After seeing Primus 30+ times I knew this was going to be a mind melting experience, and the ghouls and goblins came out in full force for the show. As I have said in past reviews The Capitol Theater in Port Chester New York caters to the family of concert goers with both a very relaxed atmosphere and incredible production. Primus is touring for their new album “The Desaturating Seven” based on the 1978 children’s book “The Rainbow Goblins”. The band played a full two sets of music, the first being a mix of what is now a huge catalogue to pick from. The second “The Rainbow Goblins” in its entirety.
Opening the show with “Those Dam Blue Collar Tweakers” Les, Larry and Tim showed that there songs defy time and genre. The band played with video screens showing—to say the least psychedelic images mixed with incredible laser show. The crowd absorbed the sound and lights the whole night! Some of the highlights of the first set were “Candyman”, “Mrs. Baileen” and “The Heckler”. The band took a short break and returned with “The Desaturating Seven”. Primus never lets me down and the new album is no different. Sometimes dark and very prog-rock, the band is and never will be interested in selling tons of records and putting out watered down mediocre music. Primus has a hard core following and tonight was no different. Closing the night with a Primus classic “Southbound Pachyderm”, the visuals of elephants jumping up and down was projected throughout the theater and played in my mind for hours and days afterward.
Live at Terminal West, burning it up with his brilliant new album.
BY JOHN BOYDSTON
Americana upstart and Okie JD McPherson is touring now through early 2018 in support of the recently-released Undivided Heart & Soul album (New West Records). It was a great crowd for what might have been his first stop in Atlanta, and a good mix of young and older and men and women—which as I have said before bodes well for any up and coming artist. His 2016 album Let The Good Times Roll notched a couple of Grammy nominations, incidentally.The band:
JD McPherson – Vocals, Guitar
Jimmy Sutton – Upright Bass
Jason Smay- Drums
Ray Jacildo – Keys
Doug Corcoran – Saxophone, Guitar, Keys
The Upshot: Given both the passion behind the performances and the names at play, it’s clear that the Norwegian jazz guitarist/composer commands respect in the circles of beloved creative improvisers.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Though practically a rock star in his native Norway and creator of Odyssey, one of the 70s’ best fusion records, guitarist/composer Terje Rypdal barely qualifies as a cult artist in the States. But those in the know, know. Organized by San Francisco eclectician Henry Kaiser, Sky Music rounds a baker’s dozen fans and acolytes from around the world to pay tribute by recording several of Rypdal’s tunes. Rypdal has written and performed everything from free jazz and fusion to classical music and surf rock, but the musicians here concentrate on his jazz side.
The majority of the tracks revolve around sessions anchored by Kaiser and a Norwegian rhythm section comprised of bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (the Thing, Atomic, Scorch Trio, his own U.S.-based bands), keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (Supersilent, Elephant9, Rypdal himself) and drummer Gard Nilssen (Bushman’s Revenge). Leaning into Rypdal’s 70s work, when the axeman was one of the few fusioneers to work with the abstract palette of Bitches Brew rather than the funk- and rock-oriented sounds that garnered commercial success, the rhythm section recruits five additional guitarists for medleys from the far side of the sun. Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s namesake Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, Dungen’s Reine Fiske, Bushman’s Revenge’s Even Helte Hermansen and Scorch Trio’s Raoul Björkenheim trade licks, solos and fills with Kaiser on “Over Birkerot/Silver Bird Heads For the Sun” and “Tough Enough/Rolling Stone/Tough Enough,” adding Motorpsycho’s Hans Magnus Ryan on the latter. It’s no decapitation fest, however – the musicians aim their six-string spray at the walls, not each other, resulting in riots of color that still stay within frame. Kaiser, Thomassen and Hermansen attack the appropriately-named “Warning: Electric Guitars” with gusto, the track’s shorter length giving it immediate impact. Storløkken also gets a solo showcase with the near-ambient “Dream Song/Into the Wilderness/Out of This World.”
Though not present for these sessions, other Americans besides Kaiser get in on the fun. Guitarist Bill Frisell opens the album with the atmospheric “Ørnen,” fellow axe god Nels Cline and cellist Erik Friedlander paint a gorgeous picture of “What Comes After,” and avant-guitarist David Torn sinks into beauty with “Avskjed.” (Torn and Frisell started their careers on ECM Records, Rypdal’s label home for four decades.) Experimental rocker Jim O’Rourke also weighs in, contributing pedal steel and guitar synthesizer, among other things, to the Scandinavian band’s propulsive psychedelic take on “Sunrise.”
