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Daydreaming: The Art of George Hage, by George Hage

Title: Daydreaming: The Art of George Hage

Author: George Hage

Publisher: self-published

Publication Date: May 25, 2018

www.george-hage.com / available via Amazon/CreateSpace

North Carolina rocker and artist shows off his graphic design chops in eye-popping anthology.

BY FRED MILLS

George Hage, who hails from the BLURT home base of Raleigh, NC, is perhaps best known as guitarist/vocalist for hi-nrg, cinematic, Americana-tinged rockers Jack the Radio, whose 2015 album, Badlands, notched across-the-board kudos from fans and critics alike. (Read our review of the album HERE, and also check out a track from it that we premiered HERE, one of numerous JtR tunes and videos that have been featured at BLURT.)

Yet it’s also Hage’s outsized talent as an artist that’s steadily elevated his profile. His work as graphic designer——from posters to album covers to apparel—is what his new book Daydreaming showcases, with ample examples of what makes the boy’s brain buzz when he’s not scribbling down lyrics and strumming chords. It’s a visual feast from start to finish.

The first section of the book, “Illustrations,” commences with his poster art for the Raleigh-based Carolina Hurricanes professional hockey team, and although the ‘canes have not been having a good couple of years, it’s certainly not due to Hage dropping the ball, er, puck, drawing-wise. One standout is a hockey-suited and space helmet-clad cartoon bear zipping around in the cosmos like some latterday Flash Gordon, his hockey stick smacking a glowing energy puck in lieu of a raygun pointed at Ming the Merciless; Hage also includes his preliminary sketches here, something he does on much of the book’s offerings, which allow you to see exactly how he developed his visual idea. Art books tend to just publish the final product, not the in-progress part, yet this strategy seems the perfect way to pull the veil back a bit more if you really want to learn what makes an artist tick. Another Hurricanes poster made me laugh out loud, a brilliant R. Crumb “Heroes of the Blues”-style homage depicting the bear in iconic Robert Johnson mode (suit/fedora/guitar); I suspect more than a few sports fans didn’t get the reference, and merely thought that the poster’s “Say Goodbye to the Blues” text was just a thumbs-up message of hope and good will to the beleaguered hometown hockey heroes.

Similarly, there are posters Hage created for Nashville-based Rayland Baxter (depicted as a one-eyed giant stomping through the wilderness) and Raleigh bluegrass/Americana outfit New Reveille (fiddle, banjo, upright bass and dobro chilling out beneath a tree and under the moonlight)—not to mention an intricate detail of his progression of proposed Nudie jacket designs for another Raleigh Americana outfit, American Aquarium, whose frontman BJ Barham also contributed guest vocals for Jack the Radio’s Badlands. Those nudie jackets would eventually wind up on the sleeve of American Aquarium’s Live at Terminal West; you can watch a video of Hage creating it at YouTube.

Next, Hage struts his chops with a portfolio of his posters for festivals, most notably the Hopscotch Music Festival, the celebrated annual Raleigh music conference that has been shaping up to be something akin to the East Coast version of SXSW, and a Dali-esque Residents-centric image for this year’s Artsplosure art festival in Raleigh.

Musical acts remain the book’s dominant theme, with everything from a Zap comix-style comic strip for Charlotte rockers Banditos, to a remarkably subtle rendering for a Bill Frisell concert, to (of course) Jack the Radio gig posters with a recurring jambox-headed-human theme. Comic books and comic book culture also crop up several times, such as a poster for Charlotte, NC, comic store Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find, and posters for regional comics conventions.

Later in the book comes the “Digital + Vector Art” section, with one particular standout being an intricate yet impressionistic set of vintage modular synthesizers that recur, Warhol-style, across a series of renderings. And the “Apparel” section features photos of people wearing some of the striking, teeshirts that Hage designed. Ultimately, there’s enough consistency across the entirety of the artist’s visual style that a sharp eye might instantly recognize a design as being a Hage one regardless of whether or not you’re a Carolina Hurricanes fan, a Moog synth fetishist, or a Jack the Radio devotee.

