soul. Well, I want to go to a special place, a place where Brandon Flowers is asking me to sing along to deep cuts Killers, so, my brethren, you know the words, sing with me, “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier…” Repeat until transformation.

Thank you for going to that place with me. Now that we’ve opened our eyes, some of that filthy Motown soul would really hit the spot. I’ve got a thirst for some scintillating falsetto sprinkled over some funkadelic bass groovy gravy. Lucky for TSE, we’ve been keeping sharp tabs on a little band, making some serious noise out in the wild west of Colorado, yes, it’s The Congress (This is my third installment Part I Part II). Soldiering on from their majestic debut Whatever You Want with the right order of soul at the right time—Is this kind of 70’s Motown Soul trending?

The Congress recorded an EP of soul covers by The Impressions (“Fool For You” and “People Get Ready”, Carole King (“You’ve Got a Friend”), Doris Day (“Que Sera Sera”), Roberta Flack/The Fugees (“Killing Me Softly”), Van Morrison (“Into the Mystic” and Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On”).

WHAT!?

This decision makes a great deal of sense, in the whole trajectory of a career arc, and I, for one, have always been a HUGE fan of the cover EP. I think it’s the best possible way to release cover material. One cover song on an LP seems to get lost, or over-hyper-focused upon. Obviously live covers are a riot, but one always wants a little something extra special, studiozied (new word?) for headphone consumption. This is the best way to give that person, like myself, a little cover variety, without all the rigmarole and ramshackle that goes along with the pressure of uncovering cover material.

With the Congress’ new EP The Loft Tapes the band picked a theme, and stuck to it…hardcore. They picked seven gorgeous soul songs and put them through the loose, throw a groove raft in the rapids and ride the twists and turns jam style the band has embraced so diligently. It’s just so damn relaxing and technically sound at the same time. Like a drifter jostling through said white-water rapids with the mentality of a lazy river—cool, collective, but accessing the musical scope rivetingly proficient in the ways of rock goodness.

You’re going to recognize the songs they address on this vivacious EP, but I’ll be damned if you’ve ever heard these songs performed in this context. Which is the cardinal rule, if you ask me, to making a proper cover song. Especially if you’re going to lace seven or so of them in a row, you’d better have something new to offer. This is no easy task, but one The Congress didn’t take lightly.

They recorded on an eight-channel reel-to-reel tape machine, in an old Masonic Temple (…a.k.a. a LOFT space) in Berthoud, CO. It gives the feel of a live recording, as you can hear the air, and feel the occasional wart in the process, but it’s still studio smooth and liquidly like a slow-dripping Coors Light glacier. Lead singer Jonathan Meadows voice is up to the task as he hits the high notes delicate, but with brooding confidence. When you see the setlist, that’s the first question I would have: Can one person sing ALL OF THIS?

Yes. With ascending glory I might add.

Like any good hootenanny, when the hands are clapping, feet are stomping, people are taking their turns in the spotlight. Guitarist Scott Lane has some soaring guitar solos that would make any music freak double take, while drummer Mark Levy holds it all together like an elevator pulley on the rise. Again, these guys just know how to jam. There’s a vibe, a relaxation precedent set, and everyone is welcome to kick his or her feet up along side the fire place and partake in the pantomime parlay.

It doesn’t get much better than this…

My favorite moment is in the middle of the EP, “Fool For You” an Impressions classic that brings me back to Motown, which is darn close to my hometown: Literally and musically. My favorite Belle & Sebastian album is The Life Pursuit, because it’s straight up, cold ass honkey Motown. I’ve always thought it was the horns that hooked me into this music, and if you told me a band could cover this song and make me NOT miss the horns, I’d call you a lyin’ fool. Well, I’ve been proven a fool, but it’s worth it to hear Meadows flex this kind of vocal dexterity. I’ve always loved the way he’s able hit crystal clear high notes, and this is the quintessential highlight reel. When the song starts with that classic staccato riff, and he says, “baby YoooooooooooooooUUUUUUUUUUUUUU came along into my life” (:35 second mark) I just melt into the aforementioned Coors Light puddle. I have my socks, but they are wet, because I stepped all over my own puddle dancing upon the storm. 