Given both the passion behind the performances and the names at play, it’s clear that Rypdal commands respect in the circles of beloved creative improvisers. Perhaps Sky Music will lead some non-musician fans to his music as well.
DOWNLOAD: “Over Birkerot/Silver Bird Heads For the Sun,” “What Comes After,” “Warning: Electric Guitars”
The Upshot: Folky twang and sweet pop jangles from everybody’s favorite literate (and literary) indie rocker.
BY FRED MILLS
Nine albums and three decades in, Oklahoma/Texas indie rocker Thomas Anderson takes comfort in consistency, which, for fans, translates into the kind of warm, familiar sonic handshake expected of an old friend. This time around he’s tilting primarily in the direction of his singer/songwriter folkie side than the more overt rockisms of 2016’s Heaven, with his trademark literary approach to songcraft at the fore. (Go HERE to read my 2016 interview with Anderson in which he discusses his career, stretching all the way back to 1989’s critically hailed Alright, It was Frank . . . and He’s Risen From the Dead and Gone Off With His Truck.)
In fact, a couple of tunes take “literary” literally, notably the remarkably chipper “Henry Miller” in which Anderson traces the notorious novelist’s trajectory (“A threadbare genius in the streets of Paris/ Brooklyn to Big Sur a nomad existence/ He kept his counsel he wrote for himself/ He followed his star heeding nobody else”) and, by extension, celebrates solitary, misunderstood artists everywhere. Later, the narrative of the gently jangling “The Thorn Tree” involves the actions of Joseph of Arimathea following Jesus’ death, and how those actions have echoed down through time—hardly the canonical stuff of girls, cars, and beer.
Though frequently lyrically contemplative, often to the point of downcast, Anderson’s songs still bear the mark of an unapologetic lover of pop. From the upbeat guitar twang and gorgeous organ of “Girls in the Twilight,” to “Rommel’s Polka” which is, you guessed it, a strummy polka, to the straightforward folk-rock of “Encyclopedia,” his intuitive sense of how to craft a memorable melody is profound. There’s also an intriguing outlier on the album, “Rock All Night,” a raucous, delightfully dumb garage rocker based on a ragged-but-right blues progression and featuring an offhand-to-the-point-of-distorted vocal from our man.
Anderson would appear to be on an artistic upswing these days. Heaven featured his first collection of all-new material in a number of years, so with My Songs Are the House I Live In a relatively swift followup, I’m betting his well isn’t anywhere close to dry yet. Keep ‘em coming, sir.
DOWNLOAD: “Rock All Night,” “Girls in the Twilight,” “The Thorn Tree”
The Upshot: Stephen Hawking is not the only one asking for more from their universe – and this savvy pop genius may have just given birth to the perfect soundtrack to help us find our way.
BY ERIC THOM
Seemingly the illegitimate love child of Jeff Lynne and Jason Falkner, this lush, stunning release from this Stonington, Connecticut native is more than deserving of your special listening chair and favorite beverage(s). Four albums in, it’s clear that Jesse Terry’s shtick is no fluke case of mere, misguided Beatle worship – he has the tunes, the arrangements, the voice and a cast of like-minded musical prodigies to bring his dream to life.
There’s much meat to be found within each lavish arrangement – his larger-than-life, sweeping string section is powered by real players who have clearly pulled hard on the same Koolaid, sharing his passion. Whereas Lynne’s signature sound is built around over-sized, shimmering bits of harmonized vocals and acoustic guitars marrying rock’n’roll to Beatlesque pop, Terry goes one better. He anoints each complex arrangement with compelling vocals that are sweet, smooth perfection, stirred into each composition like so much clarified butter – each song sounding better than the last.