He tops it off with a final “Coloring Book” section which, you guessed it, comprises black and white versions of several previously viewed images. Me, I’m planning on diving in to the aforementioned R. Crumb blues homage and try my hand at coloring, which I haven’t done since grade school. Now where did my mom put my box of Crayolas?

2018 Montreal International Jazz Festival 6/28/18-7/7/18

Dates: June 28 - July 7, 2018

Location: Montreal, Canada

Hot Fun in the Summertime: The Montreal Jazz Festival Burns Away the Bluster

BY ALISA CHERRY

As the namesake city of the internationally renowned jazz festival it’s hosted for the past 39 years, Montreal is a cool, cool city. However this year it was hot, very hot in fact. And that has nothing to do with the hot acts… or, for the matter, the cool performances either. With temperatures approaching the mid-90s, and the stifling conditions that made even brief walks between venues a daunting challenge in itself, this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival which took place June 28 to July 7 was not without some tedium due to its temperatures. (Go HERE for our  2017 coverage.)

Nevertheless, those who attended either the free outdoor performances, the dozens of ticketed events or a bit of both, mostly agreed it was worth dealing with the heat at least for the sake of witnessing some amazing music. And indeed, with choices between dozens of world class artists, both known and occasionally obscure, the 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival proved yet again how all-inclusive it is when it comes to its musical offerings. As anyone who has attended the fest over the course of the past several years will attest — its handle aside — The Montreal Jazz Festival isn’t just about jazz. In years past, such rock luminaries as Brian Wilson, King Crimson and Bob Dylan have graced its stages, either as featured artists or associated performers. This year, such popular luminaries as Ry Cooder, Jann Arden, Seal, Boz Scaggs, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull took to its stages.

It may be sweltering outside, but the Montreal Jazz Festival — or as it’s referred to so eloquently in French, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal — is cool. Very cool indeed.

Montreal is indeed a model city for a festival so sprawling it takes up several city blocks just to contain it. Fortunately, the heat notwithstanding, all the venues are easily accessible. The venues come in all varieties, from a multitude of clubs to the expansive Place des Arts, home to several ample staged stages within its massive confines. Then of course, there are the outside locales spread along the main drag, Rue St. Catherine, all of which invite the choice of a concerted devotee.

Naturally, those who consider themselves diehard jazz aficionados had plenty to cheer about. Herbie Hancock, Carla Bley, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Dave Holland, and Terrence Blanchard were among the more iconic names that headlined the many stages and featured concerts. Those weaned on a rock or pop pedigree had opportunity to soak up the blues, bluster and boogie of George Thorogood or marvel at the performance by Number 9, a group comprised of young musicians who faithfully reproduced every note and nuance of the Beatles famed “White Album.” A spectator whose tastes weren’t necessary confined to any particular parameter could marvel at the genre-bending abilities of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the classic and contemporary musical fusion of Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, or simply find themselves dazzled by the ageless Dee Dee Bridgewater and the sultry sounds of Beth Hart.

Personally, we found ourselves immediately impressed on the first night by the combined talents of John Medeski and Marc Ribot. It was jazzy indeed. Or was it? The sheer sweep and intensity of the music’s remarkable dynamics had us completely held in sway.

That perhaps is the greatest gift the Montreal Jazz Festival provides for all, an opportunity to venture into unknown realms, jump between genres and learn to understand and appreciate sounds which may not be immediately familiar. Those who normally find adventurous sounds of this sort alien or intimidating in any way are given a chance to explore on their own without judgement or disdain. It’s a vast musical market boasting a wide array of wares, all of which make Festival International De Jazz De Montreal one of the coolest festivals around.

Even when it’s just too damn hot.

 

LAKE STREET DIVE 7/12/18, Raleigh NC

Dates: July 12, 2018

Location: NC Museum of Art, Raleigh NC

Sonic art one beautiful Tar Heel eve at the North Carolina Museum of Art. (Scroll down for more images.)