The most unique cover is the Doris Day number, “Que Sera Sera.” It’s a painfully slow blues number that tickles the visually perverse with an opening lick coming from a ZZ-Top style bearded fellow singing, “when I was just a little girl…” Before long there are some sensational guitar lines and the ditty trickles on with unbridled finesse. It’s an expansive take with the flair of a smoky jazz club. Though it’s not exactly an unknown track, it’s certainly the furthest stretch of a pretty cohesive set of choices.

I told you to keep your ear close to the ground, piqued for The Congress. They’ve been touring the country with reckless abandon for at least the better part of a year and this tremendous cluster of soul cuts is spoils for the spoiled. It wasn’t expected or necessary, but the delivery is much obliged and welcomed with open arms.

The Loft Tapes was a goal, stepping stone and achievement of loft-y proportions. I wish more bands would have the courage to similarly slide step out of their genre with such continuity. The trail is blazed and hot, but will anyone take notice? Up the ante? 

Que sera, sera soul brothers and sisters. 

The Loft Tapes are available right this very second. April 16th. Chuuch. 

The Congress Official – Facebook – Twitter – Bandcamp – The Congress

Wow! That Ryan C. Zerfas really does love The Congress. What else does he like? Well, if you're curious, visit his blog and/or following him on Twitter. I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship. 

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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! 

Follow The Steam Engine on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook!

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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DOWNLOAD - The Congress - 2012-09-24 - Oneota Theater - New York, NY

I thought now would be a great time to check back in with The Congress!? Have you had a moment to engross yourself in their greatness, yet? Well, good news, we have a download for you! And the band, well, they’re continuing their never-ending tour of Whatever You Want out west this week, but, seriously, it’s only a matter of time before they return to your town. Give this rockfest from Oneota, NY a swig—holler and swaller and let me know what you think.

I wasn’t actually at the Oneota Theater, but I caught them a few nights later (and included some photos for this piece) in NYC, at a little burger joint called the National Underground. They make a mean burger and let bands play a couple of sets while hipsters walk by only a few feet away—street level. It’s a real treasure. The Congress played a lounge-y version of their set, and I can say with all honesty, I was pretty much blown away.

Hearing Jonathan Meadows’ voice live will make you warm and tingly all over. It’s pure. It’s real. It’s soaring, yet crystal clear, like when Pepsi made Clear Cola Crystal Pepsi…only…these guys are going to be around awhile. You can’t tell me you didn’t want to drink that when those Van Hagar ads came throttling across your screen?

With that in mind, listen to this show…”RIGHT NOW!”

Their originals are well documented from me. They also do a number of covers, that normally you’d cringe when you think of this type of band covering, but they turn out phenomenal. They have a radiant way of holding the integrity of the original song in a straightforward manner, but putting enough of their own spin on them to keep it fresh. When you have a voice like Meadows and a backing band that’s willing, ready and able to find their space and jam—you have a delectable rock n roll show at your fingertips.

At my lounge-y show at the National Underground they did a killer version of “Off the Record” and I couldn’t believe how much sound they got out of their three-piece outfit and a small stage area. On this more standup and rock format they pull off covers of The Police, Fleetwood Mac, The Fugees and Bob Dylan’s own Folsom Prison (not officially, or really related at all except in my head) anthem.

Seamless toe-tapping rock. A voice that makes eagles purr. Backing rhythm’s that stop the flowing waters of Coors Light in their Golden, CO tracks. The Congress.

TSE has the ballet…just CLICK! (Download and pictures from NYC show below)

The Congress Official – Facebook – Twitter – Bandcamp – The Congress

01 Pullin’ Weeds
02 Hundred Miles
03 Every Little Thing She Does is Magic (The Police cover)
04 Whatever You Want
05 Keep Virginia
06 Jonah Gideon
07 Walls
08 Sever
09 Minutes
10 Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
11 Echoes
12 Reason
13 Killing Me Softly (The Fugees cover)
14 I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan cover)

(Use Winrar to extract these files)

DOWNLOAD - The Congress - 2012-09-24 - Oneota Theater - New York, NY - pt. 1


DOWNLOAD - The Congress - 2012-09-24 - Oneota Theater - New York, NY - pt. 2

Man, that Ryan C. Zerfas really likes rockin' out. How can I be more like him? Well, one can start by reading his blog and/or following him on Twitter. After that, grab a burger and a beer, throw on The Congress and you might be surprised what happens to you. Also, Ryan C. Zerfas and TSE are not finacially responsible for any of the reprecussions. Thanks!  

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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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