The stunning “Stargazer”, for example, benefits from Terry’s Harry Nilsson-like range, with an emphasis on his higher register. It is this combination – deep, rich strings and ethereal vocals – that keep this beautiful tune high up in the cosmos and immersed in the stars. By comparison, the equally ravishing “Woken The Wildflowers” strikes a slightly darker chord, embellished by inventive strings that, along with its striking chorus, help to sink its notable hook. With lyrical content espousing a restatement of American ideals in today’s trying times, this strong track makes the most of Terry’s higher range and backing vocalists to create a song you can’t get away from, even if you wanted to. The slightly more rock-pop shimmer of “Dangerous Times” recalls the pouty attitude of Tom Petty, boasting similar degrees of radio-friendly jangle, lush harmonies and, with increased emphasis on guitar, offers a tougher alternative to the album’s heavily string-laden beginnings. “Only A Pawn” offers a twist as its complicated arrangement leans on plucked cellos and dark violin sweeps to offset its emphasis on the delicate interplay of voices, finger snaps, synth and rhythmic drumbeats.
If something from Sgt. Pepper’s comes to mind, that deal is hammered home with the first strains of the highly Beatle-esque “Kaleidoscope”. Terry’s Lennon-ized lead vocal melds with Fab Four-grade backup vocals that float their “Fa la la la la”s over the composition as the rich tempo of Josh Kaler’s drums complete the recipe, together with stringed accompaniment and some distinctly out-of-character guitar edge from Terry. This is Beatles worship at its finest, enhanced by razor-sharp, upgraded sounds. “Stay Low” is another puzzler in this mix, as its melody gets somewhat lost, compromised by disjointed strings and offbeat piano, despite the usual lush vocals and rich backup support. “Won’t Let The Boy Die” resuscitates the flow, strongly recalling the majesty of the late, great Gerry Rafferty – his vocal style a sophisticated variation on McCartney’s. Another upbeat pop masterpiece, Terry employs equal parts strings, drums and guitar and, once again, a triumphant chorus, replete with smooth backing vocals and tumbling drums. An acoustic guitar-and-bass-drum-driven “Dance In Our Old Shoes” presents a welcome change of pace, graced by its dynamic chorus as acoustic goes electric – and back. Terry retains that strong Rafferty element in his lead vocal while the song’s contagious, hard-strummed acoustic sound illustrates another strong addition to the young singer’s arsenal. The piano-rock intro to “Runaway Town” sets up this Rafferty-tinged folk-rocker, its overall energy recalling the BoDeans at their roots-rock best as Terry lays claim to even more creative turf than he might’ve believed possible. The spacey electric guitar accompanying the strummed acoustic guitar helps move “Trouble In My Head” high and outside as this blissful ballad applies strings to elevate the emotions, further demonstrating Terry’s bottomless potential. The closing “Dear Amsterdam” is a gentle anthem, if not thoughtful lullaby, to a beautiful city, all the more celestial through Terry’s use of swelling strings as he further harnesses his somewhat exploratory Harry Nilsson side.
The blend of Terry’s dynamic vocals to those of Josh Kaler, Danny Mitchell and Jeremy Lister cannot be underestimated in the success of this record. At the same time, renowned composer Danny Mitchell deserves a hearty bow in the wake of his stringed arrangements, responsible for much of Stargazer’s stand-out sound – brought to you by David Davidson and David Angell on violin, Monisa Angell on viola and Carole Rabinowitz on cello. Multi-instrumentalists Mitchell (piano, organ, keyboards) and Josh Kaler (drums, bass, guitars, lap steel) join Terry on vocals and guitar to create a Nashville-based session band without equal on this highly spirited release.
As Terry has noted, Stargazer was a labor of love as he and his producer, Kaler, worked to bring something fresh to each track – hoping to mirror his taste in many of the well-produced and expertly-realized records he first fell in love with as a music fan. You can hear these influences on Stargazer as you can appreciate the amount of work that’s gone into mastering each and every song. And, as you wake up singing these hooks over and over to yourself songs because you just can’t get them out of your head, you’ll soon appreciate the full value of Stargazer. It’s that good.
DOWNLOAD: “Stargazer,” “Woken the Wildflowers,” “Dance In Our Old Shoes”
The Upshot: A remarkable return to form and the first studio material since 1989, the record sizzles with a raw immediacy as befits the band’s in-your-face arrangements. Plus a powerhouse live recording, from 1988, in a super-duper limited edition package. (Watch a live concert from October of this year following the review.)
BY FRED MILLS
This just might turn out to be The Year Of The Dream Syndicate, what with their first new studio album since 1989, How Did I Find Myself Here?, released, along with a limited edition colored vinyl re-release,The Complete Live at Raji’s (complete with bonus tracks), a 1988 concert which originally appeared in 1989 as Live at Raji’s around the time the group was winding down its original 1981-89 run. The Dream Syndicate actually resurfaced in 2012— guitarist/vocalist Steve Wynn (who has had a wildly prolific post-D.S. career, including numerous solo albums as well as Gutterball and The Baseball Project, not to mention—most recently—his band the Miracle Three), original drummer Dennis Duck, latterday bassist Mark Walton, and guitarist Jason Victor (on loan from the Miracle Three).