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TODD GUNSHER

On a clear Carolina night, the amphitheater at the NC Museum of Art was filled with the sophisticated pop sounds of Lake Street Dive. On tour supporting their latest record, Free Yourself Up, this was their third sell out of this venue, causing lead singer Rachael Price to comment that it is starting to feel like home.

Opening with the first cut from the new album, “Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts,” the 21 song set included all the tracks from the new record interspersed with songs from their previous two albums, closing with a longtime fan favorite, the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”

Price, Mike “McDuck” Olsen, Bridget Kearney and Mike Calabrese, always had a full sound but the addition of Akie Bermiss on keys adds just enough extra to help fill out the live sound. He even took a lead vocal singing Shania Twain’s “Still The One” in a style suited to a dark jazz club. Throughout the night the vocals and playing were tight and on point, with Kearney’s bass playing delivering numerous amazing moments. But to me, what really makes Lake Street Dive stand out in a world of beats, jam-bands, and singer/songwriters is their finely crafted songs. Even songs that at first sound simple still contain interesting chords, changes, and rhythms that harken back to The Beatles and Brill Building, in approach, if not actual sound. That’s what keeps me coming back whenever they come to town.

Opening the show was Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear (above), a mother/son duo with a soulful, bluesy sound. They grabbed the audience’s attention from the first song and I’m sure gained a lot of new fans.

Follow master shutterbug, journalist, and vinyl enthusiast Todd Gunsher at his Instagram page.

 

 

 

Sherry Ryan / Darren “Boobie” Browne 5/25/18, Toronto

Dates: May 25, 2018

Location: The Burdock, Toronto ON

Live at The Burdock, and a night of Canadian musical community.

TEXT/PHOTOS BY ERIC THOM

I have family who hails from Halifax, so I know a thing or two about the close-knit sense of community inherent to those who live on our proud East Coast. However, there’s something even closer to be found amongst the people who call Newfoundland their home. It’s an intensified existence in which the land and the people are one, bound together in celebration of the sweet blend of harsh conditions and jaw-dropping beauty that is everyday life. Sherry Ryan hails from Middle Cove, just north of St. John’s – and it shows on so many levels in her art form.

Born of the traditional Céilidh (from the Scottish Gaelic for ‘kitchen party’) – a coming together of friends, family and often members of the immediate community – the Nerwfoundlanders’ world is grounded in music, good food and a coming together for a group hug. This was richly evident in this show – as Sherry’s sister, Jackie, commandeered a collection of cousins, friends and ex-pats to become a part of this special ‘homecoming’ show. The intimate setting of The Burdock’s music room was ideal for the emotion-fueled evening as Newfoundlanders and otherwise savored the work of this talented duo. Darren “Boobie” Browne, another noted Newfoundland export, provided drop-dead accompaniment on mandolin, supplying deft vocal harmonies to complement each of Sherry’s well-placed notes – creating a surprisingly full band sound in combination with Sherry’s acoustic guitar work, all the more impactful in the rec-room-cozy space. Never was an audience more captured than this.

 

***

Touring to support her fourth release, Wreckhouse, Sherry has long been a special breed of singer-songwriter, effortlessly painting mood-drenched pictures with relatively straight-forward lyrics that benefit from equal parts country and that certain hint of forlorn sadness that comes with the territory. What’s most distinctive is her voice which, as it starts to sink its hooks, has an uncanny resemblance to Anne Murray’s in its clear, confident alto (with an implied debt to Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline). Yet, her material has nothing to do with the pop-country backdrop of “Snowbird” – offering, instead, strong local imagery, the heartache of torn relationships, folklore – real and imagined and the laments inherent in the passing of time. The album’s title– “Wreckhouse” – refers to a true tale of the ill-fated Newfoundland railway (1882-1997) – and is the name given to car-tipping wind conditions that relied on a local trapper’s weather call to “Stop The Trains” (one of the album’s crowning jewels and co-written with her late Dad), thereby protecting them from nature’s wrath. Having more in common with John Prine than Anne Murray, this homegrown masterpiece represents the essence of Ryan’s talents. Like Prine, she reels you in with her heartfelt stories, a hint of humour and the vocal power to command attention to her every word. The new album, however, is a strong release based on it being a potent ‘band’ record – each original composition basking in the added firepower of pedal steel, guitar, piano, swirls of B3 and background vocals. The acid test for any good song is, however, what was witnessed on this warm, sun-drenched evening – two people, two instruments, strong vocals embellished with remarkably high-register harmonies. The powerful opener (and single) “Natural Law” mined the same country edge of the recorded version, despite the lack of baritone guitar and pedal steel. Browne’s deft skills with electric mandolin created sounds the likes of which I’ve never thought the mandolin was capable of, his vocal harmony adding considerable depth and personality to Ryan’s already powerful lead vocal. The next song, “Ferry Won’t Wait” is an ode to a missed ferry, causing a cancelled concert on Fogo Island in the land that weather rules. The Prine-like “Long-Awaited Question” was born from a breakdown at the Dollar Store that ended with a Tarot Card reading and the end of a relationship. “Cool and Clear”, following the order of the release, relies on piano on the album as yet another breakup song (this time, a friend’s) benefits from its simple, delicate delivery onstage. Again, the heartfelt yet humorous real-life “Stop The Trains” is a loving celebration of the way things were, worsened by the intervention of ‘modern-day improvements’ – to its hilarious conclusion. Jumping ahead to “On Paper”, these two voices created an hypnotic effect of back-and-forth with precious little accompaniment required, yet both guitar and mandolin turning in incredible, colorful textures.

The comparably upbeat “Ain’t Gonna Worry” moved into blues territory, buoyed by quality finger-picking that erupted, with Sherry’s coaching, into a legitimate audience singalong. The following song, “10 Minutes”, documents the distance across town in St. John’s at a torqued-up speed. One of the night’s most stunning songs was the standout “After Whiskey Before Breakfast”, providing Ryan with her Emmylou moment. Slowed down for maximum effect and minus its full serving of recorded pedal steel, this was a downer for the ages (meant in a good way). Much as the full band treatment cues the instant party, it’s this two-player presentation that demonstrates Ryan’s vocal power in its strongest light. Calling up two relatives to join her in a rendition of ”Something Else” (from 2008’s Wonderful Cures), its powerful chorus lit up the room, Ryan’s vocal still able to cut through the full force gale of voices. The natural fit of Ryan’s vocals to Browne’s harmonies was realized in the Carter Family’s “Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow Tree”, underlining Ryan’s understated guitar strengths and Browne’s prowess on mandolin. A compulsory, near-deafening call for an encore yielded a P.E.I. song written by one Gene MacLellan, as she kicked into “Snowbird”, no less – sounding as pure and natural as the Maritimer who made the song so indelible.

These themes of home, hearth and heartbreak suggest a rich upbringing in the sounds of the Carter Family but the fact that she’s a loyal Newfoundlander goes a long way to defining who she really is. She may not be a household name but she’s certainly no diamond in the rough at this point. She’s got a firm grasp of where she wants to go and all the skills to get there.

As for Browne, an integral component of a number of Newfoundland bands (The Burning Hell, The Kubasonics) and a continual, in-demand sideman, his self-released Birth of the Chickenpick (Boobie Browne & The Onions] is well worth hunting down.

Website: http://sherryryan.com/

Videos:

Natural Law

I Made it On My Own

Long Awaited Question

 

 

 

Dadalon CD Release (w/video) 7/6/18, NYC

Dates: July 6, 2018

Location: Rockwood Music Hall, New York City

Live at the Rockwood Music Hall – view the video of the show, below.

Text & video by Jonathan Levitt

Jazz duo Dadalon took to the stage on July 6th to celebrate the release of their debut album, which is available now on iTunes and Spotify. The show was an emotionally charged Tour-de-Force. The band ended up playing the entire album for the near-capacity audience. As is always the case for me when I see Dadalon, I expect to be taken on an emotional journey and this time was no different. The audience was transfixed by every note and this even goes for the small assembly of frat-bro, baseball cap wearing dudes who put down their Rolling Rocks and stood there mesmerized by what they were hearing. Much of this has to do with the fact that these guys are best friends and the respect and comfort they have for one another translates really well musically.