Backtracking a bit, and by way of a personal note, one steamy summer evening in ’86, September 24 to be precise, the Dream Syndicate loaded in at Charlotte, NC, punk/indie venue the Milestone Club. Wynn, along with guitarist Paul B. Cutler (who’d produced the band’s debut EP and eventually joined the band, replacing original guitarist Karl Precoda), Walton, and Duck, proceeded to lay waste to the minds of a packed crowd. Easing into their set with a kind of jazzy vamp along with Wynn’s admonition that they’d been told to keep the volume down—it was a weeknight, and the club owner was nervous in the wake of some recent noise complaints and the subsequent queries from the police—the band then visibly yanked the knobs on their guitars and crashed full-decibels-tilt into D.S. mainstay “Until Lately,” emitting gale force sonic winds and prompting an angry exit from the music room by the club owner. The rest of the show was no less exhilarating, from such classics as “The Medicine Show” and “The Days of Wine and Roses” to tracks from the recently-released Out of the Grey album to wild covers of Alice Cooper’s “Ballad of Dwight Frye” and War’s “Spill the Wine.” (Incidentally, you can listen to the show at Archive.org—the tracks posted online are taken from the tape I recorded that night.)
“Until Lately” is also a centerpiece of The Complete Live at Raji’s, a powerhouse set showcasing the band at the height of its latterday powers. The Cutler lineup was touring a few months prior to the release of what would be their last studio album, Ghost Stories, although with performances this incendiary you’d never think the group was verging on its last legs—in addition to that song, standouts include an unhinged “John Coltrane Stereo Blues,” The Medicine Show noir-rock gem “Burn,” and a jittery cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” that opened the January 31, 1988, show at legendary L.A. club Raji’s.
Live at Raji’s being the ’89 CD release, The Complete Live at Raji’s originally appeared as an expanded reissue on CD in 2004, but this new reissue marks the first time it’s ever been on vinyl. As with the 2004 disc, the project was overseen by veteran D.S. archivist Pat Thomas, who was responsible for unearthing four tracks that were not on the ’89 iteration; he also contributes informative liner notes in which he discusses the provenance of the Raji’s tapes as well as correcting some errors that had appeared in the earlier album credits. Here in 2017, devoted Dream Syndicate fans also get: colored vinyl, a thick-stock Stoughton “tip-on” gatefold sleeve, and a numbered edition. All thanks to the Run Out Groove label for going the extra mile with their release; ROG has fans vote on which will be the next title the company will produce, and Raji’s was a runaway winner as a vote-getter. Give the people what they want, eh?
Fast-forward to the 2012 Dream Syndicate shows. This was not necessarily a nostalgia trip like, say, the Pixies or Pavement, bands that reunited for tours and, sometimes, new recordings when they realized they could in fact cash in on fans’ nostalgia. Although the D.S. sometimes did complete renderings of classic albums The Days of Wine and Roses (from 1982) and 1984’s The Medicine Show in concert, their tours were more intermittent as individual schedules—and, more important—inspiration dictated. Apparently that inspiration increased as more time elapsed, for by the tail end of 2015 they were working on new material.
The new How Did I Find Myself Here?, then, is the culmination of many things, of which one of those things is clearly not recapturing/reconjuring old glories—they’re extending and elaborating upon an already estimable legacy that was already secure in the minds of fans and critics. With longtime peer Chris Cacavas (Green On Red) on board as co-producer and session keyboardist, the group serves up a tough-as-nails set, part-psychedelia and part-punk and 100 percent heavy-ass guitar rock.
Indeed, the record sizzles with a raw immediacy as befits its in-your-face arrangements. And everyone sounds utterly energized here, from the jetstream convulsions of the feedback-laden “The Circle” to the atmospheric, Bowie-esque (think “Heroes”) “Glide” to the manic, choppy riffage of “Out of My Head.” They also lob a few Easter eggs in the direction of fans, too, notably the throbbing bass intro to dissonant garage raver “80 West” which is clearly intended to recall the first album’s “That’s What You Always Say.” For “Kendra’s Dream” they even bring back original bassist Kendra Smith to handle lead vocals. And the 11-minute title track, a spooky, bluesy, ultimately swaggering slice of swamp-psych conjures D.S. epics of yore, particularly the extended concert extrapolations for which the band is known for. (On the tune, Cacavas brings some terrific Ray Manzarek-like electric piano to the table, additionally giving the tune a classic Doors vibe in spots.)