If I could distill the essence of Dadalon’s music for someone who’s never heard it, I’d say it’s at times very heart on sleeve direct and the unimpeded emotional charge one gets from it is what will draw you in at first. If you spend more time listening to it though, you will realize, that under the hood, are swimming some very complex emotions. That’s one of the reasons I find listening to their music to be so rewarding. So check out their new album and have a look at the concert below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

THE LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH – The Lords of the New Church (Special Edition)

Album: Lords of the New Church

Artist: Lords of the New Church

Label: Blixa Sounds

Release Date: July 20, 2018

http://www.blixa.com

The Upshot: Post-punk supergroup gets the two-disc deluxe treatment that reaffirms how great the band’s shiny but aggressive blend of garage rock, gothic pop and glam punk truly was.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

London’s Lords of the New Church never hit the big time a lot of people expected, despite a personnel pedigree to put most bands of its era to shame. That hasn’t stopped the flow of releases, of course – at this point there are more posthumous live and scraps records than there were original releases. (Three during the group’s lifetime – four if you count the semi-mythical 2003 “reunion” album Hang On). The band’s self-titled debut remains the essential text, the fountain from which all its future blessings would flow. This reissue, from a label normally more concerned with such cutting-edge rockers as Robbie Dupree and Stephen Bishop, reaffirms just what a special band the Lords were at their best.

Originally released in 1982, The Lords of the New Church was a mélange of different sounds reflecting both the times and the gifts each Lord brought to the table. Guitarist Brian James, late of the Damned, is a master of Nuggets-informed punk riffs, but with an open mind to the phased six-string sound of the early 80s. Bassist Dave Tregunna (from working class heroes Sham 69 and Lords precursor the Wanderers) and drummer Nicky Turner (the Barracudas) also have solid punk bonafides, but are versatile enough to encompass psychedelia and pop. Singer Stiv Bator (who apparently left the “s” in his surname back in America when he emigrated following the breakup of the Dead Boys) alternates between his usual sneering rasp and an almost pretty croon, drawing on the power pop of his post-Dead Boys solo records as much as his love of Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop. Horns and synthesizers add a gothic rock flavor to the proceedings.

Barring a cover of the Balloon Farm’s “A Question of Temperature” and “Russian Roulette,” penned by blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em Lords Tony James (Generation X) and Terry Chimes (the Clash), the brash, hooky songs flow from the pens of an airtight Bator/James songwriting team. Whether paying tribute to the New York Dolls (“Li’l Boys Play With Dolls”), expressing the point of view of a monster (“Livin’ On Livin’”), indulging in some eye-rolling misogyny (“Eat Your Heart Out”) or easing the pain of nuclear annihilation with a groan-inducing pun (“Apocalyso”), the duo wraps every tune in catchy licks, memorable choruses and a B-movie atmosphere. Facing an uncertain future during the Cold War-stoking early Reagan years, the pair responds with bookends: the album-closing fearmongering of “Holy War” and the opening defiance of “New Church.”  The album’s coup de grace, “Open Your Eyes” pumps up the melody for an irresistible anthem that remains the band’s calling card.

The original tracks might be enough, but Blixa Sound’s two-disk edition adds some goodies. Disk one concludes the album with a trio of bonus cuts. “Girls Girls Girls” (not the Mötley Crüe tune) likely came off as silly even then, but “Young Don’t Cry” makes for a tasty slice of punky rock/pop, and the single mix of “Open Your Eyes” is even punchier than the original. Even better, though, is disk two – a smoking live show recorded at My Father’s Place in NYC that marks an official release of a popular bootleg. The setlist reprises the debut, highlighted by a breathless “Holy War,” plus “Girls Girls Girls” and a take on Allen Toussaint’s “Fortune Teller.” Thanks to first album dearth of material, the Lords amusingly use “New Church” as both opener and encore.