Consumer Note: The album comes digitally and on CD and is also pressed on 180-gm. vinyl (black in the U.S., turquoise or red in Europe). Fans who signed up via the group’s PledgeMusic campaign could avail themselves of numerous donation tiers, including the obligatory album/teeshirt bundles, a vinyl copy signed by all four members and accompanied by a D.S. turntable mat and a booklet of Steve Wynn’s ‘80s-era lyrics, and, at the $1,500 level, a personal DJ set or house party performance by Wynn—or even a full band house party set for anyone with $15,000 to burn. If you pledged you also got some nice freebies in the form of previously unreleased live material. I’d call that giving the people what they want.
DOWNLOAD: “How Did I Find Myself Here?”, “80 West,” “Out of My Head”
Below, watch the band’s October 20, 2017, concert at the Crossroads Festival in Germany
The Upshot: Rochester’s pride goes atmosphere-draped darkwave.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
The Heroic Enthusiasts are likely the most UK-sounding band to call Rochester, NY home. On their self-titled debut LP, the band manages to bring to mind everyone from The Psychedelic Furs to the Cocteau Twins, across 10 moody, but satisfyingly solid post-punk tracks.
The synth-heavy sound is thanks to veterans from a slew darkwave and indie rock bands like Eleven Pond, Bullseye and Longwave. This full length follows on the heels of two well-received EPs and goes deeper into the band’s dark atmospheric sound. Songs like “Dunes” and the hook-filled “Detachment” are among some of their best so far. There are some weak spots throughout, but not enough to dwell on.
Impressively, the record was self-producer and mixed by Mercury Rev’s Anthony Molina. With a sound rooted in the early ‘80s, The Heroic Enthusiasts sound like nothing coming out of the U.S. music scene at the moment and that’s far from a bad thing
DOWNLOAD: “Dunes,” “Detachment” and “New York Made Me”
The Upshot: A near-perfect blast of visceral psychedelia and blissed-out power pop that yields earworm after earworm.
BY FRED MILLS
Devotees of latterday psychedelia surely shed more than a few tears when New England quartet Abunai! called it a day in the early ‘00s, after a fruitful 1996-01 run that yielded three critically acclaimed full-lengths. There have been the inevitable reunion shows over the years, but for the most part the members have concentrated on their post-Abunai! projects, and with Divisionists, formed by guitarist Brendan Quinn, we have a combo that not only builds upon that psychedelic legacy, it definitively merges psych with power pop and shoegaze for one of the freshest-yet-familiar albums of 2017 to date.
Quinn, a multi-instrumentalist whose solo albums have featured appearances by fellow Abunai! alumni, the Bevis Frond gang and other indie avatars, and spotlighted, in particular, his fingerstyle guitar virtuosity, is based in London these days and is joined by guitarist/synth man Mark Bennett, bassist Mike Whitaker, and drummer Rob McGregor. In 2012 they released the “we play rock music…” EP to good notices, but with the arrival earlier this year of the “Say Can You” single, all bets were immediately off for Divisionists. A hi-nrg blast of chiming, fuzzed-out guitars and soaring, ecstatic vocals, it conjured classic images of everyone from Teenage Fanclub, Ride, and Matthew Sweet, to Byrds, Crazy Horse, and Velvet Underground. That, along with followup “Dream Landscape,” a moodier, drifting/droning ballad that adds Big Star to the pop rogues list, are obvious highlights on Daybreak’s first side, although that’s not to say that any of the other tunes are slackers. Far from it—just check the gospellish vocals and rippling guitars of “Alone” or a luminous cover of the Velvets’ “Pale Blue Eyes.”
Flip the record and the delights keep coming, from the warm, womblike sonic cocoon that is “Colors (Song For a Spaceman)”—for you influences trainspotters, listen for the modal, almost Quicksilver Messenger Service-like fretwork—to the straight-up jangle pop of “Little Margaret” to the dark, explosive, feedback-laden, space-rocking “We Must Be Careful,” which, at seven minutes, has ample time to ebb and explode in a prismic burst of dynamics, tones, and textures. All in all, a remarkable record that repays successive listens with earworm after earworm. All those above comparisons to icons? Believe it.
Consumer Note: The album, available at the above Bandcamp link for the record label (which is run by Quinn and Lisa Makros, who also guests as a backing vocalist) or at the group’s Bandcamp page (which compiles a slew of ecstatic reviews), comes in digital or vinyl formats—180gm orange wax, to be specific, and it is a visual, tactile feast. Included is a download code as well as a full-sized, four-page insert for credits, lyrics, and photos. I call that going the extra mile, and it is truly appreciated, gentlemen.
DOWNLOAD: “Say Can You,” “Freedom,” “Colors (Song For a Spaceman)”
The Upshot: Canadian singer-songwriter falls deeply in love in/with Boston, putting her heart through life’s wringer as her fourth release attempts to resolve the experience.
BY ERIC THOM
There are thousands of singer-songwriters plying their trade but few stand out as far as this one. Kat Goldman’s fourth release sees her doing what she does best: playing to her strengths with an edge that only comes from a position of absolute confidence. Her voice is distinctive, phenomenal and, coupled with a piano-friendly approach to writing and her innate sense of building around a strong hook, Goldman has crafted a 12-song release that seizes your heart as it tells you its story.
Somewhat autobiographical, this is a concept album based on a love affair gone wrong in real time as she, to follow along with the press notes, “explores the dark underbelly of American society through the eyes of a character, the “workingman,” as told by a female narrator.” Taken slightly aback by its bizarre cover art (P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights?), the 12 originals follow the demise of a relationship but, more importantly, reveal an approach to music which knows few boundaries. From the acoustic guitar-led, semi-melancholic “Take It Down The Line”, an introspective Goldman sells its sad, yet soaring, chorus with the help of (her own) haunting backup vocals and little else, in the role of the protagonist. Switch gears, if not cars, for the ‘50s-sounding girl group holler of “Release Me’ with its pounding beat and face-first bass line (Marc Rogers) as Goldman fronts an imaginary girl group to drive home her need for distance from this one-sided deal, if not complete salvation.
Both songs go a long way towards underlining Goldman’s spirited approach to her art – and she can do it all. Folk. Pop. Rock’n’roll. Soul-searching introspection, with little or no accompaniment – and we’re only two songs in! The third track, “The Courthouse”, boasts chiming guitars, a wall of B3 and an aggressively animated, old-school “Na-na-na-nah-na-na-na-na…Nah-nah-na-na-na” full chorus. WTF? In a lesser artist’s care, this might suggest sheer chaos yet Goldman’s gift is to demonstrate her mastery over all she touches. The hooks are set so deep, you may lose the story line but you’ll never lose the urge to commit each melody to memory – uncontrollably singing along after repeated plays. With indigenous-style percussion, the ring of acoustic guitar and warm, acoustic bass, “Put Your Toolbox Down” injects compassion and gentleness into the narrative as Goldman volunteers a dash of Suzanne Vega onto her palette of sonic references. The title track is stripped down to voice and piano – how Goldman starts her day. And, like all her music, she’s able to squeeze more color from simplicity than most on yet another catchy track, adding little more than Lou Poumanti’s minimal organ runs to flesh out the intimacy of the moment, her vocal range stretched beyond the expected with delightful results.
Likewise, “South Shore Man” begins simply before adding meaty drums (Davide Direnzo), her own multi-tracked backup and Poumanti’s B3 as the piece lifts skyward. Aside from the sound of angels in the form of (her own) backup vocals and the heavenly caste afforded by Kevin Fox’s cello, there’s something truly haunting about “Ghosts in the Apartment” – maybe it’s its subtle resemblance to the key strains of Stan Rogers’ “Northwest Passage” (yet few would connect the two) and it’s one of the strongest tracks on the release, if not its most ethereal. “Baby, I Understand” slows things down to acoustic guitar and Goldman’s soft, seductive vocal, resplendent in her multi-hued collection of evocative inflections. “It’s Ovaaah” is pure singer-songwriter, its dramatic piano chords and abrupt pacing forging intimacy as the song develops arms and legs, getting slightly caught up in its own emotion if not carried away in its slightly schizophrenic cast of characters.