With its shiny but aggressive blend of garage rock, gothic pop and glam punk, The Lords of the New Church should, like so much of the music from the eighties, sound dated. But the band’s distinctive personality and strong songwriting distinguish them from their more timebound peers. No two ways about it: The Lords of the New Church still holds up as a classic, timeless rock & roll record.

DOWNLOAD: “Open Your Eyes,” “New Church,” “Holy War (live)”

 

HAMISH KILGOUR – Finklestein

Album: Finklestein

Artist: Hamish Kilgour

Label: BaDaBing

Release Date: June 22, 2018

 

http://www.badabing.com

The Upshot: A wide-eyed sense of play and make-believe runs through these songs with their carnival whistle cheerfulness, courtesy one of The Clean’s Kilgours.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Finklestein began as a child’s story, conceived for Kilgour’s son and illustrated, perhaps, with the brightly colored drawings on the album cover. As delivered, it’s drifted pretty far from those origins. There’s no discernable plotline, and the title character makes only the most sporadic appearances in the lyrics. But there does remain an aura of the fanciful, a wide-eyed sense of play and make-believe that runs through these songs with their carnival whistle cheerfulness. You could start every one of them with “Once upon a time.”

Kilgour worked mostly solo on Finklestein, with occasional assists from producer Gary Olson (of the Ladybug Transistor). Yet the songs are anything but stripped down, instead bursting with instrumentation — the usual rock band staples plus saxophones, trumpets and pedal steel. And while a good number of them have the scratchy, homespun psychedelic winsome-ness of Kilgour’s main band, The Clean, others hare off in entirely different directions: country, free improv and tropicalia. Yet all are slicked with a certain indefinable gasoline-on-puddle-rainbow shimmer, as ordinary sounds evoke otherworldly echoes.

Thus, “Strange Angel” arises out of gentle waves of strumming, woody knocking rhythms and swirls of daydreaming keyboards, but slips its bonds and drifts untethered. “Hayride,” later on, splinters guitar tones through a prism, bending slide notes into colored light. And “Whistlestop,” the longest cut on the disc, rattles on steadily, not stopping but in no particular hurry, whispered lyrics layered over one another and tissue meshes of transparent guitar and percussion.

“Sidetracked,” a little past the disc’s midpoint, lingers sleepily at the interstice of California dream pop and Dylan-ish country, hazards a blowsy sax solo and concocts perhaps the disc’s most memorable melody. It also has the verse that best sums up the disc’s unfussed loveliness: “As you get sidetracked along the way/you’ll find a meaningful place to stay.”

DOWNLOAD: “Strange Angel” “Hayride” “Sidetracked”

T. HARDY MORRIS – Dude, The Obscure

Album: Dude, The Obscure

Artist: T. Hardy Morris

Label: Normaltown

Release Date: June 22, 2018

https://t.hardymorris.com/

The Upshot: Dead Confederate mainman serves up a solo set that’s his best songwriting yet.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

T. Hardy Morris has a very distinct voice. It can be heard in his work with the defunct Dead Confederate, with his fantastic supergroup Diamond Rugs and you can certainly hear it on his quieter, more stripped down solo records. It’s a bit nasally, soft spoken, but he manages to pack a lot of emotion into those vocals and nowhere is that more obvious then on Dude, The Obscure, his third solo outing.

The songs here tend to be darker than his previous efforts (“Cheating Life, Living Death” in particular has a heavy vibe), but simultaneously this is some of his best songwriting yet. The tracks here all share the same elements: thoughtful, smart and often beautiful. Though based in Athens, GA, Morris decided to decamp in Nashville for this recording along with producer Adam Landry who worked on Hardy’s first solo album as well as the two Diamond Rug LPs. The sound is raw and unpolished, giving the record and even lonelier, almost haunting vibe, not unlike a Nick Drake album.

The one thing missing from Dude, The Obscure, are a few more raucous, upbeat tracks, but that can easily be rectified with a new Diamond Rugs record.

DOWNLOAD: “The Night Everything Changed,” “Cheating Life, Living Death” and “Lit By Midnight”

BODEGA — Endless Scroll

Album: Endless Scroll

Artist: Bodega

Label: What's Your Rupture?