Cue reminisces of Judee Sill as the bittersweet “The One To Dream” comes to life with the help of backup vocals, cymbal washes and acoustic guitar. The purity and clarity of her self-assured vocal, her every articulation and quirky pronunciation (“funny” becomes “funney”; “money” becomes “munney”), a slightly nasal tone and that can’t-quite-place-it accent all serve to define a distinctively strong, independent artist on top of her multiple skills. As the piece builds from its simple melody, adding backup vocals and further instrumentation – featuring an impressive, other-worldly (too short) guitar solo from guitarist/producer, Bill Bell, this is one song to fall madly in love with. Forget the sour note at the launch of “Mr. Right” – it’s quickly redeemed by this infectious track with its Paul Buckmaster-style build-up, over-dubbed vocals and lovely organ break. A quick-set melody, it’s impossible to discard. The final track sets up the obvious end to any broken relationship – what’s next? “Don’t Know Where I’m Bound” sends the forlorn romantic back to her country of origin (Canada) to be as far away as possible from the blues that Boston brought.
So, whether you follow the concept from beginning to end as the artist makes her case to dramatize the nightmare and myriad emotions that come with bad love laid bare, it really matters not. Goldman succeeds in outdoing herself through the divine creation of a dozen absorbing, accomplished songs, adding to what is already an impressive canon of work.
DOWNLOAD: “Release Me,” “Put Your Toolbox Down,” “The One To Dream”
The Upshot: A compelling all-over-the-map collision of jazz, blues, show tunes, garage rock, and Latino flavors—plus a gorgeous vinyl collectible.
BY FRED MILLS
A little over a year ago, BLURT spotlighted New Jersey’s J Hacha de Zola’s second album, Picaro Obscuro, premiering the remarkable “In Curtains” song, his Tom Waits-meets-Nick Cave sound as unique as any we’d heard in 2016. Now comes the new Antipatico, which apparently translates from Spanish as “unfriendly.” That may be underselling the record—it is, at points, hypnotic, cinematic, lush, and dissonant—but there’s no question that it is also a challenging, at times daunting, listen, one which grabs the listener by the shoulders and gives you a good shaking: Pay attention.
From the salsa/rumbafied “Amaranthine,” which finds de Zola’s lascivious vocals draped in echo amid a noirish vibe and debauched Ralph Carney (Tin Huey, Waits band) and Dana Colley (Morphine) sax lines, to the riotous “Lightning Rod Salesman,” whose dense, jungle-throb rhythms, squawking/barking instrumentation (it includes a psychedelic jaw harp courtesy of another Waits sideman, David Coulter), and stream of consciousness vocal brings to mind vintage Captain Beefheart, Antipatico is an uncompromising listen that insists you meet it on its own terms. Cue the record up and be prepared to be immersed in outre blues, Latino rock, lounge jazz, twisted show tunes, gypsy polka, garage psych, and just plain outsider sounds; de Zola conjures up a mini-universe for each composition, all the while warbling in his signature upper register that’s part-croon, part-sneer, and part-swagger.
The record closes with the dirgelike-yet-melodic, anthemic-in-design ballad “A Fanciful Invention,” which is also the track (specifically, an alternate take of the track) that graces a limited edition 7” lathe-cut single de Zola just released, and for record collectors, it’s a must-own artifact, pressed on clear vinyl and hand-painted on the back side to give it a decidedly surreal effect when spinning on the turntable. Clearly de Zola considers his music to be “art,” and it must be said, both CD and single are striking testaments to the gentleman’s unbridled artistry. “Unfriendly,” my ass—one listen to his music and you’re gonna want to know him personally. (Incidentally, you can hear the record and more at his official website, and you might also want to check out his outrageous cover of Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True” over at the Cover Me project’s Bandcamp page.)
DOWNLOAD: “No Situation,” “Lightning Rod Salesman,” “On A Sleepless Night”
A Blurt Boot Exclusive: Chuck Prophet, Stephanie Finch & The Mission Express - Tom Petty's The Waiting (San Francisco Oct. 6, 2017)
A Blurt Boot Exclusive: Husker Du - MC5's Ramblin' Rose (Hoboken 4/11/86), from Complete Covers Collection
Blurt Exclusive: Parson Red Heads "Coming Down" (from forthcoming June '17 album)
Blurt Video Exclusive: Twinkle Star "Wasting Life Together"/"Release Yourself"