Release Date: July 06, 2018

https://whatsyourrupture.bandcamp.com/music

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Bodega makes smart, rattling tight post-punk rackets out of scrambling guitars, a crazy bounce of bass and drums and pop culture fragments strung together in rhythmic sprays. The Brooklyn six-piece takes its cue from singer/guitar slasher Ben Hozie, who swears he’s not a cinephile (“motherfucker!”) but nonetheless chants at length about “Jack in Titanic” and maintains an IMDB page.

Nikki Belfiglio is a worthy abettor, echoing fragments of deadpan rants, interjecting Delta 5-ish “huhs!” and “hahs!” and taking a Pylon-ish lead on “Gyrate,” a song about female pleasure with its own Harry-Met-Sally interlude. Women make up the rest of the band, too, with Madison Velding-VanDam slashing out abrupt dissonant riffs on guitar, Heather Elle bumping up from below on bass and Montana Simone tightening the screws with box-y, disciplined rhythms.

Bodega’s sound is taut and minimalist, an onslaught that stabs in with a frenzy then retreats to the margins. The emptiness between the notes feels like a thing itself, a nihilist nothing amidst hedonism. Likewise, the songs are united by an agitation over alienation. “How Did This Happen!?” views resistance demonstrations through a thick pane of glass, as disconnected from the protests as the events that inspired them. “Name Escape,” with its twitchy ESG-esque bounce, spends its whole (brief) duration trying to remember a scenester’s name.  And “Can’t Knock the Hustle” is clearly knocking the hustle, or at least abstaining from it. Relentlessly clever, disdainful, sharp, Bodega satirizes everything it sees.

Well, not quite everything. “Charlie,” the disc’s most lyrical, tuneful track, memorializes a childhood friend who died young, but who remains connected, somehow, through a shared love of music. “Remember when we had an invisible band/you played invisible bass guitar, I clutched invisible mic stand,” sings Hozie in the most straightforward and heartfelt lines of the album. Then later, “and the last time I saw you was an empty room/you showed up halfway through the set and then you left with the tune.”

It’s a weird, lovely, disquieting interval, but you’ve barely got time to digest it before Bodega is back to banging. The final cut, “Truth Is Not a Punishment,” is straight on guitar-scrabbling, kick-drum thumping, hopped up anthemry. Blistering, incisive and occasionally even surprising, Endless Scroll is anything but dull.

DOWNLOAD: “How Did This Happen!?” “Truth Is Not a Punishment” “Charlie”

 

 

LAUREN RUTH WARD – Well, Hell

Album: Well, Hell

Artist: LAUREN RUTH WARD

Label: Weekday

Release Date: February 09, 2018

www.laurenruthwardmusic.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/WeekDayRecords/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It takes a couple of songs into Lauren Ruth Ward’s debut full length to get rolling, but by the time you get about a minute into “Sideways,” the second track off of Well, Hell, you realize exactly why she is being praised for her strong ‘70s vibe and Jagger-like swagger.

The debut from this LA, by way of Baltimore, Blues-soaked songstress sounds unlike much of what the west coast has been churning out lately. Like an American Courtney Barnett or modern-day Chrissie Hynde, she manages to come off as remarkably self-assured, thanks to a powerfully expressive voice and earnest lyrics; all while being propped up by a solid mix of psych-blues and classic rock, crammed with power chords and sharp riffs.

Even on her slower, seemingly mellower takes, like the brilliant “Make Love to Myself” there is often that gradual swell to a more raucous ending that takes full advantage of her incredible pipes (it’s these softer to louder numbers where she seems to be excising the ghost of Janis Joplin). But above all else, it’s a song like the stop and start, distortion-laden rocker “Blue Collar Sex Kitten” where you realize just how powerful a presence Ward can be.

There is something for just about everyone on Well, Hell and if you can’t find a song you like… maybe ask yourself when you stopped liking music.

DOWNLOAD: “Sideways,” “Make Love to Myself” and “Blue Collar Sex Kitten”